Friday, January 28, 2011

31st January Gerald McDermott (1941) Denise Fleming (1950)

The birthday display today for the first day of borrowing was certainly colourful. American author illustrator Gerald McDermott's 'stylised figures and abstract motifs combine ancient imagery with contemporary design' as he retells many of the myths and folktales in a way that allows children to ascertain good from evil and examine recurring motifs such as 'the trickster'. If you have time and an interest there is a very interesting video about mythology and McDermott's approach to it here.

Denise Fleming is also American and her books also enthuse with colour, but her approach is different. Firstly, her books are ideal for a younger age group because they have simpler stories and require less background context. She uses a technique known as pulp painting though, which makes for beautifully textured paper collage. She explains her technique on her website. In fact I found the whole of her website fascinating. She is a very talented lady and it is such a pity Australia isn't on her list of visits.

30th January Lloyd Alexander (1924 - 2007)

Lloyd Alexander was an award-winning American author who was best known for writinf fantasies such as the Prydain Chronicles which began with The Book of Three. These chronicles are set in an enchanted kingdom which is something like Wales as he was researching Wales mythology for another book when he had the idea for these. He wrote novels and only two picture books which were also about Prydain, none of which are suitable for my clientele or in my library, but if you teach older children and you like fantasy or want a change from Susan Cooper or Madeleine L'Engle you will enjoy Lloyd Alexander.

Back to yesterday when it was Allan Baillie's birthday. He may well have been born on exactly the same day as Rosemary Wells, but he writes for a very different audience. Most of his books are novels for older readers, such as his Little Brother and China Coin, but he has done picture books. However even his picture books such as Dragon Quest and Drac and the Gremlin which have minimal text and appear simple are not. They are deceptive because they require higher order thinking skills to get to the theme and to fully understand all that they have to offer. I particularly like Rebel! a picture book of Allan's, which is based on an actual event. I have used it very successfully with older classes. It is set in Rangoon and looks at how a school child outwitted a dictator. This book needs to be discussed before, during and after reading and then it will have a lasting impact.

29th January Bill Peet (1915 - 2002) Rosemary Wells (1943) Allan Baillie (1943)

Bill Peet was a remarkable American illustrator who started drawing for Walt Disney and therefore was involved in many of their animated movies, but as well as this, he was the author illustrator of a large number of picture books for children. Most had animals as their characters and they behaved at various times like the animal they are drawn as, but often they are personified as well. Many of these titles are hard to find now, but those you can locate still have a lot to offer readers. My school library has Zella, Zack and Zodiac; Encore for Eleanor; Pamela Camel and Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent. Bill's books combine humour, good vocabulary and subtle lessons with comic drawings.

I know a person cannot be an icon, but for me American author illustrator Rosemary Wells is almost an icon. Children recognise her illustrations immediately. Rosemary has so much to offer children, parents and teachers through her work in the world of children's literature. Her website offers teachers and parents so much information about reading, how children learn to read and how best to share literature with children. And then on top of that she has a multitude of beautiful picture books to choose from. There is her series about Max and Ruby where sibling rabbits behave exactly as children do. Max and Ruby became so much part of our family life that my son used to come and say to me that his older sister was 'doing a Ruby' which meant she was telling him what to do. Last year one Year 2 at school got so involved in the McDuff series, which are illustrated by Susan Jeffers, that they wanted to write to Rosemary and tell her that they needed her to do more titles. The preschoolers like her Edward books because he is always doing something for the first time. And, we shouldn't forget all the Mother Goose books and the classics Noisy Nora, Timothy Goes to School and Morris's Disappearing Bag.

I am going to write about Australian author Allan Baillie tomorrow.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

28th January Percy Trezise (1923 - 2005) Vera B.Williams (1927)

Percy Trezise was a remarkable Australian. He was a pilot with the airforce during World War II and then after the war he flew for Ansett Airlines and the Aerial Ambulance Service. He was also a renowned landscape artist and while working in the Northern parts of Australia he became interested in Aboriginal rock art. He brought the Quinkan Aboriginal sites to public attention and spent many years photographing them. In this time he built strong relationships with the Aboriginal people. "In 1962 at Karumba, an Ansett destination in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Percy met Dick Roughsey (Goobalathaldin), a Lardil man from Mornington Island. (At the time, Percy was painting a mermaid on the bottom of the Karumba Lodge swimming pool.) He encouraged Dick to paint professionally and they embarked on a close friendship and collaboration in art and writing that lasted until Dick's death in 1985. Percy said that his friendship with Dick Roughsey OBE was a key inspiration of his life." Percy and Dick collaborated on many children's picture books which give insights into Aboriginal life and retell Dreamtime stories. Unfortunately very few of their books are still in print and you will need to find them in libraries.

Vera B. Williams is an American author and illustrator, best known to my children and probably most children for her book A Chair For My Mother, where Rosa and her mother, a waitress are saving to purchase a big, easy chair where the mother can rest after work. This book led to a series about Rosa and her family and their working class community. Vera talks about these books on a short video.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

27th January Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898) Harry Allard (1928) Julius Lester (1939) Krista Bell (1950)

Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was better known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll. He was an English mathematician, photographer and author, who was best known for the classic fantasy stories Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass. In their day these books were considered children's literature, while today there are many who would debate this and say that they are novels in which children appear. Neither book is really accessible to my age group unless they read a very abridged version of the story or see it as a media text.

Harry Allard is the American author who together with the illustrator, James Marshall created the teacher Miss Nelson from the series that began with Miss Nelson is Missing.

Julius Lester is also an American author who worked closely with one particular illustrator, Jerry Pinkney to give American children books which showed Black American children living their lives and addressing the racial slurs of some children's books. Their book Sam and the Tigers is a retelling of Little Black Sambo and it is a means of addressing these issues. Another of his books Let's Talk About Race, is Lester's way of ensuring that children know that they are much more than their skin colour. Lester says, "I write because our lives are stories. If enough of these stories are told, then perhaps we will begin to see that our lives are the same story. The differences are merely in the details."

And Krista Bell is an Australian author who writes fiction and non-fiction, picture books, bridging novels and novels. Two of her newer books that are in my library are Peeking Ducks, a story set in China about three ducks and the importance of learning from parents. The other, Flying Feet, one of the Aussie Nibbles series is about Henry and tap dancing. A good book for convincing children that it is okay for boys to dance.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

26th January Australia Day

It's Australia Day, a holiday in Australia, when Australians celebrate what is great about Australia and being Australian. It is celebrated on the 26th January because that is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of convict ships who came from England to settle at Sydney Cove in 1788. If you want picture books that look at this event, read The Peopling of Australia by Percy Trezise; An Uncommonly Fine Day by J.A.King or The First Fleet by Alan Boardman and Roland Harvey. These three books are old and out of print, but a good school library may still have copies.

The reality is that most Australian families celebrate Australia Day by going to the beach, getting together with friends for a barbecue or going to organised community events, such as the Ferrython, a Ferry Boat Race on Sydney Harbour. A picture book that is about this event is Fergus at the Race one of a series of books about Fergus the Ferry that is written by J.W. Noble and illustrated by Peter Townsend.

And lastly a picture book about spending Australia Day at the beach, Australia at the Beach. It is a long poem written by Max Fatchen which tells the story of a family's day at the beach with their friends. It is illustrated comically by Tom Jellett. It is told from a young girl's point of view. She is embarrassed by her younger brother, William who can't seem to do anything right...he loses his sandal, he takes off his bathers, he puts suncream on the lettuce instead of mayonnaise...As you read it, you will smile because most of us have been there:
... Then back to have our picnic.
We kneel on sandy knees.
Sausage rolls and sandwiches.
A chicken wing? Yes, please.

... Beach cricket now...How noisy.
We bowl and bat and shout.
Remember, I'm the umpire,
My finger's raised. You're out.

Such fun and perfect for a very hot day like this!

25th January Jackson Pollock (1912 - 1956)

On 28th January it will be American artist, Jackson Pollock's birthday. He was a painter of large abstract paintings, many of which he made by dripping paint onto canvas from above. The picture book biography Action Jackson written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan and illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker covers the two month period in the artist's life while he is creating his famous painting 'Lavender Mist'. Although it focusses solely on this painting, the text includes information about his childhood influences, his studio and his techniques. The methods he uses to paint are also clearly outlined by Pollock himself in the filmclip here. Pollock's most well-known, and some say best painting, 'Blue Poles: Number 11' is in the National Art Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Many of my students have seen it, so reading this book makes for animated discussions.

Monday, January 24, 2011

24th January

According to many calendars, yesterday, 23rd January was Measure Your Feet Day. Why I do not know, but when I started to think about books that you could use on a day with this moniker, there were plenty that leant themselves to having fun with this topic. If you want to plan an activity-based lesson for very young children, Aliki's My Feet would be a good starting point. You could also have fun with Dr Seuss' The Foot Book. Two good stories to read which look at feet, their size and gumboots are Alfie's Feet by Shirley Hughes and Muddy Footprints by Mary Small. For children who like ballet, Belinda Ballerina is the star of a series of books by Amy Young. Belinda wants to be a ballerina but she has a problem, two very big feet! And, lastly just because it is a story everyone should read and it is about feet, Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

23rd January Philippa Pearce (1920 - 2006) Katharine Holabird (1948)

English author Philippa Pearce is probably best known for her classic book, Tom's Midnight Garden and while I have some very good readers not many of them are ready for this by the end of Year 2. However, I do make sure my good readers meet Philippa Pearce. They read The Little Gentleman, a lovely story about a talking mole and The Battle of Bubble and Squeak, a story about a family who have two gerbils. Philippa's last book, A Finder's Magic was written for her two grandsons. It is illustrated by the boys' other grandmother Helen Craig. What lucky boys! This book is not action-packed enough for the children I have recommended it to. Like many of her books it is about the relationship between the young and old and perhaps my readers are still too young to appreciate this theme.

Helen Craig has a connection to the other birthday girl too. She is the illustrator of American author Katharine Holabird's Angelina Ballerina very successful series of books. Every little girl who comes into the library gives the Angelina doll a hug and goes through the box of Angelina books looking for one that they haven't taken home before. Katharine moved to England when she married and worked as a journalist. This is when she met Helen Craig. Now Angelina Ballerina is a marketing phenomena with books, toys, television programs and videos.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

22nd January Blair Lent (1930 - 2009) Brian Wildsmith (1930) Tony Bradman (1954)

Three birthdays! Firstly, Blair Lent, the American illustrator of Arlene Mosel's classics Tikki Tikki Tembo and The Funny Little Woman and Elphinstone Dayrell's African folk tale Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky. Some sources say his birthday is the 20th, others 22nd and I have no way of confirming which at the moment.

The next birthday is the English author illustrator, Brian Wildsmith who was born on the same day, but is still alive. His illustrations are so very different from Lent's, mainly because his trademark is bold colour. Like Eric Carle was doing in America, Wildsmith was creating a brightly coloured very inviting collection of books. He grew up in a mining village where everything was gray and he wanted to see colour. He has said, "I believe that beautiful picture books are vitally important in subconsciously forming a child's visual appreciation, which will bear fruit in later life." If you want to be bombarded with wonderful illustrations and colour go to Google's Wildsmith images and revel in just how many there are. I would love to visit the museum in Japan that is dedicated to his work and where over 800 of his original artworks are on loan. It is hard to single out books of his...there are so many...but today three:
1. Cat on the Mat because it is the book that every child should learn to read on. It does exactly what you want...has very strong picture text is uses high frequency sight words and most importantly it looks like a real book, not a reader.
2. Professor Noah's Spaceship because it is clever and puts the story of Noah in a modern context where pollution is a problem. And
3. Animal Gallery because it has superb illustrations with some very novel collective nouns. The last in the book is a 'dray of squirrels' very fitting as yesterday was Squirrel Appreciation Day. He also has a book called Squirrels, but unfortunately it is out of print.

And, lastly English author Tony Bradman. He is responsible for so many wonderful stories that have been published as bridging novels by Orchard books. The children in my library have learned about King Arthur, Robin Hood and Beowulf from him. They have laughed while reading his Happily Ever After series of twisted fairytales and recently they have discovered Tom who is the main character in the Creaky Castle books.

21st January World Religion Day

Last Sunday, January 16th 2011, was the 3rd Sunday of January and that means that it was celebrated worldwide as “World Religion Day”. We are on school holidays at the moment and this day is always on a Sunday, but during term I often put together a display of books about religion, especially ones that stress their similarities rather than differences. There is a lesson plan for ESL teachers on the web here, and from it I have borrowed this to use as part of that display :

It is a good idea to understand how similar the great world religions are in their beliefs. Look at these writings from different religions. Are they similar to your own religion’s teaching? Buddhism states: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” This is similar to Christianity, which teaches us to: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you,” and Judaism: "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man.” The Baha’I Faith tells us that: “Blessed is he who prefers his brother before himself.” This teaching is very similar to Islam, which says: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” In Sikhism "No one is my enemy, none a stranger and everyone is my friend."

Books that I might put on display are:

* Faith by Maya Ajmera

* What I Believe by Alan Brown

* A Faith Like Mine by Laura Buller

* The Story of Religion by Betsy and Guilio Maestro

* Many Ways by Shelley Rotner

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

20th January Tedd Arnold (1949)

American author illustrator Tedd Arnold has a very high profile in the library because no one can resist Fly Guy. He is very popular and in fact for many boys they are the books that really turn them onto reading or convince them that they can in fact read independently. We have a Fly Guy toy that is always going home and not enough of the books because the box is always empty! I have just looked at Tedd Arnold's website though and found that he has two new books that we don't yet have, Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl! and Buzz Boy and Fly Guy. Hopefully they will be on Book Club this year. There is a great poster about Fly Guy and reading that you can download from the website too. Of course Arnold has other picture books such as the series about Huggly, a loveable monster and another series Parts, that starts with a boy who is falling apart and losing body parts, but I must say I didn't twig to these until after I had discovered Fly Guy.

19th January Paul Cezanne (1839 - 1906)

Today is the artist Paul Cezanne's birthday. He was born in France in 1839 and died in 1906. He was one of the well-known artists who were known as the Post Impressionists. He painted still-lifes, landscapes and portraits with distinctive short-brushstrokes and thick brightly coloured oil paint. Two books where children can read about Cezanne and learn about his life and paintings are:
Cezanne and the Apple Boy by Laurence Anholt and
Paul Cezanne: How He Amazed the World by Angela Wenzel. This is from the wonderful Adventures in Art series by Prestel.