Monday, February 28, 2011

1st March World Maths Day

World Maths Day is a highly organised occasion, where students aged between 5 and 18 from all over the world unite in a quest to set a world record in answering mental arithmetic questions. But, there is nothing to stop you celebrating Maths Day in a smaller, more localised way at your school or in your classroom. As it is my aim to add children's books to everything, today I am suggesting Counting Chickens.

This beautiful book uses the Flensted mobiles as their inspiration for arithmetic and counting fun. Danish couple, Christian and Grethe Flensted created elegant mobiles. Their son has continued the tradition. With this book readers can count from one to ten and back again, count by twos and threes and find solutions to simple word problems. The images are glossy, colourful and tactile.

28th February Robin Klein (1936) Donna Jo Napoli (1948) Megan McDonald (1959) Tooth Fairy Day

I wrote about Tooth Fairy Day yesterday and Megan McDonald last year so today I want to focus on the other two birthday girls.

Robin Klein is an Australian author who has not written any new books in recent years, but many of her books are favourites and are constantly reimaged and reissued. She has some picture books and bridging novels such as Thing and Thingnapped spinoffs that are illustrated in colour by Alison Lester. I always enjoy sharing Thing with classes. Thing is a baby stegosaurus that hatches from a rock that Emily finds and takes home. Every child can relate to Emily and secretly wish that they had a dinosaur as a pet. Most of her more popular books are novels for upper primary and adolescents.

This week when I went to the bookshop I picked up a book with stunning illustrations. It was Mama Miti: Wangari Maathi and the Trees of Kenya written by American author Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. It is the first picture book by either of these artists that I have purchased for the library. Subconsciously I must have known that it was Donna Jo's birthday this week. The book is about Wangari Muta Maathi, a Kenyan woman who helped bring trees back to her deforested country. Napoli adopts a very lyrical text to tell the story of this remarkable woman whose vision has not only impacted on her own country, but on the whole world. This is not the first picture book to be written about this amazing woman, but it is certainly worth adding to the others and everyone must surely feel the need to touch the shiny illustrations that beg to be viewed.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

27th February

Tomorrow is Tooth Fairy Day, a day that commemorates someone who is very 'big' in the life of the children I teach. They loose teeth all the time and are constantly comparing gaps, monetary recompense and tooth savers. We have a large collection of books about losing teeth and the Year 1 teachers often borrow a bulk loan on this topic. Below are some picture books that are good for this purpose:
* Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions Around the World by Selby Beeler & G.Brian Karas. Not every culture has a tooth fairy like America, Britain and Australia. This book looks at some of the other traditions.
* My Wobbly Tooth Must Not Never Fall Out by Lauren Child (A Charlie and Lola story)
* April Underhill, Tooth Fairy by Bob Graham
* Mrs Watson Wants Your Teeth by Alison McGhee & Harry Bliss
* Wibble Wobble by Miriam Moss & Joanna Mockler
* Tooth Fairy by Audrey Wood. This story satisfies all those children who really want to know what the tooth fairy does with the teeth.

Friday, February 25, 2011

25th February Helen Bannerman (1862 - 1946)

Helen Bannerman was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her father was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland. She married a doctor in 1899 and moved to India where she wrote The Story of Little Black Sambo, based on a series of letters to her children. The book was initially very successful, but over a period of time became infamous as a study in racism. Many of the book's supporters purport that the story merely reflected the social conventions of the time in which it was written and that children should be introduced to it within its context. Certainly the size of the book, like Beatrix Potter's appeals to children, but new additions with new illustrations have not maintained this size. Newer editions of the story have maintained the adventure story, but changed the protagonist's name and illustrations. Christopher Bing's version keeps the title, but illustrates an African boy living in India where tigers want to eat him up. Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney have changed the names and setting to create Sam and the Tigers and Valeria Petrone's version The Boy and the Tigers which was done as a Little Golden Book has a boy named Rajani and a much kinder retelling. So despite all the controversy surrounding Bannerman's book, because of its racially insensitive choice of names and style of illustration, its 'story bones' have certainly survived for a long time! See how the green umbrella has survived in all the versions!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

23rd February Francesca Simon (1955) Walter Wick (1953) Sonya Hartnett (1968)

See last year's entry for Francesca Simon.

Walter Wick is the photographer responsible for those wonderful I Spy books. On his website in the Features section you can see how these books were made. It is amazing and awe-inspiring at the same time! He has done other books. I particularly like A Drop of Water and Optical Tricks.

Australian author Sonya Hartnett published her first book when she was only 15 years old. She usually writes for a young audience, but more recently she has ventured into picture books. In 2008 she was the first Australian to win The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award which is an award given to someone in Children's Literature whose work reflects the spirit of Astrid Lindgren. Her debut picture book, published in 2010 was The Boy and the Toy. It is the story of a boy whose father leaves him with a toy for company while he goes away. At first the boy and the get along famously but things change. Hartnett cleverly gets her message across without saying anything too explicitly, that what the toy is doing is quite wrong and what it means to be a good friend. The illustrations, also a first, by Lucia Masciullo an Italian born illustrator who now lives in Australia are detailed enough to show strong emotion in both the boy and the toy.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

22nd February Michelle Knudsen (1974) Norman Lindsay (1879 - 1931)

I know I wrote about Michelle Knudsen and her wonderful book Library Lion last year, but she has a new picture book out which I have just bought and I wanted to tell you about it. On Michelle's blog she says that it is being launched on her birthday at a bookshop in New York, but I bought it here in Australia about three weeks ago, and that never happens that we get books first, unless they are Australian books! The book, Argus is about Sally and the large, green, scaly creature that hatches from her egg when the rest of her classmates' eggs hatch to reveal cute, fluffy chicks, when the class is raising chicks for a science project. Lots of fun pursues as Sally tries to make her 'chick' conform. It reminds me of a cross between Robin Klein's Thing and Margaret Wild's Looking After Alice and Co. The illustrations by Andrea Wesson are wispy watercolours on predominately white backgrounds, but the gentleness of them suits the tone of the story.

Australian author, Norman Lindsay is the author of the classic, The Magic Pudding which has spurned many spin-offs, such as movies, toys and abridged versions of the book.

21st January Joy Watson (1938)

Today is New Zealand author Joy Watson's birthday. If you want to smile while you read, read Grandpa's Slippers or any of her other four books about Grandpa. Grandpa's antics, the rhythm and repetition make these ideal read-alouds for young children. I hazard to guess that Grandpa may well be modelled on Joy's husband, the character seems so authentic, and his wife so patient. There is an interview with Joy here. Each of the stories is illustrated by Wendy Hodder whose illustrations add to the warmth of the characters and the fun of the story. Although Joy and Wendy are certainly responsible for other good books, you must look for:
* Grandpa's Slippers
* Grandpa's Shorts
* Grandpa's Cardigan
* Grandpa's Shed and
* Grandpa's Cat.

Monday, February 14, 2011

14th February Valentine's Day Phyllis Root (1949)

Happy Valentine's Day! Looking for a fun book in keeping with the Phyllis Root's Kiss the Cow! Here a young girl called Annalisa refuses to kiss the cow Luella when she milks her, to thank her for her milk. Perfect for Phyllis Root's birthday too. Of course she has written many other equally good titles, but today this is my favourite. And Will Hillenbrand's illustrations are an added bonus.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

13th February Simms Taback (1932) Bruce Whatley (1954)

Simms Taback is a Jewish-American author illustrator of vividly coloured children's books. The colour in his books leaps off the page, often because the background is black, but even when it isn't the colour is what attracts you first. His website is a joy and you can watch videos of him and his book Joseph Had a Little Overcoat and the book There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly. I know there are people who think the old lady song/book is inappropriate/ and or upsetting for young children, but having taught for over thirty years I am still waiting for that child to be in a group I am teaching. Most children seem to think it is very funny, and I am sure that is how it is intended.

Bruce Whatley is a highly regarded Australian author illustrator who is responsible for many of Australian children's favourite books. It is a shame that he doesn't have his own website where you can go and be surprised by the sheer number of books you will know. He is loved for his illustrations of dogs (see Magnetic Dog and The Ugliest Dog in the World) wombats (see Diary of a Wombat and Baby Wombat's Week) bilbies (see The Smallest Bilby and the Midnight Star and its sequel). There is an interview with him here. He has illustrated many of Jackie French's books, but he does other author's books and writes for himself or with his wife Rosie Smith. His newest book Zoobots he did with his son Ben,

12th February David Small (1945) Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882)

It is American author/illustrator David Small's birthday today. I do not know his writing well as my library only has one of his authored works, Imogene's Antlers. This is a humorous story about what happens to Imogene after she wakes up to find she has grown antlers overnight. We do however have two of the picture books that are written by his wife Sarah Stewart and illustrated by him, The Gardener and The Library and When Dinosaurs Came With Everything which is written by Elise Broach and illustrated by him.

The famous naturalist, Charles Darwin celebrated his bicentenary two years ago and at that time many books about him were published for children, many of which were picture books. Three picture books that deal very positively with Darwin's life and his concept of natural selection are Peter Sis's Tree of Life; Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom's What Mr Darwin Saw and Kathryn Lasky and Matthew Trueman's One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin.

Friday, February 11, 2011

11th February Holly Keller (1942) National Inventors Day

Of course it is Jane Yolen and Mo Willems birthday, but I wrote about them last year and they are very well known. Today I want to focus on Holly Keller. She is an American author and a prolific illustrator, having illustrated so many books for other authors, especially science titles. When she also does the writing she tends to choose to have animal protagonists who deal with family issues such as sibling rivalry, adoption, fitting in and coping with a change like the death of a pet. There's a series of stories about each of these, Geraldine, a piglet, Henry, a possum, and Horace, a leopard who is adopted by tigers. But, my favourite of her books is Grandfather's Dream, a story set in the ricefields of a river delta in Vietnam. Nam's grandfather has told her stories about the cranes who frequented the area before the war and they would like them to return. This beautiful story has many layers of meaning and an important message which is accessible to a large age range. The book could be used with children from four to twelve, whereas many of Holly's other books are for a much younger audience.

National Inventors Day commemorates the birth of Thomas Edison (1847 - 1931). While there are many information books which feature him such as Marcia Williams's Three Cheers for Inventors! I thought it would be fun to read a book to younger children that features an inventor. Louise Yates has a new book Frank and Teddy Make Friends in which Frank, a mouse is always inventing things including a new friend, Teddy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

9th February Read in the Bath Day

Reading in the bath is my idea of heaven! Any book is suitable, but for fun read Glenda Millard's Unplugged and giggle at Dee Huxley's wonderful illustration of the bath tub in the middle of a paddock.

It's also a good day to read or sing the poem Tiny Tim (Miss Lucy Had a Baby) or share it in picture book form. I like The Lady With the Alligator Purse by Nadine Bernard Westcott. There are just so many versions!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

10th February Umbrella Day

Tomorrow, 10th February is Umbrella Day, a day in honor of one of the world's most invaluable inventions. Time to look at how umbrellas feature in art and literature. Look for a print of and discuss Auguste Renior's famous painting The Umbrellas. Look at paintings of Manet and Seurat which also feature umbrellas but where they are more likely to be used to keep the sun off rather than rain. If we take into account when these paintings were done we can see that umbrellas and parasols have been in existence for a long time. When were they invented and by whom?

Four picture books that depict umbrellas and their usefulness are:
Umbrella by Taro Yashima. This book is now very old, but like Yashima's Crow Boy is destined to be a classic and still easily locatable. Momo gets an umbrella for her birthday and then has to wait a long time before it rains.
The Umbrella by Jan Brett is a retelling of the folktale The Mitten with a shift in setting. It is set in the cloud forest of Costa Rica and animals native to there use the umbrella as a refuge.
The Umbrella Queen by Shirin Yim Bridges and Taeeun Yoo. This is a lovely book, set in Thailand and tells the story of Noot, a young girl who paints elephants on umbrellas. Noot dares to be different an is rewarded for her spirit while still abiding by her family traditions.
Ella's Umbrellas by Jennifer Lloyd and Ashley Spires is a fun story about Ella who has an obsession with collecting umbrellas and her mother wants her to get rid of them because her grandmother is coming.

8th February Jules Verne (1828 - 1905) Anne Rockwell (1934) Malorie Blackman (1962)

How did I miss these three last year? Jules Verne was a French author who was an early proponent of the science fiction genre because he was writing about air, sea and underwater travel long before modes of transport had been invented to do this. His exciting novels are certainly not written for eight year olds but when you see versions of Eighty Days Around the World like the Usborne Reading one you can understand why eight year olds are devouring them.

American author illustrator Anne Rockwell has written and illustrated many books, but I think she is at her best when she does non-fiction books for very young readers. Her series about transport: Trains; Bikes: Big Wheels; Planes; Boats etc are ideal for preschoolers especially when they are accompanied by books that include photographs. Her newer titles about the environment which are part of the Let's Read About Science series also have a place in classroom unit libraries. See Why Are the Ice Caps Melting? and What's So Bad About Gasoline?

And thirdly, English author Malorie Blackman. She is an award winning writer of novels for adolescents. Her novels tackle some tough issues and challenging subjects. But, it is possible to introduce younger children to Malorie Blackman's writing. She has done written several bridging novels for series such as Corgi Pups, the Whizziwig series and several picture books.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

7th February Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870) Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867 - 1957) Elizabeth Honey (1947)

Three birthdays that I missed last year.
Charles Dickens is not usually someone that we think of as a children's author, but in recent years my children have been interested in A Christmas Carol, maybe because of the movie but there is so many beautiful illustrated versions of the story now.

Similarly, Laura Ingalls Wilder is also not an author that I think of for very young children, but many of my children have either listened to Little House on the Prairie on CD or have listened to a parent serialise it from the library's large print, and illustrated version of the story.

Australian author illustrator, Elizabeth Honey is best known for her series of novels about the children from Stella Street, but she has several picture books that are borrowed from the Prep library. The most popular is probably Not A Nibble, a story about a young girl on holiday, who goes fishing with her father but never seems to catch anything. There is also The Cherry Dress and her books of verse, The Honey Sandwich and The Moon in the Man.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

5th February Betsy Duffey (1953) David Wiesner (1957)

I wrote about the ever-so-clever David Wiesner last year on this date, but since then he has brought out a new book Art and Max and every library needs to have it. It is about an artist (Art) and someone who wants to be an artist (Max), two lizards with personality-plus. The book explores the creative process and the media in which it is created. See Wiesner talking about it here.

Today is also Betsy Duffey's birthday. I knew very little about her, other than that I loved using her books Boy in the Dog House and its sequel, Lucky on the Loose with Year 1 classes to look at how writers give us point-of-view. The chapters in these books alternate narrator from George, the dog owner in one chapter to Lucky, the dog in the next chapter. Often this means that the reader hears about the same event from two different points of view. And the plot is action driven and humorous, perfect for six and seven year olds who are learning to read and write. Since researching Betsey further I have learned that she is author, Betsy Byars daughter and that she has written quite a few other books that I need to explore.