Monday, December 31, 2012

31st December Part 2

While writing Part 1 of this post I kept thinking about whether there were favourite buys this year. Of course there were, but when you are on holiday and not in the library, of course you forget what they were.  Here's ten memorable books:

* Happy by Mies Van Hout
The French teacher at school bought the French version of this book while on holiday in France and we pored over it marvelling that a fish could have so much expression. Each page has a fish expressing a particular feeling and the adjective in an artistic font that also expresses the feeling. So this year I bought the English version and while it is a translation and still beautiful we all agree it lost something in the translation. Who cares most of us will only read the English version.

*  Hello! Hello! by Matthew Cordell
We all sat round in the library and had a good giggle at this. Lydia's family is too busy with their electrical gadgets to do things with her so she goes off to rediscover the natural world by herself and revels in it. This story is a good follow up to Lane Smith's It's a Book because it reminds us that nothing should take the place of what we already have that is good and worth keeping.

* The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins
I chose this because I am always in awe of how interesting and beautiful Steve Jenkins can make non-fiction picture books. Did you know that one out of every four living things on earth is a beetle?

* Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta and Ed Young
Ninjas are a very popular subject for books in my library! The two about Wink by J.C Phillips are never in and always reserved. So when I read about Nighttime Ninja  and knew a parent was off to the States on holiday I got her to get it. Of course with illustrations by Ed Young it couldn't disappoint me, but it has been popular with the boys too.

* The Jelly That Wouldn't Wobble by Angela Mitchell and Sarah Horne
This book just made us all laugh! It is such a good read-aloud. The princess is old and wants her jelly to wobble!

* The Worst Princess  by Anna Kemp and Sarah Ogilvie
This too has a royal theme, an unexpected heroine and makes you laugh!

* I Love Lemonade by Mark Sommerset
Last year the preschool classes and I had so much fun with Baa Baa Smart Sheep. They love the joke that the sheep plays on the turkey. This new book is the sequel and Turkey wants to get even! I can't wait to try it out on classes.

* This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
This book is perfect! Great for visual literacy because so much of the story is in the pictures and therefore the readers giggle at what happens to the fish when his hat goes. It also has so much to talk about.

* Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton
The title and the illustration of the dog on the cover says it all really. There have been some good 'dog' books this year, but this is one of the best.

* Same, But Little Bit Diff'rent by Kylie Dunstan
I know there should be more Australian titles, but other than this one none sprang immediately to mind and I will need to look at them closely soon to do my Clayton's shortlist for Early Childhood so they can wait. I like this book because the concept is simple, pertinent and unfortunately still necessary with children such as those at my school. Let's celebrate difference!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

31st December Part 1

Well, this year I have certainly written far less than in previous years. This does not mean I am any less enthusiastic about picture books, children's literature or my role as a teacher librarian. I have done other things. I made a much bigger effort to promote books to students, teachers and parents in the National Year of Reading. We changed displays almost daily. I spoke in assembly. I got teachers involved in Pinterest as a way of remembering what they had read because they could see the covers. I had staff sharing sessions in the library and my Book Club students were invited more often to 'sell' books to their peers. It was indeed busy!

Probably the best part of my job is the shopping. The library has a good budget and I have a very narrow age range (3 to 8 year olds) to buy for. Granted many of these students are very good readers and they have parents who also love books and are happy to devote time to them, but nevertheless I can concentrate on broadening their tastes from the ever popular to the more obscure and less likely to be seen in the local bookshops. To this end this year I have concentrated on 'growing' the collections of textless picture books, picture book biographies and simple graphic novels. Why?

1. Beatrice Rodriguez's book The Chicken Thief was so popular with teachers, parents and students so I went looking for more, both in the library that we already had but weren't promoting and beyond in shops and on websites. We now have a very large collection. My favourite purchase The Surprise  by Sylvia van Ommen. Read it and smile.

2. The picture book biographies started as a reading contract for my Year 2 Book Club. I collected together the ones we had in the library made a task card for each one which encouraged the reader to look closely at connections which in turn would encourage deeper thinking. The unit was a huge success, so much so I had parents coming to the library saying, can I read the book about Honda, Alexander Calder, Annette Kellerman or Pablo Naruda , a unknown-to-my-children Chilean poet. In the end I started a special bin of biographies and it had a large number of books in it by the end of the year. Marvellous Mattie by Emily Arnold McCully proved to be very popular with the girls, probably because they do a unit of work on Leonardo da Vinci in Year 2 and here they saw a girl who invented things and became successful.

3. Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems are very popular in the library and students often ask for other books like that. As well my Year 2 were devouring Geronimo Stilton's in graphic novel format so I felt the need to go looking for more. I purchased the Benny and Penny stories by Geoffrey Hayes. These are part of the Toon series. I have since purchased more. My favourite is a Trip to the Bottom of the World With Mouse  by Frank Viva. The Year 2 also got to read Ben Hatke's Zita the Space Girl. Those who read these two books liked them but my sample was small. I'll try them again next year.

What else have I bought? I have looked closely at our collection of Asian resources, Aboriginal resources and books on sustainability in order to ensure we are ready to support the perspectives promoted in the new curriculum. Then of course books to keep up to date with authors and illustrators works, children's interests and teachers' interest. I am lucky to have a teacher who is an art enthusiast and who will use whatever art resources we have. I have another teacher who is keen to see any new textless books and another who loves poetry.

30th December Jane O'Connor 1947

While the American author Jane O'Connor has written many books she is best known for Fancy Nancy, a feisty young heroine who has a penchant for words and she is certainly doing her bit to increase children's vocabulary. There are whole units of work on the net designed to get teachers teaching vocabulary using her 'fancy' words. See this and this. Just 'spectacular' to use a Nancy word. The first fancy Nancy book was published in 2005 and now there is a whole marketing phenomenon. This year Nancy got her own chapter book, afterall she has grown up somewhat and is now fancying herself as a super sleuth. Obviously she appeals more to boys than girls, but she has proved popular in my library and she certainly gives the Pinkalicious, Princess Poppy and Eloise aficionados somewhere else to look.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

26th December

It is Boxing Day and I maybe should be thinking about boxes, but having done boxes before for a great display in the library and the box construction club (see I feel inclined to write about something else I have observed lately.

A couple of days ago I bought The Bear with the Sword by David Cali and as I read it and looked at the bear and his behaviour I was reminded of  two other bear picture books I had bought this year,  Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip Stead and Erin Stead and Bear in Love  by Daniel Pinkwater and Will Hillenbrand. How do illustrators make bears have such human expressions? Each bear is different but so imbued with human mannerisms. My favourite bear is the one in Sebastian Meschenmoser's Waiting For Winter. He makes me smile every time I look at him trying to work out what snow is. None of these bears appear to be 'wild' or 'grizzly'. None are bad-tempered or look as if they could do harm, and for someone who lives in a country without bears (except in zoos) it is so hard to remember that we should keep our distance from these animals. They do not look anything like teddybears either so they have become pseudohumans. They are easy to empathise with, so easy to see their point of view, and so easy to fall in love with and want to hug. Look at their eyes!

Here are some of my favourite bears and bear stories and this is without including any of Barbara Firth's for Martin Waddell, Kady MacDonald Denton's for Bonny Becker or Karma Wilson's.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

4th December Chris Gall

I was going to write about how successful our Picture Book Month was in the library at the end of November, but time keeps getting away at this time of the year. I had my last day for the year with children today. During November we kept to the calendar and had a mini display each day of picture books on the designated topic. I was happy to see books such as the alphabet ones were borrowed even though no child would ever go to a shelf to borrow one. Cats were popular too. But, two books that  every boy has wanted lately are Dinotrux  and Revenge of the Dinotrux. They are certainly 'the flavour of the month' and I have just learned that Chris Gall their author/illustrator had his birthday on 28th November and I have not included him in the blog before. You can see from the covers why these books are so popular with under 8 year old boys! Yes they are a very creative spin on two of children's favourite topics, trucks and dinosaurs, but they are much more and I found I even liked the premise and the way it is executed. See this clever review if you want another opinion.

Monday, December 3, 2012

3rd December International Day of People with Disability

This year is the 20th anniversary of International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD), a United Nations sanctioned day that aims to promote an understanding of people with disability and encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being. The day seeks to increase awareness of the benefits of the integration of people with disability in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. This morning on the radio I listened to a fascinating interview with Kurt Fearnley, an Australian athlete who has achieved amazing success despite being born without the lower part of his spine. His speed in a wheelchair led me to think of picture books which depict children in wheelchairs who are experiencing success at what they choose to do. Three that came to mind are:

Seal Surfer by Michael Foreman. This is the story about a boy, Ben and his grandfather who witness the birth of a baby seal. The boy loves surfing and feels very comfortable in the water swimming with the seals. One day when he gets into trouble in a rough surf, the baby seal comes to his assistance. The text in the story does not tell you about the boy's disability. You know only from observing a wheelchair in the illustrations.

Arabella by Wendy Orr and Kim Gamble. This too is a story about a boy and his grandfather. Matthew is staying with his grandfather who is a keen sailor. Matthew wants to prove to himself that he can sail by himself but unfortunately chooses a time when a storm is brewing. Once again the illustrations hold the key to learning about Matthew's disability.

Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross. In this story the reader observes Susan taking part in a variety of activities. She appears to be having fun swimming, riding a horse, playing at the park and then right at the end the reader sees her wheelchair.

These three stories are easy to share with a class or group of children. They focus attention on the similarities between these children and all children and they provide readers with a lot to discuss.

Friday, November 23, 2012

26th November National Cake Day

It’s National Cake Day!  On this day, Americans celebrate one of the world’s favorite desserts—the cake. The cake we know and love today evolved from early leavened breads, which were sweetened with honey, fruit, and nuts. Did you know that the word “cake” comes from the Old Norse word, “kaka,” meaning a baked flour confection?

Whether you prefer vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, or even the pineapple-upside-down variety, grab a slice of your favorite cake to celebrate this delicious day! Happy National Cake Day!

Well even though it isn't Cake Day here in Australia, I certainly thought of cake this week as I was shelving the hundreds of books that are coming back from classrooms at the end of the school year. I needed a treat on Friday afternoon, so splurged on a piece of honey roll. My favourite looking cakes in books though are these two. I don't know why because both have copious amounts of cream and strawberries, two things I am not overly fond of, but they do look very decadent and delicious. 

The first is 'made' by Kerry Argent in her illustrations for Gail Jorgensen's Gotcha!   I can't find any pictures of it on the web so you'll have to find the book and read it. Here a group of bears are having a birthday picnic and are just about to cut the cake when the party is rudely interrupted by a "big, black, beastly fly." A pursuit of this fly then ensues and there is a wild romp all over the countryside before coming back to the cake.

The second is 'made' by Janet Stevens in the book Cook-a-doodle doo!  This too is a story where animals get to cook and eat the cake, but at least the cake is on the cover and you can see what you are missing. Both of these books are great read- alouds for sharing with very young children.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

17th November World Peace Day

I struggle to see exactly what the difference is between this day and International Day of Peace which is held on 21st September, but I guess it really doesn't matter how many Peace Days there are, it is something we should be thinking about on a daily basis. World Peace Day requests that each person take a moment to fold a couple of paper cranes and mail them to a world leader or hang them in a place that is visible to the public. One of the Kindergarten classes at school did this just this week. One of the students had learned to make origami cranes and she taught her peers to do it. The teacher took the opportunity to send to the library for the picture book version of Sadako by Eleanorr Coerr and Ed Young She read it to the class and of course it is a lot for six year olds to take on board, but there were plenty of questions and because of the paper folding they will remember the story.

When I read the poemPeaceguy's Prayer by Don Morris that is posted on websites about World Peace Day I can't help but think about how powerful these lines from the beginning of the poem are.

May the people on this planet be changed
Changed from hatred to love,
Changed from greed to giving,
Changed from selfishness to selflessness,
Changed from apathy to action,
Changed from jealousy to joy over someone's accomplishments,
Changed from intolerance to acceptance,
Changed from being destructive to being constructive,
Changed from fighting to peace,
Changed from killing to protecting life,
Changed form censorship to freedom,
Changed from ignorance to education,
Changed from fearing our differences to rejoicing our variety.

Of course there are many picture books that you could choose to illustrate the ideas presented here, but immediately I thought of these. They may not be easy to buy, but search them out in the library because you will not be disappointed. Lessons planned with these and class discussions on these are always rewarding.

* Feathers and Fools  by Mem Fox. This wonderful book about a fight among birds allows children to step back initially because the protagonists are not people, but they are quick to draw parallels after the story is finished. (Please note if you are in Australia this book may have a different illustrator. It has a blue cover.)

* Milo and the Mysterious Island by Marcus Pfister. This story is the sequel to Milo and the Magical Stones, but this time the cliff mice sail off on a raft  to explore a tropical island. Here they meet a tribe of striped mice. Like its predecessor this book also has two endings offering two resolutions to the  conflict between the mice.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

16th November World Button Day

Today is World Button Day. Imagine what our life would be like without buttons. How different our clothes would be. It seems to me that they have a higher profile than ever. Now they are used for decorative purposes as much as for utilitarian purposes. So many greeting cards, artworks, book illustrations incorporate them as part of the collage, and yet now I am at home sitting at my computer I am having trouble thinking of some. I know I covered a book this week with a big button on the cover! What was it?

After cooking dinner and scanning back through the week, I've remembered. Thumbelina by Lucy M George. The story has nothing to do with buttons, but right there on the cover are buttons, enough to send you looking for buttons to do collage with children or sewing buttons onto things.

Since writing about buttons last year, I have also added these two 'button' books to the collection.
Pete the Cat and his Groovy Buttons like all the other Pete the Cat titles has become a favourite with my preschoolers and who wouldn't like to have a pocket full of magic buttons like the witch in Witchety Sticks and the Magic Buttons?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

7th November Lawrence Hargrave Memorial Kite Day

The Lawrence Hargrave Memorial Kite Day is a NSW Department of Education and Training event that brings 1000 Illawarra primary school students together at Stanwell Park to celebrate the achievements of Australian aviation pioneer Lawrence Hargrave.  On the 12th of November , 1894, Lawrence Hargrave became the first man in the world to achieve vertical lift off while tethered to four box-kites on Stanwell Park beach. Hargrave's achievement was one of the most significant milestones in the development of manned flight.

Lawrence Hargrave, an aeronautical pioneer and inventor was born in England in 1850, but came to Australia in 1865 where he lived until he died in 1915. In 1893 he moved to Stanwell Park and began working on his second great invention, the box kite. He wanted to lift himself into the air. After a number of attempts on 12th November 1894 he lifted himself from the beach at Stanwell Park in a four kite construction attached to the ground by piano wire. This invention then inspired inventors and flight enthusiasts in Europe and America, in particular the Wright Brothers. Australia commemorates his achievements with his appearance on our $20 note.

While there aren't any children's books specifically about Lawrence Hargraves, there are many nonfiction books about flight, the history of flight, the Wright brothers and kites.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

3rd November National Non-fiction Day

It is National Non-Fiction Day in Britain. This is not a day we celebrate in Australia, but perhaps we should. As more and more information is being sought via the internet and online sources, teachers and librarians are spending less time using non-fiction books for research purposes.

I still use books to teach my under eights the parts of a good-for- research non-fiction book. The Usborne Beginners series of books is perfect for teaching  Year 1 about headings, contents, glossaries and indexes. I have enough of these for each child to have their own book to look at. The photographs are good, the contents page well set out, there are fact boxes, labels, large font and just the right amount of information for them to read. Pebble Plus is another series of non-fiction books that you could also use to do the same sort of activities with young students.

In the library we always have Non-fiction Monday. This means that if you come to the library for your take-home readers, that on Monday you must take a non-fiction text. Some of the most popular 'readers' are the National Geographic titles and any of those  authored by Seymour Simon.

The other thing that has happened to non-fiction books is that many of them have become 'works of art' and just like fiction picture books they are hard to resist. Illustrators like Steve Jenkins and Ed Young have shown readers that illustrations can certainly enhance the factual text.

Friday, November 2, 2012

2nd November Halloween aftermath

Just wanted to share two classroom success stories that started with a children's picture book.

Firstly a library activity with a preschool class of four and five year olds.  We read a very short picture book called Say Boo! by Lynda Graham-Barber and Barbara Lehman. It is about a little ghost called Ben who is having trouble saying 'boo' and therefore isn't able to frighten anyone on Halloween. He practises and learns to say other words, all of which rhyme with 'boo'. He learns 'moo', 'coo' and 'whoo' from animals he meets until finally when crying, he realises that he is really saying 'boo hoo' which contains the word 'boo'. The children loved that Ben was struggling with something that they found easy, which I found a bit off putting, but they were equally pleased when he succeeded. We made a list of the rhyming words and then made a white paperbag puppet of a ghost. The children had to name their ghost a name that rhymed with 'boo'. They came up with really good names such as Lou, Sue, Spew, Stu, Choo, Woo, Floo and Prue. When we had made the puppets we 'floated' and 'rustled' round the library and then came back to re-enact the story and the rhyme I borrowed from here. Good fun was had by all.

Secondly, I lent the book, How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas to a Year 1 teacher at school and suggested she read it and do as Mr Tiffin, the teacher in the book does with his class. She was very excited about it as it fitted in with her unit of work on celebrations and involved a lot of maths. In the book the teacher buys three pumpkins, a big one, a middle-sized one and a smaller one. The children in the class have to predict which will have the most seeds and then in three groups they clean out the insides of the pumpkin and estimate how many seeds they have. They also need to come up with a plan as to how to count them. The next day after the seeds have dried each group gets their seeds back to count. The Year 1 teacher did this with her class and the children are still talking about putting their hands in the pumpkin and what it felt like. They were involved in estimation, skip counting, hypothesising and testing and they had a lot of fun doing it.  If only I could put photos of children on my blog you would see this fun!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

1st November All Saints Day

Year 1 is doing a unit of study on Celebrations and I've had to do a bit of reading this week. Why do teachers think that the librarian knows everything?   T: Why is it called Halloween?  L: Well it comes from the the Eve of All Hallow's.
T: But what is All Hallows? L: Isn't it another name for All Saints Day. 
T: Well what is All Saints Day? L: I think it is the day before All Soul's Day.
So went one conversation I had before I thought I had better do some reading. I found it easy to find books and information about Halloween and its history. The others were harder.

I found this website about All Saints Day helpful and here I read that  it is a day when many Christians remember and honour the saints. Now although I teach at a Christian school it is not a Catholic school and therefore not a lot of emphasis is placed on saints in a religious context. However in a historical context there are many picture books depicting the life of saints. Many of these tell amazing stories and have brilliant illustrations.
Look for these by Demi:
The Legend of St Nicholas describes the pivotal events in the history and life of the saint who inspired the legend of Santa Claus.
Mother Teresa  of is a biography of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, known as Mother Teresa for all her time spent helping the poor in Calcutta, India.
Joan of Arc
These two by Joyce Denham
Patrick: Saint of Ireland
Saint Francis of Assisi
And two by Tomie dePaola
The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica 
 Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland

Then I looked up All Soul's Day and learned that this is a day for  Christian communities to remember deceased family members and friends. This is more like the idea behind the Mexican/ Latin American Day of the Dead. There are also picture books about this day. Among them are:
Felipa and the Day of the Dead by Birte Muller
Maria Molina and the Days of the Dead by Kathleen Krull
Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston & Jeanette Winter
Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet  Book by Jeanette Winter
 Ghost Wings by Barbara Joose & Giselle Potter

So this week I have learned quite a bit about Christian celebrations and some of the pagan connections with them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31st October Halloween

Well Halloween is here, finally.

 Bong goes the bell in the rickety tower,
 Twelve times...that means it's Spooky Hour.

 Listen! Hush! Oooh, what's that sound?
 The midnight spooks are coming round.

 Hubble bubble, what's that smell?
 Eleven witches stir their spell.

 It starts to fizz. They shriek, "Tee-hee!"
 Then off they zoom on broomsticks, wheeeeee!

 Out of the darkness, what's this here?
 Ten funny, floaty ghosts appear,

 Swirling, whirling, singing, "Whoo-ooooo!
 Watch out, witches. We're after you-ooooooo!"

This is the first three double spreads of a fabulous book called Spooky Countdown to Halloween by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees. It is a rollicking, rhyming story with plenty of  things to talk about, not least of which is the language. It would make a great mentor text for creative writing. There is onomatopoeia, great verbs, exclamations, questions, appeals to the senses, direct speech and exaggeration. I bought it today and can't wait to try it out.

PS I got to school the next day and thought I would just have a look at Spookyrumpus another book by this talented duo. Something in my consciousness must have been niggling. Guess what it is the same book, just rebranded for Australian audiences. I've been jipped! Oh well they'll both get used.

30th October Monsterfeast

With the run up to Halloween, I have been having fun with my preschool classes. We have been sharing monster stories and talking about what makes a monster, a monster, what makes them scary and how can you tell if they are scary? Of course the monster picture books in my library are not ones that are likely to give the children nightmares and most of the time the children thought they looked friendly 'because they are smiling'. It was good to see them interpret body language as well as their behaviour and spoken words.

First, we read with The Snagglegrollop by Daniel Postgate and Nick Price. The children loved identifying the parts he had - a nose like an elephant, horns like a goat, warts like a frog! Then in the story he meets a Quibblesnuff and they fall in love. The children were rolling on the floor. Then they decided they weren't at all interested in scaring children.

Secondly, we read The Scariest Monster in the World by Lee Weatherly and Algy Craig Hall. This monster smiled on the cover and rubbed his head like he was thinking. 'Not scary' the children predicted. He gets the hiccups and the children had great fun making the hiccup noises. He needs to be scared and the animals show him a mirror which fixes him. The children really liked this solution.

Next I thought we might turn the tables and read about monsters who were scared of children. We read Pog by Lynn Lee and Kim Gamble where the monster is scared of children. This Australian book is out of print, so if you can't find it in a library you could substitute Billy Monster's Daymare by Alan Durant and Ross Collins which is based on the same idea.

All in all the monster books have been very popular, frequently borrowed and a big success. Today in browsing time I caught a group of Kindergarten children poring over The Monster Shop by Julie Beech and trying to decide which monster they liked best and would buy given the choice.

Other popular monster books in the library are:
Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere
No Monsters Allowed! by Tracey Hammet and Jan McCafferty
A Rumpus in the Night! and Another Rumpus by Nick Ward
Stomp! by Jeanne Willis and Paul Howard
If You're a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley
• There Was an Old Monster by Rebecca Emberley