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.