Thursday, February 28, 2013

28th February World Rare Disease Day

World Rare Disease Day is an annual observance held on the last day of February (February 28th or February 29th in a Leap Year) to raise awareness for rare diseases and improve access to treatments and medical representation for individuals with rare and genetic diseases and their families.

An official video has been produced which draws its inspiration from the RDD slogan for 2013, ”Rare Disorders without Borders”. It mixes 
stop motion animation with live action. Its very talented  director, Carlo S. Hintermann has produced a thought provoking, poignant video for us all to enjoy and to help continue the Rare Disease discourse.

What is a rare disease? It is a disease that is life-threatening or chronically debilitating, has a low prevalence and a high level of complexity. It usually is incurable. 80% are of genetic origin and 50% affect children.

It is timely then that this book just arrived in my library called Yellow Dress Day. It is written by Michelle Worthington and illustrated by Sophie Norsa. It tells the story of Ava who likes to wear a different colour dress for each type of weather, so on hot days she wears red, on rainy days, purple and blue for cold days. One whirly, windy morning Ava wants to go outside and play with her puppy but her yellow dress, the one for windy days, is missing. What will she and her mother do?

The author, Michelle Worthington has been friends with a family who have a little girl called Ava who has Rett Syndrome, a rare neurological disease. One day after visiting Ava and her family she went home and wrote this story for her. 5% of the royalties from the book are going to the International Rett Syndrome Foundation. An added bonus is the illustrations which are amazing when you consider that this is Sophie's first picture book and that she was still at school when she did these illustrations. She was discovered while on work-experience. Hopefully she will go on to illustrate more books.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

24th February Peter Brown

Peter Brown is one of the illustrators who has just been honoured in the Caldecott Medal list for his illustrations in the book Creepy Carrots written by Aaron Reynolds, and today is his birthday. His website offers so much information that can be used with children and I can't wait to share his first book about his dog that he wrote and illustrated when he was six. This will be so inspiring for children who see themselves as writers. Also in an interview here, about his book The Curious Garden, Peter Brown's  answer to the question, 'Do you have any advice for you readers?' is 'Be curious'. What a great focus for a study of his books? I want to put all of his books out for my book club  and then send them off to read and peruse them with that instruction, 'be curious'. Then I would show this video and this one too. When we get together to discuss what they have found I will be able to see where their curiosity has taken them. It would be wonderful to use the See Think Wonder questions as a focus.

What I find admirable from the interviews is that Brown’s goal is simple, “to make books that kids really want to read, to help prevent reluctant readers like myself.”

“I try to make stories that are really fun, but there’s also a bit of a lesson in there, secretly,” Brown admits. “I don’t want to turn kids off, but a story without a lesson is not really a story.” For Brown, it’s connecting with his readers that’s important. “I spend a lot of time thinking about my readers when I’m coming up with a story, and I think I know what my audience needs." 

Friday, February 22, 2013

18th February Barbara Firth (1928 - 2013)

Sad news this week, reading that Barbara Firth had died on 18th February, and so soon after Jan Ormerod. Two wonderful illustrators that we will not see any new illustrations from. Luckily so much of their work is well known and still in print.

Barbara Firth is  the English illustrator responsible for the wonderful Little Bear that Martin Wardell created, but she brought to life, firstly in Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? which won the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Smarties Prize in 1987. There were then four more titles and the series went on to sell more than seven million copies.

When I was a young teacher and mother, Can't You Sleep Little Bear? was new and a must read. Then Martin Waddell was in Australia and visited our school to talk to Year 1. The children were enthralled. His publisher left posters which we displayed in the library and all over the school. We had a small toy Little Bear that the children read with and ever since then I have felt the need to share these books because their gentle messages work so well with young children.

Currently, my parents and children are newly involved in the Premier's Reading Challenge and therefore are on a mission to only take books with red stickers on their spines. This means any book without a sticker is going to languish in the library for a couple of months until they have read their thirty books.

No matter, I was going to honour Barbara Firth and yesterday I got out all her books that we have in the library and put together a small display. A few had red stickers and they were gone by home time, but so had a few others...good, parents with taste who will hopefully come back looking for more now that they have been introduced to her work and the series of five books about Little Bear:
Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?
• Let's Go Home, Little Bear
• Sleep Tight, Little Bear
• Well Done, Little Bear
• You and Me, Little Bear

 "I have always been biased toward illustrating natural history, so it was a joy to be able to draw pages and pages of bears," Barbara Firth says of her collaboration with Martin Waddell on Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?the first of their classic Big and Little Bear series. As part of her research, she spent hours at a zoo, carefully watching and recording the movements and habits of bears. 

Barbara Firth has illustrated for other writers besides Martin Waddell and they too, show her aptitude for animals. See Karen Wallace's Bears in the Forest and Peter Hansard's  Wag Wag Wag, a book about dogs.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday)

I love Pancake Day in the library, especially when it is with Kindergarten. Today I had my second lesson with them, so the library experience is still new for many of them and they are so awestruck by it all. We made actions to go with Christina Rossetti's poem Mix a Pancake.

The students were so proud of themselves learning a poem so quickly that they surprised their teacher by reciting it when she came to pick them up.

We also read Princess Priscilla by Stacey Apeitos. My all-time favourite pancake book. It is out of print and shouldn't be. We need to lobby publishers. In this story a feisty young princess outwits a hungry dragon by feeding him pancakes smothered in sleeping potion. The pancakes are delivered by skateboard and lance. The vocabulary is outstanding. So many wonderful words to talk about...drowsy; droop; dungeon; armoury; hollered; bellowed; lugged; potion to mention only a few.

The other good thing is that children and parents borrow cook books on Pancake Day! The children win all round! Fun in the library and fun with Mum and Dad cooking.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

11th February Thomas Edison (1847 - 1931)

Thomas Edison is considered the greatest inventor of all time and is best known probably because of the light bulb, which he didn't in fact invent, but he improved it to make the incandescent light bulb, a more practical and efficient one. He did invent other things that have also brought great change in our lives. Imagine a life without CDs, videos, television or radio, because over a hundred years ago these did not exist and entertainment had to be homemade. Then Edison invented the phonograph which recorded sound for the first time. In a  picture book in our library called Edison's Fantastic Phonograph, by Diana Kimpton and M.P.Robertson, Edison's daughter, Dot tells the story of how her father did it. This book also includes a brief biography of Edison.

Another book, Timeless Thomas; How Edison Changed Our Lives  by Gene Baretta is a more comprehensive biography of Edison and a fun reader from the Flying Foxes series,  Magic Mr Edison by Andrew Copeland imbeds some of the Edison story and facts  into a tale where a boy called Dan chases his dog to Mr Edison's house. There he finds all manner of amazing inventions including a light bulb that turns on at the flick of a switch.

Each of these books make the life of Thomas Edison and his memorable inventions very accessible to young children.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

4th February Rosa Parks (1913 - 2005)

It is 100 years since Rosa Parks was born. She was an African-American civil rights activist who became known as "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement" because in December 1955 on her way home from work she declined to vacate her seat on the bus for a white man. You can read about her life and watch a video here.

Rosa Parks is not someone that school children in Australia know much about, but last year my Year 2 Book Club and I spent a term reading picture book biographies. The school library had a large number but I supplemented the collection by reading blogs and other teachers' recommendations. As a result of this reading,  I bought one about Rosa Parks. It turned out to be very widely read, mostly I think because the first student who read it came to the literature circle so angry and indignant about the treatment of Rosa in the story. She was outraged and had so much to say to the group about it that I think everyone else in the group thought they should read it to see if it was true. The group made links between this story and White Water by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein which some of them had read, and felt sure that this would never happen in Australia. Despite their young age, only 7 or 8 most of them, I did try to enlighten them as to things that had also happened in the past in Australia to Aboriginal people. I told them about books such as Stolen Girl by Trina Saffioti and I hope that as they get older and are exposed to other injustices they will read more widely.

It is important that students of today know what has happened in the past and how important it is to know that some people fought long and hard for liberties that they take for granted!

Friday, February 1, 2013

31st January Backwards Day

Backwards Day! What a good idea. Good excuse to wear your cap backwards, practise walking backwards, sitting on a chair backwards...let the children come up with ideas. Try telling a story backwards. Does it work? Is it good to know the solution before the problem?

Read Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb and David McPhail. In this story Timmy Bear and his mother play a game just before going to sleep where Timmy has to tell his mother what happened during the day but in reverse order. This is probably a good way to review the day with young children because they often remember the more recent things and need to be prompted about earlier events.

With older children it can be fun to identify names that are spelled the same forwards and backwards, like Eve; Anna; Hannah; Otto and Elle. When I read Libby Gleeson's Skating on Sand to classes the discussion in the book of Hannah's name being a palindrome always elicits long list of other palindromes. Jill Tomlinson's The Penguin Who Wanted to Know has a penguin called Otto and another called Anna so it too is good to start palindrome discussion. If you just want to keep palindrome discussion brief introduce the picture book Mom and Dad are Palindromes by Mark Shulman and Adam McCauley and leave it out for your students to read.