Wednesday, December 30, 2015

31st December The Nutcracker

As the year ends and I now have time to reflect on year's end in the library and just how many Christmas books we have, I still have trouble discarding favourites and those by favourite authors or illustrators. This year we contemplated culling the large number of versions of The Nutcracker we have, yet as we agonised over which ones to let go we realised that every single version we owned had been borrowed during 2015, so ultimately none went. I have a diehard group of girls who will borrow anything that has to do with ballet, so James Mayhew's Ella Bella Ballerina and Marilyn Singer's Talulah versions had been borrowed several times. That is due too, to the power of a series. Tallulah stories are borrowed frequently. James' ballet series is even more popular at the moment than his Katie and artist series.

The story of the Nutcracker has two sources...a story by German author E.T.A. Hoffman called The Nutcracker and the King of Mice and the ballet The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky which was also based on this story and was first performed in 1872. At Christmas many ballet companies perform this ballet so many children know the story of Clara, the Land of Sweets and the Sugarplum Fairy. It's plot is very appropriate for young children as it is about overcoming obstacles and of course good triumphs over evil.

Some very well known illustrators have done picture book versions, even Maurice Sendak who was involved in designing the sets for a production. If your library doesn't have a version look at these four:
• Jane Ray
• Susan Jeffers
• Alison Jay, and
• Ian Beck (author Berlie Doherty)
From these you will be able to select the 'right' amount of text and still have a 'traditional' version of the story.

The other titles above are for more specific audiences. Bea in the Nutcracker  is an ideal introduction for a very young ballerina. Whatever you choose from above you will get exquisite artwork and a good read. Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

22nd December Merry Christmas from Tomie de Paola

It is very easy to 'do' Christmas reading by just collecting together any Tomie de Paola picture books at hand. In the process you will also learn so much about Christmas traditions elsewhere in the world, about being grateful, about enjoying Christmas and about Tomie de Paola's fascination with Italy and Christmas.

The stories do not need to be read in any particular order, but if you have been eating panettone in the lead up to Christmas it is good to read Tony's Bread  and see where panettone came from and why. If your house is decorated with poinsettia you need to read The Legend of the Poinsettia. I like the way Old Befana explains epiphany and why Italian children get gifts then. My preschool classes who often put on a Christmas play relate well to  The Christmas Pageant. I have included Tomie's new book Look and Be Grateful which strictly speaking is not about Christmas and may well be used more for Thanksgiving, but here in Australia where Thanksgiving isn't a celebration I think this is a good sentiment for Christmas discussions.

Merry Christmas! May the holiday be meaningful, family-and-reading filled.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

3rd November Sandwich Day

Sandwich Day is celebrated on this date because it is also the birth date of John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich for whom the food is named. This 18th century earl 'invented' the sandwich because he wanted to be able to eat using only one hand while he was involved in a 24hour gambling event. He instructed his servants to put his meat between two slices of bread. Now it is a favourite food has a myriad of fillings in many places, especially at lunchtime, in schoolyards and on picnics. One might even argue that a hamburger is a form of sandwich.

At school our library display will include the books below. The Giant Jam Sandwich  has become a classic, The Disgusting Sandwich is among the list of most borrowed books in our library and Daddy's Sandwich is a new acquisition.

Monday, October 26, 2015

26th October National Pumpkin Day

National Pumpkin Day is celebrated in the USA today. It is not so relevant here in Australia as it is Spring, not Autumn, but given it falls in the same week as Halloween and Australian children do seem to have embraced this celebration and there are soft American pumpkins available in our shops so that we too can carve Jack-o-Lanterns it is good to highlight just how many picture books celebrate pumpkins. See my pinterest page for what is in our school library and if you are looking for a good picture book to buy that lends itself to good classroom activities purchase How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara and Brian Karas.


Friday, October 23, 2015

25th October World Pasta Day

World Pasta Day, another good excuse to pull out lots of books in the library and make a display. Nearly all the bird books went this week for Bird Week so I have an empty space. It was Noodle Day on the 6th October and National Pasta Day  on the 17th October and I did nothing for these so I'm going to combine pasta and noodles this week. I was a bit perplexed as to what the difference between noodles and pasta actually was so I went looking. Here tells me that basically pasta is of Italian origin and noodles are of Chinese origin although they are made similarly, but another website summarises it in this way 
1. Egg noodles are typically long flat strips of dough, while pasta comes in a variety of shapes
2. Egg noodles originated in China, while the origin of pasta is not certain.  There is also lots of mention about inclusion of eggs and the type of wheat used in the noodle.

Oh well differences aside, the library has plenty of books to display, without even resorting to cookbooks. Among them these below. and if you don't have many why not revisit all the Strega Nona books and enjoy some Tomie dePaola.

Monday, October 19, 2015

20th October International Sloth Day

October 20th, 2015 is International Sloth Day, so says this website. Other sites say that it is the third Saturday in October which means that it was last Saturday, 17th October. Whenever it is doesn't matter because there is so much fun to be had with young children and reading about sloths. There are so many picture books to explore, film clips to watch and toy sloths to hug. See the amazing sloths made by Andrea Vida among other more commercial ones. The books below are in our library. If these are not enough see pinterest page here.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

18th October Dyslexia Empowerment Week

This week from the 18th to the 24th is Dyslexia Empowerment Week, a very important week in my household as both of my children  have struggled with school because of dyslexia. My daughter is driven and ploughed on regardless, not letting negative and unhelpful teachers destroy her self esteem because she got kudos through sport, music and art. My son just gave up and saw the academic battle as insurmountable and most of his teachers gave up on him too. He is bright, an extremely visual learner with an amazing memory and he can fix just about anything electrical or mechanical that is broken. He deserved a much better deal at school. Both love books and are avid listeners. They are more literary than many students I have taught who can read. Thank goodness for talking books. They are expensive but they have been well worth the money. Please watch the clip on the Dyslexia website and think about what you can do to empower people with dyslexia.

From the 19th till the 25th October it is National Bird Week here in Australia and people are being asked to take part in the first  Aussie Backyard Bird Count. What a good excuse to sit in your backyard, local park or favourite spot and identify and count birds. I have noticed lots of kookaburras in my backyard over the last few weeks so I hope they are still around this week. The Steve Parish books about Australian birds help the children at school identify the birds they see at home and in the school playground. These books range from simple to detailed field guides so every child is catered for.

And lastly this week in America it is National Wolf Awareness Week from the 12th to 19th October. The young children I teach are fascinated by wolves even though they are unlikely to see one in Australia. Because of one little girl who was besotted with wolves and devoured every factual book I could find my library now has quite a collection of 'wolf' books and when we put them out on display this week more than half were borrowed. See my pinterest page for what the library has about wolves be they real or storybook wolves.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

4th October Jo Witek (4/9/68)

It isn't Jo Witek's birthday today, but I have just learned that it was her birthday a month ago and she isn't already on my birthday list, so I am adding her now. Also I have just bought her new book ready to use in the library with my preschoolers this coming term. It is called Brave As Can Be.

Jo Witek is an author, journalist and screenwriter who lives in France. Her three picture books available in English are illustrated by Christine Roussey, a French illustrator who also lives in Paris. The three stories, Hello in There; In My Heart  and Brave as Can Be feature the same small girl.

In each book she 'tackles' big issues for preschoolers, getting a new sibling, feelings and being brave. The sibling title doesn't work as well with a large audience, but is better one on one with a child who is awaiting the birth of a sibling. The feelings title is very popular in my library. It includes multilayered die-cut pages featuring decreasing rainbow coloured hearts, big white expanses, and a cute girl who explores her emotions stated as similes... "My heart is like a house, with all these feelings living inside." My heart "is as heavy as an elephant", "like a plant reaching toward the sky".  It has wonderful vocabulary for empowering young children when talking about emotions.

Jo's new book on bravery empowers young children to confront  scary situations head on, but in a playful manner. No doubt there will be more winning titles to come!

Monday, September 28, 2015

28th September Good Neighbour Day

There are not a lot of picture books with 'neighbour' in their title, but nevertheless it is easy to define what a neighbour is and does using stories in picture books, and what better way to celebrate Good Neighbour Day than by reading with your neighbours, even if they are school 'neighbours'. Many of the books I like to share are now old, but that doesn't mean they aren't still good and worth sharing. These will probably be in your school library too, and they are perfect for giving that sense of neighbourliness and community.


    • Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten by Bob Graham. Here Rose and her                                                      family move into the house next door to a recluse whose yard has become overgrown. Rose is determined to befriend him.

A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham. Here a young girl called Stella creates a haven for her neighbourhood in a dumped bus.

Amelia Ellicott's Garden by Liliana Stafford and Stephen Michael King. Here a storm damages Amelia's garden and chicken coop and the neighbours rally to help her recoup her belongings and restore them.

That's Not a Daffodil by Elizabeth Honey. Here Tom's elderly neighbour gives him a bulb that they plant and watch grow.

Nobody's Granny by Tessa Brady. Here the children in an elderly lady's neighbourhood collaborate to build her a fence in exchange for playing in her garden.

Leaves for Mr Walter by Janeen Brian and David Cox. Here Emilia befriends grumpy Mr Walter who lives next door and together they create a treehouse.

And if you do want a book with 'neighbours' in the title, dig out  Mum, Midge and the Neighbours by Phil Cummings and Ritva Vitoula.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

24th September Punctuation Day

National Punctuation Day started in America but reading about it on the web, it seems that Australia and New Zealand share its zeal for identifying examples of incorrect punctuation. It is always easy to find examples of incorrect apostrophe use. Have fun planning 'punctuation police' activities with a class. There are books that can add to the fun. Among them, but not part of a specially written punctuation series are:

Punctuation Mark by Belinda Ellis
Fun, light-hearted and for a young audience.

Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
What happens with a misplaced exclamation mark?

Punctuation Takes a Vacation by Robin Pulver
What would happen if there was no punctuation. Mr Wright's class find out.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves  by Lynne Truss
This is a more sophisticated look at punctuation, but even young children laugh when you explain examples in this book and how a comma can really change the meaning.

Monday, September 21, 2015

22nd September Elephant Appreciation Day

I can't believe I haven't written about this celebration before. There are just so many wonderful books for young children about elephants or which have elephants as main characters. I have a pinterest page for elephant books so I don't intend to list all of these. Instead as part of my elephant appreciation I have decided to categorise and then tell you my favourites. Here they are!

Picture Book:
My favourite to read to preschoolers is The Elephant and the Bad Baby  by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs. While not really about elephants one of the main characters is an elephant and the children find him a loveable villain.
My favourite picture book about elephants, which also has a loveable main character is Little Elephant, Thunderfoot by Sally Grindley and John Butler.

It is a toss up between two, both of which I have had success with reading to classes.
1. Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris
2. Akimbo and the Elephant by Alexander McCall Smith

With amazing photographs: Elephants a Book for Children by Steve Bloom
With illustrations: Grandma Elephant's in Charge by Martin Jenkins and Ivan Bates
This title is part of the wonderful Read and Wonder series which intersperses story with facts.

The Elephants' Ears by Catherine Chambers and Caroline Mockford
This story explains the differences between African and Indian elephants.

Biography/True story:
Queenie: One Elephant's Story by Corinne Fenton and Peter Gouldthorpe
This story is sad, but shows children a problem that may come with keeping wild animals in captivity.

Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems

Sunday, September 20, 2015

21st September World Gratitude Day

World Gratitude Day is a day when we should all stop to be grateful for all that is good in our world. At school we do talk to children about what they are thankful for, we talk about bucket filling and being good community members. Many families and teachers have a Blessings Jar or Gratitude Journal. I have just read an adult novel called The Happiness Jar where a girl with cystic fibrosis, despite all her health issues lives life to the fullest and records all the things that she is grateful for in her happiness jar. Perhaps it is something we should do more about with our privileged students at a time when many children still do not have the opportunity to go to school or live in a safe environment. We could do this without scaring them as much of the current refugee news is prone to do with the very young students I teach.  Americans have Thanksgiving, but here in Australia we don't have a specific day to say thank you or express gratitude and perhaps we should. These four books could help you start a discussion with very young children.

 Today is also World Alzheimer's Day. If you are not affected by this awful disease you have another good reason to be grateful. I have written about this day before and while many new books have been published since, such as Phil Cummings' Newspaper Hats and Ellie Royce's Lucas and Jack you still might find these other titles useful.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

12th -20th September NSW Bike Week

The weather here has been superb. It is Spring and you just want to be outside doing things. On the weekend the Festival of the Winds was on in Bondi. It is NSW Bike Week  from Saturday, 12 September until Sunday, 20 September and there are children in parks, at the beach and on the move. Hopefully it will still be like this in a week's time when it is school holidays. When I think of Spring at school I like to read Will Hillenbrand's Spring is Here to my preschoolers. It is one of the books in the series about Bear and Mole. Coincidently there is a title about kites, Kite Day and another title in the series about bike riding  is Off We Go! Here Bear is encouraging Mole to give up his training wheels. This too is the premise in other titles about bike riding (see list of titles below). 

I am often asked by parents for books about bike riding because their child is fearful and unwilling to take risks. I recommend Jeanne Willis' Don't Let Go! which hasn't failed me yet. Here a little girl persuades her father to teach her to ride a bike. She has all the trouble with balancing and speed control that every learner remembers - but at last she is whipping down the path in the park screaming: 'It's all right - you can let go now!' 

I notice that there has been a number of new books which feature bicycles lately including Byron Barton's My Bike, Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bike by Chris Raschka and two more about bears on bikes, Bike On, Bearby Cynthia Liu and Bear on a Bike by Hannah Shaw which is coming soon.

I like to share two books set in Africa with older children who take having a bike for granted,  Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams and My Rows and Piles of Coins with fabulous illustrations by E.
B.Lewis.  These two show how for a child without a bike the yearning for the freedom that comes with a bike is paramount.

And don't forget Mulga Bill's Bicycle. Read it with gusto and explain the history of it and penny farthings.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

6th September Pet Rock Day 16th September Collect Rocks Day

September seems to be the time to think about ROCKS! There is Pet Rock Day on the 6th or 14th depending on which website you look at and then there is Collect Rocks Day on the 16th. I grew up in an area where there was large amount of igneous rock and I had a science-teacher father who was besotted with geology and physical geography. I loved collecting rocks, especially those pieces of basalt that had been made into smooth pebbles by the pounding of the sea. These rocks were great for drawing on, decorating, making into people and rock art. And now I'm an adult I still have a 'thing' for rocks. Recently in Ireland I found myself picking up rocks and making totems on the pebbly beaches. I wrote on beaches with stones and made rock art constantly. old habits resurfaced because of the abundance of rocks to work with...and yes I did bring two rocks home! One of them is from the beach that the movie Ryan's Daughter was filmed on, the other from a town called Greystones just south of Dublin where as you guessed the beach is made from large grey pebbles. As you can also probably guess I loved The Giant's Causeway which makes rocks appear so clever.

The children at school do borrow books about rocks and crystals. They seem to run in bursts and if one child gets interested I often find the interest spreads. Below are some of my favourite rock books in the library and here is the connection to my pinterest page where I have both children's books and projects that use rocks. If you decide to 'adopt a rock' read Byrd Baylor's Everybody Needs a Rock. Children probably won't choose to read this book themselves because of the illustrations and their lack of colour, but the text is perfect and once you read it, the children understand and are keen to choose a rock.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

5th September Vulture Awareness Day

The first Saturday in September is International Vulture Awareness Day. I'm sure that most of us give very little thought to vultures, except to think that they are big and unattractive, but their number in the wild is dwindling and thus many countries organise events to raise awareness of their plight.

As a subject of interest, vultures are quite high on the list in my library, especially with Year 2 boys after we have done animals of the African savannah and they learn about scavengers. Suddenly vultures, hyenas and jackals are in demand and we do not have a lot of books on any of these. I purchased some of the Sandra Markle  Animal Scavengers series which has proved popular despite the amount of text, possibly because of the 'bloody' photographs.

While vultures appear as characters in many picture books, especially those set in Africa, the two books where they are the 'stars' are The Sulky Vulture by Sally Grindley, illustrated by Michael Terry, and Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre with wonderful illustrations by Steve Jenkins.

Monday, August 31, 2015

29th August Lindsay Ward

I have just read on Happy Birthday Author that this is the birthday of author illustrator Lindsay Ward. She was not an author I knew much about, but when I read this blog I realised the library had three of her books, so I have made a note of this here so that next year we can add her birthday to our library diary. I would like to add her title Please Bring Balloons  as balloons always make for a good display in the library and it sounds like fun.

The library has When Blue Met Egg, A Garden for Pig,  and The Yellow Butterfly. I particularly like the sentiments of the story about the butterfly.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

29th July International Tiger Day

International Tiger Day is held annually to raise public awareness of tiger conservation issues. It is becoming more important each year as the number of tigers are decreasing quite rapidly. Recently I heard the tiger keeper from Australia Zoo interviewed on Conversation Hour on the ABC and I found what he had to say fascinating. It lead to me doing a bit of research and thinking it would be a fun topic to explore with students at school.

The fiction tiger titles are borrowed, but the nonfiction books on tigers (in fact any big cats) are very popular in my library. Whenever we put together a display and include a few cuddly toy tigers the books walk out the door. So having a global celebration of tigers is a good excuse to put together a display this week. What is in our library is here on pinterest.

Do a quick survey to see which is the most popular tiger book in your library. I love The Tiger-Skin Rug  by Gerald Rose. The librarian I share the library with loves Augustus and His Smile  by Catherine Rayner. One of the preschool teachers constantly has The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr on loan to her. One of the Kindergarten teachers has become a fan of The Rat and the Tiger by Keiko Kasza since doing a philosophy PD course and the students have become loyal fans of two newer books Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown and The Sea Tiger by Victoria Turnbull.

The shortlist for The Environment Award for Children's Literature 2015 was announced in July and Our Class Tiger by Aleesah Darlison is on that shortlist in the non-fiction category. See the full shortlist here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

26th July National Tree Day

THERE is Chinese proverb that says: "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.''
With National Tree Day on Sunday and Schools Tree Day on today, it is time to think about planting trees.

The aim of Tree Day is to inspire, educate and recruit Australians to come together to make a positive difference to the environment. Native plants, and usually ones indigenous to the area, are planted to provide food and shelter for wildlife, increase biodiversity and combat habitat loss.

If your school doesn't plant trees there are many other ways to inspire children to think about trees and how important they are. Reading picture books about  real people who have planted trees to save their environment  really inspired a group of year 2 readers at my school. They did a small project on Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental activist who planted thousands trees which was initiated by the group reading picture books about her life and achievements. There are now five wonderful picture books about Wangari:
Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter
Seeds of Change by Jen Fullerton Johnson and Sonia Lynn Sadler
Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson
Planting the Trees of Kenya  by Claire A. Nivola
• Wangari Maathai by Franck Prevot and Aurelia Fronty

Another book about an environmental project that involved planting trees is
The Mangrove Tree by Cindy Trumbone and Susan L. Roth

And while we are on the subject of trees and biographies have a look at new book
Luna and Me  by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw which tells the story of activist Julia Butterfly Hill who lived in a tree for two years to save it from being chopped down, and 
The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins and Jill McElmurry which tells the story of activist Kate Sessions' greening of San Diego.

There is a multitude of fantastic books about trees and planting them. Below are many others worth finding at the library!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

23rd July Hot Dog Day; Vanilla Ice Cream Day

Hot dogs and ice cream are not necessarily topics we associate with children's books, but even national days such as these can in fact be celebrated by reading wonderful children's books.

Mo Willems has both topics covered by his popular pigeon in The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog  and by Elephant and Piggie in Should I Share My Ice Cream?

Tom Watson has both topics covered in his series about Stick Dog, Stick Dog Wants a Hot Dog and Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream. These quick-read novels are extremely popular with my able readers in Year 2. They will be very excited to see Book 4 has just arrived.

Then these three ice-cream books just should not be missed by anyone!
Vanilla Ice Cream  by Bob Graham
Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sis
I Scream Ice Cream by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Serge Bloch (just amazing word play to revisit and ponder over often)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

4th July Alice Anniversary

The fourth of July marks the anniversary of the day in 1862 when Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)  and the Reverend Robinson Duckworth rowed in a boat up the Isis River with the three young daughters of Henry Liddell, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. The middle daughter was ten year old Alice. During the journey Dodgson told the girls a story that featured a girl named Alice who goes looking for adventure. The next day he started writing the story down.  Several versions and trips later on 26th November, 1864 Dodgson gave a handwritten manuscript to Alice  as a Christmas present. Then in 1865 it was published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with illustrations by John Tenniel, so this year marks its 150 anniversary.

The story has become more popular with age as its fantasy world of peculiar anthropomorphic creatures, its structure and narrative course have undertaken much analysis and literary criticism and have thus its characters and imagery have influenced popular culture and literature. There are hundreds of versions available to children and adults. They range from preschool versions such as the board book by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver, through many of the abridged versions by publishers such as Usborne and Ladybird, picture book versions such as the one by Eric Puybaret,  beautifully illustrated versions by renowned illustrators such as Antony Browne, Emma Chichester Clark, Lizbeth Zwerger, Helen Oxenbury and Robert Ingpen right through to annotated versions such as Elucidating Alice for adults and spoofs such as Fifty Shades of Alice. It has inspired musicals, films, stage productions, sculptures, artworks and gardens.

I have collected all the versions in the library and put together a celebratory display.