Tuesday, January 31, 2012

There's Going to Be a Baby, by John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury (ages 3-7)

Having a new baby brings change for any family, and it can be a big adjustment for a child who gains that new sibling. As parents’ attention shifts toward the coming baby, the soon-to-be big sister (or brother) wonders what it might mean for her (or him). Will her parents have time for her? Will the baby want to play with her big sister, or just take all of dad’s time?

There's Going to Be a Baby
by John Burningham
illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
MA: Candlewick, 2010
ages 3 - 7
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
Anticipation and imagination. That is the powerful mix at work when a young boy asks his mother, “When is the baby going to come?” As they walk along, she answers in a perfectly reasonable way that it will come in the fall, when it’s ready.

“What will the baby do?” wonders the boy.

 “Maybe when the baby grows up, it will be a chef and work in a restaurant,” suggests his mother.

Hmmm, the little boy isn’t sure that’s a good idea. Turn the page, and the little boy imagines a baby making pancakes, spilling a mess everywhere.

As the young mother suggests straightforward answers, the little boy imagines all the trouble a baby might cause. You’ll laugh at the preschooler’s inventive imagination, but you can also feel his anxiety and uncertainty. Just what will this new baby be like? This sweetly funny book, with its retro feel and muted colors, will bring smiles to parents and children anticipating a new baby.

For more books to share with children about having a new baby, head over to my Bookshelf article for this month at Parents Press. I feature five books that look at this change from a child’s perspective.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Candlewick Press. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How Did That Get In My Lunchbox? by Chris Butterworth (ages 4 - 8)

My kids love cooking, but if you ask them where their food really comes from I'm not sure they'd be able to tell you. Sure, they can tell you that apples grow on trees - but what about bread? cheese? chocolate? How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? takes this question and shares the answers in an engaging, fun way for young children.
How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?
The Story of Food
by Chris Butterworth
illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti
MA: Candlewick, 2011
ages 4 - 8
2012 NSTA/CBC Outstanding Trade Book
available from your local library, favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
How do we get most of the food we eat? That's right, we make a trip to our nearest store. If we're lucky, we have a home or community garden where we can grow some of our own food. But we are far removed from most food production. Butterworth shows readers how each item in their lunchbox makes it from the farm to the table. For some items like an apple or clementine, it's a simple journey growing on a tree, being picked and washed, then traveling to the store. But other items are much more complicated; bread starts as a grain, which is then ground to flour before it can be baked into bread. Butterworth clearly explains how several items in a typical lunchbox are made, providing enough information to help children envision this but keeping it simple enough for young readers to follow.

This book keeps a fun, fresh tone with Gaggiotti's retro cartoon illustrations. The illustrations will draw young kids in to this factual book and keep their interest. Gaggiotti has integrated the text into the illustrations, making each numbered step clear to follow.

Take a look at this Google preview to get a sense of how fun this would be to share with preschoolers or young elementary school children:

The final two page spread shows the four food groups that should be included in our daily diet and how much space they should take on our plate. I especially liked Butterworth's kid-friendly description of the food groups, such as, "Protein: These are 'bodybuilders' (to help you grow those extra inches)." Throughout, this has an informative but encouraging tone perfect for preschoolers, kindergartners and 1st graders.

Head over to Wendie's Wanderings for Nonfiction Monday to find more wonderful nonfiction to share with your children.

The review copy came from our school library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka - winner of the 2012 Caldecott Medal (ages 3 - 8)

Our 2nd graders at Emerson have loved thinking about which picture books should win the 2012 Caldecott Medal, participating in a mock Caldecott of our own. Yesterday we read A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka, who was awarded the 2012 Caldecott Medal this past weekend by the American Library Association. This wordless book will appeal to a wide range of children, from young preschoolers on up. Our students responded to the way Raschka expressed so many emotions purely through his paintings.

A Ball for Daisy
by Chris Raschka
NY: Schwartz & Wade / Random House, 2011
ages 3 - 8
available from your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
2012 Caldecott Medal
Daisy is a happy, eager little dog who loves her red ball. She leaps and bounds, playing with it at home and then at the park. But one day at the park, another dog starts playing with Daisy's ball. The ball suddenly POPS! and Daisy is despondent. Her owner, a young girl not depicted until half-way through the book, tries to comfort Daisy.

Children respond to Daisy's emotions throughout the story - how excited she is playing with her favorite toy, the despair she feels when she loses that toy. Raschka captures these emotions through Daisy's expressions, movement and posture. We had a great time with 2nd graders looking at Daisy's eyes and practicing different emotions our eyes convey.

The story concludes with another trip to the park, as Daisy and her little girl meet the dog who popped Daisy's ball. This little brown dog and her owner have brought Daisy a new ball, and the book ends with a very happy Daisy cuddling on the couch with her new ball. Our students loved the ending, recognizing that's what you should do if you break a friend's toy. They wondered if Daisy and the brown dog will become friends.

The first time I read A Ball for Daisy I mistakenly thought it was only for young preschoolers. My 2nd graders have shown me, once again, how much they can get from a wordless picture book that explores and celebrates a rich palette of emotions. They appreciated Daisy's emotions, they loved Raschka's use of color and lines, they noticed patterns and details I passed by on my first reading. Picture books, especially wordless ones, let children develop their love of stories, and their understanding of illustrations and visual imagery.

Other reviews can be found in many places, including:
  • A Year of Reading: "brilliant illustrations that tell so much of the story to the reader.  You cannot help but feel what the dog feels throughout the story--all the ups and downs."
  • Waking Brain Cells: "From the bright red of her ball to the striped couch in green, the book embraces color.  Raschka also uses color to convey emotion, which is particularly effective when the air itself is colored with purples and blues after Daisy’s ball is popped."
  • ProseAndKahn: "Daisy is drawn with a minimum of squiggly lines, but her posture and expressions speak volumes. The contrast of moods between the walk to the park and away from it, is striking. Readers will feel pity for the poor lonely dog trying to nap without his favorite toy."
  • NPR interview with Chris Rashka:  Raschka has a simple criterion for choosing his subjects: "Anything that creates a strong emotion in me," he says. "Whether it's music, loss of something, loneliness or friendship — if that emotion is heightened in some way and painted to fit in between the covers of 32 pages, that can become a picture book."
  • Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: "I’m a raging fan of Raschka’s minimalist, vigorously-stroked artwork".
The review copy came from our local bookstore Mrs. Dalloway's and our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support. Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, January 23, 2012

Connecting with a community of readers

I feel tremendously lucky to be a librarian, to be able to reach out to children and parents helping them find books, stories, information that might just maybe find a home in their hearts and minds, or maybe provide laughter or escape, or maybe a glimpse of who they are or what the world is like.

I have done many different jobs, from helping little old ladies in Kankakee, Illinois figure out their Medicare problems, to analyzing health care reform plans, to teaching eighth grade English. While I did truly love teaching, no job has been as fulfilling as being a school librarian. I connect with so many kids, help all types of readers, see kids' eyes light up when they discover a new favorite book.

Take a moment to tell someone how much you value your local library, your school library, your local bookstore. Maybe tell your child's teacher how much you appreciate their classroom library (chances are they buy many of those books with their own money). Tell your school principal or PTA president how much your library means to you. Tell your neighbors how fantastic your local public library is. Sign this White House petition to “ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program.” Find a way to deepen the connection you have to people in your community who value and promote literacy.

But I also feel immensely grateful to have joined a profession with such a supportive community. I am just returning from the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting in Dallas. I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the Bill Morris Seminar to help librarians learn to carefully, thoughtfully evaluate materials for children. We listened to leaders in our field who had chaired Caldecott, Newbery and many other award committees talk about how we identify truly distinguished books for children. We discussed with our peers, other librarians with rich experiences, the strengths and weaknesses of picture books, novels, nonfiction and audiobooks for a wide range of children. We dug deeply into ways to analyze books, continually thinking about how the choices authors, artists and designers make impacts children's experiences with these books.

I want to thank so many people, from the co-chairs of the Morris Seminar, Jenny Brown and Connie Rockman, to my local mentors Kathy Shepler, Linda Perkins, and Nina Lindsay. I want to celebrate my friendships with librarians throughout the U.S.: Cathy Potter, Jill Bellomy, Kim Grad, John Schumacher - just to name a few.

As I sit collecting my thoughts, I am struck by a sense of community: a librarian's role in her community at home, our broader community of readers sharing ideas on the Internet, and the professional community of librarians, authors, publishers. These communities, and our engagement with them, enrich and support all of our lives. And so, yes, I do feel tremendously lucky. Lucky, indeed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Me... Jane, by Patrick McDonnell (ages 4 - 8) - inspiring, gentle picture book

Picture books have the power to inspire, entertain and connect us with the larger world. They can help us understand more about the world around us, and they can sometimes help us understand more about ourselves. Me... Jane, by Patrick McDonnell, is a wonderful example of a picture book that resonates with many young children. I read it with our 2nd graders this week as part of our discussion of books that might possibly win the Caldecott Medal next week.
Me... Jane
by Patrick McDonnell
NY: Little, Brown, 2011
ages 4 - 8
available from your local library, favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
2011 Cybils nominee & finalist
winner of the 2012 Charlotte Zolotow Award
Little Jane carries her stuffed chimpanzee Jubilee around with her everywhere - reading stories, exploring outside, climbing trees. Right from the beginning, our students could relate to having a favorite stuffed animal. McDonnell frames this story about the childhood of Jane Goodall, the famous animal behavior scientist, in a way that draws children into connecting with Jane's life. Jane loves exploring the outdoors - and so she spends most of her time either watching animals and plants outside or writing in her journal about facts she's discovered. Our students could easily imagine keeping a journal with questions and observations about the animals around them.

The artwork in this picture book is soft and understated, but with a charming touch. Our students noticed the contrast between the detailed stamps on one side of each spread and the pen and watercolor illustrations on the other side. They liked the way this made them think of real life animals with the intricate engravings, while the illustrations emphasized the child-like quality of the story. My favorite moment of the day was when Anthony raised his hand and said, "I'm making a connection to another book. This reminds me of Where the Wild Things Are." We were looking at the end of the story, when Jane imagines being in the jungles of Africa, swinging from vine to vine with Jubilee swinging behind her. Other students immediately began making connections to the power of imagination that Sendak celebrated in Where the Wild Things Are. It was a wonderful moment that I will always treasure.

The pacing and page turns are masterfully controlled - please read this aloud to your children and ask what they're noticing at each page. The final few turns of the page took our breaths away, in that quiet "ohhhh" type of moment as you realize the scientist that Jane Goodall grew up to be.

This isn't a book a book that will grab you and demand your attention. But if you have a quiet moment, it will plant a seed that may bloom if you give it some time. For another wonderful review, head over to Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac.

In the end, as we compared Grandpa Green, Blue Chicken and Me... Jane, students each responded differently. I asked them to tell me which book had the best illustrations, since the Caldecott is awarded to the illustrator of the most distinguished picture book. The majority chose Blue Chicken, because they loved the humor in the story and the creative use of color. Others liked Grandpa Green for the detailed illustrations and way it sparked their imaginations. And others definitely chose Me... Jane, for its inspiring story and gentle artwork.

Each year, the Caldecott Committee reviews hundreds and hundreds of picture books - all published in America during that year. The committee meets during the American Library Association's midwinter meeting to discuss the books they find most distinguished, and decide upon a winner. My students and I are very excited to see which book they choose to award the 2012 Caldecott Medal. If you want to watch the announcements live on Monday morning, head over to the ALA site here.

The review copy came from our school library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Brain Burps about Books: fun podcast about children's books

Hey, hey! I had such fun on the radio that I wanted to share MORE about fantastic book apps for kids. I'm joining the BRILLIANT podcast Brain Burps About Books produced by Katie Davis. Hooray! Head on over to Brain Burps About Books to listen to this week's episode where I'll share about the Cinderella app by Nosy Crow.

If you love children's books, either as a parent or librarian -- or as a writer or illustrator, Katie delivers fun, informative interviews with all sorts of folks involved in children's books. This week Katie's interviewing Emma Dryden, a children's book editor with rich and deep experience in the business. Her expertise is "is working with authors to help define, enrich, and craft their work to make it viable for the current marketplace." I can't wait to hear it!

Listen to the show from your computer (Brain Burps About Books) or download the show on iTunes.

I am so excited to share book apps for kids on Katie's show. This week I'm sharing  of Cinderella by Nosy Crow. My students have loved, loved this app. Of course they love the familiar fairy tale, but they're just eating up the interactive features that Nosy Crow has built into this app. I'm very impressed by the thoughtful way that this app creates such a rich layered experience, pulling children back to reading it again and again.

I hope you have fun listening to the episode on Brain Burps About Books, and have a chance to check out the Cinderella app with your kids.

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, January 16, 2012

Caldecott winning books: mid-1940s

I'm continuing my Caldecott Challenge, reading as many of the books which have been recognized as distinguished picture books by the American Library Association. This week, I have read several books from the mid- and late-1940s. While this was a dark time for Americans, the picture books reflect a celebration of children's innocence. Two books in particular struck me from this week's reading: A Prayer for a Child and Juanita.
A Prayer for a Child
by Rachel Field
illustrations by Elizabeth Orton Jones
NY: Macmillan, 1944
1945 Caldecott Medal
ages 2 - 5
available at your local library, favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
This sweet book is a poem written by Rachel Field for her daughter, sending a message of love and joy. The illustrations are sweet, and I would think this would make a lovely present for a new young family. But somehow, the illustrations didn't appeal to me quite the same was as in Juanita. It seemed to me that this little girl was a bit generic, that it didn't resonate as one specific little girl. I wish I could put my finger more specifically on that feeling. But, then again, it could be that it would connect more to someone from the this background. A good Twitter friend, Aly Beecher, told me, it "seemed a lot like New England to me. Something resonated for me in everything about the illustrations." A Prayer for a Child reminded her very much of her grandparents' summer cottage.
by Leo Politi
NY: Scribner, 1948
1949 Caldecott Honor
ages 3 - 6
available at your local library, favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
preview available on Google Books
I adored this book - absolutely adored it. Politi captures the atmosphere of Olvera Street, the historic Latino community in downtown Los Angeles, in a way that both celebrates Juanita's innocence and childhood joy, and honors this Mexican American community. Juanita's parents own a small shop, or puesto, on Olvera Street. It is Juanita's fourth birthday, and her parents give her a small white dove (symbolic? yes, I do think so). On the day before Easter, Juanita takes her dove to the Old Mission Church for the annual Blessing of the Animals. 

I am so happy that Juanita is still in print, reprinted by Getty Publications. Many of my friends who are joining me in the Caldecott Challenge have not yet been able to see this, so I made a short video sharing it with friends. Here's a quick look at these books:

For more Caldecott books, head over to the fantastic Laura Given's blog: LibLaura5. Over 40 bloggers have signed up for the Caldecott Challenge! Come join us!

These review copy came from my local library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Cheshire Cheese Cat, by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright (ages 8 - 11)

I've been wondering about how books hook readers, how they draw us in, and what makes us stay. Sometimes, it's immediate conflict and action; other times, we're enchanted with a magical place. The Cheshire Cheese Cat hooked me from the very first line: "He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms. Fleet of foot, sleek and solitary, Skilley was a cat among cats. Or so he would have been, but or a secret he had carried since his early youth." This book hooked me from the beginning, bringing a smile to my face with its playful puns, true friendships, and wonderful writing.
The Cheshire Cheese Cat
by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright
illustrated by Barry Moser
GA: Peachtree Publishers, 2011
audiobook available (narrated by Katherine Kellgren)
ages 8 - 11
available from your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
nominated for the 2011 Cybils Middle Grade Fantasy & Sci-Fi
Skilley is an alley cat used to surviving on the streets of 19th century London, and so he is particularly pleased to have found a home as the mouser at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a London inn frequented by Charles Dickens and other notable writers. But Skilley has a secret - one that he's going to have to confront very soon. He doesn't like to eat mice. In fact, he detests the thought of eating a mouse. It's cheese that he adores - cheese, delectable cheese. So when he catches his first mouse, he urgently whispers, "Run. If the innkeeper sees you..." Well, not only will the mouse have problems, but so will Skilley. This mouse, Pip, turns out to be a very special mouse - one who leads his fellow mice with courage and wits, and a true friend to Skilley.

The Cheshire Cheese Cat would make a wonderful read-aloud as a family, pulling in both younger and older listeners. I found myself completely drawn into Skilley's world, wondering how he will get himself out of different dilemmas. Parents will love the sprinkling of references to Dicken's works. Young readers will enjoy the tense drama and suspense. I particularly think children will relate to Skilley's agonies about how to apologize to Pip:
"Making a mess of things is an occupation at which even the most unskilled can excel. But mending is an art that requires years of practice. In short, breaking a thing is easy (even a child can do it); fixing that selfsame thing may be harder (sometimes even adult persons cannot manage it).

Skilley was learning this lesson in the most painful of ways. What he had broken was a thread of trust as thin and delicate as a glass filament - a thread that had bound him to one of only two friends in his life." (p. 126)
How many of us have found it hard to figure out how to say, "I'm sorry" and really mean it? That's never an easy thing, and Skilley struggles with it just as we would. And children will also relate to Pip. He's such a courageous, thoughtful little mouse - and a true friend.

Throughout, Barry Moser's illustrations add to the fun, drawing readers into the characters and their situations. He captures both animals' and people's faces with all the emotions you're feeling as a reader, helping us be right there in Skilley and Pip's place.

Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright dreamed up this idea for a story after teaching at a Brigham Young's writing conference in 2005. The idea first developed after Deedy visited London with her family and found Ye Old Cheshire Cheese on a eerie London night. Read more about how they worked on this story together over at Erika Rohrbach's Kirkus blog post "Of Mice and Men".

The Cheshire Cheese Cat will appeal to lovers of Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux, but also to lovers of Stuart Little or Jenny and the Cat Club.

For other reviews, check out Charlotte's Library, School Library Journal's Fuse #8 and the Cybils shortlist. The Cheshire Cheese Cat received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, the School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly.

The review copy came from our school library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman (ages 4 - 8)

Combine beautiful artwork, a story to make you laugh, and silly chickens who just want to help, and you have a perfect recipe for a successful picture book. Deborah Freedman does all this with her new picture book Blue Chicken, but she add in twists to take us to unexpected places - and our students loved it.

Blue Chicken
by Deborah Freedman
NY: Viking / Penguin, 2011
ages 4 - 8
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
Look carefully as you open this picture book. At first, you'll think that you're at a typical farmyard - but if you look closely, you'll realize that you're watching an artist paint a farmyard scene. She's almost done, but a little chicken pops up out of the flat drawing and wants to help. Oh no! The chicken topples over the pot of blue paint, creating a mess all over the drawing. The paint spills, turning everything in its wake blue... until one of the chicken thinks of a solution.

“But wait. Does one of the chickens want to help?”
Blue Chicken has delighted our students - the playfulness of the story, the way that the characters are coming to life and causing havoc with the drawing. They love seeing how Freedman creates movement with the paint. In some ways, the splashes seem so simple that students recognize that they can create the same effect. And yet Freedman's technique is masterful, as she layers shades of blue, from the palest wash to vibrant puddles.

Our second graders were drawn right into the story and loved finding different clues as they went. I wish I could capture the energy in the room and how they were all leaning forward, talking to each other as I read it aloud. They had so much fun with the final twist. This story will appeal to preschoolers as well as older picture book readers, because it works on many layers. If you like this sort of metafiction, where the characters come out of the story to create their own sort of mischief, another story you'd enjoy is David Wiesner's The Three Pigs, the 2002 Caldecott Medal winner. We read Blue Chicken as part of our mock Caldecott unit with 2nd graders.

If you want to learn more about Deborah Freedman's process, head over to an interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Blue Chicken has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist and School Library Journal. The students at Emerson would agree!

The review copy came from our school library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Here Come the Girl Scouts! joint duo-review-o-matic with 100 Scope Notes

Welcome to Non-Fiction Monday and a special joint edition, co-hosted by Mary Ann and Travis. Mary Ann runs Great Kid Books and Travis runs 100 Scope Notes. Both are elementary school librarians who love sharing all sorts of nonfiction with children. But tops on our lists are picture book biographies.

MA: Picture book biographies draw today’s kids into the lives of people we admire, giving our kids a glimpse of their struggles and accomplishments.

T: A great picture book biography can highlight not only an individual, but also provide a glimpse into a particular time and place for a variety of readers.

MA: Yep, these picture book biographies draw students from kindergarten through 5th grade. Some are simple and accessible, like Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. Others are complex and intricate, like Starry Messenger, by Peter Sis. But I especially love picture book biographies that can be read by a range of audiences.

T: And that’s what we have here, I think. This picture book biography of Girl Scouts founder Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Law by Shana Corey (who’s previously knocked it out of the park with picture book bios Milly and the Macy’s Parade and Mermaid Queen) does things right. A remarkably fresh take on the founder of an organization that has changed the world.
Here Come the Girl Scouts!
The amazing all-true story of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low and her great adventure
by Shana Corey
illustrated by Hadley Hooper
NY: Scholastic, 2011
ages 6 - 10
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
MA: I’ve been amazed how vibrant the Girl Scout organization remains, and how many of our students are Girl Scouts today. They join partly to have fun with their friends, and partly because the values of the Girl Scouts still speaks to girls. “To make yourself strong and healthy, it is necessary to begin with your insides.” Daisy Low said that over 100 years ago, but it still resonates today.

T: My Thin Mint habit is indeed alive and well. It’s great to see the organization thriving. A year or so ago, due to student demand, I was desperately looking for books on the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. I was amazed to discover that the pickings were slim. For the Girl Scouts, at least, that’s about to change. 2012 is the group’s 100 year anniversary and it seems every publisher is coming out with something on the topic. While Here Come the Girl Scouts! is the first such offering I’ve read, it’s going to take a lot to top it.

MA: This book is going to draw these girls into seeing what values were established by Girl Scout’s founder, Juliette Gordon Low - called Daisy by her family and friends. She was no wilting flower! Daisy loved adventure and wanted girls to learn skills that would help take them places in life. She had many advantages in life, but she really thought about how she could make a difference in girls’ lives, how she could help others explore and expand their horizons. Corey brings this out through her lively narration and Low’s quotes that she sprinkles across every page.

T: That definitely adds another layer of character. The third-person text is concise yet retains personality. Key words and dialog are often given a bold font and color, increasing interest.

MA: The design and layout really draw kids to it. I’ve also been happy that it’s a great read aloud - so it works well for younger kids in 1st or 2nd grade, as well as nine and ten year olds.

T: The story wouldn’t work nearly as well if it weren’t for Hooper’s gorgeous artwork, “created with traditional ink, paint, and printmaking techniques, then scanned and assembled in PhotoShop.” The palette is sunny an oozes appeal. My first thought is that the art looks something like what would result if you gave LeUyen Pham (Grace for President, Freckleface Strawberry) block print tools. The technique itself reminds me of Stephen Shaskan’s A Dog is a Dog from 2011.

MA: You can really see her characters’ spirit in this sample. They do remind me of Pham’s characters, especially from Freckleface Strawberry or Big Sister, Little Sister!

T: Can we make it mandatory to include illustration info in every picture book? I would have assumed these illustrations were created entirely in the digital realm until the CIP page note set me straight.

MA: Corey conveys the essence of Low’s philosophy in an upbeat way. I didn’t realize her origininal philosophy emphasized outdoor activity so much. Imagine camping with a group of girls in the early 1900s! I love this spread here:

T: Two other books are coming out this winter about Juliette Gordon Low - both are much longer (200 - 400 pages), full of photographs and primary sources, perfect for older students:
Ginger Wadsworth, First Girl Scout: the life of Juliette Gordon Low
Stacey Cordery, Juliette Gordon Low, the remarkable founder of the Girl Scouts

MA: Another thing to mention is that this is the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts - many celebrations are being planned around the US. Our troops here in the Bay Area are very excited about “bridging” from one century of Girl Scouts to the next by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge with thousands of other Girl Scouts. Find out more information here.

T: Engaging, informative, easy on the eyes - it’s well done, plain and simple. This deserves a spot in collections far and wide.

MA: Thanks Travis for joining me! Let’s welcome all the other great nonfiction around the Kidlitosphere. If you have something to share, please leave a comment and we’ll add it to the post as the day goes on.

Nonfiction Monday

Early birds: Sunday night contributions

Jeff Barger at NC Teacher Stuff has a great review of the nonfiction iPad app Bobo Explores Light. This is a Cybils finalist - Jeff served on the judging panel of the iPad Book Apps Round 1 Cybils panel. "Bobo the robot trips the light fantastic and takes the reader on a journey to explore this most necessary phenomenon.... If you have a child who loves nonfiction, you have to get this app."

Tara at A Teaching Life is sharing two photo-essay books she will be sharing in her Writing Workshops this week: Afghan Dreams: Young voices of Afghanistan, by Tony O'Brien and Scott Sullivan, and When the Wolves Returned: Restoring nature's balance in Yellowstone, by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, with photographs by Dan and Cassie Hartman.

Over at True Tales and a Cherry on Top, Jeanne Walker Harvey is featuring another great picture book biography is featured on her post today - The Flying Machines of Alberto Santos. 

At GatheringBooks, Fats has reviewed Margarita Engle's The Poet Slave of Cuba, "a lyrical biography of Juan Francisco Manzano, a man born into slavery and known to remain in servitude until he was forty years old."

Breakfast rounds: Monday morning
OK, West Coast time here and a few posts to add before waking up the kids and getting going. I will add more after the morning rush is through. Please do keep leaving comments!

Ms. Yingling is sharing two military books: Ghosts in the Fog and Fighter Jets. I know many students would be very interested in these. Thanks for recommending them!

Louise, at A Strong Belief in Wicker, is sharing a lovely book about swallows from the Animal Neighbours series.

The Nonfiction Detectives, Cathy Porter and Louise Capizzo, are reviewing How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum. "Inquisitive students and dinosaur lovers will enjoy this companion to How the Sphinx Got to the Museum."

Head over to Shelf Employed to read a review of Can We Save the Tiger?, "a beautiful and affecting book." This is part of her series on the Cybils finalists - I'm looking forward to reading more in this series.

Amy at Hope is the Word, is also reviewing a Cybils finalists: Jim Arnosky's Thunder Birds: Nature's flying predators.  "Arnosky’s love and appreciation for these aeriel assailants comes through in both his gorgeous acrylic and white chalk pencil illustrations and his awe-filled text." I can't wait to read this!

At Rovingfiddlehead Kidlit, Andrea is sharing about stuff you missed in history class. I'm looking forward to checking out these podcasts and her book pairing suggestions!

Stop by for a visit to the Jean Little Library to check out Jennifer's review of Look at That Building! A first book about structures. "Beginning with foundations, each spread takes the group of friends through the parts of a building as they research buildings on their way to and at the library, planning to build a doghouse."

Afternoon tea
Well, the day has zoomed by with kids coming into the library, shelving and books to share. Here are some more great nonfiction reviews to take a look at!

Head over to Wrapped in Foil to check out Roberta's look at another Cybils finalist: Unraveling Freedom: The Battle for Democracy on the Home Front During World War I by Ann Bausum. This fascinating book "not only a summarizes domestic events during World War I, but also shows how these events parallel those from 9/11."

Simply Science is sharing Biomimicry: Inventions inspired by nature, which "explores patterns found in the diversity of nature as the inspiration for technology and inventions that benefit people." Fascinating, indeed!

Abby the Librarian checks in with a review of Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The triangle fire and its legacy, by Albert Marrin. "Not only would this make a great addition to history lessons, but it could easily spark conversations about immigration and how it has changed in this country over the past hundred years."

Head over to Challenging the Bookworm to take a look at the beautiful Pocketful of Posies by Salley Mavor. While this may not be your normal nonfiction, it is a book of nursery rhymes which "technically" goes in nonfiction. The beautiful illustrations are what drew her attention.

Lisa Song at Read for Keeps has reviewed Blizzard of Glass by Sally Walker."This is a book I simply couldn’t put down. The tension built gradually in the first few chapters ... By the time Walker described what the families were doing just before the explosion, I was practically biting my nails."

Anastasia Suen checks in at her new Booktalking site with a Picture Book of the Day, When Anju Loved Being an Elephant by Wendy Henrichs (Author) and John Butler (Illustrator), and a Chapter Book of the Day, Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World by Susan Hughes.

At Brimful Curiosities, they are discussing aircraft carriers.  They are particularly excited about Who Lands Planes on a Ship? - I loved how she is exploring nonfiction to develop her son's enjoyment of a new toy!

Over at Nonfiction Book Blast, Susan Stockdale has fun with Fabulous Fishes, which "introduces young readers to both exotic and familiar fishes in simple, rhyming text. The bright bold colors and crisp, clear lines of Stockdale’s fishes, depicted in their natural habitats, can’t help but grab your attention."

Wendie Old checks in at Wendie's Wanderings with a review of A Day in the Life: Polar Animals: Emperor Penguin

The review copy was kindly sent by Scholastic. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books, and Travis Jonker, 100 Scope Notes.

Early Caldecott winning books: exploring the late 1930s, early 1940s

I have launched into exploring the best American picture books by reading as many Caldecott winning books, decade by decade. The Caldecott Award was established in 1938 by the American Library Association to honor the illustrator of the most distinguished picture book published in the United Stated during the previous year. This journey is helping me develop an appreciation of picture books, think about a wide range of illustration styles, and consider the different aspects of these classic books that might appeal to children today.

I have enjoyed sharing three books from these early years. Their stories and illustrations have kept their appeal, some eighty years later.
by Ludwig Bemelmans
originally published 1939
1940 Caldecott honor
NY: Simon and Schuster
ages 3 - 8
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines." Does that bring back memories? I loved reading the Madeline stories to my children when they were young - the rhyming text reads aloud so well, and Madeline perfectly balances an independent spirit with an old-fashioned sense of being a proper little girl. I especially enjoyed rereading this to 1st graders, and looking at the illustrations. Bemelmans alternates line drawings with full color paintings. I especially like the motion and movement he captures in the line drawings of Miss Clavel. Read more at Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac.
April's Kittens
by Clare Turlay Newberry
originally published in 1940
1941 Caldecott honor
NY: Harper
ages 4 - 8
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
Children today will still adore this child-centered story about a young girl who is torn when her beloved cat has kittens that her family says they cannot keep. Clare Newberry  cats and captured this love in her wonderful stories and illustrations for children. April lives in a small apartment in New York City, in what her father calls a "one-cat apartment." When her cat Sheba has kittens, her mother explains that they will find homes for each of the three little cats. Children today will connect with April's growing love for one of the little kittens, and the pangs she feels when her parents start to give them away. Newberry uses a combination of ink, charcoal and watercolor to capture the details in her cats. I was particularly struck by the way Newberry captured the essence of these cats with just the barest of fuzzy details. This is a book that I will share with cat-lovers of all ages.
Make Way for Ducklings
by Robert McCloskey
originally published 1941
1942 Caldecott Medal award
NY: Viking
ages 3 - 8
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
I have loved rereading this - it brought back so many memories from childhood, not specific memories, but that wash of familiarity, of having been drawn into this book hundreds of times. This time, I was struck by how the text gave the ducks so many human qualities, but the illustrations of the ducks seemed so realistic. I was also struck by the dynamic poses of the policeman, and the interesting perspectives/angles. McCloskey builds the climax and tension with the policeman perfectly for young children. Originally published in 1941, this book keeps its appeal to children today. I especially like the way that Anita Silvey notes, "Because the book was published during World War II, the first children who read it often had fathers away from home. It sent a subtle, but powerful message: that the family would be reunited in a safe place." See her wonderful story of how McCloskey learned to draw the ducks over at her wonderful Children's Book-a-Day Almanac.

I have read 14 of the Caldecott Medal and Honor books from 1938 to 1942. I have loved joining Laura, Anna, John, Aly and all the librarians and teachers having fun with the Caldecott Challenge. If you are interested, please join us!

The review copies all came from our school or public library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grandpa Green, by Lane Smith (ages 4 - 9) - beautiful picture book

There are times that a picture book calls to me. Every time I see it in a bookstore, it calls out to me, "Come look, just one more time. Peek inside." From the first time that I read it standing in an airport bookstore, Grandpa Green has called to me. The illustrations are beautiful, balancing intricate simplicity, amusing images and a heartfelt message.
Grandpa Green
by Lane Smith
NY: Roaring Brook Press, 2011
ages 4 - 9
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
A young boy walks through a garden as he tells us about his great-grandfather. But this is no ordinary garden - it is filled with enormous topiary sculptures, living plants cut into fanciful shapes by his great-grandfather. At first, the sculptures seem whimsical, like the elephant on the cover; but very soon you realize that each sculpture helps tell the story, Grandpa Green's story of his life. When he was sick with the chickenpox, "He had to stay home from school. So he read stories about secret gardens and wizards and a little engine that could."

While some reviewers have wondered how children will react to this story, the 2nd graders at Emerson really enjoyed it. The loved finding the different sculptures, figuring out why they were important in Grandpa Green's life. They enjoyed Lane Smith's humor and the details in the illustrations - noticing repeating images, foreshadowing and they symbols from Grandpa's life. And they responded especially well to the tender conclusion of the story, as the little boy describes how Grandpa tends to forget things more now, but that the garden remembers the important things for him. This is a book that worked well reading with a whole class, but will also invite repeated one-on-one reading.

We read Grandpa Green as part of a Mock Caldecott unit, in anticipation of the 2012 Caldecott award being announced on January 23rd.

Watch the trailer for Grandpa Green here:

Grandpa Green has received praise from many sources:
Read other reviews at:
All images copyright Lane Smith, 2011, shared courtesy of Macmillan Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fantastic Book Apps for Kids: announcing the 2011 Cybils finalists

Boing! Zoom! Zap! Is that your book making all those noises? Are you making things dance, bounce and sing? You must be reading a Book App, maybe on your smart phone or iPad. The Cybils Awards - given each year by bloggers for the year's best children's and young adult titles - has launched a new category specifically for iPad Book Apps, and the results are in!

The Cybils panels for each category have just announced their lists of finalists, a short list that represents the best of the books their judges have read. The Cybils Book App panel, made up of a group of seven librarians, teachers and parents with a broad range of experience, has chosen seven book apps. As the category organizer, I helped steer this committee, but they did the hard work of reading over 50 book apps and deciding on those that really represent the best of the lot.

The guiding focus for the Cybils Award is to choose books that "combine the highest literary merit and 'kid appeal.'" As they explain it, "If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussel sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we’re thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We’re yummy and nutritious." If you're looking to dive into the world of book apps, the following make a great place to start.

Head over the Cybils 2011 Book App Finalists page for full descriptions of these great book apps.

Be Confident in Who You Are: A Middle School Confidential Graphic Novel
by Annie Fox
Electric Eggplant
ages 10 - 14
Nominated by: Amy Jussel
"This is an app created especially for tweens and young teens. ... It features six characters surviving Milldale Middle School who cope with issues of body image, conflicting emotions, how to be honest with friends, etc." - review by Sylvia Vardell

Bobo Explores Light
by GameCollage
Game Collage, LLC
ages 6 - 10
Nominated by: Paula Willey
"This iPad book app from Game Collage successfully mixes science, reading and fun.  Bobo the robot guides readers through information on light, inviting interaction in both serious and silly ways.   ... Never losing sight of its young audience, science is what lights up this app." - review by Tasha Saecker

Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson and Trilogy Studios
Trilogy Studios Inc.
ages 3 - 7
Nominated by: John Schumacher
 "Harold's journey introduces this wondrous tale to a new generation of kids and gives their favorite adults a satisfying trip down memory lane. Though an enjoyable adventure to snuggle up and discover together, a special read-to-me feature with pitch-perfect narration makes the app especially kid friendly." - review by Sara Bryce

Hildegard Sings
by Thomas Wharton
One Hundred Robots
ages 4 - 8
Nominated by: Betsy Bird
"Hildegard is a singing rhino whose voice gives out right as she's about to make her operatic debut. ... Readers will squeal with laughter and delight as this interactive app draws them into hilarious plot twists." review by Carisa Kluver

Pat the Bunny
by Dorothy Kunhardt
Random House Digital
ages 1 - 4
Nominated by: Scott Gordon
"Preschool children will enjoy playing along with Judy, Paul, and Bunny as they participate in various activities in this app based on the classic book. ... Pat the Bunny is a fun interactive experience for our youngest readers." review by Jeff Barger

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
by Moonbot Studios
Moonbot Studios LA
ages 5 - 10
Nominated by: Hallie Tibbetts
"This app combines computer animation, interactive features and elements of a traditional picture book for a truly unique experience.  ...  Children and adult book lovers alike will identify with Morris and his love of story, getting lost in those stories and sharing them with others." review by Nicole Kessler

The Monster at the End of This Book
by Callaway Digital Arts, Inc
ages 4 - 9
Nominated by: Sheila Ruth
"Remember life before Elmo? When Grover was the cutest character back in the day? Well, Grover gets to star in this funny, well-made story app based on the original Golden Book from 1971. ... These effects and Grover's very dramatic narration make this hilarious story so much better than the original book -- which I have never said before about any book, and might not ever say again!" review by Melissa Taylor

I really want to honor and thank all of the members of the Round 1 Cybils Book App panel for their hard work and thoughtful consideration of all of the apps that were nominated. I also want to thank all of the developers and publishers for helping us consider each app. Finally, I want to thank the tireless Cybils organizers, especially Sheila Ruth and Anne Levy, for their hard work and constant coordination. This is a new category, a new way of distributing books, and it took the work of many to organize this new category.

Next steps? The Cybils Round 2 panels all start convening to consider the finalists. They will read and deliberate over the next six weeks. The Cybils Awards will be announced February 14th.

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.