Monday, December 30, 2013

Mary Poppins & other favorite classics

I'm looking forward to seeing the movie Saving Mr. Banks, and it's made me remember the fun we had listening to Mary Poppins as a family. The book is such a different experience from the movie! We especially loved all the escapades the children had with Mary Poppins. I highly recommend the audiobook for this classic:
Mary Poppins
by P.L. Travers
narrated by Sophie Thompson
Listening Library, 2008
your local library
Mary Poppins flies into Jane and Michael Banks' life, whirling them off their feet and into magical adventures. Here's a sample:

Classics often make great audiobooks that appeal to a wide range of ages, whether it's listening in the car with a grandparent or reading aloud to your 8 year old and 5 year old. Are you looking for other books like this? Here are a two others I love:
Pippi Longstocking
by Astrid Lindgren
narrated by Esther Benson
Listening Library, 2007
your local library
Pippi amazes Tommy and his sister Annika just the way that Mary Poppins amazed the Banks children. We loved Pippi's headstrong antics, but also were touched by her gestures of friendship.
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
by Betty MacDonald
narrated by Karen White
Listening Library, 2005
your local library
Whether children hate to wash dishes, won't clean up their rooms, or answer back to their parents, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle has the perfect plan how to help them. Kids and parents will giggle at her creative solutions. The short, stand-alone chapters make this a great "long" book to read with preschoolers.

Still looking for more like Mary Poppins? Check out these read-alike suggestions from Penny Peck at the Bay Views blog. A few she recommends are:
  • Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan
  • Brand, Christianna. Tales of Nurse Matilda
  • Burch, Christian. The Manny Files
  • Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy
Happy listening! The review copies came from our personal library and our 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.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, December 16, 2013

Robert Paul Weston visits to talk about The Creature Department (ages 8-12)

Last week, our students were so excited to visit with Robert Paul Weston, the author of The Creature Department and Zorgamazoo. Over 60 fourth & fifth graders came to have lunch in the library and have a live video chat with Mr. Weston. You see, he lives in London but he wanted to share his fantastic books with us. Once I showed my students the videos from The Creature Department website, they were hooked!

I invited a good friend Shannon Miller and her students from Van Meter Community School in Iowa. Friends LOVE sharing books they're excited about, something I always model for students!

Kids crowd into the library at lunch to visit with Robert Paul Weston

The Creature Department is a fun adventure fantasy book that's getting great early reviews from our students. Elliot and Leslie, two kids who see themselves as outsiders at school, end up having to save DENKi-3000—the world’s eighth-largest electronics factory. But it isn't just that DENKi-3000 has come up with amazing inventions like wireless breath mints; Elliot and Leslie discover that DENKi-3000 is home to The Creature Department, a group of fantastical creatures who are as wacky as they are creative.

My students love all the different creatures in the book, like G├╝gor, "a creature that resembled a muscly eight-foot salamander—if salamanders grew sloppy dreadlocks, walked around on their hind legs, and had enormous knobbly hands." One of their favorites was Harrumphrey Grouseman. Weston described coming up with his name from the way he always says "harrumph" and grouses about complaining.


Weston actually created his creatures in tandem with Framestore, the amazing special effects studio behind movies ranging from Gravity to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Framestore animators created some of the visuals for the story brainstorming with Weston as he was writing. Usually, authors complete their work before illustrators are ever involved. Weston talked about how this made the process so much fun, but also a little challenging managing a story with so many characters.

Over 60 kids came in during lunch!
At our visit, Weston shared how he loved listening to audiobooks as a kid (he laughed with great appreciation when my students told him will still have a big collection of books on tape, yes cassette tapes!). I piped in that I think this really shows up in his writing, because it is great to read aloud.

Students asked many questions, ranging from how long it took Weston to write his books to what stories he liked reading when he was their age. They wanted to know whether he went to college (yes!) and what he studied (film studies, among other things), and whether he likes learning about real life animals as well as fantastical creatures.

Big smiles as kids chatted with Weston

Most of all, I think our students liked connecting with an author. Many kids wanted to come up to to share the Japanese they've learned with their Dojo at their martial arts classes. They wanted to say HI! They loved knowing that the books they love are written by real people who struggle with writing each day, just like they do in the classroom.

Many thanks to Robert Paul Weston for taking the time to connect with our students and spreading the love of reading. So many kids are clamoring to read his books now. Hugs to Shannon Miller and all her students at Van Meter for joining in and sharing their love of reading. If you want to learn more about video chatting, definitely check out Skype in the Classroom or Google Hangouts.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Penguin Young Readers and Razorbill. 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.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dot., by Randi Zuckerberg & Joe Berger (ages 4 - 8)

I know I'm not alone, but I wonder at times just how much television my kids can watch if left to their own devices. We all wanted time to rest and relax over vacation, but for many kids (mine included) this seems to mean unlimited TV time. A new picture book Dot., by Randi Zuckerberg and Joe Berger, really appeals to me for the way it helps us all think about our screen time and outside time.
by Randi Zuckerberg
illustrated by Joe Berger
Harper Collins, 2013
ages 4-8
your local library
Dot knows her way around an iPad, a laptop, a cell phone. She's a kid the media might call "a digital native," home with any and all devices. But one day she's tapped out, fried. So her mom tells her that it's time to go outside and reboot, recharge.

I love the twist that happens as Dot spends time outside, realizing that she loves tapping, tagging and sharing in a different way. You can get a nice sense of the book from this trailer:

Some might say that this book is heavy-handed, but I found the spare text and bright, energetic cartoon illustrations created a fun spin on a situation many kids know very well. The overall design of the book keeps the pacing moving, and lets readers enjoy the word play and humor.

Yes, Randi Zuckerberg is the former marketing director of Facebook and sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Yes, this could be seen as an ironic twist for a Silicon Valley celebrity, and she's certainly getting plenty of media coverage. But really, I approach this book as a mom who's fried after a vacation where her kids just wanted to watch TV instead of walking on the beach. Reading Dot. is a whole lot more fun than nagging kids to put away their iPads and turn off the TV.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, HarperCollins. 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.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books