Posts tagged ‘book’

October 28, 2011

the furious dragon that blows fire and is not nice

I read a great book this week. It was penned on my living room carpet (the one wearing three years worth of stains from juice boxes and wine boxes, unsupervised sharpie markers, vomiting and potty-training children, and who knows what else).

The book is called “The furious dragon that blows fire and is not nice”. The title, as you can see, tells you a lot about the temperament of the main character. It also tells you a little bit about the temperament of the author, who is currently and lunatic-ly a three-and-a-half year-old. He narrated it as I wrote. I will relate it in its entirety, with commentary:

“First, the dragon gets in his cave. He walks around it and tries to get lions and tigers and bears.* Then the dragon gets very mad and very fast.** Then the knight comes and looks for that dragon. Then he gets on his horse. The dragon looks for that knight. The dragon keeps blowing fire and trying to look for the knight. Then the dragon finally finds the knight. The knight kicks the dragon. Then the knight dashes the dragon down.*** They still fight mean.**** Then they hit each other. Then they stop being mean. Then they hear a noise…”*****

*Scribe’s note 1: Oh my! Yes, we are VERY into the Wizard of Oz. The author is planning to be the Tin Man for Halloween.

**Scribe’s note 2: The author also gets very fast when he is very mad. I think like most first novels, this book is partly autobiographical.

***Scribe’s note 3: I’m not sure the exact meaning of “to dash down” but it is clearly violent and said with a lot of volume and emotion. (Volume and emotion go together in the same way as the previously mentioned qualities, speed and anger.)

****Scribe’s note 4: This page was written after I reminded the author that he only had a few pages left. (We had created and bound the book before writing it.) I think it was his way of saying “So what? you can’t force a peaceful resolution on me!”

*****Scribe’s note 5: Showing that he’s learning something about stories, if not his own temper, he decides when faced with the last page to end the fighting. But not the suspense. You should hear “DUH, DUH, DUH” playing as the story ends.

Follow up with the kids

No, you can’t find this book on Amazon. Not yet, at least. But you could find one a lot like it in your own living room. Sometimes the best stories for finding a connection with your kids aren’t already published and on a shelf somewhere. Sometimes you need to take a stack of paper, punch some holes, tie it together with ribbons (Halloween ribbon in our case) and let imagination fly. Chances are, you will find out something your child won’t otherwise tell you (like the fact that when he’s frustrated and doesn’t always know what to do with his anger he wishes there were a dragon he could dash down).

Writing a book like this with your child not only gives you insight into what they are feeling and thinking, it also helps them practice story-telling skills, using their imagination, feeling empathy for characters, and problem-solving (unless, of course they decide to ignore the problem in their story and just continue the fighting…)

You can be creative about how you make the book. Don’t stop with just stapling (or tying) paper together. If you have an older child who has worked hard on the book, consider scanning in the drawings and printing the book out. Or sending it to a printer as a photo album and getting a nice hardbound copy printed out. (Think holiday presents!)

If drawing isn’t your child’s thing, or they are searching for inspiration, consider cutting magazine photos for the pictures, or printing out family photos for a fun family-inspired story.

Have fun with this! And I hope your knight and dragon, or your princess and unicorn, or whatever the story is, becomes a wonderful family memory.

October 3, 2011

CINDERELLA SKELETON, the “Halloween kind” of skeleton book

My son knows me well. One of his favorite parts of the library routine is typing his search word into the catalog. (He’s even been known to leave the sacred puppet shows one or two minutes early because he can’t contain his excitement for the keyboard.) Recently, in response to my usual question about what kind of books we were going to check out today, my son says “I want skeleton books, but the Halloween kind, not the body kind.”

In case this isn’t clear, let me explain: he knows very well his mom used to be a middle school science teacher, even if he can’t explain it in so many words. And he knows very well that asking said mom for skeleton books will likely result in bedtime stories about tibias and fibulas. (We’ve done that before actually. The only bone name he seems to really remember is the patella. But we’ll work on that.) So what he was saying is this: “I want a scary skeleton book. A book where the skeletons are main characters, where they do things. I do not want to learn anything about anatomy when I read these books.”

Done. We typed “skeleton” one letter at a time into the catalog and came home with a whole pile of non-academic Halloween-based scary and not-so-scary skeleton books which we have been enjoying reading for the past few days.  Here are our favorites:

Title: Cinderella Skeleton
Author: Robert D. San Souci
Illustrator: David Catrow
Genre: Picture Book, Scary
Age: 3 – 7

Summary and Review: This book is wonderfully creepy. It’s by far my son’s favorite of all the library books we’ve gotten, seeing as it combines two of his loves: skeletons and fairy tale princesses. He looked at the pictures in the car on the way home from the library and excitedly showed me how, instead of losing a glass slipper, Cinderella loses a foot. 🙂 What is not to love about this gorgeously-illustrated, somewhat creepy fairy tale re-telling with an unusual rhyming scheme?

Title: Skeleton hiccups
Author: Margaret Cuyler
Illustrator: S.D. Schindler
Genre: Picture Book, Halloween
Age: 0 – 7

Summary and Review: This one is funny. The only downside is that my son doesn’t remember ever having the hiccups, so he doesn’t relate very well. But he loves it and reads it out loud to himself all the time–at least the “hic, hic, hic” part. Skeleton tries to get rid of the hiccups with a lot of traditional ways, but the water he tries to drink upside down goes right through him. He has other similar problems. Ghost is trying to help, and finally Ghost gets an idea that cures Skeleton once and for all. (Hint: it involves a mirror.)

Title:  Skeleton Bones and Goblin Groans
Author: Amy E. Sklansky
Illustrator: Karen Dismukes
Genre: Poems, Picture Book
Age: 0 – 7

Summary and Review: This is a collection of cute Halloween poems. Fun to read out loud.

 

What about you? Any great Halloween stories? Or skeleton stories? Or fairy tales about the undead? What are your kids into right now?

September 26, 2011

a single good book in A SINGLE SHARD

My husband constantly makes fun of my reading habits. Examples: when one of his relatives picked us up at the airport and I spent the entire car ride home reading a book by flashlight. Well, flashlight app to be more accurate. Yes, I have a flashlight app and yes, it’s probably the most used of all my phone apps. It’s also great for reading at night in hotel rooms when the kids are trying to go to sleep.

Last night I told him I was exhausted and going to bed early and he came upstairs two hours later to find me with my nose in a book. I think I just have a special fondness for staying up late with a book. It conjures memories of Nancy Drew books in elementary school, staying up way past bedtime.

Recently, it conjured a different memory–that of staying up late reading to cram for a class in high school and college. I haven’t had to do that in while, but with my SCBWI writer’s conference coming up, I was mortified that I was about to meet Newbery Award-winning author Linda Sue Park without actually having read any of her books. So after the first day of the conference I came home and started A Single Shard around 9:00 so I’d be ready for my intensive with her the next day. My husband turned the lights out and put his head under the pillow.

9:00 PM for me today is probably the equivalent to what 2:00 AM was for my college self. It seemed a daringly late time to be starting a project; it felt like a secret endeavor, like I might get in trouble or had something important to do.  Maybe both. And so there I sat, cuddled under the quilt, my family asleep, sharing the nighttime hours with a story about a young boy. A simple story, told with simple words, on a simple night. It was heaven. I’m on a Linda Sue Park kick right now, so you’ll be hearing about more of her books later.

Title: A Single Shard
Author: Linda Sue Park
Genre:  Middle Grade
Age: 8 – 12, upper elementary and young middle grades

Summary and Review:

It won a Newbery so I don’t need to tell you it’s a great book. This is the story of a homeless boy and the man he lives with under the bridge. It is the story of the boy’s quest to learn pottery. It’s the story of how he learns about himself and how he learns to belong to others.

What stood out most to me about this book was how disarmingly simple it was. The prose is clean and spare, light on its feet. I found out at the conference that Linda Sue Park is also a poet and that comes through strongly in this book. If I told you what happened in the book–the boy wants to learn pottery and apprentices to a potter, you might start yawning. But even though the action is there, and the plot strong, it’s the characters that make this a story you want to read. It’s the boy’s simple yet ardent desire and his willingness to work hard—and always put others first—to fulfill it.

I read it about a week ago. I liked it then, but the more I think about it, the more the story seems to seep into some place deep inside me and I like it more and more every time I think about it. What really stayed with me is the boy, the main character, and how straightforward, honest, and hard-working he was. He was the kind of kid you’d like to raise, or teach, or meet, or be, depending on whether you are reading this as a parent, a teacher, a girl, or a boy.

August 18, 2011

high school is hard and here are THIRTEEN REASONS WHY

When I think about teasing in school, there are two incidents that come to mind immediately. The first one was 4th grade, when I got glasses. I was SO excited about my glasses and a girl called me “four-eyes”. She was my friend and I think she was just trying to tease me and say something funny. I took it as a compliment. My teacher took it as an insult, though, and talked to her about it. I thought that was ridiculous.

About two years later, I was in the middle school girls’ bathroom when two more girls came rushing in. One was in tears. Sobbing hysterically; I thought someone might have died. When I figured out what was wrong, though, it turned out that one of the boys had called her flat-chested–I forget the terminology he used, but he got the point across. I had no idea how to respond. I really, really, had no idea why she was upset. Because one of the boys said her boobs were small? Really?

That should give you a good picture of me. That’s the nerd I was in middle school (yeah, right, like I’ve changed…)  :), and let me tell you, there are a lot of advantages to traveling socially-unaware through middle and high school in between the cliques and the put-downs.

This book is about someone who wasn’t as lucky. This is about someone who travels right in the middle of the social circles, who tries hard to fit in and who gets trampled on again and again. This is about someone who couldn’t take it anymore. Specifically, it’s about a girl who kills herself and leaves behind a set of tapes explaining why.

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age:  Young Adult, 13 and up

Summary and Review:

Now, nothing is wrong. 🙂 I’m not sure why I’m writing about two books about death right in a row (see my last post about the wonderful story each little bird that sings), but that’s just what I picked up recently. I’ve actually been avoiding this book for awhile now but saw it at a bookstore and decided it was time to read it. It sounds horribly depressing, but it isn’t. And even though the main character and one of the two narrator voices is actually dead (she killed herself before the book begins), it isn’t really about death. It’s more about high school and how we treat each other in high school.

The book is told from the point of view of a boy, one of the thirteen recipients of the tapes. He finds the tapes on his doorstep one day and starts listening. In horror, he realizes the voice he hears is of a girl he knew, a girl he was almost friends with, a girl he wished he had been closer to, narrating her experiences in high school as he walks along the paths she used to walk and visits the sites she used to visit.  He hears about the boy she kissed, the rumors about her that weren’t true, the way she was treated by her peers.

If you are at all interested in YA literature, you’ve heard of this book. It’s as good and as important a book as people say it is. It should be required reading for anyone who has anything to do with high school–especially the teachers who might not remember as acutely as the kids just how much the little stuff hurts.

I do wish I got to know the two main characters a little bit more, but I also liked that I could fill in some of the blanks about their personalities myself. And while I’ve heard others say that the girl who killed herself doesn’t leave a lot of room for sympathy, I disagree.  Yes, she is bitter. Yes, she sounds condescending. But I’m sorry–she’s a teenager, and a depressed, suicidal teenager at that. She’s not beyond blame–that isn’t the point of the story. She’s just the one that couldn’t handle it. The fact that you might not like her only adds to the story–the others didn’t like her much either, but they should have treated her with more respect. It’s a powerful page-turner, and I highly recommend it.

As a mother, I really liked the way the author brought the boys’ mother into the picture. He is clearly a good kid, and she trusts him, but she knows he is lying about what he is up to tonight and whether or not he is okay. But she gives him his space, she allows him to do what he needs to do–miss dinner, stay out late, and listen to the tapes–all without knowing what is going on. And he trusts her enough to ask her to bring him the tapes, even though he knows she will know something is wrong. The malt that he drinks at her suggestion meant so much to me, thinking about my own son in the future, going through a tough time, not able to tell me about it, but able to trust me enough to bring me into the picture for a bit, and to have a milkshake in my honor.

I think this book is an important read for all of us, whether we’ve been there or not. It’s great for high school students to understand the effects of their actions. It’s great for teachers and parents to understand the gravity of the situations their children might be facing–at times adults can trivialize the problems of youth–read this and you will never do that again.

July 14, 2011

Join a small community in Vanderpool’s MOON OVER MANIFEST

Every morning at breakfast, my son turns on the CD player. Right now, we are listening to Hullabaloo’s Road Trip album, which I love, not only because it’s fun kids’ music, but also because I love road trips. I love everything about them–the details in the scenery that you miss from airplane, the local family restaurants you get to stop at, the greasy drive-through meals, the stupid car games, the fact that my family is stuck in a confined space, forced to answer my questions and converse with me. I love checking how many miles we have left and watching the number tick down. I love a long day of driving where you cover a lot of ground, and a long day of sightseeing where you cover almost none. I love people and places. And, even though it’s not about a road trip, that’s why I loved this book. Because it’s also about people and places, in the best possible way.

Title: Moon Over Manifest
Author: Clare Vanderpool
Genre: Fiction
Age: Middle School

Summary and Review:

I did not want to put this book down.  Ever since I met Abilene in the first few pages as she jumps off train outside of Manifest because “any fool worth his salt knows you have to get a look at a place before the place gets a look at you,” I wanted to spend some time with this girl. Abilene feels abandoned by her father, who has sent her to Manifest to live with some old friends while he stays back and works on the railroad. But she makes the best of her situation, quickly making friends and becoming a person of influence in the small town community while she strives to learn the story of her father’s past here and maybe–just maybe–figure out why he left her and whether or not he will ever come back.

The story jumps beautifully from 1936 when she lands in Manifest, to the early 1900s when her father was growing up there.  The town is full of colorful characters, made even richer because you get to know them at two different points in their lives. Propelled by mysteries large and small, the story moves along quickly powered by great writing that will make you feel that you, too, are part of this town’s history.

This would be a great book to read if you liked Chasing Redbird or Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.

April 25, 2011

someone else’s shoes

I like the title of this book.  Walk two moons.  It is so fully of poetry, meaning, and beauty.  Just like the book itself.  I’m a late comer to this book. Chances are, if you are the type to read a blog about children’s books, you’ve already read this one.  So really, I wanted to post just to say that if you haven’t read it, you need to.  And if you have read it, you should take a moment to reflect on how lucky you are.

I realize my last post was also about a Sharon Creech book, and I’m currently reading another one by her, so this is also sort of a dedication to my recently discovered love affair with her books.  As a reader, I feel like I’ve been given an incredible gift.

Title: Walk Two Moons
Author: Sharon Creech
Genre: Fiction
Age: 9 and up, Upper Elementary and Middle School

Summary and Review:

Sal is understandably upset when her mothers leaves.  She doesn’t understand why she left and why she hasn’t come back yet. Then, when Sal’s father learns that her mother is never coming back, Sal and her father pack up their farmhouse and head to a city where her dad has befriended another woman and Sal meets a strange girl named Phoebe, whose mother also leaves.  The story of Walk Two Moons is aptly told as Sal is walking in her mother’s shoes–driving to Idaho with her grandparents along the same path her mother traveled, determined to bring her mother home.  As she and the wonderful characters of her grandparents take their road trip, Sal tells them the story of herself and Pheobe, their friendship, their antics, their school friends (some of whom are characters from another Sharon Creech novel) and the lunatic they think is following them.  One of the impressive things about this book is its attention to the adult characters, people usually left out of a middle grade novel.  You learn a lot about the mothers and fathers of both Sal and Phoebe, as seen through Sal’s eyes.  While they don’t play a major role in the book, they do play a major role in how Sal and Phoebe see the world, and the reader is challenged to think about the parent-child relationship in a powerful way.

The two stories of Sal’s road trip and Phoebe’s adventures are interwoven in a way that brings more meaning to both.  And the true meaning of both of their lives is really only discovered at the end, after Sal has truly walked two moons in her mother’s mocassins.

Follow-up with the kids:

There is a great discussion guide on Sharon Creech’s website at: http://www.sharoncreech.com/novels/walk_two_moons_guide.pdf

February 1, 2011

The day my son fell in love with a book (and the night)

The free puppet shows at the Nashville Public Library might be the highlight of my week.  I LOVE them!  Generally, we go almost every Tuesday morning.  I ask my son each week if he wants to go, but that’s more of a formality–it’s always met with an enthusiastic “YES!” followed by excited discussion about which of the puppets will be there that day.

“Wishing Chair Productions”, three brilliant people who put on the shows, are all heroes of mine.  There’s none of the high-pitched, over-excited, shout-in-your-face, super-smiley over-acting that keeps me away from many a kids’ activity and class.  They juggle, they sing, they puppet (is that a verb?), they improvise, they act, and they read stories with a wonderful combination of wit, humor, and understated happiness.  And they even throw many a sarcastic comment at each other, as if trying the other’s patience, things that go over the heads of the toddlers perhaps, but land with smiles on the faces of the adults who accompany every week.

And I’d like to say that their repeated routines–such as JJ the Lamb playing peek-a-boo with Library Pete–are hysterically funny from my son’s point of view–and believe me they are.  But really, I’m the one laughing the loudest.  Every time.  Basically, I just love it.

Today at the puppet show was a particularly special day.  In the middle of the show, when they finished one of the books, my son jumps up from my lap and starts to say “Mommy!  Mommy!” rather loudly.  This was unlike him, and I wasn’t sure what he meant.  We are in the middle of a never-ending potty-training process and I thought at first he had peed on the floor…or worse.  But he settled down to watch the rest of the show and it was only afterwards that I realized what he was asking.  He had loved the book so incredibly much that he wanted to go check it out IMMEDIATELY.  In fact, we have only been home from the show about an hour and we’ve already read it twice.  (It would have been more but it was nap time.)

Title: Good Night, Mr. Night
Author/Illustrator: Dan Yaccarino
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 0 – 7

Summary and Review:

Mr. Night is a quiet man made of the dark and the stars, with moons for his eyes.  He quiets the animals, closes the flowers, and helps the young boy narrator close his eyes and go to sleep.  In the morning, Mr. Night falls asleep on the other side of a far hill as the sun rises and the boy whispers “Good Night, Mr. Night.”  Something about the book grabbed my son’s attention in such a magnetizing way.  It’s really fun to see that happen–the powerful connection between literature and humanity, even the smaller forms of humanity.

Follow up with the kids:

There are SO many fun things you could do.   Here are a few ideas:

1) Read the book at bedtime, and look out the window.  Ask your son if he sees Mr. Night.  Who helps your son close his eyes?

2) Have a preschooler draw pictures of what they think Mr. Night should be doing, in addition to the things he does in the book.

3) Write your own book from the point of view of Mr. or Ms. Sun.  Ask your child to think of what the sun does, and write your child’s ideas down.  You can write them in the same format as the book, with each phrase on a new sheet of paper.  Then give your child the paper to illustrate.

If you also enjoy this book, or have other ideas, please tell me about them by commenting on this entry!  Enjoy reading!

Click on the icons below to vote for me!

December 9, 2010

Donkeys and Asses and Children’s Delicate Ears

I remember reading a book aloud to a third grade class in my first year of teaching.  Technically, I was student teaching, but full-time student teaching in the middle of Dorchester, MA, counts as full-time teaching any day of the week.  I forget the book; I think it was Roald Dahl–maybe James and the Giant Peach?  Or maybe we just read that one that year and it wasn’t the same one I’m thinking of.  It doesn’t really matter.  The point is, I was reading along and noticed that a few sentences ahead (yes, when you are reading aloud to third graders–or any graders, really–it’s a good idea to have your lips pronouncing words your eyes have already read) there was the word “ass”.  I had to make a quick decision.  Did I skip it?  Change it to “donkey” (as was the meaning here–it was not intended to be a swear word or a part of the body)?  Change the sentence entirely?  Eventually I went with just reading it.  I read right through it as if it was no big deal, glared a a few kids who dared to laugh (with my best “are you seriously that immature?” glare I could produce at the time) and continued on.  Later, the teacher (the actual teacher in the classroom) came up to me saying she was impressed that I said that.  I’m not sure if she meant impressed that I was that brave, or that stupid, or both, but I just smiled and shrugged.  I had been embarrassed to do it, but I was also embarrasssed at my embarrassment, so I let it go as if it was no big deal.

But I smile to remember this incident because apparently it is a big deal all over again.  It now comes from a great picture book that I first saw in a wonderful independent bookstore in Asheville, NC.  My husband saw it first and handed it to me, knowing I would like it.  The book is all about two characters talking about what a book can do.  “Can you turn it on?” one character asks, and proceeds to question the other about things you can’t do with a book.  “Can you scroll down?”  “Can you blog with it?”   The lesson learned is that no, you can’t turn it on, scroll, or blog, but it’s an amazing tool anyway, and the skeptical character is carried away on the literature-powered ride of the imagination.  It’s a beautiful book with a beautiful lesson for today’s plugged in kids.

But apparently the author had to get in one last joke.  The character reading is a donkey, or as he is otherwise known, a jackass.  So the last line, “It’s a book, Jackass” has caused some heads to spin.  It is this line that is responsible for every 1-star review on Amazon.  And it has apparently put a halt on a project in Gloucester, Massachusetts, that was due to give a copy of this book to every child in the school district.  Click here to read the article in the Gloucester Times.

I’m not sure I have an opinion on this really one way or the other.  If I had my choice, as a mother, I would rather my son not call people “Jackass”.  And as a reader, I find the joke funny, but not so funny or original that it really justifies the obvious backlash it was going to get.  It feels a little bit as if the author wanted to be edgy just for the sake of it.  I mean, what if he had ended the book with, “It’s a book … Donkey.”  Some people might have seen the hidden joke in there anyway–the thing that couldn’t be said.  That would have been funnier.  But subtlety is lost in the modern world, I suspect.  Oh well, it did gain the book publicity—was that the point?

At any rate, it’s a great book—I loved reading it—and definitely worth checking out, but maybe slightly more appropriate for older children (6 and up or so), who can be taught the difference between using that word appropriately and inappropriately.  I’m not sure I’d read it to my 2-year-old.  Or actually, I would, but I’d just change the last line.  I mean, I try not to be a total prude, but seriously.  If they are old enough to read and be able to tell that you’re reading it wrong, then they are probably old enough to be taught the difference between jackass and jackass.

December 8, 2010

Toddlers and puppets and books, oh my!

I have yet to meet a toddler that loves books.  And I have yet to meet a mother who doesn’t proudly proclaim that her toddler loves books.  And why not?  Books are awesome, wonderful, cool things that teach toddlers all kinds of things they want to know.  And even all kinds of things you want them to know (and some that you don’t).  As kids grow up, that ratio will likely shift to a lot of things you don’t want them to know and some that you do, but hey, they are reading, they are exploring their world, and if you can give them that at a young age, then I think that’s the equivalent of giving them an infinite number of lives to live, one for each time they open the pages of someone else’s story.

So that’s why I think it’s cool to get kids involved in books at a young age.  And that’s why I think it’s a good idea for parents to show their kids that they read, too, and that they interact with the books in the same way they want their kids to do so.  So here’s an idea for interacting with books that will allow you to have an infinite number of conversations about an infinite number of books.  And a lot of fun, too.

Paper Bag character puppets

We all know paper bag puppets–you get a small sandwich-size paper bag, turn it upside down, draw a face on the bottom of the bag, usually with half the mouth on the lower edge of the bottom and the other half of the mouth on the bag where they meet (so the mouth opens when you move the puppet), and decorate the rest of the bag below the mouth, and even on the other side if you desire with the puppet’s outfit.  Anything can be used for this–stick to just crayons if you have a young one or like to keep it simple.  Or buy stickers and googly eyes from a craft store, buy yarn for the hair and felt to make hats and shirts.  Get construction paper and scissors and glue.  Finger paints.  Whatever your level of comfort with the crafting scene, go with that.

Then choose your favorite book (or even better, let you toddler/preschooler pick).  If you’re unsure about their picking powers, you might want to limit them to a few choices.  Not only does practice choosing between a few things help them with confident decision-making later, but it will allow you to limit their choices to books with characters that will work well for this project.  A win-win!  Sorry, I actually cannot stand that phrase…

At any rate, make puppets that showcase the characters of the book.

If you are REALLY into crafts, you can make a really easy puppet theatre with a tri-fold poster board (the kind you see at science fairs and are in most grocery stores now).  Just cut a hole in the center of one of the folds, decorate as you wish, and stand it up, putting the puppeteer and puppets behind it.  Feel free to improvise curtains with a tired napkin or dish cloth.

Okay, now you’ve got the stage.  Here are some ideas:

1. Act out the whole book for your child.  Reading each of the character’s lines with the puppets on your hands, show your child the whole story.

2. Have your child act out the story in their own words.  Learning to summarize is such an important skill!  This will be hard for many kids and feel free to help.  Start by asking them questions–what happens first in the story?  What is one character saying to the other?  Encourage them to paraphrase rather than look up the actual quote if you can.  They are really learning about reading now!

3. Engage your child in a new story, with each of you acting as one or two puppets.  For toddlers, just let them play and imagine any scenes they like.  They will probably be simple, but they will really show you what a kid is thinking!  Reluctant children might like for you to hold the puppet at first while they ask it questions, and you can answer as the puppet.  Later, they might be ready to act out their own puppet.  Older children can put on whole plays and stories with the characters as themselves.  In other words, if the dog puppet is mean in the book, the dog puppet will be mean in their story, even though it’s a new one.  Think of it as writing their own sequel.  That would really teach them to think about who the characters are in the book, apart from the one story they see them in.

4. Let your imaginations run wild!  That, after all, is the whole point of reading!

November 23, 2010

With friends like these, who needs people?

I’d never heard of this book until my favorite book-store staff member in my favorite book store showed it to me.  I was in love at once.  It’s a simple story that’s full of character, love, and friendship.  And how to take care of each other.  In very few words, this book tells more than many books with thousands of them.

Title: A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator
: Erin E. Stead
Genre
: Picture Book
Age: 0 – 7

Summary and Review:

Amos is an elderly man.  Not your typical hero for a picture book, but it definitely works.  Amos is on his way to the zoo, where he spends much of his time (presumably he is working at the zoo at other times) taking care of the animals–sitting with the penguin, racing the tortoise, reading with the owl.  But when Amos is sick one day and unable to go to work, the animals don’t know what to do.  So in a series of wordless pages that reminds me of the sequence in “Goodnight, Gorilla” when the animals follow the zookeeper to his house, the animals ride the bus to Amos’s house to take care of him just like he takes care of them.  The illustrations are charming, if not hysterical, and the whole book just makes you want to smile and find someone to hug.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

The friendship theme is obvious, but I think a great conversation would be to talk about the different animals and why they each like different things.  Why, for example, does the penguin like to sit still?  Why does the owl like to read?  Why does he read to the owl at the end of the day when dusk is coming instead of in the middle of the day?  By focusing on the different animals and their characteristics, you can talk both about the biology and natural habits and habitats of these animals, as well as how these animals tend to be portrayed by humans who write them in literature.