Monday, December 24, 2012

Review: A Pirate's Night Before Christmas

Day 6!

A Pirate's Night Before Christmas by Philip Yates
Illustrated by Sebastia Serra

"'Twas the night before Christmas aboard the Black Stark. 
Not a creature was stirrin', not even a shark!"

This book is a lot of fun to read! It's basically The Night Before Christmas but written in pirate speak and it takes place on a ship. The book still has the awesome rhyme that goes through everything. Pirate slang is used throughout the book which makes it fun.

Instead of Santa Claus, this book has Sir Peg and the eight reindeer are eight seahorses named Salty, Scurvy, Sinbad, Mollie, Cutthroat, Cross-Eyes, Roger, and Jolly!

I think this take on the classic story would be entertaining to children. Especially children who like pirates! Andy is a sailor and I knew he would love this book! He and his brother love pirate talk too, so that makes it even better. Philip Yates and Sebastia Serra released another pirate Christmas tale in October. This book is titled A Pirate's Twelve Days of Christmas. I assume it's very similar in concept to this book. From the front cover you can see that the illustrations are very similar.

The illustrations in this book are fun and colorful. Every page is a full bleed two page spread. Since it's a Christmas book, red and green are pretty big colors throughout, but since it's also on the ocean, blue's an important color too! This story is very cheerful and the reader can see this through the illustrations. All the characters are smiling and happy in the pictures. According to the book, the illustrations were created with pencil and ink on parchment and then digitally colored. I think that really helps to keep the colors bright and lively.

At Cynsations, you can read an interview with Philip Yates, the author, about A Pirate's Night Before Christmas. I believe that this is Sebastia Serra's illustrator blog, however, the whole thing is written in Spanish since he lives in Barcelona, Spain and I can't read any of it! The blog is mostly pictures though.

At the end of the book, there's a "Pirate Glossary" which defines many of the pirate words in the book. Including the glossary keeps the book light and funny and it is a great way for readers to fully understand the story. The author adds his sense of humor to this part of the book as well. As all Night Before Christmas stories end, so does this one...

"Merry Christmas, me buckos, an' a Happy New Yaargghhhhhhh!"

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review: Ten Christmas Wishes

Day 5!

Ten Christmas Wishes by Claire Freedman
Illustrated by Gail Yerrill

This is a really sweet Christmas story where all the little animals each wish up a star. Each page has a star and a rhyming story to go with it. On each new page, a new star appears for a new animal to wish upon. The animals wish for snow, family, warmth, presents, pie, and lots more in this book! The last star is saved for the reader to close their eyes and make their wish.

I thought this book was really cute and I love that it rhymed because I feel like that just made it sound nicer. Each animal had their own star to wish upon, except Little Bear seemed to have two stars. I'm not sure why though! Also, I know that Christmas for some people is all about presents, but I felt like Little Bear wishing for lots of presents could have been changed to something less materialistic. I still think the book was really cute, and that was actually the only animal that wishes for presents.

Claire Freedman and Gail Yerrill have written and illustrated two other Christmas stories. These two stories include The Christmas Angels and A Magical Christmas. Just from the front covers, you can see that the illustrative styles are very similar to Ten Christmas Wishes. If these books are anything like this one, they should be very cheery and just a feel-good Christmas story. However, while I was reading reviews, I saw that The Christmas Angels did not get the best review on Amazon, so I would definitely like to check that one out at some point.

The illustrations in this book are very warm and colorful, despite the book being about making wishes on stars at night and from the first impression of the book from the front cover. Every page is a full bleed two page spread. I think it's great how in every picture, there is a window or door and the little animal is looking outside, but the house is colorful to represent the happiness and love that is inside with the family. I think that's a great way to depict it. I also like that in each picture a new star is added. Children could easily follow along with this book and practice counting the stars as they got to each page.

Claire Freedman is also the author of the popular children's book series, Aliens Love Underpants illustrated by Ben Cort. This series includes:
Aliens Love Underpants
Aliens in Underpants Save the World
Dinosaurs in Underpants
Pirates in Underpants
Aliens Love Panta Claus
This sounds like an interesting series of books. I might have to check out a couple of these and see what all the hub-bub is about. Also they seem to have a Christmas book as well! How did I miss that one for my special Christmas edition of my blog?!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review: Gingerbread Mouse

Day 4!

Gingerbread Mouse by Katy Bratun

When Mouse's house is destroyed by a falling tree, she has to find a new place to live! She travels that night to find a new home. Mouse finds a house off in the distance and heads to it to see if she can move in. Inside the house, there's a little house, just her size! She moved into her new gingerbread house and makes all her furniture out of boxes and cardboard.

That night, Santa arrives! He drops gifts off for the two kids at the house and sits down to eat his cookies with Mouse. He tells her that her house is lovely, but she really needs a more permanent house. Santa leaves a gift for Mouse and scurries up the chimney. Mouse opens her box and finds a beautiful doll house that she can call home. At the very end, Mouse finds a little red gift outside her door from one of the humans in the house with a note saying, "Merry Christmas Gingerbread Mouse."

I thought this book was really cute! It starts our sad when Mouse's house is crushed by a tree! I am a little confused about how Mouse heard the crack of the branch while she was asleep and she got outside fast enough that she didn't get crushed by it. It seems a little unrealistic, but so is a mouse that talks, so I guess that's okay.

This book was written and illustrated by Katy Bratun. The illustrations are very pretty, full of color and on two page full bleed spreads. The illustrations are often done in dark, warm, homey colors that make the story feel happy and lets you know that even though Mouse had a rough start, she's going to be okay! Katy Bratun has worked as an author and illustrator on many other books. Many of her illustrations in other books are quite similar to Gingerbread Mouse illustrations.

On the last page of the book, the author has included the recipe for Gingerbread Mouse's Cookie Recipe. I'm not a big fan of gingerbread cookies, but it might be a cute thing to make after reading this book!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: Pete the Cat Saves Christmas

Day 3!

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin
Illustrated by James Dean

In the most recent book from the Pete the Cat saga, Pete has to save Christmas because Santa is sick!! He thinks about how small he is but how at Christmas we have to give it our all. He hops in his minibus to head to the North Pole. The elves load up his minibus and hook up the reindeer. They're off! Pete delivers all the presents and saves Christmas for Santa!

Throughout the story Pete sings his song "Give it your all, give it your all. At Christmas we give, so give it your all" and that's what he did! He gave his all even when he was small. I thought this was a great message about Christmas and doing your best even when you don't think you can do it. No matter how much you can give, give it your all!

When you read this book with your class, make sure you download the Free Song! You can find it here: Pete the Cat Saves Christmas. The author, Eric Litwin reads the story and sings Pete's song with the help of some children. I let my sister and Andy experience Pete the Cat the right way with the music when I read it to them the other day! All his other books also come with a free downloadable song for you to play when you read the book. He has also written Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, and Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes.

Andy got me the whole set of Pete the Cat books for Christmas! He's the best ever! I decided to share this book today because I had to take him to the airport so he can go home to Maine for Christmas. Pretty lame if you ask me.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: The Biggest Snowman Ever

Day 2!

The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll
Illustrated by Jeni Bassett

"One there were two mice who fell in love with the same snowman, and this is how it happened."

There's a snowman-making contest in Mouseville and all the little mouse kids want to win the contest! Two of the city mice make their own snowmen. One girl makes a princess and one boy makes a martian. Both very respectable looking snowmen, but not big enough to win the prize!

The house mouse, Clayton, and the field mouse, Desmond, went to their homes to make their own snowmen. Each boy egged the other on to see who could make the BIGGEST snowman ever! Both boys worked on their snowmen on their own, adding more and more snow. The story progresses as one boy does something to his snowman, the other boy does the same thing to his snowman. (Even though they're both at their own separate homes and can't see one another.)Their dads both came out to check the snowmen and said "It's going to be big, but will it be the biggest?" and the boys smiled and said "I'm just getting started!"

The boys both come to realize that their snowmen are the same size as everyone else's snowmen, so maybe they should work together to make the biggest snowman! Clayton and Desmond think it over and decide that's a great idea. They build a HUGE snowman! Bigger than both of them!! They win the contest and realize that it's good to work together with your friends.

I think this is a really cute book with a great message about friendship and working together - teamwork! I think children would get a lot out of it too. They need to learn to work together with their friends as well. Making and keeping friends is definitely something that we talk about in kindergarten because so many of our little guys say that so and so isn't their friend.

I thought the illustrations were really cute in this book too. The illustrator, Jeni Bassett, has done a great job showing how the two boys were working on their snowmen but were separate. When one boy is working one the left page, there is a huge tree where the pages fold, the other boy can be seen really small in the background on the right page. I think that showed how what the boys were doing paralleled one another.

Steven Kroll and Jeni Bassett have created a series of books that follow Clayton and Desmond through special times in their lives. Below are five that I could find. There might be more, but I couldn't find them on Amazon and it doesn't seem like there's a website that talks about all of them either!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: It's Snowing!

It's official! I have finally finished this semester of Grad School! I did presentations for Science Methods & Social Studies Methods last week. I turned in three pretty substantial papers for Reading Methods yesterday and I took my Math Methods final last night! Oh my gosh! I'm actually done with the semester!!!!

With all this free time.. (what?! FREE TIME?!) I decided I will start a Christmas Book Review section. Sort of like The Twelve Days of Christmas, but since I'm seven days away and I only have ten Christmas books.. It'll be a Seven-Ten Days of Christmas: Christmas Book Reviews! This time next year I will hopefully be needing to be aware of all the great holiday books to read with my future students. :)

Day 1!

It's Snowing! by Gail Gibbons

I bought this book when my Reading Methods' professor gave us Scholastic Order Forms that I haven't seen since probably middle school. It was in a Holiday pack and I am so happy I bought it!

This informational, nonfiction picturebook is full of awesome facts about snow! The book is written as sort of a story, but as it progresses, new vocabulary and whatnot are introduced. There are diagrams of the snow/water cycle. There are pages that just show different kinds of snowflakes that we might see. There is information about the varying levels of snow storm. There is information about how to stay warm outside and fun things we do in the snow. The book seamlessly weaves all of this information about snow into a cute story about snow.

The book introduces map skills, briefly, when it shows a map of North America and places where it snows is white, places where it doesn't really know is green. It also goes on to show snowy places on each continent. However, on the map of the world, it does not reference where the places the author selected to include are located.

Gail Gibbons author study from A Place Called Kindergarten
When new vocabulary is introduced, it is written in all capital letters with the definition below it. I think that is helpful to make the new snow words stand out. The book is structured so that there are headings and subheadings, etc. but I don't think this would be the ideal book to discuss those things with because the headings are above a piece of dripping ice, like an underline that is melting ice... if that makes sense. I just think that it gets lost in the illustrations and might be hard for students to differentiate. I've looked at this book multiple times already and I just noticed it, so I think it might not be as noticeable for children.

At the end of the book, there is a page about being prepared if a snowstorm is coming. I think that's great so that students will feel prepared if anything was to happen because of the snow. Since it is an informational book, Gail Gibbons provides resources for where you can find more information about snow. On that page there is also fun facts about snow that are pretty interesting.

Gail Gibbons is the author and illustrator of this book. She has written many, many nonfiction books for children during her career and is considered "A Master of Children's Non-Fiction" and "America's Leading Non-Fiction Author" (according to her website). The list of books she has published is extensive and covers a huge range of topics. For my Children's Literature class this summer, I watched the video from Reading Rockets below when we discussed nonfiction books. It is really interesting to hear how she decides what to write about and it's exciting for children to actually see and hear an author speak.

There are so many things in this book I had no idea about! I think kids would really enjoy this book. I know I did!

Here's a cool snowflake activity from KidsBooks. The picture of many of Gail Gibbons books on the bookshelf is from A Place Called Kindergarten where the teacher in the class did an author study on her books. This just shows how even in kindergarten we can do author studies with our students! Very cool project!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: Betsy Ross

Betsy Ross by Becky White
Illustrated by Megan Lloyd

This book is so cool! It is the story of the creation of the first flag of the United States of America as made by Betsy Ross. It follows how she cuts the red for the flag, then the white. Then she cuts out the white stars and dyes the blue square. Then she sews it altogether! It is a very simple story, but very nicely written.

It is written as a poem and each page only has up to five words maximum on it. The first half of each stanza is on one double page spread and then the second half is on the next double page spread. Many of the lines fit together well because they rhyme. I really like how the author used simple language that young children could understand.
Betsy ripped.
Rip, rip. (p. 1)
Seven rich,
Crimson strips. (p. 3)
Another thing that makes this book even more awesome than I'm making it sound, are the illustrations by Megan Lloyd! They're not painted, drawn, or anything like that. The illustrations are pieces of fabric sewn onto cloth!! It's amazing and it looks SO COOL! I don't know if it's too hard to see the individual pieces on the picture to the right, but it is just so cool how she made the pictures. In the Illustrator's Note in the back of the book, it says that she hand-stitched the pieces of fabric onto a cotton background. She also says that when something was just cut out by Betsy, like the stars before they got sewn onto the flag, she used a special iron-on material that fuses fabric together because they're not supposed to look like they've been sewn yet. I really am just blown away by how amazing this book looks.

As this is a historical, nonfiction book, the author included an Author's Note that discusses how legend has it that Betsy Ross make the first American flag. In the note, the author tells how George Washington's original drawing had stars with six points, but Betsy Ross said she thought five point stars would look nicer. She showed Washington a simple way to make these stars with one snip. The last page in the book is titled "Make Your Own Betsy Ross Star" and it provides the instructions to easily make your own perfect five point star with one cut! This would be a great activity to include when reading this book with children. The instructions are basically the same as they are on US History's website. The video below also shows how to do it, it's pretty sweet.

Here are some websites with cool ideas for 4th of July activities that incorporate this book:
Jump Into A Book
Lesson Pathways

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: The Relatives Came

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Stephen Gammell

This Caldecott Honor book is a story of a family who takes a trip to visit their relatives one summer. In this book, the family is traveling from Virginia and taking a very long trip to get to their relatives' house.

This book is beautifully written, per the usual from Cynthia Rylant. Her writing is similar to much of her writing style in her other books. She uses very long run-on sentences connected with ands throughout the whole story. She also uses very descriptive language throughout, which makes you really feel like you're traveling with the family and you're there when they arrive.

One thing that I thought was a little unrealistic were how many people were in the car! At the house, there were only three or four people. There's no way ten people fit in the little car that the relatives pulled up in!

Another thing I liked in this book was the repetition. At the beginning of story, they were loading up their car with their snacks and heading out at 4am. They thought about their grapes that weren't quite ready to pluck. Then they drove past strange houses, different mountains, and thought about the family they were going to visit. On their way home, they packed up all their snacks, left at 4am and thought about their grapes that were ready to pick. They drove past strange houses, different mountains, and thought about the family that they missed already. I thought that was a really great way to connect the beginning and ending of the story!

The illustrations in the book were done in colored pencil by Stephen Gammell. The color pencil generally made the illustrations very light and washed out. It also gave the pictures a lot of texture. Every page is a full bleed, two page spread. I think this was a great way to be able to add a lot of little details in the story. The illustrations also made the story funny. Whenever the car is shown, bags are always flying off the roof and when it gets to the relatives house, they ran into the fence! Gammell is also the illustrator of many many more children's picturebooks, including the Scary Stories books.

I used this book as part of a Read-Think-Write Aloud Lesson with a third grade class today. (I was super nervous, but it turned out pretty great!) I had students do their own creative writing about what the family might be dreaming about happening next summer because the last time of the book was "And when they were finally home in Virginia, they crawled into their silent, soft beds and dreamed about the next summer." The kids were so creative in their stories, I was so impressed!

This was a very nice book and I think all the students in the classroom I was working in could relate to it in one way or another. Whether they themselves have gone on a trip to see their relatives, or their relatives have come to see them.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Well hello, it's almost Christmas already! This semester has been crazy busy, but I finally read a new book and had time to write about it. Enjoy! :)

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

This book is the first book published by C.S. Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia book series, but the second book when they are put in chronological order.

In this book, four young children are sent to live with a professor in a big house after they are sent away from London at the beginning of WWII. The children spend a lot of time exploring the house and playing games to pass the time. Lucy, the youngest sibling, climbs into a magical wardrobe that takes her to the magical world of Narnia. When she returns, Peter, Susan, and Edmund don't believe anything that she says. Edmund eventually makes his way into Narnia as well. When a tour group of the professor's big house is making its way to where the children are playing, they all hide in the wardrobe and reach the magical world of Narnia.

The children find out about how evil the White Witch is, who calls herself the Queen of Narnia. She cast a spell on the land of Narnia so that it is always winter, but never Christmas. They also learn about Aslan, the Great Lion who is needed to help the children take down the White Witch. The children meet many other helpful creatures while they explore the forests of Narnia.

I remember reading this book when I was in fourth grade and I don't remember enjoying it that much. Reading it now though, I felt like the book was actually really short. I expected a lot more plot details, I guess. The children all got to Narnia fairly quickly and once they were there, the book just kept going, but it wasn't exactly that adventurous and suspenseful. The first time I read it, I also didn't have any idea about all the Christian themes throughout the story, mostly surrounding Aslan's character. I think reading it this time it was very obvious, however, I don't think other children would pick up on that if they were in fourth grade, so I still think it's a very appropriate book for children to read, regardless of their beliefs. Ultimately, I guess that should really be up to the parents to decide, but I think it's ok!

I did like this book a lot more reading it now than I did before. I might like to read the rest of the series sometime when I have some free time. Although I am a little confused about the series because I'm pretty sure most of the other books don't feature Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, but they were the main characters in this book. The other books in the series are:

The Magician's Nephew
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle

I would recommend this book for other children to read. My Reading Methods course colleagues and I read this book as an assignment where we are blogging with a fourth grade class in Indiana. Both the students in my class and in the fourth grade class have really enjoyed the book and have enjoyed talking about it with one another.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review: My Teacher for President

My Teacher for President by Kay Winters
Illustrated by Denise Brunkus

This book starts out with a letter to the press:
Dear Channel 39,
I saw on TV that elections are coming. At school we have been learning about the president's job. My teacher would be just right! Let me know what you think.
What follows is a cute little story about why a student thinks his teacher would be a good president. The duties that the president has are depicted in a "teacher way." The little boy says that she would be a good president because she's already used to people her following her all the time and the illustration shows her playing follow the leader with the students and the other page shows her as the president, being followed by the Secret Service and the press. She would make a good president because she goes to a lot of meetings. She would make a good president because when she walks in a room, people pay attention!

Then the book ends with the end of the little boy's letter to the press, which is so cute!
Love, Oliver
P.S. Just make sure she doesn't leave before the end of the school year.
It's very cute to see this student interpret the duties and responsibilities of the President of the United States as he sees in his teacher. I'm using this book for my Social Studies Methods course when a group of us teach a lesson on the 2012 Presidential Election for a kindergarten class. I'll also share that lesson when I have it completed too! So check back later :) We're going to use this book to start a discussion of the various roles of the president. It's relatable for the students because they all obviously have a teacher and maybe they can see these traits in her too!

I really liked the illustrations in this book by Denise Brunkus. Her illustrations depicted the teacher doing her presidential role, like having meetings with student groups, parents, and other teachers on the left page. On the right page, it shows her in a meeting that the president would attend would a lot of different people. Denise Brunkus is also the illustrator of the book series Junie B. Jones, which I reviewed Junie B. Jones Is A Party Animal earlier on my blog!

There are so many cool activities for using with this book specifically or just when teaching about elections. Below are some other great books we were looking at using when we were told we would be teaching this lesson. Check some of them out too!

I really like the idea of having students write about what they would do or change if they were president. My kindergarteners would not be able to do the writing, but they could brainstorm good ideas or draw pictures. Older students would definitely be able to write some good things though.

Overall, I thought this book was really cute. I hadn't heard of it until another person in my group's Cooperating Teacher let her borrow this book.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Me on the Map

Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney
Illustrated by Annette Cable

This book is adorable. Follow the main character, a little girl just like your students as she shows you how to make a map! She starts with the concrete location that students could understand and gradually gets farther and farther out. Her first entry is a picture of her, then a picture of her in her room. Then a map of her in her room. She shows her house and a map of her room in her house. She shows her street and a map of her house on her street. She does this for her town, her state, her country, and her world. Then she turns it around! If she wants to figure out where she is, she finds her country on the map of the world and her state on the map of her country all the way until she finds her in her room. Then she speculates how every person all over the world has their own special place on the map.

I thought this book was great as an introduction to maps for young children because it starts out with what they know and works it's way all the way to the world map. I'm using it in a unit I am creating for Kindergarteners for my Social Studies Methods course. Maybe when I get some feedback on it from my professor, I can share it with you all! I've been planning and teaching some pretty fun lessons and I hope to share them like the many other lessons I have read about on all the other blogs! My lesson focuses on how to use maps and directional words to tell where something is in relation to something else. When I just now looked for an image of the book, I found so many great projects teachers have done with this book, they are amazing! Check out Jenn's from Finally in First. This one is my favorite! Houghton Mifflin Reading also has an awesome site where you can learn about the book and meet the author, Joan Sweeney and the illustrator, Annette Cable.

It is so important to find quality children's literature when teaching about the content areas for young students. In my kindergarten class, we don't have specified time for social studies and science everyday. When it is incorporated, we read a book about it aloud and then students do their language arts work based on the book that we read. And really without textbooks in the younger grades, the literature is really the only way students learn about these topics. I am very happy to find out about this book and I look forward to using it when I teach my lesson this spring! 

There are a lot of great illustrations in this book. They're mostly all full bleed pictures with a lot of color. I liked that the maps the little girl drew looked like they were hand made maps that a child could've made. The coloring on these maps looks realistic and the way things are drawn really looks like a child's work. Because I'm sure the cat isn't laying on it's side with all four legs out and the lamp on the side table isn't laid on it's side either. Not that I'm critiquing the maps! Just pointing out how they're realistic and probably similar to how a student would draw their room.

I found this adorable video of a First Grade class performing a song adaptation of this book. It is so cute! Definitely check it out! It's also a great way to integrate the performing arts into your social studies curriculum! An interdisciplinary lesson my professor would love!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Review: A is for Abigail

A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women by Lynne Cheney
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

This book is awesome. It goes alphabetically through amazing American women in history! And there are not just 26 amazing women represented because some of the letters include many more. For example, P is for the Performers and it includes two fold out pages that have soooo many actresses, musicians, dancers, and singers! Mary Martin, Grace Kelly, Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Sophie Tucker, Patsy Cline, Sarah Caldwell, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett, and Judy Garland, to name a few.

Every page also has a quote by an amazing American woman! On the page T is for Trailblazers, the women who showed us the way, the quote is "I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail." - Muriel Strode.

A is for Abigail Adams, who knew that women should be heard. (Page 1)
I love every page in this book, it is amazing how many women the author and illustrator were able to include! The illustrations are beautiful and depict all the women doing what they are most known for. The illustrator, Robin Preiss Glasser, created wonderful images throughout this book. She is also the illustrator of the Fancy Nancy books! The illustrations in that book look very similar to the illustrations here.

Glasser is also the illustrator of many other ABC history books written by Lynne Cheney, including America: A Patriotic Primer and Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America. Read this interview with Robin Preiss Glasser by NBC regarding her relationship with the author. Lynne Cheney is the author of many other children's books relating to history. Her books cover topics including the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and Washington crossing the Delaware. Watch this video of Lynne Cheney reading her book, America: A Patriotic Primer, to a group of first grade students in Washington, DC.

I found this awesome book when I was preparing my social studies unit on Our National Leaders for my Social Studies Methods class. It provides a great way to integrate women and other ethnicities into social studies education. I think it would be great for young girls to have this book to look at in their classroom and see how many women have had a profound impact on our country. The book opens with a short introduction from Lynne Cheney were she writes "The transformation of women's lives from then to now is one of our great national narratives, an inspiring story that our children deserve to know." She also mentions that children need to know about the things that women have achieved.

I'm very happy with this book! I definitely recommend it to be included in every classroom! It is great! :)

In the back of the book, there is a Notes on the Text section that lists every page and discusses the women and issues that were mentioned. This helps to support the historical part of the book. One thing I think is missing though, is an index with all the women in the book listed alphabetically. It is hard to figure out where certain people might be located. Other than that, I love it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Well first of all, sorry I haven't posted a book review in almost two weeks! I started going to my Kindergarten classroom three days a week and I'm super busy! I had to stay home a few days though because those nasty little kid germs got me and I'm sick. :( I've been stocking up on vitamins for a while and they still got through!

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

Peter Hatcher has a great life, except for his little brother Fudge. Fudge gets into all sorts of trouble! He's three years old and is ruining Peter's life. Peter always has to help his parents fix whatever Fudge's problem is. When Fudge refuses to eat, Peter has to stand on his head to make him laugh so his parents can shove food in his mouth. When Fudge won't open his mouth at the dentist, the dentist asks Peter to show Fudge how to do it. When Fudge won't listen to directions, Peter has to show him how to follow directions. And Peter is tired of it. Fudge is always messing up things around the house and getting into Peter's room to play with Dribble, Peter's pet turtle. And then Fudge finally does something Peter just won't forgive.

I thought this book was pretty funny. Some of the things Fudge got into were a little ridiculous, but it was still entertaining. When the boys' mother had a third birthday party for Fudge with three other three years old, I couldn't imagine how that would turn out well. Especially without the other children's parents there to help! But Peter was a good sport about most things in this book and I think that's important for older children to see.

My entire Reading Methods class of future Elementary School teachers is reading this book as a class project. We will be blogging or emailing, I'm not sure, with a fourth grade class in Indiana who is also reading this book! I'm very excited for this project. It should be a lot of fun to talk about this book with them and it will be great to read what they think about the book seeing as they are in the fourth grade.

I'd never read this book before, but while doing a little research, I realized I read Otherwise Known As Shelia the Great, the book that came before Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. It features Peter's rival, Shelia Tubman. Following Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing in 1972, Judy Blume published a series of books revolving around the same characters. This became the Fudge series which included Superfudge (1980), Fudge-A-Mania (1990), and Double Fudge (2002).

Judy Blume has published many controversial books in her time as an author. Her books, Forever (1975), Blubber (1974), Deenie (1973), Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? (1970) and Tiger Eyes (1981) were all on the ALA's 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books 1990-1999. Forever, Blubber, Tiger Eyes, and Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? also showed up on the ALA's 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books 2000-2009. But I have to say, I've only read Forever, but I loved that book when I was in high school. Check out Judy Blume's website for her response to censorship. Who really suffers when books are taken off the shelf? The children do. 

Many, if not all, of Judy Blume's books have been reissued with updated covers and illustrations, much like Beverly Cleary's Ramona and Her Father and Socks which I have previously reviewed. I think this is important to show that even though some of her books are controversial, they are still important in children's literature and they are timeless stories in which children can relate. Below are some of the older book covers for Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: Clifford's Good Deeds

Clifford's Good Deeds by Norman Bridwell

In this Clifford book, Clifford the Big Red Dog wants to help out his friend, Tim. Clifford and Emily Elizabeth go out with Tim and try to do good deeds for the community. First they helped a man rake leaves. But Clifford's allergic to leaves and he sneezed. Leaves went everywhere! The man was not happy because he had to pick them all up. Then they helped a lady paint her fence. It looked great until Clifford got excited and wagged his giant tail, throwing white paint all over the house. The lady was not happy and asked them not to help clean up the house. Clifford is just trying to be a good dog and everything he does to just too big. Tim tells Clifford he probably shouldn't help him anymore. Clifford's sad until there's a fire down the street. He's tall enough that he can stand next to the house for the people to climb down to safety. Finally Clifford's big size helped him!

I just read this book on Storia by Scholastic. It was awesome. I don't have an iPad, but apparently you can download Storia to your computer. It was very interactive. If you want it to read the story to you it will, it also has little lightening bolts that mean that there are questions kids can answer within the text. I received five free books for downloading Storia today. And it's all free to download! (until you have to buy more books....) It's great because the adult controls the books and creates bookshelves for each of their children, or students, and the children can't access the Storia Store to buy more books without the adult's password. It also keeps Reading Reports on each child. It tracks how many books they've opened, how long they spent reading, and how many words they looked up while reading their books.

I remember having and reading so many Clifford books when I was little. And I'm pretty sure there was also a TV show at some time too? I picked a book up a few weeks ago and showed it to Andy and he said he never liked Clifford. So sad. I think Clifford has so many different stories that you could always find one to fit whatever you're going to talk about with your class. There are books on Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving. There are board books for little kids (think ABCs & Animal Sounds). They've also written leveled readers starring Clifford and Emily Elizabeth!

Check out Scholastic's Clifford page for many cool things to do with students! There are interactive stories, printables, lesson plans, and so much more. On Sept. 24th, Clifford is having a live webcast of his biggest birthday ever! You can register for that on the website as well.

Thank you to all my new followers! I'm so excited! I'm sorry you started following right when my classes started and I'm not reading and reviewing as often as I had been! But still thank you so much! :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: The Little Penguin

The Little Penguin by A.J. Wood
Illustrated by Stephanie Boey

When Little Penguin finally hatches, Big Penguin is very happy! He tells Little Penguin that they have to stay together with all the other penguins and their babies in order to stay warm and safe. When it is finally time to head to the faraway sea to meet Little Penguin's mother, Big Penguin warns him that he must stay close because the snow and ice can be very scary when you're alone and cold, but Little Penguin isn't listening.

During their travels, Little Penguin sees something far off in the distance and goes out on his own to see what it is. It is a big bird! Bigger than his own father! The bird tells him that all of his feathers are falling out. Little Penguin feels alone and scared now. He must find Big Penguin! On his way, he meets a baby seal who tells him he better get back because he'll freeze if he keeps losing feathers. Little Penguin keeps walking and finally reaches his parents! They all go swimming together and Little Penguin sees that he has the same shiny black feathers that the big penguins have!

This is a cute little book about penguins. And who doesn't love penguins! Check out another book I reviewed about penguins, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell.

The illustrations in this book are great. They would help children visualize what is happening. One thing I liked was that when there was a full page image on the right page, it was framed, but there was also a smaller illustration under the text on the left page. This image was either foreshadowing or adding a little detail to what happened in the story on that page.

I was assigned this picturebook to read when learning about the visible and invisible information that readers need to understand when they read a book in order to have fluency and comprehension.
Emperor Penguins
I thought it was a great story, although I was confused about a few things. It didn't seem like that much time had passed during the book, but the baby penguin lost all of his feathers, went swimming in the water and came out with the black shiny feathers that the adult penguins had. That didn't make sense to me. I don't know if that's how it actually happens, but I feel like it would take more than a swim in the ocean to get those black feathers. However, now that I'm looking at the illustrations more closely, I think that it seems that Little Penguin had the black feather underneath his baby feathers! So now it makes more sense! That just goes to show how important it is to understand the relationship between text and illustrations.

The penguins in this book were Emperor Penguins. In And Tango Makes Three, they were Chinstrap Penguins.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Review: David Goes to School

As today is the start of a new school year for teachers and students in Virginia, I thought it would be appropriate to review a book about going to school! 

David Goes to School by David Shannon

In the next adventure of David, he goes to school! As in the original book, No, David! (a Caldecott Honor Book in 1999), David gets in trouble a lot. He comes late to school. He doesn't sit in his seat or raise his hand to speak. He chews gum in class. And he doesn't pay attention!! David doesn't wait his turn in the lunch line and starts a food fight in the cafeteria. David doesn't want to come in from recess. When he starts drawing on his desk, that's the last straw. David has to stay after school to clean all the desks. He does a good job of that though and his teacher lets him go home.

This book makes me nervous about what I'm getting myself into with teaching! What if I have a class full of Davids!!

The author, David Shannon, has a note at the beginning of the book where he talks about a book that he made when he was little. The book only had the words "no" and "David" because those were the only words he could spell. Accompanying those words were pictures of David doing things he wasn't supposed to be doing, which is where the idea for his first book originated. In this version of the book, David, the author, brought in all of the things David, the character, would do wrong that his teacher would tell him no about.

I love the way the illustrations and writing go together in this book. It's very appropriate that the author tells readers that he found his old writings and pictures because the illustrations at the very beginning look like something a child colored in. Some of the coloring is out of the lines. The words are written on the lined paper that young children write on. The illustrations when the book starts still seem appropriate for the age group that the book is intended for. All the pages are two page, full bleed spreads with a lot of bright colors. There are usually not many details in the background because the characters and what is going on up front are the most important parts of the illustrations.

I have seen a lot of teachers use this series and especially this book, as part of their first week of school activities when they have to explain to the students what is and isn't appropriate behavior and the rules. One example that I really like is from Cara Carroll at The First Grade Parade. She read this book with her lesson on bucket fillers. Students came up with ways that the can be Peacemakers or Peacebreakers. When students are acting out, they can tell each other "Don't be a Peacebreaker!" Check out her blog to find out more about this activity! Scholastic also has two extension activities on their website that teachers can use to when reading this book with their students.
Mrs. Ayala's Kinderfun David art project.
Jackie at Ready. Set. Read! created a class book activity where students came up with positive things that David could have done in class. Mrs. Ayala at Mrs. Ayala's Kinderfun created these adorable David faces,on the right, for her students to decorate.

There are many different ways you can incorporate this book into your class. I look forward to using this next year when I hopefully will have my own classroom!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Review: Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad

Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad by David Soman and Jacky Davis

Ladybug Girl, Lulu, is having a party at her house for the whole Bug Squad! She is so excited. She has planned everything out before her friends even arrive. Bumblebee Boy, Dragonfly Girl, and Butterfly Girl show up they all show off their costumes. Since Ladybug Girl has already planned their day, she leads them outside to find a base for their Bug Squad. Lulu suggests they use "Ladybug Rainbow Unicorn" for the base password but everyone else wants "Bingo," the dog's name. Lulu agrees. They're running off and fighting evil when he mom calls that it's time to paint!

The Bug Squad and Bingo
Ladybug Girl wants everyone to paint pictures that represent the Bug Squad, but no one does! It's okay though because her mom brings out cupcakes. And everyone gets a candle to blow out! Ladybug Girl counts down to when they will all blow out their candles at the same time. Everyone blows out their candle except Kiki. So Ladybug Girl blows it out for her. But Kiki was making a wish and now she's sad. Lulu has to apologize to Kiki because that is the right thing to do. She forgives her and they all have a great rest of their party.

This is a really cute book. I like that Ladybug Girl was trying to be controlling in the book, but the party didn't turn out the way she envisioned it. I think everyone has visions of what they want things to be like and sometimes get disappointed when something doesn't work out the way they wanted. It's good to show that early on and give the children strategies on how they can deal with it. It's also important to show how to interact in a group and be a good friend when you hurt someone's feelings.

The illustrations in this book seem to be watercolors. They're very beautiful and detailed. All of the Bug Squad children are colorful and bright while the backgrounds are generally lighter and more pastel. The children's outfits are really cute and creative.

I liked how the text wasn't just plain black standard font. The font is some kind of script type. When someone is speaking and they're excited, the type gets bigger to emphasize it. Sometimes words are bolded as well. Whenever one of the Bug Squad members' names are written, it's written in a different color. Ladybug Girl, Bumblebee Boy, Dragonfly Girl, and Butterfly Girl. I think by changing the font up, size and color, helps keep children interested. I tried to recreate the first sentence of the book below, but I don't have script-y font.
"I can't wait for everyone to get here!" yells Lulu. It is the first official Bug Squad playdate, and Ladybug Girl knows it's going to be perfect."
Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad, is this year's Read for the Record book. On October 4, 2012, millions of people around the world will be reading Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad to support reading awareness and funds for early literacy initiatives. Check out We Give Books and Jumpstart for additional information on this great event! Check out Penguin Young Readers for many free activities you can do with your students to celebrate.

There are many other Ladybug Girl books written by David Soman and Jacky Davis. Check out their website, Ladybug Girl, for more information on his husband and wife team and to find more of the books they have written and illustrated together. There you can find fun activities and even paint your own rocks like the Bug Squad did. So far there are eight books, all with an important message to teach children!

Here's a video from Penguin Storytime of Liz Shanks reading Ladybug Girl at the Beach. I couldn't find one of Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad, but now you can check out another Ladybug Girl book!

Review: Snowmen at Night

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
Illustrated by Mark Buehner

In this book, the little boy starts out by building a snowman. Then he goes to bed. When he wakes up, his snowman doesn't look the same as he did last night! He wonders what his snowman did during the night.

When it gets late, the snowmen must go out and meet with their friends for ice-cold cocoa at the park. Everyone lines up for snowmen races and ice skating. All the snowmen come together to make the biggest and best snow ball fight ever! They have so much fun playing that they all get exhausted. By early morning, all the snowmen sled down the big hill on their way back to their yards.

I enjoyed this book! This is a fun and creative story about what snowmen might do during the night! It's written with rhyming sentences that add to the fun and flow of the story.

The illustrations were created by Mark Buehner with oil paints over acrylics. They are all full bleed two page spreads with a lot of dark colors. The snowmen are bright and full of detail. All the snowmen characters have a lot of expression on their faces. In the back, there is a note that says, "Don't forget to look for hidden shapes that have been painted in all these wintertime scenes. See if you can find a cat, a rabbit, a Santa face, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex..." That seems like a great way to include details in a picture and really get children to pay attention to them while reading their book.

In the front matter of the book, the little boy is shown rolling his snowballs. The next page he puts the first two balls together. When the story starts, the little boy is putting the finishing touches on his snowman because he goes to bed.

When I was substituting in Fairfax County, I worked with a first grade teacher who used this book in a lesson. She read the book to the class and then the children created their own snowmen and wrote about what their snowmen did overnight. It was really creative the way she had them create their snowmen. They used marshmallows and mini marshmallows as paint brushes! That way they didn't use too much paint and they could just throw them away when they were done. I was really impressed with how they turned out! Then they did creative writing where they came up with a story about their snowmen. I think this would be a great lesson to do in a classroom. Maybe I can adapt it for my class one day!

Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner, of Buehner Books, have also written and illustrated many other books, including Snowmen at Christmas and Snowmen All Year.