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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.