Monthly Archives: May 2012

Fun Fourth Friday: Clean Up Edition

On what may well be the last Friday of school for most students, I thought I’d share books about cleaning up…and hope it inspires some kids to clean their rooms and find all those lost library books to return! (I know we still have one hiding out somewhere!) Good luck, and happy reading!

Baby Max and Ruby Clean-Up Time, by Rosemary Wells (infant/toddler): Max and Ruby work together to put everything away at the end of the day in this short, rhymed board book (or online through We Give Books). The illustrations are the older style Max and Ruby and are peppered with collage elements.

Max Cleans Up, by Rosemary Wells (toddler/preschool): Max is slightly less cooperative in this longer clean-up story. Ruby keeps wanting him to throw away or put away things with which he isn’t ready to part, so he tucks this and that into his pocket. When Ruby pronounces the room neat and orderly (“A place for everything, and everything in its place!”), she notices Max’s bulging pocket where he has put, in his words, “Everything!” These are the more current illustrations, but they still have collage elements. Also available on We Give Books.

How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms?, by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague (preschool/early elementary): Following the pattern of all the other “How Do Dinosaurs” series books, this book gives the bad examples of dinosaur cleaning behaviors (in the question format) followed by the appropriate cleaning behaviors (as responses to the questions that suggest poor choices). These books are great for a laugh both because of the silly way the dinosaurs behave in the “bad idea” section and because the dinosaurs have human parents and settings, so they are absurdly large and awkward in the illustrations.

Just a Mess, by Mercer Mayer (preschool/early elementary): I love the Little Critter books! In this title, Little Critter can’t find his baseball glove, so he’s forced to “clean” his room to look for it. “Clean” because, well, he really doesn’t have the proper technique, you know? He shoves things into the closet and stuffs them under the bed, but he ends up finding the mitt despite his haphazard methods. Although this definitely isn’t one of those books where the main character is a shining example of what to do, what child hasn’t tried this strategy for cleaning up a room?

Jillian Jiggs, by Phoebe Gilman (early elementary): “Jillian, Jillian, Jillian Jiggs! It looks like your room has been lived in by pigs!” Although this book originally came out in 1985 (and I probably read it shortly thereafter), I can still remember that repeated line. Jillian’s mom wants her to clean up, but she and her friends keep getting distracted by opportunities for play. Jillian is the star in several other books by this author as well.

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom, by Eric Wight (elementary): Frankie is a fourth-grader with a big imagination in this part traditional book (the real events), part graphic novel (the parts he imagines) title that starts the Frankie Pickle series. Like Jillian, his forays into play just add to the mess that he’s supposed to be tackling. Although I’ve not read this series, it looks like a really fun read for the middle elementary crowd. (It also appears to be one of those high interest/low reading level type books…I could have seen my fifth grade boys wanting to read it, and it would have been accessible to almost all of them.)


(MP3 of poem itself)

“Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out,” Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein (elementary): I loved this poem as a kid, so much so that I used it as my example performance piece when I used to have my fifth graders do Poetry Café every semester! Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout will do all manner of chores…but she draws the line at taking out the garbage. She finally gives in, but it’s too late! (The MP3 is apparently read by the author and was recorded back in 1969!)

This is just a small sampling of the multitudinous books on messy rooms and cleaning up! For what’s available at your own library, try the subject heading “Orderliness – Fiction” as your search term.


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Switch on the Night, by Ray Bradbury, pictures by Leo and Diane Dillon

Switch on the Night, by Ray Bradbury, pictures by Leo and Diane Dillon
(1993 edition, Knopf, ISBN 0-394-90486-4)

Switch on the Night, by Ray Bradbury, illustrated by Madeleine Gekiere
(first edition, 1955, Pantheon Books)

GirlChild grabbed this book randomly off the shelf (along with a Boynton book I’d never seen–one with an actual plot!–and a couple Margaret Wise Brown titles). I had no idea Bradbury had ever written a children’s book, so I didn’t know what to expect from it. GirlChild gets spooked pretty easily (the power of suggestion is strong with this one), so I was hesitant to keep reading once I realized that the main character was afraid of the dark. It was touch and go for a bit, but the book is totally worth it!

The story starts with a “once upon a time” type opening, and the entire book has the feel of poetic oral storytelling; rhythm, personification, alliteration and assonance, repetition and rephrasing, fragments and pauses, and repeated passages to serve as a kind of refrain. (In fact, it would be an excellent trade book for teachers to use for poetic device instruction.) We meet the little boy (who never gets a name) who doesn’t like the Night. Before we get to the events of the story, several pages are dedicated to what he does like–“lanterns and lamps and flashlights and candles and chandeliers” and whatnot–and how he is lonely watching the other children play out in the summer nights. When his father is away on a trip and his mother has already gone to bed, the little boy lights all the lights in the house before he hears something knocking out in the dark. He meets a little girl–Dark–who offers to introduce him to the Night because she knows he is lonely. She tells him that the Night can be switched on and off, and that turning off the lights is really just turning on the Night. (Doesn’t it seem a little less intimidating, then, when the child feels he or she has some control over it?) Dark leads the little boy around and shows him some of the wonders of the Night, including the animal noises and the moon and the many-colored stars. When she leaves, the little boy is confident about the Night, and he joins in with the other children playing outside.

Leo and Diane Dillon illustrated this edition of the book, and the dedication page refers to “E. M. Escher”…but M. C. Escher appears to be the inspiration for the illustrations. (I couldn’t figure out who E. M. Escher might be, but I can only guess a relative, an alternate name, or a typo!) In any given image (and each spread typically features a single illustration in a square frame set opposite the text), you might see three or more perspectives of the same scene, and it often includes multiple images of the character or characters, all set at impossible angles to one another. Other illustrations have the appearance of multi-segmented shadow boxes or stained glass panels, still others aerial cross-sections, and just a very few standard perspectives. One of the more interesting visual choices was the sudden switch from white pages with black text to black pages with white text on the page where the little boy meets Dark. Overall, the visuals are stunning and make this book worth a physical reading in addition to the definite poetry of hearing it read aloud.

GirlChild’s Reactions: Like I said, I was a little worried that GirlChild would come away from this book with a fear of the dark (and strange children who knock on your windows late at night…), but a little bit of talking up of how neat it would be to “turn on the Night” got her into the spirit of the thing. We read this book over a month ago (and I’ve kept it squirreled away so I could finish my review–and thank goodness my library doesn’t have late fees because I forgot to renew it!), but I heard her just last night asking her daddy if she could turn on the Night in her bedroom before she went to sleep. It is definitely one where the imagery lingers, and I would recommend it for ages four and up due to the many layers of story and style.

UPDATE: I just learned that author Ray Bradbury passed away on June 5, 2012 at age 91. Celebrate his life and contributions to fantasy and science fiction by sharing this book with your child!

Additional titles:

(by the author)

(by the illustrators)

(a Caldecott Award winner!)


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Themed Third Thursday…

It slipped my mind. My husband has been at home studying for an important professional test, GirlChild has been a major testament to the existence of preschool angst, and BoyChild managed to get his upper premolars before his lower premolars (and without us realizing that was why he was a big pile of cranky for a month), and I have been a wreck running about putting out the (figurative) home fires (and not the touchy-feely kind, either!) lately. Therefore, next week, we’ll be celebrating Fun Fourth Friday instead of yesterday’s anticipated Themed Third Thursday…

(I actually have three posts in process at the moment, but none of them were quite publishable yet, and I’m sure no posts at all is better than multiple shoddy posts. Er, that’s how I prefer it, anyway. Until next time, then!)


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