Tag Archives: board book

Themed Third Thursday: Books Get Meta

meta- : Describing or showing an awareness of the activity that is taking place or being discussed; self-referential

Books getting meta. Books about books. Books that refer to themselves as books. Books where the characters are aware of being in a book. While my categories may stray from the generally accepted definition of “meta,” these self-aware books and books about books are sure to be page turners for your book-loving readers!

Product DetailsThe Monster at the End of this Book, by Jon Snow, illustrated by David Smollin (2003–most recent edition): In this Sesame Street classic book, Grover warns the reader not to continue on with the book because there is a monster at the end of it, and he is scared of monsters! In his distress, he tries everything to avoid getting to the end. Not to worry, however–Grover himself is the monster at the end of the book! I vaguely remember this book from my childhood, and the fact that it is still in print is telling. A great breaking-the-fourth-wall book for preschool and early elementary children, this book is best shared as a read-aloud.

Book! Book! Book!, Book! Book! Book!by Deborah Bruss, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (2001): When the children all go back to school after a summer of fun, the animals on the farm are bored. The hen decides to go looking for something to do, and the other animals follow. When they come upon a building where people with smiles on their faces are exiting, they decide this is the place for finding something to do! (The place is the public library.) The horse thinks the hen is too small to be the one to go in to ask, so he goes in, but all the librarian can hear is “neigh, neigh,” so he leaves sadly. Each of the other larger animals also try, but the librarian can only hear their animal noises. Then the hen, frustrated, determines to go in herself. When she arrives, she starts clucking, “Book! Book! BOOK!” It takes a few tries, but the librarian suddenly realizes that she’s asking for books! She gives her three, and the hen takes them back to the farm with the other animals to read together. Everyone is happy except the frog; he keeps claiming that he’s already “read it!” With a cute story and simple plot, a read-aloud (to emphasize the chicken-y sound of the word “book” in particular) to children as young as preschool would be a crowd-pleaser!

We Are in a Book!We Are in a Book! (An Elephant & Piggie book), by Mo Willems (2010): Gerald the Elephant and Piggie are sitting back to back on the ground when Gerald suddenly notices that someone is looking at them. When Piggie gets up to investigate, coming closer to the reader, they realize that they are being read by a reader! They are very excited and try to get the reader to say the word banana, then they laugh and laugh about it. Piggie offers to let Gerald try it before the book ends, and Gerald is shocked to realize it will end (on page 57, no less). He is distraught over the approaching end, but Piggie comes up with the idea to ask the reader to read the book again to prolong their fun. The book ends semi-abruptly with the two of them hoping their request works (because, after all, having a conclusion to a book where the characters want it to be read in a continuous loop would be counterproductive!). While this is a perfectlly acceptable book for an independent young reader, all the Elephant and Piggie books make amazingly fun read-alouds as well.

The Best Book in the World!, The Best Book in the World!by Rilla (2014): When I looked up this author’s website to see if I could figure out her name (her full name is Rilla Alexander, but the library copy I have has “Rilla, Alexander” like Rilla is the last name!), I discovered that she is primarily an illustrator and graphic designer (which, considering the appearance of the book, didn’t surprise me). I also discovered another of her books (also featuring the character she calls her “alterego, Sozi”) that I really must have–Her Idea! (I was just having a chat with a friend this morning about all the writing ideas I have that I never carry through to completion!) The relevant book to this theme, however, features Sozi as she gets started on a book. With book in hand and a superhero mask over her eyes, she moves through town as she progresses through her book, and then things start to focus in more on the story world she enters. The book states, “Page by page you’re carried away. So let yourself go!” Sozi (whose name isn’t mentioned in the book) travels deep into her book, picking up strange companions on her way. Just as things seem to be getting overwhelming, she takes a moment to “rest [her] eyes” and dozes off. All the characters who populated her book now populate her dreams, and they huddle around her book–The Best Book in the World–as she dreams because of the secret they share: “the story won’t stop…[i]f we go back to the beginning again!”

The Children Who Loved BooksThe Children Who Loved Books, by Peter Carnavas (2012): Angus and Lucy don’t have a lot in the way of personal possessions; in fact, they even live in a camper with their parents instead of a regular home or apartment. What they do have, however, is books. They have so many books, in fact, that they soon overwhelm their tiny living space, and their father hauls them off. In addition to the logistical problems they start having because books were a literal prop in their home, the abundance of space in their house allows a lot of space to form between the members of the family as well. When Lucy brings a book home from the library, they can’t help opening it up and starting to read aloud. They all crowd around the father as he reads, and they read together on the couch late into the night (where they also all fall asleep). Bonded together once again through a shared story, they take their bike out first thing in the morning and head to–you guessed it!–the library for more books. As the last page says, “Angus and Lucy didn’t have very much, but they had all they would ever need.”

What Happened to Marion’s Book?,What Happened to Marion's Book? by Brook Berg, illustrated by Nathan Alsburg (2003): Marion is a hedgehog who loves to read all kinds of books in all kinds of places. She’s looking forward to starting school because her nana said that she should become a librarian some day, and she knows school is the place to start! She is most excited about visiting the library and taking out two books at a time. One morning at breakfast, however, she drops some raspberry jam on her open library book and knows she can’t just leave it there. She tries all kinds of things to fix the red stain (from letting the dog lick it to washing it in the washing machine!), and she even considers donating one of her own books to replace the ruined one, but all of her books have been dirtied because she reads them everywhere. She worries that she doesn’t know how to treat books, will be banned from the library, and will never be able to become a librarian. She finally gets the courage to tell her mom, and her mom tells her that she’ll have to pay to replace the book. When she brings the ruined book back to the school library, the librarian is disappointed, of course, but she gives Marion a tour of the “book hospital” where books are repaired and gives her a bookmark to remind her how to care for books. And, of course, Marion pays for the ruined book and checks out two new ones! (This hit close to home since GirlChild’s milk Thermos leaked in her backpack and spoiled a library book recently!)

Wild About BooksWild about Books, by Judy Sierra, pictures by Marc Brown (2004): In this rhyming story, librarian Molly McGrew accidentally drives the bookmobile to the zoo. Instead of being perturbed by her mistake and their reluctance, Molly starts reading Dr. Seuss aloud to attract a crowd. Soon, all the animals come to check out books (in two senses of the phrase!). The crocodiles enjoy Peter Pan, an elephant reads Dumbo, the pandas request books in Chinese, and then the puns begin! The llamas read The Grass Menagerie, the scorpion leaves stinging reviews of the poems the insects are inspired to write, and the hippo wins a Zoolitzer Prize for her memoir, Mud in my Blood. Then Molly hires some of the construction-minded animals–the beavers in particular–to create a branch library to satisfy their literary needs right there at the zoo. Now that they have their very own zoobrary, it’s sometimes hard to see the animals because “[t]hey are snug in their niches, their nests, and their nooks, [g]oing wild, simply wild, about wonderful books.” This book is a great one not only for introducing the concepts of reading, getting inspired by reading to write, and finding the perfect kind of book for your interests, but it also appeals to little readers who simply like animals and learning new animal names!

Have I Got a Book for You!, Have I Got a Book for You!by Mélanie Watt (2009): Al Foxword is a creature (of some sort, I can’t really place him!) and a salesman. This book serves as an infomercial for itself as Al tries to convince the reader not only that he or she should buy a copy of the book but that he or she should buy multiple copies of the book. He tries every trick of the trade, wheedling and exaggerating, throwing in bonus gifts and deals for buying more than one. When all his efforts seem to have failed, he reminds us of the one big rule of merchandise: “You break it, you buy it!” And the last page is “torn.” Definitely meant to be read aloud by someone with few inhibitions. 😉 (Also, might be a great book to use when teaching information literacy and the tricks advertisers use!)

Wanted: Ralfy Rabbit, Book BurglarWanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar, by Emily MacKenzie (2015): Ralfy Rabbits loves books so much that “one thing led to another,” and he starts actually burgling books from people to get his fix! Unfortunately for Ralfy, Arthur also loves books, and he notices when parts of his well-organized collection start to go missing. Arthur stakes out his bookshelves and sees Ralfy, but no one believes his story about a thieving rabbit, not even the police. That is, I mean, until Ralfy accidentally burgles the home of PC Puddle, the officer to whom Arthur had spoken when he called in his complaint. When Arthur is called in to view a line-up of bunnies wearing “I ❤ Books” shirts, he isn’t sure which rabbit is the robber until a conveyor belt of goodies is passed in front of them, and the only bunny who goes for books instead of the carrots and lettuce offered is Ralfy. Arthur feels sorry for Ralfy because he is only in trouble because he loves books, and he has a great idea of where Ralfy can borrow his fill of books without having to steal them: the library! And Arthur and Ralfy become “best ‘book buddies'” and visit the library together often. Good fun for elementary readers.

The Book that Eats People, The Book that Eats Peopleby John Perry, illustrations by Mark Fearing (2009): I read this aloud to BoyChild, and he was a little concerned about it. Once I realized it wasn’t just a play on words or something, I was a little concerned, too, that young BoyChild would be having nightmares about his books…but it was better to finish and remind him that it was just pretend than to leave him hanging with carnivorous books running through his dreams! Recommended for ages 3-7 on Amazon, I’m going to go ahead and suggest a slightly older crowd despite the relatively small amount of text per page. I’m thinking middle elementary is probably a safer bet what with the book actually eating people and phrases like “it coughed up his bones and they clattered across the floor like wooden blocks” and the like. Sure, it’s darkly hilarious, but that seems like more the sort of thing that children with a stronger grasp on the concept of reality versus fiction might enjoy. Featuring a ton of collage elements and a very cranky-looking book, the visuals are also geared toward the upper end of the suggested age range and beyond. Future fans of the Series of Unfortunate Events would like this book!

Incredible Book Eating BoyThe Incredible Book Eating Boy, by Oliver Jeffers (2006): Henry loves books, but not in the same way that most people do; he literally devours them. It starts by accident at first, when he mistakenly licks his book instead of his popsicle when he’s distracted. It quickly progresses, however, into tearing into pages and then into whole books and eventually several books at once! He eats all kinds of books–he’s not picky–and finds that he grows smarter and smarter with each one he ingests! Eventually, though, eating all those books so quickly without giving himself time to “digest” them leads to confusion and nausea. Henry stops eating books then, and it takes him a while to figure out what else he can do with his books…and he tries reading them. Just like before, he gets smarter with each book he reads, although this method is slower. Now he reads all the time, and he only occasionally slips back into bad habits (as evidenced by a large “bite” taken out of the last few pages and back cover). The irony and graphic design elements of this book make it better for slightly older picture book readers, middle to upper elementary.

Return of the Library Dragon, Return of the Library Dragonby Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Michael P. White (2012): Miss Lotty (short for Lotta Scales, we discover), librarian at Sunrise Elementary School, is retiring. As she tries to reassure the students that the new librarian will be as much and more fun, one of the children asks if the new librarian will let them use computers, and her old dragon-ish ways rear their heads briefly as she declares, “Over my dead dragon body!” On her very last day of work, she is greeted in the morning by the unpleasant discovery that IT has arrived, taken all the books, and filled the library with electronics only! Miss Lotty is steaming mad (literally), and the students beg for their books back, listing all the reasons books are still relevant and enjoyable. They also discover, however, how enticing technology can be, and Mike Krochip (the IT guy) crows that soon the kids will forget all about books in a month! Miss Lotty loses her temper, and everyone flees, but they warn the young woman in the hallway that the “librarian’s a real dragon!” This young woman, it turns out, is the new librarian, and she is the same woman who, as a child twenty years prior, had convinced Miss Lotty to shed her draconic book-lending practices in the first place. (You have to read the short newspaper article in the front matter for this to make any sense, actually, so don’t skip it!) Molly reassures Miss Lotty that the books will be returned because she insisted that they remain as a condition of her employment, and completely replacing books with technology makes her feel a little dragon-ish as well. The last page shows an image of Miss Molly at her desk with children, books, and a sign proclaiming Technology Free Tuesday–striking a balance between printed and electronic resources. This is apparently the second book about the Library Dragon, so reading The Library Dragon first would be an alternative to making sure the newspaper article page gets read. Quotes on reading, books, librarians, and information technology fill the end papers. The controversy about technology and the proliferation of punny names and book titles probably wouldn’t register with younger readers, so I’d suggest a middle elementary to upper elementary audience for this book.

It's a BookIt’s a Book, by Lane Smith (2010): This book is more for big kids and adults than it is for the picture book crowd (particularly if you don’t want to read/have your kid read the word “jackass” for comedic effect–just giving you a heads-up here!). It features a mouse, a jackass, and a monkey. The monkey is reading a book (with the mouse under his hat, for some reason), and the jackass is using a laptop. The jackass keeps asking the monkey if his book can do some thing that the laptop does (scroll down, connect to wi-fi, play music, etc.), and the monkey keeps responding with, “No, it’s a book” (or some variation on that theme). Then the monkey hands his book over so the jackass can see for himself, and the jackass gets totally absorbed to the point of not wanting to give it back. When the monkey gives in and lets him keep it (he’s going to the library anyway), the jackass offers to charge it up for him when he’s done. That’s when the mouse says, “You don’t have to…it’s a book, jackass.” So, a book that might have been fun to read with small children of the digital generation kind of gets fouled up with a double entendre. If you don’t care and wish to share it with your children anyway, that’s fine; it’s a clever book! If that’s a little more mature than you like to go with your child’s vocabulary (or if you’re a school teacher and probably shouldn’t), you can try It’s a Little Book for the same kind of cleverness but in a board book without the words to make children giggle (and with contents suited for an even younger set).

Books for Older Kids that I Wish I’d Had a Chance to Actually Read and Review Properly But Didn’t:

Secrets of the Book, Secrets of the Bookby Erin Fry (2014, upper elementary): This book features a book called Pandora’s Book which is full of images of positively influential historical people that the guardian of the book can bring to life. That there is a shady man who has a book called Pandora’s Other Book suggests that infamous historical people are included in that book. The heroes of the story are sixth graders: a boy who is losing his sight, another with autism spectrum disorder, and the “resourceful” granddaughter of the previous keeper of the book (who goes missing right after passing the book on).

Archie Greene and the Magician's SecretArchie Greene and the Magician’s Secret, by D. D. Everest (2015, upper elementary): The first in a new series, this book tells the story of Archie Greene, a boy who receives a very old book on his twelfth birthday and learns that he is part of a gifted family given the job of protecting and preserving magical books. Archie himself has some hidden talents as well. The reviews I read suggest that there is a lot of content to process, so this is probably good for a dedicated reader who enjoys the concept of magic hidden in the real world. The summaries made me think strongly of The Librarians show and of Warehouse 13, if you happen to be the adult in charge of selecting books for your tween or early teen and know those series!

Inkheart trilogy, Inkheartby Cornelia Funke (2003, upper elementary to middle school): Meggie’s father, a man who repairs rare books, never reads aloud to her, and she discovers why when one of the characters he accidentally read out of a book (and Meggie’s mother into it) shows up outside their home late one night. This fantasy story starts with the idea that spoken words–particularly words spoken by someone with talent–are powerful, and the three books in the series continue in that vein, and with added elements of the power of skillful storytelling and writing added in, to create a world where a good reader can literally make a book come alive and a good writer can transport you into a book. (I have actually read all of these books, but it was long enough ago that I can’t give a very specific review!)

I know there are many, many more of these books available! Just search the subjects “Libraries–Fiction” and “Books–Fiction” to find a vast selection from which to choose!

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under review, teaching suggestion, theme

Fun Fourth Friday: Bugs and Crawly Things

I had already chosen this theme on our last library day when I stumbled across a few bugs books and thought, “Yeah, bugs are big in July! I’ll cover bugs!” Then we went to a nearby state park and signed the kids up for the Wisconsin Explorer program, and–lo and behold!–one of the shared topics between the two age groups is bugs! Because “bugs” is a kind of vague term, I’m going to go ahead and include insects, arachnids, and other creepy critters with exoskeletons and various numbers of legs! (This is a Fun Fourth Friday because we were in the middle of moving on the third Thursday and had no internet access!)

[Bugs and Crawly Things book list]

National Geographic Kids Look & Learn: BugsLook & Learn Bugs (2015, infant to preschool): This board book has versatility for use from the smallest readers (board book style, enlarged photographs of insects with simple backgrounds) to still-small readers who want to know more about bugs (simple labels, fact bubbles, and interactive read-aloud text). Each spread has a large photo and a few simple sentences.

Big Bug Little Bug: Big Bug Little BugA Book of Opposites, by Paul Stickland (2010, toddler to preschool): This concept book is a bright examination of some pretty wild-looking bugs. The bugs are stylized to be cute and not particularly realistic, but readers can identify things like pillbugs (roly-polies), ladybugs, and rhinoceros beetles among the psychedelic menagerie. Not all of the contrasts are strictly opposites (stripes and spots, for instance), but the huge pop-up at the end is sure to please every little reader!

Beetle BopBeetle Bop, by Denise Fleming (2007, preschool to early elementary): A very simple book of beetles, real beetle types are introduced just through bright illustrations (“created,” according to the title page, “by pouring colored cotton fiber through hand-cut stencils”) and simple descriptive text. I recognized whirligig beetles, click beetles, fireflies, and ladybugs, to name a few. Because of its simplicity, this is a great read-aloud or browsing book for very young listeners and readers.

ABC Insects, ABC Insectsby the American Museum of Natural History (2014, toddler to early elementary): This oversized board book introduces a different insect for each letter of the alphabet along with an interesting fact about each one. The pages have blocks of color for each letter, a large capital letter, and a photographic image of the insect. The information is presented in simple phrasing with some specialized vocabulary (like predators and antennae) that is easily understood with context or a little explaining. Even X has an insect: the Xerces blue butterfly, thought to be extinct since the 1940s. If my youngest hadn’t already learned the basics of the alphabet, I would probably just buy this book (instead of checking it out on occasion) because it seems like the kind of thing he would have really liked when he was littler and needed prompting to be interested in books! (GirlChild, on the other hand, insists that she can’t sleep because she’s thinking about the scary velvet ant! It might have more to do with the fact that the house is in upheaval as we prepare to move!)

The Very Clumsy Click BeetleThe Very Clumsy Click Beetle, by Eric Carle (1999, preschool to early elementary): Eric Carle is famous for his collage art, and his stories often feature the passage of time as an element of the story. They also very often include insects and crawly things (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Grouchy Ladybug, The Very Lonely Firefly, and The Very Busy Spider, for example), and often have a novelty element (texture, cut-outs, lights, etc.). This book happens to have a little bit of each of those characteristics, and the novelty in it happens to be a noise-maker! (This caught both GirlChild and me off guard–I thought the computer was sparking!) A clumsy little click beetle falls on his back, and a wise old click beetle teaches him the click-and-flip method of righting himself. He tries unsuccessfully in front of several different animals, but when a human boy approaches and the need is great, he succeeds! Like many of his other books, this book also includes a brief scientific explanation of the background to the story, so there is more detail about the clicking for an adult or older reader’s information.

Butterfly, Butterfly: A Book of Colors, Butterfly Butterfly: A Book of Colorsby Petr Horáček (2007, preschool to early elementary): The large text looks almost poetic or artistic in itself as it mingles with the simple acrylic paintings of the art. It tells of Lucy, a little girl who finds a colorful butterfly in the garden one day but can’t find it the next. She does, however, find a variety of other creatures of various hues (with cut-outs in the pages for a peek to the next illustration and the previous one). When she has almost given up, she lies down in the grass, looks up in the sky, and sees the butterfly above her (as a large pop-out). I love the art in this one! (The author/illustrator also has a book called The Fly which is a playful first-person account of a fly’s danger-filled day as he just tries to live his life and get along with others!)

These Bees Count!These Bees Count!, by Alison Formento, illustrated by Sarah Snow (2012, preschool to early elementary): This book tells the story of a small class going to a bee farm on a field trip. (The field trip is a great setting because it makes sharing facts and childlike understanding logical.) The middle part of the book is a kind of counting story (supposedly the bees “talking” as they fly to work). (It does not share a huge amount of important information in this section, so perhaps it is intended as a kind of mental break for very young listeners.) The field trip story picks up again as they discuss what bees do and how honey is collected and processed. The last page of the book is written for adults and shares more information about the some of the topics discussed in the story. This book would be perfect for a unit study on bees in preschool or primary classes.

Butterfly Counting, Butterfly Countingby Jerry Pallotta and Shennen Berseni (2015, preschool to elementary): Since this is partly a counting book, I am tempted to lower the upper end of the age range, but, really, there is a lot of beautiful photo-realistic art and scientific and linguistic detail in this book, and I believe it would appeal as a read-aloud for younger children interested in the topic (or as a classroom introduction to a unit on insects for up to middle elementary) or as independent reading for an interested older reader. The vocabulary is pretty sophisticated, and the book shares the word for butterfly in over twenty different languages (from Tagalog to German–search YouTube for the video comparing German to other languages…I love “schmetterling” (butterfly) almost as much as “krankenwagen” (ambulance)!) Still, it is a counting book, and small children can count the butterflies on each page, from zero (no butterflies on Antarctica!) to the twenty-five Piano Keys. The last page is a single brightly-colored insect (and tells that the word for butterfly in Great Britain is…butterfly), but the tricky insect is actually a type of grasshopper. The author has written a number of other insect-themed concept books, and the illustrator has a number of other insect books under her belt, too.

Big Bug SurpriseBig Bug Surprise, by Julia Gran (2007, early to middle elementary): Prunella is preparing to bring a special bug to show-and-tell, and she spouts random insect and crawly-thing facts as she starts her day, but everyone (from her parents to the bus driver to her teacher) seem kind of exasperated by her bits of trivia (“Not now, Prunella!”). When her off-hand observation that the bee that has flown into the classroom window just as she begins her show-and-tell is a queen bee (which never flies alone) leads to a classroom full of bees, Prunella saves the day by luring them outside (robed in white and toting a jelly sandwich) and showing them a new place to nest. The class thanks her for saving the day, but when she reveals her surprise insect for show-and-tell, they seem less appreciative: it’s a dung beetle. Really, though, all their declarations of how gross it is are really signs of interest, and they say, “Tell us more, Prunella!” An appendix of “Big Bug Facts” can be found on the last page of the book.

Bugs by the Numbers: Bugs by the NumbersFacts and Figures for Multiple Types of Bugbeasties, by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss (2011, preschool to elementary): The format and topic of the book make it the sort of thing that may be intended for one age group but accessible and enjoyable by a much broader audience. The first spread introduces the text with a poem, part of which proclaims, “Not all critters that fly or crawl on the ground/Are technically bugs, but we both have found/Most folks call them bugs, and since they do,/We figured, why not? We’d call them “bugs” too.” Each spread thereafter has a “bug” (the image of the bug created by numbers significant to the information somehow) with number-based facts (three or four per creature) and artistic flaps to lift to find more information. Perfect for an adult to share with a budding entomologist or for independent elementary-aged readers to pore over on their own or with like-minded friends, the book ends with a little poem about the ways that bugs benefit humans (and a list of the fonts used to create the images). Other books in this vein include Alphabeasties and AlphaSaurs.

Bugs GaloreBugs Galore, by Peter Stein, illustrated by Bob Staake (2012, preschool to early elementary): This rhyming book seems intended as a read-aloud with its repetitive, rhyming, and alliterative text. The mainly geometric illustrations are in no way realistic, but the bugs and experiences mentioned in the text are. Definitely a good book to read at the start of a storytime or unit about bugs as it could lead to discussions about the types of insects and crawly things the listeners have experienced.

Some Bugs, Some Bugswords by Angela DiTerlizzi, bugs by Brendan Wenzel (2014, preschool to early elementary):This is another great rhyming book to introduce bugs to a group of children. While the illustrations in this book have somewhat stylized insects, they are recognizable as real bugs (and have a whole spread at the back of the book where each insect is pictured and named). This book is actually simpler as far as the text goes, but the illustrations are much busier, so this might be a fun book to include in a classroom library after a read-aloud for further browsing. Because of the semi-realistic illustrations, it would be easy enough to poll children about which bugs they recognize and which they’ve actually seen or some other interactive activity to kick off an insect unit, particularly since the last page of the story encourages readers to “find some bugs in your backyard!”

Picnic! A Day in the ParkPicnic! A Day in the Park, by Joan Holub, illustrated by Will Terry (2008, preschool to early elementary): Although this book is simpler than the previous ones, it is intended as an early pre-independent reader. (The child should recognize some words but not necessarily be able to actually read fluently through the text alone.) There is basic dialogue, rhyming, and many simple names to help make comprehension easier. The main characters are ants invading a picnic and the fireflies/lightning bugs that help light their way home.

Hi! Fly Guy, by Tedd ArnoldHi! Fly Guy (2005, early elementary): This early independent reader tells the story of when Buzz (the boy) meets Fly Guy (the fly) when he’s on the lookout for a cool pet to share at the Amazing Pet Show. The very brief chapters have just a simple sentence or two on each page, and large, funny illustrations fill up the rest of the space. Like all the other Fly Guy books, this one is silly and just a little bit gross in bits. (He is a fly after all!)

Bugs and Us Bugs and Us(DK Readers, Level 1), by Patricia J. Murphy (2012, early elementary): For a level 1 (beginning to read) book, this book about bugs has a lot of detail. Some of the sentences are short, but others are more complex and contain a number of somewhat sophisticated vocabulary words, so I would say that this book probably requires more adult interaction than most “early reader” books unless the reader happens to have a strong interest and background knowledge in insects and spiders. This particular title focuses on how we interact with bugs, both positively and negatively, and how we can both help and be helped by them. Bugs Bugs Bugs! (level 2) is another book in this series, and it has much more specific information about a number of interesting insects and might be most tempting to a reader who really likes the gritty side of insect life…a lot of fighting, eating, and being eaten in this one!

The Delicious BugThe Delicious Bug, by Janet Perlman (2009, early elementary): Two chameleons, Willy and Wally, happen to both catch a particularly tasty bug at the same time. Although they are usually good at sharing and kind to one another, they end up arguing over this catch. Things get pretty heated, and they start name calling (“Just back off, shlobberface!” (talking with your tongue hanging out makes enunciation difficult) and “Why don’t YOU back off, dragonlipsh!” are as nasty as they get), then actually fighting one another, and all the animal spectators are getting uncomfortable and embarrassed for them. In all the ruckus, the coveted bug gets free, and–after the chameleons reconcile following a dangerous close call–the beleaguered creature falls dead at the feet of the pleased tomato frog. Since the chameleons have always shared with him in the past, he invites them both to share the meal with him, and they all agree that it is the most delicious bug they’ve ever eaten. Then the chameleons begin making reparations with all the animals they inconvenienced during their row, and peace is restored to their forest. (This story is clearly more about getting along and sharing than it is about the actual bug…)

Hurry and the Monarch, Hurry and the Monarchby Antoine Ó Flatharta, illustrated by Meilo So (2005, early elementary): Disguising information about monarch migration as a story of the interaction between a land tortoise named Hurry from Wichita Falls, Texas, and a migrating monarch from Canada, this book gives tidbits of specific detail relating to the annual migration (like months of the year when it happens, specific cities, and life cycle details). At the end of the book, there is an afterword that gives more scientific detail to piece together the events of the story.

Diary of a FlyDiary of a Fly, by Doreen Cronin, pictures by Harry Bliss (2007, early to middle elementary): Dated June 7 through August 2, this “diary” tells about a fly’s day-to-day experiences and reveals facts about flies in a sly way (often utilizing the illustrations to get the full point across, like when Spider’s grandfather makes Fly feel good when he tells her that she is so very important to the food chain…). The underlying theme is that Fly has some pretty cool talents and that, even though she doesn’t seem to fit the stereotypical superhero mold, “[t]he world needs all kinds of heroes.”

Fancy Nancy: Explorer Extraordinaire!, Fancy Nancy: Explorer Extraordinaire!by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser (2009, early to middle elementary): Fancy Nancy and her friend Bree form a club called the Explorers Extraordinaire Club, and this book presents the rules of the club (and is fashioned partly like a scrapbook and partly as the story of their adventures). The title page includes this note: “Everything in this book is scientifically accurate. (That’s a fancy way of saying it’s all true.)” If you have little girls who are a blend of fancy and frolicsome (kind of like GirlChild!), they may identify, but this is one Fancy Nancy book that might have a broader appeal. It gives good tips for young explorers (staying in places you know and are allowed to go, not handling butterflies, how to treat flowers and trees when exploring) and has actual photographs of a few different insects, plants, and birds. It also provides recipes and instructions for some fun activities and treats (like Nancy’s Extra-Fancy Lemonade (planning to do this with GirlChild and some friends with raspberries from our bush!) and simple bird feeders). I think I’m going to check this book out again (or possibly buy it for my little ornithologist/entomologist/wordsmith)! (Fancy Nancy: Bonjour, Butterfly is a slightly simpler, much girlier story (about Fancy Nancy having to miss her friend Bree’s birthday party to attend her grandparents’ 50th anniversary celebration) that has butterflies as a consolation prize at the end.)

Product DetailsI, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are, by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas (2015, elementary): A fly buzzes into a classroom of students and discovers that, of course, they are learning about butterflies–not regular flies–of course. He informs the class that he, too, goes through metamorphosis, and he tells them the heartwarming story of being laid (as an egg) in a pile of dog doo along with his 500 brothers and sisters and his transition into a poop-and-trash eating maggot (or “larva,” as the scientists would call him), then pupa, then full-fledged fly–parent, grandparent, still a poop-eater. He then shares facts about his wing speed, the throwing-up-before-eating “myth” (not really a myth…but they only throw up on solid foods), spread of disease, lifespan, and crime-solving capabilities (er, well, helping determine how long a body has been dead, at least). It ends with a fun glossary, bibliography, and a panel of experts on flies. Simply written, this book has appeal for most elementary grades (if you think they can handle some of the grossness) as a fun source for nonfiction fly information presented in a picture book format.

DK Eyewonder: Bugs, DK Eyewonder: Bugswritten and edited by Penelope York (2015, early to middle elementary): DK can do no wrong when it comes to nonfiction books. Enlarged photographs, interesting information, arrangements by heading (which can be read through or found in the table of contents), and a typical glossary and index all make this book an accessible browse or for simple research. Rich scientific vocabulary means that independent readers will need to use context clues and the glossary for a full understanding, but casual readers will enjoy just looking at the photographs and reading blurbs of information as it interests them.

Insiders: Insects & SpidersInsiders: Insects & Spiders (2008, middle to upper elementary): I was previously unfamiliar with this series of nonfiction books, but this is an interesting title with in-depth information. Less cluttered than a typical DK book (which isn’t a criticism…the “clutter” is part of the draw of those books!), the pages feature extreme close-ups, diagrams, graphs, and illustrations. Each creature featured includes a little “fact sheet” kind of preview that includes a world map showing its range, a description of its habitat and diet, measurements and an image of the insect on a child’s hand for size reference, and the creature’s scientific name. The page spread either features a photograph or a detailed illustration of the creature with many labels and other information. The introductory page for the group of creature includes a diagram of the typical internal organs and a labeled diagram of the typical body parts. Includes a glossary and index.

Gregor the Overlander,Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (2003, upper elementary to middle school): 11-year-old Gregor is missing summer camp this year because his grandmother is no longer lucid enough to care for his toddler sister, nicknamed Boots, while their mother goes to work. His father has been gone for “two years, seven months, and thirteen days”–suddenly disappeared without a trace–and everyone has their own assumptions about what happened. When Gregor brings Boots down into the laundry room of their apartment building that first hot afternoon of summer, she disappears into a vent in the floor, and Gregor chases after her. They find themselves falling for a long, long time, and when they finally land, they come face to face with what Boots calls simply “beeg bugs!”–four-foot long cockroaches that can speak (though a little oddly). These “crawlers” (as they come to find out they’re called in the Underland) play a big role in the rest of this adventure/quest story that also features regular-sized (but incredibly pale) humans and enormous bats, rats, and spiders.

(If you happen to know of any really great books about bugs, let us know in the comments! I still struggle to find good middle school and up books on some of my favorite picture book topics!)

Leave a comment

Filed under theme

Themed Third Thursday: Heroic Reads

A friend of mine is a teacher at a school where the theme next year is “Reading Is My Superpower.” I don’t know if I necessarily agree that reading is a superpower so much as that reading gives me superpowers, but perhaps that’s just semantics. 🙂 I had also forgotten that the Milwaukee Public Library theme last summer and this one is Super Readers, and I stumbled across the display at my local branch and filled up my library bag with some of their suggestions, too. So, if your summer isn’t saturated enough by Marvel’s superheroes (and I will include some of them, just to give you fair warning!), your young readers will have a chance to explore what makes a hero super! (Weird fast fact: My family was playing the board game Life a couple of days ago, and one of the action cards called for the kids to state their superpowers. GirlChild said strength, speed, and wisdom. BoyChild said punching people in the face. Oy. That child.)

Super Reader selection

The Super Reader summer reading display at the Mill Road branch of the Milwaukee Public Library (before I pillaged it).

Superhero Me!Superhero Me!, by Karen Katz (2009, toddler to preschool): Karen Katz appears to have a board book for nearly every occasion! Her typical round-faced, happy toddlers try out different superhero identities, from Super Rexosaur to Puddle-Jumper, in this rhyming touch-and-feel book. My children have always loved these simple, bright books and are drawn to them in the board book section of the library with regularity even now! This is a perfect first introduction to the idea of superhero play for little ones!

Super Duck, by Jez Alborough Super Duck(2009, toddler to preschool): Like all his other Duck books, this Alborough installment features the very eager duck, several somewhat exasperated barnyard friends, and a lot of rhyming! When Sheep, Goat, and Frog are trying to fly a kite, Duck proclaims that he is Super Duck and tries his best to help (with mixed results). When Frog gets swept away with the kite, Duck actually comes to the rescue and gets him safely back to the ground. Sheep and Goat are so happy that they call him Super Duck, too!

Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears?Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears?, by Carmela LaVigna Coyle, illustrated by Mike Gordon (2012, preschool to early elementary): This picture book asks questions (“Do super heroes make capes with blankies and string?”) followed by italicized answers (“We can turn blankies into most anything.“) Judging by the illustrations (and I didn’t quite get it at first), members of a family are asking questions of one another about super heroes (based on the daily activities the self-styled super hero brother and (potentially) sidekick little sister). Many of the questions are from little sister to older brother and some are the kids to their parents. (A helpful comprehension activity might be to work with your little listener to figure out who the speakers are on each spread.) I have definitely had these kinds of conversations going on randomly throughout the day at my house (topic based on whatever long-term role-play my kids are currently into), so once you get the hang of the abruptly changing speaker concept, this story is pretty representative of real kids doing what they do best–imagining!

Superhero School, Superhero Schoolby Thierry Robberecht and Philippe Goossens (2011, preschool to early elementary): You can kind of tell that this book is a translation (from Dutch, if anyone’s interested) because it just feels a little off in the cadence and phrasing. Still, my kids enjoyed the storyline! Henry (who wears headgear that suggests a jester’s cap) attends superhero school, but he is kind of the class clown and struggles with his superhero studies. He can’t fly, isn’t super strong, and believes pranks to be his only superpower. When a horrible monster comes to the school, Henry’s classmates are quickly neutralized, but Henry’s quick-thinking prank catches the monster off-guard, and his tickles drain the monster’s strength. The others step back in and ship the monster back to the planet he came from, but Henry is celebrated for saving the day!

These Are the AvengersThese Are the Avengers, adapted by Thomas Macri (2012, preschool to early elementary): This early reader book introduces the six Mighty Avengers: Captain America, Ant-Man, Wasp, the Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man. (So, you know, not the cinematic universe version of the Avengers.) The book gives the basic information about the six characters in short, easy to read sentences. (BoyChild enjoys this as a quick read-aloud, but a budding reader with some knowledge about Marvel characters could handle it as a simple text for independent reading.) There are a number more of these books available, and there are games and other activities available on the Marvel Kids website as well. You can compare the different levels and types of books available about Marvel characters by checking out This Is Thor (World of Reading: Level 1, preschool to early elementary), Heroes of Asgard (World of Reading: Level 2, early elementary), and Marvel Adventures: The Avengers: Thor (a graphic novel, middle school to high school).

Ten Rules of Being a Superhero, Ten Rules of Being a Superheroby Deb Pilutti (2014, preschool to early elementary): A young boy and his superhero action figure present the ten rules of being a superhero. (The action figure appears to be living in each scenario, but he is toy-sized and sometimes his movement is controlled by the boy, so I’m assuming all life-like qualities are just the boy’s imagination shown as reality.) My favorite rules are Rule Number 1: “A superhero must ALWAYS respond to a call for help…even if the odds are against him” (and showing a number of other toys in dire situations that need to be rescued) and Rule Number 4: “A superhero must use his power in a good way” (as opposed to the selfish villain thinking about using his powers in a bad way). The last rule, Rule Number 10, is also a good one: “Every superhero needs a sidekick. Because saving the day is more fun with a friend.”

The Day I Lost My SuperpowersThe Day I Lost My Superpowers, by Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo (2014, preschool to early elementary): A small child discovers one day (with the help of her father’s hands tossing her in the air) that she can fly! She realizes she has a variety of other powers, too…like making things disappear (although that works better with cupcakes than with peas) and becoming invisible herself (with the help of the underside of her bed). One day, however, she falls when “flying” (with the help of her dog and a string), and she realizes she has lost her superpowers (and hurt her knee)! Her mom comes to the rescue, however, with a magic kiss that makes her feel “all better (even if [her] knee still hurt[s] a little),” and she is excited to realize that her mom might have superpowers, too! The illustrations help tell the story by revealing the reality behind her superpower statements, and they help young readers and listeners feel like they’re in on the joke (as well as give them good ideas for superhero play of their own).

SuperHero ABC, SuperHero ABCby Bob McLeod (2006, preschool to early elementary): While a typical alphabet book has a limited audience (based on those who are still getting comfortable with the alphabet), the contents of this book will bring in a greater range of readers (and will make some parents shy away!). Twenty-six superheroes (or superhero groups) represent the letters of the alphabet, and some of the powers get downright gross (like Goo Girl (who “shoots gobs of goo at gangsters”) and The Volcano (who “vomits on villains”)) and the characteristics silly (Upside-Down Man “wears his uniform under his underwear” and Astro-Man has asthma (?!)) as the real-life-comic-book-artist author puts as many of the featured letter onto the pages as possible. My only gripe with the book is that, although the general public depicted in the art is reasonably diverse, the vast majority of the featured heroes/heroines (and there are a decent number of females) are pretty pale (with just a couple exceptions…and a few aliens).

Dex: The Heart of a HeroDex: The Heart of a Hero, by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner (2004, preschool to early elementary): Dexter is a dachshund dog (living in a world populated by anthropomorphic dogs, cats, and rodents) who dreams big dreams. (The ultra-dramatic superhero-esque thoughts are written in comic book handwritten style in yellow text boxes.) He is very ordinary and very small, but he decides that if he wants to be a hero, he needs to make himself one! He begins training by exercising to get strong, climbing trash piles to gain endurance, and pushing himself those extra few circles before lying down to sleep. When his efforts pay off, he completes his transformation with a mail-order costume. His heroic acts are all pretty mild but satisfying–helping a puppy cross the street, finding a lost kitten, and organizing a neighborhood clean-up day–until the night that Cleevis the tomcat finds himself in a precarious situation high in a tree. Dex uses his wits and the resources around him (in this case, a teeter-totter and a crowd of onlookers) to save Cleevis and win his respect…and a partner in crime-fighting!

Superhero, Superheroby Marc Tauss (2005, preschool to early elementary): All in black-and-white enhanced photographs, the story starts in the front endpapers with Maleek (the main character, a young boy) browsing an aisle full of different comic books. (Maleek likes to “catch up on his fellow superheroes’ adventures.”) Maleek wears a costume with goggles and a cape with a large M on it, and he builds inventions in his laboratory. When he reads in the newspaper one day that all the city parks and playgrounds have disappeared (replaced by tall buildings), he and his robot jump into their time machine and go back 500 years to collect plant specimens that he uses to create GIGUNDO JUICE. He sprays his concoction all over the city, and large, beautiful plants spring up to replace many of the big buildings. His work complete, Maleek goes back to his comics again. The last page shows him reading a comic book and with other props around him that appear to have contributed to the superhero daydream he seems to have been having, and the final endpapers show Maleek in full costume wandering the same aisle…which is now full of comics about himself.

Eliot Jones: Midnight SuperheroEliot Jones, Midnight Superhero, by Anne Cottringer, illustrated by Alex T. Smith (2008, preschool to early elementary): Eliot is a quiet boy who spends his days doing quiet things. Once the clock strikes midnight, however, he is a superhero. He answers the call of everyone from the Coast Guard to the queen, and his skills and powers are always up to the task at hand! His mission tonight involves saving the world from a rogue meteor, and he blasts it just in time. At the end of the story, we are back to the beginning, in Eliot’s quiet room, and we are told that “being a Midnight Superhero is very tiring. It doesn’t leave Eliot with much energy. So by day…Eliot is quiet.” This is a cute story that might leave kids wondering what secrets lurk behind the commonplace faces they see every day!

Wonder Woman: The Story of the Amazon Princess, Wonder Woman: The Story of the Amazon Princesswritten and illustrated by Ralph Cosentino (2011, early elementary): This almost-picture-book graphic novel is written in first person as Wonder Woman explains her origins, her powers, and how she came to be Wonder Woman. It even introduces many of her chief antagonists, like Cheetah and Ares, and states her mission: “to teach peace and respect to all…and to show the world how to live in harmony with nature.” Some companion books to this one are Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight and Superman: The Story of the Man of Steel. These books are a simple way to introduce your young readers to the most famous DC superheroes!

Buzz Boy and Fly Guy, Buzz Boy and Fly Guyby Tedd Arnold (2010, early elementary): In this book from the Fly Guy series, Buzz writes a book that stars him and Fly Guy as superheroes! Buzz (Buzz Boy!) is the same size as Fly Guy, and Fly Guy can talk! They use their wits and their superpowers to defeat wicked pirates, befriend a dragon, and return home safely. A great first chapter book (which is mostly a simple graphic novel divided into chapters) for young readers, parents or teachers might (subtly, so as not to spook an inspired reader into thinking it’s a homework assignment!) suggest that the reader write a comic book about himself or herself as a superhero with an animal sidekick.

Fireboy to the Rescue: A Fire SaFireboy to the Rescuefety Book, by Edward Miller (2010, early elementary): As the title suggests, this is more a fire safety book than a superhero story. Fireboy is a narrator of sorts, telling about the good and bad things about fire. Although he is the title character, the book sticks to facts about fire safety, including what you should do in case of a fire (from calling 911 to how to evacuate a home, high-rise building, and school), how firefighters respond, and how to prevent fires. This book serves as a PSA about fire for young readers, and both GirlChild and BoyChild loved it as much as if it had an actual storyline! (GirlChild is really into fire safety anyway because of school, and BoyChild has asked several times (possibly because he heard GirlChild ask, partly because it sounds cool) about the fire escape ladders we’re going to have to buy when we move into a two-story home this summer! The author has written a couple other health and safety books that I’m sure my children would love as well!)

Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken, Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chickenby Sarah Dillard (2014, middle elementary): Warren is a typical chicken, but he has grown tired of all the pecking and peeping and general blandness of his life on the farm. None of the other chickens agree, however, and he feels very alone. He happens upon a rat who is digging through the trash and bemoaning the lack of really good food…and he accidentally sets himself up to be on the rat’s menu! He (literally) bumps into an egg on his way home to tell the other chickens about the fact that someone considers him “Chicken Supreme,” and he tells the egg his story and that the egg can be his sidekick. When he leaves his unsuccessful flying lesson that day, he sees the rat with a cookbook and realizes the truth of what’s going on! In his attempts to convince the other chickens of the danger and to stop the rat’s plans, Warren has to rescue the egg, and it ends up hatching. Then Warren and his willing sidekick, Egg, set off together to continue to right wrongs and save the other chickens from the dangers that lurk nearby.

Zero the Hero, Zero the Heroby Joan Holub and Tom Lichtenheld (2012, elementary): Although this is technically a picture book (Joan Holub has an impressive list of both fiction and nonfiction children’s books for a range of ages, and Tom Lichtenheld is the illustrator of BoyChild’s favorite bedtime book (among many, many others)), the concepts explored range from the additive and commutative properties of addition to Roman numerals and place value, making the audience much wider. The fact that zero times anything is zero is vital to the climax of the story (as well as being part of the original conflict). Math teachers who like Math Curse or Sir Cumference and the First Round Table are likely to enjoy this book for their cross-curricular endeavors as well! (And I always have to plug Erin McEwan, Your Days Are Numbered, too–I used to read it to my fifth graders at the beginning of the year!)

Night of the Scaredy CrowsDC Super-Pets: Night of the Scaredy Crows, by Sarah Hines Stephens, illustrated by Art Baltazar (2012, elementary): In this series of books, the superheroes’ pets come to the rescue! And, not surprisingly, the villains’ pets are the cause of most of the problems. This particular book is about Ace the Bat-Hound and the troubles caused by Scarecrow’s pets/minions, Croward and the scaredy crows, as Halloween approaches. A Word Power page at the end of the book gives definitions and pronunciations for some of the more unusual words (like toxic and utility collar). There is quite a bit of text on each page, but there are frequent full-color illustrations to break it up. The text is larger than a typical chapter book but smaller than a picture book, and, at an approximate third-grade reading level, it could be a high-interest book for older kids who need a slightly simpler story that’s still interesting. (Marvel doesn’t have a monopoly on super-hero easy readers, either. The I Can Read series of books has several DC character stories, like Batman: Winter Wasteland (Level 2) and others on Amazon.)

Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery, Captain Raptor and the Moon Mysteryby Kevin O’Malley, illustrations by Patrick O’Brien (2005, elementary): I’m not sure this technically qualifies as a superhero story…but technologically advanced dinosaurs with space gadgets who fight off a beast who attacks a group of aliens (um, humans) and save the day (combined with the graphic novel format and typical superhero (well, like the old Batman show, at least) cliffhanger moments) certainly make Captain Raptor and his crew seem like superheroes! Jurassic Park meets Tony Stark meets Star Trek, maybe? Although this was shelved with the picture books, the graphic novel style and the realistic, detailed art make this more of a middle elementary and up kind of book.

Flora and UlyssesFlora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (2013, upper elementary to middle school): In this Newbery Medal winner, 10-year-old Flora embraces her mother’s description of her as a “natural-born cynic” and strives to observe, not hope. (We can tell by her obsession with the superhero Incandesto and her frequent need to remind herself to observe, not hope, that she is not as natural a cynic as she and her mother try to believe.) When her neighbor Tootie’s new vacuum cleaner, the Ulysses 2000X, runs amok in the yard and nearly kills a squirrel, Flora runs to the rescue and discovers that the experience has somehow imbued the hapless, now hairless, squirrel with special powers–strength, flight, and understanding. Occasional comic-book style panels are part of the story and not just illustrations. Flora and Ulysses (the squirrel) discover things about themselves that they would have never dreamed they’d discover before their first encounter.

Public School Superhero, Public School Superheroby James Patterson and Chris Tebbets (2015, upper elementary to middle school): Technically, there is no actual superhero in this book. In Washington, DC, in an inner-city neighborhood and school, Kenny escapes his mild-mannered alter-ego’s stress by imagining himself as Stainlezz Steel…a hero as brave and heroic as Kenny feels intimidated and embarrassed. (The superhero moments are shown in comic-book style panels, so it’s easy to tell when he’s taking a mental break, and there is typically a segue statement where Kenny acknowledges that it is wishful thinking.) Kenny–a chess-playing, superhero-loving sixth grader–is just starting middle school in an overcrowded, rundown local building, and things aren’t looking good. A misunderstanding (compounded by the lack of interest of the principal) results in his first ever detention, but he manages to hide it from his involved grandmother. When that principal leaves abruptly, Dr. Yetty takes over, and she really cares about both the school and the children in it. Kenny finds himself in trouble once again, but his consequence is to teach Ray-Ray, the boy who instigated the issue, how to play chess. Ray-Ray eventually offers to teach Kenny how to not be so easily intimidated, and Kenny (against his better judgment) accepts…and hides all the shady goings-on from his grandmother, too. The characters and the situations feel very real, and the book demonstrates the idea that we can’t all be superheroes but that we can each do something to make our world a better place.

SidekickedSidekicked, by John David Anderson (2013, middle school): 13-year-old Andrew Macon Bean has a rare sensory disorder that makes him acutely aware of pretty much everything (although, luckily for him, his sense of touch is only slightly amped up so he isn’t tickled to death just by getting dressed in the morning), and that makes him perfectly suited for one thing: suiting up. Yes, his overpowered senses make him a perfect candidate for sidekick training (and, eventually, superhero-dom), and The Sensationalist is born! Drew’s only problem (well, biggest problem–he is thirteen!) is that his assigned superhero doesn’t really want to have anything to do with him or the superhero business anymore. And that becomes even more of a problem when the villain he was thought to have defeated (and who was supposedly killed in an explosion during the final battle) springs his minions out of prison and starts knocking off banks and taking out superheroes…and their sidekicks. Like his erstwhile hero says: maybe it’s time for Drew to save himself! (Companion novel: Minion)

Marvel Encyclopedia: Marvel EncyclopediaThe Definitive Guide to the Characters of the Marvel Universe (revised 2014): This book is really for the die-hard fan. With a foreword by Ralph Macchio and an introduction by Stan Lee, the intended audience appears to be mainly the men and women who grew up with these comic books as their constant reading material, those who care deeply for canon and who can discuss the similarities and differences between different timelines and reboots and all the different forms of media where Marvel super heroes can be found. (It might also help for the uninitiated significant others of these longtime fans to give them an idea of who exactly it is they’re watching in the cinematic universe–my personal background information on these characters all comes from a quick internet search before my husband and I go see a movie together (or afterward when I’m already confused)!) There are entries for individuals and teams, and both heroes and villains are covered. There is a “Factfile” sidebar for the major characters, and each character’s first appearance, powers, occupation, and base are included. A brief summary and illustration (both modern and old-school styles are shown for many characters) of each is also included. For families whose children are old enough to watch the new movies, this book might be a good way to introduce upper elementary and older ages to some of their parents’ favorite characters, and there will be some kids/teenagers who will pore over this volume for hours, I’m sure! BoyChild actually spent some time looking through the book to find pictures of his favorites–Captain America and Iron Man–and ask about other characters he saw, but he’s nowhere near old enough for either the movies or the detailed information in the book, so his exposure was limited to that!

Finally, here are some links just for the adults in the house.

First, a Lunar Baboon cartoon that shows us that encouragement can be a superpower.

Next, a blog talking about an online Bible curriculum from Orange (252 Basics) called Stand Up: Get in the Story.

Finally, a link to Amazon where you can find a vast assortment of mass marketed and indie superhero books and stories for adults, teens, and children! There’s even a (not-for-children) short story written by a college friend of mine–and it’s free to borrow on Kindle with Amazon Prime!

Another finally! I forgot to link to my friend’s custom art page! He does art called Your Face Heroes (I am so proud of the word play!); you send him a couple photographs of the person you want hero-ified along with some information about them to inform his imagination, and he’ll create a custom superhero work of art. Check out his work here! The image to the left is a quick sketch he did of me as Word Girl (not a commissioned piece) from a (very) old photograph!

2 Comments

Filed under theme

Fun Fourth Friday: Out Like a Lamb

It’s March, and our weather in Wisconsin has been pretty awful. (Not East Coast snow awful, but arctic chill awful.) The extended forecast, though, is calling for something a little less lion-like and a little more wooly. (Highs above freezing, yeah!) Because the month may possibly be going out like a lamb, I chose sheep for my March theme! (Update: March doesn’t seem to actually be going out like a lamb–we didn’t get the snow we were forecast this week, but many did!–and my kids have been sick to the point of one missing three days of school and the other having a burst eardrum, so this Themed Third Thursday had to revise itself to a Fun Fourth Friday!)

Moo, Baa, La La La!Moo, Baa, La, La, La, by Sandra Boynton (1984, infant/toddler/preschool): I have been reading this book to my children since they were able to, well, listen. So, birth-ish. It’s in bad shape at this point. This is a halfway typical animal sounds book, but it’s Sandra Boynton, so there’s a good bit of silliness thrown in with the rhythm and rhyme that’s in nearly all her books. Sheep figure pretty small, but they’re in there!

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, as told and illustrated by Iza Trapani Baa Baa Black Sheep(2001, preschool/early elementary): The first page contains the rhyme with which we’re all familiar (and illustrates the black sheep in the doorway to her home wearing a nice shawl around her shoulders). Each additional spread has a different animal asking the black sheep for something as she goes about her day shopping and knitting, and they all seem pretty put out when she says she doesn’t have what they’re asking for. They actually end up all coming to her home to tell her she’s selfish (what?!), and they discover that she’s been doing what she does best (knitting, apparently) and is more than happy to share her wool with all of them, having created a special gift for each of her grumpy friends. In the end, they realize that she shared her best (even if she wasn’t able to share what they asked for at first), and they respond in kind with their best gifts.

Sheep in a JeepSheep in a Jeep, by Nancy Shaw, illustrated by Margot Apple (1986, preschool/early elementary): The titular sheep are none too careful with their vehicle and get into all kinds of trouble with it. Lots of repetition and lots of rhyme make this first of the many Nancy Shaw sheep books both fun and accessible to little listeners and early readers. This board book version gives instructions for making a handprint sheep.

Russell the Sheep, by Rob Scotton Russell the Sheep (2005, preschool/early elementary): Russell’s flock settles down for the night, but Russell is having a hard time getting to sleep. He tries all kinds of tricks and finally gets to sleep when he counts all the sheep…including himself. The story is silly, and the illustrations are quirky; there’s even a little frog pal in each illustration that small children would have a fun time finding. The pictures really add to comprehension, and I found that I had to question BoyChild some to make sure he was catching the implications of certain expressions or actions, and I definitely had to explain the concept of counting sheep so he could get that joke! If you’re teaching a unit on sheep (or whatever unit into which you might fit sheep books), you might want to give that explanation before embarking since references to it abound in sheep books!

The 108th SheepThe 108th Sheep, by Ayano Imai (2006, preschool/early elementary): Emma is having a hard time getting to sleep, and the warm milk and books are not helping. She decides to count sheep, figuring she’ll be asleep by the time she gets to 10. When she gets past 100, she’s surprised, but then something goes wrong; the 108th sheep tells her that he can’t make it over her bed (despite all his training), and this will keep all of them (Emma and the sheep) from getting to sleep. After several attempts to help him succeed, she saws a hole in her headboard so the sheep doesn’t have to jump as high to get over (er, through). He manages at last, and they all fall asleep. In the morning, the hole and the sheep are gone, but little hoofprints on Emma’s blanket convince her that she’ll never have trouble getting to sleep again. Unique illustrations and approach to the sheep counting idea make this book a different kind of book to add to your sheepish collection.

Another Brother, by Matthew Cordell Another Brother(2012, preschool/early elementary): This book is hardly about sheep (the characters are sheep, but they could just as easily be any other creature and the story would still work), but BoyChild loves this book with a passion (he asks for it multiple times a day!), and I’m not sure what the draw is for him since he is neither the oldest nor a devoted follower of his big sister! Davy is the oldest in his family, and his twelve younger brothers follow him everywhere and do everything he does. He’s quite sick of it, but his parents assure him that this is just a phase. When the phase ends suddenly, Davy is thrilled…until he realizes that he is now lonely without a single brother to play with him. One morning, however, something unexpected happens, and Davy now has a baby sister who follows him wherever he goes and does whatever he does, and he is happy once again.

WoolburWoolbur, by Leslie Helakoski, illustrated by Lee Harper (2008, early elementary): Woolbur’s free-spirited ways are a daily struggle for his worried parents and weigh heavily on their minds (but not his grandfather’s–he says not to worry), and they finally tell him that enough is enough and he needs to act like the other sheep. So, after a night pondering this, Woolbur does…because he teaches all the other lambs to act like him! An excellent reminder that thinking outside the box doesn’t mean the thinking is wrong! A very cute story of an enthusiastic sheep who marches to the beat of his own drum and teaches others how, too!

Buford the Little Bighorn, by Bill PeetBuford the Little Bighorn (1967, early/middle elementary): Buford has a bit of a problem–all of his growth seems to be concentrated his horns! They soon grow so long and curved that they have curled right back alongside his body and to the front again! Unable to climb the mountains like the other bighorns, Buford finds refuge in a herd of cattle where he goes unnoticed for quite some time. When hunting season arrives, however, his impressive rack of horns is spotted by some airborne hunters, and he makes his escape by accident–by falling and landing with his hooves on his long, curved horns–and he skis right past the hunters and onto a ski resort where he becomes the star attraction because he is the “only skier ever to grow his own skis.”

Charlie and TessCharlie and Tess, by Martin Hall, pictures by Catherine Walters (1995, early elementary): This mostly realistic fiction book tells the story of an orphaned lamb named Charlie who is raised by the family and thinks of himself as another sheepdog like Tess. When he gets big enough and has to rejoin the flock, he struggles not to play the part of the herding dog, but his learned skills in that area help save the flock when an early snow threatens to strand them in their mountainside pasture. BoyChild liked this book well enough, and it’s one of the few realistic fiction books featuring sheep I found!

Warm as Wool, by Scott Russell Sanders,Warm as Wool illustrated by Helen Cogancherry (1992, early/middle elementary): According to the jacket flap, this historical fiction story is based on information found in an old record book about the first pioneer in Randolph Township, Ohio, to own a flock of sheep in the early 1800s, Betsy Ward. Mrs. Ward had brought all her spinning supplies with her when the family moved from Connecticut, but she had no flock to shear. She had, however, brought a stocking filled with her savings, and she managed to purchase a few sheep from a drover who passed near their land. From those few sheep, she clothed her family and raised up a whole flock.

beforeitwasasweaterWhat Was It Before It Was a Sweater?, by Roseva Shreckhise (1985, preschool/early elementary): This interesting and informative book has a terribly outdated appearance. BoyChild listened patiently as the book told the story of the little girl’s birthday sweater from the birth of a lamb through shearing, the manufacturing process, and even through the wholesaler and the store. If it could be redone (probably along with the rest of the series) with updated illustrations, it would be something I would recommend as a nonfiction book for preschool and primary school classrooms!

How Do They Grow?: From Lamb to Sheep, From Lamb to Sheepby Jillian Powell (2001, early elementary): This simple book pretty much follows the nonfiction template. It includes a table of contents, bold print words defined in a glossary, headings, specific data, a section with further reading (including books, videos, websites, and addresses to contact 4-H), and an index. It gives the information chronologically and with scant detail (particularly on things that could be upsetting or disgusting to a young child, like giving birth, docking tails, and the livestock market).

I’m going to admit right now that I didn’t get the chance to read the chapter books I chose for this theme, so bear with the super-basic summaries for the following!

Agnes the SheepAgnes the Sheep, by William Taylor (1990, elementary): Agnes the sheep is a terror, and Belinda and Joe are suddenly responsible for her when her owner, Mrs. Carpenter dies. The jacket flap says this book is funny, but the few Amazon reviews are somewhat mixed (with one warning that there are a few inappropriate words, and the sheep dies suddenly near the end), so you might want to give it a read-through before you share it with a younger reader.

…And Now Miguel, by Joseph Krumgold, Product Detailsillustrated by Jean Charlot (1953, upper elementary): This book received the 1954 Newbery Medal, yet I have not actually ever read it. (I’ve never read the author’s second Newbery winner, Onion John, either. I think I have some work to do!). The author was a documentary filmmaker and this book is based on the Chavez family who had herded sheep in New Mexico for over one hundred years. Miguel is the middle child of the family, and he is discontent. He wants to be like his older brother, Gabriel, who can get whatever he wants, and he wants to be like his younger brother, Pedro, who is satisfied with whatever he has, but he is stuck in the middle. When his much loved older brother is drafted into the army, he gets his chance (although it’s not how he would have wished it) to join the men on their summer journey into the mountains with the sheep. (Teachers can purchase lesson plans and reading guides for this novel here. I’m sure there are also others available. Also, the image to the right does not feature the original artwork.)

Leave a comment

Filed under online resources, teaching suggestion, theme

Themed Third Thursday: Princess Possibilities

While many parents are tired to death of princesses and all the fancy, frilly fripperies that go with playing princess, there is far more to be found in the princess line than just your basic Disney princesses. To expand your child’s horizons, try out some of these books…with nary a musical number in sight!

Princess Baby, Night-NightPrincess Baby, Night-Night, by Karen Katz (2009, infant/toddler): As Princess Baby (which appears to be the nickname of a very normal toddler (wearing a crown and sparkly shoes)) is supposed to be getting ready for bed, her parents call out to her with questions about her progress. We can see Princess Baby avoid outright untruths as she skirts their questions or gives vague answers while she continues to play with her toys. However, when her parents come to put her in bed, she has already fallen asleep among all her toys, and her parents wish her goodnight.

I Want My Present!: A Lift-the-Flap Book, I Want My Present!by Tony Ross (2005, preschool/early elementary): A very crabby-looking little princess in her nightgown goes around the castle demanding her present. Each person she encounters (from her parents (or so I gather from their matching crowns) to the palace cook) looks and finds something of his or her own instead. (There’s even a cat looking and a little mouse who shows up on each page.) Finally, her nursemaid comes running with a box…a box that contains a paper crown. The formerly grumpy princess is finally satisfied as she hands her present (the one she made especially!) to her nurse.

Princess WannabePrincess Wannabe, written and illustrated by Leslie Lammle (2014, early elementary): The opening page starts with the line, “Is it story time yet?” Fern’s babysitter realizes that it’s too late for stories before bedtime, and she tells the little girl that princess stories “all end the same way” so there’s no need to read this one. Fern is determined, however, to find out for herself how her book ends, so she sits down to read it herself, and magically gets drawn into the book. When she finally encounters the princess, she discovers that–just like Fern wishes she could be a princess–the princess just wants to be able to relax and read with her friends all day, just as Fern can. Fern returns home via fairy dust just in time for bed, and her babysitter gets a whiff of fairy dust as we get the implication that her babysitter will get a surprise as she carries off the book.

The Paper Bag Princess, The Paper Bag Princessby Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko (1980, early elementary): Elizabeth is a proper princess who is going to marry a proper prince named Ronald. However, a dragon destroys her castle (and all her lovely clothes!) and carries off Ronald. Elizabeth dons a paper bag (remarkably, the only thing in the castle left unburnt) and follows so she can try to rescue Ronald. Elizabeth tricks the dragon into using up all his fire and then to wear himself out flying so that he falls asleep, and she enters his cave. Ronald is there, but he tells her to come back when she looks like a real princess again. Elizabeth tells him that although he “look[s] like a real prince,” he’s really a bum. (My third-graders laughed hysterically at this line–which was the author’s toned-down version! His original oral story involved the princess punching the prince in the nose. 🙂 ) And they don’t get married.

Princess PigstyPrincess Pigsty, by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer (2007, early elementary): Princess Isabella, the youngest of three prim and proper princesses, has finally had enough of the pampering and boredom of her prim and proper life. One morning, she throws a proper fit and tosses her crown into the fishpond. Her father, the king, is very angry at her for her defiance and orders her to the kitchen until she is willing to get her crown out of the pond and behave properly again. When that doesn’t work (she loves working in the kitchen and has new and interesting things she’s learned), he tries banishing her to the pigsty, but she also enjoys that experience. He finally realizes that he loves and misses his little girl and wants her to return to the castle, so he returns her crown to her and asks her to come back and do the things she wants to do because all he wants is for her to be happy. As they return to the castle and Isabella shares some of her plans, her father shows an interest in trying new things and learning with her.

The Princess Knight,The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer (2001, early elementary): Princess Violetta’s mother dies when she is born, and the king–whose three sons have been raised just as he was raised (and have acquired some decidedly haughty tendencies to boot)–decides to raise his tiny princess in the same way. Her three older brothers taunt her and boast about their prowess in all the areas where poor little Violetta struggles. So Violetta begins to practice in secret, “in her own way, without shouting and without using her spurs.” She becomes so good that her brothers stop harassing her. However, when she turns sixteen, her father proposes a tournament to celebrate, but–instead of getting to participate–she is to be the prize for the winner! On the day of the tournament, she disguises herself as Sir No-Name (and her veiled nursemaid as herself) so that she can compete. She wins, and she chooses her own prize–that “no one will ever win Princess Violetta’s hand in marriage without first defeating Sir No-Name.” She rides off on her horse and only returns after “a year and a day,” and her father and brothers show her the respect that her skill deserves. (And she marries the gardener’s son when she is good and ready.)

Princess Posey and the First Grade ParadePrincess Posey and the First Grade Parade, by Stephanie Green, illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson (2010, early elementary): This first book in a simple chapter book series tells the story of Posey (aka, Princess Posey (when she’s wearing her ratty pink tutu and the confidence boost it gives her!)) as she prepares to enter first grade. Posey’s pretty nervous in particular about one thing: drop-off. She doesn’t like the idea of having to walk into the school and her classroom on her own, and she longs to wear her tutu to give her some courage. A chance meeting with her soon-to-be teacher in the grocery store results in a conversation that gives Miss Lee the idea to have a first grade parade–wear your favorite clothes!–on the first day of school to help the new first graders feel more at ease as they transition from kindergarten into first grade.

The Princess in Black, The Princess in Blackby Shannon Hale and Dean Hale (2014, early/middle elementary): Princess Magnolia gets a surprise visit from Duchess Wigtower, and Duchess Wigtower makes it perfectly clear that she’s there to find out what is up with Princess Magnolia since everyone has secrets. Princess Magnolia does have a secret–a very big secret–and she doesn’t want anyone to know. Princess Magnolia is also the Princess in Black, a pony-riding, masking-wearing, monster-fighting force to be reckoned with! While she is entertaining Duchess Wigtower, she receives a monster alert on her glitter-stone ring and has to rush away to deal with the problem. Duff, the goat boy, watches in alarm and admiration as she defeats the monster and sends him back home. He can’t help but be reminded of Princess Magnolia, but he brushes off the idea until later, after he has put the goats to bed. He is inspired to create a disguise for himself, the Goat Avenger, and vows to practice and get stronger so that he, too, may one day fight alongside the Princess in Black (whoever she is!). Duchess Wigtower, who has been snooping, has found a pair of black stockings in a closet. She determines that–since princesses don’t wear black–Princess Magnolia’s secret is that she has really filthy stockings. Princess Magnolia is relieved that her true secret is still safe. I really like not only the silliness of the story but the fact that Princess Magnolia and Duff are both drawn as round-faced, decidedly average-looking children! Very accessible book, and clearly open to potential sequels! (For anyone who doesn’t know, Shannon Hale writes non-traditional princess stories, many based on fairy tale characters, for older readers, too.)

The Rescue Princesses: The Secret Promise (Book 1)The Rescue Princesses: The Secret Promise (Book 1), by Paula Harrison (2012, elementary): As Emily and the other 9-year-old princes and princesses from around their world gather at the castle of Mistburg’s King Gudland, they are excited to meet one another and to attend the ceremonial Grand Ball where they will be formally introduced to the other royal families. Emily and the other princesses come together to rescue an injured deer and to discover who has been setting illegal traps in the forest. When they discover the plot and disable all the traps, they are able to give evidence against the poacher. They decide to team up and become the Rescue Princesses with the help of the special communicator jewels one of the princesses designed for their rings. (I have to note that GirlChild adores these books. Reading them, to me, feels like reading something I would have written myself when I was a kid–one part fan fiction, one part science fiction, one part ninja training, and one part serious wish fulfillment–but that means that it absolutely would have been a book series that I would have loved as a young reader as well. Product DetailsThe princesses are modern (Emily’s family took a plane to Mistburg and there’s a zipline on the castle grounds), but their courtly expectations and old castles don’t make it overly obvious, and it actually helps explain their independent, modern child behaviors more than the anachronistic behaviors in some supposedly realistic period pieces.)

A Little Princess,A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Tasha Tudor (1905, upper elementary): Sara Crewe, an intellectually and emotionally precocious seven-year-old girl born in India to wealthy Captain Crewe and his French wife, is brought to London to a distinguished seminary for girls in order to receive her education. Her mother died when she was born, leaving Sara as the “little missus” of her home for a long time, and her self-assured manner and inventive mind endear her to many at the school while others (like the headmistress, Miss Minchin) feel threatened by her superior character and envious of her wealth. When her father dies and leaves her penniless, now eleven-year-old Sara is relegated to the attics and given the most humbling tasks Miss Minchin can conceive as a sort of revenge on Sara for her “airs” and for saddling her with her expenses (as though that were Sara’s fault). Sara uses her imagination and her aspiration to always behave graciously, as a princess would, to get through the trials that she faces in her new situation. In the end, after two long years, an amazing circumstance causes many wrongs to be righted, and Sara is seen for the strong, loyal, gracious child she is–a true princess at heart. GirlChild is too young yet to read this on her own, but I have immediate plans to read it aloud to her because I think it’s such a good story with such insight into humanity!

The Royal Diaries on AmazonThe Royal Diaries (A Dear America book series, upper elementary/middle school): I have to preface this with the statement that I have not actually read any of these books (although I have read a few Dear America titles). The publication information pages have a note that says, “While The Royal Diaries are based on real royal figures and actual historical events, some situations and people in this book are fictional, created by the author.” The books are written as diary entries by the main character, and they assume that the reader will either know some background information, will seek it out while reading, or will have the patience to deal with the ambiguity of waiting for clarity as the story unfolds. Featuring such varied princesses (or queens) as Elizabeth I (England, 1544), Lady of Ch’iao Kuo (Southern China, A.D. 531), and Nzingha (Angola, Africa, 1595), each book contains the diary portion, Product Detailsan epilogue, a historical note that includes a family tree, maps, photos, and illustrations, a glossary of characters/places with fictional characters marked, an about the author section (with author notes about writing the book), and acknowledgements (including citations for the included art).

Unfortunately, I ran out of time to read and review all the biographies (from picture books about Ka’iulani and Pocohontas to your basic nonfiction about Cleopatra and others. I also didn’t get around to The Tale of Despereaux, The Hero and the Crown (YA), and the Enchanted Forest Chronicles (YA) or any of the Wonder Woman books I found! If you want a chance to discover a hidden gem of a book about princesses (and you’re willing to wade through a catalog full of Disney-pink covers!), use “princess” as a keyword in your catalog search!

(Another couple that sound good that I found while searching for cover images on Amazon: Not All Princesses Dress in Pink and the Do Princesses…? series (both preschool/early elementary)!)

2 Comments

Filed under theme

Themed Third Thursday: Dabbling in Dinosaurs Edition

I call this “Dabbling in Dinosaurs” because the books I’m featuring–the books BoyChild loves!–are in no way informative or in-depth; they just dabble. Since dinosaurs are his favorite topic right now but he doesn’t care in the slightest about any scientific information about them, these books are right up my three-year-old’s alley!

Inside-Outside Dinosaurs, by Roxie MunroInside-Outside Dinosaurs, by Roxie Munro (2009): This is the closest to educational these books will get. We bought this book for BoyChild after he chose it from the library and wept openly when we had to return it. (Don’t worry–we commiserated with him, returned it anyway, and waited for a gift-giving opportunity to give him his own so he wasn’t rewarded for crying about returning a book!) Several dinosaurs are featured, and many more are shown in the background of the images (and identified in the back of the book). The featured dinosaurs are shown as a skeleton and have the dinosaur’s name and the meaning of the name. The next spread shows that dinosaur as it might have looked in its natural habitat (with other dinosaurs in the background, too). The last few pages of the book feature outline drawings of the scenes pictured in the book, have colored dots to identify each dinosaur shown, and give the pronunciation and some information about the main dinosaur in the image. (BoyChild never looks at this part, but I’m sure that will come with time.)

Dinotrux, by Chris Gall (2009): Dinotrux, by Chris Gall“Millions of years ago prehistoric TRUCKS roamed the earth. They were HUGE. They were HUNGRY. But they weren’t helpful like they are today.” So begins this silly story of how modern trucks came from the smart dinotrux that escaped extinction and civilized themselves to become the helpful vehicles they are today. With silly names like dumploducus and dozeratops and sight gags like the rollodon squashing a lizard and a few dinotrux leaving smelly messes, the book is probably best for slightly older kids who have a bit of background information on dinosaurs and vehicles and what they’re called (because each dinotrux creature is a reptile version of a vehicle and each name is a portmanteau of a dinosaur name and a vehicle name) and like and understand somewhat subtle potty humor, but BoyChild enjoys browsing this book alone (like he does for a lot of books he loves) and looking at the pictures despite not really getting what’s going on at all. To him, it’s just dinosaurs that kind of look like trucks, and that works for him! (There are also a few others in this series.)

Dinosaur Kisses, by David Ezra SteinDinosaur Kisses, by David Ezra Stein (2013): I first saw this book when we were away from the kids on a short trip, and I almost bought it for BoyChild as a souvenir because I knew he’d love it! (I then realized that it had nothing to do with Nashville and could either be bought cheaper elsewhere or checked out from the library for him, so I was wise and left it on the shelf.) Little Dinah, a newly hatched carnivore of some sort (probably a t-rex) tries stomping and chomping, but then she sees a kiss and wants to try that. After several failed attempts (she always manages to stomp or chomp her intended kissee instead!), she finally finds the perfect creature to get dinosaur “kisses.” David Ezra Stein also wrote Interrupting Chicken, a favorite at the grandparents’ house (because some of the granddaughters call my dad Papa): a Caldecott winner and another hilarious read-aloud for kids.

Dinosaur Vs. (series), by Bob Shea (2008-2014): Dinosaur vs. Bedtime, by Bob SheaYou have to really get your roar on when you read these books aloud to kids! BoyChild will have us read these until we’re absolutely hoarse. With copious amounts of victorious roaring and titles like Dinosaur vs. the Potty and the recently released Dinosaur vs. School, how can you go wrong? My personal favorite is probably Dinosaur vs. the Library (where the little dino finally quiets down for story time!). Roar, roar, roar–Dinosaur wins!

How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?, by Jane Yolen and Mark TeagueHow Do Dinosaurs…? (series), by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague (2000-2013): From the first entry in the series, How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?, to the most recent ones, How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? and How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?, these hilarious books pose rhetorical questions about all the inappropriate ways the dinosaurs could respond to the given situation and then come back and declare all the right ways the dinosaurs actually respond. What could possibly end up being just a humorous, rhyming manners lesson (albeit very charming and not didactic) is made absolutely hysterical by the illustrations of enormous, realistic-but-anthropomorphic dinosaurs (acting like any young child might) in human homes with human parents! (Also, the name of each dinosaur is incorporated into the drawing somehow, often along the tail, but sometimes as a part of the background picture, like magnets on the fridge.) BoyChild’s current favorite is How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad? and GirlChild likes the jokes in How Do Dinosaurs Laugh Out Loud?

These are some of BoyChild’s favorites! If you happen to know of any light-reading dinosaur books for little ones with an early interest or if you know of any good dinosaur books for the very young with more of a scientific bent, leave a comment!

Leave a comment

Filed under theme

Christmas Tree, by David Martin, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Day 1)

Welcome to the Twelve Reviews of Christmas for 2013! For the first twelve days of December, I will post a review of a Christmas book that you and your family might enjoy. Some will be secular, and some will be religious; some will be for infants, and some will be for older readers. It is my hope that, over the course of the twelve days, you will find just the right Christmas book for your child to help make this season bright!

Christmas Tree, by David MartinChristmas Tree, by David Martin, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (2009)

This very basic board book is a good start for the youngest readers as we start off this year’s Christmas season and the Twelve Reviews of Christmas for 2013!

The watercolor and pencil illustrations show first an object in nature, like a mouse, squirrel, or snow, then a Christmas ornament equivalent hanging from the branch of a tree. The first item, the real thing, is shown in a scene as though a photograph was taken and pasted into a scrapbook and a colorful, scalloped border applied. The ornament is shown on a sunny yellow background (revealed to be the walls inside the living room of the home where the tree is located). The images are kind of folksy and almost look like they have some fabric collage elements in addition to the pencil and watercolor. Almost every spread first has a single word (“Bird,” “Squirrel,” etc.) with the image in the nature scene then the phrase “[Item] in the tree” along with the ornament illustration. The second to last illustration shows a group of happy children in a bright yellow room with a crackling fire, stockings, cocoa, gifts, and the fully decorated tree (with each of the ornaments already introduced), and the final page shows them outside of the house (with the Christmas tree visible through a window) in the snow with the longest text of the book: “Pretty tree,/Sparkling bright./Christmas Eve—/Is it tonight?”

BoyChild’s Reaction: BoyChild is two and a half, and this book is recommended for ages 1-3–it was perfect for him! He actually caught on very quickly to the text pattern and was soon basically predicting what each page said. (For instance, he saw the bird illustration and said, “Bird. Bird in tree!” without prompting.) Some words he doesn’t yet know–sleds weren’t very common in mostly warm Texas!–but this book is a great introduction to that winter and Christmas vocabulary that will help him make sense of all that’s going on while we get started decorating this Christmas (and now that we’re in a winter wonderland kind of state)!

(Need more ideas right away? Check out my first Twelve Reviews of Christmas and the (20)12 Reviews of Christmas wrap-ups for the lists I’ve done the last two years!)

1 Comment

Filed under review