Saturday, April 25, 2009

Where I Am

It is difficult for me to write this particular blog entry. I have just come to realize that my time in this class is almost up. I have really enjoyed my time in this class. Our discussion after we have read books has been very productive and encourages one to talk the time to evaluate what we have read and why we are drawn to certain books.

I find myself taking extra time when picking out books for not only my daughters to read but myself as well. I no longer just grab books off of the shelf. I like to take the time and flip through books. I am now looking at children's literature through the eyes of a future teacher instead of just a parent. Books that I may have shied away from in the past because of their subject matter are now ones I take extra time and review. I have discovered new genres that in the past I would not have even given a second glance too (Captain Underpants for example).

When looking at books for purchase I find myself wondering how I may make that book work or utilized in my future classroom. I believe that this is the intention of this course. As far as the blogging goes, I fully intend on keeping up on my blog as I start to work through my practicum courses. I feel compelled to express my opinions on children's literature. I have already found that this blog makes me more critical of the books I choose to read. I can only hope that any followers of this blog feel that I have helped them look at children's literature a little more closely than just the picture on the cover. Thanks for a great time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Money Madness by David A. Adler; Illustrated by Edward Miller (Holiday Press, 2009)
Another great book to use in when working with the concept of money in your math class. This book examines the history of money. Why we use it? How it was developed? It also introduces your students to the concepts of trading and bartering. Money Madness puts math into relateable terms for children. It also introduces students to monetary names used throughout the world.
David Adler is a former math teacher who has written several books on math concepts that students can relate too. He wants kids to see that math can be fun and aims to make his book easy to understand and follow. The illustrations offered by Mr. Miller are very bright and clearly state the message that Mr. Adler is trying to convey. Overall this book is a fun and interesting way to introduce the concept into the elementary school classroom.
Intended audience: Ages 4-8

What is a Princess?

Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman; Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu ( Scholastic, 2007)
"Grace had wanted to be a princess for as long as she could remember." This is the first line of the absolutely amazing book Princess Grace. Luckily for Grace she had a Grandma and mother who encouraged her to follow her dreams. Grace is over the moon when her school announces that not only will there be a queen in this year's parade but two princesses as well. The princesses will be picked from her class. Of course the little girls practiced their waves and bows in hopes of being picked, while the boys thought "being a Princess was boring." Grace runs home to tell her family about the parade but is confronted with a question from her Grandmother that she was not expecting. "You can be a princess as long as you tell me what a princess wears." This question confused Grace. On the advice of her Grandmother she asks her teacher for help. That is when he opinion of princesses start to change.
Grace starting seeing Princesses in a whole new light. They were not all found in pink, floral and frilly dresses. Some princesses were warriors, spy's and some were even athletes. Grace decided that she needed to challenge the picture of a princess so she convinced her class to enter a float in the parade that promoted all sorts of princesses (and princes).
What really made this book for me was the multicultural nature of the book. As you can tell by the cover, Grace is an African American girl. Her friends are Hispanic, English and Hindi. The teacher in the book encouraged Grace to research a subject that she felt strongly about and did not persuade her in on direction or the other while Grace was discussing what she was finding. This book is an excellent book to introduce perspective and to challenge stereotypes.
Intended audience: Grades 2-4

Picture Day Horror

Bedhead by Margie Palatini; Illustrated by Jack E. Davis (Scholastic, 2000)
Admit it. Who has not had a bad hair day for picture day? If you raised your hand you are fooling yourself. You can honestly tell me that you have looked back through all of your school pictures and you are 100% satisfied with every one you see? If so, congratulations. You are in the minority.
Bedhead is a delightful book about a boy and his unruly hair. He wakes up one morning to find that his hair will not cooperate for anything. His parents and sister try everything they can to get the hair to be controlled but, no luck. He finally decides to wear a hat to school but is called out by the class "know-it-all" and cannot wear his hat. To top it all off the teacher reminds the class that it is picture day. Right as the picture is taken his hair goes back to it original state. Everyone laughs and becomes upset. Poor kid is humiliated on one of the most important days of his early school career.
What really makes this story is the over-exaggeration of the characters heads. The illustrations allow for you to see the pain and agony on every one's faces when Oliver is forced to remove his hat an expose his hair to more problems. Been there. Done that.
Intended audience: Grades 2-4

Absentee Dad

Molly and her Dad by Jan Ormerod; Illustrated by Carol Thompson (Roaring Book Press, 2008)

I hate to admit it but the only thing I liked about this book was the illustrations. I was really hoping from the title that this book would be about a stay-at-home Dad watching over his daughter. NOT AT ALL!!!

Molly lives with her mother and has not seen her Dad since she was a baby. She often dreams of what he would be like. What does he do for a living? Am I anything like him? All very valid questions that she deserves the answers too. However, she is constantly lying and making up stories of what her father is like to please her friends at school. Miraculously one day, Molly's mother has to go out of town for a week and, viola! her Dad shows up to take care of her. Why on God's green earth would her mother allow for this to happen. This man has never shown an ounce of interest in your child and now you are allowing him to spend a whole week with her? Seems a little far fetched if you ask me. The book is filled with all sorts of warm and fuzzies as Molly and her Dad start to see just how alike they are. But low and behold and the end of the week her Dad is on the first plane out of town. This message worries me a little.

I infer from this book that Molly ends their week together longing for a closer relationship to her father and he decides to leave. Way to get her hopes up. Now I have not not recommended a lot of books this semester but this is one I would caution using. You must really know your students and their family situation before you read this book in your classroom.

Intended audience: Preschool through Grade 2

Tornado Drill 101

Tornadoes! by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, 2009)
Since the Iowa City School District just celebrated the nationwide Tornado Drill I though reading and blogging on a book about tornadoes would be fun. I am all about themes you know.
This book is filled with fascinating facts about the origin of the word "tornado", how a tornado is formed and how to determine the strength of a tornado. What I really liked about this book was the way it put some highly scientific words into a wording that younger children may be able to understand. This book would fit in great if you have a weather theme, are anticipating a tornado drill (especially for younger students who have never experienced one) and a unit about Midwest History as well.
The book discusses several points in history when tornadoes brought about all sorts of death and destruction, but also provides the reader with a list of safety guidelines for what to do in a tornado. The illustrations are very detailed and help relieve some of the pressure students may be feeling with the terminology that is being used.
Intended audience: Ages 4-8

Hello Kitty!

Bad Kitty Gets a BATH by Nick Bruel ( Roaring Book Press, 2008)

I want to introduce my fellow future teachers to an area of the Curriculum Lab that you may or may not know of. The "new book" section which I always thought was reserved for "just looking" is actually a vast resource of unknown and old authors that deserves a look. Located near the theme wall I was always under the impression that those books were designed to be left in the Lab. After talking with Barb I was informed that those books were available for checkout. So most of my blogs this week will be dedicated to introducing you to some of the incredible selections located on those shelves.
Bad Kitty Gets a BATH by Nick Bruel is an insightful look into what cat owners go through to give their stinky cats a bath. The book is written in the chapter format similar to the Captain Underpants series and is every bit as funny. The illustrations of the cat are worth the read alone. As a cat lover and a former cat owner, I know oh too well how long the bathing process may take with a cat. What is clever about this book is that the author throws in some little known facts about cats in the process. While you are reading the book you are introduced to some vocabulary that may prove challenging for emerging readers. However, the author was smart in offering a glossary at the back of the book that may help to lessen any confusion the words may give.
This book was so easy to read I was able to finish it in the time it took the tire store to replace two tires on my 35,000 mile car (about 30 minutes). Needless to say I had way more fun reading this book than signing the $300 credit card slip the TWO tires cost me. Love the cats, hate the car. :)
Intended audience: Grades 2 through 4

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Max's Chocolate Chicken

Max's Chocolate Chicken by Rosemary Wells ( Dial Books, 1989)

There really is not much to say about this book except that it is a good beginner reader book. The text is simple and the illustrations are cute. The story lacks proper punctuation and does not use quotation marks when the characters are speaking to each other.

I really do not know what else to say about this book except it will serve beginning readers well trying to implement reading strategies that they are learning. I guess in that sense it would also be able to be used when introducing the editing process in the writer's workshop.

Intended audience: Kindergarten through 2nd

The Blue and the Gray

The Blue and the Gray by Eve Bunting; Illustrated by Ned Bittinger (Scholastic Press, 1996)
A family is building a house right next door to the boys best friend's family. What makes the location of the house so unique is that it is being built on a Civil War battleground. What makes this even more unique is the fact the the boys are Black and White.
The main premise of the story is that the little white boys father gives the boys a history lesson as to the significance of the land they all chose to build on. The father wants them to remember and respect those who gave their life and the cause that they gave it for.
What is not clear is whether the houses were being built in the North or the South. This to me is a key missing element to the story. I am guessing by the material I could find on the author was that she was meaning for the story to be set in the South. This was pretty much my guess but since it was not clearly stated, it caused some confusion when I was reading it.
"The Blue and the Gray" provides an excellent contrast between what the South was like during the Civil War and the strides this country has made for racial equality since then. This book brings to light the beauty of friendship and the memories of the past.
Intended audience: Kindergarten through 3rd

Amelia Bedelia

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish; Illustrated by Fritz Siebel ( Harper Collins, 1963)

Oh Amelia, you really are not the sharpest tool in the shed. I have to admit that until right now I have never read a book about Amelia Bedelia. During the course of this semester I have heard numerous stories of how students love this series. OK, my curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to know what was so great about this book. I am still wanting to know what is so great about this book.

So I understand that Amelia is a maid and makes several mistakes. An ordinary person would have been fired if they would have made all of these mistakes. But yet, since she can make an amazing pie, she gets to remain. Come on, how unrealistic is that? Don't we want to show our students that it is hard work and attention to detail that makes one successful, and not how well you can bake a pie? Don't get me wrong, I understand how the humor plays into everything, but it just seems a bit unrealistic.

With that said, I would not keep this series away from my library just for the pure fact that they are hilarious. Amelia obviously was raised to take things literally but that is part of the fun of this series. Amelia, I may not agree with the way you do things, but you make me want more just to see if you ever manage to get fired.

Intended audience: Kindergarten through 6th.

Frog and Toad Together

Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel (Harper Collins, 1972)
One of my oldest daughter's favorite books is "Frog and Toad Together". It is such a favorite that she has checked it out (and subsequently lost) of the school library three times. Three times we have had to replace the book. Recently while I was cleaning her room and rearranging furniture can you guess what I found? Three copies of "Frog and Toad Together." But it is hard to discourage her from checking out a book that she apparently loves to hoard when it is such a cute story.
Frog and Toad are best friends. This book takes the reader along on five adventures, each one showing the strength of their friendship. The illustrations are extremely detailed and absolutely adorable. What I really like about this book is the simplicity of the text. It was originally designed as an "I Can Read Book" over 35 years ago. This fact holds true today. Emma loves going through this book and finding her sight words and using the strategies for reading that she is learning to interpret the text. Each time she reads the book she is able to understand the story more and more. Lucky for me she has found a text that keeps her interest and she enjoys using to construct meaning of the overall story.
Intended audience: Kindergarten through 3rd.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, the books were given to friends whose children also enjoy the book.

Earth Day and Math - what a combination

Earth Day - Hooray by Stuart J. Murphy; Illustrated by Renee Andriani (Harper Collins, 2004)
This book is great because it can be used across the curriculum. Designed as a math concept book to introduce place value, the book actually puts a "kid" face on the importance of teaching our children about recycling. "Earth Day - Hooray" also helps to build the confidence of children by showing them if they put their mind to it they can accomplish anything.
Luke, Ryan and Carly knew they wanted to plant some flowers at their local park in honor of Earth Day. What they didn't realize was how expensive the flowers would be. The kids come up with a plan thanks to the help of their teacher. They create flyers, skits and canvas their neighborhoods to get the community involved in their can drive to raise money. Will they raise enough money from collecting cans to purchase the flowers? The concept of place value helps the kids count the cans and add up the amounts to see if they have met their goal.
I really enjoyed this book. I read it to my daughters tonight and my oldest stands up, puts her hands on her hips and tells me and my husband that "she is going to be an earth saver." She is now insisting that she handle the recycling "all by myself." I guess you can say that the author has accomplished his goal of getting youth involved. Now if I could only convince her that cleaning her room would also help save the environment, I would be in good shape.
Intended audience: Pre-school through 6th

Fairy Tales - Wizard Style

Harry Potter : The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic, 2008)

Thanks to Ms. Hermoine Granger we were introduced to The Tales of Beedle the Bard during the last of the epic Harry Potter series "The Deathly Hallows." Unfortunately, Hermoine was the only one (besides Dumbledore) who could read the Tales. Until now. Thanks to Hermoines hard work the Tales have now been translated to English. The Tales themselves are enjoyable to read. They do not vary much from our own Fairy Tales. What I do not like about the book is the fact that it was a separate book instead of being included as an epilogue on "The Deathly Hallows."
The Tales were as easy to read as the rest of the Harry Potter series. They really pulled you in as a reader and made you want to know what happened. They help to develop the back story of who Harry Potter and his friends were. Each Tale appears to offer insight to Dumbledore, Snape, Hagrid and the other Potter characters. Once again they are only Tales but they do read as if they were meant to be a continuation of the story.
Intended audience: 4th grade and up.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Year of Impossible Goodbyes

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi (Dell Publishing, 1991)
I have to admit that it took me awhile to get into this book. Where I can appreciate the trials and tribulations that Ms. Choi's family went through during the Japanese occupation of Korea, the book just did not really seem to explain the Korean view of life like I was hoping it would. What I did like was the way the author described what her Grandfather had gone through since Japan took over. To be considered a "scholar" in your country and then have it all degraded because you are Korean and not Japanese was hard to read.
I also found it hard to understand why they thought Americans were terrible when we didn't come and save the day. We had so many other issues to be concerned with at the time (but this is another story best kept to myself - no political opinions are needed here.) I just found nothing in this book that made me feel for the family. Does that make me a cruel person? This book was just not inspiring to me.
Even though I am not a fan of this book I can see its importance in comparing texts. The fact that it offers a viewpoint that was not covered in "So Far From the Bamboo Grove" is necessary for students to see how sides view their history and plight. I am just sorry that I was not as inspired or moved by this book as I was the other.

The Ultimate Working Mother

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward; Illustrated by Marjorie Hack (1939)

Today I had a pleasant surprise waiting for me in my mailbox. My mother sent me a copy of a book that she used to read to me all of the time when I was a little girl. I used to just enjoy the book for the cute little bunnies and never really paid much attention to the actual text.

This afternoon I sat down and read the story with my youngest daughter. WOW! It is amazing how a story can change in your mind and be nothing like you remember 30 years ago. My daughter was just like me, she loved the little bunnies. I on the other hand saw this story as being the story of the ultimate working mother. The Country Bunny grew up idolizing the 5 Easter Bunnies. Never in her wildest dreams did she believe she would ever get the opportunity to become one herself. When one of the bunnies is "forced" to retire the "Grand Bunny" calls all of the bunnies together to choose the newest Easter Bunny. The Country Bunny was not consider until she was able to prove that she was wise, kind and swift. The "Grand Bunny" even rewarded (or I say tested) her by giving her the hardest location to deliver to. She not only delivered the egg but she proved herself to be brave. She was rewarded with the Golden Shoes that would allow her to jump anywhere.

The Country Bunny is an inspiring story for all generations. Now that I have revisited this story I see it in a whole new perspective. I am able to see this book as a mother. The Country Bunny wanted to do the best for her family and make them proud. By proving herself to the "Grand Bunny" she was able to achieve her ultimate goal. I guess you could say that this book is a testament to the importance of hard work.

Intended audience: ALL

The Man Who Walked Between The Towers by Mordicai Gerstein ( Square Fish, 2003)

In 1974 there was a street performer in New York who lived for a challenge. This gentleman thought there was no greater challenge then to walk between the Twin Towers (also known as the World Trade Towers). This book is all about the true story of what happened that day - I won't ruin it for you, that is the fun of this book.

What I really like about this book is the way the illustrations tell the story. This text could just as easily be a wordless book. The illustrations are so detailed and show the story from several viewpoints. This book could also be used to introduce the fall of the twin towers on 9/11 by getting students to see that we need to honor the memories of the towers and those who lost their lives instead of the tragedy that occurred. I know that this book helped me remember the stories I had heard of Philippe Petit and his tightrope walk and not the loss of a dear friend.

Intended audience: Kindergarten to 2nd
Two Dogs Swimming by Lynn Reiser (Greenwillow Books, 2005)

Spot and Whistle are poodles who like doing everything together. They live near a pond and enjoy running around it and playing fetch near it. They are very competitive and sometimes Spot is faster and sometimes Whistle is. Every time they go swimming Whistle swims the length of the pond, but Spot does something quite strange—he pretends to swim while remaining in one place so that he can jump out just before Whistle completes his return lap. Spot always wins this way by being the first out of the pond. One day, however, while the two are playing fetch, they have to dive into the water to retrieve the stick in the middle of the pond. Spot cannot pull his famous trick and has to swim with all his might to fetch the stick. From then on, Spot does not pull his funny trick but enjoys swimming in the pond beside Whistle.

This is an adorable story of competition and friendship. If you can say that you and your best friend are not somewhat competitive I would argue that you are lying. I know my best friend and I were always competing with our grades and at sports. It may not be seen as competition due to the closeness of our relationship but we will both admit that we are. This story can also serve as a "cheaters never prosper" lesson as well.

My only reservations about this book are the fact that the dogs are depicted as a black and a white poodle who are always competing. Some may have problems with this viewpoint. I don't but it is just something to think about.

Intended audience: Preschool to 2nd

What can you do with a shoe? by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers; Illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Simon & Schuster, 1955)
What can you do with a shoe? is a wonderfully illustrated book. Who doesn't love the many renderings of Maurice Sendak? What starts out as a dress-up game of two playful children, soon turns into a question and answer game of what one would do with their clothing items if there were no limits. "Do you put your shoe on your head or butter it like bread or use apple jam instead?" This story is filled with adorable rhyming words. A fun play on words this book would be excellent to introduce rhyming to younger students.
The illustrations are brilliant and extremely detailed and truly bring the characters to life. This book would be easy to put into song if you wanted to. There really is nothing else to say about this book except - READ IT!
Intended audience: preschool to 1st grade
Secret Code by Dana Meachen Rau; Illustrated by Bari Weissman (Grolier Publishing, 1998)
As I walk around the curriculum lab I tend to turn my head to the side and read the titles on the spine of the book. This particular title caught my eye. What is so interesting about this selection is that I was so consumed by the title of the book I failed to notice the cover art. Had I been more observant I would have seen that one of the books was written in Braille.
Discussing differences can be a difficult for student in the earlier elementary grades to comprehend. This book serves as an excellent example on how ones curiosity may lead to bigger and better things. Lucy notices that he book and Oscar's book are written differently. She is curious about what he is reading so she asks him if it is a secret code. Once he explains that his books are written in Braille, Lucy becomes interested in learning. Oscar and Lucy form a friendship that goes beyond sight.
I took away from this book that it is best to ask questions if you see something or someone who is doing things different. You may find that the person is more than happy to explain to you the reason they do what they do. I really enjoyed this book, it made me smile as I read it.
Intended audience: Pre to lower Elementary school