Monday, February 22, 2010

Listen, Listen

Listen, Listen by Phillis Gershator and Alison Jay is one of those rare books that I find myself not wanting to put down after I finish it. A book created around the sounds of nature and the season, it's the stunning illustrations that really make this book so good. With a cracked quality to the cover and to the illustrations it almost appears as though you are looking at canvas drawings or inside of an old globe. I would be interested to hear why the authors chose to represent the illustrations this way. I found the words to be written in a soothing, calming manner. It would make a great book to read to your kids before they go to bed. Also it provides a great opportunity for the readers to think of their own sounds of nature and the seasons. It would be a great book to read maybe in first grade if they are doing a lesson about the seasons or just about nature. This is a book that I am definitely interested in adding to my book shelf both as a teacher and for my future kids.

Rattletrap Car

Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root is a fun, interactive book. It was a lot different than I had expected when I first picked the book up off the shelves. The book uses a lot of word play, tongue twisters, rhyming and sounds. The reason why I think that this book is interactive is because the rattletrap car makes numerous crazy sounds as it is breaking down. The kids would have a lot of fun making these noises along with whoever is reading and emphasizing them each time the car breaks down. Also, the phrase "chocolate marshmallow fudge delight" is used quite often and I feel like kids respond to any book that has mention of such a delicious dessert in it's pages. The illustrations weren't my favorite, but they were still full page and still well done enough to provide a child who can't read something to look at. Overall, I thought this book would provide entertainment to kids who read it, but it also lacks a little in substance. It's definitely a quick read, not one that you would want to read to send any sort of moral message, but it's fun nonetheless.

Snowmen at Night

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner is a creative story about what kinds of things snowmen are doing once their creators have gone to sleep. I also find imaginative books like this fun, such as the idea of our stuffed animals and toys coming to life the second we leave the room, an idea I believed in for years. The illustrations are full page, offering really pretty oil paintings to look at of streets filled with snowmen. I read this book with my child study buddy and she really enjoyed it. She found all of the descriptions funny and she even showed me that there are hidden animals on each of the pages, which showed me she had read the book once or twice before. That aspect of the book was great because it added something new for the kids if the book was read more than one time. Also, it's written in a rhyming pattern which is great for kids that are just learning how to read or still need some extra help. They can correct themselves if the words don't seem to be rhyming right. Overall, I liked this book just as much as my child study did.

Book Fair Day

Book Fair Day is another book that is part of a series that I did not know about. There is also Science Fair Day and Teacher Appreciate Day. I haven't read those two, but I really enjoyed this one. It's about a boy who loves to read so much that he just cannot wait to get his chance at the book fair that day. Of course, he runs into obstacles but eventually we see him finally get to read all the books he wants. It was nice to read a book about a boy who loves reading so much. I feel like a lot of books reinforce gender stereotypes and we don't get an opportunity to see books about boys who love to read as much as we should. The illustrations are simple and old fashioned but I really enjoyed them. They provide something to look at without overwhelming the text. Overall, this was a fun read that my child study buddy really enjoyed reading and I think most readers would as well.

And then it rained...

This was such a unique story written by an author with an equally unique name, Crescent Dragonwagon. The main title is And then it rained...about a town who is just sick of the rain. And then you flip the book over and the new title is And then the sun came out...about a town that is just sick of the sunshine. This is a really cute idea for a book. The characters are the same in each edition of the story and it makes you think about how much we love the variation in weather, even though all we do is complain about it, and how even when it's sunny for 10 days in a row, sometimes it's nice to finally get that rain. The illustrations are beautiful to look at, done in what I believe is oil paint but I'm not positive. They take up the whole page, which is my favorite because it provides so much for a child to look at. I think any kid would get a kick out of this book, the only problem is that is there no ending. You could keep flipping the book over and over again, which a child might want you to do! Overall, I recommend this book.

The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry is one of those book titles that you hear everywhere. I myself read it in junior high but couldn't exactly remember what it was about. I remember that it wasn't my favorite book, I tended to stick to girlier books back then. After rereading this book, I truly understand why this book is so talked about. I had remembered that Jonas is given a special role but that was about it. I didn't remember so much of the other aspects of this book. I also found myself truly horrified when I learned what being released meant. I was surprised that I had such a strong reaction to this book, years after I had read it for the first time. After I read it, in one sitting, I wanted to go online and look up discussion guides because I found it just that interesting. I know that if I taught older kids, this book would be a great one to discuss themes and parallels with real life. This book kept me interested from the first page on. I could not put it down. However, I would probably think before I gave this book to a kid of a younger age than junior high because the themes can be rather adult. But I understand why this is required reading for many students and I'm glad that I got to read it a second time to fully appreciate it.

Artemis Fowl: A Graphic Novel

For my graphic novel I chose to read the graphic novel representation of a book that I had heard a lot about, Artemis Fowl. I didn't know that there was a graphic novel of this popular book until I picked it up at the curriculum lab. It was a lot different than I had expected. I had commonly heard it referred to as the next Harry Potter and I was surprised to see that I didn't really see any Harry Potter relation at all. The graphic part of the novel was interesting. There wasn't too many words on each page and the illustrations were pretty big and easy to see, unlike a lot of the Japanese graphic novels I sometimes see. I was really opposed to the idea of reading a graphic novel because it just isn't my style of reading but this wasn't as bad as I anticipated. I don't plan on reading more graphic novels anytime soon but I think I got the message that a graphic novel can still be as worthwhile as a regular one and maybe this is a good way to get reluctant readers to join in. I would like to see more graphic novels with believable plots, not just science fiction or fantasy.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hairdo! What We Do and Did to Our Hair

This was my favorite out of my information books assigned for the genre project. The reason why I liked this book so much, written by Ruth Freeman Swain, was because she explains why people wore the hairstyles that they did. I knew about the hippie age and a few others, but many of these hairstyles I didn't know any background for. It doesn't just contain information, there are also great illustrations to go along with the writing that really helps the reader visualize the hair that the author is describing. At the end there is also a "Hairy Information" section that contains a lot of funny and useful information about the stuff that keeps us warm. It gives world records for the longest hair and beard, something that a kid would definitely get a shock out of. This book is really enjoyable and full of new information even for an adult. I highly recommend picking it up!

I Face the Wind

I Face the Wind is written by Vicki Cobb. There is a label on the front that says Vicki Cobb Science Play. The book is an interactive one about air and the questions that many kids have about it. Like, does air have weight? This book helps to answer that question and many others that could stump even people like me when we try to explain. It's a great information book because it takes real life situations to help to explain to a child about wind. Such as your hair blowing or flags fluttering straight out. The only problem that I would have with this book is if I wasn't going to do the experiments that it asks you to do, then there really wouldn't be much to read. However, there is a letter from the author on the first page stating that this is an experimental book and to have certain supplies ready. I think that a child would be really excited to do these experiments, children like most any experiments that have to do with science. It's for both genders and any one can do the experiments, requesting pretty simple materials such as a hanger and a balloon. Overall, I think that a kid could really have fun with this book.


Lightning by Seymour Simon is a book that contains so much information, even I found it challenging to comprehend. Lighting is a pretty complex subject so it's pretty hard to dumb down even for children. The pictures are pretty cool to look at, because what pictures of lightning aren't? I think that if reading this book, most of the kids would focus on the pictures rather than on the information that it is giving. Speaking as a 20 year old adult, I enjoyed learning about lightning, the various kinds and how it is created, I'm just not sure that an 8 year old would feel the same. I would definitely start this book maybe around the 3rd grade area and even up to 6th grade. The 6th graders might think it's a baby book, but I promise that the information that is in there isn't too young for an adult, let alone a 6th grader.


Tornadoes! by Gail Gibbons is exactly what it sounds. An informational book about Tornadoes. I must give credit to the author, Gail Gibbons, that she managed to create a book about a complicated topic and make it kid appropriate. Some of the information might still go over a child's head, but the pictures will provide additional information and help the child process what he or she hears. The book isn't chock full of information, it just provides mainly what a child can understand such as the differences between tornadoes based on the Fujita Scale. I particularly liked the fact that it includes real life tales of tornadoes and told you the scale number so that you could get a better idea of how strong these particular tornadoes are. An interesting topic (for me at least) this book will probably hold a child's interest, especially if they are interested in weather. However, the pictures can appear a little frightening, since there are houses and cars overturned and it might scare a child off tornadoes. So, proceed with caution if your child is a little sensitive but otherwise, a useful book.

Face to Face With Leopards

Face to Face With Leopards written by Beverly and Dereck Joubert, two National Geographic writers, is a great information and story book about a particular leopard named Legadema. These two authors have been living in Africa and following this Leopard for many years. This provides an excellent setup for a book that helps a child learn about this exotic species but also provides a back story of a leopard and their way of life. The accompanying pictures are stunning, both of the photographers getting so close to the leopard that you almost can't believe they survived. I also loved the side stories about Legadema, being a leopard that almost believed itself to be a house cat and liked to spend time with the two authors, enjoying the shade parked underneath their jeep. I think that boys and girls alike would enjoy this book, and even an adult would enjoy it. The information isn't too lengthy or boring and instead I walked away feeling as though I knew more about Leopards and that I had learned a great story about a particular one. The back is also filled with extra information that a child might like to read after the book. Overall, I was really pleased with this book and would highly recommend this.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is one of those books that at points has been swirling with controversy. Judy Blume is an author that is no stranger to controversy, with many of her books containing strong themes of sex. However, I grew up reading her books and I turned out just fine. Of course, I remember reading the sexually explicit parts with my friends and giggling out loud. But it didn't make me any worse for the wear. This book is a coming of age story about a girl who has no idea what her religion is, but still talks to god for many requests about growing boobs and getting her period. Obviously, this wouldn't be a great book for boys. I enjoyed reading this book, mostly because of the fact I remembered most every event that happened since I read this book when I was younger. One thing to say about this book is that it is severely outdated and most young teenage girls reading this book would be confused by the references that they make. Even with the outdated references, the books main themes still old true for every teenage girl that is trying to grow up. A quick read, without any illustrations, I would say that this book is probably for 11-14 year old girls. Any younger, and you're entering into too immature of territory. This book is a little silly when I read it as an adult but I can't deny the fact that if I have a daughter, I may just give this to her to read.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Star of the Week

On the cover of Star of the Week it says "A Story of Love, Adoption, and Brownies with Sprinkles". This little caption led me to believe that this was going to be a book explaining all about adoption and how even if you were adopted, that it's okay. However, I think that the caption is misleading. It's more about a girl who gets to be the star of the week in her classroom and wants to include her birth parents in her poster. It's less focused on the process of being adopted and more focused on her life now. However, it still sends a positive message to children who were adopted and how it's okay to still love both sets of parents. It's also a great book in terms of diversity, because the little girl comes from China and her parents are American. It represents diverse families well. It's a book for both genders and I think that even kids who aren't adopted can relate because many kids are familiar with the star of the week idea. Also the pictures are full page, my favorite kind, and will keep kids attention with nice representations of Chinese streets. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book even though I was a little misled with the cover.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Portly and Their Little Dog, Snack

This was a book that I chose off of the new book section in the curriculum lab. I chose it because of it's attractive cover and bright illustrations. I have discovered that so far through this process, I really am most strongly attracted to reading a book with a bright and colorful cover on it. This has posed some problems because I'm sure I'm missing out on some great books by choosing them this way. But in the case of this book, I read a pretty good one by judging a book by it's cover. Mrs. Portly comes across the little dog named Snack and just has to have him. While Mr. Portly is away on business, her and Snack become the best of friends. But, when Mr. Portly returns Snack has to earn the love of him as well. This book was unique in the fact that the illustrations and the font seemed to mirror each other, both very clean and simple. I think that the illustrations suited the book well, because there was a lot of story that went to this book and it didn't need much illustration to supplement it. I enjoyed this book because it didn't feel like a picture book as much as some other children's books. The words were big enough to pose a challenge to some readers and that is a nice change from books such as Snow Day, that I read previously, that uses very simple wording. Overall, this book may be a little challenging for some readers but the story and the illustrations are worth the read.

Alice the Fairy

Alice the Fairy can be described in one word, bold. The illustrations are bold and the font is bold. Even the character of Alice can definitely be described that way as well. Alice is a little girl whose imagination takes her very far into the world of fairies. The book is full of jokes and humor, which is my favorite aspect of the book, but I think that it goes over some of the younger readers' heads. I read this particular book with my child buddy at Grant Wood and she seemed to enjoy it but didn't seem to get the witticisms like I did. The illustrations are full page and bright and fun to look at. Alice is a fun, silly little girl and that is what makes this book so great. The way that her face can take up a whole page of illustration just makes her character seem so big and lively. I loved the way that David Shannon wrote and chose to illustrate this book and it makes me eager to try out some of his others, especially one that he won a Caldecott award for called No, David! This is definitely one of my favorite books for this semester so far and I hope that whoever is reading this blog goes out and gets it from the library or the bookstore. It would be a great addition to any bookshelf.

When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth

When I Was Little is another one of Jamie Lee Curtis's books. I love these books, I think that they are so fun and adorable. This one has definitely become one of my favorites. A little girl compares her life as a baby to her life now as a four year old. The illustrations are parallel of her as a baby and her as a four year old. I enjoyed it so much because I think it gives kids perspectives on how much more they can do when they grow up but how certain things will always stay the same. Such as your grandmother playing with you at the park. The illustrations are the same as Curtis's other books, still remaining some of my favorite illustrations. They are so unique and they manage to hide interesting little objects in each drawing. This book could be for either gender, but I think that Curtis somehow manages to always write towards little girls. Possibly being one herself maybe it is just easier for her to relate to little girls. I also see this book as a great read for a little child that doesn't yet want to grow up and still acts like a baby. This book can help them see the positive in being older and all the things that you can't do when you are a baby. Overall, Curtis gave me another one of my favorite books and I plan on keeping it around when I have my own kids.

The Fiesta Dress: A Quinceanera Tale

The Fiesta Dress: A Quinceanera Tale is written by Caren McNelly McCormack and illustrated by Martha Aviles. It's a fun story about a little sister who feels ignored on her big sisters quinceanera day but when she comes through in the end for her sister's missing sash, she becomes noticed by her sister and all her family members. The illustrations are really bright and colorful and they take up a full page which gives the reader a lot to look at. What I really enjoyed about this book was the fact that certain words are substituted for spanish words. Such as Tios for Uncles, and there is even a glossary in the back so that children can learn these new spanish words. I would say that this book is largely aimed towards girls especially with the large picture of a dress on the cover, I'm not sure a boy would be inspired to pick this one up. I think children will enjoy reading about the scrapes and mishaps that the little sister gets into and how she escapes being noticed in various situations. Overall, I liked this book and I especially enjoyed the multicultural aspect.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Snow Day!

I chose Snow Day by Patricia Lakin this week because of the amount of snow that Iowa has gotten this winter, and how every time it snows I still wish for a snow day. This is a really simple book, great for beginner readers. It relies a lot on rhyming words and the words don't really get much harder than "mittens" and "scarves". It's enjoyable to look at because the characters are alligators. I think that it provides an interesting twist on the illustrations to have the characters be an animal enjoying a snow day, rather than humans. What was really cute about this book was that from the beginning you assume that these are little alligator school children, thrilled for a day of snow, but we later find out that these are actually four principals who are enjoying the prospect of a snow day just as much as the students. I thought that it was a cute twist on an otherwise simple story, although one that might go over a child's head a little bit. Overall, it's a good book to read with kids who still can hope for a snowday.

Clifford's Birthday Party

Another book I always encourage the kids I babysit to read is the Clifford Series by Norman Bridwell. A series that probably exists on most kids bookshelves, Clifford is a big red dog whose size usually leads to various mishaps on any occasion. In this case it is Clifford's birthday and he gets some interesting presents from his friends and things don't really go as planned. But in the end he realizes what is most important about birthdays, and it isn't the presents. I always enjoy Clifford books because I love how they all start out with the same sentence. It offers kids a chance to be able to read along even when they can't read yet, simply by memorizing that one sentence. The illustrations are pretty basic, at least by today's standards, but they still are done well enough to keep kids' attention. Also, Clifford is a great character because he usually tries to do the right thing, with his size being the thing that most often gets in the way. He sets a great example for his fellow dogs, and for the readers of his books. There are many adventures with Clifford to explore and I encourage everyone to do so.

Arthur's TV Trouble

Another book, or series you could say, I was fond of as a child was the Arthur series. It all started when Arthur was watching The Bionic Bunny Show and he saw an ad for the amazing doggy Treat Timer and he just has to have it. He performs a series of chores to afford it only to be met with a surprise once he could. I enjoy Arthur books because each one comes with a "lesson" of some sort. The illustrations are usually full page and fun to look at and Arthur and his friends are entertaining characters. It's also a TV show so even if kids haven't read the books they are usually familiar with the characters anyways. The little girl I work with at an elementary school each week chose this book to read to me and she seemed to really enjoy it. Some of the words were a little hard for her to pronounce, so I think she might have gotten a little more out of it had I read this particular story to her, but either way it is an enjoyable story that kids definitely respond to.

Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery

I chose this book this week because I love another one of Jamie Lee Curtis's books called Today I Feel Silly, so I decided to pick another one of her books. Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery is a story about where balloons float to when you let them go. It's a fun imaginative story about what adventures balloons could get into once they leave the comfort of our hands. Do they all get together and have a balloon dance? Do they tangle with airplanes and cha-cha with birds? These are only a few of the questions that are asked in this book. The illustrations are fun and different and provide a lot to look at for a child that likes to focus on the pictures rather than the story. It also is one of those books that can help a child use their imagination and they could think of their own things that balloons do once we let them go. Overall, I really enjoyed this story and I would recommend this, along with Curtis's other books, to other readers.

Ladybug Girl

Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis is about a little girl named Lulu, otherwise known as Ladybug Girl, and her morning adventures after her brother labeled her "too little" to play baseball with him and his friends. With her parents out for the morning, Lulu ventures into the backyard to find her own fun. We follow Lulu through her heroic efforts saving a line of ants from a boulder, or a small rock depending on which way you look at it, through rebuilding her fort wall and climbing a tree that makes her feel as tall as it. I didn't love this book. I felt that it lacked a good story. It was a cute idea and the character of Lulu is a positive and relateable one, a girl that just wants to grow up, but I felt like the story wasn't developed as well as it could have been. The illustrations were light and colorful, but they failed to grab me as well as some of the other books that I have been reading lately. Overall, it wasn't a terrible book but I don't think I would recommend it.

Junie B. Jones is a Party Animal

The book from a series that I chose to read this week was Junie B. Jones is a Party Animal by Barbara Park. This is a series that I used to read when I was younger and I used to encourage all the kids I babysat to read them as well. Junie is a funny character who says comments that are beyond her years and she just doesn't know it yet. There are enough illustrations to keep a child interested in the book and they are the perfect length for a child not to get bored. One of the downfalls of the Junie B. Jones series is that the book isn't written grammatically correct. Junie talks like a 5 year old most likely does talk and Barbara Park stays true to that. The argument against this series is that it doesn't teach a child how to speak and write in a grammatically correct way. However, I don't believe that a child will be negatively impacted by these books because they are just simply fun to read. Junie is a lively character that makes you want to read about more of her adventures whether they are grammatically correct or not.