Monday, April 26, 2010

Sol a Sol

Sol a Sol is a bilingual book of poetry put together by Lori Marie Carlson. Each page contains one poem written in English and the same poem written again in Spanish. I thought that this would be a great option for both home and the classroom. It could benefit ESL students who shouldn't be exposed to only English throughout the day and it could help them learn their Spanish words written in English. It could also just be beneficial for a student who doesn't speak a foreign language but is in the process of learning. The poetry is written about things like a grandmother or a cat, so it isn't too far away from the kids schema for them to understand. The colors go along with the bilingual theme of the book, lots of bright tropical colors such as orange, yellow and green. It has a very Hispanic feel to it, so it could be beneficial for learning about culture while at the same time learning the Spanish or English language. Overall, I think that this is a great way to expose kids to poetry while also exposing them to a new language at the same time.

Strawberry Drums

Strawberry Drums is an assortment of poems put together by Adrian Mitchell. There's plenty of variety within this book and I was surprised to find Yellow Submarine by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. I never would have thought that I would find that in a book of poetry. But this collection introduces the idea that not all poetry starts out as a written poem. The creator points out that many of the poems in this book are traditional songs or chants from around the world and he said they were all picked because 'they are bright and sweet like strawberries. and all of them have a beat- like drums." The illustrations are bright and colorful and I think that this book would be beneficial in the classroom. It introduces the world of poetry to children with other ways than just the typical poetry that we tend to hear in the classroom. I still am not sure how I personally enjoyed the book because I am still hesitant about poetry but I do think that the book is worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer was a really cool book. I picked it up off of the new shelf not even knowing that it was poetry until I opened it up. It takes classic fairy tale poems and turns them around called a "reverso" and then makes a whole different poem. It was so interesting to read a classic poem about a fairy tale and then see it reversed and see how the meaning managed to change. There was a note in the back from the author how she did a reverso containing her cat one day and then had so much fun with that, that she wanted to write a whole book of them. The illustrations are classic which is fitting along a fairy tale book and they were really colorful and bright. But it wasn't the illustrations that I really cared about. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how just a simple reversal could change the entire meaning of a poem and I think that a classroom of students would really enjoy this book. The students could then try to come up with their own reversos. Overall, a great idea and a fun read.

Love That Dog

I was very hesitant about this book before I started reading it. I am hesitant about anything that has to do with poetry. From childhood, I have never particularly enjoyed poetry. I never liked the poetry units in school and I especially never liked when I had to write my own poems. Once I began reading this book, my opinion changed. Yes, this is probably not what you think of when you think of typical poetry, but it still is. As the boy in this novel says, almost anything can be poetry if you space the words right. I really enjoyed his character. He had humor and was really believable as a school aged boy. He seemed like he would be an easy character to relate to for both boys and girls. I read most of the books by this author, Sharon Creech, when I was younger and I was a huge fan. I'm not sure that if I read this book back then if I would have appreciated it like I do now.
In a classroom I think that this book would be a great one to open up a discussion about poetry. Many kids, not just me, are hesitant to write poems. This book could help to show them that a poem doesn't have to rhyme, it doesn't have to contain vocabulary that you need a dictionary to decipher and that it could even be enjoyable. The main character is skeptical of poetry in the beginning and he eventually begins to find authors that he really enjoys. This could be a real situation for a student who reads this book. It could open up their mind to more than just fiction books and authors.

Monday, April 12, 2010

So Far From the Bamboo Grove

So Far From the Bamboo Grove was another book about the war that this time was told from the Japanese perspective. This book was much more gruesome. While this book had scenes of despair and tragic violence, The Year of Impossible Goodbyes seemed to focus more on the desperation and the loneliness that the war seemed to cause. I found myself cringing at certain scenes and I found it hard to stomach. It was really engaging and it kept my attention the whole time and I really liked how the characters were written. I didn't like how they never told you what happened to the father until I looked in the back of the book at some sort of index and saw that the father did eventually return.
In terms of teaching this book, I think that this novel would be a lot harder than The Year of Impossible Goodbyes. I would still feel comfortable teaching it, because the violence is just an aspect of war, but I would want to tread carefully, especially with the scenes of rape. I know that this book is often taught in 5th grade and I wish I could look back and see what I knew or what I thought about the topics that this book presents. Aside from the hard topics, it would be really interesting to compare the Japanese and the Korean perspective. Whichever book you read first you kind of just assume that their enemies are your enemies and that they were the ones in the wrong. But then you read a different perspective and you're not sure about your previous notions anymore. That would be an interesting discussion.
I liked this book a little bit more than The Year of Impossible Goodbyes because I think it was a quicker read in that it kept me a little bit more engaged. Both were well written and inspiring but this one just managed to grab me a little more.

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms was a really enjoyable story about a little Fox who believed that snow was coming, in Spring. He set off to warn all of his animal friends of the impending snowstorm, only to discover that the snow was only blossoms. I read this story with my second grade buddies and they really enjoyed it, as did I. It looked like the illustrations were done in water color and towards the end there was a beautiful page that had glitter on the blossoms that both my students and I gazed at for a couple of seconds before turning the page. The story itself was cute, and it was a good book to use for predictions. I asked the girls if they really thought that it was snow, or if they thought that it was something else. I also got some discussions going about what kind of animal they thought Fletcher was because it wasn't explicitly said. Any book that you can create discussion out of I think is worth it and the illustrations only added to it.

Henry Aaron's Dream

When I first picked this book up I asked myself "Did they mean HANK Aaron's dream?" I thought that it was probably a fiction story about a boy named Henry Aaron who wanted to play baseball. I was wrong. Henry Aaron is Hank Aaron, he didn't become Hank until he finally made it into the Major Leagues. Unexpectedly to me, this was a non-fiction book but I still really enjoyed it. The illustrations looked to be oil paintings and they were beautiful and really added a lot to the words on the page. I'm a big baseball fan, so that might be why I responded so much to the book but I also think that Hank Aaron had a great story. It tells you not only about his journey as a colored baseball player but it also describes the climate that was going on during that time between whites and blacks in America. This could be a great book to use in a classroom whether you are discussing Civil Rights or if you are having a unit about sports. The only questionable thing about this book was that it contained the 'n' word, to show what kinds of names Hank Aaron was called during his journey. I wouldn't want to be the one to expose that racist term to my students so I would think twice about reading that part, but the rest of the book was great.

Bedtime for Mommy

Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a cute reversal on what happens if it is the kids that put the parents to bed instead of vice versa. I think that kids would really see the humor in this book. They would laugh at the ridiculous notion that they could be the ones telling their parents to go to bed instead of them being told. It was fun to see the variations on the parents going to bed, wanting to stay up late to work, reading Anna Karenina as a bedtime story and laying out work clothes for the next day. The illustrations were nice but they were a little old fashioned and plain. Much of the book consisted of only pictures. There was very little text, but there probably didn't need to be more than there was. I could see this as a cute book to read before going to bed and kids giggling at, but it lacks substance to be put in a classroom.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Inside Tree

The Inside Tree by Linda Smith has joined the group of my favorite books that I have read this semester. The story is about a man who admires the tree outside of his cozy house so much, that he has a inspired idea to bring the tree inside. But not only the tree comes inside, other various beings that belong outside join the tree in Mr. Potter's house. It begins to be too much for Mr. Potter and he needs to find a solution to this problem he has created. I liked this book a lot because the main character Mr. Potter was so likeable for both boys and girls. I also found myself very engaged with the story. I loved the idea of taking the things that we love outside inside our homes and then being reminded of the reasons why some things belong outdoors. Along with the great story were great illustrations as well. They were a great mix of cartoon and real life drawings and they were colorful as well. I could see this book as being a great read aloud for a classroom, one of almost any age. The book is recommended for ages 4-8 but I think that kids older could enjoy the story as well. I know I did!

The Middle Child Blues

The Middle-Child Blues by Kristyn Crow probably had some of my favorite illustrations ever. I'm pretty critical about illustrations, so saying that these were some of my favorite is a pretty big deal. They were full page, big and bright and provided SO much to look at. They had a shiny quality to them and they were so unique. Not only were the illustrations great, but the story was great as well. As read in the title, the main character has a serious case of the middle child blues. The book is written in the well known blues song format, and it made me want to sing the words. However, I'm not THAT familiar with the blues tune so I wouldn't have done a very good job but it added an interesting element to the story. It's also entirely relatable for many students. Being the middle child isn't always easy and this character brings to light many of the frustrations that middle children can feel. Of course, in the end he comes to some sort of resolution with his middle child status and it makes for a delightful book. I would highly recommend having this book in a classroom, for its relatability and for it's delightful pictures and story.

The Year of Impossible Goodbyes

The Year of Impossible Goodbyes was a really strong story of a Korean family during WWII whose freedoms are taken away by the occupying Japanese. When I first started reading this story, I thought the main character was a young boy. When I found out that it was a young girl, it didn't change the story much but for some reason, I was surprised. I thought it may have been the relationship with her grandfather that made me believe it was a boy narrating. Either way, the story was strong from the beginning. I found myself thinking of how I would feel in this situation and I experienced anxiety and desperation just thinking about it. The situation that this family was in where they couldn't be free or even keep possession of their belongings was just terrible. I thought that the story moved rather fast paced until the ending where they were trying to find their mother. That part didn't move along as quickly for me as the rest of the story did.
In terms of teaching this book as a teacher, I think that I could handle it. The book brings up great questions about things that many people take advantage of such as freedom and peace. I could think of some great discussions to have with my students about the things that they thought about while reading this book. Of course, I don't think that as a child I would respond as strongly to this book as I do now but I still think that it is important for students to read literature such as this. It helps not only to teach them about history but also to look at their lives in a different way.
Overall, I thought that this was a great book. Most of the book, along with the ending especially, was particularly heartbreaking but I think that it is important that we not always shield our kids from the hard subjects of history and that we let them experience it through a great way, reading.

The Perfect Gift

The Perfect Gift by Mary Newell Depalma was my favorite picture book that I read this week. It's a story about a little bird who dropped the perfect strawberry to the bottom of a river and got together with a few of her animal friends to try and rescue her strawberry, which was to be a gift for her grandmother. This book was my favorite mostly because of the illustrations. The illustrations were done with beautiful, bold colors and the color of the water was a gorgeous shade of blue that made me want to paint my whole room that color. I just found the story along with the drawings to be so soothing. It also had a great theme of teamwork. Although the animals didn't have any benefit to saving the strawberry, they were still willing to help their bird friend. This book is definitely for the younger crowd, kindergartners or first graders probably as a read aloud because there are a lot of words on the page. Also, the font is unique and while I think that it only adds to the story, it might be a little hard for a child that isn't an experienced reader. I highly recommend this book, if not for the story for the great illustrations. This is one I would definitely want to have in my classroom library.

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse is a book that contains every little girl's wish, to get a horse for their birthday. Nellie Sue desperately wants a horse for her birthday and ends up getting a bike. Now, she didn't want a bike for her birthday but a bike is close enough in her imagination to a horse and eventually, she finds the bright side. I really liked this book. The cover alone is enough to attract any girl under age 11, with it's bright pink, sparkly stars and a little girl on a horse and the story will keep any girl enchanted. I'm not sure that a boy, at least an older one, would sit through this story most likely declaring that it's "too girly". I really liked the illustrations, the kind that take up the whole page and manage to provide print and things to look at for a few minutes before turning the page. I also liked the message, though subtle, that the book sent. Although you don't get exactly what you want, a little imagination and positive attitude can go a long way. Although I don't feel the need to have this book in my classroom, I feel that it is definitely one that I would read to my kids and have in my library at home.

Princess Pigtoria and the Pea

Princess Pigtoria and the Pea is a twist on the classic tale of The Princess and the Pea except in this case, the princess is a pig. Unexpectedly, this book also uses the letter 'p' as much as possible. I found this to be quite distracting. It was tongue twisting and while a child might have fun trying to make their way through all the 'p' words, I thought that it took away from a really cute story. The illustrations are basic, but still really nice to look at. The ending also provides a bit of a surprise which is nice for the reader. I expected to be a lot more impressed with this book. Princess and the Pea was one of my favorite stories growing up and I thought that a twist with a new kind of character would help to modernize the story a little bit and make it appeal to younger audiences. However, while a child might really enjoy this book, I found the word play with the letter 'p' a little too much to carry this story.

Miss Fox's Class Earns a Field Trip

Miss Fox's Class Earns a Field Trip is a cute story about a class who desperately wants to earn enough money to take a class field trip to a roller coaster park. Although they are trying hard to make the money, various problems keep getting in the way. The students need $135 dollars to take the trip and it seems like a lot of the book is focused on helping kids with their math. It would be a good opportunity to use this book in a math lesson because the story tells you how much they earned and then tells you how much they take away when they hit various roadblocks. Having your students keep track of the money might make a good lesson. In addition to the learning component, this book is enjoyable. The illustrations are bright and fun with Miss Fox's class made up of various animals and their activities provide a sight to see. I think that a child would be entertained by this book and after I learned that there are other books in this series, I might just have to go check them out.

Tutus aren't My Style

Tutus aren't My Style written by Linda Skeers is a predictable book about a young girl who is quite the tomboy and doesn't want to have to wear a tutu. I could have described the book to someone without even cracking open the cover but it still was a cute book. It came with the obvious message of "girls don't have to be girly" and so on, but it would definitely keep the interest of a child. Especially with the full page illustrations that illustrated the funny scenes with the little girl. I know from experience that it's the main character falling down or something of the sort that becomes the favorite part of the book. I thought that the book could have been a little longer, especially with the topic, and that the author could have added a little more embellishment. It was too short to really get into but it was a cute story.

Friend Frog

Friend Frog was the last book that I read by Alma Flor Ada. Overall, I was impressed by this author. But I also was surprised at the variation of her books. She didn't really seem to have any sort of consistent theme throughout her books. I thought while researching her that she would write mostly in Spanish and English themes, but that wasn't it at all. In Friend Frog the reader explores the relationship between two unpredictable animals, a mouse and a frog. I liked this book especially because of the bright illustrations, because I felt like some of her books could have had better illustrations to accompany her great writing.

Daniel's Mystery Egg

This book, written by Alma Flor Ada is a book about a young boy who finds an egg and along with his friends, wonders what is inside. I read this book with a student that I work with on reading and she seemed to like the book just fine. She struggles a little bit with reading as a second grader and this book was pretty simple for her. The words and the illustrations were basic and there were only a few words on each page. I thought that this was incredibly different from her other books. Alma Flor Ada is very diverse but I responded much more to her other books that I read than this book. But it is a book for "Green Light Readers" so I'm guessing that it is more of a story to help children along than to entertain. It was a great book to work with predictions, because I had my students guess what they thought could be in the egg. Of course, as kids do, they came up with some crazy ideas but in the end we were all surprised at what came out of the egg. I wouldn't enthusiastically recommend this book but there was nothing negative about it either.