Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Final Reflection

Final Reflection

This class was very enjoyable. I was excited when I first saw the course title because I was an avid reader as a child. Through taking this class, I was able to read books from my past as well as new books I grew to love. The assigned novels were something I was slightly skeptical about in the beginning, but I was pleasantly surprised overall. I really enjoyed reading The Giverand The Misfits. I feel both books would be great to have in the classroom. I would feel more comfortable teaching The Giver, however. I feel as though I have a better idea on how to select books, encourage student's interest in reading, and how to have a little fun with the reading curriculum. I really enjoyed becoming more familiar with various genres, and I think this was helpful. If I could change one thing about this class, I would suggest creating a list of "great books" that could be given to students for various age levels/interests. I feel as though I could do this for my future students, but it would be nice to have other classmate's opinions. Overall, I am very pleased with how this class went. It was nice to have the opportunity to be exposed to children's literature in variety of genres, different teaching methods, and activities.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It's Thanksgiving by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Marylin Hafner

It's Thanksgiving by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Marylin Hafner is a book of poems that are all related to Thanksgiving Day. They do not need to be read in order and all tie in nicely with each other. Some of the poems are about family traditions on Thanksgiving, the first Thanksgiving, the month of November, turkey, food, parade, overeating, football, wishbone, and leftovers. I think all of these are great topics. I think the poem about the first Thanksgiving would be a great tool to use in the classroom in addition to other Thanksgiving related materials.
The style of these poems were easy to understand and had a nice flow. I think that readers of all ages would be successful and enjoy this book. The poems range in mood: from upbeat to more serious. This helps students realize that poetry can be a lot of different things.
The illustrations in this book are similar to the ones in the other Jack Prelutsky holiday book I blogged about. They looked as though they could appear in a newspaper comic as well.
I would recommend this book to others, and I think it others would enjoy it as well! It was fun and entertaining. I was pleasantly surprised because my experience with poetry previously was not as enjoyable.

It's Valentines Day by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Yossi Abolafia

It's Valentines Day by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Yossi Abolafia was a fun book that I really enjoyed reading. The theme of the poems in this book revolved around Valentine's Day. There were many separate poems, but they were tied together because of the theme.
The language used in these poems had some rhyming, but it was not overwhelming. The words were basic enough for young readers, but the whole premise could entertain more advanced readers. Some of the topics included focused on the actual holiday, valentines, traditions, candy, relationships, classroom activities, and other fun related topics.
The illustrations looked as though they would fit in nicely in a traditional newspaper comic. The colors were brights and the illustrations were simple. I really enjoyed this element.
I would love to use this book in the future around Valentines Day because it had a lot of great poems. This would be a good holiday to celebrate because it is not religion-based. I think it would also be a way to show students how fun and upbeat poetry can be.

Winter Friends by Mary Quattlebaum and illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

Winter Friends by Mary Quattlebaum and illustrated by Hiroe Nakata is a book that has a variety of poems that revolve around the theme of winter. The poems are about the sights, sounds, activities, and items that are related to wintertime. Some examples are mittens, snow tracks, a whistle, sledding, snow, and the cold.
I really liked the fact that this poem book revolved around a theme. It would be a great tool to use in the classroom during the winter and to help students get ideas for poems. The book does not have to be read all at once or in order, and I think that is great! My favorite element was seeing how the theme was carried throughout. Another part of this book I really liked was the rhyming. I did not find it overwhelming, and it was used creatively. Also, I think children would have an easier time reading this book on their own.
The illustrations are cartoon like and the colors are bright. Most of the illustrations filled the page, and I liked that aspect a lot.
I would recommend this book to others because it has a lot of potential to be great in a classroom setting. Children could read this book alone or with help if necessary. It could be used to inspire writing poetry or give students a clearer understanding of what poetry can do and be like.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech was unlike any other novel I have ever read. The format was completely new to me, and I am not sure how I feel about it. The book was a series of poems/responses from a male student and his teacher. The first half of the book are the student's entries/notes to his teacher. The second half includes the poems that his teacher had used that he formed his thoughts/ideas off of. I really liked this aspect. It made a lot more sense when I was able to see what the boy was responding to and his influences.
One thing I did not like about this book was the lack of story line. It made sense, but I was able to read the book very quickly. It was very one sided, but I was able to guess what his teacher was saying to him and how he chose to respond. I think that was an interesting effect the author had. Although she did not show us in writing, it was clearly implied.
This book was completely new to me, and I am not sure if i like it or hate it yet. There are aspects I find unique and entertaining, but I also feel as though i didn't really benefit much from reading it. Of course, I was able to see this genre and it's interesting characteristics, but I wanted more of a story and I didn't feel as though I got that. I think the boy was smart and I was able to think about what type of boy he was based upon the writings, and I think that was a nice element the author was able to evoke from me as a reader.
Everyone in our class was assigned this book, and I would be interested in hearing their thoughts to see the possible similarities and differences.

Trouble in the Barkers' Class by Tomie DePaola

Trouble in the Barkers' Class by Tomie DePaola was a book I previously had never read. An instructor recommended this book to me, and I realized that I had previously read a couple books by this author before but didn't realize this was the author. In this book, a new student arrives to classroom. All of the students anxiously anticipate the arrival of Carole Anne. However, Carole Anne is not what any of the student's expected. She is mean and bossy! She is not nice to anyone, and they begin to wish she was not in their class. They decide they must do something about it. The ignored her when she cut in line, pretended not to hear her when she called them names, and no one would play with Carole Anne. The teacher realizes what they are doing, and tells the students to think about the week. Over the weekend a student ran into Carole Anne and helped her and asked her why she was being so nasty. She explained to the whole class on Monday that she was behaving so badly towards them because she was afraid that was how they would treat her if she didn't do it first. Well, after that, all the students were able to be friends with one another. Happy ending.
I thought this book was pretty good, but I thought it would have had a deeper plot. There was a lot of text on each page, and I think that would benefit older or more advanced readers. Also, the pictures did not show exactly what was happening, so it makes the reader rely on the text. I think that was a good element. I also like the many characters. There was a lot of dialouge in the book between all of the students.
The illustrations were cartoon like and the characters were dogs and rabbits. The illustrations were created with a variety of colors that complimented each other. I liked how on many pages the illustrator had multiple illustrations. I think this added visual interest.
I would recommend this book to others, but it was not my favorite that I have read recently. The other books I have read by this author were better (in my opinion) because they story was more elaborate and less predictable. Although this book promotes a lesson and could happen in real life, I liked the far fetched plot of the other books I have read.

Miss Nelson Has a Field Day by Harry ALlard and James Marshall

Miss Nelson Has a Field Day by Harry Allard and James Marshall is a book that is a part of the Miss Nelson series. I was familiar with other Miss Nelson books (Miss Nelson Goes Missing), so I was interested to see how this book would compare. I found it was pretty similar to the books I had previously read. In both books, something goes wrong in the class and "Miss Viola Swamp" comes in and whips everything into shape. In this specific book, the school football team is doing very poorly. They do not want to practice, they are rude to their coach, and they are very disrespectful. Well, when the Coach has to take some time off, Miss Viola Swamp comes in and changes everything. The team is forced to practice, listen, and they get a lot better as a team. Coach Swamp completely changed the team. When it was time for the Coach to return, he was so happy to see what had happened. If you are familiar with these books, Miss Nelson (classroom teacher), is Miss Swamp. She has a twin sister who takes her spot in this book so the students and faculty do not know it is her. In the other book, she simply disguised herself. The lesson learned: sometimes tough love is necessary to get the desired results.
The language used in this book is appropriate for beginning readers and readers who may be struggling that are in upper grades. The number of sentences found on the pages range from one to about half a page. This adds variety. I really think this is helpful because it is not all uniform. I also really liked how some of the words were more difficult, but the authors still included words that many students are already familiar with.
The pictures in this book are like cartoons. The colors are bright. The people, however, are fairly simply drawn. In fact, the illustrations are all fairly simple, but they are appropriate for the text. Frequently, there are multiple illustrations on one page, one covering to pages, or one per page. I liked how this added some variety.
I like the Miss Nelson series, and it was a series I grew up reading. I think that children today would also appreciate the books. Therefore, I recommend this book to others.

Harriet's Recital by Nancy Carlson

Harriet's Recital by Nancy Carlson is a quick read intended for beginning readers. The plot is predictable and the book as a whole is a very quick read. Harriet is a girl who is very nervous about her upcoming dance recital. She does not think she will remember the dances and fears embarrassing herself. Would she fall? Will people laugh at her? All of these thoughts go through her mind. However, on the day of the recital Harriet's dance teacher pushes her onto the stage and Harriet must do her best. Luckily, she got over her nerves and was able to dance in the recital. She learned to be unafraid of dancing in public and her first recital was a success.
The language used in this book is fairly simple, and there is a fair amount of repetition. Each page has no more than two sentences, and most of them only have one or are split between two pages. I think that older or more advanced readers would not enjoy this book very much because the text is very simple. The plot needs a little more substance in order to interest most upper level readers. I found myself that this book was very predictable, which is a nice thing for beginning readers.
The illustrations in this book are cartoon like. Harriet is a dog, and so are the other characters. The illustrations are filled with bright colors, but they also lack that "something extra" I have seen in many other books.
I would recommend this book to others if they wanted to find an appropriate book for a beginning or struggling reader. Also, there is a lot of dialogue, so this could be used to help students with the understanding of the concept.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins was an assigned novel for class, and I can see why this was the case. Last week, I read a book that was similar to this one (but different characters). In this book, a young Japanese girl named Yoko faces a difficult journey with her mother and sister from Korea to Japan. When Japan lost control in Korea, things became very dangerous for she and her family. Throughout the book, they experience many traumatic events that eventually result in she and her sister living alone in Japan. Her mother dies once they arrive in Japan, she doesn't know if her father is dead or alive, and after being separated from her brother for months they are eventually reunited.This is an extremely brief summary, but I wanted to include it.
The main characters in this book are very well developed. I feel as though I was able to understand Yoko, her sister, and her mother very well. Although her brother was a main character, I was less familiar/interested in him. I was surprised that the author did not mention Yoko's father very much, and I would have liked to know more about him. For example, his whereabouts, occupation, etc. I feel as though there are many parts of this text that would be difficult to discuss with students (especially upper elementary and middle school students). Rape, death, sickness, violence, and many other difficult topics are spread throughout this book. I would feel slightly wary about approaching some parts of this book with a classroom of students. However, I feel that I enjoyed this book much more than the other text. It was fairly fast paced, and it did not seem to repeat itself. I truly felt as though a young girl was telling her story (the authors goal was accomplished, in my opinion). The emotions and actions of Yoko seemed to be how a typical child would respond in various situations.
I would suggest this book to individuals who enjoy books that are thought provoking and are based upon history. Although it was not my favorite book, I was able to enjoy reading it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ginger and Petunia by Patricia Polacco

Ginger and Petunia by Patricia Polacco was another book I was anxious to read. As I previously said in another blog, this author was recommended to me and I wanted to become more familiar with her work. The cover once again was what prompted me to select this book from the numerous on the shelf. A woman kissing a pig! I formed an opinion that this book would be one I would enjoy reading. Luckily, I was not disappointed.
Ginger is an elegant woman who has a pet pig named Petunia. Ginger is pianist who loves clothes, cars, fine wines, and is a gourmet chef. She babies Petunia, and she treats her like she is her best friend. Ginger is invited to travel to England to perform and she must leave Petunia at home. Petunia grows lonely, and the house-sitter never comes! Well, Petunia took matters into her own hands. She took care of herself! In fact, she becomes Ginger while Ginger is away. This leads to a lot of comical elements and truly made me smile. By impersonating Ginger, Petunia experiences some difficulty when she no longer has time for her mud bath. In the end, Ginger appreciates all of Petunia's efforts to help her while she is away. This book was so cute! I loved it! Although it is not very realistic, I enjoyed reading about Petunia the pig.
Like other Polacco books, this book has a lot of text. It may overwhelm young students and provide a challenge to older students or advanced individuals. I think a wide age range of students would be enjoy reading this book or listening to it.
The illustrations are well done and very detailed. The colors are extremely vibrant and the pictures often spread across two pages. I also noticed the use of white space. It was present in some illustrations, but it helped enhance the picture as a whole.
I would suggest this book to others because it made me laugh and was very unique. It had a lot of great elements that would appeal to readers of a variety of ages. I am very happy with the recommendation I received from an instructor to become more familiar with Polacco books.

The Graves Family by Patricia Polacco

The Graves Family by Patricia Polacco was a book I selected because I had heard great things from one of my instructors about this author. In fact, the next book I will blog about is also by Polacco as well. There were so many books to choose fun, but I selected this one because of the cover. It had a slightly haunted look to it. When I read the inside cover, I knew this would be a book I would like to read. My mind started jumping to "I could use this book around Halloween with my future students". Before even reading it, I had high expectations. This book was a lot longer than most picture books I have had the chance to blog about, but that was okay with me.
The Graves family moved into the neighborhood and immediately questions were asked. People questioned where they came from. They painted their house and unusual color (red), and the neighbors were very hesitant to get to know this new family. However, two children from across the street made friends with one of the Graves's children (Ronnie). When they arrived at his house to play one day, they were surprised by everything they saw. It was unlike anything they had ever see before! In fact, this family was unlike any family they had ever encountered. Throughout the book, many things do not go as well as the new family would like regarding their relationship with other community members. It is pretty comical at times. However, in the end, everything turns out for the best and everyone is happy.
This book has a lot of advanced language that may be difficult for younger readers, however, it may be a picture book that is totally appropriate for older students. It would also be the appropriate level for a read aloud to younger students. However, it would be a fairly time consuming book selection. I found myself thinking "older students" as I was reading it. Often, the text filled almost an entire page. It would be a great challenge for many readers.
The illustrations in this book were really good. They were dark and haunted at times, but they were also filled with bright colors at times. The background color of the pages varied (typically black or white), and the text changed accordingly. The book has a "haunted" theme and the illustrator brings these elements to life. Also, the characters in the book are done so well and look realistic.
I was happy to have read this book. Although my thought regarding who this book would be appropriate for and for what time of the year changed slightly, the book lived up for my high expectations.

The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill and illustrated y Laura Huliska-Beith

The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith is a book that I previously had never heard of. I decided to pick a book at random that stood out to me on the shelf. The cover was bright, colorful, and the title sparked my interest.
Mean Jean was the recess queen until the day that Katie Sue joined the school. Everyone had previously been afraid of Mean Jean, but Katie Sue was not fazed by her. Although Katie Sue was teeny-tiny, she was not scared of Mean Jean. This could originally be assume that was because she did not know about her. Well, even after Mean Jean made herself perfectly clear (she was queen), Katie Sue told her off! In fact, after she asked why she was so bossy, she asked her to play with her! They became good friends and the other kids no longer had problems with Mean Jean at recess. All she needed was someone to play with and be her friend in order for the problems are recess to be resolved. I think this sends a great message. Sometimes the people who bully and boss others do so because they don't know how else to receive attention from their peers.
This book would be great for readers who wanted a book with some of the same words found on each page. I liked the repetition. Also, the text seemed to have a nice flow as I was reading. The language was very playful as well (zingity-zing, ringity-ring). On most of the pages there was a slight rhyme that helped contribute to the flow of the book (awesome!). The rhymes were fun and it would be a great read aloud book in the classroom.
The illustrations caught my attention from the start because of the cover. Well, the bright colors and fantastic cartoon-like pictures continued to impress me as I continued reading. Some of the text would be enlarged to emphasize a point or staggered to influence how it was read, and those were great elements that the illustrator used to her advantage.
I am so glad I picked this book from the shelf. It was a great book, and it sent a subtle message that was incorporated with a fun plot that many children relate to while at school. The illustrations really made the story come alive and contributed to the fun flow and impacted how I felt about the book.

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Stephen Gammell

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Stephen Gammell is a classic book that has received a lot of positive recognition. I believe it deserves all the praise it has been given. I can see this book (and I have used it) in a classroom setting. There are many themes that can be drawn from reading this book. For example, vacations, family, relationships, etc.
The Relatives Came follows the life of a family who experiences their extended family coming to visit their home. Coming all the way from Virginia, everyone is relieved once they arrive at their destination. The family spends quality time together. They hug, play, cry, and laugh together. The author explores the family practices such as meals, adjusted sleep situation, and how they spent some quality time together. The visit was longer than most (all summer), and everyone enjoyed it. When it is time for everyone to go, everyone feels a little sad that their time together is over and would miss each other.
This book is so positive. I feel as though many readers could relate to the experiences had by the characters. Even if their family may not be as large or as close, it is a nice topic to read about. I believe the author used descriptive language very well, and I could clearly make a mental picture to go along with what I was reading.
Although I was making my own mental pictures, I enjoyed looking at the pictures done by the illustrator. They were simple but detailed. The expressions of the family members were always done well. The emotions on their faces were always clear. All of the illustrations covered most of the entire page and continued on to the next page, and I thought those were great. The pictures reminded me of colored pencil, but I don't think that was the tool that was used.
I have nothing but praise for this book. If you are unfamiliar with this book, I strongly suggest you read it. The language used makes readers feel as though they are a part of the family and experiencing what is happening in the book.

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger was a book that sparked my interest when I saw it on the shelf. I vaguely remembered reading this book when I was younger, but the story itself was fuzzy. Well, curiosity got the best of me. When I began reading, I realized I had completely forgotten everything about this book except that there was a penguin named "Tacky". Therefore, it was pretty much like reading it for the first time.
Tacky the Penguin is a classic tale of someone who doesn't necessarily fit in with their peers, but in the end, the differences end up being very positive. Tacky, the main penguin, is not like other penguins. He is not quiet and polite, graceful, or a beautiful singer like the others. The others think he is an "odd bird". Well, one day the penguins safety becomes jeopardized. Hunters have come to trap the penguins! Well, while the other penguins hide behind an iceberg, Tacky decides he will do something very brave. He tricks the hunters into believing that there they are not in the land of pretty penguins by showing off his differences that contrast with the hunters schema of what a penguin IS. Once they leave, the others realize that Tacky's differences are good. Even though he may be an "odd bird", he is a very nice bird to be around.
Although this is a classic message presented in children's literature, I find it pretty cliche. I think it is a great message, but this book probably is not one I would select to share with students to talk about accepting differences. It was an average book. The story was cute, but it was predictable. Also, it could confuse some readers. After all, couldn't the hunters still see that Tacky was still a penguin?
The pictures in this book are also average. They are very cartoonish, but they have a fair amount of detail. My favorite illustrations involve Tacky and his "wacky" outfit. He definitely stands out, so the illustrator really made that clear to readers.
I remember enjoying this book, but it was forgotten over the years. I feel as though others would have a similar view regarding this book. It would be a book I would offer to children to read, and I know they would enjoy doing so. However, I think there are books better suited to discuss the message this book sends to readers.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tutus Aren't My Style by Linda Skeers and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

Tutus Aren't My Style by Linda Skeers and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf is a book that caught my attention from the new section of the curriculum lab because of the title.
When Emma receives a ballerina outfit from her uncle Leo in the mail, she decides she needs to try and be a ballerina since he will be visiting her soon. However, she quickly realizes that being a ballerina is not something she enjoys or is good at. Everyone tells her what she should do, but it just is not for her. In fact, when her uncle arrives she shows him how SHE thinks a ballerina should be (in her cowgirl boots and regular clothes) and has fun doing that. Her uncle tells her he is surprised that she would want to be a ballerina because he always saw her as an explorer. Emma then discovers that the wrong outfit had been sent to her and they both laughed together. I really liked this book. It shows that just because the main character is a little girl does not mean she must be naturally gifted as a ballerina. She is a tomboy who like to be outside and does not strive to be a ballerina. It was refreshing to read about a girl who was not the typical girl presented in children's books.
The illustrations in this book were alright. I was not very impressed with them, but I thought they were fine. They were done in a cartoon like style and there were often numerous illustrations per page. My favorite pages had illustrations that covered the entire page and were filled with bright colors.
Overall, I liked this book. The plot was unique and I enjoyed reading about a girl who did not have the desire to be an elegant ballerina. I would recommend this book to others if they were looking for something that is not "typical" gender roles.

The MIddle-Child Blues by Kristyn Crow and illustrated by David Catrow

The Middle-Child Blues by Kristyn Crow and illustrated by David Catrow is a book I selected once I saw the title and the cover of the book. The illustration made me laugh the moment I saw it, and the title grabbed my attention. I am happy I picked this book from the new shelf in the curriculum lab. It was by far my favorite book I selected this week.
Lee is a middle child and seems to receive none of the perks that his older brother or younger sister have. He feels there is nothing special about being in the middle. It is not the best or worst, biggest or smallest, oldest or youngest, and feels he is in-between almost everything. He can't stay up late like his brother Peter, and his younger sister doesn't have to do chores like Lee does. He is too old to play with his sister's friends, and too young to play with his brothers friends. However, all his friends always want to play with them when they come over. One day, while at the amusement park, he starts singing on his guitar the "mid-child blues" and attracts the attention of all the fellow middle children. Even his parents are middle children and they realize how Lee must be feeling at times. He is able to share his feelings and receive recognition from others while he sings the middle child blues. He enjoys all the applause and realizes he is not alone and things really aren't as bad as he thinks.
The text has a slight rhyme to it, but it is not overwhelming. There is also the use of repetition on certain pages, and I think that would really benefit some readers. The size and layout varies from page to page as well. Most of the text is black, but when it is his opinion it is blue. These small aspects of the book really added a lot of interest for me as a reader.
My favorite part of this book is the illustrations. Every illustration was eye-catching and the colors seemed to jump of the page. The facial expressions were done extremely well and I think they are absolutely fantastic. I was amazed by how real and funny the pictures were.
I would recommend this book to others because of the creative plot and the truly great pictures. I would be interested to find books done by this author and illustrator to see how they compare.

The Worst Best Friend by Alexis O'Neill and illustrated by Laura Hilishka-Beith

The Worst Best Friend by Alexis O'Neill and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith is a book that shows what true friendship means. It is a book I think children would really benefit from reading because I feel almost all children could relate to the message that is being presented. Friends want what is best for each other, they treat each other kindly even if they may be angry, and friends sometimes make mistakes.
Mike and Conrad are best-best friends. They do everything together, and they even have a special handshake. This all changes when a new boy named Victor joins the classroom. Conrad thinks Victor is great! He seems to completely forget about his best-best friend Mike. Mike becomes pretty upset and feels left out since Victor and Conrad now seem to be best friends. When a game of kickball is about to start (Mike and Victor are captains), something makes Mike realize he should be a good friend to Conrad even though he is upset. Victor tells Conrad he is too small for his team and that he wants him team to win. Therefore, he refuses to pick him. Mike feels sorry for his ex-best-best friend and decides to choose him for his team. In the end, Mike's team loses. However, Mike and Conrad learn a valuable lesson. Best-best friends should always treat each other nicely and be there for one another. Conrad apologizes to Mike, and they are able to do their handshake and return to being best-best friends.
I can totally see me reading this book to my future students. It sends a good message while being very realistic. Many children face a situation like Mike and Conrad were in. I really like how the author chose to portray their relationship with each other and how it changed when Victor entered the dynamics.
The illustrations in this book remind me of the cartoon "Jimmy Neutron". They are cartoon-like with a realistic look. The colors were all bright and seemed to jump off the page. The text was another really great aspect. The size, color, and font varied from page to page. It helped show what words to emphasize, and I think this can really help children while they read. Also, the way the text was presented was occasionally set-up differently as well (vertical, slanted, etc).
I would suggest this book to others. It is entertaining and presents a positive message to readers.

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser is a book that I was anxious to check out from the curriculum lab and read. I had heard it is a huge hit with children, and I wanted to know why. Well, I can clearly see why many children have fallen in love with Fancy Nancy. However, I am not sure if this is entirely a good thing.
Fancy Nancy is a little girl who desires everything in her life to be fancy, elegant, and over the top. Her family doesn't have the same feelings about being fancy. Their clothes are not super sparkly, they do not over accessorize, and they certainly do not go around trying to make everything fancy. Therefore, Nancy thinks that her family needs lessons in being fancy. She offers to give them free fancy lessons. Well, of course her family chooses to hear what she has to say. They get "fancified". They accessorize their clothes, speak as though they are fancy, and decide to take their new personas out to dinner at "The Kings Crown" (which is a pizza parlor). It is clear that Nancy's family is doing this to make Nancy happy, and I think that this is great and I liked this element of the book. While at dinner, they talk about fancy things. They pretend they are French. They even order parfaits (fancy sundaes). However, the evening quickly comes to a halt when Nancy has an accident. She spills the parfaits all over the floor, so they quickly go home. Nancy removes all of her fancy accessories and appears to look like herself. When she goes downstairs, she realizes her family has made sundaes. She decides to thank them for being fancy for her and for the sundaes. She also tells them she loves them, and they tell her they love her. The author points out there is nothing better or fancier than saying "I love you". I thought this was a nice touch.
I have a small, small issue with Fancy Nancy. I feel as though it promotes the message that fancy is better. I know the author means for it to be cute and fun. In fact, I think it is for the most part. However, I think a little more of a "lesson" or realization that being fancy isn't everything would have been nice. Many children are unable to have fancy things, and this may make them feel a little left out while reading.
The pictures in this book were fantastic. They were so detailed. Everything was "fancy". It was clear that Robin Preiss Glasser, the illustrator, clearly understood the story that the author was telling. The colors were vibrant and the text was not typical and boring. It was fancy (haha).
I liked this book, and I am interested to read other Fancy Nancy books. I can see how many children (mostly young girls) would fall in love with Nancy and her adventures.

A Small Brown Dog With a Wet Pink Nose by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen and illustrated by Linzi Hunter

A Small Brown Dog With a Wet Pink Nose by Stephanie-Bodeen and illustrated by Linzi Hunter was a creative story that I found pretty entertaining. Many children face opposition when asking their parents for a dog, and this book gives advice on how to convince their parents to get a family dog.
Amelia, the main character in this story, begs for a dog. However, her parents say that it isn't a good time right now. Therefore, Amelia comes up with a plan that she knows they will be unable to resist. She invents an imaginary dog! She feeds him, takes him on walks, plays with him, and sleeps with him. She decides to name him "Bones". Well, one day Bones goes missing. They cannot find him anywhere. Eventually, their search leads to an animal shelter. Amelia had previously made her parents promise they would find Bones and take him home. Well, Amelia "finds" Bones at the shelter when she sees a small brown dog with a wet pink nose. In the end, her parents decide that they must take Bones home with them.
I really liked this book. I think it is very relatable for many children (I know I always begged for pets until my parents gave in). I found it humorous that Amelia came up with a plan to trick her parents. She had asked certain questions and prepared to lose her imaginary dog in order to go to the shelter for a real one.
My favorite elements in this book had to do with the illustrations. One may wonder, how can one show an imaginary dog in a picture? Well, the dog was always outlined in a dotted line. The illustrations were mostly cartoon-like, but some of the pages had photographs of real dogs. I think this is a pretty clever technique. I also really liked how the text was not all the same. Some of the text was presented in conversation bubbles, some was enlarged or bolded, and it did not always follow the same pattern from page to page. There were often many scenes within the pages that were separated by dotted lines. The last page of the book has "Amelia's Guide to Getting Your First Dog" with all of the steps included for readers.
I think this book was fun and refreshing. I would recommend it to others.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyui Choi

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyui Choi was a book that left me with some mixed feelings after reading. There were some aspects I really enjoyed. However, during various parts of this book I found myself sidetracked and slightly confused. This book followed the life of Sookan and her family regarding their struggles they faced while living in Korea. In the beginning, the author focuses on their life under the Japanese rule. However, towards the end of the book, the focus is on Russia's involvement. Because of these occupations, life for Sookan and her family was very hard at times. They were ordered to follow the rules of others and many times that conflicted with their personal beliefs.
My favorite aspect of this book was the authors portrayal of the Japanese and Russian involvement in Korea and how it impacted Sookan and her family. It seemed very honest and did not sugarcoat the negative effects it had on their lives. The author explained the procedures, jobs, relationships, and ways of life in a way that made me feel as though I understood what was happening. However, I would have liked to have more of an explanation or more insight into how the adults felt about their situation. The book was from Sookan's perspective, however, so I can see why this would be omitted.
There were a few things about this book that I did not really like. One thing that bothered me the most was the passing of time. I was unsure of how much time had gone by between chapters. I would have liked that to be clearer. Also, at time I felt as though I was reading the same thing. I think I would have been more attentive if the author had decided to discuss more of the "daily life". I remember the parts that focused on the family troubles and community practices the most.
Overall, I think this book was alright. There were good aspects as well as others that I did not really enjoy. For a teacher who wanted to discuss the war/involvement of Korea, I think this book would be able to offer students a good insight.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood

Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood was my all time favorite childhood book. I saved this book review for last for this reason. This book is is a little scary, heart warming, and teaches a lesson. As a child, I thought this book was the greatest. Today, I still feel that way. Books like this and Rumpelstiltskin had an element of fantasy combined with reality
Heckedy Peg is a story that teaches the lesson that children should listen to their parents and not talk to strangers. In fact, the children in this story (named after the days of the week) did not listen to their mother and ended up facing severe consequences. When they let the witch into their home and lit her pipe, she turned them into food! As you can imagine, the children's mother was extremely distraught when she returned to find an empty house. Luckily, a blackbird told her where she would be able to find her children and the dreadful witch. Right as the witch was about to take her first bite of pie (Monday), she was stopped by a knock at the door. She was hesitant to let the woman in and gave many excuses to keep her outside. However, the mother was very smart and tricked the witch into letting her come inside. Once inside, the witch decides to play a game with the mother. If the mother can identify which child is which food, they will be able to become children once again. In the beginning of the book, the mother planned to give her children something from the market they asked for. She used this information to identify all of her children (successfully). Once they became children again, the mother chased Heckedy Peg. The witch jumped into the river and was never seen again.
I know I gave a very detailed plot description of this book, but I think it is really a great book. I'm not sure why exactly this book sticks out in my memory, but it does. There is suspense, it is a longer children's book, and the format is unique. I think these are reasons I really liked Heckedy Peg. On some pages, there were multiple pictures and text. (One page divided into thirds.)
The illustrations in this book are similar to Don Wood's other books. Because of this, I am once again fascinated with them. The expressions are so realistic. In fact, the witch could be a little too scary for some young children. When the children are food, you can see their faces within them. I think that was a really creative element.
If you haven't read this book before, I strongly recommend doing so. It is one of a kind and full of great details and has an intriguing story.

Jubal's Wish by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood

Jubal's Wish by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood is a vibrant and unique story that really grabbed my attention. From the moment I opened the book, I was bombarded with bright colors and extremely detailed illustrations. I feel as though the animals in this book could be viewed as people and their situations they face in real life. Often times, people overlook the small joys in life. It is unfortunate, but sometimes people choose to focus on the negative aspects and that can bring others down too. Even when they should be happy, sometimes people decide to ignore how good things truly are. However, in the end, sometimes the "bad" things turn out to be positive. There was a lot of text on each page, so the book seemed longer than the other books I had read by Don and Audrey Wood. However, the book does not drag on. I was entertained from the beginning to the end.
Jubal was granted a wish, and he wished to make the lives of his friends better. At first it appeared that his wish did not come true. However, in the end, the lives of everyone improved. Jubal's friends did not want to have a picnic with him in the beginning, but in the end this changed. The storm cleared and a rainbow signified that better times were ahead for everyone.
The illustrations in this book showed so much emotion that I felt invested in this book. I wanted things to go well for Jubal, and I hated when he was sad. They illustrations clearly showed what was going on, and I felt as though I was there. I am so pleased with the visual aspect of this book that I would recommend it to others.
I think this book would be a great read aloud with students. It offers so many possibilities for discussion. With older students, the deeper meaning could be examined. With younger students, I would like to discuss the characters and their personalities/emotions. Students could talk about something they originally thought would be a negative thing that turned out to be positive.
I really liked this book, and I would recommend it to others because of its thought provoking plot and detailed illustrations.

Piggies by Audrey and Don Wood

Piggies by Don and Audrey Wood was a completely new book to me. I am glad that I picked this book off of the shelf to read for A/P/I. It is a little different than the other books I have read by these authors. It is geared to very young children, and I think that it would be a nice book to have available to children. On each hand, there are five little piggies (fingers). They each have a specific characteristic (fat, smart, silly, long, and wee). The illustrations on each page have hands with pigs performing certain actions on the fingertips. It is extremely simple, but I think this was a part of the charm of the book. Once introducing the piggies, Wood described how they feel at times. Sometimes they are hot, cold, clean, dirty, and good. Once this has gone on, the author explains that the piggies sometimes cause some trouble. They dance on toes and hide, so the individual must give all the piggies kisses before going to bed.
Although this book is very simple, it would go over well with young children. However, I think children in grades 2+ would not be very interested in it. The pictures would interest almost everyone, but the story line is geared towards very young children. The pictures are detailed and clearly illustrate what is happening in the text at the time. When the piggies are cold, the illustration has snow. The pigs are decked out in winter wear and are performing winter activities. The opposite is true for when the piggies are hot. When they are dirty, there is dirt everywhere. When the are clean, there are soap bubbles filling the page. Each pig is doing something unique in every picture. I feel as though young children may overlook all of this, but if someone is reading the book with them, it would help to have them pointed out.
I like this book, and I would recommend it to others. However, it is not my favorite book of the Wood's.

Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood

Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood was a pleasant surprise for me. One of my favorite books is The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear. Therefore, I was a little apprehensive when I discovered a book with the same characters had been published. I was relieved when I finished the book and found myself smiling.
Instead of the Big Hungry Bear being after Little Mouse's strawberry, he was after presents. The Big Hungry Bear never gets any presents, and Little Mouse decides to change that. It promotes such a positive message when Little Mouse decides to give the bear a present, and he discovers the bear left him a present as well. In fact, Little Mouse decorates the bear's cave with ornaments/lights/presents. This story was heart warming. In fact, I think I liked this book just as much (if not more) than the original.
The pictures are so detailed. I think this is an aspect of all of the books by Don and Audrey Wood. There are just so many small elements that work together to make a great illustration. Even the popcorn on the Christmas tree looks as though time and effort went in to creating it. The colors are so vibrant, and the text is larger than most picture books. I think young children would be able to read this book with little difficulty and would enjoy it. I also believe that around Christmas, this would be a fun book to read in the classroom. However, it would be key to include books that celebrate other winter holidays as well.
This book promotes a positive message to readers. Little Mouse is generous, kind, and shows a lot of compassion to the bear. I think these are all positive traits that I would like my future students to have. I think a discussion could be opened up surrounding this, and I would like to encourage my students to demonstrate these positive traits and talk about them as a group.

King Bidgood's In The Bathtub by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood is a book that I really enjoyed. It has received awards, and I think that is well deserved. The plot and illustrations make this book one that I would like to share with my future students.
King Bidgood's in the Bathtub is a book about the page trying to lure the king out of his bathtub. He asks for help from other people, and it seems they have a lot of good ideas. However, the king decides that all of the reasons to get out of the tub can be done without leaving the tub. In the end, the page discovers a way to get the king out of the tub.
First, I need to discuss my love of these illustrations. They are so detailed. I loved them. While all the pictures really interested me, the pictures involving the bathtub to be the most intriguing. I was so amazed by all the small elements that made up the big picture. They pictures also looked very realistic. I could see the emotions on every individuals face.
The story itself was very unique. I had never read anything similar to it, and I found that very refreshing. Although it was a little unusual, it made the book stand out. I would never think to write a book about a king who never wants to leave his bathtub. However, I think many children can relate to the feeling of wanting to stay in the tub. I know when I was younger, I would try to stay in as long as possible (even if the water grew cold).
Last semester, I took Drama in the Classroom. One of my classmates did a story drama lesson that was based on this book. It was highly interactive and a great experience. I am planning to keep the lesson ideas she presented and use them in my future classroom.
I would recommend this book to others. Once again, I am really happy I chose to cover the Wood's for the A/P/I. I have yet to find a book of theirs that I don't like.

The Tickle Octopus by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood

The Tickle-Octopus by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood is a quirky and comical children's book that I enjoyed reading. I had never heard of this book before, but I was intrigued as soon as I saw the book. It has a unique shape. The edges of the book are not straight and there is a cut out in the cover that shows a little boy looking through. I could tell this was going to be something I would enjoy, and I was right.
The Tickle-Octopus goes back in time to the days of the cavemen. During this time, life was very different. The main character is a little boy, Bup, who lives with his parents. His parents are grumpy, unhappy, and rude. Bup's siblings vanished, and his parents are very worried that Bup will too. Therefore, when they go away to hunt, they put Bup into a cave to keep him away from danger. However, in this cave, Bup discovers the Tickle-Octopus. The Tickle-Octopus reaches out and tickles him! He had never felt this feeling ever before, and he SMILED. No one had ever smiled before! Bup shows the Tickle-Octopus to his father, and his father laughs the first laugh ever! Bup and his father take the Tickle-Octopus to Ughmaw (mom) who, after being tickled, started to play with the others for the very first time! After they discover all this joy from the Tickle-Octopus, they decide to share it will all the neighboring cavemen villages. In fact, this leads them to finding their long lost family members.
This book was a cute way to explain how people first smiled, laughed, and played. Although it is not very realistic, I really enjoyed reading it. There were some pictures (the ones who said they ____ for the first time) that needed to be unfolded to see what they said. I thought this was a fun element and added interest to the book. The illustrations were fabulous (Don Wood seems to do a great job in all the books he has done). The colors and facial expressions always paint a vivid and life-life picture. I also really liked the structure of the story. There is a nice flow between one event to another. The introduction and conclusion really drew me in and gave me closure.
I would suggest this book as a fun read and for children who like books that do not follow the typical format. The font is enlarged, the pages are unique, and some of the words seem like real cave people could have said them.

The Napping House by Audrey and illustrated by Don Wood

The Napping House by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood is an award winning book, and I can see why it was given this prestigious title. It is a perfectly simple and has a unique story format. The story builds on the previous page, and it follows a distinct pattern. The text found on the first page continues to the following pages. It starts discussing how everyone in the napping house is sleeping. They all end up sleeping on top of each other, and the last part of the chain spurs a reaction that reaches the first sleeping individual. Once the story builds from one person sleeping to a whole group, the story takes a turn and they all wake up one by one.
I think this book is beautifully simple. The story line is easy to follow, and I think children of all ages would enjoy reading this book. There are some parts where it is a little comical. The adjectives used to describe the sleeping characters often relate to their personalities, and that was a nice element. As I previously mentioned, I liked the pattern/format of the book.
My absolute favorite part of this book was the illustrations. Don Wood did an excellent job. The entire book (with the exception of the first and last page) take place from the same view in the same room. Even though this is the case, I found a lot of differences from page to page. The facial expressions were life-like and looked as though a lot of time and effort was taken in creating each page. Even the granny's toes had toenails, the dog had textured fur, and outside the window it was raining. When everyone is sleeping, the illustrations use a lot of blues and greys. When everyone is awake, the colors become brighter and the rain outside the window has transformed into flowers.
I would recommend this book to others, and I think it deserved to be given an award as a best selling book.

Elbert's Bad Word by Audrey Wood Illustrated by Audrey and Don Wood

Elbert's Bad Word by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Audrey and Don Wood takes a new approach in this book about "bad" words. I am so glad I chose these authors for my A/P/I, and this book lived up to my expectations.
Elbert is a little boy who hears a word he had never heard before, but he could tell it was not a good word to say. Once he hears this word, he goes on with his day at the party. However, when an accident occurred, Elbert said this bad word out loud! People were shocked (and not in a good way). His mother made him clean his mouth with soap and told him to never say it again. Elbert then decides he needs to find a way to make that bad word go away forever and leave him alone. Therefore, he takes a trip to a wizard who gives Elbert the tools to make the word go away for good. The wizard advises Elbert to say other words when the bad word feels as though it is about to come out. Back at the party, another accident occurred. However, this time Elbert knew exactly what to do. Instead of using the bad word, he used a lot of silly words to express himself.
There were so many aspects of this book that I really liked. I think it explains an alternative to saying a bad word that children could understand and relate to. Without saying the word, the author makes it clear that it is nasty. The way Wood describes the bad word was an aspect I really loved. She described the word as a small storm cloud, ugly, and covered in dark hair. When Elbert says this word, the word was described even more dramatically. The illustrations that accompanied this page made the word look like a monster, and I thought that was so creative. The illustrations throughout the book were detailed and looked like they were drawn with great consideration to what the text was saying. The colors are bright, the facial expressions are detailed, and there are numerous small elements that give the book a little something extra.
I think this book would be a great tool for talking about "bad" words with students. It offers an alternative solution, and it is a pretty creative one. I think this is a strategy that many parents try to teach their children. By reading this book, it promotes the idea of expressing emotions in a safe way.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Reading and Responding to Children's Literature has been a class that I have enjoyed so far this semester. I feel as though there will be some things that I will be able to take away with me in my future as a teacher. One helpful aspect that this class has provided me with is the ability to be exposed to numerous children's books. I always loved reading children's books when I was younger, and I was excited to have the chance to do so as an adult. By blogging about books each week, I have been able to discover what type of authors/books that I enjoy. At first I was hesitant to explore new books, but now I go looking for them. There have been so many that I enjoy.
Another aspect of this class that I really like is the assigned novels. They have been great! I can totally see myself having them in my future classroom. One idea I really want to incorporate into my class is the idea of the "town meeting" that was used to discuss The Misfits. In fact, my focus in elementary education is reading and language arts. I believe my practicum will be with upper level students, and I hope I will be able to try something like this.
Reading the controversial children's books was completely different than I expected. I had never really read one before, so it was something that was completely new to me. However, there were a lot of them I loved! In fact, the author's seemed to broach a lot of difficult topics in a new light that I found refreshing. The genre presentation my group was responsible for introducing to the class was realistic fiction. By exploring books in this genre, I feel that I have a better idea of how to use literature in my future class to introduce certain topics. They could be a great teaching tool (duh!).
Something I would like to learn more about regarding children's literature is how to select books to help teach a curriculum area. Because of this, I am excited for the future project that will be coming up. It would be interesting to see what other individuals choose to do, and I would like to have copies of my peer's curricular areas.
I would also like to have more discussion regarding the class novels. I really liked the direction the discussion about The Misfits was going. Because it was a controversial book, I think there were a lot of things that could be discussed. However, we ran out of time!
It has been an interesting semester so far, and I look forward to what will be covered in the future.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Misfits by James Howe

The Misfits by James Howe surprised me and was not at all what I expected the book to be like. For being such a controversial book, I thought it would be something I was wary of while reading. However, I liked this book. I'm not sure if I would want to read this book to students, but I think it could really benefit some students who read it.
Bullying, name-calling specifically, is what The Misfits takes a new approach in discussing. The story focuses on a group of students, four friends, who are going to run for student council. They must recruit other students to run with them, decide a platform on which to run, and convince the school that they should be eligible to run. There are numerous complications, and that keeps things exciting. Each of the main characters (Bobby, Addie, Joe,and Skeezie) has been bullied, and they are sick of it. There is an unexpected hero who saves the day and makes many aspects of the book possible.
Each of the main students (along with others) have been called many names. However, they are called names for different reasons. Because of this aspect, I think this book is great for helping readers identify with the book. Bobby is quiet and overweight, and he is often overlooked. His mom passed away when he was younger, and his life has been a little rough since. Addie is a very tall, opinionated, and many students have issues with her "know-it-all" attitude. It is her idea to push for a third party and she is in charge of organizing the campaign and being president. Joe is bright, confident, and very creative. He is also gay. Skeezie is the kid everyone thinks is trouble. He looks as though he is up to no good, but he has a kind heart. Because there was such a variety of characters, I think readers will be able to identify with one themselves or with someone they know. The most controversial character, in my opinion, is Joe. Because he is gay, that may make some people uncomfortable. This is one aspect of the book that I really liked, but it also made me a little unsure about whether or not I would read it to students. I think it is absolutely fantastic how the author described this and discussed this element of Joe's life. It did not portray him as weird or say anything offensive. His family and friends were accepting. I can see how some people who be uncomfortable with the author being so frank about Joe liking a boy and wanting to hold hands. I can also see that this would be a little controversial when he and Colin both like each other. However, I found this refreshing. Here was a middle school boy who accepted himself and did not feel ashamed.
I think I would suggest this book to individuals who may be bullied or feel as though they are "different" from others. I don't know if this would be a book I would have in my classroom, but I would not be opposed to having it there if the school district allowed it. I was surprised with my own reaction to this book. If someone would have told me they discussed gay relationships in middle school, I would have immediately said "not a book I think would be appropriate". However, there were so many great aspects of this book. After reading I felt as though it would be a book that is appropriate for some (not all) students. The author sends out a positive message surrounding individual differences, friendships, bullying, and various life experiences. I found the speech in the end to be very inspiring. It was great, and I think that was a great way to end the book. Even though they didn't win the election, they made a difference in their school.
There were so many elements of this book that I found interesting. As I previously said, the characters themselves and the story line were unique. The Misfits is a book that should be available to any student who wants to read it. It should not be banned because it offers numerous positive aspects and has a lot to offer readers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole was not what I expected. I had heard it was extremely controversial, and I think it was a little exaggerated. Although I had just read King and King, which was also about a gay relationship, this book seemed so different to me. It was much more kid friendly in my opinion. I found myself wanting the penguins to be happy and realized they were just trying to have what the other penguins had. They were best friends, and they loved each other. After reading this book I thought a little more on the subject of gay relationships. The penguins, Silo and Roy, were not treated differently by other penguins. They raised their child, Tango, just like the other parents. The only difference was their sexual orientation. Being an adult, this got me thinking that children could really benefit from reading this book. By using animals to show this relationship in a new way, it made me much more open to this book than I would have been if the book was with humans I think. I think children would feel the same way. It covers the issue of gay relationships in a way that children can understand in a new way. I think that is great. I would be much, much more comfortable reading this book to students. I'm not sure if it is because it was animals, the way the authors phrased the book, or the fact that this was a true story. I loved how the authors said that it was true in the back! Anyway, the authors did an excellent job of leading up to telling readers Silo and Roy were in love. It showed how similar they were to other penguins and explored their relationship. I think this is key. It made me see how similar they truly were to others, and there was only one small difference.
The illustrations in this book were light, bright, and done well. The simpleness of the illustrations was what I liked the best. They were descriptive, but not distracting. Even the penguins had facial expressions that I liked.
It is up to the distric whether gay and lesbian relationships should be discussed in the classroom. However, if I was to teach this subject, I would really considering using this controversial book.

King &King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland

King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland is a book about a prince who is told he must marry. His mother, the Queen, introduces her son to many princesses. However, the prince is not interested in these women. In fact, he falls in love with a prince who came with his sister. It was love at first sight, so they end up getting married.
I can see how this would be controversial. In fact, I'm not sure how I feel about it exactly. The relationship between he and the other prince was not discussed, his mother accepted it, and there seemed to be no problems with the prince wanting to marry another prince. Some adults may feel this is unrealistic and sending the wrong message. I like how this book is written. Although I wish it would have showed the reaction of others (like the queen), I think it was appropriate to leave out for a children's book. I can see why the author would have chosen to do this. The prince was in love, therefore, he married who he loved. The person he fell in love with just happened to be a male instead of a female. It was accepted. This book is preaching acceptance, but I don't know if it would be appropriate in the classroom because it could bring up issues that didn't need to be discussed with such young children. If I was to talk about untraditional relationships in my future classroom, I think I would pick a different book that explained it more and was a little more realistic. I think this book is controversial, but I can see the benefits of reading it. However, I think I would leave this up to the parents to decide if they want to expose their child to this book specifically.
The first thing I noticed about this book was the bright, colorful, and detailed pictures. The illustrator put forth a lot of effort when laying out the pages. The text was often staggared, enlarged, bolded, and positioned around objects. It was great! The pictures look like they were drawn in and almost has a crayon-like look on some pages. One illustration I found controversial was the very last page. It showed the princes kissing. However, there was a heart over where their lips would touch, so it was implying they were going to kiss/were kissing.
Like I said before, I have mixed emotions about this book. Parts of it I liked, but I don't know how comfortable I would be reading this book to students. Because of the subject topic, I would be a little hesitant. However, if the distric I taught for wanted me to broach this subject, I would want to use another book I believe that would be more realistic.

Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray and illustrated by Audrey Colman

Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray and illustrated by Audrey Colman was unlike any book I have ever encountered. It was about dog farts. Personally, I was a little shocked anyone chose to write a children's book about this. I hate to admit it, but I found it entertaining. Although passing gas is gross, this story put a fun spin on the dog who had problems with this issue.
I didn't think I would like this book at all when I picked it off the shelf. I assumed it would be gross. However, if a book about farting can be done in a tasteful way, the authors achieved this. As far as being controversial, I assume it is regarding the topic of passing gas. Really? I can see people thinking "ew" or "why" but to actually refuse to read this book of be offended by it I think is extreme. I believe most children would love this book. In fact, I found myself smiling. The dog was kind, and he didnt' want to be sent back to the pound because he loved his family. Therefore, he tried to stop by holding it it. Well, he did until he could hold it no more. The night this happened, the family was being robbed! The burgulars tied his snout so he couldn't bark, but he was still able to pass gas. This led to the capture of the criminals and kept the family's items safe. The parents simply could not get rid of Walter now! I was relieved and happy about this ending.
The illustrations in this book were great! They were done in a way that was not really proportionate, and some of the elements looked almost life-like. The cartoons truly looked as though they were alive. The text was untraditional and fairly large. I also liked how the picture would often have texts within them that added to the picture as a whole.
I liked this book. I can see children thinking this book was hilarious. If this book offends some, don't read it. However, I think it is important to allow some humor (even if a little gross) to be available to children.

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting Illustrated by David Diaz

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting and illustrated by David Diaz is a controversial book,but I'm not sure why. I realize the prejudice and rioting are not light subjects, but this book did not portray it offensively. In fact, there were elements of this book that promoted acceptance and the importance of getting to know others. In times of need, it often becomes clear that certain biases are wrong and are disproven.
In this book, a little boy and his mother live in an apartment building in a town where riots (I assume racial) are taking place outside their window. One interesting aspect of the book to me was that while these people were outside, the little boy explained that he and his mother won't go to a certain store because it is owned by a woman who does not look like them. This got me thinking. Even people who are being treated unfairly often have their own stereotypes of others who are not like them. Therefore, this book did a good job pointing that out. Later on, this was stereotype was eliminated. When the apartment begins to burn down, the boy realizes he has lost his cat. His neighbor, who owns the store, has also lost her cat. The cats have never gotten along, but once the fire has been stopped, a fire fighter brings the two cats to their owners. He explains that the cats were suffering together and had joined forces to help the other. If these cats could get along, the owners should be able to as well. The boy's mother extends an invitation to Ms. Kim (the other woman) to come over once they return. The book ends preaching a message about accepting others for who they are and appreciating them.
The illustrations in this book were unlike anything I had seen before. Part of the picture was a cartoon (typical), but surrounding the cartoon, there were real looking objects from everyday life that often related to what was being discussed in the text. I thought this was a neat element of this book.
I would recommend this book to others, but it was not my favorite. I could see how it could be controversial (rioting/prejudice), but it was nothing that really struck me as alarming or too detailed. I think there are other books out there that present this message but could do so in a more effective way.

The Un-Wedding by Babette Cole

The Un-Wedding byBabette Cole was a lighthearted book that took a unique approach when discussing divorce. I thought it was creative and witty. While some parts were funny, there were some more serious undertones to the book that focused on divorce not being the children's fault. I can see why this would be controversial to some (a light hearted divorce book), but I thought it was great. Although I am not a child of divorce, I enjoyed reading this book. I think children who have/had parents who aruge a lot often wonder if it is because of something they had done, and this book makes it clear that it is not related to the children.
Babette Cole's unique approach to this book was spread throughout the book. In the beginning, she discussed the actions of the parents towards each other. Basically, they were pulling rude pranks on the other. She also conveyed the very different personalities, likes, and dislikes of the adults. It showed that they were not very compatible, and that had nothing to do with their children. The process of getting unmarried was different than divorce. It resembled the process of getting married. There was planning (notifying family/friends), a ceremony (to announce they did not want to be married), and a honeymoon (which each parent went on alone). After this was done, the author showed how life had improved for all involved. There was no fighting, the children were happier, and things were going well for the family.
The illustrations in this book were also done in a semi-unique way. The text would be on each page, but sometimes there would be blurbs from the characters or little side notes that would grab my attention that gave the book a little something extra.
I would recommend this book. Although some may see it as controversial, I see it as a unconventional approach to divorce. It sends the message that divorce is not a child's fault (like most divoce books do), but this one adds humor. It was great! Some may see it as a little unsensitive, but I think that for some children, this would be a nice way for them to relate to the book.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry was a book I was excited to have the chance to reread. I had previously read The Giver in middle school, and I absolutely loved it. Although it has been years since I read the book, I still loved it. The content of it really sparked my curiosity throughout the entire book. Because of it's unique plot, I found myself constantly wanting to keep reading and to learn more about the society Jonas, the main character, lives in.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this book to me is the actual society the characters live in. To put it simply, it seems "perfect" at times, but it is also terrible. It makes readers try to think about their own priorities. What would you give up to live in a society where crime, hunger, conflict, and other social problems don't exist? What price would be too high? The ability to choose mates, have children, love, and control your future? Although I think this society's cons outweigh the pros, I found myself thinking about what it would be like if this was how the world was.
Another aspect of this book I loved was the relationship between the Giver and the Receiver and their interactions. The author did an excellent job of painting a picture of the memories that were transmitted through the Giver to Jonas. As a reader, I felt as though I knew exactly what Jonas was going through and what he was "seeing". The descriptions were done so well with strong adjectives and verbs.
There are many controversial topics in this book. One issue I could see some readers becoming upset is releasing (killing) individuals who are old of "unfit". It made me cringe because I knew what was happening before Jonas did this time around when I read the book. Of all the extreme actions taken in the community to prevent grief, sickness, and differences between the people, this seems the most bizarre. I would not recommend this book for middle elementary students because it could upset some students. However, I feel as though it is completely appropriate for grades 6+. In fact, I think it is a great book for students that age to be exposed to.
What would the world be like without some of the difficulties faced in society today? Well, The Giver gives a little insight to how it could be if the world went to "sameness". It would be a great conversation topic for the students to imagine their own "perfect world" and to think of the consequences.
If I could change one thing about this book, I would want the ending to give more information as to what happens. It would be a great sequel, but even a few more details about Jonas finding "Elsewhere" would have left me with more closure. I kept wanting to know what was next for he and Gabriel. When a reader doesn't want a book to end, that is a great book. The Giver is one of them.
I am pleased I was given the chance to read this book again. I am curious to how others reacted to this book because it is so unusual. I love it, but I would be interested to see if that was how the majority of the class feels about this novel. Either way, I would definitely include this book in my curriculum if I was teaching the appropriate grade levels.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day Dolores by Barbara Samuels

I selected Happy Valentine's Day Dolores by Barbara Samuels because of the recent holiday. I was pleasantly surprised with this book because it was not solely about Valentine's Day. There were a lot of other elements in this book.
Dolores has an older sister, and sometimes Dolores can't help but sneaking into her sister's room and borrowing her things. Well, the week before Valentine's Day, she did just that. She found a beautiful frog necklace that she simply had to borrow and show her friends. She ends up having trouble getting it off, so she decides that is a sign that she must wear it another day. Finally, when she feels bad about stealing her sisters necklace, she realizes she has lost it! Oh no! Quickly, she rushes to replace the necklace at a local store. However, her sister realizes she took it because she found the "lost" necklace. Dolore's sister wanted to give her the necklace for Valentine's Day. Instead of getting mad at her, she smiles. Dolores and her sister both have a frog necklace now.
I really liked how the author showed the relationship between Dolores and her sister. Also, the plot is very plausible. As a younger sister, I would often try to "borrow" my sister's things without her noticing. However, she usually found out. This helped me relate to the book. Although this book revolved around Valentine's Day, there seemed to be a lot more elements going on.
The illustrations in the book were full of details. The pictures were vibrant and filled with color. I really liked the way the text was laid out. It was not always in the same place, and it was often staggered.
I would recommend this book to others to read around Valentine's Day because it is a seasonal book with a relatable story line. I was pleasantly surprised.

Shrek! By William Steig

Shrek! by William Steig is a book that reminded me of the beloved character from the movie Shrek, but he did not become the lovable character like the movie Shrek did. However, this was okay with me. There were plenty of moments in the book that made me think of the movie, and I loved that. I could definitely tell where aspects of the book had been used to make the movie.
Most people are individual with Shrek, so I will not summarize it. This book was full of great elements. The adjectives and verbs were so strong, and I think it would be really effective in explaining this aspect of writing to students. Although parts of the book were gross, I think most children would appreciate this. I know when I was younger I would have been entertained by this story because it is completely different then the typical book I was exposed to. Shrek was a monster in search of his equally ugly future wife. It is not romantic. In fact, it is the opposite. This is exactly what made me really like it. Although parts of it seemed a little crude, I think that is what the author was going for. It had some shock value. Another aspect I really liked was the dialogue between Shrek and the other characters, especially his bride-to-be. The flirtatious banter between them is unlike typical exchanges between individuals. It was a little sing-songy.
The pictures in this book are pretty good. Shrek looked repulsive (of course), the other characters were detailed, and the scenery looked great. The pictures did not leave a lot of white space typically, and I liked that. When there was white space, it was used well because it was visually appealing.
I loved this movie Shrek, and the book was a great inspiration for the movie. It is unlike the typical fairy-tale. It is one of a kind, and I really appreciated that. It was a little gross (descriptions were detailed and not very visually appealing haha), but I think there needs to be a little of that in children's literature once in a while. It keeps things entertaining.

Tess's Tree by Jess M. Brallier and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Tess's Tree by Jess M. Brallier and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds is another book that is new to the curriculum lab. It is geared towards younger readers. I liked this book, but I wouldn't go as far to say I loved it.
Tess is a little girl who has grown up loving a big tree that is in her yard. One day, the tree loses some branches in a storm. This leads her mother to deem it a safety hazard, so the tree had to go. Tess is very upset, and she decides to hold a funeral for her tree. She invites many neighbors to come, and there are some surprise guests. I found this a little far fetched, but it was a cute aspect of the story. The story was touching at parts, but it was missing excitement. I guess I was looking for a little more, but I think young children would appreciate this book much more than I would simply because of the content. Also, this book would be one that inexperienced readers could read without too much difficulty. One element I really liked about the story was the way she prepared for the trees funeral. Tess dressed up the tree's "children" (small trees/plants) in ribbon for the ceremony, set up chairs, placed flowers on the stump, and invited many guests. It was a nice way to show she cared and set up the plot.
The pictures in this book were done very well. There was a lot of white space, but it was used effectively. It made the pictures stand out. Also, there were often multiple pictures per page that had text that went along with them. To demonstrate the storm, the illustration took up two pages and was darker. Small design elements really made this illustrations pop.
I would recommend this book to others, especially individuals looking for books that young children can read themselves. Although it wasn't my favorite new book, I enjoyed it because it was unique and that was refreshing.