Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary is one of several books in a series following these characters. In this specific book, both sisters are young (age 9 and 4). I had previously read Ramona Quimby Age Eight, and I was fairly confident I would really like this book. Well, I was a little surprised when it was not one that I would recommend to many young readers. It turns out that this book was published in 1955, and some of the content is dated.
I found this book to be funny and charming at times, but what I kept focusing on was the behaviors of Beezus (the older sister) and how they contradicted some things I believe in. For example, Beezus says that little girls are supposed to be quiet and not make a fuss. She also says various other things about behaviors that are acceptable and unacceptable for young girls. The family dynamics were also not to my liking. The father was only mentioned when referencing his job or while eating dinner. However, Beezus mentioned her mother performing housework, cooking, and taking care of the children frequently. I think that in today's society, a lot of things have changed compared to when this book was written. I believe the story itself is good, but the details and various aspects of it are too dated. The siblings relationship led to the "story" within each chapter. Almost always Beezus was caring for Ramona when something would go wrong, and it would be up to Beezus to try and deal with it. This leads me to another little issue I had with the book. I understand that it used to be much more common for children to watch over their siblings, but I find it hard to believe that in today's society it would acceptable for a nine-year-old to take their four-year-old sibling on a walk to the library and to the park without an adult.
One aspect of this book I enjoyed was some of the word choice. The text offered more difficult words and would often follow with an example of what it was. In addition, some of the difficult words made appearances more than once. I think this would be pretty beneficial to readers that are trying to learn new words. Even if some of the language would not very commonly be seen today, the words clearly still exist and have meaning.
If one could put aside these issues with when the text was published, the story has a lot to offer readers. It was entertaining and light hearted. The chapters were separate stories/adventures. Therefore, it would be a nice transition for students from picture books into chapter books. I think I will try sticking to more recently published chapter books from now. Although this is a classic in my mind, newer literature may be more beneficial for me to explore.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rain Babies by Laura Krauss Melmed and illustrated by Jim LaMarche

Rain Babies by Laura Krauss Melmed and illustrated by Jim LaMarche was a book with beautiful illustrations and a very unique story.
This book revolves around an older couple who desired children but were unable to have their own. However, luckily for the couple, a miracle happened. They were blessed with twelve rainbabies (tiny babies that came from the sky). The took great care of these babies, and they had many challenges thrown their way. Sadly, there was a day when Mother Moonshower came to take the babies away, but she left them with a human baby to raise as their own. Well, if that is not a happy ending, I don't know what it. However, I thought this book was heartwarming and full of excitement throughout the story. The word choice was a little too complex for novice readers, but I think middle elementary students would find it challenging yet at their level.
My absolute favorite part of this book was the illustrations. They were breathtaking. Every picture was detailed and appeared life-like. The old couple had realistic wrinkles, the babies had expressive faces, and the settings of the pictures were one of a kind.
I would recommend this book to individuals who like life-like pictures and an interesting story line that isn't cookie-cutter. It is truly and original story that kept me turning the page anticipating what would happen next.

Julius, The Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes

Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes is one of my favorite picture books. Therefore, I was really excited to find another book by this author to read entitled Julius, The Baby of the World. My high expectations were met if not exceeded.
Lily, Julius's older sister, is struggling with welcoming her baby brother into her life. I think this is something many kids face when they become older siblings. There may be less attention given to them and more time spent with the new sibling. This translates into one major thing...jealousy. Lily is very jealous of her little brother, and she is not shy about letting others know how she feels. She wants to send him back, but her parents say that he will be staying permanently. Lily earns herself many trips to the "uncooperative chair" because of her antics towards her little brother. Just when I was thinking that there was no way this little girl was going to have a change of heart and learn to love her brother, I was pleasantly surprised. It took another person saying the same mean things Lily said about Julius to her. She set that person straight, and from that day forward, her feelings and actions towards Julius changed drastically. I thought this was very interesting, and it made me do some thinking. I think it is very common for siblings to say negative things about each other, but if someone else says negative things about their sibling, watch out. The fact that the author noticed this and incorporated this family dynamic into the book was something I really liked. In fact, it was used as the turning point in the story that led to a better relationship between Lily and Julius.
The illustrations in this book were very nice. They were descriptive. One thing I really liked was that the characters often had dialogue within the picture. This makes readers focus more on the illustrations, and I think that was a clever way to play up the pictures.
Although I said it before, I will say it again. I really liked this book. Because this author seems to be one that I really enjoy, I think I am going to look into more books written by him. I have already read Chrysanthemum, and that was also a book I really liked. If anyone has not read any books by Kevin Henkes, I strongly recommend it.

Purple, Green, and Yellow by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Helene Desputeaux

Purple, Green, and Yellow by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Helene Desputeaux was an interesting childrens book. I say "interesting" because I'm not sure how exactly I feel about it. I'll explain why that is shortly.
In this book, Brigid is a little girl who loves coloring with markers. However, her mom was very hesitant to keep getting her markers because she did not want her to color on the walls, floor, or herself. Brigid proves that she can handle the responsibility of regular markers, then scented markers, and then super-indelible-never-come-off-till-you're-dead-and-maybe-even-later markers. Well, after earning the privilege of using those permanent markers, Brigid decides to color all over herself. This is my first issue with this book. After all, she had earned her mothers trust only to abuse it? Not sending the best message to readers. Brigid tries to remove the colors, and she is unable to do so permanently. Problem number two. There is no solution to fix what happened. My last issue is with the ending of the book because she apparently colored on her father, and he finds out as soon as he walks in the rain because the skin colored marker washes off revealing all the permanent markings she had drawn previously on him. Well, that's too bad for her dad. They now have a rainbow family? I just feel as though this ending could have been completely differ, and I wish it was. Maybe some people find this type of unsolved book with a funny twist to be entertaining, but I just found it frustrating.
The illustrations in this book were simple but full of color. After all, with all the coloring Brigid does, there should be lots of colors! I also liked how the first letter in each paragraph was enlarged/bolded/and in a bright color. That little detail was something I really liked.
I was intrigued by the plot of Purple, Green, and Yellow, but I was disappointed with this books ending. Therefore, I don't think I would recommend this book to others unless they like the unsolved problem ending.

Rachel Parker, Kindergarten Show-Off by Ann Martin

Rachel Parker, Kindergarten Show-Off by Ann Martin would appeal to any child who has had issues with jealousy of another child. Almost everyone knows a person who seems to try and outshine and compete with them. Well, the two kindergarten girls in this story seem to try and outdo each other throughout the story. Olivia says she has a cat. Well, Rachel has a little sister. Rachel has a fun grandfather. Well, Olivia doesn't have to share her toys. You get the picture. Throughout the story the two girls seem to compete with the other, and it appears that they will not get along and be best friends. However, this all changes in the end when they help each other with difficult words while reading a book to the class.
I think that this book is one that children would enjoy because the language used in it is fun and almost child-like at times. It is as though a kindergarten student is narrating, which I think that is what the author is going for. I liked that aspect of the text.
The illustrations in this book were filled with color and details, and I really liked that. I also liked the fact that the characters were different races because it seems like that does not happen very frequently in childrens books that I have read so far. The facial expressions made me laugh at times because they looked very realistic when expressing strong emotions.
My mom's friend has a daughter who is in kindergarten, and my mom was invited to read to their class. She selected this book and recommended it to me because the kids seemed to enjoy it a lot. I would also pass on this recommendation to others!

Tabitha's Terrifically Tough Tooth by Charlotte Middleton

Tabitha's Terrifically Tough Tooth by Charlotte Middleton was also a new book to me. Overall, there were things I liked and did not like about this book.
In this story, a little girl named Tabitha has a wobbly tooth, and she she is trying to lose it. The plot is based on the different methods she uses to try and accomplish this. Some of the ways Tabitha tries to do this brought a smile to my face. It was a cute story. I think that children can relate to this book because they all lose their baby teeth, and this book puts a comical spin on it.
The illustrations in this book were average. They were made up of bright colors and there were large pictures. However, that was all I really noticed. I prefer less cartoon-like illustrations, but everyone has their own preference.

Dog Biscuit by Helen Cooper

This was my first time reading Dog Biscuit by Helen Cooper, and I am glad that I picked it out. There were many aspects of this book that I liked, but there were also a few small things that I didn't.
First of all, Dog Biscuit is a book about a little girl who eats a dog treat and believes she is turning into a dog. The plot intrigued me when I read the inside cover, and I was curious what the story would be like. Well, I thought the story was pretty good. It was entertaining, but I thought there was something missing. However, I'm not sure exactly what that is. An issue I had with the story was that some of the pages rhymed and others did not. I think this distracted me as a reader. The flow made me a little nervous while I read it. I am not typically a fan of rhyme, but I liked it on the pages it was used. I almost think it would have been more effective if she had done that throughout.
My favorite part of this book was the illustrations. They were phenomenal. The colors were bright and complimented each other. Also, the author combined text and illustrations at times. For example, a sentence would be made from words found in the picture. Another fun feature was that the text colors and size varied.
Another part of this book that I really liked was that the author included a recipe for "Human-Being Treats" at the end of the book which tied into the end of the story. I think that was very clever and something readers could do after reading the book. I believe this was an excellent idea that children would really like because it would connect the book to their lives in a new and exciting way.
I enjoyed reading this book, and I would recommend it to others. I am curious about the author's other books, and I believe I will look into her other books.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Superfudge by Judy Blume

Superfudge by Judy Blume is a creative, comical, and entertaining book to sit and relax with. I remember enjoying it when I was younger, and I think many others would feel the same.
Some reasons I believe this book is a good choice for middle to upper elementary readers is because the content is something they can identify with. In this specific book (it is a part of a series), Peter is the main character. During the novel, he faces many life changes. For example, his family moves to a new town and a new baby joins the family. Children reading this book may be able to relate to the situations that Peter faces and some may be his age. Peter also has a little brother, Fudge, who trouble seems to follow wherever he goes. This annoys Peter, but makes for many comical moments in Superfudge.
Another reason I believe Superfudge is a good choice for young readers is because the language and sentence structure would be easy for them to understand. The words used in the book are fairly common and would be easily recognizable for many children.
Family, friendship, and life changing events are all found in Judy Blume's novel Superfudge. Even if all readers do not identify with the characters, I believe they would still get a few laughs and enjoy this book. Superfudge is light-hearted and full of surprises, and I would also recommend the other books in this series.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Babushka's Doll by Patricia Polacco

Almost everyone has met a little girl who is overly demanding, impatient, and often inconsiderate of others feelings. I wish there was a way to show these children how their behavior is affecting others without telling them directly to knock it off. Well, Babushka's Doll by Patricia Polacco does just that.
Natasha, the main character, is spending time with her grandmother and is not being the ideal granddaughter. While her Babushka (grandmother) is trying to do some chores and take care of the animals on her farm, Natasha whines and complains demanding that Babushka stop at once and do something for her. Whatever it is, it simply cannot wait. It does not matter if Babushka is tired or busy because Natasha does not care. Sounds like someone needs to be taught a lesson. Luckily, Babushka has a way to do just that. When Natasha asks to play with one of her old dolls, she happily obliges and then steps out to run some errands.
In the next part of the book this doll comes to life and behaves just as badly, if not worse, than Natasha did previously. However, this time Natasha is in her grandmothers position. She is bossed around and the doll makes her tired and upset. Although this is a little predictable, I liked it. In the end, Natasha sees the error in her ways and tells Babushka how horrible the doll was.
This book clearly shows a role reversal and allows the character to see herself from a different perspective. This is something that children often times need to do. Therefore, I think this book would be an excellent choice to read to children or have them read. It teaches a lesson while at the same time it is entertaining.
As well as having a good story line, the illustrations are done in a fairly life-like way. There is a lot of white space, but the colors seem to pop. It looks are though a lot of consideration was used in regard to the facial expressions of the characters, and I really enjoyed looking at the illustrations.
I have no had many negative remarks regarding my picture book blogs this week because they have been some of my favorites. However, if I was to make a suggestion for this book, I would recommend showing the grandmothers perspective a little bit more.

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood

I will admit right away that I am very much in love with this book. I have been, and always will be. Therefore, you can expect no bad remarks when it comes to this entry.
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood is a classic children's book. It is geared towards a young audience and can be interpreted two ways. The first way (for younger children) is that Little Mouse needs to hide his strawberry from the big, hungry bear and the only way that will work is to eat it and share it with friends. The second way (for older children) can be interpreted as the narrator trying to scare little mouse by saying a bear is going to steal his strawberry and that Little Mouse must share the strawberry with narrator and that is the only way to keep it away from the bear. Personally, I prefer the way younger children would typically interpret the book.
This book is one that is great for activating through story drama . In fact, last semester I did this for my final assessment geared towards a kindergarten class (acting out the book as a class to help solve Little Mouse's problem). It went over really well. For younger children, this book has a lot of appealing pictures and words that they can read themselves.
The illustrations in this book are very detailed, and it adds a lot of visual interest. For example, the house Little Mouse lives in has various items that would be found in a real home. Also, in one picture, Little Mouse is showing movement and it actually looks as though that is the case.
This book is fairly short and does not have a ton of text, which is often a good thing sometimes for younger children. The illustrations are creative and carefully considered, and it is a imaginative plot that allows readers to feel as though they are in Little Mouse's position. If there is anyone interested in doing a story drama lesson for this book, let me know and I can post the lesson I used on the blog.

Rude Giants by Audrey Wood

Bright colors, detailed illustrations, and a little lesson on manners can all be found in Audrey Wood's book Rude Giants. In this story, Beatrix the butter maid has her cow (Gerda) stolen by the rude giants who moved into the castle on the hill and have been disturbing the towns people ever since. Beatrix must persuade the giants not to eat her dear cow, and she comes up with a very creative way to do so.
These giants are obviously rude, messy, lack manners, and appear to have been protesting any type of grooming rituals such as a bath. Beatrix helps the giants change their ways and changes their lives in the process. They are no longer the rude giants reeking havoc on the town because they have become kind neighbors who model appropriate behaviors. Is that a lesson I sense? Yes. Definitely.
Clearly, the book is promoting positive behaviors in a unique way. Instead of a story about children who are messy and refuse to take baths that are rude, the author decides to use characters that are not your everyday people. Giants. Who wants to read a book about rude kids who learn a lesson in hygiene? Maybe some. Who wants to read a book about rude GIANTS who make a huge transformation? A lot more people I would bet.
The illustrations are vivid. The bright colors combined with the facial expressions of the giants as well as attention to detail make for a very visually appealing book. You can almost grasp the story based on the pictures alone, and that is a hard thing to accomplish.
I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to show the importance of appropriate behaviors regarding cleanliness without coming across as giving a lesson (boring). After all, giants are imaginative and great characters.

I Am Really a Princess by Carol Diggory Shields and illustrated by Paul Meisel

The books I have chosen to blog about this week have been selected because they were books my mother used to read to me or authors she enjoyed that I grew to love. That being said, after she read me this book, I decided that I was really a princess.
How can a typical 7-year-old who has grown up with her parents and sister her whole life believe she is really a princess? Imagination.
In I Am Really a Princess by Carol Diggory Shields, a little girl is fed up with her family, her chores, and her life. She is convinced that she is really a princess, and she knows her true parents will be shocked to learn how she has been treated. What princess is expected to help around the house or follow the rules set in place by her parents? Every wish is attainable. There is not request too great. In fact, the world is a princesses kingdom. However, even if every wish is granted, there are some things that are more important than possessions. This book helps convey that message to readers in a light hearted and comical way.
I believe that this book is geared more towards young girls, but I also think boys could enjoy it as well. While the main character is imagining her life as a princess, there are numerous aspects of her life that would appeal to almost all children. Who wouldn't want a room with a secret passageway or a personal chef?
This book is one that children can read themselves, but I think the difficulty level may be too high for some young children. However, I believe they would enjoy the book if it was read to them. In order to do this book complete justice, it should be read with a lot of expression and voice.
Possibly one of my favorite aspects of this book are the illustrations done by Paul Meisel. They are extremely elaborate. There are numerous small details that contribute to a very descriptive picture. In fact, there are some that probably go overlooked the first time through.
Overall, I would recommend this book because of the creative and imaginative plot as well as the detailed illustrations.

If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff illustrated by Felicia Bond

One of my childhood favorite books was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, therefore, I was excited to see if this book held up to my high expectations. Luckily, I was not disappointed.
The very hungry moose was given a muffin. However, if you give a moose a muffin, he is going to keep asking for a lot more. The moose is an extremely impulsive yet fun character who has good intentions. How did I draw these conclusions? The illustrations combined with certain requests the moose makes.
Felicia Bond (the illustrator) seems to have carefully considered her portrayal of the moose. The moose's body language is friendly and he appears to be smiling in almost every picture. As I looked at the pictures, I couldn't help but feel as though the moose was kind and considerate.
Laura Joff Numeroff (the author) appears to have put some thought into what requests the moose makes that reveal a lot about the character himself. Of course, the moose seems a little demanding at times. However, I never had any negative feelings towards the character because he displayed numerous positive behaviors that readers, especially children, can learn from. For example, the moose tries to help the little boy and takes responsibility for his actions. When he notices the button is loose on a sweater he borrows, he fixes it. If he needs some help, he asks for the materials he needs. When he makes a mess, he cleans it up. These connections I have gathered may seem to be a stretch, but I think they are some redeeming qualities the moose possesses. While he may be impulsive and ask for a lot, they reveal that the moose means well.
Maybe I am a little biased because of my childhood love (which still exists) regarding If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but I believe this is a book that young children would enjoy reading or being read to. While they may need someone to point out that the moose is picking up his mess, helping the little boy, and asking not demanding for certain things he wants, I believe that regardless of this children would be entertained.