Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pippo the fool by Tracey E Fern illustrated by Pau Estrada

If you are taking a holiday to far away destinations in Europe consider reading this book first.  It will give a child in grades 2-5 a better appreciation of the amazing architecture they will encounter on your travels.

Pippo lives in Florence.  A competition is announced - "To design a dome for the cathedral".

Little Pippo - who is known as Pippo the fool loves to sketch amazing structures and intricate machines.  Pippo knows if he can win this competition it will mean he can loose his awful nickname but he has a serious rival - Lorenzo Ghiberti.

Pippo shows that hard work, self belief, determination and above all creative thinking are the best ways to solve a problem.  While Lorenzo struts around the city boasting taunting Pippo, he simply gets on with the job.

Pippo the fool is based on the true story of the man who designed and built the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore.  There are details at the back of this book about his life and also notes from the illustrator which are well worth reading. If you need to know a little more about the plot for Pippo the Fool take a look at this detailed review. The author also has a web site.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The small aventure of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara O'Connor

Think of Tom Sawyer with a small dash of  Pippi Longstocking and you have The small adventure of Popeye and Elvis.

I read this book in one sitting.  I picked up this book because I recently watched the movie of How to Steal a dog.  I was keen to read another story by Barbara O'Connor.  I am smiling right now because I am so happy I read this book - it is fabulous.

Popeye lives with grandmother Valma in South Carolina.  Life is dull and boring.

Popeye is so named because he has one good eye and one bad eye - the result of an accident back when he was three. Valma holds onto her fragile sanity by reciting the kings and queens of England in alphabetical order.  She has a lot to contend with.  Popeye's father lives far away, his mother comes and goes and her other son Dooley is unemployed and constantly in trouble with the law.

"Everyday the same
So what if the rain stopped? Popeye thought.
It would still be boring.
It would always be boring in Fayette, South Carolina.
Every day would always be the same.
Popeye was certain about that.
But Popeye was wrong."

One day a large motor home arrives.  It has become bogged in the gloppy red mud and the giant wheels are sunk deep down.

Life has been so dull for Popeye but now the adventures can begin because living in this motor home is the most amazing family including Elvis - the oldest boy.  Popeye and Elvis set out to find adventures.

Valma teaches Popeye a new word each week.  Barbara O'Connor uses these as a story device and she includes a dictionary definition as each word helps Popeye make sense of the excitement that comes from meeting this family and of making a new friend.

"Popeye couldn't help but notice how different Elvis was from all the others. 
Elvis was taciturn
taciturn: adjective; reserved or uncommunicative in speech, staying little
All the others were loquacious
loquacious: adjective; talkative."

There are so many delights in the language of this book.  I adore words like : bajillion, qualm, whoop and dang.

You can watch a brilliant trailer for this book on the author web site.  Here is a comprehensive set of teaching notes.  Here is a detailed review from the School Library Journal which is well worth reading.

There are boats in this book made from Yoo-Hoo milk cartons - see below. I have also included an alternate cover.  This book would be an excellent read-aloud for a middle primary class.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dragon loves penguin by Debi Gliori

The best stories of all are the ones we share with our loved ones.  Stories that relate to your own family such as the story of the day you were born. Dragon loves penguin is a story just like this. It is warm and affirming and has a most surprising twist at the end.

"Please ...' says Bib, 'can I have a story? The one about the dragons?'
'Oh, Bib,' sighs his mummy, 'just one story, and then it's night, night, sleep tight.'
'Don't let the frost bite' says Bib, snuggling in."

Perhaps these will become your new night time words...

What do penguins and dragons have in common?  They both lay eggs. At the end of winter one dragon has no egg.  The others have eggs of all sizes and colours.  The She Dragon flies away to the land of ice and snow where she discovers an egg but when it hatches this little one is quite different from all the others.

We have fifteen books by Debi Gliori in our school library.  I am not sure why I haven't included at least one in this blog.  I especially enjoy reading Penguin Post to our Grade One students.

You might also enjoy Fey Mouse by Hazel Edwards or Are you my mother? by PD Eastman or The Ugly Duckling.

Here is the author web site.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The name at the end of the ladder by Elena De Roo

I always enjoy books set in the future involving draconian controls imposed by a corrupt government. The name at the end of the ladder only hints at this but I did enjoy the premise that names are dangerous and so children have to wait until they turn twelve when they can 'choose' a name.  I say 'choose' because it seems there really is no choice.  The authorities or Investigators have created a safe name list and even though they give lip service to the idea of matching the name with the child this clearly is not really their practice.

"Here at the Name Bank we pride ourselves on our efficiency.  We'll have a name chosen for you in no time at all... He sounded friendly enough but September's gut told her otherwise. The words 'chosen for you' and 'assigned' didn't sound promising."

Until the age of twelve children are named by the month of their birth and so as this story opens September has just turned twelve and so she has an appointment with The Name Bank.  This appointment does not go well but as she is leaving, September, opens a lolly wrapper and reveals the words :

Play the game to choose your name!
Collect your prize from basement level 4, room 449."

September does indeed have to play the game. She plays the game using herself as a counter.  It is a game like snakes and ladders and after each turn the player is presented with a tuning fork and a new name.  Each of these names has severe consequences for September and then she realizes to reach the final square, where the perfect name awaits her,  the player must throw the exact number.  She hears the voices of other children and realizes they are trapped in the game.  Time is running out.  She has some help from a boy called August who is also playing this game but so much depends on that final roll of the dice.  Her father would be a brilliant ally after all he works for the Council of Knowledge but she is afraid to tell him the truth.

Here is a set of teaching notes from the publisher.  Here is the author web site.  You might also enjoy The Museum of Thieves, Finding Serendipity, Among the Hidden or Forbidden Memories.

If you enjoy fast paced action, board games, solving puzzles, the triumph of good over evil and strong-minded characters like September you will enjoy The Name at the end of the Ladder.

Little Mist by Angela McAllister illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies

Little Mist - this is the perfect name of our new baby snow leopard. His mother takes him out of the den and together they explore the world.

"Just now you are a little heartbeat of the mountain .. a tiny smudge in the snow .. but one day... "

This is a simple story about the wonders of our world and the wonders of growing up.  You can almost touch the snow leopards in these beautiful illustrations by Sarah Fox-Davies.  This is a book to share with a very young child but it also a book for everyone who has a fascination for the natural world.

I have included other books you can find in our library illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies.  One I especially recommend is Little Beaver and the echo - a magical picture book.

Fiddlesticks by Sean Taylor illustrated by Sally Anne Garland

Have you ever been so frustrated you just needed to YELL!  Poor little mouse. His house is almost perfect but one window just needs a tiny adjustment.  Unfortunately this tiny movement of the window leads to a chain reaction of disasters.

Before you read any words in this book why not simply go through the whole story looking at the pictures - especially mouse's face which perfectly reflects each disaster.


His friends try to so hard to help but, with his house almost totally destroyed, mouse simply has to walk away in despair.  Luckily the end of the story will give everyone a huge reason to smile again.

Here is the author web site.  If you need to read more of the plot dip into this review.  You might also enjoy No Place like home.

Friday, July 10, 2015

There's a lion in my cornflakes by Michelle Robinson illustrated by Jim Field

A friend a I recently visited a museum display of the theme of toys from the past. One area that caught our eye was a collection of the little toys that came in cereal boxes.  My friend pointed out how much breakfast conflict these little plastic objects created but luckily in There's a lion in my cornflakes there is no time for arguments because our two intrepid siblings desperately need 100 tokens to claim their FREE lion! And of course there is only one token in each box.

After weeks of munching cornflakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner the boys send in their tokens. Alas this is a case of buyer beware.  The boys have not read the 'small print'. While all their friends are enjoying their lions, Dan and his brother arrive home to find quite a different animal has been delivered.  Mr Flaky Ltd sends a letter of apology and the promise of a different reward but once again no lion.  The disasters continue until we reach the wonderful twist at the end.

You could play a great game with this book - the publisher has kindly supplied 100 free lion coupons.

The illustrator web site includes a terrific book trailer (listen at the end for the 'buyer beware' warning) and some original sketches plus excellent insights into the creative processes Jim Field went through when designing this book. You can also find some activities on the author web site.

This book made me think of a title from the Aussie Bites series called Nathan and the ice rockets.