Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Library Thing

Yipee now you can see some sample covers from my Library Thing collection. I am working on a personal blog at the moment using Global Teacher and I am finding it much harder to navigate than this one here at Blogspot.

Today my Kindy children listened to a very old book The elephant and the bad baby. When I ask why did all the shop people chase the elephant I usually get two very predictable answers - because the elephant didn't pay or because the baby didn't say please. Today a very astute little girl suggested all those people might like a ride on the elephant too! I was delighted.

I always put a toy in my library bag in term one. So far we have had owls (Owl Babies), a hippo (Hippopotamus on the roof eating cake), a dragon (Knock Knock who's there) and today there was an elephant.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Margaret Mahy - some treasures

For many many years I have included the books of New Zealand author Margaret Mahy in my library program. This is for two reasons – one her terrific story telling and two the rich vocabulary she uses.

We started this term by reading Jam. Our copy is very small but using our scanner we have been able to project the lovely illustrations by Helen Craig so the children can appreciate the little humorous touches such has the father washing the dishes and then “he pegged them out to dry”. Or when the father refers to his three children, who are named Clement Castle, Clarissa Castle and Carlo Castle, as “the three little castles more like cottages really”. This also makes it possible to compare the Castle family before eating all the jam with the end of the story when a whole year of jam eating has passed.

Mahy is a master of the story twist. In jam it comes right at the end when the plums are ripe again and thus the cycle will continue with more disastrous results. In The Boy who was followed home there are two twists. As more and more hippos follow Robert home growing from one to four to nine to twenty seven and finally forty-three his father must find a solution. The answer is to find a witch. How do you find a witch? You use the telephone book of course. And when do witches arrive? At midnight of course, right on the broomstick hour and down the chimney. Mahy shows lovely restraint when she leaves the illustrations to show the final twist, simply stating Robert was pleased, very pleased indeed.

In The Boy who was Followed home there are words like reproachful, skulked and delighted

My favourite Mahy title where the vocabulary really shines is The Man whose mother was a pirate. Her description of the sea is magical. In The Pumpkin Man and the crafty Creeper there are words like sprawling, midsummer, humble, burrowed, dismayed, gratitude, obligingly and treacherous. There are so many fabulous books by this talented author look for them in your library you will not be disappointed.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Travels of Thelonious The Fog Mound by Susan Schade and Jon Buller

I have always been drawn to stories of the future where the world as we know it has been destroyed, usually for reasons not specified in the story, and the new community is some kind of utopia.

This is the basis of the plot for Travels of Thelonious The Fog Mound . As the cover states it is part graphic novel, part heroic fantasy and it’s an adventure like no other.

Up until now graphic novels have held no appeal for me but this one is a gem. Every second chapter is presented in graphic form and this works really well to move the story along. I also liked the way the print size in the graphic section was easy to read. I find some graphic novels have such tiny print they make me tired before I even begin to read. I would still really like to know why graphic novels are always in upper case though – I find this a little annoying.

In this book we meet some warm and quirky animal characters. Thelonious is a chipmunk, Fitzgerald is a porcupine, Olive is a bear and Brown is a lizard. All meet in the City of Ruins and begin an adventure to return to Fog Mountain the utopian society I mentioned in my opening.

Humans are gone but the animals, who now can talk and read, are making use of all the good things that have been left behind. For me this is the charm and the humour of this imaginative tale. When Thelonious arrives in the city has no clothes of course because he has come from the Untamed Forest. Fitzgerald takes him to a city toy store. Some of these dolls should have something that would fit you. This sweater looks like it might be about right. Don’t you think it makes me look like a girl? Naw, it’s unisex, you look great.” After this little exchange Thelonious turns back and says “Thanks Barbie I’ll take good care of it.”

You can see more of the charm of this story in this little extract. When the friends all arrive at Fog Mountain Olive’s mum makes food. “I watched … She put cow’s milk and shelled eggs and ground wheat flour in a bowl and mixed them all up. Then she dropped blobs of the stuff on a hot pan and turned them over so they were browned on both sides. She called them pancakes. Olive put berries and maple syrup on top of the pancakes and we ate them, and they were delicious!”.

The sequel is called Faradawn Fog Mountain 2 and I am really looking forward to reading it. This book would be a terrific read for children in Years 2-5.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Daisy Dawson by Steve Voake

So many junior novels intended for children aged 6 to 8 are based around a controlled vocabulary and not a great story so I always enjoy finding a little junior chapter book with a great story such as Daisy Dawson. The premise the gift of talking to animals bestowed because of a kindness is not a new one but the author Steve Voake manages to capture a personality for each animal and he puts an effective ‘gasp’ type twist near the end.

Daisy helps a butterfly out of a spider web and as it flies away she “blinked as the butterfly swooped low past her face, brushing her cheek gently with the tip of its wing. Then it rose once more into the warm air”.

Another feature of this book is the lovely use of language with words such as fizzed, astonishment, satchel, hitched, pirouetted and disdainfully. The author is not talking down to the young reader and he is not afraid to compose more complex sentences.

My favourite character is the squirrel who is working as a spy. His name is delightful – Cyril the Squirrel.

This little treasure will stand beside Mikes Magic Seeds; O’Diddy; Poor Fish and Oliver Sundew Tooth Fairy as a great little early chapter book that I will happily recommend to my students.

I will look out for the second Daisy Dawson book.