Sunday, November 29, 2009

1001 Children's books you must read before you grow up Preface by Quentin Blake

What a tempting title for a Teacher-Librarian who certainly has not yet ‘grown up’ 1001 Children's books you must read before you grow up.

How did I approach this 960 page book?
Well first of all I just flipped through the pages. Then as more and more of my personal favorites appeared I began to wonder who selected these 1000 titles? All is revealed on the last five pages. From Australia, for example, there are three very well respected book reviewers such as Ann James, Jo Goodman and Dr Belle Alderman. Other nations have also employed their very best people.

What is inside 1000 children’s books you must read?
Well there are 5 chapters organized by age Chapter 1 is ages 0-3, Chapter 2 is ages 3+; Chapter 4 is ages 8+ and Chapter 5 is ages 12+ (although I think many are really suitable for Upper Primary.) Within the chapters the books are organized chronologically by date of publication.

Which books do I love?
Many of these are part of our regular library program.
Chapter One Goodnight Moon, Each peach pear plum, The elephant and the bad baby, Elmer, Kipper and Owl babies

Chapter Two Eloise, Harry the dirty Dog, Where the wild things are, Corduroy, Morris’s disappearing bag, Peace at Last, Avocado baby, Possum Magic, Felix and Alexander, Winnie the Witch, Owl Moon, Frog is Frog, Lost and found, and Max

Chapter Three Caps for sale, Flat Stanley, The giving tree, Joseph’s Yard, John Brown, Rose and the midnight cat, The lighthouse keeper’s lunch, Cloudy with a chance of meatballs, Jumanji, The Paper bag Princess, If you give a mouse a cookie, The Polar Express, My Place, Drac and the Gremlin, The true story of the Three little pigs by A Wolf, Henry and Amy, Fox, and Flotsam

Chapter Four The hundred dresses, Stuart Little, The little white horse, The lion the witch and the wardrobe, James and the giant peach, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, From the mixed up files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, Mrs Frisby and the rats of NIMH, Conrad the story of a factory made boy, Bridge to Terabithia, Goodnight Mr Tom, Sarah Plain and Tall, Journey to Jo’burg, Redwall, The snow spider, Two weeks with the Queen, Bill’s new frock, Shiloh, The giver, 45 and 47 Stella Street, Clockwork, The view from Saturday, Fire bed and bone, Because of Winn Dixie, Mortal engines, Journey to the River Sea, The naming of Tishkin Silk, Utterly me, Clarice Bean, The tale of Despereaux, Wolf Brother, The invention of Hugo Cabret.

I was so happy to see so many of my favourite books and to see such a match with my Library Thing collection which I designed to reveal the 100 hidden treasures of a Primary School Library.

I highly recommend this fabulous book to anyone interested in books for children. Start with the end papers they are very special. Then go along to your library and borrow the books you read about - we have heaps of them in our school library! One more thing this is not just a book for the grown ups it would be a great resource for children too.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Naming of Tishkin Silk, Layla Queen of Hearts, Perry Angel's suitcase, All the colours of Paradise by Glenda Millard

There are some books where the words are like golden honey spread onto warm fresh bread. That is how I feel about all four books about the Silk family by Glenda Millard. In reading order these, almost spiritual books, are The Naming of Tishkin Silk, Layla Queen of Hearts, Perry Angel’s suitcase and the newest title All the colours of Paradise.

In The Naming of Tishkin Silk we meet Griffin. At his naming ceremony his Daddy had said “We welcome you to the Silk family and offer you the name of Griffin William Silk. May you rise up on wings as the eagle and may your heart have the courage of a lion.” Naming page 63

Griffin has five rainbow sisters- Scarlet, Indigo, Violet, Amber and Saffron. Each child in the family has a special name day book with a cover carved by their father Ben and pages of paper made by their mother Annie. Layla is a very special girl who makes friends with Griffin after his first harrowing day at school. “It wasn’t Layla’s smile or her cheerful greeting or her blue, blue eyes or even her shiny black hair that made Griffin come out from under the tree. It was the daisy chain that she wore like a crown on her head…. ‘I’m pleased to meet you Princess Layla,’ he said gravely, offering his hand to the Princess. ‘I’m Griffin Silk.’” Naming page 19, 21

Another very special character in these books is the family dog called Blue. In the second book Layla needs someone special to take for Senior Friends day. She meets Miss Amelie and Layla is able to give this elderly lady unconditional love and happiness in the last few weeks of her life. “Blue saw Layla’s distress. He moved his head, left a warm patch on the old one’s lap for her and watched the comforting begin. He knew the girl was in safe hands. The old one had a kind heart. She had rescued him at birth; unwanted, deaf and the runt of the litter, and had treated him like one of her own ever since. And his boy was a fine boy. He too had loved him from the beginning. It was no surprise to Blue when Griffin put his arms around Layla.” Layla page 84

Finally in the family we have Nell, the most magical of grandmothers and a very special little foster boy called Perry Angel.

My favourite scenes in these books are the special picnic’s and breakfasts held under the Coxon’s Orange Pippin which is an old apple tree in the garden. In All the Colours of Paradise Indigo makes the breakfast and decorations. “Indigo’s world was sensational. Hanging from the stooping boughs of the apple tress were hundreds of tiny blue and purple paper cranes. Even the tiniest puff of wind made them sway gently to and fro. From a distance they looked like butterflies.” Paradise page 74

These four little books are written for very sensitive readers. They are filled with poetic language, love, sadness, laughter, beauty and warmth. These books should never go out of print and should be read by mature readers who love fine words and aspire to live in a world like The Kingdom of Silk. If you loved Sarah Plain and Tall (Patricia MacLachlan), if you cried in Sadako and the Thousand paper cranes (Eleanor Coerr), if you treasure Hana’s suitcase (Karen Levine), if Old Pig (Margaret Wild) touched your heart then these four books, by Glenda Millard illustrated by Stephen Michael King, are meant for you.

To quote Maurice Saxby who praises The Naming of Tishkin Silk “A poetic paean of hope offering home and sanctuary to troubled souls of any age and any generation. This book nourishes the soul.”

One final quote to show the honey of this writing. This is one of my favourite descriptions : “(The Silk Road) meandered between the paddocks, a generous ribbon of gravel with a mean smear of bitumen up the middle and dribbling off the edges. Clumps of blowfly grass and scaly grey lichens trespassed undisturbed on the road’s ragged borders.” Naming page 16

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart

Here is the sequel to The mysterious Benedict Society. The book reviews quoted inside the cover of this second installment really sum up this wild adventure. “There are plenty of clever twists and hair’s-breadth escapes.” This book certainly had me on the edge of my seat several times and I needed to keep reassuring myself that these children would survive even though some of the situations seemed so utterly perilous.

Before you embark on this series take some time to explore the web site it is marvelous. I took the challenge and found out I am most like Reynie!

Another great feature of this book is the way our four heroes are all growing up and learning new skills. Constance, the youngest, makes huge leaps in this second book and the sneek peek at the end promises more for Constance who will then be four years old. We also see the special friendship between these four friends grow and flourish. They all work so well as a team and have strong understandings of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Kate has also improved her bucket which is once again employed to rescue the children from dire situations.

Essentially in this adventure the children have to follow a series of very, very complex clues as they try to reach their beloved Mr Benedict. He is looking for a very rare plant called a duskwort which will cure Mr Benedict of his narcolepsy or sleeping problem. Of course Mr Curtain, the evil twin, is also after this miracle cure and so the dangerous chase is on. Mr Curtain’s Hench men, called Ten Men, are truly terrifying. They have briefcases filled with deadly stationery items such as pencil darts.

Of course I also need to mention Sophie the Librarian. “A cheerful looking young woman with lustrous blond hair and hazel eyes …. (then the ten men attack her) They made me unconscious… they did not understand how we organise the library…. I shouted at them as they left: ‘It is a free and public library! All you had to do was ask!’”

There is a great deal of recapping in this book so a reader could probably enjoy the story without reading the first installment but I am certain on reading book two everyone will then go back and find book one.

If you liked The series of Unfortunate Events then try this series. Next stop Book Three!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

This is a very curious book. I am not sure if it really is aimed at Primary level and yet there is no reason why a Year 5 or Year 6 student should not read it. The whole book is written as a diary in a handwriting font and all in capital letters and at first I found this slightly annoying but once I was caught up in the story I hardly noticed.

Our hero Ryan lives in Skeleton Creek a place where something truly sinister has happened at the old disused gold dredge. The really intriguing part of this book is you can see it all for yourself. Ryan is stuck at home with a broken leg after his terrifying accident but he manages to stay in touch with Sarah via email. Ryan’s gift is writing – he needs to write things down to make sense of them while Sarah needs visual clues and so she records everything on her video camera.

As you read this book you are directed to go to and using the passwords that are supplied you can join Ryan and Sarah as they try to solve this intriguing mystery which involves murder, ghosts and high level corruption. So this book becomes a real partnership between the characters, the reader and the internet. The publisher has a role too because you can't see the videos without the passwords and you need THE BOOK! to see these!!

"The dredge is a crucial part of the town's dreary past. It sits alone and unvisited in the deepest part of the dark woods. The dredge, we discovered, was a terrible machine. Its purpose was to find gold and its method was grotesque. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the dredge sat in a muddy lake of its own making. It dug deep into the earth and hauled gargantuan buckets of stone and debris into itself. Nothing escaped it relentless appetite. Everything went inside the dredge.... and then it was all spit out behind in piles of rubble ten feet high." page 20

Of course I do need to add that this is just book one in a series and it does end on a real cliff hanger but I am very keen to read book two. Recommended for Senior primary readers.