Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The ferry birds by Helen Dunmore illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

When you see seagulls flying beside a ferry do you ever wonder where they are going?  Do the seagulls simply travel back and forth with the ferry all day?  In The Ferry Birds by Helen Dunmore flocks of turnstones, birds that are related to sandpipers, spend their days travelling from one side of the harbour to the other.  Jago and his mum catch this same ferry when they regularly visit Great-Gran.  

When she was young Great-Gran was a pilot and Jago likes to try on her flying jacket and goggles when his visits. 

Then Jago discovers the truth about the turnstones. They travel from shore to shore collecting feathers and fine pieces of seaweed.  This is woven into a net and can be used to fly any traveler who needs to fly to the far north. Jago needs to make this journey to see his dad.  He is away exploring the rocks to find precious metals. Late at night the turnstones visit Jago and so his adventure begins.  You can probably guess what happens but somehow this is still quite a magical story.  The illustrations are perfect. You can almost touch the feathers on these special birds.

This book was inspired by a true story :
"For six years two Turnstones caught the 8.15 ferry from Falmouth to St Mawes crossing the Fal Estuary, a journey of three miles, they returned on the 5.15.  They were nick-named Freddy and Freda by the skipper and became famous worldwide for this extraordinary behaviour, featuring in the Daily Mail and Telegraph."

I found this book in Cornwall when I visited a lovely bookshop. I was looking for books by local authors.  We do have books by Helen Dunmore in our school library. She is the author of the Ingo series.  Another author from Cornwall is Liz Kessler author of the Emily Windsnap series. 

Driftwood dragons and other seaside poems by Tyne Brown illustrated by Tamara Thiebaux Heikalo

There are many reasons I need to mention this book.  I do not have enough poetry books in my blog, I live near the sea and my school and school library are near the sea.  The ocean forms a major backdrop to the childhood of every child who visits my library and finally a large part of my recent trip was spent near the sea on the East Coasts of America and Canada and the south coast of England.

The author of this book, Tyne Brown, lives in Nova Scotia.  Driftwood Dragons and other seaside poems is a collection of 34 poems covering many different aspects of the seaside experience from whales, to the moon, the sand and the waves. 

Here is one about clouds – it paints a lovely word picture :

Shape Shifters

drift, shift,
spread, lift,
zoom, loom,
scud, plume,
curl, swirl,
roll, twirl,
sweep, heap,
wisp and creep.
But when those
Shape shifters,
Snow spreaders,
Hail shedders
Disappear –
The sailing is clear!

This book also has gentle wash illustrations by Tamara Thiebaux Heikalo.

The final poem in the collection is one that really speaks to me.  Here is an extract :

Touch a Wish

….If you could touch a poem,
A wish, a hope a song,
Would you touch them gently,
Let them go where they belong?
If you could hear the sunrise
As it spreads above the sea,
What a different kind of world
This world would surely be.

Here is a review of this book. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mud Puddle by Robert Munsch

The Paperbag Princess is a treasured book in my reading repertoire but did you know Robert Munsch has written fifty books?  One that I discovered on my recent trip to Canada was Mud Puddle.  

While I was in Halifax I visited their fabulous children’s bookshop called Woozles. Each week a staff member walks to the nearby gardens for a pr- school story time so I tagged along and listened while Nadine read Mud Puddle.  I love to read books like this to Kindergarten. I might even take along a jar of mud when I read it!

This book made me think of another book I used to read to classes called Dreadful David by Sally Odgers.  In Mud Puddle Julie Ann has lovely outdoor plans for her day, she dresses carefully and steps outside to relax under the apple tree.  Julie Ann does not know that a mud puddle lurks in the tree just waiting to jump on her head!  Julie Ann races back inside where her mum drops her into the bathtub.  When she is clean all over Julie Ann carefully puts on a fresh set of clothes and heads outside to the sandbox.  She does not see the mud puddle lurking on the roof of her house.  And so the pattern continues. 

Mud Puddle is a book about problem solving and perseverance. Julie Ann is not defeated by this pesky mud puddle, she will not give in and stay inside.  Her solution is simple and ingenious. 

I found a readers theatre presentation and a great audio version.  Also if you can find Dreadful David in your library grab it too!

Goldilocks and just one bear by Leigh Hodgkinson

Even after years and years of reading and collecting picture books I still treasure the way their creators can say so much in with a brief text.  Picture books often feel like poems.  This one does.

Here is a well known opening line “Once upon a time”. You have heard this before but it is the next four words that really set the tone for this hilarious story.  “Once upon a time, there was this bear.”  The word that stands out for me is “this”.  It could say “a bear” or “the bear” or “my bear”.  Can you see how each small words completely changes the tone and emphasis of this beginning?

So who is this bear?  Yes we have met him before.  He has been lolloping in the woods – another fabulous word and now he hasn't a “crumb-of-a-clue” where he is.  Bear feels scared and uncomfortable so he seeks solace in the nearest high rise city block called “Snooty Towers”.  If you have not read the title of this book the youngest reader might now begin to recognise links with a familiar tale as our bear hero needs to sit down and perhaps find a spot of porridge.

Here we have Goldilocks and the Three bears part two.  Reading this romp bought to mind another favourite topsy turvey version of the Goldilocks story that I love to share with children – Somebody and the three Blairs by Marilyn Tolhurst. Just as an aside to the review at hand,  it is fun to see at which age children appreciate the humour of Somebody and the three Blairs.  Age five can be a little bit too young when listeners do not like to hear changes to the story line but by age six or seven I can barely read this book aloud for all the laughter especially when we see Somebody trying to drink from the small pond which is in fact the toilet!

I have not had the chanced to read Goldilocks and just one bear to a young audience but do I like it even more than Somebody and the three Blairs,  probably because of the ingenious twist at the end.  I will not spoil your delight. 

Another aspect of this book that I loved is the rich and delicious vocabulary it contains.  Words like owl-hooting, tickety-boo, pleasant, scoffing and plonked along with the zany illustrations and various fun fonts.

One final piece of advice : Take your time when you open this book there are things to discover right from the beginning including a terrific “to do” list written by the young Goldilocks.  Also Leigh Hodgkinson has a marvelous web site and based on my enjoyment of this book I will eagerly seek out others by this talented UK author/illustrator.  You can find reviews of more 'fractured fairy tale picture books" here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dear Fairy Godmother by Michael Rosen illustrated by Nick Sharratt

Well it has been way too long since I shared my reading on my blog.  No real excuses except for an extended trip overseas which included the fabulous IBBY Congress, followed by massive computer issues which are now resolved in the form of a new machine!

I have read so many books and over the next few weeks I will try to share as many of them as I can starting with a terrific picture book I purchased from the bookseller at the IBBY Congress. I have chosen to start with this because I seem to have purchased quite a few post modern picture books that use fairy tales as their basis.  Also this one is by Michael Rosen and he spoke at the IBBY Congress and I found the courage to actually speak to him.  If you know the book Hairy Tales and Nursery Crimes (long out of print sadly) then it will make sense to know I said to Michael Rosen that I like to drink orange wash and I keep food in my sneezer!  Michael's presentation at the Congress was energetic, thought-provoking and utterly fabulous.

Dear Fairy Godmother is a lift the flap book but don’t let this device mislead you … this is a great read for all the family and for readers themselves from pre-school to upper primary.  The structure is quite simple. Each well known fairy tale character such as The Gingerbread Boy, the Giant, the Ugly Duckling and so on writes a letter to the Fairy Godmother seeking her advice.

Here is an example that made me smile
Dear Giant No wonder he keeps running away if you keep shouting FEE FI FO FUM! It’s really scary! Try saying Fum fee fo fi come and try my apple pie … and see what happens."

Another of the fairy tale books I bought is Goldilocks and just the one bear by Leigh Hodgkinson.  More on this one next time.  Also on the horizon I will talk about the Tillerman books by Cynthia Voigt which I have recently revisited and thoroughly enjoyed.