Thursday, May 30, 2013

Z is for moose by Kelly Bingham illustrated by Paul O Zelinsky

Alphabet books have always appealed to me.  Especially alphabet books that break the rules. One of the first I ever saw was What's inside The alphabet book by the wonderful Satoshi Kitamura and now I have Z is for Moose.

Moose is one of three voices in this book.  There is the reader who is begins with the traditional A is for Apple, B is for Ball, C is for Cat and so on.  There is Zebra who is marking his list as each alphabet character is introduced and there is Moose who is desperate to take centre stage much to the consternation of Zebra.

"D is for Moose.  Moose? no.  Moose does not start with D.  You are on the wrong page."

This book is complete nonsense and complete fun!  It is a book to share and read over and over but be warned you will need to use three voices.  Poor old moose tries everything to get noticed.  He hides in the I is for Ice cream, appears on the label of J is for Jar.  Finally we reach M is for ...  Poor old moose will he ever find a place to belong in this book?

Here is a video from the publisher.  Here is the web site from the illustrator which includes some teaching ideas.

You might also enjoy The wrong book by Nick Bland which explores a similar style employing characters who constantly interrupt the story.  We all enjoyed reading The Wrong book last week for National Simultaneous story time.  The app is also worth exploring.

Dot by Patricia Intriago

Have you seen the wonderful book Press Here by Herve Tullet?  Well here is another wonderfully innovative book called Dot by Patricia Intriago.  Intriago seems like the perfect name for the creator of this intriguing book.

Dot is filled with dots - and also filled with surprises.  Can you think how to illustrate a a page that says "This dot is yummy, this dot tastes bad."?

I was looking for a book to share with over 80 preschool visitors who came with their parents and siblings to see my library this week.  I read Open this little Book which was okay but I wish I had used Dot - it is a special book with deceptively simple black and white illustrations (and a few in colour).  I must also say the ending is utterly perfect.

I am going to make a collection on pinterest of really special picture books like Dot that simply cannot be categorized - picture books that make you go wow!  Another one to add to this would be 1 is for one which is a long time favourite of mine.

Here is some of the text from dot just to inspire you to look for this book and see how each page is illustrated.

Stop dot
Go dot
Slow dot
Fast dot
Up and down dots bounce around
Loud and quiet dots make different sounds.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tanglewood by Margaret Wild illustrated by Vivienne Goodman

I started my review of this CBCA Short listed book by looking at the subject headings assigned by the National Library here in Australia for Tanglewood.  My labels are quite different.  They have put Families, Fellowship and Trees.  Well at least we agree this is a book about trees or more specifically about one tree growing on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean.

One reviewer wrote :

This beautifully illustrated story does indeed discuss living and dying, loneliness, time and family, bravery and commitment, hope and determination

The text in this book seems very simple with the story of a tree on an island that is visited by a lone seagull but the message is profound.  The tree experiences a whole range of emotions which I think older children will certainly relate to.  The illustrations superb.  Moving from whole page to small boxes - square and rectangular they echo the emotions expressed by Margaret Wild. For example on the page :  "But nobody ever came."  there is a single white cloud in a huge sky of blue.

I am predicting this book will receive a prize in the CBCA awards but as you know I loved Herman and Rosie and I think The Coat is a special and important book and I am in awe of the work by Jackie French in A day to Remember so we will have to wait and see.

I am excited to read this book right across our school and it will be interesting to hear the reactions of the youngest children and compare these with the older students.  We will also look at other books about trees including The Great Kapok tree, A bear and a tree, and The Giving tree.  We might also look at some books about islands and spend a little time with Jonathon Livingston Seagull.

Here is a set of teaching notes.  Here is a short review.  In this blog a teacher shares his lesson content using Tanglewood.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lightning Jack by Glenda Millard illustrated by Patricia Mullins

Here is a book produced by two great Australian talents. Glenda Millard - author of the wonderful Silk series and Patricia Mullins who makes horses come to life through her energetic  illustrations made using tissue paper collage.  This book has been short listed for our 2013 CBCA Awards.

The story is told in a rhyme and at times I felt like I was reading a Banjo Paterson poem :

"Sam Tully eyed the brumbies at the muster in the park 
and among them as they galloped he saw one that stood apart
from the other colts and fillies, duns, dapples, browns and bays;
a stallion, black as midnight, on his brow a jagged blaze.
A gallant horse, a midnight horse,
a horse called Lightning Jack."

This book would make an excellent gift for an overseas friend.  It is filled with wonderful Australian references such as Ned Kelly, Phar Lap, stringybark trees and sulphur-crested cockatoos.  It would be wonderful to record someone like Jack Thompson reading this book aloud.

There is a terrific link between this book and The Carousel by Ursula Dubosarsky.  In our school library we have many other books illustrated by Patricia Mullins including one I especially love - the counting book One Horse waiting for me.  We will also revisit all the diverse and wonderful picture books written by Glenda Millard.  How special she must feel to have two books on the short list.

Tonight I made an amazing discovery.  Glenda Millard has quoted this blog ... my blog ... on her own web site!   I feel very honored.

I talked about Patricia Mullins and her horses when I reviewed Jerry in this blog - take a look.

Lulu Bell and the Birthday Unicorn by Belinda Murrell illustrated by Serena Geddes

Perhaps you have wondered from time to time how I come to select books to talk about in my blog.  Well this book has come to me in an interesting way. The Deputy Principal of my school has a friend who works for a publishing company. The author (via the publisher) has offered to visit our school to talk with the students.  As a bonus the illustrator - Serena Geddes will come too. This means I have had the chance to read the first two books in the Lulu Bell series before they are released.

Lulu Bell is a lucky girl because, just like the author Belinda Murrell, Lulu's dad is a vet.  This means their home is filled with animals.  It also means dad can help with any animal emergency and this is exactly what he does in in both books firstly with a horse that is on the run and then with a little penguin that is attacked by a dog.  This second book is set in our local area - near Manly Wharf.

I did enjoy Lulu Bell and the Birthday Unicorn more than Lulu Bell and the Fairy Penguin.  This was because in the Birthday Unicorn there were some good "oh no" moments.  I knew right from the beginning there would be a disaster with the fabulous mermaid birthday cake mum has made for Lulu's younger sister Rosie.  What I did not know was exactly how the cake would be wrecked.  I predicted trouble with the little brother Gus but I was wrong.  I certainly did not predict how a unicorn might attend the birthday party.

These books will appeal to little girls who are just starting to gain confidence with reading.  They might not stand the test of time but these two stories have enough warmth and humour to make a young reader smile.

Some questions we will ask Belinda when she visits our school -

1.  Which book did she write first?  The Birthday Unicorn or the The Fairy Penguin.
2.  Why does the illustrator always have a smaller font on the front cover of books?
3.  What is the name of the font you used for the chapter headings - we really like it?
4.  Did your dad really catch a horse as you described in the story?
5.  We imagined the horse running down The Wakehurst Parkway were you thinking of this too?

If you like the idea of living with a vet you will also enjoy Welcome to the bed and Biscuit and many of the animal books by Dick King Smith.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The real thief by William Steig

One lucky class at my school are participating in a simple pen pal project with some children from Pennsylvania.  Their generous teacher sent a box of goodies for the students which included some books for our school library.  I have talked about Dominic in a previous post which is a book their whole school will read and so the teacher sent me two more Steig titles - which is how I came to read The Real Thief.

Gawain the goose is appointed by the King to guard the royal treasure.

"He had been chosen for the post by King Basil the bear because of his upright and trustworthy character, and he had accepted because he couldn't possibly have refused.  He loved the rough, gruff, fatherly King. His heart warmed in the King's presence. He admired his strength. He loved the smell of honey on him, on his fur, on his robes, on his breath. He wanted to please him..."

Only two people hold the door key to this fortress - the King himself and Gawain.  Inside there are jewels, medallions, crowns, money and gems.

One day when the king goes to count his treasure he discovers there are only 8,643 rubies when there should be 8,672.  Who is to blame? Who is the thief?  Since it cannot be the King.  Gawain stands accused.  He is completely innocent but the judge at his unfair trial finds him guilty.  Gawain flees the court and hides away in a cave out in the countryside.  Meanwhile the real thief has a huge moral dilemma to resolve.  Should he confess or leave Gawain to suffer.

I read this short book in one sitting. It is a simple story which raises issues of important morality.  I especially love the way Steig uses such a rich vocabulary in his books.   Here are some of the wonderful words in this book :

malicious intent
pall of gloom

This book would be ideal for a deep philosophical discussion and here are some questions to help you gather your thoughts.