Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lulu's mysterious mission by Judith Viorst illustrated by Kevin Cornell

There was never any doubt I would love Lulu's Mysterious Mission.  I am a huge fan of Lulu.  Take a look at my review of her first two outings -  Lulu and the Brontosaurus and Lulu walks the dogs.

In this episode we have a new illustrator in Kevin Cornell but this does not detract from the fun. (Lane Smith illustrated the first two installments.)

"Lulu's dad explained that as much as they loved and adored their precious only child, they wanted to have - for the first time since they'd been parents - a private grown-ups-only vacation together.  And that even though they wouldn't be having the kind of fun they had with her fabulous Lulu, they would be having a DIFFERENT kid of fun."

Mum and Dad are going and so Lulu will need a babysitter.  Lulu is not happy. Let me say that another way Lulu is NOT happy.  Lulu is a plotter and so she devises all sort of plans to drive this babysitter away.  Oddly no matter how hard she tries Ms Solinsky is always one step ahead of her.

This book will make you laugh out loud.  You will cheer for our hero Lulu and admire her amazing babysitter.  Be warned you will probably read this book quite quickly then I recommend reading it all over again just for fun.

I love the use of white space, the whole page announcement of each chapter, the use of different fonts and even the colour of the paper!

"Eeny meeny miney mo, that babysitter's got to go
Hot or cold or sun or snow, that babysitter's got to go
Soon, not later; fast not slow, that babysitter's got to go
Up and down and to and fro, that babysitter's got to go
Forehead, belly, knee and toe, that babysitter's got to go
Ha-ha-ha and ho-ho-ho, that babysitter's GOT TO GO."

Wanted : The Perfect Pet by Fiona Roberton

No ducks were harmed in the 
making of this book

This quote comes from the dedication on the first page and perfectly sets the tone for this funny yet poignant book.

In the spirit of Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, Charlie's Checklist by Rory Lerman  and A pet for Mrs Arbuckle by Gwenda Smyth,  in Wanted : The perfect Pet our hero Henry advertises for his ideal companion but he doesn't quite get the pet he expects.

He wants a dog "with floppy ears and a waggy tail, and a soft wet nose, and a warm fury tongue. A dog that can catch balls that I throw, that can learn fantastic new tricks and that I can chase around trees."  Henry places a detailed advertisement in his local paper The Daily Catastrophe.  When you turn to this page take time to read the other ads - free enchanted mirror, a woodcutter with axe and a time machine.

Meanwhile a duck with no name living all alone far way at the top of a hill picks up his newspaper and reads the advertisement.  Duck is not a dog but this does not deter him.  He makes a disguise and heads off to visit Henry.  Oddly Henry finds his 'dog' is not very good at catching balls, learning tricks or chasing games.  Then all is revealed.

Now comes the beautiful, emotional turning point.  On discovering Duck is a duck Henry takes him home, they share a cup of tea and Henry works on some research.  He makes a list of all the special qualities of ducks.  

'So you might not be a dog' said Henry happily, 'but you are certainly not JUST a duck. In fact, you might just be The Perfect Pet for me.'

There is so much to discuss with a book like this.  The inclusion of the newspaper page, the labelled diagram of the perfect dog, whole page illustrations which contrast with pages of tiny pictures showing duck and his desperate attempts to act like a dog.  Here are some teacher notes.  This book has been in our library for a long time so I must thank the teacher who bought it to my attention earlier this year.

Good news there is a sequel to this book called The Perfect Present which you can also find in our school library.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

NSW School Magazine Bookshelf titles 2014

I have mentioned our NSW School Magazines in previous posts.  The final issues of the four magazines contain an index and I took a moment to review the books which were featured each month on their Bookshelf pages.    I do find this list is a terrific source of books to read.  Each year there are forty books featured.  Many are titles I am sure I would not discover if they did not appear as part of this selection.

Here are some I have previously reviewed:

The No. 1 Car spotter and the Firebird
Definitely no Ducks!
Book Uncle and me
Timmy Failure : Mistakes were made
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Flora & Ulysses
A very peculiar plague
The four seasons of Lucy McKenzie
Mysterious traveller
Wolf and Dog

Right now I am reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Creatures of Magic - watch this blog for a review coming soon.  You might like to read an interview with the Australian Author Maree Fenton-Smith.

Other titles featured in the magazines this year which I enjoyed but have not yet blogged are :
The Matchbox Diary, Journey and Fortunately the Milk,

Because of Mr Terupt by Rob Buyea

For a few months I have been reading a conversation about this book online. Opinions have ranged from high praise to readers who find all sorts of story faults.  The discussion made me curious so I bought this book for our school library.  We will add this title to our Year Six only loan category because it does contain a few mature concepts.

Because of Mr Terupt was published in 2010 so it is not a new book but it was new to me.

If you have read Adam Canfield of the Slash, The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary, or The View from Saturday you will be familiar with the format used in this book where each chapter explores a different voice.

In this story there are seven students in the class.  Actually I am sure there must be more than seven students but we do not meet them or hear about them.  Mr Terupt is a new and very special teacher. Each student has 'issues'.

Girls - Jessica is new and adjusting to her parents separation, Anna is an intelligent but shy girl with a family history that makes her the outcast.  Alexia is the 'cool' girl but maintaining this means she is a bully.

Boys - Luke is the class brain who enjoys thinking challenges especially the one called 'dollar words', Peter is the class clown and joker, and Jeffrey has a deep and very sad secret which makes him a loner.

Over the course of the year Mr Terupt and his students make discoveries about themselves and about each other.  We know from the beginning, though, that disaster is coming.

The school year is marked by the months and by the different assignments the students complete including counting the number of blades of grass in the whole soccer field.

I did enjoy Because of Mr Terupt but I recommend trying to read the book in a short time.  It is quite easy to lose track of the seven voices.  There is a sequel but it is more appropriate for an older audience.

Here is the author web site where you can see a list of all the awards this book has won.  You might enjoy a  trailer based on the book blurb.  Here is a better one - students in US schools make trailers as book responses and this one is well done.  Here is a set of very detailed teaching notes.  If you need a further idea - Anna always has a book in her hand.  Her reading list is excellent and these books would be popular in a senior primary classroom.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The cat, the dog, Little Red, the exploding eggs, the wolf and Grandma's wardrobe by Diane and Christyan Fox

Warning this is a seriously FUNNY book!  Start on the first page - the end papers :

Dog - "What's this page for?" 
Cat -  "It's called the end paper, but it always comes at the beginning."

The cat, the dog, little Red, the exploding eggs, the wolf and Grandma's wardrobe - all sounds a bit complicated to me.  Actually it is not all that complicated for an intrepid reader who is well versed in the story of Little Red Riding Hood and this is the essence of the humour here.  Dog has no knowledge of this famous story and so he interrupts cat at every turn.

Cat "It's a story about a little girl who always wears a red cloak with a hood."
Dog "COOL I love stories about superheroes.  What's her special power?"

The book becomes a conversation between cat and dog.  Cat grows increasingly frustrated by dog as he jumps into to ask questions such as 'What is a dainty"  The handwritten text and simple dog and cat line drawings add to the fun.

My favourite line comes near the end as dog attempts to summarize the story of Red Riding Hood.  "It's not a very nice story, is it?  Are you absolutely sure this is a children's book?"

Here is a trailer from Scholastic.  Here is a review worth reading.  Kirkus call this metafiction I would perhaps put it into the postmodern category too.  It is part of my "Picture books with a difference" Pinterest collection.  Christyan Fox has a terrific web site.

One last thing make sure you turn to the back cover - this is the real end to the story.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Kite fighters by Linda Sue Park

I have said this in previous posts and I guess if you read my blog, even occasionally, you will know that I adore reading children's books.  When I read A Single Shard (also by Linda Sue Park) I said the story left me breathless so I was excited to read another book by this extremely gifted writer.  I am so happy I can also highly recommend this book too.

I picked up The Kite Fighters last night and read the whole book in one sitting.  As with A Single Shard and See Saw Girl the setting here is Korea.  Linda Sue Park gives the reader a wonderful insight into a family life which is steeped in tradition.  Young-Sup is the younger brother.  It seems all the good things happen to his older brother Kee-sup simply because of birth order.  Young-sup would love a kite but on this New Year he has been given a board game and so he must watch is brother and his clumsy attempts to fly the new kite.  Finally Young-sup is given a turn and his natural talents come to the fore.

"Young-sup picked up the kite. In that brief moment he had felt why it would not fly.  On only his second try he launched the kite from a complete standstill.  Kee-sup's jaw dropped.  'Hey! How did you do that?'  Young-sup shrugged, not wanting to display too much pride.  'I'll show you,' he said.  For he knew in his bones that he could do it again."

One of the best aspects of this book is the way Young-sup and Kee-sup work together firstly so Young-sup  can have a kite of his own and later when they participate in the annual kite fighting competition on behalf of the King himself.

If you want to extend your study of Korea here is a useful pinterest collection.  Another exciting teaching point comes from the five virtues of Confucius and the way Kee-sup uses these to convince his father Young-sup must fly their kite in the competition.

I have included two different cover designs below.  Our library copy is the one above but I prefer the alternate ones. After reading this book I recommend picking up the picture book The tiny kite of Eddie Wing.  Here is an excellent review which gives you more details of the plot.

Scary night by Lesley Gibbes and Stephen Michael King

Picture books are often poems and Scary Night is no exception.

Here is the refrain :

"But where were they going in the dead of the night, 
tip-toe creeping in the pale moonlight?
It was a mystery!"

Three friends - Hare, Cat and Pig - set out in the dark of the night to make a special journey.  They each carry something slightly mysterious.  There are serious hazards along the way but these parcels do not assist with their survival.  Can you guess where they are going?  Hare with a hat, Cat with a cake and Pig with a parcel?

This is Lesley Gibbes' first book so how lucky to have the amazing and talented Stephen Michael King as the illustrator.  One of the special features of these illustrations is the way Stephen Michael King marks the passing of time - the journey takes the whole night and as each page turns the sky grows lighter and lighter.  Another special detail comes from the sack that is carried by Hare.  There is no mention in the text but as the party begins we see Hare open his sack which contains drinks, party streamers and balloons along with two special hats - one for goat and one for pig.  I have seen the pattern for this hat in another Stephen Michael King book - take a look at Emily's dress in the book Emily loves to bounce.  You might also look for some of the other tiny details that Stephen Michael King loves to include such as the television aerial and single sock on the first page, the Halloween pumpkin, ghosts in the graveyard, coat hangers and bells.

Two more things.  Take time to look at the second last page.  Goat has two pictures on his walls and a cupcake on the table with one candle - these might make interesting discussion points with your class. Finally a warning - Scary Night is not a quiet book - it demands to be read with a group of children who can join in to scream, roar and shout surprise!

Our Book Week slogan for 2014 was Connect to Reading. When I read Scary Night for the first time I saw a connection with two of my favourite books The Silver Christmas Tree by Pat Hutchins and Frog and a Special Day by Max Velthuijs.

Here is the author web site.  Here is a review in the Sydney Morning Herald.  Lesley Gibbes will visit our school library next week.