Sunday, March 29, 2015

Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui

This is  a challenge - describing a book with amazing illustrations all based on the concept words Before and After and describing a book with 176 pages a no words!

I won't say too much except to say - get your hands on this book!  I first saw Before After in a local bookshop and I knew straight away it had to go on my shopping list for our school library.

Here are some of the pages to look for :
King Kong in the jungle and then in NYC
Cake ingredients become a huge tiered cake which is eaten a few pages later and we are left with crumbs
Pumpkin becomes a coach
Rocking horse and rocking chair - there is so much to talk about here
Card pack Card tower
Cube of ice puddle of water

One hint you do need to begin at the beginning and work through this book from front to back.

You can read a description on the Walker Books web site.   Here is the web site of Anne-Margot Ramstein and Mathias Aregui. I think children of all ages and adults too will enjoy spending time with this curious and interesting book.  I am also happy to report this is a NSW School Magazine bookshelf title for 2015.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The miniature world of Marvin and James by Elisa Broach illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Last year I read Masterpiece by Elise Broach. This is a terrific book about a boy, a beetle and an audacious art theft. It is rarely on our library shelves as I constantly recommend it for students in grades 4 and 5.  You can listen to an audio extract here

The Miniature world of Marvin and James is a little book intended as a junior spin off.  I am guessing the idea might be that you read Masterpiece aloud to a group of young students in Grade 2 or 3 and then they can pick up one of the miniature adventures and continue their own reading about James and his splendid beetle friend Marvin.

The Miniature World of Marvin and James is the first book in this series.  James if off on a holiday.  Marvin can't go but he does help James to pack.  While James is away Marvin frets but then he chances upon an amazing place while exploring the house with his cousin Elaine.

"What is this thing?' Marvin asks.
'I don't know,' Elaine says, 'but isn't it the best?'
They perch at the edge of the tunnel, then dive, one after the other.  ...
As they are jumping and diving and rolling in the soft wood shavings, they hear a noise."
Take a look at the picture below for a hint about where they are playing and also take a look at the illustrator web page.

You can read an excerpt here and also some reviews.  This is little gem is a book with a fast pace and a very special hero.

Please write back by Jennifer E Morris

Please write back has just over 100 words nearly all of them repeated.  I am going to write some of the text here:

Alfie wrote a letter to Grandma
Dear Grandma
I love you.
Please write back.
Alfie addressed the letter
He stamped the letter
And he mailed the letter.
Then he waited for Grandma to write back

Why do I love this little book?  Because it has a terrific warm, funny story and yet it is accessible to the newest reader in your school.  This is a passion of mine.  To find little simple "chapter books" which my youngest students will enjoy.

Here are some reviews and a link to the other book about Alfie which you can also find in our school library along with some teacher notes.  This simple little book is simply terrific.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The billy that died with its boots on and other Australian verse by Stephen Whiteside

Issue Four of our NSW School Magazine will feature The billy that died with its boots on and other Australian verse in the Bookshelf section.

I am always pleased when I take time to read these selections.  Here is a amazing poetry book - one that would be a terrific resource for all teachers of Grades 3-6.

The themes in this book are so diverse there is sure to be a poem for every occasion.  Stephen Whiteside suggests the poems work best when read aloud.  Many would also work well as performance pieces.

Topics include : Dinosaurs, Around the house, In the garden and in the street, Dogs (and a cat), Anyone for sport?, Birds and beasts, At the beach, Out in the bush, Up in the snow, Out on the ocean, Rail, hail or shine?, A couple of heroes, Christmas, Here's something a bit different and finally Especially for performance.

Here is an extract from a poem about coffee cups which I think most teachers will relate to :

Mum's Abandoned Coffee cups

...  Mum's abandoned coffee cups,
With liquid brown and thick;
One's been standing there for days.
It has an oily slick.

Here's a new one, fresh and hot.
If I can be so bold,
I'd say that in an hour or two
It, too, will be stone cold.

The poem about Simpson and his Donkey would be perfect for an ANZAC assembly.  I also enjoyed the poem entitled The ice-cream that hurt.  Here is a detailed review.

The right word Roget and his thesaurus by Jen Bryant illustrated by Melissa Sweet

This wonderful book is simply inspirational - from the delicious words, scrumptious illustrations and profound intellect and work ethic of the man himself - Peter Mark Roget (pronounced 'Roh-Zhay').

The right word begins with a quote by JM Barrie taken out of his book Peter Pan:
"The man is not wholly evil - he has a thesaurus in his cabin."

I purchased this title to add to our growing collection of picture book biographies but this book offers so much more.  Our Grade Three students will study a unit entitled 'People and their beliefs'. Peter Mark Roget is a man of strong belief - a belief in the power of words.  From a young boy Peter loved lists.  In time his lists grew into a book.  "I want everyone to be able to use my WORD BOOK, not just doctors, politicians, and lawyers, but cobblers, fishmongers and factory workers."  And so the famous book used by people all over the world. Roget Thesaurus was born.

Here is an interview with the author.  Here are some teaching ideas.  Read more about the incredibly talented Melissa Sweet here.  Kirkus describes this book as marvelous! And I do too,

Here are some of the words you will find inside : whippersnapper, dodecahedron, rivulet, topsy-turvy, glimmer, luminary, iota, perfection, and unctuousness.  The final endpaper alone will give you many happy hours of word reading pleasure with exactly 1000 words selected by Roget.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood

Those Pesky Rabbits arrived in our school library today! Can you tell I am excited?  Yes it arrived TODAY and I am talking about it tonight!

Right from the first end paper I knew Those Pesky Rabbits would be a special book.  Home Sweet Home is embroidered on a framed sampler and our bear stands outside his solitary house.  Now jump to the back.  The sampler has changed and now includes five rabbits and a new house close by.  Bear now has neighbours and friends. Sorry, I am getting ahead of the story.  The opening lines are

"Bear lived on his own in the middle of nowhere and that was just the way he liked it."

The complication comes when a family of rabbits build their house right next door. Being good neighbours the rabbits knock on Bear's door.  They need some honey for a cake they are baking. Bear explains he has no honey but when we turn the page this huge lie is revealed - you will see not just one jar of honey but five enormous jars all with special labels attached detailing use of the honey.  "Delicious in milk, tea and hot chocolate"  "Good with figs and raisins"  "Yummy on pancakes"

The rabbits are not put off and return a little later to ask for help with chopping wood.  Bear says he is too busy but it is clear to the reader he is doing nothing and is just sitting in front of his own warm fire. The rabbits make one more visit this time with books to swap.  Take a close look at the titles - "How to be nice and make friends" "Vegetarian cooking"  "Rabbit adventures".

Bear yells at the rabbits that he just wants to be left alone and so that is exactly what happens until one day he finds a basket on his front door step.

It is easy to anticipate the happy ending but this will be new to a young reader.  I loved this book with its warm message of friendship, the pattern of three and the quirky little touches you will find on each page.  Take a look at the Bear's front door mat, the sneaky mouse who lives in his house, the seasonal change and the lovely snuggle scene where bear reads a book to his new friends after a day of honey collection, cake baking and wood chopping.

Those pesky rabbits is the first book written and illustrated by Ciara Flood.  Take a minute to check out her web site - it is as charming as her book.

After reading Those pesky rabbits you should also look for the bear series by Bonnie Becker.  You might also look for The Mice Next Door.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

Before you read this book go to the fruit and vegetable shop and buy a squash or a butternut pumpkin.  As you read this book with a young child hold your squash or pumpkin close.  Now get ready to smile.

Sophie visits a farmers' market and she chooses a squash.  Mum and Dad have plans to cook the squash for supper but Sophie has other ideas.  She bounces and cuddles her squash and names her Bernice. She even gives her a face using markers.  "I'm glad we met ... good friends are hard to find."  Sophie whispers to her new friend.

Life goes on and Bernice becomes a natural part of Sophie's life with visits to story time at the library, games in the garden and even a return to the market to visit other squash.  Sadly, though, things do not continue to go smoothly.  The kids at the library say unkind things and Bernice herself begins to fade.  Sophie talks with a farmer at the market and he advises fresh air, good clean dirt and a little love.  At home Sophie makes "a bed of soft soil" and she tucks Bernice in and kisses her goodnight.  Mum and Dad know there is a gap is Sophie's life so they buy her Ace - a goldfish.  After winter Sophie returns to the garden.  Bernice is back - she has a little shoot coming up and by spring "Bernice had grown two tiny squash.  'Wow!; Sophie told them. 'You look just like your mom!"

If you enjoy Sophie's Squash you should also look for Elizabeti's Doll.

Here is a review by Travis Jonker.  Here are some teaching ideas pages. Perhaps you could make yourself a cloth pumpkin.  Take a minute to read the review in Kirkus.  Here is the web site for the author.  I highly recommend Sophie's Squash.  It is a book to enjoy over and over again with a young reader.  You can see inside the book here.

Max by Marc Martin

One satisfying aspect of any book is when you reach the ah ha moment - everything turns out as it should and perhaps even as you predicted.

Max is a happy seagull who lives by the sea.  He has made the perfect friendship with the owner of the local fish and chip shop.  "Max and Bob are very old friends. Max visits Bob every day. He keeps him company and greets the customers as they come in.  If Max behaves himself, Bob gives him a few chips."

Now we need a twist.  Business drops off in the little seaside town when a new Mega Mall is built nearby and so Bob sadly closes his shop. These are pages you will want to linger over and discuss.  The scene shows the Baker and Ice Cream shop are gone too.  Max waits and waits but eventually he flies high into the sky.  This is my favourite illustration (see below).  Max has a good nose.  He flies high above the city until he comes to a shop - yes it is a chip shop and yes it is Bob's shop!

Take a minute to look at the end papers.  You might see a unique form of bait for fishing.  You should also look for Marc Martin's first picture book in our library called A Forest.  Since Max was published in 2014 it might even be short listed for our CBCA awards.  Max is a simple story but the illustrations are so joyful and everyone will relate to Max himself and his love of chips!  If you would like to read some other books about chips check out Kinderbookswitheverything and the celebration of Chip Week.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks

It has taken me a long time to actually get my hands on this book. Last year we had a week of competitions in our library for Book Week and one of our talented students modeled her answer on this book Finding Serendipity.  Since then it has been out on loan constantly.

Essentially in this tale we explore the mystical idea - where do writers get their story lines and inspiration. Tuesday's mother Serendipity is a very famous author but one night it seems she has disappeared. Tuesday follows her through an open window. To do this she takes hold of some sliver threads that have appeared while she was writing using her mother's typewriter.  Luckily her dog Baxterr is able to travel with her.  She arrives in a strange land where she meets a boy called Blake Luckhurst and a wild girl, who is a character in her mother's books, called Vivienne Small.   Blake takes Tuesday to meet the librarian.  She is the custodian of stories and it is her job to make sure all authors reach 'the end'.  Tuesday is convinced her mother must be at 'the end' and so she embarks on a wild adventure involving danger, pirates and her dog.  She also makes a terrific friend in Vivienne and perhaps changes the ending of the book her mother is writing.

Here is a lovely description of mothers and special night time rituals :

"They will pull your covers up over your shoulders if it's cold, or fold them at the bottom of your bed if it's hot.  They will turn your light down, or off, and pick up that pair of shoes you've left lying in the middle of the floor.  For the briefest moment, they will watch you sleeping.  They might stroke your cheek, or kiss your head, or whisper a good dream into your ear.  Or perhaps they just stand there and think how lovely you are, and blow you a kiss, and leave you to your sleep."

Here is a web site for the author who is in fact two people.  This link also contains news of the sequel.  You can read more of the plot here.  If you click here you can read some quotes from this book just like the one shown below.  I have also included the US cover which looks quite unappealing to me.

I did not race through Finding Serendipity but it is a gentle story of love and determination.  If you enjoy Finding Serendipity you might also like Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and The Voyage to Verdada.

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

Steampunk -
  1. Science fiction set in an alternate version of the historic past, especially 19th-century England, and involving advanced technologies usually based on steam power.

I needed to begin this review with a definition of Steampunk because this might be a genre you have not yet encountered.  In our library we have some wonderful examples of this such as Howls moving castle, Mortal engines and Airborn by Kenneth Oppel.  I am a huge fan of these books.

Goblin Secrets has a very complex plot.  You must take your time and read this book carefully.  The author William Alexander does not always spell things out.  In some ways reading this book is like picking up pieces of torn paper. As you collect each fragment the you must try to reassemble the whole.  Tiny references near the beginning of this tale do fit  back together until the final dramatic scenes. This book demands patience but you will be rewarded.

While I was reading Goblin Secrets this week I stopped for a moment to find a review.  I discovered this book won the prestigious US National Book Award in 2012 but it is a book that also has critics

Early in the story it is easy to see this is going to be an interesting book.  
"Stubble said Graba used to be a sailor, or a boat witch, and that she'd lost her legs in a pirate attack ... Graba killed some pirates with a look and a laugh and a lock of her hair before they cut her legs off with rusty swords."  In the opening scene, Rownie is is summoned to oil the witch's mechanical legs.  "She extended a gearwork leg from under her stool.  It was bird-shaped, with three long talon-toes in from and one in back, at the heel.  The whole limb had been made out of cooper and wood."

Rownie is sent to buy more oil but as he runs through the winding streets of Southside he sees poster advertising a play.  This is astonishing because goblins are putting on the play and because all plays have been banned and because Rownie knows his brother Rowan was a performer and these goblins might know where to find him.  Joining the goblins Rownie has so much to discover about his city. The flood is coming but how will a small orphan stop this catastrophe?

Here is a very detailed review - well worth reading after you have read Goblin Secrets first.  After reading Goblin secrets you might also enjoy The Thief Lord, The invention of Hugo Cabret and The Magician's Elephant.

I am adding the alternate cover below - which do you prefer?