Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Snow White in New York by Fiona French

Tuesday Treasure

"All the papers said that Snow White's stepmother was the classiest dame in New York. 
But no one knew that she was the Queen of the Underworld. 
She liked to see herself in the New York Mirror."

The setting for this version of Snow White is 1930's New York. The architecture is art deco and you can see this in the geometric lines and bold colours.

Mirror mirror on the wall - how inventive to change this to the newspaper. The step mother wants to be the celebrity. When Snow White is called the Belle of New York City her step mother orders her bodyguard to take her downtown and shoot her. He cannot do this and so he leaves her to wander the streets alone. She stumbles on a jazz club and hears music played by seven jazz musicians. They invite Snow White up on stage and a star is born. Once again Snow White appears on the front page of the newspaper. Her step mother plots her revenge. She hosts a grand party for Snow White and then slips a poisoned cherry into her drink.

"All of New York was shocked by the death of the beautiful Snow White."

The jazz men carry her coffin up to the church but one of them stumbles and the cherry is dislodged. Snow White and the news reporter lived happily ever after. The illustration shows the wicked step mother under police arrest.

Snow White in New York won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal in 1986.  Take a look at the award criteria:

"The whole work should provide pleasure from a stimulating and satisfying visual experience which leaves a lasting impression. Illustrated work needs to be considered primarily in terms of its graphic elements, and where text exists particular attention should be paid to the synergy between the two."

This is the perfect book to share with a senior primary class or an art or English class in High School.  Of course you could begin with a close look at some other editions of Snow White - traditional and other retellings such as fractured fairy tales. Many of the traditional versions I have shown here have exquisite illustrations which would be excellent to compare with Snow White in New York.

This video reading of Snow White in New York is a little too fast for use with a class but it allows you to see all the beautiful illustrations.

Here is another retelling of the Snow White story in the form of a graphic novel. Elizabeth Bird at School Library Journal loved it:

Monday, April 29, 2019

The last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan

August 27
First Day
Rachel Chieko Stein

We only have 180 days
at Emerson Elementary.
When this school year ends,
I will have spent
one thousand days
in this building.
I want a thousand more
so I'll never have to say
goodbye to friends
like Sydney and Katie.
I wish Emerson
could be my school forever,
but everyone is talking about a plan
to tear the building down.

You already know that I adore verse novels so I was excited to begin reading the Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. I read the whole book in one sitting - yes it is THAT good.

There are 18 kids in this fifth grade class. You might need to explain to an Australian audience that at this school elementary ends with fifth grade and next year these kids will head off to Middle School. This should be an exciting time which culminates in a special ceremony as the fifth graders are clapped along the corridor to the Middle School next door but the school board have decided to sell the old school building and hence the title. Yes this group are indeed the last fifth grade.

The teacher gives every student a notebook where they write poems every day. (There are notes about the poetry forms at the back of the book along with some writing prompts). These poems will go into a time capsule. The plan is to building shopping centre to replace the school so I imagine this time capsule will be placed in the walls of the new supermarket.

Laura Shovan uses poems from each child as a way to share the class journey over the whole year and along the way we also learn so much each individual.   If you have read Because of Mr Terupt you will recognise this concept. And if you have read The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary you know how to follow a book with multiple voices. I found the little illustrations were a great help but I also need to keep flipping back and forth just to catch up on the back story of each child.

The class are studying the US Bill of Rights. It seems obvious they need to present the school board with a petition.

October 24
Speaking my Mind (an extract)
Rennie Rawlins

Maybe it's true
a bunch of fifth graders
have no say in what happens
to our school, but
in fifth grade we're supposed to be
studying democracy
and constitutional rights,
Well, I already know
the First Amendment
is the right to free speech.

Now read on. Here is the poem from the 20th February by Edgar entitled Bad News:

The bad news is, our petition failed.
The Board won't ever know
some fifth graders wanted to save Emerson.

Wait a minute - this is not a spoiler because it is only 20th February.  The US school year runs from August 25th to June 9th. This group of kids are not going to take no for an answer.

Donalyn Miller loved this book - read her review for the Nerdy Book Club.

Here are the publisher's teaching notes. Poetry for Children  also have a teaching ideas page. Here is a review with more plot details.  Here is an interesting podast interview with the author Laura Shovan.   You can see inside this book on the publisher website. In an Australian classroom you could pair this book with Troy Thompson's Excellent Peotry (Poetry) Book.

Listen to an Audio sample which has been made with multiple voices. This might be a useful way to share this  book with a class.

We meet 18 diverse, distinctive, quirky, totally believable kids navigating the changes that come with friendships old and new, first crushes, and other relatable challenges such as divorce and step families, death and illness of family members, being the new kid, homelessness, assimilation and identity. Jama's Alphabet Soup

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Armadillo and Hare by Jeremy Strong illustrated by Rebecca Bagley

Get ready, get set, this book is FUN FUN FUN!  Settle down and prepare to read. There are ten short chapters in this book. Each is a stand alone story with diverse characters such as Elephant, Wombat, Invisible Stick Insect, Lobster, Jaguar and of course our heroes Armadillo and Hare. You could read one chapter each night for ten nights! Or you could sit down now and read the whole book as I did. Before you do that, though, you need to make a cheese sandwich. The full instructions are in the back of the book but I am putting them here so you can be prepared.

Two Slices of Bread
NOTE 1: Must be the same size so the cheese doesn't fall out.

NOTE 2: Obviously. Cheddar is non-stinky best, Stilton is stinky best. Camembert is sloppy and stinky best.

Place cheese between slices of bread.
NOTE 3: No butter required. Mustn't spoil the full flavour of the cheese.

Eat. Place in mouth between teeth. Grip tightly. Pull off large chunk. Chew.

NOTE 4: Close eyes and emit sighs of intense pleasure
NOTE 5: Offer similar sandwich to Hare but not so big. He has small teeth.
NOTE 6: Chutney can be added but sparingly.

IMPORTANT: Obey the Golden Rule.
NOTE 7: The Golden Rule. Never leave the fridge without any cheese in it.

In the first story someone has broken The Golden Rule, all the cheese is gone and, as an added complication, the fridge light is not working. Armadillo is in despair. He is desperate to eat a cheese sandwich. He leaves the fridge door open:

"I thought some cheese might jump in. If I left it open. ... I didn't think it would. It was just a chance. A tiny, tiny possibility that some cheese might come wandering along and think: Oh, that looks like a nice fridge. It could sit inside and keep cool. This warm sun is making me melt. How kind of someone to leave the door open for me. I'll just hop inside."

Hare suggests instead of eating cheese sandwiches, Armadillo would be better off doing exercises and perhaps finding a hobby.  The exercises are a bit of a disaster but Armadillo finds the perfect hobby - painting cheese sandwiches.  Make sure you take a close look the the jacket fly leaf. Mona Lisa Cheese Sandwich.

One of the truly delightful story ideas in this book is the tuba played by Hare. Every time he plays things pop out. They do disappear quite quickly but some of them are so quirky and some are just for fun! Think about empty saucepans, toilet rolls and a lady's swimming costume. I also love Hare's ears which he straightens and twists.

The relationship between Hare and Armadillo is also delightful. During the big storm Armadillo knows Hare will be scared so he offers to make chamomile tea. They climb into bed together while Armadillo explains about lightning and thunder and of course eventually the storm moves away. At the Nobody's birthday party, Hare sits with Armadillo even though he would dearly love to dance. He is loyal to his friend. Perhaps Armadillo will never learn to dance but that doesn't matter at all. The end of this chapter will give you a huge smile.

This is my new favourite book for those children who are ready for chapter books and for those children who ready for fun!  Australian children will be pleased Jeremy Strong included a wombat in his cast of characters.  Here is an audio sample to give you the flavour of this story. Here is an interview with Jeremy Strong. Read this review for more story details.

This is the story of a wonderful friendship. It is a glorious book, highly recommended for readers of all ages.’Armadillo and Hare‘ is an ideal early chapter book for less experienced readers. It is bound to be laughed over, enjoyed, reread and cherished. Bookwagon

If you are reading this book with a class you could compare the chapter A Flood and a Cardigan with Frog is a Hero by Max Velthuijs.

This book continues the tradition of unlikely friendships - take a look at these:

When you read about Invisible Stick Insect in Armadillo and Hare you should also grab this unlikely friends book -  Pig and Small.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Time stops for no Mouse by Michael Hoeye

This post originally appeared on my blog in 2012.

My library motto is “Read only on the days you eat”. Thanks to the Alberta Elementary School library where I spied this in written on a huge bulletin board 1994. This seems a perfect way to start talking about Time stops for no Mouse by Michael Hoeye. Read, yes EVERYONE should read this book! – Read only on the days - yes make TIME to read every day! Eat! This book is delicious – it is so good you will want to eat it up in one sitting, read it twice as I just have and as an added bonus it is filled with delicious food and absolutely delicious characters with fabulous names like our hero Hermux Tantamoq.

Hermux is a watch maker. One morning a new customer arrives with a badly damaged wristwatch. Her name is Linka Perflinger and she explains to Hermux that she cannot exist without her watch. It must be repaired quickly. Hermux promises the watch will be ready the next day by 12 noon even though the repairs will be difficult and intricate but, as you may have already guessed, Linka does not arrive to collect her watch. This is the start of a wild adventure for Hermux involving the evil Hiril Mennus, the crazy Tucka Mertslin and his special friend Mirrin Stentrill. I should probably mention Hermux is a mouse and the other characters are assorted rats, moles, stoats and so on. There is also one very special lady beetle called Terfle.

One part of this book that I especially like is the descriptions of the characters – here are a couple of samples.

Her face was set in a sharp frown, but it was such a jolly bright face that the frown looked out of place. She wore no make-up. Just her natural fur. A dark glossy brown. She had on a red cap with a bright green feather in its brim, a jaunty, checked scarf, and a somewhat worn looking leather flight jacket.”

Tucka’s cheeks were dusted with a fine orange powder that gave her the appearance of being on fire. The whiskers above her smallish eyes had been extended so dramatically that they bobbed about like antennae nearly tangling in the ribbons. Her lips were drawn coal black, shiny and glistening. She smiled at him dangerously.”

I really love so many aspects of this book but there are two more things I need to mention. I adore Hermux’s clothes and colour sense and Michael Hoeye really allows his readers to see each scene. You will feel like you have been to the watch shop, the lobby of Hermux’s apartment as Tucka remodels it, the health farm bungalow run by the evil Dr Mennus and the home of Linka after it has been ransacked. You will also see every colour and smell every smell through Hermux's senses.

There are three sequels to Time stops for no MouseThe Sands of time, No time like showtime and Time to smell the roses and I enjoyed all of them. If you have read The Mysterious Benedict Society then you will love Time Stops for no mouse. You might also look for Tuck everlasting which explores the idea of eternal youth in a more sophisticated way.

Listen to an extract here. Here is an interview with Michael Hoeye.

I first read this book in 2001. I posted here in 2012 and today I am revisiting this post because I have just spent a delightful few hours re-reading Time stops for no Mouse all over again. For me this is one of my top books of all time. It is a five out of five or ten out of ten book.

Here are some food and clothing descriptions:

"He unwrapped his sandwich and bit into it greedily. The cheese was sharp and tangy with just a musky hint of mould. The bread was fresh and piled with fresh, crisp and spicy lettuce. ... he uncapped the honey fizz and downed a healthy swig of it."

"Hermux removed his blue rubber clogs and pulled off his orange argyle socks. He unsnapped his cherry red corduroy overalls and stepped out of them. He pulled his golden yellow turtleneck over his head. And stood there in his flannel boxer shorts printed all over with furry black bumblebees."

I have included three covers above.  I like the one with the clock. I do wish they (the publisher) would reprint Time Stops for no Mouse and the sequels and add illustrations. A full colour illustrated version of this book would be so fabulous. I was interested to read Michael Hoeye self published this book with just 1000 copies before it was picked up by Penguin. Even though this book is from 2001 it is still in print but you may have to search in a library to find the later sequels.

Mouse-loving fans of Brian Jacques' Redwall, Beverly Cleary's Ralph S. Mouse series, and Avi's Poppy are going to be in heaven with Hermux. James Patterson Read Kiddo Read

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Loud Book! by Deborah Underwood illustrated by Renata Liwska

Tuesday Treasure

Books sometimes come in pairs

Here we have The Loud Book! and the companion volume The Quiet Book! (There is also a Christmas one).

I have talked about The Quiet Book in a previous post (2011). The Loud book is another title which has recently been weeded (culled) from my former library. This book is such a treasure to share with a child. As with the Quiet Book, this story follows the little toy animals through their day. But this day is noisy!  Breakfast is a loud slurp, at school a fire truck arrives, then your team score a home run and bang, a ball crashes into the classroom window.  My favourite 'loud' is "candy wrapper loud" at the movies. Actually it is NOT my favourite loud. Movies should be quiet places. Another funny moment comes when the bird spills his marbles all over the library floor which I assume is not carpet. There are good loud noises too - such as the bowling alley winner and Aunt Tillie's banjo. Kirkus explains the noises we find in this book:

Here is an interview with Deborah Underwood.  I was excited to see she mentions The Mousehole Cat illustrated by Nicola Bayley - another favourite book of mine.  You can see a full list of books by Canadian author Deborah Underwood here.

Back to The Loud Book!  This book is so loud - think about that. It is a book. It consists of words printed on a page and gorgeous, fuzzy illustrations (look at Renata Liwska's web site) but every reader will recognise the 'loud' in each scene. You don't need a loud voice to read this book but you do need time to sit and explore and talk about each event.

I have just made a wonderful discovery.  You can buy, in the US, the little characters from this series.

If you like the idea of exploring books in pairs here are some others you might look for in a library:

The Important book by Margaret Wise Brown and the companion volume Another Important Book.

Zoom by Istvan Banyai and the companion volume Re-Zoom.

We are best friends by Aliki and the companion volume Best Friends together again!

The Midnight Gang by Margaret Wild and the companion volume The Midnight Feast

I am sure you can think of other book pairs.  This might be an interesting theme or topic for a Kindergarten or preschool group to explore.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Bluebird by Lindsey Yankey

The wind is so important but we cannot see it, we can only see it's effects. This little bluebird wakes up to discover the wind is missing. She sets out to investigate. The dandelions are still and without the wind their seeds cannot blow away; she sees a lonely kite resting on a park bench; the washing is unmoving; flags droop and, my favourite illustration, the fringes on the beautiful patterned scarves on display in the market no longer flutter. If you were asked to predict other consequences of no wind I'm sure you would think of sailing boats becalmed on the lake and silent wind chimes. After exploring her neighborhood and the nearby city, Bluebird discovers she can fly without her friend, but at that moment

"Just as she was about to take off, she felt something.
It was the wind blowing down from the clouds, high above the city. It must have been resting there, watching her fly."

Bluebird has the most exquisite illustrations. Lindsey Yankey uses mixed media, a limited palette, and a variety of perspectives.  She often uses a whole page and just one colour. The blogger Art on the Page writes:

Lindsey uses drawing, painting, relief prints, and collage to illustrate this book. She also does a quirky thing that I love and draws a scene right around the edges of the page so that the orientation of the picture changes.

You could also use this book to talk about all the ways to describe the wind:
"Not a leaf in the tree was stirring."
"The wind loved to help kites perform acrobatics high in the sky."
"Just the day before the wind had been tickling the grass with the willow branches."

Yankey’s text captures both the wishing for what the wind does every day and also how things are without the wind blowing.  The contrast between what Bluebird knows the wind does and how things are when they are still is wonderfully written with simplicity and grace.  Waking Brain Cells

Take a look at the web site for the publisher of Bluebird - Simple Read Books from Vancouver.

I adore exploring different phenomena via picture books.

Here are some I have read recently:


The Sound of Silence and Silence by Lemniscates


Where does Thursday go?

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Little Platypus by Nette Hilton illustrated by Nina Rycroft

Two eggs hatch. One is a platypus and one is a kookaburra. The kookaburra is very sure of his talents and identity but the platypus is confused. What is he? He cannot flap his wings or fly like the kookaburra, he doesn't have ears and fussy fur like the koala and of course he cannot run fast like the emu. As he sits by the river crying, a sleek glossy creature pops out of the water - this is a platypus, a girl, "and they danced off into the water. As platypuses do."

This is my second post featuring a book by Australian author Nette Hilton.  Little Platypus is still in print and it would make a splendid gift to send to a child living overseas. It features so many of our wonderful Australian animals - Kookaburra, Koala, Emu, Wombat and of course the Platypus.

This book uses the repeated refrain

"And it probably shouldn't have mattered.
Not everyone can be a kookaburra/koala/emu/wombat/frog
But it would have helped, just a little."

You will recognise the format of this book - it is all about the search for identity.  You can see the full book here. With older children the perfect book on this topic which is also Australian is The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek. I would also link this book with Wombat Divine by Mem Fox and the classic story Are you my mother?

August is Platypus month.  Read more here from my friend at Kinderbookswitheverything

One more little piece of children's literature trivia.  One of our earliest Australian Children's books featured the quirky platypus The Story of Shy the Platypus (1944) illustrated by Walter Cunningham the husband of Noela Young.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

A Proper Little Lady by Nette Hilton illustrated by Cathy Wilcox

All children love to dress up. Annabella is no different. She decides this is the day to put on her finery and head off into the world. She has a beautiful dress, the special hat, a long gold chain, lacy white gloves and socks with frilly edges. She looks so fabulous but perhaps this is not quite the right outfit for climbing trees, riding a billy-cart or a game of soccer.

I mentioned Nette Hilton in a recent post. While I was working at the Children's hospital Book Bunker this week I took the opportunity to revisit some books by Nette Hilton.

A Proper Little Lady was published in 1989 and short listed by the CBCA in 1990.  The winner that year was The Very Best of Friends by Margaret Wild illustrated by Julie Vivas. Nette Hilton has had many titles listed for CBCA awards/short lists and nearly all of them appear now on the Premier's Reading Challenge lists except, oddly, not A Proper Little Lady. I wonder why it has been left off. You can see a video of the whole book here.

A Proper Little Lady is illustrated by Cathy Wilcox. Cathy is the illustrator of one of my future Tuesday Treasures and sadly another title recently culled from my former library - The Weird things in Nanna's house.  Kirkus writes this book has:  "Wilcox's economical, skillfully drafted illustrations."
Her clever cartoons regularly appear in our Sydney newspapers.

Nette Hilton has a new book series which begins with The First Adventures of Princess Peony and she said at a recent CBCA event that A Proper Little Lady was her inspiration.  If you need a book to explain/demonstrate onomatopoeia in action this is the perfect book. Take a look at this word list:

swish swish swish
tap tap tap
chink chink chink
flop flop flop
chink snap dangle

You could pair this book with Polly's Pink Pyjamas and the poetry collection 15 Ways to get Dressed.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Lester's Dreadful Sweaters by KG Campbell

Before you read this book you need to notice the crocodile tail on the half title page swimming into the title page where he is fully revealed. This crocodile is heading for Cousin Clara's river side cottage. Luckily Cousin Clara is away but her cottage is consumed by the crocodile.

Lester hears the news and adds crocodiles to his list of "suspicious stuff starting with C." Then "he checked that his socks were even ...and combed his hair."  From this one page we can deduce so much about Lester. He is a neat freak. He likes things to be orderly and organised. He probably does not like change and his life which, until now, is safe and predicable.  Of course the arrival of Cousin Clara is sure to upset everything and if you read the title again you will certainly predict that these dreadful sweaters will be the cause.

Clara arrives with her knitting basket. She seems happy to sit and knit. No one is disturbed until the morning Cousin Clara presents Lester with a new sweater.

"It was shriveled yet saggy.
It had holes where it shouldn't
and none where it should.
It was a less-than-pleasant yellow
and smothered with purple pom poms.

Horror of horrors, Lester is forced to wear this ugly creation to school where he has to endure the whispers and taunts of his classmates especially Enid Measles who makes "a less-than-pleasant remark."

Lester is a problem solver - but he also a little sneaky.  "Later, Lester's sweater was discovered in the laundry, all stringy and shrunken."

Cousin Clara is not worried because she has plenty of wool. The next morning Lester is presented with another sweater:

"This one covered bits it shouldn't and didn't cover bits it should. It was an irksome pink and dotted with oddly placed upside-down-pockets. It was GHASTLY."

Lester wears this creation to school and suffers all over again. He needs to take action. Later the second sweater is discovered in the yard where it has been shredded by the lawn mower.

BUT Cousin Clara is unstoppable. She keeps knitting these dreadful sweaters in shades of pumpkin, olive and turquoise. The sweaters become a woolly mountain "of cruel colours, appalling polka dots, frightening stripes, starting tassels and things with six fingers."

Lester attacks them all. The scene looks like a massacre but there is one more and, oh no,  Lester is about to attend a birthday party for Enid Measles.  Remember his list of suspicious stuff starting with C?  One item on this list was clowns and Enid has clowns at her party. "Lester disapproved of clowns" but these clowns love his sweater. Have you spotted the solution to Lester's problem? Are we heading for that all important happy ending?

This is not a new book. It was published in 2012 but I am happy to see it is still available. KG Campbell is the illustrator of Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo along with some other books I need to explore. Lester's Dreadful Sweaters has a Kirkus Star review. In 2016 someone produced a musical stage production of this text. Here is a wonderful trailer. Read this detailed and thoughtful review by Elizabeth Bird in the School Library Journal. Here is a set of teaching ideas and book talk teasers. AND best news of all I found a Reader's Theatre script. Finally here is an interview with the author.

I would compare the character Lester with another boy who thrives on being organised - Alistair from the books by Marilyn Sadler.

If you enjoy books about sweaters, jumpers and knitting look for these in your library or take a dip into my friend at Kinderbookboard and her pins called Yarn Yarns.