Friday, May 31, 2019

Tillie and the Wall by Leo Lionni

Tillie is curious. The other mice just go about their daily lives and ignore the wall but Tillie, the youngest mouse, wonders what might be on the other side. She imagines there could be a fantastic world with strange animals and plants. Tillie is a problem solver. She asks the other mice to help her. They try climbing but they cannot reach the top. They try to walk to the end of the wall but it seems to have no end. Then one day Tillie sees a worm tunneling under the wall. This is the perfect solution. Tillie digs and digs until she reaches the other side. What a surprise. Living there are another group of mice just like her friends. Will they become friends or enemies? This is a fable so that might give you a clue.

Tillie and the wall was written in 1989 just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. I am pleased to have found another book about walls.  Recently I talked about The Wall in the Middle of the Book and Little Mouse and the Red Wall. I do think it would be fun to explore a mini unit about walls with your class.

Here is a teaching guide for Tillie and the Wall.

Look for other books by master story teller and illustrator Leo Lionni (1910-1999).

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Porcupine named Fluffy by Helen Lester illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Mr and Mrs Porcupine are delighted by the arrival of their first baby. They really want him to have exactly the 'right' name.  Spike - no. Lance - no. Needleroozer NO!

"Let's call him Fluffy. It's such a pretty name. Fluffy!"

Gradually Fluffy discovers he his actually not at all fluffy. He has spikes and prickles that punch holes in everything.  Fluffy looks for things that are fluffy hoping to get some ideas that might help him become fluffier. There are the clouds, pillows and a long soak in the bath. His efforts are useless but also hilarious (for the reader). One day, deep in thought, Fluffy meets a very large rhinoceros.

When Fluffy tells the rhino his name his reaction is exactly as you would expect:

"The rhinoceros smiled.
He giggled.
Then he laughed out loud.
He rolled on the ground.
He jiggled and slapped his knees.
He roared with laughter."

But wait a minute. What is the rhino's name?  Yes there is another laugh to come and perhaps a gentle lesson to learn and most importantly the beginning of a very special friendship.

Here are a set of teaching ideas and questions to use with this book. These are notes that support the audio version of this story along with ideas for using some other books by Helen Lester.

Here is a video of the whole book.  I love this book and would highly recommend it as a great addition for any primary school library.

This terrific tribute to self-acceptance comes complete with the cutest porcupine pictures on the planet!

I spied this book in a school library last week. I am a huge fan of the Tacky series also by this talented pair of Helen Lester and Lynn Munsinger. This book was published in 1986 but I am so happy to report it is still available.  I would pair this book with Fearless by Colin Thompson and Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.

A Rabbit Named Harris by Nan Hunt illustrated by Betina Ogden

Tuesday Treasure

Julio invites his Grandad to come on adventure.

"And this is what we'll do: we'll take something we need 
and something to love."

Julio puts his money box in one pocket and Harris - a small knitted rabbit in his other pocket. He can wrap his fingers around his friend when he needs comfort.

Julio is so patient with Grandad but he knows it is important for the pair to leave. Julio heard his father say he was planning to put Grandad in a Home.  Julio imagines this will be like the Dogs' Home and he "didn't want his Grandad in a place like that."

Julio and his Grandad take a bus down town. They explore the big department store and enjoy riding up and down on the escalators. Next stop, the library, where the pair do some quiet reading.  Julio buys some lunch - salad roll and strawberry milk and they enjoy the sunshine in the park. Finally they step onto a train. Grandad falls asleep and, after checking on Harris, Julio falls asleep too. The train travels far out of the city and night has fallen when it reaches the final stop. The next train does not depart until morning. Luckily a kind policeman talks to Julio and listens when Julio explains about dogs in cages and his worries about Grandad. Of course Mum and Dad arrive and all is explained.

"It was a real adventure, Grandad, wasn't it? Look, this is what I took to love. It's Harris, see? He was in my pocket all the time. What did you take to love, Grandad?'
The old man smiled. 'Why Julio, didn't you know? I took you to love!"

As a mark of how much I adore this book (a Tuesday Treasure) I recently tracked down a second hand copy from a shop in Noosa. Luckily for me this copy was quite cheap and it is in mint condition. I was also excited to discover A Rabbit Named Harris won the NSW Premiers Award in 1987 - The Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature. Some other titles that have won this award include Possum Magic, Who Sank the Boat?, Whistle up the Chimney and John Brown Rose and the Midnight Cat.

This wonderful and important book needs to be read alongside these other classic stories about grandparents and the impact of dementia. Click the titles for more details:

In my hunt for books on this topic I have also discovered these two which look good. I hope to find them soon.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Anatole by Eve Titus illustrated by Paul Galdone

Anatole (1956) is a classic children's picture book. It received a Caldecott Honor in 1957. I wonder why I had not read it until this week? I have discovered there were originally ten Anatole adventures. I found a little film from the 1960s of Anatole.  Paul Galdone illustrated hundreds of picture books. You can see some of them here. He died in 1986. Eve Titus (1922-2002) is the author of another junior chapter book series with eight titles - Great Mouse Detective.

About Anatole:

Anatole overhears some people talking about mice. They are considered dirty and are despised. Anatole thinks of the perfect solution - a way to reverse this negative opinion of mice. He makes some small signs and visits the Duval Cheese Factory.

Anatole has appointed himself as the chief cheese taster. He is a mouse after all and therefore he is an expert on the subject of cheese. The factory adopt Anatole's suggestions and the cheese factory business booms. M'sieu wants to thank Anatole. Of course Anatole knows his identity must remain a secret. M'sieu write a letter to Anatole:

"Whoever you are, it is clear that you love cheese greatly. Please help yourself to all the cheese you like, as often as you like. ...
Anatole - we salute You! 
From now on we shall think of you fondly as:

I smiled from start to finish reading this book. No wonder it is still in print over sixty years since it was first published.

I would pair Anatole with two other very old books which sadly are long out of print - Aktil's Big Swim and Aktil's Bicycle Ride by Inga Moore. Older children might like to compare Anatole with Letters from A. Mouse by Herbie Brennan.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

"Somehow, the sweetness of the cakes takes away the bitter sadness. Somehow, sometime during the cake making, some of the seashells in my pockets disappeared."

I am going to begin with a rating for this book. I rarely rate books but for me this is absolutely a five star experience!

One of the things I really miss about working in my former school library is putting books, I have loved reading, into the hands of students. Pie in the Sky is a book I would love to share, book talk, and loan to so many readers. This looks like a long book (379 pages) but the combination of graphic novel, generous print size and a plot that just races along mean this is a perfect book for all Middle Grade readers. Here is a funny, emotional and honest book and yes it contains cakes! This is a new book due for publication on 1st June, 2019.

Here is the blurb from my Advanced Reader Copy:

"When Jingwen moves to Australia, he feel like he's landed on Mars. Making friends is impossible, since he doesn't speak English and he stuck looking after his little brother Yanghao. But Jingwen knows how to make everything better. If he can just bake all of the cakes on the menu of the bakery his father had planned to open - and complete the dream he didn't have time to finish - then everything will be okay. Sure, he'll have to break his mother's most important rule, keep his little brother from spilling his secret and brush up on his kitchen skills, but some things are worth the risk."

Jingwen has the family cook book. He sets himself the task of making twelve cakes. They all sound so delicious but because this is a huge secret, their mother must never find out, the boys not only make a cake every night but they have to eat the whole thing too.

Chocolate Raspberry Torte
Neapolitan Mousse Cake
Blueberry Cheesecake
Apple Mille-feuille
Nutella Cream Cake
Rainbow Cake (recipe in the back of the book)

Of course this is not just about making cakes. Jingwen has huge obstacles to overcome living in a new land, learning English (he describes this with such poignancy), trying to make sense of the comments by other kids in his class and most of all finding a way to cope with the grief of losing his father and the guilt he feels about one pivotal incident in the days before his father died.  Jingwen also has to cope with his little brother. Yanghao drives Jingwen crazy, but he is also a vital accomplice in his cake baking venture.

My copy of Pie in the Sky (huge thanks to Beachside Bookshop) came with a letter from Remy. Like Jingwen, Remy migrated from Indonesia to Singapore where she started to learn English. She loved The Little Price just like Yahghao. She has four annoying siblings and most significantly "I wrote Pie in the Sky for someone who has lost a loved one and regrets have loved imperfectly."

Remy pays tribute to reading as the way that helped her learn English and she is thankful for librarians and teacher-librarians who were always happy to recommend new books.

Here are some quotes that made me laugh out loud:

"So on our prehistoric computer, I Googled. This research took a long time since the old machines was so slow that the blue spinning wheel on the screen is really there to hypnotize you into forgetting you are waiting, and then you turn into a fossil."

"Before anything else I check the toilet bowl for snakes, just like my friend Xirong back at my old school told me to. He once saw a story on the news about a man who sat down without looking and paid a painful price. .. whenever I go to the bathroom, I always think of my friend."

"Snail mail is annoyingly s l o w - there's that word again. Handwritten letters should be illegal unless you're six or younger and writing to fairies or Santa Claus, or unless you're over sixty."

Here is something to celebrate - Pie in the Sky has received a Kirkus Star review.

Here is the review by Elizabeth Bird in the School Library Journal
Consider this the easiest book to booktalk in the world. You play up the cakes, show the kids the cartoons, and voila! They’re instantly reading a story about the complications that come with family love and communication, letting go, not just of the people we love, but the guilt we’ve tied to their memories, and how much bravery it takes to admit when we’re wrong. That’s a whole lot of serious stuff for such a blithely funny work of fiction. SLJ

You can see some art from this book on Mr Schu's web site Watch Connect Read.

Book talk for Pie in the Sky.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

IBBY Honour List 2018 for Illustration

"The IBBY Honour List is a biennial selection of outstanding, recently published books, honouring writers, illustrators and translators from IBBY member countries. The IBBY Honour List is one of the most widespread and effective ways of furthering IBBY's objective of encouraging international understanding through children's literature." Read more here.

Image source and pdf of IBBY catalogue:

In 2018, 191 books were nominated for the IBBY Honour List in one of three categories - writing, illustration and translation.  In this post I will focus on 21 of the 59 titles in the illustration section. Our Australian honour book in 2018 was Teacup illustrated by Matt Ottley. Australia have been lucky to host the 191 books this year. They have been exhibited twice - once in Canberra in 2018 and recently in Sydney at Lost in Books a new shop in Fairfield. Next weekend the books will be displayed once more in Canberra at the Children's Book Council of Australia National Conference.

Country: Austria
Illustrator: Julie Volk
Title: Good morning, little Tram! Guten Morgen, Kleine Strassenbahn!
Plot: A wordless picture book which follows the journey of a tram and and its passengers.

Of Interest: Make sure you look for the lady who spends the whole journey knitting.

I would like to see a copy of Julie's wordless Christmas book Stille Nacht, fröhliche Nacht.

Country: Belgium
Illustrator: Francoise Rogier
Title: Pig's Trick Un Tour de cochons
Plot: The three pigs know the wolf will come but they will be ready this time!
Of Interest: Take a close look at the 'scratch card' technique used for the illustrations. You can see more work from Francoise Rogier on this web site.

Country: Brazil
Illustrator: Odilon Moraes
Title: There and Here La e Aquil
Plot: A gentle story about divorce from the perspective of a child who has to adapt to living in two different houses.

Of Interest: You can see the whole book here and even though I don't understand the Spanish words you can feel the emotion as the flood waters metaphorically cover the little girl's original home. This book is a beautiful example of the power of white space.

Country: Canada
Illustrator: Sydney Smith
Title: Sidewalk flowers
Plot: Take a look at my review.
Of Interest: IBBY Canada gifted this wordless book to every Syrian refugee child. Watch the Walker Books trailer.

Country: China 
Illustrator: Zhang Ning
Title: The turtle family goes to the sea Wu gui yi qu kan hai 乌龟一家去看海
Plot: Spring is coming, the little turtle shells wake up from hibernation and they want to see the sea. The sea is not far away? What does the sea look like?
Of Interest: The illustrations in this book are very special. They are made using collage from fabric which has been pulp, batik and and tie-dyed. You can watch Zhang Ning making her book here.

Country: Colombia

Illustrator: Rafael Yockteng
Title: Two white rabbits Dos conejos blancos
Plot: In this moving and timely story, a young child describes what it is like to be a migrant as she and her father travel north toward the US border. They travel mostly on the roof of a train known as The Beast, but the little girl doesn’t know where they are going. She counts the animals by the road, the clouds in the sky, the stars. Sometimes she sees soldiers. She sleeps, dreaming that she is always on the move, although sometimes they are forced to stop and her father has to earn more money before they can continue their journey.
Of Interest: In 2003 Rafael illustrated the International Children's Book day poster for Brazil (see below). This IBBY Honour book is also available in English.

Country: Croatia
Illustrator: Ivana Guljasevic
Title: Wooden skyscraper Drveni neboder
Plot: The moon tells a story about all the animals that live in a tree.  This book comes with a DVD. Ivana also works in animation and has produced 30 short animated films.

Country: Estonia
Illustrator:  Piret Raud
Title: Trooommmpffff or Eli's Voice Trooommmpffff ehk Eli Haal
Plot: Eli finds a trumpet and she loves the sound it makes but this trumpet belongs to Siim. What should she do?
Of Interest: I would like to read Piret Raud's book called Princesses with a twist (Tiestmoodi printsessilood). She was the HCA nominee for Estonia in 2016. Take a look at her web site.

Country: France
Illustrator: Adrien Parlange
Title: The Ribbon Le Ruban
Plot: Using minimal words each page incorporates a ribbon into the scene. This is not a book mark it is a vital part of each picture. "After being sewn for centuries at the top of the slice, the ribbon passes down, to change your point of view, and also to your hands. Alternately snake tongue, gymnast's ribbon, shoe lace or gold thread running from a kettle, the wire undulates and prolongs the illustration out of the paper, all happy with his new and multiple missions."

Country: Greece
Illustrator: Kelly Matathia Covo
Title: The greedy tortoise E aplisti chelona
Plot: The tortoise declares his shell is too small. He sets off to find a new one and along the way his patient friend the hare offers support and quiet counsel.
Of Interest: You can view six pages from this book here. The tall format works so well as way to contrast the height of the hare against the small tortoise.

Country: Israel
Illustrator: Naama Benziman
Title: The lost cricket or The cricket with a ticket Ha-tzatzar ha-taiar
Plot: A cricket is lost and needs to find the way home but no one will help him. Luckily as darkness falls he meets a kind firefly who comes to his rescue.
Of Interest: Scroll through this site to see some of the illustrations from this book.

Country: Italy
Illustrator: Mariachiara di Giorgio
Title: Professional Crocodile Professione Coccodrillo
Plot: Mr. Crocodile loves his job. Every morning he gets up with an alarm. He brushes his teeth. He chooses the right tie to match his outfit, eats a quick slice of toast, and heads off to work on a crowded train. But what is his job? The answer may surprise you.
Of Interest: There is an English version of this book available. Yes that seems odd because only the title needed to be translated.

Country: Lithuania
Illustrator: Ausra Kiudulaite
Title: Happiness is a fox (Fox on a swing) Laime yra lape
Plot: The story starts with a boy named Paul, who lives in a cozy treehouse in a big city with his family. And then something unexpected happens—Paul befriends a wise, friendly fox on a walk home from the bakery. The fox gives Paul a space to think about what makes him happy and what friendship means.
Of Interest: In English this book is called Fox on a Swing and it won the 2019 Mildred L. Batchelder Award which is given to books in the US which have been translated into English. This the first time a book from Lithuania has received this prestigious award.

Country: Norway
Illustrator: Mari Kanstad Johnsen
Title: I'm going  Jeg rommer
Plot: The Bologna Ragazzi jury said "This wordless picture book tells the story of a lonely girl who moves house and school and needs to find a way of making friends. She finds a special rabbit, which she uses to help her make new friends - a clever device, although she soon discovers that she can be a good friend without anything special to help her. The pace of the pictures, and hence the story, varies interestingly – sometimes fast, sometimes more reflective. A very personal book, it makes its point with gentle humour."
Of Interest: This is a wordless book and so can be enjoyed by any reader. You can see some of the pages here.

Country: Peru
Illustrator: Beatriz Chung
Title: The little girl La Pequena nina
Plot: The little girl explorers her world with courage and curiosity.
Of Interest: This book was written to break down the stereotypes that depict boys and girls doing different things.

Country: Slovenia
Illustrator: Andreja Peklar
Title: Ferdo the giant bird Ferdo - veliki ptic
Plot: Ferda is a bird. He cannot speak but Ferda would like to make friends and he would like to fit into society. This is very difficult.  He unknowingly drinks the whole lake and upsets all the residents. He needs to make up for his mistake.
Of Interest: This is a wordless book with a powerful story that can be read on many levels. Watch as the size of Ferdo changes reflecting the way he is treated.

Country: South Africa
Illustrator: Irene Berg
Title: Ink
Plot: Tinka becomes aware of words, language and writing. She names her family members one by one: her mum, her dad, her little brother Slip, sister Rosie and baby Jas. She draws a paper doll resembling a girl like herself on a sheet of newsprint. The paper doll is named "Ink". Tinka introduces her new friend to all her favourite story books, because, "A book is like a friend, with the best stories to tell".
Of Interest: The author of this book Ingrid Mennen is Irene Berg's mother. This is their second collaboration. Read an interview with Ingrid and Irene here.

Country: Spain
Illustrator: Miguel Cerro
Title: After the rain Despues de la iluvia
Plot: The forest is flooded. The animals need help but not from the fox. No one trusts the fox but he does have a contribution to make. The forest animals just have to let go of their distrust and prejudice.

Country: Switzerland
Illustrator: Evelyne Laube and Nina Wehrle (It's raining elephants)
Title: Marta and me Marta & moi
Plot: Marta draws a huge, colourful lion. Suddenly, the lion steps out of the picture, he is alive and now becomes her loyal companion and best friend. With the girl’s overflowing imagination, they experience many adventures. They travel in a boat across the sea, play in the jungle, build a hut, bake a cake, dance and yell, get mad at each other, and make up again.
Of interest: It might be fun to compare this book with the classic Harold and the Purple Crayon  and the Bear books by Anthony Browne. You can read about the team behind It's Raining Elephants here.

Country: United Kingdom
Illustrator: Viviane Schwartz
Title: I am Henry Finch
Plot: The finches do the same thing every day: they say good morning, they say good afternoon and good night. That is, unless the beast comes - then it's chaos. One night Henry Finch wakes up and does something different - he has a thought. He has lots of thoughts and they inspire him to achieve! Next time the beast comes, Henry is ready to turn his thoughts into action.
Of interest: Every child will want to experiment with thumbprint illustrations after reading this book. Here is a set of teaching ideas from the publisher.

Country: United States
Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
Title: Waiting
Plot: Five animal friends sit patiently on a windowsill, waiting and watching the world outside. The owl waits for the moon; the pig waits for the rain; the bear waits for wind; the puppy waits for snow; the rabbit waits for . . . nothing in particular. Occasionally, gifts will appear on the windowsill, and a new friend might arrive, but together they all wait. One day a cat with patches joins them, and the windowsill friends receive a big surprise!
Of interest: Kevin Henkes was awarded the Caldecott Medal for his book Kitten's First Full Moon. His newest book is a novel for older students Sweeping up the Heart.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Come on, Rain! by Karen Hesse illustrated by Jon J Muth

Tuesday Treasure

I want to begin with some text quotes which give the flavour of this writing:

I am sizzling like a hot potato
Heat wavers off tar patches in the broiling alleyway.
A creeper of hope circles 'round my bones.
The smell of hot tar and garbage bullies the air

It freckles our feet, glazes our toes.
tromping through puddles,
romping and reeling in the moisty green air
under trinkets of silver rain.

It has not rained for three long hot weeks. Tessie can smell rain is coming. The oppression is amplified by the wilting plants, the sweat on her mamma's clothes and the needle stuck on the phonograph "playing the same notes over and over." When the rain finally begins Tessie and all her friends grab their swimmers and dance in the raindrops. Each of the mammas join them. I love the way their dresses match the swimmers of the little girls.

When I re-read this glorious book this week I found myself in tears. Not because this is a sad book but because the students in my former school can no longer experience the sheer delight of this wonderful text. Come on, Rain! is one of the many titles that has been recently culled from the picture book section. Luckily this book is still in print.  I plan to now purchase a copy for my own book collection.

You can see the whole text and illustrations here.  In this review Publishers Weekly describe the illustrations by Jon J Muth. Teachers could use this for a visual literacy discussion.  Come on rain is also the perfect book to share with a class after a long dry spell. You could compare it with the Australian book Big Rain Coming by Katrina Germein. My friend at Kinderbookswitheverything has a terrific list of other books to share during rainy days.

Here are some other books by Karen Hesse which I have discussed on this blog:

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The most wonderful egg in the world by Helme Heine

When my friend from Kinderbookwitheverything and I talk about picture books we often exclaim about particular authors and illustrators. One of these is Helme Heine. A book we both love is The most wonderful egg in the world or Das schonete Ei der Welt in German.  This book is not on my Tuesday Treasure list but it is truly a treasure. I just made an exciting discovery.  If the Wikipedia is up to date the entry on Helme Heine (born in Germany) says he now lives in New Zealand.  In 1982 his book Superhare was an IBBY Honour book.

"What you can do is more important that what you look like,' 
said the King. 'Whichever one of you lays the most wonderful egg 
I will make a princess."

I love the words - what you can do is more important than what you look like!

Once upon a time three hens called Dotty, Stalky and Plumy, were quarreling about which of them was the most beautiful. They decide to ask the King to settle the matter. Dotty lays a perfect egg, shimmering and polished like marble. Stalky lays an enormous egg, one of the biggest the King has ever seen but it is Plumy who astonishes everyone. The King is unable to choose a winner and so he declares all three hens should be made princesses.

Something to notice - the chickens have walked across the front end papers and the king's foot prints walk along side the chickens on the back end papers. You can almost hear the quarrel from the way their prints are bunched together.

Here is a set of discussion questions for The Most Wonderful egg in the world.

Here are some books by Helme Heine. Nearly all are sadly out of print but you might be lucky and find one or two in a school library. The Pigs Wedding and The Pearl were part of a book series called Pocket Puffins.  You might also find the Weston Woods videos of The Pigs Wedding and of The most wonderful egg in the world. Here are the teaching notes which can be used with the animated film.