Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Birthday Invitation by Lucy Rowland illustrated by Laura Hughes

Ella is having a birthday party. She writes her invitations and sets off to deliver them but one invitation falls out of her bag. Ella has no idea about the journey her invitation takes until everyone turns up at her house for the party!

Everyone - a wizard; some pirates; a parrot; the princess; a knight; a pilot; and finally it reaches her friend. How did all of these characters end up reading the misplaced invitation?

If you read this book with a young child there will be a lot to discuss beginning with the information Ella did not include on her invitation. Here is it what it says

"Invitation - Please come to my birthday part love Ella."

Putting the missing details aside this is an imaginative story with a happy ending.

The Birthday Invitation is one of those magical books that makes you smile and feel happy inside. With a fabulous story and impeccable rhyme, I highly recommend adding this one to your (or a friend's) storybook collection. Kids' Book Review

Here is an activity pack from Bloomsbury to use with this book. Laura Hughes from Hastings UK, has a delightful illustration style. I have a Pinterest collection of Birthday books. Here are some favourites:

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Button Box by Margarette S Reid illustrated by Sarah Chamberlain

Tuesday Treasure

I have a button jar. Inside are buttons collected by my Grandmother, my mother, and a few I have collected myself. I loved sorting the buttons when I was a child. Sometimes my mother and I would hunt for buttons to add to her sewing projects (my new clothes). Looking at an old button can bring a flood of memories.

I also enjoy books about sorting. All Teacher-Librarians love to make order out of chaos. sorting books into Dewey Decimal numbers is actually fun and it can be a little like sorting buttons into sizes, colour, styles and shapes.

Ben loves to play with the buttons in his grandmothers box. There are buttons with painted flowers and buttons that resemble jewels. Some are covered with cloth and others are made from leather. Ben and his grandmother play a game with the buttons and then Grandma explains the materials used to make buttons such as glass, horn, wood and seashells. 

On the final page of this book you can read more about the invention of buttons. No one knows who originally came up with the idea but archaeologists have found objects that look like buttons under cities built thousands of years ago.

This is a simple book but I found it a joy to read. The Button Box was first published in 1990 and amazingly it is still in print but even if you cannot find this book why not grab your own button collection and enjoy a little sorting and conversation with your young reading companion.

What to do with a box of old buttons may seem like a slight notion for a book (and it doesn't made much of a story), but this lightly fictionalised enumeration of the ways that buttons' variety can open windows on critical thinking should provide an inspiration to parents and teachers.  Kirkus

Here are some other picture books about and featuring buttons:

My friend at Kinderbookswitheverything has two posts celebrating buttons:

Monday, June 21, 2021

Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds Book Week 2021 Part One

 Book Week 2021

Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds

Term 3: August 21-27

2021 Poster by Shaun Tan

In this series of posts I hope to help Teacher-Librarians as they prepare to celebrate Book Week and more.

Slogan or Theme 

Why not explore past slogans? CBCA call their slogans a theme but I prefer the term slogan - I tell students this is meant to be a 'catch phrase' to inspire reading and the exploration of books. I started in my Teacher-Librarian role in 1985 (Book Banquet) but Book Week had already been organised so my first slogan was Key into Books. We filled our library with very old keys on a display which we placed on the piano! The following year the slogan was Sail Away with Books. I was working in two school libraries and we filled the huge notice boards at both schools with waves in shades of blue and small folded paper boat fleets. The whole effect was terrific. 

Slogans I have enjoyed: 2001 a Book Odyssey; Oceans of Stories; Reading Rocks!; Book Safari; Books light up our World and Find your treasure.

Merchandise - every year the CBCA produce posters and other merchandise such as badges and book marks. Here is the NSW CBCA Order Form.

Book Week Short List

Book Week (note the word week not day) consists of many parts. One important part is the exploration of the CBCA Short list titles. There are five categories. Thinking of your students you can select which books to read to each grade. I would explore the Early Childhood titles with K-2; Picture Book of Year with 3-6; and invite class teachers to read one of the Younger Reader titles to their class as a serial read aloud because time in the library is way to short to read a whole novel. It is also important to allow some time to explore the Eve Pownall titles which can often lead to further research.

This is my first of a series of Book Week posts.  In a future post I will explore some short listed titles in more depth and make suggestions for companion reads. I will also explore the way you could include an author or illustrator study in your program.

As a starting point for the short list take a look at this in depth resource produced by the Ipswich Teacher-Librarians. It does include links to some of my posts about short listed titles.

Display Ideas

Many Teacher-Librarians have begun making Pinterest boards with ideas for displays.

Here are two I found but there are lots of others.

Madison Aussie Book Week

Jane Greg Book Week 2021

Another idea could be to make displays of books linked with the slogan. Take a look at this Pinterest curated by my friend from Kinderbookswitheverything. She takes each phrase from the slogan and expands it with book ideas. Old Worlds (Stone Ages; Ancient Egypt; Ancient Greece; Knights) New Worlds (Robots; Life in Space) Other Worlds (Fantasy).

Coming next

In my next post I plan to share some ideas which allow the children to think creatively, design and make, write and problem solve. I am not a fan of the dress up parade and prefer to make the focus of Book Week (it is a week) on books and reading. I have worked in low and high socio-economic school environments. I watched in despair as kids compete for the 'best' outfit; kids come in Disney costumes from chain stores; kids come as Harry Potter or Wally; and some kids have no home support and so spend a miserable day in their uniform.

Here are a few short-listed picture books from the past which I still love to read to classes:

Something I Said by Ben Bailey Smith

"Look at any price, Something I said is a bargain, because for the same price you don't just get funny, you also get a nice double scoop of heart and high drama." Ben Bailey Smith

Carmichael Taylor is not quite a nerd and not quite the cool kid. He has a good group of friends. He comes from a fairly regular family. His days are filled with friends and school. School is okay mostly except for Geography and PE. Carmichael (or Car as he likes to be called) wishes school consisted of only one subject - English. He loves the power of words. He is talked into taking part in the school talent quest performing 'Spoken Word'. This starts out as a project devised by his English teacher and his overbearing mother, then it morphs into a punishment for leaving school without permission. But when Car finally stands on the stage his 'Spoken Word' piece turns into something way bigger than any one anticipated. Some one (his friend Alex) has filmed his standup. The standup routine was basically an attack on his family and teachers and now it is on the internet. Will Car become famous or will this backfire? Is it a good thing that the US producer of a talk show called The Missy Show has seen his performance and now wants him to travel to New York to perform on the show? 

Publisher Blurb: For thirteen-year-old Carmichael Taylor, life is one big joke - in a good way. He just can't understand why no one else seems to find everything as funny as he does. When Car is filmed stumbling into performing a piece of hilarious stand-up at the school talent show - targeting his family, school and friends - the footage ends up creating international infamy. But with the promise of fame and fortune comes trouble, and it's up to Car to decide what or who he's willing to risk to chase his comedy dream. Get ready to laugh at life with this heart-warming, unashamedly honest and hilarious look at family, friendship and what really matters.

When I added this book to my to read pile of Advanced Reader copies (thanks Beachside Bookshop)  I will confess I put Something I Said right at the bottom of my pile. Why?

  • It's a long book 370 pages, and the print is fairly small
  • The author is a celebrity - often books by celebrities lack quality (sorry Ben) See below for more commentary about this topic
  • I recognised the author from his bio photo - he was a very nasty character in a television series (The Split). I find it hard to separate the tv character from the author. I am not familiar with his work as a rapper (Doc Brown) or his work in Children's television on the Four O'Clock Show.
  • This is a book about comedians and comedy standup - not things that I'm keen on
  • The main character, Carmichael is thirteen - is this a Young Adult book?

Having said made all of these points I have amazed myself. I read this whole book in just two days. I didn't laugh at the jokes but I enjoyed the poignancy of self discovery which is a major theme in the story. Perhaps this is because I do not have siblings, but I really do not like unkindness especially unkindness in a family expressed through sarcasm and smart remarks. Yes there are 'put downs' in this book but they were not overdone for 'cheap laughs'. I enjoyed watching Carmichael eventually realise his family should come first. His words are powerful - they can hurt (that's easy) but they can also heal. My only small criticism of this book is the way Ben Bailey Smith portrayed Carmichael's father Stuart. I really wanted him to discover his voice too. 

I think this book will be enjoyed by readers aged 10+. The tone reminded me of The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

Celebrities writing books for kids:

The Guardian "Famous first words: how celebrities made their way on to children's bookshelves"

Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature

Friday, June 18, 2021

Inside Mouse, Outside Mouse by Lindsay Barett George

"Inside my house there is a mouse,

Outside my house there is a mouse,

who sleeps in a clock.

who sleeps in a stump."

Every now and then I find a book that makes me gasp with delight. In this case it is the huge colourful visual design in this book that is just wonderful. I am very keen to see other books illustrated by Lindsay Barrett George. Inside Mouse, Outside Mouse (2006 ISBN 9780060004682) is sadly difficult to source but you might be lucky and find a copy on a library. In this book the pages alternate between the inside view or perspective and the outside. My favourite page shows the inside mouse exploring a pencil tin with a intriguing image on the can and the outside mouse looking into a huge watering can surrounded by colourful flowers. 

Of course the two mice do meet at the end but perhaps not in the way you might have anticipated. You can see the whole book here. Here is another video which shows the pages as double spreads.

With its large format, clear illustrations, and the most appealing mice readers have ever seen, this will be popular for both group and individual sharing. Kirkus

I would use one of the many versions of Town Mouse and Country Mouse as companion reads.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Please bring Balloons by Lindsay Ward


As it says on the dust jacket: "For anyone who has ever imagined what it would be like to ride a carousel animal right off its platform, this enchanting story is your chance - happy travels!" I just wish this book was not out of print because it is a sheer delight.

A little girl finds a note under the saddle of the polar bear on the carousel. She takes a red balloon and ties a red balloon. "I hope you like red,' she whispered." The next day the note says please bring more balloons. She ties these to the polar bear and they are up and away. They drift through starry skies and arrive in the land of ice and snow. The discover the polar bear rumpus and a wild night ensues. After a terrific night they travel safely home. The next day, though, there is another note under the saddle on the polar bear - clearly more adventures await.

There’s pull out pages and such a fun combination of colors and patterns that it’s very difficult for the reader not to enjoy themselves. Absolutely stunning and truly unique, this was a phenomenal read. Home Grown Reader

Make sure you check the end papers. In this post Lindsay Ward talks about her book.  I'm very keen to see other books by Lindsay Ward.

Monday, June 14, 2021

In a Cloud of Dust by Alma Fullerton illustrated by Brian Deines


This book made me cry. Yes it is a simple story but the beautiful act of kindness you will find here is so very moving and a moment to share and treasure with your reading companion or class.

Anna goes to school in Tanzania. It is a long walk each day and she always arrives home after dark. One day, while she is working through her lunch break, a truck pulls up outside her school. It has come from 'The Bicycle Library'.  Every child is given a bike. Every child except Anna. Stop reading. Now is a good moment to talk with your students.  How should Anna react? Is this fair? What would you do if you were Anna? Can you understand why having access to a bicycle might be so important to Anna - perhaps even life changing?

Now turn the page:

"Anna is disappointed but she's excited to help her friends."

We now watch Anna helping her friend Leyla learn to balance, encouraging Samwel as he navigates obstacles, and taking the hand of Prisca when she falls. On the way home Anna runs beside Farida, Samwel, Leyla and Irene. Then Mohammad gives her a ride on the back of his bike. When they reach his house Anna climbs off ready to walk the last part of her journey home alone BUT ...

"When they get off the bike, Mohammed hands it to Anna. 'You have further to go."

Publisher blurb (Pajama Press): In a Tanzanian village school, Anna struggles to keep up. Her walk home takes so long that when she arrives, it is too dark to do her homework. Working through the lunch hour instead, she doesn’t see the truck from the bicycle library pull into the schoolyard. By the time she gets out there, the bikes are all gone. Anna hides her disappointment, happy to help her friends learn to balance and steer. She doesn’t know a compassionate friend will offer her a clever solution—and the chance to raise her own cloud of dust.

Brian Deines is a Canadian illustrator from Alberta.  I was pleased to discover he lives in Red Deer which is a town near Sundre where I once worked. Alma Fullerton lives in Ontario.

Here are some websites to explore:

I would read In a cloud of Dust along side these titles: