Sunday, June 30, 2013

Swirl by Swirl

Cover art for SWIRL BY SWIRL

Author: Joyce Sidman
Illustrator:  Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature
Publication Year:  
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog, Horn Book Fanfare, ALA Notable, School Library Journal Best Book, Booklist Editor's Choice, Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended

Summary:  This poem celebrates the swirl pattern in nature. Its simple words take back stage to the intricate scratchboard illustrations that entice the reader to stare at all of details. It has large font for the youngest readers, along with smaller text for adult's eyes that labels the animals and plants that are pictured. The drawings make you want to explore the book over and over again. According to Kirkus: "Two pages of notes at the end offer a definition (“Spiral: a shape that curls around a center point”), details that elaborate on the poem and explain some of the individual manifestations of spirals and a brief nod to the Fibonacci sequence."

Classroom Ideas: This book could introduce the geometrical shapes found in nature and many different animal & plant species. Students could choose their own shape to illustrate ("What circles are found in nature?")

Saint George and the Dragon

Author: Margaret Hodges
Illustrator:   Trina Schart Hyman
Publisher:  Little, Brown, and Company
Publication Year:   1984
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott, Booklist starred review

Summary:  This is a retelling of the class story from Spencer's The Faerie Queen. In this story, George, the Red Cross Dragon, kills the dragon that has been attacking the countryside for years and bring peace to the land. But the real star here is the amazing illustrations by Hyman. She frames all of her drawings and the text so that the book looks like beautiful stained glass windows.

Classroom Ideas: This book is full of excellent vocabulary (foe, veiled, hermit, hideous) and beautiful imagery  ("her shoulder were covered with a black cloak as if she had a hidden sorrow in her heart.") There is plenty of figurative language as well.

Nobody Asked the Pea


Author & Illustrator:   John Warren Stewig
Publisher:  Holiday House
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Common Core Writing connection

Summary:  This is the traditional story of the princess and the pea told from different perspectives: the pea, the queen, the prince, a mouse in the castle, a maid, the head housekeeper, the king, the doorman, a page, and the princess.  The characters are incredibly well-described through their individual voices.

Classroom Ideas: This book is perfect for the 5th grade common core standard of perspective where students are expected to be able to retell the story in a different point of view.

The Favorite Daughter


Author & Illustrator:   Allen Say
Publisher:  Arthur Levine
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Christian Science Monitor Best Book

Summary:  Yuriko has to deal with some teasing at school about being bi-racial and her untraditional name. Her father takes her to a Japanese garden and reminds her of the gifts of her heritage. After a lot of special talk, Yuriko creates a unique art project and reclaims her pride in her name and herself. Allen Say wrote this book for his own daughter and it contains actual drawings of her as a child and then again as an adult. This autobiographical story shows a different side of Allen Say.

Classroom Ideas:  The theme of this story is a very important one, especially for biracial children, but really for any child as they learn to appreciate the things that make them unique. It would be wonderful for a guidance counselor too.


Cover art for BLACKOUT

Author & Illustrator:   John Rocco
Publisher:  Hyperion
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott honor, NYT Best Book, Kirkus Best Book, Publisher's Weekly Best Book, School Library Journal Best Book
Summary: One summer night, the city is going about its normal routine and everyone is too busy to spend time together. Until there's a city-wide blackout. When the family gets hot inside, they up to the roof and there are lots of people there star-watching. They soon discover that there's a flashlight and candle-lit party going on in the street too. When the lights come back on, the family decides to keep the candles lit and spend time together anyway. The dramatic dark illustrations really bring this story to life.

Classroom Ideas: The theme of technology and time are an important one in the story. This book would be a great companion to Cordell's Hello! Hello!


Cover art for RAPUNZEL

Author & Illustrator:   Paul O. Zelinsky
Publisher:  Dutton Children's Books
Publication Year:   1997
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott Medal

Summary:  When a man steals some rapunzel from a witch for his pregnant wife, the witch catches him and steals the baby away. The story follows the familiar plot line as a prince discovers the secret tower and falls in love with Rapunzel. They get married and Rapunzel gets pregnant. In a rage, the sorceress cuts her hair off and sends her off into the wilderness where she gives birth to twins. The sorceress tries to blind the prince but Rapunzel's tears heal him and the family lives happily ever after. Zelinsky's gorgeous paintings in the Italian Renaissance style are framed in traditional fairy tale style.

Classroom Ideas: Zelinsky is a very versatile artist and it would be interesting to compare this book to his others and talk about artistic style. This book could also be part of a fairy tale unit, to compare with other versions or even with the Disney movie Tangled.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hey, Al

Cover art for HEY, AL

Author: Arthur Yorinks
Illustrator:   Richar Egielski
Publisher:  Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Publication Year:   1986
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott, ALA Notable, Booklist Editor's Choice

Summary:  A NY City janitor and his dog live in a small room depicted with small framed illustrations in muted colors. Once day a large colorful bird sticks his head in the window and offers to transport Al & Eddie to an island in the sky. The illustrations become deeply saturated in color and begin to burst out of the frames into gorgeous, full page spreads. At first, they're deeply happy but soon they begin to transform into birds and realize that the price is too high for living on the island. The two friends barely make it back to their muted apartment where they start to appreciate what they have.

Classroom Ideas: There's an interesting metaphor here with "a ripe fruit soon spoils" which depicts one of the themes of the tale. Another is listed on the last page: Paradise lost is sometimes Heaven found (or maybe there's no place like home.)

Building Our House


Author & Illustrator:   Jonathan Bean
Publisher:  Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog; Kirkus, School Library Journal, & Horn Book starred reviews, Horn Book Best Book

Summary:  This book is the story of Jonathan Bean's parents, who built their own house in the 1970's. The family lives in a small trailer on the country land while working on the house when his father is not at his job. The child narrator experiences all this as she is watching her future home taking shape. Many people from the community help, and the phrase "it takes a village" comes to mind. (I loved the description of the frame-raising party.) The watercolor and ink illustrations immediately brought to my mind the Busytown books of the 1970s and the text placement draws the reader into the entire process. The Author's Note dedicates the book to his "homesteader" family and shows photographs of the building of the Bean home. I love the sepia-toned end papers that show the empty rural landscape in the front and then the completed home in the back.

Classroom Ideas: Kids who love construction will love seeing the process of the homebuilding. Since Bean's family considered themselves "homesteaders," it would be interesting to compare this family to the homesteaders of the 1860s.

Abe Lincoln's Dream

smith abedream 225x300 Abe Lincolns Dream

Author & Illustrator:   Lane Smith
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog, Horn Book & School Library Journal starred reviews,

Summary:  Presidental scholars will immediately recognize the inclusion of Roosevelt, Johnson, and Reagan's dogs as they begin this story of a girl who goes on a White House tour and encounters Abraham Lincoln's ghost. The book deftly moves between silly jokes and serious questions as they discuss the issues ("Our union was so fragile, so uncertain. Like that ship on the rocky sea.") of union and equality that so plagued President Lincoln. The girl Quincy reassures Lincoln of the progress that has been made since his time. The Afterward explains Abraham Lincoln's reoccurring dream of himself in a ship moving toward a distant shore and also introduces the president dogs that are in the story. Lane use of a muted palette here fits the "historical" feel of the story and the typography looks like those used in newspapers of Lincoln's time. There are many pictorial references to history in the illustrations as well.

Classroom Ideas: Along with the obvious history curriculum connection, there are several uses of simile here. I wouldn't use this one to introduce Lincoln as you have to have some understanding of the issues he faced to get the story, but rather to enhance a study of his presidency.

Friday, June 28, 2013


Cover art for GREEN

Author & Illustrator:   laura vaccaro seegar
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott Honor, Kirkus Best Book, Publisher's Weekly, Horn Book, School Library Journal & Kirkus starred reviews

Summary:  Gorgeous watercolors with creative cut-outs illustrate poetry about the color green. The painting have strong brushstrokes reminiscent of Van Gogh (my favorite color and my favorite artist!) I could not POSSIBLY choose a favorite spread- luscious, amazing, delicious colors!! And at the end, there's a little environmental twist.

Classroom Ideas: In art, this would introduce shades, color mixing, and techniques. In Science, you could talk about the environment. But mostly, I just want to stare and stare at this book.

It's a Book

Cover art for IT'S A BOOK

Author & Illustrator:   Lane Smith
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Year:   2010
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Publisher's Weekly & Booklist starred reviews

Summary:  This sarcastic book is classic Lane Smith, with a little controversy thrown in. The characters: mouse, jackass, and monkey, are introduced on the title page. Jackass doesn't know what a book is and wants to know if it scrolls, blogs, texts, tweets, has a password or a screen name. Monkey explains "No, it's a book" each time. Finally, Jackass gets drawn into the story and won't give the book back.  Monkey decides to go to the library, but Mouse gets in the last word. Adults should preread it and make sure they're okay with the final (slightly naughty) twist.

Classroom Ideas: This book has an important theme and is very funny, but I'm not sure I'd bring it into the classroom. Rather I'd let parents introduce it to their kids (just like I did as soon as I read it!)

Smith writes about his book:

HELLO! hello!

Cover art for HELLO! HELLO!

Author & Illustrator:   Matthew Cordell
Publisher:  Hyperion
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Kirkus starred review, NYT Best Book

Summary:  Lydia is bored with tcehnology and wants to connect with her family, drawn at first in a weird grey-scale. The font is very reminiscent of a digital clock. She goes outside, where she faced with a whole different world. The font changes to a brushed script and color reappears. The two page "Hello, world!" meadow spread is an explosion of colorful flowers and the sun looks completely luminescent. When her parents call to see where she is, Lydia races to pull them back into the world and into full-color with token of nature for each of them. The way that Cordell gets his story told with very few words is pure genius.

Classroom Ideas: This book has an incredibly important theme and should be shared with all kids.

Cheetah Can't Lose

Author & Illustrator:   Bob Shea
Publisher:  balzer + bray
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Kirkus starred review

Summary:  Cheetah is an obnoxious bragger. The two little cats set up a competition made of many events. When Cheetah wins, he gets wooden blocks for shoes, eats too much pie & ice cream, and gets wrapped up in string. There are several other preliminary events where Cheetah gets a handful of balloons and a crown that's too big for him. By the time the BIG RACE comes along, Cheetah can't possibly win. But in a twist that shows true friendship, the little cats give Cheetah their first place medals and feel glad to have Cheetah as a friend.

Classroom Ideas: This story is another view on friendship and could easily compared to My Friend Rabbit. The little cats love Cheetah despite his flaws.



Author: Mary Lyn Ray
Illustrator:   Marla Frazee
Publisher:  Beach Lane Books
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:  featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog; Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal &  Booklist starred reviews, ALA Notable,

Summary:  The sweeping watercolors pull you into this beautiful book. In it, stars are explored in all of their different variations- both physical and metaphorical. The descriptive language is beautiful and the text layouts are just perfect. I just wanted to fall into this dreamy world. I adore this book!

Classroom Ideas: A perfect book for a figurative language unit, with both simile (shiny as a star) and metaphor (flowers as white stars or yellow stars).

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf

Author & Illustrator: Mark Teague 
Publisher:  Orchard Books
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Parent's Choice Award, Granite Book Award

Summary:  In this version, the three pigs must find their own place because the farmers are moving to Florida. While the first two want to be "pig-like" and buy food, the third pig wants building supplies. The other pigs build cheap houses so that they can buy their junk food, but the third pig built a beautiful, strong house. When a hungry wolf comes to town, he blows the first pigs' houses down, but he can't blow down the brick house. They offer the wolf some nutritious dinner from the 3rd pig's garden and they all live happily together. This is a fractured fairy tale and Mark Teague's illustrations always crack me up!

Classroom Ideas:This would be a great addition to a fairy tale unit or variations on the three pig stories. It would be perfect to compare and contrast with the original along with other versions like the The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. There is also a subtle theme about healthy eating.

My Friend Rabbit

Cover art for MY FRIEND RABBIT

Author & Illustrator:   Eric Rohmann
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Year:   2002
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott, Parents' Choice Award

Summary:  Rohmann decides to use printmaking for this book with hand colored relief prints. It tells the story of Rabbit who is quite mischievious. When a plane gets lost up a tree, Rabbit drags in all the other animals and stacks them up (with an awesomely unexpected vertical spread) to try and reach. Even though the animals fall and are not happy, the mouse decides that "Rabbit means well. And he is my friend."

Classroom Ideas: This is a story of friendship and I think most kids could relate to the ideas here. You could use it as a mentor text and have kids write about a friend of theirs or about a time that they got into trouble.

Fly Away Home

Cover art for FLY AWAY HOME

Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator:   Ronald Himler
Publisher:  Clarion
Publication Year:   1991
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   ALA Notable, Kirkus  & School Library Journal Starred reviews

Summary:  This beautiful story of homelessness is told in the voice of a preschooler. He and his dad live in an airport and try not to get caught there by carefully fitting in. His dad works as a janitor but doesn't make enough money for them to have a place to their own apartment. The boy is sometimes jealous of the families in the airport that get to go home but it ends with him hopeful that one day he'll get to go too. This is a wonderfully done story of a sensitive topic.

Classroom Ideas: Obviously this book is about homelessness. But it's also a great example of first person point of view. The narrator's name is unknown and I believe that's purposefully to make the point that the boy could be any child. It's also a more sophisticated plot structure where the problem is not solved.

Tweak Tweak

Cover art for TWEAK TWEAK

Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator:   Sergio Ruzzier
Publisher:  Clarion
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog,

Summary:  Mama Elephant and Little Elephant are going for a walk. Mama says to tweak her tail when she has a question, and Little is full of questions. She wants to know about the frog's jumping, the monkey's climbing, the crocodile's swimming, the butterfly's flying, the bird's singing, and whether she could do any of those things. The mother assures her that she can do other elephant things and that she can ask questions, learn, and grown to be a "big, strong, smart, beautiful elephant." Any mother/child pair could see themselves in this sweet story.

Classroom Ideas: For the younger readers, they could identify with the mother/daughter pair here. You could also use this book to teach repetition and onomatopoeia as the "tweak, tweak" is repeated, and as part of a unit on elephants.

Grandpa Green

Cover art for GRANDPA GREEN

Author & Illustrator:   Lane Smith
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott Honor, Publisher's Weekly Best Books, School Library Journal Best Books,

Summary:  This is the story of a great-grandfather told through the eyes of his great-grandson. Grandpa Green was born and grew up on a farm. He built an incredible topiary filled garden with scenes from his life, but now he's starting to forget things. The garden remembers for him. The gorgeous pen and ink drawings with splashes of color, mostly green, just drew me into the amazingly detailed world. I honestly wanted to take off down the pebbled path into the garden.  This book is a feast for the eyes to stare at for hours.

Classroom Ideas: This would be a great introduction to horticulture (the word is used in the book) and topiary. It also would speak to aging and Alzheimer's in a very gentle way. Even though Grandpa never speaks, we learn a lot about him and it would be interesting to do a character study and describe him (and the grandson as well).

One Cool Friend

Cover art for ONE COOL FRIEND

Author: Toni Buzzeo
Illustrator:   David Small
Publisher:  Dial Books
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott honor,  Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal starred reviews

Summary:  Elliott is a "proper young man" in a tuxedo who reluctantly agrees to go to Family Fun Day at the aquarium.  Then he discovers the penguins in their tuxedos and he decides to take one. After creating a frozen pool in his room, he goes to the library (where the librarian is oh so helpful, of course!) and gathers supplies. Eventually, his dad finds out and the reader thinks Magellean will be returned to the aquarium, but will he? The ink, watercolor, and pencil illustrations really add whimsy to the clever text, and layout includes the perfect use of speech bubbles.

Classroom Ideas: The twist at the end of this book would be great for kids to talk about plot and predictability in their own writing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mouse & Lion

Mouse & Lion

Author: Rand Burkert
Illustrator:   Nancy Eklhom Burkert
Publisher:  Scholastic
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   featured on the "Calling Caldecott" blog; Kirkus, School Library Journal, & Publisher's Weekly starred reviews, Booklist Editor's Choice & Notable Books

Summary:  A retelling of the classic Aesop fable set in the African grasslands. This book is printed on such luscious paper with gorgeous brush, ink, and pencil illustrations. The story is the traditional tale, although in the author's note he says that he wanted Mouse to take top billing here since it's usually the lion. It's written with a very sophisticated tone and would be an interesting compare & contrast Pinkney's Caldecott-winning take on the same tale.

Classroom Ideas: This book has amazing vocabulary (hurrying, scampered, tawny, runt, "in a bad humor", Sire, whiskery, hurled.....) It would be great to talk about scarcity of words and choosing them carefully with young writers. The setting also takes center stage here and a discussion of the grasslands (striped African grass mouse & baobab tree) would be appropriate. Fables are always great sources for discussing theme as well.

OH NO! (or how my science project destroyed the world)

Cover art for OH NO!

Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator:   Dan Santat
Publisher:  Hyperion
Publication Year:   2010
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Kirkus & Publisher's Weekly starred reviews,
Summary:  This almost wordless book tells the story of a science project. The detailed diagram of the "Robot Unit Series-01" on the front endpaper tells the reader that this is going to be a series project indeed. The narrator is a  glasses-wearing girl who's walking through a ruined city being attacked by a giant robot. She addresses the reader directly with, "I never should have built a robot for the science fair." In a flashback, she wins a blue ribbon at the fair , but then in the future its still destroying the city. She bemoans all of the weapons she gave it while she didn't give it ears. Then she gets an idea and sends a giant toad after the robot. The toad pushes the robot into the ocean, but then the toad starts to attack the city.

Classroom Ideas: Since the narrator directly addresses the reader, this is 2nd person point of view. It's a good example of problem and solution. It would also be a great writing exercise for kids to write about what happens next. How will the narrator stop the giant toad?

Blue Chicken


Author & Illustrator:   Deborah Freedman
Publisher:  Viking
Publication Year:  2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog; Kirkus, Booklist, & School Library Journal starred reviews, Kirkus Best Book

Summary:  On the front endpaper, its a grey rainy day in a framed picture of a barn (Is it a window or a frame?) The narrator is an unseen artist who is almost finished with her painting- everything except the barn. But, one of the chicken leaves the painting and heads for the pot of blue ink. It spills and blue ink goes everywhere! It floods and colors everything blue! The (now blue) animals are mad, and the chicken heads for the water cup to try and "undo the blue." She washes it off and everything is back to the same, except the sky which stays blue. At the end, the artist is seen outside the window painting her real barn white. The hilarious final endpaper shows a fire-engine red barn and animals.

Classroom Ideas: Great vocabulary here (peevish, sincerely). An art teacher could use this to talk about ink and watercolors. The plot would be easy to map out, and Blue Chicken's problem solving could be discussed as well.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oh, No!

Cover art for OH, NO!

Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator:   Eric Rohmann
Publisher:  Schwartz & Wade Books
Publication Year: 2012  
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Kirkus starred review & Best Book, School Library Journal starred review, Bull-Bransom Award

Summary:  The rhyming text in this book is infectious! Frog falls into a hole and then his friends try to get him out. Unfortunately, they all fall in too. Then Tiger comes over, sees all the tasty animals in the hole together and offers to "help" them out. Instead, Elephant comes along and shakes the ground so Tiger falls in too. In the end, Elephant helps almost all of them out, but Tiger remains in the hole. Rohmann's gorgeous relief cuts pull the reader into the jungle environment perfectly, and the final endpaper with Tiger's paws just showing to pull him out of the hole is priceless!

Classroom Ideas: This book is full of rhyme, rhythm, onomotopeia, and repetition. It would be fun to show kids the two endpapers and have them make predictions about the story, as they perfectly bookmark it!

and then it's spring

fanfare fogliano 245x300 Horn Book Fanfare 2012

Author: Julie Fogliano
Illustrator:   Erin Stead
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog, Booklist Editor's Choice, Horn Book Fanfare, Kirkus starred review & Best Book

Summary:  A boy plants seeds in the brown winter landscape and then waits, somewhat impatiently, for them to grow. The text captures the voice of a child perfectly, with lots of run-on sentences. The boy waters his plants faithfully (and his animal friends plant their own seeds too- I love the dog who plants the bone in the garden!) He worries that the seeds won't grow, but one day finally the green comes and it is spring. Once again, Stead's illustrations take center stage in her wonderfully detailed woodblock and colored pencil drawings. I think my favorite is spread that shows the creatures all sleeping underground (those adorable mice!)

Classroom Ideas: This book would be a great inclusion in a unit about seasons or one about plants. You could talk about the passage of time and the changes that happen underground before the seeds actually show growth. The underlying theme would probably be one about patience or "Good things come to those who wait."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cowboy and Octopus

Cover art for COWBOY & OCTOPUS

Author: Jon Scieszka
Illustrator:   Lane Smith
Publisher:  Viking
Publication Year:  2007
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   School Library Journal and Horn Book starred reviews

Summary:  Cowboy and Octopus are unlikely pals (even the endpapers and the dedications show their differences). In these seven small stories, they meet, work together, eat baked beans, dress up for Halloween, explore the weather, tell jokes, and appreciate (or not) each other's hats. Silly but sometimes profound fun! Lane Smiths' "collage" creations illustrate the story perfectly (surreal but nice).

Classroom Ideas: This book has a great theme of appreciating people for their individuality and looking beyond the outside. If you can't figure out the themes, Octopus will point them out for you- great introduction to the idea of theme or moral for younger readers.

Where's Walrus?

Cover art for WHERE'S WALRUS?

Author & Illustrator:   Stephen Savage
Publisher:  Scholastic Press
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog, IRA Primary Fiction Award, Kirkus & School Library Journal starred reviews

Summary:  All the animals are asleep except for walrus, who quietly escapes out of the front gate of the zoo. When the zookeeper comes after him, he disguises himself as a mermaid in a fountain, a man in a diner, a mannequin in a store window, and many other people. He ends up joining a high diving team and performing spectacular dive that wows the crowd. After he wins the gold medal, the zookeeper builds him a beautiful new pool at the zoo. The graphic elements all return back to the look of the 1950s, including walrus' handsome fedora. Gorgeous book!

Classroom Ideas: This book could be used as a writing activity as kids write about another adventure that walrus could have. Also, a character study of walrus would be interesting- was he naughty or just adventurous?

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Cover art for MUSTACHE!

Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator:   Kevin Cornell
Publisher:  Hyperion
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Junior Library Guild Choice

Summary: King Duncan is so vain that his kingdom falls down around hm while he spends his time admiring himself (and putting up billboards "Remember: Your King is a Dreamboat!") His subjects demand that he does something to fix things. But instead he creates a large scroll that says "I'm Great!" which someone vandalizes with a mustache. Everything in the kingdom gets mustaches too and the king is perplexed. The reader gets let into the secret when we find out that everyone in the kingdom is drawing mustaches, so the king makes the whole kingdom into a jail for the people. At the end the king decides to join in on the fun and draws on his own mustache. The framed illustrations refer back to classic fairy tales, as do the illuminated initials and the scroll-like textboxes.

Classroom Ideas: This book will make kids giggle in glee at the silly king. A good compare and contrast could be done with Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, another vain character.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon


Author: Katherine Paterson
Illustrator:   Pamela Dalton
Publisher:  Chronicle Books
Publication Year:  
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog, Booklist & Kirkus starred reviews

Summary:  This is  a retelling of the stories of Saint Francis of Assissi. The words are beautiful and simple. The papercuts and watercolor on a black background are stunning in their detail. The Sister Moon spread is breathtaking.

Classroom Ideas: The obviously religious text would make this a difficult book to use in a public school although it could be shown to talk about papercutting. I think a Christian school teacher/librarian should absolutely have this beautiful book in their collection.

The Gruffalo

Cover art for THE GRUFFALO

Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator:   Axel Scheffler
Publisher:  Dial Books
Publication Year:   1999
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Nestles Smarties Book Prize, Nottingham Children's Book Award, UK Best Picture Book

Summary:  A mouse takes a walk through the woods and escapes being lunch for other creatures when he makes up a creature called the Gruffalo. According to him, the gruffalo's favorite food is roasted fox or owl ice cream or scrambled snake. But then he meets the real gruffalo who wants to eat him for lunch until he shows him that everyone is scared of the dangerous mouse (or maybe his companion). The mouse says his favorite food is gruffalo crumble and the gruffalo runs away.

Classroom Ideas: This book could be used to talk about character. What adjectives would you use to describe mouse? Is he clever or is he a liar?

The Lion and the Mouse

Cover art for THE LION & THE MOUSE

Author & Illustrator:   Jerry Pinkney
Publication Year:  
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Caldecott, NYT Best Illustrated, ALA Notable, Horn Books Honor Book, School Library Journal Top 100 Picture Books

Summary:  This is a wordless adaptation of the traditional fable of the lion and the mouse. A mouse is running from predator's when she accidentally awakes a lion. The lion decides to let her go back to her family. Later, the mouse chews through some old ropes and frees the lion from a hunter's trap. Don't skip the endpapers where the lion is surrounded by his family (mate & 5 cubs) and riding on his back is the adorable mouse family!

Classroom Ideas: The theme here is about friendship and mercy. In his Artist's Note, Pinkney says "As a child I was inspired to see the majestic king of the jungle saved by the determination and hard work of a humble rodent; as an adult I've come to appreciate how both animals are equally large at heart: the courageous mouse, and the lion who must rise above his beastly nature to set his small prey free." This would be an interesting quotation to discuss with kids.


Cover art for FLOTSAM

Author & Illustrator:   David Wiesner
Publisher:  Clarion
Publication Year:   2006
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Caldecott, NYT Best Illustrated, Kirkus Best Children's Books, Horn Book Fanfare

Summary:  A wordless picture book about things in the ocean in Wiesner's captivating richly detailed style. A boy finds an underwater camera with photographs of fantastical underwater scenes. I think my favorite is the octopus family in their living room. When he realizes that many different children have taken their pictures with this camera, he does the same and then sends it back for the story to start again.

Classroom Ideas: This book invites children to look closely and imagine. You could take any illustration and write a story about it. (I want to know more about that octopus family!) It also would be easy to use it as a mentor text to continue the story from where it left off.

The Little House

Cover art for THE LITTLE HOUSE

Author & Illustrator:   Virginia Lee Burton
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Year:   1943
Location: Personal Collection

Awards:   Caldecott, NEA Best Books for Children, School Library Journal Top 100 Picture Books

Summary:  This is the story of a little house that is originally built in the country and the family promises to never sell her.  As the years pass, the little house watches as progress changes her environment and brings new things- road, cars, buildings, tenement houses, etc. Finally the great-great-granddaughter of the man who built the little house recognizes her and moves her back out to the country to be surrounded by trees again. Burton was an early master of text placement as the illustrations and text in her books always fit together perfectly.

Classroom Ideas: This book traces the industrial revolution and the growth of cities. There is so much here that is taught in US History: automobiles, tenement buildings, trolley cars, elevated trains, subways, and skycrapers. Younger grade teachers could also point to the Little House's depiction of the seasons. 


written and illustrated by Shane W. Evans Underground

Author & Illustrator:   Shane W. Evans
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog, Coretta Scott King award, Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal, & Kirkus starred reviews

Summary:  The story of the underground railroad is told here in a few simple sentences. The real focus is on the mixed-media illustrations. The contrast between dark and light is compelling in the collages, and the moment when the sun finally rises on the freed family is remarkable.

Classroom Ideas: This is a simple introduction to the underground railroad that would be appropriate for the early elementary grades.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Home for Bird

Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator:   Erin Stead
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog; Horn Book, Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, & Kirkus starred reviews; Kirkus Best Book

Summary:  An overloaded “Careful Moving Co.” pickup truck drives down the road,where a cockoo off a clock falls out of the truck.Vernon the toad is a forager for interesting things who meets Bird. He introduces the mute Bird to his friends Skunk and Porcupine. They think Bird is lost and missing home so Vernon & Bird set off on the river to try and find his home. No matter where they go, Bird had nothing to say but finally they travel a long way on a balloon to a small farm house. They find a house hanging on the wall and when Bird is placed into the house he says Cuckoo! The gorgeous guoache illustrations are Erin Stead's most vibrant and they still have her amazing attention to detail. The spread where they set off on the river actually made me catch my breath.

Classroom Ideas: There are many clues to the outcome of the story in the initial illustration. You could discuss visual foreshadowing. Inference: Why doesn't Bird talk? Theme: once again, the Steads look at friendship.

Bear Has a Story to Tell

stead bearhasstory 327x300 Bear Has A Story to Tell

Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator:   Erin Stead
Publisher:  Roaring Book Press
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   featured on "Calling Caldecott" blog, Kirkus Best of 2012, starred reviews School Library Journal & Publisher's Weekly

Summary:  Before hibernating, Bear wants to tell his story but everyone is busy. Finally, Bear must go to sleep without getting to tell anyone. Many months later when he awakens, Bear is excited to get to tell his story. He helps all his friends gather together but then he can't remember the story. Helpfully, his friends suggest that perhaps he should tell the story of his hibernation and so the last line of the book is an echo of the first. Erin Stead's beautiful muted illustrations perfectly accompany this sweet story of friendship. (I'm not sure if the vertical spread of Mole's underground den or the gorgeous starry sky spread when Bear is telling his story is my favorite.)

Classroom Ideas: The plot of this story could be easily mapped, and the theme of friendship and helpfulness could be identified by younger readers.

A Ball for Daisy

Cover art for A BALL FOR DAISY

Author & Illustrator:   Chris Raschka
Publisher:  Schwartz & Wade
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Caldecott, starred Kirkus review

Summary:  A wordless picture book about a dog named Daisy and her red ball. Through the illustrations, Raschka shows the absolute love Daisy has for her ball and the joy she gets from playing with it. When Daisy goes for a walk, the ball gets broken and Daisy is inconsolable with grief. The pages where Daisy is sad on her green couch almost broke my heart! But, at the end, the owner of the dog who broke Daisy's ball gets her a new blue ball and joy returns.

Classroom Ideas: Younger readers could write the words to tell Daisy's story or write their own story of losing something precious to them.