Friday, August 2, 2013

My Great Aunt Arizona


Author: Gloria Houston
Illustrator:   Susan Condie Lamb
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Publication Year:   1992
Location: Personal Collection

Awards:   ALA Notable, IRA/CBC Childrens' & Teachers' Choice, NCSS notable, NCTE notable

Summary:  My favorite book to introduce text connections to my students, this is the autobiographical story of Houston's great aunt. Arizona grew up in the mountains and overcome odds to become a teacher in a one room school house. Although she dreamed of traveling, she never did but instead visiting those places in her mind and through the students whose lives she touched. The watercolors are perfect illustrations of a time unfamiliar to most modern students and invite them to pour over the details.

Classroom Ideas: A wonderful mentor text for describing someone in a student's life that inspired them and for making text connections. A good historical connection as well.


All the Places to Love

 ALL THE PLACES TO LOVE by Patricia MacLachlan

Author: Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrator:   Mike Wimmer
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Publication Year:   1994
Location: Personal Collection

Awards:   IRA/CBC Teachers' Choice, NCTE Notable, NCSS Notable Social Studies

Summary:  Beginning when his grandmother wraps him``in a blanket made from the wool of her sheep,'' Eli describes his grandparents' and parents' joy in him and his in their farm, where all their names are carved on a barn rafter. As he grows up, he tells about the farm and all the places that he grows to love. The book ends as he plans to share favorite places with a new baby sister.

Classroom Ideas: A mentor book that would encourage kids to think about the places in their lives and to include descriptive details.

Crow Call

CROW CALL by Lois Lowry

Author: Lois Lowry
Illustrator:   Bagram Ibatoulline
Publisher:  Scholastic
Publication Year:   2009
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Booklist starred review

Summary: (An autobiographical story)  Liz's father has just returned from war and he is a stranger to her. The two set off on a morning together, sharing breakfast of cherry pie at the diner and then heading out into the woods to hunt. They talk about the war and then Liz calls dozens of crows into the trees. Liz's joy in the crows is evident and her father decides not to hunt them that morning after all as the two head back down the hill hand in hand. A sweet book of the relationship between father and daughter.

Classroom Ideas: The description in this book is amazing: "Grass, frozen after its summer softness, crunches under our feet: the air is sharp and supremely clear, free from the floating pollens of summer; and our words seem etched and breakable on the brittle stillness." The setting is shown through the details in the illustrations- the signs in the diner, haircuts, and the car they drive; but the book would be relevant for any child whose parent has served in the military.

Extras: Author's note with a photograph of Lois Lowry from that time period.

You're All My Favorites


Author: Sam McBratney
Illustrator:   Anita Jeram
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Publication Year:   2004
Location: Personal Collection of MAH

Awards:  Bank Street College Best Book, Oppenheim Platinum

Summary:  When three cubs want to know who is their parents' favorites, they are reassured that they are all the favorites in their own special way. The most perfect first, second, and third cubs respectively. A sweet story that addresses a common childhood anxiety. The illustrations are charming pencil and watercolor.

Classroom Ideas: This book would be perfect for storytime for younger students. The story is cumulative and the characters are sweet.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

 Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Julie Vivas
Publisher:  Kane/Miller
Publication Year:   1985
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Children's Book of the Year by the Child Study Association of America, ALA Notable, NYT 100 Best Children's Books 

Summary:  A boy named Wilfrid hears his parents talking about the memory loss of a ninety-six year old neighbor who lives next door in the old people's home. He tries to discover the meaning of "memory" by asking the other residents who tell him, respectively, it's something warm, something sad, something that makes you laugh, something precious as gold.He gathers his own "memories" to bring to Miss Nancy, his favorite neighbor because she, too, has four names. Each of his treasures, a freshly laid egg for warmth, a toy puppet for laughter, his grandfather's war medal for sorrow, and his precious football brings back memories for Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper and smiles for the two of them. Sweet watercolors illustrate the poignant story.

Classroom Ideas: This is a semi-autobiographical story which could lead children to their own stories of things that are precious to them and bring back memories. It could also be linked to Alzheimers and aging and used by a school counselor.

Extras: The story behind the story on Fox's web page:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Phoebe and Digger

PHOEBE & DIGGER by Trisha Springstubb

Author: Tricia Springstubb
Illustrator:   Jeff Newman
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   featured in CCYAL Best of the Best 2013

Summary:  When Mama got a new baby, Phoebe got a new digger. At the park, Mama & the baby sit on a bench while Phoebe & Digger play in the dirt. A big mean girl comes and steals Digger even though Phoebe uses her words to ask for Digger back. Phoebe begins to feel a cry coming but Mama makes the mean girl give Digger back and Phoebe realizes Mama is still there for her too.

Classroom Ideas: A wonderful addition of a strong female character who wears red & green and plays with a digger. There is the idea of problem solving and the reassurance that mothers have enough love for all their children.

My Father's Arms are a Boat


Author: Stein Erik Lunde
Illustrator:   Oyvind Torseter
Publisher:  Enchanted Lion Books
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Norwegian Ministry’s Culture Prize for the Best Book and “Most Beautiful Book Award” for best picture book, Kirkus starred review

Summary:  A boy can't sleep and goes to sit on his father's lap. The two discussion the trees and birds in the forest and then that the boy's mommy will never wake up. The two go outside into the night for a while and then return inside where the man reassures the boy that "everything will be all right." "Are you sure?" "I'm sure." The subject is addressed in a straight forward way with no melodrama and shows the loneliness of both characters. The mixed-media illustrations are strange, but realistic. Kirkus describes them better than I can: "They seem grounded in reality, yet they are dreamlike, giving the impression one has been privileged to see someone else’s memory. A breathtaking masterpiece."

Classroom Ideas: Wow, the language in this book- "crackling of he fire" "tongues of fire like his face"  "the moon that looks like a boat" "eyes, black as night, are dark and deep in his face"
Although this is a picture book, both the words and the theme make it appropriate for older children.


RAIN! by Linda Ashman

Author: Linda Ashman
Illustrator:   Christian Robinson
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Kirkus starred review

Summary:  A grumpy man who's mad about the rain lives next door to a boy who's excited about it. The engaging paint and collage illustrations use a dark palette for the man contrasted with a bright one for boy. The man hates his galoshes and overcoat while the boy is excited to don his rain gear. The two characters move through their days, interacting with those around them and spreading their moods to everyone. When they meet at a cafe, the boy's acts of kindness infect the man and his spread suddenly becomes bright too.

Classroom Ideas: The theme of the power of attitude is told subtly but can be understood by even the youngest reader.

I'm Bored

I'M BORED by Michael Ian Black

Author: Michael Ian Black
Illustrator:   Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Publisher's Weekly starred review, NYT Notable

Summary:  A girl dramatically proclaims her boredom until a potato shows up. The potato is bored too. The girl tries all kind of scenarios to prove to the potato that she's fun, but the potato continues to claim boredom.The illustrations are fun drawings on a wide expanse of white background, and the playfulness of the font adds to the story. As the girl uses her imagination, the illustrations become more detailed until finally the girl loses her patience with the cranky potato.

Classroom Ideas: This is a great treatise on the power of imagination and would pair well with HELLO! hello!

Everyone can learn to ride a bicycle


Author & Illustrator:   Chris Raschka
Publisher:  Schwartz & Wade
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus & School Library Journal starred reviews

Summary:  A girl in a big helmet chooses a bicycle and practices a lot. Her very patient father helps her take off the training wheels and try over and over again until she finally learns. The retro inspired illustrations are watercolors with blocks of color. There are very few words, but the true story is told in the pictures of the girl and her father. She falls again and again and continues to try. He hugs her and encourages her: "Don't give up. You'll get it. Find the courage to try again......until by luck, grace, and determination, you are riding..." Sure to bring a tear to every parent's eye.

Classroom Ideas:  A character study of the unnamed girl and her father with an extremely strong moral told with very few words. Beautifully touching.

Samantha on a Roll

SAMANTHA ON A ROLL by Linda Ashman

Author: Linda Ashman
 Illustrator:   Christine Davenier
Publisher:  Margaret Ferguson Books
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Charlotte Zolotow Award, Kirkus starred review

Summary:  In rhyming text, this is the story of the brash Samantha who wants to learn to skate. Even though her mother doesn't have time to teach her, she takes off to teach herself (without her mother's knowledge.) Despite not knowing how to brake, she heads up Hawthorne Hill and heads down, destroying everything in her path. When she sees a kite, she rides it home where her mother is now ready to teach her to skate! The colored pencil and watercolor illustrations perfectly capture Samantha's facial expressions and her body language.

Classroom Ideas: There is some great vocabulary (flustered, swerving, snags) and some onomatopoeia. Samantha is a captivating character as well.

The Girl with a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran


Author: Rita Jahanforuz
Illustrator:   Vali Mintzi
Publisher:  Barefoot Books
Publication Year:   2010
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Cool Mom picks, featured on Seven Impossible Things,
Summary:  An Iranian-born author (and pop star), used a traditional tale as a basis for this book. Shiraz, a Cinderella like character, goes to find a red wool ball that was left by her mother when he falls into her neighbor's courtyard. She meets an older lady who asks her to smash everything in her house, but Shiraz disobeys and cleans everything. The lady returns her wool and tells her to bathe in two pools in her backyard. She does and becomes incredibly beautiful. Her stepsisters tries to mimic her but turns ugly instead. The pools made them both become the way they feel on the inside.The illustrations are bold, guache paintings with scribble outlines.

Classroom Ideas: A classroom study of other cultures would be enhanced by this traditional tale and the realization that the same lessons are taught everywhere. Because the moral is clearly stated at the end, it would be a good introduction to theme/moral for younger students.

Rabbit's Snow Dance

RABBIT'S SNOW DANCE by James Bruchac

Author: James & Joseph Bruchac
Illustrator:   Jeff Newman
Publisher:  Dial
Publication Year: 2012  
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Elizabeth Burr/Wozalla Award honor,

Summary:  An Iroquois pourquoi tale that tells about Rabbit, who was short on patience, and couldn't wait for the snow to come. Even though it's summertime and the other animals are ready for cold weather, Rabbit does his dance ("I will make it snow, AZIKANAPO!"). The snow comes and Rabbit just keeps going until he has to take a nap. When he awakes, he has an accident that explains why Rabbit has a small tail today! The illustrations are amazing line drawings and the colors are beautiful.

Classroom Ideas: The retelling of a traditional story is ripe for a classroom/library study of pourquoi tales. Rabbit is a perfect character for studying the effects of his impatience and perhaps the lesson he learned (moral).

Henry and the Cannons: An Extraordinary True Story of the American Revolution


Author & Illustrator:   Don Brown
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   School Library Journal starred review

Summary:  In winter of 1775, a bookseller named Henry Knox drags 59 cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. This book describes that trip in detail with simple line drawings and subtle watercolors. The story is told in a straight forward way that easily explains the amazing feat.

Classroom Ideas: A classroom study of the American Revolution or a character study on Henry. Through his actions, he shows determination and bravery.

Extras: map of the journey, bibliography

Frog Song

FROG SONG by Brenda Z. Guiberson

Author: Brenda Z. Guiberson
Illustrator:   Gennady Spirin
Publisher:  Henry Holt
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   School Library Journal, Booklist, & Publisher's Weekly starred reviews,

Summary:  Eleven different kinds of frogs from around the world are examples of how frogs keep from drying out. The illustrations are magical- drawing the reader into the world of the frogs. They are extremely saturated, but somehow still contain amazingly realistic details. An absolutely gorgeous book!

Classroom Ideas: The text in this book is full of onomatopoeia, and the Science connection is strong. The frogs could be placed onto a world map and their habitats and biomes discussed.

Extras: Photographs and facts about each frog. Author's note about frogs in danger because of pollution. Bibliography and list of online sources.

One Fine Day

ONE FINE DAY by Nonny Hogrogian

Author & Illustrator:   Nonny Hogrogian
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Publication Year:   1971
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott

Summary:  A young fox who steals a drink of milk and a woman cuts off his tail because of it.  Through determination and a willingness to work with others, this fox finally rights the wrong he committed at the beginning of the story and gets his tail back. The illustrations are deceptively simple with bright colors, beautiful brushstrokes, and lots of contrast.

Classroom Ideas: This would be a great cause and effect lesson. It has a cumulative plot with a very satisfying ending.