Friday, October 7, 2016

November Story Time Themes

During the month of November, I like to center my story times on themes that connect in some way to the Thanksgiving holiday. Here are my favorites.


Suggested Books:
  • A Feast for Ten by Cathryn Falwell
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 
  • Mouse Mess by Linnea Asplind Riley
  • Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli 
  • Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? by Bonnie Lass & Philemon Sturges

Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:
  • Too Many Turkeys by Linda White, illustrated by Megan Lloyd
  • Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon
  • Over the River: A Turkey's Tale by Derek Anderson
  • This is the Turkey by Abby Levine 

Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:

  • The Day Ray Got Away by Angela Johnson
  • Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
  • The Grumpalump by Sarah Hayes
  • Balloons Balloons Balloons by Dee Lillegard
  • A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood 

Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:

  • Thank You, Thanksgiving by David Milgrim
  • All for Pie, Pie for All by David Martin
  • Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
  • Giving Thanks by Chief Jake Swamp
  • This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story by Laura Krauss Melmed

Extension Activities:

Friday, September 30, 2016

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, September 2016

Easy Readers

Three of the reviews I found this month focused on titles from the Toon books imprint. Benny and Penny in How to Say Goodbye and Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World were both reviewed at and Jean Little Library reviewed Stinky. (Jean Little Library also had reviews of The Toad and Jack and the Box, plus a review of My Dog Bob at Flying Off My Bookshelf.)

Other reviewers were very excited about Elephant and Piggie Like Reading, the new series from Mo Willems. Posts appeared at Mom's Radius and No Time for Flashcards.

Finally, Becky's Book Reviews posted about Wagon Wheels and The Long Way Westward Kids Book a Day reviewed Rabbit & Robot and Ribbit, and The Children's Book Review reviewed Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret.

Chapter Books

Two bilingual chapter book heroines gained popularity this month. Sal's Fiction Addiction, Waking Brain Cells, and Librarian's Quest all had reviews of Juana and Lucas, and Jen Robinson's Book Page and Geo Librarian reviewed Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventures.

There were also two reviews of Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig: one from Jean Little Library, and one from Provo City Library Children's Book Review.

Other chapter book reviews included:

Friday, September 16, 2016

25 Ways to Play With Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Bad days happen to everyone - even kids! Published in 1972, this favorite picture book based on the author's own family is a great way to come to terms with those terrible, horrible days that make us want to move to Australia - and it's also a fun book to use for learning through play. Here are 25 ways to play with the content and themes of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

  1. Create a homemade toy from a cereal box.  
  2. Draw what might be seen from the window of Alexander's carpool. 
  3. Practice singing loudly and softly. 
  4. Count to sixteen without leaving out any numbers. For an added challenge for older readers, count by sixteens! 
  5. Draw invisible pictures, like Alexander's invisible castle, using ink made of water and lemon juice.
  6. Use play food to pack a pretend lunch with all your favorite foods. 
  7. Spend some time in the kitchen making a dessert for your own lunch box - and don't forget to put it in before you leave for school! 
  8. Set up a make-believe dental practice. 
  9.  Pretend to be a shoe salesperson. 
  10. Color a pair of sneakers to suit your style. 
  11. Set up a pretend office like the one Alexander's dad works in. Act out the scene where Alexander visits the office.
  12. Find Australia on a map.
  13. Create an itinerary for traveling to Australia from your house.
  14. Sing Cuddly Koalas, about Australian animals.
  15. Plant a lima bean.
  16. Design a pair of ugly pajamas like the railroad train ones Alexander hates to wear.
  17. Write a sequel where Alexander has a good day. 
  18. Write a story about your own real or imagined bad day. 
  19. Hear Judith Viorst read the book in this video from Barnes and Noble's online story time feature. 
  20. Read Judith Viorst's other books about Alexander: Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday (1978), Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move (1995), and Alexander, Who's Trying His Best to Be the Best Boy Ever (2014).
  21. Discover some of Judith Viorst's other books
  22. Watch the 2014 film adaptation of the book starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner.
  23. Watch the 1990 cartoon musical based on the book on YouTube. (Alexander is played by Danny Tamberelli!)
  24. Act out a skit based on the book using this script
  25. Retell the story using a flannel board set like this one

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Picture Book Review: Journey, Quest, and Return by Aaron Becker

Journey by Aaron Becker. 2013; Candlewick Press. 9780763660536
Quest by Aaron Becker. 2014. Candlewick Press.  9780763665951
Return by Aaron Becker. August 2, 2016; Candlewick Press 9780763677305

The young girl who stars as the central character in this wordless picture book trilogy by Aaron Becker begins Journey feeling bored and left out amidst her busy family's other obligations. After asking each member of the household to spend time with her and being rejected, she, much like Sendak's Max, sets out on a journey. She begins by drawing a doorway into her bedroom wall with a red piece of chalk. The passageway she opens leads her into another world, where she is greeted cheerfully by soldiers, and then witnesses the capture of a beautiful purple bird. When she tries to free the bird, she finds herself caged, but not for long. By the end of the story, she is safely rescued and in the company of a new friend.

The second book, Quest, picks up the two children's adventure just where it leaves off in the first book. The two ride their chalk-made bicycle through the park, where they are approached by the king of the other world the girl has just visited. The king presents the children with a map which will lead them to a piece of chalk for each color of the rainbow. It becomes clear that these chalks are the source of power in the land where the king rules and by tracking them down and returning them to their rightful place, the young girl and boy will restore the king to his full strength. Throughout the book, the two friends work together ingeniously to draw the solutions to the problems presented by various obstacles in their path.

Finally, in the conclusion of the trilogy, Return, the girl once again approaches a family member, her father, with an invitation to spend time together, but is ignored. When she retreats once again to the magical world she helped to save, this time her father follows behind. When he finds his daughter, she refuses to speak to him at first,  but that changes when the king is once again put in danger, and only the girl and her dad are left free to save the day.

I read each of these books independently of the others at the time of their publication. When considering each individual book, the first one, Journey, comes across as the strongest and most compelling. The story is self-contained, with no required prior knowledge and no cliffhangers, so the reader walks away satisfied. The emotions of the story, from the girl's sadness at being excluded by her family, to the exhilaration of saving the bird from danger, to the instant recognition of a new friend at the end, are relatable and they make it easy for the reader to navigate the largely unfamiliar fantasy world. The second and third books, read as isolated stories, don't work as well. Return, especially, requires knowledge of at least the first book, if not the second, to even begin to make sense. When I received my review copy of Return, I immediately needed to reread both Journey and Quest to refresh my memory.

Read together, however, these books are truly beautiful. The trilogy reads like one cohesive story with a strong beginning, an exciting middle, and an ending which happily resolves the tension between the young girl and her dad. The illustrations in all three books are distinctive, filled with interesting uses of color and light and unique changes in perspective that show both the large-scale terrain of Becker's world, and the small details within it. Though there are no words at all in any of the books, the reader easily begins to grasp the politics of the fantasy world of the story, and to understand the danger the young characters are in as they try to rescue the chalks ahead of the bad guys because of the many details Becker includes. (Among my favorites are the petroglyphs discovered by the girl and her dad in Return, which provide pictorial backstory.) There is also perfect continuity from book to book, as the bicycle which appears on the final page of Journey is the first image of Quest, and the crown which the king places on the girl's head at the conclusion of Quest is still present on the opening page of Return.

Return is a fitting conclusion to this trilogy, and the perfect stopping point for the story arc. The final moment, especially, is subtle, but powerful, and it leaves the reader smiling and nodding that all will be well for our young heroine from now on. Because this trilogy is wordless, it can be enjoyed by children and adults at different levels. Little Miss Muffet found quite a bit to talk about in the illustrations at the tender age of two, and I'm sure her reading will only deepen as she grows. These books are a wonderful addition to any picture book collection, and I look forward to discovering whatever Aaron Becker publishes next.

I own a copy of Journey. I borrowed Quest from my local public library. I received a finished review copy of Return from Candlewick.
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