Friday, February 28, 2014

Wicked Wolf Tales

Wicked Wolf Tales

Retold by:  Laura Cecil 
Illustrated by:  Emma Chichester Clark

Wicked Wolf Tales is a fairy tale collection about the big bad wolf.  This book includes versions of Little Red Riding Hood, The Wicked Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, and Mr. W. Wolf- a humorous Italian folktale.  Little Red Riding hood is very much like the one I am very familiar with.  Little Red goes to give her sick grandma some treats.  Along the way meets a wolf that goes ahead of her to her grandmother's house where he gobbles up granny and waits for Little Red.  Little Red, however, gets away from him and a woodcutter saves her and granny.  The Wicked Wolf and the Seven Little Kids was not a story I was familiar with.  It has a goat mom and her 7 goat kids.  She leaves them alone with instructions not to open the door.  They however are tricked by the wolf and he gets in.  He gobbles up 6 of the kids and leaves without finding the last one.  When their mother returns she sets off with the one little kid left and finds the sleeping wolf.  They cut out the baby kids, replace them with rocks, and sew him back up all without him knowing.  He then goes to drink some water and falls in sinking to the bottom.  The last story was also not a familiar one and Cecil writes that it is an Italian folktale.  A little girl likes all things sweet but does not like school.  She pretends to be sick to get out of work but misses out on the teachers sticky doughnuts.  She wines to her mother who wants to make her some but her frying pan has a hole in it.  She sends Daisy the little girl to get a pan from Mr. Wolf next door.  He says they can borrow it if they return it with some doughnuts, lemonade, and bread.  Daisy and her mother makes the doughnuts and all the treats for Mr. Wolf.  Daisy's mother send in back to return the pan but on the way she eats the treats and replaces them with bad things.  The wolf gets mad and says he will eat her in her sleep.  He returns to their house that night and climbs down the chimney to eat her.  They hide and she eats a doll instead.  Daisy gets a stomach ache and decides she does not like sweet treats anymore.    

Cecil writes a beautiful introduction about her book and about how she makes it for reading aloud with direct speech for the reader to join in.  "The book also uses distinctive type styles to suggest sound effects, dramatic moments, and different voices in order to add variety and expression to reading aloud."  I thought this note was wonderful to add to her book, especially for parents to invite them to read this story with their children and make it fun and engaging with voices and expression.  The writing definitely leads itself to this.  Although they are traditional type tales, Cecil adds her own voice by adding in extra pieces such as "Mama treats me like a baby."  said little Red Riding Hood.  This makes the character even more believable to children.  I also love the way there are bold parts or different fonts that help to identify parts that can be livened up by ones voice.  When she writes THUMP THUMP THUMP it goes across the page getting bigger, much like ones voice should do when you read it.  The illustrations also add to the playfulness of the text.  They are a mix between full bleed and white space.  Sometimes the white space is arranged to encase the text in a circle or follows it along the page as it moves.  The illustrator also uses fun kid friendly colors in her paint illustrations.  

This would be a great addition to any unit on fairy tales.  Not only does it include a more traditional tale like Little Red Riding Hood, but it also includes others that the children might not know.  It also would be a great read aloud allowing children to be fully involved in the reading.  I would also love to use it to compare/contrast the Wolf in each or each story.  The children might even be inspired to write their own Wolf tale and make their own classroom collection of stories about the Wolf.  

10,000 Dresses

10,000 Dresses

By:  Marcus Ewert
Illustrated by:  Rex Ray
A Stonewall Honor Book 

10,000 Dresses is a story about a boy named Bailey who dreams of dresses every night.  Beautiful dresses that Bailey longs to wear.  Bailey wakes up and tells her (yes I said her because the author wrote her this way)  family about the dresses but they tell her she's a boy and boys don't wear dresses.  Bailey tells them "but I don't feel like a boy."  She finally finds an older girl who is trying to make dresses and she tells her some of her ideas.  They make two mirror dresses and both wear them with plans to make more of Bailey's dreams.  

This book opened up a whole new world of books for me.  I have never thought about this topic or questioned are there books for transgender people?  I guess it's just not something I have not come across.  With that being said, I think this is a great book for anyone in that community or for anyone that wants to explain the topic to a young child.  Bailey is a fabulous character.  He looks like a boy and is told to act like a boy.  But  loves beautiful dresses and in the end learns it's important to be yourself and be true to who you are.  The girl at the end even tells Bailey "You're the coolest girl I've ever met."  The author does a great job of making the story believable and something that young transgender girls or boys can identify with.  It even touches on the fact that your family may not believe you or understand you.  His brother even tells him "you dream about dresses, Bailey?  That's gross.  You're a boy!  Get out of here, before I kick you!"  I found this to be very sad for Bailey but at the same time I imagine this happens to anyone that is transgender at sometime in their life.  Someone has probably bullied or not agreed with the way they see themselves.  Like I said I have absolutely no experience or know anyone to ask if this is true but I fill like with the way people are it would definitely happen.  So I believe Ewert did a great job of getting people to stop and think about what they are saying to others as well as tell everyone no matter who they are to be true to themselves and to seek out people that help you to do that.  

The illustrations in this story were ok but did not leave a lasting impression on me.  They were done it what looks to be cut paper style much like Eric Carle does his illustrations.  Ray is a graphic artist and seems to have done more work in the art field than in the picture book world.  The illustrations just did not seem to match the fact that Bailey wanted to feel beautiful in dresses.  The dresses themselves were not even that beautiful looking but more weird.  It was almost as if the pictures were too cartoonist to me to match the real topic of the story.  I did however like the last dress that was made of mirrors and Bailey and her friend could see themselves in it.  

I am not sure how this book would be addressed in a school.  I believe it does have a great message for all no matter what your gender and for those struggling with anything, but I also think it would be a controversial book to read to a group of children that are not mine.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014



By: Roald Dahl

I grew up loving Roald Dahl stories.  Who doesn't love title such as The Witches (which is a favorite of mine, The BFG, Matilda, and many more.  While searching through some titles by Dahl I stumbled upon this one. Boy is a memoir of Dahl's own childhood.   I was intrigued to read this as I so adore his books.  

Roald Dahl was born in Wales to a wealthy family.  His parents were originally from Norway and he spent many summers visiting and having fun there with his family.  His father died when he was quite young but he had a very strong mother that raised him and his 5 siblings.  Dahl recounts his earliest memories of grade school and getting into trouble because he and some friends put a mouse in the candy store scaring the grumpy woman that worked there.   Through out the story we see Dahl going through schooling and being sent to boarding school.  He recounts many memories but it shocked me at how many were centered around him getting hit with the cane, which  I found to be sad and terrifying myself.  School for him did not seem pleasant at all.  My favorite story, was how he described when Cadbury would send boxes of chocolate to his school with new product for the boys to try and review.  This Dahl states, "I used to imagine myself working in one of these labs and suddenly I would come up with something so absolutely unbearably delicious that I would grab it in my hand and go rushing out of the lab and along the corridor and right into the office of the great Mr Cadbury himself."  These dreams he would have and memories of those cardboard boxes with chocolates was what he was thinking about when he "began to write a book called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

Dahl's voice and stories along with snippets of old letters, pictures, and school reports made the story very easy to read and I think it would be very interesting for students to read.  I was also interested just because of the history.  The book did give us insight into his childhood and a little bit of his adult life.  The last 15 pages or so goes on to tell us about his job with Shell and how he moved to Africa for them.  It also briefly tells us how he was a fighter pilot in the war.  This part seems very rushed but as I think the audience was intended for children, I think he tried to tell stories that would interest them.  It did not leave me saying oh I know why Dahl is the way he is or that must be the inspiration for that story. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Looking for Alaska

looking for alaska

By:  John Green
Published:  2005

Another book that I have never read or even heard of.  I am not so up on the young adult novels if you haven't noticed.  Being a Kindergarten teacher I usually stick to picture books but I was excited to expand my horizons.  I read this book a few weeks ago and I have been trying to decide what I was going to say about it I am still not sure of exactly what I think but ... here goes..

This is a story about a young boy, Miles Halter,  who led would could only be considered a boring life.  He was not very interesting by any means and seemed to have no friends at his high school.  He also loved reading people's last words from their biographies.  He decided he wanted to go to boarding school in Alabama, the same one his father went too.  He went in search of "THE GREAT PERHAPS."  When arriving he receives a roommate and the story kicks into high gear.  He also meets Alaska, a beautiful, daring girl that likes adventure.  He immediately makes great friends with his roommate, Chip, Alaska, and their group of friends.  The story takes us through their adventures, many of which include drinking, doing pranks, and smoking.   They continue on until moody Alaska has what can be considered a small drunken breakdown and goes off.  A terrible tragedy happens and the book shifts to after the event.  Miles and Chip are devastated and search to find out what happened.  Living through their guilt and continuing school until they finally find out why Alaska freaked out and in the end play a prank of all pranks on the school in her honor.  

The story itself goes by fast and Green makes you want to continue reading.  The plot itself has a good twist and the minute you start reading you know somehting is going to happen but you have no idea what.  Green also does a great job of hitting on some hard to discuss topics with his character Alaska.  She is bold and daring but moody and almost as if asking for trouble.  This develops more when we find out she feels guilty for her mother dying.  She is a classic story of a teenager seeking something and with her ups and downs one would think she is depressed and bipolar all in one.  From the minute I noticed those ups and downs I thought somethings going to happen and there has to be something about her that is making her this way.  Of course I thought maybe we would get to the root of the problem and Miles, being the more level headed of the group would bring her out of her sadness and self destructive behavior.  This did not happen, because Miles was intoxicated by her and is what I can only categorize as a follower.  

I liked reading the story but at the same time I could not relate to it and or thought wow these kids are out of control.  Maybe it is because of how I was in high school, which is a far cry from these teens.  I was shocked at the smoking, drinking, and sex.  I would not want my teenager to read this book.  I was also shocked that although in the end I think the characters learned to embrace their life, I don't think it was really shown that they learned there are consequences for your actions.  Of course Alaska suffered They were still drinking, smoking, and pulling pranks that were against authority just as Alaska would.  Did they learn anything with the exception of not to drink and drive? Also what about Miles.  His character shows us that if you don't like your life, runaway some where new.  There had to be someone at his old school that he could get to know and be friends with.  Even myself whom I have stated was boring and nerdy found a group of children that I could be myself with.  Miles just showed us that to fit in, you have to change yourself and  you should do all the bad things that the group is doing.  I think this is why I keep going back and forth.  The book it self was a good read and as an adult I think it was a great book.  Maybe I am just naive or simple minded.  I know some teenagers act like this but I would not want my little girl to read this until she herself was out of high school and.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Waynetta and the Cornstalk

Images from:
Check out her website and read about the author

Waynetta and the Cornstalk

By:  Helen Ketteman
Illustrated by:  Diane Greenseid

This is a twist on Jack and the Beanstalk.  Waynetta is a girl that lives with her ma on a ranch in Texas.  They work hard but one dry summer they run out of water and money.  Waynetta is sent out to sell their longhorn.  Just as the original story she sells it for a handful of seeds.  These were not beans though they were magic corn.  When she gets home her mom gets upset and throws them out the window.  "Waynetta felt lower than a coyote in a canyon."  But the next day a huge cornstalk had grown.  She climbs it and there is a huge ranch with a giant women.  This part is a little bit of twist when she says "I reckon you've come to take back the things my husband stole from your ma years ago."  She was eating when the giant man came home and was angry.  Waynetta hid and saw the giant man using a little longhorn, a lariat, and a magic bucket.  While the man was taking a bath she stole the magic cattle and went down the cornstalk.  Her mom was happy but she said they could not raise the cattle without water so Waynetta went back up the cornstalk.  She steals the magic bucket but the man sees her and follows her down the cornstalk.  Waynetta's mom chops down the cornstalk and the giant man falls creating a giant shaped hole, which Waynetta filled up with water with the magic bucket.  When the giant man fell, he didn't die but instead it knocked the mean out of him and he along with his wife stayed and worked with Waynetta and her ma.  

I really liked this story.  It was great to see a girl as the main character and for the giant man to turn out nice in the end.  I do not know much about Texas so I do not know if the story is accurately depicting some aspect of it.  However I read on Ketteman's website that she lived in Texas for nine years, which was were she wrote many of her Texas themed stories.  She does a great job of creating a voice that matches the story, with lines such as, "Why, you're purty as a bluebonnet!"  and "You'd best have a bite to eat.  And be careful, darlin." The only thing that I thought was strange about the story was that the magic cow laid gold cowpats, which I thought might cause some giggles in the classroom.  I think the story would be a great comparison to an original Jack and the Beanstalk and would give the children many things to compare/contrast and discuss.  

The illustrations in this story start on the endpapers and are beautifully illustrated.  The Cornstalk on the endpaper is done beautifully to show texture and it looks as though it is real if you touch it.  Greenseid does a great job of showing the size between the giants and Waynetta on her full bleed pages of vibrant colors.  Some of the text is also done on frames that look like old scrolls, simulating that this is an old tale passed down.  

I can't wait to use this in the classroom.  I think the children will enjoy it and I can use my own southern accent to make it more lively!  

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Book of Coupons

A Book Of Coupons

By Susie Morgenstern 
illustrations by:  Serge Bloch
Translated by:  Gill Rosner
Published:  in France by Lecole Des Loisirs 1999 In the USA by Penguin Putnam Books 2001
A Batchelder Honor Award Book 

I stumbled on this book in the library and was intrigued by its cover and title.  Looking at it closely it was a Batchelder Honor book so I decided to read it.  It is a very short chapter book that was first written in French.  The story starts out with a group of students starting their final year of elementary school with a new teacher.  They wanted a young teacher that liked gym time, but instead saw Monsieur Hubert Noel.  Noel is a man who has lost his wife and seems to devote his time to teaching and loving children.  Noel calls himself Santa as his appearance lends itself to that nickname as well as the fact that he like to give gifts.  The gift of learning, having fun, and living life.  His first gift is a book of coupons.  These coupons give each child a chance to skip school, come in late, singing in class, etc.  Each child can use their coupons whenever they like.  The story takes us through their year with the fun and practical things Monsieur Noel teaches them such as patience while standing in line to mail a package at the post office and the students using up their coupons.  The students, who were dreading having an old, not athletic Noel came to love him and learned a lot.  The principle, however, who was a very unhappy lady did not like Noel's tactics and teaching style.  After many discretion's and Monsieur Noel trying to make her not so serious with her own book of Coupons she decides to not renew his contract for the next year forcing him into retirement.  The children are outraged and want to fight for him.  He however says no so instead they give him a gift.  His own coupon for a happy and well deserved retirement.  

This book was a fun and quick read.  I think many children would like the concept behind the book.  I thought it was a charming tale of yet another teacher that knows how to reach children well.  The book however did seem like it was lacking some development.  Maybe it was too short to really play out the scenes and I felt like it was rushed a little almost as if it was over too quickly.  It also shifts points of view from Noel, the principle, and the students several times, which could be a little confusing for younger students.  There was also one part of the story where the children have a discussion each week.  One student brought up making love and they were going to discuss it and Noel says that if their parents had not made love they would not be there.  I thought this was a little much and could have been omitted but it was also the last straw for the principle and was why he was asked not to come back.  Then again the book was written in French first so I am not sure if that is more acceptable to discuss in France but I don't think many parents would appreciate their children reading that in my experience as a teacher.      There were a few black and white sketch illustrations that would pop up randomly and to me did not add much to the book itself.  

I think the book does have a good message but one that might be over younger children's heads.  The message that don't waste your time and enjoy life while you got it as was indicated in the end when one student asked if Noel like the students that used their coupons or saved them.  He also said that "when your born you get a whole set of coupons."  You should use those freely.  This is a good message but one that would need to be discussed for children to understand. All in all in liked reading the book and like I said enjoyed the concept of the book and it had some funny parts but not sure how much I would use it in a classroom.   

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Year Of Miss Agnes

The Year of Miss Agnes

By:  Kirkpatrick Hill
Published:  Aladdin Paperbacks 2002

This is a very easy read that has a touching story for children and for teachers alike.  The Year of Miss Agnes is about a small remote village in Alaska in 1948.  The village has one schoolhouse for the dozen children of the village that go to school.  The schoolhouse, however, has a revolving door of teachers.  The remote life, harsh winters, and smell of fish seems to run teachers off left and right.  The book starts off with yet another teacher leaving as fast as she can and the young "Fred" short for Frederika wondering if and when they will get a new teacher.  Along comes Miss Agnes, a British lady who has taught in various areas of Alaska.  She brings hope, laughter, and the joy of learning to the children.  They learn that school can be fun and she starts to teach them to read and write.  Fred's older sister who is deaf is even taught sign langauge when before she was not allowed to attend the school.  The story takes us through the year and their learning until it is time for Miss Agnes to leave and go back to England.... or does she?  

This book has very little plot but more memories of the year told by Fred.  The story is mainly about the children's school year and how great Miss Agnes excites them about learning but it also tells a little about what Alaska was like for the children during this time period.  It goes through how they the were so sheltered from the rest of the world and they did not even realize what was all out there and that they were apart of something much bigger.  Miss Agnes introduces them to maps, history, math, and gives them the hope and dreams that they can be something one day.  You also see how they lived.  Fred tells us all about her family and how they make a living with sewing and making snowshoes.  She also talks about the children leaving at different times throughout the year to help their family and camps for hunting and fishing.  We see a small glimpse of what life in Alaska might have been like.  

I have two favorite parts of the story.  One was when Miss Agnes takes away the literature that they have such as Dick and Jane books because the children can not connect to those characters and have difficulty reading the books.  She instead makes paper books about each individual students life.  She writes down what they say and makes them into their own story books.  This makes the children want to read more and more.  They read their own books over and over as well as their friends.  Then they start to write their own versions of stories.  My other favorite part was when she takes their pictures and the children are amazed at what they look like.  They have never looked in a mirror much less a photograph of themselves and this one part really shows how remote life was in the 40's in Alaska.  

I also like how Fred and the other children do not complain about their life.  They seem to enjoy being with their families and Fred says she has so much to learn in and out of school because she realizes that her grandparents and mother have much to teach her as well.  

I really enjoyed this book.  I don't know if its because it was about a wonderful teacher that all good teachers would want to become or if it had some glimpse of history in it.  Either way I think it would be a great book for upper elementary and for any teacher to read themselves.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night

Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night 

By:  Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by:  Rick Allen
Published:  Houghton Mifflin 2010

Welcome to the Night

"To all of you who crawl and creek, 
who buzz and chirp and hoot and peep, 
who wake at dusk and throw off sleep:
Welcome to the night."

This book is about the creatures that go bump in the night.  Sidman uses beautiful poetry to write about raccoons, snails, moths, owls, trees, spiders, porcupine, crickets, mushrooms, efts, bats, and the moon.  
Each double page spread has a poem dedicated to the animal and on the other page in a small side frame there is information about the animal depicted in the poem.  All of these animals come out at night and explore their world with the moon shining bright.  I love how Sidman combines poetry with a nonfiction book.  Children will not only be able to learn about nocturnal animals but also see that science can be used to write poetry.  

I am usually not a fan of poetry books but I have to say this one really stood out one that was easy to read and understand.  My favorite poem was "I am a Baby  Porcupette."  "I am a baby porcupette.  My fur is soft; my eyes are jet; But I can deal with any threat; I raise my quills and pirouette."  I think this poem is beautiful and shows us exactly what a porcupette is, which I might add that I had not idea was what you called a baby Porcupine. I also like that Sidman explained everything about the porcupette on the opposite side.  

The actually layout of this book with the illustrations and text also makes it very easy to read and intrigues any reader.  The poem is accompanied by a small inset picture of the animal featured in the poem.  The opposite side is a framed larger picture of that animal in their habitat.  Next to the frame is a small column with the actual facts shared about the animal.  I loved the way this layout highlights each animal but also the poetry.  The back of the book also included a glossary of certain words such as photosynthesis and spinnerets that are included in the book.  

The illustrations in this book were created by Rick Allen and are stunning.  Right after the title page there is a double page full bleed spread that shows the night coming and the animals stirring.  You can see the texture created in the illustrations and the dark shadows that create the setting.  Looking closely you can see the animals that are discussed in the poems.  If you read the copyright page it discusses how the prints of the book are made from relief printing where a sketch is transferred to wood or linoleum and carved.  The time and careful detail that went into creating the beautiful images make the book even more enjoyable and makes me want to go back and study the illustrations giving them the time that they deserve.  

I really enjoyed this book and would use it in my classroom.  It can serve as a great science lesson and encourage the children to pick their own animal to write poetry about instead of a normal book report.

The Egyptian Cinderella

The Egyptian Cinderella

By:  Shirley Climo
Illustrated by:  Ruth Heller
Published:  Harper Collins 1989

According to the author in the author's note, "the tale of Rhodopis and the rose-red slippers is one of the world's oldest Cinderella stories.  It was first recorded by the Roman historian Strabo in the first century B.C.  The story is both fact and fable."  

This version of Cinderella although has many parallels from the version we are most familiar with is also very different.  Rhodopis was stolen from her home in Greece and taken to Egypt where she was sold as a slave.  While there Rhodopis was treated poorly by the servant girls because she looked so different from them with her green eyes, tangled hair, and pale skin.  Rhodopis was friendly with all the animals and would dance for them.  One day her master saw her dancing and gave her a gift of rose-red slippers.  This only made the servant girls more envious of her and made her stay behind while they went to see the Pharaoh.  While they were gone Rhodopis took off her slippers to wash and a falcon, the symbol of the god Horus snatched her slipper. The slipper was dropped on the Pharaoh who saw this as a sign and went in search all around Egypt for the girl who is would fit.  In true Cinderella fashion the slipper would only fit Rhodopis and he made her his queen.  

Climo writes a great version of Cinderella just as she has written many versions of Cinderella based on specific countries tales.  Her writing style is moves the reader along and with beautiful details tells the story.  I could almost imagine a story teller long ago orally telling me this story.  I also like how she adds the author's note in the back of the book to give some history and insight about the story.  She also tells the changes she made in the story from the original such as changing the eagle to a falcon.   I find this story to be interesting as there are so many differences to the Cinderella we know and love.  It was interesting to me that she was treated differently by servants and that there was so much emphasis put on the fact that she looked different. This is actually one of the first things I thought about while reading this book.  This could lead to a conversation with little children about how we treat people that are different than ourselves.   The illustrations are also beautifully done it what looks like watercolor painting.  The illustrations are full bleed and with vibrant colors to offset the striking black hair of the Egyptian people.  Rhodopis features are also done well as to create a striking difference between herself and the servants.

After reading the story and writing my review, I was very curious about the exact truth behind this story as well as the accuracy of the Egyptian culture that is depicted.  I think this is a great story to compare/contrast different Cinderella stories but without doing more research on Egyptian culture I am not sure it would be good to use as multicultural literature. I did find one review from Ann Macy Roth,  from Howard University completed for Africa Access and she did not seem to think it would be great to use as multicultural literature she states, "the story has nothing to do with Egyptian history or Egyptian legends and stories, and thus has nothing to teach children about Egypt."  "While the illustrations do show a in a stylized way the dress and landscape of Egypt, their inaccuracies outweigh their value."  Interestingly she also brings up the point about the discrimination depicted.   You can read more of her review here.  I also found many very similar versions of The Egyptian Cinderella that were all very similar to Climo's.  So accurate or not it is a story that is repeated and possibly passed down making it exactly what it is a great story and I think one to still read for it's fairy tale quality and contrast to other stories.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Giver

The Giver 

By:  Lois Lowry
Published:  Houghton Mifflin 1993

 Before I start out I have to say I think I am one of the only people who did not ever have to read this book in school.  With that being said I am glad I didn't as it seems most read it in Middle School and I would have been very disturbed at that time to read this and although I do believe it is easy to read and very well written I did not enjoy it.  Maybe I have just found a genre that is not my favorite.....

The Giver  starts out describing a perfect society were Jonas, an 11 year old lives.  Everything in his world is controlled and everyone is the same.  They have no choices, no real feelings, no real joy and no sadness.  Jonas is approaching his 12th year and that is the year all the twelves receive their future community assignment.  Jonas is chosen as The Giver and throughout the rest of the story he trains as the Giver.  He learns the faults to his society and in the end does not want to be apart of it anymore.

From the moment Jonas was chosen as the Giver I could not help but think that this was not going to be a good job.  It was eerie how everyone started chanting his name as he was chosen and in the moment, I was thinking that no one else would have wanted to be The Giver.  Throughout the story, Lowry does a great job of showing us Jonas feelings and thoughts.  It is almost as if you become Jonas as you read the story and you take on an emotional connection to him and the events of the story.  I have to say that I cried when I read about the release of the twin and was equally as upset as it seemed Jonas was in the story.  I was horrified and thought how on earth can this happen.  For a minute I forgot I was reading a fictional story.

I do like the relationship between the Giver and Jonas.  They develop into more of a real family than any of the others in the book.  They seem to care for each other and understand each other and have the same conflicts.

Although I did get caught up in the story I would say that looking back on it I realize it is a powerfully written story but it is not one that I cared for too much.  It did leave me with the question at the end of what happened to Jonas?  How did his life go after?  This just shows how much of a person and voice he had in the story.  I felt for him and wanted to continue with him on his journey to make sure he got a happily ever after.

I did see that Lowry had several books like this and one talks about Jonas and Gabriel.  I wonder if this book would answer my questions?

Walt Disney's Cinderella

Walt Disney's Cinderella

Retold by:  Cynthia Rylant
Pictures by:  Mary Blair
Published:  Disney Press 2007

from bed, Cinderella felt this darkness all around her.  Still, she always went to her window and made a wish for her life."
"she wished for one thing only:  Love."

Cynthia Rylant has retold a classic and a tale that is familiar with many people, especially young girls.  It is a tale of a young girl, who's father passes away leaving her in the care of an evil stepmother.  Her stepmother treats her unfairly and like a little peasant doing all the work in the house and waiting on her stepsisters.  Then one day a prince is in search of a princess and throws a grand ball inviting all the single young ladies to the castle in hopes of one day one of them will be his queen.  Cinderella not allowed to go acquires the help of a fairy godmother whom makes her wishes come true.  She dresses her for the ball with magic that will expire at midnight.  At the ball Cinderella and the prince immediately fall in love only to be torn apart as Cinderella runs away at midnight leaving behind her glass slipper.  The glass slipper is picked up by the prince and then sent to be tried on by every young girl in the kingdom.  Cinderella tries it on and is whisked away for a happily ever after in the palace with her prince.  

This is the story of Cinderella that most are familiar with and the one that Rylant beautifully retells.  The story flows with beautiful language and great descriptions such as "Cinderella's tears then flowed like a fountain, now for joy, not sadness."  Rylant's writing tells a story of finding love.  The story itself is mostly about love.  The lack of it in Cinderella's life and how she finds it.   Although it does follow the Cinderella movie in plot it does seem to be a little bit over a child's head.  Rylant writes "who can say by what mystery two people find each other in this great wide world?"   "How does a young man find his maiden?"  "He touches her, he knows."  This seems a little bit much for children to understand.  It makes for beautiful reading and many adults or young adults would read it and swoon over the words but I don't think children would understand all of the love talk in the book.  I also was disappointed that it started out so dark and Cinderella seemed miserable and so alone.  I immediately thought about in the movie when she was dancing with her animal friends singing a dream is a wish your heart makes..... She did not seem so dark and lonely at that point and I thought this is not like the movie.  But then I remembered that this is a version of the movie retold by how Rylant saw it and wanted to portray it.  Should I dislike it based on how it matches the movie?  Then I told myself no.  Just because  the front cover and title, Walt Disney's Cinderella, makes you think about the movie, it was not meant to just word for word copy the movie. Anyone could have done that and I decided that although I do not think children will understand some of the book it is a beautiful book written with character because really anyone could have written the words in the movie down and added them to paper.  Rylant took the book to another level with her version.

The illustrations in the story also surprised me.  I thought that I would see still shots of the movie.  The movie that has vibrant crisp pictures.  The illustrations in the book however are less detailed and are what I believe to be from reading are the concept illustrations by Blair and not the final product.  They are equally as stunning but a little dark for my liking.  Especially at the ball and at the end of the story.  They are full bleed and really draw the reader into the story.  They also help to pace the story along well even if a reader was confused with the words they would know exactly what is happening in the illustrations.

I went back in forth with the idea of if I would use this in my classroom or not.  I finally decided that I would.  Even with some of the words over my children's heads, I would still like to read it to compare it to other Cinderella stories or as a compare/contrast with the movie it self.   I think it would lend to a lot of discussion and a great way to practice comparing.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Glass Slipper Gold Sandal A Worldwide Cinderella

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal A Worldwide Cinderella

By:  Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by: Julie Paschkis
Published:  Henry Holt and Company 2007 

I was very excited to read this book because I absolutely love fairy and folk tales.  I love to compare versions of them and in fact it was my favorite unit when I was teaching.  This book did not disappoint and will be one that I add to that unit in the future.  

The author, Paul Fleischman has taken different versions of the classic Cinderella and woven them into one story.  Unlike other books that I have read that tell one version and then another in separate sections, this one takes pieces of the same story from different places and makes it one.  The story is very similar to one you have heard and all the different versions have the same skeleton.  There is a girl whose father marries a window.  That widow is cruel to her and keeps her from meeting the prince, who is looking for a wife.   She however, finds a way to meet him and dazzles him into looking for her when the night is over.  The prince finds her by matching her footwear to her as no one else in the kingdom can fit in them.  

Fleischman someone picks important parts of the stories from Mexico, Korea, Iraq, India, Iran, Russia, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Germany, Appalachia, Laos, Indonesia, China, Japan, France, West Indies,  and Poland.  He intertwines them to show the differences and unique qualities of the cultures as well as similarities among the stories.  
 The girl faces the same obstacles but finally "the girl was free to go, but she had nothing to wear except rags."
"Then she looked in her mothers' sewing basket."
"Then she reached into the hole in the birch tree."
"Then a crocodile swam up to the surface -- and in its mouth was a sarong made of gold...
a cloak sewn of king-fisher feathers..... a kimono red as sunset."

The text is written as one fabulous story but has some parts such as this one that might get a little confusing for the children.."And on the girl's feet appeared a pair of glass slippers.... diamond anklets...sandals of gold."  Some younger children would probably wonder how she is wearing all of those at once and may get confused by skipping around.  I think that makes this book better geared for upper grades because they can better grasp the idea that it is different versions of the same story.  I especially like that he includes an author's note explaining his book and relating the story to that of a "chameleon that changes color to match its surroundings."  This is a very accurate and intriguing way to describe what he has done with the story Cinderella.  

The illustrations in this book are vibrant full bleed representations of the different countries. The book starts out on the end pages with a map of the world and highlighting the different places that are used to create this book.  The title page also shows a picture of the world and surrounding it are the different types of shoes that Cinderella would wear in the different countries.  You immediately get an idea that this will not be a regular Cinderella story.   The first and last page are the only two that do not have a bright colored full bleed page.  They instead have a small frame with a mother and daughter reading a book, beside them is a globe probably so that the girl and her mother could look up each place as they themselves read the stories of Cinderella.  The folk style of each page shows different aspects or something that might relate to each culture.  The illustrator uses the full bleed with background art along with frames.  Each frame illustrates the actual part of the story and is used to separate the different countries. There is also small frames with the countries name written in the same color as the page.  The illustrations could lead to many discussions of things that might be in each culture.  My favorite illustration/page is the second to last page.  They are celebrating the marriage of Cinderella and the king.  In one illustration, all of the different cultures come together and they are dancing at one big party.  This page alone leads to many discussions and excitement for children as I imagine them trying to match the different parts of the illustration to the different countries.  This one page really pulls all the different aspects together to create the end piece.

I imagine this story creating interest in the different places and different Cinderella stories.  It could be a great start to a country study or research on the different versions of Cinderella.  

I found some great sites that I would use with this book.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Matchbox Diary

The Matchbox Diary 

Written by:  Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by:  Bagram Ibatoulline
Published:  Candlewick Press 2013

I stumbled upon this book while looking for the Sidewalk Circus  at the library one day.  I was drawn to the beautiful illustration on the cover and as intrigued as it looked like a sentimental book that I would like to read.  Without even looking to see what the book was about, I picked it up and checked it out.  I was not disappointed as I loved everything about the book.

The Matchbox Diary is about a young kindergarten girl meeting her great-grandfather for the first time.  He collects many things and as the book starts he tells his great-granddaughter to "pick whatever you like the most.  Then I'll you its story."  She picks an old cigar box and it it are little matchboxes that he has used to keep a diary.  He used this a way to remember his past.  He grew up in Italy and could not read or write so the matchbox diary kept pieces of his past to remind him of his journey in Italy, his immigration to America, and his life after he arrived.  Sitting down they go through the matchboxes and he tells her all about his past.  

The story is a wonderful story of a grandfather sharing a story with his great granddaughter but more a story of his immigration and how he overcame many obstacles.  The entire book is written in dialogue form with mostly the grandfather telling about each item in the matchboxes and his great-granddaughter asking questions.  Each page turn brings a new matchbox and a new story starter in the matchbox such as a box full of sunflower seed shells that were used to recall his trip from Italy.  He says "That trip from Italy took nineteen days.  I know because I put a sunflower seed shell in this box every morning."  He goes on to describe when he got to the statue of Liberty and got off at Ellis Island and almost was not let in to the country.  This story is very intriguing and I found it very interesting to read.  As I read it though I thought to myself that it could be very hard for a young child to read and understand with it being written in dialogue but it would be great to use as a read aloud and for upper elementary children.  Fleischman describes how he come up with the idea for this story by meeting with an artist friend who shared his matchbox journal with him and it gave him something to ponder for 2 decades before he finally wrote The Matchbox Diary. You can read more from Fleischman and get great teaching ideas for the book at Candlewick Press.  

Not only does the words and the amazing dialogue that Fleischman creates throw you back in time and help you to really understand the man's journey but the illustrations created by Ibatoulline are breathtaking.  I looked it up to see what type of medium used and it seems as Ibatoulline used acrylic gouache paintings. These paintings have such detail that they almost look like photographs.  The illustrator starts out with full bleed pages in warm colors as seen in this illustration.
This creates a since of the present time but makes it also feel somewhat nostalgic because of the coloring.  It is very inviting and comforting.  Ibatoulline also uses framing and a sepia color to make the switch into the past when the grandfather is describing his different memories.  This is done so well that it really does make the book look as though there are real photographs and that you are looking through a photo book of he mans life.

The story ends simply with a picture of the little girl on what seems to be a plane and she has a chocolate box.  The chocolate box is empty except for two little mementos.  I love how this leaves it to be imagined that the little girl is going to create her own diary in the chocolate box and she too one day will have a great story of her life to share with her grandchildren.  In a world where everything is on computers it makes me happy to see that you can still do things as people did long ago and for her to be carrying on a tradition or maybe its just because I am so nostalgic and love traditions and passing down things from one generation to the next.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Thomas Jefferson Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

Thomas Jefferson Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

Written and Illustrated by:  Maira Kalman
Published:  2014

This is a historical picture book about Thomas Jefferson.  The author, Maria Kalman, tells us all about Thomas Jefferson's life his interests, his great accomplishments, and even his flaws.  

This book uses different types of fonts.  There is typeface font and handwriting font making the book very interesting to read for children.  It livens up the history about the 3rd president.  The handwriting also serves as a way to tell when the author is putting her own voice in the text.  For example, when he talked about Jefferson loving music the text says "he practiced his violin three hours a day."  Then under that she writes "How did he have time for that?"  She puts these questions and comments of her own throughout the book.  Other than those type of comments the book seems very truthful and straightforward.  She definitely does not hide anything about Jefferson's life.  When talking about how Jefferson owned slaves she writes that he was a "monumental man that had monumental flaws."  She also stats that "Jefferson may have been a kind master, but it was still a horror."  One of the most surprising parts of the book is when she discusses that "it is strongly believed that after his wife dies, Jefferson and children with the beautiful Sally Hemings."  There are many facts in the book and I think Kalman does a great job of introducing those to to the reader.  You really get a great snapshot of who the president was as a person and not just the president.  

The illlustrations in the book are very bright and beautifully painted.  The story starts on the end pages with a portion of the Delaration of Independence written in bold print.  The artist uses a combination of frames and full bleed to show Jefferson's life.  She does a great job of painting very accurate details in a way that children will be drawn to.    She uses a full bleed and many colors and great details of the slaves cooking showing us that they did the work and that was were the real living happened.  On the next page is a framed painting of Jefferson's dinning room.  The table is very well decorated and looks more like a museum than where one would live and eat.  This is almost like a photograph of Jefferson's house.  At the end of the book she discusses Jefferson's death and that he was buried under a gravestone that he designed.  There are vertical and horizontal lines.  The monument and the tree are  in the middle of the page bringing your attention to them and keeping things symmetrical.  The hills however are the horizontal line bringing attention to the land that Jefferson loved.

I think this book is a great tool to have for students to read to learn more about Jefferson.  I could see an upper grade student using this and making some type of report/activity about Jefferson's life and the facts that he/she learns in the book and other supplemental materials. There are so many facts to choose from! 
I found some great books to also look at to compare about Jefferson located here!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Let's Talk About Race

Let's Talk About Race

Written by Julius Lester
Illustrated by:  Karen Barbour

"But you want to know something?  If I went outside without my skin, my mustache and the hair on my head (what little I have left), I would look just like you.  And you would look just like me."

Lester has created a book that gets people thinking.  Thinking about their own life and how they are unique as well as how they are special and important no matter what you look like.  This book is so much more than race to me.  It can touch on differences of all kinds and the fact that no matter how or why we are different we are all people and are no better than the next person.  

Let's Talk About Race  starts out with Lester stating "I am a story.  So are you.  So is everyone."  He goes through to tell you some of his story as well as ask questions for you to stop and think about your story.  He lets everyone know that we all have many things that make up our story some are the same but some are different.  The placement of text in this book really intrigued me.  It was very much a part of the story as the illustrations were.  I feel like I am reading a journal that Lester has written and decorated more than a book.  I especially liked the page where he creates a lists of elements that make up his story.  This would be something very simple to have the children recreate and discuss to talk about how they are alike and different from each other based on part of their "story."    

The illustrations are also very bright and span the pages.  They are very busy which I think might give a little bit of uneasy feeling while reading the story.  I think this, however, goes with the story.  The story itself is about an uneasy topic that people sometimes have trouble talking about.  Most of the illustrations involve people that look "different."  They are different colors they are not seen to be actual representations of real people.  When Lester is talking about a certain event such as that his father was a minister and mother a housewife, the illustrations become more real.  The mother is dressed and hanging laundry.  I think the author did a great job of bridging the gap between Lester telling about his own story and the imaginary world that could be your story.  

While I read this I immediately thought about an activity that I do with my Kindergartners every year.  This activity involves two eggs.  One white and the other brown.  We discuss how the eggs are different on the outside.  Then we crack them and see that although they are different on the outside they are the same on the inside.  I then cook the eggs and we see that they are the same both eggs even though they look different.  This gives us a great conversation about how we are all the same on the inside but can look different.  This book would be a great companion for that activity and could even further our discussion on how we are alike and different in many ways! 

Sunday, February 9, 2014


by:  Maya Ajemera
Magda Nakassis
Cynthia Pon

Faith is a nonfiction book about different types of faiths around the world.  The book identifies the many types of faiths around the world, the way they are celebrated, the holy books that are read, the holiday's, and holy places in the different faiths of the world.  It also shows what the people of those faiths wear, eat, and care for others.  

I loved this book because is reminded me of a World Religion class I took while living in London, England.  I was able to study different religions and visit their temples, including a Mosque, Hindu Temple, a Wicca Meeting House, and many others.  This first hand account opened my eyes to how others worshiped and helped to teach me to understand those of other Religions.  It was also a great time for me to reflect on my own Faith.  Living in London I was surrounded by so many different nationalities and faiths.  I have to admit that I was terrified when I learned that our flat was right next to the Muslim street and everyone who lived there and or had a shop there were in fact Muslim.  Some more strict than others.  Part of me was scared because it was Jan. 2012 so there were many who did not like Americans and would not serve us on that street due to the events of 2011.  I was also terrified though because of what I had heard about Muslims from those around me.  A book like this could have given me my first glimpse into how others live and how they can be very similar in ways to myself.  It could also have prevented me from getting such skewed views of certain religious beliefs.  

I love how this book captures children in their faith and the many ways that people can celebrate and study their own religion.  In the back of the book there is a world map highlighting the different places represented in the book as well as an outline for the elements of faith and different words to known while reading through the book.  The book has photographs that are absolutely stunning.  The photographs capture each faith and are complete with little captions to describe what is happening and the area of the world it was taken.  I love how the pictures are of children and how they participate in their Faith.  I believe this makes the book very easy to relate to for children.  They can make connections and comparisons to the children in the book.  I think it also does a good job of representing the different faith's equally.  Each page shows several different places and religious beliefs.  This is also done as a way for children to question what is going on in the pictures and maybe even give them an interest that they could further research.  

Although I think the book is done beautifully and as I said earlier could have helped me to understand different religions, I also think I would have a hard time in using it in my classroom as a teaching tool.  I can't exactly put into words why I would not want to share it and maybe it is because I have had several encounters with parents when just teaching about the various ways that people celebrate holiday's even though that was in the NC Kindergarten Curriculum.    I believe it is a great book to show difference and help teach tolerance for those differences, however I am not sure I could use it in my classroom.  Religion is a touchy subject for so many and it hurts me to say I would not teach with this book but I think it is a great book to have available in a library for students to check out if they are interested in it.  

I did visit Maya Ajmera's website and I believe she has many excellent books that I would probably order to help teach diversity and tolerance of others.  

Friday, February 7, 2014



by R.J. Palacio

Imagine a world where everyone accepted each other no matter what they believed in, looked like, or did.  That is a great fantasy world that unfortunately does not exists, in Middle School especially.  

Wonder is a great young adult novel about a little boy August.  August or Auggie as he is called was born with a syndrome that caused him to have significant face deformities and the absence of outer ears.  Most of his childhood has been spent having surgeries, being home-schooled, and getting used to the way people react to seeing him.  His mother thinks that he should start going to real school and off he goes with many reservations to start fifth grade.  The story tells his journey through his fifth grade year from several perspectives.  Auggie faces many heartaches and challenges but in the end comes out with many friends and loving school.

This book is easy to read and is written to me much like a 10 year old would talk.  The author does a fabulous job of putting emotion into the story and creating a main character that you want to root for.  You feel sad, proud, happy, and mad for Auggie all in one book.  Auggie is just like any other boy his age except for his face. He has a great sense of humor, is caring, and smart.  There is one part in the story when Auggie over hears Jack, whom he thinks is his friend talking bad about him to what to me can only be considered the class bully.   In this moment I can really feel how this must have been for Auggie and I can only think if this were me I would not have been able to come back to school.  He is a brave boy and this is very evident by his actions throughout the story.  The story gives a great message that you can not give up and let others opinions get you down.  Later in the story Jack confesses to just acting that way because he thought that was what they wanted to hear from him.  He caved to peer pressure but in the end embraces how he really feels and forgets about the peer pressure.   This is a great message for middle school students.  Many of them try to act like someone that they are not to be accepted or let others opinions change the way they feel about themselves.  This book can give them hope that they don't always have to do what the "in crowd" does.  You can find your own friends and stay true to yourself and if they are real friends they will love you no matter what and be able to see who you really are.

I also like how the story is told from not only his perspective, but also his sister and friends.  This gives you the insight of those around him and why they do the things they do.  I especially felt bad for his sister.  She loves her brother but also wants her family to pay attention to her sometimes and also feels bad when others always identify her as the girl with the deformed brother.  Although she does not have the deformity, she is always looked at differently as well and yearns for some normalcy or what we all call as normal for herself.

The one criticism I have about this book is how everybody changes in the end and everyone loves Auggie and the bad bully is no longer around.  Although this made for a great feel good ending, I do not think it is very realistic for children.  It does give children hope and gives the tone that everything can turn out great in the end, which is what we want children to strive for.  However, no matter what you do or who you are you are not ever going to get everyone to like you. No matter how nice you are and how hard you try you are not going to overcome everyone.  There will always be someone that will continue to dislike you for no reason or because of their own stubbornness.  But like I said that would not have made for such a good ending and I am on the fence about this because I can't imagine it ending any other way but I couldn't help but leaving the book thinking that would never happen.  Maybe that's just me and looking back on my own struggles with people but then again I need to remember its a story and needs a good plot.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story

Silver Packages An Appalachian Christmas Story 

Written by:  Cynthia Rylant
Paintings by:  Chris K. Soentpiet
Published:  Orchard Books 1987

"A Train comes through Appalachian every year at Christmas time.  And though it doesn't have antlers, nor does the man standing on its rear platform have a long white bear, it may as well be Santa Clause and his sleigh for all the excitement it stirs up."

High up in the Appalachian mountains a train visits a town every Christmas.  This train is full of good cheer as it brings presents wrapped in silver packages and a man that passes them out to the little girls and boys whom for many will only get this one present for Christmas.  The story tells of a young boy named Frankie who waits every year for the train and every year dreams of the same present, a doctor kit.  Although he does not get the doctor kit, he  does get many fun toys as well as things he needs such as socks, mittens, scarves, and hats.  The little boy grows up and leaves the town but continues to have memories of his time and the great things he needed that were given to him by the man on the train.  He decides to return home and to give back to the town just as the man did.  This time he is a doctor and can help the people in that way.  
The book Silver Packages  is a book about giving back, gratitude, and helping others. Let me tell you, I love everything about Christmas time.  The decorations, the happiness, the food, the family togetherness, the gifts, but most of all GIVING!  I love giving presents to my family members, friends, and even my students.  I also love getting a child off of an Angle tree and making some child's Christmas just as special as mine have always been.  Rylant does a great job of showing how giving can bring people joy and help them in many ways and helping people stays with them for many years to come.  When Frankie the little boy grows up and reminisces about when he was a boy  "what he remembers most about being a boy in the hills is that just when it seemed his feet would freeze like the snow, a man on a train had brought him socks."  Rylant's descriptive language not only makes people stop and think about their own memories and their traditions of Christmas' past but also about the impact that this train had on this little boys life.  I believe this book is for both children and their parents.  Children can relate to wanting something special at Christmas as well as learn that they should be grateful for what they have because other children do not have as much as they do.  It can allow parents to recall their childhood and just as many other Rylant stories do, creates images of sentiment and nostalgia.

I have realized that I really like reading stories that I can relate to in some way.  This story reminded me of my PaPaw.  He is a great man that is very simple and very "country.:  He also grew up in the mountains of West Virginia in a little coal mining town.  He has told me many stories before of great adventures and hard times of what it was like growing up in West Virginia and Cynthia Rylants books remind me of those stories. She along with the Soentipiet do a wonderful job of really capturing the life of these people.  

The illustrations in this story also seem very real to the time and place and after doing more research I learned that Soentipiet traveled to West Virginia and Rylant says of this that he "visited Logan and Boone counties, which are very isolated and still look so much as they did fifty years ago. As a result, Chris's paintings are both authentic and luminous." ( )  I love he illustration of all the children waiting for the train to come by.  All the children have different looks on their face but there is one little boy that has his shoulders scrunched up and has this look on his face like he is just so cold.  I can actually feel the cold as the children stand there waiting.  The paintings really show you the emotion and feelings of the characters in the story and it makes you feel as though you are right there with the children waiting on the train.  

I was curious about this book to see if there was any truth behind this story, especially since knowing Rylant grew up in the Appalachian mountains I found a great link from the painter Soentpiet that includes a piece written by Rylant about the book.  She includes that there is some truth behind this story and she used her own memories about a train that has been coming for 65 years to the mountains to deliver presents to the children.   Knowing that there was some truth behind the story made me like it even more.   I recommend visiting the sight  to read more about the book.  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Ticky-Tacky Doll


The Ticky-Tacky Doll

Written by:  Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by:  Harvey Stevenson
Published:  Harcourt, Inc.  2002 

        First I have to say I LOVE this book!  I had never read or seen this book before but while browsing the Cynthia Rylant books at the library I stumbled upon this and was immediately drawn to it due to the colorful drawing of the doll on the front cover.  
 This is a story about a little girl who has a Ticky-Tacky doll that her grandmama made from scraps of fabric.  The little girl takes the doll everywhere but one day the little girl must start school.  She has to leave her doll behind and home and is very sad, so sad that she can not do any work.  Her grandmama recognizes this sadness and makes her another Ticky-Tacky child but smaller to keep with her.  

 I love this story for many reasons.  The soft yet colorful illustrations invite people to want to read the story.  They reflects the sentiment of the story and are ultimately what made me pick the book up to begin with.  While reading this I identified very much with this story.  Being a kindergarten teacher I have recognized the sadness in leaving what is known to a small child for their first five years to come to school.  They are scared, miss home, and many times can use a trinket from home to get them through the beginning of the year.  I also know what it is like to have a doll made from scrapes.  My grandmother made me a clown doll from many different color fabrics before I was born and I loved that for many years until it started falling apart.  
 "The little girl loved her ticky-tacky doll and 
did not mind its being made from scratch like a buttermilk biscuit." 
 Although children might not understand this but adults surely will if they have ever seen biscuits being made.  I have watched my grandmother make biscuits from scratch and it took a lot of love for them to turn out well.  The Ticky-Tacky doll was also made with a lot of love and from pieces of leftovers of other works of art that her Grandmama probably made.  Rylant's words also show how much the doll means to the little girl  such as when she says "the little girl might as well have been asked to leave her nose behind, or her two ears, or her eyes."  This is very dramatic for a doll but for a little girl who loved the doll and it was her best friend it shows just how much the doll means to the little girl.  

There is one page in the book where her grandmama knows what is wrong with the little girl and it says she "had lived a long time and knew about loneliness and missing someone."  There is a framed picture of a gentlemen.  I can only assume that this is the little girls grandfather or someone else in the grandmama's life and I wonder if he is no longer living.  Again I don't think a child would pick up on that but it does add to the sentimental aspect of the book.  

I have an amazing Grandmother whom I have spent much time with and this book reminds me of her so much.  She can always pick up on when something bothers me and was also the person who taught me how to sew.  I love sewing and after reading this I looked up to see if anyone had made a Ticky-Tacky doll and or had a pattern.  I found several but this was my favorite!  I hope to use these instructions to make a Ticky-Tacky doll for my own little girl.  I will purchase this book for my own library and hopefully read it to my daughter several times while she holds on to her Ticky-Tacky doll, especially before she starts to school for the first time!  I may need to keep the Ticky-Tacky doll with me as I will probably be just as sad if not more than she will be at that time!  

I also think this will be a good book to read in Kindergarten or at the beginning of the year for any grade. After reading the story you can invite the children to bring in something from home to share, keep with them, write about, or any activity that you can think of.  You could also have the children make some type of Ticky-Tacky doll to display.  STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)is a big push in many school systems.  This activity could go well with that type of teaching!  

This is a great book for adults and children.  I think it could help ease children's fears of going to school and it pulls at the heart strings of any adult that has started something new, left someone behind, or had a child go off to school leaving them behind.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sidewalk Circus

Sidewalk Circus

By:  Paul Fleischman and Illustrated by:  Kevin Hawkes
Published by:  Candlewick Press 2004

Sidewalk Circus  is a wordless picture book.  I have read many wordless picture books to my Kindergartners but never for myself and I have to say that I found myself reading this one several times over.  This is a beautifully illustrated book about a little girl who is waiting for the bus.  As she wait she sees a sign for the circus.  She starts to notice everyday people and imagine their tasks are just as those would be if they were in the circus.

The illustrations in this book are magical.  They are very bright colored and span the page. The coloring also reminds me of the circus.  There are several pages that show the girl on the side in a circle frame.  The little girl is bright and colorful, however, the adults around her are very dark and indifferent looking to what is around them.  I think the illustrations were completed with the darker side to show two things.  1) I think it is to mimic a circus.  When you go to the circus it is dark in the stands and the circus ring is bright and cheery just as the book seems to depict.  2) I think it also shows how adults are too busy with their everyday life to notice their surroundings in a creative way.  I am reminded of the quote by Walt Streightiff that says " There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child.  There are seven million."  Adults are too busy with life to stop and use there imaginations and see the world for the wonder that it is.  Children however, see everything as exciting and have imaginations that run wild.  This book captures that youthful spirit that children have.    The book highlights the little girl and her reactions to the people around her.  For example in one part she has her eyes half covered when the men were falling off the window washer cart just as I imagine she would do when the flying trapeze artist perform at the circus.  The theme that children have great imaginations is even more evident as the little girl gets on her bus and the next page shows a little boy coming to take her place on the bench.  He has the same wide-eyed amazed look as the little girl did.

While reading the book,   I can't help but think of the many times I have been somewhere waiting for something and had started "people watching."  I have never imagined such things as the circus or anything exciting but it has been fun to stop and take in my surroundings.  With a little imagination I wonder how much more exciting those times could have been. The author did a wonderful job of matching everyday activities up with circus activities in great detail.  I would love to read this story to a group of students to see what they noticed about the story and what their interpretation of the events where.  I believe just like the little girl in the story they too would find more amazing parts of it than even I did the several times I poured through the pages.