It has been another fun month of reading the many, many suggestions for great books for kids recommended by the Booklights gang. Jen started us off with several delightful fractured fairy tales. These are great for children who already know the original versions, as they best understand the humor in the new versions. My personal favorite modern fairy tale is Sleeping Ugly, by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Diane Stanley.
And Susan's suggestion of reading a book for a second time that you loved during the first time you read it got tremendous response! The novels/chapter books that were suggested also provided us with a wonderful list of books to read aloud to children. Just because you have a child who is able to read on his or her own, please don't stop that habit of reading aloud. There is little more reassuring to a child than the time spent with a parent over an engrossing story.
Many of the books that were mentioned have also been recorded on tape or digitally. Check them out from your library for the family to listen to as dinner is being prepared or you drive to school.
I love Gina's new Tuesday feature of Show and Tale. I have been traveling in the Pacific Northwest over the past few weeks and have asked folks all along the way about their favorite children's books. Now, you must realize that my southern accent caused a bit of a snigger when I said "Show and Tale!" But I initiated wonderful conversations with the simple question.
One of my favorites was the visit with author Jean Davies Okimoto. She talked about The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by Dubose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack (who later won a Caldecott Honor). Although first published in 1939, this is a very progressive book. Jeanie remembers how she knew this was a tale with a truly feminist perspective. She noticed the ranges of bunny colors and the inclusiveness of the story.
And if you check out Jeanie's favorite children's book, also check out the latest book she wrote, Winston of Churchill: One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming, written by Jean Davis Okimoto and illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell. The book brings forward concerns for the environment in an interesting way for children and their parents.
Next week, I head to Glasgow, Scotland to attend the symposium "Beyond Borders: Art, narrative and culture in picturebooks." I hope to return home with lots of new insights into picturebooks and to be able to introduce some international favorites.
Happy Reading, Ann
I've always enjoyed reading books about summer during the summer. With lazy days, cold pools, and swinging hammocks, who wouldn't want a double dose of the perfect season? With many great books that take place in the summertime, let me share three pretty recent titles.
Lowji Discovers America
by Candice Fleming
When Lowji moves to America from India, he looks forward to making new friends and having a pet. Unfortunately, he and his family arrive in the middle of the summer and there are no kids around the neighborhood. Plus, his longing for a pet is thwarted by the cranky landlady who hates animals. Bright and inquisitive, Lowji doesn't let these obstacles get in his way with interesting and funny results. Sweet and humorous, the book lightly makes the point of keeping a positive outlook. The observations of American ways and slang are interesting from the view of this engaging character. Younger elementary kids can easily enjoy this charming story.
The Liberation of Gabriel King
by K. L. Going
Gabriel King is afraid of everything - spiders, robbers, cows - but his biggest fear is moving up to the next grade, where he'll be in the same school as the bullies who pick on him. His best friend Frita decides to take the summer to liberate Gabriel from his fears one by one. She's rarely afraid, but one of her biggest fears is about to confront the pair head on. Set in the deep south in 1976, this book is a drama, comedy, and historical fiction. It tackles fear, hatred, racism, but ultimately is about courage. And friendship. An amazing book intended for upper elementary readers.
After their father rents a guest house for a few weeks in the summer, four sisters explore the large estate grounds making friends and having adventures along the way. Absolutely delightful, The Penderwicks has a old-fashioned cover, title, and story, yet keeps a contemporary feel. It could take place anytime - though a few small references do set the tale in the present day - forming a large part of its appeal. The reading level is upper elementary, but would be a perfect read-aloud for younger elementary kids. Simply a perfect summer story artfully told.
Do you have a favorite summer book?
My favorite joke:
Me: Ask me what makes me so funny.
You: Okay, what makes you so f--
I love this joke. It's pure in its simplicity, it conveys an important truth about humor, and it's my father's favorite joke. Whenever I tell it, I think about my father telling it to me and laughing so hard he could barely speak (we were a little punchy that day). But it's a joke that doesn't work well when written.
A funny book takes on the challenge of conveying humor through written word, thus ridding itself of many of the ways to make something funny -- inflection, timeliness, personal connection, and... timing. And if that isn't enough, it has to find the right audience.
What makes something funny is different for every person, depending on taste, gender, experiences, and age. A baby finds peek-a-boo to be the funniest thing in the world, but is uninspired by knock-knock jokes. A kindergartener will insist on telling knock-knock jokes until you run screaming from the room, but doesn't follow the humor of Seinfeld. Mom loves Seinfeld, but can't understand why her son laughs so much at farting. The son laughs at fart sounds, and his father laughs along with him. Some things don't change.
Humorous books for preschoolers focus on funny situations and wordplay. The gender difference in humor isn't as noticeable, and many of the life experiences are the same. But as the kids get older, all of the factors of humor become relevant. There is more separation of girl books and boy books. Gross-out humor and situational humor. Funny real-life situations and funny things happening in completely crazy ways.
Since I'm all about the punchline, here are some of my favorite funny chapter books. I haven't listed ages, but the list starts with books that are better for younger elementary school set and continues on from there.
Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, by Barbara Park
Kids get the joke of the mixed-up language and bad situations Junie B. gets herself into, and parents can too. This series is a comedy gem. Try the audiotape too.
Judy Moody, by Megan McDonald
A moody, mouthy eight-year-old girl gets into funny situations in this series of early chapter books. Her little brother Stink has his own series as well.
Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci, by Jon Scieszka
One of the later books in the Time Warp Trio series, where a group of three boys travel though time and into wacky situations.
Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker
A curly-headed girl who tries to do the right thing, but it often ends up wrong - in a hilarious way.
Birdbrain Amos, by Michael Delaney
Every hippo needs a bird to pick the bugs off his skin. But Amos got more than he bargained for with his bird, who builds a nest on Amos's head.
Amelia's Notebook, by Marissa Moss
Amelia uses her notebook to record thoughts and drawings of growing up with a snotty older sister and a world full of real-life girl problems.
Little Wolf's Book of Badness, by Ian Whybrow
Little Wolf is trying to learn to be a Big Bad Wolf in this funny series.
Utterly Me, Clarice Bean, by Lauren Child
Like Judy Moody a few years later and British.
How to Train Your Dragon (Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III), by Cressida Crowell
Taking funny and mixing it with a little Viking and magic.
Toad Rage, by Morris Gleitzman
From down under comes this story of a ugly toad who wants to make a difference, if he doesn't get himself killed first. Some gross-out humor.
The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
While truly a Series of Unfortunate Events, there is lots of humor throughout.
Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer, by JT Petty
Clemency Pogue mistakenly kills fairies all around the world and sets off to make things right again. Dark humor and some very witty lines.
I'll leave you with my second-favorite joke. A string walks into a café. He walks up to the counter to order a coffee. The barista says, "We don't serve strings here." The string leaves. Outside the café he ties himself up and untwists his top, then walks back in.
"Hey," the café owner says, "you're not a string, are you?"
"Nope," he says, "I'm a frayed knot."
You know, I guess that joke is also funnier spoken too. Well, I've made my point.