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Pam: June 2009 Archives


Thursday Three: So Cute

Posted by Pam on June 25, 2009 at 10:16 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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Today's Thursday Three is actually Thursday Six as each of the books has a related sequel. Enjoy these tributes to cuteness.

"I'm Not Cute!"
by Jonathan Allen
As all the animals talk about how adorable Baby Owl is with his big eyes and downy feathers, the little chick insists that he is not what they see but instead a "hunting machine," among other things. Of course, the illustrations are soooo cute the reader can't help but agree with the animals. Fortunately, Mama Owl is there to see her chick the way he wants to be seen - and tuck him too. Fun, cute book. See also: "I'm Not Scared!"

Me and My Dad
by Alison Ritchie
Sweet simple rhymes chronicle the day between a daddy bear and cub. "My dad wakes me up every morning, like this - He tickles my nose and gives me a kiss." It's nice that the cub could be a boy or girl, since text nevers says. The illustrations are lively with bright yellows and greens and blues. The artist makes the brown fur feel golden and so touchable you'd swear that you could reach into the pictures. See also Me and My Mom

Kittens! Kittens! Kittens!
written by Susan Meyers, illustrated by David Walker
Just. So. Cute. Lots of kittens everywhere doing the things kittens do in a soft lovely art style and sing-song rhymes. "Finding tails to stalk and chase, Washing whiskers, ears, and face. Pouncing, bouncing, mewing kittens, Busy, up-and-doing kittens." There may be a story involved of a family raising the kittens and at least one child getting his new kitten, but honestly, with all the kitteny cuteness, I lost track of a plot. See also: Puppies! Puppies! Puppies!


Thursday Three: Dads

Posted by Pam on June 18, 2009 at 9:33 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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Father's Day is right around the corner, and while I can't suggest the best DVD to buy for Dad - though I'm pretty partial to Lost - I can recommend three picture books to share.

I Love My Pirate Papa
written by Laura Leuck, illustrated by Kyle Stone
Here's a nice story about a boy who loves his daddy, who happens to be a pirate. The rhyming text outlines a day on the high sea with plenty of pirate antics. A sample: "I love my pirate papa! He's the bravest buccaneer. He helps me put my earring on and buckles up my gear." The illustrations are clever and interesting with lots of funny bits to catch in the pictures. Little pirates will eat it up.

You Can Do Anything Daddy!
by Michael Rex
A boy's version of the would-you-do-anything-for-me books. Like The Runaway Bunny without the separation issues. As the father tucks his son into bed, the boy asks his dad if he would save him from bad guys. Bad guys who get more elaborate as the bedtime ritual goes on. As the challenges escalate, the illustrations show how one middle-aged dad would save his son from robot gorilla pirates from Mars. The cartoon illustrations are fun and lively, and it's also a nice touch that the boy never looks concerned as he's carried off, but has a slight knowing smile. A great book that gives a guy's touch to "I love you so much."

Building With Dad
written by Carol Nevius, illustrated by Bill Thomson
First of all, this book opens top to bottom instead of side to side. You may wonder why, until you open the first full page of picture and text and! You're treated to this perspective looking up to a man with a boy on his shoulders. The next page is a bulldozer, starting right from the pile of dirt on the ground. Then a dump truck dropping rocks that seem to almost spill off of the page and into your lap. And on and on. Rhyming couplets tell of being on the construction site with dad while they are building the kid's new school. Definitely would be a hit for truck lovers, but the fantastic illustrations will create adult fans too.

For tons of great ideas, check out Book Dads, an amazing website featuring books with a positive view of fatherhood. And, of course, use the comments here to share and find more favorite picture books about dads.


Summer Reading, Having a Blast

Posted by Pam on June 11, 2009 at 9:36 AM in Fun and GamesLibraries
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Yesterday I was talking with a friend about reading over the summer vacation. She called to ask about the public library, but we ended up discussing how to help her son improve his reading skills over the break. Having been in a similar situation with my younger daughter, I had some ready solutions that I offered her and now you. I should mention that I'm not a reading specialist, but am suggesting a plan for summer reading that worked and made sense to me.

1. Make the Time
I am asked often enough how I find time to read. My answer is more like a mission statement: You don't find time to read, you make time to read. Reading needs to be part of your schedule like eating or bathing, because in its own way it's as important. Sure, you can go a day without reading, but why would you want to? I prefer bedtime as the ideal reading time. It's easily remembered, and it's a great way to wind down. The evening hour can also offer a spouse or older sibling an opportunity to participate. In the summer perhaps morning will work better, and that's fine, but make the time every day.

2. Bring Home the Books
Even if you have tons of titles on your shelves, summer offers a wonderful opportunity to explore the public library. Having something new to read that you have for a limited time, is more exciting. The library also gives you the chance to try something different. Pick out some folk tales from other countries. Try the new horse series. Investigate life in China or under the sea. Don't overrule a book your child picks as being too young for him, but also reserve the right make some selections yourself.

It's often said that boys are more interested in nonfiction than stories, so head over to the 500's of your Dewey Decimal system. It's rich with science books for kids including topics like space, dinosaurs, insects, snakes, and mammals. And these aren't the boring books you might remember from your childhood with long pages of text on one side, and one second-rate photo on the other. Today's children's nonfiction works with innovative layouts, multi-level text, and amazing photography. Ask your librarian to direct you to other nonfiction sections as well, including poetry, art, history, and biographies. Bring home a variety of books and plenty of them. (If you're worried about keeping track of them, our library books live in a basket by the couch and that's where they are read.)

3. Mix It Up
I love reading, and yet there is a stage of learning to read that makes me clench my teeth. It's exciting when your child is first sounding out words. Later, it's wonderful when you are reading together and she asks the meaning of a particular word. The part that is hard for me is a particular middle phase, where my daughters would sound out the same word for the third time within five pages. We each made it through this period (successfully) and I held my tongue (mostly), but it led me to my greatest discovery of mixing up our reading time.

As my youngest daughter was in the easy-reader stage for a long time, we learned to keep it interesting and fun. She'd read one book to me, then I'd read a picture book to her. Sometimes we'd take turns with her easy reader book. Sometimes she'd sound out words in the picture book. Other times, I'd read a chapter book to her and we'd discuss what happened in each chapter before moving on. There were even times when she would read to herself, and I'd read my own book alongside her. Occasionally, her older sister would step in to do the easy reader part while I washed the dishes. (A dollar payment most well spent.) We used this time to improve other reading skills besides sounding out and word recognition. Picture books are great for discussing art and illustration cues to the story. With their concise stories, picture books are wonderful to reinforce the concepts of story arcs, prediction, and comprehension. We'd talk about our favorite picture or the funniest part. I might remind her of a similar book or a personal connection, and soon she was doing the same thing. What could have been an exhausting stage for both of us, turned into a wonderful time of exploring, discussing, analyzing, and yes, reading.


Thursday Three: Hot Titles

Posted by Pam on June 4, 2009 at 9:58 AM in Middle Grade BooksPicture BooksYoung Adult Books
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Last weekend I attended Book Expo America (BEA) and had a blast. I met some wonderful authors, got tons of signed books, and shipped home a forty-pound box of goodies. For today's Thursday Three, I'm covering the hottest titles in Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Picture Books.

Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins
Catching FirePeople lined up in the early hours of the morning to get a ticket to Suzanne Collins' book signing. Others scouted out the 10:00 a.m. Scholastic distribution of the Advance Reader Copy (ARC), not wanting to wait until the September release to read the sequel to Hunger Games. But I didn't realize how hot this title was until I came home and saw bids on ebay reaching over $100. (ARC's specifically say that they are Not For Sale, often on the cover.) A few book blogs offered their copies to readers in random drawings and pulled in over two hundred comments. This book is Twilight-hot. And I picked up an abandoned copy off a lunch table at the convention. Crazy.

Meet Rebecca
by Jacqueline Dembar Greene
American Girl released a new historical character, Rebecca Rubin, a Jewish-American immigrant living in New York City in 1914. Contrary to the Catching Fire fever, this new series by American Girl slipped under the radar for most people I talked to, but it was an entirely pleasant surprise. At the book signing on Sunday morning I was very excited to meet the author and express my delight at a series chronicling the Jewish immigrant experience. I brought the book home and can't wait to read it. The doll is super-cute too. Forget my kids, I want her myself. Seriously.

Big Frog Can't Fit In
by Mo Willems
Another hot ticket was for the new Mo Willems' title, even though it's not available yet. Folks stood in long lines to get Mr. Willems signature on the promo piece for the new pop-up book. I can appreciate the excitement as I'd buy it if Mo illustrated the AIG collapse. (Actually, that might help me understand it.) So not seeing the book yet, all I can say is that the frog is apparently large and doesn't "fit in," one may guess both figuratively and literally. Hence, the pop-up.

I hadn't made it to New York in time for Mo's signing, but as chance would have it, I ran into him on Saturday on the exhibit floor. We talked a bit, and I got my signature and he said the first frog doodle. Or maybe he meant the first frog on a T-shirt. Either way, I'm happy.

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