It's time to start our going away party here at Booklights. Time to reminisce and say goodbye. But, before we go any further, it's time to offer you a piece of cake.
One of the posts I enjoyed writing the most for Booklights, was this one about cakes based on children's books. I've searched long and hard to come up with more books good enough to eat.
I've got just the thing to start us off. Once upon a time, there was a beautiful cake.
Lise also made this incredible, edible version of the Wonderful World of Oz, complete with a blue gingham background. (I found all three of these cakes separately, and was amazed when they turned out to all be made by the same person!)
Speaking of The Wizard of Oz, here's the nicest Wicked Witch of the West I've ever seen. Check out the tutorial on the baker's website, it's amazing how much detail work went into this cake. All of that effort, and it was made for a school bake sale!
I've saved the best for last. Here it is, the pièce de résistance.
Here's a look at every angle of this unbelievable cake, made for a Children's Care Awareness Expo, and large enough to feed 300 people!
Parting is such sweet sorrow... but hopefully this post has helped make it a little bit sweeter. And remember my motto: you can have your cake and read it too.
Now, will someone make a cake for me? =)
When it comes to sharing a book with young kids, reading aloud seems the natural thing to do. They can't read the words on the page, so you do it for them. Once young readers become independent, though, we sometimes forget that they still enjoy - and can also benefit from - listening to you read.
That said, picking the right book can get tricky. The 9-year-old doesn't want to hear "baby" books, and the preschooler isn't ready for some of the subjects nor can they sit still that long! Finding books that interest your 4-year-old AND your preteen may be easier than it sounds.
Don't give up on picture books. As Pam points out in her post Reading Aloud: Picture Books Rule! (MotherReader, March 2009) sometimes those pre-teen protests are a surface reaction. After the requisite "that's for babies" teens will still sit and listen to a picture book. They may even surprise themselves with how much they enjoy their little brother's reactions. The secret bonus: you are modeling reading for them so they can read to their brother later!
Chapter books need pictures, too. Illustrated chapter books are helpful because young audiences often need the images which engage their interest while you read pages with a lot more text. In general, the chapters in these books are short, making it easy to read in small spurts and over consecutive nights.
Mix up the formats. Sometimes you have enough time - and the kids' temperaments are in sync - to read something that each child likes, and you can share a picture book and a chapter or two from a longer story. On those days when your energy is low, just pick one. That quiet time reading will probably help you feel better!
Regularly sharing a book as a family will not only let you reconnect and renew a love of stories and books. Who knows, as everyone becomes readers, maybe everyone will want a turn!
Next week: Genres that are good choices for family read-alouds.
Toes and a book: Public photo on Flicker.com. Copyright All rights reserved by Tina Cockburn Photography, tcockburn2002.
Picture Books in the library: Bozeman Public Library by JSemenza on Flicker. Copyright All rights reserved.
Know a child just starting to learn to read? How about one who is having trouble with the process or is discouraged? I've got the perfect book for them.
Tad Hills' wonderful new picture book How Rocket Learned to Read is just right for beginning readers, struggling readers, and picture book fans of all ages.
Beautiful, vibrant and silly paintings fill every inch of the book. Tad did countless sketches of his dog (who just happens to be named Rocket) and you can see the results throughout the book. There's Rocket in the snow, in the mud and taking a nap (not for long!) He seems ready to leap off the page and into your lap and along with his wonder and excitement about learning to read.
Rocket sets just the right tone for starting school. If anyone asks where you heard about the book.... just tell them a little bird told you.
Tad is also the author and illustrator of the Duck and Goose series, books that are well worth checking out.
All right, I acknowledge the fact the summer is ending and school is beginning. Yes, in many areas, school has already begun, but here in Virginia, we are putting our heads in the sand - preferably at the actual beach - and trying to ignore the whole thing. Admittedly, it's easier to believe summer is endless when it's ninety degrees outside, but for today I'll try to get into the mindset of a back-to-school mom with three titles:
by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Alice Busby
The kindergarteners come to school to find that there room has it's own cat - and what a smart kitty she is! She may not know her colors or numbers, but she listens to the teacher's lessons and responds. And boy, is she cute. While many books approach kindergarten with a list of all the things kids do, this slight story allows the reader to see what happens in a more natural way. The illustrations are engaging with a childlike feel, rich colors, and a diverse class. The rhyming couplets seem a bit strained, but it's unlikely to bother the target audience who will be thrilled with the idea of a cat in a classroom as even a remote possibility.
The Exceptionally, Extraordinarily, Ordinary, First Day of School
by Albert Lorenz
As the new student, John, describes his old school to his new librarian, everyone gets the idea that it may not have been the least bit ordinary. Particularly the readers who are treated to the pictures that accompany John's often ordinary descriptions. For instance, while he simply talks about his school being really old, we can see that it is a bizarre castle with talking ravens and hungry stone lions. There is also a sidebar with definitions and facts and related notes about items in the pictures.. The oddities, facts, and little jokes in the illustrations make this a fun book for older kids heading to school.
Junie B's Essential Survival Guide to School
by Barbara Park
While the Junie B. Jones books begin with her as a kindergartener, everyone knows that books titled just Junie B. indicate that she is in first grade - and so we find in this book of school tips. Fans of the series will enjoy the usual banter and antics of Junie B. (though superfans may miss the artwork of Denise Brunkus). The advice isn't all that vital, tending more toward, "Do NOT NOT NOT pour chocolate milk from your thermos on the head of the person in front of you!" But actually, that chapter summary of riding the bus is right on target, " Sit Still, Behave Yourself, And Be Glad You're Not Walking!" At the end of each chapter is a section for the reader to add his or her own thoughts or drawings on the topic - like favorite clothes to wear or funny ways to get to school. Overall, the book isn't - despite the title - an essential Junie B. purchase, but is a fun way to approach back-to-school with a light touch and a bit of learning. (Because the little parent secret of Junie B. is to see what NOT to do so as to learn and discuss what one SHOULD do.)
For more back-to-school books, look at this earlier Booklights post.
Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.
Oh, how I have procrastinated filling the early reader shelf! This is a very fluid period, not unlike your child's transition from crawling to pulling up to walking independently. Looking back, one probably came pretty quickly on the heels of the other. Finding easy readers that have longevity on your bookshelf can be a challenge.
In this phase of learning to read, children are moving beyond recognizing individual letters to combining them and learning words. Students move fairly quickly from books with one word per page to two or three sentences on a page. From there it transitions to short paragraphs and then short chapters.
Because kids will move through these books at a steady pace,quickly, variety is definitely an ally!Your local library and your child's school library have lots of excellent choices that will engage young readers.
So do you need an early reader bookshelf at home? Definitely! It is important for kids to own their own books and to have fun reading at their fingertips. If you still have them, pull out some of those toddler books that have pictures and simple words. They are established favorites, but now your daughter can read them and use them to build a word bank of sight words. Let her create picture/word cards that she can hang up or make her own book with.
You might pull out some favorite picture books, too. If you think your son has memorized the story, then ask him to point to each of the words as he reads. That will force him to look at the page and the content. You might also try reading the book from the last page to the first.
Dr. Seuss is the master of the easy reader classic, but there are other authors who ascribe to his philosophy of great books for new readers. Some of those books, like Mo Willems' Cat the Cat and Elephant and Piggy series have the "I Can Read" imprimatur on them. But some - like Duck! Rabbit! and Little Oink! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - don't scream "easy reader" but are delightful choices for new readers, too.
When searching for books that can double as read-along stories and developmental readers, look for simple illustrations and lots of white space on a page; short sentences; and/or rhyming text.
Although easy readers are not generally literary classics, Dr. Seuss has shown us that there are are always exceptions! Just like Hop on Pop and The Cat in the Hat, there are easy readers that we keep and enthusiastically wait to share with our grandchildren.
Check your bookshelf - you may already have some favorites!
Because I want to leave the reading experience to the potential reader - whether child or adult - I don't tend to reveal spoilers in my reviews, even in picture books. But today I'm bending that rule to talk about three surprise endings that gave me pause.
The Grasshopper Hopped!
by Elizabeth Alexander, illustrated by Joung Un Kim
The grasshopper does indeed hop from different settings with the help of pull tabs and a cute, quick storyline. The art is sweet, the text is slight, and the tabs are workable. The grasshopper does seem make some questionable hopping choices, including into a refrigerator and the ocean, but that's part of the fun. At the end of the book though, he hops into a frog's mouth. GULP! Wow - I thought to myself on the first read - that's seems kind of dark. But the page turn reveals a safe grasshopper and a smiling frog and the assurance of "Just kidding." I think the surprise ending works here because the age of the intended reader who isn't likely to be thrown by the idea that yeah, the frog would eat the grasshopper. And the surprise stayed with me, though I don't think that it's a real issue.
Barry, the Fish with Fingers
by Sue Hendra
It's a boring life under the sea, until Barry the fish shows up with fingers stuck on his fins. He explains to all the other fish how many things he can do with these new fingers, and soon everyone wants them. The question of supply and demand is answered with a timely drop of a box that falls to the bottom of the ocean and allows all the fish to enjoy this new discovery. The box also reveals to the reader that the fish fingers are fish sticks - which is funny and clever, but at the same time a little disturbing. Which of course, is what makes the reveal funny and clever. I liked the book and the art, but the ending kept coming back to me. Should I explain to my four year old niece that the ending is funny because the fish are wearing fingers made of other fish - dead, cut-up fish made into sticks for kids' dinner? See when I write it out like that, it feels kind of wrong. But yet, I don't know that it's so wrong.
It's a Book
by Lane Smith
At the very beginning of this book, we are introduced to the characters - a monkey, a mouse, and a jackass. That's the tip-off. The rest of the slight story involves a lack of understanding of what a book is, does, and requires as the monkey keeps up the refrain that "It's a book." The book trailer that portrays this part of the story got a lot of rave reviews for the cleverness of the concept, especially in the irony of it being on a video or presented on a Kindle. The official press and media reviews of the book itself were very positive. But here's the thing, the books ends with the line "It's a book, jackass." Okay, I get the joke in that the donkey clearly is being a fool in not understanding what a book is and the monkey is clearly tired of explaining it and yes, we all know that jackass is both another word for a donkey and a expression for a dummy, so it's allowed to be in a picture book. Right? I don't know. I'm having a lot of trouble with this, and it's not just me. I did note that the Amazon reviews are very divided, with many parents uncomfortable with the ending. And I wonder if all the positive reviews are looking at this in that higher level of literature as Art as opposed to actually reading this book to a preschooler. Or a classroom of kids. Or having to explain it to a parent at the front desk of the library.
What do you think?
Despite the ads that might tell us otherwise, summer isn't over for most of us. In fact for the Washington, DC area, August is generally the big month for travel. It's likely the trickle effect of Congress being out of session which leads the lobbyists to leave, the consultants to the lobbyists to take a break, and so on. Also after a month home with the kids, travel looks like a saner option than trying to find one more thing to do at home.
It would surprise no one to learn that I approach travel with reading up on the area. I'm addicted to travel guides - both the regular and the "with kids" variety. But I also like to involve my kids in the reading too, as I find it adds to the anticipation of the trip and can make it an educational experience. For those of you who remember the dry nonfiction books of our youth, know that it's a whole new era in informational text with many of them sporting amazing artwork or photography and a fresh approach to writing. So here are some ideas if you are headed to...
1. The Beach
Almost too easy, as the picture book section of your library will have tons of books about the beach and the ocean. Some will have some educational elements blended in, like Over in the Ocean. Check out the nonfiction section for books that talk more about what can be found on the shore - giving you a little scavenger hunt. There are tons of great books about life under the sea, including titles about specific iconic animals like dolphins (try Face to Face with Dolphins). Though I'd steer away from shark books, unless you want to spend your entire vacation explaining again and again how sharks are truly unlikely to swim in ankle-deep water.
2. The Mountains
Or maybe the woods, or wherever you might go to encounter Nature in all its glory. If you're camping, bring along books for identifying trees, rocks, or wildlife tracks. You can also identify the many things that making camping exciting with S is for S'mores: A Camping Alphabet. If you prefer your outdoors in smaller doses and will not be tenting it, make the hikes or even walks more interesting with Fun with Nature by Mel Boring which provides a guide to lots of different bugs, reptiles, animals, and trees.
3. The City
Many big cities will have at least one book about them, but they aren't always the most engaging of titles. Some are certainly better than others, and I'd give the prize to New York City for having the best and most books that will enhance your trip. ABC NYC: A Book About Seeing New York City and 123 NYC: A Counting Book of New York City, by Joanne Dugan pair photographs of letters/numbers in their city environment with pictures of urban representations of those letters/numbers. For city kids, it makes more sense to see H for "hot dog" instead of "horse," and for visitors, it provides a checklist of things to notice about life in the city. Another great and more detailed book is New York, New York! The Big Apple from A to Z which focuses on the attractions of NYC with added facts and point of interest. It's like a kids version of those travel guides I love so much.
I'm doing something a little different today. Instead of writing paragraph reviews of three books, I'm giving quick summaries of thirteen picture books. But these are special picture books, selected by me over my years of experience with the titles to put together a list that represents many different and diverse summers.Even as a proclaimed beach bum, I've limited my shore stories to only two leaving room for the many ways people see summer in the city, in parades, in the pool, and even abroad. I've also organized this list in order of the author, making it easier to print out and find the books at your local library. Let us begin with my personal favorite that just happens to be first...
by Elisha Cooper
A day at the beach is captured beautifully in a series of seashore scenes from suntanning to swimming to shoveling sand. A beach-lovers delight.
And Then it Rained : And Then the Sun Came Out...
by Crescent Dragonwagon, illustrated by Diane Greenseid
In one side of this story, the rain just won't stop, but turn the book over and it's the story of a blaring sun-baked town that needs the refreshing (turn it over) rain. Very clever.
Bebé goes to the Beach
Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Steven Salerno
A sprinkle of Spanish words throughout the text sets apart this beach tale of one bebé who keeps his mama quite busy.
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever
by Marla Frazee
Two boys spent the week at Grandpa's "camp," with different interpretations of the activities then the adults around them. Terrific fun.
Mermaids on Parade
by Melanie Hope Greenberg
Everyone loves a parade - and mermaids for that matter - and this book celebrates both in its depiction of the annual Coney Island event.
Come on, Rain
by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Jon J. Muth
In the heat of the city, a girl waits for the rain to cool things off, and then celebrates by dancing outside with friends and family when it finally comes. Joyful and lovely.
When the Fireflies Come
by Jonathan London, illustrated by Terry Widener
A slow summer day of barbecue and baseball turns into a slow summer night with friends and fireflies. What could be better?
The Boy Who Wouldn't Swim
by Deb Lucke
Regardless of the heat, a young boy won't swim in the pool, but finally gives in to find that he never wants to get out!
Summer Sun Risin'
by W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrated by Don Tate
A day on a farm in the summertime includes plenty of chores, but also time for fishing and stories for an African-American family.
Think Cool Thoughts
by Elizabeth Perry, illustrated by Linda Bronson
A young girl tries to keep cool in her city apartment, but is excited by the prospect of sleeping on the roof with her mom and aunt.
Summer: an Alphabet Acrostic
by Steven Schnur, illustrated by Leslie Evans
Summer stables become poems as linoleum-block illustrations set the scenes.
by Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeqqi
On a visit to India, a boy learns of the pleasures to be found in the summer monsoon season through the eyes of his beloved grandfather.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
by Mark Teague
An imaginative boy spins a tale of Wild West adventures when asked about his summer vacation. How's yours going?
Next week I'll look at chapter books about summer - ones that can be read alone or to a child. Who knows, maybe we'll get into books for teens. In the meantime, if you have a favorite book about summer, share it in the comments.
Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.
It's hard to pick funny picture books, because the age of the reader makes such a big difference. Even a year in development can completely change the nature of the book. For instance, my go-to book for reading in classrooms was Sweet Tooth, by Margie Palatini because doing a cranky voice for the named tooth is well, so sweeeeet. When I tried this book with kindergartners though, they didn't really get it or laugh. However, first and second graders loved it. So, what I've shared today is a progression of funny books, from a lightly amusing book for a preschooler and moving up in age. Enjoy.
Mouse Was Mad
by Linda Urban, illustrated by Henry Cole
Mouse was definitely mad, but as he expresses himself by hopping, stomping, screaming and more, other animals take the starch out of his tantrum by showing him how expertly hopping, stomping, screaming and more can be done. Finally mouse finds something he does better than anyone, and it calms him down. While there is certainly a lesson to be learned here about taming a tantrum, it is amusing to see the other animals take his actions at face value and challenge his technique. Great story, with Henry Cole's always friendly illustrations.
Dinosaur Woods: Can Seven Clever Critters Save Their Forest Home?
by George McClements
Coming construction is going to chase a bunch of animals out of their wooded home, and though they try to talk to the people, no one will listen. They come up with a plan to build a dinosaur, knowing that people won't tear down the woods with a dinosaur. They all try to work together but Something Goes Wrong. However when the animals are exposed they turn out to be endangered and the woods are preserved after all - along with their friendship. Lots of amusing asides and touches throughout the book keep it funny. Look for the specially named "Crabby-Faced Punching Rabbits" or the great facial expressions on the collage illustrations. Environmentally safe and seriously fun.
The Hermit Crab
by Carter Goodrich
A shy hermit crab, stumbles into being a hero when he dons an unusual "shell" - the discarded, broken top half of an action figure. When a crab trap lands in an unfortunate place - "Hey, where's the flounder? Has anyone seen the flounder?" - everyone see the hero near the trap and assumes that he's responsible for moving it and saving the day. But the best part is in the unexpected result. The hermit crab draws into the shell, doesn't take credit, doesn't change, and leaves the "hero" shell as soon as he can. I love the idea that it's okay to stay out of the limelight. It's okay to be shy. Funny pictures add to the joy of this quirky book.
by Karma Wilson, illustrated by John Segal
In this simple story, a grown-up cat tries to get the little bear to go to sleep,but the little bear wants to delay bedtime just a little bit longer. Surprise, surprise. The sing-song feel of the text isn't a straight rhyme scheme, but uses rhyming words and a gentle rhythm. The beautiful watercolors are dreamy. One thing I particularly like about the book is the characters: a cat and bear, both of indeterminate gender. It could be a mother and son, father and daughter, aunt and niece, etc. The two characters from different species also leaves it open as an adoption story, perhaps of a child of a different race. In any case, it's a lovely bedtime book to be shared with a special little bear of one's own.
No More Yawning!
by Paeony Lewis, illlustrated by Brita Granström
Generally I'm not a big fan of bedtime books where the child keeps getting out of bed or otherwise disrupting bedtime. They tend to make me feel more like the child needs more limits and parental authority. But this book includes yawning, and having yawning in a bedtime book is pure genius, because as the parent reads the book with the yawns, the child starts yawning and is soon ready for bed. In fact, it makes it a little confusing that the mother keeps telling the little girl, "No more yawning," even though it is paired with all the other instructions like "No more kissing" or "No more singing" or "No more stories." Yawn away, I say. Cute book and nice, soft watercolor illlustrations. Oh and good tips on falling asleep are included in the back.
Once Upon a Time, The End (asleep in 60 seconds)
by Geoffrey Kloske, illustrated by Barry Blitt
In this tale, the father is putting his kid to bed, but just wants to get through the bedtime stories as quickly as possible. The stories are all the classics, just shorter. Much, much shorter. And generally with a theme of going to sleep at the end of each one. A great book for parents. Oh, and for kids too, but particularly ones that are old enough to get the references to the classic stories and the overarching tongue-in-cheek theme that "enough already, bedtime is NOW."