Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Duckling gets a cookie!? by Mo Willems
*****Kindergarten - Grade 6
Pigeon is all about the performance.  Mo Willems' publishers, the Disney related Hyperion, put out a PNN (Pigeon News Network) blurb that adds to the hilarity.  The book didn’t let us down.  Pigeon was, as the news suggested, not in the title but he was, as always, the star.  Just say please and go get this book.  Definitely five stars!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How do dinosaurs go to school? by Jane Yolen ; illustrated by Mark Teague
****Grade 1 – 3
I think some of this crew seem to think a badly behaved dinosaur is the right thing!  This could g have given them more inspiration.  Still the dinos seem to repent at the end and help others on the playground and in the classroom.  I thought at least someone would want another How do dinosaurs …? book when they went to check out their books. But no, no takers. It’s a cute quick read aloud but it seems nobody wants to take the a dinosaur.

The gift of nothing by Patrick McDonnell
**** Grades 4 – 6
This was the class that I don’t get much feedback from.  Did they like it, understand it?  I don’t know.  One bright light did seem to realize that Mooch’s gift of nothing to Earl was a gift of himself.  Others in the class just understood that Earl got nothing. Still, I love this spare little story of the kind hearted Mooch who knows that there’s lots of stuff in the world, but that stuff doesn't matter. I'll keep reading this to kids. 

Jeremy draws a monster by Peter McCarty
***** Kindergarten to grade 2
The author of T is for terrible finds an artist with Jeremy.  Jeremy lives on the third floor of an apartment building so immediately my listeners identify with Jeremy.  They like that he draws and can draw a monster. They are all suitably aggrieved when the monster turns out to be, well, a demanding, spoiled monster. He leaves only after Jeremy draws him a bus ticket and a suitcase. (The grad gift of the 70s.) All ends well with Jeremy being invited to play with friends.  Life is good.  Until the monster returns . . . but we’ll save that for next week.

The caged birds of Phnom Penh by Frederick Lipp illustrated by Ronald Himler
*** Grade 3-4
Softly water coloured illustrations are a nice echo for this gentle story of a little girl who wishes for a better life for her family in Cambodia.  There’s the parallelism of the caged bird and the girl.  I don’t know if the children caught that. And after 15 minutes of reading we had no time for discussion.  They did seem intrigued by the girl’s kindness and her selfless wishes.  The girl is tricked once by the caged bird seller, but not twice. Justice prevails, sort of.  Will Ary go to university?  We don’t know but we can wish it for her.  Maybe this book would be better for grade 5s and 6s. And, maybe just a little too sad. This is an older book:  c2000.

Chicken cheeks by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
*** Grades 5-6
I thought this would be great for an ELL class to introduce them to synonyms.  Synonums for butts sounded fun, but this was quite a refined crowd. Perhaps a better introduction of why the bear wants to make a tower would have been helpful to the storytelling. Lots of alliteration, rhymes, and puns so maybe lost on the ELL crowd.

The boy who harnessed the wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer ; pictures by Elizabeth Zunon
*****Grade 3-4 
I love a biography that lets me tell my students how another child has succeeded in much tougher times.  William Kamkwamba is one such child.  He wondered how machines work and lucky for him there was a library in his poor little village in Malawi.  He had a dream to build something that would bring water up to the fields.  He didn’t invent the windmill but he did conceive the idea to use one for his mother’s garden.  Miracle via the Ted talks, William gets a scholarship to a university in the United States and will return to do good for his country.  All told in less than 32 pages with brilliant and bright collage illustrations.  Plus it talks about simple machines, a perfect match for the grade four curriculum.

Alien Invaders written by Lynn Huggins-Cooper ; illustrated by Bonnie Leick
***** Kindergarten – Grade 2
Do you believe in little green men? What are aliens?  Those bugs sure look like aliens to the brush cut kid in front of the tv. Big type, for ease of old lady read aloud and super short when they just can’t sit, it's perfect!  We all liked how the picture of when the aliens sneak into our houses and watch us.  It’s all super creepy and all quite plausible.  Wasn’t that what that Men in Black was all about? 
It makes for a great read aloud but also good as a take home for early readers.  The illustrations have lots of detail to pore over and the text is perfect for grade one.  A scary book they can take home.

Friday, March 02, 2012

How to catch a star by Oliver Jeffers
*****Kindergarten - Grade 3
Once there was a boy and the boy loved stars.  He wished. He asked for help, he tried himself and yes, he walked and he waited and yes he did get his own star.  Some of my crowd wanted to know where his friend the penguin was. Why would he want another friend? What kind of star did he get? Lots of questions, but Oliver Jeffers is the artist and he can have the boy be anything and do anything and we'll love it all. They just want more Oliver Jeffers and his boy.

Little Chief and Mighty Gopher : the pemmican frenzy by Victor Lethbridge ; illustrated by Ben Crane
 ****Grade 3-4
Kudos to Ben Crane for very child appealing illustrations.  This book was picked out of a pile of books for a student choice read aloud and surely because of its cover.  That’s what kids judge a book by.  And the story matches.  Nicely balanced type with the illustrations.  Perfect for a short read aloud.  Our central character, Snow Cloud, is taunted by other kids but turns out to have gifts that make him special.  Lots of discussion points – prairie animals, symbiosis in nature, bullying, native culture, fiddling with nature, names  . . . Great book and a nice alternative to some of the more pedantic native fiction picture books.