Archive for October, 2007

book review

Daffodil, Crocodile by Emily Jenkins, illustrations by Tomek Bogacki

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Daffodil is tired of being a “pretty little, clean little flower of a girl”, and she’s even more tired of looking just like her sisters Rose and Violet.   So what does Daffodil do?  She finds a papier mache crocodile mask and begins to “raaa raaa raaa” and “chomp chomp chomp”, because crocodiles “are not flowers”, says Daffodil.   As a crocodile, Daffofil has a wonderful time, taking a trip to Jupiter, eating the guests at her sisters tea party, and even causing all kinds of trouble at the dinner table.  When crocodile/Daffodil goes to school, she is indeed a different person, playing soccer, eating up blocks, and getting dirty.  Interestingly, even though her school mates can now recognize her as Daffodil, she sticks with her dual crocodile personality, opting to bite a tree rather than jump rope with a friend.  Alas, when the crocodile pretends that the bathtub is a swamp, the mask becomes ruined.  But even though the crocodile mask is done, Daffodil insists to her mother that she is still a crocodile and not a flower, then runs off to “raaa” and chomp with her sisters.  The whimsical illustrations are softly bright, and childlike, simple and uncluttered yet filled with details that kids will recognize, from the cities made from blocks at school to the sailboats on the shower curtain in the bathroom.  The crocodile head that Daffodil wears is humerously oversized, dominating the pages on which it appears, helping to fulfill Daffodil’s wish to not be just another pretty little girl, but to be an individual that stands out from the crowd (or at least from her sisters).   This lively story will help reassure kids that it’s both ok and fun to be differnet and want to go “raaaa” on their own every once in a while.

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book review

Fiesta Fiasco by Ann Whitford Paul, illustrations by Ethan Long

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The bright, sunny illustrations in this book conjure up the desert and make a fitting background for Culebra’s birthday fiesta.  His friends Tortuga, Iguana, and Conejo go to the market to buy gifts for Culebra, a snake.  There, Tortuga and Iguana are tricked by Conejo, a self-proclaimed “expert at choosing gifts”, into buying gifts that clearly work better for a rabbit than a snake–a sombrero instead of a balloon, a camisa instead of a bowl, and pants instead of a libro.  When Conejo is only too willing to take care of the regalos that do not suit snake, the other animals realize they have been tricked and order Conejo to leave the fiesta.   They then play pin the tail on the coyote, cactus, and musical rocks.  Conejo returns after the games and makes amends, having returned the inappropriate gifts and bringing with him the gifts that the others had originally chosen.  Culebra loves his new regalos, and the book ends with the aninals singing happy birthday to their friend as the birthday torta is served.  The bright desert colors stand out on the crisp white pages, and the characters are cartoony without being cutesy.  The Spanish words sprinkled liberally throughout the text make this story of friendship fun to read out aloud.

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book review

Princess Pigsty by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer

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Princess Isabella is not your typical princess.   She hates her beautiful princess clothes, wants to make her own sandwiches, and does NOT want her hair curled.  One day, Princess Isabella has had enough, and throws her crown out the window and into the goldfish pond, declaring “I am tired of being a princess!  It’s boring, boring, boring!”   Of course her father the king is not happy with his young daughter, and punishes Isabella in a variety of ways that only make Isabella more determined to be her own person; after a trip to the pigsty she asks the king if he knows that pigs are “incredibly smart animals” and says that “It’s a shame to eat them”.  It is after the stay in the pigsty that the king begins to appreciate his daughter’s tenacity, and the final illustration of the king and the princess walking to the castle holding hands helps to show that the father and daughter love each other dispite their differences.  Many young readers will relate to and appreciate Isabella’s strong personality.  The bright, cartoon watercolors help add funny details to the story, such as depicting Isabella in flip flops and brown pants, and all the characters have expresive faces from the bewildered pigs in the pigsty to Isabella’s vapidly smiling sisters.  Young readers will appreciate this modern fairy tale with its happily ever after ending.

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book review

Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh

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This concept book presents shapes in a fun and simple way designed to catch the eyes and imagination of young readers.  Three paper collage mice experiment with brightly colored pieces of paper cut into simple shapes.  They take a triangle and a rectangle and make a tree, then take two diamonds and form a book.   Just as their enemy the cat shows up, the mice use the shapes to make “three big scary mice” and give the cat a big surprise.   The simple story and the graphic illustrations showcasing the brightly colored shapes make this a perfect book to share with your youngest readers.  And after you share the book, why not cut out some shapes and make up your own story together?

–Miss Tracey

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book review

Ask Dr. K. Fisher about Animals

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Dr. K. Fisher is a very knowledgeable bird, so much so that a letter to readers  in the front of the book (an actual letter that readers can pull out from an envelope) promises “any problem solved”.  This entertaining book takes the form of letters written by animals to Dr. K. Fisher, such as the letter from a “concerned crocodile mom” asking about the parenting habits of other reptiles, and a letter from a “troubled tadpole” expressing concen over his changing body.    This inventive book provides young readers with a fun way to learn about a variety of animals.   As a nice touch, there is even a glossary in the back of the book,  with definitions of words like ‘bacteria’, ‘herbivores’, and ‘predators’.  The pen-and-ink collage-style illustrations are of expressive animals on letters, envelopes, and even notepaper, and reflect the humor in the text–the letter from the worm is covered in dirt and the letter from the mama crocodile has jagged edges to match her teeth.  This is a fun and informative book for animal lovers and curious kids alike.

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early literacy skills

Why sing in storytime?  Singing provides an active participation opportunity to build vocabulary and develop sound discrimination, two important aspects of reading readiness.  Occasionally, I will post the words to a song or fingerplay and point to the words as we sing or say them.  I do this to help develop your child’s knowledge that words that we say also exist in print (print recognition).   This, too, will help to lay the foundation for reading readiness.

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book review

Don’t Say That Word! by Alan Katz, illustrations by David Catrow

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There are words that every kid loves to say, perhaps because they know adults would prefer they didn’t say them.  Some of those words, like booger, burp, poop, butt, and barf (they’re fun to type too!), figure prominently in Michael’s retelling of his school day to his mother.  Unfortunatly, he’s not allowed to say them, hence his mother’s admonition (and the title of the book) “Don’t Say That Word!”  Michael ends up being sent to his room, in time out, and with a bar of soup in his mouth for the usage of the words that he’s not supposed to say.  In a way that’s even more fun for a young reader, the author doesn’t actually use the offending words, but poses rhymes instead: “Some kids played a mean trick on Jesse/with their gum they did you know what./His chair was all gummy and messy, and suddenly so was his…”  Kids will love the illustrations that show Michael in a variety of hilarious situations as he illustrates the naughty words, and they will easily identify with the objects that indicate a busy household populated with children (Michael’s ever-present dog, a multitude of toys, even an overflowing toilet).  Certainly, kids will laugh at Michael himself who definitely looks like trouble with his shock of red hair and overly exaggerated facial expressions (I think he looks vaguely like a Who from Dr. Seuss’ Whoville).  This is a great read aloud for an older child who will delight in filling in the blanks with the words they aren’t normally encouraged to say. 

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