Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March Storytime Briefly 2015

My parents' children--all eight of us--were born in different months, so when I was growing up, we each claimed our birthday month as our own.  And because I still feel a little like March is my month, I decided to share my favorite things.  I introduced the month by sharing
  • My Favorite Things by Oscar Hammerstein, music by Richard Rodgers, illustrated by James Warhola.
Then each week we talked about some of my favorite authors and illustrators, past and present.

My favorite poems to memorize when I was a kid were Shel Silverstein's.  Memorizing fourteen lines of light verse was a whole lot easier than memorizing William Shakespeare.  For storytime, we read/recited the following:

  • "Kidnapped!" by Shel Silverstein, from A Light in the Attic;
  • "Skin Stealer" by Shel Silverstein, from A Light in the Attic;
  • "Crocodile's Toothache" by Shel Silverstein from Where the Sidewalk Ends; and
  • "Sick" by Shel Silverstein, from Where the Sidewalk Ends.
Just as I was wrapping things up and heading out the door, I got a request to read "Boa Constrictor." Unfortunately, we were out of time--I'll have to find a way to incorporate that into an upcoming storytime.

When I was a second grader, my favorite book to take on road trips was an Encyclopedia Brown book.  Any Encyclopedia Brown book.  The episodic chapters make the books easy to set down and pick up again when your family makes frequent stops as mine did.  I introduced the students to Encyclopedia Brown, talked about what encyclopedias are, and read
  • "The Case of the Silver Fruit Bowl" from Encyclopedia Brown Keeps the Peace by Donald J. Sobol.
Before reading the solution at the back of the book, I asked the students if they thought they could solve the case.  They are pretty observant third graders and had some great ideas.

We looked at Erin Stead's beautiful illustrations and discussed woodcuts, linocuts, and the process for making prints.  We read
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead;
  • And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead; and
  • If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Jon Agee's new book, It's Only Stanley, came out just in time to be included in my month of favorite things.  We talked about humor and read
  • It's Only Stanley by Jon Agee;
  • Little Santa by Jon Agee; and
  • Milo's Hat Trick by Jon Agee.
And I'll ask again what I always ask when I talk about Milo's Hat Trick: Why is this fantastic book out of print?  Bring it back.  Please.

Monday, March 2, 2015

tara recommends The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

"By now I think you know what happened to your sandwich.  But you may not know how it happened."  Does this grab your attention?  If these opening lines haven't hooked you, the rest of The Bear Ate Your Sandwich certainly will.

"It all started with the bear."  Elaborate details take you on a bear's journey out of the forest, via a berry truck, into the city, and ultimately to an abandoned, delicious sandwich on a park bench.  During the exciting adventure, funny details delight as the bear explores the city and this new "forest" becomes his playground.  Readers should find particular amusement in the "trees," "bark," and especially the squishy "mud" that is actually wet cement.

Soft, gently blurred illustrations created with acrylic paint and pencil lend an abstract feel while showcasing a distinct personality to a very real, curious bear.  The playful artwork happily displays the bear frolicking in the park, bathing in a fountain, and splashing in puddles, right next to curious, yet oddly unconcerned, children.

The story is funny and charming with bright, happy pictures, but the unexpected Klassen-like twist at the end is what makes this book special.  If you haven't read this one already, be sure to pick up a copy and enjoy.

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich
by Julia Sarcone-Roach
published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
January 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Storytime Briefly 2015

American Library Association Awards, Chinese New Year, and storytelling -- there was much to talk about in February and great stories to read.

We talked about the Geisel Award and the Caldecott Award.  We read

  • You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant;
  • The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre; and
  • The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.
I pulled out other award-winning books from 2014, and a cheer erupted when I announced that Sam & Dave Dig a Hole (by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen) had been given a Caldecott Honor.  Yep, they liked that book.

Our school holds a storytelling event in the month of February where students tell stories in their classrooms.  Each teacher then selects a student to represent her classroom at a school-wide assembly.  While the kids were preparing their stories, I decided to tell one of my own, so we celebrated Chinese New Year with following stories:

After hearing "The Fox Borrow's the Tiger's Fierceness," one boy commented on the story's similarity to The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson.  Similar it is.

We continued our celebration of Chinese New Year with Japanese stories:
  • The Paper Crane by Molly Bang and
  • "Little One Inch."
I used Steve Light's storybox to tell "Little One Inch."  (When you look at the storybox, be sure to watch the video of Steve Light telling the story.  Brilliant.)  When I finished, a girl said, "Oh that was great!  If you were doing the storytelling festival, you would win."  All credit for that goes to Mr. Light.  Thank you, sir.  As an added bonus, I overheard my five year old telling the story this week with her brother's dinosaurs and bear.  "Lemme out! Lemme out! Lemme out!"

We talked about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  We read
  • Henry and the Cannons: An Extraordinary True Story of the American Revolution by Don Brown and
  • Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the Revolution by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch.
I loved pairing these books because while the art and storytelling styles are different, the themes are similar.  And the students loved the stylized art in Gingerbread for Liberty!  It was a great way to end the month.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Resolution (and a Story) for the Lunar New Year

Things have been awfully quiet around here lately, but I'm still here and resolving to get back to more regular posting.  Today is Chinese New Year and the perfect day to share a Chinese story, so share this story (adapted from the Record of the Warring States) or a favorite of your own.

恭喜发财! (Gongxi facai!)

The Fox Borrows the Tiger’s Fierceness

Tiger was hunting in the forest when he spotted a fox just walking around minding his own business.  Mmm, thought Tiger, that fox looks like he would make a tasty snack.  And springing with his powerful legs, Tiger pounced and caught the fox under his large paw.  Fox knew he was in grave danger, but not wanting to be someone’s dinner and being very clever, he thought quickly.

“How dare you attack me!” he cried.

This caught Tiger by surprise, so instead of sinking his teeth into Fox, he asked, “Why shouldn't I enjoy a little snack?  I caught you fair and square.” 

Fox made his voice a little louder and a little bolder and said, “You have no right to kill me!  I am king of the forest.” 

Tiger laughed, “You? King of the forest?  You are nothing more than a scrawny creature--how can you be king of anything?”

Fox was ready with his answer.  “I will prove it to you.  Walk with me in my forest, and you will see how frightened all the animals are of me.  Then you will know that I am king of the forest.”

Now Tiger didn't really believe that Fox was king of the forest, but the little fellow spoke so loudly and so boldly that Tiger wanted to see how the experiment would go, so he released Fox.  Then, Fox, holding his head high, proudly walked deeper into the forest with Tiger right behind him.

After they had gone a short way, Fox called, “Hello!” to a rabbit that was munching on grass.  The rabbit caught sight of Fox (which was frightening enough), and then he saw Tiger following closely behind.  The rabbit’s eyes grew wide, and his ears began to tremble, and he hopped quickly away into the long grass.

Of course that little rabbit would run from Fox, Tiger thought.  Fox would eat him if he got the chance.

So with Tiger still suspicious, the pair walked even deeper into the forest.

“Hello,” Fox called to a monkey that was chattering in the tree tops.  The monkey swung down to chatter at Fox, but when he saw Tiger, his eyes grew wide and his tail began to tremble, and grabbing a kudzu vine, he swung away through the trees.

Tiger thought, Perhaps Fox is fiercer than I supposed.  Still, he can’t possibly frighten all the animals and be king of the forest.

The two continued walking and hadn't gone much farther when Fox called, “Hello!” to a boar that was wallowing in the mud.  “Ugh,” grunted the boar, and looking up, he saw Fox with Tiger walking after him.  The boar’s eyes grew wide, and his tusks began to tremble, and he crashed off into the underbrush leaving a trail of mud behind him.

That is surprising! thought Tiger.  Boar is afraid of Fox.

But before he had time to wonder at the strangeness of it, Fox was greeting a crocodile sunning himself by the river.

“Hello,” called Fox.  And the crocodile turned to snap at the little fox for bothering him while he was enjoying the afternoon sun, but seeing Tiger made the crocodile’s eyes grow wide (just a little), and his thick leathery skin began to tremble (just a little).  And the crocodile slunk slowly into the river and swam away.

Tiger was so shocked, he couldn't say a word, but Fox could.  Fox stood straight and tall, looked up at Tiger and in his boldest voice declared, “You see?  All the animals flee from me.  I am truly king of the forest.”

Tiger had to agree it was true, and bowing his head, he turned and left Fox to rule over his forest.

And that is how Fox borrowed the Tiger’s fierceness.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

January Storytime Briefly 2015

Snow, snow, and more snow--that's what we should be seeing in my neck of the woods around this time of year.  Even though I didn't even pull my snow shovel off its hook in January, that didn't stop me from pulling some snow books off my shelves.

We talked about hats and earmuffs and read
  • Brimsby's Hats by Andrew Prahin and
  • Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan McCarthy.
Earmuffs for Everyone reminded one student of a book we had read a few months ago--Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum.  He was pretty pleased with himself when I pointed out that both were were written and illustrated by Ms. McCarthy.

We talked about snow and read
  • Outside by Deirdre Gill and
  • Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian.
I think those selections left us lamenting our lack of snow, so the next week I changed plans.

We talked about unreliable narrators and read
  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith and
  • The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach.
We considered the stories' narrators, and compared them to the narrator in a book we had read previously--Jon Klassen's This Is Not My Hat.  If you haven't seen The Bear Ate Your Sandwich, go find a copy now.  You can thank me later.

We read books about science:
  • Gravity by Jason Chin and
  • Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Universe by Stephanie Roth Sisson
We looked at the illustrations and talked about the upcoming ALA Youth Media Awards.  I can hardly wait for next week to share some of the winners!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Cybils Finalists 2014

Well, I've read my last YA nonfiction book, for this year at least.  Serving on the Young Adult Nonfiction panel for the Cybils has kept me busy for the past few months, and you can see the finalists for that category and all the Cybils categories on their website.  Happy reading!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

tara recommends Blizzard by John Rocco

For me, winter doesn't live up to its name unless the world has a nice covering of white, glistening snow.  Gentle snowflakes falling, building snowmen and shoveling walks are all part of a magical, sometimes slightly inconvenient, winter experience.  But, what happens if the snowfall is so extreme, you can't even leave your house?

Blizzard by John Rocco is based on the author's true experiences in the blizzard of '78 that blanketed his town in forty inches of snow when he was a boy.  A snowstorm that trapped people inside their homes, canceled school (obviously), and left a community watching for snowplows to clear the roads and release them from their snow prison.

On page one (before the title page), creative pictures cover a small boy with snow, inch by inch, pulling you into a snowy wonderland that transformed everything in an instant.  Snow-covered pictures look like a real blizzard has enveloped the pages and the clever use of everyday items, such as the stop sign almost entirely buried in a snow bank, bring home the seriousness of the storm.

The passage of time is expertly laid out as each day is identified in a different way.  Tracks in the snow, raisins on the floor and the top of a grocery list are a few ways Rocco counts down the weeklong adventure.

When rations get low, young John decides to implement the training gleaned from his "Arctic Survival Guide" and he sets off with tennis rackets on his feet and a sled to carry supplies on a journey to the neighborhood market.  A sense of adventure carries him along as he checks in with neighbors and makes a list of things to pick up at the store.  The neighborhood connectivity and historical details (the clerk uses the store phone to call John's parents, letting them know he is on his way) create a charming and heartwarming glimpse into the past.

Rocco deftly recalls a personal "heroic" story filled with charm, nostalgia and adventure that will appeal to all readers.  This is a must have for  any winter library.

by John Rocco
published by Disney-Hyperion