Tuesday, October 18, 2016

They All Saw A Cat

Since I tutor first graders in reading, I am always looking for books with engaging stories, few words, lots of repetition and large, widely spaced text. They All Saw A Cat  by Brendan Wenzel delivers.

We have one cat and many observers: a child sees a friendly, smiling cat; the dog, a more sinister, unfriendly cat and the mouse a ferocious monster cat. A fish sees the cat through a watery filter, the bee's compound eyes see a pointillist cat and a skunk sees a grey-toned cat. Sometimes what an animal sees is due to perspective: a bird sees a different cat than a flea, worm or a bat. What does the cat see when she looks in a pond?

Each of Brendan Wenzel's illustrations perfectly illustrates what each of the observers see. There is no need for kids to decode words like ferocious, pointillist or sinister. The picture tells the story. There is a good deal of Caldecott buzz about this book right now.

The Sonoma County Library has seven copies. The AR level is 1.9.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Need Some Book Ideas for Your Beginning Reader?

Finding interesting books for a new reader can be difficult. We want to find the "right" book for each child, one they want to read and one with a little help they can read. For the newest ones, you can find seasonal books with some good tips to help your emerging reader at EDventures With Kids.

For kids ready to advance to chapter books, Melissa Taylor has 30 ideas for Beginning Chapter Books with Diverse Main Characters. The great thing about these books is that many of them are part of a series.

Children's author, Doreen Cronin, wrote an article for Brightly about the joys of reading funny books with your kids. As an added bonus she gives you some suggestions and some of them like Dory Fantasmagory are part of a series.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Candlewick Sparks

Due to the success of the Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick Press started a new series of books for newly independent readers, Candlewick Sparks. I have read three of the 34 titles. Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell, which was awarded a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor in 2013, I reviewed that same year..

Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways by Laura McGee Kvasnosky was awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal in 2007.

Because Dad is making cucumber sandwiches AGAIN for lunch, sisters, Zelda and Ivy, decide to run far enough away so that their parents can't see them but they can see their parents. They play 14 hands of Go Fish, have a little tea party and put on their pajamas. Do their parents miss them yet? Will hunger pains make them go home? Did Dad save each one of them a cucumber sandwich?

Two more chapters follow. One is about making a time capsule and the other is about developing a secret concoction to solve Zelda's writer's block.

There are six books in the Zelda and Ivy series. The type is large and widely spaced, almost every page has a picture and the chapters are short which is ideal for emerging readers just getting into chapter books.

The Sonoma County Library has nine copies. The AR is 3.0.

In Joe and Sparky Go to School by Jamie Michalak and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz two inhabitants of Safari Land, a giraffe and turtle, spend a day in school.

A school bus filled with kids returning to school after their field trip stops right in front of Joe and Sparky. Curious, Joe (the giraffe) and Sparky (the turtle) look in the windows at the kids, the teacher and the driver. When the driver takes off, Sparky is on the roof of the bus. Joe runs and jumps on the back of the bus to the delight of the kids inside. When they arrive at school, the near-sighted teacher's glasses break. She winds up herding Joe and Sparky into the classroom for circle time. Sparky gets a star for listening during reading. They count peas, investigate the magic pond, have music and art before the day ends. Will Joe ever get a star?

The Sonoma County Library has seven copies. The AR is 2.1. There are two other Joe and Sparky books in the series.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Word Attack Strategies

Sometimes kids need more than "sounding it out" to decode words in a story. Melissa Taylor has given us a handy tool in Word Attack Strategies. The one I use most is chunk it. Have the child cover the last part of the word with their finger and read the first part, if necessary then cover the first part of the word and read the last part and then blend.

You can print the bookmarks by clicking on the link above as a reminder for you and your student or child to remember the strategies.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How This Book Was Made

I once had the opportunity to ask Mac Barnett at a book fair about how authors and illustrators worked together (or maybe didn't) on a book. I don't remember all the details of what he said. I thought I might find it in this book, How This Book Was Made.

The author gets an idea, then he writes his first draft which isn't as good as he hoped, so he rewrites it, in this case 20 more times until he thinks it is perfect. Then it goes to his editor who who thinks it is perfect, too as long as the author makes a bunch of changes. The manuscript goes back and forth until both the author and editor are satisfied. Then the editor sends the manuscript to an illustrator, Adam Rex. Since Adam is busy (or not) it takes a long time to get the pictures to the editor. but finally the book is ready to print in Malaysia. A pile of books so huge is printed that it can be seen from space. How do the books get back to the United States? By slow boat, of course; made even slower by an attack from a pirate ship. Lucky for us pirates don't read and aren't interested in the boat's treasure. When it gets to the harbor, the books are loaded onto a truck which delivers them to a bookstore (or Library) waiting for one final step in the book making process: a reader.

The Sonoma County Library has five copies. This book was published on Sept 6, 2016 and as of yet has not been assigned an AR level.

But that didn't answer my question about how authors and illustrators work together, so I looked at a book they worked on published in 2012, Chloe and the Lion about who is more important in making a picture book the author or the illustrated?

In Mac's story, Chloe gets lost in the woods and meets a lion, but Adam thinks a dragon is cooler. Mac begs to disagree and tells Adam to draw whatever he writes. Mac and Adam are played by claymation representations of themselves. Their conversation occurs in its own space or over Adam's drawings.Eventually the argument ends with Mac firing Adam. Just then, Hank walks out of the woods carrying  brushes and a palette and is hired on the spot to illustrate the book. Hank's lion swallows Adam whole.

Mac suggests that Hank make the lion scarier, Hank says if you want scary, why didn't you make the lion a dragon? This leads to Hank being fired. Mac decides to draw the pictures himself, but that doezn't work so well either. He wants to quit, but Chloe talks him into asking Adam to do the drawings again. This leads to a phone conversation between Mac and Adam who is trapped in the lion's belly. In order to do the drawings he need to get out. Chloe asks a woodcutter, a crone and a knight for help, but they were no help. What finally worked was a redrawn (by Mac) cartoonish lion who was so embarrassed by his not so fierce new body that he agreed to cough up Adam. Everyone is happy but Chloe, what kind of thanks does a girl get for saving the day?

So do you think that's how authors and illustrator's work together? This video and this one from Reading Rockets may get us a little closer to the answer.

There is a short  You Tube video about the making of this book that is pretty funny. The Sonoma County Library has two copies. The AR is 2.7.

All this made me wonder about how Adam Rex worked with Christian Robinson when he wrote School's First Day of School

Monday, September 26, 2016

Reading Aloud

Why should you read aloud to your child?

Read aloud tip: Have books everywhere so they are always handy.

Hat tip: Raising Readers

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled

After a particularly bad day on the soccer field, Frank's parents take him to the pound where he gets Lucky. The two of them hit it off right away and together learn about the world. Lucky is particularly interested in Science. One day, when Lucky is investigating skunks, Frank learns about Chemistry and experimenting to see what treatment gets the best results. None of the results are acceptable to Frank's mom, so they sit outside for awhile and learn about Astronomy.

Both Frank and Lucky love Math. How many biscuits is Lucky willing to eat? How much hair can a dog shed in one week? How much does he have left? The answer to that is both a Science and a Math problem. Other questions involve the number of legs each of them have and how much birthday cake is left if someone leaves a chair pulled out from the table? Which leads to a History of dogs and humans and an answer, perhaps, of what happened to the birthday cake.  Maps and Geography are necessary when Lucky is briefly lost while learning duck language and Frank is learning some Spanish when Ana joins him to help find Lucky. Tomorrow Ana will join them in their exploration of the world around them.

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled  by Newbery Medalist, Lynne Rae Perkins answers the question for younger kids, when will I ever use this (Math, Geography, Science) in real life? The author's illustrations add information that is not in the text to make a richer story. There is a great deal of talk in education circles about the value of play, whether she intended to or not, the author has created a beautiful illustration of it.

The Sonoma County Library has five copies. There has been no AR level assigned to this book yet.