Monday, July 27, 2009

Feature Books

I've been reading up a storm in the way of chapter books as you can tell if you've been checking out my Shelfari widget that I added here on the blog. It occurred to me that I haven't talked about chapter books at all, even though I'm constantly reading or listening to a couple. And... I'm not going to blog about them today either. Simply because I have a couple of books that I want to feature that don't fall in that category. I love books with illustrations. I'm a bit of an art junkie, even though I don't tend to get the intellectual side of it all. I've done a lot of crafting and painting, just for fun, and so can appreciate the work that goes into illustrating a book. So, I'm going to feature a couple of books that I've pulled off the shelf specifically to take a look at their illustrations. I ran into both of these by reading about their illustrators on one of my favorite blogs, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

by Jennifer Sattler

I'm not really one of those flamingo fanatics. Come on, you know you're out there. Those of you who put flamingos in your front yard and are huge Mary Chapin Carpenter fans. But I think I've become a little bit of a fan after seeing this book. I always enjoyed looking at the flamingos when we went to the zoo, mostly because they stood so still, I always wondered if they were real. And then every once in a while they would MOVE. Here's the thing about flam
ingos. (Yes, I know I'm going on forever. Just hang on.) They are so very graceful looking when they are just posed on that one leg. How do they do that? Their legs are so skinny, like a stick. And then they walk and they look AWKWARD. So there you have it, the duality of flamingos, awkward little graceful things, they are. And now I'm going to get into the book...

Somehow Jennifer Sattler nailed that awkard gracefulness that all flamingos have in her illustrations. Now I want to know, how did SHE do that? And it's a great story besides. And
the story goes: Sylvie is a young flamingo. She looks around and notices that her whole family is pink and wants to know why. Well, you are what you eat, right? And flamingos eat pink stuff (seafood, right?). So Sylvie decides she's going to branch out and try something new. She takes a little nibble of all sorts of colorful things on the beach, including a paisley swimsuit, and changes colors accordingly. Here's where the illustrations are just amazing because Sylvie practically dances across the pages with her long awkward legs. But after taking a taste of a lot of different snacks, Sylvie doesn't feel that great. In fact, she just doesn't feel like herself at all. She goes back to her family and eats some more shellfish, and then she feels just like she should. The story of Sylvie would be great for an "I Like Me" theme and reminds me of Leo Lionni's A Color of His Own.

If you want to read more about Jennifer Sattler and her artwork, check out the interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Color
by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

I don't have as much to say about this book, but I really do appreciate the combination between the poetry of Joyce Sidman and the artwork of Pamela Zagarenski. The artwork is so very detailed that my three-year-old spent a lot of time just looking. The simple, yet exquisite, poetry on each spread focuses on one or two colors (a couple of spreads have many colors), with splashes of that color throughout the scene and cleverly illustrating the concepts into a more concrete form for little ones to understand. "In SPRING, Red sings from treetops: cheer-cheer-cheer, each note dropping like a cherry into my ear." The accompanying artwork shows redbirds in the tree with very delicate little red notes sprinkled throughout the sky looking very much like cherries. So, my daughter and I had discussions of cardinals and how their song does sound like "cheer", how berries fall from our crabapple tree, and what musical notes look like (very much like cherries, don't they?). What a great teaching tool! And to top it off, we're learning to read individual words, so I was thrilled that the color words are all in their appropriate color(the rest of the text is black or white, depending on the background color). My daughter might not have been able to read the word, but she got a great hint to give her success even before we sounded out the word. This one should definitely be used with the older preschool set, ages 3 - 5.

Here's the
interview with illustrator Pamela Zagarenski at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What we're reading now...

We've been enjoying a couple of books at home lately, so I thought I'd share.

Who Ate All the Cookie Dough
by Karen Beaumont
illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
ISBN 0805082670

Both kids have been lovin' this book for the last couple of weeks. It's pretty much a "Who took the cookie from the cookie jar" setup with a couple of nice changes. Mama Kangaroo is searching for whoever ate all the cookie dough. She asks various animals if they ate all the cookie dough, and they refer her on to the next animal. So, nice change #1: four or five animals in, Mama Kangaroo is referred to Monkey, who is a little hard to find. This happens about the time that my 3-year-old's attention started to wander, because of the repetitiveness, and drew her right back into the story. And then, nice change #2: when we finally find out who ate all the cookie dough, there's a lift-a-flap to find out who the culprit is. The repitition and vibrant illustrations kept my toddler enthralled, so this book worked for both age groups: preschool and toddler. Very fun!

Little Pea
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Jen Corace
ISBN 081184658X

Ah, Little Pea! Here's the perfect book for picky eaters. Little Pea really doesn't want to eat dinner; it's yucky! Who would want to eat all that.... candy. Bleh! But Mama Pea says Little Pea has to eat six pieces of candy to get any dessert at all. So, one by one, the candy gets eaten with appropriate "yuck" faces and sounds. And what might be for dessert then? Spinach! And Little Pea gobbles it up! This book was our city's community read this year. With quite a bit of text on some of the pages, I would recommend it for the 3 - 5 age group.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

From the Stacks

I picked up two books from the stacks that I just love. I thought I would use this blog to talk about miscellaneous books and ideas about reading, so here's my first post.

Play! A Flip-a-Shape book

It looks like this book series was created by Harriet Zeifert, a name that is extremely well known in children's lit circles. And she did a wonderful job with it, as always. I can honestly say that this book has been "kid tested, mother approved". I took it home to my 15-month-old son, and it's become one of his new favorites. He loves the colors and shapes. Cut-outs of the shapes carry over to use patterns and colors from the previous pages, reminiscent of Lois Ehlert's Color Zoo and Color Farm. It's a beautiful board book. Well done!

The Magic Beads
written by Susin Nielsen-Fernlund
illustrated by Genevieve Cote

I happened upon this book in the stacks and was intrigued by the beautiful butterfly illustrations on the jacket cover. I opened it up and read this outstanding story about a girl who has butterflies when she finds out she has to do a Show and Tell. Each child is assigned a day to do their Show and Tell and as Lillian gets to see all the other children do their Show and Tells, her butterflies turn to grasshoppers, then rabbits, and so on. In each spread, the illustrations are offset by black and white images of what Lillian is feeling or thinking, and color illustrations of what is actually going on. Up until this point, the story tells an everyday tale of a child nervous about presenting in front of her class, but then the story flips. We find out Lillian is nervous because she lives with her mom in a women's shelter right now. And she doesn't have her toys or really much of anything that she can bring for Show and Tell. She overcomes by bringing in her "magic beads", a long string of beads that she plays with and creates "tight ropes" and "wands", "snakes" and a "leash" for her pet elephant. It turns out that imagination is the best toy of all. The author and illustrator even handle the issue of the women's shelter and why Lillian is there with such delicacy and matter-of-factness, that it makes the book, just endearing to me. I LOVE this book!


About Me

I'm a children's librarian and mother of two preschoolers. On the side, I play soccer, bike, scrapbook, crochet, and read an obscene amount of children's books.