Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Wishes

Happy Birthday, JK Rowling!

You kinda set the bar high for the rest of us aspiring authors.  A book series certain to be remembered and shared for centuries, wonderful charity work, going from super-poor to being richer than the queen.  The rest of us are left writing in a post-Harry Potter world.  But then, I suppose, you face that same difficulty even more so.  This is when I'd pick a pretty new pen-name.  

Any-hoo, thank you, Ms. Rowling for being born and giving me my Snapey.  (Since it's your birthday, I'll avoid ranting about what you did to my beloved man in your seventh book) And instead, I'll just say that I shall give him mental hugs that he would abhor forevers.  Oh, Snapey-poo.


Jocelyn, M., & Slaughter, T.  (2007)EATS.  Plattsburgh, NY:  Tundra Books.




As a concept book, Eats shares simple images of various animals and a common type of food that beasty eats. 


Each page includes an animal pictured with that food labeled according to color codes.  There are no complete sentences and if the child recognizes the animal and food chances are good the child will not even need to glance at the text.  So, if a teacher is using this book to help with phonics or early literacy, a parent or teacher will have to remind the young reader to slow down and actually look at the words and sound them out.


This is a good book to incorporate the world and nature beyond a child’s familiar home.



Activities to Do with the Book:


Since all of the words in the text of this picturebook are in lower case, this would be an excellent book to share with students who are just learning to write their letters.  It could be used with a child’s first trip to a zoo.


Before reading the book, a teacher could ask about a child’s favorite animals and what he or she knows about said animals.  Then based off of the book, a teacher or parent could ask questions about what other animals and foods the child is familiar with, beginning with what he or she likes.  A child could be prompted to name some of the locations where the animals live.


The book also incorporates many primary colors so a parent or teacher could ask the child to name the various colors and objects.



Favorite Quotes:










Thursday, July 30, 2009

REVIEW: Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime

Shea, B.  (2008).  Dinosaur vs. Bedtime.  New York:  Hyperion Books for Children.


Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime places its readers in the position of a young small dinosaur with such conflicts as eating a bowl of spaghetti, going down a slide and getting ready for bed.  Time after time, Dinosaur is successful in his battles, that is until he faces his greatest challenge:  bedtime.

This book is fun and humorous book that will strike children's imaginations throughout their daily rituals and in make-believe play.

The only caution about this book is the general assumption that the conflicts Dinosaur faces must be overcome or defeated in some way.  Of course, most children probably won't mind this win or lose mentality, but it is worth noting.

Activities to Do with the Book:


This book lends itself to young students repeating key phrases from the book, such as "roar" and "dinosaur wins."  A teacher or parent could encourage young listeners and readers to guess the dinosaur's next conflicts before turning each page.

Since the illustrations of the dinosaur are child-like, it could encourage students to draw their own dinosaurs in response.  A teacher could also use this to launch a question and answer session about what dinosaurs actually do, or who typically actually has to deal with such strange creatures as "talking grown-ups."  An awesome introduction to literary and metaphorical thought.

Overall, a fun book to encourage imaginative play.  While it could potentially be used as a bedtime book, I personally think the inherent conflicts, bright colors and sense of play will wind children up instead of drift them off to sleep.  But I don't have a five-year-old to test this theory on.  So, somebody else will have to tell me if they agree or not.



Favorite Quotes:


“ROAR!  I'm a dinosaur!"

"Roar!  Roar!  Roar!  Dinosaur versus...a pile of leaves!"


"Now Dinosaur must face his biggest challenge!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

REVIEW: Ping Pong Pig

Church, C.J.  (2008).  Ping Pong Pig.  New York:  Holiday House.


On the busy Apple Tree Farm, everyone is hard at work except Ping Pong
Pig who is attempting his own endeavour:  Trying to fly.  While Ping
Pong Pig refuses to give up his jumping and leaping, he causes som
damage to the farm that means more work for the other animals.  So,
the other animals of the farm hold a meeting and try to find a way to
help Ping Pong become a flying pig.

With adorable and colorful illustrations, this book can be used to
familiarize young students with farm animals and farm activities.

Activities to Do with the Book:


 A teacher or parent could try to focus on one of several lessons in

this picturebook:  dedication, helping others, giving back, finding
ways to make work fun, and quite possibly the danger of jumping from a
tree branch, etc.

Since students could have a lot of fun with the alliteration of Ping
Pong Pig, a teacher could encourage them to come up with names for the
other animals that also make fun use of sounds.  It could turn into a
poetry-writing activity.

Students could also think of other methods they could use to make Ping
Pong Pig fly.  They could create illustrations of their own flying
inventions or (if older) could page through picturebooks on flying.



Favorite Quotes:


“Apple Tree Farm was a very busy place.  Every day the animals would rush this way and that doing their daily chores.

All the animals worked very hard indeed.  All, that is, except one..."

"Ping Pong Pig was far too busy doing his own thing.  He spent all of his time trying to fly!"

"Ping Pong climbed aboard the trampoline.  He jumped and bounced, and bounced and jumped.  "Wheeeeee...I can fly!" he squealed."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

REVIEW: Love You When You Whine

Jenkins, E.  (2006).  Love You When  You Whine.  New York:  Farrar,
Straus and Giroux.


A mother cat asserts that she loves her trouble-making kitten no
matter what.  NO MATTER WHAT!  Not if the peksy wee feline chews with
her mouth open, throws up on her mother's wool coat, when she whines,

This affirming story is shared from the mother cat's perspective.  The
illustrations have a classic feel to them, with both the mother and
daughter cats wearing dresses.  (no father figures here, folks).  The
cats are pretty weird looking.  For reals:

Vaguely freaky right?  This could be in part to prevent the bad kitten
from looking to cute.  Love You When You Whine has some interesting
similarities and contrasts to David Shannon's No David.  They'd  make
a good book pair.

Activities to Do with the Book:


  A good reaffirming read aloud for a mother and her

toddler, some parents may have to be wary that some of the things that
bad kitten does don't serve as recommended activities for their own

This would be an excellent book to share after a child has gotten in
trouble to help remind said child that even though they were put in a
time-out, it doesn't mean their parent, other family member, or nanny
etc. loves them any less.



Favorite Quotes:


“Love you when you interrupt."

"Love you when you pour cereal on the floor.  And when you ask for every toy in the whole store, one after the other."

"Love you when you paint the walls...and the dog."

"Love you when you scream "Lollipop lollipop lollipop" for forty-five minutes on line at the bank."

Monday, July 27, 2009

REVIEW: Darkangel

Pierce, M.A. (1982). The Darkangel. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company.


What-hoe, Twilight fangirls (and fanboys)! Vampire romance ahead.  (That is, if you're cool with the 'vampyre' spelling)

But first a warning. This ain't no sparkly, vegetarian, beautiful, stalker vamp. This vampYre, darkangel, is a winged, soul-sucking, dark cold soon to be full-fledged vamp.  Okay, so he's still "beautiful."  The one thing Meyer and Pierce can agree on about vamps is that they should be described as "beautiful" over and over and over and over again.

Aeriel has grown up hearing stories of the darkangels that steal away young and pretty girls. A slave to the richest girl in town, Aeriel and her mistress, Eoduin, must travel on the steppe to collect flowers for a wedding. While away from the village, a winged vampire, a darkangel, descends and steals away Eoduin.  Left behind, nobody in the village believes Aeriel's story that a vampire descended.  Her grieving owners, who blame her for the loss of Eoduin, plan to sell her.

Seeking vengeance, Aeriel returns to the steppe in the hopes of killing the vampire only to be abducted by him as well.  But instead of being chosen as the vampire's fourteenth and final wife, the one who will give him the power to become a REAL vampire, she is to serve the thirteen current wives, who have been drained of their souls.  As Aeriel serves the wives, or "wraiths" as she thinks of them, she must decide if and how she will save them and if there is a way to save the young vampire as well, who seems to have a small bit of goodness left in him.

This is the first book in the Darkangel trilogy that has been rereleased with a arguably less embarrassing cover:

Speaking as someone who wound up getting ahold of both editions, I'll take shadowy angsty man over blond angry toga-boy and hiked-up dress girl any day.

This fantasy is well structured.  It deals a lot with ideas of patience, love and sacrifice.

Activities to Do with the Book:

This book has been around for over a quarter of a century and has been long out of print. The only reason I got ahold of it is because my advisor said it was the best vampire romance she'd ever read. And, you know, she knows stuff. She'd recommended it after a class discussion of Twilight. And for Twilight fans of the world, there are subtle similarities. Although The Darkangel is set in a fantasy world different from our own, Aeriel does have one striking similarity to Bella: Both are clumsy. More so though, The Darkangle has more connections to the original story of Cupid and Psyche and other myths than Twilight.

Favorite Quotes:

“Aeriel rested the broad basket against her hip and adjust her kirtle. The steep climb she and her companion had been taking the last six hundred paces or so had caused the loose, flowing garment to twist around at the neck and fall askew” (p. 1).

“Cheer up, worry-wrinkle,” Eoduin cried over one shoulder. “What vampyre would want you?” (p. 6).

“They were jet, those wings, as deep as the sky, as black as Eoduin's hair—no, blacker, for they were dull, unoiled. They gave off no sheen in the light, no gleam to the eye. They drank up the light and diminished it: they were wings of pure shadow” (pp. 12-13).

"The darkangel looked at her then and laughed, a long, mocking laugh that sent the gargoyles into a screaming, chattering frenzy.  "You?" he cried, and Aeriel's heart shrank, tightened like a knot beneath the bone of her breast.  "You be my bride?  By the Fair Witch, no.  You're much too ugly" (p. 35).

Good Morning!

Haaaaaappy Monday!

I woke up to a rejection email this morning!  That's always fun.  This one was only one sentence long:    "Hi, this doesn't sound quite right for us."

The "quite" really manages to cushion the blow.  Never thought I'd find myself silently demanding the return of the form letter.

Complaining about it here does help though.

Onward and hopefully upward.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Certified Resolution Writing Endeavor Review Report: Week Thirty

Wha-what?  Is it, is it Sunday?  Now?  Already?  But-but, it was just...I don't understand.  Time, are you screwing with me?

Well, I just got a hold of another poetic novel (povel?), and I've decided to begin submitting my own YA povel once more.  I was more than slightly discouraged by the rejection saying such a project from an unheard of author didn't stand a chance that I received several months ago and have since been focusing on sending out my other projects.  But Kaleidoscope Eyes (to be reviewed in a few weeks), while still with many serious bits, has a sense of fun I tried to capture in my own story.  So I'm off to submit to that publisher with fingers, toes and even legs crossed, but not arms (uncrossed arms are needed for typing--Although my legs won't remained crossed for long...I'm not a big fan of hopping.  I tend to fall).

Tomorrow promises to be a long day on campus, but hopefully tonight I can do some writing and relaxing.


Patricelli, L.  (2008)Baby HAPPY Baby SAD.  Cambridge, MA:  Candlewick Press.




Baby HAPPY Baby SAD is a good first board book that acknowledges babies’ emotions.  This book lends itself to having an adult go through the book with the baby and point out the details of the illustrations to help the baby realize the very relatable situations the characters are going through.


My personal favorite of the illustrations is….

...not that I enjoyed stripping off all my clothes as a small child and running around the house naked.  And my parents certainly do not have pictures of me doing said activity.  Since that would be a cruel event to keep a record of.  Right, Mom and Dad?  Right.


While a parent or sitter shouldn’t expect the young reader to actually READ this concept book, with the repetition of “Baby happy” and “Baby sad,” he or she could encourage the child to shout out the phrases as they go through the book.


It is worth noting, that all of the characters showed appear to be white, which is not ideal for a parent who wants to start showing a more multicultural representation of the world early on.



Activities to Do with the Book:


This board book is a great book for the youngest of readers to practice turning pages, gnawing on the corners and identifying objects and creatures like balloons, ice cream, dogs, cats and mommy and daddy.


This book shows issues of cause and effect, how the physical world can influence a child’s emotions, helps develop early visual literacy and helps wee-babes gain some important vocabulary:  Happy, Sad and Baby.



Favorite Quotes:


“Baby HAPPY”

“Baby SAD”

and that’s pretty much it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

REVIEW: Boo-Hoo Moo

Palatini, M.  (2009)Boo-Hoo Moo.  New York:  Katherine Tegen Books.




Poor Hilda Mae Heifer (a cow, in case you culdn’t tell by her last name) is sad.  She has a case of the boo-hoo-moo blues, wishing she had someone to sing with.  Some of the other animals on the farm decide to try and help her find a singing partner and friend.


However, the audition process becomes complicated when the farm animals begin to fight over who would be the perfect partner to do a duet.  Before the argument can continue for too long, the farm animals come up with an even better plan to help Hilda Mae musically.



Activities to Do with the Book:


Boo-Hoo Moo could be used in many different ways.  It could introduce young students to farm animals and the sounds they make.  It could be used to trigger a lesson on music (including terms like baritone, soprano, downbeat etc.) and the blues, or simply to discuss feelings of loneliness.


Young students could also act out the book, doing the motions and sound of the various animals included.  They could consider what it’s like to try-out or be a judge (and how to give positive feedback instead of negative).  Students could also consider how to find their own individual talents.



Favorite Quotes:


“Hilda Mae Heifer was down in the dumps.

Feeling low.  Sounding like it too.

Even her moo was blue.”


“I believe Hilda is lonely,” said the cat.  “I don’t think she likes singing solo.”


“Uh, just a minute there, fuzz face.  If any of us is going to have a sing-along with the cow…it’s yours truly.”


“My honking is legendary.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

REVIEW: Otto's Orange Day

Cammuso, F., & Lynch, J.  (2008)Otto’s Orange Day.  New York:  The Little Lit Library.




Otto the cat is at home coloring with his favorite color crayon, orange.  As he completes a picture of a lamp, he sings an ode to his favorite color.  This cat loves orange.  In the mail, Otto receives a package from  from his aunt, inside is a mysterious orange lamp.  When Otto rubs it, a genie emerges, ready to grant Otto’s wish.  And what does Otto wish for?  Why that EVERYTHING were orange, of course!  He soon realizes that this may not have been the best wish ever and that there is a place for all the colors of the spectrum.  Of course, finding a way to return the world to its natural state will prove difficult since a certain genie is under no obligation to grant anymore wishes.


Structured as a chapter book, Otto’s Orange Day does include some fun with language and colors and can easily be used in a lesson that celebrates differences among people.


While the genie is never described as being from a particular culture., it would be possible to find reason to disapprove of his characterization and appearance as stereotypical since he wears a vest, a giant ‘G’ necklace, has a gold tooth, small mustache and beard and calls young Otto ‘master.’  (SLIGHT SPOILER—Of course, the unnamed genie and Otto do end up being friends at the end neither the genie nor interactions among cultures are the focus, so a multicultural counter argument could be made easily if any parent did take offence)


This would be an good choice to pair with the Aladdin cartoons (but again, questions of stereotypes could be raised).  After that a teacher could go farther to share an illustrated version of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights and begin to share lessons on Arab and Indian cultures.



Activities to Do with the Book:


This is a good “child’s first graphic novel.”  While both the illustrations and text are necessary to make meaning of the story, the text does give a few extra clues to help make certain young readers can follow the plot.


If this is in fact a reader’s first exposure to a graphic novel a teacher or parent should be at the ready to talk the child through the differences between narration, dialogue, song and thought bubbles.


After paging through his story in small groups or literature circles, students could create illustrations, songs, poems or comic strips featuring their own favorite colors. 


Another angle to focus on would be the genie.  If a student could wish for anything, what would it be?  They could then create a story or illustration of them getting their wish.



Favorite Quotes:


“Orange was Otto the cat’s favorite color.  Without orange things, the world would be boring” (p. 8).


You freed me from the lamp; I have to grant you a wish.  But each owner gets only ONE wish, so choose wisely” (p. 13).


“I wish that everything in the world was orange!”


“Orange homes…with orange gnomes!  Orange skirts...and orange shirts!  Orange clowns in orange gowns!” (p. 16).


“Here you go.  An orange lamb chop, orange spinach, orange mashed potatoes…Oh—and don’t forget to drink your orange milk!” (p. 21).


Thursday, July 23, 2009


In case you're interested, there's been some drama with the American cover of Justine Larbalestier's new YA novel Liar.  

I haven't been able to read it yet, but apparently, the main character is black.  It is one of the few truths the protagonist, a compulsive liar, admits to.

The fact that a white girl appears on the US cover has caused further trust issues with the way the character is perceived as well as expresses a tendency to assume "whiteness" is more marketable.

Justine Larbalestier wrote her own well-crafted and insightful blog post in response to all the dramas.  You can check out what she had to say here.

REVIEW: Paula Bunyan

Root, P.  (2009)Paula Bunyan.  New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 




A new twist on a tall tale, Paula Bunyan shares the story of famous Paul Bunyan’s younger sister Paula, who isn’t such a little sister since she’s as big as her brother.


This books shares many of Paula’s adventures, but particularly focuses on her love of singing.  A love she can’t pursue because her voice is so loud that she shatters peoples windows with her volume.  It is only when Paula goes into the woods that she is finally able to sing freely and make friends with the wild animals.  But when Paula encounters a portion of the woods being cut down, Paula must confront a problem larger than her that has modern implications.


With this creation of a new character to enter into the stories of America’s past, Root provides equal footing for girls since Paula is just as strong as her brother.



Activities to Do with the Book:



This would be an excellent picturebook to share if a teacher were doing a unit on American history or tall tales.  The story does assume that the reader has knowledge of Paul Bunyan and his exploits, so a teacher would have to introduce him first.


Students could create their own characters and tall tales in response to hearing or reading this book. 


Also, a number of classic children’s songs are incorporated into the illustrations and could prompt student sing alongs.


On a more serious note, a teacher could talk about webs of relationships among animals and their environment and about deforestation and how it has been a developing problem for over a century.



Favorite Quotes:


Everyone knows about Paul Bunyan, with his woodcutter’s ax and his big blue ox, Babe.  But not many people know about Paula Bunyan, his little sister.  Maybe “little” isn’t the right word.  After all, she was as tall as a pine tree and as strong as a dozen moose.”


“It got so Paula took to humming under her breath instead of singing out loud, just so nobody would holler that she was breaking their windows or chipping their best china.”


“When the bear growled, she growled right back.”


“Now, folks say the mosquitoes up north are mighty bad, and I believe it’s true, because one day a few hungry mosquitoes carried off Paula’s bear.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

REVIEW: Squids Will Be Squids

Scieszka, J., & Smith, L.  (1998).  Squids Will Be Squids:  Fresh morals, beastly tales.  New York:  Puffin Books.


A good break from or companion to Aesop's Fables.  Squids Will Be Squids shares 18 silly fables that manage to be both relatable to kids and incorporate far-fetched ideas to amuse.  The moral accompanying each story manages to be just the right amount of ridiculous to get kids laughing out loud.  Issues explored including saving a huge history project to the last minutes, dealing with that squid-like friend who never agrees to games everyone else wants to play and figuring out who exactly caused that stink in the air.

The illustrations are fun and in similar style to Scieszka and Smith's other collaborations.  As with The Stinky Cheese Man and Math Curse, the picturebook is heavy on the (HUGE) text and structured like a chapter book, so it can be a good transition to a first chapter book.  If a teacher is looking for another Aesop stepping stone, Paul Rosenthal's Yo, Aesop!  Get a Load of These Fables (1998) is an even longer grouping of modernized fables.

Activities to Do with the Book:


 Students could write their own fables in response to the examples shown by Scieszka and Smith.  

Since "Frog's New Shoes" considers the fact that ads cannot always be trusted, a teacher could use this to start a discussion on products children have bought and been disappointed by.  This could even turn into a short lesson on writing letters to companies about truth in advertising.  "Piece of Toast and Froot Loops" could trigger a discussion on healthy eating habits.  Not that anyone would want to get too serious with this book.

Based off of the story "Rock, Paper, Scissors," a class could arrange to have a rock paper scissors championship during recess.  A teacher could incorporate this into a lesson on odds in math class or into a discussion on teamwork.

This is a fun light read to encourage enjoyment, especially if a child has previously been forced to supper through a dryer version of Aesop's fables.



Favorite Quotes:


“This book, Squids Will Be Squids, is a collection of fables that Aesop might have told if he were alive today and sitting in the back of class daydreaming and goofing around instead of paying attention and correcting his homework like he was supposed to, because his dog ate it and he didn'ts= have time to run out and buy new paper and do it over again before his bus came to pick him up in the morning."


"My tentacles are too tired."

"He who smelt it, dealt it."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

REVIEW: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

Kinney, J.  (2008).  Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  Rodrick Rules.  New York:  Amulet Books.


Greg is back, writing in a new diary for a new school year.  He spent his summer swimming, avoiding swimming, and enduring some secret humiliation that only his older brother, Rodrick knows about.  So, Greg is pretty happy when the new school year begins.  He spends his time playing a joke on another student and trying to earn money for video games.

Greg's relationship with his older brother, Rodrick, is at the heart of the second book in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  With Rodrick knowing an embarrassing secret about him, Greg feels powerless against his brother.  And although Greg and his brother have always had trouble getting along, their mom tries to take steps to improve the boys' relationship.  Whether they want her to or not.  

Personally, this book was more relatable for me than the previous one.  Like Greg, I too spent my summers forced to participate on swim teams.  Unlike Greg though, I can't say I ever spent practices hiding in the bathroom or rapping myself in toilet paper to stay warm.

On the plus side, this book seemed to embrace gender and racial stereotypes a little less often than the previous book.  Don't get me wrong, nerds still look traditionally nerdy, but it's less determined by racial lines.

It's worth noting that a young reader does not necessarily need to read these books in their official order.  This book picks up soon after the first one left off, but includes few references to that book.  It takes place over approximately a semester of school.

Activities to Do with the Book:


 As with the rest of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, this book lends itself to have students write and illustrate their own diaries.

Since allegories are a plot point that Greg briefly mentions, a teacher could take that on as a teaching moment and give students more examples of the form.  Since the scientific method is also mentioned later on in the book, that too could become a teaching moment.


Favorite Quotes:


“I guess Mom was pretty proud of herself for making me write in that journal last year, because now she went and bought me another one" (p. 1).

"At my first swim meet a couple of years ago, Dad told me that when the umpire shot off the starter pistol, I was supposed to dive in and start swimming.

But what he DIDN'T tell me was that the starter gun only fired BLANKS.

So I was a whole lot more worried about where the bullet was gonna land than I was about getting myself to the other end of the pool" (p. 3).

"The truth is, Rodrick can pretty much treat me any way he wants, because he knows there's nothing I can do about it.

See, Rodrick is the only one why knows about this REALLY embarrassing thing that happened to me over the summer, and he's been holding it over my head ever since" (p. 24).


"Everyone was happy to see Chirag again, but a couple of us decided to have a little fun with him before officially welcoming him back.

So we basically pretended he was still gone" (p. 52).


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