Friday, March 18, 2011

In Front of My House by Marianne Dubuc

One of my favorite things about reading with my kids is finding books in which we can participate together, and Marianne Dubuc's In Front of My House is a really good book for doing just that. It's a circular book, meaning that the book begins and ends in the same way - in a child's house on a hill.

It begins with an unseen child narrator saying, "On little hill, behind a brown fence, under a big oak tree, is..."

You turn the page and see, "My house. In front of my house..." [Turn the page again] "a rosebush. On the rosebush..." The story continues in the same pattern throughout, turning the pages to reveal what's next. At first, it's pretty typical of what you'd see, a bird, a window, the child's bedroom, a sock, etc. Then comes the fairy tale book, and the child's imagination soars. Soon, we're seeing things like a princess, a prince charming (a frog with a crown), the big bad wolf, a vampire, a pirate ship, a lion, a zoo, a shooting star, and more until it eventually gets back to the house on the hill.

What I really love about this book is the anticipation it brings. You have no idea what's going to come up on the next page, and on the first read, my daughter loved to yell out what she saw. After a couple of reads, she knows what's coming next and yells it out before I can even turn the page. In one section of the book, we go inside a dark cave and before I even turn the page, my daughter screams and covers her eyes, hiding from the abominable snowman who is hiding inside the cave. It is so much fun.

I can't forget to mention the illustrations. The book itself is a chunky square book and it's chock full of wonderful, whimsical illustrations that look like the child narrator drew them. Some pictures like the lion are colored in a bit unevenly, giving the appearance that a kid colored it in.

The text and pictures are simple and fun, and kids who can't read or who are just beginning to read get the opportunity to participate in the reading experience. I highly recommend this book for the younger set of children. I can even imagine it being a fun book for an older child to read to a younger child.

Learning concepts: 
  • Grammar - Prepositions 
  • Literacy/Reading - Prediction

Ages: 4-8 | Publisher: Kids Can Press, September 2010 | Source: Review copy from publisher | ISBN: 978-1554536412

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming

As long as I can remember, I've always been intrigued by Amelia Earhart's story. Her courage was inspiring, and her disappearance always seemed very sad to me. But I've never really read a lot about her life or her disappearance in 1937. As soon as I received a copy of Candace Fleming's, Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart, I was eager to read it.

First off, I have to tell you that I always love reading Candace Fleming's work. Her non-fiction is always thoroughly researched, and she does an exceptional job of weaving her research together to tell a compelling, engaging story. This was definitely the case with The Lincoln's: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary (my review here). And her fiction picture book Clever Jack Takes the Cake is well, clever, and very well-written (my review here). So, I expected to find a clever, thorough, and engaging story about Amelia Earhart, and of course, I did.

I wondered how Ms. Fleming would address all of the myths surrounding Earhart herself and her disappearance, and in the very beginning of the book, Ms. Fleming describes how she spent two years digging through research to find the real Amelia. She says, "...the person I eventually uncovered surprised me. Amelia Earhart was so much more than a pilot. She was a savvy businesswoman...a popular lecturer; a fashion icon;.... But most important, she symbolized the new opportunities awaiting women in the twentieth century"  (ix).

And with that, Amelia's story begins. The book alternates between July 1937 -- the time of her disappearance and the days of searching that followed it -- and the story of her life from the time she was born. The different chapters present an Amelia Earhart that is not only courageous but super smart and savvy and likable. There are photos of Amelia and her family, pictures of Amelia's report card from school, pilot's license, newspaper clippings, and handwritten notes from Amelia herself. Informative sidebars are weaved throughout the book and provide even more interesting information about Amelia. There's even a sidebar that introduces the Morse Code.

The back matter includes an extensive bibliography, websites where readers can learn more about Earhart, source notes, picture credits, and an index.

The story itself really takes you back to the past, and the chapters about her disappearance provide an excellent picture of what the entire country was feeling when her plane disappeared.

I think anyone who reads the book will learn more about Amelia Earhart than they previously knew, and kids who are interested in aviation, women's history, non-fiction, or who just want to read an interesting story will enjoy this book. I give this my highest recommendation.

Age range: 9 -12 | Publisher: Schwartz & Wade, February 2011 | ISBN: 978-0375841989 | Source: Review copy from publisher

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