Friday, February 29, 2008

Poetry Friday: The Bowerbirds by Dana Goodyear

Dana Goodyear is fantastic (that's not something I feel very often about contemporary poets).

The Bowerbirds
As if we were leaving
the small forest tower that we built,
with a moss carpet and mosquito chandeliers,
and laughing at it.
I can’t believe you used that word—
in an argument, no less.
But we would never break this way,
loose, affectionate, wry.
You straighten,
add an ornament.
This is somehow part of our staying.
If you left, a black cape would flap
like a crow winging,
and I would make a hundred harried calls.

The overarching metaphor leaves the world of human beings--and their effects--behind for the forest (a suitable place to forget everyone else for your lover, and yourself). On the other hand, an inner metaphor--"moss carpet and mosquito chandeliers"--reminds us of the world from which the lovers seem to have figuratively escaped. Will they go back to real carpets and chandeliers? An argument seems to have dissolved into humor; the narrator reassures herself that this means their love is not going anywhere. Is the "ornament" more language, something funny? What's the word her lover used--did he come up with the "forest" metaphor? Is that's what's funny? At the end I think of Dracula (a bloodsucker, like the mosquitoes)--it's the way the black cape, the classic implement of a dramatic exit, turns into crow's wings. But if he's wearing a figurative cape, they already would have briefly left the world of the Bowerbirds, so that he could return to bird-world alone. Perhaps these funny metaphors aren't so promising--he can leave her without leaving them after all.

Roundup hosted by Kelly Fineman at Writing and Ruminating

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Building the Well-Read Child's Library: 10 Classic Picture Books

Today, I'm presenting my second installment of "Building The Well-Read Child's Library."

I absolutely love reading new books--new stories, new characters to fall in love with, new illustrationsm, but there's nothing like pulling out a story that I read when I was a child and reading it to my daughter. It brings back so many memories, and even though she can't quite understand them now, I am eager for the day when she will be able to. Some books are simply magical, can withstand the test of time, and can be enjoyed by many different generations.

Here are ten classic picture books that you may have read when you were young and that you will enjoy sharing with your child all over again.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
This story, first published in 1939, introduced us to a charming little character from France who appeared in many many more stories afterwards. While many say it's better suited for girls, I think little boys will also like the stories rhymes.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
This classic story of the mischevious little bunny who gets into a heap of trouble in Mr. McGregor's garden is sure to be a hit with children. I remember associating Peter with my own little brother who always seemed to get into trouble and somehow manage to wiggle his way out of it.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
I admit that I didn't read this book until I was an adult, but once I did, I knew it was something I would have loved when I was little. Little Max gets sent to bed without supper, but fortunately for him, a forest full of wild things is waiting for him. It celebrates a child's imagination and will be enjoyed by girls and boys alike.

The Story of Babar by Jean De Brunhoff
A classic tale of a little elephant who loses his mother, goes into the city, and becomes the talk of the town. I loved Babar and all of Jean De Brunhoff's funny illustrations.

The Complete Adventures of Curious George by H.A. Rey 60 years ago, children were introduced to this lovable monkey and the Man in the Yellow Hat. This first book sparked the creation of numerous books that continue to make the little monkey a familiar character in households today.

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
A nice British family, the Browns, meet a nice bear at a Paddington station with a sign around his neck that says, "Please look after this bear." So begins the story of a bear whose humor and whimsy have won the hearts of children for decades. When I was a child, I was drawn to Paddington Bear's charm.

Corduroy by Don Freeman
Another story featuring a bear as a character, Corduroy, a toy bear, comes alive and goes on a fun adventure in a department store at night when everyone has left. When I was a child, I used to imagine what it would be like to have the same experience as Corduroy and made up my own little stories in my head.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
When technology like gasoline and diesel threaten the livelihood of Mike and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, they travel to the tiny town of Popperville to find work. This is one of those books that boys who love machines will really enjoy, but girls will also be interested in the story.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Another book that celebrates a child's imagination, Harold goes for a walk in the moonlight with a big purple crayon in his hand. He uses the crayon multiple times along the adventure to help him out and then to get him back home. Kids who love to draw and who like a little bit of magic will love this book.

Stone Soup by Ann McGovern
Ann McGovern first retold this Chinese folktale in 1968. The story of a hungry young man who tricks an old woman who initially refuses him food into making a hearty soup. The first ingredient? Stones of course.

These picture books were just a few of my favorites when I was a child, and I look forward to sharing them with my daughter. What were some of your favorites?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer, Illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli

The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer, Illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (February 12, 2008)

This is a picture book unlike any book I've ever read. The premise is that there is a girl who lives in a castle inside a museum. The castle is encased in a glass globe, and when children come to the musem, they press their noses against the glass globe and get a glimpse of the girl in the castle. When the children leave at night, she gets lonely even though she is surrounded by beautiful things. At night she dreams of children her own size visiting her, and "sometimes the girl in the castle even dreams about you." Her solution for overcoming her loneliness is to hang a picture of you, the reader, on the wall beside her bed. The last line of the book, "Do you see her? She sees you." EEEK!

Jen Robinson sums it up the best when she says the book is "deliciously creepy." I really like it because it is different, and has an ethereal, dream-like aura that takes me to another world. Nicoletta Ceccoli's soft clay model, acrylic, and digital media illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and in fact, they are the most beautiful illustrations I've seen in a picture book yet. They, along with the story, will captivate the reader.

Kate Bernheimer has hit a home run with her first children's book, and I will definitely look for more from her in future. I think many kids will love it, but I would be wary of reading it to smaller kids who may be a little frightened at the thought of the girl watching them. However, some kids totally eat stuff like this up, so I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not it's the right choice for your child.

Other Blog Reviews:
Jen Robinson's Book Page
Book Buds KidLit Reviews

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dinosaur Lesson Plans and Activities

On Monday, I reviewed The Discovery and Mystery of a Dinosaur Named Jane by Judith Williams. It's about a group of palentologists who discover an amazing dinosaur while digging in Montana.

Dinosaurs seem to fascinate many children, so here are some lesson plans and other dinosaur-themed activities I found on the web if you want to teach your child more about dinosaurs.

Dinosaur Lesson Plans: A big list of activities and lesson plans for kids, including "How To Write a Funny Dinosaur Poem," and "Make a Sock-A-Saurus."

Dinosaur Mini-Unit for Kindergartners: Contents of this mini-unit include an introduction to fossils, palentologists, and dinosaurs; some really fun art activities; and more.

Dinosaur Prints: An art project where children can make and paint their own print of a dinosaur using a picture from a book or magazine.

Dinosaur Art Activities: A teacher shares three dinosaur-themed art activities she's completed with her students.

Dinosaur Bodies: A lesson from National Geographic for grades K-2 that encourages kids to think about and learn how animals used their bodies and how dinosaurs might have used theirs.

Dinosaur Detectives: A comprehensive lesson for children in grades 6-8 that helps them learn more about palentologists.

Note that I found TONS of information, so what I'm listing now is just a small sample of what's out there.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Discovery and Mystery of a Dinosaur Named Jane by Judith Williams

Nonfiction Monday:
The Discovery and Mystery of a Dinosaur Named Jane by Judith Williams

Paperback: 48 pages
Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc. (March 1, 2007)

Ever since I was a child, I was fascinated with dinosaurs and paleontology. I often wondered what it would feel like to be the scientist who discovered a dinosaur after grueling work. Well, The Discovery and Mystery of a Dinosaur Named Jane finally gives me some insight.

The book begins with paleontologists and volunteers from the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois discovering a toe bone while digging in Montana. It was unfortunately, the end of their season, so they covered up the site where they were digging, hoping that no one else found the rest of the dinosaur until they could come back the NEXT YEAR!

Luckily, the site was untouched, and they were able to dig up the bones of a magnificent dinosaur who they named Jane. But what kind of Dinosaur is Jane? They believe she’s a tyrannosaur, but is she a nanotyrannus or an infamous T-Rex? Or is she a new species altogether? One thing is clear—this is an amazing discovery and the biggest one yet for the small museum.

Judith Williams gives a detailed description of the laborious work the paleontologists performed to successfully dig up the dinosaur bones. Readers even get a glimpse of the common tools paleontologists use. Once the bones are removed and transported back to the museum, readers learn all of the work that was involved with cleaning, repairing, and putting the bones together and all of the research required to determine what type of dinosaur Jane is.

What’s refreshing about this book is that it’s different than the typical kid’s book that features glorious images of dinosaurs and awe-inspiring facts. Instead, it’s a book that really focuses on the discovery of a dinosaur and gives readers insight into the hard work that’s involved in getting a magnificent dinosaur on display in a museum. Children will learn to respect this work along with the creature that one roamed the earth.

With interesting pictures and photographs of the dig site and of the work in progress, this is a great find for a kid who is interested in dinosaurs and paleontology. Heavier on text than pictures, it’s more suitable for a proficient reader.

Check out the rest of Nonfiction Monday submissions at Picture Book of the Day.

How Do You Know if Someone Can't Read?

I was in a local drugstore over the weekend, and while I was standing in line, a man at the photo center was dropping off film to be developed. At first, he told the attendant that he wanted to send it off because it was less expensive. When she handed him a form to fill out, he balked and immediately changed his mind and said he would like the one-hour photo processing instead. When she STILL gave him a form to fill out, he was visibly uncomfortable and asked her to help him because he had left his glasses in the car. Here's the bad part: she told him she was busy and asked him to go get his glasses. He literally looked stricken. As a former reading tutor, I knew all too well that he didn't know how to read, and he wasn't about to admit that to her. I offered to help him fill out the form, which just asked him for his name, phone number, and photo preferences. It only took 5 minutes, and he was very grateful.

There are people everywhere, adults and children alike, who don't know how to read. There are adults who somhow managed to get through school without knowing how to read. My first reading student was a 25 year old woman with a high school diploma. Why this happens is way too complicated for a simple blog post, but many people have undiagnosed learning disabilities, and teachers chose to let them slide by instead of taking them the time to get the help they needed. Others were not afforded the opportunity to attend quality schools.

But the amazing thing is that people who can't read are masters at hiding it. They are ashamed to admit that they can't read and find ways to get other people to help them out. Their number one excuse? "I lost my glasses...can you help me out with this?" I can't seem to find any formal studies out there to back this up right now, but this is what all of my students told me.

Now, the man in the pharmacy didn't know how to read, but I didn't point that out to the cashier. I simply offered to help him fill out the form, and I did not mention to him that I was onto him. It goes without saying that the cashier was extremely rude and should have never been in the type of position where you have to help people, but that's not my point.

What IS my point here? You may be in a similar situation one day, and if you notice someone is struggling, take five minutes to help him/her out.

My only question here is that I WANTED to offer this guy help with reading. I wanted to point him to our local library that has a robust literacy program, but I didn't know how to do it without offending or embarrassing him. When I was a tutor, my students came to me for help and said they'd heard about the tutoring program through people in their community. How do we get people who can't read to seek help? How do we let them know there are programs out there to give them the help they need?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Blogs That Make My Day

Wow…I thought I had posted this weeks ago, but as I was looking through my posts, it was still in draft form. I was so excited to receive my first award, I can’t believe I failed to publish my reaction and pass on the love.

Sabrina at Breeni Books awarded me the “Blogs that Make My Day Award.”

Here’s what she had to say: “As a homeschooling mom, I'm always looking for new ideas in children's literature. The Well-Read Child offers detailed reviews and lesson planning links.”

Thanks so much Sabrina! If you haven’t checked out Breeni Books, Sabrina features very thoughtful reviews of books from all genres and age levels, from picture books to cook books. She’s partly responsible for the giant stack of books in my to-be-read pile. J

Here are just a few of the blogs that really make my day:

KidLit Blogs

Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Jen is passionate about reading, literacy, and helping parents help their kids grow up loving books. On her blog, Jen gives detailed and thoughtful reviews of children’s books at all reading levels. She also offers a wealth of literacy tips and resources to help kids learn to enjoy reading. Finally, Jen sends out a weekly Growing Bookworms Newsletter that includes the week’s book reviews and literacy and reading updates from her blog. Subscribe if you haven’t already!

Wizards Wireless
Susan at Wizards Wireless discusses children’s books, comic strips, and all things Harry Potter. I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter and love it when Susan posts about clues and other stuff that I missed in the series. It makes me want to read the books all over again. In addition, Susan does a great job of letting her readers participate in her blog by offering lots of fun polls. She also discusses much more, so check it out.

Big A little a
Kelly Herold runs this blog, a companion piece to the online monthly journal, The Edge of the Forest, that showcases children's literature. At Big A little A, you can expect thoughtful and comprehensive reviews on a variety of children's and young adult books, updates in the kidlit community, weekly roundup of reviews in the press, and much more. Kelly is a major force in the Kidlit community--in addition to heading up The Edge of the Forest, she organizes Poetry Friday and is a Cybils co-founder. (I'm sure I'm missing something here.) Her passion for children's literature and reading is evident, and I urge you to check out Big A little a if you haven't already.

Class of 2k8
The Class of 2k8 is the blog for a community of middle grade and young adult authors whose first novels are being released in 2008. Here, you can learn more about the authors and their books, get recent news, and even play fun games like they featured this week. If you want to get to know and support up and coming authors, the Class of 2k8 blog is the place for you.

Mom Blogs

dkMommy Spot
As a new mommy, I am always looking for ways to live a healthier lifestyle and give my daughter the healthiest, chemical-free options out there. At dkMommy Spot, Diane talks about natural remedies, herbs, and healthy cooking. She also keeps us up to date with relevant news, gives book recommendations, and much more. dkMommy Spot is a must read for all parents who are dedicated to offering their children the healthiest alternatives. Oh, and FYI, Diane runs another blog, Carp(e) Libris, where she features excellent book reviews from small presses.

Crunchy Domestic Goddess
In the same vein as dkMommy Spot, Amy, mother of two, gives all sorts of tips for leading a healthier, more natural, greener lifestyle. She also gives lot of breastfeeding tips as well as advice for women who want to have a natural birth.

Crabmommy tells it like it is and then some and provides a lot of comic relief, especially when I've had a particularly tough day being a mommy. On her blog, she chronicles her adventures with her three-year-old Crabtot and is not afraid to say what all of us moms have probably thought at one point or another. Thank you Crabmommy, for your courage! ;)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Tops Parents' Favorite Children's Book List in UK

From the UK Telegraph:

Over 4,000 parents in the UK were asked to name the best children's books of all time. C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe from the Chronicles of Narnia series topped the list, and Roald Dahl was by far the favorite author with six books making the top 50.

Here's a rundown of the top 10:

1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C S Lewis

2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle

3. Famous Five Series, Enid Blyton

4. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne

5. The BFG, Roald Dahl

6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6), J K Rowling

7. The Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton

8. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

9. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

10. The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson

Check out the rest of the top 50 here.

I'm most intrigued that The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a picture book made it to the number two spot--a great testament to Eric Carle's work. It's also interesting that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was the ONLY Harry Potter book to make the top 50 and that Captain Underpants rounded out the list, coming in at number 50.

I'm making a note to read more of Julia Donaldson's, since four of her books are on the list, and I would have liked to have seen The Velveteen Rabbit on the list. What are your thoughts?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Prey by Lurlene McDaniel

Prey by Lurlene McDaniel

Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 208
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (February 12, 2008)

Thus far, I've only reviewed books that I've really liked, so you may be thinking, "does Jill like every book she reads?" Of course not. I've read plenty of children's books I don't like but have decided not to review them because I really didn't think I had much to say except that they were just okay. I lead a team of writers at a communications firm and know how important it is to give constructive feedback to help writers grow. As a writer myself, I know what it feels like to receive wishy-washy, vague feedback. I need to know what needs work so I can improve, make it the best piece possible, and apply the same lessons to my next piece. So, in my opinion, if I read a book and don't have something constructive to say except I didn't like it, that's a useless review. That's why up until now I've intentionally chosen not to review books about which I had mixed feelings.

Last weekend, I read Lurlene McDaniel's new Young Adult novel, Prey, and I DO have something constructive (at least I think so) to say about it. It's a story about a female high school history teacher, Ms. Lori Settles who seduces her teenage student, Ryan Piccoli. We seem to be obsessed with real-life cases like this in this country. Probably the most infamous of these teachers is Mary Kay Letourneau who had two children with her teenage student and ended up marrying him when she finished her jail sentence. And then the 25-year-old teacher Kelsey Peterson made national news back in November when she was caught in Mexico with her 14-year-old student. As a former teacher myself, I am incredulous when I hear stories like this. Questions run through my head: Why would someone in such a professional and influential position do this? What was she thinking? What happened to this woman that would cause her to act this way?

I was naturally intrigued when I received a review copy of Prey. Perhaps this would answer some of my questions and get more into the head of these female predators. Prey alternates between the point of view of three characters: Ryan, Ms. Settles, and Honey, Ryan's longtime friend who is secretly in love with him.

The book gets off to a promising start. We learn from the very beginning that Ryan is intentionally Lori's target. From the very first day of school, she knows that, "he'll be the One" (p. 15). Upon reading this, I felt a chill and was eager to continue reading. However, I felt the seduction happened way too quickly, and Ryan's situation didn't seem realistic. His father is a traveling salesman and is out of town four days of the week. A housekeeper cleans the house, but doesn't live there and hardly pays any attention to Ryan when she is there. It almost seems too easy for Lori to manipulate him and too easy for them to get together.

Writing in first person is challenging and probably one of the most difficult tasks to pull off well. Successfully writing from the first person point of view of multiple characters is extremely difficult (I'm thinking of Faulkner here, who I believe was a master at this). I applaud McDaniel for taking a risk here. I was interested in the relationship between Honey and Ryan and then Ryan and Lori, but McDaniel never really went deep enough with the characters. While Honey's character was needed to describe Ryan's friend's and family's concern about his sudden change in behavior, I often felt she was just an aside, an interrupter of sorts, especially when her chapters disrupted the flow and momentum of the novel.

In addition, at some points, McDaniel didn't seem to capture the teenage voice in a believable way. For example, at one point in novel, Ryan hears that a coach at the school has been asking Lori out. When Lori picks him up for a tryst, he confronts her. Here's how he describes his feelings to the reader, "Rain is pelting the windows, sluicing in long noisy rivers along the glass, like a knife cutting through my heart. The windows are fogged, moist from our breath and the heat of anger. Hot wetness swells behind my eyes. I'm acting like a jerk, but I can't help myself. I have to know the truth about her and Coach" (p. 76).

To me, language like this coming from a 15/16 year old seems inauthentic, while at other times, he's completely thinking like a teenage boy. McDaniel did, however, make Lori Settles seem to be the most authentic and consistent of the characters. We see what's going on in her mind, what makes her tick, and her deliberate plot to seduce him.

Oh, and let me address the white elephant in the room: how were the sexual encounters portrayed? McDaniel tastefully describes the seduction and subsequent encounters. Without going into detail, she leaves much to the imagination and doesn't get too graphic. But don't get me wrong--we are talking about a teacher having sex with a teenage boy. It's in the book, but I was never shocked or offended or thought McDaniel went too far. Given the sensitive subject matter, I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not you think it's appropriate for your teen, and I would only recommend this for teens.

Overall, Prey was a good story on surface level, but it lacked the depth, consistency, and authenticity that would have made it a great story. McDaniel herself admits in the author's note that this is not typical of her writing, and I commend her for stepping outside of her comfort zone. I also admire her for addressing such a serious issue and hope that teenagers who read the book will be able to spot the warning signs if their friends start to behave differently and secretively.

Poetry Friday: The Voice by Thomas Hardy

This week's Poetry Friday host is Big A little a

Thomas Hardy is better known for his novels, but he was an accomplished poet as well, and his prose was suffused with a poet's sensibilities. Here's a poem that I've always loved for the way the last stanza breaks its form as an indication of despair--both the narrator and the poem falter, can barely go on.

The Voice - by Thomas Hardy

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?

Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

10 Board Books for Building the Well-Read Child’s Library

I’m happy to be presenting the first installment in my new weekly feature, “Building the Well-Read Child’s Library,” where I’ll give you 10 recommendations for books that will help you build the foundation of your child’s library. Read more here.

Today, I’m recommending 10 board books for your baby’s library. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love board books. Those of you with infants and toddlers know that “gentle,” is not in their vocabulary…just ask my poor dog who kindly puts up with my daughter’s ear pulling and pouncing. Books are no exception—give babies a book or magazine, and it will be covered in drool and be missing pages in mere seconds.

Thankfully, someone out there came up with an idea to bind books on sturdy cardboard that could withstand the abuse of not-so-gentle children—pure genius I say. The best part is that many childhood classics are available in board book format to make these stories more accessible to younger children, and many bookstores have their own sections just for board books.

Here are 10 board books that we love in our house and that I think would give you an excellent start to building your child’s library.

On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier
This is the book that inspired me to start The Well-Read Child and the first book I wrote about. Read my story here. The book describes how the sun, moon, animals, and spirits of the earth prepared themselves for the birth of the baby in the book and welcomed her/him into the world. It would make a wonderful gift for expectant parents, and kids will love to hear about the day they were born.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Eric Carle’s classic story of a caterpillar who eats a number of foods, builds a cocoon, and emerges as a butterfly, is available in board book format. This is a favorite in our house, and since my daughter was a tiny little thing, she’s been fascinated with the big yellow sun near the beginning of the book. Now, she enjoys poking her fingers through the holes the caterpillar makes in all of the food items.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

This book never fails to give me the warm fuzzies as a father and son pair of rabbits proclaim their love for each other. My favorite line comes at the end when the little rabbit says to his father, "I love you right up to the MOON.” This is a great book for a father to read to his child.

Where Is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz

I’m a big fan of Karen Katz’s vibrant illustrations and cherub-faced characters, and this interactive book is no exception. A peek-a-boo book of sorts, it encourages children to lift flaps and find the baby’s body parts (hands, toes, belly button). This is a fun way to introduce body parts.

Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton

I love Sandra Boynton’s whimsical illustrations, and this very entertaining board book features animals and the noises they make, but which animals say, “La la la?” You and your child will have so much fun making the different animal noises, and it’s a great way to teach your child about different types of animals.

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

This book is just way too cute, and your child will get a kick out of it. A watchman at a zoo bids goodnight to a gorilla who pickpockets his keys, unlocks his cage, and follows the watchman through the zoo. As the watchman bids goodnight to all of the animals, the gorilla lets them out of their cages, and they all follow him home.

Daddy Kisses by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben

I apparently have a weakness for daddy and baby affection, and I love this adorable book that features a number of father animals kissing their babies. With lots of opportunities for kisses, you and your child will have a lot of fun with this book.

Mommy Hugs by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben

I can't leave mommies out! A perfect companion book to Daddy Kisses, Mommy Hugs explains how a variety of mommy animals hug their babies. For example, “mommy cat hugs her kitten with a nuzzle.”

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

A classic book about a little bunny rabbit who is getting ready for bed and says goodnight to everything around him. Parents who have trouble getting their little ones go to bed swear by this book. One mom I know reads the book to her son and then walks around his own room saying goodnight to everything in the room.

Baby Cakes by Karma Wilson

This book is very cute and gives lots and lots of opportunities for you to interact with your baby, from kissing him/her on the nose to a smooch on the toes. This is a great book for quality bonding time, and a perfect way to send your little one off to sleep.

Board books are a wonderful way to help you instill the joy of reading in your child from a very early age. They give babies and toddlers the opportunity to explore books without the risk of ruining them.

At 11 months old, my daughter LOVES her board books. Just last night, she sat down in the floor for 30 minutes and was flipping through them, biting them, and “talking” to the pages.

There are so many more wonderful board books out there, and it was difficult to choose just ten. I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Copyright 2008
Jill Tullo, The Well-Read Child

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No! That's Wrong! by Zhaohua Ji and Cui Xu

No! That's Wrong! by Zhaohua Ji and Cui Xu.

Oh my...Kane/Miller has brought us a delightful book from China!

A pair of ruffly red underpants blows off a clothes line and lands near a little white rabbit who immediately places them on his head. "It's a hat," he says. The text at bottom corrects him, "No, that's wrong. It's not a hat." But the rabbit doesn't seem to listen and goes about placing the underpants on the heads of other animals. It takes a donkey to set him straight and let him know he's wearing underpants on his head.

But, if the donkey is right, and they really ARE underpants, where does his tail go?

Along the way, the story introduces a number of adjectives and opposites. For example, the "hat" is too small for an elephant, but too big for a fox, and it's simply amazing, magnificent, get the drift.

I really can't think of anything that's much funnier than a bunch of animals with hilarious facial expressions wearing underpants on their heads, and children will laugh out loud at this book and its illustrations. I can just imagine them yelling, "No! That's Wrong," as they turn the pages. Even the back end papers will elicit giggles as readers see a number of animals incorrectly wearing articles of clothing and other objects on their bodies.

If you're looking for a funny book that will make your child (and you) laugh and also introduce some new vocabulary words along the way, this would make an excellent choice.

Release date: March 1, 2008 (available now!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Feature: Building The Well-Read Child’s Library

New feature alert! New feature alert!

Since I started this blog a few months ago, parents have been asking me to give them book recommendations to help them build their child’s library.

On my blog, I mostly feature books that have been recently released for a number of reasons.
  1. First, tons of wonderful new books are released all of the time, and I want to give you recommendations for some great new picks.
  2. Second, publishers send me review copies of new book, and I want to help authors raise awareness for some books that I think are great and that may get lost in the shuffle.
  3. Finally, many of the older books that I love don’t need my help and are familiar to many readers. I don’t want to waste your time talking about books you already know about.

However, there are so many wonderful books out there that I think would form an excellent foundation for every child’s library, so I’m going to start featuring a weekly top ten list, giving you ideas for building your child’s library.

I plan on researching, asking librarians and booksellers, and spending some quality time in bookstores and libraries to find excellent books you and your child will cherish.

As always, I love to hear what you and your child/children enjoy, so I welcome any and all recommendations and feedback. Just shoot me an email or leave a comment.

I’m going to start this week with the top ten board books for babies. Look for my post on Thursday. I hope you enjoy!

Additional Resources on Immigration

Yesterday, I reviewed Island of Hope and Sorrow: The Story of Grosse Île, part of Lobster Press's Canadian Immigration Series. As I mentioned in my review, it would make a great book for anyone wanting to learn or teach about immigration, Canadian history, epidemics, and more.

Here are some additional ideas, resources, and book recommendations for teaching more about immigration.

Family History Project
Get kids involved by having them tell their own family's history. This can be as simple as writing a small paper or drawing a family tree to a more involved project with interviews, family member profiles and photos, and profiles of the countries their family members are from. I can even imagine posters all over a classroom, enabling kids to "show off " their families and heritage.

Online Immigration Lesson Plans and Resources:
Mr. Donn's Immigration Lesson Plans and Activities: A wealth of activities for elementary to high school students. Some links are broken, but the ones that do work look interesting.

Interactive Tour of Ellis Island: I had way too much fun with this site from Scholastic that features audio, video, and photographs.

Port of Entry Lesson Plan: An interesting lesson for students in grades 6-12. Students become historical detectives as they learn about immigration in the United States.


Ages 4-8

Hannah is My Name written and illustrated by Belle Yang

This book tells the story of a Taiwanese family who has immigrated to San Francisco. We follow Hannah as she starts school, learns English, and adjusts to life in a new country.

The Name Jar Written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi

This book follows Unhei (pronounced Yoon-hye), a young Korean girl who has just immigrated to the United States as she struggles with selecting a new name or sticking with her birth name which means "grace." As a former ESL teacher, this story is all too familiar, and I wish I would have had it in my classroom when I was teaching.

The Keeping Quilt Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco

I'm a long time fan of this book and of Polacco's work. In this true story, a quilt is made from the clothing of a Russian-Jewish immigrant family and is passed along from generation to generation, from the time Polacco's Great-Gramma Anna arrives from Russia to the present. We see the quilt being used for many things along the way: a tablecloth, swaddling for newborn babies, and much more.

At Home in a New Land written and illustrated by Joan Sandin

This story follows Swedish boy, Carl Erik as he adjusts to a new life in Minnesota in the mid-1800's. A good choice for beginning readers, we see Carl Erik face ridicule from his classmates and struggle with the pressure of providing food for his family.

Annushka's Voyage written by Edith Tarbescu and illustrated by Lydia Dabcovich

This is the story of Annushka and her younger sister who leave Russia with their father and move to New York. We follow their journey on a crowded ship to their arrival at Ellis Island. This is an especially moving story that had me experiencing a range of emotions.

At Ellis Island: A History in Many Voices written by Louise Peacock and illustrated by Walter Lyon Krudop

Better suited for kids in the 7-10 range, this book features the voices of a number of immigrants. The most compelling, I think, is the true story of 10-year old Sura who fled the genocide in Armenia in the early 20th century.

Ages 9-12

Home of the Brave written by Katherine Applegate

This is gut-wrenching story of a Sudanese boy who witnessed the murder of his father and brother. Leaving his mother behind to live with his aunt in Minnesota, we see the boy go through the gamut of emotions as he faces racism, lives with guilt, and adjusts to a new life. I highly recommend this book, especially since it puts a face on what's happening in the world today.

Capstone Press's You Choose Series
There are three new books about immigration in this interactive series "choose your own adventure" style. I'm including these books because I think they will be a hit with kids and appeal to reluctant readers.

Chinese Immigrants in America: An Interactive History Adventure Written by Kelley Hunsicker

From publisher: "Describes the experiences of Chinese immigrants upon arriving in the United States in 1850. The readers choices reveal historical details from the perspective of Chinese immigrants who mine for gold, work on the Transcontinental Railroad, or settle in San Franciscos Chinatown."

German Immigrants in America: An Interactive History Adventure written by Elizabeth Raum

From the publisher: "Describes the experiences of German immigrants upon arriving in America. The readers choices reveal historical details from the perspective of Germans who came to Texas in the 1840s, the Dakota Territory in the 1880s, and Wisconsin before the start of World War I."

Coming to America: The Irish: An Interactive History Adventure

Written by Elizabeth Raum (Kevin Kenny Contributor)

From the publisher: "YOU are a young Irish immigrant moving to New York in 1846. You have no money, no job, and your whole family back home is counting on you to help them through the terrible potato famine. Will you succeed?"

Young Adult Selections

The Arrival written by Shaun Tan
the only words in this book are from an invented alphabet. In the book, an immigrant leaves his family behind to start a new life in a new country. Haunting, emotional, hopeful…these are only a few words to describe this captivating book.

Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers written by Marina Budhos

This book features Budhos' interviews with 20 immigrant teenagers across the country. A moving book that tells the teenagers' first hand accounts of struggling with being different, adjusting to a new culture, and fitting in with their peers.