September 19, 2014

Hooray for Hat!

hoorayforhatTitle: Hooray for Hat!
Author & Illustrator: Brian Won

Publisher: HMH Books, 2014
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-6
Themes: Friendship, Kindness

Excerpt:

It was hard to stay grumpy now.
“HOORAY FOR HAT!”
Elephant cheered. “I will show Zebra!”

 Synopsis:

Elephant wakes up grumpy—until ding, dong! What’s in the surprise box at the front door? A hat! HOORAY FOR HAT! Elephant marches off to show Zebra, but Zebra is having a grumpy day, too—until Elephant shares his new hat and cheers up his friend. Off they march to show Turtle! The parade continues as every animal brightens the day of a grumpy friend. An irresistible celebration of friendship, sharing, and fabulous hats.

Activities:

  • Have a Hat Parade! Download and print this colorful activity kit with hats from the book!
  • Have kids Read and Act out the story. This tale is laid out well for Reader’s Theater.
  • Have kids do a Random Act of Kindness. Here is a link to my past blog post to get some ideas.

Why I Love This Book:

I love, love, love this book! It is perfect for story time and preschools, but will certainly bring a smile to anyone that reads it.

  • I love the simplicity of the story, that can be summarized with three keywords, grumpy – hat – friends.
  • I love that sheer joy and innocence in the characters, that represents young kids so well.
  • I love the repetitious lines “GO AWAY! I’M GRUMPY!” and “HOORAY FOR HAT!” that help to provide a strong story structure.
  • I love the bright, colorful illustrations and the use of white space to make the art eye-grabbing. Also the use of colored letters for HOORAY throughout the story.
  • But most of all I love that it teaches kindness and sharing.

Enjoy this adorable trailer:

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

September 12, 2014

Flora and the Penguin plus a Giveaway!

florapenguinTitle: Flora and the Penguin
Author & Illustrator: Molly Idle (interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)

Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2014
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-6
Themes: Friendship

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Having mastered ballet in Flora and the Flamingo, Flora takes to the ice and forms an unexpected friendship with a penguin. Twirling, leaping, spinning, and gliding, on skates and flippers, the duo mirror each other’s graceful dance above and below the ice. But when Flora gives the penguin the cold shoulder, the pair must figure out a way to work together for uplifting results. Artist Molly Idle creates an innovative, wordless picture book with clever flaps that reveal Flora and the penguin coming together, spiraling apart, and coming back together as only true friends do.

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

A year ago I was amazed with Ms. Idle’s book Flora and the Flamingo, a beautifully crafted visual tale about making friends involving a girl, a flamingo, and ballet. Ms. Idle’s latest book in the series is just as gorgeous, this time through ice-dancing and a penguin friend, while exploring a different aspect of friendship. “What happens when two friends want different things?”

Flora and penguin glide, twirl, and pirouette on the ice as any great ice-dancing duo. But Flora is left befuddled during her sit-spin when penguin abandons her to leap down into the ice hole after a fish. Could it be just that the two friends aren’t on the same wavelength, for Penguin returns offering her a gift, a fish. Flora behaves much in the way any child does when they get something they don’t want (my girls certainly behave this way), she simply tosses it away. How will the duo find their way back, well you’ll have to read it to find out.

Ms. Idle has created a story arc about the natural, undulating waves in friendship. The subdued color palette of white, yellows, and pale blues lends a soft, innocence touch to the story. The flaps move from right-left allowing the characters to glide back and forth across the page. I love how moving the flaps reveal a new emotions or actions to move the story forward. Do take notice of the fish swimming in the opening scenes and how they mirror the skating movements above.

fp_glide1

fp_glide2

Flora and Penguin is a charming tale and a great addition to the series.

I have a special treat this time. I have an extra copy of the book that I will be giving away (yes, before the release date!!). Leave a comment stating what animal you would like Flora to be friends with and what activity they would do together. Deadline to enter is September 19th 9pm PST.

Be sure to check-out Ms. Idle’s interview on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, to get a behind the scenes look at her thought process into making this book. Also find out about the next book in this series!

Enjoy the delightful trailer.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Chronicle Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

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September 9, 2014

Interview with Jen Cullerton Johnson

jenYesterday I reviewed the enlightening story Seeds of Change. Today I am happy to share my interview with the author Jen Cullerton Johnson. She has published fiction and creative nonfiction in literary journals and leads writing workshops for elementary through highschool students. Her book, Seeds of Change, is about the life and work of Wangari Maathai, Noble Peace Prize Winner and founder of the Greenbelt Movement. Jen has also spoken on Green Literacy, the role of environmental books for children and adults with various organizations such as the EPA and the Green Schools Conference.

1. What inspired you to write Seeds of Change?

Wangari Maathai’s life is incredible. She is an environmentalist, scientist, and women’s right’s activist who inspired her country of Kenya to plant 30 million trees and in doing so helped give women skills to earn a living so they could feed their children. What moves me the most about Wangari’s story is her message of harabee, which means “let’s work together.” We can solve problems if we work together.

2. I noticed in your book you cover more than just the “planting of trees” aspect of Wangari’s life. You cover village life, education for girls, and activism. What did you want your readers to walk away with after reading your book?

I want young people to believe Wangari’s message: “Young people, you are our hope and our future.” Go plant a tree. Know that an idea as small as a seed has the possibility to grow into the tallest of trees. Work together.

3) I understand the book has made a significant impact on the students at Brier Creek Elementary School in North Carolina. Can you briefly tell us about it?

Brier Creek Elementary School wants to give every person in their school community a copy of the book in order for everyone to use it as a springboard to think, talk and act on change. Their music teacher wrote a song. Children designed art.

In the middle of seeking books for their own school, the students decided to donate books to a school in Kenya. Now, we are looking for people to donate copies of Seeds of Change. I’ve listed a link to the Lee & Low blog page for more information. http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/08/13/planting-seeds-of-change-around-the-world/

4. How can people help out?

You can:

  1. Post the [Lee and Low] link on your Facebook [or other social media].
  2. Donate a book
  3. Send us good wishes

5.  Any projects coming up in the future you would like to us to know about?

Yes, I am in the final stages of a new picture book about women in Liberia and then in Fall 2014 I am turning my attention to a totally new area: a memoir about teaching incarcerated youth through gardening called: The Karma Garden.

Wow those are really interesting topics. Can’t wait to hear more about it in the future. Thanks for stopping by.

September 8, 2014

Seeds of Change

seeds-of-changeTitle: Seeds of Change

Author: Jen Cullerton Johnson
Illustrator: Sonia Lynn Sadler
Publisher: Lee and Low Books, 2011
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 6 and up
Themes: Environment, Activism, Multi-cultural

Opening Lines

“Come,” Wangari’s mother  called. She beckoned her young daughter over to a tall tree with a wide, smooth trunk and a crown of green, oval leaves.

Synopsis (from Lee & Low Books):

As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari was taught to respect nature. She grew up loving the land, plants, and animals that surrounded her—from the giant mugumo trees her people, the Kikuyu, revered to the tiny tadpoles that swam in the river.

Although most Kenyan girls were not educated, Wangari, curious and hardworking, was allowed to go to school. There, her mind sprouted like a seed. She excelled at science and went on to study in the United States. After returning home, Wangari blazed a trail across Kenya, using her knowledge and compassion to promote the rights of her countrywomen and to help save the land, one tree at a time.

Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace brings to life the empowering story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman, and environmentalist, to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Engaging narrative and vibrant images paint a robust portrait of this inspiring champion of the land and of women’s rights.

Activities:

Resource Page on the Lee & Low website containing activities, lesson plans, discussion guides for elementary and middle-school students.

Resource sheet from Reading is Fundamental (RIF), contains a scratch art activity, a simple recipe for maize and bean stew, and discussion questions.

Green Belt Movement website – initiative started by Wangari

National Geographic for kids website with facts and pictures of Kenya

Other picture books on Wangari Maathai: Mama MitiPlanting the Trees of Kenya, and Wangari’s Trees of Peace

Why I Like This Book:

A rich, colorful book that engages the audience at multiple levels. The author brings Nobel prize winner,
Wangari Maathai, to life in an accessible way for young readers. The book opens with the importance of the
mugumo tree to Wangari’s people. The reader gains an appreciation of the interconnection between plants,
animals, and humans. During the early years we also see Wangari’s desire to learn at a time
when it was not common for girls to attend schools. It is these two threads which intersect in Wangari’s later
years that lead her to become a champion for Kenya’s environment and women’s education.

I found this book to be empowering because it showed how just a single person with sheer determination
and passion can indeed make a difference in the world. Also that it all started with something so simple,
planting one tree at a time.

Lovers of lyrical language will enjoy the numerous plant metaphors.

Wangari listened as still as a tree, but her mind swirled with curiosity like the currents in the stream.

The rich, saturated colors done in scratchboard art and oil, bring to life the beauty of the African landscape
and native clothing.

seedsofchange_tree

This book is best suited for elementary readers and can be used in conjunction with classroom discussions
about Kenya, environmentalism, or activism.

Come back tomorrow to find out how this book inspired one elementary school to become a platform of
change, when I interview the author Jen Cullerton Johnson.

August 20, 2014

Planet Kindergarten and other Books for New Kindergarteners

Can’t believe summer is already over. Where did the time go? Maybe I can find a rift in the space-time continuum, to blast us back to the start of summer. Until I can find that anomaly, I have a new kindergarten book which I think you will love. I have also included my Top Ten Books for New Kindergarteners that I first posted last summer. Enjoy!

Planet Kindergarten

Title: Planet Kindergarten

Author: Sue Ganz-Schmitt
Illustrator: Shane Prigmore
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2014
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: School, Space

Synopsis (from Amazon):

This clever picture book will prepare young explorers to boldly go where they have never gone before: Planet Kindergarten. Suit up for a daring adventure as our hero navigates the unknown reaches and alien inhabitants of this strange new world. Hilarious and confidence-boosting, this exciting story will have new kindergarteners ready for liftoff!

Why I Like This Book:

I had not planned to fall in love with this book. I mean come on another “first day at kindergarten” book. Just stop by your favorite bookstore or library and the display shelves are filled with classic and modern back to school titles. Boy was I wrong.

This is a clever, fun, adventurous book for anyone of any age that loves outer space. So maybe that is the key for me, I loved outer space as a kid and still do. Kids will love the funny storytelling and the bright, bold pictures. Older readers and adults will love the hilarious wordplay and how the text plays off the art. There are also some subtle jokes in there which I loved.

Take a look at how the author has described a bunch of high-energy kids not being able to sit still with a reference to gravity working differently here. Brilliant!

“I try to get used to the new atmosphere, but it’s not like home. For one thing, gravity works differently here. We have to try hard to stay in our seats. And our hands go up a lot.”

classroom

Some of my other favorite lines

“We arrive at the base camp, then orbit while we look for a place to dock.” – What fun way to describe looking for a parking spot.

“We’re aliens from many galaxies on Planet Kindergarten.” — What an excellent way to describe diversity!

Aside from the clever wordplay which I could go on and on about, the book does cover the basic concerns of all new kindergarteners – saying good-bye to your parents, new classroom, experiences on the playground, return home, and of course excitement for the next day.

This is a far-out book, one which any space-loving cadet will have a blast with.

———————————-

TOP 10 Books for New Kindergarteners

Below are a list of books that address many of the first-day concerns that both kids and adults might have. Some are funny, some are heartfelt, some have a bit of both. Enjoy!

Kindergartener List

Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis
Follow Annabelle’s ups and downs of the first month of Kindergarten. Vibrant artwork and humorous text are sure to get any child excited.

Excerpt – Me and Zoe played at recess today. Zoe likes socks. She always wears something pink. She let me use her extra jump rope. It’s pink.

Kindergarten Diary

Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten by Audrey Vernick and Daniel Jennewein
A funny, engaging, clever take on the do’s and dont’s of kindergarten. Loved the immersion of the buffalo in the story from hoove-painting to no grazing at recess, layered with the messages of sharing, friendship, and respect.

Excerpt – Okay, maybe your buffalo can’t cut – yet! But maybe most kids aren’t the state animal of Oklahoma. Or pictured on old nickels. Everyone’s special in his or her own way. That’s the kind of thing you learn in kindergarten.

Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten

The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten  by Maureen Fergus and Mike Lowery

A laugh out loud sure to please any child in this role-reversal story where the patient understanding daughter guides her mom through a day of Kindergarten.

Excerpt – She was so excited that she completely forgot her manners and tried to BARGE in at the front of the line. “I’m sorry, Mom, but you need to go to the back of the line,” I said. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of us.”

The Day My Mom Came To Kindergarten

 

Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis
Dexter is ready for kindergarten and not scared at all, thanks to his big sister Jessie. But Dexter’s stuffed dog Rufus has about a bazillion worries. Dexter and Rufus both soon realize that kindergarten rocks.

Excerpt – When Jes went to kindergarten, she wasn’t big like she is now. “I was a shrimp like you. (Jessie)”  She wrote like me. And she drew like me, too. Only not as good.

Kindergarten Rocks

Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten by Hyewon Yum
Witness the topsy-turvey emotions for parents and children about the first day of kindergarten. Changes in the art color and size help convey the emotions being felt by mother and son. A confidence builder for all who read it that everything will be a-okay.

Excerpt – Mom doesn’t look happy. “We don’t know anyone here. I miss your old teachers and your friends.(mom)” “I like to make new friends, Mom, and you’ll make new friends, too, in no time.(son)”

mommyfirstday

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg and Judy Love
Kids will relate to Sarah’s nervousness about the first day at a new school, and they will love the surprise ending and in knowing that everyone gets the jitters.

Excerpt – “No, I’m not. I don’t want to start over again. I hate my new school,” Sarah said. She tunneled down to the end of her bed.

First-Day-Jitters

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Ruth E. harper, and Nancy M. Leak
A classic heartwarming story about separation anxiety and the power of magical kisses.

Excerpt – Mrs. Raccoon took Chester by the hand and nuzzled him on the ear. “Sometimes we all have to do things we don’t want to do,” she told him gently. “Even if they seem strange and scary at first. But you will love school once you start.”

Kissing Hand

First Day of School by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell

Follow along as a group of friends recap how they’ve grown and get ready for the first day of school. A fun book for all kids, great way to start a discussion about your family’s back-to-school rituals.

Excerpt – Michiko jumped down when she saw us. “I’ve got new bouncy shoes!” Michiko said. “My shoes were too small. Now I can wiggle my toes.”

First Day of School

The Best Thing About Kindergarten by Jennifer Lloyd and Qin Leng
On kindergarten graduation day, Mrs. Appleby has one last final question “What is the best thing about kindergarten?”  Her students have different answers ranging from calendar time, imagination time, to recess. But readers will keep flipping the pages to find Mrs. Appleby’s secret special answer.

Excerpt – “It’s calendar time!” cried Tabitha. “You are so good at saying the days of the week,” replied Mrs. Appleby, “but calendar time is not the best thing about kindergarten.”

The Best Thing About Kindergarten


Kindergarten, Here I Come
by D.J. Steinberg and Mark Chambers
Through rhyming verses, experience kindergarten milestones such as first day jitters, field trips, friendships, show-n-tell and much more. Kids will enjoy the silly verses and lively illustrations.

Excerpt – Crisscross Applesauce – Crisscross applesauce, that’s the way we sit. Not feet-out sauerkraut. Not cottage cheese on your knees. Not bottoms-up coffee cup. Not blueberry jelly on your belly. But crisscross applesauce, that’s the way we sit.

Kindergarten, Here I Come

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