Archive for ‘Animals’

September 26, 2013

Hank Finds an Egg

Hank Finds an Egg

Title: Hank Finds an Egg
Author & Illustrator: Rebecca Dudley

Publisher: Peter Pauper Press, 2013
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-6
Themes: Kindness, Nature

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

While walking through the woods, Hank finds an egg all alone on the forest floor. Spotting its home high up in a tree, Hank diligently tries to return the egg to its nest, but is met with failure each time. After keeping the egg warm overnight, he returns to the scene the next morning. To his surprise, he is met by another forest creature. Will they find a way together to see the egg safely home?

Artist Rebecca Dudley crafts each tiny leaf, flower, and creature that appears in Hank’s forest in breathtaking detail, bringing the sunlit woods to life. From delicate ferns to the glow of Hank’s little campfire, Hank Finds an Egg immerses you in its vivid miniature world.

In this charming tale, told without words, Hank’s endearing and genuine kindness will inspire readers young and old alike to believe in themselves and the goodness of others.

Activities:

– Have the child “tell” the story for the pictures.
Discussion questions for students.
– Make a diorama. ocean diorama ideas. forest diorama ideas 

Why I Like This Book:

hankmomA simple tale of kindness brought to life in a wholly original fresh new way. Ms. Dudley’s talents as a diorama artist blended with her photographic skills are a winning combination. I was blown away the first-time, second-time, even the tenth-time I read this story. Her individual panels and full-page shots tell a complete story that need no words. She uses different angle shots and changes her focus on near and faraway objects to bring about the key elements and pacing in the story. One of my favorites is the top-down shot with the nest of eggs in focus and Hank fuzzed out below.

I liked that this was a simple story and easy to follow making it perfect for young tikes to ‘read’. (in case Peter Pauper Press or Ms. Dudley stop by – this story needs to be made into a board book!) Older kids will be amazed at the artistry and the “how did she make it” factor. Personally, I would love to know how she made those hummingbird wings.

This wordless, simple story of kindness with fairy tale like scenery makes me feel happy and hopeful. I love how the innocence of children is portrayed through Hank. I do hope there are more adventures for Hank in the near future. I for one will be anxiously waiting.

This book is good for story-time, lap-time and especially for a child to read on their own.

Interviews:

Learn about Ms. Dudley’s unique writing journey (making dioramas, learning photography, self-publishing) to landing a traditional publishing deal.

The Many Paths to Publication Part 3: An Interview With Rebecca Dudley
Rebecca Dudley Author Interview

Also checkout Ms. Dudley’s website Storywoods to see more stories of Hank and his friends.

A behind the scenes video at how Ms. Dudley creates these amazing dioramas and learn about her source of inspiration.

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

August 14, 2013

Chick-O-Saurus Rex

Chick-o-Saurus RexTitle: Chick-O-Saurus Rex
Author: Lenore Jennewein
Illustrator: Daniel Jennewein
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-6
Themes: Bravery, Bullying

Excerpt:

But first he had to face the bullies who guarded the entrance.

Little Chick clucked, “Can I come in?”

The bullies blocked his way. “This is a club for the brave and mighty. First you have to prove you belong.”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

A bullied little chicken discovers his inner strength along with some surprising dinosaur ancestry in this farmyard tale with huge heart.

Why I Like This Book:

A book with heart and comical, colorful illustrations sure to delight any child who thinks he isn’t big enough to be strong and brave.

Little Chick wants to play in the tree house with the meanie farm animals – Little Pig, Little Sheep, Little Donkey. But they say no because he is a chicken and not “brave and mighty”. Little Chick goes on a search to find out how he can be brave and mighty. Frustrated that no one in the coop can teach him, he begins to wonder if anyone in his family was every brave and mighty. Good old dad cracks out the family album showing past accomplishments – chicken dance, crossing the road, archaeology? Little Chick is intrigued and starts digging with his dad. To their surprise they find they are descendants of the T-REX!

chick-o-saurus-bone

Chick-O-Saurus Rex, armed with this new knowledge, has courage and is able to scare off the hungry wolf at the tree house, thereby gaining respect and admission to the tree house.

I enjoyed this book for the animated, funny illustrations. I first noticed Mr. Jennewein’s work in the widely popular Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten. I love the message of this book that anyone can have inner strength. This book is rooted in scientific fact, see Author’s Note at the end, the chicken and T-Rex really are related. The favorite parts for my 5&7yr-old girls and I were the family album and Little Chick’s transformation. I particularly liked the name change from Little Chick –> Chick-O-Saurus Rex and his mighty battle cry (that was fun to read-aloud)!

The text was a little wordy in some areas and sparse in others. Also with regards to characterization of the bullies, I understood why they let Chick-O-Saurus play in the tree house. But I didn’t think the text showed the transformation of the bullies to make it believable that they were accepting of all the other small animals as well. Most kids won’t care about these points, but as a picture book writer I noticed.

This book is good for young kids, especially those who love dinosaurs or chickens.

tlc tour hostI received my copy of this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book. To see other tour stops, click on the TLC icon.

April 16, 2013

Heart of a Tiger

Heart of a TigerTitle: Heart of a Tiger

AuthorMarsha Diane Arnold
Illustrator: Jamichael Henterly

Publisher: Dial Books, 1995
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Bravery, Perseverance, Jungle Animals, India

Excerpt:

The Name Day Celebration was only one week away.

“My name shall be Bahadur Shikari – Mighty Hunger,” declared Number One, scouting the veranda for mice.

“I’ll choose Rang Birange Kapare – Calico Colors,” added Number Two as she sat grooming her long fur.

….

“And you, Number Four,” asked Two, turning to the small gray kitten who had finally pulled his head from beneath the pillow “What will your name be? Smallest of All?”

Synopsis (from Amazon Website):

As the Name Day celebration approaches, a young kitten tries to deserve a noble name, by following the path of the beautiful Bengal tiger.

Activities:

Discussion guide on Naming ceremony, Indian culture, and even a tiger quiz from the author.

Tiger Crafts – simple paper crafts, origami, balloon animal

Basic info and photographs of Bengal tigers at National Geographic for Kids.

Learn more about tiger hunts and naming ceremony on Wikipedia.

Why I Like This Book:

A tale of a small cat who proves that he can be something more than what he appears.  The authentic text and vibrant illustrations transport the reader in time to the jungles of colonial India.

Number Four is a meek, small grey cat who yearns to be mighty and courageous, and have such a name. With Naming Day only a week away, Four sets out on a daring journey to learn how from the “Magnificent One”, a Bengal tiger. Four is not dissuaded in his quest by the jungle creatures who mock him. He doesn’t cower against the snarling tiger. Four remains persistent and follows the tiger for days and nights, learning how to survive. He saves the tiger’s life during a hunt thereby earning a powerful and wise name, Bangali Sher Ka Dil – Heart of the Tiger.

The illustrations done in watercolor and pencil are rich and bold, bringing to life the hot, humid jungle teaming with wildlife. Henterley has done a splendid job of conveying a range of emotions from the pensive Four looking into the rain puddle, to Four being startled via a close-up shot of the snarling tiger, to the tiger hunt scene showing just the tiger and Number 4 with the background a blur.

I enjoyed this book for its text and rich imagery with a great message that “you can be more than what you appear”. I loved seeing the inner strength of the cat revealed via each of the obstacles culminating with Four using his wisdom during the tiger hunt. The author uses accurate words to describe the colonial time period and jungle setting: master, veranda, langur (monkey), and beaters (men who play the drums during a tiger hunt). The Hindi names chosen have an accurate meaning too.  I love this last scene with Four in front on Naming Day with all the jungle animals in the background. Read this book and be transported to old-world India.

Heartoftiger

Below are some photographs of tiger hunts. These are from the Bangalore Palace in southern India.

tigertiger2

Check-out these other great reviews.

November 23, 2012

Good News Bad News

Title: Good News Bad News

Author & Illustrator: Jeff Mack

Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-4
Themes: Moods, Attitude, Friendship

Only Lines:

“Good News  …….  Bad News”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Good news, Rabbit and Mouse are going on a picnic. Bad news, it is starting to rain. Good news, Rabbit has an umbrella. Bad news, the stormy winds blow the umbrella (and Mouse!) into a tree.

So begins this clever story about two friends with very different dispositions. Using just four words, Jeff Mack has created a text with remarkable flair that is both funny and touching, and pairs perfectly with his energetic, and hilarious, illustrations.

Activities:

Checkout the companion activity kit at Chronicle’s website. Includes printable maze, connect-the-dots, and more.

Create your own good news/bad news story. Start off with a story starter like “a porcupine wins a balloon” which could be the good news. What is the bad news then does the balloon pop, does the porcupine fly away, or something else? The possibilities are endless. This could be a fun way to challenge kids to think creatively and see the upside to any situation.

Why I Like This Book:

A book that appears simple and comical at first, but has a deeper theme on attitude and friendship.

Rabbit is an optimistic, attentive friend, who is always pointing out the bright side to any bad situation. Mouse is a pessimistic, though in some case expected as he is getting the raw end of the deal (like the worm in the apple or getting splattered with icing). The book has a simple book design where each half spread shows a “bad news” scene (like mouse being grumpy about the rain) followed by a “good news” scene (rabbit offering an umbrella).  This back and forth between good and bad continues, with the situations ever-increasing until mouse has a double-paged spread where he screams “BAD NEWS” because he just can’t take it anymore. Here is where the emotion hits home as mouse for the first time notices his effect on his friend rabbit, who has begun to cry and wail “Bad News” too. The story ends on a satisfying note with a hug between mouse and rabbit and the line “very good news”.

This book is a visual story with a simple format that kids can easily follow. The bad news scene always correlates to the good news scene, hence the good news scene is used before the page turn. Because of this format kids will enjoy guessing what the bad news scene that is to come. This nearly wordless book with colorful, cartoon-styled artwork tells a visual story that will be attractive for kids just learning to read. Parents and teachers will appreciate the theme of optimism/pessimism. A great book to use for storytime.

See pages spreads from the book at The Children’s Book Review.

Bad News: This book will not be added to Perfect Picture Book Friday as it was already reviewed in September.

Good News: You get to read a great review by Erik at This Kid Reviews Books. Also check-out Carter’s review at Design of the Picture Book where she discusses the book design.

Creativity Time: Let’s create a good news bad news story of our own. I’ll provide the starter sentence. You provide a Good News or Bad News comment depending on the last comment made.

Good News – Porcupine and Skunk go to the circus! (first person to comment gets to pick which character is optimistic/pessimistic)

This book was nominated by Katherine Sokolowski for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Fiction Picture Book category. I am a second-round judge in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!

October 19, 2012

The Great Paper Caper

Title: The Great Paper Caper

Author & Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers (Interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)

Publisher: Philomel Books, 2008
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Mystery, Conservation, Animals

Opening Lines:

“There was a time in the forest … when everything was not as it should have been. Everyone who lived there had been noticing strange things. Branches, they agreed, should not disappear from tress like that.”

Synopsis (from Penguin website):

The animals’ homes are disappearing. Tree by tree, the forest is being cut down. Clues! There must be clues. For instance, look – there is a mysterious bear carrying an ax! But what would a bear want with so many trees? Perhaps the discarded paper airplanes littering the forest floor have a story to tell?

Oliver Jeffers’ quirky, childlike humor and lovable illustrations are in full effect in this funny whodunit featuring a winning cast of animals and a message about the importance of conservation and recycling.

Activities:

Classroom:

  • Visual literacy activity.
  • Discussion guide.
  • For upper elementary/middle-school kids – reading activity that helps develop critical thinking skills. Student reads an on-line mystery story, discusses the key details and attempts to figure out the solution.

Craft:

  • Make paper airplanes.  Paper Airplanes HQ provides instructions of how to make 50 different types of paper airplanes. Text and visual instructions are provided.
  •  Make your own recycled paper! Video and text instructions.

Why I Like This Book:

A quirky, imaginative introduction to the “whodunit” genre for young readers with a message of conservation, recycling, and forgiveness thrown-in. The game is afoot, when the forest animals investigate to find out who is ruining their forest home. Someone is chopping down branches and littering the ground with paper airplanes. The characters play detective and then later judge and jury. The ending is not your typical conclusion to a crime story … but in some ways it is actually better, it has a message of forgiveness and helping out.

The book is useful for introducing “big” word from the justice system such as alibi, evidence, prosecutor, eyewitness report, and more.

The illustrations are child-like and a bit silly. The color palette changes beautifully with each season. Unfortunately some of the drawings of the characters are kind of small, so this best read in small groups.

Above is the opening spread which completely hooked my kids, who wouldn’t be interested in this cast of cooky characters that live underground. My kids noticed that all the character’s legs looked like sticks.

This spread above is when the characters come to the conclusion that someone has been stealing the branches and they begin suspecting each other. My kids would verbalize each character’s accusatory thoughts. This is one of the great things about this book. There is so much going on in the illustrations that isn’t said in the text. For example  the accompanying text for the spread is “Someone, they agreed again, must be stealing them, and they each in turn blamed the other.” The artwork carries the rich details of the story.

This book also contains many, many visual clues that kids can piece together and infer the answer. Kids will enjoy being one-step ahead of the characters.

A great read for young and old. Don’t forget to check-out the cool endpages, a manual on how to make paper airplanes.

Picture book writers should definitely study each page and take note of what parts of the mystery are revealed through text versus art.

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

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