Feed Me Books Friday: Not Your Average Picture Book

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kid-Friendly Comics

When we think of comics, most of us will either think of super-heroes like Spiderman or the Sunday funnies. Perhaps you’ve even been introduced to Captain Underpants or the Wimpy Kid series aimed at tweens. But if my experience is any indication, you may not yet have heard of the Toon series of books for emerging readers. After reading about the series in a Lit Lad review, I was thrilled to receive two Toon books from Candlewick, the publishers of Toon books, for our own review!

Appropriate and Accessible

The major plus-points of this series are that the content is appropriate for preschoolers and the language is accessible to early readers. The plot lines, while not necessarily action-packed thrillers, are relatable to youngsters, which is vital in engaging them as readers. Most preschoolers don’t have the cognitive ability to imagine in the abstract just yet. Their pretend-play is usually variations of their own experience or things they’ve witnessed. Appealing books will fit this description as well: they are imaginative enough to be entertaining, but not so fanciful that they are hard to grasp. The text of Toon books is thoughtfully crafted to be within the grasp of those children beginning to read independently. They are divided into 3 levels, characterized by number and complexity of words and sentences, complexity of plot-line, and comic panels per page.

Unique to the Bookshelf
The titles we received are Silly Lilly in What Will I Be Today? (Level 1) and Patrick in A Teddy Bear’s Picnic and other stories (Level 2). Silly Lilly’s plot line highlights the options open to an adventurous yet indecisive young girl and provides practice in the days of the week. B is not quite ready for independent reading, and the text was pretty simple for a read-aloud, but he enjoyed Lilly’s experimenting since he thoroughly enjoys role-play pretend games. Patrick’s stories include the title picnic story as well as Patrick Has a Nap, and Patrick and Big Bear. The title story follows the many adventures of Patrick and his mother on their picnic. Any mom who has tried to sit still for more than 3 minutes will relate. While their picnic is rained out, Patrick and Ma still enjoy the day together. Patrick Has a Nap is a shorter sequence demonstrating his strong will to avoid his nap which later catches up with him. Patrick and Big Bear features Patrick’s challenge to face Big Bear, a local bully. Patrick stands up to Big Bear’s bullying by roaring like a dragon, which while effective in the context of the story, might warrant a little discussion with a young reader to discuss what other appropriate responses might be. I appreciate that Patrick looks for a solution with his parents’ help and feels empowered at the end of the story. B enjoyed this one as a read-aloud more thanks to the slightly more complex language, plot structure, and illustrations.

Making our Own Comics

Toon books has an extensive array of resources on their website, which you should check out whether you purchase the books or not. We first checked out the comic-creator tool. B had decided that he wanted to imagine what he would be like Silly Lilly, so he chose an animal to represent himself and a background related to his current fascination with explorers. Creations can be saved or emailed. Other tools at the Toon site include an interactive reader featuring several of the Toon titles and teacher lesson plans correlated to many titles. I also looked up another comic generator I used to use in my classroom. At Make Beliefs Comix, you can choose the number of panels, add various characters, backgrounds, and objects, and then print or email your creation. Since the image was not save-able, I used the screen capture tool and pasted it into a photo program to save.
 Appropriate for preschoolers, primary grades. I hope you’ll go check out Toon Books for yourself and a reader in your life that could use a change of pace or a little extra motivation.

Disclosure: I am grateful to Candlewick, the publishers of Toon books for providing me with two books and the opportunity to review them. The opinions expressed are mine alone and I received no other compensation for this review.
Comic call-outs photo courtesy arichards63 on flickr.


Feed Me Books Friday: Feeling the Love

Friday, May 20, 2011

In the Kindness of Strangers

Indulge me a moment, if you will, to share my personal story that inspired this week’s book selection. Earlier this year, we made a trip to visit a “Day Out With Thomas” event. B has long been a fan of trains, Thomas included, and the trip was a fun-packed day. Of course, there was a merchandise tent, mostly full of things I felt were either not toddler appropriate/sturdy enough/well-made or easy enough to find on Amazon and pay less for. However, I did see a display for a train car with the Day Out With Thomas logo and the year 2011. Being a sucker for all things sentimental, this is the souvenir I wanted. Which they were, of course, out of. Initially undeterred, I assumed that a merchandising powerhouse like Thomas would have memorabilia available online. Not the case. Finding this boxcar, which B never even saw on the display or realized I was after, became a mission. I can recognize the lunacy of it, but that recognition did not diminish my desire to acquire it. I looked up Thomas’ schedule and learned he’d be visiting Wales West Railway in Alabama this month. I’m a private enough person that I don’t share my hometown on my blog, but it’s not anywhere near Alabama – I wasn’t crazy enough to consider making a trip there, but I did a little website investigation and decided to take a shot at asking a stranger for a favor. I found some contact info for their staff party-planner (a party-planner must have a soft spot for kids, right?) and described my mission in an email. Shelby became my hero when she agreed to shop-for, purchase, and mail my souvenir without ever having met me or spoken to me in person. Her kindness continues to make me smile as I tell the story, and I’m just itching to be able to pass on a similar kindness to someone else! (By the way – if you live near or ever visit the Wales West Railway, please hug Shelby for me!)

A Pay it Forward Attitude
How Kind!
Ok, so my indulgence lasted more than a moment – my stories are long-winded – on to this week’s book. How Kind! by Mary Murphy was originally a library find but became one I wanted to revisit again and again. In simple yet bright text and illustrations, Murphy showcases farm animals passing along one kindness after another. A pig who is tickled by the kindness of a hen pays-it-forward, causing a chain reaction of kindness that includes carrots, flowers, and back-scratching! Each action is accompanied by the title phrase, “How Kind!” It is puzzling that the hen begins by giving away her egg to the pig, then is delighted when he returns her newly hatched chick, but it does give the story a pleasant circular feeling. I really like the concept that one kindness begets another, but it isn’t necessarily a trade-off or a give-and-take. The kindness spreads throughout the farm rather than passing just between two friends. I also appreciate that some of the kindnesses are material and some are intangible. Entertaining and encouraging for little ones like T, discussion worthy for bigger boys like B, How Kind is a great way to illustrate or expand upon the Golden Rule.
Appropriate for: babies, toddlers, preschoolers.

Have your come across any great books for teaching kindness and compassion? I’d love to hear about them – or any other good stuff you’re reading!


Feed Me Books Friday: Unless You Enjoy Counting to 600

Friday, May 13, 2011

You Need Another Reference

The other day, B announced that he could keep a balloon in the air by swatting at it for 10 minutes without letting it hit the ground. I suggested that was a pretty long time and he might want to start a little easier. He asked the question that so many parents have tried to explain accurately: “How long is it?” I’ve tried things like, “As long as it takes to drive to the library,” “Long enough to sing 4 or 5 Wiggles songs,” and even, “About as long as it takes to make macaroni and cheese.” But on this particular day, my response was, “Long enough to count to 600.” So of course, he wants ME to count to 600 while he swats at the balloon. No, thanks. It’s moments like these that we realize just how hard it is for our toddlers and preschoolers to develop an accurate concept of time. They certainly won’t have it down before kindergarten; in fact they’ll likely continue to hone this cognitive skill well into elementary school. Gains in mathematical understanding help with the short term measurements, but concepts of months and years and generations are still challenging. (By the way, I set the kitchen timer rather than counting, and he tired out before the 10 minute mark but definitely got a work-out!)

Establishing a Context
How Long?
When trying to explain a time period to a child, the best we can usually do is to help give them a frame of reference that they can relate to. As evidenced by my many attempts above, it doesn’t always work. Sometimes because the child has never really considered the time involved in the chosen reference. Other times, the question of time arises out of anticipation, which skews even adult notions of the passage of time. Our recent library find, How Long, by Elizabeth Dale both addresses the elusive understanding of time and captures a sentimental expression of the timelessness of a mother’s love. The story begins when Caroline (a young mouse) tries to figure out how long she has to wait when her mother says “in a minute.” She uses activities like painting, lining up toys, and digging to measure the increments of time her mother attaches to various activities in her day. At the end, Caroline asks how long she will be loved, and her mother changes her response from minutes to the abstract, as a mother’s love is immeasurable. She assures Caroline that she will love her for “as long as it took to make all the stars in the sky, and everything else there is.” This kind of explanation defies mathematics and hearkens more to the kind of estimations found in Guess How Much I Love You. The combination of both a teaching tool and a heartwarming bedtime story prompted me to add this title to our wish list, but not before we meet our renewal quota at the library! How long is 3 weeks, anyway?
Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades. For some additional time-themed books and activities, check out Scholastic’s Ages and Stages article.

How was your Mother’s Day? Anybody come across an awesome book about moms or family relationships? Always on the lookout! (I got a lesson in my son's perspective as I spent last night wondering, How long until Blogger is back up?" If you came looking for a link up earlier, I apologize!)
Hourglass photo credit: fotopedia


Feed Me Books Friday: Which Would You Vote For?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Considering the Nominations

This week (May 2-May 8) is Children’s Book Week. Originally an effort in 1919 by the librarian for the Boy Scouts of America to improve the quality of children’s books, Children’s Book Week has since been overseen by the Children’s Book Council and the Every Child a Reader Program, a philanthropic effort on behalf of the children’s publishing industry. Prior to Children’s Book Week, children can participate in voting on-line or through classroom and library events for the books nominated for the Children’s Choice Book Awards. Books are nominated in five categories: 3 age ranges plus author and illustrator of the year categories. We requested the 5 titles in B’s age range and the 5 illustration nominations from our library so we could submit an educated vote (and share our thoughts with you). I’m curious – are you familiar with these? Did you vote? Even if you didn’t, what would your choice have been?

Book of the Year K-2
Shark vs. Train
Shark Vs Train by Chris Barton

Very clever comparison story based on the premise of two boys playing with toys (a shark and a train) and discussing who would win. What is both entertaining and educational is the discovery that the nature of the contest has a very significant role in the outcome. A shark might eat more pies but a train would be a more popular carnival ride, for example.
Little Pink Pup
Little Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby

This is the true story of a runt piglet adopted by the family dog and raised in an unusual way. The book is illustrated with photographs, which accents its non-fiction appeal. The story is cute on a literal level yet just below the surface is a powerful message on accepting differences in others.
Even Monsters Need Haircuts
Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott

While the imagination and humor involved in this story are entertaining, I have to say it may be a little more than some younger children are ready for. The story itself is not the least bit menacing or threatening. A little boy takes over his father’s barber shop at night and provides haircuts to a parade of monsters and other fantastic creatures. While neither the text or the illustrations intend to make the monsters scary, the prospect of explaining each type of monster (Frankenstein, medusa, werewolf) to my preschooler who is yet unfamiliar with these specific characters was enough to make me think twice about sharing this one with B.
How Rocket Learned to Read
How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills

In this endearing story, Rocket the puppy unwittingly finds himself the student of an eager to teach bird who is enamored with reading and the alphabet. Rocket is initially disinterested in her lessons, but she lures him in by reading aloud from an enticing story. He is soon practicing letters, spelling, and reading, even though the bird must fly south for winter. He eagerly anticipates her return and resuming his studies. Appealing to book lovers and reluctant readers alike, Rocket really demonstrates the power and joy of reading.
 Hot Rod HamsterHot Rod Hamster by Cynthia Lord

This book is an interesting combination of text styles. As the hamster goes about assembling a hot rod, there are bouncy, almost Suess-like rhymes posing choices in the decision making process. Children can use the rhymes as well as the illustrations to interact with the story. Between choices, the story progresses through the use of cartoon call-out style dialogue between the hamster and other animals. The many facets of this book allow it to appeal to a wide audience.

Illustrator of the Year
Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique
Robin Preiss Glasser for Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique
Detailed drawings and lots of action make these illustrations study-worthy.
Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You
Nancy Tillman for Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You
At once surreally-magical and disarmingly realistic, the illustrations are truly works of art.
Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion
Mo Willems for Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion
The combination of cartoonish drawings superimposed on realistic photographs is intriguing and entertaining. Willems also has a brilliant talent for using cartoon characters’ faces to express a huge range of emotions.
Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
Loren Long for Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
The illustrations of this ode to patriotism and childhood are just the right combination of peaceful and invigorating and whimsical.
Art & Max
David Wiesner for Art & Max
The creativity and imagination present in these illustrations is undeniable. The story is completely intertwined with the unfolding of the artwork, and each page’s illustration is part of the progress of the experience.

Our Choices:

How Rocket Learned to Read appealed to both B and I because of his current anticipation of kindergarten and my soft-spot for any one (or any bird) that can teach another to love reading.

David Wiesner is truly a genius illustrator and we couldn’t help buy enjoy and appreciate the thought, creativity, and talent evident in Art & Max. It’s the kind of art that while I might not aspire to duplicate, I am inspired to attempt a creative outlet of my own.

So – have you read these? Share your thoughts, your vote, or which you’re most intrigued to go find.

I have a request – each year for mother’s day I try to find a book that captures something special about the experience of being a mother or the relationship between mother and child. Last year I picked, Mother, Mother I Want Another. Haven’t decided for this year… suggestions?

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Subscribe to the Little Sprout feed!

Fine Print

I retain the copyright to all content and images. Should you desire to use either, please link back to me.

Booklinks are Amazon Affiliate links, and may earn a 4% commission for me.

Otherwise, I receive no compensation for the books I review, and all recommendations are made because we love them!

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

  © Blogger template Foam by Ourblogtemplates.com 2009

Back to TOP