Friday, October 28, 2011

As I promised last week, I have a selection of Halloween “treats” to share this week. B has (thankfully) not found the allure of gruesome decorations or jump out of your skin scary movies. We put a decorative metal pumpkin with tiny cut-out swirls and a little flickering tea light on his dresser and he is thoroughly pleased with the degree of “spooky-ness.”  I am elated that he has no desire to dress up as some blood-oozing monster. He’ll be outfitted as an astronaut and enjoying Halloween in the way I’ve always found it most appealing: an opportunity to try on a new persona for an evening (and indulge in way too much chocolate)!
Silly, Not Scary
Both of my choices this week turn what might normally be scary characters and contexts into humorous and innocuous entertainment. Allison McGhee’s A Very Brave Witch takes the line of reasoning that witches might very well be afraid of humans! Told by a first-person narrator witch through the use of dialogue bubbles, the story begins by asserting that witches find humans terrifying. Our narrator, a curious young witch herself, decides to find out what exactly is so scary. After a flying mishap, she is assisted by some very helpful (and non-scary) trick-or-treaters. Their friendly exchange convinces her there is nothing to worry about, and she even takes one reader on a ride on her broom.
Iza Trapani uses a similar turn-the-tables approach in her counting book, Haunted Party. A ghost is the host at this party, which begins by counting up a parade of creepy creature guests: mummies, gobblins, werewolves, etc. Number ten is represented by trick-or-treaters at the door, which sends the creatures into a frightened fit. Count back from ten to one as the creatures take off and escape. After one last “Boo,” the final illustration shows the ghost relaxing on the porch littered with candy wrappers and trick-or-treat bags. While it is implied that the ghost scared away the trick-or-treaters, it isn’t explicitly stated, which makes it easy to select your degree of fright.
Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, primary.
B and T both get to have Halloween/Harvest celebrations at school on Monday, and I’m taking goodies for each to share – the non-sugary variety. So far my plan is tiny Halloween notepads from Joann’s with Halloween pencils for B, and stickers and spider rings for T’s younger group. Any other creative and brilliant suggestions?


Feed Me Books Friday: Up Close and Personal

Friday, October 21, 2011

Most children’s books would be incomplete if not useless without their illustrations. Yet most books I review catch my attention for their story line or moral, and the pictures are secondary.  Recently we borrowed A Closer Look, by Mary McCarthy, from the library and the pictures as well as the concept have me wanting to go explore the world in a new way. The paper collage illustrations look at several objects from a series of perspectives: ultra-close-up, close, and complete object. Children are challenged to guess what they are looking at before the complete object is revealed. Likely to incite some creative discussion as well as some giggles. For a more realistic approach, check out any of Tana Hoban’s Look books, or Shelly Rotner’s Close, Closer, Closest. We’ve enjoyed more that one of Hoban’s adventures in the zoom lens thanks to our library – they make me want to explore some creative photography of my own. We have not read Rotner’s book, but found it associated with my other choices on Amazon and I’ll now be on the look-out for it!

Appropriate for toddlers, preschool, primary grades.
Any of these titles could be inspiration for some artwork – collage or photographic – of your own.  B enjoys the mystery pictures and guessing their identity, I’m not confident he has the cognitive development to generate multiple perspectives on the same picture without a model. I’m thinking we could go on a photography adventure together, then use photographs at various stages of zoom to replicate in another medium. Artistic and crafty readers: help me flesh out this idea! Photography buffs: ever attempted something like this?
Looking for good reads for Halloween? You can check out my Halloween suggestions from last year for now, and I’ll be adding my favorites for this year next week. I invite you to share your Halloween choices next week too, though of course any book links are always welcome!

eye photo courtesy Look Into My Eyes on flickr


Feed Me Books Friday: Velcro?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Independence versus Skills
My son’s teacher has a shoe-tying policy. I haven’t decided if I find it funny or disturbing. I’m navigating this new world of not knowing EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of what goes on in the classroom, and I’m trying not to rush to judgment. She mentioned her policy at back to school night. Children who have not learned to tie their shoes by Halloween should wear Velcro because she will not be tying them in November. In some ways, this is a very logical, common sense position: 64 untied shoelaces could take up the bulk of her just-over-3-hour session. At the same time, isn’t there a difference between the child who is chronically dragging his untied shoelaces along behind him and the one who is struggling with the dexterity and has an occasional moment of frustration? (Even writing this, I’m feeling like an enabler…)
Make it IM-personal
B has started to practice shoe-tying. He WANTS to be able to do it. He tied his own shoes every day of our recent trip (even though I sometimes had to re-tie later) and even tied his brother’s (which is no easy task on a squirmy 2 year old). But this week he’s back to wanting me to do it, which I believe is thanks to a combination of morning sluggishness and a lack of confidence in his (often loose) tying abilities. He is concerned they’ll come undone at school and he’ll either have to take the time to fix them or ask for help. Some of the best advice I’ve read about teaching  to tie shoes is to remove the pressure of getting ready and make it more maneuverable at the same time by having them practice on someone else’s (often larger) shoe whether or not it is currently on a foot. So when I saw Don’t Lose Your Shoes in the scholastic book order from B’s preschool teacher last spring, I thought it would be a great practice tool! The book has a three part cover. A laced-up “shoe” panel folds open next to the pages bound between the front and back so that children can practice the actions along with the story. The text tells the plight of Eric, a monkey who is plagued by untied shoes tripping him up at the playground. With the help of some animal friends, Eric learns to lace and tie his shoes. Each page of the book illustrates a different step in the process as Eric learns it. Children can follow along on the shoelace panel. The inside cover also has a visual reminder of the steps for practice. Following the steps in the story produces a double-loop or “bunny ear” style knot and bow. If intend to teach your child a different tactic, this story won’t be much good to you. Otherwise, the story is engaging, the tool is useful, and the connection of a narrative to the manipulation of the laces might just be the bridge between cognitive and physical development that your child needs.
Appropriate for preschoolers, (and primary students still practicing).
So help me out, do you think the teacher is using humor to encourage parents to work on this skill at home, or do you think she’s a burned-out shoe-tier? Should I be pushing the practice with laces or shopping for Velcro and cinch-ups? Is one tying method superior to another? Should I teach more than one to see if it comes easier or will that just confuse him? Hope you’ll help me out! (and share what you’re reading, too!)

photo courtesy kasahara on flickr


Feed Me Books Friday: Have You Been Counted?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

We Read for the Record, Did You?
<Jumpstart's Read for the RecordOctober 6 marks Jumpstart's annual Read for the Record campaign to end the early education achievement gap. Even if you didn't pledge to read in advance, you can be counted for your efforts up until October 14. 
In Print or Virtual, a Soothing Choice

This year's book choice was Llama, Llama, Red Pajama. Already a favorite in our house, Anna  Dewdney's Llama series is always a combination of giggles and warm fuzzies. Even though Baby Llama has trouble going to bed and Mama Llama ends up a little frazzled by Baby's drama, Mama calmly delivers the reassuring message all little ones need to hear in their emotional development: "Mama Llama's always near, even if she's not right HERE." Even if you don't own a copy of this book, you can enjoy it online, with lovely narration, by viewing it at wegivebooks.org. It's far from the only great book on the site, and you'll get double the warm fuzzies by sharing books with your kids and counting your efforts toward a worthy literacy cause at the same time. If you're not already a member at we give books, do it today, even if you're not counting toward the record. 
Appropriate for, toddlers, preschoolers.
Did you read for the record? Do you use we give books? Please let me know in the comments!

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