We don’t often review board books on our Friday Book Review – mostly because there isn’t usually a lot to say. A good board book is extraordinarily simple: short words, clear pictures, few pages. But one thing that can take a great board book and turn it into a book you hesitate to hand over to your baby or toddler is novelty factors; we’re talking flaps to be lifted, tabs to be pulled, and those dreaded little felt pieces on ribbons that stick to the pages with Velcro. There’s no denying that kids love these kinds of extra features, but for parents and librarians they can be a nightmare when they end up ripped or broken after only a few readings. This is why I was so pleased to see Spoonful! by Benoit Marchon and Soledad Bravi – it has all the best features of a great board book, with a novelty factor that won’t make adults want to cry.
Spoonful is a brightly colored, simply-worded board book with fun illustrations and nice, repetitive text. The first page shows a toddler at his little red table, with a bowl and spoon and the text “Open wide, it’s time to eat!” Each subsequent page features a different person or animal for whom there is a spoonful: “A spoonful for Daddy,” “A spoonful for Mommy,” “A spoonful for the dinosaur,” “A spoonful for the fairy princess,” and so on. The catch? A die-cut that runs through every page shows baby’s head (actually illustrated on the final page of the book) on each character’s body. Baby’s face, with wide open mouth, appears on the bird and the astronaut, the worm and the witch. On the final page, baby is back at his little red table and the text reads “Hooray! You ate it all!”
In the world of board books, this one is a clear winner. Not only are the illustrations bright, simple, and absolutely adorable, but the repetitive text is a perfect fit for the intended age group and the mystery of seeing who gets a spoonful next will keep little ones interested. The novelty of the die-cut is one that kids will love (but fortunately, not one they can destory!), and parents may find this a great way to get reluctant eaters to finish up dinner – one spoonful at a time!
Publication Information: Spoonful by Benoit Marchon and Soledad Bravi. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 2013. ISBN: 978-0547893136.
One of the coolest things about being a librarian in New Jersey is all the other cool New Jersey librarians who are doing amazing things. An incredible example of this is the Garden State Children’s Book Awards (GSCBA)! These book awards have a ballot that is put together by a committee of members from the New Jersey Library Association’s Children’s Services Section and distributed to school and public libraries all across the state so that New Jersey’s kids can vote on their favorite books every year! I’m not on the GSCBA committee, but I do think the work they do is an awesome way to give kids a say in the books and authors that are honored each year. The 2013 awards were announced in February and the 2014 ballot was just released, so in the coming months we’ll be taking a look at each category here on the Children’s Room blog!
Today’s category: Easy Readers
For those who aren’t familiar, Easy Readers (also sometimes called Emerging Readers or Leveled Readers) are books that we often suggest to kids who are starting to read on their own. These books tend to contain a lot of sight words, large font, repetition, etc. A lot of these books will have reading levels indicated by the publisher on the front or back cover.
Check out last year’s Easy Reader winner – the ever-popular Fly Guy!
2013 Winner: Easy-to-Read Category
And scroll through our gallery below to view the Easy Reader titles that are nominated for the 2014 award:
If any of these are favorites for the kids in your life, make sure you get out to your local New Jersey library before the end of the year and have them vote for their pick! And check back with us soon to see what’s nominated in the other categories for the 2014 Garden State Children’s Book Awards!
If there’s a kid in your life who loves transportation, you probably can’t get your hands on enough books about buses, trains, and automobiles. At the library we have a few kids who’ve been through all of our transportation books a dozen times, so I’m always on the lookout for something new and different. Imagine my delight when a donation copy of Christophe Merlin’s Under the Hood came across my desk!
Something’s wrong with Mr. Bear’s car, and he intends to find out what the problem is. Luckily for Mr. Bear, he owns a garage and he’s got plenty of friends that can help him out – or so he thinks. Mr. Bear soon discovers that wrangling his friends might be harder than he expected; and although his car is eventually ready for a test drive, he cautiously brings his toolbox along. Fortunately for Mr. Bear, his friends have learned their lesson and when he finds himself in need, his buddies come to the rescue!
This lift-the-flap books is extraordinarily simple, and that’s what makes it so much fun. Coming in at just 12 pages (13, if you count the spread that is an entire lift-the-flap itself) with only a sentence or two per page, its great for car-obsessed little ones with short attention spans. Instead of getting bogged down with a complicated plot, Merlin places most of the emphasis on retro-inspired illustrations with flaps that lift to reveal all kinds of hidden gems. Little readers will be able to open Mr. Bear’s garage doors, then find a flap underneath that allows them to lift the cover off the car, and find yet another flap that opens the car door for a peek inside. Flaps will also allow readers to check under the hood, look in the trunk, explore the compartments of Mr. Bear’s toolbox, sneak a look at who’s riding in the police van, and find all of Mouse’s favorite spots for napping. Those looking for a good story will be disappointed by the short, simple nature of the text. But those looking for a book that kids will want to flip through again and again will be thrilled to find the kind of picture book that can truly be explored.
Though some parents may be hesitant to put a lift-the-flap in little hands, this one is just too much fun to miss!
Publication Information: Under the Hood by Christophe Merlin. Candlewick, October 2011. ISBN: 076365535X.
A few weeks ago I did a seed-planting program with my elementary school kids, and I had to title the blog post “Wishful Thinking,” because despite our best efforts to celebrate spring we had snow on the ground that day. But it seems our wishful thinking actually paid off! At today’s Preschool Playtime our theme was “Let’s Grow” and we finally got a beautiful spring day to put is in the mood for such a theme!
We started out this month’s Preschool Playtime by getting right to our craft project – decorating mini terracotta pots for seed planting. I usually try my hardest to avoid using paint with the kids because we tend to have about an 8 to 1 ratio of kids to adults at our events, and paint is just too messy for one librarian to control (don’t even get me started on glitter). But this time I couldn’t resist the adorableness factor of decorating our pots with thumbprint caterpillars. Simply stick a small amount of washable paint into the cups of a muffin tin; each color can go in a different cup and that helps mitigate the problem of all the paint running into one brown blob. You don’t need much of each color – just enough to make a thumbprint.
Then have kids dip a thumb in their color of choice and press a thumbprint onto the pot (or paper, poster board, cup, etc.). Add another print next to the first, then another, and so on until you have a sizable caterpillar body. You can use a paintbrush or even a permanent marker (once the paint dries) to add eyes and antennae. In just a few minutes you have a cute caterpillar to decorate your pot!
We left our creations to dry and moved on to storytime. Books like Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Lois Ehlert’s Planting a Rainbow, and Ruth Krauss’ The Carrot Seed all work well for this theme, but there are a host of other books out there about planting, growing, gardening, and even caterpillars. After a few stories and songs, we moved on to have our snack. When our pots were finally dry enough to withstand being handled, we took turns scooping dirt, choosing seeds, and watering our new plants.
What a great way to celebrate our first bout of real spring weather!
Anyone who knows anything about anything knows that Jedi Master Yoda knows absolutely everything. So its no surprise that author Tom Angleberger’s middle grade novel features a pint-sized paper-folded version of the all-knowing Jedi.
Something strange is going on in the 6th grade. When dorky Dwight starts carrying around an origami Yoda finger puppet, everyone just assumes its another example of how strange the kid is. But Dwight insists that his origami Yoda has powers – and when Yoda starts predicting the future, catching petty thieves, and handing out good advice, a great debate begins in the 6th grade. Are Yoda’s powers real? Should his advice be followed? Tommy launches a scientific investigation to find out. Each student who has had encounters with Origami Yoda writes his or her own story – and shares his or her own opinion as to whether Yoda’s powers are real, or whether Dwight is making it all up.
Angleberger’s novel is a spot-on representation of the kind of fads that really can truly occupy the 6th grade mind for weeks at a time. Maybe its cootie catchers, maybe its M.A.S.H. games…maybe its origami finger puppets shaped like Star Wars characters. With authentic-sounding middle school voices, laugh-out-loud humor, and classic 6th grade situations, Origami Yoda is a fun read that’s bound to be a hit with the upper-elementary school set. The book’s look – with handwriting-style fonts, doodles in the margins, and pages designed to look like crumpled paper – will gain added points with fans of diary books like Wimpy Kid and Popularity Papers, and included instructions for folding your own origami Yoda make a nice bonus for parents or teachers trying to tie in a hands-on activity. For big fans, sequels abound – Darth Paper Strikes Back, The Secret of the Fortune Wookie, and an activity book titled Art2-D2′s Guide to Folding and Doodling.
School Library Journal recommends this book for students in grades 3-6.
Publication Information: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. Abrams, March 2010. ISBN: 978-0810984257.
February and March are two of my favorite months here at the library, and its not just because the holidays are over and Summer Reading has yet to begin. I love February and March because they are, respectively, Black History Month and Women’s History Month, and its so much fun to have an excuse to give kids a few history lessons! We always put up bulletin boards and book displays, and in past years we’ve done trivia sheets or passive contests as well. But this year I decided to go one step further and turn one of our after-school events in February and one in March into a Jeopardy game! I used “easier” questions for lower point values (people and events I know they’ve heard of, like Rosa Parks or J.K. Rowling) and searched out tougher or more obscure questions for the higher point values (like the number of active-duty women in the US military). Then I printed study guide sheets, which the kids had 15 minutes to study before each Jeopardy game; this gave them a chance to learn some of the more difficult stuff and refresh their memories on things they may have forgotten.
Then we began! The kids broke up into teams and had a blast choosing categories and answering questions. We kept score on a big poster board, and in the end all the members of our winning team received prize bags with pencils, stickers, snacks, and other goodies! Prizes, I’ve discovered, are truly the way to a kid’s heart; they were so enthusiastic about the prize bags after Black History Jeopardy that they wanted me to move Women’s History Jeopardy up to the next week.
I made sure each of the children took their study guides home with them, in the hope (however vain) that they would maybe look them over and retain some information. What have you done in your home, school, or library to celebrate these special months? Let us know in the comments!
We hear it all the time. Kids today – they just don’t know how to use their imaginations. They’re digitized, they’re desensitized, and they just don’t know how to pretend! Now, whether you believe this to be true or not (I myself see imagination abound in the kids I work with every day), I think what we all can agree upon is that imagination and pretend play are important. With this in mind, I was delighted to come across Kathryn White’s 2010 picture book Ruby’s School Walk, which follows one very imaginative little girl.
Ruby and her mom are on their way to school in the morning, but Ruby knows that all is not as it seems. Ruby’s mom insists that the things they see on their walk are ordinary; trees in the park, a stray tabby cat, an empty house for sale. But Ruby knows better. She recognizes the forest full of beasts, the tiger hiding behind the wall, the haunted house full of ghosts and witches, and all the other perils waiting for her as she makes her way to school. Fortunately, Ruby is equal to all of these challenges, rushing bravely at the “danger” she finds in her path. But when Ruby and her mom finally make it to school, brave and bold Ruby suddenly becomes unsure. Is a day at school away from her mother the one challenge Ruby doesn’t feel bold enough to tackle? Not to fear – Mom assures Ruby that her adventures will continue in the classroom, and with one last hug Ruby is on her way!
This rhyming picture book celebrates a little girl’s imagination with engaging text and bright, bold illustrations done my Miriam Latimer. Ruby – adorable in red rain boots and puffy pigtails – darts across the pages in illustrations that depict her chasing a “lion,” dancing in the sun to make a shadow that scares off the “crocodiles,” and doing her “magic hop-a-long” to ward off bats and witches. White’s rhyming text doesn’t quite live up to Latimer’s fun and energetic pictures – the rhymes, particularly those written in Ruby’s mother’s voice, are sometimes awkward and don’t quite fit together. Parents or educators looking to read this one aloud would do well to read it through a few times in advance if they’re looking to give it a nice rhythm. However, Ruby’s repeated response to her mother’s assurances – “But she was wrong / I must be brave, I mus be strong” – is a nice affirmation for little ones, and it appears often enough to give the book the repetition that so many kids enjoy.
Overall, Ruby’s School Walk is the best literary celebration of imagination for this age group that I’ve seen in a while, and it would also serve well as a reassuring text for kids who are nervous about spending the day at school away from a parent. Three cheers for brave and strong Ruby!
School Library Journal recommends this book for students in grades K-1.
Publication Information: Ruby’s School Walk by Kathryn White. Illustrations by Miriam Latimer. Barefoot Books, July 2010. ISBN: 978-1846862755.