Tag Archives: authors

Happy Birthday to Me: Books about Birthdays

Today is my birthday and as much as I love mine, I know children love theirs more. Because of this love, birthdays are a common topic in children’s literature, from the parties that make their lives to the embarrassing moments that make them wish their birthday had never happened. Here are some great stories about birthdays:

  • 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass. Imagine having your birthday happen over and over again. Sounds like fun, right? Well, what if it was the worst day of your life and your former friend and birthdaymate was going through the same thing? A funny story about friendship, and time, go awry. Finally is the sequel and though the main character is different, birthdays still play a prominent role.
  • Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party by Melanie Watt. For younger kids, this is a hilarious tale of what to do and not do at a birthday party (answer: sit quietly) that you didn’t even want to have. This is a great addition to the other Scaredy Squirrel stories and will be appreciated by shy kids who haven’t always had the easiest time at birthday parties.
  • A Party for Papa Luis/Una Fiesta para Papa Luis by Diana Gonzales Bertrand. A bilingual cumulative tale tells the story of the preparations for Papa Luis’ birthday fiesta!
  • Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique by Jane O’Connor. What’s a post about birthdays without a Fancy Nancy book? When her sister’s birthday party takes a bad turn, Fancy Nancy helps out with her fabulous fashion sense and products from her front yard boutique.

Celebrate birthdays all year with these fun stories.

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Always Time for Poetry: National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month and even though it’s close to the end, there’s always time for poetry. In the text for my children’s information services class, Vardell mentions that for many people, poets end after Silverstein and Prelutsky. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because a good foundation means you have something to build on.

There is a lot of really great poetry out there for kids today. Just like anything else in children’s literature it pays to find out what the interests are of the child you’re working with.

Do they like humor stories like Captain Underpants? Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky are obvious (and still good) choices, but have you read the hilarious poetry available at Giggle Poetry? It’s separated into sections, like tall tales or silly rhymes and is easy to navigate.

How about animals? A common interest for children, animals appear a lot in poetry compilations, like the 2011 ALA Notable In the Wild by David Elliott, which uses beautiful woodcuts to show off the animals and compliment the poems. Along the animal/humorous line is A Whiff of Pine, A Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems by Deborah Ruddell. My favorite is the one about the turkey complaining about its portrait done using a child’s hand.

Even classic poetry can be reused for children. My favorite recent example of this is My People. The poem is by Langston Hughes and it is made new again by Charles R. Smith, Jr.’s photography that illustrates the words of the poem and makes it perfect for children. My People was the 2010 Illustrator Coretta Scott King Award winner.

Other areas of interest to find poetry are:

Experiment with different types of poetry: limericks, sijo, haiku, ballads, refrain, free verse. Combining interest with rhyme is an easy way to expand the world of a child. Poetry can be fun and interesting if there doesn’t have to be a right answer. All you have to do is read it aloud. Try this Silverstein poem and see if it doesn’t put a smile on your face or the face of a child. It’s one of my favorites and I remembered that recently as it is posted on my internship site supervisor’s desk.

Tree House

A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches
Cozy as can be house.

A street house, a neat house,
Be sure and wipe your feet house
Is not my kind of house at all–
Let’s go live in a tree house.

Have a good rest of poetry month! Read it aloud. You’ll be surprised at how much fun poetry can be.

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Silverstein, S. (1974). Where the sidewalk ends: The poems & drawings of Shel Silverstein. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Vardell, S. M. (2008). Children’s literature in action: A librarian’s guide. Westport, CN: Libraries Unlimited.

Focus on the Illustrator: Il Sung Na

I mentioned Il Sung Na back in my post about spring, but I’ve recently had a chance to look at more of Na’s work and I am still impressed. The paint like layers lend texture to the illustrations and each part seems to play delicately with the others. Na has created worlds of every day animals rendered anew, whether they are sleeping as they are in A Book of Sleep or an elephant that can’t figure out an umbrella like in The Thingamabob.

Though Na does not have many works to look through yet (book number 5, Hide and Seek, comes out in July), they are all beautiful and are as lovely to read as they are to look at. Again, I highly recommend Spring Rabbit, Snow Rabbit, which really works for any season.

The delicate illustrations will draw children in. Watch how the rabbit changes or how the fish keeps its eyes open in sleep. These books are really wonders to behold.

Focus on the Illustrator: Eric Carle

I’ve realized that throughout this blog, I’ve mentioned Eric Carle a number of times. When talking about children’s literature with non-librarians, when I mention him, all I have to say is The Very Hungry Caterpillar and they know who I am talking about. His style is written in the memories of many children and his dedication to children’s learning is impressive.

Like many of my favorite illustrators, Carle is also an author. He has, through writing and illustrating, been involved in more than 70 different books and his stories have been translated into dozens of languages.

What makes Carle such an important influence of children’s literature? In my opinion, it’s how he writes for children and, more importantly in this blog post, how he illustrates. Using a unique collage style, his illustrations are always very colorful and very interesting to look at. His focus on nature, as seen through The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Tiny Seed, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and The Very Lonely Firefly, among many others, is something that children love to read about.

Carle is not something new to most readers, but he is someone to pay attention to. Through his many board books, he has taught many children about concepts such as shapes, colors, sounds, and the alphabet. His legacy is so great that he has a museum dedicated to his work. Another great part of Carle’s style is how children love to emulate it. An idea for a lesson plan is to read some of his works and then try to make collages using his hand painted paper style. It’s another way to connect kids to literature and make them a part of it.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which is an official feast day in Ireland, and is a celebration of Irish culture all over the world. Other than everything green, St. Patrick’s Day can be celebrated by learning a little more about what’s behind all those shamrocks and leprechauns.

Information books, also known as non-fiction, are an often underused category of children’s literature, which is unfortunate because there is a plethora of well written and engaging information books available to youth. One important reason to try to expand your knowledge of non-fiction is the appeal these books hold for boys. In 2005, Lee Galda, a professor of children’s literature at the University of Minnesota was quoted about the worth of nonfiction in the Washington Post (Strauss, p. A12):

A lot of teachers think of reading as reading stories. And in fact, a lot of boys, and not just boys, like nonfiction. But we keep concentrating on novels or short stories and sometimes don’t think of reading nonfiction as reading. But in fact it is, and it is extremely important.

This is not new information. In 1998, author and teacher Stephanie Harvey published Nonfiction Matters: Reading, Writing, and Research in Grades 3-8. This text is designed for teachers to integrate more nonfiction into their classrooms and to pay attention to the power of nonfiction, which “demands that learners select a real topic that interests them” (Harvey, 1998, p. 4). It also demands that there are good topics of interest available that are well written and researched.

So, back to St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland. One of the premiere nonfiction authors for is Susan Campbell Bartoletti. This award winning nonfiction author penned Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850, an amazing information book that is ideal for middle grade readers and us is about the potato famine that, among other things, caused a wave of Irish immigration to the United States. Other great information books about St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture include:

Of course nonfiction isn’t the only way to educate children about Ireland and St. Patrick’s day. There a number of great folktales from Ireland as well as great early readers, picture books, and fiction stories, but today I thought nonfiction deserved some focus.

To check out great information books for children on any topic, check out the Sibert Informational Book Medal winner and honor books awarded by the ALSC or the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, which is awarded by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). It should be noted that Bartoletti has won both of these awards for Black Potatoes and has been honored by both for other information books. If you find book you really enjoy, check out what else they have written. Once bitten by the nonfiction bug, authors tend to write a lot of books about many topics. Once you’re bitten, you’ll want to read and share many of them.

Go gcuire Dia an t-ádh ort! (Best of luck to you!)

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Harvey, S. (1998). Nonfiction matters: Reading, writing, and research in grades 3-8. York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Strauss, V. (2005, March 15). Educators differ on why boys lag in reading: Gap stokes debate over teaching approaches, curricula. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35057-2005Mar14.html

Focus on the Illustrator: Rachel Isadora

Until I started my children’s information resources class this term, I had not heard of Rachel Isadora and that is a shame. She is an amazing author and illustrator and I am now completely in love with her work. She is the author or illustrator of over 58 different books and each bears her unique style of illustration. Many characters look like they have been carved out of wood, though her style changes based on the story, which is what makes her work so endearing. The illustrations are as much a part of the story being told as the text.

Isadora started out as a dancer, but was sidelined by a foot injury. Though no longer an active dancer, her background appears from time to time in books like On Your Toes: A Ballet ABC and Lili at Ballet. She is also a mother and has written some beautiful picture books using predictive text that young readers will love, like Uh-Oh!, Peekaboo Morning, and Peekaboo Bedtime.

My favorites so far have been her African adaptations of traditional European folktales. She weaves in vocabulary from African languages seamlessly and the stories, while still reminiscent of their source material, take on new life. Check out her new classics that I loved:

I hope to see much more work out of Isadora in the future, which is not hard to imagine because she has been quoted as saying

“Because ballet is so demanding, dancers’ stage careers are short. They can only dream of going on and on forever. With art, I can go on and on, and for me it’s the only work that compares in intensity and joy.”

Focus on the Illustrator: Nikki McClure

I am fortunate enough to live in the same region as author and illustrator Nikki McClure. At Crafty Wonderland last winter, I almost met her, but instead was shy and admired her work from a distance. What I really like about McClure’s work is her very unique illustration style, which is created through paper cuts. Though simple in color schemes, this type of work takes a long time and a delicate hand.

One of my favorite books by McClure is Mama, Is It Summer Yet?. Using the world of nature around her, McClure shows the transitioning of spring to summer in a unique way that will delight children.Younger readers and new parents seem to love Awake to Nap, which is all about a baby’s day.

Even though paper cutting is difficult to replicate, attempting to do so will show children just how much work goes into creating her stories. If you haven’t seen any of her work, I highly recommend her.