Tag Archives: nonsense

Favorite Childhood Authors

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about my childhood favorite authors. Though some of them may be obvious, they include:

  • Roald Dahl
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Jon Scieszka
  • Eric Kimmel
  • Beverly Cleary
  • Judy Blume
  • E.B. White
  • Eric Carle

As I mentioned yesterday, Roald Dahl continues to be a favorite of mine. As much as I loved any other author, he was always first. His putting children first as the hero is part of what has made him an enduring figure in the children’s literature canon. He has an entire month (it’s Scrumdiddlyumptious September) dedicated to him! He also recognizes that children love silly things. Who else would come up with a word like scrumdiddlyumptious? And what are snozzcumbers? If you’ve read The BFG, you know!

Reading The Twits, 1993

The author, age 10

Nonsense is part of what makes children’s literature so fun to read, even as an adult. Dr. Seuss is the all-time master of nonsense. The reason nonsense is so important is because it triggers the imagination. What kinds of words can you make up? What do they mean? Say something silly and then try to define it. By doing so, you’re working on literacy skills and vocabulary. Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelusky are favorites because of their awareness of the power of silly. Another silly favorite? Jon Scieszka. From The Stinky Cheese Man to The Frog Prince Continued to The Time Warp Trio series, everything I read by him was ridiculous and made me laugh.

Not everything I was a fan of as a child was silly. Like a lot of children from the 80s and becoming big readers in the 90s, I loved The Babysitter’s Club and The Boxcar Children. Series books are still popular with kids and it’s not hard to see why. You get to follow characters over a period of time and many adventures. These characters gain depth and you get to know them. It also makes the question “What do I read next?” very easy to answer.

I was also a fan of classic children’s literature. I tore through The Secret Garden, couldn’t get enough of Anne of Green Gables (and the rest of her stories), and loved Ramona. Obviously I was a fan of historical fiction and realistic fiction. I also loved folktales. Eric Kimmel is an astounding storyteller and very prolific. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins was my absolute favorite Chanukah book growing up, so much so that I would take it out of my parent’s closet at random times of the year just to read it because I couldn’t wait until Chanukah rolled around again.

Another category I adored was fantasy. Though I wasn’t as into dragons and knights, I liked animal stories, particularly those by E.B. White. My copy of Stuart Little is falling apart, but that’s because it is so well loved. Recently, I picked up a copy of Charlotte’s Web, which is an enduring favorite of many children. Though not as fantastical as some, these both represent the breadth of fantasy novels.

And speaking of animals, the work of Eric Carle is beloved because of his artwork and representation of animals. Admittedly, I started reading him later on, when my younger brother was given The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This beautiful picture book drew me in and made me a lifelong fan. Picture books are wonderful for children of all ages and you never know what’s going to catch a child’s eye at any age.

Many children have a wide variety of interests and you never know what might snag them into reading and reading a lot. Though obviously anyone interested in working with children should attempt to keep up with the ever changing field of children’s literature, introducing a child to one of your childhood favorites is a great place to hook children in. Your passion for the text often translates into the way you talk about it. That enthusiasm is contagious. Shel Silverstein is still a favorite of children and it’s not just because he’s silly. It’s also because of the generations of children that loved him before and shared that love with the next group of kids.

Share the love. Share your favorites!

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday and for a blog named after one of his quotes, he must be honored. It would be hard not to anyway as Dr. Seuss colored my childhood much like he did to many others and as he continues to do today.

Dr. Seuss published over 60 books and is known as the creator of the easy reader (Random House, 2011). That first title? The Cat in the Hat, which he wrote in 1957 when asked to write a book for children using less than 300 words (Vardell, 2008, p. 46). These simple vocabulary books, many of which are easily found searching for Seuss’ Beginner Books series, often have chapters and are designed to help children develop the vocabulary and confidence in reading they need to transition from picture books to chapter books. Often silly, these books teach children a love of reading.  Seuss’ influence in this area is so profound that the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) has named an award after him. The Geisel Award is given to “author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year” (ALSC, n.d.). You can see all of his early readers and ones inspired by him on the official Dr. Seuss Website, Seussville.

So how can we celebrate the birthday of the man that taught many children to love to read and still has an influence today? We can have special storytimes while wearing the Cat in the Hat hat (and there are a number of excellent books to choose from). Designed for teachers, A to Z Teacher Stuff has a list of lesson plans and activities for celebrating this special day. If you’re looking for a way to integrate electronic resources, there are a number of Seuss related apps available both for Apple products and Android based ones. You can try having a  writing day, employing the Seuss-ical style of anapestic tetrameter and silly, nonsense words. Or check out these amazing Dr. Seuss-inspired cakes!

The most important thing to remember is to have fun with whatever you do to celebrate this day. As the man himself said: “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” So do something silly, make up some words, plants, or animals, but do something. If you get into it, kids will too and that’s the best way to honor Dr, Seuss, the best reading teacher of all time.

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ALSC. (n.d.) Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/geiselaward/geiselabout/index.cfm

Random House. (2011). Seussville. Retrieved from http://www.seussville.com/#/home

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

National Pancake Day

Though it seems weird to have my inaugural post be something other than “hi, welcome to the blog!”, today is National Pancake Day and that deserves some respect.

So what does National Pancake Day have to do with children’s literature? Well, a lot actually. My first thought after starting this blog and realizing the importance of today (because a day dedicated to pancakes cannot be anything other than important, right?), I thought of a very special book from my childhood. That book is, of course, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Book CoverThis was the book that I checked out from the library over and over again and part of that had to do with the pancake that lands on the school. How utterly ridiculous is that? That kind of nonsense is what draws some children in to read. Of course we know a pancake could never land on a school. But what if it did? What would a town like Chewandswallow actually be like? I think this book could be a part of a fun National Pancake Day lesson. Why not read it while eating pancakes? Or after teaching children to make pancakes?

There is a wide variety of cookbooks for kids. Everyone from high end cookware retailer Williams-Sonoma (The Cookbook for Kids: Great Recipes for Kids Who Love to Cook) to Nickelodeon (Dora and Diego – Let’s Cook) has come out with a cookbook that will help you teach kids how to cook. This kind of tactile learning is important for some children and can help connect the imaginary world of a book to real life.

So dig into a short stack of pancakes and books and celebrate National Pancake Day!