Friday, August 28, 2009

The Wacky Wedding: A Book of Alphabet Antics written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and Illustrated by Henry Cole

This book was 31 pages long and after five of these reviews I am not surprised! From the very start I knew this was going to be a good book because of the title. Wacky is certainly the word that I would choose to describe this book. The story is about the Queen Ant of the colony and her marriage to one of the other ants. It recounts their journey to the alter. The wedding was perfect, but after that, the Queen falls into a puddle and gets whisked away. She is rescued however, and the celebration continues ending in the happy couple heading off on their honeymoon. Two things that make this book very special are that it is alphabet themed and the pictures. The alphabet theme is wonderful for the obvious reason that it will help students to learn their letters in a fun way. In addition, the fact that the author had to use every letter made for some amusing sentences. For example, " "Dear me!" cried a dragonfly. "Disgraceful" declared a drone in disgust." The pictures are very detailed and humorous. All of the bugs have great expressions on their faces, which was one of my favorite parts. It was also very impressive that the author was able to find a different bug for every letter!

Since this book is about the alphabet it would probably be more appropriate for younger students who are just starting to learn about letters. I believe that students will really respond to this book because of the comedy plus the words are really pretty silly. Plus the pictures have so much detail, there are a lot of opportunities for discussion and for kids to point things out.

Dooby Dooby Moo by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin

This story was 37 pages long. I am beginning to feel that children's books are longer than I remember! Anyway, this book really didn't feel long because the story and pictures were so entertaining. The story here is about Farmer Brown and his animals who are secretly very talented. Little does Farmer Brown know, but the ring leader of his animals, the duck, has signed everyone up for the County Fair Talent Show. Even though the Farmer tries to spy on his animals, he cant figure out what they are doing, which is practicing. The cows are sing Dooby, dooby, dooby moo and the pigs are doing an interpretive dance, the sheep are singing baa, baa, baa, baaabaaa. In the end they make it to the fair and perform their pieces, but they get mixed reviews from the judges. Then the duck gets up and sings"Born to Be Wild" (or rather quack, quack, quaaaaaaack!) and the judges declare him the winner. For winning, the animals get to bring home a trampoline. This time when Farmer Brown goes to check on them he hears, "Dooby, dooby, BOING" and "Fa la la la BOING" and "Whacka, whacka BOING." The pictures were all watercolor, which I loved. They were all very detailed and comical, another plus.

This was a very silly book and I enjoyed it a lot. I would say that it would be most appropriate for younger readers just because it was so simple. I also really think that students would enjoy the animal noises and maybe reading along with those parts in the book. All in all, it was a fun read that kids are sure to enjoy.

Also! This book is part of a series about Farmer Brown's animals :-)

The Bora-Bora Dress by Carole Lexa Schaffer Illustrated by Catherine Stock

This book was 28 pages long and had the most wonderful, fantastical illustrations. They are all done in watercolor and with wonderful detail. The figures are out of proportion but rather than being distracting it lends itself well to the slightly comical tone. The story of the Bora-Bora Dress is about a little girl named Lindsey and her mother who have been invited to a party put on by the little girl's Aunt Fiona. In order to attend the party they have to buy Lindsey a dress, which proves to be difficult as she is something of a tomboy. They try on a lot of dresses and finally Lindsey finds a dress with a parrot, trees and stars on it, she loves it. The most special part to her is a tag that says "Made in Bora-Bora for you". She goes to the party and has a wonderful time in her dress. She is prompted to tell her mother, " "But at a fancy dress-up party," said Lindsey, "I do everything best in my Bora-Bora dress. It was made for me, you know."

I think that this book would be good for students that are a little bit older as it is more reading intensive than some of the other books I have reviewed so far. However, the wording is not particularly difficult and there are quite a few repeated words which is good for learning and remembering. I enjoyed this book. It was humorous and fanciful, the pictures were bright and beautiful and the story was nice, showing the relationship between mother and daughter.

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson Pictures by Beth Krommes

This book was 36 pages long, and on one hand it felt that long and on the other it didn't, if that makes sense. The pictures were lovely, they are all done in black, white, and yellow hatching. One of my favorite things about them were the little details though. For example, on one page there is an illustration of the little girl's bedroom and there are toys on the floor, and a cat walking by outside her door. The story itself is based on a story from The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book called This is the Key of the Kingdom. In the back of the book the author tells us that that story was one of her favorites, which is why she chose it's pattern for her book. An example of the pattern is, "Here is the key to the house. In the house burns a light. In that light rests a bed. On that bed waits a book." The way that the story flows and progresses is beautiful. Also the word choices were nice, the words didn't rhyme but they fit together well. This is due to the rhythm created by the fact that the story uses only one syllable words.

Despite the fact that I felt this was a touch long, I believe that this would be a wonderful book for beginning learners. The sentences are short and simple, and the pictures allow for plenty of discussion. Also there is a lot of repetition which is good for learning words. All in all, a very enjoyable read.

Dog Heaven written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant

I loved this book. It is actually a little bit long, 28 pages to be exact, but really it doesn't matter for two reasons. First of all, there are actually very few written words in this book, the majority of it is pictures. Second, the message is something relatable and the author tells such a meaningful story that it flies by. As the title would suggest, this book is all about a dog heaven. Cynthia Rylant carefully describes the activities, the food, and the comfortable beds that dogs will have in their heaven. For example, "God turns clouds inside out to make fluffy beds for the dogs in Dog Heaven, and when they are tired from running and barking and eating ham-sandwich biscuits, the dogs each find a cloud bed for sleeping."

The pictures are done in a minimalist way, that is there isn't a whole lot of detail to them. They actually look as though perhaps a child painted them. Which would be nice for children I would think to look at pictures that they could have easily done. The pictures are also very bright and colorful. This was a good choice as, given the subject of the book, it could have been quite somber. Cynthia Rylant however is showing us a happy view of the after life, and the chosen colors really help her to express this. I feel that her goal was to show children that they shouldn't be sad for their dogs who have died because look how wonderful Heaven is! Also this book would probably help children to understand and feel better about death in general.

Okay, something of a warning for teachers who are are looking to read this in their classrooms however. As this book is called Dog Heaven, it would only make sense that there are references to God and angels. Since religion tends to be a touchy subject in the public school, I would steer away from this book for the classroom. That having been said, I love this book and I would totally recommend it for more private use, outside the classroom. Or perhaps it could be suggested to a family or individual student dealing with the death of a pet. I can still remember after my dog Max died when I was in the third grade, my mom bought me this book to help me understand. It really did help and it also made me feel better to see this wonderful interpretation of where dogs go when they pass away. Cynthia Rylant did an awesome job of painting a perfect life after death for (wo)man's best friend :-)

Also! There is a Cat Heaven by the same author for those of you who a partial to pets of the feline variety.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A poem by Marianne Williamson

My Dad is the one who brought this poem to my attention and it became the inspiration for this blog because plainly stated, it rocks. The message is timeless and all-important, these are words to live by. But most importantly for myself and for other teachers-in-training it is something that we should be striving to teach our students. Enjoy :-)

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are Powerful Beyond Measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
Your playing small does not serve the world
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine as children do.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone
And as we let our own light shine
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence liberates others.