Saturday, October 31, 2009

St. Patrick's Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jan Brett

Like so many others, this book is started on the title and dedication pages. It sets up the tone of the book by first showing a small town at night, or at least before dawn and then it shows a sash, a flute and a hat. It makes you wonder what these things have in common. The story is about Jamie, a young Irish boy who is told that he is too young march in the St. Patrick's Day parade. So in an effort to prove them wrong, Jamie wakes up early and with his dog Nell, he walks the entire parade route. All the way, he is wearing his brother's sash, his father's hat and his mother's raincoat and playing a flute. Whenever something negative is said to him, his motto is "what do they know?"This is another one of those stories where another situation could be put in place of the one in the story. I mean, you could replace walking in the parade for making the dance team. Say a little girl is told she could never do it, but she tries out anyway and proves everyone wrong. When told the right way I feel like this story could be relatable to any child. Who among us has never been told that we couldn't do something, and like Jamie set out to prove yourself? It also sends a message to young children that they can do anything that they set their minds to. It's really an inspirational story.

I like how the illustrations are kept simple in this story. They are pen and ink and they look almost like etchings. There are only two colors used throughout in various tones are green and yellow, naturally for St. Patrick's Day. The age here is 5-8 and I saw absolutely. This would be a good book to have in the classroom, either to tie in with St. Patty's Day or just for the inspirational message.

Red Fox Running by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Wendell Minor

When I first chose Eve Bunting as the focus of my project, I did not know why but she sounded familiar. As it turns out, it was this book. We probably read it in first or second grade, I think that it might have even been a big book. This is another of those books that I am glad to have gotten the chance to go back over. When I was little, my focus was art, and as such all I noticed in this book were the amazing illustrations. And while really I cant be blamed, I was missing out on a wonderful story. I think that what I like most about it is that it is written like a poem. It isn't wordy but it paints a detailed picture of what is happening in the story.
"Red fox running,
running through the snow,
white sky above,
and white earth below."
And now I'm afraid that I must go back to the illustrations because they really are just that awesome. It seems as though they are done in watercolor because of the way that the paint is dark in places but never quite opaque. They are also very detailed. Eve Bunting must have liked them a lot too as there are seven pages with text and twenty pages dedicated to illustration. It is almost as if the illustrations existed first, and Eve Bunting came in and wrote a description.
This book is recommended for ages 4-8 but really it could go a little older to introduce a poetry unit to students. I would absolutely buy this one.

Swan in Love by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jo Ellen MsAllister Stammen

Okay, this is one of those books. Those books that you could read over and over again that I will for sure have to buy. It is about a swan who falls in love with a swan shaped boat named Dora. Through all the ridicule that he receives from his fellow pond-dwellers he loves her. The swan doesn't even leave her side when the winter comes then, and not to ruin it, when she is sunk, the swan dies with her. Now this is not just the romantic in me (I loved this book so much I made my boyfriend read it, when he had finished he looked up at me and said "yea you would like this book hunny") though it does tug at my heart strings to read a story of undying love. No, this story spoke to me on an entirely different level. On the surface this book is about a swan and his Dora, but below that lies a controversial issue. The swans in this story could easily be swapped for a modern day homosexual couple. Everyone tries to tell them that their love is wrong, but it makes no difference to them. In the same way, you could insert a multi-racial couple, again people would likely frown on this union, but it doesn't matter. It is summed up nicely in several quotes that must be shared.
"The other swans muttered among themselves. "He makes us look stupid. Doesn't he know she's not one of us?" Swan knew. He knew that it didn't matter. The fish laughed their silvery laughs. "Swans in love. Doesn't he know she's different?" Swan knew. He knew that difference makes no difference to love."
"The frogs who lived in the thin lake reeds croaked, "This is wrong, wrong, wrong!" Swan heard. He knew that love was never wrong."
"Sometimes at night an opossum tiptoed down drink the lake water. "It would be wiser if you gave your love to another swan," she said. Swan listened politely. He knew that love wasn't always wise. "
*Sigh* Beautiful story, beautiful illustrations. Just read it.

Ducky by Eve Bunting and illustrated by David Wisniewski

I just loved this book! I feel like first off, I should share that it is a true story. In 1992, a crate containing 29,000 plastic bathtub toys was washed off the deck of its ship en route to Tacoma, Washington from China. The result? 29,000 plastic bathtub toys went bouncing across the ocean. This story follows one rubber duck in particular as it is tossed around in the waves, and finally lands on the shores of Alaska where he is picked up by a little boy. With the boy the rubber duck, now named Ducky, is able to fulfill his duty as a bathtub duck. I thought that this was a really cute way to inform students of something that happened, a historical event if you will. The fact that she personified the duck was perfect. What better way to tell a story to young children than through a rubber duck? I guarantee that if a rubber duck had taught me history when I was younger, I would have retained so much more :-)
Once again, the story in this book begins on the title and dedication pages. You see the crate being lowered on t the deck of the ship and then the ship heading out into the sea with storm clouds behind it. I am thinking that perhaps this is something that Eve Bunting requests of her illustrators because it seems to be a theme. Here again, it sets up a mood of anticipation for the story. In addition, the illustrations were really neat. Instead of just drawing the scenes, the artist used paper that he cut out. It's really pretty impressive.
The library recommends this book for students 4-8 and that sound about right. None of the language is too tricky and the story would be appealing to those age ranges. I would totally buy this book.

Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jeff Mack

You've heard that a picture is worth a thousand words? Well that really describes this book well, being that it is a book of few words. Funny as it sounds, the lack of words really doesn't impede the story at all. Don't get me wrong, its simple but strong. The story begins on the cover pages, where you see a rooster rushing out of a barn flapping his wings. On the first page with text, the rooster yells "Hurry! Hurry!" to the goats. Then the goat goes and tells the next animal and so on, until at the very last we finally learn what was so important. The hen had laid an egg, and the chick was about to hatch. Once I thought about it, it really flowed. I thought that also this book could be used to breach the topic of a new baby in the family for students. All the barnyard animals are so happy to meet the new baby chick, and that would be a good message that could carry over to new brothers and/or sisters.

I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book. They were bright and colorful and just happy. They set the mood that whatever the animals are hurrying toward is something joyous. I also liked how the story started on the title and dedication pages. In this particular story it helped set up the feeling of anticipation for the rest of the story.
Ye olde library has recommended this book for students 3-5 and I think that sounds about right. Any older than that and I think that the student would perhaps be insulted that you had so few words for them to read.

A/I/P Eve Bunting

Eve Bunting was born December 19, 1928 in a small village in Norther Ireland called Maghera. She grew up surrounded by the love of reading, her father would read her poetry and her mother opened up a small library out of their home. She was also always surrounded by traditional Irish folktales, many of which have found their way into her books. When she was young, she was sent to boarding school. Unlike most kids who are sent away to school, Eve was happy where she was. She made many friends who became as close as family to her. Later on in college, she met a man named Ed, who she would go on to marry. She and Ed moved to Belfast for a time, but later decided to leave the area with their three kids. Ed's brother suggested that the coupld move to the United States, and so they did. The Buntings settled in Pasadena California. It wasn't until they had moved to the U.S. that Eve began writing. She took a writing class at a local community college that inspired her. Just three short years later, in 1972, Eve had her first book published. It called The Two Giants. In this book, we see the first of Eve's Irish heritage shining through, something that will become a common theme throughout her career. From that time on, Eve was an author. To date she has written well over 200 books and novels for children of all ages, pre-school to teen. Eve prides herself on writing something for every child, "I like to write for every child," Eve has said. "For every age, for every interest. That is why I have such a variety of books -- from pre-school, through the middle grades and beyond." These days, Eve and Ed live in Los Angeles, where, thankfully, she continues to write.

The Misfits by James Howe

I must say that after having read this book, I have no idea where the controversy is exactly. Is it that it deals with death a couple of times? Is it the inter-racial dating? The gay characters? Or is it because it touches on the topic of bullying in schools? I'm going to go with all of the above. Funny thing is though that some of the topics have become less taboo and some of them have become more. Death is something that will always be hard, but by and large people are not stunned to read about it anymore. That does not mean that parents want their kids reading about it though. Especially when it is dealt with in such a reasonable way as it is in this book. The inter-racial couple, Addie and DuShawn? It would have been very looked down upon at one point, but now? Not so much. It really isn't so unusual to see a couple walking down the street, one Black one White. Bullying is something that parents may still frown upon their children reading about. Simply because it is one of the uglier sides of childhood that so many parents would rather not address, not unlike death. Probably the biggest stitch in people's sides about The Misfits is that there is not one, but two gay characters. To add to this, Joe's parents fully accept him, and so do his friends. The only people who do not understand and ridicule are the other students who do not know Joe, or Colin for that matter. This would be more of an issue now because of course with the issue of gay marriage coming to the forefront these days. It seems that the line between anti and pro has been clearly drawn. As such, it would follow that when it comes to literature that deals with homosexuality, the line would be equally as hard. It should not be this way though. Children need exposure to all people in all walks of life so that they can grow up to be well rounded adults. Further more, this is an important read because it shows homosexuals being accepted, not shunned. This would be an important thing for students to see, along with the eventual acceptance of those who were labeled as Addie and Bobby were. I for sure agree with everything that the book has to say, and the lessons that it has to teach. I did have some beef though with the ending.

I support that the No-Name Party lost, because I feel like it really wasn't about winning or losing in the end. It was more about getting the message out there, and clearly it was accepted. However, the fairy tale ending of everyone living happily ever after at the dance does not sit well. I will be the first to admit that I am a romantic, but this was just silly. Everyone ends up with who they want to be with? At 12? Eh, not so much. I would have rather had the No-Name Party win and have them not end up with anyone but each other, if James Howe was going for a balancing act. That aside though, I would for sure read this in my classroom, perhaps even have a unit on it. One thing that I would do to set it up though, would be to talk with the parents about it before we read it, not in a note but in person. This way we can more appropriately discuss our points of view.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your Thoughts...

I really wish that I could go back through elementary school and do it all over again. I want there to be a huge block in my day that is given over exclusively to reading whatever I want, and going to the library and picking out a stack of books. Even though it is impossible to go back in time, this class has really given me a chance to at least go back again and enjoy reading as I did back then. I have been given a chance to revisit classics and favorites and I have enjoyed every minute of it. As an added bonus I have been able to discover new books and new genres that I had never seen or thought about before. I have also been given a chance to look at how I can use reading and books in my classroom. I think that this has honestly been my favorite class so far this semester, first because I get to read awesome children's books. And second because I got the choice of which books I would read. This is one thing that I will for sure carry with me as I go into the teaching field. I will remember how good it felt to be able to choose what I wanted to read.
I don't know if I have really been able to make up my mind about what makes a good children's book. I think though that perhaps, there is no such thing as a bad children's book, but there is such a thing as an inappropriate book. A good book for one student may be too adult or too advanced for others. It does not make it bad, it just makes it not the right book for everyone.