Category: animals

Happy International Children’s Book Day! (Book Recommendations)

By , April 2, 2008 2:29 pm

April 2nd is International Children’s Book Day, a worldwide celebration aimed at inspiring a love of reading and calling attention to children’s books. This annual celebration was created by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) a non-profit whose very worthwhile mission is the following:

– to promote international understanding through children’s books

– to give children everywhere the opportunity to have access to books with high literary and artistic standards

– to encourage the publication and distribution of quality children’s books, especially in developing countries

– to provide support and training for those involved with children and children’s literature

– to stimulate research and scholarly works in the field of children’s literature

Each year a different international chapter of IBBY hosts International Children’s Book Day. This year’s host country is Thailand.

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In honor of International Children’s Book Day, I thought it might be fun to write a post about 7 children’s books that we have enjoyed – one for each continent of the world! I tried to pick a book that was from, or takes place in, each continent. So here goes:

North America:

How the Stars Fell into the Sky by Jerrie Oughton and Lisa Desimini

This beautifully illustrated Navajo legend of how the stars came to be placed in the sky, has an underlying deeper meaning. How did the world come to be the chaotic and adversarial place that it is today? Blame it all on coyote!

South America:

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry

Marvelous illustrations tell the tale of rain forest inhabitants who each try to tell a woodcutter why he should not chop down their Kapok tree. Teaches about rain forest animals and their needs, as well as the interconnectedness of all living creatures. By the way, the ending is happy and shows the man dropping his ax and leaving the forest.

Africa:

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plainby Verna Aardema

An African folk tale about how Ki-Pat succeeded in bringing rain to drought-stricken Kapiti Plain. Told in a “House That Jack Built”-style rhyme that is fun to read.

Europe:

Bonny’s Big Day by James Herriot, illustrated by Ruth Brown

I decided to change the tone a bit with this selection. Until I found this charming book at a thrift store, I did not realize that James Herriot writes stories for children. Having always enjoyed his country vet series of books for adults, I was eager to read this sweet tale to my children. This story of a gruff old man and his love for his horses seems to be another of Mr. Herriot’s true tales of his days as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales. Too wordy for very young children, but animal-loving older kids will definitely enjoy this series.

Asia:

Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Jamel Akib

The poetic tale of an Indian girl anxiously awaiting the arrival of the annual monsoon rains. Beautiful written imagery combined with wonderful pastel illustrations vividly depict life in an Indian city.

Australia:

Big Rain Coming by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft

(I guess I have a real rain theme going here!) Unfortunately, I must admit that we seem to have no story books from or about Australia in our home collection. Factual books about Australia? Yes. But stories? No. I am totally embarrassed, especially if any of you reading this are Australians. I did however, find this book online and it seems like a really good one. The story is yet another about waiting for rain! The intricate, aboriginal style illustrations are what really seem to make the book. According to the School Library Journal review on Amazon: “The text is well paced with a perfect rhythm for reading aloud, and the large, clean double-page spreads make for easy viewing.”

Antarctica:

Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey

Ha!  I bet you didn’t think I could come up with one for Antarctica, did you!  Actually, Antarctica should have been my most difficult, not Australia.  But fortunately I had this book in the back of my mind all along. We just love this little book of funny and educational penguin poems. Each poem teaches something about penguins in a very humorous way. I really can’t recommend this one enough! (For more information, read my review here.)

Happy International Children’s Book Day to all, no matter what continent you call home!

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More links of interest:

+ My post about last year’s International Children’s Book Day which has lots of links to websites and stores for finding multicultural and international children’s books.

+ My post about ways to foster international understanding and interest in your children.

Books for an “Unplugged Week”

By , March 19, 2008 9:13 pm

Yesterday I had an email from Beth who is organizing an “unplugged week” at her school and is looking for the following:

“…suggestions on books (i.e. stories that have children finding out how fun it is to unplug). I have a bunch on the 5-8 year olds, but after that, the selection peters out. “

There are just a few books that I can think of that might be appropriate:

Fix-It, by David McPhail is the sweetly illustrated story of a bear named Emma who awakes one morning to find the TV broken! She wails and cries and begs her parents to fix it. By the time the TV is fixed, Emma is happily reading stories to her doll and her cat and has no interest in TV anymore. Would appeal to younger readers (under 8).

Of course there is also the poem “Jimmy Jet and his TV-Set” by Shel Silverstein (from his wonderful book Where the Sidewalk Ends). Very amusing. It is suitable for older kids and would most likely make an impression on them, but perhaps does not exactly teach the joy of unplugging. Read the poem here.

The last book that might fit the theme is Wild About Books by Judy Sierra. Although this award-winning book doesn’t mention unplugging the TV, it does describe a zoo full of animals and the fun that they have when they discover reading (and writing) books. This is a helpful and entertaining book because it is written at a level that younger children can understand, yet older children (if they aren’t “too cool” for it) might enjoy too. It mentions many familiar books and series (Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, Goodnight Moon, The Wizard of Oz, etc.) and literary terms (drama, haiku, mystery, etc.). There are even a few plays on words that only older kids would understand.

Beyond these three ideas, I am at a loss.

I don’t know what the format of Beth’s “unplugged week” is, but for older children (above age 8) there are probably not a lot of pro-unplug TV books out there (on the contrary, many seem to “tie-in” with popular TV-series).

If it were my “unplugged week” to organize, I would probably work on emphasizing the joy of reading. I would also focus on books that teach older children fun games and activities that they can do without TV. There are many books of activities that teach “lost arts” in our hi-tech, video-oriented age. Here are a few:

So my question to you is: Do any of you have book ideas for Beth? If so, I am sure that she would appreciate some suggestions. Please leave a comment with your ideas!

PS. How about organizing an “unplugged week” at your school too? National TV Turn-Off Week is April 21-27.

White Rabbit’s Color Book (Alan Baker)

By , March 13, 2008 10:17 am

Tuesday morning is story time at our local library. This week’s book was so cute that I was moved to write it up as my recommended book of the week: White Rabbit’s Color Book written and (very sweetly!) illustrated by Alan Baker.

This is the story of an adorable white rabbit who finds three pots of paint, red, blue, and yellow. Since these are all primary colors, you can probably see where the plot is headed! Sure enough, white rabbit decides to jump in the paint and turn himself different colors, but some of the color changes are rather surprising. For example when he jumps in yellow he turns yellow, but when he hops into the blue paint after that, does he come out blue? No, he is green of course!

The adorably detailed illustrations are what really make this book stand-out. It is a fun way to introduce the confusing concept of mixing colors. It might be a fun accompaniment to an art session (or homeschool lesson?). Plus the rabbit theme is very appropriate for a nice springtime or Easter read.

While finding the links on Amazon, I see that Alan Baker has written a whole series of other cute-looking educational rabbit books. This is a series worth checking out!

Elmer (David McKee)

By , January 10, 2008 4:41 pm

We love this book about Elmer the patchwork elephant. In addition to an uplifting message about celebrating our differences, the illustrations are so cute!

Other Elmer books are available, including some baby board books.

This makes a great gift along with the adorable Elmer stuffed toy pictured at right (for more details, see my Elmer the Patchwork Elephant stuffed toy post).

A Symphony of Whales (Steve Schuch)

By , December 1, 2007 11:00 pm

This award-winning book is based on a real incident occurring in the winter of 1984-1985 where nearly 3,000 beluga whales became trapped in a rapidly freezing narrow strait in Siberia. For seven weeks the local villagers and the crew of an ice breaker fought to save the whales, breaking up the ice so they could surface to breathe. Amazingly they succeeded in breaking a passage through the twelve foot thick ice and led the whales to the safety of the open sea by playing classical music!

This amazing tale with a happy ending is recounted here by musician Steve Schuch who narrates the tale through the eyes of the fictional Glashka, a little girl residing in the nearby Siberian village. Peter Sylvada’s amazing illustrations lend an eerie beauty that enhances this wonderful story.

Steve Schuch also created a piece of music called “Whale Trilogy” that I first heard on an NPR broadcast many years ago. This very original composition tells this same whale rescue story musically by melding violin and actual whale songs. That hauntingly beautiful music is what led me to purchase this book and the CD. I urge you all to listen to the MP3 excerpt from this piece online at Steve’s website. It will make you want to rush out and buy both the book and the album, Wellspring: Live at the Folkway, on which is recorded Whale Trilogy.

I think that Wellspring: Live at the Folkway is unfortunately now only available as a cassette, unless you buy a used CD – which I linked to below at Amazon, but try Half.com and Ebay too. It is a wonderful album of children’s music and I highly recommend searching for it on CD.

In addition to being a lovely book in and of itself, A Symphony of Whales is a good addition to a discussion about whales, or life in a Siberian village!

Awards: A New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, A Parents’ Choice Honor Book, and Smithsonian’s Notable Books for Children.

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