Category: picture books

Kindergarten Day USA and China (Trish Marx & Ellen B. Senisi) – Book Recommendation

By , January 6, 2011 10:17 am

One thing I enjoy about having a blog is being “discovered” by a publisher whose books really fit my style and interests.  For me, the Global Fund for Children is just that publisher.  Their books are all about diversity and respect for other cultures and people.  I am always delighted and honored to be asked to review one, and pleased to be able to recommend a really worthwhile book.  When the review copy arrives at my house we all pounce upon it eagerly!

The latest treat we received from the Global Fund for Children is Kindergarten Day USA and China by Trish Marx and Ellen B. Senisi.  The premise of the book is basic:  simple text from a child’s point of view and lots of big, colorful photos track a typical kindergarten day in the United States and in China.

First of all, we love the way the book is cleverly set up as a flip book.  One half is the Schenectady, New York class but when you finish that section you close the book and flip it around to read about the Beijing children’s day in the other half.  We also liked that each page has a clock that shows both the time in Schenectady and the time in Beijing.  This gives a real-time sense of what is going on for the children in each country.  Finally, we enjoyed the fact that the China section has some Chinese words sprinkled throughout and briefly explains pinyin, encouraging young readers to try to pronounce the Chinese words.

The authors successfully create a connection between the two classrooms on different sides of the globe through parallel activities.  Each class has a birthday celebration.  There is a slight conflict (being too loud, not sharing toys) that will be familiar to all children wherever they live.  We see both classes eat lunch and have outdoor recess.  Children in each class interact with their friends and work on reading.  And at the end of the sections, both classes mention thinking about the other class and wonder if the other class thinks about them too.

Children will see that although there are some interesting differences in life in the other country (for example we see the American children served lunch in a cafeteria, whereas the Chinese teacher prepares lunch for the children and it is eaten in the classroom with chopsticks), there are actually far more similarities.  Children in both countries laugh and cry.  All the children enjoy friends, playtime, drawing and reading.

My kids (ages 5, 8, and 10) are fascinated by Kindergarten Day and have read it through several times, even the older two.  I really like how the Global Fund for Children’s multicultural books take advantage of childrens’ natural curiosity about other children to teach the important lesson that although we might be different in some minor ways, people are basically the same wherever they live.  If every human could learn this basic truth at a young age, and develop a sense of curiosity about other countries and cultures, wouldn’t the world be a much happier and more harmonious place!

Kudos (yet again!) to the Global Fund for Children for helping to promote international awareness and understanding among children.

Kindergarten Day USA and China is available either directly from Global Fund for Children (hardcover or paperback), or Amazon (also in hardcover or Kindergarten Day USA and China (Global Fund for Children Books (Paperback)).

My other Global Fund for Children recommendations:

Global Babies

Nasreen’s Secret School

Ta Da!! (2010 Newbery & Caldecott)

By , January 19, 2010 2:06 am

Yesterday morning was the big announcement of this year’s Newbery and Caldecott children’s book award winners. Drum roll please…

 

John Newbery:

“The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

 

2010 WINNER – When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

2010 HONORS –

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (YIPPEE!! Bought this for my 9 year-old for Christmas!)

Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

 

Randolph Caldecott:

“The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”

 

2010 WINNER – The Lion & the Mouseby Jerry Pinkney

2010 HONORS –

All the World illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton Scanlon

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman


CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!!

PS: How well do you know your children’s book awards? If you can’t tell your Theodor Seuss Geisel Award from your Pura Belpré Award, then you can read up on them all here.

Nasreen’s Secret School (Jeanette Winter) – Review

By , October 28, 2009 9:48 pm

If you like multicultural children’s books, then I hope you are familiar with the books published by the Global Fund for Children.  The Global Fund for Children recently discovered my review of their wonderful Global Babies board book and contacted me regarding a review of a brand new book, Nasreen’s Secret School.

I am very picky when it comes to requests to review books, most queries end up in my email trash.   But I just knew that this book would be of great interest to us, and to many of you who read Unplug Your Kids, so I accepted this particular request.  Soon I was sent a free review copy of Nasreen’s Secret School.

Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter is subtitled “A True Story from Afghanistan.”  It is published by Simon & Schuster for the Global Fund for Children.  The author based this book on a story told to her by an organization supported by The Global Fund for Children that aided secret schools for girls during the reign of the Taliban (1996-2001).

This is the powerful tale of young Nasreen, a little Afghan girl who has not spoken since her parents’ disappearance.  The narrator, Nasreen’s grandmother, is determined to get her out of the house and into school, but girls are not allowed to attend school in Afghanistan:

“The Taliban soldiers don’t want girls to learn about the world, the way Nasreen’s mama and I learned when we were girls.”

There were “whispers” about a secret school for girls behind a green gate.  Nasreen and her veiled grandmother hurry down alleyways to towards the green gate, hoping not to be seen by soldiers (women were not allowed to leave the home without a male relative):  “Please Allah, open her eyes to the world” prays her grandmother.

My 7 and 9 year-old loved this book and I still often come across them reading it and rereading it in quiet corners of the house.  My daughter (age 9) said she liked that it was a true story and how it showed that not all children have the same life she does.

Although the book is written in a simple picture book format, it is recommended for ages 6 to 9.  On every page you will find a vibrant acrylic illustration (also by Jeanette Winter) and just a few short sentences.

Despite its colorful picture book appearance, I would agree that this is not a book for very young or sensitive children due to the serious subject matter.  Nasreen’s father is taken away by soldiers and her mother never returns home after going off to try and find him.  Although mention of these events is brief, it could be distressing for littler ones.

The ultimate feel of the book though, is very uplifting.  It celebrates the strength of ordinary people (particularly women) to overcome adversity and carry on.  It is a wonderful lesson for older children in the value of education and how an education opens windows to the world, and that knowledge is always with you, “like a good friend.”

We also liked the tidbits of Afghan culture that are sprinkled throughout:  Nasreen’s ancient city Herat was once a beautiful place where music and learning “flourished.”  When a soldier demands to enter the school, he finds only a room full of girls reading the Koran, which is allowed (the girls hid their schoolwork).   The women wear a burqa and are completely covered while out in the streets and the girls wear headscarves.  This book offers lots to discuss and discover about Afghan culture, history and politics.

There is additional interesting information about Afghanistan in an author’s note.  Teachers and parents might find it helpful as a starting point for teaching about modern Afghanistan.

Thumbs up from us for this beautiful and educational multicultural book!

LINKS:

Literary Eye Candy (Beautiful Fairy Tales!)

By , June 18, 2008 7:00 am

Anyone who has paid any attention at all to my children’s book recommendations might have noticed that illustrations are very important to me. In fact, I have an illustration prejudice. Most of the books I review are classified in the “exceptional illustrations” category because that is what I like. I confess that if a children’s book is well written but I find the illustrations unattractive, I usually think less of the book.

Because of this, we have some really lovely books that literally take my breath away every time I open them up. Just like a gorgeous man with a substandard IQ – who cares about literary quality when the pictures are that incredible to look at! (Just kidding of course…)

If you share my prejudice, then read on!

  • Lovely illustration tip number one: Any fairy tale illustrated by K.Y. Craft or Paul O. Zelinsky will be spectacular in an ornate, Renaissance painting type of way (my personal weakness).
  • Lovely illustration tip number two: Find a book you like the look of on Amazon, and then follow the “customers who bought this also bought” and “what do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item” links, or even the Listmanias in the sidebar, to discover other gorgeous books. How does Amazon “know?”
  • Lovely illustration tip number three: Did I mention K.Y. Craft?

In my mind, fairy tales (classic and not so classic) MUST be sumptuously illustrated. If they are not, or worse – if they are “Disneyfied” (another prejudice on my part), then forget it.

Here are some that we have and enjoy. Be advised that I consider these books to be for older children (ages 5 and up?) because they are very “wordy.” However, you could share them with younger children if you paraphrase the text and just focus on the pictures.

Also, I don’t want to spend a lot of time analyzing the literary value, so not a lot of talk about the text this time. The point here is that the stories are fine, but the illustrations are superb:

Sleeping Beauty by K.Y. Craft is a rich feast for the eyes. The story is pretty much as I remember it from my childhood. The illustrations make it spectacular. To see more of the illustrations, please look at K.Y. Craft’s Sleeping Beauty page on his website.

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Cinderella by K.Y. Craft. Of course there are many versions of Cinderella around the world, but this is the one I remember from my childhood here in the US. By the way, I WANT Cinderella’s dress. Wouldn’t it look lovely on me as I browse the produce section at Safeway? K.Y. Craft’s Cinderella page.

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King Midas and the Golden Touch as told by by Charlotte Craft and illustrated by (you guessed it!), K.Y. Craft. Again, very traditional story which I like, and sumptuous illustrations. In this book I covet Aurelia’s (the daughter’s) hair. Glossy chestnut ringlets of course. Actually, I want all the hair from all of these K.Y. Craft fairy tales. How come no one has straight hair? I guess that’s why they call them “fairy tales” right? If they were real, they’d all have straight hair and bad skin. More King Midas illustrations.

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The Twelve Dancing Princesses as told by Marianna Mayer and illustrated by K.Y. Craft. This is a classic fairy tale that was unknown to me before discovering this book. Apart from the dresses and the ringlets, I like the messages of strong women and overcoming class barriers. Be sure to look at the illustrations on K.Y. Craft’s Twelve Dancing Princesses page. I think this is perhaps the best illustrated of all that I have mentioned so far.

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Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky (adapted from The Brothers Grimm). Very true to what I remember, and illustrations “worth their weight in gold!” Visit Paul O. Zelinsky’s Rumpelstiltskin page to see more. A Caldecott Honor Book.

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Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky. Lovely, Renaissance-like oil paintings. The classic Rapunzel tale. Boy, do I want HER hair! One potential word of warning for parents here though: there might be an awkward moment if you have to explain why Rapunzel’s dress grows “tight” around the waist after she marries the visiting prince in a secret ceremony in the tower. My kids didn’t notice a thing, but if you fear this is more detail than you want to get into, then be sure to borrow the book from the library first and read it yourself. Visit Paul O. Zelinsky’s Rapunzel page to see more art. A Caldecott Medal Winner.

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The Magic Nesting Doll by Jacqueline K. Ogburn and illustrated by Laurel Long. If I had to choose one of these books as my favorite for the illustrations it would have to be this one. There is a level of fine detail and delicateness to these illustrations beyond even what I see in the other books (and those are quite amazing). In an interesting feminist turn around of the normal fairy tale universe, the beautiful girl actually saves the handsome prince! Another plus: The characters have straight hair. No bad skin though. Unfortunately there is no website that I can find for further illustrations, but trust me, they are gorgeous.

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.

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