Friday, May 23, 2014

RAIN SCHOOL by James Rumford - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

     Last Friday we had a deluge. Then another yesterday, complete with thunder shaking the ground. But from what I learned reading my selection for this week, our rain was nothing compared to the rainy season in Chad.  I drank in the account in Rain School. This book is four years old, but it isn't on the Perfect Picture Book Friday list. This is an oversight that must be corrected!

cover image from the Publisher's website
TITLE: Rain School
Author/Illustrator: James Rumford
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 2010
Intended Ages: 4-8
Themes: School/education, Africa

Opening lines: In the country of Chad, it is the first day of school. The dry dirt road is filling up with children. Big brothers and big sisters are leading the way.

Synopsis: The story follows a young boy named Thomas from his first day of school in Chad until the end of the school year nine months later. His first lesson isn’t reading, writing or arithmetic. There are no computers. The first lesson is making bricks.

Why I like this book: Among the books I choose for Perfect Picture Book Friday are books that make me laugh. Books that make me cry. And books that make my eyes widen. This is an eye-widening book.
  The author lived in Chad as a Peace Corps volunteer and taught school there. The book is based upon his personal memory of coming upon the mud ruins of a primary school during the rainy season (summer vacation) as well as his own teaching experience.
    The illustrations in this book are all focused in the foreground. The dusty yellow-orange background conveys the feeling of desert heat and is the simple foil for the story about people and their desire for education. While the school may lack amenities that many of us would deem essentials, the joyous sense of community is palpable.
Resources/Activities: The author has a great page of questions relating to this book on his website relating to thinking about schools in other places and during other times in the past as well as using one picture to spark a story. He chose a Winslow Homer painting for the story spark, but you could choose any!
    Put a world map on the bulletin board and place a push pin for the setting/location of each story that you read. Starting with Chad, see if you can go around the globe. Learn about Chad on the CIA website here.
     Watch a Youtube video reading of the story. The note with the video indicates that Rain School is required for the NYS Common Core Curriculum in third grade.

This review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Along with tons of writing wisdom, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF 

What has your weather been like? I keep reminding myself, the grass is always greener on the other side!

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Adventures of Beekle - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

     Last week I teased you with my upcoming post! So for those of you who have been drooling --here it is.

TITLE: The Adventures of Beekle The Unimaginary Friend

Author/Illustrator: Dan Santat

Intended age:3-6
Themes: Friendship, imagination

Opening lines: “He was born on an island far away where imaginary friends were created. Here, they lived and played, each eagerly waiting to be imagined by a real child.”

Synopsis: The opening lines say it all. A creature who looks like a cross between a cotton ball and a marshmallow with legs wants to find the child who imagines him, the child who will be his perfect match. But when the child doesn’t appear, he sets out to find him/her.

Endpapers showing everyone paired up-except Beekle (sniff!)
What I liked about this story: Confession. Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer is my FAVORITE holiday show on television. I sing along with Clarice and my eyes well up at the Island of misfit toys every time. Even though I know what's coming, I fall under the spell. This story about first friendships has that same spell-spinning magic. When I read Beekle, I immediately thought of the characters on the Island of misfit toys waiting for someone to want them. So yeah, I got a little teary-eyed. Beekle is a simple story. One that won’t wow you with flashy language. But the simplicity is part of its charm. It’s a simple message—everybody needs somebody and we’re better for our friendships—and it’s well told. The text oozes sweetness and happiness. 
     The art is equally charming. We see Beekle's crown in the first spread but it isn't until three-quarters of the way through the story that we see the back of the crown up close and Santat reveals that it is a paper crown seamed in the back, taped together. Just what a child would imagine! The bright colors of Beekle's birthplace give way to muted colors in "the real world" but once he encounters children, the vibrant colors re-emerge. If Santat hasn't started making Beekle cuddly toys he should because this is the kind of character a reader wants to HUG!

Activities/Resources:  Watch the trailer. See if you agree that the author has a tribute to Max and Where the Wild Things Are in the story. Minh Le has a great interview with the the author on his Book Riot blog.
     Talk about how someone goes about making a friend.
     Pick a new name for yourself, or someone else.
     Make cupcakes (the ones in the book look like chocolate cake with vanilla icing!) to share with someone who might be a new friend. :) If you want to eat them all yourself - maybe it's an imaginary friend!
     Draw a picture of an imaginary friend.

This review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Along with tons of writing wisdom, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF

Friday, May 9, 2014

Knit Your Bit - Perfect picture book Friday review

With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, I thought about profiling a title featuring Moms. But this book has been waiting in the queue and it is, IMHO, truly one of the perfect picture books. We need to get this one on the list!

And to keep you salivating. My copy of Beekle arrived this week, and yes it is everything folks have been saying about it. Stop by again next week if you want to learn more!


Title: Knit Your Bit
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator: Steven Guarnaccia
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Son's, 2013
FICTION based on real event
Intended Audience: 3-8

Themes: World War I, knitting, gender roles
Opening: When Pop left to be a soldier, I wanted to go with him.
               "I'm brave," I told Pop.

Synopsis: Mikey wants to do something BIG to support his dad fighting in World War I. But when his teacher suggests that the class participates in a "knitting bee" in Central Park, the boys think knitting is for girls and only agree to take part when the girls make it into a competition.

What I like about this book: I recently read a stack of letters my father wrote during World War II and I was struck by his request for socks from home. I didn't realize how our troops relied (and still rely!) on the generosity of their families and friends for many "basic" items. It isn't overstating it to say that little items can make a difference to someone, and without being pedantic this book gets that message across.
     Some of the facts in the story are true. In her end matter Ms. Hopkinson tells us that there was indeed a woman at the knit-in who knit an entire sweater in six hours! The endpapers for the book show five historical photos, one of sheep grazing on the white house lawn and four of knitting groups.

Activities and Resources: Learn to knit. Some yarn stores offer free classes--it's in their interest to keep people buying their products. I used to be good at it and made myself a sweater or two, but haven't pulled out the needles in some time. When I was growing up and my family had sheep, yarn was easy to come by! Besides, how many afghans does one family need?
     If you are near New Orleans, visit Knit Your Bit at the National World War II museum. In addition to historical information, the museum provides suggested patterns for scarf knitters who want to contribute to veterans. The museum collects the scarves. The author also provides the link to Knitting for Charity in her end matter for knitters who want non-veteran projects.
     If you don't want to knit, find a charity of your choice online and donate an item on their wish list. Animal shelters often need old towels, family shelters may need toiletries.
     If you want to compare my review with Publisher's Weekly (I don't read theirs until after I write mine!) you can read it here.

This review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Along with tons of writing wisdom, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF