A Blog of Children's Literature

Otto’s Orange Day April 13, 2011

Otto's Orange DayOtto’s Orange Day by Jay Lynch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Otto’s Orange Day by Jay Lynch and illustrated by Frank Cammuso (2008)

Beginning Reader, 40 pages

An orange tabby cat named Otto loves the color orange. He even has an orange song he wrote, singing the praises of the color. When Aunt Sally Lee sends Otto a magical orange lamp as a gift, it is no surprise that Otto asks Genie to make everything orange in his only wish. At first, Otto thinks this is the best decision he’s ever made, but shortly after he realizes his mistake. With everything orange, people cannot distinguish between traffic light signals, find criminals (all who are orange and wearing orange), and find their homes. Otto and Aunt Sally Lee must come up with a great plan to get Genie to revert Otto’s wish and turn everything back to the way it used to be. In a co-authored Toon Book, Jay Lynch and Frank Cammuso bring Otto’s adventure to life in a graphic novel for beginning readers. Jay Lynch’s use of rhyme adds a playfulness to the text and Otto’s behavior. Cammuso’s orange illustrations give a deeper connotation to color with their appeal to the senses: as a flavor, a mood, or an environment. With a format that is likely to attract reluctant readers and comic lovers alike, Otto’s Orange Day will introduce new readers to the graphic novel format while encouraging reading and comprehension. A definite must to include in a booktalk that covers multiple formats for ages 4-8.


Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's SurvivorsUbiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman (2010)

Poetry, 40 pages

In a truly ingenious marriage between poetry and science, Joyce Sidman creates a colorful lesson of the world’s 1% of species that have survived its evolution, starting with bacteria 3.8 billion years ago. With a topic that might bore non-science lovers, Sidman pairs the history of each species or large group with a poem inspired by the creature to create an engaging book to satisfy various readers’ palates. Along with amazing colorful illustrations and different layouts for every new creature, unique poetry with different styles and forms creates a surprise at every turn of the page. On the right-hand page, each creature’s historical existence is shared along with its Latin term and size. At the end of the book is a glossary that defines poetry and science terms alike for extra curious readers. Most impressive are the end pages that capture the earth’s existence in a bending timeline that attempts to capture all 4.6 billion years and each creature’s birth on earth. Ubiquitous would be a great book to include in a science lesson or booktalk for first grade and up.


Born to be a Butterfly

Born To Be A Butterfly (DK Readers, Level 1: Beginning to Read)Born To Be A Butterfly by Karen Wallace
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Born to be a Butterfly by Karen Wallace (2000 or 2010)

Beginning Reader, 32 pages

The perfect book for curious little explorers, Born to be a Butterfly gives readers an in-depth look at the developmental stages of butterfly life from egg to full-fledged winged beauty. As a level one DK Reader, the book is a great beginning read for children using high frequency words. Karen Wallace also includes some vocabulary that is neatly boxed with an image and the vocabulary word, all of which are reviewed on the last page of the book. With ample white or sky blue space, the layout provides large print and clear photography, allowing the reader’s eye to focus on main points. With very detailed close-ups of caterpillars and butterflies, some children may not enjoy the not-so-cute images. However, to those favoring nature, science, and nonfiction, Born to be a Butterfly will be a delightful introduction into the butterfly world. Parents will also enjoy its sturdy cover, allowing for easy packing and the opportunity to take the text with on a butterfly walk. I would definitely booktalk the book to ages 4-8.


Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World March 21, 2011

Sir Charlie ChaplinSir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman (2010)

Biography, 288 pages

In this page-turning biography of Chaplin, Sid Fleischman tells the story of how the speechless Little Tramp was born and stole the hearts of all moviegoers during the great silent film era. The writer captures Charlie’s perilous beginnings in the Kennington slums as a poor Cockney and how his life took him to the trademark slapstick skits that thrilled audiences and left them in uproarious laughter. Fleischman takes the reader on a joy ride, showing how the king of comedy created the hackneyed techniques with banana peels, beautiful ladies, and silent antics, as well as how his perfectionist nature as a director led Marlon Brando to call him “a fearsomely cruel man.” While not holding back the unflattering reality of Chaplin’s demeanor, Fleischman shows the genius in Chaplin’s work and his ability to play on pathos (The Kid), combine farce with tragedy (The Great Dictator), and make social commentary (Modern Times), mostly within the beautifully silent pantomime style that was iconically Chaplinesque. Fleischman’s unique writing style also develops the building narrative with witty one-liners that end paragraphs or chapters and keep the reader enthralled. The design of the book, with its vintage script, unobtrusive elegant flair, and brilliant picture placement, allows the text to flow seamlessly back into the days of silent Hollywood. I would most certainly recommend this book to readers 10 and up who are attracted to the lives of stars, the limelight, and comedy.


Nic Bishop Lizards

Nic Bishop LizardsNic Bishop Lizards by Nic Bishop
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nic Bishop Lizards by Nic Bishop (2010)

Information, 48 pages

Nic Bishop vividly captures the ins and outs of the lizard world in his self-titled book, Nic Bishop Lizards. The design of the book will appeal to reptile and photography lovers alike with its mostly double-page spreads full of close-ups and very detailed images of colorful lizards. A feature of the book is a double fold-out midway through the book with a sequence of shots that capture a basilisk using its larger flapped feet to run across water. The visual presentation is captivating as Bishop does a fabulous job catching the most minute details at the right moments, from drops of water spraying off a fleeing lizard’s foot, to a chameleon’s bright orange and green coloring he uses to try and get a date, to the veiled chameleon’s lightening fast tongue that stretches almost twelve inches to grab a quick cricket bite. The photography is nicely complemented with well-written explanations and examples of specific lizard characteristics, including the main idea of the page in a larger, bolded, and different color font. Captions below the pictures connect the text and images to create one seamless presentation on the life and habitats of lizards, also informing the reader of the actual size of each pictured lizard. With a doctorate in biological sciences and the patience of a saint, Nic Bishop patiently waited for the right moment to get the perfect shot of each lizard. A reader will never guess that most of these shots were taken in his studio because of his meticulous eye for detail, knowledge of proper lighting and lenses, and love of learning about animals and nature. His passion is clearly present throughout the entire book and will make an avid lizard admirer out of anyone who reads his books. I would highly recommend this book to second graders and up doing research or just interested in the topic. With further reading, a glossary, and the link to Bishop’s website, the book is a great jumping point for reptile and biological exploration.


Here’s A Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry February 14, 2011

Filed under: Beginning Readers and Poetry — akibird @ 1:27 pm
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Here's A Little Poem: A Very First Book of PoetryHere’s A Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry by Polly Dunbar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters and illustrated by Polly Dunbar (2007)

Poetry, 105 pages

Full of sunshine and rhyme, Here’s a Little Poem captures the whimsicality of youth and the essence of day to day life. Through a multitude of poetic voices, Yolen and Peters have created a flowing narrative on growing and learning through the eyes of a child. Dunbar aptly creates a unique and fanciful visual experience for each poem that carries itself into the tone of each section of the collection, producing a colorful mosaic of childhood moments in tongue-tickling verse. As an extensive collection of over sixty short poems, the book could work as a bedtime ritual or independent practice for a beginning reader. While the piece would be too lengthy to read aloud completely at story time, sharing a couple of favorite poems during a booktalk may spark an interest in young poets.


Are You Ready to Play Outside?

Filed under: Beginning Readers and Poetry — akibird @ 1:21 pm
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Are You Ready to Play Outside? (An Elephant and Piggie Book)Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems (2008)

Beginning Reader, 60 pages

Gerald and Piggie have a day full of outdoor fun planned when their hopes are washed out by a rainstorm. Piggie is devastated, but inspiration comes from two small dirt dwellers that show the importance of friends and fun in any weather. The cover of Are You Ready to Play Outside? is reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss work, and with its large text, along with its simple yet effective illustrations, the book is sure to produce just as many laughs. Willems’ uncomplicated style creates a book that is great for a beginner to explore independently or to read to parents.