Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: The Year of the Board Book?

My son was born in 2017 and I have read a ton of board books this year. I wanted to share some of my favorites for those who are trying to look beyond Sandra Boynton, and also as a resource for myself for future baby gifts. 

Before & After and This is Not a Book by Jean Jullien. He has a fan for life in me.

More of a gag gift for a pregnant friend, but it cracked up everyone who read it.

Such an awesome format and there are many other titles in the series. I'll be reading all of them again when my son is a toddler. 

There are tons of baby's first words books. The diversity in Christiane Engel's and the fun tabs on the side are what sets it apart. 

Have You Seen My Lunch Box?by Steve Light
An introduction to "find and seek" books, the object in question is always the only colored thing in the room. 

Anything by Carli Davidson
Dogs shaking and loose skin flying: need I say more? 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Lesson Idea: When the Moon Comes

When the Moon Comes features gorgeous writing by Paul Harbridge that makes it the perfect mentor text for a descriptive writing unit.

The story of kids who wait for the weather to get cold enough to freeze a pond for hockey, the writing brings the reader out in the snow with them. In class, I would read the book aloud and have students remember a line or two that speaks to them. We would then review them and discuss why we are affected by sentences like, "We drink scalding tea and eat toasty sandwiches, then tramp contented back into the night."

Then, I would have students think about extreme weather they have experienced and write their own sentences with the goal of making the reader feel like they are there. My Bahamian kids could try to evoke the feeling of a hurricane, while I could use my Boston roots to try to imitate this sentence: "Our wet pants freeze solid in the cold, and we walk clanking like knights in armor, lances over our shoulders, hoods like helmets around our faces."

With its atmospheric illustrations, I wonder how many kids would pick this book up on their own, although hockey fans don't have a ton of reading options, so that might sway some readers. Still, there are books that are worth sharing and the writing makes When the Moon Comes one of them.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Books For When You're Feeling Hopeless

There has been a lot of heavy news lately. How do we, as parents, teachers, and trusted adults, address these topics with the children in our lives and help them feel hopeful? One way is through picture books. While I wish these books didn't have to exit, I'm glad they do.

Come With Me by Holly McGhee does not specify the tragedy that has occurred in the story; it alludes to news of anger and hatred. A young girl feels hopeless and asks her parents what to do. They show her small ways to make a difference, and in turn, she shows a young neighbor. 

This books is multi-purpose: it could be used for students starting in pre-school and used after a variety of tragic events: shootings, terrorists attacks, and other horrors that are hard to explain to a child. I'm reminded of the nightmares a friend's child had after randomly seeing floods on the news. Talking about frightening topics takes away their power. The language in Come With Me is never scary and Pascal Lemaitre's soft illustrations make this a necessary addition to every library. 

With the similar theme of small actions making a big difference, Justin Roberts' The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade is a sweet book that I am eager to share. Our heroine Sally pays "super extra special attention" to what is happening and decides that she doesn't want to be a bystander. By using her powers of observation, Sally makes a change at her school. I love that an introverted child is highlighted. An added bonus are the illustrations by Christian Robinson, who is just my favorite illustrator these days. 


Monday, December 11, 2017

Genuine Fraud

When John Green and E. Lockhart both have a new novel out, how does one decide which to read first? For me, it comes down to Frankie. Lockhart, as the author of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, will always win for me. I read that book at least once a year and would love another book like it.

While Genuine Fraud is no Frankie, it was an enjoyable read that had me hoping my son's nap time would stretch for longer. We start the novel with a crime and then work our way backwards, learning more about our main characters and who they really are. My stomach was in knots at certain points, even though I had a feeling what was going to happen. This has been compared to a famous novel (I don't want to name it because it's a spoiler) but I enjoyed it in its own right.

Like in many of Lockhart's novels, there is a focus on feminism and female strength. Those were the pages that felt closest to Frankie and the ones that I reread several times.

This is worth adding to any high school library or giving to a YA mystery lover.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Karma Khullar's Mustache

I randomly picked up Karma Khullar's Mustache at the library because of the cute cover. What I got was a sweet novel about growing up.

Puberty is a well trod path in middle grade novels, but I've never come across a book about female facial hair. Now that I think of it, that's really surprising because it's such a common issue. I remember being in the sixth grade and desperately wanting to shave my legs. There are also many photos of me with pencil thin eyebrows. Karma had it worse: a budding mustache and religious beliefs that prohibit cutting hair. She and I solved our problems pretty similarly: taking care of it on our own and then having a larger issue to deal with.

While the facial hair is a major plot point, this is also a book about growing apart from childhood friends and about bullying. The ending is sweet, but it isn't saccharine and fairly realistic. There is a religious turn at the end that surprised me, but it was fairly minor.

I enjoy having this book in my list of recommendations. Obviously, I wouldn't hand it to a child with facial hair, but a book talk early in the year (before puberty kicks in) could lead readers who need it to Karma Khullar's Mustache.