Saturday, July 31, 2010

Grading in is! Yahoo!! I am taking the weekend off before I start preparing Fall semester course materials. I am sure I will hear from the students who want reading lists so I know I can't let it go too long.

So, I'm going to enjoy the rest of the day by going through new books. I love Kitten's Autumn by Eugenie Fernandes. The illustrations have a 3D feel as the critters and other elements in the illustrations are made out of clay. Laying them on top of collages made from paper, yarn and other materials results in illustrations kids and parents will pour over time and time again as little ones listen to, and soon join along with, the simple rhyming text. "Leaves tumble, Kitten mews. Porcupine snacks, Chipmunk chews." What a delightful way to introduce forest animals and what they eat. I love the "Skunk slurps" illustration - he is eating a wiggly worm. Make sure you also get Kitten's Spring to help little ones learn farm animals. These two Kids Can Press are a fun way to introduce animals.

The latest in Frank Serafini's Looking Closely nonfiction series, Looking Closely in the Rain Forest draws you in with both the stunning color up-close photographs as well as the text - "Look very closely. What do you see? A spaceship? A sea slug? What could it be?" The "spyglass illustrations" certainly looks like a green slug but when you turn the page and see the full photograph, it is the toe of a web-toed red-eyed tree frog. The text accompanying the full-page photographs offers basic details about the rain forest animals and plants. A stunning book for any children's collection.

You know how sometimes you fall in love with a book, but there is one "little" discrepancy that bugs the heck out of you? That is my problem with Pirate's Guide to the First Grade by James Preller and illustrated by Greg Ruth. B&N has the title just as First Grade so it didn't immediately come up when I searched for it. What pirate fan wouldn't be intrigued with a first page that states - "Arrr! Shiver me timbers, what a slobberin' moist mornin'!" The illustration shows just the top of a red-haired boy's head with his eyes squeezed closed. Of course, the "slobberin' moist" comes from his bulldog licking his face. In the background are the ghostly figures of "real pirates" who accompany the boy to school. When he gets to school, this is where my problem begins. The boy looks too old for first grade and is putting his backpack in a HS looking locker and the books piled on desks in the classroom room are much thicker than we would see in a first grade classroom - they look the size of a NYC phonebook! The teacher gives him what appears to be a hall pass (treasure map) and the last picture shows him with "me treasure!" The boy, who truly looks at the youngest upper elementary, is sitting reading a copy of Treasure Island with stacks of very large books around him. Had this been a guide to third grade even I would have been a little less jarred out of the story but the illustrations, as gorgeous as they are, just don't work for me. It has to be difficult for picture book authors who are not also illustrators as their text is interpreted by an illustrator the publisher has chosen to visually bring the story to life.

Steve Jenkins has done it again - a nonfiction title children won't be able to put down. This time his subject matter is the skeleton of humans and animals - Bones As always, concise text accompanies the intricate cut paper collage illustrations that beg the reader to start at the beginning. I love the fold out spread of a smiling skeleton with text that reads: "Congratulations! You are the proud owner of a complete human skeleton!" Additional bone facts will appeal to the older reader, including a discussion of how the Cyclops, the one-eyed giant of Greek mythology, may have come about from the skull of the now extinct dwarf elephant as the hole where the trunk had passed through looked like a single eye socket of a giant.

Speaking of bones, well not plural, but singular - Bone, the wonderful fantasy graphic novel series by Jeff Smith has a new title Tall Tales This one of the few graphic series that appeal to all ages. Ten books in the series, but the fun isn't over. A new graphic novel series set in the world of Bone will arrive in 2011 - Quest for the Spark: Book One. So don't despair, more fun and fear is coming your way Bone fans.