Friday, April 11, 2014

The Golden Egg Book


I found this oversized version of The Golden Egg Book on Amazon and I just had to have it.  This book was a favorite for my youngest son - we read it until he had it memorized and beyond.  If I could peek into his 3-year-old mind, I would guess that the illustrations were the big draw - if you click on the link, you can take a sneak peek at them and see what I mean.  I think he was especially intrigued by the illustrations where the bunny imagines what could be inside the egg.  Seriously - who wouldn't love the idea of an elephant inside a duck egg?

A bunny finds an egg and begins to poke and prod and roll it and try to figure out what kind of egg it is.  He imagines it might contain a boy, an elephant, a mouse or even another bunny.  He gets so tired from his musings and attempts to get the egg to open, that he lays down to take a nap.  As he sleeps, the egg hatches and a duckling emerges.

Margaret Wise Brown continues her renown use of repetition by having the newly-hatched duckling attempt to wake the bunny in all of the same ways in which the bunny attempted to get the egg open.  When the duckling emerges, they become fast friends, the perfect Easter pair!

Nostalgic Note:  When I was studying elementary education at Utah Valley State College (now known as Utah Valley University), my Golden Egg-loving son spent my class time at the preschool on campus.  My Children's Lit teacher (favorite class ever, BTW) asked us if anyone had a child they could bring in and do a reading-with-your-child demo.  I volunteered Michael's services and he joined us for our next class.  We read The Golden Egg Book together, of course.  He sat on my lap in front of the class and stared shyly at all my classmates, who stared right back at him with gigantic smiles on their faces.  Once we began reading, he forgot where we were and became completely engulfed in our usual read-aloud routine.  I would let him finish the sentences, ask him a few questions about the pictures, and he chimed in with the comments we always made at certain junctures of the story.  He was completely adorable and the entire class was amazed by his "reading."  Proud mommy moment.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook



Zack hopes this school year won't be like every other year - BORING!  When Miss Smith walks in the door with her spiky red hair, leather jacket, red high tops and "The Clash" button, he has high hopes.  The school day proceeds normally until...Miss Smith begins to read aloud to her class.

As she reads, the storybook characters come to life and leap off the pages, enveloping the class in a swashbuckling pirate tale.  Story time becomes his favorite part of the day and he can't wait to go to school.

One day, Miss Smith gets stuck in traffic and the principal comes to class to read aloud until she arrives. But when the storybook characters begin to leap off the pages, Principal Rittenrotten panics and runs for help.  The students begin to grab for the book, each starting a new story, which ends as the book is yanked from their grasp and a new story is started by another student.  The room, the hallways, and soon the entire school is filled with storybook characters who refuse to go back inside the book.  Zack figures out that the stories must be finished in order for the characters to return to the book, but the characters don't want to go back, so they begin a tug-o-war over the book.

Fortunately, Miss Smith arrives to save the day.

Michael Garland is the author and the illustrator of this book and his clever illustrations assist young readers with the difficult skill of inference without them even realizing it.  One of my favorite pages shows the outside of the school as Miss Smith pulls up - kids will enjoy identifying all of the storybook characters swarming around the school.

Readers will be reminded of the first time they got lost in a story because of a parent's or teacher's ability to not just read to them, but to make the story come alive.  I only get to spend 15-20 minutes of my school day reading aloud for pleasure, but this book reminds me just how important those minutes are to my students.

Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook is the first in a series of books about this adventurous, creative young teacher.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Roxaboxen


Adults, perhaps even more so than children, will enjoy this detailed, beautifully written account of a place in the Arizona desert where children's imaginations ran wild.

Author Alice McLerran based this book on events in her mother's life and Roxaboxen actually exists on a hill in the southeast corner of Eighth Street and Second Avenue in Yuma.  McLerran consulted her mother's childhood manuscripts, letters and maps created by the former inhabitants of Roxaboxen,and interviewed relatives to get the information she ultimately wove into a rich tale of the joys of childhood.

Illustrator Barbara Cooney actually made two trips to Roxaboxen and, accompanied by McLerran's Aunt Frances, began to visualize "the magic and spirit of Roxaboxen" that helped her create the pictures that capture the spirit of childhood creativity and fantasy that came alive each time Roxaboxenites gathered on that small hill.

Roxaboxen chronicles the creation of an imaginary community on a small rise in the desert.  Their children created streets, stores, homes, a jail, a town hall, and even a cemetary in their tiny town and continued to play there until they were grown.  They use anything at their disposal - pebbles, sticks, stones, glass, wooden boxes, pieces of pottery - they made use of everything they found in the great outdoors.

I experienced a bittersweet feeling reading about 11 and 12-year olds playing outside with the younger children with complete abandon.  Memories of my own neighborhood adventures came flooding back - what a wonderful time we had on the cul-de-sac of 210th Street!  We lived in the suburbs of Los Angeles, but we created our own little world every day, miniature versions of adult life with a creative, unrelentingly optimistic flair.

I particularly love the end of the story when the author shares glimpses of the grown inhabitants of Roxaboxen - Marian's children falling asleep to stories of life in Roxaboxen, Charles picking up a pebble on the beach and remembering - McLerran creates a cocoon of warmth around her mother's memories that envelopes the reader and creates a longing to return to childhood, if only for a day.

There's an out-of-print non-fiction companion to this book titled The Legacy of Roxaboxen that contains copies of McLerran's mother's (Marian) original writings and drawings of the world of Roxaboxen.  I know I'll be looking for it in every library I visit.