Friday, April 22, 2016

Wild About Books

I read Wild About Books to my 1st & 2nd graders this week. What fun! Author Judy Sierra's way with words kept them listening intently and entertained me through the whole story. The kids didn't understand why a hippo winning a Zoolitzer prize was funny, but I enjoyed the play on words. She truly has a gift for creating playful, "punny" rhymes.

Sierra also avoids focusing on the more common zoo animals and includes bandicoots, skinks, and onyx to keep things fresh and, a bonus - my students had lots of questions about the different animals, zoos, and other things that stood out as being both unfamiliar and interesting.

Bookmobile librarian, Mavis McGrew, mistakenly drives her bookmobile into a zoo and decides to make the best of it. She parks the bus, sets up her lounge chair and check-out system, grabs a book and starts reading. One by one the animals come closer to check things out and become hooked on reading. They read in pairs, in packs, in bunches or solo. They share jokes and poems and plays in trees, on boulders and in tiny shelters made of books. In fact, they become so addicted to reading that they build their own Zoobrary.

 Marc Brown, of Arthur the aardvark fame, has illustrated this fun pro-literacy book in his typical cheerful, friendly style. Children are fascinated by his drawings and I noticed more than one of my students looking through the book on their own later, savoring the colorful artwork. He includes as many treats for adult readers' eyes and Sierra provides for their ears.

Buy this at your local bookstore, order it online, or better yet - check it out at your local zoobrary library.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Peanut Butter & Cupcake

Peanut Butter is the new kid in town. Mom is busy unpacking and setting up their new home, so when he asks her to play with him, she encourages him to go into the neighborhood and meet some new friends. His greeting to each potential friend goes like this:

"Hello, I'm new here, and I'd like to play
Maybe now, maybe later - or even all day
I'll make you chuckle deep down in your belly
And we'll go together like Peanut Butter and...(insert potential friend's name here)"

He approaches Hamburger, Cupcake, Egg, Meatball, French Fries, and Soup, but none of them want to engage with him, so he sits down on a park bench, ready to give up. Just in time, a new kid approaches and we finally get to meet the new friend that everyone knew would eventually show up...Jelly! (and the rhyme is finally a rhyme!)

Peanut Butter & Cupcake is written & illustrated by Terry Border, who is best known for his creations involving bent objects. While I found the story line to be prosaic, the photographs will fascinate readers and are the star of this story book.

Border cleverly manipulates 3-D objects to create a fun and funky world for our favorite food characters to inhabit. I laughed out loud at the meatball jumping rope with a piece of spaghetti and my students loved seeing Hamburger out walking his dogs, which are two hot dogs. The girls ooh'd and aah'd over Cupcake building a "sand" castle with sprinkles and I adored the photo of French Fries reading under a tree with a basket of ketchup by his side.

Worth reading just to see the photos!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Dex: The Heart of a Hero

I've been a fan of Caralyn and Mark Buehner since I read Fanny's Dream. When my daughter had a chance to hear them speak recently at the Springville Library (the library where she runs an incredible teen program!) she got a them to autograph copies of Fanny's Dream and Dex: The Heart of a Hero for me, which is like gold in our family!

Dex: The Heart of a Hero, written by Caralyn Buehner, and illustrated by her husband, Mark Buehner, is just plain cute. Dex, the weenie dog desperately wants to be a hero, but he can't even defend himself from tauntings of the neighborhood tomcat Clevis.

But Dex has a rich imaginary life, shared with the reader through comic strips frames that portray Dex as a flying superhero and he decides that he was tired of wanting to be a hero, he was going to start being a hero.

He begins to train by reading every superhero comic book and watching every superhero movie he can find. He starts a vigorous exercise program, and in one of my students' favorite frames, finally discovers his muscles. Dex even orders himself a superhero uniform, which garnered lots of laughs from my class because, let's face it - weenie dogs look comical in superhero get-ups.

The minute he ties on his shiny green cape, Dex begins helping others in any way that he can. His crowning achievement, however, involves rescuing the very tomcat who has been torturing him. All hail Super Dog!

I'll avoid spoiling the ending for you, but it is cute.

Mark Buehner's work is among my favorite in the world of illustrators. My first Mark Buehner book was Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm and I was hooked. His pictures, even when depicting events that take place in darkness, are always bright and vivid. He is great with facial expressions and, in this particular book, has hidden rabbits, cats and T-rexes throughout the illustrations, which motivated my students to scour every picture. Their hidden pictures treasure hunt generated discussions about a number of things they would not have otherwise noticed.

Read this story, heck, make it a dog stories week and add The Hallo-wiener, the Martha Speaks series, Dog Breath, Harry the Dirty Dog, Walter the Farting Dog series and Dogzilla. The giggles are half the fun!