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Author Archives: etownsend
Candor by Pam Bachorz. Egmont, 2009
Once-troubled teens become model citizens in Candor. “Respectful space in every place!” is a guiding principle that every young couple embraces. Everyone conforms, and teenager Oscar Banks, the mayor’s son, knows why: Music plays everywhere in Candor, and his father embeds subliminal messages in the songs. Not long after his father established Candor, Oscar figured out how to counteract the messages with personal recordings of his own. For him, conformity is all an act. Occasionally—and for a hefty fee—Oscar helps other kids, newcomers who still have a sense of self, escape the town and a future of mindless belonging. But a new girl in Candor poses a dilemma for Oscar. Nia is a free-spirited artist with an edginess Oscar admires. If he tells her the truth about Candor, he knows she’ll want to leave. Can he manipulate the messages she hears so that she seems to fit in even as the things that make her unique and appealing to him remain? Pam Bachorz’s provocative novel examines how both Oscar and his father are caught up in a web of power and control, one in which fear, anxiety, and even good intentions can lead to selfish, frightening ends. Bachorz’s inspiration for Candor was the planned community of Celebration, Florida. CCBC categories: Fiction for Young Adults. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Scholastic Press, 2012
Teenage Blue doesn’t have psychic powers but amplifies the signal for her mother and other psychics who live with them. All of them have foretold that if she kisses her true love, he will die. Blue avoids boys until she meets Adam, a student at Aglionby, the elite prep school in her hometown of Henrietta, Virginia. Adam isn’t like other Aglionby boys—he’s local, and he’s poor. Attracted to Adam, Blue is also drawn into his circle of friends and the quest of their leader, a boy named Gansey, to locate the ley line in Henrietta that might lead him to the tomb of a Welsh king. Blue has heard of Gansey: It was the name of a boy whose spirit she saw in her one psychic encounter, on St. Mark’s Eve—a vision that means he’s fated to die in the coming year. Against the backdrop of this tense, richly developed supernatural mystery, Maggie Stiefvater weaves a riveting and often poignant story of friendships and families, love and betrayal, money and identity, exploring the themes through the lives of refreshingly complex characters. The elements that draw the four boys together—and also threaten to divide them—become more and more apparent as Gansey’s search continues, his passion for the quest matched only by his desire and determination to keep his friends close and safe. And Blue’s own struggle—to assert her independence at home, to deal with her fate—is amplified as she becomes part of their tight-knit group. With several surprising revelations, Stiefvater’s immensely satisfying story will leave readers eager for the sequel. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamine Alire Sáenz. Simon & Schuster, 2012
Fifteen-year-old Ari is a loner. So he’s surprised when he becomes friends with smart, open-hearted Dante. They spend most of their free time together during the summer of 1987 in El Paso where they live. In the fall, Dante heads off to Chicago where his father is doing a visiting professorship. It’s in a letter to Ari that Dante reveals he’s gay, and Ari takes it in stride for the most part, even letting Dante kiss him once on a visit home. Reunited during the summer of 1988, the two hang out when they aren’t working. Meanwhile, Ari finds himself growing more and more angry at the silence in his family surrounding his older brother, Bernardo, who’s been in prison since Ari was four. Ari’s learned to swallow all his questions, so powerful is the unspoken message that the topic is forbidden. Then Dante is beaten up after a group of boys catch him kissing another boy. Enraged, Ari tracks one of the boys down and breaks his nose—all of the frustration and anger he feels coming out in the powerful punch. It’s a wake-up call for Ari’s parents, who make an effort to talk—about Bernardo and why he went to prison, and about Ari himself, encouraging him to stop hiding the truth about his feelings for Dante. That scene may be the only false note in a novel distinguished by gorgeous writing and extraordinary characterizations as it illuminates the friendship between the two teens—one who discovers he’s gay, one who knows it—from working-class and upper-middle-class Mexican American families. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Watch Wisconsin student-made book trailers for Aristotle and Dante!
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Simpson Street Free Press, Madison/HS/2013-14)
Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices edited by Mitali Perkins. Candlewick Press, 2013
Ten authors for young adults explore the intersection of culture and identity in a variety of styles and tones, from humorous to loving to conversational to let’s-face-the-truth matter of factness. That range is highlighted by notable pieces from Gene Luen Yang, G. Neri, Francisco X. Stork, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, and prefaced by Mitali Perkins’s introduction, in which she recommends humor as the ideal tool for negotiating potentially tense conversations about “growing up between cultures.” Some of these selections are funny while others take a different approach, but all offer welcome entrée into a subject zone often approached with caution. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Watch Wisconsin student-made book trailers for Open Mic!
Open Mic (Simpson Street Free Press, Madison/High School/2014-15)
The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano. Scholastic, 2012
Fourteen-year-old Evelyn Serrano gets caught between her meek, mild-mannered mother and her fiery, activist grandmother when a group calling itself the Young Lords begins advocating for social change in Spanish Harlem in 1969. The neighborhood is neglected by the city—even garbage pickup is irregular—and many residents struggle to make ends meet. Evelyn’s abuela arrives from Puerto Rico just as the Young Lords are gearing up for action. Abuela has been a political activist most of her adult life, and Evelyn is at first a bit embarrassed and then inspired by her grandmother’s brassiness and her courage. She sees little to admire in her own mother, who spends her days and nights working in her stepfather’s store, cooking, cleaning, and nursing her dream of someday owning a house in the Bronx. Vivid descriptions of the time and place, wonderful character development, and realistic family tensions ground this vibrant story about a fictional family caught up in actual events: The Young Lords were real, and they really did occupy a church in the neighborhood, demanding space to provide social services for neighborhood residents. Evelyn and her grandmother become part of that occupation. To Evelyn’s surprise, so, too does her mother—at first to make sure Evelyn is safe, but eventually she becomes—in her own quite way—part of the push for change. Evelyn discovers that her mother’s strength is not relentless activism but emotional constancy—one of the few things she discovers Abuela is incapable of providing. (MS) ©2012 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon. Aladdin / Simon & Schuster, 2012
Fourteen-year-old Maxie spends a lot of time at the Black Panther office. She’s eager to become a full-fledged Panther like her older brother, Raheem. The Panthers have purpose and passion and she wants to be part of making a difference. Instead, she’s given menial tasks, from stuffing and sealing envelopes to babysitting. At home, Maxie’s family life is unraveling—her mother, marginally reliable at the best of times, has lost her job and is bringing home men to try to plug the economic hole in their lives. Raheem is trying to help make ends meet, but can’t do enough for the family to avoid an eviction notice. Meanwhile, an attack on the Panther office by police intensifies Maxie’s desire to become a real Panther and carry a gun—she was the only one not able to fire back in the chaos. Then it becomes clear someone is in the office is passing information to the police, and Maxie decides she’ll prove her worth by figuring out who it is. Kekla Magoon’s sequel to The Rock and the River (Aladdin, 2009) stands on its own, illuminating the discrimination and poverty that motivate Maxie, and the divide between the African American community in 1968 Chicago and white society, even whites such as war protestors who stand against the status quo. Magoon’s writing keeps getting better as she skillfully offers insight into this time and place through characters who represent a variety of perspectives and experiences. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Watch Wisconsin student-made book trailers for Fire in the Streets!
Fire in the Streets (Whitehorse Middle School, Madison/Middle School/2013-14)
Fire in the Streets (Simpson Street Free Press, Madison/Middle School/2013-14)
The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch. Houghton Mifflin, 2012
Geologist Steve Squyres knew that it wasn’t possible to go to Mars himself, so he did the next best thing: He helped create two robotic geologists that could make the journey and report back. Doing so took funding from NASA and an entire team of scientists. “It was so complicated,” he noted, “that not a single one of us fully understood what was going on.” After a six–month journey, the two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity (named by a nine-year-old girl), landed on different parts of the red planet and began their explorations, with scientists back on earth directing their moves and troubleshooting when things went wrong. Color photographs transmitted from Mars stand side by side with photographs of the scientists back home, who are watching, worrying, wondering, and celebrating throughout the rovers’ amazing explorations. The story itself is inherently dramatic, and the science is skillfully woven into the account. Readers will feel the same sense of discovery that Squyres and his team felt as the two Mars rovers opened up a whole new world to them. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. Viking, 2011
Sunny, born in the United States to Nigerian parents, returned to Nigeria with her family when she was nine. Now twelve, she’s taunted by her peers because she’s an albino. Her West African physical features, at odds with her blond hair, hazel eyes, and skin “the color of ‘sour milk’,” make her the target of bullies. Then Sunny discovers it’s not just her physical appearance that’s unusual: She is one of the Leopard people, a “free agent” witch who possesses latent magical skills and the power to work juju. Unlike her classmate Orlu, and Chichi, a neighborhood girl, who both come from magical families, she knows nothing about the world of magic. Orlu and Chichi become Sunny’s initial guides, introducing her to their teachers and the community of Leopard people. No one at home knows Sunny is moving back and forth between worlds, let alone that she, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, a Leopard boy visiting from Chicago, have become an Oha coven, fated to confront the Black Hat serial killer terrorizing communities in the area. At the heart of Sunny’s journey into this distinctive realm of magic that coexists with the everyday world are the friendships she forges with other young Leopard people in Nnedi Okorafor’s fresh fantasy novel. The Nigerian setting and culture and well-developed characters have us hoping book two won’t be long in coming. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Watch Wisconsin student-made book trailers for Akata Witch!
Akata Witch (Whitehorse Middle School, Madison/Middle School/2012-13)
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall by Vaunda Nelson Micheaux. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Carolrhoda, 2009
Bass Reeves was big, tall, and strong, wore a bushy mustache, and rode a powerful horse. “But the biggest thing about Bass Reeves was his character. He had a dedication to duty few men could match. He didn’t have a speck of fear in him. And he was as honest as the day is long.” As a young enslaved man in the 1840s, Bass hit his owner. To avoid death, he ran away to Indian Territory, where he lived on the run until after the Civil War. Eventually Bass became a U.S. deputy marshal for the territory, where he gained a reputation for his sharpshooting and clever use of disguises. His capture rate was high, and he was both respected and hated by the people of the time. Criminals didn’t want Bass tracking them down, and “some whites didn’t like the notion of a black man with a badge.” Striking oil illustrations capture both the dignity of the man and the drama of his job. A glossary, timeline, list of further reading, and additional information about Indian Territory and the judge under whom Bass Reeves worked are included in the final pages. CCBC Categories: Biography and Autobiography © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. Chronicle Books, 2012
Tua is at the market when she stumbles upon a young elephant being cruelly treated by the petty thieves who won the pachyderm in a poker game. Once the men fall asleep, smart, capable Tua frees the elephant and leads her through the bustling Thai city of Chiang Mai. They end up at the house of Tua’s Auntie Orchid, a flamboyant actress who barely bats an eye at the beast’s arrival, not even after the elephant, whom Tua names Pohn-Pohn, opens the refrigerator in search of food. But it’s clear Auntie Orchid’s house isn’t a good elephant refuge, especially when the two thieves show up at the door. A narrow but successful escape has Tua leading the elephant through the city and into the countryside, where she hopes to reach an elephant sanctuary, with the slightly bumbling, slightly menacing thieves hot on her trail. Great descriptive writing combines with lots of action in R. P. Harris’s fresh, whimsical tale full of humor and warmth, not the least of which is the tenderness between Tua and Pohn-Pohn. Beautiful book design—including two-color illustrations in purple and gold—add to the pleasure of this lively story that would make a great read-aloud. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre. Illustrated by Rafael Rosado. First Second, 2012
Bold Claudette wants to slay the legendary, baby-feet-eating giant that threatens her town. Sure, the Marquis built a fortress to protect them (at taxpayer expense, Claudette notes), but what kind of a solution is that? She convinces her best friend Marie, an aspiring princess, and her timid little brother Gaston, an aspiring chef, to join her on a quest to kill the giant. The Marquis rallies a group of men in town to form a search party to go after them, but the children prove far more adept in their quest to reach Giant’s Peak than the men prove in saving them. Once there, the children discover the story as they heard it isn’t quite true: It turns out the giant is just a baby who likes to tickle feet, not eat them. Rafael Rosaldo’s spirited, full-color graphic novel is full of humor and action, as well as doses of social satire and a welcome dismissal of traditional gender roles. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story by S.D. Nelson. Abrams, 2012
“My name is Buffalo Bird Woman, Waheenee, and my people are known as the Hidatsa. When I was young, they called me Buffalo Bird Girl—after the little brown bird that lives on the prairies of the Great Plains.” In a beautifully realized work, S.D. Nelson pairs a narrative written in the first-person voice of Buffalo Bird Woman looking back on her childhood with illustrations and documentary photographs—including one of Buffalo Bird Woman–showing dimensions of nineteenth-century Hidatsa life. The mix of illustrations and photographs works wonderfully. Nelson’s striking paintings reflect scenes described in the narrative, which are punctuated with occasional black-and-white photos showing these elements in real life. In an author’s note Nelson describes personal memories that echo some of the traditions described by Buffalo Bird Woman. He goes on to tell more about Buffalo Bird Woman, including the published works about her life on which she collaborated and from which he drew in writing his narrative. He also discusses the Hidatsa people, past and present. A time line, notes, and a bibliography are also provided. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
These Hands by Margaret H. Mason. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Houghton Mifflin, 2011
An African American grandfather tells his grandson about his own accomplishments and struggles while teaching the boy new things in an engaging picture book that gracefully traverses personal and social history. “Did you know these hands used to tie a triple bowline knot in three seconds flat?” asks the grandfather as he teaches young Joseph how to tie his shoes. “These hands” could also play piano, “pluck an ace of spades out of thin air,” and throw a fast curveball. But “these hands were not allowed to mix the bread dough at the Wonder Bread factory,” until they joined with other hands and voices in a movement for change. Margaret H. Mason’s story comes full circle as Joseph tells his grandfather all the things his own hands can now do. “Anything at all,” his grandfather affirms. Mason’s warm, lively narrative is set against Floyd Cooper’s sepia-toned illustrations, which show the passage of several years in Joseph’s life as well as an earlier era of social change. An author’s note provides more information on Black workers in bakeries in the 1950s and early 1960s. Highly Commended, 2012 Charlotte Zolotow Award © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm by John Katz. Henry Holt, 2011
Four dogs live on the Katz farm in Upstate New York, and all have important and unique jobs to do. Each dog is introduced in turn as the text describes a bit about its history, personality, and work. Rose herds sheep, Izzy visits sick people, and Frieda guards the farm. At the end of each animal’s section, readers are asked “What is Lenore’s job?” Eventually Lenore takes center stage: she “looks for disgusting things to eat, mud to roll in, and people and animals to love.” Lenore may not have traditional work in the same way as her canine companions, but she does have a job of “loving and accepting and having patience. And that may be the greatest work of all.” The personality of each dog shines through the excellent color photographs in a book that celebrates the value of all contributions to a society. Honor Book, 2012 Charlotte Zolotow Award © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Crouching Tiger by Ying Chang Compestine. Illustrated by Yan Nascimbene. Candlewick Press, 2011
A young boy is excited to learn tai chi when his grandpa, who’s visiting from China, explains it’s a martial art. But at the first lesson, all his grandpa tells him to do is stand with his arms out. This is the first of a string of disappointments that leave the boy feeling resentful, not to mention embarrassed: His grandpa insists on calling him Ming Da, his Chinese name, rather than Vinson, his American name. Things turn around with the arrival of Chinese New Year. His grandpa has been training the lion dancers, and now he has a role for Ming Da—one that all that standing with arms out has prepared him for! Ying Chang Compestine’s beautifully nuanced story is perfectly paired with Yan Nascimbene’s wonderfully composed pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations. The art offers a great range of perspectives and many details to notice, while reflecting both the grandfather’s serenity and the excitement of the New Year festival. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Quinito’s Neighborhood = El Vecindario de Quinito by Ina Cumpiaño. Illustrated by José Ramírez. Children’s Book Press, 2005
A bilingual book that will make a terrific addition to preschool storytimes or units about work and workers features a young Latino boy, Quinito, describing the jobs done by members of his immediate and extended family as well as others in his neighborhood. “My mami is a carpenter. My papi is a nurse,” begins Quinito. His abuela drives a truck, his abuelo fixes clocks. He has one cousin going to clown school, and another who’s a dentist. Various neighbors bake and sell bread, run a store, and work at the bank. Quinito knows them all. And his job? Well, his job is keeping track of it all, so he can tell his teacher that “My mami is a carpenter. My papi is a nurse . . . ” Puerto Rican author Ina Cumpiano’s busy story is accompanied by José Ramirez’s warm, vibrant acrylic paintings. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
There are lots of ways to build a better world: sharing family time, being a good friend, working together, observing nature… Ask children if they can think of some things that make the world a better place.
Cradle Me by Debby Slier. Star Bright Books, 2012
Babies love looking at babies, and this welcome, cradle-shaped board book features photographs of ten beautiful babies from ten different American Indian tribes, each one engaged in a typical cradle-board related activity (peeking, touching, crying, yawning, etc.). Each of the baby’s tribal affiliations is identified on a final page spread that explains “Generations of Native American mothers have carried their babies in cradle boards and they are still used by many tribes today. Each cradle board is personalized and they vary from tribe to tribe.” (MS) ©2012 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Find more suggestions for Native American/First Nations titles at American Indians in Children’s Literature.
What will Hatch? by Jennifer Ward. Illustrated by Susie Ghahremani. Walker / Bloomsbury, 2013
Eggs of eight different animals are presented with a few carefully selected words (“Sandy ball”) paired with the question “What will hatch?” An equally spare answer (“Paddle and crawl – Sea turtle”) augments the illustration of the brand-new juvenile. A balanced array of animals goes beyond birds (goldfinch, penguin, and robin) to include a caterpillar, crocodile, platypus, sea turtle, and tadpole. Egg shapes are die-cut, with the page turn cleverly revealing the result of each hatching. A few pages of additional information at the book’s end introduce young children to the term “oviparous” and relate egg facts for each species (time in egg, parents’ incubation behavior, number of siblings). Simple gouache on wood illustrations, while not always strictly representational, are consistently lovely with a warm palette of gold, green, and brown. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Job Site by Nathan Clement. Boys Mills Press, 2011
A simple, appealing picture book shows different machines engaged in work at a construction site. Page spreads alternate between an African American foreman giving a simple command (“Boss says, ‘Dump some gravel here’”) and various machines carrying out the desired action (“And the dump truck lifts its bed and dumps its gravel”). When the job is finally done, “the bulldozer, excavator, loader, dump truck compactor, mixer, and crane roll away to the next job site.” Each of the tantalizing machines fills the span of the page spread on which it is featured in colorful, computer-rendered illustrations. A final image shows people enjoying the pond, fountain, and tower that were being built. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2012
Moose can’t wait to take his turn in this alphabet book, first attempting to butt in on the letter D. Zebra, who is refereeing this alphabet showcase, orders him off the page. But there Moose is again, stumbling into Elephant on the E page, and completely covering the text on the page that says “H is for Hat” (the text must be inferred by the visual clue—what you can see of the hat behind gangly, round-eyed Moose, who is all eagerness). Finally, it’s time for the letter M and Moose’s big moment: “M is for Mouse.” “What? Wait! No! That was supposed to be me!” The props and pages for O, P, and Q (owl, pie, queen) are the victims of Moose’s ensuing tantrum (again, readers must infer the missing narrative from visual clues, which in this case have been scattered and scrambled by Moose’s fury). Finally the tantrum dissolves into sniffles, and then full-fledged tears, until Zebra saves the day. Because it turns out the letter Z is for “Zebra’s friend, Moose.” A clever, outrageously funny alphabet book features a narrative by Kelly Bingham’s that includes many dialogue bubbles conveying Moose and Zebra’s ongoing exchange as well as comments from others who are witness to the ever-increasing spectacle. And Paul O. Zelinksy’s illustrations are a masterful riot, incorporating humor into small details as well as big moments. (MS) ©2012 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Listen to a podcast featuring Z is for Moose from the CCBC librarians!
Find resources for these titles and all of this year’s Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers titles at TeachingBooks.net!
Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of the Season by Margaret Wise Brown. Illustrated by Twelve Award-Winning Picture Book Artists. Sterling, 2015
After Margaret Wise Brown’s death in 1952, hundreds of unpublished manuscripts, poems, and songs were packed away in a relative’s barn for many decades. This volume introduces 12 of her poems for very young children, 10 of which have never before been published. Each poem is accompanied by a double-page illustration by a different children’s book artist, and the poems themselves are arranged to reflect the cycle of seasons. Kittens, bunnies, and the joy of being outside in the natural world are the recurring themes that run through all of these child-friendly offerings. Each one has been set to music by Tom Proutt and Emily Gary, and a CD of them performing the 12 original songs is included with the book. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Use this poetry book throughout the year with the Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers monthly selections.
- September: “To a Child”
- October: “Fall of the Year”
- November: “Quiet in the Wilderness”
- December: “Cherry Tree” and “Advice to Bunnies”
- January: “Snowfall” and “Winter Adventure”
- February: “The Kitten’s Dream”
- April: “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz” and “Bunny Jig”
- May: “Love Song of the Little Bear” and “The Song of the Tiny Cat”
Every Day Birds by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. Illustrated by Dylan Metrano. Orchard / Scholastic, 2016
Lovely cut-paper collage illustrations provide a close-up rendering of 20 common birds. Brief text describes a trait or two about each bird. Chickadee has a “wee black cap.” Sparrow “hops in brown.” Eagle “soars above the land.” Opening- and closing-page spreads encourage observation of birds, while the end matter provides tips for learning more about birds as well as additional information about each of the 20 birds included. (Ages 3–8) © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Try these early literacy activities with children:
- Read: As you read, let the child(ren) see if they can guess the name of the bird before you say it.
- Talk: Adults, pick a bird or two from the back of the book and talk in more detail about those birds.
- Sing: Listen to birdcalls; try to imitate some of them.
- Write: Use your finger to trace the birds in the book.
- Play: What sounds do birds make? Can you make those sounds, too? Can you tap like a woodpecker? Or honk like a goose?
- Math or Science: Compare and contrast the different types of birds. What do they have in common and what is different? Wings. Beaks. Colors. Nests.
A Morning with Grandpa by Cynthia Liu. Illustrated by Christina Forshay. Lee & Low, 2016
Mei Mei watches Gong Gong doing tai chi and wants to learn how it’s done. The little girl’s attempts to emulate her grandpa are enthusiastic, but it’s hard for her to control her abundant energy as she turns every move into a chance to show off. Gong Gong clearly understands his granddaughter’s self-centered behavior is simply part of being a child, and he is both patient and playful as he directs her. “Now that I’m good at tai chi, it’s my turn to teach you something new,” Mei Mei tells him before their roles are reversed: She becomes the encouraging teacher and Gong Gong follows her lead doing yoga. A bright, buoyant story featuring a Chinese grandfather and grandchild giving each other their undivided attention includes information about tai chi and yoga, including illustrated descriptions of Gong Gong and Mei Mei’s tai chi movements and yoga postures, at volume’s end. (Ages 3–7) © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Try these early literacy activities with children:
- Read: A Morning with Grandpa. Can you find letters or words that you recognize in the book?
- Talk: About body control. Talk about flexibility, balance, and movement. Are there things that child(ren) are better at and grownups are better at?
- Sing: Head and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
- Write: Draw a picture of what you like to do with one of your favorite grown-ups.
- Play: Try some of Gong Gong’s tai chi motions and Mei Mei’s yoga poses.
- Math or Science: Try to balance on one foot or in one of the yoga poses. How long can you stand or stay in pose without falling. What helps you to stay upright and balanced?
When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes. Illustrated by Laura Dronzek. Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2016
“Before Spring comes, the grass is brown. But if you wait, Spring will turn it green and add little flowers.” Page by page, Henkes highlights the small changes that come as winter turns to spring, returning again and again to the phrase “if you wait … ” Rich acrylic paintings feature two young children out in the natural world, experiencing and observing all spring has to offer—the hatching birds, sprouting seeds, rain and puddles, bees, and boots. There’s also a surprise snowfall, because spring “changes its mind a lot.” And when spring finally arrives for good, waiting for summer can begin. This perfectly paced and elegantly illustrated celebration of seasonal changes is right on target for young children, with its sense of wonder at the world outside. (Ages 2–6) © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Try these early literacy activities with children:
- Read: The poem “Love Song of the Little Bear” & “The Song of the Tiny Cat” in Goodnight Songs
- Talk: About the senses. What does spring sound, smell, look, taste, or feel like?
- Sing: A song or read a rhyme about spring.
- Write: Look at the pictures of the book. Pick your favorite page. Draw a picture of what you like about it. Have a grown-up help you write about that picture.
- Play: Outside: Blow bubbles. Play in the mud. Jump in puddles.
- Math or Science: Germinate a bean seed in a paper towel. See how many days it takes to begin to grow. Talk about roots and water. Go outside to look at plants growing.
Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth by Jarvis. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2016
Alan the alligator has built his jungle reputation on scaring the other animals. “It was what he did best.” A snoutful of pointy teeth play a big role in Alan’s frightful credibility, and he is careful to guard the secret that his teeth are, in fact, dentures. But Barry the Beaver learns the truth and absconds with the detachable chompers. When Alan’s attempts at toothless scaring are a failure, he vents his loss of self-identity with loud and miserable tears, prompting the other creatures to offer to return his dentures. There’s one condition: Alan has to agree to stop scaring them. It turns out those big teeth have other uses, and Alan reinvents himself as a gardener, hairdresser, dentist, and scary storyteller. Despite the menacing dentition, Alan is nonthreatening from the get-go, depicted in rich jungle hues rendered with pencil, chalk, and paint and colored digitally, in illustrations bouncing with playful energy. Honor Book, 2017 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Try these early literacy activities with children:
- Read: A silly poem in Goodnight Songs, like “Bunny Jig”
- Talk: About false teeth. Ask the child(ren) if they know anyone who has false teeth.
- Sing: The Rafi song: Brush Your Teeth; if you don’t know it, look at the library or find a video on YouTube.
- Write: Draw a new set of teeth for Alan. Use your own Alan drawing or this activity sheet.
- Play: Pretend to brush your teeth and practice your scary face like Alan does!
- Math or Science: Look for shapes throughout the book (Alan’s teeth are triangles). Look around you for shapes. How many sides do the different shapes have?