Archive | May, 2015

Summer Reading Lists

22 May

Memorial Day weekend is upon us. Summer is just around the corner! Keep your kids reading and growing this year. Looking for some titles for summer reading? The first place I recommend is your local public library. That’s not to say you shouldn’t support your local bookstores, but free is good and supporting a library keeps libraries in business which is good for everyone not just those who can afford to buy books.

Now, by all means, if you love, love, love a book and just have to own it… buy it! Books make great gifts. So whether it’s an end-of-the-year school gift, a birthday gift, or just thinking-about-you gift find one and share it with someone special this weekend.

Another idea for parents who are decluttering their lives and helping their children do the same is to weed out your bookshelves. While trimming down your closet, take a look at that overflowing bookcase. What books has your child outgrown? Donating books to local organizations helps put great books into the hands of children who may not have access to children’s literature and clears the shelves in your house for more appropriate books for your child.

Now, get yourself signed up for a summer reading program. Most libraries, and some bookstores, offer summer reading programs for children of all ages. If you can’t find something in your neighborhood, check out the All-Star Reading Program offered by my library, the Cincinnati Public Library, and the Summer Reading Challenge programmed by the New York Public Library. You can always modify and adapt a program to meet your needs at home.

And while you’re on the lookout for great new books, consult The Association for Library Service to Children, ALSC for their recommendations for the 2015 Summer Reading Lists by age categories or the 2015 list from Horn Book which is also categorized by reading levels.

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So what are you waiting for? Find the books that are just perfect for you and your child and read, read, read this summer!

Little Surprises

20 May

Sometimes you find lovely surprises under a pile of papers. Several months ago a friend gave me three paperbacks written by someone she knew and asked me if I could review them. Of course I took them with every intention of reading and reviewing them right away. But things got in the way and they got buried on my desk. Well, I found them today and just had to sit right down and finally read them. The books are part of a series of nautical stories inspired by wooden boats in the Great Lakes region. Each book tells the story of one of the wooden boats.

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Pegasus is a boat with painted wings. More than anything, Pegasus wants to fly like a bird. Then one day a storm blows through and Pegasus is freed from the dock. But instead of being excited about being alone in the water, Pegasus is lost and afraid. Finally, he makes friends with some herons who made a loud racket in the water drawing his owners to them. They tied a rope to him and pulled him back to the dock. Pegasus realized how lucky he was to have his friends and owners.

Larry is a small boat. His owners love the smooth ride he gives, but sometimes he wishes he were a faster, shinier, sportier, boat. One day while on the river, Larry hears the distress call from one of those sportier boats. His engine failed and he was floating aimlessly. To make matters worse, a huge barge was coming downriver and the sports boat was in the way. Larry hurried over to help. His owners threw a rope to the owner of the sporty boat and towed him safely into the marina.

Chris is an old wooden boat who finds himself in a boat shop talking to a mouse who is the captain of the shop and the other boats left there for repair. When a man in overalls comes to repair Chris, Captain Cuddy (the mouse) stays with him and keeps him calm. Chris learns that the man in the overalls only wanted him for small jobs. He thought Chris was a junker, not worth fixing. Finally, someone came to the dock who wanted to buy Chris and restore him to his original beauty. It turns out that someone was Donny, one of the children whose father owned Chris originally. Chris was so happy to be back home with someone who loved him.

Picture Book Art

14 May

Admit it, we’re drawn to the art of picture books. It’s okay, we’re supposed to be! The artwork sets the stage for the story. It reflects the mood of the story. It provides another layer to the story. Based on those three things alone, it’s okay to judge a book by its cover. And once you open the cover, you will be amazed that such art is within its pages.

Another lovely reason to love picture book covers, is the immediate recognition we have when we see a book we know and love. When I taught emergent readers many years ago, we began the school year with a bulletin board of words they could ‘read’ by picture/logo association. These included words from traffic signs, chain stores, restaurants, product trademarks, etc. Advertising people know the power of visual memory. As soon as they started bringing in cereal boxes and magazine ads for our bulletin board, I started showing them book covers. Yes, they could ‘read’ titles based on the artwork. Wow! What a revelation for them… they were readers! They could read caterpillar and moon long before they could read sight words like is, the, and a.

I wish I could afford original kidlit artwork. But like any masterpiece, they are well outside my budget. What I have done, however, is the second best thing for me. I frame the paper covers of my books. I only wish I had thought of doing this earlier, because most of my covers are now tattered or discarded. This is an inexpensive way for me to surround myself with the masters. I have a few Caldecott Medal Winners and some classics. I started with the two or three which survived the many years of love and handling. Then I picked up a few more at Half Price Bookstore. Now, I’m raiding my grandchildren’s shelves. My collection is growing and I love how this is turning out. Can’t wait to pick up and frame more favorite friends.

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Having picture book covers on my wall is inspirational for me as a writer as well. I can imagine what my own words will look like to an illustrator, and how readers will be drawn to my stories. I can’t wait for the surprises that an illustrator will bring to my stories. And more than anything, I can’t wait for a child to identify my book by its cover!

My Two Cents Worth

6 May

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I write reviews and recommendations of picture books. I post my thoughts on my blog, Goodreads, and Pinterest. I sometime get asked why I do this, and sometimes when I’m overwhelmed I ask myself why I do this. I do this for one very simple reason… I LOVE PICTURE BOOKS!

When I was teaching, I had my favorites, my reliable go-to books for every occasion. I had my favorite back-to-school books, my favorite Johnny Appleseed books, my favorite after-recess-read-alouds, my favorite book on every topic in my curriculum… and then I realized my shelf of books was worn and tattered. Worn and tattered in a good way, because they were loved to pieces, but worn and tattered nonetheless. I ordered new books from the PTA Book Fairs. I ordered new books from the classroom book club order forms. I tried to keep abreast of the new market. But it seemed like every time I stepped into a bookstore there were hundreds of new titles. I just couldn’t keep up. I depended on the advice of other picture book lovers to steer me in the direction of the books which would suit my purposes.

Well, guess what? Now I’m the one who has the time to read and read and read. And I do. I have worn out my library card. Literally had a new one issued! Last year I made a commitment to find books to celebrate every day of the year. Wow! I’m glad that’s done! This year I’m reading books that have been recommended but focusing on the newest titles available. You can find the titles I’ve recommended so far this year under the tab BOOKS ALIVE! As a bonus, I pair some fun activities to extend the life of the book with each recommendation.

Because I know how many parents, teachers, and gift-givers don’t have time to search for just the right book, I’m leaving my two cents worth wherever I can.

I only leave positive comments. If there is something that is just not up my alley, I leave it for someone who absolutely loves it to do it justice. Every book deserves to be respected for it’s merits just as every child deserves books that they will truly enjoy reading and rereading.

I hope that this small service is worthwhile to someone in the market for just the right picture book for their young readers.

PS If you know someone who would like to find out more about the newest books on the market, please send them my way. I’m already doing the work, they might as well benefit from it! Remember, sharing is caring!

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