Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Reading Rainbow Writing Contest

Does your child have a book in them? If so, here is his or her chance to experience a small taste of authorship.

Reading Rainbow as seen on PBS is holding its (12th) annual story-writing and illustrating contest for students from kindergarten through 3rd grade. It is fascinating the stories these young children write. The illustrations can also be amazing or just plain unusual. This is a great opportunity to have your students or children put their wonderful developing imaginations to work.

Here in Central Indiana you can follow the local PBS station's, WFYI, link to last year's winners and hear their stories. It also provides the details of entering. Each area's local PBS station holds its own contest, so check your local station and see what the guidelines are for submitting stories. I believe the common deadline is March 31.

Each grade level is judged separately and there are awards for 1st through 3rd place, and every child who enters gets a certificate signed by the Reading Rainbow's host LeVar Burton. The winner's stories are then aired at a later date and usually read by a well-known local or state individual or celebrity. There were 12 judges for last year's contest, which included elementary teachers, librarians, artists, and child development specialists.

Unfortunately, at the national level there seems to be a bit of a glitch in the contest. Seems the national PBS contest is on hold due to a lack of funding. But, each local station is still holding its own, if it has its own funding.

Even if you aren't interested in the contest, check out the It's in a book section. This webpage includes all the books they have previously spotlighted on the show. There is a picture of the book along with an audio and written summary of the book. Good place to check out book ideas for home or school. If you haven't seen the program or would like to see one of the previous programs for a specific book, check out your local library's video section. Both my local and school libraries carry almost all of the program's videos. When I worked in the elementary school library a few years back, many of the 1st through 3rd grade teachers used to incorporate the videos into a specific lesson. Math Curse written by Jon Scieszka was a favorite along with Rechenka's Eggs written by Patricia Polacco.

Now if for some reason the Reading Rainbow contest doesn't appeal to you or your child, there are many more available. There is even one put on by the author mention above, Patricia Polacco. Check out her Summer Writing Contest; it includes catagories for older children as well.

Hope your day includes a good book.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

New Stamps Celebrate Children's Animal Books

Well, look what the government came up with for its new postage rate stamp. It decided to select eight acclaimed children's books and put them on the new stamps. There aren't very many choices yet for 39 cent stamps, but this one is their tribute to books. Of course, I am not sure why they chose these books or children's in fact. Some are classics and some well "newbies". And, what is funny I do not like any of them as a favorite. This just goes to show you that my tastes vary from others because many of these books are favorites among the vast majority. I do like most of them, but I would not choose to have them in my collection unless later on my daughter says "I want that book". Also, these books span a large publication time frame. From the original author of Curious George (coming soon to you as an animated movie) to the current Maisy series. I must admit kids really do like most of these. Although, I wouldn't have included Charlotte's Web in with seven other picture books. Wilbur is not illustrated all that much in a chapter book. However, I do give credit for the USPS for at least recognizing there are other good things to immortalize on a stamp besides Elvis and the US Flag. If you go looking for the books to checkout you will find they are all still available from the library and for purchase at the mainstream bookstores. Here they are along with their authors:

  1. Frederick by Lionni, Leo
  2. Olivia by Falconer, Ian
  3. Charlotte's Web by White, E. B. (Elwyn Brooks)
  4. Fox in Socks by Seuss, Dr.
  5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Carle, Eric
  6. Maisy Goes to the Library (other titles available as well) by Cousins, Lucy
  7. Where the Wild Things Are by Sendak, Maurice
  8. The Original Curious George by Rey, H. A. (Hans Augusto) or the continued series by Rey, Margret under titles such as Curious George Flies a Kite

But, as a side note, when did insects and rodents start being considered animals?

Happy reading.


Friday, January 27, 2006

A Few Book Review Resources

Looking for some new children's books to consider or check out? Here are a few sources that can point you in the right direction. But, (this is where I add the usual disclaimer) as always keep in mind each child is different and their reactions will vary depending on their own tastes and perferences. Just because I say I like the book or some publication says it is great doesn't mean your child will like it.

BookPage.com Besides being able to pick this newspaper up free from libraries and other places, it includes at least one interview each month with a children's author. It doesn't include every book being published for the month, but does highlight a number of them and from various genres. Oh, if you can't find it laying around to read, take a look at the website.

ALA/Booklist This link will take you to an index page where you can select from a variety of options on non-fiction books. Check this link out for Animal Babies in ponds and rivers
a book that my daughter really likes. It includes full page pictures of animals found near ponds and rivers along with short text about them. There are a number of really good non-fiction books that you will find kids like. Remember to browse the "dreaded" Dewey children's section of the library.

Kirkus Reviews Here you can get a preview of the latest children's books published and see a bit of the review. For the full review you will need to have a subscribtion. However, like other publication reviews, the information is usually available somewhere else for free.

Amazon.com As you probably already know or do, if you have a title that you are interested in, check it out on Amazon. There you will usually find at least a reveiw by the Amazon people and a trade publication such as Publisher's Weekly. Many times you will also find an individual has posted their opinions based on their experience with the book. Sometimes these are helpful and other times just bunk.

Some articles to check out. (Some are full articles and others are summaries depending on whether a subscription is needed.) Best Books of 2005 as determined by School Library Journal along with 2006 Notable Children's Books and past Children's Notable Lists as selected by the American Library Association. Here at the The Children's Book Council you will find Books to Grow On reading lists, but I do have to disagree with how the list is compiled and the apparent limits they put on what is good to read to children at certain ages.

Have a fun time in the stacks.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Kissing Books!???

Did the title grab your attention? Well, these are not really about kissing in the sense most people think about. Rather, these are very sweet books that babies and young children really enjoy. The first book is one I call a great "Lap Book". The other is another for the category "Read Alouds". Although I haven't really explained my "category" listing yet, this is what I call a split category posting. As I add more books to the blog you will find I try to group the books into category types, but please do not rule out a book just because of a label I have stuck on it.

Kiss Good Night written by Amy Hest
When I first bought this, I thought what a good bedtime book, and it is. But since then, I have also really enjoyed watching my little girl (who is 11 months now) take pleasure in the pictures as well as the story. It is a simple story of how Mrs. Bear puts Sam to bed on a stormy night. Sam though isn't ready to go to sleep just yet, as Mrs. Bear has seemingly forgotten the most important part of Sam's bedtime routine. Sam isn't bothered by the storm, but really needs that final kiss goodnight in order to drift off to sleep. The easy going Mrs. Bear and the quiet persistency of Sam are artfully portrayed in surprisingly eye catching muted colors. We have both the picture book paperback size and the small board book version. I definitely think the larger size is the best for bedtime reading as the pictures are larger and not obstructed by having to share a small space with the text. (Watch for a later posting on several issues board books present.) Babies through probably 2nd grade would enjoy this. I call this a "Lap Book" as it is great to have your little one(s) curled up on or near your lap as you read it, especially if you end the story like Mrs. Bear.

Kiss the Cow written by Phyllis Root

How fun would it be to try and really kiss a cow? Well, you won't find this redhead trying it, just as the main red-haired character Annalisa wouldn't either. You see Annalisa's mother has too many kids to be counted, but her cow Luella always provides enough milk to feed everyone. That is until Annalisa tries to fool Luella. So, when Luella stops milking one day when she does not receive the obligatory kiss, will Annalisa pucker up to help the family out? The rhythm of the story and phrasing make this a fun book to read out loud, especially if you add a bit of a whimsical accent. I found preschool through 2nd grade enjoyed this more than older children. Plus, it is just too cute not to read.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Good Chapter Books

There are a number of great early reading chapter books and I will try to feature a variety of story types. One thing I would like to add regarding my recommendations on age groups is that these are just general suggestions. I have found that age or grade brackets are just guidelines, but each child's reading and interest level should really be the deciding factor in their book selection. The reason I add a suggested grade or age is for that person who is helping a child select a book or picking something out when the child isn't present. But, I firmly believe you are never, ever to old to enjoy a good children's book.

Gooseberry Park written by Cynthia Rylant
This would definitely be a great book to turn into an animated film. The characters and story remind me of a typical Disney movie. However, the good news in this story is everyone lives. (Generally, Disney movies always tend to have some dramatic death.) Here you will find a book whose story is told by animals, which kids just love. There is the lovable and heroic dog, the wise old hermit crab, the wacky bat, and the squirrel in need of rescuing. When a fierce storm destroys Stumpy's (the squirrel) home, Kona (the dog) rescues Stumpy's babies, but can't find Stumpy. With the help of friends, Kona takes over caring for the babies until Stumpy can be found. There is a lot of witty dialogue and comical events that make this a fun read for the individual or as a class/group read aloud. Children from probably 3rd through 5th grade would really enjoy this.

My Dog, Cat written by Marty Crisp
Although this is a very good book selection for a boy, girls too would enjoy it. Don't let the title fool you. The story is more about the animal owners than the animals. The background centers around the main character who just can't seem to overcome everyday life. He is the new kid in town with a girl's name of Abbie, short for Abbott, and is having to deal with the extra tall class bully who has a big dog. Besides all the usually dilemmas of moving to a new town, Abbie has always wanted a dog, but his family has cats. He finally gets his wish when his Aunt comes to town to drop off her new dog while she is away. Abbie in his heart just knows this is the solution to all his problems, a large dog. Yet, to his surprise his Aunt doesn't bring the dog of his dreams, but a shockingly small Yorkie dog whose name is Cat, short for Catullus the Great. How Abbie deals with this disappointment and the bully makes for a heart-warming story. Not a bad choice for 3rd through 5th grade and easy enough of a read for a confident 2nd grade reader.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Read Alouds

The following are two books that I have found to be good read alouds to a group of children. This group could be a class, program, or just a group of kids gathered for a play date. The key I have found with reading any book aloud though is that you need to put that vocal exaggeration on words and a bit of excitement into the plot as you read. One way I decide if a book will be a good read aloud is if the story stands without needing to have the pictures seen and if it creates an anticipation for the listener.

The Princess and the Pizza is written by Mary Jane Auch.

The story is basically a fun take on several fairytales combined. It "stars" a sassy redhaired princess who's father tossed away his title to become an aspiring wood craver. The princess misses being the center of attention and jumps at an opportunity to become the wife of a "working" prince. She then finds she has to compete for the "job". Through the antics she stumbles upon a recipe that generates "pizza". The book is marketed to the k - 3 grades. However, I have found to get some of the subtle references to the other fairytales, children from grades 2 to 5 would probably get a bigger kick out of it. You can usually find this book in the picture book section of a library.

The Tale of Tricky Fox as retold by Jim Aylesworth
What a funny story for school librarians and teachers to read aloud. The ending always gets the kids laughing and thinking how they view their teachers. The story basically is that of a Fox who brags to his brother that he can get a human to give him a pig. There are a number of repetitive sayings that kids will love to participate in repeating with you as you read. I found singing the Fox's song to the kids really gets them into the story. The story is really good for grades k - 3. I hestiate to add 4th graders as they are in that transitional attitude stage alot of the times. Kids will love to check this out too, but the problem is that it is usually found in the folktale non-fiction section of a library. The Dewey number to find this book should be j398.2 AYL. That is the down fall to great folktale and fairytale books. They are seperated in most libraries to an obscure area that most kids hesitate to venture into. Don't pass up this section, there are a number of good books the kids will love there.

Friday, January 20, 2006

In The Beginning

It is because of the love I have for books, especially Children's books that I have decided to venture into the land of blogging. Children's books can be a great source of pleasure and not to just children, but to adults as well. My hope in doing this blog is to provide the reader with a variety of book reviews, informational resources, and useful tools. The idea I think I am trying to achieve is to give children, parents, and the curious viewer an insight or spark an interest to what is available in the vast world of books and information.

Of course my first of probably many disclaimers is: what I write or imply is strictly my own opinion and I have many on many subjects. However, I do have a bit of knowledge and background in the area of Children's books and informational avenues and that is what I want to share. Naturally, the real need being met here is the desire to stimulate and foster my librarian skills that are currently directed toward my very patient and understanding 11 month old.

But before I begin, let me add the second and third disclaimer for the blog of "The Magic of Books" - I am really bad at proof reading my own writings, so please forgive me now for the many errors I am sure to make. Also, I am not sure about how copyrights apply to what I will be doing. I will try my utmost to ensure that I have properly cited and given credit to ever reference I make.

Well, thanks for taking interest in this blog and off we go.