Friday, March 09, 2007

Nonfiction: Jump into January: a journey around the year

Jump into January is a calendar I-Spy book with a glorious double page spread for each month of the year. The relatively simple gouache pictures have lovely colours, and show friendly kids doing seasonal activities. Along the bottom of the pages, there is a list of things kids can look for in the month's spread. Kids will enjoy finding the objects, and parents will have a great conversation about what other things their family or school might do or find during the month. A great concept book.
Preschool to Kindergarten
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Picture Book: The Great Graph Contest

This book is packed with great information about graphs! Although the book is written as a story (Gonk and Beezy have a contest to see who can make the best graph) the information is communicated clearly.

Gonk and Beezy each make three different types of graphs. This gives kids a great survey of some of the basic varieties they might encounter in elementary math. The appealing pictures and storyline add interest to the lesson. This book would fit in very neatly with units on graphs up to grade 4 or 5. I have to admit, I learned some things about graphs from the "make your own graphs" section at the back of the book!

Loreen Leedy has authored several other books about math concepts, and they are definitely worth a look.

Picture Book/Nonfiction

Grades 1-5

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Picture Book: When Daddy's Truck Picks Me Up

This is a great picturebook for preschoolers or early elementary kids. The little boy wakes up excited, because today is Daddy's day to pick him up from school. Even better, Dad is a tanker truck driver! The rhyming text and pictures show the day alternately through the eyes of father and son, as they both go about their daily activities. At the end of the day, Dad picks up his son (just a little late because of a traffic jam) and they go zooming off in the big red tanker truck, just as promised.
Although I occasionally found the rhymes in this volume forced, I loved it for many other reasons. The dad depicted is not the clean cut, vapidly grinning dad of most picture books; he's a grease stained, tattooed, ponytailed truck driver who nevertheless loves his son like crazy and keeps his promise to pick him up. What a great stereotype to shatter! Also, this book would work very well for boys in split families who may not see their dads as often as they would like. The boys excitement about his day with dad is really realistic, and would reflect the experience of many kids. Finally, it's a truck book! A very strong choice for families to read.

Picture Book
Preschool to grade 2
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Picture Book: Tippy Tippy Tippy Hide!

This new picturebook is the sequel to Candace Fleming's very popular "Muncha Muncha Muncha!". Summer is over, and Mr. McGreely is pleased that he won't have to share any more carrots with those three tricksy bunnies. He conscientiously prepares his house for winter, but as soon as he plops himself down in his easy chair...knocka knocka knocka! three teeny bunnies want to come in where it's warm!
The rest of the book follows the format of the first. Mr McGreely erects increasingly bombproof barricades around his house, but the little bunnies always manage to find a way in! The pictures are very funny, and attentive kids will be shouting to point out the bunny ears poking up in most frames. In the end, Mr. McGreely does manage to keep the bunnies outside in the snow...but soon spring breaks, and he finds that what he has really done is barricaded himself in! Kids will like the satisfying ending, and yes, the bunnies do forgive grumpy Mr. McGreely.
Picture Book
Preschool to kindergarten
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Picture Book: Celebrity Cat

This picture book is quite a chameleon. On the surface, it's an engaging tale of Felissima, a cat who decides to take action after she finds no cats in the paintings at the Art Gallery on Cat Visiting Night. Felissima is a talented artist, and she paints cats into many of our most famous artworks. Her work is lauded by cats worldwide, and Felissima becomes a celebrity cat. But, at the end, she comes to understand that cats are not in the pictures because they choose not to be. (how catlike.)
The illustrations in this book are amazing. Felissima and her fellow cats are painted in vibrant hues, while the real-life paintings (such as the Mona Lisa and Van Gogh's Chair) are faithfully recreated. This book would be a wonderful jumping off point for conversations about art in history.
Picture book
Preschool to grade 2
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Nonfiction: Birdsongs

Birdsongs, by Betsey Franco and Steve Jenkins, is a counting-down picture book about the sounds birds make. On the first page, the red-capped woodpecker is working on a hole-pocked pine tree. Tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat! The gorgeous collage illustrations lead kids on a fascinating journey through ten other birds, giving just a little bit of information about each one. The text is concise but poetic, and lends itself to a hushed reading. At the end of the book, once all the birds have settled down to sleep at dusk, a two page spread gives a little more information about each bird. This lovely book would be at home in either a picturebook or easy nonfiction collection, and is an excellent numeracy support.
Preschool to grade 1
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