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Read Aloud Thursday

read-aloud21This week we have enjoyed several animal books that most certainly should be added to our “best picture books” category (if such a category existed) at Hope Is the Word.  My girls would listen to any one of these books over and over again.  Since my girls have fairly long attention spans when it comes to listening to stories, that may not be the best indication of a quality story; however, the fact that I would gladly read any of these over and over again is an indication that these are enjoyable to read aloud, as well.  Enjoy!

Good Thing You’re Not an Octopus! is a fun and simply-worded story that is perfect for older toddlers and preschoolers.  Written by Julie Markes and illustrated by Maggie Smith,this story is based on the premise that many animals have to do things that young children often do not like to do.  For example, the first sentence in this story is, “You don’t like to get dressed in the morning?”  The facing page answers, “It’s a good thing you’re not an octopus.  If you were an octopus, you would have eight legs to put in your pants!”  As we parents know, responding to young children’s grumpiness and cantankerousness (?!?) with humor will often disarm the worst of humors, and this book capitalizes beautifully on that idea.  Highly recommended!

The next two books are useful and enjoyable on many levels.  For my preschoolers, leaving out much of the extra information included in the backs of the books or in smaller typeface throughout the story reduces each of these to a fun introduction to many different kinds of animals.  However, each book contains enough information to be beneficial and enjoyable for even upper-elementary aged students.

What Do You Do with a  Tail Like This? by Steven Jenkins and Robin Page is a visual delight, evidenced by its Caldecott honor in 2004.  Similar body parts and appendages of vastly different animals appear on a two-page spread (i.e. the eyes of an eagle, chameleon, four-eyed fish, bush baby, and horned lizard are compared).  On the next page, the animals are identified and fascinating information about those particular animals’ body parts is related.  (Did you know a horned lizard squirts blood out of its eyes?  We didn’t, and Lulu and Louise were quite intrigued by this.  Quite intrigued.)  For little ones, this is a great book to play match with by having the children match the body part on one page with the animal on the next.  For older children, there is plenty of additional information about the animals in an appendix in the back of the book.  Don’t miss this one!

The Emperor’s Egg by Martin Jenkins was probably Lulu’s most requested book this week.  I don’t know if it is the novelty of a male penguin incubating an egg,  just her natural curiosity about the reproductive process (which is explained in a very gentle way, with no specific details),  the gentle and conversational tone of the book, or a combination of all of these, but this book was a hit at the House of Hope.  This is not a story, per se; it is more of a very well written informational book.  I don’t know about your family, but that’s the way we like our information served.  Jane Chapman’s sweet illustrations (who could resist the Emperor penguin chick on the cover?) make this a special book indeed.  This is a book I’d love to own for our own collection, and as an avid-library-user-in-an-overcrowded-house, that’s saying a lot.  Highly, highly recommended.

What’s in your book bag this week?  Share your family’s read-alouds in the comment section or by a link to your blog! Oh, and be sure to use the NEW Read Aloud Thursday blog button!  You can get the html code for the button here, or simply save the image from this post.

Next week I’m hoping to share some of our Easter read alouds for Read Aloud Thursday.  Feel free to do the same thing next week in YOUR Read Aloud Thursday post, or just share whatever you’ve been reading together.

Happy reading!


Author/Illustrator Spotlight::Lois Ehlert

We picked up Lois Ehlert’s Waiting for Wings at the library a few weeks ago, and after reading it to my girls, I realized two things:  first, I want us to grow a butterfly garden this year; and second, this was not the first of her books we’ve enjoyed over the past few years, and her books warrant a closer look.  (I guess that’s three things, isn’t it?)

I think we first encountered Lois Ehlert’s engaging text and colorful artwork in the book Fish Eyes:  A Book You Can Count On which we purchased as a souvenir from an aquarium for Lulu when she was a toddler.  This is a perfect book for board-book format, with Ehlert’s trademark graphic and brightly-colored illustrations and fish (and eyes!) to count on each page.

Ehlert is a prolific author and illustrator, and she utilizes different mediums for her illustrations.  I am no art expert, but using my very limited knowledge of types of art, I would classify hers as mostly collage.  The element of her illustrations that I enjoy the most is her use of cut-work or die-cut pages.  For example, the cover of Pie in the Sky has cut out circles on the top of the piecrust so that the bright orangey-red of the title page shows through (and hints at what type of pie is growing in the sky).  The first couple of pages are actually only half-pages which look like a tree trunk.  Waiting for Wings is also made up of half-pages that help move the story along through what is hidden and revealed.

One of the things I really love about Ehlert’s books is their simplicity of design but their amazing detail in terms of content.  Growing Vegetable Soup is a perfect example of this.  The text is simple and in a very large typeface.  In fact, the whole book is comprised of only seven sentences.  However, each bright, graphic picture in this book is identified with a smaller word.  There is plenty to look at in discuss in even this simple book.  Pie in the Sky is a more complex story, but even it has explanatory notes in a different font about what can be seen on each page.

Ehlert’s books are ones that can be enjoyed by children (and adults!) of all ages.  One fun thing about them is that because she uses found objects in her illustrations, children could even make their own illustrations in the style of Lois Ehlert.  Her books would be useful in any nature or science curriculum.

While tooling about the internet in search of more information about Ehlert, I happened upon this great interview with her.  Parents, never underestimate the power of letting your children make a mess!

Check out Lois Ehlert!  You’ll be glad you did!

Read Aloud Thursday

We have quite an eclectic mix of books in our library basket this week, and really, most of them are just so-so.  We did thankfully end up with a few winners, though.

My favorite of the week is Dahlia, written and illustrated by Barbara McClintock. This is the story of a little girl named Charlotte who has no use for the fancy doll give to her by her Aunt Edme.  However, after a day of outdoors, rough-and-tumble play, Charlotte realizes that Dahlia (christened such because she looks like Charlotte’s mother’s huge dahlias in the garden) might be a worthy companion after all.  Aunt Edme arrives at the end of the day, and the story ends with a sweet surprise.  The story is completely charming, especially for little girls who prefer messiness and rowdiness over being prim and proper.  The illustrations are delightful in an old-timey storybook kind of way.  This one is really a keeper!

My second favorite book of the week is a surprise to me, really.  I associate Kevin Henkes with Lilly, Wemberly, Owen, Chrysanthemum, and I love them all.  I really do.  However, I have not read Henkes’ books to my girls because I was waiting until the girls are a little older.  I picked up A Good Day because of the illustrations, which are really what make this book so great.  This is a simple story about how a day that starts out to be not-so-good turns into a good day.  The bold-but-simple watercolor illustrations are gorgeous.   Highly recommended!
I was a little hesitant to pick up Cindy Ellen:  A Wild Western Cinderella because I didn’t know if adoration of the Disney princess Cinderella and familiarity with her story (only through books; we’ve yet to make it through the movie due to an intense cat-and-dog scene early on) would be enough to bridge the gap for my girls.  I shouldn’t have worried, though.  I actually read Cindy Ellen aloud to third or fourth graders when I was an elementary librarian, and I can’t say that they were as delighted with the story as my four-and-a-half year old was.  Lulu loves this book!  This is a great book on many levels in terms of teaching, too.  The author, Susan Lowell, uses lots of “wild west” slang that would be interesting  to discuss with older children, and of course, the concept of fractured fairy tales is one that is good for lots of mileage.  This book can definitely stand alone as a fun read-aloud, with or without the more in-depth treatment , and the illustrations by Jane Manning are perfect.
This last book really surprised me.  I picked it up because I thought it would be interesting to learn something about chameleons, and I am always looking for nonfiction titles to grab my girls’ attention.  Martin Jenkins does a great job at making this book interesting and accessible, more like a story than a science lesson.  For example, did you know that chameleons don’t just look grumpy, they really are grumpy?  Or that their eyes can look in different directions at the same time?  Wow!  This book is particularly fun to look at, well, because chameleons are fun to look at!  Sue Shields captures their odd but entertaining physiques in a bold and colorful way in this great science read-aloud.

That’s it for this week, folks!  What have you and your family enjoyed together this week?  Tell us about it in the comments or leave a link to your blog post.  I’d love to hear about it!

Read Aloud Thursday

As usual, our library basket this week contains a hodge-podge of books.  When I’m browsing for books at the library, I usually try to find a mixture of books that I think will appeal to both my girls. Still, my decisions are ultimately based on what looks good to me; after all, if I’m reading it aloud, I tend to do a much better job if it is a book I actually like.  My girls, if left to their own devices, would fill our basket with Dora and Bob, Franklin and Blue each week.  It amazes me that they are so drawn to these characters because they only watch the shows occasionally, and even then they are re-runs on video.  But I digress.  Here are some of the good books in our library basket this week:
Oddhopper Opera:  A Bug’s Garden of Verses, written and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus, is my favorite of the week.  Every page is a feast for the eyes, not only in terms of the illustrations, but also in terms of the text.  Some of the lines of the poems in this book are often a part of the illustrations.  While they are not quite concrete or shape poems, the fact that they are not always linear adds an element of enjoyment and fun.  There is even ongoing commentary from ants that traipse across several of the pages (“Boink!  ‘Here we are–where’s the food?  Is it far?’/Boink!  ‘Oh, my head!  Can’t we shake hands instead?’  Boink!’).  Chock full of rollicking buggy poetry, this book would be great for almost any age, from preschoolers to senior citizens!

Max’s Words, written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Boris Kulikov, comes in a close second this week in my book.  Max is a little boy whose older brothers collect things:  Benjamin collects stamps and Karl collects coins.  Max wants to collect something, too, and when his brothers won’t share even one tiny thing from their collections with him, he decides to collect words.  He cuts words out of newspapers and magazines, and pretty soon his collection begins to take on a life of its own.  This book is probably more appropriate for children who can read, but my pre-readers didn’t complain about it.  Any logophile will love it!
This Is the House That Was Tidy and Neat by Teri Sloat is Lulu’s pick of the week.  It is a fun book in the tradition of “The House That Jack Built.”  Illustrated by R.W. Alley, this book is very visually detailed.  It will only take a few times through for the listener to be able to recite the poem simply by looking at the illustrations.  As a bonus, this book really capitalizes on the idea that mom is a very integral part of family life.   As a mother who sometimes gets a little discouraged, I like this part perhaps the best of all.

Louise has taken great delight in One Monkey Too Many by Jackie French Koller.  Each activity presented in this story is one that is just right for a certain number of monkeys, so when “one monkey too many” shows up, delightfully hilarious chaos ensues.  This story is told in rhyme.  The illustrations, by Lynn Munsinger, are whimsical and very expressive.  This is a great preschool read aloud.

Reading One Small Place by the Sea enables its readers to take a trip to the seashore without leaving their comfy reading nooks.  This book, written by Barbara Brenner and illustrated by Tom Leonard, details the cycle through which a tide pool goes during its existence.  The illustrations are detailed and colorful.  This is a great introduction to marine life and the idea of cycles in nature.

I had picked up and put back The Prairie Train by Antoine O Flatharta at least once before during a picture book hunting-and-gathering expedition, but this time, due to my girls’ ever growing  love affair with all things prairie, I couldn’t resist.  This story was sort of a surprise to me; what I thought was a simple historical fiction story turned out to be a fantasy of sorts.  This book deals with the immigrant experience, but with a twist.  The beautiful illustrations by Eric Rohmann contribute to the dream-like quality (I use this phrase both literally and figuratively) of the story.

What have you been reading this week?  Leave me a comment or link and I’ll be sure to follow up!  I’m always on the hunt for more great read-alouds.