Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Julia Donaldson's Picture Books

We missed The Gruffalo when it was at the Children’s Theatre, but my nephew saw it and was so mesmerized by the story that I think it will always be one of his favorites. How can you not love a little mouse who out-smarts his would-be enemies, scaring them off by describing his great friend, a gruffalo. What’s a gruffalo, you ask?

“He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws…”

And of course, his favorite food is always whichever predator the mouse is talking to.

The twist in the story comes when the mouse finds out that the creature he is describing truly exists! Check out this book to find out how the mouse outsmarts him, too.

My kids and I recently went on a Julia Donaldson reading spree, and this was one of their three favorites. Another winner was The Spiffiest Giant in Town. This giant actually starts out as the scruffiest in town. He decides to spruce himself up, but soon discovers that his kind heart will not keep him spiffy for long. My kids loved the last page of this book.

These two books were illustrated by Axel Scheffler, who has a bright, friendly style. Tyrannosaurus Drip’s illustrator is David Roberts, and although the Donaldson/Scheffler partnership feels perfect, I think Roberts gets this one just right. His dinosaurs are quirky and make me giggle. In this story, a duckbill egg ends up in a T-Rex nest. Since duckbills are peaceful plant-eaters, and T-Rexs are scary meat-eaters, Little Drip finds himself in quite a predicament. (And yes, he comes out of it a hero!)

In checking online, I found this Gruffalo website, which includes games and some little videos of Julia Donaldson and her husband singing a few songs based on her books. The Gruffalo was also made into a 30-minute animated movie for BBC television last holiday season, with a cast including Robbie Coltrane (in the title role) and Helena Bonham Carter. You can see a trailer here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Poetry Friday: First Snow

This past Saturday, we had our first snow. In the early hours of the morning, I heard Skye's footsteps as she went from window to window to see the beautiful views. Later, I heard Felix exclaim, "Everyone, come here! It snowed!" I love those snowfalls that happen in the night, so that you awake to a fairy-world the next day.

Here's a little poem I found by Mary Louise Allen, titled "First Snow":

Snow makes whiteness where it falls,
The bushes look like popcorn balls.
The places where I always play,
Look like somewhere else today.

I think this is what Felix was feeling as he looked out on our backyard.

I also found this lovely poetry project which uses Flickr to randomly collect snow photos. Click here to watch the images as you hear the poem. You can even replay the poem, asking it to search for new images. The first cycle of photos I got worked really well. The words and imagery in the poem are gorgeous. You can read the poem here. You can read about the project here.

Is there snow now where you live?

You can find more poetry at Random Noodling, this week's Poetry Friday host.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Poetry Friday: Garrison Keillor's 77 Love Sonnets

From "November":

Readers and writers are two sides of the same gold coin.
You write and I read and in that moment I find
A union more perfect than any club I could join:
The simple intimacy of being one mind.
Here in a book-filled sun-lit room below the street,
Strangers -- some living, some dead -- are hoping to meet.

I just finished Keillor's book of sonnets, and enjoyed so many of them. This was one of my favorites, and appropriate to post here both for its title and its book-loving thoughts. Others I particularly liked include "Supper," "In a Cab," "Speak to Me," "Sonnet for a Major Birthday," and, from his twelve-months cycle, also "March" and "December."

Just a quick note for Poetry Friday this week. I hope to write more sometime soon about Keillor and his poems, as well as his bookstore, which is the "book-filled sun-lit room below the street" in the poem above. I haven't had much time to post recently, but plan to get back to it soon. You can find more lovely poetry reading over at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, this week's Poetry Friday host.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Poetry Friday: Runny Babbit

My kids and I just finished reading Shel Silverstein's Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook. If you haven't seen it before, you can guess from its title how the poems are written.

Both Skye and Felix loved it. We'd read each poem in "Runny Babbit talk," and then do a translation together. Each poem has a Shel Silverstein vibe to it, and the added bonus of a new language is fun to explore. I think playing with language in ways like this helps to expand children's literacy.

I was really pleased to find a YouTube version of one of the poems. Click here to read/watch "Runny on Rount Mushmore."

Shel Silverstein's website is wonderful! There's a special area for kids, where they can do things like play games, print a bookmark, and send an e-card. In the books area, you will find more poem animations. Ideas for teachers, parents and librarians include some lesson plans and activities for Runny Babbit.

Here's one of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems:

Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-gumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
'Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.

Head over to the Teaching Authors blog to see more Poetry Friday posts!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

All Hallow's Read (Postscript)

After posting about All Hallow's Read, of course I had to participate! Here's what I gave:

After browsing in my favorite used bookstore, I picked two mysteries to give my parents, who babysat for us this past weekend. My dad likes quick mysteries with short chapters, those chocolate bon-bons of the reading shelf. He also loves Paris. I've never read Harlan Coben before, but spotted Long Lost and grabbed it for him. It may not be great literature, but I hope it's an enjoyable read. I've heard some good things about these Myron Bolitar thrillers.

I also got them a signed copy of A Carrion Death. Michael Stanley is actually the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. I recently heard Trollip speak about their mysteries, and loved what he said about their writing process: "People ask me how we write together. They think it must be difficult. I think it must be difficult for authors who don't write with others!" That's not an exact quote, but it's the way I remember it.

I had a great time shopping for my kids. I went to our local independent children's bookstore and first browsed the Halloween display. Felix has been loving Amelia Bedelia lately ("But why does she take everything literally?"), so I scored a signed copy of Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia for him. I also got him Spooky Sara because the pictures were so cute and I thought he'd like it. (He loved both of the books.)

For Skye, I asked the advice of the bookseller there. I told her about Skye's three recommendations, and she immediately went to the shelf to look for Eva Ibbotson's Which Witch? They didn't have it in stock, so we ended up choosing The Secret of Platform 13 instead. Skye hasn't felt motivated to give it a try yet, but she says she'll read it with me when we are done with our book for mother-daughter book club. I hope she likes it!

I couldn't resist getting them a couple of other goodies: Day of the Dead paperdolls for Skye, and two Dover Little Activity Books for Felix. Skye loved the paperdolls; Felix enjoyed a few mazes. I'll have to get them out again this weekend.