Saturday, March 26, 2016

All the picture books!

The bionic foot installation went fairly well, but recovery is not making me happy. It's tough to go from walking 10 miles a day to walking less than a mile. I haven't been reading as much, either, but did work my way through some awesome picture books from Young Adult Books Central. 

26031372Pourquie, Bernadette and Gambini, Cecile. Strange Trees and the Stories Behind Them. 
April 5th 2016 by Princeton Architectural Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

This picture book, with it's lavishly illustrated two-page spreads, highlights over a dozen unusual trees from around the world. Each tree "tells" fanciful but true information about itself: where it grows, what is unusual about it, and where in the world it is located. Various uses that are made of the trees and their products are mentioned as well, giving some insight into the communities of which they are a part. 

While many of the trees are indigenous to other parts of the world, the Gingko tree is mentioned, and it was interesting to learn things about this resident of my neighborhood! This is one of those picture books that I really rather want to disassemble and turn into a bulletin board because the pictures are so lovely. The information about the trees is from the tree's own view point, and I can see this being a great read aloud in a classroom, setting the stage for more information about trees. 

Do have my concerns about the depiction of a Native American with the Giant Sequoia-- I'm not sure the headdress and tomahawk are culturally correct.

1275397Mak, Kam. My Chinatown
January 5th 2016 by HarperCollins (First Published 2001)
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

A young boy adjusts to life in America, comparing the sorts of activities he did in his native Hong Kong with the new sights and sounds of his Chinatown neighborhood. Some of the things are familiar, like the kumquats, but different enough to make him think of how things were back home. The story is told in poems, so we don't get all of the details, but the emotional links are very vivid. As the year progresses, the boy learns to appreciate the things about his new situation that make him happy. 

The descriptions of life in Chinatown are very vivid; the author mentions not only the sights and sounds, but the smells of "hot oil, chicken sizzling". The accompanying pictures also have a lot of detail in them, and this would be a good book to use to introduce Chinese culture in the US before reading a chapter book like In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson or to introduce some of the holidays that are mentioned in the book. 

This is also an interesting study of how difficult it is to be new to a country, and I loved how the author made connections between the new environment and "back home". This is a good way for children who have moved to make sense of their new home. 

This book seems dated, even though it is only 15 years old. Styles change. 

Pearson, Peter and Catusanu, Mircea. How to Eat an Airplane (The Bad Idea Book Club #1)
May 24th 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Children host a party where they both ride on and eat a jet while brushing up on their party etiquette and table manners. Inspired by a person who managed to eat an entire small plane during the course of two years, this book offers a wing-in-cheek look at how one might go about replicating this process. Of course, when setting the table for a eating a jet, forklifts are more important than forks, although goblets are perfect for jet fuel. Interspersed between tidbits of information about planes (the breaks take 45 minutes to cook down) are tips on being a polite party guest. (Tell jokes, make late guests comfortable.) The end of the book lists a lot of interesting facts about airplanes. 

The pictures in this book are fresh and colorful, and very detailed, with some cut-and-paste effect on some of the equipment. The final panel, where the children are having an ice cream truck for dessert, shows the truck disassembled and children in a variety of bright clothing consuming various portions of the equipment. 

This was reminiscent of a favorite from my children's past-- Betsy Everitt's 1994 TV Dinner, where "Daisy Lee ate the t.v.", and also put me in mind of Marjorie Priceman's How to Make an Apple Pie and see the World, from the same year. While children will hopefully know NOT to actually eat an airplane, there is a disclaimer about how difficult it would be. Children love goofy books, and I'm curious to see what other "bad ideas" are offered up for this book club! I think that "How to Fold the Sun" could be very interesting!

This one bothered me a bit-- instructing children to eat bowls of motor oil or drink glasses of jet fuel seemed a bit much. I thought I was overreacting, but my daughter, the Daisy Lee fan, was downright appalled at this. Just didn't go with our sense of humor. 


Sauer, Tammi and Rozelaar, Angie. I Love Cake!: Starring

Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose 

May 3rd 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Best friends Rabbit, Porcupine and Moose have great fun frolicking about Sweet Valley Woods. When Rabbit's birthday rolls around, she invites her friends to a party. They have a lot of fun playing games, but when it comes time for the cake, they find it is gone. Moose has been acting suspiciously, and after initially denying having eaten the cake, confesses to doing so. He feels bad, and Rabbit and Porcupine are angry with him. He goes home to think about what he has done, and decides to bake another cake to share with his friends. They forgive him, and everyone enjoys the cake. 

Like a modern day Frog and Toad, I Love Cake teaches a gentle lesson about being tempted to do the wrong thing, and how to make things right if you have. In typical three-year-old fashion, Moose denies having eaten the cake even though he is covered in crumbs and lets out a huge, cake scented burp. This reminded me of Ainslie Pryor's 1989 Baby Blue Cat and the Whole Batch of Cookies-- Baby Blue Cat and Moose would get along really well, although there would always be a critical shortage of baked goods!

The illustrations are exuberant and full of motion. The bright colors add to the happy atmosphere of friends playing together, and I liked how each of them got to say something on almost every page. This would be a great feature to have a child in charge of reading. What does Moose say on this page? What does Rabbit say? The story also makes a great springboard for discussion about how important it is to wait for things and to share them with friends. 

Somehow, Moose's personality alarmed me a little. Was he really sorry about eating the cake, or was he just sorry his friends got mad? 

27159416DeDonato, Rick and Bishop, Tracy. Pipsie, Nature Detective: The Lunchnapper
April 12th 2016 by Two Lions
Copy Provided by Young Adult Books Central

Pipsie goes on a nature hike with her school, and each group is given a list of seven things they are supposed to find, including something crawling, flying, and swimming. Armed with notebooks and cameras, the groups take off. Pipsie is partnered with Alfred, her talking turtle, and the other students make fun of her because turtles are slow. Alfred, however, has a scooter and is able to find many things on the list. He's also very hungry, but someone has stolen Pipsie and Alfred's lunch. Can they find all of the scavenger hunt items AND the lunch stealing culprit before Alfred starves? 

Pipsie and Alfred have a good journey into the woods and find lots of good details about nature. They pick up on lots of nature clues-- they find a bird by listening to it pecking on a tree, find a porcupine quill but state that the animal is nocturnal so can't be the thief, and approach both of their tasks with methodical precision. The drama with the other classmates will make this book interesting even for somewhat older students, and readers who are fans of Dora the Explorer or Judy Moody and Stink will find Pipsie and her outdoor adventure interesting. 

The illustrations include a lot of details on every page, and are rendered in a pleasant, pastel chalk fashion. There are "fun facts" listed at the end of the book, with information about various animals, as well as a chart of "Woodland Tracks".

I wish that Alfred Z. Turtle were not involved, and was a little disappointed that Pipsie's hiking outfit was pink and purple. Sigh. Is this 1984?

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