Friday, January 28, 2011

Teen Read: Firelight by Sophie Jordan

What is more awesome than dragons? They are basically hardcore dinosaurs with mystical powers. The whole family has been getting into dragons, lately, now that Bobo can differentiate between a dinosaur, an alligator and a dragon (they used to be all one-in-the-same). But, to answer the original question... shapeshifting dragons are cooler than dragons!

The main character of Firelight is just that...a shapeshifting dragon. She belongs to a pride of similar shapeshifters all with mystical powers. The natural enemy of a dragon is a knight, but this story sets up the human hunter as the draki's biggest fear. So what happens when a hunter saves a draki?

You get the story of Firelight. Jacinda's character is a wonderful mixture of youth, rebellion and fierce devotion. She is the prey. Will's character is protective and mysterious. He is the hunter. You may be thinking, not another predator falls in love with the prey story? But rest assured, this isn't one of those typical tales.

First, the hunter and the prey are on more even ground than the typical vampire falls in love with a human story line. Because of this, Jacinda is more afraid of the hunters than they are of her. Second, the supernatural being is NOT the predator. However, Jacinda is not easy prey. She brings some heat to the situation.

This story is anything but typical. It has everything I love: action, romance, mystery, fantasy. You are kept guessing until the very end, then left wanting more. It's the perfect start to a new series!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Featured Author of the Week: Margaret Wise Brown

Brown is the author of my favorite book, Goodnight Moon. My Nana Glenys read it to me when I was little and I've read it to every child who has come into my life, including the delightful children who come to my storytime.

I visited Brown's website to find out more information about the person who wrote so many wonderful stories. She was born in 1910 and went to school to become a teacher. She became a pioneer for the children's movement of the "here and now." The movement said children are interested in the "here and now" and want to read books about their own lives. Before this, children's literature was composed of mostly fairy tales and fables.

Brown wrote hundreds of books in her short lifetime (she died at 42). However, they were not all published before then. You can get previously unreleased material from the library with contemporary illustrators. Check out two books with one of my favorite illustrator's Karen Katz (Where is baby's Mommy? and Where is Baby's Belly Button?).

Goodnight, Margaret! Activities for Bedtime:

1. Make a book about your child's life. They sell plastic books you can slide pictures into at super stores, or you may find one (I did!) at a garage sale or Goodwill. Or for an inexpensife alterative, use a small brag book (your child just won't be able to chew on it). Go through the book at night telling the story of each picture.

2. Goodnight, everybody. To ease your child into the mood of sleepy time, start saying goodnight to their toys, then their books, then their friends and family. I've found with my reluctant sleeper that this helps. Everything is going to sleep, so you need to as well.

3. Tuck in your child's toy pets! Brown never went anywhere without her beloved furry friends, and your child may feel the same way. Make some little blankets for each lovey with two pieces of flannel cut into small squares. Cut a fringe on all four sides and tie the squares together. We made this craft in storytime (thank you Miss Mindy) and Bobo uses it for his baby doll. It is really the perfect size for those little loveys!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Featured Author of the Week: Eric Carle

Eric Carle is an author, illustrator and one of my favorite storytime resources. He uses the collage method to illustrate his whimsical tales. Not only does he make art for his own books, but he also illustrates other author's books. You will recognize his art in the Brown Bear, Brown Bear series. Carle is so dedicated to his art, he opened The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in 2002. If you are ever in the Amherst, Massachusetts area, be sure to check it out.

You have probably read at least one of his Very Buggy books (as I've coined them). The Very Busy Spider, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Lonely Firefly , are there any more? These books are all wonderful for preschoolers who like repetition and predictability.

Toddlers enjoy Carle's simple texts such as: Little Cloud, Today is Monday, Draw Me a Star, Does a Kangaroo have a Mother too? and From Head to Toe. Each book has something different to offer from guessing shapes to singing to mimicking actions. The best part of these simple stories is the interaction they create between the reader and listener.

Try some Very Eric Activities:

Very Hungry Caterpillar Memory Game: Set out 1 piece of fruit for each day: Apple, Pear, Plum, Strawberry, Orange and Watermelon (just a slice will do). After reading the story, let your child line up the fruit in the order it was eaten. Count the fruit and go over colors if you'd like. Ask your child what color s/he thinks the inside of the fruit will be? Cut up the fruit for a delicious snack.

Very Busy Spider Game: Give your child a ball of white or black yarn and ask them to build a web by twining it around objects. After they are all finished, ask if they can navigate through the web like a real spider without getting caught. After the yarn has all fallen, put on a favorite song and play the freeze game like you've become a fly caught in the web.

Collage: Make a collage with tissue paper, tempera paint (it's usually washable), water and glue. You can paint white tissue paper to make collages that look like Eric Carle illustrations. There are directions on his web site. I tried this to see if we could do it in storytime. It was easy and fun, but it takes too long to dry (craft time usually lasts 10 minutes). After the painted tissue papers dry (you should make at least 5), you can cut those into shapes and paste them on a poster board or cardstock.

This is what the tissue paper looks like before you start cutting it. Very Carle!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Teen Read: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Clara has always been good at everything she's tried. She is an excellent student, beautiful and popular. Her brother is the same way. It is easy to excel in life when you're part angel.

Now that Clara is getting older, her purpose has begun to reveal itself. Each angel-blood gets one chance at fulfilling their purpose in life. Will Clara be able to figure out the clues for hers in time?

Cynthia Hand wrote an original and wonderful book. She did a few things that other teen books have not done that I found added so much to the story. The most significant was having a mother who is present and plays a vital role in the story. So much of YA literature does not include families. To go along with that, Clara had a brother who wasn't 10 years younger than her and actually had a relationship with the family. Clara has 2 best friends, neither of which was generic. Each added to the story line and helped Clara mature both as an angel-blood and as a young woman.

I was engrossed in this book. I felt the characters were tangible. I cared about what was happening in their lives. There is an element of mystery and danger in the book that adds suspense to the already riveting plot. Although some of the mystery is left to be resolved in the next edition (due out in 2012), I felt satisfied with the ending. No spoilers, here, so you'll have to read it for yourself!

I'm so glad I read this book. I feel refreshed after finishing it and want to reflect on it instead of jumping right to the next junk food book. This book was like a medium rare ribeye when you've only been eating beef jerky. Well done!

Teen Read: New Book Reviews

Teen reads on a children's blog? What can I say, I'm branching out! Actually, I've been reading teen books, or Young Adult Literature, for over a year, now. I'm a huge fan of paranormal and fantasy. There are so many wonderful books in this genre.

The books in the YA section of the library or book store are so vibrant and promising-- just like teenagers. I like picking up a book that doesn't rely on sex or violence to drive the plot. I also enjoy experiencing life from the perspective of someone who is feeling everything for the first time. Most of the protagonists are between the ages of 16 and 18 and are embarking on an adventure for the first time in their lives.

Not only do I enjoy reading teen books, but I think they can be appropriate for young readers who read at a higher level than books written for their age. I started reading adult books when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, mostly because I had read everything in the children's section. I started with mysteries and branched out to romances. A good teen book with have elements of both of these genres with a good dose of fantasy thrown in. I'm excited to share my love for teen reads, so please check back in for more reviews!