Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Author: Cynthia Lord

Published by: Scholastic 2007

Genre: Realistic Fiction Novel

Age Range: grades 4-6

Newbery Honor book, Schneider Family Book Award

This wonderful book follows Catherine, age 12, as she struggles to have a "normal" life. What makes her different from other kids her age? She has a little brother with autism and her family is centered around his disability. She uses rules to help her brother, David, pick up on social things that most children pick up on without instruction. Some of these rules include: "No toys in the fish tank", "If the bathroom door is closed, knock (especially if Catherine has a friend over)!", "Sometimes people laugh when they like you. But sometimes they laugh to hurt you.", etc. Catherine goes with David and her mom to David's occupational therapy appointments. She started when she was little because she was too young to stay at home alone, but now that she is older she continues to go because it allows her to have time alone with her mom. There is a boy, Jason, and his mother that have the same appointment times as David. Jason sits in a wheel chair and can't talk so he must communicate through word cards. Slowly Catherine and Jason form a friendship. Catherine provides him with more words with which to communicate and he teaches Catherine how to be more confident in herself and not to care so much about what other people think.

This was a beautiful book. There are so many quotable parts in here, as well as learning opportunities. It provides a way for the reader to see into the lives of people with dissabilities and see how much they can do, and understand and how valuable they are. This book could help readers get rid of missunderstandings and fear and hopefully encourage readers to get to know these people instead of pitying them from afar. It also has themes of not feeling accepted, making new friends, feeling forgotten. I really just loved this book and would recommend it to anyone, including older readers.

In the book Catherine has a rule for David that says, " If you don't have the words you need, borrow someone else's. If you need to borrow words, Arnold Lobel wrote some good ones." Arnold Lobel wrote the Frog and Toad books. It is really beautiful how David uses Lobel's words for his needs. One part of the book has David waiting for his dad to come home and take him to the video store but he's running a little late. Catherine trys to get David's mind off of this by having him count cars that drive by until their dad gets there. In frustration David crys, " 'The whole world is covered with buttons, and not one of them is mine!'" By this David meant that out of all of the cars passing by none of them belonged to their father. I think that goes to show how smart David is. He made that connection and though it doesn't make sense to someone who doesn't know him or Frog and Toad, it does make sense.

Catherine is very artisitic and is always carrying around her sketchbook and working in it. She says some wonderful things about art and drawing that I have to quote one on this blog:

" Looking closer can make something beautiful. Sometime I can change how I feel about something by drawing it. Drawing makes me find curves, the shadows, the in and outs, and the beautiful parts." pg. 19 - This one also says something about people too. Looking closer at something or someone that seems weird, or unusual upon first glance can show you that there is actually beauty, and value there.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

In the Small, Small Pond

Author/Illustrator: Denise Fleming

Publisher: Henry Holt 1993

Genre: Children's book

Age Range: K-1st

Caldecott Honor Book

This book names some of the different animals that can be found in a small pond. Itss simple phrases list different verbs that these animals do like "lash, lunge herons plunge." The illustrations are very bright and colorful and show the different animals that being described.

I really love the illustrations in this book. Fleming creates them using colored cotton pulp which she pours through stencils that she makes. In the end the water is pressed out and the different colored pulp comes together to make paper that has the image set in. I think this is such a unique method of illustrating and something that can definitely be adapted for the classroom.

For an art class the teacher could have prepared bottles of different colored paper pulp which the students could use to pour onto screens and make their own paper images. The pulp wouldn't have to be cotton pulp it could be made from tearing pieces of different colored construction paper, which the kids can help with, and then blending them in the blender with some water to create a pulp. I like the idea of letting students become familiar with different types of fiber arts from an early age. The fiber arts have often been labled as crafts and not been included in the higher art genre but as time goes on they are beginning to come into this scene through artists who take these methods to the next level. This book could also be used in an english lesson when learning about verbs. Fleming uses some really great verbs like wiggle, wriggle, waddle, parade, hover, shiver, etc.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Straight Line Wonder

Author: Mem Fox

Illustrator: Marc Rosenthal

Published by: MONDO 1997

Genre: picture book

Age Range: grades 1-2

This book is about a straight line that, one day, decides he doesn't want to be straight anymore and starts to wiggle, and twirl and bend into different kinds of lines. A couple of his straight line friends tell him to stop because the other straight lines won't like it and will stare but he continues to be himself and try out different things. Eventually all the lines decided to abandon him, they didn't want anything to do with him because he wouldn't be a straight line like he was "supposed" to be. He keeps on twirling and wiggling and making himself into a different kind of line until a famous film director sees him and makes him into a movie star and the other lines accept him again.

I think this is a cute way to talk about being different and how we should treat those that are different than ourselves. This line didn't want to follow the crowd and he perservered in his dream to not be a straight line even though everyone else tried to put him down and make him stop. The story uses a lot of repetition of phrases which can help the readers to learn the words. I can see this being read to a class and the students filling in what the second and third line say to the first everytime he makes a different kind of line. "Stay straight, silly!" and "People will stare!"

Line is one of the elements of art that children must learn. This story could be a fun lead into making different kinds of line and talking about how line is used in art. There can be straight lines, curved lines, thin lines, thick lines, many, many different kinds of lines. Students could make art using different lines and different tools to make lines. Students will already have been using line to create art for years because a line is what we make when we pick up any drawing tool but it is important to understand what can really be accomplished with line. Line creates shapes and forms, it can create depth of field, texture, etc.

Some artwork made up of lines:

"Line No. 50" by Zdenek Sykora

"Urban Jewels" by Denyse Thomasos

Monday, April 28, 2008

Imagine That! Poems of Never-Was

Selected by: Jack Prelutsky

Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes

Published By: Alfred A. Knopf 1998

Genre: picture book, poetry

Age Range: grades 1-3

This book is a collection of poems by different authors all having to do with creatures and creations that are purely from the imagination.
I really enjoyed this poetry because they were about things that I might never have been able to dream of myself. They show how creative a person can be. I also like these compolations of different writers because it offers the reader a variety of writers that they can look up more about if they like a particular poem. They can look for more of what that poet had written.
One of my favorite poems from the collection:
The Flotz by Jack Prelutsky
I am the Flotz, I gobble dots,
indeed, I gobble lots and lots,
every dot I ever see
is bound to be a bite for me.
I often munch on myriads
of sweet, abundant periods,
I nibble hyphens, and with ease
chew succulent apostrophes.
From time to timeI turn my gaze
to little dotted "i's" and "j's"
and if I chance upon a dash,
I soon dispatch it with panache.
I chomp on commas half the day,
quotation marks are rarer prey,
a semicolon's quite a treat,
while polka dots are joys to eat.
When I confront a dotted line,
my tongue flicks out, those dots are mine,
Morse code becomes a feast, and yes,
I've snacked upon an S.O.S.
For I'm the Flotz, who gobbles dots,
I gobble them in pails and pots,
and you'll not like my brief embrace
if you have freckles on your face.
I really like this poem because it is funny and creative and names many of the punctuation marks that the readers may be learning about such as commas and periods. This poem is also fun because it rhymes. Students can learn about different rhyme schemes such as the aabbccdd scheme of each stanza of this poem. This poem also includes words that might be new to the reader such as "myriad" or "panache" this sets up a good opportunity for students to learn new vocabulary. All of the poems in this collection are so creative and have creative pictures to illustrate what they are describing. Creativity is something that is very important to art. If students are having a hard time trying to come up with an idea for a poem one approach could be to have them draw things from their imagination or their dreams and use this as a jumping off point to writing thier own poems "Never-was".

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book?

Author/Illustrator: Lauren Child
Published By: Hyperion Books 2002
Genre: Children's book, traditional-ish

Age Range: grades k-3

This book is about Herb who loves storybooks and uses the pictures to help him figure out the story. He would take his books everywhere and even read them while he was eating which lead to many splotches and other things getting on his pages. One night Herb falls into his story book and wakes to find himself being yelled at by none other than Goldilocks telling him to get out of her story. He runs down the stairs and runs into the three bears. As Herb runs away from the screaming Goldilocks he encounters other traditional children's tales such as Hansel and Gretel, and Puss in Boots, and eventually makes it to a castle and then to where Cinderella is waiting for her Fairy Godmother. Throughout the story there is evidence of where Herb has altered his storybook by cutting things out or pasting things in, or drawing telephones in every scene, which is my favorite. He has to fix some of the problems he has created for these story book characters before he can find his way out but in the end he makes his way back home and fixes some of the things he has done.

This story is so original and creative. I love how the reader is encouraged to really interact with the book through Child's use of text on the page as well as pages you unfold or an actual hole in the paper that leads from one page to another. She also includes so many details that one can only catch upon multiple readings such as the "stains" left by food or what looks like a banana sticker stuck to the littlest of the three bears. She also incorporates some characters from her other books, such as the wolf with the eye-patch wearing a dress who is in her book "Beware of the Storybook Wolves" which also has Herb as the main character.
I thought this story could be a good introduction into an art activity where the students made their own altered books. Sometimes books are so loved that pages are torn out or stained or stuck together and eventually these books may get thrown away or can be found for very cheap at Thrift stores or yard sales. These books could provide an excellent "canvas" for an artist of any age all it requires is a little creativity. Students could add in pages of their own to replace torn pages or just to broaden the story. They could also go in and cut out or draw or paste onto illustrations in the book to create a new scene. This activity could be paired with an english lesson where they write the story that goes along with their new illustrations.

Look! Body Language in Art

Author: Gillian Wolfe

Published By:Francis Lincoln Limited 2004

Genre: picture book, Informational

Age Range: grades 3-5

This book looks at different artwork and shows the viewer how body language can communicate different feelings and events. It looks at the body by breaking it up into different parts such as the face, hands, and body pose and encourages the reader to figure out what is going on in the scene by "reading" the body. At the end of the book the author provides more information about the artwork used and the artists who made them.

I stumbled upon this book in the library and was so excited to see a children's book addressing this concept. It is important not only in art but in the real world to understand that communication does not just occur via spoken or written language but that people can understand each other using other things. During times when I have had to communicate with people that spoke a different language than myself, I found that we could still understand each other by looking at our tone or body posture or by acting things out to one another. This book is another that teaches children while introducing them to famous works of art.

In an art class it will be important for students to understand that they need to make the bodies and gestures of their subjects match the tone and mood they are trying to create in their artwork. Students could practice different faces or postures that they associate with different feelings. It would be a fun activity to have them act these out as a class before they begin drawing. Students could then choose a feeling that they want to portray and use what they have learned to accomplish it.

Winter Lights

Author/Illustrator: Anna Grossnickle Hines

Published By: Greenwillow Books, 2005

Genre: picture book, poetry, multicultural

Age Range: Grades 2-4

This collection of poems describes the different lights that can be seen during the winter such as the light caught in an icicle, holiday lights on houses, lights from different winter holiday traditions such as Santa Lucia, or the menorah, and many more. This book does a good job of describing lights from many different cultures that make up American culture, not just those of Western culture.

The main thing that made this book stand out for me, though, was the fact that all of the illustrations are quilted! Thats right, not drawn or painted, but made of pieces of fabric quilted together to make beautiful and intricate scenes. One of my favorites is a scene that looks like luminaries lining a pathway to a house. The lights stand out so brightly against the dark background and their are other warm colored clothes surrounding the luminaries to look like the light falling on the ground around them. Absolutely beautiful!!

This collection of poems could be used in the classroom during the winter months and would be a good way to incorporate the many different cultural traditions that occur in the winter. Students could also learn about quilting and the traditions that go along with it. Quilting is a craft that has been important in many areas of the world to show heritage, and different patterns represent different things such as where a person or family is from. Quilting also often brings people together because women would get toghether to work on quilts and became a social thing for them. Hines ends her books with an explanation of how she made some of her designs. She learned quilting from her mother and has really turned it into an artform. I think it is important to show these types of artistic expression because often fiber arts are lumped into the craft category and not given as much recognition. Some people believe that this lack of recognition is due to the fact that often the creaters of these types of art were women so their accomplishments were not as valued as the paintings or sculpting done by men. Students could try designing their own quilt patterns to represent them or scenes that they connect with. This could also provide an opportunity to bring in an artist or craftsperson who knows how to quilt to teach the students.

Check out this website: it explains some of the traditions behind each of the lights described in "Winter Lights" and how Hines accomplished her illustrations. Click Me!

This is Hines second book of Poems and Quilts. Her first is called "Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts" and won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Children's Poetry in 2002.