Sunday, June 30, 2013

Nature Poetry and Animals of the Night Forest

The Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night
by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Rick Allen
2011 Newbery Honor Award

Come feel the cool and shadowed breeze,
come smell your way among the trees,
come touch rough bark and leathered leaves:
Welcome to the night.

This book is a stunning collection of lyrical poetry, animal facts and beautiful illustrations.
Each poem focuses on a different animal in the night forest. Each poem also includes a sidebar with further animal facts explained.

As a side note: Rick Allen is a Minnesota Artist, and Joyce Sidman is a Minnesota author. She is also the author of another book of nature poems that I also adore.

Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems
by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Beckie Prange (another Minnesota artist)

I wrote about this book here:
When Two Genres Collide Perfectly

Reading and Other Joys of Summer

Ahhh summertime... my favorite time of year. I try to stay off of the "electronics" a bit more and spend more time in the sunshine, thus less blog posts. But today I thought I'd throw together a quickie of what we are reading at my house.

Read aloud:

My Family and Other Animals
My Family and Other Animals
by Gerald Durrell

This book was on my summer recommended reads for teens:
Summer Reads for Teens

I can't tell you how delightful this book is! It is the story of the English Naturalist, Gerald Durrell, when as a young boy his family moved from bleak and rainy England to the Greek island of Corfu. This book will encourage you to go sit outside, under a tree, and watch the daily scuttle of the animals and insect world. It also makes me want to eat crusty bread and eat goat cheese, olives and figs. The family is hysterical, and truly will have you chuckling along with their adventures.
The boy loves this one as well!

I'm currently reading:

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
I'm back on historical fiction. So far this book is very good. It is the story of  two British women during WWII. One is a captured spy in Nazi German occupied France. It is fascinating and one I foresee highly recommending.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Developing a Child's Moral Character Through Books

My intent of floating in my pool reading fun books all summer took a twist this week when I read the book
Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong: Moral Illiteracy Case Character Education
Why Johnny Can't Tell Right From Wrong: and what we can do about it
by William Kilpatrick

William Kilpatrick discusses how our schools are failing our children, especially in terms of teaching values and morals. He says that schools have shifted from using literature and history to teach values and character education to the ideas of "decision-making". Children are now taught that any value system is fine as long as it feels good. Kilpatrick says that the only way we can return to moral development within children is to return to character education and examples of good values and habits.

Wow, there is a lot to process here within this book, and a lot of things that I am pondering...

Kilpatrick encourages parents to read to their children and includes a long list of books that he recommends to assist in this character education.

Another title by Kilpatrick that I  highly recommended is:
Books That Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories
Books that Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values through Stories

Kilpatrick recommends many books for all ages and reading levels that help to build character. Each book recommended includes a character(s) who is delving into their own moral character and developing a sense of right and wrong.

Kilpatrick also offers some wonderful guides into how to use books and stories to develop moral values within your child.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a wonderful resource for parents and teachers, or anyone else who has an active concern for the moral upbringing of children.

There is a wonderful article online written by William Kilpatrick in which he shares some of his guidelines for choosing good stories.

Some of his guidelines are:
  1. Use your own recollection of stories that had a positive impact on you as a young reader.
  2. Choose books that keep within your own values.
  3. Distinguish between issues and virtues. - many contemporary books for children discuss issues and often trendy issues. These issues are different from character developments. Kilpatrick says that it is important to develop strength of character in your child before you allow them to acquire many secondhand opinions. He says that the author should tell a story, not convey a message.
  4. Kilpatrick says it is important to remember that good books are people centered, not problem centered. Look for growth in the main character, but not always steady growth. There is much to learn by a character growing and falling.
  5. Context is crucial. Character building books may included immoral behavior. If a character gives in to temptation, a good story will show the real costs of that choice.
  6.  Stories can't do all the work. A reader still needs to be able to sort out and draw conclusions.
Read the entire article here: Selecting and Sharing Good Books

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Delight in Beginning to Read and the books of Arnold Lobel

When a child learns to read, a whole new world is opened up to them. Understanding the written word and discovering the joy of books is a wonderful stage of life. Often times the problem is discovering that the books for early readers are dumb, babyish, or lacking a real story. It can often be disheartening to discover that the only books you are able to read are boring school primers and babyish single word books.

In 1957 the book Little Bear was published. It was a beginning reader book, the first from the I Can Read! series. It had delightful stories by Else Holmelund Minarik, and beautiful artwork by Maurice Sendak. It began the wonderful series of creating good stories, with great artwork for children learning to read.

Arnold Lobel entered this series in 1963 as the illustrator of Betty Baker's

Little Runner of the Longhouse (1963)
by Betty Baker
Pictures by Arnold Lobel
Sadly this book is long out of print. You could maybe find at your library, or used on Amazon. Political correctness has been the death knell of any book of Indians, unless presented as factual accounts of Native peoples. That being said, considering I am not Native, maybe I am insensitive to the issues, but personally I lament the loss of many of these titles. This being one of them. It is a charming story.

Red Tag Come Back (1961)
by Fred Phleger
pictures by Arnold Lobel
The first "Science I Can Read Book".
A boy adopts a salmon. This book tells of the life cycle of a salmon.

note: obviously this was Arnold Lobel's first illustrated I Can Read book. Oops.

Let's Get Turtles (1965)
by Millicent E. Selsam
Drawings by Arnold Lobel
This was a well read book at my house growing up. Another book that was one of my brother's favorites. This follows two boys and their pet turtles. It contains many facts about turtles.

Another great read enhanced with Arnold Lobel's drawings, and another family favorite growing up

The Secret Three
by Mildred Myrick
drawings by Arnold Lobel
I put this on my summer must read list for young readers.
Two boys summering at the ocean find a third friend after finding his message in a bottle.
It has some good information on tides and sending secret codes. It's a really fun story, although sadly out of print. Check the library or find used on Amazon.

Miss Suzy (1964)
by Miriam Young
Pictures by Arnold Lobel
This was another very well loved book at my home growing up. It told of dear sweet Miss Suzy, a  gray squirrel who lives in a tree until chased away by some mean red squirrels. She finds a dollhouse to live in and makes friends with the little red soldiers.

This book helped me to look informed about animals later in life as a parent. I have a child who is an animal know-it-all. One day we were watching a gray squirrel be chased and terrorized by some red squirrels in our yard. My son asked me if I knew that even though red squirrels are smaller, that they are much more aggressive and mean to gray squirrels? Yes, yes I did. Thank you Miss Suzy.

The illustrations in this book are beautiful.

See. Red squirrels are thugs.

Of course Arnold Lobel is probably most famous for his books of Frog and Toad. These are the most beautiful stories of friendship. They are wonderful to read aloud, and are also wonderful for beginning readers. Remember that these fabulous stories are written as I Can Read books! The stories are sweet, and funny, and often times have a deeper sense to them. They have moments of chuckling such as when neither Frog nor Toad cans top eating cookies (they are so good!)

Or when they go swimming and a crowd gathers to laugh at Frog because he looks funny in his bathing suit.

The stories delve into deep issues and feelings, such as the story "Tomorrow" in which Toad works on his issues of worrying about "tomorrow". Or in the story "Alone" when Frog wants to be alone so that he can appreciate how wonderful everything is.


The beauty in these stories is that their is a deep quiet within them. They are truly stories of beauty.

Frog and toad cover.jpg
Frog and Toad are Friends
by Arnold Lobel
1971 Caldecott Honor Award

Frog and Toad Together
by Arnold Lobel
1973 Newbery Award Medal

I love this. This is me.

Frog and Toad All Year
by Arnold Lobel

Days with Frog and Toad (Frog and Toad, #4)
Days With Frog and Toad
by Arnold Lobel

He also wrote several other I Can Read books that are also worth reading.
Mouse Soup

 Mouse Tales

Owl at Home

Grasshopper On the Road

Uncle Elephant

Lobel was also awarded the Caldecott Medal for

by Arnold Lobel
1981 Caldecott Medal
A collection of 20 different fables

Hildilid's Night
by Cheli Duran Ryan
illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Caldecott Honor Award
An old folktale of a woman afraid of the night, and how she tries to get rid of it.

An alphabet book he wrote illustrated by his wife Anita, in which she won the Caldecott Honor Award.

On Market Street
by Arnold Lobel
pictures by Anita Lobel
1982 Caldecott Honor Award
Each page is filled with objects that begin with that letter of the alphabet.

Arnold Lobel illustrated for many different famous children's authors. One of my favorite collaborations was with Charlotte Zolotow.

The Quarreling Book
by Charlotte Zolotow
pictures by Arnold Lobel
Each person acts gruff and cross with each other and each quarrelsome act is passed on from person to person until a little dog changes the course of things. This is a great book about a regular family. Who hasn't had a day like this?

It was a rainy gray morning, and Mr. James forgot to kiss Mrs. James good-bye when he left for the office. Mrs. James felt quite cross because of this and because the rain made the day so gray. So when Jonathan James came down for breakfast, she was sharp with him.

by Charlotte Zolotow
pictures by Arnold Lobel
A little girl talks about all the things she will do and be "someday". A very sweet book.

One last book, another favorite in my house growing up

The Magic Spectacles
by Lilian Moore
illustrated by Arnold Lobel

This is my end of Arnold Lobel books, but the list truly goes on and on. He wrote and illustrated many wonderful books.