Sep 13, 2014

More Recent Releases of Note

Some books defy categorization. They appear to be meant for children, but they find and burrow into the hearts of adults, holding a place bordering on sacred. Some feel that way about THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, THE GIVING TREE, and THE LITTLE PRINCE. 

No one in their right might would try to "mess around" with titles like these, right? 
Take a look at this remarkable approach to that very challenge in THE PILOT AND THE LITTLE PRINCE, by author/illustrator PETER SIS.
Leave it to Peter Sis to take an iconic, ethereal story, one that holds a mythic place in many minds. He manages to capture that essence within the facts of the author's life. The images, book design, moods and tones of this book merit the same careful reading and reflection that we give to "The Little Prince". 
Adults who love it may struggle with the tiny, delicate side notes, and may long for more detailed author notes, but young readers won't mind a bit. The varied text styles, gossamer illustrations, colors, and moods will be savored by young readers, even those so young that the biographic content is beyond their understanding. Don't miss it.
Beach Lane Books, 2014

Now, back down to earth with SOME BUGS, written by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. 

Fantastic in every way- bug-lovers and bug-yuck-ers alike will adore this book. The colorful, expressive, layered, and slightly wacky illustrations are the perfect foil to the sleek, slippery, syncopated rhyming verses. Each line suggests simple facts, but relates to complex information about a single species or a family of insects which can be further researched and explored.
The ultimate surprise, revealed on the final double spread, is that these nearly cartoonish critters are scientifically accurate in detail and relative size.
Consider using this as mentor text for poetry writing with non-fiction themes, word choice for specific verbs, and as an example of alternate reporting on research topics.

What are some other titles you can think of that work on multiple levels? The best should, of course, entertain and appeal, but offer complex layers for a variety of readers (of many ages). Share your favorites in the comments.

Sep 4, 2014

Colors of the Wind: The Story of a Blind Artist and Champion Runner

Purple House Press, September, 2014

Back-to-school was a time of conflict for me when it came to selecting read-alouds in the early days. How to choose among SO MANY titles, each so powerful and engaging, each for different reasons? I could hardly wait to share them all. Given my druthers I'd have spent all the first days of school alternating between read-aloud and silent reading ALL DAY LONG, every day. 
That's unrealistic, so I compromised by finding countless ways to feature important titles throughout the day, ALL YEAR LONG. 

When new titles crossed my path I judged when and how I could share them with my students. Some were book-talked, some displayed with "new additions", and the best were read aloud. 
COLORS OF THE WIND, The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza, by J. L. Powers,  is just such a book.  It's illustrated by the paintings of Geroge Mendoza, the subject of this book, with line drawings by Hayley Morgan-Sanders effectively incorporating small segments of his paintings on each text page. This biography is unlike any other I've read, yet it has a quality shared by the best: it inspires. 

The title and subtitle give the facts, but the crisp, spare text, vibrant paintings, and inset line images are even more powerful than the facts.The backmatter elaborates on the details and includes photos of George Mendoza running and painting, which makes this an excellent title to use with older readers as well as young. His life choices and successes clarify that blind does not necessarily mean sightless, while the story makes it clear that differently-abled is not the same as disabled. 

His sight may have been impaired by a degenerative disease, but his vision is pure and inspiring. Life's circumstances are beyond our control, but the paths we follow in those
circumstances are choices we DO make. George's choices are inspiring and as brilliant as his art.The visual impact of Mendoza's art is made even more impressive by the story of how he was inspired to attempt painting. 

The titles I featured during the course of the year had no lack of intriguing and impressive characters, but this one earns a place on the list. I've shared thoughts about others in previous posts, including sports figures (here, and here) artists (here, here, and here) as well as differences in abilities (here).

Now my choice is to share this title with other teachers and families in hopes that they will find a place for it in their reading lives. Mendoza's story isn't one that's made the headlines, but it's a perfect example of the truth that fame does not equate with significance or value. 

Something to think about, right? If you agree, please help spread the word about this new release.

Aug 24, 2014

Sharing a Terrific Post: Lesley Burnap on Nerdy Book Club

One reason I'm comfortable taking a "let it ride" approach to this picture book blog for a few months is that there are such excellent blogs and guest posts appearing on the blogosphere daily. While I continue working on projects related to my spring release of ODIN'S PROMISE, I still follow and read the helpful reviews and insights of others. It's hard to say what makes me happier: finding favorite titles of my own being highlighted in other blogs or discovering special titles, recent and classics, that are new to me. 

It's an even bigger treat when I read a post like this one by third grade teacher Lesley Burnap on The Nerdy Book Club Blog. I retired after decades of teaching but I still feel a visceral pull of "back-to-school" impulses each August and September. I feel twinges of loss at not facing a room full of eager faces to share the best of the best in books, particularly picture books. I felt a deep commitment to that effort, but an undeniable degree of isolation in my mission.

Then I read a post like Lesley's and I'm reassured that the good work goes on across this country. I remember that when I retired a few years ago, the Nerdy Book Club didn't exist, Donalyn Miller's THE BOOK WHISPERER was just getting its initial "buzz" and social media had not yet provided a forum for like-minded educators and librarians. 

That's when I realize that waking without an alarm clock, focusing my attention on reading and  writing, and investing my energy on a broader scope of literary and educational issues feels like the right fit after all.

It also allows me to muster my limited influence to boost Lesley's post even further. Please, click this link and take the time to read it. Several of the books she featured are archived in posts here. If they aren't, they are well worth exploring and using in homes and classrooms. Everything she suggests developing as great "habitudes" in the classroom are just as do-able at home and in child care facilities.

I'm confident the good work of Lesley and so many others will continue, will mushroom exponentially, and will develop an entire generation of kids with the "habitudes" of readers.

You go, girl! (Shows how old school I am, right?) You can follow Lesley on Twitter @auntierez. 
Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.