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Archive for April, 2010

The Tub People by Pam Conrad is a story that my own children adored. So some years ago, when mine had grown out of it, I took the book to school and added it to my collection. I usually read it in the spring, and it’s an attention getter. Every. Single. Year.

It’s spring, right? I don’t know about your kindergarten classes, but mine turn squirmy about now and their attention is on everything but school.

It’s a good time to drag out this book. Because without a doubt, by the third page my entire class is silent and focused on the illustrations, which, by the way, are lovely. Richard Egielski is likely better known for his collaborative work on Hey, Al, which won the Caldecott Medal in 1987.

The story sets up a family group of simple toys posed on the tub’s edge: the father, mother, grandmother, doctor, policeman, child, and dog. Gradually, they take on personalities and come to life as they ride the bar of soap ably captained by the father, and the child slips off the bar of soap and needs to be rescued by his father.

But one bathtime, the child is caught in a whirlpool and slides down the drain. The others miss him, call for him, and stop smiling as time passes and he does not return.

Then the tub refuses to drain and a plumber is called. To the delight of the tub people, the tub child is rescued–and then disappears into the plumbers’ tool chest.

That evening, the tub people are moved to a bedroom and lined up along the window’s edge. The adventures begin again as they slide down mountains of bedcovers and the grandmother hides under the pillow and waits for the others to find her. Each night they are lined up in order on the window ledge, and each morning, the child has moved to stand between his mother and father, and there are faint smiles on their faces.

My kids get this story. They are as charmed by the tub people as I am and when the tub child is in danger (which is somewhat reduced by the illustration of the tub child caught in the trap) they are horrified. It’s a nice twist when the tub child is dropped into the plumber’s toolbox instead of returned to his family, and they are as worried as the tub family themselves.

It’s a very satisfying ending, and we all are smiling as I read the last few sentences.

I had no idea that it had been reissued with a new cover illustration, and was quite thrilled to discover it still in print. So, imagine my delight, when I discovered a sequel I did not know existed: The Tub Grandfather. I’ve already ordered my copy and can’t wait to share it with this year’s class.

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One of my spring fun reads–and completely unrelated to anything I have theme-wise–is The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague. Not only are the acrylic illustrations eye-catching and bright, they visualize the storyline perfectly. My kids are enthralled with Wendell’s and Floyd’s adventures.

And what adventures they are.

The two boys have a problem: tardiness. And their teacher, Ms. Gernsblatt, has reached her limit with their fanciful delays–neighborhood pirates, alien invasions, and a rash of frogs. The boys wake early the next morning, determined to beat the bell, and set off on a shortcut that Wendell knows.

Which lands them in a jungle with tapirs, rhinos, and a snake. They cross quicksand, avoid crocodiles, and finally swing on vines to make up lost time. This shortcut, powered by Wendell’s and Floyd’s vivid imaginations, transforms into a longcut.

The boys make a muddy splashdown and arrive–on time! and to their teacher’s consternation–covered with mud.

This is a great book to use as a springboard for having your class attempt a map of their own. Brainstorming other places Wendell and Floyd might visit on their shortcut could galvanize the most reluctant artist. This year, I’ve already had students create their own maps, so I’m looking forward to another round of map-making depicting what secret shortcut they would use to get from their house to our classroom.

Let the fun begin!

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