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Archive for June, 2010

Yes, school is out, but I’m looking ahead to next year and what I’ll be reading to the class in the fall.

Enter Goldie and the Three Bears by Diane Stanley, a just-right book for my opening theme of bears.

In this tale, Goldie is a little girl who knows exactly what she likes. For snacks: peanut butter with chunks, white bread, no jelly. For books: one all about bears. And as for friends–well, that’s a little more difficult. All the potential ones don’t work out quite the way Goldie wants.

But then she gets off at the wrong bus stop, and finds a house at the end of the lane. When no one answers, Goldie enters.

She finds three sandwiches on the kitchen table. And guess what? One of them is peanut butter with chunks, white bread, no jelly and no crusts! In the living room, she finds her favorite book, and settles in for a quick read on a very comfy chair. And last, and not at all unexpected, she finds three beds and settles in for a nap.

Which is when the three bears return, and while Goldie dreams their reactions, she suddenly wakes to find that her dream is true and that the baby bear is mad. So mad, she jumps on the bed.

Goldie bounces into the air.

And the two discover a new game.

Which results in the typical parental response: Stop! You’re going to break the bed.

All’s well that ends well here. Goldie and the baby bear become great friends, and that little problem about finding a friend who is just right?

Resolved.

This has good possibilities for expanding kids’ vocabularies–snobby, bland, and revelation appear and will be easily explained, either by the illustration or a few words. I’m also going to use it for compare and contrast with other versions I’ve already got in my collection–Somebody and the Three Blairs, for example.

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One more day to go, and I’m wrapping up the ocean unit’s books. Today I pulled out The Whales’ Song by Dyan Sheldon. While the story itself is charming, the illustrations–oil paintings by Gary Blythe–make the book. They are extraordinary, and Lilly, the child protagonist, is beautifully innocent.

If you buy children’s books for the illustrations, this is one you should not miss.

Grandmother, sitting Lilly upon her lap, tells her about the whales of her own childhood, and how, if you give them something precious, they sometimes sing for you.

Lilly drops a flower on the waves later, and spends a day on the docks waiting for the whales. Her great-uncle Frederick, who has no patience for fantasy, retrieves her as the sun sets, and she goes to bed, wish unfulfilled.

However, in the night, she hears something and runs out to investigate. On the moonlit ocean, whales leap and dive, while Lilly watches spellbound. When they vanish, she thinks it has been a dream, but the whales call her name and finally sing for her.

This book is not plot-driven, and if you are hoping for an action-adventure tale, this one will not work for you. However, its lyrical imagery and dreamlike aspects call to the children in my class and they always ask for me to read it again. This year, I walked around so they could see the paintings close up and realize that they were made with dots of color. We did not have the time to make an attempt at pointillism, but it’s a natural jumping off place to try the technique.

Definitely magical, and well worth the read.

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I have so many favorite books. Sometimes they’re my favorites because of the storyline; sometimes a book becomes a favorite because of the illustrations. Every so often, I discover a book where the illustrations and the story work so well together, that I can’t distinguish between them.

Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood, fits into the latter category.

A mother of seven children, after firmly reminding them to not let anyone into the house, sets off to market to buy what the children asked for. Once she’s gone, a witch hobbles up to the door and asks to enter.

At first the children refuse, but she ends up bribing them. Once they get fire to light her pipe, she turns them into food, and she takes them to her cottage in the woods.

Meanwhile, the mother returns to find her children have disappeared. With the help of a small bird, she heads off to rescue them from the witch’s clutches, arriving just in time to prevent the witch from taking her first bite.

How far does a mother’s love go? When the witch demands that the mother cut off her feet, she pretends to do so. The witch allows her in and tells her that if she can match the child to the food, she can have her children back.

The mother accomplishes this task easily, pairing the child as food with each child’s request from her trip to the market. All ends happily with the witch summarily disposed of by a handy bridge.

In the years I’ve read this story, the children love it–and the scariness–for it’s happily resolved. It’s certainly no worse than a rendition of Hansel and Gretel, with parents who abandon their children in the middle of a forest, leaving the children to make their own way home.

I usually read this tale in October or early November when we talk about fears, but it’s not a Halloween book, and certainly not limited to that time of year. Since the children’s names are Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, it’s also a good introduction to the days of the week. I would certainly tie in the repetitive patterning of the week by cutting a calendar for a month apart and taping the ends of each weekly row together. In addition, it allows you to practice prediction with your class: which child is what food–something that may not be particularly easy, although bread and butter is a fairly simple pairing.

So this one’s another highly recommended treat for your children, and the illustrations alone are worth the purchase.

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