Friday, June 10, 2011

BFF - A New Blogging Group

Ahhhhh....I love to write and I love inspiration. I just came across a new blogging group tonight called BFF - Blogging for Fun. Stay tuned for more possible posts based on their topics each week, as well. :-D

Sunday, May 29, 2011

F is for Froggy

Kids love the Froggy books by Jonathan London. They aren't necessarily my favorites, but I can put up with them.

Froggy has the usual prescribed adventures that are so common in children's series. He learns how to swim, how to ride a bike, plays with each parent in turn. The catch phrases in each book are his mother yelling "FROOOOOOOOOOOOOOGY!" and his "WHAAAAAAAT?" reply. He usually does something that causes him some embarrassment and looks "more red than green." The books all follow a formula, which allows for the repetition that kids like. His experiences are conceivably familiar to children.

I haven't read as many of the Froggy adventures in the last decade. My students are not bringing them in to share and they are not books that actively seek. I don't think I even own any of them.

Peruse a couple and see how you feel about them.

Expectations in Children's Literature

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a snob when it comes to children's literature. I have simple expectations from what I share with kids, but sometimes they seem too high when compared with the options currently available. I want a good story that is fun to read aloud. I want decent illustrations that don't look like they came from the Dollar Store. And darn it, I want the subject matter to be appropriate.

I remember when I was trying to do book reviews for people. One of the books I got was about a cow that had a farting problem. Really? Now, I come from a family where flatulence is funny, but we never expected it to be in literature. Gassy the Cow and Walter the Farting Dog just do not strike me as great reads.

I have Kindle on my Droid and I am a free ebook junkie. I peruse the Amazon Kindle store at least once a week. I finally came across a bunch of free children's ebooks to download. But I noticed that a lot of them are about burping and other stinky stuff.

Yes, it makes kids laugh. Yes, I chuckle when I see a lot of it. But I hate reading it to kids. They often have a hard time determining when the jokes are appropriate and where to draw the line. I don't think they provide any kind of teaching experience.

And I am not saying that all books need to be a teaching experience. Some of them should just be fun. But the moral values of society today seem to be deteriorating rapidly. I just think that children's books shouldn't be contributing to that decline.

GBE 2 Challenge

I don't know how frequently it will fit in, but there is a weekly blogging challenge that I joined. On Sundays, a topic is posted in the Group Blogging Experience group on Facebook. We are supposed to blog on that topic, if we can find a way to make it fit in. I realized that I was able to fit the first topic in all of my blogs, and yes, I am behind by a day. But that is okay. I am still going to do it, anyway. :-)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z to A in May: Blogging Challenge with a Twist

What? Another challenge? But you never finished this one!

No, I didn't. My father had to have brain surgery and has been in the ICU for over 2 weeks now. My extra writing time has been sucked up by trips to the hospital, conversations with the doctors, and updating family and friends. I've also been dealing with things with my mother who has Alzheimer's.

April has been a long, difficult month. But I vow to finish the blog posts for the original challenge and THEN I will think about working on this one. If not, please be assured that I will continue to update with books I have read and enjoyed, as well as a few that I didn't.

Join the May challenge!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

E is for Encyclopedia Brown

My sister and I are both logical people. We like to look at information and interpret it in our own educated ways. When we were kids, we enjoyed reading the Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobel.

Now, my sister was more of an aficionado than I ever was. She devoured them the way that I was devouring other books. I now have the majority of the collection up in my attic library and I encourage parents to read them with their children.

Each book consists of mini "cases." Leroy Brown is known as "Encyclopedia" because he has a knack for trivia. His father is also the Chief of Police. He uses his knowledge to help his dad solve some big crimes, while simultaneously helping his peers with their mysteries. It's a little similar to Nancy Drew. The fun part with these books is that the reader is given the clues, then must deduce the truth on her own. Solutions are provided at the end of the book. It is fun to use your critical thinking skills and to test the skills of the kids in your life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

D is for dePaola

Tomie dePaola is another classic author of children's literature. I have used his books time and time again in the classroom, whether for simple story reading or for teaching a lesson. He is known for retelling favorite tales, such as in his Strega Nona series. His book Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs makes me cry every time I read it.

I also really like his books about the holidays. For Christmas and Easter, he is able to provide a balance with the religious aspects of each holiday. He also has written about other holidays.

I also admire dePaola for doing his own illustrations.

Some of the stories are too advanced for the young children that I teach. But most of them are appropriate for the elementary age. Check some of them out and see what you think.

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Counting Books

Counting books are fun for kids as they learn how to rote count. My personal favorites are the ones that teach you how to count in a foreign language. I love learning foreign languages. And the sooner you start teaching kids words in different languages, the easier it is for them to learn them. I was fortunate to learn both French and Spanish when I was in Montessori school, focusing on French in elementary school. I can see how this foundation helped me in my later studies of other languages.

I have used these books with kids in my classes, as well as for my own personal studying. They are great for cultural lessons, too!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Berenstain

The Berenstain Bears are another classic children's book series that every child should read. They are wholesome role models who teach life lessons often overlooked in today's crazy society.

Children learn how to have good manners and to be respectful. They learn to appreciate what they have and to be grateful. They learn how to be good citizens, to care for the earth, and to care for each other.

They also have their own TV show and plush characters that kids love to play with. Just like my Arthur characters, I have several of the Berenstain Bear plush animals. I used to use them in after school care, and occasionally in my classroom.

This carousel of books below only features a few of the classic books. Start with a few, fall in love, and continue to enjoy the series! You may even learn something!

B is for Brett

Jan Brett is one of my all-time favorite children's authors. I have been reading her books for as long as I can remember. Last year, I had the honor of meeting her. Of course, I cannot place my hands on the photo of the two of us together right now. Ah well.

She has written a few of her own original stories, but most of her books are retold fairy tales and folktales. What makes her books so unique and special is her illustrations. I can't imagine how long it takes for her to draw one page. The details are so intricate. When we saw her speak, she showed us how she quickly drew a picture of Hedgie. But that was just a sketch. Her paintings are amazing.

Another thing I love about Jan Brett is that she has her own educational website. Parents and teachers can print off numerous activities to use at home or in the classroom. There are also a lot of fun art projects for kids. You can also sign up to get postcards from Jan. And the best part is, they're all free! I have used many of them in my classroom and in tutoring sessions.

A is for Arthur

When I was a little girl, my mom took me to the local children's book shop, called The Reading Railroad. There was an author appearance that day, and I loved to read. I ended up purchasing a silly book called What Do You Call a Dumb Bunny? by a relatively unknown author named Marc Brown. He signed my book, complete with a quick sketch of a silly bunny. I read that book to pieces, and probably still have it somewhere in my collection.

Little did I know that years later, this author would become one of the most beloved in the history of children's books. Marc Brown created his character, Arthur, the same year that I was born, in honor of his own children. Arthurmania took over when I was in high school and college, giving rise to the TV show, games, and multiple book series. I have used Arthur stories in my classroom and after school care programs for years. I even have plush versions of all of the main characters. I used to put out a book featuring each character, including that character, in a special book basket for a special reading time. Kids went crazy for it. Having a character to hold brought them even closer to the book. It worked well for children who were feeling sad and needed to hug something. And it was fun to work on a theme for the week, featuring a favorite character or subject.

Arthur doesn't seem to be quite as popular as he was at his peak, but children still love to read him today. I have included a few of my favorites in these widgets, so that you can experience the joys of Arthur with your kids.

A is for Alphabet Books

I have decided that I am a fan of alphabet books. I prefer them when they actually use the short vowel sounds, and get creative with the letter "i." I hate that so many of them use "ice cream." When children are learning their phonetic sounds, they learn the short /i/ sound, as in "big" and "pin." Later, they learn about the long /i/ sound, as in ice cream. It confuses them to teach the long vowel sound, first.

The first time I truly found an alphabet book useful was about ten years ago. I had a little boy who came to my class on Tuesday/Thursday afternoons. That wasn't much time to work with him. He was completely fascinated by dinosaurs and couldn't seem to get his sounds, despite numerous lessons with the sandpaper letters. Finally, I pulled out the Dinosaur Alphabet book, and spent a few sessions working with him using both the sandpaper letters and this book. He would trace the sound while I read to him about the accompanying dinosaur. BAM! He learned his sounds quickly.

I also like the "Little" series by Moncure, called something like "My First Steps to Reading." Each book has its own featured sound where a young child, such as "Little A" collects items into a box that begin with his or her sound. I use these at least once a week with my extended day students. After I read it, they are encouraged to come up with words that begin with those sounds. I love that they go for picture dictionaries and other word books for inspriation. And then, they write out those word lists. Great reading and writing skills!

So, here are some of my favorite alphabet books for young kids.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Ok, I give in. Since starting the A to Z challenge for other blogs, I keep having children's books ideas popping into my head. Now, I may not be able to post for every letter. They may not necessarily end up coming out when they are supposed to. But, it will be worth a shot.

I also won't necessarily be doing one of my real reviews. I think for this challenge, I will be featuring some favorite authors, book series, or even characters. That will be a fun way to categorize it.

I also plan to utilize my Amazon Associates store. Each post will include a widget of recommended books that follow each topic. Please feel free to shop around. You benefit from getting some great new books. I benefit from making a tiny percentage off of each sale made through my links.

Thanks in advance for the support, and happy reading!

Other blogs I have entered in the challenge:

Montessori Writer

Montessori Writer's Thoughts

Andi's Gardening Experiments

How to Laugh at Alzheimer's

Andi's Book Reviews

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Alice in Wonderland

For Christmas this year, I got a Droid X. I have never had a smartphone before, nor did I ever think I would get one. I knew that I would become a slave to it, but when someone else is buying it for you.....

One of my favorite features of the Droid X was that it came with a Kindle app already on it. This means I can download books to my phone, as if it were one of those actual hand-held Kindles. I also eventually downloaded the Nook app from Barnes and Noble and Google Books. I can read wherever I want.

My first book that I read on this new device was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It is a free book on Kindle and other reading devices.

I remember reading this book when I was a child, because I was a fan of the miniseries on TV, Alice in Wonderland [TV 1985]. I found that the book is somewhat darker than the TV miniseries, though not nearly as dark as Tim Burton's version Alice in Wonderland that stars Johnny Depp.

The book was different from the miniseries, as well as the Alice in Wonderland (Two-Disc Special Un-Anniversary Edition) cartoon version from Disney. As a result, I didn't really care for the book in elementary school.

As an adult, I found the book much more charming, and I could forgive the differences between the text and the motion pictures. I got a kick out of all the puns, because I could more easily understand them as an adult. I fear that children miss out on these too much. Although, that would make this book a useful tool for vocabulary studies, as well as literature studies. It was a ridiculously easy read, which I did in little spurts of only a few minutes while making dinner or waiting in line, over a period of only a couple of days. Had I sat down and just read, I probably could have polished it off within a few minutes.

If you aren't familiar with the story, it is basically a long dream in which the title character falls down the rabbit hole, and encounters a bunch of strange creatures. When reading it, you will learn about common expressions, such as "grinning like a Cheshire cat," and others. You will also be completely convinced that Lewis Carroll was on some good drugs when he wrote it. But it is a classic, and should be read by all, especially if you are watching the movie version. I am a big advocate of reading a book prior to seeing a movie. Or, if you accidentally see the movie first, you whould always go back and read the book. You are almost guaranteed to prefer the book.

I was not given a free copy of anything for writing this blog post. However, I do plan on purchasing the miniseries that I am showing below. Check out any of these other related items on Amazon. I'm not going to lie - I earn a few pennies when you order through my Amazon affiliate links. But I won't steer you wrong in your choices!

This is a collection of items related to the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland.

This is a collection of items related to the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland:

And of course, here are all kinds of fun book versions of the story