Archive for December, 2013

New Year’s Day by Lynn Peppas

New Year's DayAll too soon we will be celebrating 2014. Many of us will stay up to midnight on December 31st to be among the first to welcome in the New Year. There are a variety of traditions or customs that people enjoy which include eating lucky foods, making resolutions, watching parades or fireworks and spending time with loved ones.

New Year’s Day offers simple text and colorful pictures to highlight some of the common traditions as well as a brief history of New Year’s Day. Interesting little “Did You Know” facts accompany each chapter – such as, did you know the largest New Year’s Day fireworks display had more than 60,000 fireworks?

This book is fun for a younger reader or for an adult to read to a young child.

10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 Happy New Year one and all!

Posted by: Wendy

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Get Real: A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Sarah describes the wonderful book Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How Do We Know What Dinosaurs Really Looked Like? by Catherine Thimmesh.

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Is It Christmas Yet? by Jane Chapman

Is It Christmas Yet? by Jane ChapmanAs the holidays approach, this is a question that parents will start hearing quite often. In this new title, Teddy, a young bear, is extremely excited about Christmas and can hardly wait for it to arrive. He asks over and over again if Christmas is here yet. Big Bear begins to lose his patience but finds ways to help pass the time. Wrapping presents, baking a cake, and finding the right tree, keeps Teddy busy and the big day finally arrives. The illustrations add to the story and show both Teddy’s excitement and Big Bear’s frustration. Chapman is one of my favorite illustrators, and I can never resist a story with one of her bears in it. This is a story that both parents and children can relate to at this busy time of year.

Posted by: Liz

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Common Core Review: Things that Float and Things that Don’t by David Adler

Things that Float and Things that Don'tDensity can be a tough concept for little learners to grasp. Two objects that are the same size are not necessarily the same density thereby allowing one to float, but causing one to sink. Similarly, a very large and heavy object might float while a smaller lighter object might sink based on the objects’ densities. This is confusing stuff! David Adler’s Things That Float and Things That Don’t does a fantastic job of simplifying and illustrating exactly these concepts.

Adler presents a variety of different scenarios to illustrate the concept of density, and encourages young readers to hypothesize about and experiment with density on their own. He even discusses the idea that when something is added to the water, like salt, to create solution, it changes the density of the water thereby affecting what will float. Simple, clear illustrations by Anna Raff compliment the text and further demonstrate the concepts presented in the text. With young learners, having an added visual element is particularly helpful as they are still learning how to read critically.

This is a great book to support the Common Core State Standards in both math and English language arts for early elementary grades. In terms of math, the book does a great job to meet the standards regarding measurement and the interpretation of data. In addition, it is also an excellent early stepping stone in developing the ELA skill of being able to read and comprehend technical language and informational texts. The Common Core State Standards were developed to build upon one another from year to year, and Things That Float and Things That Don’t provides a solid base upon which to build future skills in both math and English language arts.

Here are a few, but by no means all, of the standards that this book addresses.

CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.A.1 Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.
CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.A.2 Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of”/“less of” the attribute, and describe the difference. For example, directly compare the heights of two children and describe one child as taller/shorter.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.4 Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.5 Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.6 Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.5 Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.6 Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.

*All standards are taken from the Common Core State Standards Initiative website.

Posted by: Staci

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The Secret Staircase by Jill Barklem

The Secret StaircaseAll the mice in Brambly Hedge are getting ready for their Midwinter celebration–decorating the Old Oak Palace, bringing in the (enormous) log to burn in the fireplace, and preparing the evening’s entertainment. Almost everyone is contributing something, and Wilfred and Primrose are meant to be performing a dramatic recitation. They need someplace quiet to practice, but the bustling palace is too busy and loud. When Primrose’s mother suggests that they try to find a place in the attic, the two young mice stumble across a hidden door to a forgotten part of the palace–a part that hasn’t been touched since the time of Primrose’s long-ago medieval mouse ancestors!

This book, which I have loved since childhood, is immensely appealing. Secret doors? Hidden rooms full of old toys and beautiful clothes? The delicious preparations for winter holidays? All calculated to captivate. The most captivating of all, however, are the illustrations. I know I’ve waxed rhapsodic in other blog posts, comparing more recent artists to Jill Barklem, but there is nothing like her delicate, detailed paintings. Each illustration is practically a look-and-find game: what’s on the shelves in the attic? What’s hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen? Can you see all the little rooms in the cut-away tree?

The Secret Staircase, interior illustration

The Secret Staircase will provide unending hours of delight, both in the sweet yet satisfying story, and the illustrations that any reader, child or adult, will pore over for hours.

Posted by: Sarah

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Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve by Janet Morgan Stoeke

Minerva Louise on Christmas EveMinerva Louise is an oldie but certainly a goodie, so I am writing to keep her going a little longer. For those familiar with Minerva, you know that as a very naïve chicken, she is often confused by the world around her, making assumptions that are often wrong, and humorous as well. In this story, Minerva Louise mistakes Christmas lights for fireflies and Santa for a farmer in a red hat. And what is the farmer doing on top of the roof? She warns him that it is slippery, but he falls down the chimney anyway! She tries to tell the farmer in the red hat to take the stuff out of her farmer’s socks and wonders about the tree that must have come inside to get out of the cold – and someone has been laying the most beautiful “eggs” on its branches! Young children will love to correct the reader (and Minerva Louise), because they know what Minerva does not about Christmas. This is still a wonderful read-aloud, and shouldn’t be forgotten.

Posted by: Mary

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Christmas Wish by Lori Evert and Per Breiehagen

Christmas WishIt started as a family Christmas card photo by photographer Per Breiehagen and his wife Lori Evert. In 2007, the Minnesota resident’s family dressed their adorable three year-old daughter Anja in traditional Norwegian clothing such as Stakk dress from Ål, where Breiehagen was raised, reindeer shoes from the Sami people in Northern Norway, and an elf hat and took a series of photos that would change their lives forever. Based on overwhelming positive feedback from friends and family who received the Christmas card, Breiehagen expanded the project. His vision was to stage scenes the evoked the traditional folklore of Norway that he had grown up listening to. In addition to Anja’s captivating costume, Breiehagen attempted to make the photos as authentic as possible. He took Anja to beautiful outdoor winter landscapes in both Minnesota and Norway. Anja posed with actual reindeer in Norway and held traditional Telemark skis from 1840 the Breiehagen had sought out to use as photo props. As the scope of the photos became more fantastic, Breiehagen incorporated digital compositing to create scenes of the “little elf” meeting a polar bear in Antarctica and other fanciful imagery that could not be created without digital enhancements. The photos continued to gain popularity and were featured in several holiday advertisement campaigns, including one for Chicco, a popular baby product brand.

The photos took on a new life this year when Breiehagen and Evert created the picture book, The Christmas Wish. The book tells the story of a little girl who lives “in a place so far north that the mothers never pack away the wool hats or mittens.” The girl longs to be one of Santa’s elves. One day, she sets out on a journey through the great Northern wild to find Santa. Along the way she is helped by several animals including a cardinal, reindeer, polar bear, horse and musk ox. She also has a chance to see the Northern Lights. Eventually, she does find the man in the red suit and he flies her home on his sleigh. The true charm and magic of this book are the stunning photographs. Some of my favorites include one of Anja placing a note on the door of the Norwegian Sauna announcing her departure to find Santa, the three year old girl curled up next to a polar bear napping, and Santa’s sleigh flying over snow covered hills taking Anja home. With careful staging and digital enhancement, the winter scenes are stunning, the animals are beautiful and the young girl in the traditional Norwegian garb is irresistibly cute. This story is one that is sure to captivate the imagination of children this holiday season and leave parents a bit awe struck as well.

Posted by: Kelly

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