Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Books 1 and 2

Gatsby's book1 9781616333508_p0_v1_s260x420Gatsby’s Grand Adventures:Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip

Barbara Cairns, Author

Eugene Ruble, Illustrator

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes: Cat, Art gallery, Famous paintings, Mischief

Opening:”Gatsby the cat lived in Miss Annabelle’s art gallery.  At night, he had the most peculiar habit. He jumped into famous paintings.” 

Synopsis: In Book 1, Gatsby was an art gallery cat who loved exploring famous paintings at night. One night his long tail twitched, his nose itched and his haunches hitched as he leaped into Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip picture. He darted between the boy’s tripping and knocking four of them down. The boys chased Gatsby and he jumped out of the painting as the sun rose. Miss Annabelle was shocked to find the boys struggling to stand.  Gatsby returned repeatedly to fix the painting, but each attempt ended in another cat-astrophe.  Will Gatsby restore Homer’s painting so Miss Annabelle doesn’t think she has lost her mind?

Gatsbys 2 Book9781616333874_p0_v1_s260x420.jpg.Book 2 published 2013

Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Auguste Renoir’s The Apple Seller

Synopsis: Ever since Gatsby leaped into his first painting, he wanted to visit another painting.  When he discovered Renoir’s Apple Seller, his tail  twitched, his whiskers itched and his haunches hitched. He jumped into the painting after absent-minded Miss Annabelle had gone to bed. The girls seated with the apple seller in the painting are excited to see a cat and stroked Gatsby’s head. When Jasper the dog barked at Gatsby, he ran and climbed up a tree. The girls caught their dog and Gatsby leaped out of the painting after the sun had risen. Oops! He looked back and the painting was a mess.  There would be more trips to restore this picture. Poor Miss Annabelle.

Why I like these  books: Barbara Cairns books  introduce children to art in a fun way.  Both books combine art history and education with adventure and humor. Children who enjoy animals and art will learn about an artist’s work through the adventures of a mischievous cat named Gatsby. His name suits him well because he is one cat with personality. I am sure there will be many more Gatsby adventures in this series. Eugene Ruble’s lovely pastel paintings are lively and colorful. He captures the essence of both famous artists with his own style.

Resources: The author has provided information about Homer and Renoir in the back of the book, along with helpful websites for children.  For activities check out a site Cairns suggested: Art Smarts 4 Kids.  These books are a great way to introduce children to famous artwork before they visit an art gallery.

Barbara Cairns is a former K-6 school teacher, a special education teacher for the deaf, and a retired elementary school principal. You can find interesting facts about Gatsby and cats on her website.

 

Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout

yellshout1Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings

Peggy Kruger Tietz, Ph.D., Author

Rebecca Layton, Illustrator

CreateSpace, Mar. 25, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5 and up

Themes: Learning about emotions and feelings

Opening:What makes you laugh, or blush, or run and hide? What makes your eyes open wide? Can you guess? Do you know? Whatever you feel inside will show…Feelings tell you what’s happening to you. Learn all their names because each is there to take care of YOU.”

Book Synopsis: Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout is an essential guidebook for adults in steering children through the different facets of emotions. Each of the eight emotions is clearly defined through vignettes and illustrations, keeping both adult and child captivated, thus creating an opportune time for discussion. By recognizing that all humans experience these emotions throughout their lives, the book provides a true sense of comfort.  The different ranges of emotions are not to be shunned but rather embraced and explained to provide a positive development environment for all children.

Why I like this book: Peggy Kruger Tietz, Ph.D., has written a very clever and important guide to help children identify eight different emotions: anger, fear, shame, sadness, happiness, love, disgust and surprise. I hope I have your attention because I know when I mentioned emotions you immediately thought of negative ones. This isn’t the case because the author also deals with positive emotions. I also like her consistent and simple format. Each emotion has a color. She identifies an emotion like shame with the color gray. Shame “tells us we’ve done something wrong and helps us say we’re sorry.” On the following page you are asked how you might respond or what happens to you when you feel ashamed: turn bright red, hang your head, look away or try to leave. Then there are examples of what you might do when you feel ashamed: lying, not seeking help when a friend is bullied or calling someone a mean name. Then it ends with a question to the child, “What might make You ashamed?

This guide offers parents, teachers and counselors a peek into the inner emotional lives of children. I believe that both children and adults lack the language to express what they are feeling. It is a relief for children to have a way to describe their experiences. And a blessing for  parents to have some insight in how to deal with puzzling behavior.  Excellent team work between author and illustrator. Rebecca Layton’s illustrations are simple black and white drawings with a splash of color that matches the emotion being discussed.  The drawings also are lively and expressive.  I highly recommend this book.

Visit Peggy Kruger Tietz at her website.  She is a psychologist and has counseled parents and children for over 30 years.

 

Little Bird Lost

Little Bird Lost9781492762829_p0_v1_s260x420Little Bird Lost

Kate Larkinson, Author

Steve Larkinson, Photographer

CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Nature, Birds, Sibling Rivalry

Opening: “1..2..3 little birds but there should be more. Three baby birds in the nest but there should be four.”

Synopsis (Book Description) : One of the baby birds seems to be missing. His greedy siblings have pushed him out of view! A tale of sibling rivalry and their parents love all their offspring.

Why I like this book: I loved Kate Larkinson’s simplicity and rhyming text for young children. This is a charming story about nature, a mother bird feeding her young ones and sibling rivalry. According to the book, Steve Larkinson “saw the nest in the eaves of a bakery in south-west France,” and decided to capture the life of a family of swallows through his beautiful photography. This is the perfect spring read for beginning readers. They  will feel triumphant over mastering this beautiful book.  Make sure you check out Kate and Steve Larkinson’s website.

Resources: Walk around your house and yard and look for nests of birds.  You can watch the birds busily building nests right now. Bird watch and write down the variety of bird you see in your yard this spring.

There is a Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of this book at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/83442-little-bird-lost-a-rhyming-picture-story  that ends March 24.

There is also a LibraryThing Giveaway for the ebook edition at http://www.librarything.com/er_list.php?program=giveaway&sort=enddate which expires on March 28.

Erik from This Kid Reviews Books, also reviewed Little Bird Lost last fall.  He has included some excellent activities for children that I won’t repeat.

While You Were Out

While You Were Out9780142406281_p0_v1_s260x420While You Were Out

J. Irvin Kuns, Author

Dutton Children’s Books, Fiction, 2006

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes:  Loss of a friend, Grief, Family, Hope, Healing, School

Synopsis: Penelope is about to start fifth grade without her best friend, Tim, who died of cancer during the summer. Not only is she dealing with the grief of losing Tim, she is also dealing with the fact that her quirky father will be the new school janitor. And her irritating next door neighbor, Diane, thinks she can replace Tim as her best friend.  Memories of Tim are everywhere, including the empty desk right next to her and their favorite oak tree near the playground. Finding a way to cope with her loneliness, she begins to write notes to Tim on her pink While You Were Out notepad, folds them and puts them inside Tim’s empty desk — “I hugged our tree today. I think it hugged me back.”  After receiving a mysterious note with a poem about grief on her desk one day, she realizes someone else misses Tim as much as she does.  Perhaps she will be able to survive fifth grade without Tim.

Why I like this story: J. Irvin Kuns has written a very sensitive and realistic story about grief, loneliness, hope, healing and the power of words that help a child move forward again.  Written in first person, Penelope is authentic, smart and beautifully expresses her feelings, mixed with some sarcasm and humor. Her overactive father is imperfect and embarrassing when he jumps rope and plays marbles on the playground. He acts more like a student than the janitor. The book does show how Penelope finds a way of moving forward after losing her best friend and schoolmate.  This is a very moving story that would help children deal with loss.

The Black Book of Colors

blackbookThe Black Book of Colors

Menena Cottin, Author

Rosana Faria, Illustrator

Elisa Amado, Translator

Groundwood Books, Fiction, 2008

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes: Experiencing what it’s like to be blind, Exploring senses

Opening: “Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers…Thomas likes all the colors because he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: It is very hard for a sighted person to imagine what it is like to be blind. This groundbreaking, award-winning book endeavors to convey the experience of a person who can only see through his or her sense of touch, taste, smell or hearing.

Why I like this book: Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria’s have teamed up to create an extraordinary book for sighted children to help them experience what it is like to be blind and depend upon their senses. The entire book is on black paper. The pages on the left have white text at the bottom where Thomas describes a color using his senses and beautiful imagery. There is Braille at the top of the page which helps a sighted child to imagine what it is like to read by touch.  On the corresponding pages the illustrations are elegant and delicate raised black line drawings which are meant to be revealed by the touch of finger tips. This book is a masterpiece that teaches children how to describe colors by using all of their senses. The book is not intended for visually impaired children.

Resources: I would use this book to discuss visual impairments. The book alone is a resource. It asks readers to be blind. It a remarkable way for children to experience the world through touch, smell, taste and sound. At the end of the book is a raised braille alphabet.  Activity: Create a class book of colors and ask children to draw a picture of something that represents a color and write a sense that corresponds to their picture.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back9780061962790_p0_v2_s260x420Inside Out & Back Again

Thanhha Lai, Author

Harper Collins Children, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for Ages:  8-12

Themes:  Vietnamese Americans, Immigration, Refugees, Alabama, Resilience

Synopsis from Book Jacket:  For all the ten years of her life, Ha has only know Saigon: The thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by…and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.   But now the Vietnam War has reached her home.  Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope.  In America, Ha discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape…and the strength of her very own family.  This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

Why I like this book:  Thanhha Lai has written the story of Ha, in short free verse narrative, which is exquisitely executed. Her images are both rich and humorous.  It was the winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. This is a remarkable  story based on  Thanhha Lai’s own vivid childhood memories of fleeing Saigon and sailing to a strange new country. She vividly captures Ha’s rich and confusing emotional life. In Vietnam she’s an outstanding student. In America Ha is put into a lower grade because she can’t speak English. She feels dumb. There are so many rules in English that make absolutely no sense to Ha. She says “Whoever invented English,/ should be bitten/ by a snake.”  Ha is humiliated after the class claps for her when she recites the ABC’s and counts to twenty.  “I’m furious,/ unable to explain,/ I already learned/fractions/and how to purify river water./So this is/ what dumb feels like./ I hate, hate, hate it.”  This is a story about the resilience of the feisty spirit of a child told with such simplicity.

Resource:  You may be interested in reading an interview with Thanhha Lai when she won the 2011 National Book Award.

Fred Stays with Me!

Fred Stays with Me!9780316077910_p0_v1_s260x420Fred Stays with Me!

Nancy Coffelt, Author

Tricia Tusa, Illustrator

Little, Brown and Company, Fiction, 2007

Suitable for Ages: 4- 8

Themes:  Divorce, Girl and her dog, Parenting, Different Families

Opening “Sometimes I live with my mom.  Sometimes I live with my dad.  My dog, Fred, stays with me.”

Synopsis:  A little girl learns to deal with her parent’s divorce with her very mischievous dog, Fred.  She still goes to the same school and has the same friends.  But, she alternates living between her parent’s homes.  At each home she has a different bedroom, meals and activities.  Fred is a troublemaker – he barks constantly at the neighbor’s dog, steals socks and makes messes.  Both her parents wonder what they’re going to do with Fred.  But, Fred is the girl’s constant companion and stability.  They are inseparable.  “Fred is my friend. We walk together. We talk together. When I am happy, Fred is too. And when I’m sad, Fred is there.”  The girl will have to come up with a solution or lose her best friend.

Why I like this book:  Nancy Coffelt has written a very charming and sensitive story for children experiencing a divorce in their family.   The text is simple and the language childlike. Yet through showing and narration, the word “divorce” is never used in the text.  Divorce is confusing for children and they would resonate with this upbeat book. Fred is lively and a true friend and troublemaker. Tricia Tusa’s illustrations are warm and comforting watercolors  done in soft brown hues and they compliment the story. There are also no pictures of parents in her illustrations.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.