Going Places

Going Places9781442466081_p0_v3_s260x420Going Places

Peter and Paul Reynolds

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Fiction,  Mar. 18, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Creative ability, Go-carts, Race, Imagination, Teamwork

Opening: “Rafael had been waiting all year long for the Going Places contest, a chance to build a go-cart, race it…and win.”

Synopsis: Rafael wastes no time in opening his “Going Places”kit and reads the instructions with a magnifying glass to make sure that he follows the directions precisely to build his go-cart. He peeks over the fence to see how Maya is doing with her cart and finds her perched on top of her kit watching and sketching a picture of a bird in a tree. The next day Rafael checks back and discovers Maya is building a flying machine.  Rafael points out, “that’s not a go-cart.” She replies, “Who said it HAD to be a go-cart?”  Rafael, who really wants to win the race, realizes Maya’s vision and suggests they team up. On the day of the race all the students arrive with their look-alike go-carts. Rafael and Maya are teased about their unusual entry, but they end up soaring to the finish line to a cheering crowd.

Why I like this book: I enjoyed Peter H. Reynolds collaborative effort with his twin brother, Paul A. Reynolds, in this imaginative story about creative ability and thinking outside the box. The text reveals the discovery of new ideas and visions, the importance of teamwork and the joy and wonder of using your imagination to create something unique. Two very different minds working together are a lot more creative and productive than one — a great take-away message for children. Peter’s illustrations have his trademark whimsical appeal, but the artwork for Going Places is very bold, colorful and expressive. The students in the class are multi-ethnic, another signature of Peter and Paul’s interest in appealing to the global family. This is an entertaining and original story for children.

About the authors: Peter H. Reynolds is the bestselling author and illustrator of I’m Here, The Dot, Ish, Sky Color, and the North Star.  He’s sold over 20 million books in 25 countries. Paul A. Reynolds is CEO and co-founder (with Peter) of the Boston-based educational media company FableVisionCheck out Peter’s website .

Activity: Encourage children to use their imaginations to  design and draw their own go-carts on paper.  Help them think outside of the box. Perhaps their go-cart resembles a favorite insect, monster, dinosaur, or truck.  Maybe it’s meant to operate on the ground, in the air or underwater.

Resource:  I also recommend teachers and parents check out a special site FableVision and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills have created for educators. It’s called Above & Beyond: The Story of the 4Cs Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity.

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

Erik the Red Sees Green

Erik the Red9781480453845_p0_v1_s260x420Erik the Red Sees Green

Julie Anderson, Author

David Lopez, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, Oct. 15, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 2-7

Themes: Color Blindness, School, Friendship, Teamwork

Opening: “Erik the Red was a wonderful kid. Ask anyone. He wondered if fish got thirsty. He wondered why he couldn’t tickle himself…Sometimes he wondered what life would be like without a nickname, but from the day he was born he was Erik the Red.”

Synopsis: At school, everything seems to be going wrong for Erik.  In soccer, he kicks the ball to the wrong team. In class he messes up his reading homework and misses half the math problems written on the board. Erik is teased in art class when he draws a self-portrait and paints his own hair green. A trip to the doctor confirmed that Erik’s painting isn’t wrong — he is color blind.

What a like about this book: Julie Anderson’s book is an uplifting story about a strong and self-confident boy  who seems to do everything wrong, but doesn’t know why. Once he understands his visual issues, he takes charge and talks to his class about his color blindness and invites them to ask questions. Erik sees colors, but just differently. He says, “I like to think I am color vision quirky!” Because his color deficiency is diagnosed, his teacher makes black-and-white copies of math assignments. His parents and friends jump in with other solutions to help Erik in a positive way.  This is an excellent story about everyone working together to help Erik. Even young children will understand the language. David Lopez’s illustrations are colorful and create a happy atmosphere for Erik.

Resources:  The author has included a double-page spread of information about color vision deficiency. The book is a great resource for parents, teachers and children. Visit the Color Blind Awareness website, where you can actually experience color deficiency and learn about why it effects more men then women.

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.

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

Michael Keane, Author

Michael Garland, Illustrator

Regnery Kids, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes: Santa, Christmas, NORAD, Military, Teamwork

Opening/Synopsis‘Twas the night before Christmas at NORAD’s home base/ Not an airman was stirring, each one was in place/Ready and waiting for the very first sight/Of good old St. Nick on his Christmas Eve flight.”  Every year the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks Santa as he delivers gifts to children worldwide.  But, Santa and his reindeer get lost in a blizzard.  He disappears from their radar.  Will NORAD be able to find Santa with their high-tech equipment and help Santa deliver presents to the children in the world?   Children will love the suspense and the illustrations.

Why I like this book:   Michael Keane has written a beautiful picture book in the style of Clement Clark Moore’s The Night Before Christmas.  Every year millions of children track Santa on the NORAD Santa Tracker.  I especially like how Keane shows children the humanitarian side of the military.  The generals worldwide come together to develop a plan and teach kids about teamwork during a crisis.  They learn military language and the compassion of all services worldwide to serve the greater good.  There is even an element of suspense with the involvement of Special Ops teams.  The book speaks to the true nature of Christmas when we can set aside our difference and remember our humanity.  Michael Garland’s artwork is eye-popping.  His digital illustrations are bold, colorful, lively and will engage both young and older readers in looking at the detail.

Favorite Stanzas “The Commander-in-Chief was handed a phone/ Scramble the fighter jets/Send up a drone!/For both red state and blue state, this is a real threat!/It’s even much worse than our national debt!”

“Go Army!  Go Marines!  Go Navy and Air Force!/Call in the Reservists and the Guardsmen, of course!/To the ends of the earth, help with Santa’s big haul!/ Now march away! Fly away! Sail away, all!” 

Resources.  There are six wonderful pages of history about how the tradition began in 1955 with a very funny story involving an ad in the newspaper and a wrong phone number.  Have your kids track Santa on the NORAD Santa Tracker  on December 24, to check on Santa’s location in the world.  They can map Santa’s progress and learn about time zones.  NORAD volunteers take kids phone calls and respond to e-mails.  NORAD actually begins the countdown on December 1, so kids can visit the site daily.

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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.

Snow Games – A uTales eBook

Snow Games

Joanna Marple, Author

Maja Sereda, Illustrator

uTales eBook, May 2012, Fiction

Suitable for:  Ages 3 and up

Themes:  Woodland Animals, Snow Games, Friendship, Teamwork

Opening/Synopsis“On a crisp, frosty mid-winter’s day, the woodland youngsters ran out to play.  The first game that popped into Squirrel’s head was to slide down the hill on a homemade sled.  Bear charged forth and crashed down the slope on a sled from boughs tied together with rope.”  The four endearing animals  –Squirrel, Bear, Owl and Mouse — spend a snowy winter day playing games in the woods.  They begin with sledding and each animal makes a sled from twigs, pine cones,  a log and a red shoe.  Bear suggests that they follow with a snow fight.  They each build a snow fort and pack snowballs of all sizes.  Once the game ends, Mouse, has the best game idea of all–to build snow animals.   Bear, Squirrel and Owl all craft  snow critters in their own likeness.  But, small Mouse has a vision and creates the biggest snow creature of all.   It is Fox, who will decide the winner of the winter snow games.

Why I like this story:  Written in verse, Joanna Marple has created an endearing and delightful story about friendship, sportsmanship, and teamwork among the woodland youngsters.  Joanna has traveled extensively and developed a passion for the animal world and their plight.  She loves to write  anthropomorphic stories with animals depicted in their natural environment.  Bear is strong, Owl is wise and confident,  Squirrel is quick and clever, and Mouse is small and compassionate.   Maja Sereda’s digital illustrations are playful and beautifully express this action-packed story.   She uses soft pastels to create the magical winter wonderland.  The rhyme and illustrations are the perfect ingredients for a fun winter experience.

About uTales:  Joanna says uTales is more than just a digital bookstore.  “It is built around a community in ways other platforms are not.  We want to be a family of creators. ”  The Friendship Alphabet book is a good example of how 30 authors and illustrators from 15 different countries created a storybook together.  Joanna contributed to this digital book as well.  Books are published in English and Swedish.  Click here to learn more about uTales children’s ebooks and to sign up for a free trial.  uTales was initiated by Swedish businessman, Nils von Heijne.  Emma Dryden, of drydenbks, oversees the Editorial Quality uTales Panel.

Joanna Marple grew up surrounded by the architecture and awe of the city of Cambridge, UK, and immersed in the books and the landscapes of the Brontes, Tolkien and Beatrix Potter. Her tall tales were not always appreciated as a young child, but her passion for storytelling remained unfettered and was fuelled by the marvelous people and animals she encountered during her humanitarian work across the continents. More recently her years as school librarian in Southern France relit her passion for children’s books. Her stories focus on her love of the natural world and the richness of the cultures she has encountered in her travels. She lives presently in Nice with two quirky cats and a stream of visitors from all over the globe.

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome

Clarabelle van Niekerk & Liezl Venter, MA, CCC-SLP, Authors

Clarabelle van Niekerk, Illustrator

Skeezel Press, Fiction, 2006

Suitable for:  Preschool to Grade 2

Awards:  2010 Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award, and the 2009 Mom’ Choice Award.

Themes:  Understanding a child with Asperger Syndrome, Helping the child succeed at home and at school, Teamwork

Opening“Sam loved to giggle.  He would close his eyes, throw back his head, and just giggle.  This would make everyone else giggle.  Sam was a happy boy but he was a little different.  He did not like loud noises.  He did not like to rough and tumble with other boys.  Making friends was hard for Sam.”  This is an endearing story about Sam, who  acts differently.  He lives with his parents, his sister and his dog.  Sam doesn’t like his pancakes to touch each other on the plate.  He doesn’t like to wear new clothes because they feel funny.  He builds puzzles by himself at school and the kids tease him.   A fair comes to town and Sam’s father takes him to ride on the Ferris wheel.   Sam loves the feeling of going round and round so much that he slips out of the house later that night and returns to the Ferris wheel.  That’s when his parents realize it’s time to see a doctor.

Why I like this book:  The authors give a realistic portrayal of child with Asperger Syndrome in an upbeat and happy way.   The illustrations are colorful and beautifully support the positive mood of the story.  They show how important it is for the doctors, therapists,  family, teacher and students to work together as a team to understand and help Sam.  Over the months Sam learns to interact with the other students and they include him in their activities.  And, Sam is given his moment to shine at a school event where he shares a very special gift.

Activities:  At the end of the book, the authors have a special discussion guide for students, family and friends.  They offer 10 very helpful tips for kids who have friends who may seem a little different.   These tips will promote a thoughtful and lively classroom or family conversation.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.