Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lady Lollipop

I have various blogs that I follow.  One that I like for creative activities with younger children is the blog Let's Explore.  About once a week she will post ideas from around the blogosphere and put some of her picks on children's books that they have read recently.  This is how I found Lady Lollipop, written by Dick King-Smith and illustrated by Jill Barton.  We spent our weekend reading this book and LOVED it.

It is a story about a spoiled Princess named Penelope who wants a pig.  And what Penelope wants, Penelope gets.  Lollipop, her new pig, is not just any pig though.  She is a trained pig.  She can sit and stand on command - but only from her (previous) owner Johnny Skinner.  So Johnny and the pig both move into the stables at the palace.  The story follows the clever Johnny Skinner and how he trains Lollipop to be a house pet and in the process trains Penelope as well.

The story is very well written and funny.   When I saw the illustrations I thought this must be a vintage book re-publsihed but it was published in 2001.  The illustrations are simple and reminiscent of the Dick and Jane era illustrations.  

I highly recommend this book.  I loved it and my daughter (5) did as well.  In fact as soon as we finished it this morning she asked if we could read it again.  I believe this is the first in a series of Lollipop books so I think we will need to visit the library again soon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stuart Little

I just finished reading Stuart Little to my children tonight.  I read Charlotte's Web as a child and loved it but have never read Stuart Little until now.   It is one of those books that I have always known about, but never read.  Each chapter in the book is like a short vignette on Stuart - thus creating a very endearing character.  I love how Stuart is a mouse, but regards himself only as being "mouselike."  He is every bit a part of society as his human family he just has more obstacles to overcome.  For example, cats.  Hiding from cats takes him on many adventures such as being dumped into the back of a garbage dump-truck and eventually taken out to sea.  However, the short vignette-like chapters also create a story that is a little disjointed and leaves some details out of the story as a whole.  I quite enjoyed the book but can see how some might feel a little dissatisfied at the end. 

E.B. White is a fantastic writer.  My husband and I often talk about how people evolve as writers.  We begin by learning how to write simple sentences and eventually move onto complex sentences.  However, we think that to become a good writer one must again return to simple sentences.  There are, however, some who are skilled enough writers to be able to pull off complex sentences.  Charles Dickens, for one.  E.B. White also has some incredibly well written complex sentences.  

I think this is a great read for younger children.  My 3-year-old enjoyed the book but his attention was in and out of the story while my 5-year-old daughter loved it.  She was, however, disappointed with the ending which can be quite anti-climatic.  

Stuart Little was E.B. White's first novel for children and was published in 1945.   It is one that has certainly stood the test of time.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

Memorial Day, to me, signals the start of summer.  I am very excited for summer - swimming lessons, backyard BBQs and popsicles on the front porch.  I just finished Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks : A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy and loved it.  It captures the essence of summer and childhood.

It is the story of four sisters: Rosalind (12), Skye (11), Jane (10) and Batty (4) and their extended summer vacation to a small cottage, located behind a large mansion, in the Berkshire mountains.  Their widowed father is a professor of botany and spends most of his summer in the background studying plants.  Meanwhile the four sisters set off on adventures of their own around the grounds - a first crush, a best friend found, a "bestseller" written and being chased by a bull. Birdsall is able to portray summer in its lazy filled days of fun - catching fireflies, climbing make-shift rope ladders to friends bedrooms, and playing games until dusk.  At the same time she creates characters that are relatable and fun.

This story is well written and just fun.  I highly recommend it.  Especially for a start of the summer celebration read.  For children, I think it is for the 8 to 11ish range - depending on the child you could go younger or older.  This book is the first of 5 books on the Penderwick sisters - the second is already out and the third was just released this May.

I hope to pick them up soon!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Toes, Ears, & Nose

When my first child was a baby, I read to her all of the time.  We loved to cuddle up on a chair and read together.  When my second was born, I would read books to both my children and they both really enjoyed the same books - for the most part.  Now I have a third child and so far she has mostly been a bystander while I read to her two siblings.  But earlier this week we pulled out our "baby" books and she loves them.    Her favorite is Toes, Ears, & Nose written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Karen Katz.  My baby laughs and giggles as the pages are turned and the flaps are lifted.

The other great thing about pulling these books out is that it is largely my 5-year-old daughter who is reading them to our baby.  The sentences are very simple and easy for her to read so it highlights for her other aspects of reading.  When she is reading harder books she often reads in very monotone voices because she is working hard at getting all of the words right.  When she reads this book she uses a lot of expression in her voice because the words are easier and she gets such a reaction from her little sister.  I think it has also been very fun for her to be "the reader" - especially to such an excited audience.

It was fun to be reminded that children of all ages (including 6-month-old babies) love books.   As well as that simple board books can be great books for emergent readers to read to a younger audience.

We are in full baby-board book mode so there will be more baby book reviews to come!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mercy Watson

I don't know if I have mentioned it yet on this blog, but I love Kate DiCamillo.  Or rather, I should say, I love Kate DiCamillo's writing.  She is able to capture people and situations in a way that is very real and that makes her writing very engaging.  She has a great section on her website that talks about her take on writing - and how writing is all about seeing the people and world around you and then transferring that to paper.   

So you can imagine my excitement when, awhile back, I saw that Kate DiCamillo had a series for early readers - the Mercy Watson series.  These books are great for "newly confident" early readers (they have some bigger words, so they are not for the newest beginners) or are also fun as short read-alouds for younger children.  My son (3) loves to listen to these and my daughter (5) has just begun reading the books and could not be more proud that she is reading a chapter book.  Not to mention one that she thinks is so funny.  

Mercy Watson is about a "porcine wonder" who lives with humans - Mr. and Mrs. Watson.  Mercy is a pig who loves tall mounds of buttered toast and sleeps in a bed inside the house.  Each story follows Mercy on an adventure - whether fighting crime, or driving a car Mercy is always getting into some kind of trouble.  The characters are funny and engaging and the stories will keep children laughing.  The books are illustrated by Chris Van Dusen and are colorful, fun and add to the humor of the text.  

There is a website for Mercy Watson that has word searches, games and information on the author and illustrator.  It is a fun website and a great companion to the text.  My daughter has been reading to me Mercy Watson Fights Crime and we only have two chapters left.  We can't wait to find out what happens  next.  

If you are on the search for good early readers - check out the Mercy Watson series.  We love them.