Tag Archives: Family Reading Partnership

Getting to Know a Picture Book Character

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

When you think of children’s books that are written as a series of 2, 3, 4, or more books with the same characters in different stories you may think of chapter books for independent readers. Maybe you know some of these series for young readers such as “Junie B. Jones,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” and “The Magic Tree House,” to name just a very few of so many that are popular.

But picture books also have character series that can hook the pre-reader. Getting to know the same characters in a series is like making new friends. As you see the characters develop relationships, face challenges, and solve problems, the young listener can relate to those events in their own life.

Try out some of these series and see what grabs the attention of your young child:

“Little Pig,” written and illustrated by David Hyde Costello. In 2 books (so far) this young pig faces the challenges of being the smallest and youngest in his family. In each story he wants to join in the activities that his older brothers and sisters are having but isn’t allowed. Without any fuss, this tenacious and creative little pig finds his own way of having fun.

“Frog and Toad,” written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. Each of these 5 books is a collection of 5 short stories about two friends who have opposite personalities. The stories are about quiet times in every day life such as making a list of things to do, cleaning the house, and baking cookies in the context of what it means to be a friend.

“Good Dog Carl” written and illustrated by Alexandra Day. In over 15 mostly wordless stories, Carl the Rottweiler looks after a baby girl who gets into all kinds of predicaments. Young children will see the humor in the ongoing dilemmas.

“Elephant and Piggie” written and illustrated by Mo Willems. In a 6 book series that is growing, we see that these two best friends have very different personalities. Gerald the elephant is careful, solemn, a worrier. Piggie is happy-go-lucky, smiles, and tries anything. Every child will be able to relate to some qualities in these two characters.

“The Princess in Black” by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. In this 4 book series we are introduced to a young girl who looks like any normal princess until she is needed to save the day and changes into a superhero.

“Flat Stanley,” by Jeff Brown, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan. This series of 6 books started with the original Flat Stanley book over 50 years ago. A boy named Stanley Lambchop is accidentally flattened to be just one half inch thick when a bulletin board falls on him in the night. Being that flat, Stanley can be mailed, rolled up, flown in the sky like a kite and becomes an unlikely hero by catching two art thieves.

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Filed under book series, children's books, Series

Take a Look in Picture Books!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

How is a “p” different from a “q” and a “b” not the same as a “d”? The little details that make letters different from one another require good observation skills that children develop with practice. Noticing differences and similarities also helps when learning to draw, read, study the natural world, and learn a new sport. Details matter! Slow down and just look. You and your child will see a new world.

It’s easy to use picture books to help your child develop observation skills. Most children’s books have little details in the illustrations that may tell even more about the story than the words. The next time you read together notice what is the same and different in the pictures from one page to the next. Are there objects or actions not mentioned in the story that you find? It’s a fun game to play.

Use any of your favorite picture books or try some of these and play the “same and different” game.

“Birds,” by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek. Simple, playful text describes how birds are many colors, shapes, and sizes. Compare them all. Then in some “what if”” scenarios we see how with some imagination birds can paint colors across the sky with their tails and a tree-full of crows can fly away in a rowdy surprise.

“Little Cloud,” written and illustrated by Eric Carle. A picture book for the very young child. See Little Cloud as he changes from one shape to another before becoming part of a big rain cloud. After reading, look at real clouds in the sky with your child and see if any look like familiar objects.

“Flotsam,” by David Wiesner. This is a wordless picture book, so all you can do is look and see what has changed in each illustration! The pictures reveal the story of a boy at the beach finding an underwater camera washed up on the shore. When he develops the film, he can’t believe what he sees. There are many details to discover on each page.

“The Snail and the Whale,” by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Charming illustrations and rhyming text together tell the story of a great adventure. Seagulls, a cat, and many little snails are supporting characters in the pictures at the start of the story, but are replaced by penguins and seals at the north pole and then parrots and crabs in tropical islands. Each place the snail and whale travel around the world is a new place depicted in detail. Is the cat in the beginning the same cat at the end? Take a look.

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Filed under I spy, imagination, observation skills, same and different, wordless picturebooks

The Glory of Autumn in Children’s Books

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Soon we’ll be seeing signs of autumn and your children may start wondering. Why do leaves change color in the fall? How do you make applesauce? Where are the geese flying? Snuggle up and read some children’s books together and satisfy your child’s curiosity. Read and learn about autumn, go for a walk looking for colorful leaves, taste some newly picked apples, and enjoy the glory of the season with your family.

Here are some books about fall to read with your young children:

 

 

 

 

 

  • “The Busy Little Squirrel” by Nancy Tafuri. Just like the squirrels in your own neighborhood, this little squirrel scurries here and there as the summer changes to autumn and he prepares for the winter ahead.
  • “Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin Pie” by Jill Esbaum. In this story illustrated with photographs, your child will see how a little pumpkin seed becomes a sprawling pumpkin vine and eventually can be baked into a golden pumpkin pie.
  • “Fall Mixed Up” by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Chad Cameron. Words and pictures about autumn are silly jumbles of mistakes. Look for what is not quite right on each page. Do bears really gather nuts and do geese hibernate?
  • “Leaf Jumpers” by Carole Gerber and Leslie Evans. Make a pile of leaves and jump! You’ll learn about why leaves change color and why they fall off trees.
  • “Applesauce Season” by Eden Ross Lipson, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. Red apples, orange leaves, and bright blue sky–It’s time to make applesauce. You’ll want to make your own after reading how easy it is to do. Start your own fall family tradition!
  • “Hello Harvest Moon” by Ralph Fletcher, illustrated by Kate Kiesler. The big full moon during harvest time is celebrated in words and beautiful illustrations.
  • “The Roll-Away Pumpkin” by Junia Wonders, illustrated by Daniela Volpari. Maria goes on a chase after her pumpkin escapes her grasp one windy autumn day.
  • “The Little Yellow Leaf” by Carin Berger. This little yellow leaf has to be brave because it’s going to be autumn soon and he knows he will fall from his tree.
  • “Autumn Is Here!” by Heidi Pross Gray. See the changes that happen as autumn arrives. Children will enjoy the whimsical text and repeated refrain.

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Nonfiction Books Enrich Summer

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

What can you and your children do this summer? Read nonfiction books together and you’ll learn fascinating facts, be inspired by incredible events, and maybe find a favorite activity!

Read about people in history or in present day. Delve into other cultures. Find out more about animals, plants, minerals, oceans, mountains, deserts, and jungles. Learn how to create something or develop a new skill.

Nonfiction books are a special type of picture book for children. The best of them tell a story that is relevant to children while incorporating well-researched facts. Nonfiction children’s books are in their own section of the library apart from fiction, arranged by subject.

Try some of these nonfiction picture books and find more books on topics that your family enjoys:

“Island: A Story of the Galápagos” by Jason Chin. Award winning author and artist Jason Chin tells the fascinating life story of an island from birth to old age. With intricately detailed paintings you’ll learn about the unique plants, insects, and animals that live only on the Galápagos Islands, and nowhere else in the world. Chin uses successions of small images and full spreads in glorious color to show the island growing and changing, affecting what can live there. Chin also wrote and illustrated “The Grand Canyon,” “Redwoods,” “Gravity,” and many other exquisite works of non-fiction for children.

“Me, Frida,” by Amy Novesky, illustrated by David Diaz. The story of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her determination to create artwork that expressed her feelings. Moving to San Francisco, Frida had to find her way in a new country and develop her own painting style that was unlike her husband’s, the famous muralist Diego Rivera. Children will be inspired by Frida’s belief in herself and courage to follow her dreams.

“A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin” by David Adler, illustrated by John and Alexandra Wallner. In easy to understand text, Adler tells about American statesman Benjamin Franklin, starting with his life as a child and describing his many interests and contributions as an adult in science, writing, inventing, and government. Adler has written over 175 books for children including many biographies and the Cam Jansen series.

“Ranger Rick’s Guide to Hiking” by Helen Olsson. This is not a story but a very practical guide for children on where to go hiking, what to wear, safety precautions, and creative things to do while outside. It’s a “how to” guide that will give children the information and confidence to set out on a trail with the family. Also in the series are children’s guides for camping and fishing.

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Filed under activities, art, exploration, field guides, nature, non-fiction, science books, summer

Summertime Fun!

Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Summertime is here! Enjoy the sun, the warmth, and all the family fun that summer brings. Are you planning a vacation? Will you be spending some time at the pool? Are you looking forward to some backyard exploration? Whatever you do this summer, there are many books to read with your young children to enrich experiences and give your family ideas for summer activities. Here are a few favorites:

“LaRue Across America: Postcards from the Vacation,” written and illustrated by Mark Teague. Told from the perspective of Mrs. LaRue’s dog, Ike, you can follow their road trip across the country visiting landmarks, cities, and small towns. It would be a much better vacation for Ike if they didn’t have the neighbor’s cats along with them in the car!

“Summer Days and Nights,” written and illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee. A celebration of the simple pleasures of summer, this story features a little girl’s adventures in one day, sun-up to sun-down. Butterflies, lemonade, picnics, and swimming during the day and owls, frogs, and sounds to explore in the night. This book will inspire your family to head outside and appreciate the natural world.

“Frog and Friends: The Best Summer Ever,” by Eve Bunting, illustrated by José Masse. This beginning reader book is written in 3 short stories. In each, Frog interacts with his friends and learns about accepting differences, compromising, and being generous, with summertime as a backdrop for the tales.

“Hello Ocean,” by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Mark Astrella. This poem will bring you right to the ocean with rich language that evokes the feel, sights, sounds, smell, and even the taste of the ocean. Squishy sand between the toes and salt spray on the face are also depicted in the realistic illustrations.

“Maisy Learns to Swim,” written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins. With a little trepidation, Maisy goes to her first swim lesson and step-by-step we see what she learns from kicking, floating, and blowing bubbles. Maisy is cold getting out of the pool, but gets dressed, and has a snack. The story covers all the nuances of learning to swim.

“Bailey Goes Camping,” written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. Bailey, the rabbit, wants to go camping with his older brother and sister, but they tell him he is too little to go. Mother finds a way for Bailey to camp out right at home. This is one of the author’s first books and has become a summertime classic.

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Filed under activities, summer, summer reading

The Story of Mo Willems

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Did you ever know a kid in school who was always doodling during class? The margins of their papers filled up each day with patterns, wandering lines, and zany characters.

Now-famous children’s book author and illustrator Mo Willems, started out just that way. Doodling and drawing cartoons in school and at home in New Orleans, Willems was one of those kids who couldn’t stop creating and loved using his imagination. He drew, wrote stories, acted and even directed plays in his elementary and high school days and then as an adult tried his hand at stand up comedy.

After moving to New York City, Willems went on to create animation and write for children’s television, including Nickelodeon, and won Emmy awards for Sesame Street pieces. He eventually made his break into the children’s book world in 2003 with his book, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.” From there Willems has been busily creating books for children and accumulating multiple honors and awards including the Caldecott Medal for illustration, the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal for beginning readers books, and Carnegie Medal for excellence in children’s videos of his stories.

Willems’ style of illustration reflects his long history of cartooning. His characters are simple drawings in black line. Emotions are shown exaggerated in facial expressions and body language. Backgrounds are one or two flat colors or actual photographs. He has more than 50 published children’s books, many of which are parts of a series of stories incorporating kid-generated predicaments and humorous scenarios.

The “Knuffle Bunny” series stars a young girl named Trixie (like his own daughter) in a big city dragging around her stuffed bunny, who suffers some unfortunate mishaps in each book.

The Pigeon series features a whiny pigeon acting very much like a preschooler. He pleads, gets worried, is demanding, dramatic, and thankful too. Pigeon speaks directly to the reader of the book in each story, asking for help in getting what he wants. In this way the reader/listener is also part of the story.

Elephant and Piggie books are especially for children learning to read independently,with reading strategies embedded into the story. Each book has many “sight” words, that is, words that are used in literature frequently that children can learn just by seeing them over and over. There are a limited number of different words in each book and those words are easily decoded using phonics, or “sounding out.” The illustrations give clues to help children figure out hard words, so can be used as an additional strategy to help understand the story.

Now a stay-home dad and full-time author/illustrator, Willems lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with his wife Cher and teen aged daughter Trixie. His newest series, “Cat the Cat,” made its appearance in 2010. To the delight of his young fans, Willems is still creating and publishing children’s books and has posted many videos of his stories, riding the wave of his past 15 years of success.

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Filed under author spotlight, Early Readers, Mo Willems

A Book for Every Child!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Every child responds to different types of stories. What does your little one love hearing you read the most? There is something for everyone.

Humorous. “Duck in the Fridge” written and illustrated by Jeff Mack. Mother Goose is one type of story to read at bedtime, but why? A little boy finds out that his dad has had some big experiences with ducks! Starting with one duck in his refrigerator, the boy’s dad tells about how it got worse and worse with more animals. Told with an abundance of puns!

Positive Self-Concept. “Thelma the Unicorn” written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey. A pony wishes she could be special. She wants to be a unicorn! When she finds out what it’s like to be a famous celebrity, she realizes that she misses her old life and likes herself just as she is–a pony.

True Tale. “Hero Cat” by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Jo Ellen McAllister Stammen. Realistic artwork rendered in pastels depicts a drama that really happened. In 1996, an abandoned warehouse began burning and a mama cat rescued her 5 kittens, one by one, from the smoke-filled building.

Concepts. “You are (Not) Small” by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant, Book 1 of 3 in the “Not” series and Winner of the 2015 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Two fuzzy creatures argue about who is small and who is big, but then even smaller and bigger creatures appear. Who is bigger and smaller now? The story is a great opportunity to talk about differences and if they matter.

Non-Fiction. “Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years” by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by David Litchfield.  “Hi, I’m Earth! But you can call me Planet Awesome.” This story, told from the point of view of The Earth, is both funny and filled with kid-friendly facts. The book includes back matter with more interesting bits of information.

Modern Classic. “Circus Train,” by Jennifer Cole Judd, illustrated by Melanie Matthews.  Circuses may be events of times past, but if you want to experience this American classic happening, “Circus Train” leads the reader through the circus train rolling into town and children and their parents waiting in line and going into the show. Clowns paint their own faces, lumbering elephants dance, and trapeze artists flip. Rhyming text and playful illustrations.

Classic. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). Published in 1957, this timeless story embraces the premise that the 2 children in the book are home alone–all day–with no parents! The Cat in the Hat, with his red striped hat, finds many activities to fill up the day. This book was presented as a possible alternative to the debatably ineffectual “Dick and Jane” primers. Geisel used the most popular rhyming words (“cat” and “hat”) and created a story that eventually became an acceptable alternative to those primers of the past to help children learn to read.

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Filed under classics, family reading, imagination, non-fiction