Tag Archives: Katrina Morse

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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

Name that Vehicle!

By Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Garbage trucks, graders, backhoes, and snow plows. Front-end loaders, fire engines, and cranes. When you have a young child in your life who loves hard-working vehicles, you probably are learning all about them yourself. Do you have to stop with your child at every construction site to look at the action? Does your child point out 18-wheelers and police cars on the highway?

Young children are learning to name their world–to put words to what they see. Reading books about diggers, lifters, and emergency vehicles reinforces what you see in everyday life. Most of these books are in a convenient and durable board book format. Some are stories and some are just about recognizing the differences and learning the names.

Try some of these books to read with your very young child and then see how excited he or she is to name a vehicle you see in action!

  • “Machines at Work” by Byron Barton. Big blocks of primary colors in Barton’s signature style depict different trucks and other hard working machines. The text is brief­–perfect for toddlers.
  • “Tip Tip Dig Dig” by Emma Garcia. Collaged paper makes up the simple illustrations of trucks digging, moving, and shaping earth. Simple text gives noises for each vehicle. Roll, roll, roll and push, push, push–What are all these vehicles making together?
  • “My Truck is Stuck” by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by Daniel Kirk. Silly repeating rhymes and funny illustrations tell the story of a truck that can’t move and needs help. Count how many cars and vehicles try to get the truck unstuck and watch the pictures closely for another storyline. This author and illustrator pairhas also created “Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo” and “Tugga-Tugga Tugboat.” 
  • “Little Blue Truck” by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. This truck is stuck in the country on a mucky road and finds that some farm animals can help. Lyrical, rhyming text is full of truck and animal sounds. The story is one of friendship and helping others.
  • “Road Builders” by B.G. Hennessy, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Simms Taback. This is a story all about how a road is built, from beginning to end. What does the crew do? Which construction vehicles are needed for which jobs? You’ll find out what each does, from cement mixers to pavers.

Leave a comment

Filed under books for toddlers, family reading, trucks, vehicles, words

Loving Words and Reading

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Will you be my valentine? Celebrate the day of love by making Valentine’s Day cards with your children. Cut out or draw hearts and flowers, add some bold red and pink, maybe some stickers, lace, or yarn, and then together choose words to use on your creation.

Your young child may not write yet, so let him have fun practicing holding a crayon or pencil and making marks on the paper. If she has something she’d like to say on the card, you can write the words for her and point out how each letter of a word has a sound and together the letters make a word.

Put finished valentines on mom or dad’s pillow or send in the mail to grandma, grandpa, or friends. Start a tradition!

Snuggle up together and enjoy some books about love. Your child will learn new ways to appreciate kindness shown by others, learn words about feelings, and learn how to give kindness in return.

  • “The Day it Rained Hearts” by Felicia Bond. A girl collects hearts that fall from the sky and makes valentines for all her friends. The perfect book to read before making your own valentines.
  • “I Love Mom with the Very Hungry Caterpillar,” illustrated by Eric Carle. The iconic green and red caterpillar crawls his way through a small format book that celebrates all the ways moms are amazing! Every mother and grandmother who reads this book will feel honored.
  • “My Dad Loves Me,” by Marianne Richmond. A board book with very simple sentences on each page describing ways animal dads show they care about their children.
  • “Click, Clack, Moo I Love You,” by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Little Duck throws a Valentine’s Day party for the animals living at the farm, complete with pink and red balloons, twinkly lights, and valentines in the barn. But then Little Fox crashes the party and the farm animals stop everything. What is a fox doing in the barn? With the classic humor of her other books, Cronin ends the story with all the animals dancing “until the cows came home.”
  • “This is NOT a Valentine!” by Harter Higgins, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins. Perfect for a child who blushes uncomfortably if you talk about love and mushy things. This story illustrates that love is all around. Showing you care is in the everyday things you do together or for someone else.
  • “Love is” by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane. A girl, a duckling, and a year of learning about each other is a lesson in love. Can you let someone grow and change and love them just the same?

Leave a comment

Filed under holidays, love, Valentine's Day, words

Patrick McDonnell’s Books Teach Love and Kindness

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

How about starting the New Year off with more love and kindness? Treat your family to some books by award winning author and illustrator Patrick McDonnell. His stories show the many ways we can cultivate kindness toward one another and accept others for who they are, especially if different from us. McDonnell’s picture books are written for young children, but his stories touch on big life messages that will resonate with adults.

McDonnell is widely known for his comic strip “MUTTS” that premiered in 1994 and stars a cat named Mooch and a dog named Earl (coincidently McDonnell’s real dog’s name). One of the author’s passions is in helping facilitate pet ownership and kindness toward animals. 5% of all sales of printouts of his comic strips (www.mutts.com) go to The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team.

McDonnell’s work is strongly influenced by George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” comic strip (1913-1944, New York Evening Journal). He uses the same bulbous noses, black eyes with no whites of the eyes showing, and loosely rendered black ink lines to define his characters. He does everything without computer technology and hand paints each image with watercolor. In the style of Harriman he also uses tender-hearted colloquial dialog between characters. “Yesh!” says Mooch, quite often.

But an even bigger influence on his artwork was Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comics, and a mentor to McDonnell. Schulz was also profoundly influenced by Harriman, the defining comic strip artist in his time. Learning from Harriman, Schulz added depth of meaning and personal feeling into his “cute” characters and passed the value of incorporating sentiment into comics, on to McDonnell.

In 2005, McDonnell broke into the children’s book world with the book “The Little Gift of Nothing” about the significance of giving your presence and companionship to someone instead of a physical gift. Since then he has written and illustrated 12 children’s books and collaborated with Eckhart Tolle (author of “The Power of Now”) on a book for adults, “Guardians of Our Being, Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats.”

Here are some favorite Patrick McDonnell books to read with your young children. Talk about what happens in each story and see if love and kindness grow this year!

  • “Hug Time.” Little orange-striped kitten Jules is so filled with love that he wants to hug the whole world. Jules makes a Hug-To-Do List and visits places around the earth, hugging many endangered species and getting many hugs in return.
  • “Wag!” “Fwip, fwip, fwip!” wags Earl’s tail. Mooch wants to know what makes Earl’s tail wag. After much observation, Mooch finds out. It’s love!
  • “Thank You and Good Night.” How many fun things can you do at a pajama party? These 3 friends have an evening packed with togetherness. They stage a funny-face contest, learn a chicken dance, play hide-and-seek, practice yoga, eat, watch for shooting stars—and they are thankful for it all.
  • “Art.” Art is a boy and art is a thing to do. McDonnell uses this homonym pair to play with the idea that unbridled creation in squiggles, wiggles, and zigzags can be a person’s identity. Can you tell Art and art apart?
  • “The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the hard way)” Great for a child who already knows his or her alphabet, this wordless book is a continuously flowing story that needs the reader to identify what word is represented in each illustration of the alphabet. Here’s the trailer for the book on Youtube.

Leave a comment

Filed under alphabet book, art, author spotlight, creativity, empathy, Feelings, kindness, love, opportunities for conversation, wordless picturebooks

Choosing the Best Book

 

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Looking for that perfect book gift for the young child in your life? As a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend, it’s not always easy to know what will spark the interest of a youngster. Here are some strategies for choosing a winner:

  • Ask the child’s parent for ideas. A parent probably knows best what books are already in the household and what kinds of books their child chooses as a read-aloud book again and again.
  • Ask the child for ideas. What are their favorite books now? Is there a library book they’ve read that they want to have for their own to keep?
  • Go with what you know about the child’s interests. Does he or she like kittens, wild animals, the ocean, adventure, or the color pink? There are books on just about every topic a child might find exciting. Look online or ask your local bookseller for ideas for the age of the child.
  • Search online under “best children’s book lists” and you’ll find lists of book choices from The New York Times, the New York Public Library, book publishers, Time magazine, and many more. Look up your neighborhood library online and you’ll find book lists galore!
  • Read reviews of children’s books online. Find out what books keep the attention of young listeners and why and match that to what you know about the child.
  • Read the book yourself before buying it, if you can. Are the illustrations engaging? Is the story compelling?
  • Pay attention to the recommended age range for the book. You may also know what kinds of books the child already listens to or reads independently and can choose a book gift at that same comprehension level.
  • Choose a book that was published this year if you want to be pretty sure the child doesn’t own it already. Pick a classic if you know the child doesn’t have it already, and you want to make sure that book is part of the child’s home library.
  • You also could go through your own collection of children’s books and pick some favorites to pass down and enjoy.
  • Avoid books that have toy parts attached to them that can break or have pieces that can be lost. This will just be frustrating to the child and parents in the end.
  • Inscribe the book with your sentiment and the date as a way to make the book a keepsake.
  • If you can, enclose a note to offer to read the book aloud to the child via a video chat or in person.

Leave a comment

Filed under book gifts