Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Year of the Book

Cheng, Andrea. 2012. The Year of the Book. Illus. by Abigail Halpin. NY, NY: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN: 9780547684635.

Friendships and life can be difficult, and Anna knows all too well. Being quiet and self-concious she would prefer to curl up with a book than embrace and overcome the challenges that a fourth-grader would face. She's embarrassed by her her mother's still-developing English language sills and job as a hired cleaner, and she doesn't like attending Chinese school where she can't understand what her instructor is saying. Plus, her best friend Laura is now friends with the popular girls in school. However, as the year continues onward Anna begins to open her world to interact more with others like the friendly crossing-guard Ray, the kind widower Mr. Shepherd, a new friend Camille from Chinese school, and she begins to accept how wonderful her family is. Anna even rekindles her friendship with Laura. Throughout the story the readers will recognize familiar titles, which range from picture books like Little Blue and Little Yellow to chapter books like A Wrinkle in Time, that anna will escape into during rough moments. Details of the Chinese culture is seamlessly weaved into the story and is refreshingly real to life, especially for any American Born Chinese children. Chinese language words are introduced, such as Xie xie (thank you), and the occasional characters. Among the first few pages is a Pronunciation Guide for Chinese words and even shows the related characters. Readers will even appreciated Anna's creative side when she creates a Halloween costume, paints, and sews lunch bags. Beyond the semi-coming of age storyline The Year of the Book has deeper stories with Cheng's well-rounded characters such as Laura's coping of her parents rough and sometimes frightening separation as well as the all-too-familiar friendship issues. Abigail Halpin's black and gray illustrations are sprinkled throughout the pages and bring a visual to the reader's imagination of what Anna's watercolor paintings could look like. On the back cover are instructions on how to sew your own lunch bags, which is a great connective activity for the readers. All in all The Year of the Book is simple yet deep little novel that touches on real life that many readers could empathize with and learn that it is OK to escape into a book but to also to open up to others.

  • Ask the children to remember what books Anna reads and have them make a list. How many are there in total? Have they read any of those books?
  • Ask if they ever felt the emotions that Anna felt.
  • Have the children create their own drawstring bags.
  • Have the children create their own watercolor paintings.

Read WP-CC's review of the second book The Year of the Baby here!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Elephant Paints Pictures - A Poetry Break

As I prepare for my upcoming storytime season one day I was diving into the world of amazing animals. One of them is the elephant. They are not just large grey animals with a silly, long nose. Like other animals, they are incredibly smart and caring animals. They can also be artists! Before you share this poem ask the children what they know about an elephant. What can it do? Then ask if they know that elephants can paint. It'll be fun to hear their answers!

My Elephant Paints Pictures
by Jack Prelutsky 
My elephant paints pictures,
Gems of color, shape, and line,
Aesthetically superior
To every one of mine.
His drawings are exemplares
Of fluidity and grace.
I scribble worthless doodles
I should probably erase.
He shapes exquisite statues
Using nothing but his trunk.
I sculpt atrocious eyesores,
Unadulterated junk.
Though I lack his native talent,
Nonetheless I'm sort of smart,
So I've started taking lessons
From my elephant ... in art.

  • Share this poem with the book Elephants Can Paint Too! written and photographs by Katya Arnold. 
  • Show a video of an elephant painting. You should be able to find some on YouTube.
  • Have the children try to paint a picture with either their paint brush held between their teeth or with their arm in front of them by their nose to simulate painting like an elephant. Or they can do bother methods! 

Prelutsky, Jack. 2012. I've Lost My Hippopotamus. Illus. by Jackie Urbanovic. NY, NY: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollinsPublishers). ISBN: 9780062014573.