Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 5

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

Folk songs are some the most singable songs out there and I used a ton of them in the classroom when I was teaching. From the more patriotic “This Land is Your Land” to the silly “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” and everything in between, the majority of these songs started out much like the spirituals being adopted and adapted by various communities and changing slightly over time. But many of them have been used to convey messages, particularly of a political nature and one of the names most synonymous with this movement is Pete Seeger.

Born in NYC in 1919, Pete was shy but had a love of music and the truth instilled in him from an early age. He protested and attended rallies for the rights of workers during the Depression. He learned to play the banjo and absorbed the folk music he heard at festivals. He dropped out of school to form a band and met Woody Guthrie who let him tag along to some of his concerts and meetings he played at across the country. And did what he could to make a difference. WWII, marriage, civil rights, and various government issues all shaped Pete and Pete shaped those things right back. His discography isn’t extensive, he only released 5 official albums in his lifetime. But his influence is incalculable. And this book does a superb job of showing both pieces of that puzzle.

Pete Seeger book review

Pete Seeger book review2

Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice

Written by: Susanna Reich

Illustrated by: Adam Gustavson

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2017

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

 

One of my favorite ways to get my students involved was with music. As I mentioned above I sang a lot of folk songs with them particularly. Sometimes we’d just sing a capella, sometimes with a CD accompaniment, and often with the help of a picture book. There are so many great ones out there to choose from I’ll have to dedicate a whole post to them to do it justice but I wanted to leave you with a few to get you started. And add the caveat that kids (little ones at least 🙂 don’t care if you can’t carry a tune. Be enthusiastic, sing out, and they will join in. I promise!

 

This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie and Kathy Jakobsen

Yankee Doodle by Mary Ann Hoberman and Nadine Bernard Westcott

The Wheels on the Bus by Jane Cabrera

Down by the Station by Will Hillenbrand

 You Are My Sunshine by Dare Coulter

Down By the Bay by Raffi

Five Little Monkeys by Eileen Christelow

 

Oh, and so many more! Watch for a whole list to come a little later and thanks for joining me this week. I love sharing my favorite books and music with you and when those things overlap it just makes it all that much better. Happy Reading!

 

 

Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 4

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.        

There probably aren’t many who aren’t familiar with the story of Joshua Bell’s social experiment in the DC metro station. I lived just outside of Washington, D.C. for many years and while I was in the area when this occurred I wasn’t a witness to the performance. I often wonder what my reaction would have been. But just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, this book is perfect for you!

How often do we stop to really pay attention to what’s happening around us? The answer: not very often. One of the most accomplished violinists in the world decided to see what would happen if he dressed as a vagrant and played music in the busy metro station on a priceless instrument. Of the over 1,000 people who walked by only 7 stopped for more than one minute to listen. He had a little over $30 in his case when he finished. While several people seemed to want to stop they didn’t, yet every child tried to stop. This lovely little book tells the fictionalized account of a boy who was in the metro station that day but, like so many of the other children, was dragged by his mom on their way. All day long the music plays in Dylan’s head and changes how he and his mom see the world.  There’s a note about Joshua Bell and how he and the experiment came to be. And a note from Joshua himself about why he does what he does.

And for those who want to know more, this same creative duo brings to life a short biography of Joshua Bell’s beginnings. In the Dance of the Violin, we see young Joshua determined to play with a real orchestra. He practices a very difficult piece in order to win a contest, but when the day of the contest arrives he makes a mistake. Instead of giving up he asks to start again and plays perfectly and blows everyone away.

There’s another author’s note with this one telling us a bit about what really happened and giving us a little more information about Joshua Bell and his amazing talent.

Man with the Violin Book Review

The Dance of the Violin

Written by: Kathy Stinson

Illustrated by: Dusan Petricic

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Annick Press, 2013

Age Range: 4-10

Rating: 4/5

 

The Man With the Violin

Written by: Kathy Stinson

Illustrated by: Dusan Petricic

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Annick Press, 2017

Age Range: 4-10

Rating: 4/5

Joshua Bell book review

Here’s a brief clip to give you an idea of what the experiment was like though it only gives you the barest idea of his talent. Look him up and give him a listen if you’re not familiar with him. He’s one of those performers that is unmatched and indescribable.

Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 3

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I was raised on jazz. I am by no means a connoisseur or well-educated critic but I’ve been surrounded by the sounds from an early age and have had more than a passing exposure to some of the greats (and I’m sure I have great holes in that exposure as well.) But even in the most educated and critical of circles there aren’t many who will deny that Ella Fitzgerald was one of, if not the, best female jazz vocalists. Ever. She’s far and away my favorite and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this first book and learning more about the first lady of song.

When Ella Fitzgerald’s star was just beginning to rise she found herself (and her band) being barred from clubs and performance halls because of the color of her skin. She was about to give up when a benefactor stepped in, bargaining with the nightclub owner to book a week of performances for Ella. She promised to sit in the front row of each performance. The benefactor? Marilyn Monroe. While the two women had never met before, they became great friends and the performance run was a great success.

I absolutely love this story of friendship and standing up for what is right. Marilyn used her influence to make a difference not only for Ella and her band but for the civil rights movement at large. It just goes to show what good can come when we work together! A powerful message that is much needed in a world that seems intent on having us tear each other to pieces.

Bonus. There’s also a brief bio of each woman and a fabulous photograph of the two of them at the back.

Ella Queen of Jazz book review

Ella Queen of Jazz

Written and Illustrated by: Helen Hancocks

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Francis Lincoln Children’s Books, 2017

Age Range: 5-12

Rating: 4.5/5

 

My love for Frank Sinatra knows no bounds. Because of my upbringing (see above) I had very different tastes in music than all of my friends. While they had posters of N’Sync and The Backstreet Boys on their walls I had posters of Elvis, The Beatles, and a framed photograph of Frank Sinatra above my bed. I watched all his movies, I bought cheesy memorabilia, ventured to Hoboken, the works. But first and foremost I am in love with the voice.

I had decided I needed to write a kid friendly book about him, but someone beat me to it.  This is the book I should have written but someone beat me to it!  It’s a lovely little recap of the life of the Chairman of the Board. Covering his childhood in Hoboken, his obsession with Bing Crosby, his need to perform, his journey to New York and the recording studio and on into the movies and his influence all around the world, there’s not much they’ve missed. There’s also an author’s note, bibliography, and list of favorite songs for young listeners. And check out the sweet illustrations, and those end pages. *sigh* It’s the perfect introduction to Frank’s world.

Frankie Liked to Sing book review 2

Frankie Liked to Sing

Written by: John Seven

Illustrated by: Jana Christy

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015

Age Range: 4-10

Rating: 4.5/5

 

I’m a sucker for brass. But I’m also quite picky about what I like to listen to (and don’t ask me to explain what…I just know it when I hear it!) Trombone Shorty is a more recent addition to my music collection. I don’t love all his stuff across the board. I much prefer his classic jazz/blues sounds to the songs that have more of the r&b bend but boy, oh boy, can he play!

He’s been nominated for a Grammy, has worked with Bo Didlely, Lenny Kravitz, Eric Clapton just to name a few, can also play the trumpet, tuba, drums, and organ, and is a published author! In this delightful autobiography he tells readers how he got his nickname and how music has influenced his life. Bryan Collier’s fabulous illustrations garnered a Caldecott honor and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

His second book, The 5 O’Clock Band, also illustrated by Bryan Collier was released in June of this year.

Trombone Shorty book review

Trombone Shorty

Written by: Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews

Illustrated by: Bryan Collier

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015

Age Range: 5-12

Rating: 4/5

 

I’ll leave you with some of Trombone Shorty’s tunes to help you lose a bit of the Wednesday slumps. Enjoy!

Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 2

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

Blues and Jazz are kissing cousins in the music world. With roots in Africa and branches stretching from New Orleans to Chicago and everywhere in between there’s a special flavor and feeling in each musician’s take depending on where they’re from, who their influences are, the year they were born and more. Since it began primarily with slaves there were a lot of local influences that stayed local for the first little while until recordings became easier and outsiders began to take notice.

Today we’re spotlighting a few of the early (but by no means earliest) pioneers of the blues and jazz music scene.

Born near the Mississippi Delta in 1915, McKinley Morganfield, was immersed in the blues from an early age. His Grandma Della had other ideas for how she wanted to him to live his life, “but Muddy was never good at doing what he was told.” Eventually he left the racially segregated south and his life as a share-cropper and migrated to Chicago where he soaked up the jazz, bebop, and blues. He fought his way to a recording contract and became influential to everyone from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and more.

The text has chunks of rhythmic repetition interspersed with the story. The illustrations are rough, earthy, and brimming with life just like the music and musician they are portraying. There’s an author’s note, a bibliography, and further listening list for readers who want to know more.

Muddy Waters book review

 

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

Written by: Michael Mahin

Illustrated by: Evan Turk

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 4/5

Muddy Waters is one of those people you know, even if you don’t know you know them. Modern musicians continue to be inspired him or by those who were inspired by him. Here’s one of his own and one by Son House who came a bit earlier and was one of his inspirations. (Shout out to my friend Katie who introduced me to Son House several years ago. He’s become a repeat player on many a playlist in my world!)

 

Women didn’t always get a public voice in music outside of church settings. And they didn’t often get a chance to be leaders or headliners on their own. Lil Hardin Armstrong did it all.

Born in Memphis in 1898 she played her mother’s organ and took lessons from a young age, including playing for her local church. Her mother insisted on the classics but Lil was more influenced by W. C. Handy and other jazzy neighbors. She earned a spot as a piano player in the New Orleans Creole Jazz Band and migrated north to Chicago where she met Louis Armstrong. Together they wrote songs, played music, and formed their own band. Later she toured in Europe, designed clothing, opened a restaurant, and eventually died doing what she loved best, playing music.

Excellent back matter includes a little more about Lil, a list of songs to listen to, photographs, a timeline, author’s note, bibliography, and more. I’d heard of Lil Armstrong, knowing her as the wife of jazz great Louis Armstrong, but hadn’t realized she was a jazz great in her own right. I loved learning more about this amazing powerhouse of a woman.

Born to Swing book review

Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz

Written by: Mara Rockliff

Illustrated by: Michele Wood

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Calkins Creek, 2018

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 4/5

We’ll keep on trucking through the years to another jazz legend tomorrow. Hope to see you then!

 

Picture Book Reviews ~ Musical Biographies

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

Welcome to music week, here on the ol’ blog. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of all kinds of music (my tastes run the gamut from classical to anything I can sing along with.) I’ve even spotlighted a few great picture books already and I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll share even more as time goes by. Most of what I have for you are biographies of music makers but we’ll throw in a few books based on songs or sing-along texts and books featuring instruments at the end. So, there should be something for everyone. And as always, if you’ve got favorites I fail to mention please share them in the comments so I can add them to my lists!

Let’s start off today with some rock and roll music. No discussion would be complete (or could even really get started) without mentioning the King.

In 1935 Tupelo, Mississippi was still struggling to bounce back from the Depression but despite the growing racial tensions the streets hummed with music. Elvis soaked up it all up and sang every chance he could get. He was very shy and his family moved a lot but music was his constant. As times changed he knew he had to take a chance and record the songs he’d been singing, the mix of black and white, blues, jazz and his own style. When “That’s All Right” played on the radio it became an instant sensation and a legend was born.

An author’s note tells us a bit more of Elvis’s story after finding success and there’s also a timeline of the major points of his life from birth to death. This is a great example of following your dreams despite the odds. And I don’t think I have to suggest that any readings should be paired with a few listenings as well. There is a plethora of audio and video available for all of the people I’ll be featuring this week. Listen to their songs, watch their performances (musical and otherwise), and soak in the abundant amazingness of talent!

Elvis Book Review

 

Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King

Written and Illustrated by: Bonnie Christensen

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt, 2015

Age Range: 7-10

Rating: 4/5

Aside from Elvis, there probably isn’t a name more synonymous with rock and roll than the Beatles. Their influence reaches well beyond the boundaries of music to movies, pop culture, fashion, and even equal rights.

The book starts with a brief bio of John Lennon’s childhood, particularly his trouble at school and escape into music. It then introduces each of the other Beatles, showing how their paths cross and how they eventually became a world-wide phenomenon. All four boys had experienced loss and loneliness and all found solace in music in various ways. But it wasn’t until they joined together that they all found what they’d been missing and were able to use that to create something amazing. Anyone interested in some background on the fab four or are introducing them to a new generation of fans will find something here to pique their interest. There’s also some great back matter; an author’s note, glossary, notes and sources for those who want to know even more.
For a grown-up resource, try this fab book: Meet the Beatles: A Cultural History of the Band That Shook Youth, Gender and the World by Steven D. Stark. Or for a unique look at their entire history presented in a graphic format try Visualizing the Beatles: A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band by John Pring.
Fab Four Friends book review

Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles

Written by: Susanna Reich

Illustrated by: Adam Gustavson

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt, 2015

Age Range: 7-10

Rating: 4/5

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Elvis songs (mostly ’cause I can’t narrow down the Beatles songs to save my soul.) Did you know Elvis sold more gospel records than rock ones? This is one that always makes me tap my toes and feel like a believer.

Tune in tomorrow when we’ll go a little further back in our musical history for some blues and jazz spotlights. Happy Reading/Listening! 🙂

 

Picture Books about Growth Mindset

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There’s a lot of talk right now about growth mindset. I know it’s been a big focus in the schools, many adopting curricula to specifically teach it to their students. For anyone unfamiliar with the idea you can visit this website for more info.

But the brief rundown is that there are two basic outlooks to learning and failure. With a fixed mindset, the individual believes that intelligence is predetermined and set. You are either smart or stupid and no amount of work will change that. (High IQ? Awesome, you win. Lower IQ? You will never catch up or be as successful.) Therefore when they fail or face setbacks they take on a defeatist attitude, giving up, knowing that there’s nothing they can do about it, and that it just reinforces what they already knew. Studies are showing that teacher/parent reactions can contribute to the fixed mindset as well. Praising a child for being ‘smart’ rather than for ‘working hard’ or even trying reinforces the idea that it’s not within their control.

With a growth mindset, however, the learner recognizes that while they may begin at a certain point they can get better if they put in effort, practice, and keep at it. This isn’t just for book learning but for physical skills like sports, painting and so forth. Failure is more often looked at as a stepping stone to success rather than the end product (think of  Edison’s famous quote about finding 10,000 ways that don’t work.)  There’s more to it than just that, obviously  but that’s the gist.

As an adult, I’ve dealt with some of my own struggles with growth mindset often as a side effect of depression. I have not done a ton of study on this so I don’t know how the overlaps affect each other and if they can even be grouped together…the chemical imbalances of depression don’t follow the rules of everything else so it may be trying to compare apples and oranges. But the results are the same; a feeling of discouragement and hopelessness and “why bother.” So, reinforcing a growth mindset, even in adults, can only be helpful.

That said, I want to highlight a few books today that demonstrate and reinforce a growth mindset. I’m sure this is a topic I’ll revisit as time goes by so if you’ve got favorites please mention them in the comments below. I’d love to have a massive list to reference and share with you all!

After the Fall book review

After the Fall by Dan Santat–After Humpty Dumpty falls from the wall he gives into the fear of heights and failure and misses out on so many of the things he used to love. But he’s determined, eventually, to do something and that changes everything. This one is my absolute favorite. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it and yet I still get a little teary when I get to the last spread!

What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada–Looking closely at a problem can reveal something altogether different than what you at first assumed. Look for the rest in the series (What Do You Do With an Idea?, What Do You Do With a Chance?)

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken–I’ve spotlighted this one before but I absolutely love the idea that our “mistakes” can be turned into something beautiful. And this shows the process, step by step. It’s gorgeous. (Beautiful Oops is another great one along the same lines.)

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Gary Rubenstein–A young girl who never makes mistakes, finally makes one, a big one, in front of everyone.  Learning to laugh at herself makes all the difference.

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires–An otherwise brave adventurer faces a task she’s never tackled before and finally convinces herself she doesn’t want to rather than try. After going through various emotions she decides not to let the task defeat her.

A Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats–This simple classic shows the joy of persevering.

How To Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers–This one is all about dreaming big and thinking outside the box. Both important skills in developing a growth mindset.

The Dot and Ish by Peter Reynolds–Both of these similar art tales show the value in ignoring the naysayers and trusting in yourself. With a little encouragement and effort anything is possible.     *I’m a day late and a dollar short on this but September 15th is actually International Dot Day… “a global celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration.” You can join the community of thousands of others around the world in a host of activities or celebrate on your own. Check out their website for more information.

 

There are so many great resources for helping us all to be successful people. Don’t forget to share a few of your favorites in the comments!

More Back to School Picture Books

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I’ve got a few more picture books to help you get back into the swing of school things. Check back at the rest of the posts this week and and a big list coming next week if you need more ideas!

There is more than a little need for fostering inclusion, acceptance, sympathy, and other social skills in our kids’ lives. This beauty is designed to do just that.

Rhyming text starts the reader out on the first day of school and takes us through various scenarios in the classroom, the cafeteria, the playground and out into the community repeating the refrain that “all are welcome here.” There are simple reminders that we all have special talents and dreams. We all have stories to share and things to learn from each other. It’s as simple (and complex) as that.

The illustrations are bright and cheery and so diverse you almost can’t believe it’s all fit into one book (two moms, two dads, kids in wheelchairs, girls wearing hijabs, boys wearing turbans, grandparents…you name it, it’s probably represented.)

A note on the publication page tells us that Kaufman originally created a poster for her daughter’s school that eventually spread across the country. When Penfold saw the image, she sat down to create a story to go with it. Somehow this makes it even more powerful to me than the story on its own. Knowing that it’s not just a story of wishful thinking but one based on a real experience makes me hopeful for our future. I highly recommend it!

 All Are Welcome book review

All Are Welcome book review.2jpg

All Are Welcome

Written by: Alexandra Penfold

Illustrated by: Suzanne Kaufman

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018

Age Range: 3-8

Rating: 5/5

 

My favorite way to teach is to use a book as a starting point. So, while this isn’t strictly about going back to school it uses fabulous word and language play which you’ll be sure to need/want as the year goes by.

Three little dinosaur brothers set out to discover the world around them and find something to eat. The first and second describe the mountains as “big”, the sun as “hot.” But the third is no ordinary dinosaur. He’s a stegothesaurus who knows lots of words and uses them as often as he can. His mountains are “gargantuan, gigantic, Goliath” and his sun is “blazing, blistering, broiling.”

After a bit of a mishap he meets another dinosaur a little like him and the two spend the day sharing adventures and swapping words but she isn’t all she seems.

I admit I giggled all through this clever book. It’s absolutely perfect for encouraging your students to improve upon their writing by using descriptive words and leads very nicely into an introduction about the thesaurus and other reference books. Great fun!

Stegothesaurus book review

Stegothesaurus

Written by: Bridget Heos

Illustrated by: T. L. McBeth

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt, 2018

Age Range: 3-8

Rating: 4/5

 

And here’s another book to use as a resource for tackling some otherwise tricky concepts, this one involving math…

Whether your child is just learning to count, practicing grouping, sorting, multiplication or just has a knack for thinking outside of the box this book will spark their rational mind. Sure you can count straight up from one to eleven but sometimes life (and our math problems!) are a little more complicated than that. What other ways can you think of to get to eleven?

The book shows an apple with six bites, then a core, then a stem, then three seeds… 6+1+1+3=11

or a hen waiting for her eggs to hatch; five eggs, three cracking, two with beaks, and one just hatched…5+3+2+1=11

There are items at a circus, things that came out of a magician’s hat and more. And of course, the possibilities for extending this are countless! 😉

12 ways to get to 11 review

Twelve Ways to Get to Eleven

Written by: Eve Merriam

Illustrated by: Bernie Karlin

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Aladdin Picture Books, 1996

Age Range: 3-8

Rating: 4/5

 

I hope you’re all ready for school with those backpacks and lunchboxes and bouquets of newly sharpened pencils and, of course…books!  Happy reading!

Back to School Picture Books

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  

As we head back to school we often focus on those going for the very first time. Pre-schools are pretty ubiquitous these days but kindergarten is still a big step; often the first time that kids are gone every day, sometimes for a full day including lunch and naps. It seemed appropriate to start our lists out with a book focusing on this important milestone.

Planet Kindergarten book review

A nameless explorer is preparing for his biggest mission yet, a journey to Planet Kindergarten. His parents help him gather supplies, get a check-up and assure him he is ready so off he goes!  His new commander (teacher) and crew (fellow students) have to work together to meet the objectives of the flight plan (daily schedule) and test all the equipment before lunch, naps, and the end of the mission.

Failure is not an option, so with a positive attitude and a little hard work he finds a way to succeed and even continues training to return again the next day.

A mixture of fantasy and reality play out in this fun tale that kids will enjoy with bright, busy graphic illustrations to capture every reader’s imagination.

 

Planet Kindergarten

Written by: Sue Ganz-Schmitt

Illustrated by Shane Prigmore

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Kids, 2014

Age Range: 3-7

Rating: 4/5

And if you enjoy this one, there’s a second in the series, Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit, as well.

Schools First Day of School book review

I don’t know that anyone else has ever written a first day of school story from the point of view of the school (though a few of my favorites feature teachers and faculty that are reluctant to start a new year.) This one is a subtle delight and pulls off the feat quite nicely.

A new building built over the summer is cared for by a kindly Janitor who does his best to explain to the school just what a school actually is. The school is a bit nervous to be filled with children and when the first day arrives there are children everywhere.  It’s more than the school knows quite how to handle though it enjoys watching the kids explore the playground and learn. It’s disheartened to overhear a couple of kids complain that they hate school and its nerves set off the fire alarm by mistake. But for the most part the day passes uneventfully and when the janitor returns that afternoon the school decides it would probably be okay if the janitor invited everyone back again tomorrow.

Children’s own fears about starting a new school or going for the first time are lovingly portrayed by the anthropomorphized school. And the childlike illustrations show the basic ins and outs of a school day from a few perspectives. Kids will appreciate and relate to both.

 

School’s First Day of School

Written by: Adam Rex

Illustrated by: Christian Robinson

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, 2016

Age Range: 3-7

Rating: 4/5

This is My Home This is My School book review

Another subject that doesn’t get quite as much play as it probably should is homeschooling. What if your home and school are the same place? Jonathan Bean tackles that very topic in his great little autobiographical (ish) picture book.

A typically busy day of homeschooling is slightly frenetically illustrated from sun up to sun down. The boy narrator explains how his mom is his teacher (dad plays a role too, teaching shop and acting as phys ed coach), and all the rooms (and his yard) are classrooms. They go on field trips, visit the library, eat in the cafeteria, have show and tell, and do homework just like everyone at a school would.

The best part is an author’s note follow-up that tells the reader about his experiences being homeschooled and includes pictures of his family’s school in action. For those of you who homeschool it’s a wonderful resource for making connections to someone else’s school experience.

 

This is My Home. This Is My School

Written and Illustrated by:  Jonathan Bean

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher:Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 4/5

 

Who have you got headed back to school this year? How are you helping them prepare for the big day?

Back to School Giveaway!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.    

I’m so excited to be hosting my first giveaway over on Instagram this week.  All week on the blog I’ll be featuring some back to school favorites for all ages in order to help everyone gear up for the big day. Today’s spotlight books are 2 fun dino-themed tales that I’ll be sending off to one lucky winner. Have you entered yet?!

Page and Print Back to School Giveaway

 

First up is an absolutely adorable dino by the name of Penelope. She’s a little nervous to start school but mom and dad are there to help getting her a new backpack and making her lunch. The problem is all of her classmates are human! So Penelope does what any dinosaur would do. She eats them! A scolding from her teacher gets things (mostly) back on track but now everyone is very wary of her and it’s clear she’s not making many new friends.  Dad gives her some guidance and she heads back into day two determined to try harder. But it looks like things will stay very much the same until Walter the class goldfish gets involved.

I won’t spoil the twist except to tell you that Penelope figures things out and makes friends with her classmates. It’s a perfect vehicle for discussing any fears that may arise (no matter how silly) about going to school and has a way of making the reader sympathetic to both sides of the dilemma. Higgins’ humor and heart are both spot on (if you’ve read any of his Mother Bruce books you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t you need to remedy that ASAP) and even older readers will appreciate the subtle irreverence of it all.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

Written and Illustrated by: Ryan T. Higgins

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Disney/Hyperion, 2018

Age Range: 3-8

Rating: 4.5/5

 

The second book in our giveaway doesn’t actually have anything to do with back to school but pairs perfectly with Penelope’s story.

In a similar vein as Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and the many other active reader books that have followed, this story invites the reader to step into the story and participate in a very real way. We come across an angry dinosaur who threatens to chomp anyone who turns the pages. Of course, we don’t fall for his threats and continue to read until he confesses that he’s keeping all of his cakes and goodies at the end of the story and doesn’t want to share. But his bark is worse than his bite…or is it? 🙂

Continue the conversation you began with the first book and lead into manners and sharing and what it means to be a friend. And have a giggle or two while you’re at it!

 

I Will Chomp You!

Written by: Jory John

Illustrated by: Bob Shea

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Random House, 2015

Age Range: 3-6

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Check back in every day this week for more recommendations and don’t forget to visit my Instagram page for all the details on how to enter to win copies of these two great books for yourself!

Picture Book Review ~ The Street Beneath My Feet

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

When I was little I used to spend hours poring over the illustrations in the books on our shelves.  Some of my favorites were the Richard Scarry books with all their little labeled worlds filled with intricate details and happenings in every nook and cranny of the page. I also loved to look through the various National Geographic resources my parents had bought through the years, especially the atlases. We had books showing pictographs of every country’s revenue, imports and exports, flags, national symbols and so on. There was one that had cellophane overlays showing either the cities and landmarks or the natural topographical features over the outlines of the countries or showing relative sizes of the various planets, moons, and constellations within the solar system. I was entranced by this huge world of ours and how vastly different (or similar) places so far from each other could be. I think that’s probably where I first got the travel bug thought I didn’t recognize it as such at the time.

If you’ve got any readers in your house who can relate to my description above then you’ve absolutely got to get your hands on this book. From it’s gorgeous embossed cover to the flipped layout to the inside-out and back again format there’s a lot to take in and hours’ worth of discussion and study to be had.

We start out with a young child walking along the city street wondering what’s happening below him, just out of sight. The illustrations lead us down through a maze of sewer pipes and storm drains, electric cables and phone wires down to the bugs, rats, and microorganisms that make up the first layers of topsoil. Then we venture farther down on our own archaeological dig past bones and coins and pottery. Next there’s discussion of the various layers of clay, rock (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic all get their chance to shine), coal, caves with underground water, until we make it to the earth’s core.

Then our pages start folding the other direction (take a look at my post on Instagram for a better idea of how this works) and we head back out from earth’s fiery center to learn in more detail about minerals, fossils, the dinosaurs, and how plants and other creatures use the soil. When we make it back above ground we can see how the things happening beneath us can affect the world we see around us.

There’s so much here it’s almost impossible to take it all in in one reading, making it an ideal one to re-visit before a trip to the museum or a rock collecting adventure. Perfect companions for Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner, The Skies Above My Eyes by the same duo, or Zommer’s Big Book of Bugs or Big Book of Beasts.

The Street Beneath My Feet

The Street Beneath My Feet

Written by: Charlotte Guillain

Illustrated by: Yuval Zommer

Number of Pages: 20

Published by: words & pictures/Quarto, 2017

Age range: 4-10

Rating: 5/5

Street Beneath My Feet detail