My Fifth Grader has been working on a project where she has to read an historical fiction novel then transform it into a picture book that she will read with her third-grade Book Buddy. [Personally, I think this is a brilliant project, but that's a subject for another day!]
One of the grading points for the project is the book’s cover, which must be
“engaging … with colorful illustrations.”
For better or worse, a book’s cover is often the key determinant in whether or not someone (adults included) pick up a book. When covers and content come together, there is reason to cheer.
For this week’s set of book reviews, I’ve selected three irresistible books from Dawn Publications from our Reading Tub® book bag. As you’ll see in the comments, our reviewers enjoyed them from cover to cover! Click the covers and read them on BigUniverse.com
Read on Big Universe
written and illustrated by Robert Nutt
length: 48 pages
Amy is scared of the dark. When she sees small lights are flickering outside her window, she gets an idea. She retrieves an empty jar and goes outside to catch some fireflies to bring to her room. The light of the fireflies dims because they’re confined to the jar. Amy releases them into her room, the darkness has gone away, and she overcomes her fear of the shadows on the walls, falling asleep in peace. This is a story that brings together nature and a child’s fear of the dark.
Everyone can enjoy this unique story with its dream-like quality and wonderfully researched facts about fireflies. The illustrations are quite effective at telling the story, and are wonderfully created. There is so much info here, both entertaining and educational.
This is a bedtime story and can start conversations about being afraid of the dark, but it is also about fireflies. At the end of the book is also a page of factual info about fireflies and their decline in the environment, and how to preserve them.
My children (ages 2,4, and 6) enjoyed the book. However, not really having experienced fireflies, I’m not entirely certain this book hit home for them.
This is a book about how honey is made by honey bees. Follow the day of a honey bee, with exquisitely detailed illustrations that are biologically accurate and just gorgeous to look at! This is a story about honey bees that also includes science information.
This is a great book that will catch the eye of most kids.
Gorgeous pictures, will grow with the attention span of the child. The story text is written at 2 levels: 1) a 2-year-old level, with just 2-10 words per page (short and sweet for a short attention span), and 2) a 5-year old level, with several sentences explaining the bees’ behavior in more depth.
My sons (ages 3 and 5) both loved the book. They both love learning about animals, so this book really spoke to their interests. The pictures gave them lots to look at, and the text was very interesting to them. I picked the book the first time, but they came back and asked for it a lot.
This wonderfully illustrated counting book portrays a variety of colorful ocean life. On each spread there is an underwater mother fish and her young, from 1 to 10, each with a short rhyme. This picture book is an undersea counting book that also introduces readers to ocean life.
Bright illustrations, short text, bonus material about teaching kids how to count, and “behind the scenes” looks at how the book was created make this book stand out.
My boys (2 and 4) liked this book. They both wanted to read it again, and my older son made associations between the illustrations here and other books. He also asked “what is that” about the other elements of the page. My 2-year-old is starting to learn to count, and the illustrations made counting fun.
The pages were colorful with lots to see, but they weren’t overwhelming.
There are lots of things to do with this book in addition to counting. You can explore the biology of sea life; and the rhyming lets you make it a musical story. The clay artwork may inspire kids to create their own works of art.
Earth Day 2011: Big Universe and Starbucks are both eco-minded companies.
It’s Earth Day.
I celebrated by stopping in at Starbucks for a cup of free Earth Day coffee and spent the next hour catching up with my husband and daughters, who are all on Easter break. Not one of us texted anyone, Googled anything or had ear buds in our ears. It was sweet.
When I got home, I picked a bouquet of wild flowers. I am blessed to live in the countryside and can get my floral fix from my own backyard, rather than having to buy hothouse blooms shipped from across the country. I also played in my herb garden, pulling a few blades of grass from among the basil, mint and oregano. My 11 egg-producing hens clucked nearby. (This is my stab at being a locavore – a person who eats local or regionally grown foods.)
If I had the funds, I’d install some solar panels on the backside of the barn roof and the house. Heaven knows we get enough sun here in South Carolina. This spring, it’s been “in like a lion” and “out like a lion,” so a wind turbine would probably have generated some wattage, too.
While those eco-friendly options may not be feasible right now, I can still do my part. We recycle, watch our water consumption, combine errands on our trips about town to reduce gas usage, and we compost leaves, grass clippings and all our food scraps. It’s the least we can do to protect the health of the earth we live on.
Both of my girls are fairly green-minded. They’ve been raised that way, as was I. A little information and instruction and some behavior modeling go a long way. You, too, can influence the little people in your life to respect the environment. It’s their future.
FYI…If you hurry, you can probably still get a free cup of joe (or tea) at your local Starbucks. Just remember to take your own travel mug or tumbler, which are eco-friendly.
Last year, Starbucks estimated that 1.2 million people in the United States and Canada took advantage of the company’s Earth Day promotion. Starbucks is trying to raise awareness about how easy it is to reduce the amount of paper and Styrofoam that ends up in landfills. The company offers a similar incentive daily throughout the year. Take in a reusable mug and the barista will take 10 cents off your drink purchase.
Say to a room full of parents, “Raise your hand if you are you a reader,” and you will see a sea of hands. Say to the same parents, “Raise your hand if you are a writer,” and you will see a few timid hands reaching for the sky and a roomful of quizzical expressions.
Most of us learned to write for an audience of one, the teacher. Our writing was utilitarian to the purpose of earning a grade; most of us submitted work with no idea what the teacher wanted and hoped we would get an A.
Today, as a result of the explosive work by gifted teachers such as Lucy Calkins and Donald Graves, students are invited to be writers as they work within a writers’ workshop. Students view books as text created by writers; they read not only for enjoyment but also to see how writers write. They seek to write for an audience of peers and parents as well as the teacher, and they learn from reading what it means to write well. Excellent writing serves as models to students who copy elements of that excellent writing. Students are invited into a “celebration of words.”
Adults can gain admittance to the ownership of their own writing and can support student writing by seeking wonderful books to share with children. Books such as Water Dance by Thomas Locker invite readers to see the beauty in their world and use words to describe that beauty. He writes as if he is the water:
At the foot of the mountains,
I leap from a stone cliff.
I am the waterfall.
Locker shows us how the celebration of nature brings importance to cultivation of our use of words as poetry; he then offers the reader information about the water cycle as the last few pages are written in expository text. He tempts us to go out into nature, see its beauty, and choose words that allow us to share our experience with others while we learn.
Using Locker’s example, adults can invite children to satisfy their curiosity about nature, and then “be nature.” As families enjoy summer activities such as hiking, camping, and travel, they can be reminded of Locker’s words and illustrations as he describes water in all of its drama and exuberance, and use that model as they explore the world:
I am the redwood tree…
I am the ocean….
I am the lake…
Be brave: play with words this summer! Be a writer!