Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bubba The Cowboy Prince: A Fractured Texas Tale

Ketteman, Helen. 1997. BUBBA THE COWBOY PRINCE. by James Warhola. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN 0590255061

BUBBA THE COWBOY PRINCE is a fractured Texas tale that is based on the classic Cinderella story. Bubba is a rancher who lives with his evil Stepdaddy and two brothers, Dwayne and Milton on a Texas farm. Each day Bubba works from sunup to sundown while his two brother watch on demanding him to do all the chores around the farm but he never complains. One day a beautiful woman named Miz Lurleen who lives down the road decides that she is going to throw a ball in order to find her a husband. As the day approaches for the ball, Bubba helps his two brothers get ready for the ball leaving him no time to get ready himself. Once his family leaves Bubba decides to go on a ride to clear his mind but what he finds is a fairy God Cow coming to save him. When he arrives at the ball Miz Lurleen finds her a cowboy prince that she has been looking for in Bubba.

Helen Ketteman story of BUBBA THE COWBOY PRINCE is a great change to the traditional Cinderella story that also brings the larger than life Texas culture to the story. Her writing is very simple yet engaging that makes you want to read more. I also enjoyed the vocabulary she used to make the story more realistic within the Texas culture: cowpatties, steer, stockyards, Stetson hat, etc. The story is also written in a way that both girls and boys would like this book and relate to characters in the story. It is also nice to see a boy as the main character that is not prince charming or coming to save a troubled girl.

The illustrations by James Warhola are outstanding and really make this story come to life. The drawings are extremely detailed and he uses lots of bright colors within each page. The animals on each page really represent the other main characters in this story. Also, if you look closely you will see the fairly God Cow lurking on all the pages, sometimes in the barn, over Miz Lurleen fire place and behind the cactus. The illustrations are just wonderful!

*Children’s Literature- “The paintings are brightly colored and fanciful, with wonderful perplexed expressions on the rest of the cattle when the fairy godcow shows up. Great fun and a wonderful twist on the Cinderella story.”
*Publisher’s Weekly- “Just the ticket for buckaroos lookin’fer a good read.”
*School Library Journal- “This is a fun-filled story….”

*Have students complete a story map of the characters, setting, problem and solution for the story.
*Read other versions of the Cinderella story with the students and compare and contrast the different version.
-Sanderson, Ruth. CINDERELLA. ISBN 0316779652
by Ed Young. ISBN 039920900

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Greatest of All: A Japanese Folktale

Kimmel, Eric A. 1991. THE GREATEST OF ALL: JAPANESE FOLKTALE. by Giora Carmi. New York: Holiday House, Inc. ISBN 082340885

Eric Kimmel retells an old Japanese folktale called THE GREATEST OF ALL which is based on THE WEDDING MOUSE. As a young mouse comes to her father to ask if she can get married the father begins his journey to find the perfect mate for his daughter. Since the mouse lives in the emperors’ palace the mouse father believes that his daughter deserves to marry the greatest of all in the country. After speaking with the emperor, the sun, cloud, wind and wall the father finally meets the perfect match for his daughter.

This old folktale is a great story about realizing the best thing for you is not always what you expect. As Father Mouse hears from his daughter that she wants to marry a field mouse the pride of the father gets in the way of his daughters wishes. Throughout the adventure of Father Mouse he comes to realize that even who he thinks is most powerful has objects that are greater then him. For example, the sun must hide his face when the clouds appear. As father mouse encounters each great object the same rhyme is said by each, “I am sorry, Father Mouse I cannot marry Chuko. There is one who is greater than I.”

The illustrations by Giora Carmi use traditional Japanese clothing for the mouse’s and bright colors of red, yellows and blues. There is also a personal touch with the sun, cloud, wind and wall giving them faces to make them feel real. I also enjoyed how the illustrator would give a small preview of the picture on the page before. This will allow students to predict what they think is going to happen next.

*Publisher’s Weekly- “Warm colors and distinctive texture mark Carmi's illustrations, which include effective renderings of the anthropomorphic natural elements.”
*Children’s Literature- “Superb details abound in the full-page sketches providing the particulars on ancient Japanese architecture, costume, and design.”

* Have students read the original folktale of THE WEDDING MOUSE in Yochiko Uchida’s collection of stories, and compare and contrast that version to Eric Kimmel’s version. THE DANCING KETTLE by Yochiko Uchida’s ISBN-13 9780887390142
* Read other book about the Japanese culture from Eric Kimmel: SWORD OF THE SAMURAI: ADVENTURE STORIES FROM JAPAN. IBN 0152019852 THREE SAMURAI CATS ISBN 0439692563
*Learn more about Haiku poems like the one the emperor wrote on the wedding day.

And the Green Grass Grew All Around

Schwartz, Alvin. 1992. AND THE GREEN GRASS GREW ALL AROUND: FOLK POETRY FROM EVERYONE. by Susan G. Truesdell. USA: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0060227583

Alvin Schwartz book AND THE GREEN GRASS GREW ALL AROUND is a collection of rhymes, riddles, folk poems and songs that both children and adults will enjoy. The book is broken down into chapters by subjects like food, school, and rise and shine. Whether you are just learning these riddles or remembering them from your childhood anyone will smile when reading this book.

Alvin Schwartz book’s is easy to read as well as fun to read with the entire family. The book is broken down into chapters which make it simple to find your favorite riddle or rhyme in the book. There is also a very helpful section that details the riddles and the origin of where they come from. Also, sheet music is included in the chapters so readers could sing the riddles to the correct hymn. What I like about this book is that it brings back memories from when you are a child singing these rhymes and riddles on the playground and you have a complete collection of all of them in one book. The only negative is that it is hard to tell when a riddle ends and a new one begins because there are three or four on some pages.

Sue Trusedell illustrations are just perfect for this book. They are simple black and white pictures yet very detail in terms of the facial expressions and props to go along with the riddles. She also makes them very funny which kids will like and want to keep reading to see what the next character is going to do. The illustrations will also help younger children who are not able to read yet understand what the words are saying.

* Children’s Literature- “Perhaps the best collection of folk rhymes I have seen, this award-winning compilation covers many childhood favorites, such as "Do your ears hang low? Do they wobble to and fro?" and "Here comes the bride/Big, fat, and wide."
* The Horn Book Magazine- “Full of vigorous, swinging rhythms and funny, often nasty, sentiments, the pages are filled with well known rhymes as well as new discoveries.”
* School Library Journal- “A marvelous book that is sure to become a classic…”

* In one work station write out the lines to several rhymes and riddles on sentence strips and have the students put them in the correct order and then write the riddle in a poetry folder.
* On a recorder have the music to Turkey in the Straw and let students sing the different rhymes that go along with the hymn. Have the words to:
-Do your Ears Hang Low, page 6
-The Cow kicked Nelly in the Belly, page 76
-Did you ever go Fishing on a Bright Summer Day, page 124
-Have the students create their own lyrics
* Have a writing workshop to compare and contrasts two different poems.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Caldecott Celebration

Marcus, Leonard. 2008. A CALDECOTT CELEBRATION: SEVEN ARTIST AND THEIR PATHS TO THE CALDECOTT MEDAL. New York: Walker Publishing Company. ISBN 9780802797032

Leonard Marcus’s book on the Caldecott Medal gives a brief look on seven amazing illustrators that have won this prestigious award oven the past seven decades. The Randolph Caldecott medal is given to children’s book illustrators that have demonstrated exceptional drawings from the previous year. In this book Marcus focuses on Robert McCloskey, Marcia Brown, Maurice Sendak, William Steig, Chris Van Allsburg, David Wiesner, and Mordicai Gerstein. Each author explains the inspiration they had behind writing and drawing each story as well as a short biography about themselves.

This is a wonderful book that is both informational and interesting to read. You get to step behind the scenes with the authors on their path to making an award winning book. The illustrations from the book show the first steps in creating the drawing from the book and explains how the author created the figures. Some used real life subject and others used plastic animals. This book is a great resource for children 3rd-5th grade wanting to learn more about how illustrations are made. The one draw back for children is that it is a little lengthy and written to a more adult audience.

* School Library Journal- “Teachers, librarians, and parents will find a source of inspiration here.”
* Starred Review in Booklist- “It is hard to image any issue that he has overlooked, and the resulting book is, in a word, 'indispensable.”
* Starred Review in Horn Book- “…For anyone associated with children's books or, indeed, for anyone interested in our social and intellectual history, this is an enthralling and richly rewarding read."

* Gather the 7 books by the credited authors and conduct a group read aloud on each book. Then discuss book ideas and describe the illustrations.
* In one of the center station display books and have student do a Venn Digram about 2 of the illustrators.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Big Jabe

Nolen, Jerdine. 2000. BIG JABE. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Book, New York, NY. Illustrator: Kadir Nelson. ISBN 0688136621

The story begins with a young boy listening to one of Momma Mary stories where she speaks about slavery on Plenty Plantation and how one man named Jabe changed the lives of so many. Jabe story begins when a young slave girl named Addy finds him floating in a basket down the river. After planting a very special tree down by the river, Jabe begins to work on the plantation just like any other slave. Jabe though is not an ordinary man, he is stronger, bigger and works harder then 10 men combined and some how lets his people escape slavery.

Big Jabe is a story that is inspiring to read. The author Jerdine Nolen takes a very familiar tall tale and relates it to slavery and freedom that every generation can relate too. The setting of this story is on the Plenty Plantation which reflects what a working plantation in that time would look and feel like. You also get a real sense as to the way slaves were treated on cotton farms. The strength of this book to use in an elementary classroom is that there are many teachable aspects: tall tales, slavery, plantations or farms, and freedom.

The illustrations by Kadir Nelson are breathtaking. Mr. Nelson is able to represent every emotion a person can feel by drawing them into his pictures. The reader can also see how strong Jabe was compared to normal men by the illustration of Jabe carrying loads of cotton bags. The ways colors are used also create the mood and feelings of the slaves on the plantation. Whether it is blues and green or gray and brown the reader can understand the emotions of the characters in the book.

* Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books- “Nelson's illustrations evoke a sense of bucolic beauty…”
* Publishers Weekly- “….use superhuman elements to distill all-too-human truths, and empower the audience to confront an unbearable history and come away with hope.”
* School Library Journal- “Nolen's writing draws readers into the narrative and presents the magical aspects matter-of-factly.”

* Lead conversation with students about what they know about slavery and freedom. Other books on slavery by same illustrator: MOSES WHEN HARRIET TUBMAN LED HER PEOPLE TO FREEDOM by Carole Boston Weatherford. ISBN 97807868517592
* Series on Tall Tales and their characters: AMERICAN TALL TALES by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrations by Michael McCurdy. ISBN 9780679800897
* Have students write about different character and what made them special.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Man Who Walked Between The Towers

Gerstein, Mordicai. 2003. THE MAN WHO WALKED BETWEEN THE TOWERS. Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 0761317910

Philippe Petit is a young French man who is skilled at many things like dancing, juggling, riding a unicycle and tight roping. While watching the World Trade Center towers in New York being built, Philippe has an idea to walk along a rope between the towers over 200 stories high. In the middle of the night Philippe and several friends sneak into the towers and begin to construct the cable rope. After several small mistakes Philippe finally ties the cable and begins the very high and long walk.

Mordicai Gerstein’s Caldecott Medal book is both entertaining and educational. Based on a true story of Philippe Petit who loves to entertain children and adults with his unique talents we watch him conquer the World Trade Center which is also a very pivotal character in this picture book. Once deciding that Philippe wants to take the risk of walking between the towers the reader goes on an exciting adventure to see if Philippe can walk the cable and what will be the consequence of his actions. The writing of the book is very simple and straightforward but you want to turn the page to see what happens next. The illustrations that Mr. Gersteain drew are extremely detailed and help create the mood of the book. What I love is the reaction on the people’s faces as they see Philippe walking across the New York style. Also, on the last several pages you are able to open the page to get an additional illustration that makes reading this book even more exciting. The illustrations also give you a true sense of the New York atmosphere and setting.

* Kirkus Reviews- “Readers of all ages will return to this again and again for its history, adventure, humor, and breathtaking homage to extraordinary buildings and a remarkable man.” * School Library Journal- “Gorgeous oil-and-ink paintings capture the aerialist's spirited feat and breathtaking perspectives high above Manhattan harbor.”
* Publishers Weekly- “Gerstein's dramatic paintings include some perspectives bound to take any reader's breath away.”

* Read other books on Philippe Petit: MAN ON A WIRE by Philippe Petit. ISBN 9781602393325. Also a movie the students could watch.
* Create a timeline about Philippe Petit’s life with illustrations.
* Other books for children on tight rope walking: MIRETTE ON THE HIGH WIRE by Emily Arnold McCully. ISBN 9780698114432. HAROLD’S CIRCUS by Crockett Johnson. ISBN 9780064430241.
* Have students brainstorm if they could set a world record what would it be and how did it feel after you set the record. Example, I ate 500 hotdogs in 2 minutes and afterwards I didn’t feel very well but I was very excited.