I haven’t been posting as much (a yucky cold, some birthday celebrations, busy trying to beat the midwinter homeschool doldrums) but we have been reading. Ruth and I continue to journey through the alphabet, mostly in picture books. This was S week so we had quite a few snake and spider books, including this new book by Randy Siegel. My Snake Blake is a simple tale of a boy and his slightly unusual pet. Not only is his pet a snake, but he’s a snake that uses his body to write in cursive. That’s just one of the reasons why he’s the best pet in the world. He also helps his owner with his homework, hisses at the schoolyard bully, willingly eats accidentally-on-purpose Brussel sprouts that have been dropped under the table and walks the dog. We all giggled at Blake. The shape of the book is unusual (long and thin) and feels vaguely snakelike.
Ruth really loved I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black. A little girl is bored. So bored. Everything is booooooooring. Then she finds a potato. She’s bored with the potato. But then it talks to her. It says “I’m bored.” The potato wants to play with a flamingo and tells her that kids are boring. The girl is insulted and begins to show the potato all the fun things that kids can do. Cartwheels and ninja kicks and spinning in a circle until you are dizzy. That’s only the beginning though as the girl begins to show the potato all the things that kids can imagine. I loved the illustrations by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, she shows the actual scene in bold colors but then a light blue sketch in the background of the scene in the girl’s imagination. It’s a very effective way to tell a lot visually. Much to the girl’s frustration, for each of the things the girl does the potato only replies “boring.” Finally the girl stomps off disgust but there is a clever surprise twist at the end for the reader. I love that it teaches a lesson of sorts but in a completely non-didactic way. Ruth just thought it was really really funny.
So, you may have noticed that the ALA awards were announced this week. My reaction to the Caldecott winner This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen was that it was the committee’s way of making up for overlooking the widely praised I Want My Hat Back last year. I liked all the Caldecott Honor books better than This is Not My Hat. I also though it was interesting that the only Caldecott Honor Book that was on the Cybils shortlist is Creepy Carrots.
In honor of the ALA awards our library had a display of past winners last week from which I selected several old favorites and some that were new to us. We had never read Tops and Bottoms, a Caldecott Honor Book from 1996 (a year when I was in medical school and a little less in tune with the world of children’s literature). All three kids really enjoyed Janet Stevens’ retelling of a classic slave trickster tale but David especially LOVED it. Today he begged me not to take it back to the library but to keep it out just a little longer. I complied of course.
The story tells how Hare, who is clever but poor (having lost his land to a tortoise in a bad bet), tricks Bear who is rich but lazy. Hare offers to do all the work if Bear will let him plant a crop on his land. He tells Bear he can choose if he wants the “tops or bottoms”. Bear chooses tops. Hare plants carrots. Again and again Hare bests Bear and figures out a way to get the best part of the crop for himself and his family. I think David likes the story but I think the visual appeal of the book itself really appealed to him. It is read vertically instead of horizontally and the illustrations are lush and detailed paintings that could tell the story without words. All in all, this was one we were glad to discover.
Stop by Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word for more great read-aloud suggestions.