Friday, March 27, 2009

You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!

Baseball pitchers are special. The good ones are treated like gods. They do not play every day, and yet, fans can’t wait to see them do their “stuff.” Sandy Koufax played for the Dodgers: first, in Brooklyn and then in L.A. Jonah Winter, with illustrator Andre Carrilho has done a superb job of explaining the qualities of Koufax: athlete, graceful, strong, and determined in the new picture book biography, You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! The cover seems to move, as if you are watching Koufax pitch. It is explained as a lenticular cover. It has three images, digitally sliced into strips and printed on a plastic sheet creating the illusion of movement as you turn the cover. Brilliant! The rest of the illustrations are graphite on paper, with color and texture added using Adobe Photoshop. The stylized drawings do look like Koufax, and I love the little statistic boxes throughout the book. It helps to understand Koufax’s place in baseball history to compare him to other pitchers. Every child knows that baseball is more than just hitting the ball, catching the ball or throwing the ball. It is also how well you do those things, in other words, the statistics. Check this out before opening day!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring is Here!

The weather may be frightful, but picture books can put you in a new frame of mind. If you are thinking Easter basket gifts, I’ve got two that I MUST purchase for my grandchildren. (I can’t be stopped!)

First is The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. Each of the birds has an egg, except Duck. So when Duck finds a beautiful egg of his own he’s delighted-even though the other birds make fun of it. When it hatches, everyone is in for a BIG surprise! The playful illustrations are part of the charm, along with cleverly designed cut pages that allow the visual joke to unfold. Spring? Eggs? You won’t want to miss this book! Emily Gravett has become a favorite of mine for young pre-schoolers. Check out her other books, Orange Pear Apple Bear and Monkey and Me. Every book is a perfect illustration of an early literacy skill. The Odd Egg is perfect for print motivation. Everyone will want to turn the page to find out what happens. Print Motivation is how we demonstrate to children the joy of reading, the fun of books.

The second picture book is from the inimitable Kevin Henkes. He has won a Caldecott Medal, a Caldecott Honor, a Newbery Honor, and he has another winner with his latest, Birds. This time he has written the book (the words), but his wife is the illustrator. She has captured the simplicity of enjoying birds and noticing the many details a young child would discuss with a parent or an adult. The simple story ends with a satisfying declaration that is also a surprise. A lovely spring walk must be taken after reading this! Laura Dronzek’s illustrations are so colorful, especially for a young child. They have a child-like appearance with a sense of movement on every page.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Print Motivation with Twelve Terrible Things!

Print Motivation is an Early Literacy Skill that simply means that the book is so much fun, or exciting, or inviting a child will be ready to turn every page to continue the story. Twelve Terrible Things by Marty Kelley is a perfect example of ‘Print Motivation.’ Inside the book, on the endpapers the reader is warned that turning the page will bring about some terrible things. Well, you have to turn the page now!

There really are twelve terrible things in the book, such as: things that are sad (empty ice cream cone with the scoop of ice cream on the ground); things that are scary (dentist? monster under the bed?); old relative pinching chubby cheeks; to a smelly sock (with the smelly foot still in it). It is funny, well drawn, with funny perspective on each spread. Have a good laugh, a good read with this book.~Joyce Laiosa

What Color is a Bully?

One by Kathryn Otoshi is an extremely simple book of colors and numbers and a story about a bully. I think it would be very useful in a classroom setting, as well as an excellent book for preschoolers. It is a hard lesson to see kids being bullied as well as being the object of the bully. This book shows that a group can work together to thwart the bully and positive remarks can change the focus of the bully. Will it work? I can’t say that one reading of the book will change a bully. But I think it will help children learn to work together to help each other out of difficult situations.

After reading this book, I can see a child making their own book with finger paints. A fun project for everyone and while the child’s fingers are busy, you can have a very relaxed conversation. Check out this title the next time you visit the library. Make it count!~Joyce Laiosa