Tag Archives: PYP How we express ourselves

#365PictureBooks No.50 The Beatles were fab (and they were funny)

“Q: How do you find all this business of having screaming girls following you all over the place?
George: Well, we feel flattered . . .
John: . . . and flattened.

When the Beatles burst onto the music scene in the early 1960s, they were just four unknown lads from Liverpool. But soon their off-the-charts talent and offbeat humor made them the most famous band on both sides of the Atlantic. Lively, informative text and expressive, quirky paintings chronicle the phenomenal rise of Beatlemania, showing how the Fab Four’s sense of humor helped the lads weather everything that was thrown their way—including jelly beans”. Publisher

I discovered this book on my quest for more picture book biographies to use with our PYP : How we express ourselves units of inquiry. I’ve been trying to widen the scope of our collection in the arts area by including books on the different types of art forms including music and dance.  This book is great introduction to one of the most well known rock and roll bands of all time for children, so you won’t find information here about their dabbling in drugs or spiritual awakening. There is plenty describing their early years, from first getting together in Liverpool and naming their band through to all the heady years of Beatlemania. The book describes how their quirky and intelligent sense of humour helped them cope with the rigours of new found fame and the pressures on their friendship. Interestingly, you can see how the older generation of the time would have found this type of humour silly but to me it seems very clever.

Photo source: http://www.stacyinnerst.com/stacyinnerst.com/SI_Beatles_Naming_the_Band.html

The full colour illustrations are outstanding and when I looked through the book I noticed these first before reading the text in a second sitting.  The cover with its sunny yellow cover almost commands the reader to pick this off the shelf. The book would be excellent shared between those of us who were alive when the Beatles were at their peak and a new generation of kids who are still hearing some of these songs today. Great to pair with a standard non-fiction informational text like the Story of rock and roll – picture book biographies like this one really bring the musicians to life. I think playing some of the songs before or after reading would help deepen the connections.

This picture book could also be used as part of a Unit on then and now – looking at the differences of 50 years ago and today, to show children how music and teenage life have changed between their grandparents era and theirs.

Bibliographic details:

The Beatles were fab (and they were funny) / Written by Kathleen Krull & Paul Brewer and illustrated by Stacy Innerst

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

40 pages

ISBN: 9780547509914

I borrowed this copy from Auckland Libraries but I have just ordered a copy for our school library.

#365PictureBooks no. 46 I and I : Bob Marley by Tony Medina

Brimming with imagination and insight, this biography of reggae legend Bob Marley features soulful, sun-drenched paintings that transport young readers to Marley’s homeland of Jamaica, while uniquely perceptive poems bring to life his journey from boy to icon“. Publisher

At first glance I thought this picture book featured the lyrics of Bob Marley, however reading it once I had arrived home from the Public Library, led to the delightful discovery that the author has written the story of the life of Bob Marley in free verse. I didn’t know much about Bob Marley before reading this book and I suspect many kids won’t know his name these days unless they are familiar with his enduring and very catchy lyrics.

For our students that inquire into different forms of artistic expression through their PYP : How we express ourselves unit of inquiry, music is one area I need to resource more fully. I’ve recently bought some multiple user ebooks on hip-hop because we had a hole in our collection in that subject and I can see some books on reggae would be a good addition too. I’ve had some interesting conversations with our Music and Performing arts specialists recently – one part of our teaching team that I think has been overlooked in our resourcing mix in the past. I think they deserve some resources that they can use to paint a very holistic picture of any artist – musical or visual – when they are teaching about styles and movements.

I love this…and when the verse is combined with the warm, ocherish, plump illustrations, the words and pictures paint a very vivid picture of the boy, the man and the musician.

Mama just a caramel country girl shy as can be

And Papa many many years older than she

Papa is a white man so I’ve been told

My face a map of Africa in Europe’s hold

My heart the island where he and she both meet…

From “My heart the Island”

I found this perceptive review from Elizabeth Bird at NY Public Library. (My goodness she can write – one of the best book reviewers out there imo)

Bibliographic details:

I and I : Bob Marley / Written by Tony Medina and illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson.

Published by Lee & Low Books, 2009.

48 pages.

ISBN:9781600602573

This is available via back order on Wheelers – NZ $36.99, but I borrowed this copy from Auckland Libraries.

My favourite, curiosity inspiring non-fiction for kids – Best books of 2014

I want to highlight some of the books I purchased for our collection last year that have really enriched the resources we have for our curious kids.  I haven’t included straight informational texts in this list. Some of these may have been published before 2014.

Click on the book cover image to see the full bibliographic details in Goodreads.

Why We Live Where We Live looks back in history at the transition from nomadic hunting to farming and the rise of cities following the Industrial Revolution. It also looks ahead to anticipate future concerns: how will climate change and rising water affect people who live near the ocean? Can humans survive in space? This comprehensive, cross-curricular resource will equip readers with a solid background on human habitation and context about their place on the planet”. Publisher: Owl Kids

“It’s a big world out there, but what’s going on around the world can feel closer to us and more accessible than ever. Twenty-four hour news, the Internet and our increasing global perspective are more and more a part of our daily lives. Information about wars and conflicts on the other side of the world can be in our homes and on our tablet s and smartphones instantly. Whether or not your country is directly involved in a conflict or war, nearly every disagreement, every standoff, every war affects our lives in some way. With so many conflicts happening around the world, it makes you wonder – Why Do We Fight?” Publisher: Franklin Watts

“Why Do We Fight? is a book that allows kids to understand that while conflict may be inevitable, war isn’t. The reader is shown how small disagreements can escalate to become bigger and more serious ones, by exposing the common elements of conflict: such as prejudice, history, diplomacy, geography and economics. The reader is encouraged to compare world conflicts with the ones in their own lives, to better understand why we fight and what we can do to avoid it.” Goodreads

From the start, I wanted this book to explore global conflicts—the root causes of why they happen, why they become violent—without telling kids what to think about them.I wanted the book to show kids how to think about them, so they could form their own informed opinions, and I wanted this knowledge to be applicable to any conflict, anytime, anywhere.I wanted to make kids aware that, although conflicts are often presented in oversimplified terms of good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, or as being sparked by a single event or disagreement, they’re more complicated than that. I also wanted them to be unsatisfied with anything that presents conflicts in such simple terms so that they would want to dig deeper“. Author (Teacher Notes)

NB: My copy was published by Owl Kids but there was another edition published by Franklin Watts in Sept 2014. Franklin Watts – paperback edition due out June 2015.

This is the third title from Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm in their wonderful series about sunlight – I also recommend Living sunlight : how plants bring the earth to life and Ocean sunlight : how tiny plants feed the seas. See also this great resource @ the Classroom Bookshelf

“This exciting children’s book details the real-life stories of scientists throughout history who made discoveries that changed the way we think about the world. Read about Galileo and Marie Curie, who both – in very different circumstances – risked peril during their research, or about Alexander Fleming, who discovered the power of penicillin by accident. 

Packed with fascinating details of experiments and equipment, blunders and lucky escapes, Eureka! will appeal to children around the age of nine and over with an interest in history, science and adventure”. Publisher: Thames and Hudson

“Some things are so huge or so old that it’s hard to wrap your mind around them. But what if we took these big, hard-to-imagine objects and events and compared them to things we can see, feel and touch? Instantly, we’d see our world in a whole new way.” So begins this endlessly intriguing guide to better understanding all those really big ideas and numbers children come across on a regular basis. Author David J. Smith has found clever devices to scale down everything from time lines (the history of Earth compressed into one year), to quantities (all the wealth in the world divided into one hundred coins), to size differences (the planets shown as different types of balls). Accompanying each description is a kid-friendly drawing by illustrator Steve Adams that visually reinforces the concept”. Publisher: Kids Can Press

There are many titles coming out in this series and they are all excellent.

“This illustrated collection of traditional tales from cultures around the world stars heroes and giants, gods and goddesses, monsters and magic, and more.

The bite-sized retellings are accompanied by quick-fire story ashes, mini myths facts, and fun ‘quests’ to complete.

A perfectly enchanting introduction to mythology for lively minds.”

Publisher: Ivy Press

I read about this gorgeous book in this article in the Guardian.

There are 150 rhymes in this collection, from countries all over the English-speaking world, including Great Britain, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ghana, South Africa and the Caribbean. This comprehensive collection contains all the best-loved nursery rhymes, but also some new discoveries, and vibrant rhymes from Native American, First Nation, Inuit and Maori cultures. Each double-page spread is illustrated by a different artist, who has donated his or her work to the Collection or Archive at Seven Stories, Britain’s National Centre for Children’s Books. With 76 featured artists, this is a star-studded roll call of international award-winners and world-class bestselling illustrators, as well as young emerging talent from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Ghana and South Africa.”  Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Charles Darwin first visited the Galápagos Islands almost 200 years ago, only to discover a land filled with plants and animals that could not be found anywhere else on earth. How did they come to inhabit the island? How long will they remain?

Thoroughly researched and filled with intricate and beautiful paintings, this extraordinary book by Award-winning author and artist Jason Chin is an epic saga of the life of an island—born of fire, rising to greatness, its decline, and finally the emergence of life on new islands“. Author website


 

“What is a black hole? Where do they come from? How were they discovered? Can we visit one? Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano takes readers on a ride through the galaxies (ours, and others), answering these questions and many more about the phenomenon known as a black hole.

In lively and often humorous text, the book starts off with a thorough explanation of gravity and the role it plays in the formation of black holes. Paintings by Michael Carroll, coupled with real telescopic images, help readers visualize the facts and ideas presented in the text, such as how light bends, and what a supernova looks like.

A Black Hole Is NOT a Hole is an excellent introduction to an extremely complex scientific concept. Back matter includes a timeline which sums up important findings discussed throughout, while the glossary and index provide a quick point of reference for readers. Children and adults alike will learn a ton of spacey facts in this far-out book that’s sure to excite even the youngest of astrophiles.” Publisher website

“Volcanoes are a scary, catastrophic phenomenon that creates mass destruction as far as its deadly lava can reach, right? Not quite . . .

Elizabeth Rusch explores volcanoes in their entirety, explaining how they’re not all as bad as they’re made out to be. Using examples of real volcanoes from around the world, Rusch explains how some volcanoes create new land, mountains, and islands where none existed before, and how the ash helps farmers fertilize their fields. Simple, straight-forward prose provides readers with the basics, while a secondary layer of text delves deeper into the science of volcanoes. Susan Swan’s bright and explosive mixed-media illustrations perfectly complement the subject matter—they depict volcanoes in all their destructive and creative glory.

Complete with a glossary and list of further resources, Volcano Rising is a unique look at a fierce, yet valuable, scientific process”. Source: Publisher.

Before Jacques Cousteau became an internationally known oceanographer and champion of the seas, he was a curious little boy. In this lovely biography poetic text and gorgeous paintings combine to create a portrait of Jacques Cousteau that is as magical as it is inspiring.” Source: Author website.

Now this is what I call ‘High-interest non-fiction’! After reading this book I went and reweeded my dinosaur section very vigorously!

No human being has ever seen a triceratops or velociraptor or even the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. They left behind only their impressive bones. So how can scientists know what color dinosaurs were? Or if their flesh was scaly or feathered? Could that fierce T. rex have been born with spots?

In a first for young readers, Thimmesh introduces the incredible talents of the paleoartist, whose work reanimates gone-but-never-forgotten dinosaurs in giant full-color paintings that are as strikingly beautiful as they aim to be scientifically accurate, down to the smallest detail. Follow a paleoartist through the scientific process of ascertaining the appearance of various dinosaurs from millions of years ago to learn how science, art, and imagination combine to bring us face-to-face with the past.” author website

What Makes You You? is a mind-blowing introduction to the building blocks of life, DNA, what it is, how it works, and what we can do with it. Breaking down complex scientific concepts and processes into digestible bite-sized chunks; Gill Arbuthnott seamlessly explains everything from the basics of evolution to the incredible achievements of modern day genetic research in an accessible, insightful and brilliantly interesting way.

Packed with amazing 3D style illustrations and explanatory diagrams that jump off the page as well as amazing tales of scientific discoveries and what’s in store for the future, Gill truly brings science to life.  Publisher

This exciting non-fiction picture book introduces young readers to the wondrous (and invisible) world of microbes.

There are living things so tiny millions could fit on a dot. Although they are invisible, they are everywhere and they multiply very quickly. They are vital for life on earth, and do all sorts of things – from giving us a cold and making yoghurt to wearing down mountains and helping to make the air we breathe. With charming illustrations by Emily Sutton, this friendly, clever book succeeds in conveying the complex science of micro-organisms simply and clearly, and opens up an exciting new avenue for young non-fiction. Publisher

With humour and flair, Michael Hearst introduces the reader to a wealth of extraordinary life-forms. Which animal can be found at the top of Mount Everest, 10,000 feet under the sea, and in your backyard? Which animal poops cubes? Which animal can disguise itself as a giant crab? These fascinating facts and hundreds more await curious minds, amateur zoologists, and anyone who has ever laughed at a funny-looking animal“. Publisher

I think Ed Sheeran could sing the phone book and still sound amazing – in the same way, ANY BOOK Steve Jenkins writes and or illustrates is an essential purchase for a school library!

“With friendly facts, funny pictures, and animals galore,What’s New? The Zoo! is history to roar for!

For nearly five thousand years, human beings have kept, studied, and learned from animals. Now, award-winning author Kathleen Krull and acclaimed illustrator Marcellus Hall take readers on a vibrant global tour of zoos and zoo history, from the menageries of kings and queens in the ancient world, to the first public zoos in the Victorian age, to the modern facilities that work to save the lives of creatures great and small.

With smart science, appealing history, fascinating animals, and a whole lot of fun, only one thing could be better — a trip to the zoo itself! “Publisher

What did I say before about Steve Jenkins?

“In his latest eye-popping work of picture book nonfiction, the Caldecott Honor–winning author-illustrator Steve Jenkins explains how for most animals, eyes are the most important source of information about the world in a biological sense. The simplest eyes—clusters of light-sensitive cells—appeared more than one billion years ago, and provided a big survival advantage to the first creatures that had them. Since then, animals have evolved an amazing variety of eyes, along with often surprising ways to use them.” Publisher

and again…Animals upside down was a huge hit as a readloud for my Year One students inquiring into animals “It’s their world too”.

“What do spiders, bats, ducks, and sloths have in common?

Along with many other creatures, they turn upside down. A few of them, in fact, spend most of their lives this way. But animals don’t go bottoms-up just for fun.

In this unique pop-up book, pull tabs, lift-the-flaps, sliding doors, and other interactive elements reveal how, for many animals, an occasional flip or dip is a matter of survival”. Author website

If you want beautiful, thought provoking, creativity inspiring art books for your school library check out Prestel – they have some wonderful books!

“Painting is to dream,” said Hundertwasser. “When the dream is over, I don”t remember anything I dreamed about. The painting, however, remains. It is the harvest of my dream.” This statement is at the heart of this engaging introduction to the work of the eccentric artist, humanitarian, environmentalist, and architect who dedicated his life to the beautification of the world we live in. Dozens of activities in this book will captivate children of all ages and take them on a journey through a magical world of creativity and self-fulfillment. The projects here help young readers discover nature”s gifts, encourage exploration of what lies outside one”s doorstep, and emphasize the importance of ecological harmony as vital to living a happier life. Children and their parents will return again and again to this colorful and entertaining tribute to an artist whose legacy offers hope and inspiration for all of us.” Publisher

 

Literally a bird’s eye view….

“A perfect introduction for children 7+ to the most beautiful buildings in the world and the basic principles of architecture using a fun, lively and engaging way of learning”. Publisher

 

A highly readable book about architecture, lavishly illustrated with sixteen intricate cross sections.

From straw huts to skyscrapers, palaces to arts centres, The Story of Buildings takes us on a journey across continents and over centuries. Patrick Dillon selects sixteen of the most iconic buildings from around the world including the Parthenon, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Taj Mahal, the Forbidden City, the Bauhaus, Crystal Palace, the Sydney Opera House and the Pompidou Centre, and tells the remarkable human story behind each of them. Stephen Biesty’s detailed, intricate cross-sections allow us to see inside these incredible structures and appreciate the inspiration of their creators. Technical information and architectural terms are explained in labels and flaps and there is an extensive index and timeline at the end of the book“. Publisher

Filled with colorful architectural drawings and engaging texts, this history of architecture for children is a great way to introduce young readers to the subject.

Children will be utterly absorbed by this journey through the history of architecture, from the earliest mud huts to today’s soaring towers. Chronologically arranged, this large-format book gives each iconic building its own double-page spread featuring an exquisite watercolor illustration and clearly written descriptions, facts, and features. These vibrantly detailed pages are filled with people, animals, and other objects that help bring the buildings to life. A detailed appendix includes a timeline, a world map that points out where each building can be found, and an extensive glossary. Children will enjoy poring over this book — and will come away with a fundamental understanding of not only the most common architectural terms, but also of how the built world has evolved marvelously over time“. Publisher

Taking over a rowdy gym class right before winter vacation is not something James Naismith wants to do at all. The last two teachers of this class quit in frustration. The students — a bunch of energetic young men–are bored with all the regular games and activities. Naismith needs something new, exciting, and fast to keep the class happy or someone’s going to get hurt. Saving this class is going to take a genius. Discover the true story of how Naismith invented basketball in 1891 at a school in Springfield, Massachusetts“. Author website

A celebration of the world, from its immense mountains to its tiny insects – and everything in between. Features fifty-two highly illustrated maps, full of detail and curiosities“. Publisher

Over the course of history men and women have lived and died. In fact, getting sick and dying can be a big, ugly mess-especially before the modern medical care that we all enjoy today. How They Croaked relays all the gory details of how nineteen world figures gave up the ghost. For example:

  • It is believed that Henry VIII’s remains exploded within his coffin while lying in state.
  • Doctors “treated” George Washington by draining almost 80 ounces of blood before he finally kicked the bucket.
  • Right before Beethoven wrote his last notes, doctors drilled a hole in his stomach without any pain medication.

Readers will be interested well past the final curtain, and feel lucky to live in a world with painkillers, X-rays, soap, and 911“. Author website

 Another fabulous title from Thames and Hudson – the chapter on Scott and Amundsen is especially useful to our inquiry units. These books have a highly visual, scrapbook style layout. Highly recommended!

Describes the intrepid journeys and discoveries of famous trailblazers from Christopher Columbus to Ranulph Fiennes. Packed with tales of heroism and useful survival tips, as well as photographs and illustrations of their brave expeditions.

Think of the street you live on. Now think of how it may have looked in 10,000 BCE, or in Roman times, or in Victorian England at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Steve Noon’s A Street Through Time takes you on a time travelling journey that you won’t forget.

Beautiful double-page illustrations bring fourteen key periods in history to life. You will see magnificent buildings go up and come down, new churches built on the site of ancient temples, wooden bridges destroyed and then remade in stone, and statues demolished then unearthed many years later. You’ll find out how people lived long ago – the tools they used, what they wore, what they ate and what they did all day. In an added twist, you can search for the time traveller in each period and locate the objects that have managed to survive through the ages.

Revised and updated for a new generation, Steve Noon’s A Street Through Time is perfect for parents and children to look at together. The more you look, the more you’ll see.” Publisher

I hope you find something here that you would like to add to your collection! 

#365PictureBooks Day 23 – Viva Frida

Frida Kahlo, one of the world’s most famous and unusual artists is revered around the world. Her life was filled with laughter, love, and tragedy, all of which influenced what she painted on her canvases. Distinguished author/illustrator Yuyi Morales illuminates Frida’s life and work in this elegant and fascinating book“. A Neal Porter Book. Publisher: Macmillan

This is a stunning picture book – and the production values mean this is a work of art in itself. This will appeal to a lot of adults as well as children. I was looking to buy this one for our collection as a picture book biography of Frida Kahlo. I don’t currently have any books about her in our collection. The book is less of a biography and more of an evocative poem. Whether or not it is right for your school collection will depend on whether you are looking for a biographical fact based book or one that engages the senses and provokes questions. Children will see some of the iconic symbols that feature in Frida Kahlo’s paintings (the deer, the heart, arrows, the hummingbird, parrot and dog). I am thinking that I would love to buy this one because it will lead to wonderful discussions about artistic passion and creativity (and symbolism).

The bilingual (English/Spanish) text in this picture book appears simple with a single word on some pages, but the simplicity belies its brilliance. It feels very poetic and dreamlike but passionate and strong at the same time. The artwork is incredible and the video below shows a little of what must have gone into making the mixed media illustrations for the book.

Bibliographic details:

Viva Frida /Written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales; photography by Tim O’Meara

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2014.

40 pages

ISBN:9781596436039

NZ RRP $35.50

Available to purchase locally or borrow from Auckland Libraries

#365PictureBooks Day 4 – The most magnificent thing by Ashley Spires

 

Another favourite from 2014 – a hit with both kids and teachers. Not only does this fit with several units of inquiry that look at inventions, innovation and creativity, it provides a wonderful glimpse into the attitudes of perseverance and *grit, it can also serve as an antidote to perfectionism showing kids that sometimes ‘just right’ or ‘good enough’ (when you have tried and failed and tweaked and tried some more) is in fact the best outcome to a problem.

“The girl has a wonderful idea. “She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.” [Back cover  & publisher]

“For the early grades’ exploration of character education, this funny book offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity. The girl’s frustration and anger are vividly depicted in the detailed art, and the story offers good options for dealing honestly with these feelings, while at the same time reassuring children that it’s okay to make mistakes. The clever use of verbs in groups of threes is both fun and functional, offering opportunities for wonderful vocabulary enrichment. The girl doesn’t just “make” her magnificent thing — she “tinkers and hammers and measures,” she “smoothes and wrenches and fiddles,” she “twists and tweaks and fastens.” These precise action words are likely to fire up the imaginations of youngsters eager to create their own inventions and is a great tie-in to learning about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math”. [Publisher website].

Highly recommended!

Grit:

“The character traits of determination, adaptability and reflection add up to a critical 21st century skill”. Edutopia

Courage and resolve; strength of character.
synonyms: courage, courageousness, bravery, pluck, mettle, mettlesomeness, backbone, spirit, strength of character, strength of will, moral fibre,
steel, nerve, gameness, valour, fortitude, toughness, hardiness, resolve, determination, resolution; stamina, doggedness, tenacity, perseverance, endurance;
informal: gumption, guts, spunk; bottle; vulgar slang: balls
[Source: Google Definitions]

 

“The character traits of determination, adaptability and reflection add up to a critical 21st century skill”. Read the series of blog posts on grit (and how to teach it) at Edutopia here.

 

“For me GRIT conjures up images of ‘kids getting DOWN & DIRTY with ‘intent’ ‘joy’, ‘sparkle’ and ‘passion’, in amongst it all with ‘authentic intent’, ‘creating’ chaos while ‘believing’ and daring’, ‘overcoming’ ‘uncertainty’ with ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘risk-taking’, ‘believing’ they are ‘awesome’ which ‘empowers’ them to continue to ‘learn’ and ‘grow’”.  @kerriattamatea on her blog: Learning my way

Bibliographic details:

The most magnificent thing  /  written and illustrated by Ashley Spires.

Published by Kids Can Press, 2014.

32 pages

ISBN:9781554537044

NZ RRP: $33.50

Hardcopy available for purchase via Wheelers or borrow from Auckland Libraries. I am also considering purchasing the single user ebook from OverDrive in the “fixed layout with embedded audio” version.

Ashley Spires is the author of the Binky the space cat graphic novels which are really popular in our library – I don’t think they ever sit on the shelves for more than 1/2 day before being checked out again!

#365PictureBooks Day 1 The iridescence of birds : a book about Henri Matisse

 

I recently visited the Children’s Bookshop in Christchurch and after seeing this book decided it was an essential addition to use with several year groups as part of the PYP Trans-disciplinary theme “How we express ourselves“. One of the units of inquiry within this theme for my Year 6 students is all about creativity – defining and exploring what it is and how it leads to innovation. Quite a difficult concept for children to grasp and an area where the simplicity of a picture book can be a wonderful curiosity starter.

If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary French town where there were gray skies and you wanted color and light and sun, what might you become? [Inside dust jacket]

The reader starts this book turning blue/gray pages with rather monotone illustrations but as we read the simple, almost poetic text about Henri’s exposure to colour and creativity through his mother, the pages become more colourful and rich, rather like his journey from the chilly north of France to the sun drenched and colourful streets of Provence.

“Why do painters paint what they do?……In writing this book I think I found the answer to the question that inspired it. Henri Matisse painted what he saw and what he remembered – he painted his feelings and his childhood.” Patricia Maclachlan.

The back pages helpfully include recommended books and notes from the author and illustrator. The notes from illustrator Hadley Hooper are particularly insightful, detailing her inspiration and research for this work and something that will help young readers understand the creative process a little more.

Vocabulary: Iridescence is a wonderful word and I can imagine the use of it in the title and subsequent revelations within the text will lead to lots of conversation. It would be great to have some materials or objects with iridescent qualities to show children when reading aloud.

I shelve picture books like these with our non-fiction. Using traditional DDC this would be found at 759.4 MAT where 759 equals painting and the .4 denotes that the painting or painter is French. I’m “hacking” Dewey in our Junior School library so I’m not splitting painters into different countries. I am still deciding whether to keep the books about painters with their movements or is that is still too complicated for browsing? and I’m still musing over whether to ditch the 759 altogether and just have artists (not just painters) arranged by name. In the meantime this will be found at 759 MAT where other non-fiction and picture books about Matisse reside. I no longer have biographies shelved at 920 – only compendiums of famous people or leaders that cover many walks of life or interest areas.

Bibliographic details:

The iridescence of birds : a book about Henri Matisse / Patricia MacLachlan ; pictures by Hadley Hooper.

Published in 2014 by Roaring Brook Press.

ISBN:9781596439481

RRP NZ$33.00

You will be able to borrow this from Auckland Libraries as it is currently on order for several branches.

Awards, accolades and rave reviews:

The iridescence of birds is being discussed as a possible contender for the Caldecott Award this year, but it has also made many of the ‘best of 2014’ lists prevalent at this time of year.

Kirkus Reviews Best books of 2014 – Childrens

Nerdy Book Club 2014 Nerdy Awards for non-fiction picture books

The Horn Book

Publisher’s weekly (starred review)

School Library Journal (best books of 2014) also a starred review

Publisher website Lots of resources here including a slide show of pages from the book.

 

 

A very special picture book….”Extra yarn” by Mac Barnett illustrated by Jon Klassen

Image

Extra yarn written by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Jon Klassen. Published by Balzer + Bray, 2012. Hardback, 40 pages.

Extra Yarn, winner of a Caldecott Honor 2013 and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, as well as a New York Times bestseller, is the story of how a young girl and her box of magical yarn transform a community.

Starred review from Booklist.org:

“This picture book is certain to spark the imagination of every child who comes upon it, and what could be better than that? Annabelle lives in a black-and-white world, where everything is drab, drab, drab. So imagine her surprise when she finds a box filled with yarn of every color. Armed with the yarn and knitting needles, she makes herself a sweater, but when she finishes, she finds that she has extra yarn left over. After knitting a sweater for her dog, her classmates, and various (hilariously unsurprised) bunnies and bears, she still has extra yarn. So, Annabelle turns her attention to things that don’t usually wear wool cozies: houses and cars and mailboxes. Soon an evil archduke with a sinister mustache “who was very fond of clothes” hears about the magic box of never-ending yarn, and he wants it for his own. Reading like a droll fairy tale, this Barnett-Klassen collaboration is both seamless and magical. The spare, elegant text and art are also infused with plenty of deadpan humor. Klassen (I Want My Hat Back, 2011) uses ink, gouache, and digital illustration to fashion Annabelle’s world out of geometric shapes, set against dark, saturated pages, and against white as the town comes to colorful, stitched life. Quirky and wonderful, this story quietly celebrates a child’s ingenuity and her ability to change the world around her.”

Our read aloud of this book:

This is a picture book I purchased and gifted to our Library on International Book Giving Day, after hearing so much about it from other librarians and teachers in the international ‘book-lovin-blogger-twitter-verse’. I felt after reading it that it was very special. After reading it aloud to classes from Preschool – Year 4, I am convinced my initial feeling was absolutely ‘spot-on’ and that it is very special indeed.

This is one of those picture books that seems to engage all listeners regardless of age. I usually have a few fidgeters in my read alouds, as I have some children who have English as a second language and others that have limited experience of being ‘read aloud to’, and who find it difficult to sit still and actively listen. Reading this book engaged those hard to reach children.

As the knitting is gradually added to Annabelles world,  the splashes of colour really pop against the  black, brown and grey tones on a white background of the early illustrations and even children sitting towards the back of the group were able to enjoy the pictures.

What I loved about the story is how many links there were between the text and ideas portrayed in the story and units of inquiry that my students are currently exploring in the classroom as part of the PYP: (Year 5 : How we express ourselves (uniqueness) Year 2 : Where we are in place and time (change) ; Kindergarten, Y1 & Y2 & Y3 : Who we are (friendships) etc…

Important themes in the book: Community (bringing people together, connections, sharing), bullying/kindness, creativity and the visual arts, change – adding color, bringing happiness. The story feels like a modern fairy tale.

The read aloud led to a lively discussion about the story and possible explanations for how the yarn disappeared for the archduke and reappeared for Annabelle;  but also modern concepts such as yarn bombing and  guerilla knitting

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story to my students, I loved how they sat either transfixed, or laughing out loud, and how their faces showed that their natural curiosity was piqued. Reading this story has reinforced my belief in the power of the picture book for all ages.

Teacher resources:

  • http://classroombookshelf.blogspot.co.nz/2012/10/extra-yarn.html . This comprehensive article elaborates on some of the points I have only had time to touch on. The article is divided into three sections: Book Review, Teaching Invitations (Grades K-2: The power of the refrain; Insights into bullying; creating with yarn. Grades 3 and up: Illustrations as metaphors; Genre study (Folklore) Mentor Text for Writing with Purpose; Light and Darkness in Illustrations;  Community Transformations. Critical literacy:  The Question of “Selling Out”). Further Explorations (Online resources i.e. author/illustrator websites, craft websites, folklore websites; Books: other titles that have artistic or literary similarities to this one, or those that could be used to convey similar messages).

Media resources:

Browse inside the book at the Harper Collins Childrens website here:

Book trailer made by a Library Studies student:

Mac Barnett: Reading part of Extra Yarn aloud (video uploaded to YouTube by abeecher930)