Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 15

I almost skipped this  post today.  In three plus years of blogging, I have never done four posts in the same day. Two maybe but never four.  However, I just couldn't see combining gratitude posts. So this will be short.

Today I am thankful for practical things... the coat and boots that arrived in time for my trip to Boston.

...several things at work finally came together.

....and since this is also picture book month, here is my daily picture book recommendation:

by Birgitta Sif
Candlewick Press (October 2012)


Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 13

Sometimes simple is the best way to go and simple for today has to do with laughter.  I am thankful for the things that make me smile, chuckle, giggle, or laugh...

...I am very appreciative of all the hilarious facebook posts that my cousin writes.  If I need to laugh, I just check out what she has written on any given day.

...I am thankful for writers like Jack Gantos who can make me laugh hysterically as I read their books.

...I am thankful for friends who have the gift of humor and can always say something that is funny.

...and on a more serious note, I was super thankful when I walked into my friend's house this morning and her 7 year old was curled up on the couch reading a book I had given her.  I have been waiting for the whole reading process to click with her and I think it has happened.   

....and since this is also picture book month, here is my daily picture book recommendation which reminded me of a conversation I had today:

by Meg Medina; Illustrated by Claudio Muñoz
Candlewick (June 2011)

Book Review: No Bears

Author: Meg McKinlay
Illustrator: Leila Rudge
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (March 27, 2012)
Audience: Ages 4 and up
Source: Personal Copy
Fiction * Fairy Tale * Writing

Description from Publisher's Page:
Ella wants to tell you a story - a story with absolutely no bears. You don't need bears for a book. You need pretty things like fairies and princesses and castles and maybe funny things and exciting things. In Ella's kind of story, there are no bears in the village or the castle or the deep dark forest or faraway lands. But there might be . . . a monster! Riffing on well-known fairy-tale themes, this fun, offbeat story is perfectly matched by playful illustrations with a running visual joke that will keep even bear lovers smiling. 

Ella is in charge of this book, and she will tell you something right now. There are NO BEARS in it. Not even one.

My thoughts on this book:
I read a lot of picture books.  It is easy to forget books when you are reading that many.  And then, there are some that just keep coming to mind.  No Bears was that book for me.  I read it and really liked it.  Then I wanted to go back and read it again and again.  Of course, at that point the bookstore didn't have it and it was on back order with the publisher. Finally, I was able to lay my hands on my own copy of the book and have probably read it another 7 or 8 times. Enjoying it each and every time I read it.

Bear Book Recycling Bin - love it!
Part of what I love about No Bears is that with every reading, I come away with some new thoughts and ideas about the story.  No Bears is a brilliant concept that is very well executed.  The text stands as strong as the illustrations to provide readers with truly a wonderful book.

Ella wants to write a story and she knows that the story should start with things like "Once upon a time.." and end with things like "Happily ever after" and "The End".  On the one hand, as a teacher, I can use this story as a read aloud for younger students but on the other hand, I can utilize the story as a way to discuss metafiction and writing with older students.  Ella's interjections into the story throughout the book provide a level of narration for students that allow them to consider the various aspects to be considered in writing a story.    

In the illustration below, Ella lists all of the things that her story should have. Rudge takes McKinlay's words to a new level though by also incorporating various references to other fairy tales with her images.  Rudge does this successfully throughout the whole book.  Of course, as Ella talks about all the things her book should have and what it shouldn't have - bears - Bear is lurking on the sidelines watching the story unfold.

Just as in any good story, there has to be trouble...unfolding on the page is a deep, dark forest -

because you must have a deep, dark forest in your story and not to forget - you must also have a MONSTER.  However, I love that our bear friend is silently helping out in the background.

 Bear is helping out so much that when the princess (as represented by Ella) is in trouble he is there with the fairy godmother's magic wand to help save the day.   Even though Ella credits the fairy godmother and "her fantastical magic powers" for the rescue the reader knows better.

In the end, Ella is proud of her "bear free" book and Bear is left to explain to all of the other characters in the book how he indeed saved the day. 

In addition, to all of the wonderful aspects already talked about, the illustrations provide a fun challenge for students to see if they can identify all of the references to fairy tales that are embedded onto the pages of the story. 

McKinlay and Rudge certainly have a hit on their hands with No Bears. This is definitely one book that I would recommend for storytime, classroom instruction or just as a fun gift for a favorite young person in your life.

Find the author & illustrator on the internet:
Meg McKinlay: Website | Blog
Leila Rudge: Website | Blog

Credit & Disclaimer: All illustrations in this post are ©Leilarudge - The illustrations were so fabulous I had to share.     

Book Review: There Goes Ted Williams

Author/Illustrator: Matt Tavares
Publisher: Candlewick Press (February 2012)
Source: Personal Copy
History * Biographical * Baseball * Sports

Description from the publisher:
Ted Williams lived a life of dedication and passion. He was an ordinary kid who wanted one thing: to hit a baseball better than anyone else. So he practiced his swing every chance he got. He did fingertip push-ups. He ate a lot of food. He practiced his swing again. And then practiced it some more. From his days playing ball in North Park as a kid to his unmatched .406 season in 1941 to his heroic tours of duty as a fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, the story of Teddy Ballgame is the story of an American hero. In this engrossing biography, a companion to Henry Aaron's Dream, Matt Tavares makes Ted Williams's life story accessible to a whole new generation of fans who are sure to admire the hard work, sacrifice, and triumph of the greatest hitter who ever lived. A lively picture book biography of Ted Williams from a master of the genre - just in time for Fenway Park's centennial.

My thoughts on the book:
I grew up in New England; Connecticut to be specific.  We didn't have our own baseball team.  Most of us sided with either the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox.  And well then there were those who cheered on the New York Mets.  Regardless of what team you pledged your allegiance to, if you were a New Englander, you knew Fenway Park, the Green Monster, and Ted Williams.  Even though when I was a child, Williams had been retired for many years, his name still stood for what baseball meant to people.

In There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived, author/illustrator, Matt Tavares captures the passion, dedication, and magic that was Williams.  He came into baseball during the Great Depression.  His career was interrupted several times by our country's involvement in both World War II and the Korean War.  Despite interruptions, Williams managed to continue his career becoming one of baseballs all time heroes.

Though Williams had his flaws, Tavares elects to focus on the Williams as a baseball player with the emphasis on his being an incredible hitter.  In the Author's Note, Tavares mentions both the flaws and the philanthropic side of Williams.  There was no love lost between sportswriters and Williams, but those who knew of his dedication to helping sick children through the Jimmy Fund Clinic & Dana Farber Cancer Institute knew another side.

Tavares has managed to capture a little bit of the magic that was Ted Williams and with the arrival of baseball season may we all take a moment to celebrate it as well.

Check out the book trailer for There Goes Ted Williams:

More information on Matt Tavares: website | twitter | facebook 

Book Review - Can We Save The Tiger?

Author: Martin Jenkins
Illustrated:  Vicky White
Publisher: Candlewick Press (February 22, 2011)
Audience: Ages 6 to 10
Source: Personal Copy
Non-Fiction * Elementary * Endangered Animals

Description from GoodReads:
Tigers are pretty special — and so are ground iguanas and partula snails and even white-rumped vultures. But these and many other animals are in danger of disappearing altogether, joining the dodo, the marsupial wolf, the great auk, and countless other animals we will never see again. Using the experiences of a few endangered species as examples, Martin Jenkins highlights the ways human behavior can either threaten or conserve the amazing animals that share our planet. Vicky White’s stunning portraits of rare creatures offer a glimpse of nature’s grace and beauty — and give us a powerful reason to preserve it.

It has taken me several months to track this book down. I had heard about it from various teachers and librarians, but none of my local booksellers or libraries had a copy of it.  Just as I was about to order it on-line, I finally came across an actual copy of the book.  While flipping through the book, I was amazed with the illustrations.  Jenkins and White have created an absolutely gorgeous non-fiction picture book focused on a variety of endangered animals.

Can We Save The Tiger? begins by sharing with the reader several animals that will never be seen because they are extinct.  Near each animal illustration are brief facts about the animal.  Jenkins then moves to animals that are endangered.  In simple, concise explanations, the author explains why these animals have been hunted or become endangered and what efforts are being made to save them.  White's illustrations are amazing and bring the text to a new level.

Can We Save The Tiger? will be a great addition to any classroom or  school library.  I'm glad that I finally found this book, and it was well worth the effort it took to find it. If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to find this one and add it to your collection.