PPBF: Take Away the A

TakeawayCoverAuthor: Michaël Escoffier
Illustrator: Kris Di Giacomo
Publisher: Enchanted Lion, 2014
Ages: 4-8yrs
Themes: alphabet book, word play, vocabulary
Opening: Without the A the BEAST is the BEST.
Summary: (from the publisher) Take Away the A is a fun, imaginative romp through the alphabet. The idea behind the book is that within every language there are words that change and become a different word through the simple subtraction of a single letter. In other words, without the “A,” the Beast is Best. Or, without the “M,” a chomp becomes a chop—though it could be that this particular play on words didn’t even make it into the book, there are so many! We certainly don’t want to give too much away. . . . Now, take a look and find some more! Discovering all of the words in the book is a lot of fun, and then there’s the wild, exciting adventure that follows, of trying to find more!

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I like this book because: I enjoy a good alphabet book, but even more I enjoy a book that is fun! This is chock-full of great illustrations in muted warm colors, packed with beasts of all kinds. This is book I’m buying this giving season!

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Resources/activities: Make your own Alphabeast book – a great group project for the classroom!

Takeaway2You can always check out past PPBF picks on Susanna Hill’s blog – though today you can find (and read!) all the entries for Susanna’s Annual Holiday Story Contest – HERE

PPBF: Elsa and the Night

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Author/Illustrator: Jöns Mellgren (Translation from Swedish by Anita Shenoi)
Publisher: Little Gestalten, 2014
Ages: 4-8yrs
Themes: sleep, night, loss
Opening: Elsa is sitting by the kitchen table, sorting through her granola. “Number seventy-eight,” she mumbles, picking out another raisin. All the lamps are burning. It’s warm in the room.
Summary: (from my library catalog) One day, Elsa hears a creature moving underneath her sofa. When she lures it out, she discovers that it’s the Night. ‘You’re not allowed to be here,’ she says, and puts it in an old cake tin. Fourteen hours later, it’s still day outside.

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I like this book because: Publisher’s Weekly calls it an eccentric story and I have to agree. It might not appeal to everyone, but I beg readers to give it a chance beyond the beautifully composed spreads. I have read a number of reviews and see it hits readers differently. For me this is a story of loss, grief, denial and letting go, told in a tall tale. I hope you all find something special in it for yourselves.

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Resources/activities: a great resource for the art class, this book makes wonderful use of contrasting and harmonious colors, and perfect for teaching composition – students could cut out similarly colored shapes and create their own compositions for study; I believe this is a beautiful resource for discussion on loss, grief, and letting go.

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For more PPBF picks packed with resources and activities, go to Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

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PPBF: Ungerer-vaganza

Today is Tomi Ungerer’s birthday and we need to celebrate!

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Publisher: Phaidon Press, 2013
Ages: 5-8yrs
Themes: children, fog, coastal/rural life
Opening: Finn and Cara were brother and sister. They lived by the sea in the back of beyond. (the opening sets the fairytale feel)
Summary: (from the publisher) No one has ever returned from the mysterious Fog Island, but when Finn and Cara get castaway on its murky shores, they discover things are not quite as they expect… Will anyone ever believe them?

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Why I like this book: though written in a rather adult voice, the child in the author is definitely inviting the child in the reader with lines like these: ‘Fog Island loomed like a jagged black tooth’, ‘But to be lonesome is not a reason to get bored’, or ‘It tasted awful but felt strangely heartening’. Living in a very dry, landlocked place I miss the ocean and fog – the art in the book present a cloudy, cool and moist feel so well I can smell the salt on the air. A perfect read for a grey day – don’t forget a cup of tea!

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Resources/activities – for kids: use this book when studying a weather unit, and make fog in a jar – HERE; check out this German Kindergarten, ‘Die Katze’ designed by Tomi Ungerer and architect Ayla-Suzan Yöndel; just for adults: Check out the wonderful documentary, Far Out Isn’t Far Enough (NOT for the little uns‘): HEREvisit the Tomi Ungerer Museum: International Center for Illustration in Strasbourg (voted one of the 10 best museums in Europe by the Council of Europe); for interested adults: watch the B-movie horror film (same title, not the same content!) from 1945 (poster image below); if ever in Nantucket visit the Fog Island Cafe;

Really want to know more, don’t you! Check out the timeline on his official website – HERE; The Free Library of Philadelphia has a collection of Tomi Ungerer papersTomi Ungerer is a candidate for the 2015 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) ‘The World’s Largest Children’s Literature Award'; Follow Tomi Ungerer on Facebook, or Twitter

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Here is a list (mostly) from Wikipedia of his children’s picture books (available in English), including two I have already recommended:

  • The Mellops Go Flying (1957)
  • Mellops Go Diving for Treasure (1957)
  • Crictor (1958)
  • The Mellops Strike Oil (1958)
  • Adelaide (1959)
  • Christmas Eve at the Mellops (1960)
  • Emile (1960)
  • Rufus (1961)
  • The Three Robbers (1961)
  • Snail, Where Are You? (1962)
  • Mellops Go Spelunking (1963)
  • Flat Stanley (1964) — art by Tomi Ungerer, written by Jeff Brown
  • One, Two, Where’s My Shoe? (1964)
  • Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls (1964) — art by Tomi Ungerer, poems collected by William Cole
  • Oh, What Nonsense! (1966) — art by Tomi Ungerer, edited by William Cole
  • Orlando, the Brave Vulture (1966)
  • Warwick’s Three Bottles (1966) – with André Hodeir
  • Cleopatra Goes Sledding (1967) – with André Hodeir
  • What’s Good for a 4-Year-Old? (1967) — art by Tomi Ungerer, text by William Cole
  • Moon Man (Der Mondmann) (Diogenes Verlag, 1966)
  • Zeralda’s Ogre (1967)
  • Ask Me a Question (1968)
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1969) — text by Barbara Hazen
  • Oh, How Silly! (1970) — art by Tomi Ungerer, edited by William Cole
  • The Hat (1970)
  • I Am Papa Snap and These Are My Favorite No Such Stories (1971)
  • The Beast of Monsieur Racine (1971)
  • The Hut (1972)
  • Oh, That’s Ridiculous! (1972) — art by Tomi Ungerer, edited by William Cole
  • No Kiss for Mother (1973)
  • Allumette; A Fable, with Due Respect to Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, and the Honorable Ambrose Bierce (1974)
  • Tomi Ungerer’s Heidi: The Classic Novel (1997) — art by Tomi Ungerer, text by Johanna Spyri
  • Flix (1998)
  • Tortoni Tremelo the Cursed Musician (1998)
  • Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear (1999)
  • Snail, Where Are You? (2005)
  • Zloty (2009)
  • Fog Island (2013)

One more treat – the trailer to a film based on the book MOON MAN

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For more PPBF picks packed with resources and activities, go to Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

Mole: character development

MolePostONEJust for practice, I am developing my own characters while reading Wind In the Willows (I honestly didn’t care for the overtly poetic descriptions enough to finish reading it in the past).

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While I may have missed the boat attempting to give a water rat a long pointy nose, when in fact the European water vole, commonly known as a water rat,  has a rounded one, I wanted to give Mole a better chance.

MolePostTHREEHere are some of the sketches I made while ‘looking’ for the real Mole with my stylus.

MolePostFOURRStill not sure I’ve got him, but I’m having fun trying! Enjoy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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PPBF: The Paper Bag Princess

PBPcoverAuthor: Robert Munsch
Illustrator: Michael Martchenko
Publisher: Annick Press, 1980 (75th printing in 2014!)
Ages: 4-7yrs
Themes: princesses, princes, dragons
Opening: Elizabeth was a beautiful princess. She lived in a castle and had expensive princess clothes. She was going to marry a prince named Ronald.
Summary: (from my library catalog) Princess Elizabeth outwits a dragon to save her prince, but her prince does not appreciate what she has done for him.

I like this book because: I like stories with strong female characters, that use their wits and in the end come full circle in respecting themselves! And a sassy dragon to boot. This book was recommended to me by a friend former teacher as one she loved to read to her classes year after year. Now I see why!

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Resources/activities: make a paper-mache statue, in the likeness of the one below in a public library in Canada; would make a great Halloween costume too – if you don’t live too far north!; click on the photo for more class activities at Elementary AMC.

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks, go to Susanna Hill’s Blog – HERE

SteigFEST 14: Happy birthday, Bill!

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from The Agony in the Kindergarten, Duell, Sloane and Pierce,1950

Thanks for joining me in this fourteen-day long celebration! I’ve taken the liberty of wishing Bill a happy birthday – I never met him, but I hear that’s what he liked to be called by friends, and, well, it’s his birthday!

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Publisher: Godine, 1984
Ages: 4-8yrs
Themes: creatures, volcanoes, flowers
Opening: .
Summary: (from Amazon) What would happen if every creature on land and sea were free to be as rotten as possible? If every day was a free-for-all; if plants grew barbed wire; if the ocean were poison? That’s life on Rotten Island. For creatures that slither, creep, and crawl (not to mention kick, bite, scratch, and play nasty tricks on each other), Rotten Island is paradise.But then, on a typically rotten day, something truly awful happens. Something that could spoil Rotten Island forever. Out of a bed a gravel on the scorched earth, a mysterious, beautifly flower begins to grow…

I like this book because: What could be more fun for kids than to get ugly, then uglier, mean then meaner along with horrific creatures and to have it all consume itself? I think this book in particular demonstrates well how Steig fed the child within himself  and without letting his adult brain lead, wrote a story for adults. Enough, just go read it!

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Resources/activity: this is one for the writers – young, old, and in between: let the child within write whatever it wants, whatever pleases, and whatever you do, have fun! Nothing would please the ‘birthday boy’ more! For a fine lesson in sentence transformation, check out Renee’s guest post with Michelle – HEREFor more PPBF picks, go to Susanna Hill’s blog – HERE

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Today’s tidbit: Check out this birthday post from 2011 from the wonderful father, picture book maker, and creator of the Happy Birthday Author blog, Eric Van Raepenbusch – HERE. (Photos Eric posted of his kids jumping in a leaf pile inspired the sketches for the blog banner above)

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Rotten Island, Godine, 1984

I hope you’ve already hit your libraries and your local independent booksellers in search of some of the titles shared during SteigFEST, but I have ONE REMINDER: savor them slowly, like chocolate (which Steig loved – actually, all sweets!), taking note of Steig’s shaping of beautiful phrases. And when you find a delectable mouthful (you MUST read Steig aloud) share it!

from The Agony in the Kindergarten, Duell, Sloane and Pierce,1950

from The Agony in the Kindergarten, Duell, Sloane and Pierce,1950

Further reading:

The Art of William Steig

The World of William Steig

The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker

Heart and Humor: The Picture Book Art of William Steig

The Comic Worlds of Peter Arno, William Steig, Charles Addams, and Saul Steinberg

SteigFEST 13: Doctor De Soto

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DDScoverPublisher: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1982
Ages: 4-8yrs
Themes: mice, fox, dentists
Opening: Doctor De Soto, the dentist, did very good work, so he had no end of patients. Those close to his own size – moles, chipmunks, et cetera – sat in the regular dentist’s chair.
Summary: (from my library catalog) Dr. De Soto, a mouse dentist, copes with the toothaches of various animals except those with a taste for mice, until the day a fox comes to him in great pain.

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I like this book because: though I love so many of Steig’s stories, this is my absolute favorite. Not because I have particularly fond memories of the dentist (even though I wrote a little ditty about our family dentist growing up, Dr. B.B. Levine), but because Doctor De Soto  is dedicated, just as his father was, and manages to keep his cool and have (some) compassion even in a life threatening situation and in the end outwits the fox – a “wicked, wicked creature(s)”. How could I not become Dr.De Soto’s biggest fan?

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Resources/activities: this is a great story to read and begin a discussion about trust, judgement and compassion with students – or for a lesson on dental health; for a science lesson, make ‘elephant toothpaste’ click HERE; or to make real natural toothpaste kids will like, click HERE

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Today’s tidbits: I found a dentist in Louisiana that was practicing before the book was published – would love to ask him what work has been like after the book!  And Doctor De Soto in acronym is DDS, which means Doctor of Dental Surgery. I found an Australian band called, Doctor De Soto (video below)

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SteigFEST 12: The Toy Brother

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Publisher: Harper Collins, 1996, 1st ed.
Ages: 4 and up
Themes: humorous stories, siblings, alchemy
Opening: Magnus Bede, the famous alchemist, and his happy-go-lucky wife, Eutilda, thought they had a harmonious family. But their older son Yorick, considered little Charles a first-rate pain in the pants, always occupied with something silly.
Summary: (from my library catalog) An apprentice alchemist finds that his despised kid brother is the only one who can help him when he concocts a potion which makes him the size of a peanut.

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I like this book because: who hasn’t dreamed of altering ourselves only to realize it might not be an easy thing to live with? Or to transform one’s own siblings, or a school bully? That’s why it’s so fun to watch Charles enjoy this happening to Yorick from the safety of the sofa!

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Resources/activities: play a thinking game that Steig enjoyed with his family: What Would You Rather Be? (taken from the contribution of Maggie Steig in  THE ART OF WILLIAM STEIG. Get the book. Read it!) Ask questions like, What would you rather be, a tree or a flower and have students explain why (it lives longer; it’s prettier). And read the book: Which Would You Rather Be?, illustrated by Harry Bliss

ToyBdogspotToday’s tidbit: Steig’s older brother Irwin gave William his first painting lessons. His younger brother Arthur later founded an art-supply manufacturing firm whose products were widely used by artists and graphic designers, including William.