Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Feature -- Children's Book Reviews

I have decided that we are going to start featuring some book reviews of children's books on this blog.  I have noticed that a lot of parents have a hard time choosing really good books for their kids to read, that the kids are also really into.  I think about this especially when we go to story time at the library.  Many times the stories chosen for the older kids (ages 2 and up) are really not great books.  In fact, some of them are just, for lack of a better word, dumb, and Islwyn is not interested in them in the slightest.  Also, I just had a conversation the other other day with a couple of moms after story time.  They were looking for books--but both stated how hard it is to look for books at the library and how they usually just go to the book cart where the books that were just returned, but not shelved yet, are temporarily stored.  We have an AMAZING children's department at the Bangor Public Library.  But there are so many books I think it is just too overwhelming.

This got me thinking.  Since I am a reading specialist, taught first grade, and took every children's lit class I could in undergrad and graduate school, maybe I could do some reviews and give people some ideas of good books.  While I am by no means an expert on children's books, I was fortunate enough to take classes from and work with a number of people who are experts.  Also, I am lucky enough to have a mother-in-law who ran a children's book shop for years and years and always has really great ideas
 about quality literature for children.  If anyone wants to write a guest post featuring a favorite book of theirs, or even has ideas for me, let me know.

I also want to eventually branch out into giving tips and ideas about strategies to use when reading with your child.  Strategies for differe
nt ages and stages of development.  Etc.  This is something I have a lot of experience with and there are a lot of really fairly easy things you can do to make reading even more of an active process for your child.  

So, to start this little 'segment' of Islwyn's blog, I want to talk about one of my favorite authors and illustrators, Lois Lenski.  

My first experience with Lois Lenski was when I was about 8 years old and my mom gave me Betsy and Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace.  Lenski did the illustrations for that book.  She was an extremely prolific writer and illustrator--writing about 100 books herself, and illustrating around 50 books for other authors.  She was awarded the Newbery Medal for her book Strawberry Girl.  

Recently, Islwyn and I re-discovered her books at the library.  We checked out Cowboy Small and read it at least twice a day for the entire 3 weeks we had it at home.  The illustrations are simple and uncluttered, but also include details for the child to learn about the parts of the horse's gear and cowboy's clothes etc.  In the older printing of the books it looks like they were printed using only two or three colors.  The copy of the book we checked out was an early printing and the colors used were black, brown, and white I think.  But I noticed in the new printings, they use full color.  The picture above illustrates how the new printings of the book look.  

The front page of the book is an illustration of Cowboy Small with all of his cowboy gear around him.  Each part of his clothing is labelled--so every time we read the book we had to start by pointing out his chaps, boots, hat, handkerchief, etc.  Then the books goes through describing Cowboy Small's day on the ranch.  The story is really a perfect blend of fiction and non-fiction.  You learn about the real names of all the things cowboys wear and all the parts of the horse and its saddle.  You also learn about typical things that happen on a ranch and what a cowboy does.  The main character, Cowboy Small, is a little boy, so the children reading it can relate to him.  The text is simple and easy to follow, but uses all the correct words for everything too.

Islwyn loved this book!  There is a whole series of Small books.  There is one about flying an airplane, another about a train, etc.  There are quite a few "Small" books.  Unfortunately, they are almost impossible to find at books stores--around here at least.  I did a little reconnaissance on this--we went to the local children's book shop downtown.  I love this store--they have a pretty great selection.  They had ONE Lois Lenski book.  Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed.  So last night I checked at Borders, they didn't even have one of her books. I think it is pretty sad that some of these old classic books--that are really good literature--are impossible to find.  While you have no trouble finding a book featuring Disney characters or Sesame Street characters.  Depressing.  


Anonymous said...

Great idea Sarah. I'll bet this really takes off.
Grandma D

Laura Fenske said...

Love it Sarah! I am totally going to try to find some of those "small" books at our library here...hopefully they carry them!

Becky said...

Yaaaaaayyyyyy!!!!! I am SOOOO glad you are doing this! I am constantly searching for good books for the boys and am just like the other mothers - totally overwhelmed with the number of books and undereducated on what are good authors. I hope that in the future you will also branch out into books for early readers! THANK YOU!!!!

Mical said...

The absolute BEST children's picture book is "The Day Teddy Beddy Bear Got Lost". I used to read that book over and over. Of course, I don't even know if it is still in print or where my copy was.

Besides that one I obviously don't have any need to have picture books and can't remember any more. I can chime in once you get to chapter books - you have no idea how excited I am that Wyatt at least is starting to be able to read!! :)

Tracy said...

Awesome idea, Sarah!!! I'll definitely be checking in to see the latest review. Abbie loves to read, and Daniel likes to chew on the books. :-)

A great website to find used and out of print books is I've gotten tons of things from them, including great children's books for the kids for a steal. The website features books from various sellers, and if you order multiple books, watch the shipping, because you'll get charged shipping costs for each seller.

Thanks again for doing reviews!!

TheMuscatoHansens said...

YAY! We are so excited as I am one of the Mom's who grabs from the book cart because I don't have time to LOOK for books with AnaSofia racing around. She loves the pilot small book that we checked out last week!