Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Debate on Books of Consequence

One of my favorite books this year is Jon Klassen's This is Not My Hat. It is a book that teaches consequences for bad choices plain and simple. SPOILER ALERT: You steal a hat, you get caught and there are consequences.

Klassen's other book, I Want My Hat Back follows the same theme. There are others too. William Bee's Whatever for example.

Anyway, the debate around here is whether it a good book or not and seems to center on the fact that the crook is caught and suffers consequence (he's eaten). Some say that the statement from the culprit on page one, "This is not my hat. I stole it." makes it a book to be avoided. I say wrong, wrong, wrong.

The book brilliantly speaks to the way children think. They know they've made a bad choice when they do, for the most part, but try to rationalize their decision in their minds. Klassen illustrates that process perfectly as well as the feeling that they won't get caught.

These books are important in today's "everybody wins" culture. Children are not learning to take responsibility for their actions, how to deal with disappointment, that they have to work to succeed, or even that no means no. If we can do that through picture books that they enjoy, and they do enjoy these types of books, all the better.

There are exceptions to this rule too. Jeanne Willis's book, A Tadpole's Promise, is a horrible book I think that basically teaches kids if people who are different try to get together, tragedy ensues.

Oh, and This is Not My Hat won the Caldecott Medal this year, so there.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Not My Hat


Not My Hat 

  • by: Jon Klassen 
  • Illustrations by the author. 
  • Hardcover: 40 pages 
  • Language: English 
  • ISBN: 0763655996 
  • ISBN 13: 978-0763655990 
  • Date: 2012 
  • Price (as of the date of this post): $9.99 (Amazon without shipping) 
  • Where to buy? Amazon.com


I LOVE this book! I really like books that make kids laugh but also cause them to think and this one does. Books of consequence, like When Charlie McButton Lost Power and Whatever teach through entertaining story lines and expressive illustrations. This is another book from that shelf.

Fans of Mr. Klassen will recognize familiar themes from his other book, I Want My Hat Back. Some may dismiss it as a retread of the first book and for them I am sorry.

In both books an animal has something stolen, goes looking for it and there are consequences for the perpetrator. But the genius of Not My Hat over I Want My Hat Back is that the story is told from the perspective of the perpetrator and not the victim. We hear child-like explanations throughout and they are spot on.

The illustrations by the author have an earthy and organic feel to them. They are beautiful and suit the story telling perfectly. I particularly like the expressions on the victim's face as the story progresses.

This is a great book, there I go repeating myself, but really...a great book. He is a Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor Award winner after all. Go get it.

Content: 5/5
Illustrations: 5/5
Concept: 5/5
Quality: 5/5
Price: 5/5

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Red Lemon

The Red Lemon
          • by: Bob Staake
          • Illustrations by the author.
          • Hardcover: 40 pages
          • Language: English
          • ISBN 13: 978-0375835933
          • Date: 2006
          • Price (as of the date of this post): $10.17 (Amazon without shipping)
          • Where to buy? Amazon.com

          I am torn by this book.

          I think that the illustrations are wonderful and have a very graphic artsy feel to them and I am a sucker for good illustrations. The textures and gradients make them pop.

          My issue is the text.

          I discovered the book on the shelf of a kindergarten room in which I have bus duty (waiting in the room with a bunch of kids that ride the same bus until the bus arrives at school to pick them up). I have read them many of my favorites from Charlie McButton to Our Tree Named Steve and the audience, which ranges from k-2, are a good cross section of the school.

          They liked the book while I read it to them. They didn't love it but did seem to enjoy it and made references on every page about the size of the farmer.

          They were engaged all the way up to the end. When we finished the book there was a stunned silence.

          "That's it?" One of them asked.

          I looked at one of the second grade boys, he shrugged his shoulders. I looked at the other kids and their faces bore confused and questioning looks.

          We read it again to see where we had missed something. Some message that made the ending, or lack there of, make sense. Nothing the second time around either.

          Mrs. Ikura Soup says that she thinks the message is don't throw away something until you know what it's worth. Don't just dismiss something potentially valuable without thought.

          Others often compare Straake to Dr. Seuss and those are huge shoes to fill. He is not Dr. Seuss, no one but the doctor himself is.

          The book is cute looking but left us feeling cheated and unsatisfied. Take a pass on this one I think.

          Content: 2/5
          Illustrations: 4/5
          Concept: 2/5
          Quality: 5/5
          Price: 3/5


          Tuesday, August 31, 2010

          Our Tree Named Steve

          Our Tree Named Steve
          • by: Alan Zwiebel
          • Illustrated: David Catrow
          • Hardcover: 32 pages
          • Language: English
          • ISBN-13: 978-0399237225
          • Date: 2005
          • Price: (without shipping) $11.99 USD as of the date of this posting.
          • Where to buy: amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/)
          This is a book that is amazing, touching and full of surprises.

          The tree, who was named Steve by a toddler who couldn't pronounce the word tree, shows the true meaning of friendship but not in an anthropomorphic way as in Silverstein's "The Giving Tree".

          Steve is spared by the family when their house is built. Hey stands by stoically, as trees do, and watches the family grow. He helps in a way that is all tree. You never feel that he is anything but a tree and that makes the book far more emotional.
          It is touching and wonderful.

          Steve is brought to life by one of my favorite illustrators, David Catrow. Mr. Catrow was also responsible for bringing Patty Lovell's Molly Lou Melon to glorious life. He has also showed us, with the fine prose penned by Karen Beaumont, what happens when one decides I Ain't Gonna Paint No More (review here). Another fave Catrow book for me is I Wanna Iguana written by Karen Oloff.

          Buy this book, read this book and if, at the end, you are not a little misty, have your pulse checked.


          Content: 5/5
          Illustrations: 5/5
          Concept: 5/5
          Quality: 5/5
          Price: 5/5

          Thursday, November 19, 2009

          Quick Hits From The Book Fair

          Here are some quick hits from the Scholastic Book Fair going on this week at my School.

          Dear Deer by: Gene Barretta. One of the best illustrations of homophones I have ever seen. Witty and clever it will keep your reader engaged and might even prompt them to come up with some of their own.
          • Pub. Date: September 2007
          • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
          • Format: Hardcover, 40pp
          • ISBN-13: 9780805081046
          • ISBN: 0805081046
          • $12.95 at Barnes and Noble
          The Curious Garden by: Peter Brown. Inspired by New York's High Line Park this is the book about adaptive re-use. In it we have Liam, a boy, who explores a derelict raised train line running through his city. We watch him nurture the plants that grow there and soon the whole structure is covered by garden. I think that adaptive re-use is something every child should be exposed to and this is the books that does just that.

          Also, Peter Brown, author of Chowder, is one of the few authors whose books I buy on faith alone. I have yet to be disappointed.
          • Pub. Date: April 2009
          • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
          • Format: Hardcover, 40pp
          • ISBN-13: 9780316015479
          • ISBN: 0316015474
          • $12.23 at BN.com

          Not Norman: A Goldfish Story. by: Kelly Bennett. Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. A book both about buyer's remorse and giving something a chance before abandoning it, this is the story of a young boy who has to have a goldfish, Norman. Once Norman is home however our young fish owner has second thoughts and decides to "trade up". Will he or won't he?

          A great illustration of the need to pauase before making snap decisions done with a wonderful sense of humor and delightful illustrations.

          • Pub. Date: March 2008
          • Publisher: Candlewick Press
          • Format: Paperback, 32pp
          • ISBN-13: 9780763627638
          • ISBN: 0763627631
          • $5.03 at BN.com
          The Very Cranky Bear. by: Nick Bland. It is raining and cold in the Jingle, Jangle Jungle and a group of friends set out to find a warm and dry place to wait out the storm. They find bear's cave and move right in without asking permission. When bear reacts in a slightly less that hospitable manner some of them decide that they know best how to make him less cranky, they don't.

          A book about asking before taking, about listening to people before deciding what's best for them, a book you should read to your kids.

          I have only seen this in my Scholastic Book Fair. Amazon has it listed as unavailable and BN does not list it at all. A search of Scholastic's website, one of the most confusing there is, resulted in nothing too. Too bad, this is a book every kid should see.

          Always in Trouble by: Connie Demas. Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. When I was a lad, I love saying that, we had a dog named Chipper. He was a great dog and lived to be about 14. He was small but with the heart of a Viking Warrior. He meant well and yet was never able to be a 100% "good dog".

          I think that is true about all of us and it's certainly true with the dog, Toby, in this story. I believe that deep down there is a good dog in Toby but let's face it, he is a dog and a dog can only be good sometimes.

          A book about understanding.
          • Pub. Date: January 2009
          • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
          • Format: Hardcover, 40pp
          • ISBN-13: 9780545024532
          • ISBN: 0545024536
          • $ 14.52 at BN.com

          Thursday, November 20, 2008

          I'm The Biggest Thing In The Ocean

          I'm The Biggest Thing In The Ocean
          by: Kevin Sperry
          Hardcover: 32 pages
          Language: English
          ISBN-13: 978-0803731929
          Date: Dial 2007
          Price: (without shipping) $11.55 USD as of the date of this posting
          Where to buy: amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/)

          We all know that one should not brag...oh wait...we all may not. Be that as it may this book is a terrific illustration of why not.

          In it we meet a Giant Squid. It brags "I'm the biggest thing in the ocean!" Then proceeds to show us everything that it is indeed bigger than; shrimp, clams, various fish and other sea creatures. There is, isn't there always, something that it is not larger than and it meets this creature with perhaps predictable consequences.

          The message is a simple one, when you brag, chances are that there is someone else better even than you and, it is fortunate that you don't live in the sea, you will look foolish for your bragging.

          Content: 5/5
          Illustrations: 5/5
          Concept: 5/5
          Quality: 5/5
          Price: 5/5

          Sunday, June 22, 2008

          I Ain't Gonna Paint No More

          I Ain't Gonna Paint No More
          by: Karen Beaumont
          Illustrated by: David Catrow
          Paperback: 32 pages
          Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
          Language: English
          ISBN-13: 978-0152024888
          Date: 2005
          Price: (without shipping) $10.55 USD as of the date of this posting
          Where to buy: amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com)

          I know "ain't" is not quite proper English.

          But, that's ok. This is a rhyming, fun crazy book that shows young readers rhyming prose. Every time I have read the book to students the entire group gets into guessing which part of his body the kid is going to paint next.

          There are a few cautions.


          1. The kid paints the whole house. An explanation about books vs real life may be in order.

          2. The kid does paint his butt and the word butt is used.
          That's it. Fun, fun, fun with Catrow's fantastic illustrations. A winning combo.


          Message:
          [Parents] Sometimes things we feel are inappropriate are use full teaching tools.
          [Kids] Just because someone in a book (or tv or theater) does something that shows bad judgment or insensitivity to other peoples feelings or property does not mean that you should.

          Content: 5/5
          Illustrations: 5/5
          Concept: 4.5/5
          Quality: 5/5
          Price: 5/5

          I'm Still Here in the Bathtub

          I'm Still Here in the Bathtub
          by: Alan Katz
          Illustrated by: David Catrow
          Paperback: 32 pages
          Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
          Language: English
          ISBN-10: 0689845510
          Date: 2003
          Price: (without shipping) $6.39 USD as of the date of this posting
          Where to buy: Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com)

          I initially got this book on an impulse. It was prompted by the fact that David Catrow did the illustrations. Then, when I got home, I started through the book.

          "This is stupid", I thought, "Just a rehashing of familiar tunes with semi-clever new lyrics."

          But I am old and may have missed a point or two initially.

          That, is an understatement.

          The thing is, in the classrooms that have this book in the k-2 school where I work this is one of the most popular books on the book shelf.

          It teaches a lost art to the very young, that is the art of parody.

          This is a goofy, silly, sometimes potty-humor-esque romp through songs that your kids will love and you'll think are semi-stupid and worthless.

          Get over it, it's not about us adults.

          The kids will have fun and they'll have the knowledge of song parody installed along with the other creative brainware that these books install into their heads for use later in life.

          And that, is a good thing.

          Message:
          [Parents] Just becaue we don't get it doesn't mean it's not good.
          [Kids] What new lyrics can you make up?

          Content: 4.5/5
          Illustrations: 5/5
          Concept: 4.5/5
          Quality: 5/5
          Price: 5/5

          Dogku

          Dogku
          by: Andrew Clements
          Illustrated by: Tim Bowers
          Hardcover: 40 pages
          Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
          Language: English
          ISBN-13: 978-0689858239
          Date: 2007
          Price: (without shipping) $11.55 USD as of the date of this posting
          Where to buy: Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com)

          First off, I love Haiku. I written two books in Haiku. So the concept of an unconventional use of the poetic device or style is something I welcome.

          This is the story of a stray looking for a new home. All seems to be going along swimmingly until the word "pound" is mentioned (you may need to explain that in this case "pound" has nothing to do with animal confinement).

          This an adorable book.

          When I saw it initially, at a Scholastic Book Fair, I was intrigued but a little apprehensive. Could the reality of the book live up to what I imagined? It does and Mr. Bowers illustrations aide in making thins a great book let alone a great way to add haiku into your child's life.

          Message:
          [Parents] Haiku is fun, embrace it...oh....and can we keep him can we huh huh huh?.
          [Kids] Learn to write as fast as you can, you can do really cool things with words!

          Content: 5/5
          Illustrations: 5/5
          Concept: 5/5
          Quality: 5/5
          Price: 5/5

          Bad Day at Riverbend

          Bad Day at Riverbend
          by: Chris Van Allsburg
          Illustrated by: The Author
          Hardcover: 32 pages
          Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
          Language: English
          ISBN-13: 9780395673478
          Date: 1995
          Price: (without shipping) $19.95 USD as of the date of this posting
          Where to buy: Barnes and Noble (http://www.bn.com)

          A day dawns like any other in the small western town of Riverbend, but something is about to rock the very foundation, and in fact the beliefs, on which the small town is built.

          This an amazing book.

          Allsberg, who also wrote and illustrated Jumanji and The Polar Express as well as many others, seems to write from a slightly dark and refreshingly twisted point of view. His books provoke thought, "A Ha!" and "OMG!" moments with the turn of every page. This book is a shining example of his ability in that regard.

          While I can not say any more about the story for fear of giving it all away, suffice it to say that the first time I saw the book read, I ran out and got it. It has been a hit with the kids I read to for a year now.

          We don't know 100% how kids thought processes are wired and programmed as they develop, I can only assume that books that entertain and yet provide discovery and provoke thought help to make smarter and more creative kids. If you agree, then Bad Day at Riverbend is a must have for your bookcase.

          Message:
          [Parents] Good old fashioned coloring is good (but this is not a coloring book).
          [Kids] Sometimes things happen that are unexpected and have no explanation. We just have to deal with it.

          Content: 5/5
          Illustrations: 5/5
          Concept: 5/5
          Quality: 5/5
          Price: 4/5