Monday, July 18, 2011

Picture book reviews: short and sweet

I read a lot of picture books throughout the course of a year. Even though I teach 6th grade, you'd be surprised at how useful they can be in a middle school classroom. One of the easiest ways to adapt them to middle school is to find a way to apply it to their writing. If you're reading them a picture book about a parent's attempt to read their child a story before bed, but the child keeps interrupting, (a la, Interrupting Chicken) then have them write about a special bedtime ritual they remember from when they were younger. Just because the book is written for a younger audience doesn't mean the teachable moments remain with only one age group.

Chick 'n' Pug by Jennifer Sattler
Published: September 2010 by Bloomsbury

Chick idolizes his hero, WonderPug, so when he comes across a pug in real life, he is "all aflutter with excitement." Little does Chick know that his hero is a bit of a sloth.

I must admit that I possess extreme bias when reviewing books with pugs because I have two pugs of my own and they are like my children. So anything that I say about a pug book should be taken with a grain of salt.

Having said that, this book has the most adorable illustrations, especially of the pug, whose rotund little sleeping body reminds me so much of my own pug Frank. 

Ollie & Moon by Diane Kredensor, photographed by Sandra Kress
Published: April 2011 by Random House 

Best friends Ollie and Moon have a very special relationship. Ollie loves surprising Moon and Moon equally loves guessing Ollie's surprises. As they wander the streets of Paris, Moon must continue to try to guess at the really big surprise Moon has in store for her.   

I loved the combination of photographs and illustrations. I thought that was a really unique feature and makes the book stand out among other children's picture books. And the fact that this story takes place on the streets of Paris made it all the more endearing. 

Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery, illustrated by Jean Cassels
Published: August 2008 by Walker Books for Young Readers 

Two Bobbies is the true story of a dog and a cat that stick together after they are left behind by their family during Hurricane Katrina. Theirs is a story of survival, perseverance, loyalty, and, most of all, friendship. If you are an animal lover or have any sort of heart, this book will move you to tears.  

No One But You by Douglas Wood, illustrated by PJ Lynch
Published: May 2011 by Candelwick Press 

This book is a beautiful reminder for kids and adults alike to always stop and experience the simple things in life. The writing and illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. This would be a great text to use to teach students about sensory details. 

Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Beth Adams
Published: August 2010 by Tricycle Press

After Katie gets caught bullying a classmate, she is required to meet with the school counselor on a regular basis to rehabilitate her.

While I think this book has a lot of worthwhile material to help teach students about how to deal with bullying, I just didn't buy Katie converting to "rehabilitation mode" so quickly. I understand that the exposition in a picture book has to be fairly brief, but very rarely do bullies convert so quickly. Not to mention how easily Katie's parents were willing to accept that their daughter was a bully. More often than not, the parents' reaction is more like, "My daughter would never do anything like that."

Despite my criticisms, this book is a great impetus for discussing the logistics of how to handle bullying with kids, whether you're being bullied or you're a bystander.

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