There’s no doubt about it, going to school for the very first time can be nerve-wracking. It is no wonder that Splat is wide awake bright and early.
When mom opens his bedroom door, his first instinct is to pull the covers over his head. When that doesn’t work, Splat tries all sorts of tactics to delay leaving for school. He can’t find socks and his hair is a mess. One thing he knows for sure, having a friend in his lunchbox is certain to help. Splat pops Seymour the Mouse into his lunchbox and sets out to meet his new teacher and classmates.
Mrs. Wimpydimple and Splat’s new classmates are very welcoming and soon Splat is full of questions. He is especially curious to know why cats chase mice! (A definite opportunity to introduce the concept of foreshadowing) When it is finally lunchtime, Splat opens his lunchbox and his small rodent friend, Seymour is suddenly the centre of attention – and not in a good way. Splat’s new classmates do exactly what readers will predict – the chase is on!
Engaging, playful illustrations provide many details for young children to notice and enjoy. A mostly grey and black color palette is highlighted with vibrant yellow and red details that pop off the page. Those who are able to read will love the signs in the storefront windows and Mrs. Wimpydimple’s blackboard illustrations.
Light, breezy, rhythmic and upbeat, Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes shares a message of resilience that will appeal to children and adults. Pete begins his day with bright, white new shoes. When he steps onto a pile of strawberries, his shoes turn red and, when he encounters blueberries, his shoes turn blue. Regardless of what poor Pete has to walk through, he maintains his happy outlook. Very popular with young children who enjoy learning and singing about colors, Pete also has a message for older children and adults:
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” Helen Keller
An excellent choice for young readers who will benefit from the repetitive and predictable text, Pete’s coolness is oh so groovy!
Over the weekend, I read a completely charming and adorable picture book called Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. I had never heard of it, so when my daughter asked to read it to me, and my friend said it was great, I sat back and listened. Its language is simple, perfect for early readers and the message is strong, perfect for kids of all ages. Pete is a cat who likes his shoes, which start out white. As the book progresses and Pete steps into some different things, such as strawberries, blueberries, and mud, his shoes change colors. Though the message is clear throughtout, I love that the story ends by telling the moral of Pete’s story. No matter what color your shoes or what happens, go with it; carry on and be okay. The multicolored shoes, of course, can be substituted for a wide multitude of things.
People often see picture books as a way to engage young children, but their message can be very important to older children as well. In fact, sometimes, the simple but powerful messages in a picture book can be more meaningful than a long novel, particularly for struggling readers. Even for strong readers; who are used to making sense of text, finding connections, predicting, and summarizing. Ask them to give you the moral and key points of a picture book and they often get stumped. They stopped reading such books when they were around eight or nine so now, to them, those books are for little kids learning to read. They forgot, or don’t see, the message that is embedded in most pictures books and young children’s tales. Taking them back to those stories and seeing what they pull from it, is a true delight. Every kid loves to be read to.
My grade five class, whom I read to almost every day, was asked by our librarian if they wanted to hear a story. There was a resounding yes. They all sat on the carpet in front of her rocking chair, listening to her animated voices. They did exactly what we want kids to do; they fell into the story. They engaged and enjoyed. They saw the moral and the next day, when they did their writing, the book was mentioned more than once. Picture books are powerful tools, regardless of a person’s age. This is why, at the workshops I attend, there are frequently picture books used to share and show strategies and ways to improve reading levels. Picture books connect; they draw you in and charm you in a short amount of time. You can never be too old for that.
When Yoko’s mom packs her favourite things for lunch, Yoko happily boards the school bus and enjoys the morning with her classmates. At lunchtime,
Yoko opened the willow-covered cooler. Inside was her favourite sushi. Tucked in the rice rolls were the crispiest cucumber, the pinkest shrimp, the greenest seaweed, and the tastiest tuna.
When a classmate notices Yoko’s lunch, he remarks, “What’s in your lunch? … Ick! It’s green! It’s seaweed!”
Poor Yoko, before long all of her classmates are laughing about the food in her lunch and she is heartbroken. Fortunately, her teacher, Mrs. Jenkins is alert to the problem and she devises a solution. She announces there will be an International Food Day at Yoko’s school.
Sadly, on the day of the special event, all her classmates avoid Yoko’s sushi. Finally, Timothy gives it a try. He loves the delicious sushi and he’d like to eat it again the following day. Yoko has found a friend. The following day, they push their desks together and enjoy a lovely lunch.
Yoko is a heartwarming picture book about teasing and acceptance. It lends itself well to discussions about tolerance and celebrating our differences. Yoko will appeal to children in preschool and kindergarten.
For fans of this book, Yoko also appears in Yoko’s Show and Tell, Yoko Writes Her Name, Yoko’s Paper Cranes.
Add this anti bullying picture book to your bookshelf –
The Mutts comic strip appears in over 700 newspapers and Mooch the Cat is one member of a diverse “cast” of characters appearing in the cartoons. Whether you are a fan of the comic strip or not, South and Mooch are sure to charm you in this gentle story of friendship and acceptance.
As the last leaf detaches from a tree, a large flock of yellow songbirds lifts to the sky. It is time to head South for the winter. The golden leaf slowly drifts downward until it lands on a snoozing bird. Awakened suddenly by the intrusive leaf, the drowsy bird is shocked to discover an empty tree. Where is the flock? Agitated and suddenly very lonely, the bird seeks help from Mooch and is devastated to learn that the flock has left for warmer climes.
Mooch pauses, thinks and extends his paw. Mooch will help the errant bird find the flock. Together, the two unlikely friends travel through a busy city, into a forest and through a snowstorm as they search for the flock. At times, Mooch carries the tired bird on his back. The unexpected friendship between the two deepens. When the weary pair finally hear the sweet sounds of the songbirds, they share a tender moment before parting company. Satisfied, Mooch returns home and curls up by a welcoming fire. Winter has arrived and his job is done.
South themes include loneliness, kindness, friendship and social responsibility. Printed on recycled paper, the almost-sepia tones match the mood and a story set in Autumn beautifully. Well suited to children aged four and up, South will be equally enjoyed by adults.
When my boys first ventured into reading grade one chapter books, they were delighted to discover Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. Featuring a wonderful friendship and many happy adventures, the Frog and Toad series has been a favourite with young readers for decades.
James Howe’s latest book, Houndlsey and Catina is very reminiscent of the Frog and Toad series. Howe is famous for Bunnicula (Today Vegetables… Tomorrow the World). Houndlsey and Catina will appeal to younger readers who prefer shorter, generously illustrated chapters and less text. It will likely suit a child reading at a mid to late grade one level.
Houndlsey and Catina written by James Howe and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay Chapter book series for kindergarten – grade three published by Candlewick Press
Illustrated beautifully by Marie-Louis Gay, Houndlsey and Catina tells of Catina’s desire to write a prize-winning book and Houndleys’ wish to win a cooking contest. Together, they help us see that being friends “is better than being famous..” This is a lovely tribute to friendship.
Heave Ho! Written by Heinz Janisch and illustrated by Carola Holland Imagine, a refreshing and surprising story told in just twelve sentences! Engaging illustrations introduce a cat, a dog and a trio of mice. Together, they take on a tricky job and discover they are ‘up’ to the challenge. Good fun.
I hope you have discovered the not-to-be missed Caldecott Honor book, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type. In Dooby Dooby Moo we once again encounter Farmer Brown and his irrepressible animals. With good cause, Farmer Brown is suspicious that something is going on behind the barn door. In fact, Duck is determined to win a trampoline in the upcoming Talent Show. He is busy organizing rehearsals of “Home on the Range” and “Born to be Wild.” This book’s a sure ‘winner.’
Desmond is the sort who likes to remain inconspicuous. Rather than stand out, he likes to blend in and he takes care to hide his true personality. “Then one day someone new came to school. Her name was Gloria and she liked to be noticed. ” Gloria is not at all like her classmates, she notices Desmond even when he is doing his very best to disappear. When Gloria notices that Desmond shares her taste in books, she asks if she can read with him. Gloria and Desmond companionably share the book and Desmond is transformed. The following day Desmond and Gloria play together, each respecting the other. Before long Desmond feels and looks different – he wonders why he ever wanted to disappear.
Disappearing Desmond has a lovely message about finding new friends and respecting differences. Cheerful, acrylic illustrations will have strong appeal for young readers as they search for Desmond. Very observant readers will notice and appreciate the two posters on the library wall.
The jury’s comments were as follows: “In Cat’s Night Out, Jon Klassen’s highly imaginative and clever illustrations, with their subdued, delicate colours and their minimal movement, mysteriously transform a smoky New York night into a grooving and pulsating background for his cool dancing cats.”
My thoughts about Cat’s Night Out”… It’s Saturday night and, as Easy Street grows dark, it is time for the neighborhood felines to kick up their heels. Featuring evocative illustrations that include hidden numbers, this rhyming counting book also includes a wide variety of dance steps, costumes and vocabulary. Highly recommended.
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