As always, be sure to check out the Teach.Mentor.Text and Unleashing Readers blogs by Jen & Kelly, the creators of this meme, for other bloggers participating in “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?”
This week I had the privilege to take part in New England Reading Association’s Author & Illustrator Night at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. Folks, it was a bibliophile’s dream! I walked into the banquet room to find the perimeter lined with tables at which were seated over two dozen of Maine’s most influential children’s book authors and illustrators, all waiting to talk with me!
Well, not just ME, but all of us who showed up because we love connecting great kids with great books!
A trifecta of talent! Matt Tavares, Chris Van Dusen, & Paul Jeneczko at NERA!
Since then, I’ve enjoyed reading (and re-reading) old favorites and new ones by the talented artists I met that evening. So… here’s what I’ve been turning for pages this week:
The Circus Ship, written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen is a book that’s been on my radar for awhile. Van Dusen tells a masterful story in rhyme about a ship, full of circus animals and their greedy owner, that has an unexpected wreck and sinks. The animals make their way to an isle off the coast of Maine and the islanders and animals learn to coexist peacefully until the owner shows up and wants them back. I never knew the true story upon which this tale is based, but in the author’s note, Chris describes the research he did on The Royal Tar, a steamer ship that was carrying a circus, its band, and a total of 103 passengers that crashed off of Vinalhaven in 1836. While this book is based on that account, it is not a retelling of it… which just goes to show how tightly reading and writing are intertwined; the reading of one story can lead to the creation of another!
You can visit Chris at his website: www.chrisvandusen.com
You’re Wearing THAT to School?! written by Lynn Plourde and illustrated by Sue Cornelison is a charming book about Penelope the hippo, who is so excited for her first day of school! Her enthusiasm about her special outfit she’s picked out, her special lunch, and her special stuffie for show-and-tell is quickly dashed as her best friend, Tiny the mouse, explains to her about how it’s better to blend in at school rather than stand out. Penelope must decide if she will remain true to herself or try her hardest to fit in. This is a great primary level read for a fun way to discuss peer pressure and truly expressing yourself!
One Word Pearl, written by Nicole Groeneweg and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell, earned the Principal’s Award for Children’s Book of the Year from the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Pearl is a gal who loves words! She collects them in her word chest, but one day a strong wind begins to blow and Pearl’s words begin to spin and swirl all around her; so many words that she grabs her word chest and escapes from her bedroom just in time. There aren’t that many words left in her word chest, however, so Pearl decides she must use her precious words sparingly. Hence, One Word Pearl. A cool feature of this text is the number of ecclectic vocabulary words that are interspersed throughout the book. Kids could spend hours poring over the pages on a hunt for interesting and unique language! I had the privilege to meet the illustrator, Hazel, last Thursday and she was absolutely delightful! You can visit her website at: www.hazelmitchell.com
A Place for Butterflies, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Higgins Bond is a book with which I was unfamiliar before last week. It was the recipient of the Green Earth Book Award, which is awarded annually by the Newton Marasco Foundation. This book is absolutely amazing! The inside covers of the paperback edition contain maps for where certain types of butterflies can be found. The main text is easily accessible for kids to read on their own or it can be used as a read aloud as well. There are sidebars on each two-page spread which describe different types of butterflies. Higgins Bond has done a STUNNING job with the illustrations in this book! I would highly recommend it if you are doing a Science unit on butterflies or simply want an excellent example of nonfiction text to add to your classroom’s library.
www.melissa-stewart.com is the author’s website. It is a whimsical place to visit, with activities for teachers and kids!
Becoming Babe Ruth, written and illustrated by Matt Tavares, was a book that I admit, I initially had some hesitation to read. As a matter of fact, I shared with Matt on Thursday that it was the ONLY book of his that I had not yet read. Why? Well, you see, I’m a lifelong, fourth generation Red Sox fan, and when someone mentions The Bambino to a fan from Boston, we tend to get a bit on edge. After all, some say it was the Curse of the Bambino that kept the Sox from winning the World Series for 86 years… but I digress. I’m glad I did finally read it, however, because Tavares has done a magnificent job of telling the story of a orphan boy’s troubled childhood and the mentor who helped him become (arguably) one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Matt includes a comprehensive author’s note at the end that is not to be missed, as it describes his research process and more of the back story behind the story that he told. As always, Tavares’ illustrations are exceptional and add so much to the tale he tells.
His website is www.matttavares.com
Matt’s inscription on my copy of Becoming Babe Ruth
The best part about my experience at last week’s authors and illustrators night was the fact that these were all people from Maine who make great contributions to the world of children’s literature! We are fortunate to have such wonderful literary treasures in our midst!
*cross-posted @ FeltLikeReading.com
Jenn Felt is a certified K-8 teacher, K-6 Literacy Coach, and K-12 Literacy Specialist with 17 years of experience in the field of education. In addition to her work in elementary classrooms, she is an adjunct faculty member for the College of Education at the University of Maine. Jenn facilitates workshops on a variety of literacy topics at the local, regional, and national level. Currently, she is on the executive board of the Maine Reading Association and is pursuing her National Board certification in the area of literacy. Jenn is passionate about putting high-quality texts in the hands of young readers, creating learning environments for optimal student achievement, and developing strong family-school-community relationships.
She can be contacted at: LiteracyTeacherJenn@gmail.com or on twitter: @MsFelt1