There are so many everyday opportunities to talk with your young child about letters and numbers and other early literacy concepts -- things your child knows about reading and writing before they can actually read and write. You can point out letters on street signs and store names, or note the numbers on speed limit signs and addresses on buildings. We are reinforcing this idea that developing a child's knowledge of letters, numbers, colors, shapes, sizes, etc. can happen in small ways every day, by creating "Early Literacy Spot" activities throughout the children's area of the Main Library.
We librarian types tend to pay a lot of attention to award-winning books, although we can't deny we're often a little disappointed when our personal favorites don't win. The Mildred L. Batchelder award is given each year by the ALA's Association for Library Service to Children "...to the most outstanding children's book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States."
With a wry wit honed as an Emmy Award winning writer and animator for Sesame Street, author and illustrator Mo Willems broke into the world of Children's Literature in a big way in 2003 with a bus obsessed pigeon. The following year he endeared himself to children and parents alike with his spot on depiction of a distraught toddler who has lost her stuffed animal in the picturebook Knuffle Bunny, which also earned Willems his second Caldecott Honor medal from the American Library Association (ALA).
But it was Willems' Elephant and Piggie books for early readers that secured his renown as "the Dr. Seuss of this generation." In fact, his first Elephant and Piggie book: There is a Bird on Your Head! received the 2008 Geisel Award Medal, which the ALA gives to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year. The winners are recognized especially for their ability to creatively and imaginatively engage children in reading. Willems won the Geisel Award again in 2009 for his second Elephant and Piggie book: Are You Ready to Play Outside? He received the Geisel Honor Award in 2011 and 2012 for the Elephant and Piggie stories: We Are in a Book! and I Broke My Trunk.
If you haven't yet introduced your beginner reader to an Elephant and Piggie story -- there are now 17 to choose from -- each one as delightful as the next, all featuring large type and short sentences that manage to convey the charming friendship Elephant and Piggie share. (If Willems is this generation's Dr. Seuss, Elephant and Piggie are this generation's Frog and Toad -- good friends who appear in the beginner reader stories by Arnold Lobel.)
Whether you are a brand new or longtime fan of Elephant and Piggie, you are sure to enjoy meeting them this Friday, April 13 at 4:30 pm when we will be sharing some of their stories, a short film, and a craft celebrating their adventures together. Call us at 349-3100, or register online to reserve a seat. And stop by the reference desk between 2:30 and 4 pm Friday afternoon to try out the "Don't Let the Pigeon Run this App" activity we have on our iPads. In the meantime, you can create a dance for Elephant and Piggie at The Pigeon Presents website, or visit Mo Willems' website to find more fun and games!
Sometimes the simplest of stories convey complex ideas most beautifully. More by I.C. Springman has just a few words on each page, but the illustrations vividly depict the hazards of collecting too much "stuff." The story features a magpie - a crow-like bird that folklore recognizes for its attraction to shiny objects -- and which commonly describes someone who collects odds and ends of little value. (I do believe I am parent to a couple of magpies!)
As a young child, my older sister taught me a version of a song about the doomed ship Titanic that was so jolly in tone, it belied the sober meaning of the lyrics. I merrily sang/yelled, "Husbands and wives, little children lost their lives, it was sad when the great ship went down...to the bottom of the sea! Glug glug glug glug!" having no idea I was singing about a true tragedy.
Author Barry Denenberg, using the conceit of a fictional newspaper and reporter, brings the historical event roaring back to life in Titanic Sinks! Since we are just weeks away from the 100th anniversary of the sinking on April 15, 1912, I immersed myself (sorry!) in the make-believe correspondent's excited dispatches to his newspaper.
One of the great things about good books is that they can reveal life through another person's eyes. That revelation is especially engaging when the character has some barrier to ordinary self expression. I recently read two fine books that offer fresh perspectives on school and life in general from characters who have trouble communicating with the world.
In 1984, Jumanji author Chris Van Allsburg compiled a storybook made up only of images with captions that hint at the fantastical and the scary, the strange and the beautiful. These mysterious illustrations were said to come straight from a man named Harris Burdick and, in the years since the pictures reached the public, the illustrations in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick have been used as a storytelling guide and even a jumping off point to help kids to their own fiction.
More recently, Van Allsburg hired a list of favorite children's authors to interpret the images from Van Allsburg's popular work. The result is The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a 221 page compilation of short stories that flesh out the weird and fantastical elements present in Van Allsburg's original images. Authors ranging from Sherman Alexie to Stephen King, from Walter Dean Myers to Kate DiCamillo and many, many more all lend their voices to very different types of stories. The compilation also features an introduction from favorite, but oddball, author Lemony Snicket.
Friday, March 2 is Dr. Seuss' Birthday! Visit the Main Library Children's Dept. Friday afternoon between 4 and 5:30 pm and make a joyful noise using the Dr. Seuss Band app for iPad. We'll have one of our iPads out at the "Ask Questions Here" desk for you to try. You can create your own crazy musical instrument and compose your own song. (If you have your own iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, you can download this app for free, for a limited time. See the iTunes Preview page for details.)
Jane Goodall has had a lovely life. From her childhood love of the outdoors to the chance day she contacted famed scientist Louis Leakey, she always knew what she wanted to do: go to Africa and work to help animals. In her life, Goodall has been many things, including an activist for the environment and a UN Ambassador of Peace; however she is most known for her lengthy career working with chimpanzees. In 2011, two books were created that help us to explore Jane's life from its roots to the present.
February is National African American History Month, and fittingly, Kadir Nelson's Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, recently won the American Library Association's 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award. Nelson has provided an overarching introduction to the difficult history of African Americans, told in the voice of an elderly female whose grandfather was born in Africa and was kidnapped and taken to America as a slave at age six.