New York Picture Books


The August 10 for 10 project, a roundup of picture books that teachers use in the classroom, spins out lots of good ideas for new read-alouds. And so does the Fairfield Parent article "Leap Off the Page," about books set in New York. 

I may be too late for August 10 for 10 (it's August 11th, after all), but here is a list of our favorite picture books about NYC. I have read each one of these books out loud countless times to my son, and would take them to the second grade class (where I'm a volunteer reader) in a heartbeat. Also, don't miss the blog Storied Cities, with the tagline "Reviews of Decidedly Urban Illustrated and Chapter Books for Children," for even more New York suggestions.

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed, written by Karla Kuskin and illustrated by Marc Simont (Harper & Row, 1982)

Lightship, by Brian Floca (Atheneum, 2007)

The True Story of Stellina, by Matteo Pericoli (Knopf, 2006)

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein (Roaring Brook, 2003)

Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City, written by by Janet Schulman and illustrated by Meilo Seo (Knopf, 2008)

The House on East 88th Street, by Bernard Waber (Houghton Mifflin, 1963)

The Adventures of Taxi Dog, written by Debra and Sal Barracca, and illustrated by Marc Buehner (Dial, 1990)

Two Eggs, Please, written by Sarah Weeks and illustrated by Betsy Lewin (Atheneum, 2003)

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey, by Maira Kalman (Putnam, 2002)

Abuela, written by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Elisa Kleven (Dutton, 1991)

The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats (Viking, 1962) An exhibition devoted to Keats' work starts at the Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, on September 9th and runs through January 29th. 

And Tango Makes Three, written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, and illustrated by Henry Cole (Simon & Schuster, 2005)

Redbird at Rockefeller Center, by Peter Maloney and Felicia Zekauskas (Dial, 1997)

New Poet Laureate: Philip Levine

Today the Library of Congress names a new poet laureate: Philip Levine, an eighty-three-year-old Detroit native who has written extensively about blue-collar work. Levine succeeds W.S. Merwin.

Book critic Dwight Garner writes an appreciation of Levine's work over at this morning's New York Times. "It is a plainspoken poetry ready-made, it seems, for a time of S&P downgrades, a double-dip recession and debts left unpaid," Garner says.

Readers will find poems by Levine online at the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation. From the latter, here's an excerpt from "Belle Isle, 1949". Sentimental it is not.

We stripped in the first warm spring night
and ran down into the Detroit River
to baptize ourselves in the brine
of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles,
melted snow.[...] 

Twisting Words

9781580135856 Six Sheep Sip Thick Shakes And Other Tricky Tongue Twisters
written by Brian P. Cleary and illustrated by Steve Mack
Millbrook Press, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, 2011
for grades K-4

When September rolls around, I'll be reading to a new class of second graders, so I've been on the lookout for fun books. Fun is one of my main criteria for read-aloud days, and Brian P. Cleary's Six Sheep Sip Thick Shakes and Other Tricky Tongue Twisters fits the bill well. Cleary, a prolific author of humorous grammar books and other works, even includes instructions for making up your own tongue twisters; on a page at the back of the book, he spells out exactly how tongue twisters work, which has to do with thimilar thounds in repetition. 

With one tongue twister per every page or so and big, cheerful illustrations (by Steve Mack) that ought to show well from a distance, this picture book is a quick read, providing plenty of time for practice. Be prepared for, er, schlip-ups on such sentences as "Sasha shifted as she sifted..."

Today is Nonfiction Monday at many of the children's literature blogs. You'll find a roundup of posts at Apples with Many Seeds.

image borrowed from Powell's Books

Children's Books in New England's Top 100

A few children's classics made the cut in the Boston Globe's recent list of  100 "essential" books either about New England or written by an author with ties to the region. 

Little Women (#2)

Make Way for Ducklings (#3)

Charlotte's Web (#15)

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (#54)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (#100).

Avid readers could make a case for lots of others, like anything by Dr. Seuss (born in Springfield, Mass.), Where the Wild Things Are (Sendak lives in CT) Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius, Donald Hall (author) & Barbara Cooney's (illustrator) Ox-Cart Man, Candace  Fleming's The Great and Only Barnum (not to mention many other biographies of famous New Englanders), and The Story of Ferdinand (illustrator Robert Lawson was a CT resident). 

Garden Reads: "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards, 2011

With all the interest in school and community gardens these days, the list of  "Growing Good Kids" book awards is a wonderful resource. The latest winners, announced last weekend, are as follows. (Don't miss the roster of classics, too.)

Amazon_title Water, Weed and Wait, written by Edith Hope Fine and Angela Demos Halpin; illustrated by Colleen Madden (Tricycle Press, 2010)

Nibbles: A Green Tale, by Charlotte Middleton (Marshall Cavendish, 2010)

In the Garden with Dr. Carver, written by Susan Grigsby and illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (Albert Whitman & Company, 2010)

A description from the American Horticultural Society:

The Junior Master Gardener Program and the American Horticultural Society honor engaging, inspiring works of plant, garden and ecology-themed children's literature through the new "Growing Good Kids—Excellence in Children's Literature Awards" Program.

This award recognizes a select group of children's books that are especially effective at promoting an understanding of and appreciation for gardening and the environment.

You'll find additional children's book titles about gardening today at A Year of Reading. That post inspired this one. Thanks, Franki and Mary Lee.

Summer in the Field

Junior is now a rising 7th grader. How did that happen? I could have sworn that he just finished kindergarten.

This summer, when he's not app-surfing, he wants to read more Scientists in the Field books. That's the great series from Houghton Mifflin. Some that he has not gotten to yet are Diving to a Deep Sea Volcano; Saving the Ghost of the Mountain; and Wildlife Detectives. Along with many others, he's re-reading Harry Potter, too.

What are your kids reading these days? 

Wayward Thoughts

"I like to think about things," [Isabel] said airly. "I like to let my mind wander. Our minds can come up with the most entertaining possibilities, if we let them. But most of the time, we keep them under far too close a check."

from The Careful Use of Compliments, by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon Books, 2007)

Less edgy than Barbara Pym's novels and a bit more sophisticated than Jan Karon's Mitford books, McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series is a delight. After my mother lent me The Sunday Philosophy Club (thanks, Mom!), I've gone on to read three more, and have the next waiting on the book shelf. Set in Edinburgh, the short novels, which make the most of their Scottish setting, feature a fortysomething philosopher, who really does think about lots of things and occasionally meddles in situations, if not exactly mysteries, where she shouldn't.  

Talking About "The Latte Rebellion" & Directions to the Blog Blast Tour

At Chasing Ray, Colleen Mondor talks to Sarah Stevenson, who wrote The Latte Rebellion (Flux, 2011). Stevenson's young adult novel features characters of mixed race. The author says, 

From the beginning I wanted to make this a fun story with a healthy dose of humor, not just an "issue book." Not that the issues it covers aren't important to me, but I feel very strongly that there need to be more books that have race/ethnicity/culture as a theme but which are not pigeonholed into being "ethnic books" or even problem novels...

The interview is part of the Summer Blog Blast Tour, a top-notch annual series focusing on books for children and teens. The entire schedule is here.

From English to Catalan to English

All this time, I couldn't help but wonder what my problem with English had been. It took me more than a long while to work out that English was not my language at all: British English was. A language in which syntax, vocabulary, slang and the odd turn of phrase involuntarily delineate the class origins of either the author or – should there be one – the fictional narrator. 

Matthew Tree,  "Finding My Voice in Spain," The Telegraph, 6 July 2011

The above is from a really interesting piece in which the author, a native Englishman living in Spain, talks about finding his voice in English after years of writing in Catalan. Tree's latest book is Barcelona, Catalonia: A View from the Inside. I've always wanted to visit Barcelona, and since summer is a good time to travel, if only by reading, I'm going to hunt down a copy.

Link via The Book Bench

Beach Reads (for Nature Loving Kids)

9780736820646 On Saturday I got to be the Story Lady at the beach. The "friends" group of the nearby state park, Sherwood Island, sponsors several summer read-alouds, and as the day's pinch hitter, I took over when the regular reader had to be out of town. 

I had two requirements for each book I chose: 1. Natured-themed in some way., 2. Not too long or wordy.

Nic Bishop Frogs (Scholastic 2008). Mostly we looked at (and exclaimed over) the fantastic, close-up photographs of frogs. I kept the text short and sweet, leaving out most of it, since one of the listeners was only three. It was very exciting to look at all the fwogs!

Sea, Sand, Me!, written by Patricia Hubbell and illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst. (HarperCollins, 2001) Fun for the littles: "Flippy-floppy sun hat./Wiggly-waggly toes./Mommy rubbing lotion/On my nose, nose, nose."

Actual Size, by Steve Jenkins. (Houghton Mifflin, 2004) Recommended by Adrienne at the blog What Adrienne Thinks About That, this collection of colorful, cut-paper illustrations of real-life-sized animals (and parts of animals), like bear, squid, and great white shark teeth. Everyone thought my hand would be as big as a gorilla's (um, thanks?). But it wasn't, and neither were theirs! We all held up our hands to the illustration. A keeper for my list of good second-grade books for next fall. (I'm a volunteer reader in a second-grade classroom.)

Jellies, by Twig C. George. (Millbrook, 2000) I love this book for its odd, second-person point of view. "If you were a jellyfish you would have two choices—to go up or down. That's it. Two. You would not have a brain, so you could not decide what to have for breakfast or where to go for lunch." The seven year olds in the group got it right away. We talked about the cool photos of jellyfish, too.

Herons, by Margaret Hall. (Capstone, 2004) A beginning reader from a series called "Wetland Animals," this was a good selection for the park because of all the herons that can be found there. I learned something, too. "Herons eat during the day. They sleep standing in water at night." A couple of kids imitated how a heron might sleep standing on one leg.

Whale in the Sky, by Anne Siberell. (E.P. Dutton, 1982) Relatively short for a folk tale, this "Reading Rainbow" selection is a re-telling of a Native American legend from the Pacific Northwest.  Siberell's wood-block illustrations show well to a group. 

I also had on deck, in case story time ran long:

Crab Moon, written by Ruth Horowitz and illustrated by Kate Kiesler. (Candlewick, 2000) A story about horseshoe crabs and a boy at the beach, with a dash of educational information.

A Beach Tail, written by Karen Lynn Williams and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. (Boyds Mill Press, 2010) Beautiful, realistic illustrations depict a boy drawing in the sand and getting farther and farther away from his dad. "A gentle story for young readers [that] touches on independence and problem-solving..," writes Pam at MotherReader.