#IMWAYR – Oct 3, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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Hello October!!

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School’s First Day of School

I’m a bit tardy to the back-to-school books party, but let me tell you, this book. Wow…oh wow…This book is stunning. Absolutely stunning.

It’s the first day of school at the brand new Frederick Douglass Elementary, and there are first-day jitters all around. Even the school is nervous! What if he doesn’t like the children? What if they don’t like him?

The deceptively simple story pairs beautifully with Christian Robinson’s almost childlike illustrations that capture the many different emotions at play on the first day of school.

Beyond being a comforting back to school story for nervous young students, School’s First Day of School is also a wonderful story for encouraging discussions of empathy and understanding. In one scene, for example, School intentionally sprays a young student with water, which many children will immediately identify as being “bad” or “naughty” behaviour. But if we look closer, we really that School did this because he was hurt and upset, and because he was responding to the mean comments and actions of some of the school children. By sharing and talking about stories like this, we can encourage children to look beyond the surface, and to consider why people might act or respond the way they do, and consider the impact our words and actions might have on others. It’s not about justifying or excusing behaviour – even School realises that his actions were naughty – but rather about learning to care about others, and try to understand their feelings and their point of view.

In a funny way, School’s First Day of School is also a loving reminder to us grown-ups that the little ones we work with are all unique, complex individuals. It’s unfortunately all too easy to judge or come to conclusions about children based on their words or actions, without considering the motivations behind them, and considering what we might do to uncover the roots behind different behaviours.

School’s First Day of School is a perfect title to talk about with people who think that just anyone can write a picture book, or who believe that children’s books can be simplistic because children are unsophisticated. Because it’s so short and the text so limited, each word in School’s First Day is important, and was chosen with care and meaning. It’s a beautiful story that’s perfect for sharing with little ones, and for encouraging important conversations with warmth and care.

This is an absolute winner in every way, and is highly, highly recommended.

And…that’s all I’ve got this week! Hope everyone has a good reading week!!

Review: Moonday

Moonday

How has it taken me this long to discover Adam Rex?! I feel like a bit of a charlatan – I’ve been a children’s librarian for two years I’ve never experienced the strange wonder that is an Adam Rex picture book.

When the moon lands in a child’s backyard it sets of a chain reaction of unusual events that is only resolved by the child’s quick thinking and a scenic drive to return the moon to its rightful place. Is it real? Was it all a dream?  Either way, Moonday is a strange, surreal, darkly lit, understated, whimsical, beautifully illustrated reading experience. It’s a breath of fresh air, perfect for those days when you feel like you’ve seen so many boring, uninspired, overly-commercialized children’s books come across your desk that you think you’re going to scream….or just pass out from sheer boredom, not unlike these kids.

 I can’t wait to discover and explore more of Adam Rex’s picture books!

P.S. When I was a child, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that people in Australia don’t fall off the bottom of the world, or have all the blood rush to their heads on account of being upside down. This illustration pretty much captures exactly what I thought being in Australia must be like!

#IMWAYR – July 11, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

I’ve got a bunch of reviews coming down the pipeline this week – I’ve been devouring picture books recently, and the shelves at my library are bursting at the seams with great new books. If want to make sure you don’t miss any reviews, feel free to follow my blog so you’ll be notified of each new post.

Don’t Touch This Book

Barnacle is Bored

Excellent Ed

Moonday


The Good Dinosaur

The Good Dinosaur (BD + DVD + Digital) [Blu-ray]

OK, so I didn’t read this so much as watch it, but this is my blog and I can do what I want so there (yikes, I think the toddlers in my story times are starting to rub off on me….).

I hadn’t caught this one in theatres and Pixar has really been hit or miss recently (curse you, Planes!), but I’m a dinosaur fanatic and and my partner’s an optimist, so we decided to give it a try.

Our lead character Arlo lives in a world in which the mass extinction of the dinosaurs never occurred. He’s the runt of his farming family, and longs to impress his parents and make his mark like his more successful siblings. When tragedy strikes and Arlo is separated from his family, he must find an inner source of strength so that he can conquer his fears and find his way home.

The story is nothing that hasn’t been done in children’s films before – think “The Lion King”, or “The Land Before Time” – and the characters are pretty generic. You could replace all of the dinosaur characters with humans, or dogs, or elephants, and you’d barely notice the difference – the film rarely takes advantage of the fact that its characters are DINOSAURS! At times it felt like I was watching an old Disney TV special featuring a jovial cowboy… I did appreciate the quiet gentleness of the story, though – many filmmakers think that children need to constantly be barraged by noise, colour and movement in order to be entertained, when in reality a quiet, thoughtful story told with a gentle hand can be just as effective.

There were definitely some heartwarming and hilarious moments, and I cried at some scenes (though I cry during Tim Hortons TV commercials, so take this with a grain of salt). The animation, too, was breathtaking. My god, the scenery was just incredible, I could’ve watched the wind blowing through the autumn foliage for the entire run-time. And the water! Water has always been a challenge for animators to recreate, but the rushing rivers in The Good Dinosaur were so realistic it was hard at times to believe it wasn’t film footage of an actual river. Incredible.

So, the story is generic, the characters are likeable if forgettable, and the animation is incredible. The Good Dinosaur isn’t one that you’ll likely feel the need to re-watch, and it likely won’t be remembered as one of Pixar’s finest, but it’s not a bad movie, just all around serviceable. Which isn’t something you ever want to say about a movie with DINOSAURS.

Have a great week everybody!!