It’s Monday – What Are You Reading? 10/19/15

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? was initiated by Sheila at Book Journey, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus – perfect for a children’s librarian like me. This weekly roundup is a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

imwayrWith Halloween just around the corner and a couple of school visits lined up, I thought I’d share a few spooky-ish books perfect for sharing with little boils and ghouls!

Title: Zombelina
Author: Kristyn Crow
Illustrator: Molly Idle
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children
Publication Date: 2013
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book
Publisher’s Summary: Zombelina loves to dance. She moonwalks with mummies and boogies with bats. She spins like a specter and glides like a ghost and loves to dance for her family the most. When Zombelina enrolls in a ballet class for real girls, her dancing gives everyone the chills! But when her first recital brings on a case of stage fright, her zombie moans and ghoulish groans scare her audience away. Only her devoted family’s cheers, in their special spooky way, help Zombelina dance the ballet debut of her dreams.

Introducing the most adorable zombie to ever grace the dance floor, Kristyn Crow’s pitch-perfect rhyme and Molly Idle’s charmingly spook-tacular illustrations will make every reader want to sway and sashay in their own zombie trance

My Two Cents: Really strange little story of a zombie ballerina presents a different spin on a pretty conventional story about embracing differences, persevering in your dreams, and appreciating family. Caldecott Honoree Molly Idle (for Flora and the Flamingo) captures the unique, slightly tongue-in-cheek spirit of the story – at one point Zombelina detaches her leg to achieve perfect extension, and removes her head as part of her dance routine – and adds richness to a somewhat predictable storyline. This is a gently Halloween-appropriate picture book with a positive message, ideal for sharing with younger children who like things a little bit spooky, but might not want anything too scary. It also doesn’t specifically reference Halloween, making it easy to share all year round, or in environments in which Halloween isn’t celebrated.

Title: Monster Needs A Costume
Author: Paul Czajak
Illustrator: Wendy Grieb
Publisher: Mighty Media Kids
Publication Date: 2014
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book
Publisher’s Summary: It’s almost Halloween, and Monster needs to decide what he’s going to be. With so many options — a fireman, a ballerina, a cowboy, a ninja—how will he ever decide? In this playful, rhyming story, Monster shows young readers that sometimes being creative and daring to try something new are the best solutions.

My Two Cents: This is a great picture book for sharing with a group – the rhyming text is so much fun to read aloud. Even better, though, are the underlying themes of individuality, creativity and freedom of personal expression. Monster can’t decide on a costume for Halloween – he tries all sorts of different costumes, but can’t seem to decide on a single one. Finally he realizes that he doesn’t have to pick a single costume, and creates his own personalized identity as a Dancing Cowboy Ninja! I also like that the Monster, who is identified as male through pronouns, doesn’t limit himself to traditionally male costumes – after discovering the ballet he proudly dances the week away in a bright pink ballet ensemble, which he later combines with his cowboy and ninja apparel. Great illustrations make this picture book a lot of fun, and not scary in the least.

 

Title: Zombie in Love
Author: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrator: Scott Campbell
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2011
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book
Publisher’s Summary: Mortimer is looking for love. And he’s looking everywhere! He’s worked out at the gym (if only his arm wouldn’t keep falling off). He’s tried ballroom dancing lessons (but the ladies found him to be a bit stiff). He’s even been on stalemate.com. How’s a guy supposed to find a ghoul? When it seems all hope has died, could the girl of Mortimer’s dreams be just one horrifying shriek away?

My Two Cents: Poor Mortimer just can’t catch a break – nobody seems to appreciate his unique charms. It isn’t specifically stated that Mortimer is a zombie, but kids can infer this through Mortimer’s pretty hilarious attempts at attracting the ladies. This a sweet story with heart, and offers great dating advice for grown up readers, too – when it comes to finding love, throw away the dating guides, forget what other people tell you to do or be, and be true to yourself!

There seems to be an unintentional little side-message to this story, though – Mortimer finds true love with another zombie, a girl who turns out to be just like him. The intended moral of the story is of course that there is a perfect mate out there for everyone, but it also seems to suggest that finding true love means finding a partner who is just like you. Mortimer and his beloved fall in love because they are both zombies and enjoy the same things, but I think I might have enjoyed the story even more if Mortimer found love with someone completely different, someone who embraced his unique physical and personality traits even if she didn’t share them – a human girl or another supernatural creature, for example. It’s still a very sweet story, and I enjoy sharing it with kids and appreciate its message about being true to oneself, but I think there might have been an opportunity for an even more inclusive story, one which suggests that people (and supernatural creatures) who look or act differently or believe in different things can still be friends or romantic partners.

Well there you have it – a few spooky reads to get you in the spirit! What have you been reading?

Five Finds – Birds, birds, birds

May 2 – 9 is Vancouver Bird Week, a “week-long series of events to celebrate Vancouver’s birds. It was inspired by World Migratory Bird Day, a United Nations-sponsored initiative that recognizes the importance of birds as key indicators of our environment’s health.”

Our branch has a sizable collection of nonfiction bird books, but to celebrate Vancouver bird week I thought I’d share five fun bird-themed picture books!

flowers (2)

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog / Mo Willems

Pigeon learns about sharing when a curious duckling keeps asking questions about the hot dog Pigeon has found.

 Owl Babies / Martin Waddell

Three owl babies whose mother has gone out in the night try to stay calm while she is gone.

How to Heal a Broken Wing / Bob Graham

When Will finds a bird with a broken wing, he takes it home and cares for it, hoping in time it will be able to return to the sky.

Flora and the Penguin / Molly Schaar Idle

In this wordless, lift-the-flap picture book, Flora and her new friend, the penguin, dance on the ice together and learn to treat each other with respect and kindness.

 Calvin Can’t Fly / Jennifer Berne

A young starling chooses to read books when his cousins are learning to fly, and the knowledge he acquires comes in handy when a hurricane threatens the flock’s migration.

Five Finds – Wordless Picture Books

I first came across wordless picture books several years ago while working as an ESL teacher. I was looking for ways to add variety to my students’ writing exercises, and stumbled across Shaun Tan’s beautiful, brilliant wordless picture book (and all-around work of art) The Arrival.

arrival

Wordless picture books come in a wide range of styles and formats, and there are titles perfect for just about all audiences. While I might not use these texts in my story times, I don’t hesitate to recommend them to patrons, as they can encourage children’s expressions of creativity and imagination. Working through a wordless picture book together is a wonderful experience for children and caregivers, and the level of detail in many of these texts allows for repeat re-tellings and new interpretations. For educators, wordless picture books can lend themselves to exciting writing assignments, and can be used individually or in group settings, as children work together to analyze the images and collectively decide on a logical (at least to the readers….) series of events.

daisy

Flora and the Penguin / Molly Schaar Idle

In this wordless, lift-the-flap picture book, Flora and her new friend, the penguin, dance on the ice together and learn to treat each other with respect and kindness. In this wordless, lift-the-flap picture book, Flora and her new friend, the penguin, dance on the ice together and learn to treat each other with respect and kindness.

Mr. Wuffles / David Wiesner

Mr. Wuffles ignores all his cat toys but one, which turns out to be a spaceship piloted by small green aliens. When Mr. Wuffles plays rough with the little ship, the aliens must venture into the cat’s territory to make emergency repairs.

Journey / Aaron Becker

Using a red marker, a young girl draws a door on her bedroom wall and through it enters another world where she experiences many adventures, including being captured by an evil emperor.

 A Ball for Daisy / Chris Raschka

A wordless picture book showing the fun a dog has with her ball, and what happens when it is lost.

Wave / Suzy Lee

A wordless picture book that shows a little girl’s first experiences at the beach, as she goes from being afraid of the roaring waves to playing on the shore while gulls soar overhead.

What do you think about wordless picture books? Any favourites that I missed?