Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Boy Named Giotto

A Boy Names Giotto was written by Paolo Guarnieri and illustrated by Bimba Landmann. It was translated by Jonathan Galassi. It was orginigally published in Italy in 1998 by Edizioni Arka and then republished in America in 1999 by Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. It is a multi-cultural, informational text.
This is the story of Giotto, a youg boy in Italy who herds sheep for his father all day everyday, but dreams of doing something much different. Giotto spends his days ignoring the sheep and instead drawing pictures in the sand and on the stones around him. He loves to draw and dreams of one day drawing all the time, for a living. One day the famous painter Cimabue comes to his town with his famous painting, Madonna with Child. Giotto is enthralled and follows the painter back to his studio to see how he works. Giotto gets up the nerve to talk to Cimabue and he shows Giotta how to paint frescos, which will last forever, just like Giotto has dreamed of. The next day Giotto starts painting on the rocks out in the field where he watches the sheep. He loses track of time and finally his father and Cimabue come and find him in the field and are both amazed at the painting he has created. Cimabue begs Giotto’s father to let Giotto come study with him at his art school. Giotto’s parents insist that he is too young but they promise to send Giotto to him when he is older. Giotto is only 8 when Cimabue finds him, but 7 years later he goes to school and excels past his classmates in painting frescos. At the end of the story he leaves his home to go to Assisi to paint frescos that will last forever.
This is a cool story about a little boy who doesn’t fit in with his surroundings. This little boy knows he likes to paint, but he also knows that his father will not approve. This is a story about not fitting in and following your dreams even so. This is a lesson that can be learned all over the world because kids in America struggle with not fitting in just like kids in Europe, China, etc. The pictures in this book were really interesting. The illustrator used gold to make Giotto’s painting stand out because the rest of the book is done in orange and brown shades. I really loved the historical background of this book because of the art history behind it. Not many children’s books address art history which would make a great lesson for students. Kids love to draw and create things and this story could incorporate really well into a lesson about frescos or painting or even a famous painter.


Coppelia was told by Margot Fonteyn and illustrated by Steven Johnson and Lou Fancher. It was published in 1998 by Harcourt Brace & Company. It is a multicultural informational text.
This is the story behind a ballet called Coppelia. The story goes that an old creepy man who lived in a town in Europe liked the make life size dolls. One day he left one of his beautiful young lady dolls sitting in the window of his shop and everyone who walked by thought she was real. They tried to greet her but she would, of course, never answer. A young man named Franz came by and tried to greet her while his fiancé, Swanilda watched, just then the old man wound up the doll and she blew kisses to Franz who returned them excitedly. This did not make his on looking fiancé happy. That afternoon there is an announcement from the Burgomaster saying that any couple who decide to get married the next day will be granted a large dowry from the government. Swanilda listens to the wheat as the tradition says, but the wheat is silent, meaning that Franz is not a good man. The old man soon leaves the shop and Swanilda and her friends see that he has dropped his key. They decide to go into his shop to see what the young lady is doing blowing kisses to her fiancé. When they go inside they find all the dolls and make a mess winding them up and playing with them. The old man returns while they are still there and all of the girls quickly run away except Swanilda who hides behind a curtain with the beautiful doll that charmed her fiancé. No sooner have the other girls left than Franz comes climbing through the window searching for the beautiful girl. The old man accuses Franz of being a thief but he quickly explains that he has fallen in love with the doll, who he thinks is a girl. The old man talks Franz into sitting down to have a drink, but gives him a poisoned drink and Franz is quickly thrown into a deep sleep. The old man starts to work his magic and starts to pull the life out of Franz to give to the doll. Suddenly the doll comes to life and starts to dance around the room. She is really Swanilda in the dolls clothes. She starts asking all kinds of questions about Franz and the other dolls and the old man is not happy with how she is asking. Franz finally wakes up and Swanilda shows him the doll that he thinks he has fallen in love with. They run out of the shop and she takes him back because she loves him so much.
This is a cool story because it is really a ballet. I took ballet for many years and it is really interesting that a ballet can be written down in a book like this one has. The other really beautiful parts of this book are the illustrations. Each page is a detailed and beautiful acrylic art piece. They really put you in the mind set of being in Europe many years ago. I really liked this book, I think mostly because of the pictures. The story was a classic tale and a good ballet, but the pictures really made the book.

Boxes for Katje

Boxes for Katje was written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen. It was published in 2003 by Melanie Kroupa Books. It is a multi-cultural informational text.
This story is about a little girl named Katje, who lives in Holland after World War II. Her town is almost destroyed and her family and neighbors have very little food or money to live on. One day Katje receives a package in the mail from a relief organization in America. She gets socks and soap and chocolate and a letter from a girl names Rosie, who lives in America. Katje writes back to Rosie thanking her for the package and telling her a little more about her situation in Holland. Rosie then sends Katje another package with more things that Katje needs and Katje sends Rosie another letter thanking her. This happen three times and the final time Katje receives so many packages that she can share with the whole town. Katje then decides she wants to send Rosie a package and she knows just what to send her. She gathers the townspeople and tells them what she wants to do and they all pitch in and send Rosie a huge package full of tulip bulbs!
This is a heart warming story about the impact of relief organizations. I have participated in a lot of volunteer work with organizations like “The Children’s Aid Society,” but I have never really gotten to see the benefits of my work before. This book is based on a true story, so it shows the reaction of the people who receive the gifts and supplies. I really liked the mix of the story like aspects of this book and the real life part of it. “The Children’s Aid Society” is a real organization and this story is real, but the details are made up and Candace Fleming has told it in a different way. I think this is an excellent message to share with kids. It shows them that they can make a difference and that one small gift can turn into something that saves a whole town. Teaching children to give back to their world is a huge priority in schools, I feel. Kids need to understand that there are people who do not have as much as they do and that they can easily help these people.

Flyaway Girl

Flyaway Girl was written and illustrated by Ann Grifalconi. It is an informational text on Africa and also realistic fiction. It was published by Little, Brown and Company in 1992.
This book is about a little girl names Nsia who is called Flyaway girl by her mother. Her mother calls her this because Nsia loves to run and run. Her mother swears one day she is going to fly away. The other women in the village encourage her mother to start giving Nsia responsibility and making her help with the chores. Her mother knows she will need Nsia’s help, but she hates to subdue her adventurous nature. She compromises by asking Nsia to gather reeds and then play while they dry. While Nsia is looking for light and dark reeds she hears a mysterious voice singing a song to her. At first Nsia is scared but she remembers that the spirits of the ancestors sometimes speak to the villagers so she listens. Then she asks the spirits to help her find the dark reeds. They sing her a song and lead her right to the dark reeds. She lays them out to dry, but instead of running to play she sits by the river and thinks. She realizes that she is growing up and that maybe she can help her mother.
This is an African story about a village preparing for the New Year. It is informational because of the description of the village and the discussion of the way the women prepare for the New Year. It is interesting to read about another culture and I think kids would be really interested to hear about the traditions of another country. I especially loved the pictures in this book. They are paintings with real photos of African women and children laied on top of them. They are real and moving and make the book so much more applicable and believable. There is a spirits aspect to this book, but showing the people that the book is about, right there on the pages is an irreplaceable feelings for kids and for adults alike. This is a great book to lead into talking about New Years and how it means we’re moving into a new year. This is a new concept for kindergartners and even a good review for first graders. You can ask children how we in America celebrate the New Year as it compares to the traditions in Africa.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Lady Lollipop

Lady Lollipop was written by Dick King-Smith and illustrated by Jill Barton. It was published in 2000 by Scholastic Inc. It is realistic fiction.

This is the story of Princess Penelope, who is spoiled rotten because her parents, the King and Queen give her anything she wants. Her birthday is soon approaching and her parents have no idea what to get her. When they call her to ask she replies, "a pig!" Her parents are astounded, but they call all the pig herders in the land to bring their best pigs for the princess to choose from. She passes all the plumpest and prettiest pigs in the row and finally chooses a skinny, dirty pig. Her parents are appalled, but they agree and the boy who owns the pig and resembles the pig closely comes with them to take care of the pig and teach Penelope how to train her. The pigs name is Lollipop and Penelope quickly realizes that this is no ordinary pig. She immediately gets it into her mind that her pig should live in the palace with her, but her parents, especially her mother protest, loudly! Johnny, the pig herder, goes to work house-training Lollipop and quickly teaches her not only to use the bathroom outside, but also to wipe her feet before she comes into the house. The king is sweating because he cannot see how Penelope's pig and the Queen are going to live in the same house. Finally Johnny discovers that the Queen has a rose garden and also that Lollipop can be very good for roses. He teaches Lollipop to weed and till the dirt around the rose bushes and also to use the bathroom around the rose bushes because it is good for the roses. The King, Penelope and Johnny bring Lollipop to the rose garden one day for her to do her thing. They await the Queen's return from a Rose competition and when she comes home they explain everything to her about Lollipop. They show the Queen how Lollipop can till the ground and help the roses. They show her house Lollipop can go out of her pig flap in the door to use the bathroom and wipe her feet when she comes back in. The Queen is very impressed and she finally agress for Lollipop for live inside with Penelope. Johnny is given a job working with the Queen in her rose garden and is granted Dukedom for his help with Lollipop. Lollipop is granted Ladyship because of her affect on Penelope. After the whole experience, Penelope was not such a brat anymore and actually seemed to care for other people.

This is a fun story about a little girl who wants nothing but a pig for her birthday. I love that she is her own person and wants what she wants no matter what people have to say. I like Penelope much better after she is trained by Johnny and becomes and cute little girl and not such a brat. I really love the friendship formed by Penelope and Johnny because they come from two different worlds, but they both share love for Lollipop. This is a great story about growing up and overcoming selfish wants and being spoiled.

I think this is a great story for little girls, and boys who are going through a selfish phase. Little people, often do not realize the way they are acting and this is a good story to maybe bring this to their attention. This is also a great book to teach kids about taking care of pets. All kids want animals of their own and they promise to take care of them, but this story really shows the training aspect of animals. Over all this was a really cute story about a Princess and a Pig!

A Mouse Called Wolf

A Mouse Called Wolf was written by Dick King-Smith and illustrated by Jon Goodell. It was published in 1997 by Dell Yearling. It is a realistic fiction book with a bit of fantasy mixed in.

This is the story of a mouse, his 13 brothers and sisters, their mother and the pianist they share their home with. The mother has her children and wolf is the very smallest. She decides that he needs an extra special, extra long name to make up for his small size. She sees a sheet of music from the piano next to their hole and reads the name Wolfgang Amadeus Mo.. on the top and decides it is the perfect name for her smallest son. So that's what she names him and his sibling shortened it to wolf. Eventually all of Wolf's brother's and sister's moved out of their hole to other places around the house, but Wolf stays with his mother. They venture out at night to find food and during the day Wolf listens to the woman play the piano and dreams of being a singer one day. His mother assures him that mice cannot sing, but Wolf is determined and tries his luck one day. It turns out that he has the loveliest voice you can imagine. One day the cat chases Wolf and his mother into the piano and the lid slams shut, trapping them inside. Wolf's mother is afriad they will never make it out alive, so Wolf sings to her to comfort her. When the woman comes to the piano, she hears Wolf singing and is delighted to see a singing mouse. She leaves chocolate for Wolf and his mother and slowly brings him out of his hole and convinces him to sing for her. She teachers Wolf all kinds of lovely songs and he sings for her as she plays. One day the woman, Mrs. Honeybee, is not at the piano at the time she usually is. Wolf ventures upstairs to see what has happened and finds Mrs. Honeybee laying on the floor hurt. He doesn't know what to do, so in an attempt to get someone's attention he sings as loud as he can from the window and manages to get a policeman's attention who comes to see what the matter is and rescues Mrs. Honeybee. Mrs. Honeybee has to be in the hospital for a long time, so while she is gone Wolf decides to compose his very own song to sing for her when she returns. Mrs. Honeybee finally comes home and one night when she is just laying down to sleep, Wolf comes upstairs and sings his Sonata for her. She is overjoyed and decides to name her furry friend after a wonderful composer just like this mouse. She names him Wolfgang Amadeus, Wolf for short, without ever knowing that was already his name!

This is a short, and entertaining novel for kids just starting to read chapter books. Wolf is a charming little mouse who will win the hearts of all of his readers. I really loved that Wolf believes in himself even when his mother does not. She is actually not really interested in his singing until the very end of the book when Wolf sings her his own sonata. I was not really impressed with Wolf's mother for most of the book. She was only interested in food and was not really interested in her son hardly at all. I also love the unlikely friendship formed in this book. The old woman and Wolf form a bond that surpasses even communication, which they cannot have. This is really a sweet story and I think kids will really enjoy it.

This is a great book for teaching about music. It mentions Sonatas and Composers and Octaves. I think it would be great for a music lesson to show kids these terms in context.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Leprechaun's Gold

The Leprechaun’s Gold is written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrated by Henry Cole. It was published in 2004 by Katherine Tegan Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. It is a multi-cultural fantasy book.
This is an irish tale about a man who plays the harp better than anyone in Ireland. He teaches a boy to play the harp and the boy decides that he is better than the old man and that he can make lots of money off of playing the harp. One day the king decides to hold a contest to see who the best harp player in all of Ireland really is. The old man and the boy set off on foot for the journey to the castle for the contest and eventually stop to rest at night. While they are sitting by a fire, the boy gets nervous that the old man may actually beat him at the contest, so the boy snaps one of the man’s harp strings when he isn’t looking. The man knows he cannot possibly win the contest with a string missing. Then all of a sudden they hear a voice crying out for help. The boy fears it is a leprechaun playing a trick on them so he refuses to see if they really need help. The old man goes to check and indeed finds a leprechaun caught by a rabbit by his big toe. The man scares the rabbit off and invites the leprechaun back to his fire to rest. The leprechaun asks the man how he can repay him and the man insists that he want for nothing. The man starts to play his harp and the leprechaun notices that he is missing a string. When the leprechaun asks about the man’s broken harp he explains about the contest and how sad he is that he cannot compete with his broken harp. The leprechaun instantly decides that the man is only interested in the money, even though the man protests. The leprechaun magically makes the man fall asleep and calls his other leprechaun friends out to get out their gold. When the man awakes nothing is wrong so he continues on to the contest with his broken harp. When the contest begins the greedy boy starts to play and his strings mysteriously break all at once. Then when the man pulls out his harp to play, he finds a brand new golden harp that helps him play the most beautiful song in Ireland. He wins the contest and the king insists that he stay and play for all of his parties.
This is a cute story about the Irish custom of Leprechauns. I especially enjoyed the pictures in this book. They are so full of color and expression. They really make the book what it is. I think kids will be intrigued by this tale. St. Patrick’s Day is exciting for Elementary School kids. I can remember being scared to death that a leprechaun was going to pop out of my desk and pinch me if I forgot to wear green. This would obviously be a great book to read around St. Patrick’s Day to share the Irish perspective on Leprechauns.