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Happy 100th Birthday Beverly Cleary!

(April 12)  Today is Beverly Cleary’s 100th Birthday!

In case you haven’t heard, Beverly Cleary is the author of over 40 children’s books. including the popular Ramona and Ralph S. Mouse books. These books are still popular in 2016.  Cleary seemed quite spunky when she was interviewed by Jenna Bush Hager on the Today Show last month. http://www.today.com/parents/99-author-beverly-cleary-beloved-generations-readers-t82256

I was first introduced to Beverly Cleary’s books by my childhood buddy, Nancy Clements. Nancy was a year and a half older than me and  introduced me to many things.  She first told me about Otis Spofford, a modern day Tom Sawyer who was always picking on Ellen Tebbits because she was so neat and clean and well behaved.  We were horrified when Otis cut Ellen’s hair.  We played games where we alternated being the “evil” Otis and his favorite target, sweet well-behaved Ellen.

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After Otis and Ellen, I read all the Henry Huggins books.  Henry was a little nicer than Otis, but he always found himself in trouble.  Ramona Quimby began as a fairly minor character in the Henry Huggins series.  She’s barely mentioned in Henry Huggins.  When my fifth grade teacher at Walter Bickett, Mrs. Cason, read  Henry and the Paper Route, we all howled at Ramona’s antics as she created havoc in Henry’s life.  So it isn’t surprising that she got her own series.

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Ramona seems to be Cleary’s most endearing character.  She’s always a little baffled by the world around her.  Why won’t her kindergarten teacher tell her how Mike Mulligan used the bathroom?    Why  can’t she be a paper boy like Henry Huggins?

CCF24032012_00011  Cleary’s books are timeless.   In the later Ramona books, she deals with some heavy issues when her father loses his job and her favorite Aunt Beatrice gets married.  Ramona’s struggles are seen from a childhood perspective. They don’t go out to eat anymore and the adults are grumpier than usual.

Just as Otis Spofford hated the goody two shoes children in his basil reader,  Beverly Cleary had no use for moralistic literature:

 I was so annoyed with the books in my childhood, because children always learned to be ‘better’ children and, in my experience, they didn’t. They just grew, and so I started Ramona… and she has never reformed. [She’s] really not a naughty child, in spite of the title Ramona the Pest. Her intentions are good, but she has a lot of imagination, and things sometimes don’t turn out the  way she expected.

 

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More Read Alouds

 Here are some more great books for reading aloud to students in K-3:

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Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Officer Buckle visits schools and talks to students about safety.   His talks bore the students until he gets Gloria, a police dog to accompany him.  When Officer Buckle goes alone, the  children all fall asleep   When Gloria goes alone, she falls asleep on stage. Afterward, there are many accidents.

Officer Buckle and Gloria  return with the best safety tip #101- Always stick with your buddy. This book received the 1996  Caldecott Medal.

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 Don’t Laugh Joe by Keiko Kaska

 Joe the Possum is always giggling. He  can’t seem to master the art of playing dead, not even for his favorite dessert, a bug pie.   Then one day a hungry bear shows up…Kasza even manages to make possums look cute.

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Flight School by Lita Judge

Penguin wants to fly more than anything.   So he enrolls in flight school.  After practicing for weeks with no success; penguin is brokenhearted  until his teacher, Flamingo, has a brilliant idea that just might work.

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 This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

Wilfred loves his pet moose. even though Marcel does follow rule #4 very well-Don’t make too much noise while Wilfred plays his record collection or rule #7-Go whichever way Wilfred wants to go.

One day on a long walk, Wilfred makes a terrible discovery,  Someone else thinks she owns the moose.  What will Wilfred do now?

 

 

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Read Alouds for Early Grades

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Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard, illustrations by James Marshall

The children love their teacher, Miss Nelson. When they start behaving badly, throwing spitballs in class and tossing paper airplanes, Miss Nelson fails to show up for school. She is replaced by the vile substitute teacher, Viola Swamp. Ms.Swamp wears an ugly black dress and makes the children’s life miserable.  Will they ever see Miss Nelson again?. Sequels include Miss Nelson is Back and Miss Nelson has a Field Day

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 Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss

A turtle named Yertle is the ultimate bully:

“I’m Yertle the Turtle!

Oh Marvelous me!

For I am the ruler of all I can see.”

Yertle climbs to the top literally on the backs of all the turtles in the pond. But justice prevails.  Many people think Seuss based Yertle on Adolf Hitler.

 

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The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss

“Now the Star-Belly Sneetches  Had bellies with stars.

The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none up thars”

The Star Belly Sneetches consider themselves highly superior to the plain belly Sneetches .Then along comes Sylvester McMonkey McBean and his star creation machine.

Soon the Sneetches are adding and removing stars from their bellies until they are all totally confused.  Will the Sneetches learn their lesson?

 

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Why Audiobooks?

About 10 years ago,  I fell in love with audiobooks.  I felt torn because I had adult books I wanted to read and prize winning children’s books that also deserved my attention.  Audiobooks became part of the solution!   I began looking forward to my time in the car.

Audiobooks can be enjoyed by the whole family. Consider taking them along on your next road trip. For this post, I have selected audiobooks that families can enjoy listening to together.

On the Reading Rockets Website, Denise Johnson lists these benefits of listening to audiobooks.

  • Introduce students to books above their reading level
  • Model good interpretive reading
  • Teach critical listening
  • Highlight the humor in books
  • Introduce new genres that students might not otherwise consider
  • Introduce new vocabulary or difficult proper names or locales
  • Sidestep unfamiliar dialects or accents, Old English, and old-fashioned literary styles
  • Provide a read-aloud model
  • Provide a bridge to important topics of discussion for parents and children who can listen together while commuting to sporting events, music lessons, or on vacations
  • Recapture “the essence and the delights of hearing stories beautifully told by extraordinarily talented storytellers” (Baskin & Harris, 1995, p. 376)http://www.readingrockets.org/article/benefits-audiobooks-all-readers

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The Harry Potter books are among other things, hilarious, but never more so when they are narrated by Jim Dale who creates over 200 voices and special effects for all the wizards, muggles, goblins and house elfs that pass through Hogwarts.  The Harry Potter volumes are among the top selling audiobooks of all time.  Children who have already read these books will notice things they missed.

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Country music singer and actor, Lyle Lovett, brings  Kathi Appelt’s adventure tale, The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp to life.  Two raccoon scouts, Bingo and J’miah are trained to wake the Sugarman, a Yeti like creature, in the event of trouble.  And trouble is coming!  Jaeger Stitch, world-class alligator wrestler, plans to turn the peaceful swamp into to the world’s tackiest theme park. To make matters worse, a gang of feral hogs are headed  toward the swamp.   Lovett has the perfect southern drawl. This story will appeal to a wide range of ages.

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I raved over Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan’s Echo in an earlier post. (https://librarianlou.wordpress.com/2016/03/15/for-music-and-history-lovers-2/) This recording helps complete the book.  The harmonica pieces are printed in each section, but its not the same as hearing the music which will be more familiar to  parents than their children.

In the section set in Nazi Germany, the heavy but clear German accents are vital in creating the characters of evil Nazi leaders as well as the kind voices of Frederich’s father and uncle.  Dialogue that looks confusing in print will be clearer in the audio version.  Echo won the 2016 Newbery Honor Award and the audiobook won one of two 2016 Odyssey Awards for outstanding productions in children’s recordings.

Don’t let the costs of audiobooks discourage you.  Many are available at the public library. Services like Audible are also making these books more accessible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SMILE!

images5PYIMJNP     Let’s face it. Middle School is traumatic! Middle schoolers think eveyone notices everything they do. Classmates can be cruel. Anything that makes you differrent from your classmates feels like torture.

Smile by Raina Telemeier is an autobiographical graphic novel chronicling the ups and downs of middle school and high school, a tough season for any adolescent especially if there’s something that sets you apart from your classmates.

At age 12, Raina fell on the pavement resulting in losing her two front teeth. Six year olds with missing front teeth are adorable, twelve years olds not so much. Raina’s life for the next four years includes dental surgeries, trips to specalists and two sets of braces.Most of all, she feels different from her classmates. Her story also navigates crushes, friendships and other teen drama.

Smile encourages the reader to laugh and sympathize with Raina’s recollections. When she spies her crush in the hall, she is so enamored that she walks right into a row of lockers.  When she tries on extensive headgear for her braces, She exclaims, “C’mom Mom, let’s go get me some glasses, a pocket protector and some velcro shoes.”

Raina begins her story with sixth grade and ends in high school. Along the way, she learns to chose her friends more carefully and pursue her talents for drawing and singing. She gradually settles in with a new group of artsy friends that are kinder, more authentic and accepting.

Kids love graphic novels.  Teachers and librarians are increasingly realizing the benefits of this genre.  Smile, however, is an exceptional graphic novel.  It won the Wil Eisner Award for best books for teens.  Telgemeier has published two other graphic novels, Drama and Sisters.  Fans of her books can create their own comic scenes at www.scholastic.com/raina

 

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Encouraging Empathy in Children

Most children and adults are scared of the severely handicapped.  We feel awkward, we don’t know what to say.  We may assume a person is not intelligent because of their appearance.

Out of My  Mind by Sharon Draper is another book that encourages children to empathize with others.  (See Empathy and Reading)  Both Absolutely Almost and Rain Reign are about children with learning problems.  Children like Albie and Rose could be among your child’s classmates.

Melody is severely disabled. She is  unable to walk, talk or feed herself. She has spent most of her time in special education class. Most people have trouble seeing beyond her twisted body and involuntary movements to recognize that she is very intelligent and full of personality.  We see the world through Melody’s eyes.  .

Melody has struggled  with limited communication.  For most of her life, she had many things she wanted to say but no way to say them.    When Melody accidently knocked over the goldfish bowl, she was helpless to let anyone know that her pet is in trouble.

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A new computer with  special  features begins to change that.  She is able to store more vocabulary and express herself through the computer’s voice.  She can now have conversations with other students. But it’s  the school quiz bowl that allows her to shine.

There are children who make fun of Melody.  They don’t seem to understand that she understands them completely. Other  classmates, Rose and Connor, are friendly but awkward.  When she goes to a celebration dinner for the quiz bowl team, she still has to be fed by her parents.

Students on the  Quiz Bowl team become envious when a TV News Station focuses its interview on Melody.  She encounters major disappointment when she is not notified of a last minute flight change and gets left behind in the national competition.

This is a powerful book.  Melody deals with each day’s problems, rarely expressing self pity.  She doesn’t compare her life to her classmates.  She experiences sadness and rejection but that never defines her.  She deals with her disappointment with her teammates in ways that earn their respect.

This book is so well written that it is difficult to do it justice in a review.  Sharon Draper, the author, also has a severely handicapped daughter.  She did not base Melody’s character on her daughter, instead she creates a unique individual.

Draper talks more about her novel on her website:   Sharon Draper on “Out of My Mind”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Star of Kazan

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This is another delightful novel from Eva Ibbotson.  She  grew up in pre-World War II Vienna.  Because her family was Jewish, they escaped to England.  The Star of Kazan reflects her love of Austria and her dread of Germany.   The observant reader will notice the presence of early Nazi philosophy in her writing.

Annika is an orphan with a mysterious  past.  Two servants discovered her as infant abandoned in a mountainside chapel. They brought her home and raised in her in the servant’s quarters of a grand house. (think Downton Abbey)

Early on Annika delights in the domestic arts, learning at an early age to make gourmet meals and keep house.  She is happy but she often wonders about her “real mother”

Annika delights in her friendship with the lady across the street, the unwanted aunt of  a dutiful family.   Annika enjoys hearing the older lady’s stories about her days touring in Europe with the theatre.  When she dies, she leaves Annika a trunk full of theatre props and costume jewelry, or so she thinks,  but  a scheming woman in Germany knows better.

While Annika has often fantasized about her mother’s return, she is unprepared when Edeltraut Von Tannenburg knocks on her door and insists on taking her to Germany. Annika always dreamed that her mother would come for her but she never thought about saying goodbye to all the  people she loves in Vienna.

Annika’s new home in Germany is a dark and forbidding mansion. It is bitterly cold inside and out. . The walls are covered with dark heavy hangings embroidered with battle scenes. The rugs on the floor are threadbare and the drapes faded.   She is baffled when her mother insists that she is never to cook or do housework.

Then it gets worse. Annika is sent away to a boarding school called Grossenfluss for “daughters of the nobility” so she can be trained to serve the Fatherland. She is assigned to be pupil 127. (No one will say what happened to pupil 126.) She is issued a uniform and assigned to a room with thirty iron beds covered with gray blankets   The school is run by Fraulein Von Donner, the only  woman in Germany who had received “The Order of the Closed Fist.”

This is a great adventure story with lively characters and crafty villains.  There are some dark moments  but in Ibbotson’s world, the good are rewarded and the evil are punished.

Recommended  for fourth grade and up.