Showing posts with label mock Caldecott. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mock Caldecott. Show all posts

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Storyteller, by Evan Turk -- the power of stories, providing a glimmer of hope (ages 6-10)

"There is a unique kind of magic that comes from hearing a story told. With only the power of a voice, an entire world can be created." -- Evan Turk, author's note to The Storyteller
In his enthralling new picture book The Storyteller, Evan Turk celebrates the way stories bring hope and inspiration to people young and old. Read aloud this wonderful picture book with children ready for a longer, more complex story. Our 3rd graders loved it and we had a fascinating conversation about the author's motifs, artwork and messages.
The Storyteller
by Evan Turk
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 7-10
*best new book*
A thirsty young Moroccan boy searches through a busy, chaotic city for a drink, but no one has any water to share. As he walks home, an old storyteller calls out to him, assuring him that his thirst will be quenched if he listens to a story.
“At that same moment, in the hot, dry south of the kingdom, a thirsty young boy made his way through the clamor and smoke of the Great Square to look for a drink, but no one had any water to give.”
The storyteller spins a tale of the terrible drought and how one family always had enough water to share. The young boy is enthralled, and by the time the old man has finished speaking, the boy's cup is miraculously filled with cool water. Day after day, the boy returns to hear more stories--and Turk masterfully layers each story within a story, linking themes, motifs and stories together.

The boy returns each day to hear another installment of the storyteller's tale. At first, my students were a little confused how the storyteller told a story about an old woman telling a story about another woman stealing a bird--but as we talked about it, they started nodding and whispering to each other about things they noticed. Look below and notice the old storyteller on the left telling the young boy the story -- it almost spins out of his hands. And notice how the border encircles the the old woman on the right carrying the bundle of cloth--for she is the center of the new story.
“The next morning, the boy awoke at dawn and ran to meet the storyteller at the fountain again. ‘Would you like to hear the story of the Glorious Blue Water Bird?’ he asked.”
Turk was inspired by many things as he created this story: the storytellers of Morocco, or hlaykia, who tell stories in the public squares; the traditional carpet weavers in Morocco, who pass on stories through their artwork; local artists in Ait-Ben-Haddou, an ancient fortified village in southern Morocco. Turk shows in this video the way he created the vibrant jewel-toned blues and warm golden-sand browns in his artwork, using a technique he learned from these Moroccan artists. In turn, he was inspired by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, who used many jewel-toned colors and geometric patterns in his portraits.

This is a book that will benefit from many repeated readings, just like traditional stories benefit from being passed on from storyteller to storyteller. Readers will notice new details each time they share the story, whether it's the way the bird symbolizes hope (echoing the story of the phoenix), or the way the blue of the water slowly fills the patterns as the stories take hold. Other readers notice that the boy starts out quite alone with the storyteller, but that he's surrounded by community by the end of the story -- because stories bring people together.
"'...And that,' said the storyteller, 'is the story of how, not long ago, a young boy saved Morocco from the desert.'"
I just wish you could have watched my students whisper to each other as they realized that the young boy turned into the storyteller by the end of the story. There was a quiet buzz that went through the room, as they noticed the different people in the crowded square, and recognized the power of the storyteller to banish the djinn to the desert.

If you are interested in learning more, you'll definitely want to check out these resources:
Illustrations © Evan Turk, 2016, shared with permission from the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, and we have purchased additional copies for our library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mock Caldecott discussions, part 3 - how our students are reacting

Our 2nd graders have loved sharing their thoughts and opinions about what the best picture books have been this year. We've talked lots about how the Caldecott Medal is awarded to the illustrator, and how we need to think about how the pictures add to the story above and beyond the words. We've talked about the color choices illustrators make, the way the convey emotions in characters' expressions, and the perspectives they use and how this brings readers into the picture books.

Above all, they feel part of the process and are excited to find out the winners of the 2013 Caldecott Medal. Are you looking forward to it? Check out this website: ALA Youth Media Awards. You can also check into Facebook for the announcements on Monday morning.

My students passionately discussed three more books today, declaring love and admiration for all three. They're convinced that the Caldecott Committee has a very hard job on their hands, comparing these different illustrations!
Chloe and the Lion
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Adam Rex
Disney / Hyperion, 2012
reviewed here
ages 4-8
available at your local library and on Amazon
Our second graders thought it was hilarious the way that the author and illustrator argued in this story. But more than that, they argued vociferously that the illustrations add to the humor and pizazz of this story. The love the combination of different media - with the puppet figures for Adam and Mac, the cartoon characters for Chloe, and the stage elements that give the story a 3-D feeling. They laughed at the way Adam's dragon is way-cooler than Mac's lion. And they loved the resolution at the end. This is a smart story that completely hooks its audience. In many ways, it reminds me of Interrupting Chicken, a Caldecott honor book in 2011.
Unspoken
by Henry Cole
Scholastic, 2012
reviewed at 100 Scope Notes
ages 7-10
available at your local library and on Amazon
This wordless book took our breath away when we read it. It's truly a book that makes you think at each step of the way, as you unravel and make sense of the story. As the pieces of the puzzle came together for my 2nd graders, they were amazed at the young girl's kindness and courage, and the runaway slave's daunting challenge escaping to freedom. We talk all the time about "reading is thinking" and Henry Cole asks his readers to do just this. On our first read, some of my students were frustrated that we never see the full face of the African American hiding in the corn stalks. But as we talked about it today, those same students talked about how much this story stayed with them. Cole's pencil drawings evoke the girl's emotions and the setting of Civil War Virginia, creating tension and mystery within this quiet book. It's a book that will stay with us for many years.
Z is for Moose
by Kelly Bingham
illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2012
discussed at Calling Caldecott
ages 3-7
available at your local library and on Amazon
With giggles and pointing, our 2nd graders ate up every inch of Bingham and Zelinsky's mad romp in Z is for Moose. They loved the goofiness of the premise, but they also loved the heart of the story - declaring that this is really a friendship story in the end. We talked at length about how the illustrations add to the story. The love the chaos that ensues when Moose disrupts the story, but they also responded to the emotions in Moose's face as he felt left out from all the fun. Just look at Zebra's expression on the cover and you can tell the way Zelinsky adds tension through those angry eyes. Other children noticed the way the color frames contrast with the background and the stage. But mostly, our second graders just loved this silly, funny book and wanted to read it over and over again.

We did not have an official Mock Caldecott vote with our second graders. Over five weeks, I read three classes different sets of books. Maybe next year I'll rotate a set amongst the classes, the way that Travis Jonkers did (see his post here). Whatever the case, the children really developed their ability to talk about picture books they love, support their ideas with clear reasoning, and share their love with other children.

Many thanks to the publishers for supporting our Mock Caldecott unit: Disney / Hyperion, Harper Collins, and Scholastic. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mock Caldecott discussions at Emerson, Part 2

Emerson 2nd graders have **loved** reading and thinking about which picture book they would award with the 2013 Caldecott Medal. This project is really deepening their ability to articulate how pictures contribute to an overall story. In library language, we call this "visual literacy" - the ability to interpret and make meaning from illustrations. Here are four more of our favorite picture books from 2012.
Extra Yarn
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Jon Klassen
Balzar + Bray, 2012
ages 4 - 8
reviewed here
available at your local library and on Amazon
Our students love Extra Yarn more and more with each reading. Even though the artwork is subdued, they respond to Annabelle's creative spirit, to her generosity and to her tenacious refusal to sell her precious box to the archduke. They love the surprising twists of this story, and the way that the illustrations add to the visual surprises. The notice that the illustrations help make the pacing and details are perfect; in particular, the love the wordless pages near the end, as readers need to guess what is happening to the box of yarn.
Little Dog Lost
by Mônica Carnesi
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012
ages 4-8
reviewed at Calling Caldecott
available at your local library or on Amazon
Children have really responded to this true story of a little dog who was stuck on an ice flow in Poland’s Vistula River, and rescued after drifting for two days on the open sea. Was it just because our students adore little dogs, or do the illustrations really add to this? After a hearty debate, our students definitely think Carnesi's illustrations are distinguished, making the story "pop", helping them connect to the dog and understand how he felt. Carnesi creates tension as one thing goes wrong after another. She creates empathy without overdoing the emotions. In fact, today's class voted this as their winner! We'll see if the Caldecott Committee notices this sweet, quiet story - we sure hope so.
Green
by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Roaring Brook Press, 2012
ages 3 - 8
reviewed at Fuse #8
available at your local library or on Amazon
On the surface, this is a book about just one color; but as our students quickly realized, Seeger makes readers appreciate just how many variations there are for a single color. Students loved Seeger's inventive descriptions of different shades of green, from forest green to sea-green to khaki green. We talked about the texture of the oil paint and the canvas that shows on each page. And they loved the twist near then end when Seeger adds yet another layer with “all green / never green / no green / forever green.” This is certainly a book where the illustrations extend it far beyond its simple words, making reader think about color in new and different ways.
And Then It's Spring
by Julie Fogliano
illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Roaring Brook Press, 2012
ages 3 - 8
reviewed here
available at your local library or on Amazon
While this book took my breath away, it did not stay with our 2nd grade readers quite the same way when compared to other favorites in our Mock Caldecott discussions. When we read it together, the students responded to the details in each illustration, noticing what different animals were doing on each spread. They liked the muted colors and the building of tension as the little boy waited and waited for spring. But I think this quiet book might be too slow and subdued for their tastes. But I wonder if the Caldecott Committee might appreciate the way Stead's artwork builds the themes and anticipation in this lovely story.

Many thanks to the publishers for supporting our Mock Caldecott unit: Penguin, Harper Collins and Macmillan. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Best picture books of the year: Mock Caldecott discussions at Emerson, Part 1

Each year, a group of librarians gather together to discuss the best picture books of the year, awarding the Caldecott Medal to the artist of the "most distinguished" American picture book for children. This year's Caldecott winners will be announced on Monday, January 28th - we are very excited to see which artists are recognized with this great honor!


The students and teachers at Emerson have been reading and discussing many of the best picture books this year. It's a wonderful opportunity to talk about how the illustrations add to a story, creating meaning and emotions. This week, I'd like to share some of the books we've been discussing. Look for Part 2 and 3 later this week. For now, here are some of our favorite potential Caldecott books:

Baby Bear Sees Blue
by Ashley Wolff
Beach Lane / Simon & Schuster, 2012
ages 2 - 5
reviewed here
available at your local library or on Amazon
My students were charmed by this sweet book, loving the rhythm of the story, the unexpected items selected to focus on each color, and the rich, saturated color of each illustration. On each page, they noticed the details in Wolff's illustrations, as well as the balance between large figures and spaces and small detailed illustrations.
Step Gently Out
poem by Helen Frost
photographs by Rick Lieder
Candlewick Press, 2012
ages 4 - 9
reviewed here
available from your local library or on Amazon
Lieder's photographs took my students' breath away. As one student said, "They make the images pop out." The brilliant color, the compositions, the contrast between blurred backgrounds and crystal clear animals, and the incredible details in each photograph are astounding. The photographs complement Frost's words and extend them, giving readers fascinating images to contemplate on each page. Students also remarked about the pacing, the way that the photographs allow you to read the poem slowly, savoring each image.
Oh, No!
by Candace Fleming
illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Schwartz & Wade / Random House, 2012
ages 3 - 8
review by 100 Scope Notes
available at your local library, on Amazon and as a
"Read & Listen" iBook for the iPad
Flemings rhyming text and Rohmann's colorful illustrations absolutely captivated my students. They chanted along with me, saying the choral, "Ribbit-oops! Ribbit-oops!" and "Oh, no!" right in time. But best of all, they loved the way Rohmann changed his perspective with each page, showing just enough of each scene to draw you right in. They loved the playfulness of having to find the tiger - spotting his claws wrapping around the tree, or his tail poking out from the bushes.

Rohmann creates his illustrations using relief prints with the reduction method (see here for an explanation of what that means), and you can see some fascinating examples of his work in progress at the wonderful blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. While Betsy Bird over at Fuse #8 wonders whether problems with the perspective will cause this trouble, my students and I would agree with Ed Spicer (see the comments in Betsy's post) that the animals in the hole can sense the tiger prowling outside the hole without having to see him. Rohmann's illustrations add to the humor, energy and pacing of this wonderful book. This is one we will read again and again.
Nightime Ninja
by Barbara DeCosta
illustrated by Ed Young
Little, Brown, 2012
ages 3-8
Horn Book review
available at your local library and on Amazon
Ed Young's expressive collages hooked my students from the cover, with those big eyes peering out from the black disguise. My second graders loved the twists and surprises that Young reveals in his illustrations, as he slowly hints that the Ninja might be a young boy with an active imagination. My students would agree with the Horn Book, which writes, "Young’s art, however, perfectly pairs with the minimal text. His cut-paper and cloth illustrations do the heavy lifting here, imbuing the tale with mystery, beauty, and emotion." The illustrations create tension and pacing that captivates young readers, making them want to turn to this book for multiple readings.

Many thanks to the publishers for sharing and supporting our Mock Caldecott unit: Simon & Schuster, Candlewick, Random House, and Little, Brown. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, December 10, 2012

Red Knit Cap Girl - a beautiful, quiet picture book (ages 3 - 7)

There are times I just want to run my fingers over a picture book's page, wondering in the beauty of its artwork. Red Knit Cap Girl, by Naoko Stoop, drew me in right from the start, with the beautiful grains of wood surrounding the sweet little girl. My 2nd graders and I read this as part of our Mock Caldecott unit, talking about some of the best new picture books this year.
Red Knit Cap Girl
by Naoko Stoop
Little, Brown, 2012
ages 3 - 7
Amazon and your local library
Red Knit Cap Girl wishes more than anything that she could talk to the moon. She and her animal friends wonder how she can reach all the way to the moon - no matter what they do, it seems so far away. But the wise old owl tells her, “The Moon is too far to reach, but if you want, she will bend down to listen to you … You will find a way.”

My students found Stoop's artwork enchanting in a quiet, soothing sort of way. They noticed the way she uses many different shades and gradations of color. Sometimes the grain of the plywood shows through the soft, transparent paint, and other times the color is rich and vibrant. The story spoke to them, reminding them of other stories they love, like Kitten's First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes. Young children are enchanted by the moon, the way it changes each night but is always there. The way it seems so close and yet so far away.

I like the way Mrs. Heise notes the way Red Knit Cap Girl's friends all come together as a community to help her. I agree with her that the language is not as fluid as the artwork; the name Red Knit Cap Girl is a bit choppy to keep saying over and over again. Over at the wonderful Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Jules describes Stoop's artwork as "elegant in its simplicity," noting that she uses simple shapes, comforting curves and minimalist facial details to convey a magical, comforting tale.

This year, I am reading four different books to each 2nd grade class. At the end of the four weeks, they will vote on their favorite book. Then we will share our favorites with the other classes. Throughout the process we will talk about what makes wonderful picture books, how we need to think about the story and the illustrations.

In the meantime, our 1st graders are reading a wide range of Caldecott Medal and Honor books (you can see the whole list here). They are sharing with each other, practicing thinking and writing about books. Then our 1st graders will share their favorites with our Skype buddy class in Lynnwood, Washington through the help of Mrs. Valerie Stein. We're very excited to be reading such wonderful books and having an authentic way to practice our public speaking skills!

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers Little, Brown. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books