Study on British Book Reading

A fascinating study on books being read to British children (they interviewed 2,207 parents with children under 16) has some pretty obvious findings, but then some more interesting points.

First, it will come as no surprise to parents that lighter funnier books are the most popular.  They were the favorite of 28% of the children, compared to 12% who enjoyed fairy tales the most. 

49% of parents read to their children every day, with 1 in 10 admitting to skipping pages to reach the end faster.  I admit to doing that as well, but only when a book is unexpectedly horrid.

But my favorite part of the study is the fact the 84% of parents who read aloud say that they use different voices for various characters.  Hurrah!

Online Children's Lit

There is something glorious about paging through children’s books from the past.  And in this case, I mean the way-back past like the 19th century.  The Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature has been digitized.  It contains so many books, including alphabet books, series books, periodicals for children, moral tales, fairy tales and many more.  Understand that you are going to be looking at books that reflect a different set of social values that we use today.  This is not a collection to set your child in front of and allow them to browse.  Rather it is for those of us who enjoy paging through old books without the mildew scent and dust.

I'm Bad

I’m Bad by Kate and Jim McMullan

The creators of I Stink and I’m Dirty, the stories of a garbage truck and backhoe respectively, now turn away from trucks and to another very popular subject: dinosaurs!  Here we meet a T-Rex with plenty of attitude, showing off his huge teeth, big claws, stomping feet.  But he becomes less impressive as he tries again and again to catch something to eat.  It takes his much larger mother dino to come to the rescue with "takeout." 

In this book the McMullans continue their trade-mark dialogue style that will have readers flexing, brandishing and showing off with abandon.  It is impossible to read their books aloud without style and a new persona.  This makes them not only great fun to read aloud, but mesmerizing for audiences.  Equally successful are the illustrations that fairly pop from the page with greens, oranges, blues and plenty of action too.  The words and illustrations have obviously been created together because they work effortlessly together. 

Highly recommended as a staple in your dinosaur story times or units.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Disney Graphic Novels

In a rather backwards roundabout way, Disney is getting into the graphic novel business.  They have created Kingdom Comics which will generate graphic novels from which Disney Studios will select projects to bring to film.  I had to read the article several times to make sure I was really reading that right. 

Yup, create books in order to gauge interest in potential films.  After all, that’s what books are for right? 

Oh wait, no, books and stories are really there to gut and maim in the name of Disney to create stories that rather than being dark and fascinating are sugary and can be sold not only in films but as theme park rides, costumes and an entire cultural phenomenon. 

Now THAT’s what books are for!  (she said with great snarkiness)

Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood

Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Gwen Millward.

Told from the point of view of the dragon, this is the story of finding a boy in the woods and trying to figure out what to do with him.  It doesn’t seem to be hungry for fish and worms.  They aren’t sure if he can sleep in a bed.  And instead of breathing fire, he leaks water out of his eyes!  When the boy begins to describe his own magical land, the dragon is amazed.  The boy teaches the dragons soccer and then finally is returned home where the dragon is met with less than a warm welcome.

The text and illustrations here really work well together, setting a light and humorous tone.  The boy, Benjamin, is a fluffy-haired blonde with a constantly worried expression.  The dragons are huge, multi-colored but not scary in any way.  Their confused looks and engaged expressions make sure that no one would be frightened by them.  The text is very funny with just the right touches and tone.  The illustrations are busy, colorful and worth the time to explore fully.  They often have small arrows pointing out details, making it all the more enjoyable.

A great read-aloud, this one can be added to your dragon story time.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Hans Christian Andersen's Never-Ending Bedtime Story?

I found myself unable to stop reading this Times article on a visit Hans Christian Andersen paid to Dickens in England.  The two had been mutual admirers and then correspondents, but then Andersen came to stay for what was meant to be a fortnight and stayed for five weeks!  Dickens never corresponded with Andersen again.

Here is my favorite quote from the article:

To Andersen, the visit was timeless Elysium, a holiday, a fairy tale come true. To Dickens, his wife, and particularly his children it was eternal torment, a holy hell, a horror story made real.

Anyone else enjoying this the way I do?  There’s some sort of vicarious pleasure in reading this.

Atherton: Rivers of Fire

Atherton: Rivers of Fire by Patrick Carman.

I was lucky enough to review the first book in this series for School Library Journal.  You can see my review here on Amazon.  Just scroll down.  As you can see, I loved it.

And while I really liked this second book about Atherton, it didn’t quite capture me the way that the first book did.  We return to the world of Atherton which is in the process of changing.  The Highlands are falling and the Flatlands are rising.  Horrible creatures called Cleaners are suddenly able to reach the human towns, and our hero and his friends find themselves right in the thick of danger as they venture deeper into the Highlands to discover the secrets of Atherton and its creator. 

Readers really have to have read the first book to understand what is happening here.  The book has a breakneck speed throughout as the main characters rush from one disaster to the next, barely staying ahead of the cataclysmic changes.  I missed the introspective nature of the first book that made it rather gem-like and special.  Those same themes are present in this novel, but are secondary to the adventure and action.

Fans of the first novel will consider this a must-read and any library with the first book must have the second.  Recommended for readers of the first book.


Skunkdog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Pierre Pratt

Dumpling (the dog) and her people move out into the country where she has room to run, a woods to walk in, and absolutely no friends!  One special characteristic of Dumpling is that she has no sense of smell, making it very hard for her to relate to other dogs.  So when Dumpling was digging under a bush and was sprayed by a skunk, she doesn’t really notice.  But her people do!  They try one way after another to get rid of the stench, but nothing works until they try tomato juice.  When Dumpling is finally clean and stench-free, they release her to the backyard admonishing not to play with the skunk again.  But Dumpling misses the skunk and when she can’t find the skunk she starts to get sadder and sadder.  In this tale of unlikely friends, there is of course a happy ending, except maybe for the people who have to smell Dumpling.

This book is charming.  Dumpling is a round dog with a long nose, made all the more silly by the fact she can’t smell.  The family is wonderfully cartoony, with a round-faced boy, angular mom and square dad.  But the skunk steals the show with the big pink nose and always lifted tail.  Jenkin’s words are equally successful as they tell the story of loneliness and unusual friendship.  The text may seem long for a picture book at first glance, but it is very easy to read aloud and never drags.

Highly recommended for children ages 4-7.  Add this to your dog story times, friendship story times, and to your pile of books that kindergarteners and first graders will enjoy hearing read aloud.

Why Read? I'm a Teacher!

LISNews reports on research into teacher reading habits by the Centre for Literacy and Primary Education which finds that many teachers do not regularly read children’s literature and therefore tend to select books from a narrow band on authors.  The following is a quote from the article:

"There are so many reasons why children are not enthusiastic about reading, so the role of teachers in encouraging them to read is critical," said Olivia O’Sullivan, project director. "If teachers are not enthusiastic about books and reading, it misses a valuable opportunity to influence and encourage a child."

Well, I had often wondered why teachers would select Robert Munsch for classroom use rather than some of the great, artistic and interesting books newly released.  Guess I understand why they make the decisions they do, but I can’t fathom why they don’t read children’s books! 

This is a place for school librarians and children’s librarians in public libraries to excel and to insert their own knowledge.  Maybe a recommended book list put out by public librarians focusing primarily on books to be used in various classroom levels?  Hmm.