Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Children’s Book Review and Activities, Jeremy


Children’s Book Review and Activities, Jeremy
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


With Children’s Book Week fast approaching in Australia, there’s still time to buy or borrow this wonderful short-listed children’s picture book! Jeremy was written by Chris Faille, illustrated by Danny Snell, and published by Working Title Press (2013). There are Teacher Notes to accompany it.

From the publisher:

When tiny Jeremy falls out of his nest and is brought home by the family cat, he is only a few days old. Luckily, Jeremy is a fighter. As the weeks go by he grows stronger and stronger, until the time comes to say goodbye.

I get excited when I find excellent non-fiction pitched at younger children. Partly because excellent non-fiction for kids is not as common as excellent fiction. But also because it’s so important to ensure our children have access to all sorts of reading material, so they can choose what they WANT to read. I know lots of youngsters who will be keen to share this story once they know it’s actually based on a true account. Still more kids will just adore the idea of a feel-good story about a very cute baby kookaburra.

Faille has done a masterful job of telling a tale children will understand and enjoy. His “voice” is a child’s voice, and he focuses on telling us things kids will want to know: what the baby kookaburra looked like, how they looked after it, how it grew and changed and expressed itself. Snell’s illustrations were done in acrylic paints on MDF board, enabling him to capture lots of detail and some wonderful kookaburra character! There’s an understated but excellent positive message at the end of the book when Jeremy is released to the wild and goes off with other kookaburras to live as nature intended. I also loved the end papers and their extra facts about kookaburras.

Jeremy makes a superb model of a non-fiction text. Children can study its features and use them in their own writing. I heartily recommend it as an acquisition for libraries looking to expand their non-fiction resources for under 7s, or for those who want a great book about a favourite Australian bird. Jeremy has been short-listed for The Eve Pownall Award for Information Books. It also receives the coveted Book Chook Feather of Approval!



Teacher Activities for Jeremy

Most children will know the song Kookaburra Sits on the Old Gum Tree. Can they sing it as a round? Have kids try to innovate on the lyrics to suit Jeremy e.g.

Kookaburra fell from the old palm tree
Now he’s as happy as he can be
Fly, kookaburra
Fly, kookaburra
Join your friends and be free.


Can they invent actions to suit their new song?

Baby kookaburras are commonly called “chicks”, just like most baby birds. Do children know any special names for native Australian animals? You can see some baby native Australian animals here. Some people call a baby platypus a puggle, and koala and kangaroo babies are known as joeys. If we were going to invent a name for a baby kookaburra, what could it be? A kookabubba? A kookaling?

Ask someone who has cared for a lost or injured native animal to come and share that experience with the children. WIRES may have a guest speaker you can use. Wildlife Rescue Magazine has a lot of information about Kookaburras in Care.

Go on a nature walk with camera or iPads and try to find a kookaburra to photograph. Consider using the snaps to illustrate an information report that you collaboratively create as a class. You could add photos to a Comic Life template the way I did above, and use speech bubbles to share facts, or tell a story. If you'd like the free PDF of the image above, perhaps as a model for kids to use, visit my Fun with Learning blog.

Illustrator Myke Mollard shares some great how-to-draw tips for Australian bush creatures, including kookaburra. Activity Village has a very simple learn to draw kookaburra, as well as a kookaburra tracing page for younger kids.

Watch this short video clip of Don Spencer with an injured kookaburra at ABC Splash.

Go bush! Have a kookaburra laughing contest. Make damper “snakes”, twist them around green sticks or soaked skewers, and cook them. Build kookaburra nests near gum tree trunks.


Picture of kookaburra with frog - Photo credit: dicktay2000 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Children’s iPad App, Curious Ruler


Children’s iPad App, Curious Ruler
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com



I’ve been impressed so far with Curious Hat’s apps, so I jumped at the chance to check out Curious Ruler, a measuring app.

From the developer:

With Curious Ruler, children can explore and measure objects around them and learn about sizes, units of measure, and proportions.

Simply pick a known reference object in Curious Ruler, place it side-by-side next to the object you want to measure and snap a photo.

Curious Ruler measures the object and compares their relative sizes.

The interaction is limitless, fun and educational.

What I like: Curious Ruler was free for a limited time, is currently $Au1.29 / $US$0.99. It’s also educational and encourages kids to engage mathematically with the world around them. Although Maths and I don’t much like each other, I know logically that it’s just as important for children to be numerate as it is for them to be literate. Okay, almost as important. Curious Ruler is a tool that allows us to measure, estimate and compare, in both imperial and metric units. The inbuilt objects provided for comparison range across different countries and cultures e.g. a soda can, a football, an Australian fifty cents, a Euro coin, an iPad Air.

To my mind, Curious Ruler has a fairly narrow range of applicability. However, what it does - offer a way of measuring and comparing the size different objects - it does well. It’s a snap to navigate between the different screens, the sliders move smoothly, and I like the way the app uses the iPad’s own camera app as part of the process.


Check out my other iPad App Reviews on Pinterest.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Power of Being Punny


The Power of Being Punny
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com



Kids love puns. Okay, they may groan over Dad's puns, but they usually think their own are hilarious. Why not capitalise on this and suggest your kids/students try some activities based around puns? Observing and discussing puns is a great way for children to practise inferring, a vital comprehension skill. (If you want to find out more about inference, check out my article, Helping Kids to Infer. )

What is a pun exactly? Different people seem to mean different things by it, but one simple definition I like is "a play on words". Many puns take advantage of words that sound the same but look different e.g. a frayed knot/ afraid not. To help children understand, collaboratively brainstorm words with different spellings/meanings. Don’t forget puns can also use words that sound a lot like another e.g. her before/herbivore in “A girl said she met me at the Vegetarian Club but I had never met herbivore.”

1. Have kids research the subject of puns. At home, they could ask relatives for their favourite puns. Collect the puns they bring in, and display them in some way. This could be as simple as a small paper booklet, a display board, or kids might like to use software or an app to collect and present their information.

2. Choose some puns to re-create as comics. I like iPad apps, ToonToolkit and ComicsHead, for versatility, but many of the comic editors are useful.

3. Choose some puns to present in images with captions. Consider using online image editors like PicMonkey and Ribbet to find stickers, or clker.com for clipart.

4. Choose some puns to represent with drama, drawing, or multimedia.

As models for children:

1. Here are some images I created of puns with captions:


2. Here are some single frame pun cartoons or comics I made.


3. And here are some cartoons I created in ToonToolkit. I’ve compiled several of these cartoons into a PDF, along with blank templates for kids to use, in case that’s useful to you. I’ve shared the PDF at My Fun with Learning blog. 


Try these puns. Kids could develop them into jokes, expand on them, or use them as punch lines in a short scene:

The best way to communicate with a fish is to drop them a line.

Broken pencils are pretty much pointless.

I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

Velcro - what a rip off!

I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.

They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a Type-O.

Expansion Example: Someone realises that “portent” sounds the same as “poor tent”. Ask children to imagine a scene where the two could be used together. Portent is synonymous with a sign or warning. If two people are camping, a thunderstorm could be a portent of worse weather. And bad weather might cause a tent to collapse. This scene could be developed as an improvisation in a drama lesson, a dialogue between two people, or a short writing activity. It would also make a great cartoon:

Imagine two campers standing next to their collapsed tent during a storm. One says to the other as a lightning bolt hits the ground nearby: Gosh, Mike, do you think that’s a portent? Mike stares at the tent glumly and says: No, just a poor tent!

If you're interested in capitalising on children's love of humour, you might also like to read:



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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Children’s Book Review, The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau




Children's Book Review
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


When I was a teen, I discovered that I loved naive art. To this day I am unsure why. I love the simple, whimsical view of life such illustrations depict, the way they offer a child-like perspective on what they portray. In Rousseau's case, I adored the colour, the vibrancy and the fantastical landscapes. So it was with excitement and keen anticipation that I received my review copy of The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau. Written by Michelle Markel, and illustrated by Amanda Hall, it was published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (2012.)

From the publisher:

Henri Rousseau wanted to be an artist. But he had no formal training. Instead, he taught himself to paint. He painted until the jungles and animals and distant lands in his head came alive on the space of his canvases.

Henri Rousseau endured the harsh critics of his day and created the brilliant paintings that now hang in museums around the world. Michelle Markel's vivid text, complemented by the vibrant illustrations of Amanda Hall, artfully introduces young readers to the beloved painter and encourages all readers to persevere despite all odds.

It’s not easy to take the life of an adult and turn it into a story children can relate to. Markel has excelled in this task. Her research into Rousseau’s life is obvious, but she has brought the facts to life for kids, telling the poignant tale in words they will understand. Her choice of present tense gives the story immediacy and puts the reader right alongside Henri as he perseveres with his ambition to become an artist.

Hall’s illustrations have been done in a Rousseau style. It works very well - not an imitation but an attempt to capture the artist’s way of viewing the world. Children I’m sure will respond to the playfulness, the colour and texture in her art work. It truly is a perfect complement to Markel’s writing.

It goes without saying that this book would make an excellent supplement to a home or library's resources on art. It’s also wonderful to find such an accessible biography in picture book format. But I would recommend it too because of the inspiring story of a man who was ridiculed, treated with contempt even, yet persevered and followed his dream. Our children need heroes, and Rousseau was a true hero.

Why not make The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau the jumping off point for a family or class visit to a nearby art gallery? Helping children to discover and explore art is something that feeds their imaginations and encourages them to create art of their own. For further inspiration, there’s a discussion guide available at the publisher's website, and you can get more of an idea of the book via this video.



Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Monday, July 21, 2014

April - June 2014 Children’s App Reviews and Articles at The Book Chook


April - June 2014 Children’s App Reviews and Articles at The Book Chook
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com



Last year I did a big round-up of my 2013 iPad app reviews. Earlier this year I gathered my reviews from January to March 2014 into one post for ease of browsing. Today I’m rounding up my app reviews (mostly iPad, with one Mac app) and an article about apps for digital storytelling - all published between April and June 2014. Today I’m doing this in style with the help of a Listly gallery. The Gallery option that comes with Listly Pro means I get to embed the list I created on my blog, and you get to browse it via thumbnail images and a snippet of text. You can also interact with the items in the list, and share it with your social networks. I think there's also the option to embed my list on your own blog - "think" because I'm trialling Listly just now.


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