Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Activities for Kids - Children’s Book Week 2017



by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


In Ideas for Children's Book Week 2017 I shared suggestions of whole class projects, discussion topics and learning resources that teachers and others might find useful when exploring the Children’s Book Week 2017 theme, Escape to Everywhere, with kids.

Today I have lots of prompts and suggestions for activities that could provide a spark for children and help them engage with books, learn, create, think, and have fun during Children’s Book Week 2017 in Australia. I hope all our children relish opportunities to escape to everywhere via books and their own imaginations.


Activities

* Ask your teachers, classmates and parents which real or fictional world they would like to escape to. Choose the one that sounds the best to you and find out more about it. Design a way of telling other people about this world. You might decide to create a poster, a video advertisement or even build a 3D model of it. Take a photo of the person whose world you chose, and display their picture and the name of the world next to your creation.

* An evil overlord has taken over your country, banning books and reading. How does that make you feel? What effect does it have on the population generally? What can you do about the problem?

* Choose one book from the 2017 CBCA short list, read it and make a 60 second video, reflecting on it. OR Create a short video about your favourite book for kids.

* Imagine a place that you need to escape from. Draw it in an app, or with paper and markers. Or describe it orally or in writing. By chance, you find a way to escape, via a book/books. How do you feel? What happens next?


* Design a bridge that will be someone’s escape to somewhere. Write a list of all the materials you could possibly build the bridge from, then choose three materials only from which to create your bridge. The bridge must be able to take the weight of some kind of vehicle. so that it can cross to safety on the other side.

* Create a poster about Children’s Book Week 2017. You might decide to feature some kind of thing which can travel, and take you to many different places, both real and imaginary. What message do you want to convey via your poster? Who do you think should take that message away from your poster? Where could you put your poster to reach your chosen audience?

* Construct a sign post for your library that features as many different fictional places as you can think of. You could consider places like Hogwarts, Sherwood Forest, The Hundred Acre Wood, and Deltora. How many of the books about these places have you read? Which books would you like to read?

* Create your own bookmark for Children's Book Week 2017. If you're short on time, I have a free PDF with bookmarks to print, cut out and decorate at my website.

* Find some books that have maps of fictional worlds. You could try The Hobbit, the Narnia books, or the How to Train Your Dragon books, or use some ideas from this Pinterest page. Choose one/some of these as a model to create a map of a fictional world you invent.

* Draw and label the tree house you would like to live in some day. Include some kind of escape hatch so you can grab a magical book and get away if you need to. Write out directions for using the escape hatch.

* Choose your favourite scene from a short-listed or other book for kids and re-create it in LEGOs.

* Visit Storybird and find an illustration collection that suggests a story about escaping to you. Go ahead and create a storybird about your idea.

* Create a 3D prototype out of play-dough or clay of an escape device.


* Make your own custom pulp magazine cover about escaping to everywhere. List some articles and story titles people might expect to find in your magazine.

* Which famous real or fictional people have escaped from somewhere or something? Choose one to find out more about and collaboratively present your information with some classmates. You might consider Zorro, Doctor Who, Bilbo Baggins, Harry Potter, Aslan, Harry Houdini, the children in The Silver Sword, Rapunzel, the Three Little Pigs, or Hansel and Gretel.

* There are lots of different worlds available at Creaza’s Cartoonist. You could use it to create a cartoon set in your favourite world. Here’s a tutorial if you’re not sure what to do. Once you register with a grown-up’s help, you can get started in telling your own digital story, using art work supplied by Creaza. Of course, you could also make your own cartoon or graphic novel with pen and paper.

* Dress as a character from one of the short-listed books. Present your character’s ideas about an issue from that book. Ask someone to record your presentation.

* Choose a shortlisted book, or your favourite book, and decide on its theme. Design a game based on that theme.

* Create a clue with emojis for the title of a short-listed book, or a book of your choice.


* Here’s a picture of a door you might like to use as a prompt for this activity. Write an escape story that starts like this: It looked ordinary from the outside…

* Vote on your class’s favourite book. Improvise words and actions about one scene from that book, to bring it to life for an audience of your choice.

* Invent a new type of clothing, or a new form of transportation that will help people escape to everywhere. Take a photo of your invention and create an infopic about it. (An infopic is a photo with text layered on top of it that conveys a message to an audience.)

* Explain to someone about the benefits of reading, or explain to young kids how reading can help them escape to everywhere.

* Choose all your favourite shortlisted book covers and make them into a collage. Now make a collage of all the shortlisted books you have read.

* Think about a character you would like to escape from. Create a picture of that character - if you’re using paper, take a photo of your picture/structure so you get a digital version. Use a video/audio app like YakiT Kids or Shadow Puppet to bring your character image to life.


* If you could escape to anywhere, where would it be? Create an image of your answer to this question. Describe this favourite place of yours. Generate an airline ticket for yourself. Make a travel brochure about it. (See my first Children's Book Week article for Escape to a Deserted Island lesson suggestion, and a link to a PDF travel brochure.)

* Just suppose you went to visit a relative and decided to explore their house. When you enter a room, you notice a tiny door down low near the floor. Where does it lead? Will you go through? What happens next?

* Build a cubby in your classroom, playground or bedroom that you can escape to and read.

* Design an advertising campaign to tell others about, and persuade them to buy, one of the short-listed books. You might include posters or full page magazine ads, radio and TV ads, banners and stickers or other ideas.


* Through books you can even escape to the future or the past. What books do you know that are set in different times than nowadays?

* Finish this sentence: The best books are …

* We can escape to everywhere via books, but what do books get up to when we are not around? Create your response to this idea however you choose. For instance, you could make an animation, a diorama, or create a book character by adding face, hands and feet to a book and use this character in a video or a picture book. Here’s a video that shows books “moving”.

* Here’s a very old illustration of someone who looks like they’re escaping. Can you imagine what has happened and what might happen next?

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. Fatima at the closet door Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/6e9d6184-eb16-d518-e040-e00a18064b23
You might find other useful ideas in my earlier posts about Children’s Book Week, embedded below.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Ideas for Children’s Book Week 2017


by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


This year, Children’s Book Week in Australia is Sunday August 20 to Saturday August 26, 2017. Here are some ideas and **free PDF resources to help parents, teachers and librarians explore that theme with kids.


Discussions to have with Children

1. The Children’s Book Week theme in Australia is Escape to Everywhere. It makes me think of a time, perhaps after I’ve been working hard or doing something boring, when I get the chance to escape into a book. I usually find a comfortable place, open my book, and I’m instantly in a different world. I have adventures, escape from baddies, save people’s lives, laugh aloud, blink away tears and completely forget about what I was doing earlier. Through books, I can escape to all sorts of places. I’ve been to Hogwarts, Outer Suburbia, The Land of Take What You Want, jungles, the bottom of the sea and outer space. When I’m reading, it feels like I actually AM some place else - I can hear the mournful hoot of an owl, smell gunpowder or feel the thunder of hooves approaching. I can escape to real worlds too, and learn about everything from creating code to decorating cupcakes. What does Escape to Everywhere mean to you?

2. Most people escape from somewhere. Why would you want to escape to everywhere? What is good about visiting different places, both real and imaginary?

3. If “read” is the answer, what might the question be?

4. Do you have a special place where you like to escape and read?

Media Comparison Lesson

1. Share the book The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore.

2. Now have kids watch the short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore.

3. If possible, make available to kids the app, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore, available on iTunes.

* Which format did you prefer? Why? What were the similarities and differences between them? What were the strengths and weaknesses of each? Was there any one image, sentence or segment that stood out?

* Morris became “lost” in a book. Has that ever happened to you? Was it a good thing or a bad thing? List the possible disadvantages and advantages of being lost in a book.

* All your school library’s books have developed the ability to fly. One escapes through an open window and you must get it back or face the Wrath of the terrifying Mrs Liberry. You decide to get it back. What happens next? Make a storyboard about this adventure from your point of view. Create a series of images, text excerpts and sound files you can use to make a short video about it.



Escape to a Deserted island

* You’ve been given a chance to escape to a deserted island. What is the name of your island, and where in the world is it?

* If you can only take three books to this island, which books would they be? Why?

* It would be good to have a companion for your stay on the deserted island. What qualities would you want in this person? Design some interview questions to ask so you can work out who to take.

* You find out you really can take any one person, currently living or not, with you in your escape to the deserted island. So who will it be? What is it about this person that made you choose them as your companion. Use an app like 30 Hands or some other way to record yourself explaining your choice.

**I am sharing a free PDF travel brochure for kids, related to the activity (above) at my website. OR kids could design a travel brochure of their own, one that encourages people to read books!



Book Week Scenario

Your school principal has heard about the Children’s Book Week theme being Escape to Everywhere, and IS NOT HAPPY. The principal thinks this means all the students will escape from school, and is worried about getting into trouble from the Education Authority. He/she has decided to lock up the library and allow kids no access to books. NO BOOKS! Can you believe it?

You and your friends work out a plan to set the books free again, and record your plan.

The plan you decide to go with is to kidnap all the teachers in retaliation for your principal locking up the books. Quickly putting on disguises, you trick the teachers and lock them in the staffroom. This means your principal will have to teach all the kids alone!!!!

Draw before and after shots of yourself or your classmates in disguise.

Write out a plan in point form that might be used to get all the teachers into the staffroom, and keep them there until you let them out.

Write a ransom note, explaining to the principal that you will let the teachers go free once the library is unlocked.

Cut out letters from magazines and create your ransom note that way, so nobody’s handwriting will become a clue. (If short on time, you can also find ransom note generators online.)

What happens next?

Use these ideas and add your own to create a narrative. OR Create some kind of media artwork as a response to this scenario, choosing sound, images and text carefully to convey the message you want to your intended audience.

**I am sharing a free PDF booklet for kids, called Setting Free the Books, about this scenario (above) at my website.

Whole Class Escape Room Project (probably several lessons)

Goal: to create an “escape room” for another group of kids. This might be for another class during Children’s Book Week, or for groups of kids during a school fete or other special day.

Discuss ways of creating something kids must negotiate or solve to “escape” from the room. Remind kids how vital it is that children are not to be frightened or hurt in any way. Ideas might include creating a maze or tunnels from cardboard boxes kids need to crawl through, or needing to solve riddles or other puzzles to get past a gatekeeper. Or a combination of both!

Kids could start by making a collaborative list of all the puzzles or riddles they know. They could research more, using books, computers and asking people they know. This will give them lots of ideas to choose from. If they’re stuck, you can help out by using ideas from here. And here.

Some people like to have a theme or storyline for an escape room or puzzle-fest; others are happy to mix riddles with visual puzzles, number puzzles with rhyming puzzles, and have no story at all. But since Children’s Book Week is all about story, it might be great to choose a fictional world to set your puzzle(s) in. Decorating this world helps kids think about setting, and they can use what they know about story to set the stage for participants. There are excellent ideas to help create an escape or mystery game here.

Many escape rooms have clues deliberately left as misdirection. In other words, they seem like clues, but lead nowhere.

While some escape rooms for adults involve locked rooms and no directions at all, discuss with kids why this wouldn’t be a good idea. A locked box that is eventually able to be unlocked is safer, but still has an element of mystery.

You could create a locked box model to share with kids something along these lines. There is also a commercial kit sold by Breakout EDU that schools can buy. Here is a video of a school participating.

(Extra information for teachers who are keen to create elaborate escape rooms: There are very detailed instructions for adults on how to create an escape room here. That website also has games for sale. There’s an instructable for adults here.)


Quick Display Ideas

* Have kids draw their own escape to everywhere journeys on a simple map, and add book characters and scenes to it. Create a display board map along similar lines: draw a route with simple or outlandish scenery elements, then add book covers, book characters, reviews, photos of reading escapes etc

* Use these free printable letters to spell out Escape to Everywhere or Book Week or your choice. You’ll find A-Z in large, decorate-able letters or scroll down to find A-Z of letters filled with intricate designs perfect for colouring in.

* Ask kids to draw self portraits with the tops of their heads missing! Show all the places we can go via books by drawing them exploding out of their heads. (See top image for my attempt.)

* Expand on the idea of a travel brochure by having a holiday scene background or a map, then add book covers, a mock up of a passport and air tickets etc

* Use the poem I Opened a Book by Julia Donaldson as a focus for student art works.

Quotes to Discuss

Here are some great quotes I believe are in keeping with the spirit of Escape to Everywhere. They make good discussion starters to use with kids.



Mary Oliver: Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

Stephen King: Books are a uniquely portable magic.




Lisa Bu: Books have given me a magic portal to connect with people of the past and the present. I know I shall never feel lonely or powerless again. ~ Lisa Bu TED 2103

Mason Cooley: Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.



Joy Cowley: A sanctuary, a mine of treasure, a house of maps to secret lives in secret worlds… the librarybecame my other home.

Mary Schmich: Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.



Jackie French: Reading is the gateway for the future of our children and the planet.

Joy Cowley: As often as you open a book, you come to new places and live new lives.

Find Other Children’s Book Week Resources

Aussie author, Tristan Bancks has great ideas for Book Week
CBCA's list of notables and short-listed books for Children's Book Week 2017 

Are you looking for a performance to help you celebrate Children’s Book Week at school? Check out Super Duper and Narelle Adams Edutainer. Go to Creative Net Speakers' Agency to book an author/illustrator visit and make your Book Week extra special.

Book Suggestions

I’ve been making a list of books I think would be great for using with kids to explore the Children’s Book Week theme, Escape to Everywhere. These are books I’ve reviewed or learned about. Often these are books which have a character using imagination and travelling. Some emphasise a journey or a particular destination. Others have a quite literal “escape” scene teachers could share with kids as a model to their own writing. Some are on the CBCA Notables list for 2017. All are quite simply books with immense child appeal. And let’s face it, any book with child-appeal is a great one to share - the more books, the greater chance kids will find lots they like!

The list is embedded below.

I’ll back on Wednesday 26/4 with lots of Activities for Kids in Children’s Book Week 2017 - Escape to Everywhere!

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Chook Favourites - Wordless Picture Books

by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com



Wordless picture books are wonderful to share with kids. In my experience, they benefit from slow reading, so are best shared when there is leisure to pause, think about and discuss each illustration. Wordless (or nearly wordless) picture books provide opportunities for children to create their own stories about a sequence of illustrations. The absence of words means we readers are free to focus entirely on the images, whereas with text, we often rush past details in an image and are the poorer for it.


Instantly re-reading a wordless picture book can be a useful strategy to use with kids, because comprehension increases and more layers of meaning are discovered. Having children tell the story aloud gives them an opportunity to develop character “voices”, mood and tension in a story. Best of all, I love that wordless picture books are a wonderful way for kids to use their imaginations, and to play with story.

I’ve gathered this list to Listly and it’s embedded below. The list is by no means definitive. Some of the books are older so you may need to search your library. I’ll add to it over time but right now, this is a list of some of my favourite wordless (or nearly wordless) picture books for kids, with links to my reviews, or with mini-reviews in this post.

Quest by Aaron Becker, published by Walker Books (2015.)

From the publisher:

“…this is another visually stunning, wordless adventure story featuring two friends and their magical markers. In the city park, the pair are startled by the sudden appearance of a king, who thrusts into their hands a map and some strange objects. But before he can explain, the king is captured by enemy forces and whisked back into his enchanted world. Just like that, the girl and boy are caught up in a wild dash to rescue the mysterious monarch. They embark on a quest to unlock the puzzle of the map and, they hope, save the king and his people from darkness…”

Like many wordless picture books, Quest is not a book you can rush. Kids will glean much by poring over the details in each page, and thinking about what is going on. I loved that the children’s amazing pencils begin to draw their solutions, then magically the whole thing appears. Becker’s artwork is active, detailed and atmospheric, providing lots of prompts for a story young readers will actually tell for themselves.

Journey by Aaron Becker, published by Walker Books (2014.)

From the publisher:

"A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure and danger abound. Red marker pen in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon and a flying carpet which carry her on a spectacular journey ... who knows where? When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also guide her home and to happiness? In this exquisitely illustrated, wordless book, an ordinary child is launched on an extraordinary, magical journey towards her greatest and most rewarding adventure of all..."

This is the prequel to Quest (above) and equally as evocative, imaginative and satisfying.



Return by Aaron Becker, published by Walker Books (2016.)

From the publisher:

Aaron Becker, creator of the award-winning Journey and its stunning, celebrated sequel, Quest, presents the final chapter in his luminous, wordless fantasy. Failing to get the attention of her busy father, a lonely girl turns back to a fantastic world for friendship and adventure. It's her third journey into the enticing realm of kings and emperors, castles and canals, exotic creatures and enchanting landscapes. But this time, it will take something truly powerful to persuade her to return home, as a gripping backstory is revealed that will hold readers in its thrall.

Here's the most recently published wordless picture book to arrive chez Chook. Check out the trailer for Return to give you a taste of this gorgeous final book in the series. I think all three books of the trilogy deserve a special place in homes, schools and community where beautiful art work and visual literacy are valued.

The Farmer and the Clown

From my review:


“The Farmer and the Clown is a wordless picture book, inviting children to tell their own stories about the illustrations. I love that wordless picture books offer adults an opportunity to nudge children toward making inferences about a visual narrative. What might that be falling off the train? How do you think the little clown feels? I wonder why the farmer did that? Children of different ages will respond to the story at their own level.”

Read more at The Book Chook.

Polo: The Runaway Book by Regis Faller, published by Roaring Brook Press (2007.) This is just one of a series of Polo books. At 75 pages, it’s long for a picture book, and seems to me more like a wordless graphic novel. It’s such a wonderful, imaginative story about Polo, whose book is taken by a strange little creature. Polo follows him, and encounters a mountain made of pink fairy floss (cotton candy), fun house mirrors, a knitting penguin, a hot air balloon being piloted by a hen, and other amazements. I love the way Polo finds a (mostly mind-boggling) way out of his predicaments, and kids will too. The story is an excellent model to use when you want kids to write with lots of imagination.

The Gift

From my review:

(The Gift is) a wordless picture book, and even though words and writing are my passion, I also love the way wordless picture books encourage children's creativity and imagination. The theme is beautiful - kids will be gently prompted to think about friendship, and the friends in their own lives. And the artwork is special - it's very textural, with the look of acrylics on canvas. Gilmartin has given children lots to look at and think about: insets into the main spreads, paw prints to follow, and different techniques to suggest movement and a timeline.
Read more at The Book Chook.

Footpath Flowers

From my review:

Here are two members of a family out for a stroll. The little girl wears a bright red jacket, one of the few carefully chosen splashes of colour throughout the picture book. While the little girl notices lots of interesting details during the walk, Dad seems more focussed on his thoughts and his mobile phone. As the walk proceeds, we see more colour and more interactivity between Dad, Daughter and passers-by. I loved the way the little girl gifts others with her flowers, and the theme of giving. Like most good wordless picture books, children will notice more and more with repeated readings. Grab classroom ideas via Walker Books.

Mr Wuffles is an almost wordless picture book by David Wiesner, published by Random House.

From my review:


“There’s lots of visual detail contributing to the clues we piece together to work out what’s going on. Occasional speech bubbles, including some in alien speech, help us too. Young readers will love delving into the details and discussing what they believe is happening. The world Wiesner has created will fascinate and delight kids who’ll ensure this is one children’s picture book that will fly off book shelves!”
Read more at The Book Chook.

The Pencil by Paula Bossio, published by Gecko Press.

In The Pencil, a board book, a little girl finds a line on the ground. She picks up one end and plays with it, making curvy lines that she slides down, a ball to roll in and bubbles to blow. As the pages turn, the girl hangs from the line, and even conjures up an audience to applaud her amazing feats of balance. But wait, what has the line become now, and how will she get out of this predicament? On the back cover, we discover the source of the line. Each adventure she has underlines the possibilities of play and imagination, when you start with a line!

Mirror, by Jeannie Baker, published by Walker Books (2010.) I think of Jeannie Baker as the queen of wordless picture books. Her recent masterpiece, Mirror, in my opinion, is “a work so exquisite, so meaningful, it makes our hearts sing. “

From my review:

The book's binding allows us to open it in the middle, so we can view the two families mirrored side-by-side. We can also read each story separately. Or we can consider only one page at a time. There is such a wealth of material in this book - to look at, discuss and appreciate - I can see it contributing to visual literacy lessons in schools across grades and months! As we gaze and absorb, we become aware that despite all the differences between the two families, their lives revolve around the same routines and needs we all share. Despite the differences, when we really get to know other families, it's like looking into a mirror and seeing ourselves.
Read more at The Book Chook.

Another Baker wordless picture book I love is Belonging.

From my review:

A key factor to my deep appreciation of Baker's books is the art work. Her collages are intricate, and kids will love to identify elements like earth, feathers, and wool. There are so many details to notice, and ponder over! Do the car models change over time? How does Tracy, the baby at the start, change as she gets older? What happens in her life? Let's read all the signs and graffiti. How do the people get rid of the grafitti? Why did that happen? I wonder how the artist made the roof?
Read more at The Book Chook.

Anno’s Journey by Mitsumasa Anno, published by PenguinRandomHouse (1997.) Like so many wordless picture books, Anno’s Journey repays repeated re-readings. There are many details to pore over, and unexpected things to find, in Anno’s journey through Europe. Kids might look for changing architectural styles, familiar storybook characters, tricks of perspective and will certainly relish finding Anno! The end notes provide even more treasures to spot.

Leaf by Stephen Michael King, published by Scholastic Australia (2008.) (USA: Roaring Book Press.) This is a charming story, in pictures, about a child who runs away from having his untidy hair groomed. A bird drops a seed in his hair that sprouts into a leaf. A hair cut is back on the agenda, but the child works out how to save his leaf and it eventually becomes a tree. That is a bald account, but Leaf is so much more than facts - it elicits emotional responses and provides food for thought and discussion.

The Umbrella by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert, published by Book Island (2015.)

From my review:

“This wordless picture book opens children’s minds to all sorts of possibilities and stories. In my observation, it can be difficult for illustrators to strike the right balance in such a picture book. What balance? There needs to be an identifiable narrative, as well as an opener to several interpretations within that narrative. Some books require intense scrutiny before the narrative can be identified at all - most readers won’t persevere for a long time. The Umbrella is special because it gets this balance exactly right.”
Read more at The Book Chook.

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd, published by Chronicle Books (2014). A visually beautiful book, Flashlight shows us coloured fragments of the night through the beams of a flashlight, and lots of silvered shadows nearby. It is part exploration, part wordless narrative, and wholly enjoyable. Check out the trailer, below.



The Box by Kevin O’Malley, published by Stewart Tabori and Chang; First Edition edition (March 1993.)

Here’s a wordless picture book with quite simple illustrations, making it suitable for younger children. The story is easy to follow, but is nevertheless full of tension and drama as a young boy has an amazing adventure in a cardboard box, and must rescue his teddy bear. What a great introduction to a unit on re-imagining a cardboard box this would be!

I also found The Box on Kevin O’Malley’s website, generously made available as a free downloadable PDF. Why not have your children tell this story in their own words? There is another free PDF story too, Bruno, You’re Late for School.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan, published 2006, is a wonderful story about the migrant experience to use with older children. The richly textured pencil illustrations on some 128 pages show us many different perspectives, contributing to our understanding of what it is to be a stranger in a new land. Find several illustrations and commentary on Tan's website.

Clip Art credit: Phillip Martin

I've embedded this list below, and will add to it over time. Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Children’s iPad App, Artie’s Magic Pencil


Reviewed by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com



Artie’s Magic Pencil is both an Android and iOS app that encourages kids 3+ to create.

From the developer:

There’s a monster on the loose and it’s destroying everything in its way! Save the day and help Artie to rebuild his world, using a very special magic pencil. In a land where basic shapes are the building blocks, children can be the hero whilst learning how simple triangles, squares and circles come together to create everything they see around them, from a butterfly to a building, and a car to an ice cream shop!

What I liked:

This app has a really cute premise. What child doesn’t want to help save the day? The fact this can be done by tracing shapes means that kids are learning as they go. The app is quite intuitive and kids are guided along Artie’s journey, and his interaction with shapes. Tracing around the shape lines can deviate a little, but not too much, so kids also learn to make straight or curved lines correctly, and to join lines up. The art work is colourful, and the animations engaging. I loved that the developers included a map of Artie’s journey, and the ability for kids to choose colours and patterns for their shapes. To pay once with no ads or in-app purchases is a model I think many parents will appreciate.

Parents could further enhance the game by encouraging kids to observe shapes in the environment and to create their own pictures using shapes. There are extra downloadable worksheets from Minilab here and here for parents to print and offer their kids for more drawing fun.

Where do I get it?


Check out all of my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page. I’ll be adding this app to my List: Creating with Children and iPad Apps.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Children’s Book Reviews, Starfish Bay 2017


Reviewed by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


In 2015, I introduced some Starfish Bay Children’s Books. Today I’d like to tell you about some more Starfish Bay books. The company’s books are distributed in Australia, NZ, the US and Canada.

To be published in June 2017, The Roadman Boogie by Nikki Slade Robinson is a hardcover children’s picture book.

From the publisher:

The Roadman Boogie is a delightful and true story of a bored Roadman who found a way to entertain himself with dance on a wet and blustery day. The Roadman has some great dance moves and his happiness and enthusiasm is infectious as he jumps around listening to the various beats blaring from car to car. Children will be enthralled as they see him dancing the rhumba and salsa, wiggling his bottom to a tune, and finding a way to keep drivers happy in a soggy situation. The gorgeous rhyming text is also a joy to read!

I love the fact that this rhyming children’s picture book is based on a true story! The idea of a real road worker being so full of joie de vivre that he had to dance while directing traffic just makes me smile. Kids will smile too as they read “A bouncing boogie-woogie Made his bottom all a-wiggle.” and “A snazzy bit of Jazz got him jiving with pizzazz…” Robinson’ s illustrations are exuberant and active, showing the roadman executing his moves with panache, all while clutching his Stop/Go sign.

A Dog Like That is a soft cover children’s picture book, by Janene Cooper, illustrated by Evie Kemp, and published in May 2016.

From the publisher:

This is a delightfully warm story about a little girl and her best friend: an unruly, yet loyal and lovable, little dog. Everybody tells her how dogs should be, but this girl knows better. Her dog does what he likes, which just so happens to fit perfectly with his owner. A Dog like That! was a finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. It also won a Storylines Notable Book Award and was a LIANZA Russell Clark Award Finalist.

You can’t help but be impressed by the young narrator of this book. Despite being told by everybody how dogs are supposed to be, she is steadfast in her appreciation of her own dog. A dog that is more likely to lick strangers than bark at them, but can be relied upon to love its owner and comfort her in time of need. The text is very simple with a believable child “voice”, and Kemp’s simple, brightly coloured illustrations complement it perfectly. A Dog Like That would make a wonderful model to use with children keen to write about their own pets.

The Ogglies: A Dragon Party for Firebottom by Erhard Dietl, translated by David-Henry Wilson, published May (2016.) A hardcover book.

One thing I very much enjoy as a reviewer is encountering classic books from different cultures. Erhard Dietl is a prize-winning author, illustrator and song-writer who is very well-known in Germany for his books about the Ogglies (die Olchis.)

From the publisher:

The Ogglies: A Dragon Party for Firebottom is a gorgeous picture book that tells the story of the Oggly children and their beloved dragon pet, Firebottom. The Ogglies are interesting characters with green skin, lumpy noses and tough teeth; they eat rusty cans, love sticky soup and are sure to give children a good laugh. The Ogglies are very worried about their dragon, Firebottom, and decide to throw him a birthday party to cheer him up. The story is delightfully silly; the Ogglies have positively crazy ideas and everything gross is, in fact, good. Children and adults alike will laugh as they see all the pictures and hear all the nonsense words and phrases used.

Whatever culture kids come from, I just know they will relish reading about green creatures with lumpy noses that adore the smelliest pongs and who fly around on their pet dragon, Firebottom. There is stinky stuff a-plenty is this humorous story about how the Ogglies set about curing their pet’s depression. The Ogglies themselves remind me a bit of The Bottersnikes, only they are much nicer in character.

This is not the classic picture book format that we are used to seeing in Australia, but is a longer, more detailed story, richly illustrated with very detailed comic-style drawings. There’s a happy ending, and even a Birthday Song (and music score) for Firebottom. Wilson has done a fine job of translating to English from the original German. This is certainly a worthy addition to your collection of picture books for slightly older kids to read for themselves, say 7 - 9.

You are oh so horribly handsome! by Eva Dax, illustrated by Sabine Dully, translated by David-Henry Wilson, published September (2016.) A hardcover book.

From the publisher:

Gregor the little monster is strong, loud, and frighteningly fast, but when he worries that he might not be handsome with his rotten, crooked teeth and his stinky, cheesy feet, he decides to ask his family and friends. With the gross humour children will love, this story will delight them with its descriptive language and tale of an adorable little monster who discovers he is much-loved and horribly handsome after all.

Here’s another children’s picture book by a German author and illustrator. It’s about a most unappealing monster called Gregor, who seeks reassurance from his friends and family. Kids will love the vocabulary with lots of “disgusting”, “stinky” “yucky” etc, amply borne out by Dully’s graphic art showing close-ups of microbes and germs on Gregor’s skin. (Anyone who has read Kafka’s Metamorphosis will not wonder over the name Gregor being chosen!) There’s a truly heart-warming lesson that the little monster learns, making this a great choice as a read-aloud for Hallowe’en or anytime.

Why Do Cats Have Tails? by David Ling, illustrated by Stephanie Thatcher, published May (2016.)

From the publisher:

Children can come up with some pretty funny questions! Here in this warm and amusing story, Grandpa teases his granddaughters with some very unusual answers. The girls are spending time with Grandpa and his cats, and reject all his silly answers, until one of them comes up with an idea that even Grandpa could not think of. This is a story that amuses and entertains grandparents and grandchildren alike.

This is a gentle children’s picture book that young kids will enjoy and relate to. I really valued the relationship between Grandpa and the young girls, one that I’ll bet is mirrored all over the world. Grandpa has such silly suggestions, despite his straight face, and the older girl loves to correct him. “Grandpa, why do cats have tails?” “Hmm. Maybe so that they can swing through trees.” “No Grandpa, monkeys swing through trees.” Thatcher’s illustrations use soft watercolour to add to the humour of Grandpa’s creative scenarios. A sweet story to add to your collection of picture books about family.

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