Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book talk: Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

[For this booktalk, I used two props: a net and a small plush red bird. ]

[Holding the net and pretending to "net" the bird.] How easy is it to catch a bird? How quick on your feet do you have to be? Do you think you could catch a bird with a net?

[Picking up book.] Shh! We have a plan! We're going to catch that bird!

[Show picture]. Almost!

[Turn the page.] Okay, so that did NOT go well.

But remember, we have a plan.

And now we have a BOAT. You just cannot fail with a boat and a net, you know?

[Ask kids to predict what will happen with the boat.]

Yep...man in the water!

Fine! Time for a new plan!

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. Candlewick, 2014. Booktalk to PreK-2nd grade. Also, good introduction to the concept of the refrain.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book talk: The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Imagine you are going to ride the longest train in the world -- the Boundless: she's seven miles long and holds over six thousand passengers. Think about it: seven miles long. There are entire cities shorter than that! Anyhow, some people claim the Boundless is too big, and there's one creepy fact you should know: she carries her dead founder's coffin in a locked and guarded room. Creepy, huh?

Will is our young hero, and he needs to get into that locked coffin room. His family used to be poor, but thanks to the Boundless and its creator, they are now rich. Life is good.

Did I just say Will's life was good? Strike that. At one point, he got off the Boundless, went into the woods, and barely made it back to the departing train -- he got on the caboose on the very end. So why is that a problem? First of all, the Boundless is seven miles long, and it's not easy to travel between cars. Many of them are locked, and there are different classes of passengers on the train: the rich are at the front, the middle class are somewhere in the middle, and the poor are crammed together in over-crowded cars at the end. Will's dad is at the front, and Will is at the very back.

Will stinks, and there are men on board trying to kill him. He stinks because he doused himself with the urine -- that's pee -- of a supposed sasquatch, a huge, monstrous, ape-like creature. That stuff stinks. The men trying to kill him stink as well, only not literally. What kind of a crazy train is this? Read Kenneth Oppel's The Boundless to find out.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel. Simon & Schuster, 2014. Booktalk to grades 5-9.

Monday, August 25, 2014

You Can't Make Me: Funny, Subversive Picture Books

Any toddler or preschooler who hasn't gotten his or her way can be creatively subversive and funny, too, if you're not on the receiving end.

Maybe you do need a bath.
Mo Willems' picture books featuring the Pigeon are both hilarious and true: hilarious because the pigeon is subversive by nature, and true because he's basically an intelligent, strong-willed preschooler. The Pigeon Needs a Bath!, one of Mo Willems' newer ones, has snarky flies (even they think the Pigeon reeks), zesty Pigeon diatribes and excuses, and a satisfying ending.


Meet the next level of the will to power. Achilles, a young crocodile, would really like to eat a child. We know that this is a bad idea, but he sticks to it anyways.

Achilles really is pretty cute.
His parents bring him all kinds of edible treats, but his ingratitude grows, as does his desire to eat a child. Sure enough, Achilles does encounter a child. Will we be grossed out? Find out in Sylviane Donnio's I'd Really Like to Eat a Child. (Yes, it's completely appropriate. Duh.)



Ever been interrupted by a young child? Repeatedly? You'll appreciate Peter Catalanotto's Ivan the Terrier in which Ivan repeatedly interrupts the narrator's fairy tale with his hyperactive barking.

Ivan the Terrier by Peter Catalanotto
Exhausted, the poor narrator keeps switching to a different tale, only to get interrupted again by barking. But Ivan, like a young child, will get tired (eventually). Young children will delight in finding Ivan in pictures where he is barely visible.

That appliance looks unreliable!
Fix this Mess by Tedd Arnold begins with my own dream come true: a Remote Operating Basic Utility Gizmo ("cleans your house!" according to the box) -- R.O.B.U.G, super cute and looks portable. Looks are deceptive. Every time ROBUG's owner asks him to "fix this mess," ROBUG only makes the mess worse, while relocating the mess to a different location in the house. Sounds exactly like someone I know.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book talk: What's Your Favorite Animal? by Eric Carle and Friends

Eric Carle's Fiffi
Think of your favorite authors: they all have favorite animals, just as you do. Remember The Very Hungry Caterpillar author, Eric Carle? He had a cat named Fiffi who loved string beans. Eric could play fetch with her, throwing the string beans! At one point, Fiffi picked up a string bean, walked into a closet, put the string bean in his shoe, and fell asleep, curled around the shoe!




His eye reminds me of the Pigeon's eye!
Remember how funny Mo Willems' Pigeon books are? Mo Willems is just as funny. [Read his favorite animal out loud.] Where is that animal in this picture? [Wait for responses.] Right: it's in the stomach of the snake!

[Show Leopard by Lucy Cousins but cover up her name.] One of the authors loves leopards. Does this illustration style look familiar to you? [Wait.] This author loves red, yellow, and outlining in black. Right: it's the author of the Maisy books -- Lucy Cousins.

Have you read This is Not My Hat or I Want My Hat Back? Jon Klassen has a great, sly sense of humor. I'm not going to tell you his favorite animal, but try to guess it before you read this book. There is a great list of author biographies in the back: you get to see what the authors looked like as children and learn more about them.

What's Your Favorite Animal? by Eric Carle, Nick Bruel, Susan Jeffers, Steven Kellog, Jon Klassen, Tom Lichtenheld, Peter McCarthy, Chris Raschka, Peter Sis, Lane Smith, Erin Stead, Rosemary Wells, Mo Willems. Unpaged. 2014: Henry Holt and Company. Booktalk to K-2.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Book talk: The 13 Clocks by James Thurber

[You'll begin this booktalk by showing the bleak picture of the castle, shown in some editions on the front pastedown endpaper.]

Would you want to live here?
Would you like to live in this castle? [Wait for responses.] Why not? Right, it's creepy. It's cold, gloomy, dark, lonely, and time has stopped there. Not a fun place to live. The only thing I like about this castle is that it has a hidden door which leads to a secret stairway which opens in on a room called the oak room. But it's really, really dark in there, and by "there," I mean everywhere in the castle. Even creepier, you sometimes hear laughter in the dark. It's this evil creature called the Todal. I'll tell you more about him in a minute.

The Duke is the creepy seated man.
The Duke is what's wrong with this castle. He's an evil, whiny, vicious, lying man with cold hands and a cold heart. He has been cruel to animals, and cruel to people, as well. His niece, Saralinda, is beautiful but kind of spaced out. I can't tell you why. The Duke stopped time and all the clocks in the castle are stuck on ten to five. It's called being stuck in Then. It's always Then, and never Now. That must be incredibly boring and kind of sad.

There are other characters you'll meet, but I did promise to tell you about the Todal. He looks like a blob of glup; he smells of old, unopened rooms; and he makes a sound like rabbits screaming. The Todal is waiting for the Duke to fail.

When the castle gets a human visitor -- his name is Xingu -- we find out he has several secrets about him, and he seems kind and good. But can he bring about the Duke's downfall? Or, even worse, the Todal's?

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber. 124 pages. 1950/reprint: The New York Review Children's Collection. Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Book talk: The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

It's summer time, and your second grade year will start soon. I want you to imagine that you're on a family trip, stopping in Minnesota to see a statue of the Jolly Green Giant. Obviously, this statue is really, really tall and really, really green. You're wearing a new baseball cap that you love. It's a windy day, and you're on the lookout platform of the statue.

Goodbye, new baseball cap!
Your cap suddenly blows away in the wind! Without thinking, you step over the guardrail and REACH as far as you possibly can. You fall to the far pavement below.

The next thing you remember is waking up in a hospital. Your parents are with you, and so is your three-year-old sister, Sal.

You have a head injury, but the doctor says you'll be okay. "You fell exactly the right way to protect yourself," he says.

But you're still worried that you won't be smart enough for the school year.

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes. 229 p. 2013: Greenwillow Books. Booktalk to 2nd - 4th, and also to advanced 1st grade readers and reluctant/basic level 5th graders.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book talk: King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bentley and Helen Oxenbury

If you're like King Jack, you have everything you need to make a castle: a big cardboard box; an old sheet and some sticks; a couple of trash bags and a couple of bricks; and an old blanket.

Now you have to protect your castle against dragon attack. You also have to protect your castle against wild beasts.

But what if your other trusty warriors leave you? Will it be hard to fight dragons all alone? It might be scary to be in your castle in the utter darkness...

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bentley and Helen Oxenbury. 2011: Dial Books for Young Readers. 2013 Kate Greenaway medal nominee. Booktalk to PK-2.