Thursday, August 25, 2016

Brainstorm Vol 83: Fairy Tale Mashups

Fairy tales seem to never go out of style. They are certainly ever-popular. I rotate displays in our library featuring different groups of books, and by far the one that gets decimated the quickest by being snatched up for check outs has been the one featuring fairy tales and fairy tale rewrites. There are SO many books out there that are fairy tale related I can’t share them all in one post. I’m going to sporadically share them throughout the year, and will normally group them by the fairy tale they retell. To start off, here are some books and book series that feature fairy tale mashups. These aren’t collections of fairy tale stories (well, except for the graphic novel & poetry collections included), but rather those books that take your favorite fairy tale characters and mix them all up or have them hang out together. I’m leaving out series that focus on a different fairy tale in each book such as Varon’s Hamster Princess series, Mlynowski’s Ever After series or George’s Princess series, look for those in individual books with the appropriate fairy tale.

Picture Book Resource

The Jolly Postman, or, Other People’s Letters by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
The Jolly Postman makes his rounds delivering letters to various fairy tale characters. Readers get to peak inside the envelopes (cleverly designed pages with pockets) and read the letters (hidden in the envelopes) being delivered.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Fairy Tale Fans: The letters fill in some of what happens after the normal fairy tale ends, perfect for kids who want more to the stories.
  • Writing Prompt/Letter Writing Practice: Have students write some other letters the Jolly Postman may deliver to other fairy tale characters.

Middle Grade Fiction Resources

Half upon a Time by James Riley
There are three books in the Half upon a Time series: This one, and then Twice upon a Time and Once upon the End.

Jack's life really doesn't have much of a pleasant outlook. His father disappeared after stealing some things from a giant. He is an absolute failure at doing anything right in hero school, and so being a hero doesn't seem likely. And since he doesn't have royal blood, that pretty much dooms him to being a no-name peasant the rest of his life. But then one day a princess falls into his life. No really. She falls out of the sky and practically knocks him over. May is not the most conventional princess. In fact, she didn't even know she had royal blood until some guy in green and a bunch of dwarves showed up at her grandma's house and kidnapped her grandma, but not before that woman sent May through a portal to this strange fairy tale land. Thus Jack finds himself unwittingly the helper for a rather sarcastic and unprincessy princess looking for her rather famous grandmother (anyone heard of Snow White?) in a magical land that doesn't seem to have as many happy endings as the stories May has read. Along the way May and Jack gain some friends, make some enemies, and then get totally confused at the end as some people turn out to not be exactly who they were claiming to be. (And yes, if you can get your hands on the rest of the series all at once, that might be advisable. The book ends with a few more questions than answers.)

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Making Connections: These fairy tale mashups are great for readers to practice making connections with prior reading knowledge.
  • Fantasy Fans: There are numerous kids out there with a steady, insatiable thirst for fantasy books. I find some parents worry about this, but there’s good research that fantasy reading helps kids build imagination, problem solving, and empathy with people different from themselves plus many other things. Feed the thirst.
  • Humor Fans: The first two books in this series are quite humorous. The third gets a little more serious as it moves to the big confrontation, but that doesn’t seem to dissuade readers. This series is constantly in demand with boys and girls, and I’ve seen several kids re-read it.
  • Peter Pan Fans: In addition to traditional fairy tale characters, some Peter Pan characters show up in this series.

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
There are three books in The League of Princes series: This one, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle, and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw.

Prince Frederic, Prince Gustav, Prince Liam, and Prince Duncan all have one thing in common. They all have been immortalized in song by their local bards, and all have taken a back seat to the ladies in the songs, demoted to simply a supporting character called Prince Charming. Prince Frederic sets off a chain of events that lead to their meeting by being a complete and utter chicken. It isn't all his fault of course. His father, the king of Harmonia has thoroughly engrained in Frederic that any kind of action more exciting than watching grass grow will probably end up being deadly and should be avoided. So Frederic's idea of excitement is having a picnic, something just a little too bland for his fiancé Ella. So she sets off for an adventure, spurring Frederic to do the unthinkable...go after her. He runs into Prince Gustav of the kingdom of Sturmhagen, a man haunted by being rescued by Rapunzel after he tried to rescue her. (They aren't really on speaking terms.) Gustav gets entangled in Frederic's quest to find Ella. Eventually these two Prince Charmings run into Liam, who is in the dog house with not one but two kingdoms for breaking up with his fiancé Sleeping Beauty (who is not all that pleasant when awake), and Prince Duncan who is a very…umm, I guess we'll go with a very unique character and happily married to the princess he rescued, Snow White. Along the way, the unlikely foursome of Princes Charming run into the King of the Bandits and discover a plot by the witch Zaubera, who has some major anger management issues and a score to settle with heroes and bards.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Fractured Fairy Tale Fans/Humor Fans: This book is fractured fairy tales at its very best. I thoroughly enjoyed it (Prince Duncan alone would have made me love the book, all the others are just icing on the cake). Each tale and character is deliciously and humorously convoluted from the normal happily ever after version. It is a rollicking good time of misadventures and plans gone awry, all to end up pretty satisfactorily despite the best laid plans of the bad and good guys. Kids and adult alike, if you want a dose of fairy tale fiction with some chuckles along the way, this is a great pick. It is one of my go-to recommendations and so far it has always been a winner. Those who read the first book, boy or girl, always come back to quickly devour the rest of the series.
  • Reluctant Readers: As mentioned, this series is always a winner.
  • Read Aloud: If you can manage to read aloud without dissolving into a ball of laughter, this is a great one sure to please a diverse audience.
  • Compare/Contrast: This is also a good choice for teachers doing a fairy tale unit who want to compare and contrast with the typical versions.
  • Making Connections: And of course, half the fun of fractured fairy tales is the way they clash with prior knowledge of how the story is supposed to go.

The Fairy-tale Detectives series by Michael Buckley
There are nine books in this series so I’m not going to list them all here. Click on the link to see all the titles.

Two girls, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, are sent to live with their Grandmother after their parents disappear. They soon discover that they are part of a long line of fairy-tale detectives, and their family is somewhat responsible for keeping the Everafters safe in Fairy tale Landing so that they don’t freak out the rest of the world with their magic. After hundreds of years, though, the Everafters are growing restless. A secret group of evil Everafters called the Red Hand are responsible for Sabrina and Daphne’s parents’ disappearance, and are intent on breaking free from the magic that keeps them in Fairy tale Landing. While they hunt down the big mystery, small mysteries pop up in each book that the girls must solve with the help of their Grandmother.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Series Fans: I frequently get readers who ask me for a new series to get hooked on. Well, this one has nine books in it, so it should keep those craving series satisfied for a while. 
  • Fairy Tale Fans: This was the series that somewhat sparked the trend of fairy tale mashups recently. It started in 2005. It’s popularity has somewhat cooled in our school, but every once in a while a student discovers it and zooms through all nine books. I think fairy tale fans still should love it. It just is a little older so some current middle graders haven’t ever heard of it.
  • Mystery Fans: Each of these books has a clever mystery just begging to be puzzled out. And of course there’s the big mystery that takes the whole nine books to get untangled.
  • Character Studies: This series is exceedingly interesting in how it portrays famous fairy tale characters. Many of them immigrated to the US out of necessity, but after several hundred years of being stuck in one city some of them have gone from sweet and lovable to disgruntled and mean. It isn’t always fun to see favorite characters go bad, but it is an interesting thought exercise of what if that favorite character had been put in difficult circumstances? 

Grimmtastic Girls series by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
There are eight + books in this series so I'm not going to list them all. Click on the series to see all the titles.

Fairy tale characters all go to a boarding school, Grimm Academy, and have typical girl issues while elements of their fairy tales are also worked into the ongoing story. As of right now, there are eight books in this series. (Well, technically seven. #8 comes out next week.) It shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, and Holub is known for pumping out series that reach well into double digits, so this should have plenty of titles to please it’s fan base for a while.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Middle Grade Girls: This series is constantly checked out by the middle grade girls at our school. It is hugely popular. It seems to deal with typical problems that this age group can relate to, which I think is part of the draw. 
  • Boarding School Story Fans: There’s a small reader base that just craves boarding school stories. This is one for them.
  • Fairy Tale Fans: I think this is self-explanatory.

The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker
The Tales of the Wide-awake Princess series is also still growing. There are currently five books in this series, with a sixth set to come out next year. Click on the series title to see all the books.

Thanks to the epic catastrophe at her sister Gwendolyn's christening (seriously miffed a nasty fairy and got the whole prick a finger curse thing), Annie's parents were a bit more wary when it came to her christening. They took her secretly to a nice fairy for advice before the event, and that fairy decided the best thing to do was make Annie immune to magic. So while all the other princes and princesses go around sporting magically enhanced beauty and skills, Annie is just her basic self. Which turns out very handy when, despite all the precautions, Gwendolyn goes and finds a way to prick her finger on a spinning wheel before her 16th birthday and everyone in the castle falls asleep with her. Everyone except the one girl immune to magic. Annie decides that being stuck in a castle with several hundred sleeping people and creatures is just a bit too creepy and that she should really go out trying to find a prince to fix this instead. So off she goes, on a prince hunt. Of course, in a land with magic fairies and stuff, it isn't always safe to walk around looking for princes and solutions to magical curses. Annie finds plenty of excitement on the way. Thankfully, Liam, a guard who was outside the castle when the curse descended volunteers to accompany her on her quest so she isn't totally on her own. They set out first to find Digby, the prince who has been hanging out the most at the castle. But Annie decides it wouldn't hurt to get as many kissers as possible, so every prince they run into also gets invited. And by the time they eventually make it back, there's quite a little gaggle of princes waiting to try out their smooches on the sleeping princess.

Annie's quest is peppered with all sorts of fairy tale allusions. A little Hansel & Gretel, a little Frog Prince, a little Rapunzel, a little Snow White & Rose Red (yeah, that one is a little less well known), a little Princess Who Had Never Laughed, etc. Not quite as funny a mashup as Healy's League of Princes, but still enjoyable. Annie is a likeable princess with a good head on her shoulders and Liam is a stand up guy. I liked how her immunity to magic was used in the story. That was a nice little unique touch. The series eventually sorts out Gwendolyn’s problems but that doesn’t stop Annie from having all sorts of other adventures.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Fantasy/Fairy Tale Fans: There's a sizable group of middle school girls at our school who live on princesses and fairy tales. Several have devoured everything the library holds that fits that niche, so I'm always on the lookout for more books to satisfy their appetites. This author is already popular with this fan base thanks to her Frog Princess series, and this series has had a steady stream of readers since we got it. And they are always happy that Baker keeps adding titles.
  • Making Connections: Some of the fairy tale inclusions in this series are obvious, while others are more subtle (and refer to obscure fairy tales). So this one provides a little more exercise in making connections and catching references.
  • Spurring Further Reading: I’m sure there’s a huge section of fairy tale fans out there who will run into unfamiliar fairy tales in this series. It could give them further reading ideas. Like to go hunt down the Snow White & Rose Red tale or the Princess Who Never Laughed. 

Storybound by Marissa Burt
There’s just one other book in this series, Story’s End. And do yourself a favor, check out both at the same time.

Una is reading a book in the library of her school, when suddenly she finds herself in a very different place. A place where the kids all train to be Heroes or Villains or Ladies and other such typical story characters, for the place is the land of Story. The people in Story live out the plot lines of stories for those in the land of Readers. In times past, the stories were written by the Muses and people could be Written In from outside Story. But the Muses became unfaithful and things started to go very wrong in Story until a Hero, Archimago, saved them, destroyed the Muses, and became the Tale Master. Now all the books are locked away and people fear to read the poisonous ink of the Muses. So when Una finds herself Written In to Story, she's in danger because of the way people associate Written Ins (WIs) with the unfaithful Muses. Thankfully, Una runs into Peter first. He's a Hero student, and decides to help Una stay safe. So Una is enrolled in the Story school as a transfer student, and when she's not going to classes on Questing and Villainy, she's trying to figure out who wrote her in and why. Her research (with Peter and Sam the talking cat) uncovers some very serious secrets that threaten all of Story. (view spoiler)

I loved the world that Burt built. I've read other books which had people in a storybook land, but never before were the original story book characters gone. For example, Snow White and Cinderella have been gone for ages, but other Story residents will train to act those parts. That's why Peter and Una are in school, to train for a certain type of role. Also, there are different districts in Story - Fantasy, and Western, and Sci-Fi, etc - so you get more than just the fairy tale characters wandering around. It was a very fun setting, and the mystery was well-done.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Thinking Outside the Box/World Building: Burt created a very interesting and imaginative world that pushed the boundaries of what is typically done. It’s a good case study for wannabe writers. 
  • Fairy Tale Fans: Instead of just meeting your favorite fairy tale characters, how’d you like to become one? That’s the possibility this tale opens up to the imagination.
  • Mystery Fans: There’s a very puzzling mystery that will make you NEED both of these books at the same time.
  • Magical School Fans: Those who like schools in which their characters study a bit more than just math and science, will find just the thing in this world.

The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker by E.D. Baker
The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker series so far has two books in it, with a third coming out in October. Click the link to see all the titles.

Cory is through being a tooth fairy. After going through the training and giving it a chance, she just knows it isn't the job for her. She wants to do something that really helps people, though she's not sure what. Of course, that answer is nowhere near sufficient for her mother, who is a tooth fairy herself and believes Cory is making a huge mistake in leaving the guild. Unable to stand her mother's constant nagging, Cory moves in with her wise and understanding Uncle Micah. Cory starts looking for odd jobs to tide her over while she tries to figure out what it is she really wants to do. In the process, she meets some very interesting characters, and inadvertently starts getting asked by people to set them up on dates with others. So far, her matchmaking skills have been woefully inadequate, but her little odd jobs have had fun moments. That is until the Tooth Fairy Guild starts making good on their threats to make her sorry for trying to leave. Cory doesn't know what to do. It's going to take something or someone extraordinary to help her out of the mess with the guild and to figure out what occupation best fits her.

Baker has built a very fun fantasy world filled with all sorts of fairy tale, nursery rhyme, and legendary characters. I loved watching Cory babysit for Humpty Dumpty, a precocious child with a penchant for heights, or trying to help her friend Miss Muffet with a serious spider problem. It's a creative and fun world with the serious touches the guild adds. The matchmaker part of the plot is really secondary to watching the fun and hazards of all the little odd jobs Cory does and getting to know her circle of friends. Eventually the Tooth Fairy Guild and her frustration about the matchmaking come up, but they are dealt with much more lightly than could have been. I can see someone else writing this same story but turning it into a nail-biting psychological thriller with the way the guild is after Cory. Baker kept it light enough as to not scare off fantasy readers, but it does add some depth to the world building and plot. The rest of the series promises to be fun, but I might miss Cory doing all the odd jobs. Part of the fun of the book was waiting to see what fairy tale character was going to pop up and ask her to help them next.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Fantasy Fans: The premise and world set up provide not only several fairy tale characters, but stars from nursery rhymes, legends and mythology too. It’s a great pick for those who are fans of all things imaginary.
  • Purpose Seekers: I know this is a middle grade aimed book, but a lot of Cory’s issues will resonate best with an older audience. And this could backfire. Either this is going to help the person who is trying to figure out their career future or just highlight their own issues. Hopefully, it will help them. Because, really, Cory has it quite tough so it is hard to not feel better seeing her struggles.
  • Tentative Thriller Readers: There are those readers who want to read thrillers but are afraid of getting too caught up and tense. This is the perfect medium.
  • Romance Fans: There are lots of hopeless romantics even among middle graders. The rest of the series finds Cory embracing her true calling as a matchmaker for those in the fairy tale/legend/myth world. In book two she has to try and help Goldilocks find the perfect match. Of course, so far it reads more like romantic comedy than swoon-worthy romance stuff, but that’s probably best.

Graphic Novel Resource

Fairy tale Comics: Classic Tales Retold by Extraordinary Cartoonists edited by Chris Duffy
A collection of primarily familiar fairy tales told pretty true to the form most people are used to (and minus the gore of the originals). A couple less familiar fairy tales are mixed in, my favorites of those less familiar tales in this book were "The Boy Who Drew Cats" (never heard before and I loved it) and "Give Me the Shudders" (usually called "The Boy Who Left Home to Find out about the Shivers," which I've only come across thanks to the Fairy Tale Theater video series my siblings and I devoured as kids. Each fairy tale had it's own unique art style, but all were kid-friendly in content and style. (Not to say adults won't be able to enjoy this as well.)

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Busy Fairy Tale Fans: If you're looking for a fairy tale collection that is short, sweet, has good variety and will keep kids reading and re-reading, this may very well be an excellent pick. 
  • Graphic Novel Fans: I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, graphic novels are super popular. All I have to say to get readers for this is that it’s a graphic novel. Now most graphic novel story collections are a real mixed bag of tales, some I love and then some I really could care less for. I felt like this one was a good mix of art style and topics, and I liked all of them. All were enjoyable, and it's always fun to see how authors and illustrators will put their own unique spin on a classic tale. 
  • Compare/Contrast: Because these are nice and short, but also display unique twists, they make for good compare/contrast specimens when held up against other versions or the originals.

Poetry Resources

Mirror Mirror: a Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer, ill. by Josée Masse
Singer has a second book of reverso fairy tales that's just as good if not better called Follow Follow.

Marilyn Singer has cleverly written poetry about classic fairy tales. The clever part? You read the words down and you get one version of the tale. When the lines are read in the reverse order with only changes in punctuation and capitalization, you get a completely different spin on the story.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Fairy Tale Fans: I can’t say enough how clever these poems are. They are fantastic and fit the classic stories very well. 
  • Point of View: Several of the poems take one perspective while read down, and a different character’s perspective when read up.
  • Poetry Fans: Singer’s unique and challenging reverso poetry style needs to be read by all poetry fans.
  • Problem Solving/Poetry Writing: English teachers, read this and then challenge your students to write their own. It would be a fun problem solving/composition activity.

Young Adult Fiction Resources

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
This series has four main books, Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter, along with one novelette and a collection of short stories that help fill in the background of certain characters and one rounds off the end of the series nicely. There is a spin-off graphic novel series planned to feature further stories of Iko the robot.

This is by far my favorite fairy tale mashup series, and I’m not alone. There’s a huge fan base for this series at our school with both teens and teachers. It’s so hard to summarize this, but let’s just say there’s a lost princess being hunted by an evil, mind-controlling, alien queen stationed on the Moon who is bent on having all of Earth for her own, though with the rate the plague is sweeping Earth, there may not be much left to rule. Tangled up in this tale are a whole host of characters: a mechanic named Cinder who was in a terrible accident as a child and is now a cyborg young woman, Cinder’s little android friend Iko who always tries to make Cinder’s wishes come true, a prince who’ll soon be Emperor of the Asian region of Earth and is being courted by the lunar queen but is secretly hunting for the lost princess and a cure for the plague ravaging Earth, a girl named Scarlet who always wears a red hoodie and has a grandmother secretly involved in the resistance movement on Earth against the Lunars, a Lunar soldier named Wolf, a girl named Cress who has long hair and is stuck in a satellite all by herself using her computer skills for the Lunar queen, a mercenary space captain named Thorne, Winter is a princess with a pale complexion and likes animals…she’s also the stepdaughter of the Lunar queen…and is quite possibly insane, and lots of other great characters. It’s an exciting, smart science fiction series that is high on action, includes touches of clean romance and nods its head solidly at several fairy tales, but Meyer’s has created a story that is all her own.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Reluctant Readers: When doing short book talks to students, I usually describe this series as a cyborg Cinderella set in a future Asia fighting an alien queen. And that’s usually all it takes. Those who claim they don’t like scifi are drawn in by the promise of a fairy tale and touches of romance. Those who don’t like overly sweet romance get drawn in by the scifi twist and the promise of adventure. Even the most reluctant readers can’t seem to resist, and before they know it, they’ve read about 3,000 pages. (These are massive books. We’re talking 600+ pages each, the size that normally intimidates, but the story draws all readers in so that everyone who picks up book one quickly tears through the rest of the series including every single short story.)
  • Fairy Tale Fans: Meyer is quite clever in the various ways she works typical parts of the involved fairy tales into the stories in unexpected ways. I was constantly looking forward to how she’d take the next part and stand it on it’s head.
  • Science Fiction Fans: I've always been a scifi fan (I blame my Dad who watched the original Star Trek and Dr. Who), but scifi hasn't been super popular among teens until just recently. Scifi has been making a resurgence of late in our media center, I'm guessing it is a byproduct of dystopia popularity though it might be something else. Either way, I'm quite happy to share the love and I'm thrilled I've been getting more requests for scifi. This has proven most satisfactory for those cravings.
  • Clean Young Adult Seekers: I love this series because I have no qualms handing it to anyone. A lot of young adult seems to feel like it has to be gritty to appeal to that audience, but this is solid proof that isn’t the case. There is some violence, because eventually a war breaks out, but it isn’t gratuitous. There’s very, very little swearing, and there’s nothing beyond some kissing.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Brainstorm Vol 82: Architects and architecture books

When you think of occupations highlighted in children’s literature, architects aren’t normally anywhere near the top of the list. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. It is an occupation that combines art, culture, math, and engineering principles and often has to take into account local geography, climate and ecology so the books below can be used in many different classes, not just art. Here are six architect and architecture books for kids. Several of them lend themselves well to being used together.

Picture Book Resources

Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beatty, ill. by David Roberts
Iggy Peck shows a penchant for creating creative buildings out of whatever materials are on hand from a young age. But when he gets to 2nd grade he meets teacher Miss Lila Greer who had a traumatizing experience because of architecture in her childhood and bans building creations from the classroom. But when the class is on a field trip to an island and the bridge collapses, Iggy's love of architecture may just save the day.
(Note: Do check out the link to my full review by clicking on the book’s title before picking this up to read in front of a group of kids as there are some things you might want to know about in the illustrations beforehand.)

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Architects/Architecture: Iggy makes for an entertaining introduction to the architecture field.
  • Rhyming: This story is told entirely in clever rhyming text. It’s a fantastic example of well done extensive rhyming. And Beatty includes some impressive vocabulary to make this work.
  • Art: Obviously, this is an occupation that could appeal to the artistically inclined, and this picture book displays how this art form can also be useful.
  • Problem Solving/Ingenuity: Iggy has to use his noggin’ and do some quick problem solving to save the day. Ask young readers if they can think of any other solutions to the delimma using the resources on hand.
  • Teamwork: Iggy and his classmates are great examples of the power of teamwork. Iggy may come up with the solution for how to save the class field trip, but it takes the entire class working together to save the day.
  • Overcoming Trauma: Iggy's teacher has to overcome a legitimate fear due to a past trauma in this story. It seems silly to most readers, but kids who are scared of something due to a past event may find in her example the courage to confront their own fears. At the very least, it could make an interesting discussion point.
  • Fans of Rosie Revere: If you’ve read Andrea Beatty’s other book, Rosie Revere, Engineer and enjoyed it. Keep an eye out. She and Iggy share the same class. Don’t know Rosie? Well, if you like this one, you definitely need to check out her story and keep an eye out in September for the newest addition to the gang, Ada Twist, Scientist.
  • Fans of Kids Saving the Day: If you or someone you know like stories about kids saving the day, you'll probably like this story.

Young Frank, Architect by Frank Viva
Young Frank wants to be an architect like his grandpa, Old Frank. But Young Frank's designs seem to be a bit too strange, so Old Frank takes him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see how the professionals do things. At the MoMA both Franks discover designs by several Franks who did things rather unconventionally, inspiring them to let loose with the creativity when they get home.

Finally, a Frank Viva color scheme that didn't grate on my eyes! I really liked Young Frank and Old Frank's interactions, and the empowerment to get creative.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Art: This was a nice way to introduce lesser-known art forms to kids, like furniture design and architecture. 
  • Real Artists/Architects: Brief biographies of the artists highlighted in the visit to MoMA are included in the back of the book, including Frank O. Gehry, Frankl Lloyd Wright, Charlotte Perriand, and Arthur Young.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art: If you are looking for a picture book tour of an art museum that may be too far away to visit in real life, crack the cover of this book. You can also take a virtual tour of the artwork in their collection at Creativity: If you are trying to inspire kids to think outside the box and fire up their creativity, Young Frank and Old Frank are here to do just that.
  • Frank Viva & Thinking Outside the Box: Viva himself fully embraces bending the rules of conventional art in his picture books. The color palette he chose for this book is perhaps the most mild of all his picture books. Want to see how he bends the rules and steps out a bit in creativity? Check out some of his other picture books. He uses strange colors, creative die-cuts and other atypical picture book illustrations in his books such as Outstanding in the Rain, and Young Charlotte, Filmmaker. The illustrations aren't always my favorite and they may not be yours, but you can respect his creative bravery.

Library Mouse: Home Sweet Home by Daniel Kirk
When the library where Sam lives gets renovated, he has to find a temporary new home. He and Sarah decide to research architecture styles and each tries making their own new home in the attic. While satisfied with their architecture and building skills, Sam just isn't satisfied with the hominess of his new building. So Sarah suggests they make some more. They both make many different homes, but nothing feels quite right until Sarah figures out what Sam is missing.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • What Is Home?: This story provides a cute lead in to a discussion of what makes home home. You could branch this out to a persuasive writing assignment, or just have students discuss it.
  • Architecture Styles of the World: Not only is this a cute story about what is home, it is also a great introduction to a broad range of architectural styles from around the world. There's further information on each style used in the back of the book. 
  • Social Studies/Geography: Because this covers worldwide home styles, it could fit in with several social studies or geography lessons.
  • Animal Lovers: Sam and Sarah are two cute mice sure to appeal to animal lovers. 
  • Research Skills/Library Lovers: There are some of us who just can’t resist a story set in a library. So, this is a no brainer pick for library lovers. But Sam and Sarah not only live in the library, they treasure its resources and know how to research. This could also be used to introduce researching skills.

Home by Carson Ellis
Ellis explores the numerous structures that can be called home.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Architecture Styles of the World: A fantastic survey of a wide variety of homes both real and mythical.
  • Real vs Imaginary: Young children especially can have a hard time distinguishing between real and imaginary. A lot of the homes featured in this book are real homes for real creatures, but a few are imaginary. See if they can figure out which are real and which are imaginary.
  • Social Studies/Geography: Because of the variety of homes featured, this can inspire readers to think about how their home may be different from others down the block or around the world. A great book to include in studies of community and culture. 
  • Art Lovers: The illustrations are sure to beg readers to revisit this book more than once.
  • What Is Home?: Like Library Mouse: Home Sweet Home, this book can spark a conversation about the definition of home. I definitely recommend watching Candlewick's Book Trailer for this book which is more of an interview with the author/illustrator about home.
  • Compare/Contrast: Read this with Library Mouse: Home Sweet Home and compare/contrast the homes featured, the definition of home, etc.

Nonfiction Resources

Houses and Homes by Ann Morris, photos by Ken Heyman
A survey of houses from all over the world, the different styles they can take, places they can be, and materials they are made from.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Architecture of the World: The words in this are very simple, but it does a great job of exploring the diversity of structures that can be called home through the few words and fantastic photographs. The only thing that dates this a little are the clothing styles of some of the Western people, but overall, the variety of structures hasn't changed so this is still a great resource. The back of the book includes further information on each house pictured, where it is located, and the materials used in it's construction.
  • Geography/Climate/Environment’s Impact on Architecture: This book provides an opportunity to really examine why an architectural style developed the way it did in a specific location. It could branch off into further research on the impact of geography, environment, climate, local resources, common jobs in that area on that specific house style.
  • Nonfiction/Fiction Book Pair: Use this with either Library Mouse: Home Sweet Home or Home or both as a fiction/nonfiction pair. Or read them together for compare and contrast activities. 
  • Curious Readers: Hand this one to curious readers who like to learn about their world.

Who Built That? Skyscrapers: an introduction to skyscrapers and their architects by Didier Cornille
A quick survey of famous skyscraper architects and their most recognizable or revolutionary designs.

This is a rather simple book with quick, one-page biographies of architects followed by simple introductions to some of their famous buildings and/or designs (a couple haven't been built). A great introduction to architects and architecture that proves a quick, but informative and eye-catching read.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Architect Biographies: The architects highlighted include eight men from all over the world starting in 1889 and reaching into present day: Gustave Eiffel, Louis Sullivan, William Van Alen, Mies van der Rohe, Fazlur Rahman Khan, Ken Yeang, Jean Nouvel, and Adrian Devaun Smith. 
  • International Architecture: I really appreciated that this book is international in scope. The skyscrapers covered in this book area found all over the world: America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The architects are from all over the world too.
  • Environmental Studies: Some of the modern designs and architects featured men who were/are working on some very interesting bioclimatic ideas that are ecologically friendly. Recommended for those doing environmental studies or ecology projects.
  • Quick Nonfiction Read: This looks longer than it really is thanks to the layout and all the illustrations of the skyscrapers included. It is a quick and interesting nonfiction read.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Brainstorm Vol 81: 7 Epic Sneezes

We’re finishing the first week back to school here, and I’ve spent the week sneezing from allergies or a cold. I realized that Chu is the perfect literary character to empathize with me this week. So we’re celebrating the first week of school Chu-style in the Brainstorm this week with books that feature epic sneezes.

Picture Book Resources

Chu's First Day of School (Chu, #2) by Neil Gaiman, ill. by Adam Rex
Chu is nervous about the first day of school. Will they like him? Everyone starts sharing their names and what they like to do. What should Chu share?

Adam Rex did a fantastic job with the illustrations in this book from putting so much emotional expression into faces to comedic timing. He made me laugh out loud reading this book. Of course, Gaiman set the stage well for him. Chu is adorable, and if his potentially, epically catastrophic first day at school went well for him, anyone can be reassured they can survive too. A great one to read to nervous first day of schoolers. (Or just read it for fun.)

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • First Day(s) of School: This is a great one to read during those first days of school and break the ice. It provides an opening to talk about expectations and fears about what the coming year will bring, and hopefully, teachers/parents can help calm students down. It should also put kids at ease, there’s no way their first day of school can be worse than Chu’s and he survives just fine.
  • Animal Fans: There’s a great assortment of animals common and rare in the Chu books, perfect for animal lovers.
  • Humorous Read: This is a fantastically fun read. If you need a good laugh, pick it up.
  • Psychology: Rex does quite a bit in this book to get readers to laugh. This would be a fun book to look at and analyze for how art and facial expressions can affect us.
  • Physics: Ok, so this one is good for any and all of the books in this brainstorm. Figure out the speed of the air generated by Chu’s sneeze and force it has.
  • Writing Prompt: (This could be used with any of the books below.) Imagine some other creature or person sneezing. Where will their epic sneeze take your story?

Chu’s Day at the Beach (Chu, #3) by Neil Gaiman, ill. by Adam Rex
Chu goes to the beach with his family. All is going swimmingly until Chu sneezes...and breaks the ocean. All the animals are trying to get Chu to sneeze again to fix it, but nothing seems to work.

This little panda has one powerful sneeze! They should have named him Moses. I love the vast assortment of critters at the beach, both real and fantasy. (There's a pangolin! When's the last time you saw a pangolin in a picture book?) A funny story for kids with good imaginations.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Vacation Read: I know our school is starting back early and many out there are still on vacations, this is perfect for reading while on the way to the beach.
  • Literary/Biblical Parallels: I mentioned Moses up above in my review. Have students figure out why I said he should have been called Moses.
  • Animal Lovers: As mentioned before, superb assortment of animals in the Chu books!
  • Physics: Once again, this could be a fun one to look at the effects and calculate just how powerful Chu’s sneeze would have to be to render get these kinds of results. 
  • Humorous Read: Get your dosage of laughter for the day with Chu!

The Flea's Sneeze by Lynn Downey, ill. by Karla Firehammer
Everyone's sleeping in the barn, when the flea coughs. Everyone's still sleeping when he gets a tickle. But when the flea sneezes everyone wakes up!

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Beginning Readers: This is a great choice for emergent readers as the rhyming and repetitive text should make it easy for kids to be able to "read" along as the story goes on. 
  • Humorous Read: Kids should enjoy the drawings and crazy antics of the animals after the flea sneezes.
  • Rhyming Words: If you’re learning about rhyming words, this book is an option. 
  • Story Plotting: If you’re teaching students to diagram the plot of a story, you could easily use this one as an example or starting practice. It is very easy to recognize the building action to the climax of the sneeze and then the denouement.
  • Domestic Animals: Pick this one up for kids learning about the animals found on a farm.
  • Little Things’ Importance: We often dismiss the importance of little things, but as this book illustrates, even little critters can have a big impact. Use this as a discussion starter for talking about how little things can have a huge impact, and people who feel little in stature or importance can still do so too.

Pigs Make Me Sneeze (Elephant & Piggie, #10) by Mo Willems
Gerald can't stop sneezing, and he's afraid it is because he has developed an allergy to pigs. He goes to the doctor, and he sneezes there too! So maybe he is allergic to pigs and cats! But the doctor has a much more logical explanation that allows Gerald and Piggie to remain friends, even if they're both sneezing now.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Humorous Read: Kids should get a big kick out of how Gerald's sneezes practically blow Piggie and the doctor into the next county (I know I did). And if you're looking for a fun book to cheer up a little sneezing one, this could be just the medicine they need.
  • Jumping to Conclusions: Gerald’s panic perfectly illustrates the danger of jumping to conclusions. He almost decided he couldn’t be friends with Piggie any more! Great time to discuss how to avoid jumping to conclusions.
  • Sneeze Etiquette/Health Safety: Gerald also provides a nice lesson on why we should cover our sneezes. If you need to talk to a child or a whole class about health safety, Elephant & Piggie make the medical advice go down easier.

Mr. Reez's Sneezes by Curtis Parkinson, ill. by Sami Suomalainen
Mr. Reez gets a nose full of pepper and out comes a sneeze so epic it sends him around the world on an unforgettable adventure.

A humorous adventure/tall tale set off by a bit of pepper.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Humorous Read: If you're looking for a fun humorous read, try this one out.
  • Tall Tale: There are some wild sneezes out there (as this post capitalizes on), but Mr. Reez may take the cake for the wildest. 
  • Physics: This sneeze will probably provide the most fun in physics calculations. What force of a sneeze would be needed to put someone flying at the speed of sound? And perhaps more importantly, could a human even survive such speed without a suit or aircraft? (Or the lungs survive expelling such force?)
  • Anatomy: You can get in on the action with the physics classes here on figuring out if Mr. Reez could realistically survive his flight and sneezes.

The Mitten by Jan Brett
Brett's modern classic adaptation of a Ukrainian folktale in which a little boy loses his mitten, which soon becomes the coveted warm shelter of a growing crowd of animals, until the tiniest critter tickles the bear's nose and a sneeze returns the mitten to the boy.

I love how Brett's illustrations not only have the big main picture but sidebar illustrations of what is happening at the same time elsewhere. In this story, the main illustration features the mitten and the animals smooshing themselves into it together, while the sidebars show the boy looking for his lost outerwear. And of course, Brett's illustrations are this fantastic combination of realism with just the right touches of animation and subtle nods to the culture featured.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Ukrainian Studies: If you’re looking at the country of Ukraine, why not explore some of their folklore?
  • Folktales: Also a good pick if you’re doing a folklore unit.
  • Predictions: Practice making predictions with children when reading this. Can they guess who will try to squeeze into the mitten next?
  • Animal Lovers: This is a great pick for animal lovers, with Brett’s fantastic illustrations of forest animals.
  • Compare/Contrast: There's another picture book adaptation of this folktale out there The Mitten: An Old Ukrainian Folktale retold by Alvin Tresselt & ill. by Yaroslava that's great for compare/contrast activities.

No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids by Jean E. Pendziwol, ill. by Martine Gourbault
A little girl makes a new friend, a dragon! They have great fun at the beach and then she invites him over for tea. But during tea the pepper starts tickling noses, and you can just guess what happens when a dragon sneezes. Fire! The little girl and her mom know just what to do, but have to teach the dragon a few things about fire safety. Fire safety talking points are included in the back.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Fire Safety: We’ve seen a lot of sneezes today, but a dragon sneezing is certainly the most dangerous. It also provides a fun way to talk about fire safety. 
  • Dragons: Here there be dragons, isn't it wonderful!
  • Fun Read: The book is written in catchy rhyme, and the illustrations are attractive. I can see kids asking for this story to be reread because they think it is fun; the educational component is just a happy bonus for parents.