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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Season's Readings!

My favorite Christmas gifts to give and receive have always been books. I know, shocking statement from a librarian who was voted class bookworm in school. 

Here are a few of the books that will be under the tree for my family this year. 

My youngest child may only be six months old, but Santa will still be bringing him a couple of books. Most parents do not begin reading aloud to their kids until they are at least toddlers and old enough to talk and understand a story. However, the research is pretty clear that reading books with your infant has a tremendous impact on their language development and future literacy skills. Not to mention, babies love to snuggle and listen to your voice.  I'll get down off of my soap box now, but check out the Reach Out and Read website for more information about the benefits of reading aloud to babies. 

So, what books will Zack be getting for Christmas? 

The first one is Little Blue Truck's Christmas written by Alice Schertle and beautifully illustrated by Jill McElmurry. I mentioned the Little Blue Truck board books in my post Board Book Fun! In this special holiday story Little Blue Truck is delivering Christmas trees to all of his friends on the farm. 
Of course, every baby loves to explore with their fingers (and mouth) so Zack will be getting some new touch and feel books. The Usborne Touchy-Feely books are particularly adorable. All of these follow a general formula of That's not my ________ he is too shiny, squashy, fuzzy, etc. There are several Christmas versions of the touchy-feely books featuring Santa, an elf, a snowman, a donkey, and a reindeer, but we went with the That's Not My Zoo box set.

I rarely go anywhere without a novel shoved in my bag, but my ten year old son prefers reading nonfiction. Zane is especially fond of anything gross or weird ( he is a ten year old boy after all)    Ripley's Believe It or Not! has several series of books full of bizarre facts and pictures. Many of these such as The Eye-Popping Oddities series has a new edition each year
Another great book for kids that are fond of the grotesque is Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty by Joy Masoff. Do not buy this book for your child unless you have the stomach to listen to them endlessly recite disgusting facts about poop, vomit, and boogers. If you are a glutton for punishment Masoff has also written Oh, Yikes! History's Grossest, Wackiest Moments and Oh, Ick! 114 Science Experiments Guaranteed to Gross You Out!

My almost thirteen year old son and fifteen year old daughter are both sci-fi/fantasy nerds (and I say this with love because they take after their parents).

Currently, my son's favorite science fiction series is the Lorien Legacies written by James Frey, Greg Boose, and Jobie Hughes under the collective pseudonym, Pittacus Lore. You may be familiar with this series because the first book, I Am Number Four, was made into a movie in 2011. Zander will be the first to tell you READ THE BOOKS AND DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE BECAUSE IT WAS ATROCIOUS!!!! Anyway, in addition to the seven novels that comprise the Lorien Legacies there are multiple short stories about the characters known as The Lost Files that are available in paperback. Since Zander already owns the main series we got him some of The Lost Files to put in his stocking.

Zander is a Star Wars geek and enjoys reading the Star Wars novels. Since we went to see Rogue One last weekend we are also getting him Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno, which is a prequel to the movie and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed, the novel based on the movie.

Shopping for my fifteen year old daughter is usually pretty easy because, as my husband frequently points out, she is my clone. Last year Zoe received the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children boxed set by Ransom Riggs. You may recognize this title from the recent film version directed by Tim Burton.
The books frequently refer to The Tales, a collection of supposed fairy tales that actually hide clues to the history of the peculiars. This past September Tales of the Peculiar was released in a gorgeous, clothbound hardcover featuring stunning black and white illustrations by Andrew Davidson.
Tales of the Peculiar is a must have collector's item for fans of Rigg's unique and compelling series.

Another teen series that Zoe loved was The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I mentioned this series that puts a science fiction spin on classic fairy tales in my post Fractured Fairy Tales.  Since Zoe enjoyed The Lunar Chronicles so much I am excited to get her Meyer's new stand alone novel, Heartless, which tells the story of how the infamous Queen of Hearts went from a young girl in love to a tyrannical ruler bellowing "Off with her head!".

A collectable book which Harry Potter fans of all ages will want to see under the tree this Christmas is the illustrated edition of The Chamber of Secrets. In case you didn't know, illustrated versions of the Harry Potter books are being created by J.K. Rowling and artist, Jim KayThe Sorceror's Stone came out in 2015 and The Chamber of Secrets was published earlier this year. I consider these books to be gifts for my whole family and I am looking forward to when the entire series is completed.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The End of Elephant & Piggie: Say It Ain't So!

Am I  the only one whose heart broke a little bit when Mo Willems announced that The Thank You Book (which was published last May) would be the final Elephant and Piggie book? Sure, I can sympathize with Willems' desire to spread his wings creatively (which he elucidates in this interview with The Washington Post). A huge part of me, though, wanted to throw a tantrum to rival that of any four year old and demand "More Elephant & Piggie now!".   

Gerald the Elephant and his best friend Piggie the pig were first introduced to young readers in 2007 with the simultaneous publication of My Friend is Sad and Today I will Fly. On a side note, I have always wondered why the elephant has a real name and the pig is just called Piggie. Well, I guess that I am not the only one curious about this because Mo Willems explains his character's names in the FAQ section of his website. According to Mo: Piggie does have a name. Her is "Piggie". She was named that because when she was born she looked just like a little piggie. Elephant Gerald is named after my favorite singer (say it fast).

All 25 books in the Elephant & Piggie series are easy readers done in a comic book style with Gerald's words appearing in grey speech bubbles and Piggie's in pink. Personally, I find the majority of easy reader books to be watching-paint-dry dull. Nothing against authors of easy readers but often the simplified text results in a story that is trite and boring. This is not true with Willem's Elephant & Piggie series. Yes, the text is appropriate for beginning readers, but the stories will have readers of all ages rolling on the floor with a case of the giggles. In fact, I have frequently used Elephant & Piggie books to demonstrate how to write dialogue with my young authors club.  The tweens and teens in my group love Elephant & Piggie just as much as any kindergartner. There are multiple printables online for older kids involving Elephant & Piggie such as this adlib and this fill in the  comic.

What better way to channel my grief than by throwing an Elephant & Piggie party at the library? Since our community did not have school on November 8th I went with an Election Day theme for the party. The library was decorated with Vote for Elephant and Vote for Piggie signs, Elephant & Piggie balloons and pictures, and we had a special Elephant and Piggie election booth.
After voting the kids were able to show further support for their candidate by choosing an Elephant or Piggie party blower. And just in case you are interested Piggie won in a landslide.

As far as other party activities, I was definitely inspired by some of my favorite Elephant & Piggie books.

Kids were able to pose for a picture as Gerald or Piggie in the We Are In a Book cutout that I made. I bought the pig nose at the dollar store and the elephant trunk was actually a clip on wolf tail that I found at Target around Halloween. I just turned it around and ran elastic string through so kids could put it over their face.

For a craft we decorated paper ice cream cones perfect for sharing (or not sharing) with Piggie.

One of the games that the kids seemed to enjoy the most was the bird nest balance walk. I made bird nests out of foam bowls and brown construction paper, and glued a paper Pigeon (another fantastic character created by Willems) in the bottom. The kids then had to race to a set of plastic cones and back while balancing the nests on their heads. I had kids of all ages at this party and I have to tell you that it amazed me how entertained the older kids were by this game. I had nine and ten year old boys that spent half the party walking around with bird nests on their heads.

Of course, no party would be complete without dancing! For extra fun I threw out a bunch of pink and blue balloons with Gerald and Piggie faces drawn on them.