Octagons.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may recall that I work in a library (although, as of very recently, I switched branches in the city, transferring from the one that I worked at for nearly eight years).  I’m not a librarian or a library assistant so front line customer service isn’t part of my duties, but I still get a chance to talk to some of our patrons…and sometimes I just can’t help smiling at what they have to say.  Take this morning, for example:  a young mum asked me for books about shapes for her three-year-old girl.  We browsed the board book spinners and came up with some great titles, including a really sweet one featuring Snoopy (I’m a total softy for Snoopy and naturally assume everyone else is as well).  I thought I had the search wrapped up tidily as the mother flipped quickly through the books, but she turned to me with a sheepish grin on her face.  “These are great,” she said, “but my daughter is really interested in octagons right now.  She just loves octagons.”

469603

Well, I don’t blame her, really – octagons are very attractive shapes and quite satisfying from a mathematical perspective.  And the word is seriously fun to say aloud.  But I have yet to see a board book featuring octagons.  Actually, if anyone out there is writing board books for a living, please throw some octagons into the next “shape” book you pump out, would you? (I found this rather interesting title at work a few weeks ago, and if it exists, octagons shouldn’t be a complete stretch).  I know a certain three-year-old who would be really impressed….

If you have children, what words or concepts most captivated them when they were toddlers?  Do you remember any ideas you were fixated with as a child?  I can’t recall if I had any obsessions with certain words when I was that age (my Mum might remember!) but I know that even as I got older, I was constantly trying to reinvent the English language – it wasn’t that I mispronounced words (although I occasionally did that, and still do), it was that I was always deliberately making up new words, and renaming things around me.  The various cats we had over the years had so many inventive-yet-utterly-ridiculous monikers, it’s no wonder they never came when they were called.

Oh, wait….   😉

Clipart credit.

Family Literacy Day.

fld-2017-web-250x250

Today, January 27, is Family Literacy Day here in Canada! Since its designation in 1999 by ABC Life Literacy Canada, Family Literacy Day is an annual celebration of reading and other activities related to literacy.  “Learn at play, every day” is this year’s slogan, reflecting the link between play and reading and the development of children.

At work this week, I found a couple of picture books that were so appealing I just have to share…the first one is Planting the Wild Garden by Kathyrn O. Galbraith (illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin). Although it’s classified as fiction, it approaches non-fiction in its clear explanation of the many ways seeds can be dispersed by wind, water, animals, and people. I love how everything seems to be moving in this book, expressed in action words and noises: the crisp sound of pods snapping, the “per-chik-o-ree” of a goldfinch, the chomping of raccoons on blackberries. Portions of the text are even printed topsy-turvy on the page, reflecting the constant motion of seeds.  So clever!

kg

(2011, Peachtree Publishers, Georgia)

Well-known children’s book and fantasy author Jane Yolen’s poetry is simple, sweet, and lyrical in Sing A Season Song, and combined with Lisel Jane Ashlock’s spectacular illustrations, this book is positively breathtaking.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t have kids or you’re a long way from being one yourself, it’s worth finding a copy so you can delight in the artistry and beauty.

jy

(2015, Creative Editions, Minnesota) You can find more examples of Ashlock’s art on her website here. Chances are you may have already read a book she’s illustrated or provided the cover art for.

Spend some time reading to or with a child – not just today and not only if you’re Canadian! Kids + books = something magical and amazing!  Adults + books, too…. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Bananas for books.

banana12

Kids and books can be a hilarious combination.  As most of you know, I work in a library, and one of my favourite things is to see children having fun with reading and enjoying a good story.  Last week, I was tidying up the toys in the play area and I heard a mother reading aloud to her young son, who was about three or four years old.  She was telling a story about farm animals, and she came to a part where she questioned her child, “What animal says ‘moo’ and gives us milk?”

The little one thought about it for a moment (I figure he was pausing for dramatic effect), and then shouted mischievously, “A GORILLA!”

I burst out laughing, and the mother was just in stitches.  You really have to wonder how kids come up with these things!

I think most libraries nowadays have a Reader’s Advisory program, which patrons can use to find new authors, books, and materials they otherwise wouldn’t know about.  They’ll obtain this information by talking to a librarian in their local branch, checking the Hotlist, browsing through display areas, or surfing the home page or blog on the library’s website.  Sometimes I hear patrons soliciting the opinions of other patrons – they’ll see someone with a particular book in hand and simply go up and ask them about it.  Everyone is always happy to offer an opinion on a book.

Case in point:  a couple of weeks ago, I was putting away some board books in the children’s area, when I overheard the greatest book recommendation ever.  One little guy – he couldn’t have been more than six years old – was enthusiastically broadcasting to his younger brother the merits of a certain volume he had picked up.  “You’ll LOVE this book!” he exclaimed.  “It has a booger in it!” *

Children’s book authors, take note – that’s the magic stuff, right there!  Five stars!

*(Subject matter, not actual object. Ewwwww…).

 

How do you get your book recommendations?  Do you check out book reviews on the web, or ask other readers?  Do you pick up books from the displays at your local library?  Are you part of a book club?

Book review: Water, weed, and wait.

Water, Weed, and Wait – Edith Hope Fine and Angela Demos Halpin (illustrated by Colleen Madden), 2010, Tricycle Press, Berkeley. 

There’s an encouraging and inspiring trend going on in North America:  getting children to dig in the dirt and learn about food and horticultural plants through community and school gardens.  Whether parents or teachers are leading the projects, the emphasis is always on fostering community involvement:  entire families or neighbourhoods may help out with the gardening duties in fun social events that take the shape of work-bees.  I even came across a project online at City Farmer where students of an elementary school and the retirement home next door joined forces, in North Vancouver.   If the growers don’t consume the produce themselves, it may be donated to those in need, or used in restaurants or cafeterias, or sold as part of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares.   And, from start to finish, the growing season is full of lessons for both adults and children – there’s simply nothing better than an outdoor classroom!

Books like Weed, Water, and Wait celebrate the “school garden” movement in a big way.  Full of bold, bright, and extremely colourful illustrations, this children’s picture book is ideal for introducing the idea of a school garden, to get the ball rolling before actually doing the work.  In it, a master gardener appropriately named Miss Marigold leads her student charges – and a whole host of adult helpers – in building a school garden, literally from the ground up.  Along the way, a curmudgeonly neighbour named Mr. Barkley lends comic relief with his grumpy “hmmmmphs,” while Miss Marigold teaches valuable lessons about “worm poop” (her words, not mine) and beneficial insects.   Great, snappy writing and catchy repetition of key phrases and concepts (as well as a silly song about veggies and fruits, sung by a certain character in a carrot costume) make the book ideal for reading aloud.   The lessons in the book can be taken out of the context of “school gardens” and can be applied to any gardening venture, even a tiny container garden or raised bed at home, so don’t be afraid to try the book out on the little ones in your life.  (Maybe wait until spring, though, or you’ll have a whole lot of “How many more sleeps until I can plant the peas and carrots??!!”).