October Books: Autumn is On the Way!

By on October 3, 2014

By Meribeth Shank

More important than work sheets, homework, and flash cards, the best way to help your child experience success in school is reading aloud to them every single day, writes Jim Trelease in The Read-Aloud Handbook. This is so simple no one needs even a high school diploma to do this!And what’s just as important? It’s fun!!

A Library Book for Bear

BOOKS-bookforbearby Bonny Becker, illustrations by Kady MacDonald Denton.

Bear is grumpy because he promised his friend Mouse they would go to the library. But Bear has “all the books I need right here” at home. He “had promised” but the expression on his face as he puts on his red roller skates is still grumbly. Even “the wind rippling nicely through their fur,” on the way to the library, doesn’t allow a smile.  There are too many books. Bear is overwhelmed. Mouse promises, in his quiet library voice, to find the perfect book for Bear. But instead of a book about pickles, which is what Bear requests, Mouse brings one about rocket ships. Then, one about canoes. Bear’s voice gets louder in spite of Mouse’s reminders. Watercolor, ink and gouache illustrations show the immensity of the book collection, the large size of Bear, compared to Mouse, and the increasing frustration, demonstrated by body language and facial expressions. Text size enlarges also, to indicate Bear’s roaring annoyance. When a voice says “Shhhh!” Bear peeks around the bookshelf to find a group of youngsters gathered for a story. Mother squirrel squishes an “angry finger against her lips.” Bear decides it’s time to go. But before they can leave, Bear is distracted by the librarian’s voice reading the story about a “Very Brave Bear,” inching toward a treasure chest. Bear and Mouse are invited to join story time, and strain to hear the exciting part of the story – inside the treasure chest “was a mound of pickle slices. And each shining slice was made of diamonds and gold!” Becker’s cheerful text dances in ones ears and her conclusion will make both reader and listener smile. And grab a handful of books to take home like Bear and Mouse, to read together! Candlewick Press, $16.99 (hardcover) Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten–Grade 2. (This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online: www.booksandbooks.com)


BOOKS-hallowienerby Dav Pilkey.

Oscar, a dachshund (of course), is “half-a-dog tall and one-and-a-half dogs long.” The meanie dogs in the neighborhood call him predictable names and laugh at him. His mother isn’t any help, waving him off to obedience school with sausage-related pet names.   Oscar dreams about scary costume possibilities for Halloween night. However, waiting at home for him is a surprise from mom — a giant hot dog bun costume, including mustard. Of course the other dogs “howl with laughter” when they see him. Oscar, hampered by his costume, falls behind, and loses out on treats. It’s when the dogs are walking home, past the graveyard, that a terrifying monster sends them screaming into the pond, leaving their treats behind.   The author, Pilkey, seamlessly blends puns and paintings to tell this laugh-out-loud tail/tale. Bright colors, dramatic movement and expressive faces intensify the hilarity.  Oscar hears the dogs shrieking for help and sees what the others have missed – he tugs at the monster costume, ripping it off two ornery cats. (Readers have seen their snickering faces from earlier pages.) The cats race away, screaming.  The dogs in the pond, seeing what Oscar reveals, moan in embarrassment. But Oscar is a true friend. He uses his silly costume as a life raft. The rescued dogs share their treats and change his nickname from “Wiener Dog” to “Hero Sandwich!” Scholastic, $16.95 (hardcover) $6.99 (paperback) Interest Level: Kindergarten–Grade 3. (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Library, Miami Lakes Branch. Also may be purchased from Books & Books online: www.booksandbooks.com)

Ant and Grasshopper

BOOKS-ant&grasshopperby Luli Gray, illustrated by Giuliano Ferri.

A brand new twist on a famous Aesop’s fable brings together the characters from the title. All summer long rich Ant is busy collecting and counting: beans, corn, raisins, nuts, and even “a fine smelly wedge of yellow cheese.” Grasshopper, however, spends his summertime playing a fiddle and singing. He calls to Ant, “It’s June! The sun is warm; the sky is blue. Come out and dance. I’ll play for you!”  Ant, wearing a visor cap and spectacles on a chain around his neck, warns, “You should be storing up food for the winter, not fiddling around, wasting time.” But “that hoppergrass” continues singing and dancing. The music becomes a distraction to Ant. He loses count, begins rhyming, and doodles snowmen instead of the number eight. He even slams the door in October, when Grasshopper knocks, asking for food. Ferri’s yellow and orange watercolors and colored pencils warm Ant’s house and storeroom. Cooler blues swirl with white in contrast when Grasshopper lies shivering on Ant’s doorstep. Both insects with their multiple legs/arms and slightly bulging eyes are unmistakable and plainly individual. The story is fast-paced, with great dialog, and a kinder ending than the original. Although a bit long, the simple language and bouncy, sometimes rhyming text keeps the listener involved to the very end. Ant has the last word, “Oh, Grasshopper, Everybody counts.” Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (hardcover) Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten–Grade 2. This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online: www.booksandbooks.com)

Meribeth Shank works in the Media Center at Miami Country Day School, an independent school in Miami Shores, Florida, teaches classes on Writing Books for Children, and earned her MFA in Writing for children from Vermont College. You can also find her on the web: http://meribeths.blogspot.com

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