Book Review: Princess Cupcake Jones and the Dance Recital by Ylleya Fields

  • Princess Cupcake Jones and the Dance Recital. Ylleya Fields. Illustrated by Michael La Duca. Belle Publishing: Cleveland. 2016
  • Preschool

Cupcake Jones and the rest of the students at Madame’s School of Ballet are preparing for a dance recital. Cupcake Jones is finding it hard to master a difficult move and worries about what will happen at the recital. The students learn that hard work and doing your best is all they need for a successful event.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK

This is the third book in the Cupcake Jones picture book series. The author is a fellow Clevelander and started writing the Cupcake Jones books because she struggled to find books with African American characters in them. As a children’s librarian in the inner city, I found the same problems finding books the kids I served could relate to.

We all want to see ourselves represented in the books we read. It helps build a love for reading. Print Motivation happens when children can relate to the story on the page.

I love that the theme of the book is one that all kids relate to and it is the universal nature of the story that makes this a great book for all children. The more diverse our book characters are and the more universal the themes are I believe it helps all of our children relate to each other better.

The text is rhythmic and full of alliteration which builds phonological awareness. It has strong vocabulary that introduces dance names but also has a strong word choice outside of new dance vocabulary. The author was careful in her text and a few read-throughs of this book and your child’s vocabulary will grow.

The illustrations are fun and realistic and diverse, quite representative of the world we live in. Kids thrive in stories based in reality and familiar routines and emotions. The story is also one with a strong lesson, don’t give up when something is hard. Princess Cupcake Jones will be a good example of how to act when your child is faced with a new or difficult situation.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

If your child doesn’t dance, see if you can observe a nearby dance studio. Watch the activities of the lessons and talk about what he learned afterwards. Field trips are great ways to expand the world your child lives in. It not only helps them have new experiences it broadens her world. Find books at the library on dance or find classics such as the Nutcracker and watch together.

Write a story together about a time your child tried something new or struggled with learning something. Have your child tell the story and write the words. It will teach them how to create a story and seeing the words will reinforce all those great skills they learn hearing a story: How the words are written on the page, left to right; how stories have beginnings, middles and ends; how to connect what they see in their heads to the words on the page through illustrations.

Learn the different ballet moves in the story and write vocabulary cards for them. Hold up the word and practice the move. Your child may not be able to read, but you will see them start to recognize the patterns in the letters. The action will reinforce the new word. It’s a fun way to learn new vocabulary.

WHAT TO READ NEXT

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Connect with the Author: Ylleya Fields

Happy Reading!

Book Review: A is for Africa By Michael Samulak

  • A is for Africa. Michael I Samulak and Illustrated by Sswaga Sendiba. Trafford Publishing: Victoria, 2008.
  • Preschool

A is for Africa is an alphabet book with the peoples and animals and traditions that center around Uganda. The pictures are bright and beautiful artwork that will take you on a journey through the country of Uganda and help explore the continent of Africa.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK

The most striking aspect of this book is the rich vocabulary. The author is familiar with Uganda, the animals and plants and people. This knowledge helps him introduce another land to our earliest readers. Some of my favorite words in the book are fowl, Ibis, Kob, Pygmy chimpanzee and tilapia. These are animals that are kids don’t often see, even in the zoo. It expands their world, imagination and, of course, vocabulary.

The author also uses rhythmic language and alliteration to reinforce phonological awareness, the important building block for sounding out words.

It may seem a stretch in an alphabet book, but the author’s use of a land and a people helps tell not just a story of the alphabet journey, but the life of a people who live far away. He brings in ritual life and traditions that help kids explore a world they do not hear about. These types of books and book experiences open up creativity to our youngest readers and enrich the stories they tell.

The pictures are bold, boisterous and beautiful. The illustrator is an artist in Uganda, who uses a particular style of painting called batik. There is more information about this process in the back of the book, but his illustrations invite the reader onto the page and the reading becomes an interactive experience instead of a passive one. Interesting and unique pictures that support the text on the page produce a love of reading called, Print Motivation. The more our kids love a book, the more they develop a love for reading.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

This book is a great start to study different forms of art. Create your own “batik” style paintings or drawings while talking about what your child sees in her every day life. The book is an exploration of Africa, so explore the city or state you live in with the animals you see around you, the traditions or food you eat in your region. This is a great way to build hand strength, through picture drawing, and a great way to introduce new vocabulary. It also helps her learn about the place she lives in which will help with cultural awareness.

Since this is an alphabet book, I would be remiss if I ignored the different alphabet activities out there. Pinterest is a great place to find cute and interactive ways to learn the alphabet. You don’t have to be super creative though, some of my favorite alphabet building fun is taking rice or oatmeal or sand and filling a cookie sheet. Trace the alphabet and have your child mimic. Imprinting the shapes and movement of the alphabet will bring the letters to life.

What to Read Next

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. I do not get paid to review books. The opinions are mine. However, if you click on the pictures it will take you to Amazon, where if you make purchases I will receive a percentage of the sale.)

See our other book reviews of author Michael Samulak’s work:

a-wonderful-day

Author Interview

A Wonderful Day Book Review

 

Connect with Michael Samulak

 

 

What is your favorite way to practice the alphabet with your child? Share in the comments at the end of the post.

 

Happy Reading!

Book Review: Big Bob, Little Bob By James Howe

big-bob-little-bob

Big Bob, Little Bob. James Howe. Illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson. Candlewick Press, Somerville, 2016.

Preschool

Big Bob and Little Bob are the same in name only. The new neighbors learn how to navigate a different kind of friendship and discover that what makes us different can also bring us together.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS BOOK

In building a long relationship with reading, kids look for books they relate to. How they see themselves reflected on the pages. How they relate to the characters in the story. How the story problem can help the reader solve his own problems. This is a huge part of Print Motivation, which simply means enjoying the books we read. And there are a lot of different reasons that make a book a fun book to read.

James Howe has been writing books for decades. I fell in love with his characters: Bunnicula, Howard and Chester when I was a child. He has written early reader books and picture books as well. Howe is one of those authors who remembers what it was like to be a kid and this picture book is a reflection of his insight.

All kids feel out of place or different. There is a pressure to be like everyone else. Howe helps kids explore how to celebrate our differences instead of conforming to them. Sharing this story with a loved one will help kids feel safe as they explore this topic.

I also appreciate that he shows the complicated relationship between the neighbor boys and how conflict is handled not with action but with words. Picture books do so much more for our kids than build future readers. They help build empathy and problem solving skills that will benefit our kids as they go through school.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

Use this book as a conversation starter. Talk about a time you felt out of place. What you felt, how you acted and how you solved the problem. Sharing stories of our own emotional journeys will help our kids talk about their own feelings and allow a space for them to think about conflict with others before it happens and how they will handle the conflict. Books are always a great jumping off point for deeper talk with our kids.

I really like this activity from the Pinterested Parent blog. Take paper plates and draw different faces. Glue a popsicle/craft stick to the plate and label the emotion at the bottom of the face. It will connect the word with the picture increasing vocabulary. Read through the story again and stop and ask your child to lift up the face he thinks the character feels. For example:

big-bob-little-bob-catch
Image from Amazon

Read the page and ask your child: How do you think Little Bob feels when he doesn’t catch the ball?

The faces can even be used when your child is having strong feelings. Sometimes our kids can’t verbalize the emotion, but try using the plates to help her express what she feels. Always lead by example. Say how you feel about the disagreement you are having and choose the face that best expresses that. Then ask your child to do the same. It will help build emotional literacy and allow your child a better understanding of how to express herself.

What to Read Next

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What books have you read with your child that has sparked interesting conversations? Share in the comments section of the post.

HAPPY READING!

Book Review: Bear’s Winter Party by Deborah Hodge

Bear’s Winter Party by Deborah Hodge. Illustrated by Lisa Cinar. Groundwork Books, 2016.

Preschool Readers

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS BOOK

Bear wants to be friends with the other animals in the forest but everytime he comes near they hide. Bear discovers a way to make new friends and show the forest animals he isn’t as scary as he looks.

Bear’s Winter Party is rich in vocabulary. The opening page brings text filled with unique words to enrich your child’s exploding vocabulary.

Bear lived in a forest on the side of a mountain. He felt at home among the trees. He nibbled on sweet wild berries. He sipped cool water from the stream. He breathed in the fresh mountain air.

The author also does a great job of creating word pictures instead of telling the reader how the animals feel.

Wherever he went, Bear heard the other animals talking about him.

“He’s so big!” said Squirrel.

“His claws are long,” said Hare.

“His teeth are sharp,” said Deer.

“His voice makes a rumbling sound,” Said Chickadee.

The author builds through dialog how the animals feel when they encounter the bear. Instead of telling the reader the animals are afraid of bear, she shows through how the talk to each other and how they act around bear. It provides the perfect opportunity to ask questions as you read and create conversation around the story.

The author also includes literary devices such as alliteration (the same starting consonant sound) and assonance (the same ending sounds) to provide a cadence driven text. This type of writing helps young ones hear the sounds that make up words, which helps them learn to decode before they even begin to read.

Before long, the whole group was dancing. Round and round the den they went, swinging and swaying, whirling and twirling, bobbing and bouncing.

And my favorite part is the recipe at the end of the book. Recipes are a great way to build math skills like fractions, number recognition and unique vocabulary. It is a hands on way of learning how to divide and count. It not only helps the story become concrete for your child but it continues learning beyond the page.

Along with all the pre-literacy skills your child will develop with repeated readings of this story, research shows that fiction helps readers gain empathy through others. Most children can relate to being scared of meeting new people, being in new situations, or being scared to make friends. Listening and talking about how Bear solves his problems will help your child be a more compassionate and empathetic friend.

bears-winter-party-text

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

One of the strengths of this book is the conversation created around feelings. After reading the book a few times go back and tell the story by how Bear feels. How he starts out feeling, what he does with those feelings and how he feels at the end of the book. You can also do the same with the forest animals. To continue dialoguing about feelings, draw faces with your child and label underneath each picture how the person feels.

Talk about the pictures on each page. The watercolors are vibrant and full of detail. Point to an object on the page and have your child tell you what she sees. This builds vocabulary.

Because this story takes place in a forest, the end pages are filled with pictures of different types of leaves. Go on a nature walk and see if you can find similar items in your yard or neighborhood. Take leaves home with you and take crayons or pencils and do rubbings of the leaves or trace the shapes.

Make the recipe at the end of the book! Cooking with your children is a great way to build confidence, but also provides an opportunity to point to text on the page and read it to them. They will see how you move across the page and highlight print awareness.

WHAT TO READ NEXT

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the pictures it will take you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase, I receive a portion of the sale.)

 

What are your favorite books about bears? Help others discover new books in the comments below.

HAPPY READING!

 

 

Book Review: Best Frints in the whole universe by Antoinette Portis

  • Publishing Information: Antoinette Portis. Roaring Brook Press, New York. 2016.
  • Ages: Preschool

BEST FRINTS IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE is a fun book about friendship and feelings. It is a great book for preschoolers who are learning to handle arguments and conflict as they play more with children their own age. It acknowledges the common fights that happen and what the children hear in response to those fights. I can hear children giggling as they see the pictures of the friends doing things that they themselves get in trouble for.

It celebrates differences and diversity in relationships and shows how working together is so much more fun than doing things on our own.

What I love About this Book:

The vocabulary building skills in this book are actually phenomenal. The authors use of “alien language” gives parents and children the opportunity to translate the words into “Earth language.” It builds vocabulary in a fun and unique way.

It also creates a space to talk about feelings. Using the two best friends as guides, have your child tell about a time where she disagreed with a friend. Ask questions about what she felt and how she acted and what she might do in the future to solve the fight.

Kids will really gravitate to the bright, simple pictures and the common issues the book addresses. It will definitely be one you go back to again and again. Kids will have fun while learning. The best kind of fun.

How to Use this Book:

Learn to Translate. This is a great opportunity to discuss different languages. Go online or find a book at your local library or bookstore to help translate everyday words into another language. You can print out labels on the computer and go around the house placing the English and Spanish or German or whatever language you choose! Click here for a list of  premade English/Spanish Vocabulary labels.

Make a story about a disagreement your own child has had. Using the feelings he felt, the actions he made and the solution he comes up with to create a low pressure way to work through feelings and help your child name them when he feels them.

Create your own alien. Use Playdo or paint or crayons or whatever you have on hand to create your own version of the planet Boborp and friends Omek and Yelfred. Drawing, coloring and Playdo are great ways to build hand strength for future handwriting.

What to Read Next:

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. When you click on a picture it will take you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a percentage of the salem.)

 

What are your favorite books about friendship? Comment and share!

Happy Reading!!!!

Reading Habits: Chapter Books with your Preschooler

Signs your child is ready for chapter books:

  • Enjoys listening to longer stories.
  • Enjoys stories where the pictures don’t do most of the talking.
  • Enjoys hearing the stories you read to your older child. (Reading Rainbow)
  • Starts thinking abstractly.

So if you answer yes to most of the questions you are ready to start choosing your first chapter book with your child.

Picking the Right Book:

Make sure the story fits your child’s interests. Like choosing a picture book, we want to make sure our child engages in the story. Look for books where the main character shares hobbies or is in a similar life situation.

Pictures still help. Choose a book that still has pictures throughout the story. It breaks up the text and provides an opportunity for you to talk about what you have read. With more listening than looking it might be harder for your child to hold the story thread in his head at first. Practice stopping every few pages and asking questions.

Start Small. There are a lot of great beginning chapter books like The Magic Treehouse series or The Clubhouse Mysteries or Matt Christopher or Mercy Watson among many others. The sentences and chapters are short and there are usually no more than 5 paragraphs per page.

Slowly start adding chapter books to your daily reading habit. Increase the number of pages you read and don’t worry about reading a full chapter! Since the stories aren’t necessarily driven by the pictures, let your child explore legos, coloring, blocks or another activity while you read. Just because their hands are busy doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. Always talk about what you read the previous day before you start reading. It will help them learn to hold the story in their heads for longer amounts of time in between readings.

Before long your child will ask to add a chapter book or two to the library basket but never stop reading those picture books because they are still a great source of unique and rich vocabulary and reading fun!

Other great chapter books:

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What our family is currently reading together:

 

HAPPY READING!!!

Book Review: This Old Band by Tamera Will Wissinger

  • Ages Infant, Toddler, Preschool
  • Illustrated by Matt Loveridge
  • Skyhorse Publishing Inc, 2014

I love picture books you can sing a long to. Not only are they fun, singing is a great way for young children to hear sounds and how they are broken apart into syllables and singing also accentuates consonants and vowels in ways we don’t always get in reading.

But, if you are musically challenged, don’t worry! Reading the text is still a great way to help build these skills. The great thing about songs, read or sung, is the rhythmic text and the alliteration.

Phonological Awareness

This old band is sung to the tune, “This old man” It is a song most kids will recognize and join in with even if they don’t know the words they can hum along. I love the playful use of onomatopoeia and alliteration throughout the song. The pictures are fun and comic like. There are lots of different objects to talk about on the page. And after a few repeats your kids will be singing along.

Math Literacy

Another great part of this book is the math literacy it builds. Although I wish they used the actual numbers along with the written out number, counting backwards is a skill young preschoolers will find fun. And after the book is finished you can continue the conversation by grabbing sticks, or toys or whatever is at hand and using them to count 1-10 and then 10-1.

Narrative Skills

It is also great to help your child build narrative skills. Talk with your child about what instrument is played first. Maybe write it out on paper, cut them out and help your child organize as you read through the book again.

After all when we talk about literacy we aren’t just talking about words.

This is a great book to pick up when you are short on reading time. It has the vocabulary, the sounds, and the narrative skills we are looking for in a book.

Happy Reading or in this case Happy Singing!

 

Other fun books to sing with your child

(Reminder I am an amazon affiliate. When you click on a picture it takes you to amazon, where if you make a purchase, I get a portion of the sale. I do not get paid to promote any particular book. The views and opinions are mine and mine alone.)

 

Book Review: Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Toddler and Preschool

There are many things I look for when I choose a book to read to my children. I look for the words used. Strong pictures that not only compliment the text but also tell the story. I look for how the text demonstrates to the child how words flow in a book. I look for a strong narrative that a child can hear in the reading and retell.

Finding Wild is one of those great finds that encompasses all the literacy skills librarians and teachers and parents look for in a book. It takes a concept: Wild and shows all the facets of it. Why we need it. Why we respect it. Why it becomes a part of us.

Wild creeps and crawls and slithers.

It leaps and pounces and shows its teeth.

There are metaphors and alliteration that makes the reading fun. Your child will learn many new words hearing this story.

Wild is full of smells-fresh mint, ancient cave, sun-baked desert, sharp pine, salt sea.

Every scent begging you to drink it in.

The pictures are simple but descriptive of the text. It shows a girl and a boy standing on a sidewalk at the edge of a woods. Then follows them as they explore the many types of wild there are in the world. It is a story that begs for families to step out of their houses and explore their own wild surrounding them. It is a reminder that our world isn’t supposed to be neat and organized.

Sometimes wild is buried too deep, and it seems like the whole world is clean and paved, ordered and tidy.

Pick up this book, read it and then set out on an adventure and remind yourself there is a whole world out there waiting to be explored right on your doorstep.

Happy Reading!

 

What other books encourage your child to explore the world around them?

 

(I am an Amazon affiliate, which means when you click on a picture you are redirected to Amazon. If you make a purchase I receive a percentage of the sale. I am not paid to review books. My opinions are mine and mine alone.)

 

Other books that explore the world:

Book Review: Thank You, Jackson by Niki and Jude Daly

Ages 3-5

Thank You Jackson. Niki and Jude Daly. Francis Lincoln Children’s Books. 2015.

(I am an Amazon affiliate member which means when you click on the pictures it takes you to Amazon where if you make a purchase I receive a small percentage. I do not get paid to review books.)

 

A farmer takes his donkey Jackson up a hill every day with a load of goods for the market. The donkey completes his job without complaint until one day Jackson won’t go up the hill. The farmer gets frustrated and no amount of prodding, pushing or yelling will get the donkey to move. Jackson loses his load and the farmer threatens to punish him and gives him to the count of ten to move and as he speaks the number ten his son, Goodwill appears. He stops his father from punishing Jackson and whispers something in the donkey’s ear. The donkey rises. The farmer asks what the boy said to get the donkey to move and the boy answers,, “Mama, says, that it’s the little things, like saying please and thank you, that make a big difference in the world.” Shamed for his attitude the farmer and boy carry the goods to market and allow Jackson to graze and rest. The story ends at the end of the day back home with the farmer thanking Jackson for all he does.

I love folktales. Not only because of the lessons they teach but they are perfect stories to teach narrative skills to emerging readers. They often hold a child’s interest with phrases that can be repeated which increases print motivation. Even though the story takes place in Africa it is a story with a universal theme that all children will relate to. This story provides unique language, using words such as market, stubborn, task, load and many more. Unique language is words we do not use in our every day conversations with our children. These unique words build vocabulary as the books are read and reread many times. There is also an emphasis on letter knowledge with the bold text numbers written out. The children can say the number out loud as you point to the text.

I highly recommend you add this book to your reading list and find other folktales and fairytales for your growing reader.

SKILLS BUILT:

  • Narrative Skills
  • Print Motivation
  • Vocabulary
  • Letter Knowledge

 

ENGAGE WITH THE STORY:

  • Talk about the book before you begin reading. Look at the pictures and name the objects you see on the page. Have your child point to pictures and identify what the object is. You can focus on colors or animals or shapes. This teaches your child how to interact and go deeper into the story than the words on the page.
  • When you come to a word your child may not be familiar with, for example task, stop and explain what the word means and give an example. It can take up to Word frequency to build vocabulary using and hearing a word before a child learns it. Find ways to incorporate these new words into your conversation today.
  • Before you turn the page, ask your child what she thinks might happen. Before you reveal what the boy says to the donkey, ask what the boy could say. When the farmer is frustrated ask your child what he thinks the farmer might do next to get the donkey to move. Reading comprehension is one of the most important skills for a child to learn and it starts early with helping your child engage in the text, anticipate and see how their guess matched up with the ending.

 

TAKE IT OFF THE PAGE:

  • Write a thank you note. Your child may not be able to write yet but sitting down and writing with you will show them how it’s done. You can have them dictate the note and you write but make sure to leave a space for them to practice their letters. At age 4 they will start forming letters especially those letters in their name. But no worries if they aren’t there yet, the simple act of using a pencil or colored pencil will help them develop the hand strength needed to develop writing.
  • Have a snack with the vegetables shown in the book. It may be an opportunity to go to the “market” just like the farmer, boy and donkey in the book. The store is a fabulous place to build vocabulary. Bring home the food and set up your own marketplace and finish with a snack.

 

Book Review: Small Elephant’s Bathtime by Tatyana Feeney

Ages: Preschool 3-5, Toddler age 2

(I do not get paid to review books. The opinions I express in the post are mine. If you click the link it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I do receive a percentage of the sale.)

 

 

 

Small Elephant loves to play with water unless it is bathtime! His mother finds different ways to get Small Elephant into the tub but she only succeeds in making him more mad. When Small Elephant disappears his mother brings in reinforcements in the form of his Dad who finds a way to make bathtime funny.

Children will identify with the routine of bath and not always enjoying the process. It is a familiar situation for them which will engage the young reader in PRINT MOTIVATION. The pictures are simple drawings but drive the story helping a child to retell on their own building NARRATIVE SKILLS. The unique VOCABULARY and emphasis on feelings will introduce the child to new words and ideas. The simple text and colorful print will highlight LETTER KNOWLEDGE. This is a great book to demonstrate PRINT AWARENESS by using your finger to follow along with the text, point out the different parts of the book and the pages are sturdy to allow little fingers to turn the pages.

Interact with the Book:

  1. Why do you think Small Elephant likes to play with water but not take a bath?
  2. What happens when you have to do something you don’t want to do? How does it make you feel? What picture in the book looks like the face you make?
  3. What face would Small Elephant make while jumping in puddles? What face does he make when his mom asks him to take a bath? How does he look when he sees his Dad in the bathtub? How do you think he feels at the end of the story?

Take it further:

Go outside on a rainy day and jump in puddles just like Small Elephant. Put on some rainboots and a rain coat and explore the different splashes that the puddles make. Have your child guess which puddles will make the BIGGEST splashes. Shake tree branches and see what happens.

Put on some of your child’s favorite music and blow bubbles! Sing along and have them join in. Singing is a great way to build PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS which helps your child learn to pull apart the sounds of words as they begin to read.

Go to the library or bookstore and find other books that explore feelings. Classics such as: