Book Review: Ida and the Whale by Rebecca Gugger

blur-boat-paper-416904 (1)When I was a kid, I lived in a valley with a creek to the east of our property and a small stream that ran between us and our neighbor’s yard. After a storm, that little stream swelled to the tops of the banks with water and my sisters and I would put together boats with whatever materials we had on hand. Paper, mayo jar lids, sticks. Whatever would float and then we would see if we could race it to where the small culvert dumped into the larger creek.

The illustrations in Ida and the Whale, by Rebecca Gugger, from page one took me right back to that stream and those afternoons we spent in the creek. Making boats, making-believe we were stranded on an island and only had the woods and water to sustain us.

Ida is a girl who questions the world. She wants to see all the big things in the universe. The sun, the moon, the stars, and through her imagination she calls a whale to swim her through the forest of birch trees to touch the sky.

Fantastical? Yes. Whimsical? For sure. Ida is the child that still is inside each one of us, if we could put away our grown up logic and systems and worries. After reading this book, I wanted to take off my shoes and go stomp in a puddle or find a field to lay in and

Just. Hear. Silence.

Ida and the Whale, won’t make sense to most adults, but I know when you read this book to your child she will dream big and isn’t that the magic of stories?

Literacy skill highlighted

Print Motivation. Kids love fantastical books as they get older. This might be a tough read for a young preschooler, but older preschoolers or kindergarteners will enjoy the questions she has.

Activity beyond the book

Get outside. Find a field to lay in, a stream to explore, or just sit and watch a sunset. This book screams to be re-enacted in the real world.

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Pre-order

(I am an amazon affiliate, which means if you click the picture and make a purchase from Amazon, I receive a portion of the sale.)

  • Will be published on April 2, 2019
  • Written by Rebecca Gugger and illustrated by  Simon Röthlisberger

Other books to enjoy:

Book Review: Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine

What is it about the dark that scares and intrigues children at the same time? How many times has your child come downstairs after you’ve tucked him in and said, “I’m afraid of the dark.” To be honest, aren’t we all still a little afraid? Shadows loom larger, sounds are louder, problems bigger.

Books that help kids explore their fear in a safe and encouraging way are great from preschool ages. They acknowledge the scariness of night but also open a world of possibilities.

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Flashlight Night is a perfect book to read around a firepit in the summer or before a walk in the winter night sky before bedtime. Esenwine creates a magical world of stories that starts with a flashlight, a boy and the night sky.

The rhyming text builds phonological awareness and the sophisticated vocabulary will help your child learn new words. Afterall, when was the last time you used the words mizzenmast or craggy?

Reading comprehension and narrative skills are highlighted through the detailed illustrations that accompany the words. There are many things to explore on the page that aren’t in the text. The pictures can lead to further conversation about pirates and pyramids and castles. Have your child tell their own story either using the book as a jumping off point or create their own using a flashlight and shadow puppets.

flashlight

Flashlight Night is a great example of how simple books can introduce complex ideas and topics while answering questions all children have about what happens in the dark.

More books to help with fear of dark

What other books have helped your child process fear of the dark? Share in comments.Happy Reading

Book Review: Belinda the Unbeatable by Lee Nordling and Scott Roberts

Graphic novels and comics often get a bad rap from teachers and parents. They are seen as not as legitimate as “real books.” But they have been a game changer in our family. My son is an avid reader, but not in the traditional sense. Give him Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Garfield or any graphic novel and he will read for hours. Graphic novels have deep narratives, help kids derive context from the pictures which builds reading comprehension, teach how to follow a story through the panels, and are just plain old fun.

Graphic Novels are becoming more prevalent for young ages which is a great thing. Reluctant readers will pick up a book that is more picture drive, boys and girls alike will find something they like with the diversity of what is published now. I was even excited to see that there was a wordless graphic novel which isn’t only perfect for school age kids, but a great way to introduce the genre to preschoolers. It will give them a way to “read books” on their own. And it will strengthen reading comprehension and narrative skills through the story they create where they can practice their growing vocabulary and understanding of the printed word.

I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the images it takes you to Amazon, where if you make any purchases I receive a portion of the sale.

Belinda the Unbeatable is a great first graphic novel. It is about Belinda and her best friend Barbara. Belinda is outgoing and Barbara is shy. They join a musical chair game at the school and it becomes more than just the run-of-the-mill game. Will they work together to stay in the game?

This is a book you have to see for yourself. The pages will take you and your child on a journey of imagination.

Graphic Novels for Kids

Common Sense Media has a great article with suggestions on why graphic novels for kids. Read it here.

I Love Libraries has suggestions by age/grade here.

Three Reasons Graphic Novels Can Be Great for Young Readers by Scholastic.

Other Graphic Novels to Enjoy

Ages 6+

Ages 6+

Ages 7+

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Ages 6+

Have you and your family enjoyed graphic novels? Share what you’ve read in the comments.

 

Happy Reading

Book Review: On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

Smartphones, tablets, computers are a part of our lives and the lives of our families whether we embrace it or not. The American Academy of Pediatricsdeveloped guidelines to help parents make decisions about how and when to incorporate screen time into a child’s life. Under the age of 18 months, they do not recommend having screen time other than video chatting with family. Any age over that parents need to engage in a family media plan that will set boundaries on when, where and how media and screens will be consumed.

Although, technology is here to stay, it doesn’t mean we as parents have to give in to it. Our children still need time to play outside in mud puddles, be bored, and read.

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On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, the author Beatrice Alemagna explores the complicated relationship parents, families and children have with screens. On a rainy day a mother and daughter go to a cabin in the woods while the father stays in the city. The mother works and the daughter mindlessly plays a videogame which irritates her mother. Who tells her, “Is this another day where you do nothing.” She takes the game and hides it, but the daughter finds it and goes outside. What she discovers is a world she couldn’t find in her video game.

smart phone and kids

Alemagna’s book reminds me of my youth spent exploring the woods and creek outside my front door. We weren’t allowed to watch TV during the day and at that age I wouldn’t want to. Boredom isn’t lethal, but sometimes as parents we act as it is. My kids are forever asking me to watch T.V. or play on the tablet or have “screen time” because they are bored. We set strict limits that works for our family but even with the limits it doesn’t stop the kids from asking to cure their boredom with so easy to digest media.

natural world

The book doesn’t just provide rich discussion about how to combat boredom it also has rich, lyrical vocabulary filled with imagery using metaphors and similes. The book uses a lot of directional/positional language which is great for young preschoolers beginning to understand the concept of over, under, top, bottom and etc. But the book can also be used with older preschoolers/kindergarten aged children with its sophisticated vocabulary.

As you read this book with your child you will notice that the narrative skills are developed strongly throughout the text. It focuses on imagination, discovery of the natural world, parent relationships, and yes screen time. This will help foster a conversation between you and your child and even family about how to handle the balance between t.v., games and quiet times without those screens. After reading the story talk about how you find quiet time in your day without screens. And if that isn’t something you do, maybe as a family you can learn to incorporate media free times together.

Kid painting Santa on a paper plate

Our kids need space to explore the world independently in a safe and unstructured way. They need time that isn’t scheduled with activities. They need time to be bored so they can create, develop and grow. Play is one of the most important times in our child’s day. It is where the most learning takes place. On a Magical Do-Nothing Day will take the story of a boring, rainy, dreary day and encourage our children to go explore a fascinating and ever changing world.

After Reading the Book

Go outside. Even if the weather is terrible. Dress appropriately and go explore.

As you walk with your child, ask her what she notices? How is today different than other days? What is the same? And if it is age appropriate, go to the backyard or a park and allow them some free range time to look around and play on their own.

For Parents

A good picture book is one that not only makes kids think and learn, but parents as well. There is a lot in this book to make us think about how we spend our time. The work/family balance, our relationship with phones and screens, and how we include time for ourselves to explore, create and dream. Use this book as a starting point for discussion about how your family will handle screens. Each family is different, so do what works best for you. We have decided that screens are limited to weekends, but during the week we will watch movies or a T.V. show together. And during school breaks, the rules are relaxed. But if the kids have screen limits, it is only fair to see how grown ups should too.

Articles on Screen Time

Common Sense Media

Consumer Reports

What do we do all day

Becoming Minimalist

Books on Wonder, imagination and exploration

Do you have a favorite book about play, imagination or boredom? Share in the comments at the end of the post.

Happy Reading

Book Review: Strong As A Bear by Katrin Stangl

  • Publishing Information: Katrin Stangl. Enchanted Lion Books, New York, 2016.
  • Ages: Toddler, Preschool, Early Reader

 

 

 

STRONG AS A BEAR is a great vocabulary building book. The pictures are simple and coordinate with the words on the page. The sentences are short but the words o are unique adjectives and animal names that will increase your child’s wordbase.

The opening lines are Free as a Bird. And show a picture of a child escaping from his crib with a bird calling from the rail. There are other objects on the page that will encourage your child to engage deeper in the book through naming what everything is.

What I Love

What I love about this book is the strong use of unique words. Vocabulary helps build future readers by providing a large dictionary of words in your child’s head that he can use to retrieve from when learning to read. I also love how this book grows with a reader. A toddler will engage with the simple text and bold pictures. A preschooler can delve deeper and discuss the emotions of what each picture creates in their heads. A new reader can use this book to begin to sound out and blend sounds. The familiarity of the book will help her feel confident as she explores the world of words.

How to use this book.

The first few times you read this book with your child, focus on the words. Read through it a few times. Ask questions but start small. Ask about the colors or objects in the pictures. Then as your child becomes familiar with the text have them anticipate the animal. When ready pick some of the words your child may not have heard often like mischievous, magpie, clever. Give definitions and help him find examples in other books of what those words mean.

Tell stories using the pictures. Each picture is a starting off point for a story. Why is the boy climbing out of his crib? Where do you think he is going? What will happen when he gets there? Why is the clown following an elephant? Where do you think they work?

This book creates conversations. One indicator of reading success is the quality of talk between parent and child. The richer the conversations, the more words a child hears. Books are a great way to stimulate and help make space for talking with your child in a meaningful way each day.

I love simple books that pack so much within its pages. Unique vocabulary and opportunities to increase narrative skills from the pictures are cornerstones of success for future readers.

What to read next

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. When you click on the picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make purchases I do receive a portion of the sale.)

I reviewed Big Bear, Little Chair earlier this year.

 

 

 

 

 

A die cut book that will help increase narrative skills by creating stories about what is happening inside or outside.

 

 

 

Another great wordless book that will encourage young readers to create stories and worlds of her own.

 

 

 

What books with simple sentences do you love to read with your child?

Happy Reading!!