Book Review: Wake Up! By Helen Frost and Rick Lieder

Wake UpWake Up! Poem by Helen Frost and photographs by Rick Lieder. Published by Candlewick Press: Somerville, MA, 2017.

A poem about new life in the world all around us. Illustrated with beautiful photographs that invite the reader, not only explore the pages of the book, but the world right outside the front door.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK

This book needs to be discussed. It is rare to find books that so naturally include conversation starters within the text. Conversations aren’t just a way to connect people together, they are also important building blocks of future reading success. Talking in a positive way, not only provides a safe space and fond memories, but it strengthens vocabulary and builds reading comprehension. The natural flow of conversation will connect what the child sees on the page to the text and even the world around her. It provides the perfect opportunity to enrich dialogue between you and your child.

This natural conversation will also strengthen vocabulary. The language the poet uses is unique and fresh and in addition there is a pictorial glossary at the end of the book to provide more information about the animals and insects explored in the pages of the book.

The photographs are simple, yet detailed at the same time. The close up shots provide a different vantage point for children to look at the natural world. Preschool children are very concrete thinkers, so this is a perfect book to help him gain a better understanding of how the world works and his place in it. And most important, the mystery and awe and wonder of the natural world.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

This story begs to be read outside at a picnic in a park. It invites the reader and listener to explore the outside world find their own new beginnings. After reading the book, go on a scavenger hunt to see if you can find any of the animals photographed. Use your phone or camera and take your own close up shots and then when you get home, print them out with labels and create your own Wake Up! book.

Allow conversation to flow

Ask questions your child like where she thinks the different animals may be and why? Where does she think they go at night and what does she think they eat. Allow space for her to ask her own questions as you walk. It is okay if you don’t have all the answers! That is what makes nature so interesting and awe-inspiring. And tell her you can visit the library to find out more information on what she finds most interesting and perplexing.

Don’t forget to get up close

The book encourages looking at nature from a different perspective, so tell your child it’s okay to get down on the ground and look at things up close! Stones and dirt, mulch and sticks. Plants and flowers. Take the time to lay on your backs and look at the sky. Watch the clouds roll by and discover hidden shapes and even label the different types of clouds you see.

WHAT TO READ NEXT

The poet and author have collaborated on several similar picture books. (Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a picture it will take you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a small percentage of the sale. The opinions in the review are mine and I have not been paid for this review)

 

What books would about the natural world would you add to the WHAT TO READ NEXT list?

Happy Reading!!

Book Review: This house, once by Deborah Freedman

  • This House, Once
  • Written by Deborah Freedman
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers: New York, 2017
  • A story about how a house came to be and the materials used to build it before they were used.

A poetic picture book about where the pieces and parts of a house come from and what they might have been before they became a house.

What I Like About This Book

Books that build a strong sequence are perfect for preschoolers. Building a story little by little helps strengthen narrative skills in future readers. Not only is the child learning the materials used in building houses, he also sees the world around him in a different way. See what is in nature and imagine what it could and can be.

The language is unique and fresh in this story. It isn’t too often in a day that a child will hear the words colossal, oozed, cleft, shingled, melted. Each repeated reading the child will learn the words and build a strong dictionary in her mind for when she begins to read later in her school years.

The pictures are simple and complement the text well. Just as the text builds the words around a house, the pictures build the image of a house page by page. It is amazing how this thoughtful act of placement helps children develop their own ability to retell stories.

Lastly, the lilting flow of the text makes this a perfect curl- up- under- the- blanket read.

This door was once a colossal oak tree

about three hugs around

and as high as the blue.

A more perfect sentence was never written! This type of writing not only draw the child into the book but the parent as well making it a shoo-in for reading over and over and over again. With each repetition the child’s vocabulary and narrative skills will build.

How to Use This Book

This is a great book to try and recreate the story on the page. Go outside and gather sticks, dirt, stone and other natural materials and build a house. Name each of the materials you gather. For example if you find branches from a maple tree, look at the leaves and the bark and the roots.

Ask questions about the book after reading like, What is the door made of? How are windows made? Don’t forget to look at the pictures and talk about what is happening on the page that might not be mentioned in the text. This helps build reading comprehension.

Talk about your house or apartment. What is it made of? Start with the door, just like the book and work your way up. Another great way to converse with your child in a positive way, while building vocabulary and relating back to the story.

What to Read Next?

Try these other books that build strong narrative skills.

bag i'm taking to grandmas

Book Review: Round by Joyce Sidman

  • Written By Joyce Sidman
  • Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
  • Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Boston, New York
  • 2017

Round follows a girl explorer as she discovers the many round shapes she sees and feels in the world.  the world and discovers the many round shapes she sees and feels. Big or small, old or new, moving or stationary it is a perfect read to share with children to grow curiosity about the world around them.

What I like about this Book

Sidman is a children’s poet who writes about nature. She has won a Newberry Honor, a Caldecott Honors and many other awards. She understands well a child’s curiosity of nature and how children naturally gravitate to books about the tangible and real. Preschoolers are very concrete learners and thinkers and this book leads a child to explore the round shapes she sees in her everyday life. She not only talks about the form of round, but also how it moves depending on its mass. She talks about how rain splats and ripples in the water. Dung beetles and the ball it rolls, spins and bounces. Cliffs that start out with sharp edges and are worn away by water and wind and rain. Round isn’t just a shape!

Sidman’s use of words builds strong vocabulary in its readers. She uses fresh language to describe what the child sees in the book. Just a few of her words are  hatch, swell, and budding. The more unique words a child hears in her everyday life the better vocabulary she has to pull from when she begins to read.

Her use of language is also beautiful. Children this young, won’t be able to grasp the metaphors she uses, but the cadence of the story will attract them to the book over and over and over again. This is called Print Motivate and it is an important stepping stone to building future readers.

Or show themselves,

night after night,

rounder and rounder,

until the whole sky holds its breath.

I especially like the last pages of the book that explains why there are so many round things in nature and why it matters that those things are round. Even I learned something from this addition!

How to Use This Book

This is a book that begs to be read outside in a park, a field, near a pond or stream. Spread out a blanket and curl up together. Read the book a few times. Talk about the pictures on the page. A lot of the unique vocabulary is also in the pictures! Afterwards, take a nature walk and see what round shapes your child can spot. Point out what you see and don’t just talk about the shape, but explore the texture as well. If possible, see how it moves and compare how one round object moves in comparison to another.

Go to the store and find round foods. Make a lunch or snack with what you discover together in the store. Talk about the taste, touch, smell and feel of these foods. And if you are feeling adventurous and don’t mind a mess. Try dropping, rolling, spinning or another creative movement.

Find paper and have your child cut out different sizes of circles. Make new shapes with them, order them from biggest to smallest and smallest to biggest. Find different ways to use the paper circles.

What to Read Next

Discover Joyce Sidman’s poetry and nature exploration in these other great books.

 

What are your favorite children’s books about nature? Share in the comments.

 

Happy Reading!!

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

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

 

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: I Am A Story By Dan Yaccarino

  • I am a story. Dan Yaccarino. Harper: New York, 2016.
  • Toddler and Preschool

 

 

 

A short simple story of how books and stories came to be. The different iterations of story and the power the written and oral word holds over children and adults alike today.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK

This is a great narrative that explains about all the different ways a story can be told. It is a great way to introduce kids to different types of books and different ways of showing a story. The text itself lends to great sequencing for children. Stories started around campfires, then were drawn on walls, then carved and written and on and on. A perfect history on story for our youngest readers. It celebrates the diversity of storytelling in all different cultures and the many ways we tell tales of people in the world.

The pictures are bright and engaging. I have always appreciated Yaccarino’s style of illustration. Kids are naturally drawn to his beautiful pictures. They are classic and new all at the same time.

Vocabulary will be strengthened in each reading of this book. There are so many new words: Papyrus, woodblocks, ink, clay, illuminate. And so many more. The words are all focused around the central theme of books and stories which will be a great starting point for further conversations and a deeper understanding of books.

This is also a great book to use to start introducing toddlers to picture books. While you will still mainly use board books, the text is simple and the story is quick enough to keep even the youngest reader engaged.

I love how the story starts around the campfire and adds technological advances before it comes back to the simple story around a campfire. It is a great way to demonstrate to children how stories grow but return back to the beginning. Always.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

This story has three parts to it: How stories are told. How stories are used. How stories make us feel. Pick one of these areas and create a story. Tell stories around the fireplace or campfire and teach your kids about oral traditions. Maybe a family story that happened before them. Or roll out play dough and take a toothpick to “carve” a story into “clay tablets.” If you focus on how stories are used, choose a movie or audio book or even play and view a story being reenacted. Or choose a book off the bookshelf and talk about how you felt while you read.

As a kid, I loved Reading Rainbow. In recent years, a kickstarter was created to bring back this much loved series. There is a channel on Youtube where you can see new episodes of this classic series. The video I shared below is called, I am Book. It is a compilation of poems by well known authors about books! It is a great way to encourage discussion of Print Awareness in a unique and fun way.

Find time to create your own stories with your child. It builds a natural time in the day to be together without the pressures and demands of schedule. It provides a space for you and your child to be together and create.

WHAT TO READ NEXT

What is the most interesting way you have heard a story? Comment below to share ideas!

HAPPY READING!

Book Review: All Shook Up! By Alain Crozon

  • All Shook Up! By Alain Crozon. Chronicle Books: San Francisco, 2015.
  • Board Book. Toddler and Early Preschool

Help your child learn body parts, opposites and numbers in this fun interactive book.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS BOOK

Interactive books are perfect for young listeners. It keeps him engaged while he learns during reading time. The child can move the animals on the page reinforcing the new words he hears. The pages are made of firm cardboard. Sturdy enough to have little fingers turning the page. This helps encourage Print Awareness. Print Awareness is understanding the parts of books and how one reads a story and turns through pages.

The book will teach your child opposites, numbers and new vocabulary. It has great words like Flutter, Wag, Wiggle, Strut and many more. As your child moves the animals on the page she will also learn the differences between front and back. Left and Right. Open and Shut. There is also simple counting from 1-4 which is a great way to use math in reading to help increase math literacy. The text has simple rhymes that will help her hear the different sounds that make up words.

It also has great onomatopoeia words like Huff! Puff! Whack. Smack. Crack! Remember onomatopoeia are fun ways to put names to sounds. The book also uses a literary device called polysyndeton. Polysyndeton is when you use punctuation in between words to give them more attention. For example the author uses this technique on page seven.

Be careful not to

Whack. Smack. Crack!

Notice how it draws attention to the rhyming text. It also makes it fun to read for the adults. It may be years before he will use this devise in his own writing but learning now that it is a way to express himself will reinforce the concepts he learns later in life.

The pictures are cartoonish, with minimal colors and the actions in the words directly relate to how the she will interact with the animals on the page.

I love simple books that contain so many rich opportunities for learning. I have even used these board books for my early readers.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

After reading through the book a few times, reinforce the new vocabulary learned by having your child act out the different movements the animals demonstrate. Have her flutter and wag her arms. See if she remembers what the movements are and help if needed.

Learn more about the animals on the page. Go to the library and see where rabbits live and what they eat. Learn the differences between donkeys and horses. Books are a great jumping off point for learning how to research topics your child is interested in.

Practice opposites. In your house practice the difference between open and closed by seeing what doors are open and which are closed. Open up the refrigerator and talk about what is at the front of the shelves and what is in the back. Walk up stairs and walk back down or toss a ball into the air and call out up when it is highest and down when it hits the ground.

Also practice counting by doing simple drawings of the animals on the page. For example draw one butterfly, then two, then three and so on. Cut out the pictures and practice putting them in order with your child. You can even print out doubles and play a memory game.

I am sure you are a better artist than I am, but here is an example:

scan-3

WHAT TO READ NEXT

 

What are your favorite lift the flap or interactive books? Share in the comments section.

 

HAPPY READING!