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Reading My Library

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Western Themed Childrens Books, Part III

If you missed it earlier, you can view our list of Western Themed Picture Books that we have been pulling forth from the library book shelves. I've been pulling the best from our stacks and highlighting them here for anyone else who is looking for fun cowboy/cowgirl reads! You can check out Part I or Part II by following the links.

It should be noted that I am not including this titles in my reading count towards the Reading My Library Challenge. This is a side project that we're working on.

This week we'll add some books to our list that talk about two important animals on the western frontier. Can you guess what they are?

Why, cows and horses, of course!

Now, this first title, admittedly, does not really go along with our "wild west" theme but I HAD to pick it up and read it because it talks about the ponies on Assateague Island (East Coast horses!)

Having just recently read Misty of Chicoteague, by Marguerite Henry (linked to my review over at Reading to Know) I was curious to see what this picture book was about. Add to the fact that Jim Arnosky is both the author and illustrator, I figured it would be hard to go wrong with this title.

As the title suggests, the ponies in this book are wild and free and so we see them running in the water, eating grass under the shade of trees and lying on the sand. It's a beautiful book and certainly one to pick up in conjunction with Misty if you take the time to read that one.

Traveling back out west, we picked up a copy of From Foal to Horse, by Robin Nelson, which is a "Start to Finish" book.

Simple text with simple terms makes this book a great introduction to the world of horses for toddlers especially. We learn basic things about how a horse grows and what it is called in various stages of life. You learn things such as when the horse starts to try standing up, how it drinks its mother's milk, and then gradually begins to eat grass. As I said - very simple and very basic. Perfect for where we are at.

As far as an informational book about horses, this is the best we found in our (admittedly rather hurried) search on our last visit.

With cows we were a bit more successful, finding three titles that we really enjoyed.

In the Cattle Yard, by Patricia M. Stockland is rather the cousin to From Foal to Horse. The difference is that In the Cattle Yard is illustrated by Todd Ouren making it feel more like a picture book story. This worked well in our favor. You get the same basic information about calves and cows in this book which was great for us.

Next up we read Cows, by Rachael Bell which is part of a series of books on farm animals. This book has more information in it about cows, and talks about the different types of cows you might see, a little about Longhorn cattle, cattle farms and how cows are transported around. There is an average of 5 sentences per page spread and full-color photographs.

Highly recommended if you are looking for a good way to teach a toddler about cows.

Sixteen Cows, by Lisa Wheeler was one we picked up for the fun of it - and I am so glad we did! This is a picture book with rhyming text. It tells the story of Cowboy Gene "who was long and lean" and Cowgirl Sue who "was smart and true." Each of these individuals own 8 cows which are located on ranches right next to each other. Separated by a fence, Cowboy Gene and Cowgirl Sue maintain their own heads of cattle.

One day a tornado rips through the area removing the fence that separates their two ranches and suddenly the cows co-mingling. Cowboy Gene and Cowboy Sue are having a terrible time managing their cattle but this ends up working in their favor. They realize that cooperation will be essential if they are to herd these animals around.

Come that fall, those two cowpokes exchanged their wedding vows.
Who served as honored bridesmaids? No less than sixteen cows!

Super duper cute. Highly recommended!

Are there any books on cows and horses that you would recommend? (Particularly horses?) Please let me know and we'll check them out!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Play Rhymes, by Marc Brown

No doubt you recognize the name Marc Brown if you are any kind of reader of children's books. Even if you do not recognize the author's name, surely you have heard of his most famous character - Arthur.

What I didn't know is that Brown also collected and illustrated a series of action rhymes for children as well. If you are a parent of an infant or toddler, these books will be of special interest to you as they are a great way to interact with your young reader and play with songs and rhymes. Brown writes of these books:

"I was reintroduced to hand rhymes through my son Tucker when he was in nursery school, and they stirred up memories of hand rhymes I had known when I was young. I thought that doing a book of hand rhymes would be a good way to introduce children to the feeling of poetry. Initially I collected about three hundred fifty rhymes. After whittling down the selection, I devised the accompanying hand movements."

Each book in this series involves a collection of rhymes and illustrated accompanying actions for you to do alongside your child/young reader.

The following three titles are available in this special series:

Play Rhymes
includes: John Brown's Baby, Do Your Ears Hang Low, The Crocodile, My Bicycle, Animals, Wheels on the Bus and others.

In the acknowledgment section of Finger Rhymes, Brown writes:

"I am indebted to the Flint Public Library, in Flint, Michigan, for sharing its extensive collection of finger rhymes, from which my son Tucker and I selected our favorites."

He sounds like a faithful and loyal library user!

Rhymes include: There Was a Little Turtle, Where Is Thumbkin?, The Baby Mice, Clap Your Hands, Ten Little Candles, The Eensy, Weensy Spider and others.

Hand Rhymes include: My Book, Two Little Monkeys, Here is the Beehive, Little Bunny, Quack! Quack! Quack!, The Caterpillar, The Church and others.

ALL of the above books include Marc Brown's recognizable illustrations and are a joy to look through. Both of my little bookworms got a kick out of these books and we were glad to have found them hiding amidst the Arthur books.

If you get a chance - check them out! They are sure to entertain.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Fathers Are Coming Home, by Margaret Wise Brown

As soon as I saw the cover art on this book, I knew I would like it and want to highlight it. The Fathers are Coming Home tells the story of all kinds of fathers who come home in the evening.

For example: the fish father swims home to his fish children, the daddy longlegs goes home to his little daddy longlegs, the snail father "creeps slowly home to his little snails." But the best part of the book comes at the very end - with the sailor father comes home to his little boy.

The illustrations by Stephen Savage are simple and bold. Of course, the sailor depicted reminds me of the World War II era. However, I can't help but read this book and think about my modern day friends who bid their fathers farewell for a time so that their daddies can go to work defending our country and its liberties. I saw this book and thought about a dear friend of mine in particular who is preparing for her husband to leave on another cruise. Her sacrifice and his cannot and should not be overlooked. We so quickly and easily take for granted what it costs to maintain freedom in this glorious U.S. of A. This book, in its simple way, helps to remind us.

I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it.

I also highly recommend being grateful to the men and women who faithfully serve and sacrifice so that we can be free. Not only them - but their families who give up time and life with their beloved family members. For us. And for a cause that is bigger than any one individual. Thank you, sailors and other members of the armed forces for your work!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Read Aloud Thursday - Margaret Brown

Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope Is the WordIn keeping with our Margaret Brown theme this week, here are a few additional titles of her that we read through.

(I don't know if you can see it from this image, but the cover art has the price printed on the top right hand corner. $0.89 for a brand new Golden Book. Oh glorious thought, hmm?)

Mister Dog seems to stick in Bookworm1's mind for some reason. He has referenced it a few times in conversations since reading it.

It tells the story of The Dog Who Belonged to Himself. In other words, he has no master and no set of rules he must follow. He lives in his own house, sleeps in his own bed, goes where he wants and when he wants and is generally autonomous. One day he meets a boy who belongs to himself and invites the boy to come and stay in the house with him - which the boy agrees to.

Personally, I find the story rather odd and walked away feeling like it subtly argues against authority figures by making something seem fun that actually isn't. Can't say it's a favorite but apparently Bookworm1 enjoyed it.

Big Red Barn was enjoyed by all, and I didn't notice until afterward that this newly illustrated edition is illustrated by none other than Felicia Bond! Therefore you may safely assume that mommy, in particular, enjoyed the pictures! This book is simple enough, giving the reader a tour of the barn yard and introduction to all of the animals. You get to mimic a bunch of barnyard animal sounds and it's all good fun.

We highly recommend this one.

The Good Little Bad Little Pig is rather fun to read outloud. It's just fun to say goodlittlebadlittlepig really fast over and over again. I thought it gave the story a rhyming feel to it, but it confused Bookworm1 a great deal and I had to explain what it meant a few times. He still looked at the book curiously as if he didn't really understand.

The crux of the story is this: there is a little boy who wants a pet pig. He doesn't want a pig that is altogether good, nor does he want a pig that is altogether bad. He wants him to be both a little good and a little bad all at the same time. If you think about it, that's a highly reasonable request of a pet! As you might surmise, he does indeed receive his requested pet pig and the pig fits the bill. He is both bad and good. And did I mention you get to repeat the phrase goodlittlebadlittlepig quite often?

It's cute.

I suppose we're a mixed bag for this Read Aloud Thursday in terms of our feelings towards the books we picked up. Ahh, but it is what it is.

Curious to see what everyone else is reading aloud this week! Visit Hope is in the Word to discover who and what else is being read!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Dirty Little Boy, by Margaret Wise Brown

Today I've just gotta tell you about one of the Margaret Wise Brown books that we brought home from the library that I did not particularly care for.

The Dirty Little Boy tells the story of a little boy who "came to his big round mother and [he] said: "Mother, I am one dirty little boy. I have jam on my face and chocolate on my knee." He continues on in his description of filth and concludes, "I think I want to take a bath."

Then his big round mother replies that she's busy and suggests to him that he should go and find out how the animals bathe and keep clean.

"Run along, and see how the animals take their baths and that way you'll learn how to get clean."

So he, clearly being an obedient child, goes off and discovers how birds, pigs, horses and cats 'get clean.' In the learning he becomes dirtier and dirtier and finally returns home to his 'big round mother.' (Can you tell what description I dislike?)

She scowls at him because he returns home dirtier than he left.

"How is that you didn't find out how little boys take a bath?" she asks.

I wanted to scream at her. DUH! Her impatience and annoyance led to him licking mud off of himself and doing other disgusting things in his attempt to become clean.

And she turned on the water and grabbed him by the back of his neck and put him right into the big soapy tub. "I guess it's your mother who will have to show you how to get clean."

To me this book was all about one annoyed mother who couldn't take the time to care for her son. So she sends him out into the world with a wing and a useless prayer and somehow expects him to find his own solution. Then he returns, dirtier than when she last saw him and she is annoyed. Surely the person she should be most annoyed with is herself!

I didn't really care for the whole grabbing him by the back of the neck bit either but that might be my more modern day sensibilities. At any rate, it seems brash and unkind and I did not care for the mother figure in this book one iota!

It's not often that I pick out books I dislike to discuss here, but some just really rub me the wrong way and this is one of those titles. So I'm labeling it as such.

I do not recommend it and I don't like it - be she big and round or svelte and sophisticated. It's her heart attitude that really gets to me. She's not exactly the type of mother I aspire to be, that's for sure and certain!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Noisy Books, by Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown wrote a series of stories for her "Noisy" book series. Following a little dog named Muffin who has an exceptional sense of hearing, Brown explores the sounds of the world around us.

Muffin has a fine tuned sense of hearing which enables him to hear even the quietest of sounds and he is always off exploring to find out what these sounds might be. Each book in the series calls for interaction on the part of the readers. What is Muffin actually hearing? Can he hear fish swimming in the sea? Can he hear a man beginning a thought?

Following themes for each book, Muffin discovers sounds in the country, sounds in the city, sounds by the seashore and sounds indoors and out. Each title follows the same general story telling pattern: Muffin is introduced and the reader is then given a description of something that might make a particular noise. Of course, making sounds is a part of reading these books which just adds to the fun.

Here is a complete list of the Noisy books:

  • The City Noisy Book
  • The Country Noisy Book
  • The Indoor Noisy Book
  • The Quiet Noisy Book
  • The Seashore Noisy Book
  • The Summer Noisy Book
  • The Winter Noisy Book
And here are images of the cover art on most to help you identify them:

Our library had all but the City, Indoor and Summer Noisy books. I cannot find the images for the City or Summer Noisy books online.

It was fun to read through this series. Bookworm1 (age 4) rather enjoyed them although they weren't our Most Favorite Reads Ever. Cute and fun for thematic units but not entirely memorable in my humble opinion. You, of course, are free to your own! Anyway, they are worth a peek and so we present them to you!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Margaret Wise Brown

We own a few Margaret Wise Brown books and I was vaguely familiar with her style. What I did not realize was exactly how prolific a writer Brown was until I hit the "Bro" section of the library and discovered two sections of books by this one woman! (I guess I'd compare her with Jan Brett in terms of how much she produced and the variety which spilled forth from her pen.)

Whenever I see a long list of titles out of any particular author or illustrator, I like to get to know them a least a little bit better. Gleaning information online - primarily from this Margaret Wise Brown website - I discovered the following things about her:

* She was born in 1910 and died suddenly at the age of 42 in 1952 of an embolism. (I had to look up what that was, exactly.)

* At the time of her death she was engaged to be married to "Pebbles" Rockafeller. Before becoming engaged to ol' Pebbles though, she apparently carried on a number of relationships with various men, including the then Prince of Spain. I wouldn't say that she was exactly old-fashioned about relationships.

* Her parents divorced when she was younger and she had a very difficult relationship with both.

* She seemed very much to have enjoyed "the good life." She enjoyed tossing money about for the sake of entertaining both herself and her friends. With her first royalty check, she purchased an entire flower cart's supply of flowers and threw a big party for her friends.

* At the time she began her writing career, the primary source of stories for children was fairy tales and fables. Margaret believed that children would be interested in reading about young people just like themselves - stories set in a more contemporary setting. This approach to storytelling was termed the "here and now" philosophy. Brown was a great proponent of it and wrote hundreds and hundreds of contemporary stories.

* She wrote so many books, in fact, that she created several nom de plumes so that people would not become weary of seeing the name Margaret Wise Brown. Apparently she worked with six different publishers to produce her works and wrote under the following names, including her own: Golden MacDonald, Juniper Sage, Kaintuck Brown and Timothy Hay.

* Brown argued fiercely for royalities and against flat fees and payments, both for herself and for her illustrators.

* She never had children of her own. It is speculated that she didn't altogether enjoy the company of children, although they were her target audience.

* Brown did, however, assign the rights of royalties to several of her books - including Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny, to Albert Clarke. Albert was the son of a neighbor and was 9 years old when Brown died.

* At the time of her death, Brown left behind 70 unpublished manuscripts. Her sister, Roberta Brown Rauch, tried unsuccessfully to sell the manuscripts and ended up putting them in a trunk. These manuscripts were rediscovered in 1991 and since then there has been a push to have them published.

I can't say I'm very fond of her personal and private life. I find it somewhat amazing, actually, that she wrote for children. In some ways, it just seems a little - odd. She didn't seem the overly responsible type who would be the kind of steady role model you'd want for your child. Certainly she had an amazing career though and was a very curious character in her own right. I suppose she had a knack and the library shelves are quite loaded down with her efforts!

This week I'll be highlighting some of her titles that were unfamiliar to me and perhaps to you also. Then again, I just sat up and took notice of her and I'm guessing you might know a thing or two more than myself!

For more information on Brown, check out these sources:

Margaret Wise Brown website
Margaret Wise Brown Wikipedia source
Margaret Wise Brown fanpage

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Read Aloud Thursday

Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope Is the WordAnother week, another few titles to share with you. These are some other titles we have been reading aloud together from our recent library trip.

Little Duck Lost is written by Erica Briers and is illustrated by Stephanie Boey. The story line is quite, quite similar to Where's My Mommy? which we reviewed last week. (Click on the title to read our thoughts on that one.) Little Duck's egg rolls away from the nest and when he hatches he has a little trouble locating his family.

We liked this book for a few reasons:

  1. Bookworm2 loves to make quacking noises;
  2. Parts of the illustration on each page spread are raised so little hands can feel the page while we're reading the story; and
  3. Little Duck meets lots of animals in his great search to find home.

It's very cute, very short and very soft and beautiful. It is the epitome of a calm and peaceful read. All three of us liked this one.

Bookworm1 was incredibly suspicious of Wet Dog!, by Elsie Broach, when I first pulled it from the library bag. I did a quick sale by telling him it was about a dog, so certainly Bookworm2 (our resident dog lover) would enjoy it, making it a fun one to read with brother. The younger brother did enjoy it ("Dog! Dog!") but the older one found it much more amusing.

Here's the basic idea:

Hot day + hot dog + sources of water + people trying to get ready for a wedding + sing-song-y text = a great deal of fun (and perhaps a little chaos.)

"He was a good old dog and a hot old dog, as he lay in the noonday sun. And he dozed and he drowsed in the beating-down sun, with his long pink tongue hanging out."

Very fun book to read out loud.

Keeping up with our animal theme, we also read The Littlest Wolf, by Larry Dane Brimner.

In this book Littlest Wolf is the smallest of his brothers and sisters and finds that he isn't capable of doing all the things that they can do. His goes to his father and shares his woes. Father listens to him and helps him to see that he is "just as he should be" and that the older he gets the more he will be able to do.

I don't think either of my children caught the message, but they did think that watching Little Wolf try to roll in straight lines like his brother was awfully funny.

Lastly, a non-animal book! (Shock and awe, I know.) Tap-Dance Fever, by Pat Brisson was mommy's suggested read-aloud and I don't think it was enjoyed very much by my boys, but I thought it was cute. Every so often it's good to read something a little different, right? And besides - there are snakes in the book!

It tells the story Annabelle Applegate who cannot quit tap dancing. Her addiction to tapping has gotten so bad that she has worn holes in her mother's linoleum floor as well as in the floor boards of the local schoolhouse. She's tapped ruts in the roads that are causing accidents and the towns folk have just had it with her "tappity-tap . . . skippity-slap . . . tippity-hopping" all over the place.

Try as they might, it seems as if the towns people just cannot stop Annabelle from dancing. However, it all turns out well in the end and does, in fact, becoming profitable for the whole town!

This book is definitely different from our normal reads but I thought it was fun and no one complained too much when the book was over.

So that's where we're at this week. And now I'm off to find out what others have been reading to their children. If you'd like to gather up some ideas for read-alouds, visit Hope is in the Word.

Happy Thursday to you! (Hurray! It's almost a weekend!)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Western Themed Children's Books, Part II

Yesterday I shared a few western themed children's picture books with you and today I'm back to share some additional titles that landed in our library book bag this past week. As I mentioned, we're currently doing a western-themed unit study and so we've been on the prowl for good cowpoke reads. Here are a few more that we found.

Nell Nugget and the Cow Caper, by Judith Ross Enderle and Stephanie Gordon Tessler is the story about a brave cowgirl named Nell.

Nell Nugget lives on the Bar None Ranch, way out west, with her horse, Pay Dirt and her little dog, Dust. She owns forty-nine cows and cares for them all by herself. One day she discovers that one of her cows is missing! Then she discovers that the cow is not just missing - it has been stolen by Nasty Galoot, the "worst rustlin' robber in the West, the baddest bad man anywhere."

Nell loves her cattle though and she is braver than brave. She rescues her cow and catches the baddest bad man, leaving him in quite the predicament where the sheriff can take over. Cute story. I like this one.

I've talked about the Billy and Blaze series by C.W. Anderson before so I'll not say much more this go around. If you click on that link it'll take you to my post wherein I highlighted the series.

We picked up the first title, Billy and Blaze, again for a re-read.

I Want To Be A Cowboy is another non-fiction read that was a recommended reading source in the thematic unit book which we are using. I was glad to find a copy at our local library! This book is perfect for pre-school aged kids. It uses real-life photographs of cowboys in action and provides about 4-5 sentences of information per page spread. It's a nice beginners introduction to the world of cowboys and I'm glad to have found it to use in our studies!

Now, if you are going to talk about the west you have to add in some songs to go along with it, right? Check out She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain by Jonathan Emmett and Deborah Allwright.

We are introduced to a cactus who is strumming a guitar and singing this familiar tune. On each page you see little animals, such as prairie dogs and owls, etc., strumming banjos and singing along. The only difference in this version is that the "she" that is coming 'round the mountain is a little girl in pigtail braids wearing pink pajamas and who dances across the rooftops. It's rather a silly little cowgirl song book that I think is rather cute and creative. I think her hat might be taller than she is.

And what is the western prairie without a discussion of prairie dogs?

Prairie Dogs, by Emery Bernhard and illustrated by Durga Bernhard is a nice non-fiction book full of interesting facts about the prairie dog. Although the book opens in story fashion, it is more factual in its presentation, giving out all kinds of information about this curious animals. As you read along this book you also bump into various other prairie animals such as the bison, the black-footed ferret and the prairie rattlesnake.

This book is rather long for a toddler to read, but I think it would be good for ages 5 and up. We're going to give it a go (even at age 4) because I think Bookworm1 can handle it. We'll just glean what we can and call it good.

We read this book last week and Bookworm1 LOVED it! Every single little bit of it! We learned a lot and he has a new fascination with prairie dogs!

A more simple read though might be Peeking Prairie Dogs which is a short 29-page book with full colored photographs and averages three sentences per page spread. I picked this one up as well because I think it will hold both of my boys' attention.

So there you have it, folks. I might pop back in a time or two with more western themed books as we move along but this is where we're starting off. Do you have any titles along these themes that you really like and would recommend to myself and others? Leave me a note and I'll look it up!

In the meantime, happy reading!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Western Themed Children's Books, Part I

One of the things that is driving me to the library these days is our decision to start in on some pre-school studies through the use of a thematic unit. On our latest forage to the library, I was specifically hunting for some western/prairie/cowboy themed books. Here are a few that we found:

Yippee-Yay!: A Book About Cowboys and Cowgirls was a recommended resource that was listed in our thematic unit book. Written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons, we found this in the non-fiction section and it really does a marvelous job at explaining what life was like in the Old West, why cowboys wear the clothes that they do, the tools of the cowboy trade and shows maps of cattle trails. (It tells you about a whole lot more than that, but there's your basic overview!)

Although this one is filled with information, it reads well to pre-schoolers because the entire book is illustrated. It comes off looking like your regular picture book which I think is fantastic!

Cowboy Camp, by Tammi Sauer is one that we had read before but I knew we would want to read again for our studies. This one is a picture book and tells the story a young boy named Avery who doesn't exactly fit in very well at Cowboy Camp. "Whoever heard of a cowboy named Avery?" He doesn't even like beans!

However, when the villainous Black Bart comes to put a stop to Cowboy Camp, it's Avery who saves the day. He is able to successfully convince Black Bart that they were not at Cowboy Camp. Being that Avery has kinda failed at being a cowboy and therefore fails every test Black Bart puts to him, the villain leaves and the camp is saved!

Very cute story in my opinion!

Texas Rangers: Legendary Lawmen, by Michael P. Spradlin I picked up as a nod to my Texas-based sister-in-law. (Are you proud of me, or what, J?!)

Illustrated by Roxie Munro, this one may be a bit over our heads at the moment, but I still think it's worth a read and we'll get what we can out of it. It helps that it is presented in picture book form.

This book takes you through "The Beginning" explaining the origins of the Texas Ranger and concludes by telling you where they are today. (No, no, . . . no Chuck Norris here!) You can learn about the first Texas Ranger, John Coffee Hays as well as some of the bad guys that the Rangers have taken to task.

Lastly, I can't say I'm overly fond of this next one but I'll toss it out here for you anyway. Bronco Busters tells the story of three tough and rough cowboys who think that they are the meanest baddest bronco busters around. A small little cowboy sits watching them on three consecutive days, as the three Bronco Busters see who can tame a wild bronco.

As you might guess, not a single of the three men can bust this particular horse but after they leave the small cowboy comes out and with a soft voice and some apples and sugar lumps, he manages to enjoy a ride out on the prairie.

This book probably rubs me the wrong way a bit because of the arrogance and pride of the Bronco Busting Trio. I dislike that the adults in the story were so despicable but the child was the perfect angel. I don't know. Again, it's not bad but it just wasn't my favorite from the finds.

Have any of you read this one? Love to hear your thoughts on it if you have!

Stay tuned tomorrow for some additional reads that we picked up on the same western-theme!