What’s New In Children’s Literature

Wow. I did it. I taught my first professional development class to educators! I was nervous, I mean I'm used to my audience being shorter than I am, after all.

What's New In Children's Literature

What's New In Children's Lit Resources

The link above is for my resource handouts. I talked about a lot of books today.

The session covered:

  • Nonfiction
  • Biography
  • Poetry
  • Fiction (Early and Middle Grade chapters)
  • Graphic Novels
  • Picture Books

For each book, I made slides to show the cover and the illustration style. The corresponding resource page included the author, illustrator (or photographer), Accelerated Reader information, notable titles by the author, further reading bibliographies on the topics and any useful links.

I worked so hard on this project and the feedback was fabulous! I'm so proud of myself. I styled my session after an amazing woman who travels the country teaching sessions like this, Judy Freedman. I was fortunate enough to attend one of her sessions a few years ago and I learned so much!

I am kind of drained so I won't write about a particular book today, but if you are interested, check out the links.


Gustav Gloom

A few years ago we found some interesting books at Barnes & Nobel. The series, written by Adam-Troy Castro, is named after Gustav Gloom, a boy who lives in a strange mansion.

Fernie What moves in next door and watches as her cat is chased into the mansion by its own shadow. Fernie meets Gustav, who cannot leave the mansion, and they become friends and must defeat the People Taker before he takes Fernie's family. The story is full of spooky illustrations by Kristen Marigotta.

The series has grown, I've read the next two but there are five total so far:

It's been a couple of years since I read the books, but I remember that there is something about Gustav that ties him to his home. I think he is 1/2 spirit, 1/2 living. The spooky stuff is mild, so these books would be fine for most third and fourth graders.

I'd like to get my hands on the last two books, I really enjoyed them. Often children's books seem to follow cliched patterns, but the Gustav books have a lot of new and interesting ideas in them. They are spooky and refreshing at the same time.

TipTop Cat

Our family recently lost a beloved pet, but we were blessed with a new kitty shortly after. Our new kitty is actually a year old and was living at the pet store because his first owner could not keep him. Cats that have left the kitten phase of life are so much harder to re-home, through no fault of their own. Domino is a black and white, or tuxedo cat.

He is not our first tuxedo, that was Oreo, who actually resembles the cat in today's book more than Domino.

TipTop Cat is about a very adventurous Parisian feline who enjoys a view of the whole city from the rooftops. Unfortunately, one day his gusto gets him into a lot of trouble, as he falls from his balcony. Thankfully, he is unhurt but he has lost his zeal for adventure. He is afraid of heights. Until one day:

The beautiful cat was too busy hunting to remember his fear, and before he knew it, he was back

…on top of the world!

I loved this story, and not just because I'm one cat short of being a crazy-cat-lady. This book has a deep story about how our fears are truly in our heads. I can think of many childhood fears that only exist when kids take the time to think about them. Any parent could use a helping hand in getting their child over this type of problem, so why not a saucy cat with a fear of his own? And, since the book isn't cartoonish, it could help older kids who might otherwise dismiss a very obvious attempt to help them.

So in conclusion, adopt an older cat (or dog) if you can, and know that there is help for every fear.


Mighty Moby

Today's picture book is based on the classic novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

The picture book was created by Ed Young (winner of the Caldecott Medal for Lon Po Po). He used mixed media collages to create the gorgeous artwork.

After Young created the art, Barbara DaCosta created the words, using phrases from Melville's classic work and traditional sea shanties.

The finished product is beautiful! I was worried about the bloody harpooning of the whale, but Young and DaCosta found a way to make it harmless, so don't freak out, it's not advocating whaling.

I know a 6th grade teacher who reads Moby Dick to her class each year, she could definitely use this book as an additional teaching resource.

If you enjoy collage artists, this is definitely a book for you!


Lighthouse Ghosts

It seems strange to me that I've read two picture books in the last month about animal ghosts in lighthouses.

Eve Bunting's Ghost Cat is about a little ghost cat who chose to stay on Earth as a ghost with her owner, the lighthouse keeper. The ghost cat can choose to be visible or invisible and is quite playful with visitors. The ghost cat even manages to save the day one stormy night when her owner can't light the beacon.

In contrast to Bunting's book, Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket, has some darker humor. For example, all of the fish and sea animal ghosts float upside down in the air over water.

He eventually finds a friend who "lives" at the lighthouse.

Of the two books, I think I liked Bunting's better. The story is sweet and I'm a bit nostalgic for my Bloo-kitty still, but the books are both great, with wonderful illustrations.


Author Spotlight: Adam Lehrhaupt

Adam Lehrhaupt is an author I've just discovered. His stories are really fun and I know you'll get a kick out of them.

I am going to speak about the book I Don't Draw, I Color at the children's lit class next week. It's about a budding artist who isn't interested in drawing things. Instead she creates broad sweeping swaths of color to convey feelings. It's not the conventional coloring we expect of children but I think it's the beginning of an amazing artist. Kudos to Lehrhaupt for allowing his chars to color outside of the lines, as it were.

Chicken In Space is about Zoey, a chicken with big plans. She's decided to go to outer space and take Sam the pig with her. When Clara the cow points out that they can't go without a ship, Zoey says

Not a problem! An opportunity!

Sam is scared but goes along for the adventure. They see an asteroid (baseball), a comet (kite) and alien attack ships (birds). The adventure turns out to be pretty great but before Adam can tell Zoey she's already planning the next adventure.

There is a second book about Zoey the chicken. I haven't gotten my hands on it though.

Now I just want to open it!

Do I trust this one?

That seems ominous.

He has a few others that look fun too:

So, I'm going to keep hunting for his books. I want to read them all! I hope you find a few to enjoy!


Peter Brown (cont.)

I was so excited the other day to find one of the Peter Brown books that I've been wanting to read.

The Curious Garden is a beautiful story about a boy who lives in a drab town where nothing grows. But one day he finds some plants and decides to nurture them and see what happens.

The plants grow and grow and spread throughout the city. The boy becomes very wise with all things gardening and ends up teaching many of his neighbors. Eventually, the whole city becomes one lovely garden.

It was such a delightful book, I think I could read it over countless times.

Brown is usually better known for his sillier books. I've read Chowder and The Fabulous Dancing Chowder but they don't stick out in my mind.

I have read a funny book about flightless birds finally getting a chance to get off the ground.

The birds take especial joy in pooping while up in the air.

I am currently reading Brown's first chapter book for middle grades.

Can a robot survive in the wild? It is shipwrecked on an uninhabited island. The robot has the ability to observe and learn so that will make for a very interesting story. I know there is a second book coming as well.


Not a box! Author Spotlight: Antoinette Portis

Right now the story room is full of boxes. The kids have been helping Build a Better World by creating their own community through recycling. The older kids are using boxes to make all the different buildings our community needs and the younger kids have been turning toilet paper tubes into trees and cars. I think it will be fabulous when it goes on display at the end of the week.

To go along with our theme, our last weekly letter is 'R' for recycle. One of the books I chose to read to the kids is just perfect.

Not a Box is by Antoinette Portis. It's a very simple book that inspired kids' imaginations.

Portis has some other great titles:

I loved Best Frints in the Whole Universe! The story has a lot of great nonsense words and would be hilarious to read aloud.
I wasn't able to find all of her books on the shelf though. I'd also love to read:

I hope you get a chance to try out this fun author with a little one sometime soon!


The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth

I loved the movie Night At the Museum, where all the exhibits in the museum come to life and have crazy adventures at night. Today's book uses that same theme.

The boy in the story is helping a mammoth find his little brother who has run out of the museum.

The baby mammoth returns to the museum and we follow him through many different displays.

This book has a great feature, lots of little lift-the-flaps with facts and trivia. I thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations and learned lots of fun facts at the same time!

This book could keep kids entertained with the gorgeous illustrations for hours. I could certainly spend more time with this book myself.


The Book No One Ever Read

I love picture books — no surprise there — and it makes me sad when any book is forgotten on the shelf. So when I saw the title or this book

I had to read it. The huge bonus was the author, Cornelia Funke. Funke (pronounced foon•ka) is from Germany and her books have a different flavor to them, since they draw on European traditions that you don't always find in American writings.

Funke has created a tribute to the great books she loved as a kid.

How wonderful to encourage kids to live a book and to become part of it! The characters in this book are books. Morry is sad that no one ever reads them but the other books are fine with no one soiling their pages. Funke's illustrations turn beloved authors into books.
You will recognize many as you follow Morry's story. In the end I knew exactly who Morry was and you will too. Enjoy this tribute to much loved authors and their books.