Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Birthday Ball

Written by Lois Lowry
Illustrated by Jules Feiffer
Most enjoyed by 4th through 6th graders

Princess Patricia Priscilla is turning 16 soon and dreading it. On that day, at her birthday ball, she must choose a husband according to the laws of the domain. Unfortunately, that is the last thing Princess Patricia wants to do. She's bored with her life and so, inspired by a conversation with her chambermaid Tess, decides to switch places for one day with the girl and become a peasant. After putting on Tess's humble garments, Princess Patricia heads off to school, there becoming the student Pat and learning that there are quite a few differences between peasant life and royal life. The headmaster welcomes her but he's very different from the old, stern teacher Tess had warned her about. In fact, he's young, quite handsome and very kind.

Meanwhile, in domains far away, four princes get ready to woo Princess Pat. Each one is repulsive in his own way and not a single one of them cares a bit about her, concerned only about the prestige and power and money a marriage to her will bring. As the ball nears, Pat becomes more determined to have her way but the princes are just as determined as well. Which one will Pat choose? Will she be forced to live the rest of her life in misery or will she find a way to make her dreams come true?

'The Birthday Ball' is a delightful tale of a young princess taking charge of her life. The four princes from which Pat must choose are each deliciously disgusting so readers cringe throughout the story guessing which one will be selected. Thanks to Tess, the headmaster Rafe, and the peasant school children, Pat changes from a self-centered, disinterested princess to one that is warm and caring. When Pat makes her choice, readers will cheer and agree that it's the very best choice.

While the cover of 'The Birthday Ball' may appeal to younger readers, I think the book is best enjoyed by slightly older readers, say 4th through 6th graders. The preparations the four princes go through to woo Pat are so extreme they're funny. Pat herself is a character that one dislikes initially due to her self-centeredness, but as she changes, so do the reader's feelings about her. I particularly liked the royal staff who serve the King, Queen and Princess so faithfully, especially the three singing servant girls. I found myself humming along with them as they sang in their three-part harmony.

'The Birthday Ball' is a perfect read for a lazy summer day so grab a pencil and add it to your summer reading list (you have one started, don't you?!).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Fiesta!

Celebrate Children's Day/Book Day
Written by Pat Mora
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Most enjoyed by joyful readers of all ages

This week, we're reading 'Book Fiesta' by Pat Mora during preschool and Kindergarten story time. Inspired by the national Children's Day celebration held in Mexico on April 30th, the book is a bilingual celebration of the joy of reading at any time, in all places, and with everyone we love.

While the students enjoy listening to the words, they really love the illustrations. Artist Rafael Lopez won the 2010 Pura Belpre Illustrator's Award for this book and it's easy to see why. The colors are vibrant, saturating the eye with their richness. The energy spoken by the colors is reflected in the expressions on the children's faces. Even the animals get in on the fun! Together, they prove that reading is truly a joyful activity.

Why not have your own book fiesta and celebrate reading any day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Birthday for Bear

Written by Bonny Becker
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 2nd Graders

Bear is busy tidying his house and ignoring the fact that it is his birthday. Mouse, his good friend, is doing his very best to help Bear celebrate. A bunch of balloons, a hand-delivered card, even a present brought by a cleverly disguised Mouse down the chimney cannot convince Bear to stop his work and celebrate. It takes one very special present to make Bear see that celebrating your birthday is something a friend does best.

Written as a chapter book, 'A Birthday for Bear' is perfect for beginning readers but could easily be read in one sitting by more advanced readers. Kady MacDonald Denton's ink and watercolor illustrations give Bear and Mouse such personality. I love their facial expressions and their body language.

Bear and Mouse are such a great pair. No matter how hard Bear tries to resist Mouse's offers of friendship, Mouse simply will not give up. Isn't that what true friends do - never give up on you? What a wonderful message for young readers!

Monday, April 19, 2010

What Does Bunny See: A Book of Colors

Written by Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by Maggie Smith
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers and Kindergartners

As garden centers put out more and more colorful flowers to plant this spring, 'What Does Bunny See' is the perfect book to read together before a shopping trip to choose flowers for your yard.

Bunny hops down the cottage garden path and sees color everywhere. There's the pink of the water lilies, the purple of the violets and the brilliant orange of the tiger lilies. Exploring his colorful home is just right to tire him out, ready for a little nap.

Each color is introduced in a simple rhyme that will enable readers to guess the color before it is revealed with the turn of a page. Colors are represented by common flowers that could grow most anywhere. Why not read the story then create your own rainbow garden using some of the flowers Bunny finds?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Little Blue Truck

Written by Alice Schertle
Illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 1st Graders

Little Blue Truck is loved by all of the farm animals. When he drives by with his cheery 'Beep!', they answer in return in their own unique way. Along comes Big Yellow Dump Truck pushing his way through. He has no time for niceties and lets everyone know it. But when he gets stuck in the mud, who comes to his rescue but the little truck with the big heart. As he pushes Big Yellow with all his might, Little Blue Truck finds himself stuck in the mud, too. At the sound of his 'Beep!', the animals come to his rescue.

'Little Blue Truck' is a sunny little truck who loves helping anyone. Young readers will cheer for his animal friends as they help their buddy, especially when it's the littlest friend who provides the most help. A great read-aloud, 'Little Blue Truck' is one you don't want to miss.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Benny and Penny and the Big No-No!

Written and illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers, Kindergartners, and 1st Graders

With simple, clear text and appealing characters, 'Benny and Penny and the Big No-No!' is a perfect book for the youngest of readers. It's easy to see why this book won the 2010 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. It's easy enough for a first grader to read on their own and just right for a parent-child read-aloud.

Benny and Penny know it is wrong to go next door without asking, but Benny has lost his pail and he's pretty sure the new neighbor has taken it. But who is the new neighbor? A monster? When Benny peers over the fence separating their yards, he accidentally falls into the neighbor's yard. There's his pail alright, but there's also some neatly made mud pies. Would a monster make mud pies? Benny and Penny hide when they hear the monster coming but the monster is as surprised by their presence as much as they're surprised by the monster's real identity. As they hurry over the fence with Benny's pail, they make a discovery that leads to the realization that perhaps the new neighbor isn't such a monster after all.

What I love about this book is the simple lessons it teaches in such a subtle way. There is a consequence for Benny and Penny's actions, those no-no's of the title, yet each is resolved in a manner that begs to be repeated in real life. For example, when Benny and Penny discover that Benny has falsely accused the neighbor of taking his pail, they go back over the fence to apologize, showing readers that a simple 'I'm sorry' can often be all it takes to right a wrong. The no-no's are situations youngsters often find themselves in, such as disobeying a rule or taking something that doesn't belong to them. Common, ordinary events that are part of growing up but that often need gentle instruction.

While 'Benny and Penny and the Big No-No!' is the second book in a series created by Geoffrey Hayes it is the first one in our collection. And once it starts circulating, I suspect it won't be the last!