We have been celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday all week, while learning about Biographies. He was born on March 2, 1904 and died in 1991. His name is Theodor Seuss Geisel. Seuss was his mother's maiden name. The very first book that he wrote for children was rejected by 43 publishers. His friend finally published And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street for him in 1937. He and his wife started the Beginner Books division of Random House. John Hersey, the author of Hiroshima, conducted a study on reading and young children. Hersey determined it was because children's books with Dick, Jane, and their dog Spot were so boring. In 1957, Dr. Seuss was challenged to write a book with 250 words that first graders should be able to read He wrote The Cat in the Hat using only used 220 words. Loving a challenge, his publisher bet him $50 that he would not be able to write a book using only 50 words. Green Eggs and Ham is the result of that bet. The book that continued to make him laugh. One book was challenged by a town in California. The townspeople were loggers and they wanted The Lorax banned from their library. Dr. Seuss defended The Lorax as a story about preserving the environment. The Butter Battle was written after seeing the destruction at Hiroshima, to promote peace and ban nuclear arms. He also served in the Army creating documentaries. Bob Keeshan, Captain Kangaroo, remembered him as a man of strong values.
Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. Copyright 2011. Published by Henry Holt and Company.
This is a powerful story told in 160 pages. The author grew up in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. This novel is based on Yelchin’s childhood. He reveals how the Young Pioneers were raised to follow Stalin. Children were taught to turn in anyone that was suspicious of not following Stalin’s rules. Families were torn apart. People were shot instead of receiving a trial. Between 1923 and 1953, Stalin’s State Security executed, imprisoned, or exiled over 20 million people.
Breaking Stalin’s Nose takes place over a two-day period in Communist USSR ruled by Stalin. Sasha, a ten-year-old boy, lives in a communal apartment with his father, a Comrade of the State Security. On the eve of becoming a Young Pioneer, the police come and arrest his father. Sasha goes to school the next day expecting to see his father present the students their red scarves. What happens that day changes the way Sasha views Communism and Stalin. The persecution and death of innocent people, for making a choice for what they believe is right, is still happening today in many places around the world. Recommended for 5th -8th graders.
One has won over 15 awards, including the E.B. White Read Aloud Honor. In this book about colors and numbers, the true message is about bullying. Red is a hot head that picks on blue. None of the other colors stand up for blue, until the day 1 appears. The number 1 stands up to red. The turning point of the story is summed up in the following quote. “One turned to the colors and said, “if someone is mean and picks on me, I, for One, stand up and say, No.” Yellow says, “Me two!” and transforms into the number 2. This gives the other colors courage to be brave and count also. Everyone stands united against Red, until Red has a change of heart and transforms into 7. One teaches us that EVERYONE counts! Otoshi’s third book Zero is about self-esteem.
The American Library Association announced the winners of the ALA Youth Media Awards on January 28th. This is the 75th anniversary of the Randolph Caldecott Medal, which was awarded to illustrator Jon Klassen for his book, This Is Not My Hat. The illustrator must be an American citizen and the book must be published in the United States. Katherine Applegate’s book, The One and Only Ivan, was awarded the Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature.
This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. Copyright 2012. Published by Candelwick Press. Picture book. Recommended for Kindergarten – 5th grade.
A little fish steals a blue hat from a very large sleeping fish. He knows it is wrong but tries to justify stealing the hat and shares his plan to not get caught. The large fish wakes up, notices his hat is gone and begins to chase the little fish. A crab witnesses the little fish wearing the hat and points out which way he went to the large fish. The little fish swims to the area were the plants grow tall and thick. The leaves on the plants are shaped like fish. The last thing we see is the big fish coming out of the weeds wearing his blue hat. This is Not My Hat opens up the opportunity for discussion of stealing and consequences for our behavior. Use Jon Klassen’s 2011 book, I Want My Hat Back, to teach a lesson on comparative literature. There are many similarities and difference in the two stories.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by Patricia Castelao. Copyright 2012. Published by Harper, An Imprint of Harper Collins. 304 pages. Recommended for 3rd to 8th graders.
The One and Only Ivan is based on the true story of Ivan, a Silverback Gorilla. Ivan was taken from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1960’s and raised in a family home. When he became too hard for the family to keep, he was given to a circus-themed mall as an attraction. National Geographic ran a special featuring Ivan, The Urban Gorilla. This increased awareness led to letter writing and finally to Ivan’s move to the Zoo Atlanta, after living 27 years alone in a cage. The One and Only Ivan is written short passages similar to the format of a diary and includes a glossary. Ivan loved to paint and would sign his work with a thumbprint. Ivan narrates his life story of friendship and art. He becomes attached to his caretakers and uses art to communicate. Sadly, Ivan died August 20, 2012. He was 50 years old.
It is hard to find age-appropriate topics, with a high interest and just right reading level for second and third grader readers. These authors have achieved that goal.
Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer with illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell. Copyright 2012. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 198 pages.
Little Dog, Lost is written in prose. A dog is living in the country with her owners. She is loved and well cared for until the family has to move to the city. They leave her with an older woman in a small town who doesn’t really like dogs or know how to care for them. Meanwhile, Mark, a boy in town has always wanted a dog. His mother is afraid of dogs and will not allow him to own one. The dog digs his way under the fence and goes looking for his old owner. Mark decides to go to the town council to ask for a dog park. He enlists his friends to help. Discover what happens when you add in the Mayor (his mother), a reclusive neighbor, a thunderstorm, a cat named Fido, and Buddy, the Little Dog, Lost. One of the prevailing themes is loneliness. Find out if the town gets a dog park and if Buddy gets a new home.
Third Grade Angels by Jerry Spinelli. Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell. Copyright 2012. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an Imprint of Scholastic, Inc. 134 pages.
This is the long awaited prequel to Jerry Spinelli’s book, Fourth Grade Rats, which was written in 1993. Ever since Kindergarten, George “Suds” Morton has been looking forward to 3rd grade. At school there is a chant: First Grade Babies, Second Grade Cats, Third Grade Angels, Fourth Grade Rats. On the first day of school, Suds’ 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Simms, greets everyone saying, “Welcome, angel Brett, Welcome angel Emma.” She knows every child by name. They are expected to behave kindly at all times and someone will earn a halo each week. Rules are written and expectations are discussed. Suds wants desperately to be the first in the class to earn the halo, and discovers how hard it is to be on your best behavior at school and home. His sister, Zippernose, is one of his biggest challenges. Does the teacher have spies watching when they are out of her sight? Does he have to be good at home too? What about Joey, the class mischief-maker? Then there is Judy, the girl Suds loves from afar. This is a 3rd grade class to enjoy!
Mrs. Komarek - LMC Director