Module 9: Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars

7 08 2010

Book Cover

Summary: Using colorful collage-like paintings, and simple rhythmic poetry Florian introduces young readers to the wonders of the cosmos. Each two-page spread is devoted to a single poem and an accompanying illustration.

Citation: Florian, Douglas. (2007) Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars. New York: Harcourt.

My Impressions: I think this is a really great book for young readers. The illustrations are beautiful and the poetry is short, simple, rhythmic, and rhyming–all the things children love about poetry! Each poem also contains factual information to help children build their knowledge of space. The book also contains a glossary that corresponds to the subject of each poem, explaining the subject in more depth and detail.


“This large-format book looks at astronomy through the magnifying, clarifying lens of poetry. Each broad double-page spread features a short, accessible poem about a subject such as the sun, each of its planets, a comet, a constellation, or the universe, set within an impressive painting.” –Carolyn Phelan, Booklist Online review excerpt

““The poet-painter’s latest book brings warm wit to the outermost reaches of cold, dark space. . . . Florian’s illustrations depict the marvels of space with luminous texture and detail.”–The New York Times review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: Children could choose a poem in the book to illustrate through a picture or model, or they could choose an item in space to write their own poem.


Module 7: Leonardo’s Horse

20 07 2010

Book Cover

Summary: This is a story about Leonardo da Vinci and his life’s work, primarily the 28-foot-tall horse statue that he never completed. The book tells the story of this horse, how da Vinci first got the commission to create the horse, how he designed the horse and why it was never completed. The book then fast forwards centuries to 1977 and Charles Dent, an American art lover who learned about da Vinci’s horse and was determined to complete it as a gift to the Italian people.

Citation: Fritz, J. (2001) Leonardo’s Horse. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

My Impressions: I was expecting there to be more detail about da Vinci’s life and his other inventions, but the book focuses primarily on da Vinci’s unfinished horse. Despite that, the story was enjoyable, full of information I had never heard. The only problem I had with it is that it seemed to downplay da Vinci’s many achievements and genius.


“Although there are quite a few books about Leonardo, none delve so deeply into the history of the statue. Even the design of the book is unique. A title that is sure to create a lot of interest among young art, history, and horse lovers.” –Anne Chapman Callaghan, School Library Journal review excerpt

“Talbott’s (Forging Freedom) diverse multimedia artwork includes reproductions of da Vinci’s notebooks, panoramas revealing the Renaissance in lavish detail and majestic renderings of the final equine sculpture. Talbott makes creative use of the book’s format a rectangle topped by a semi-circle: the rounded space by turns becomes a window through which da Vinci views a cloud shaped like a flying horse; the domed building that was Dent’s studio and gallery; and a globe depicting the route the bronze horse travels on its way from the U.S. to Italy. An inventive introduction to the Renaissance and one of its masters.” Publisher’s Weekly review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This book would in an activity about inventions or inventors. After reading the book children could come up with and design their own invention and explain what it would do.

Module 6: Pink and Say

13 07 2010

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Summary: This is the story of a black boy and a white boy fighting for the Union army during the Civil War. Pink finds Say wounded and left for dead from a battle and both boys make their way to Pink’s home to recover under the care of his mom. However all their lives are put in danger when marauding Confederates come to the house.

Citation: Polacco, Patricia. (1994) Pink and Say. New York: Philomel Books

My Impressions: I love the way the book was told, not just as a story, but as family history as told by the main character’s great-great-grandaughter. The pictures are vivid and bold, as the wounded boys travel the entire ground is red with bits of grass, as though the land itself is bleeding. The story itself is very moving and both characters are realistic.


“The figure of Pink’s mother borders on the sentimental, but the boys’ relationship is beautifully drawn. Throughout the story there are heartbreaking images of people torn from a loving embrace. Pictures on the title and copyright pages show the parallel partings as each boy leaves his family to go to war.” –Hazel Rochman, Booklist Online review excerpt

“Say, 15, had never seen a black person up close until Pink, also a young Union soldier, saves his life. During his brief stay in Pink’s home, the wounded boy comes to understand his friend’s unconquerable vision of freedom. A memorable family reminiscence with evocative paintings.” —School Library Journal review

Library Use Suggestion: This would be a great book to teach children a little bit about the Civil War. It could even be of use to older children, to help them gain perspective on what the war meant for people. Children could discuss what they think the war meant to people on both sides and why those people were willing to die for what they believed in.

Module 2: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

27 06 2010

Book Cover

Summary: This is the story of twelve-year-old orphan Hugo Cabret in Paris in the beginning of the 20th century. Hugo lives in the train station, secretly tending to its many clocks and stealing food and sometimes items from the toy shop. Hugo needs the things from the toy shop because he is secretly rebuilding an automation that his father had been working on before his death. However, the owner of the toy shop discovers Hugo as a thief and Hugo’s secret is in jeopardy. With the help of a couple friends Hugo discovers an even greater mystery, one that will affect him and those around him greatly.

Citation: Selznick, Brian. (2007) The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A novel in words and pictures. New York: Scholastic.

My Impressions: When I worked at Barnes and Noble I would see this in the picture book section, but I honestly thought it was either placed there mistakenly or put there to fill up some space. I never thought a 500+ page book would be considered a picture book…but then I read Hugo Cabret. The pictures in this book do not even necessarily support the text, at times the pictures replace the text and tell the story just as clearly and vividly. The black-and-white sketches are done with skill and emotion, and the story itself is filled with mystery. It’s truly unlike any book I’ve ever read. It’s somewhere between a picture book and a chapter book, it’s creative, and the connection between illustrations and text is remarkable. I very much enjoyed it.


The Invention of Hugo Cabret is foremost good storytelling, with a sincerity and verbal ease reminiscent of Andrew Clements (a frequent Selznick collaborator) and themes of secrets, dreams, and invention that play lightly but resonantly throughout.” —Horn Book Magazine review excerpt

“This hybrid creation, which also includes movie stills and archival photographs, is surprising and often lovely, but the orphan’s story is overshadowed by the book’s artistic and historical concerns… Nonetheless, bookmaking this ambitious demands and deserves attention—which it will surely receive from children attracted by a novel in which a complex narrative is equally advanced by things both read and seen.”–Jennifer Mattson, Booklist Online review

Library Use Suggestion: This book deals a lot with movies, invention, and machinery. A couple activities could be done with this book. Children could create their own movie using a mix of real life and magic and fantastical elements. Or children could design their own automation and explain what it would do.

Module 2: Jumanji

27 06 2010

Book Cover

Summary: One afternoon two restless children discover a board game that has been abandoned in the park and they decide to play. However, they soon discover that this is no ordinary board game, this is a board game that comes to life, causing a stampede of rhinos, a pack of rhinos, and other outrageous things to come to life right in their house. The children must hurry and finish the game before their house is destroyed, or worse their parents come home to find what has been unleashed on the house!

Citation: Van Allsburg, Chris. (1981) Jumanji. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

My Impressions: Although I’ve seen the movie a long time ago, I don’t remember reading Jumanji. This was a very entertaining book with great black-and-white illustrations that enhance the text and bring it to life. I thought the characters were believable as well as the scenario–I for one remember clearly the intense boredom that overcomes children with too much time on their hands. Jumanji also reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books, also by Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express. Obviously the style of illustration is very similar, but the idea that kids can experience fantastical adventure that is unique to childhood and that adults do not understand is also what I love about both books.


“A beautiful simplicity of design, balance, texture, and a subtle intelligence beyond the call of illustration.” —New York Times Book Review

Library Use Suggestions: A fun story time activity to go along with this book is to have children create their own “board” games on a piece of paper.

Module 1: Harold and the Purple Crayon

27 06 2010

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Summary: Armed with only a purple crayon, Harold decides to go for an evening walk, drawing his own way and creating his own adventures before finding his way back home and into bed.

Citation: Johnson, Crockett. (1955). Harold and the Purple Crayon. Harper Collins.

My Impressions: I somehow missed this book as a child, but I definitely still enjoyed it as an adult. Harold is adventurous and very imaginative. The simple illustrations evoked the feeling of a child drawing on a white wall at home, not thinking about what he is doing, but simply enjoying it. I think children could really enjoy this book and identify with Harold who after all his strange adventures just wants to go home and go to bed.


“…For generations, children have cherished this ingenious and original little picture story.” — Horn Book

Do we look at art to learn things, or to feel things? I’d vote for feeling, and that’s why the art book I most recommend is Harold and the Purple Crayon…. — The New York Times Book Review, Deborah Solomon

Library Use Suggestions: This can be used to help children build imagination and even simple story skills. After this book is read aloud, the children can be asked to take a crayon of their own a draw a simple story with it using basic lines.

Module 1: The Story of Ferdinand

27 06 2010

Book Cover

Summary: This is the classic story of the pacifist bull Ferdinand. Unlike the other bulls who love to “run and jump, and butt their head together”, Ferdinand wants nothing more than to live out his days sitting underneath a cork tree. However, Ferdinand is selected to perform in the bullfighting ring in Madrid and thus ensues a comic tableau.

Citation: Leaf, Munro. (1936) The Story of Ferdinand. New York: Viking.

My Impressions: I enjoyed this book about the pacifist Ferdinand. The black-and-white illustrations are simple, just as Ferdinand’s life and pleasures are simple. The author really did make me wonder how Ferdinand would get out of having to spend his life in the bull ring, but Ferdinand’s solution was simple and appropriate.


“What else can be said about the fabulous Ferdinand? Published more than 50 years ago (and one of the bestselling children’s books of all time), this simple story of peace and contentment has withstood the test of many generations…Robert Lawson’s black-and-white drawings are evocative and detailed, with especially sweet renditions of Ferdinand, the serene bull hero. The Story of Ferdinand closes with one of the happiest endings in the history of happy endings–readers of all ages will drift off to a peaceful sleep, dreaming of sweet-smelling flowers and contented cows.” – review excerpt

Library Use Suggestions: This book could be used in a story time and afterward children could come up with things that make them happy, just like Ferdinand was happy sitting under the cork tree smelling flowers, and draw it.