Thursday, February 15, 2007

The End, Not a Box, and snow

After blithely (okay, it bordered on snarky) noting that I never get a "snow day" from work, yesterday was the first. Over a foot of snow fell in our fair metropolis and while I was prepared for a day of leisure reading, other things (like snow removal and a nap) took precedence. Today the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and we continue to dig out from under the flakes.

Because I have that "camera gene" from my father's side of the family, I naturally put a bright yellow ruler in my front yard and photographed the snow fall amount for posterity. That same gene compelled me to bring my camera to work today and take a few shots around campus. With the aforementioned sun shining, it really was quite beautiful. I found the "keep off grass" signs, surrounded by snow and already pelted with a snow ball, humorous.

A morning full of meetings put me behind, again, on my book reviews for the IRC blog. Promising myself I would do at the least one review a week has fallen by the wayside on more than one occasion. Today I picked up two of my current favorites. The End, by David LaRochelle, was first. I am not familiar with LaRochelle's work, but soon learned I had purchased several titles for the library including Absolutely Positively Not, The Best Pet of All, and Bookstore Valentine. What drew me to the book were the pictures; I am a fan of Caldecott winning illustrator Richard Egielski. To me, the art in this book is very Sendak-ish.

“Once upon a time a clever princess decided to make a big bowl of lemonade.” Or so the story ends? This charming fairy tale has a unique twist; it begins with the traditional happily ever after and ends once upon a time. Led through a series of surprising events with the princess are a brave knight, a fire breathing (yet artistic) dragon, an angry giant, and a kingdom of delightful characters who all contribute as each aspect of the story is revealed. Text on each page is hand lettered calligraphy on parchment colored banners, complimenting richly colored double page spreads. Illustrations are filled with artistically whimsical good humor, deftly highlighting each separate incident; the “enormous tomato” and laughing forest of trees will surely elicit laughter. A great addition to lessons on fairy tales or a classroom read-aloud, students will enjoy predicting what might come next, “because …”

The second book, Not a Box by Antoinette Portis, caught my attention when I picked it up; I am very tactile oriented (don't get me started on having to touch fabrics when shopping) and this book not only looks like a box, it feels like a cardboard box. Actually, it reminds me of middle school and high school when we covered our books with brown paper bags to protect them. If you remember that, you know what this books cover and end papers feel like. Luckily, the book lives up to it's textures and a visual level as well. After discussing the book with a student, remember I work with a lot of education students, she ordered it online while I was at lunch. Not a bad recommendation.

A rabbit and his plain brown cardboard box are featured in this witty story of childhood imagination. Readers are introduced to a rabbit, starkly drawn in black and placed on an uncluttered white page, which at first glance appears to be sitting in an empty cardboard box. Turn the page and learn it is not a box, but a race car, a robot, or a pirate ship! Pages featuring drawings of rabbit’s imagination are inked in red, perfectly juxtaposed over the original box drawing, and presented on a creamy yellow background. Simple text of questions and answers allow the wonderful imagination of rabbit to be the focus of this story. Children will enjoy answering the questions in their own words as they follow rabbit on his adventure. This book definitely answers the unending adult question, “Why are you sitting in a box?” Bring in various sized boxes to class and use this book as a culminating activity.

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