02 June 2009

Kindergarten Reading Roundup

I'm here, blogging in my head more than on the screen. Some book posts are pushing their way out, though!

I've been reading every Wednesday, just before the end of the school day. Here are most of the selections, not in good order:
  • Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes. A great story of a little mouse who's veeeerry worried about the start of the school year.
  • Tree-ring circus, by Adam Rex. What happens when circus animals escape? Read this joyously illustrated book and find out!
  • Ookpik : the travels of a snowy owl by Bruce Hiscock. Curious Girl's class uses a phonics-exploration program that has a snowy owl puppet (Echo the Owl) as a prop to lead the kids in their letter/sound correspondence chants. CG loves Echo, and this book about the journey of a snowy owl who heads south to look for food was a big hit with the class. Full of great facts about owls, and with great, big picture spreads.
  • Chester's Way, by Kevin Henkes. I heart Kevin Henkes. Both Wemberly and Chester's Way have lots of little side dialogues in the illustrations, and they just hit on the adventurousness and intensity of kid-friendships and explorations. This book is about the challenges facing Chester and Wilson when Lily moves into the neighborhood (yes, Lily, as in the marvelous Lily's Purple Plastic Purse).
  • The Family Book, by Todd Parr. Like all of Parr's work, this raucously colored book celebrates diversity--this time diversity of families (some of whom look like each other and some of whom look like their pets, for example).
  • Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, by Deborah Hopkinson and John Hendrix. This fictional tale of Abe Lincoln describes an outing he might have had with a boyhood friend on an afternoon's play by a raging river. Hendrix' illustrations are so vivid, and the text plays with the illustrations, talking to the illustrator as though he's drawing the pictures while we read. The kids loved the idea of a president as a kid.
  • John Coltrane's Giant Steps, by Chris Raschka. We love Raschka's illustrations and words--Charlie Parker Played Bebop is another family favorite, and this book about John Coltrane uses words and pictures to give the feeling of Coltrane's classic Giant Steps.
  • Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons, by Agnes Rosenstiehl (translated from the French). This cartoon-paneled book is just plain fun. I brought in Alison Bechdel's Fun Home just to hold up to show the kids that even grownups read paneled-books too.
  • 365 Penguins, by Jena-Luc Fromental and Joelle Jolivet (also translated from the French by an uncredited translator). This delightful oversized book tells the story of a family who get, mysteriously by mail a penguin a day, and go through amusing bouts of trying to house and feed them. Lots of math fun is mixed in with the story, and the illustrations rock.
  • Leo Loves Round, by Eli Goldblatt and Wendy Osterweil, an out-of-print book by my friends Eli and Wendy, whose son Leo has now graduated from college. But this book about all the round things Leo loved as a boy is just a delight: Leo loves round. He loves balls that bounce, roll, float, and fly..... If it's in your library or at a used book store, pick it up.
  • Borya and the Burps, by Joan McNamara, a Russian adoption story that looks at the disorientation a baby might face and the little things that help families connect
  • Through Moon and Star and Night Skies, by Ann Turner and James Hale, an adoption story about an international adoption
  • Sammy Spider's First Rosh Hashanah and Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah, by Sylvia Rouss. The Sammy Spider series is a lovely, colorful way to introduce kids to Jewish holidays, and the singsong repetition of "Silly Sammy! Spiders don't [insert holiday action here], spiders spin webs!" always makes for good group participation.
  • Martin's Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier. Interesting comments in the reviews at Amazon, which focus on objections by some readers that there aren't any women or white people in the illustrations. (I think it's a good thing for white kids to read books without white kids in the illustrations, some of the time--for starters, that's a mirror of the experience that children of color have quite frequently in picture books, and it's a good thing to upset that white reading privilege. Lack of women might be more problematic, but I'm not reading this book as a big history of the whole civil rights movement, but rather a way into a good biography, with an emphasis on MLK's language.) The illustrations are gorgeous.
  • Ann and Liv Cross Antarctica, by Zoe Alderfer Ryan and Nicholas Reti, a story of the first women (Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen) to reach the South Pole, packaged with a lot of kid-inspiring messages about the importance of following one's dreams.
  • A River of Words, by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet, a biography of William Carlos Williams, with fantabulous collage artwork and a great presentation of a young boy who loved words who grew up to be a doctor and poet. This is a book that will work for kids of wide age ranges, as a fair bit of poetry is built into the illustrations and endpapers. Most of that poetry was over the heads for kindergarten so I didn't read it all--they were more interested in the biography. After we read this, we wrote an imitation of his "This is Just to Say," as the kids came up with ideas for a couple of places in the poem where I'd left blanks for them to fill.
  • Munschworks: The First Munsch Collection, by Robert Munsch. This volume contains The Paper Bag Princess, The Fire Station, I Have to Go!, David's Father, and Thomas' Snowsuit. I forget which of these books I read first, but the class loved it so much that they asked for another, and we ended up reading all five books over two or three weeks. Munsch is very funny, and Martchenko's illustrations add great visual interest for a readaloud. If you have the chance to listen to Munsch read his own work (which you can do on the author link above), you'll appreciate the humor even more. He reads very well.
  • Skippyjon Jones, by Judy Schachner. If you've never read a Skippyjon Jones book, run to the nearest library and borrow one. Skippyjon Jones is a hysterically funny Siamese cat who has a rich fantasy life in which he is a chiuaua who runs with a gang of friends, beating bad guys. The mix of Spanish and English, and the rhythmic punning, is awesome. This book just begs to be read aloud. CG's teacher had never read any Skippyjon Jones, so I was happy to introduce her to him.
  • How the Ladies Stopped the Wind, by Bruce McMillan and Gunnella. I didn't like this one quite as well as McMillan and Gunnella's first book, The Problem with Chickens, but that's only a slight problem. Do they really sing to animals in Iceland? Learning more about Icelandic folklore is on my summer reading to-do list. In the meantime, check out this fun book about resourceful ladies who know how to solve a problem.
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein. CG loves "Sick" and the one about the dentist and the crocodile, and so many kids in the room had already read some Silverstein that the connections they made to the poems were lots of fun.
I'm sure I'm forgetting a few (I think we read some Mo Willems, and one of the Leonardo the Terrible Monster and one of the Knuffle Bunny books), but this gives you a sense of what I've been doing on Wednesdays at 2:00 this year. Only two more Wednesdays left: tomorrow, it's Peggy Rothmann's The Day the Babies Crawled Away, which has got to be one of the most beautiful picture books ever. I'm still debating about the last book of the year. Maybe something silly like Catalina Magdalina Hoopensteiner Wallendiner, or perhaps something new. I'll give each kid a bookplate from My Home Library. Today, at the parent volunteer breakfast, each volunteer got some bulbs or a plant from a local nursery. I was happy to get the plant (strawberries!), but truly, reading each week has been as much fun for me as for the kids. Kindergarteners are such an enthusiastic audience. I love watching them get so excited when they have connections to the books (which can be rather random, as in "my mom has the same first name as the illustrator!") and when they want to tell me about what they're reading, or about what they know about the books already. They're so happy in school. I hope that feeling lasts into grade one.

About half of the books I've read this year are ones I read sometime last year in my weekly reading gig; it's been great to see how a year makes a difference in the way kids listen to and interact with a book. I'm excited that CG has learned to read this year, and that she's interested in beginning chapter books, but picture books are really suitable for kids long past kindergarten. The complexity of the words and pictures offers a lot, and I am in no hurry to leave the world of picture books. I'm encouraging CG to collect both easy readers and picture books as we visit the library. This year of picture books in kindergarten has been just tons of fun for me--perhaps something here will make your summer reading fun, too.


Magpie said...

I think what I love most about this post is that I know almost NONE of the books. Which is good: more new material.

Jody said...

What a great list -- they are almost all new to me, too. We have an entirely DIFFERENT set of very funny Munsch books, which were huge hits in 1st grade.

Alas, the kids have reached the point where they want to read nothing but chapter books, many of them the silly series books that I loved myself as a kid, but which are not in fact very good. I have to grab a few picture books on my own and leave them out on the coffee table, and hope that someone picks them up in passing.

Suzanne said...

Thanks for this list! We've read about half of these, but the others are new to me -- I am going to bring this with me to the library tomorrow!

kathy a. said...

oh, this sounds so wonderful!

S. said...

There's another Joelle Jolivet book that Z. ADORES, called Almost Everything--and that's what it is, a visual catalog of a kajillion things, aircraft, historical costumes, flowers, tools, in woodcut-inspired paintings. All the words are in the back, so it's perfect for a visual non-reader like her.

elswhere said...

I love this project!