Archives for posts with tag: reading


I’m writing this post on February 5, 2013 because I am so excited about recommending this book that I can’t wait for it to come out in June. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein (Random House, $16.99) is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for bibliophiles, mixed with The Westing Game. It’s an ode to children’s literature. A love letter to everything we appreciate about good books. This book is a must-read for anyone who likes to read and has read a lot, if nothing else than for the enjoyment of the prolific and well-placed references to the best of children’s literature.

Eccentric Mr. Lemoncello rebuilds the public library and invites twelve 12 year olds to participate in a lock-in. The town has not had a library for twelve years and he wants to share his love of reading with a group of kids who have grown up without the benefit of a public library. The lock-in morphs into a game. The first player who discovers how to get *out* of the library will win the grand prize. So you can see why bibliophiles will love this book; it is one long celebration of books and reading. What I loved most, however, is that the game and the clues were revealed in such a way that the reader could play along with the characters. I didn’t have to passively watch the characters solve riddles (one of the things that really frustrated me about The Mysterious Benedict Society), but instead I could participate and try to figure out the puzzle for myself along the way. Almost everything in the book is a clue of some sort, so I found myself reading very carefully, trying to remember all the details. Clues are repeated throughout the book, however, which was useful because I didn’t have to write it all out, although I did consider doing so! Read, play, and enjoy! And if anyone figures out the final puzzle, please let me know! I don’t know if the ARC I read just didn’t have all the information or if I missed something really important!

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I got really excited when, after writing my last post, I noticed that my *next* post would be my 100th! woot! “What to write about?” I asked myself. I wanted to make it a good one and got so caught up in the milestone of it all, that I just couldn’t decide. I finally concluded that today’s post (the 100th I’ve written) should specifically be about promoting literacy, since that’s what this whole blog is about. In this case, I am using literacy in its broadest sense. Sure literacy means reading words, typed out, (usually) black marks on a (usually) white page. But to me, literacy is far more than reading words. It also includes reading images, situations, and even people. Literacy is about finding the connections, the meaning, the story, and sometimes the story behind the story. When people come in looking for books to teach their children to read, I recommend Rosie’s Walk and Handa’s Surprise. If you know these two books you might be surprised, since both of these books are picture books. Nevertheless, I think they are perfect for emerging readers because they teach literacy.

0763608637Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Brown (Candlewick, $3.99) tells a very straight-forward story of Handa, who puts seven delicious fruits in a basket for her friend Akeyo. As Handa walks to Akeyo’s village, with the basket of fruit on her head, she debates to herself which of the fruits Akeyo will like best: “Will she like the soft yellow banana . . . “.  Unbeknownst to Handa, as she thinks about each fruit, various animals help themselves to the fruit in question. Just as Handa is thinking about the banana, a monkey up in a tree, lifts it out of her basket. Handa, lost in her own thoughts, is not aware of these events, but the reader/viewer is. Herein is the crux of why I recommend this particular book. Readers can practice sounding out unfamiliar words such as Akeyo, guava, avocado, and will learn about letters and sounds. But they can also learn about how words don’t always tell the whole story. In addition to reading the words, readers will also have to read the pictures. What do the words say? What do the pictures say? And as they start to recognize the disjunct between the two, they will also learn a little something about perspective. What does Handa know? What does the reader know? This book is ripe (forgive me) for conversation. It encourages conversation, debates, and long discussions. It is nuanced and multi-layered. It promotes literacy in all its forms. Plus the story is funny and the illustrations are excellent.

9780020437505Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins (Aladdin, $6.99) functions in a very similar way. The text is one single sentence, broken up into various phrases. The text appears on every other page. In between, are wordless full-page illustrations that tell so much more than the text. I underestimated this book. I read it. I thought it was boring and that the illustrations were weird. Then I read it with a group of 5 year olds and I realized how wrong wrong wrong I was. The kids loved the illustrations. They loved the two parallel stories. They laughed out loud. We had such interesting discussions about what was happening in this book. They made up fascinating and insightful text for the wordless pages. They asked me to read it again. Because of that experience, I now rave about this book.

While writing this post (did I mention it’s my 100th?), I decided to look up the definition of literacy. I was curious if it actually did correspond to my usage. Definition 1 focuses on reading and writing, which are indeed the basics of literacy. Definition 2 mentions the possession of education and definition 3 addresses the concept of subject mastery. Handa’s Surprise and Rosie’s Walk encourage all three. They teach reading and writing. There is text to read, but there is also space to write more of the textual story. The books also engage with education via critical thinking. Readers must critically examine both the textual story and the visual story. Finally, readers who find the other story, the story between the textual and the visual or the story that combines the textual with the visual, will have develop mastery of reading. They will be truly literate.

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