Monday, September 27, 2010

motivating a reader

I'm on vacation again, so that means picture books and more picture books!  Since the last time I visited, the Little Reader has learned two letters!  He just celebrated his 3rd birthday and he can pick out the letters "C" and "O" (although he isn't close to being able to write them).  I think he knows "C" because of Cookie Monster's "C is for Cookie" song (which we watch on youtube frequently), and because of some "C"-focused episodes on his favorite show World World.  (My favorite character is Frog.)
Partly to get out of the house-- and, you know, for literacy and what not-- we go to the library every day.  Currently we are big into trains, but still like animals.  The books we've covered this week:

On the Move, edited by Sarah Fecher and Deborah Kespert.  This is not a story, but instead has one page for many different modes of transportation (trucks, ships, bikes, etc.)  We looked at the train page, and there's a kind of I-spy page in the middle of the book we spent some time on as well, but the rest of the transportation methods were not engaging.  :)
This is a really great book, actually, with big clear pictures and beginning terminology  (for example, the car page gives you lights, engine, tires, steering wheel, roof rack, trunk, and seat belt).  Each page gives a big illustration, a small color photo, and usually one other small photo or illustration.  It definitely is informative, but not a clear winner to the LR: we spent some time on it, but haven't come back for a second read.

Octopus, Oyster, Hermit Crab, Snail: A Poem of the Sea, by Sara Anderson.  These illustrations are very Carle-esque.  It is very beautiful.  The poem is pretty good, too.  The LR picked this out at the library and we read it there; he wanted to bring it home and although we read it the whole way through the first time, we haven't come back to this one either.
The LR has been to the Seattle Aquarium and the water front, so he has seen some of the things in this book.  I wonder if Midwestern toddlers would be bored because they have no experience with these things, or interested because they are new.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon, by Eric Carle.  We read the whole book, but we didn't feel the love.  I mentioned when I read this book on my own before, but since forgot, that the chameleon combo-creature is actually a little scary for little kids.

All Aboard the Dinotrain, by Deb Lund; illustrated by Howard Fine.  Although the illustrations are great, I thought the story was crap.  However, it is by far the LR's favorite, so we read it several times a day.  I should clarify: the plot isn't bad, but the writing isn't good at all.  The rhymes aren't very good, and whenever the author needs to add a syllable to make it fit, she randomly sticks "dino" on the front of a word ("dinochugs," "dinohead," "dinotime").  It wouldn't be so bad if all verbs were "dino," since the dinosaurs are the ones doing them, but it seems completely random as to what gets the prefix.

Dinosailors, by Deb Lund; illustrated by Howard Fine.  Since he loves Dinotrain so much, I looked for other books by the same author.  This is an earlier work by the same pair, and it features the same dinosaur characters and the same basic plot, but at sea instead of on a train.  The rhyming and random "dino"s are even worse in this one.
Boats aren't as exciting as trains so, thankfully, we only read this one once.

Lilly's Potty, by Begin Smart.  The LR has been thinking about maybe toilet training for a few months now.  He's interested in the process, but hasn't quite got the timing down yet.  He saw this board book (shelved under the puzzles) at the library, and it has been of some interest as well.  He especially likes the flaps.
I like this book because it doesn't show body parts or body products.  The illustrations are cute, and the book is very short.

Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis.  A big favorite of mine, I'm waiting for the LR to connect to the ideas.  He definitely is getting a handle on imagination play, but his subjects are pretty limited.  He's working on it, though, and I think he likes the simple illustrations in this book.

Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin, Jr.; illustrated by Eric Carle.  We pulled this out of the board book section as well and read it in the library (but didn't bring it home).  Great illustrations, a simple picture on a white background, and quick easy rhymes.

Peek-a-Choo-Choo!, by Maria Torres Cimarusti; illustrated by Stephanie Peterson.  Another flap book!  Oh, the joy!  Unfortunately, half the flaps had been pulled off by other little hands, but he had fun with the ones that were there.

Choo Choo: The Story of a Little Engine Who Ran Away, by Virginia Lee Burton.  This one was on display in the library, and I think we made it through the whole thing, but it didn't really compare.  I think the lack of big color illustrations was a deciding factor in the non-love for this classic.

The Greedy Python, by Richard Buckley; illustrated by Eric Carle.  Eric Carle illustrations on white backgrounds, in board book form is the perfect combo for the LR.  More, please!  He "read" this one during church and wanted to share it with his great grandma.

Shark vs. Train, by Chris Barton; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.  This was a favorite; we've read it almost as many times as Dinotrain.  There is a story in there, but we didn't read it so much as look at the pictures, play I-spy, and make up our own story.  And those are legitimate things to do with picture books to build literacy, so I'm not complaining.  :)

And now, some books for me!

The Land Breakers, by John Ehle.    I've been working on weeding fiction for a while now, and this book sounded interesting, although I had to weed it because of complete lack of circulation in a really long time, like 10 years.  I snagged it because I hate traveling with library books-- what if I spill on it on the plane?  If I hate it, don't feel like reading it, or finish it, I still have to lug it around for the rest of the trip.  So I took this one from my discard pile to read on the plane and during my layover.
The first part of the book was pretty good, but the second half-- more like maybe the last third of the book, really-- just wasn't as good, although I couldn't tell you why.  It's just a feeling I have about the quality; I can't describe it.
I like these old books because you couldn't just spit out utter crap and call it "being artistic."  Sentences had to have subjects and verbs if you wanted to be published.  Some of the natural science is very wrong, but it is a product of its time (it was published in 1964) and can be overlooked.  It's pretty old, so don't buy it for your library, but if you have a copy languishing on the shelf, maybe take a look.

Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George.    This book sounded interesting; it is a fairy tale retelling, and you know how much I love those.  But there's nothing really holding my attention or peaking my interest in the first few chapters.

Rollback, by Robert Sawyer.    Back in the day (i.e., I think it was the year after I finished by B.A., so circa. 2005), I went through everything my then-library had of Sawyer's.  Ahh, NPL, how I miss you.  Anyway, this is a 2007, so I missed it before, obviously.  I... rather liked it.  I remember always being slightly annoyed at the author's writing style, and it really got to me if I read 2 or more of his books in a row.  But, while not totally perfect, his writing has come a long way.  I always liked this author's plots, although it is difficult to say why.  I'm not captivated by the science fiction, which is light on the science and pretty implausible, it usually seems.  I'm not in love with his characters.  The theme all his books have in common, I think, is that they pose challenging questions about the ethics of science.

It's back to the library after I pick the LR up from preschool!

1 comment:

Deb Lund said...

Thanks for the chuckle... This is one of my favorite reviews.