Six Foolish Fishermen by Robert D. San Souci – Review and Giveaway

This picture book, illustrated by Doug Kennedy and originally published by Hyperion in 2000, has been re-released by Pelican Publishing this September. Robert San Souci has a ton of stories in and around the children’s book world and he often brings his pen down the bayou to concentrate on south Louisiana culture in his subject matter. His stories are staples in our libraries locally.

Six Foolish Fishermen is an example of a “Noodlehead” story. These stories appear in all types of literary traditions and are probably most well known as the “Foolish Jack” stories. In a noodlehead story, the main characters seem to lack even a modicum of common sense yet they somehow manage to come out on top. The noodlehead story is not written to demean any particular person, rather, it allows us to laugh at ourselves and the weaknesses we all share.

San Souci’s version (a take on “The Seven Foolish Fishermen” folktale) is ripe with Cajun dialect, vocabulary, and altered sentence structure – which may turn some readers off – but it provides a good opening into discussion of the Cajun culture. The six fishermen run into several predicaments they try to solve in the most absurd ways, until Henriette comes along and straightens them all out. It is laugh out loud funny. (more…)

Mixing Media – Pinkalicious, the Musical

Last weekend I took my nephew to see Pinkalicious, the Musical at our local community theater. Surrounded by little girls in pink tiaras, he might have felt slightly out of place. I had a great time, however. In case you are one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t know the story, Pinkalicious is a girl whose obsession with anything pink – especially cupcakes – drives her parents batty and creates havoc as she transforms into a great mass of pinkness.

The wildly popular book has become a franchise with as many possibilities as there are colors in an artist’s palette, I suppose. I’m not a huge fan of  picture book franchises – as I find they often become stilted to fit the marketing department’s expectations, and I haven’t read all thePinkalicious sequels, but the idea of turning the picture book into a musical was fascinating to me.

As is the case when moving from one medium to another, the story morphed a bit. I’m not really going to comment on that. But watching all these little kids in the theater, excited about theater, and excited about their book characters come to life, was quite impressive. It was a nice way to introduce the next generation to community theater.

If Pinkalicious hasn’t made it to your little theater community yet, look for it. It is an interesting experience, to say the least. Next spring our troupe is performing an adaptation of David Shannon’sHow I Became a Pirate. I think I’ll take my nephew back – he should feel more at home among the swashbucklers.

The House that Witchy Built by Dianne de Las Casas – Review and Giveaway

This cute, cute Halloween addition by Dianne de Las Casas  and illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker is a take on “The House that Jack Built”.  I know, there are a thousand and one stories built on this framework, but there must be a reason. When Halloween rolled around in my library, the perennial favorite of my kindergarteners (and 1st and 2nd graders) was The House that Drac Built by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. Not only because of the myriad of scary creatures but because of the repetition, repetition, repetition. I can’t speak for the rest of the world but my students always LOVED saying the story with me. Ah, the sneakiness of new vocabulary deftly dropped into a familiar chant.

But I digress … The House that Witchy Built (Pelican Publishing, 2011) delivers on its promise of Halloween fun, including sound effects for each story element. Between the creaking, rattling, flapping, cackling and smooching – yes, I said smooching – the reader will hardly be able to hear himself above the din. Holly Stone-Barker uses cut paper and collage for the artwork. Have I ever said how much I like this technique? Well, alot, especially for lower elementary stories. Just look at the cover – kids are going to pick that right up – and every page is just as inviting. (more…)

Shoes for Me! by Sue Fliess – Review and Giveaway

Last week I had a wonderful surprise on my doorstep, courtesy of Pinwheel Books, a division of Marshall Cavendish. Shoes for Me! (2011) is a delightful rhyming picture book by Sue Fliess. She really gets it right in this debut story for the preschool, kinder, and early childhood set.

In Shoes for Me!, Hippo is off to the store with her mom for new shoes – and she gets to make the choice. Oh, the power! The young fashionista goes through every shoe in the store before her mom threatens  to leave without a purchase. That gets our girl’s attention and she finally makes her selection. Mike Laughead‘s bright and snappy illustrations go well with the clipped rhythm of the short text.

The colors, patterns, and types of shoes in the story lend themselves to a multitude of classroom activities – and the importance of making a choice is a lesson in and of itself. Nice work, Sue. I can’t wait to see what happens when Hippo goes clothes shopping in next year’s A Dress for Me!

I’ll be giving my copy away to one lucky person. Leave a comment on this post by August 19th and you’ll be included in my random drawing.  If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it. It’s a great book for the younger set. If you don’t have any young children hanging around your house you could share it with a preschool teacher or librarian. Feel free to pass the contest on to anyone who might be interested.

Genres: Picture Books, Rhyming Books

Things to like about this book: Great rhyme! It’s fun and colorful and makes a great read aloud.

Audience: Toddlers, Preschool, kindergarten, 1st grade. Also great for parents looking for a quick bedtime read.

Reviewed from: Hardcover provided by publisher.

The Gigantic Sweet Potato by Dianne de Las Casas

How did it get to be November already? I feel like I’m coming back to Narnia – could more than a day have passed since my last post – or has it really been several hundred years? At any rate, today I’m reviewing another picture book from New Orleans publisher, Pelican.

The Gigantic Sweet Potato by Dianne de Las Casas, illustrated by Marita Gentry, is an adaptation of a Russian folktale known as “The Giant Turnip”.  Here’s a little disclaimer: I know Dianne as a member of the south Louisiana community of children’s authors – and I’ve seen her perform as a storyteller. I think she does a great job engaging the kids and she’s very fun to watch in action.

Having said that, this book is a hoot! It follows the oral storytelling tradition at its finest. Repetition and predictability lend to the story’s charm and you find yourself rooting (pardon the pun) for Ma Farmer to finally get that darn thing out of the ground. I’ve seen Dianne do this story out loud with an auditorium full of elementary school students and it’s quite a hit as a performance piece. Marita Gentry’s gentle illustrations are a perfect complement to the story. Ma’s Sweet Potato Pie recipe and a fact page about sweet potatoes complete the package – just in time for the holidays. Where’s my pie dish?

Genres: Picturebook, Folklore

Things to like about this book: It’s fun. The bigger the group of kids, the more fun it will be. It is a perfect companion to preschool and kindergarten units on gardening, cooking, AND cooperation.

Audience:Preschool through Lower elementary school. Perfect for read aloud and audience participation story time.

Reviewed from: Hardcover provided by publisher

The Emperor’s Army by Virginia Walton Pilegard

Today I’m posting my first publisher requested review. I was excited to have the opportunity to review a few books from New Orleans publisher, Pelican Publishing Company.  A regional publisher, Pelican specializes in “travel guides, art and architecture books, Christmas books, local and international cookbooks, motivational and inspirational works, and children’s books, as well as a growing number of social commentary, history, and fiction titles”. (Pelican website)

The Emperor’s Army: a mathematical adventure by Virginia Walton Pilegard. Illustrated by Adrian Tans. Pelican Publishing, January 2010.

Genres: Picturebook, Historical fiction

When scholarship falls out of favor because the evil prime minister gains influence with China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, a scholar and his son escape persecution by hiding in the mountains. They discover a huge project that artists arrested by the emperor are completing: a clay army to serve as guardians in the emperor’s afterlife. After the emperor dies, the peasants rob the buried army of statues, with the aid of the scholar’s son, and stage a revolt. The scholar and his son are rewarded and allowed to live in comfort, continuing to study.

This book would make a nice addition to an elementary school library and could be used as a teaching supplement in multiple subject areas. The rich language will probably require dictionary use by independent readers but provides a great opportunity to expand vocabulary.

Things to like about this book: First, Adrian Tans’ beautiful illustrations place the reader in the moment. Combined with the third person narration, the illustrations make it easy to settle in as though you are at the feet of a feudal elder in a long ago Chinese kingdom. The author introduces math concepts of volume and estimation, which allow for cross curricular usage. There is a brief historical note (which could have been expanded) concerning the first Huang emperor and an art activity for making clay sculptures.

Audience: Lower to middle elementary school. Read aloud in social studies or history class studying ancient China. Supplement to math or art class.

Reviewed from: F&G provided by publisher