Friday, February 22, 2019

It's NOT Hansel and Gretel BLOG TOUR

Today I'm hopping aboard the Blog Tour for Josh Funk's brand new fairy tale mash-up, It's NOT Hansel and Gretel. And I'm excited to share this book.

But first, a brief station-break to remind fellow writers about ReFoReMo - Reading for Research Month. Next month we'll be reading and researching mentor texts, and "picking the brains" of established authors. Authors like Josh Funk... So if you'd like to join in on the fun, head over to ReFoReMo and sign up. And now, back to our regularly scheduled BLOG TOUR!

I grew up with Fairy Tales. Thick volumes from the local library: Grimm's Fairy Tales, the Green Book of Fairy Tales, and on and on. So when authors write mash-ups and fractured fairy tales, I'm always game to read on!

It's NOT Hansel and Gretel
by Josh Funk; illus. by Edwardian Taylor
40 pages; ages 4-8
Two Lions, 2019

themes: fairy tales, imagination

Once upon a time, Hansel and Gretel lived with their mama and papa on the outskirts of the woods.

So far, so good. This is how fairy tales - wait! Is that Jack, from "Jack and the Beanstalk"? What's he doing in this story? And what's with the narrator? Instead of sticking to telling the story, the narrator is warning the kids; telling them "that's not how the story goes!"

Who's in charge of this story, anyway? The characters.... who come up with crazy idea. When it's cold outside, Gretel thinks hanging out in an oven sounds like a great way to warm up. And when she's forced to do chores, Gretel rebels. She even scolds the narrator for calling the story Hansel and Gretel. Why not Gretel and Hansel?

What I like about this book: It's zany. If something could happen, it probably will. Why not have a unicorn in the story? I like how the text shows narration, and dialog is easily found in speech balloons. I also like how Hansel and Gretel modify the witch's recipes by substituting other things for "children" in the recipe.

If you like candy, the end papers will definitely appeal to your sweet tooth.

Beyond the Book:

Create your own fractured fairy tale, or mash-up. Start with a fairy tale character you like, toss in some characters from other tales, add a few tangents and side trails, and shake it up real good. Remember to let the characters talk to each other!

Think about the roles girl and boy characters have in fairy tales. What if they were reversed? What if a girl knight rescued a boy locked in a tower? Try switching roles in some of the fairy tales you read and see what sort of story you end up with.

Try your hand at making candy. You don'y have to live in a gingerbread house to make candy. But you might want to make some treats to share with a friend. Here are some kid-friendly recipes.

Want to know more about author Josh Funk? Here's his website. Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It's a weekly event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Lost in the Antarctic

A couple months ago I read Tod Olson's book, Lost in Outer Space, a story about Apollo 13. It was so fun to read that I knew I had to grab a copy of one of his new titles in the Lost series. It being one of those winters where the polar vortex comes whistling down with below-zero temperatures, this one seemed the perfect choice!

Lost in the Antarctic: the doomed voyage of the Endurance
by Tod Olson
224 pages; ages 8-12
Scholastic, 2019

Weddell Sea, Antarctica. 
October 26, 1915
The ship didn't stand a chance, and Frank Hurley knew it. He'd been in the engine room with the carpenter, trying desperately to keep the water out.

The ship is the Endurance, trapped in a sea of ice 1,000 miles wide. She is being squeezed to death by the ice. With no time to spare, the crew rescues crates of food and pike tents and sleeping bags on the ice. For fourteen months the crew and scientists of this expedition to the Antarctic had made this ship their home. Now, in zero-degree weather, they would leave it and head off onto the ice. And, if they are lucky, to safety.

Lost is the tale of Ernest Shackleton's 1914 expedition. His goal: to cross the Antarctic continent by dogsled - a trek of 1800 miles. But to get to the continent they first had to navigate the Weddell Sea. And they were stuck in the ice.

Like other books in this series, it is a page-turning read. Gleaning stories from journals and letters, Tod Olson gives readers an inside look at an expedition that went sideways. There are maps, photos, packing lists, and enough ice and frigid weather to make you head to the kitchen for a mug of cocoa. He puts it in historical context: England was on the cusp of entering World War I as the Endurance set sail. While young men fought and died in trenches, Shackleton's men fought the elements and, sometimes, each other to survive.

There are moments of shared fun: a soccer game beneath the midnight sun; a race to determine once-and-for-all the fastest sled dog. There are moments of sheer terror: watching the ship sink with their stores of food; a wild slide down a glacier. There is no way you can read this book and not come away with a greater appreciation for central heating and a neighborhood grocery store.

Back matter provides perspective on Antarctica in this age of climate change, a list of sources, and end notes documenting dialog and events. If you're interested in learning more about the Endurance, check out the Weddell Sea Expedition. An international crew of scientists are exploring the Weddell Sea off Antarctica, using underwater robots, drones and other state-of-the-art technology. You can read their expedition blog here. But you may want to put on some gloves and a hat first!

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle , so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Teach your Giraffe to Ski

I wanted to squeeze this review in before the end of winter. In case you need to...

Teach Your Giraffe to Ski 
by Viviane Elbee; illus. by Danni Gowdy
32 pages; ages 3 - 5
Albert Whitman & Company, 2018

theme: winter sports, family

Uh-oh. It’s snowing and your giraffe wants you to teach her to ski.

The illustrations shows her pointing to her skis, which are leaning against the wall by the coat hooks. So of course, you offer alternatives: hot cocoa, making snow giraffes –  but no! She gallops off to the ski slopes.

What I like about this book: it’s SO fun! As a former ski instructor, giraffe reminded me of some of my young charges. We didn’t call wedge turns “pizza” back in the stone age, but we did holler “snowplow!” when kids (and adults) forgot how to slow down. I also love the exclamations that the kid makes: Great spotties! Jumping spotties! I may incorporate them into my family-friendly list of thing to say.

What I really like: when giraffe does get to the Big Scary Slope, her kid – er, instructor – has to take a deep breath, figure out how to get off the scary ski lift, and go after her. Because giraffe needs her!

The ending is fun and surprising – and I won’t ruin it for you. Strap on a pair of skis and schuss to the nearest bookstore/library/bookmobile to get your own copy.

Beyond the Book:

Do some “before skiing” exercises: stand with feet under your hips (wide stance). Reach down to your toes. Then reach up to the sun. Lift your knees like you’re marching. Then do some jump ropes. Now stand on one foot. Then the other. Back to both feet, and bend your knees. Now you’re ready to hit the slopes!

Strap on imaginary skis and let’s go “skiing”.
First thing we have to learn is how to make our skis into a pizza slice – so we can slow down.
Next, make your skis like French fries, going in the same direction. Bend your knees a little.
Now we have to walk up the hill so we can ski down. We walk sideways like a crab.
Make an obstacle course of things to ski around – like a slalom course.
Try “skiing” backwards!
Use your imaginary skis like skates… that’s how you ski on flat roads.

You could make some indoor skis out of cardboard. These are great on kitchen floors and down long hallways. Here’s some directions, but be creative.

Create a ski hill for little people or lego people. Here’s how.

We're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It's a weekly event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy shoveled off a shelf at the library.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Waiting for Pumpsie

This book, published a couple years ago, is as timeless as ever. And now, author Barry Wittenstein has created curriculum materials to go along with it. So I can't think of a better way to kick of Black History month than with a story about baseball - plus spring training has already started, so .... batter up!

Waiting for Pumpsie
by Barry Wittenstein; London Ladd
32 pages; ages 5-8
Charlesbridge, 2017

themes: equality, biography

I'm Bernard, and I'm crazy, crazy, crazy about the Red Sox. Everybody in Boston is. It's just something you get born into.

Set in 1959, more than a decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, the Sox still field an all white team. The Giants have Willie Mays, Bernard points out to his parents, so how come Red Sox don't have a black player?

Like any other fan, Bernard wants the Sox to win. They're having a dismal season (no news to regular fans....) and fans want to know why the team won't bring up Pumpsie Green from the minors.

If you're a SOX fan, you already know the ending to this story. He plays. They lose - that game.

What I like about this book:
There is great writing to be found within these pages. Like when Pumpsie smacks the ball and "rounds first base and runs like his own uniform can't keep up." It probably doesn't hurt that Barry Wittenstein grew up a fan of the game and wrote for Major League Baseball. There are plenty of verbs in this book. I like the wonderful. illustrations by London Ladd. And I really like that there's back matter. Wittenstein points out that by the time Pumpsie was called up from the minors, Jackie Robinson had already been retired for two years!

But this story is about more than baseball, he says. "It's about moving toward equality and how sports can help change society for the better."

Beyond the book:

Learn more about Pumpsie Green. Look for information in books, and online. One place to find info is the Society for American Baseball Research.

Create a Baseball Card. You can make one for Pumpsie - or your favorite player. Of course, you'll need some stats: information about the team they play for, the positions they play, and their batting record.

You can find more activities about Pumpsie at Barry Wittenstein's website. Look under "downloads"  for the curriculum guide.

And head over to Archimedes Notebook today to check out another book by the same author - about accidental inventions! We're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It's a weekly event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media.