Wednesday, November 30, 2011

They May Be Comin’ To Your Town!

Theater Recommendations for the Youngest Patrons
Has your child been to a play yet? There are plays touring right now that could make a wonderful introduction to the theater for your child, and if your child’s a seasoned theater-goer, all the better!

I’m talking about clever productions based on children’s books: Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical based on Mo Willems’ book, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favourites by the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Both productions are witty, beautifully produced, and kid-friendly in all the important ways. These productions value enthusiasm over silence; which is key, because the last thing you want as a parent is to have to walk your rambunctious child out of the theater because they’re too excited to sit still or they take a few minutes to adjust to the new experience of theater and “settle in.”

Friday, November 25, 2011

You Go, Marty Scorsese!

Film Review by Regina Robbins
There are many reasons that Hugo is a major film event. The book on which it is based, Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, caused a sensation upon its release four years ago: it’s a whopping 526 pages which combine text and pictures, and won the Caldecott Medal for illustration, never before awarded to a novel. Because of this unique form, and because its plot is intimately tied to the history of cinema itself, the book practically cries out to be filmed. So it’s obvious why Martin Scorsese, best known for his tableaux of New York’s underbelly, was attracted to the project. The 69-year-old auteur makes his “family film” debut with a movie one might have expected to be made by Tim Burton or Jean-Pierre Jeunet (or, God help us, Robert Zemeckis). Just to make things even more mind-blowing, he shot in 3D.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Books We Love: “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick

Book Review by Maggie Hames
Okay—this book was released in 2007, but it is poised for a major revival with this Wednesday’s release of the film version—called Hugo—directed by none other than Martin Scorsese (in 3-D yet). But this book stands on its own as a wonderful and unique hybrid of chapter book, graphic novel, and cinema storyboard. Any reader over the age of ten (including you!) will enjoy this book. I hope the many joys of this book don’t get lost in the film hoopla, because The Invention of Hugo Cabret deserves to be savored for its own sake.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Save the Date: It’s a Stone Soul Birthday Party!

Need a great idea for your next birthday party, one that works for pre-schoolers to tweens? Why not anchor your party to a mix of great music that’ll get the kids on their feet, right alongside their delighted parents (and grandparents), groovin’ to sounds from the 50s to the 80s. I’m talking about soul music.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Disney’s “Fantasia” Encourages Your Imagination to Soar

Disney's Third Animated Feature - 1940
Back in June, when we ran Regina Robbins’s essay on Disney’s Dumbo, I included a short sidebar on 1940’s Fantasia. In retrospect, I believe I gave this film short shrift. It’s easy to dismiss this film, since Walt Disney himself all but offered a public apology for this box-office bomb. At the time, he commented, “We all make mistakes. Fantasia was one but it was an honest mistake.” I would never describe this as a mistake. It was created as a showcase for the talented, innovative Disney animators, allowing them to push their artistic and technical skills to the limit, mostly unfettered by the demands of story. And that’s a big risk, because without story, it’s a lot more difficult to engage an audience. After all, stories are the way we make sense of the world, and without characters to care about and stories to follow, Fantasia does drift, even flounder at times. On the plus side, this film is at times entrancing, at all times risky, and pushed film animation to new heights of excellence. I think Fantasia can—in the era of the dvd player—fulfill its original promise: to encourage an appreciation of classical music in children. The sequences that went “right” in Fantasia are superb; and the parts that went “wrong” are what your “fast forward” and “skip” buttons are for.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Books We Love: “Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Skates” by Maj Lindman

Book Review by Jack Silbert
Huey, Dewey, and Louie, I knew-y. Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka, not so much. So I was curious when I learned of this reissued vintage picture book from Swedish author and illustrator Maj Lindman. From the scant information available online, I could gather that Lindman created a series about these blond identical triplet girls, and another series about boys Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr. (No, Snapp did not change the spelling of his name and join another trio with Crackle and Pop.) My understanding is that the books were published in Sweden starting in the 1920s, and then reprinted in English in the U.S. from the 1930s through the ’50s. New Skates made its U.S. debut in 1950, but has long been out of print.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Finding the Right Book: Matchmaking for Your Child

The first step to becoming an enthusiastic reader is finding books that excite you. Most kids (or adults) won’t stick with a book that doesn’t interest them, or is too hard. If a book has vocabulary they don’t understand or talks about things they have little interest in, they will become frustrated and probably abandon it.

For example, I’m not a geek, but I’m fairly comfortable with computers. When setting up this blog, I took several books out of the library. Try as I might, I couldn’t make sense of them. I went online for help. Still stumped. Finally, I met with a friend and he walked me through some of the hardest parts.

The books didn’t help me because even though they were written in fairly plain language, I simply didn’t have the background experience or the vocabulary. Our reluctant and struggling readers are often in the same boat.

Our kids need to be matched up with books they WANT to read. Ones that interest them and don’t ask them to work too hard. This subject, matching books to readers, is a big one. In fact, huge. In this post, I’ll give you a technique, some tips and a few resources. I hope you find them useful.

The 5-Finger Method
The five-finger method is a quick and easy way to decide if a new book is at a comfortable reading level for a reader.
• Select a page from the middle of the book. Before you read, close the fingers in one hand.
• As you read silently, stick up one finger for every word you don’t know and can’t guess. If you open 3 to 5 fingers, consider a different book.
• If you stick up 1 or 2 fingers, this book is probably in your comfort range.
• This isn’t a fool-proof method. Sometimes you can read all the words in a book but not really understand the story/text itself (like me and the blogging books).
• Sometimes a book fails the 5-finger rule but if you really want to read it, you’ll keep going (like some kids with the Harry Potter books).

So how do you find books your child wants to read? There are several things to try:
Ask Your Child Questions
• What was the last book that you liked/interested you? Show no judgment here – a book from a younger time is very okay. This will give you an idea of where to start.
• What would you like to be an expert in? This can be a great jumping off point for research.
Ask Your Teachers and Librarians
• Ask what books your child has shown interest in and has been successful reading.
• Ask for a few recommendations.
Visit the Public Library
• Let your child choose whatever books he/she wants. Books seem too young? Swallow your judgment! The point is to read, regardless.
• Ask if your library system has an online site. These sites often have a powerful search engine to explore books.

Here are three sites I find helpful for finding books: Kansas Book Connect, Lexile, and Story Snoops.

Finding the right book is essential for all readers. I hope you find some good ones for your child! —Gail Terp

I’m a retired elementary teacher. I write kids’ books and connecting kids to books they love is my passion. My blog—Best Blog for Kids Who Hate to Read—is a 3-day-a-week blog: Monday - Books; Wednesday - Parent Post; Friday - Fun Stuff. Follow me on Twitter @gailterp