Saturday, June 26, 2010

Out of the ordinary animal stories

Shrews and beavers and elephants, oh my! Beaver Is Lost 

Beaver is Lost by Elisha Cooper. Schwartz & Wade, 2010

This nearly wordless story begins with the words,"Beaver is lost," and  follows a beaver riding a log down a river, to the logging truck, to a lumber yard in a big city.  We follow beaver in a sort of "make way for ducklings" fashion, across back yards, through swimming pools, and into storm drains as he travels through the city.  Unlike McCloskey's classic, beaver's progress is unremarked except by a dog, a mouse and a child. The busy people passing by seem to be completely unaware of his presences as he moves from left to right across the pages.  Cooper's watercolors are at once simple yet detailed.  The reader can easily follow his progress through the bustling panels.  Can Beaver find his way home?  

I immediately thought of how I would pair this book with a nonfiction book on beavers and their habitat.

The Taming of Lola: A Shrew StoryThe Taming of Lola, a Shrew Story: a picture book in five acts by Ellen Weiss, illustrated by Jerry Smath. Abrams, 2010

Lola is a contrarian in every way and excels at tantrum throwing, fit pitching and foot stomping.   When her cousin Lester arrives for a visit, Lola realizes she has met her match.  Lester can out-yell, out-scream and out-do any fuss Lola makes. You can only applaud the planning that brought these two egos together and it is fun to watch as this irresistible force meets this immovable object.  Jerry Smath's friendly illustrations enhance the comedy of a story with its roots in Shakespeare's classic play.

The ThingamabobThe Thingamabob by Il Sung Na. Knopf, 2008
Children will quickly identify the " thingamabob" that elephant finds. Elephant cannot fathom what this object is or what is its purpose.  Neither can his friends. When it begins to rain, they do figure out what the thingamabob is good for. Color and texture and elegant lines define the look and humor of this story.  Unusual, whimsical and very appealing.

Barry the Fish with FingersBarry, the Fish with Fingers by Sue Hendra.  Knopf, 2010
Long before chicken nuggets, there were fish fingers,  the frozen food of choice for kids' easy dinners on babysitter nights or evening PTA meetings. 

Most kids can spot them at 50 paces which is why the cover of this book will immediately resonate with ironic weirdness.  When a fish has fingers, there is nothing he cannot do. My favorite part, "Fingers mean FINGER PUPPETS!"  Life will never be boring again under the sea.  Fingers save lives too! 

I can't wait to use this as a read aloud. 

The Eensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out (Big Time)The Eensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out! (Big-Time!)  written and illustrated by Troy Cummings, Random House, 2010

Kids know the song, now they can learn "the rest of the story."   The eensy weensy spider is traumatized by her recent plunge "down the water spout" and vows to never climb again.  Lady Bug helps her rebuild her confidence one leg at at time until there are no heights she will not scale.  The story calls on the child's knowledge of the popular song and other spider/ladybug nursery rhymes.  

There are easy to read word balloons filled with funny dialog.  Spider's climbs are visualized with dotted and dashed lines so the reader can  follow the spider's progress.
Cummings' sketchy style  is a mix of retro cartoons overlaid with timeless Chuck Jones. Very fun.

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