Waking Brain Cells
A study in Frontiers in Psychology, an open access journal, shows that mothers reading picture books to their children share just as much information about the content in narrative and non-narrative picture books.
The study from the University of Waterloo observed 25 mothers as they read books to their toddlers. One book about animals was narrative while the other book about animals was not. The study showed that the amount of statements by the mothers about the animals did not vary according to the formats. The conclusion of the study is:
Although non-fiction books and documentary films may first come to mind when one thinks about the genres of media that are likely to provide natural facts about the world, the present findings suggest that both narrative and non-narrative children’s picture books stimulate such pedagogical talk from mothers. While the narrative books promoted more references to individual characters, the non-narrative books elicited more instances of labels. Surprisingly, the two types of books encouraged similar amounts of generic talk about kinds of animals and talk about natural facts. Based on these findings, we leave the reader with one final piece of generic information: picture book stories aren’t just for fun; they’re for learning, too.
I love a study that proves the power of reading any sort of book to children. Beautiful!
Filed under: Reading
The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie
Girl power is celebrated in this picture book that turns the princess role firmly on its head. Princess Sue has been lingering in her castle for over 100 years, waiting for her prince to come and rescue her. Just as she is about to lose it, her prince appears on horseback and whisks her off. But just as Sue thinks that she is heading to freedom, the prince arrives at his castle where Sue is given her own tower filled with dresses and shoes and informed that she shouldn’t even be thinking of adventures. But Sue refuses to give up on her dreams and when she sees a fearsome dragon flying nearby, she gets a clever idea.
I must admit to a certain adoration for books that take girls away from the stereotypical princess role and make them active participants in their own destinies. So this book is right up my alley. Told in rhyme, the effect is dashing and active rather than sweet and stately. It also has the feel of a bard’s story about Princess Sue. The writing is also humorous and fun-filled.
The illustrations of the book are bright-colored and also filled with humor. Sue’s long braids dangle down, her dress changes as the story progresses, and the sharing of tea with a dragon is definitely something to see.
Get this in the hands of modern children who want to be more than princesses (and princes) as well as dragon-lovers. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: dragons, gender roles, princesses
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
Join Beekle, an imaginary friend, who is so special that no child seems to be able to even imagine him. He waits and waits along with the other imaginary creatures, but he is never dreamed of by a child. So Beekle does what no other imaginary friend has ever done, he heads out to find his child in the real world. He finds himself in a big city, filled with grey people and lots of adults. Luckily, he spots a bright familiar color and shape and follows it to a playground where he thinks he can find his special friend. But they don’t come. Beekle climbs a tree to see if he can spot his friend, but still no one comes. Beekle climbs down, then a small girls gestures for him to get her paper out of the tree. And on that page… Well, you will just have to imagine it for yourself or get this charmer of a book to read and find out what happens next.
Santat has created a book that reads like a modern classic. He has combined so many wonderful moments and positive feelings here that it’s like drinking a cup of cocoa for the spirit. Beekle himself is perfection, a round and friendly little soul whose crown is made of construction paper and tape and who is unwilling to sit lonely when he could do something about his situation. His positive reaction to a dismal situation is a great model for children.
At the same time, this is a testament to imagination. Both a warm embrace of imaginary friends and their positive role in children’s lives. But also a celebration of Santat’s own imagination. The world he creates is filled with the grey of adulthood, but childhood and imagination make that world shine in new colors.
A delight of a picture book, this is one to share cuddled up in bed and to cheer aloud with the story. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: adventures, childhood, friendship, imaginary friends, imagination
Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Told in rhyme, this book explores the many different ways that birds create nests for their eggs and babies. The jaunty rhyme is accompanied by informational text on each species and their habitats and nest building style. Bird species range from penguins to falcons to flamingos. There are also more unusual birds like weaverbirds as shown on the cover of the book.
Ward’s rhyme works well here, offering a playful feel to a book filled with scientific information. She has also selected a great mix of species with familiar birds mixed in with more exotic ones. Each has its own unusual way of creating a nest, making this a book where turning the page is part of the adventure.
As always, Jenkins’ cut paper art is spectacular. He manages to create so much life with textured paper and different colors. From the subtle colors of a cactus plant to the feathers on an owl’s wing, this art is lovely and makes this book very special.
Intelligently and beautifully presented, this nonfiction picture book will entice young readers to learn even more about birds. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Nonfiction, Picture Books Tagged: birds, eggs, nature, nests
The 100 top entries in each of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award categories have been announced. On June 13th, Amazon Publishing will announce the top five that advance to the semi-final. The semifinalists for the Young Adult Fiction category are here. The award goes to an unpublished or self-published novel that will then be published by Amazon Publishing.
Filed under: Awards
Children’s book author Jonathan Emmett says that “boys are being deterred from reading because the ‘gatekeepers’ to children’s literature are mostly women.” The gatekeepers are editors, publishers, librarians, judges and reviewers of children’s books.
According to an article in The Times of London that is summarized on a more accessible page at Publishing Perspectives, he believes that there isn’t enough boy-friendly elements in children’s books. I’m honestly not sure what books he’s been looking at because he then goes on to name some pretty big themes in children’s titles: “battling pirate ships” and “technical details about spaceships.”
He does have some support from a couple of female authors who incongruously to the very claim of the author write very boy-friendly titles. And he has done his research. Out of 400 reviews in five British newspapers, less than 20% of the picture book reviews were written by men and less than a third of the fiction reviews. That compares to 47% of the picture books being written by men and 41% of the children’s books.
Now wait. So the claim is that the powerful cadre of women who control publishing, like LIBRARIANS as an example, are using the reviews that they write to weed out the boy friendly titles? Or is the claim that the female publishers are controlling the writing of the male authors and making sure that they are not filled with swords, battles, dragons, pirates, etc.
As a children’s librarian, I worked hard to get titles children love into the right hands. If a boy or girl, because this is even more of that gender-focus that doesn’t help anything in our culture, comes in and asks for pirate books, I merrily get them those books. Books into hands. That’s all I want to manage.
But perhaps the most disgusting part of logical extension of the author’s claim is that we as women are out to emasculate male children by withholding books they would prefer to read. Producing books that reflect a softened, feminized version of our world, no battling pirates, no technical information, no baddies smoking, few if any baddies at all. What misogynistic crap!
Women are writing some of the most captivating and violent books for children and teens.
Women are the ones in the low-paying jobs of teacher and librarian who get books into the hands of children.
Women are the ones who take the time to listen to the small voices of children and pick those marvelous Captain Underpants books off the shelves for them among many others.
Women are worried about the gender gap in reading and are having conversations about how best to collect books in our libraries that boys (and non-reading girls) will enjoy.
Women, professionally and as moms and grandmothers, are powerful, I agree with Mr. Emmett about that. It is our power that will help solve this issue, not perpetuate it.
Filed under: Reading, Recommended Links
Enjoy the “Metaphor” clip from the upcoming Fault in Our Stars movie:
Filed under: Movies
The movie trailer for If I Stay has been released:
Filed under: Movies
Katherine Rundell: ‘wouldn’t it be fantastic if people actually did live up here on rooftops and nobody knows?’s http://buff.ly/1p6LmG7
Filed under: Recommended Links
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