Tag Archives: books

Chanticleer and the Fox – 1959 Caldecott Medal Book

Chanticleer-and-the-fox“Chanticleer and the Fox”, an adaptation from The Canterbury Tales, and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, received the 1959 Caldecott Medal.  This charming book reminded my children of some of the many Aesop’s Fables that they have heard.  I particularly enjoyed that the wit and wisdom of the story’s rooster triumphed over the sly fox.

Caldecott Criteria:

  1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Pictures in primarily black and white with occasional accents in red, green, blue, yellow, and brown allow for eye-catching illustrations.  Extensive details are evident, my favorite of which are the thatching on the roof and the bee hives in one scene.
  1. Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The story can be followed easily through the pictures.
  1. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”– The illustrative style used in this book elicits the “Old World” setting of  Chaucer and the prototypical Aesop-like fable.
  1. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The plot, characters, setting, and information are very clear throughout the book.
  1. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.”– My children enjoyed this book, but I believe it was more for the charm of the story than for the pictures.  Details in the illustrations, however, could be used to discuss many aspects of farm life.
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The Bedtime Story-Books by Thornton W. Burgess

I have had several people ask me for suggestions of chapter books for early- to mid-elementary children, and I now have a new suggestion that I am excited to share!  The Bedtime Story-Books written by Thornton W. Burgess and illustrated by Harrison Cady are old-fashioned tales with titles such as The Adventures of Reddy Fox, The Adventures of Grandfather FrogThe Adventures of Bob White, and The Adventures of Bob White. Because we are studying birds we started with the story about Bob White and his family.  I love that these books are not only fun, adventuresome stories, free from any off-color language or crude themes, but they also teach simple concepts about the animals, as well as good life lessons in a format reminiscent of Aesop’s fables.

Pros:  These are pure and exciting readers that teach valuable lessons.

Cons: While the language is very understandable, some words are not commonly used today and may be unfamiliar to young readers.  In The Adventures of Bob White one of the young birds is shot.  A brief discussion follows about the “dangers of guns.”  While I did not see any problems with the way this was presented, considering that the book is from the perspective of a bird.  Parents might take this opportunity to discuss the appropriate use of guns. 

Age Range: 4-10

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A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman

A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman opened up a new way of thinking for my children.  The premise of this book is that everything is a house for something else, everyone has a house of their own, and that the world is where we all belong.  Thinking of earmuffs, books, and castles all as houses was intriguing and fun.  We had a great time continuing to think of other houses and their occupants after we finished this book and during the entire family meal which followed!A House is a House for Me

Pros: A fun way to teach children to look at the same item from various perspectives.

Cons: One page discussed four types of homes used by Native Americans.  While this was interesting and something I wanted my girls to learn, I did not like how it was presented.  On the preceding page all of the home inhabitants mentioned are animals, while on the following page they are modes of transportation, and no other homes for humans are discussed other than on this page.  To me this seemed to dehumanize Native Americans.  Usually I can easily overlook this type of issue or see it as a view common in the era of the book, but not so in this case.  Still, overall, this book is worth reading and this one page could easily be skipped.

Age Range: 3-8

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Your Trip to the Library #4

In searching for library books, especially for children, it is essential to understand how books are categorized and organized in a library. There are several different types of systems used to organize books, so you may find that your library is slightly different that what I am explaining, but the overall principles are the same.

Libraries separate and organize books into distinct areas based upon age or difficulty range and fiction versus non-fiction.  Understanding the various groupings within each of these broader categories is essential to choosing books that are suitable for your family, as well as locating the books for which you are searching.

Age/Difficulty Range:
Public libraries typically keep separate areas for board books (BB), easy books (E), juvenile books (J), youth books (Y), and adult books (A.) This may seem obvious, but it can be difficult to find something you would think of as a “picture book” as they may be included within several different areas. Board books are intended primarily for infants through early toddlers. Easy books are appropriate for older toddlers through kindergarten. Juvenile books can be comfortably read to older toddlers through middle grade schoolers. Since there is a lot of overlap and because each child’s attention span and interests vary, you may find it helpful to utilize more than one area for your reading.

To confuse the visitor even more (it would seem!) some libraries still use a “dot” system to denote books for earlyreaders by grade level (i.e. red dots for 1st graders, blue dots for 2nd graders, green dots for 3rd graders, and black dots for 4th graders.) Again, this creates a certain amount of overlap for those who are browsing, as many of these books are also suitable as early read-aloud chapter books.  Nevertheless, the dot system can be helpful to those trying to locate grade-appropriate books assigned specifically for accelerated reading programs.


Fiction/Non-fiction:
Board books are not separated by this distinction, but are all just classified as “BB.” Beyond that level, fiction books are cataloged and labeled using their age range category (E or J) followed by the author’s name. So, a book by Laura Ingalls Wilder would be found under “JWilder” and a book by Eloise Wilkin would be found at “EWilkin.” Non-fiction books are catalogued using their age range category followed by the Dewey Decimel number and then the first letters of the author’s name. Thus, a book about bats by Sylvia Johnson may be found a J599.4 JOH.


Now, to put this knowledge into practice!  First, as always, know or find out the call numbers of any specific books you are looking for by using your library’s catalog system. Next, if you are not very sure of where each category of books is located in your library, ask a staff member for a tour of the children’s section or walk around paying close attention to labels to familiarize yourself with the exact location of these general groupings.  Finally, have fun confidently finding the books you are looking for and perusing the shelves of books appropriate for your family’s reading goals.


In the next segment of “Your Trip to the Library” I will attempt to help readers make sense of the Dewey Decimel system to demystify the process of finding non-fiction books.

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That Book Woman by Heather Henson

Summary: That Book Woman by Heather Henson brings me back to trips to the Appalachian Mountains and hours of watching the Waltons. In this book a Pack Horse Librarian brings books to a family through all seasons and against all odds.  The little boy is skeptical until the very end when he realizes that, if the librarian pushes through the fiercest conditions to bring them books, then he must find out why they are so important by reading them.  The librarian is rewarded in the end with the best gift – knowing that she has changed a little boy’s life by helping him learn to read.

Pros:  A story that is accessible to all ages about a not-so-often mentioned time and place in history.  I loved watching the boy’s attitude change towards reading.

Cons:  The book is written as someone from that culture would have spoken, so is a bit difficult for younger children to understand. Age Range: 3-9

☆☆☆☆1/2 of 5

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Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery – Margret & H.A. Rey’s

Summary: Our family LOVES all things Curious George!  We enjoyed the movies, really liked the PBS series, and absolutely love the books.  Today was “Dinosaur Day” at our Vacation Bible School, so I checked out this book to read to the toddler/preschool class that I was teaching.  Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery is short and entertaining with simple, colorful illustrations.  The kids enjoyed anticipating George’s next trouble in his adventure and I appreciated that I did not feel the need to skip over parts of the book or change wording to make it fit the true story of dinosaurs.

Pros: A book about dinosaurs that leaves out the controversial “science.”  Simple, entertaining, colorful. 

Cons: None

Age Range: 2-7 years

☆☆☆☆1/2 of 5

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