Sunday, January 22, 2012

An Island Grows by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Cathie Felstead

The overall look and feel of this book is one of simplicity--the illustrations are spare but lovely, the text is minimal, and the story takes the reader/listener from an underwater volcanic eruption to the gradual growth of a life-sustaining island. While the story itself does NOT give a real indication about the time involved in this whole process, the notes at the back do. The book makes for a great introduction to volcanoes and would be very nice paired with a non-fiction title showing actual photographs. Another plus? With my 1st and 2nd graders, I never fail to get a gasp when I turn the page and they see the picture of the underwater volcano. This book would also make a nice pairing for social studies lessons (trading, open air markets). Suggestions are provided for further reading. Note: This book was nominated for the 2008-09 Volunteer State Book Award.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Can Make That! Fantastic Crafts for Kids by Mary Wallace

I love crafts and craft books, so when my teachers assign their yearly how-to writing project, I am thrilled to have an extra chance to guide the kids to the "how to" section of the library (translation: science experiments, cooking, arts, crafts). Unfortunately, I have found that many so-called "children's" how-to books aren't very child friendly. Often these books are cluttered with non-helpful or poorly drawn illustrations, hard-to-follow instructions, and sometimes projects that just aren't that appealing or interesting. I am happy to say that I Can Make That! by Mary Wallace more than lives up to its title. This colorful book hits all the right notes, pairing clearly written, kid-friendly step-by-step instructions with well-staged, colorful photographs of each step.

Projects are divided into sections including costumes, puppets, nature crafts, toys, and games. Each section begins with a brief introduction and lists of items needed to create the various projects--many of which can be found around the house--often rescued from the trash, rag bag, or recycle bin. Wallace gently reminds her users to get permission to use things found around the home and to respect nature. Kids will find instructions for using cardboard and ribbon for making simple Roman sandals, using twist-ties and embroidery floss for making "Eensy Weensy People," using chairs to make a puppet stage or a rocket ship, and cardboard boxes to make everything from an animal-themed mini-golf course to a play castle.

I Can Make That! isn't just a how-to book for specific one-time-only craft projects. This book is not just a how-to book--it is creative inspiration, not just for our kids, but for the kid in all of us. I can not wait to try some of these projects myself, and see where they take me.