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Archive for August, 2012

August 30, 2012

September — Time and Place

 September: Time and Place

Readers are often asked to focus on the plot, character development and themes of a novel, but the setting of a story may be a significant element to discuss as well.  For the youngest readers, (ages 8-12) by Caroline Rosesetting may be simply a room in the house, the backyard or a classroom.  As they grow older, their world broadens and they are ready to tackle books that take them all over the country and world.  They may wish to travel back in time by reading an historical novel or fast-forward to the future by reading a work of science fiction.

The setting of a story must be accurate so that readers come away from the reading experience with a strong sense of place.  A novel like The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (ages 10-up) is perfect for helping readers understand the relationship between time and place.  Ask readers to discuss how the novel would have been a different story had it been set in Birmingham, AL in the 1990s.  How do time and place define The Book Thief (ages 12-up) by Markus Zusak?  What about The Loud Silence of Francine Green (ages 12-up) by Karen Cushman and The Witch of Blackbird Pond(ages 10-up) by Elizabeth George Speare?

Here are a few suggestions for helping readers grasp the important element of setting:

Ask students to read a book set in an area of the country they have never visited. Have them jot down what they learned about the setting.  Suggest that they find nonfiction works about the state in which the book is set. How accurate is the setting?   Such books may include:

  •             Faith, Hope and Ivy June (ages 9-12) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – Kentucky
  •             Child of the Mountains (ages 9-12) by Marilyn Sue Shank
  •             Wild River (ages 9-12) by P.J. Petersen – California
  •             Chomp (ages 9-12) by Carl Hiaasen – Florida
  •             Holes (ages 9-12) by Louis Sachar
  •             Child of the Wolves (ages 10-up) by Elizabeth Hall – Alaska
  •             The Middle of Somewhere (ages 10-up) by J.B. Cheaney – Kansas
  •             Lord of the Deep (ages 12-up) by Graham Salisbury – Hawaii
  •             The Lost Songs (ages 12-up) by Caroline B. Cooney – South Carolina
  •             The Beet Fields (ages 14-up) by Gary Paulsen

Display a map of the United States.  Divide readers into small groups and ask them to identify the states in the following regions:  Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West.  Then assign each group a specific region.  Ask them to find out about the geography of the states in the region.  Have them locate books in the library that are set in their assigned region of the country.  Make the book lists available on the school or library’s website.

Have readers explore novels set during various time periods.  How do they gain insight into the specific time period by reading fiction? Selections may include the following from Random House:

Introduces books that are set in other parts of the world.  What is unique about the setting?  How is the land and the culture of the people tied to the plot? Suggestions from Random House include:

  •             One Year in Coal Harbor (ages 9-12) by Polly Horvath – Canada
  •             Milkweed  (ages 12-up) by Jerry Spinelli – Poland
  •             Shabanu (ages 12-up) by Suzanne Fisher Staples – Pakistan
  •             I Am the Messenger (ages 14-up) by Markus Zusak – Australia

Divide readers into 7 groups.  Assign each group a continent to research.  Ask them to identify books that are set on the assigned continent.  Make the book list available on the school or library’s website.


August 29, 2012

Three Cheers for OH, NO!

★ With text that begs to be read aloud and sumptuous illustrations made by a master printmaker, this picture book reads like an instant classic.

Jacket art populated by several animals that appear in the story establishes the Asian jungle setting: A toothsome tiger lurks, while a loris, mouse and frog cower on front and back boards. The palette is rich with shades of brown, green, orange and bluish-gray, and the cover’s scene carries over on to endpapers that show Tiger stalking Frog. The chase continues across frontmatter pages until the first spread reads: “Frog fell into a deep, deep hole. Ribbit-oops! Ribbit-oops!” Dramatic visual perspective captures Frog’s fall, and the following spread shows Tiger settling in for his next move on his prey. As Tiger waits, a speech balloon heralds the titular cry, “Oh, no!” Clearly, Frog is in trouble, and on ensuing pages, several animals make rescue attempts, only to fall into the hole as well. Finally, a trumpeting, stomping elephant arrives and uses its trunk to save almost all of the trapped animals: Tiger (who had tried to get to the animals with dinner rather than rescue on his mind), falls into the hole on a prior spread, and after the elephant’s valiant rescue, they all cry “Oh, no!” when he cries for help.

Oh, yes! This is a terrific new picture book. (Picture book. 2-6) – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW


★ In this first collaboration from Fleming (Clever Jack Takes the Cake) and Rohmann (Bone Dog), jungle animals tumble one by one into a deep pit: “Frog fell into a deep, deep hole. Ribbit-oops! Ribbit-oops!” The rhythm of the lines recalls the old favorite “Frog Went A-Courtin’,” and the story’s chain of accidents and bumbling characters are friendly, familiar devices, too. Mouse falls in trying to rescue Frog, Loris tumbles down from a tree, Sun Bear’s rescue attempt fails, Monkey’s swing from a vine goes wrong, but—just as Tiger looms above—they’re all rescued by a kindly elephant. It sounds like light fare, but Rohmann’s magnificent woodblock-style prints give it unexpected dignity. The jungle pit is as spacious as a cathedral, and the animals somersault into it like Olympic divers in slow motion. Humor prevails, though, with piquant sound words (“The ground bumble-rumbled and quake-shake-quaked”), speech balloons floating up out of the pit, and glimpses of the tiger’s tail and paws. It’s a book with the feel of an older classic—and it may well become one. Ages 3–7. Agent: Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency. (Sept.)  -- Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW


★ Rohmann’s relief prints bring an exuberant humor to Fleming’s rhythmic read-aloud. When an elastic-looking frog falls into a deep hole (“Ribbit-oops!”), a timid mouse, lugubrious loris, resourceful sun bear, and jaunty monkey all tumble down after him during unsuccessful rescue attempts. Fleming’s bouncing rhymes and repeated lines–set in comfortably large, rounded text–entice readers into an enjoyable delivery complete with snarled sound effects and onomatopoeic exclamations. The repetitive “Oh, no!” allows listeners to join in with the engaging text as the animals face a lurking tiger eager to snack on the helpless group. Rohmann knows to leave swathes of open space in his full-spread illustrations, focusing attention on his expressive, energetic animals in their vibrant safari palette of bright browns, tans, and greens. In a satisfying conclusion, the refrain returns as the tiger, now stuck in the hole, asks the released animals if they will help him clamber out. Oh, no!  — School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW