Monday, March 28, 2011

Thank You Bear

Both Emmy and I are excited to share the book, Thank You Bear, with you! It is written and illustrated by Greg Foley. We feel a kinship with Mr. Foley because he grew up in Austin, Texas.

Thank You Bear is the gentle story of a bear who finds a treasure that he thinks will be perfect for his friend Mouse. It goes along with the old saying "One man's trash is another man's treasure." as Bear finds great value in the object, but begins to feel differently as he shows it to some of his other animal friends.

"On his way to find Mouse,
he showed it to the monkey.
Monkey said, "That's not so great."
He showed it to the owl.
Owl said, "I've seen those before."

Foley's illustrations are so soft and serene. They are a pleasure to look at. Emmy noticed right away, through Bear's face and posture, that he was becoming discouraged by his friend's words. We think all children can relate to Bear as he sits wondering if his treasure is so great after all. Our lives can be full of discouraging words, but as often happens, someone comes along to give us the encouragement that we need as Mouse did for Bear.
"Then Mouse crawled inside the empty box and said,
"It's the greatest thing ever!"

Foley makes the reader wonder about the contents of the box, but it is on this page that it is discovered that the treasure is the box itself and is the perfect snugly place for Mouse.

After reading this book many times, Emmy found her little mouse, her special bear and a tissue box and started to act out the story. I made copies of the other animals in the story to add to her retelling. Here are the props:And here is Emmy acting out the story Thank You Bear:

Foley has written two more books about Bear that Emmy and I are excited to read. Both sound perfect for Springtime!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Odd Egg

Could it be that Spring is here? With the warmer weather over the weekend, it seems like it may really have arrived! Emmy enjoyed wearing a sweater rather than a bulky coat and getting her scooter out and riding around town. We've spotted some buds on a few trees and some sprouts from the bulbs we planted last Autumn!

With Spring, Emmy is most excited about seeing baby animals. She listens carefully for the chirp-chirp of birds and wonders if there is a nest with babies nearby.

On our last trip to the library, we looked for a book about baby birds and came across the book The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. Quite amusing! The story stars Duck - the only bird who hasn't laid an egg. Not uncommon considering he is a male duck! But Duck finds an egg with spots the same color as the feathers on his head. "He thought it was the most beautiful egg in the whole wide world" and decides to take care of it himself. The other birds were not impressed by Duck's egg. They thought it was quite odd. As the eggs begin to hatch, the birds cuddle their new babies while Duck passes the time waiting for his egg to hatch by knitting a scarf. Everyone is in for a BIG surprise when Duck's egg finally hatches.

Emily Gravett's simple text is paired with delightful pencil and watercolor drawings. With each "Creak Crack," the eggs hatch in ascending order on specially cut flaplike pages showing each baby greeting its mother. The suspense builds for Duck's egg to hatch until "SNAP!" Emmy's favorite page is on the inside of the back cover where the inhabitant of the egg marches off with it's "Mama" wearing the knitted scarf as well as booties that look like webbed feet!

Emmy and I are now fans of Emily Gravett!!!! She has written and illustrated some brilliant books. Here's a few of our favorites:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Polly's Pink Pajamas

Emmy became her own event planner for her fifth birthday. The one thing she was absolutely sure of was that she wanted a Pajama Party! We have always held a birthday party for her in our own home, so when I agreed that a pajama party would be a lot of fun and started telling her what we could do at home, Little Miss Party Planner informed me that the party would be held at Play Makers Family Enrichment Center (check it out here) where I have been working a few mornings a week. Emmy enjoys coming with me when I teach a play group at Play Makers. This really is the perfect place for a to play, cook and do art projects.

The first thing Emmy looks for when she gets to Play Makers is which swing is hanging in the Mobility Studio. Luckily on the day of her party the boat swing was hanging, which is her favorite swing. Here she is swinging with a few of her friends.

In addition to playing, Emmy and her friends did some cooking during her party. They made chocolate chip pancakes and banana milkshakes. Both were delicious. Seeing her number five candle sitting on top of a stack of pancakes was a great surprise. It was such fun to see Emmy surrounded by her friends and all of them really enjoying themselves.

After cooking, Emmy and I shared the book that inspired her pajama party - Polly's Pink Pajamas by Vivian French with illustrations by Sue Heap.

"Polly loved her pink pajamas.
What did she wear when she went to bed?

What did she wear when she got up?
What did she wear when she ate her breakfast?
What did Polly wear all day long?

Emmy LOVES wearing pajamas and would much prefer wearing
them everyday/everywhere than anything else in her closet. She also loves the color pink so this book was a great match for her. Emmy laughs as Polly enlists the help of her friends to find an outfit to wear to Fred's party. When Polly takes a look in the mirror and sees her mismatched outfit, she becomes sad, but not for long. Fred calls to find out why Polly is not at his party and quickly informs her that it is a PAJAMA PARTY!

"And what do you think Polly wore to Fred's party?

After the story, Emmy and her friends each decorated a pillowcase with fabric markers. Emmy thought this would be a great project because then she could share her sweet dreams with all of her friends. Here is Emmy's pillow front and center on her bed. She decorated it with shooting stars!

All in all having a party at a location other than home was wonderful. There was lots of room to move and play and absolutely no set up or clean up. I actually got to engage in the activities and feel a part of the party rather than worrying about each little detail.

Turning five certainly is extraordinary!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day in the Morning

Young children hear quite often that they are too small to do some things and this is the case for young Jamie in the book St. Patrick's Day in the Morning written by Eve Bunting with illustrations by Jan Brett.

Jamie is told by his family that he cannot participate in the St. Patrick's Day parade because he is too small to make it to the top of Acorn Hill. Jamie is determined to prove them wrong.

"It's not fair, Nell," Jamie Donovan said to his sheepdog.
"I want to walk in the parade, too. They say I am too small -
that I couldn't get to the top of Acorn Hill alone.
But what do they know?"

With his flute in hand, Jamie and his loyal dog Nell set off together to make their own parade while the village is still asleep. They excitedly greet the morning sun at the TOP of Acorn Hill.

The clever illustrations by Jan Brett are rich in detail but minimal in color highlighting the greens and golds of Ireland and the orange of the flag.

After reading this story in my best Irish accent with an Irish jig playing in the background, Emmy quickly got her flute and made her own parade around the house and up the stairs to the top landing announcing that she had made it to the top of Acorn Hill! Every time she did her parade, my camera was nowhere to be found. I guess a mental snapshot will have to do.

Another great book for St. Patrick's Day is Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato. Read all about it here.

Emmy has decided that leprechauns can be quite mischievous. See what they did to her milk!!!
May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.

Eve Bunting and Jan Brett make a fantastic team. Check out another book, The Valentine Bears, by this "dynamic duo" here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I recently heard a rumor that The Invention of Hugo Cabret, written and illustrated by Brian Selznik and winner of the 2008 Caldecott Medal, was going to be made into a movie! I rushed home to do some research and low and behold found out that it was true - this book really is going to be made into a movie. A movie directed by Martin Scorsese and in 3D - a first for this extraordinary director.

I know that this blog is all about the books that I share with Emmy, but I must "push her to the side" and tell you how much I - the Mommy - LOVE this book. I still remember picking this book up in the bookstore. It looked so intriguing. As I flipped through the pages, I literally fell in love. AMAZING!

Here's a snynopsis:

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, twelve-year-old Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric girl and the owner of a small toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message all come The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

The story is told in 526 pages with 300 of them in pictures! The Invention of Hugo Cabret is not exactly a novel, and it’s not quite a picture book, and it’s not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things. If you haven't experienced this book yet, you must get your hands on it and quick. It is a one-of-a-kind!!!!

Click here to watch the opening sequence of drawings in the book.

Another reason to be so excited for this upcoming movie...Ben Kingsley!!!! He plays Georges Melies (a famous filmmaker who worked from the 1890s through the 1920s. He made the world’s first science fiction movie called A Trip to the Moon).

I will end this post with a quote from Sir Kingsley:

"The movie Hugo Cabret examines the early days of cinema through the eyes of a child. You know how Martin Scorsese is devoted to cinema and its evolution. We go right back to those first flickering images, so it's about memory, it's about childhood, it's about invention. It's a very, very beautiful film."
Actor Ben Kingsley

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Birthday Traditions in the Classroom

My previous post was all about Emmy turning five and the traditions that we are building in our family to help celebrate her birthday. When I was teaching, I also worked hard on building traditions in the classroom in order to create a community of learners who truly cared for one another. A child's birthday is such a special day and as such should be recognized and honored.

At the beginning of each school year, the children and I would spend time working with two things that meant a lot to them...their names and their birth dates. We would write and build our names with different materials (pencil, marker, yarn, glitter, letter magnets, letter tiles, block letters, etc.) and compare our names to each other. For example, Who had the longest name? The shortest? Which names started the same? Did any of the names rhyme? We would also compare our birth dates by creating a Birthday Graph. Here are three examples:

Using cake die-cuts,
the children wrote
their name and birth
date and decorated
their cake.

Using colored chips,
the children placed

a chip next to their
birth month.

Using Unifix cubes, the children would count out
the number of their birth date by placing the cubes
in pairs to see if the number was odd or even. They
would then add their number in the correct
place on the graph.
The resulting graphs would be used to answer questions such as, Does anyone have the same birthday as someone else? How about the same number or the same month? How many birthdays are in January, February, etc.? Which month has the most birthdays? The least? Are there any months with the same number of birthdays? Do we have more odd numbered birthdays or even? How many more?

Once we established when our birthdays were, we moved on to setting up our birthday traditions. My birthday is at the beginning of the school year so I used my own birthday to show the children what our classroom birthday traditions would be like.

Here is a list of the birthday traditions used in my classroom:

*The birthday child's chair and table top would be decorated for the occasion. The back of the child's chair would be covered with felt. The child would be provided with felt cut out pieces (birthday cakes, candles, crowns, party hats, confetti, balloons) that he or she could use to decorate the chair. We kept our felt pieces in a wrapped birthday box. (Sadly, I couldn't find a photo of this!) The table top had a birthday "place mat" and a birthday sign as well as a cape and a fun hat or crown to wear for the day.

*A birthday gift bag would also be at the child's spot. Inside would be a Birthday Journal, a birthday bear, a fancy pen and a few fun surprises to keep (bottle of bubbles, stickers, colored pencils and pencil sharpener, etc.) This bag would go home with the child and be returned at his or her earliest convenience. The first page of the journal provided directions for the family. The idea was for the birthday child to add photos or drawings and write about his or her special celebration. The bag would be returned and the child would share her page in the journal.

*My classroom had baskets of books sorted by subject, character, or author. One of these baskets was filled with birthday books. The birthday child got to choose one book to borrow from this basket and placed it in the birthday gift bag. Some years I gave a book to the birthday child to keep and other years I asked for parents to donate a book to our library in honor of their child. I attached a book plate to the inside front cover with the child's name and birth date. When not in use, the Birthday Journal would be kept in this basket. It was always a favorite book to read. (See below for a few of our favorite birthday books).

*A large piece of paper would be placed in the Art Center where the children could go throughout the day to draw and write birthday messages to the child. This paper would be rolled up, tied with a bow and presented to the birthday child at the end of the day.

*Our Writing Center was always stocked with a variety of paper and card making was always a favorite activity. Another idea is to create a birthday book full of letters to the birthday child. We always began with a brainstorming session where we created a web of ideas about the birthday child. Each child would then write a letter filled with good wishes. The birthday child decorated the front cover and then the pages were stapled together and presented, along with the "web," at the end of the day.

*Our day always began with Morning Meeting. I had a collection of birthday songs that I slowly introduced to the children so that the birthday child could choose the song sung during the meeting.

*Our day always ended with a Closing Circle. This was the time to present the birthday child with the projects worked on during the day. We also had a variety of birthday poems and the birthday child chose one for us to recite to end the day.
by John Archambault

Glory may
I like today.
Today, today
I like today.
No other day's
quite like today,
Not tomorrow
or yesterday.
I like today
in every way.
Today, today,
My birthday!

All of these traditions were looked forward to by the children as well as by me. It may seem like a lot, but the materials were always prepared ahead of time and the children knew just what to do. I hope these ideas will inspire some fun birthday traditions in your classroom or in your home!

Go Tell it to the Toucan by Colin West (Emmy's favorite!!!)

Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein

Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch

The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli

Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss

And so many, many more!!!!

For previous posts about birthdays, click here and here and here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Happy Birthday Emmy!

Happy Fifth Birthday to the most amazing little girl - my sweet Emmy!
She is my love, my light, my inspiration, my passion, my devotion, my life.

Turning five is HUGE! My emotions are all over the place. She is my baby girl, yet she is growing into a little girl who wants to be BIG. Emmy likes to say that she is a 'whole hand old.' I just want to hold onto that sweet hand and never let it go. She also likes to tell me, "You know Mommy, I'm five now." then there is this pause as if she is trying to figure out exactly what that means. I hope she doesn't remember things I've said in the past to answer questions like "When can I watch Spider Man?" because they seemed to always be..."Well, maybe when you are five." Turning five comes with a lot of expectations especially with Kindergarten coming up. I say there is plenty of time for these expectations. Let's just slow it down and PLAY!

We are big fans of Tom Chapin in this household with our favorite song being This Pretty Planet featuring Joni Mitchell. It is from him, as well as from the Montessori school that Emmy attends, that we sing this beautiful birthday song:

Happy birthday.
Happy birthday.
We love you!
Happy birthday and may all your dreams come true.
When you blow out the candles
One light stays aglow
It's the love-light in your eyes
Where-ever you go.

This song makes me weep every time I hear it, let alone sing it. It is simply so very sweet!!!! I was visiting a Montessori classroom once and was blown away by the teacher who was demonstrating what our love-light was. She held up a piece of paper with a cut out shape of a person. The cut out was filled in with tissue paper and she was using a flashlight held behind the tissue paper to demonstrate the glow that comes from within our heart. She talked about how this light connected each of us to each other. The children were mesmerized and I realized that many of us walk around without the glow of this light. I've never forgotten this demonstration and wish everyday for Emmy's love-light to stay strong, to bring her warmth even in the harshest of conditions.

"From within or behind, a light shines through us upon things,
and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Building traditions is something that I feel very strongly about. When you consciously create an atmosphere with special meanings, it will stay with your child throughout his or her lifetime and is then often included in his or her family life. I would like to share some of the birthday traditions that Emmy enjoys and now looks forward to each year.

*New this year...a countdown chain begun when I was tired of answering "How many days until my birthday?"
*Waking up to balloons in her room. Five years old = five balloons.
*Streamers hanging in the bedroom doorway. Five years old = five streamers.
*The house decorated for the big day with streamers, balloons, and whatever special thing is delighting Emmy at that time - flowers or butterflies or fairies, etc.
*The dining room table decked out for the festivities - pretty tablecloth, napkins, birthday plate and bowl, fresh flowers, birthday cake (waiting for the cake doesn't happen with us), a special book (more information here and here), numbered birthday candle and birthday ring *details below.
*Decorating her birthday cake made by Daddy usually with chocolate chips.
*Wearing her special birthday dress that she chooses at the store.
*Sharing her birthday poster made by Mommy with her friends at school during her Birthday Circle.

*Birthday Ring
We celebrate each year of Emmy's life using a Birthday Ring, a tradition that begun in Germany and is popular with families following a Waldorf Education. This is such a beautiful tradition that reminds the child just how very special he or she is.
At every birthday celebration, we gather around and light Emmy's numbered candle in the center of the ring to symbolize Emmy's birth. We then tell the story of her birth beginning with, "On Tuesday, February 28, 2006, Emerson Elizabeth Clark was born to Chatrick and Amy Clark in Austin, Texas." As the story moves on, we go into a couple of details of her first year ending with, "And then Emmy was one." We light one candle on the ring. The story then goes on to tell things that happened after she was one ending with "And then Emmy was two." We then light the second candle. We continue the story lighting each additional candle, "And then Emmy was three (four, five)" After the last candle is lit, we ask Emmy what she is looking forward to doing/learning in the next year. Her answer this year was "I would like to learn how to snap my fingers and whistle." Seeing her life represented by such beautiful light brings my husband and me such joy and the look in Emmy's eyes shows us that she feels the same way.

In honor of Emmy's first birthday, we had a book made that tells the story of her first year. It's called The Rainbow Bridge Story of Emerson Elizabeth Clark.

Crossing the Bridge Books created this very special book with beautiful watercolor paintings, a personalized story and photographs. This site has changed 'webmasters' and now offers audio books to go along with the rainbow bridge stories as well as other personalized stories. What a wonderful keepsake! We read this book to Emmy right before bedtime on her birthday and hope she dreams of rainbows and angels!

These traditions will continue and more will come as Emmy, her Daddy and I continue to live our very best lives together.
Another Year
(Joanna Fuchs)

I'm wishing you another year
Of laughter, joy and fun,
Surprises, love and happiness,
And when your birthday's done,

I hope you feel deep in your heart,
As your birthdays come and go,
How very much you mean to me,
More than you can know.