Sunday, October 17, 2010

Not So Creepy Halloween Stories

"Mitzi liked creepy things.
Creepy bedroom slippers
Creepy breakfast cereal.
Creepy relatives.
So, naturally, when she
decided to get a pet,
she wanted the creepiest
pet possible."

Despite Mitzi being a witch and loving all things creepy, the book Hoodwinked, by Arthur Howard, is a wonderfully non-creepy book for those of us just getting into spooky things. After several attempts at finding the perfect creepy pet at the Cackle & Company pet shop, Mitzi discovers her perfect pet is an adorable orange cat she names Hoodwink.

"And strange as it seems, she didn't mind one bit
that he was adorable. After all, she said,
looks aren't everything."

I have read this book to Emmy every day for weeks, but the best reader of this creepy book is Emmy herself. So listen in as she reads aloud Hoodwinked.

(By the way, anytime Emmy starts to read a book to me, she will say..."I'm going to read it differently." I find this so cute. She usually has the character's names and the plot down pat, but will add her own lines and voices which makes listening to her read a complete joy.)

If you have a beginner reader at your house, you may be familiar with Arthur Howard's illustrations as he draws the pictures for the Mr. Putty and Tabby books written by Cynthia Rylant.

If you are looking for another Halloween book that is a bit scary, but not too much, try There Was An Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams. Emmy LOVES this one especially when the the pumpkin head says "BOO, BOO!" The assorted items of clothing found in the story have a calling to scare something, but when the old lady bravely says, "I'm not afraid of you." the unhappy look on the pumpkin head gives the the old lady an idea. I won't give away the ending, but here is a hint in the form of a song:

(tune: I'm a Little Teapot)

I'm a little scarecrow
Stuffed with hay,
Standing watch in my field all day.
When I see a crow
I like to shout:
"Hey, Mr. Crow, you'd better get out!"

Oh, and one more sweet book that is a bit of a creepy Halloween story and a
great book for bedtime - Who Wants a Dragon? by James Mayhew. An adorable pink dragon is lost in the night looking for his home and his adventures take him around the kingdom where he ends up frightening most everyone until his Mommy flies by... "She'll cuddle him, and kiss him, and help him sleep tight."

Emmy and I really enjoy books by James Mayhew. You may remember our post on Katie in London. Mr. Mayhew writes a wonderful blog where I just found out his struggle in creating another series of books based on his son during the boy's younger years. The first book is titled
Boy and is set to be republished next summer. It looks so
endearing! If you are interested in finding out about the struggle to get this series going and published check out this post on Mayhew's blog.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Happy Halloween!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Zoe Hall

As we approached the month of September here on the North Shore of Massachusetts, Emmy and I wondered if Autumn would ever arrive. The heat crept its way into the middle of September and then WHAM, Autumn was here. There really wasn't much of a transition...80 degree weather to 50 degree weather practically overnight! And the wind...BRRR (temperatures feel more like 40 degrees)! Now I know what New Englanders mean by a Nor'Easterner!

With Autumn upon us, it was time to bring out our collection of books on the subject. We've posted about our favorite Autumn
books from last year here, but we have plenty more to share! It seems like the books that Emmy is enjoying the most this time around are all written by Zoe Hall! First up is It's Pumpkin Time with illustrations by Shari Halpern. This book is a pleasant celebration of Halloween and an excellent lesson on the science of how pumpkins grow.

"All summer long, my brother and I get ready for our favorite holiday.
Can you guess what it is? Halloween! And can you guess what
we do to get ready? We plant a jack-o'-lantern patch?"

Ms. Hall's text is simple and informative and Ms. Halpern's illustrations are vibrant and engaging. They make a great team! A great bonus is the last page where you can find a diagram of how a pumpkin seed grows underground.

Emmy and I recently went to the pumpkin patch to pick out our pumpkin. We brought along the book It's Pumpkin Time and read it before we set off into the pumpkin patch. Emmy was delighted to discover the vines that once held the pumpkins. She even tried to figure out which pumpkin stem went with which vine!

To prepare for carving our pumpkin into a jack-o'-lantern, Emmy
is using a washable black marker to draw different faces on
the pumpkin. With a damp cloth (or sponge), the marker wipes clean and the pumpkin is ready for a new look! We also keep a dry cloth near by. Another great way to practice a variety of faces for a jack-o'-lantern is to cut a pumpkin shape out of orange felt and then cut different eyes, noses, and mouths out of black felt. Voila - a Mr. Pumpkin Head!

Emmy has suggested that I add her favorite pumpkin finger play to this post so here it goes:

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one says, "Oh my it's getting late!"
The second one says, "There are witches in the air."
(OR "There is something in the air.")
The third one says, "But we don't care."
The fourth one says, "Let's run and run and run."
The fifth one says, "I'm ready for some fun."
Then whoosh went the wind and out went the lights
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight!

Second up is The Apple Pie Tree. Hall and Halpern team up again to create a wonderful tale that follows two sisters and an apple tree through the seasons.

"My sister and I have a tree that grows the best part of apple pie.
Can you guess what that is? Apples!
And every year, we watch our apple tree grow."

Also hidden among the tree's branches is a family of robins which shows the importance of the tree providing shelter for the birds. Emmy and I enjoy the last page where you will find a
diagram showing how bees help apples to grow and Zoe Hall's own recipe for making apple pie!

Apple picking season was early this year so we missed our opportunity to pick our own apples. However, Emmy enjoys going to the Farmer's Market and choosing an apple for a treat. Here she is biting through the skin of the apple and eating it whole - FINALLY!

Next up is Fall Leaves Fall! Once again Hall and Halpern create an autumn tale where two brothers anticipate their favorite season.

"All year long, my brother and I wait for our favorite
season to come. Can you guess what it is? FALL!
How do we know when fall is coming?
We watch the leaves."

The children watch the leaves, catch them, stomp them, kick them, collect them, compare them, rake them and jump into them!!! These activities as well as labeling the leaves and creating leaf pictures are all introduced and invites readers to do the same things! And of course the last page includes a diagram describing how leaves grow throughout the year.

Emmy and I recently went on a leaf collecting walk and talked about the
different types of leaves we found - mostly maple and oak. Emmy really wanted to find a Ginkgo leaf like in the book, but there are no Ginkgo trees in our neighborhood!

And finally, Surprise Garden. This Hall and Halpern story follows three children as they plant a garden...loosening the soil, poking seeds in one by one, watering the garden, and watching the small green shoots grow. Surprise!

"We're planting the seeds for a surprise garden.
Can you guess what we will grow?"

When it's harvest time, the children have a garden party to eat all their delicious produce. Following the pattern in all of Hall's and Halpern's books, the last page includes a helpful guide linking seeds to plants.

Speaking of harvest time...check out another one of our favorite Autumn books here and laugh along with Emmy to Big Anthony's antics in the book Strega Nona's Harvest by Tomie dePaola. Also check out this post if you are interested in gardening with your child. Included is the delightful book How Groundhog's Garden Grew which is a wonderful book for Thanksgiving.

Emmy and her classmates planted bulbs outside of their school last week.
We are looking forward to a spring surprise of daffodils and tulips!

Lastly, here is one of Emmy's beautiful pieces of Autumn art. So easy to make!!!! Emmy's favorite part...tearing the paper into small pieces.

Happy Autumn everyone!