by Katherine Habley on February 27th, 2015
I love hats! I started wearing hats in my 20′s when I was in college. I’m not talking about knitted wool hats, I’m talking fancy straw and felt hats that I would wear to complete my outfit. I still wear hats and am almost ashamed to admit that I have nearly 200 hats that are in boxes carefully organized and labeled so I can find just the one I want to wear to church on Sunday mornings. I love wearing hats to tea parties and I always take a couple of packable hats when I travel to give me flexibility to dress up an outfit.
As a children’s librarian, one of the best things about my job is doing storytimes for preschoolers, whether in the library or at one of our 40+ day cares and preschools we visit regularly. I always have a theme and hats has been a favorite storytime subject; kids love the hats I bring for show and tell.
A fairly new picture book that I was happy to discover is right up my alley. Happy Birthday Madam Chapeau by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts is one that I can’t wait to read aloud to 3-6 year-olds. The rhyming text tells of a milliner who makes all kinds of fabulous hats but is lonely. Once a year she dresses up and puts on a special hat and treats herself to dinner at the finest Parisian restaurant to celebrate her birthday. This year, as she’s walking to town to dine, a crow steals her birthday bonnet! Many onlookers offer her their hat to wear but she declines each one until a little girl offers Madame Chapeau a hat she has knitted. The illustrations are quite humorous and extend the text very nicely; David Roberts was a former milliner before illustrating children’s books and his knowledge of one-of-a-kind designer hats is evident. There is plenty for children to discover in the pictures that celebrate the joy of ribbons, baubles, bows, and veils. Have fun sharing this one!
by Katherine Habley on February 26th, 2015
A new picture book biography by Patricia MacLachlan is special in every way. The reviews have been great and it’s no wonder. The text is spare and suitable for K-3. I love how the author has made a book about a famous artist accessible for young children. The book begins, “If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray and the days were cold and you wanted color and light and sun….” We learn how he added vivid color to his surroundings and noticed with an artist’s eye the lovely things around him. Encouraged by his beloved mother, Henri learned to observe color, light, texture, and beauty. He loved the china plates his mother painted, the bright red rugs she hung on the walls, the fruit and flowers his mother brought home for him to arrange on the table, and the beautiful silk clothes the townspeople wore. Henri especially loved raising pigeons and observing how the sun made their feathers look iridescent in the light creating a shimmering effect. MacLachlan says it is no surprise that Matisse grew up to be a fine painter. The seed was planted in his youngest years when his mother gave him a set of paints to mix and notice the wonderful colors he could make on paper. The artwork in The Iridescence of Birds is by Hadley Hooper. After much research she decided to use relief printing. Hooper cut the characters and backgrounds out of stiff foam and cardboard, inked them up, made the prints, and then scanned them into Photoshop. The results are fabulous!
In his old age, Matisse turned to paper collage and cutting with scissors became his mode of expression. Another terrific picture book about his life is entitled, Henri’s Scissors, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter. She focuses on the artist’s later years when he was confined to a bed and a wheelchair. Here Matisse is depicted using colored paper and scissors and employing his vivid imagination to create artwork that his assistants put up on the walls of his seaside cottage. “A pair of scissors is a wonderful instrument,” says Matisse. He wonders why he never thought of using the technique of paper cutting for his designs earlier. In this book the pictures Winter creates are done in acrylics and cut paper.
Both books would pair nicely together and art teachers will find these titles useful in their classrooms. Parents will enjoy sharing them with their young children to foster their own creativity….and maybe give them a set of paints after reading the books together! Both books also include author’s notes with further information about Henri Matisse and suggestions for reading.
by Katherine Habley on September 2nd, 2014
Two-time Coretta Scott King Award winning author, Sharon M. Draper, has written a stunning novel for upper-elementary school children that opens like this: “Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes–each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands. Deep within me, words pile up in huge drifts. Mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas. Clever expressions. Jokes. Love songs …. But only in my head. I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old.” So begins the story of fifth grader Melody Brooks who has cerebral palsy but doesn’t want to be defined by it. Although she can’t walk, talk, feed herself, or go to the bathroom without help, she can read, think, remember, and feel. She is a brilliant girl trapped in her own weak body and confined to a wheelchair. Melody learns of a computer with technology that will allow her to communicate to others and her world changes big time! But there are still ignorant doctors, thoughtless teachers, and cruel classmates to deal with. Fortunately, Melody has a fierce advocate in her mother, not unlike the author whose own daughter has cerebral palsy, thus providing great authenticity and accuracy in the writing. This book is a compelling read that will hopefully make all readers more compassionate and understanding toward those with disabilities and the misconceptions that go with them. I especially loved Melody’s sense of humor and fortitude despite her many challenges. This is one book you won’t be able to put down until you come to the final page.
by Katherine Habley on August 25th, 2014
Twelve-year-old Willow Chase has had trouble fitting in her whole life because she is a genius, a person of color, unusual, and adopted. Her parents provide much love and support despite Willow’s idiosyncrasies and mild obsessive compulsive disorder (she counts by sevens to help calm herself down and has a fixation about medical issues). Finding a friend has never been easy, but meeting Mai Nguyen who accompanies her brother to his counseling sessions, prior to Willow’s own hour with the inept Dell Duke, changes things and the girls build a unique friendship together. When the unthinkable happens, the car crash that kills Willow’s adoptive parents, Willow goes to stay in the garage behind the nail salon that Mai’s mother owns. The social worker insists that this is just temporary until she can be moved to a facility that can deal with someone who has twice lost her parents and must fine another place to live. Finding a “new normal” amid a Vietnamese family living just barely above the poverty level creates an opportunity for Willow to change other people’s lives while finding stability and her own unique place in society. The strong characterizations, the different voices used in the storytelling, and the plot through which Willow finds meaning and acceptance again, create a special novel that will definitely hold the interest in 5th-8th grade readers.
by Katherine Habley on August 18th, 2014
Lois Ehlert has long been a favorite picture book author/illustrator of mine. Her books are perfect for storytimes with their large beautiful collage illustrations and short text. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting this Milwaukee children’s book author a couple of times and she is just as colorful in her dress and lively in her conversation as you would expect from her artwork. She collects folk art from her travels and many of those items like fabric and toys from other countries are found in her picture books. Her latest book, The Scraps Book; Notes from a Colorful Life, is a delightful insight into her creative process when making picture books for children. The reader learns a little about her life and sees photos of her parents, the house she grew up in, early sketches of some of her books, tools she uses to create her artwork, and some of her actual collections– fishing decoys, folk art dolls, items from the natural world. The collage of photos on the end papers are inspirational for young artists as is her simple text with notes throughout that makes reading this book pure joy. The Scraps Book is a unique autobiographical picture book that will be enjoyed by young artists and readers, not to mention art teachers and parents. Hurray for creativity and inspiration for children to make their own art and learn about bookmaking in the process by a very gifted artist.
by Katherine Habley on April 23rd, 2014
I wrote a Press Citizen article about new poetry books for children earlier this month in honor of National Poetry Month, but there is another title I want readers to know about on our New Book shelves in the Children’s Room. Little Poems for Tiny Ears is a collection of short poems for babies and toddlers written by Lin Oliver and illustrated by the one and only Tomi dePaola. This lovely book celebrates the everyday things that delight little ones and is the perfect introduction to the bouncy, playful sound of poetry. The beloved artwork of dePaola perfectly matches the short verses and depicts children of many races. Some of the topics covered in individual poems are toes, walking, in my stroller, my nose, dogs, my car seat, my high chair, peekaboo, diaper time, cats, bath, blankie, and my belly button. Of course, I also recommend any of the library’s books of Mother Goose rhymes for this age. Oliver’s book would make a great new baby gift, and in fact, I am going to buy a copy for my new grandson and take it with me when we visit him in Oregon next month! Enjoy the special bond of sharing this book snuggled up with your precious little one.
by Katherine Habley on April 3rd, 2013
Celebrate National Poetry Month by reading lots of verse for children. A new book of poems all by Kate Coombs entitled Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems will appeal to children who love the beach. The author grew up near the Pacific Ocean in California and she started collecting shells and writing poems as a child. This is her first book of poetry and she has included over twenty poems celebrating the ocean in all its mystery, power, depth and beauty. Jellyfish, coral, a sea turtle, a blue whale, old driftwood, seagulls and shells are all subjects of her verse. The illustrations are vivid and beautiful. Meilo So created the artwork for the text using pen and ink, brush drawing, gouache, and watercolors. Water Sings the Blues was an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book selection for 2013. Don’t wait to go to a sandy beach this summer–go to the shore now as you use your imagination sharing these rhyming poems with a young child.
by Katherine Habley on April 3rd, 2013
Nicola Davies is a zoologist and an award-winning author who’s written many books for children. Of writing Outside Your Window, she says, “I cast off my grown-up self and found the me I was at five or six. From inside that younger self I could see the world as I saw it first–not just the sights and sounds of nature but also the feelings and the thoughts about it that ran through me, strong as the tide. This book comes to you from that little girl, who sat in a barley field at dusk and felt the world turning.” From the buzz of bees in summertime to the tracks of a bird in the winter snow, this lovely book of original poems by Davies captures the sights and sounds of a child’s experiences with nature, including planting an acorn, biting into a crisp apple, watching the birds overhead and stargazing. The volume is beautifully illustrated by Mark Hearld who uses collage, printmaking and painting techniques to capture the outside world whether in the city or in the country. Check out this handsome book from the library and read some poems to your favorite child. Or, buy Outside Your Window as a gift to give someone special in April and encourage that child to discover the beauty in nature through poetry during National Poetry Month.
by Katherine Habley on March 29th, 2013
Julie Andrews’ Treasury For All Seasons; Poems and Songs to Celebrate the Year is a new compilation of children’s poems by many poets that have made a name for themselves. The poems are fairly short and would be good for elementary school children. It is a colorful book with watercolor illustrations by Marjorie Priceman, a two-time Caldecott Award Honoree. What I like about it is that teacher’s could use this volume easily because the poems are arranged by months of the year and include seasonal and holiday poems. This is also a perfect treasury for families to enjoy together. Featuring selections from poets and musicians including Myra Cohn Livingston, Bobbi Katz, Marchette Chute, Walt Whitman, Karla Kuskin, Langston Hughes, Walter de la Mare, Mary Ann Hoberman, e.e. cummings, Aileen Fisher, and Eleanor Farjeon, this collection offers a heartfelt glimpse into the moments Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, hold most dear. This keepsake book will encourage an early love of poetry and is bound to become a classic for families to revisit throughout the seasons. With the annual Children Poetry Workshop scheduled at the library for Saturday, April 6th, this is a book I will want to recommend. For more information about the program, please call the Iowa City Public Library and ask for the Children’s Room since registration is required for 3rd through 6th grade participants.
by Katherine Habley on March 29th, 2013
Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, this new volume of children’s poetry about the animal world is a stand-out. 200 poems with beautiful color photographs of each animal comprise this collection produced by the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. The compilation includes poems by such noteworthy poets as Robert Frost, Jack Prelutsky, Emily Dickinson, Ogden Nash, Jane Yolen, Lilian Moore, Valerie Worth, David McCord, and J. Patrick Lewis. As with most books of poetry, the reader does not have to read it straight through, but can open it anywhere and start reading. The poems are more than just a description of various animals; many are a revelation. The poems in these pages resonate with wonder at the variety, beauty, and strangeness of the animal world around us. They are arranged by chapters that are described as the big ones, the little ones, the winged ones, the water ones, the strange ones, the noisy ones, and the quiet ones. There is an index by title, poet, first line, and subject. The photos are first-rate as would be expected. Book of Animal Poetry; 200 Poems With Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! would make a wonderful birthday present for some lucky child who loves animals. Check it out and enjoy it during April which is National Poetry Month.