June 30, 2017

How a story idea begins

Any Questions?
by Marie-Louise Gay

Children are very curious about story-writing and where authors get their ideas. Their questions inspired picture book author and artist Marie-Louise Gay to create this book, in which she describes her writing process. Sometimes her ideas start with a colour, a word, a phrase, or a doodle. But sometimes she gets stuck. That's when the book becomes interactive, with help from the characters of her many previous books. With their assistance, a story-within-a-story about a shy young giant and a ferocious beast is created.

It's a fun way to introduce kids to the creative writing process. The combination of print and hand-written text is a nice touch too, although I hear that many kids can no longer read cursive. If so, the book makes for a good read-aloud. At the end of the book, Marie-Louise answers some of the questions that she has been asked, like how did you learn to draw, can your cat fly, and are you Stella?

N.B. After five years of posting, it's time to take an extended break, at least for the rest of 2017. I may still post occasionally if I read something good; in the meantime, to know what I've been reading, friend me on Facebook or follow me on GoodReads.

my read shelf:
Mary-Esther Lee's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

June 28, 2017

Roget's word lists

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet

Peter Mark Roget was always scribbling. He made lists of words: Latin words, the four elements, of the weather, in the garden. As he grew up and became a tutor, a doctor, a science lecturer, and inventor, his lists helped him organize his thoughts and speak concisely and clearly. He believed that everyone should be able to find the right word. With his thesaurus, first published in 1852, everyone was able to do just that.

Roget's original thesaurus - 1000 words organized by meaning - is reproduced on the back endpapers. Along with Bryant's pitch-perfect prose and Sweet's list-filled collages, The Right Word is the absolute right biography of a remarkable man.

June 26, 2017

How a book is written

What Do Authors Do?
by Eileen Christelow

With cartoon panels and cat and dog observers, Christelow takes children through the writing process from beginning ideas to a published book. It'll give them a good idea about all the writing and rewriting that goes into a story, what happens when writers get stuck, the wait for acceptance and rejection letters, the production of the finished book, and how to get readers to buy them. 

A fun look at what an author does and how long it takes to do it!

June 23, 2017

Love for a brown-sugar boy

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
pictures by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson

A joyous, loving ode to a writer who changed the world of children's literature. Keats's importance is eloquently expressed in Andrea Davis Pinkney's emotion-filled verse:

Ezra Jack Keats gave us eyes to see.
Let us celebrate the making 
of what it means to be.

He dared to open a door.
He awakened a wonderland.
He brought a world of white
suddenly alive with color.

To say more would be to spoil a truly wonderful book. 

Highly recommended.

June 21, 2017

How to find a dragon

John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien
by Caroline McAlister
illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Sometimes it takes years for an idea to grow into a story. Such was the case for John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, author of The Hobbit. He'd been searching for dragons ever since he was young, until he decided to create one for himself.

An imaginative biography of the great fantasy author, with pictures inspired by the stories he invented.

June 19, 2017

Life in the shtetl

Sholom's Treasure: How Sholom Aleichem Became a Writer
by Erica Silverman
pictures by Mordicai Gerstein

Sholom Aleichem was a monkey and a dreamer who wanted to make people happy. One of twelve children, his life was often hard - his father lost his business, his mother died of cholera, his sharp-tongued stepmother constantly scolded. Yet Sholom was fascinated by his stepmother's inventive insults, and started to write them down. Called "The Sharp Tongue of the Stepmother", it became his first book. It even made her laugh. It set Sholom on the path to becoming a writer.

Written like a folktale, with expressive paintings to match, this is a humourous and charming story.

When The Chickens Went On Strike
adapted by Erica Silverman
illustrations by Matthew Trueman

On Rosh Hashanah, it was the custom to swing a live chicken over one's head to cleanse away bad deeds. Understandably, the chickens are angry and demand an end to the custom. When negotiations fail, it's up to a young boy to find a solution.

Originally told by Sholom Aleichem, this is a funny story that will leave readers smiling.

June 16, 2017

World religions

The Kids Book of World Religions
by Jennifer Glossop
illustrated by John Mantha

A good primer on world religions, the book is comprised of four sections divided by region. So it decribes religions from India, the Middle East, East Asia, and other continents (Africa, North America, Australia). It covers many of the same religions as in the previous books with the exception of Confucianism and the very brief summaries of Afro-Caribbean, Native North American, and Aborigine traditions.

Fact boxes and simple language make the book an easy read.

June 14, 2017

Religion from a child's point-of-view

A Faith Like Mine
by Laura Buller

A wide-ranging look at world religions, this book features a cast of international children talking about their respective faith and what they've learned and like about it. Beginning with traditional beliefs, the book examines Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A closing chapter gives brief summaries of Zoroastrianism, Shinto, Taoism, Jainism, and Baha'i.

As with all of DK Publishing's books, the pages are packed with information that may be intimidating at first. But the format makes the book ideal for casual browsing, and the many pictures are a happy distraction.

Includes a glossary and index.

June 12, 2017

We are more alike than different

Faith: Five Religions and What They Share
by Dr. Richard Steckel and Michele Steckel

Religious misunderstandings tend to fuel conflicts. But different religions are often more alike than we think. This book takes a look at five major religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Each religion has different spiritual leaders, sacred texts, special clothing, sacred symbols, and places of worship. Yet they share many common elements in the use of incense, candles and water, and the practices of charity, prayer, and the golden rule.

The straightforward text and interesting photos make for a clear and accessible text.

Good for promoting tolerance and understanding.

June 9, 2017

Understanding Islam

Islam: Hambali's Story
by Holly Wallace

Twelve-year-old Hambali talks about his Muslim faith in this easy-to-read book. In his own words, he describes his everyday life, his beliefs, and the rituals and celebrations that he enjoys.

Hajj Stories
by Anita Ganeri

Two Hajj stories are retold in this book – the story of Hajar, who was left in the desert, and the story of Ibrahim and Isma’il (familiar to those who know them as Abraham and Isaac).

Brief descriptions of the Hajj pilgrimage and the Id-ul-Adha celebration is included, along with an Id prayer and instructions on how to make a candy box. 

June 7, 2017

Everyone prays

Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World
by Alexis York Lumbard
illustrated by Alireza Sadeghian

A simple, colourful picture book depicting people praying in different parts of the world. It clearly shows that while everyone may pray in his or her own way, the reasons why we pray are the same.

The text is geared to preschool-aged children, while the concluding summary of the world’s religions is more suitable for ages 7 and up (with help from parents).

A good book that celebrates diversity and tolerance.

June 5, 2017

Prayers for daily use

Hopefully, these two books will show that Muslim prayers are mainly reminders to be kind and generous to others.

What Should We Say?
compiled and explained by A.R. Kidwai & F.M. D’Oyen

This little book is intended as a guide for parents or teachers to help children learn some of the prayers from the Quran. Each prayer is given in Arabic and English, often with an explanation underneath. An Arabic pronunciation guide is included. There are prayers for waking and sleeping, for eating and after eating, for traveling and for returning home. There are many other prayers, all having to do with daily activities. 

Muslim Prayer & Worship

This book explains the Muslim faith to kids who are unfamiliar with it. They will learn why Muslims pray, when they pray, and how they pray.

A good introductory text for ages 8 and up.

June 2, 2017

A life of genius

Albert Einstein: A Life of Genius
by Elizabeth MacLeod

Filled with photographs and quotes, MacLeod's attractive book concisely sums up Einstein's achievements and his place in history. Quirky facts not mentioned in previous books shed light on Einstein's personality.

Very readable.