Books, Holidays

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Uncles and Antlers

TITLE: Uncles and Antlers

AUTHOR: Lisa Wheeler

ILLUSTRATOR: Brian Floca

PUBLICATION INFO: Simon and Schuster’s Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004

ISBN: 978-0689864698

SOURCE: Library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 3-6

GENRE: picture book (fiction)

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Seven uncles, every year,

seven uncles travel here —

shaggy coats , scarves of red,

two tall antlers on each head.”

Join seven wacky reindeer uncles and their favorite niece in this adorable Christmas counting book. Whatever could those reindeer be up to?

THEMES/TOPICS: counting, Christmas, holidays

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I happened upon this book at our local library while stocking up for our advent book basket. Brian Floca is one of my favorite nonfiction author/illustrators, and Lisa Wheeler is a perennial favorite (DINO HOCKEY, anyone?). This book is a fun way to work a little counting practice into the Christmas season.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • Lisa Wheeler offers a link to reindeer crafts on her site.
  • Older children might enjoy learning more about reindeer in this reindeer investigation.
  • Have you tried making some reindeer food for Christmas Eve?
  • How about singing “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer?”

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Books, History

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Lightship

Title: Lightship
Author/Illustrator: Brian Floca
Publication Info: A Richard Jackson Book | Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, 2007
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: Ages 3-7 ( I think it’s more of interest to ages 4 and up)
Themes/topics: History, vehicles, helping others, perseverance
Synopsis and opening line: Floca’s Lightship is a lyrical history of lightships, lighthouses on the sea. These ships first served in America in the 1820s and marked the way in areas where lighthouses could not be built. Working aboard a lightship was a dangerous job requiring dedication and teamwork in close quarters. Floca chronicles the crew, routines and challenges of a lightship called The Ambrose, relying on extensive historical research.
Here is Floca’s first line: “Here is a ship that holds her place. She has a captain and a crew: helmsman, oiler, engineer, deckhand, fireman, radioman, messman, cook, and cat.”
The book received starred reviews and numerous awards:
• A Robert F. Sibert Honor Book
• Booklist’s “Top of the List” Youth Picture Book for 2007
• Winner of the 2007 Cybil Award for Best Nonfiction Picture Book
• An American Library Association Notable Children’s Book
• A New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing Selection
• A Banks Street Best Books of the Year selection
• A Junior Library Guild Premier Selection
• A 2009-2010 Buckaroo Award Nominee (WY)
Resources: Lightship contains a labeled schematic of the lightship, as well as an author’s note briefly explaining the boats’ history. Floca’s Web site includes a coloring page, additional reading resources, notes on where you can visit retired lightships, as well as plans for building your own lightship.
Why I like this book: How do I love Brian Floca? Let me count the ways. As in his Apollo 11 book, Moonshot, Floca marries science-based history with simple poetry. His books constantly remind me that writing nonfiction for elementary schoolers does not mean throwing a constant stream of facts at them. Simple, well-written phrases convey the mood and just the right amount of information.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.
Books, Reading, Science/Math

Nonfiction Friday: Moonshot by Brian Floca

Brian Floca’s “Moonshot” (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books 2009) is hands-down the best recounting of the historic Apollo 11 mission that landed the first men on the moon. Floca’s poetry, coupled with his stunning images, truly captures the majesty of the historic feat. Here is one of my favorite stanzas:

“They go rushing into darkness,/flying toward the Moon,/far away,/cold and quiet,/no air, no life,/but glowing in the sky.”

Floca periodically repeats his description of the Moon, giving children a touchpoint as the Moon goes from lifeless to full of life as Armstrong and Aldrin land. Once the men are on the Moon, Floca contrast’s the Moon’s cold lifelessness with the Earth, which is covered with air, water….and life.

My husband picked up this book at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum several years ago, and we’ve been reading it to our older son since he was four. It’s a little bit long for a bedtime story at this age (48 pages), however, we’ve read this book countless times, poring over the oversized pages (they measure almost 12 x 11 inches). For parents and older children, there is detailed front and back matter showing the various stages of the Apollo spacecraft, how the stages separated after launch, as well as providing a brief overview of the Apollo program and its historical origins.

“Moonshot” is truly a masterpiece for any child interested in space, the planets or explanation.