Category Archives: Picture books

Readilearn: Introducing Kim Michelle Toft, author and illustrator

Kim Michelle Toft

This month it is my great pleasure to invite Kim Michelle Toft to the blog. I have been an admirer of Kim’s work for many years. Not only does she do the most marvellous and unique silk paintings to illustrate her work, her books inspire children, and adults, to share her passion for protecting the ocean and its inhabitants.

I have previously written about Kim’s work here, here and here. In this post I am talking with her about her innovation of the familiar Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Kim’s book The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas is a celebration, not only of the season, but of the beauty of our world and its gift to us. Our gift in response is to care for and preserve it. As well as information about all the animals featured, it includes a stunning six-page foldout poster as well as information about the original carol.

Welcome to readilearn, Kim. We are looking forward to getting to know you better.

Thank you for having me.

Kim, you tell your stories with words and pictures? When did you know you wanted to be a storyteller and share your stories with others?

I started drawing when I was 4 years old. I would spend hours on my own, drawing. My mother would buy me small Golden Books and take me to see all the Walt Disney movies. I knew then that I wanted to have a career in art. I started writing and illustrating my picture books when my daughter Casey arrived, 26 years ago.

Continue reading: Readilearn: Introducing Kim Michelle Toft, author and illustrator

Teaching critical thinking in early childhood classrooms with The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Readilearn

teaching critical thinking

Teaching critical thinking in early childhood classrooms is important. Discussions about The Very Hungry Caterpillar can help develop critical thinking

Continue reading: Teaching critical thinking in early childhood classrooms with The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Readilearn

#WATWB The Teacher Helping Hurricane Harvey’s Youngest Victims – And How You Can Help / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl

On the last Friday of each month in the We Are The World Blogfest, bloggers post positive news items that demonstrate that “love, humanity, and brotherhood” still exist in a world where negative news items seem to proliferate. They encourage as many bloggers as possible to join in and share good news stories.

I’m a bit late joining in this week, but I wanted to ensure you heard this wonderful news about teachers and children helping out those affected by the recent devastating hurricanes  – education of the heart.

Books, children, reading, children helping children, teachers, compassion, empathy. Great ingredients for a better world.

If you would like to join in, click Here to enter their link . As they say, “Bigger the #WATWB group each month, more the joy!”

The cohosts for this month are: Michelle Wallace , Shilpa GargAndrea MichaelsPeter NenaEmerald Barnes. Check out their posts, and others, for stories to warm your heart.

This is the story I share with you as part of the Blogfest this month:

When Hurricane Harvey struck this week, second grade teacher Kathryn Butler Mills of Katy, Texas quickly learned how many of her students were affected. In photos on social media, she saw “several of my students, past and present, sitting under staircases, in bathrooms, and in pantries, waiting out tornado watches and warnings.” She wanted to find a way to “bring a little normal to them in very not normal circumstances.” After seeing a number of kids pictured with books in hand, she hit on the idea of creating an online boo

Source: The Teacher Helping Hurricane Harvey’s Youngest Victims – And How You Can Help / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl

Inspiring creativity – celebrating Dot Day – Readilearn

inspiring creativity - dot day

Next Friday 15 September is International Dot Day, a day for celebrating and promoting creativity, courage and collaboration.

Celebration of the day was initiated in 2009 with teacher Terry Shay introducing his class to the picture book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

The story is of Vashti and a teacher who encouraged her to make a mark and have a go. Lacking self-belief and courage, Vashti was reluctant to participate in art class. When the teacher framed and hung her signed painting of a tiny dot, Vashti was determined to do better. She painted all kinds of dots that wowed the people at the school art fair. What happened when one little boy admitted to Vashti that he wished he could draw will inspire children everywhere to be brave, have a go, and be creative.

For a wealth of celebratory suggestions, visit the International Dot Day Get Started page and sign up to download a free Educator’s Handbook, which includes a lovely certificate of participation which can be printed and personalised for each child.

I have included a link to the page in the new resource Getting creative with dots in which I suggest additional ideas to add to the celebration.

getting creative with dots

The suggestions, of which examples are shown below, can be used in conjunction with International Dot Day, or any day when you feel like going a little dotty.

Continue reading: Inspiring creativity – celebrating Dot Day – Readilearn

Escape to anywhere

We sometimes think of reading as a form of escapism. But many stories, including those in picture books, feature an escape as part of the complication or resolution.

It doesn’t require much thought to create a list. Here are just a few to start:

#6 Traditional stories

By Charles Perrault, Harry Clarke (ill.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jack and the Beanstalk – Jack escapes from the giant

Hansel and Gretel – the children escape from the witch

Snow White – escapes death ordered by the jealous queen

The Three Pigs – escape from the Big Bad Wolf

The Lion and the Mouse – the mouse helps the lion escape the hunter’s trap

The Gingerbread Man – escapes from the oven and those who pursue him

I had a little more difficulty in finding modern tales involving an escape, but here are a few:

#6 Modern tales

Hey, I Love You! by Ian Whybrow – father and son mouse escape the claws of the cat

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson – the mouse uses his wiles to escape being eaten

Wombat Stew by Marcia Vaughan – Wombat’s friends help him escape being Dingo’s dinner

Fox and Fine Feathers by Narelle Oliver – with the help of the nightjar the birds escape being a feast for fox

Run, Hare, Run! The story of a drawing by John Winch – the rabbit has numerous attempts at escaping the hunter but is caught, and finally freed

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen – the family escapes from the bear encountered in a cave

A new favourite

This Mo Willems story is an innovation on the traditional tale of Goldilocks escaping from the three bears. In Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, Goldilocks has a lucky escape out the back door just as the dinosaurs return home through the front door. Willems concludes his story with two morals, one for the dinosaurs:

Lock the back door!

And one for Goldilocks:

If you ever find yourself in the wrong story: leave.

What a great philosophy that we could perhaps employ more often. If we don’t like where we’re at, just leave. Life’s decisions are not always that easy though.

I rather like the idea of characters appearing in the wrong story. What a great topic for discussion with children and a wonderful stimulus for their writing.

  • What if the Big Bad Wolf knocked on the Giant’s door?
  • What if the Three Pigs chased the Gingerbread Man?
  • What if Goldilocks came to the house of Red Riding Hood’s grandma?
  • What if?

In fact, Nick Bland has written a story that utilises this concept. In The Wrong Book, Nicholas Ickle tries to tell his story but keeps getting interrupted by other characters such as an elephant, monsters, a queen and a pirate. Nicholas tells them that they are in the wrong book and to go away. By the time they leave, we get to the end of the book and there is no time for him to tell his story.

But what if the story characters didn’t want to be in the book at all, and decide to escape? How would they escape? What would the writers do if their characters revolted and walked off the job?

I’m thinking about escapes this week as Charli Mills has challenged the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an escape artist. It can even be you, the writer, escaping into a different realm or space in imagination. It can be any genre, including BOTS (based on a true story) or fantasy. You can focus on the escape, the twist or the person who is the escape artist.

Where could I escape to if not picture books? Here’s my contribution. I hope you like it.

Let’s get out of here

Delaying the inevitable, she was picking wildflowers when she heard sobbing. She gasped to see him cowering behind the bushes but ignored instructions to avoid strangers.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t do it anymore. Every day: first the pigs; then your grandma. They’ve painted me bad. I’m not. I’m –“

A giant with a goose crash-landed beside them.

“I’ll not let that nasty boy steal my goose, again. And he says I’m bad.”

A diverse troupe in T-shirts emblazoned “Freedom for princesses” appeared.

“We want out,” they all chanted.

A witch magicked a rocket from a pinecone and everyone disappeared.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

What’s the difference? #WATWB #FF

Charli's cat

News from Charlottesville has flooded the media this week and it is difficult to not be gripped by despair at the hatred that exists and fear for the future.

I don’t usually express my political feelings publicly, other than the important role that education has in developing responsibility and compassion in all, and for all, travellers on our planet.

Education will remain my focus for I believe it is the solution. However, I am writing in this context, as that is the context chosen by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community when setting her flash fiction prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that heals America. Difficult and idealistic, I know. Think about building bonds of trust or stories of friendship. It could be a positive story about America. Bonus points for hugging a cat.

mirror

Well, I don’t know about healing America. I think any healing needs to start with the self. This situation implores us to look at ourselves and see where our own attitudes can be improved. Australia’s history of treating its indigenous peoples is no more admirable. Recognition as people in our constitution was granted a mere 50 years ago.

On the last Friday of each month many writers join in the We Are The World Blogfest which “seeks to promote positive news.” It says, “There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.” Follow the link if you wish to join in with their mission to “flood social media with peace and love.” Or contact this month’s co-hosts  Simon Falk, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Inderpreet Uppal, Lynn Hallbrooks, Eric Lahti, and Mary J Giese.

Charli’s post reiterates the importance of creating connections through trust and friendship. With both these prompts in mind, I share with you some positive messages that shine a light in the darkness that sometimes seems overwhelming. (Apologies to #WATWB. I have broken the 500 word rule.)

  1. On his Science and Education blog, Daniel Willingham, a psychologist who works at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, wrote about Nazis in Charlottesville. He discusses the reasons why people hold onto false beliefs and the importance of education in teaching truths, fighting fake news, and standing up for media sites that get it right. He says,

“Truth is our greatest weapon against senseless evil. Fight with it. Fight for it. And don’t be discouraged.”

2.       Fast Company published Ben Paynter’s article How Charlottesville’s Small Businesses Supported Their Community Against White Nationalists. The article tells of rainbow coloured posters displayed by small businesses in support of equality and against hate. The posters read,

“If equality and diversity aren’t for you, then neither are we.”

Seven different equality symbols are displayed at the bottom of the poster along with the words,

“Minority rights are human rights.”

  1. In the Huffington Post I read How I Handled Homophobia in my Third Grade Classroom by Ilana Greenstein. I agree with Ilana’s position that,

“teaching tolerance and acceptance is not and should not be remotely political.”

After overhearing a homophobic remark made by an eight-year-old student, she embarked on a discussion of family, family composition, and what makes a family. The discussions continued throughout the school year and included other topics such as inequality and stereotypes.

At the end of the year she asked the children to write about the role of president and what they would do if they were the president. The boy who had made the “gay” remark earlier in the year, wrote:

As the president of the United States, I would want to be kind, brave, and nice. I would want to try to end fighting. I can do this by trying to let them be friends instead of being enemies. I also want to stop people saying ‘gay’ offensively. And last I want to stop people saying stereotypes.”

What a wonderfully hopeful statement that supports the importance of education for the whole person, not just cramming them with a bunch of facts to pass a test. Surely the ability to live a life that honours and respects others is the most important test to pass.

  1. On the theme of equality and diversity I wish to acknowledge two wonderful picture books by one of my favourite authors, Mem Fox:

Whoever You Are and I’m Australian Too.

While I’m Australian Too may be considered specific to the Australian multi-cultural situation, Whoever you are is suitable for reading to Little Ones, “whoever they are, wherever they are, all over the world.”

Possum Magic

I was delighted to read that one of Mem’s books Possum Magic has been honoured by the Royal Australian Mint with its very own coin collection. Of course, I had to purchase a set or three, didn’t I? What a lovely celebration of a wonderful book by writer Mem Fox and illustrator Julie Vivas and the importance of children’s literature in general.

  1. I watched an inspirational video on the blog of one of the most inspiring teachers I have met online. Her name is Jennie and she blogs at A Teacher’s Reflections. Pop on over and find out how she improves the lives of all in her care. Here is the video titled Change the World. It’s a perfect fit for this post. I hope you watch it.

I have combined some of these ideas into my childish flash. I hope you like it.

What’s the difference?

She dumped the toys on the floor, then proceeded to arrange and rearrange them in groups. The largest group was of bears, a smaller group of cats, a few lizards, two puppies and an assortment of singles. With a finger tapping her cheek, she surveyed them. First, she dismantled the group of bears muttering about bows, hats and vests.  She hugged Tiger as she separated all the toys. Then Dad appeared with his briefcase.

“Ready?”

“Not yet.”

“What’re you doing?”

“Thinking.”

“Which one to take?”

“I can’t choose,” she said, scooping them up. “I love them all the same.”

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

P.S. I hope I earned bonus points for hugging a cat!

Meet Australian picture book author Aleesah Darlinson – Readilearn

Aleesah Darlison

This month, it is my pleasure to introduce you to award-winning Australian author Aleesah Darlison. Aleesah writes picture books, chapter books and novels. Her much-loved stories promote courage, understanding, anti-bullying, self-belief, teamwork and environmental themes. In 2015, she won the Environment Award for Children’s Literature (Non-Fiction) for her picture book, Our Class Tiger. She has won numerous other awards for her writing.

Aleesah has written over thirty-five books for children and in 2016, she set up Greenleaf Press, a business designed to provide critical support services to authors and illustrators. The company also acts as a booking agency for school and preschool visits.

Today, Aleesah and I are talking about her picture book Stripes in the Forest. With National Threatened Species Day just a couple of weeks away on 7 September, it is a timely interview. Stripes in the Forest is the story of an iconic species lost.

Thylacine quote

Told from the perspective of the last wild female thylacine, it provides readers with an insight into the rare beauty and uniqueness of these amazing animals, explains their fight for survival and provides important lessons for future generations.

An emotive and moving story, children will connect with the solitary, stoic and courageous female thylacine who does all she can to protect her young – just as a human mother would do. The story takes readers to a place in the past, but also offers a twist that projects them

Contine reading: Meet Australian picture book author Aleesah Darlinson – Readilearn