Monday, April 29, 2019

Unexpected Surprises in The Great Journey

I love books like The Great Journey by Agathe Demois and Vincent Godeau.

It's super fun with lots to look at as we follow a tiny bird on a long journey across various landscapes and see hidden, unexpected and surprising images along the way. I especially love the special effect of the green line drawings that are embedded in the bold red line drawings which the reader can only see when they use the magic view finder.  (The red lens of the view finder cancels out the red line drawings.) The hidden or embedded illustrations really make this book special.

Let me give you a couple of my favorite most playful examples.  As I've already mentioned, the little bird flies across various landscapes, countrysides, cities, factories, oceans, jungles etc.  When flying across the ocean scape it looks like there are several ice bergs. But look through the red lens and we discover that the ice bergs are actually the tops of ice cream cones. There is some kind of mining operation going on underwater with seals, penguins and polar bear bringing some kind of material to the surface. In another corner, we see a school of fish escaping a penguin through a twisty tunnel. One other segment of the same pages shows penguins bottling water.  It's a busy place!

Another fun illustration is a group of people walking about what looks like a city but the magic view finder shows us what's going on inside their bodies and brains mostly unexpected happenings. One fellow's leg is made up of a couple of hams, maybe or bird legs (unexpected). A young woman's insides are comprised of all sorts of gears (unexpected). A man in a puffy coat turns out to have a tattoo, pierced ears and wearing only briefs (typical). There's a woman carrying a guitar case filled with a very long, curvy snake (unexpected) but the animal carrier next to a different woman has a barking dog inside (expected). The one image I really like is of the two gentlemen in the foreground showing what's going on in their minds as they talk with each other. One man has two teeny-tiny men pulling a string straight from the mind of the other man's brain which shows a tangled mess of string.  Haven't we all had conversations like this?

The little bird does eventually reach his or her's destination which is in a jungle. Here a large tree that looks uninhabited is really filled with a mass of birds as revealed by the red lens viewer.

The viewer is attached to the book so it shouldn't get lost too quickly.

It's a fun, witty book which will  appeal to many ages but I would expect that kids in elementary and middle grades will be the main audience. 

If this sort of book appeals to you, I would also recommend Illuminature by Rachel Williams. It does a similar thing  uncovering various natural environments and associated plants, daytime or nighttime animals using a view finder with three coloured lens. Fascinating.

Both of these books would make great gifts.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Summer is on the way

I always know summer is almost here when I get a notification from Sync about their upcoming season of free YA audiobooks. So, starting this Thursday, April 25th you can starting downloading a terrific list of YA reads that you can listen to at home, in the garden, on the bus, in the car, on a plane, while exercising...well, you get the idea.

In Sync's own words: 
SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens. Returning April 25, 2019, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week - pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. Sign up for email or text alerts and be first to know when new titles are available to download at

And, here's the line up: 

This is an incredible list.  The first two books have been on my To-Read-List for a while and I know I'll final get to them.

So, check out this fantastic opportunity and load up on free audiobooks. 

Happy listening, Everyone.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Guest blogger : An Inspiring Story

Paula Hollohan is my guest blogger today raving about a recent addition to the Doucette Library's collection  that has great classroom potential, connecting to STEM, science and language arts. Thanks, Paula.
Hedy Lamarr’s Double life: HollywoodLegend and Brilliant Inventor written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Katy Wu

Now here is the kind of book I would love to see in K-5 classrooms.  While reading through a number of new picture books that came into the Doucette Library over the last little while, this one caught my eye.
This story has EVERYTHING! An accomplished woman, also pictured as a young girl, who loved learning and wondering, a great invention that helped modern day electronics, like cell phones, keep texts and calls private, a Hollywood movie star with a contract with Louis B. Mayer. Hedy’s curiosity led to many personal inventions including a cube that changed plain water into flavoured soda, a ladder to help get in and out of a bathtub.
It is really not about the glamorous life she led or the amazing inventions.  This story captures the curious mind of a girl and a woman about things that were happening around her - in her real life.
After meeting George Antheil, Hedy and George came up with the idea of “frequency hopping” to help torpedoes send fragmented messages not easily intercepted by the enemy.  They co-patented the invention together.  Although this invention would have proven useful, the American Navy put it aside to fight World War II.  Hedy used her Hollywood star power to volunteer to sell war bonds and to meet soldiers at the Hollywood Canteen.
A book like this one in every classroom would be a great addition for children who are tinkerers.  They would recognize themselves in the realistic story of Hedy who, as a child, was interested in life and curious about everything including going to the movies.
"Inventions are easy for me to do.  I suppose I just came from a different place." Hedy Lamarr

Monday, April 8, 2019

Case study in fake news

I find the story about Orson Welles’ 1938 radio production of the War of the Worlds and its impact on many Americans who had tuned into their favourite radio program, utterly fascinating.

On October 30th, 1938 (Halloween Eve or Mischief Night) the American public were about to get punked big time.  The story goes, that Orson Welles and the players of the Mercury Theater had adapted the novel by H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, into a radio play.  The play was presented as if it was taking place in ‘real time’ with credible sounding newscasters describing the unfolding invasion of aliens in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. Many of the listening audience thought the story was true and panicked, thinking they were about to be captured or killed by Martians.  Police were called, hospitals were overrun, switchboards at CBS and other media were swamped with calls, and people were running amok in the streets. The story goes viral.  Fascinating, right?

Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the World Sparked the1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow presents an absorbing account of how this all came to be, played out in reality and the aftermath.  It is a well-researched book that frames the context of the radio play in terms of the mindset of the American people at this time (post-Depression era, increasing unease over the rise of Nazism in Europe, increasing interest in Mars) and why it was seemingly, possible to dupe the public.
Fake news, anyone?

That’s right.  Fake news.

But the book goes beyond looking at the radio play and its unintended consequences. It also explores the characters involved in the production, the public’s response and it looks at the media’s coverage of the aftermath, presenting another angle of fake news.  The mass hysteria that supposedly gripped the nation after the play’s broadcast was greatly exaggerated. The studies done at the time are shown to be inaccurate and then wrongly reported.

This book presents a terrific historical case study to bring into the classroom to look at fake news today, understanding how the media can slant a story and the importance of critical thinking.

The book includes sections of the radio broadcast, descriptions of how the play was read, the pacing, the music, the characters, as well as excerpts from letters, telegrams and editorials sent to CBS, Orson Welles, newspapers describing the impact it had on listeners. The breakdown of the myth of mass hysteria shows how to work through information and fact check.

Additional material such as a timeline, a list of web resources, an author’s note, source notes, a selected bibliography and an index provides substantial support for students to follow up and explore the story on their own. You’ll be happy to know that there is a link to a site that has the original radio play for you to listen to.

Gail Jarrow does an amazing job with all her books.  As already mentioned, they are well-researched.  She picks stories that allow us to connect on an emotional level to the people involved and then gets us thinking.

I highly recommend this book for middle grades and up.

Reviews for other books by Gail Jarrow: 

Friday, March 29, 2019

New Pinterest Board

This is sort of a Public Service Announcement, letting those of you who frequent the Pinterest page for the Doucette Library, that I’ve added one more.

The latest addition is for Social and Emotional Learning, K-3.  Both Paula (co-worker) and I have been fielding a few more questions and requests for picture books that touch on these topics.  We’ve also noticed a few more lists of picture books focused on these areas appearing lately, too.

The Pinterest boards that I’ve set up, typically are of books and resources found in the Doucette Library. This ensures that student-teachers will be able to track down those resources, specifically.

I went to Alberta Education’s website to see how they were defining this kind of learning and decided to base my selection of books on this. The Overview framed social-emotional learning as working with others, building resiliency, achieving goals, and reducing bullying.  They’ve highlighted five competencies that connect to social-emotional learning, too and include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making.  There are many concepts that fall into these competencies as well such as empathy, mindfulness, managing stress, communication skills, and conflict resolution to name a few.  These are some of the terms that helped me frame my selection of picture books for this board.

Here’s the link for this board

Pinterest : Social and Emotional Learning, K-3

Let me know what you think or if you have some recommendations. I'm adding to this daily as new titles pop into my head.  I'd love to have some input.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Spinning, flipping and popping to learn

A couple of nonfiction books that recently caught my eye are from the publisher 360 degrees. What I liked their approach to lift-the-flap books for older kids. 

In Focus: Close-ups, Cutaways, Cross Sections, 10 Illustrators created by Libby Walden is a general information book that covers a range of topics from both the natural and human-made worlds in a unique way.  Each double spread focuses on a theme providing a random but interesting selection of facts about the creatures or things represented. These two pages then fold out to a four page spread to take the reader even deeper into the facts.

For example, the first spread is about the ocean. Featured are various sea creatures such as the blue whale, sea horse, puffer fish, swordfish, jellyfish and starfish, to name a few. We learn a pertinent fact or two about the animals from the front pages such as the blue whale is the largest animal to have ever lived on the planet and typically lives between 80 to 90 years.  Or that starfish are not fish and though commonly seen with 5 arms they can have as many as 40. Or that jellyfish have been around more than 650 million years!  Flipping open the top pages, we see cross sections of the animals exposing their skeletons and internal organs. From here, there is more detailed information. Did you know that the heart of the blue whale is the size of a small car weighing in at 770 kg or 1550 lbs? Amazing.

Topics covered are: the physical structure of homes found worldwide, space and space vehicles, international landmarks, various plants, animals and geological features, everyday objects, well-known buildings from around the world, fruits and vegetables, land animals and modes of transportation.  Wide ranging, indeed.

The second book is Wilderness: an Interactive Atlas of Animals by Hannah Pang. This one also uses flaps, pop ups and spinning wheels to engage readers about an array of animals from all continents both land and water.

The formats are the draw here and there are many of these kinds of trivia/random information books out there.  The illustrations are well done and support the informational tidbits.

I see these as interesting resources for classrooms but not necessarily crucial.  These books will appeal to some kids  and could be used in centres or for individual reading time. Elementary and middle grade students are the best audience for these books.

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