Blog o' Graysmiths

Book Report No. 4: The Search for Chapter Books, updated May 14, 2008

Filed under: Book Reports — graysmiths @ 1:23 am

We finally found a chapter book suitable for Atticus: The Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon. This book is about a cricket, Chester, who mistakenly finds himself far from his country home in New York City. He is discovered by a little boy whose parents run a newsstand in the subway tunnel and who grows to love Chester. There is also a wonderful friendship between Chester and two city animals – a mouse and a cat.

We are about three-quarters of the way through the book and all in all, it has been a success. There is just enough excitement to keep Atticus interested (Chester eats some money, visits to Chinatown, accidentally starts a small fire), but nothing scary. The New York city setting, where Atticus has visited twice, and the wonderful way in which Chester arrives in New York – via subway train – have definitely contributed to his interest. He has been looking forward to hearing the next chapter and inevitably asks us to read more. We all enjoy the voices given the animals, which are truly delightful – you can really hear the different personalities of the three animals. I think we will also try to borrow the CD from the library when we are finished reading.


Book Report No. 4: The Search for a Chapter Book. April 18, 2008

Filed under: Book Reports — graysmiths @ 6:01 pm

I’m having a very, very difficult time finding a new chapter book for Atticus. Halfway through Stuart Little, he became very upset during the boat race and decided he didn’t want to read anymore. I picked up copies of The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo and Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but decided that neither of these will work. The first is just too scary for Atticus – a mama dies, a little girl’s father sells her into servitude and of course, there are the numerous details about the deep, dark dungeon. And although I love Little House in many ways for its depiction of a simpler time and place, the in-depth description of killing and eating animals (the entire first chapter is devoted to this subject) is just not suitable for our primarily-vegetarian family. Right now, I’m trying to encourage empathy with animals, not give examples of how useful they can be when dead.

I’ll continue my search, and welcome suggestions….


Book Report No. 3: Books for Babies March 12, 2008

Filed under: Book Reports — graysmiths @ 12:31 am

Being the second child, Rosemary hasn’t had much opportunity to look at baby books. Mostly she gets to listen to whatever we are reading to Atticus. This past weekend, she finally got to “read” a few baby books. Atticus was visiting his grandparents and so I decided to pull out some books designed especially for babies. Two of my favorites are Black on White and White on Black by Tana Hoban. According to the “baby experts” (just type “what can my baby see” into Google and you’ll see what I mean), items with 100% contrast, black/white, are easiest for infants to see. They can, however, by Rosemary’s age (4 months) see most anything, including colors. Babies do tend to be attracted to high contrast drawings, which is on reason why I like Tana Hoban’s simple designs. Here are some of my other favorite baby books/types of books:

  • Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober’s Mini Masters series: each of these books focuses on a different artist, pairing simple prose with their pictures.
  • Books with pictures of people faces: babies love to look at faces!
  • Any of Tana Hoban’s books of photographs – they are all wonderful and most are probably available at your local library
  • Touchy-feely books – books that have different textures for babies to feel.
  • More, More, More Said the Baby by Vera Williams
  • Spring is Here by Taro Gomi
  • Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
  • The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle – all of his books for children are wonderful, but I think babies like the music at the end of this one.
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

As always, I would love suggestions!


Book Report No. 2: Early Readers March 4, 2008

Filed under: Book Reports — graysmiths @ 11:38 pm

Else Holmelund Minarik’s Little Bear, published in 1957, was the first book in the “I Can Read” series, which includes such wonderful books as the Frog and Toad series, Grasshopper on the Road and Mouse Soup, all by Arnold Lobel, and A Bargain for Frances, by Russell Hoban. Often called “easy readers” or “early readers,” the books serve different purposes depending on whether you are reading aloud to your child or whether your child is actively learning to read (I say “actively” because I believe that being read to is one of the many ways children learn to read). For children who are being read to, they serve as a bridge between Picture Books, which typically have fewer words and more pictures, and Chapter Books, which, logically enough, are the opposite. For children actively learning to read, they can serve as first books, because they typically have short easy-to-read words in them. The words are carefully chosen for early readers and they are often easier to read than picture books which may have more complicated words.

I had many early readers in hardcover as a child and due to the efforts of my parents, they remain in great condition. We started reading them aloud to Atticus a little over a year ago, and he immediately fell in love with Little Bear. The great thing about early readers for read-aloud is that they have a picture on each page, so there is something for children who can’t read yet to focus on while you are reading. The illustrations for Little Bear are by Maurice Sendak, and as you can imagine, are a delight for both children and adults. Atticus went through a period of several months where he asked to hear one of the books in the series every day. His favorites at that time were the story told by Grandfather Bear in Little Bear’s Visit about a little goblin who was scared of his own shoes, “Birthday Soup” from Little Bear about how Little Bear cooks up Birthday Soup for his friends, and “Hiccups” from Father Bear Comes Home about how Father Bear helps Little Bear get rid of his hiccups. I look forward to the time when Atticus is able to read these to Rosemary while she looks at the pictures.

More recently, we’ve been reading the Frog and Toad series. On his fourth birthday, he received a copy of Frog and Toad Are Friends (thank you Nonna and Granddaddy!) on CD and was so excited that I ordered the CD collection of Little Bear, told by Sigourney Weaver. It came in this week and once he discovered it, insisted on playing it on his cd player. He sat in his room for the entire CD (she reads all five stories), looking out the window and listening, completely enthralled.

A quick update on the chapter book search. After Stuart Little, I’ve decided we will read The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo. I read this several years ago and it seems like such a wonderful modern fairy tale. Now I need to go and find Stuart Little for bedtime reading…
– Nicole


Book Report Numero Uno February 27, 2008

Filed under: Book Reports — graysmiths @ 12:27 am

Being a bookworm, my favorite school assignments were always book reports. Plus, my sister is a librarian. So, I thought a good way to try to keep up with this site would be to start at-least-weekly book reports about what Atticus and Rosemary are reading (or at this point, what I’m reading to them).

We just finished our first chapter book, Charlotte’s Web, by E.B White. We had previously tried to read this about a year ago, but Atticus quickly tired of it, and I didn’t push the issue. This time, however, at the end of each chapter, Atticus asked to read more, and we finished it in about a week. Here’s a short conversation we had about the book after we finished:

N: “What was your favorite part of the book?”

A: “The part at the beginning…the fair.”

N: “What was your least favorite part?”

A: “Charlotte dying.”

N: “How did it make you feel when she died?”

A: “It made me feel bad.” (short pause here) “And the fair part made me feel good!”

We started Stuart Little (also by Mr. White) this afternoon. I’m not sure what will be next, but I’m open to suggestions.

– Nicole