Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Architecture for Everyone

There are so many young people with the dream of building exciting buildings.  Whether it is a tent made out of blankets, a building created with toilet paper rolls, Legos and building blocks taken to towering heights, or some other magnificent structure, there are myriad reasons to encourage such activities whenever possible. 

I was inspired to think about this and post this today when I found this interesting lists of 15 Adorable Children's Books Featuring Architecture..  It is a great list, but I can't resist adding just a few more books that I like.

Everyday Structures from A to Z by Bobbie Kalman is an alphabet of interesting ways of looking at structures, constructions, shapes, and styles.  I am not always thrilled with the questions that the author chooses to ask, but they are good jumping off points for discussions between you and your child or the reader can skip through them to find ones that are interesting.  This book could be enjoyed by Kindergarten and first graders with some parental help and by those up about grade five as a starting point for learning more about structures.

As suggested in the on-line list above, the books of David Macaulay are amazing insider views of great constructions from Castles and Pyramids to Cathedrals and Mosques.  He has a newer series for younger readers, but the beloved ones are what will capture middle grade students to adults with their detail and wealth of information.  If you find his book called Built to Last, you will get Castle, Cathedral, and Mosque all in one volume.

If you want an exciting story of the brave folks who actual build the skyscrapers, offer your middle grade to middle school aspiring architect Skywalkers:  Mohawk Ironworkers Build the City by David Weitzman  looks at the long connection between the Mohawk people and construction by first looking at the construction of the longhouses that were built in what is now upstate New York perhaps as long as 4,000 years ago.  Most of the book, however, concerns how the Mohawk people have been involved with so much modern construction, risking their lives as they create the iron structures that take skyscrapers reaching for the clouds.

Picture-book-reading builders will enjoy Monkey with a Toolbelt by Chris Monroe as they marvel at the real and pun-created tools in his belt and the creative ways he puts them to use to help friends and escape danger.  This is an imagination sparking joy for kindergarten and up.

For space age style creations, spark imagination with Marveltown by Bruce McCall.  Marveltown is a city created by inventors and filled with things like a Skyway held up by invisible ion rays and opportunities to go rocket-jumping by moonlight or fishing from a mile-high tower.  No wonder all the kids who live there are inspired to make their own inventions like a rocket chair, a machine to eat homework,  or a rug especially created to trip school bullies.  When things go very wrong in this placid town, it is the inventions of the kids that help to save the day.  This picture book will appeal to kindergarten and up.

Henry Builds a Cabin  by D. B. Johnson goes back in time with a story inspired by the life and writings of Henry David Thoreau.  The Henry in the book is a bear who is shown designing his house and then building it from chopping and shaping the logs to notching beams and fitting them into place.  His neighbors think the house is too small, but Henry knows where he wants his priorities and for him the great outdoors serve as most of his rooms so his house doesn't need to be very big.  This picture book will appeal to grades two and up as well as to anyone who as an interest in Thoreau.

Don't stop here.  Check out craft books which will inspire creations.  Cookbooks, too, are often about building edible creations that are more than a couple of layers with icing. (The Secret Life of Food by Clare Crespo is one cookbook that comes quickly to mind in this category.)   In fact, true inspiration can be found almost anywhere.  Read a little then gather supplies and start building.  Have fun.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Just Duckie!

If you travel down the nearest major street to my home, you will pass houses with a man-made small lake (pond) behind them.  In front of one of the houses on the other side of the street is a sign that says "Duck Crossing".  That sign was the inspiration for the stories and activities  shared in kindergarten and first grade this week.  (I am happy to report that every time ducks are crossing to the house that feeds them, the traffic on the street always stops.  Only once have I heard as much as a car horn.) 

The Ks and first grade did the obvious like singing "Six Little Ducks That I Once Knew" and reciting "Five Little Ducks Went Out to Play".  They colored ducks that we could then attach to a craft stick for simple puppet.  You should have seen the ducks.  They were beautiful and creative.  One boy spent a long time carefully coloring concentric circles in bright colors and then rays of other colors to complete his duck.  He named it "Radiated Duck."

It amazed me how many picture books we had about ducks--so many that I could not possible share them all.

The natural first choice for duck stories is the classic, Caldecott Award winning, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.  It was first published in 1941 and is still a lovely and much loved story.  I did not get to know Boston until my daughter moved there for graduate school, but I immediately recognized the Public Gardens from the many times I saw it when I read this book over and over.  The cars and the police uniforms may have changed but the swan boats are still there.  Of course, now there is also the row of duck statues for Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, Pack, Quack, and Mrs. Mallard.  If you are going to Boston, be sure to read (or re-read) this story so you can fully enjoy seeing the Charles River and other sights of the city.

Bringing memories of the illustrations of Make Way for Ducklings  to a new story is just part of the charm of Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore.  It gives a happy ending to the story we hear all too often of ducklings that fall through the grate on the city drainage system.  Thanks to clear thinking humans the ducks are saved after their fall and reunited with their mother who insists that she has to lead them across the street...this time with help.

Outfoxed by Mike Twohy has great illustrations and a story that is guaranteed to get laughs from kids and adults.  Fox raids the hen house at great peril to himself only to find that he has actually gotten a duck when his heart was set on a chicken dinner.  He is willing to settle until the duck announces with a wag of its tail and a slobbering lick to fox's face that he is actually a dog.  For the rest of that evening the duck does all kinds of dog like things--from lots of jumping and licking to  barking and looking adorable.  That night he even sleeps with fox.  Alas, in the morning, fox decides that the darling duck/dog needs to go back to the far because a fox does not keep a pet.  Duck/dog cries pitifully but fox throws him over the farm fence, anyway.  Has fox made a mistake?  The twist at the end will answer that question.

Patricia Polacco writes so many well known books that sometimes others are overlooked.  One of those is John Philip Duck which tells the story of the little boy that brings his pet duck to work at the
Peabody Hotel in Memphis and that duck grows up to be one of the ducks that daily ride the elevator down to the main lobby swim in the fountain, under the guidance of the Duck Master, a job first given to the young boy who started the tradition.  The story has just the right balance of tension and charm along with its historical accuracies.

Duck to the Rescue continues the series by John Himmelman, however, unlike cows, pigs, and chickens, duck does not seem to be able to get anything quite right.  Sheep has the perfect solution.  This is a series loved by the kids as they love to chant, "Duck (or whoever the animal of the book is) to the Rescue!" every third page and then see what happens next.

Guji, Guji by Chih-Yuan Chen can be a very deep story if you want to make it that.  It is all about making choices about who you are and who your family is.  Of course, the kids just want to see what this crocodile hatched into a duck family does after meeting his bad crocodile cousins.  He is one smart crocoduck.  The illustrations are especially quirky and charming.

There are myriad other duck stories.  Look for titles by Jez Alborough, Doreen Cronin, Jackie Urbanovic and more.  Let me know what makes you feel just duckie.

Note Emerson students:  Lucky Duckies will be back at Emerson after break.  See if you can win a little duck by checking out a book that is checked out Lucky Duckie.