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Holly E. Newton
Friday, August 23 2013

Children’s Books: Schools On-Behave and Learn

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Now that school is back in session, it's time to settle in to learning, listening and behaving. Here are some excellent books about all three subjects. Almost all of the books are good for ages four through eight, unless indicated.

N amyExclamation Mark!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and delightfully created and illustrated with ink by Tom Lichtgenheld, is a picture book that would be good for all ages. This clever book teaches the use of this important punctuation mark. The background of every page is lined with wide spaces much like a kindergarten paper. You meet exclamation mark where he's feeling upset about sticking out next to several periods. But it all changes for the better when he meets a question mark. All of these sentence endings have faces on their dots and will not only teach but delight youngsters!

What Do Authors and Illustrators Do?, by Eileen Christelow, is actually two books assembled into one. The first part of this picture book showcases how an author comes up with an idea and how it eventually ends up being published. The second part of the book entails details about how illustrators create their art to illustrate a known story: Jack and the Beanstalk. The last few pages give the reader advice on how to begin their story through words and/or pictures. This excellent book is illustrated in a comic book-style making it kid-friendly and enjoyable while learning how to write or illustrate a book.

My Weird Writing Tips, by Dan Gutman, and illustrated with black and white pictures sprinkled through-out this easy-to-read chapter book by Jim Paillot, teaches in a very entertaining way the value and importance of communicating your thoughts into writing. The author demonstrates tricks of remembering how to spell difficult words and to understand how and when to use contractions such as "it's and its". There's even a chapter about how to write an engaging story. This book is perfect for ages seven through ten.

The rest are picture books that deal with behavior and getting along with others. 

N llamaLlama Llama and the Bully Goat, by Anna Dewdney, is an excellent tool to help classes, groups of children or just one child deal with bullying. Llama just wants to enjoy life but Gilroy makes fun of Llama, and others, and kicks sand at them. But, fortunately the teacher has taught her class to "walk away and tell someone". Gilroy is about to learn a good lesson that he won't have any friends if he keeps this up. The bright oil and colored pencil illustrations fill the pages.

Bad Astrid, by Eileen Brennan, and illustrated by Regan Dunnick, is another book about a bully. This tale, told through rhyme, is about a long-eared dog, Astrid, and how she becomes the menacing bully upon moving into the neighborhood. She picks on a smaller dog and treats her in a mean-spirited way. But after she crashes and becomes entangled in her bicycle, her pleas for help are heard by that same little pup who ends up helping her. What we learn from this story is that sometimes bullies need attention in the worse way.

N maryMary Wrightly, So Politely, by Shirin Yim Bridges, and wonderfully illustrated by Maria Monescillo, teaches an important lesson about not only being polite but speaking up when it's necessary. Mary is always on her best behavior and always says “please”, “thank you” and “I'm sorry”. But when an adult is about to take a stuffed elephant off a store shelf when Mary was about to buy it for her little brother, she realizes she must speak up. This is an excellent lesson to teach manners and to discuss when it's appropriate to assert oneself.

All of the rest of the books are smallish in size and are written by Helen Lester, and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, and deal with behavior.

Listen, Buddy teaches the importance of paying attention. Little Buddy just doesn't listen when his parents ask him to buy tomatoes, he buys potatoes and when mother asks him for a slice of bread, he cuts up the bed. But when he ends up at Scruffy Varmint's cave and is about to become part of the stew, he learns his lesson to pay closer attention when someone talks to him!

Me First features Pinkerton, a plump pig, who always pushes others out of the way in order to be first in line at everything. He's part of a scout troop and as they go to the beach, he steps on snouts and heads to be first. But as the troop heads up a hill, they hear a voice, "Who would care for a sandwich?" Of course, he pushes past all and rushes into a witch who claims she's the “sandwitch” and he now has to take care of her by becoming her slave. He learns his lesson and so will all who read this clever tale.

A Porcupine Named Fluffy has a porcupine being named by his parents a name that doesn't seem to fit his prickly spiny body. But when Fluffy meets a rhinoceros named "Hippo", both realize that some things can't be changed because of who we are, so we should be proud of them. This is a nice lesson for all.

N faultIt Wasn't My Fault has young Murdley blaming others for what was his fault. When a giant egg lands on his head, he searches for the bird that caused this to happen. The bird proclaims that "it wasn't my fault". Murdley eventually discovers that the happenstance of that egg landing on his head actually was his fault. This is an excellent lesson about taking responsibility.

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