Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) again. This week you will get not one but TWO in-depth reviews for this week’s pick GANESHA’S SWEET TOOTH.  So why two reviews this week, you ask? Upon receiving this book from the publisher, I was completely speechless regarding the unique illustrations, I did not have a clue as to how to describe the beautiful artwork. Luckily, I know the awesome Carter Higgins who runs an awesome blog, Design of the Picture Book, where she discusses everything related to illustrations; I roped her in to doing a joint review. After you read today’s post, hop on over to Carter’s blog for the rest of the review.

I would also like to thank Julie from World of Julie for this book recommendation. Thanks!

Title: Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth
Authors: Sanjay Patel & Emily Haynes
Illustrator: Sanjay Patel
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Hindu Mythology

Excerpt:
“I look lopsided!” he said. “Everyone will laugh at me.”
“No, they won’t,” said Mr. Moue. “Everyone loses their teeth. And besides, you already have an elephant’s head and your friends still love you.”

Synopsis (from Chronicle Books Website):
The bold, bright colors of India leap right off the page in this fresh and funny picture book adaptation of how Ganesha came to write the epic poem of Hindu literature, the Mahabharata. Ganesha is just like any other kid, except that he has the head of an elephant and rides around on a magical mouse. And he loves sweets, especially the traditional dessert laddoo. But when Ganesha insists on biting into a super jumbo jawbreaker laddoo, his tusk breaks off! Ganesha is terribly upset, but with the help of the wise poet Vyasa, he learns that what seems broken can actually be quite useful after all. With vibrant, graphic illustrations, expressive characters, and offbeat humor, this is a wonderfully inventive twist on a classic tale.

Activities:
Recipe for making laddoos.
Ganesha coloring pages.
Online links on Ganesha and Hinduism for Kids

Traditional re-tellings of Ganesha.

Other books my Sanjay Patel on Hindu Mythology

Brief Background on Lord Ganesha:
Lord Ganesha is one of the most worshipped gods by Hindus, since he is the remover of obstacles. He was given this task by the deities to help the people on Earth, hence he is kind of like the people’s God. Hindus say prayers to Lord Ganesha before important events such as weddings, starting a new planting season, or opening a store. People will give the god offerings such as Indian sweets, fruit, and nuts.

Why I Like This Book:
A colorful, modern, humorous, loose-retelling of how Ganesha broke his tusk. This book is full of kid-appeal that can serve has a good first introduction to the elephant god.

I find traditional retellings of Hindu mythology or folktales to be strong in the action and morality aspects but very dry when it comes to character, and somewhat un-relatable. It if for this reason that I love this modern take of Ganesha, even with its deviations from the actual story.

Ganesha is cute and like an ordinary Indian boy. He plays cricket (British sport like baseball), dances, rings temple bells, and cruises around on his mouse (which reminded me of skateboarding). A child character is not complete without discussing his favorite sweet; for Ganesha it’s the laddoo. I love the idea of the “Jawbreaker Laddoo”; I think it is hilarious, especially since it comes out of a gumball machine. Genius! (fyi – a real laddoo would fall apart if it came out of machine) And when Ganesha breaks his tusk, I like that he tries to re-attach it with tape. Vyasa the poet helps Ganesha learn how he his broken tusk can still be useful. Ganesha does assist Vyasa by writing down the epic Hindu story, the Mahabharata. (this part is true) I like the off-beat humor of Mr. Mouse acting as Ganesha’s lawyer.

This book would work well for storytime, it provides a first glimpse into Hindu mythology for young kids. For classroom settings, I would recommend supplementing this book with other traditional retellings.

For an in-depth look at the gorgeous illustrations that just “pop”, please head over to Design of the Picture Book.

Find Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth at the following spots:
Kitaab WorldAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1452103623
ISBN-13: 978-1452103624

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth from the publisher Chronicle Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

Looking at Lincoln

Title: Looking at Lincoln
Author & Illustrator: Maira Kalman
Check out the interview (Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 5-10
Themes: Presidents, Civil War, American History

Synopsis (from Amazon website):
Abraham Lincoln is one of the first giants of history children are introduced to, and now Maira Kalman brings him to life with her trademark style and enthusiasm. Lincoln’s legacy is everywhere – there he is on your penny and five-dollar bill. And we are still the United States because Lincoln helped hold them together.

But who was he, really? The little girl in this book wants to find out. Among the many other things, she discovers our sixteenth president was a man who believed in freedom for all, had a dog named Fido, loved Mozart, apples, and his wife’s vanilla cake, and kept his notes in his hat. From his boyhood in a log cabin to his famous presidency and untimely death, Kalman shares Lincoln’s remarkable life with young readers in a fresh and exciting way.

Activities:
This book was based off an on-line tribute that Maira Kalman authored and illustrated for the New York Time in 2009. I highly recommend checking out.
ProTeacher! website contains links to for various Abraham Lincoln classroom activities: crossword puzzles, lesson plans, reading list, etc.
PBS documentary series “Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided” may be interesting for older students and adults. I just found out about it, looks interesting.

Why I Like This Book:
Beautiful tribute with a contemporary voice and bright, bold colored gouche illustrations that will hook any reader young or old. This is not your typical picture book biography.

The story reads as if you are listening to a friend tell you about her day

“One day, while walking through the park on my way to breakfast I saw a very tall man. He reminded me of someone, but I could not think who … And then I remembered. The man I had seen looked exactly like Abraham Lincoln.”

The author doesn’t just spew out a lot of facts but also theorizes about Lincoln’s thoughts, reminding readers that our 16th president was just an ordinary person too.

“What was he thinking about? He was thinking about democracy … And maybe he was also thinking about getting a birthday present for his little son.  Maybe a whistle. Or pickup sticks.”

Text which are the narrator’s thoughts are in a different font from the factual information.

The highlights of this book are the illustrations. Especially the final few pages. The spread about the assassination, with the pistol on the left with the empty rocking chair and fallen top hat on the right made me pause for a bit. Equally moving in an uplifting way are the final two spreads letting readers know that Abraham Lincoln will live FOREVER.

The book also has Notes and Bibliography sources at the end.

I loved this book, except for one topic which really bothered me, regarding the reason the Northern and Southern states went to war. In a picture book format for young kids facts, thoughts, the truth will be bent sometimes as the topic maybe too complicated or not appropriate for young readers. Below is the text that concerns me:

It was a difficult time to be president.
The Southern states (the Confederacy) wanted
their own country where slavery was allowed.
Lincoln said no. We must stay one country.
The Northern states (the Union) believed
that slavery should be abolished.
And so they went to war.

While the text does reference the Southern states wanting to secede and the North (Lincoln) saying no. The text implies that the issue was slavery, which would be an oversimplification. Wouldn’t it be better to simply state that the Southern states wanted to create their own country without giving a reason, thereby leaving it up to the teacher/parent/librarian to answer the child’s question of why, or that the Southern states wanted state governments to have more power. Neither of these alternate choices are much better, but I still think that would be more accurate than to say the Civil War was fought over humanitarian reasons. What do you think?

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended. PPBF is on hiatus for the summer, however I will still continue to post book reviews. I may try different formats and may try to squeeze in one or two MG novels. As a result I may not have a consistent posting schedule for the summer, but rest assured I am still very interested in telling you about great children’s books.

If you would like to stay current with what I am reading, click Goodreads and then click on “follow reviews” button to get my updates.

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

Title: One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale
Author & Illustrator: Demi
Check out the interview at Paper Tigers
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 1997
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 5-10
Themes: Folklore, India, Social Responsibility, Math, Cleverness

Synopsis (from book jacket flap):
Long ago in India, there lived a raja who believed that he was wise and fair. But every year he kept nearly all of the people’s rice for himself. Then when famine came, the raja refused to share the rice, and the people went hungry. Then a village girl named Rani devises a clever plan. She does a good deed for the raja, and in return, the raja lets her choose her reward. Rani asks for just one grain of rice, doubled every day for thirty days. Through the surprising power of doubling, one grain of rice grows into more than one billion grains of rice — and Rani teaches the raja a lesson about what it truly means to be wise and fair.
Activities:
Math Focus:

  • Comprehensive lesson plan for older elementary aged students, focusing on math. Elements from this lesson plan could be used for younger grades such as the activity chart to keep track of the rice.
  • Additional math focused lesson plan.
  • Mathwire – has other picture book recommendations similar to One Grain of Rice and lesson plans.

Indian Culture Focus:

Why I Like This Book:
This is a multi-layered story that teaches math, introduces Indian culture, and has a great moral story. I especially loved that the village girl outsmarted the raja using her intelligence, and distributed the rice not only to the villagers but to the nearby animals as well. The story can also be used to discuss social responsibility by discussing the raja’s role during the famine.

The first half of the story introduces the  raja and his relationship with the villagers. The reader watches the demise of the raja’s morals as he becomes selfish during the famine. Rani is clever in asking for just 1 grain of rice on the first day, 2 grains on the second day, 4 grains on the third day, and so on. Rani requested she receive double the amount of rice from the day before for 30 days. The second half of the book is about the math. In the beginning the grains of rice can fit in a small pouch, which becomes 1 heavy bag, to later requiring 8 royal deer to carry the rice bags, culminating on the final day with 256 elephants full of rice bags.The endpage contains  a chart showing exactly how much rice Rani received each day.

I normally think today’s kids aren’t interested in folktales, I was wrong. Apparently, my 6-year old had already heard this story in her pre-school and KG classrooms. When she saw it in my tote bag she ran to me with this and another Demi book, The Empty Pot (also really great, a tale of honesty) telling me how she loved both books and couldn’t wait to read them to me. I was pleasantly surprised. I asked my daughter what she liked most and it was the math – seeing the rice go from 1 grain to hundreds of thousands. She especially enjoyed the the fold out flaps needed to depict the 256 elephants on the last day.
Find One Grain of Rice at the following spots:

Kitaab WorldAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 059093998X
ISBN-13: 978-0590939980

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Too Shy for Show and Tell

Title: Too Shy for Show and Tell
Author: Beth Bracken
Illustrator: Jennifer Bell
Publisher: Picture Window Books, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-6
Themes: Shyness, School

Excerpt:
“Sam was a quiet boy. Nobody knew much about him.
Sam loved trucks, but nobody knew that.”

Synopsis (from Capstone website):
Sam is a quiet little boy who hates show-and-tell. Just thinking about it makes his stomach hurt. Sam must find a way to conquer his fear of show-and-tell.

Activities:
Show and tell of course.
Games for shy kids for getting kids to interact in a non-competitive environment.
Shykids is a website that discusses shyness in kids/teens and resources on how to help.

Why I Like This Book:
Perfect book for young children. The basic plot surrounds Sam’s fear of public speaking, however there is a deeper underlying theme about opening up to people around you and friendship. In the opening scene, a sad Sam is keeping to himself not saying hi to anyone as he walks to school. Nobody knows anything about Sam or what he likes. In contrast the end scene, shows a happy Sam waving good-bye to his friends as he heads home.

The author effectively uses short, simple sentences to emotionally connect to Sam. The reader will immediately be able to feel Sam’s fears and concerns, and will cheer for Sam in the end. The illustrations are visually appealing with a soft sketch-like feel and the animals have a roundness to them. Both qualities bring a warm endearing quality to the cast of characters.

This book is part of Capstone’s Little Boost series, that look to tackle early life lessons in a funny relatable manner. Check out the other books.

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Picture Book Details:
As an aspiring PB writer, I often analyze a book for its text and illustrations to learn from it. Here are some of the details I liked from this book:

– The opening and closing scenes of Sam going to school/home being sad/happy. Nice parallels.
– Mention of the truck, cake, and dogs in the beginning, that later tie into the ending.
– Repetitive use of the line “Everyone clapped when he was done.” after each kid did his show-and-tell. This helps build up Sam’s confidence for show-and-tell and gives the young reader confidence that everything is going to be okay.
– Otto saying “weaf” instead of “leaf.” Realistic speech, young kids (like my 4year old) often have a hard time with L’s and R’s. Also it shows Sam that is okay to do be imperfect.

Phyllis in Silicon Valley

Phyllis arrived on a sunny afternoon on March 23rd and she was a little pooped. The little groundhog has been busy traveling all over the world: Mojave desert, San Antonio, Missouri, Philadelphia, Texas, France, and many other places. Click here to see her World Tour.

We were all very excited that she could visit us here in Silicon Valley (San Jose, CA). First order of business was to get rested up before her big day tomorrow. Here she is enjoying some shut-eye with a few friends.

Rise and Shine. Phyllis is a weather hog and fairly good at predicting the weather. She is way better than our silly weather clock. Phyllis knew the temp was only 47 degrees even though the clock said 66 degrees at 9am in the morning.


Location: San Jose, CA (elevation – 85 feet)
Date: March 24, 2012
Temp: Hi-53  Low-45
Conditions: Cloudy with some light showers

Phyllis knew that human meteorologists need to use computers to model weather patterns and make forecasts; they don’t have her special weather predicting abilities. Since we were in Silicon Vally, we visited the Intel Museum and learned a little about micro-processors and semiconductor chips in general.

Phyllis wanted to know why the San Jose and surrounding areas are known as Silicon Valley. This area is home to a large numbers of semiconductor companies. Semiconductors chips exist in every electronic gadget TVs, cellphones, cars, computers, and many more. Intel is famous for developing some of the first mainstream micro-processors, which became the brains of the IBM personal computers (PCs) back in the early 1980’s.

Phyllis wanted to know how the chips were made. She was astounded to learn that plain ordinary sand is used to obtain silicon. A purification process is used to obtain silicon that is 99.999999 percent pure.  This pure silicon is used to grow a solid ingot as seen in the picture on the left. Then it is sliced and polished to a mirror as seen in the picture on the right.

After that the layers of other material are deposited onto the wafer. In the picture below, each layer is shown with a different color. These layers are building the circuits that make-up the micro-processor.

Phyllis’s head began spinning after learning all of this. So we decided to dress-up in bunny suits and have some fun. Semiconductor workers have to be covered from head to toe, since even a spec of dust can ruin a semiconductor chip. Rooms were wafers are processed are called “clean rooms”.

 

Phyllis wanted to wear a bunny suit too.

Everything here is measured in nanometers, the metric used in chip design. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Phyllis was happy to know she was quite large by Silicon Valley standards, almost 500 million nanometers tall!

 

Phyllis had a very enjoyable time learning, but she doesn’t think she wants to be an engineer; weather forecasting is her first love.

In honor of Phyllis, we headed over later to the neighbors with kids in tow for story time and crafts.

The kids enjoyed Phyllis’s company immensely. The loved the April’s Fool’s jokes and the riddles. Anjali, my eldest, has been pulling April Fool’s jokes since the reading, she can’t wait for April 1st to arrive. Following the reading the kids made some colorful portraits of Phyllis using this downloadable activity.

 

 

We enjoyed Phyllis’s visit very much and hope she had a good time too. We wished she could have stayed longer, but alas she still has many more places to visit. So we said goodbye and directed her to Clovis, CA.

Where is the Green Sheep?

A very helpful librarian handed me this book as I was doing research on picture books that dealt with prepositions and opposites. I have to admit when I first read this book (alone), I didn’t think much of it. Later I read it to my four-year old and saw her face light up. I guess sometimes to really understand the appeal of a book, you just have to read it to a kid. This has become my daughter’s new favorite book, which is really saying something since she normally only wants to read Disney princess or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. So in honor of my little girl I write today’s book review.

Title: Where is the Green Sheep?
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Judy Horacek
Publisher: Harcourt, 2004
Book Type:Fiction
Ages: 2-4
Themes: Vocabulary, Opposites

Opening Sentences:
Here is the blue sheep. Here is the red sheep.
Here is the bath sheep. And here is the bed sheep.
But where is the green sheep?

Synopsis (from Harcourt site):
There are red sheep and blue sheep, wind sheep and wave sheep, scared sheep and brave sheep, but where is the green sheep?

Activities:
Classroom:

  • This lesson plan has numerous activity ideas. Make flash cards for the word and have kids pair the opposites together. A song to the tune of “Are You Sleeping”. Create artwork of sheep doing the different activities and then write a few sentences about what the sheep is doing.
  • This reading guide provides discussion questions, suggestions for creating your own “Where is the Sheep? story”, phonological awareness activities, and many more.

Craft:

Parent-Tot:

  • Sit your kid in the lap, and have them point to the sheep matching the text you just read.
  • Once your child has become familiar with the book, encourage them to tell you lines from the story or even the entire book.

Why I Like this Book:

This a sweet, simple, colorful book perfect for pre-schoolers. In the beginning I had my doubts of the moon sheep and the bed sheep, since it isn’t grammatically correct. But after seeing my four-year old fall in love with the book, and read it to herself (more like recite from memory) any concern I had faded away. Each page just has a short line with a complementary picture, this works great for kids taking that first step into reading. After every four sentences the question “where is the green sheep” appears; this will keep kids turning the pages hunting for that elusive green sheep.

Here is one of my daughter’s favorite page spreads.

 

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Love, Splat

With so much Liebster love going around the blogosphere and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I decided to pick a book about school crushes. After all, which kid or adult hasn’t had one? For those of you who heart for Ryan Gosling (actor from Ides of March & Crazy, Stupid, Love), go check out Tara Lazar’s post, it is hilarious.

Now onto the book review for this week. Wishing you all a very happy early Happy Valentine’s Day!

Title: Love, Splat
Author & Illustrator: Rob Scotton
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2008
Ages: 3-6
Themes: Valentine’s Day, Shyness, Humor, Friendship, Love

Opening Sentences:
Splat stared into the bathroom mirror. A worried Splat stared back. His heart drummed and his tummy rumbled.
He straightened his whiskers, ruffled his fur, and brushed his teeth. Today he wanted to look just right. After all, today was Valentine’s Day.

Synopsis (from Harper Collins site):
It’s Valentine’s Day and Splat has a special valentine for a certain someone in his class. Her name is Kitten, and Splat likes her even more than fish sticks and ice cream. But Kitten doesn’t seem to like him at all—she always ties his tail and pokes his belly when she sees him. And then there’s Splat’s rival, Spike, who also likes Kitten. Will Splat’s heartfelt valentine win Kitten’s paw in the end?

Activities:
Here is a link to a one-page “fill in the missing letter” worksheet featuring words from the book. Since this is a Valentine themed book, here are is a site with free themed classroom activities.

Why I Like This Book:
Just a simple, fun story of boy likes girl. Boy thinks he isn’t the cat’s meow or is he? I enjoyed seeing the journey that Splat went on from grooming himself in the morning, to knocking down Kitten by mistake, to competing with Spike about who likes Kitten more, to watching Splat feel down trodden and then learning everything isn’t what it seems. This is a book full of heart.

Rob Scotton does a brilliant pairing of descriptive, short text with colorful, funny illustrations. I love how you can see the individual cat hairs. Other Splat picture books include Splat the Cat, Merry Christmast Splat, Scaredy-Cat Splat, and Splish Splash Splat! There are also a series of Early/Level Readers as well.

Here is the trailer for Love, Splat.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus

This book is the fourth book in the Anna Hibiscus series written by Nigerian author, Atinuke.

Anna Hibiscus is a young helpful, caring, brave, adventurous girl who lives in Africa. She has never been away from Africa, where she is surrounded by her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Anna Hibiscus is going to go to Canada to visit her grandmother. There are a number of first experiences in this book for Anna Hibiscus: traveling on a plane, seeing snow, having a dog in your home, meeting Granny Canada, playing with kids from a different background. Anna Hibiscus beautifully handles the ups and downs, that come with experiencing a new culture and place. When it is time to return home to Africa she is sad to leave, but is anxious to tell her family about all the wonderful things she did like sledding, her best friend Qimmiq, and of course chocolate cereal!

This book has a great balance telling a story that any child could relate to and introducing aspects of multiculturalism.
Anna Hibiscus may be from Africa, but some of the experiences she has such as seeing snow, trying to make new friends, being around a dog for the first time. She could have easily been a girl from Florida visiting a cold, snowy, Canada for the first time.

The author does a great job at capturing the excitement and the not so great things that come along with being in a cold environment. For instance being in a cold place means getting used to wearing lots of layers of clothing and being cold when you first get out of bed in the morning. But being able to see snow falling or go sledding makes it all worthwhile.

Aspects of multiculturalism can be observed, when you see Anna Hibiscus adapt to Western food which comes in packages and isn’t quite as spicy as her native food. But, she does love her new discovery chocolate cereal. She is afraid of dogs since in her hometown dogs are strays, running around carrying diseases. Neither she nor her family can fathom having a dog in your home. Anna Hibiscus learns a dog can be your best friend.

This book as so much heart, which is why I love it. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Anna Hibiscus responds back to a statement made about her inability to ice skate since she is African. Anna Hibiscus replies “My name is Anna Hibiscus … I could not skate because it was my first time. Not because I am African.” I love this line and only wish I had this book, when I was growing up in rural Pennsylvania as one of a handful of immigrant Indians. I love Anna Hibiscus’s courage to stand proud. One of the funniest scenes for me was early in the book when Anna and Auntie Jumoke are on the plane and Anna gets hungry. Auntie Jumoke comments on the food cart “That is not food … It is plastic, pretending to be food.” Auntie then pulls out of her bag boxes filled with their native food. This totally reminded me of my grandmother and Aunty who take food with them whenever they travel.

I think this book is applicable to all young girls no matter whether they be Caucasian, African, Asian, Latino, or any other place in the world. It has something for everyone.

Recommendation: Add to Home Library
Author: Atinuke
Illustrator: Lauren Tobia
Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus

This book is not readily available in many public libraries. If your local library does not have it I recommend using your library’s interlibrary system if possible. It is well worth the wait.

NOTE: This book was nominated by Madigan McGillicuddy for the 2011 Cybils Awards in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. I am a first-round panelist in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!