Postcard from Planet Esme|
News from the world of children's books
by Esmé Codell
Planet Esmé (www.planetesme.com)
Season's Greetings from PlanetEsme.com!
It's hard to believe that the holidays are upon us again, with lights like electric candy twinkling in every window, the heady scent of pine wafting from the Christmas tree lots and the clanging of bells by Salvation Army Santas resounding at every street corner. Chicago is tucked under its white blanket this time of year, and a calm falls over the city, perfect for a cozy storytime! Whether or not the thermometer drops below freezing where you live, your class will warm up to the fun of good seasonal reading.
In that spirit, the best kind of test to give your students in December is the one to see if they still believe in magic. Just jingle a bell at the end of Chris Van Allsburg's classic, The Polar Express, to find out. (Did you know that Van Allsburg has a brand new title out, Zathura, the sequel to Jumanji? You can add it to your holiday wish list!) While this time of year lends itself to the telling of such traditional tales, this year one of those tales has a new twist, or tab-pull, in the case of Robert Sabuda's of The Night Before Christmas. This tree-mendous pop-up retelling should be as much a part of Christmas as a viewing of the claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, with plenty of popcorn for both stringing and crunching! Of course, if you're looking for something a bit more contemporary than Donner and Blitzen, dash away all to www.planetesme.com/holiday2002.html for the best brand new wintry picks for children's literature, with lots of incentive to integrate these titles into your language arts program.
Are the kids forgetting the reason for the season?
Whether you're spiritual or non-sectarian, you can cure a bad case of the gimme-gimmes with a storytime that includes the snarky fable Whatever Wanda Wanted by Jude Wisdom, followed by the beautiful Antonella and her Santa Claus by Barbara Augustin. Your class can follow the philanthropic example set by this book by getting a wish list addressed to "Santa" at the dead-letter office of the post office, and then cooperating to fulfill that wish! Or, create a bulletin board by placing a mirror inside a wreath, with the heading "How will you spread holiday cheer this year?" and let each child write an answer in a construction paper wreath that they can decorate with glitter or other spangles to adorn the rest of the space!
"He knows when you are sleeping/He knows when you're awake/He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes!"
Are we talking about Santa , or a seasoned self-contained classroom teacher? When you look out over your classroom, perhaps some of those little angels seem to have halos that are hung slightly crooked. These kids especially may enjoy the redemptive read-aloud Peter Claus and the Naughty List by Lawrence David. Discuss how we all make mistakes, and what can make a bad choice better, any time of the year.
Make a festive classroom decoration to spruce up your reading center!
When the holidays roll around, bookstores come out with free glossy circulars promoting children's books. Cut out pictures of the book covers from the circulars, and glue them to pieces of stiff cardboard. Decoupage. When they are dry, use a hot glue gun to attach them along a narrow piece of garland. Wrap around a miniature tree (found at craft and variety stores) and add a little star at the top. Voila! This is one Christmas tree (or Chanukah bush) that sparkles with a love of reading, and also makes a great gift for another teachers or librarian.
Try to Hold a Candle to These Hanukkah Stories!
From a child's-eye view, one of the best parts Hanukkah is a present every day for each of the eight days. Find eight great books and gift-wrap them, and unwrap one a day for eight straight days! Your children will look forward to storytime so much, you'll swear it's a Hanukkah miracle! You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy these titles:
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel (a Hanukkah classic, but if it's played out for you, try the author's newer book, Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night. Kids love drawing their favorite goblins from these stories.)
In the Month of Kislev by Nina Jaffe (follow this tale with a treat of chocolate Hanukkah "gelt," chocolate coins sold at many supermarkets or vaiety stores)
The Runaway Dreidel by Leslea Newman (nice alongside Paul Galdone's The Gingerbread Man)
Hanukkah Ha-Ha's that are a Latke of Fun by Katy Hall (use this joke book to springboard into an open mike session for some oral speaking practice)
The Flying Latke by Arthur Yorinks (Divide the dialogue into parts and try some reader's theater!)
Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah by Sylvia A. Rouss (lends itself very nicely to a simple puppet show as well)
Hanukkah! By Roni Schotter (join in one family's celebration for a nice introduction to the holiday)
Chanukah Bugs: A Pop-Up Celebration by David A. Carter (astonishing paper engineering, and a great hostess gift if you are invited to a Hanukkah party!)
For more Hanukkah fun, including the rules to the game "dreidel" and potato pancake or "latke" recipes, check out www.holidays.net/chanukah!
However you enjoy the month of December, peace to you, your students and your family, and may 2003 be a year of HAPPY READING!
Esme Raji Codell,
Site Director, Planetesme.com
Planetesme.com is a non-sectarian site dedicated to getting great children's literature into the hands of great children. We accept no advertising; links are provided as a service to our guests at the discretion of the site director.
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