Sunday, December 28, 2008

1st Miscellaneous Monday - Author Spotlight

Today I have chosen to spotlight author and illustrator, Jan Brett. Since 1980, Brett has written, illustrated and retold over 30 children's stories. Some of her most popular works include The Mitten, Annie and the Wild Animals, and The Hat. My five reviews today come directly from my home bookshelf: Honey... Honey... Lion!, The Umbrella, Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?, The Mitten, and Gingerbread Baby. All are wonderful picks and will be enjoyed by children and teachers alike.


In this African tale, children will be sure to learn a lesson! Honeyguide, a small, sparrow-like bird, and Honeybadger, resembling a skunk have always worked together to reap the rewards and share in tasting the sweetness of the honey that Honeybadger breaks free from the beehive that Honeyguide leads him to. One day, Honeybadger turns selfish and decides not to share with Honeyguide after she leads him to the beehive. In return, Honeyguide decides to teach Honeybadger a lesson – leading him across the African plains, ultimately leading Honeybadger face-to-face with a lion. The moral of the story? If someone helps you with something, you should certainly allow them to enjoy in the reward!

The typical watercolor and gouache artwork that Jan Brett is famous for brings life-like characteristics to the African animals and vegetation allowing a true portrayal of African wildlife. Not only will children love the story, they will also be captivated by the artwork!

Lesson Plans/Book Activities:

In The Umbrella, Jan Brett takes readers on an adventure to the Monteverde Cloud Forest located in Costa Rica. Carlos, a young boy in search of tropical animals acts as the tour guide. Finding no animals on the forest floor, Carlos drops his umbrella to pursue his search among the fig trees. The abandoned umbrella soon becomes a resting place for the many tropical animals that habituate in the cloud forest. Suddenly a monkey flings the umbrella into the river and the real adventure begins! Even though Carlos exits the forest disappointed that he spotted no animals, readers certainly won’t lack spotting them as they practically jump off the pages.

The combination of airbrush, gouache and watercolor styles used by Jan Brett portrays the true essence of the cloud forest wildlife and vegetation, allowing readers to feel as though they truly did visit this Costa Rican forest.

Lesson Plans/Book Activities:

In this unique Christmas story, Kyri, a young girl who resides far north of the Arctic Circle prepares the family’s Christmas Eve meal. Nervously she anticipates the arrival of some very unwelcome Christmas Eve guests. However, after a young boy from Finnmark arrives at her front door, Kyri’s evening takes an unexpected turn and the unwelcome visitors are sure to never return by the time the young boy from Finnmark and his bear leave.

The illustrations display the beauty of the Northern Lights and give readers a true picture of Scandinavian culture from the characters clothing to the objects found amongst the little hut in which Kyri and her father reside.

Lesson Plans/Book Activities:

A young Ukranian boy who is in need of a new pair of mittens wishes more than anything for them to be white. His grandmother, Baba, hesitates, knowing what that Nicki will likely lose one of them in the snow. As Baba expected, Nicki does indeed lose one of his mittens. The lost mitten goes unnoticed by Nicki, but a slew of woodland animals quickly spot it and decide that the white mitten would make a wonderful place to get warm out of the winter’s harsh air. The mitten quickly fills with a variety of animals but before long, the meadow mouse tickles the bear with her whiskers and the animals wind up scattered in all directions, the mitten flying through the air! Will Nicki find the mitten and return home to please Baba? Check out this folk tale to discover the entire adventure yourself!

Lesson Plans/Book Activities:

In this take on the traditional tale of the “Gingerbread Boy,” Brett tells the story of a young boy and his mother. Together, the two have baked gingerbread men. Matti is so anxious to have the gingerbread men be baked that he opens the oven door early and one of the gingerbread men, a baby, escapes from the oven. A chase begins with the forest animals to catch the runaway gingerbread baby – through the countryside. At home Matti sets to work constructing a gingerbread house, which he eventually places at the edge of the woods. As the gingerbread baby runs ahead of those chasing him, he spots the house and runs inside to hide.

Lesson Plans/Book Activities: