Book Review: Saturday is Swimming Day

Saturday

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019 

Saturday is Swimming Day is a textbook example of “Give it a try.  You might like it.” Green Eggs and Ham did it much better, though a child being afraid of swimming is more grounded in the real world than eating green eggs and ham (unless you live in the tundra and happen to be served 20-minute eggs and chimichurri pork).

Unfortunately, the story was boring and generic.  

This book is more of what I call a process book–a recipe for how to overcome a fear (in this case, swimming).  

There was nothing special or interesting about the little girl, who remained unnamed; the only person named is the adult.  

What I did like about the story is that it showed the need for teachers–moms can’t do everything, but they can help their child find the help they need when books aren’t enough.  However, the mom didn’t seem very intuitive as she didn’t make an effort to talk to her child about why she got a stomachache every Saturday before class.  

The purpose of the other children served to show that the girl, without class participation, wouldn’t likely make any friends.  Friendship, in this case, was the participation trophy; the joy of swimming was the win. 

Saturday is Swimming Day showed that if you expose your kids to something long enough, they just might try it.  

One thing I did find odd was the little girl calling an adult by their first name; as a child, I never call adults by their first name, unless it was preceded by a title, like Aunt or Uncle.  

Because my daughter loves going to the pool–she even practices “swimming” in the bathtub to get used to the water like the little girl in the book–she liked looking at the pictures (which were dull and flat), but it definitely didn’t make for interesting reading.  

Suggested activity:  If you can give your child swimming lessons, do it.  Uncontrolled water, such as bays, rivers, and oceans, are no places for learning  how to swim; pools (controlled water) are far better. In such an environment, you don’t have to worry about being eaten by varmints or contracting flesh-eating bacteria; you can also add toys without worrying about them getting carried away by the current.  What’s more, you don’t have to worry about getting heat stroke or sunburn. Swimming is great resistance training that is low-impact, and it works out the entire body.  

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36739469-saturday-is-swimming-day

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Book Review: Hello Lighthouse

Lighthouse

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp: https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019/

Hello, Lighthouse has been my favorite ALA pick thus far, even though the lighthouse is the main character; if the author would’ve developed the unnamed characters a little more, Hello would’ve been a superb book.  The illustrations were so lovely (I love that the book was tall–like a lighthouse) and the details about a lighthouse keeper’s life so interesting, the lack of character development didn’t matter (too much).  

The idea of lighthouse keeping jobs being done away with through automation could’ve been stressed a little more–even going so far as to show how much safer life is with dangerous jobs being automated.

Showing what it was like growing up in a lighthouse would’ve been something children would’ve related to more; I was curious as there was nowhere for the child to play outside–the island that the lighthouse stood on was just a pile of rocks.  

I was impressed that the author conducted so much research for a fictionalized book (much less for children) on lighthouses; it shows in the pictures especially.  However, there was so much more information in the “About Lighthouses” section printed on the back cover–delightful details that many children will miss because they’re only going to know what was included in the story itself, such as lighthouse keepers needing assistants to play checkers with to help share the night watch and what kind of information was recorded in the logbook.  

Details like the lighthouse keeper sending handwritten messages in a bottle was a nice touch–a little more of that and less of the “Hello, hello, hello,” refrains would’ve been great.  The book reads much better without those the latter as they disrupted the flow of the narrative.

The “circle of life” when the wife was expecting was cute (even though I had to turn the book around to read it); other details like certain scenes being viewed inside the lens of the telescope added interest (but not busyness).  However, the page that was folded into the book was extraneous.

Being a dollhouse lover, I loved the cross-section of the lighthouse, being able to see all the rooms; intricacies such as that, as well as the sense of time passing with the changing of the seasons and the little girl growing up, brought this book to life.

This book and the author’s passion for lighthouses made me want to visit one; I even googled what old logbooks looked like (which, by the way, are boring).

This one’s a keeper!

Suggested activity:  If there’s a lighthouse in your area, visit it.  If there isn’t (and even if there is), you can buy a “logbook” (i.e. journal) and show your child how to keep a record of things that are of interest to them.  Make it as simple or as complex (depending on your child’s age) as you wish. Depending on your child’s age, write for them or use this form of journaling to practice their writing (or drawing) but always include the time and date (this is a great way to teach them how to read and understand a clock and calendar) with each entry.  This activity is to just get them writing, documenting, and learning how to remember things by doing so.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35580105-hello-lighthouse

Book Review: The Day You Begin

The Day You Begin

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019

I liked the message this book was trying to convey–that we can be friends with those who are different and find common ground (regardless of what ground we were born in) and build on that.

However, the stronger (but subtler) message was that reading takes you places that you can’t afford to go to “…reading books and telling stories–even though we were right on our block–it was like we got to go everywhere” (I added punctuation for clarification).

The other lesson was that it was the gift of oral storytelling, of connecting with others, that helped Angelina connect with her classmates so that they would listen long enough to hear that she shared commonalities (though it is intimated that one has to first find common ground before being able to establish any sort of connection rather than just appreciating one another at the onset, despite their differences).  

Ultimately, it seemed that Angelina only connected (at least on a one-on-one basis) with the child whose ethnic heritage most closely mirrored her own.  What if she was the only Hispanic child in the class?

The constant shift in point-of-view didn’t connect me with any of the children who were more representations of different ethnic groups than unique characters who happened to be Hispanic, Asian, et cetera.  The author was trying to fit too many ethnicities into the first-person slot, and it just didn’t work. It’s all the difference between a hard news article and a human interest story.

That said, the illustrations were colorful, the faces expressive, and the surroundings downright whimsical–like double exposures of portraits and landscapes.  More imagery could’ve been built into the illustrations but they were well done and interesting with sharp lines, bold colors, and a profusion of patterns. I liked a ruler being used for a table and wished the author would have done more with pre-existing patterns (e.g. sheet music, chalkboards, etc).  

The Day You Begin is definitely worth a second look!

Suggested activity:  Grab a children’s book that has a unique setting (showing that books can take you to places you’ve never been and to those you can only imagine) and draw a map of that setting.  Even this book would work; just draw a map of the school with the cafeteria and the playground surrounding it. There are many ways you can go with this geographical activity: mind maps, treasure maps, even Google maps!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37506301-the-day-you-begin

Book Review: Black Bird, Yellow Sun

Black bird

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp: https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019/

Black Bird, Yellow Sun, is like a poor-man’s Eric Carle. This is down there with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, which is one of the worst kids books ever–in words and pictures. I try to keep in mind that I can’t expect (nor should I expect) a striking narrative for an early board book. However, the words are large and contain repetitions of blends (e.g. bl for black, sn for snake, etc)–great for early readers. That said, the illustrations are quite bad–the rocks don’t even look like rocks but gray blobs. The bird isn’t a character but rather, just some random bird who coexists with a worm (also random). If you don’t like this (and even if you do), I highly recommend Little Owl’s Day and Little Owl’s Night (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20307476-little-owl-s-day?from_search=true). The Owl books are the charming, narrative versions of the stark bullet points of Black Bird.

BBYS is one of those books you’d give to your child to play with and look at but not add to your library where they might actually last for the grandchildren.

Suggested activity: Use this book as a scavenger hunt guide (i.e. have your child look for pink flowers, gray rocks, et cetera).

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35793019-black-bird-yellow-sun