This page features reviews by Jenn of books she has considered for use in her physical literacy programs.
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ǀǀǀ PROGRAM MODELS
ǀǀǀ BOOK REVIEWS
Baby Loves to Boogie!
by Wednesday Kirwan
New York: Little Simon, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4814-0383-2;
Board book edition; $US $5.99/CAN $6.99.
This bright, colorful board book of animals frolicking in various types of dance is full of engaging rhymes ("The chicks can do kicks and the toucan can cancan") and creative word-play that has a fun mouth-feel ("There's a cha-cha Chihuahua and an eel-ectric slide") that will make both child and reader want to get up and boogie! In addition to being fun to have in the collection, this book would be a great asset to a Babies in the Library program or a Family Dance Party.
Can You Make a Scary Face?
by Jan Thomas
New York: Beach Lane, 2009.
ISBN 978-1-4169-8581-5; Hardcover;
US $12.99/CAN $16.99.
This engaging (and frankly fairly nonsensical) story about a bossy ladybug who gets the reader to jump, dance, and get imaginary bugs off their nose before a giant frog attacks, will be a huge hit with younger kids. In fact, this book is our number one go-to pick when we do K-2 school tours. Be sure to bring along a plastic bug or two for added effect. Not only great for enhancing physical literacy with all jumping around, but on a deeper level, by asking the kids to associate emotions (being scared or scary) with movement, they are connecting to the concept that emotion IS energy-in-motion.
Dojo Daytrip by Chris Tougas
Toronto: Owl Kids, 2015. ISBN 978-1-77147-142-8; Hardcover; CAN $16.95.
A bus full of little ninjas embark on a field trip to the farm with their cowboy-hat-wearing Master. Their Master seems to get into one disaster after another: tripping on a banana peel and landing on a pig, waving a red scarf and angering a bull, and getting caught on a runaway horse. Luckily the little ninjas are around to save him...eventually. My boys (age 5 and 10) got the biggest giggle out of this book, and it encouraged much rough and tumble ninja-play and the yelling of "It's a big barnyard disaster! No one's there to save the Master!" I have yet to try the book out on a storytime crowd, but I'm sure it would have a very similar effect. A great tool to encourage some physical literacy if you are doing a barnyard, teamwork, or martial arts theme.
Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig, illustrated by Marc Brown
New York: Knopf, 2011. ISBN 978-0-375-86455-1;
Hardcover; US $15.99/CAN $17.99.
What a fun book to get your preschool storytime crowd bopping and grooving! With great rhythm, rhyme, repetition, and fun word play ("Puuurrrr! Mee-ooow! All that racket wakes up...cow!") this story is not only a joy to read but a guaranteed hit with the kiddos. Add some shakers and noisemakers and get everyone up dancing! You could even incorporate a fun game of pretending to have some of the kids asleep, acting out the different animals, and having the others rattle the noisemakers to wake them up while you read the story! A must-add for every juvenile collection at a public or school library.
The Five Forms by Barbara McClintock
New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017.
ISBN 978-1-62672-216-3; Hardcover;
US $17.99/CAN $24.99.
In this fantastic book by award-winning author and illustrator Barbara McClintock, a girl finds an instruction manual of martial arts poses (wushu) abandoned on top of a book donation bin.There is a warning at the beginning of the book that if the forms are performed by anyone other than a master, unexpected things could happen. And happen they do! When she performs Crane pose, a real life crane appears in her bedroom! You can only guess the havoc that ensues when she attempts the Snake, Leopard, and Dragon forms—the house gets a little rowdy! Luckily there is a form to return everything back to the way it was, along with a little elbow grease, just in time for her mom to get home. There is a lovely author's note at the end of the book explaining McClintock's inspiration for the tale. This book is sure to inspire young readers to practice some of their own forms and see what they can conjure.
Footloose by Kenny Loggins, illustrated by Tim Bowers
Lake Forest, CA: MoonDance, 2016. ISBN 978-1-63322-118-5; Hardcover with CD; US $17.95/CAN $23.95.
This popular song, redesigned for the younger set by featuring zoo animals cutting loose, will be sure to get your storytime hopping! While I found the cadence of some lines a bit awkward, kids don't seem to notice. When I brought this book home to share with my boys (age 5 and 10) it was requested multiple times and they were soon singing it themselves and dancing around the living room. So be prepared for repeat requests!
Go, Shapes, Go! by Denise Fleming
New York: Beach Lane, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4424-8240-1;
Hardcover; US $17.99/CAN $21.99.
This creatively illustrated story incorporates paper cut-outs of shapes and movement-based language as a way to teach shape and pattern recognition. Using the familiar and friendly forms of a monkey and a mouse, children can be encouraged to march, leap, flip, slither, bounce, roll, slide, scoot, fly, twirl, hop and....oh no! crash! alongside their animal shape friends. You can find fun printable activities to accompany the book at the author's website. A ready-made storytime combining gross and fine motor skills with language and pattern building blocks. Perfect-o!
Hop into Bed! by Nicholas Oldland
Toronto: North Winds Press, 2018. ISBN 978-1-4431-5726-1; Hardcover; CAN $16.99.
Bob the frog loves to hop. In fact, Bob doesn't just like to hop, he likes all sorts of movement: flipping, leaping, jumping, crashing, flopping, twisting, bouncing, springing, flying! Not to mention running and swimming! He gets called home for dinner and bedtime, but no amount of begging by his family will help Bob wind down and get ready for sleep. He stays up all night jumping on his bed. He finally crashes as the sun comes up and he sleeps through an entire day of activities: bathing, eating, school, band practice, even a trip to the zoo! Suddenly, at bedtime, Bob wakes up at the sound of the word "hop" and starts jumping around again. But this time he learns his lesson and goes to sleep when he is supposed to.
Your storytime kids will really enjoy this story of Bob and his jittery antics, and parents will appreciate the message about how important it is to self-regulate. Too much of anything (rest OR exercise) is a bad thing, we have to strive for balance. It would be fun to add a game to your program where the kids could pretend to be Bob, hopping through a bunch of activities (like putting on their coats, pretending to brush their teeth, drinking out of a cup, etc...) and then to pretend to do all those activities while sleeping. I bet you can think of a bunch more!
I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illustrated Frank Morrison
Gather your crew for a funky preschool storytime with this simple but engaging story of a girl who makes her "body rock." Produce some beats using toy drums (we sometimes just hit sticks on top of plastic container lids—use what you have!) and body parts (feet, fingers, hands, knees, hips, toes, and mouth). Bust out the tunes to get everyone in the mood to keep dancing!
I.Q. Gets Fit by Mary Ann Fraser
New York: Walker & Co, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8027-9558-8;
Hardcover; US $15.95.
In this cute book in Fraser's I.Q. series, the class pet mouse decides he's going to start taking better care of his body during Health Month at school by participating in the Student Fitness Challenge. But his real motivation is that he wants to win a gold ribbon. He experiences some pretty discouraging emotions during the month, like feeling his muscles aren't strong enough, or he isn't flexible enough. He realizes he hasn't been drinking enough water or sleeping enough. Even though he doesn't win a gold ribbon, he gets a special prize for being the student with the most improvement. While the messages in the book aren't perfect, they are realistic of the motivations of the age group the book is designed for.
Leap! by JonArno Lawson,
illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Follow the creatures in this colorful, varied landscape as they fidget, toss, twitch, tilt, glide, slide, jump, hop, land, leap, twist, gambol, lurch, spin, and more! If you are teaching a class or leading a storytime with a focus on action words, this is the book for you! Perhaps a bit wordy for the preschool set, this is an ideal read-aloud for K-4.
Murphy Meets the Treadmill by Harriet Ziefert,
illustrated by Emily Bolam
Houghton Mifflin, 2001. ISBN 978-0618113576;
Hardcover; US $16.00.
Murphy is a lovable yellow Lab who likes to sit around on the porch and eat treats between meals. One day his owner Cheryl (who's not-so-slim herself, by the way) tells him that he is "getting fat" and puts him on a diet, even though he feels pretty good about himself ("I thought I had a good build and was an excellent example of my breed"). She tries to get him to exercise but he's not having it, so Cheryl buys him a treadmill. Cheryl gets angry and makes him stay on the treadmill even though he is upset and scared. Eventually Murphy loses weight and all the neighbors (canine and human) praise him—he even gets the attention of a frisky female Greyhound next door—and he begins dreaming about becoming famous and rich. He concludes that exercise is definitely "worth it."
There are so many horrible messages in this book that I didn't even take it home to read to my own children, which I almost always do when reviewing a book to gauge the response of my "trusted advisers." My eldest son struggles with his weight and I can't imagine offering him this guilt-laden book filled with messages about how you can be a better, happier person/dog by concentrating on what other people think of you and avoiding the pain of rejection by complying with their demands and admonishments. If you are looking for materials to build your physical literacy book collection or use during storytime, look elsewhere.
Never Enough Hockey! by Gilles Tibo,
illustrated by Bruno St-Aubin
Toronto: Scholastic, 2017. ISBN 978-1-4431-5566-3; Paperback; CAN $7.99.
This book fooled me! I was sure it was going to be another puck-obsessed action tale geared towards the ice-addict—and it is!—but it also contains an important physical literacy message: athletes (and everyone) are healthier and more capable in their sport of choice if they cross-train. Nicholas is sick and doesn't get to attend hockey training camp this year. Once he starts feeling better he learns it's too late to join in and promptly declares he's giving up hockey and decides to try another sport instead. He calls all his friends to try their favorite activities: tennis, gymnastics, running, table tennis, weightlifting, yoga, diving, and swimming. While he gains new skills and has fun with his friends, he still really misses being on the ice. He wakes up the next morning to attend try-outs for this year's team and he is feeling very discouraged. Not only did he skip all the training at camp, but the competitors for his goalie position look fierce. But once the pucks start flying Nicolas realizes all his cross-training has paid off. He is now stronger, quicker, more flexible, and has better coordination and concentration! He is very thankful to have such helpful friends who were willing to share their time and talent with him. This great story encourages kids to play sports out of their comfort zone and to also share their favorite activities with others. The illustrations are lively and their is a good gender balance of the athletes. A winner for sure!
Ninja Boy Goes to School by N.D. Wilson, illustrated by J.J. Harrison
New York: Random House, 2014. ISBN 978-0-375-86584-8; Hardcover; US $16.99/CAN $19.99.
Ninja Boy goes to school and tries to use his skills of patience, strength, balance, and nimbleness but when he uses his skill for disappearing by sneaking out of the classroom he finds himself "facing a strong enemy" (his teacher) and hides his emotions from his father and principal. His parents punish his misdemeanor by taking away his ninja garb and sending him to bed, where he concludes that he must learn to pretend not to be a ninja even though he is one inside. There are so many confusing themes in this book I don't even know where to start: subjugating your own desires in order to follow the social order while respecting authority and hiding your feelings from the ones you love, but keeping them alive on the inside where no one can judge them but you can never act them out? I picked up this book hoping it would encourage kids to practice martial arts and mindfulness, and instead was hit with this mixed-bag of conflicting messages. I took it home to read it to my boys (age 5 and 10) to gauge their reactions (maybe I was reading too much into it?) and they both concluded that "Ninja Boy shouldn't have jumped out the window" and "he shouldn't hide his feelings." So yeah, I'm going to give this one a big ol' "no thanks." There are better subversive-ninja-goes-their-own-way picture books on the market, like Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed by J.C. Phillips or Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman.
Ninja Bunny by Jennifer Gray Olson
New York: Knopf, 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-75493-4; Hardcover; US $16.99/CAN $19.99.
The first in Olson's Ninja Bunny series, our (gender-not-specified - hurrah!) little bunny wants to follow all the ninja rules in the ninja rule book, like: always work alone, achieve invisibility, maintain perfect balance, and master the ability to fly. Unfortunately, despite their persistence, our determined ninja is having major difficulty. This is when a whole team of bunny ninjas join in the fray and our protagonist rewrites rule # 1 to be: "A super awesome ninja needs super awesome friends!" Read this cute storybook to preschoolers and have them act out being sneaky, strong, invisible, climbing, and balancing. A little obstacle course made out of available materials (chairs, beanbags, blacks, hula hops, etc...) could be built easily to help with your imaginative play and work on those gross motor skills.
Say Zoop! by Hervé Tullet
San Franciso, CA: Chronicle, 2017. ISBN 978-1-4521-6473-1;
Hardcover; US $15.99
The great thing about Tullet's books for kids (see also: Press Here, Mix it Up!, Let's Play!, The Game in the Dark) are that they are designed to be interactive, which naturally enhances physical literacy. Say Zoop! is no exception. By encouraging the reader(s) to associate sounds with the illustrations it calls out to be touched and physically manipulated while also incorporating vocalization, making it a multimodal approach to literacy. By having various voices interacting in the text at once (for example, two robots speaking to one another) it promotes collaboration and fun interaction between the reader and the audience, so that multiple readers emerge, helping the child(ren) build literacy confidence while they act out the characters. And excellent book for one-on-one bonding with child and caregiver, it also lends itself well to library storytime. Encourage extra movement by having the kids act out the dots jumping on a trampoline, going for a walk, or being cars while following along with the text. An essential addition to any juvenile collection.
Spunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin Jr., Michael Sampson, illustrated by Brian Won
New York: Scholastic, 2017. ISBN 978-0-545-77643-1;
Hardcover; US $17.99/CAN $23.99.
For those of you familiar with the popular clapping game, Down Down Baby, this energetic modified version is sure to be a hit! Our sleepy little monkey won't get out of bed and the doctor prescribes exercise as a cure for his lethargy. Pretty soon our monkey is clapping, stomping, shaking, hip-wiggling, and ding-donging his way to a fun day of play with his friends. A great book to use during preschool storytime, the children will be happy to grab some noisemakers and rattle along with this monkey's colorful moves. The book even ends with a note from author Michael Sampson encouraging parents to incorporate daily exercise by using this repetitive chant and lively artwork to also promote literacy! Movement + story + art = multimodal, whole-person literacy!
Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman
New York: Henry Holt, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8050-9970-6;
Hardcover; US $13.99/CAN $15.99.
Is there anything Isabel the Bunjitsu Bunny can't do? Besides being the best martial arts student at her school, she is great at solving problems, helping her friends, practicing even when she is tired, being humble, and doing all she can to avoid a fight. But when she does have to fight—watch out! The first book in Himmelman's Bunjitsu Bunny series is sure to please the early elementary reader, with just enough cute illustrations to keep kids' turning the pages. My boys (age 5 and 10) who practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu couldn't get enough of Isabel and I'd often find them reading this book together on the couch and then acting out her moves. There's lots of positive messages here about staying healthy and treating others with respect, delivered in a very entertaining package all ages will enjoy.
Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Foglesong Gibson, illustrated by Laura Rankin
New York: Greenwillow, 2013. ISBN 978-0-06-177203-0; Hardcover; US $17.99.
OOoooooo!!!! Spoiler Alert!!! This book has THE BEST ending! So much cuteness!! Join Joe the Bear as he tiptoes around the forest (wearing his high tops no less) and gathering his animal friends for a mighty surprise...wait for it!—I'm not going to tell you—you have to read the book! Get all your storytime munchkins to practice their very best tippie-toes like Joe and his friends, who are more into "clops" (Donkey), "thumps" (Rabbit), "flaps" (Turkey), "thuds" (Moose), "swishes" (Owl), and "slaps" (Beaver). A great book for dramatic reading, you can lower your voice to an nearly inaudible whisper as the parade of animal friends get closer and closer to Bear's lair for the big reveal. Every little listener in your audience will be on their tiptoes (pun gleefully intended!) in anticipation.
Yoga Bunny by Brian Russo
New York: HarperCollins, 2017. ISBN 978-0-06-242952-0; Hardcover;
US $17.99/CAN $21.99.
Bunny wakes up one morning and starts his regular yoga routine. He invites his friends to join him but they are all too busy, cranky, or don't feel like it. Bunny feels lonely but remembers that yoga is fun to practice alone too. Some curious mice come along and decide to join in the stretch session and soon all the other animals do too. They discover yoga was exactly what they needed to not feel so busy, tired, or out of sorts! The end papers contain drawings of Bunny doing all the different poses and would be an excellent way to introduce some simple yoga asanas during a storytime.