December 2 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

You’ve heard the saying “Too Many Books, Too Little Time,” right? Well, this truism has spawned not only one, but two Read a New Book Month celebrations! Both December and September have been designated as times to make special plans to search out and read new books. These can be books that are newly published or books that are new to you. And if you find yourself putting a few old favorites in the pile, that’s okay too! It’s also a great time to think about adding books to those gift lists!

The B on Your Thumb: 60 Poems to Boost Reading and Spelling

Written by Colette Hiller | Illustrated by Tor Freeman

 

One of the joys of books for little ones is sitting with a parent, teacher, or other caregiver and listening to the story play out with wonder, silliness, sadness, and a whole world of feelings. Hearing the words and sentences, it all makes sense. But when kids start reading, start really looking at the words, well…all of those vowel combinations, silent letters, words that sound the same but look completely different, words that look completely different but sound the same… it can get confusing!

And that’s where Colette Hiller and Tor Freeman’s book of poetry comes in handy. Sixty poems covering the topics of spelling and pronunciation are broken out into four categories—Sounds, Silent Letters and Secrets, Spellings, and Words that Sound the Same—that make understanding the written English language easier and more fun to learn. With this ditty, Hiller welcomes kids in to this delightful book: “Some letters sound as they are meant to. / Other letters change. / They sometimes make surprising noises. / English can be strange!”

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Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

One of the first sounds a baby hears may be a gentle “sh.” Encountering this consonant combination on the page, though, can seem daunting. Ssss and Huh? Hiller gives a hand in pronouncing it though, with a little intro to the two letters on their own and then… “S and H go sh, / that is what they do. / The sh that’s in your shoulder, the sh that’s in your shoe.” She then goes on to add a few more lines with familiar “sh” words that will make kids “shout!”

With clever versus that will bring on many giggles and even more “Ah-ha” moments, Hiller and Freeman introduces kids to the sounds that vowel combinations “o-u,” “o-i,” “a-i,” “o-a,” “e-e,” and “o-o” make with a sad U that’s just struck “out,” and a cheering crowd that invites them to join in chanting “oggy, oggy, oggy, oi, oi,oi!” There’s also a train filled with rain, a goat in love with a toad, a treed cheetah, and of course the man in the moon.

Hiller doesn’t forget about those perfectly matched consonant couples either. She relates the story of how Q and U fell in love in a queue; goes shopping with Mrs. Owl for a new gown and crown; and takes on that “bossy E” who always takes over when together with A. There are many more poems about letter combinations in this section as well, and each one is loaded with examples of words that incorporate those letters.

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Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

In the chapter Silent Letters and Secrets, Hiller engages readers in the finer arts of the silent B in “doubt” and “thumb.” In the book’s title poem, she says, “Look, there’s a B / right there on your thumb, / but of course you shouldn’t mind… / For the B that you see / right there on your thumb / is not the stinging kind!” Silent K gets two poems of its own and silent W comes knocking in two more poems. She investigates that mysterious “h” in where, what, why, and when as well as the equally mysterious pair “g-h” in words like night and sight. Kids will also enjoy finding hidden words lurking in longer words.

Now, reading may be one thing, but spelling? At times that seems like something all together different. In the chapter Spellings, Hiller teaches kids some tricks of the trade. In her poem “Magical E,”  “Magical E / has magical might. / See how she turns / a kit to a kite…. / Abracadabra: / a cap is a cape! / She hops on a tub. / Now the tub is a tube. / Abracadabra… / A dud is a dude!” Readers discover rhymes that make it easier to remember unusual spellings in words such as “separate, important, and rhyme as well as that old favorite “I before E except after C” that includes a twist.

Colette Hiller finishes up with Words that Sound the Same. In “Two, Too, and To,” she explains the difference in those three little words that often trip us up and gives tips on remembering them. “Witch” and “which,” “here” and “here,” “whole” and “hole,” and “whether” and “weather” are also treated to poems of their own. 

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Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

In each poem, the subject letters are called out in a bright color that allows kids to make the connection between the combinations of letters and how they contribute to the structure of a word visually and in sound. Following the poems, Hiller includes detailed tips and fun exercises and activities that adults and kids can do together to enhance learning from poem to poem and when reading classroom assignments and books and other materials at home.

Colette Hiller nimbly navigates the dual desires to teach and entertain with her jaunty rhymes that are ingenious, witty, and clear examples of how words sound and are pronounced. When shared with children reading along, the poems reinforce how each word looks with their sometimes-confusing mix of letters. When education is this humorous and joyful, kids will beg to read “just one more” which, of course, means better literacy, success in school, and opportunities in the future.

Accompanying each poem are Tor Freeman’s whimsical and hilarious illustrations of adorable letters interacting with people taking showers, fleeing from a wily cheetah, waiting in a queue, and even flying a car in outer space. There are also chimpanzees eating cheese sandwiches, a cat doing calisthenics, and an ant learning a lesson in importance. And, of course, there are letters, letters, letters rowing a boat, deigning to give audience to a princess, dining in a haunted castle, and cavorting from page to page and poem to poem.

A rousing collection of poems that kids will love on their own and as inspirational learning tools in language arts lessons, The B on Your Thumb is highly recommended for homeschoolers and home bookshelves and a must for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711254602

You can download a Teacher’s Guide with pre- and post-reading discussion questions, a writing activity and a word play activity on the Quarto Knows website.

Discover more about Colette Hiller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tor Freeman, her books, and her art on her website.

National Read a New Book Day Activity

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I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Collection

 

When you buy a new book, you need new book bling to go with it! Here’s a printable book plate and bookmark, plus a want-to-read list to help you choose your next new book to buy! 

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Read List | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

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You can find The B on Your Thumb at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 16 – Dictionary Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the birthday of Noah Webster who published his first dictionary—A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language—in 1806 and went on to create the first truly comprehensive American dictionary in 1828. Along the way in completing his life’s work, he learned twenty-six languages, reformed the spelling of many words from the British form to an American spelling, and introduced new American words never before published. To commemorate the holiday, take a little trip through the dictionary or play a word-based game like Scrabble, Boggle, or Balderdash. If you’re interested in lexicography—the making of a dictionary—or just love words, you’ll find Webster’s 1828 Dictionary fascinating reading!

Lexie the Word Wrangler

Written by Rebecca Van Slyke | Illustrated by Jessie Hartland

 

With just one look at Lexie in her cowboy hat, boots, and bandana, or a peek at her talent for riding a horse, twirling a lariat, and rounding up cattle, you could tell she was a wrangler. But Lexie was no ordinary wrangler; she was a “word wrangler.” With her lariat she could rope together separate words and make entirely new stuff. She could tie up “an ear of corn and a loaf of bread and make some tasty cornbread.” A “stick of butter and a pesky fly” became a “butterfly.”

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

In the spring, Lexie tended little letters until they grew into big words. She could also be found in the chuck wagon each morning stirring up big pots of new words from old ingredients. In the blink of an eye, she could transform “an annoying P-E-S-T…into some fine P-E-T-S. And that “S-P-O-T?” With a swirl of the spoon, it became a handy “P-O-S-T.”

Since there were so many words roaming around her ranch, Lexie herded them into sentences, long letters home to Ma, and even fascinating stories. But one day Lexie noticed that something was wrong. When she went to put on her bandana, the d was missing, and tying the banana was impossible. The problem didn’t just involve missing letters, either. Words were disappearing too, creating some pretty strange results. Once after a storm, a big red bow appeared in the sky instead of a rainbow.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

Lexie’s work around the ranch became harder too. Once day, instead of rounding up a neighbor’s calves, she discovered that someone had “released a whole passel of baby g’s into the calf pen” and now “all the little dogies” were “doggies.” Later, when Lexie rolled out her sleeping bag, she discovered that the usually S-T-A-R – speckled sky was full of  “R-A-T-S.”

Lexie realized there was a word rustler on the loose and set out to find him. She headed into the desert, but discovered that the sandy ground had turned into a messy, gooey dessert. After cleaning out her horse’s hooves, she was more determined than ever to find the culprit. She climbed a tall tree and kept a lookout for the word rustler. Soon enough she spied him sneaking toward her front gate and the sign that announced Lexie’s Longhorn Ranch. He was just about to lasso the word “long” when Lexie lassoed him.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

The word rustler protested that he was just having a bit of fun, but Lexie didn’t like the idea of being left with a corral full of horns. All he wanted, Russell admitted, was to work with words like Lexie did. Lexie could see that Russell had talent, so she made him promise to use his skills in a positive way. Then she released him and told him from now on he would be known as “Russell the Word Wrestler.”

Now Russell works alongside Lexie doing jobs like keeping the place free of rattlesnakes by wrestling them into “a baby’s rattle and a harmless snake.” Lexie and Russell are happy to raise baby letters, help words grow, and even teach young cowpokes how to rope and tie words together, so they can join the word-wrangling circuit in the future themselves.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

If Lexie got her lariat around Rebecca Van Slyke’s name and separated the S-L-Y from the K-E, she’d have the perfect description for this nifty story. Deconstructing words can be a fascinating way to get kids interacting with and researching words and spelling as they really think about what they are reading. Van Slyke’s ranch setting serves up an ingenious metaphor for the word wrangling that students are doing at this stage of their education. Her quick wit and smart word choices provide plenty of “ah-ha!” moments, laughs, and opportunities for visual humor. The introduction of Russell allows Van Slyke to increase her stable of puns, which will delight readers.

Jessie Hartland’s vibrant, folk-style illustrations are a rip-roaring accompaniment to the story, providing visual clues and humor as words change due to missing or jumbled letters. Kids will laugh when one of Lexie’s bandanas turns into bananas and may shudder to think how easy it might be for rats to fill the night sky instead of stars. Hartland’s cleverly designed typography lets readers easily see how small words grow into bigger new ones with the addition of one, two, three, or more letters. Likewise, as “wild” words are tamed into a sentence, young writers can begin to understand the mechanics of grammar.

A Dictionary of Wrangler Words follows the text.

Lexie the Word Wrangler is an entertaining and educational choice for kids who love words, puns, and the West. It would be a welcome gift and imaginative addition to home libraries. The book would also be an inspiring starter for writing, spelling, and other language arts units.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulson Books, 2017 |ISBN 978-0399169571

To learn more about Rebecca Van Slyke, visit her website.

View a gallery of illustration work by Jessie Harland on her website.

Dictionary Day Activity

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What a Difference a Letter Makes Word Search Puzzle

 

Each of the word pairs in this puzzle are close in spelling but not in meaning. Take a look and find the twenty words in this printable What a Difference a Letter Makes Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review