Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Irish Cinderlad

The Irish Cinderlad (Trophy Picture Books (Paperback))is Shirley Climo's contribution to the multicultural tradition of Cinder lad stories.

In this story, Becan the Cinderella male character has a cruel stepmother and stepsisters who seek to remove him from his home. His father is a peddler and after his mother's death returns from one of his trips with a stepmother and three grown stepsisters who turn him out of the house and make him into a cow herder.

The locals have come to fear a speckled bull that is rumored to harm those who cross its path. In true fairy tale fashion, Becan's kind nature is rewarded. Instead of being harmed by the bull, he makes friends with it and discovers that through magic it is able to feed him daily. When his evil sisters discover his good fortune, they decide to kill his friend. The bull and Becan escape, but the bull warns Becan that his escape is only temporary. At the end of the journey, he is destined to die and his tail will provide Becan with further protections.

This is the first Cinderella tale I have encountered with a Bull as fairy godmother, but it does make for an interesting twist. The tail provides Becan with tools to increase his power and eventually save a princess. Following the traditional tale, Becan loses a boot and that is how his princess locates him to marry him.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blue Star Museums 2012

The Blue Star Museum program has launched again for 2012. The program began May 28 and will end Labor Day, Monday September 3. Participating Museums provide free admission for active duty personnel and their family. On the website you will find a map that provides a listing by state of the sites participating here. I am not sure why, but I found the map worked better in when I ran it in Firefox rather than Internet Explorer. As always, I suggest checking with the site you want to visit to get more information, prior to your day of travel.

As of this writing, the following Massachusetts venues were listed as participants:

The Discovery Museums

Lowell's Boat Shop

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

Addison Gallery of American Art

Attleboro Arts Museum

Beverly Historical Society

Historic New England Boston
Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Massachusetts Historical Society
Museum of Fine Arts
National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Massachusetts
Nichols House Museum
Old South Meeting House
USS Constitution Museum
Waterworks Museum
The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston

Harvard Art Museums
Harvard Museum of Natural History
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Museum of Russian Icons

Concord Museum
Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House

The Fairbanks House

Martha's Vineyard Museum

Top Fun Aviation Toy Museum

Fruitlands Museum

Haverhill Firefighting Museum

Hingham Historical Society

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Whistler House Museum of Art

Lynn Museum and Historical Society

The Cape Cod Children's Museum

N. Easton
Ames Mansion - Friends of Borderland

Nahant Historical Society

African Meeting House; Museum of African American History
Egan Maritime Institute
Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association
Nantucket Historical Association

New Bedford
New Bedford Whaling Museum
Rotch-Jones-Duff House & Garden Museum

Historic Newton

North Andover
North Andover Historical Society

North Easton
Children's Museum in Easton

North Grafton
The Willard House & Clock Museum

Berkshire Museum

Carpenter Museum

The Shirley-Eustis House Museum

Peabody Essex Museum
Salem Museum

Heritage Museums & Gardens

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Springfield Museums

Norman Rockwell Museum

Old Colony Historical Society

Gore Place

Historical Society of Watertown

Wenham Museum

Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Worcester Art Museum
Worcester Historical Museum

Yarmouth Port
Edward Gorey House

Monday, May 28, 2012

Full House an Invitation to Fractions

Full House: An Invitation to Fractionsinvites young readers to see fractions in action in an age appropriate manner.

In an author statement Ms. Dodds states, "Fractions were always a bit difficult for me to understand." In this book, she sets out to demonstrate that even young children can start to see fractions as parts of wholes and recognize their number format. She takes the fear out of fractions by introducing them at a young age, helping parents and teachers to demonstrate there is no boogey man fraction monster. It is just another part of math in our environment.

The story she weaves to help teach fractions is about Miss Bloom who runs the Strawberry Inn with six rooms including her own. She is hopeful of filling the Inn and as each guest arrives the readers are shown the fraction of rooms that are now filled. When the final guest arrives, the reader is shown how 6/6 is equal to one whole because the whole Inn is full. A final fraction story emerges regarding Miss Bloom's cake when the guests get hungry in the middle of the night and only leave her 1/6 the of the cake for herself.

I think this is another great book for introducing math concepts early in an age appropriate manner. I do not expect children to grasp fractions after reading this or any other children's picture book. However, it does plant a seed. With additional exposure, children do start to build math concepts. Thus, fractions and other math topics are no longer great mysteries to be tackled in later years.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cendrillon: A Cajun Cinderella

Sheila Herbert Collins has written a traditional version of the Cinderella tale in Cendrillon: A Cajun Cinderellawith unique Cajun cultural language and traditions. She has provided translations for French words children may not be familiar with that she drops in between the English.

In this version, Cendrillon's father marries, brings her a stepmother and sister and dies leaving her among unfriendly territory. Her stepmother cannot afford the home and they must move to less expensive lodgings. The ball for this version occurs during Mardi Gras. The Prince is Ovey Thibeaux, the son of the wealthiest man in the City. His father wants him to marry and has had his son named Rex, or King of the Carnival.

This version follows the traditional tale of Cinderella, which has her stepmother promising she can attend if she has the clothes and finishes her chores. Her animal friends provide her with a dress and she does finish in time to make it to the carriage. In their jealousy, her sisters destroy her dress and she is left in despair until the arrival of her fairy godmother. This version continues with the shoe.

The author does not cite any historical tradition for this story. I am not sure if it is one she has heard, or one she wrote utilizing her knowledge of the Cinderella story and Cajun culture. Based on the comments in the notes I am inclined to believe it is a story she wrote to promote Cajun culture and not a traditional Cajun Cinderella story she is retelling.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Free Fun Fridays 2012 in Massachusetts

The Highland Street Foundation has announced their schedule for 2012 of Free Fun Friday events. The program provides free entrance each Friday to different museums, zoos, theater and other attractions to residents and visitors in Massachusetts. You can find the list at their website here. The first Friday is June 29 and the final one is August 31.

It is advisable to check with the attractions to find out if there are any additional costs for specific programs, you may be interested in at the location. I know with other offers only admission is covered. Any additional programs are generally at the cost of the person attending. With some venues, all that is required is admission and you have full access to everything. With others, there is plenty to see for the cost of admission, but more available at an additional cost. I have not read anything about specific events associated with attendees of Free Fridays. Calling ahead and visiting the venue websites can provide you with more information.

These events tend to attract large crowds. For those who plan on utilizing other pass or discount options, you may also want to be aware of these dates as you can expect there to be higher traffic on these dates. If you have other options, you may want to choose another date for your visit to find a less crowded venue.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sir Cumference and All the King's Tens

Sir Cumference and All the King's Tens: A Math Adventure
is another book in Cindy Neuschwander's Sir Cumference Math Series.

In this book, Sir Cumference and Lady Di of Ameter are preparing for a visit from King Arthur. Lady Di is struggling to get a head count to determine the amount of food that needs to be prepared and to adequately provide housing and comfort for her guests. They struggle with a method of counting until of course they decide to divide and group people using ten's.

The author weaves a creative tale with a practical answer to the question when will we ever need to use this math.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Golden Sandal A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story

According to the author's notesThe Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story is based on an Iraq traditional tale, "The Little Red Fish and the Clog of Gold" she found in Inea Bushnaq's Arab Folktales(Pantheon, 1986.) After reading several Middle Eastern versions, she thought this would be the most adaptable to picture book format.

In this version, Maha lives with her fisherman father and actually encourages her father to marry the neighbor woman who has been caring for them since her mother died. She wants a stepmother and sister. The father is reluctant because he fears the woman may be jealous of another's child. The child continues to beg and the father marries the woman.

As with most Cinderella tales, the father’s prediction is correct. While the relationship starts well, it deteriorates over times. The woman resents the strong bond between father and daughter and she is angered that her stepchild is more beautiful and graceful than her own. As a result, while the father is away working Mala takes on more of the chores. She is given little to eat.

Mala's fairy godmother in this version is a red fish that she finds in a basket of catfish she is sent to pick up from her father's boat. The fish begs for its life and Mala returns it to the river, knowing she will face punishment from her stepmother for the act of kindness. When she sets him free, the fish promises her that he will help her if she calls on him.

When she returns home, she needs assistance from the fish when her father asks what happened to the fish and her stepmother sends her out to find it. She calls to the fish and he gives her a gold coin to appease the stepmother.

The fish continues to help the girl as she grows and in this version of the tale, there is no ball, but the wedding of a merchant's daughter. Mala and the stepsister want to go to see the daughter be painted with henna as she prepares for the ceremony. As expected of a Cinderella tale, Mala is forbidden to go. She seeks assistance from the fish, which provides her with the ability not only to go see the event, but to get prime seating. This includes a pair of golden sandals, which of course in true Cinderella fashion she loses one in flight to return home before her stepmother arrives.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Multiplying Menance The Revenge of Rumpelstiltskin

In Multiplying Menace: The Revenge of Rumpelstiltskin (A Math Adventure)Rumpelstiltskin is back and he wants revenge on the parents he feels cheated him. He has a new weapon and he is not afraid to use it to get back the child he thought should have belonged to him.

In order to save his parents the child leaves with Rumpelstiltskin and observes how his magical cane works. The magic the cane uses involves multiplication. The boy carefully observes how Rumpelstiltskin uses whole numbers and fractions to create the outcomes he desires.

When Rumpelstiltskin does not keep his word about restoring his father's nose, the boy is determined to steal the cane and return the kingdom back to normal. As he practices with the cane, he learns the importance of precise math language. In one example the cane only works when he uses zero, other more commonly used substitutions fail.

One of the strengths of this book was that it introduced multiplication of fractions in a practical visual way. While many students may not leave this book ready to multiply fractions, it does provide an introduction at an early age that is age appropriate and does not make fractions mysterious and something to be feared. I always appreciate titles that seek to make math friendlier to all students and I think this one makes that list.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Prince Cinders

Prince Cindersis a cute, but predictable retelling of the Cinderella story with a gender switch. Cinderella is switched with Prince Cinders who has three hairy bullying older brothers.

The main twist to this story is Prince Cinder's fairy godmother is not as qualified as most are in the other Cinder tales. Instead of turning the awkward prince into a handsome young date for the rich young princess, she tries a variety of spells to get him ready for a big night at the disco. Finally, she does grant the Prince's deepest desire to be big and hairy like his brothers, but not in a way, the Prince had expected. However, the Prince and the fairy are not too concerned because the unexpected spells should wear off at midnight.

In this version, the Prince loses not a shoe, but his pants. The story follows the traditional tale and the Princess tries to find her true love that can fit the pants.

This was not my favorite of the alternate Cinderella tales, but it was a cute read.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Creation of the U.S. Constitution

If you are looking for a resource that explains in an accurate and age appropriate way the Articles of the Confederation and Shay's Rebellion The Creation of the U.S. Constitution (Graphic History)is a great resource to add to your list.

As I continue to work my way through the graphic history series I was impressed that Michael Burgan started with the Articles of Confederation and spoke about how the weak confederation and Shay's rebellion led the colonists to agree for the need to have a Constitutional Convention. Sadly, too many texts leave students unaware of the existence of the Articles of Confederation or the concerns that led to a very careful balancing and debate of rights that resulted in our Constitution.

Another strong area of this book is how it leads the reader through the discussion of the Virginia Plan and the state by state ratification of the Constitution. This book also provides readers with an understanding of why there was a push for a Bill of Rights to be included and a more limited explanation of how it came to pass as the first amendments to the Constitution.

This is one of the strongest books I have reviewed in the series to date. This is a good supplementary resource for parents or teachers looking for materials for students studying government or the history of the time.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Boston Tea Party

The Boston Tea Party (Graphic History)is another entry in the Graphic history series. For those interested all these books have come from the library and I have no connection with the publisher. I am interested in finding accurate and age appropriate history books to share with others. The publisher of this series has taken on a wide range of topics and I am curious to see if quality is as important as quantity, which is one of the reasons I have chosen to keep previewing the series. I am also interested in locating texts for specific topics.

Matt Doeden takes on the task of creating a graphic history that covers the time period of the Boston Tea Party. Many children's authors gloss over the details that created the conflict over the tea. Doeden does an excellent job in explaining the time line and the political issues involved with why the tea was being taxed, the deadlines for the tea to be unloaded, and the consequences of not unloading the tea. This sets the stage for why the colonists acted when they did, which is something many textbooks I have used with children are rather vague in explaining.

Doeden gives a detailed account of the actions of the colonists during the Boston Tea Party and gives one of the few explanations I have read in children’s books for the Native American costumes. The colonists did not expect to be mistaken for Indians; they only hoped not to be identified later for prosecution.

As with most of the books in this series, there is a hasty summary after the book discusses its main points. This is a weakness of the series. In many respects, the remaining time would be better spent discussing the books main topic leaving readers to visit other books to find out more about what happened next.