Friday Features are an irregular occurrence on my blog that include things other than book reviews, something a little extra. This might include author interviews (hint to any authors out there who want to get interviewed), bibliographies, book trailers and program ideas. While I’m not limiting myself to talk about these things just on Fridays, it will be something extra special to finish off the work week.

I noticed a trend recently in picture books where balls played an important role in the story. So I gathered up some for my monthly visit to the local preschool and we had a ball!

Watch Me Throw the BallTitle: Watch Me Throw the Ball!
Author: Mo Willems
Series: Elephant and Piggie

Anyone who hasn’t heard of Elephant and Piggie by now who works with young children should run right out and grab one (or multiple titles). Elephant insists that it takes hard work to throw a ball, but Piggie has other ideas and extravagantly celebrates his success. Or, what he thinks is his success, since really the ball has been unintentionally thrown backwards and Piggie can’t see the result of his wind-up. Gerald does, and out of frustration finally gets Piggie to understand that the ball did not go around the world. Piggie though is unfazed, and he reassures Gerald that although he didn’t throw it far, he still had fun, with the subtle moral coming across loud and clear. Stick around for the surprise ending as Gerald then celebrates his “successful” ball throwing skills. Even the littlest kids understood what was going on and the room was filled with giggles at the realization that they were in on the joke.

BallTitle: Ball
Author/Illustrator: Mary Sullivan

This newly published book is less well-suited for story time in that it only features the single word title throughout all of its pages. However, the expressive illustration carry the story beautifully as a dog wakes a girl and plays with a ball repeatedly until the girl leaves for school, with a purple bag slung over her shoulder as the dog dejectedly looks on, ball hanging from its mouth. After soliciting the mother in a yoga pose and outfit, a baby in a bassinet who bursts into tears, and the cat who wants nothing to do with the dog, the dog finally drifts off to sleep and dreams of different scenarios featuring the well-loved toy. I’ll be honest, I skipped over those because I thought I would lose my younger audience with those scenes. Eventually, the dog pricks up its ears because, yes, thank you, the girl has finally returned and is more than happy to play with her pouch, ending the story with a satisfying “BALL!”

Duck and GooseTitle: Duck and Goose
Author/Illustrator: Tad Hills
Series: Duck and Goose

This is a not so new book that also allows readers to be in on the joke long before the title characters. Duck and Goose discover what they think is an egg, and after each tries to claim it as their own, the find themselves in a face off sitting on the spherical, spotted object. They finally find common ground as they talk about teaching whatever hatches how to fly and swim. A little blue bird disrupts their contemplative stance, but also points out that maybe things aren’t as they seem, especially to these oblivious animals. Friends are made in the end, and it’s quite obvious from the cover that this very obvious case of mistaken identity is improbable but enjoyable all the same.

Stick!Title: Stick!
Author: Andy Pritchett

Throwing kids a “curve ball” (the preschool staff laughed), I ended the story about a dog and his stick. Similar in scope to Ball, this book features only a half-dozen words that are repeated throughout the book. Pritchett’s brightly colored backgrounds and minimal details contrast nicely against Sullivan’s more muted pastel colored palette. The excitable dog (who reminds me of Snoopy with his white body and black floppy ears) offers a stick to a cow, a chicken, and a pig who all refuse his overtures for grass, worms, and mud respectively. Flopping down with a storm cloud over his head and a gray background, he throws the stick in frustration… and it comes back with a “Clunk!”. It’s another dog, this one brown, who joins the original character, and the other three animals soon join them after peering around the pages to see what the excitement is about. A satisfying “Friend?” ends the story with the animals playing a catch type game. The animals initial responses are shown in the book before the word is produced via a page turn, which gives I think offers kids a unique connection opportunity to see that they were right about the animal’s predicted response.

Books I didn’t use:
Peanut and Fifi Have a BallTitle: Peanut and Fifi Have a Ball
Author: Randall de Seve
Illustrator: Paul Schmid

While I love the idea of incorporating imagination into a story time, the color palette was very similar to Mary Sullivan’s Ball with the peach and soft blues making up most of the story. I loved the girls’ responses to each other, mimicking the fleeting nature of ideas as Fifi springs from one thought to the next, and Peanut is ever the realist until the very end. When trying to convince Peanut to share her ball, Fifi imagines it’s identity as a basketball, needing a hat, serving as a crystal ball, becoming dough, and finally balancing on the nose of a seal. Peanut’s responses, on the other hand, include “My ball doesn’t need a hat”, “Check the closet” and “Just a ball.” It would serve it’s purpose well on a rainy afternoon that requires imagination.

Ball for DaisyTitle: A Ball for Daisy
Author/Illustrator: Chris Raschka
This Caldecott winning wordless book was very similar to Ball and Stick in both its plot line (dog finds a friend to play with) and it’s language (it is wordless). Even the pictures of the dog are similar, with both Stick and A Ball for Daisy featuring a white dog with black ears making a new friend in the form of a brown dog. While the pictures are beautiful, I’d had enough of the limited vocabulary dog books, and decided to pass on this one and go for the newer titles that they hopefully hadn’t seen yet. That’s not to discount it, it was just too much of the same for this story time.

What books do you roll over about?

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