Stuff and new stuff
Picture books about petsóreal and imagined and resources for teachers
Hannah and Sugar
Written and illustrated by Kate Berube. Harry Abrams, 2016. ($16.95)
Every day Hannah gets off the school bus and is greeted by her papa. And every day her friend’s dog Sugar meets the bus too. Sugar, a most friendly pup, is adored by everyone—except Hannah, who is terrified. Even with daily repeated offers, Hannah politely declines to pet Sugar; she finds it impossible to conquer her fear. One day Sugar goes missing, and Hannah joins the search. She saves the day with extraordinary empathy and compassion, and she even makes a new, tail-wagging friend.
Berube’s illustrations, soft, clear, and unimposing mesh seamlessly with the tender, insightful, and child-wise text. For programs that use videos as a media support for learning, Emily Arrow sings the story while playing a guitar at https://youtu.be/dnaRiV6I84s. But please, share the book first!
Spencerís New Pet
Written and illustrated by Jessie Sima. Simon and Schuster, 2019. ($13.75)
When Spencer gets a new pet, he’s primed to do all the right things—walking in the park, visiting the vet, and stopping at fire hydrants. All set, except the new pet is a red balloon twisted into a dog-like shape. Like a real dog, the balloon romps, cuddles, and learns tricks. It also has the propensity to get too close to danger—a stinging bee in the park, a bulldog’s teeth, a piñata stick, and the pointed tail ready to be pinned on a donkey.
The nearly wordless book is illustrated in a black-and-white palette; the exception is the spark of red—the magical and bright balloon dog. The story is tender, exciting, and captivating, and the swings from danger to safety are exceptionally reassuring. The story is pure fun about a boy and his dog who build an enduring friendship on trust and not a little humor. The surprise ending will make the book a classroom favorite.
No Room for a Pup
Written by Elizabeth Suneby & Laurel Molk and illustrated by Laurel Molk. Kids Can Press, 2019. ($16.99)
Suneby and Molk have collaborated on a perfect retelling of a Yiddish folk tale—published earlier by Sheryl Prenzlau as Room for One More (2013), Ann McGovern as Too Much Noise (1967), and the classic Always Room for One More set in Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas (1972).
Complementary illustrations help tell the story of Mia’s ardent desire to have a puppy in an apartment that her mother insists is too small. With the help of her grandma, Mia fills the apartment with visiting pets—from her grandma’s parrot to a rabbit, cat, goat, and even a pig. When the visitors leave, the apartment seems just quiet and large enough for Mia’s new pup.
I Want a Dog
Written and illustrated by Jon Agee. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019. ($17.99)
A young girl visits the Happydale Animal Shelter eager to adopt a dog. The manager isn’t prepared for her request and offers several outrageous alternatives—a lizard, baboon, porcupine, armadillo, goose, weasel, and even an aardvark. She wants a dog and with all the authority she can manage, makes her desires clear—over and over. She resists all the manager’s efforts to distract, connive, and convince and eventually learns that there aren’t any dogs available. With one more effort, the manager finally offers the girl a pet she can take home in her wagon—a seal.
Agee’s cartoon style is accessible and clear. His humor is bound to be a hit with savvy preschoolers who recognize and appreciate humor, whimsy, and a befuddled adult.
Acting Out! Avoid Behavior Challenges with Active Learning Games and Activities
Written by Rae Pica. Redleaf Press, 2019. ($26.95)
Research based, insightful, and accessible, Rae Pica’s newest professional development book is essential for teachers who want to understand, practice, and share the principles behind active learning. Children, especially preschoolers, must move to learn.
The book’s introductory chapters build a rationale for encouraging children to move rather than trying to bend them to unattainable standards like sitting still with legs crossed and not fidgeting. Pica wants teachers to understand that children are generally unable, not unwilling, to comply with such requests. Further, she offers realistic and common sense tips for maintaining order in a peaceful learning environment with active children.
Subsequent chapters contain numerous activities for circle games that build community, circle games that promote prosocial skills, games that foster self-regulation, brain breaks (especially for elementary grade classrooms with periods of direct instruction), and games that stimulate relaxation. Curriculum connections are included for every activity—helpful in responding to administrators and parents who question the usefulness of play. Most activities require no materials and work as meaningful transition activities in any classroom.
Muscle strength, proprioception (the sense of where the body is in space), body and spatial awareness, balance, physical agility, cardiovascular conditioning, stress reduction, mental clarity, and memory are all improved with active bodies—in adults as well as children.
But for teachers, the title Acting Out!—and avoiding children’s challenging behaviors—is the real focus. Pica’s book is convincing: When we allow children to be active learners, when we respect their natural capacities and make expectations developmentally meaningful and attainable, we minimize anti-social behaviors and move forward in establishing a community of engaged and successful learners.
Preschool Beyond Walls: Blending Early Childhood Education and Nature-Based Learning
Written by Rachel A. Larimore. Gryphon House, 2019. ($24.95)
Nature-based preschools refer to those programs that combine the best practices of early childhood education with environmental education. Indeed, most early care and education programs are somewhere on the continuum—most include daily outdoor nature opportunities, and some fully commit to extensive outdoor experiences, inquiry-based learning, and hands-on exploration and discovery.
Rachel Larimore uses her extensive experience to help teachers and administrators make nature-based learning accessible. Whether building a new nature-based curriculum or including more nature-based activities in an existing curriculum, Preschool Beyond Walls guides programs in establishing a program philosophy and then implementing nature-based curriculum and pedagogy.
Larimore addresses staffing considerations and the attitudes that can make a nature-based program succeed or fail. She insists that teachers must believe that nature is a powerful and meaningful teacher and is essential to a child’s development. The ability to overcome personal fears, an eagerness to engage in all weather conditions, ecological knowledge, and outdoor skills mark teacher attributes that go beyond standard qualifications—in both education and experience.
Nature-based programs are an outgrowth of high-quality early childhood education. Indoor spaces reflect the natural world, with wood furniture and walls, natural lighting, and windows to the outdoors. Equipment is made of natural rather than manufactured materials; authentic tools take the place of plastic replicas. Outdoor spaces are hazard-free but invite exploration and discovery within a natural, not manufactured, area. The spaces are typically fenced but contain a variety of surfaces with opportunities for fine- and large-motor play.
Part three of the book helps eager practitioners pull it all together. Larimore addresses daily schedules and planning as well as eliciting cooperation with families. She offers extensive resources for planning activities, building a natural play area, and assembling nature-based supplies. Plentiful color photographs of nature-based programs in action invite serious consideration of the exciting opportunities a nature-based program can offer.