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  • 2010 Wanda Gág Read Aloud Honor Books

    The Three Little Gators written by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Will Terry, and published by Albert Whitman and Company, 2009.

    Three Little GatorsThe Three Little Gators, a literary variant of “The Three Little Pigs,” is set in an east Texas swamp. Mama gator sends her three sons off to create a life of their own with the warning: “Make sure you build houses strong enough to keep you safe from Big-bottomed Boar.” The First Gator, more hard working than his siblings, makes his house out of rocks. The Second Gator builds a stick house, while the Third Gator builds a house of sand. It’s no surprise that Big-bottomed Boar soon appears. When the Third Gator won’t open his door, Big-bottom Boar warns: “‘Then I’ll wiggle my rump with a bump, bump, bump and smash your house!’” In no time, sand flies and the Third Gator runs off to Second Gator’s house where the action repeats itself. However, when the Big-bottomed Boar “wiggled, and bumped, and waggled and thumped,” the First Gator’s rock house stands firm. The boar decides to squeeze down the chimney. “‘Bad choice’” yells the three little gators. The Big-bottomed Boar falls on the hot grate of the barbecue grill and runs off “faster than a thunderbolt” with grill stripes steaming on his big bottom!

    The very funny, full-page cartoon style paintings show big-eyed gators and a scary boar with spiky hair, a big snout, and sharp tusks. Brown and gold tones capture the swamp setting.

    The Three Little Gators captivated children from kindergarten through third grade. They compared it to “The Three Little Pigs,” commenting on how the author took an old story and made it into something new. They enjoyed the illustrations with the gators’ big eyes, the boar’s big eye peeking through the door, and the grill marks on the boar’s bottom. Students chose to look at the book after the read aloud sessions, told others about the book, and asked for the story to be read again.

    After living in Texas for nine year, author Helen Ketteman now lives with her husband in Sanibel Island, Florida. Will Terry resides in Utah. In addition to illustrating picture books, he teaches illustration at Utah Valley State College in Orem, Utah.

    Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep! written by Maureen Wright, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, and published by Marshall Cavendish Children, 2009.

    Sleep Bear SleepWhen Old Man Winter softly reminds Big Bear that it’s time to hibernate, Big Bear doesn’t hear well and thinks he said “‘Drive a jeep, Big Bear, drive a jeep.’” Tired Big Bear causes havoc as he drives around town. This sequence continues as Old Man Winter continually says, “Sleep, Big Bear, sleep” and Big Bear responds to what he thinks he hears. He sweeps, leaps, dives deep, and climbs a steep mountain, before Old Man Winter finally yells: “‘Hey there, Bear! Did you hear what I said? It’s winter time, now go to bed!’” A friendly rabbit adds to the fun as it follows Big Bear on all of his adventures and finally joins him in his cozy den.

    Hillenbrand’s full-color, full-page illustrations convey the seasonal change from shades of green to a gray winter landscape dotted with snowflakes. Two vertical double-page spreads towards the middle of the story add to the drama as Big Bear dives deep and prepares to climb a very steep mountain.

    Preschoolers through third graders loved this very entertaining story. They enjoyed the illustrations and asked for more time to look at them after the read aloud sessions. They also liked the rhyming text and the repeated line, “Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep.” Five-year-olds “freaked out with laughter when Big Bear drove the jeep.” One day care provider recommended this story to read before nap or bedtime. She commented: “I could say, ‘okay, Big Bear went to sleep, now it is your turn!’” One kindergarten teacher appreciated that the book made the children think, as it stirred up many questions. First graders enjoyed how Big Bear kept misunderstanding, and they tried to guess what he would do next based on picture clues. One second grade teacher shared that her class loved the book and that the story led to a good discussion on confusingwhat people say. And, of course, the children wanted the book read over and over.

    Will HillenbrandAuthor Maureen Wright lives with her family in Athens, Pennsylvania. Illustrator Will Hillenbrand lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and their son.