Monthly Archives: August 2013

Summer Reading – Day 30! Nonfiction Picture Books!

Well… due to my busy week starting back to school and unpacking boxes of books into our new library, I have missed  Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday by several days.  But I have read a lot of nonfiction in the past few weeks that I would like to share anyways!

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My friend, Carrie Gelson  (There’s A Book for That) posted a wonderful collection in her 10 for 10 post a few weeks ago that focused around the theme of connections across the generations.  I came across this book Grand by  Marla Stewart Konrad in one of my book tubs the other day and thought about how it would be a great book to add to Carrie’s list!  It’s one of several books published by World Vision and celebrates grandparents around the world.  The amazing photographs and simple text  remind me of Barbara Kerley’s books and introduce younger children to themes that show how much we share in common, no matter where we live in the world.  Great for making connections!  The other books in this collection includes Play, Mom and Me and Getting There. 

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Another focus this week, linked to my exploration of different text structures, has led me to a new interest in “Guidebooks” or “Handbooks”.  I think this is a wonderful way of incorporating Social Studies content while teaching different forms of writing.  These “How to” guide books, published by Crabtree, are written in second person and definitely read as “instructions”  but with an almost humorous undertone.  In the Treasure Hunter’s Handbook, readers will learn everything they need to become a pirate – from a pirate wardrobe  to winning a pirate battle,  rules to follow on a pirate ship and how to avoid walking the plank!  The books are filled with great text features and simple text for beginning readers. Similar books include A Roman Soldier’s Handbook,  Knight Survival Guide, Go Greek and Coastal Treasure Hunter.  Intermediate or middle school teachers could use these books as inspiration for having their students create handbooks for any study on ancient civilizations.

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Meghan McCarthy’s Astronaut Handbook is another great example of writing that follows a procedural structure.  Written in second person, this simple book takes the reader through a rigorous training program in astronaut school.  Everything from deciding what kind of astronaut you want to taking a ride on the “Vomit Comit”  where you will learn how to float are included. The illustrations are great and I appreciated the “Fascinating Space Facts” that are included in the back. This book would be a great compliment to a Science unit on Space.  I’m already thinking of ideas for my students to create a “Pioneer Handbook” to end our study of early settlers.  Pages might include: how to dress like a pioneer, tips on building a log house, pioneer food and wagon-ride tips.

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When I was in elementary school, I remember doing a research project on houses around the world.  I remember making a poster for my presentation and researching and drawing examples of different houses.  Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by the subject.  So when I came across If You Lived Here: Houses Around the World by Giles LaRoche in the library, I was immediately drawn to it.  I only wish I had had this book when I was  doing my project!   It is not only interesting, but the layered paper illustrations, reminiscent of Barbara Reid and Steve Jenkins are amazing.  From a village in South Africa to the mountains of Spain, this book will show children not only the different structures of homes, but the reasons behind why they were constructed that way.  I learned a lot of fascinating information about homes around the world and can’t wait to share this book with my students!

And finally, here is a book dedicated to those of us who leave our pumpkins out on their porches a few too many days after Halloween!   Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices by David H. Schwartz is part story-part fact exploration in the stages of decomposition of a pumpkin left outside to rot.  Watch as a jack-o-lantern transforms from a happy holiday porch decoration into a slimy, moldy flattened puddle in 32 pages!  (Makes me wonder why we don’t carve our pumpkins on October 1st and then let them rot for a month.  They’d certainly be a lot more creepy by Halloween!)  A warning that this book is pretty disgusting – and the close-up photographs of the moldy decomposing pumpkin flesh do not leave anything to the imagination!  High on the scale for “gross factor”, I can hear the “Ewwwwww!!!!!!!’s” already!  A great link to science.

So what nonfiction books have you been reading lately?

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Summer Reading – Day 29 – It’s Monday – What Are You Reading?

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here:   Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey

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My first great find is Fall Walk by Virginia Brimhall Snow.  Fall is my favorite season – there is something about the start of the school year, the cooler mornings, the smell and crunch of leaves – it is a season for the senses!  I am drawn to books about seasons and this is definitely one I am happy to  to add to my collection.  In this book, the reader is taken on a fall walk through the woods to look at 24 different types of leaves.  The illustrations are beautiful and the rhyming text makes for a great read-aloud.  It is a wonderful introduction to tree identification and would be a great book to read before taking your class on a leaf walk.  I loved that included in the book are instructions on how to press leaves, do leave rubbings, a leaf match game and fun facts about trees.

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What is your blue like?  Does the color blue make you feel happy?  sad?  cold? Does it make you think of a sad, lonely song or a  summer swimming pool and your favorite pair of jeans?   My Blue is Happy, by first time author Jessica Young, is a delightful exploration of color and emotions as a little girl considers people’s contrasting thoughts about color.  Pink may be fancy and fun like a tutu to one person but annoying like bubble gum stuck to your shoe to someone else!  The illustrations are delightful and the text is lovely.  This is wonderful book for reading aloud and inviting younger students to share and compare their own connections to different colors.

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There have been many posts this summer from fellow bloggers highlighting favorite wordless picture books.  Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle is one I haven’t seen reviewed but I certainly have added it to my wordless collection.  I loved this book – there was something so delightful about this wordless picture book, with its interactive life-the-flap pages and adorable illustrations.  In it, we witness a rather elaborate friendship dance between Flora and her graceful, ballet-dancer flamingo friend.  This book is a mini masterpiece – all that was missing was a little Tchaikovsky!

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Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon is not new, but is new to me.  This book is beyond sweet – in both the story and the illustrations.  I fell in love with this endearing little Penguin as he befriends a pinecone and shows love and generosity towards it, knitting it a scarf to protect it from the cold and eventually taking it back on a journey to the forest where it belongs.  I got a little teary at the end of this heartfelt, gentle book.  It’s a keeper.

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The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks was the “buzz” book last fall when it first came out but I loved it so much then, have decided to revisit it as we begin a new school year.  This book is a remarkable weaving of two stories – one is the story of the bear in the book; the other of the small boy who is reading the book with his mother.  The book gently takes us back and forth from “inside” the story to “outside the story” as we move from the bear’s story to the story of boy and parent reading together.  This book demonstrates the interactive way in which a mother reads with her child – pausing to ask him questions, make connections, and think aloud.  In my school district, it has been THE book to share at a parent evenings at the start of the school year as a positive model for what reading at home with your child can look like.  The illustrations are soft and gentle, just like the feeling of curling up with your child and a favorite book.

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 I managed to read two novels over the past two weeks (when I should have been writing!)  Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur….Wow! There is so much to tell you about this book!  It’s two stories woven together – one of 13 yr. old Siena and her 3 yr. old brother Lucca who, at two years old, refused to speak.  Siena’s family moves into an old house by the sea, a move they hope will be a fresh start for Lucca.  Siena has an obsession for old houses and abandoned things.  When she uses an old pen she finds to write in her diary, the pen begins to write itself (how amazing is that?) revealing the story of Sarah and Joshua, who lived in the same house during World War II.  The two stories begin to parallel each other and begin to reveal secrets which eventually lead to helping Lucca find his voice.  This book has everything – relationships, mystery, history, fantasy and a feel-good ending.  It’s intense and would make a great read-aloud for grades 5 and up.

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I may have saved the best for last because I LOVE any book by the great Kevin Henkes!  Whenever I hear about a new book by him, I cannot WAIT to get my hands on it.  I was lucky enough to get an ARC of book 1 in his new series The Year of Billy Miller.  I’m not sure how he does it but Kevin Henkes seemingly effortlessly captures the voice and emotion of his characters and creates endless opportunities for us to make connections.  In this beginning chapter book,  we spend a year with 2nd grade Billy – and laugh out loud as he navigates through everyday experiences at school and at home.  Some “connectable moments” include a cancelled sleepover, diorama homework assignment, poetry slam, and several sibling temper tantrums.  This is the perfect shorter novel for transitioning readers and would also make a hilarious read-aloud. Icing on the cake are Henke’s black and white illustrations.  This book is set to be released on September 17th – but I’m already looking forward to the second Billy Miller book!

Well…. that’s if for my reads this week!  Hope you found one or two titles that peeked your interest!    What have you been reading lately?

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Summer Reading – Day 28! Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday with Linda Glaser

It is Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday and I’m happy to be participating in this weekly celebration of information books.  Today I am highlighting books by Nonfiction author – Linda Glaser.  Her books are  interesting and visually appealing.  I noticed that she has many different illustrators accompanying her different books.  She uses simple text and concepts suitable for a younger audience but also includes a question and answer guide at the end of each book with additional information about her subjects.

Sometimes a search for one book leads to a surprising discovery of another.  Yesterday, while searching for something completely different, I found myself drawn to the cover of a book.  There was something very appealing about the title and the calm, soft greeny-blue hues of the illustration on the cover.  Not a Buzz to Be Found by Linda Glaser begins with a question: Where do insects go in winter?  Now any book that starts with a question has my attention – and this one kept my attention.  The text is simple, the illustrations are beautiful – and I learned how 12 different insects survive the winter. I loved how she included some unusual bugs like Mourning Cloak Butterflies or Common Pondhawk Dragonfly.  My favorite pages showed what was happening under the layers of frozen snow or pond (T-T connection with Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Snow)

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This led me on a search for other books by Linda Glaser.  I discovered that she has written MANY nonfiction books for children, some of which I was already familiar with.  Here are some highlights from her collections.

SEASONS   I have a slight obsession with the changing of the seasons and I’m drawn to any book that highlights this remarkable, natural cycle.
These four books by Linda Glaser describe the characteristics of each season – from the weather, to daily activities, to the changes in nature.  The cut out paper illustrations by Susan Swan are bright and colorful and reminded me a lot of Barbara Reid’s work.

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BACKYARD CRITTERS:

Here are some books from Linda Glaser’s collection on creatures that can be found in and around your back yard.  These books would be wonderful to use in a science lesson and wonderful resources for the “Knew-New Connection”  strategy.

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THE ENVIRONMENT:
Before composting was “hip”, Linda Glaser wrote Compost! Growing Gardens From Your Garbage.  She weaves the reasons for composting through a charming narrative about a girl and her family who use their resources wisely.  In her more recent book, Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow, Linda Glaser asks: What can you do to help the environment? Make less garbage. How can you do that? Compost!  She explains the why’s and how’s of composting as we, once again, follow a family as they create a compost in their back yard.

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Our Big Home is Linda Glaser’s beautifully illustrated poem about the concept of the co-existence of humans with other living things. The sky, sun, moon, rain and air are shared by all the people, plants, and animals on the planet Earth.  This book is a wonderfully simple introduction to ecology and the importance of taking care of the earth.  The illustrations are incredibly detailed – you could spend hours just looking at them!

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I hope you found a few new titles to add to your nonfiction collection and perhaps got to know a new nonfiction author.   For more great Nonfiction lists, check out Kid Lit Frenzy.

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Summer Reading – Day 27! It’s Monday! What Are You Reading! – Back to School Books

It’s Monday (actually it’s almost Tuesday!) and happy to be participating in IMWAYR once again!

After returning from a week at the lake, I’m feeling fall creeping into my horizon. And that means back to school for many of us. (I know some are already back!) So I thought I’d share some of my favorite “back to school” books to share with students during those first few days and weeks as we begin a new year together.  This list has some old favorites and some new titles that I’m excited to share for the first time.  In no particular order, here they are:

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I am starting with a brand new book I am very excited about called Rufus Goes to School by Kim T. Griswell. Rufus is excited about going to school so he can learn how to read his favorite book (do you love this already?) But Rufus is a pig and “Pigs aren’t allowed in school!” says the principal.  This book combines the excitement of the first day of school with the desire of learning to read – a pretty great combination, don’t you think? This book is very interactive with lots of repeating phrases where kids can join in with the read-aloud.  If you are only going to buy one new back to school book this year – it should be this one!

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First Day Jitters by Julie Danneburg is a story about Sara who is nervous about starting her first day at a new school.  Her father is trying to help her get ready by making her breakfast, packing her lunch and driving her to school.  This book has delightful surprise ending that stimulates an important discussion around just who gets nervous on the first day of school.

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I am a huge Mark Teague fan.  I can read and re-read his books and I laugh each and every time. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is no exception.  It is a hilarious account of a Wallace’s imaginative and elaborate account of his summer vacation.  A great writing anchor for the first week back – as kids enjoy writing their own imaginative and perhaps embellished tales of their recent summer!

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One can never go wrong with a Todd Parr book.  Otto Goes to School is a simple story first published as a picture book and now available as an Level 1 reader, includes Todd’s trademark colorful block illustrations and a familiar character – “Otto”.   It is story of starting school and making friends that many will make connections to.

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This School Year Will Be the Best! by Kay Winters is a wonderful interactive read-aloud.  At the beginning of the year, a class is asked what their hopes are for looking the coming school year.  The month-by-month answers are diverse, ranging from “meeting a new friend” to “having a chocolate fountain in the hallway”.  A great book to invite students to share their own hopes for the year.

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Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten by Hyewon Yum is one of my latest finds.  At first glance, you may think it is a familiar story of a boy’s first day in Kindergarten.  But after a closer look at the illustrations, you realize that it is also a story of how parents experience the same fears and anxieties about this milestone of their child starting school.   This would make a perfect anchor book for inferring, and would also make a great gift for anyone whose child is starting school.

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No back to school list of books would be complete without David Goes To School by David Shannon.  Most of you will know the David books but I never grow tired of the hilarious illustrations and the all the connections I make.   There is a “David” in every classroom and this book reminds me of just how much they need our understanding.

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Back-to-School Rules by Laurie Friedman is another book that could anchor a writing activity: writing school rules.  These 10 rules, as told by Percy, head of the class, are written in the negative – what NOT to do – which makes for an amusing read-aloud.  The illustrations add to the humor.

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How Will I Get to School this Year? by Jerry Pallotta explores the wild and imaginative ways you might get to school if your parents didn’t drive you or you didn’t take the school bus.  This is a fun and slightly silly book that I think kids would enjoy.  Maybe they could even think of their own wacky ways to travel to school!

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Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre has a release date of September 1st and is definitely one to put on your radar.  I was fortunate enough to get an ARC and can tell you it is absolutely hilarious.  While it is not exactly a “back to school” story – it is a story of school supplies gone wild – namely the glue bottle!  The results are a hilarious sticky mess of  story that celebrates art and creativity. 9466024[1]

In Pete the Cat – Rocking in My School Shoes, laid-back Pete explores the different places in his school while rockin and groovin’ in his school shoes.  “It’s all good” when you have a Pete the Cat book in your collection!  Thanks, Eric Letwin, for this easy-going character that we all love!

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And rounding out my list today is a poetry book collection, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins.  School Supplies includes poems by such greats as Carl Sandburg, Myra Cohn Livingston and Jane Yolen.  There are poems about paper clips, lunch bags, pencils and rulers.  My favorite is “The Eraser Poem” that actually starts to erase!  Great poems for reading aloud and bright illustrations for sharing.

Hope you found a few new titles for sharing to your students as you begin your school year.  Would love to hear about some of your favorites!

Thanks to Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers for starting this Monday book sharing!

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Summer Reading – Day 26! Top 10 for 10 Picture Books – New Reading Power titles!

I am excited to be participating in my first Picture Book 10 for 10 event. This celebration of picture books is hosted by Cathy from Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning

The biggest challenge for me was trying to narrow down my favorites to just 10 and also to decide on a theme.  But since most of my work is centered around Reading Power, I decided to choose my favorite 10 books from 2013 that could be added to your reading power collections.  This was a huge challenge as there were so many amazing new books to choose from!  And since this is the top 10 – that equals 2 top picks for each of the 5 Reading Power strategies:  Connect, Question, Visualize, Infer and Transform. 

CONNECT

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Ben Rides On by Matt Davies is one of my favorite books from 2013.  It is the story of a boy who loves his bike, experiences bullying and deals with the situation in a very positive way.  Students will make connections to many different aspects of this book – from bike riding to dealing with bullies.

The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleishman is a beautiful book about an Italian immigrant grandfather who tells the story of his childhood to his granddaughter through mementos kept in matchboxes in an old cigar box.  “Your life is a story and every experience you have, you are adding a chapter”  This is what I tell students when I’m teaching them about connections.  This book is a perfect extension of the concept of “your life is a story” and also about  “memory pockets” as the grandfather’s objects represents the memories and “chapters” of his life story.   I LOVED how this book could be used to invite students to tell their own stories through special objects they may have collected.  Lots of text-to-text connections here to Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life!

QUESTION

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Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford is a beautiful introduction to deep thinking questions.  A young girl wonders “what is infinity?”  “what does infinity look like?”.  This promotes a wide range of different answers.  A great introduction to the concept of infinity that could lead to other big questions.  The illustrations are amazing!

Phileas’s Fortune by Agnes de Lestrade is the only book on my list not published in 2013 – but one I could not leave off as it is among my favorite books of all time.  A tale of a land where words are made in a factory and in order to speak any word, you need to buy it. Of course, some people cannot afford to buy words.   I have read this book to many different classes and many different age groups.  It promotes more deep thinking questions than any book I’ve ever read.  A must for your collection of books that promote questions.

VISUALIZE

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Beach Feet by Kiyomi Konagaya is a visually descriptive story of a young boy’s day at the beach.  What makes this story unique is how it is told through the experiences of the boy’s feet – the sensations of the sand, the foam, the pebbles and shells.  The perspective of the “feet telling the story” is one that I would definitely use for a writing anchor for creating visual images through the senses.  As well, the book is filled with wonderful triple scoop words and similes.

If I Built A House – by Chris Van Dusan is a follow up to his first book If I Built A Car, which my students loved.  Jack is a dreamer with a big imagination.  He invents his own wacky, wild and imaginative house – with everything from an indoor race track to a flying room.  While this book is not one that uses rich descriptive language (it has a rhyming text), I love the idea of reading it aloud and having kids “visualize” Jack’s house through some sketches and then try to create then their own imaginary house.  Another great anchor for writing!

INFER

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Both Bluebird by Bob Staake and Journey by Aaron Becker are wordless picture books that invite students to use the pictures to infer the story.  Bluebird is an emotional story of a young boy who’s day is brightened when a bird befriends him.  The bird later risks his life to protect the boy from a group of bullies.  It is moving and powerful and is a must for every teacher to share with their students.

Journey is a breath-taking stunningly beautiful wordless picture book.  It tells the story of a young girl who is being ignored by her family.  When she draws an imaginary door on her bedroom wall and opens it, a magical journey unfolds.  Careful study of the pictures reveals many surprises and clues which invite many inferences.  This is truly a remarkable book that has Caldecott written all over it!

TRANSFORM

Sometimes a book can change the way we think about something. When searching for books to use to teach this strategy, I look for books that deal with an issue that students have some experience.  We “take stock” of our thinking about the issue or topic before and after reading, so that the students can visibly notice how their thinking has changed.  Both these books have the ability to “change your thinking” – about the dark and about books.

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The Dark by Lemony Snicket tells the story of how Lazslo faces his fear of the dark.  The dark, in this book, is depicted as an actual character – and utterly transforms the reader’s mindset of fear.  I can see using this book as perfect introduction to the concept of Transform:  your thoughts about the dark before and after reading this gem of a book.

I have saved the best for last – the book that transformed my thinking about books!  Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier celebrates the power of books, from the physical turning of the pages to the act of storytelling.  It is visually stunning as the reader is invited to turn the pages and discover more and more little books.  This is one that has to be experienced to be appreciated.  Please open this little book and share it with everyone you know.  It will transform your thinking!

I hope you enjoyed my top 10 picture books and have found a few new titles to add to your collection!

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Summer Reading – Day 24 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! Compare and Contrast!

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday!
As I continue working on the draft of my book, I am finding many new anchor books which model particular nonfiction text structures. Today I’d like to share some of my new discoveries that focus on the structure of compare and contrast. Compare and contrast, as with all nonfiction text structures, has its own unique set of language features that students need to become familiar with. So it’s important to immerse them in books that include this language. Here is a list of some of my new favorite finds!

The Who Would Win? series by Jerry Pallotta is a head to head comparison of two similar animals.  (I had flashes of TV show “The Deadliest Warrior” ).  There are seven books in this series and I think you can order them as a set from Amazon.  Reading level is about grade 3 and these would certainly be perfect for as read-alouds.  Lots of interesting facts leaving the reader to decide for themselves – who would win?

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In another similar series by Isabel Thomas, pairs of similar animals are put up in a head to head battle.   What makes these books appealing is the point system that is included.  Animals receive points for survival skills such as strength, size, hunting ability, and camouflage. At the end of the book, the points are added up to discover the overall winner.   Lots of great predictions could be made and kids could award their own points for animal skills.

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If you prefer to have shorter compare and contrast passages to read and only one book to buy – then you will love What’s the Difference by Judy Diehl.  In it, she compares and contrast 10 animal look-alikes including: crow and raven, alligator and crocodile, wasp and bee, rabbit and hare, donkey and horse.  I like the simplicity of the shorter passages and have used this book many times with children when teaching how to create a Venn diagram. 61WZSAGASKL._SL500_AA300_[1]

While comparing and contrasting animals is great way to introduce the text structure to students, there are many different topics we can use for comparisons.  In Julie Cummin’s book Country Kid, City Kid, she compares the daily life of two children who live in different communities. And while this book may not be classified as nonfiction, I would certainly use it as an anchor book for the compare and contrast text structure.  I like how she begins with the obvious differences but then begins to infer how many similarities these two children actually have. 51QSGDX6H0L._SX260_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_[1]

In a similar way, Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw compares the life of a boy living in America with a boy living in India.  These two boys are pen pals and the story is presented through their post cards and letters to each other.  I really liked how this book compares these boys daily lives through their letters, leaving readers an opportunity to infer.  I also think it would be an excellent anchor book to launch a pen pal project!

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Saving the best for last, The Sun, the Wind and the Rain by Lisa Westburg Peters is one of those lost treasures.  I debated whether to include this book as I do believe it is out of print, but a visit to your local library or used book store might just be the answer.  I LOVE this book!  The cover and title are relatively deceiving but it is one of those books that I want to hug because within the cover, you have so many different teaching opportunities.

This book is a basic introduction to geology and how mountains are formed.  Elizabeth, a small girl, is imitating nature by building a mountain with sand on the beach. It is simple and beautiful in its description of the evolution of a mountain in comparison to a simple activity on a beach.  I can see this book being used to teach land formation, erosion, evolution and how weather combines to create force to change the earth.   In terms of my purpose, it is an excellent example of compare and contrast and in my search for anchor books – I believe I have discovered a hidden treasure!

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I hope you found some new treasures to add to your nonfiction collection! Please let me know if you have come across any great compare and contrast anchor books that I can add to my list!  Happy Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday, everyone!  For more great lists, check out Kid Lit Frenzy.

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