Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sharing the Sunshine!

Some of you may have seen the posts circulating – some call it “homework” some Sharing the sunshine . . . But it basically works like this.

Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
 Share 11 random facts about yourself.
 Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
 List 11 bloggers.  They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
 Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

I am honoured to have been nominated by my dear friend, blog mentor and fellow Vancouver teacher Carrie Gelson who writes the amazing and inspirational blog There’s A Book For That.

So here goes . . .

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Eleven facts you might not know about me:

1. I am the mother of two amazing boys – both of whom are now in high school and are taller than me but who still look little when they sleep.

2. I started teaching when I was 21 and I’ve been teaching over 25 years – you do the math!

3. I taught English at a private girls school in Tokyo for three years.

4. I am the author of 3.89 professional books for teachers.  (my 4th book is nearly finished – and I am writing this when I should be working on my revisions)  My books have been translated into French and one is currently being translated into Chinese.

5. Sometimes when I meet people, I see colors around them.  I also sometimes see colors when I hear music – especially the oboe.

6. My father was a high school English teacher and later an elementary principal in Vancouver and was passionate about literature, poetry and all things related to Robbie Burns.  He died on Robbie Burns day when I was 28.  I miss him every day.

7. I am a quote queen and am constantly writing quotes in notebooks.   My latest favorite quote:  “The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso

8.  I bought a kitten at Granville Island Market for 50 cents.  I called him Sumo and he lived until he was 19 years old.  It was the best 50 cents I’ve ever spent.

9. I go to boot camp at 5:45 am 3 times a week at Hillcrest Community center.  I have a small crush on the instructor which makes it easier to get up in the mornings.

10. I sniff new books in book stores when nobody is looking.  Try it sometime.  They smell wonderful.

11. I met my husband at a hockey game.  He took me to a hockey game on one of our first dates.  He still plays hockey on a beer league team called “The Rude Boys”.  (yes, really) Both my boys play hockey.  I spend a great deal of my life in hockey rinks. I wrote two of my books in hockey rinks during warms ups and practices.  One of my sons is a goalie and I usually hide in the hockey rink bathroom when he’s in net and text other hockey moms to find out the score.

My answers to Carrie’s questions:

1. Go anywhere for a weekend – where would it be?  

In winter – skiing at Sun Peaks with my family.  In summer – camping in Manning Park with my family.

2. Who in your family is most like you?

My younger son, Oliver.  I look at him and it’s like looking in a mirror – all my faults and talents staring back at me.

3. What 3 strengths do you have that you would use confidently to describe yourself.

Passionate, compassionate, determined.

4. What is your “successful” dinner – always good and one that you might have made and shared often? (It can even be the only thing you can actually cook)

Pulled pork in my crock pot – turns out perfectly every time and is easy and yummy!  fresh buns, homemade coleslaw and baked beans… and of course some good dark beer to wash it down with!

5. What household task do you always feel behind with? 

Laundry, laundry and more laundry – a constant pile of sorrow

6. What genre do you need to read more?

Science fiction – I am trying.

7. What change would make your current work/job better on a daily basis?

I teach at an amazing school and I love the students and the staff.  So all I can think about is better coffee in the coffee maker.  Kirkland brand does not cut it for me.

8. What do you wish you could be braver about?  

My children growing up.

9. If someone were to describe your personal style, what would they say?

That I don’t have one.  But I love long sweaters, tall boots and lots of silver bangles.

10. What makes a book a 5/5 stars book? 

My heart smiles or gets tight when I read it.  I want to hug it or turn it into pajamas and wear it to bed.  It is something I can’t really identify – it just happens.

11. Fill in the blanks. I spend too much on books but it’s okay because they are my friends.

Here are my 11 questions for my nominees:

1.  What movie have you recently seen that you really enjoyed?

2.  Who is the author you would most like to have coffee with?

3,  What was the name of your favorite childhood toy? (or pet?)

4.  Best way to spend a Saturday morning?

5.  What song reminds you of your high school days ?

6.  What city would you most like to visit?

7.  Last time you laughed out loud was…?

8.  Household appliance you could not live without?

9.  Colleague you admire the most and why?

10.  Favorite season and why?

11.  Finish this sentence:  I am most proud of _____________________________

I am nominating seven bloggers to share some stories and questions.   (It’s supposed to be 11 but I’m breaking the rules!)

1. Holly Mueller – from Reading, Teaching and Learning

2. Jill Claytonfrom The Bird’s Nest

3. Myra GB – from Gathering Books

4. Debbie Alvarez – from The Styling Librarian

5. Jody Holford – from Jody Holford Blog

6.Cynthia Alaniz – from Librarian in Cute Shoes

7. Christina Williams – from Mrs. Williams Reads

8. Tara – from A Teaching Life

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It’s Monday, What are you reading? – Favorite Books of 2013

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 Unleashing Readers.

It’s been an amazing year of books!  So many great books were published this year that have  become “favorites” that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few.  Which books did I hug extra tightly or put under my pillow just to keep them with me a little longer?

Inspired by my friend and book blogger extraordinaire Carrie Gelson,  I have decided to choose 13 books (for 2013) and organize them into categories I read the most of:  picture books, nonfiction books and novels.

Picture books:

1. Journey – Aaron Becker

Mesmerizing watercolor illustrations that take the reader on a journey of adventure, self discovery, courage, hope and unexpected friendship.  This book will likely top many 2013 lists and it certainly tops mine.

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2.  The Man With the Violin – Kathy Stinson

This book, based on a true event, celebrates the power of music and reminds us that in the business of our lives, we need to stop and appreciate the beauty around us.  (also 3 cheers for Canadian authors)

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3. The Day the Crayons Quit – Drew Daywalt

Oh, how I love clever  books!   Oh, how I love a book that makes me laugh out loud and wish I had written it myself!  Oh, how I love a book that I read and immediately start thinking of ways I will be able to use it in my classroom.  This book has all my loves tied up together.

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4. Ben Rides On – Matt Davies

Ben loves his bike.   Ben’s bike is bullied away.  Ben figures out a way to get his bike back.  There is tenderness amidst the lightheartedness and Ben is my hero.

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5. The Dark – Lemony Snicket

 This is the story of how dear Little Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark. My oh my,  there is something magical about this book.  Personification at its best.

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6. Water in the Park – Emily Jenkins

Community, neighborhood, water, time;  From dawn to dusk we witness the comings and goings in a park. Simple. Beautiful.

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7. Silver Buttons – Bob Graham

(or “The Silver Button” )

The celebration of a single moment and all that happens – from one moment in a an apartment room to that same moment all over the world.  Extraordinary.  Brilliant.  Hugging this book.

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8. Hello, My Name is Ruby – Philip C. Stead

I fell in love with Ruby this year.  She is all that represents fearlessness, curiosity, courage, adventure, wisdom all wrapped up in a sweet little bird body who asks questions.  By far my favorite character of 2013.

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9.  The Matchbox Diary – Paul Fleischman

This book is a celebration of memories, keepsakes, treasures, life stories and relationships.  A grandfather opens his matchboxes of memories, his life story and his heart to his granddaughter.   My favorite “connect” book of the year.

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Nonfiction:

10.  The World is Waiting for You – Barbara Kerley

Following your passion amidst all that the world has to offer.  Imaginative and inspiring.

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11. Walk this World – Jenny Broom

A celebration of the everyday similarities and differences that exist between cultures around the world.  A new country on every page – with windows to peek under and many surprises to discover!  Wow!  An adventure from cover to cover!

12. What Does it Mean to Be Present? – Rana DiOrio

Carpe Diem, seize the day, appreciate the moment, be present, be grateful, give back.  How could anyone NOT want to share this message with children.  Love x a lot for this one.

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12. The Animal Book – Steve Jenkins

Happiness is a new Steve Jenkins book.  Happiness is being amazed by his signature collage illustrations and the intriguing facts he wows us with.  Happiness is adding this book to my Nonfiction Book list for 2013.

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Novels:

The Runaway King – Jennifer A. Nielsen

When a grade 6 boy tears up with joy because his back order Scholastic Book order copy of The Runaway King has just come in – you know it is a great book.  This follow-up is equally as good as the first.  I will get my box of Kleenex ready for the 3rd installment!

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Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library – Chris Grabenstein

Funny, crafty, twists and turns, puzzles and adventures.  Some were less impressed with the “too close for comfort” to legendary Charlie Bucket but both my students and I LOVED it!

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Wake Up Missing – Kate Messner

Concussions, Treatment centers, stolen identities and friendships = fast paced, page turner, grab-the-book -from-your-son’s-room-while-he’s-sleeping-because- you-can’t-wait-to-find-out-what-happens -book!

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The Real Boy – Anne Ursu

A magical  fantasy –  beautiful, enchanting, mysterious, sad, hopeful.  This one ended up under my pillow.

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Well, there are my top books for 2013.  (And for anyone who happened to be counting – I believe I went way over my original “13 picks for 2013” by several titles!)  It was, indeed, a very good year for books!  What books did you celebrate in 2013?

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Filed under It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Nonfiction, Novels, Picture Book

Christmas Metaphors

Christmas Metaphors

Have you ever taught metaphors to 10 and 11 year olds?  How did it go?  Honestly.  Did they get it or did they just fake it well enough to make you think they got it?  Did you just give up halfway through because even though you had explained that a metaphor is not the same thing as a simile – they kept writing “like” or “as” anyway?

To teach or not to teach metaphors?  That is the question I have been asking myself.  With only two weeks to go before the Christmas break, I was hesitant to introduce this rather challenging poetic devise to the wonderful grade five class I have been teaching poetry to this term.  This clever group had successfully demonstrated their understanding of the other techniques I had introduced them to over the last 3 months (similes personification, onomatopoeia  and alliteration) and had been using them frequently in their weekly poems.  But I admit that in the past, teaching metaphors had proved to be challenging, frustrating and overall disappointing.  Yesterday, however,  I collected their poems in which they were to use metaphors.  WOW!  I was amazed at how well they did!  Needless to say, these talented young writers have answered my question:  YES – you should teach metaphors!

Here’s the lesson and some amazing poems written by grade 5’s:

I explained the concept of metaphor and showed them a few examples.   Ralph Fletcher has written some great poems that use metaphors:  “Pinball” – a pinball machine as a metaphor for high school; Poetry – as a metaphor for a sugar-crazed teenager; “Earthhead” – a globe as a metaphor for a baby’s head.   I read these poems from his book A Writing Kind of Day and we discussed the metaphors.

After a quick Google search the night before the lesson, I had found some other examples of metaphors.  These were written by students who had used metaphors in their poems about their families. One had used the metaphor of a medicine chest, the other of the 4th of July.   https://www.teachervision.com/poetry/literary-techniques/5453.html  This gave me the idea of having the students writing poems about their families, using metaphors about Christmas.

Here’s how the lesson went:

  • We read samples of poems and I asked the students what they noticed.  We discussed how the writer connected each family member with an object with whom they shared common qualities.
  • We then brainstormed symbols of Christmas:  tree, decorations, candy cane, star, presents, wrapping paper, tape, candle, stocking, angel, etc.
  • We talked about the “characteristics” of each object:  ie:  Tree – strong, steady, straight; candy cane – sweet, sticky, minty; star – bright, shiny.
  • Each student then listed the members of their family down one side of a paper, including themselves.   (I modeled using my family)  Then I asked them to try match up each person with a Christmas object that best fits their personality or character.  Beside each family member, they listed the object.
  • Finally, they had to explain WHY or what the person and object had in common.

Some example we did together (these came from the kids – not me!)

                   Sister – ornament  – beautiful, delicate but breaks easily

                   Dad – tree – strong and steady and smells good

                  baby brother – gingerbread man – sweet but runs away a lot  (this one made me laugh!)

The students thought of some amazing “metaphor matches”!  I was SO impressed with their final poems – and I would definitely use this lesson again as a way to introduce metaphors.    If any of your students do not celebrate Christmas, you could use the same lesson, but use symbols of New Year’s or any other cultural celebration.

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                                 My favorite line from Rudra’s poem:  My sister is the star which finishes the job. 

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                   My favorite line from Reuben’s poem:  And my grandma is the tape never letting go of the family.

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My Family is Christmas by Rhea

My Dad is Santa

He is strong and does all he can to make me smile.

My mom is a present

Sometimes not what you want but you have to be thankful for a while.

My sister is a reindeer

Annoying but guides the way for others.

And I am the Christmas Star – I know I am small

But I keep our family together.  

What are your experiences and ideas for teaching metaphor to younger students?

 

 

 

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? – Christmas Classics – part 3

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 Unleashing Readers.

This is my third and final post of holiday books.  In Part 1, I shared my favorite Christmas  “classics” that I have loved for many years, Part 2 was looking at holiday versions of favorite or known characters and this week I will be sharing some of my more recently discovered and/or published holiday books.

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My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Be careful what you wish for!  is the message of this delightful book!  There are many things I love about this book.  The illustrations are cute, and the story very sweet, but my teacher side is always thinking about ways to use books for a lesson!   The story begins with young Joe in the process of writing a letter to Santa asking him for a Penguin for Christmas. In the past, Santa has misinterpreted his letters and often brought him the wrong gift (the “flashback” examples are VERY funny!)  so this year, Joe is VERY specific with what he wants.  Turns out Santa delivers this year – and Joe gets a brand new penguin.  But he soon discovers that having a penguin is a little different than what he expects!  This is a very funny book – a perfect read-aloud – and a great anchor book for letter writing and the importance of being specific and precise with your words.

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The Christmas Owl – Angela Muse

This beautifully illustrated book is filled with the wonderful message of kindness and gratitude.  On Christmas eve, an owl is injured and he has to rely on other animals to help him find shelter and food until he gets better.  At first, not all the animals are willing to help, especially his prey!  But in the end we witness each one opening their hearts and homes to help the owl.  When the owl is healed, he returns kindness to each of the animals who helped him.  This book is a GEM!

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A Wish to Be A Christmas Tree – Colleen Munroe

Oh, how I LOVE this book!  The illustrations are amazing – I could look at them for hours!  But the story itself is so beautiful!  A too tall fir tree is always overlooked each year at Christmas time.  He longs to be chosen by a family and taken home to be decorated and wonders why he is passed by year after year.  When he becomes so discouraged,  the animals from the woods begin to tell him all the things they like and appreciate about him.  In the end, the fir tree starts to truly believes in himself and his self-worth. This is a tender story with a wonderful message about valuing your strengths and also about the kindness of friends.

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Little SantaJon Agee

Have you ever wondered what Santa was like as a child? Did you know he is one of seven children?    Well this book tells you all about “Little Santa” and how he grew up and became the person everyone loves.  Along the way you learn the “why” behind elves, chimneys and reindeers.  This is a little gem of a Christmas story – cute but not sugary.  Delightful illustrations!

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The Deep and Snowy Wood – Elwyn Tate

 A deer, a mole and a squirrel are making their way through the deep and snowy wood.  They are heading somewhere, but you don’t know where they or going or why.  (I won’t spoil it for you – but a hint is that it has something to do with Christmas!)  This rhyming book is aimed at a younger audience (K-1) and would be perfect for questioning or predicting.  The art is lovely and rhyming text flows and never feels forced.  Because we are kept guessing until the last page, it makes for a very engaging read-aloud!

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Gifts of the Heart – Patricia Polacco   All I can say is that Patrica Polacco did it again.  She managed to write a Christmas story that is joyful and heartwarming.  In Gifts of the Heart, she shares the magic of Christmas through a delightful story that celebrates the joy of homemade gifts.  I made many connections to sitting around the kitchen table with my sisters making homemade gifts for relatives.  (And yes, I made my own boys make peanut butter – bird seed pine cones, too!)  This is a beautiful story of what truly matters at Christmas – not gifts that come from a store, but gifts that come from the heart.  Classic Polacco.

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The Christmas Magic – Lauren Thomas

Oh, how I adore this book!  It fills my heart with such joy and captures, to me, the magic of Christmas.  Santa feels the Christmas magic first with a twitch of his beard.  He then begins to make preparations to spread this magic to everyone.   Lauren Thomas’ text makes my heart smile and Jon Muth’s soothing watercolors are worth the price of admission.  Another gem to add to my collection.

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 The Smallest Gift – Peter H. Reynolds

Ever since The Dot and Ish – I have been a huge Peter H. Reynolds fan.  In his recent Christmas book, we meet Roland.  On Christmas morning, Roland discovers a very small present under the tree.  Disappointed, he wishes for something bigger and bigger and ends up flying to the moon in a rocket ship.  But his journey brings him back to where he started  – home – reminding him that what is under the tree is not as important as who you are with.

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Santa Claus – the World’s Number One Toy Expert – Marla Frazee

Any book by the great Marla Frazee is sure to bring a smile to everyone – this book is no exception.  Although it came out in 2005, I discovered it only a few weeks ago in my local library.   Have you ever wondered just how Santa knows how to match the exact right toy with the exact right kid every Christmas?  How?  He works HARD at it!  He researches for the ENTIRE YEAR, taking notes, thinking, testing, re-guessing, analyzing and compiling his research!  Finally, when he has it all figured out by Christmas morning – he brings magic to everyone!  This book is funny and tender with a rather surprising ending.  A classroom library is not complete without a Marla Frazee book – and it will be hard not to keep this one out until June!

And there you have it – hopefully some new Christmas books for you to enjoy!  Which book will you add to your collection?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading – Christmas Classics (part 2)

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 Unleashing Readers.

Last week, I shared some of my old favorites from my Christmas collection.  This week, I’m excited to share some “holiday versions” of some of my favorite characters and stories.

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It’s Christmas, David! – David Shannon.   David Shannon wrote a book when he was five using the only two words he knew how to spell:  “no” and “David”.  When his mother passed along his keepsake box when he was an adult, he discovered the book… and the rest, as they say,  is history!  In this holiday version of the popular “David” series, we follow David as he snitches Christmas cookies and peeks in closets, and as usual, has trouble staying out of trouble!  A delightful, funny read-aloud with lots of possibilities for “making connections”.

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Christmas Cookies – Bite Size Holiday Lessons – Amy Krouse Rosenthal   I adore anything that Amy Krouse Rosenthal writes.  I loved her original Cookies: Bite Sized Lessons so was thrilled when this book came out in time for the holidays a few years ago.  In these books, Rosenthal cleverly uses the analogy of making and eating cookies to define and illustrate important concepts such as respect, trustworthiness, patience, politeness, loyalty, etc.  The book reads a little like a dictionary – each page sharing a new word and example.  In the Christmas Cookies version, she includes holiday-related words like joy, patience, believe, celebrate, peace and tradition.  One of the things I love about Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s books is how simple they are – and this one is a perfect example – she  incorporates larger words that indirectly teaches children the meaning through the text.  This book is a perfect Christmas read-aloud in a classroom and would also make a wonderful holiday gift!  Adorable illustrations!

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The Christmas Quiet Book – Deborah Underwood   How many different kinds of quiet leading up to Christmas are there?  How about – “Searching for presents quiet,” “Getting caught quiet”, “Hoping for a snow day quiet” and the “shattered ornament quiet“.   I made connections to every page!   I loved the original The Loud Book and The Quiet Book so again, was excited to see the Christmas version.  The illustrations in this book are adorable – soft, gentle and quiet.  LOVE this book!

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Snowmen at Night – Carolyn and Mark Buehner  In this delightful follow-up to Snowmen at Night, we follow snowman on a Christmas adventure while the rest of the world is sleeping.  The illustrations are magical – every time I read the book I see something new!  A wonderful, fun read that would lead to great art and writing activities

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Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas – Melanie Watt   Christmas would not be complete without Scaredy Squirrel!  My students have grown to love his insecurities, his worries, his cheesy grin and all his fears.  This holiday safety guide is filled with practical tips and step by step instructions to help readers prepare for a perfect Christmas, Scaredy style! From making Christmas crafts to dressing “holiday style” to choosing the perfect tree – this witty, laugh out loud book will delight Scaredy fans everywhere!  I love using these books to teach students about text features – labels, maps, fact boxes!  Have your students create a “Scaredy Squirrel” version of instructions for their favorite holiday activity!

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Carl’s Christmas – Alexander Day   The “Carl” books were, for me, my first real experience with the wordless picture book genre.  The original Good Dog, Carl book was published in 1996.  The premise of the books is a Rottweiler named Carl who is left in charge of the baby while the parents go out.  Sounds ridiculous, I know, but somehow, it works.  Day’s illustrations require no words – they tell the story seamlessly.  In this book, Carl and baby prepare for Christmas, go shopping, do some Christmas baking and have a reindeer encounter!  My boys LOVED Carl books when they were younger.  If you have never read a Carl book – you are missing something special!

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Pete the Cat Saves Christmas – James Dean and Eric Litwin   Pete the Cat is cool!  He’s groovy!  He’s charming!  And in this book, he is saving Christmas by helping Santa, who has a bad cold and needs help delivering presents.  I love Pete – he is a character on the opposite end of the worry scale from Scaredy Squirrel and serves as a great role model for younger kids.   This book is a parody of Twas’ the Night Before Christmas and includes the classic free song download.  (the song isn’t my favorite but my students always want to sing along with Pete!)  This book is an uplifting message of “giving it your all” that is an important one to share with children.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas – Karen Wilson.   Bear’s friends wake him up from his hibernation to include him in the Christmas preparations.  Bear does and when his friends all fall asleep – he stays up to give his friends a special Christmas surprise.  I am not a huge fan of rhyming texts as I often feel that they are forced.  Karen Wilson manages to create rhyme in such a natural way that you don’t even notice it rhymes!  The story flows in a lovely, lyrical tempo that makes it such an enjoyable read-aloud.  I enjoyed many of her previous books featuring Bear – and this one includes the giving spirit of Christmas as well as friendship.

Well… there you have it!  Some favorite stories and characters  “dressed in holiday style”!  What are your favorite “holiday versions” of familiar stories?

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Filed under Connect, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Picture Book

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading – Christmas Classics (part 1)

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 Unleashing Readers.

Today was the official start to the holiday season – December 1st.  A day when the excitement and anticipation of Christmas I felt as a child still lingers inside my heart and my home.  So today I happily went into to the basement storage and began to pull out the Christmas tubs –  the lights, the living room decorations, the Christmas mugs and plates, the wrap, the wreath, the Christmas cookie cutters, the advent calendars. It smelt like cinnamon and pine needles.  But my favorite tub of all is the tub that stores my Christmas books – my yuletide treasures.  These are the books that have been read through hundreds of times to my boys while they were growing up and to my students over the years.   I opened up the tub and greeted my books like old friends.  The collection has grown over the years but each book holds a special memory for me.  These books have brought me so much joy and are a gentle reminder that the only thing I ever really want for Christmas is my family, my dog and a good book.

This week I will be sharing my favorite old  Christmas “classics” … (next week some of my more recent favorites!)

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Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve? – by Jan Brett (2002)   In her classic detailed Nordic style, Jan Brett tells a delightful tale of a young boy from Finland and his ice bear who help to scare away a group of trolls who are coming to gobble up a Christmas feast.  This book is a wonderful read-aloud, great for predicting and questioning.   My son would laugh every time I got to the line “Have a bit of sausage, kitty!”  These trolls certainly won’t be knocking again next Christmas!

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The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher – Robert Kraus (author of Leo the Late Bloomer)  This book was first published in 1969 and was one of my favorites when I was younger.  I sadly did not keep a copy of the book but was thrilled to see it re-issued.  This book is such a fun read-aloud.  Great rhyming patterns which sound rather “Grinch” like at times.  While the villagers are sleeping, the Cookie Sprinkler Snitcher comes and steals all the cookie sprinkles so the mothers cannot decorate their Christmas cookies in the morning!  Lots of great connections for those of us who love to decorate those Christmas cookies!

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Little Robin’s Christmas – by Jan Fearnly (first published 1998)  This book was first published under the title “Little Robin Red Vest” so I was a bit surprised to learn the title had been changed.  But regardless of the title – it is a sweet story of a generous robin who has a vest for every day of the week.  But leading up to Christmas, he gives away each one of his vests to different chilly friends who need something to keep warm. By the time Christmas arrives, poor Robin has no vest and begins to freeze on the rooftop… when a surprise visitor delivers a special gift.  I love this book – it is a tender story with a message of sharing and kindness.

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Harvey Slumfenberger’s Christmas Present – John Burningham   (first published 1993)  After arriving home early Christmas morning, a tired Santa discovers he has one present left in his sack – a present for Harvey Slumfenberger.  Santa knows this is the only present Harvey will get on Christmas morning, so he sets back out to deliver it.  Since his reindeer are already asleep, Santa sets out on foot.  He travels by foot, ski, helicopter, horse – everything he can do to deliver this present.  I adore this book – I adore the determination of Santa.  I adore John Burningham’s soft watercolor illustrations.  I adore the fact that we never find out just what the present was that Santa travelled so far to give to Harvey  The book ends with the line “I wonder what it was?” –  which has invited many wonderful discussions amongst my students over the years.  (My favorite answer is when someone says ” I think it was a book”! ( sigh! )

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Little Tree – e.e. Cummings (first published 1958)  “Little tree  little silent Christmas tree   you are so little   you are more like a flower  who found you in the green forest   and were you very sorry to come away”   This book is an illustrated version of e.e. cumming’s beautiful Christmas poem about a brother and a sister who find a tree in the streets and bring it home.  While they are walking home with it, they speak to the tree, asking it questions and comforting it.  This is a favorite of mine – the illustrations are soft and calming and the tenderness in which the children care for the tree is heartfelt.

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The Snowman – Raymond Briggs (published – 1978)  Long before “graphic novels” had made their debut, Raymond Briggs brought us this classic wordless picture book which is written in the style of a graphic novel.  This charming story depicts a young boy’s adventure with a snowman who comes to life one night in his dreams.  The book has been turned into a Christmas “wordless” cartoon set to music that is apparently as classic in the UK is as the Grinch is in North America.  This story is magical, whimsical, delightful.  I have a The Snowman stuffy that plays the music from the movie – that’s how much I love this book.

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss. (first published in 1957 – and still going strong!)   No list of Christmas classics would be complete without the Grinch.  Every Who down in Whoville has memorized this amazing story of the true meaning of Christmas.  And in an age of outrageous consumerism – it’s a good one to revisit and remind ourselves that what is most important at Christmas is not an upgraded bamboozle or cardinker – but being “heart to heart and hand in hand” with those we love.  I read this story every year.  I watch the TV show every year.   I never will I tire of it.

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The Polar Express – Chris VanAlsburg  (1986 Caldecott winner) This book is a holiday tradition in our house, as I’m sure it is in many homes.  Every year, before my boys go to bed on Christmas eve, I read it aloud.  They are teenagers now, but still sit quietly on either side of me and listen to the magical words and savor the extraordinary illustrations.  After reading the last page, I take out a small bell from my pocket and ring it – making sure that we can all still hear the sweet sound.  I am all grown up but I can still hear the sound of the bell.  Can you?

What Christmas classics do you love to read at this time of year?

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