Monthly Archives: February 2014

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – Conference discoveries


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.

I just returned from an amazing few days in Toronto at the 38th annual Reading For the Love of It conference.  This is one of the biggest reading conferences in Canada – equivalent to the IRA in the US.  Between 3,500 – 4,000 people attend this conference.  I was very fortunate to be invited to present two sessions,  (more about that in a later blog!) along with a spectacular line up of authors and speakers.  There was a VERY large publishers display with an impressive number of vendors from local bookstores selling large collections of picture books and novels.  So of course I used this as an opportunity to discover some new titles!

Perfect Snow

Perfect Snow – Barbara Reid

Barbara Reid was presenting at the conference and I was fortunate enough to hear a portion of one of her fantastic sessions.  I also lined up (yes, I’m a groupie!) and had my books signed!   I have a large collection of her books at home (The Party is one of my special “Connect” books!)  but had never seen this title, published in 2009.  In her trademark vibrant Plasticine style, Barbara Reid captures the joy and excitement of two boys planning and playing in the snow in the school yard at recess.   A perfect book for making connections!  (I’m planning to read it tomorrow at school as we are experiencing an unusual snow fall in Vancouver today!)


Thrilled to have Barbara Reid sign my book!

The Stamp Collector

The Stamp Collector – Jennifer Lauthier

This book, published in 2012, was a finalist for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and a recipient of the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award. WOW – this book is AMAZING!     It is based on a true story story of a young boy from China who is a stamp collector and another boy who is a writer.  The stamp collector grows up and becomes a prison guard;  the writer grows up and, like many writers all over the world, is imprisoned for something he wrote.  And thus, the two mens’  lives become connected.  The story is powerful and moving.  I stood reading it at the Fitzhenry and Whiteside booth at the publishing display and fought back tears!  The illustrations by Francois Thisdale are remarkable.  This is definitely a book for older students and excellent for practicing questioning and inferring.

Letter Lunch

Letter Lunch – Elisa Gutierrez  (OWL publishing)

This book is brand new and I had a chance to read it at the conference.  At first, it seems like a simple story but after a more careful look, you realize how clever it is!  A hungry brother and sister are searching for something to eat.  They begin an adventure of “letter searching” – as the two search for letters for lunch!  Innovative and creative – kids will love finding letters in everyday places.  An alphabet book plus a whole lot more!


Numeralia – Jorge Lujan

Now let’s move from a unique alphabet book to a unique counting book!  From 0-10, this book illustrates clever and unique examples of numbers.  I liked how sometimes the numbers were hidden within the picture and other times represented by the number, some much more obvious than others.  I think children will enjoy trying to “infer” the “connections”!  My thinking was definitely stretched by this book!  The illustrations are quirky and enchanting! What Happens When...

What Happens When…Delphine Chadru

Another charming and clever book that stretches thinking and invites inferences!  What Happens When…invites the reader to think about all those everyday objects that disappear – the balloon that floats away, the sock that gets lost in the dryer, our shadow when the sun goes down.   After each question is posed, the page opens up to reveal a wordless,  imaginative possibility of what may have happened to the object.  I could see this being a book that students become very engaged in, as well as promotes them to think of their own object that often goes missing and imagine the possibilities of what happens to it.

Mommy, Am I Pretty? – Margot L. Denomme

This book has an important message about self esteem and inner beauty and I believe is a MUST read for every parent (especially parents of girls) and teacher!  The important message about true beauty being found from within is one that can be shared in every classroom and in every home.  I loved the simplicity of the text and the delightful child-like water color illustrations.  A very powerful book!

Secrets in the Fire

Secrets in the Fire – Henning Mankell

The grade 7 teacher at my school read this book aloud to his class and told me how powerful a book it was and how many rich discussions came from it.  “Adrienne – you have got to read this book!”   I am very glad he recommended it to me.  This book, written by Swedish writer Henning Mankell,  is based on the story of real-life land mine victim Sofia Alface.  The story tells of this heroic young girl who survives a civil war in her country of Mozambique after the murder of almost everyone in her village.  It would make an excellent selection for a literature circle selection for grades 6 and 7 and the book has apparently been adapted for film.

Thank you for reading my blog!  What books have you been reading this week?


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

February 10 for 10! Ten Nonfiction Books I Can’t Live Without!

I’m excited to participate in the first Nonfiction 10 for 10 event celebrating fantastic nonfiction picture books. Thank you to Cathy Mere from Reflect and RefineMandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning  and Julie Balen of Write at the Edge for hosting this.

So what are the 10 nonfiction picture books I cannot live without?   As I did with my 10 for 10 picture book list in the summer, I have decided to organize this list around Nonfiction Reading Power strategies I use for helping students read and understand informational texts.   There are 5 strategies – so I have selected two anchor books for each!   The books I chose are not only my “tried and true” books in my classroom but often books I share with teachers at workshops.   It’s tough to narrow it down – but here we go….

Zooming In – to Nonfiction Text Features

My Map Book

1. My Map Book – Sara Fanelli

This is a wonderful anchor book for teaching students about using nonfiction text features – in particular – mapping and labeling.  I LOVE this book and have used it SO often as an anchor book for many lessons that my cover is nearly falling off!  This book is a collection of child-like drawings of different types of maps:  map of a neighbourhood, map of my bedroom, map of my family, map of my heart (My students make a “Map of my Heart” for Valentines day every year – using this book!)  There are unique maps that can stimulate all sorts of lesson extensions.  A MUST for your nonfiction collection!

Imagine You're a Knight!: Lady Megavere, Lucy D'Ancealot

2.  Imagine You’re A Knight – Lucy and Meg Clibbon

Lucy and Meg Clibbon are sisters from the UK.  They have created a series of books about different people including Knights, Pirates, Astronauts, Princess, Wizards, Mermaids and Ballerinas.  They are incredibly funny and visually appealing andI love how Lucy and Meg use LOTS of nonfiction text features (labels, maps, charts, captions, etc) to represent the information.   While some may consider this style of book to be to be more fiction,  they are excellent examples to show students the use of text features.

Determining Importance

Sorting out main idea from supporting details can be a challenge for students.  When practicing this strategy – I look for books with short, interesting sections I can use for a read-aloud during a guided lesson.  Here are two of my favorites:

How Big Is It?

3. How Big is It?  – Ben Hillman

This appeal of this book are the amazing photographs.  Ben Hillman uses amazing photographic juxtaposition (that was a mouthful!)  to show comparisons of size.  The book is large enough to hold up for students to see the pictures easily.  I love the short informational passage explaining each photograph.  Be prepared for a lot of “Whoa’s!”  and “Wow’s!”

Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth

4. Extreme Animals – The Toughest Creatures on Earth – Nicola Davies

This is another great book for using to practice determining importance.  Nicola Davies has included many interesting facts about animals who need to adapt to survive extreme heat and extreme cold. The unique thing about the book is that from one side, the book is about animals adaptation to extreme cold – flip it over and start from the other side to learn about animals adapting to extreme heat.  As always, I love Nicola Davies use of voice and humor in her writing.  Hilarious illustrations and comic-like animation.  (My favorite page is about “Frogcycles”!)

 Making Connections 

You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids Around the World

 5. You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, Kids Around the World – Barbara Kerley

I could not have a list of favorite nonfiction books without including a book by Barbara Kerley.  Barbara Kerley is a photographer for National Geographic – so her photography in all of her books is amazing.  In this book, she captures images of the relationship between parent and children from different places in the world.  With very little text, she is able to capture this bond beautifully.  I love to read this book to students and invite them to make connections.  Information about each photograph and where it was taken is included in the back of the book.

The Great Big Book of Families

6. The Great Big Book of Families – Mary Hoffman

Many primary curriculums include a focus on families and communities.   I always tell teachers at my workshops that this book encompasses an entire unit on family, community, school, cultural celebrations – you name it and you will find it in this book!  The book is well laid out and has colorful, interesting illustrations.  I like how Mary Hoffman recognizes different family make ups and adopted children.

Asking Questions

I Wonder

7. I Wonder – Tana Hoban

This simple beginning reader has become one of my favorite anchor books for questioning.  Tana Hoban takes readers on a “wonder walk” outdoors and questions simple things she sees along the way.  “Have you ever wondered how hard it is to spin a web?”  “Look at that tree – there’s moss growing on one side but not the other.  I wonder why?”  Beautiful photographs and clear close ups make this a perfect nonfiction read-aloud.   I like to read this book to my students and then take the on a class on our own “Wonder Walk”.

Why?: The Best Ever Question and Answer Book about Nature, Science and the World around You

8. Why?  The Best Question and Answer book about Science, Nature and the World around You – Catherine Ripley

This book really is the best question and answer book about the world around you!   There are questions and answers about just about everything you can think of:  Kitchen Questions, Bathroom Questions, Farm Questions, Night time Questions.  I like to read one question just before I send my students home as “thinking homework”. Have you ever wondered why some eggs are white and some are brown?    They think about the question and come back to school the next day and share their thinking.  After sharing our “maybe’s” – I read them the answer from the book.  They LOVE it!


It's Our Nature

9. It’s Our Nature – Rebeca Orozo

This delightful book explores the character traits that the animal kingdom shares with humanity — altruism, community, generosity, responsibility, trust, commitment, solidarity, brotherhood and tolerance.  The illustrations are delightful.  I start by listing the character traits from the book and discussing them with the students.  I  then read a description of one of the animal’s behavior and invite the students to infer which trait this animal is demonstrating .

A Strange Place to Call Home: The World's Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals That Call Them Home

   10. A Strange Place to Call Home:  The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals That Call Them Home                         – – Marilyn Singer

The art in this book by Ed Young is amazing.  The poetry, by renowned poet Marilyn Singer, is amazing.  This is a collection of 14 poems, each highlighting  a specific relatively unknown animal who have, against the odds, adapted to their extreme environments.  Students can use the clues in the poems to infer what type of environment they live in and what features they need to survive.  Great additional information included at the back.


Often when teaching students about synthesizing information, or what I refer to as “transformed thinking”, I look for books that provide students with information that can potentially change their thinking in some way.

What Do You Do When Something Wants To Eat You?

11.What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You? – Steve Jenkins

My top nonfiction list would not be complete without a Steve Jenkins book.  While I have and love many, this is one I use most when teaching students about how books can sometimes change our thinking.  In his classic collage illustrations, Jenkins explores the many fascinating and unique ways animals defend themselves against predators.   Many students find new meaning to the expression “run for your life”!

What Does it Mean to Be Present?

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

This recently published book has made it’s way to the top of my favorite pile!   Rana DiOrio has created a vibrant, thought-provoking picture book that simply and effectively teaches us to be present, mindful and caring citizens.  When teaching students about books that transform our thinking, I like to write the word “present” on the board and ask students to “take stock of their thinking” before we read.  Most students make connections to birthdays, Christmas, wrapping paper and boxes.  After reading the book – we talk about how our thinking about the word “present” now looks different than before we read the book.

And there you have it!  My top 10 (Ok.. I went over by two!)  Nonfiction Picture Books!  Thanks for reading my post!

Which picture books are on the top of your “can’t live without” pile?


Filed under Blog Challenge, Connect, Infer, Lesson Ideas, NFPB Challenge 2014, Nonfiction, Picture Book, Question, Reading Power, Transform

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?


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 week, I have spent several days in Arizona at a hockey tournament with my younger son.  Luckily, our hotel was right across from a shopping mall that included a Barnes and Nobel – the American equivalent of Chapters.  So in-between hockey games, I snuck over to the mall to spend a few hours reading picture books!  Here are the books that caught my eye!

Isabella: Star of the Story

Isabella Star of the Story – Jennifer Fossberry

There were so many things to love about this book!   I love that Isabella loves books and the going to the library. I love the way she interacts and imagines her way through the books while she reads them. I love the references to classic children’s literature, including Peter Pan, Goldilocks, Dorothy, and Alice – perfect for Text-to-Text connections!  I really appreciated the information about the authors of these classic works that the author included at the back of the book. (Did you know that the  L. in L. Frank Baum stood for Lyman or that Dorothy’s shoes were originally silver?)  Delightful illustrations by Mike Litwin.  This is a WONDERFUL book!  (Apparently, there are other “Isabella” books in this series – but this is the first one I’ve read)

Born from the Heart

Born From the Heart – Berta Serrano

I was drawn in by the illustrations but was surprised to discover that this is a very endearing story about adoption and about the power of love that creates a family.  A lovely message that a child does not have to be born into a family, but that love is born when a new child arrives.  The illustrations are quirky but I think the message is beautiful.  This would make a lovely gift for adoptive parents.

Night Noises

Night Noises – Mem Fox

This book worked perfectly for a lesson I was doing with a grade 3 class who was learning the difference between inferring and predicting.  Predicting – what do you think is going to happen next?  Infering – what do you think is happening now.  This book invites the reader to do both – to predict what the “night noises” are that the woman is hearing – and also to infer some of her past experiences she is dreaming about.  After explaining the difference, we practiced predicting and inferring using the same book.  A perfect book for both strategies!

How to Babysit a Grandpa

How to Babysit a Grandpa – Jean Reagan

One of the chapters in my new book Nonfiction Writing Power is helping students with instructional (procedural) writing and I have included this book on my list of anchor books that model this form of writing.  While the intent of this book is to entertain, I like that it is written in present tense and includes a variety of instructional adjectives. transition words and tips.  I also liked the cleverness of the “reversed roles” of babysitting as the boy tells the reader how to take walks, eat snacks and provide entertainment.   A great read-aloud and one to remember when you are teaching this form of writing.

Weeds Find a Way

Weeds Find a Way – Cindy Jessie Elliott

Ooooooo – I discovered a hidden treasure!  This is a book that celebrates those pesky little weeds that grow in our gardens.  But the language is BEAUTIFUL – alliteration, similes, metaphors – this book has every writing technique you could ask for! And the illustrations – GORGEOUS!  This is a long overdue tribute to the lonely, unwanted weed that will make you think twice about using that weed killer this spring!  Loved it!  Great information included at the back about different types of weeds.

 The Wreck of the Zephyr 30th Anniversary Edition

The Wreck of the Zephyr – Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg ranks high on my list of favorite authors.   His books are an extraordinary combination of hauntingly life-like illustrations and subtle text.  His books have been my “go to” anchor books when teaching my intermediate students how to question and infer because Van Allsburg is a master of telling a story by not telling a story.  I always tell my students: “Some writers don’t tell us everything because they are leaving spaces for our thinking”.   The Wreck of the Zephyr was first published in 1983 but has been reissued to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Thirty years later, the story still captivates students with the story of a boy, a magical island and boats that fly – Classic Van Allsburg.

Pride of Baghdad

 Pride of Baghdad – Brian K. Vaughan

This book was recommended to me by a middle school teacher in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.  It is a graphic novel that depicts the true story of a pride of lions that escaped from the Baghdad zoo during an American bombing raid. It is a heartbreaking account of these lions, finally free, but lost, confused and hungry – roaming the streets of Bagdad struggling to survive.   So much can be inferred and paralleled to the circumstances that so many Afghans experienced during the war.  This would be an amazing book for students in upper middle or high school and an amazing anchor book for inferring and illustrating metaphor.

The Orenda

The Orenda – Joseph Boyden

I loved Canadian writer Joseph Boyden’s book Three Day Road so was anxious to read his latest novel.  I started to read this book on the plane.  It had a jolting, intense and graphic opening that has caught my attention.  So far, not a comfortable, but extremely compelling read that tells the epic story during the 17th century of the First Nations and European first contact.  I’m only about 40 pages into the 500 plus page book but will keep you posted!

Thanks for reading my post!   What have you been reading this week?


Filed under Infer, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Question

Celebration Saturday


I’m happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week.

Here are the things I’m celebrate this week:

1) HOCKEY TOURNAMENT – This President’s Day long weekend, I am in Arizona at a hockey tournament with my youngest son.  I find it strange to come from Canada to a desert to play hockey – but this is a huge tournament with teams from all over the US and Canada.  So far we have won both our games so there is a lot of celebrating!  My son is one of the goalies and he played the first game and had 48 shots – and only let in 1 (which was actually kicked in by one of our own players!)  We won the game 4-1!  I was very proud of him – and the team!  Along with the fun we fun we are having, I am celebrating the break I’m having and the beautiful weather.  I left the cold and damp of Vancouver and now basking in the dry 85 degree heat!  Not a bad way to spend the weekend!


Oliver and me in the Arizona desert (a scenic drive between hockey games! He looks taller than me but he is standing on a rock!)

2) PERSUASIVE WRITING – I am working with a group of grade 6 students on persuasive writing.  This particular group of children have not had a lot of explicit instruction in writing forms or techniques.  We began many weeks back with our first practice write on “The Best Season”.  I spent several classes teaching them about the structure and language associated with opinion and persuasion.  We brainstormed, we made plans, we all wrote opening sentences together, we did A LOT leading up to the actual writing.  Results?  Dear, oh dear, oh DEAR!   I hate to say this but they were terrible. Really and truly terrible.  I don’t think I read one piece of writing that would have been above a “C”.  I felt very discouraged.  But on the up side – they could only get better!  So over the next several weeks, we have been continuing the same process with different topics. I call them “practice writes” because they don’t do “good copies” of them.  We wrote another on “The Best Pet” and last week they wrote their opinion of “School Uniforms”.  My celebration?  WOW!  Their writing is getting better and better!  Justin was even able to convince me that hedgehogs are the best pets!    I am so impressed that in just a few short weeks they are able to follow the structure, include persuasive language and back up their opinions with examples.  I told them how proud I was of how much they had all improved!  So I celebrate the power of explicit teaching and the difference it is making!

3) MY BOOK – My new book, Nonfiction Writing Power, book has now been printed!  I have not yet seen it – but my box is being shipped and should be here next week.  My publisher says the printers worked overtime to get the book finished in time for the big reading conference next week in Toronto.  (Read celebration #4!)  The book launch is scheduled for the evening of March 4th at Vancouver Kidsbooks!  Mark your calendars!

4) READING FOR THE LOVE OF IT – I’m celebrating a little ahead of time with this one – but next week I will be heading to Toronto to present at a huge reading conference called “Reading For the Love of It”.  It’s sort of the Canadian Equivalent of the IRA.  The difference is that you have to be invited to present rather than send in a proposal.  My publisher has always said “When you get an invite to Reading For the Love of It” – it means you have arrived”  (I have been waiting 10 years “to arrive”!)    My proposal for the IRA conference in New Orleans had been declined so I was feeling a bit dejected – when I received the invite to present in Toronto.  Yippee!  I have arrived!  I am so excited to be going – the line up of speakers and authors is incredible!  I will be posting more next week from the conference – stay tuned!

5)  CAR ACCIDENT:  On Tuesday morning I witnessed and was involved in the aftermath of a horrific car accident.  It was an unusually cold and frosty morning, resulting in severe black ice on the roads and sidewalks.  My girlfriend and I were out for our early morning run when we saw one car sliding out of control into the oncoming lane and hitting another car head-on.  What followed is a bit of a blur as we ran over to help the people in the cars, one of whom was severely injured.   I won’t describe the details as it is still very difficult for me to talk about.  What made a bad situation worse is that immediately following the accident, other cars began to slide as they turned the corner and tried to stop.  I did what I could to move an already injured person away from the potential of more injury.  What is there to celebrate you may ask?  Many things.  I celebrate that at that moment my girlfriend and I were there to help.  I can’t even think about what could have happened if we were not.  I celebrate my dear friend who screamed at me to get out of the way of another skidding car while I was trying to help the injured woman.  I celebrate the neighbor who came running out with a flashlight and ran up the road to try slow down the other cars.  I celebrate the many police, fire and ambulance drivers who took over the scene.  I celebrate that I went to teach that day and found strength from my dear students.   I celebrate that I am alive.

Thanks for reading my celebrations today.


Filed under Celebration Saturday, persuasive writing

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday


I’m excited to be joining Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy in this year’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014  I’m hoping to discover many new nonfiction books that I can share with my students at school and with other teachers at workshops.  Link up here to join in!

What If You Had Animal Teeth? (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)        What If You Had Animal Hair?

What if You Had Animal Teeth (or Hair) – Sandra Markle

These nonfiction books are a combination of hilarious illustrations and images of humans with animal features and interesting facts and information.  I like that there is just enough information to make it interesting but not so much that it becomes overwhelming.   They make GREAT read-alouds and have kids laughing and wanting more.  I know a book is popular with kids when after I read it and put it up on display – EVERYONE wants to take it to their desks to read again!

Bright Ideas: The Science of Light      Hot Stuff: The Science of Heat and Cold   Push and Pull: The Science of Forces

The Big Bang Science Experiments Series – Jay Hawkins

My school is in the midst of preparing for our annual school Science Fair.  Students are always coming to the library looking for books about Science experiments.   This is a great series to have on hand – the simple and effective experiments are clearly explained and the photographs of young kids conducting the experiments make them very engaging.

Peter Kent's City Across Time

City Across Time – Peter Kent

I love books that you can sit and pour over and find new things to look at every time.  Peter Kent’s book follows a city from the Stone Age through to the 21st century.  Each double page spread shows a detailed cross section illustration of a  different time period.  The illustrations are amazing – and I can see kids spending hours looking through the pages, noticing the details and, at the same time, learning about different periods in history.  It’s a must have for a library or classroom.  A great book to choose one or two pages to project and invite students infer and compare different time periods.

The Noisy Paint Box:  The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art  – Barb Rosenstock

So much to love about this picture book biography about the life of one of the very first painters of abstract art – Vasily Kandinsky.  The illustrations by Mary Grandpre (love her!) are extraordinary.  I was fascinated by the story of this remarkable artist – who “heard” colors and who, as a child, struggled to paint because his paintbox was “too noisy”.  He grew, eventually, to embrace the sound of color and painted his bold ground-breaking words of art from his “noisy paint box”.   I loved the celebration of someone who clearly marched to his own drum and celebrated his unique talent in his own way.   An amazing story and I really appreciated the extensive information included at the back.


Nest – Jorey Hurley

Nest tells the life cycle of a Robin through the seasons – beginning and ending in a nest.  It is a debut picture book from this author and I am MOST impressed!  It is so simple – just one word on each page – and there is a quiet tenderness to this book.  A perfect book for introducing primary students to life cycles and changing seasons.  Gorgeous.  I will be looking out for more from this author!

The Scraps Book: Notes From a Colorful Life – Lois Ehlert

I am SOOOOO excited about this book!  If you love Lois Ehlert – this is a MUST have!  In this amazing autobiography, Lois Ehlert shares her life story, through words, scraps of paper, photographs and painted pictures.  This is a behind the scenes look into her innovative and creative books.  This book is a celebration of creativity and I was SO inspired after I read it.  I KNOW I will be reading it to my class and using it as an anchor book for Art and writing.  AMAZING!

What nonfiction books have you been reading?


Filed under Art, New Books, NFPB Challenge 2014, Science

It’s Monday – What are You Reading? Valentine Favorites


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 the week leading up to Valentine’s Day and I will be sharing some of my favorite Valentines books with my students.

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch

  Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch – Eileen Spinelli

Far and away my favorite Valentine book if all time!  This heart warming, tender story by Eileen Spinelli  brings tears to my eyes every year!  Mr. Hatch is a very lonely man.  One Valentine’s, the postman delivers a heart-shaped box of chocolates with a note that reads “Somebody Loves You”.  Mr. Hatch’s heart is filled with joy and he begins to pass the love he now feels to others by doing kind deeds.  But the postman returns to explain that he had accidently delivered the Valentine’s to the wrong house.  Mr. Hatch, realizing that it was a mistake, goes back to his solitary ways.  But those who had been touched by Mr. Hatch’s recent kindness, rally around their new friend and show him how much his new friendship means to them all.  This is SUCH a heartwarming book and captures the true spirit of love and kindness.  A must read for Valentine’s!

Penguin in Love

Penguin in Love – Salina Yoon

Sweet little Penguin is back – this time he is looking for love but ends up with a mitten!  The mitten leads him to the owner, another little penguin and so begins the love story between the two.  I adore this little Penguin and fell in love with him in Salina Yoon’s first book Penguin and Pinecone.  And while this book doesn’t quite live up to the first one, this book makes a wonderful book to share around Valentine’s.  I also love the connection to knitting that is woven through the story.

Lilly's Chocolate Heart

Lilly’s Chocolate Heart – Kevin Henkes

Lilly and the Purple Plastic Purse remains one of my all time favorite picture book.  There have been many Lily books since, and I admit I have not read them all.  But this recently published addition to the series has Lilly trying to decide where to hide her last chocolate Valentine’s heart.  It’s a delightful story and one that many chocolate savers will connect to!

Valentine’s Day – Gail Gibbons

This nonfiction book explains the history and traditions of Valentine’s Day for younger students, accompanied by classic Gail Gibbons illustrations.  A good one to share to younger students because it explains the origins of the day.

Mouse and Mole, Secret Valentine

Mouse and Mole Secret Valentine – Wong Herbert Yee

Mouse and Mole have secret crushes on each other.  While they prepare and deliver Valentine’s cards for their friends, they are prepare secret Valentines for each other.  This is a very sweet (Ok – mushy!) book about friendship and secret crushes.  Adorable illustrations and bonus instructions on making Valentine’s cards at the back.  Would be a perfect read-aloud for Gr. 2 and 3.

Snowy Valentine – David Petersen

This is an ADORABLE book!  Jasper the bunny is searching for the perfect Valentine’s present for his wife.  He goes through the woods, asking others what he should get.  In the end, the best gift is one that comes from the heart.  Sweet illustrations and a heartwarming story.

Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink

Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Sink – Diane de Groat

This is a book I love to read to my class several days prior to Valentine’s day as it serves as an important reminder of treating others with kindness.  Gilbert signs cards for everyone in the class – except for the two people he doesn’t like because they have been mean to him in the past.  So he writes a few nasty comments on their cards which results in a lot of hurt feelings and name-blaming.  I have had some excellent class discussions stemming from this book.   (Gr. 2-4)

                                                                                       I Haiku You

I Haiku You – Betsy Snyder

Here is a delightful, charming collection of Haiku poems about many loves in a child’s life – love for a pet, a friend, stuffed toy and family.  Adorable illustrations accompany each poem.   Valentine cuteness!

So what Valentine’s books will you be sharing with your students this week?


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

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – Countdown to the Olympics!


I’m excited to be joining Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy in this year’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014  I’m hoping to discover many new nonfiction books that I can share with my students at school and with other teachers at workshops.  Link up here to join in!

Here are the nonfiction books I’ve been reading this week:

Well the countdown is on!  I’m a huge fan of the Winter Olympics, and while this year will not quite the same as four years ago, living and breathing in the excitement first hand in the host city (Vancouver) I’m looking forward to the start of the Sochi Games later this week.  Today, I thought I’d feature some of the nonfiction books that I’ll be sharing with my students over the next few weeks as we cheer on our athletes,  learn a little about the host country and the discover the different winter Olympic events.

Russia ABCs: A Book About the People and Places of Russia (Country ABCs)

Russia ABC’s – A Book about the People and Places of Russia  – Ann Burge

Beautiful illustrations and interesting facts about Russia through every letter of the alphabet.  A perfect introduction to the country for students.

        Russia, the Culture              Russia, the People

Bobbie Kalman Series – Russia – The Land; The Culture; The People

Bobbie Kalman is a well known writer and publisher of nonfiction books for children.  I have used this particular series many times with intermediate students to support them researching about different countries.  They include interesting information, colorful photographs and the layout is well organized and easy for students to read.  Other countries in this series include: Japan, India and Mexico.

Spotlight on Russia – Bobbie Kalman

For those who would rather just share one book, rather than three, this “Spotlight” book includes land, culture and people all in one!  It’s another Bobbie Kalman book so you know it’s going to be good

A Look at Russia (Our World Series)

A Look at Russia  (Our World Series) – Helen Frost

For those who may be looking for a book with a simpler text – this series is great!  Simple text, beautiful photographs with lots of text features.  A great series for Primary teachers!

The Winter Olympics – Nick Hunter

This is a very up-to date book that includes a little of the history of the Winter Olympics, how they are organized and who some of the star performers we should be looking for in the Sochi Games.


Winter Olympic Sports Series – Crabtree Publishers

We have the entire set of these books in our school library and even though they may be only relevant every four years – they are still so helpful when discussing the specific events in the Winter Olympics.  There is a book for every event and they are published by Crabtree – which, for me, always means informative, interesting, accessible  with simple text and great text features.

Tacky and the Winter Games

Tacky and the Winter Games – Helen Lester

I know that this last book does not quite fit into the Nonfiction category – but it does fit with my theme!  This is a wonderful book featuring Tacky the Penguin and his fellow penguin athletes as they prepare and compete in a wide range of Winter events, including bobsledding, speed skating and ski jumping to try to win a medal for Team Nice Icy Land!  A fun read-aloud to get students excited about the Olympics!  (I still think Tacky’s team should have won the bobsled race!)

Good luck to all the athletes heading to Sochi this week.   (Go Canada!)

What nonfiction books have you been reading?


Filed under NFPB Challenge 2014, Social Studies

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? Animals, Friends, a few darn Squirrels and a remarkable Bird


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 week I discovered some new books that I’m very excited about!  Here we go…

What's Your Favorite Animal?

What’s Your Favorite Animal? – Eric Carle and Friends

All of my favorite authors and illustrators in one book!  What could be better?  This book is a delightful anthology of well-loved children’s authors/illustrators describing their favorite animal and why they love them, accompanied by his or her own signature style illustrations.  I did SO enjoy looking through to discover what everyone’s favorite animal was and why.  I can see how this would be a great anchor book for students to write about their favorite animal with an accompanying illustration.    I was also thinking my students could go around the school asking the teachers what their favorite animals are!  Authors included in this fabulous book are: Eric Carle, Nick Bruel, Luc Cousins, Susan Jeffers, Steven Kellogg, Jon Klassen, Tom Lichtenheld, Peter McCarty, Chris Raschka, Peter Sis, Lane Smith, Rosemary Wells and Mo Willems.   I am hugging this book.

Friends – Eric Carle

I am always on the lookout for new books about friendship as they lend themselves so well for having children practice making connections.  This story is about a young boy whose best friend moves away.  He then embarks on a journey over mountains and across rivers to find her.  This book is apparently based on Eric’s own journey to find his wife, whom he moved away from as a child and then searched to find her again.  This would be a great book to read to K’s and 1’s and I can see them acting out the movements of the boy’s journey – “climbing”, “swimming”, etc.   I loved the messages of determination and the importance of friendship.

Friends  – Miles Van Hout

I LOVED Miles Van Hout’s wordless book Happy and used it many times in many classrooms to help students infer feelings.  In Happy, Van Hout’s  uncanny ability to capture emotion through the  faces of fish was remarkable!  In her latest wordless book Friends,  she takes us one step further by showing emotional interactions.  Her vibrant chalk fish have been replaced with monster type creatures and she has illustrated them depicting different situations – cuddling, fighting, teasing, laughing and playing.  Another perfect wordless book for helping younger children practice inferring from illustrations.  Hugging this book too!

A Friend – Anette Bley

Sticking with the “friendship” theme, I saw this book in our local library on display and was drawn to the illustrations.  This book, published in 2009, (I have never seen it before)  is a perfect book for primary teachers who are looking for a great book about friendship.  The story begins with the simple question: What is a friend?  and goes on to illustrate many different examples of what friendship looks like and feels like.  The illustrations are charming and the text is simple and meaningful.  A perfect “connect” book.  (Note:  A few places I searched said it was out of print but I was able to order one on Amazon)

Those Darn Squirrels – Adam Rubin

This book is the perfect choice if you are looking for a or a great read-aloud/laugh-aloud story for  grades 2-4.  It tells the tale of  grumpy Old Man Fookwire who dislikes most things – except his wild birds.  So he builds a bird feeder and fills it with berries so his wild birds will stay with him through the winter.  Unfortunately,” those darn squirrels” raid the feeder and eat all the berries.  Apparently there are two more “Darn Squirrel” books in the collection.  (Warning – I stumbled over the name “Mr. Fookwire” a few times – so just be careful because when it comes out wrong – it comes out VERY wrong!)

Paper Dolls – Julia Donaldson

I loved paper dolls growing up.  My sisters and I would play for hours, folding the little flaps of clothing onto those cardboard dolls.  This book is whimsical, beautiful, playful, nostalgic, simple.  A little girl plays with her five paper dolls.  There are not many words, but the rhyming and repetition lend itself well to a read-aloud.  I love the mother/daughter play time highlighted in this book and I think it would be a great invitation to have students create their own paper doll and use alliteration and rhyme to name it.  A lovely book!


Stand in My Shoes – Bob Sornson

Teachers frequently request books on social responsibility themes so I’m always on the lookout for new titles.  This book, produced by the Love and Logic Institute, focuses on empathy and clearly illustrates to younger children what empathy is and how easy it is to demonstrate this important social skill.  This book would also be great to include on a book list for parents.

Drac And The Gremlin

Drac and the Gremlin – Allan Baillie

One of the rewarding things about my work is visiting schools and meeting teachers who have been using some of the ideas from my books.  I especially love when they share new book titles with me!    This past Friday, I was in Calgary at Huntington Hills elementary and met a teacher who had been working on Visualizing with her students.  She took me into her classroom and shared this great book with me and showed me some of the visual images her students drew when she read this story to them.  Of course, she DID NOT share the illustrations with them until they had listened and visualized.  The great thing about this book is that the descriptions are very misleading – you think the author is describing some imaginative sci-fi creatures.  As it turns out, it is only two children and their pets as they play in their backyard.  A wonderful book for visualizing!

Bird – Crystal Chan

Wow.  Wow.  Wow.   This book left me breathless and speechless – and that is no easy feat for me.   Not since Wonder and No Fault in the Stars have I been so moved and so deeply touched by a book.  My soul is still aching.   I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC and I could not put it down.

The book begins:    Grandpa stopped speaking the day he killed my brother, John.

From the first line, you will be drawn in by the exquisite writing and heart-wrenching story of Jewel – a girl who lives in the shadow of her younger brother – who died the day she was born.  Her grandfather, blamed for the tragedy by Jewel’s parents, has not spoken since.  This is a story of love, of loss, of family and friendship – of a broken family who had to fall apart before they could put themselves back together.  This is a remarkable debut novel – and I KNOW one that will top many “best of 2014” lists.   “Book linger”  is my reference to books that stay with you and actually become part of you.  Bird is the ultimate in book linger.  I want EVERYONE to read this book!

Well, it was a great week of reading for me.  And just in case you didn’t follow the book award announcements this past week – here is the complete list from CNN:

What have you been reading this week?


Filed under Connect, Friendship, Infer, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, New Books, Picture Book, Social Responsibility

Celebration Saturday


I’m happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week.

This is my first celebration post but I have MANY things to celebrate this week!

1)  My book is FINISHED!  Nonfiction Writing Power was sent to the printers on Tuesday and is now officially DONE!  Expected release date is sometime next month!   It’s out of my head and soon to be out into the world to begin a life of its own.  It was a LOT of work in a very short time (I only started writing it in July) but I am very proud of this, my 4th book.  My editor and everyone at Pembroke publishing were AMAZING and really supported my journey to get this book finished.   And so the “power series” (which I never intended to write) is now complete.  And THAT is worth celebrating!

NFWP cover

2)  Family Literacy Day Celebration – Last Sunday, I was honored to be invited by my dear friend, Carrie Gelson, to join her family and several other Vancouver teachers who are “making a difference in literacy” in our school district to attend a Vancouver Canucks hockey game in the “Sedin Suite” – the box seats of Canuck twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin.   The Sedin families do a lot to support Family Literacy in the city so they wanted to give back to the community in some way.   We had an AMAZING time watching the game from their suite and were treated to a visit from BOTH players.  T-shirts, hand shakes and photos – it was a THRILL for all of us.  And the Canucks won the game!  Thank you Carrie and thank you Sedin families for all you are doing to support Literacy in the Vancouver.

hockey family

3) Mid Terms are FINISHED!  Both my boys have been knee deep in mid year exams this past week but we are celebrating that they are finished (with the exception of one!) and can relax and enjoy a little free time!  I am proud of how hard they both studied and got through!

4) Trip to Calgary – I had a bad stomach virus that hit me hard on Wednesday night – not much to celebrate I know – but it didn’t last long – thank goodness.  And I was still able to fly to Calgary late Thursday (although still feeling a little weak!) to give a Writing Power workshop to a wonderful group of keen teachers from several schools hosted at Huntington Hills Elementary School on Friday.  It was -17 in Calgary but my flight was on time – which is always something to celebrate when you travel in winter!  Thanks to Vice Principal Christine McCrory and the rest of the Huntington staff for having me back in their school and for the delicious chicken noodle soup and authentic key lime pie!

5) Book Club – Last week was book club and I so look forward to these monthly gatherings with this amazing group of women (many teachers) who have been meeting together for over 12 years now.  Spending the evening with great wine, great conversations about great books is always a celebration for me.  Our discussion was on our most recent read:  The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty.  There were mixed reviews – many enjoyed the time period of New York in the 1920’s and 30’s but, like me, enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book better than the end, where the author seemed to throw in too many references to important events.   This month’s book is Emancipation Day by  Canadian writer Wayne Grady which I have not yet started.  I am anticipating the pressure of being “next pick” and will be making the choice for next month’s book.  With so many on my list that I will have trouble narrowing it down to one!

The Chaperone          Emancipation Day

6) Lit Circles – I am working with a wonderful group of grade 7’s at my school this term on Literature circles.  I selected 5 books focusing on a theme of children in slavery –  all at various reading levels.  I am so enjoying the reflective and meaningful discussions the students are having around these books.  They are asking thoughtful questions and making deep connections and I’m impressed with the level in which they are demonstrating their understanding.  It is a pleasure to sit around a table with these deep thinkers!  And to think that when I first started teaching I used to assign comprehension questions for each chapter!

Here are the five books we are reading for this Lit Circle theme:

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story     Iqbal    Bitter Chocolate    I Am a Taxi    The Garbage King

7) New Picture Book – My sister, Alison Gear, an Early Learning Coordinator in Haida Gwaii, B.C., got the good news that the picture book she helped to create, Taan’s Moons (Taan means bear in the Haida language),  will be published and released next fall!  This book was a 3 month art project involving Kindergarten (some mixed Grade1/2) classes of all six elementary schools on Haida Gwaii, inspired by a poem my sister wrote as one way of sharing a version of the Haida Moon cycle with Kindergarten students. The felt artwork illustrations used for the book and created by the students and local educator and artist Kiki van der Heiden will be on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery this spring.  You can see the complete amazing journey of this creative collaboration here:  (I’m very proud of my big sis!)
896747_orig 7687451_orig   1391141006

It’s been an amazing week and I’m very grateful for everything.   What are you celebrating this week?


Filed under Celebration Saturday, Literature Circles