Monthly Archives: February 2014

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