Monthly Archives: December 2014

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Favorite Picture Books of 2014 (Fiction)

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: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

As 2014 comes to an end, many book bloggers are reflecting on the year of reading and highlighting books that made their “best of” list.  And so as we come to the end of the year, I am happy to do the same.  I have divided my list into categories:  Favorite Read-Alouds, Favorite Friendships, Favorite Adventures, Favorite Characters,  Favorite Family stories, Favorite Wordless, Favorite Thought Provoking, Favorite Mindful, and Favorite Author.

How do I chose which books make the list?  My criteria is simple:  these books lingered.

Here is my list of my favorite picture books from 2014:

Favorite Read – Alouds

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 Hooray for Hat!  – Brian Won

This book is a perfect read-aloud for an early primary class.  It is colorful, infectious and a true treat to read aloud.  Your children will be chanting “Horray for Hat” after only a few pages!

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The Book with No Pictures – B.J. Novak

B.J. Novak, actor on the hit TV series The Office, has created a simple and ingenious book.  This book will make you laugh and leave children saying “Read it AGAIN!”  Delightful and a joy to read out loud! Watch the author share the book with a group of children: http://thebookwithnopictures.com/

Favorite Friendships

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The Lion and the Bird – Marianne Dubuc

A quiet, tender story of friendship told through simple text and soft, beautiful  illustrations.  After a lion helps a wounded bird, they become instant friends and spend the winter together.  Spring comes and bird is able to fly.  Wonderful message of the need to give friendship wings.   

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The Farmer and the Clown – Marla Frazee

In this touching ,wordless picture book, a baby clown falls off the circus train and lands in a farmer’s field.  An unexpected friendship develops as the farmer and clown spend the day together and discover some surprising things about each other and the world.  Reminded me of Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman.  I don’t really like clowns but I LOVED this book!  Whimsical and moving. 

Favorite Adventures:

Three Bears in a Boat – David Soman

Three Bear siblings set off on an adventure to try to replace their mother’s blue shell that they broke.  On the way, they encounter whales, sailors, islands and a huge storm.  This is a classic picture book filled with adventure, breath-taking illustrations and a message about honesty and taking responsibility.  LOVE!

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Sam and Dave Dig a Hole – Mac Barnett

Clever, brilliant, quirky, witty, unique,  understated, open-ended, thoughtful  – there are not enough words to describe this book!  Two boys decide to dig a hole and try to find something spectacular. “It’s right there!” you will be shouting! The ending will have you scratching your head and starting the book all over again!

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Dolphin SOS – Roy Miki

Based on true events, Dolphin SOS recounts the story of  local children who rescue three dolphins trapped in an icecovered cove off the coast of Newfoundland.  Gorgeous illustrations, this book will have you holding your breathe and then cheering when the dolphins are finally set free.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Favorite Characters (I hope will be made into stuffies!)

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Little Elliot in the Big City – Mike Curato

This is a sweet, simple story about an adorable little elephant named Elliot trying to make his way in the Big City.  Life is not easy for a small elephant but Elliot has a big heart and makes friends with someone even smaller than himself.  An adorable story of friendship and finding ones place in the world, not to mention cupcakes!  Amazing illustrations!

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 Sparky – Jenny Offill

This delightful story about an animal-loving girl who orders a sloth from a catalogue.  When the creature arrives, she names it Sparky – but sadly it does not live up to its name.  Sparky is not good at tricks or hide-and-seek or anything really.  But you, as I did, will fall in love with this charming,  irresistible sloth!

Favorite Family Stories

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Nana in the City – Lauren Castillo

Wonderful story of a young boy who spends the night at his grandmother’s house in New York City.   He is afraid of the noise and business of the city but Nana takes him for a walk and he soon sees the city through her eyes.  A heartwarming story of reassurance, family and being brave.  Love the illustrations in this book.

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The Troublemaker – Lauren Castillo

This book (yes, same author as Nana in the City!) is about family and sibling rivalry.  A young boy gets into trouble when he hides his sister’s bunny.  But when it goes missing a second time, they discover he is not the only troublemaker around.  Delightful story with a bit of a surprise ending, unless you have noticed the clues!

Favorite Thought – Provoking

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The Promise – Nicola Davies

Haunting, powerful, moving.  This story follows a child thief who lives in an empty, colorless place.  She steals a bag from an old lady and plants the seeds she finds inside, after making a promise, and in doing so, begins to change the world.  A story of hope and of promise.

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I Know a Bear -Mariana Ruiz Johnson

Wow – I think this just might be my favorite of my favorites and certainly the most thought-provoking.  Told in sparse text and gorgeous illustrations (I’ve been saying that a lot, it seems!) a young girl listens as a bear tells her of the wonderful place he used to live.  But he doesn’t experience the sweet berries or the cool water anymore; he lives in a zoo.  This is a book about listening, about caring and about doing what’s right.  Such a wonderful book for promoting discussions about animals in captivity.  AMAZING! 

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What Do You Do With An Idea? – Kobi Yamada

Inspiring and motivating story of nurturing ideas no matter how small and insignificant they may seem.    Great book to teach personification as the “idea” in the story is personified as an egg.  Brilliant!

Favorite Wordless

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Fox’s Garden – Princesse CamCam

Breath-taking illustrations tell the touching story of compassion and friendship.  A dreamy, wordless story about a boy who feeds a mother fox on cold winter’s night after she is lost and chased away by grown-ups.   Simple, wintery and wonderful. 

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Flora and the Penguin – Molly Idle

We first met Flora when she learned to dance ballet with a pink Flamingo.  In this follow-up, Flora delights us once again with her twirling, leaping, gliding and spinning her friend penguin as they skate their friendship across the ice.  Innovative, clever, captivating, charming.

Favorite Mindful/ Gratitude Books

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100 Things That Make Me Happy – Amy Schwartz

Written in the rhyming lyrics of “Raindrops on Roses” – this book celebrates the joy that can be found in everyday things.  A wonderful book to share with younger children and inspire them to make their own list of “happy” things!  Lovely, whimsical illustrations!

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Breathe – Scott Magoon

Follow a young whale exploring the ocean and finding joy in simple pleasure.  But remember – pause and breathe.  Sparse, lyrical text and gorgeous illustrations  – this inspiring book is a delight to read and helpful to teach children how to be calm and relax.

Favorite Author

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Taan’s Moons: A Haida Moon Story – Alison Gear

This book was written by my sister and so OF COURSE it is on my list of favorite books!  But aside from the fact that my sister wrote it, it is an exceptionally beautiful book!  The story follows the Haida moon cycle through a year in the life of Taan (Haida for “bear”).  We follow Taan as she experiences the changing of the season and the changes in the moon.  The felt  illustrations were created by a local artist and the children of Haida Gwaii.  Read the story of this remarkable book here:  http://www.kikivanderheiden.com/taans-moons.html

Well, there you have it!  There were SO many other books I could have included!   Thanks for stopping by!  Please leave me a message to tell me what are your favorite picture books from 2014?

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Filed under Favorite Books of the Year, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Read-Aloud

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – Books For Grieving and Healing

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: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

A very good friend of mine is a principal in a neighbouring school district.  On Thursday, she learned that a grade 3 student in her school died under horrific and tragic circumstances.   The school, staff, parents and students are, as you can imagine, in shock and disbelief.  My friend has the enormous task of trying to support her school community while she, too, is grieving the loss of this dear little girl.  She stopped by my house on Friday and asked if I could recommend any picture books that she might be able to take to school on Monday to read to classes; books that might help them understand and deal with this sudden loss.  A beautiful reminder that in times when we may be at a loss for just the right words, we turn to children’s books to find strength and guidance.

In honor of the students, staff and parents at Rosemary Heights Elementary School in Surrey – here are some books that I hope will bring you some comfort during this difficult time:

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The Memory String – Eve Bunting

A young girl deals with the loss of her mother.  Holding on to memories of a lost loved one through buttons on a “memory string” and learning to create new ones.

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The Memory Tree – Britta Teckentrup

When Fox dies, his animal friends gather to share the memories of their friend.  A beautiful and heartfelt story about the death of a loved one and the memories that comfort those left behind.

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Always and Forever – Alan Durant

This book gives a heart-warming account of how we deal with bereavement and come to terms with the loss of somebody close to us. Beautiful illustrations and tender story of forest animals who are dealing with the loss of one of their close friend. 

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Water Bugs and Dragon Flies: Explaining Death to Young Children – Doris Stickley

In a simple, meaningful way, Doris Stickley uses an adapted fable about the waterbug that changes into a dragonfly to explain the death of a friend to neighbourhood children.  Some spiritual context is implied and while it does not focus on any particular religion, I found it particularly comforting. 

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The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic

This book  tells the story of a young boy trying to grieve, adapt, and accept the death of his mother. Told with such straight forward, simple gestures and emotion from anger to tears, this book will make your heart ache.  Powerful and emotional but a very good book to spark discussion and promote hope and healing.

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The Tenth Good Thing About Barney – Judith Viorst

This book is about the loss of a pet but I like how sensitively the book touches on expressing feelings about a loss (both sadness and good memories.) It does touch on the idea of Heaven, but does so in a neutral way.

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Michael Rosen’s Sad Book  – Michael Rosen

This wonderful book, illustrated by Quentin Blake, describes Michael Rosen’s grief at the death of his son.  It vividly describes the ever-changing fluidity of grief – the sudden and unexpected moments of happiness, then anger, then resentment.  Knowing that there different ways of being sad is an important message to share with people who are affected by a death or a loss. 

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My Father’s Arms are Like a Boat – Stein Erik Lunde

Haunting, beautiful story of a child and father’s sadness over the death of the mother.  Soft illustrations and poetic, subtle word choice – this story is achingly beautiful.

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The Fall of Freddie the Leaf – Leo Buscaglia

This book makes me cry but in a good way. It is an excellent choice when teaching children about the end of life for someone they love. It makes death a natural celebration of peace after a struggle to hang on to something that is no longer important. It speaks of a higher purpose in the circle of all things. 

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The Heart and the Bottle – Oliver Jeffers

This simple story tells of a young girl who “locks her heart away” after her grandfather dies, protecting it from feeling pain.   Wonderful, simple message about how to open up your heart after a loss and begin to love and feel again.  Beautiful message of hope and love. 

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Badger’s Parting Gifts – Susan Varley

This is a heart warming story that introduces grief, loss and the subject of death in a gentle way.  I like that the friends are so very sad when their friend dies, but by sharing happy memories of their friend together, it helps them deal with their sadness.

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I’ll Always Love You – Hans Wilhelm

This is a heart-aching story of a child dealing with the loss of the family dog.  Beautifully written and lovely illustrations.  Sad but helpful and hopeful in the end.

Thanks for stopping by.  I do recommend you read through these any of these books before sharing them with children as some of them may not be appropriate or fit your own beliefs.  I would love suggestions of books you have shared with students who may have experienced loss of a loved one.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the school community of Rosemary Heights Elementary as they deal with this loss.

 

 

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Filed under Grief, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Celebration Saturday – Classroom and Christmas celebrations!

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I am happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week(s).

Here are the things I’m celebrating this week…

1) Celebrating completed report cards – This is always a stressful time in a teacher’s life – so it is a huge relief to have those envelopes stuffed and sent home.  I am only in the classroom part time, but teaching partner worked extremely hard on these reports.  Thanks, Katie!

2) Celebrating Pen Pals – This year, my class will be Pen Pal’s with a grade 2 and 3 class at the Country Day School in Toronto.  Despite the length of time it took us to get this organized, we finally got our first introductory letters mailed!  Hoping our letters arrive safely and looking forward to hearing from our Pen Pals!

2) Celebrating writing – I have been working closely with the grade 6’s at my school on writing this term.  It has been so rewarding seeing their growth over the past few months, as they have been applying many of the writing techniques to weekly “practice writes”. This week, our final writing piece was on “My Special Place” – where they wrote a description of a special place that holds many memories for them.  We were focusing on trying to create a visual image for our readers by including the senses.  I used my favorite anchor book for this writing – The Hello-Goodbye Window by Norton Justin – a delightful story of a girl’s special place inside her “nanny and poppy’s” house. I am looking forward to reading their pieces this week!

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3) Celebrating Kindergarten Connecting – I have been teaching the kindergarten students about “making connections” this term.  Each week, I visit the class, share a book and we practice making connections.  I have enjoyed seeing the children respond so well to the books.  Last week. I read “Too Many Toys” by David Shannon and the children made connections to toys that they COULD give away and toys that they absolutely COULD NOT give away!  (love the “Dum” truck!)

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4) Celebrating Christmas –  I LOVE Christmas!  It is, by far, my favorite time of year.  Tis the season to pull out my tubs of decorations and said hello to all my old Christmas friends.  Our tree is not up yet – but it’s sitting in a bucket in our back yard waiting to be decorated!  Shortbread recipes are pulled out and my family’s favorites: toffee squares are in the fridge!

5) Celebrating traditions – Every year, my dad would make fresh wreaths for family, friends and neighbours.  He made dozens of wooden wreath rings, which he could replenish with Christmas greens each year and deliver them to neighbours and friends. After Christmas, the greens were removed and the wreaths returned.  When he died many years ago, my sisters and I divided up the wreath rings and tried to carry on the tradition with our own friends. Last week,  I replenished the greens on 8 wooden wreaths and delivered them to my friends, now part of my own Christmas tradition.  There is one wreath ring I keep and make for myself.  It is the one labeled “Adrienne” on the back in my dad’s printing – 8 letters I treasure.

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6) Celebrating my sister – Last week, my sister’s book “Taan’s Moons” was released.  I am so very proud of her!  The book is a collaboration of author, artist and students.  The poem, written by my sister, is highlighted by gorgeous reproductions of large felt tapestries created by artist Kiki van der Heiden and the students of SD 50 Haida Gwaii, B.C., where my sister has lived for the past 17 years.  The story follows Taan (“Bear” in Haida language) as she experiences the wonders of the seasons through the different phases of the moon.  A stunning book with many links to First Nations, science and social studies.

Watch a short clip about the book: http://vimeo.com/97461062

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7) Celebrating giving – Every year at this time, the gals in my book club get together and make hampers for needy families in the downtown Eastside.  We have been doing this for the past 13 years and it is always a wonderful way of giving back to those less fortunate.  The site of these laundry baskets filled to the brim with toys, diapers, baby food, toothbrushes and shampoo brings the Christmas spirit a little closer to all of us.

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8) Celebrating this picture – This is a picture of my eldest son, at the top of Blackcomb Mountain, taken on his first snowboard day of the season.  I celebrate the extraordinary beauty of this majestic province we live in, captured in this amazing photo (taken by his buddy); I celebrate that my son has the opportunity to experience such beauty; I celebrate that when my son showed me this photo he said,  “Look, mum – here’s my Carpe Diem pose”.  The phrase “seize the day” is my motto, my mantra, my words of wisdom that I have always tried to live by.  To hear my son say those words back to me….well, my heart is still smiling.

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What are you celebrating this week?

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Filed under Celebration Saturday, Lesson Ideas, making connections, New Books