Monthly Archives: April 2015

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – New for Spring Part 2!

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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

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Wolfie, the Bunny – Ame Dyckman

I have heard a lot of positive things about this book since its release in February but I had not read it.  Now I know why everyone loves it so much!  It is a charming tale of a family of bunnies who discover a wolf on their doorstep.  While the parents are overjoyed and welcome the new baby, Dot, their only daughter, is more than a little skeptical about her new sibling and fears they will all soon be eaten!  This book is so much fun to read, full of wonderful illustrations and hilarious lines. Dot is a great character – full of spunk and insight.   I love the way she keeps shouting about how Wolfie’s going to eat them with slight variations, finally just giving up.  “Oh, skip it!”   A brilliant book about new babies, sibling rivalry and unconditional love.  Laughs, surprises, suspense – this book has it all!  Perfect read-aloud and would also make a fantastic Reader’s Theater!

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Zoo – Suzy Lee

This is an interesting almost wordless picture book about a girl visiting the zoo with her parents and ends up getting lost.  The two parallel stories, one told in words from the girl’s perspective, the other totally different story is told through the pictures from the parents’ perspective.   Reminiscent of “Voices in the Park” by Anthony Browne,  there is distinct contrast of the cooler tones for the parents’ perspective and the warmer, brighter, more energetic tones for the girl’s perspective.  I would definitely recommend this book to use with older students to practice inferring.

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By Mouse and Frog – Deborah Freedman

This charming story is about two friends who co-write a book together.  Thoughtful Mouse has his quiet ideas for writing, while exuberant Frog has his own great ideas he wants to include.  This is a wonderful book to teach kids about working together and the importance of listening and valuing others’ opinions.  The illustrations are adorable.  This is definitely a book for sharing with a class.   

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Fisherman Through and Through – Colleen Sydor

This was a book that stayed with me after I finished with it.  (Always a good sign for me that there was some “transformed thinking” occurring!)  It tells the tale of three dedicated fisherman – Peter, Santiago and Ahab – who fish the waters every day but long for a more interesting life.  During their long days, they share their dreams of better days.  One day, they catch an extraordinary and unusual fish they have never seen before – a lobster.   The lobster attracts much attention and soon they are surrounded by photographers and are offered a great sum of money for it, enough money to fulfill all their dreams.  (major connections to John Steinbeck’s The Pearl)   But the fisherman realize it is impossible to imagine their life without the water, their fishing rods and each other — and return their special catch back to the sea.  Whimsical illustrations, rhythmical text and for older students, could be the starting point for discussion on sustainability and human interaction with the environment. 

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 Outstanding in the Rain – Frank Viva

Oh!  The creative cleverness of this book!  The story of a young boy and his mother spending the day at an amusement park is told through a series of die-cut “holes”.  As you turn the pages, different cut shapes reveal different scenes and different words.  Balloons become frozen treats, for example.  Clever word play and crafted illustrations.  Lots of fun to read and re-read!

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Prickly Jenny – Sibylle Delacroix

This book is a perfect “connect” book for younger children.  We have all had “prickly” days – when we just can’t make up our minds what we want!  Jenny wants to be left alone, but she cries when her mom goes away; she wants to wear her old T-shirt instead of her new dress, and that’s that.  Jenny wants things her way, but she’s not always sure what her way is.  I loved the small format of this book and the lovely chalk pastel illustrations focusing on Jenny’s expressive face. And my new favorite word for grumpy is “prickly”!

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Welcome to the Neighborwood – Shawn Sheehy

Oooooo – you must see this stunning pop-up book that focuses on the interconnectedness of animal homes.  (Hummingbird builds a nest with Spider’s webs, Spider eats Honeybee, etc).   This is an impressive debut picture book with dramatic pop-up paper-collage illustrations,  similar to Steve Jenkins.  Readers are introduced to seven woodland animals, each of whom uses unique construction to build their home independently, yet live together as part of an ecosystem.  This one is a show-stopper!

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Math at the Art Museum – Group Majoongmul (author’s collaborative)

Math concepts can sometimes be difficult to explain or illustrate to young children. This is a charming and very clever picture book that introduces math concepts through concrete examples found in art. Two children and their parents are viewing famous artwork (including Picasso, Kandinsky and Seurat) in a museum. Their father explains that there is math, both hidden and visible, in works of art. While at first the young boy doesn’t believe him, as he begins to look at the art in a new way, he begins to discover the “hidden” math. Hands-on activities and elementary mathematical concepts that relate to perspective, composition, symmetry, patterns are included. This is certainly a book that can be used for both Art and Math lessons – a “2 for 1 text”! Love it!

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Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt

For Book Club this month, we are reading this debut novel by Carol Rifka Brunt.  The story is set in 1987 and is told through the voice of June, a 14 year old girl who has just lost her favorite uncle to AIDS.  Her uncle was an artist and right before he dies, he paints a portrait of June and her older sister, Greta.  Her uncle leaves behind his partner, Toby, who forms an unlikely friendship with June after Finn’s death.  Together they find comfort in sharing their grief for the person they each loved most in the world.  There is also a story line of June’s fractured relationship with her troubled sister Greta.   The book kind of snuck up on me – I wasn’t expecting to feel so much when I first started reading it.  At times, it was difficult to read and I felt overwhelmed with emotion.  This book is haunting, beautiful, tragic, powerful, gut-wrenching, complex, poignant.  The writing is achingly beautiful – with so many lines and quotes I marked as I read.  This book has earned a coveted place on the “top shelf” of my book club collection.

 

Thanks for stopping by!  Please let me know which book caught your eye!

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

Celebration Saturday – Swedish 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

I have just returned from a trip to Stockholm, Sweden so I’m thrilled to share some of the highlights from this amazing trip on my celebration post this week.

Almost 3 years ago, I was contacted by a highly respected Swedish educational researcher named Barbro Westlund. (I actually didn’t know she was such a well-known person when she first contacted me but later learned is like the David Pearson of Sweden!) She was in Vancouver doing some research for her PhD in which she was comparing Canadian reading instruction to Swedish. She had been visiting several schools in Vancouver and had heard about Reading Power through these visits.

We met, I invited her to a workshop and later she interviewed me for her thesis. My work was cited in her published PhD, eventually leading to my book, Nonfiction Reading Power, being translated into Swedish. I was honored to have Barbro Westlund write the forward. I was then invited by the Swedish publishing company Natur & Kultur to travel Stockholm for a short of a “book tour”, ending with a presentation at the Stockholm teacher’s conference.

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Amazing to think how all this unfolded but there it is! The trip was amazing – short and VERY busy but I met some amazing people.  (and best of all, my book sold out at the conference!)

Here are some of the highlights from my adventure:

On my first morning in Stockholm I took an early morning walk before my first event.  It is a stunning city and I loved the earth colors of the buildings – reds, rusts, browns, terra-cottas, sparkling water and blue skies!

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My first “lecture” was at the Pedagog Stockholm.  The teachers were all so receptive and warm, taking furious notes and lots of photos of my power point slides.

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That night I enjoyed a lovely dinner at Barbro’s beautiful house, where I met some of her closest friends and colleagues.   We had a delicious dinner, beginning with a special Swedish appetizer! Dinner conversation about education and teacher training was rich and lively and we laughed a lot! I will remember this dinner for the rest of my life.

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My host for during my visit was Nina Danielsson, former teacher who now works for Natur & Kultur Publishing company. She met me every morning and brought me to where I needed to be.  I enjoyed every minute I spent with her and feel I left Sweden with a new friend.

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On Thursday morning I had a tour of the publishing company and met many people, including Lena Forssen, the executive editor.

I was interviewed for a Swedish educational magazine called Skolporten.  I had been told that someone would “take a photograph” for the article after the interview. What they did not tell me was that it was an hour and the photographer must have taken 200 photos! This article will be published in November.

My second “lecture” was at Stockholm University, where Barbro Westlund works. The audience was mostly her colleagues, professors from the education department. The group was small but very interactive and I was able to answer questions about Canadian schools and curriculum. Afterwards, I got to visit their offices, where I met my kindred spirit Eva Söderberg.  She teaches children’s literature and her office was filled with picture books! How wonderful to meet someone who loves pictures books as much as I do! She gave me a special English Pippi Longstocking picture book!

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Friday was the Läskonferensen (Teacher’s conference) sponsored by Natur & Kultur  with a sell-out crowd of over 350 teachers! The building was stunning – a former dance studio in the 1950’s.   The conference began with Amanda Hartman, Associate Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in New York, who shared her ideas on best practice in reading and writing instruction.  I was very nervous before speaking – so many teachers and I only had one hour (a VERY challenging task for me!) I did my best to share the key concepts of Reading Power by showing very practical and concrete examples, model lessons, share books and a few student samples – all in an hour! Phew! I did the best I could in the time I had and everyone seemed very pleased.

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After the conference,  I took a late afternoon walk and visited the Old Town – the oldest part of Sweden. It was so beautiful – lovely narrow, cobblestone streets and little shops. I found a Christmas store with little hand crafted decorations and I was in heaven!

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I’m now home (wrote this blog on the plane!) The trip went by so quickly – 3 days of travelling for 3 days in Stockholm.  The only negative was that I wasn’t able to share the trip with my three “men” but maybe one day I can go back and take them with me!

I am so grateful for this wonderful experience.  Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible and for all the kindness you showed me while I was there.  I hope to return to your beautiful country in the future!

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Filed under Celebration Saturday, Reading Power, Workshops

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Look What’s New for Spring!

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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.

It’s been a busy few weeks and I have not had a chance to do a post in a while!  I have, however, been discovering a lot of wonderful new picture books that I am excited to share this week!

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Swimming, Swimming – Gary Clement

“Swimming, swimming, in a swimming pool.  When days are hot, when days are cold, in a swimming pool”.  I love this almost wordless picture book by National Post’s political cartoonist Gary Clement as he shares his childhood memories of summer days swimming in the neighborhood pool with his friends. Delightful illustrations and a perfect book for making connections and inferring.

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I Don’t Like Koala – Sean Ferrell

What do you do when your stuffed animal creeps you out and won’t stop staring at you?  Adam does not like his cute, cuddly Koala.  No matter how many times he tries to get rid of it, Koala just keeps showing up!  A little scary, a little funny – and a great book about facing your fears.  Illustrations are hilarious – a little Tim Burton-ish!

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Look! – Jeff Mack

This clever book uses only two words but tells a great story – the perfect combination for practicing inferring!   A gorilla tries desperately to get the attention of a little boy,  who is transfixed by his TV, because he wants the boy to read to him.  Whoops!  Clumsy gorilla has broken the TV!  Now what will the little boy do?  Great messages in this one! 

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You Nest Here With Me – Jane Yolen

This book has soothing and rhythmic rhymes and the repeating phrase “You nest here with me”. A sweet introduction to different birds and different nests to young children. Gorgeous mixed media collage style of Melissa Sweet (The Right Word) add to the loveliness.  There are so many recent books about birds and nests that I think I shall do a special post just about birds soon!

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The Skunk – Mac Barnett

A skunk starts following a man around the city, resulting in a bizarre chase!  This book is a little weird, a little random but great fun to read.  The best part is that you have no idea what is going on until the end of the story!  Great for predicting and inferring!  Love Patrick McDonnell’s illustrations!

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Yard Sale – Eve Bunting

I loved this book before I even read it. Eve Bunting and Lauren Castillo?  Together?  In one book?  Then I read it and I loved it around the block and back again.  I think this just might be my favorite book of the year so far.  Beautiful, tender, heart-breaking, up-lifting story about a family who is down-sizing to a smaller apartment, due to economic circumstances.   The little girl is sad to see so many of their possessions for sale, but learns that what matters most is having each other.  This is a definite Kleenex book.  Love.

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Red – Jan De Kinder

An innocent playground incident grows into a full-blown bullying incident.  This book focuses on the pain of the victim and the victim’s friend who does nothing to help.  In the end, we see and feel the courage of a girl who makes a difficult choice and stands up to put a stop to it.  Beautiful black, white and red illustrations.  This book would be a good one for classroom discussion.

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Otto the Owl Who Loved Poetry – Vern Kousky

If you are looking for a book to launch your poetry unit – here it is!  This adorable book that introduces poetry to younger students includes great lines from Dickinson, Eliot, Keats, and Rossetti.  I especially like the message it portrays that sharing poetry can be a joyful experience.  “Otto now knows that poetry should be shared with more than just the moon and the stars. Poetry should be shared with everyone.”

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Enormous Smallness – A Story of E. E. Cummings – Matthew Burgess

Sigh.  Sigh again.  I love this book so much.  I know I say that a lot but ever since I memorized “Maggie and Millie and Mollie and May” in grade 6, I have loved e.e. cummings’ poetry.  This is a gorgeous, illustrated biography of E. E. Cummings. (I loved the different type-set shown  as well!)  Interesting, engaging story of his life, woven together with some of his most wonderful poems. A quiet, sensitive introduction to his life and his poetry.  This book is simple, yet very engaging and I felt his spirit when I read it. 

So those are the treasures I discovered this week!  Would love to hear which ones caught your eye!  Thanks for stopping by!

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Filed under It's Monday, making connections, New Books, Poetry