Category Archives: Lesson Ideas

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014

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:

New Year’s Day – Celebrations in My World     Crabtree Publishing   

 

This was the perfect “back to school” book to start the New Year with my students.  It is a great book to share – filled with colorful photographs and interesting information about the history, customs and celebrations of New Year’s Day around the world.  There was also a page about New Year’s resolutions – which was a great way to launch our writing about our own resolutions!

I is For Imagination – An Invention Alphabet – by Marcia Schoberg

This term I am working with a grade 7 class on a project linking writing with their Social Studies unit on ancient inventions from Mesopotamia.  I used this anchor book today to launch the unit and get the children thinking about inventions.   We spent nearly 40 minutes reading this book and discussing inventions!   For every letter of the alphabet, I had the students predict the invention in the book:

“A” – is for…?  Students responses:  “airplane”, “antibiotics”, “apps” (ha!), “apple pie”  (The actual invention in the book is “aluminum”)

Once the invention had been revealed, we discussed the importance of the invention and how it made an impact on our lives.  By the time we got to “Z” – the kids were hooked and so excited about their project.  I learned SO much and HIGHLY recommend this as an anchor book to launch an invention unit!

Big Bang Science Experiments – Jay Hawkins (Windmill Books

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During the second term at my school, the intermediate classes spend a great deal of time preparing for the school Science Fair.  For the younger students who are participating for the first time, it can be a challenge coming up with just the right experiment or project.  Our great Teacher Librarian discovered this series and they have proved to be VERY helpful resources,   The books include clear photograph visuals, instructions and examples of many different experiments to try.

First Facts Biography Series (Capstone)

                                       

I’m a huge fan of Biographies for kids – and while I tend to be drawn towards the more narrative versions like On a Beam of Light and The Tree Lady, I also think it’s helpful to have examples of more factual biographies at a lower reading level.  This series  of 6 books (missing here are Jeff Kinney and Barbara Park)  was released in August – and I love that they include authors of books that many students will be familiar with.  The text is very accessible with full colored photographs and many text features.  A great collection for your library!

Noisy Frog Sing Along – John Himmelman

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Noisy Frog is an simple but interesting look at the different songs frogs make!  Some peep, some trill, some growl, some creek, and some go WAAH, WAAH, WAAH!  (Who knew?)  This book has bold and beautiful pictures and great facts at the back provide information about the “singers”!  Big frog love for this book!

The Unpopular Pea (& Carrot) by Elle Valentine

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I was immediately drawn to this book because of the cover, but debated whether I should list it as a nonfiction read.  It is a cute story of a pea and carrot who feel unloved compared to the donuts and candy everyone seems to love.  It has a fun rhyming text and very cute illustrations, however, the important message of this book focuses on nutrition.  It shows the differences between junk food and vegetables and would be a great anchor book to help teach children how to make healthy choices.  It’s also just darn cute!

What nonfiction picture books have you been reading this week?

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Filed under Lesson Ideas, New Books, NFPB Challenge 2014, Nonfiction, Science

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – New Picture Books for the New Year – Part 1

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

Well – it’s the beginning of a new year and I thought I’d celebrate with sharing some newly released picture books that I’m very excited about! There are too many to share in one post – so I’ll complete the list next week!  Here we go….

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The Mischievians – William Joyce

Oh, the connections I made to this book!  Have you have ever wondered who is responsible for all the things that happen around your house that nobody seems to be able to explain?  Like where the remote control went, what happened to homework, why there are so many single socks in the laundry and why songs stick in your head.  Well, this book has the answer –  It is the pesky little “Mischievians” at work again!  This book is classic Joyce – funny, clever and fun!  I can’t wait for my students to think up some of their own “mischievian” happenings!

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The Colourblind Chameleon – Laura Kantor

How can you not smile at this adorable little face?   And how can you not laugh when you read that this poor wee chameleon is colorblind so while his fellow chameleon’s are changing color for camouflage, his color changes results in the exact opposite!  Because he cannot distinguish colors, he ends up changing into some outrageous shades where he stands out instead of blending in.  Poor thing!  He is left feeling alone and discriminated against.  I loved this book and have developed a huge case of reptile love! The book is bright and colorful with a rhyming text that makes it a perfect read-aloud for younger children.

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Dot – Randi Zuckerberg

This past summer, I discovered a few books that shared a similar theme of breaking free of being “plugged in” to electronic devises – Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino and Hello, Hello! by Matthew Cordell.  Meet Dot – she is a spunky, device savy gal – who knows how to tweet, swipe, tag and tap her way through just about every electronic device she can get her hands one!   One day, she is sent outside on a technology-free adventure to re-connct with her friends.  What I loved about this book is the realistic message about enjoying BOTH life and technology.  I also enjoyed the author’s clever double meanings to the words “tweet”, “tap” and “surf”!  And in case you were wondering, yes, the author Randi Zuckerberg is the sister of Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg!

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Paul Meets Bernadette – Rosy Lamb

My, oh my, this is one for my special shelf.  This is a book about seeing the world in a different way.  simple, imaginative, beautiful. The oil painting illustrations are remarkable.  Paul is a fish who swims around his fish bowl in circles.  Enter Bernadette – who shows him a different perspective on the world and helps Paul see things in a whole new way.  This is a gentle love story that I fell in love with.

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The Nowhere Box – Sam Zuppardi

So much to love about this book!  What child cannot relate to being constantly bugged by a sibling?  And what child has at some point used a large cardboard box to create a secret fort, space ship or castle.  George is constantly being followed by his younger brothers.  His solution?  The Nowhere Box!  In it, he can be a pirate, a king, a pilot!  In the end, playing alone turns out to be not so fun.  The illustrations in this book are extraordinary – there is something very textural about them and I kept wanting to run my hands over the pages to “feel” them!

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ABC’s From the Whippety Wood: The Magic in Nature – Pamela Harden

From Acorn Fairies to Zillo the Zebra Unicorn – this is a whimsical, wonderful ABC book to add to your Alphabet book collection!  A celebration of nature with beautiful illustrations and creative characters for each letter of the alphabet.   Lovely!

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Fossil – Bill Thomson

Wow! Wow!  So so so so good!  A boy and his dog discover some stones while out walking. When one of the stones breaks open to reveal a fossil from a prehistoric plant the boy gathers as many stones as he can find and begins breaking them apart. The result is magical!   This is a wordless picture book with extraordinarily detailed and life-like illustrations.  It almost feels as if you are wearing 3D glasses!  I loved Bill Thomson’s last wordless picture book Chalk and found it a wonderful anchor book for practicing questioning and inferring.  This book has the added bonus of being a Segway into discussions about fossils, dinosaurs, and other aspects of science.  This is a must have for your wordless book collection!

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Once Upon a Memory – Nina Ladin

My students, family and friends roll their eyes whenever I say “This is my FAVORITE new book” because I tend to say it a lot.  But this is TRULY my FAVORITE new book!  LOVE LOVE LOVE this book SO SO MUCH!  Why do I love it so much?  First, the images are captivating, soft, gentle, quiet, sweet.  I want to climb inside the book and stay for a while.  Second – this is a story about memory – but gifts us with so much more – questions about nature, about life, about transitions, about the origins of objects, about life.  This book is begging to be used in a classroom – a treasure for lessons on inventions or discussing imagination and asking the question:  What will you remember?  I will certainly remember this book for a long time.

There you have it – part one of my “new books for a new year”!  Hope you found a few titles you might want to read and share.

What have you been reading this week?

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

Christmas Metaphors

Christmas Metaphors

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how the lesson went:

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

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

                   Sister – ornament  – beautiful, delicate but breaks easily

                   Dad – tree – strong and steady and smells good

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

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

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

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

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My Family is Christmas by Rhea

My Dad is Santa

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

My mom is a present

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

My sister is a reindeer

Annoying but guides the way for others.

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

But I keep our family together.  

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

 

 

 

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Filed under Lesson Ideas, Poetry, Writing Anchors

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here:  Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

I have not been blogging lately as I have been focusing on trying to finish my book.  I am extremely pleased to have completed the first draft of my manuscript for Nonfiction Writing Power and it is now in the hands of  Kat – my extremely competent editor at Pembroke.  I know there is a lot of work still ahead but I am enjoying the temporary break from book writing and the chance to share some of the amazing new books I’ve read in the past few weeks.   51InOvbTzZL._SL500_AA300_[1]

David Wiesner fans – you will be happy to know that he has a new picture book out called Mr. Wuffles.  In his latest masterpiece, we meet a finicky feline called Mr. Wuffles who shows disinterest towards all the cat toys his owners have purchased for him.  He does, however, become interested in a tiny toy space ship.  After flicking it about, he discovers there are tiny aliens living inside – and now their space ship is damaged. The aliens eventually team up with household insects to repair their ship.    In his classic near wordless style, Wiesner illustrations are detailed and captivating, particularly capturing the movement and expressions of Mr. Wuffles.  Classic Wiesner!  51WL6EckLdL._SL500_AA300_[1]

How to Train a Train by  is a unique and hilarious “HOW TO” manual on how to take care of your “pet” train.  Any child who loves trains, or any who may prefer the mechanical toy rather than a real pet, will enjoy this book.  I was drawn to this book because of how well it fits into teaching students the form and language of instructional writing.  It is written as a handbook and includes everything from how to choose your train, feed, clean and care for your train.  I do not have a particular interest in trains but thoroughly enjoyed this book!

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This is Our House by Hyewon Yum is GEM!  It is one of those books that you could integrate into so many units of study – from family history,  to multiculturalism, to changing seasons, to immigration.  There is something so warm about this book as you follow a Korean-American girl and her family through seasons and generations.  Through their journey, we witness the true difference between a ‘house’ and a ‘home’.516qNkYtN9L._SL500_AA300_[1]A Single Pebble:  A Story of the Silk Road by Bonnie Christensen is the story of a little girl in 9th century China, who sends a small jade pebble to travel with her father along the Silk Road.  We follow the journey of the pebble along the Silk Road.  It ends up in the hands of a boy in the Republic of Venice – the end of the Silk Road.  The illustrations are lovely and the reference to the five “gifts” (reference to the five senses) which accompany the merchants along the silk road makes this a wonderful anchor book for writing as well as launching a unit in Social Studies.

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The Invisible Boy – Trudy Ludwig.  Brian is so quite he is “invisible”.  He is not included, invited to birthday parties or  is really noticed.  Then Justin, the new boy, arrives and works with Brian on a class project, giving him a chance to shine.  This gentle book is a valuable one to include in your class collection, showing children how small acts of kindness can help others feel included.  The illustrations by Patrice Barton are soft and gentle, just like Brian.

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Princess Tales:  Once Upon a Time in Rhyme with Seek and Fid Pictures by Grace Maccarone.  Ooooooo… you MUST see this book!  It is ingenious and splendid and clever!  Ten well known princess stories, from Princess and the Pea to Sleeping Beauty are retold with hidden pictures and extraordinary illustrations by Gail De Marcken.  Pour over each page and enjoy!  This book is on my Christmas list for several young girls I know!

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Speaking of Christmas… Peter H. Reynolds has released The Smallest Gift of Christmas just in time for the upcoming season ( I know it’s not even Halloween but I can’t help myself!)  I adore anything and everything Peter. H. Reynolds does so was thrilled to see his new book.  “Be careful what you wish for”  appears to be the theme of this book as Roland, after receiving a very small gift for Christmas, wishes for something bigger… and bigger… and BIGGER!  After his search takes him to outer space, he finally realizes that what is most important is waiting back on earth for him.  The true meaning of Christmas is shared as only Peter H. Reynolds can share it.  And in case he didn’t know, his books are enormous gifts to me.

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My dear friend Carrie Gels0n , who shares my passion for books, sent me this book recommendation last week and I am in love with it already.  What Does it Mean to Be Present? by Rana DiOrio has such an important message about being mindful, aware and grateful.  Amazing illustrations and the perfect book for transforming.  To help my students experience how a book can “transform our thinking”,  I started with the word “PRESENT” and asked my students what the word made them think about.  (I call this “taking stock of our thinking”)  Most connected the word  it to gifts, birthdays and Christmas.  After reading the book, we “revisited our thinking” about the word.  Many were transformed by the idea that “present” is not an object but a way of being.

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I love maps.  Any book that begins with a map has me hooked before I even begin reading.  I don’t know if it’s the physical shapes or the sense of adventure a map represents but whatever it is – I’m drawn in by a map.  And so when I saw the cover of MAPS by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, I was fascinated.   This book is an illustrated children’s atlas – but not one that you have ever seen before.  It is utterly amazing, delightful, sensual, amusing and informative.  There are maps, illustrations and detailed drawings.   The pages are heavy and I couldn’t stop running my fingers over them.  I was completely consumed and mesmerized.   A book for children but no doubt will be loved by many adults.

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I loved A Wrinkle in Time by  Madeleine L’Engle as a kid – my first real experience with Sci Fi that I enjoyed.  50 years later,  Hope Larson’s work has created this graphic novel of the classic tale.  I’m not sure if I wanted someone else to create images of Happy Medium and Aunt Beast that have stayed in my imagination for all these years and the jury is still out.  I did enjoy revisiting the characters and the many layers and themes of this book and think that children who are not familiar with the original version will be captivated by the classic story through this format.  Be prepared – it’s very long!

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My 13 yr. old is reading this book and loving it.  Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi has everything a 13 yrs. old boy could possibly want in a book – humor mixed with horror, baseball, zombie cows, evil coaches, battles and blood.  It also has a lot of great themes for teachers – racism, immigration, corporations, food processing and, of course, friendship.  The setting of this book is a small Ohio town with a big meat packing plant that is pumping their cows full of bad things.  The effect is that the cows turn into zombies.   I loved that the main character Rabi – a boy from South Asian – because there are not many books with main characters from this culture.   This book would make a great read-aloud for an intermediate class – lots of laughs but great discussions too!

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And finally…. Sutton by J.R. Moehringer is my Book Club read this month.  It is based on the true story of notorious bank robber Willie Sutton,  one of the most infamous criminals in New York during the 1960’s.  He was a hero of sorts amongst the public and dubbed a modern Robin Hood because he never carried a gun – his only victims were the banks.   His motivation for robbing – his first love.  I am half way through the book and thoroughly enjoying the writing of a tender love story disguised as a crime novel.

Well – there’s my latest list!  Hope you found one or two new titles that sparked your interest.  What have you been reading this week?

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Filed under graphic novel, immigration, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, New Books, Novels, Picture Book, Social Responsibility, Transform, Writing Anchors

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here:  Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

This week I read several picture books – some recently released and some I somehow missed along the way.  I’ve also been busy ready a few recently released novels to share with teachers at my workshops this fall.

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I am a huge fan of the Stella and Sam books by Marie Louise Gay.  Sam is the quintessential child of wonderings and Stella, his sister, does her best to provide him with the her most thoughtful responses.  In Reading Me a Story, Stella we not only get these two delightful and well-loved characters at their best, but Gay subtly imparts the importance and pleasures of reading in many different forms – humor, fiction, nonfiction or poetry.  Throw in Gay’s whimsical watercolors and yes, we have a winner!

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Oh, the stomach ache inducing fear of having to stand up in front of the class and share something when you are painfully shy!  In Too Shy for Show and Tell by Beth Bracken, dear little Sam (well, he seems little, despite his very long neck!) dreads the thought of having to get up in front of the class.  What if he cries or throws up?  This is a great book to help children learn to deal with their anxiety about public speaking and one many will be able to connect to. z is for moose[1]

Somehow, I must have missed this book when it came over a year ago!  But I’m very happy to have discovered it now as it is extremely clever and VERY funny.  In Z is for Moose by Kelly Bringham, Zebra is directing an Alphabet play.  It is his job to ensure that all the animals appear in alphabetical order on stage.  His problems begin when Moose keeps trying to come onto the stage out of turn and things really go badly when Zebra discovers that he isn’t actually in the play at all!  This is a perfect read aloud for younger primary children learning the alphabet but also a great read aloud-laugh aloud with older kids!

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I love books clever books and Little Red Writing by Joan Holub is SO clever!  Not only is it a humorous re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood that children will recognize, but weaves in the key elements of story writing.  What could be better?   Little Red pencil is excited when her teacher, Ms. 2, tells her pencil class that it is time to write a story. Her basket of nouns help her along the way, particularly when she runs into Wolf 3000 – a pencil sharpener on a rampage!  This book is engaging, entertaining and hilarious!  Great water color illustrations with lots of details is the icing on the cake!

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I’m often not taken with sparkly book covers and tend to avoid them.  I’m glad I got passed the sparkles to discover the delightful story of Zoe Gets Ready by Bethanie Deeney Murguia.  It’s Saturday and Zoe is trying to decide what to wear. But her dilemma is not so much about the clothes she will wear as it is about what she wants to do that day. Will it be a pocket day? (in which case she will need a pocket to put her collections) Or maybe a twirling day? (when “twirly skirts” are essential!) or cartwheeling, or exploring kind of day. Adorable!   The surprising way she solves her problem will have children laughing!  This book got me thinking…what might one wear for a “reading day”?

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Another book I clearly missed when it was published in 2011 is Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczke and illustrated by Chad Cameron  It is a bright, colorful and entertaining book about the wonders of fall with an added element of fun: there are mistakes EVERYWHERE – from squirrels flying south to pumpkins growing on trees!  This book is pure entertainment – and I know my students will enjoy finding all the mixed up mistakes in both the text and illustrations.

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Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietow is a recently published book and perfect for your fall collection.  Sophie chooses a squash at the Farmer’s market but refuses to let her mom cook it for supper.  Instead, she names the squash Bernice and they become fast friends.  She takes Bernice everywhere, despite her parents’ gentle warning that Bernice may soon begin to rot.  At first, Sophie is convinced that Bernice will last forever, but eventually, she notices some soft changes!  What will she do?  A great book for predicting, problem solving and surprise endings!

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Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck is the first of a few novels I’ve managed to read over the past few weeks.  This is a lovely story, reminiscent of Despereaux, with a main character I began routing for from the beginning. Mouse Minor lives in Buckingham Palace and is in service to the queen.  But he is unhappy and has many burdens to bare, including not knowing who his parents are, having no friends and being picked on. So he runs away from school and begins his adventures.  This dear little mouse who questions the world around him is not only brave but optimistic.  I enjoyed the setting of London and the detailed descriptions of Buckingham Palace and the Diamond Jubilee, as well as the fine illustrations.  I also loved language and wonderful phrases Peck uses including many little sayings and repeated poems.  Would make a wonderful read-aloud for upper primary and early intermediate students.  True Blue Scouts cover[1]

I had read several reviews of this book over the summer and was excited to read it.  The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt (The Underneath)  is another animal story starring two “boy scout” raccoons and a whole cast of interesting characters – both animal and human.  This is a tall tale about a swamp in Texas guarded by the Sugar Man. Some of the characters want to preserve this swamp and some want to make money by turning the swamp into a Theme Park.   This book is so well written.  The short chapters jump from different points of view with such ease, you hardly notice.  The story is funny and fast paced and touches on community, conservation and adventure.  This would be an excellent read-aloud for grades 3-5.  9780307977939_p0_v1_s260x420[1]

I SO enjoyed Rump: the True Story of Rumplestiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff.  It is a twisted re-telling of the classic fairy tale told from the perspective of “Rump”.  This book has everything you could want in a classroom read-aloud: humor, magic, adventure, no parents, evil people, “butt” jokes, a character that you will be cheering for and did I mention humor?  Every boy in my class will want their hands on this book after I read the first chapter.  I can’t wait to start reading it to them!

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On a more serious note, Vince Vawter’s Paperboy deals with a boy with a disability –  a familiar trend in YA books since Wonder came out.  Set in Memphis in 1959, this coming of age story is about an 11 year old boy who suffers from a strong stutter.  He takes over his friend’s paper route one summer and so begins a story that ends up being so much more than about a boy with a disability.  While we do get a glimpse into the life of boy who stutters and the fears he must face when having to talk to his customers and collect money, we are also presented a piece of American history and of the racism that was so much a part of the South at this time.  The author Vince Vawter suffered through a stuttering problem in his childhood years, making this book semi-autobiographical.  This would be a great book for middle school lit. circles.

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Kate DiCamillo is high on my list of favorite writers.  I cried buckets reading Edward Tulane and held off reading the last page of Despereaux for almost a week because I didn’t want it to end.  In this, her first novel in “graphic” format, I have to say she has done it again.  I must admit I was a little hesitant when I learned this book was written partly in a comic book format as I was worried it would somehow lack the extraordinary gift of words and tender tale that I have come to know from any Kate DiCamillo book.  But I should have known that she would somehow master both humor, tenderness and a tapestry of wonderful words in this new format.  Flora and Ulysses is the story of a 10 year old girl (Flora) who is devoted to superheroes and a self-proclaimed cynic.  One day she rescues a squirrel from a disaster with a vacuum cleaner.  The squirrel, whom she names Ulysses, turns out to be a poetry writing superhero squirrel and Flora suddenly finds herself in the role of “sidekick” to this squirrel.   The characters are endearing, the writing is exquisite and the story is both humorous and touching.   Kate DiCamillo has done it again.

Well.. there you have it!  The latest picture books and novels I have read and enjoyed.  What have you been reading lately?

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Filed under It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, Literature Circles, New Books, Novels, Picture Book

Summer Reading – Day 29 – It’s Monday – What Are You Reading?

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here:   Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey

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My first great find is Fall Walk by Virginia Brimhall Snow.  Fall is my favorite season – there is something about the start of the school year, the cooler mornings, the smell and crunch of leaves – it is a season for the senses!  I am drawn to books about seasons and this is definitely one I am happy to  to add to my collection.  In this book, the reader is taken on a fall walk through the woods to look at 24 different types of leaves.  The illustrations are beautiful and the rhyming text makes for a great read-aloud.  It is a wonderful introduction to tree identification and would be a great book to read before taking your class on a leaf walk.  I loved that included in the book are instructions on how to press leaves, do leave rubbings, a leaf match game and fun facts about trees.

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What is your blue like?  Does the color blue make you feel happy?  sad?  cold? Does it make you think of a sad, lonely song or a  summer swimming pool and your favorite pair of jeans?   My Blue is Happy, by first time author Jessica Young, is a delightful exploration of color and emotions as a little girl considers people’s contrasting thoughts about color.  Pink may be fancy and fun like a tutu to one person but annoying like bubble gum stuck to your shoe to someone else!  The illustrations are delightful and the text is lovely.  This is wonderful book for reading aloud and inviting younger students to share and compare their own connections to different colors.

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There have been many posts this summer from fellow bloggers highlighting favorite wordless picture books.  Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle is one I haven’t seen reviewed but I certainly have added it to my wordless collection.  I loved this book – there was something so delightful about this wordless picture book, with its interactive life-the-flap pages and adorable illustrations.  In it, we witness a rather elaborate friendship dance between Flora and her graceful, ballet-dancer flamingo friend.  This book is a mini masterpiece – all that was missing was a little Tchaikovsky!

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Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon is not new, but is new to me.  This book is beyond sweet – in both the story and the illustrations.  I fell in love with this endearing little Penguin as he befriends a pinecone and shows love and generosity towards it, knitting it a scarf to protect it from the cold and eventually taking it back on a journey to the forest where it belongs.  I got a little teary at the end of this heartfelt, gentle book.  It’s a keeper.

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The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks was the “buzz” book last fall when it first came out but I loved it so much then, have decided to revisit it as we begin a new school year.  This book is a remarkable weaving of two stories – one is the story of the bear in the book; the other of the small boy who is reading the book with his mother.  The book gently takes us back and forth from “inside” the story to “outside the story” as we move from the bear’s story to the story of boy and parent reading together.  This book demonstrates the interactive way in which a mother reads with her child – pausing to ask him questions, make connections, and think aloud.  In my school district, it has been THE book to share at a parent evenings at the start of the school year as a positive model for what reading at home with your child can look like.  The illustrations are soft and gentle, just like the feeling of curling up with your child and a favorite book.

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 I managed to read two novels over the past two weeks (when I should have been writing!)  Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur….Wow! There is so much to tell you about this book!  It’s two stories woven together – one of 13 yr. old Siena and her 3 yr. old brother Lucca who, at two years old, refused to speak.  Siena’s family moves into an old house by the sea, a move they hope will be a fresh start for Lucca.  Siena has an obsession for old houses and abandoned things.  When she uses an old pen she finds to write in her diary, the pen begins to write itself (how amazing is that?) revealing the story of Sarah and Joshua, who lived in the same house during World War II.  The two stories begin to parallel each other and begin to reveal secrets which eventually lead to helping Lucca find his voice.  This book has everything – relationships, mystery, history, fantasy and a feel-good ending.  It’s intense and would make a great read-aloud for grades 5 and up.

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I may have saved the best for last because I LOVE any book by the great Kevin Henkes!  Whenever I hear about a new book by him, I cannot WAIT to get my hands on it.  I was lucky enough to get an ARC of book 1 in his new series The Year of Billy Miller.  I’m not sure how he does it but Kevin Henkes seemingly effortlessly captures the voice and emotion of his characters and creates endless opportunities for us to make connections.  In this beginning chapter book,  we spend a year with 2nd grade Billy – and laugh out loud as he navigates through everyday experiences at school and at home.  Some “connectable moments” include a cancelled sleepover, diorama homework assignment, poetry slam, and several sibling temper tantrums.  This is the perfect shorter novel for transitioning readers and would also make a hilarious read-aloud. Icing on the cake are Henke’s black and white illustrations.  This book is set to be released on September 17th – but I’m already looking forward to the second Billy Miller book!

Well…. that’s if for my reads this week!  Hope you found one or two titles that peeked your interest!    What have you been reading lately?

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

Summer Reading – Day 27! It’s Monday! What Are You Reading! – Back to School Books

It’s Monday (actually it’s almost Tuesday!) and happy to be participating in IMWAYR once again!

After returning from a week at the lake, I’m feeling fall creeping into my horizon. And that means back to school for many of us. (I know some are already back!) So I thought I’d share some of my favorite “back to school” books to share with students during those first few days and weeks as we begin a new year together.  This list has some old favorites and some new titles that I’m excited to share for the first time.  In no particular order, here they are:

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I am starting with a brand new book I am very excited about called Rufus Goes to School by Kim T. Griswell. Rufus is excited about going to school so he can learn how to read his favorite book (do you love this already?) But Rufus is a pig and “Pigs aren’t allowed in school!” says the principal.  This book combines the excitement of the first day of school with the desire of learning to read – a pretty great combination, don’t you think? This book is very interactive with lots of repeating phrases where kids can join in with the read-aloud.  If you are only going to buy one new back to school book this year – it should be this one!

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First Day Jitters by Julie Danneburg is a story about Sara who is nervous about starting her first day at a new school.  Her father is trying to help her get ready by making her breakfast, packing her lunch and driving her to school.  This book has delightful surprise ending that stimulates an important discussion around just who gets nervous on the first day of school.

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I am a huge Mark Teague fan.  I can read and re-read his books and I laugh each and every time. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is no exception.  It is a hilarious account of a Wallace’s imaginative and elaborate account of his summer vacation.  A great writing anchor for the first week back – as kids enjoy writing their own imaginative and perhaps embellished tales of their recent summer!

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One can never go wrong with a Todd Parr book.  Otto Goes to School is a simple story first published as a picture book and now available as an Level 1 reader, includes Todd’s trademark colorful block illustrations and a familiar character – “Otto”.   It is story of starting school and making friends that many will make connections to.

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This School Year Will Be the Best! by Kay Winters is a wonderful interactive read-aloud.  At the beginning of the year, a class is asked what their hopes are for looking the coming school year.  The month-by-month answers are diverse, ranging from “meeting a new friend” to “having a chocolate fountain in the hallway”.  A great book to invite students to share their own hopes for the year.

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Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten by Hyewon Yum is one of my latest finds.  At first glance, you may think it is a familiar story of a boy’s first day in Kindergarten.  But after a closer look at the illustrations, you realize that it is also a story of how parents experience the same fears and anxieties about this milestone of their child starting school.   This would make a perfect anchor book for inferring, and would also make a great gift for anyone whose child is starting school.

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No back to school list of books would be complete without David Goes To School by David Shannon.  Most of you will know the David books but I never grow tired of the hilarious illustrations and the all the connections I make.   There is a “David” in every classroom and this book reminds me of just how much they need our understanding.

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Back-to-School Rules by Laurie Friedman is another book that could anchor a writing activity: writing school rules.  These 10 rules, as told by Percy, head of the class, are written in the negative – what NOT to do – which makes for an amusing read-aloud.  The illustrations add to the humor.

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How Will I Get to School this Year? by Jerry Pallotta explores the wild and imaginative ways you might get to school if your parents didn’t drive you or you didn’t take the school bus.  This is a fun and slightly silly book that I think kids would enjoy.  Maybe they could even think of their own wacky ways to travel to school!

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Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre has a release date of September 1st and is definitely one to put on your radar.  I was fortunate enough to get an ARC and can tell you it is absolutely hilarious.  While it is not exactly a “back to school” story – it is a story of school supplies gone wild – namely the glue bottle!  The results are a hilarious sticky mess of  story that celebrates art and creativity. 9466024[1]

In Pete the Cat – Rocking in My School Shoes, laid-back Pete explores the different places in his school while rockin and groovin’ in his school shoes.  “It’s all good” when you have a Pete the Cat book in your collection!  Thanks, Eric Letwin, for this easy-going character that we all love!

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And rounding out my list today is a poetry book collection, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins.  School Supplies includes poems by such greats as Carl Sandburg, Myra Cohn Livingston and Jane Yolen.  There are poems about paper clips, lunch bags, pencils and rulers.  My favorite is “The Eraser Poem” that actually starts to erase!  Great poems for reading aloud and bright illustrations for sharing.

Hope you found a few new titles for sharing to your students as you begin your school year.  Would love to hear about some of your favorites!

Thanks to Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers for starting this Monday book sharing!

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