Category Archives: New Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Favorite Early Readers and Beginning Chapter Books of 2017

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

This week, I am highlighting my favorite early readers and beginning chapter books from 2017.  So many great books to read and share with your emerging and transitional readers!  Many themes were featured this year, including strong, culturally diverse characters who face adversity, solve conflict and think outside the box to resolve problems.  Each of these books would work well either as a read-aloud in a primary classroom or as an independent reader.  (For each selection, I have included number of pages.)

 

Fergus and Zeke – Kate Messner  (56 pages)

Meet two charming, mischievous mice:  Fergus – a lovable classroom mouse who sneaks into a backpack to join a class trip and Zeke – his streetwise counterpart whom he meets and brings back to school with him.  Short sentences, repetition, great sight words, four easy chapters, straightforward plot and colorful illustrations – this brand-new series is perfect for emerging readers! 

Ballet Cat – What’s Your Favorite Favorite?  – Bob Shae (56 pages)

A delightful celebration of family relationships is the theme in this humorous third book in the Ballet Cat series.  Grandma ends up in quite a predicament when her two grandchildren – Cat and Goat – try to outdo each other when they put on a show for her.  Cat thinks ballet is Grandma’s favorite; Goat is convinced she likes magic tricks best.  A perfect early reader, the text is done entirely in large word bubbles, highlighted by Shea’s signature style illustrations and bright bold colors.

Super Narwhal and the Jelly Jolt – Ben Clanton  (64 pages)

In this follow-up to the first A Narwhale and Jelly Book, Narwhal decides to become a superhero.  He already has a name, an outfit, a secret identity, even a sidekick. But he still needs to find out which his superpower is… Cute, funny and very heartwarming. Comic style illustrations.

The Good For Nothing Button – Charise Mericle Harper (64 pages)

Yellow Bird has a button. It does . . . nothing!  It is a good for nothing button. Red Bird and Blue Bird are excited to try the button. But when they press it, they discover that the button makes them happy.  Happy is something! A flabbergasted Yellow Bird insists the button does nothing. But it sure does seem to be making him mad. Mad is something! A great read-aloud and high on the giggle scale!

Princess Cora and the Crocodile – Laura Amy Schlitz (80 pages)

When an over-scheduled princess, tired of no time to play and discover, asks her fairy godmother for a dog she is surprised when a crocodile is sent by mistake.   But the hilarious plan that follows involves the croc swapping places with Cora – giving her some much needed freedom.  With a mop wig and frilly dress, the “princess” croc insults the Queen (“Reptile!” “Mammal!”) and gnaws on the fitness-obsessed King (just a little). Charming and so much fun to read.  (and I “inferred” a little lesson for helicopter parents!)

Bruno: Some of the More Interesting Days in My Life So FarCatharina Valckx (96 pages)    Six linked quirky stories are full of friendship, silliness, and the little moments that make life memorable and unpredictable.   Bruno, a small cat in a blue checked cap, recounts in turn the peculiar and often extremely silly goings-on of his life.  I loved that Bruno takes such delight in embracing any experience that come his way.

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Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and MarshmallowsAsia Citro (96 pages)

What should you feed a baby dragon?  Zoey and her cat Sassafras use the scientific method and science journals to find out!  I LOVE this first book in a series that celebrates science and features a smart, strong, tenacious female character.  Also love the message that you need to work through mistakes and re-think your plan before you can succeed!  Cute illustrations, short chapters and a sprinkle of magic thrown in!  I can’t wait for more books in this series!
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Yours Sincerely, Giraffe – Megumi Iwasa (104 pages)

Sweet, quirky little book about a lonely giraffe and a lonely penguin who become pen pals.  A great early chapter book, first published in Japan, that touches on loneliness, friendship, letter-writing and understanding differences.  Love the playful line drawings which break the text into manageable chunks.

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Heroes in Training – Hermes and the Horse with Wings – Tracey West (112 pages)

Not sure how I missed this series – but this is book #13!  Each book in the series features one of the Greek Gods as a child.  Ten chapters, simple text and single page black and white illustrations.  A perfect series for any young readers interested in Greek Gods and the exciting world of Greek mythology.

Ivy – Katherine Coville  (144 pages)

This short, delightful fantasy includes pixies, a sick dragon, a three legged griffin, and some nasty trolls! Ivy and her Grandmother, whom villagers call “Meg the Healer”, can relate to all the animals that live in and around the village of Broomsweep.  Her grandmother can heal all the animals, including the magical ones.  Enchanting and heartwarming!

Jasmine Toguchi – Mochi Queen Debbi Michiko Florence  (160 pages)

So much to love about a headstrong eight-year-old named Jasmine Toguchi and her Japanese-American family.  In this first book, Jasmine longs to be part of a cultural family tradition of making Japanese mochi – a small, round dessert ball made with soft, pounded sticky rice.  But she is told she is too young to help.  I loved Jasmine’s determination, the details about mochi, and the family’s traditions.  Great for making connections!  A mochi recipe is included at the end of the book.  Looking forward to more from this series.

Beatrice Zinker – Upside Down Thinker – Shelley Johannes (164 pages)

I so enjoyed getting to know Beatrice Zinker.  She’s got the right combination of quirky and spunk, as well as her share of bad luck (think Ramona Quimby). She thinks outside the box and upside-down!  Fast paced and delightful with lots of quirky illustrations (reminded me a little of Dory Fantasmagory).  Themes of individuality, optimism, and the shifting shapes of friendships. Can’t wait for more Beatrice!

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers – John Dougherty (192 pages)

With an undertone of Monty Python, mixed with Captain Underpants, Geronimo Stilton, an abundance of hilarious slapstick silliness, and plenty of tremendous wordplay – I LOVED this goofy LOL British adventure!  I especially loved that the cast of  characters are aware that they are in a story, and occasionally comment on it: when the king realizes they are in a story he immediately goes and puts on his clothes.  HILARIOUS!

A Boy Called Bat – Elana K. Arnold (208 pages)

Bixby Alexander Tam, or Bat, is great at Math and knows more about animals than anyone in his class, but he is not great at making friends. When his mom, a veterinarian, brings home a baby skunk, Bat becomes the best skunk care-taker ever, all while trying to navigate his world.  A charming story perfect for students transitioning from early readers to chapter books. I like that this book has a character most likely on the autism spectrum, without the book being about that.  Also touches on divorce and single parents. The story focuses more on Bat’s love of animals and how this empathy for animals helps him connect to his classmates. Tender, heartwarming and funny with an amazing character you and your students will fall in love with. Major warm fuzziness! 

      Thanks for stopping by!

              What are some of your favorite beginning chapter books from the past year?

 

 

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Filed under 2017 releases, Beginning Chapter Book, Cultural Celebrations, Early Readers, Family, Friendship, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Read-Aloud, Science

Favorite Picture Books of 2017

Happy New Year, everyone!  It’s been months since I last posted… any spare writing time was spent trying to finish my new book so I  didn’t have time to blog.  But now the book is FINISHED!  (what a relief!)  So I hope to get back into my routine of regular blog posts!

Before launching into some of the new books for this year, I thought I would do a recap of my favorites from 2017 –  in case you have missed any of these great titles!  Nearly impossible to narrow it down – and I’m sure I’ve missed many but, in no particular order, here my favorite picture books of the last year….

 

King of the Sky – Nicola Davies

King of the Sky is a beautiful, moving story that touches on immigration and inter-generational relationships.   It is the story of a young, displaced boy from Italy and a retired, elderly Welsh coal miner who races pigeons. The book is a gentle meditation on loneliness, courage, and finding your place in the world when you feel out of place.  I love everything Nicola Davies writes – this sweet story is one of my favorites.  Gorgeous illustrations.

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Now – Antoinette Portis

Love this peaceful book about mindfulness, living in the moment, and appreciating what’s in front of you.  A little girl takes readers on a delightful journey that shows all her favorites and ends with an especially lovely one.  Love the bright autumn pallet.  This would be a perfect book for primary students for making connections to favorite things; with intermediates, I would use it for inferring a deeper message.

Questions Asked – Jostein Gaarder

Any book that promotes deep thinking and deep questions is going to be on my list of favorites!   This gorgeous book poses some of life’s most difficult, unanswerable questions in quiet and nonthreatening ways, opening the possibility for further thought and discussion.  A perfect book for introducing deep thinking questions.

A Different Pond – Bao Phi

This book combines family and cultural traditions, inter-generational relationships, and the challenges of the immigration experience all in one.  Beautifully crafted – so quiet and honest, with subtle text and beautiful imagery.  Bao Phi tells the story of an early early morning fishing trip with his father. The trip is not for recreation; it is for food.  There are so many quiet references to the challenges of the immigration experience (Bao makes reference to his father’s English, how hard his parents have to work, how everything costs so much).  This would make an excellent book for inferring and a focus on the hardships of immigration.

The Antlered Ship – Dashka Slater

A gorgeous epic filled with equal parts adventure and philosophy, this is one of those books that caught me by surprise when I first read it.  This sweet story features a curious fox who seeks answers to many big questions. Together, with his unlikely group of animal friends, they embark on a wondrous adventure.  Stunning illustrations by the Fan brothers – each page is its own piece of artwork.   Love the lessons in kindness, boldness and friendship.

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Crown – An Ode to the Fresh Cut – Derrick Barnes

This book made me smile a big wide smile and brought a bit of a tear to my eye at the same time.  It is just that good.  In a simple way, it is the story of a young black “tween” getting a haircut from the local barber.  But underneath it is a powerful message about dignity and empowerment and the feeling of importance.  Rich, beautiful, and joyful.

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Here We Are:  Notes for Living on Planet Earth – Oliver Jeffers

“Some things about our planet are pretty complicated, but things can be simple, too: you’ve just got to be kind.”   This beautiful book is a message to our little citizens about the mysterious world that they live in and how to understand and take care of it. Originally written as a message to his new born son, add this to your shopping list for any new babies being born, or for birthday presents for the littlest ones in your life!  Simple message for children but equally important and surprisingly deep message for grown-ups.  Gorgeous illustrations.

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Windows – Julia Denos

A warm little book about neighborhoods and the people within them. It’s a story about a child walking through a neighborhood and noticing people in the windows.  Comfort, belonging, community – all wrapped up in this beautifully illustrated book.

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    That Neighbor Kid – Daniel Miyares

In this almost wordless picture book, a young girl curiously watches her new neighbor begin a creative project.  While he struggles with his plans, she offers her help.   A celebration of creativity, friendship, collaboration and determination.  Love the way the illustrations begin as black and white and, as the friendship blossoms, so does the color.

The Bad Seed – Jory John

This humorous tale of a bad sunflower seed who eventually turns good makes a great read-aloud for primary students.  Sunflower is a BAAAAAAAAAD seed!  How BAAAAAAAAD?  He cuts in line, lies, doesn’t listen, has no manners…the list goes on!   I like how this book explores how he got to be so bad as well as focusing on his transformation to the “good side”.   Expressive illustrations – lots of laughs but great message.

                                                    Why Am I Me? – Paige Britt

Another stunning book that poses philosophical questions – this one with a deep pondering on identity and diversity.  Gorgeous mixed-media illustrations in an urban setting and great examples of point of view and inner dialogue.  Great discussion starter.

Life – Cynthia Rylant

Cynthia Rylant is definitely one of my top favorite children’s writers. I find her books to be so life-affirming, full of wonder and hope. Her new book “Life” is simply stunning. “What do you love about life?” is the question asked to many different animals. Through their responses, we are gifted with a wonderful message about life: how it constantly changes, the beauty of it, the darkness, and the wonders all around it. Simple, lyrical text and beautiful illustrations by Brendan Wenzel – it is a calm and reassuring book. Love.

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Wolf in the Snow – Matthew Cordell

So many great moments, great emotions and great sound effects in this moving, nearly wordless picture book about friendship, kindness, and compassion.  So much to love about this tale of a young girl who gets lost in the woods in deep winter as a wolf cub gets separated from her pack. The cub is afraid and in danger and the girl carries her to her mother. But the girl is now hopelessly lost, and in even greater danger. The pack, sensing this danger, howls to help the girl’s parents find her.  This is a must read, must share and must have little book.   (Kleenex required)

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Come With Me – Holly M. McGhee

What can we do to make the world just a little bit better, despite the fear, devastation and hatred we see everyday?  In this timely book, a young girl, frightened by what she is seeing on TV, asks her parents what she can do to make the world a better place. They respond by telling her and showing her that every person can make a difference by being kind, brave and showing compassion.  “Come with me…we can make this world better together.”  A wonderful book for launching a compassion project.

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When’s My Birthday? – Julie Fogliano

I so enjoyed this enthusiastic celebration of all things birthday!  Perfectly captures the agony and ecstasy of waiting for that one special day.   This book has rhyme and repetition; it’s bouncy and infectious and full of joy!  A great connect book for children – and even better one for parents!  “How many more days til my birthday?”

This House, Once – Deborah Freedman
Thought-provoking and beautifully poetic story about a house – and the oak tree, bricks and stones that it once was.  Though-provoking book invites readers to think about where things come from and what nature provides.  Soft, quiet, dreamy.  A note to readers at the back is great for promoting discussions.
There you have it!  So many more I could add but have to stop somewhere!  What were your favorite picture books of 2017?  Would love to hear your titles!
Watch for upcoming lists featuring favorite novels and early chapter books of 2017!

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Filed under 2017 releases, Connect, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Picture Book, Question

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? New Books for Back to School 2017

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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

Back to school means lots of new books for new lessons!  Here are a few of the great new titles I’ve been reading!

Imagine – John Lennon, Yoko Ono Lennon, Amnesty International illustrated by Jean Jullien

John Lennon’s iconic song has been transformed into a beautiful picture book and has been published in partnership with Amnesty International for the International Day of Peace on September 21st.   Like the song that inspired it, Imagine invites people to imagine a world at peace, a world of kindness.   As Yoko Ono says in her foreword, “Every small, good thing that we do can help change the world for the better.”   An Imagine website has been launched in nine countries and five languages. Visitors, including young children, can submit their own messages of peace, read those from around the world, and share messages of peace and hope on their social media programs.  Please consider inviting your students to participate.

Carson Crosses Canada

Carson Crosses Canada – Linda Bailey

Carson Crosses Canada by Linda Bailey is a delightful book celebrating Canada! Annie and her dog Carson are on a road trip across Canada from BC to Newfoundland to visit Annie’s sister. Along the way, they stop and visit many amazing sites and see the unique landscape of each province. This book is lively and fun with simple text and bright, whimsical illustrations. I loved the map of her journey and the end papers! This would make a great anchor book to introduce a unit on Canada in your primary class or celebrate Canada 150!

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Picture the Sky – Barbara Reid

So excited to see this companion book to Picture a Tree.  In her classic colorful Plasticine style, Barbara Reid explores the stories of the sky – from the weather, to the stars,to the seasons, and to our imagination – in all its moods and colors.  The sky is all around us, but it is always changing.   This book is perfect for visualizing!

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In the Middle of Fall – Kevin Henkes

This wonderful new book by Kevin Henkes will have your senses tingling!  The colors are vibrant and simplistic, it features adorable woodland creatures, and is everything you could want in a book about the changing seasons.  I also liked the fact that it focuses on mid-late fall, when all the changes have already happened.   Great anchor for writing as well – lots of triple scoop words and similes – “the apples are like ornaments”.   I love fall and I love this book!

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Nerdy Birdy Tweets – Aaron Reynolds

Nerdy Birdy Tweets by Aaron Reynolds Is an important book to read to students. Nerdy Birdy learns a valuable lesson about the impact of social media on friendship and the dangers of and posting things about someone else without their permission, Great anchor book to start the conversation about digital citizenship and being responsible and respectful when using social media.

Lovely

Lovely Jess Hong

A celebration of diversity – in all its shapes and sizes!  Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly – we are all LOVELY!  Colorful, bold illustrations and simple text.  This is a great book to build classroom community!

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Hello, Harvest Moon – Ralph Fletcher

If you are looking for an anchor book for descriptive, sensory language – look no further!  Ralph Fletcher’s new book (companion to Twilight Comes Twice) follows the moon as it rises and describes all the things it shines on.  Gorgeous illustrations and filled with rich, descriptive language and literary devices.  I would definitely use select pages from this book to do a “Found Poetry” lesson.  (Children highlight favorite words from the text, then use the words to write their own poem.  Additional words can be added.)

“With silent slippers
it climbs the night stairs,
lifting free of the treetops
to start working its magic,
staining earth and sky with a ghostly glow.”

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There’s Nothing To Do!  – Dav Petty

Loved this third book in the Frog series!  (I Don’t Want to Be a Frog! and I Don’t Want to Be Big! are the first two).  This Frog cracks me up, and all three books will have kids laughing out loud.  This book features Frog dealing with boredom and, while his friends make lots of suggestions, turns out that sometimes nothing is the best thing to do! Sweet message and great voice.

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Why Am I Me? – Paige Britt

Wow!  LOVE this book.  The story follows two young children who are curious about why they look the way they do wand why other people look how they do.  It is a celebration of diversity and humanity, about love and compassion for one another, despite color of skin or our appearance.  I’m using it tomorrow with my grade 2’s and 3’s as we explore self identity.  Love the deep-thinking questions and the powerful message.

THinking Cap

Sarabella’s Thinking Cap – Judy Schachner

Loved this book for so many reasons.  One – the illustrations are GORGEOUS (I predict a Caldecott nomination!) Second – the story about a girl who has trouble focusing because she spends so much time in her “Imagination Pocket” – is one that many children will be able to connect to.  Third – the supportive teacher who helps her design her own “thinking cap” which helps transform her creative imagination into something visible.  A wonderful story celebrating daydreaming, imagination, and one great teacher!

Thanks for stopping by!

Lots of great books out there for you to share!  Hope you found one that you can share in your classroom!  Happy reading, everyone!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2017 releases, Canada, Connect, Diversity, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Picture Book, Read-Aloud, Writing Strategies

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2017 Fall Releases from Kidscan Press (part 1)

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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

book pile

It’s like Christmas in August when I find a box of brand new picture books from the outstanding Canadian Publishing Company Kids Can Press on my doorstep!  I’m excited to share the first post featuring some of their new books for fall 2017!  This week I will be focusing on fiction picture books – next week nonfiction!

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No Room for Baby! – Emile Jadoul

A perfect fit for new big brothers and sisters.  Full of reassurance that there will always be room in our home and our hearts for a new addition.  Simple text and adorable penguin characters.  A great connect book for K’s and 1’s who may be “expecting” a new sibling.

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Goodnight Hockey, Fans! – Andrew Larsen

Bedtime comes at the worst times – especially in the middle of a hockey game!  Of course, when this young hockey fan is told to go to bed, he can’t sleep!  After his parents tuck him in, he shines his flashlight on his hockey equipment and trophies and listens to the hockey announcer on the radio.  As he drifts off to sleep, he dreams his is playing hockey on his favorite team.  This is a must have book for young hockey fans and would make a perfect connect book for having kids share what they do when they can’t fall asleep!

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Middle Bear – Susanna Isern

Being “middle-sized” is not very fun – too young to hang with your older brother and too old to play baby games with your younger one.  This middle child is longing to feel special and be noticed.  I love the message that no matter what size or age, we all have our own unique gifts.  Heartwarming story and unique illustrations.

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Captain Monty Takes the Plunge – Jennifer Mook-Sang

A delightful tale of adventure and courage on the high seas!  Captain Monty is a scary pirate – and he also STINKS because he never takes a bath.  And he never takes a bath because he can’t swim!   A frolicking story with a great message about overcoming your fears.  Vibrant illustrations, lots of action and a sweet love story with a Mermaid named Meg!

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Me, Me, Me – Annika Dunklee

I was excited to see this follow up to Annika Dunklee’s book Me, Too!  This book continues the relationship of a delightful trio of multicultural friends – Annie, Lillemor and Lilianne.  In this story, problems arise when the girls enter a school talent show as a singing group and Annie starts making all the decisions about song choice, dance moves and costumes.  This is a wonderful connect book for talking about friendship issues, cooperation and teamwork.  I love the authentic dialogue and the snippets of other languages in the text.  Great read-aloud!

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The Elephant Keeper: Caring for Orphaned Elephants in Zambia Margriet Ruurs

This is a beautiful book based on a true story about a young boy named Aaron who rescues a baby elephant.  Gorgeous illustrations and with facts included about elephants and the dangers from poaching and destroying their habitat and information at the back about how we can help endangered animals.  Engaging story of compassion and hope for intermediate students.  The book is longer than most picture books and could be read over several days.  Great for inspiring passion projects or a study of endangered animals.

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Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament – Anne Renaud

In case you have ever wondered where the potato chip came from – this book has the answer!  Based on the true story of a chef who accidentally invents potato chips when a customer keeps returning his potatoes and asking for them to be thinner and crispier.   Clever, funny, entertaining!  Love the tongue-in-cheek humour.  (Be warned – you will crave potato chips after reading!)

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The Tiny Tale of Little Pea – Davide Cali

“Even the littlest among us can make a big mark.”  I loved this book and the adorable character of Little Pea!  Little Pea is very small, but very happy.  He doesn’t realize that his small stature makes him different from others until he gets to school (Think Will Farrell in Elf!) and discovers the world is not very inclusive of small people.  In the end, Little Pea remains true to himself and learns there is always something we can find that we are good at.  Great for discussion as there are many themes you could infer from this book.

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Shelter – Celine Claire

If I could pick a favorite from the pile, this would be it!  Such a beautiful illustrated book (reminded me of my childhood illustrated copy of Winnie the Pooh) with a meaningful message of kindness, compassion and community.  As animals prepare for a coming storm, two lone bears are searching for shelter, but no one offers to help, including the fox family.  When the storm arrives, the fox family must leave their den to find a safer shelter – and the turn to the two bears for help.  A perfect book for the start of the year with the message of “treat others how you would like to be treated”.  Gentle and heartwarming.  With older students you could compare this story to Stone Soup and discuss the different ways the community acts.

Thanks for stopping by!

Would love to know which book(s) caught your eye!

 

 

 

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Filed under 2017 releases, Animals, Connect, Friendship, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Picture Book, Read-Aloud, Social Responsibility

Guest Post #4 – Reading Power in China by Jennifer Gardner

I am pleased to welcome Jennifer Gardner, extraordinary teacher, administrator, teacher-leader and best of all, my friend!  Although we don’t see each other often, we have a strong “connection” and share a deep passion for teaching, learning and BOOKS! We first met over 10 years ago in Vernon when I was presenting a Reading Power workshop there.  Jennifer embraced Reading Power and it became her school focus for many years.  She is now bringing “deep thinking” to Maple Leaf School in Dalian, China. Welcome, Jennifer!

I met Adrienne in 2005 when I was working as a Literacy Lead Teacher with SD#22 (Vernon). When I attended her Reading Power workshop and realized that her work was based on solid research in a very useable format, I was convinced that this work needed to be adopted and used!! And so began my journey with Reading Power.  Over the next 7 years, Adrienne continued to write books and give workshops. I became a principal and worked with incredible teachers to improve reading in my school. Throughout these years, Adrienne and I have continued our ‘book bond’ – a bond that is focused on supporting teachers, as they teach comprehension in a visible and explicit way.

In 2014, my husband and I moved to Dalian, China to work with Maple Leaf International School System. I was hired to improve reading comprehension skills in a Middle School with 1200 students. I had 30 ESL Bilingual teachers who began this journey with me. It was an incredible journey as I introduced Reading Power as a way to help students ‘think’ in English, while they are reading. These students go from a predominantly Chinese school (10 classes per week of English instruction) to full time English in grade 10 with BC Curriculum and BC teachers! The challenge was to help these bilingual teachers understand the difference between “rote learning of vocabulary and grammar” versus “thinking about what they are reading” in English.

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I started with having the Grade 7 students create a Chinese version of the Reading Power poster so that we could add ‘brain parts’ to show the ‘thinking ‘ the students needed to do to make sense of the text. Several students created posters – notice the students in the posters are wearing their Maple Leaf uniforms.

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How fun was that! I met with teachers weekly to go over the Reading Power lesson and to model, for them, how we need to help children think. Since good English pictures books were hard to come from, I created ppt’s with picture books I brought from Canada. In this way, I could use 1 picture book in 27 classrooms!  The bilingual teachers loved the support, they could add personal pictures or stories to the ppts and every week I went into classrooms to support them and help them navigate their way. In the course of one year, we introduced Connecting, Questioning and Inferring in an explicit and fun way. The students loved stories like Mean Jean, Courage, Miss Nelson is Missing, Willy the Champ, Yo?Yah!, Good Dog Carl, No!David to name a few. Finding great books for Chinese Middle School boys (with limited English) was my challenge. However, the students cheered whenever we would have a Reading Power lesson. (That was a good sign).

After that one year I returned to Canada to care for my father. To my delight, Reading Power continued on with the Bilingual teachers at the Middle School.  They continued because they noticed that the students were engaged and eager to learn English.

Now, this year, I have returned to China to take on the role of Professional Developer for Literacy Improvement for the ESL Department – 18 different cities, with 32 ESL Directors. Our focus will be Reading Power and Writing Power, K-9. We just finished 3 intensive days of sessions involving ‘changing the way we teach English to improve literacy’. Reading Power is a big part of this change – system wide.

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It is such a privilege to work with these ESL Directors, teachers, and students. They are eager to learn and are so respectful of the support they are receiving. I am impressed with their work ethic and their willingness to teach in a way that supports students’ learning!

Having Adrienne as my colleague and friend, has been a tremendous support. Her work is finding its way across oceans and continents!  Reading Power is now being translated into Mandarin! Thumbs up!!

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RP Chinese (2)

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Jennifer Gardner

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Guest Post #3 – Reading Power in Tanzania by Ashley Aaoki

I am happy to welcome Ashley Aaoki as my third guest blogger.  Ashley is a beginning teacher in SD 67 in beautiful Okanagan.  She is passionate about teaching and about sharing her love of learning to students and teachers in all corners of the globe.  In this post, she shares her extraordinary and inspiring journey from her childhood days of “playing teacher” to bringing the joy of reading, writing, and learning to students and teachers in an orphanage and school in Arusha, Tanzania (Africa).

“Stand against the grain, get a purpose in your heart and ask yourself , “What can my life do?'” – Benjamin Cole Brown

Education has always been at my heart center. I can recall memories of the young(er) Ashley standing in front of the chalkboard, which perfectly hung in our playroom, assigning spelling tests and math quizzes to my little sister – she was naive and I was bossy! Evolving from that heart center laid another passion: traveling, but not any “type” of travel. I wanted to have authentic conversations with the local people, work alongside children who (just like my students) dreamed, laughed, and cried, and learn about what (extra)ordinary people face every single day. On a single piece of paper I wrote, “travel to Africa”. It was a dream placed in my heart and I kept it there for a long time. That was until the summer of 2016 when the dream in my heart and reality met.

Last year I had the privilege to travel as a teacher chaperone to Arusha, Tanzania. I had just closed the door on my first year of teaching and was coming off an emotional high. For a year I had been planning, preparing, and dreaming about my exciting journey ahead to bring twenty students and three teacher chaperones (I was one of the chaperones) to Tanzania, Africa.  We dedicated four labour intensive workweeks in an Orphanage/School located in the slums of Arusha. The work was challenging, the conversations I with those at the orphanage broke, yet it also captured my heart. Every. Single. Piece. Maybe it was the conversations I had with the children just like the ones my mom would have had with me as a child, “You are so loved, valuable, beautiful, and worthy!”, or maybe it was sitting on the rocky orphanage floor reading to the children just like my dad would have read to my sister and I at night. It might have been every moment, big or small. Whatever it was, I knew I needed to return and give more of myself.

When I signed up for the second trip, I spent a lot of time thinking about the skills I had and what I could offer, specifically to the teachers at the orphanage. Several conversations had been exchanged during the previous summer about professional development, which sparked the teachers curiosity; simply because professional development was beyond anything they had experienced before. I knew that collaboration, especially in this capacity could make a significant difference. I just didn’t know quite how.

Shortly after spring break had concluded (and a conversation was had with one of my colleagues and fellow chaperones) I had a vision of offering a reading and writing workshop for the teachers. There were many unanswered questions I had: How do I (a second year, 23 year old teacher) offer a workshop to teachers?  Do I really know what I’m doing?  What should I teach them?  But I knew that if I asked the “right” people, there could be support given. I began by asking a mentor of mine for ideas and suggestions.   At that point, she suggested I contact Adrienne Gear.  Now, I have a small confession to make: Adrienne is essentially a celebrity in my teaching life.  Not only was Adrienne a teaching celebrity, I also used all of her books in my classroom during my first year of teaching (Reading Power and Writing Power – fiction and nonfiction), proudly displayed the Reading Power Poster on the chalkboard; had attended every workshop or presentation she had given in our area, and reviewed her blog weekly for book recommendations for the classroom. I knew how powerful her books had been for me, as a beginning teacher, in providing a focused direction, plan, and process for teaching my students in both reading and writing. At times (especially during my first year of teaching) I would feel so overwhelmed with the tasks of teaching my students how to read and write and I found myself cherry picking from a variety of sites – including Pinterest.  I felt myself often existing at a crossroads between the “let’s make cute anchor charts that we’ll use once because we can’t remember what its purpose was” and progressing my students along as individuals who could be effective, capable, imaginative readers and writers. The problem wasn’t my students –  it was my lack of direction, failed processes, and confusing plans. But Adrienne’s books were straight forward and transformed my teaching and I dreamed of the endless possibilities of sharing these ideas with the teachers in Tanzania.

And so I tried to be “cool” (inside I was NOT!) and contacted Adrienne directly.  Following a couple of email exchanges, she told me that she would be more than willing to support the workshop by providing a list of anchor books that I might choose from as well as offering to donate some books for the teachers.  (cue Ashley celebrating and dancing like she’s 5 at a birthday party shortly after having cake!). She contacted her publisher at Pembroke, Mary Macchiusi, and together they donated 20 books – ten Reading Power and ten Writing Power books – to give to the teachers.  I spent several weeks carefully selecting the activities and information I was to share. Anchor charts were made with my neatest elementary teacher printing, and several books were purchased (thanks to several fundraising projects that happened within our district and my school). I packed up all of the items ready to be placed on the planes and felt as prepared as I possibly could. This would be a complete surprise for the teachers, and my excitement was building!

On one of our first days at the orphanage my colleague gathered all of the teachers and asked me to share the news. I can distinctly remember one teacher looking up at the sky and thanking God for me. The excitement shared amongst the teachers was palpable and I mentioned to them that I wished I could have bottled it up and saved the excitement for times in my life when I needed it. Throughout the weeks that followed (before the workshop) the teachers would seek me out on the worksite and share their excitement “oh, Ashley we cannot wait for you to teach us.”

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Teacher Justin arrived one hour before the workshops schedule beginning time. He could hardly wait! Along with teaching the most vulnerable children in Arusha’s slums, Justin is the schools social worker representative. This means he completes home visits on a regular basis encouraging young boys and girls to go back to school.

 

On the day of the workshop, I lined up the newly purchased picture books and novels, placed the Reading and Writing Power Books in front of each seat with a duotang filled with resources, a pen, and a highlighter. Some teachers, eager to begin, arrived an hour early! We began walking our way through the components of the Reading Power book, and (taking a page out of Adrienne’s “book” on how to present) I presented lessons that I had completed in my classroom.

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Ten teachers and the Headmaster joined me in a day of learning and growing – together!

 

The teachers were provided time to ask questions and while some were nervous each question gave me more insight into what teaching is like at the orphanage, and in Tanzania. Some of the comments shared included:

“I’m wondering how I teach this process to children with disabilities?”

This comment struck me as individuals who are disabled in Arusha are considered an inconvenience. They are often the poorest people as many don’t see employ ability for them as an option. My response to her was a Swahili term “polle, polle” (slowly, slowly). That great things can happen to those that take their time.

Following this comment another teacher placed his hand up and said:

“I’m wondering if this process will change my students personalities?”

Caught slightly off guard, I looked at this teacher and said: “No Edward, this won’t change your students. But it will give you insight into who your students are as people.”

 The workshop ended with one of the teachers (who I absolutely adore) stating the following:

“I don’t know if you know this Ashley, but Tanzanian culture does not recognize reading as a common practice. Books are incredibly expensive and when people do read it’s for the comics in our local newspaper. Before this workshop I looked at these picture books here and thought ‘what do these teach my pupils? What purpose do they have?’ Now, I see that my pupils can learn about things that I’m trying to teach on my own. Lessons like helping one another out or realizing it’s okay to not be perfect. So, thank you. Thank you!”

As the teachers left following a remarkable workshop each one thanked me several times and many hugs were exchanged. Some were showing me they were connecting (using the Gear hand signal) and one even sought me out days later and spent time regurgitating as much information that he learnt as possible.

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The teachers were unbelievably PROUD to be holding their new Reading and Writing Power books. I was PROUD of them for demonstrating both growth and vulnerability throughout the day of learning!

 

I cannot express in words how thankful I am to both Adrienne Gear and Mary Macchiusi at Pembroke Publishing for their support in making this workshop a possibility. The books were provided to the teachers as a result of their generous hearts (and donations). This was a truly magical day for the teachers and me. For a group of teachers, their eyes were opened to the possibilities that books (and reading) have in a classroom setting; the teachers reflected on what they had learned and were thrilled to implement new ideas into their classroom; and the director recognized how revolutionary this particular learning development was for a group who had (up until that point) never participated in professional development.

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Following the workshop presentation, I completed a Reading Power Lesson with these students. We discussed what connecting was, and practiced connecting while listening to a culturally relevant picture book “Rain School” by James Rumford. The students also practiced reading to themselves. The library was filled with the sound of silence as the students opened up the wonders found in a great book!

 

On our final day at the Orphanage, as our students were saying their farewells with the children that quickly became “theirs”, I made a point of connecting with one teacher (Justin). He held my hand and thanked me again for teaching him. Just before I left he said, “Before you arrived,  Ashley, the teachers were very sad. This work is hard, and it was like a grey cloud was sitting over us. When you taught us, you lifted us up. You lifted up our spirits and gave us hope. Just like the sun”. I looked at him and said, “That’s what life is about. We lift each other up, hold one another’s hands and walk together”.

This type of work has been my cause, allowed me to stand against the grain, and has reminded me how important the question “What can my life do?”  is.  I know that I have just started but will continue to find the answer.

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Ashley Aoki was born, raised, and is currently living and working in the beautiful Okanagan Valley working (School District #67) where she will begin her third year of teaching this fall.   Traveling to other countries has been an integral part of her life and teaching practice.  Her passion is teaching her students about global issues and encouraging them to participate in activities that make a difference in the school, local, or global community. This past year, the students in her school (and previous school) raised over $1500.00 to support the students and teachers at the Arusha Orphanage including new picture books, novels, school supplies, land shoes.  She considers herself a teacher/humanitarian, and recognizes the significant role education has on a global scale, seeing it as one of the key components that pulls individuals out of poverty.

You can leave a comment for Ashley below or contact her directly at: aaoki@summer.com

 

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Filed under Guest Post, New Books, Reading Power

Picture Book 10 for 10 (2017) – 10 New Picture Books for Your Reading Power Collection!

 

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I’m excited to be, once again, participating in this summer’s 10 for 10 Picture Book celebration! #pb10for10   This annual celebration of picture books is hosted by Cathy from Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  Hard to believe this is my fifth year of participating in this event! (you can read my 2016 post here2015 post here2014 post here and 2013 here. )  Each year, the blogging community chooses 10 picture books on a range of themes – from diversity, to bullying, to writing, to conservation.  It is an amazing opportunity to explore new picture books related to a wide range of themes.  (It can also be a little hard on your bank account, if you are anything like me!)

This year, as with my previous 10 for 10 posts, I have organized my post to feature new releases that support Reading Power strategies.  I have included two books for each: Connecting, Questioning, Visualizing, Inferring, and Transform (synthesizing).  The response has been positive each year, so I am continuing the tradition!  For those who are already using RP, these would be my recommendations for adding or replenishing your collection this year!

(Please note that I have received advanced copies of a few of these titles so some might only be available for pre-order.)

CONNECT

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Now Antoinette Portis

This is a beautiful new book from Canadian writer/illustrator Antoinette Portis. Such a sweet story about a girl whose favorite things are whatever she’s currently experiencing. I would definitely use this with for connecting to favorite things (personal preferences),  but could also be used for inferring a deeper meaning about living in the moment.  Great for mindfulness and gratitude.

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There Might Be Lobsters – Carolyn Crimi

This is a wonderful story about dealing with fears and anxiety. Sukie is a very small dog with a really big fear of almost everything, especially lobster.  Spending a day at the beach with her favorite person is a nightmare for Sukie as she thinks about all the dangers that might be there.  When her favorite toy, “Chunka Munka” (love the name!) starts to drift into the tide, Sukie must face her fears!  I love that this book is told from the dog’s perspective and also you need to read it out loud just so you can say “Chunka Munka” lots of times!  Great illustrations!

QUESTION

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Questions AskedJostein Gaarder

Well, you can’t get a better book for introducing deep-thinking questions to your class than a book filled with them!  This book introduces readers to rather complex philosophical questions in a simple format.  Gorgeous,  soft-pallet paintings that capture the emotions of this little boy wandering and pondering through an open landscape.  This would be more suited for older students and would stimulate deep-thinking conversations.

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Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of SecretsPei-Yu Chang

What could be in his suitcase? This is the question readers wonder as they read this historical picture book based on the life and persecution Walter Benjamin – a Jewish philosopher forced to flee the Nazi occupied Germany during WWII.   When asked why he couldn’t just leave the suitcase behind, he responds:  “The contents of this case can change everything.”   But in the end, we never know what was inside – the perfect starting point for discussing possibilities. Such an important story depicting a world where ideas and opposition are seen as dangerous by those in power.  This is a book I would definitely recommend for units on WWII with intermediate or middle school. Incredible paper cut and mixed media illustrations.

VISUALIZE

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A River – Marc Martin

Oooooo… this book is stunning!  Gorgeous illustrations, detailed poetic text.. this book is a magical journey of a young girl in a silver boat following a river through jungles, farmland and eventually the sea.   But I think it could also be a wonderful introduction to the geography of rivers and their tributaries and habitats.    A marvelous, gentle journey to visualize!

Things to Do – Elaine Magliaro

This is a delightful book, perfect for visualizing but could also be used for making connections and an anchor book for “How To”  writing.  Reads like a collection of “How To” poems centered around a child’s day, capturing little things in life as well as different weather and seasons. Lovely vocabulary (great triple scoops!) and gorgeous illustrations.  This book is pure joy!  LOVE this one!

INFER

Draw the Line – Kathryn Otoshi

The amazing Katheryn Otoshi (author of One, Two, and Zero) has, once again, given us a book filled with rich discussion points.  Draw the Line is so much more than a book about lines.  It is a beautiful wordless picture book about friendship, creativity, community, conflict, resolution – and a “line” connecting us all.  A must have book for inferring, connecting, transform…. Brilliant!

Town is By the Sea – Joanne Schwartz

A simple, poetic story set in the early 1900’s in Cape Bretton, Nova Scotia tells of the challenging life of a mining family.  A young boy goes about his daily activities in the sunshine by the sea while, in contrast, his father works underground in the mines.  The writing is so beautifully descriptive and would be a great anchor book for descriptive, sensory writing or Visualizing, but also Inferring.  The words are lulling and almost haunting and the illustrations are gorgeous.

TRANSFORM

Life – Cynthia Rylant

Cynthia Rylant is definitely one of my top favorite children’s writers. I find her books to be so life-affirming, full of wonder and hope. Her new book “Life” is simply stunning. “What do you love about life?” is the question asked to many different animals. Through their responses, we are gifted with a wonderful message about life: how it constantly changes, the beauty of it, the darkness, and the wonders all around it. Simple, lyrical text and beautiful illustrations by Brendan Wenzel – it is a calm and reassuring book.  I would use the “one word” activity for this book with the word “Life”.  Give the word to the students before and after reading and see how their thinking changes.   Love.

Why Am I Me? – Paige Britt

This gorgeous book celebrates diversity and identity in the most respectful and thoughtful while exploring the deep question – Why am I me?  Would be great for both young children but would stimulate great discussions and writing responses from an older class.  A great “Me to We” book as readers are invited to imagine a world where there is no you or me, only we.

La La La: A Story of Hope – Kate DiCamillo

Just had to include this almost wordless picture book by the great Kate DiCamillo that tells the story of a lonely young girl who is longing to be heard.  The illustrations are endearing, gentle and filled with emotion.  This book invites inferences because of the sparse text, connections to being lonely and the desire to belong, and transforming because of the hopefulness that you feel.  As I always say – I know when a book is good when I don’t know where to put it!  And here is a perfect example of that!

 

There you have it!  My 2017 Picture Book 10 for 10!  Thanks for stopping by and I hope you found one or two books to add to your Reading Power collection!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2017 releases, Connect, Infer, New Books, Picture Book 10 for 10, Reading Power, Transform, Visualize