Category Archives: Infer

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – Early Summer Sensations!

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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: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers

It’s amazing to me how many wonderful new books keep appearing!   I can’t seem to keep up with all the amazing picture books being released and my collection keeps growing!  Here are some of the new treasures I have fallen for in the last few weeks:

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What Do You Do With an Idea? – Kobi Yamada

Every once in a while I discover a book that floods my heart with emotion and my mind with deep thoughts.  Here is such a book.  This is a book that celebrates ideas – no matter how small and how insignificant they may seem.  A little boy has an idea.  At first he doubts it, worries about it, almost rejects it – but the idea follows him around and slowly begins to grow and take shape.   I love how the idea is an actual “thing” that you can see.   The illustrations are wonderful; I loved how when the story begins, only the idea is in color – everything else in black and white.  As the idea grows, so does the color on the page.  So much to love about this book.  A great book to discuss the power of never giving up on an idea.  I would definitely use it for helping students understand how a book can change our thinking.  (TRANSFORM)

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Norman, Speak! – Caroline Adderson

This is a delightful story of a family who adopts a dog from an animal shelter.  They love this dog so much but discover that he is “not very smart”.  He does not respond very well to his new home and has a hard time learning to do what other dogs do.  While at a park one day, they discover why – this dog speaks Chinese!  They watch in amazement as he responds to the Chinese commands from another dog owner at the park.   Now it is the family who doesn’t feel very smart and decide to take Chinese lessons so they can communicate with their beloved dog.  A wonderful story to  promote questioning about animal adoption and animal communication.   My only issue was the length of the story – almost too long for a single sitting – but certainly worth reading over a few days.

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Whimsy’s Heavy Things – Julie Kraulis

This beautiful and thought-provoking books deals with depression as a simple metaphor:  “heavy things” that can weigh you down.   Whimsy carries around her “heavy things” until she discovers that by breaking them into smaller pieces, they become easier to manage.  I love the soft illustrations and the gentle tone of the story.  I can see this being an excellent book for discussion and using to infer (What do you think “heavy things” are?)  and connect (What are some heavy things that weigh you down?)

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Same, Same but Different – Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Comparison writing is one of six nonfiction text structures I focused on in my new book Nonfiction Writing Power.  Since using anchor books (mentor texts) is an important part of writing instruction, I am always on the look-out for new books that model the different writing structures.  While this book would be classed as fiction, not only does it work well as a model for comparative writing, it is an excellent book for teaching diversity and multiculturalism.    The book features two boys:  Elliott who lives in America and Kailash who lives in India.  They begin their friendship as pen pals and through their letters, learn about the many similarities and differences between their two lives.  A great book for making connections to culture, family and lifestyle.  Colorful, cheerful illustrations.

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Whale Shines – An Artistic Tale – Fiona Robinson

Beautifully illustrated story of Whale trying to find something he can contribute to the upcoming undersea art show.  All his sea creature friends have artistic talents, but whale feels like he has nothing to offer.  I loved the illustrations and the great message of perseverance and creativity. Also a great link to science – learning about different sea creatures as well as whale’s discovery of bioluminescent phytoplankton that he uses to create his art.  I also love how each sea creature uses their own natural characteristic to develop their artistic talent.    

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The Numberlys – William Joyce

Once upon a time there were no numbers – only the alphabet. And so begins the latest visually stunning book by master creator William Joyce.  The text is simple but the illustrations add a layer of sophistication to this story of the world before numbers were created. The book starts out with only numbers in the world and the world is gray, lifeless and dull. Then The Numberlys decide that change is necessary and they create Letters !   And then the world comes to life and the pages have color!  The value of both numbers and letters is reminiscent of 1, 2, 3 Versus A, B, C by Michael Boldt, but Joyce manages to add a sophisticated flair to the concept.  This would be a great book to illustrate the value of numbers and letters in learning.

17941626                  Billie B Brown: The Birthday Mix-up

 The Winning Goal – Sally Rippin        The Birthday Mix-Up – Sally Rippin

It’s often hard to find books for emergent readers that are both age and language appropriate.  Sally Rippin‘s series are excellent for children who are transitioning into very easy chapter books.  There is a series of books featuring Jack and another featuring Billy Brown (who is a girl). But the fun part is that Jack is a character in the Billy books and Billy is a character in the Jack books.  Very simple vocabulary and stories children will find many connections to.

 

Thanks for stopping by!  I’d love to know which book has caught your eye!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Art, Connect, Infer, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Multicultural, New Books, Picture Book, Reading Power, Science, Transform, Writing Anchors

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – Boats, a moose and a panda!

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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: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers

Toy Boat

Toy Boat – Randall de Seve

I love Loren Long’s illustrations so was immediately drawn to this new book.  It is the story of a little boy and his beloved homemade toy boat.  The boy and his boat are inseparable until a storm comes up and the boat blows away.  We then follow the boat as it begins its own adventure alone  excited at first to be “free” but encounters some dangerous situations and eventually is reunited with the boy.  The illustrations and colors are amazing – I loved the “face” on the boat!    This would be a great book for making connections to favorite toys for younger students and but older students may infer that the boy and boat could be a metaphor for a parent and child relationship.

Three Bears in a Boat

Three Bears in a Boat – David Soman

WOW!  I am IN LOVE with this book!  And quite a shift from Soman’s previous Ladybug Girl!  This story has it all – breathtaking illustrations an epic adventure and a subtle message.  Three sibling bears accidently break their mother’s favorite blue seashell.  So, rather than telling her, they set off to try to find her a new one.  Their search brings them adventure but they cannot find any blue seashells.  A rather unpredictable ending but a very forgiving mother makes everything right in the end.  A great book for questioning and predicting with a  few fun literary devises thrown in for adults!  I predict this will be the buzz book of the summer!

Once Upon a Balloon

Once Upon a Balloon – Bree Galbraith

Last week, I was “gifted” with a brand new picture book written by first time local Vancouver author Bree Galbraith.  Bree is graphic designer and a graduate from Emily Carr University.  Have you ever wondered where balloons go when they float away?  Theo does, when he accidently lets go of the string of his party balloon.  His older brother, Zeke, luckily knows everything about the land of lost balloons – they are collected by “Frank” and end up in the windy city of Chicago. After learning about what Frank does, Theo decides to send him a message of thanks. This story is whimsical and imaginative and the illustrations by Isabelle Malenfant are delightful.  A great book to celebrate gratitude and acts of kindness.

This is a Moose – Richard T. Morris

The setting of this hilarious story is a movie set where Director Duck is making a documentary about Moose.  But the Moose who is staring in the movie does not, in fact, want to be an actor, or a moose – he wants to be an astronaut!  Enter Moose’s zany forest friends to help him including a superhero chipmunk a lacrosse-playing grandma!  Lots of action, fantastic illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld and great message of following your dreams!

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep– Barney Saltzberg

This book is adorable!  Poor Chengdu!  He cannot fall asleep no matter how hard he tries!  This book is adorable – and includes innovative, interactive fold out pages with wonderful artwork.  A great book for connecting and a perfect book for panda lovers!

Help! We Need A Title!

Help!  We Need a Title!  – Herve Tullet

The basic steps in writing a story is the premise of this book as quirky characters are about to go through their day but need help because their story hasn’t been written yet!  I really liked how the story was a “work in progress” and the readers interact with the characters to write the book.  Clever and cute!

The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown

And now in keeping with my “boat” theme – I am currently reading the nonfiction book The Boys in the Boat.  Our book club pick for this month is the true story of University of Washington’s eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal in 1936.  I am only about 1/3 of the way through but am loving it!  It is the story of undeniable courage and a shared dream that 9 working class boys from the United States had.  Many of the stories came from the boys’ diaries and journals and the book includes real photographs.  The main  focus is Joe Rantz, a teenager without family who is not rowing for glory or fame but to regain his shattered self.  This is, by far, one of the best nonfiction books I have read in a long time.  Emotional, interesting, inspiring!

Thanks for stopping by!  What have you been reading this week!

 

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – New Titles from Favorite Authors

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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: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers

It’s been a while since I did a IMWAYR post.  April was a VERY busy month for me – the last full push of Pro. D. for the school year and I presented a lot of workshops.  Fortunately, May is not nearly as hectic so I hope to be able to post more regularly.

Here are a few titles I am excited to share – with several new releases from some of my favorite authors!

The Day I Lost My Superpowers – Michaël Escoffier

This book is DELIGHTFUL and would be a perfect book to add to your Mother’s Day collection!  The story is about a little girl who discovers she has “super powers” (her imagination at work!).   But when the super powers begin to disappear after a mishap,  she looks around for someone who might be able to help her get them back.  Lo and behold – who possess an amazing array of her own “super powers”?  Her superhero mom!  I love how the touching, yet subtle message of the special bond between parent and child.  The illustrations are charming and I really like the way the book doesn’t force a message but does so gently and with humour.

Have You Seen My Dragon?

Have You Seen My Dragon? – Steve Light

This book is a combination of a counting book, search and find book and story that is well worth a close read.  A boy searches through the city for his dragon and finds many interesting treasures along the way (20 to be exact!)  The detailed black and white ink drawings are well worth  exploring and I think students will enjoy joining in on the dragon search!  I liked reading the author’s note at the back where he explains how he got the idea for the story:  When he was a boy growing up in New York, he used the imagine that the steam coming up from the street grates was dragon smoke!

Nurse Clementine

Nurse Clementine – Simon James

I enjoy Simon James books – simple text and lovely colored ink illustrations.   His latest book is definitely one to use for practicing making connections with younger students.  I think many would be able to connect to the main character, Clementine, who is thrilled when she receives a nurse’s outfit and nurses kit for her birthday.  (I certainly remember when my son desperately wanted a doctor kit!)  With cap on and kit in hand, she proceeds to “fix” all the injuries in her family.  Her younger brother refuses her services until he gets stuck in a tree.  Sweet, simple, predictable – and a great read-aloud for early primary.

The Beginner's Guide to Running Away from Home

Beginner’s Guide To Running Away From Home – Jennifer Larue Wuget

In my new book Nonfiction Writing Power, one of the structures I explore is Instructional writing.  So I’m always on the look out for anchor books that teachers can use which model the language and form of instructional writing.  Guidebooks and handbooks are a great examples so I was excited to find this new title to add to my book list!   This humourous book has everything you will need to successfully run away – from what to pack to where to leave your note.  The character reminded me a little of Judith Voirst’s Alexander – a kid who is just at the end of his rope.  The illustrations have a Pixar feel that I think would appeal to kids.  This book is definitely for a slightly older crowd – I think gr 3-5’s will really appreciate the humour.

Poem Depot – Aisles of Smiles – Douglas Florian

I have a bad habit of using the word “favorite” too often when it comes to books!  But I would say that Douglas Florian is definitely my favorite children’s poet.  I am drawn to his humour, his creativity, his art.  I love that his poetry books are collections around a specific theme  – seasons, mammals, dinosaurs, baseball, pirates, trees, bees, space… you name it and he has written a poetry book about it!   I love that he explores different poetic devices and forms so that I can use them to help me teach poetry to my students.   In his latest book, Florain captures the everyday humor of kids’ lives with a collection of great read-aloud nonsense poems that are sure to keep you and your students laughing.

If – Rudyard Kipling   Illustrated by Giovannia Mamna

“IF” is a poem that Rudyard Kipling wrote for his 12 year old son in 1909.  (Sadly, his son would die a few years later in WWI)  It is an inspiring poem of life lessons – encouraging and thoughtful advice.  It’s a poem I could read over and over and think about it differently each time.  I remember reading the poem in high school but of course now, my experiences as an adult and a parent invite a completely different interpretation.  The watercolor illustrations are stunning.  While the tone and language may be challenging for independent reading – I can see how this poem would stimulate rich discussion, connections and inferences if guided as a shared read-aloud.

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Gravity – Jason Chin

Jason Chin is a remarkable.  Somehow, he manages to explore thought provoking concepts in a very accessible way.  In this book, he explores the concept of gravity – What makes things “stay put” on earth and not float away?  Why do things fall from above when we drop them?   As in his previous books, Redwood, Coral Reef and Island, his illustrations are captivating and mesmerizing.  I loved the simple text and larger print.  This would be an excellent book to introduce a unit on space or to invite questioning.

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Rules of Summer – Shaun Tan

Wow! Wow! Wow!  How can you not open up a book by Shaun Tan and not be completely blown away by the creativity, the depth, the layers of thinking that it invites?   In this new release he once again manages to challenge the mind and the imagination with his new book.  If any of you reading this are looking for a new book to teach INFERING – this is it!  AMAZING!  The book portrays two boys – and the lessons they each learned during the summer.  Each double page spread is one lesson – an image and a simple sentence – open to many interpretations.   There is a dark quality to the lessons as you go deeper into the book and this is certainly a book intended for an older audience.  Captivating illustrations with so much detail – a remarkable book!

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

Our book club pick this past month was The Rosie Project.  For those of you who may not have read this clever, quirky charming love story – you should.  I don’t think I have laughed so hard reading a book – EVER!  At one point I was reading it on the plane and was literally shaking with laughter,  tears pouring down my cheeks.  Laugh out loud funny one minute and touchingly beautiful the next.  I fell in love with the hero Don Tillman –  the socially awkward genetics professor who narrates the story.  Don believes he is not wired for romance and not capable of the social rituals necessary for true love.  He is, we infer, on the spectrum of Asperger’s but doesn’t realize it.  At 39 he decides it is time to settle down so he  designs “The Wife Project” – a comprehensive and lengthy questionnaire to try to find the “perfect match”.  Enter Rosie – on a search of her own – who fails just about every question on his test but somehow manages to turn Don’s world upside down.   5 stars, 2 thumbs up, and gets a coveted place on the top shelf of my book case – where only my very favorites get to live!

And that’s what I’ve been reading lately!  I’d love for you to leave your thoughts about these books or any that you have been reading!

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Filed under Connect, Infer, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Mother's Day, New Books, Picture Book, Poetry, Reading Power

February 10 for 10! Ten Nonfiction Books I Can’t Live Without!

I’m excited to participate in the first Nonfiction 10 for 10 event celebrating fantastic nonfiction picture books. Thank you to Cathy Mere from Reflect and RefineMandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning  and Julie Balen of Write at the Edge for hosting this.

So what are the 10 nonfiction picture books I cannot live without?   As I did with my 10 for 10 picture book list in the summer, I have decided to organize this list around Nonfiction Reading Power strategies I use for helping students read and understand informational texts.   There are 5 strategies – so I have selected two anchor books for each!   The books I chose are not only my “tried and true” books in my classroom but often books I share with teachers at workshops.   It’s tough to narrow it down – but here we go….

Zooming In – to Nonfiction Text Features

My Map Book

1. My Map Book – Sara Fanelli

This is a wonderful anchor book for teaching students about using nonfiction text features – in particular – mapping and labeling.  I LOVE this book and have used it SO often as an anchor book for many lessons that my cover is nearly falling off!  This book is a collection of child-like drawings of different types of maps:  map of a neighbourhood, map of my bedroom, map of my family, map of my heart (My students make a “Map of my Heart” for Valentines day every year – using this book!)  There are unique maps that can stimulate all sorts of lesson extensions.  A MUST for your nonfiction collection!

Imagine You're a Knight!: Lady Megavere, Lucy D'Ancealot

2.  Imagine You’re A Knight – Lucy and Meg Clibbon

Lucy and Meg Clibbon are sisters from the UK.  They have created a series of books about different people including Knights, Pirates, Astronauts, Princess, Wizards, Mermaids and Ballerinas.  They are incredibly funny and visually appealing andI love how Lucy and Meg use LOTS of nonfiction text features (labels, maps, charts, captions, etc) to represent the information.   While some may consider this style of book to be to be more fiction,  they are excellent examples to show students the use of text features.

Determining Importance

Sorting out main idea from supporting details can be a challenge for students.  When practicing this strategy – I look for books with short, interesting sections I can use for a read-aloud during a guided lesson.  Here are two of my favorites:

How Big Is It?

3. How Big is It?  – Ben Hillman

This appeal of this book are the amazing photographs.  Ben Hillman uses amazing photographic juxtaposition (that was a mouthful!)  to show comparisons of size.  The book is large enough to hold up for students to see the pictures easily.  I love the short informational passage explaining each photograph.  Be prepared for a lot of “Whoa’s!”  and “Wow’s!”

Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth

4. Extreme Animals – The Toughest Creatures on Earth – Nicola Davies

This is another great book for using to practice determining importance.  Nicola Davies has included many interesting facts about animals who need to adapt to survive extreme heat and extreme cold. The unique thing about the book is that from one side, the book is about animals adaptation to extreme cold – flip it over and start from the other side to learn about animals adapting to extreme heat.  As always, I love Nicola Davies use of voice and humor in her writing.  Hilarious illustrations and comic-like animation.  (My favorite page is about “Frogcycles”!)

 Making Connections 

You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids Around the World

 5. You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, Kids Around the World – Barbara Kerley

I could not have a list of favorite nonfiction books without including a book by Barbara Kerley.  Barbara Kerley is a photographer for National Geographic – so her photography in all of her books is amazing.  In this book, she captures images of the relationship between parent and children from different places in the world.  With very little text, she is able to capture this bond beautifully.  I love to read this book to students and invite them to make connections.  Information about each photograph and where it was taken is included in the back of the book.

The Great Big Book of Families

6. The Great Big Book of Families – Mary Hoffman

Many primary curriculums include a focus on families and communities.   I always tell teachers at my workshops that this book encompasses an entire unit on family, community, school, cultural celebrations – you name it and you will find it in this book!  The book is well laid out and has colorful, interesting illustrations.  I like how Mary Hoffman recognizes different family make ups and adopted children.

Asking Questions

I Wonder

7. I Wonder – Tana Hoban

This simple beginning reader has become one of my favorite anchor books for questioning.  Tana Hoban takes readers on a “wonder walk” outdoors and questions simple things she sees along the way.  “Have you ever wondered how hard it is to spin a web?”  “Look at that tree – there’s moss growing on one side but not the other.  I wonder why?”  Beautiful photographs and clear close ups make this a perfect nonfiction read-aloud.   I like to read this book to my students and then take the on a class on our own “Wonder Walk”.

Why?: The Best Ever Question and Answer Book about Nature, Science and the World around You

8. Why?  The Best Question and Answer book about Science, Nature and the World around You – Catherine Ripley

This book really is the best question and answer book about the world around you!   There are questions and answers about just about everything you can think of:  Kitchen Questions, Bathroom Questions, Farm Questions, Night time Questions.  I like to read one question just before I send my students home as “thinking homework”. Have you ever wondered why some eggs are white and some are brown?    They think about the question and come back to school the next day and share their thinking.  After sharing our “maybe’s” – I read them the answer from the book.  They LOVE it!

Infer

It's Our Nature

9. It’s Our Nature – Rebeca Orozo

This delightful book explores the character traits that the animal kingdom shares with humanity — altruism, community, generosity, responsibility, trust, commitment, solidarity, brotherhood and tolerance.  The illustrations are delightful.  I start by listing the character traits from the book and discussing them with the students.  I  then read a description of one of the animal’s behavior and invite the students to infer which trait this animal is demonstrating .

A Strange Place to Call Home: The World's Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals That Call Them Home

   10. A Strange Place to Call Home:  The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals That Call Them Home                         – – Marilyn Singer

The art in this book by Ed Young is amazing.  The poetry, by renowned poet Marilyn Singer, is amazing.  This is a collection of 14 poems, each highlighting  a specific relatively unknown animal who have, against the odds, adapted to their extreme environments.  Students can use the clues in the poems to infer what type of environment they live in and what features they need to survive.  Great additional information included at the back.

Transform

Often when teaching students about synthesizing information, or what I refer to as “transformed thinking”, I look for books that provide students with information that can potentially change their thinking in some way.

What Do You Do When Something Wants To Eat You?

11.What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You? – Steve Jenkins

My top nonfiction list would not be complete without a Steve Jenkins book.  While I have and love many, this is one I use most when teaching students about how books can sometimes change our thinking.  In his classic collage illustrations, Jenkins explores the many fascinating and unique ways animals defend themselves against predators.   Many students find new meaning to the expression “run for your life”!

What Does it Mean to Be Present?

12.  What Does it Mean to be Present? – Rana DiOrio

This recently published book has made it’s way to the top of my favorite pile!   Rana DiOrio has created a vibrant, thought-provoking picture book that simply and effectively teaches us to be present, mindful and caring citizens.  When teaching students about books that transform our thinking, I like to write the word “present” on the board and ask students to “take stock of their thinking” before we read.  Most students make connections to birthdays, Christmas, wrapping paper and boxes.  After reading the book – we talk about how our thinking about the word “present” now looks different than before we read the book.

And there you have it!  My top 10 (Ok.. I went over by two!)  Nonfiction Picture Books!  Thanks for reading my post!

Which picture books are on the top of your “can’t live without” pile?

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Filed under Blog Challenge, Connect, Infer, Lesson Ideas, NFPB Challenge 2014, Nonfiction, Picture Book, Question, Reading Power, Transform

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 have spent several days in Arizona at a hockey tournament with my younger son.  Luckily, our hotel was right across from a shopping mall that included a Barnes and Nobel – the American equivalent of Chapters.  So in-between hockey games, I snuck over to the mall to spend a few hours reading picture books!  Here are the books that caught my eye!

Isabella: Star of the Story

Isabella Star of the Story – Jennifer Fossberry

There were so many things to love about this book!   I love that Isabella loves books and the going to the library. I love the way she interacts and imagines her way through the books while she reads them. I love the references to classic children’s literature, including Peter Pan, Goldilocks, Dorothy, and Alice – perfect for Text-to-Text connections!  I really appreciated the information about the authors of these classic works that the author included at the back of the book. (Did you know that the  L. in L. Frank Baum stood for Lyman or that Dorothy’s shoes were originally silver?)  Delightful illustrations by Mike Litwin.  This is a WONDERFUL book!  (Apparently, there are other “Isabella” books in this series – but this is the first one I’ve read)

Born from the Heart

Born From the Heart – Berta Serrano

I was drawn in by the illustrations but was surprised to discover that this is a very endearing story about adoption and about the power of love that creates a family.  A lovely message that a child does not have to be born into a family, but that love is born when a new child arrives.  The illustrations are quirky but I think the message is beautiful.  This would make a lovely gift for adoptive parents.

Night Noises

Night Noises – Mem Fox

This book worked perfectly for a lesson I was doing with a grade 3 class who was learning the difference between inferring and predicting.  Predicting – what do you think is going to happen next?  Infering – what do you think is happening now.  This book invites the reader to do both – to predict what the “night noises” are that the woman is hearing – and also to infer some of her past experiences she is dreaming about.  After explaining the difference, we practiced predicting and inferring using the same book.  A perfect book for both strategies!

How to Babysit a Grandpa

How to Babysit a Grandpa – Jean Reagan

One of the chapters in my new book Nonfiction Writing Power is helping students with instructional (procedural) writing and I have included this book on my list of anchor books that model this form of writing.  While the intent of this book is to entertain, I like that it is written in present tense and includes a variety of instructional adjectives. transition words and tips.  I also liked the cleverness of the “reversed roles” of babysitting as the boy tells the reader how to take walks, eat snacks and provide entertainment.   A great read-aloud and one to remember when you are teaching this form of writing.

Weeds Find a Way

Weeds Find a Way – Cindy Jessie Elliott

Ooooooo – I discovered a hidden treasure!  This is a book that celebrates those pesky little weeds that grow in our gardens.  But the language is BEAUTIFUL – alliteration, similes, metaphors – this book has every writing technique you could ask for! And the illustrations – GORGEOUS!  This is a long overdue tribute to the lonely, unwanted weed that will make you think twice about using that weed killer this spring!  Loved it!  Great information included at the back about different types of weeds.

 The Wreck of the Zephyr 30th Anniversary Edition

The Wreck of the Zephyr – Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg ranks high on my list of favorite authors.   His books are an extraordinary combination of hauntingly life-like illustrations and subtle text.  His books have been my “go to” anchor books when teaching my intermediate students how to question and infer because Van Allsburg is a master of telling a story by not telling a story.  I always tell my students: “Some writers don’t tell us everything because they are leaving spaces for our thinking”.   The Wreck of the Zephyr was first published in 1983 but has been reissued to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Thirty years later, the story still captivates students with the story of a boy, a magical island and boats that fly – Classic Van Allsburg.

Pride of Baghdad

 Pride of Baghdad – Brian K. Vaughan

This book was recommended to me by a middle school teacher in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.  It is a graphic novel that depicts the true story of a pride of lions that escaped from the Baghdad zoo during an American bombing raid. It is a heartbreaking account of these lions, finally free, but lost, confused and hungry – roaming the streets of Bagdad struggling to survive.   So much can be inferred and paralleled to the circumstances that so many Afghans experienced during the war.  This would be an amazing book for students in upper middle or high school and an amazing anchor book for inferring and illustrating metaphor.

The Orenda

The Orenda – Joseph Boyden

I loved Canadian writer Joseph Boyden’s book Three Day Road so was anxious to read his latest novel.  I started to read this book on the plane.  It had a jolting, intense and graphic opening that has caught my attention.  So far, not a comfortable, but extremely compelling read that tells the epic story during the 17th century of the First Nations and European first contact.  I’m only about 40 pages into the 500 plus page book but will keep you posted!

Thanks for reading my post!   What have you been reading this week?

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Filed under Infer, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Question

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? Animals, Friends, a few darn Squirrels and a remarkable Bird

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 discovered some new books that I’m very excited about!  Here we go…

What's Your Favorite Animal?

What’s Your Favorite Animal? – Eric Carle and Friends

All of my favorite authors and illustrators in one book!  What could be better?  This book is a delightful anthology of well-loved children’s authors/illustrators describing their favorite animal and why they love them, accompanied by his or her own signature style illustrations.  I did SO enjoy looking through to discover what everyone’s favorite animal was and why.  I can see how this would be a great anchor book for students to write about their favorite animal with an accompanying illustration.    I was also thinking my students could go around the school asking the teachers what their favorite animals are!  Authors included in this fabulous book are: Eric Carle, Nick Bruel, Luc Cousins, Susan Jeffers, Steven Kellogg, Jon Klassen, Tom Lichtenheld, Peter McCarty, Chris Raschka, Peter Sis, Lane Smith, Rosemary Wells and Mo Willems.   I am hugging this book.

Friends – Eric Carle

I am always on the lookout for new books about friendship as they lend themselves so well for having children practice making connections.  This story is about a young boy whose best friend moves away.  He then embarks on a journey over mountains and across rivers to find her.  This book is apparently based on Eric’s own journey to find his wife, whom he moved away from as a child and then searched to find her again.  This would be a great book to read to K’s and 1’s and I can see them acting out the movements of the boy’s journey – “climbing”, “swimming”, etc.   I loved the messages of determination and the importance of friendship.

Friends  – Miles Van Hout

I LOVED Miles Van Hout’s wordless book Happy and used it many times in many classrooms to help students infer feelings.  In Happy, Van Hout’s  uncanny ability to capture emotion through the  faces of fish was remarkable!  In her latest wordless book Friends,  she takes us one step further by showing emotional interactions.  Her vibrant chalk fish have been replaced with monster type creatures and she has illustrated them depicting different situations – cuddling, fighting, teasing, laughing and playing.  Another perfect wordless book for helping younger children practice inferring from illustrations.  Hugging this book too!

A Friend – Anette Bley

Sticking with the “friendship” theme, I saw this book in our local library on display and was drawn to the illustrations.  This book, published in 2009, (I have never seen it before)  is a perfect book for primary teachers who are looking for a great book about friendship.  The story begins with the simple question: What is a friend?  and goes on to illustrate many different examples of what friendship looks like and feels like.  The illustrations are charming and the text is simple and meaningful.  A perfect “connect” book.  (Note:  A few places I searched said it was out of print but I was able to order one on Amazon)

Those Darn Squirrels – Adam Rubin

This book is the perfect choice if you are looking for a or a great read-aloud/laugh-aloud story for  grades 2-4.  It tells the tale of  grumpy Old Man Fookwire who dislikes most things – except his wild birds.  So he builds a bird feeder and fills it with berries so his wild birds will stay with him through the winter.  Unfortunately,” those darn squirrels” raid the feeder and eat all the berries.  Apparently there are two more “Darn Squirrel” books in the collection.  (Warning – I stumbled over the name “Mr. Fookwire” a few times – so just be careful because when it comes out wrong – it comes out VERY wrong!)

Paper Dolls – Julia Donaldson

I loved paper dolls growing up.  My sisters and I would play for hours, folding the little flaps of clothing onto those cardboard dolls.  This book is whimsical, beautiful, playful, nostalgic, simple.  A little girl plays with her five paper dolls.  There are not many words, but the rhyming and repetition lend itself well to a read-aloud.  I love the mother/daughter play time highlighted in this book and I think it would be a great invitation to have students create their own paper doll and use alliteration and rhyme to name it.  A lovely book!

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Stand in My Shoes – Bob Sornson

Teachers frequently request books on social responsibility themes so I’m always on the lookout for new titles.  This book, produced by the Love and Logic Institute, focuses on empathy and clearly illustrates to younger children what empathy is and how easy it is to demonstrate this important social skill.  This book would also be great to include on a book list for parents.

Drac And The Gremlin

Drac and the Gremlin – Allan Baillie

One of the rewarding things about my work is visiting schools and meeting teachers who have been using some of the ideas from my books.  I especially love when they share new book titles with me!    This past Friday, I was in Calgary at Huntington Hills elementary and met a teacher who had been working on Visualizing with her students.  She took me into her classroom and shared this great book with me and showed me some of the visual images her students drew when she read this story to them.  Of course, she DID NOT share the illustrations with them until they had listened and visualized.  The great thing about this book is that the descriptions are very misleading – you think the author is describing some imaginative sci-fi creatures.  As it turns out, it is only two children and their pets as they play in their backyard.  A wonderful book for visualizing!

Bird – Crystal Chan

Wow.  Wow.  Wow.   This book left me breathless and speechless – and that is no easy feat for me.   Not since Wonder and No Fault in the Stars have I been so moved and so deeply touched by a book.  My soul is still aching.   I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC and I could not put it down.

The book begins:    Grandpa stopped speaking the day he killed my brother, John.

From the first line, you will be drawn in by the exquisite writing and heart-wrenching story of Jewel – a girl who lives in the shadow of her younger brother – who died the day she was born.  Her grandfather, blamed for the tragedy by Jewel’s parents, has not spoken since.  This is a story of love, of loss, of family and friendship – of a broken family who had to fall apart before they could put themselves back together.  This is a remarkable debut novel – and I KNOW one that will top many “best of 2014” lists.   “Book linger”  is my reference to books that stay with you and actually become part of you.  Bird is the ultimate in book linger.  I want EVERYONE to read this book!

Well, it was a great week of reading for me.  And just in case you didn’t follow the book award announcements this past week – here is the complete list from CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/27/living/newbery-caldecott-awards-2014-kate-dicamillo-books/

What have you been reading this week?

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Summer Reading – Day 26! Top 10 for 10 Picture Books – New Reading Power titles!

I am excited to be participating in my first Picture Book 10 for 10 event. This celebration of picture books is hosted by Cathy from Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning

The biggest challenge for me was trying to narrow down my favorites to just 10 and also to decide on a theme.  But since most of my work is centered around Reading Power, I decided to choose my favorite 10 books from 2013 that could be added to your reading power collections.  This was a huge challenge as there were so many amazing new books to choose from!  And since this is the top 10 – that equals 2 top picks for each of the 5 Reading Power strategies:  Connect, Question, Visualize, Infer and Transform. 

CONNECT

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Ben Rides On by Matt Davies is one of my favorite books from 2013.  It is the story of a boy who loves his bike, experiences bullying and deals with the situation in a very positive way.  Students will make connections to many different aspects of this book – from bike riding to dealing with bullies.

The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleishman is a beautiful book about an Italian immigrant grandfather who tells the story of his childhood to his granddaughter through mementos kept in matchboxes in an old cigar box.  “Your life is a story and every experience you have, you are adding a chapter”  This is what I tell students when I’m teaching them about connections.  This book is a perfect extension of the concept of “your life is a story” and also about  “memory pockets” as the grandfather’s objects represents the memories and “chapters” of his life story.   I LOVED how this book could be used to invite students to tell their own stories through special objects they may have collected.  Lots of text-to-text connections here to Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life!

QUESTION

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Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford is a beautiful introduction to deep thinking questions.  A young girl wonders “what is infinity?”  “what does infinity look like?”.  This promotes a wide range of different answers.  A great introduction to the concept of infinity that could lead to other big questions.  The illustrations are amazing!

Phileas’s Fortune by Agnes de Lestrade is the only book on my list not published in 2013 – but one I could not leave off as it is among my favorite books of all time.  A tale of a land where words are made in a factory and in order to speak any word, you need to buy it. Of course, some people cannot afford to buy words.   I have read this book to many different classes and many different age groups.  It promotes more deep thinking questions than any book I’ve ever read.  A must for your collection of books that promote questions.

VISUALIZE

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Beach Feet by Kiyomi Konagaya is a visually descriptive story of a young boy’s day at the beach.  What makes this story unique is how it is told through the experiences of the boy’s feet – the sensations of the sand, the foam, the pebbles and shells.  The perspective of the “feet telling the story” is one that I would definitely use for a writing anchor for creating visual images through the senses.  As well, the book is filled with wonderful triple scoop words and similes.

If I Built A House – by Chris Van Dusan is a follow up to his first book If I Built A Car, which my students loved.  Jack is a dreamer with a big imagination.  He invents his own wacky, wild and imaginative house – with everything from an indoor race track to a flying room.  While this book is not one that uses rich descriptive language (it has a rhyming text), I love the idea of reading it aloud and having kids “visualize” Jack’s house through some sketches and then try to create then their own imaginary house.  Another great anchor for writing!

INFER

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Both Bluebird by Bob Staake and Journey by Aaron Becker are wordless picture books that invite students to use the pictures to infer the story.  Bluebird is an emotional story of a young boy who’s day is brightened when a bird befriends him.  The bird later risks his life to protect the boy from a group of bullies.  It is moving and powerful and is a must for every teacher to share with their students.

Journey is a breath-taking stunningly beautiful wordless picture book.  It tells the story of a young girl who is being ignored by her family.  When she draws an imaginary door on her bedroom wall and opens it, a magical journey unfolds.  Careful study of the pictures reveals many surprises and clues which invite many inferences.  This is truly a remarkable book that has Caldecott written all over it!

TRANSFORM

Sometimes a book can change the way we think about something. When searching for books to use to teach this strategy, I look for books that deal with an issue that students have some experience.  We “take stock” of our thinking about the issue or topic before and after reading, so that the students can visibly notice how their thinking has changed.  Both these books have the ability to “change your thinking” – about the dark and about books.

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The Dark by Lemony Snicket tells the story of how Lazslo faces his fear of the dark.  The dark, in this book, is depicted as an actual character – and utterly transforms the reader’s mindset of fear.  I can see using this book as perfect introduction to the concept of Transform:  your thoughts about the dark before and after reading this gem of a book.

I have saved the best for last – the book that transformed my thinking about books!  Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier celebrates the power of books, from the physical turning of the pages to the act of storytelling.  It is visually stunning as the reader is invited to turn the pages and discover more and more little books.  This is one that has to be experienced to be appreciated.  Please open this little book and share it with everyone you know.  It will transform your thinking!

I hope you enjoyed my top 10 picture books and have found a few new titles to add to your collection!

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Filed under Connect, Infer, Lesson Ideas, New Books, Picture Book, Question, Transform, Visualize

Summer Reading – Day 21! Bully Books

The issues associated with bullying have been the topic of many class discussions over recent years.  As with anything I teach, I try to find an anchor book as a starting point for these discussions.  Here are two of my more recent top picks for stimulating important connections, questions and conversations about bullying.

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Bully, by the prolific Patricia Polacco, is an excellent choice for middle school students.  This book, which came out last year,  is the first one I have come across that addresses the issue of cyber bullying with references to Facebook and texting.  Because it is so current,  it felt more credible when I read this to the older students.  It is a longer read, but the characters and story are so believable and the connections kids made, whether it was to the bully or the bullied, were thoughtful and heartfelt.  The story ends with the question:  What would you do? – the perfect segue into  a class discussion.  I would highly recommend this book if you are a parent or teacher of tweens and teens.

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Bully – by Laura Vacarro Seeger (Green, First the Egg, Lemons are Not Red ) is both tender and heartfelt but with a good deal of humor.  The”Bully Bull” character doesn’t have a kind word to say to any of  his friends, calling them “Chicken!” and “Slowpoke!” and telling them “You Stink!”.  This,  I’m sure, would stimulate several giggles from younger primary students.  Goat eventually stands up to Bully and tells him to stop being mean and Bully Bull eventually stops.   The story is relatively simple with minimal text but what I appreciated in this book is the subtle way Seeger uses the position and size of the Bull on the page to help tell the story.  This would be a great anchor book for  practicing inferring with younger students.  As Bully Bull moves across the pages, expanding and deflating as the story unfolds, inferences can be made as to how Bully Bull’s feelings change as he looses his bully power.

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Summer Reading – Day 20! – Nonfiction Wednesday

I have am happy to be participating my first Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday post!  (I hope I am not breaking any rules if I focus on Nonfiction Poetry) I was first introduced to Marilyn Singer in a Children’s Literature course I was taking at university.  I remember the Professor, Ron Jobe, sharing a new poetry book by Marilyn Singer called “Turtle in July” (published in 1989 – Yikes!  Am I that old?).  He read aloud the title poem and I was fascinated by how she was able to so effortlessly weave factual information into a simple poem. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since.

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Over the last 2 decades, she has written over 30 poetry books (much of which is based on nature), picture books, novels and nonfiction books.  She gained much attention and earned several awards  in 2010 for her remarkable and unique writing of Fairy Tales Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse.  If you have never read this – it is an incredibly clever collections of poems that can be read both forwards and backwards.  Amazing!  Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems, the follow up, was released this past February.

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Now, on to her Nonfiction books…..I am drawn to her poetry collections and nonfiction books that center around nature and animals.  I’m particularly fond of her poetry books Fireflies at Midnight and The Company Of Crows where she writes poems in the voices of different animals (and birds).   I have used both books as anchors in both reading and writing lessons.  In reading, we practice inferring information about the animals from the poems.  In writing,  I have used them as models for writing with voice.  Both books have inspired amazing animal poetry in my classroom over the years.    Students choose an animal, research its habits and behavior, then write a poem in first person, trying to capture both the “voice” and personality of the animal.

9482[2]           The Company of Crows: A Book of Poems

I recently came across her latest poetry collection called A Strange Place to Call Home (published in 2012) In it, she writes poems about the most dangerous habitats on earth and the animals who live there.  The book is illustrated by Caldecott winner and honor recipient Ed Young.  His illustrations are gorgeous and he uses a torn paper  collage style similar to Steve Jenkins.  Singer uses many different poetic forms in the book, including haiku and sonnets,  as she captures 14 relatively unknown creatures and their unusual homes.  (There is information on each creature included at the back of the book)   Through her unique poetic style, Singer is able to capture so many interesting facts, often through sparse text.  Students will be fascinated to learn about these unusual creatures and I could see how this could be used as an excellent “launch” into a research project.     The book could also be a great way to launch a Science Unit on Extreme Environments or how animals adapt to their environment.

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A Strange Place to Call Home

Where it’s dark                                                                                                              Where it’s deep                                                                                                            Where’s it’s stormy                                                                                                       Where it’s steep                                                                                                               Where the rain rarely falls                                                                                                                                      or the water always races                                                                                     They survive                                                                                                                   strive to thrive                                                                                                                  in a world of risky places

– Marilyn Singer

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Summer Reading – Day 16 – Wordless Wonders!

I’m always on the look-out for wordless picture books because they work so well when teaching students how to infer.  There is a misconception that because there is no text, that these books are for very young readers.  Such is not the case!  I continue to be amazed by the sophisticated themes and how much the artists are able to capture through their illustrations.  Here are a few of my recent favorites:

13260743[1]   The Boy and the Airplane – Mark Pett  A young boy is given an airplane, which he plays with happily, until it gets stuck in a tree.  After many attempts to get it down, he decides to plant a tree and wait for it to grow.  Time passes and we finally see the boy – who is now an old man – able to get the airplane down.  After playing with it for a short while, he passes it on to another child.   This touching story is one that can be appreciated at many different age levels and is open to different interpretations.  I can see younger children finding the humor in the “problem solving” aspect, but see older students appreciating the various themes of patience, joys of childhood, time passing and paying it forward.  The illustrations are simple, yet capture the emotions perfectly.

6949681[1]    The Boys, by Jeff Newman, is a wonderful intergenerational story about a shy young boy,  new to the neighborhood, who is reluctant to join in a baseball game at the park.    With the help and encouragement of a group of “old-timers” sitting on the park bench, he eventually joins in. The story takes place over the span of a week and the days of the week are the included to indicate time passing.  Newman’s retro-illustrations capture the emotions of the characters subtly and skillfully – no words are necessary.  Love this book!

13592095[1]     Bear Despair – by Gaetan Doremus is a humorous story of a bear whose teddy bear keeps getting stolen.  Now if your bear kept getting stolen – what would you do?  How does Bear solve this problem?  He gets so MAD that he EATS all the animals (some much bigger than him!) who keep stealing his bear!  The result is that Bear’s stomach keeps growing and growing and we even get to see an x-type visual of the animals inside his stomach!  Now it all sounds a little bizarre – but it really is just laugh out loud funny.  Once again, the talent of an artist who is able to capture emotions though his illustrations (in this case in the style of cross-hatching) is remarkable to me.

Unspoken: A Story From the Underground RailroadUnspoken: A Story From the Underground Railway by Henry Cole is a wordless picture book about a young farm girl who discovers a runaway slave hiding in her family’s barn.  She is then faced with the dilemma of what to do.  Bravery, courage, truth are all components of this amazing historical picture book that would be an excellent anchor book to launch a Social Studies unit on the Underground Railway.   The detailed pencil drawings are beautiful and in a style that reminded me a lot of Brian Selznick’s Hugo Cabret. A great book for questioning  and inferring, as the reader needs to carefully follow the details of the illustrations to “fill in” the story.  Henry Cole even adds a note at the end of the book that asks readers to “write the words and make their own story – filling in all that has been unspoken”.   This is why I love wordless picture books!  Because they invite readers to interact and weave their thinking through the pages!   Fewer words = More THINKING!

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