Category Archives: Read-Aloud

Adrienne’s OLLI – Online Learning Lesson Idea #20 – Thank You, Earth!

I originally created OLLIs when schools in my province of British Columbia shut down last spring due to Covid19.  While we are now back in class, I know there are many districts still juggling virtual and in-class support.  These OLLIs can be used both in class and virtually person.  Either way, I hope you find some ideas that you can use with your students to lighten your load just a little this year!  

Here is a list of the previous OLLI lessons and anchor books in case you missed any of them:

OLLI#1 (The Hike)

OLLI#2. (If I Could Build A School)

OLLIE#3  (Mother’s Day)

OLLI#4 (Everybody Needs a Rock)

OLLI #5 – (WANTED:  Criminals of the Animal Kingdom) 

OLLI #6 – (Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt)

OLLI #7 (All About Feelings – “Keep it! – Calm it! – Courage it!)  

OLLI #8 (I’m Talking DAD! – lesson for Father’s Day) 

OLLI #9 (Be Happy Right Now!) 

OLLI #10 – (Dusk Explorers)

OLLI#11 (If You Come to Earth)

OLLI #12 (Map of Good Memories)

OLLI #13 (Harvey Slumfenburger)

OLLI #14 (New Year’s Resolutions)

OLLI #15 ( 100 Things That Make Me Happy)

OLLIE #16 (Leaving Our Heartprints) 

OLLIE #17  (The Sounds of Snow)  (This post is temporarily unavailable)

OLLIE #18 – Celebrating Women Trail Blazers

OLLIE #19The Six Senses of Spring

THE INSPRIATION:

Earth Day is coming up this Thursday, so I thought it would be a great time to focus on extending our gratitude to Earth and all that it provides for us! It’s also a perfect topic to inspire some great writing!

THE ANCHOR:

Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet – April Pulley Sayre

YouTube Read Aloud HERE

While not a brand new book, this has been my “go to” book for Earth Day for many years. I love that the book is all about gratitude for all that the Earth gives us written in the form of a letter. Filled with stunning photography and lyrical rhythmic text makes it a perfect read-aloud.  The end notes provide suggestions for ways we can help the environment.  I also appreciated the detailed notes about the photographs – which are truly breath-taking.  Great anchor to inspire “Thank you, Earth” writing and poetry and great mentor text for teaching alliteration.

THE LESSON:

  • Ask students what special day is coming up on April 22nd. (Earth Day) Ask students “What is Earth Day”? “Why is Earth Day important?”
  • Explain that the Earth is an amazing planet, but it needs our help to protect it! Earth Day is a day when people all over the world celebrate the Earth and take part in activities to help make our world a happier, healthier place to live.
  • You may wish to brainstorm things that students could do this week to help the earth: turn off lights, turn off the water when brushing your teeth, recycle bottles and cans, pick up garbage, have a shorter shower, put your computer on “sleep” rather than on screen saver, bring re-usable containers for lunch, walk or ride a bike to school.
  • Remind the students that the Earth gives us so much, we all need to work together to try to protect it. Every day is Earth Day!
  • Ask: What are some of the things the Earth gives us? (water, air, trees, soil, animals, rocks, mountains, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, sunshine, clouds, plants, fruit, vegetables, etc.)
  • Tell the students that if a person gave them so many amazing things every day, you would probably be thanking them! Ask them when was the last time they said “Thank you” to the Earth? Explain that it might feel strange to say “Thank you” to earth because Earth can’t really hear us and it’s not really alive. But what if we could say thank you to Earth? What would you thank Earth for?
  • Show them the book “Thank You, Earth“. Tell them this book is someone saying thank you to the Earth for all that it gives us. Read or share the story on YouTube
  • Invite the students to share their favorite photograph or page.
  • Tell the students that you noticed even thought the book didn’t rhyme, there was a lovely sound and mood to some of the words when you read it out loud. Tell them you noticed several were several words that started with the same letter in the book. Explain that this is a technique writers sometimes use called “alliteration“. “Craggy caves” and “majestic mountains” are examples of alliteration because they are two words, close together, that start with the same sound.
  • Read the book again, and invite students to listen for the alliteration. (ie – slippery seaweed and stone; mountains and minerals; bills and bones) They can give a “thumbs up” whenever they hear similar sounds.
  • Tell the students that they are going to be writing “Thank you letters” to Earth, thanking it for all the amazing things. Tell them that you are going to think about using alliteration in your letter.
  • Model this during a “write aloud” Invite the students to help you with your alliteration.

Dear Earth,

Thank you for the tall trees and the green grass.

Thank you for tiny turtles and giant giraffes.

Thank you for red raspberries and green grapes.

Thank you for lakes to swim in and rivers to follow.

Thank you for whooshing waterfalls and cool caves.

  • Point out that you were trying to choose two things on each line that were connected in some way and also that you were trying to use alliteration. The alliteration makes the writing sound a bit like a poem, even though it doesn’t rhyme.
  • Talk about an ending that let’s your reader know you are at the end. Tell the students you want to try to include something about protecting the Earth at the end of your letter. Invite students to make suggestions for the ending. And don’t forget to sign your name!

Earth, you give us so much and never ask us for anything

But if you could talk, you might say, “Please take care of me!”

I will, Earth. I will!

Love, Ms. Gear

  • Students can do a Dear Earth draft in their Writer’s Notebook if you prefer.
  • When they are ready, they can write their letter on fancy paper, or use one of the POSTCARD templates below. Students can use one side of the Postcard to write their message and the other side to draw and color a picture of their favorite thing that Earth gives us (forest, mountains, ocean, gardens, etc.)

Postcard Template 1

Postcard Template 2 (no lines)

Postcard Template 3

Postcard Template 4

More Earth Day Anchor Books (some with YouTube links)

The week leading up to Earth Day is a great opportunity to share a range of wonderful picture books to help start conversations about the importance of doing our part to care for the earth.   While there are dozens to choose from, I have tried to highlight some old classics, new releases, and inspiring true stories.

Hello, Earth! – Poems to Our Planet – Joyce Sidman

Interview with Joyce Sidman as she talks about her book and reads some of her poems from this beautiful new book

HERE

My Friend Earth – Patricia MacLachlan

(YouTube read aloud HERE Note – start at 1.36 seconds)

A celebration of the natural world and an invitation for positive action for Planet Earth. Great opportunities to share life science concepts and amazing facts about the environment with children. Interactive text and lift the flap pictures. Patricia MacLachlan is one of my favorite authors!

If We Were Gone: Imagining the World Without People – John Co

YouTube Read aloud HERE

Is the Earth better off without us?  What has human impact done to our Earth? What a great question and one that will certainly stimulate some great discussion from your students.

Does Earth Feel? 14 Questions for Humans – Marc Majewski

Does Earth feel calm?
Does Earth feel curious?
Does Earth feel hurt?
Does Earth feel heard?

A stunning picture book that asks 14 critical questions to encourage deep thinking and discussion about our one and only planet.

Earth Day Every Day (Cloverleaf Books ™ — Planet Protectors) by [Lisa Bullard, Xin Zheng]

Earth Day Every Day – Lisa Bullard

(YouTube Read aloud HERE)

Not For Me, Please! I Choose to Act Green – Maria Godsey

YouTube Read Aloud HERE

One Earth – Eileen Spinelli

YouTube Read Aloud HERE

Lovely rhyming and counting book for younger readers. Readers can count reasons to love the planet and ways to protect it. Beautiful illustrations in this conservation-themed book.

The Earth Gives More – Sue Fliess

YouTube Read aloud – HERE

A lovely, rhyming story follows the change in seasons and illustrates how we can all be stewards of the Earth.

Our Big Home: An Earth Poem – Linda Glaser

Beautiful and inspiring.  Not only could you use this book for Earth Day but also for acceptance and inclusion – no matter who you are, what race or culture you come from – we all share this world and are responsible for its care.  This book is filled with joy and a sense of wonder at this “home” all humans share.

What A Waste – Trash, Recyling, and Protecting Our Planet – Jess French

10 Things I Can Do to Help My World – Melanie Walsh

I think that one challenge of teaching about Earth Day is helping kids know practical ways they can take care of the earth, besides doing garbage duty at school.  This book gives young readers clear examples of how they can help.  From turning off the water while brushing their teeth, to using both sides of the paper while drawing, kids will enjoy learning simple ways they can care for the environment.   I love the large size of this book, making it great for sharing.  It’s visually appealing and cleverly designed with flaps and includes clear, simple language.

My Green Day – Melanie Walsh

A companion to 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World, this book outlines through picture, simple sentences and colourful illustrations how we can all try to be more environmentally friendly in our every day activities.   Hidden pictures, flaps to lift and holes makes this a fun book for sharing and reading.

The Earth Book – Todd Parr

With simple language and his colorful signature illustrations, Todd Parr describes to young readers how they can do their part to help the environment.  Great concrete examples showing how we can all do our part to make a difference.  Use to inspire younger students create their own “Todd Parr” style Earth Day poster!

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What Does It Mean to Be Green?  – Rana DiOrio

A young boy and girl explore all the different ways they can be Green over the course of a day. They discover lots of amazing facts (like our food travels an average of 1,500 miles to be on our plate!)  I like how DiOrio takes the buzzword “green” and explains it clearly to children, giving them lots of ideas for being “green” themselves.

What Matters – Alison Hughes

Great new book for Earth Day!  This is a wonderful look at the ripple effect of how one small act – picking up garbage that isn’t yours – has repercussions to make the world cleaner and better. (Think Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed but for the earth!) I also think this book would be great for introducing the concept of the inter-connectedness of ecosystems.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

Liam is a curious boy living in a drab, gray city. One day, he finds a few dying plants growing through an old railroad track.  Liam waters and prunes the plants until they grow into a lush garden that overtakes the entire city.  By the end of the book, greenery covers the rooftops and pops up in the most unexpected places.  I LOVE this magical story and notice something new every time I read it.  If you haven’t shared this with your class yet – it’s a MUST read!

The Lorax – Dr. Seuss

“UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not!”

Way back in the 1960’s, long before “going green” was a mainstream concept, Dr. Seuss introduced young readers to the impacts of clear-cutting on the environment.  Written and illustrated in classic Dr. Seuss style, but this book focuses on more serious themes of consumerism, economics, deforestation, and the environment.  A great choice for older students that will stimulate some great discussions about environmental conservation.

The Wartville Wizard – Don Madden

This book was published in 1986 but its message will never be outdated.  A cranky old man who spends his days cleaning up the litter left by his fellow townspeople. One day he receives “the power over trash,” which gives him the ability to send the garbage right back where it came from! When the townspeople find their garbage stuck to them, they learn a valuable lesson. Great pictures, great story!  This book is lengthy so would make a great read-aloud for older students.  (Warning – references to cigar butts and beer cans.)

The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales – Dawn Casey

This is a gorgeous anthology of seven traditional tales from around the world, each one promoting a sustainable lifestyle and living green.  Readers learn about the ways that different cultures around the world try living in harmony with the rhythms and patterns of nature.  Included are suggested activities to go along with each story including creating a a song-line painting, cooking “anything-goes soup”, making a cornhusk doll, and growing your own tomatoes.   Love the link of Earth day and cultural diversity.

Thanks for stopping by! Please share this blog post with your teacher friends!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

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Filed under Earth Day, environment, New Books, OLLI, Read-Aloud, Reading Power, Writing Strategies

Top Ten Tuesday – Outdoor Learning Anchor Books – part 2

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Last week, I posted my Ten for Ten book list featuring my top ten books for inspiring and supporting Outdoor Learning.  You can read that post HERE.  The response was overwhelming, as many teachers are looking for different ways to support their students this fall during Covid times.  I discovered so many amazing books connected to this, I decided to continue “the love” in a second post.

Here are ten more (I can’t count very well!) recommended books for inspiring and supporting your Outdoor Learning lessons, including indigenous stories and professional resources.

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A Walk in the Forest – Maria Dek

I love being in the forest.  It fills my soul.  This book really makes me want to go into the forest, feel the forest dirt under my feet and the forest air in my lungs.  So simple, yet so evocative. A beautiful book.

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Step Gently Out – Helen Frost

Step outside, take some time to be still and just watch the world. Get down low to the ground or close to some plants, and you’re sure to see tiny animals going about their business. This book beautifully captures the wonder we experience when we notice the beauty of nature.  A perfect read-aloud before taking a nature walk with your class.

The Golden Glow Benjamin Flow

This quiet, beautiful story, originally published in French, is about a botany-loving fox on a mission to find a rare golden glow flower. Along his trek, he passes through many trees, mountains, flowers and friends.  When he finally reaches the rare golden glow flower, he realizes that it needs to stay where it is.  Instead of picking it, he carefully draws it in his journal instead, so he can remember it.  Lots of great messages and topics to “infer” and discuss in this one!

A Bug Girl: A True Story – Sophia Spencer and Margaret McNamura

At a very young age, Sophia Spencer develops a deep passion for bugs.  Despite the bullying she receives, with the help of her mother, she finds “her people” –   hundreds of women scientists rallied around her through encouraging letters.  This is an inspiring true story celebrating women in science, bugs of all kinds, and the importance of staying true to yourself.

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Picture a Sky Barbara Reid

In Barbara Reid signature clay illustrations, this book is a perfect anchor for transforming our understanding and thinking about the ever-changing sky.  Great for cloud watching, imagining, and art.

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Tiny, Perfect Things -M. H. Clark

Such a beautiful book intended to help young readers become aware of the wonders around them every day.   A child and grandfather’s walk around the neighborhood leads to a day of shared wonder as they discover all sorts of tiny, perfect things together.   Rhythmic storytelling and detailed illustrations.

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Just in Case You Want to Fly – Julie Fogliano

Let’s take a trip!  Delightful rhyming text and collage pictures depicting the important things to take with you on a trip.  Ends with a map with an “x” so readers can find their way home.  Lovely rhyming text.  I would use this for inspiring students to make their own map and list for things to take on their trip.

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Please Take Me For A Walk – Susan Gal

A simple and endearing story of a 4 legged friend who just wants to go for a walk!  Read this like YOU are the dog begging and telling why you want to go on the walk.  Your students will love it!  Great for persuasive writing and story mapping.  

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Windows Julia Denos

Lovely picture book of a child exploring his little world and many other worlds, all beautifully framed in a window.  Gentle celebration of neighborhoods, diversity, stories, imagination, and home.

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The Things That I Love About Trees – Chris Butterworth

I love trees.  I love changing seasons.  This book has both.  I love this book. It’s a  simple look at trees throughout the seasons of one year.   Connection to The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown.

A Walk on the Shoreline – Rebecca Hainnu

A follow up toA Walk on the Tundra, this book is full of interesting facts about the  Canadian Arctic, and in particular, the rich plants and animals the Inuit gather and hunt during the short Arctic summer months.  Both books would be excellent companion books for your study of Inuit culture, land, and traditions.  Recommended for older readers due to the longer text.

Lessons From Mother Earth – Elaine McCleod

Tess visits her grandmother and learns about the earth, how it has sustained her and her family, as well as how to pick just the right amount of berries and plants.  Lovely story celebrating nature and learning about how the indigenous people respect and care for the earth.

I Help – Caitlin Dale Nickolson

A young boy follows his grandmother, walking, listening, picking, praying, eating, just as she does.  Simple text full of rich cultural traditions and values of his Cree heritage.  Written in both English and Cree.  Beautiful large book with gorgeous illustrations.

PROFESSIONAL RESOURCES 

Messy Maths: A Playful Outdoor Approach – Juliet Robertson

I have seem lots of mentions on this book on social media sites so it’s definitely one teachers are using.   The author’s first book, Dirty Teaching” (below) was first published in in 2014 and was extremely popular in the UK, where she is from.

Dirty Teaching – A Beginner’s Guide to Learning Outdoors – Juliet Robertson

This is a very helpful and practical resource for teachers just new to outdoor learning – full of tips and tricks “to help any primary school teacher kick-start or further develop their outdoor practice.”

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The Big Book of Nature Activities:  A Year-Round Guide to Outdoor Learning – Drew Monkman

An excellent holistic nature adventure and education book. Whether you are new to nature exploration, a teacher, a parent, a young person, or a seasoned explorer, this book has something for you. It hits on the basics and further with introductions and tips and tricks to general exploration and then the seasonal activities — which include information and considerations, so more than just go outside and play activities.

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The Outdoor Classroom In Practice – Karen Constable

Inspiring, practical resource to help teachers make the most of the outdoors all year round.  Gorgeous colored photos and a month-to-month guide that explores theme-related play experiences.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you have found one or two books that caught your eye!

Have a wonderful week and enjoy the last weeks of summer!

 

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Filed under environment, Indigenous Stories, New Books, Outdoor Learning, Picture Book, Professional Books, Read-Aloud, Top 10 Tuesday, Writing Anchor book

Favorite Middle Grade Novels of 2020 (so far!) for summer reading!

It’s August!  Eeeek!  Only one more month to catch up on our READING, so thought I’d post a list of favorite middle grade novels.   (You can read last summer’s post HERE)

Whether you know a child,  tween, or teen who might be looking for some great summer reading, or you are on the look-out for a new book for next year’s read-aloud, there is something here for everyone.

What trends have I noticed in MG novels this year?:  stories written from alternating points of view, relatable characters who stand up for injustices, and a good dose of spook!  Some very powerful books – well worth checking out!  Happy summer reading, everyone!

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A Field Guide to Getting Lost – Joy McCullough

So much to love about this book about Sutton, a girl with a passion for science and  Louis, a boy obsessed with robots who dreams of writing fantasy novels.  While the two have nothing in common, they must figure out how to get along when their parents start dating.  Told in alternating perspectives of Sutton and Luis, this book is so engaging and has such authentic characters and voice – readers will make SO many connections!  Loved it so much!

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Efren Divided – Enesto Cisneros

Raw, gripping and powerful.  Seventh-grader Efrén Nava’s world turns upside down when his mother, his Ama, his Superwoman, is suddenly deported.   Efren is left to dig deep to find courage as he struggles to look after his young brother and sister and find a way to get his Ama home.  An important book that will spark discussion about immigration policies and inequality.  Heart-breaking and heart-warming, I needed Kleenex for this one.

 

Rick – Alex Gino

Eleven year old Rick struggles with a toxic friendship and his sexual identity is as he navigates middle school feeling “different”.  Sequel to the popular book GEORGE by the same author.  This is an excellent introduction for younger tweens to the LGBTQIAP+ community, nonbinary pronouns and sexual identity.

The Blackbird Girls – Anne Blankman

Gripping historical fiction, told in two voices, tells the story of two young girls fleeing the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.  Related story told through flashbacks of one of the girls fleeing the German invasion of Kiev during WWII.   Despite the horrible events both girls are experiencing, hope and the power of kindness shine through this book.  The details of daily life in Ukraine are fascinating.  If you enjoyed the HBO series “Chernobyl”, you will enjoy this book!

A Place at the Table – Saadia Faruqi

Told in alternating points of view, sixth graders Sara, a Pakistani American, and Elizabeth, a white, Jewish girl are each in need of a friend.  Both girls are struggling with complicated home lives and a meet in a cooking class.  Mix in a cooking contest, middle school friendships, and a much-needed lesson on empathy, this book really surprised me.  Beautifully written and rich with important themes to discuss including race, religion and immigration, friendship, family, and how to make choices to be the type of person you want to be.

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From the Desk of Zoe Washington – Janae Marks

“Just Mercy” for kids!  Zoe Washington just turned twelve and has big plans to enter a kids baking show.  Things take a turn when she receives a letter from her biological father, whom she has never met and discovers he is in prison for a crime he says he did not commit.  She writes him back and so begins a summer filled with baking, friendship, and some important lessons about the criminal justice system that is accessible and easy for a tween to understand.   Another great surprise book for me.

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We Dream of Space – Erin Entrada Kelly

I can still remember vividly watching the Challenger tragedy unfold on TV.   Set in Jan, 1986 in the days leading up to the Challenger tragedy, this book is written from the perspective of Bird, Cash, and Finch – three different siblings living in a dysfunctional family.  Erin Entrada Kelly has captured the confusion and chaos of adolescence in a heartbreaking,  beautiful way.

Dress Coded – Carrie Firestone

A modern “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret?”, this powerful debut novel is told through narration, podcast episodes, and various letters.  So many themes to explore here, including girl-power, friendship, and standing up for what you believe in.  Molly, an eighth grader, starts a podcast to protest the unfair dress code enforcement at her middle school.  So relevant without being forced or fake.  EXCELLENT!

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Me and Banksy – Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Entertaining and thought provoking story that tackles the important issues of cyber bullying and cyber security in schools and includes themes of art and civic debates.  Dominica and her friends are targeted by a cyber bully, who is posting embarrassing images of them online.  They stage a protest to show how damaging the security cameras are to the students and teachers.  I loved the funny and engaging banter between the characters. This would be a great book to prompt a discussion with tweens about privacy issues in our digital world.  

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The One and Only Bob – Katherine Applegate

The much anticipated sequel to The One and Only Ivan did not disappoint.  In the story, we follow Bob after a tornado separates him from Julia while visiting his friends Ruby and Ivan. The story is action-packed, involves a diverse array of animals, and touches on the important topic of forgiveness.  You will be laughing in one moment and reaching for your Kleenex the next.  Bob’s voice is delightful and I love Katherine Applegate’s brilliant use of language, rich with metaphors and similes:  “When he opens the fridge, the light spills out like maple syrup on a hot pancake.” So many quotes worth savoring.  LOVE!

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Music for Tigers – Michelle Kadarusman

Beautifully written coming of age story set in Tasmania.  Louisa would rather spend the summer at home in Toronto playing her violin but instead is shipped off to spend the summer with her Uncle.  This book transports the reader to the lush Tasmanian rainforest of Australia as Louisa discovers a diary of her great grandmother.  In it, she learns a rich-family history to conserve the Tasmanian tigers.

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Stand Up, Yumi Chung! – Jessica Kim

This was such a fun, heart-warming story!  Shy Yumi Chung dreams of being a stand-up comedian one day, but that is not what her Korean immigrant parents have in mind for her.  When she stumbles across a comedy camp meeting in her neighborhood, Yumi finds herself pretending to be “Kay”, an absent student, and taking her spot in the camp.  I enjoyed this book so much.  It’s heartfelt and funny with many themes including family, comedy, and being your true self.  Lots of hype about this one, and now I know why!

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My Life as a Potato – Arianne Costner

I SO SO SO loved this book! (I know I say that a lot!)  It is laugh out loud funny and a perfect read-aloud for the beginning of the year.  Hilarious, accurate story of seventh grader Ben, convinced he is cursed by potatoes,  as he navigates his way through middle school with a main quest to avoid embarrassment.  Fans of the Wimpy Kid series will LOVE this book!  The character development is amazing, perfectly capturing the voice and mindset of a typical middle school student, complete with self-doubt and girl crushes.

Ghost Squad – Claribel A. Ortega

Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters  mixed together in this action-packed fantasy about two best friends, a ghost family and a quest for a spell book.  Twelve-year old Lucely Luna likes hanging out with her best friend, Syd, and spending time with her family.   Only most of her family are ghosts and she’s the only one who can see them.  If any book will be made into a movie this year – I predict this one!

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Bloom – Kenneth Oppel

High scores on the creep scale for this one!  Bloom is the first book in a trilogy (book #2 should be released in September) by wonderful Canadian author Kenneth Oppel, set in Salts Spring Island, B.C.   Killer vines begin a global invasion, growing fast and furiously after a rainfall.  Three teens: Anaya, Petra, and Seth, each with their own unusual trait, are the only ones who seem to be immune.  What’s their secret?  Eeeek!  This one actually creeped me out!  It’s a perfect suspenseful mix of dystopia, mystery, and horror. Sci-fi fans will fighting over this one!  Can’t wait for book #2!

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Cinders and Sparrows – Stefan Bachman

Spooky, charming adventure story filled with magic, witches, and a castle filled with ghosts.  Twelve-year old Zita is an orphan who discovers she has inherited an old castle and that she comes from a long line of powerful witches.  Zita, unfortunately, doesn’t know the first thing about being a witch.  The focus on family, friendship, and belonging in this story is fresh, magical, and enchanting.  Note – this book will be released in early October – just in time for Halloween!

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A Wolf for a Spell – Karah Sutton

I so enjoyed this magical retelling of of the classic Baba Yaga story told from the perspective of a wolf who must work together with the dreaded witch to save her pack and beloved forest.  The writing has a classic fairy tale feel and the author’s fresh twists and perspectives on this classic Russian witch tale really worked.

And there you have it!  My favorite Middle Grade novels so far this year!  Stay tuned for some exciting news about ordering these books for your school!

Thank for stopping by!  Hope one or two books have caught your eye!

 

 

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Filed under 2020 Releases, Diversity, environment, Family, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Identity, immigration, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Novels, Point of View, Racism, Read-Aloud, Sci-Fi

Adrienne’s OLLI (Online Learning Lesson Idea) #4 – Everybody Needs a Rock

Hello everyone!  Hope you all had a restful weekend and were able to celebrate all the great moms out there!   I know some districts and provinces are in the process of gradually returning to modified versions of “in person teaching” but many are still trying to determine what that looks like.  No matter what your teaching situation is at the moment, I am sending you positive thoughts and energy!

Many of you have been using my OLLI – “Online Learning Lesson Ideas“.  (You can see my first OLLI HERE and second HERE.  Last week, I shared a “How To” lesson connected to Mother’s Day.  You can see that lesson HERE.

This week, I’m excited to share “Everybody Needs A Rock” by Byrd Baylor,  one of my favorite books, (yes, I say that a lot!) with your students.  This book and lesson invites students on a wonderful “outdoor” activity, as well as an act of community kindness!

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I love rocks.  I love their feel, their color pallet, their smell, their spirit.   Rocks are magical – each has its own history; its own journey; its own story.    Like snowflakes, no two rocks are the same.  But unlike snowflakes, rocks can be held, saved, and collected.  I collect them wherever I am at a beach.  I have pebbles from Spanish Banks, Haida Gwaii, Horby Island,  Mayne Island, the Sunshine Coast, Quadra Island, Saltspring Island, Hernando Island, and many other West Coast beaches.

Some people have certain rocks that they are always on the lookout for.  My mum loved striped pebbles.  She called them “Licorice All-Stones”.

Striped beach rocks | Etsy

Others are on the lookout for speckled pebbles.  Size and shape matter less to collectors than those splattered speckles.

Pacific Ocean Speckled Stones Round Conglomerate Spotted | Etsy

My childhood friend’s mother collected “wish rocks” – grey rocks with a single white line circling the center.  She said they were good luck.  The thicker the white stripe, the better chances of your wish coming true.

Wish rocks | Etsy

Another friend of mine loves searching for heart-shaped rocks.  These are harder to find, but when you find one, it is like discovering a hidden treasure.

Common Beach Stone Identification (Including Dolomite, Quartz ...

Me – I am a collector of smooth, shiny, flat stones that fit perfectly in the palm of my hand.  There is something comforting about these rocks to me.  Something sacred.

Highly Polished Slate-Black Fire Stones | Stone Decorative

Because of my love of rocks, this week’s anchor book Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor is special to me. (Can you say connections?) It was first published in 1974, and while the black and white drawings may not grab you initially, I guarantee the engaging, fresh voice of the narrator certainly will.   The story outlines ten simple, but important rules to finding the perfect rock and inspires the reader to follow the rules and go out to find their own special rock.

Everybody Needs A Rock Rules:

      1.  Find your rock anywhere.

      2. Shhhhhh… choose a rock quietly.

      3. Look at your rock eye to eye.

      4. Don’t choose a rock that’s too big.

      5. Don’t choose a rock that’s too small.

      6. Choose a rock that fits into your hand.

      7. Look for the perfect color.

      8. Choose a rock that has an interesting shape.

      9. Sniff your rock. (they all smell different!)

      10. Don’t ask for help.  You can do this all by yourself.

The other thing I like about this book is that, while it can certainly be read literally about the joys of hunting for rocks, following ten tips, and finding one that you want to save, there is also the underlying idea that everyone needs something solid to hold onto during challenging times. A rather timely book, wouldn’t you say?    It is also a gentle reminder to time to notice and connect to nature and to the things that really matter.

Watch the Youtube Read Aloud here:


After the students watch and listen to the story, invite your students to use these rules to go rock hunting this week.  They can do this in their yard, at a local park, or perhaps on an outing with their parents.  Encourage them to follow the 10 rules to find their special rock (they can download the rules so they don’t forget!)

After they find their perfect rock, they can draw and color a detailed picture and write about their rock finding experience – where they found it, why they picked it, etc.

Here is the Ten Rules Template (students can use this when searching for their rocks and also add their own rule!)

Here is the Primary Template

Here is the Intermediate Template

Lesson Extension – The “Giving Back” Rock

(Thank you, Cheryl, for this wonderful idea!!)

During our morning runs since the city shut down in March, my friend Cheryl and I have noticed painted rocks with lovely messages placed under trees along the trails.  Each time we run, in fact, we notice more and more of these cheerful, encouraging rocks.

Today: Rotary Trail RocksMessages on rocks help one neighborhood cope with coronavirus ...Steven Bright's tweet - "⁦@ronald_cohn⁩ ... someone in Oakville is ...

To extend this lesson, why not encourage students to find a second special rock to paint and leave somewhere in their neighborhood to brighten up someone’s day.  This “Giving Back” rock can be something the students paint at home, perhaps with their family.  They could drop off the rock on a neighbour’s porch or yard, or find a spot in a local park to leave it.  Younger students will likely need some help with the painting and planting of this special rock but I could see this being an activity the entire family could get involved in.  Invite your students to take photos of their sharing rock where they leave it in the neighbourhood.

Here is the “Giving Back Rock” template for Primary

Here is the “Giving Back Rock” template for Intermediate

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a great week, everyone!  You are doing a great job!

Happy Rock Hunting!

Check out more writing lessons in my new book, Powerful Writing Structures 

See you soon for more OLLI posts!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under How To Writing, Lesson Ideas, Links to content, OLLI, Read-Aloud, Science

IMWAYR – It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? First new picture books of 2020!

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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

Three cheers for Mondays and long weekends and new picture books!  I’m excited to share my first blog post of 2020 (thanks Susan from Kidsbooks for some of these titles!) featuring a few 2019 titles I missed and many 2020 #warm book alert releases!

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Maybe: A Story About the Endless Potential in All of Us

Kobi Yamada

From the author of What Do You Do With A Problem? and What Do You Do with An Idea? comes another inspiring book.  “Have you ever wondered why you are here?” I SO love books that begin with a deep thinking question.  And so begins this story about making your own way in the world,  marching to the beat of your own drum, and making a difference in the world.  Could there be a more perfect anchor book for Powerful Understanding?  I don’t think so!  LOVE!

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Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots Michael Rex

Don’t trust everything you read! Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. A humorous, informative book to show students that for some things you need more information to make a choice.   A great introduction to the difference between facts and opinions – a MUST for every library!

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The Old Truck – Jarrett Pumphrey

Loved the simple, retro feel and the lino cut illustrations of this “The Giving Tree” like story.   A simple poetic narrative about family, farming, perseverance, dreaming, and the passage of time.  An old truck works hard on a farm for years for the family, until it finally stops and is abandoned. Years later, the daughter of the farmer who owned the truck (now grown up) returns to live on the farm, repairs the truck and puts it back to work on the farm. Great circular story with themes of hard work, industrious women, and taking care of “old stuff”.  Great writing anchor for point of view, imagery and personification.

Snail Crossing – Corey R. Tabor

Give a little kindness – and kindness will come back to you.  Snail spots a cabbage patch across the road, and is determined to taste of that delicious cabbage. Snail has a few set backs during his journey, but in his steadfastness to have that cabbage, he shows a little kindness to others, and receives in-turn something more than just a plump cabbage. Adorable story of friendship.

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Old Rock (is not boring) – Deb Pilutti

This book surprised me!  Spotted Beetle, Tall Pine, and Hummingbird think Old Rock’s life must be boring because he just sits there in the same place, but as Old Rock tells the story of his life, the three are amazed with all he’s done and seen.  So many things you could use this book for – a great read aloud, introducing geology, timelines, not to mention a great anchor book for teaching point of view, predicting, descriptive narrative or autobiographical writing.  Lovely, gentle illustrations.

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Humpty Dumpty Lived Near a Wall – Derek Hughes

Incredible, political and edgy, dark but strangely uplifting.  This fractured fairy tale picture book is definitely one I’d use with older children.  A great anchor book for questioning and inferring and would spark great conversations about author’s intent.  I was mesmerized by the incredible pen and ink detailed illustrations.  Leaves readers with lots of questions at the end – another reason why I would recommend it!

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In a Jar – Deborah Marcero

If you could capture something in a jar – a memory, a place, a feeling – what would it be?  Is there anyone who has not thought of bottling a favorite moment, a favorite day, a beautiful sight?  This gorgeous, heartwarming picture book begins with one little bunny who loves collecting things in jars and unfolds into a beautiful story of friendship.  Charming, joyful story.  I can’t wait to read this aloud to children and talk about what they would “bottle up” to share!

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Lawrence – The Bunny Who Wanted to Be Naked – Vern Kousky

If the title doesn’t trigger giggles, this story will!   Lawrence’s mother likes dressing him up in fashionable, unusual outfit!    Lawrence just wants to be naked and hop in the grass like the other bunnies.  Lawrence doesn’t want to hurt her feelings, so comes up with a plan to help her see things from his point of view.   I laughed a lot and know that many children will be able to make connections!

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The Heart of a Whale Anna Pignotaro

Sigh.  Wipe the tears.  This is such a beautiful story of kindness and empathy, loneliness and love.  Poetic (think similes and metaphors), imaginative, exquisite watercolour illustrations.  When whale sings his song, some feel calm,  others cheer up, some drift off to sleep.  But Whale is lonely and longs for the company of another whale.  The ocean listens to his lonely sighs and carries his wish into the ears and hearts of some other whales – who soon find him and fill his empty heart.  Such a beautiful story of the need to be loved.  Stunning.

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Almost Time Gary D. Schmidt

Ethan is waiting for the sap to run so he and his father can make a new batch of maple syrup.  He marks the time by going to school, sledding, and waiting for his loose tooth to come out.  Finally, the big day arrives; his tooth comes out and the sap is running – and he helps his father make the syrup.  A tender father-and-son story about waiting for something, the passage of time, the change of seasons, and the excitement of reaching a goal.  Great for making connections to having to wait for something, as well as learning where maple sugar comes from.

Thanks for stopping by!

I hope one or to two of these new books have caught your eye!

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Filed under 2020 Releases, Connect, Friendship, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Kindness, New Books, Picture Book, Point of View, Powerful Understanding, Question, Read-Aloud, Writing Anchor book

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? “How To” Books for “How To” Writing

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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

Sometimes the discovery of a new book leads me to making many connections to other books and that sparks me to want to make a new blog post!  Such is the case for this week’s post – focusing on books written as “How To’s”, inspired by the new book The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog by Paul B. Janeczko.

One of the tendencies for students writing instructions is including too many words:  “First, you have to ….”  When teaching “How To” Writing – I tell students to follow the S.A.D. FormulaSequence word, Action word, Detail.  For example, First, (sequence word) squeeze (action word) a little toothpaste on the bristles (detail).  If you don’t follow the S.A.D. formula, your reader will be SAD because they won’t know what to do!

While it is important to learn how to write realistic “how to’s”, I also love to invite students to add a little creativity and imagination to their instructional writing.  The following are books to inspire creative “How To” writing.

Image result for the proper way to meet a hedgehog

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog Paul B. Janeczko

This delightful collection of “How To” poems, from practical (how to mix a pancake or how to bird-watch) or fanciful (how to scare monsters or how to be a snowflake) are written by a collection of amazing writers including Kwame Alexander, Ralph Fletcher, Karla Kushkin, and Douglas Florian.   There is creativity, gratitude, and joy in these poems and the soft, watercolor illustrations make it delightful to look at.  Love this brand new book!

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How to Give Your Cat a Bath: In Five Easy Steps Nicola Winstanley

Laugh out loud, hilarious new “how to” book features a little girl, a know-it-all narrator, and a cat who refuses to take a bath.  This book will have your students cracking up and would inspire a lot of funny “how to’s” in your class!

How To Be – Lisa Brown

I LOVE this charming book and have used it as an anchor book for many writing lessons.  Simple instructions on how to be various animals, written in a clear “how to” format.  Added clever bonus is that it doubles as instructions on how to be a person – brave, clever, friendly, curious, and charming.  Delightful illustrations.

Writing Idea – students write about an animal they researched in a “how to” instructions format.  Include diet, habitat, behavior, special skills, enemies and a human character trait.

Live___________,  Eat____________,  Catch _________________,  Fly______________, Swim_______________, Beware___________, Be _________________  and _______________________

How to lose your friends

How To Lose All Your Friends – Nancy Carlson

Hilarious tongue-in-cheek “how to” guide to loosing your friends.  Lots of connections to the child-like behaviors Carlson describes:”Be a bad sport – When someone touches you playing tag, lie and say they missed” (LOL!)  This is a great book to use at the beginning of the year.  I like to have the class ‘re-write” the instructions, focusing on positive behaviors –  “How to Keep Your Friends”.

how to read a story

How to Read a Story – Kate Messner

Step One: Find a story. (A good one.)
Step Two: Find a reading buddy. (Someone nice.)
Step Three: Find a reading spot. (Couches are cozy.)
Now: Begin.

Delightful book to encourage reading and sharing, with the steps on how to read a book to a friend.  Simple but effective reminders to use expression, make predictions and read with feeling.

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle Chris Raschka

A young girl provides step by step instructions to learn to ride a bicycle…complete with some falls and lots of practice and determination…but ultimately with success!
Could be used to discuss determination or to discuss growth mindset.  Signature Chris Raschka watercolor illustrations.

The Astronaut Handbook – Meghan McCarthy

Delightful guide to becoming an astronaut.  Interesting and entertaining, full of fascinating facts and adorable illustrations. (Kids are particularly fascinated by bathroom instructions!)  Back notes provide more detailed information about space life.  Fun read-aloud and great anchor for writing “How To Become” with different occupations.

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Things to Do – Elaine Magliaro

 Things to Do If You Are A Honeybee

    Flit among flowers

    Sip nectar for hours

    Be yellow and fuzzy.

    Stay busy.  Be buzzy. 

I remember being surprised by how much I loved this book when I first read it.  Whimsical  illustrations and gorgeous, rhyming text.  This book is really a collection of poems focusing on the small moments and secret joys of a child’s day, including animals and insects they encounter.  This book is delightful invitation to write!

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Eddie Gets Ready for School David Milgrim

Morning routines are different for everyone, including Eddie!  While Eddie’s check-list says one thing, the illustrations tell a different story!  Fun read aloud and perfect anchor book for younger writers to write their own “How to Get Ready for School” (or hockey practice, swimming lessons, soccer game) instructions.

How to Teach a Slug to Read – Susan Pearson

Clever, witty, delightful, useful and engaging – full of practical advice for teaching slugs (and human kids) to read.  Adorable illustrations and hilarious “sluggish” titles and slug-related stories (think Little Miss Muffet with a slug instead of a spider!)

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How to Make Friends with a Ghost – Rebecca Green

A great book to share at Halloween but with a universal story of friendship and kindness, it could be read anytime.  A whimsical story about ghost care, this story is a perfect combination of offbeat humor, quirky and sweet illustrations, and written in lovely “how to” format.

How to Read a Book – Kwame Alexander

This book will not be released until June, but I’m so excited about it, I just had to include it!  Created by the dream team of extraordinary poet Kwame Alexander and collage-style illustrations of Melissa Sweet –  this ode to reading is a must have for me!  “Once you’re comfy, peel its gentle skin, like you would a clementine…Next, put your thumb at the bottom of each juicy section and POP the words out.”   Squeeeee, can you stand it?

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found a book that caught your eye!

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Filed under 2019 releases, How To Writing, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, New Books, Poetry, Read-Aloud, Writing Anchors

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? New books from RFTLOI conference!

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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

IMG_2639 book pile

Last week, I was presenting in Toronto at Reading For the Love Of It Conference.  This was my 4th conference and I’m always THRILLED to participate.  Not only are there amazing presenters (and many fan-girl moments for me!) but there is also a HUGE publishing display – which means (you guessed it!) BOOK BUYING!  My friend Tory McTaggart from Bound2Learn Publishing always brings the most amazing picture books!  My suitcase was FULL!   Here are the favorite finds I brought back:

Say Something! Peter H. Reynolds

“Your voice can inspire, heal, and transform.  Your voice can change the world.  Are you ready to say something?”  Amazing book inspiring young people to stand up, share their voice, and speak up for what they you believe in.  An inspiring, non-preachy call to action by the amazing Peter. H. Reynolds

Little Brown – Marla Frazee

LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!   So much potential for discussion with this book!  Is Little Brown left alone because he is cranky or is he cranky because he is left alone?  These are just two of the many questions readers will be faced with in this book.   I love that Marla Frazee doesn’t dummy down the story, includes great “grown-up” words like “dilemma” and ends the story without an ending – inviting the reader to come up with the best solution to help Little Brown.   I can already see writing activities, skits, and tips.  Adorable illustrations.

How to Give Your Cat a Bath: In Five Easy Steps – Nicola Winstanley

A perfect addition to your instructional writing anchor book collection!  Tongue in cheek spoof on a typical instructional manual because, SURPRISE!, cats don’t like to be bathed!  Super cute and giggle-worthy!

The Girl and the Wolf Katherena Vermette

The Girl and the Wolf is a sort of reversal of Little Red Riding Hood but with a lovely message. When a girl gets lost in the woods, a wolf guides her to finding her own way home. The wolf does not lead her home but asks the girl what she will do. When she answers, “I don’t know”, the wolf reassures her that she does, indeed, know. He encourages her to close her eyes and take a breath before trying again to determine her course of action. So many great themes in this book – problem solving, questioning, indigenous ways of knowing, mindful breathing, staying calm, nature, instincts, survival skills, inner strength. This would make an excellent addition to your indigenous book collection!

The Wall in the Middle of the Book Jon Agee

Wow.  This book is pretty much a metaphor for what is going on in the US at the moment.   Jon Agee does an amazing job with simple text and simple illustrations to share a strong message.  A knight is convinced that the wall is protecting him from all the dangers on the “other side”.  Great split screen illustrations show just how wrong the knight is!  I think kids will enjoy shouting out the “dangers” that are happening on the left side of the wall.  VERY clever and a great book for inferring!  (can’t help but wonder if Trump would actually make any connections!!!)

What If…. Then We…. Very Short, Shorter than Ever Possibilities – Rebecca Kai Dotlich

I LOVE “One Day… The End” and use it as an anchor book for teaching beginning-middle-end in writing lessons.  So when I saw this new book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich – I knew it would be just as delightful – and I was right!   Two polar bears embark on an adventurous journey – and encounter many “what if?” moments along the way with a little courage, friendship and problem-solving sprinkled in!  I’m definitely adding this to my writing anchor books!

From Tree to Sea – Shelley Moore Thomas

This soothing, peaceful patterned book is definitely going to be added to my new writing anchor books.  What does the earth show us?  Each page in this gentle book describes what nature shows us – “Stones shows me how to be strong.  If I am kicked around sometimes, like a rock on a road, I just keep rolling along.”    Gorgeous illustrations.  A great choice for Earth Day – or any day!  This is a KEEPER!

Everything is Connected – Jason Gruhl

Well, you can’t get more of an “Adrienne” book than this one!  A beautiful book with a beautiful message – we are all connected to everything in the universe – even the blobfish!  Playful, lyrical rhyming text will make for a wonderful read-aloud.   Thought provoking and empowering.

A Friend for Henry – Jenn Bailey

A delightful story that does an excellent way of reflecting the behaviors and challenges of a child on the autism spectrum.  Henry is looking for a friend in his new class but none of them seem to be the best fit for him…. until he meets Katie.  I love that this book does not focus on having to change to fit in, but finding a friend who fits you.  Delightful illustrations.

Tomorrow Most Likely – Dave Eggers

A child imagines the many ordinary things that await him tomorrow.  Tomorrow most likely…..Packed with lovely rhymes, repetitions and a sprinkle of silly!  Another great read-aloud and anchor book for writing!   Bold and blocked illustrations.

Look – Fiona Woodcock

So clever!  This story about a brother and sister visiting the zoo is told entirely through words that have the double “oo” in them.  Each word is embedded into the bright and vibrant illustrations.  Great for emergent readers for word recognition, but could also be a great inspiration for writing one word stories!

Crab Cake – Andrea Tsurumi

I love books with many layers.   Take this one, for example.  It is the charming story of a crab who makes crab cakes, explores sea life,  and includes a messagea of sustaining our oceans, using your gifts, working together as a community, and inspiring others.  Wow! This one is well worth it’s price in crab cakes!

Thanks for stopping by!

Hope you found a book or two that caught your eye!

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Filed under 2019 releases, Autism, Earth Day, IMWAYR, Indigenous Stories, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Read-Aloud, Writing Anchor book

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2018 Top Summer Picks for 9-12 yr olds (part 1)

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

While I tend to promote a lot of picture books on my blog, I try to share novels for your middle grade readers when I can. (They just take longer to read!)  I have been reading A LOT of newly released titles recently and am excited to share them with you!  And with summer right around the corner, it is time to start choosing titles for your own TBR pile!  For your middle grade readers, regular “Catch the Summer Book Bug” book talks will hopefully get them excited about summer reading.  From fantasy, to graphic novels, adventures, and realistic stories – there is sure to be a book for every reader in your class!   Maybe create a bulletin board with some of the these book covers to get the kids excited about summer reading!

The Lifters – Dave Eggers

A whimsical fantasy filled with an imaginative underground world (was making connections to the Secret World of Og!)  Granite Flowerpetal (what a great name for a character), Gran for short, has moved to the town of Carousel with his family while his dad searches for work.  It is there he discovers this extraordinary underground world and learns that the town is actually sinking from sorrow – the tunnels are actually holding the town up.  Subtle but powerful message of hope and happiness in this quirky, intriguing story.  Short, fast-paced chapters and great humour.

The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker – Matilda Woods

Part folktale, part magical realism.  This is a gentle inter-generational tale of a lonely, grieving older man who finds hope in an unexpected friendship with a magical bird and a kind-hearted boy named Tito.  Charming characters, uplifting story and wonderful language (lots of similes!)  I loved that this novel included gorgeous illustrations.  This story has a fairy tale feel, similar to The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Humor, heart, fantasy, and adventure – this book has them all!   Bicycle is a 12-year-old orphan who is determined to ride across the country to meet her hero – Polish bicycle champion, Zbigniew Sienkiewicz.   Along the way she meets ghosts, pie-makers, crazy inventors; gets run over in a pig stampede; and accidentally launches a missile!  And just who is that mysterious woman in black chasing her?  Delightful story!  (Lots of reference to USA geography – hoping there will be a “Part 2” across Canada!)

All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Coming-of-age middle grade graphic novel about summer friendships and that awkward time between childhood and teenager years. When thirteen year old Bina is left to her own devices for the summer while her best friend Austin is off at soccer camp, she has to learn how to have fun all by herself.  Heartfelt and easy to read, with many themes and lots of connections!  (I didn’t love the orange toned illustrations – it was hard on my eyes – or maybe I’m just getting old!!)

                                                                Bob – Wendy Mass

I was quite moved by this incredibly endearing and thought provoking book about childhood friendships, change, growing older while still remembering what it was like to be young.  Ten year old Livy is going back to visit her grandmother in Australia and reconnects with Bob – an endearing green creature she left 5 years earlier whom most people cannot see and she had forgotten.  Great characters and I enjoyed the alternating points of view between Livy and Bob.  Charming, weird and lovely all at the same time.  A MUST read!

Amal Unbound – Aisha Saeed

An important, empowering story about Amal – a young Pakistani girl who loves school and dreams of becoming a teacher one day.  But when she offends a member of an influential family in the village, she is sold as a servant to pay her father’s “debt” and her dreams are suddenly shattered.  Thought provoking themes accessible to even a grade four reader and would make an excellent read aloud and Lit. Circle choice  (great companion to The Breadwinner).   An eye-opening,  riveting and inspiring story with cliff hanger chapter endings and an excellent author’s note at the end.  SO good!

The Boy From Tomorrow – Camille DeAngelis

An almost time-travel story of friendship between two children, Josie and Alec. They are the same age (12) and they live in the same house on 444 Sparrow Street in the same room… but a hundred years apart.  Such a unique story that sounds complicated but flows very smoothly. I loved all the ways Josie and Alec manage to communicate across time, like the letters or the writing on the windowsill.  Heartbreaking, and perhaps a little spooky at times – but a great read.

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

LOTS to love about this graphic novel featuring a diverse neighborhood of children who use their imagination to create an elaborate, imaginative kingdom out of cardboard boxes in their backyard.  Each chapter stands alone featuring one child in the neighborhood and how they came to choose their imaginative character based on some of the issues they are experiencing in their own life.  I love how this book gently introduces a variety of issues that middle grade students will all connect to:  including siblings, bullies, inclusion, friendship struggles, gender identity, and budding crushes.  The stories are heartfelt, entertaining and perfect for this age group.  LOVE!

                                            Endling: The Last by Katherine Applegate

Anything that is written by this amazing author is sure to be on my “top pick” list!  (Wishtree and The One and Only Ivan are among my favorite middle grade novels EVER!)   The Last Endling is the first book in an animal fantasy series which features a truly imaginative world called Nederra and imaginative characters including the protagonist Bynx, a “dairne” – a creature somewhere between a dog and a flying squirrel who can detect lies.  When Bynx returns from a forbidden venture, she discovers her pack has been killed, making her possibly “the Endling” – or the last of her species.  Determined to find another pack of dairnes, Bynx sets off on a “hero’s quest”,  with the help of her new loyal companion Tobble.    As with her previous books, Katherine Applegate weaves important themes throughout including: family, loyalty, loss, identity and hope. This adventure is fast-paced and so believable –  I was completely transported into this fantasy world and can’t wait for the next book!

Ghost Boys – Jewell Parker Rhodes

This is a heart-breaking, deeply moving book that deals with harsh reality of racial issues in America throughout history.  Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one.  As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.  While observing the aftermath of his own death, Jerome meets Emmett,  another ghost, whose similar death happened decades earlier.  WOW.  This story is so powerful and told in such a unique way.  Due to the more mature themes in this book, I would suggest it for upper middle grades (Gr. 7-9) This book is getting a lot of “buzz” and is already on the New York Times best-seller list.   It is quite a short read so would make an excellent read-aloud, no doubt prompting many important discussions.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

WOW!!  I LOVED this book about a hard-working Chinese immigrant family’s experience trying to make it in their new home.  It’s funny, heart-wrenching and so straightforward in presenting the clear struggle that immigrant families experience.  Ten-year old Mia, the main character, captured my heart with her sweet, spunky, courageous personality, her thoughtfulness and her sense of justice.  Such a great book to start conversations about prejudices and how new immigrants are treated.   This debut novel from Kelly Yang is loosely based on her own experiences and includes and interesting author’s note.  A PHENOMENAL book that would make such a great read-aloud in a grade 4-5 class.  SO many opportunities for discussion!  LOVE THIS BOOK!  (I know I say that a lot – but this is my favorite on this list!)

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found one or two titles that caught your eye!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Top Picks for Summer Reading for 9-12 yr. olds next week!

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Filed under 2018 releases, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Read-Aloud

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!
yours sincerely giraffe

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

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.”

There's nothing to do

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