Tag Archives: Chris Van Allsburg

Top 10 Books for Teaching Point of View

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This term, I’m working with one of the grade six classes on writing from different points of view, skills which they will later apply to a unit on immigration they are working on in social studies.  Each week, I have been reading one of these books and the students have been practicing short writing pieces. I have been searching for different anchor books which can be used for introducing Point of View to the class so thought it would be a great topic for this week’s Top Ten List!  Many of these you will likely have or know… but there may be a few new titles for you!

1.Voices in the Park – Anthony Browne

Possibly the best book for teaching point of view – four “voices” tell their version of a walk in the park.  Anthony Browne is a master of telling a story without telling too much but leaving the reader a lot of spaces to think.  He also leaves clues in his illustrations that help tell the story.  I also love using this book for teaching inferring.

2.The Teddy Bear – David McPhail

This heart-felt story of a boy who loses his favorite teddy and the homeless man who finds and loves it is a perfect one for having students write in first person from the different characters’ perspective.  I even had them write from the teddy bear’s point of view!

3. The Day the Crayons Quit – Drew Daywalt

When you first see the crayons, you may think the story is too young for your middle grade students – WRONG!  This story  is filled with sophisticated humour that could be a little over the heads of some younger students.  I used this book to explain how different points of view can often reveal personality.  A great anchor book for writing, too!

4. Seven Blind Mice – Ed Young

Different points of view often depends on the perspective, connections and vantage point of the character.  In this clever book based on a classic South Asian tale, seven blind mice investigate the “strange something” in the Pond.  Each one views one portion and comes back with their theory.  It is only when the seventh mouse views the “whole something” that the truth is revealed.

5. Hey, Little Ant – Phillip and Hannah Hoose

To squish or not to squish? – that is the question.  Love this story, told in two voices; a conversation between the “squisher” and the potential “squish-ee”.  Perfect for discussing perspectives.

School's First Day of School

School’s First Day of School – Adam Rex

This was one of my favorite new “back to school” books this fall!  A unique look at the nervousness and excitement about the start of the school year, told from the point of view of the school!

6. They All Saw A Cat – Brendan Wenzel

Brilliant and simple!  With each turn of the page, the reader is given the opportunity to also see how the cat is viewed from perspectives – from a bee, to a fox, to a child.  Bright, colorful illustrations.  After I finished reading it to the grade class, they wanted me to read it again!  I predict this book may be on a few award lists this year!

7. I am the Dog, I am the Cat – Donald Hall

Another perfect anchor book for point of view, as the contrasting voices of hilarious, affectionate companions converse together.  Gorgeous illustrations and beautiful words and I love the recognizable qualities of both animals that come through.  Kids love this book!

9. The Pain and the Great One – Judy Blume

An eight year old girl and her six year old brother take turns describing each other.  Hilarious and  another great example of different points of view, as well as a perfect connect book!

10. Two Bad Ants – Chris Van Alsburg

If you have not read this clever book by the amazing Chris Van Alsburg, you should!  I never get tired of reading this book aloud to students.  Two Bad Ants allows the reader to experience the world through two mischievous ants’ point of view as they explore a kitchen.  Ah-mazing, spell-binding, genius!

8. The Wolf Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood Toby Forward

A funny, fractured fairy tale that replays the story of Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf’s point of view.  This would be a great anchor book for re-writing a fairy tale from different points of view.

11. The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-to-Be – Mini Grey

Another clever version of a fairy tale, this one told from the point of view of the pea!  Very witty!

Thanks for stopping by!  What is your favorite book to teach Point of View?

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Top 10 Tuesday – Top Ten Book Covers for Inviting Questions!

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I always tell students, when practicing the strategy of questioning, that ‘good readers start asking questions even before they start reading’   Book covers are a great way to get your students thinking and wondering about a story.   There are some books that invite readers to wonder; captivating illustrations that stimulate our thinking, our imagination and our curiosity.  One look at the cover and questions come tumbling out.  Below are my top 10 books to use for questioning – the first five are new releases and the remaining five are old favorites.  I guarantee, if you hold up one of these books and ask your students, ‘What are you wondering?” you will be amazed at what happens!

(Just for a change, rather than summarizing each book, I have included authentic student-asked questions for each.  You will just have to read the books yourself to find the answers!)

1. The Whale – Ethan Murrow

What are they looking at?  Where are they?  Do they know where the whale is?  Are they in a boat or on land? Are they brother and sister or friends?  Are they scared?  Is the whale coming closer?

2. The Bear and the Piano – David Litchfield

Does the bear know how to play the piano?   How long has the piano been sitting there?   Is the bear going to play a sad song or a jazzy one?  Are they on a stage?  Is this a pretend play or is it real?  Is this a magical piano?  Do any other animals know there is a piano out there?

3. The Night Gardener – The Fan Brothers

Who is that boy?  Is he the gardener?  How old is he?  Is that owl going to come to life?  How did the tree get that way?  Does the tree only look like that at night?  Can the tree owl talk?  Can it fly?  Is the boy telling the owl a secret?

4. The Parachute – Danny Parker

Is that a boy or a girl?  What is he looking at?  Where is the bottom?  Is that a tree house?  How tall is that ladder?  Is he stuck?  Does he have the parachute or does he need one?  How is he going to get down?  Is he scared to be so high up or does he like it up there?

5. The Typewriter – Bill Thomson

What is that?  Why is the bee so big?  Is that a real bee or kind of a fake one?  What is that black thing?  Is that a briefcase?  Is that a clown bee?  Is that kind of one of those bee rides?

6. Phileas’s Fortune: A Story About Self-Expression Agnes de Lestrade

Is that a boy or a girl?  What is the fortune?  What is that shadow ?  What is coming out of that mountain?  Is that a horn?  What’s coming out of that horn?  What is in her hand?   Is she going to try to catch those things?  Where does she live?  

6. June 29, 1999 – David Wiesner

What’s in those baskets?  Why are the plants flying?  Hey – that’s my birthday!  How long have they been in the air for?  How big are those balloons?  Is someone controlling them?  Where are they going?  How many balloons are there?  

7. The Wretched Stone – Chris Van Allsburg

Who is that guy?  Is he flying or jumping?  Is he dreaming or really happening like that?  Is he magic?  What is a wretched stone?  What does wretched mean?  Is he going to fall in the water?  Is someone going to catch him?  Is he scared?

8. Mr. Bear and the Bear – Frances Thomas

Who is Mr. Bear?  Is this Mr. Bear or the bear?  Is this bear wild and dangerous?  What is the bear looking at?  Does the bear turn into Mr. Bear?  Is the bear mad or sad?

9. Two Frogs – Chris Wormell

What’s going on with these two guys?  I mean frogs but they kind of look like guys.  Is that one gonna hit the other one with that stick?  Why is one of them smiling and then the other one looks kind of scared?  Do they know each other?  How do frogs float like that like they are just kind of hanging there?  Is that the bully frog?

the egg

10. The Egg – M.P. Robertson

What’s in that egg?  Does his mom know there is a gigantic egg in his room?  Is the boy reading to the egg or just reading to his quiet self?  How long does the boy have to sit on the egg?  Is it going to hatch soon?  Where did the egg come from?  What book is he reading?  

What are your favorite books to inspire “COVER QUESTIONS”?

Thanks for stopping by!  Which books have caught your eye?

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Top Ten Tuesday – Reading and Thinking through Canadian History

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Teaching Social Studies though literature is something I have always found to be the most meaningful and interesting way to teach.  Because the students at my school are comfortable using Reading Power strategies, they are ready to apply their thinking to different content areas.  One class I am working with at school is focusing on Canada in Social Studies so we have been practicing Reading Power strategies using picture books that are based on true events in Canadian history.  Marking the events, dates and locations on a map of Canada is helping us gain perspective and we will end the unit with a time line activity.   Canadian history + picture books – ENGAGED LEARNERS!

Here are my Top Ten books that focus on a piece of Canadian history:

  1. Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event  Rebecca Bond

Inspired by the author’s grandfather’s experiences living in a lodge in the woods, a story of how people and animals survive a forest fire in a small Canadian town in the early 1800’s.  Gorgeous illustrations and beautiful writing, perfect for VISUALIZING.

2. The Patchwork Path to Freedom – Bettye Stroud

A child tells of escaping to Canada on the Underground Railroad, accompanied by her father, and of following secret signs sewn into quilt patterns.  The story is exciting and the quilt-code messages are fascinating.

3. Laura Secord: A Story of Courage – Janet Lunn

Laura Secord became one of Canada’s most celebrated war heroines when, during the War of 1812, she overhears an American soldier’s plan to ambush the British Commander James FitzGibbon.  Laura braves miles of rough terrain to warn FitzGibbon, preventing the massacre and saving the lives of hundreds of British soldiers. Informative and interesting introduction and gorgeous illustrations.

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4. The Prairie Fire – Marilynn Reynolds

A young boy’s heroic efforts to help his parents save their prairie homestead.  This book is a wonderful historical glimpse into the beauty and hardships of prairie farm life.  Realistic and dramatic prairie landscape illustrations make this an excellent story for VISUALIZING.

 

5. Secret of the Dance – Andrea Spalding and Alfred Scow

In 1885, the Canadian government outlawed Potlatch ceremonies and threatened severe consequences for those who did not obey.   Many continued the ceremony in secret.  This is the story of a young Native boy and his family who are spirited away by boat to a secret location where he witnesses a Potlatch.   Rich, colorful, detailed illustrations.  Powerful and thought-provoking.  Great for QUESTIONING.

 

6. Emma and the Silk TrainJulie Lawson 

 After a train carrying bolts of precious silk derails, a girl, obsessed with longing for a silk blouse, spends weeks combing the nearby river for fabric. This story is inspired by the 1927 derailment of a silk train in British Columbia and includes fascinating historical notes about the speedy silk trains of the 1920’s.

7.  Free as the Wind: Saving The Horses on Sable Island  – Jamie Bastedo

This book recounts the story of how hundreds of Canadian school children in early 1960 wrote letters to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker pleading him to stop the wild horses on Sable Island from being turned into dog food. Amazing story and a great example of the power of persuasion and standing up for what you believe.

8.  Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear – Lindsay Mattick

This book tells the true Canadian story of Winnipeg, or “Winnie”, the black bear from Ontario who became a mascot for soldiers during World War I and later inspired author A.A. Milne’s most beloved character, Winnie-the-Pooh.   Illustrator Sophie Blackall was recently awarded the 2016 Caldecott medal for her illustrations in this book.

9.   Queen of the Falls – Chris Van Allsburg

At the turn of the nineteenth century, a retired sixty-two-year-old charm school instructor named Annie Edson Taylor, seeking fame and fortune, decided to do something that no one in the world had ever done before-she would go over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel.  A fascinating true story with remarkable life-like illustrations.   While Annie Taylor was American, the backdrop for her stunt is certainly Canadian.

1o.   Not My Girl – Christy Jordan-Fenton

By 1884 it was compulsory for the First Nations children of Canada to attend either a day or residential boarding school. This is an excellent book (by the author of the novel Fatty Legs) for younger students to introduce them to the challenges created by residential schools.  This story is based on the author’s own experiences and would be an excellent book for making connections, questioning and transform.

1o (OK… it’s actually 11)   Dolphin SOS – Roy Miki

This beautifully illustrated book tells the true story of three dolphins trapped in an ice-covered cove on the coast of Newfoundland and the brave teens who rescued them when government officials refused to help.  Perfect book for QUESTIONING.  You will hold your breath until the last page!

Thanks for stopping by!  What is your favorite Canadian picture book to share with your students?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – Picture Book Month Favorites

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

It’s hard to believe that November is almost over and in a few hours, the countdown to Christmas will begin!  It has been wonderful celebrating picture books this month with you and I hope that you have been inspired to use some of these wonderful books to enhance your lessons and bring some picture book joy to your students!  Here are some of the books I’ve featured on my Facebook page this month plus a few extras!

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The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Class – Justin Roberts

I know a book is going to be great when the word “transform” is written in the last line: “And now the world could transform and a change could be made by the smallest girl in the smallest grade.” This is a wonderful story about Sally, who, despite her small size, notices things going on around her – hurtful things. An inspiring story about making a difference and standing up for change – no matter what size you are! Vibrant pencil-crayon illustrations and rhyming text. A perfect primary read-aloud! Love!

If You Give a Mouse an iPhone – Ann Droyd

Getting sucked into screen time is certainly a topic we can all connect to! This is a hilarious spin on the classic series by Laura Numeroff. A boy gives Applesauce, the mouse, an iPhone to keep him quiet for 10 minutes. Of course, Applesauce wants the phone for much longer and ends up missing out on the fun activities surrounding him. If you are a parent trying to explain to their children why they should NOT get an IPhone – this might help your cause! Great illustrations, great fun! A great companion to Anne Droyd’s “Goodnight Ipad” (similar spin on Goodnight Moon)

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3nVxt6_lAc

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The Storm Whale – Benji Davies

This beautifully illustrated book invites readers to infer both from the carefully selected words and stunning artwork. The story is about a Noi, a young boy who discovers a whale on the beach after a storm. His father is a busy fisherman (and is a great hugger) and, despite their 6 cats, Noi is often alone. He decides to take the whale home and hide it in his bathtub. There is a tenderness to this quiet tale of loneliness, family and friendship.  Will make a wonderful book to practice questioning and inferring. 

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Blizzard – John Rocco

This book is based on John Rocco’s childhood experience duing the now infamous blizzard of 1978, which brought 53 inches of snow to his town in Rhode Island. Brief text and dynamic illustrations: the wonder of a winter storm told through the eyes of young boy. I LOVED John’s Rocco’s book Blackout (2012 Caldecott Honoree) about a family’s experience one summer during a power outage. I think I may love this one just a little bit more.

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Louise Loves Art – Kelly Light

This is a book that celebrates creativity, imagination and the challenges and joys of having a younger sibling!  Louise loves art – when she is not drawing, she is thinking about what she is going to draw next.  One day, she is preparing her latest masterpiece for the “Gallery du Fridge”, when her younger brother wants to join in but has a slightly different plan for her painting!  I liked the way the text told Louise’s story and the illustrations told her brother’s.  The illustrations are bright and lively and I liked how Louise modeled self control when her brother clearly ruined her special art.  This would be a perfect “connect” book!

elephant and piggy

Waiting is Not Easy – Mo Willems

Love this latest in the Elephant and Piggy series by the great Mo Willems.  This one deals with the challenges of having to wait for something!  Poor Elephant  is not having an easy time waiting for a special surprise that Piggy has in store for him.  This would be a perfect book to practice making connections with your primary class – especially with the Christmas season coming up… Who doesn’t have a hard time waiting for Christmas to arrive?

hockey sweater

The Hockey Sweater – 30 Anniversary Edition by Roch Carrier

With the passing of Pat Quinn, one of the most beloved faces of Canadian hockey this month, it seemed fitting to post a book celebrating this great sport. The Hockey Sweater is a true classic Canadian book and this year they have re-issued it as an “anniversary edition” (30 years!) Same classic story but filled with extra materials, still photos from the animated movie and best of all, quotes from celebrities who have read and loved the book. The story centers around a boy living in a small town in Quebec, his hockey hero #9 Maurice Richard, and the famous rivalry between the Montreal Canadians and the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is a story of hockey, family, community, heroes, passion and dreaming big.  This book would make a perfect Christmas present for the special hockey players in your life. (All three of mine have their own copy!) LOVE this book.

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What We See When We Read – Peter Mendelsund

Visualizing, or “making metal pictures” when you read is a strategy I have spent years teaching students about. In this fascinating book, graphic and book jacket designer Peter Mendelsund explores how we are better able to understand the act of reading through visualizing. In a “scrapbook” approach, a collage of short text, pictures, sketches and concepts he creates a visually interesting and thought-provoking look at the process of reading. Lively, quirky and thought provoking. This is a quick read (I read it cover to cover on the Victoria ferry) and reinforced the very foundation of what I know to be true: “The reader writes the story” (Annie Proulx)

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The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie – Chris Van Allsburg

It is actually painful for me to admit this – but I did not really like this book.  I love everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) that Chris Van Allsburg has EVER written.  I was SO excited seeing this new release on display in my favorite book store, but after reading it, I was left feeling so very disappointed.  Sweetie Pie is a pet hamster who longs to be free and run wild with other wild creatures. We follow Sweetie from the pet store to the owner’s house and finally to the classroom when he becomes the class pet.   Over Christmas, one of the students takes Sweetie Pie home – and forgets about him! I felt as if this whole book was about the abuse of this poor animal and about selfish children who didn’t care about him or anything!  I could not see myself reading it to my class as I don’t think there would be anything positive to discuss.   I am often teased by friends and colleagues that I “love every book” I read.  This book,  sadly, I did not even like!

 Hooray – this is my 100th Post!    Thanks for stopping by today!   Please leave me a message and let me know which book caught your eye!

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Filed under Friendship, Infer, It's Monday, making connections, New Books, Picture Book, Question, Reading Power, Visualize, What Are You Reading?

Picture Book Month – Celebrating my favorite PB’s for Intermediate/Middle Grades

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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

“A children’s story that can be enjoyed only by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” —C.S. Lewis

Are picture books are not just for Primary students?  No, no, no!  In fact, there are MANY picture books far too sophisticated and complex for younger students.  Over the years, I have been astounded and moved by the rich conversations and deep thinking that emerges from sharing these books with older students.  They also include many powerful themes with topics that link to content areas.   I love using picture books to model different comprehension strategies and the fact that they are shorter in length means that I can read them for single lessons.

Soooo… today I am happy to celebrate my favorite picture books for your older readers…

Voices in the Park

Voices in the Park – Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne is a brilliant author/illustrator and this is one of my favorites of his.  I love the way he combines sparse text and detailed illustrations to tell his story, while always leaving spaces for our thinking.  I often use his books to practice inferringVoices in the Park follows four different narrative voices  (depicted by Browne’s signature gorilla characters) as they visit the same park one day.  What makes this book special is that, although at first glance it appears a simple story, it explores many adult themes including poverty, class and diversity.  Anthony uses different “voices”, font, language, body language, color and backgrounds to represent the different characters.  This is a book with many layers – and a perfect invitation for close and careful reading. 

Flotsam

Flotsam – David Wiesner

David Wiesner’s known for his highly inventive, creative wordless picture books.  This book earned him the Caldecott in 2007.   In in this story, a young boy, while searching for  flotsams (any floating object washed up on shore) on the beach, discovers an old-fashioned underwater camera.  The roll of film inside reveals some remarkable and magical surprises!  Breath-taking illustrations that can be poured over again and again.  A perfect book for practicing inferring with older students.  Delightful!

Sparrow Girl

Sparrow Girl – Sara Pennypacker

This book is based on a true event that happened in China in 1953 during the rule of dictator Mao Tse-Tung when he “declared war” on the sparrows.  Over a 3 day period, he ordered every person in china (women, children, the elderly) to take to the streets and make as much noise as possible to scare away the sparrows.  The result was horrific, as the sparrows were so frightened by the noise that they had heart attacks and fell down dead from the sky.   This event led to a famine that killed between 20-30 million Chinese over the next 5 years.  This is the story of a young girl who saves 7 sparrows and hides them in her barn.  This book would be a wonderful anchor to introduce students to different forms of government.

Mr. Peabody's Apples

Mr. Peabody’s Apples – Madonna

Madonna’s re-telling of an ancient proverb is one I often use to practice how sometimes a book can “transform” or change our thinking in some way.  The story centers around Mr. Peabody, a popular teacher and baseball coach in the small town of Happville.  When one of the children on his team witnesses what he believes is Mr. Peabody stealing an apple from a local deli, he begins to spread the rumours that his coach is a thief.  This book has stimulated a great many thoughtful classroom conversations about the consequences of spreading false rumours.   Lauren Long’s illustrations are amazing – especially the last page… “What can you infer from those few leftover floating feathers?”

Bully

Bully – Patricia Polacco

The amazing Patricia Polacco targets middle school students in this excellent book.  While there are many books about school bullying, this is the first I’ve read that focuses specifically on cyber and facebook bullying.  This is an important book to share and discuss with your middle school students – and a great book for practicing making connections. 

The Stamp Collector

The Stamp Collector – Jennifer Lanthier

Wow – this thoughtful book is truly beautiful – to read and to look at. A book that celebrates the power of stories and how they bind us together and set us free.  This is the story of a two friends – one grows up to be a prison guard, the other a writer imprisoned for something he writes.  Great to explore issues of government oppression and freedom of speech with older children. This book is haunting – it will stay with you long after the book is finished. 

Fox

Fox – Margaret Wild

This book is dark, disturbing and haunting –  definitely NOT for younger students.  A magpie with a burnt wing, a one-eyed dog and a jealous fox.  Even after the book is finished, it will stay with you for a long time.  I have had amazing journal responses from students after reading this book – so many unanswered questions.  The word choices, the art, the story – by far one of the BEST picture books in my intermediate collection!

The Arrival

The Arrival – Shaun Tan

The Arrival is a stunning wordless graphic picture book.   Shaun Tan captures the experience of an immigrant brilliantly.  The story follows the journey of a man leaving his family and his home country to his arrival in confusing new world.  The reader experiences the fears and challenges of this man as he tries to make his way in a new land, unfamiliar with the language and customs.  It is a surprisingly moving story of hope – perfect for questioning and inferring. 

Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom

Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom – Shane Evans

The story of the underground railway, told through the eyes of voices of the slaves.  While there are few words on each page, the reader is left to infer much of the story.  As the slaves begin to “find the light”, so too, do the illustrations become brighter.  I love using sharing the words of the poem with students first without telling them the title or showing them the pictures and invite them to infer the possible meaning of “Freedom”

The Promise

The Promise – Nicola Davies

Nicola Davies is one of my favorite Nonfiction picture book writers so I was excited to see this book when it came out last year.  It is a “pay it forward” type of story  of hope, of renewal, of promise.  In a colorless city where the people have become as ugly as their surroundings, a young girl steals a bag from an old woman and makes a promise to plant what is inside the bag… acorns.   As trees begin to grow, green joy is spread throughout the desolate city and others are inspired to also do some planting of their own. The mixed media artwork  takes the reader from darkness to light as the change in the girl also begins to change the world around her.  I love Nicola Davies simple, direct language and message. 

The Composition

The Composition – Antonio Skarmeta

Wow – this powerful picture book for older students was originally published in Spanish.  It tells the story of Pedro, who lives in a police state and is forced to choose between his own family and the state.  One day,  a policeman comes into Pedro’s class and asks the students to write a composition about what their families do at night. The pressure on children to betray their own parents brings fear and terror to Pedro and his classmates;  many know their parents meet at night in secret and are planning some kind of a revolt.   I love to pause and ask the students – what would you do?  A  final note explains what it’s like to live under a dictatorship.

Just a Dream

Just a Dream – Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg is a master story teller.   He seems to tell a story by not telling us the story!  In other words, he crafts his stories carefully to allow spaces for our thinking.  His books are my “go to” books for teaching and practicing inferring with intermediate students.  While ANY book by Chris Van Allsburg could be on this list, I chose Just A  Dream because of it’s subtle but important message about the environment.

To This Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful

To This Day: For the Bullied and the Beautiful – Shane Koyczan

Spoken word poet, Shane Koyczan provides us with a glimpse into his childhood of bullying and ridicule through this powerful book adaption of his poem.   Raw, heartfelt and inspirational – his words bring hope for all those who have been bullied.  This is a must share with your middle school students.

 

Thanks for stopping by!  What are your favorite picture books to use with Intermediate and Middle school students?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Infer, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, making connections, Picture Book, Reading Power, Transform, wordless

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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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.

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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