Tag Archives: Infer

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

IMWAYR                      b4f78-pb2bmonth2blogo

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?

 

 

 

 

13 Comments

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

Summer Reading – Day 21! Bully Books

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

13586750[1]

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

15062342[2]

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Connect, Infer, New Books, Picture Book, Social Responsibility

Summer Reading – Day 20! – Nonfiction Wednesday

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

3585579[1]

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

51dyv6Wph6L._SL500_AA300_[1]                 7493149[1]

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

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

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

books[1]

A Strange Place to Call Home

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

– Marilyn Singer

2 Comments

Filed under Infer, New Books, Nonfiction, Poetry

Summer Reading – Day 16 – Wordless Wonders!

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

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Infer, New Books, Picture Book

Summer Reading – Day 15! Less is More!

Today’s theme is STUFF!  And the fact that many of us have too much of it.  These three books will likely invite many connections from some of our students and all three have the same important message about what is most valuable.

11119532[2]     Stuff,  by Margie Palatini, is about a bunny named Edward.  Edward has far too much STUFF.  His house is full and his friends no longer want to come over because Edward is more interested in his stuff than them.  Eventually, his friends come to his rescue and help him sort, organize, donate and encourage him to keep only the STUFF that is important.  This book is humorous but the message it shares would stimulate some good discussions about materialism and what is most valuable.

0-439-49029-4     Too Many Toys by David Shannon tells a similar tale.  I made a lot of connections to this book!  (character’s name is  Spencer -my son’s name – and stepping barefoot on Lego pieces!)  Spencer’s mom eventually gives him a box to fill with toys to “give away”.  Easier said than done!  Spencer is faced with the challenge of choices – which toys are most important to him?  I am a huge David Shannon fan – he always manages to capture moments that so many of us can connect to and his illustrations are hilarious.  Another great book to share with the message that more toys does not make more fun!

12993697[1]      More – by I.C. Springman takes a more of sophisticated look at materialism that I recommend for grades 3 and up.  Through stunning illustrations and very little text, this book invites the question – when is MORE more than enough?  Magpie’s collection, that starts with one marble, gets out of hand as he begins filling his nest with more and more bits and pieces.  Eventually the weight of all his stuff results in the tree collapsing.  His mice friends try to help him realize that he simply has more than he needs.    In this material world we live in, where many children want more and more “shiny stuff”, it is a good reminder of when it is time to say “enough”.  This book  has very few words but a strong message – a perfect combination for practicing “INFERING”!

 Live simply so others can simply liveMahatma Gandhi  (I love this quote and it seems rather fitting to include it here)

Leave a comment

Filed under Connect, Infer, New Books, Transform