Tag Archives: Patricia Polacco

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 Good-Bye Gift Books for Teachers and Colleagues

As our school year draws to a close, there may be staff members who are moving to other schools, retiring or going on leave.  Gifting your colleague with a special book is a meaningful way to say “Thank you” and “You have made a difference”.  Here are my top 10 books to give as good-bye gifts to teachers.  (Thank you Amber Romero for this great Top Ten Tuesday idea!)

  1. A Letter To My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson

A heartfelt picture book about a girl who prefers running and jumping to listening and learning—and the teacher who gently inspires her.  Written as a thank-you note with gorgeous illustrations.  This one is inspiring and may require a Kleenex.

2, Thank You – A Book for Teachers – Sandy Gingras

This is a charming little keepsake book features soft, sweet watercolor artwork and thoughtful original text celebrating teachers and all they.  Please note this book is very small – like something that would fit into a purse –  very sweet, but tiny.

3. Last Day Blues – Julie Danneburg

A very sweet story that follows a group of students on their last day of school.  The kids are so worried that their teacher will have nothing to do during the summer (LOL!) so they make her a very cute present to help her remember them.  Love the surprise at the end!  (Similar to First Day Jitters)

4. Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden – Edith Pattou

A metaphor for teaching –  tending a garden – planting, nurturing, growing.  Simple, moving story and whimsical illustrations celebrate all that teachers do, year after year, to help children grow and blossom.  A great teacher gift.

5. Because I Had a Teacher – Kobi Yamada

“Because I had a teacher, I have whole new worlds to explore.
I discovered that what I can imagine, I can make real.
And now I feel like I can do anything.
Because I had you, I learned to believe in me.”

This heartwarming book is a thank you gift for great teachers everywhere. Adorable illustrations.

6. Teachers Rock! – Todd Parr

You can never go wrong with Todd Parr!  Summary:  Teachers are amazing!  They help you find new talents, learn new things, and watch you succeed.  A wonderful ode to teachers.   

7.  The New Yorker Book of Teacher Cartoons Edited by Robert Mankoff

For those teachers for whom a picture book is maybe not the best fit – here is a hilarious collection of cartoons that capture the fun, terror, excitement, anxiety, bedlam and joy that teachers experience every day.  Hilarious!

8. F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers – Richard Beasoa

This book is hilarious!  Full of apparently real-life wrong answers to various test questions. Perfect for anyone who has ever taught high school or middle school who will make many “connections” to these creative wrong answers to test questions.

9. What Teachers Make – In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World – Taylor Mali

At a dinner party, teacher Taylor Mali was asked by a dinner guest, who happened to be a lawyer, what teachers make.  Tired of being asked this question, he wrote a poem which he later performed at a poetry slam.  The poem got such attention, he turned it into a book.  Heartfelt and filled with inspiration, this is a perfect gift for every teacher.  I did not know about this book but was inspired by Taylor Mali’s reciting the poem on YouTube. 

10.   Thank You, Mr. Falkner Patricia Polacco

No list of inspiring books for teachers would be complete without this one.  A beautiful, touching story of a girl struggling to learn to read and the amazing teacher who “unlocked the door and pulled [her] into the light.”   Kleenex definitely required for this one – I cry every time I read it.  This special book is for that special teacher who just finds a way.

Teachers:  There is No Such Thing as Hot Coffee and Other Teacher Truths -Bored Teachers

This book has not yet been released (July) but I’m including it as a “one to watch for”.  I enjoy following Bored Teachers on Facebook so am looking forward to this one as I’m sure it will be very funny.  Here’s the summary:

Is it Friday yet? Get ready to go behind the desk with this insiders look at a year in the life of an everyday educator. Written for teachers by teachers, this hilarious snapshot into the lives of the overworked and underpaid will have you laughing so loud, you’ll worry it might get confiscated.  Full of administrative frustration, madcap humor; and heartfelt love for the most underappreciated profession of them all, Teachers is the perfect gift for that special someone who spends all day with your kids.  

What are your favorite teacher gift books?

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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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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading – Christmas Classics (part 2)

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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.

Last week, I shared some of my old favorites from my Christmas collection.  This week, I’m excited to share some “holiday versions” of some of my favorite characters and stories.

david

It’s Christmas, David! – David Shannon.   David Shannon wrote a book when he was five using the only two words he knew how to spell:  “no” and “David”.  When his mother passed along his keepsake box when he was an adult, he discovered the book… and the rest, as they say,  is history!  In this holiday version of the popular “David” series, we follow David as he snitches Christmas cookies and peeks in closets, and as usual, has trouble staying out of trouble!  A delightful, funny read-aloud with lots of possibilities for “making connections”.

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Christmas Cookies – Bite Size Holiday Lessons – Amy Krouse Rosenthal   I adore anything that Amy Krouse Rosenthal writes.  I loved her original Cookies: Bite Sized Lessons so was thrilled when this book came out in time for the holidays a few years ago.  In these books, Rosenthal cleverly uses the analogy of making and eating cookies to define and illustrate important concepts such as respect, trustworthiness, patience, politeness, loyalty, etc.  The book reads a little like a dictionary – each page sharing a new word and example.  In the Christmas Cookies version, she includes holiday-related words like joy, patience, believe, celebrate, peace and tradition.  One of the things I love about Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s books is how simple they are – and this one is a perfect example – she  incorporates larger words that indirectly teaches children the meaning through the text.  This book is a perfect Christmas read-aloud in a classroom and would also make a wonderful holiday gift!  Adorable illustrations!

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The Christmas Quiet Book – Deborah Underwood   How many different kinds of quiet leading up to Christmas are there?  How about – “Searching for presents quiet,” “Getting caught quiet”, “Hoping for a snow day quiet” and the “shattered ornament quiet“.   I made connections to every page!   I loved the original The Loud Book and The Quiet Book so again, was excited to see the Christmas version.  The illustrations in this book are adorable – soft, gentle and quiet.  LOVE this book!

snowman at night

Snowmen at Night – Carolyn and Mark Buehner  In this delightful follow-up to Snowmen at Night, we follow snowman on a Christmas adventure while the rest of the world is sleeping.  The illustrations are magical – every time I read the book I see something new!  A wonderful, fun read that would lead to great art and writing activities

scaredy

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas – Melanie Watt   Christmas would not be complete without Scaredy Squirrel!  My students have grown to love his insecurities, his worries, his cheesy grin and all his fears.  This holiday safety guide is filled with practical tips and step by step instructions to help readers prepare for a perfect Christmas, Scaredy style! From making Christmas crafts to dressing “holiday style” to choosing the perfect tree – this witty, laugh out loud book will delight Scaredy fans everywhere!  I love using these books to teach students about text features – labels, maps, fact boxes!  Have your students create a “Scaredy Squirrel” version of instructions for their favorite holiday activity!

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Carl’s Christmas – Alexander Day   The “Carl” books were, for me, my first real experience with the wordless picture book genre.  The original Good Dog, Carl book was published in 1996.  The premise of the books is a Rottweiler named Carl who is left in charge of the baby while the parents go out.  Sounds ridiculous, I know, but somehow, it works.  Day’s illustrations require no words – they tell the story seamlessly.  In this book, Carl and baby prepare for Christmas, go shopping, do some Christmas baking and have a reindeer encounter!  My boys LOVED Carl books when they were younger.  If you have never read a Carl book – you are missing something special!

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Pete the Cat Saves Christmas – James Dean and Eric Litwin   Pete the Cat is cool!  He’s groovy!  He’s charming!  And in this book, he is saving Christmas by helping Santa, who has a bad cold and needs help delivering presents.  I love Pete – he is a character on the opposite end of the worry scale from Scaredy Squirrel and serves as a great role model for younger kids.   This book is a parody of Twas’ the Night Before Christmas and includes the classic free song download.  (the song isn’t my favorite but my students always want to sing along with Pete!)  This book is an uplifting message of “giving it your all” that is an important one to share with children.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas – Karen Wilson.   Bear’s friends wake him up from his hibernation to include him in the Christmas preparations.  Bear does and when his friends all fall asleep – he stays up to give his friends a special Christmas surprise.  I am not a huge fan of rhyming texts as I often feel that they are forced.  Karen Wilson manages to create rhyme in such a natural way that you don’t even notice it rhymes!  The story flows in a lovely, lyrical tempo that makes it such an enjoyable read-aloud.  I enjoyed many of her previous books featuring Bear – and this one includes the giving spirit of Christmas as well as friendship.

Well… there you have it!  Some favorite stories and characters  “dressed in holiday style”!  What are your favorite “holiday versions” of familiar stories?

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Summer Reading – Day 21! Bully Books

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

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

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

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