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

Summer Reading – Day 23 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – What do you want to be when you grow up?

Barbara Kerley, a photographer for the National Geographic, is one of my favorite nonfiction authors and I’m excited to be highlighting her most recent book today, along with a few of my other favorites, in my Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday post!

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What do you want to be when you grow up?  This is the question that many children are asked but most aren’t able to answer with any definitive response.  In her latest book The World Is Waiting for You, Barbara Kerley poses this question, but then invites children to explore and celebrate the possibilities by considering their talents and interests and linking them up to professions.  For example – jumping in puddles can inspire scuba diving; dirty hands can lead to digging for dinosaur bones; star-gazing can inspire astronauts.  This book includes inspirational quotes centered around the three core principals of National Geographic’s mission:  adventure, exploration and discovery.

What I love about Barbara Kerley’s books is that they are so simple, yet so profound.  I was overcome with inspiration when I read this book – it made me want to weep with gratitude and all I wanted to do was hug Barbara Kerley and thank her for writing it.  I can’t wait to read it to my students and have them explore their own possibilities.

For anyone who may be interested in more Barbara Kerley books – here are some of the others I have in my collection:  A Cool Drink of Water; A Little Peace; You and Me Together – Moms, Dads and Kids Around the World; A Day in the Life. 

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All of her books are filled with gorgeous images – highlighting the diversity of culture, families and daily life from around the world.  She includes a map and location and background of each photograph at the back of each book.  I have used her books so often for many Reading Power lessons (Connect and Transform).  The books are excellent for read-alouds because the photographs are large, colorful and captivating.  There is little text included but the photographs tell far more than words ever could.  Opening one of her books is like taking a trip around the world without having to leave your chair.

I hope you are inspired to include at least one Barbara Kerley book in your Nonfiction Collection!

 

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Filed under Connect, New Books, Nonfiction, Picture Book, Transform

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)

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Summer Reading – Day 14! What words would you buy?

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Today’s book is in my top 3 favorite picture books of this year. Phileas’s Fortune: A Story about Self-Expression by Agnes de Lestrade is a remarkable book. I still remember being overwhelmed with emotion the first time I read it.  (I think I actually hugged it)  It is also a book that invites SO many questions and will linger with you long after you finish it.

The story begins:  There is a place where words are made in a factory.  In order to speak words, you need to buy them.  Now let’s stop right there and think about that for a moment.  You cannot speak any word unless you buy it.  What are you wondering?  This is exactly the conversation I have had with many students when reading this book.  Here are some of the questions kids have asked:  How much do the words cost?  Are some words more expensive than others?   What happens if you can’t afford to buy all the words you want to say?  Do words ever go on sale?  Do you have to swallow the word in order to say it?  Do teachers get a discount?   (ha! – I laughed at that one!)

And so the scene is set for our main character Phileas – whose family cannot afford to buy many words.  Sometimes, Phileas and his friends go up to the rooftop of their apartment to try to catch old words in butterfly nets.  Some of these words he says to his parents at suppertime and some he saves.  Phileas is in love with Cybele, a little girl who lives in his apartment.  He wants to express his feelings to her but he can’t afford the words.  But on her birthday, Phileas shares with her three words that he has been saving.  But of course you must read the book to find out what the words are!

This book is SOOOO beautiful – the story itself, the charming illustrations and the many themes that it includes – love, friendship, bullying, self-expression.  But the most powerful message I took from this story is this:  words are important and powerful, but it is really the character behind the voice of those words that matter most.

This book is a gift for the soul.

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Filed under Friendship, New Books, Question, Transform