Monday, August 14, 2017

Duck and Hippo: Lost and Found

Duck and Hippo: Lost and Found
written by Jonathan London; illustrated by Andrew Joyner
2017 (Two Lions)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"Excuse me," Hippo said, "but I can't celebrate! I forgot to bring something to share for the picnic!"

Wanting to throw a fete to celebrate the end of summer, Duck and Hippo head to the pond where they will meet their friends. Duck is carrying a plethora of deliciousness while Hippo looks resplendent in a blue striped jacket, red bow tie, and hat. Their friends, Elephant, Pig, and Turtle, come with more food and drink. Before eating, the buddies prance about with Elephant squirting water, Duck dancing with a bright yellow umbrella, and Pig spinning on Turtle's shell. By studying the artwork, readers will see that Hippo is not nearly as jovial. But why? There always seems to be someone at a party who has forgotten to bring something. Hippo feels terrible. Duck reassures him that it's not a problem, but Hippo is inconsolable. So he sets off into the woods to find a contribution to the picnic. His friends plan on waiting until he returns. Time passes and Hippo doesn't return. The hungry companions search in the woods and yell for their friend. He doesn't return the call as he is fixated on finding berries. Dusk turns to night. Duck is very worried about her friend. Still shouting in the dark, the friends are startled when Hippo finally replies. Relief is felt all around and Hippo lifts his hat to reveal a surprise.

With bright artwork and a winning duo, Duck and Hippo exudes joy. You can't help but be happy as you're reading it. This is a terrific text for exploring the theme of friendship. And you're always working on friendship in a K-2 class. With young readers, it's also good for working on prediction. When Hippo says "Wait!", I would stop the book, cover the text on the opposite page, and ask students what they think is the approaching problem. Speaking of problems, if your class wants to discuss how problems drive a story, this would be a nice text for that discussion. Duck and Hippo are a pair that primary readers will look forward to seeing again and again.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Ten Books for Beginning the School Year

I'm often the last to know. Sometimes, it's my own fault. Sometimes, I'm fortunate not to know. Other times, it's just the way life works out, but it's better late than never. Yesterday, #pb10for10 on Twitter featured top ten lists from authors, bloggers, and others in the children's literature world. So I'm going to be a day late and offer 10 books for beginning the school year.

The New Bear at School (2008)/written by Carrie Weston/illustrated by Tim Warnes

Boris the Bear is a new student in class and it takes a while for his classmates to warm up to him. Great for teaching acceptance and patience.

A New School Year (2017)/written by Sally Derby/illustrated by Mika Song

Six students, one from each grade in K-5, share their thoughts about the new school year. This is a terrific book for adults to read as we get ready for a new group of students.

Stand Tall, Molly Lou (2001)/written by Patty Lovell/illustrated by David Catrow

 Be proud of who you are and where you came from. Great lessons for the beginning of the year and for life.

Bernice Gets Carried Away (2015)/written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison

Don't sweat the small stuff. And it's all small stuff. Plus having a cat with her hands on her hips is hilarious.

I'm New Here (2015)/written and illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien

Imagine being new and not understanding the language. This will help with understanding and building empathy.

One Smart Cookie (2010)/written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal/illustrated by Jane and Brooke Dyer

Life lessons for young and old from the lovely Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

Do Unto Otters (2009)/written and illustrated by Laurie Keller

An otterly fun way to talk about manners in the classroom and beyond.

Jessica's Box (2015)/written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas

Being new is hard and making friends may not be easy, but it will get easier.

Big Bouffant (2011)/written by Kate Hosford/illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Keep being yourself and create your own path.

Lily the Unicorn (2014)/written and illustrated by Dallas Clayton

Be a positive force in your classroom. We need more Lilys in the world.

Beauty and the Beak

Beauty and the Beak
written by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp
2017 (Persnickety Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

A bullet had shattered her beak. Her eye was torn and 
her face was bleeding. It even hurt for her to breathe. 

When I'm at the grocery store, I'm a fan of the 2 for 1 deal. In my parts, it's known as a BOGO (Buy One, Get One). Why not enjoy two of something for the price of one? How about 3 for 1? What does this have to do with Beauty and the Beak? I mention the BOGO because Beauty is really three books to me, which makes it a valuable resource for readers and teachers. The first part of the book is like an informational text about bald eagles, but in the form of a narrative. Busting the eggshell that holds her in, an eaglet depends on a tuck-in from her mother to protect her from the cold Alaskan wind that comes off the river. In a month, she will be able to stand and tear food with her beak. The beak comes in handy as the eaglet takes care of her feathers. One of the things I learned about eagles was how they shift their feathers to warm up or cool down. Like me adjusting the thermostat in winter against my family's wishes. They also use oil from a gland near their tails to waterproof their feathers. These are the kinds of facts that hook young readers. Come summer time, the now young eagle will test her wings and find food from the river. The narrative shifts when Beauty, the eagle, has her beak shattered by a bullet. Now readers are drawn into the struggle as Beauty, no longer able to fly or hunt, lingers near death until she is found by a policeman who takes her to a wildlife center. A raptor biologist takes Beauty home to her raptor center and tells people about this injured eagle. One of the people who hears the story is an engineer who thinks he can build a prosthetic beak using a 3-D printer. After many hours of work building the beak and a complicated surgery, Beauty is fitted with a golden yellow beak.

The third part of Beauty and the Beak is sixteen pages of excellent back matter. There's a Q&A that gives further information about Beauty's life today and about the use of prosthetic devices. Several more pages of information about eagles are included with a note from the raptor biologist, Janie Veltkamp, who took care of Beauty. At the end are four pages of resources and activities that will be a great help in doing further research. Loaded with information wrapped around an engaging animal story, this is definitely a book that you will want to add to your nonfiction library.

Here's a link to educator resources connected to Beauty and the Beak.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Weird but True Daily Planner

Weird but True Daily Planner
2017 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

New York City is using 5,000 old toilets to build underwater beds in the Hudson River for oysters, which will help clean the water.

With the start of the school year upon us, you will want your student to be organized. Weirdly organized. This planner will keep things strange for 365 days. What other planner will ask you to record how you smell? As you write down your plans, you will encounter eccentric facts. Each spread in the spiral bound notebook contains 4 days with plenty of lined room to take notes. Accompanying the entries are facts like glass frogs having green bones. Guess which month contains that fact? The nice thing about these facts that the creators are strategic in placing them. Take a Hike Day is November 17th. So it's appropriate that you get a fact about Mount Everest still growing every year.  In addition to the facts, there are opportunities for goal setting at the beginning of each month. You can also use your creativity to answer fun writing prompts. With December being National Read a New Book month, there's a prompt that asks for a wacky book title and plot. Another 4 day spread celebrates animal names with a smack of jellyfish and a squabble of seagulls being featured. Planners are asked to write a wacky group name for their friends. I might go with the Blustering Bloggers. More information is included in the back of the planner with Homework Help. It starts with a colorful world map complete with oddball facts from around the world. A section on how to read maps follows. Tips on how to discern true information from fake news is very helpful in these times. Want help with writing a report? Check out the Steps to Success which will guide you through writing a model essay with an example spotlighting naked mole rats. I can't make this stuff up. Help in science surfaces with a lesson on categorizing animals. The last set of tips will boost your confidence with advice on how to keep your cool for an oral report. Finishing off the planner is a set of charts on distance, volume, weight, and multiplication.

Every student in grades 3 and up can use a planner. Why not equip them with something that is fun and provides helpful information? This comical calendar is just the start to a great school year.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Football Fanbook

The Football Fanbook
written by Gary Gramling
2017 (Liberty Street)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Don't let anybody tell you that the only numbers that matter are the ones on the scoreboard. These are the stats and figures that every NFL should know by heart. 

In the foreword to The Football Fanbook, Peter King writes "It's the kind of book I wish I had when I was your age." I couldn't agree more. 10 year old me would have loved this book. The thing is, over 50 year old me loves it too. This is like a delicious seafood platter of football knowledge. It's all good and with a lot of variety. Chapter 1, Know These Numbers, gives you historical background knowledge as you review the most important records in the game. Ask a die-hard fan what 17-0 means, and they will tell you about the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Only team to go undefeated in a season. On the flip side, 0-26 hearkens back to the hapless 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 208 touchdowns shows the greatness of receiver Jerry Rice and his San Francisco 49er teams. Chapter 1 would be a good place for a student to practice referring back to the text for details. You can continue that practice in Chapter 2, Obscure Facts. Did you know that there are less than 11 minutes of action in an average NFL game? Or that most stadiums are built facing north and south to minimize interference from the sun? These are the kind of "Wow!" facts that hook readers. Want a reader to work on reading procedural text in addition to their throwing motion? Chapter 3, Skills to Master, is the place for you. Full of sequence, this section covers practice routines for aspiring players and for aspiring fans. As a Seahawks fan, I needed the Lose With Dignity procedural text after Marshawn Lynch didn't touch the ball on the one yard line in Super Bowl 49. Chapter 4, Think Like a Coach, teaches readers about strategies for offense and defense. Learn these and you will be the star of your football conversations. It's also a great place to work on finding the main idea and supporting details. The paragraph on Man Blocking talks about how the idea is simple (main idea) and why it's simple (supporting details) for blockers. Sports fans love to argue about the present vs. the past. Chapter 5, He Reminds Me Of..., will give them that opportunity. Each spread compares a current player and a past player who played the same or a similar position. The fan in me loves that young readers will be introduced to great players from the past and the teacher in me sees an opportunity to work on comparing two historical figures. Let the arguing begin! Want to know more about the two teams before watching the game? Check out Chapter 6, Team Tidbits. You can bask in the glow of when your team was once relevant. The final chapter, Talk the Talk, may be the MVP of chapters if you're seeking to better understand the game. It focuses on vocabulary that you will hear before, during, and after a game. A football term encyclopedia from A-Z, this is a NFL owners-like wealth of knowledge and a good place for students to work on how to learn new terms. You'll want to view this fun video featuring some of the vocabulary.

This is the book that I would hand to someone, child or adult, who wanted to learn more about football. I appreciate how author Gary Gramling covers several aspects of the game. These short nonfiction pieces of text will be a valuable resource in your classroom and in your living room as football season approaches.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Alexander Graham Bell Answers the Call

Alexander Graham Bell Answers the Call
written and illustrated by Mary Ann Fraser
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Each new sound whispered to Aleck's curiosity. How was he able to hear? What made one noise different from another?

Young Aleck Bell loved listening in his native Scotland. The noises of Edinburgh enticed him. Being the son of a speech therapist fed his interest even more. His father created an alphabet for 129 sounds made by the human voice. Aleck had a deep personal connection to sound. His mother Eliza had very little hearing and used an ear tube to hear. He would speak against her forehead to create vibrations that allowed her to understand him. Aleck also used a two handed manual alphabet to allow his mother to know what was being said during dinner conversations. Family members were entertained by sound shows put on by the brothers Bell. In this Age of Invention, Aleck was busy creating other devices for cleaning grain and making sound travel. His childhood joy was sadly interrupted by the deaths of his two brothers from tuberculosis. This prompted the family to move to North America where Aleck became a teacher for the deaf. As he developed more inventions to help others, Aleck wondered what else he could do. Meeting an electrician named Thomas Watson was a great spark to his desire to conduct more experiments. They worked on a device that could transmit sound and improve on the dots and dashes of a telegraph. More determined after a series of failures, Aleck would soon utter the famous words "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!" and the world would never be the same.

Three reasons (I could list more) why I really, really like this picture book biography. First, I learned a lot about Alexander Graham Bell. Did you know he created, at the time, the fastest boat in the world? Or built a flying machine? Or was president of the National Geographic Society? Second, there are a plethora of informative text boxes. The narrative is great by itself, but the boxes take it to another level. There are illustrations, descriptions, and diagrams about inventions from Aleck and others that give extra information. You could use this book as a mentor text for students writing their own nonfiction books. Speaking of the artwork, my third reason is how the mix of drawings and photographs is a unique and interesting approach to take readers back to Bell's time. With an informative author's note and timeline to boot, this book would be an excellent addition to a biography basket or for a unit on sound.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Love You Hoo

Love You Hoo
written and illustrated by Rachel Bright
2017 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

You make life feel like sunshine,
No matter what the weather.
And ANYTHING is possible,
As long as we're together.

A parent owl nestles its owlet as they begin to tell the little one of their affection and appreciation. The day the owlet hatched, parent owl's world became much brighter. Whether the weather, these two can do anything. In the artwork, they tackle all of the seasons with aplomb. Parent owl prepares the young owl with a plan for leaving the nest, but also opens their eyes to being the student as the owlet teaches about caterpillars. This precious pair fly high over a mountain of life's experiences. There will be highs and lows. Bumps on this rhyming journey include the parent not being able to avoid a tree. Being together is a nice salve to these painful plights. Highs on this trip include sharing things like a big dessert and hugs. Throughout, the parent supports and tells the owlet how much they love them.

Reading Love You Hoo is the perfect way to end the day with your child. For the parent, it reminds you of the beautiful relationship that you have. Despite the crashes, hurt feelings, and skinned knees of this world, the two of you have a special bond. For the child, it is reassuring to hear your parent tell of their love and that they will always be there. Plus, how much fun would it be for the two of you to duet on the hoo-hoos and woo-hoo-hoos. In the classroom, I think this would be a great book to share with parents on a special class day. We always ask teachers what we can do for our child. Instead of extra math or spelling words, maybe we can take a hint from these two owls and realize that time and unconditional love are the best homework support a parent can provide.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Long-Armed Ludy and the First Women's Olympics

Long-Armed Ludy
written by Jean L.S. Patrick; illustrated by Adam Gustavson
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review book provided by the publisher

Her heart boomed. Her long arm tingled. She loved the explosion of power

Lucile "Ludy" Godbold had long arms. Really long arms. It might have been from swinging on a tree branch with her siblings attached to her legs. Six feet tall when she enrolled in college, she stood out among her teammates in 1917. One of her sports was track and field. Urged on by her coach, she tried the shot put in her final collegiate season. Launching the metal ball, she sent it almost as far as three automobiles. Ludy had found a new favorite event. Her determined training paid off with an American record and an opportunity in New York to compete for a spot in the first Women's Olympics. Not intimidated, Ludy broke her own shot put record. She was so excited she yelled "Ooh la la!" Happiness soon turned to resignation as Ludy realized she didn't have the money to go the games in Paris. Inspired by over one thousand people greeting her upon return to college, Ludy continued training harder than ever before. When the president of Winthrop College told her that her fellow students and teachers were donating money for her trip, she vowed to win "for everyone helping me." She had to adjust her workouts as she would have to throw with each arm in the Paris competition.  Facing the world record holder from France, Ludy catapulted the shot put for a new world record and the win.

Having grown up in North Carolina, I love the colloquialisms in this book. Ludy was "skinnier than a Carolina pine." She threw until "her arms turned to noodles." The language will fit well with a unit on figurative language. I would definitely encourage one or more students to research Ludy's life for a biography unit/wax museum. She's a great example of determination. You could use tin foil for a shotput! One final idea would be to use Long Armed Ludy for working on comparing and contrasting. You could find images/videos of female shot putters today and compare uniforms, throwing styles, and training. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the example of kindness shown by Ludy's peers and teachers. That's a great model for students working in their own classes. I also really like the artwork. It does a wonderful job of evoking the time period. You'll want to go to great lengths to find a copy of this engaging picture book biography.

Sunday, July 30, 2017


written by Chris Owen; illustrated by Chris Nixon
2017 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

You'll have a magnificent time at the zoo...
Just don't wake the panda whatever you do.

In this zoo, an awakened panda is a perturbed panda. What does that lead to? A cacophony of critter cause and effect. It starts with the peevish panda making the hippos extra hyper. This marvelous mammoth mammal in the air is an uproarious illustration. With the hippos hopping, you're going to get tickly termites who torment the toes of elephants. It will also lead to K-2 students giggling during your read aloud. Just giving you a fair warning. A creature kerfuffle like this will also feature animal dancing. Meaning emus and tapirs getting their groove going. And the neighbors will talk and talk. Who are the neighbors? The chimps, ducks, jabirus, and yaks. Not enough of a zoological hot mess for you? How about frogs, baboons, and wallabies beating a beat that just won't stop? The beastly brouhaha continues with singing and dancing by the kingdom that will go on well into the noisy night. So please don't wake the panda.

Full of quick-witted quatrains, Pandamonia offers many opportunities for fun learning. First, I would ask the class to decide who is telling the story. Is it a zookeeper? Perhaps a fellow animal that doesn't like the commotion. Or is it the panda itself? This book could be a great lead for teaching about narrators and point of view. Second, you can pick out particular stanzas and ask students to name a topic that would cover it. Is it dancing? Maybe singing. For older students this touches on main idea and theme. Third, Pandamonia is well-supplied with active adjectives and vivid verbs so you have material for several writing mini-lessons. Teaching a unit on animals? Use the animals mentioned in the book to work on classification. Is it a mammal? A bird? Finally, if your class is going to visit an animal park or zoo, this would be a terrific send-off for that trip. Pandamonia shows animal anarchy can actually be quite useful in the classroom.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kisses for Kindergarten

Kisses for Kindergarten
written by Livingstone Crouse; illustrated by Macky Pamintuan
2017 (Silver Dolphin Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"I'll reimagine kindergarten!"
said Stella Isabella Harden.
"And really, how hard can that be
with my puppy teaching me?"

Stella Isabella is in no hurry to go to kindergarten. Her yellow pup Buster, through wags and sloppy kisses, has given her permission to stay home. Stella's parents aren't quite so sure, but she's got this figured out. Recess will be a snap as they can romp around in the backyard or go to the park. No sweat on snack time as they can sit on a blanket and eat cookies and drink cups of tea. Buster is not your normal teacher and breaks up the party, but that's okay since his feedback of licks on the face makes it all good. Rest time is taken in a pillow fort, but Buster would rather have a pillow fight than a snooze. His rambunctiousness is forgiven with slurps on both ears. Now story time is a different story. Buster lays his head on a pillow and waits quietly to hear a tale. Stella Isabella stares at the book, but doesn't know how to proceed. With a knowing glance and a smile, Buster sends a message to his human best friend. There is a really good reason to go to kindergarten. A relieved mother and father hear Stella Isabella announce that she has changed her mind. She needs to go to school so she can learn to read and provide her pup with a tale a day. The last spread shows the family gathered around as Stella Isabella reads a story to Buster.

A sweet story, involving a dog and adorably illustrated, will always be a read aloud winner. The rhyming text is good ear candy that could be used for additional phonemic awareness practice. I would pick out a few rhymes in the book and see if listeners can predict the final word in the couplet. With its focus on reading, Kisses for Kindergarten can also be the book you use to kick off Reader's Workshop in your kindergarten classroom. If you are preparing a child for kindergarten, you can share the inside of the dust jacket as a fun checklist. One final idea is to pair this book with a stuffed dog and send it home each weekend with a student. Ask them (with the assistance of a grown-up) to read the book to their stuffed dog (and any pets that happen to be around) and report back to the class. Kindergarten students will definitely connect with this tale.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Twelve Days of Kindergarten

The Twelve Days of Kindergarten
written by Deborah Lee Rose; illustrated by Carey F. Armstrong-Ellis
2003 (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

On the sixth day of kindergarten, my teacher gave to me
SIX fish for feeding.

I visited a group of kindergarten students this afternoon who were singing at the top of their lungs. It made my day. If you haven't spent a few days in kindergarten, you won't know that it is the most unpredictable grade in the K-12 world. It's part of what makes it so memorable. These students are new to the school environment so they are liable to try almost anything. The Twelve Days of Kindergarten does a good job of capturing this spirit. Told using the holiday song as a template, the text serves as the straight man to the artwork's funny man in this farce. For example, on the third day, the teacher gives three pencils. Pretty straightforward. But in the artwork, things are dropping which is appropriate since a lot of things drop in kindergarten including your jaw. Paper is pulled off the shelf. A jar of green paint drops out of a student's hands as he trips over another student's feet while she is creating her pencil version of American Gothic. Various facial expressions of shock abound. Each day brings a new gift for the teacher, but also a different surprise. By the end of the book, you are appropriately feeling pretty sympathetic for the kindergarten teacher. This really is a book that you want to study because you'll miss humorous details if you don't. A game within the book is to spot the Yeti-like stuffed doll that appears in each scene. The final page is a sweet tribute to kindergarten teachers everywhere.

Want to introduce character traits to your k-2 students? Use these illustrations to get insight into this class of characters without having to use text. There's a great shared reading opportunity here with singing to boot. It's almost always fun to sing with kindergarten students. Also included smartly by the author are cardinal and ordinal numbers. The Twelve Days of Kindergarten is a fun way to start the year, but I think it would be great to end the year as well. Students could write their own book as to review the year.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Grandma's Tiny House

Grandma's Tiny House
written by JaNay Brown-Wood; illustrated by Priscilla Burris
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Grandma's house stays small as the family grows. 
Will everyone fit inside this time? Who knows?!

As one grandma continues to live in her very small house, her family grows larger and larger. Staring at a wall of pictures, Grandma wonders if everyone will fit in her house. Let the counting begin! The smells of two turkeys deliciously waft in the air. At her front door stand three neighbors with four pots of greens and ham hocks. Coming up the walk are five family friends with six dozen biscuits. The counting continues as uncles come with jugs of lemonade. Aunties arrive with cheesecakes while nephews bring pumpkin pies. After fifteen grandchildren rush to Grandma, a dilemma presents itself. Where will everyone eat? With no room in the house, an adorable grandchild wearing a yellow hairband has the answer.

I'm not sure I've ever been more delighted to count to 15. Let me start near the beginning where Grandma is viewing the pictures on her wall. This wonderful text and sweet artwork brought back memories of my grandmother living in a tiny house with family pictures everywhere. Seeing everyone gathering in the house, smiling and laughing, reminded me of family meals with wonderful food and conversations. Students will make this connection as well. In the classroom or at home, you can read Grandma's Tiny House to have students write their own family version based on the book. What do family gatherings look like in the homes of your students? If you teach kindergarten, you could shorten the counting to ten for the writing. Could you use this book with older students? Yes, first and second graders would benefit from mini-lessons about parts of speech. There are many adjectives and vivid verbs to use to model good writing. Even better than making me hungry, Grandma's Tiny House brings an extra large helping of love. What could be better than that?