Thursday, July 29, 2010

Please Take Me for a Walk

Please Take Me for a Walk
written and illustrated by Susan Gal
(Alfred A. Knopf) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

A dog in the city asks his owner to take him for a walk. He proceeds to build his case for why he needs to go outside. The neighbor's cat needs to be chased away and squirrels need to be kept high in the trees. This dog has many friends such as the florist, the greengrocer, the baker, the bookseller, and most importantly the butcher. What's a dog to do when so many people and things need to be seen? Beg to go out for a walk.

 Upon an initial glance of the cover, I thought the dog would be the star of this book. Susan Gal perfectly catches the rhythms and actions of a dog and his point of view is certainly a focus. But an equal co-star of this book is the community. In Please Take Me for a Walk, readers get an eyeful of the different scenes that are part of an urban setting. You see kids in a schoolyard, guys shooting hoops, and men playing chess. This would be a great book to use to teach about the similarities and differences between urban and rural life. As in her previous book Night Lights, you also get Susan Gal's illustrations that are full of bright colors and delightful faces on man and his best friend. She is a terrific illustrator of dogs! Please Take Me for a Walk would be a wonderful read aloud for a preschool or K-2 classroom.

Other reviews of Please Take Me for a Walk:
Kiss the Book
A Frugal Friend
Kids Lit

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Good Kindergarten Teacher Is Worth A Pretty Penny


My favorite news pieces on education come from The New York Times. David Leonhardt has written a thoughtful article titled The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers.  Here is a small taste:

Mr. Chetty and his colleagues — one of whom, Emmanuel Saez, recently won the prize for the top research economist under the age of 40 — estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year. That’s the present value of the additional money that a full class of students can expect to earn over their careers.

Click on the link for an interesting read.

We Planted a Tree

We Planted a Tree
written by Diane Muldrow; illustrated by Bob Staake
(Golden Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

"We planted a tree and it grew up, and so did we." We Planted a Tree is a poem that illustrates the connections and dependence between humans and trees. Young families around the world plant trees and watch them grow and see the benefits of planting a tree. In one part of the world, fruit is provided while across the globe another tree is keeping the soil from blowing away and keeping rainwater in the earth.

If you have a plant unit in science or are looking for a great read aloud for Earth Day, you should find a copy of We Planted a Tree.  Diane Muldrow's poem sneaks up on you with plenty of science information when you think you are only reading a poem, while Bob Staake's illustrations explode with vivid cartoon colors. A preview of the book is located below.




Other reviews of We Planted a Tree:
BookPage

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rhyming Dust Bunnies

Rhyming Dust Bunnies
written and illustrated by Jan Thomas
(Beach Lane Books) 2009
Source: Orange County Public Library

Dust Bunnies named Ed, Ned, Ted, and Bob like to rhyme all the time. Except for Bob. He can't seem to rhyme since it is his job to watch out for the broom and vacuum cleaner and those words don't quite fit with the rhymes of Ed, Ned, and Ted. Nonetheless, these dust bunnies will humor young students who are beginning to learn how language works. Rhyming Dust Bunnies is a great read aloud to use for teaching phonemic awareness. You could create a dust bunny corner with word families that you have learned posted next to the bunnies. See Betsy Bird's review below (Fuse #8) for ideas on how to create the dust bunnies.


Other reviews of Rhyming Dust Bunnies:
A Year of Reading
Fuse #8

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Wizard from the Start

A Wizard from the Start
written and illustrated by Don Brown
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 2010                                 
Source: Mebane Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Shelf-Employed
                                                                                               
Thomas Edison learned from an early age about invention and industriousness from his father. Samuel Edison built a one hundred foot tower next to his home in order to charge locals twenty-five cents for a view. The tower didn't make the Edison family rich, but it illustrated how Thomas Edison was able later in life to keep plugging along despite what others would call "failures". One theme that resonates throughout A Wizard from the Start is how hard Edison worked during his life. As a twelve year old he worked as a "news butch" selling items on trains for fourteen hours a day. At sixteen, he studied eighteen hours a day to learn how to become a telegraph operator. Along with his work ethic, Edison loved reading books and this provided much of his education after he left formal schooling.

A Wizard from the Start gives great insight into the life of Thomas Edison. Author Don Brown's note at the end of the book also shows that Edison was a complicated man with many faults. This would be a good discussion starter for students who are doing a biography study and may run into unflattering details about their subject. This book would also be an excellent resource for showing what life was like for children in Edison's time as many of them worked long hours before child labor laws were enacted much later.

Other reviews of A Wizard from the Start:
Kiss the Book

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Little Moon Princess

The Little Moon Princess
written and illustrated by YJ Lee
(HarperCollins Children's Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Before there are stars in the sky, there is a little girl standing in a field of flowers with a jewel in the middle of each flower. A sparrow is drawn to the light of this moon.  He is greeted by the little girl who explains that while she is happy to live on this moon, she is afraid of the dark that lies beyond her moon. The sparrow encourages her to spread her jewels in the sky. The moon princess sends her jewels into the darkest corners of the sky and learns a lesson about giving up something precious to gain something even greater.

The Little Moon Princess is a beautifully illustrated book centered around a clever idea that serves as a pourquoi tale. This book would be a great companion to other books that feature characters that conquer their fear of the dark such as Willoughby and the Moon and Night Lights. Both of my daughters raved about The Little Moon Princess so I think YJ Lee has created an impressive debut book. I could see this book being read over and over again at bedtime.

Other reviews of The Little Moon Princess:
Hooray for Books

Thursday, July 22, 2010

10 Common Errors "Spell Check" Won't Catch

Yahoo has posted an article on ten errors that slip under the "spell check" radar. The error I see most often was not listed.  I call it the battle of "loose" vs. "lose". One of my favorite spelling errors of all time is shown on the left. Last year, the Washington Nationals baseball team was issued uniforms without the "o" in "Nationals". As in uh-oh.

So how do we help students who suffer from poor spelling? Teaching your students using a developmental spelling approach is an effective strategy.

Nabeel's New Pants: An Eid Tale

Nabeel's New Pants: An Eid Tale
retold by Fawzia Gilani-Williams; illustrated by Proiti Roy
(Marshall Cavendish Children) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Tomorrow is Eid, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Nabeel the shoemaker has finally finished selling shoes and wants to buy gifts for his family to celebrate the coming holiday. He goes to Hamza's clothes shop and finds beautiful gifts for his wife, mother, and daughter. The shopkeeper asks Nabeel if he might need a new pair of pants for the holiday. Nabeel agrees, but the only pair left is a pair that is four fingers too long. The shopkeeper is unable to shorten them, but suggests that Nabeel ask his wife. He agrees and heads home to talk to his wife. Unfortunately, Yasmeen is busy cooking biryani and unable to mend her husband's pants. Nabeel asks other family members, but they are also busy cooking for the holiday. He mends the pants himself, but does not tell his family. His family's appreciation of Nabeel's gifts leads to more mending of the pants which leads to a humorous situation the next day.

Our social studies curriculum in North Carolina for kindergarten and first grade includes the studying of different holidays and cultures. Nabeel's Pants would be a choice if you were looking for a book tied to Ramadan and/or have students who are Muslim. It would also add to the diversity of your folktale collection as well.

Other reviews of Nabeel's New Pants:
A Year of Reading
Through the Looking Glass
Kids Lit

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oh, Daddy!

Oh, Daddy!
written and illustrated by Bob Shea
(Balzer & Bray) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

A little hippo narrates this tale of showing his dad how to do simple things. For example, in the morning when it's time to get dressed, Dad asks the little hippo "Is this how you get dressed?" Dad is wearing underwear on his head with oven mitts on his arms and a boot and a bucket for shoes. The little hippo replies "Oh, Daddy" and proceeds to leave his television watching to "show" his dad how to get dressed.  Later in the story, he shows his dad how to eat carrots, get in the car, and water plants. It's quite a coincidence how the dad needs help at exactly the same time the family needs the little hippo to complete a task.

Oh, Daddy! would make a great introduction to inference for a primary class.  I would ask questions to get students to infer why the dad is having so much trouble completing these tasks. It would also be interesting to see if students can make connections to their dads or granddads while reading this book. A possible writing extension would be to ask students to create a "Oh, Daddy" entry of something funny that their dad or uncle has done.

Other reviews of Oh, Daddy!:
Creative Literacy
Muse Reviews
BooksforKidsBlog

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Coldest Places on Earth

The Coldest Places on Earth
written by Jennifer M. Besel
(Capstone Press) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at In Need of Chocolate

A refreshing book to read during a hot July, The Coldest Places on Earth is full of facts about the most frigid locations on our planet. The first section titled Cold!, gives information about near freezing temperatures (34 degrees) on the floor of the ocean, an ice hotel in Sweden (23 degrees), and the North Pole. Colder! takes us to Mount McKinley where temperatures can get to -40F. For the 200,000 citizens of Yakutsk, Russia, this is the high temperature for January. I'm not tough enough to spend a winter holiday in Yakutsk. In Coldest!, we get to visit the town of Snag in the Yukon Territory. This is where the coldest temperature (-81F) in North America has been recorded and then we go to Antarctica where the lowest air temperature on earth (128.5F) occurred in 1983.

The Coldest Places on Earth is full of nonfiction text features (bold print, glossary, index, maps, pronunciation guides) and interesting facts to pull in reluctant readers who need to work on content reading. The photographs are eye-catching which make this book a good addition to your nonfiction collection.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Princess Says Goodnight

Princess Says Goodnight
written by Naomi Howland; illustrated by David Small
(Harper) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

On her way to bed, a young girl imagines being a princess and bedtime becomes a royal event. A nighttime snack of chocolate eclairs (I like her style!) await her as she comes home from the ball. A lady-in-waiting who looks a lot like her mom reviews the fluffy towels meant to dry a single toe while the princess takes a bubble bath. A footman also known as Daddy "checks the mattress for peas and other lumps." I laughed when I read that her stuffed froggy is named Prince. The night ends with the footman appropriately reading a bedtime story.

Princess Says Goodnight is a fun read aloud for preschool and K-2 students. I might try a writing exercise asking students to draw pictures and/or write what their bedtime routine would be in their imagination. I might choose being shot out of a cannon into a feather bed, but that's just me. I would also want to discuss where the girl's ideas came from. Hopefully, students will discover that they come from books and connect this thought to the dad reading her a story at the end.

Other reviews of Princess Says Goodnight:
The Cat and the Fiddle (interview with Naomi Howland)
Rosemary's Reading Circle
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (interview with David Small; check out the sketches!)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Todd's TV

Todd's TV
written and illustrated by James Proimos
(Katherine Tegen Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Todd's parents are very busy. They have meetings to attend and many "parent things" to do and therefore far too busy to spend much time with Todd. Their solution is for him to spend time in front of the television. Todd and the television grow very close. So close that when the busy parents are unable to go to a parent-teacher conference, the TV offers to take Todd. Soon, the TV and Todd are playing catch and going on vacation together while his parents remain oh so busy. The TV becomes so fond of Todd that it wants to legally adopt him.  Todd's parents are outraged, but at a loss for how to regain Todd's affections. It is Todd who saves the day and comes up with a perfect solution. The last page contains a very clever ending.

Todd's TV is a terrific piece of social commentary. James Proimos has crafted a book that should be read to/or by parents and teachers. To see this kind of biting social satire in a picture book is unusual, but welcomed. When the TV offered to adopt Todd, I busted a gut. It also made me think about my own daughters and the time they spend with television and computers versus the time they spend with my wife and I.  Students will easily make connections with the text.  You will not lack for enlightening discussion if you read this in your class.  I would suggest reading it early in the year so you can hear and read the responses of your students. It might tell you quite a bit about their home life.

Other reviews of Todd's TV:
Reader Views Kids
Lori Calabrese

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Willoughby and the Moon

Willoughby & the Moon
written and illustrated by Greg Foley
(Balzer & Bray) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Willoughby Smith was having trouble sleeping each night. He was bothered by the gradual disappearing of the moon outside his window.  One night, it isn't there at all. Willoughby says he isn't scared, but his tone of voice belied his words. A mysterious soft light from inside the closet drew his attention and when he opened the door, he found the moon and a giant snail on top of it! The snail lost his favorite silver ball and needed help finding it. Willoughby and the snail explore the moon while looking for the ball and along the way help each other conquer their fears.

Willoughby and the Moon is one of the most unusual looking books out there and that will immediately grab the attention of your students. The only colors in this glossy combination of drawings and photographs are black, silver, and white. The drawings may initially attract readers, but the story will keep them reading. They will connect with Willoughby and his fear and the friendship that develops between him and the snail. You could also use this book for a lesson on the phases of the moon.

Other reviews:
Muse Reviews

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nest, Nook & Cranny

Nest, Nook & Cranny
poems by Susan Blackaby; illustrated by Jamie Hogan
(Charlesbridge) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Abby the Librarian

Salmon swim in river homes
Under bridges, over stones,
Through cool pools in muted shadows,
Into sun-drenched, silver shallows

Nest, Nook & Cranny is a collection of poems that is a teacher's dream.  Susan Blackaby combines several different poetic forms (sonnet, cinquain, triolet, villanelle) with animal habitats (desert, grassland, shoreline, wetland, woodland) as the subject of the poems. The reader gets a combination of poetry, figurative language, and science that is entertaining and informative.  These twenty-two poems are perfect for a unit on animal habitats.  You could use these poems for shared reading each morning in a K-2 class.  In a 3-5 class, you have a great lesson on writing in a content area.  For a 6-8 class, you can teach poetic forms such as sonnets and show that you can take everyday information (the bluebird house in my yard for example) and create a sonnet or another form of poetry.

The extra bonus with Nest, Nook & Cranny is that you get over ten pages of terrific back matter where Susan Blackaby explains her thinking in creating each individual poem and the different poetic forms and figurative language that she uses. This book reminds me of Paul Fleischman's Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices with the combination of poetry and animal life.  I'll be picking up a copy of Nest, Nook & Cranny to use in classrooms this fall.

Other reviews of Nest, Nook & Cranny:
Great Kid Books
Kirby's Lane
Wrapped In Foil
Picture Book of the Day

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Flip Camera: My Roller Coaster Ride

video

Students at my school have been using Flip cameras to capture projects on video.  These cameras are so easy to use and the pictures and sound are fabulous. Once you have finished filming, all you have to do is "flip" out the USB connector on the camera and plug it into your computer to download it.  I recently purchased a Flip Camera that shoots in HD and I used it to film my ride on the Comet roller coaster at Hershey Park. This could be used to help reluctant writers by having them view the video and then you lead the writers in creating a shared writing piece based on the video. I'm not a great cinematographer, but enjoy the ride!




Dizzy Izzy

Jon Scieszka's Trucktown: Dizzy Izzy
written by Jon Scieszka; illustrated by David Shannon, Loren Long, David Gordon
(Aladdin) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Izzy the Ice Cream Truck likes to get dizzy. When he needs to get clean, he likes to go to a car wash and get fizzy. He gets busy as he whizzes by on the road selling ice cream.

Dizzy Izzy features an adventuresome ice cream truck in an early reader reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. A combination of humorous illustrations and playful prose make this book a great choice for a kindergartner just starting to read. This series will especially appeal to boys who are learning to read. Check out the Trucktown website for more books in this series and the Kid's Page for games and activities that will entertain your young truckers.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bag in the Wind

Bag in the Wind
written by Ted Kooser; illustrated by Barry Root
(Candlewick Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

A windy morning takes a yellow plastic bag out of a landfill where it begins a journey toward a small town in this environmental tale.  A girl, collecting aluminum cans for money, finds the bag on a barbwire fence and uses it to hold her cans.  The bag is used for different purposes by a variety of people such as a couple of store owners and a few homeless people. As the bag travels, the reader gets glimpses of small town life with beautifully illustrated views of countrysides and thrift stores and textual glimpses of our care of the environment.

Bag In The Wind is a powerful story that uses small details to build a narrative that shows how we interact with the trash that we create and how we can recycle to limit the amount.  A good book will make you think, and this book will spur readers to think about what we do with the plastic bags that we receive on a daily basis. It would make a great companion to another 2010 book, Here Comes The Garbage Barge.

Other reviews:
Sal's Fiction Addiction
Rosemary's Reading Circle

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What If?

What If?
written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
(Roaring Brook Press) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

A boy kicks a beach ball into the ocean.  Two seals find the beach ball.  What follows are three different scenarios of what could happen after the seals find the ball.  Each scenario involves a third seal.  Readers will be able to have a rich discussion on friendship and the choices we make during play.  There are very few words in What If?, but that is a strength rather than a weakness.  It gives readers the opportunity to have more of their own thoughts on friendship rather than the author telling them what to think.  If you lead Socratic seminars for young children in your classroom, this book would be an excellent candidate for a seminar.  Being a book by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, you know the artwork is going to be wonderful and this book doesn't disappoint.  I especially like the skies that she paints for the different scenes. What If? is certainly a candidate for several best book awards this year. 

Other reviews of What If?:
100 Scope Notes
A Year of Reading

Monday, July 5, 2010

Back of the Bus

Back of the Bus
written by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Floyd Cooper
(Philomel Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

It's December 1, 1955 and a young African American boy is sitting with his mother at the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. He is playing with a tiger's eye marble, rolling it on the grooves of the aisle. As the bus slows down, the marble gets away and is picked up at the front of the bus by a friendly face, Mrs. Parks from the tailor shop. She kindly rolls it back and the bus takes off again. Soon the bus comes to a stop and the gruff bus driver instructs the African American riders that they have to move to the back. The boy notices that the bus is sitting longer than usual and asks his mother why. She tells him "Hush, child." and he quietly sits. As he watches, he sees that the source of the delay is Mrs. Parks. Her quiet confidence and courage in the face of a policeman gives him strength as well.  As she is led away, he realizes that perhaps something has changed for the better at that moment.

Back of the Bus would be a good book to use as an introduction to the Civil Rights movement. It is also a rich text for teaching inference to older students.  The actions and words of the mother carry a deeper meaning than a cursory glance would suggest. I also like how the author uses the point of view of a young child to teach about a historical moment.  Back of the Bus could be used for a lot of different purposes in comprehension instruction and therefore makes it a valuable addition to your mentor text collection.

Other reviews:
Chicago Tribune
Kids Lit

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Tyrannosaurus Game

The Tyrannosaurus Game
written by Steven Kroll; illustrated by S.D. Schindler
(Marshall Cavendish Children) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

A rainy day at school created disappointment for the kids in class until Jimmy came up with an idea. With everyone sitting in a circle, he started a story and passed it on to Ava who passed it on to the next classmate. Jimmy started the story with "Last Saturday, I was eating breakfast, when all of a sudden a tyrannosaurus came crashing through the window." The storytellers that followed Jimmy took the dinosaur on a trip that included stops on the school bus, the playground, and a local amusement park. The story ended with a clever twist that allowed the T-Rex to hide.

Circle writing is an fun strategy to use to inspire reluctant writers. The Tyrannosaurus Game would be an excellent read aloud to use to introduce circle writing. Students like dinosaurs and humor, so this book would be a good choice. It would also be a great pairing with Chalk by Bill Thomson. Both books involve a T-Rex and student imaginations. Teach contrast by reading each book and using a graphic organizer to find the similarities and differences.