Monday, December 14, 2015

A Scottish Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Scotland's Kids

A Scottish Year
written by Tania McCartney; illustrated by Tina Sterling
2015 (EK Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

We go fishing in the burn with Grandpa. 

In our second grade classroom, we have spent a few weeks working on comparing texts. Luckily, I have A Scottish Year to compare to the previously reviewed An English Year. Both books feature 5 children from different cultures that are part of their home country's tapestry. With Scotland, we have three children whose families are native Scots and two who hail from other countries (Pakistan and Poland). Each month is presented in a two page spread with colorful illustrations accompanying several one sentence descriptions of events taking place during that time. For example, in March bulbs start to sprout. This would be a good comparison to American gardens. Celebrations include Red Nose Day, which is an opportunity for citizens to get together to do something funny to raise money for charity. In Scotland, Mother's Day falls in March and clocks go spring forward for British Summer Time. In the back matter, you find a fabulous map of the regions of Scotland.

If you are teaching country studies as part of your holidays around the world unit, you would be wise to find this book. You can use it to compare to other countries and find similarities and differences. Did you know the unicorn is the official animal of Scotland? Me neither. This book is full of cool facts like this.With perhaps the exception of haggis, I'm ready to embrace A Scottish Year. Now to find a good strong coat for the weather!


Saturday, December 5, 2015

An English Year: Twelve Months in the Life of England's Kids

An English Year
written and illustrated by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling
2015 (EK Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

On Mother's Day, we spoil Mum with gifts and cards. We take her out for high tea. 

Pongal. Pancake Day. Morris Dancing. Netball. If you're not familiar with these events, you need to spend a year in England. Thanks to An English Year, you can do so from the comfort of your home. Five English children (Victoria, Aman, Tandi, George, and Amelia) take readers through a calendar year in their country. Each month gets a two page spread where several events, both special and everyday, are highlighted. For example, in August, you can play outside later because of the extended sunlight. Buckingham Palace is open to the public and blackberries are in season. Music lovers can go to The Proms, which are a series of classical music concerts and not a dance where you wear a dress or a tuxedo that you will regret later in life. Students will enjoy reading these nonfiction facts and viewing the cheery illustrations that accompany them. Perhaps my favorite part of the book is the product map in the back matter with all of the English county locations. It greatly added to my English geographic knowledge.

This is a clever format to relay cultural information. Now I'm thinking about having my students create a book about our country and state to send to our friends in Denmark. It's also a good text to practice making connections and comparisons. Venn Diagrams were made for this! Tip your flat cap to this delightful picture book.

Friday, November 27, 2015

National Geographic Puzzle Explorer app

National Geographic Puzzle Explorer
created by Fingerprint Digital Inc.
2015
Part of the app is free; $2.99 for the rest of the app

According to the website MineMum, a sandbox game is one where players create a game themselves by manipulating the world within it.

National Geographic's Puzzle Explorer is a new app where players can create mazes in different geographic settings. You can download it here. My daughter and I created mazes and played on already built mazes in the Yucatan Peninsula and Antarctica. I will warn you that this is addictive. In Antarctica, the goal is to collect three cameras located in different places in the maze. You travel across ice blocks (see below). The tricky part is not all of the maze is connected. Players have to manipulate blocks of ice and giant snowballs to create new pieces of the maze that can be crossed. Each camera contains informational text with a photograph background. When you have collected the cameras, you win the game.

Using this app was a lot of fun! You have to really think to develop a strategy to meet your goal. I like the combination of informational text and game-playing. Mazes can be shared between players which brings a social aspect to the game. Try out the free version and if you like it, you can complete your app for $2.99 with settings for the Himalayas, the Nile River Valley, and the Australian Outback. If your child/student is going to have screen time, give them something that will make them think and create. As they are creating, players will be learning facts about each of these places in the world. This makes the app a way to introduce these geographic locations. Speaking of geography, you could also use this app to talk about land forms. I think this app would be good for ages 6-12.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Blue Whale Blues

Blue Whale Blues
written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas
2015 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

I've got the Blue Whale Blues, 
I've got the Blue Whale, 
BLUE WHALE BLUES.

Whale is having a tough day. First, he can't figure out why his bike doesn't work. (Yes, I know what the adult is thinking. Whales and bikes? It works out later. Let it go Mr./Ms. Literal.) Thankfully, his good friend Penguin points out that it's just turned the wrong way. Whale is singing a new tune, but not for very long. He soon discovers that his bike is wet. Back to the blues. Being a true pal, Penguin offers a towel to dry it off. Whale faces another challenge with a helmet and Penguin again provides a solution. Then, the biggest challenge of all confronts Whale. With the help of his friends (cue Ringo Starr and/or Joe Cocker), he learns to be happy and content.

Being happy is not always the easiest thing. I struggle with this at times and I suspect some of you do too. What Blue Whale Blues does is reassure us that, with the help of friends and a different point of view, everything usually works out. This is a crazy important lesson for primary age students who can tend to fall apart at the drop of a hat, or a spoon, or a pencil. Peter Carnavas helps us to remember the joys of life with this delightful picture book. As usual, his illustrations are terrific. Click on this link to learn more about his approach to the book.

Blue Whale Blues would be a good text to use for problem/solution lessons and for school counselors looking for a picture book to accompany a lesson on happiness.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Scientist's Curiosity Cabinet



Dr. T. Ross Kelly of Boston College has a pretty cool collection of devices that he and his team of two undergraduates would like to share with you. Each device comes with a video that explains how it works. There are also links to sites that will teach you how to build these items. Science teachers from grade 3 and up will find something they can share with their classes. If you teach force and motion, check out section 5 titled Seemingly Impossible.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Groundhog's Dilemma

Groundhog's Dilemma
written by Kristen Remenar; illustrated by Matt Faulkner
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
*On sale Dec. 2nd

"I just call it like I see it," he mumbled, heading back into his den for a good, long nap. 

Trying to make everyone happy will wear you out. Ask Groundhog. Regardless of his prediction on February 2nd, he's going to make someone unhappy. Groundhog tries to tell his friends that he has no effect on the weather, but his message falls flat. When Groundhog sees his shadow, Squirrel is mad because he has to spend six more weeks of winter cooped up inside with his juveniles. Baseball manager Sparrow complains that it would have been nice to start the season early. Meanwhile, Bear and Hare are delighted with six more weeks of winter. With the arrival of spring, Groundhog's friends decide to shower him with niceties in hopes of getting an outcome in their favor come next February 2nd. The lovely Hare brings extra berries and makes a pie so she can wear her winter coat for six more weeks. Sparrow promises a position on the baseball team to get an early spring. Groundhog enjoys these gifts and makes promises he knows he can't keep. It's hard to disappoint your friends. With February 2nd fast approaching, Groundhog truly has a dilemma on his paws. It will take some thinking to work his way out of this one.

When you see the cover, you may be thinking, "It looks like a cute book for Groundhog Day." But dig a little deeper. I'll argue that it's a book for all seasons. What we have is a clever rumination on friendship. Groundhog has to decide how he's going to deal with not making everyone happy. This is an excellent topic for children. I have students who give things away in order to have someone be their friend. Reading this book would help them think about true friendship. I will call it like I see it: This is a terrific book!



Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Impossible Voyage of Kon-Tiki

The Impossible Voyage of Kon-Tiki
written and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

It is my intention to prove that the journey is feasible.

Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl spent a year on a Polynesian island. While there, he saw stone carvings that he connected to similar statues in South America. Could the two cultures be related? Not many other than Heyerdahl believed this, so he decided recreate the voyage that would show how these cultures could have met. In late April of 1947, Heyerdahl and a crew of five set out from Peru on a balsa log raft. Despite the misgivings of experts, the raft held together as it traveled towards the islands of the South Pacific. Far away from the human world, the crew was kept company by pilot fish and dolphins. A little more than two months into the journey, they encountered a massive storm that did enough damage to set them adrift and at the mercy of the wind. The crew held on to hope as they used a shortwave radio to send a distress call. One hundred and one days after starting this voyage, the Kon-Tiki crew landed on an uninhabited island in Polynesia. The journey was indeed possible.

I remember being intrigued by the Kon-Tiki expedition when I read Thor Heyerdahl's book in high school English class. I'm excited that I can share that interest with students now. When you open the book, you see on the inside cover a terrific map that shows the path of the voyage and the direction of the currents in the Pacific Ocean. The illustrations are eye-catching and the text will keep readers engaged. Ray builds suspense when needed as readers wonder if this band of explorers will be able to complete the journey. I appreciate the back matter that includes a biography of Thor Heyerdahl and information about how his journey was received. The Impossible Voyage of Kon-Tiki would be an excellent addition to a biography unit and/or a unit on exploration.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Feeding the Flying Fanellis

Feeding the Flying Fanellis and Other Poems From a Circus Chef
written by Kate Hosford; illustrated by Cosei Kawa
2015 (Carolrhoda Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

My days are long and sweaty, and the chaos never ends. 
But still, I find I'm most content when cooking for my friends.

You have to appreciate someone who loves their job. This circus chef certainly enjoys his work. These poems document the meals he provides for the performers. For the busy ringmaster, the chef provides food that can fit into his hat. A mini-baguette with salami and mustard, hazelnut chocolates, and lemonade do quite nicely for the leader who can't sit still. Our chef is happy and also empathetic. You don't want a sad strongman in your circus, so the chef makes a vushka for the Ukrainian who misses his babushka. The chef takes equal care with all of the performers. He makes a tarte flambee to help the contortionist twins unwind. Boris, who rides the eleven inch bike, has to watch his calories. If you are the tightrope walker, you need a balanced diet. Flounder, new potatoes, lettuce and tomatoes make her day. Then there are the Flying Fannellis. They require a sugar high, so lemon cakes keep them airborne. A chef's work is never done, but it is a labor of love.

Kate Hosford is more creative than an average bear. She serves up an entree of original point of view with an appetizer of humor and a dollop of sweetness for dessert. Cosei Kawa's illustrations are also a feast for the eyes. Hosford glides between different rhyme patterns so I would definitely share this book to show students the menu of possibilities when writing poetry. I also think this would be a great book to share when teaching a unit on careers. It would help students consider all of those who provide support for performers. I would give a Michelin star to Feeding the Flying Fanellis.  


Monday, November 2, 2015

Free Printable Math Games for 2nd and 3rd Grade


I know very little about Raumati South School in New Zealand. I went to their website and they are located in a beautiful setting, but that's not why they came to my attention. I was searching for printable subtraction games and came across a link to a PDF created by this school. How many different synonyms can you conjure up for fabulous? You will find games for all levels of students in 2nd and 3rd grade. There are 26 different games in this packet. Thanks to Teresa Evans who created this in 2005.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Poppy's Best Paper

Poppy's Best Paper
written by Susan Eaddy; illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

At home Poppy told Mr. Fuzz Dog, "I am going to write the BEST paper ever!"

The idea of being a writer is great. You dream of people fawning over your words. Being famous for your writing seems only a step away. Then you actually have to put pencil to paper. Poppy is in love with the idea of being a writer. When Mrs. Rose announces  she will choose someone's paper to read aloud in class, Poppy is sure she will be the one. Nobody can match her enthusiasm. Arriving home that afternoon, Poppy finds her notebook, sharpens her pencils, and gets ready to write. She writes three sentences and then calls her classmate Lavender to announce that she has written the best paper. Lavender thinks she should write more. Poppy goes back and writes one more sentence. She is certain that she is on the way to fame and fortune. Not impressed with four sentences, Mrs. Rose picks Lavender's paper. Poppy seethes with jealousy. With the next topic announced, Poppy goes back home and writes two sentences with lots of breaks in between. On the bus the next morning, Poppy scribbles an ending and is sure she will be chosen. Stunningly, Mrs. Rose does not pick her. Poppy complains and kicks a desk. Even though some famous authors have been enfants terrible, it doesn't work for Poppy. She ends up in the Chill Out Chair (I have one of these in my classroom!). More tantrums follow at home. Exiled to her room and fresh out of tears, Poppy has an idea for her How To paper topic. This time, she focuses and doesn't take a break. Very different results follow the next day at school.

This book is terrific! It's a great way to share good writing habits with your students. I also appreciate how Poppy is a realistic character. How many of us have wanted to throw a tantrum when writing something? Not me of course, but you might have experienced this. Writing is hard work, but if you buckle down, something good might happen. In addition, the illustrations in Poppy are adorable. You can't go wrong with rabbits wearing polka dots. K-2 classes will connect and sympathize with Poppy.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

How Informational Text Writing Is Like Chopped


Have you ever watched Chopped on the Food Network? 4 chefs are given a basket of ingredients and expected to transform them into either an appetizer, an entree, or a dessert within a time limit. Now think about informational text writing. Basically, it's taking a group of facts and transforming them into a book that people will want to read. You have text features that you use to make your book appealing. Kind of like adding spices to your dish. Or not, if you don't like this analogy.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Q&A with Suzette Valle (author of 101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up)


Today we have a Q&A session with Suzette Valle. She's the author of 101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up

1. Which movie on the list is your favorite and why? I simply don’t have just one favorite movie. This is like asking me if I have a favorite child -- it's impossible to choose! However, I have several films I have watched several times for different reasons: "The Lion King," "Star Wars," "Aladdin," "Pride and Prejudice," "Harry Potter," and "Iron Man" have top-shelf billing in my home.


2. With this kind of list, it's impossible to please everybody. Is there a movie that isn't on the list that several readers have asked about? I wondered about Cars. 
You're right! It is impossible to please everyone, especially with films since there's a broad selection to choose from, and one for every taste and personal preference. Narrowing the number of Pixar films in the book was a very difficult and time consuming task. Out of the 14 Pixar films released at the time the book went to print ("Inside Out" had not been released yet), only nine are in the book for various reasons. Though “Cars” is a fantastic film, it wasn’t considered Pixar’s best work at the time. This is the opinion of adults, of course, but I am sure kids (and some adults) think differently!

3. What resources did you use for research? How much fun was it going back and watching some of these movies? 
I researched lists of children's films that already exist: the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute, the British Film Institute, and the National Film Registry. Cross-referencing the movies on these lists helped me reduce it from thousands to hundreds of movies. I also consulted websites and books by film critics I respect like the late Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin and Nell Minow (Movie Mom).

One film I re-watched as part of my research was "Shrek." That movie is a riot and a half, and was a lot of fun to catch things I had missed before like the jabs at Disney. But I also had to add movies to my collection of watched films. One of the best Sunday afternoons I spent watching movies as 'research' for this book was with my grown son Alex, 23, watching “The Hobbit” franchise. I had avoided getting caught up in the Peter Jackson-created worlds for a long time, but I had to see why these films had such a following. My son explained many of the details, and together with the research I had done already,  I was compelled to keep watching. We then dove into “The Lord of the Rings,” another franchise I had resisted watching. Realizing that these films were based on books by J. R. R. Tolkien published in 1937, I immediately regretted not having joined the buzz when these films were at the height of their popularity. I hope to inspire families to spend time with their own kids watching these fantastic fantasy films -- they are an incredible journey (pun!) to take from the comfort of your own home.

4. Are there any movies that you felt more positively or negatively towards as an adult than when you were a child?

Yes, and it was a tough call on some of these films. "Grease" is a great example of these mixed emotions about a movie. I watched this movie as an 18 year-old and loved it. In time, this movie has become a pop-culture classic watched by many pre-teens because it seems like just plain fun.  However, when I watched it again with my own kids when they were younger, I was surprised to realize there was quite a bit of racy stuff in this film that had gone over my head when I first watched it.

5. Kudos for including Bend It Like Beckham! More people should see this movie. Were there other "smaller' films on the list that you wanted to champion?

The foreign film section has some smaller films I really wanted to highlight because they open our eyes to other cultures' way of life. My daughter, a film student at NYU's Tisch School of The Arts, introduced me to "Children of Heaven." This film from Iran, in Farsi with subtitles, was an unexpected surprise for me when I saw it -- I immediately knew this one was worth watching. It is not the regular, sunny faire of American films. The story is at times bleak and may not appeal to the sense of escapism we expect from a film. But the story of two siblings sharing a single pair of shoes is touching and heartwarming.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up: A Giveaway!

101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up
written by Suzette Valle; illustrated by Natasha Hellegourach
2015 (Walter Foster Jr.)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

*Tell me your favorite movie as a kid in the comments section and you will have a chance to win a copy of this book. I will contact you if you win the book and it will be sent to you. 

Do you remember the first movie you saw in a theater? A Boy Named Charlie Brown was the first that I recall. I remember walking from our apartment to the movie theater and plunking down a quarter (Telling my age a little bit here.) for a ticket. Going to see a movie is a great experience as a child. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking my daughters to the movies. Movies are a constant source of discussion which makes 101 Movies a book you will want. A paragraph synopsis is given for each movie. On the side, you will see information about the director, release date, rating and reasons for the rating, and the length of the film. At the bottom of each movie section is a box that allows readers to take notes about the movie. They can record the date they saw the movie, who they saw it with, give a star rating, and write other thoughts that they have about the movie. My favorite part of these movie sections are the sidebars that give information you may not know. For example, it took John Leguizamo 40 tries to come up with the voice of Sid the sloth for Ice Age. After watching a documentary about sloths and how they store food in their cheeks, Leguizamo put a sandwich in his mouth and tried to talk.

One of the great uses of this book will be to introduce your kids and yourself to movies that you may not be aware of. The documentary Spellbound, about contestants in the National Spelling Bee, and Bend It Like Beckham, about two teenage British female soccer players from different cultures, are two such movies. It's also an opportunity to introduce your children to favorite movies of your childhood. Now if I could only find a copy of Yellow Submarine to show my daughters.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

I Want to Eat Your Books

I Want to Eat Your Books
written by Karin Lefranc; illustrated by Tyler Parker
2015 (Sky Pony Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"Oh no!" cries Eric. "Take a look. He's chomping on your science book!"

A young boy peers nervously down a hallway lined with lockers. Limping towards him is a zombie! The boy runs to his classroom only to see the zombie boy sitting next to him (I would request a new seating chart.). Classmates shriek as Zombie Boy eats a science book and a paperback. He piercingly cries "I Want to Eat Your Books!" Think of it as The Reading Dead. He's not a discriminating eater. Nonfiction and textbooks bite the dust. The young boy's favorite, Frankenstein, is spared as the class heads to the library. Of course, this is a buffet bar for Zombie Boy. When all hope seems lost, the young boy pulls out a book about the brain. He and the zombie struggle over the book. When a diagram of brain parts appears, Zombie Boy cries "Please read!" As one monster is soothed, another appears to ransack the library. A sweet twist ties up this tale of monster literacy.

Three second grade classes at my school highly recommend this book. It's a great text to share at Halloween or as a kickoff to a reading event. Elementary students have zombies on the brain. Yes, I meant to do that. When you can combine this hot topic with cultivating a love for reading, you have a win-win situation. The bright illustrations are a terrific accompaniment to this fun story. If you want to teach a skill with I Want to Eat Your Books, I would suggest problem and solution. Of course, your class may just want to devour it for fun.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Does the Sun Sleep?: Noticing Sun, Moon, and Star Patterns

Does the Sun Sleep?
written by Martha E.H. Rustad; illustrated by Holli Conger
2016 (Millbrook Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"I get it!" says Deon. "When it's day on one side of Earth, it's night on the other side."

If you want the sun, the moon, and the stars, you should go to Mr. Cruz's classroom. His class is working on making observations and noticing patterns in nature. The first pattern they notice is day and night. Mr. Cruz leads a discussion of the movement of the Earth which makes it look like the Sun is moving. Using a flashlight and a globe, he explains how the sun shines on only part of the planet at a time. Blue boxes on each spread add facts to the narrative. On this spread, readers learn that it takes the Earth 24 hours to spin around once, which is another pattern. Moving on to the moon, the class views a monthly chart of the phases of the moon. Stocked up on AA batteries, Mr. Cruz uses his flashlight, the globe, and a small model of the moon to explain how light from the Sun shines on the moon. Finally, the class discusses stars, why we can't see them in the daylight (Except for the Sun.), and how they have patterns as well.

Does the Sun Sleep? does a great job of explaining information about space in simple language, but also doesn't shy away from using vocabulary like horizon, waxing, and waning.  This is a good text to share with first graders who study patterns and cycles in space. The illustrations are terrific visuals that help explain the facts given in the text. First graders will especially like the phases of the moon chart. Grab your flashlight and follow Mr. Cruz's lead!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

What Is It Made Of?: Noticing Types of Materials

What Is It Made Of?
written by Martha E.H. Rustad; illustrated by Christine M. Schneider
2016 (Millbrook Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Ms. Sampson asks, "Would it work to make a window out of wood? Or a shirt out of glass?"

Most of us take for granted what materials make up the things that we use. I grab my laptop and turn it on. I never consider what makes up the computer. I'm probably more interested in how many likes my pet photo got on Facebook. Thankfully, the kids in Ms. Sampson's class are different than me. They're excited after playing a guessing game about materials. A quick observation of the classroom yields seven different materials that are present. Next, students use their sense of touch to categorize materials on a table. After that, a treasure hunt around the school helps the class fill out a chart that further categorizes materials by color, texture, and weight. Shockingly, old snack in a desk is not one of the materials found. What the students observe is that there is definitely a purpose behind the choice of materials for the things they use. The culminating activity for Ms. Sampson's class is to build a sculpture in art class using different materials.

Matter is a fun subject to study. K-1 classes will be set up nicely for this unit by reading What Is It Made Of? I'm all for encouraging observation and categorization. This helps across the curriculum. The books in the Nature's Patterns series are also cheerfully illustrated and realistic in how young students react to fun science. I like their enthusiasm!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Do Chicks Ask for Snacks?: Noticing Animal Behaviors

Do Chicks Ask for Snacks?
written by Martha E.H. Rustad; illustrated by Mike Moran
2016 (Millbrook Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"Does anyone notice a pattern?" Max says, "I do! Babies make noises, and parents feed them."

The students in Ms. McLean's class are observing animal behavior in anticipation of their trip to the zoo. They've made a chart of behaviors to look for as they are guided by Mr. Sato at the zoo. First, the class observes a baby tiger meowing. The mother tiger responds by feeding it. This same call and response happens at the zebra exhibit. Ms. McLean's students notice the pattern of babies making noises in order to be fed. I've noticed this with teenagers as well. Other patterns are noticed. Otters and raccoons learn from their parents how to find food and be safe. Lion cubs practice hunting and chimpanzees learn how to use tools. Not power drills, but sticks to find ants. Group patterns observed include a herd of elephants traveling together. Mr. Sato tells the students about how elephants protect their young in this manner. Ms. McLean's class learns to look for patterns and observe examples of cause and effect. The final effect of the zoo trip is for students to go recess after returning excitedly. I can understand that cause!

Do Chicks Ask for Snacks? would be a good mentor text for a unit on animal behavior. I like imparting this information through a narrative format. It's also a book that would be helpful for teaching the skill of seeing examples of cause and effect in a text. I would use this with K-1 students and second graders who are below grade level readers.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

When Will It Rain?: Noticing Weather Patterns

When Will It Rain?
written by Martha E.H. Rustad; illustrated by Holli Conger
2015 (Millbrook Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"I see another pattern!" Katie says. "The days when it rained were cloudy."

Mr. Davis and his class are starting a weather project. They're going to observe the weather and record what they see. Mr. Davis explains that they are looking for patterns. The students observe variables such as cloudiness, precipitation, temperature and wind speed. One of the patterns noticed by the class is the increase in the amount of precipitation for the spring and fall. I'm guessing there aren't many snow days in Mr. Davis's school district. A guest, television meteorologist Penny Perez, visits the class to talk about her job. She also shares weather instruments like a barometer and an anemometer.

I really like the approach of this book. Students will make connections with the actions of Mr. Davis's class. Primary students know about patterns and predictions. They love to fill out charts and will want you to do so after reading this book. You can use the instructions in the back to create a paper cup anemometer too. Finally, I appreciate the vocabulary in When Will It Rain? Terms like precipitation and forecast are big words for the K-2 crowd, but with proper scaffolding these words will become part of the class vocabulary.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Crash Course for Kids Videos: Great Resource for Elementary Science


You need to go to You Tube and check out the Crash Course for Kids Videos. I watched one tonight about landforms and it was terrific! The video was only about 3 1/2 minutes long. It was an engaging introduction led by host Sabrina Cruz. You can watch it below. 



Sunday, September 27, 2015

Anchor Charts for Transition Words in Narratives

In my second grade classroom, we are working on writing personal narratives. One of the keys, which I need to emphasize more, is focusing on transitions. I have gathered some anchor charts to help in this effort.

This anchor chart comes from Scholastic's website. There are also some graphic organizers here including a cute idea that will resonate with students.



















This is courtesy of Elva Larralde on Pinterest.

















Finally, this chart comes from Mrs. Reeve's 5th grade class. 













Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Teaching Place Value in 2nd Grade

                                                          Photo courtesy of : Catfisheye

But it isn’t enough to understand what addition and subtraction mean and how they can be applied to solve word problems. Students in Grade 2 must also learn general and efficient methods for expressing the sum or difference of two multi-digit numbers as another multi-digit number (working within 1,000 at this grade; note that fluency is expected within 100, and single-digit sums must be known from memory by year’s end).

How would you count the marbles in this box? Would you count one by one? How about grouping by tens? When you teach place value, all of these questions come to mind. I highly recommend this article from EngageNY. It would be great to share with fellow educators and parents. Terrific explanation of what needs to happen with students who are learning about ones, tens, and hundreds.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Inventor's Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford

The Inventor's Secret
written by Suzanne Slade; illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

What's his secret? Henry wondered. How did he make such a marvelous machine?

At the age of 12, Henry Ford saw an engine-powered buggy. It was the first time he saw, a vehicle that wasn't powered by a horse. This set Henry on his path for life. He later took a job in a machine shop so he could learn more about engines. As Henry was going through the bumps and bruises that come with chasing a dream, he kept coming back to Thomas Edison and his series of successful inventions that had captivated the nation. The electric light, the phonograph, and many others amazed Henry. He wondered, What's his secret? This led to a meeting in New York City. Henry worked his way in to the dinner where Edison was the guest of honor. After a long time waiting, Henry finally had the attention of the famous inventor. He sketched the engine as Edison peppered him with questions. Finally, the Wizard of Menlo Park slammed his fist on the table and told Ford to Keep at it! This gave Henry Ford the encouragement he needed to continue his quest to build a gas powered car.

One of the joys of nonfiction picture books is learning about historical events that were unknown to you beforehand. Another is being able to use that picture book to teach a life lesson. Keeping at it
sounds like pretty simple advice, but how often do we take it? If you are trying to teach the character trait of determination, I would recommend this book. I think a map where you contrast Thomas Edison and Henry Ford would also be a good activity to tie in with The Inventor's Secret. I appreciate that I now have a resource for teaching primary students about these two famous inventors.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Q&A with Brain Games Author Jennifer Swanson

Today I have an interview with Jennifer Swanson, author of the new Brain Games book. 

1. There are several challenges in the book. How challenging was it to write this book and what was the most challenging part of it?

This book was very challenging to write. The reason? I had to turn a very interactive video-based show into a 2-dimensional book AND make it as interactive and exciting as the show itself.  Whew! Not an easy job. But I think we (my editor and I) managed to do just that. This book is filled with challenges and brain teasers-- all things to get readers up and moving. When you read this book we want you standing on one foot, jumping up and down, turning around, and stretching your brain cells to answer all of the questions. The sidebars are filled with fun and interesting facts for readers to amaze their friends, teacher, and parents. It was challenging to write, but a total blast as well. 

2. Are you left or right brained? Can someone be both?  That's a difficult question.

I probably tend to be more left-brained because I'm a pretty logical thinker, but clearly I have my creative side with my writing. I absolutely think that you can be both left and right-brained.  It's a matter of blending your positive aspects. For example, there are people who write with their right hand but are more comfortable catching a baseball with their left hand. You can have someone who is great at math, but loves music.  Our brains are amazing things and they can handle tons of complex thoughts and actions -- even ones that seem conflicting. 

3. What was your favorite sidebar from the book?

There were so many.... I guess if I have to pick one, I thought this fact was really cool:  "Learning actually changes the physical map of your brain."  If I have to pick my favorite challenge it's the one on page 72 where you have to say the color of the word and not read it. No matter how many times I do that challenge, I still have to stop and think really hard for a few seconds to get it right. 


4. Were you familiar with the television show before writing the book?

Actually, I was not. Shhh... don't tell my editor but we were 'Mythbusters' fans-- still are. But I have to say once I got asked to write this book I sat down and watched every episode. Pretty soon my husband and my teenagers were right next to me on the couch. BRAIN GAMES is a really fun show!



5. What advice do you have for aspiring writers who want to write nonfiction?

Go for it!  Writing nonfiction is fun. You get to learn all this cool stuff and then find electrifying and interesting ways to present it to kids. Your job is to get kids EXCITED about Science - or whatever nonfiction topic you are writing about. Nonfiction is hot, hot, hot with publishers, too right now. So now's the time. Dive in and write nonfiction! 


6. What's on the horizon for you? Do you have an upcoming book or project?

As a matter of fact, I have a new book coming out with Charlesbridge next summer that I am very excited about. It's called: SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up!  It's a book about how  nanotechnology is changing the shape of sports. Nanotechnology is the science of the extremely small and yet sports manufacturers are using to create stronger, more durable swimsuits, track suits, baseball bats, tennis rackets, and even running shoes. It's  pretty awesome science!  The book will be out in June, right before the Summer Olympics where you will see many new nanotech products in action! 


Thanks for the interview, Jeff. I really enjoyed talking with you today.


I'd like to leave your readers with my favorite saying: Don't forget to notice the science all around you!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Best Chapter in Children's Literature

**My apologies for being a missing blogger. I've been very busy working on a project that I am excited about. I should be able to get back to a regular blogging schedule next week.

Tomorrow I get to read my favorite chapter of any children's book. It's chapter 11 of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Titled The Miracle, Charlie has found a dollar hidden in the snow. He's desperately hungry and goes to a shop to buy a needed chocolate bar. You can probably guess what happens next.

Do you have a favorite chapter?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ebola: Fears and Facts

Ebola: Fears and Facts
written by Patricia Newman
2015 (Millbrook Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

There is no room for optimism as long as you are dealing with an Ebola virus. It's not about low numbers. It's about zero. We have got to get to zero.

Dr. Bruce Aylward - World Health Organization

The word Ebola strikes fear into people and rightfully so. The virus, transmitted by bodily fluids and not airborne, kills half of the people that come into contact with it. So why read an excellent informational text about this dreaded disease?


First, gaining knowledge is necessary in dealing with a panic inducing topic. Author Patricia Newman guides readers through the beginnings of the scientific world’s awareness of the disease. You learn why the virus spread so quickly in central and western Africa, what is being done to combat it, and why it is so important to continue to monitor it. The text is just right for fourth grade and above and you don’t have to worry about graphic photographs. Second, there are several superb text features (charts, diagrams, and maps) that can be used in lessons on nonfiction reading. For example, on page 27 is a chart that compares Ebola to other viral infections (Bird flu, HIV, SARS). This chart compares the origins of the infections, target areas of the body, and five other categories. Finally, this is the story of a heroic battle to save lives. Brave doctors, nurses, and local citizens risk their health in service to others. 

Ebola: Facts and Fears is a terrific resource that can be used by students and adults to learn about a disease that has grabbed the world’s attention. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Brain Games: The Mind-Blowing Science of Your Amazing Brain

Brain Games
written by Jennifer Swanson
2015 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Your brain is the most complex supercomputer on the planet. It's a compass, a storehouse, and a time machine all rolled into one.

My youngest daughter enjoys the television show Brain Games on the National Geographic Channel. It's a reality show that uses interactive games to teach you about the brain. With the success of this show and Pixar's Inside Out, a lot of people have the brain on the brain. But do you know how the brain works? I have some basic knowledge, but not much beyond that. With this kids companion to Brain Games, I can be an expert. It is a thorough treatment of all the connections and functions that our brains have. Understanding the science of the brain is a challenging matter, but author Jennifer Swanson makes it easier by introducing sections with games that are what you would see on the television show. This gives you a connection for the hard science that follows in the section titled What Exactly is Happening. Pretty neat trick. You also get fun facts that illuminate the information presented. For example, in the section on neural pathways and how the brain makes our senses work, you learn in a sidebar how king snakes can hear sounds by feeling vibrations in their jaws. I also understand my two dogs much better now that I have read the sidebar about the importance of smell to my canine critters. Another engaging section of the book are the brain breaks. Appearing at the end of each chapter, these are mostly visual cranium contests that students will enjoy. I would put individual brain breaks on a SmartBoard and have the class try and solve them. Two more challenges are also included with the back matter.

When a student talks about their brain hurting, you can now ask "Left side or right side?" "Your hypothalamus or your frontal cortex?" If you want to be a true brainiac, pick up a copy of Brain Games.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Writing short vowel words resource


I was looking to create a center for Reader's Workshop. I wanted to focus on word study and ran across this terrific resource from Anna at The Measured Mom. Students use printed initial consonants, blends, and digraphs (onsets) to attach to a vowel and other letters that follow (rimes). Players gain the rime by rolling a die. What's especially nice about this resource is that it is FREE! In the age of TPT, this is a nice surprise. Thanks, Anna!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I'm New Here

I'm New Here
written and illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

I say the new words again and again. 
They feel like rocks in my mouth. 
My tongue twists and stumbles on their edges.

It's not easy being the new kid in class. All eyes watch you. Your newness breaks up the humdrum of the classroom routine. Now imagine being new in a place where you don't understand the language. That is the challenge for three students in I'm New Here. Maria is from Guatemala. Recess in her old home meant free flowing conversations. Now she is overwhelmed by strange sounds. Jin has come from Korea. He loved writing stories in his native land. Writing in English is a challenge. The symbols are now letters instead of pictures. Fatimah, from Somalia, was a great fit in her old class. She has to learn different routines and ways in her new class. Loneliness and confusion are some of the feelings facing these students. The nice thing about kids is that they can make all sorts of connections. Through art, reading, and soccer, these students make new friends.

What a great book to share at the beginning of the year! I have three students who are new to our school and will be sharing it. Being aware of the difficulty of being new will help the rest of the class to make friends. I'm New Here would also be a good mentor text when talking about immigration. Pair this with the wonderful wordless book Here I Am which also focuses on the theme of being new from another country. I'm New Here is a valuable resource for building a community in your classroom.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play

Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play
written by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook;
illustrated by Andy Robert Davies
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Team shirt, goalie gloves.
A ball to kick away.
Long socks and shin guards.
What sport does she play?


When I was 8 years old, my favorite part of getting dressed for baseball games was putting on the stirrups. It was a unique piece of clothing and made me feel like a big league player. Of course, I didn't exactly hit like a big league player, but it didn't matter because you got a free soda after every game. I played several sports in my youth and putting on the uniform was always a big deal. In Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play, equipment and uniform are used to identify different sports. Readers use the illustrations and an accompanying couplet to identify the sport. One of the stated skills required of K-2 readers is to be able to use the illustrations and details in a text to find the key idea. This book makes it fun to practice. You will get a loud response before you turn the page to reveal the answer. Seven sports are represented which makes reading the book an opportunity to create a graph. "How many of you like this sport?" you could ask. A bar or pictograph could easily be drawn to illustrate the data. A great pre-reading activity would be to list different sports and ask readers to list equipment and/or uniform pieces that are needed to play the game. Then you can check the list after you read to see if any additions need to be made. If you have a Sports Day in your classroom, this would be a fun mentor text to read as well. Be a sport and read Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play!






Monday, August 17, 2015

Let Me Eat Cake!

"Six candle cake" by Five_candle_cake.jpg: Tournesolderivative work: Tournesol 

NC Teacher Stuff turned six years old today. Here is a link to the very first post. I'm surprised it has lasted this long. Most blogs don't.  I quit one time only to find a box of nice books on my doorstep when I returned from vacation. I felt obligated to review them so the blog came back to life. I'm blessed with the doors that blogging has opened. Thank you to everyone who has contributed and befriended me online. I cannot thank you enough. If you enjoy writing and need an outlet, I would encourage you to start a blog. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Beginning of the Year Picture Books

What picture books do you read at the beginning of the year? I have included pictures of some of the books that I am considering. I want to use these books to build a sense of community and set the tone for the new year. Feel free to add books that you use in the comments section. I appreciate new ideas!




Friday, August 14, 2015

Poetry Friday: The Dog


We adopted a second dog yesterday. Her name is Tilly. She's an under active beagle which suits me just fine. Since I have dogs on the brain, I am posting Ogden Nash's poem below:

The Dog

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I've also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Alphabet Trains

Alphabet Trains
written by Samantha R. Vamos; illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Around the world, from land to sea,
trains work hard from A to Z.


Quick question. How many different trains can you name? Not companies, but actual trains. I know freight trains, monorails, and passenger trains. I should have named elevated train as well but I had to look in the book to be reminded. That's it. Now, after reading Alphabet Trains, my knowledge has quadrupled. I like that kind of return when reading a nonfiction book. There are so many cool trains here. One of my favorites is the Hurricane Turn. That should be located in a warm weather climate, right? Well, you will actually find it in Alaska. In the back matter (terrific information!), I read that riders have to wave a white flag to stop the train. When they want to get off the train, they tell the conductor the milepost where they need to leave. I was interested enough to research this and learn more about the Hurricane Turn. That's one of the beauties of this book. It's going to lead to extra research by young readers and their families. Did you know there was a snow plow train? I never considered how snow would be removed from a train track. They have special blades that carve the snow, sends it through a chute, and blows it to one side of the track. After reading Alphabet Trains, readers will also ask questions that will lead to further research. As a kid, I lived off of nonfiction books with bite-sized information that led me to read other books.

Other than prompting further research, you could use this book for quick shared reading sessions with a reading group. Leave off the last word in the second sentence and see if students can provide it. They can use the last word in the previous sentence and context clues (the illustration) to try and come up with the missing word. This will help build vocabulary and prompt readers to practice using the tools they have to figure out new words. I think creating an alphabet book would also be a fun nonfiction writing challenge for 2nd-4th grade writers too. Punch your ticket now and join the Alphabet Trains!



Sunday, August 9, 2015

B is for Bedtime

B is for Bedtime
written by Margaret Hamilton; illustrated by Anna Pignataro
2015 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

O is for the Owl outside in the tree, 
P for Pajamas, now shake my foot free. 

What do I want from a bedtime book? First, I'm looking for illustrations or photographs that grab my eyeballs and keep them stuck on the page. B is for Bedtime is chock full of adorable drawings of a little girl preparing for a good night's sleep. If you can throw in a cute animal, even better. The dog in this book steals the show. Second, the text needs to have a catch. I like rhyme because a nice rhythm can be soothing which you really need at bedtime. The cadence with this text is consistent and rolls off your tongue. I also appreciate that there is a familiar routine that sends you right into bedtime. This is a big deal when you are preparing a young one for sleep. Finally, I want a text and pictures where the reader can make connections. That makes it more interactive for the reader. I love, love, love that the individual parents and grandma are included in the text. Very sweet. There are teddy bears and blankets, pajamas and lullabies. All of the elements that you expect in a bedtime story are right here. Plus, it's not super long or too cloyingly sweet so that's a bonus for the adult who reads the book EVERY night.

If you want to win the baby shower, buy this book. Imagine the oohs and aahs and jealous looks that you will receive when your gift is opened. It will be passed around and fawned over as opposed to the pack of onesies or the diaper changer. You can thank me later.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Value of a Real Apology: An Article by Dr. Richard Curwin

The Value of a Real Apology
written by Dr. Richard Curwin
July 16, 2015 (Edutopia)

Public forms of discipline - including writing on boards, charts, or oral interventions- create pressure, humiliation, powerlessness, embarrassment, and unwanted attention. Even if the public attention is meant to be positive, the student doesn't always feel that way. 

Edutopia is a good place to visit anytime, but especially as you are gearing up for another school year. If you're thinking about your classroom management plan/style(If not, why not?), you should read this article. I was already thinking about some of my previous practices and how I wanted to take a different direction. Reading this article confirmed some of my thoughts, pricked my conscience, and made me want to make some changes. That's the kind of staff development I appreciate. Click the link above to read the article.

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups

A Tower of Giraffes:Animals in Groups
written and illustrated by Anna Wright
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Available starting September 8th

A Drove of Pigs
Pigs like to spend time with other pigs-they are very social. Groups, called droves, are led by females, called sows. Within a drove, some pigs sleep beside the same companion for many years. 

Is that wallpaper? That was my first reaction when I saw the striking cover of A Tower of Giraffes. Then I went into full blast teacher craft mode (Can I trademark that phrase?) and thought about how cool it would be to use wallpaper samples to create animal pictures with second graders. When I opened the book and looked through the illustrations, I also saw watercolors, fabric, and feathers used to illustrate other groups of animals. My eyes feasted on these beautiful and original illustrations. After recovering from near craft hyperventilation (NCH), I began to pay attention to the text and notice all the new facts that I was learning. Look at the paragraph highlighted above. Did you know that the sows led groups of pigs? I didn't. I also wasn't aware of how social they were. That's two new pieces of information in a small paragraph. There's a lot of animal information that your students will collect from A Tower of Giraffes. Furthermore, you can use this book to teach collective nouns. Check out the vocabulary below:

How great is it to learn the word flamboyance? After reading A Tower of Giraffes, I would challenge students to research and find more collective nouns related to animals. You can create a chart in your classroom. Kids will be flying to their computers at home to add to the list. If excellent illustrations, new animal information, and fun grammar lessons weren't enough, then might I suggest main idea and supporting details? The first sentence of these paragraphs gives the name of the group and the following sentences are supporting details. This informational text is the total package! It can score, make assists and gather rebounds. A Tower of Giraffes is to informational text as LeBron James is to basketball. If you think I'm bathing in hyperbole with that analogy, check out this book and decide for yourself. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Animally

Animally
written by Lynn Parrish Sutton; illustrated by Hazel Mitchell
2015 (Kane Miller)
Review copy provided by the publisher

I love you slowly like a sloth.
I love you quietly like a moth.

"Here is a list of adverbs that you can use with your writing." That's a helpful act that myself and other teachers will do to assist young writers. We might also show the Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Adverbs  song from Schoolhouse Rock. But what if we had a really cute rhyming book that used animals to illustrate the use of adverbs? That would be a pretty effective tool. Voila! Let me present Animally which is just such a book. Each two page spread features a full page illustration and two half page illustrations. Each illustration is accompanied by a sentence that starts with "I love you..." followed by an adverb that connects with the featured animal. For example, "I love you slowly like a sloth" highlights the deliberate nature of this mammal. "I love you quietly like a moth" confirms the sonic quality of that insect. As a teacher, I would use two or three of these a day to have a quick five minute lesson about adverbs. This would also integrate science as you would be discussing why the author chose that particular adverb. Another idea based on the book would be to create a class book where students contribute a page that uses an animal to feature a certain adverb. You can change out love with another action word. I run speedily like a cheetah or I bellow loudly like a bear would be examples of what you could create.

Animally is a delightful book that can be used as a bedtime story for toddlers or for a grammar lesson with older students. You will love this book ferociously like a grizzly bear!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Space Boy and His Dog

Space Boy and His Dog
written by Dian Curtis Regan; illustrated by Robert Neubecker
2015 (Boyds Mills Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Niko is the captain of his very own spaceship. He built it all by himself. 

Niko and his crew, robot Radar and dog Tag, were looking for a new mission. This band of space explorers left daily from Niko's backyard in search of adventure. Niko and copilot Radar spotted a lost cat sign on a tree in the neighborhood. Maybe that cat was on the moon, thought Niko. Launch time! After landing on the moon, Niko discovered that his sister stowed away on their ship. While inconvenient, Niko thought she could be easily dismissed because she was "not in the story."  The brave band of searchers set out to traverse the moon's landscape. Meanwhile, sister Posh sprinkled Tag's dog treats on a moon rock. A long exploration turned up zero evidence of a cat. When they returned to the ship, there was Posh sitting on a moon rock with the cat on her lap. For Niko and Tag, this was completely the wrong scenario. Radar was secretly happy because he liked cats better than dogs. Spurred by the unfairness of it all, Niko took the cat but banished his sister to stay on the moon. This didn't sit well with the crew as they hurtled away from the moon and Posh. Can Niko overcome his jealousy and go back to the moon for his sister?

It's very creative to take a story of sibling rivalry and place it in a space setting. I'm sure at some point in my life I would have liked some of my siblings to be off the planet. The solution is clever as well because it's not a simple matter of Niko returning to the moon and Posh being grateful for his change of heart. Dian Curtis Regan plays it much more smartly than that.

If you teach a unit on family, this would be a good book to use for discussing how we treat others in our school or family units. Niko would be a great character study. He displays several traits that could be explored. I also appreciate a book that shows children using their own imagination instead of being attached to a screen viewing someone else's imagination. Space Boy and His Dog is a fun ride!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

El Perro con Sombrero

El Perro con Sombrero
written by Derek Taylor Kent; illustrated by Jed Henry; translated by Gabriela Revilla Lugo
2015 (Henry Holt)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Pepe was a very sad dog. He had no home and no family to love him.

Pepe was a dog of the streets. No family, no source of food or love. As he was passing by a hat store, a sombrero flew off the balcony and landed on his head. Struck by the sight of Pepe in a sombrero, a grocer offered a big bone. Moments later, a movie director saw Pepe and decided that he belonged on the big screen. Soon, Pepe was living the dream. He was chilling poolside and enjoying the trappings of movie stardom. He had everything except what he really wanted. A family. Meanwhile, a rival was scheming to take Pepe down. El gato in zapatos was a siamese cat whose stardom had been eclipsed by Pepe. Being catty about this, el gato stole Pepe's sombrero in hopes of ending his career. When Pepe arrived on set without his signature hat, the movie making stopped. Seeing el gato with his hat, Pepe gave chase through the busy streets until he cornered the conniving cat in a playground sandbox. It was here that Pepe faced a decision that would change his life forever.

El Perro con Sombrero is a charming bilingual picture book that will engage primary age readers. These students love animals and they will embrace Pepe and his underdog tale. Each page features the English text with the Spanish text highlighted in red below. This makes for a great vocabulary lesson for all students. El Perro is also a terrific book for teaching inference. In the back half of the book, there are several opportunities for readers to make predictions. With a combination of humor, sweetness and delightful illustrations, El Perro is a top dog!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Growing Up Pedro

Growing Up Pedro
written and illustrated by Matt Tavares
2015 (Candlewick Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Pedro loves playing baseball. 
He dreams that someday he and his brothers will play
together in the major leagues.

Pedro Martinez wanted to be just like his big brother Ramon. He dreamed that he would be signed by a major league team like his brother. Tagging along while Ramon attended the Dodgers' baseball academy, Pedro was noticed by a coach who encouraged him to continue working hard. Throughout this book, you see examples of Pedro showing determination in his career to overcome obstacles. After hearing his brother tell about his struggles with English, Pedro worked hard to improve his interviewing skills. He read road signs and learned new words daily. Pedro also overcame being underrated because of his small size.  His first major league manager didn't use him as a starter because he thought he was too small. It took a trade to the Montreal Expos to give him the chance to start. Pedro had such a good career that he will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend.

One of the things that sets apart Growing Up Pedro from other sports picture book biographies is the focus on the relationship between Pedro and his brother Ramon. The support between the two siblings is a great teaching point for students. There's so much tearing down in this world that it's nice to see a story where two people build each other up. Our children have struggles each day to conquer. Reading about a success story such as Pedro Martinez will provide inspiration for them.