Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ultimate Space Atlas

Ultimate Space Atlas
written by Carolyn DeCristofano
2017 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

This book is your vessel for a visual trip through the universe.

This is a very cool book from the ground up. Literally. Starting with viewing from good ol' terra firma and our atmosphere and stretching out to far, far, galaxies, Ultimate Space Atlas is an arcade of informational text about the universe as it presents facts in a variety ways. For example, the charts and maps are terrific. A vertical infographic shows the different layers, along with size amounts, of the atmosphere with pictures in each layer highlighting what would exist there. There are plenty of star charts showing constellations you will find in the northern and southern skies during seasonal times of the year. A cutaway diagram features various sections of the sun. A map, based on scientists' observations and measurements, of the Milky Way with labels and the 5 Cool Facts to Record text boxes provides a host of information about our galaxy. The 5 Cool Facts format is in several sections, which I think is great because it takes information that can be dense and chunks it into morsels that can be easily digested. I'm just scratching the surface with the amount of facts that are presented. If you teach a unit on the planets, each one is showcased with at least one two page spread with photographs, artist's impressions, and plenty of fun facts. Just about anything an elementary or middle school student would want to know about space is available here.

Instead of purchasing a series of books about space, you could save money and get one copy of Ultimate Space Atlas. The combination of text, photos, and illustrations make for a great look on a document camera as you present a mini-lesson on text features or how to read informational text. It's also a nice model for creating a nonfiction presentation in writing. With over 150 pages of info, this atlas goes above and beyond.




Monday, September 18, 2017

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk
written by Josh Funk; illustrated by Edwardian Taylor
2017 (Two Lions)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Spoiler alert: A giant lives here. Can I go home now? 

Jack is not a happy camper. Issues with a giant? Not really. More like an overbearing narrator. First, he's told to give away his best friend in the world. This leads to a river of tears from Jack and the cow. But hey, these are magic beans! Well, if you're hungry, that doesn't do you any good. Jack is so cranky that he tosses the beans out the window. When he wakes up, there's a rather large beanstalk outside. And a pushy narrator telling him that he has to climb it without any equipment since readers have been told that Jack has no possessions. Jack puts on a brave face as he climbs the beanstalk. He meets Cinderella on his way up as she is standing on a balcony in her castle. Their ensuing conversation ticks off the narrator because it impedes the flow of the story. I love it because it reminds me of the great "This is SportsCenter" commercials on ESPN where worlds collide. Jack has some trepidation about entering the castle. He questions the narrator who forcefully exclaims that Jack must enter the house. Sure enough, the giant captures Jack. But when Jack explains, against the wishes of the narrator, that it doesn't end well for the giant, the story takes a much different road than the one through Traditionville. And that, as Robert Frost once wrote, makes all the difference.

Where do I start with all the reasons why I love this book? First and most of all, this is such a fun and funny read. Your day will instantly improve after reading it. If you use it as a read aloud, you can count on having to read it more than once. But there are also several teaching opportunities available here. The back and forth between Jack and the narrator is terrific. This story would help teachers be able to explicitly talk about the role of a narrator and teach a point of view mini-lesson. The design of the book helps immensely with speech bubbles for Jack's "outside the narrative" conversations. There's also the element of Jack questioning the authority of the narrator. That's great role modeling for our need to ask questions and occasionally challenge authority. Mentioned earlier, the meeting of Jack and Cinderella is a mash-up that opens up a lot of writing possibilities. What if this character met that character? How would the dialogue go? Speaking of dialogue, you could use this book to create an entertaining Reader's Theater script/classroom play. With delightful twists and turns, you'll be glad It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pirates Magnified

Pirates Magnified
written by David Long; illustrated by Harry Bloom
2017 (Wide Eyed Editions0
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher)

Not only were pirates some of history's toughest adventurers-they were also some of the most skillful. 

Tuesday (September 19th) is Talk Like a Pirate Day. It's not enough to say a few words. You need to have the background knowledge to really be convincing. Fortunately, Pirates Magnified, a mashup of informational text and search and find, will give you the info you need to go beyond a mere "Shiver me timbers." Although that's covered too with an excellent two page spread in the back with pirate rules, slang, terms, and ship vocabulary.

The first four two page spreads of the book feature background information about pirate life. That information takes several forms. There are two or three paragraphs of interesting text. In Merchants On the High Seas, the text explains that there were many items beyond gold and silver that were valuable. For example, a small bag of spices from Indonesia could bring great riches. The star of the spread is the search and find. Each is a mural of pirates in action. Accompanying the large illustration is a 10 Things to Spot infographic with small figures that appear in the mural and a sentence or two of information. You will be looking for jewels, but other important items like salt fish. A pirate's gotta eat! To make it easier to find the figures, you receive a magnifying glass to spot them. Other text boxes with even more facts also appear.

After pirate life, there are ten biographies of famous pirates. Some familiar, like Blackbeard and William Kidd, but others that may not be as familiar to you. Did you know there was a Spanish pirate like Robin Hood who stole from the rich and gave to the poor? His name was Amaro Pargo and he also sometimes used tricks instead of violence to board ships. There were also pirates on American rivers!

Two more spreads highlight seafaring in a storm and treasure hunters. A hilarious and informative Rogues Gallery shines a spotlight on pirates who didn't make it into the spreads but were infamous nonetheless. Finally, more search and find fun comes with many extra items to spot as you review the previous spreads.

With a combination of fun and loads of pirate information, Pirates Magnified is the perfect book for land lubbers like me.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Reena's Rainbow

Reena's Rainbow
written by Dee White; illustrated by Tracie Grimwood
2017 (EK Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Reena couldn't hear the children count to ten, but she saw their smiles, and ran to join them. 

Reena is unable to hear but she uses her eyes to take everything in. At the park, she meets a dog who doesn't have a home. Reena and Dog enjoy each other's company. Soon, she sees a group of children playing hide and seek. Dog shows them good places to hide while Reena is the seeker. She's very good at finding the other children. Without relying on sound, Reena uses her keen eyesight to spot them. Now it's time for Reena to hide. Unfortunately, she's a little too good at hiding. The other children can't find her and wonder if she has gone home. When Reena reappears, she ends up being alone. She worries about being different, but her mother explains that we are all like the colors of the rainbow. Different, but better together as one. This didn't seem to help Reena or Dog as he felt apart as well. On another day, Reena is once again at the park and sees a group of kids playing on a low to the ground zip line. One of the group is standing underneath a tree branch that breaks. Reena lets out a warning scream and Dog pushes the boy out of harm's way. From that point on, Reena and Dog no longer felt apart at the park as they became a permanent team.

Children want to belong. Being alone stinks. When you are different, it can be harder to be part of a group. That's one of the reasons why building a welcoming community in their classroom may be the most important thing a teacher can do. One way to build a community is to share books like Reena's Rainbow that encourage students to work together. I really like the example of a rainbow and the colors combining to make something special. This is also a terrific book to share when studying the five senses. The story alludes to Reena having great eyesight by continually saying "Reena saw..." or "She saw..." It would be interesting to see if students pick up on this. All in all, this is a sweet story that illustrates the need for acceptance and working together.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Anchor Charts for Making Inferences

Anchor charts are some of the most popular posts on this blog, so to quote The O'Jays and Jalen Rose, "Give the People What They Want!" Here are some anchor charts that I found on making inferences.

This comes from Katelyn Gagnon's Reading Pinterest board.


















4th grade Weebly from James R. Wood Elementary School.









Using inference in fiction. This comes from Sara Dumpman's Making Inferences Pinterest board.

















 I like the non-example and example shown here. Amanda Hudacek's Making Inferences board.


















Important distinction made here. Brittany Thornton All Things Reading board.
















Another important distinction right here. The Classroom Nook.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Baby Loves Quantum Physics and Thermodynamics!


Baby Loves Quantum Physics!
Baby Loves Thermodynamics!
written by Ruth Spiro; illustrated by Irene Chan
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Cat is in the box! Maybe Cat is asleep. Shhh... Maybe Cat is awake.

Baby loves her cat. So when Cat decides to hide, Baby looks for him. A tail hanging out of a box gives a big clue to Baby as to the location of Cat. Now here's the big question: Is Cat asleep or is Cat awake? Or is Cat in both states? This is where quantum physics comes in. Physicist Erwin Schrodinger created a thought experiment involving a cat and a box. Professor Eric Martell explains that Schrodinger's point was that rules used to describe big objects "couldn't be used to explain how an electron or atom works." The thermodynamics book was easier to understand as Baby enjoys the warmth of the sun and also observes that the energy of the sun transfers to an apple tree to help it grow. Then, an apple falls from the tree and Baby eats it to gain enough energy to throw a ball.

So my mind is officially blown. But here's the really cool thing about these two board books: On one level, these board books are gentle stories with engagingly colorful illustrations that babies and toddlers will enjoy. The next level is what it does to adults like me. I spent hours scrambling to learn about quantum physics and the laws of thermodynamics. And it was fun! Plus, it's a great example that I can use with my students about what to do when you don't know something. I can recall to them how I used several resources to learn about quantum physics and thermodynamics. I consulted internet articles and videos to learn. There was a lot of comparing and talking inside my head. The process was an enjoyable journey. Now Jeff loves quantum physics and thermodynamics!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Crocodali

Crocodali
written and illustrated by Lucy Volpin
2017 (Little Bee Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

I'm sorry. I have no time for autographs today. I am about to create a masterpiece...

First of all, the name is ingenious. With the mustache on the crocodile, it's very clever right off the bat. In his mind, Crocodali is extremely talented. So much so that he doesn't have time for you or me. A blank canvas awaits him along with a few cans of paint (psst! They're primary colors.) and some brushes. But since you're so persistent in turning the pages, he enlists your help. Unfortunately, Crocodali doesn't appreciate it. The results don't meet to his approval. When you turn the page against his wishes, the painting suddenly changes in his eyes. He kind of likes it. Shake the book, he says. Now paint is all over the place, but with your help in turning the book, Crocodali adds some finishing touches and is quite pleased. With the canvas being wet, the master painter asks you to blow on it. This finishing touch turns out to be Pollockesque.

This would be a great book for an art teacher to use in their classroom to discuss famous painters and/or styles of painting. It's fun and pulls the reader in with the instructions from the creative crocodile. If you teach primary color recognition, this would be a popular choice for a read aloud in your classroom. I also think it's a good lesson on how to make lemonade out of lemons. What at first seems dire can turn into a masterpiece.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Go Well, Anna Hibiscus!

Go Well, Anna Hibiscus!
written by Atinuke; illustrated by Lauren Tobia
2017 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

And today was the day that Grandfather was going! He was going with Grandmother and the big girl cousins, Joy and Clarity and Common Sense. 

Book 6 of this series finds Grandfather needing to get back to his home village. Away from the noise of the busy city and to a place "where there are more goats than people." Each chapter could be a standalone story with the thread being the contrast between Anna's city life and the village of her beloved grandfather. In each chapter, there is also a big life lesson. Chapter 1 is the first part of a bus trip to the village. Anna shows great compassion to a boy that is traveling with three goats. He is hungry and Anna asks her older cousin Joy to buy food for the boy. A lady who doesn't show compassion meets a hilarious fate on the bus. In Chapter 2, Anna learns to adapt. After a bus trip of many hours, Anna and Joy must walk through the bush to get to Grandfather's village. It is a tiring journey in the hot sun carrying her pet chicken in a basket. Even though her city aunts would frown upon it, Anna makes her load much lighter by putting it on her head. Now she is walking like the ladies of the bush. Chapter 3 shows Anna being very brave. Life for her in the village is not easy. Everything is different including the food. Village children call her names because of her lighter skin color. She longs for her mother who is back in the city. When Anna hears the cries of her frightened grandmother, she jumps into action and leads away a pack of stray dogs by thinking of a solution. Though encouraged by her bravery and by Grandfather, Anna is quite lonely in the final chapter. The older people all have others to spend time with but she has no one. Her grandparents encourage her to work on her spelling homework. With no paper in the village, Anna draws her letters in the dirt. Looking over a wall, the village children watch. Anna eyes them defiantly as she remembers the earlier slights. Finally, one of the children asks her to teach him. Soon all of the children are learning to write. Even so, they don't seem very inviting. It's when they are able to teach her a skill that a friendship blossoms.

One of the strengths of the Anna Hibiscus series is that it takes readers to a place most of them are unfamiliar with. City and village life in Africa is not a subject that comes up very often in our schools. These books will transport readers and help them discover the similarities between themselves and Anna. All of us have times where we feel lonely, where we need to be brave, where we learn to be compassionate. Anna is all of us.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Strong As Sandow

Strong As Sandow
written and illustrated by Don Tate
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

No doubt Eugen Sandow was the strongest of all strongmen. But he wasn't always strong. 

Later known as "The Strongest Man on Earth", Friedrich Muller (1867-1925) started off his life in a frail state of health. While other children ran and played outside, he regularly stayed inside due to being ill. An excellent student, his father rewarded him with a trip where he viewed the statues of Roman gladiators. Inspired by these ancient musclemen, Friedrich exercised more than ever. Disturbed by the focus on physical activity, his father sent him to a university to build his mind. Sneaking away from classes one day to visit a traveling circus, Friedrich left the books behind to become an acrobat. All of the tumbling, flipping, and flopping started making a difference in his physique. With the circus turning out to be a temporary career for the budding muscleman, Friedrich turned to modeling for artists to pay the bills. One of these artists introduced him to a strongman who gave Friedrich a place at his gym and a turning point in life. Lifting heavier and heavier weights, not only did he become stronger, but also wiser in the business of being strong. Having changed his name to Eugen Sandow, the young man in his early twenties was about to take his shot (yes, a Hamilton reference). Two professional strongmen boasted nightly from a London stage that no one could defeat them in a strength competition. Eugen defeated them both and was on his way to fame and fortune. He toured America to much applause, but the road was a tough place to stay healthy and he eventually went back home to England. Needing a change of pace, Eugen opened a gym and focused on promoting exercise and healthy eating. He also started the first organized bodybuilding contest. Wanting to be like Eugen, many people turned to living a healthier lifestyle.

In his Author's Note, Don Tate explains that his personal interest in bodybuilding led to the writing of Strong As Sandow. His desire to get stronger mirrored Sandow's. He also tells how this was a challenging book to write as there were many contradictions between sources and Sandow's family destroyed his personal belongings after the strongman's death. He decided to tell the story how Sandow would have wanted which makes this a great opportunity to talk about point of view in the classroom. Tate's telling of this fascinating life is terrific. His Afterword and Author's Note are superb as he explains why Sandow was an important figure in his time period. Tate even includes exercises that students can practice to become as strong as Sandow. As a teacher and a parent, I appreciate the author's emphasis on teaching children how to live a healthier lifestyle. It's a unique story that will be a welcome addition to a biography unit. If you do a wax museum in your class, someone will want to be as strong as Sandow.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Curious Cares of Bears

The Curious Cares of Bears
written by Douglas Florian; illustrated by Sonia Sanchez
2017 (Little Bee Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

In springtime there's carefully climbing up trees, 
and stealing the honey from beehives of bees. 

Think you know everything about bears? You might be surprised by what you find out in The Curious Cares of Bears. What is not surprising is they like to climb trees and seek out honey. Chasing each other and wrestling also fall into the predictable category. But jump roping? Do they double dutch? And how about partying and dancing all night? I hope they do the electric slide although it looks like a conga line. Would you believe mountain biking for over fifty-five miles? I expect bears to relax in a lake and eat berries. Building a campfire and sharing a song? I wonder what songs bears would sing around a campfire. Teddy Bear by Elvis? They sure do have a good time until the cold winds blow signifying it's time to head for a den and hibernate.

Before reading this with a class, I would ask students to think about what the bears might do in the book as a way to work on prediction and to find out what their background knowledge is with bears. This is also a fun book that could be a terrific title for exploring the differences between fiction and nonfiction. You could create a class graphic organizer where you list what is fact and what is fiction in the book. With the rhymes in the book, this is an opportunity to work on phonemic awareness by covering up the last word in a spread. Students can think about what would rhyme and they would be practicing using illustrations to help figure out new words. Speaking of rhymes, you'll definitely want to consider this for a shared reading as well. With delightful artwork, a clever concept, and plenty of humor, The Curious Cares of Bears would be a great addition to a K-2 class collection and/or a bedtime story at home.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Chomp!

Chomp!
written by Brady Barr
2017 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

I asked the engineers at National Geographic to build me a Dynamometer. (That's a fancy word for bite-force meter.) On every expedition, I took along my trusty dynamometer and measured the bite force of animals I encountered. 

Brady Barr is a herpetologist and an animal expert with National Geographic. He seeks to know more about animals in order to help them. One of his passions is to measure the bite force of animals. Okay, probably not what most of us would choose to do, but it's valuable work. This has led him to create a book that focuses on how and why animals bite like they do. There are four groups in the text: Grippers, Slicers, Crushers, and Gulpers. The first group, Grippers, use their teeth to stop an animal in their tracks with a ferocious bite. There's a wide variety of animals in this group including land animals like lions, jaguars, and Tasmanian devils and also water animals like tiger sharks and gharial crocodiles. Each featured animal in the book receives a two page spread. On the spread, you'll get an introductory text box titled Meet the Beast. What's on the Menu tells you the favored foods of the animal. Bite Force gives a measure of the bite in pounds while By the Numbers tells how many teeth the animal has. Finally, Bite Business gives a detailed description of the animal's bite. As a teacher, I really like this because you open a world of compare and contrast opportunities. If you're familiar with Robert Marzano's research, that's an effective way to learn information and boost achievement. I also think this will be great for working on creating tables to present facts in a presentation and it's a good example of how you can design an informational text. I like the consistency of the features in each section. My favorite part of this book? The stories. Brady Barr tells some fantastic ones in Chomp! Each chapter starts out with one. We're talking "I have to share this with my friends and I'll never ever forget these" kind of stories. I guarantee that you won't think of otters in the same way after reading this book. In the classroom, you could use these as unforgettable examples of personal narratives.

Be aware. Chomp! is not for the fainthearted. Which means it's perfect for 3rd-8th grade readers. If you have the stomach, it is a fascinating study of an important part of animal life.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Blue Corn Soup

Blue Corn Soup
written by Caroline Stutson; illustrated by Teri Weidner
2017 (Sleeping Bear Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"What is this?" Mouse peeks outside.
Whiskers wiggle. Eyes grow wide.
Chipmunk, Rabbit, and Old Bear
smell her sopa, want to share.

Have you ever walked through a neighborhood during the summer and smelled the food someone was grilling? And wished they would invite you over? If you have, you will understand how the animals feel in Blue Corn Soup. With snow blanketing the ground, Mouse starts grinding corn. She's going to make sopa (soup) to keep her warm. Chipmunk lifts his head as he is chopping wood. Smelling the smoke, he wonders if someone is cooking soup. Abuelita (grandmother) stirs and sips. This sopa is going to need a little extra so she starts chopping pepper. While drawing water from a well, Rabbit smells the pinon smoke. He too wonders if soup is on the way. Once again Mouse takes a small taste. The sopa still needs more flavor so she adds pine nuts to the pot. Old Bear awakens from his bed with his nose full of the wonderful smell. He joins his neighbors in walking to the source of the outstanding aroma. Holding the pot, Mouse looks outside her door. Three large noses are disappointed that their eyes tell them there isn't enough sopa for everyone. But Mouse has a plan to save the day.

Can you have enough books about sharing in K-2? I don't think so. When sweet animals in lovely pastel colors are doing the sharing, that's all the better. Sharing is one of those activities that you want to emphasize all year round and provide plenty of examples that allow students to see it for themselves without having to be told to share. There's also opportunities to work with Spanish and English vocabulary which make for a good lesson on how to use context and illustrations to figure out a word. Finally, the repeated text in the story will make this book a fun shared reading and/or partner reading experience. Pull up a chair and get your biggest spoon. With a recipe at the end of the book, you'll want a big helping of Blue Corn Soup.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Great Pasta Escape

The Great Pasta Escape
written by Miranda Paul; illustrated by Javier Joaquin
2017 (Little Bee Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

They stuck to their own kind. 
They stayed still in their packaging.
And they never spoke to humans. 

If you followed the rules, the pasta believed they would go to a most excellent location. So they stayed in their different packages and waited for the next step. But a funny thing happened on the way to that better place. Fettuccine overheard two factory workers talking about how they were looking forward to eating pasta. Gasp! Was this true? A meeting was called. Bow Tie tried to be the voice of reason. Ramen was very angry. A bandanna wearing Macaroni just wanted everyone to chill. A trio of Rotini presented the evidence that was too strong to ignore. The pasta were headed for a plate of trouble. After much venting among the pasta, a Rotini proposed a plan that left only Ravioli behind. This did not go over well with the square crowd and they led a revolt against the others. Amidst the pasta pugilism, an angel appeared. Actually, a batch of angel hair pasta. And she had a plan to find that better place.

With the wordplay and humor, I was laughing loud enough to be heard in other parts of my house. This is brilliant stuff. It's a great lesson in learning how to keep your cool in times of distress and thinking through a problem together. That's something you want to emphasize at the beginning of the school year in your classroom. And there's a guide to pasta shapes in the very back. If you do art projects involving pasta, teach a unit on food, or just want a good laugh, you'll want to join this plucky band of noodles.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

When the Wind Blew

When the Wind Blew
written and illustrated by Petra Brown
2017 (Sleeping Bear Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

They looked in wonder at all the broken stumps and ragged roots. Yesterday the trees had stretched up to the sky, high above their heads. 

Little Bear hears big noises outside his cave. He is nervous. Big Bear assures him they are safe. Little Bear, comforted, goes back to sleep. When they wander outside their cave in the morning, they see all of the trees that have been downed by the wind. The good news? For today, it will be easier to get to the fruit and honey they crave. The bad news? They have to find a new cave because the fruit trees will stop producing and the bees will go elsewhere. This is a nice piece of cause and effect that could be pointed out in a first or second grade classroom. All throughout, Big Bear reassures Little Bear with an optimistic attitude. The two float down the river until they come to a place to walk onshore. Walking alongside the river, the bear duo comes to a valley where the trees are upright because they are protected by a cliff. Again, Big Bear reminds Little Bear that, like the trees, he is always going to be protected. After a bit of a tricky walk involving gaps to jump and trees to slide down, they find a place with shady tall trees, honey, and fruit. In addition, there is a new cave that they can call home. As they curl up in their new home, Little Bear remarks, "I don't miss our old den at all. Because when I'm with you, wherever we are, I feel I'm at home." Tell me you didn't just go all "Awww!" inside. And that's exactly what your class will do.

This is a terrific book to read to young children in the face of a natural disaster. It's so important to comfort them in these situations. When the Wind Blew also serves as a model of what to do when things go wrong. The bears stay optimistic and move on to find a solution. As previously noted, there are also several examples of cause and effect and there's some nice opportunities here to talk about habitats and life cycles as well. On top of all that, this is a sweet book that will be a nice bedtime story too.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Hockey: Then to WOW!

Hockey: Then to WOW!
written by Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids
2017 (Liberty Street)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Hockey, like baseball, evolved from several similar games originally played on grass in the British Isles.

Of the four major sports, hockey is my least favorite. I grew up in a time period and area where no one I knew played the game while I did play the other three sports. So I come to this book a little biased against it. But I have to say that I was intrigued and pleased by what I found inside Hockey: Then to WOW! First, I love a good time line and this book starts off with a terrific one that explains how the rules have changed over the years. From its field hockey origins in 1877, many changes have been made. I also really like the humorous illustrations that accompany the time line. From there, the next several spreads explore how hockey equipment has evolved during the last several decades. These time lines are a great place to ask "Why?" questions that would fit in with the first Common Core standard in informational text. Why did Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull curve their stick blades? Why did goalies add a throat guard to their masks? How did technology help improve the hockey sweater? Why is it called a sweater? These are all questions that you could ask. Do you want to explore pie graphs in math? There's a spread for that. Two pie graphs show the origins of players and could be the origin of a discussion about what caused the shifts from the first pie graph to the second. The next section of the book features players from different decades who have influenced the game. Each player has a short paragraph explaining their contributions. The players are grouped according to position so you have offensive powerhouses, great goalies, defensive players who could score, and those who were just itching to roughhouse. This is like walking through a textual Hockey Hall of Fame. The last theme in the book may be my favorite. It's titled Fan Fun and it is definitely a great read. Now I have a possible origin story for the famous hockey playoff beard phenomenon and a photograph of local North Carolina legend Mike Commodore to boot. Plus, in the Games section, I'm reminded of one of my favorite arcade games of all time. You haven't lived until you played bubble hockey. A section on unique hockey fan traditions like the octopus toss finish out the book.

Hockey: Then to WOW! offers an opportunity to work on text features like time lines and to practice comparing different people and things in a sports setting. In the last thirty years, several sections of the United States have become hockey hotbeds so you should be able to find several readers who would love this book. My small town in North Carolina even has a hockey team! There's decades of fun and learning in this hockey hardcover.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus

Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!
written by Atinuke; illustrations by Lauren Tobia
2017 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

She was so glad to see her cousins, so glad to be back in the room they shared, so glad to be back in the big white house, so glad to be back in Africa, amazing Africa!

Anna Hibiscus is back! Back with her family in Africa after a visit with Granny Canada and back on the printed page after a six year hiatus. Like the earlier books, book five is divided into four chapters as each one, although connected to the others, can easily stand alone as a story. If you haven't read the previous four books, you will want to do so to help you better understand what is happening. The first story focuses on Anna's return from her trip to Canada. Delighted to be home, Anna is soon confused as family members see, in photographs, her love of Granny Canada's dog and they are not happy about it. She wonders what to do when she has changed but others have not. Also appearing in the first story is a rescued baby chick that Anna names Snow White. The chick figures prominently in the second story as Anna struggles to make it behave. Several family members are disrupted by the chick and it even causes problems at school. Thankfully, wise Grandmother finds a solution. In the third story, Anna's Canadian friend Tiger Lily has come to Africa to visit her father. What's really interesting to read about are the contrasts between the two friends. They have very different living situations which highlight comparisons of family and wealth. The final story sees Tiger Lily's father visiting the compound and a delightfully warm and funny gathering ensues. Then, Tiger Lily returns to Canada and Anna is sad. Her sadness leads her to Grandfather, but he curiously is not feeling so good himself. Anna finds a way to cheer him up and set the stage for book six.

I'm not sure I know of an early chapter book series that carries the depth of the Anna Hibiscus series. Big, big themes are present here even though the reading level fits nicely for readers in late first and early second grades. Great discussions about families and disparities in wealth could be had in the classroom as you read this book. Young readers are quite ready to think about these things. You should also ask yourself this question: How many books, not just early chapter books, feature an African family as the main characters? How great is it to bring this world to our students? I cannot recommend this series highly enough. I will be featuring the final three books in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The One Day House

The One Day House
written by Julia Durango; illustrated by Bianca Diaz
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"One day," said Wilson, "I will paint your house orange and yellow like the sun."

Wilson and his elderly neighbor and good friend Gigi are sitting on her porch. The house looks a little weather-beaten with a missing piece of a railing and worn paint on the outside. Wilson proclaims to Gigi that "one day" he is going to paint her house orange and yellow "like the sun." She is pleased but tells Wilson that he is "all the sunshine" she needs. On the page is an illustration, drawn by Wilson, of what the house would look like. Later, Wilson tells the ice cream man that he is going to fix Gigi's windows.  The ice cream man thinks it's a great idea. While helping to rake Gigi's leaves, Wilson tells a pair of neighbors, taking a walk, that he is going to fix Gigi's stairs so she can enjoy the view from her balcony. As the days and months pass, he mentions other parts of the house that he is going to fix. All of these ideas are prefaced with "One day..." In school, he displays a series of drawings that show all of the things that he wants to do to help Gigi. Finally, one day arrives. A group of friends and neighbors, inspired by Wilson's conversations and ingenuity, show up to Gigi's house with materials for repairs. A wonderful two page spread shows all of the work that is being done, with Wilson in the center holding a clipboard like a proud foreman.

The artwork and the community spirit in The One Day House remind me of the beloved book A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams. Both books have people who pull together to help others out in a time of need. Wilson is definitely a character I would share with students when trying to promote the trait of selflessness. I also really like how the illustrations show the changing of the seasons. When conferring with students reading the book, I would be curious to see if they notice this. I think the illustrations drawn from Wilson's perspective will help children connect even more to the book. A fun writing project would be for K or 1st grade students to write and illustrate "one day" sentences and make a class booklet. From now on, when I hear the phrase "Love thy neighbor", I will think of The One Day House and smile.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Small

Small
written and illustrated by Gina Perry
2017 (Little Bee Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

I walk small. Noisy cars. Speeding bikes. 

A tiny girl feels swallowed up by the gigantic world. The city makes her feel small with its big streets and skyscrapers. Modes of transportation like cars and swiftly moving bikes are intimidating. With her small voice, our heroine orders a big hot dog and sits on a park bench to eat. Unfortunately, a plump of pesky ducks startle her and the hot dog falls to the ground. Her lunch is gobbled up. This seems to be the last straw. Downtrodden, she lingers down a path. Then a large slide catches her attention. If I read this in a classroom (and you should!), this is where I would have the right side of the spread covered. It's a great place to practice prediction. On the left side of the spread, the girl is staring up at the slide and the only word on the page is "Until..." This is where you can have a discussion about what she will do next. You can also talk about transition words and/or how characters change. It's a wonderful pairing of artwork and text. Now, instead of feeling small, she feels big because she can go down the slide. She dreams big with chalk drawings of unicorns and dinosaurs. I love how bigger feet are shown in the illustration as if admiring the smaller person's artwork. The young girl goes on to demonstrate in succeeding pages how she can be quite large. One example is where she says "I sing big because I am happy." With the sentence structure on these last pages, it's an opportunity to talk about cause and effect. I also think you could have a powerful writing prompt where young students write about something that makes them feel big. Small could also be part of a lesson on comparing or character traits.

It's so empowering for preschoolers and K-1 students to think about all the good things they can do. They need to see they make a large contribution to this world. For such a "small" book, this will be a big deal in your classroom.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Grandma Forgets

Grandma Forgets
written by Paul Russell; illustrated by Nicky Johnston
2017 (EK Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Even though Grandma can't remember us, we have so many memories of her.

A young girl loves to visit her grandma. Even though Grandma thinks she's someone different each visit, the girl isn't defeated and uses her memories to stay positive. Memories like the Sunday sausages her grandmother would cook. Or trips to the beach and snuggling with Grandma during a lightning storm. Additional memories of apple pie and sunny picnics in Grandma's garden provide comfort. Grandma moves to an assisted living facility, but the visits continue. The whole family is still super supportive and handles Grandma's memory issues with aplomb. One memory that Grandma does hold on to is when Dad left his jacket on the school bus. She never forgets to remind him to grab his jacket. As the family arrives to celebrate Grandma's 80th birthday, her granddaughter remarks "Every time I see Grandma I tell her that I love her. So it doesn't matter if she forgets."

Like another Nicky Johnston illustrated book from earlier this year, The Fix-It Man, this is the story of a family that shows enormous grace in the face of a heart-wrenching situation. This family always finds the silver lining. That is a great lesson in positive thinking for students and adults. I certainly can take this to heart. Grandma Forgets is a terrific resource for a circumstance that many find themselves dealing with. Having had a grandmother who suffered from dementia, I know this is quite difficult for family members. But what remains are the wonderful memories and this book is a great reminder of that.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

U.S. Atlas 5th Edition - National Geographic Kids

United States Atlas - 5th Edition
2017 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific in the west, the United States is the third largest country in area in the world. 

Google this search term - "geographic awareness statistics". What you're going to find is not very positive. So now we know that students need to increase their knowledge of geography. How about providing them with a great resource? The newest edition of the National Geographic Kids U.S. Atlas is just the thing. It starts with looking at the country as a whole. There is a physical map that would be terrific for studying biomes. A climate zone map provides more information about the natural environment of the U.S. Curious about natural disasters? There's a map for that. You can track where earthquakes and tornadoes are prevalent. After the physical maps are a set of political maps that will help readers learn about state capitals, population density, migration patterns, and energy use. Planning a visit to Washington D.C.? In this atlas is a grid map that will help you locate major points of interest in our nation's capital. All of this is just the appetizer. The main course of this atlas are the regions sections. Information about all fifty states are contained in five regions (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West). Each section starts with an overview table that lists physical and political data about the region. Largest state in the Southeast? Florida with over 85,000 square miles of area. Following the intro table is a physical and a political map of the region and a two page narrative overview with great photographs and plenty of data. Walking down the aisle next are the two page spreads that feature each state in the region. On the left page is a table called The Basics will give you the lowdown on the state. This page also has a paragraph narrative that provides a brief history of the state. Over on the right side of the spread is a wonderful product map that gives a ton of details about a state's economy. Not to be left out, the atlas also has a section about the fourteen territories of the United States. Back matter includes internet resources, a page of national facts and figures, and a glossary.

This atlas is a great deal for the price. Students will be able to work on how to read different maps and gain historical knowledge too. It's an eye-catching package with photographs and fun facts galore.

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

Pandamonia

Pandamonia
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.