Tuesday, November 7, 2017

NC Teacher Stuff (2009 -2017)

Welcome to what was NC Teacher Stuff. I started this blog in 2009 as a way to share helpful literacy links. What happened after that was an amazing journey. If you have time, take a look around. I hope you love these books as much as I do.



 

 

You're Amazing, Anna Hibiscus!

You're Amazing, Anna Hibiscus!
written by Atinuke; illustrated by Lauren Tobia
2017 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"Amazing Anna Hibiscus is busy growing up."

This last book in the Anna Hibiscus series revolves around the passing of Grandfather and Anna's reaction to it. She knows that Grandfather is very sick, but if she goes inside to see him, she will have to face it head on. Staying outside, she can try to forget and leave her cares behind. Outside is a happy place. Inside is a worrying place. When Grandfather hears that she is laughing and running around, he smiles. Unfortunately, he leaves without Anna saying goodbye. The details in the heartbreaking scene, when Anna realizes it's too late, ring so true. That's one of the many strengths of this wonderful series. What follows is how Anna deals with the grief. Sometimes, it's very difficult and feelings get hurt. But with the help of her grandmother and memories of her grandfather, she learns quite a bit about life and herself and pulls her family together.

There are so many connections students will make with this book. Many have experienced the loss of a loved one. This would be a great mentor text for studying characters and how a character changes over time. It's amazing how rich and deep this book is emotionally and yet still accessible for young readers.

This is my last book post at NC Teacher Stuff. I purposefully chose this book because Anna Hibiscus has been my favorite over the last 8 plus years. I can't recommend this book series enough and this last book, in my opinion, is the best one. It's been my pleasure to share Anna and all of the over one thousand books that I have blogged about with you. Best wishes and happy reading!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Aliens Get the Sniffles Too!

Aliens Get the Sniffles Too!
written by Katy S. Duffield; illustrated by K.G. Campbell
2017 (Candlewick Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

And sick is extra-terrestrial bad when you have two throats, five ears, and three noses. 

Poor Little Alien. He has an out of this world cold that has him producing supersonic sneezes. All of the symptoms are present (scratchy throat, runny nose, etc.). What do you do for a kid that has two throats, five ears, and three noses and all of them hurt? Well, start with a Milky Way milkshake for the throats. As for the ears, a drop of water and a pinch of stardust can help with that ailment. Three stuffy noses? A team of smaller aliens carrying plungers called the decongestants are called into action. This reminds me of using a snot sucker (see below) on my children when they were very young. That never goes well. Meanwhile, Little Alien's best friend, his
three eyed dog, Mars Rover, is feeling bad too. He can't help his friend and that's very frustrating. What's a dog to do? Mars Rover decides to put on a show. He dances and juggles rings. He tosses the rings onto Little Alien's five ears. Mars Rover even puts on an asteroid belt that sends him into the sky. All of this to make his best buddy feel better. And it works! Soon Little Alien is smiling. Then a different sneeze is heard and someone else is going to need cheering up.


With cold season ramping up and those donated classroom boxes of tissue disappearing quickly, this book is the perfect medicine for a room full of sniffles. Students will quickly make connections to Little Alien and his troubles. They will also be full of suggestions on how to make a best friend feel better. The wordplay would fit well with a unit on space, and you could use Aliens to teach children about problem and solution. Working on compare and contrast with a Venn diagram? Compare Little Alien with a child in your class. A spoonful of Aliens Get the Sniffles Too! is just the cure for your readers.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Luna Loves Library Day

Luna Loves Library Day
written by Joseph Coelho; illustrated by Fiona Lumbers
2017 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Dad knows how to disappear. Luna wants to learn how to bring him back.

Luna is super excited about library day. She has all of her things together. Mom drops her off as Dad is waiting inside reading a book. First stop is the big book area where they find a fascinating book of unexplained mysteries. Next, a book about insects, not Dad's favorite, goes into the library bag. How about a book of magic tricks? Dad is really good at magic. He can make coins come from Luna's ears. Luna also notices that Dad "knows how to disappear." Here's where you want to stop reading for a second and see if any students notice what is happening. Use the illustration to see if any young readers can infer that something deeper is going on. Finally, Luna finds a fairy tale that she and Dad can read as they settle in a big comfy chair. In the story, the Troll King and the Mermaid Queen both deeply love their daughter, but can't seem to like each other. In the end, the Troll King hugs his daughter before departing. And Luna hugs her dad before finishing library day and seeing him off.

Expecting a story about loving the library, I was surprised when this became much more. Luna loves library day because she loves books and the library, but also because it's quality time with her Dad. It's a great opportunity for teachers to practice drawing conclusions from the illustrations and working on inferring. This is a sweet, upbeat story about a tough situation. Many students will be able to make a connection and it allows a teacher or counselor to address a difficult topic.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Goats of Anarchy: Polly and Her Duck Costume

Polly and Her Duck Costume
written by Leanne Lauricella; illustrated by Jill Howarth
2017 (Walter Foster Jr.)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Polly's new mom brought her home, wrapped her in a blanket, and cuddled her close. With a small huff, Polly fell right to sleep. 

Polly is a blind goat who could use a break. Only when she buries herself in the hay does she feel content. One day, a break arrives when a young lady takes her to a new place. This new mom is very kind and helps Polly learn how to maneuver throughout the house.  Even better, she's bottle-fed and gets to snuggle in a blanket on the couch. Polly gets nervous when she isn't bundled so her mom has an idea. She finds an outfit that will keep Polly cozy even when she is walking around. Yeah, it's a duck outfit, but Polly doesn't care. She's never seen a duck. The two go down grocery aisles to the delight of shoppers. Soon, Polly is joined by more friends who are rescue goats. One friend, Pippa, even gets Polly's old duck outfit. They frolic in the field like two goats dressed like ducks. How can you not like that! Eventually, Polly is so busy playing with Pippa that she doesn't need the outfit any longer.

They had me at Goats of Anarchy. Check them out on Instagram. PreK-1st grade students will adore this story. You could have a good discussion with young students about what comforts them and why. This book is also a great resource in teaching students to be kind to animals and a lesson in problem solving. Don't let someone get your goat. Get this book instead.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sports Illustrated Kids All Star Activity Book

Sports Illustrated All Star Activity Book
written by editors of Sports Illustrated Kids
2017 (Liberty Street)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

So you have a young sports fan who is about to take a long plane or car trip. Or it may be that their baseball or softball game has been rained out and they are bummed out. Want to be the hero of the day? Here is just the thing. All of the major sports and more are represented in this book of activities that will entertain for hours. Each sports section begins with a set of six frames that highlight greats from the sport. After that, there are several activities that feature aspects and heroes of the game. Did Roger Federer really wear a pink tutu at Centre Court? If not, you can mark that on the Wimbledon Look-And-Find. How well do you know your football terms? Use the clues on the Gridiron Grid to fill out the crossword puzzle. There are plenty of games for students who like wordplay or who just like to draw. Create your own golf hole or retell the Miracle on Ice in your own words. This book would be a great stocking stuffer or a reward for a job well done.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Grace and Katie

Grace and Katie
written by Susanne Merritt; illustrated by Liz Anelli
2017 (EK Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Grace sometimes thought Katie's pictures needed to be more organized... and Katie sometimes thought Grace's pictures needed to be more exciting. 

Twin sisters Grace and Katie love to draw, but they have different approaches. Grace likes "straight lines, squares, and angles." Katie is more of a "patterns, squiggles, and swirls" artist. When Grace decides to draw a map of their home, Katie offers to help, but her twin sister wants no part of it. So Katie goes on her own to draw a map of the park near their home. Grace's map has a legend and a compass rose. There are straight lines galore and everything is labeled. I love that the author and illustrator chose, in a wonderful two page spread, to show Grace's map as she drew it. It's kid friendly and would be a great mentor text for students studying maps in a geography unit. Even though it's a terrific map, Grace is not quite satisfied. It's like a dish that needs extra seasoning. Katie's map of the park is a glorious collage of shapes and colors. If you wanted to explain mixed media to an elementary audience, I would use Katie's map. Although it's full of color and energy, Katie is not entirely happy with her map either. After examining both maps, the girls decide that they do their best work together.

There are many things to like about this book. The message of working together is always appreciated in an elementary classroom. As a teacher, I see a mini-lesson on comparing and contrasting with Grace and Katie as the featured text. You can pull in graphic organizers as well. As stated above, you can also go cross-curricular with lessons in art and geography. Grace and Katie are a formidable picture book team.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Space Boy and the Snow Monster

Space Boy and the Snow Monster
written by Dian Curtis Regan; illustrated by Robert Neubecker
2017 (Boyds Mills Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

The spaceship blasts off. It sails through whirling snow, howling winds, and scary clouds. 

Niko, Radar, and Tag are back with a snowy adventure. While Niko and his dog Tag dig out their spaceship, copilot robot Radar has disappeared. Could he have been captured by Niko's sister Posh, alias The Snow Monster? Only a trip to Planet Ice will reveal the answer. Sure enough, The Snow Monster is spotted on the planet and it attacks our brave duo with snowballs. If that's not enough, this audacious alien beguiles Tag with kind words and a pat on the head. Now Niko is stranded on a strange planet. Fortunately, Tag returns to his senses and his captain. And just in time as an evil bunny spy is tracking them. They follow the bunny who leads them to their now frozen copilot Radar. Is it a kind bunny or a diabolical trap? It's a trap! Nearby is The Snow Monster who is aided by an army of cold collaborators in the form of snow people with mohawks. Can our plucky crew escape and head back to Planet Home?

Students love to write narratives where there are few boundaries to their imagination. But there is a structure and The Space Boy series of picture books are great mentor texts to show young writers how to frame their stories. Want to teach how to include dialogue in a story? This would be another way to showcase these books. Or they may just be the inspiration a struggling writer needs to unleash their creativity. Space Boy and the Snow Monster is a fun blast of wintry inspiration.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rise of the Jumbies

Rise of the Jumbies
written by Tracey Baptiste
2017 (Algonquin Young Readers)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

The sand shivered. Corinne felt a tremor go straight through her body. The girls on the beach stopped mid-action. But her papa and the other fisherman in their boats were still far out on the water, their nets dragging in the sea. 

Corinne La Mer was having a good day swimming and battling two brothers for a prized pink seashell. But then everything goes quiet as she watches from the shore. She feels the ground shake. Suddenly, voices scream to tell everyone to get out of the water. The trio make it safely to their house, but a neighbor friend goes missing. Soon, other children are missing as well. All eyes on Corinne. Even though she had defeated an evil jumbie months earlier, she is half-jumbie and suspicions rise. Corinne knows she must go back to the sea to find the missing children. That's going to mean finding the ultra formidable Mama D'Leau who governs the sea. At what cost will it be to bargain with Mama? And what about the jumbie that Corinne thought she had conquered? Is Severine still out there and waiting for revenge?

What are the odds that a young reader will like a fantasy with a determined and courageous heroine who fights to keep her and other families together? Oh, did I mention there are fascinating villains here as well as a beautiful Caribbean setting? And magic? Rise of the Jumbies is a terrific read with rich characters and a gripping story. This would be an excellent choice for a unit on characters or a fantasy unit. Students will be begging you to read more if you choose it for a read aloud. Rise of the Jumbies is a jewel that readers will treasure.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thank You and Goodbye


After over 8 years of blogging about books, I'm taking a hiatus after November 9th. I need time to make a go of my own writing career while working a full-time job. Thank you for supporting this blog and the wonderful books that I shared with you.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Wild World of Buck Bray: The Missing Grizzly Cubs

The Wild World of Buck Bray: The Missing Grizzly Cubs
written by Judy Young
2016 (Sleeping Bear Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Buck rolled his eyes, but Dad and Toni took turns seeing who could come up with another word to describe the landscape's beauty, counting each word as they went. 

Buck Bray is an eleven-year-old with a famous father. His dad goes around the world filming documentaries while Buck stays with his grandparents since his mother has passed away. Hoping to spend more time with Dad, Buck pitches an idea of a kid-centered nature show. The producers are very excited, so Buck and Dad are on their way to Denali National Park in Alaska. At the airport in Fairbanks, they meet Shoop the cameraman and his daughter Toni. Buck is not thrilled about hanging out with a girl, but he soon grows to respect Toni's acumen in audio production. They become partners in exploring as they prepare for Buck's first show. Sometimes the two intrepid explorers go a little too far. Hiking alongside a river, they witness a grizzly bear taking down a caribou. Buck wants to see bears, but this is a little too close. The adults they meet are much less wild, but they are suspicious of a rude passenger on their bus. He bumps them and then stays with his computer as if he is tracking something. They do enjoy spending time with park ranger Craig, who shows them an old bear's den as they begin filming. Later, Buck and Toni hear about two bear cubs missing and they have an idea who may behind it. Now they have to produce enough information to convince the adults that their hunch is a real possibility.

When you combine a mystery, kid heroes, and the Alaskan wilderness, you're going to hook elementary school readers. I'm well beyond my elementary student days and I gobbled this up. It's an engaging story with interesting characters. In addition, there is a lot of geographic and science information in this book. Students will learn about the landscape of wild Alaska and the behavior of many animals. Readers will enjoy exploring Buck Bray's Wild World.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade: A Thanksgiving Story

Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade
written by Trinka Hakes Noble; illustrated by David C. Gardner
2017 (Sleeping Bear Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

All you had to do was dress up like a beggar in old ragged clothes and parade down Broadway. For Rettie, dressing up was easy. She already had holes in her shoes and worn, patched clothes. 

Rettie lives in the tenements of New York's Lower East Side. Even though she's only nine years old, she is the oldest child in her family and carries quite a load. Her mother is bedridden with consumption and her father is fighting overseas in World War I. Rettie does all of the chores for her family of 5 and washes rags for the ragpicker to make money. This family needs every penny she can earn and Rettie pins her hopes on the annual Ragamuffin Parade on Thanksgiving where children walk down Broadway and scramble for pennies tossed from the watching crowd. As Rettie does the shopping for her family, signs of severe poverty are everywhere and also of the terrible influenza outbreak. Children are huddled in alleys as they have been left orphaned by the epidemic. People wear masks and vendors are scarce as many have been quarantined. Rettie manages to buy stale bread, cabbage, and a few mealy potatoes. Even the manager of her apartment building is stricken and ordered to stay inside. But this leads to an opportunity for Rettie to take on a cleaning job that will bring more money. Now she starts to work at four in the morning to earn enough to keep her family together. Good news comes in the form of the war ending in November 2018 and cold weather diminishing the effects of the epidemic. This means the parade will be held and Rettie can help her family even more.

So what does Thanksgiving represent to you? For this young lady, it was hope and gratitude. This story provides an opportunity to have a class discussion about Thanksgiving that goes deeper than paper turkeys and pilgrim hats. Does everyone have the same Thanksgiving? It might open some eyes. It's also a terrific history lesson that highlights life from a century ago. You could compare 1918 to almost 2018. The excellent artwork really sets the mood and provides information about the era. There aren't many bright colors here which is pitch perfect. Make sure you check out the Author's Note too. Another teaching possibility would be to do a character study of Rettie. What traits does she have? 2nd and 3rd graders, who are about Rettie's age, will be amazed at what she does to keep her family afloat. Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade is a great choice for a Thanksgiving read aloud.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Old MacDonald Had a ...Zoo?

Old MacDonald Had a ...Zoo?
told and illustrated by Iza Trapani
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Old MacDonald in the sty, E-I-E-I-O,
Saw a kangaroo hop by, E-I-E-I-O.

Old MacDonald was having a typical day. Milking a cow. Feeding the pig. Getting splashed with mud by a kangaroo. E-I-E-I-Whoa! That's not typical. It seems the farmer has a few visitors. Going to the hose to clean up, he finds an elephant taking a drink from the trough. "Everywhere a squirt squirt" finds Old Mac doused with water. Moving on with his chores, he hears crunching in the barn. What could it be? Zebras finding hay on the menu. A fox in the hen house would disastrous, but monkeys? Eggs splatter on the ground. Picking beans is usually a quiet duty. But when a crocodile intervenes, it's every man and beast for himself. This is the last straw. With a loud stomp on the barn floor, Old MacDonald has his E-I-E-I-No moment. With some rope and a trailer hitched to his red truck, this old man doesn't go rolling home, but instead returns the visitors to their home at the zoo. On the last page, there's lyrics and sheet music that would make for a week's worth of uproarious shared reading.

There are a lot of possibilities for classroom use with this book. Want a fun activity that connects to phonemic awareness? Have students guess the last word in a two line stanza.

Old MacDonald heard a crunch, E-I-E-I-O. 
Zebras helped themselves to _____, E-I-E-I-O. 

How about contrasting farm animals with zoo animals? What's different? What's the same? Or you could contrast Old MacDonald with another book like Goodnight Gorilla. You could also read the book to older students for a mini-lesson on using vivid verbs in writing. The fun will E-I-E-I-Flow with this lively twist on a traditional nursery rhyme.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Melvin the Mouth:Young Mel Blanc

Melvin the Mouth
written by Katherine Blanc; illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

I'm flying over the cat, laughing like a loony bird. I'm Melvin the Mouth, maker of sounds. 

There's going to be a little bit of bias here. Bugs Bunny was one of the molders of my childhood. He cracked wise, and I loved him for it. I'm occasionally humorous to my friends and family, and I owe part of that to Bugs and Mel Blanc. So I was thrilled to learn about this picture book biography and it doesn't disappoint. Instead of chronicling his whole career, the author (his daughter-in-law Katherine) presents a day in the life of young Melvin. It reads like a Looney Tunes cartoon and that's a good thing. Melvin starts with a laugh that will remind older fans of a certain red-headed bird on the loose. Racing through the halls of his school, he roars like a tiger. Melvin's imagination is brought to life with an accompanying black and white illustration of what he is portraying. In the bathroom, there's water so of course you need a shark chomping. If you have a hallway shaped like a tunnel, you're going to need a train with Melvin the engineer at the helm with "Woo-Woo"s echoing through. Putting young Mel on trash duty instead of recess will teach him a lesson, right? It will teach him that a half-eaten carrot can lead to a character that needed to take a left turn at Albuquerque. Any situation in Melvin's day is an opportunity to liven things up with his imagination. Sweeping calls for a tornado. Eating means a visit from a hungry hippo. It's only sleep that can quiet this noisemaker and even then, he sounds like a snoozing dragon.

I really like the approach taken with this picture book biography. It captures the zaniness that I remember being exhibited in those beloved Warner Brothers cartoons. Students will also see that using your imagination can lead to bigger things down the road. This will be such a fun read-aloud with your class as you use your imaginations to think about everyday occurrences and make connections like Melvin does in the book. The Author's Note provides information about Mel's career and some of the many characters that he voiced. Perfect for a biography unit/wax museum or just when you need a fun read.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Pug and Pig: Trick or Treat

Pug and Pig: Trick or Treat
written by Sue Lowell Gallion; illustrated by Joyce Wan
2017 (Beach Lane Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

And this is Pug not in costume. Pug does not care about Halloween anymore. 

Pig loves Halloween and loves her costume. She can't wait to partake of "tasty tidbits" at the party. She can't wait to trick or treat. She can't wait to answer the door. On the other paw, Pug can't stand it. His costume is all kinds of too tight and he doesn't like the idea of being disguised. As a dog is want to do, he disposes of his costume quite easily. (As one who has tried to outfit his dog with reindeer antlers, I totally get this.) Now Pug is comfortable and ready to settle in for a quiet evening. But his best friend is making perhaps the saddest face ever (Don't believe me? Get the book.) What to do? Pug problem solves and creates his own costume using a very simple earthy material. Now the two can go trick or treating and eat "tasty tidbits" at the Halloween party.

Adorable. Cute. Charming. Delightful. Precious. Awww-inducing. PreK-Grade 2 will LOOOOOVE this. Open book. Pour out words for instant read aloud hit. That easy. But wait, there's more! This opens up a discussion about how to compromise when friends have different viewpoints. Speaking of viewpoints, how about a mini-lesson on point of view? Or compare and contrast? You could use a graphic organizer with one pug shape and one pig shape to write about their feelings toward trick or treating. Google "pug template" and you'll find what you're looking for. If you're looking for a guaranteed winner of a Halloween read aloud, I nominate this one.

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.