Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm Big!

I'm Big!
written and illustrated by Kate and Jim McMullan
(Balzer and Bray) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

A snoozy Sauropod awakes from his slumber to find that the pack has moved on. As he attempts to catch up with his herd, the Sauropod bumps into other dinosaurs (stegosaurus, pteranodon) and asks them to keep an eye out for his group. Unexpectedly, he runs into a pack of predators. What will he do? He's doesn't have fangs or claws to fight or the speed to run away. The one asset he possesses comes in handy as he faces the trouble in front of him.

Like their previous books such as I Stink!, Kate and Jim McMullen have created a text that has tons of expressive phrases that are fun to read and vibrant illustrations that will keep eyes glued to the page. If you are teaching students to read with expression, this would be a good text to read. You won't find a book that uses more question marks or exclamation points. I'm Big! is also ideal for teaching the use of sound words in writing.

Click below to see the book trailer.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese
written by Sarah Weeks; illustrated by Jane Manning
(Laura Geringer Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Macaroni the cat is a fun loving sort who enjoys bouncing and pouncing and other boisterous activities. On a hot day, he likes to swim. Jumping over garbage cans or with a rope are other sources of feline frolic for the lively Mac. As they say in the boxing world, "And in this corner we have..." the ornery Cheese. He is Mac's best friend, but he's not interested in bouncing, pouncing, or mousing. Cheese just wants to enjoy some peace and quiet. It's not until Mac needs his help that Cheese is willing to alter his ways.

Mac and Cheese are the Oscar and Felix of early reader books. They are an engaging pair that will entertain beginning readers. The rhyming text and delightful illustrations make this book an excellent choice for late kindergarten to first grade students who are stretching their reading muscles. A circle map featuring Macaroni would be a good lesson in character or you could create a Venn diagram to compare Mac and Cheese. If you are working with students who are just learning about rhyming words, you could read a few pages and list rhyming words that are in the text. Mac and Cheese could also complement a lesson on end marks.

Click below for a look inside Mac and Cheese.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beaver is Lost

Beaver is Lost
by Elisha Cooper
(Schwartz & Wade Books) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

A beaver is happily nibbling on a floating log when he finds himself on top of a log pile attached to a truck. The truck unloads in a lumberyard in Chicago where a German Shepherd chases the beaver out of the yard and into a nearby pool. From here, the beaver walks through the house to a local zoo where he is noticed by a little girl who alerts security. Once again the beaver on the lam is chased and he finds himself in downtown Chicago. How will this plucky beaver find his way back home?

Beaver is Lost is a practically wordless (with the exception of two short sentences) gem that could accompany a lesson on story elements (beginning, middle, end), sequence, or cause and effect. Elisha Cooper's illustrations keep the reader's interest in a couple of ways. The illustrations may be two large panes or several smaller panes which take it from picture book to graphic novel mode. There are also several details in the illustrations which make rereading an adventure. It would be an interesting extension activity for students to write words for the last panel of the book. My experience with using wordless books is that they can lead to a richer discussion of the plot since students have to work harder to think about what is happening.

Other reviews of Beaver is Lost:
Seven Impossible Things (interview with Elisha Cooper)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Partner reading in kindergarten: Beyond whisper phones

(Photo courtesy of Merce Divad)

After conquering the use of whisper phones and learning how to read independently, we are now tackling partner reading in our class of 32 kindergarten students. Each student has a Ziploc bag of books that we culled mainly from our book room. The books need to be at an independent level for the readers, so we are mostly using books at a 1/2 or A/B level. I paired off the students with some students working with stronger readers while other pairs are at about the same level. I modeled for the students how partner reading looks and how it sounds. The students sit side by side in order to be looking at the same book at the same time. The idea is for the listening student to offer support to their reading partner if they get stuck on a word. We will partner read for about 10 minutes each day with students encouraging each other to use strategies like a reading finger, looking at the initial letter, using the illustration, and using their background knowledge. It seems to be working quite well. You will have students who are off-task, but monitoring the class will usually take care of this behavior. It is exciting to see students enjoying the social aspect of reading where you can share a book with a friend.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Fuzzy-Fast Blur: Poems About Pets

A Fuzzy-Fast Blur: Poems About Pets
written by Laura Purdie Salas
(Capstone Press) 2009
Source: Cameron Park Elementary Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Write About Now

A Fuzzy-Fast Blur is a superb collection of poems featuring different kinds of pets and categories of poetry. If I was going to teach a writing unit with poetry, this would be an ideal book to use. Students will easily make connections with the subject matter, and author Laura Purdie Salas writes poems like acrostics, cinquains, free verse, and haiku so you can introduce these poetry genres to your students. Another great aspect of this book are the nonfiction text features in the back matter. There is a section highlighting the terms of poetry and a glossary emphasizing some of the vocabulary (bask, iridescent, loll) used by the author in her poems. An index of the poems and a helpful website for students to use for research (Fact Hound) are also included. Since we have four pets (and I do love them) and I constantly clean up after them, one of my favorite poems is spotlighted below:

Perfect Pocket Pet 

no cage
no accidents
no smelly, icky chores
no running away- it's all yours!

pet rock 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wolf Pie

Wolf Pie
written by Brenda Seabrooke; illustrated by Liz Callen
(Clarion Books) 2010
Source: Person County Library

The Pygg brothers are building a new house. James, the most sensible Pygg, explains to his brothers Marvin and Lester that a brick house is necessary for safety in the winter "when food is scarce and wolves come looking for pigs to eat." Sure enough, a wolf comes calling and does the "huff and I'll puff" thing which scares Marvin and Lester but doesn't faze James one bit. After his unsuccessful attempt to bring down the house, the wolf pronounces that if he is unable to come into the house, he will stay outside and not let the pigs out. This wolf is determined and hangs around as autumns breezes in. He isn't able to get in the house, but he can ruin games of hide-and-seek and riddle-me-this. When James reads a story out loud, the wolf, from outside, asks thoughtful questions and when the Pyggs gather around the piano, Wilfong the Wolf almost sings on key. This starts the brothers and Wilfong on a path towards friendship.

I figured there were no more original twists left on the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf genre, but I am happily wrong. Wolf Pie is a wonderful early reader that is clever, funny, sweet, and thought provoking. Both the Pyggs and Wilfong Wolf have to overcome their past in order to embrace this new friendship. I like the fact that it doesn't happen automatically which is a good lesson for young readers. It takes time for the Pyggs and Wilfong to become close friends. As teachers, we often referee friendship disputes and encourage children to give relationships some time to work themselves out. Wolf Pie is a terrific early reader that could provide needed discussion points in a classroom.

Newseum resource

The Newseum is a museum in Washington D.C. that is dedicated to news reporting. The museum is very interactive and one of the more interesting exhibits is called Today's Front Pages. On this page, you can scroll over a map of  North America, or other continents and see the headlines in newspapers in those areas. If you teach how to write a newspaper article, use current events in your curriculum, and/or teach about different cultures, this could be a pretty handy resource. Thank you Mary and Paula for the tip on this link.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same
written by Grace Lin
(Little, Brown and Company) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Ling and Ting are two identical twins who insist they are not exactly the same. An unfortunate trip to the barbershop leaves Ting with a jagged parabola on the right side of her bangs. Now the twins are definitely not the same! Each of the five stories that follow are short vignettes that highlight the differences between Ling and Ting. Even though they look the same (except for Ting's haircut which reminds me of my dad and his barber kit. I still shudder when I remember my bowl cut.), these sisters  seek to do their own thing which is a superb lesson for young readers. Author Grace Lin shows each girl taking turns doing something well (making dumplings, eating with chopsticks) while the other struggles with the same task. Ling and Ting handle each bump in the road with humor and inventive thinking which is another good lesson for readers. Like Ruby Lu, it's also nice to have stories written with lead Asian characters so students can read about other children who bring a different cultural perspective but still share many character traits with the readers. One way to use Ling and Ting in the classroom would be to create a Venn diagram or double bubble map and contrast Ling and Ting. For other activity ideas, click on this link for an educator's guide for this book. Click on the link below to see a book trailer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Spring Babies

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Spring Babies
written by Erica Silverman; illustrated by Betsy Lewin
(Harcourt Children's Books) 2010
Source: May Memorial Library

In this series of spring stories, Cowgirl Kate and her horse Cocoa encounter new animals on the ranch. The first story has involves a calf being born in the middle of the night and how it brings out some motherly tendencies in a grouchy Cocoa. In the next story, Kate's friend brings a new puppy instead the peppermint that Cocoa was hoping for, but somehow Cocoa finds a way to befriend the dog. For the last story, a mysterious "ghostly" noise in the barn spooks Cocoa and Peppermint into thinking that something other-worldly is paying a visit. On the contrary they find an earthly surprise in the loft.

Spring Babies is the final book in an outstanding early reader series. Cowgirl Kate and especially Cocoa are such engaging characters with a nice mix of sweetness and humor. Erica Silverman is able to write stories that are just the right length for younger readers, but still tell a complete tale. If you wanted to teach beginning, middle, and end, the Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa series would be marvelous texts to use. Happy trails Kate and Cocoa! Click below for a book trailer.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Magic Up Your Sleeve

Magic Up Your Sleeve
written by Helaine Becker; illustrated by Claudia Davila
(Maple Tree Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Magic Up Your Sleeve is loaded with easy to understand instructions for performing over twenty magic tricks. The real magic with this book is how you can use it to teach math, science, history, and writing procedural text. For example, The Levitating Ice Cube and Bring It To a Boil tricks could be part of a unit on the states of matter. You "Can" Do It involves soda to create an entertaining lesson in density. One of my favorite tricks is a math trick titled I've Got Your Number. You ask a volunteer to think of a three digit number with no repeating numbers. The next step is to have them reverse the number and subtract the smaller number from the larger number. Finally you ask your volunteer to reveal only the last digit of the answer. With this information, you will be able to tell them the entire number that was in their head. The "trick" to this trick is that you will always end up with nine as the middle digit and the two outside digits will add up to nine. You can subtract the last digit from nine and "magically" deliver the answer. Magic Up Your Sleeve is a superb source of entertaining nonfiction text that could be used to teach lessons throughout the year.

Other reviews of Magic Up Your Sleeve:
Word of Mouse Books

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring

Ballet for Martha:Making Appalachian Spring
written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan; illustrated by Brian Floca
(Roaring Brook Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Ballet for Martha is the story of the collaboration between choreographer Martha Graham, composer Aaron Copland, and artist Isamu Noguchi that created Appalachian Spring. The story comes from Graham who wants it to be "a legend of American living." She writes to Copland to ask him to create the music. The two of them write back and forth until they agree on the story. Martha brings in artist Noguchi to create the set and after months of practice, the ballet is ready to be performed publicly. The collaboration between these three artists has created a masterpiece.

Betsy Bird has an exceptional review of Ballet for Martha complete with links to other resources and an eight minute video of Graham performing Appalachian Spring. You should really go read her review. So why am I reviewing this book? My job is to talk about how to use this book in a classroom and I have a few thoughts on this matter. There are many traditionalists who would have you eschew picture books if you are teaching 4th grade and above. Ballet for Martha is a fine example of a picture book that could be used in teaching older students. It is a great lesson about the creative process and how artists work and work to refine a piece. This lesson is needed with students who want to write one draft and consider a piece of writing complete. There is a ton of history in the text and the back matter that could be used in a biography unit. The bibliography and footnotes are excellent models of citing sources. My point is there are several ways that this book would work in the upper grades. Ballet for Martha would be a great addition to your classroom collection. If you read more, you will find a clip of Graham's ballet Heretic which is mentioned in Ballet for Martha.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Aggie the Brave

Aggie the Brave
written by Lori Ries; illustrated by Frank W. Dormer
(Charlesbridge) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

 Ben's dog Aggie is going to the vet to be spayed. On the way to the vet, Ben tells her to be brave but Aggie isn't so sure. It's Ben's turn to be brave when the vet tells him that Aggie must spend the night. On his way out, Ben tells Aggie again to be brave, but on the way home Ben doesn't feel so brave himself. He spends a long lonely day waiting to hear from the vet. When Ben returns the next day to pick up Aggie, the vet tells him that she will have to wear a cone for two weeks so Aggie won't bite the stitches. Aggie is not thrilled, but Ben comes up with a marvelous plan to make his best friend feel better about wearing the cone.

One of the reasons why Aggie the Brave is a terrific early reader book is how Lori Ries has written the character of Ben. I could see K-2 students having the same reactions if they were in Ben's situation. After Ben hears that he can pick up Aggie the next day, he decides to get in bed at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. He reasons that if he goes to bed early, it will bring Aggie home sooner. I know (and I was one!) kids who do this before a particular holiday in December. My favorite illustration of the book is of the next morning when Ben is wearing a suit and bow tie and waiting to go to the vet while his parents are in their bath robes with coffee in hand. This book is just the right size for early readers with humorous illustrations and a charming story that will easily connect with K-2 students.

Other reviews of Aggie the Brave:
King County Library Talk
Kirkus Reviews

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Zig and Wikki in "Something Ate My Homework"

Zig and Wikki in "Something Ate My Homework"
written by Nadja Spiegelman; illustrated by Trade Loeffler 
(Toon Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

 Zig and Wikki are two slacker aliens cruising through our galaxy on their way to Zig's grandmother's house. With a homework assignment to find a pet for Zig's class zoo, the two miniature friends stumble upon planet Earth. After a bumpy landing in a woodsy area, they leave their spaceship to capture a pet. During their search, they encounter several creatures including a frog and a raccoon. Since Wikki is a computer, they have access to information about each strange being that crosses their path. What these two interstellar pals need is good fortune to come their way if they are going to survive their trip and complete Zig's homework in time.

I grew up with comic books as one of my main sources of reading material. Toon Books take me back to my childhood with the humor and colorful comic illustrations of Zig and Wikki. The extra cool thing about this book are the science facts that are interwoven with the story and also included in the back matter of the book.
This marriage of fiction and nonfiction plays well with young readers. The story and science facts are written on a level for a late first or early second grade reader which makes Zig and Wikki appealing to an older struggling reader as well. Elementary students will easily connect with this book.

Other reviews of Zig and Wikki:
100 Scope Notes
The Comics Journal

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Circle Maps

One of our goals in working with young readers is to teach them how to activate their background knowledge before they read so they can connect more easily with the text. One way we do this is through the use of circle maps. Before reading, we identify a theme, place it in the inner circle, and ask students to react by discussing what they know about the theme. In the photograph on the left, before reading Knuffle Bunny Too we talked about the feelings you have when something is lost. I wrote down student replies in the outer circle. I asked students to think about these feelings as we read the book. I interrupted the reading of the book only one time to remind students that we were thinking about Trixie's feelings and how they connected to what we had discussed before reading. It's a bit of a tight rope walk in that you want students to think, but not be weighed down with the task so as not to enjoy the story. After reading, we talked about how Trixie reacted in the story to having the wrong Knuffle Bunny. I think making a circle map helps students recall the story and empathize with the main character. On the right is a circle map we created before reading Big Mama's. Both of these texts are excellent mentor texts for helping students connect with text. A circle map is a pretty simple organizer to use for teaching students to think about what they are reading.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Quiet Book

The Quiet Book
written by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Renata Liwska
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 2010
Source: Graham Public Library

My six year old daughter saw my library copy of The Quiet Book and remarked, "The Quiet Book! I love The Quiet Book." Do you need to know any more before you find a copy of this wonderful book? Deborah Underwood's concept may strike you as a simple idea, but as a kindergarten teacher I can tell you that it is sheer genius. Each page features a different kind of quiet. "First one awake quiet", "Sleeping sister quiet", and my favorite, "Top of the roller coaster quiet" are some of the types of quiet listed. Renata Liwska's illustrations are sweet, thought-provoking, funny, and beyond adorable. This is a book that provoked a ton of discussion with my students since they were able to make so many connections. Students of all ages will find some kind of quiet that makes them think about a past experience. After we finished reading the book, my students generated some other kinds of quiet as an extension activity:
  • Watching a deer quiet
  • Sitting at the movies quiet
  • Playing in my room quiet
  • Walking in the hallway quiet
  • Circle time quiet
  • Holding hands quiet (my contribution)
This is one of my favorite books of the year. It is so clever and thoughtful with terrific illustrations. Only time will tell if it becomes a classic, but it sure has that feel to it.  Now if we could get a sequel titled The Loud Book.

Postscript: Debra Underwood was kind enough to email me and tell me that indeed a sequel with this title arrives in the spring! Seriously, I had no idea, but am delighted. My students and I may have to create a list and see if any of our thoughts match the book. 

Other reviews of The Quiet Book:
Kids Lit
Tell Me a Story

Monday, October 11, 2010

High-flying Airplanes

High-flying Airplanes
written by Reagan Miller
(Crabtree Publishing) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Picture Book of the Day            

High-flying Airplanes is one of those nonfiction texts I would have swallowed as a kid. It's chock full of facts about different kinds of planes such as passenger planes, military planes, and cargo planes. There are plenty of action photographs showing planes performing different tasks such as refueling in the air, putting out fires, or doing aerial tricks at an air show. The text is written at about a second grade level so you could put this in the hands of a fourth or fifth grader who is struggling with reading. Teachers could use High-flying Airplanes as a mentor text to teach nonfiction text features. The difficult vocabulary could be used to teach students how nonfiction authors often will embed the definition within the sentence. Younger students could look at the photographs and notice the labels on several of the pages. A great touch that I haven't noticed in a lot of nonfiction books is an index that has a picture for almost every term listed. This is a nice idea for students who are not used to using an index or are creating nonfiction books themselves.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grover's Old Spice Parody

If you want to teach young students about parody, this Sesame Street spoof would be a great place to start.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade

Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade
written by Stephanie Greene; illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson
(G.P. Putnam's Sons) 2010
Source: May Memorial Library

Posey is a soon-to-be first grader who has some concerns about the upcoming school year. As a first grader, she will have to go to her class by herself instead of her mom taking her to class. This means being dropped off at the Kiss and Go lane and walking alone to class. Posey will also have to leave her ever present pink tutu at home when she goes to first grade. Her tutu gives her a quiet confidence and transforms her into Princess Posey who "can do anything." Fortunately, her grandfather comes over for a visit and helps to reassure her about the beginning of the school year. He takes her out for ice cream and a chance encounter with her new teacher, Miss Lee, leads to an idea that will start first grade off on the right foot.

Author Stephanie Greene has spent a lot of time hanging around kindergarten and first grade students. I don't know her personally, but her writing rings true to this age level so I figure she's knows these kids and what makes them tick. Posey is a delightful character who reminds me of students that I work with each day and one in particular that lives in my house. Like Posey, they're sweet kids who have some fears and need some help in navigating this thing we call school. As a teacher, I really appreciate the portrayal of Miss Lee, who makes me think of several teachers I have worked with in the past. They're firm, but willing to listen and be sympathetic. I love the drawing of Miss Lee's first encounter with Posey. It illustrates a person who cares about kids. Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade is an engaging early reader that will fit nicely into the hands of a kindergarten or first grade student who is ready to take on chapter books (but don't leave the picture books behind!). 

Click on this link for Stephanie Greene's terrific activity guide for Princess Posey.

Other reviews of Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade:
From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth!

Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth!
written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
(Groundwood Books) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Roslyn Rutabaga is a spunky girl with a plan to dig the biggest hole on Earth. She plans to dig to China or as far as the South Pole so she could meet a penguin. She picks a spot in the middle of her lawn so as not to disturb her father's prize carrot bed. Unfortunately, she runs into a few obstacles as she digs. An angry earthworm gives her the business for digging in "his front yard". While digging in a new spot, a mole in a bad mood mocks her by arguing that she won't find any penguins in the ground. All in all, it's a pretty discouraging morning. Fortunately she has a loving father who suggests they take a lunch break where they discuss whether or not penguins would like carrot sandwiches.

Roslyn Rutabaga is an engaging character who would make a great study for younger students. Before reading, you could ask students to list qualities about themselves that they like. Then you could read the book and see if Roslyn fits any of those qualities. You could teach students how to create a circle map while you were doing this. I think Roslyn's father would also be a good text to text example with the fathers in My Father is Taller Than a Tree. He is supportive and nonjudgmental of her hole digging efforts. 

Other reviews of Roslyn Rutabaga:
Kids Lit
Word of Mouse

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Balloon for Isabel

A Balloon for Isabel
written by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Laura Rankin
(Greenwillow Books) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Poor Isabel. The other animals get balloons on special occasions, but since she is a porcupine, she and her porcupine friends have to make do with a bookmark. Graduation Day is approaching and Isabel and Walter lobby their teacher, Mrs.Quill, for the right to have a balloon. Their teacher is steadfast, proclaiming balloons to be unsafe. Isabel and Walter unsuccessfully try several ideas, to the reader's amusement, to show Mrs. Quill that it would be okay to give the porcupines a balloon. It's not until the day before graduation that Isabel hits upon a fantastic idea that saves the day.

Several of our K-1 classes are currently learning about story elements and A Balloon for Isabel would be a wonderful text to use in teaching. The characters and humor will engage students and the setting is quite familiar to younger readers. It would be interesting to list student ideas on how to solve the problem of the  porcupines. I've also found that fairness is always a theme that will generate discussion at any age. The surprise at the end will also have students using the text to be able to infer what is going to happen. With cheerful illustrations and an enjoyable text, A Balloon for Isabel was a hit in our room.

Other reviews of A Balloon for Isabel:
Kid's Book Blog
Great Kid Books

Monday, October 4, 2010

Country Road ABC

Country Road ABC: An Illustrated Journey Through America's Farmland
written and illustrated by Arthur Geisert
(Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library 
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Madigan Reads

Our kindergarten classes spend a week each year studying about farms and the week culminates in the Farm Breakfast on Friday morning. I just spent a few moments this past Friday eating breakfast with a cute kid who also happens to be my daughter. Country Road ABC would fit perfectly in this unit of study. Arthur Geisert has created a series of 26 illustrations that show daily life on the Iowa farmland where he lives. The detailed illustrations are humorous and informative. My favorite illustration is for the letter I which is represented by the word inoculate. In the illustration, there are pigs that have red spray paint marks on their backsides. Geisert explains in the accompanying glossary that "the red spray paint is to keep track of who has been given a shot already!" For kids that are not familiar with farm life, this book would be a great introduction. You could create a Venn diagram comparing where you live with life on an Iowa farm. I really like this book because it's not cutesy, but instead an unvarnished detailing of different aspects of farm life. The letter W is winter afternoon where Geisert shows people in a store playing cards and drinking coffee. His explanation in the glossary is that "there is not a lot to do on a winter afternoon in the country - except maybe play some cards and drink some coffee."

Below is an interview with Arthur Geisert where he shows how he creates his illustrations using etchings.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What You Know First/Elsie's Bird

What You Know First
written by Patricia MacLachlan; illustrated by Barry Moser
(Joanna Cotler Books) 1995
Source: Mebane Public Library

I was looking through our book collection at home when I came across What You Know First. I don't know how it came into our hands, but I'm really glad I found it. In the book, a young girl is unhappy about having to move away from her prairie home to a new place next to the ocean. Her parents try to sway her by telling her about the ocean and the trees. The girl's reply is "I don't need an ocean. I've got an ocean of grass." Mama talks about how her baby brother will miss her and not know about the wonders of the prairie. This seems to persuade the girl to come along but not before she grabs some natural mementos from the prairie to remember the landscape of her first home.

This book seemed very familiar as I read it and I immediately thought of the recently published Elsie's Bird by Jane Yolen and David Small. Both main characters are moving away from their first homes, but in opposite directions. Instead of moving to the ocean, Elsie moves from the ocean to a new home in Nebraska. She describes it as a "sea of grass" and reluctantly warms up to the prairie. I will be teaching text-to-text connections soon so I will be using both of these books in the near future to model making this connection. A good extension activity would be to ask students to think about whether the girl in What You Know First will like her new home next to the ocean as Elsie grew to like the prairie.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fiesta Babies

Fiesta Babies
written by Carmen Tafolla; illustrated by Amy Cordova
(Bicycle Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

The fiesta babies have arrived and they are ready for a party! They march in parades wearing colorful coronas, snack on salsa, sing mariachi songs, and dance the cha-cha-cha. When the pace gets too hectic, they take a siesta so they can party later that evening. And at the end of the evening, you might even get a big abrazo. 

Fiesta Babies is a fun rhyming book that will be enjoyed by preschoolers and kindergartners. If you are seeking to introduce Spanish to young students, this would be a great read aloud. They can make connections to the activities of the babies and perhaps use some of the words in the glossary to describe activities in their own lives. Students will enjoy the vibrant illustrations, and this could be a springboard for young English Language Learners to share some of their cultural heritage. Viva la Fiesta Babies!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Fox and the Hen

The Fox and the Hen
written and illustrated by Eric Battut
(Boxer Books) 2010 First American edition; published in France 2008
Source: Orange County Public Library

Henrietta Hen is not the brightest fowl in the coop. She has just laid her first egg when Fox comes along and offers a nice juicy worm for the egg. Being a fan of worms and not knowing what she just laid, Henrietta immediately agrees to the trade. When her friends on the farm hear about this trade, they are mortified. Poor Henrietta is saddened by her mistake, but Cow and the rest of the barnyard crew vow to help her get her egg back. Each animal offers Fox an item for trade so Henrietta can get her egg (e.g., Goose offers feathers, Goat offers cheese), but the sly fox has his mind set on eating an egg. After several attempts, the animals are in a state of despair until Henrietta's IQ soars and she has a brilliant idea.

The Fox and the Hen is a crowd pleaser for read aloud time because it has a sweet protagonist and a villain. My students really wanted to see Henrietta get her egg back and rooted openly against Fox. Eric Battut's portrayal of the fox in text and illustrations really make this book for me. Each time Fox is presented with an offer for the egg, he refuses and delights to tell a different way that he is going to cook the egg that is tied to the offer. For example, when the Goat offers cheese, he declines but mentions that he is looking forward to cooking an omelet. This book would be a terrific text for teaching sequence or text to text connections as you could compare it to other books featuring a fox like Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes.