Sunday, December 30, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Did It All Start with a Snowball Fight?

Did It All Start with a Snowball Fight?
written by Mary Kay Carson; illustrated by Robert Hunt
2012 (Sterling Publishing)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at proseandkahn

The Good Question! series of books use a question and answer format to cover a particular piece of history. The title question starts the journey for this study of The American Revolution. The snowball fight is a reference to the Boston Massacre of 1770. Mary Kay Carson highlights all three sides (Loyalist, Patriot, neither) of opinion and explains why the colonists would choose to engage in a war with a much better funded enemy. It will be informative for students to learn that the choice to fight the British was not an immediate one for the colonists, but the result of long standing frustrations with the crown. When the battle begins, Carson explains the struggles of both armies. I particularly like pages 14 and 15 which contrast the British and Continental Army soldiers. This reminds me of the "Tale of the Tape" that you used to see before a big boxing match. Detailed descriptions of the weaponry and battle tactics are also very interesting. The contrast between the traditional marches of the British army and the guerrilla tactics of the colonists helps explain one way the Patriots had a leg up on their competition. To use another sports analogy, the Patriots also had the home field. They knew the terrain and used that knowledge to their advantage. The book finishes with an overview of how the Patriots overcame significant disadvantages to win and the influence of the Revolution on later events in America and in France.

If you are looking for a primer on The American Revolution, this book will serve you well. The questions in the book are excellent and would serve as a great springboard to further research. I would consider having students generate questions of their own and writing answers in a similar two or three paragraph format. This exercise could be used for the study of other wars as well. I would also ask students if they would start their study of The American Revolution with the Boston Massacre or pick a different event.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

STEM Friday: One Times Square

One Times Square
written and illustrated by Joe McKendry
2012 (David R. Godine)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out STEM Friday for other math and science links

At the heart of New York City lies the junction of Seventh Avenue and Broadway, perhaps the most well known intersection in the world.

As a kid, I stayed awake on New Year's Eve and watched the ball drop in New York City's Times Square at midnight. I was fascinated by all the billboards and the crowds of people. One Times Square provides the intriguing history behind one of the world's most famous pieces of real estate. Broadway started out as a dirt path with the name of Bloomingdale Road. Near the end of the 19th century, theater impresario Oscar Hammerstein built two theaters in this area which led to several other theater owners to follow and create what is now known as Broadway. In 1904, the New York Times built its new headquarters on the intersection at an impressive height of 395 feet. This prompted Mayor George B. McClellan to crown the area as Times Square. Author Joe McKendry takes readers on an exciting journey through the following hundred years as the square serves as an information hub before television and the computer age take hold. I was particularly interested in the workings of the "Zipper" sign which broadcast breaking news on a five foot electronic panel. There are so many iconic images contained in the pages of this wonderful book.

One of the big themes of social studies is change over time. One Times Square would be a great resource to track U.S. history over the last century. McKendry documents the decaying of the square during the 60's and 70's and its resurgence in the '80s. Older students could read this part of the text and discuss the pros and cons of urban revitalization. Before you watch the ball drop Monday night, you should go and find a copy of One Times Square and amaze your friends and family with the interesting history of the area.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

STEM Friday: Plant a Little Seed

Plant a Little Seed
written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen
2012 (Roaring Brook Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out STEM Friday for more math and science links.

Two young friends plant seeds in a community garden. Adding water, patience, and dreams, they look for signs of growth. Finally sprouts start their upward journey. As the roots spread out, the friends weed and dream. Sunflowers grow up while radishes and carrots grow down. Fruits begin to appear on the vines as the two friends work hard to maintain the garden. Soon, they enjoy the product of their labor. Tiny tomatoes and peas from the pod scream summer as they hit the taste buds of these workers. As fall approaches, it's time to harvest the food from the garden. An array of processes,whether pickling, canning, or freezing, are used to preserve this wonderful bounty. The best thing about growing a garden is being able to share the fruits of your labor. Family and friends come to the table to enjoy the fruits and vegetables grown. It won't be too long before this cycle starts all over again with the planting of a little seed.

Our school has several garden beds in our courtyard. Excited students plant an assortment of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Plant a Little Seed perfectly captures this moment in picture book form. This is a great resource for plant units in science. You can also teach a lesson on sequence with this text. Save Plant a Little Seed for when you are in the throes of winter and dreaming of spring.

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Check out It's Monday! What Are You Reading? at Teach Mentor Texts.

Last Week:

Bomb was a riveting read for a history nerd like me. This is an account of how the United States built the first atomic bombs and how the Soviet Union was able to obtain classified information about those bombs. One of my favorite parts of the book was the story of Enrico Fermi's work in the city of Chicago. Here he was in the middle of one of the biggest cities in America conducting experiments on fission. Those around him were quite nervous but Fermi was as cool as a cucumber. Bomb also gave me a better understanding of why citizens decided to pass on secrets to the Soviet Union. If you are wondering about its chances for the ALA Awards (it's definitely a contender!), check out the Heavy Medal blog.

Our second grade class is working on writing gingerbread stories so we read several different accounts of the classic story. We worked on comparing settings and comparing the story events themselves. We discovered two different tricks that the fox used to lure his prey and also found that often the gingerbread boy kind of brought his fate upon himself. Most of the gingerbread characters are quite arrogant which leads to their demise.

This is one of my favorites in the gingerbread genre. I like the twist at the end. The Gingerbread Girl Goes Animal Crackers is a worthy sequel.

How can you not like a gingerbread man with spurs? Another entertaining version of the classic story.

I love the infusion of Spanish words in this story. It added a lot of flavor to the reading.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Poetry Friday: Waterloo Sunset

My favorite picture that I took from my trip to Copenhagen this past summer was of a sunset at nearly 10 o'clock. I was alone on a bike ride when I parked on a bridge to take this picture. It was a day that I'll never forget. A song that captures this moment for me was written by Ray Davies of The Kinks. Waterloo Sunset is narrated by a man staring out his window and enjoying the view of the Thames River and Waterloo Station. It is one of the most beloved songs of the rock and roll era. If I taught mood to middle or high school students, I would use these lyrics. 

Waterloo Sunset
Dirty old river, must you keep rolling
Flowing into the night
People so busy, makes me feel dizzy
Taxi light shines so bright
But I don’t need no friends
As long as I gaze on Waterloo Sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo Sunset’s fine

Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station
Every Friday night
But I am so lazy, don’t want to wander
I stay at home at night
But I don’t feel afraid
As long as I gaze on Waterloo Sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo Sunset’s fine

Millions of people swarming like flies ’round Waterloo Underground
But Terry and Julie cross over the river
Where they feel safe and sound
And they don’t need no friends
As long as they gaze on Waterloo Sunset
They are in paradise

Waterloo Sunset’s fine

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Check out It's Monday! What Are You Reading? at Teach Mentor Texts

With my work as a Cybils first round judge for easy readers and early chapter books, I am sharing some of these books with my second grade class. 

Never Trust a Tiger, a story from Korea that has been retold by Lari Don, is the tale of a merchant who is traveling to market to sell his spices. He comes across a pit into which a beguiling tiger has fallen. The tiger sweet talks the merchant into helping him out of the pit. The question at the heart of this story is whether a good deed must be followed by another good deed. In other words, would it be bad form for the tiger to eat his rescuer?

Pete and Gabby are two curious bears who wander into town due to the lack of activity at the campground. The bears visit an ice cream shop, a mail room, and the fire station. Each visit is marked by humans running and bears trying new things with various levels of destruction. My class was highly amused by Pete and Gabby. I loved how the setting changed with each chapter which helped me present mini-lessons on setting and comparing different settings between texts and within the same text. 

Super fast Freddie Ramos makes his fourth appearance in Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash. Freddie is working on dual problems in this story. He is contesting a bully on a green bike who is creating trouble at Starwood Park Apartments, and he is mustering up enough bravery to put his face in the water during his swim lessons. My students love the Freddie Ramos series of books. He is a kid with a super power (purple sneakers) that all of them would like to have. They also appreciate Freddie's humanity. He makes mistakes and faces issues (being honest, bullying, etc.) that they encounter in their lives. 

Next Week

I waited four weeks for a copy of Bomb by Steve Sheinkin to become available at my local library. I will have to carve out some time to read this. It was a National Book Award finalist. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Poetry Friday: Cat by JRR Tolkien

The cat above is my 25 pound friend, Charlie. One of my wife's colleagues found him under a trailer at the middle school. He was a kitten and could fit in the palm of your hand. Slightly more rotund now, he has adopted the one person in our house that was not very enthusiastic about his arrival. I thought this poem by JRR Tolkien would be appropriate for my buddy. Plus, I took my Hobbit crazy daughter to Denny's last weekend for a Middle-Earth themed breakfast. 
Check out Poetry Friday at Read, Write, Howl

Cat by JRR Tolkien

The fat cat on the mat
 may seem to dream
of nice mice that suffice
 for him, or cream;
but he free, maybe,
 walks in thought
unbowed, proud, where loud
 roared and fought
his kin, lean and slim,
 or deep in den
in the East feasted on beasts
 and tender men.
The giant lion with iron
 claw in paw,
and huge ruthless tooth
 in gory jaw;
the pard dark-starred,
 fleet upon feet,
that oft soft from aloft
 leaps upon his meat
where woods loom in gloom —
 far now they be,
 fierce and free,
 and tamed is he;
but fat cat on the mat
 kept as a pet
 he does not forget.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Never Trust a Tiger

Never Trust a Tiger
retold by Lari Don; illustrated by Melanie Williamson
2012 (Barefoot Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

A merchant is traveling to market, hoping to sell his spices. He comes upon a hole where a tiger is located. The tiger begs and begs the merchant to help him out of the hole. Being kind-hearted and admiring the tiger's beauty, the merchant drags a fallen tree to the hole to help the tiger. When the tiger escapes from the pit, he is very grateful to the merchant and shows his gratitude by leaping on the merchant and threatening to eat him. Tiger gratitude apparently doesn't stretch very far. This seems quite unfair to the merchant, who complains so much that the tiger cannot eat him in peace. Being a good negotiator, the merchant asks that another living being decide whether it is fair for the tiger to eat his rescuer. The merchant argues that a good deed should not be followed by a bad deed, while the tiger thinks the opposite. An ox wanders by and is drawn into the argument. The ox's point of view is favorable to the tiger. He argues that after a life of service to his master, the ox will be slaughtered in the end and therefore a good deed can be followed by a bad deed. Trying to avoid being dinner, the merchant asks for a second opinion. A nearby tree states that good deeds should be followed by good deeds. He uses his relationship with birds as an example. With both the merchant and the tiger having an advocate, it is up to a hare to break the tie. His argument is the most surprising of all.

Never Trust a Tiger would be a great addition to a folklore unit. You could also teach character traits with this book. I like the humor of this story. My second grade class enjoyed the read aloud as well.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Maple Tree to Syrup

From Maple Tree to Syrup
written by Melanie Mitchell
2012 (Lerner Books)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Booktalking

Our second grade class just finished writing "how-to" pieces in Writer's Workshop. Many different elementary grade levels write these pieces and it's good to have some mentor texts available for students to view. From Maple Tree to Syrup is one such book that would be good to use for this purpose. Each two page spread features a topic sentence in bold print followed by supporting details. A full page photograph is on the right side of each spread.  Readers learn in the beginning that a group of maple trees used for making syrup is called a sugar bush. In the spring, holes are drilled in the trees and metal spouts used to collect the sap. Barrels are used to collect the sap and take it to a sugarhouse to be processed. The sap is boiled and turned into maple syrup.

If you are teaching a lesson on sequence and using a flow chart to organize information, this book would be a good text to use. Like I've said before, books like From Maple Tree to Syrup aren't glamorous and will not  be considered for any awards, but they are extremely valuable to classroom teachers and librarians who want to put more nonfiction titles into student hands. Kids have a connection with syrup so they will be interested in this process and can also learn to use nonfiction text features like a table of contents and a glossary and index. The text is simple, so it is easy to focus on teaching comprehension topics like nonfiction text features or main idea and supporting details.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Apples A to Z

Apples A to Z
written by Margaret McNamara; illustrated by Jake Parker
2012 (Scholastic)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at The Miss Rumphius Effect

When you look at the cover of this book, you see two cute characters and maybe assume this will be a light romp with plenty of rhyme and not a lot of information. Apples A to Z surprisingly most resembles a piece of informational text more than any other genre. Fox and Bear don't mess around when it comes to apples. They will teach you about grafting where a branch of one kind of apple tree is attached to a branch of another tree. This creates healthier trees. N is for nutritious where we learn that apples contain fiber which helps the stomach digest other foods. Our two apple enthusiasts also show us the difference between apple cider and apple juice. This is pretty heady stuff for preschoolers and K-1 students. My favorite letter is V which stands for varieties. On this page there are 26 different types of apples listed and illustrated, one for each letter of the alphabet. The back matter includes information about Johnny Appleseed, figurative language involving apples, jokes, and a recipe for making applesauce.

If you work with preschool or kindergarten students and teach a unit on apples, you need to find this book. I wouldn't read the whole book in one setting, but would spread it out over a week's time. The vocabulary in Apples A to Z is terrific. Words like yield and harvest are good terms to learn as they can be used in many different contexts. This book would also be a good model for creating booklets as most sections are two or three sentences long which is a good length for beginning booklet writers.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sparrow, Eagle, Penguin, and Seagull: What is a Bird?

Sparrow, Eagle, Penguin, and Seagull:What is a Bird?
written by Brian P. Cleary; illustrated by Martin Goneau
2012 (Lerner Publishing)
Source: Orange County Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Perogies and Gyoza

Feathers serve to block the sun 
and keep birds warm and dry.
They help them in attracting mates,
And plus, they help them fly!

What makes a bird a bird? With fun rhymes and illustrations, Brian Cleary and Martin Goneau explore the characteristics that make up our fine feathered friends. It is indeed feathers that unite this group. They can block the sun, keep a bird dry, attract a mate, or provide camouflage from predators. In order to be part of these proud preeners, you have to have a backbone which makes you a vertebrate. Eggs are the preferred form of birth for these warm blooded creatures. Other characteristics that are explored include size, sound, and motion.

I used circle maps quite a bit in kindergarten and this book lends itself to using that form of organizer. You can put the word birds in the center circle and ask students to list what they know about the subject. During reading, you can ask students to contribute more answers to the circle map. If you are studying classification of animals, this would also be a very good book to use. You can create tables or use a spreadsheet to classify birds and compare to other groups such as reptiles.

Check out Brian P. Cleary's website for games and teacher materials. This would be a cool site to visit with your class in your school's computer lab.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Tree! A Tu B'Shevat Story

Happy Birthday, Tree! A Tu B'Shevat Story
written by Madelyn Rosenberg; illustrated by Jana Christy
2012 (Albert Whitman)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out STEM Friday for more math and science links

A thoughtful Joni wants to celebrate Tu B'Shevat, the Birthday of the Trees. Unfortunately, the big tree in her yard doesn't seem to be in a mood to celebrate, but this won't dissuade the plucky young girl. She sings Happy Birthday in Hebrew and in English. Later, she gathers her friend Nate to help provide presents for the tree. They bring water and provide wind to move the clouds so the sun can shine directly on the tree. Soil cupcakes and Joni's souvenir swan are added to make the tree happier. Joni decides that friendship is the key, so she asks her mother to take her to the nursery so a friend can be added nearby. After a prayer is said to welcome the new tree, friends and neighbors come together to celebrate the new addition to the neighborhood and remember the Birthday of the Trees.

Happy Birthday, Tree! is a delightful reminder of the importance of remembering what sustains life on this planet. The illustrations are bright and cheery as is the main character, Joni. With the Common Core curriculum, we will be focusing on character traits, so I will share Joni with my class when I talk about the word "determined". We've also been studying harvest festivals this week, so my class is familiar with celebrations that focus on nature and what it provides. This book also easily fits in with a unit that focuses on preserving the environment.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last Week
I just finished Parent Conference week which is always crazy, so I didn't have a ton of time to read and review last week. In the classroom, we celebrated Election Day and Veteran's Day so there were two books that stood out:

 I Can Be President, Too! was a great book to use to talk about the traits we would like to see in our president and in ourselves as well. 

The Wall by Eve Bunting is a powerful text to read for Veteran's Day or Memorial Day or any other day for that matter. It helps students focus on the sacrifices made by so many soldiers and their families. This led to a nice writing activity that thanked veterans for their service. 

This Week

Speaking of powerful books, Henry Cole's new wordless book, Unspoken, fulfills that adjective quite nicely. A young girl on a southern farm sees a runaway slave hiding in her family's barn. Set during the Civil War, this girl must decide whether she is going to help the slave or turn him in. Travis at 100 Scope Notes and Brenda at Prose and Kahn have reviews. We are working on asking questions in Reader's Workshop this week so Unspoken will definitely be shared in class. 

Jack and Annie will be making an appearance as Thanksgiving quickly approaches. We're teaching a unit in Social Studies about Thanksgiving that highlights three different eras: 1) The Pilgrims, 2) Sarah Josepha Hale's campaign to make it a holiday, and 3) How we celebrate Thanksgiving today. This gives me a chance to share Mike Allegra's wonderful Sarah Gives Thanks with my class. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Poetry Friday: The Snow Storm

Check out Poetry Friday at Think Kid, Think!

It's been a little colder than usual here in North Carolina, so I'm wondering if we will have any significant snowfall this winter. With that in mind, I've posted a poem called The Snow Storm by Edna St. Vincent Millay. 

The Snow Storm
No hawk hangs over in this air:
The urgent snow is everywhere.
The wing adroiter than a sail
Must lean away from such a gale,
Abandoning its straight intent,
Or else expose tough ligament
And tender flesh to what before
Meant dampened feathers, nothing more.
Forceless upon our backs there fall
Infrequent flakes hexagonal,
Devised in many a curious style
To charm our safety for a while,
Where close to earth like mice we go
Under the horizontal snow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tracking Plot and Mood with Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

My co-teaching partner in Reader's Workshop, Paula Patterson, created this wonderful plot tracker on bulletin board paper using illustrations from Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. We're teaching our second graders about the track of the plot and how the mood changes in a story. We used this book last week and read it several times for different purposes. It is such a good source for teaching about plot and mood. Now our students are thinking about rising action, climax, and falling action. I read Bootsie Barker Bites this morning and my class was able to find the high point of the story. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I Can Be President, Too!

I Can Be President, Too!
written by Yanitzia Canetti
2009 (Scholastic Books)
Source: Purchased copy

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Booktalking

This past week we created a circle graph in my class during social studies. I asked students what qualities they wanted to see in a president.  I was pleasantly surprised by their answers. They spoke about honesty, being able to work hard, being responsible, and getting along with others. I was quite proud. Another group of children who will make us proud are the 14 students featured in I Can Be President, Too!.

Each two page spread focuses on one student who expresses why they can be president. The child mentions one character trait and examples of how they exemplify that trait. Here is an example:

I listen to what my teacher says. I don't interrupt my friends. I always wait my turn. Vote for me. I AM RESPECTFUL. 

I like the diversity in the children's ages and ethnicity. The ages of the narrators range from 5-11 years of age. This is an inclusive book and will appeal to students. It also raises a question that we who will vote in the presidential election should consider as well. Do you vote for someone based on what they say they will do or on who they are as a person? What would President Obama or Governor Romney state if they were given two pages in this book?

I'm already thinking about creating a booklet with my class for Writer's Workshop. You can teach using a topic sentence and supporting details in a persuasive piece.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Poetry Friday: The People, Yes

There is a terrific cover story in Time magazine about the making of the movie Lincoln. I'm looking forward to seeing this film. With this and the presidential election in mind, I am offering Carl Sandburg's The People, Yes for Poetry Friday this week. Check out Poetry Friday at Mainely Write

He was a mystery in smoke and flags
Saying yes to the smoke, yes to the flags,
Yes to the paradoxes of democracy,
Yes to the hopes of government
Of the people by the people for the people,
No to debauchery of the public mind,
No to personal malice nursed and fed,
Yes to the Constitution when a help,
No to the Constitution when a hindrance
Yes to man as a struggler amid illusions,
Each man fated to answer for himself:
Which of the faiths and illusions of mankind
Must I choose for my own sustaining light
To bring me beyond the present wilderness?

       Lincoln? Was he a poet?
       And did he write verses?
“I have not willingly planted a thorn
       in any man’s bosom.”
I shall do nothing through malice: what
       I deal with is too vast for malice.”

Death was in the air.
So was birth.

A Trip To The Bottom Of The World With Mouse

A Trip To The Bottom Of The World With Mouse
written and illustrated by Frank Viva
2012 (Toon Books)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out STEM Friday for more math and science links.

Mouse is not a happy traveler. He is on a ship traveling to Antarctica with his owner, a young boy, and all he can think about is going home. The waves make it hard to do anything. The cold means you have to wears extra layers of clothing. All Mouse can do is ask "Can we go home now?". Off the coast, Mouse's friend sees several species of penguins. Traveling on a dinghy, the boy sees a whale as Mouse announces several different things that whales can do. An unexpected turn takes the duo to a submerged volcano where they can swim in thermal waters. On their way home, Mouse asks a surprising question that doesn't involve going home.

A Trip To The Bottom Of The World With Mouse is a fiction graphic novel on a first grade level that contains a surprising amount of information about Antarctica. Frank Viva based this book on his own travels to the cold continent. I think this book would be a great choice to include in a unit on Antarctica or in a unit on penguins. It also works in the realm of fiction where we read books to find out more about ourselves. Mouse, like many of us, just wants to have the comforts of his surroundings and not to have to face the unknown. We can talk to children about experiences they have had where they were nervous at the beginning only to find out that everything turned out okay. Vivas also includes a few situations where readers can make predictions using their prior knowledge. I appreciate how you have to turn the page before you see the answer of the character. As a teacher, this makes my life easier. The illustrations are engaging which makes this book a trip worth taking for an easy reader.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last Week
One of the best picture books that I have read this year. Kate Hosford has created a wonderful story about a little girl who looks at the stars and wonders about something that can go last forever. Gabi Swiatkowska's illustrations are equally brilliant as well. 

My second graders love Freddie Ramos. I think some of them may be dressing like him on our Book Character Day this Wednesday. I have read the first two books in the series to my class and they are itching for the next book. My students easily relate to Freddie and the triumphs and challenges in his life. This is a terrific series for late first grade/second grade readers. 

This Week
We're beginning a unit on elections this week and this new title will be a big help. The narrator and her classmates are excited about the upcoming election. Several children take turns mixing history and their personal connections to voting to help illuminate readers as to why this is such an important day. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Infinity and Me

Infinity and Me
written by Kate Hosford; illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
2012 (Carolrhoda Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out STEM Friday for more math and science links.

As kids, infinity would usually enter into our conversations when we were trying to top each other with an amount. I might say that I could put 3 pieces of bubble gum into my mouth and my friend would boast that he could put 4 into his mouth. The numbers would climb in our back and forth until someone said "infinity" and that settled it. You couldn't top infinity. We didn't have much of a clue about the concept of infinity except that it was the ultimate way to end an argument. Our understanding would have been greatly enhanced if we would have had a copy of Infinity and Me. It would have also saved us the pain of jamming ridiculous amounts of bubble gum into our mouths and looking like chipmunks on steroids.

In the beginning of this wonderful new picture book, Uma is sitting outside staring at the sky. She's too excited to sleep as she is the owner of a new pair of red shoes that are waiting to be shown off at school. The night sky takes her attention off of the shoes and on the notion of infinity. Uma wonders, "How many are the stars in the sky? A million? A billion?" It hits her that the number may be as big as infinity. From here, she goes on a quest to learn about infinity. Her friend Charlie suggests that infinity is a big number that just keeps growing and growing and can never be counted. Uma's best friend Samantha thinks of the symbol, the sideways figure 8, as a racetrack where you can drive around forever. Grandma thinks of a family that continues to grow and go on forever. Uma realizes that forever and infinity are intertwined. Forever seems like a really long time. Would she like to have recess forever? How about being eight forever or having a ice cream cone that could be licked for infinity? These are big questions. She also notices that no one has commented on her new red shoes. Fortunately, with her Grandma's help, Uma finds a solution to problems related to numbers and shoes.

Infinity and Me left me infinitely content. With this book, you get a kid friendly explanation of a deep concept inside a terrific story. As a teacher, I love how this text will be able to help students take their thinking to another level. I would ask, "What situations in your life might make you think of infinity?" Possible answers could include taking a standardized test or waiting in line at the grocery store. I've attended some weddings (not my own!) where I may have pondered infinity. Gabi Swiatkowska's excellent illustrations will definitely help students visualize the idea of infinity. It would be fun and challenging to create a booklet of drawings that illustrate each student's interpretation of infinity. To paraphrase a rather famous animated astronaut, Infinity and Me will take you beyond your expectations.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Through Time: London

Through Time: London
written by Richard Platt; illustrated by Manuela Cappon
2009 (Kingfisher)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Hope Is The Word

London starts off with a time line with illustrated inserts. This time line goes from 3500 B.C. to present day. What follows are 18 spectacular two page spreads that show London in different stages of history. Each spread has two-three paragraphs of text that provide background information for the time period featured. For example, in the section titled Boudicca Attacks! A.D. 60, we learn about the Celtic queen who  leads an army that burns down London. It doesn't end well for this queen however as the Romans regroup and defeat her army and she poisons herself. The text is informative, but the main attraction is the detailed maps on each spread that come with labels and captions that provide more facts. It's as if you are in a helicopter and hovering over the area. Richard Platt provides a thorough history starting with a Neolithic camp set next to the Thames River. The Romans invade as well as the Black Plague over a thousand years afterward. William Shakespeare's London is a featured spread as well as Georgian London of 1783 and The Blitz of 1940. Queen Victoria and the mods of the 60's also make appearances. The book ends with a landscape of both the historic (St. Paul's Cathedral) and the brand new of buildings constructed for the recent Summer Olympics.

If you have students who like to draw, this would be a great book to put in their hands. They could construct a spread of their hometown complete with historical notes. One of the big themes of social studies, change over time, could easily be illustrated by sharing this book.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Poetry Friday: October's Bright Blue Weather

Photograph by Sanchezn

We're studying weather in second grade so this poem seemed an appropriate choice for today. Check out Poetry Friday at Live Your Poem

October's Bright Blue Weather by Helen Hunt Jackson

O suns and skies and clouds of June, 
And flowers of June together, 
Ye cannot rival for one hour 
October's bright blue weather;

When loud the bumblebee makes haste, 
Belated, thriftless vagrant, 
And goldenrod is dying fast, 
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When gentians roll their fingers tight 
To save them for the morning, 
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs 
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie 
In piles like jewels shining, 
And redder still on old stone walls 
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things 
Their white-winged seeds are sowing, 
And in the fields still green and fair, 
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks, 
In idle golden freighting, 
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush 
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts, 
By twos and twos together, 
And count like misers, hour by hour, 
October's bright blue weather.

O sun and skies and flowers of June, 
Count all your boasts together, 
Love loveth best of all the year 
October's bright blue weather.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Check out It's Monday! What Are You Reading? at Teach Mentor Texts

Last Week

I have been reading some terrific early reader books. Shown below are a few that I particularly enjoyed. All of these books are full of humor and great friendships.

This Week
My wife and daughters oohed and aahed when they viewed Through Time:London by Richard Platt.

As a classroom teacher, this is one of my favorite book titles of 2012: Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril. Having survived many picture day perils, I can't wait to read another Lunch Lady adventure.