Sunday, September 29, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: The Cart That Carried Martin

The Cart That Carried Martin
written by Eve Bunting; illustrated by Don Tate
2013 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
*Available November 2013

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Stacking Books

This is the humble cart that, not so long ago, carried greatness.

As written in this new book, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted an ordinary funeral. A borrowed cart pulled by two mules carried his body as thousands watched it go by on the streets of Atlanta. The mules also carried the symbolism of the promise of forty acres and a mule when slaves were freed in the 19th century. Crowds either watched in silence or sang in hymns. Two services were held that day, one at Ebenezer Baptist Church and the second at Morehouse College. Thousands paid their respect as the cart slowly rolled by. Mirroring the simplicity of the funeral, The Cart That Carried Martin is a simple text, but that doesn't mean it lacks in emotional power. A somber but hopeful mood runs throughout. People are grieving, but they are also determined to carry Dr. King's message forward. As the coffin is placed in a hearse, someone asks "Is it over?" The reply comes back, "It will never be over. What he stands for lives on." After the funeral, the mules return to their farm, the cart is returned to the antique store, but the message lives on. With their words and watercolor illustrations, Eve Bunting and Don Tate paint a sad, but ultimately optimistic portrait of an historic event.

I appreciate that this text is accessible to young readers. That's not an easy task to complete, but Bunting's text is simple yet very effective. In addition to using this book to teach readers about Dr. King, I think it would also be a great text for teaching small moments. Eve Bunting stretches out moments and appeals to your sense of sight and hearing. You could also use this text to teach about symbols, as the cart carries great symbolism.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Super Schnoz Blog Tour: Q & A with author Gary Urey

Welcome to the last stop on the Super Schnoz Blog Tour! Super Schnoz and the Gates of Smell  is the debut of a superhero created by Gary Urey and Ethan Long. He's mild mannered but with a whiff of heroism. Here is a sniff of the action:

Andy Whiffler is your average eleven-year-old boy…except that his nose is so big he can use it to fly and his sense of smell is a hundred thousand times stronger than any human’s. In the first book of this hilarious new series, Andy moves to a new school and is instantly picked on because of the size of his nose. But when his classmates discover just how powerful his nose is, they decide he is more of a comic book hero than a nerd. One day Andy’s school is shut down due to toxic gasses. Andy discovers that it’s all a secret plot for an evil corporation called the ECU (Environmental Clean Up) to take over the world. Andy and his friends decide that this is a job for Super Schnoz, Andy’s alter ego. The ragtag group of kids team up to take on the ECU to ensure school gets back in session (Or summer vacation will be ruined!)

Gary Urey was kind enough to stop by NC Teacher Stuff and answer a few questions:

1. What was your inspiration for Super Schnoz? 

I had two inspirations for Schnoz. The first was that I was born into a family of large noses! My 
family reunion would be a rhinoplasty surgeon’s dream. Small animals scurry for cover because 
our noses block out the sun. Second, I came up with the prototype for Schnoz many years ago 
back in high school. The character’s name was Whiff and he was a part of a superhero team. 
His power was an amazing sense of smell. The character stayed in the back of my mind and 
eventually evolved into Super Schnoz.

2. Who were/are your favorite comic book heroes?

I love all the classics—Spiderman, Superman, Fantastic Four, X-men, Silver Surfer. But my 
all-time favorite comic book hero was actually a Saturday morning cartoon hero, Hong Kong 
Phooey from the 1970s TV show. Hong Kong Phooey was the secret alter ego of Penrod 
Pooch, a bloodhound who worked at a police station as a “mild-mannered” janitor, and then 
transformed himself into Hong Kong Phooey by running headfirst into a magic filing cabinet. 
The Phooeymobile was able to transform into a plane, boat, space ship, anything Hong Kong 
Phooey needed it to be! The late great Scatman Crothers was the voice of Phooey.

3. How much did you enjoy making references to historical figures with prominent noses? Is there anybody you left out that might make an appearance in a future Super Schnoz book?

The nose references were a lot of fun. They were mainly for the grown-ups, as I doubted a nineyear-old would know who Jimmy Durante was and get the James F. Durante Elementary School gag. Knowledge of Cyrano de Bergerac may be a stretch for a kid as well. 
I think that Jimmy Durante and Cyrano are the gold standard when it comes to big noses. There 
is another reference to a big nose in the book. I named Mrs. Fields, Schnoz’s teacher, after W.C. 
Fields, another man with a famous honker.  

4. How do you think young readers will relate to Andy Whiffler? 

I think all kids feel different at one time or another. They also may feel at times like they stand 
out from the crowd and not in a good way. Andy feels different because of his nose and he 
certainly stands out in a crowd. Andy also has a bully problem at the beginning of the book 
because of his large nose. Although we live in an anti-bullying world today, kids still get bullied 
(although probably not as viciously as they were in the past) and it hurts. Hopefully, the book 
also relays a message that sometimes our worst enemies can become our best friends.

5. Is there a possible Super Schnoz sidekick in his future? Perhaps one with prominent feet or ears?

I just finished Super Schnoz II. This time Schnoz, the Not-Right Brothers, and Vivian battle 
snotty aliens who are intent on taking over the world. If there is a Super Schnoz III, a sidekick
might be fun. I see a kid with a huge index finger so he can pick Schnoz’s nose!

You can find Super Schnoz and the Gates of Smell at Albert Whitman for the hard copy and the ebook at Open Road Media. In the meantime, check out the trailer!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Short Vowels Poster

My colleague Martha Brown has this poster in her classroom. We sing this each day to work on short vowel sounds. It goes like this:

"Hold an /a/a/ apple"
"Touch the /e/e/ edge"
"Feel the /i/i/ itch"
"o/o/o/o/o/o/o/" (Like an opera singer)
"You look u/u/ up" 

This is a very effective tool. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Ultimate Bugopedia

Ultimate Bugopedia
written by Darlyne Murawski and Nancy Honovich
2013 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Sally's Bookshelf

Do you need to keep a kid occupied for a couple of hours, but want to stay away from video games or computer screens? Find a copy of this book which is over 250 pages of bug mania. I don't think the authors are buzzing aimlessly with the claim that this is the most complete bug reference book ever. This is fantastically creepy fun for nonfiction lovers. Over 400 insects are featured.

Each two page spread has the usual beyond the pale photographs from National Geographic. Nobody does it better than the Society when it comes to animal photos. A short, crisp narrative also accompanies each spread. The authors weave in "wow" facts that young readers will be delighted to share with their friends and family. Just not at the dinner table. Below the narrative is several categories of facts. The following items are included:

  • Common name
  • Scientific name
  • Size
  • Wings
  • Food
  • Habitat
  • Range (Where you will find this insect)
So when I picked up this bug behemoth of a book, I opened to the spread about the tarantula hawk. On the right side, there is a large photograph of a tarantula hawk (bright red wings and about two inches long) facing down a tarantula spider. Nothing to see here, right? The tarantula takes care of the insect and has a tidy dinner. Man, did I get this wrong! The tarantula hawk is indeed hawkish. The female stings a tarantula and paralyzes it. Then, she drags it to her burrow or nest and lays an egg on the tarantula's abdomen. You might want to click out right now if you are squeamish. The wasp larva uses the paralyzed tarantula for food. It avoids the vital organs at first so it has time to develop. That is quite ghastly. 

The Ultimate Bugopedia is a bug lover's dream. I love the format because it would be easy to duplicate in the classroom for developing nonfiction writers who want to create their own bug books. If you study bugs, this is the book to have in your collection. Check out the trailer for yourself.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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

What I Am Reading This Week

written and illustrated by Miriam Koch
2013 (Peter Pauper Press)
Review copy provided by the publisher

Don't adjust your computer screen. That is the actual shape of the book. Digby Differs is 18 inches long and 7 inches high. It will be worth the trouble you may have shelving this book. Digby is a sheep that is a little different than his compatriots. He knows this and it makes him lonely. He spends his time in the book trying to find out why he is different and where he may belong in this world. The illustrations are delightful and you will be pleased with the ending. We spend a lot of time in class emphasizing to children to be themselves and not worry about what others may be thinking or saying. Digby would be a good reinforcement of this lesson. 

written and illustrated by David Biedrzycki
2013 (Charlesbridge Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Now that the back to school leftovers are being moved out of the stores and Halloween stuff is being moved in, it's time to a new Halloween book that is sure to please. Dragon and his best friend like many of the same things including birthday parties, fireworks, and parades. Unfortunately, Dragon does not have the same enthusiasm for Halloween. Frankly, he is quite afraid of it. Maybe finding a "just right" costume will soothe the not so savage beast. This proves to be a difficult task. Being a mummy doesn't pass the "Dad test". Robot and fairy princess costumes are not exactly flame retardant which, not surprisingly, is a problem for a dragon. Elvis would be a great costume for both of them, but you can only have one Elvis. So what to do? After hearing his friend read his favorite book, Dragon comes up with a foolproof idea. 

This is a sweet, humorous take on Halloween costumes that young readers will enjoy. 

Last Week

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Splash, Anna Hibiscus

Splash, Anna Hibiscus
written by Atinuke; illustrated by Lauren Tobia
2013 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa. She has a big and wonderful family and they are visiting the beach in this enjoyable new picture book. It's a hot day and the waves are splashing, but no one other than Anna seems interested in playing in the water. Her older cousins are on their phones and feel too old to play in the water. Other cousins are playing soccer on the beach or playing in the sand. Anna's mother and her aunties are braiding hair so they don't want to come to the waves either. The grandparents are sleeping and the men are too busy talking.With nobody to ask, Anna dips her toes in the water and decides that she can go solo. The waves laugh at her and she laughs back. The waves jump on Anna and she jumps back on them. Soon, her laughter is heard up and down the beach. Suddenly, her family realizes one of the reasons why you go to the beach.

Sometimes my youngest daughter gets down because her older sister will not play with her. My wise wife tells her, "Go make your own fun and she will probably join you." Inevitably, this is what happens. I think this is a valuable lesson to teach young children and I can't remember a book that teaches this. There are always those students who seem to be alone on the playground and complain that nobody wants to play with them. Splash, Anna Hibiscus! would be a good book to show them that you can make your own fun alone and you never know who might come play with you.

With delightful illustrations and a joyful lead character like Anna Hibiscus, you get a picture book that will please your young readers and lead to many connections.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Mozart- The Boy Who Changed the World With His Music

Mozart: The Boy Who Changed the World With His Music
written by Marcus Weeks
2013 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Wendie's Wanderings

Wolfgang Mozart is an intriguing historical figure. Young readers could make several connections with his life. First and probably most obvious is Mozart's talent and how it developed so early. Ask your students about the kids in kindergarten right now. They will probably talk about how small they are and how they are so cute. Now tell them to imagine one of those kindergartners composing pieces of music. That will blow their minds. You could also ask them if they know anybody in sixth grade. Ask if any of those sixth graders has written an opera. Mozart did. With this book, you can show how he was extraordinarily talented, but that his talent came in large part because he worked several hours a day on that talent. Another connection for older readers would be Mozart's relationship with his father. Leopold Mozart nurtured his son's career, but there came a time when Wolfgang wanted to be independent and make his own path. Ask your students if they ever felt like that. I think there is also an economic angle to Mozart's life that could be a useful lesson. Mozart experienced success during his career, but not as much as we might expect. He was constantly working because he was trying to keep up a high standard of living. It's possible that his constant work and looking for work might have contributed to his death at the age of 36. I would ask students about whether Mozart could have led a less stylish lifestyle and perhaps lived a longer life. Another variable to throw into that equation would be that he may not have had a choice, but needed to pursue this lavish life to keep his place in society and have people hear his music.

At first blush, you might think that a biography of Mozart might not have a place in a world of twerking and downloaded singles. But if you look closer, you will find several universal themes in this stimulating account of his life. I wouldn't hand it to a student cold, but instead frame the book in some of the connections that I mentioned above.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

STEM Friday: There's a Map on My Lap! - iPad app

There's a Map on My Lap!
written by Tish Rabe
2013 (Oceanhouse Media)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out STEM Friday for math and science links

I handed out books today for my second grade students to study birds. One of the groups was given a Cat in the Hat book about birds. They looked despondent and one of them actually wanted to change books. I encouraged them to give it a try. They found out that the book was full of facts and was a good resource. Don't be deceived by what you think you know about the Cat.

There's a Map on My Lap introduces young readers to cartography. The book starts off with a comparison between globes and oranges. If you peel an orange, compare the peel to a flat map. This app has high level vocabulary terms like latitude and longitude. Other concepts include scale, compass rose, atlas, and legend. Several different types of maps are also included. Marine charts, city maps, subway maps, topographical maps, and dot maps are some of the features you will see. The Cat also shows readers how to measure actual miles on a map with string. A lesson on grid maps finishes the fun for Dick and Sally and the Cat in the Hat.

If you want a resource for map making, this is a fun app to use. You could use this with struggling readers in the upper grades, but you may have to preface it by saying it is filled with important information. For younger readers, this would be a great introduction to maps and why they are important to us.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Real-size Farm Animals

Real-size Farm Animals
written by Marie Greenwood
2013 (DK Publishing)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at A Mom's Spare Time

There are some things that you can count on when working with preschool or kindergarten students. One of those is their love of animals. Many of these classes have a farm unit, so Real-size Farm Animals will fit in nicely. The star attraction of this book is obviously the photographs. Each two page spread features an animal photograph that is up close. For example, you can see the whiskers on the cute calf's chin. I felt like I needed to shave after seeing this. Other features on the spread include a box that shows how the size of the animal compares to a child's size (four feet). Two other text boxes speak to some aspect of the animal's family life. For fluffy ducks, you read about the nest and the pond. The friendly donkey section talks about the work of these animals and their need for companionship. Donkeys do not like to be separated from their friends. That certainly can tie in to a classroom community. In addition to the two text boxes and the wonderful photographs, there is also a green text box that features "wow" facts about the animal. The donkey's bray can be heard from over two miles away. There is a "pecking order" with chickens. The rulers of the coop get their food first and first choice of nests. Also included with this book are animals that lurk around the perimeter, but are not traditionally considered farm animals. These animals include the fox and the barn owl. In the back matter you will also find a glossary.

For students who have never been to a farm or a petting zoo, Real-size Farm Animals would be a treat to read. They will enjoy the photographs and the interesting facts that accompany them.