Saturday, January 28, 2017

Hatching Chicks in Room 6

Hatching Chicks in Room 6
written and photographed by Caroline Arnold
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Mrs. Best is a teacher. The children in her class are learning about chicks and how they grow from eggs. 

What came first, the chicken or the egg? If you are a student in Mrs. Best's kindergarten class, the answer is easy. The eggs came first because Mrs. Best brought them from her backyard where she keeps chickens. In this appealing coupling of photos and text, we get a tour through the process of what happens during incubation and after hatching for the chicks. I certainly like all of the teaching opportunities presented by this book. In the spread about the incubator, it's accompanied with labels that explain the purpose of each part. For example, there's a motor that moves the rack and allows the eggs to turn. This keeps the chicks from being on only one side of the shell. So now you can talk about captions and text features. A couple of pages over, a cracked open egg provides a lesson on what's inside. Did you know that egg whites are called albumen and that they have a purpose other than being talked about constantly on Food Network? The albumen cushions the embryo. This book doesn't shy away from using big words for its kindergarten audience which is great because they will play with words like albumen and embryo and stun their parents. So that covers vocabulary. Do you or someone you know hatch chicks in their classroom? Think about how well those students will be prepared, after reading Hatching Chicks, when they witness this life cycle process for themselves. You're building invaluable background knowledge. Plus, you can compare your classroom experience with that of Mrs. Best's class. See, you're cracking open knowledge at every turn. In the back matter, there are questions, a listing of books, vocabulary, and websites to further your learning. Like a rooster, your class will be crowing for this book.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fizz and the Police Dog Tryouts

Fizz and the Police Dog Tryouts
written by Lesley Gibbes; illustrated by Stephen Michael King
2017 (Kane Miller Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"I'm all grown up and ready to find a job." Fizz knew exactly what job he wanted. 

What dog breed do you think of when you hear the words "police dog?" German Shepard? Doberman? Bolognese? That screeching you hear is your brain putting on the brakes. First, you look up Bolognese because you don't know what it is unless you are a dog aficionado. Then, you chuckle because you see a picture of a small dog with curly hair. I love Vet Street's description which is it looks "like a fairy tale dog fallen ever so slightly on hard times." But Fizz is a little dog with a big heart. He doesn't want to be a champion show dog like his dad. Or a purse passenger for the famous like his sister Crystal. He wants to be a police dog. Fizz dreams of saving the day. Thanks to a kindly groundskeeper, Fizz learns about a tryout at the Sunnyvale Police Station for the position of police dog. He arrives the next day to find himself amidst a bevy of burly barking beasts. Undaunted, Fizz is ready to take on the three challenges of the tryout. Being rudely dismissed by a harassing hound named Amadeus, Fizz still manages a high screeching bark which passes him on to the next round. With less than half of the field remaining, the dogs face the second challenge which is to look scary. Fizz manages to resemble a rabid pufferfish which throws fear into every dog and passes him on to the last challenge. Ten dogs must try their best to capture a fleet footed burglar. The first eight dogs fail, so the winner comes down to Fizz and the brutish Amadeus. Will our plucky hero pull one of the greatest upsets in the history of dogkind? The ending is not what you expect.

Young readers will love this spunky underdog as he chases his dream. As a child in a world of challenges, you imagine yourself triumphing over them. That's why this storyline works so well with children. The text fits nicely in the early chapter book genre. It moves quickly with very little fluff so you're constantly turning pages in anticipation. I think Fizz will work well in a lesson on story structure. You have engaging characters (heroes and villains) with an interesting plot that comes with a surprising twist at the end.  Fizz and the Police Dog Tryouts is the first of four books in the series which means you will quadruple your reading volume as students will want to follow his adventures. This ball of fur is a ball of fun.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Gushing Over New Baby Animals Books

Baby Animals Take a Nap
Baby Animals Take a Bath
written by Marsha Diane Arnold; illustrated by Phyllis Tildes
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copies provided by the publisher

Quick question. You get 20 seconds to answer. How many different ways can animals take a bath? 2nd question: How many different ways can animals take a nap? Cue The Price is Right losing sound because you did not name all eight ways. I heard the losing sound myself which is one of the reasons I really like these board books. After reading, you'll think "Wow, that didn't occur to me." Each book features 8 different animals bathing and napping. The illustrations are an 11 on the cute-o-meter but they're based in reality which makes it even better. Plus, you get some cool science vocabulary like dust, pouch, and steam. You'll be dropping knowledge on your toddler like Skittles from an open bag. Here are two examples from the Take a Nap book:

When I finished reading one of these books, I might show my toddler a video of otters and talk about how they hold paws so they don't lose each other. That's a great lesson when your child isn't thrilled about holding your hand in the grocery store parking lot. Now you can "play otters" and march right in to buy bread and milk before the snowstorm hits. You can thank me later. Seriously, I see these board books being a gateway to greater learning. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville
written by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Frank Morrison
2016 (Chronicle Books)
Source: Orange County Public Library

We crouch low. Dee-Dee and Little Mo count down, and we're off. My sneakers slap a sidewalk beat. Wil-ma Ru-dolph. Wil-ma Ru-dolph.

Alta has no doubt that she is the quickest kid in Clarksville, Tennessee. She is imagining wearing three gold medals like her hometown hero Wilma Rudolph. With a parade honoring Rudolph the next day, Alta is super excited. Until Charmaine arrives on the scene. Wearing brand new shoes with racing stripes and bright laces, Charmaine is a force to be reckoned with. Even without new shoes, Alta is not surrendering her sprinting title to anyone. She points to a mailbox and challenges her new opponent to a race. It's close, but Alta defeats her rival and is celebrating when Charmaine announces another race. This time, Alta almost catches her before stumbling and losing the race. Alta protests that she was tripped, but Charmaine deflects her rebuke by saying Alta came into her lane. These young ladies are well versed in their track and field knowledge. The next day, Alta and her two friends are sitting on a porch with a big banner for the parade. Charmaine confidently walks by, which gets Alta into gear. Problem is, the banner is too big for the trio to get to the parade in time. Alta hears fast footsteps and suddenly her rival has grabbed an end of the banner. Except she isn't a rival anymore. Now we have the fastest relay in Clarksville!

What a great book to use for talking about teamwork! This is a book that you want to read to build a classroom culture around supporting one another. Plus, it introduces students to one of the greatest track and field athletes in history. That's a win-win. I also like the confidence that is shown by Alta and Charmaine. They believe in themselves and that's good role modeling for any kid. Frank Morrison's artwork stands out as well. I love his drawing of the girls racing around a corner with the banner. There's also a terrific author's note about Wilma Rudolph at the end. The Quickest Kid in Clarksville is a worthy winner of a book.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Little People Big Dreams: Marie Curie

Marie Curie
written by Isabel Sanchez Vegara; illustrated by Frau Isa
2017 (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

She had valuable advice for every new student: in life, there is nothing to be afraid of, only many things to learn, and many ways to help those in need. 

As a little girl, Marie had dreams that were a little different. She wanted to be a scientist. Marie was very bright, even winning a gold medal. Due only to her gender, what she couldn't win was a place in the university where her brother studied. This prompted her to move to France where she continued to be an excellent math and science student. She also met Pierre Curie, a fellow scientist. Together, they discovered radium, polonium, and love. This led to both winning the Nobel Prize. Marie was the first female to do so. Unfortunately, their story did not have a happy ending as Pierre died in a street accident. Marie went on to become the first person to win two Nobel Prizes and her work lead to the use of x-rays for injured World War I soldiers. She also helped found an institute in Paris that continues her work today.

A STEM biography for first and second graders that features a female scientist? Hurrah! The text is just right for early readers and the winsome soft color illustrations will attract as well. In addition to this being a great addition to your biography collection, I would also use it to study how illustrations can carry a story. The artwork of Marie mourning the loss of Pierre is very touching. In the back matter, you will find a photographic time line of Marie Curie's life along with a higher text level summary of her life.  Other biographies in this series include Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, and Amelia Earhart.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He's the Favorite

Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He's the Favorite
written by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Edward Hemingway
2017 (Two Lions)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Mr. Fuzzbuster knew he was Lily's favorite. They'd been together since he fit in a teacup and she fit in diapers. 

There are two dogs and two cats in our house. We often place them in rank order depending on their behavior. If the beagle chews a rug, she gets ranked #4 or even lower if a fly has entered the house. If a cat manages to make it through the day without depositing a hairball, he might be the "pet with the most potential." These rankings affect absolutely nothing, but it's a fun conversation to have. At Lily's house, Mr. Fuzzbuster knows who's the pet with the most potential. It's him. With all of the activities (napping, dress up, eating meals together) they do together and his seniority, Mr. Fuzzbuster has to be the one. Who's the competition? A bird, a dog, a fish, and a lizard are also vying for Lily's attention. Holding a Lily-drawn old portrait of him like it's the Magna Carta, Mr. Fuzzbuster feels very confident of his place in the pecking order. To apply the coup de grace, he writes a note asking Lily to name her favorite pet. She reads the note and declares Fishy Face her favorite goldfish, but not her favorite pet. That designation probably saves him from becoming an hors d'oeuvre for Monsieur Fuzzy Face. Feathers the bird is declared her favorite bird and King the lizard is her favorite lizard. Surely, Mr. Fuzzbuster is going to be anointed the favorite pet. Nope. He is simply her favorite cat. With only the dog left, the forlorn feline packs his bags and starts heading out the door before he has to hear Bruiser the dog anointed with his crown. What he hears next stops him in his tracks.

Mr. Fuzzbuster is going to be a favorite in primary classrooms. Why? It's funny. His self-centered world is highly amusing. The artwork, especially Mr. Fuzzbuster's facial expressions, will entertain. But there are two sneaky things going on here. First, it's a picture book treatise on love and devotion. Why do we care for others? This book could easily jump start a discussion on that subject which is needed since it is an important facet of a classroom. Second, there's a final twist on the last page which may draw the biggest laughs. With all of these ingredients, it's become a favorite of mine as well.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

100 Days of Real Food

100 Days of Real Food
written by Lisa Leake
2016 (William Morrow Books)
Source: My wife bought it.

I literally lost sleep over what to feed my kids if goldfish and fruit snacks were no longer options. But I felt compelled to figure it out and dove in headfirst.

Why write about an adult cookbook for a children's literature blog? Because the eating habits of children have never been more front and center in our consciousness. How do we improve a health crisis that seems to be getting worse? I can only tell how we're trying to do this in one tiny corner of the world. At the behest of my wife, we are 16 days into trying to cut processed food out of our lives. We're certainly not all the way there yet, but our use of this book has made a big difference. 100 Days of Real Food starts with the nuts and bolts of why and how to make these changes in your cooking and diet. Tips on what to buy at the grocery store and ideas for prep and storage are part of the beginning section titled Supermarket Staples and Secrets. One of the rules that has stuck out in my mind is Nothing out of a package that contains more than five ingredients. That's eliminated a lot of old favorites for me. The rest of the book contains easy to follow recipes that help you work toward the goal of eliminating processed foods from your diet. Here are two pictures of food that Traci has made from recipes in the book:
On the left is a steak and black bean chili. On the right, that's a chocolate topping for ice cream.

You will spend more time prepping food (the cheese grater is getting a workout), but it's well worth it. I hope we can continue this trend. We feel better and it has encouraged us to make other changes in our lives.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Our Country's Presidents

Our Country's Presidents
written by Ann Bausum
2017 (National Geographic)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Readers are curious about how Presidents coped with the challenges of their eras and how they lived their personal lives.

It's so nice when you can go to one place for the information that you need. As a person who has trouble finding his car keys or reading glasses, this is very comforting. Our Country's Presidents is your one stop shop for commander-in-chief research. It's organized chronologically in six historical periods. These are like the aisle signs in the grocery store. They guide you to what you need so you don't walk around the store endlessly looking. Not that I've ever done that. Each period is accompanied by a timeline to give context to the era. The staple items in this store of knowledge are the presidential profiles. A full page official portrait introduces each profile. Need to know the ingredients of this leader of the free world knowledge stew? There is a text box that lists several pieces of information (family, number of terms, party, etc.) about the featured president. The bulk of the profile is a several paragraph narrative highlighting the president's accomplishments. I appreciate that Ann Bausum doesn't pull punches in these narratives. She tells you the good, the bad, and the ugly in language conducive to young readers. Sprinkled in between the presidential profiles are twenty topical essays that help give this book an even heartier flavor. Topics like the president's role in the branches of government, the first ladies, and kids in the White House, are included in the essays. This is a National Geographic book, so you are going to get the creme de la creme of nonfiction illustrations and photographs. Like a five star restaurant, they don't make an unattractive product. In the back matter of the book, there is a chart of each election result and a page of books, videos, and websites that will prompt further research.

I am the patriarch of a family of history nerds. This is the kind of book that we can get cozy in a comfortable chair and be lost in American history for hours. The profiles will be great for biography presentations such as wax museums. Our Country's Presidents is also full of terrific fun facts. Chester A. Arthur was nicknamed "Elegant Arthur" for his penchant to change clothes to match each occasion of the day. Not a "khaki pants everyday wearer" like this blogger.

This book is an excellent resource for information about the history of our nation's highest executive office.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
written by Michelle Cuevas; illustrated by Erin E. Stead
2016 (Dial Books for Young Readers)
Source: Orange County Public Library

He had a job of the utmost importance. It was his task to open any bottles found at sea and make sure they were delivered.

He doesn't have a name, but he has an important job. Watching the waves, he looks for bottles with messages. Kind of like Sting, only quieter and not quite as handsome. Regardless of weather or distance, the man delivers the notes. The messages can be old, like crunchy leaves in the fall. They can also be written by a quill dipped in sadness. Mostly though, the dispatches hold the treasure of a clam-hugged pearl. As you have noticed, the language of this story is gorgeous (even more than Sting). But loneliness, as sharp as fish scales, envelopes the man. He would like to receive a message, but it never happens. He figures his chances are about as good as finding a mermaid's toenail on the beach. The waves decide to tell a different tale. A bottle arrives with a mysterious message. Not addressed to anyone, it is an invitation to a party on the seashore. Being diligent in his work and very curious, the Uncorker goes to town to find out who the message is for. He asks the cake maker, the candy shop owner, a woman, and a young girl. None of them know. Each of them, like the man, wishes they had received the invitation. Neither a seagull, a sailor, or the one-man band knows either. Not able to deliver the note, the Uncorker decides to meet the sender of the message and explain his dilemma. Coming to the seashore the next day, he meets a surprising lot. All of the people who he had asked about the bottle before, with a party set up for him.

The words and illustrations in The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles are beautiful. You see the text examples above. These illustrations match them with a sparseness that pulls you into the Uncorker's loneliness.  As for the classroom, this is a text that I would use for teaching word usage in a Writing Workshop mini-lesson. It would also be a terrific starting point for a discussion about being a friend in the classroom. This book inspires me to do better at connecting with others.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph

Jazz Day
written by Roxane Orgill; illustrated by Francis Vallejo
2016 (Candlewick Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Lucky I was home from the road
Lucky I was free until two
It's jam now or never, brethren
This moment won't happen again

It was an idea that most people would have pooh-poohed right off the bat. Fortunately, Esquire magazine didn't. Art Kane, who worked for an advertising agency in 1958, wanted to put together as many jazz musicians as he could for a photograph. He found the perfect spot in Harlem and set a date and time. Notices were sent out to the musician's union, nightclubs, and anyone else who would have a connection to jazz. Kane wondered who would show on August 12th. After all, jazz musicians weren't morning people. But fifty-seven artists, famous (Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie)  and relatively unknown, came for the once-in-a lifetime event. Jazz Day focuses on the event and its participants with twenty-one mostly free verse poems and illustrations that are as cool as the other side of the pillow. History can be presented in a manner as dry as toast, but these poems bring to life a uniquely American art form. How to use it in a classroom? Glad you asked. First, you can use several of these poems to show how you can beef up nonfiction with poetry. Instead of a three or four paragraph report written on index cards, try writing a free verse poem about an historical figure. Stand out from the crowd like these musicians did. Second, read a poem from the book like Names, which is about Count Basie, and play a YouTube video that shows his orchestra playing. Ask students, "How is this music the same and how is it different from music that you listen to?" Finally, create your own Jazz Day book. Take a photograph in front of your school and have students write a poem about a classmate to make a book. Highlight the extensive research that Roxane Orgill underwent for this book as you encourage students to interview their classmates in preparation for writing their poem. That's a book they will keep for the rest of their lives. Below is the famous photograph:

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Founding Fathers!

The Founding Fathers!
written by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Barry Blitt
2015 (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Source: Orange County Public Library

In truth, the men we now call the Founding Fathers were a bunch of guys
with stomach issues and wooden legs and problematic personalities-who sometimes couldn't stand to be in the same room with each other.

I turn the front cover and see the opening two page spread. On the left, labeled the Varsity Squad, are seven historical figures with George Washington at the top. On the right, the Junior Varsity squad, also seven figures with Samuel Adams the captain of the team. Right away, I know the players and that humor is going to play a big part of this book. Next, there is a Preamble where author Jonah Winter explains that these men may not be who you thought they were. Yes, they were very smart, but also problematic personalities. Writing "all men are created equal" and being slave holders is one large example of this. They argued constantly about the direction of this new country. Should we have a central government or should the states govern themselves? Following the Preamble, there are two page spreads devoted to each of these fourteen figures. On the left, there is a portrait of the figure showing an aspect of their personality. Patrick Henry strikes an actor's pose in his portrait. On the opposite side of the spread, there is a collection of information arranged like a baseball card with a short biography at the top and facts listed below. The biography is written in a conversational style that is informative and humorous. I thought the facts were fascinating. Following the Founding Father features is a First Amendment to the Preamble which gives more information about important topics of the time (religion, slavery, states rights).

I think this book can be a valuable addition for any class that studies U.S. history. I appreciate information about some of the lesser known "fathers" that you won't find in most other books on this subject. In the elementary classroom, this would be good for a biography study (think wax museums) or talking about the origins of the U.S. government. I also think this book could be valuable for working on opinion writing. For example, Jonah Winter refers to Thomas Jefferson as America's Coolest Dreamer. I wouldn't use cool to describe Thomas Jefferson. Brilliant, yes. But he was also deeply flawed and difficult.

Combining information in an engaging format with humorous illustrations (Ben Franklin as Paul McCartney is worth the price of admission alone), The Founding Fathers! is a resource that makes history appealing to both young and old readers.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Poetry Friday: Snowtastrophe!

With a predicted snowstorm in North Carolina and apologies to Dean Martin, I humored myself (and probably no one else) and wrote the poem below. To find much better examples of poetry, check out Poetry Friday at TeacherDance

Snowtastrophe! written by Jeff Barger

When there’s no bread on a shelf,
And no milk for yourself,
It’s Snowtastrophe!

On the roads they’ll lay brine,
You buy gas, sit in line
It’s Snowtastrophe!

Flakes will fall from the sky,
If they don’t, we will cry,
It’s Snowtastrophe!

Stuck inside, parents cringe,
So to Netflix, they will binge,
It’s Snowtastrophe!

Kids will cheer, school is out,
Even louder, teachers will shout,
It’s Snowtastrophe!

This is snow in the South,
It’ll be 40 inches, word of mouth,
It’s Snowtastrophe!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tales of Sasha

Tales of Sasha:The Big Secret
written by Alexa Pearl; illustrated by Paco Sordo
2017 (Little Bee Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Books #1 and #2 are available now.

I stink at staying still, thought Sasha, but she tried to be like her sisters.

Sasha isn't like her sisters Zara and Poppy. They want to eat grass and talk. She wants to race and find out what is beyond the forbidden trees. Running makes her happy. Walking in a straight line under the gaze of an older teacher horse doesn't. Unlike her peers, she can't stay in line because the world around her is so interesting. Why walk in line when you can leap onto big rocks? Of course, that will get you into trouble sometimes. Sasha also looks different from her sisters. They are sleek and smooth while she is a plain gray with a white patch on the back. And that patch itches at the strangest times. Why is she so different from the other horses? The patch is part of two big secrets that are going to rock Sasha's world in the near future.

Look at the cover of this early reader chapter book. How fast will this fly out of your hands in a second grade classroom? Lights don't go out that fast. There's even glitter in the title! Guess what? It's good on the inside too. Why? First, you have a main character who feels like she doesn't fit in with her family but can't quite figure out why. That's a theme that connects with young readers. Remember that kid with the squiggly line on his forehead from a few years back? Second, it's a book with horses. Primary age readers and horses go together like teachers and snow days. Third, how great is it to have a main character who can't stay still and has a lot of energy? Kids are really going to connect with Sasha. Finally, mysteries abound. What's up with the patch on Sasha's back? Why can't you go beyond the trees? Why is Sasha so different? These questions will keep readers' eyes glued to the page. Plus, there's a cliffhanger at the end of each book!

Sasha is no ordinary horse and her new series is not a vanilla serving of an early reader chapter book. But like ice cream, young readers will eat this up.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How Literacy Coaching is Like Driver's Ed

How Literacy Coaching is Like Driver's Ed
written by Jeff Barger
photograph by Ian Poellet

“You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said 'Parking Fine.” 
― Tommy Cooper from Quotes About Driving (Goodreads)

When you are riding with a teenager who is logging hours toward getting her driver's license, you look forward (not at your phone) with one hand near the parking brake. My daughter is a good driver who has taken well to my coaching. It occurred to me as we were riding today how this can translate to my work as a literacy coach. Here's a few similarities that I think I noticed:

1. As much as you can, try to take emotion out of the coaching. It's not about the person, it's about the practice. Being cool and still offering coaching points to my daughter allows her to feel more at ease behind the wheel of a 3,400 pound piece of metal. Gasping does not help. Not that I would know. When coaching a colleague, stick to focusing on their practice and not all of the personalities in the classroom.

2. Feedback needs to be specific. I tell my daughter what she is doing well instead of just saying "good job." I will mention that she kept a safe speed as we went around a curve or that she cut the wheel just the right amount as we leave a parking space. This allows her to process what she is doing well and where we need to do more work. Feedback in literacy coaching needs to be specific as well. Tell what made a mini-lesson strong in addition to saying "great job!"

3. Coaching needs to be frequent. I haven't been the best at logging consistent hours with my daughter's driving. She has remarked that she does better when we have more frequent practice. I think this translates to the classroom as well. This is one reason why I don't like the "once a quarter" drop-in method. You need to work side-by-side with your colleague on a frequent basis to see improvement. It's one of the frustrations of my teaching career that I didn't experience this kind of coaching early on.

4. Keep your eyes open. I point out things like potholes and slight jogs to the right to my daughter as we travel along. As you are coaching a colleague, are you picking up on small data in the classroom? It's hard as a teacher to see everything, so it's nice to have another set of eyes that can spot things like student engagement in stations.

Monday, January 2, 2017

88 Instruments

88 Instruments
written by Chris Barton; illustrated by Louis Thomas
2016 (Alfred A. Knopf)
Source: Orange County Public Library

How am I supposed to pick just one?

Gazing into a music shop, a young boy counts 88 instruments. Mom and Dad tell him to pick one for now. Similar to getting a taste spoon at an ice cream shop, the boy tries out several instruments while unleashing a string of adjectives to describe each one. The accordion seems to be the squeeziest.  Blow into bagpipes and you'll get the wheeziest. After finishing with the rowdiest, an electric guitar, he walks over to a piano. Like Goldilocks with Baby Bear's porridge, this instrument is just right.  Initially overwhelmed by 88 keys, he rolls up his sleeves and takes on the keys one at a time. This is music to his parents' ears.

There are several applications that I can see making with 88 Instruments. Do you incorporate choice boards in your classroom? This would be a good book to read while you discuss how to make choices. Think about choosing books in your classroom library. I appreciate that the parents allow him plenty of room to find his muse. Incorporating literacy in a music classroom? I have just the book for you. And the adjectives! 88 Instruments has them like sprinkles on a doughnut. This will spruce up a writing mini-lesson. Finally, I love how the boy sees the piano as a challenge instead of something insurmountable. 88 Instruments will be a harmonious read-aloud in your classroom.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Leave Me Alone!

Leave Me Alone
written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol
2016 (Roaring Brook Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

The old woman was at the end of her rope. 

After the holiday season, you may be echoing the sentiments of this grandmother. Living in a small house full of grandchildren can do that to you. Winter is coming (Are there Starks here? House or Tony?) and sweaters need to be knitted. With mighty mites messing with her gear, staying is not an option. Leaving behind a cacophony of kids, she heads for the forest. After building a fire, the grandmother sets about her knitting task. Unfortunately, two baby bears bounce around her yarn ball while the adult bear thinks about eating her. With one shout of her signature phrase, the old woman puts hungry bear in his place and heads up a snow covered mountain. Finding a cave, you would think she would be able to purl in peace. Think again. Meddlesome mountain goats treat her yarn balls like lemon drops while she furrows her brow. Once again on the move, the old woman goes from the mountain to the moon. Surely, this is a setting where work can be accomplished. No. Aggravating aliens needle her endlessly. So where do you go from there? How about a wormhole? Oh yeah, she just went there. Now being able to mend in muteness, she finishes in a flourish. But then a curious thing happens to alter her course once again.

Haven't we all had times where we needed a little space? Readers will be able to relate to the old woman who just wants to knit. In the classroom, this would be a funny way to address the issue of personal space. I could also see an engaging lesson on sequence happening here as well. Another path you could take would be to talk about how characters change in a book. I love when the text and illustrations harmonize in their humor. This is a truly funny book that your class will enjoy.