Sunday, December 11, 2011

Disappearing Desmond

Anna Alter has created a wonderful read with Disappearing Desmond. The cover does not give the story justice, as it is hard to tell who/what Desmond is and why he would be hiding (which is sort of the point).
Desmond usually disappears into the background at school, play, and recess. No one notices or invites him to play. Eventually, the new girl Gloria notices Desmond and invites him to play. From that day on, Desmond can't remember why he ever wanted to hide. 
Soon, Desmond begins noticing other students that are hiding and becomes a friend to them. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ferret Fun

I love this book! When I first read it, I wasn't sure that the format/topic would be one that would interest kids. However, after reading it for a second time, I noticed the humor in the book that I think kids and adults would enjoy. Fudge and Einstein are two ferrets who are used to relaxing in their hammocks and eating raisins. When Marvel the cat comes to visit, their day is turned upside-down. Marvel thinks they look a lot like rats (and she likes to eat rats).
Einstein and Fudge have to stand up to Marvel and soon they are all getting along together. Karen Rostoker-Gruber has written Ferret Fun with an embedded message that is not overt but enhances the story.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino

I stumbled upon this book while looking for memoirs. Although I don’t think this is a memoir, it is a great personal narrative. In the book, a boy and his father spend every Friday going to breakfast together. The story focuses on their walk to the diner and the people that they see along the way. It is a fantastic book for pointing out how to zoom in on a moment and describe the things that are important.
It can also be a great way to help students brainstorm family traditions or rituals that they have that can become a story. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Guys Read: Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka

Jon Scieszka is always putting together great collections to help promote reading among boys. This book is no exception. The stories will capture the interest of any boy who reads them. The stories are each written by several different authors and each one easily holds the interest of the reader. There are several different kind of stories, some realistic, some fantastical, but all entertaining to those who read them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


With such busy lives, it is easy to forget that spending time together as a family is so important. In John Rocco’s book, Blackout, he shows how a child is trying to get the family’s attention to play a board game. When everyone says that they are too busy to play, the child dejectedly walks back upstairs to play video games, alone.
When the city experiences a summer blackout, all the neighbors come outside to visit and stay cool. When the lights finally come back on, everyone begins to return to their normal routine. But as the author states, “Not everyone likes normal.” Soon the family is back playing another game.
The illustrations are fantastic. There are many small details that might be missed if you don’t look carefully. This book could be used to model ellipses. There are several pages where an ellipsis is used . . . correctly.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Weeks 29-33: I Got a Little Lost

Somehow time sneaks up on you. It's been quite a long while since I actually put up some new books, so I thought I would take this opportunity to catch up. These are some of the novels and picture books that I've been reading lately:

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies is fantastic for everyone who has an annoying sibling. What starts off as a fun summer activity turns into a fierce competition as each sibling tries to outdo the other. Great for children who are competitive with each other.

Linda Sue Park always tells great stories. Her stories are definitely for an older-ish audience. The complex stories need a reader who is able to understand complicated story lines. A Long Walk to Water is based on a true story and tells of the hardships in Sudan. Readers will be interested in how two different stories can come together as one. 

Katherine Applegate creates a moving story of Kek, a Sudanese refugee entirely in free verse in the book, Home of the Brave. The story tells of Kek coming to the United States after witnessing the death of his father and brother. He lives with an aunt and cousin and must adjust to ways of life in Minnesota.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week 28: Sneaky Sheep

Sneaky Sheep by Chris Monroe is a very humorous story. Rocky and Blossom can't keep themselves out of trouble. It's a good thing they are watched over by Murphy the sheepdog. While this story is great, the illustrations are also key to telling the story. The subtle way Monroe uses illustration techniques to move the story along is key. This is a book you have to read up close to really enjoy all the humor.

Week 27: Books for Teaching Civil Rights

A Taste of Colored Water by Matt Faulkner

White Socks Only by Evelyn Coleman

Sister Anne's Hands by Marybeth Lorbiecki

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Week 26: Are We There Yet?

This book, Are We There Yet? by Alison Lester is filled with all kinds of information about Australia. While the book is great to read just to learn more about Australia, it is also a great text to use to show how to encourage students to add more detail to their writing. There are sections of the text that have a "topic sentence" and have sentences that add more detail about that topic. This book is great to show writers how to add more detail to their writing and how to group their information and sentences together.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Week 25: Big Red Lollipop

In Big Red Lollipop, by Rukhasana Khan, Rubina is invited to a birthday party. When she asks if she can go, her little sister, Sana, cries to be allowed to attend the party as well. Rubina insists that is not how parties go - she can't just bring along her sister, but her mother insists. After the party, Sana eats Rubina's lollipop that was part of her goodie bag. 
When the time comes for Sana to be invited to a party, will her mother insist that she take her sister or allow her to go by herself?
This is a wonderful book for exploring the relationships between siblings and the feelings that go along with wanting to fit in with you friends but also be true to family.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Week 24: Mud

Mud by Mary Lyn Ray is a great book to use for examining the author's words. It creates a fabulous image of the world coming unfrozen and beginning to bloom. Her word choice creates a feeling that all children can connect to. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Week 23: Making Books in Kindergarten

          buy this book                                                           buy this book

These two books were used to launch a writing workshop in kindergarten and first grade. Both of these books are by authors who talk about writing books since they were young children. This encouraged and inspired our students to make books of their own. Some student examples are below:

And then another example of a fabulous book by a kindergartener:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week 22: Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy

I'm the first to admit that books relating to social studies, history, politics, or government are definitely not the first books I choose to pick up. I disliked history and social studies topics as a kid and I think it was because my teachers never read me any great books like these. Doreen Rappaport does a fantastic job giving factual information about John F. Kennedy's life. She focuses on his early life, before he became president and many of the struggles that he had to overcome. It is written in such an inspiring way that the reader comes away feeling like they can take on the world.
This is just one of the many books Doreen Rappaport has written about famous people. Any of them is a true work of art.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Week 21: National Geographic Kids:Great Migrations

I love this book! The Great Migrations book by National Geographic is filled with all sorts of information. The layout is fantastic and I read it cover to cover and kept sharing the facts that I learned. One of the things I love about it, besides the fascinating photographs, is the maps showing the migration patterns. I am always looking for real opportunities to teach students to read charts, diagrams, and graphs. The migration maps are all different for each animal. Since the photographs will easily engage students because they are so amazing, using the maps to then track the migration of the animals is a natural next step. It is important for students to see a real-world need to be able to read maps, charts, and graphs. This book provides those opportunities.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Week 20: Fred Stays With Me!

I often pass by books without stopping to read them. With so many great books, how do you stop to read them all? Fred Stays With Me! by Nancy Coffelt is a book I have seen many times but for some reason I hadn't stopped to read. Fortunately at our book fair, a friend pointed this book out. It deals with a difficult topic (divorce) so wonderfully. Sometimes the young girl has to stay at her dad's house, sometimes at her mom's house, but Fred the dog always stays with her. When both households are tired of Fred's antics and want to get rid of him, the girl is adamant that Fred has to stay with her.
This would go along great with Charlie Anderson by Barbara Abercrombie. Both of these books are a great catalyst to start discussions about children who have to move between houses when their parents live in different homes.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week 19: Duck

I'm not really sure how I have not yet talked about this fantastic book. I bought it over a year ago at an independent bookstore and it is probably one of my all time favorites. Duck by Randy Cecil is the story of a carousel duck who wants to fly. When a real little duck ends up near the carousel, the big duck is worried that the little duck won't be able to join everyone and fly. As I think I've pointed out before, I am a total sucker for fabulous illustrations and this one just takes the cake. 
This book is great for talking about sacrifice and giving up your happiness to help others. The author has a great story without shoving a lesson down the reader's throat. 
While you are picking up this book, you can also grab Gator another book by Randy Cecil which is also fantastic.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week 18: Wanted: The Perfect Pet

I'm a sucker for illustrations. Of course I picked up this book because of the duck in the book (not pictured) with his rounded bill. He looked just so cute, I had to know if the story was as good as the illustrations. It turns out - it is!
Wanted: The Perfect Pet by Fiona Roberton is about a little boy who wants a dog because it is a perfect pet for a little boy. When a duck (disguised as a dog) answers the boy's want ad, the boy has to decide what he is really looking for in a pet. 
This book would be great for showing how illustrations should add more to the story than just the text. In one illustration, there is a copy of the newspaper where the boy has placed his add. In another, a diagram shows all the necessary components for the perfect pet. These illustrations add so much more to the story and enjoyment of reading the book than just the words. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Week 17.1: Books to use in Writing Workshop

Today's post is slightly different. I recently was talking with some teachers about books to use for the purpose of teaching minilessons in writing workshop. Some of them have already been listed in other posts, but here is a short summary of the titles we discussed:

The Sandwich Swap seems to show how to use the same line (or a variation) as the opening and closing

Books for word choice, language:
Martina the Beautiful Cockroach by Caremen Deedy has great vocabulary and language
Come on, Rain by Karen Hesse great language and use of similes
The Bunyans by Audrey Wood shows different ways to say "big"

Books that inspire writers to look for ideas:
Once Upon a Baby Brother by Sarah Sullivan
The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood
Courage by Bernard Waber
Serendipity by Tobi Tobias

Books to cherish for great author's craft:
Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant
Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant

Books that show how books work:
The Plot Chickens by Mary Jane and Herm Auch
Aunt Isabel Tells a Good One by Kate Duke

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Week 17: See the Ocean

Estelle Condra's book See the Ocean is a beautifully written book. The story seems to start off simply, however, as the story progresses there are clues along the way that there is something unique about this story. The author describes the ocean in rich detail and uses so many sensory details to help the reader understand how Nellie sees the ocean. This story would be a great way to help students understand how to use descriptive language in their writing.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week 16: The Quiet Book

This is one of those books that I bought because the illustrations were so cute. It wasn't until after I read the book several times that I realized how fantastic and valuable this book would be for generating ideas during a writing workshop time. Deborah Underwood does a fantastic job listing different kinds of "quiet" - reading a book quiet, best friends don't need to talk quiet, first one awake quiet, and the list goes on and on. Each of the illustrations matches the text so perfectly that you can allow yourself to be transported to a time when you felt that type of quiet. Students can talk about when they had experiences like these or other types of "quiet" they may have felt. These ideas can be listed and then used for ideas to write about in notebooks.

Other books that use a similar technique:
Courage by Bernard Waber
Serendipity by Tobi Tobias

In April, Deborah Underwood is supposed to come out with The Loud Book. I know I am looking forward to it! It's one that I will buy sight unseen because of how much I loved The Quiet Book.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Week 15: A Child's Garden

A Child's Garden by Michael Foreman is a beautifully illustrated book that tells the story of survival, renewal, and hope. The boy's town and home have been destroyed by war and now a wire fence surrounds him and his neighbors. Yet, one day, a small piece of green is seen poking through the rubble and dirt. The boy takes care of the plant and nurtures it as it grows and thrives.
While the text and illustrations may seem simple, the story and theme are deep. Students have to think deeply to understand the soldiers' motives behind their actions. This is a story you will want to spend a great deal of time talking carefully about. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Week 14: Sparrow Girl

Sparrow Girl by Sarah Pennypacker is a great text to use for discussions. Based on a historical event, this story shows how one person can truly make a difference to many. In Ming-Li's village, everyone is fighting the war on sparrows by setting off firecrackers and trying to scare the birds. Ming-Li feels sorry for the sparrows and rescues a few and hides them in a barn. The villagers feel triumphant when all the sparrows are gone, however they are soon faced with a famine as the locust begin eating the crops. Ming-Li must decide whether or not to share her hidden secret.
This book could be used for many discussions, especially one about cause and effect. Ming-Li's decision to share her hidden sparrows could be a good discussion starter about right and wrong.