Sunday, January 26, 2014

Is a Character Good or Bad?

A friend and I recently got into a discussion about endings. Endings of books, endings of movies, endings of stories in general. I like my books to have a solid resolution. I don’t enjoy books or movies that leave me ‘hanging’ or to draw my own conclusions. I like to know that there is a resolution and that the story is complete, as the author intended. I usually don’t like to draw my own interpretation, I want to know why events happened and what was the author’s purpose. So, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed a book left me ‘hanging’ at the end.
Three By the Sea by Mini Grey, is a great book to spark a debate about a character’s motives. The stranger who appears in the story seems to be up to no good, inciting the cat, dog and mouse to argue with one another. However, at the end of the story, the characters have changed their ways and they all seem a bit happier to do things differently. I wonder if Mini Grey meant for the stranger to be a good or bad character. I think there could be arguments for both and I think this book would be a great way to help students begin to understand how to look for motives and support for their opinions.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Being Frank

I really liked Being Frank by Donna Earnhardt. It is a book I normally would have left on the shelf, but in the back of my mind, I thought I remembered someone talking about it. The cover/illustrations are not my favorite style, but I really enjoyed the story. In the book, Frank, is a little too frank - he tells it like it is. This honesty tends to hurt people’s feelings and Frank can’t understand what he is supposed to do. He doesn’t want to lie, but he doesn’t want to hurt anyone either. His grandfather offers him some advice and it works out for him in the end.
I like this book especially paired with a conversation about not always saying everything that you are thinking.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Books About Writing

I admire people who can write well. It is not a quality I possess and therefore I am in awe of those that are able to put their thoughts down on paper eloquently.
I bow to those that are able to do this in front of a group of students during writers’ workshop.
Writers’ workshop always terrifies me because I know my own writing is so inadequate that I am fearful of showing students my own work. But, of course, I do it anyway.
After years of modeling with my own writing and then being disappointed because the students weren’t writing stellar pieces, I began to search for mentor texts and books to help show the students what GOOD writing looks like.
Here are some of my favorite books to begin talking about writing and stories in general.

Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb is not really about writing, but rather about talking and thinking. In order for students to be able to write a good story, they have to think about it and know it in their hearts and minds. I really like this book for thinking through a moment or event and telling the parts in order. While the book doesn't emphasize elaboration, I think it could be a good springboard to start discussing the importance of thinking through an event or idea.

Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon captures the struggle of reluctant writers. It gave me new insight into the minds of the students who seem 'off-task' during writers' workshop.

I think Tad Hills sends a good message in Rocket Writes a Story that there is always a lot of revision when writing. I especially like how the bird in the story mentions that writing a story takes time. Students (and adults) seem to feel like the first draft is the done draft and this book helps to promote  revision and lingering with ideas.

I wouldn't advocate to read this book aloud cover to cover, but I think it has many interesting tips that can be woven into a writers' workshop. I like that the snippets are short enough to read aloud, but give information to think about.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

My 1-year-olds favorite books

We had to buy a new bookcase for the girl’s room this week. She has one real bookcase downstairs that holds all her picture books for when she gets bigger. The new one upstairs is in her bedroom and it holds all her board books and some toys.
When she was very small, her favorite books were dictated by me because I was the one that chose the books. In the last few months, she is able to discern between the book spines and pick the books that she wants to read. It is very interesting to watch.
Many of the books she likes to read on her own, but at bedtime, I have had to read the same book over and over and over.
These are some of her favorite board books.

Good Egg by Barney Saltzberg has been loved so much that it is in about 6 different pieces. The girl tore this book to shreds. We really need a new copy. The hilarious thing is that she still loves to read it even though it is in pieces.

Noisy Farm is a recent favorite. The girl has recently figured out how to lift the flaps on this book (they open different ways) and she loves it. The photos are great and she loves listening to me make the animal sounds.

I can't say enough great things about the BabyLit books. I think they are hilarious and wonderful. If you are looking for an accurate retelling of classic literature, you are probably not going to find it in a 10 page board book. However,  I think Jennifer Adams makes books that are interesting enough for parents to read to their kids without wanting to pull their hair out. The girl loves Moby-Dick and we just acquired Romeo and Juliet as well.

I admit I was skeptical of Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt when it first entered our house, back when the girl was born. I remember when she was about 6-months-old reading it to her and she had ZERO interest in any of the pages. Then, at about 9-months-old, it was like someone had flipped a switch. Suddenly, when it was time to play peek-a-boo with Paul, she knew how to do it and loved it. She loved looking in the mirror and feeling daddy's scratchy face. I had dismissed this book early on, but now I can barely pry it from the girl's fingers.

I love this book. The girl likes it. She will learn to love it more.