Thursday, December 14, 2017

Learning from Picture Books –NOW by Antoinette Portis

A deceptively simple book that reminds us about how young children experience the world.

Summary from the publisher:

Follow a little girl as she takes you on a tour through all of her favorite things, from the holes she digs to the hugs she gives.

Now was written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis, and published in 2017 by Roaring Brook Press.

Opening:

This is my favorite breeze.

This is my favorite leaf.

This is my favorite hole (this one)
because it’s the one I am digging.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

The text is a nice demonstration of how repetition of the structure can help to move the reader through the story. The text itself is short and feels very immediate, which goes well with the point of the story.  

My Thoughts as a Teacher:

While I think this is an excellent story for parents and young children to read together, it also would work in a preschool or kindergarten class for talking about “favorites.” It could spark an investigation into “favorite things.” I love how it reminds us of the young child’s perspective.

Ages: 2 - 6

Grades: Toddler  – Grade 1

Themes: appreciating the moment, family, favorite things

Activities:

Discuss: What is your favorite right now? Draw a picture or explain why.

Make a class book of pictures of “favorite things.”

Show students how to create a survey and have them collect data about their “favorite things.”

Have children take turns bringing a “favorite thing” to show and share for “Today’s Favorite.”

NOTE: This title has been nominated for the Cybils Award, and I am a first round panelist. There are many nominations and six other judges. My opinions should not be construed as a sign of inclusion or exclusion on the final short list.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Learning from Picture Books – HOORAY FOR BIRDS by Lucy Cousins

This book shows the world from a different point of view – a bird’s eye view!

Summary from the publisher:

Birds of all feathers flock together in a fun, rhyme-filled offering by the creator of Maisy. From the rooster’s “cock-a-doodle-doo” at dawn to the owl’s nighttime “tuwit, tuwoo,” the cheeps and tweets of many bright and beautiful avian friends will have children eager to join in as honorary fledglings. This day in the life of birds will hold the attention of even the smallest bird-watchers, whether at storytime or just before settling into their cozy nests to sleep.

Hooray for Birds was written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins. It was published in 2017 by Candlewick Press.

Opening:

Can you imagine…
just for one day…
you’re a busy bird?
Yes, a bird!
Hooray!

My Thoughts as a Writer:

I really enjoyed the fun rhyming text and big, bright illustrations. It’s a good example of rhyme done well and it encourages children to engage with the story.

My Thoughts as a Teacher:

My students would enjoy this book, because of the catchy rhyme and big colourful illustrations. The bird actions are fun and this would be a great book for encouraging dramatic play. It would also be nice to include with non-fiction books about birds at a science area.

Ages: 3 - 7

Grades: PreK - 2

Themes: birds, creative movement, rhyming

Activities:

Read through the story and act it out as you go along!

Create your own drawing or painting of a bird in the style of Lucy Cousin’s art with a dark outline. Cut out each bird and display them together.

Photograph each student performing a bird action, perhaps with handmade bird accessory or prop, and make a class book. 

NOTE: This title has been nominated for the Cybils Award, and I am a first round panelist. There are many nominations and six other judges. My opinions should not be construed as a sign of inclusion or exclusion on the final short list.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Learning from Picture Books – LITTLE FOX IN THE FOREST by Stephanie Graegin

I find wordless picture books so interesting because they give me a new perspective on story!

Summary from the publisher:

When a young girl brings her beloved stuffed fox to the playground, much to her astonishment, a real fox takes off with it! The girl chases the fox into the woods with her friend, the boy, following close behind, but soon the two children lose track of the fox. Wandering deeper and deeper into the forest, they come across a tall hedge with an archway. What do they find on the other side? A marvelous village of miniature stone cottages, tiny treehouses, and, most extraordinary of all, woodland creatures of every shape and size. But where is the little fox? And how will they find him?

Little Fox in the Forest was conceptualized and illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. It was published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

The problem of a stolen toy is so relatable for young children. I admired the way the illustrator used colour to emphasize different elements and scenes. The story begins in blue tones, but this changes as the story unfolds. There are many details for child readers to talk about and most pages include several small illustrations.

My Thoughts as a Teacher:

This story would work best for a small group or pair of students to discuss and wonder about what is happening. It’s a good story for encouraging students to generate questions as they think about the story. There are many things to talk about, including making friends, finding lost things, different kinds of animals, and empathy for others. If I had the funds, I would love to create a center for wordless books in my classroom where children of varying experiences with books could explore wordless books like this one.

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 2

Themes: stealing, friendship, animals

Activities:

Place this book at a center with toy animals, people and furniture to inspire story-related play.

Have students work with a partner to create their own “pictures only” story.

Encourage students to choose the girl or the fox and draw a picture to show what happens next. Put up the pictures in the classroom for a gallery walk.

NOTE: This title has been nominated for the Cybils Award, and I am a first round panelist. There are many nominations and six other judges. My opinions should not be construed as a sign of inclusion or exclusion on the final short list.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Learning from Picture Books – LIFE by Cynthia Rylant & Brendan Wenzel

A thought-provoking look at our planet with lovely, detailed illustrations.

Summary from the publisher:

There are so many wonderful things about life, both in good times and in times of struggle. Through the eyes of the world’s animals—including elephants, monkeys, whales, and more…

Life was written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. It was published in 2017 by Beach Lane Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

Opening:

Life begins small.
Even for the elephants.
Then it grows.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

This is a quiet book with slight touches of humor. It’s an interesting example of a circular text that begins and ends the same way. The illustrations show the diversity of life on our planet with muted tones and lots of detail.

My Thoughts as a Teacher:

This is definitely a book for a quieter moment. For me, it generated lots of wonderings and thoughts about appreciating the smaller things in life, the diversity of life on our planet and what it needs to survive, and being hopeful when struggling with challenges. The text has many different interpretations and will work for several different age groups.

Ages: 4 - 12

Grades: PreK and up

Themes: diversity, appreciation of the earth, perseverance through challenges

Activities:

Choose your favourite animal. What would this animal love about life? Create a piece of art and write your message as a caption.

Take a picture of something small in nature. What could it grow into or become? Draw your idea. 

NOTE: This title has been nominated for the Cybils Award, and I am a first round panelist. There are many nominations and six other judges. My opinions should not be construed as a sign of inclusion or exclusion on the final short list.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Learning from Picture Books – PICTURE THE SKY by Barbara Reid

Since my mom is an artist and has made many paintings of the sky and clouds, I could really relate to the concept behind this book. I loved the way this gave me a whole different way of looking at the sky – or many ways!

Summary from the publisher:

There is more than one way to picture the sky.

The sky tells many stories: in the clouds, in the stars, in the imagination. In lyrical text and brilliantly coloured illustrations, renowned artist Barbara Reid brings her unique vision to the sky above us and around us, in all its moods.

Picture the Sky was written and illustrated by Barbara Reid, and published in 2017 by Scholastic Canada.

Opening:

There is more than one way to picture the sky.
It can be a blanket, or the curtain rising on your day.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

I appreciate writing that draws attention to different perspectives or parts of the world that many people don’t take the time to think about. I enjoyed the careful choice of language and the cadence of the text. The illustrations are lovely, big enough and colourful to catch the attention of wiggly children, yet full of interesting details.

My Thoughts as a Teacher:

I want to read this book to my class in the hopes of sparking an inquiry or investigation of the sky! It’s a good story for encouraging students to share their perspectives or to read during quieter moments to encourage thoughtful reflection.

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 2

Themes: sky, modeling clay art, appreciation of the earth

Activities:

Go outside to observe and take pictures of the sky on different days (e.g., once a month) and discuss how it changes. Or write an emotion word to label the picture and create a class photo exhibit.


Have students create their own sky pictures using modeling clay or paint.

NOTE: This title has been nominated for the Cybils Award, and I am a first round panelist. There are many nominations and six other judges. My opinions should not be construed as a sign of inclusion or exclusion on the final short list.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Learning from Picture Books – MAX AND BIRD by Ed Vere

A fun story about friendship!

Summary from the publisher:

When Max meets Bird, Max thinks he'd like to be friends with Bird. He would also like to chase Bird and maybe eat him as a tasty snack. But that's not what friendship is all about . . . Is it?

Max and Bird was written and illustrated by Ed Vere, and published in 2016 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Opening:

This is Max.
Max is a kitten.
Kittens chase birds.

This is Bird.
Bird is a bird.
Birds get chased by kittens.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

I love the humor in the storytelling voice. This is a great example of a story that leaves space for the reader to think and form opinions as the story goes along. I would definitely study this one as an example of a picture book that includes a good balance of dialogue and action, with a clear problem and solution. The illustrations are bright and nicely designed -- perfect for read alouds.

My Thoughts as a Teacher:

This is an entertaining story that could lead to discussions about persistence, following your dreams and friendship. I especially liked the ending, where Max can’t do what Bird does, but is there to support his friend anyway. 

Ages: 3 - 6

Grades: PreK - 2

Themes: friendship, persistence, caring

Activities:

Draw a picture of something you’d like to learn how to do. What steps would help you accomplish it?

What is something you could help a friend to do? Try it!

Make puppets to tell the story of Max and Bird, and act it out.

Check out this live storytelling by the creator, Ed Vere, from the Scottish Book Trust.

He also gives us a peek inside his studio:



NOTE: This title has been nominated for a Cybils Award, and I am a first round panelist. There are many nominations and six other judges. My opinions should not be construed as a sign of inclusion or exclusion on the final short list.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – FALCON WILD by Terry Lynn Johnson

 A different take on the typical survival story because it includes a falcon!                             
 
Description from the publisher:

Thirteen-year-old Karma is lost in the backcountry of Montana with her falcon, Stark, and a troubled runaway boy named Cooper. She’s desperate to find help for her dad and brother after a blown tire on a back road causes a terrible accident.

Karma wouldn’t be in this predicament if her parents hadn’t insisted on returning Stark to the bird’s original owner. Life at her father's bird sanctuary—and Karma’s dreams of becoming an apprentice falconer—will never be the same when she has to give Stark back. Lost in the wild, their bond only grows stronger as Karma teaches the falcon to hunt like a bird of prey. All the while, Cooper gets his own lessons on how to trust in newfound friendship.

Both Karma’s and Cooper's mettle is tested by mountain terrain, wild animals, severe weather, injury, and her own waning hope as this edge-of-your-seat wilderness adventure story vividly portrays the special bonds that can form between humans and animals.

Falcon Wild was written by Terry Lynn Johnson and published by Charlesbridge in 2017.


Why you want to read this book… 

It’s an exciting adventure story as well as a story of friendship between Karma and Cooper. One of the things I enjoy about middle grade novels are all the unique hobbies and interests kids have. The details about falconry in this book were super interesting!

“I’m dangling above a dark hole. The falcon-like part of my brain kicks in. My eyes dart, searching for a solution.”


If you’re a writer… 

The setting is a big part of this story, so it’s a good book to read to study to see how to integrate setting details.

 “The air has changed around me. The smells of cooling earth are lifting with the approaching dusk.”


If you’re a teacher…

I liked how the main character in this story made several “mistakes” and had to find ways to resolve her feelings about them.

“After all my time getting her to trust me, now I’m betraying her.”


Opening Line:

“Stark senses my fear and pulls at the jesses around her feet.”


Other Info:

I really enjoyed Terry Lynn Johnston’s novel Ice Dogs and I’m looking forward to reading her other new stand alone novel, Sled Dogs.

She is also writing a Survivor Diaries Series and the first book, Overboard! is now available. 

There’s a teacher’s guide for this novel here