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.


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


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.


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


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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Learning from Picture Books – ANYWHERE FARM by Phyllis Root & G. Brian Karas

This book encourages wondering! A good choice to pair with non-fiction  about growing plants.
Summary from the publisher:

You might think a farm means fields, tractors, and a barnyard full of animals. But you can plant a farm anywhere you like! A box or a bucket, a boot or a pan — almost anything can be turned into a home for green, growing things. Windows, balconies, and front steps all make wonderful spots to start. Who knows what plants you may choose to grow and who will come to see your new garden?

 Phyllis Root delivers a modern rhyming mantra for anyone hoping to put their green thumbs to good use, while G. Brian Karas’s cheerful urban illustrations sprout from every page. After all, anywhere can be a farm — all it takes is one small seed and someone to plant it.
For any anywhere farm, here's all that you need: soil and sunshine, some water, a seed.

Anywhere Farm was written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. It was published in 2017 by Candlewick.


For an anywhere farm, here’s all that you need:
and sunshine,
some water,
a seed.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

I liked the concept that seeds can be planted in all kinds of different places. The language in this book is fun: “Your seed will sprout out at its own seedy speed.” It’s a lovely example of rhyme done well.

My Thoughts as a Teacher:

A great choice to go along with learning about plant growth. Some pages introduce questions, which are good opportunities or models for students to wonder and think. This is a really fun rhyming story for young children! I liked the way the ending invites the reader to take action and plant their own seed.

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 2

Themes: seeds, growing plants, environment, community


Can we create a classroom garden? What do we need? Encourage students bring in seeds and containers to plant their own creative garden.

Draw a picture of an unusual place where you could plant a seed.

Create a “wonder wall” where students can post their own questions about growing seeds.