Friday, October 25, 2019

PICK A PUMPKIN by Patricia Toht & Jarvis – A perfect introduction to Halloween traditions

Carving pumpkins is one of my favorite fall activities! After I read this, I knew I just had to read it to my kindergarten students.  Another great book for my personal teaching collection.

Summary from Amazon:

Pairing a wonderfully rhythmic read-aloud text with expressive retro illustrations, author Patricia Toht and illustrator Jarvis capture all the excitement and familial feeling of a favorite holiday tradition. Readers will be happy to follow along with each step, from picking out the perfect specimen at the pumpkin patch (be sure to stop for cider and toffee apples) to carting it home, scooping out the insides, carving a scary face, and finally lighting a candle inside — savoring the familiar ritual of transforming an ordinary pumpkin into a one-of-a-kind glowing jack-o’-lantern.

Pick a Pumpkin, written by Patricia Toht and illustrated by Jarvis, was published by Candlewick Press in 2019. 


Pick a pumpkin

from the patch—

tall and lean

or short and fat.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

The process of picking and carving a pumpkin is brought to life here with lovely language and illustrations. Study this one to see how the author carefully chooses words to evoke the feeling of fall. The rhymes and near rhymes work very well. I really enjoyed the gorgeous illustrations – they enhance the story, adding lots of extra detail and creating images of a treasured family experience.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

The length of this story is perfect for reading to kindergarteners and preschoolers! Kids will love examining all the details in the illustrations. This book would be a great introduction to Halloween traditions as well as a book to read afterward to make connections to life experiences. An excellent choice for a library or classroom collection! 

Ages: 4-8

Grades: PreK – 2

Themes: pumpkins, Halloween, family traditions


Discuss: What is your favorite page in the book? Why?

Art: Provide pencil crayons, paints, crayons for students to create their own Halloween scene.

STEAM Challenge: Create a pumpkin face using paper shapes, cutting out the eyes, nose and mouth. Hang it up on a window to see light shine through!

Check out this interesting interview with author Patricia Toht at BookSeedStudio.   

Monday, October 21, 2019

THE DOUGHNUT KING by Jessie Janowitz – Doughnuts and a caring boy’s plan to save a small town

It’s probably going to seem that I love to read books about  baking (okay, maybe I do) but  I got really involved in this story. (Bonus recipes at the back again, too). I read this one as a hardcover from my local library.

Description from the publisher:

When Tris tries to save his doughnut business and town by competing on a cooking show, will he have what a takes, or lose it all?

Tris Levin thought moving from New York City to middle-of-nowhere Petersville meant life would definitely get worse. . . only it actually got better. But just when things are looking up, problems start rolling in. His doughnut business has a major supply issue. And that's not the worst part, Petersville has its own supply problem-it doesn't have enough people. Folks keep moving away and if they can't get people to stay, Petersville may disappear.

Petersville needs to become a tourist destination, and his shop could be a big part of it, if Tris can keep up with demand. There's only one solution: The Belshaw Donut Robot. If Tris can win "Can You Cut It," the cutthroat competitive kids' cooking show, he can get the cash to buy the machine. But even with the whole town training and supporting him, Tris isn't sure he can live with what it takes to takes to win.

The Doughnut King by Jessie Janowitz was published by Source Books, Inc. in 2019.

Why you want to read this book:

If you love watching cooking contests on TV, you’ll enjoy this book! Tris is a determined character. He helps to run his own doughnut shop (so cool!) and is trying to find a way to produce more doughnuts to meet customer demand. It will also help bring business to the small town where he lives. Tris has an interesting team of friends, two sisters with very different personalities, and he meets a few more interesting characters when he gets to the contest.  A fun story with a couple of twists and turns and a great ending that wraps things up. And did I mention the robot?


YES! I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. And I wasn’t the only one.  

If you’re a writer…

I’d study the pacing in this novel. The story kept me interested all the way through. I really liked how Tris’ family was included in the story, coming in and out at the right moments but not taking over or saving the day.

I had never seen anything so beautiful. It was all stainless steel and shiny. It mixed. It fried. It glazed and injected. The Donut Robot did it all.

If you’re an educator…

At first Tris shies away from the challenge of going on Can You Cut It? because he doesn’t think he can do it. But I loved the way he persevered and tried it anyway. I also really liked the realism the author brought in when Tris makes a really bad decision—and then later admits he was wrong.

I ripped off my microphone and sprinted out of the room and down the hall, my eyes on the checkered tiles flying by. I didn’t want to have to see anyone.

Check out this fun book trailer!  

The author, Jessie Janowitz, shows us how to bake a favourite recipe while she talks about the book on Storymakers in the Kitchen:  

If you’re looking for another great list of middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.

Friday, October 11, 2019

TRUMAN by Jean Reidy & Lucy Ruth Cummins – A book to build empathy

What a lovely story about patience and friendship! A book I definitely want to study more closely. I think I will purchase for my personal collection.

Summary from Amazon:

Truman the tortoise lives with his Sarah, high above the taxis and the trash trucks and the number eleven bus, which travels south. He never worries about the world below…until one day, when Sarah straps on a big backpack and does something Truman has never seen before. She boards the bus!

Truman waits for her to return.
He waits.
And waits.
And waits.
And when he can wait no longer, he knows what he must do.

Even if it seems…impossible!

Truman was small,
the size of a donut—
a small donut—
and every bit as sweet.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

I loved this different take on a “going to school” story. The unique voice of this story drew me in. The carefully chosen details, rhythm of the language and repeated phrases kept me reading along. This book is full of emotion. I especially loved the “Be brave” moment. If you write stories that are considered “quiet” this is a great example to study. Lots of heart! 

My Thoughts as an Educator:

I loved the way the author turned around the traditional “going to school” story to look at a pet’s perspective. Being curious about what happens to a pet when a child is away at school is a great conversation starter!  I think young children will relate to the idea of separation and the ways that Truman tries to cope. It’s also a great book for helping to build empathy by sharing another character's perspective.  

Ages: 4-8

Grades: K – 3

Themes: friendship, loyalty, bravery


Discuss: How was Truman brave? Can you think of a time when you were brave?

Draw & Write:  What does your pet do while you are at school? If you don’t have a pet, draw a picture about what your favorite toy or your Mom does while you are at school.

STEM: Provide a small toy tortoise, a wall and building materials (e.g. invert a toy bin and use the bottom). How can a little tortoise get up to the top? Build a structure for the tortoise to climb.