Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Letter Writing

Dear Juno By: Soyung Pak
Grades 2-4 

Juno writes letters back and forth with his grandmother who lives in Korea. Though Juno can't read Korean he can figure out a lot about what his grandmother's letter says by using the clues she tucks inside. A heartwarming story about the special bond between a child and a grandparent. This book is also a fantastic example if teaching inferencing.

Dear Mr. Blueberry By: Simon James
Grades K-2

Emily exchanges letters with her teacher Mr. Blueberry over the course of the summer. She tells him all about the whale that lives in her pond. Mr. Blueberry sends her whale facts and gently explains there is no way a whale can live in a pond in her backyard. In the midst of teaching his young students about whales he learns something as well. He learns about the magic of a vivid imagination and about having faith.

Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School By: Mark Teague
Grades 2-4

Ike LaRue has been sent to obedience school by his owner Mrs. LaRue. The most dramatic of canines Ike loves writing her letters embellishing his experiences and admonishing her for sending him away. Funny letters are only part of this book, the pictures tell half the story. The color pictures are what Ike is really experiencing at "doggy daycare" and the black and white illustrations show the "prison" that Ike is trying to portray. Sure to be a hit with all kids who love dogs and appreciate a good laugh.

Dear Teacher By: Amy Husband
Grades K-3

I love this book! The book is designed to look like an envelope and it actually has a flap that you open to read the book jut like you're opening a real envelope. All the illustrations are meant to look as they are done by a child. It's bright and funny and such a creative idea! Michael gets a letter from his principal dated August 15th to let him know that school is starting soon and who his new teacher will be. Michael writes to his new teacher about why he won't be in school on the first day because he has just been recruited by the secret service for a special mission. And thus begins the letters Michael sends, each one more outlandish than the one before. It's Miss Brooks' reply that is at the end of the book that really slays me though - - everyone school should have a teacher on her game like that!

Dear Vampa By: Ross Collins
Grades 1-3

This book starts and ends with a letter but the middle is a sentence on each page with a picture illustrating the character's complaints of the awful new neighbors. Bram Pire writes a letter to his Vampa that the family is going to be moving back to Transylvania because the new neighbors are making life unbearable. The vampires can't understand why the new neighbors like sunshine so much or stay up all day long making noise. At the end of the book you see that the new neighbors aren't normal humans as the reader suspects, but they're werewolves, which adds to the book's creepy humor.

Raf By: Anke de Vries
Grades K-2

Raf and Ben are always together until one day Raf is gone. You never get to see the little boy Ben in this book but his stuffed giraffe Raf sends him postcards while he is mysteriously traveling abroad. Then one day Raf comes back -- with dreadlocks! The illustrations tell half the tale. Love this short sweet book.

The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman By: Darcy Pattison
Grades 2-4

Tameka sends her Uncle Ray a letter asking him to  come visit during the summer. Uncle Ray writes back that he can't come visit because he's too busy, but he'll send his friend Oliver instead. Oliver K. Woodman is a life-size wooden sculpture and Uncle Ray leaves him out on the side of the road with a letter explaining he is trying to get to Tameka Schwartz in Redcrest, California and could use a ride along with a sign saying "California or Bust". Strangers pick up Oliver and carry him along on their journeys leaving him wherever they stop. Each person who picks up Oliver sends a note to Uncle Ray letting him know what Oliver did and where he went. Eventually someone drops Oliver off at Tameka's house and she couldn't be happier. Very reminiscent of Flat Stanley.

Writing Seed: These are all fantastic selections for kicking off your lessons on teaching how to write a letter. After discussing the parts of a letter and the layout the students could write a letter back to one of the characters from the story for practice.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Invisible Inkling

Invisible Inkling By Emily Jenkins
Grades 2-4

A great classroom read aloud for grades 2-3 about Hank who finds an invisible bandapat named Inkling at his parents' ice cream shop in Brooklyn. Hank has to deal with some tough issues like his best friend moving away and a school bully who steals the best part of his lunch every day. Luckily with Inkling by his side he manages to beat the bully at his own game and learns a lot about kindness along the way.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Memoirs of a Goldfish

Memoirs of a Goldfish By Devin Scillian
Grades 1-4

Written as a daily memoir, this book tells about the life of a pet goldfish. He isn't very happy as his bowl gets more crowded each day with other fish and decorations. He wishes to have his fishbowl all to himself...until his wish comes true and he realizes he's lonely.

Writing Seed: Use this book to kick off a discussion on first person narratives or journal/memoir writing with your students.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spring Book Fair Purchases

Our elementary school used to use Scholastic to run it's bi-annual book fair, but three years ago we started using a local bookstore instead. Ever since we started using Books, Bytes and Beyond in Glen Rock, NJ we haven't looked back. The selection of literature for our students is so much better and there is a much wider variety. Every time we hold the book fair I hear the parents and students commenting on how many great choices are available. Last week we had our spring book fair and I wanted to share 5 of the best books I bought for our library collection.

Chloe and the Lion By Mac Barnett
Grades K-4

Chloe is a strong female lead, much needed in picture books for young kids! She is about to be attacked by a lion when the author and illustrator enter the story (all set on a stage) and begin arguing. The author insists that the illustrator must draw the pictures as he intends, but the illustrator has ideas of his own. It's a romp with some definite adult sense of humor which I always like in children' books. I'm a fan of all things Mac Barnett and Adam Rex; both are creative geniuses.

Seed Idea: Use as a mini-lesson for writer's workshop and discussing author and illustrator roles and the connections between text and pictures.

Chopsticks By Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Grades 1-4

If you loved Spoon by Rodenthal, you'll love this one too. It says on the cover "Not exactly a sequel to Spoon. More like a change in place setting."  I love the play on words in this tale about inseparable friends who come to a fork in the road. It's about standing on your own and also about sticking together.

Extra Yarn By Mac Barnett
Grades 1-4

Another winner by Mac Barnett. Extra Yarn is about a girl who finds a box of yarn and knits a sweater and when she is done still has some extra yarn. So she knits a sweater for her dog Mars too. But there's still extra yarn, and on and on it goes with the yarn never running out and the girl blanketing this dark dreary town in beautiful colored knits. When a sinister archduke steals her box of yarn it ends up floating right back to the little girl for a happy ending and a yarn-covered tree. Reminds me of all the fun yarn-bombed things I have seen on Pinterest like this photo below!

One Cool Friend By Toni Buzzeo
Grades K-3

Elliot asks his father on a visit to the aquarium if he may have a penguin, to which his father replies "yes." Elliot takes a real penguin from the exhibit home in backpack, not a stuffed one his father had intended. The rest of the book is about Elliot caring for his penguin while his absent-minded father seems oblivious to the goings on right under hi nose. The twist at the end when you find out what Elliot's father has for a pet is the best part!
 Wolf Won't Bite By Emily Gravett
Grades PreK-2

Emily Gravett's books are just plain awesome and this one is no exception. In sparse illustrations with a lot of white space we see three pigs who torture a poor wolf with their circus acts, always insisting the wolf won't bite. They throw knives, make him jump through hoops and even ride him like a horse. In each picture the wolf looks more shamed and distraught. Payback for all the books where the wolf terrorizes so many pigs? Perhaps, but check out the endpapers on this one where it looks like the wolf has finally reached his breaking point and the pigs are on the run!

Seed Idea: Read along with The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and discuss the long-held rivalry of pigs and wolves in literature.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Home Runs!

All Star! Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever By Jane Yolen
Grades 2-5

H is for Home Run: A Baseball Alphabet By Brad Herzog
Grades K-5

Henry Aaron's Dream By Matt Tavares
Grades 2-5

No Easy Way By Fred Bowen
Grades 3-6

Shoeless Joe and Black Betsy By Phil Bildner
Grades 2-5

There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived By Matt Tavares
Grades 2-5

The Unforgettable Season: The Story of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams 
and the Record-Setting Summer of '41 By Phil Bildner
Grades 2-5

These are all fantastic examples of non-fiction, historical fiction and biographical sports books. I like to put these out in the spring as a special baseball display in my library along with some other biographies of popular players in our local area like Derek Jeter. I find these are great books to grab my reluctant boy readers and yet they are all examples of high quality writing and illustrations.