Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Perfect Gift

The Perfect Gift By Mary Newell DePalma
Grades K-3

Little Lorikeet found a strawberry that the larger lorikeets had missed. She is going to bring it to her grandmother as a gift but it plops into the river. A chipmunk, goose and frog all try to help her get the strawberry back. But when they finally do an alligator pounces and Lori must use the strawberry to help them all escape his hungry grasp. With the strawberry gone now what will poor Lori give to her grandmother? She and her new friends make a beautiful book telling about their adventure and grandmother adores their thoughtful gift.

Lesson Seed: Use this book when kicking off writer's workshop small moment writing. It will serve as a reminder that we can all write about our everyday lives and adventures with friends (even if our days don't involve escaping the clutches of an alligator!).

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Emma Kate

Emma Kate by Patricia Polacco
Grades K-4

A sweet tale of friendship between a girl and an elephant. What makes it memorable and special is when you find out at the end that **spoiler alert** it's not the girl telling the story about her pet elephant, it's the elephant telling the story about her pet human. Patricia Polacco has done it again. As if there was any doubt...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Best Friends Forever

Best Friends Forever - A World War II Scrapbook By Beverly Patt
Grades 4-8

Best Friends Forever is a stellar example of a first person narrative for your upper elementary or middle school students. It is set up to look just like an actual journal with pasted or taped in photographs, newspaper clippings, pressed flowers, ticket stubs, invitations and even a bandaid. It's a World War II scrapbook kept between two girls who are best friends. Louise Margaret Krueger is a 14 year old white American girl and Dottie Masuoka (also 14) is a Japanese American girl. When Dottie and her family are sent to internment camps during the war the girls keep this journal of notes and letters back and forth as a way to stay in touch. It covers the time period on World War II beautifully and explains the horrors of the internment camps, but also doesn't lose sight of the fact that it's truly about these two friends and what is important to them in their early teen years. Whether you're looking for historical fiction, journal writing, or just a great story of friendship I would highly recommend sharing this one with your female students

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dog in Charge

Dog in Charge By K.L. Going
Grades K-3

Another fabulous dog story! Dog is put in charge by his owners to watch all five cats that live with him. The cats are causing so much trouble and making a mess. Dog is sure when his owners get home he'll be in big trouble and will never be put in charge again. Luckily the cats love Dog and clean everything up in the nick of time. They are mischievous, but they love their friend Dog. The cartoons and layout are somewhat reminiscent of a comic strip but since the layout is very large it's great for a classroom or library read aloud. Nothing is too small or cluttered to see from afar. 

Discussion Seed: This is a great book to stop and ask the students for predictions. I would ask them to predict what they think will happen when the dog is put in charge of 5 cats. I'd also stop and ask my students to predict what will happen when the cats make such a mess and the dog becomes distraught. I think the twist at the end with the cats quickly fixing everything while the dog naps is a good surprise that the children will laugh at and not expect.

Friday, January 11, 2013

What Is Your Dog Doing?

What Is Your Dog Doing? By Marilyn Singer
Grades PreK-3

At my school the dog books, both fiction and non-fiction fly off the shelves. I can't buy enough of them to suit my students. If you have some dog lovers consider this one. Most pages are a short phrase with a rhyming phrase on the opposite page. A few of the pages are a double spread. The illustrations are cartoon-like and very brightly colored. Even though the text is simplistic making it a perfect choice for young emerging readers, the fun illustrations and rhyming patterns make it suitable for older students as well. I know this one will be a hit and I am excited to read it to my kindergarten next week.

Dog inspecting (police dog sniffing a Burgertown paper sack)
Dog protecting (dog keeping his bone away from a big cat)

Dog that knows the way to guide (seeing eye dog)
Dog that knows just where to hide (dog behind living room curtains)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Jan Thomas Rocks!

 Is Everyone Ready for Fun? By Jan Thomas
Grades PreK-2

Three cows get wild and crazy on chicken's sofa dancing and wiggling much to his chagrin. But they finally have a great idea that even chicken loves...a nap!

Can You Make a Scary Face? By Jan Thomas
Grades PreK-2 

  A bossy ladybug doling out orders is what this interactive book is all about.

If you're looking for a quiet, calm story hour with your students DO NOT choose the Jan Thomas titles above. If however you're looking for some chaos, some noisy, silly boisterous fun, step right up! Jan Thomas writes brightly colored, short books that are perfect for the PreK and Kindergarten crowd. They are interactive and completely zany. I love reading them with my kindergarten students and they love being able to get their wiggles out. Just don't say I didn't warn you about the noise level!

Heroes of the Surf

Heroes of the Surf By Elisa Carbone
Grades 2-5

This is an action-packed historical fiction picture book that grabs the reader and doesn't let go until the final page. On April 22, 1822 the British Steamship Pliny was headed for New York City from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and crashed off the shore of New Jersey on May 13th. This story, based on a true event, tells about the crash, the passengers (including children) on board and the eventual rescue by the US Life Saving Service (now US Coast Guard). All of the passengers survived the crash and this happy ending, along with the vivid storytelling makes for such a great read aloud. Looking for an adventure story to recommend to a student or a good example of historical fiction to use as a mentor text with your students? You've found it.
The afterword gives further information about the ship and rescue for your history buffs.

April Fool, Phyllis!

April Fool, Phyllis! By Susanna Leonard Hill
Grades K-3

Punxsutawney Phyllis returns! This is the second Phyllis book by Susanna Leonard Hill and it is a great read aloud to do with your elementary aged children the week of April Fool's Day. Phyllis predicts that a blizzard is coming and warns her family that they should cancel the annual treasure hunt. Her family thinks she is trying to play an April Fool's joke and doesn't heed her warnings. When the blizzard arrives as predicted it's up to Phyllis to help everyone get safely back home. Luckily she is up to the challenge.
Bonus: In the back of the book there is an entire page devoted to the history of April Fool's Day and how it's celebrated around the world.
Lesson Idea: In the story Phyllis, her siblings and cousins solve riddles while they are on their treasure hunt. Write some riddles for your students leading them to certain books in the library. 
Example: Who eats more food every day for a week until he ends up with a bellyache?
The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Otto the Book Bear

Otto the Book Bear By Katie Cleminson
Grades K-3

Otto is a book fair with a secret. When nobody i looking he comes to life and leaves his book. He loves when children read his book, but one day something awful happens. The family that owns Otto's book moves and leaves his book behind. Otto doesn't like being alone so he sets off on an adventure. Luckily he finds a new, wonderful place to call home, a library! Now lots of children read his book and he isn't lonely anymore. Adorable story and would pair well with Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen as some fun beginning of the year library read alouds.

The Boys

The Boys By Jeff Newman
Grades 1-4

Wow! This is an almost wordless book, other than the days of the week at the tops of the pages. A small blond haired boy watches the neighborhood boys playing baseball at the park. He is too shy to ask to join and he stands behind a tree. Wednesday, discouraged, he packs up his baseball bat and grabs a loaf of bread to feed the pigeons. He goes to the park again, but this time he sits next to four old men who hang out together on the park bench. The men's expressions show that they are not too happy he is sitting with them instead of playing with his peers. On Thursday the boy shows up again with bread to sit with the old men and this time he has combed his hair like them and is wearing a bow tie, windowpane plaid pants and is carrying a cane. As the week continues the men are able to get the boy to start playing baseball with them, and then with the boys his age. The last day shows him playing baseball in the park with the old men cheering for him on their bench.I think this is a fantastic wordless book to use with young students and have them take turns narrating what is happening on each page.