Saturday, May 29, 2010

Children's Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books #86-82

Watch out!  More Picture Book fabulousness coming your way!  I am loving this Top 100 List of Children's Picture books!  I may need a sponsor to break the addiction once this little adventure in reading is over.  Any takers? 

All right, friends, let's get things started with #86, shall we?  At #86 we have Yoko by Rosemary Wells.

Yoko (Yoko and Friends-School Days) (Again, click on the images for links or check out my widget to the right of my posts...I'll do anything to make a list and your life a little easier!)

I adore this story!  Yoko's mother makes her sushi to take to school (Um, can she pack MY lunch?) but all the children make fun of her at lunchtime.  In an effort to help, Yoko's teacher creates International Food Day so all the children can try the foods of their families native heritages.  There are enchiladas, mango smoothies, knishes...(Oh!  The temptation of reading this book while pregnant!) which everyone LOVES but no one tries the sushi until Timothy.  He loves it and plans with Yoko to open a "sushi restaurant" the next day at school.  The next day they have a lovely sushi lunch together.  I think this book would make a great read aloud in grades K through 2.  With an accessible lesson about tolerance for other people's cultures and tastes, this book lends itself to great conversations.  Also, I always tried to incorporate a day where families would bring in traditional dishes (sometimes at Thanksgiving, sometimes for a Writing Celebration, sometimes during a unit on family or geography) and this book ties in nicely.  Bon Appetit!

In position #85 is Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats - another one of my favorite Author Studies for first grade friends.

Whistle For Willie (Live Oak Readalong)

Peter really wants to get his whistle on, but he can't.  When he sees his dog Willie coming, Peter hides in an empty box on the sidewalk.  (I'm just hoping that the box was clean...I mean, gross, right?) He tries to whistle to get Willie's attention, but he can't, and Willie just keeps walking.  He goes home and dresses up like his dad to feel more grown-up and practices his whistling.  Peter goes outside to look for Willie again, hides under a box and...this time it works!  He can whistle and Willie comes running.  Later, when running an errand for his mother, Peter whistles all the way there and all the way home.

This book is fabulous for a number of reasons.  First of all, love the lesson that you shouldn't give up, but rather practice until you can do it.  FAB!  I also love the illustrations - so colorful!  This book is the perfect mentor text for teaching how to use an ellipses. (One of my favorite marks of punctuation of... all... time... and one that I frequently overuse.)  If that wasn't enough, Peter has a pretty hot little imagination and is able to entertain himself throughout the entire book (with out a Game Boy in sight)!

We have another appearance from Mr. Henkes (LOVE HIM) at #84 with Chester's Way, which is one of my absolute faves.  Chester and Wilson are totally unafraid to fly their Nerd Flag and I LOVE IT!  Plus, who wouldn't fall in love with a strong, female character like Lily?

Chester's Way

Chester is so fussy and particular - I freaking love him.  He and his boy, Wilson, are exactly the same and love to do everything the same way together.  Then Lilly moves into the neighborhood and rocks Chester and Wilson's world.  Girlfriend is loud and unafraid.  (I heart her.)  They try to ignore Lilly and avoid playing with her.  One day, a bunch of bullies gang up on Chester and Wilson, but at the last minute they are saved by a mysterious person dressed up as a fierce-looking cat.  Guess what?  It's Lilly.  Sisterfriend totally saved their behinds!  Before you know it, Lilly is showing Chester and Wilson new and different ways to do things and...(pause for dramatic effect) they like it. And theeeeen, Victor moves into the neighborhood.

Can you say cliffhanger? I don't even know where to begin, this story is so wonderful.  It has a fantastic lesson about friendship, meeting new people and trying new things.  As I've said many times before, the strong female character is amazing.  Plus, if you are thinking about using this book to teach author's craft, this book does a great job of re-using a refrain throughout the text.  Hard skill, yes, but perfect example.  I say it makes a fabulous read aloud for your friends in first and second grades.  You could also use it with second graders as an independent guided text - it's a level K in the world of Fountas and Pinnell.
 
At #83 on our list is The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.  I have already waxed poetic about my love for this man (and my, possibly inaccurate, memory of having his cousin as a nursery school teacher).

The Lorax (Classic Seuss)

I mean, this book is BEGGING to be read during Earth Day festivities or any other curriculum promoting an environmental conscience.  A boy seeks out the Once-ler, the only creature who can tell him the story of The Lorax.  Evidently, a long time ago, The Once-ler discovered a wonderful land filled with magical animals and Truffula Trees.  He quickly chopped down several Truffula Trees to knit a Thneed.  The Lorax suddenly appears at his door, warning the Once-ler that no one will by his Thneed.  Sadly, The Lorax was wrong and soon business is booming, a factory is built and the Once-ler's whole family comes to help.  The Lorax, who "speaks for the trees" begs them to stop but greed gets the better of the Once-ler and he doesn't  Soon, all the fabulous creatures who lived amongst the Truffula Trees become ill or are hungry and begin to leave. The land turns dark and lifeless and, as the Thneed factory continues to chop down trees and dump it's waste in the pond, all the animals are gone. The Lorax was the last to leave. At the end of the story, the Once-ler tosses the boy the last Truffula Seed and prompts him to love it in the hopes that The Lorax and all of his friends might someday return.

Phew!  I know that was a long summary but this book is MEA-TY!  Where to even start?  First of all, I don't know many kids who don't love a Dr. Seuss read aloud.  I think this one is perfect for first graders all the way up to third or fourth graders.  (Coming in at a level P, it's probably just right for readers to check out independently in about third grade.) I know rhyming books may seem "lame" with the older ones, but this topic is way to juicy to ignore and will totes draw them in.  Of course, this book also has a fabulous rhyming pattern if you want to throw in a little word study on the side.  I just think the uses of this book are endless.  Use it to work on rhyme, talk about the environment, launch a unit on plant life, encourage creative characters...ENDLESS!  Dr. Seuss = a genius in my book.

And, as we wrap it up for the weekend, at #82 is Who Needs Donuts? by Mark Alan Stamaty.  Another new one for me.  (Seriously, I'm starting to question my devotion to all things picture book...definitely learning a a new title or two.)

Who Needs Donuts?

However, I'm not feeling so bad about my lack of knowledge regarding this particular title because it is next to IMPOSSIBLE to find.  I have looked at TWO local libraries and requested that they be placed on hold.  (Keep in mind, that I wrote this post about two to three weeks before you actually see it...so believe me, I am working it for y'all!)  At this point I'm still waiting.  Anyone out there have any thoughts they want to share about this title??  Please....enlighten us.

Hope you are having a fabulous weekend.  I am on pins and needles here waiting for Mini Mimi's big debut...will keep you posted!!

xo,
Mimi

Friday, May 28, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Novel #97

Another week, another novel.  Before we continue, can I admit something fairly embarrassing to you guys?  I mean, I feel like we're close enough at this point and all...see, when I was all, "Heck yeah I'll read all Top 100 Children's Novels and post about one each week!  That's a finger-snappin' idea!" it never really occurred to me exactly what I was promising. 

And then I mentioned my idea to Mr. Mimi.  After telling you all of course. 

And HE said, "So you're going to do this for the next two years?"

And then I said, "?"

And he said, "If there are 100 of them and you want to do one a week, that's just about two years."

And I said, "?"

So, yeah.  I mean, I guess I could back out but I won't, I can't, I SHALL NOT!  But, um, yes, we will be doing this for the next two years friends.  Who knew we'd be so long term - hope you're ready for that type of commitment.

Enough babbling.  If I keep it up with these long, meandering intros, it will take 3 years at least.  Onto novel number 97!  It's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane  (Click on this image for the link.)  (But don't say I didn't warn you that shopping for children's books is addictive.)  (You heard it here first.)

You know, I was a bit skeptical coming into this book, as is my nature, I guess.  But I have to say I really enjoyed it.  It was a snap to read (took me only three nights...keep in mind I'm a pregnant lady with a mind that enjoys racing at night and, therefore, preventing sleep) and this particular edition has rather large print which would be fab for reading out loud to your friends.  The chapters are nice and short too, so you could squeeze one in real quick before lunch (or whenever) each day, no problem!

Edward Tulane is a rabbit.  At the beginning he is one stuck up s.o.b. who lives with a wealthy girl and has fabulous clothes.  He could care less about anyone around him.  For some reason the girl's grandmother can tell Edward is all uppity-times and one night says to him, "You disappoint me."  And Edward is all, "Whatever."  BUT THEN...(and there's always a but), Edward ends up getting thrown over board.  (Wealthy girl and her family were on a cruise by the by.)  Long story short, he spends a great deal of time at the bottom of the ocean thinking and then ends up getting passed along (through a series of accidents...but again, I'm trying to keep this short in the hopes that you don't click elsewhere) to a lonely older woman, a hobo and his dog, and a sick little girl.  Throughout his journey, Edward learns how to love and what it feels like to be heartbroken. 

I'm debating about telling you the ending.  I totally feel like I need to hold up a sign that says, "Spoiler alert!"  But you know what? I don't think I'm going to do it because it's so sweet and I would feel like a total douche.  So you'll just have to trust me, it's a lovely ending.

I think friends in grades three through five would enjoy this as a class read aloud.  Of course, it would also make a fabulous independent or guided text, but I'm having trouble finding a level on this one.  My guess is someone in the fourth grade on average could handle this on their own, although there is some tricky vocabulary.  Then again, new vocabulary never killed anyone, now did it.

This one gets a full thumbs up from old Mrs. Mimi.  I'm off to start novel #96...after all I've got a long road ahead of me! 

Next up...The Witches by Roald Dahl.  (clapping hands)  (Yeah, I'm alone and clapping.) I heart him.  This will be fun!

Enjoy every minute of your weekend friends,
Mimi

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

He Had Me At Hello...Until I Wanted To Slap Him In The Face

Alternative title for this post - Scenes From The Chip On My Shoulder, Take Five Billion

Welcome back to my series on Education in 2030.  Thanks to these essays I discovered over at the Hoover Institute,  I've been spending some time thinking about how these predictions might shake out for teachers. 

And guess what?  No seriously, guess. 

Give up?  Okay.  NONE of the authors of these essays (at least so far) have ever been teachers!  Yet...they get to make predictions about our future.  You think someone out there would think up the think that maybe a teacher might have something to say about the future of education, and until that day comes, I tag myself.  I'm it.  Feel free to join me.  Sharing is caring after all.

This next essay - written by Daniel T. Willingham is entitled "Teaching in 2030."  And honestly, the man had me at hello.  He writes that in 2010, teachers were overwhelmed by the tasks they had to perform on a daily basis, stating:

"Teachers were called on to perform...tasks that were beyond the capacity of most anyone to perform as expected."

And just like that, I was all on the Willingham bandwagon.  UNTIL, I realized that he was really just being nice before he continues to subtly implies we're selfish morons.

So, natch, that's when I googled his ass.  Come to find out, just like the other essays I have read so far, Mr. Willingham (a.k.a Mr. Willing-To-Subtly-Insult-Teachers) is a cognitive psychologist who studies how to apply the knowledge of his field to that of education.  Now, am I saying that education has nothing to gain from the lessons of other disciplines?  No, I'm not.  Am I subtly implying that this man is a moron incapable of handling complex tasks?  No, no I'm not.  Am I saying, nay screaming, why the hell does this guy get a say, and an insulting one at that when he has never ever walked a day in my shoes (and no, I wouldn't even make him wear high heels while doing it)?!?  Yes.  Yes, I am.

In a nutshell, boyfriend says that teaching pretty much looks the same with desks in rows, teachers at the front and children using computers for only one hour a day.  (My thought...dude, when was the last time you were in a classroom?  Maybe I'm wrong, but most of us no longer have desks in rows...) He then continues to say that in 2030, four obstacles that make teaching more difficult "than it needs to be" will be removed, making teaching considerably easier.

And I'm all, "Sweet!  No more stacks of paperwork, unnecessary and useless assessments, meetings that have no application to what I actually do on a daily basis or colleagues who don't pull their weight! Cha-ching!"

Sadly, these things are so not what this dude is talking about.  He says that teachers are unnecessarily burdened by writing curriculum and lesson plans.  And not because we are given limited time or resources but because we lack the depth of knowledge to do so coherently.  Slightly insulting? Yes.  Is there any truth to this?  Yes.  I mean, let's be real.  We have to be masters of a ton of subjects and knowing each of them deeply is HARD.  Also, there IS a difference between having a great deal of content knowledge (you know, as in, I know a lot about plants) and pedagogical content knowledge (as in, I rock at teaching children about plants). 

However, Mr. Subtly Insults The Teachers over here suggests that this might be remedied by endorsing a national curriculum.  (Propaganda, wha?)  Am I fundamentally opposed to the idea of having national standards for states to use as a guide (although they should absolutely be given the freedom to go above and beyond)?  No, not really.  Am I fundamentally opposed to national standards written without consulting actual teachers in meaningful ways that lead to future national mandates regarding how we teach in addition to a slew of national testing?  Why, yes. Yes I am.  Yet, Mr. Subtle does NOT stand side by side with teachers advocating that they have a meaningful say in such a critical aspect of their jobs.  No, no, no.  HE's saying that it's impossible to expect a teacher ( who is evidently only a few evolutionary steps away from an amoeba in this gentleman's opinion) to do this well so CLEARLY the alternative is to have someone else, someone far removed from a classroom in a think tank far far away to do it for us. 

BLERG! 

Then he throws in some bits about how in 2010 teachers were expected to deal with a wide range of student ability and behavior all in one classroom which is (duh!) totally true.  His solution? To separate our most challenging friends into separate classrooms with expert teachers (read: non-amoebas) and a smaller student to teacher ratio.  Sounds okay in theory, but I'm afraid in practice (because that seems to be where we fall down) it would turn into some sort of alternative universe/dumping ground for children who don't fit the national mold.  All my precious naughty boys!! 

Finally, Mr. I Think Teachers Are Dumb Yet Am Unwilling To Say So Directly suggests that the ability to practice new strategies is different from accumulating years of experience.  Again, it doesn't sound that awful at first.  Of course teachers should have the opportunity to practice their craft via student teaching or mentor relationships and what have you.  HOWEVER, our friend says the following:

"Was it fair to children to allow a novice teacher to “exercise her creativity” in lesson planning when she could use lesson plans proven to, for example, reliably teach decoding to most children? This
reasoning pitted autonomy—a cherished value among teachers—against student learning."

Because, hey, most teachers I know are all about their own creative expression and TO HELL with the children, right?  I mean, who WOULDN'T choose doing an interpretive dance about fractions over, I don't know, actually teaching children fractions in creative ways?

Uh, no.

God forbid we work as individuals, bring a little pizazz to our classrooms, infuse our teaching with our own genuine love of learning (which, by the way, doesn't always follow a predictable, scientifically proven path)!  Boyfriend thinks we would all be better served by sticking to pre-written, pre-proven (whatever the hell that means....) lessons guaranteed to work in any context.  Or your money back?  Do they come with a free Sham-wow? 

The essay is brought home with this: In 2030, classrooms will be "... less chaotic" and dominated by "... instruction that follows a sensible, structured sequence within and across years, delivered via methods that have been tried and shown to work."

Translation: Teachers will become slaves to a national mold that refuses to consider context or individual relationships because everyone getting the same means equality.

I feel a slap coming on. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

I've Got That "Over This" Feeling

I think it's kind of like losing that loving feeling, but more school related and less tortured romance.  All over the lovely blogosphere (again, a word I hate using...so nerdy...so very, very nerdy), teachers are counting down the days.  I always preferred big, black Xs on the calendar.  There's such a feeling of satisfaction when you cross those puppies off with a big, fat, black Sharpie.  *shudders*  Love it. 

I'm not so sure what causes this phenomenon in teachers - this obsessive counting down of the days.  Most of us swear up and down that we LOVE our jobs, we LOVE our little friends, that we CAN'T IMAGINE doing anything else...yet, we all know exactly how many days before our next vacation.  My guess is that we really DO love the kids, the teaching, the planning, the classroom...we just get BURNT OUT on all the other crap that seems to be coming at us from every direction!  (Read: standardized tests, data collection, demands on our time, last minute assemblies and canceled field trips, just for starters.)

Regardless of it's origins, this feeling is perhaps it's most intense at the end of the year.  Intense like you can't take it anymore.  Intense like if one more person asks you to "just be flexible and get it done" you might totally lose your shit.  Intense like sometimes you feel like running from the building like your hair was on fire.  (When in reality, it probably means you leave *gasp* before 5 a few days and feel like you've just stolen something...you know, 'cuz it's so early.)

And the temptations to stop teaching are just everywhere.  Kids are over it.  As is exemplified by their inability to sit still, tear their eyes from the window and/or complete work.  Parents are over it.  As is exemplified by their reluctance to check homework anymore, sign permission slips in a timely manner or call you back.  Administrators are over it.  As is exemplified by their unwillingness to deal with any current issues, have a conversation about anything but next year and/or appear interested.  Sometimes I felt like the last stronghold.  The one digging in my (fabulous) high heels and screaming, "The year isn't over yet!  We can still get so much learning in!! " 

But as I watched everyone around me slowly disengage, I fell victim to the joy that is popping in a video or the rationale of "extra recess" on a gorgeous day.  

Yet every time I did this, I felt consumed with guilt and then spent the next feverish evening planning amazing projects and end-of-the-year fabulousness, because I am a guilty person. It's not one of my better qualities.

So....how are YOU feeling?  How are you dealing with The Bitter End???  (Can you see the light yet?  It's there...at the end of the tunnel!)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Multicultural Books - Ages 5-7 In The House!

Can I get a shout out for my little friends?!  This Sunday, Mrs. Mimi is happy to bring you the selections for children ages 5-7 from the list 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know.  Last week, we covered books for the super small fries, preschoolers.  This week brings us a BUNCH of books I've never read before, so let's bring it. Get your coffee, get your Sharpie, get your favorite list making paper and let's get our read on!

The Nerd Flag has been raised!

First on the list this week is Grandfather Counts by Andrea Cheng.  I loves me a good counting book, so I hope this one is good. (Plus it's a Reading Rainbow book - I heart LeVar Burton from back in the day, don't you?)

Grandfather Counts (Reading Rainbow Book) (Reading Rainbow Books) (If you're new to the extravaganza...welcome and click on the image for links!)

Holy crap!  I thought I was going to get your run of the mill counting book, not a touching story about a grandfather coming to America and bonding with his grand daughter - plus, an added bonus of some basic Chinese vocabulary!  Okay.  So Gong Gong (the grandfather) arrives in the US from China to live with Helen and her family.  Helen has to give up her room and isn't too pumped about it or her inability to communicate with her grandfather.  Then one day, her grandfather joins her as she watches the trains go by and together they count the cars in English and Chinese.  They totally bond and begin to teach each other words in Chinese and English.  Too. Sweet.

So, this read aloud would be perf with friends in first and/or second grades!  I'm thinking you could use it during a unit on counting (although it's not super math heavy at all), a unit on family, a unit on China or other cultures or just as a lovely little story about getting to know and understand one another.  I know a lot of friends in my classes had grandparents from other countries who spoke limited English so this could be a perf time to work on those text-to-self connections - boo yah!  Love it when it all comes together like that!

Next up is Hairs/Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros.  Clearly I've heard of The House on Mango Street, but didn't know she had this text for smaller friends.

Hairs/Pelitos

Sadly, this book is IMPOSSIBLE to find.  I've tracked it down at a semi-local library and am waiting for them to transfer it to my library.  I'm not sure if you know this, but I write a lot of these two or more weeks in advance so...I have been waiting awhile.  Will update asap.  Sor. 

I Lost My Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakite is next.  Personally, loose teeth tweak me out.  I can't say I always handled "tooth related issues" well which was tricky considering they fell out of their mouths like drops of rain from the sky in my classroom.  *shudder*

I Lost My Tooth In Africa

A little girl named Amina is flying from Oregon to visit her father's family in Mali.  She has a loose tooth and her dad says if she loses it in Africa and puts it under a gourd, she will get a chicken from the African Tooth Fairy.  (Insert me breathing sigh of relief that I only have to cough up a buck or two for Mini Mimi...chickens under pillows sound messy.)  Amina greets her family but is very anxious for her tooth to fall out.  When it finally does fall out, Amina puts her tooth under a gourd and soon a rooster and a chicken appear.  Amina takes good care of her chicken and eventually there are eggs!  Soon it is time to go home and Amina is sad to say goodbye to her family and her chickens.  Just before she leaves, she sees the chicks hatch.  Her family says they will be waiting for her and her next visit.

This is a great story.  I really enjoyed the colorful illustrations...you know I'm a sucker for arts 'n farts.  I think this could be a good resource for introducing younger friends to the day-to-day life of people living in other countries.  We see Amina's family's house, how they spend their days and even learn a few terms in their native language.  I used to teach a Houses Around the World unit and would totally add this one in.

Also on the list for this age group is Honey, I Love and Other Poems by Eloise Greenfield.  I heart Greenfield's poems and totally used them as Shared Readings in my classroom.  Especially her ones about city life - perf for our urban and rural unit.

Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems (Reading Rainbow Series)

What a beautiful book of poems!  These would be amazing to use with your friends who are fourth grade on up.  (I know The List we're working from put them in the 5-7 age group and yes, you could pick out a few here and there that would totally work with the little guys, but honestly?  There are a few that are much deeper and would resonate so well with slightly older friends.  At least in my opinion.  And you KNOW I always have one.)  Ranging in length and rhyme scheme, these poems are about everything from jumping rope, to playing in the school band, to riding on the train.  Each poem has a lot of layers for your kiddos to dig into plus they model a lot of different ways to use rhythm, space and line breaks.  I say, chart some of these puppies as Shared Readings (Fourth graders are NOT too old to dig into a poem this way!!), photo copy a few for private reading and definitely use these when you're teaching a writing unit on poetry.

Okay.  I know you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover and blah, blah, blah, but what can I say?  I tend to be a bit judgmental.  (At least I'm honest about my flaws.)  I have been pumped to check this book out since I saw the cover at the library....I hope it doesn't disappoint.  It's Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding by Lenore Look.

Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding

Well, this book didn't disappoint.  A little girl, who is our narrator, is sad that her favorite Uncle Peter is getting married because it means she will have to share him with his new wife Stella.  The girl remains sad throughout the story as we see the couple go through what I imagine are the traditions of a Chinese wedding.  As the day continues, the girl feels more and more left out until....it is almost time for Peter and Stella to leave the party when Stella hands the girl a box.  Inside are thousands of butterflies to be released - Stellas has made her an important part of their special day.  They hug as the girl finally welcomes Stella to the family. 

Okay - this book is pretty cool for lots of reasons.  First of all, I dug the illustrations.  Very creative and colorful.  The story is great too - I think there would be a lot of feelings for our friends to relate to in there.  Plus, we get an inside look at some traditional Chinese customs, which would be hot if you're studying other cultures.  Finally, this book is FILLED with metaphors that are just begging to be discussed in a fab book talk.  Get this one - "I am the jelly on his toast, and the leaves in his tea."  I mean, what?  Fab. 

The list keeps on going with Mirandy and Brother Wind by Patricia C. McKissack.  This is a Caldecott book y'all, so you know I have high expectations.  At the end of every year, we used to sit back and enjoy a month of all Caldecott read alouds - even if it meant repeats.  Sometimes it's just nice to enjoy a book together instead of picking it to pieces and mining it for all it's worth.  This one is new to me though...

Mirandy and Brother Wind (Dragonfly Books)

The book is set in the early 1900s. (I'm guessing.)  It's the night of the cakewalk (a dance) and Mirandy wants to catch Brother Wind so that she can impress everyone.  (Hint: Brother Wind is literally the wind, not some dude's nick name.)  She tries everything to catch him.  Meanwhile, Ezel, who really wants to take Mirandy to the dance, tries to make her jealous by pretending he's going to ask another girl. She never does catch the wind and at the dance, when another girl makes fun of Ezel, Mirandy gets mad, defends her friend and decides to be his partner.  They end up winning the cakewalk. 

I don't know.  This book is a great illustration of what life was like long ago, but I'm not sure it would have held the attention of my first grade friends.  I mean, even I was wondering what the hell a cakewalk is and there really wasn't much of an explanation in the book.  (I totally googled it...you're welcome for the link by the way.)  A lot of the language is reflective of the time period (like "conjure woman," "notion," "do their bidding").  I guess you could spend time using the context to discover the meaning (always a fab strategy to reinforce) but I think it would just be too overwhelming and they'd lose the meaning of the text.  I read the author's note and the story was inspired by her grandparents which is LOVELY, but still...I'm not sure I would use this one.  (insert Debbie Downer music here)

Moving along, we have Shades of Black: A Celebration of our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney.  This book uses a lot of photography and, if I haven't already told you this, Mrs. Mimi fancies herself as a bit of an amateur photographer (I take a lot of pictures of my cat.  Is that sad?) so I love books that use photos to change things up a bit.

Shades Of Black

With very little text (although a rich vocabulary), this book shows all the different skin tones, hair types and styles and eye colors of African American children.  Fabulous photographs are included on each page.  With the refrain, "I am Black, I am Unique," this book is powerful.  First of all, the photos are gorgeous. (Way better than the ones I take of my cat.) And I love the words the author uses to describe the various skin tones of African American children. Get this one. "I am the velvety orange in a peach and the coppery brown in a pretzel."  Talk about beautiful, descriptive language!  You could definitely use this as a mentor text to encourage more descriptive language in your friends' writing.  Also, it reminds me a lot of The Colors of Us, which is one of my favorite books.

I'm going to try to get in as many of the books on this section of the list as I can find, so stick with me. I know this post is getting long with a capital L!  Coming up next is What Can You Do with a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla.  Yet another new book for me to potentially obsess over.  Let's see if it's any good.

What Can You Do with a Paleta?

This is a totally cute little story.  It reminds me of the end of the school year when the kids (and teachers...let's be real) would crowd around the icy cart that sat on the corner outside the school.  50 cents for some of the delicious-ness?  Yes, please.  Back to the story though.  A little girl introduces us to her barrio, complete with a description of all the colors and smells.  But, her favorite thing of all is the paleta wagon (popsicle cart).  She shows us all the things you can do with a paleta - from cooling off to turning your tongue green and scaring your brother.  At the very end, there is a brief paragraph with some additional information about paletas to share with your class.

I think this book would work best with kindergarten or first graders.  You would definitely need to stop and think a bit with some Spanish terms (like "barrio," "fruta," and "sarape") as well as with some of the rich descriptive language.  But there is very little text on each page, so it's totally do-able, plus I'm not sure the story would hold the attention of friends older than first grade.  Great for a unit on Latin American culture, or if you're studying different neighborhoods and cultures. 

And, at the end of our list for this Sunday is Growing Up with Tamales = Los tamales de Ana by Gwendolyn Zepeda.

Growing Up with Tamales/Los Tamales de Ana (Hardcover w/CD)

I'm wiped.  How about you guys?  There ARE a few titles that appear on the list but not in this post.  The only reason for that is they are IMPOSSIBLE to find at any public library nearby.  Here are their titles...you know, just for ha has.

Morning on the Lake  Morning On the Lake by Jan Bourdeau Waboose

World Team  World Team by Tim Vyner

When the Shadbush Blooms  When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger and Susan Katz

The Good Luck Cat  The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo

I'm not giving up on these yet though.  Have tracked them down at other libraries in my state and am waiting for them to get to me.  Updates imminent, y'all!

xo,
Mimi

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Children's Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books #91-87

Welcome back to the third edition of The Children's Book Reading Extravaganza 2010 - the Picture Book List.

Starting us off today at #91 is Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures With the Family Lazardo by William Joyce.  I've seen this book in passing but never read it... and every time I discover a new book through this list, I am beyond excited.  Nerd out much?  Who, meee?

Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo (Reading Rainbow Book) (Reminder: click on images for links.)

While the Lazardo family is on safari in Africa (Geez, tough life!), their son Scotty comes home with a dinosaur and they decide to keep him...you know, since he looks like their Uncle Bob and all.  (*eye brow raise*)  Bob loves the family and everyone in town seems to love him too, until Bob chases cars down the street after observing some dogs do the same thing.  Bob is arrested and the police decide to send him back to Africa.  Clearly people are upset.  Dr. Lazardo has a brilliant idea, and in the middle of the night, sneaks Bob out of jail with the help of the beloved local baseball team.  The next day, Bob is officially made a member of the baseball team, the team wins the big game (with Bob's help of course...because OF COURSE the dinosaur is a whiz at baseball) and Bob no longer has to go back to Africa. 

I mean, bizaare, right?  Just strange.  But the illustrations are lovely, the story is...interesting and the ending is happy.  I would definitely use this in my classroom, but it might be one of those books that I put off to the side for those dreaded extra ten minutes after the assembly but before lunch that you weren't planning on and/or for the old emergency sub plan.  What with the inability of most public schools to plan ahead (seriously, the calendaring skills can be SHOCKING), you never know when a sub will magically show up at your day and tell you you're late for a meeting you've never heard about before.  Stranger things have happened.  So, totes tuck this one away for just such an occassion. 

Coming in at #90 is Not a Box by Antionette Portis - yet another new title for moi, although I have seen it many times as I glance longingly at the wonderful wall of picture books in the Children's Section of Barnsey.  Interesting note about this book - it is a Theodore Seuss Giesel Honored Book.   (Talk about seal of approval!)

Not a Box

Dude!  Talk about CUTE!  This simple text (one sentence per page) and is accompanied by similarly simple illustrations.  But don't let the simplicity fool you - this book is pretty hot.  Each page asks the bunny "Why are you in/on/next to the box?" And let's just say this bunny has a fabulous imagination - he pretends the box is a burning building, a rocket ship, a race car, you name it!!  Great for your new readers, filled with kindergarten and first grade high frequency words, this book would make a great K-1 read aloud.  However, I can also see myself using this with slightly older children to inspire art projects.  One of my former Super Colleagues loves to do "trash" sculptures for Earth Day and I can imagine using this text to help children unlock the artistic possibilities of everyday objects.  And you KNOW how I loves me a good art project...

At #89 is A Hole is to Dig: A First Book of First Definitions by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.  Seriously, The List is starting to give me a complex- why haven't I heard of so many of these fabulous books?!

A Hole Is to Dig

Okay. I'm going to be honest with you.  (I say that like normally I'm a huge liar or something.)  Anyhow, I'm not sure how I feel about this one.  I want to love it.  Want.  To.  Tried.  To.  Am.  Struggling.  See, each page has super cute "definitions" such as "A castle is to build in the sand", "A hole is to sit in," "A dream is to look at the night and see things"  So, not really definition definitions, but sweet ideas.  No real story line or plot to follow.  And, as trivial as this may seem, no punctuation.  At all.  Capitals at the beginning of sentences, no periods.  I'm afraid I just don't get it.  Anyone want to clue me in?  Change my mind?  PLEASE chime in!

Moving along, we have Stellaluna by Janell Cannon at #88.  I mean, has everyone read (and loved) this book, or what?

Stellaluna - Oversize edition



Stellaluna and her mother, both fruit bats, are attacked by an owl one night while looking for food.  The mother drops Stellaluna who falls into a bird's nest.  Soon, Stellaluna learns to act more like the birds, who take her in as family, except she still likes to sleep hanging upside down.  She tries to teach the other birds to hang upside down, but upsets the mother bird who thinks this is dangerous.  Stellaluna promises not to hang by her feet anymore.  Soon Stellaluna and the little birds are ready to fly but Stellaluna is too clumsy to land like the other birds so she flies and flies and soon gets separated
 from the group.  Alone, hanging from a branch late at night, another bat comes along and Stellaluna tells them her story.  One of the bats thinks the story sounds familiar and realizes that she is Stellaluna's mother!  Stellaluna goes to tell the birds about finding her mother.  They try to do things together but realize they are very different.  Despite their differences, they vow to remain friends.

This story is a total classic.  One of my fave themes to study is that of unlikely friendships.  This book is perfect for that kind of work!  I love the story and the pictures are absolutely amazing.  Clearly, this is great read aloud material for friends in grades K-2, but as an independent reading book would be perfect for grade three readers. (According to Fountas and Pinnell, it's a level N.)   The end has some interesting notes and facts about bats too.  I say, two thumbs up.

Last, but not least, at #87 we have Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes.  Like most people, I have a special place in my heart for Kevin Henkes' books.  (Although I feel like I've heard everyone pronounce his last name a different way...any consensus out there?)

Kitten's First Full Moon

*sigh* Love Kevin Henkes!  A super adorable kitten (I also have a thing for kitties, so watch out!) sees a full moon and believes it is a bowl full of milk.  She tries and tries to reach the bowl of milk to drink it without much success.  Poor kitten!  After several tries, she sees the moon reflected in a pond and thinks it's an even bigger bowl of milk.  Clearly, our adorable friend dives in and gets soaking wet.  Eventually she goes home and finds a bowl of milk waiting for her on the porch.   Can you say CUTE with a capital C?  An adorable read aloud for kindergarten and first grade friends.  Adorable!  However, I would also use this book with children as old as second grade to illustrate Kevin Henkes' fabulous ability to describe action.  You know, a lovely little mentor text for writer's workshop?  He really stretches out the action and describes what the kitten does with her body like a pro- a perfect example for our friends who like to keep their writing...um, let's just call it "succinct."

Well, that's it for this weekend, friends.  Interested in following along?  Check out the original list over at the School Library Journal.

Just FYI, Mr. Mimi is seriously living in fear that I will run out in a fit of Picture Book Mania and buy every single one of these books.  Every.  Single.  One.  And he should be afraid.  Very afraid.

Enjoy your weekend!
Hugs,
Mimi

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