Sunday, July 2, 2017

Duck on a Tractor by David Shannon

Duck on a Tractor by David Shannon. Published (2016). 32 unnumbered pages.  L AD 480L. RL 208 Int Level K-3.  Once again, Duck has great ideas about what to do and his abilities. See how he accomplishes his desires, and how everyone perceives what they see.
Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Online))
Preschool-Grade 1. Duck is at it again with his wild ideas! Since he was able to ride a bike (Duck on a Bike, 2002), why not try a tractor? Once he gets it running, duck invites the farm animals to hop on for a ride. While getting aboard, the animals each exclaim one thing, but think another. ‘Woof!’ said Dog. But what he thought was, ‘We’re going for a ride!’“ The animals catch the attention of the townsfolk as Duck drives the tractor past the diner, where, like the animals, each person exclaims one thing but thinks another. When Farmer O’Dell realizes that the animals are on his tractor, it’s a mad dash for the animals back to the farm while the townsfolk wonder if what they saw was just an optical illusion. Shannon’s engaging text, lightly sprinkled with onomatopoeia, offers comical insight into the difference between thoughts and words, and his brightly colored paintings fill the pages with hilarious, over-the-top facial expressions. A great read aloud—one-on-one or for story time

Duck on a Tractor is such a great example of trying to do something you shouldn't be able to do and succeeding. Yet, the second part of this story is all about how everyone in the story says one thing, while really thinking something completely different.  This book has opened up lots of discussions in 1st grade about, "Do we really always say what we are thinking?", and talking about examples from personal experiences.  The children always like to discuss the illustrations as I show them other books that David Shannon has either written and illustrated or just illustrated.  This book is a definite winner.

~Posted by Margo Irving

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Freedom over me: eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life by Ashley Bryan

Freedom over me: eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life written by Ashley Bryan. (Published 2016). 46 unnumbered pages. L730. RL 4.7 Int Lvl. 3-6. Through poetic elegance, Bryan brings life, hopes, and dreams to 11 names of slaves who were listed merely as pieces of property is an estate appraisal, thereby giving the human dignity (though imagined) that these people were denied in their lifetime.  

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2016)

A historical document dated July 5, 1828, lists the property to be sold from the Fairchilds’ estate. Hogs. Cattle. A handmill. Men. Women. Children. While no information beyond the gender and name—and price—of each of the eleven enslaved people is noted in the appraisal of the estate, Bryan lovingly restores their humanity and dignity, giving them ages, true African names, relationships, talents, hopes, and dreams. Here is the account of eleven human beings, all of whom are aware of what they contribute to the Fairchilds plantation and, more importantly, what they would like to contribute to the world. Each slave is afforded two double-page spreads of poetry: the first spread serves as his or her introduction; the second is devoted to his or her dreams. We meet Peggy, the Fairchilds’ cook, who is praised by the Fairchilds for the spices she adds to meals at the Big House. In “Peggy Dreams,” she remembers her life in Africa and reveals that she’s proud of her ability to heal injured fellow slaves through her work with roots and herbs. Bacus is known for his metalwork in fencing the Big House, but his dream admits that the pounding of the metal is “an outlet for anger, for rage…a blow for justice…a cry for respect.” Bryan’s art is just as intentional. Facsimiles of the historical document serve as background for each slave’s introduction page, portraits of their faces taking precedence as they gaze out at the reader. The portraits are etched in a manner similar to wood carvings, suggesting the mask each slave wears for day-to-day life on the plantation. In contrast to the dry, parchment-like tones of the introductions, the dream spreads are in gloriously brilliant colors, as bold as the aspirations of the individuals themselves. eboni njoku
This thought-provoking book was much more than a read aloud for my older elementary students. It elicited discussion, questions, disbelief, and even action from my young students just being introduced to the unfair conditions in the world that preceded their lifetimes. One beautiful aspect of the book, is that it was more powerful to read it just a few pages a day, (which is often preferred due to tight scheduling) and then spend time reflecting and looking to the future of how we want our world today. 

~Posted by Liz Stafford

A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin

A Dog's Life: Autobiography of a Stray written by Ann M. Martin (Published 2005). 182 pages. L870. RL 4.9 Int Lvl. 3-6. A stray dog tells her life story detailing her beginning in a shed with her protective mom and her sibling, recounting her times learning about nature, danger, and safety on her own, and remembering the friendships full of trust and hope along the way. 

Booklist (December 1, 2005 (Vol. 102, No. 7))

Gr. 4-6. Novels for children rarely follow characters from birth to the threshold of the grave, but then again, most protagonists do not measure their life spans in dog years. In this "autobiography"of a dog named Squirrel, Newbery Honor Book author Martin imagines how a stray separated from its family in puppyhood finds its way in the world. Martin adjusts to her character's limited viewpoint by combining a retrospective structure--allowing an older, wiser Squirrel to shed light on things not within a puppy's purview--with graceful dog's-eye descriptions of nature, as when a moon waxes "from the tiny curl of a cat's claw to a half-closed eye."Less effective are the repetitive plot structure and the concluding focus on Squirrel's twilight years, lending the novel an elegiac tone that may not resonate with its target audience. Readers who love animal survival stories in the tradition of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty (1877) and Sheila Burnford's The Incredible Journey (1961) will embrace this for its convincing animal perspective, though some sad events may shock the softer hearted.
This book is one of my all-time favorites. It mesmerizes my students from the very first page, and has them clapping and cheering for the dog named Squirrel throughout the whole story. They hold their breath as they listen to the dangerous, heroic, and even sometimes abusive stories this dog tells. It is hard for me to keep a dry eye as I narrate this amazing book. Kids cry right along with me as they empathize and think of their own pets in their lives. This is my "go-to" book to pull my students in for a wonderful story.

~Posted by Liz Stafford

One by Kathryn Otoshi

One by Kathryn Otoshi. Published 2008. 34 unnumbered pages. 360L R.L. 3.4  IL K-3.  The message in One is clear, it takes one person to stand up and stop bullying.

Booklist starred (November 15, 2008 (Vol. 105, No. 6))
Preschool-Grade 1. There are many stories about bullies, but few have looked at the subject in such an attractive, original way. Using round splashes of watercolors as their personas, Otoshi introduces a group of colors. Quiet Blue likes looking at the sky. The other colors have their own characteristics: Orange is outgoing; Green is bright; Purple is regal. Red, though, is a hothead and likes to tease: “Red is hot. Blue is not.” Blue feels bad, and though the other colors comfort him, they’re afraid of Red. In a dramatic and effective spread, Red, feeling mean, grows into a bigger, ever-angrier ball. Enter One. The sturdy numeral wins over the other colors with laughter, making Red even madder, but when he tries his bullying ways on One, One stands up to him. The other colors follow, turning Red into a small ball. He is rolling away when Blue gracefully offers him a chance to be counted. The use of colors and numbers gives the story a much-needed universality, and there is a visceral power in the “strength-in-numbers” gambit (although it should be noted that it can work for ill as well as good). Otoshi cleverly offers a way to talk to very young children about the subject of bullying, even as she helps put their imaginations to work on solutions.

Although One, a simple book, is directed to the primary level, it works with all students.  Not only does it work, but it works well. I find that it is the perfect book to share with students at the beginning of the year as well as when teaching character traits.  As I share it with students, I often ask them to make a mental note of questions they have or things they notice.  When we discuss it, I love how students make connections to their own lives as well as feel empowered to stand with students who are not being treated kindly out at recess.  

~Posted by Kellie Hale

I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Published 2015. 22 unnumbered pages. R.L. 1.8 K-3.  This is the perfect book for wrapping up a school year with your students.

Booklist (May 1, 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 17))
Preschool-Grade 1. Known for their clever collaborations like Duck! Rabbit! (2009)—who knew bunny ears and water fowl bills could have so much in common?—and Wumbers (2012), Rosenthal and Lichtenheld have come up with another book full of unique perspectives. This paean to wishes includes such charmers as, “I wish you more tippy-toes than deep,” illustrated with a picture of a boy whose grin just barely breaks the surface of a pool’s aquamarine depths. A cheery yellow atmosphere embraces two girls holding each other next to the hope, “I wish you more hugs than ughs,” while another vignette features a girl flying across the page, pulled by the leash of an exuberant dog, to the accompaniment of, “I wish you more woo-hoo! than whoa!” Primarily colored in blues, greens, and sunshine and inhabited by children representing a multiracial spectrum, this makes a nice end-of-year offering to graduates of all ages and grades, from preschool to grad school. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This ├╝berpopular, best-selling duo have a solid reputation in the picture-book world. Expect demand to be high.
As the school year comes to end each year, I find myself straddling two big emotions. Like my students, I am excited to begin my summer break, but dreading saying good bye to the students who have been my life for the last 9 months. Sharing this simple book, I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, as a read aloud with my class is the best way to tell my students that they will be missed while, at the same time, letting them know I think they have an amazing adventure ahead of them.  After sharing the book with my class, I ask them to notice the cover.  On it, a young boy is blowing on a dandelion making a wish.  I ask my students to share with the class some of their wishes for the future.   

Posted by Kellie Hale

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

Love That Dog written by Sharon Creech. (Published 2001). 86 pages. L1010. RL 4.5 Int Lvl. 3-6. This novel written in free-verse tells the heart-warming story of a boy who does not believe that he can write poetry, but becomes a believer as his teacher encourages him to tell the story of his beloved dog. 

Booklist (August 2001 (Vol. 97, No. 22))
Gr. 3-6. In simple free verse, Jack tells his teacher that he cares nothing about poetry and sees no point in that snowy woods stuff: "Why doesn't the person just / keep going if he's got / so many miles to go before he sleeps?". But despite himself, he's enraptured by what his teacher is reading: the beat of "Tiger, tiger burning bright" just won't go away. At the same time, he's writing poetry in his own voice about himself, culminating in a breathtaking poem about what happened to his beloved dog. At the end, Creech overdoes Jack's fawning adoration of author Walter Dean Myers, who comes to school at Jack's behest, but that won't stop kids from recognizing both Jack's new exuberance and his earlier uptight mood. Best of all, the story shows how poetry inspires reading and writing with everyday words that make personal music. This is a book for teachers to read aloud and talk about with kids. Some of the poems Jack's teacher reads are appended, including Myers'wonderful "Love That Boy."
There are not many more authentic teachable moments in my class as when my students are trying to write poetry and see themselves as poets. I treasure the times when they break out of their shells and write their thoughts and feelings creatively. Using Love That Dog as a mentor text helps my students see how even the most reluctant writer can write the most beautiful poems. Their courage and confidence grows every time my students hear how the main character, Jack,uses his own ordinary thoughts to create thoughtful, unique poetry.  
~Posted by Liz Stafford

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Fiona's Lace by Patricia Polacco

Fiona's Lace by Patricia Polacco.  Published (2014).  40 unnumbered pages.  740 L AD.  R.L.4.3 Level K-3.  Patricia Polacco once again tells us of a different time and kind of life in this beautifully written story of immigrating to America from Ireland and the Chicago Fire.

Booklist (September 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 1))
Grades 1-3. The most compelling feature of this well-crafted immigrants’ story is how it might inspire adults to share their own family stories with their kids. Polacco, who is of Russian Ukrainian and Irish descent, uses the experiences of her Irish ancestors to tell this story of a poor lace-making family in Ireland who, after the closing of the local mill, decide they must journey to America. It is a familiar immigrant story of expecting riches but meeting hardship, told with admirable economy and effectiveness, especially at showing the Irish women as indentured servants of a wealthy family in Chicago. The climax is the Great Chicago Fire, which we see from the perspective of Fiona and her little sister, who are alone at home. Fiona grabs some precious lace, executing a nifty reunion of the scattered family, leading to a wonderful resolution. There is quite a lot happening here, and Polacco handles it with aplomb, offering up clear, detailed prose and hardscrabble watercolor illustrations that drive home both rural and urban struggles.
Fiona's Lace is a wonderful book opening many discussion possibilities.  When our 4th graders are discussing immigration I read this book and bring samples of all the different kinds of lace that I can find.  Passing them around the class, we talk about how it is made and how much time is required to produce it. Students have already heard The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco, and many students link the two books as important fabric art as well as the importance women have in handing down traditions.
~Posted by Margo Irving