Monday, September 26, 2016

Paint By Sticker Kids: Zoo Animals

Paint By Sticker Kids: Zoo Animals
2016 (Workman Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

All you have to do is find 31. It's over ...there. You place the sticker onto the space. It's as if you filled the space with a perfectly even coat of paint.

One of the concerns that I have had lately about students in K-2 is their lack of gross motor skills. It seems like they are not able to cut with scissors or perform other craft skills as deftly as I remember in previous decades. So I'm all for activities that will boost these skills. Paint By Sticker fits the bill and I'm not surprised that Workman Publishing has published this book because they are so good at creating fun crafts for kids. The first half of the book is ten templates for placing the stickers. The second half contains the colorful stickers. Some of these templates have over 50 stickers so it's not a simple walk in the park to create these mosaics. That makes it even better as you get a greater sense of accomplishment when you finish. As a parent who has survived many many car trips, this would be a great book to give to a child before you go over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house. Among the animals featured are a gecko, a peacock, and a puffin. In the classroom, this book would be a good resource for talking about both regular and irregular polygons. Coloring is back in vogue, but if you want a change of pace, consider this cool sticker book.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Frightlopedia

Frightlopedia
written by Julie Winterbottom; illustrated by Stefano Tambellini
2016 (Workman Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

One sting can kill a human. If you survive a sting, you have Irukandji syndrome to look forward to: It causes body pain, nausea, and a feeling of impending doom. 

If you dare to read this book, I suggest you do it in full daylight. Say 9:00 in the morning. This is not a book to keep on your nightstand. It's an A-Z horn of plenty of horror. Don't believe me? Read about the Island of the Dolls. This is a small island near Mexico City that was populated by a single man. He found a doll floating in water one day and decided to hang it from a tree in memory of a deceased girl. Then he found more dolls in trash piles and began putting them all around the island. Visitors also contributed to this dystopian doll vision which added to the alarming ambience of the island. Thousands of dolls, many with missing limbs, looking down at you. EEEYAHHHH! That's only one of the many "eww-inspiring" entries that you will find in the Frightlopedia. You know about Venus flytraps, but are you aware of the Nepenthes plant? Similar to a pitcher plant, it captures mice, rats, lizards, and even birds. One such plant in France produced a smell so foul that visitors to the botanic garden raised complaints. Seems a partially digested mouse was a victim of the Nepenthes. In addition to the nonfiction nightmares, spine-tingling stories are interwoven throughout the book. One such tale is of the mujina which is a Japanese phantom. This ghost story will not help you face your fears.

Frightlopedia is the textual version of a roller coaster ride. At first, you wonder why in the world you are reading it. Then, you want to put it away, but you can't. The harness is locked and you have made a commitment to this ride. You're scared as you go through the loops and dives of these entries, but the thrill is so big that you don't dare stop. When you're finished, you're breathless, but exhilarated and ready to go again. Students who are reluctant to pick up other books may find a different reaction to this book. It's got the weird factor that makes you want to share with others, which is a big deal with reading. If you care to share, you'll keep reading. With Halloween approaching, Frightlopedia would be a fun read-aloud with older students. I would challenge them to determine if the entry is fiction or nonfiction. Scare up a thrilling reading experience by finding a copy of the Frightlopedia.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate: A Doodle Adventure

Doodle Adventures: The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate
written and illustrated by Mike Lowery
2016 (Workman Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Look! It's a flying skorb!

Carl the Duck is back with another mission for you. He’s desperately hungry and can’t find any pizza. To stave off Carl being especially hangry (hungry + angry), you have to doodle your way to solving the mystery of the missing pizza. The cool part is that you can actually write in this book and it’s not a standardized test. Your first stop in looking for clues is La Pizza Magnifico restaurant. What you find is a total lack of pizza but plenty of feathers and parrot droppings. Hmmm. At your next stop, the Dough Factory, you have to draw something that will allow you and Carl to peek inside the windows. No dough here, just a sword in the gears of the stopped machines. Moving on to his favorite pizza joint, a footprint and what looks like a stick leg imprint next to each one only stump Carl as to who this pie crook might be. Fortunately, you are his sidekick and you’re smart enough to put the clues together. And doubly lucky, the thief left a treasure map for you and Carl to use. Now you just need to draw a cool aquatic transport so you can catch up to this mozzarella stealing monster. On the way to your destination, you’ll meet a overly conversational iceberg, two prank-playing clouds, and a pack of piranhas. With your drawing skills, you will sketch something heinously smelly to ward them off.

What do you get when you combine a whiny fowl, the best food in the world, a pernicious yet surprising pirate, loads of puns, and the chance to mark your book with cool drawings? You get a really fun reading experience. You get a story that will inspire young wannabe writers to stretch themselves. You get a book that will take the edge off a long car trip. All of this and more await you in your Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Strange, Unusual, Gross, and Cool Animals

Strange, Unusual, Gross, and Cool Animals
written by Charles Ghigna
2016 (Liberty Street)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

The ghost octopus has no pigment in its skin. It also has very few muscles. 

So what’s to recommend this book? Let’s be honest with each other. There are several books out there that are full of photographs of cool and unusual animals. They tend to look the same. Let me tell you why this one is a keeper. First, it truly has unusual animals on display. Ever heard of a rhombic egg eater? Me either, and I read A LOT of these kinds of books. This geometric marvel hangs out in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. How do I know that? One of the four types of pages in this text is the Creature Feature. You get a table full of facts that includes size, habitat, diet, and conservation status. Also included free of charge is a map that shows the location of the featured creature. Other animals in this book that were new to me included the rosy wolfsnail, perhaps the baaadest snail in town. It moves three times as fast as other snails and is a carnivore. Sneaks up on other snails leaving nothing but a shell. Whoa! Do you want to teach theme? This book has a second type of page called the gallery which gathers weird critters under one umbrella. My favorite is The Throw-Up Throw-Down theme. Included is the Northern Fulmar which throws up an oily liquid to thwart predators. Want to teach the skill of comparing and contrasting? The third type of page is Creature Collection. One section, Bugging Out,  has bizarre beetles, moths, and other insects that can be viewed as a way to work on contrasting two or more insects. Which one looks more fierce? Who is more likely to survive in the wild? I envision asking students to use this spread as the source for a fun opinion writing activity. The final type of page is the Macroview which takes a tiny animal and shows you the smallest details through a huge photograph. Look into the creepy eyes of a praying mantis. See the scales of a changeable lizard. This is where you can pull in a lesson on geometric shapes.

I keep thinking that we will run out of cool and gross animals, but I have been proven wrong once again. You want this book because it is the hot topic of informational text for kids. You will find very few children who won’t go gaga over Animal Planet’s Strange, Unusual, Gross, and Cool Animals. My sixth grader just devoured it like a bowl of ice cream with sprinkles.

Monday, September 19, 2016

My First Book of Hockey

My First Book of Hockey
written by Mark Bechtel and Beth Bugler
illustrated by Bill Hinds
2016 (Liberty Street)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

The goalie stands in front of the net. He wears extra pads and a catching glove to help stop the puck. Plus, he gets to wear a scary mask. 

Hockey may be the least understood of the four major North American sports and therefore the most in need of a primer for newbie fans. I'm a sports geek and I still get confused about aspects of the game. As part of the Rookie Books series from Sports Illustrated Kids, My First Book of Hockey gets us ready for the upcoming season. You'll find out about the number of players, the job of each player, and other intricacies of the game such as time and penalties. One of the great uses of a book like this is to teach vocabulary and how authors help readers understand new words. On some of the spreads, the authors let the illustration do the heavy lifting of guiding the reader to the meaning. Other spreads use the words around the term to help do the explaining. I like this book to use for mini-lessons because there are going to be terms that many students are not familiar with. This Rookie Book is also a good mentor text for how to write an all-about book which are popular in the writing workshops of first and second grade. These short bursts of information are just what is needed for such books. Another feature of this book are the humorous illustrations and captions of a pee-wee hockey player who looks like the little brother of Sports Illustrated for Kids fave Buzz Beamer. Young readers will appreciate the humor.

One activity that I would use with this book would be an opinion piece that asks writers to compare hockey to another sport. I would ask writers to find the sport that they think most closely resembles hockey or one that is completely different. If you know a young hockey fan or a potential one, My First Book of Hockey will shoot and score for them.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Paper Animals

Paper Animals
2016 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

The creative possibilities of origami are endless: from simple designs like a boat to much more complex ones like a giraffe. 

On page two of Paper Animals, it talks about how practicing origami brings calm and patience. With 14 different animals you can make, it also brings fun. Paper Animals provides not only the directions, but the paper for making these animals and a culminating sailboat for their transportation. The animals get more difficult to make as you move up. Each design is rated either low, medium, or high for difficulty. The book starts with a simple cat and dog design. With each step, you get directions and illustrations to show how to fold the paper. Dotted lines show where to fold the paper and continuous lines show the final fold. Animal designs include a mouse, a butterfly, and perhaps most difficult, a giraffe.

Paper Animals would be a fun way to work on reading and writing procedural text. Having craft activities, like origami, also gives students who may struggle academically a chance to be leaders. They are so excited to go from desk to desk to give advice and support. As you can see by the cover, Paper Animals is a boatload of fun.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Amelia Who Could Fly

Amelia Who Could Fly
written by Mara Dal Corso; illustrated by Daniela Volpari
2016 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

My name is Amelia. I am ten, and I am ready to take off.
Someday, I will be in a scrapbook. Someday, I will fly. 


Amelia Earhart was flying before we ever knew it. In the field behind her grandparents’ home in Kansas, she soared as she climbed rocks and jumped with arms spread out. She could feel the wind carrying her away. When she was 7, her uncle built a launchpad for Amelia’s homemade flying machine. It was a short flight, but it spurred the young aviator to greater heights despite the resulting skinned knees. A trip to the state fair yielded a roller coaster ride with her Papa. Thrills came not only from the rise and falls, but also the speed. But this paled in comparison to what emerged from the clouds. Amelia’s future, in the form of an airplane, was now well on its way.

We now have yet another reason to love Italy. Published in 2015, this picture book import is a delightful recreation of the childhood of Amelia Earhart. Why did she decided to become a pilot? The answer, and what I think is also the lesson of this book, lies in the experiences. It is the adventures of our lives, not the things we procure, that make it worth living. Amelia’s spirit is formed by her play in the fields of her grandparents. Learning to fly and crash, made her stronger. Trips, like to the state fair, inspired her to the daredevil pursuits of her adulthood. If we want to soar like Amelia, we’re going to have to experience some living and not just being. Provide the children in your life with experiences that will make an impression. You may just have the next Amelia Earhart in your backyard or classroom.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Cordelia

Cordelia
written and illustrated by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt
2016 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Just because another can't see this world like you,
doesn't make things impossible, or mean they are not true.

Cordelia was a high flyer. She soared because she believed that she could. The more she believed, the higher she went. With the birds and above the dolphins in the sea, Cordelia made friends everywhere. The sky may have been the limit for others, but not for her. The moon smiled and the stars loved to dance when they saw her. Happiness enveloped Cordelia until doubts were raised. She tried to explain how she took flight and the things that she saw, but to no avail. After heaps of derision, Cordelia began to doubt. The flying stopped. No twirling, spinning, smiling; no gliding on the breeze. Her friends in the sea, sky, and space missed her. Gradually, Cordelia became like everyone else. Living in a drab, gray world, she decided that something had to change. Cordelia got her swagger back by nixing the naysayers. They weren't going to be the boss of her. If she wanted to fly, she was going to fly. Cordelia was set free because she believed in herself, even if nobody else did.

Give me a spunky, independent protagonist any day of the week! Discussions about believing in yourself and thinking independently are needed in every classroom. What's doubly nice about Cordelia is that it's written in rhyme which makes for a great shared reading experience. Projecting it on your board, you can work on reading in phrases as opposed to word by word. Finally, I would encourage adults to read this book. We need to make sure we're not squashing the hopes of kids who dare to dream big. Let's encourage our students in their endeavors and not cut off their wings. And maybe, like Cordelia, you'll learn to fly again too. It's never too late.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Too Many Questions!

Too Many Questions!
written and illustrated by Kathryn Dennis
2016 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Did anyone notice I'm leaving?


What is the number one way a young child can drive their parental units to mental exhaustion? It might be the forty-ninth reading of a favorite book. Or the formation of a pool on your bathroom floor during bath time. Perhaps the number one way is the asking of a question, or two, or three hundred. Alexander Pope wrote “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” I’m not sure he wasn’t thinking about toddlers, but the phrase fits. Knowledge is followed by more questions. Mouse is one such youngster. “Why do I have a tail?,  “Are my ears too big?”, and “Why do I have to take a bath?” are some of his many queries. His family is understandably overwhelmed. So much so that Mouse feels the need to go on the road to find answers for his ever expanding list. Having looked in every direction including deep, Mouse goes the altitude route and seeks the wise man on the top of the mountain. After taking a figurative body blow due to Mouse’s incessant inquisition, the wise man directs him to a place where he will find answers to his questions.

Kathryn Dennis could have taken the easy way out and written a sweet little story about a mouse family taking their child to the library to get a card. Instead, she writes a clever tale with a surprise ending in a very short text. This is probably one of the most difficult tasks you can give a writer. Not only that, but Dennis puts a bow on this literary present by giving us three pages of questions and answers at the end of the book. Questions include "Could dinosaurs swim?", "Do pineapples grow on pine trees?", and "Where does the water in your bathtub go?". We should celebrate with young readers that Mouse's questions led to a big answer. They also led to a very entertaining book.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

How to Tuck In Your Sleepy Lion

How to Tuck In Your Sleepy Lion
written by Jane Clarke; illustrated by Georgie Birkett
2016 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Talk to him in whispers, sing him lullabies. Rock-a-bye your lion cub. Will he close his eyes?


How do you tuck in a sleepy lion? You might guess very carefully, but there’s more to it than that. The lion may be tired, but he’s not sleepy. He might run from the bathtub, so you’ll need to dress him in striped PJs. If he wriggles, don’t chastise him. Wriggle along, and you might also giggle and squiggle. A quick scoop and hug will carry him to bed, but it’s not lights out yet. A stuffed Ted needs to be present and a favorite book read. And read again. Surely the eyes are closing now, but you’ll need to finish strong. The final touch is a lullaby, a tuck-in, and a kiss on ears and paws. Soon the ZZZs take over.

The new How To series from Kane Miller imagines toddlers taking care of their animal loved ones. This series is designed to introduce the youngest readers to familiar tasks at home. Sleepy Lion certainly accomplishes this in an adorable fashion, but it can be used with readers above the preschool age too. Try reading this board book to a kindergarten or first grade class as a precursor to a unit on creating how-to books. It would also work well as an introduction to a graphic organizer on sequence. Do you have a young reader who needs extra help with how to retell a story? This is purrrfect for that task. You can work on the skill with a shared reading. Rhyming is also part of the text, but listeners will have to work for it. The rhymes are not obvious, which is a good challenge for the primary crowd. You’ll want to add this book to your den of bedtime books.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

1st and 10: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Football

1st and 10: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Football
written by Gary Gramling, Christina M. Tapper, and Paul Ulane
2016 (Liberty Street)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Interestingly, cheeseheads didn't always wear green. Blue and yellow were the Packers' colors until 1950. 

Are you ready for some football? If not, you need to run a wide sweep to the right with this book under your arm. Junior sportos will be enthralled with this latest offering from Sports Illustrated for Kids. There are the fabulous photographs that you would expect from SI. Steeler’s linebacker Jack Lambert with his missing teeth is worth the price of admission alone.  Each photograph is part of a list that highlights an interesting facet of the most popular sport in America. There are thirty-six different top ten lists. Who are the top ten quarterbacks? That’s an instant discussion starter and entry to writing an opinion paper. I agree with the writers about their selection of Joe Montana. He won four Super Bowls and didn’t lose one. My friends in New England would argue that Tom Brady has also won four Super Bowls and appeared in an extra two. That’s one of the reasons why this book is such a fun read. What might be underrated about First and Ten are the learning opportunities that can come about from using this book.

I’ve already mentioned how you can this can jump start an opinion writing unit. How about boosting discussion skills? Even if you don’t care a bit about the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, you can still chime in on lists featuring nicknames, helmets, and wacky weather games. Speaking of weather, use the photograph of the infamous Fog Bowl to enhance your teaching of condensation. Visibility on the field was only about 10 to 15 yards during this game. Ask students to put on their cause and effect helmets to figure out how this figurative pea soup would have altered the game. The possibilities are endless for skill lessons in reading and writing workshops. When readers see that Jim Brown tops the list of best running backs, they will probably say “Who?”. That opens the door for research! Don’t get penalized by passing on First and Ten. Upon further review, find a copy for your classroom.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Reading Workshop Videos


If you haven't checked out the videos on the Teachers College Vimeo site, you need to do so. I've watched two excellent teachers (first and second grade) as they engage readers during Reading Workshop. Even for old hands like myself, it's good to watch another teacher as they work through mini-lessons, shared readings, and conferences. Rightfully so, we complain about the lack of time to watch other teachers practice our craft. With these free videos, we can watch other teachers in their classrooms without leaving our own class. I would recommend watching the pre and post conference videos as well because you get to hear the thinking of the teachers. These videos are a great resource for working with beginning teachers and/or teachers new to that particular grade level. Below is a mini-lesson from 2nd grade. 



Second Grade # 3 - Reading Minilesson from TC Reading and Writing Project on Vimeo.