Archive for the 'Children’s Books' Category

March 2nd – Dr. Seuss’s Birthday (He’d be a good Republican!)

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Whew!  Today was Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and I was in charge of the week-long celebration at my school.  I’ve read Dr. Seuss books until I’m ready to give them up for awhile.  I’ve worn a Cat in the Hat hat until I couldn’t stand it anymore.  Wearing a hat makes one’s head VERY hot and sweaty.  Then this morning at 7:30 I was at a local grocery store picking up FIFTY dozen cookies to take to school (in lieu of birthday cake) so that all the children, teachers, and support staff could have a treat to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday.

This afternoon, I came home and found one of the best posts on Dr. Seuss that I’ve read.  It was at Something . . . and Half of Something.  Linda has included some political cartoons that Dr. Seuss drew, along with some history of his children’s books. 

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Don’t Be Silly, Mrs. Millie

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

I read a new book to two preschool classes recently: Don’t Be Silly, Mrs. Millie, written by Judy Cox and illustrated by Joe Mathieu. It’s a great read-aloud for young children, from preschool all the way through second or third grade.

Don't Be Silly, Mrs. Millie!
Don’t Be Silly, Mrs. Millie!

Mrs. Millie is a teacher who teasingly uses the wrong (but similar) words.  Her students must supply the right ones. For example:

“It’s nine o’clock. Time to write, ” Mrs. Millie says. “Get out your paper and penguins.”
“Don’t be silly, Mrs. Millie! You mean our paper and pencils!”

The illustrations go along with the malaprops, and the children with whom I’ve shared the books have enjoyed many laughs over the pictures.

This would be a great book to use in discussing word choice in writing.  It will also help children learn to look at words more carefully and notice the differences in similar words.

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“Making Connections” with Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Part of my job as a reading specialist is to teach demonstration lessons on reading strategies.  It’s one of my favorite parts of my job because I get to work in classrooms with children and teachers.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is an excellent book to use for teaching children to make connections as they read.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

The book is packed with wonderful “connection-maker” writing.  Wilfrid Gordon helps Miss Nancy, an elderly neighbor who has “lost her memory,” regain old memories and make new ones.

Prior to reading the book aloud to the children, I remind them of what it means to make a connection.  Then I introduce the three kinds of connections:  text to self, text to text, and text to world.  I give each child three sticky notes and ask them to write down any connections they make as I read the story.

As I read, I stop frequently to share my own connections (modeling).  In the “memories make you cry” part, I tell about my father’s death.  In the “memories are warm” part, I tell about the time when I was a child and we had an ice storm. The electricity was off for a few days, and my entire family slept around the fireplace.  It was cold outside, but inside we were all warm and safe.  As I read I also stop occasionally and let the children share the connections they’ve written.

As I read and share my own connections, I stress how my connections help me understand the story and the characters better.  When Miss Nancy remembers her brother who went off to war and never returned, I can understand how she feels because I remember the last time I saw my father before he died – waving bye to him and not knowing he’d never return.  Be prepared at this point in the book to have some children share heart-rending stories.  It’s sad, but it’s a part of their lives, and they’re eager to share them. 

And immediately afterwards you’ll get to the part about “memories make us laugh.”  Then the children can share their funny connections.

“Memories are more precious than gold” makes me think of the memories I would never give up for any amount of money.  Even young children have such memories.

At the end of the lesson we talk more about the purpose of making connections.  I always tell the children they can keep their sticky notes with their connections, or they can just throw them away.  They almost always choose to keep the records of those connections/memories.

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Christmas Gifts for Young Children – BOOKS!

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

There is no better gift for a young child than a book.  It’s a gift that can provide many hours of lasting enjoyment. Recently, I’ve read two books that were just published this year, and they both would make WONDERFUL gifts for a young child – preschool through third grade.  I’ve read both to groups of preschool and elementary children, and they loved them!  Here they are:

Don't Be Silly, Mrs. Millie!
Don’t Be Silly, Mrs. Millie!

Move Over, Rover!
Move Over, Rover!

Here are some other children’s picture books that I highly recommend.  You can click on any of the books to get more information about them.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Ruby the Copycat
Ruby the Copycat

No, David!
No, David!

Tops & Bottoms
Tops & Bottoms

Later I will post my recommendations for easy and more difficult chapter books for older children.

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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

I spent awhile at the bookstore yesterday, and ended up buying Kate DiCamillo’s newest book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  I read the entire book this afternoon, and what a wonderful book it is!  The story is about Edward Tulane, a 3-ft high rabbit made almost entirely of china.  It’s a tale of Edward’s life and adventures as he grows a heart capable of embracing love and all the hurts and joys that come with it. 

The story reminds me of The Velveteen Rabbit who wanted to be “real.”  Initially Edward is content being self-involved and vain.  He learns to love, but he also learns that love isn’t always wonderful.  It involves pain and sadness, too. After many mishaps he decides not to open his heart again. The ending is predictable but still touching.

One could make a unit of study on quotes from the book. Some examples:

Whom the whiskers had belonged to initially – what unsavory animal – was a question that Edward could not bear to consider for too long.  And so he did not.  He preferred, as a rule, not to think of unpleasant thoughts.

Edward felt something damp in his ears. Abilene’s tears, he supposed.  He wished that she would not hold him so tight.  To be clutched so fiercely often resulted in wrinkled clothing.

Edward, for lack of anything better to do, began to think. He thought about the stars . . . . Never in my life, he thought, have I been farther away from the stars than I am now.

“Perhaps,” said the man, “you would like to be lost with us.  I have found it much more agreeable to be lost in the company of others.”

Edward knew what it was like to say over and over again the names of those you had left behind.  He knew what it was like to miss someone.  And so he lsitened. And in his listening, his heart opened wide and then wider still.

You are down there alone, the stars seemed to say to him.  And we are up here, in our constellations, together.

I have been loved, Edward told the stars.

So? said the stairs.  What difference does that make when you are all alone now?

Look at me, he said to her.  His arms and legs jerked.  Look at me.  You got your wish.  I have learned how to love.  And it’s a terrible thing.  I’m broken. My heart is broken.  Help me.

“Two options only,” he said.  “And your friend chose option two.  He gave you up so that you could be healed.  Extraordinary, really.”

“I have already been loved,” said Edward.  “I have been loved by a girl named Abilene.  I have been loved by a fisherman and his wife and a hobo and his dog.  I have been loved by a boy who played the harmonica and by a girl who died.  Don’t talk to me about love,” he said.  “I have known love.”

He prided himself on not hoping, on not allowing his heart to lift inside of him.  He prided himself on keeping his heart silent, immobile, closed tight.

I am done with hope, thought Edward Tulane.

The old doll said, “I wonder who will come for me this time. Someone will come.  Someone always comes.  Who will it be?”

“You disappoint me greatly.  If you have no intention of loving or being loved, then the whole journey is pointless.”

I got carried away with quotes.  There are so many good ones. If you want a book that will make you think, that will show both the good and bad of life, then this would be an excellent choice for you.

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Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Yesterday I wrote about reading a book entitled Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.  Last  night, after RT was asleep, Jake was still making noises and I couldn’t sleep.  So I dragged a warm blanket to the recliner in the guest bedroom, settled back and finished reading the book.  It took a couple of hours, and I wasn’t in bed until after 1:20 a.m.  However, the book was worth it.  First, let me provide a warning to parents and teachers:  There are a few damns and hells in the book.  And the storyline is one for older children.  The story takes place along the Maine coastline in the early 1900’s.  It’s about racism, meanness and greed in the guise of Christianity.  Good triumphs over evil . . . sometimes, but not always.  And because good doesn’t always triumph, there is destruction and death.  Several deaths.  What startled me when I read the information at the end of the book is that the book is based on a true story. 

I won’t tell you anymore about the storyline.  However, if you have a upper elementary or junior high student who can handle a little profanity and a disturbing storyline, it is an excellent book.  I understand why it is a Newbery Honor book.  The story will stay with me for a long time.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

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Your “Last Words” – What will they be?

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

I read a lot of children’s literature – everything from picture books to middle school and high school fiction.  As long as I’m a children’s reading specialist, it is part of my job.  It is also something I enjoy immensely.  Oftentimes children’s literature is better than adult literature.

This afternoon I’m reading a novel by Gary D. Schmidt entitled Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.  It was a Newbery Honor Book in 2005.  It’s for upper elementary/junior high kids.  I’m just a couple chapters into the book, but I came across a conversation that fascinated me. 

In the story, Turner is a preacher’s son in the early 1900’s who has just moved to a new town.  Shortly after moving, he was skipping rocks one day, and one bounced off an elderly woman’s fence, and now he must read to her each day as penance.  This is part of their conversation during his first visit to read to her.

Suddenly, her eyes opened and she lifted her head.  “Have you thought about what your last words might be?  You’re never too young to know what your last words might be.  Death could come along at any moment and thrust his dart right through you.”  She jerked her arm out at him, and Turner shot back against the organ.

“I supposed,” he whispered, “something like, ‘The Lord is my shepherd.'”

“Too expected,” she said, shaking her head.  “nobody would care to remember that, and you’d have wasted your one opportunity.  You don’t get two chances to say your last words, you know.”

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to get me wondering, but these few lines did it for me.  I can think (tongue in cheek) of a couple for myself:

Wow!  That was amazing!  Hope we didn’t disturb the neighbors.

Who would have guessed I’d live to be over 100!

Nah – those are lame.  It would be nice to impart words of wisdom for the ones left behind, but I don’t know what those words could be.

So, I ask you:  What would YOU like your last words to be?


Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

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Thursday Thirteen (My 32nd Edition) – My Favorite Read-Aloud Picture Books for Children

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006


Thirteen of My Favorite Read-Aloud Picture Books
for Children
  One part of my job that I really enjoy is going to the pre-school classes each Thursday and reading aloud to them.  The children are three and four years old, and the read-aloud sessions never last more than ten minutes because that’s the extent of their attention spans.  To me, there is nothing better than quality children’s literature.  Here are thirteen of my favorite read-aloud picture books for children.    


(1)  No, David!
No, David!
by David Shannon


(2)  Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
by Mo Willems


(3)  The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear
  by Don and Audrey Wood


(4)  Runaway Bunny
Runaway Bunny
by Margaret Wise Brown


(5)  Grandma According to Me
Grandma According to Me
by Karen Magnuson Beil


(6)  Very Hungry Caterpillar
Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle


(7)  Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? (Bright and Early Books Series)
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? (Bright and Early Books Series)
by Dr. Seuss


(8)  Time for Bed
Time for Bed
by Mem Fox


(9)  Bark, George
Bark, George
by Jules Feiffer


(10)  Good-Night, Owl!
Good-Night, Owl!
by Pat Hutchins


(11)  Duck on a Bike
Duck on a Bike
by David Shannon


(12)There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
by Simms Taback


(13)Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!  
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted, appreciated and encouraged!
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Touching Spirit Bear

Monday, October 16th, 2006

Touching Spirit Bear I just finished re-reading Touching Spirit Bear, a children’s novel (older elementary and middle school, grades 4-8) by Ben Mikaelsen.  The main character, Cole, has been physically and emotionally abused by his father since he was very little, and he lashes out at others as a result.  The author, Mikaelsen, takes up this serious issue and writes about it sensitively and without resorting to profanity or vulgarity.  As a parent and a teacher, I appreciate that.  

After years of being in trouble with the law and after severely beating a younger child, Cole must face either prison or “Circle Justice”, a Native American way of dealing with anger and violence.  Cole doesn’t submit to Circle Justice easily, and his anger, rebellion and his eventual forgiveness of others and himself are skillfully portrayed in the story. 

The story reminds me of these two other incredible children’s books:


  My Side of the Mountain
It’s a survival story like the Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain.  However, it deals with much more than simple physical survival.

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Friday Forum – It’s All About Books

Friday, March 10th, 2006

Each week I receive an email from Friday Forum with a topic or questions for blogging. This is the first time I’ve actually used the suggestion! Look at the topic for this week, and you’ll see why I decided to use it. Feel free to follow the link and join the Friday Forum or see previous weeks’ topics. Here are the five questions for today:

1. How often do you read? Daily – multiple times daily. . . literally for hours each day. Most of it is reading with children as part of my job, but I also read aloud to children, read for my own enjoyment, read lots of professional books, and each night before I go to sleep, I read for a few minutes before turning out the light and zzzzzzzzzz.

2. Who are your favorite authors? My favorite children’s authors are Patricia Polacco, Lois Lowry, Shel Silverstein, Mem Fox, Gary Paulsen, Dr. Seuss, and Doreen Cronin. I don’t have a favorite author of adult books – probably because I read such a strange assortment of books.

3. What genre most interests you (For example, suspense, romance, horror, contemporary, etc.)? Children’s literature. Some of the best writing in the world is in children’s literature. In adult literature I read mostly nonfiction – self-help type stuff. There are only two non-education related magazines that I read each month: Readers Digest and Guideposts. I subscribe to several others, but I rarely read them. They just collect dust for awhile until I gather them up and give away. I won’t renew those subscriptions when they run out.

4. What elements of a book most appeal to you (character development, plot, dialogue, etc.)? I call it the “connection factor.” Whether or not I can connect with the text.

5. Do you buy books written by celebrity authors? Why or why not? Sometimes I do. It depends on the topic and the author. Again, if the connection factor is strong, I will buy it.

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