Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10 for 10 Picture Books

I recently reviewed More Than Guided Reading by Cathy Mere.  I then followed it up with sharing my recent shopping for the upcoming school year with books suggested by Cathy.  We follow each others blogs, you can find her here at Reflect and Refine Building a Learning Community and on twitter.  A few days ago she sent me a tweet,

"Enjoying your posts about the books in MTGR; hoping you'll post a list of 10 books you couldn't live without. :o)" 

First off, I was a bit nervous sharing my thinking about her writing when I knew she might stop by.  Thrilled she was enjoying my posts and thought she had an interesting suggestion.  What would my list of ten picture books I couldn't live without look like?  I've spent the past year blogging, using, revisiting, exploring, and discovering picture books.   I quickly began to think, I might be able to create a list of ten picture books I couldn't live without.

Together we came up with, 10 for 10 Picture Books!  It's a little spin off from the grocery store sales 10 for $10.00, instead of ten packages of blackberries for ten dollars we are going to share our 10 Picture Books we Couldn't Live Without on August 10th, for free.  These are going to be books that could be used any time of the year, on any topic, and for a variety of reasons.  Here in the Midwest we are beginning to start a new school year.  We feel rested, refreshed, and energized.  We are enjoying the sunshine and fresh air while anticipating a new school year.  I've added some wonderful titles from Cathy's book to use this year and would love to gather more from the kidlitosphere.  Cathy would love to know my thinking and others, so I am working on my list and will share with everyone August 10th. 

We would like to invite you, our friends, followers, and new friends to join us.  If you are excited about our project, let us know.  It will keep us thinking hard about our 10 for 10 Picture Books.  On August 10th, we will co-host this new kidlitosphere event and you can join in the excitement by sharing your 10 for 10 Picture Books and we will do a round-up.  We will share the same links but in two different formats, we think...stay tuned and we hope you will join us.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Guess What?

Guess What? by Mem Fox is such a fun book! This book is about Daisy O'Grady and the reader learns about her through series of questions. Here's the first question, "Is she tall? Guess. Yes!" This question format repeats making this book an easy repetitive text for rereading. Making this a fun shared reading experience for young readers. Yes, is such a positive word for young readers to recognize. The questions send the reader on a journey possibly thinking Daisy O'Grady is a witch and luckily we find out she is not. My students are going to love this book in October and other times of the year. The illustrations are paintings done in gouache and remind me of Norman Rockwell's style.

This book was suggested in More Than Guided Reading for questioning.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Another Katie Wood Ray Interview

Franki at A Year of Reading posted a great interview with Katie Wood Ray this morning. It provides more insight directly from Katie about her illustration work. Here's my review of the book, it's one of my new favorite professional books.

Crocodile Disappearing Dragon

Crocodile Disappearing Dragon by Jonathan London is a fictional text filled with nonfiction information. This book follows a crocodiles journey from spring to through summer. We read about how she moves, what she eats, how her body changes and what she does to prepare to lay eggs. We learn about her digging out her hatch-lings and how she carries them to the water. We learn about predators and grave dangers to the crocodile. The last page of the book is a full length page of nonfiction text. This would be a great mentor text for writing nonfiction information as a fictional text. I also think my students would ask a lot of questions about crocodiles. I found my self wondering more about this large creature and learning many things I didn't know. The oil painted illustrations bring the reader right to the mangrove swamp and movement is evident through the paint strokes.

This book was suggested in More Than Guided Reading for questioning.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Great Gracie Chase, Stop that Dog!

The Great Gracie Chase, Stop that Dog! by Cynthia Rylant is a book everyone needs to add to dog book collections. Gracie loves her quiet home with bigger dog, kitty, and fish. She loves the routine and is not too thrilled when the painters show up, they are noisy. Gracie tries to tell the painters she wants it quieter and they put her outside. Gracie decides to run away. She runs through many areas of town with the neighbors and more chasing her. She continues to run and eventually the painters join in the chase, leaving their painting to another day. Gracie is clever. Her house is empty again and she can return to rest. I love the perspective in size Mark Teague used for his illustrations on each page.

This book was suggested in More Than Guided Reading to discuss predicting.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant follows a scarecrow's life during the seasonal changes faced in a year. I never stopped to think about a scarecrow being borrowed, until I read this opening..."His hat is borrowed, his suit is borrowed, his hands are borrowed, even his head is borrowed. And his eyes probably came out of someones drawer." Cynthia Rylant uses her beautiful descriptive language to bring the scarecrow and setting to life. Lauren Stringer brings the illustrations to life with detail using warm acrylic paints. This book would also enhance a unit of study about seasons and/or changes.

This book was suggested in More Than Guided Reading to discuss visualizing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just Dog

Just Dog by Hiawyn Oram is a delightful story about a dog and his name is Dog. Dog is a little sad he is just called dog. In talking to Midnight the cat he decides it's time his owners realize he is more than a dog, he is something special. Dog thinks if he digs holes, in the garden he will start being called Digger. It would fit for what he is doing and since he is a dog and Dog is his name he rationalizes being called Digger. His plan doesn't work out and he gets called, "Bad dog." He doesn't give up and does things in hopes of being called Barker, Swiftfoot, Lionheart, or Hunter. None of these names happen, so he does things super helpful and sweet to get his owners attention. They notice and brainstorm some sappy names for him and as you can imagine, he doesn't like those either. I think this book could provide a launch for lots of stories and thinking about names, for people and pets my students have. I can't wait to use it this coming school year.

This book was suggested in More Than Guided Reading to help discuss questioning.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Katie Wood Ray Interview

I just discovered a great interview, Patrick Allen did with Katie Wood Ray on her new book In Pictures and Words. Patrick clearly thought through his questions in preparation and Katie's answers are honest and sincere. Here is my review of In Pictures and In Words.

More than Guided Reading

I reread More than Guided Reading by Cathy Mere this summer with my kindergarten lens and it was worth every moment. When I finished rereading this book, I felt like shouting, "I'm getting off the freight train!" I teach two sections of classes, alternating every other day. To make things manageable for me and trying to make more time for each group I wanted to work with I organized four guided reading groups. This made a couple of group sizes at 7. What was I didn't really work that well to be quite honest. So, I reorganized to better arrange my groups and made five groups per class, equalling ten guided reading groups. I was worried about keeping things equitable, so I met with each one and then started over. It worked, the children learned, it wasn't comfortable.

These things were more unsettling to me. First, not all of my students were ready for guided reading. They needed letter recognition and language play for a couple of ideas. My lower readers needed to see me more. They already have an unfortunate attendance plan. My higher readers could see me more and soar further, quicker. I know our mini lessons and shared reading was helping. I really spent the year feeling I was on a merry go round or a roller coaster.

More than Guided Reading supports guided reading when the time is right for children. We know not all kindergarten students come to school ready to learn to read right away, nor should they. Cathy urges teachers to be more intentional with their teaching during read alouds and shared reading. She writes quite a bit about a well thought out organized classroom library to help students navigate through as readers. She finds balance through the use of conferencing with students and thinking about their conversation to help with growth. I went shopping for books she recommends to use during focus lessons with kindergarten students and will share those this week. Cathy provides language for reading strategies to help students understand what they are working on, essentially taking ownership. She encourages student choice during independent reading time. She urges looking at the student's needs through assessment and then meeting with them as needed and for a series of days in a row to help growth. When I read this book the first time, it changed my will change my classroom again. Thanks for helping teachers find balance, Cathy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Heart and the Bottle

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers was my last great find at the Cover to Cover Sidewalk Sale. As I keep rereading this book, I think it's more for me than my students. I think our youngest learners will enjoy the illustrations and the story but I could really see working wtih third graders and discussing the meaning in layers.
A young girl loves to wonder about the world and shares her wondering with an older gentleman. The text is told through narration and the two characters thoughts are told through mini illustrations in speech bubbles. This is brillant and what a unique approach to illustrating dialogue. I think students of all ages would enjoy trying this technique. The little girls loves discovering and wondering about things until one day she goes to share her discoveries with the older gentleman and his chair is empty. She is so sad, she decides to put her heart in a glass bottle and wear it around her neck to keep it safe. Don't we wish we could keep our hearts safe when we lose someone? The little girl continues to grow and wear her heart in a bottle. We learn she's not wondering and discovering as she once did. She meets a little girl at the sea who is curious and wants to share this with her but she can't because her heart is in a bottle. With the help of this little girl, her heart is taken out of the bottle, wonder is brought back into her life, and the chair is no longer empty.

I think it's important in teaching to wonder with our students and about our students and it takes the heart to do it right. Embrace your heart and wonder.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stick Kid

Stick Kid by Peter Holwitz was another gem recently found at the Cover to Cover sidewalk sale. I fell in love with the illustrations right away because they are done using a stick figure to start with, a stick kid. My students illustrate with stick kids, all children start there (generally). This opening text starts the reader's journey.

I once drew a stick kid.
Just a quick little stick kid.
I gave him two eyes
and a push-up nose.
Ten little fingers
and ten little toes.

The book continues by following this stick kid. He grows, he wants things, and he tries things. Dialogue is used to show the parents response and guidance. The stick kid leaves one night only to return as a stick man with his wife and stick kid. The last page is charming and every parent will want to reread this book with kids, I just can't give it away here.

Stick Kid offers lots of opportunities to talk about illustrating and drawing. We could easily replicate our own stick kids with sharpie pens and colored markers. This book provides models for adding clothing and dimensional bodies. My favorite page is when the stick kid turns upside, his face is pink and his t shirt crunches up showing his belly. Why would the illustrator do these things to the stick kid? would be a great discussion question to create more careful illustrator thinking.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


123 by Brian Wildsmith was a great find this summer at Cover to Cover during their sidewalk sale. Come to find out, this book is out of print but you will be able to find it second hand through some on line vendors. When I first looked at the book it appeared to be a simple counting book and I didn't think much about it. As I got home and looked further I realized this little gem was a bit more. Numbers are represented in three ways - numerical form, written form, and symbolically. Three important goals for early numeracy. The number is large and in white on the left side of the page while the written form is written twice below it. For those students working on letter identification I love how this text writes the written form in upper case and then again directly below in lowercase formation. On the right side of each page shapes are used to represent the numbers symbolically. These shapes are bright and bold, often made up of many little shapes and colors. This would be a great addition to a math collection of books.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Elvis and Olive Super Detectives

Elvis and Olive Super Detectives by Stephanie Watson was an ARC I received at Cover to Cover earlier this summer. When I was younger I loved reading mysteries so I was intrigued with the title and the cover. Sometimes our students pick books by titles and covers too. The cover is a bit misleading. It shows the back side of two children, one with long hair and one with short hair and the one with short hair is in bib overalls. Yes, I did think it was going to be a book about a boy, Elvis and a girl Olive but it's not! It's a friendship about Natalie and Annie, two girls. See detectives need to have undercover names. I found myself stopping to think about which character was which, who was doing what so I think students, third graders might need some support to get started.

Natalie is hoping, trying and dreaming to become the Student Council Secretary. Part of her duties would be to run the school store and you can tell by the description of scents and texture she is passionate about this position. Part of her campaign is to do worthy community service. Annie brainstorms a detective agency to help neighbors with missing items. This confident pair begin and have some small success with normal missing items that were misplaced.

Along Natalie and Annie's journey to solve mysteries, we meet Mrs. Dimesworth who once was a famous actress for an old TV series. She provides the girls with some detective tips. We meet Steven who is also running for Student Council Secretary. Steven's little brother tends to be the neighborhood "officer" handing out his own version of violation tickets for things he thinks are being violated. There are students at school, on the bus and a few other neighbors but no one more important than Mr. and Mrs. Warsaw.
The Warsaws live down the street from the two girls. Mrs. Warsaw forgets. Mrs. Warsaw tells stories that aren't current. Mrs. Warsaw talks about things that appear to not be true at all. For example, Zadie Zeolite is a woman she speaks of in her closet and mother would be mad if she knew she was there. Natalie and Annie or should I say Elvis and Olive begin to think there is something to her story and wonder if they can help her. They use their detective skills to discover Zadie Zeolite was a comic, taken out of the library system by Mrs. Warsaw's mother. They also uncover, Mrs. Warsaw lived in a similar house on the same street that is abandoned and ready to be condemned. With a similar floor plan, they find a collection of Zadie Zeolite comics that are very valuable, in the closet. This discovery helps the Warsaws keep their current home and get Mrs. Warsaw some expensive medication she needs to help with her memory. What I loved about this journey the girls took was they validated Mrs. Warsaw's story, made a story a memory and made a difference.
Annie has her own personal story line for readers to follow as she is living in a foster care situation, hoping her mother will return. Her story brings sadness and joy, complimenting the humor and reality also found within this text.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pete the Cat

Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin has been talked a lot on the blogging circuit. I first learned about this book from Katie at Creative Literacy. Then Franki at A Year Of Reading shared her thinking and love for the book with the importance of song and literacy. Also doing some thinking about using Garage Band to enhance literacy with this book. Then Bill at Literate Lives shares puts this book on his next shopping list for the summer. I've been holding on writing about this book because I wasn't sure if I had anything different to share but I do.

If you take my Pete the Cat blog tour from above you will find the song and then be able to watch the video. The tune is addicting. B, my second grader just loves watching, listening and reading this book. The illustrations are bright and cheerful. I think this book could brighten any dreary gray day in Ohio. The book is about colors, it's perfect for a shared reading, and it's perfect for prediction with young readers. There's a big life lesson, when something goes wrong, for example your white shoes turn blue don't cry. Pete the Cat uses speech bubbles in response to changing his shoe color and is always positive. Little one and big ones need to learn when things go wrong it's okay. I am excited to use this book and collaborate with our music teacher and art teacher together creating work to share with our families. I think kindergarteners will love to create and share using this book as a foundation.

If you are a Pete the Cat fan, you can own a Pete the Cat t-shirt. I'm going to have to get one.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Once I Ate A Pie {Poetry Friday}

Once I Ate a Pie by Patricia MacLachlan and Emil MacLachlan Charest jumped into my hands during my latest shopping trip because I want to use it as a mentor text for my own writing. You see, I already have my own title inspired by this title. Once I Ate a Cake and I could write my own poem like Patricia and Emily did because Annie my English Chocolate Lab ate my daughter B's first birthday cake while it was cooling, right off my counter when I was out of the room. It was vanilla from scratch, my mother's recipe and I was going to stack the two eight inch circles to make a double layer cake with pink frosting. Now you know why I had to bring this book home.

Once I Ate a Pie is a collection of 13 dog poems. The poems are told from the dogs point of view and each poem is from a different dog breed. The illustrations are breed specific and large against a white background. Here's my favorite poem...

Mr. Beefy

I am not thing, but I am beautiful.




looking, I steal tubs of butter off the table.

I take them to the basement to eat in private.

Once I ate a PIE.

Poetry Friday is being held at Carol's Corner, thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Animals in Winter

Animal in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder is a book to use for content area learning. The illustrations and text compliment each other to show the changes in seasons to the reader. Students are introduced to migrations through the actions of birds, butterflies, and some bats. There are bats that stay north and the reader learns about hibernation. Which I loved because it was different than the typical example of bears. Woodchucks hibernate too and we learn about their behaviors and homes to help them survive the winter. Then we learn about animals who prepare for winter by storing food, especially the pika. However, there are animals that don't prepare for winter; mice and deer. The big ideas introduced in this book are done well for younger students. I especially like the animals chosen for examples. These are animals, excluding the pica, my students could wonder and think about because they could see them in our neighborhoods and backyards.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen

Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen by Cari Best is the perfect summer book for children learning how to ride a bike, growing out of bicycles, and looking for inspiration. The book begins with Sally Jean reflecting about her bikes over the years. She began riding in a baby seat behind her mother. She progresses to a tricycle, a bike with training wheels, and then on her own. She is quite the bike rider and does it quite well after the training wheels come off at five years old. So many of my students could relate to Sally Jean. It's also a great way to introduce a time line, and growth over time. Fortunately, as Sally Jean grew her bicycle could too until one day that didn't work any more and Sally Jean was left without a bicycle. She tried to skateboard, walk, and run but nothing felt like riding a bike. Unfortunately, her family couldn't just go out and buy her a new bike. Sally finds interesting ways to try and earn money but still doesn't have enough for a bicycle. She helps out Mr. Mettle sorting junk in his junkyard and gets inspired. Throughout the story, Sally Jean sings which just shows her exuberant personality more. One of her little songs is, "I Cycle, You Cycle, Recycle Junk!" B and I were so involved with this text as readers and both got done with this library book and said, "we love it!" Definitely on my list to use this coming school year.

Hug a Bug

Hug a Bug by Eileen Spinelli is another book I purchased while visiting family on Lake Erie because of the message. The main character is a little girl and she goes around hugging lots of different people, even a grouch. The grouch actually enjoys the hug and begins hugging things on his own. Through Spinelli's poetic ease she shows readers a hug shows you care, hugs should be gentle, and hugs turn frowns into smiles. After reading this book a few times I think this would be a great book to help model using picture clues to read the text and confirm the reader's thinking. The illustrator, Dan Andreasen is from Medina, Ohio. His illustrations are warm and the expressions are humorous, especially the eyes. Just a fun read to start the year with while building a community.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hello Twins

Hello Twins by Charlotte Voake was a great little find at The Book Nook, in Dunkirk, NY. This book celebrates individuality and accepting differences. The characters are Charlotte and Simon, a set of twins and the text clearly tells the reader they are not like each other. What I loved about this book is the mischief the twins take turns getting into. Charlotte and Simon each take turns doing this differently. I found myself laughing at their individual adventures and celebrating the ending. They like each other just the way they are. The text is simple and poised, the message is huge for students and the illustrations are delightful. I just love Charlotte's polka dotted dress. This is a great book for community building and then a reread when differences need to be accepted in any classroom. Make sure you read the author's note to learn this book is about Charlotte Voake and her twin brother.

Monday, July 5, 2010

In Pictures and In Words

In Pictures and In Words is Katie Wood Ray's latest book and she challenges teachers to raise the quality of writing through the lens of illustrating. Part way through reading this book, I felt Katie Wood Ray has taken her own writing, thinking, and teaching to a new level. She shares her own writing thinking as a writer, letting us see a glimpse into herself. I love reading tidbits about authors personal lives and in this case writing decisions. The premise of Katie's new work is based on, "understanding how both writing and drawing are acts of of meaning making." She builds a strong case for building a writer's stamina, something we've all been working on in reading for years. I had to chuckle when I read this and thought how true for kindergarten, "it really doesn't matter how many craft lessons or genre studies a teacher plans for students if she doesn't first teach them how to sit down in chairs, stay there for a long time, and make some work for themselves that leads to writing....the curriculum of time is fairly simple: Sit. Stay. Put something on the paper." She urges readers to understand stamina is required to allow for creative work. Katie spends an entire chapter showing the reader how the writing and illustrating process are parallel to each other. This is the best summary found while reading this chapter, "Writers make something by combining together words; illustrators make something by combining together images." Throughout the entire book there are wonderful examples of student work showing the reader the thinking and decisions that went into the illustration. It is so important for us as teachers to listen to student explanations as they are writing and illustrating. I have always found illustration work to be intriguing. I love listening to students explain their thinking and through this listening I learn about their decision making. This decision making is insightful, quick, long, careful, revised, and a sense of the child is always present. What Katie does in her latest book is name illustration techniques. She validates the learning and provides teachers with a common language to articulate the learning. Katie admits this is new thinking for most teachers and herself, we couldn't ask for a better mentor in our own profession. The last chapter in this book discusses Writing Workshop and an illustration study. Her framework this study begins with gather, and then immerse, study, and write. She gives more thoughts on each part. She does caution teachers to immerse and use the students observations to guide the study. She concludes her book with 50 techniques, not lessons to preselect and teach but to use when student's notice something. Each technique is outlined in this manner; something to notice, an illustration example (picture book model suggested), an understanding for young writers and illustrators, in a teacher's voice: an idea for trying out, and a writing connection. If I could meet Katie in person I would give her a great big squeeze to thank her for validating in education what our children do naturally, enjoy, and embrace.