Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Secret Kingdom Nek Chand, A Changing India and a Hidden World of Art

The Secret Kingdom
Author Barb Rosenstock
Illustrator Claire A Nivola
Candlewick Press, 2018
review copy from publisher

The Secret Kingdom is a beautiful story about Nek Chand a boy growing up in the village Berian Kalan near the Himalayas.  His family life is filled with family, stories, and love.  He was a creator and loved to play on the stream bank.  He went to school.  He became a farmer and continued to tell his stories.  Until his country Punjab was split into two countries; Pakistan and India after the men with guns came.  He was able to walk with his family to India for twenty-four days.  They settled in a new city Chandigarh where Nek didn't feel like he belonged.  The story continues to tell you the journey Nek took trying to belong again.  He found that belonging feeling again by creating a space in the wilderness to live.  His work was a secret.  Once it was discovered and people visited they were able to help him from having it destroyed and identified as a piece of art.  The four page spread of photographs is breath taking of this space.  Nek's secret work tells stories of coming home and this work is still carried on today in the Rock Garden.  I wish I had this book last year when I had a few families from India.  I think I might drop this book off to one my old students from India tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pondering Participation {Slice of Life}

I saw Clare's post this morning - My Reasons for Joining The March Slice of Life Story Challenge and didn't take the time to read it because I knew I needed some time to ponder life when I read her thinking.  I started to leave her a comment and it brought some questions.  I decided to conclude those questions here, a slice of thinking.

Will it be professional or personal?
Is it the right season?
How can I make it the right season?
Will I gather ideas in a notebook?
What if my heart says to write privately?
Is it a way to capture daily goodness?
Can I stop and notice life?
Will they be my stories?
Will they be the stories of others?
Why will I write and go public for 31 days?

Then I decided to do some research on my own blog and discover it might be the season I try to write.  There's been five previous seasons.  

2012 - It's March 1st or as of March 3rd we are pretending it's March 1st, jumped in late.

2013 - I loved reading what others were doing, pondering and reflecting on.  I captured tidbits of my life and noticed more within my days and what was around me.  Who wouldn't want to find a reason to slow down and capture life?

2014 - My slice of life is going to welcome and encourage possibilities.

2015 - I didn't record any thinking why...

2016 -  I had the privilege to spend time with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater this past weekend of the The Poem Farm and was inspired to notice more, write about those observations, and collect writing.

2017 - I got the itch and got excited this past weekend when I was at a conference with my friends to jump on board.

2018 - I'm hesitant.  I've never abandoned writing for 31 days.  Maybe I just need to start and see where it goes.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this writing community.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Joining #2018MBM and Thinking About Compelling Characters

My friends Tony Keefer and Scott Jones co-host March Book Madness and I have a confession, I've never really looked into it.  They teach older grades and it seemed like one more thing to do and I think I've felt late to the party in previous years but not this year.  I started to see some buzz on Twitter and tried to ignore it.  You can predict what happened next.  I took a look and got very excited about this project.  

Today I launched March Book Madness with my students and they are excited!  The video Tony and Scott created sharing the book pairings is fun and informative.  We then learned how to show we were participating by placing our school location on a their Google Map.  They were so cute following the directions from the how to video Tony and Scott made.

We did some interactive writing for our bracket board to name our project and I started thinking about the theme for the book collection; compelling characters.  I kept wrestling with this today and visited to think more about the word compelling.

compelling - having a powerful and irresistible effect; requiring acute admiration, attention, or respect

My day shifted to home life and I stopped at our local library to pick up my reserves of March Book Madness books.  My favorite head librarian Mr. George was there and I asked him if he knew about March Book Madness.  He had a moment and he hopped on his computer and we began looking at the brackets and he was sharing his thoughts on different books but overall he really loved the ones pulled for picture books.  He was really excited about the project overall.

So, I asked him for advice.  How would you explain compelling characters to second graders.  I shared I was worried how to help to my students think beyond liking the book.  He gave me brilliant advice and I thought I would pass it along.

Ask your students to pretend they are the character.  
How do you feel about what happened?

I can't wait to have great discussions with my students and participate in March Book Madness.  My kids love the slogan - Books Always Win!  Game on, friends.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Are There Books for That? {Slice of Life}

First thing Monday morning four of us gather with a parent in my room to review an IEP up for review.  My mind was reading, processing, and inquiring about a few things.  I thought I was asking some good questions; a little nitty gritty, a bit global, and a bit whole child. Until...

We shared with the parent the next step in reading is going to be reading multisyllabic words but that needs to come up in his systematic phonics small group instruction probably first.  Then our conversation went to a fluency goal which probably needs the work with multi syllable words to happen first to see the goals that are hoped for.  My student's mom asked how she could help him practice this. An intervention teacher said, "We have controlled text passages and I can share them with you."  Her next question is brilliant, "Are there books for that?"  The answer for this was not really.

I was so happy my parent understood books are the best vehicle for reading instruction.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering this writing community.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Nonfiction Poetry is My #nf10for10 for 2018!

The idea of nonfiction information in a poetic form that keeps showing up in my shopping cart or library stacks.  I think it's intriguing to see how factual information is shared through poetry.  Sometimes the information is observational and sometimes it's filled with scientific vocabulary in small bursts that makes the reader stop and think.  Creating room to ponder and wonder more.  Thank you for joining us today by sharing or reading posts related to nonfiction literature.  

Earth Verse Haiku from the Ground Up
author Sally M Walker
illustrator William Grill

I feel blessed to have this preview copy and shared a lot about it yesterday in detail for Poetry Friday.

What in the Wild?  Mysteries of Nature Concealed...and Revealed
author David M Schwartz and Yael Schy
photographs by Dwight Kuhn

poems written as clues
three page spread with the middle being a full page photo confirms your guess
traditional nonfiction text on the third page

lizards, frogs, and polliwogs
author Douglas Florian
paintings by Douglas Florian

poems that describe physical characteristics
tells about actions and movements
fun with word layout

I'm going to sneak in some more by Douglas Florian.  He was my first nonfiction poet years and I always found his books a way to connect animal lovers and boys to poetry.

Now You See Them Now You Don't Poems About Creatures that Hide
Author David Harrison
Illustrated by Giles Laroche

poems about animals that hide
you have to find them in illustrations
how they can be hidden shared via poetry

comets, stars, the moon, and mars
Author Douglas Florian
paintings by Douglas Florian

the art in this text is beautiful
lots of factual information 
planet features beautifully shared

Woodpecker Wham!
Author April Pulley Sayre
Illustrations Steve Jenkins

various woodpeckers are illustrated
all the poems teach about woodpeckers
poems are short, good for early readers

A Place to Start a Family Poems About Creatures That Build
Author David L Harrison
Illustrated by Giles Laroche

love the collage illustrations
learn about the importance of nest building
why nests are built


Friday, February 9, 2018

Earth Verse - Haiku from the Ground Up {Poetry Friday}

Author Sally M. Walker
Illustrator William Grill
Candlewick Press, 2018
review copy provided by the publisher

Earth Verse - Haiku from the Ground Up is stunning and available February 13th.  I was so surprised by the amount of geological information shared via haiku form.  This past summer I spent some time writing haiku myself and was stuck using a 5-7-5 syllable because that is what I grew up this was the form for haiku.  A kind poetry friend suggested I could be fluid with my syllable form and I was a little surprised.  I wish I had this book as a mentor text because the syllable format is short and flexible line by line.  

I'm really intrigued with nonfiction poetry lately and this piece is my new favorite.  Three short lines are jammed packed with factual information.  The vocabulary is rich with geological words along with poetic form of comparisons.  I just have to share an example with you.

fragile outer crust.
shell around mantle and core --
Earth:  a hard-boiled egg

At first I thought the illustrations were done in chalk but they aren't.  They are done with colored pencils.  Making this a great illustrative mentor text because colored pencils are an easy accessible medium for every child.  Another illustrative feature I hope all readers discover is the symbol in the bottom right corner replacing page numbers.  The symbols help organize the poems into landform categories and the back of the book gives the reader more information about these landforms.  

Thank you Sally at for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


written by Kelly DiPucchio 
illustrated by Christian Robinson
atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014
review copy from school library

I don't know why I'm just discovering this dog story.  I love dog stories and have a tub of dog story picture books in my classroom which this book needs to be in.  Mrs. Poodle has a litter of four puppies and you the reader follows them as they grow and learn to do poodle things.  Did you know proper poodles sip not slobber?  Did you know they yip not ruff?  Did you know they walk with grace and not race?  I did not know these things about poodles.  Mrs. Poodle has one puppy that is a bit different, Gaston.  He tends to do the things proper pooches don't do.  Things I know dogs to do.  Gaston has some great qualities while being a bit different, "Whatever the lesson, Gaston always worked the hardest, practiced the longest, and smiled the biggest."  

One day while walking in the park with her proper pooches Mrs. Poodle meets Mrs. Bulldog and her puppies.  Something is different about her litter of puppies.  It appears as if there was a switch between the two litters somehow.  I have to stop right now because I don't want to give away the best ending ever.  This book is about belonging, a super reader strength and figuring out you can belong and be a little different at the same time.  Hopefully readers will also discuss how trying new things is a positive but in the end belonging is important and needed.  There's also comfort in going back to something you know.

I just love the warm muted soft tones used for the illustrations.  They really help foster the warmth of this story.