Monday, December 15, 2014

The Wish

Every memory of my dad and the 43 years I had with him, are happy ones. They are less about things, places, and actions, and more about the time...the words, the stories, the feelings of love. We went many places together and if we didn't, he would greet me with the prompt, "How did it go, tell me everything," and when I would start to share, he would interrupt, "Okay, so you got off the plane and...". Because he did want to know everything.

In the midst of my grieving his recent death, The Wish  appeared on a heap of bills, catalogs, and assorted mailbox chaos. The man on the cover didn't dress like my dad, but he did hold my hand. I opened up the book and read the first page;

 "There was once a little girl who would walk through the park every day with her dad."

A large tear plopped onto the page before I could even feel it. My dad worked hard and commuted to the city every week day. He loved Saturdays and getting up early. I did too. He would wake me up when it was still dark out, make the hand gestures for food and drink, and wait downstairs for me to join him. He loved how I would order breakfast at our favorite local spots, 'Um, a side of bacon, toast, and a coke please." My mother would NEVER let me drink soda. So we didn't tell her that part.

It is refreshing to read a picture book about a strong relationship between a father and daughter. About the simplicity of really loving someone more than yourself. The book shares how that bond can and naturally endures throughout what lifetime allows. And most importantly, demonstrates how a father's wish for his daughter to be truly happy and to have a great life...is the driving force behind the relationship. When I returned to work after my father died, a kindergarten student of mine, who was grieving the loss of his beloved Hamster, and I were sharing a teary talk and he said to me...'Did your dad have a happy life?" I replied, 'Oh yes, he had a very happy life." The dear boy looked me in the eyes and said, "That is all that matters. That is what my dad told me when Shadow died."

Wisdom from a father to a five year old, to me. Imagine the tear soaked page, when I read the bottom of page 27, when the aged father asked his daughter,

"Have you had a happy life, so far?"  

I would recommend this book to teachers to share with students, as a model of father characters and family relationships. I think older readers and writers could benefit from the content, but also the text structure, strategies like transitions and passage of time. The book could also serve as a prompt for students own writing, where they could write about The Wish, by choosing some one they had a wish for and writing about them and what the wish was. I think this book has a place on family bookshelves where it will serve as both a model of male characters, but could inspire a father or important male figure to read it to a child. Male readers are important role models to our youth. I would agree with some other reviews, that color illustrations done with just the right medium, would add another level of interest for the reader and listener. A beautiful story.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Wish-Ken-Elliott/dp/0989703703 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gorilla Book LOVE

Katherine Applegate offers up soulful and endearing characters, who will attach themselves to your heart, and serve as a portal to conversations about animal rights and empathy. Applegate will have you teary eyed, right before she brings you to laughing or cheering out loud for Ivan and his friends! This is a great read aloud, I shared it with students in grades 3-5 and received a double thumbs up from ALL.

 Ivan - The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla could serve as a read aloud for grades K-8. Readers and listeners who have previously read The One and Only Ivan, will want to compare these with the lens of a writer.


My favorite kindergarten read aloud this year! The illustrations in this number concept book are masterpieces.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pumpkins

Pumpkins by Mary Lyn Ray is indeed about pumpkins, but even more
 about human ecology and conservation. Ray is a proven master at tackling
 subjects about humans and their relationship to nature, and developing a
 narrative to ignite such conversations about economics, ecology, and solving
 problems. This mentor text is loaded with teachable moments from sensory
 imagery to problem and solution text structure. The lead sentence, 
"Once upon a time there was a field" invites the reader to a setting and alerts
 them to a possible lesson ahead with the fairy tale phrase, followed by the first
 opportunity to infer when you turn the page. A clear problem is introduced and 
tension is offered. An extension to this book might be to have students think of 
a natural place, setting, or view that they would like to protect, and how they
 might present possible ways to save the visual treasure!  Many communities have 
current issues around land conservation and keeping access to  woods, water, and
 mountains, for everyone to love and enjoy. Think of all the guest speakers 
(real estate broker, hunter, ecologist, land owner, farmer, town manager, 
conservation committee member, park ranger) and field experiences
 (land with conservation easement, public access to water spots, parks, private 
land with owner permission) you could connect with this!  The realistic and 
emotional illustrations by Barry Root are watercolor and gouache full-bleed double 
page spreads that look like landscapes you have seen on living room walls at a home 
with framed art.  This picture book has wide grade appeal with a variety of ways to 
connect with common core or social studies curriculum, making it the perfect Autumn 
read for classrooms K-8.                                                                                                                                                                           



Friday, August 8, 2014

iF...


iF...A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers Written by David J. Smith * Illustrated by Steve Adams

The illustration on the cover swallowed my full attention, as an interesting painting on a gallery wall would. The book shares big ideas, big numbers, and even bigger concepts of scale- in a way that makes incredible sense. The information is engaging and relevant, and the collaboration between visual and text will capture the attention of a variety of audiences.

"If all the water on Earth were represented in a 100 glasses...97 of the glasses would be filled with salt water from the oceans and some lakes. 3 of the glasses would be fresh water."  Facts such as that are supplemented with additional insight..."One of the glasses would represent all the fresh water available to us. The rest of the fresh water is locked up in glaciers, frozen in the atmosphere or inaccessible deep underground."

This is the type of book that you need to revisit, because you have to think about the concepts, and each time you read the same page, you have something else to question. This book is fun to read and gives the reader much to ponder. A clearer understanding of the world will be a welcomed aftermath with each and every iF.

A bonus additional text feature is the side bars with deeper information. The topics of life spans, food supplies, and distance to space are some of the challenging concepts presented in manageable scales to grapple with. Teachers will find 101 ways to integrate this into their STEAM (Science,Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) curriculum, and I predict their students will give this mentor text 5 stars!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Raina Tegemeier

Fans of Smile and Drama will be thrilled for Raina's new release Sisters, on August 26th!  Raina's graphic illustrations and text invite readers to be by Raina's (the main character) side, as she navigates through the tangles of sibling-hood. In true Tegemeier's style, there is an abundance of humor woven between life as many of us know or have known it. I appreciate how the voice of the characters holds strong in both their visual expressions and throughout the discourse between family members. Tegemeier is a master at taking life how it is, without fussing for forced relevancy, rather she just looks a lot closer at the lives we are already living. Sisters, told in narrative form, includes both flashbacks and small moments, and will expose you to them all on a road trip from San Francisco to Colorado. 


Monday, July 14, 2014

Shelter Pet Squad

A new series ideal for readers and listeners in grades K-4, and for all the kids out there who have empathy and love for animals and treasure and count on their own pets (stuffed or alive). The animal shelter setting and the perspective of the animals hoping for their forever homes is presented through the eyes of Suzannah. Like Suzannah (and many other kids), my early memories of wanting something with all my heart and soul, revolved around a pet. Any kind of pet that had fur and whiskers would do. And also like Suzannah, my stuffed animals helped fill that yearning the best that they could. As always, Cynthia's main character brings a strong sense of purpose and conviction. They have something important to unravel and make better, modeling solutions that we all can relate to in some way. I appreciate how the story starts with a problem of wanting a pet in the first few pages, leading to a solution of joining a pet squad at a local shelter. The story moves on to model several other hoops and hurdles for the characters to navigate through. I predict this being read by students - having them connect to their own local animal shelters and forming their own Shelter Pet Squad. Cynthia has set the platform for bringing this text to life. I'll add the illustrations are a nice addition, offering vignettes that allow for the viewers personal visualization of the whole and welcomes the readers and listeners in. Cynthia added some features at the end of the book, Facts about Guinea Pigs, Ways to Help your Local Shelter, and even a photo of her own adopted Guinea Pig, Cookie!  I wonder what animal will take the spotlight in book 2...a bunny...mouse?

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Zoo Box

Because I did not read the description before diving in, I was joyfully amused at the unraveling twist of the humans being the animals in cages (mowing the lawn or playing basketball), while the zoo visitors were various animals (polar bear, alligator, bald eagle) taking photos, eating popcorn, and watching the humans in their "natural" habitats. What starts with two curious siblings left alone and a box in the attic (displaying a Do Not Open warning), the reader gets swooped up in the excitement of an adventure that requires an imagination and love for animals! I appreciate the art work and the graphic novel format. I love the balance of text and art and how this story is 52 pages long. This story could be used to model elements of a story with older readers or best of all, be enjoyed for reading pleasure for any graphic novel fan age 5-adult.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Who was Here?

By Mia Posada
The guessing organizational feature is always a big hit with my kindergarten audience. The format helps them apply inferences and think about context clues and prior knowledge. It enhances their experience with changing their thinking too. The vocabulary and phrasing in this book is fluent, and movement and phrases like "the beast lumbered on" or "scorching sun rays" are only two of the highlights. The illustrations are beautiful, being a mix of watercolor and collage. I like how the book offers additional factual text about the animal that goes with the print, yet choosing not to read it, will not interfere with the rich value I mentioned earlier. While students are researching a particular animal and there is a page in this book about that animal, it would be a great reference for a budding researcher.  Another quality feature is the fact that it is not specific to one setting or season, rather prints from all habitats leave their prints embedded on riverbanks to sand dunes!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Time Passes

When too much time elapses between things...like a blog post...knowing how to get going again is a challenge. It just feels awkward, and impossible, and only gets worse with each minute past the time you noticed it has been a while. Playing off the absence with a book review seems flippant (I don't think I have ever used that word in print before). Unloading the 101 reasons why the last year has been inches from impossible seems to personal. So, let me just say, I am back. I am also...(insert drum roll here)...going back to teaching kindergarten next year!!! My favorite grade to teach. Just took 5 years, several grade levels, a short stint out of school, a reduction in force, a call back, and a massive retirement year giving me seniority (not last one hired)to be going back into my old kindergarten classroom. I guess I'll run with positive. Lots more soon. Two weeks left of school (someone messed up the snow day calendar) and then the reset button is being pressed and a new me is promised to emerge, some how, some way.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Snicker of Magic

Folklore, magic, and a little but of hope are some of the ingredients Felicity will need to prove to her nomadic mom, that Midnight Gulch is indeed home. If Felicity, who sees words everywhere she looks (words that express feelings, knowledge, and wonderings) can break the spell that looms over Midnight Gulch and heal the heart of her mom at the same time, a snicker of magic will be just what it takes to make everything just the way it really should be. A sweet little story with likable characters and interesting magical folklore sprinkled throughout. I think the book could have been written with about 30 less pages, but over all I think it is a quality book that readers in 5th-8th grade would enjoy.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

half a chance

Even the most experienced photographer can't always capture common moments in life; the ones defining, shaping, and significant from the lens of the one experiencing it. And even the most amazing photograph, can't always reveal the true story unfolding or the half a chance each narrative offers. Cynthia Lord has the reader present and having an interaction with the smallest of moments. With a little ant scampering across the sun dried tip of a kayak, in the middle of the lake and away from where he was suppose to be. Lord will have you pause and reflect each time Lucy does, and the tension will feel increasingly familiar.  Half a chance has a relevancy and warmth that reminds you how you come to trust and need more stories from the authors you love. During two moments in the book I shed a few well earned empathetic tears...the warm kind of tears that move slow and evaporate after a page. I highly recommend this book to realistic fiction fans. To my peers who grew up owning every Judy Blume book and building memories for loving reading because of her, you will have an added appreciation for what Lord offers young readers.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Elephant's Story


What a clever way to celebrate the magical flexibility of letters and word building. A sweet little girl, a book that starts with Once upon a time, and a sneezing elephant with a trunk full of letters will capture the readers interest and invite you along to join elephant seek some help from a few friends. The pencil and pen drawn thin lines and muddled grey tone watercolor illustrations is balanced by a few lines of text on each page. I am especially fond of the end papers, which presents elephant shaped into every letter of the alphabet. Young readers will enjoy finding the letters of their name on the end papers, matching the elephant letters and building automaticity with letter ID.

Elephant Story Event Kit