Oh, how I love this book. We start with Jack, who's dreading writing his own poems, forced to keep a poetry journal for his teacher. But as we get toOh, how I love this book. We start with Jack, who's dreading writing his own poems, forced to keep a poetry journal for his teacher. But as we get to know Jack and as he gets to know different poems, we start to see a fuller picture of a boy, his dog and his feelings. Check out the terrific reader's theater through TeachingBooks, starring Sharon Creech, Walter Dead Myers, Avi and Sarah Weeks....more
Maathai's political activism shines through in this biography, in her determination to reverse environmental damage caused by large, colonial plantatiMaathai's political activism shines through in this biography, in her determination to reverse environmental damage caused by large, colonial plantations and empower local villagers--especially women--to improve their local conditions. Prévot begins by introducing young readers to Maathai's legacy:
"It's almost as if Wangari Maathai is still alive, since the trees she planted still grow. Those who care about the earth as Wangari did can almost hear her speaking... Wangari encouraged many village women. She dug holes with them in the red soil--holes in which to plant hope for today and forests for tomorrow."
As Prévot tells Maathai's story, he emphasizes how her childhood and her education shaped Wangari, especially, in a time when very few African women went to school or learned to read.
This biography allows students to develop a deeper understanding of the political, economic and social structures Maathai stood up against. I love being able to share with students the value of reading more than one book on a subject, seeing how different authors draw out different details. I would start by reading Seeds of Change, by Jen Cullerton Johnson, and watching a short video. If you build background knowledge, students can then dig into statements such as this:
"The government officials who built their fortunes by razing forests try to stop Wangari. Who is this woman who confronts them with a confident voice in a country where women are supposed to listen and lower their eyes in men's presence?"
The illustrations are striking and stylized, lush and vibrant. I especially noticed how Fronty varies the rich, saturated background colors on each spread, adding to the emotions.
This is truly an outstanding picture book biography. Prévot finishes with a detailed timeline of Maathai's life, illustrated with several photographs. This background material is both easy to access, written in short chunks, but also detailed to give a rich picture of her struggles and achievements....more
Tiger Boy, by Mitali Perkins, is perfect for a family read-aloud--the 4th graders at Malcolm X School in Berkeley are giving it huge thumbs up and I hTiger Boy, by Mitali Perkins, is perfect for a family read-aloud--the 4th graders at Malcolm X School in Berkeley are giving it huge thumbs up and I heartily agree. If you have an animal-lover, or you're looking for a book set in India or Bangladesh, or you're looking for a book with a courageous kid who stands up for what's right -- definitely seek out Tiger Boy.
When a tiger cub escapes from a reserve in the Sundarbans, a delta region straddling the India-Bengladesh border, many of the residents on a nearby island try to find it. Some are worried that its mother will set out looking for it, possibly hurting or killing people in the process. Others have been hired by a wealthy man to capture it for trade on the black market.
Neel is determined to help with the search--protecting the tiger cub is as important to him and he isn't afraid to stand up to greedy Gupta or his hired men. Neel's parents want him to focus on his studies and prepare for his exams. While Neel loves learning and languages, he finds math frustrating and confusing. And how can he concentrate knowing that the tiger cub needs his help?
Mitali Perkins draws in readers, as they feel how much Neel wants to use his special knowledge of his island to help find the tiger. As the CCBC review so clearly puts it,
"The sense of urgency that propels Neel and Rupa’s hunt for the cub creates the perfect amount of tension in an engaging story wonderfully grounded in Neel’s point of view and his experiences in his family and community. Their effort to save the cub helps Neel understand how furthering his education is one means of helping protect the place he lives."
I especially love how Perkins balances the relationship between Neel and his sister Rupta. Perkins both respects the traditional role that women have in this Bengali village, but she also shows Rupta playing an active role.
I have found that my students are not picking this up on their own, even when I recommend it. That's why I think it would make a terrific read-aloud. Parents (or teachers) can encourage kids to give something a try that might be different from the usual books they read. It would make a great book to read this summer or in the fall--see if it leads kids to wanting to learn more about protecting the tigers in the Sunderbans....more
Poet Helen Frost reunites with photographer Rick Lieder to explore the wonders of the natural world. I adored their previous collaboration, Step GentlPoet Helen Frost reunites with photographer Rick Lieder to explore the wonders of the natural world. I adored their previous collaboration, Step Gently Out, and this new book is equally as delightful. Frost's poem encourages young readers to watch birds in flight playing in the sky, learning to fly and trusting the sky to hold them aloft. But she also encourages children to do the same: "Spread your feathers, sweep up the sun, ride the wind and explore." We can read this as a direct encouragement for children to take off and soar on their own. Lieder's amazing photography captures birds in mid-flight, freezing a moment in time. The final two pages provide brief information about each of the species photographed, ranging from house sparrows to Northern Cardinals....more
Love the stylized artwork, especially how Young conveys the different ways animals see in her illustrations. The story is intriguing, but seemed a vehLove the stylized artwork, especially how Young conveys the different ways animals see in her illustrations. The story is intriguing, but seemed a vehicle for the information. Yet most of the text focused on the story. This will work best as a read aloud for 2nd -- 4th graders.
I'm curious what friends who've read it think of the ending....more
Actor, musician and producer Nick Cannon combines his passions for poetry and hip-hop in this terrific new collection. As a child, Cannon found equalActor, musician and producer Nick Cannon combines his passions for poetry and hip-hop in this terrific new collection. As a child, Cannon found equal inspiration in Shel Silverstein and rappers, whom he calls "the storytellers of the street." He’s sure to energize and entertain kids with these funny, gross, wacky and thought-provoking poems....more
If you like Shel Silverstein’s cleverly playful poems, you’re in for a treat with this new collection of Calef Brown’s witty verse and illustrations.If you like Shel Silverstein’s cleverly playful poems, you’re in for a treat with this new collection of Calef Brown’s witty verse and illustrations. The poems leap and frolic from one topic to the next, full of wordplay, humor and rhymes. ...more
Our 4th graders were especially excited to recommend The Zoo at the Edge of the World to one another. "If you like animals, you'll love this book," saOur 4th graders were especially excited to recommend The Zoo at the Edge of the World to one another. "If you like animals, you'll love this book," said Claire in her nomination. I was happy to include an action-packed adventure in our selection. However, students did not end up citing it during our final discussions.
Students like the development of Marlin's character, as he discovered his ability to speak directly with the animals even though he stuttered so badly that he couldn't speak to other people. I was concerned by the characterizations of the zoo employees who were native to British Guiana. They were never fully developed, but rather used as a contrast to Marlin and his father. I think students really responded to Gale's exploration of treatment of animals in captivity....more
Ellie and Jack might look like they each have everything going for them, but they're each struggling on the inside. When they bump into each other onEllie and Jack might look like they each have everything going for them, but they're each struggling on the inside. When they bump into each other on the first day of school and magically switch bodies, they're forced to see life from a different perspective. While the premise might seem familiar to adults, my students found it compelling and well-written.
"Megan Shull described the setting really well because I felt like I was in the story. I could totally imagine where they would be. Once, when the two characters were switched and the boy was at soccer practice with the girls' team, I could imagine being on the field practicing." "Oh, and I remember how they were at the swimming pool in the very beginning and Ellie's friend was so mean to her."
Shull creates characters and social situations that my students understood because they were so familiar. From sleepover party dramas to friendship issues, our readers saw elements from their own lives. Emily said,
"The Swap was awesome! The characters were super strong. I could feel that they were actually real people.... The girl was being bullied but when she switches bodies with a boy, he helps her with it."
I saw the ending as a bit too predictable, but my students focused on the emotional journey and resolution for the two main characters....more
Students were drawn into Barnhill's the fantasy world in The Witch's Boy by Ned's journey to stop the coming war and make sure that magic is used wiseStudents were drawn into Barnhill's the fantasy world in The Witch's Boy by Ned's journey to stop the coming war and make sure that magic is used wisely and justly. As Alessandra said, it has something for all types of readers. Those who want adventure will like the danger and obstacles Ned and Aine face. Readers who want fantasy will like the magic, the talking stones, the moving forest. But, as Alessandra notes,
"The author did a good job making sure there was friendship and some sadness, weaving in different kinds of stories so different kinds of readers would like it."
As I think back on The Witch's Boy, I think that this is certainly a book that would benefit from another rereading. I could tell that students responded to the themes of courage, justice and inner-strength, but we didn't have enough time to really talk fully about these. ...more
One of my favorite Bay Area authors, Turner looks at how scientists use high-tech tags to study four different species of ocean predators in the PacifOne of my favorite Bay Area authors, Turner looks at how scientists use high-tech tags to study four different species of ocean predators in the Pacific. In one chapter, a five-year old boy discovered a satellite tag in a tide pool he was exploring with his family, and Turner follows the story back to the shark scientist who tagged a 13-foot female off Tomales Point a year earlier.
My children loved reading about the Great Turtle Race, following eleven turtles as they migrated from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands. I was fascinated to learn about the bluefin tuna, a warm-blooded fish that swims an average of 40 miles each day. The fish in the study crossed the Pacific three times, swimming from California to an area near Japan in less than 600 days! Turner draws children into the story, not just of the creatures, but of the scientists who study them.
There are some books that make me feel like a stronger, better person after I've read them. The characters give me strength, help me reflect on what'sThere are some books that make me feel like a stronger, better person after I've read them. The characters give me strength, help me reflect on what's important in life. While I found the beginning to meander, the climax and ending will stay with me for a long time.
A few favorite quotes: "And the strange thing was we both were doing it because we loved what words could do. We both wanted to be like those people who can magically make words do all sorts of things. In the right hands, words can move more bricks than the strongest team of mules."
“You gotta be careful, boy. Life ain’t fair; it ain’t got no conscience ’bout letting one bad choice you make as a child be the thing what colour every waking minute you has thereafter. You gotta remember to treat each moment and each person as precious, treat ’em all with the same respect I seent you treating them woods.”
"he is a hero because, in spite of all the horrors he’d witnessed, he never allowed anger nor vengeance to poison his spirit. he is a hero because though surrounded by the ignorance of his fellow man, he never became bitter."...more
Four curators gather together ominous tales, organizing them into different themes ranging from tricks to cake, luck to travel. There are ghost storieFour curators gather together ominous tales, organizing them into different themes ranging from tricks to cake, luck to travel. There are ghost stories, monster stories and bizarre stories. Some have direct villains, while others set a creepy tone without letting you exactly see what's menacing the main character.
The curators have a terrific website Enter the Cabinet with many tales, both ones from the cabinet and others freshly added. My current favorite is The Door Downstairs, with a courageous heroine, eerie setting, and psychological themes. For extra creepy fun, check out the podcasts the curators recorded. Katherine Catmull's recording of "Dark Valentine" is enough to haunt my dreams tonight....more