Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A focus on Steve Jenkins titles

Steve Jenkins is royalty in the nonfiction picture book world as far as I am concerned. A leader, an inspiration, a sure thing. Does anyone own a Steve Jenkins title that they don’t adore? Every time I hear of a new Jenkins book being released, I can instantly convince myself that it must be a part of our class collection. And then I use it often for many different reasons. So much of our science learning begins with a Steve Jenkins’ book!

The latest book soon making its way into my room is this one: Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World by Steve Jenkins (published April 2014)

I just reread this title again and am so excited to share it with my students. Each page offers a close up illustration of a particular eye and details about how it works and the book also begins and ends with additional information. As always, there are more facts about the animals featured in the book, but this title also includes:

  • a summary of “the first eyes” – how some animals developed sight and how vision evolved
  • information about the four kinds of eyes: an eyespot, pinhole eyes, compound eyes and the camera eye
  • a summary of the evolution of the eye with labelled diagrams and examples
  • a comprehensive glossary that contains terms like retina, receptor cells and ultraviolet light

I learned so many things and know it is a perfect book to read to my students as we discuss topics like light and vision related to an upcoming workshop at Science World.

How will I share this book? I plan to read it and keep a list of ongoing wonders/questions – we will make s wonder board with these questions and do some research and experiments to develop our understanding around concepts covered in this book. Who knows where our questions will lead us?

 Eye to Eye Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A focus on Steve Jenkins titles

I started thinking about the myriad of ways that titles by Steve Jenkins (or Jenkins and Page) can be used in the classroom. The list is long. I have included some of my favourite Jenkins’ titles here and an idea about how to use them as part of a nonfiction read aloud experience that might extend over more than one class and into follow up activities.

Time to Sleep by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (published March 2011)

Learn all about how different animals sleep. Lots of additional information about each animal in the back pages of the book.

An idea: This book is a fantastic title to use when developing certain oral language skills: listening critically, making a relevant comment, building on what has been said and comparing and contrasting. Each page features a picture of an animal and a sentence or two about its sleep habits. Have the children comment in a turn and talk and then share out routine about how this is connected to or vastly different from human habits.

For example, the text says:

Snug in its underground burrow, the hairy armadillo snoozes for more than twenty hours a day.

Students might share: “Humans sleep above ground not underground.” “Humans don’t need as much sleep as armadillos. Kids sleep about 9-11 hours a night.” or “We don’t sleep in burrows but we snuggle under blankets to keep warm/snug.”

time to sleep Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A focus on Steve Jenkins titles

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins (published April 2012)

Detailed information about all of the different (and sometimes absolutely creepy) kinds of beautiful beetles that exist in the world.

An idea: Of course, this book screams art to me. But, after learning about beetle parts (abdomen, thorax, mandibles, flight wings, etc) art needs to be somewhat scientific art. Have the students sketch and colour (choose your medium) real or imagined beetles and label the parts. Perhaps some future coleopterists (people who study beetles) will be inspired.

 The Beetle Book Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A focus on Steve Jenkins titles

Bones by Steve Jenkins (published August 2010)

True to size or scaled down images of bones and how they work in various bodies. Incredible.

An idea: This book inspires more labelled diagrams to me. Have students sketch the skeletal system of a particular animal. A detailed labelled diagram (beyond just name) which explains how particular bones work to help the animal hunt, hide, move in its everyday life could be completed. Take this further and compare bone sizes to human bones. The human femur is _______ times as big (or cm longer than) the femur of the _________. Any kind of math could be practiced: ratios, length comparisons, fractions, etc.

Bones Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A focus on Steve Jenkins titles

How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (published May 2010)

Learn about the unique symbiotic relationships between specific creatures. I once read this book over the course of almost a year – a little each week and students were completely mesmerized by what they were learning.

An idea: This book was fantastic to practice summary writing using new vocabulary. An example: after reading about how the seagull eats worms (a parasite) from the ocean sunfish, I would ask students to explain the symbiotic relationship making sure to use specific words: parasites, ocean, surface, fin. After we did a few of these summaries together, students loved writing about the relationship between each pair of animals and illustrating it with a picture or two.

How to Clean a Hippopotamus Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A focus on Steve Jenkins titles

NFPB 2014

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2014. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

My goal is to read 65 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 116/65 complete!

Monday October 27th, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

I hope everyone was able to get lost in a book or two or three just like these guys did in Buddy Reading this week!

Monday October 27th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.

imwayr

My favourite picture books of the week:

Ms. Brooks’ Story Nook (where tales are told and ogres are welcome!) written by Barbara Bottner and illustrated by Michael Emberley

In this delightful tale, Miss Brooks gives her students the opportunity to connect with their inner story telling selves. But things get really interesting when Missy realizes that she can use her creative energies and wild imagination to tackle real life problems. Say problems named Billy Toomey . . .

Check out my students’ reviews here.

Miss Brooks' Story Nook #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The trailer is delightful

Giant Dance Party written by Betsy Bird and illustrated by Brandon Dorman

Stage fright explored by big blue fluffy monsters and a feisty little girl.

Giant Dance Party Monday October 27th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Don’t Play with Your Food by Bob Shea

This book is absolute kid humour. In fact, one of my students found it at the library and insisted I read it and consider reading it aloud. I think I just might because it would be a LOT of fun to share with a group. A hungry monster continues to be outwitted by a group of ever multiplying bunnies.

Don't Play with Your Food Monday October 27th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

H.o.r.s.e. a game of basketball and imagination by Christopher Myers

I read this aloud at dinner to my family and my twelve year old son and husband – both who enjoy basketball – were quite enthralled. Love the friendly banter and boasting and the focus on stretching both skills and creativity.

HORSE Monday October 27th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Rosie and Buttercup written by Chieri Uegaki and illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch

Oh, so very, very real when it comes to sibling relationships. Don’t you sometimes wish you could just give your annoying little sister away? What if you could? This title explores that question in such a tender and honest way. No blame – just exploring normal feelings of being irritated and having reached the point of frustration.

 Rosie and Buttercup Monday October 27th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Nancy Knows by Cybèle Young

Such an interesting title – exploring the concept of memories – so Nancy, our elephant main character, is perfect.

Nancy Knows Monday October 27th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Oliver’s Tree by Kit Chase

Adorable illustrations of these three friends. What kind of tree can an elephant belong in? Two friends support Oliver to find out.

Oliver's Tree Monday October 27th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Early readers/younger chapter books:

Annie’s Adventures (The Sister’s 8 Book 1) written by Lauren Baratz-Logsted with Greg Logsted & Jackie Logsted

My daughter devoured all nine titles in this series and I have some girls in my room beginning to read the series so I thought I should read one so I can talk with my students. Lots going on – mystery, sibling negotiation and sister power. Quite sophisticated writing and longer than a typical early chapter book – verging on a middle grade read at over 100 pages.

Annie's Adventures Monday October 27th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Humphrey’s Playful Puppy Problem written by Betty G. Birney and illustrated by Priscilla Burris

I find these Humphrey’s Tiny Tales to be the ideal balance between interesting plot and supported text to be the perfect early chapter title.

Humphrey's Playful Puppy Problem Monday October 27th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Novels: (both in verse)

Caminar by Skila Brown

There is something about a heavy story being light in words. Novels in verse can capture images and emotions with so much power that the reader must just stop. This is a beautifully done story – set in Guatemala in the early 1980s when mountain villages are wiped out in the name of searching for rebels. Family. Community. Courage. Nothing is what it once seemed. A powerful story for mature middle grade readers.

Caminar Monday October 27th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Libertad by Alma Fullerton

One night I read Caminar in one sitting and the next morning I woke up and devoured Libertad before getting out of bed. Another novel in verse, also set in Guatemala with a focus on courage and family, Libertad tells the story of a boy forced to protect both himself and his brother after their mother dies as they scavenge for garbage in the Guatemala City Dump. Determined to find his father in America, Libertad brings his brother Julio on a journey to family, freedom and safety. But will each decision be the right one? Is the risk too great? Is their dream even possible? I couldn’t put this book down.

Libertad Monday October 27th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Next up? I am still reading The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson and have a large pile of novels just in from the library that I am excited to dive into.

Reading Goal Updates: 

2014 Chapter Book Challenge: 69/100 novels complete

Goodreads Challenge: 484/650 books read (continue to remain 48 books behind, still keeping it under 50!)

#MustReadin2014: 21/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 111/65 complete

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

This week, one of my expressive students exclaimed, “You’re one crazy book lady!” I can’t remember what exactly inspired this comment but I think I was searching intently for a book in one of many piles in my teacher resource area. Piles have grown. Some looked more like towers. Towers at risk of toppling. A recent donation meant some book shopping for early chapters and graphics (see photo below) and my children had let go of some series they were ready to pass on to my classroom. There were still unlabelled and unorganized books that I should have been able to deal with in the summer but the teacher strike meant limited time for classroom setup. Books, books, books.  :-)

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

Friday was a professional development day in my district and I decided to use it to 1) dive into these book piles 2) pull out titles from book bins that my now Grade 3 and 4 readers are ready for and 3) to talk books and strategies with some of my colleagues. This week, I celebrate, this much needed and very useful time.

Armed with stickers, notebooks, tape and bins, and of course, caffeinated reinforcements, I began. Before I book talk books, I like them to have stickers on the back (sealed with tape to ensure they stay there) so that students can return them to their correct bin.

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

I was able to get an entire bin of books ready to be book talked. Many titles landed in my specific themed baskets for future read alouds or writing mentor texts.

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

I made lists of new labels to make for bins being switched to accommodate new titles. Some series went into storage and some came out to be part of the classroom library.

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

But the best part? As I worked in the room and interacted with the books, ideas kept coming. Ideas for mini lessons in Reading Workshop, ideas for record keeping, ideas for new titles to add to our collection (of course!) and ideas about books to suggest to specific readers. Usually, I do all of this classroom library organization in the summer when students won’t be in the room for weeks and weeks. Yesterday, it was like my current class was right there with me and nudging me to think about things specifically for their particular reading needs. It was like I had little voices reminding me. Whispers of interests, ideas and needs:

“We need more chapter book fantasy stories because I am getting into that genre.”

“You should tell me about Iris and Walter stories and Mercy Watson titles because I am ready for early chapter books.”

“Find a place to hold and display some of the big fact books we can share for buddy reading.”

“Are there books in our classroom library that fit for me as I am transitioning to more challenging titles? I really like Fly Guy books!”

“I read lots of series last year but I think I am ready for some stand alone chapter books. But, where do I start?”

“We need a recording sheet to reflect how we are reading widely and exploring book boxes but make it simple and fun.”

“Display our Reader’s Statements in a new spot so we can refer to them as we browse books.”

“We forgot to add more ideas to our What kind of mood are we in? sheet last week. Let’s do more of this.”

Celebration: Books, books, books and reader whispers

This week,  I celebrate time to be in my room, organizing and thinking about ways to make it more responsive for the readers that inhabit the space Monday to Friday.  Yes, I do this daily with all of the students there with me. But, with the gift of a full day, time to reflect and just wisps of reader energies surrounding me, I accomplished so much. I can’t wait for another week of growing passionate and devoted readers in my room.

celebrate-link-upThank you also to Ruth Ayres, for the inspiration and her Celebration Link up that she hosts each week. I love how being a part of this #celebratelu community reminds us weekly to look for the positive and take some time for gratitude.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Little Fans of Disgusting Critters

It has been such a pleasure to introduce my students to the Disgusting Critters series by Elise Gravel. These titles are written partly like a graphic or comic style early reader and partly as a nonfiction picture book. So far, there are four titles published including The Worm, The Fly, The Slug and The Rat. I think The Rat might be my favourite because I feel bravest when I read it. Oh how I despise rats . . .

The Rat: Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Little Fans of Disgusting Critters

When I first read The Fly in the summer, I knew. I knew these books would be such a hit in my classroom. I had all kinds of ideas:

  • pair them with a more traditional nonfiction series to allow students to continue gathering facts
  • have pairs of students read through and list facts discovered (go on a “fact hunt”) and also list parts of the books that are included for other purposes like humour, story line, etc.
  • make lists of other disgusting critters that might need to have a book devoted to them

Day one and we started with Disgusting Critters.

Independent reading time included a lot of reading devotion to these books.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Little Fans of Disgusting Critters

Then I thought . . . what if we made our own “fan art” and designed a Disgusting Critter book jacket? I used some of the terms on the back covers for students to answer for the “back” of their cover:

Special Talent:

Food preference:

Distinctive Trait:

Disgusting?

We drew pencil sketches. I made a photocopy. We added colour. One for our bulletin board and one for Elise Gravel. We had lots of interesting “critters” including snails, centipedes, ladybugs, lizards, lobsters and lots of spiders. And many more :-)

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Little Fans of Disgusting Critters

We wrote Elise letters full of questions and things we wanted her to notice. Some favourite lines from different letters:

  • I drew the lice because I liked it. Lots of kids have lots of lice, so be careful.
  • Mine is a spider. Did you notice my spider’s eyelashes?
  • I love your art Elise.
  • I hate spiders but I like your art. Can you write about lizards and crabs?
  • I love how you mixed humour and nonfiction.
  • Is writing a book hard?

We wrote thoughtfully . . .

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Little Fans of Disgusting Critters

We got some help editing for meaning and clarity:

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Little Fans of Disgusting Critters

Lots of hard work and creativity by all to complete these projects. Some art, some writing, a little research and a bit of creative license.
Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Little Fans of Disgusting Critters   I shared much of this with Elise along the way via twitter.

A package of “fan art” and letters is on route to her in Montreal!

So much buzz about these books. Nonfiction that is exciting and engaging? That leads to reading more nonfiction about certain creatures? More Disgusting Critters please Elise Gravel!!

NFPB 2014

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2014. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

My goal is to read 65 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 111/65 complete!

Monday October 20th, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

imwayr

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.

I read a few  picture books and many early/young chapter books and graphics this week.

Any Questions by Marie-Louise Gay

What a beautiful picture book. It highlights the story telling process, the magic of children’s questions and the imaginative journey of a gifted author/illustrator into the land of stories. Once upon a time . . .  Marie-Louise Gay tells us that a story begins with a blank white page. But her pages are never blank and white – when they are gifted to us, lucky readers, they are full of whimsy, happy clutter and childhood. Layer upon layer for read through after read through with little readers. Always something to happen upon on each page even if you miss it the first time through.

Any Questions Monday October 20th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The book trailer is delightful – especially hearing Marie Louise-Gay‘s warm and animated voice. After meeting her on Saturday at the Vancouver Children’s Literature Round Table’s Breakfast, it is even more charming. I am thrilled to bring my signed copy of her book into school this week!

 signed Any Questions Monday October 20th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Of course, I also had to purchase the two Marie-Louise Gay books I didn’t have in our class collection.

When Stella was Very, Very Small by Marie-Louise Gay

All of the Stella titles feature Stella as a young girl but this title takes us back to her toddler days. She is, of course, charming, curious and cute as a bug.

When Stella was Very, Very Small Monday October 20th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

What are you Doing Sam? by Marie-Louise Gay

I particularly love the Sam titles – the interactions between Stella and Sam that begin with Sam are quite charming. In this book, Sam decides to teach his dog Fred some tricks. This is quite an interesting endeavour. Fred, as usual, has his own ideas.

 What are you doing Sam? Monday October 20th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard

This was a wonderful find at the bookstore this weekend. Thanks to a donation to classroom libraries at my school, I got to go book shopping. My plan was to purchase more early chapter series and graphic titles for our class collection. This reads as part graphic, part early chapter. Filled with humour, adventure and interesting character interactions, I predict this will be a hit with many little readers in my room!

 A Super Chicken Monday October 20th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Baby Mouse: Monster Mash (#9) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

It is October. Halloween is approaching. Reading this title was only fitting. Love the layers to the story about friendship, peer pressure and bully behaviour.

Monster Mash Baby Mouse Monday October 20th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Picture Day (Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe #1) by Susan Nees

Another Branches series by Scholastic.  I wondered if this title was going to be a “pink” book considering the cover and all of the rosy hues. I was pleasantly surprised by the character development and character interactions in an early chapter book title full of busy illustrations. Missy’s friend Oscar has some creative ideas about saving Missy’s identity crisis on picture day when her mother stifles her creative fashion spirit.

Picture Day Monday October 20th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Class Pets (Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe #2) by Susan Nees

I tried out another title just to check consistency and I enjoyed this one too. Perfect level for beginning chapter book readiness. Lots of colourful photos, easy to connect to school settings/plot lines and lots of humour.

 Class Pets Monday October 20th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Monkey Me #1 Monkey Me and the Golden Monkey by Timothy Roland

This Branches series is a little more complex than the Missy titles – more text and less illustrations. Still, great for a young chapter book series. After eating a special banana at the museum, Clyde has the tendency to become a monkey (literally) for portions of every day. Sometimes more than once. Silly, humorous and full of adventure.

Monkey Me and the Golden Monkey Monday October 20th, 2014 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

I also finished After Iris by Natasha Farrant

I so loved this book – I am a fan of the chaos, eccentricities and love in this Gadsby family. The parents? Yikes. The “au pair”/guardian? Fantastic. The sibling interactions? So true. Told through Blue’s film transcripts and diary entries, this is a must read middle grade novel. One of my #MustReadin2014 titles.

IrisUp next? I am still reading The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson - so happy with this title as I think both of my children will love it. Thinking of purchasing it as a futre family read aloud. We are big fans of fantasy. Still reading Okay for Now to my children- such a book to inspire discussion

Reading Goal Updates: 

2014 Chapter Book Challenge: 65/100 novels complete

Goodreads Challenge: 471/650 books read (currently 48 books behind – not getting this much lower but keeping it under 50! I need a picture book blitz day or two or three)

#MustReadin2014: 21/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 111/65 complete

 

Celebration: Disgusting Critters, Favourite Authors, Pass it on

Oh, how I love my class! I love the talk, the writing, the words, the questions . . . All of it.

I celebrate this long and winding conversation with my students:

Me: “I’m so excited I’m going to see an author/illustrator this weekend!”

A student: “Do we know who it is?”

Me: Gives various clues

Eventually . . . .

Various students: “Marie-Louise Gay!”

Me: “Yes. I hope to get her new book signed at the author breakfast I am going to.”

A student: “Signed to us right?”

Me: “Of course.”

A student: “Do you know Elise Gravel or are we just writing to her?

Celebration: Disgusting Critters, Favourite Authors, Pass it on

Me: “We are getting to know her. She’ll know you better after we send our letters and fan art.”

A student: “Did you send them already?”

Me: “Well, we are still working on everything. I will send it this weekend when we finish.”

Celebration: Disgusting Critters, Favourite Authors, Pass it on

A student: “Why don’t you just tweet it all?”

Me: “I have sent her some photos. But, I think she will like getting the package in the mail.”

Celebration: Disgusting Critters, Favourite Authors, Pass it on

A student: “Do you know Katherine Applegate?

Me: “We know her work but no, I haven’t met her.”

A student: “Go meet her. You should. And tell her about how we love her books.”

Me: “I shared some of our letters in a blog post and tweeted it to her. So she knows we love them.”

Celebration: Disgusting Critters, Favourite Authors, Pass it on

A student: “But you are going to meet Kate DiCamillo right?

Another student: “Can we come?”

Me: “I am going to a conference in the spring and she will be speaking. I will get our copy of Flora & Ulysses signed.”

A student: “You forgot The Illuminated Adventures part”

A student: “And you just met Raina Telgemeier right?”

Me: “Yes, and she signed books to our class. People are reading them right now.”

Many students: “I am.” “And then me.” “I’m next!” “Me!”

A student: “So, who are you going to meet next? Someone we like right?”

:-)

I also celebrate this – – > The lovely Miriam who works with me created these sheets and plastered the room and the school. In our room, we were gifting these words to each other with messages. I received “wisdom” with a comment from one child, “You are always really smart to us.”

Celebration: Disgusting Critters, Favourite Authors, Pass it on

One of our little learners was inspired and made her own. We found it outside our room at the end of the day – taped up in the hallway.

Pass it on. 

Celebration: Disgusting Critters, Favourite Authors, Pass it on

Conversations about authors and illustrators. Book love. Words with weight. These things I celebrate.

Thank you also to Ruth Ayres, for the inspiration and her Celebration Link up that she hosts each week. I love how being a part of this #celebratelu community reminds us weekly to look for the positive and take some time for gratitude.

celebrate-link-up

Dear Ivan

Last year I read my class Katherine Applegate‘s The One and Only Ivan. We fell in love. Ivan’s words (via Katherine) and his story had such an impact. When I heard that there was a picture book to be published in the fall written by Katherine and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, I showed my students the book trailer. Well, . . .

“You have to buy that book!”

“Will you read it to us?”

“Even if we aren’t in your class?”

“Promise?!”

This year I have been able to keep 80% of the students I had last year – looping a Grade 2/3/4 into a 3/4. When Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by G. Brian Karas was released, I made a special trip to the bookstore. I read this gorgeous picture book to my students multiple times. We have certain lines memorized.

 Dear Ivan There's a Book for That

We then watched the video of Ivan in the shopping mall that I found on Mr. Schu’s blog.

Some of us cried. We read the story again. We started writing letters to Ivan. I showed the children a video of Ivan at Zoo Atlanta. We watched it more than once. We added to our letters.

Yes, we know that Ivan passed away in 2012. But Ivan has sat with us in our room. He has made us laugh and made us pause. We have sat in silences thinking. He has been our hero and we have wanted to protect him. His story has prompted discussions of animals in captivity, of human cruelty, of just “why?” Lots of conversations. Thanks To Katherine Applegate and all of those who have loved Ivan, we love Ivan too.

Writing to him felt like the right thing to do. Reading the letters later? Well, wow. It was certainly the right thing to do.

 Dear Ivan There's a Book for That

Portions of my students’ letters:

Ava writes:

Dear Ivan: I wish I could actually see you in real life and your silver back. I’m sorry that you spent 27 years in a shopping mall all alone.

Noella writes:

Dear Ivan: Were you sad in the shopping mall? Was your cage rusty? Were you sad for your sister? Were you happy in the zoo?

From Andrew:

Ivan, what did the zoo feel like? How much did you eat? What did you feel like when you first went to the zoo? How did it feel to be trapped in a cage? How dark was your cage? How did it feel to have no one to protect? How did it feel to be lonely?

From Rebecca:

Dear Ivan: I really liked your painting Ivan. I am so sorry for your sister. You were so smart Ivan. I am impressed of the things that you do. I am happy that you are in a zoo. I am happy for your freedom.

Jorja writes:

Dear Ivan: Your cage was grey and the jungle was green. There were other gorillas and you looked happy. You looked happy in the zoo too. You looked calm and relaxed. I was sad when you died.

From Kevin:

Dear Ivan: I know you’re gone but we still have your books. I felt sad when you were in the shopping mall because it was dark and there were no friends and no love. There should have been grass and gorillas to play.

Brian writes:

Dear Ivan: I feel really sad for you and I really want to see you face to face. When I miss you, I get really emotional and I hope you were happy when you were in the zoo. When you were in your cage you felt empty inside and you need compassion and love. I’m really sorry for your sister Tag. You looked all majestic with your big black coat at the zoo. You were looking at the world instead of people looking at you. I love you Ivan

From Gracie:

Dear Ivan: I didn’t realize how empty and alone it was in your cage until I watched the real video. I love art and I wanna be an artist. You’re the most interesting and fantastic artist I’ve ever seen. I hope you had a good life Ivan. When I watched you at the zoo, I was filled with joy. Here’s what I saw: You looking around like you were impressed with the world. I know that it is hard to read a gorilla’s emotions but I bet you were very happy. Did you think you wasted your life or did you know you were gonna live happy every after?

Even though this post doesn’t talk in detail about this gorgeous nonfiction picture book by Katherine Applegate and G. Brian Karas, I hope it calls to you (if you have yet to read it) to experience Ivan’s story. Then, of course, find someone to read it to. This story is meant to be shared.

NFPB 2014

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2014. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

My goal is to read 65 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 111/65 complete!