Words: Slice of Life #31

This is the final post in a month of writing. Do I need some especially meaningful words to share? Probably. But what I have today is really just a simple gratitude. I am grateful for words. Grateful that words are kind to me. Grateful that words are close by. That I can find them when I need them. Eventually. Words are a safe place. They do not scare me.

It’s not a perfect relationship. I am not always happy with what I write. Sometimes it is terrible. I can write pages and tear it all apart. I can doubt that the words I have placed on the page are the right ones to convey what I mean. I can wonder about the very idea itself. I drag words about and attempt to arrange them just so. Is it even worth their time?

But the act of writing – marks into letters into words into phrases into pieces into stories into communication – I can do this. I can put words on a page and make meaning. That’s a lucky thing. I feel lucky.

I sat with one of my students today during a writing block. We had just read Robo-sauce written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri and he wanted to write about the kind of robot he would be and the special powers he would have. He would be a ninja robot, with a black mask and woven material covering his metal armour. He would be stealthy and be able to breathe out air that would freeze anything it came into contact with. He would be frightening.

I know all of this because it is what I helped him to tell me. He didn’t have the vocabulary. He couldn’t paint a picture with his words, even spoken words. As soon as he told me a second detail he forgot the first. I remembered for him. He had a picture in his mind that he didn’t have words to describe. I helped him find some.


Me: “Tell me about the metal armour. What’s it like?”

Him: “Smooth.”

Me: “Like a tin can with no wrapper?”

Him, shaking head, “No, like, like, like, . . . ” and then pointing to some knitted sleeves he had on, “like this!”

Me: “Do you know what that is called? What material it is?”

Him: “No.”

Me, “Well, it’s wool or yarn. His armour would be made of wool? Do you want to write that?”

Yes he did. But he couldn’t get past the “w” We stretched the sounds out and managed the word. I reminded him about the mask. “What could you write?” Smiles but no response. “Could you write that he has a black mask?” Nodding. I nodded back. Nothing. “What’s the sound at the beginning?” I began and we stretched out the words again. “How do you make a “k” again?” he asked. “Line down, kick in, kick out,” I demonstrated. “Remember?” He nodded while forming a careful “k”

His robot would be stealthy. He doesn’t know that word. It took prompts and lots of questions to get the word sneaky which is the word he used. “Freezing power” is what he wrote to explain that his robot would be able to turn you to ice with his breath. I know about the breath because he told me but nowhere did it say anything about breath or breathing on his page. We didn’t get to the frightening part.  There were no sentences or even longer phrases. It made a list of ideas. One at a time. With lots of help. Each word stretched to hear the sounds. Each sound checked with hopeful glances. Correct or close enough was confirmed by me with reassuring nods. It took a long time. A long, long time. At the end he was tired. Smiling, but tired.

Beginning writing is hard work. It stays that way for many students. They can’t spell the words they want to use. They can’t find words for the images in their minds. They can’t sequence or organize. Developing ideas is hard. Words don’t float within reach to be grabbed easily as ideas flow.

There are many challenges to a month of daily writing. Daily published writing. In a busy life. But I am grateful that I can do it. That I did do it. That I will continue. I am lucky to know words. Lucky that they trust me to use them to tell my stories.

Thank you to this community of “Slicers” who are lucky along with me.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Wrapped up in shades of black and grey

It is November and that means it is Picture Book Month!

Here in B.C. we have been experiencing some dark, rainy days. Daylight savings means we just found an extra hour of light in the morning but our afternoons disappear into evening black far too soon. Yet darkness is not all about doom and gloom. It also means cozy, long stretches to read or bustle about inside. Darkness can pull us together for seasons of celebration and special events or provide us with solitude for introspection and calm. Bright is beautiful but so is dark. Whether we seek out the mystery and unexpected or the opportunity to settle into the quiet.

All of the dark has got me thinking about picture book covers. I started a list to see if I could come up with a number of titles that come specially wrapped in blacks and greys. My list ran off the page and I realized that many of my favourite books reside here. Is it just me or is there a certain elegance to these titles?

When you need a break from the bright, pick up one of these beautiful books.

25 titles to swoon over.

Wrapped up in Shades of Black and Grey There's a Book for That

Listed alphabetically by author.

Leo a Ghost Story written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

Gleam and Glow written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Peter Sylvada

A Good Night Walk by Elisha Cooper

The Black Book of Colors written by Menana Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faría

Nighttime Ninja written by Barbara DaCosta and illustrated by Ed Young

Willaboughy and the Moon by Greg Foley

The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein

The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett

I Know a Bear by Mariana Ruiz Johnson

This is not my Hat by Jon Klassen

In the Tree House written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Dušan Petričić 

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith

Night Animals by Gianna Marino

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Our King has Horns! written by Richard Pevear and illustrated by Robert Rayevsky

Big Bad Bubble written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

The Dark written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Swan written by Laurel Synder and illustrated by Julie Morstad

Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien

Friends by Mies van Hout 

Happy by Mies van Hout

Surprise by Mies van Hout 

Ten Birds by Cybele Young

How I love sharing picture book lists during this month of picture book love!

Happy Picture Book Reading!

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Monday October 12th, 2015

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

I have been sharing a reading photo of the week each week. This photo was taken to highlight a favourite read of the week: Bears Don’t Read by Emma Chichester Clark. You might notice (spoiler alert) that students covered up the n’t with a sticky note after we finished the book!

Monday October 12th, 2015 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.


Blogging has been a challenge lately so I missed last week 😦

I have done a few posts in this last while. Celebration posts have been a necessity.

On the blog:

Celebration: This and that

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Nature, Oh wow

Celebration: The things I have needed

Books I loved:

Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel

This book is absolutely stunning. I have plans later in the year to do an art project with this title. Each page has a poem (four lines each) and a painting of a child as one of twelve totem animals. We learn about the aspects of each animal that are honoured. Bear is brave. Fox is clever. Owl is intuitive. Danielle Daniel has a beautiful website to explore.

Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox Monday October 12th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Secret Pizza Party written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

I really do enjoy this author/illustrator duo. An ode to pizza and the crafty ways of a racoon. Lots of fun.

Secret Pizza Party Monday October 12th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Chicken Dance written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Dan Santat

Silly, silly, silly. Dancing chickens. A barnyard talent show. Some stiff competition. Hilarious.

Chicken dance Monday October 12th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Ninja Red Riding Hood written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat

Rhyming text. Girl power. Some pretty hip ninja moves. This title has lots to offer young readers.

Ninja Red Riding Hood Monday October 12th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Woodpecker Wham written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Wonderful as always from Sayre and Jenkins! I have a special fascination for woodpeckers so found this book particularly interesting.

Woodpecker Wham! Monday October 12th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

I don’t often read adult novels. I always say it is because getting lost in adult dramas often makes me feel a little hopeless about the world. But this was exactly the book I needed in the last week – a title that I could get lost in. Lots of drama, lots of mystery, lots of sadness. I was happy that none of it was mine.

Big Little Lies Monday October 12th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Updates on my 2015 Reading Goals:

2015 Chapter Book Challenge: 55/80 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 342/415 books read

#MustReadin2015: 16/24 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 64/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2015: 39/50 books read

Up next? I am reading Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Monsters, monsters everywhere

Monsters, monsters everywhere

Monsters have cast a certain magic over our classroom lately.

We’ve been reading about monsters.

Talking monster characteristics.

Designing monsters.

Sketching monsters.

Painting monsters.

Talking about monsters living with us. Because . . . hey, what if?

Stories to come. We are writing.

It all started with this book:

Leonardo Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That

And then, we looked at a few more monster titles. Some monster images. Thank you Elise Gravel for some wonderful monster inspiration on your website! We made a gigantic chart about all of the monster features we noticed like: fangs, claws, blueberry bodies (you know squishy and round), humongous heads, extra eyes (and other body parts), horns and other strange features.

We drew monster designs.

Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That

By the next week, we were ready to pick a particular monster and “grow him/her” into our monster piece.

Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That

Add some paint and some creative energy from your peers, and my, oh my, what happens . . .

Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That

Some monsters are born!

Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That

Boo! Are you scared? Just a bit? We won’t tell!

Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That

Now that you are in the monster mood, you might want a book selection, or two to explore. Here are 18 of my favourite monsterish creature titles:

Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That Picture Books about Monsters

Monsters? Creatures? Is there a difference? I’m sure if we asked some of these characters, they would have an opinion.

Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That Strange Creatures in Picture books

Picture books that feature monsters and other strange creatures:

Crankenstein written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Dan Santant

Love Monster by Rachel Bright

My Teacher is a Monster (No I am Not) by Peter Brown

Prickles vs. The Dust Bunnies (A Balloon Toons comic) by Daniel Cleary

The Gruffalo written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Raising Your Own Pet Monster by Elise Gravel 

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

Wilfred written and illustrated by Ryan Higgins

The Monstore by Tara Lazar

Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty

The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell

The Tale of Jack Frost by David Melling

The Book that Eats People is written by John Perry and illustrated by Mark Fearing.

Plantpet by Elise Primavera

Big Bad Bubble written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Don’t Play with Your Food by Bob Shea

Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie by Joel Stewart

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

Happy Picture Book Month!

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Monday November 17th, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

My favourite reading photo of the week is of these two boys acting out Elephant and Piggie titles during buddy reading. They got completely into the roles!

Monday November 17th, 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.


I found a wonderful bunch of picture books this week. Sharing my favourites here:

Countablock written by Christopher Franceschelli; art by Peskimo

This book is literally a block. A chunk of interesting pages in a sort of board book format but think super size. Count up to 100. Throw in a little cause and effect (Three boxes become. . . (turn the page) three forts) Lots of counting. Bright colours. And a surprise at the end. So much fun that I had to buy it for our classroom buddy reading collection. I know the kindergarten kids will delight in sharing this title with my students.

Countablock Monday November 17th, 2014 IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Waiting is Not Easy! by Mo Willems

Piggie has a surprise and Gerald needs to wait to find out what it is. If you know Gerald, you can imagine that waiting is not a talent he has. His impatience is very amusing. What exactly is the surprise? Well . . . it is worth the wait. And, no, I’m not telling.

Waiting is Not Easy! Monday November 17th, 2014 IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Norman, Speak! written by Caroline Adderson and illustrated by Qin Leng

So what happens if the dog you get from the animal shelter doesn’t understand your language? Well, Norman’s new family are willing to do a lot so that they can begin communicating with Norman. My students found this book very interesting!

norman, speak! Monday November 17th, 2014 IMWAYR There's a Book for That

May the Stars Drip Down written by Jeremy Chatelain and illustrated by Nikki McClure

A beautiful, soothing lullaby. A work of art.

May the Stars Drip Down Monday November 17th, 2014 IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Watch this video of Nikki McClure talking about making the images for this book. Soothing. Calm. Slow. Beautiful.

Big Bad Bubble written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Rubin and Salmieri are quite the team. They make quirky books. This one is especially silly and the monsters especially fetching. It will not appeal to everyone. Some might find it too odd.  I think as a read aloud it has big potential and will be one of those books that certain kids will obsess over.

Big Bad Bubble Monday November 17th, 2014 IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

More monster love. Leonardo may not be the best monster but he has some pretty great endearing qualities.

Leonardo Monday November 17th, 2014 IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Small Medium Large: A Book about Relative Sizes written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Tomek Bogacki

Amazing title to support the vocabulary around describing sizes from minuscule to enormous. So very clever.

Small Medium Large Monday November 17th, 2014 IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle

Oh Flora, on ice and with an energetic penguin, you are the perfect blend of graceful and flummoxed as your skating partner appears and reappears mid move. Absolutely charming.

Flora and the Penguin Monday November 17th, 2014 IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Reading Sam & Dave Dig a Hole pulls you deep into a “theorizing hole” and digging in, around and out is highly satisfying. Picture book brilliance through and through.

I loved that after reading this title, I could finally read Travis Jonker‘s fantastic post:

6 Theories on the Ending of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

I am not going to add any of my theories here. I just love that 1) Right from the cover, the wondering begins.

I hope they don’t bury the dog,” my husband commented when I handed him the book to read.

And 2) as soon as you finish, you have to start again to deal with that “Huh? Hold on” kind of feeling.

Can’t wait to share this with my class.

 Sam & Dave Dig a Hole Monday November 17th, 2014 IMWAYR There's a Book for That

What Can a Crane Pick Up? written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrated by Mike Lowery

I bought this book for many reasons. So many that I will actually start a list.

  1. I love the rhyming text. And I don’t usually like rhyming text.
  2. I think this is a perfect book to read and reread to get the rhythm right.
  3. So . . . it is the ideal buddy reading book and will go in our buddy reading bin.
  4. Any excuse to visit the nostalgic place of construction equipment that I no longer get asked to read since my son is 12 and not a toddler anymore. Sigh.
  5. The bright illustrations.
  6. And . . . there is a page of cartons and cartons of library books (held up by cranes using chains and hooks). Yep!
  7. So with number 6, I was pretty much sold. Which is probably obvious.
  8. I need this crane to come with me to the library 🙂

What Can a Crane Pick Up?

I also finished the brilliant Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Verse novels hold so much power to literally wrap us up in evocative images and in this case, personal history. In some senses, it feels like spying to be so close. A beautifully written memoir of a time and a place – oh so personal but yet, with connections and links to many more than young Jacqueline Woodson. A gift to readers.

brown girl dreaming

Next? I am in the middle of  Nest by Esther Ehrlich and then plan to read Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

It’s Picture Book Month! This week I shared two posts in celebration:

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Picture Books that Celebrate Courage

 Picture Books that Celebrate Courage

Picture Books that Model Perseverance


Reading Goal Updates: 

2014 Chapter Book Challenge: 72/100 novels complete

Goodreads Challenge: 531/650 books read (38 books behind)

#MustReadin2014: 21/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 120/65 complete

Dragons Love Tacos

How delighted we were to have Maria bring another Adam Rubin/Daniel Salmieri book to share with us. Dragons Love Tacos had us at the cover. A delighted looking dragon surrounded my piles of tacos and sporting a very full tummy (tacos?) lounges across the landscape. This looked like a perfectly silly book! We are big fans of silly! We were in!

dragons love tacos

First of all, it must be noted, that we as a group did not have a lot of background knowledge to support our understanding of this book. Many of us actually haven’t tried tacos. We certainly don’t know any dragons and so can’t really fathom why dragons would be such fans of eating tacos! A few of us though were taco fans or wanted to be taco fans. So while this story was being read, there was a certain degree of mumbling going on: “I’ve never tried a taco.” “My Mom makes the best tacos.” “Do dragons really love tacos? “I think I want to try a taco . . . ” 

However, we did have a previous appreciation of the Rubin/Salmieri brilliance. And . . . we are big fans of funny. This book delivered. It was a delight.

In this story we are introduced to a kid and his dog. He is warned that if he wants to feed dragons tacos, which they happen to love, he must be very careful not to give them any spicy salsa. Mild toppings on the menu? Super! Spicy stuff? Absolutely no go! So . . . it didn’t take long before one clever student guessed, “I bet if those dragons eat the spicy stuff, they will breathe fire.” The next thing we know the book is showing us preparations for a huge taco party! The kid is advised to bury any spicy salsa in the backyard and to fill his house with tacos. All seems good until . . . Tiny jalapeños are discovered in a salsa jar mislabelled mild.

Oh no!” “Uh oh!” “There are going to be some sick dragons . . . “

There is a page of extreme fire breathing. And then, a bunch of ill looking dragons stand amongst the ruins of a home. “They are all homeless now!” someone shouted.

But there is a happy ending in sight. Turns out dragons are quite good at house construction as long as there are tacos at break times!

Student reviewers respond:

Shereese: It was funny when the boy put the spicy salsa in the backyard.

Arianne: I liked when the dragons breathed out fire and when they had to rebuild.

Ashley: I like a lot that they breathed out fire. I love that book! Where are they going to live now? Do you wonder where they are going to live?

Vicky: My vavourite part was when they rebuilt and cleaned up the house. I remembered Those Darn Squirrels Fly South!

Kevin: I like when the dragons breathed fire. I like when the dragons blow fire at the house. Then they rebuild it and clean up all the house.

Kelvin: When the dragons had a crush on tacos was my best part. The dragons burned the house. The boy planned to drop spice on the tacos. My Mom makes the best tacos. They taste great!

Kala: I liked when the dragons breathed fire.

Ethan: I liked when the dragons blew fire. It was funny. I only like candy. Not tacos.

Heman: My favourite part was when the dragon breathed out fire. I thought the boy will hide the salsa in the cupboard. Why did the dragon eat the salsa? The dragons breathed fire on the house!

Kassidy: I liked when the boy put salsa on the tacos. I liked when the dragons burned the house. The dragons helped the boy.

Pheonix: My favourite part was when the dragons built the house back to normal.

Grace: Do dragons really love tacos? I liked when the dragons breathed fire. So why do dragons love tacos? I liked that the dragons don’t like spicy salsa. I liked the boy’s dog. It’s cute!

Andrew: When the boy buried the salsa and the house got burned down were the best parts. I thought the dragons will burn the whole house down. Where will the boy live? I never tried tacos. Now I want to try tacos!

Monday December 3rd, 2012

It’s Monday! What are your reading?

penguin little

Join Jen and Kellee’s meme to share your reading from picture books to young adult reads. The best way to build your book piles with recommended books from many book addicts around the blogosphere.

It’s Monday! What are your reading? 

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

Busy, busy week with finalizing report cards and many meetings and special events. But always, I squeeze reading in to keep me happy and wise! 🙂

The picture books I enjoyed this week . . . 

Penguin and Pinecone (a friendship story) by Salina Yoon I shared this sweet little story with the primary students at our weekly Social Responsibility gathering. It is the story of a penguin who finds a strange object in the snow. When he realizes that his new friend needs to go back to where he belongs to grow big and strong, he takes the little pinecone to the forest. Of course, the forest is no place for a penguin so the friends cannot stay together. The friends must part but the love and kindness they have exchanged grows. Grows in ways that seem quite unbelievable. Let’s just say that one page in this book produced that lovely gasp out loud reaction with the group. The perfect book for story time and to spark talks about friendship and caring.


Big Brave Brian by M.P. Robertson This is a fabulously funny book filled with alliteration, scary (or maybe not) creatures and delightful illustrations in M.P.Robertson’s signature style. Thinking it would be a great prompt for a writing activity to make a class book . . . Hmm . . .

big brave brian

Mars Needs Moms by Berkeley Breathed This was a reread that I loved sharing again with my reading group when we were doing an activity about asking specific questions about the storyline. I LOVE Berkeley Breathed. In fact, he is the creator of my favourite picture book of all times. Yes, I have one. I’ve decided and I’m sure. Curious? Read here. But back to this story . . . Lots of humour and curious Martians cannot upstage one of the most beautiful and yet, simple moments of parent/child love in a picture book.


Dragons Love Tacos written by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri This author/illustrator team can do humour in the catch you quick, lure you in, leave you wanting more way that is an absolute hit with young readers (and the adults who get to read to them) Taco obsessed dragons who cannot do spicy salsa (tummy troubles like you don’t want to imagine) turn up to a taco party where there are hidden jalapenos.  Yikes! When things go wrong with a bunch of fire breathing dragons, they go very wrong in a big way. Delightful!

dragons love tacos

This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers Wilfred and Marcel the moose go romping through some lovely landscapes. Wilfred trying to impose his ownership over Marcel who is generally having none of it. In the end, it’s not the labels that matter but how we deal with each other. Tender. Funny. Quirky. Wise. Loved this book!

this moose belongs to me

Life in the Ocean The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A Nivola I think this is a wonderful read aloud to share with upper primary (and older) students about finding your passion and making it your life’s work. I love this book for many reasons. The depiction of Earle’s curious childhood in the water, descriptions of moments in her life that truly shaped and changed her, beautiful and enticing illustrations and this very important message: “You can’t care if you don’t know.” In this story, this message applies to ecology and caring for our natural world but it is a message that applies to so many things. One worth thinking a lot about.

Life in the Ocean

Guilty confession: I abandoned What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt. This was tough. When I read Okay for Now, I frequently stopped and shook my head, not believing that someone could write a story that completely captured me and yet allowed room for me to reflect on this amazing way with words. “How can this be this good?” I kept thinking. But with this novel (Stars) I was completely distracted with having to look up words in the glossary at the back and with the flipping back between worlds and the story couldn’t flow for me. I need Schmidt to write another book so we can redeem our author/reader relationship and I can stop feeling bad.  I suppose I can blame my challenging week for not wanting to work so hard. Sometimes it is not the time for a book and reader to meet. All of this rambling about this book is the measure of my guilt!

I did begin reading Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor and am enjoying the feeling of just relaxing into a book. So far? Lovely.

Monday November 19th, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? Join Jen and Kellee’s meme to share all of the reading you are doing from picture books to young adult novels. This is one of the best ways to build your knowledge of new book titles and to be part of a fantastic reading community.

This week I was happy to start The One and Only Ivan with our student book club! Our first book of the year – Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper was a huge hit! So much so that we had Moms, Dads and siblings joining us and reading along! Some even commented on the blog! 🙂

Weird but True 4 by National Geographic Kids was a fun read aloud to share with my own children as an alternative to reading our novel each night. (Although we are almost finished The Search for Wondla!) What we thought would be a few quick pages read together became a big chunk of time discussing our connections, questions and background knowledge about the different information we read.

My daughter’s favourite fact: The world’s largest outdoor swimming pool (at that height) is an 150 meter pool atop a 55 story hotel in Singapore. “I definitely want to go there,” she exclaimed. My son’s highlight from the book: There are twice as many chickens on Earth as people. “That’s cool. And I don’t want to eat them so there might be even more soon!” Hmm . . .?

Let’s Go for a Drive by Mo Willems I love the extra being prepared nature of Gerald and the chanting together of certain words. I experienced this book when two girls in my class read it to me, one reading Piggie’s part and the other Gerald’s. They read with great expression and I giggled quietly.

Those Darn Squirrels Fly South written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri was shared by a guest reader in my class this week. I enjoyed it so much I brought it home to share with my own children. My son gave it a 6/5 rating! He is normally pretty stingy with his high scores but if it makes him laugh out loud, it fast becomes a favourite. Read about how my class enjoyed this story here. This is the third book featuring Old Man Fookwire and “those darn squirrels.” This title has some extremely humourous parts. I adored the squirrel hug, the creative flying contraptions the squirrels fashioned and as always Fookwire’s exceptionally grumpy ways (he berates the clouds for being too fluffy!)

Food Chain by M.P. Robertson. I’ve had my eye out for M.P. Robertson titles new to me since I was reminded last week of how talented he is after reading Frank ‘n’ Stan. This book follows a little goldfish after he is flushed down the toilet by a boy whose curiosities turn thoughtless. The little fish ends up in the big ocean and we begin to see who eats who. Bigger seems better that’s for sure. Our little boy from the beginning of the story gets a few doses of what my students quickly recognize as “karma.” Gorgeous illustrations and few words on each page leave a lot of space to infer and discuss.

Keeping with the who eats who in the water world theme, I read Ugly Fish by Kara Lareau and illustrated by Scott Magoon to the primary gathering this week. It definitely was a crowd pleaser from K to Grade 3! Ugly Fish is nasty to every visitor to his tank. So nasty in fact that after exchanging a few unpleasantries with each new fish, he gobbles them up. Eventually, he realizes that he may be King of his Tank but he is very alone. When a new fish arrives, and Ugly Fish has decided to change his ways, this new (bigger) visitor isn’t exactly ready to make nice. Spoiler: more karma. You can imagine what happens . . .

Binky Takes Charge by Ashley Spires. Very hard not to adore Binky! I love what my  daughter says about Binky: “I love Binky because he has all of these adventures but really he isn’t having them. But you wouldn’t want to tell him that. He’s too cute.” We loved meeting Gordon and laughed at how his eager puppy energy conflicted with Binky’s frequently scheduled naps.

The novel I finished this week was Sharon Creech‘s The Great Unexpected. I loved the lyrical and mysterious flow of this book. I’m hesitant to write about it in detail because I am still savouring the perfect mix of simplicity and complicated, reality and fantasy, memory and now. This story is many stories all shaken up into one, it becomes more powerful as bits and pieces intertwine with one another. In the end, it doesn’t really matter if it all makes sense. The journey and possibilities were divine.

Those Darn Squirrels Fly South

Our BLG reader Maria brought in a very funny book this week! Those Darn Squirrels Fly South written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri had the perfect mix of silly, absurd and clever to keep us entertained through every page! A few years ago we enjoyed another Those Darn Squirrels story: Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door.

I love a book that is funny beyond the “shy smile as you listen funny” and moves right into the “laugh out loud, giggle and snicker” category of funny. This book registered high on the silly meter! We laughed a lot!

In this third book about Mr. Fookwire, his beloved birds and the pesky squirrels who irritate him, we witness a change of seasons. The birds begin to fly south and Fookwire will soon be without the colourful feathered creatures that are his inspiration. He will be left alone with “those darn squirrels.” Or will he? It turns out that the squirrels have been putting their advanced knowledge of aerodynamic engineering (who knew?) to use and have fashioned numerous flying devices to help them too “fly” south!

“Great googley-moogley!” exclaims Fookwire when he sees a flock of squirrels in the air! (Yes, he really does say this! And yes they really do fly!)

When the squirrels land in Santa Vaca they place a collect call to Old Man Fookwire. Their loud chattering inspires him to drive (at 12 m.p.h. in his rarely used convertible) down to meet them. Down south is heavenly – he can paint to his heart’s content. Too bad he forgets about sunscreen, shade and frequent hydration. When Fookwire decides to head back north, the squirrels choose to join him, taking over his car and eventually the wheel! Those Darn Squirrels!

A lot to love in this story. Fookwire’s expressions. The crazy names of the birds. The antics of the squirrels. The Fookwire/squirrels hug. And of course Fookwire’s nose. Handsome devil that Fookwire!

Student reviewers respond:

Grace: My favourite part is when Fookwire had a car that goes 12 m.p.h. Why do the squirrels eat flowers? Why is Fookwire so mean? I liked when he got a sunburn!

Shereese: I liked when the squirrels were eating the mango.

Ethan: I liked when the old man drived 12 m.p.h. When the squirrels drived, it was funny!

Giovanni: I liked the squirrels lying on the beach. Why were the squirrels jumping on the man?

Andrew: My favourite part was when Fookwire drives 12 m.p.h. Fookwire missed the squirrels. I thought the book was funny. Does Fookwire’s sunburn stop?

Vicky: My favourite part was when the squirrels drive the car. Why does the man have a weird name?

Ava: I liked when the squirrels drived the car. He got a sunburn from the sun. The book was nice.

Brian: When he and the squirrels became friends was my favourite part. He said Those Darn Squirrels all the time. How can a squirrel drive 12 miles per hour back home?

The New York Times has a wonderful review of this book. Read here.

Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door

Bill, our BLG reader this week, brought in a very amusing book – Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door. This book is written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri who collaborated on an earlier title Those Darn Squirrels.



This book starts out with Old Man Fookwire, a grumpy bird enthusiast who is sitting in his living room waiting for winter to pass so he can get out into his garden and paint the beautiful birds that visit his yard. He is harassed by a group of pesky, but extremely clever squirrels who sneak into his house, eat his food and generally annoy him. When a new neighbour moves in next door (Little Old Lady Hu) with her cat Muffins, it seems that things may change in the neighbourhood. Squirrels may be champions of the forest but perhaps in Muffins, they have met their match.

My confession? I’m rooting for the cat! Is that terrible? I was silently cheering when the squirrels got ambushed. I was more than amused when Muffins gave them wedgies (you need the illustration to understand the wrapped around and twisted tails) But, I have good reason. My backyard is inhabitated by a bunch of squirrels – they chase away birds, fight in my flowers and try heroic gymnastics to leap onto the bird-feeders and eat my expensive seed. I don’t like these squirrels.  At all.  So basically I don’t like squirrels in general. In this book, I was really hoping that Muffins would show them who was boss. But let’s just say that the squirrel brain power was more of a factor in this story than I had hoped it to be . . .

Adam Rubin tells a very funny tale (check out his interesting blog Tickling the Brain) and the illustrations by Salmieri are hilarious. Old Man Fookwire’s nose, a soggy Muffins the cat, squirrels with wedgies . . . Daniel Salmieri engages his viewers with clever details. The perfect book to read when you need to laugh a few times over.

Our student reviewers report:

Hajhare: I liked this book because it reminds me of Chester the Cat. This cat in this book is really funny!

**Hajhare is referring to Melanie Watt’s fictitious feline.

Alyson: I like the part when the cat got karma and H2O spilled on him.

Ricky: This was a very funny book. It made me laugh out loud in myself. Bill what made you read this book? I really liked it.

Kevin: There was karma in that book that Bill read because the cat always scared the squirrels away. One day they decided to make a plan to get rid of the cat. They used yarn and tied it on to the birds. They used really cold water and put it in a bucket and put it on three branches and tied it onto the bucket. The next day the cat came to the birds and scared them. The cold water spilled on the cat and the cat turned wet, soggy, skinny, scared and mad. The cat went home and never came back. I liked that book!