Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Bird Assembly 101

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

NFPB 2014

This book is swoon worthy! And seriously odd at the same time.  Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth

Unique and in many ways is difficult to categorize. It is a picture book. That’s an easy one. Beyond that – it gets interesting. There is a fantasy element to it and it does have a “fiction” feel. But I love books that blend genres. I am calling this a nonfiction title as well. It’s part instruction manual. Part bird anatomy. Part a warning to avoid bird extinction. All of these things fall in the nonfiction realm*. Thus, I have decided to share this beautiful book on nonfiction picture book day!

*Not everyone will agree but I think the instruction manual aspect tips it over the edge to favour my creative license on categorization. And heck, I’m writing this blog . . .

#NFPB2014 There's a Book for That Bird Assembly 101


Quickly head over to Seven Impossible Things and take a peek at the inside images.

So what can you learn from this book – set if you look carefully at the title – in 2031? How to build your own bird of course! This book includes an order form, details about all of the parts and some helpful assembly instructions. Always keep balance and proportion in mind seems to be a big theme.

Beyond patience and optimism, this handbook explains, you will need the right parts. And right parts are here in gorgeous, colourful glory. With details beyond your wildest imagination. Like impressionist tinted feathers, Persian designs on the beaks and Wattles and Combs with names such as Beethoven and Aphrodite. (Haven’t gone to look at the inside pages? Go! See link above)

The delight and hilarity in creating quite preposterous birds is tempered by the underlying feeling the reader has throughout: What if such a catalog was actually real? Necessary? The book jacket warns:

. . . that it’s not really a catalog at all. It’s a dark and funny look at what might happen if we let natural habitats disappear.

Favourite pages for me?

  • The two page spread about Flight Patterns. Choose wing shape carefully for the type of flight you want your bird to be able to accomplish
  • The images for Steps 3 and 4 Attaching the Tail and Attaching the Legs
  • Troubleshooting pages which features questions (with attached images) and answers such as what should one do if the bird has been taught to sing an annoying song and won’t stop. The answer, if you are curious, suggests attaching a full set of wings and “sharing” your bird with the world! (In other words – fly far away and sing to someone else!)
  • The end pages are gorgeous drawings of bird parts.
  • And not a page at all, but please peek under the book jacket!

My advice? Find this book and savour its creative energy. Think about how to have fun with this is in the classroom. I’m thinking art projects, some of our own question and answer writing . . . And then? Head outside. Watch for birds. Celebrate their natural beauty. Their form and function. Their freedom and wild natures. Their song.

In case you, like me, were wondering just what else Kate Samworth has done . . . this is her first book. Her website is here.

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 titles.

My goal is to read 65 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 41/65 complete!

Monday December 30th, 2013

It’s Monday! What are you reading?


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. One of the very best ways to discover what to read next!

Oh how I love, love, love the reading time the holidays afford! Doesn’t hurt that my #nerdlution goal is to read aloud daily to my children (from the novel we are reading). We just skipped Christmas day because I was ill and family events took up much of the day. Other days we made up for it and read in front of the fireplace for hours! We now begin our third novel since #nerdlution began, The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey.

I have made some “hang out and read picture books” visits to my local library with my daughter. My 10 favourites of the week:

Joone by Emily Kate Moon

I first heard of this title back during the picture book 10 for 10 event – some lovely fellow blogger recommended it to me as my list was all about books with a theme of connections across generations. This title is about Joone and days passed with her grandfather and her pet turtle, Dr. Chin.  Rock collecting, swimming in the pond, reading to Grandpa – a story of sweet little moments.

Joone #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Ladder to the Moon written by Maya Soetoro-Ng and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Wow. An emotional, beautiful, significant read. A story of connection between female family members that spans generations and mortality. Images are stunning. The author’s and illustrator’s notes in the back reveal much more to this story.

Ladder to the moon #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Wow! Ocean by Robert Neubecker

I wish I had this book before I took my children to Hawaii for the first time. Bright colourful ocean scenes for children to get lost in! So many pages that just really are WOW! moments. Like the jellyfish page. The pull out page on whales. A page of rays. And so many details not to miss – like the nurse’s cap on the nurse shark. I used an earlier Neubecker title Wow! City to inspire an art project – art ideas just leap off the page of this one too!

wow ocean #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Baby Bear Counts One by Ashley Wolff

Another must own title if you have little ones or grandchildren. A beautiful counting book about forest animals preparing for the winter. Colourful pages with perfect counting opportunities. One woodpecker. Two squirrels. Three beavers. Four . . .

baby bear #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Pig on the Hill by John Kelly

Two neighbours. One, stodgy and set in his ways. One, creative and expressive. Much humour as the story unveils.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Lemonade in Winter written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

This has been on my “to read” list for ages and I loved it as much as I was anticipating. I am such a fan of G. Brian Karas and appreciated all of the muted shades of a snowy winter backdrop. Yes, I love the math connection (although not so good for me as all money pictured in back is American and Canadian money looks much different – we don’t even have dollar bills!) but I loved the story. An idea that grows between siblings and changes and adapts with the weather and various circumstances. Why not a lemonade stand in a snowstorm? Such fun!

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

While We Were Out by Ho Baek Lee

A little rabbit sneaks through the house while the family is out. And of course, they will never know except for the little surprises he left everywhere. Can you guess what? Very sweet.

while we were out #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Crafty Chloe: Dress Up Mess Up written by Kelly Dipucchio and illustrated by Heather Ross

While I didn’t love this as much as the first Crafty Chloe, I did appreciate the very real struggle of trying to please more than one friend and staying true to yourself. And wow, some pretty creative costume ideas!

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Ike’s Incredible Ink by Brianne Farley

A great title for would be writers. No story ideas are coming for Ike. Maybe if he had the perfect ink? He sets out to make it using found ingredients like shadows and the dark side of the moon.

Ike's Incredible Ink

The Money we’ll Save by Brock Cole

This was another of our holiday reads. A hilarious story of a family who decides to save money by raising a turkey for Christmas dinner rather than purchasing one for the occasion. A turkey in a small apartment? You can imagine . . .

The Money we'll Save #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Other reading:

Danny’s  Doodles: The Jellybean Experiment by David A. Adler

This is a chapter book for the younger/beginning reader. I am always on the lookout for titles in this category so was pleased that one, I liked the story and two, it is part of a new series! Humour and school day escapades but a little more depth than other novels in this category. Characters and emotions that are a little more interesting and not what is expected.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

This book literally felt like it transported me elsewhere. I don’t typically read such high fantasy. At times, I would be reading and think, I don’t really know about this . . . But then I was hooked and completely held by the story until the end. Big drama. Other worlds. Battle scenes. Wild imagination. Compelling.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Reached by Ally Condie

I really enjoyed reading this series – one book after the other. Definitely some new aspects to the dystopian love triangle theme. And not a disappointing ending which I often find with this genre.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

This was an absolutely delightful read aloud with my children. I will always look at this book and think of our cozy read aloud sessions by the fireplace – lots of giggles, both kids drawing and constant interruptions with connections and predictions. I now want to read this aloud to my students. Such an interesting twist on the fairytale we know (often twists are not interesting at all). I will definitely read all of the titles in this genre that Liesl Shurtliff writes.

Rump #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Happy reading in 2014 to all my fellow book loving friends!

Monday December 23rd, 2013

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. One of the very best ways to discover what to read next!

A favourite comment I received last week was from Elisabeth Ellington who after reading that I had had a week full of 2/5 and 3/5 books, wrote:

Enjoy your week! Hope it’s filled with 5/5 books!

Such a lovely wish and I am happy to report that it certainly was a week full of wonderful books! And so, please pardon the large number I will be sharing here – I narrowed it to my ten favourite picture books of the week!

I had a lot of book celebration this week. Earlier in the week I met my Chapter Book Challenge goal and finished my 95th novel of the year! (Now I am going to try to reach 100 by the 31st! Thankful for the #bookaday challenge!) And this morning I completed my Goodreads goal of 625 books read this year! Now I have just one more reading challenge – to read the last 2 titles on my list of My Must Read Novels of 2013. These two titles are on my shelf as I type ready to be devoured by December 31st! Much to celebrate 🙂

I feel grateful for the wonderful #IMWAYR community that makes celebrating reading such a priority. Such a honour to be part of this passionate community of readers.

So . . . back to the books! My top ten picture books of the week:

These first 6 titles are all about finding joy, honouring acceptance and celebrating calm. It is an understatement when I say the last few weeks in my classroom have been challenging. These books all found me at just the right time.

Red Sled by Lita Judge

A little red sled brings an evening of adventure for some adorable forest creatures. Basically wordless except for the delicious sound effects

Scrinch scrunch scrinch scrunch scrinch scrunch

Gadung Gadung Gadung Gadung


My children and I Ioved the illustration of the porcupine clutching on to the antlers. Delightful!

Red Sled #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

Homer by Elisha Cooper

I don’t have a dog. But this book is not just a dog lover’s book. It is also a book about family. About spending happy time. About waiting for everyone to return and about knowing someone is waiting. Love, love, love Cooper’s soothing illustrations.

Homer #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

A Funny Little Bird by Jennifer Yerkes

A funny little bird who learns to appreciate his “invisibility” as an asset rather than a deficit. Unique. Definite book I want to share with a group of children to see what is discussed.

 A funny little bird #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

Augustus and his Smile by Catherine Rayner

Stunning bold black lines on the gorgeous Augustus. This tiger discovers in his smile, the simple hidden happiness we carry with us always as long as we let it in. An important message about how we all navigate the world.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

All in a Day written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Nikki McClure

Truly a book that highlights the importance of being mindful – of understanding that each day is a gift of multiple small and meaningful moments. Would be wonderful to share with All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee.

 All in a Day #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

Whimsy’s Heavy Things by Julie Kraulis

A quirky little title I have never heard of – a true find at my public library. Some fairly hefty themes here of facing what weighs us down, of rethinking obstacles and finding ways to cope with what is heavy in our lives. Much to ponder. I am still thinking about how I might share this with a class.

whimsy's heavy things #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

Other titles I loved:

Toot & Puddle – Let it Snow by Holly Hobbie

I am always a sucker for Toot and Puddle. The comforts and coziness of home are always depicted in the most soothing of ways by Hobbie. Thinking about Christmas gifts. Quiet time. A beautiful winter ski through freshly fallen snow. A beautiful holiday book!

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

Spuds written by Karen Hesse and illustrated by Wendy Watson

A serious title in many ways. A family who has little has each other and big plans. Maybelle leads her two younger siblings into the night and into Kenney’s potato field. The children dig up potatoes and drag them home. When they arrive and stack their loot on the kitchen floor, they have quite a surprise.

Spuds #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

Sophie’s Fish written by A.E. Cannon and illustrated by Lee White

This is a hilarious story that grows more and more funny and finishes with a bang. Jake has huge worries about looking after Sophie’s fish Yo-Yo. Why, oh why, did he agree to take care of him in the first place? Do fish need stories read aloud? Do you need to play games with them? What if they cry? My, oh, my the things to wonder about. The last page of this book makes it absolutely awesome! Such fun.

Sophie's fish #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

The Long, Long Line by Tomoko Ohmura

What a wonderful book for the younger set – a great way to learn animal names. Amusing. Interesting. Lots to look at on every page. What is this line up for? An amusement ride you certainly were not expecting! And one younger readers will want to visit again and again!

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

Novels I finished:

The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens

I finished this sequel to The Emerald Atlas with my children as a read aloud. Hugely suspenseful. Full of adventure, mystery, intense drama and intrigue. The perfect family read aloud. We are eagerly anticipating the third book in this trilogy which now finally has a release date!

The Fire Chronicle #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

Crossed by Ally Condie

I don’t often get to read a trilogy one title after another but that is exactly what I am doing with this set of YA dystopian titles by Ally Condie. And it’s kind of great! Matched hooked me with the characters and philosophical questions. Crossed is full of much more adventure, drama and survival – a perfect set up for the third novel which I am just about to start. 

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

What’s next? My children and I are reading Rump by Liesl Shurtliff  I have launched into the final book in the Matched trilogy, Reached by Ally Condie. I then plan to read the last two titles on my Must Read for 2013 list: The Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom by Christopher Healy and The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

Happy reading and Happy holidays to all!

Monday July 29th, 2013

It’s Monday! What are you Reading?


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 reads! These #IMWAYR posts are a great place to “shop” for new titles.

Favourite picture books from the week:

The Hueys in It Wasn’t Me by Oliver Jeffers The second title in The Hueys books by Jeffers. Sometimes an argument becomes bigger than the original source of conflict. This simple little picture book highlights exactly this phenomenon. For anyone who spends anytime with children, this story rings very true!

 It Wasn't Me There's a Book for That It's Monday What are you reading?

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco An emotional historical fiction title set during the American civil war. Touches on themes of war, slavery, racism and survival. Definitely for older readers.

Pink and Say There's a Book for That It's Monday What are you reading?

Carmine – A Little More Red by Melissa Sweet An extremely clever alphabetical retelling/fractured tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Wander through bolded words in ABC order and Sweet’s signature artistic style – part collage, part detailed panels and so expressive. Loved the vocabulary and the fresh approach to this classic tale.

Carmine A Little More Red There's a Book for That It's Monday What are you reading?

A House is a House for Me written by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Betty Fraser I simply adore Mary Ann Hoberman and her gift for rhyme. And Fraser’s illustrations make me nostalgic for childhood ease. First published in 1978, this title is one long poem about everything that can be a house. All about homes/houses for just about everything. My favourite was no surprise: A book is a house for a story.

There's a Book for That It's Monday What are you reading?

The Night Riders by Matt Furie One of my newest favourite wordless titles. This is some kind of adventure into the world of real and fantastical nocturnal creatures and amazing things that happen beneath the light of the moon. One of the best things about the book? The jacket unfolds into a double sided poster of images from the story. Here is a link to Matt Furie’s interview with The Beat (the daily news blog of comics news, reviews, and information) about this, his first book. 

Looking for more wordless titles? I just created a Pinterest board with all of my favourites.

Night Riders There's a Book for That It's Monday What are you reading?

Bruno Munari’s ABC First published in 1960, a wonderful graphic ABC book.

There's a Book for That It's Monday What are you reading?

Flora McDonnell’s ABC Bright, bold and beautiful. This has inspired some art project ideas . . . A study in letters, opposites and clever pairings. Each page has 2 objects beginning with a specific letter. Some of my favourites? The large giant with a tiny red glove perched on his thumb, a regal tiger with a teapot balanced on his head and a rhinoceros sniffing at a radish. So fun.

There's a Book for That It's Monday What are you reading?

Anticipating fall book talks, I am trying to catch up on some graphic novels and early chapter book titles. This week I read two winners.

Violet Mackerel’s Natural Habitat written by Anna Branford with illustrations by Ellana Allen Loved the nature/science/ecology connection. Perfect for my Grade 2/3/4 readers just beginning to read chapter books. And how delightful that Violet names her ladybug Small Gloria.

There's a Book for That It's Monday What are you reading?

Bird & Squirrel on the Run by James Burks What fun and absolutely full of silly escapades. Loved the contrast of the pessimistic and optimistic characters. Kids will love this!

Bird and squirrel There's a Book for That It's Monday What are you reading?

I also finished two novels

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater A friend passed on her ARC of this book to me. I had resigned myself to impatiently waiting for September but, I was so thrilled to read it now! Let’s just say this – I am fully just as hooked and intrigued by these Aglionby boys and the character of Blue. Intrigue, mystery, twists, upsets, revelations. This second title has it all. 

The Dream Thieves There's a Book for That It's Monday What are you reading?

Drums Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick Wow. This book subtly and not so subtly sneaks right up on you pretty quickly and holds fast. It is at times teary and heartbreaking, other times hilarious and witty and all the while, just plain good. A very human and honest look at a family hit hard by childhood illness and how they navigate the complicated business of hospitals, emotions and changing family dynamics. Stayed up half the night to finish this title. Now I get the Sonnenblick love. I’m in. Thank you to everyone who raved about this title to me. And yes, I am planning to read After Ever After – already requested from the library 🙂

There's a Book for That It's Monday What are you reading?


Next up? Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner and some more graphic novels in my pile!

Happy reading everyone!

My must read novels of 2013

This is the season for goal setting. And because I love books, my challenge is to set my reading goals.

Book Thief

So yes, it’s definitely about quantity  I have set my Goodreads goal to 625 up from last year’s 500. My chapter book challenge is bumped up to 95 from 75. I’m definitely feeling ambitious. Happily ambitious.

But it’s also about what’s between the pages. After reading Donalyn Miller‘s post about book gaps, I’ve been thinking about what kind of books I would like to read more.

What is missing in my reading repertoire?

I’ve decided I need to read more fantasy stories, more stories set in other countries and more historical fiction. I always learn so much. There are certain genres I don’t read much of – humour for example. But I’m not defining that as a gap just not a current preference. There is only so much time and more than enough books so I am going to happily indulge in titles that I feel will stretch my learning, thinking and knowledge.

Because, my “To Be Read” list is ever growing, I am making a firm commitment to these 20 titles I do not want to miss.

In no particular order:

Sequels, next in a series:

The Runaway King

1. The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle 2) (following The Raven Boys) by Maggie Stiefvater (Read July 26th 2013)

2. The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Book 2 in the Ascendance Trilogy following The False Prince)  (Read April 13th 2013)

3. Palace of Stone (Princess Academy #2) by Shannon Hale  (Read March 31st 2013)

4. Insurgent by Veroncia Roth (following Divergent) (Read February 10th 2013)

Titles by authors I have loved:

on the road to mr. mineos

5. Fourmile by Watt Key (Read February 17th 2013)

6. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys  (Read March 7th 2013)

7. Every Day by David Levithan (Read January 19th 2013)

8. On the Road to Mr. Mineo’s by Barbara O’Connor (Read January 27th 2013)

Historical Fiction:


9. Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood (Read February 2nd 2013)

10. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Read April 10th 2013)

11. Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (Read January 26th 2013)

12. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak  (Read August 30th 2013)

13. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly   (Read August 24th 2013)

Stories set in other places:


14. Endangered by Eliot Schrefer (Read May 11th 2013)

15. Copper Sun by Sharon Draper  (Read March 26th 2013)

Fantasy titles:


16. Bigger than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder (Read May 25th 2013)

17. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy (Read December 31st 2013)

18. The Diviners by Libba Bray (Read January 10th 2013)

19. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor  (Read December 27th 2013)

The just because:


20. Shine by Lauren Myracle  (Read March 22nd, 2013)

Anyone else out there have must-read titles in their huge To Be Read pile? Please share! 

The Magical Life of Mr. Renny

Our BLG reader Magnus brought us a story that celebrated magic and prompted us to think about what really makes us happy: The Magical Life of Mr. Renny by Leo Timmers.


Mr. Renny is an extremely talented artist. But he cannot sell any of his work at the market. He is so hungry and desperate that he wished his painting of an apple didn’t just look real but was real so that he could eat it. (“I’ll pay him a hundred if I could,” one student muttered) A stranger appears and poof, the apple was real. Mr. Renny looked around, all of his paintings sprang to life. So imagine what this meant . . .

First, Mr. Renny fed his belly. He painted a hotdog, a milkshake and a multi-layered cake! “He could paint himself a restaurant,” suggested one student. But soon, Mr. Renny started to think beyond. A car to help him travel Europe. “Whoa, that car became alive!” And then a ship to sail the sea. But soon he wanted to get back to shore to paint more. He couldn’t stop thinking of all the things he could make real. Paint, paint, paint. Mansions, limousines, a silk suit, cavier, a blimp . . . (Magnus had to explain a lot of words new to us “What’s a canvas?” “. . . cavier?” “. . . a mansion?”

But then Mr. Renny had a visitor. Rose from the market came to see him and wanted to buy a painting. He had nothing to sell her. It seemed he was no longer a painter. But rather a collector. Rose inspired Mr. Renny. He brought back the stranger and made a request.

“I want to paint an ordinary picture again. One that doesn’t come to life.”

The stranger isn’t surprised. Maybe Mr. Renny isn’t the first to recognize that getting everything you want is not the route to happiness. 🙂 Mr. Renny gets his wish and all of his riches disappear. He happily sits down at his easel and paints Rose the perfect painting.

“You’re back!” Rose smiled.

And he was.

While this book did allow us to recognize that things do not make us happy, it also let us imagine for a little while some things that we would love to draw and have come to life. It gave us the chance to dream.  A few moments of wishing on a Wednesday morning felt kind of fun!

Student Reviewers Respond:

Kala: When it was almost at the end he made all the real things disappear. After when he painted nothing came back alive.

Arianne: I like when he made a rose. I would have painted a kitten. I will paint a horse. I will paint a dog. I will paint a pig and a barbie.

Andrew: My favourite part was when all Mr. Renny paint came to life. A stranger came. It was not real. Why did no one buy Renny’s paintings? I would have painted a gelato store because I love ice cream!

Kevin: My favourite part was when Mr. Renny give a rose for Rose. I wouldn’t paint a monster because it is too scary.

Ashley: Whatever he painted came to life. I would paint a house and it would have five rooms. He could paint skipping rope and a school and shoes, a bike,  a big car and a big Christmas tree.

Vicky: My favourite part was when Mr. Renny painted a rose for Rose. A strange man turned Mr. Renny’s paintings in to life. I would have painted a limo because I could drive in it.

Kelvin: When the man had real magic powers that is my favourite. When the man snap his fingers the painting came to life. Rose said you are not a painter anymore. That was sad.

Ava: Whatever he painted came to life. The man snapped his fingers and all of his paintings came to life. It was magical.

Heman: My favourite part was when Mr. Renny’s paint came to life. I would have painted my own castle because I could have my own room. Why did nobody buy Mr. Renny’s paintings?

Jorja: He is painting a rose to Rose. The paintings came to life and the painting was magic.

Kassidy: I like when things came in to life. I would have painted a dog and a cat if my paintings came to life. I like when he painted a rose for Rose. It was silly when the elephant had a stoller with some water melons.

Pheonix: My favourite part was the part that was he turn all his paintings to life.

Giovanni: I like the part that made things made to life. I would paint a monster truck. I want to play one.

Brian: My favourite part was when whatever he painted came to alive. Why are paintings so expensive? I would paint a Ms. Gelson because I like her.

Row Row Your Bear

We always enjoy wordless books in our class. Such a fantastic opportunity to build oral language skills, share creative ideas, practice inferring from pictures and celebrate the power of a great illustrator.

This past week we fell in love with the talented Beatrice Rodriguez and her delightful books featuring a fox, a hen, a rejected rooster and some would be rescuers.

The first book we read was The Chicken Thief

It starts off with a dramatic kidnapping. Fox steals a hen and her friends race off in pursuit. Bear, Rabbit and Rooster are determined rescuers and Fox ends up deep in the forest, sleeping up in a tree for the night to stay ahead of the animals. He keeps Hen snuggled close.

As the sun rises, the chase resumes and Fox manages to hide away deep in a burrow for night number two. He and Hen spend the evening playing checkers. Students began to suspect that Fox would not have the heart to eat his new companion. The chase continues the next day with Fox rowing Hen over the sea in a row boat and Rabbit and Rooster rowing Bear! I made a quick comment that it was not Row Row Row your Boat but Row Row Row your Bear and we had to stop reading as students began to compose songs! There is nothing like spontaneous group song writing: sharing rhymes and giggles inspired by a wonderfully creative text. Two verses that we sang all day (both composed on the spot by students):

Row Row Row your Bear, Off to catch the thief!

Merrily Merrily Merrily Merrily

We caught him! What a relief!

Row Row Row your Bear, Forgot to get an oar

Merrily Merrily Merrily Merrily

Finally, we reached the shore!

This song writing sparked many funny comments: “We’re so poetic!” “Whoever made Row Row Row your boat is fired!” “Yeah, 0 stars for Row Row Row you’re boat! We’re so much better!”

Finally, we got back to the story. Bear, Rabbit and Rooster do eventually make it to Fox’s home and here they find Hen and Fox sipping tea by the fire. In a wonderfully peculiar twist, Hen leaps up and declares her adoration for Fox and the other animals seem to accept the news and leave Fox and Chicken to a life together. Although Rooster doesn’t look very pleased . . .

We then read Fox and Hen Together which continues the story of our two curious lovebirds.

The story begins with Hen snuggling an egg that seems to be hers while Fox stands at the refrigerator in dismay. The fridge is empty. What to do? Hen takes charge passing the egg delicately to Fox and she and Crab ( a new friend it seems) head out to solve the problem of nothing to eat with determined steps and a fishing pole. As one might imagine, there is nothing typical about this fishing expedition. At one point a huge eagle snatches up the fish that Hen and Crab have caught and the two of them end up in the eagle’s nest sharing space with ravenous eaglets. Yikes! They next encounter a ferocious sea serpent and narrowly manage escape thanks to some very creative fishing line tricks and twists by Hen. When Hen and Crab race safely to shore they find a frying pan and a cracked shell on the table. Hen initially suspects the worse of her mate but is overwhlemed with joy when she realizes that her baby has hatched! Fox, Hen and Crab celebrate the birth with a toast of something bubbly and a fish roast of epic proportions (sea serpent anyone?) Students spent quite a while trying to decide what kind of creature the baby might be. A Ficken? Foxen? Chickox? Endless possibilities!


Luckily all of us “squawked” loudly and in such praise of these two books that our wonderful Teacher Librarian Ms. Sheperd-Dynes purchased these titles for our library and also picked up Rooster’s Revenge, the book that rounds out this imaginative trilogy. Of course we shared it in class the very next day!

We found this title to be much darker but in a wonderully fantastical way. We first pored over the cover noticing Rooster’s body language and expression. He looked jealous, angry, overwhelmed and dejected (this was my word, helping us stretch vocabulary) This book picks up from when Rooster, Bear and Rabbit row away in the boat, leaving Fox and Hen to themselves. They hit a storm and are washed ashore onto an island, landing on huge boulders. As we looked at the full page spread though, we realized those rocks were not really rocks but instead turtles! Turtles that escorted our shipwrecked characters into a cave.


Inside the cave, Rooster spots a glowing something. Is it a stone? An egg? Clearly he is mesmerized. He snatches it in his wings and races away from his friends with an eerily evil expression on his face. “I think that’s a bad idea,” Khai warns as we turn the page. The next few pages have Rooster, Bear and Rabbit traveling through a strange landscape. Huge mushrooms. Glowing lizards. And then it is back out onto the open sea. (We began trying out a rhyme that began Row Row Row your Mushroom but found ourselves too caught up in the story). When Rooster reaches land, his stolen egg hatches. Our seemingly possessed Rooster is quickly charmed by this little baby dragon and he shows him off proudly to the hens back home. So it seems that this little quirky clan of animals will now be down a hen but up a dragon and all will live happily ever after. Until the next adventure?

I love these books for a variety of reasons. They are quirky. They are incredibly engaging. They provoke laughter, deep thinking questions and endless discussion. And. . . . the song inspiration was pretty incredible. “And you are going to like these books Ms. Gelson because they have a strange shape,” Catriona reminded me. Very true. I do have a penchant for rectangular books. We were so intrigued by this trilogy by Rodriguez that there were many mutterings of hope for Book #4.

Amazing reviews of these books can be found on these blogs: 32 pages and

Love wordless books? You might also enjoy: Using Wordless Books in the Classroom,  Wonders of Wordless Magic and Few Words on Five Wordless Books.


Picture Book Love #3: Celebrating picture books that are just too good not to gush over.

Such an intriguing premise for a picture book. A community of pigs live on an unbearably hot, treeless island. Life is focussed on sheltering themselves from the unforgiving sun. It is not really working. The island water supply will soon be in dangerously short supply. Meetings happen. Plans are made and a group of pigs sail off. Sail off, it must be noted, on a gorgeous flying airship: part hot air balloon, part sailboat. Completely beautiful.

The ship drifts around the globe and locates icebergs. The pigs attach their ship via an anchor in the ice and then begin to celebrate their luck. Dancing pigs by firelight. Simply delightful. And then by attaching a sail to the iceberg, the pigs manage to navigate the iceberg back to their hot, dry island and then the real work begins.

Scaffolds are built. Ice saws utilized. Pulleys, ladders, assembly lines. These pigs have it all worked out! Large chunks of ice are added to the almost dry island reservoir turning it into part water storage, part water/ice adventure land.

The hardworking pigs celebrate with satisfying swims, make shift waterslides and high dives from iceblocks into the cool deep water! Then ice chunks are hauled to home water sources and the pigs can finally indulge in cool relief from the island’s heat.

Arthur Geisert‘s wonderfully wordles book Ice appeals to me on so many levels. First of all it celebrates industriousness. Hardworking pigs one and all, old and young pitch in to make a poor situation (unbearable heat) better. I love that these pigs plan carefully and then, in completely unexpected ways (via a flying sailship), execute this plan. And finally these pigs again sit together and celebrate their mutual success. I also love these pigs. Pigs. It should seem absurd but these pigs are highly relatable in their simple dresses or overalls and communal committment to a task. In witnessing the pig’s inventiveness and high adventure, one comes away with a satisfied feeling. So much happens in just a few pages. Problem. Idea. Execution. Solution. Satisfaction. If only every problem could be approached with such creativity and success.

Few words on five wordless books

Because the creators of wordless books can say so much with no words at all, I decided to use sparse words to express my awe for each of these titles and let their gorgeous covers invite you in.

#1 Sea of Dreams by Dennis Nolan

Adventure over and under the sea . . .

#2 The Conductor by Laetitia Devarney

Swirl, whirl, leaves take flight . . .

#3 Where’s Walrus by Stephen Savage

Where is that wacky walrus?

#4 Tuesday by David Wiesner

And what if frogs floated by?

#5 Beaver is Lost by Elisha Cooper

Beaver travels to a bustling city and back.

Thanks to Adopt a School Funds which purchased #1 and #2 for our classroom wordless (or nearly) collection. Wordless books allow us to practice using picture clues and background knowledge to infer meaning. They are also lovely to share together or to ponder over alone.

Summer Reading inspired by Ms. Hong

Ms. Hong, now the Teacher-Librarian at Strathcona Elementary used to work at Seymour and ran the Book Club with me. She is beautifully passionate about books and a voracious reader. I have a constant list of books to read inspired by Ms. Hong’s blog. She often posts young adult titles that I might not have come across and I love that she recommends so many fantasy stories. This summer I made good progress reading through my “must reads” recommended by Ms. Hong.

These titles are definitely for mature readers only, not suitable for my primary students but older members of book club may be able to handle some of these soon.

On one summer trip I devoured Graceling the debut novel of writer Kristen Cashore. Katsa, a young Graceling has the power to inflict deadly force on the victims the King sends her to punish. She meets Po, a prince from a neighbouring kingdom who turns her world upside down. Well written, engaging, impossible to put down. I requested Fire (the sequel/prequel) from the public library and enjoyed it as well.

On my last trip I woke up early one morning to admire the gorgeous sunrise. Everyone else slept in and so I read. A few hours later I had finished The Maze Runner by James Dashner. This is an intriguing dystopian science fiction story – fast paced and dramatic, it was hard to stop reading. Thomas wakes up remembering nothing but his name surrounded by boys who arrived to the Glade just like him – memories seemingly wiped clean and in a strange world. Will solving the Maze enable them to escape?

The book that impacted me the most though was Life as We Knew it written by Susan Beth Pfeffer. This is a story told by sixteen year old Miranda through a number of diary entries. The moon is hit by a gigantic meteor and is pushed closer to Earth. The tides and the weather are dramatically affected and everything in the world changes. How will the world survive? We get an idea by following the details of what happens to Miranda and her family. Compelling. We are pulled into Miranda’s world and experience this post apocalyptic world through her story.


Thanks Ms. Hong!