Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

As an Elementary teacher and a Mom, I am always hoping for extra doses of calm on October 31st as much can go sideways with Halloween celebrations. Lots of candy, excitement, costume drama and big expectations often lead to meltdowns, minor catastrophes and just a general sense of, to borrow from the brilliant Kate Dicamillo, “holy unanticipated occurrences.” However, on the morning of November 1st, I can truly say Halloween 2014 was smooth. Smooth and full of “Phew” moments. At least eleven worth celebrating.

1. Everyone is my household was up without nagging to ensure that face painting with the talented Dad/Artist could happen. No fussing. No complaining. Out the door early in fact. Phew.

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

2. My students came in the door (some with fluttering wings) smiling and went out the door smiling. Phew.

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

3. No costume drama. All costumes stayed together. No pieces were lost. Everyone agreed to keep fangs and false teeth in little (labelled) plastic cups during learning time. Phew.

4. My own early in the week costume change decision worked out wonderfully thanks again to my husband’s face painting brilliance. (I am the witch on the right not the beautiful princesses) Phew

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

5. My students happily settled into an academic morning designed to keep routine and lots of calm. Phew.

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

6. When we attended special events like potion making in the library with our little Kindergarten buddies, everyone listened. Nobody fussed if they didn’t get to drop in wonderfully icky ingredients like white rats, tarantulas and slithery snakes. Phew.

7. Afternoon yoga led by our resident yoga expert and for the day, pixie, Miriam was focussed and fun and paved the way for more calm for the rest of the day. Phew

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

8. Choices time was full of creativity and cooperation, not grumpy, over excited moods. It looked a lot like this. Phew.

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

9. When checking in with other staff throughout the day, calm and happy seemed to be the general theme. An all around successful day. Phew.

10. The rain that seemed torrential and endless all day ended in the afternoon. Trick or treating was warm, dry and not too muddy. Phew.

11. My own children, now in Grade 7, went trick or treating on their own with friends for the first time. I handed out candy at home, fretting. But both returned on time rosy cheeked under all of the makeup. Big smiles. Rules followed. Maturity and responsibility demonstrated. Biggest phew.

All of these things I celebrate. It was wonderful to be pleasantly surprised at the calm and the ease of a festive Halloween!


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.



Monday November 5th, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? On Halloween night there was torrential rain in Vancouver that prevented a lovely tick or treat scene like this one below (from Muth‘s Zen Ghosts). Still it was a cozy week for lots of seasonal reads!

Join Kellee and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with their weekly meme that highlights what everyone has been reading from picture books to young adult novels. It is a fantastic way to learn about new books and share favourites with others.

In my reading world . . . 

New classroom picture books:

Night Song written by Ari Berk and illustrated by Loren Long. Long’s illustrations make this an absolutely stunning book about a little bat’s first solo journey. Guided by his “good sense” little Chiro is able to both explore the world and then find his way home. While this book does not use the word echolocation, this is clearly the good sense being referred to and there is lots of text that helps the reader to talk about the concept. I found children wanted to study the pictures individually after the story was read aloud because it was just so gorgeous with the black as pitch pages.

Chester the Brave written by Audrey Penn and illustrated by Barbara L. Gibson. This is another story in the Kissing Hand series that explores being brave and demonstrating courage. Sweet but I find I like the illustrations more than the story with these books.

Dog in Charge written by K.L. Going and illustrated by Dan Santat. I ordered this through Scholastic when I saw Santat‘s signature illustrations. It is a very funny little story about a dog left in charge of a bunch of cats that get into everything! When it all just seems like too much, Dog compulsively devours a bag of cat treats and takes a nap. The cats, who love Dog, decide to clean up their messes and the family are none the wiser when they return from their outing. So . . . I’m wondering where does one find housekeeper cats? Those are some pets I could have a lot of!

New to me Halloween Stories read to my class or my own children (often both): 

The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell I am a huge fan of Patrick McDonnell and found this story to be absolutely delightful. This was our BLG book of the week and you can read more on the blog here. The best part of this book is the quirky little wanna be monsters with some of the best character names I have seen in a while: Grouch, Grump and little Gloom ‘n’ Doom. The final scene on the beach is all about the little moments of happy we all need to savour. Highly recommended.

Zen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth For those who know Muth’s  Zen . . . stories, this is another that will quickly become a favourite. I love that it is a story within a story. After everyone goes trick or treating, Stillwater the Panda tells the children a story based on a koan from The Gateless Gate that forces the reader/listener to question what is real and not real. And then just to sit and be fine with not really being sure. So much to explore within this book makes it a story that children of many ages can investigate. The illustrations, as in all Muth books, are exquisite.

Creepy Carrots written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown. I was very excited to get my hands on this book because I am such a Peter Brown fan. His illustrations are fantastic and accompany a story told by Reynolds that is actually quite sophisticated. This book on the surface is about a little rabbit being terrorized by some menacing carrots even thought nobody will believe him. What looks like a creepy carrot in the shadows of the night is often revealed to be something else entirely when a parent arrives and turns on a light. But are the creepy carrots really just a figment of Jasper, the rabbit’s overactive imagination? To be safe, Jasper builds a huge fence around the carrot patch to contain these orange vegetables that haunt him. In the end, the source of his fear is revealed. Do those creepy carrots really exist? Read this story that explores fear that just can’t be reasoned away in a totally clever and humorous manner. Loved this book!

The Perfect Pumpkin Pie by Denys Cazet This book has been in our library for a few years but I had yet to read it or share it with a class. Wow, had I been missing out!! This book is certainly a perfect spooky Halloween read featuring a ghost that rises out of the pumpkin patch threatening to haunt the residents of the nearby house if they don’t provide him with the perfect pumpkin pie. Yet while it seems like it might even be too scary for a primary read aloud, it is actually more full of humour, rhyme and pumpkin pie spices than anything else. And a very spunky Grandma who I adored. The illustrations are completely bizarre and unique to make this one of my new Halloween favourites.

Novels read:

Between Shades of Gray written by Ruta Sepetys This is a harrowing read. The images are disturbing and the violations against all basic human rights and human spirit are intense. In Lithuania, in June of 1941, fifteen year old Lina is forced from her home along with her Mother and younger brother by the Soviet Secret Police. They travel by train to a work camp in Siberia and eventually farther north to  the Arctic Circle. Survival is based on luck and perseverance that does not seem possible. Many, many die.  Lina is compelled to share her experiences through her art and her drawings recount terrible experiences suffered by her family and those of the other Lithuanian people around her. This story gives us a sense of the horror that happened to so many under Stalin’s rule. Many details were new to me. Ruta Sepetys brings voice to many who were completely silenced by death or extreme fear. A very important young adult read.

Shooting Kabul written by N.H. Senzai. This book has been on my “to read” pile for  over a year and I found that once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. I finished it in just over twenty-four hours. This book begins in Afghanistan in 2001 with a family fleeing across the border to Pakistan to then travel on to America. During the dramatic escape, six year old Mariam is left behind and her family is all tortured by their guilt and their extreme sadness at not being able to locate her from their new home in the U.S. Fadi, Mariam’s older brother hears about a photography contest that comes with a winner’s prize of a plane ticket to India. He becomes convinced that he can win and get back to Pakistan to rescue his younger sister. Meanwhile, the events of 9/11 happen and the family has to deal with racism, prejudice and attacks on their neighbours while they continue to grieve for their missing daughter. A book that speaks to the strength of family and of the faith of the Afghan people in a peace yet to come. Highly recommended.

Tonight I begin the novel Beneath my Mother’s Feet written by Amjed Qamer.  

The Monsters’ Monster

We were so pleased to welcome our long time BLG reader, Bill back on Halloween day! He bravely sat amongst the dragons, dinosaurs, witches and other creatures and read us the very entertaining book The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell.


The main characters of this story are wanna be monsters who celebrate crashing and bashing, huffing and puffing and the shouting of the word, “NO!” They spend endless days arguing over who is the biggest and baddest amongst them. I must admit I think they are all quite charming and adorable, but thank goodness they don’t know that. Students also did quite a bit of tittering at their antics. Finally, Grouch, Grump and little Gloom ‘n’ Doom decide that they will together make the most terrible of all monsters. They fashion him out of various things including tacks, staples, gauze, gunk and a smelly old shoe. And then they hoist this monster creation into the stormy sky where he gets hit by a lightning bolt!

Bill is a fantastic reader and on the lightening bolt page he used a dramatic pause followed by a surprising boom and crash. There were some jumpers in the audience.  “I wasn’t scared,” announced the child that jumped the most. Of course not. 🙂

This monster, newly alive, is big and has a deep booming voice. He is everything these little “monsters” could ever have hoped for when they schemed him up. The only thing is that this big, bad monster is actually sweet, polite and charming. Instead of wanting to terrorize villagers, he wants to appreciate the fresh air and express his gratitude for life.

But even though, this big monster seems a disappointment to the little monsters three, he ends up offering them some positive inspiration. And . . . freshly baked jelly donuts.

McDonnell charms us all with this story and the children loved chatting about who their favourite monster actually was in the story. A book that will be read often and cherished in our library!


Student reviewer’s report:

Andrew: My favourite part is when the lightning hit the Monster and went BAM! The monster came alive. The monster will be bad? I wonder does the monster like light?

Kelvin: My favourite part was the hoist cause it looks awesome! They created a monster, it was a big monster. I will create my own monster. A vampire!

Gorgeous Pumpkin Patch

I love Halloween art but I don’t love that it looks outdated November 1st. When I saw these starlit pumpkins on the blog Deep Space Sparkle, I knew I had found the perfect art activity for the short lived Halloween season that could extend as a beautiful fall display.

This was a fun two day project. The highlights? The mixing of paint right on the page and the smudging of chalk pastel. The muckier one gets one’s hands, the better it seems to be!

I give full credit to the step by step instructions on Deep Space Sparkle for allowing my class to have such fun and such success with this project! Here are our step by step instructions with photographs.

Step 1: Draw pumpkins and leaves (using black oil pastel) on a large construction weight light coloured paper. Hint: draw an oval first and lines that extend from that. We had a “live” pumpkin in the room to examine for interesting stem shapes and textures and to feel the ridges.

Step 2: Students received brushes and paint colours (yellow, orange, blue) and created orange pumpkins and green leaves by mixing colours wet on wet while painting. Well, you can imagine how exciting it was to have yellow and red turn to orange and blue topped with yellow to transform into green. This was magic in the making!

Add some yellow paint . . .

Top it with red and blend into . . . orange!

Blue and yellow really do make green! And everyone got different shades 🙂

Step 3: On Day 2, cut out pumpkins and leaves and then glue to black paper.

Step 4: We handed each child a brown, green and white piece of chalk pastel. They started by colouring in the stems and adding white highlights to the pumpkin. Using the green, students drew vines and added highlights to their leaves.

Step 5: Draw a full moon and stars with the white chalk. Smudge your moon to give a hazy effect (fun part!)

Then admire your work! And show it off! (Even if it is bigger than you!)

These were lovely calm projects to do on Halloween afternoon before spooky stories and Halloween centres!

Happy Halloween! (And for November – art that can still stay up on the walls!)

Monday October 29th, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Join in with Kellee and Jen’s meme and share all the pages you have been turning in the past week in picture books through to young adult reads!

Fantastic Read alouds this week:

Too Tall Houses by Gianna Marino This is probably my favourite discovery of the week, I read this at our primary gathering to fifty plus little listeners and we were all delighted with it. The pictures are stunning and do things that illustrations typically don’t do like . . . suggest that they are leaving the Earth. Amazing. And fun to twist and turn the book around to see what is happening. Owl and Rabbit live next to each other atop a hill. Rabbit enjoys the sun to grow fresh vegetables. Owl likes the view to watch the forest. When rabbit’s vegetables begin to obstruct Owl’s view, their relationship gets inconsiderate and competitive as they race to build their houses ever taller than the other. Eventually they discover that when alone, they have nothing but together . . . Well read and find out but I bet you get the idea 🙂 Highly recommended!

The Runaway Pumpkin written by Kevin Lewis and illustrated by S.D. Schindler This was one of my leading up to Halloween reads. It isn’t new for me but I haven’t read it to a class for quite a few years. I love the rhythm of the story and can’t read it aloud without tapping my feet and getting very hungry for all of the imagined pumpkin treats that Granny might bake!

The Teeny Tiny Ghost written by Kay Winters and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger Another Halloween read with some great repetitive language for a “join in” feel to the read aloud. We also had an active discussion about whether it was possible for ghosts to really be scared. Since I don’t know any ghosts. . .

Little Beaver and the Big Front Tooth written by Sarah Fox and illustrated bySarah Fox-Davies The class really enjoyed this book read by our BLG reading volunteer this week. I will be sharing the student’s reactions on the blog this week. Poor little beaver has a loose tooth and begins to doubt he really is a beaver because isn’t it those big teeth that make a beaver a beaver? As he searches for his answer we meet many other forest animals. Adorable.

Other picture books I enjoyed this week:

Don’t Worry Bear by Greg Foley Bear worries as caterpillar builds a cocoon. He worries at night, in the wind, in the rain and when it snows. He especially worries when caterpillar seems to be gone. But a beautiful silk moth flutters by and lets Bear know that his friend is right there with him. Simple text and illustrations leave lots of room for questions and discussion.

The Butterfly House by Eve Bunting, illustrations by Greg Shed. I love the lyrical text and the glowing illustrations in this book. Most of all I love how it asks us to mix up science and what seems to be magic, to suspend our disbelief and trust that a butterflies’ migratory instinct might extend to an individual person. As I love to plant flowers in my garden that are supposed to attract butterflies, I am very intrigued by the suggestions in this story. Every time a monarch lands on a flower, I believe in magic and wonder and the beauty of nature. This book celebrates just that. Now I want my own copy!

And speaking of magic . . . 

I finished The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater This is definitely a young adult read. This book was so full of magic and mystery, I kind of believe that it conjured up a bad flu to send me to bed to make sure I would have hours to just read and fall into the world of prophecy, desperate searches for magic, a place of real and unreal and twists and turns every few pages. And the characters. . . Wow. So happy this is a trilogy so I don’t have to say goodbye to these characters yet. Adding myself to the impatient group waiting for Book 2.

Last night I started Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys So far? Unputdownable

Happy Halloween!

What a fun and exciting day we had today!

We started with a spooky read aloud, The Soup Bone written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Margot Tomes.

This book is about a little lonely old woman who goes in search of a bone to make her soup a little more tasty. No bones in the the cupboards or the drawers or on the shelves. Not one bone anywhere. So the little old woman decides to go digging for a bone. This struck us as quite disgusting! “Eeew! The bone will be dirty!” ” Will it be a dino bone?” “Maybe a skeleton bone?” Well a skeleton was exactly what she found. The little old lady shrieked and ran away. When the skeleton decided to “skittle- skattle” into the house, Markus piped up “So finally she’s got some company!” And as we read on, we decided this story was a friendship story after all!

IMG_1384Following a spooky story time in the library with Ms. S after recess, we did math.

Today it was Pumpkin Patch Glyphs. Everyone had to design a pumpkin in a way that answered four questions.

Then everyone else had to look at the legend to learn more about their classmates as they examined the features of each pumpkin: stem, eyes, nose and mouth.

For example,  someone who loves chocolate would have a pumpkin with triangle eyes.

Is your favourite treat chips? Well then circle eyes for you. Lots of fun to look at all of the pumpkins up on the wall and make conclusions – most people like scary costumes for example. Glyphs are a way of organizing and representing data!

Some completed pumpkins:

Hailey is a chocolate lover who is not so sure about pumpkin pie.


Shae-Lynn does NOT like pumpkin pie and has yet to try pumpkin seeds.


Truman likes sweet treats and strange costumes.


In the afternoon, it was all about pumpkins!

These unsuspecting pumpkins donated by the Rotary Club . . .


turned into fabulous jack o’ lanterns with the help of our Big Buddies from Division 1.


Even a little bride on her way to a wedding stopped in to do some carving!


Final results looked something like this: successful carving and a big mess 🙂


Happy Halloween 2011!