This is a story I found at the public library and then picked up a few days ago to read with morning coffee. I put it down and instantly started looking into more information on the internet. Jasper’s story is one you just might not know and all of us should. A terrible instance of animals being captured and imprisoned so that their bile can be extracted for use in traditional Asian medicine. All the more heartbreaking and cruel because there are more than 54 different kinds of herbal and synthetic substitutes.
This book tells the story of Jasper, one bear who was rescued – his journey to recovery and his amazing ability to forgive.
Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears written by Jill Robinson and Marc Bekoff; illustrated by Gijisbert van Frankenhuyzen (published 2013)
Jasper is a bear that was rescued by Jill Robinson (the author) and her Animals Asia team and brought to a sanctuary in China. He had been held in a cage for 15 years and was very weak and injured from so many years of cruel captivity. He required surgery to fix his injuries and then was placed in a large room that he could actually move around in to begin his recovery. As he grew stronger, he was exposed to an outside enclosure where he could learn to dig and search for food. As Jasper physically recovered, his spirit also healed. He demonstrated a playful side with other bears and welcome other new bears to the sanctuary. Jill describes Jasper as courageous and loving; a symbol of forgiveness and hope. This is such an important story that captures the work that Jill and her team do.
Detailed messages from both authors and the illustrator in the back of the book give more information about Jasper and other “farmed” bears that have been rescued in China and Vietnam. At this time, Animals Asia(the rescue center that was formed in 1998) has rescued over 400 bears.
More information about Animals Asia can be found on their website here. Very worth spending some time on this site. There, I found this video of a little sun bear cub, Layla, just rescued in Vietnam this month.
Other nonfiction picture books about bears that might be of interest. These are all information story books (narrative nonfiction). I have read each of these titles with my students in the past few years and found the learning and discussion they promote to be excellent. Jasper’s Story is one I will be sharing this year.
Thanks to Alyson fromKid 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: 80/65 complete!
I had a post all planned for today featuring some recently published books but then I had the best session with one of my nonfiction groups and decided that highlighting some older but wonderful titles was in order instead!
I always like getting a peek into other classrooms and so I hope you enjoy these photos of my students interacting so enthusiastically with these nonfiction books!
I have most of the Backyard Books (published between 2000 and 2002) by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries in my classroom. Titles such as these highlighted below are perfect in a primary classroom library.
Each book begins with the question Are you a . . . .?The story continues providing information about a specific insect or backyard creature by explaining details of its life cycle, habits and characteristics. The text is lovely to read aloud “If you are a ____________ then you _____________” While these can be read aloud even to preschool children, they are perfect for young readers who are reading independently. Great books to practice extracting information from narrative nonfiction text.
Once a week, I am lucky enough to work with a small group working with nonfiction text. While one of our Resource Teachers and my Teacher Librarian run Reading Workshop with the rest of my class, I take a group down to the library. Today my very keen group of six was working on being “fact detectives” with these Backyard Books titles.
After a few minutes of finding facts together from the Are you a Snail? book, I let each group choose a text and sent them off. The partners took turns reading aloud and noting down information. I circulated to assist and give feedback. Students were trying to find different facts on each page and then record them on chart paper. I overheard:
“Was that a fact do you think?”
“We should write that!”
“How can we write that?”
“Did we find something on this page?”
“Did we already say that?”
Students helped each other with the best way to explain something. Lots of rereading and rephrasing.
By the end, each group had made it through at least half of the text and had noted many facts down on their charts.
I called them back together and asked the children what skills they thought they had been working on. All of them admitted that the task was a little bit more challenging than they thought it would be but they wanted to do it again next time! Here is what they shared:
“We had to reread and think lots.”
“We had to put shorter sentences instead of longer sentences.”
“You have to make sure you have all of the important details.”
“Putting it in different words to make sense is kind of hard.”
For these Grade 3 students, a successful, engaging activity with great nonfiction books!
Thanks to Alyson fromKid 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: 62/65 complete!
I am so excited to share the nonfiction book I am currently reading and talking about with my students: Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester (published in 2012)
Because I could rave and rave and rave about this book but I should be writing report cards . . . I have given myself a time limit to convince you to go read it by telling you the ten best things about it. Here goes:
This book defies categorization. It is a fictional story of young Sophie Scott travelling to Mawson Station in Antarctica with her father who is the captain of an icebreaker, the Aurora Australis. But it is based on the author’s real experience of travelling to Antarctica. And it is full of all kinds of facts about icebergs, icebreakers, life in a research station, Antarctic animals and the history of Antarctic exploration. I’m calling it an information story book and placing it under the nonfiction umbrella.
The visuals in this book are also all over the place in the best of ways – there are Alison Lester’s illustrations, photographs and photographic collages and children’s art that was sent to Lester when she was on her trip.
This story is organized like a diary so it is full of all kinds of emotions, reactions and observations and makes you feel like you are really along for the journey. Brrr. . .
The illustrations and details about the icebreaker crew and the parts of the ship are so interesting that just one page took 45 minutes to examine and discuss!
There is plenty of information about how scientists, engineers, researchers, etc. survive while living and working at a research station from how you must dress to go outside, to how supplies are brought in, to how you travel while on Antarctica (whether by vehicle or how to walk in blizzard like conditions)
Oh the animals! Get a sense of what it is really like to see an Adelie penguin, a weddell seal or a killer whale in the wild.
This book is a springboard for other learning. It is taking us weeks to get through as we are stopping to read books about penguins, watch videos about icebergs and to look up things in the Atlas.
The end pages are full of world maps and details about all kinds of things related to Antarctica: sea routes, temperatures, ice sheets and numerous other facts about the continent.
In the final pages are details of some of the most famous Antarctic explorers and their expeditions.
There is a comprehensive glossary in the back where you can find out more information Like . . . some of the technical ship terms if you are not an ocean travel expert (which is the category I fall into = non-expert!). Winches, mooring ropes, bollard. I now know what these things actually are!
This is a must share book!
Thanks to Alyson fromKid Lit Frenzyfor 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: 36/65 complete!
I love nonfiction titles that read like a story ( I refer to them as information storybooks) and am always on the lookout for titles to read aloud to my students. Some of these titles read just like fiction, others are lyrical or full of rich, descriptive language. Facts and information are woven through the text.
This week, three titles stood out for me as engaging animal stories where the language and story are as rich and powerful as the learning.
See What a Seal Can Do written by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by Kate Nelms (published in 2013)
This story begins:
If you’re down by the sea one day, you might spot a seal, lying around like a fat sunbather or flumping along the sand.
The reader is then invited into the world of seals. Learn all about gray seals – how they move (their movement on land is described as a flump – a cross between a flop and a jump), how they hunt and how their body is perfectly suited to their ocean home.
Fascinating facts for me:
gray seals molt or shed their fur every year which helps to keep their coat waterproof
when a seal dives deep, he can slow his heartbeat down to only four beats a minute in order to use less oxygen
when a seal opens his mouth, his jaw closes so he won’t swallow water
Visually this book is an absolute treat: seriously gorgeous illustrations throughout and beautiful black and white drawings of different seals in the end pages of this book.
Eat Like a Bear written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (published in 2013)
This title invites the reader to eat like a bear over the course of the four seasons. How does bear find food in early spring? How does she prepare for winter? How does a mother bear nourish her babies during her winter slumber?
This title is full of poetic language, beautiful to read and reread aloud. It is descriptive and full of alliteration:
Bushes? Bare. No berries there.
Dig in. Dig down. Paw and claw and pull. Find . . .
A spruce, a shrub, an early-skunk.
The book ends with a two page spread full of additional information about bears with titles like Do Bears Really Hibernate? Bear Food, Not People Food and Grizzly Bear Future
Little Lost Bat written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Alan Marks (published in 2006)
This is an emotional read for young listeners/readers. Through the story of a little Mexican free-tailed bat living with its mother in a colony in Texas, we learn much about bats’ hunting habits, their predators and how they raise their young. It is a tender and important relationship described between mother bat and baby as they nurse, snuggle and cry out to communicate with each other in a nursery full of babies. While mothers are out hunting, babies are vulnerable to predators like snakes. Although – they are safer in a large group huddled together. Mother bats must hunt every night for insects to feed themselves and produce milk for their babies. Some bats are eaten by owls. What if a mother bat has lost her baby to a snake? Will she “adopt” an orphaned baby whose mother doesn’t return from hunting? Eventually we come to this question in Little Lost Bat.
I can imagine this would have many children on the edge of their seats and needing to talk about the dramatic balance between safety and survival in nature.
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: 19/65 complete!
The Lonely Book written by Kate Berhheimer and illustrated by Chris Shelban
A story that tells many stories of how relationships with books can be so special. Sometimes a book is beloved by many and passes from hands to hands to hands. Sometimes a book’s qualities are treasured by one for any number of reasons. And sometimes a book, worn and well read, finds the best place to be and the reader who is most in need of its magic.
Sing . . . sing a song . . . lyrics by Joe Raposa, story in pictures by Tom Lichtenheld
Yes, this is a book of that song Sing, Sing a Song. Starts off wordless. Our frustrated little bird demonstrates perseverance and finds some confidence after being serenaded by a joyful guitar player. Full of happiness and smiles. Just a lovely little book.
Worth watching the video on youtube:
Tommaso and the Missing Line by Matteo Pericoli
One sentence summary: Tommaso goes in search of a line that has disappeared from a beloved drawing.
Wow. This is a book that asks to be shared and discussed. In big ways. With big questions. What inspires art? Does a piece of art contain a piece of the inspiration? Do things exist differently in our memories? Can art capture a memory? Can it prevent it from fading? Love this book.
I am the King by Leo Timmers
Part of why I was drawn to this book is that it is very pink but appears to not be a pinkish book (it isn’t) and also because last year my class fell in love with Timmers’ book The Magical Life of Mr. Renny so I was curious. This is an interesting book. Maybe one that on first read might not seem so interesting but then when you think about the potential questions it might inspire, its interest level elevates. Various animals find a golden crown and convinced it fits them perfectly, each announce, “I am the King!” The next animal finds that assertion preposterous, dons the crown (in a totally different way) and claims “King” status for themselves. Finally, the crown lands at the feet of Lion. Lion puts the crown on his head and all of the animals cheer that “Lion is the King.” That is just that.
So back to the questions:
Do we see ourselves vastly differently from the way others see us? Better? Worse?
Does competition prevent us from celebrating our potential for more?
Do some people (lions in this case) just command respect? How?
Wumbers written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
What an amusing mixture of numbers and words to communicate little stories scattered throughout this book. Lots of fun! I just wished a coherent story ran through the entire book. Still, I passed this to a student last week and he was instantly hooked on deciphering the text.
Is This Panama? A Migration Story written by Jan Thornhill and illustrated by Soyeon Kim I reviewed this book earlier this week here.
Tushes and Tails by Stephane Frattini
A hugely engaging nonfiction title ideal for an interactive read aloud experience. Who belongs to which tush and/or tail? It is not as easy as it many seem to guess. Under each lift the flap, one is rewarded with more information about each animal – enough to learn something new, not too much to lose the momentum of guessing, checking and discovering.
Queenie: One Elephant’s Story written by Corinne Fenton and illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe
A story about a gentle elephant captured and put in a zoo. This book tells the story of Queenie, but really forces the readers to think about zoos, animals in captivity and our obligations to them and treatment of them. Made me think of Eve Bunting‘s The Summer of Riley and the questions around whether a dog should be euthanized or not based on its actions in particular circumstances. Can see this book being very powerful shared with an older primary or an intermediate class.
Mimi’s Village And How Health Care Transformed it written by Katie Smith Milway and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Part of the Citizen Kidseries of information story books that talk about real world issues and how they affect children around the world. This book teaches readers all about what life is like when basic health care and disease prevention is limited. Set in Kenya, Mimi’s reality before a village health worker becomes attached to her village is one where she and her family lack clean water, appropriate nutrition, and protection from diseases. Simple things like mosquito netting to sleep under have huge impact.
Bean Dog and Nugget: The Ball, an early graphic novel by Cherise Mericle Harper
Delightfully silly. My class adores this little graphic story.
Boris Gets a Lizard an early illustrated chapter book by Andrew Joyner – part of the Branches series of books by Scholastic
Boris desperately wants his own Komodo Dragon. He is what you might call obsessed. What is his clever plan to have his own Komodo Dragon, if even temporarily? And does his plan succeed? I can see my younger readers being interested in this title. Full colour pictures and manageable text.
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library written by Chris Grabenstein
A fully engaging middle grade mystery/adventure – even more perfect for book lovers and avid readers. Many have talked about connections to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and certainly this book has those wonderful elements of unexpected adventures set in a fantastical location with twists and turns on every page. I really liked this book. Think I would like it even more if I shared it with a class of children. I can imagine those reading this aloud to a classroom are having a delightful time of it!
Next up ? I am loving the novel Jinx by Sage Blackwood (and I really love saying the name Sage Blackwood, it’s so beautiful). Now that we are settled back into school routine and bedtimes, I am happy to have some dedicated evenings to continue reading The Fire Chronicle by John Stevens to my own children. We have been doing a lot of nonfiction picture book reading over the last few weeks and need to delve back into this novel that we were so excited about at the end of the summer.
Have a great reading week everyone! And if you are so inspired, check out this post and add your #5words: In 2013/2014 I will be . . . Loving the comments 🙂
I will admit to being absolutely fascinated by the whole concept of migration – the effort exerted, the distances travelled and the whole idea of living life in different places in different seasons. Animals are amazing.
A new migration favourite: Is This Panama? A Migration Story written by Jan Thornhill and illustrated by Soyeon Kim (published in 2013)
A little Wilson’s warbler wakes up to a colder than usual morning and realizes that it is time to make the journey south to Panama. But, where are all of the other warblers? They must have left without him! How would he make it to Panama alone? So begins this story of Sammy (the warbler) and his quest to find his way to Panama on his own, without knowing the way.
Sammy meets many other animals who are also migrating, adapting for the changing season or planning to sleep away the winter. A ptarmigan explains that he doesn’t need to travel south because his changing white feathers keep him safe from predators while he continues to find lots of food in the north. A flock of sandhill cranes give Sammy a lift further south but not nearly close enough to Panama. They do however teach him that their migration strategy is to search for landmarks that they count on every year. Darner Dragonflies explain to Sammy that they follow the shoreline because flying over open water is much too dangerous. Other warblers (some redstarts, warbler cousins) show Sammy how they follow star maps by flying at night and a sense of knowing awakens in Sammy. Unfortunately, as he sets out with a clearer sense of his destination, he is confused by the bright lights of a city. In a terrible storm, Sammy finds refuge on the backs of a group of social humpback whales on route to warmer waters to calve. They bring him farther south and give him the rest he needs to find some new energy to fly. Finally, Sammy finds himself just where he needs to be. What a journey.
In the back of the book is a map revealing the regular route warblers take from Alaska to Panama and then Sammy’s much longer round about route. All of the creatures Sammy encounters are described as well – with important details about migration routes, reasons for migrating and migration strategies.
Did you know that Hudsonian Godwits can fly almost 10, 000 km in one go? Really! Humpback whales use the position of the sun and Earth’s magnetic field to guide their journey. Caribou migrate farther than any other land animal.
There is also a page titled How Animals Migrate detailing the various strategies animals use to guide their migration, why animals migrate and what are some of the dangers of migration (most happen to be caused by humans).
An amazing story and so much more on the topic of migration, I highly recommend this title. It would be a great read aloud in primary classes and ideal for independent reading for early intermediate students.
Interested in other picture books about migration?
These are also favourites:
Bird, Butterfly, Eel with story and paintings by James Prosek
The Journey: Stories of Migration written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Lambert Davis
My original goal was 60 nonfiction picture books for 2013. Progress: 50/60 complete
Thanks to Alyson fromKid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2013! Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction titles.
It’s funny how one’s focus can change when looking at the classroom library. For a while, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nonfiction titles in my room. Last summer I started to get anxious about whether or not I had enough books in the room that my Grade 2/3s could pick up and read independently. It seemed like my “best” nonfiction titles were books that I needed to read to my students. Which was wonderful because I had some amazing titles to use as we model strategies, but what about when it was independent reading time? Did I have enough titles that students could read by themselves with success? My book shopping focussed on purchasing titles that I knew my students could manage on their own, especially as we built strategies to read nonfiction text over the year. Some of my favourite books that I added?
The Discover More Series by Scholastic
Nicola Davies Flip the Flap and Find out books which include Who Lives Here? and Who’s Like Me?
Laura Hulbert‘s Who Has This Tail? and Who Has These Feet?
A huge array of Bobbie Kalman titles
The Are you a . . . ? series by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
The Amazing Animal Series by Kate Riggs
Now, here I am a year later. Again, thinking about the books in my room . . . What is my focus now? That I want some “Oh, wow!” titles to read aloud. I want to make sure that just as I am reading a variety of picture books and some engaging novels, that I have a real variety of excellent nonfiction picture books to read aloud. Sometimes to model/practice a strategy, sometimes to enhance our learning on a particular subject and sometimes just because, the more we read, the more we know and I want my students to be inspired and curious about learning all year long!
I am fortunate to be looping my Grade 2/3 class into Grade 3/4 and so I have a sense of this group of children, what they wonder about and what I think might inspire them. Last year, I noticed that they were intrigued by stories – folklore, Aboriginal tales, stories from around the world and stories about things that really happened. They were very curious about the stories of people and how these stories connected to us in our classroom. It made me realize that I haven’t been reading enough biographies. I also want to focus on places around the world and the wonder of the world around us. Last year, students loved learning about animals from each continent and had endless questions about habitats. I know we love art and books and music. So, I have some sense of what kinds of books I need to share.
Knowing how busy school can get and knowing how I sometimes need a one stop shop when I am planning, I decided to take advantage of the time summer has to offer to amass a huge list of amazing nonfiction read alouds. I was looking for titles that my Grade 3/4 class would enjoy. Some are favourites from previous years and some I have yet to read myself. Thank goodness for the wonderful book bloggers out there that I used for inspiration. So here is my list of 25 “wonder inducing” nonfiction read alouds. A reference for me and one that I am sharing here.
The book I plan to use to launch my year: On A Beam of Light- A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky This book made my own thoughts whirl and swirl and race around my head. It has all the perfect themes of wonder, curiousity and thinking outside of the box.
Based on some picture book biographies I already loved, I grew that list to include:
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Stewart
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Stewart
Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Eric Puybaret
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon written by Jaqueline Davies illustrated byMelissa Sweet
The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter
Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell
Mrs. Harkness and the Panda written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Melissa Sweet
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated byLeUyen Pham
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A Nivola
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Some titles to explore amazing places and the world around us:
Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin
Redwoods by Jason Chin
Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin
The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest by Steve Jenkins
A Rock is Lively written by Diana Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long
Sea Otter Inlet by Celia Godkin
Fire! by Celia Godkin
Infinity and Me written by Kate Hosford and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Energy Island: How one community harnessed the wind and changed their world by Allan Drummond
And to learn about creatures great and small:
The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins
Ape written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White
How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland
And a title to be released this fall:
Is This Panama?: A Migration Story written by Jan Thornhill and illustrated by Soyeon Kim
Will I read allof these titles aloud this year? Maybe not. Perhaps interests and passions will take us in different directions. But this list will help keep me on track to make sure I am sharing lots of books that inspire both learning and thinking in my room!
Do you have some other must share nonfiction titles for Grade 3/4 listeners? Would love to hear your suggestions!
I learn so much by reading all of the blog posts that link to the Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday event that KidLit Frenzy hosts. Visit Alyson’s blog to see what books are shared this week.
On a Beam of Light: A story of Albert Einstein written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky Sometimes in the middle of a picture book, I know. I know that it will become a favourite before I even finish it as a certain kind of enchantment begins. There is the purely wonderful feeling of experiencing the story and the illustrations and the magic of the book. But there is also the explosion in my head of all of the different ways I can use the story in the classroom. Loud, swirling and whirling ideas. So when the book itself is about how Einstein thought and approached the world, about how his thinking happened, well . . . the layers of wow can’t quite be described. Radunsky’s illustrations are divine and Jennifer Berne delivered a story about the complexities of Einstein’s ideas in a book that is simple and accessible and beautiful. Just. Pure. Brilliance. A book I plan to use to introduce my year – all the perfect themes of wonder, curiousity and thinking outside of the box.
Nora’s Chicks written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Kathryn Brown A wonderfully lovely title that could be used to talk about what it is like to move somewhere new, away from friends, family and country. Little Nora moves with her family to the prairies from Russia. Nothing looks or feels the same and she is desperately lonely. Some little chicks and two geese become her adopted companions and lead her to both friendship and joy.
Coming on Home Soon written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis This pair create some absolutely beautiful books. I liked the simplicity to this story – a young girl misses her Mother who has gone to Chicago to work in a factory job left vacant as all of the men are off at War (WWII). Ada Ruth is cared for by her grandmother with a practical, no nonsense kind of love. Love that soothes the missing, comforts the sadness and has room for a bothersome kitten. Stunning illustrations.
Hooray for Amanda and her Alligator written and illustrated by Mo Willems Oh Mo Willems, how do you do it? Engaging and hilarious as usual!
Matilda’s Cat written and illustrated by Emily Gravett. Gravett’s books are so frequently shared in my room during kindergarten buddy reading time and this title is another example of why. Even with sparse text, a big story is told. It makes you smile and lures you into frequent rereads, the repetitive elements making it all the more engaging. Matilda, dressed as a cat herself, leads her cat through a variety of activities, listing off what the cat does not like until eventually we discover what it is exactly that makes this cat so happy. Adorable. Perfect for a story time session with younger children.
I have been previewing some early chapter books that I purchased for my class – hoping to introduce some new series.
The Disastrous Little Dragon by Gillian Johnson Part of the Monster Hospital Series. Fun and full of expressive illustrations – ideal for students moving into early chapter books. This story is full of humour, adventure and dragon mishaps. There is also a message that a certain degree of confidence goes a long way.
Hello Nebulon! Galaxy Zack series by Ray O’Ryan In the year 2120, it’s possible to travel and live on the planet Nebulon and what a fascinating new place for Zack and his family. Beds that descend from the ceiling, dinner that appears in moments, a house controlled by a robot (named Ira) and bikes and cars like nothing on Earth. Still adjusting to a new home and school is full of anxiety no matter what planet you might find yourself on! Lots of illustrations and fun fantasy perfect for readers just beginning to handle chapter books.
Middle Grade/Young Adult Novels:
A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean For a book all about a girl who stops speaking, this book was anything but quiet. But yet it spoke sort of magically – weaving connections to the characters and the story around and around my heart until I was all wrapped up in this story. This is the first book that has made me cry in quite some time. It is simple and precious and poignant. We read about a little girl’s grief and the healing process she goes through which involves new friends, visions of her mother and a very special dog called Homeless. This book took on a tragic topic – losing a parent and sent a message that grief can take many forms and the importance of accepting them all. It also touched on selective mutism – which I don’t find very often in stories. It was handled so well here. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone – but will just say that Cally teaches us a lot about how to grieve, how to remember and how to live in a world that is all of a sudden without someone who means a lot. A beautiful book.
Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles I have now officially read all of the Jo Knowles novels out there except for Living with Jackie Chan which is released this fall. Since I am a huge fan of Knowles’ work I needed to get this title read as it is a companion book for Living with Jackie Chan. I found it quite amazing that even writing from four different perspectives, Knowles could convey so sensitively the turmoil and angst a teenage pregnancy brings onto a group of connected teens. As always, Jo Knowles exposes the vulnerability of both male and female characters in such a believable, not over the top way. A book where you are rooting for everyone and where, I am sure, each reader brings different connections to this story of an unintended pregnancy and the complexity of relationships.
What am I reading next? I am thrilled to be part way through The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (much gratitude to a friend who lent me her ARC!) I was waiting, extremely impatiently, until the September release and was very excited to be able to dive back into this mysterious, eerie and supernatural drama that Stiefvater leads her readers through. Then it’s Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick and The Apprentices by Maile Meloy – both recent holds I just picked up at the library.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys I absolutely adored these characters and the chance to dive into this book and be immersed in New Orleans in the 1950s. There is much to this novel – mystery, a sense of history, questions of what makes family and how deep loyalty can go. I loved that even though Josie was in many senses abandoned by her mother, she was treasured by so many others.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King This is now my third A.S. King novel and the only thing I don’t like about her is that she hasn’t written more books. I would give this title to my once teenage self and say, “Read this and realize the wonderful strength and wisdom of youth.” King hardly paints fairy tale scenarios. Lots is challenging. Much is ugly. Living and learning and making mistakes run through her titles. In this book, like others, I found the parent child relationship fascinating. My only criticism, is wow, there is a lot of teenage cruelty highlighted. Not saying it wasn’t believable, but heavy. Loved Vera. Loved her journey. Loved her strength.
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool I have heard a lot of buzz about this novel in the last few months and so was excited to finally begin reading it. Unlike many others who weren’t wild (or at least not Newbery wild) about Vanderpool‘s debut novel Moon over Manifest, I loved it. But while Moon was gentle and meandeiring and about the big pictures in the small town, this book requires you to settle into it with your guard up. This book is clearly an adventure and a mystery and a layering of story upon story so at times it doesn’t really matter what is real and what isn’t. There is much sadness in this novel. It’s a novel of loss and finding one’s way. It’s a story of trying to figure out grief. It’s a story of figuring out how the universe connects and what our part in it is. It is also just very much a story of two boys. Early and Jack. What they give to each other and what they learn on their quest. Like other reviews I’ve seen, I think that “navigating” this novel requires a slightly older reader. I can see reading it aloud to my children and stopping to talk and discuss much. I think that while I am now finished reading this book, it isn’t quite done with me.
My favourite picture books of the week:
Something Beautiful written by Sharon Dennis Wyeth and illustrated by Chris K Soentpiet A really emotional story. A little girl searches for her something beautiful amongst surroundings of graffiti, homelessness and a courtyard full of trash. The artwork is stunning – vibrant, colourful and true to life.
The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Sue deGennaro I love fairytales. Many fractured fairytales, not so much. They are too often just “too done” and lose so much in the mixing up. Some though are fresh and fun and the twists take us to new perspectives worth thinking about. This is one of those worth a read fractured tales because it pokes fun at the “sensitive” ( I call it high maintenance) princess who is supposedly the ideal “wife to be.” Prince Henrik is instead looking for someone who shares his interests ( hockey, camping) and who had a nice smile. The “princess” he finds is actually an old friend and someone who he can actually enjoy his time with. A fun story and great inspiration for some Princess and the Pea art projects that we hope to finish this week. (See an example of stage one above)
Peep! A Little Book about Taking a Leap by Maria Van Lieshout A sweet simple book about courage. It depicts all of the up and down emotions associated with fear and then the courageous leap . . .
Kitty and Dino by Sara Richard So this is my “Wow!” discovery of the week! Nearly wordless, this book explores the new pet in the house theme. But, this book feels like nothing you might have read before. First of all, the new pet is a dinosaur who has come to share the house with Kitty (who is really having none of it). Second, check out this dinosaur!! The book is part graphic with illustrations inspired by Japanese ink paintings. Stunning. Wild. Gorgeous. Third, when Kitty finally does warm up to the idea of another pet in the house, the dinosaur/Kitty interactions are divine. Pure joy and beauty in this book!
Baboon by Kate Banks and illustrated by Georg Hallensleben I enjoyed the rhythm of the language and the soft gentle story of little baboon and mother exploring the world. With each new thing he discovers, little baboon thinks he has discovered the way the world is until he discovers another animal or aspect of his habitat that teaches him something different. Mother Baboon is always wise and reassuring. For example, when little baboon watches a turtle, he remarks,
“The world is slow,” he said.
“It can be,” said his mother.
An Island Grows by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Cathie Felstead The ideal information story book for young readers – lyrical text and striking illustrations explain how an island forms over time. There are more details in the back of the book to enhance further discussion.
I am currently finishing Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky with my student book club and plan to start The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth as my next novel.
Two nonfiction picture books helped us understand how snow forms. I shared both of these with my class this morning. My class is a Grade 2/3 class and we were able to understand the text with lots of support and time for questions. The illustrations, charts and diagrams really helped.
The Snow Show by Carolyn Fisher (published 2008) This book is written like the reader is visiting a set of a cooking show. What’s on the menu? A recipe for snow! Not only did we learn a LOT about snow, the kids loved when I cued “Applause” and they got to clap! Some new information for us:
snow begins with a speck (of dirt, dust, or ash) that water vapour sticks to
snow crystals can also be in the shape of needles, columns or plates
The Story of Snow: the Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson (published 2009) The close up photographs on these pages are absolutely stunning. The children couldn’t believe that snow looked like this when the crystals were magnified. They loved the pages in the back filled with “snow catching” tips and are wishing hard for a snow day so we can race outside with black heavy paper and magnifying glasses. What amazing facts did we learn?
no two snowflakes are alike but also, snow crystals are rarely perfect
snow crystals are 6 sided because of the nature of water: water molecules attach themselves in groups of 6
snow crystals stop growing once they fall from the clouds
Of course, a great companion book for these titles would be a favourite title of mine: Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian (published 1998 and a Caldecott winner in 1999).
My original goal was to read 60 “new to me” nonfiction picture books for 2013. Progress: 12/60 complete 🙂
Thanks to Alyson from KidLit Frenzy for the opportunity to participate in this challenge.