Monsters, monsters everywhere

Monsters, monsters everywhere

Monsters have cast a certain magic over our classroom lately.

We’ve been reading about monsters.

Talking monster characteristics.

Designing monsters.

Sketching monsters.

Painting monsters.

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

Stories to come. We are writing.

It all started with this book:

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

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

We drew monster designs.

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

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

Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That

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

Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That

Some monsters are born!

Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That

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

Monsters, monsters everywhere There's a Book for That

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

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

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

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

Picture books that feature monsters and other strange creatures:

Crankenstein written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Dan Santant

Love Monster by Rachel Bright

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

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

The Gruffalo written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Raising Your Own Pet Monster by Elise Gravel 

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

Wilfred written and illustrated by Ryan Higgins

The Monstore by Tara Lazar

Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty

The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell

The Tale of Jack Frost by David Melling

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

Plantpet by Elise Primavera

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

Don’t Play with Your Food by Bob Shea

Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie by Joel Stewart

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

Happy Picture Book Month!

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Monday May 12th, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

IMWAYR

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. The best way to grow your TBR list!

Hoping all Moms had a lovely Mother’s Day yesterday! Here is one of the gorgeous bouquets that went home to Moms and Grandmas in my class:

 #IMWAYR May 12th 2014 There's a Book for That

My own children made me lovely cards. How well my son knows me! 🙂

 #IMWAYR May 12th 2014 There's a Book for That

I read a variety of picture books this week. Here are my favourites:

The Girl with the Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran written by Rita Jahanforuz and illustrated by Vali Mintzi 

Readers will notice similarities to well known folktales and fairytales. An important story that highlights how our true spirit shines through when we trust our heart. I imagine this story would be very popular in my classroom. Students love to learn from tales from around the world.

 #IMWAYR May 12th 2014 There's a Book for That

Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson

These illustrations are powerful – some pages almost overwhelming in their intensity. Baby Bear is lost and finds his way home through the wisdom of his fellow forest dwellers. Advice is soothing sometimes more than specifically helpful – “Hug a Tree” but Baby Bear manages to find his way.

 #IMWAYR May 12th 2014 There's a Book for That

Missuk’s Snow Geese written by Anne Renaud and illustrated by Genevieve Cote 

A beautiful story of a little girl who wants to be a carver like her father. When he is lost in a storm, it turns out that Missuk’s creations helped bring him home.

 #IMWAYR May 12th 2014 There's a Book for That

A Packet of Seeds written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Bethanne Andersen 

Historical fiction with much melancholy. A family travels west to settle in a new place and new home on the prairie. This book highlights the physical and mental courage and energy it took to be able to make a home in a new place. The promise of a flower garden and the memories the blossoms might evoke makes all of the difference for one Mom.

 #IMWAYR May 12th 2014 There's a Book for That

 The Apple Orchard Riddle written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

A riddle weaves its way through this story all about a visit to an apple orchard. Much to learn and much to wonder.

 #IMWAYR May 12th 2014 There's a Book for That

Every Day is Malala Day by Rosemary McCarney with Plan International 

This book is a photographic thank you letter to Malala Yousafzai for her courage and her determination to speak up for the rights of girls to have an education. Both text and photos (of girls all over the world) are powerful. I highlighted how I shared it in my class in this post

Every Day is Malala Day  #IMWAYR May 12th 2014 There's a Book for That

The Troll written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by David Roberts

I love David Roberts as an illustrator. This story is very amusing. It mixes some pirates up with the Troll from the Billy Goat’s Gruff story in very delightful and silly ways. Comical and creative.

 #IMWAYR May 12th 2014 There's a Book for That

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan 

I started to smile on the first page and I was more delighted and amused with each page I turned. Beautifully odd and quirky. Rich images. I am of course convinced that I must own this book. I want to make my way through the pages time and again.

 #IMWAYR May 12th 2014 There's a Book for That

In other reading . . .

I am pages away from finishing Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

I adore being lost in the other worldly ways of this novel. Magical. Mystical. Mysterious.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy  #IMWAYR May 12th 2014 There's a Book for That

 

Up next? I plan to start Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin 

Reading Goal updates:

2014 Chapter Book Challenge: 36/100 novels complete

Goodeads Challenge: 239/650 books read

#MustReadin2014: 15/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 61/65 complete

Monday March 24th, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

IMWAYR

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

I read some wonderful picture books this week. Here are my ten favourites:

Sparky! written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans

Okay, Wow. This book is so absolutely charming. And wonderfully slow – yes, like a sloth. There are giggle worthy images – like the sloth in a box having just arrived by Express Mail. Or when we see that Sparky (the sloth) can win at a game – if it is Statue where you need to stand very still.  It is about our desires and vulnerabilities. Why else post a sign about a Trained Sloth Extravaganza where you plan to prove that your pet sloth is really quite amazing? And spend days teaching him tricks . . . ? If you make it through the book and aren’t sold, the last page will get you. And then you like me, will have to buy this book or . . . send away for it to be delivered by Express Mail.

Sparky! #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Promise written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Laura Carlin

When I saw that Nicola Davies – my go to author for nonfiction titles had written a fiction title, I had to find it. And read it. And own it. I plan to read this book to my students along with The Curious Garden by Peter Brown and The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering. All three titles share similar messages – nature is essential, being part of a growing landscape is transformative and filling the world with more green can enrich our lives and build our communities. Only criticism – I love all of the images in the book, except the cover. Wish they had chosen a different illustration to feature. But peek under the book jacket for another gorgeous image.

The Promise #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett

I really wasn’t prepared for how funny I found this book. Funny as in completely amusing – it caught me off guard in the best of the ways. A little boy loses his airplane on the rooftop. He tries in vain to get it down. His eventual strategy works – but it might not be what we all might choose. Another title I now want to own for my wordless collection.

 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Soccer Star written by Mina Javaherbin and illustrated by Renato Alarcão 

This book is set in Brazil and tells the story of young children living in poverty. Their days are full of work while their heads are full of dreams. Maybe they will be future soccer stars like Garrincha, Pelé and Ronaldo and find a way to lift their families out of poverty. The dreams give light and energy to the hardships of everyday and the evening soccer game is a treasured, shared time daily. I reviewed this book with my students responses in more detail here.

Soccer Star  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Lila and the Secret of Rain written by David Conway and illustrated by Jude Daly

I am always on the lookout for folktales and stories set in other places. I am excited to add this to my classroom collection. Lila’s village in Kenya is experiencing drought. Her grandfather whispers the secret of rain to her. Lila sets out on a quest to bring rain to her village. She does this by sharing her sadness with the sky. A beautiful book.

Lila and the Secret of the Rain  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Letter Lunch by Elisa Gutierrez

Love the stores full of letters, letters scattered in plants, the bottles of vowels and the Z on the top of the mountain. The fact that it is wordless makes it even more powerful. Perfect for a reader who loves to get lost in the details. So much to explore in this book.

Letter Lunch #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Cave Baby written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Emily Gravett

A celebration of children’s art and colourful pictures. A rhyming read aloud title with the talented Gravett as illustrator. Can see this being a read and reread aloud for persistent toddlers who will be delighted by it!

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Friends by Eric Carle

Lovely for story time. Reminiscent about a lost childhood friend, Carle celebrates a best friend and his imaginative search for her over time and distance after she moved away.

 Friends #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Eric the Boy who Lost his Gravity by Jenni Desmond

What happens when we get really angry? An interesting take on how it feels. Highlights the sibling wars of early childhood and the blame game of the parents. Interesting. Pair it with When Sophie gets Angry- Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang. Anger and managing our emotions are things we should be talking about with children. These books give us a jumping off point.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Running with the Horses by Alison Lester

What a book. This is a longer picture book set in WWII. Nina and her father must rescue Lipizzaner stallions that they look after at the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses in Vienna. Nina rides Zelda, an older mare, who her father suspects is not up for the journey into the safety of the countryside. Courage. Adventure. History. Alison Lester has written and illustrated a beautiful book. She does note that while the story was inspired by the rescue of the Lipizzaner stallions, it is not meant to be a historically accurate account of the actual events.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Novels I finished (all on my #MustReadin2014 list):

Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle

Add me to the long list of readers who has been utterly charmed by the character Nate Foster. I loved his small town inexperience. His candor. His charm. The fact that he talks about his parent’s marriage problems, personal problems and parenting problems. I love that he talks about not knowing who he might like in the future and that he hasn’t got a gender all picked out yet. I love his friendship with his best friend. And then there is his audition. Okay, I basically just loved all of it.

Better Nate than Ever #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

I sat down to read this book one evening during a “family read in” (fireplace on, everyone grab a book and snuggle on the couch) and I didn’t put it down until I finished it. Beautiful writing. Touching story. My heart ached and soared. I have been thinking about this book for days. For many reasons. One of which is that I have a student that would so benefit by being “found” and loved by John and Marta.

 The Boy on the Porch #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Allegiant by Veroncia Roth

I really hate writing negative reviews and I shouldn’t be because I should have abandoned the book but I didn’t for a few reasons 1) at about 200 pages in, I was getting into it 2) it was on my #MustReadin2014 list 3) I had to get to the controversial ending

But . . . Here is what irked me 1) Characters were constantly fiddling with the hem of their shirts. Huh? But everyone doing this often. 2) The writing just wasn’t good.  Biggest issue? The dual narration and not being able to remember who was telling the story at certain points. Don’t think Roth really delivered in Tobias’ voice 3) Reading should never feel like a chore and I had to force myself to sit and read both at the beginning and after about page 250.

Still I did finish. In the end, I enjoyed Divergent and should have just stopped there. Much preferred the Legend trilogy if anyone is in the mood for YA dystopia.

 Allegiant #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Reading Goal updates:

2014 Chapter Book Challenge: 23/100 novels complete

Goodeads Challenge: 147/650 books read

#MustReadin2014: 12/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 42/65 complete

Speaking of #MustReadin2014 – for anyone participating in this challenge, we talked about sharing our progress at the end of March. I am planning to do a post for April 1st. Anyone else in? Doesn’t have to be huge and full of reviews, unless you want it to be. Maybe just a list of titles you’ve read so far. Highlighting some favourites? Ratings? I know this community will bring their own style and signature to it! I will start tweeting some reminders using the hashtag #MustReadin2014 over the next week.

Monday October 7th, 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! The #IMWAYR crowd always has so many fantastic titles to share.

IMWAYR

The picture books I enjoyed this week:

Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner

Nearly wordless and wonderfully odd and quirky. Mr. Wuffles is a cat who doesn’t move unless it’s for a very good reason and he certainly doesn’t move to chase after silly toys his owner buys him. So what is it about the teeny spaceship that has Mr. Wuffles racing all over the house? You must experience this title to truly understand what is happening. At the end of the week I told my students that I would be sharing a book with them this week that is part wordless, part English and part in a language I don’t understand. They are totally intrigued. Can’t wait to see what they make of this book!

 Mr. Wuffles #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

The Island by Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman

Another wordless title where the narrative isn’t necessarily even close to obvious. I suppose if this really bothers you, this book will be somewhat irritating. I love the illustrations and the suggestion of many story lines. My children and I shared this title over breakfast. Each of us was sort of sure we knew what was going on – all of us telling stories that went in quite different directions. Quite fun actually.

The Island #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

The Paper Dolls written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

Although this story is definitely for a younger audience (preschool to K/1 would be ideal) I found it absolutely lovely. A beautiful story celebrating mother daughter time, imagination and playtime adventure. A little girl and her five paper dolls – the names repeat in a poem (loved “Jimmy with two noses”) have many wonderful adventures. There is a moment of cruelty handled without much attention – it isn’t explored but rather gives the story another aspect – that when something is lost or destroyed it is not gone but enters the special world of memories. Would love to gift this to a family with young children. Can see it being a favourite. And of course it has Donaldson’s rhythm and flow.

The Paper Dolls #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

I Dare You Not to Yawn written by Helene Boudreau and illustrated by Serge Bloch

A cautionary tale about how to avoid yawns that will inevitably lead to being put to bed. And oh are there some cozy, soothing temptations. Yikes, just typing this and visualizing those pages, I yawned! Me: zero. Book: one.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

Martha Doesn’t Say Sorry written by Samantha Berger  and illustrated by Bruce Whatley 

Sorry is such an interesting phenomenon. So often children are forced to say sorry and it has no meaning at all. Martha does not voice these words willingly. It is clearly a power thing. It’s not that she isn’t nice, she just won’t admit she’s wrong. When she does finally utter them, it really does feel meaningful. Well handled in a sweet little family story.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

Unicorn Thinks he’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea

I love that so many important themes are handled in a story that is full of silly, whimsy and all out bling. Themes such as jealousy, friendship, diversity, and accepting someone new. Read this book to laughter and smiles and then settle in for an interesting discussion about a whole lot of stuff. Most importantly of course: How do we get it to rain cupcakes?

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Give Up, Gecko! A Folktale from Uganda retold by Margaret Read MacDonald illustrated by Deborah Melmon

A fun little story highlighting the importance of persistence and the big meanings of what is fair. Silly, fun language and a lovely story all wrapped up in one.

 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

This week I also blogged about some great nonfiction titles I read recently –  perfect for preschool listeners right up to late primary.

In other reading, I finished Jinx by Sage Blackwood

I am so happy that I really liked this book. I really really wanted to like this book. I loved the cover, the author’s name and the promise of a storyline about wizards, witches, various kinds of magic, curses, secrets, adventure, mystery and listening trees. It might have gone the direction of not pulling it off because it seemed to promise so much. But no, it all comes together and I found myself wishing for more free time to just stay lost in this story. An excellent middle grade fantasy/adventure/mystery. Would be great for fans of The False Prince!

 Jinx #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

People seem to either love this title or they are kind of middle of the road on it. I am in the first camp. I finished it early this morning over my first cup of coffee and found myself crying twice in the last section. A really intimate little book that introduces us to Billy Miller, his family, his worries and his triumphs. A seven year old hero of the everyday. Love him. Love him. Love him.

 The Year of Billy Miller #IMWAYR There's a Book for That!

Next up?

The Boy on the Wooden Box A Memoir by Leon Leyson

Happy reading to everyone!

Monday April 29th, 2013

It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

Join Jen and Kellee for their weekly meme and share all of your reading from picture books to young adult novels. The #IMWAYR community is always an amazing source of book ideas and inspiration!

I had a lot of fun with picture books this week. Here are my favourites:

A Girl and her Gator written by Sean Bryan and illustrated by Tom Murphy So what might happen really if you went through your day with a gator on your head? Well . . . this book makes it very clear! Written completely in quite sophisticated rhyme, this book is rather delightful!

It's Monday! What are you Reading? There's a Book for that

Skunkdog written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Pierre Pratt I found the fact that this dog with such a very pronounced snout was absolutely lacking in the “sniff it out” department to be wonderfully ironic and silly. Skunkdog cannot smell. Smells just don’t impact him. And so when he tries to befriend a skunk who doesn’t hesitate to spray him repeatedly, he is not at all bothered. His owners, on the other hand, have a different opinion about his association with a skunk! Lots of tomato juice, held noses and questions about what it is to be lonely.

It's Monday! What are you Reading? There's a Book for that

Me and Mr. Mah written by Andrea Spalding and illustrated by Janet Wilson This title was originally published in 1999 and while I had seen it often in our school library, I just finally pulled it off the shelf and read it. It turns out to have many elements that I love in a story – a wonderful intergenerational relationship between young Ian and his new neighbour Mr.Mah who teaches him, via gardening, about patience, holding memories close and new growth. Themes of divorce, moving and making friends.

It's Monday! What are you Reading? There's a Book for that

The Worst Princess written by Anna Kemp and illustrated by Sara Ogilvie This book arrived home in my daughter’s backpack with an excited explanation that her Teacher Librarian had sent it on to me to read as she thought I might like it. Thank you to the wonderful Cheriee! Because like it I did! And how . . .

First of all, within the first few pages of reading this book aloud to my class, a spontaneous debate arose between the boys in my room. It sounded something like this:

E: “This is a girl book!”

K: “I have books about princesses and dragons at my house. I read them. I’m a boy.”

P:  “There’s no such thing as a girl book. All books are for everyone.”

K: “Can you read the book now Ms. Gelson?”

After that debate settled itself (love when I just get to sit back and bear witness), we all settled into a charming story about a princess who was expecting much more from life once her Prince Charming finally arrived. And it certainly did not involve weary pouffy dresses and sitting around while her Prince had all of the adventures. One of my students summed this story up best:

“It started out and you thought it would be a Prince and Princess vs The Dragon story but it ended up being The Princess and the  Dragon vs. The Prince and everyone else!”

One might describe this title as a modern Paperbag Princess in yellow hightops! My students certainly connected this book to the Munsch classic.

It's Monday! What are you Reading? There's a Book for that

The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel SchefflerWell, simply summarized this story is about a thieving rat who gets his just desserts. My students wrote wonderful reviews that tell it much better than me. Please take a moment and enjoy 🙂

The Highway Rat It's Monday! What are you Reading? There's a Book for that

City Dog Country Frog written by Mo Willems and illustrated by Jon J Muth. I have actually read this title before but had yet to read it aloud to a class until this week. I confessed to my students that I had originally bypassed this book because of the cover. While I love frog books, I don’t adore dog books. But of course, this book is so so much more. I had originally (back in 2011) blogged:

“Something about the cover picture spoke dog to me and I kept missing the frog, even when I eyed the title I saw dog instead of frog. Finally, I looked a little closer and spotted the frog so perfectly plopped on the dog’s head and I pulled the book off the shelf.  How could I have missed this? I was missing so much! Inside illustrations are mellow, gentle and ahh, what greens. Together with Willems’ simple text, pictures and words tell the tender story of  friendship, the passage of time, young curiousity and calm wisdom. To make up for the months I haven’t been reading this book, I need to read it over and over and over again.”

So . . . I have been rereading this book over time and am now blogging about it again because it is truly special. One of my favourite book bloggers, Donna McKinnon from 32 Pages, seems to have felt something similar. A must read post from her about this wonderful title.

It's Monday! What are you Reading? There's a Book for that

“I Have a Little Problem,” said the Bear written by Heinz Janisch and illustrated by Silke Leffler Sometimes, we might have a problem and everyone wants to help yet nobody truly slows down enough to listen clearly to exactly what the problem might be. This book is about exactly that – the challenges of really being heard.

It's Monday! What are you Reading? There's a Book for that

Miss Maple’s Seeds written and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler There is something tender and sweet about the care that Miss Maple delivers to the seeds she collects. She nestles them in straw baskets and takes them soaring on the wind in floral “air balloons.” She reads them stories by firefly light and takes them dancing in rainstorms. Each image is magical and delightful and at the other end of this charming book, we are delivered –  wiser about seeds and the seasons and content that Miss Maple is a special nature caretaker.

It's Monday! What are you Reading? There's a Book for that

I was able to finish reading Requiem this week and then started and finished The Water Castle.

Requiem written by Lauren Oliver While I definitely enjoyed this final book in the Delirium trilogy, I wouldn’t rate it as highly as the first two books. Delirium absolutely captured me and I found Pandemonium to be fast paced and full of unexpected drama. This book was clearly meant to wrap things up, which, while on the one hand, I do appreciate, I felt that the whole book was geared towards an ending that was actually not as tightly woven as I was expecting. I did enjoy Hana’s story and everything going on for her inside Portland and on route to a matched marriage that seems scarier than the “on the run life” that Lena has. Maybe I just felt that this book needed more Lena. Still not sure. But – would definitely recommend reading the trilogy to fans of dystopian fantasy.

Requiem It's Monday! What are you Reading? There's a Book for that

The Water Castle written by Megan Frazer Blakemore Thanks to a wonderful community of readers that I am connected with – I have heard many rave reviews of this middle grade title. And now I clearly see why . . . This is an excellent mix of mystery and adventure that would have wide appeal with middle grade readers. In fact, I have just placed it up high on the list as a possibility for my student book club. And, I want to read it aloud to my own children. This book has such wide kid appeal. It is one part science, one part mystery/adventure, one part fantasy/science fiction and one stabilizing part of family/friendship dynamics to make the unreal, part of the very real, world. There is so much I loved about this title – the relationships between the characters, the mystery that permeates everything, the fact that not everything is solved and yet, one isn’t left disappointed. And best of all, the myriad of stories that are woven together across time. Highly recommended.

The Water Castle It's Monday! What are you Reading? There's a Book for that

Next up? I have just started Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco.

What are you reading? 

The Highway Rat

Our BLG book this week was The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Thank you to Deborah, our BLG reader this week, for sharing this wonderful title with us.

This author/illustrator team (Donaldson and Scheffler) continues to create books that kids adore and adults love reading aloud!

The Highway Rat

In this story, inspired by the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, we meet a thieving rat who rides along the highway and steals food from all of the travellers. It begins:

“The Highway Rat was a baddie

The Highway rat was a beast.

He took what he wanted and ate what he took.

His life was one long feast.”

It didn’t take long before the class began to shout out their opinions of this Highway Rat. “He’s so greedy!” “And bossy!” “Jealous and selfish.” “I think he’s a pirate on the road!”

As he continued to hold up travellers and steal their food, students became even more upset. They shouted out and mumbled. Some comments were general. Some seemed to be addressed directly to the rat!

“He is very naughty!”

“You aren’t going to get anything guy if you continue like this!”

“Whoa! He thinks everything is his.”

“You are not the best. Even if you think you are!”

“I don’t understand. Why is nobody standing up to him. They could say ‘Stop it!'”

When the rat came upon a little duck with nothing, no food or treats, he announced that he will just have to eat her up. One student noticed the dark clouds on the page, “Oh no! Something terrible is coming I think!” The little duck led the Highway Rat to a cave promising him delicious treats that her sister who lived in the cave possessed. Our greedy thief followed her eagerly. Students quickly figured out that this little duck was up to something.

“That duck is trying to trick him because of all the things he did! That rat is going to get it!”

We won’t give away the very clever ending. But will let you know that good prevails in the end. And suffice it to say that the only dessert the rat will get for a while is dessert of the “just” variety.

Deborah announced at the end of the story that there was “a little bit of a lesson” in this book. One child quickly remarked, “No it was a BIG lesson!”

A simply delightful story that begs to be read again and again. My students adore this author/illustrator duo and I managed to find some fantastic articles and blog posts for further reading. Here are a few:

Students have been learning to address specific questions to the author and the illustrator in their writing. Especially if they have questions or comments. You will see this reflected in their writing below. 

Student reviewers respond:

Ava: Author, I love your writing! Where did you get the idea to put a rat in a book? Where do you live? I liked the rat’s hat. The rat at the end deserved it! Because he was mean!

Vicky: My favourite part was when everybody was happy because they got their food back. I liked when the duck tricked the rat. I really enjoyed the story. To the illustrator and author: I really liked the story and the pictures.

Andrew: I like when the duck tricked the rat to go to the cave. The rat was mean because the rat took the traveller’s food. To the author: Where are you from? How old are you? To the illustrator: I like the way you dressed the rat.

Giovanni: I liked when the duck tricked the rat. I liked the horse.

Shereese: I think the duck is the hero. Did you make the duck the hero? I loved the book. I also love your other books. The rat learned his lesson.

Kelvin: That book made me hungry just a bit. The rat made me hungry. To the illustrator: The pictures were so real. It was so nice. The horse looked really funny.

Ethan: To the author: I think you are an expert writer. You could write rhyming words. I think that rat is a pirate because of his hat and his sword. Where were you born? Where are you from? I’m from Vancouver.

Gracie: How did the duck know that the rat would bring the duck to the cave? My favourite part was when the duck tricked the rat. The rat was mean because he was so selfish. Why would the rat like hay that he stole from his horse? Rats don’t like hay. Do they? To the illustrator: I liked your drawings. They’re awesome! To both of you: I love all of your books that you guys made together.

Kevin: Why does the book repeat a lot? Why is the rat so bossy? I think he will never get any present from Santa. I enjoyed the story. My favourite character is the duck. I think that the rat is like a pirate. The duck is very helpful. To the author: How did you print so good? I think you are an expert. To the illustrator: How did you make the colours so bright?

Brian: The character of the duck had a really good trick to trick the rat. He took the rat to a cave and pretend he had a sister. The rat could eat the duck but when the rat stepped in the cave, the duck took his horse and ran away!

Kassidy: When the rat got stuck in the cave, that was my favourite part. I have a question. Why does the rat steal so much? I learned that he should not steal any more. I enjoyed the rhyming!

Monday October 22nd, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Join in with Jen and Kellee’s meme and share what you are reading from picture books to young adult reads. Always an opportunity to learn about new titles!

I had huge amounts of picture book love this week! A large part of that was having tickets to go see Jon Klassen at Vancouver Kid’s Books. Wow! Such an interesting and engaging presentation. Jon is charming and then some.

And  . . . it gets better. I was able to take my class to the Vancouver Writer’s Festival to see Sheree Fitch and Kyo Maclear. Their event was called High and Low and All Around. All of these author and author/illustrators impressed me to no end. (Sheree Fitch can recite her poems at super sonic speed. She is spellbinding!) I was inspired to continue sharing the love of literature, the beauty of the written word, the magic of the clever illustration, and the images of joy via the wonder of picture books. One of my favourite moments was when Kyo Maclear talked about how she loves reading and one of my students whispered intently to me, “She’s just like you!” Phew! Six weeks in and I’ve conveyed my love of books. So many weeks still ahead to pass this love on to each child in my room! 🙂

So because this post is all about picture book gushing, I thought I would try to place these books loosely into categories to bring some kind of organization to this post . . . that way you can just locate a section you are interested in!

First up: Art and more:

This is Not my Hat written and illustrated by Jon Klassen Love this book. Doesn’t hurt that I got to hear it first read and explained by Jon Klassen himself all the while holding my signed copy in my bag! But I would have loved it anyway. I love the dark pages, the horizontal format, the mood conveyed by the eyes and all of the inferring this book begs you to do. The crab in this book is a fantastic supporting character. (He gets a starring role at the top of this post!) I find Klassen quietly brilliant.

Virginia Wolf written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Kyo read this book to us in the presentation at the Writer’s Festival and when I returned to class, I read it aloud to the children again. They were completely delighted by the story and Arsenault’s stunning illustrations. As soon as it was quiet reading time, this book disappeared to be read again independently. A fantastic title about a dark mood, a hopeful sibling, the magic of imagination and the lightness when sadness lifts. This book can be read again and again and the reader will continue to discover new things.

I read this book last year to my Reading group and they adored it.

In the Wild is written by David Elliot and illustrated (gorgeous woodcuts) by Holly Meade Poems written by Elliot are lifted off the page by Meade’s striking and powerful woodcuts. My wish list now includes On the Farm a previous collaboration by these two.

A few books in the Rhyme and Repetition category:

A Gold Star for Zog written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Alex Sheffler This was our first BLG book of the year and we loved the language, the plot and the bright illustrations. Zog may not be the best at every task at Dragon School but he helps someone else find her way. For that, I think we can call him heroic.

Toot Toot Zoom written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Matthew Cordell This is a likeable little story about the search for friends. Many adventures and lots of delightful traffic noise fill the pages as Pierre the fox travels to the other side of the mountain.

Books full of humour:

The Younger Brother’s Survival Guide by Lisa Kopelke Supposedly, this book was written by “Matt” Kopelke’s younger brother who entertains the reader by his step by step guide on how to terrorize and torment your older sister (who remains all the while older and more clever).

Please is a good word to say written by Barbara Joose and illustrated by Jennifer Plecas I’ve read some reviews of this book that claim it is a simple, too cutesy book about manners. I found it quite wonderful really. It is definitely a child’s voice that comes through loud and clear as when and how to use polite phrases and expressions are explained. It is hardly simple to understand the proper placement of please so that it sounds polite and gracious vs. whiny and annoying. I can see this book making kids really think about how best to use manners and that it would prompt many conversations.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas. I first heard about this book from my principal because her five year old daughter was raving about a hilarious book that her teacher had read to her and was insisting that they had to have this very book a.s.a.p. I am always intrigued by book passion so had kept this title in the “be on the lookout for” compartment of my brain. I found it this week at the public library and now see why this little kindergartener was so enthused about it. It is hilarious! Bright and colourful illustrations and a funny little plot. Oh beware the vacuum if you are a dust bunny! The bonus: it also lets the readers practice rhyming! What could be better? I want this book for my buddy reading bin! It is perfect for reading to our little kindergarten buddies.

And also this category: Nature

Mossy by Jan Brett. I have always loved Jan Brett. My children were fed Jan Brett books about as often as mashed carrots in their early years. Always her illustrations are exquisite. Most of the time her stories are good. Sometimes just okay. Sometimes great. This book falls into the great category. It examines a beautifully unique little creature and the human tendency to want to “have” that beauty at the expense of the happiness of the creature. In this case, Mossy is captured and placed in a museum until a young girl senses her unhappiness. Reminds me of the wonderful Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo. In fact, I think I am going to read both books this week with my reading group and do some inspired writing.

That’s not a Daffodil by Elizabeth Honey. This book has many things in it that made it a quick favourite for me: an intergenerational relationship, a theme of nature and gardening and beautiful imaginative language and imagery. A perfect book to inspire looking at nature in creative ways and I can’t wait to share it with my students. It also heads into my school bag this week.

I am also smack dab in the middle of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and must finish it by Friday as it is requested and I can’t renew it at the library! Wish there was more time because I am really enjoying the story. Determined to squeeze in some late night or early morning reading sessions.

What are you reading? Please share!