Monday December 3rd, 2012

It’s Monday! What are your reading?

penguin little

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

It’s Monday! What are your reading?¬†

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

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

The picture books I enjoyed this week . . . 

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

penguin

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

big brave brian

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

marsneedsmoms

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

dragons love tacos

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

this moose belongs to me

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

Life in the Ocean

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

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

Monday November 19th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank N Stan

When we met the book Frank N Stan by M.P. Robertson, we met a “new to us” but very experienced BLG reader, Magnus. Before we get into how wonderful this book is, we have to spend a few minutes to explore just how interesting it was that Magnus chose this book. You see, this book is about a robot of very large proportions. He towers over his creator in the most magnificent of ways! Magnus, it just so happens, does a little towering too. He is 6 foot 9! This did not go unnoticed from the seven and eight year olds amongst us! There were questions and comments and then some. Magnus handled them all with honesty, candor and lots of patient politeness! Kids don’t hold back . . .

“How come your feet are so big?” “How did you get so tall?” “Where do you get your clothes?” “Do you have a 6 pack?” “How many pounds are you?”

Once we knew everything about Magnus, we were ready to begin the story.

And what a wonderful story . . .

Frank would love a younger sibling but when his Mom said, “We’ll see” to his request, he decided to make his own brother. He built a robot and named him Stan. Stan was fashioned out of junk yard parts, sprockets, sockets and a battery. When Stan had an oil leak, one child commented quite seriously, “A robot’s blood is oil.” This robot was unusual, but we accepted him as part of the family! And the family appreciated him ¬†for all of his help. This robot vacuums and folds the laundry. “He is being helpful like a Mom,” somebody noted.

Most importantly, Frank loved all of the fun he and Stan had! There was noise and mess and more noise! What could be better? But then a baby girl came into the family. When the story mentioned that she might be a little smelly, students had a lot to say!

“Babies do smell.” “They poo and they pee.” “No, they have diapers!” “They still smell.”

Little baby Mary liked Stan and as she grew, she could do more and more with Frank. Stan began to feel left out and finally decided to leave the family. He trudged out into the snowy landscape, sad and alone. Students were quite upset!

“Oh no, what if he cries?” “He might cry oil!” “The oil tears will go down and make him rusty!”¬†

Poor Stan. eventually he conked out and lost all of his power, slumped down in the snow. Back at Frank’s house, Stan was missed. Frank went searching for him. For a few moments, our room was quiet, intently listening to see if Frank found Stan out in the snowy woods. Was he found? Well . . . Let’s just say our room erupted in applause at the end!

And (spoiler alert) little sister Mary said her first word when she was reunited with Stan. What was it? “Stan!” of course. (Reminded me of the ending of Knuffle Bunny :-))

M .P. Robertson has detailed, creative illustrations that make his books perfect for multiple rereads and quiet exploration. I think this is fast on its way to being one of our class favourites!

Student reviewers respond:

Kelvin:¬†My favourite part was the basement. Stan was sad because they didn’t like him. So he travelled. I was hoping that they would save him.

Pheonix: That was cool! So cool I want to faint. For real. I’m not joking.

Andrew: My favourite part was when Frank built Stan. Stan came alive. I was thinking Stan looks weird. What if Stan gets all rusty?

Arianne: I like him building a robot. I like at the end, it was happy.

Vicky:¬†My favourite part was when Mary said, “Stan!” I have a question for Magnus: Can you touch the ceiling?

Heman: I like when Frank built Stan in the basement. Frank was sad because Stan went away.

Ashley: Why was he a brother and a robot? I like the title because it is a funny title. I like the book!

Grace: Why did Frank want a robot brother? I like the title because it sounds like Frankenstein.

Monday November 12th, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Join Kellee and Jen’s meme to share all of your reading from picture books to young adult selections! It is always a wonderful way to learn about new titles!

In this past week, I read a number of books on the theme of war and peace. Some I shared with my class as read alouds. Others I read as I worked on a book recommendations page on this theme (peace and war).

When I grow Up, I will win the Nobel Peace Prize by Isabel Pin

A very interesting read. The message is very clear: peace begins with each tiny step that is right in front of us and around us always. The time to begin is now if we are really going to change the world.

The Silver Path by Christine Harris and illustrated by Helen Ong

This book is written as a letter from Niko to his penpal Penny. Niko tells Penny about what is going on in his world after he has fled his village in an unidentified land from a conflict not named.  A very powerful little story that reminds us that children in many parts of the world do not experience peace like children somewhere else might. Lots of unanswered questions make it an ideal story to discuss. A springboard to talk about what war steals from children: their families, their security, their right to play and sometimes, their ability to go to school.

Feathers and Fools written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Nicholas Wilton

Really a book for older children but could be done with younger primary students with lots of guided discussion. Raises questions about how battles start and that the wish to hate and the feeling of being threatened is something that is created more than something that is natural. Rich colours in the illustrations and serious text.

The Conquerors by David McKee

This is a new favourite of mine. A modern fable that points to the ridiculous nature of war in the most clever of ways. A general marches his army about conquering every country around. Eventually, there is just one small country left. When the soldiers arrive to once again conquer a people, this little nation offers no resistance. They welcome the soldiers to their tables, to play their games, to sing their songs and to listen to their stories. When the soldiers return to their own ruling nation, they continue singing the songs, cooking the food and telling the stories of this little nation. Just who had conquered who?

Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace by James Proimos

Is it possible for a child to achieve world peace? Yes, if he realizes his world is all around him and simply starts to perform acts of kindness both random/deliberate and simple or creative. Imagine if everyone set out each day to be kind, compassionate and loving? We can all model peaceful ways and make a difference. I love the idea of this book more than the book itself. When I read it aloud I found the casualness of some of the humour took away slightly from the book’s message. Still, I like the discussions it sparks.

Other picture books I enjoyed this week:

Frank ‘n’ Stan by M.P. Robertson

I think books by M.P. Robertson are brilliant often just because of the detailed and creative illustrations. This title has more humour than his usual titles and when it was shared in my class by a guest reader, the children were hooked. Frank wishes for a sibling and when it seems like there will be no little brother or sister in his near future, he sets out to build one. Stan is a robot: huge, helpful and lots of fun. Children loved how he had to plug in and get his oil topped up frequently. When a new little sister really does come on the scene, Stan begins to feel unloved and leaves. The rescue scene when Stan is found in the freezing snow, uncharged and alone is both touching and exhilarating (imagine travelling down snowy hills on a robot’s shoulder). One of the most unique new sibling stories out there – a touch of fantasy, humour, invention and robot building! This is going to be my new go to gift book for young children who love adventure.

The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Renata Liwska

I first heard about this book last week on another Monday Reads post and was thrilled to come across it. Gentle images of the holiday season full of all of the emotions children experience: anticipation, joy, excitement, wonder . . . Perfect for cozy reads in front of a fireplace surrounded by family and happiness. I want my own copy of this book for our holiday collection.

I did not get a lot of time to read any novels this week but am about a third of the way into Sharon Creech‘s The Great Unexpected. Oh, this book. So many wonderful words and quirky characters. A book to slowly savour except you cannot help rushing through it. Perhaps a future read aloud . . . I think reading a lot of the names of people and places aloud would tickle my tongue. Really enjoying this story.