Millie Fierce

Millie Fierce by Jane Manning was our BLG book today (read by Deborah :-))


I read this book in early December and included this summary: This book explores finding an inner strength in a very honest way. It is not a simple thing to go from quiet to confident and the transformation is not always smooth. I have had students who when they finally shed their shy personas need some guidance about being polite and not hurtful with their words. Sometimes the words come before the social filters kick in. I thought of those children as I read this book about Millie. Millie doesn’t want to be ignored, she is tired of being “barely there” and unnoticed. So she becomes fierce. As she tries on this new found ferocity, she certainly gets noticed. But nobody wants to be with a Millie that puts getting noticed above being considerate or properly behaved. She even realizes that being fierce can be cruel. Finally Millie understands that she can be noticed for her kindness and consideration. This kind of attention is what feels right to her. I think this book could be quite powerful shared with a class and I look forward to the discussions that it might prompt.

Having Deborah read it today allowed me to sit back and watch the children react. They were quite serious during the story. Afterwards, certain things were highlighted in our discussion. Things that they mentioned made me realize how relevant background knowledge can be and how what we bring to a book is shaped by what we have learned. In our room, we just spent a few weeks reading stories with a kindness theme. Students noticed that Millie was kind at the end and some even called her actions acts of kindness. We also have done lessons from the MindUp curriculum and learned about parts of our brain. Children brought up that Millie was controlled by her amygdala and should have taken some breaths to make better decisions. Very sweet how the children brought these things to our discussion. We were all rooting for Millie. It was agreed that she would be happier being kind. The children identified many of the emotions she felt throughout the story: loneliness, sadness, jealousy, guilt, pride, relief, etc. A powerful little story to prompt discussion about how we treat each other and how we make ourselves noticed.

Student reviewers respond:

Kelvin: When she became fierce, she went home and messed up her hair. At the end, she clearned he Grandpa’s shoes and she loved to be small and quiet.

Vicky: My favourite part was when Millie Fierce was nice. Why did Millie be nice again?

Ethan: At first she was lonely. Then she got fierce. She made her hair spike up and freaky. she had loud boots like cowboy boots. She acted a bit like a devil. Evil like I don’t know how . . . Then she did some acts of kindness.

Andrew: Why when the three girls stomped on her picture, can’t Millie draw another flower?

Kevin: Why did she have a hard time to make a friend? Why did she take the cake and then feel guilty? Why did her amygdala take over?

Ava: I liked when she became fierce. Millie was lonely then fierce then she was nice.

Shereese: She was nice then she became mean because no one didn’t like her. Why no one liked her at the first?

Heman: Millie Fierce was lonely at the beginning. Her amygdala took over. I think Millie Fierce’s heart became fierce. Millie messed up her hair when she was fierce.

Kala: When she was being bad her heart got broken. But when she was nice, it got put back together. I like this book. I want to know from the author: Where were you born? I love you.

Gracie: Why did no one like Millie at the beginning? I liked it when at the end it said “Mostly.” To Jane Manning: You are a good drawer like my mom. She’s an illustrator for kids books. I think it was a good story. But why did she want to be so fierce? When she stole the biggest piece of cake, she felt guilty. I really liked the story. It teaches you a lesson: be nice to get peoples attention.

Some Cat!

This week our BLG book was Some Cat! by Mary Casonova and illustrated by Ard Hoyt. Read (with some great cat sounds!) by Bill 🙂

some cat

We first encounter Violet at the shelter. She is sad and alone but still full of spunk and she lets anyone who comes too close know who is boss with a “Meowwww! Hissss! Spat!” Despite her growling and yowling, a couple decide to give her a home and bring her home to the house they share with . . . dogs! Again, Violet returns to her “cat against the world,” style to stay safe and in charge. The dogs in the house remain clear until they need to come to her rescue. In the end, Violet tucks in her claws and snuggles into her new home. Fantastically expressive language and illustrations made this a big hit!

Student reviewers respond:

Ava: My favourite part was that it reminded me of my cat at home.

Kassidy: My favourite part was when the cat sleep for a long time. I was listening and I thought she was running away from the dog. They adopted the kitten because they like the cat.

Kala: I liked the sound effects. I liked when Violet howled. I wish I was a cat!

Heman: It was funny when Violet jumped through the bird house. Violet was happy at the end. Violet reminds me of my friend’s dog. Violet used to be a stray cat then she was adopted by a family.

Kevin: My favourite part was when Violet was happy and she reminds me of my cat. The cat was in the cage and the boy got a dog. The cat said hiss scratch and spat. The boy said to stay away from that cat!

Vicky: My favourite part was when Violet hiss spat scratch. I noticed Violet was nice again. Why did Violet hiss at the dog?

Andrew: My favourite part was when all of them went fishing. I think Violet was a stray cat.

Arianne: My favourite part was when Violet was happy at the end of the story. I also liked when Violet was scared of the dogs.

Gracie: I liked at the end when the dogs and Violet sleeped all together. It was cute. And I liked when three other mean dogs came but the good dogs stood up for Violet. Violet is really cute. But why did the woman and man adopt her if no one liked her?

Ashely: It was funny. I liked the end. I like the cat Violet. The cat is nice to the mouse. Those dogs are BIG!

The Worrywarts

We have begun to delve into our Reading Power collection to find titles to illustrate the concept of connecting to a story. Today we shared The Worrywarts written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrated by Henry Cole. 

Many of had learned about connecting before. We talked about how when you have a connection . . .

*you might be reminded of something

*you think, “Hey I’ve felt that!”

*you understand the story better because you’ve had similar experiences/feelings

There is a lot happening in The Worrywarts. First of all – a wonderfully woeful celebration of weary wallowing in all things worrisome. Alliteration and then some! Edwards celebrates “W” power! Wombat, Weasel and Woodchuck decide to go on an adventure to wander the world. After much contemplation on the perfect snacks to bring along , they realize that they have many worries about the “What if . . . ” aspect of their walk out into the world. In our class, we could connect to sharing worries about what might happen in any given situation. After the story, we drew about our worries. Many students shared that these fears creep into their heads when in bed at night.

Andrew wrote about worrying about a giant sea monster eating him. This idea might be in his head when he was lying still at night, he explained. That sea monster looks pretty big!

Many students drew fires in their thinking bubbles. There seems to be many worries about fires breaking out and not being contained. We noticed that last week when we had the fire drill, we had to do lots of “What if . . .” talking.

Shereese shared that she has worries about being lost. Her picture in her thinking bubble is very detailed and sure conveys that scary feeling of feeling all alone in a big, intimidating place.

There was a certain comfort in sharing our worries through discussion, pictures and our writing. We definitely realized that having worries happens to all of us, not just story book characters like Wombat, Weasel and Woodchuck.

What do you worry about? How do you calm your fears?

Crafty Chloe

Our BLG book today was read by Dan: Crafty Chloe written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Heather Ross.

Chloe is very good at making stuff. Sewing, crafts and creativity are where she shines. She sees the world through “what could I make with this?” eyes and her little world is all the more intersting because of it!

My favourite picture has to be this one where we learn that Chloe is convinced that “anything becomes less boring with googly eyes on it”.

When Chloe’s birthday shopping plans for her friend Emma are thwarted by classmate London who swoops in and buys the Violet doll Chloe had planned to purchase, Chloe announces that she is going to make something for Emma. London sneers. “You’re going to MAKE her something?” Chloe has a challenge ahead. When the ideas don’t come, she suddenly develops a horrible case of the chicken pops (horrible blue spots of the washable variety) and she announces that she will be unable to make Emma’s party. When her Mom reminds her that there will be pony rides and that Emma is a really good friend, Chloe’s illness quickly disappears and her inspiration returns.

When London ends up dropping her gift into a mud puddle on route to the party, Chloe’s home made gift saves the day. AND it is beautifully adored by Emma. What we appreciated was how Chloe helped out London even when London had insulted her. Themes of friendhip, making good decisions and creativity.

Are you a crafty kid? Or an adult who spends time with one? Check out Chloe’s crafty website to make the crafts featured in the book.

Our student reviewers report:

Truman: I like the part when it showed the note that said, “P.S. I made it myself.”

Khai: I liked it because Violet said you’re going to make something? And laughed. Chloe still helped her.

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine, written by Allison Wortche and illustrated by Patrice Barton was our read aloud wonder of the day! Students were completely engaged with the story and had lots to talk about as we read.

I could talk on and on about why this book is a fantastic book to share in the classroom but today, the book love comes from the students. I asked them why a teacher should share this book in the classroom and here is the list we came up with.

* “It teaches lots about gardening.” Isa

* “It shows you that it doesn’t matter if you are the best.” Manny

* “It is an example of forgiveness.” Truman

* “It reminds you that everyone is good at something.” Jacky

* “It has a theme of kindness.” Carmen

* “It also has a theme of courage.” Truman

* “There is a lot about caring – caring for the plant, caring for someone. . .” Catriona

A gem of a book. Set in a classroom, it does explore many important themes relevant in a primary classroom: envy, friendship, forgiveness, competition, desicion making, etc. And perfect to supplement a unit on growing seeds. We made lots of connections to the plants we are growing in our windowsill gardens!


Our reading group has continued to practice strategies to handle unknown vocabulary in text. See the strategy list that we came up with earlier this month here. We spent part of a few reading classes with this great text: Wooly Mammoth by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom. (A Natural History Museum Selection)

This book reads as an information story book: rhyming text accompanies the large pictures on each two page spread while black and white drawings and information reads in a column down one side of each page. You can read this book as just a storybook, concentrate primarily on the information or focus on both. Students enjoyed the mammoth time line at the end of the book and reviewing what they had learned by quizzing each other on the glossary words.

We then read Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter.

We started by comparing the covers of Kali’s Song with a Wooly Mammoth. All year we have been talking about the different text features of fiction and non-fiction books. It would be interesting to see what we noticed when looking at Wooly Mammoth because it has both fiction and non-fiction elements (what we like to call an information story book). Students observed that even though both covers had illustrations rather than photographs, the mammoth on the cover of Wooly Mammoth looked more realistic. We talked about fur colour and the shape of the tusks. We also discussed how one mammoth was standing in the snow and another on grass/ground next to a little boy and a dog. “How could they stand so close?” someone wondered.

Before we began reading Kali’s Song, I asked the students, “Even though this is clearly a fiction text, do you think we will be able to link some of our learning from Wooly Mammoth to what we read?” We were ready to look for any text to text connections. Would our sense of the story be enhanced by our newly acquired background knowledge? (schema)

Immediately students were excited to see Kali’s mother painting animals on the cave’s wall. “We learned about how they did that in the other book! In the future some people might discover those paintings to see what animals looked like!” 

We also appreciated that a work of fiction had beautiful elements of story telling and images that a non-fiction book wouldn’t have. When Kali plays the bow string, Winter writes: The stars came close to listen. Such a wonderful image that makes the story more powerful. We liked how Kali’s Song challenged our imaginations and had us think about things differently.

Kali’s music lures the mammoths to him and fascinated, all of the other hunters lay down their weapons. Kali must be a shaman they decide. Winter leaves us wondering – do the hunters not kill any of the mammoths? Or do they eventually resume their hunt? In Wooly Mammoth we had learned that the people’s survival depended on the hunt and that they used all parts of the mammoth (meat, fur, tusks, bone) for things that they needed. Our discussion was intense. Kali had the skill to lure the animals and he seemed to love them. But he loved his people. Wouldn’t his skill help the hunt? What would he do? The students decided that Winter left us thinking on purpose. We would have to come to our own decisions.

Because the mammoths seemed so majestic and wonderful we wanted to think they wouldn’t be hunted but now that our knowledge included information about how people who lived thousands of years ago depended on the hunt, we had some different ideas about the outcome. Students were able to make text to text connections and this furthered their thinking.

Kali’s Song is a beautiful book. Highly recommended.

How do you help students make text to text connections? Recognize that their background knowledge influences their thinking? 

Picture Books to help us explore the complexity of bullying

Division 5 is currently exploring the theme of bully, bullied, bystander through picture books. We also share books on this topic during our weekly Social Responsibility gatherings. Here are some of the titles we have been reading.

Jungle Bullies written by Steven Kroll and illustrated by Vincent Nguyen

This book has a simple repetetive message important to help children understand that bossy, mean behaviour isn’t okay especially when someone is using their bigger size to be intimidating. As each jungle animal nudges another out of a napping spot, the trend seems like it will never stop until a little monkey decides with the help of his Mama that he wants to stand up to a bully. Children learn: Being a bully isn’t okay. I can stand up to it with some help from others. Let’s focus on sharing and maybe even being friends. Perfect for Pre-K-2. 

Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns about Bullies written by Howard Binkow and illustrated by Susan F. Cornelison.

This is one of my favourite Howard B. Wigglebottom books and one that never fails to engage listeners. This book teaches us about the importance of asking for help when bullying doesn’t stop. Howard has a little voice inside his head that tells him Be brave, Be bold, A teacher must be told. But it isn’t always easy to trust our intuition and Howard suffers many unpleasant interactions with the Snorton twins before he finally decides to report their behaviour. Finally, he can sleep easily, knowing that he was brave, he was bold when his teacher was finally told. “I am okay. I am safe.” he assures himself at the end.  Such an important book!

Great for K-3

You’re Mean, Lily Jean written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 

 This is a “could be”, “might be”, “kinda is” a bully book but the social dynamics between the children allow it to be a book that is more about making firm expectations for play. Lily Jean is definitely some kind of bossy and quite quite mean. She shows off constantly, says “No!” when asked “Can I play too?” and bosses everyone around when she does allow them to be part of the game. (“You be the cow and I’ll be the cowgirl” kind of thing) But when sisters Sandy and Carly are assertive with Lily Jean and set some limits, Lily Jean is basicallly put in her place with the question, “Can you be nice?” When she agrees, playtime continues and is happy for all involved. A great book to illustrate that children can often solve their own social problems without involving an adult. It also shows us that the power of a bully dissolves quickly when nobody will go along with it.

Ideal for K-3

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun written by Maria Dismondy and illustrated by Kimberly Shaw-Peterson.

The message of this book is all about courage – courage to stand up for yourself but also courage to forgive and reach out to others. Lucy has been bullied by Ralph in some truly nasty ways. When he gets stuck on the monkey bars, she has the opportunity to get back at him. Instead she realizes, looking at him so full of fear, that just like her Papa Gino told her, Ralph has a heart with feelings. Lucy offers her help, demonstrating courage to do the right thing – treat others the way she wants to be treated. Students learn that sometimes the hard shell of a bully can be softened with a little bit of kindness.

Suitable for Grades 2-4

Say Something written by Peggy Moss and illustrated by Lea Lyon.

What happens when you see bullying all around you? Pushing. Teasing. Name calling. But you don’t participate? You don’t say anything. What happens when one day the bullying happens to you? Those other kids sitting near, the ones saying nothing . . . suddenly the silence feels like something. It feels like it should be different. Saying nothing is the opposite of saying something. Of standing by instead of standing up. A very powerful book that shows us the importance of speaking up.

Suitable for Grades 2-5

The Magic Beads

In our reading group we have been exploring different genres. Today was day three of looking at realistic fiction. Last week what kept coming up on our list of what makes a book realistic fiction was that many people would find things to connect to easily in the story. Today we read a story together and our writing focused on possible connections.

The story that we read today had a lot to it and our discussion and subsequent writing was rich. In fact, I don’t think I can think of a time all year where the group was so quietly engrossed in their writing. When I read notebooks at recess, I was blown away by the maturity and thought that was shared. The Magic Beads written by Susin Nielsen-Fernlund and illustrated by Genevieve Cote is an important story addressing the emotions of a young girl starting school while her life is full of change.

Lillian begins Grade 2 at a new school after she and her Mom have had to move to a shelter to escape her abusive father. They have left everything behind and Lillian is feeling a range of emotions from anxiety to anger. A part of her misses her father even though her memories of his bad moods are difficult to think about. She loves her Mom and knows why they had to leave but she also feels angry that her Mom was the one that took them away. When she is asked to share at Show and Tell on Friday, Lillian’s upset grows. She no longer has her pesonal possessions with her. What could she share? The butterflies in her tummy turn into grasshoppers, donkeys and eventually buffalos as Friday approaches and she has nothing to share.

Finally as she stands before the class on Friday, Lillian talks about her plastic beads, terming them magic beads and explaining that with just a little imagination, the beads can be all kinds of things. Lillian’s inventive imagination intrigues her classmates and provides a way for friendships to begin.

Student writing ranged from personal connections to ideas of what events or emotions readers might feel connected to in the story. Here are excerpts:

Carmen writes: Some people might connect to being sad because of leaving your Dad all alone since you might have played with your Dad and you might miss your favourite happiness. 

Truman shared: I connected to when I first went to this school and I felt scared and shy. Some people might connect to their feelings on the first day of school. I connected to when I didn’t bring my Chinese homework and felt nervous.

Catriona wrote: People could connect to being mad at a person when the person you’re really mad at isn’t there. 

Heman shared: When I first went to this school, I felt like I had a tummy ache just like Lillian. 

Khai made a list of possible connections: using your imagination to feel better, feeling anxious at school on the first day, having a Dad with some anger problems, having to move somewhere when you don’t really want to, . . .





Picture Book Love #4: Celebrating picture books that are just too good not to gush over.

Blackout by John Rocco is not just visually gorgeous (It is a 2011 Caldecott Honour Book after all), it also reads bearing gifts. It reminds us to take and honour the gift of time, the gift of family, the gift of slowing down and being in the moment. And it does this without being preachy, sappy or judgemental. It just shows us that busy often gets in the way of family time and removing ourselves from the busy world can be possible, right at our own kitchen table.


The story starts out letting us peek into the windows of a family’s apartment. Everyone busy. Computers. Cooking. Chatting on the phone. Don’t disturb. Leave me alone. No time for a game that the youngest family member wants to play. And then . . . A blackout. No power. No lights. Nothing works but . . .  time. Flashlights and candles make the dark, quiet world go from scary to cozy. But the muggy summer heat soon leads the family to the rooftop where starlight creates an art filled sky of wonder. Now nobody is busy and the family revels in time together.

When the lights come on again, the family is not ready to give up the special closeness the blackout created. Family game time by candlight is first on the “to do” list.

This book reminds us to look for wonder in the simple and everyday and to treasure family time above all else. Because everything can get in the way. But only if you let it . . .

Prudence Wants a Pet

Picture Book Love #2: Celebrating picture books that are just too good not to gush over.

Okay start counting how many books you have read about a child who really wants a pet and the parents say no. No, it’s too much work. No, you won’t look after it. No, we don’t have time, space, energy . . . I can think of many. So how can another book on this theme really seem fresh, new, inspired?  Prudence Wants a Pet written by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Stephen Michael King will sweep you off your feet. This book is simply about the determination and charisma of Prudence. And yes, her extreme and unrelenting desire for a pet!  I dare you not to adore her!

Prudence wants a pet

Prudence really wants a pet but her parents roll out those typical parent excuses. So she is left to her own devices. She gets a pet and names it Branch. Because, well, it is a branch. It lives on the front porch and after tripping up Dad eight times, Branch ended up in little pieces on top of the wood pile. Prudence gets a new pet named Twig (because yes, you guessed it Twig is a twig). Twig is too small and gets lost. So Prudence moves on. She attaches a leash to an old shoe, which just so happens to be her new pet named Formal Footwear. Really! Then Prudence tries making her little brother Milo a pet but things don’t go over very well with her parents when she feeds him seeds and grass. So on to bigger and better things! A car tire. Just try to keep a straight face! Finally following an extremely disappointing attempt to raise sea buddies after which Prudence retires to her closet, her parents consider an actual pet for her.

At this point, this book is poised to deliver an expected, typical, wrap it up happy ending. But no, this is where Prudence hooked me. Where I swooned. Completely done for. Prudence was so excited when she heard a “Mew” coming from the box her parents gave her that . . .

Her eyes got hot and tingly. She’s so happy it leaks out of her eyes a little. She didn’t know about those kinds of tears.

Seriously? Wow. Tell me you don’t need this book. It is so much more than a “Girl wants Pet. She begs and begs. Girl gets pet,” kind of story. It is Prudence.