A Gold Star for Zog

Our BLG readers have started for the 2012/2013 year! Our first reader was Maria and she brought in the entertaining A Gold Star for Zog written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

This story is about a dragon named Zog who is determined to win a gold star at Dragon School for mastering the lessons that Madam Dragon teaches. Unfortunately, he is quite accident prone and he wins more bumps and bruises than stars for stellar achievement. Luckily for Zog, a young girl shows up after every injury and tends to him – bandaging, soothing and healing.

Like many Donaldson stories, this one is full of rhyme and repetition. We caught onto this very quickly. Many of my reading group members grew quite excited about this fact and tried to whisper to me subtly “It’s got repetition! The text rhymes!” (We had just had a lesson where we explored our rhyme and repetition bin in class.)

Students had quite a bit to say as Maria read and recounted all of Zog’s injuries.

 “It’s worse luck. Then, good luck when she helps him.”

“Everytime, each page he always gets hurt.”

“Oh! Oh! I hope he will still be able to fly!”

This story takes place over time and so the reader must pay careful attention to how the illustrator shows the passing of years. Some students missed the text clues “In Year Two. . .” “A year went by and in Year Three. . .” but they saw differences in the pictures. Many of them commented that both dragon and girl were getting older and taller as we moved through the book.

Maria was a very patient reader and paused for all of the comments and questions, including one very sincere inquiry, “Did you make this book?” 🙂

When it is revealed that the girl is actually a princess, we were pretty excited!

“She’s actually a princess? I didn’t know!”

She helps all of the dragons! She is a hero!”

“She doesn’t need that prince to rescue her! She’s smart!”

We were all quite excited about how this book ended. Yes, Zog got a gold star but our princess got a starring role in the life she wants to live. This is a fantastic message!

Into the bins we go . . .

With this goal in mind – read often and from a wide variety of sources, we are spending time each week exploring different reading bins in the classroom. My reading group is keen to explore and share picture books. This week we explored our Rhyme and Repetition bin using this format: 1. Explore the bin 2. Spend time reading some self-selected titles 3. Talk about what we noticed 4. Write a reflection

I brought out this bin and students predicted that many of these titles would have rhyming parts and selections of text that repeated (the title of the bin made this prediction a pretty easy one :-)) I read a few pages of a few books to model exactly that. We identified how often ending words rhymed and that sentence structure or specific phrases repeat. Students then helped me spread the books out on the carpet and every child spent fifteen minutes reading a variety of titles from this set of books.

We then gathered back at the carpet and shared what we had noticed focusing on this question:

Our list definitely included the rhyming and the repeating but students started with the fun aspect of the stories pointing out that they were often silly, farfetched and funny. It was clear that the word play brought a lightness to the books. One student even commented that the authors would have to work very hard to make all the words work together.

I then asked students to take just five minutes and write their own reflections about the books they read from this bin. This student was a big fan of these titles! He writes: “I noticed that they (meaning the authors) were worked very hard, They are the best in the world. They are very funny.”  

Today during independent reading, some students returned to this bin. It’s all in exposing students to new titles and genres to broaden their reading choices. Each week, I plan to introduce a different bin of books and follow a similar process. It’s a great opportunity to work on our reading stamina and increase our knowledge of book choices.

The Pirates Next Door starring the Jolley-Rogers

Our latest BLG book was read by Bill: Jonny Duddle‘s The Pirates Next Door (Starring the Jolley-Rogers) 


The little town of Dull-On-Sea has a temporary population blip. Instead of 2222 people residing in this seaside town, for a little while there are 2227. This is what happens when the house that has been for sale forever next to Tilda is occupied by new neighbours. Neighbours who haul their pirate ship into the driveway and unload barrels, treasure chests, cannons and crates. Tilda thinks her new neighbours are just grand! Jim Lad, his little sister Nugget, Grandpa and parents are sure to liven things up!  Her Mom and Dad are not so thrilled. Her teacher isn’t at all pleased with Jim Lad’s attire. And the neighbours find plenty to complain about. Oh the gossip. The judgement. The nasty comments. It seems that pirates just won’t do in this little town.

When the pirates leave suddenly in the middle of the night without warning, every lawn has an X over a recently dug hole. Turns out that the pirates have left surprises for all the residents that has them quickly singing a different tune about their temporary neighbours. Funny what a little treasure does to public opinion!

We enjoyed the rhyming verse, the colourful pictures and the pirate antics. A fun book. Students also pored over the family tree poster included on the book jacket.

ABCDEFG . . . Alphabet books for you and me!

The alphabet. The basis for all we write and read. Let’s celebrate our letters! We can do it with rhyme, with nonsense, in quiet or noisy ways. Our letters tell many stories. Some wonderful books to celebrate the A, B, Cs!

Achoo! Bang! Crash! The Noisy Alphabet by Ross MacDonald

Noisy letters. Yippee! Wahoo! Ding Dang, Eeek, Fwip, Grunt, Honk Honk and on it goes. This book delivers our 26 letters marching across the pages with much exuberance and the aid of a vintage printing press. Noisy! But gorgeous!

LMNO peas created by Keith Baker

These little green peas inspire many different ideas for occupations. Painters. poets. plumbers, pilots, parachutists? That covers the “P”s! Want to guess the “S” occupations? Come on! This is a great way to share this book as a read aloud!

Dr. Seuss’s ABC

Nobody does nonsense better than Dr. Seuss! He is the King of Silly 🙂 My class loved this book and begged me to read certain pages over and over so we could try to recite particular pages together as a class. A taste. Big M little m: Many mumbling mice are making midnight music in the moonlight . . . mighty nice

Alphabetter written by Dan Bar-el and illustrated by Graham Ross.

This book invites the reader to do many things on each page. First, enjoy a story that weaves through letter by letter.

Alberto had an alligator, but he didn’t have a bathing suit.

Benoit had a bathing suit, but he didn’t have a clarinet.

Second, search each page (sometimes you need to search and search and search) for a hidden letter. (a on A page, b on B page, etc)

My Little Sister Hugged an Ape written by Bill Grossman and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.

 ABCDEFG . . . Alphabet Books for you and me! There's a Book for That

This alphabet book has much more text than others and carries us along in delightful rhymes. The little sister, on a hugging spree,  hugs animals from A to Z. Fun!! And then some more! A sample:

She gave an OCTOPUS a hug. Those eight long arms felt nice and snug,

Gripping my sister in eight different spots. And tangling themselves into eight different knots.

The Dangerous Alphabet written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Gris Grimly

Follow not just letters through the pages. This is is a superbly edgy journey through the land of adventure. Pirates. Monsters. Bats. Creepy tunnels by boat. Eyes are watching you. Will you make it to safety? Follow two children and their pet gazelle through a world beneath the city. Beautifully creepy.

H is for “Help me!” – a cry, and a warning . . .

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

 ABCDEFG . . . Alphabet Books for you and me! There's a Book for That

This book could be a very simple, run of the mill ABC book. B is for Ball, C is for Cat, etc. But. . . a very impatient moose cannot wait for his turn and M is very far away when we begin with A! Full of moose mishaps, much humour and a lovely act of kindness. This is easily one of the most shared book during buddy reading time in my room.

Bruno Munari’s ABC

 ABCDEFG . . . Alphabet Books for you and me! There's a Book for That

First published in 1960, travel through interesting pairings and graphically interesting pages.

A piano, a Package, Peanuts, a Pear a Pea Pod for a . . . (turn the page) a Quail.

Each page flows and connects in the most interesting of ways

Flora McDonnell’s ABC

 ABCDEFG . . . Alphabet Books for you and me! There's a Book for That

A study in letters, opposites and clever pairings. Each page has 2 objects beginning with a specific letter. Some of my favourites? The large giant with a tiny red glove perched on his thumb, a regal tiger with a teapot balanced on his head and a rhinoceros sniffing at a radish. Bright, bold and beautiful.

Caveman a B.C. Story by Janee Trasler 

 ABCDEFG . . . Alphabet Books for you and me! There's a Book for That

A hilarious tale told one word at a time in ABC order. Much humour and much to infer.

These books are not just for our children learning their letters. Read them right into the intermediate grades. They let us guess, wonder and delight in the magic of language – from one letter to long strands of text! Enjoy!

New Books for Buddy Reading

Thanks to a generous donation towards books for our classroom and funds matched by Adopt a School, we have some amazing new titles to share when our Grade 2/3 s invite the K/1 class up for buddy reading once a week. It is an important time we all enjoy and now we have some wonderful new books to share together!

Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell is a tiny little book all about having a huge heart. A little kitten so filled with love decides to give the whole world a hug and sets out with friends and a Hug-To-Do-List to travel the world from pole to pole and do just that – hug every living thing he comes across. My favourite? Hugging a big blue whale!

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett has wonderful rhyming, repetitive text perfect for sharing with our 5 year old little buddies.

Monkey and me, Monkey and me,

Monkey and me, We went to see,

We went to see some . . . .

Flip the page and who knows what you might find? Bat! Elephants! Penguins! All beautifully illustrated in classic Gravett style.

Antoinette Portis created the extremely clever Not a Box. Little Rabbit is in the first picture sitting in what looks like a box. “Why are you sitting in a box?” the text reads. Next picture, little rabbit is in a race car, “It’s not a box,” he explains. And so the book continues. The power of imagination means that a box is really anything a child can make of one. Fun to read and more fun to begin a conversation. What else could a box be?

Hello Baby is written by one of my favourite authors for young children, Mem Fox and illustrated by the incredible Steve Jenkins.

Hello, Baby! Who are you?

The book begins with this first question and goes on to ask many more, Are you a . . . ? Everything rhymes, images are striking and often surprising and at the end, you want to go back and read it all over again. Yes, our 5- 8 year olds aren’t babies but many of them are intrigued by animal babies and Fox and Jenkins have created an engaging delight in a tiny little book.

It is hard to resist the humour in Jeremy Tankard‘s Grumpy Bird. Grumpy Bird wakes up, clearly on the wrong side of his nest, too grumpy to do anything. He won’t eat, play or even fly. His grumpy march across the land looks lovely to every other animal who joins him as he trudges along snipping and quipping at everyone he meets.


In the end, as you might guess, Grumpy Bird has found a cure for his grumpiness and he gets to share it with his friends. Lots of fun, especially for those of us that work really hard to stay mad even when we aren’t anymore . . . .

Little Blue Truck is written by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Jill McElmurry. In this sweet little story, Litle Blue Truck shows a Big Dump Truck the power of many helping hands. I think this book will be a favourite as it is full of rhyme, repetition and animal sounds! So fun to read aloud and have a little buddy join in as they are able: Oink! Quack! Baa! Moo! Cluck! Peep! Neigh! Croak! Maa!

I absolutely adore this book by James Mayhew and now, happily have a copy for the classroom! Saber-toothed tigers. Wooly mammoths. Sleepy dinosaurs. A little boy exploring the world around him. In Boy, author James Mayhew explores a little guy’s yearning for independence while at the same time honouring his deep connections to home (and the happy snuggles from Mom and Dad). Where in the world do we find warmth? In the security and love from our own family.

How fun is this book by Edward Gibbs?! In I Spy with My Little Eye, we turn page after page of eye spy riddles – on each page, we get a clue, the name of a colour and that same colour in a perfect circle that turns into the eye of each creature.

I spy with my little eye . . . something that is gray. I have a very long trunk.

Flip the page and of course you find . . . an elephant! So much fun to look through a spy hole to discover an exciting parade of gorgeously illustrated animals in bright and beautiful colours.

Note: I purchased many of these books in board book version – to give them more lasting power and to be easily held in tiny hands. 🙂

Thanks to our generous donors and the Adopt a School fund for supporting early literacy at Seymour! We are keen to put the remaining funds into other important book purchases to share with our students.

Little Black Crow

We were very inspired by the gentle repetitive text and muted art in Chris Raschka‘s book Little Black Crow. This book begins with the question Little Black Crow, Where do you Go? and goes on to ask 26 more questions all inspired by the wondering of a little boy who spies a crow up in the sky. Simple, engaging, lovely to read again and again.

We took pencil to paper and practiced making crows in Raschka’s style and went on to create art pieces and added our own “mini poems” also borrowed from Rashka’s style of wondering verse. Finished pieces look gorgeous.

Below is Sergio‘s poem.


Some students, like Khai, chose to use bright colours as a background.


Others were inspired by the paler colour scheme Raschka used in his book.


Truman really captured the loose lines that come together to create a charming crow in Raschka’s style.


Christmas Delicious

The holiday season often means a lot of tasty treats! Gingerbread, chocolate, madarin oranges . . . Everyone has their favourites. Maria, our BLG reader brought in Christmas Delicious to share with us. This sweet little rhyming story is written by Lyn Loates and illustrated by Mark Jones.

This book features two lucky little mice Raisin and Rice who live in the storeroom of Zanzibar’s Deli. As Christmas approaches, the little (although nicely plump!) mice decide to plan a holiday feast and get lost in their tantalizing list of foods that should be included. Students were intrigued to read their ever growing list as some of the items were things they had never heard of before: fresh lox, turkish delight, macaroons . . . The mice bake, plan and prepare and everything seems perfect until they realize that they have forgotten the most important thing: to invite their friends! They race about the neighbourhood inviting all of their friends to the Zanzibar Delicatessen. Now everything truly is perfect! The last lines of the book:

They both learned anew what has always been true:

Christmas is best when it’s shared!

Happy Holidays!