A Story of Baghdad

February 27, 2009

James Rumford stated, “The story of Silent Music was born in the spring of 2003, as Baghdad fell and its citizens struggled to form a new Iraq.”

Silent Music:  A Story of Baghdad is told in first person by the young character, Ali.  He shares what he likes as a boy – soccer, music, and writing.  Ali interweaves the challenges of learning the Islamic calligraphy letters to the present day bombings and war in Baghdad. This book would provide some background knowledge for current events.

The illustrations are distinct.  I find the background print almost overbearing, yet hold clues from the text.  On one page I noticed a United States soldier with some young soccer players.  The book gave me a glimpse into the Islamic culture, as did the author’s note in the back.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Silent Music:  A Story of Baghdad:

  • Transitions – “But most of all, I love calligraphy -
  • Magic of 3
  • Varied sentence lengths
  • Words used a a unique part of speech – parent-rattling
  • Love of Writing
  • Simile – “writing a long sentence is like watching a soccer player in slow motion…
  • Multi-cultural – background knowledge for Baghdad, Iraq and Islamic culture

(Warsaw Public Library)


Girls playing Baseball

February 25, 2009

Enjoying the sport of baseball, I love learning about historical events that are reflective of the game.  Angela Johnson shares a story told by a grandmama to her granddaughter in Just Like Josh Gibson (illustrated by Beth Beck).  The story begins with a glimpse into Josh Gibson’s life playing baseball and hitting a ball out of the park.  On that day, the grandmother was born. 

Her papa “showed up [...] with a Louisville slugger and a smile.  He said his new baby would make baseballs fly, just like Josh Gibson.”

Grandmama continued to share how she learned to play well, but in those days, girls did not play baseball.  Until… a boy broke his arm and couldn’t.  Grandmama was the star of the game.  The story ends with her passing the legacy on to her granddaughter.

An author’s note shares information about Josh Gibson.  Surprisingly, it also shares about “one young lady during the 1950’s that did get to play with the boys though it wasn’t in the majors.”  I’m intrigued by the information shared and plan to read more about these famous baseball-playing women.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Just Like Josh Gibson:

  • Family stories – passing on the legacy
  • Repeating phrase – “Grandmama says...”
  • Close echo – “Those summer days were like magic as the balls sailed away, sailed away, gone.”
  • Ellipse – “Too bad she’s a girl….  Until …”
  • Author’s note – historical information

An Writer’s Dream

February 22, 2009

I love books.  And finding a book sale is the best.  On my list of errands, I had stopped by the library this past week and happened on  a book sale.  Going through the children’s books, I found this new treasure, A Sign by George Ella Lyon.  I had never heard of this book, but knowing the author’s craft, I knew I had gem.

George Ella Lyon has a way of painting beautiful pictures with her words.  A Sign did not disappoint me.  She drew me in and I was connected.  The book’s text is simpler, dreamlike.  George Ella shares three  different scenes of careers she imagined being as a child – a neon sign designer, a tightrope walker, and an astronaut.  Although George Ella did not become any of those earlier dreams, she combined her dreams into her writing career.

Now that I am grown I don’t bend glass tubes with fire like Leon Lasseter did

but I try to make words glow.”

“And as for that rocket {…} it’s your heart I send these words to.  They light the dark between us.

Savorings for reading and in writing for A Sign:

  • Everyday dreams
  • Choice words
  • Repeating structure
  • All parts connected
  • Text to text connection – reminds me of When I was Young in the Mountains, a tale of the author’s life

A Very Imaginative Story

February 20, 2009

The Shivers in the Fridge is one of my new favorites.  Not only did I have fun reading it, the text kept intriguing me to rereading.  I savored this book and look forward to gaining a copy for myself to savor it more.  I believe it is an Indiana Young Hoosier Award Honor book.

Fran Manushkin has created a fun, clue-finding adventure with the Shivers family in The Shivers in the Fridge. Mama, Papa, Grandpa, Grandma, and Sonny find themselves in a dark environment full of earthquakes and monsters.  Paul Zelinsky paints a city from the Shivers’ point of view inside the refrigerator – Orange, Hills, Egg Valley, Buttery Cliff.  As the reader I began rereading to catch all the clues.  You will definitely want to read this book several times to your students to help deepen their understanding.   For instance I did not understand they were magnets until Grampa got stuck on “the snowy peak of Mr. Ketchup.”  I also looked at the ending page with the little girl and her box, which does read magnets.  At the end, the real family questions, “I wonder how they got INTO the fridge?”  Turn to the page prior to the title page and notice the illustration of the little girl to find your answer.

Your students will have fun piecing the clues together as each member of the Shivers family disappear.  Paul Zelinsky uses play-on-words and typical family antics to add humor to the drama.  Don’t forget to enjoy the illustrations.  If you have an Elmo, I suggest using it during the second reading.  The first time through, chart questions, clues, and background knowledge.  On another reading focus in on the word choice used to help add to the mood.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Shivers in the Fridge:

  • Element of Surprise – “Standing tall, Sonny Shivers faced that monster – and the monster SMILED!
  • Love of Reading –  on the fridge stands a calendar, an invitation, a recipe, an article, and a list.   “We keep this whole world running.”  There’s so much to read!
  • Voice – “m-m-mama was warm, the p-p-papa was …” ;  repetitive first letter is hyphenated creating the sense of chattering in the cold
  • Visualizing – While Mama tells Sonny a story at bedtime, the illustrations show Sonny’s thought bubbles of his visualizing.
  • Idiom – ” ‘Stop!’  Grandma gave him a sour look.  ‘Don’t get into a pickle!’
  • Repeating Line – “Its long, long claws r e a c h e d  o u t, r  e  a  c  h  e  d   o  u  t –
  • Inference – “a great blazing light shone forth” and then the earthquake happens
  • Onomatopoeia – PHOOMPH! represents the refrigerator door sound when closing
  • Conversational Lead – “Brrr!  It’s cold today!” groaned Papa Shivers.  “I’ll say” chimed in Mama Shivers.  “SHIVER MY BONES!  IT’S COLD!” roared Grandpa.  Sonny, the youngest, said, “It’s been c-c-cold ever since we got here — and dark.”

(PES Library book/ also WPL)

a must-have for me:)


Somebody Loves You

February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Eileen Spinelli shares a Valentine wish that can be given throughout the year in her book, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch.  The reader can identify with Mr. Hatch; we’ve experienced times in our lives when we have felt unappreciated.  Through a unexpected kind deed, Mr. Hatch changes from an inward, depressed-like person to an interactive, intentionally helpful person.  Our students can learn from this book.

Carol McCloud, otherwise known as the “Bucket Lady”, shares the concept of being a bucket filler.  The philosophy is that we have a choice – to fill a person’s bucket or dip in it.  By filling a bucket, you bucket is filled.  The reciprocal does not happen; if you dip in a bucket, yours does not get filled.  I have had the privilege of hearing Carol speak and the stories she shared touched and changed my life.  Each day I seek to fill a bucket(s).  It makes our world a better place.

While reading this book to a class, I realized that a theme from Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch is bucket filling.  Because “someone” sent Mr. Hatch a chocolate-filled heart, he began to fill other people’s buckets – shares with his coworkers, watches the news stand for Mr. Smith, searches for Mr. Todd’s daughter.  The entire story is one bucket filling act after another.  In the end, the community people realize how much Mr. Hatch has been filling their buckets and making their lives better.  They express their appreciation for him.  Won’t you fill a bucket today?  Read Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch.

View the video clip of Hector Elizondo reading the book on Daily Motion. The narration is about 11 minutes long, but well worth it. You get to see and “read” the entire book.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch:

  • Interweaving of detail
  • Character change
  • Problem/solution
  • Community building
  • Showing apprehension with puctuation – “I made a mistake some time ago.  My supervisor is very angry with me.  Do you…do you…”  “Yes, Mr. Goober?  What is it?”

This is the Dream

February 12, 2009

In celebration of Black History Month, take time to read some books in regards to the positive change our nation has made.  I’m rather humbled that several of these historical events have happened during my lifetime.

This is the Dream by Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander is a poetic rhythmic prose that leads the reader from the segregation laws to the present where all people are united.  My favorite line is “and the unwritten rule is to take turns and share.”  Isn’t that what we teach our children everyday?

The authors connect highlighted scenes in history that represent the discrimination and segregation differences.  Each of the five examples – drinking fountains, buses, restaurants, libraries, schools – are focused snapshots.  The text peaks at the “separate but equal” ruling.  The authors’ note states, “[the text] celebrates the power of nonviolent change.”

James Ransome’s illustrations are powerful, adding key visual scenes that intensify the text.  In his illustrator’s note, he used a combination of painting and collage “to help the reader understand the emotional impact of the era….”   My son’s fourth grade teacher read This is the Dream to the class and were impacted.  “Why are those people pouring sugar on the lady’s head?”  someone asked.  They couldn’t believe people could be so unkind.  The illustrations plus text helped lead to a great discussion.

Savorings for reading and in writing for This is the Dream:

  • Repeating structure – “These are the _____”
  • Poetic, rhythmic
  • Time line through text and photos of then versus now.
  • Hyphen/dash – fair paying jobs
  • Contrast of change – beginning states:  “the black-and-white signs says who will drink where“; end:  “the black-and-white sign says ‘OPEN FOR LUNCH'”

Text to text connection:

  • Library – Goin’ Someplace  Special by Patricia McKissack and Jerry Pinkney
  • Hospital – Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell and James E. Ransome

(PES Library book)


Yuki’s Ride Home

February 9, 2009

Children begin to learn bravery at a young age.  They face their fears through small experiences that seem grand to them, just like the little girl in Yuki’s Ride Home.  The author, Manya Tessler, stated that she had a difficult time “learning to leave Japan, where she resided for two years.”  Thus, she related the events to this story she created.

Yuki rides her bike over the bridge connecting her home to where her grandmother lives.  She’s excited; it’s her fist day riding her bike home alone.  Do you remember the sense of freedom learning to ride your bike and then getting to go places?  Our students have many stories inside of them that can revolve around a bike ride.  This book would be a great lead for a story idea to use with them.  I also appreciate the interweaving of the thoughts and feelings of the character.  Students often find it difficult to write the emotions and turmoil in their writing, which definitely lifts the connection to the reader.

The story shares simple activities Yuki and grandma do together – feeding her pets, making origami, listening to the wild life near the pond.  Our kids can write about ordinary activities in their life, especially when shared with a special family member.  Manya Tessler gives the reader a glimpse as to how Yuki is feeling through her thoughts.

‘Mom will worry if I’m not home soon,’ thought Yuki.”

Ka-tung Ka-tung beat Yuki’s heart.”

Enjoy this beautifully illustrated book with your students.  Capture the every day moments.  Highlight how each child can relate to Yuki as they have accomplished a difficult task and been brave during the difficult times.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Yuki’s Ride Home:

  • One day story
  • Exploding the moment scene
  • Show don’t Tell – “Yuki’s stomach flipped, and she sat still on her bike.”
  • Character’s internal conflict
  • Every day activities

 (Warsaw Public Library book)


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