Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

March 20, 2018

I’m in love. Lisa Papp, thank you for this delightful, touching book of hope in Madeline Finn and the Library Dog.

FullSizeRender (9)As a child, I struggled with reading. The letters came together slowly, and I longed to do well – just once. I have vivid memories of knowing who the star readers were in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade. As a kindergartner, I would hide and whisper in order to not read aloud. By second grade, SRA was my HATE! I never seemed to be able to progress past the ugly color. Reading was not magical.

Madeline Finn doesn’t like to read. You can feel her struggle.


“Sometimes the sentences get stuck in my mouth like peanut butter.”

Her teacher supports and encourages. Her mother does too. On Saturday she goes to the library. The librarian brings life to Madeline when she introduces her to Bonnie, a reading dog-buddy. Bonnie never giggles when she makes a mistake. She just listens.

To view the entire book on YouTube, click on this link. The book trailer is below.

Savorings for Madeline Finn and the Library Dog:

  • Dedication – “for libraries, where the real magic happens
  • Perserverance
  • Magic of 3
  • Growth Mindset
  • Love of Reading
  • Community Building – an opportunity to talk about difficulties in learning – how to support each other
  • order on Scholastic Book Clubs



Strictly No Elephants

March 19, 2018

Lisa Mantchev addresses the issue of fitting in, acceptance, to a child’s level of understanding in the book, Strictly No Elephants. It’s Pet Club Day and the boy is eImage result for Strictly No Elephantsxcited to share his pet elephant only to be disappointed to not be included. As they walk away, Taeeun Yoo’s illustrations display the disappointment. The neutral colors on the two page wordless spread cause the reader to pause and soak in the character’s dampened feelings. Turning the corner, the boy and pet meet a girl with her pet skunks. Through renewed hope, the two choose to form another club. Along the way, more children join who have different pets.

As a teacher I envision this story will invite a lot of conversation. Topics of differences and acceptance, overcoming rejection and hardship, are a few that will arise. The book invites you to discuss how the class might solve problems that arise in the class. Strictly No Elephants can be used as a touchstone text for restorative circles.

Emily Arrow shares her song about Strictly No Elephants.

Savorings for Strictly No Elephants:

  • Theme
  • Color highlights
  • Cause/ Effect
  • Repeating Phrase – “That’s what friends do:…”
  • Friendship
  • Restorative Practice topic starter

Across the Alley

March 17, 2018

Stories embedded into my heart are my favorites like Pricilla and the Hollyhocks by Anne Broyles. Although I came across this book in 2009, I still recall the richness of the words and the endurance of the character.

Across the Alley by Richard Michelson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is a new books to add to this favorite list of powerful stories. I have read it five times trying to comb the craft and I just sit in the story. Richard Michelson brings to life the friendship of two boys, one Jewish, one black, both separated by many cultural differences, but blend through nightly conversations through their bedroom windows. Not allowed to be friends during the day and in the open, the persist for the good.

Abe plays violin. Willis plays baseball. Through their nightly, across-the-alley window talks they teach each other their skill. Ironically, the switched activity becomes a natural talent for the other. Read how the boys rise above the grown-up expectations and bridge a friendship between their families. My guess is you’ll be cheering at the end like I did. Share this sense of hope with your students.

Willie’s real quiet now and I wonder if I said something wrong. Maybe he doesn’t know about the Nazis.
“My great-granddaddy was a slave too,” Willie finally says. “I never knew any white folk that were.”

Click on the link to view a preview of the book. My guess is you will be drawn to the story too. You can also listen to Jay O. Sanders read the book on this link (scroll midway down the page).

Share this 2 minute video with your students as he talks about writing fiction.

Savorings for Across the Alley:

  • Figurative language/ Visualization
  • Overcoming racial differences
  • Friendship
  • Sharing talents – the arts and sports blended
  • Show not Tell – “My palms turn sweaty.”
  • Sequence of pivotal scenes
  • Sense of hearing – descriptive in order for the reader to feel as if they are watching and hearing the scenes unfold

Coral Reefs

March 13, 2018

Jason Chin is interweaves the reader into his narrative nonfiction, Coral Reefs. As the characters move into the setting of the coral reefs, so do you.

  • Building Background KnowledgeScience: Food chains, vocabulary
    • Builds curiosity to research and learn more
  • Settingthe young girl is whisked away from the library into a magical place
    • Even the ending leads you into another story
  • Illustrations captures the mind of the reader
    • Teaches visualization
    • Connecting to the science text of facts through a narrative-like feel
  • Close Readingweb
    • Read and reread to understand how nature works together, predator and prey, environment and adaptations, partnerships
  • Author’s Notewhere he gathered his ideas
    • Importance of research
    • Persuading the reader to take action to help coral reefs

The Thing About Spring

March 11, 2018

Image result for The thing about springRabbit is worried he will miss snow and winter activities with spring coming. His friends present several different perspectives to persuade Rabbit that spring will be great too. Daniel Kirk shares his passion for writing on his website at this link. See a preview of The Thing About Spring and some teaching ideas at this link.

What are you doing, Rabbit?” Mouse called.

“Saving snow, while I still can,” Rabbit grumbled. “We won’t see any more of this until next year!”

“But spring is coming,” Bird chirped. “Aren’t you excited?


Savorings for The Thing About Spring:


  • Repeating PhraseThe thing about spring is …”
  • Persuasion – seeing a different perspective
  • Magic of 3words in a series, sentences
    • There are buds on the trees and new colors in the sky, and I feel warm and happy.”
  • Community Buildingfriendship; notice the positive
  • Character ChangeRabbit notices the surprises spring can bring
  • Science Connectiontalk about the changes in the seasons.
    • Pair it with another book about fall to winter; compare changes

Big Bug/ Super Bugs/ Some Bugs

March 10, 2018

27431983Children often have a favorite topic to write about. They return to the topic and use the same genre in sharing their information. For example, if a child loves his dog, he often will write a story, a narrative. This writing practice is a great start.

One way to broaden children’s understanding of genres is to present books on the same topic with different formats. You can compare and contrast different books on the same topic. Dinosaurs. Trucks. Bears. Show them how this information can be shared out through a narrative, informational text, poetic nonfiction, poetry, all about, etc.

Three books I found recently lend themselves to this kind of study.

Savorings for Big Bug:

  • Opposites – big versus little
  • Perspetive
  • Comparison of size
  • Circular/ Bookends – begins with a bug that looks small on a big leaf  but is a small leaf to a big tree, and continues (begins with the topic of bugs but is only one part of the book versus the other books are all about bugs)

Savorings for Super Bugs:

  • Rhyming
  • Setting – each two page spread illustrates a scene (you could write about each scene)
  • Teamwork
  • Repeating Lines
  • Heroes
  • Author’s Note – writes about what fascinates her

Savorings for Some Bugs:

  • Illustrations are a fascinating collage
  • Repeating structure
  • Vivid Verbs
  • Personifies the bugs – communicating, playing
  • Last 2 pages is a culmination of all the illustrated pages
  • Invites the reader to action – explore their ordinary backyard

Savorings for National Geographic Everything Insects:

  • Nonfiction text features
  • Photographs in natural setting
  • Scientific explanations
  • Link to further research

I Wanna Go Home

March 1, 2018

Karen Kaufman Orloff captures the voice of a child begging to change his circumstances. Kids are the best at persuasion. They insist. They give reasons. And they insist some more.

In I Wanna Go Home, Alex isn’t not thrilled with going to his grandparents instead of staying with a friend. His view point is limited. David Catrow captures the many faces of Alex as his perspective changes. The reader learns of his pleas to his findings to his adventures through letters (a delightful writing habit that many kids may not even recognize.)

Karen Kaufman Orloff has created a website with activities linked to her I Wanna books. Clink on the link here to see ways to use this text for persuasive writing.

Enjoy hearing from Karen in this 2 min video.  (Read an interview with Karen about writing this book.)

Savorings for I Wanna Go Home:

  • Persuasive
  • Letter writing/ emails/ correspondance
  • Dedication – the grandparents’ names in the dedication are the same in the book
  • Voice
  • Childhood encounters – false teeth, hearing aides
  • Parent vs. child perspective
  • Different meanings – “Did you know that when you go square dancing you actually spin in circles?”
  • Generation Connections
  • Descriptions before his name – Swam Boy Alex