Read All About It

November 26, 2008

The title, Read all About It, jumped out at me when I was looking through some of the newer books at the library.  Then, seeing the authors’ names, Laura and Jenna Bush, I was intrigued a little more.  I know that the First Lady use to be a librarian and loves books, so I wasn’t too surprised to see how a library is tied into their book.  Jenna is a teacher and author, something I was enlightened on.

The story begins with Tyrone Brown.  He is more interested in playing than reading.  His teacher, Miss Libro, has a definite different viewpoint.  She sees the library as a place of adventure.  “You never know who you’re going to meet in a good book.”  He is not interested in listening to the daily read aloud until… one day,  his classmates are so attentive, he actually listens.  When he does, characters from the book begin to appear in the room.

I love the font in this book.  when a character speaks, the font is larger and in the illustration – without the  speech bubble frame.

Denis Brunkus illustrations capture snapshots of the adventurous children.  One each two page spread, you will notice a blackboard behind the teacher.  Flanked on either side, you will notice a “Read All About It Book List” and also the classroom rules.  With each new holiday, the book list has several titles listed within that category.  More rules are added to the list with each surprise read aloud scene.

Checkout the Harper Collins’ website about the book.  You will find some tips on helping reluctant readers.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Read All About It:

  • Voice – Tyrone speaks to the reader in first person narrative
  • Book end – the book closes with a link to the beginning; close to a circular, but not quite
  • Love of Reading – you can feel the teacher reaching out to her children
  • Library – and adventurous place
  • Ordinary moments – taking an ordinary day at school and making it exciting with a read aloud

Butch Cassidy’s Thanksgiving Feast

November 24, 2008

Image result for an outlaw thanksgivingThe title, An Outlaw Thanksgiving, caught my eye and sparked my curiosity.  The two words – outlaw and thanksgiving – seems ironic being side by side.  But Emily Arnold McCully creates a piece of history that isn’t published in the school history books.  In 1896, the wild west was changing from untamed country to the “railroad’s golden age”.  Territory had been settled from the east to California, and the railroad opened many an opportunity for people to begin anew.

New territory does not come without its challenges.  Winter was hard on the prairie states and travel was often stopped by the devastating blizzards.  Just the thought of icy winds, bitter cold, and frozen snow makes me want to snuggle up in my warm home.  I love my heaters, blankets, and flannel PJs.  This story begins with Clara and her mother traveling cross country by train only to be stopped by the snow.  You get a taste of adventure from the little girl, Clara, as she is eager to explore and see all that is new.

When the train is stopped by blinding, heavy snow, Clara and her mother are left with a dilemma.  A kind “Mr. Jones” invites them to join friends for Thanksgiving at Brown’s Hole, “just over the border in Utah.”  Taking a frigid sleigh ride, they arrive in time for the grandest Thanksgiving feast ever.  Cowhands and townspeople welcome them in.  Through Clara’s inquisitiveness, she learns that her host is Butch Cassidy.  I wonder what it would have been like to meet an outlaw.  Although somewhat suspicious, Clara finds out that even outlaws can be thankful for their home.

This book takes on a totally different angle on Thanksgiving.  It’s unique and will grab the attention of your students, especially the boys.

Author’s Note:  This story is based on historical events that happened at Brown’s Hole, Utah.  Emily Arnold McCully has an excellent author’s note that supports the story’s basis.  Ann Bassett, a town member, wrote an account of some unexpected guests attending the annual Thanksgiving feast hosted by Butch Cassidy and other outlaws, who made their home in the valley.  She recorded the food and trimmings that later was used by high society ladies in Colorado.  I find it fascinating that history can come alive through the eyes of an author, connecting us to the past in unique, but ordinary ways.

Savorings for reading and in writing for An Outlaw Thanksgiving:

  • Characterization – Clara’s mother is cautious and nervous throughout the story; Clara is an adventurer.  “‘Clara!  You worry me so!’  She glannced at the poster {of Butch Cassidy} and shuddred.
  • compare/contrast – today’s travel to the past; roads paved then versus now
  • Map Skills – railroad maps included
  • Decision making – prediction with discussion – what would you do if…(you were Clara)?
  • Historical fiction and author’s note

A Cat on the Mayflower

November 23, 2008

Image result for Pilgrim cat bookFor all cat lovers, Pilgrim Cat  by Carol Antoinette Peacock is the book for you.  It’s about a little girl named Faith and a cat named Pounce.  Faith is sailing on the Mayflower with her family to the New World, and a stray cat boards the ship, chasing a mouse.  Throughout the voyage, you get a glimpse of the struggle Faith and the Pilgrims went through.  Befriending the cat, Pounce helps Faith through some difficult times.

In the author’s note in the front sheds light on how the idea for the book began.  While visiting Plimoth Plantation, a cat was noticed by the author’s daughter.  Through research, Carol learned that cats did travel the Mayflower to the New World.  (And dogs did too.)

Savorings for reading and in writing for Pilgrim Cat:

  • Background knowledge – fun but rich read a loud; an interesting twist in regards to the Mayflower voyage
  • Magic of 3 – repeatedly used throughout the story; “On the way home, Squanto stopped suddenly.  He crouched beside a hollow log.  Wordless, he beckoned to Faith.”
  • Transition – from one setting to the next; passage of time; from one difficulty to the next

Thea’s Tree

November 21, 2008

Alison Jackson creates a twist in her book, Thea’s Tree.  A young girl, Thea, is asked to do a scientific project for four weeks, making observations along the way.  The story transpires through a series of letters between Thea, her teacher, and other experts as she hypothesizes about her tree.  Alison Jacksonthrows in humor with clues, keeping the reader wondering and interested as to what tree has sprouted.

This account is written through letters – first to her teacher and then to specialists.  Thea is diligent in making frequent observations, even drawing her findings.  As an objective scientist, Thea measures, ponders clues, and speculates on her findings in her letters.  A purple seed is planted, and what seems ordinary, becomes very quizzical.  Thea speculates it to be a “purple African rubber plant” to a “giant redwood.”

As a fun read aloud, this book helps to build background knowledge in scientific observation.  Alison Jackson throws in humor with the clues, keeping the reader wondering and interested.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Thea’s Tree:

  • Letter writing – each closing is unique; colon in the greeting
  • Alliteration – expert names with their jobs:  “Zoe Zimmerman Zoologist
  • Occupations – curator, botanist, orchestra director
  • Foreshadowing/predictions – sounds, objects from above
  • Scientific observation – measuring, factual description, speculation
  • Hybrid text – interweaves a fairy tale with in the illustrations and clues;letter writing, narrative, science theme

The Very First Thanksgiving Day

November 19, 2008

Rhonda Gowler Greene authored a unique cumulative text in The Very First Thanksgiving Day.  Both Rhonda and illustrator, Susan Gaber, explain some background notes in the preface.  The illustrator’s note explains that two dogs were transported on the Mayflower, a Spaniel and a Mastiff.  Children will enjoy looking for the dogs throughout the pages.

Side note:  On Rhonda Gowler Greene’s website, you will find tips for young writers.  Check it out.


Savorings for reading and in writing for The Very First Thanksgiving Day:

  • Cumulative text – begins with the feast and works backward to coming on the ship (it kind of reminds me of a boomerang motion)
  • Poetic
  • Illustrations – detailed to tell you more of the story; If you have an Elmo, this book would be a great candidate for it.  I’ve noticed a little girl, dressed in a dandelion-colored dress, holding her red-dressed doll on the majority of the pages

Sarah Morton’s Day:  A Day in the LIfe of a Pilgrim Girl   by Kate Waters      Sarah Morton's Day...

The illustrations painted by Susan Gaber in The Very First Thanksgiving Daywere based on the Plimoth Plantation.

Russ Kendall captures the everyday happenings at present day Plimoth Plantation.  The narrative nonfiction is explained by nine year old Sara Morton.  Kate Waters brings to life the chores and thoughts of this Pilgrim girl.  Children have the opportunity to travel back in time to 1627 to the beginning of America, during the time of the Pilgrims.

Other books by Kate Waters for the Thanksgiving season:

Savorings for reading and in writing for Sarah Moton’s Day:

  • Sensory – “The thump, thump of Mother’s churning keeps me company.”
  • Compare/contrast – different versions of books, like the one prior to this; Life then versus now
  • Nonfiction – informational text in the back

Oliver’s Game – Where a story comes from

November 18, 2008

Having a son who eats, breathes, and sleeps baseball, my eye catches books about the game.  Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, so Oliver’s Game was a treasure find.  I was even more thrilled when I noticed the Chicago Cubs were featured.

Oliver Hall loved baseball. …and he loved listening to Grandpa Hall’s wonderful stories about what he called the Golden Age of the Game.”

The story begins with Oliver finding a Chicago Cub’s uniform in an old trunk.  “Every item in this shop has a story to tell,” Grandpa Hall would say. After questioning his grandpa, Grandpa shares his story through a flashback.  He was 18 and asked to practice with the Cub team at the end of the Cub’s season.  Matt Tavares explodes the moment when ‘the rookie’ hits the ball.  You can feel his spirits soaring as his dream was coming true.

But the story takes a turn when World War II begins.  He joins the marines.  Upon turning the page, you see a young uniformed soldier on crutches in the dug out.  Your spirit as a reader cringes when you read, “After that, I stayed away from Wrigley Field.

Grandpa Hall shares how he struggled and then opened Hall’s Nostalgia.  Flashing forward, the story ends with them ready to watch the Cub game from his rooftop.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Oliver’s Game:

  • Exploding the Moment – “A shock ran up my arms as the bat struck the ball head on.”
  • Childhood memories – In Matt Tavares’s illustrator’s journal Dec. 16, 2001, he stated that “Hall’s Nostalgia is a tribute to a baseball card store I spent many a Saturday afternoon when I was a kid.”  I find that fascinating!  Kids need to know that authors take ordinary every day activities and weave them into their stories.
  • Internal struggle – being close to his dream
  • Flashbacks

Scrapbook Memories (dedicated to Tonya and Emma)

November 17, 2008

IImage result for The most thankful thingf you enjoy scrap-booking, then you will want to read this creative text in The Most Thankful Thing by Lisa McCourt.  A daughter finds her mother reflecting on what she is thankful for.  Her daughter’s curiosity sparks the question, “In your long, long, long life, what are you the very most thankful for?”  Cleverly, her mother has her guess, sending the daughter to get her scrapbook.

Cyd Moore uses the background of the text as the black-based scrapbook pages.  He then blends the current conversation and reflections on the pages with bright thought shots.

This hybrid text becomes unique as you read picture captions and labels to bring meaning to the stories shared.  The mother always adds, “But even if...” adding a grand prospect, she closes with “it wouldn’t have been as great as my very most thankful thing.”  As the scenes of the young mother’s life pass by, the daughter finally gives up.  “Your most thankful thing must be awesome!  It must be amazing!

At that moment, her motherly love pours out as she acknowledges her daughters birth as being her “most thankful thing.

As I’ve reread and reflected on this book, my first thought was “this is a book for parents.  It’s motherly love.”  But then, as I savored and looked deeper, I did find nuggets to help teach our children.  I view this book as a resource to teach concepts during conferencing.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Most Thankful Thing:

  • Savor the moment
  • Time-line – highlights important scenes in a life
  • Summarizes events
  • Questioning – child-like curiosity explodes through this text, probing for more answers
  • Conversation – back and forth
  • Notebooks – personal scrapbooks of meaningful moments
  • Thought shots

Squanto’s Journey

November 16, 2008

Image result for Squanto's JourneyDuring this Thanksgiving season, have a discussion about the Native American’s perspective on the holiday.  Having heard the author speak once at NCTE, Joseph Bruchac  wishes to keep the Native American culture alive.  He brings to light one Native American’s, Squanto’s, perspective through his first person narrative, Squanto’s Journety:  The Story of the First Thanksgiving.

Joseph has an author’s note in the back, which gives some historical background to Squanto’s life.  We often read about he Pilgrims’ side of the story but rarely the Native American view.  Squanto was a vital piece to the Pilgrims’ success.

Squanto flashes back to how he was captrued, taken to Spain, and then returned six years later.  The first-person narrative summaries the trials of making peace and being cautious with the Pilgrims through the eyes of Squanto.  The vivid paintings by Greg Shed create a natural effect.  I almost feel like I’m watching a movie through his creation.

Joseph Bruchac is a great story teller from the Wampanoag Native nation.  Storytelling has been a part of his culture since the beginning, sharing heritage from one generation to the next.  We need to remember to pass along our stories to our next generation.  these stories honor the ones we love and teach our children lessons learned.

In the end of the book, the feat of the first Thanksgiving is celebrated.  All are thankful for the great harvest and also for the friendship between the English and the Indians.

Joseph Bruchac ends through the words of Squanto, “I pray that there will be many more such days to give thanks together in the years that follow.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Squanto’s Journey:

  • First-person narrative
  • Timeline
  • Reflection – “Though much was changed, I knew that I at last had returned to the land of my home.”
  • Character traits – Native Americans, Pilgrims, Englishmen
  • Compare/contrast – to other books, between the ways of the Pilgrims and Native Americans

Peepers by Eve Bunting

November 15, 2008

As I take a picture walk through the book Peepers by Eve Bunting, I’m drawn in to the colorful scenery illustrates so poetically by James Ransome.

Image result for Peepers by eve buntingTwo sons accompany their dad on the Leaf Peeper Tours.  They are not enthused, but dutifully help their father.  To pass the time, the story is sprinkled with their kid-like antics.  “Behind their backs Jim moose-prances and makes antlers with his fingers.”  The boys are amused as the tourists sigh and ooohh about autumn’s beauty.

Time passes and in the end, both boys begin to notice nature in its winter’s newness.  Both seem surprised, embarrassed, as they realize they’ve become like the Peepers.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Peepers:

  • Descriptive – “Aspens shower gold into the water.”
  • Similes – “Our bus crawls slow as a caterpillar.”
  • Kid’s realism – “Jim about busts laughing.”
  • Show don’t tell – “Jim and I roll our eyes.”
  • Passage of time – beginning of autumn until the leaves have all fallen
  • Reflection
  • Science – different types of trees:  “shagbark hickory trees, red-feathered sumac, speckled adlers

Winter Lullaby

November 14, 2008

Barbara Seuling shares the transition from fall to winter in the book Winter Lullaby.  The book’s structure is set as a question/ answer style.  Greg Newbold illustrates the simple text with such vivid illustrations. 

They almost look like photos.  Winter Lullaby

I love the way that nonfiction information is presented to the reader by asking the reader to think.  “When the breeze blows the petals off the flowers, where do the bees go?”  Upon turning the page, the reader is answered: “Inside their hives till spring arrives.”  I love the choice of words that bring to live nature’s science:  “When white frost creeps across the country meadow…”

Savorings for reading and in writing for Winter Lullaby:

  • Questions
  • Dependent clauses
  • Prepositional phrases – “across the sky
  • Time passage – fall to winter seasons
  • Science – hibernation, seasonal changes