Squishy Mud

July 14, 2009

What is it with children and mud?  Some magical force draws children to the squishy mud like a magnet to iron.  Mary Lyn Ray captures this fun-loving moment in her book, Mud.  The illustrations are large, full, and inviting.  They remind me of what a child might focus on and draw in their pictures.  You can almost feel the mud squeezing its way through your toes.

Mud features the awakening of the spring season.   Although a shorter text, narrative nonfiction is packed with perfect description.  As author Barbara Morrow says, “Each word counts!

Savorings for reading and in writing for Mud:

  • Simile – “A cold sweet smell rises in the ground, like sap in the snow.”
  • Personification – “By morning brown leaves loosen from their frozen drifts and run...”
  • Varied Sentences
  • Alliteration – squish, squck, sop, splat, slurp
  • Magic of 3 – “Come spring.  Come grass.  Come green.”
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Imaginative Stories

July 12, 2009

Nancy Carlson invites young readers to use their imaginations to share creative stories in her book, Henry’s Amazing Imagination! Henry loves to share stories during show and tell time in class.  Due to Henry exaggerating the truth, his teacher suggests, “…why don’t you use it to write stories?”  And Henry does. This text is excellent for young writers as Nancy’s illustrations show the importance of large, vivid pictures that enhance the story.

Nancy Carlson writes many books that can be used to help children build themselves up.  She does an excellent job of supporting the writing process in this book.  Henry wants to write his story but is worried about spelling the words.  His teacher asks him to spell the best he can as he gets the ideas written down.  I often tell children this as they are writing.  I’m excited that a book can be used to support the teaching.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Henry’s Amazing Imagination:

  • Visualizing – while Henry shares his stories, the illustrations show the pictures in his mind
  • Ellipses – connects one page to the next
  • School Setting
  • Spelling – Henry’s teacher encourages him to not worry about the spelling while getting the ideas down.  “But…what if I can’t spell all the words?”
  • Notice the dedication – to Peter Carlson


Vacation Pictures

July 10, 2009

My eye was drawn to the title during this summer break, Pictures from Our Vacation.  Pictures are so fun to take, and vacations are packed with memories.  Lynne Rae Perkins creates a seasonal sensation that you can use with your kids at any time of the year.  The story begins with a family getting ready to go on vacation.  The mother hands her two kids a notebook and small camera to record their memories.

They will be souvenirs of our vacation,” she said.

Pictures from Our Vacation [PICT FROM OUR VACATION]Throughout the book, you will notice a small notebook with a quick record of the kids’ thoughts and memories.

I also love the way she creates mental pictures of their thought-shots.  This visualization could be used during a reading lesson to show how the kids have a movie in their head of what they are thinking, just like readers have thoughts in their head during a text.

The other unique skill that I have not found in many books is map reading.  Lynne sprinkles in maps of the journey with a map key.  What a fun way to build background when teaching map skills to kids!  Plus, kids could make their own maps based on the ones illustrated in this narrative.

Savorings for reading and writing for Pictures from Our Vacation:

  • Thought-shots – front page begins the visualizing from each person as they enter the family car
  • Life-like feelings – Lynne captures a person’s feelings of anticipation, boredom, day dreaming
  • Perspective – “Our dad saw happy memories everywhere he looked.  All we could see was old furniture and dust.”
  • Where writing ideas come from – “And it’s hard to take a picture of a story someone tells or what it feels like when you’re rolling down a hill or falling asleep in a house full of cousins and uncles and aunts.  There are a lot of things like that.  But those kinds of pictures I can keep in my mind.”

The Library: My Friend

July 8, 2009

I love coming to the library.  Books appeal to me like chocolate, soothing!  I am in New York at a teen nationals competition with my children and have found some quiet time to write. I directly went to the library, a quiet and welcoming place.  Sitting down here at the computer, I notice a new book next to it, a title I have not read.  Wow!  It’s awesome.  I’ll be blogging on it in the near future.  It’s called Sneezeby Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkel.

The library can become a good friend to you.  On my journey of “learning” books, the library is my source.  I challenge you to go to the children’s section in the library and look for some books.  Our local library has a special section for the new books.  I usually look there first.  Then, find a spot to savor the book.  Meaning, read the book to enjoy.  Then, begin to look at the text with a writerly eye.  What words do you notice?  What did you like about the text?  And then, why did you like that specific part – was it the words, craft, font, humor, emotion?  Carry sticky notes so that you can tab the pages.  I love getting small ones to note the specific writing you like.  Many times I cannot name what I like.  I just like the way the words have been used.  I usually write those in my notebook (with quotes and author’s name) to remember the sound.  After a while of savoring the words, a craft will come to me – or I’ll name it my own unique trait.  What matters is that I notice the technique.  Do the same.  You’ll begin to notice more and more craft by doing this practice.  Which by the way, this practice is “savoring a book”, just like a life savor’s flavor lingers in your mouth.

Katie Wood Ray explains more in her book, Wondrous Words.

Now, since I cannot buy all the books that I savor, I will copy the cover with a sticky note on the front, listing the craft/skills that will help my teaching.  I also note where to find the book. This step is very important! Eventually, I hope to purchase the book, but at least I have a written memory of the book.   I then place the copy in a file that has a craft that I have named so that I can find it again.

Try it and let me know how it goes.


A Very Loud Kid

July 6, 2009

Can you picture a child that always seems to talk at a high level rather than a quiet inside voice?  Tess Weaver created a fun book about a boy who is just too loud in Frederick Finch, Loudmouth.  He  wants to be quiet, but his voice brings him attention that he does not desire.  His family seems to be able to achieve a blue ribbon at the state fair, which he has not achieved. 

Debbie Tilley illustrates the story at the state fair that will draw the reader’s attention in.  She illustrated the book, Hey, Little Ant

Savorings for reading and in writing for Frederick Finch, Loudmouth:

  • Setting – state fair
  • Message – “Be your self!”; persistence – keep trying with a great attitude
  • male character – Frederick, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • Font Manipulation and Punctuation – accented to create the ‘sound’ of yelling
  • Clauses – “Some nights, Frederick was so tuckered out from hall his effort, he fell asleep just climbing into bed.”