Art & Max

April 30, 2011

David Wiesner has created an extraordinary book in Art & Max. I love the many ways the simple, yet deep text can be used. I immediately noticed the colors were earth tones: greens, browns, and blues. From the book Bright Beginnings for Boys, boys tend to like the earth tone colors. Plus, the idea of two lizard-type looking creatures working with paint intrigued me. David Wiesner is a superb visual story-teller.

The illustrations are crafted in different sized frames, creating action. The characters are a cast of different types of lizards. Arthur is an excellent artist. The story begins with him painting a portrait of a model client. From the scenes and tone of conversation, Arthur is quite dignified.

Max, a rather hyper, energetic young lizard, appears on the scene. He wants to learn to paint. Through miscommunication, Max literally paints Art and then tries to wipe away his mistake. As he repaints Art, the art turns into a collage of a new medium. You will chuckle through the intricate recreations.

I find the text is upbeat and cheery, yet it makes me linger and ponder. I have read the text 3 times and continue to see how the words are interwoven. The title for example is Art & Max. Since Max calls Arthur, Art, I assumed the story is about two friends. Then I think it’s possibly about two opposite people learning to collaborate. As I am reading the book again, now I think the title is about how Max has influence on the traditional art Arthur is producing. It’s David Wiesner. He makes you think and go deeper with the meaning behind the story.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Art & Max:

  • Literal vs. Inferred – “You could paint me.”
  • Action in frames
  • Compare/Contrast characters
  • Comma with clauses – simple text but used lots; excellent for introduction prior to long paragraphs
  • Vocabulary – preposterous

3 Cowboys and a Baby

April 28, 2011

Mike Brownlow writes and illustrates a creative, fun read that both boys and girls will find enjoyable in Way Out West With a Baby.

Three rough cowpokes, Dan, Dom, and Deke, are surprised one night with the sound of a crying baby. They deduct the little one somehow fell out of a wagon. (Notice the illustration on the third page. You can see the wheel of the covered wagon hitting a rock, causing a baby to tumble out.) Use to rustling cattle, each were challenged with meeting the needs of the small one.

Agreeing the baby needed to be returned to his mother, they ride through the night. A thunderstorm crashed on the cowboys.

But still they rode determinedly.”

The mother was thrilled to be reunited with her son. The cartoonish western frames will have you smiling along, feeling the adventure. The rhythmic words allow you to ride on the story, smiling and enjoying the adventure.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Way Out West with a Baby:

  • Hybrid text – poetic rhyme and a narrative mix
  • Cause and effect – storm, baby’s needs
  • Conversation within the poem
  • Character Descriptions – springy, unruly hair
  • Sensory Description – storm, prairie

SOL: Whisperings

April 26, 2011

Light blue sky with

wisps of ivory, soft



trees waving

a sweet “Hello”

to the warm


passing by.

The whisperings of

sunshiny days,

event-filled nights,

and riveting cheers.

The Field Beyond the Outfield

April 21, 2011

Field Beyond The Outfield (Scholastic Bookshelf)

The Field Beyond the Outfield is a different type of spin on the game of baseball. Many of the books I read on baseball have a connection to history; this one is not. A true fantasy, Mark Teague creates as if he tapped into a boy’s imagination. A boy who loves bugs more than baseball. A boy who lets his imagination go and becomes the hero in a truly remarkable game.

Ludlow Brebe is a boy who is great a science but lacks athletic ability. He enjoys exercising his mind more than his body.  He loves to daydream about creatures and have mysterious escapades.  Due to the encouragement of and respect for his parents, Ludlow joins a baseball team.

Ludlow is placed way out in the backfield, far away from the main action of the game. But his imagination does not stop. He begins to see another game, a baseball game beyond the outfield. Bugs are the main players and Ludlow is swept away. He becomes a player and hits a game winning hit.

Researching Mark Teague as an author, I found a wonderful author video. I find these interviews are great to show your students. In this video, Mark Teague shares how he began writing and how he uses his imaginations with illustrations.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Field Beyond the Outfield:

  • Specific language – pennants, big-league
  • Imagination – creative story
  • Every day activity
  • One day event
  • Point of View

Distressed or Taking a Rest

April 20, 2011
Slice of Life Tuesdays

School teachers rarely have the pleasure of eating out leisurely for lunch. Today, during our day long intervention team meeting, we decided to treat ourselves out to such an adventure. We shared about family and recent trips during spring break. We laughed at comments we made. We enjoyed each other’s company. It was refreshing.

On the return trip to school, we noticed a small car stopped along the road, in front of the school play yard. As our driver slowly passed by, we noticed a short, white-headed little old lady peeking over the steering wheel. Turning into the drive, we continued to look at her. “She looks like my grandma,” one teacher said.
“I wonder if she needs help,” another stated the words in my head.
Our driver stopped. I volunteered to get out and check. We knew we needed to get back to our meeting, but this stranded soul needed our help. The wind bitterly whipped around me as I came closer to her vehicle. Her car lights were turned off. As she spied me, she rolled down her window.
“Ma’am, do you need any help?” I inquired sincerely and with concern.
Looking calmly at me, the elderly lady politely replied, “No, I was just talking on the phone” as she held up the cell phone. I smiled and bid her a good day, returning to the car.
A smile began to creep over my face, getting bigger and bigger.  “Well, does she need help?”
“No. She was just talking on the phone.”  I was amused. The lady was trying to be safe by not talking on the electronic device yet stopped on a busy state highway only a few feet away from our school parking lot.
“Bless her heart,” my friend stated.”She was only trying to be safe.”

Baseball Hour

April 17, 2011

Yesterday, I spent nearly five hours outside watching my oldest play a double-header baseball game. It was rainy. It was cold. It was a motherly moment. Wrapped in blankets and eventually a sleeping bag, I was determined to survive the weather to cheer on my son. My husband had to work and one of us likes to be there. I pulled out my little notebook and kept score. I know how many pitches he threw and whether the throws were strikes, balls, or a hit.

While watching the games, I take in the setting, the comments, the action. Baseball Hour is a great book focusing on the action of the game. Bill Thomson’s illustrations are up close and personal. On one page, the bat seems the swing out through the page, almost 3D like.

Carol Nevius (rhymes with devious) writes in rhyme, two lines per two page spread. Her specific word choice adds the pop to the illustrated scenes. Your students will be drawn into this fantastic book.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Baseball Hour:

  • Two Word Phrases – “catchers catch and batters switch
  • Comma in a series
  • Simile
  • Varied punctuation – ellipse, possessive apostrophe, quotation marks
  • Illustrations – zooming in on the important part

Awesome Air Show!

April 16, 2011

Treat Williams  created a fun read for all kids in Air Show!  He brings an air show to a child, allowing him to experience the love of flying. The delightful, zoomed-in airplanes will grab the attention of your reader. Check out an interview with the illustrator, Robert Neubecker.

Related imageThe text is a hybrid, a mixture of narrative conversation and informational blurbs. The action begins with the pilot radioing in to the to airfield tower as they embark on the air show. The siblings have their own conversation, so realistic, of which airplane each wants to see. When the passengers land, a sign points them in the direction of several planes. The reader opens a full-page flap to see a three page diagram of the air show. How cool is that!

The text then takes you through the airshow, going to one plane and another, each with detail illustrations. Gill, the brother, is excellent at sharing information he’s learned regarding the planes.

Ellie, the sister, wants to fly a stunt plane when she gets older. At the air show, Ellie meets Amelia, a stunt pilot. As copilot, Ellie learns the step by step process of looping an airplane. The illustration is uniquely fun. the text is written in circle shapes, with the plane’s positions paralleling it. On the perimeter of the page, you see Ellie’s facial expressions enlarged.

This text would be an excellent mentor text for kindergarten and first grade students to show details in pictures. The people and planes are models that children can learn from. The kids will enjoy the illustrated movements of the planes.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Air Show!:

  • Ping-pong conversation
  • Airplane lingo – Navajo Nine Five taxi into position
  • Font manipulation
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Large size 12 x 12 with end papers showing the cock pit

The Junkyard Wonders

April 14, 2011

Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite authors. Her writing is warm, full of meaning, with hints of humor. The Junkyard Wonders is a memoir about her school days. Her book is a tribute to the inspiring teacher in all of us.

Mrs. Peterson began her school year with a note of expectation that all her students would acquire.  With a dictionary in her hand, she read the definition of genius to the class of special children.

Genius is neither learned nor acquired.

It is risking without fear of failure.

It is creativity without constraints.

It is … extraordinary intelligence!”

Your heart will sail as she tells her students to memorize it, to look at it every day. “The definition describes every one of you.”

Patricia was placed in a special class. The class had been dubbed “The Junkyard.” Mrs. Peterson believed in her students’ potentials despite their challenges. For learning, she placed the class into tribes. The tribes worked on projects together throughout the year. The five kids in Patricia’s group became very close.

Due to bullying and wanting her kids to see themselves as more than just the left-overs, Mrs. Peterson took the children to the junkyard. They were to create a new invention from the junk they collected. Patricia’s group created a plane that could fly. They decided to launch it at the science fair.

One boy, Jody, had a disease that caused his body to grow too fast. That spring, Jody’s heart gave out and he died. (Yes, I cried. Patricia knows how to pull at my heart-strings.) The plane was a tribute for Jody. The closeness, hard work, and genius propelled their plane into the sky.

I love the ending. Patricia Polacco has an epilogue about her tribe. The other three children grew and flourished into amazing positions – ballet school director, world renown fashion designer, NASA engineer, and Patricia became a phenomenal children’s author.  They attributed their success to their teacher, Mrs. Peterson.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Junkyard Wonders:

  • Believing in yourself – overcoming hardship
  • Community – accepting and seeing possibility in everyone
  • Transitions – highlighting main events throughout the year
  • Character description
  • Strong emotional sense

My Sunshine of Happiness

April 12, 2011

Slice of Life

My fourteen-year-old daughter is beautiful. She is confident and able to speak up for herself. She cares for people and is a helper to many.  She is… my sunshine of happiness.

One day, she secretly gave me a small trophy labeled: “Best Laugh and Smile Award”. She wrote a note along with it that hangs next to my desk. My Elizabeth warms my heart and makes me proud. Here is what she wrote:

Dear Mom,

I don’t want you to go bezerk when I say this, but I love you! You do everything for us and most of the time we don’t thank you! All of my friends say that you’re really cool. I say they are crazy, but really, you are!


Something that makes me smile each day!

Haiti’s Earthquake

April 11, 2011

I have never been to Haiti, but I did live in the Dominican Republic.  The scenery is beautiful. The vivid colors Alix Delinois paints mirrors the beauty of the island – bright, vibrant, delightful.

It has been a year since the earthquake shattered Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 12, 2010.  In the author’s note, Edwidge Danticat share the moment when the news arrived.  Born in Haiti with family still there, the news was close to her heart.

This story, Eight Days: the Story of Haiti, is about a seven-year old boy named Junior.  He was trapped in the rubble for seven days.  To survive, Junior played games in his mind, memories that gave him hope.  I believe it’s important to show children the impossible moments can happen.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Eight Days:  A Story of Haiti:

  • Connection to current events
  • Hope
  • Imagination – visualizing everyday happenings
  • Transitions – snapshot moments from one day to the next
  • Family Importance