The Web Files

May 3, 2018

Margie Palatini is one of my favorite authors. Words are fun. She brings a delightful humor to her texts that hook her readers. On her website, she has an index of literacy skills linked to her books.

The Web Files is a book full of idioms and alliteration that challenges her readers to think, to connect, to visualize. This text would be a fun readers theater to challenge the rolling tongue. Enjoy a fun activity from her website.

So you’re saying that you were robbed, is that right ma’am? What exactly is missing from the nest, ma’am? Eggs, Ma’am? Chicks, ma’am?”

“P-p-peppers,” she said with a flap.

“Peppers?” I asked.

“My perfect purple peppers that were just about ready to be pickled.”

“About how many perfect purple almost-pickled peppers would you say were pilfered, pinched, and picked? A bushel?”

“P’awk! Pawk!” she squawked. “No—a peck! A peck, I tell you! A whole purple- pepper-pickin’ peck!”  pg. 10-11

Savorings for The Web Files:

  • Humor – idioms and play on words (interweaves fairy tales and Dragnet TV series)
  • Alliteration
  • Higher level of punctuation – apostrophe with slang (horsin’ around)
  • Inference
  • Magic of 3
  • Word Choice

Spike: the Ugliest Dog in the Universe

March 23, 2018

A dog shares his story of being branded with a label, left abandoned and then rescued by a boy, who needs someone too. The boy tries to persuade his mom to let the dog stay.

Debra Frasier shares her story behind, Spike: the Ugliest Dog in the Universe, as the author and illustrator. She then invites you to write a story alongside you. (Teachers: scroll down and find several activities linked to this book.)

Savorings for Spike: the Ugliest Dog in the Universe:

  • Point of View – dog tells the story
  • Synonyms
  • Imperative Sentences
  • Persuasion – the boy and the dog both try to persuade Mom to let him stay
  • End of the Book – Instructional Essay
  • Acceptance – looking beyond the outward appearance
  • Illustrations – created with 129 parts of jeans as the outline frame

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

Feathers Not Just for Flying

February 26, 2018

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Melissa Stewart brings nonfiction alive. In FEATHERS Not Just for Flying, she uses similes to compare the uses of feathers to common objects. View the video of Melissa sharing what similes are and how she uses them in her book.

Each two-page spread features the bird on one side with a simile sentence describing how the feather benefits the bird. For example, feathers are like sunscreen, help them float, carry items, keep them extra warm. A text box explains the feather’s use in more detail. An added bonus is the geography reference, siting a place the bird can be found around the globe.

Colby Sharp asks Melissa Stewart why kids need to know the five types of nonfiction texts. View the YouTube video here (9 min).


Savorings for FEATHERS:

  • Similes
  • Definitions
  • Hybrid text – text boxes
  • Geography – links the birds to areas around the globe
  • Uses of feathers
  • Author’s note

Chicken Chasing

November 15, 2009

The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice Harrington is a first person narrative, told through a young girl’s viewpoint.  The young girl is not named in the story.  For reference sake, I’m naming her Queenie.  Queenie loves to chase chickens.  She shares her chicken chasing techniques with you.  As the reader, I’m amused at her detailed plans from cornbread sprinkling to hiding behind the wheelbarrow.  Your students will laugh at the chicken-chasing banter between Queenie and her favorite prize chicken.

The illustrations are a unique combination of cloth cutout shapes placed on a painted scene.  Shelley Jackson weaves the tan, golden, and brown hues into a patchwork of scenes.

I was amazed at the craft that has been used throughout the text.  I also love the voice shared through Queenie.  Listen.

I stand so still even my shadow gets bored and starts to walk off.”

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County:

  • Similes – “I make myself as still as sunlight.”
  • Punctuation Combination – bold words with exclamation point; comma in a series, two m dashes, a colon, quotation marks around onomatopoeia, and ellipse
  • Hyphen versus the M Dash
  • Close Echo – peckity-scratch-peck
  • Alliteration – feather-flapping
  • Inference – PAH- Quawkkkkk!  Chickens go feather-flapping in every direction.
  • Personification



October 31, 2008

Last spring, my school hosted a Young Authors’ Conference with Claire Ewart. With her gentle spirit, she shared “from words a story grows” and showed the children how she gathered ideas from nature, visiting places, and even observing in her backyard.  I’ll be sharing more of her the books she has authored and illustrated in the near future.  I was grateful for the opportunity to learn from her.  Thanks, Claire.

Claire Ewart illustrates a delightful mystery written by another Hoosier, Valiska Gregory, called The Mystery of the Grindlecat.  The end note in the book explains the purpose in writing the book:  in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Children Museum’s Haunted House in Indianapolis, IN.

The book is filled with many writing lesson possibilities.  On a first time read, this book has several avenues for prediction, conversation, and wonderings with your class.  Your kids will be hooked in with Claire’s brilliant illustrations and Valiska’s beautiful words.  Even the font used crates a spooky foreshadowing.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Mystery of the Grindlecat:

  • Enticing lead –
  • Magic of 3 – used with the characters, their dialogue; from phrases to sentences
  • Building Emotion with the use of Personification – “The tree branch knocked against her window.  ‘I hear the tapping of skeleton bones,’ she said.”
  • Simile – “… an enormous nose with a wart as black as a licorice drop.”
  • Show don’t Tell – “Then all together they knew exactly what to do.”