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

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

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

“I’m Bad” Dinosaur

August 30, 2009

Kateand Jim McMullan have collaborated in their new book, I’m Bad.  They share an informational narrative through the voice of a dinosaur.  Oh, no any dinosaur – a “I’m REALLY bad” dinosaur, “scare-the-tails-off-all-the-other-dinosaurs BAD.”  I love the voice that comes through this book; so will your kids!  I'm Bad!The dinosaur explains his physical features and appetite desires.  The large illustrations give you a feel like you are watching a movie. 

I was totally surprised when the dino isn’t able to capture his food.  The design of the page is a lift up, to which you discover Mom.  The dino who has been talking to you, the reader, is just a toddler dinosaur who is learning to hunt.

I cracked up at the scene of mom’s kill being dropped for her offspring.  “Awright–  takeout!!”   Can’t you hear a kid say that?

Savorings for reading and in writing for I’m Bad:

  • Persuasive – sharing all the ways the dino is bad
  • Hyphenated words – “triple-digit, kick-a-whomper STOMPERS
  • Surprise ending – the dino is just a toddler
  • Voice – speaks to the reader

Did you just call me BABY ARMS?  Long as yours, pal–

20 times stronger.

Think about it….  Are you BIG?”

(Warsaw Public Library)

Saving Thanksgiving

November 6, 2008

Living in an age of super heroes – Iron Man, Batman, Fantastic Four, children sometimes forget that ordinary people can be heroes too.  Laurie Halse Anderson created a new super hero in her book, Thank You, Sarah:  The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving.  She begins by talking to the reader:

You think you know everything about Thanksgiving, don’t you?

After making you think for a moment, she responds to you:

Well, listen up.  I have a newsflash…      WE ALMOST LOST…THANKSGIVING!  Didn’t know that, did you?”

The voice of Laurie Halse Anderson resonates through the story.  The reader is drawn in immediately.  When I read Thank You, Sarah, I feel like I’m having a conversation with the author.  Matt Faulkner, illustrator, adds a humorous touch to the story with his visuals.  His illustrations support the “talk” that the author has created.  Laurie then adds in some of the history of how people were forgetting about Thanksgiving and how Sarah Hale became the super hero.  A repeated line is used throughout the writing:  “She was bold, brave, stubborn, and smart.”  It supports the snapshots of Sarah Hale’s achievements in history.

Thank You, Sarahis one of the best texts to support persuasion.  Laurie writes, “And Sarah Hale had a secret weapon… a pen.”  She continues to show how Sarah Hale wrote and wrote and wrote to persuade people on issues during a time that women were considered second class to men.  She wrote to four presidents asking to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.  All of them told her no … until she wrote Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.  He then said yes.  Thank You, Sarah!!  And thank you, Laurie Halse Anderson for writing such a brilliant book that will draw children into the history of the season and also to demonstrate the power of the pen.  Children need examples of writing for a purpose!

Savorings for reading and in writing for Thank You, Sarah:  The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving:

  • 2nd person – speaks to the reader
  • Voice!!!
  • Persuasion – supporting with valid points
  • Writing for a purpose – “secret weapon…a pen
  • Comma – in a series, clauses, for emphasis
  • Vivid verbs – “curdled her gravy

End note:  I discovered a teacher’s guide for Thank You, Sarahin Laurie Halse Anderson’s website.  Because I love history, I found it intriguing that the author is a distant relative to Sarah Hale.  Read it in Social Studies section on the teacher’s guide.


October 18, 2008

In preparation for the upcoming elections, I have been encouraging my teachers to share read alouds that will build background knowledge of the process.  I have favorites:  If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier and Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio.  Both books have an author’s note that shares facts about the Electoral College and how it works.

9780807535448If I Ran for Presidentby Catherine Stier speaks to the reader in first person.  Each part begins with “If I ran for president…” and then proceeds to illustrate how he/she might be chosen as the political candidate, then campaign across the USA, and make speeches plus debates.  The characters change between male and female as well as different ethnic backgrounds.  The characters are children though, thus connecting with the students we work with.  It has such great voice. Catherine ends the book by saying, “And what would I do when I became president?  Well, that’s another story.”  I look forward to the next book in this hopeful series.  What a great way to grab a child’s interest and explain it in clearer terms than what they are hearing through the media.

Grace for Presidentby Kelly DiPucchio is set within a narrative structure.  Grace comes to school one day when her teacher rolls out a poster of all of the American presidents.  She is shocked to learn that there has never been a woman president.  After some reflection, Grace announces that she wants to be president. The story continues with the elementary holding an election.  Along with campaigning and speeches, the teachers assign students with a state and its number of electoral votes.  Students gain a better understanding of the electoral college system.  I love the ending.  Read the book to see what happens.