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

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

February 15, 2018

Kids connect with history through story. Historical narrative invites the reader into the time period, the setting, the dialect. Our students can relate to characters and feel the emotions of the events. Picture books give readers a weighted historical highlight to peak their interest. For a moment, we can be transported back in time and watch the movie unfold before our eyes.

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville ,by Pat Zietlow Miller, begins as an ordinary happening – a girl playing outside with her friends, racing to see who is the fastest. More than anything, the character emulates her hero, Wilma Rudolph, the fastest woman in 1960 and the first woman to win 3 gold medals in the same Olympic Games. Along comes Charmaine, with her “brand-new, only-been-worn-by-her shoes” challenging Alta’s stand as the fastest kid in Clarksville, TN. They race. She trips. Words fly.

In story, the girls have a conflict. Because of their hero’s example and forgiveness, their differences are put aside and a friendship begins. Not only did they want to imitate Wilma’s running abilities, they also wanted to imitate the peace she was inviting.

The author’s note highlights Wilma Rudolph, from a family of twenty-two children , ill as a child and wore a leg brace, and had the first major integrated event in her home town of Clarksville, TN.

Companion book: Wilma Unlimited .  Click on this link to view the book read to you.

Savorings for The Quickest Kid in Clarksville:

  • Dialect – “Boy – howdy, does she ever.
  • Varied sentences (two word sentences for emphasis)
  • Hyphenated words as craft – “shoe-buying daddy”
  • Character emotions
  • Possessive nouns – several examples of using the apostrophe s (Charmaine’s strutting)
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Author’s Note


October 3, 2010

Illustrators often begin their story on the title page with a baseline for the author’s story prior to any words being spoke.  When the author is the illustrator of the book, the vividness of the story is enhanced, in my opinion.  So it is with Redwoods. The book begins with Jason Chin creating an enticing illustration, a foreshadowing of the male character’s adventure that captures the reader’s attention instantaneously.

Product DetailsThe boy is not named in the book, so for my reference, I’ll refer to him as Jace.  Jace is sitting at a subway station and notices the book, Redwoods, left lying on a bench.  As he reads the book, his imagination creates the setting.

The book is created so craftily that my interest is still perked – after three separate readings.  The text is an informative nonfiction with a twist of narrative being created through the illustrations.  Jace is on an adventure, a nature adventure, that teaches him so many new scientific concepts.  The scenes do paint the factual text as well.

For example, the text states that the base is large enough for a tunnel to be cut.  The illustration shows a car moving out of the tunnel as Jace is surprised.  One illustration shows the Statue of Liberty in the forest to demonstrate that one Redwood named  Hyperion is  “six stories taller than the Statue of Liberty.”  Wow.  Kids can connect and visualize that.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Redwoods:

  • Circular Ending – the boy leaves the book on the bench and a girl picks it up
  • Redwoods in Danger section – shares how the trees are endangered
  • Science notebook – If you read the text without showing the illustrations, you learn volumes of great scientific information.  Showing the illustrations helps explain the information better like sketching during scientific observations
  • Author’s note – reading connection!  Jason Chin explains how he read an article and later a book by Richard Preston about the redwoods

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

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