Museum Trip

February 7, 2011
Cover Image

Illustrators have a unique gift they give readers – a prelude to the story.  Sometimes the prelude shares a character trait.  Sometimes it paints the setting scene, and sometimes it’s foreshadowing the main idea.

Barbara Lehman, author of Red Book,  introduces her male character on the title page.  I will name him Joe.  Joe is facing you, smiling, as if inviting us on his journey.  His innocent , sweet smile made me wonder what Barbara had in store.  Looking more closely at the illustration, I notice that one of Joe’s shoe laces is untied.  I began to wonder:  is this a clue?

Museum Trip is a wordless book that makes the reader speculate and predict.  For young children, this book has depth in comprehension.  The reader gets to see into Joe’s imagination.  He journeys into the exhibits he sees.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Museum Trip:

  • Wondering – will Joe reconnect with his group?
  • Everyday happenings – field trip; getting lost
  • Prediction
  • Story elements – children in all grade levels can share their “story” from the illustrative version.  You can teach just one aspect of detail or add-on to create a whole narrative
  • Inferring character traits

Getting What You Wish For

December 4, 2009

My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel is a story that will make children smile, connect, and wonder.  The theme fits the holiday season – children making their wish lists.  I especially like the letter writing feature that  begins the story.  A young boy, Joe, is writing his letter to Santa asking for a specific present.  Joe shares that he is being very specific about his request.  This book gives a good example of describing an object with specific language.

I also think the My Penguin Osbert will appeal to your boys.  The illustrator, H. B. Lewis, paints a two page spread of a red racecar in the beginning.  The main character, Joe, reminds me of my youngest. Since he has had difficulty getting the exact present that he wanted in years past, Joe goes all out and is detailed in the size, color, actions of his request.  Joes wanted a penguin, not a stuffed one, but a penguin from Antarctica. 

On Christmas morning, Santa game through.  To the delight of Joe, Osbert the Penguin is waiting for him.  Joe is ready to open more presents, but realizes his friend wanted to go outside and play.  Each time Joe wants to do something, he renders his wishes for his friend.  You can almost hear Joe’s thinking and sense his conflict. 

But I had asked for Osbert, and now I had him.”

Osbert was the penguin he had asked for, but Joe did not realize that a penguin would be so much work.  Sound familiar with a pet?  After a while, Joe writes a secret letter to Santa.  He explains that he loves Osbert, but that if Santa thought Joe should have a different present, he would swap.  Santa does reply and sends Joe on an adventure to the Antarctic World exhibit at the zoo.  Osbert loves the exhibit and Joe relinquished his pet out of love.  In the end, Joe shares the lesson he has learned.

Savorings for reading and in writing for My Penguin Osbert:

  • Adjectives – specific descriptions
  • Letter writing –
  • Inference – the clues will lead the children to conclude Joe’s reasoning for giving up his pet
  • Varied Sentences – the author does an excellent job of writing long, complex sentences and then integrating some simple sentences.  “Then I waited.”
  • Colon – used with a sign
  • Hyphenated words – snow-globe; fire-engine-red


September 19, 2009

Creative! was the first thought I had when I finished reading We’re Off to Look For AliensColin McNaughton writes two books in one. 

He begins by sharing a narrative of himself as an author, told through his son’s point of view.

Dad writes children’s books.  He also draws the pictures.  He says it’s hard work, but he seems to spend an awful lot of time messing around.  (At this point, the illustration shows characters from other books that Colin McNaughton has written).

The father leaves his family to read his new book while he walks his dog.  The reader then changes to read a new story from a paperback book pocketed on the page.  The title of the new book is “We’re Off to Look for Aliens” by Colin McNaughton.  Sound familiar?  The text shares how he leaves with his dog, Wilberforce, to visit space.  They meet several type of aliens, all described through a familiar tune.  At the end of the journey, he meets a lady alien and they fall in love, bringing her home.  Kids will have fun reading it, especially a struggling reader, as they can connect the text to a nursery rhyme they have memorized.

In the end, the family shares their views. They believe the story is good, but “kids prefer fairy tales and stuff“.  The reader then learns that his family is the lady alien with two alien-like children that were featured in his children’s book.

Savorings for reading and in writing for We’re Off to Look  for Aliens:

  • Conversational Lead – “Ah-ha!” said Dad.  “My alien book.  Thank you, Mr. Mailman.”
  • Poetic Text – internal book written to the tune of  “Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Hyphenated words – Never-seen-on-telly things, Eyeball-in-their-belly things
  • Surprise Ending
  • Stories about our lives

Yo-Yo Fan

August 20, 2009

Daniel Pinkwater must have enjoyed yo-yos during his childhood.  He has created a fun story of determination.  Yo-Yo Man is definitely a boy read.  The storyline has conflict, action, and a desire to be number one.  I must admit that it’s not a book I personally love; but I know my sons and they loved it.

The story begins with a bullying incident.  Kids deal with this issue more than we’d like to admit.  The book could be a springboard for talking about the issue.  The boy does not let the bullying keep him down.  When the yo-yo man comes and performs a spectacular show, the boy determines to be the best yo-yo contestant.  He works hard, practicing over and over.  A parallel story is happening within the classroom.  His teacher loves spelling and he’s intimidated.  Once again, he determines to be the best student possible and practices.  Wouldn’t we like to have him in our class?

Savorings in reading and in writing for Yo-Yo Man:

  • Persuasion – Ramon:  the yo-yo champion does a demonstration and the kids go wild.  He hands out a book – free of charge – with the tricks.  “On the back is stamped – Available at Bill’s Toyland.”
  • Comma in a Series – “I buy a smooth, shiny, heavy, perfect, beautiful, genuine deep red one.”  “They are spinning and bobbing, whizzing and bouncing, sailing through the air.
  • Sensory detail – “The strings make a whispering, humming sound.”
  • Alliteration – “And for good measure, I am going to memorize more spelling words than anyone else and make mincemeat of Mrs. Mousetrap.”
  • Ending with Magic of 3 – “Do I have to say it?  I am perfect.  I am beautiful.  I do every trick, right to the end, right to the double flip-flop flying bouncing sleeper.”

(Warsaw Comm. Public Library)


August 14, 2009

Mo Willems will capture the children’s attention (especially boys) with his book, Leonardo the Terrible Monster.  I find the illustrations interesting as he uses the negative space to add to the mood of the characters, Leonardo and Sam.  I know most of the time we focus on the text of a book, but in this case, I think it would be interesting to hear what the children’s thoughts are in regards to the illustrations.   Although I am not an art teacher, I do believe that young children can share so much through their illustrations. 

I recently have been reading a book about boys and literacy called Bright Beginnings for Boys.  One specific quote has struck me and I’ve been noticing the books a little differently. 

  Leonardo, the Terrible Monster (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))


“It is not just the illustrations or the text.  It is the combination of the two that enhances the comprehension.  Synergy.”


 Mo Willems combines the illustrations and text to create the synergy that will enhance the comprehension in boys.  He uses colors that appeal to boys.  The use of quick conversational text mirrors typical young male verbal interaction.  All in all, it’s a great text that the children in your class will enjoy.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Leonardo the Terrible Monster:

  • Asterisk – uses the punctuation to teach a footnote:  1,642*  *Note:  Not all teeth shown
  • Reference – showing that research takes time and use of several resources; Mo uses his illustrations to help support this point
  • 2 page spread – Sam is wailing his heart out; his older brother picks on him.
  • Bully – kids definitely can relate to this issue of being picked on – either by a sibling or with students in school
  • Character change – The decision Leonardo makes would be a great springboard for discussing the change that he made (Why did he choose to change?  How will this relationship help him?  How does this apply to us?)

(PES Library; Warsaw Library)

Cowboy Clues

July 27, 2009

Ever played What am I?  In the game, you  give clues to your audience, going from the least known clue to the more popular.  Andy Rash has created a children’s book that uses the games frame work.  I’m thinking of using this text with the primary classrooms as a pattern book.  I also see this being a great mentor text for the upper elementary students who have great background knowledge in a subject area.  They could create fun books for kids with the knowledge they know following the structure of this text, Are You a Horse?

Roy, the cowboy, receives a saddle as a present.  He is given instructions to get a horse, but he does not know what a horse is.  So, Roy’s adventure begins as he looks for the horse.  As he meets different objects, he asks the repetitive question, “Are you a horse?” to which the ‘thing’ says ‘no’ and gives a clue to what a horse is.

For example, Roy first meets an old wagon, who says:  “A horse is a living thing.”  Next he meets a cactus, who says:  “A horse is an animal.”  It continues through clues of legs, color, being clean, fast, etc.  Excellent text to help with categorizing in the area of science.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Are You a Horse?:

  • Repeating line/structure
  • Hybrid text of sorts – mystery with clues; informational with facts; narrative
  • Surprise ending – you have to read it to believe it
  • Adjectives – each object/animal Roy meets is described with two adjectives:  “A skittery, pinchy thing ran sideways in front of Roy.  It had plenty of legs.”  “Roy came to a tree with a feathered, hooting thing on a branch.”
  • Bold lettering for voice – Roy was very upset.  “WHY CAN’T I FIND A HORSE?” he shouted.

A Boy Read

Must-Have book

(Warsaw Public Library)