Chickens to the Rescue

June 26, 2017

My friend, Tammy, loves chickens. She barters for them at swap meets and collects their eggs. She names them and notices their character. And Tammy tells chicken stories. I love her stories!

I’m not sure her chickens have come to her rescue, but John Himmelman‘s characters do. They are ready to help each member of the family every day of the week in Chickens to the Rescue.

Right now, I could enlist the chickens to do some every day chores: dishes, laundry, scrubbing the kitchen floor, even going through the piles in the closets. Your kids will laugh at the attributes each chicken displays.

A YouTube interview of John Himmelman talking about Chickens to the Rescue (almost 9 min.)

Savorings for reading and in writing for Chickens to the Rescue:

  • Sequence of Events according to the days of the week
  • Character description
  • Repeating Structure
  • Bookend ending – ready for the next book

South Whitley Public Libary


Cat and Bear

November 28, 2011

The illustrations by Anne Mortimer are exquisitely life-like in Cat and Bear by Carol Greene.

Cat is annoyed that his child has chosen to love a stuffed bear instead of himself. You can sense Cat’s feeling of distaste. Cat attempts to hide bear, but mother finds bear each time.  Until one day…

Cat took one look at him and felt sick. “The Child already has a furry friend,” he growled. “Me. Bear is unnecessary.”

On a windy day, Cat seeks his revenge, and Bear is lost outside in leaves.  The Child misses the bear.  Cat tries to ignore his thoughts and guilt,  but sees the pain his Child is feeling.  In the end, Cat begrudgingly searches, finds, and retrieves Bear.  Dragging him to the Child, Cat is rewarded with a kiss of love from the Child. In the end, Cat learns that love can be shared and is multiplied.

Reading through Anne Mortimer’s bio on her website, I learned she is famous for her cat paintings. I didn’t realize she illustrated another one of my favorite books for Christmas called A Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown. For the cat lovers, below is a beautiful video of Anne’s gallery.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Cat and Bear:

  • Character description – the lovable Bear and the unaccepting Cat
  • Voice of the cat – I love the cat’s finicky personality is portrayed
  • Synthesizing
  • Story detail – a wonderful interweaving of character thought, action, and dialogue
  • Sensory description –  soggy, snuggled
  • Community building

Rough, Tough Charley

August 24, 2011

One of my favorite YA novels is Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan (drawings by Brian Selznick). The story lingers with me. I love historical narrative. I’m fascinated with stories of people who triumph over difficulties. I’m encouraged. I was thrilled to find a picture book about the character in Rough, Tough Charley by Verla Kay.

In Riding Freedom, a young orphaned girl escapes and survives looking like a boy. She, Charley, is a horse-whisperer and survives by living in a livery stable. Eventually, Charley learns to drive a stage-coach and becomes an expert driver.

When I saw Rough, Tough, Charley at the library, I knew the picture book would be about the same character. Verla Kay recreated the narrative through poetic stanzas. The text form is not what I expected a delightful change. Adam Gustavson recreates the western setting brilliantly with his paintings, adding to the mood.

I highly recommend reading this book and using it to build background knowledge on the pioneer west, women’s rights, and poetry verse structure.

In the back, a timeline is shared with a short synopsis of important events in Charley’s life. I learned more about the character ad now am comparing/contrasting to the novel’s portrayal.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Rough, Tough Charley:

  • Biography – great way to show how genres and forms can be mingled
  • Poetic narrative – I like the short conversation integrated in the text.
  • Background Knowledge – women’s rights (Charley voted when women could not.)
  • Word Choice
  • Inference – lots of discussion around the character, Charley

Warsaw Community Public Library new book

Dirk Yeller

August 17, 2011

Dirk Yeller is a cowboy with itches in his britches! People are nervous around him. When Dirk asks for help, no one seems to have the solution … except for Sam. Sam is curious and begins following Dirk everywhere. He seems to understand Dirk’s energy and shows him to his quiet place – the library.

The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town by Mary Casanova shares the importance of the library and how reading can capture a variety of interests. Ard Hoyt adds more to the story on the end papers. In the front, you will see the wanted poster, including Dirk’s profile. In back, the newspaper announces Dirk and the librarian wed. What a change reading had on this character!

“And ever since, the library has become the busiest place in town, especially for folks curious, restless minds – like Dirk Yeller and me.”

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town:

  • Magic of 3
  • Voice
  • Transitions
  • Similes – “sweet as pecan pie
  • Apostrophe – ‘cuz, shootin’

Warsaw Community Public Library new book

The Little Red Pen

July 20, 2011

Little Red Pen is worried about the huge stack of papers. They need to be graded. They must be graded. Who will help her?  Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel create a fun read that every teacher will love in The Little Red Pen. The voices of the characters are rich and funny. I could hear the passion of Little Red Pen as she works diligently through the papers. The work never seems to end and she implores the help of her fellow school supplies. They all seem to fear falling into the pit (the trash can) and tiring too much. Each character hides in the drawer until all of a sudden Little Red Pen stumbles and falls into the trash can.

The supplies realize they are needed and cannot take a backseat, letting just one do all the work. A sense of community abounds. Working together, they are able to motivate each other, save Little Red Pen, and accomplish the looming piles of papers.

Your kids will laugh hearing each character. I do love the way the conversations are color-coded, meaning the color of the spoke words match the color of the character.  This book will provide an opportunity for you to talk about team work and community in your classroom. You could also use this book as a read aloud as an introduction for procedures with using classroom supplies. Janet Stevens  has the characters present themselves with an air of respect that your students will connect with. The humor will keep them on the edge of their seats.  Love this book and want it for my collection!

A fun YouTube video about the book.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Little Red Pen:

  • Character traits – Pushpin is Senorita Chincheta and speaks some Spanish.
  • Voice – kid’s will connect
  • Play on Words – Scissors “I’ve been cutting up all day. I’m getting dull. Not good for a sharp guy like me.”
  • Everyday happening – ideas for a story from ordinary school supplies
  • Font manipulation
  • Community – working together

Warsaw Community Public Library – new 2011 book

Adventurous Hero

July 11, 2011

Chick loves stories of adventure. He daydreams of meeting the hero who fights off evil. The chicken coop is too dull with its daily duties of pecking, laying eggs, and sitting. Chick wants more.

Jennifer Sattler creates a fun read in Chick ‘n’ Pug. Heading out, Chick finds a pug. Chick is thrilled! At last he has found his hero. In contrast, the illustrations portray pug as an ordinary, lethargic pup trying to sleep. Believing his hero is exhausted from a heroic conquest, Chick marvels at Pug. He wants to be just like Pug. Chick has visions of strength and wit.

When an intruder (a cat) appears on the scene, Chick decides to help his hero out and defeats the foe with a LOUD bark. Hooray!  Too cute!

Savorings for reading and in writing for Chick ‘n’ Pug:

  • Thought bubbles vs. speech bubbles – dreams of being something mightier
  • Magic of 3 – 3 short scenes
  • Character thinking aloud to the reader
  • Ellipse – dramatic, surprise ending
  • Love of Reading – chick reads the adventure book 127 times. 🙂

A Million Dollar Baseball Card

May 22, 2011


The past few years, our family has attended the National Sports Collector Convention. I love the history that I learn through the artifacts that are there. My oldest son and husband love the baseball cards, and everyone loves meeting a famous professional athlete.

One memory I have is seeing the famous Honus Wagner T206 card. It has sold at auction forever two million dollars. Amazing that a 1″ x 2″ piece of cardboard could be worth that much! Okay, I know it is history, but it still blows my mind.  In the introduction of the book, some background is given in regards to this famous baseball card. I appreciate the character of Honus. He had the cards pulled from cigarette pacts, because he was concerned that children who were fans might be influenced negatively.

Baseball is the game I’m growing to love. I love watching my sons develop through the game and our daughter in softball. Another baseball lover, Jane Yolen, crafts a wonderful snapshot of the famous baseball player in ALL STAR!: Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever. Jim Burke uses his paintings to create a baseball game setting your mind attaches to.

All Star!: Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card EverHonus was born in Chartiers, Pennsylvania to German immigrants. He went to school through the eighth grade and then began working in the coal mines alongside his father and older brother. He worked loading two tons of coal for 79 cents per day. Honus commented that the work was hard but good exercise. The story continues sharing how Honus worked hard to get into baseball. And when his opportunity arrived, he showed everyone how great of a hitter and short stop he could be.

“Clearly he was a great baseball player…. And he did it all without drugs or fancy training programs or million-dollar incentives – just for the pure love of the game.”

Savorings for reading and in writing for All Star: Honus Wagner:

  • Simile – “legs that looked like large parenthesis
  • Several dependent clauses – in different placed in the sentence
  • Punctuation craft – quotation marks around titles, semi-colon, apostrophe uses
  • Exploding the Moment – rounding the bases to win the game
  • Vignettes – several 1 page short stories about Honus that supported his baseball talent and character