Santa Duck

December 14, 2011

Santa Duck by David Milgrim: Book CoverDavid Milgrim‘s writing style reminds me of Mo Willems. The animals are talking to each other in an everyday conversational tone with narration interwoven.

Duck heads out on Dec. 24 to share his wish list with Santa. A present has mysteriously appeared on his front step – a Santa red hat and coat. The animals Duck meets on his journey assume he is Santa’s helper and begin sharing the wish lists. Upon meeting Santa, Santa Duck is surprised and blessed with compliments. Santa is appreciative of duck, who sings himself asleep.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Santa Duck:

  • Speech bubbles vs. Think bubbles
  • Interjections – “Whoa baby!
  • Character feeling
  • Apostrophe with possessive nouns
  • Inference – you can sense Santa Duck’s increased frustration with each animal he encounters
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Swim! Swim!

September 15, 2011

Lerch, the fish, seeks a friend in Swim! Swim! by Lerch. Lerch searches his liquid home (a fish tank) only to be rejected. The pebbles, bubbles, and sub man sustain silence, leaving Lerch lonely.

James Proimos creates a fun read that will tickle your students. Lerch thinks he’s found a new friend finally, but you kids may think differently. Enjoy this read. You won’t be able to keep it in your library.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Swim! Swim! by Lerch:’

  • Speech bubbles
  • Action in each comic frame
  • Friendship
  • Persistence
  • Inference

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


Art & Max

April 30, 2011

David Wiesner has created an extraordinary book in Art & Max. I love the many ways the simple, yet deep text can be used. I immediately noticed the colors were earth tones: greens, browns, and blues. From the book Bright Beginnings for Boys, boys tend to like the earth tone colors. Plus, the idea of two lizard-type looking creatures working with paint intrigued me. David Wiesner is a superb visual story-teller.

The illustrations are crafted in different sized frames, creating action. The characters are a cast of different types of lizards. Arthur is an excellent artist. The story begins with him painting a portrait of a model client. From the scenes and tone of conversation, Arthur is quite dignified.

Max, a rather hyper, energetic young lizard, appears on the scene. He wants to learn to paint. Through miscommunication, Max literally paints Art and then tries to wipe away his mistake. As he repaints Art, the art turns into a collage of a new medium. You will chuckle through the intricate recreations.

I find the text is upbeat and cheery, yet it makes me linger and ponder. I have read the text 3 times and continue to see how the words are interwoven. The title for example is Art & Max. Since Max calls Arthur, Art, I assumed the story is about two friends. Then I think it’s possibly about two opposite people learning to collaborate. As I am reading the book again, now I think the title is about how Max has influence on the traditional art Arthur is producing. It’s David Wiesner. He makes you think and go deeper with the meaning behind the story.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Art & Max:

  • Literal vs. Inferred – “You could paint me.”
  • Action in frames
  • Compare/Contrast characters
  • Comma with clauses – simple text but used lots; excellent for introduction prior to long paragraphs
  • Vocabulary – preposterous

The Turning of the Year

January 2, 2010

Bill Martin Jr. is an author who brings rhythm and rhyme to the his writing.The Turning of the Year  Although this text, The Turning of the Year, is short, the words are rich.  It was like savoring each bite of Turtle Cheesecake.  The text takes you through each month of the year – with only two lines per page. 

Greg Shed, the illustrator, infers so much more with his illustrations.  One painted page shows a scene from a typical day.  On the text page, Greg scatters items that represent other activities.  These clues lift the level of comprehension, especially for younger children.

Savorings in reading and in writing for The Turning of the Year:

  • Context Clues – rich vocabulary
  • Class book idea – your students could create a page about activities happening each month for the school year
  • Repeating Structure – each month has activities
  • Personification – “earth fashions green
  • Inferring

Warsaw Public Library book


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

Splat the Cat

October 19, 2009

Rob Scotton has created a tale about an everyday happening – going to school.  Splat is a cat in the tale Splat the Cat.  It’s the first day of cat school for splat.  He’s worried.  You are invited as a reader to climb into the character’s mind.  The author italicized Splat’s thinking.  On one of the pages, you can see the contrast between dialogue and thinking.  The text has fewer sentences on the page, so your students can see the examples clearly.

Rob Scotton’s illustrations are fun and cozy.  I feel like I’m in the room with the cats.  Splat is unusual in that he has a mouse as his pet.  When he goes to school, he learns what a good cat does.  One rule is that cats chase mice.  Splat wonders why and questions his teacher.  She doesn’t have a sturdy answer, so through Splat’s power of persuasion, the class decides that they do not have to chase mice.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Splat the Cat:

  • Alliteration – wiggled wildly with worry
  • Character Thinking – italicize wording
  • Everyday Happening – nervous about going to school and doing something new
  • Wondering – Splat asks the teacher questions and wants a valid answer besides “because”.
  • Bookending the Story – “Today was his second day at Cat School, and his tail wiggled wildly… with excitement.”
  • Character Twist – a cat has a mouse as a friend
  • Inferring – The illustrations add more emotion and understanding to the text.  The children will need to pay attention to Splat’s actions.

PES Library book and Warsaw Public Libray