Groundhog’s Dilemma

January 30, 2019

Matt Faulkner is one of my favorite illustrators. He has written/illustrated the book A Taste of Colored Water and illustrated Thank You, Sarah, among several others. His illustrations strike me with a brilliant personification and invitation into the reading. Click to read a little about Matt Faulkner’s illustrations and to see a picture of him and his wife, Kristen Remenar. (I learned something new today.)

Together they created a fun read, Groundhog’s Dilemma, that highlights a predicament kids can relate with. Half of the animals want winter to last longer and half of the animals want spring now. Each animal tries to persuade Groundhog to predicate what they desire. Groundhog agrees with everyone, because he wants them all to be his friend. In the end, Groundhog explains he just reports what he sees; he can’t change the weather. This book provides you the opportunity to talk with kids about being truthful. It touches on persuasion, pressure, and contemplation. I think you will find the book will spark some interesting conversations.

View the book here (8 min. video). It’s currently a Scholastic Book Club book.

Savorings for reading and writing for Groundhog’s Dilemma:

  • Persuasion – shares thoughts on both sides; art of buttering-up someone
  • Speech Bubbles
  • Telling the Truth
  • Internal Conflict
  • Alternate Solution

The Bear and The Piano

November 18, 2018

Delightful story, The Bear and The Piano by David Litchfield! I am drawn to the beauty of the setting, the internal conflict, the story. I have been savoring this book over several days. The words linger. The dream lingers. The question of acceptance, friendship, and love lingers with me. You just need to read it and fall in love with the bear, his music, and the family waiting for him.

The Power of 3 is used often as a craft in this text.

He missed the forrest. He missed his old friends. He missed his home.”

No piano, no bears, no anything.”

View the reading of The Bear and the Piano (5.5 minutes).


Savorings for reading and writing for The Bear and The Piano:

  • One day
  • Adverbs – shyly, eventually
  • Onomatopoeia – Plonk!
  • Power of 3 – several forms
  • Frienship
  • Teaching ideas – click on this link

Life on Mars

May 1, 2018

Kids often wonder about life on the moon or other galaxies. Movies bring outer-space beings into a seemingly possible reality. Is there life on other planets? Jon Agee allows a child to explore the possibilities in his book, Life on Mars.

The astronaut believes there is life. He begins to explore. Time passes. Doubt begins to set in. The reader hears the character’s internal dialogue. Alongside the meandering astronaut, a silent story parallels his feelings.

This text lends itself to teaching kids life lessons of perseverance, confidence, affect, trial/error, discovery, celebration.

View the book trailer here.

View the book read aloud at this link. I think your kids will enjoy the sound effects.

Savorings for Life on Mars:

  • Internal Thinking
  • Silent parallel story
  • Two characters
  • Wonderings
  • Life lessons
  • Surprise Ending


March 24, 2018

Everyday we have opportunities to brighten the lives of others.

On my first reading of Ellie by Mike Wu, the story line seemed to be a simple story. The setting and characters are set with a zoomed-in lens with white background. Ellie’s eyes capture your heart and you are drawn in to her emotion. It was the scene of Ellie first trying her painting, giving it her first try after Walt had modeled the basics, that I made a connection. Ellie explored her talent and surprised her “teacher” with the unexpected. Ellie’s talent shined because Walt: 1) celebrated her accomplishment; 2) brought her the needed tools to thrive; and 3) honored her contribution.

We are like Walt. At the moment Ellie had self-doubt, he encouraged and supported. And like Walt, we equip our students with tools to create, explore, and flourish. We have the power to propel our students forward to paint their masterpieces while we celebrate alongside.

Show this book trailer to your students to introduce the book.

Click this link to hear the video online. The story pace allows the children time to admire the illustrations. This link would be a wonderful eLearning book to share with your students. You could have them write a response to the book sharing about what they are good at, a time they helped someone, or maybe a special trip to the zoo. You can then discuss the deeper meaning of the book with your class.

Savorings for Ellie:

  • Introduction to Story Elements
  • Internal Conflict
  • Repeating phrase -“If only…”
  • Making a Difference
  • Teamwork

A Good Night for Freedom

February 23, 2011

A Good Night for FreedomI love the courage displayed through the lives of Hallie, the Coffins, and the two runaway slaves.  I wonder if I would have been courageous during a time of injustice.  As I read the story to children, I connect it to present day happenings.  Kids can be courageous during bullying situations.

A Good Night for Freedom is based upon true events.  Levi Coffin helped more than 2,000 slaves escape to freedom through the Underground RailroadBarbara Morrow shares her research in her author’s note at the beginning of the book.  Two runaway slaves, Susan and Margaret, are hidden in the Coffin’s home.  Hallie delivered some butter to Aunt Katy’s.  When she went to the cellar, Katy saw the two girls.  As she ponders her meeting, Katy runs into four slave catchers.  You can feel the turmoil of decision.  Leonard Jenkins uses colors to depict the mood of the story, contrasting dark and light.  In the end, Katy chooses to be courageous and aides the escape of the slaves freedom.

Savorings for reading and in writing for A Good Night for Freedom:

  • Voice – the Quaker accent and language is used
  • Tension – “My heart slammed against my chest.”
  • Illustrations – the imagery of dark night supremacy and bright light courage
  • Character traits – discussion on the risks the Coffins chose, Hallie’s conscience
  • Character thinking – “What was I doing? Meddlin’, Pa would say.”

Overcoming Fear

October 7, 2009

My mind relives the narrative, The Forest by Claire A. Nivola, over and over after each reading.  I do not recall the first time I came across this book, but the text is one that strikes at the core of emotion:  fear.  I, the reader, am intrigued and sucked in to the mind of the character from the beginning.  What an emotional lead!

I had always been afraid of the forest, that dark and unknown place at the farthest edge of my little world.  At night I often dreamed of it and woke chilled with fear.  The fear was there in the day, too, hidden inside me no matter what I did or where I went.”

The main character is Mouse.  The narrative is shared through first-person, inviting you in to Mouse’s thoughts and feelings from the beginning.  Mouse is afraid.  The fear nags at him until one day he decides to face the fear by venturing out to the forest.  All the way, Mouse has internal conflict – should he continue or return home to his safe haven?

I believe many children have fears that nag at them.  Some fears are real; most are just insecurity or uncertainty.  As you read this book to children,  the narrative invites prediction.  How will Mouse survive?  Will he follow through?  The text is also an excellent example to teach inference or show, don’t tell.

“Leaping for cover, I tripped and fell headlong to the ground, Lie still, I thought; if you cry or move, you will be found.  Could my thundering heart be heard outside my head?”

You must read it.  At the end of the page with the above quote, you, the reader, are left hanging.  What will happen next?  As you turn the page, the illustration brightens and you immediately sense a change with the setting.  “The sunlight was raining down through the leaves and warming my back.  A sweet breeze stirred my fur.  I was alive!”

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Forest:

  • Symbolism – “In the morning, standing in the doorway of my home, I saw the cozy chair by the fire, my warm bed, the objects I loved.  I turned and closed the door behind me.”
  • Emotional – ‘my heart began to race
  • Show don’t Tell (Inference) – “Uneasy, I looked back at my village – a dot in the distance.”
  • Repeating Structure – “But would I lose myself?  Would I be devoured by some wild creature?  Would I die of fear?”
  • Grabber Lead
  • Internal Conflict
  • Predictions