The Snowman’s Path

January 19, 2011

Helena Pittman created an adventurous tale of a friendship between a boy and a snowman.  Children can have  active imaginations.  Nathan’s imagination creates something extraordinary out of the ordinary.  A snowman appears and Nathan watches.  The snowman engages in child-like frolic, playing in the snow.  Nathan ventures out to watch.  Illustrator Rau’l Colo’n (illustrated My Mama Had a Dancin’ Heart)uses his exquisite pictures to add tension and feeling to the special narrative.

One night Nathan is brave and introduces himself.  Sharing cookies, they swap stories.  Each night their friendship grows.  Even with their closeness, Nathan realizes Sky, the snowman, needs someone; he seems lonely.  Nathan builds a female snow lade, and the two glow together.  A touching story of true friendship.

Savorings for reading and in writing from The Snowman’s Path:

  • Similes – “tumble down snowbanks, moving like an acrobat
  • Everyday happenings with imagination – playing in the backyard, “dug in the alley’s potholes for pirate treasure
  • Personification – “The wind sighed past the trees...”
  • Tension – “made my heart beat fast.  Suddenly...”
  • Passage of Time


November 2, 2009

I was browsing through books in the Half-Price Bookstore and came across this book, The Wishing Chair.  I was not familiar with the author.  Reading the book jacket and then reading part of the text, I realized that this book would be good mentor text with gathering ideas for writing.  Often children do not think about using their daydreams as possible writing ideas.  I also wanted to show that you can find great ideas in most any book.

The Wishing Chair is Rick Dupre’s first book (1993).  He shares on the book jacket that he had a wishing place as a child.  He spent time pretending with his siblings, the basis for the book.

Young boy, Eldon, spends time with his grandmother.  For entertainment, Eldon fantasizes.  He fantasizes that the yard is a jungle in the African safari, exploring animals.  Inside the house, Eldon fantasizes that the green cushions become boats in the alligator infested swamp.  What fun!

Grandma is always around, sewing, singing, or sharing stories.  She would have Eldon sit in the wishing chair.  In the wishing chair, Eldon would hear her stories about famous African-Americans and dream about making a difference.

Later in life, when Grandma is moving from her house, Eldon stops to reflect on his childhood memories.  He realizes these African-Americans are heroes, paving the way for his dreams of college and a career.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Wishing Chair:

  • Imagination – “Granny’s yard was perfect for a game of Captain Explorer.”
  • Sensory Setting – “Teh smell of her peonies was sweet in the heavy summer air.
  • Passage of Time – “As Eldon grew older,…
  • Simile – “a hug with her round warm -as-a-quilt arms
  • Family Stories – “Granny’s little house was overflowing with wonderful memories.”
  • Day Dreams – ideas for writing
  • Civil Rights Movement – brief history of famous African-Americans


October 14, 2009

Brothers.  My husband, Rick, shares stories about growing up with his brother, B.  Although Rick was always five years younger than B, Rick would try his hardest to be as good as his brother.  He wanted to be with his brother all the time.  By high school, they were doing many activities together.  They are still close, even though we are miles apart.

Tiki and Ronde Barber had a special brotherly relationship.  As twins, they must have done a lot together.  They collaborated with Robert Burleigh to create the book,  By My Brother’s Side.  Many students are intrigued with the fact that the authors are pro-football players.  Elementary students relate to the story as well with the brothers being their age doing activities they are involved in.

The story begins at the start of summer.  They are heading out to explore with their bikes, where a dare meets disaster.  Tiki has a bike accident that impairs his leg, forcing him to stay off of it for the summer.  The theme shows the boys being together through it all.  The book is an excellent, rich text that’s filled with huge teaching points.  Enjoy the great read!

Savorings for reading and writing for By My Brother’s Side:

  • Passage of Time – the story takes place through the summer months, highlighting the most important;  “July was long and hot.  whenever Ronde would go out to play baseball, Tiki would say, “Maybe I could just--“
  • Stretching a Scene – with each month, a scene is highlighted with the boys talking together
  • Perseverance – Ronde walked fast.  Tiki limped behind.  “Come on, Tiki.  You can do it.  I know you can.  We’re supposed to meet Chris in five minutes.
  • Semi-colon – Finally, the doctor gave his orders:  no more brace.
  • Importance of Studying – Before practice Ronde and Tiki sat under the bleachers with their notebooks spread out.  “Homework first,” their mom always said.


July 21, 2009

Happy 16th Birthday to my oldest son, Wesley!  He loves baseball, and I cannot imagine how many hours I have spent at the baseball diamond, park, or backyard watching him play.  He has been an enjoyment!

Being drawn to the sport, I collect baseball stories.  I was intrigued with this book when I visited the bookstore earlier this spring,  Michael’s Golden Rules.  Knowing the excellent text, Salt in His Shoes, I was delighted with the storyline in this new one.  Michael Jordan shares some insight into his winning attitude as he addresses the reader with a page-length introduction.  Michael shares that he is best known for his basketball skills, yet baseball was his first pick.

Michael's Golden Rules

Michael shares that he always felt like a winner because he followed the ten golden rules.  Those rules helped him on the court and in life.  Deloris Jordan and Roslyn Jordan give us a snapshot into Michael’s little league days.  His friend, Jonathan, is having trouble with playing and so his uncle shares the rules.  The text gives you snapshots of the boys talking about the game and life and applying the rules.  Although they do not win the big game, Jonathan feels like a winner.

I’ve learned it takes heart to come out a winner every time, whether you win or lose. MJ

I read this book to a fourth grade class this past spring, and they enjoyed it.  The boys were attentive and listened.  We talked about how the rules could be applied to the classroom.  It is an excellent text for building classroom community as well as boosting their self-confidence in learning.  Here a few of the rules:

  1. Pay attention to the coach at all times.
  2. Be a team player.
  3. Practice a winning attitude.
  4. Learn from your mistakes.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Michael’s Golden Rules:

  • Stretching the important scenes
  • Character traits
  • Internal Conflict and thinking
  • Play by play sections – this is a good mentor text for kids who like to tell about the “entire” game.  It shows how to fast-forward over slow parts and stretch the important scenes with conversation and internal thinking
  • Teaching perseverance

Pet Friendship

January 21, 2009

The adorable cover illustration caught my eye.  I have a soft spot for German shepherds.  Fluffy and Baron is based on the author’s “many happy memories of my childhood pets, who really were best friends.”

Many of our students have pets and they also have friends.  I find that Laura Rankin creatively blends the two interests into this special story of friendship.  I love the character qualities expressed.  The story begins with a warm, loving scenario …

… until three wild ducks reside on the farm’s pond in the spring. 
Fluffy watched, waddling back and forth – toward the newcomers and then back to Baron again.”
Laura’s illustrations make your heart melt as Baron deals with being alone.  Children can connect as they have experienced  loss of friends who have moved, divorce, death.
This book has several places that infer the character feelings and mood of the storyline.  You also have to fill in the gaps between event with the passage of time.  For primary students, this book is ideal for teaching story elements, the climax mountain, and internal character conflict.
Savorings for reading and in writing for Fluffy and Baron:
  • Magic words of story – “One summer day, someone new waddled into Baron’s life.”
  • Passage of time – use of seasons
  • Transitions – “For the next three nights,”
  • Inference – “Baron’s tail wagged and wagged.”
  • Internal character conflict – “Fluffy watched, waddling back and forth


October 29, 2008

Margaret Wise Brown, author of Good Night Moon, brings to life the maturing of an ordinary pumpkin into a beloved jack-o-lantern in her book, The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin. She shares the yearning of this pumpkin character, wishing and wanting to be something fierce to scare the mice away.  Don’t children often yearn to be something more?  Don’t they dream?  This book shares the desire of wanting something now, learning patience, and having to endure some trials along the way all within an autumn setting.

Richard Egielski’s illustrations show the happenings between the lines of the story.  Three children enter in the background of the first page and then later reappear as knights in shining armor to a pumpkin.  Margaret then proceeds to have the children carve the character into a fierce jack-o-lantern.

Savoring for reading and in writing for The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin:

  • Beginning:  With my reading like a writer lenses on, I am not sure of a technical term, but notice with me how Margaret stages this pumpkin’s smallness: using the word “little” almost as a noun with an accenting adjective – “a fat little, round little, yellow little pumpkin in a great big field.”
  • Alliteration sprinkled throughout the story
  • Sensory Delight – “There was a burning smell of leaves in the air and a crisp tingle that tickled the fat little pumpkin’s sides.”
  • Passage of time – from the size of an apple to a fierce fiery orange
  • Wondering – the story makes you ask questions and reread to understand what is being inferred