Our Tree Named Steve

August 6, 2011

Alan Zweibel captures the love of a growing through a familiar icon – a tree in Our Tree Named Steve. This tree isn’t ordinary though – it’s huge, beautiful, and versatile. 

Dad writes a letter to his three kids, who are visiting Grandma. In the letter, he reminds them of memories Steve has shared with them. As the letter comes to a close, Dad explains that Steve crashed and now has transformed into another special place – “in a different tree at the other end of our yard.”

David Catrow warms your heart with his delightful illustrations. He brings to life the personified tree-friend. Steve, lovingly named by the two-year old, became a pillar for the family. His large presence provided a place to play, relax, and share. Through the years, Steve stays strong and comforting.

This text crafts the ordinary events of our lives into special memories. You could use Our Tree Named Steve as a mentor text for kid’s writing childhood memories. Another idea is to choose a favorite object and write about its uses.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Our Tree Named Steve:

  • Letter format
  • Comma in series
  • Figurative language – “haircut that made him look like a big thumb
  • Personification – the tree was their friend
  • Surprise Ending – a tree house after the crash



April 3, 2010


Pamela Duncan Edwards brings fun into her texts.  Henry Cole has illustrated the majority of her books, including this one,  Muldoon.  Muldoon is a dog.  He loves his family and does many things for them. 

The story begins with Muldoon being chosen to work for the family.  Pamela narrates the story from Muldoon’s point of view.  The dog is given the personified quality of an employee at a job.  Muldoon has working conditions, supervises the children, and protects the family.  Henry Cole show the family’s point of view through the pictures, which is a contrast to what Muldoon is sharing with his reader.  Cute and very inviting as a read aloud for all ages.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Muldoon:

  • Dog’s point of view – “big blue kennel”, “private apartment”
  • Inferring in the illustrations – the dog is eating the cat food to keep the cat on its diet
  • Personification – the entire text weaves the dog’s viewpoint as a person who has been hired by the family
  • Magic of 3
  • Sequence of events – highlights snapshots of events in the Muldoon’s daily life

Sunshine through Poetry

January 9, 2009

Reading the copyright page (yes, I’m always looking for the dedication and any author’s note, so sometimes I check the  copyright page for information.  I’m not crazy), it stated, “portions of the text previously were published as a the poem “To Be Like the Sun” in Getting Used to the Dark:  26 Night Poems.”  After reading this book, I’m interested in reading the poetry book.

to be like the sun by Susan Marie Swanson (and yes, the title is in all lower case) has a lovely child-like innocence voice that shares her curiosity and interest in a sunflower seed.  Listen to the beginning:

Hello, little seed,

striped gray seed.

Do you really know everything

about sunflowers?

The little girl talks to the plant.  Here is an opportunity to talk about living things versus non-living.  Another possible opportunity is to look at how the author tries to make this living thing like a person.  this personification amplified in the text draws me in.

I hear the rain chattering

to all the seeds underground.

Are you listening?

I can’t hear you say

anything back.”

Margaret Chodos-Irvine illustrates the book that invites children in to read and feel apart of the experience of planting a seed and observing it’s growth.

In the end, she reflects, “I remember how hard you worked to be like the sun.”  She remembers what the sunflower seed had done, very sequential, but not a “step by step” text.  Time passes with the illustrated seasons and authored word choice.  The text flows so smoothly from one line to the next that when you read the end, you smile, thinking of sunshine.

Savorings for reading and in writing for to be like the sun:

  • Personification – “All the instructions are written in your heart.”  (I love that line.)
  • Science – questioning, hypothesizing, observing
  • Size Comparison – “Your picture is smaller than my had, and a sunflower seed is smaller than a word
  • Voice – “All these seeds – are you tired of holding them up?  What makes them so heavy?  Is it light caught inside you?
  • Simile – “A bud like hand closed tight around a treasure

Snowmen and Children

December 10, 2008

Children love snow. They love to jump and play and create with snow.  I remember as a child making a snow igloo once.  Was I crazy?  No, just having child-like adventure.  Children look at the world differently and observe ordinary things in an unordinary way.   Snowmen at Night is a story like that.  It begins with a child saying, What do snowmen do at night?

When I first read this book by Caralyn Buehner, I scoped out the book jacket.  Authors will leave clues to where their ideas come from.  (I at least feel like I know the author a little better if I read the information about him or her.)  I was not disappointed with this one.  Caralyn said that her son looked out at the snowman he had built the day before and wondered what happened to him, now droopy and lopsided.  The picture of that original snowman was there on the book jacket too.  How cute and creative – a question a child asks spurring an idea for a book.

Snowmen At Night begins with a boy wondering what happened to his snowman.  His active imagination comes to life as you turn the page and see the snowmen becoming personified.  Mark Buehner uses his illustrations to enhance the playfulness of the snowmen.



Savorings for reading and in writing for Snowmen at Night:

  • Perspective – a child’ imagination tells the story in first person
  • Poetic Prose
  • Colon – used in a couple of places in the book; for Snowmen at Christmas, a semi-colon is used.
  • A fun read!