Spike: the Ugliest Dog in the Universe

March 23, 2018

A dog shares his story of being branded with a label, left abandoned and then rescued by a boy, who needs someone too. The boy tries to persuade his mom to let the dog stay.

Debra Frasier shares her story behind, Spike: the Ugliest Dog in the Universe, as the author and illustrator. She then invites you to write a story alongside you. (Teachers: scroll down and find several activities linked to this book.)

Savorings for Spike: the Ugliest Dog in the Universe:

  • Point of View – dog tells the story
  • Synonyms
  • Imperative Sentences
  • Persuasion – the boy and the dog both try to persuade Mom to let him stay
  • End of the Book – Instructional Essay
  • Acceptance – looking beyond the outward appearance
  • Illustrations – created with 129 parts of jeans as the outline frame

The Thing About Spring

March 11, 2018

Image result for The thing about springRabbit is worried he will miss snow and winter activities with spring coming. His friends present several different perspectives to persuade Rabbit that spring will be great too. Daniel Kirk shares his passion for writing on his website at this link. See a preview of The Thing About Spring and some teaching ideas at this link.

What are you doing, Rabbit?” Mouse called.

“Saving snow, while I still can,” Rabbit grumbled. “We won’t see any more of this until next year!”

“But spring is coming,” Bird chirped. “Aren’t you excited?


Savorings for The Thing About Spring:


  • Repeating PhraseThe thing about spring is …”
  • Persuasion – seeing a different perspective
  • Magic of 3words in a series, sentences
    • There are buds on the trees and new colors in the sky, and I feel warm and happy.”
  • Community Buildingfriendship; notice the positive
  • Character ChangeRabbit notices the surprises spring can bring
  • Science Connectiontalk about the changes in the seasons.
    • Pair it with another book about fall to winter; compare changes

What Dogs Want for Christmas

December 2, 2011

The adorable faced dog on the cover What Dogs Want for Christmas by Kandy Radzinski: Book Coversnatched my attention immediately.  Kandy Radzinski draws the personality out of each dog.  You get a sense of what each playful pup is like in just two poetic lines.

I read the book to several classes, ranging from first grade to fourth.  All the children feel in love with the book What Dogs Want for Christmas. The boys were giving me double thumbs up. Each child seemed to make a connection with at least one puppy, and everyone had a story.  I resorted to having the children give a vote if they owned the dog on the page. Excitement grew with each page.  I had a lot of fun and laughter while reading this book.

Savorings for reading and in writing for What Dogs Want for Christmas:

  • Point of View – a characteristic of each breed is woven into his request
  • Note/Letter format – “Dear Santa; Love, General
  • Poetic Narrative
  • Apostrophe usage
  • Illustrations – intriguingly real; drawing conclusions with the use of added symbols such as cat-faced buttons

The Field Beyond the Outfield

April 21, 2011

Field Beyond The Outfield (Scholastic Bookshelf)

The Field Beyond the Outfield is a different type of spin on the game of baseball. Many of the books I read on baseball have a connection to history; this one is not. A true fantasy, Mark Teague creates as if he tapped into a boy’s imagination. A boy who loves bugs more than baseball. A boy who lets his imagination go and becomes the hero in a truly remarkable game.

Ludlow Brebe is a boy who is great a science but lacks athletic ability. He enjoys exercising his mind more than his body.  He loves to daydream about creatures and have mysterious escapades.  Due to the encouragement of and respect for his parents, Ludlow joins a baseball team.

Ludlow is placed way out in the backfield, far away from the main action of the game. But his imagination does not stop. He begins to see another game, a baseball game beyond the outfield. Bugs are the main players and Ludlow is swept away. He becomes a player and hits a game winning hit.

Researching Mark Teague as an author, I found a wonderful author video. I find these interviews are great to show your students. In this video, Mark Teague shares how he began writing and how he uses his imaginations with illustrations.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Field Beyond the Outfield:

  • Specific language – pennants, big-league
  • Imagination – creative story
  • Every day activity
  • One day event
  • Point of View

I’m a Truck Driver

January 27, 2011

When I saw the new book, I’m a Truck Driver, the cover illustration grabbed my attention.  I knew my young boys would love the book.  A giant semi is on the front with a little boy at the wheel.  His dog is riding shotgun.  The book shouts, “Fun! Adventure! Imagination!”

I'm a Truck Driver by Jonathan London: Book CoverAnother bonus is the author, Jonathan London.  I’m never disappointed with the books he has authored.  Jonathan brings rich language for young children to grasp and use.  Like his famous fun Froggy books, Jonathan London adds some rhythm and rhyme to this text that children will enjoy reading.

David Parkins’s illustrations are large and lively.  Each machine has a personality personifies a child.

Savorings for reading and in writing for I’m a Truck Driver:

  • First person point of view – each machine introduces itself and what it does
  • See Saw text – first the girl is with her machine, then the boy with his
  • Onomatopoeia – “I’m a Garbage Truck driver.  Screech, thump, grind, bump!”
  • Mentor text – children can explain their object through the structure of this book
  • Vivid Verbs

PES and WPL new book


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


July 24, 2009

Robin Pulver and Lynne Rowe Reed collaborate (again) to create a wonderful text that helps teach a complex spelling skill.  In Silent Letters Loud and Clear, the font and characters show how many English words have a silent letter.  As the story is being told, the silent letters are outlined and not filled in.  For example, in the word ‘one’, the ‘e’ is shown with an outlined font.

“Practice, practice, practice!  Good spellers are made, not born!” said Mr. Wright.

Lynne Rowe Reed captures the attention of children with her vivid cartoon figures.  Even the text is in different shades.  I definitely believe this book can increase the retention of spelling silent-lettered words.

Silent Letters Loud and Clear


When the children complain how difficult spelling is, their teacher, Mr. Wright, suggests they should write a letter to the editor.  As they finish, the silent letters decide they will do away and the letter to the editor becomes a disaster.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Silent Letters Loud and Clear:

  • Letter to the editor – the children receive a response to their email
  • Persuasion
  • Spelling – importance of practice
  • Silent letters – final e, k, w, gh, b, p, a, l, h
  • Personification – the mixture of an everyday happening (school) with a non-living objects (letters)  becoming characters

Also check out these other books by Robin and Lynne:

Storm is Coming

June 23, 2009

Heather Tekavec creates a fun story based on point of view in Storm is Coming.  The title page illustration, by Margaret Spengler, gives a foreshadowing of a thunderstorm approaching. 

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The farmer begins, “Storm is coming.  We better get the animals safely in the barn!”  Once the animals were in the barn, the cat awakens and asks, “Who is Storm?” 

Speculation begins between the animals.  Who is Storm?  Each animal shares some terrible attribute they think the animal might be.  As the weather becomes bleak, the animals are ironically encouraged.  They believe “Storm” will be driven away.

“The wind will blow Storm away.”

“The rain will wash away our tracks, so Storm can’t follow us.”

In the end, “Storm” never arrives and the animals cheer. 

Savorings for reading and in writing for Storm is Coming:

  • Show don’t Tell – “The cows just lay in the corner and moaned.”
  • Tag on Said – “Round ’em up!” the farmer called as Dog ran circles around the sheep.
  • Past and Present Verbs – “The barking, the flapping, the bleating, the mooing awoke cat from her nap in the hay.  She stretched and yawned and opened one eye.”
  • Magic of 3
  • Character Emotion – “And he must be-e-e very sca-a-a-ry!” the sheep stammered, starting to shiver.”

The Beauty of Snow

December 3, 2008

Winter is upon us here in Indiana, and although I do not enjoy the cold, icy winds, I do love the beauty of the fresh fallen snow.  The whiteness blankets the barren lands and brown, sleeping ground.  As I looked out my window at some gently falling flakes, I was reminded of a beautiful book, Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Samms II and Jean Stoick.  First Snow in the Woods is a companion book.

A Photographic Fantasy (Nature)      A Photographic Fantasy

Carl R. Samms II and Jean Stoick are fantastic photographers of nature’s beauty.  I’m intrigued by the brilliance of the photos.  If you have an Elmo, you students will enjoy seeing the photos in an enlarged fashion.  My favorite picture is of the cardinal in flight.

The snow has fallen softly in the woods, but something is amiss.  The animals sense a stranger and begin to share their feelings, thoughts, and concerns.  This book shows such great voice.  “Who-hoo’s in the woods?  Where?  Where did the jays say?  Where is he?” asked the Owl of Many Questions.  Your students can predict who the stranger might be.  The narrative creates a sense of tension among the animals.  As the reader, you gain an empathy for the animals, who are trying to be brave.  In the end, a snowman is the stranger.  The photographs will draw your attention in.

To learn a little about the authors, view the below YouTube video. I think your students would enjoy seeing the authors in person.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Stranger in the Woods:

  • Voice
  • Point of View – the animals share their perspective
  • Non-fiction brought alive
  • Publishing – the placement of the words to add to the movement of the animals
  • Punctuation – creative to show a sense of tension:  “You’ll not be volunteering me!  No sir-ree!”  said the scared rabbit.  “Is…is he watching me?”


October 18, 2008

In preparation for the upcoming elections, I have been encouraging my teachers to share read alouds that will build background knowledge of the process.  I have favorites:  If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier and Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio.  Both books have an author’s note that shares facts about the Electoral College and how it works.

9780807535448If I Ran for Presidentby Catherine Stier speaks to the reader in first person.  Each part begins with “If I ran for president…” and then proceeds to illustrate how he/she might be chosen as the political candidate, then campaign across the USA, and make speeches plus debates.  The characters change between male and female as well as different ethnic backgrounds.  The characters are children though, thus connecting with the students we work with.  It has such great voice. Catherine ends the book by saying, “And what would I do when I became president?  Well, that’s another story.”  I look forward to the next book in this hopeful series.  What a great way to grab a child’s interest and explain it in clearer terms than what they are hearing through the media.

Grace for Presidentby Kelly DiPucchio is set within a narrative structure.  Grace comes to school one day when her teacher rolls out a poster of all of the American presidents.  She is shocked to learn that there has never been a woman president.  After some reflection, Grace announces that she wants to be president. The story continues with the elementary holding an election.  Along with campaigning and speeches, the teachers assign students with a state and its number of electoral votes.  Students gain a better understanding of the electoral college system.  I love the ending.  Read the book to see what happens.