What James Said

February 22, 2018

Image result for what james saidRemember the telephone game? One person whispers to another, who shares it with someone else until it circles back to the owner. The final message is never like the beginning statement. Although you laugh at the ridiculous outcome, it’s not a laughing matter when rumors are spread about you.

In this story’s documentary, a friend’s compliment gets twisted into something hurtful. What James Said provides the opportunity for discussion regarding peaceful resolutions. And, who do you believe – a friend or a stranger? Watch this preview as a class and predict if they will become friends.

The read the book or view the story on YouTube.

Savorings for What James Said:

  • Grabber lead
  • Character traits
  • Varied sentences
  • Transitions in a day
  • Tension
  • Prediction
  • Conflict between friends
  • Restorative practice

(PES library book)

Museum Trip

February 7, 2011
Cover Image

Illustrators have a unique gift they give readers – a prelude to the story.  Sometimes the prelude shares a character trait.  Sometimes it paints the setting scene, and sometimes it’s foreshadowing the main idea.

Barbara Lehman, author of Red Book,  introduces her male character on the title page.  I will name him Joe.  Joe is facing you, smiling, as if inviting us on his journey.  His innocent , sweet smile made me wonder what Barbara had in store.  Looking more closely at the illustration, I notice that one of Joe’s shoe laces is untied.  I began to wonder:  is this a clue?

Museum Trip is a wordless book that makes the reader speculate and predict.  For young children, this book has depth in comprehension.  The reader gets to see into Joe’s imagination.  He journeys into the exhibits he sees.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Museum Trip:

  • Wondering – will Joe reconnect with his group?
  • Everyday happenings – field trip; getting lost
  • Prediction
  • Story elements – children in all grade levels can share their “story” from the illustrative version.  You can teach just one aspect of detail or add-on to create a whole narrative
  • Inferring character traits

Telling the Truth

March 7, 2009

Need a story about how lying can be hurtful?  One of my colleagues shared  an older book with me called Sam, Bangs, and Mooshine (c. 1966) written and illustrated by the late Evaline Ness.

Our students often like to tell stories.  Imagination is a great skill.  I tell my students the one place they can make up whatever story they want is in Writer’s Workshop.  Each can use their voices to paint a story of their own.  They can be creative and catch the attention of their readers.

In the story, Sam, the little girl, lets her imagination go.  She is creative, but she doesn’t write stories.   Her father warns Sam many times to stop the “moonshine”.  The danger, as with Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine, is when a child deceives someone and is not truthful.   Sam does just that; she tells them to a little boy who believes her story of a baby kangaroo.  Thomas goes looking for the animal every time.  One day he goes looking and nearly drowns.  Sam does learn her lesson, as I would hope our students would as well.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine:

  • Reality versus Fantasy
  • Lesson on Truth
  • Predictions – the book provides the opportunity for  predicting what could happen with each “moonshine” Sam tells.
  • Community – the book can be a great sounding board for class discussion of the topic of truth
  • Story ideas

A Kid’s Aeronautic Dream

January 17, 2009

I often like to find books that are about kids being creative.  The cover of  Violet the Pilot caught my eye:   a girl in a homemade flying machine. How  cool is that!  She’s blowing a bubble, and her dog is her passenger.

As usual, I check the book jacket to learn more about the author, Steve Breen.  Since I am not an avid comic strip reader (except for Charlie Brown), I had no clue that Steve Breen had won a Pulitzer Prize.  He is on staff at San Diego Union-Tribune, creating the nationally syndicated comic strip “Grand Avenue”.

As a kid, Steve made modeled airplanes.  He added that somehow “they never turned out quite like the pictures on the box.”  From these experiences, he thought of a story.  Remind our students that everyday activities can spark an idea for writing.

Violet was a mechanical genius.”  She worked with different parts, building machines.  the she ventured into flying machines of all sorts.  Her dog, Orville (from the Wright Brothers, I presume), is always by her side.   I love the way Steve creates a character who uses her imagination to create.  the inventors in your crowd will love seeing the contraptions Violet makes.

Violet has dreamed of being a star pilot.  Her opportunity arises with the local flying show.  As Violet heads off, she sees a Boy Scout troop in distress.  Helping them, she misses her chance at the air show and returns home disappointed.  You can feel her disappointment.

Steve Breen doesn’t end the story there.  As good scouts, they bring a crowd to her house and honor Violet for saving the day – a hero!  I’m glad that doing an act of kindness, even in a fictional story, is given honor.  We need to shower our children with stories of bucket-filling.  What a better world we would have.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Violet the Pilot:

  • Suddenly – interrupts the flow of thought
  • Word play – “wing-a-ma-jig”
  • Varying punctuation – parenthesis, hyphen, quotation marks, ellipses
  • Character feeling – “We’ve missed the air show.”  She turned her plane toward home and sighed.  It was a miserable feeling.
  • Predictions – “And not just any old machines…”;   “Violet knew she had to help…fast.”


October 22, 2008

Another Halloween favorite is Porkenstein by Kathryn Lasky.  Many of our boys love action, fantasy, and monsters.  The book is a combination of ideas from Frankenstein and The Three Little Pigs.  Kathryn molds the story into a funny, yet enticing text.

I do not enjoy the physical or chemical sciences much, but many children do.  This comical book uses scientific terms that can help build background knowledge or create a better picture understanding of such terms as beaker, laboratory, and incubator.

The friendship theme appears from the beginning paragraph:  “Dr. Smart Pig was a famous inventor, but he didn’t have any friends.”  When I read books, my eye searches for any possible way to connect the book with children.  With many legislative standards being placed on teachers, we have to be creative to overlap subjects to allow children more exposure to ideas, more reflection, more possibilities than the obvious.  Porkenstein is one example of this, as in my last post on The Hallo-Weiner by Dav Pilkey.  As you savor books, look for several avenues the book may take you.  Your students will begin to do the same.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Porkenstein:

  • Vivid verbs – “grunts, squirt, peered
  • Problem/solution – three tries and then a problem
  • Passage of time – “Halloween night was getting closer…, It was almost sunset when he heard…”
  • Character thinking:  questioning self – “Dr. Smart Pig was worried.  Maybe inventing a friend wasn’t such a good idea after all.
  • Show don’t tell – “Suddenly there was a scuffling sound – followed by a huge gulp and a rumbling belch.  Then silence.”