Writing Territories: 3 Bear Books

March 31, 2018

Writing territories are topics each of us knows well. These topics we know well or enjoy learning more about. One writing territory I enjoy is baseball. I have read many picture books on the topic: narrative- first person, second person, third person, informational, historical fiction, biographies, ABC book, 101 Reasons, specific professional team. One topic; many forms of writing.

Kids need to see they can use their same topic in many writing forms. Comparing books is a great way to show children how they can explore writing techniques.

Bear and Duck by Katy Hudson is a fictional story about a bear who tries being a duck. An unlikely friendship forms.

Savorings for Bear and Duck:

  • Power of 3
  • Sequential steps
  • How To
  • Hyphenated words
  • Encouragement
  • Friendship

Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead is about a bear who wants to share his story but helps his friends get ready for winter. Spring comes. Bear does random acts of kindness for his friends.

Savorings for Bear Has a Story to Tell:

  • Story elements – great as a mentor text
  • Sesnory description
  • Love of Story
  • Hibernation
  • Fast-forward Time
  • Acts of Kindness
  • Friendship

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson presents a different approach to bears. A little boy is on adventure to find bears with the reader speaking to him in second-person narrative. Love the voice in this book! Enjoy!

Savorings for A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting:

  • Field Notes/ Writer’s notebook
  • Reader talks to the character
  • Second Person Narrative
  • Compare/ Contrast
  • Voice
  • Humorous


Heat Wave

June 30, 2014

It’s hot.

In Indiana, the heat index is fairly normal in the 80’s. The humidity has been above 50%, tolerable but definitely moist when pulling weeds this morning. But these temperatures are nothing in comparison to a day in Lumberville.

In Heat Wave by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Betsy Lewin, the towns people are doing everything possible to keep cool. I connected Patricia Polacco’s books with this book when the people sleep outside. No air conditioning available during this time period. (I am so thankful for ours right now.) Children will understand this book. It’s an everyday happening – activities you do in the summer when it is hot.

Sun sizzled. Hair frizzled. It was a sweltering day in Lumberville….”

Set in a day of the week text structure, Eileen focuses on each individual activity – cooking in the basement, hair cut, splashing in the wash tub. Finally, the people sleep outside near the river, on the fire escape, or on the roof. Each had the same dream – rain.

This book reminds me of Come on Rain by Karen Hesse.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Heat Wave:

  • Transitions
  • Snapshot – one moment in time
  • Proper names with title clauses – Mike Morello, the mailman,
  • Varied sentences

Eileen and her husband, Jerry, share about their writing lives in this 5:30 minute YouTube video.





Cat and Bear

November 28, 2011

The illustrations by Anne Mortimer are exquisitely life-like in Cat and Bear by Carol Greene.

Cat is annoyed that his child has chosen to love a stuffed bear instead of himself. You can sense Cat’s feeling of distaste. Cat attempts to hide bear, but mother finds bear each time.  Until one day…

Cat took one look at him and felt sick. “The Child already has a furry friend,” he growled. “Me. Bear is unnecessary.”

On a windy day, Cat seeks his revenge, and Bear is lost outside in leaves.  The Child misses the bear.  Cat tries to ignore his thoughts and guilt,  but sees the pain his Child is feeling.  In the end, Cat begrudgingly searches, finds, and retrieves Bear.  Dragging him to the Child, Cat is rewarded with a kiss of love from the Child. In the end, Cat learns that love can be shared and is multiplied.

Reading through Anne Mortimer’s bio on her website, I learned she is famous for her cat paintings. I didn’t realize she illustrated another one of my favorite books for Christmas called A Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown. For the cat lovers, below is a beautiful video of Anne’s gallery.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Cat and Bear:

  • Character description – the lovable Bear and the unaccepting Cat
  • Voice of the cat – I love the cat’s finicky personality is portrayed
  • Synthesizing
  • Story detail – a wonderful interweaving of character thought, action, and dialogue
  • Sensory description –  soggy, snuggled
  • Community building

SOL: Morning Noises

July 12, 2011

Quiet mornings are delightful, especially in the summer. I sit at my favorite spot at the end of the couch near the windows. The sun shines all around, sprinkling joy on the flowers outside. A gentle breeze waves hello to the leaves and grass blades. And the birds. Their sweet songs bless my ears with a cheerfulness.

My quiet time for reflection, prayer, and writing was interrupted this morning by my cat. Kip was lazily sleeping on the coach near me, when suddenly, he perked. His ears twitched and he was upright. I thought, “I don’t hear anything. What’s unusual?”

As Kip jumped to the open window, his eyes were alert on the tree. I looked. Awe, now I hear it! A bird was busily pecking at the bark, hunting for its morning’s breakfast. Only when my ears were tuned in did I notice the distinct tap-tap-tap it made.

I smiled. Kip and I were kindred spirit, enjoying the delights of a quiet morning.

Secret Place

June 20, 2011

Secret Place

Among the concrete buildings, a young boy finds a small island of wildlife. As the river runs through the concrete embankments, a small marsh hides around a telephone pole. Ted Rand paints the beauty within the noisy city.  The boy and a few nature lovers observe with admiration. How did such wildlife of ducks and birds come to be? A flashback of the wilderness history is painted in their thoughts in the book, Secret Place

Eve Bunting uses her storytelling  gift to warm every nature-lover’s heart. The “secret place” allows for a spotlight of hope, life and peach within the bustle of the busy city. The book will open the reader’s eyes to the nature that surrounds him/her.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Secret Place:

  • Setting Lead
  • Repeating Line – “in the heart of the city where I live
  • Compare/Contrast – noise of the city versus the noise of the secret place
  • Figurative Language – similes, personification
  • Sensory Description

3 Cowboys and a Baby

April 28, 2011

Mike Brownlow writes and illustrates a creative, fun read that both boys and girls will find enjoyable in Way Out West With a Baby.

Three rough cowpokes, Dan, Dom, and Deke, are surprised one night with the sound of a crying baby. They deduct the little one somehow fell out of a wagon. (Notice the illustration on the third page. You can see the wheel of the covered wagon hitting a rock, causing a baby to tumble out.) Use to rustling cattle, each were challenged with meeting the needs of the small one.

Agreeing the baby needed to be returned to his mother, they ride through the night. A thunderstorm crashed on the cowboys.

But still they rode determinedly.”

The mother was thrilled to be reunited with her son. The cartoonish western frames will have you smiling along, feeling the adventure. The rhythmic words allow you to ride on the story, smiling and enjoying the adventure.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Way Out West with a Baby:

  • Hybrid text – poetic rhyme and a narrative mix
  • Cause and effect – storm, baby’s needs
  • Conversation within the poem
  • Character Descriptions – springy, unruly hair
  • Sensory Description – storm, prairie

Pumpkin Eye

October 31, 2009

Denise Fleming introduces Halloween and its activities in Pumpkin Eye.  The text is written with short phrases that rhyme.  The words are so beautifully placed.  I marvel at the way Denise creates some frolicking fun and entices an eerie mood.  Much thought was put into the placement of the individual words.  Several authors I’ve heard speak share how each word counts within a shortened text.  I wonder how long it took Denise to create this rhythmic rhyme.

At first, I thought this book was mainly for younger grades.  but just as I have spent time examing this text, upper grade students could do so as well.   Word play, placement of words, is an activity to study and contemplate with our students.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Pumpkin Eye:

  • Repeating phrase – “Trick or Treat  ____ Pounding feet, jack-o’-lanterns line the street
  • Sensory detail – sight, sounds, feeling; swooping bats, hissing cats… (I find it interesting words ending in ‘ed’ or’ ing’ are not just verbs as I was taught, but they can be adjectives too.)
  • Parts of Speech – with short phrases, you can examine and categorize them:  verbs, nouns, adjectives,
  • Verbs vs. Adjectives – pounding feet or feet pounding
  • Rhyming  – excellent for a poetry study

Watermelon Fun

June 26, 2009

Excellent text for boys!

When I think of a cool, refreshing snack in summer, watermelon comes to mind.  As a kid, I was always annoyed with the black seeds that pelted the delicious fruit.  Yet, it was always fun to spit them out.  At the dinner table, I had to be more proper, placing the seeds in a little pile on my plate.

When I saw the cover of Peter Spit a Seed at Sue, John Manders‘s illustrations invited a read.  What fun!

Peter Spit a Seed at Sue

Jackie French Koller created a playful tale of four friends, two boys and two girls,  being bored on a summer’s day.  Spitting watermelon seeds becomes the fun that spins into a great adventure.

Thinking of children, I think they would connect with this story.  Many will say they have encountered boring days.  I love the way that Jackie Koller has taken an every day happening and spun some fun into it.  Our students can do the same.  As a read aloud, you will invited laughter from your children.  Have fun remembering!

Savorings for reading and in writing for Peter Spit a Seed at Sue:

  • Verbs – chomped, slurped, gulped, burped
  • Alliteration – “You pepper Pet!  I’ll splatter Sue!”
  • Apostrophe for not so familiar contractions- zippin’, zingin’, let ’em fly!
  • Mischievous – reminds me of what a boy (my boys) might do;

I turned and grinned at Mary Lou.  How could we help but join in, too?

  • Humorous – hilarious illustrations; boisterous read

Susie spit one back at Pete,

Which struck and stuck right on his seat.

(Warsaw Community Public Library)

Cats and Holiday Decorations

December 23, 2008

We have a cat named Kip in our home, and he has enjoyed the holiday decorations.  Our cat enjoys batting at the tree ornaments, jumping into boxes, and tearing the tissue paper.  Kip’s eyes will light up and friskiness arises.  He’s fun to watch, yet annoying when wrapping presents.

Margaret Wise Brown must have a cat as she has created a delightful book called A Pussycat’s Christmas.  This book is not a new one; oh, but it’s delicious!  (Yes, reading a good book is like chocolate to me, delighting my mind’s taste buds.)

Each page leads you to the next page; the last line seems to begin the theme of the next.  The sensory detail in this book is exquisite.  I do not find many books alerting the reader’s senses to smell, to sounds, to sight like A Pussycat’s Christmas.

And could she hear the crackle and slip of white tissue paper?”

“Tissue paper rustled.  Nuts cracked.  Scissors cut.”

“…where she could smell the sharp tangy smell of Christmas tree and candles and nuts and raisins and apples and tangerines.”

Margret Wise Brown interweaves varied sentence lengths with specific word choice and the Magic of Three.  The page layout is unique – almost like a poem, yet a narrative essay.  The lines stair-step down, guiding the reader’s voice and reflection.

The illustrations by Anne Mortimer compliment the text so richly. (I found that Anne Mortimer has illustrated many cat books. )  The two-page layout is very creative.  The left page’s illustrations flank the text as columns.  The right page is a complete illustration of the cat and her view of the setting.  The only page that isn’t like that is the middle.  Only two lines are highlighted:  “She saw it!  She saw the sleigh go jingling by.”  Enjoy this delightful book!

Savorings for reading and in writing for A Pussycat’s Christmas:

  • Voice – talks to the reader; the use of questions and varied sentences invite the reader to respond
  • Question Lead – “It was Christmas.  How could you tell?
  • Font Manipulation – adds to the illustrations and brings the sound to life
  • Transitions – the text flows so smoothly
  • Sensory Description



Christmas in the Country

December 16, 2008

I had the privilege to attend a two day conference with Penny Kittle culminating today.  Penny shared her passion and experiences with reading and writing workshop.  For two days, I sponged her stories and strategies and ideas, learning and reflecting and agreeing.  One idea Penny uses often with her students is spring-boarding a quick write with a poem.  One such poem she shared is called “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon.  Here’s a taste of the beginning of this poem:

I am from clothespins,

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.

I am from the dirt under the back porch.”

The sensory detail comes alive in the lines of the poem.

Stacked in the books I want to write about, I read Christmas in the Country last night.  As I was rereading and savoring lines, I realized I connected this book to the poem I had read.    When I read this book, I feel as if I’m reading a “Where I Am From” story about the author.  Cynthia Rylant creates a sensory-detailed narrative essay that alerts my attention to detail and sparks memories of my past Christmases.  The weather weaves its way into the story.  The cold winter outside changes to the warmth with a home inside.

During the savorings of lines and books, I sometimes daydream what the author might say to me if we were talking.  If I had the opportunity to ask Cynthia to write a poem from her book , I wonder if it might sound like this:

I am from my grandparents’ country home,

from wool and mothballs.

I am from foam balls glued with green glitter,

soft angels

ornaments reminding me of my whole life.

Cynthia did not compose the above poem; it’s just my mythical envision as I read her lyrical words.  The story’s countryside breathes beauty through the white, smooth snow.  “Everyone is ready for something really special.”  Somehow, the holidays allow us to remember, to reflect – and savor the moment.  Take a moment and read Cynthia Rylant’s book and enjoy her memory of a Christmas long ago.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Christmas in the Country:

  • One sentence paragraphs – highlights for emphasis
  • Description with small moment examples to support
  • Compare/contrast
  • Symbolism – family warms the heart and protects
  • Threadback – “But in that closet of wool and mothballs, there would be boxes of old ornaments, waiting.”