Life on Mars

May 1, 2018

Kids often wonder about life on the moon or other galaxies. Movies bring outer-space beings into a seemingly possible reality. Is there life on other planets? Jon Agee allows a child to explore the possibilities in his book, Life on Mars.

The astronaut believes there is life. He begins to explore. Time passes. Doubt begins to set in. The reader hears the character’s internal dialogue. Alongside the meandering astronaut, a silent story parallels his feelings.

This text lends itself to teaching kids life lessons of perseverance, confidence, affect, trial/error, discovery, celebration.

View the book trailer here.

View the book read aloud at this link. I think your kids will enjoy the sound effects.

Savorings for Life on Mars:

  • Internal Thinking
  • Silent parallel story
  • Two characters
  • Wonderings
  • Life lessons
  • Surprise Ending

Amazing Austrailian Animals

January 16, 2012

Marianne Berkes sculpts a rhythmic text in Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under. The text’s foundational structure is based upon the song, Over in the Meadow. Students will interact with the text, building fluency.

The Australian animal kingdom is the theme of this hybrid text. Each page features a mother and her babies, teaching specific vocabulary and verbs. Jill Dubin’s illustrations are adorable collages within the natural setting. She mingles texture into her illustrations, creating a 3D effect.

To connect your students to live animals, view the YouTube video of Steve Irwin at the Autralia Zoo Tour. (3 min. and 21 sec.)

Savorings for reading and in writing for Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under:

  • Math connections – counting 1 to 10
  • Musical rhythm
  • Repeating Structure
  • Class book – interactive writing about your class, stats, subject matter
  • Verbs – past tense with suffix -ed
  • Surprise ending

Dirty Joe the Pirate

July 27, 2011

Bill Harley creates a fun story in poetic rhyme (AABB) in Dirty Joe the Pirate: a True Story.  I love John Davis’s  illustrations; it seemed like I was reading a cartoon. Fun. Dirty Joe and his crew plunder ships seeking a special smelly treasure – dirty socks! The socks flew in the stern and bow as trophies of their dirty deeds.

One day, the crew happened upon another pirate ship. This pirate created fear the crew had never felt before, for this ship searched for another rare treasure – underwear! The illustration of the high-flying underroos cracked me up.

“It’s Stinky Annie,” someone said, “and her band of smelly varmits.”

When the two ships begin to raid one another, the men realized the girls were fighting barefoot. They are shocked and outwitted, stunned to weakness. As the two captains face each other, a familiar resemblance reveals a surprise – they are siblings! The ending will make you chuckle and surprise your students.

YouTube features Bill Harley performing the Ballad of Dirty Joe .  Enjoy!

Savorings for reading and in writing for Dirty Joe the Pirate: A True Story:

  • Alliteration – fluttered, flapped, flags
  • Word choice
  • Surprise ending
  • Conversation – humorous
  • Boy read that any girl will enjoy

Warsaw Community Public Library (2008)


September 17, 2009

The school year is up and running – five weeks into the year.  Teachers are beginning to stress about midterms that are due in a week and half.  Parent-teacher conferences begin two weeks from today, and the to-do list seems to be never ending.  School- a job that requires so much more than teaching academics.  As a literacy coach, I’m meeting with new and veteran teachers, reflecting on what is work and what is not.  Kids are the heart of what we do.  I mentioned to someone today that there is never a “free – normal” week.  Something is always coming up.

When I have to juggle many things here at school and add the schedule of a 3-child home, my mind sometimes has trouble focusing.  I feel like I have an attention problem; I’m having trouble focusing on one thing.  It’s hard to slow down and relax.  I guess that’s why the book title, Stuck in the Mud, caught my eye at the library. 

Stuck in the MudJane Clarke, along with illustrator Garry Parsons, has created a fun pattern book.  The rhyming narrative begins with the mother hen being frantic.  One chick is not accounted for.  She searches and to her dread, finds him stuck in the mud.  Being the responsible mother that she is, she searchs for help.

I love the way Jane Clarke jumps the reader into the action with her vivid verbs. 

The barn door burst open.  “Wake up!” squaked the hen. 

The hen jumbs in after her chick and… gets stuck.  So needing help, the cat comes to the rescue.  And…gets stuck.  Another call for help causes each animal to jump in and…get stuck.

Dog pushed and he pulled again and again…but soon he was stuck iwth the cat and the hen.

The ending just made me laugh.  The mother hen is trying so hard to help her chick and the rest of the rescuers come to help as well.  In the end, the chick is self-sufficient.  She has never been stuck, only enjoying playing in the mud.  She pops out and leaves the rest stuck in the mud. 

It made me reflect that I as a teacher, or mother, will often see a problem and jump in.  I don’t stop to think that maybe if I give him/her a little time to explain.  Conferencing is like that.  You want to jump in, looking at how to help the piece.  Stop.  Wait.  Wait some more.  Wait for the kid to tell you what he/she needs.  They might not be stuck at all.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Stuck in the Mud:

  • Setting Introduction – “Early in the morning, down on the farm, a new day was dawning, peaceful and calm.”
  • Schema – farm with animals (Ok this fits with Indiana at least)
  • Every Day Happening – mud; getting stuck; problem-solving
  • Illustrations – sid bars to introduce the next animal
  • Surprise Ending – the chick wasn’t stuck; he thought it was fun to play in the mud.

(Warsaw Comm. Public Library)