The Water Princess

April 2, 2018

Water is a basic necessity for every child to grow, for every person to live. The Water Princess is a beautiful book to bring awareness of the water crisis in other countries. The book is based on the childhood experience of Georgie Badiel, an international model. Georgie Badiel shared her story with Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds, who were inspired to write and illustrate the book to support the effort of bringing clean water to the people.



Meet Georgie Badiel and hear her passion to get bring a basic need of water to people who walk miles daily to get this precious commodity.

Savorings for The Water Princess:

  • Power of 3
  • Visualizing
  • One moment in time
  • Sensory Description
  • Varied Sentences (including a semi-colon)
  • Advocacy
  • Last two pages show actual photos of the the people getting and carrying water.
  • Social Studies link: climate, culture

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

Boy + Bot

February 25, 2018

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino,  is a delightful tale of friendship. These two become friends despite their differences. They engage in fun activities, have compassion for each other, and work out problems. The tone of the book invites readers to think about characteristics of a friend, how to overlook differences, and possibly try something new. For some extension activities, visit RIF.

To hear the entire book, view on the YouTube link.

Savorings for Boy + Bot:

  • Synonyms
  • Varied sentence length
  • Sequence of events
  • Past tense verbs – /ed/
  • Parallel structure
  • Comparison – man vs. machine
  • Wonderings – Was the boy imagining a friendship with his toy robot? Notice the illustrated toys in his bedroom.
  • Friendship
  • Compassion

How BIG Could Your PUMPKIN Grow?

November 17, 2014

Image result for how big could your pumpkin growThe author, Wendell Minor, invites the reader to imagine the largeness of a familiar place by using a pumpkin as a common object. He crafts How BIG is Your Pumpkin? by sprinkling imagination with historic as well as present happenings. For example, a pumpkin lingering in the background of a rocket’s take-off at Kennedy’s Space Center. Is the time period when the first rocket flew into space or a recent take-off? A fall fiesta fair happens in New Mexico while a pumpkin regattas happen in the east. Did you know the largest pumpkin weight is 2009 pounds? Now that’s a BIG pumpkin.

Each two-page spread features a scene found in the United States. A question is posed to the reader, prompting deeper thinking about the illustrated scene. I imagine students will enjoy googling the topic for more information. My favorite is the Texas oil fields scene. The pumpkin is featured in a jumbo cowboy hat.

Savorings for reading and in writing for How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow?

  • Synonyms for Big – immense, astronomical, colossal
  • Geography connection – the back of the book hosts snippets of US landmarks
  • Types of Sentences – primarily questions
  • Vocabulary
  • Voice – “-but watch out -“


Red-Eyed Tree Frog

January 28, 2012

Isn't he cute?

Reptiles and amphibians are not creatures I want as pets. My boys have always liked them, so we would read out them and observe them at the zoo. Frogs are creatures I can tolerate. No, I don’t want to touch them, but their coloring is brilliant and stunning. They are down-right cute (as long as they are behind glass). I guess that’s why I fell in love with the book,  Red-Eyed Tree Frog. It is one of my favorite touchstone texts.

Scholastic copyright 1999

The shortened text is packed with rich writerly craft. Joy Cowley introduces the red-eyed tree frog to children in a connecting way. She focuses on the way the creature needs food, just like humans. She invites children to interact with the text by asking key questions. In the back of the book, Joy features two pages of information to deepen the curiosity of the young biologists.

Nic Bishop exquisite photos will hook your children. He allows the reader to meet the frog up close and personal. His photos of the frog waking, jumping, and finally eating are focused and intimate. The book will be well sought after by all your young readers.

Savorings for reading and writing for Red-Eyed Tree Frog:

  • Compare/Contrast
  • Setting lead
  • Interjection
  • Compound subject
  • Pronoun usage
  • Varied Sentences
  • Alliteration
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Ellipse
  • Sequential
  • Bookend ending

Yo-Yo Fan

August 20, 2009

Daniel Pinkwater must have enjoyed yo-yos during his childhood.  He has created a fun story of determination.  Yo-Yo Man is definitely a boy read.  The storyline has conflict, action, and a desire to be number one.  I must admit that it’s not a book I personally love; but I know my sons and they loved it.

The story begins with a bullying incident.  Kids deal with this issue more than we’d like to admit.  The book could be a springboard for talking about the issue.  The boy does not let the bullying keep him down.  When the yo-yo man comes and performs a spectacular show, the boy determines to be the best yo-yo contestant.  He works hard, practicing over and over.  A parallel story is happening within the classroom.  His teacher loves spelling and he’s intimidated.  Once again, he determines to be the best student possible and practices.  Wouldn’t we like to have him in our class?

Savorings in reading and in writing for Yo-Yo Man:

  • Persuasion – Ramon:  the yo-yo champion does a demonstration and the kids go wild.  He hands out a book – free of charge – with the tricks.  “On the back is stamped – Available at Bill’s Toyland.”
  • Comma in a Series – “I buy a smooth, shiny, heavy, perfect, beautiful, genuine deep red one.”  “They are spinning and bobbing, whizzing and bouncing, sailing through the air.
  • Sensory detail – “The strings make a whispering, humming sound.”
  • Alliteration – “And for good measure, I am going to memorize more spelling words than anyone else and make mincemeat of Mrs. Mousetrap.”
  • Ending with Magic of 3 – “Do I have to say it?  I am perfect.  I am beautiful.  I do every trick, right to the end, right to the double flip-flop flying bouncing sleeper.”

(Warsaw Comm. Public Library)

A Story of Baghdad

February 27, 2009

James Rumford stated, “The story of Silent Music was born in the spring of 2003, as Baghdad fell and its citizens struggled to form a new Iraq.”

Silent Music:  A Story of Baghdad is told in first person by the young character, Ali.  He shares what he likes as a boy – soccer, music, and writing.  Ali interweaves the challenges of learning the Islamic calligraphy letters to the present day bombings and war in Baghdad. This book would provide some background knowledge for current events.

The illustrations are distinct.  I find the background print almost overbearing, yet hold clues from the text.  On one page I noticed a United States soldier with some young soccer players.  The book gave me a glimpse into the Islamic culture, as did the author’s note in the back.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Silent Music:  A Story of Baghdad:

  • Transitions – “But most of all, I love calligraphy –
  • Magic of 3
  • Varied sentence lengths
  • Words used a a unique part of speech – parent-rattling
  • Love of Writing
  • Simile – “writing a long sentence is like watching a soccer player in slow motion…
  • Multi-cultural – background knowledge for Baghdad, Iraq and Islamic culture

(Warsaw Public Library)

Great Joy

December 21, 2008

The voice of Frances, a young curious girl, reaches out and grabs my attention in this book by Kate DiCamillo, Great Joy.  She notices life around her during the busy season of Christmas.  She notices someone who most see as invisible, the organ grinder man and his monkey.  Frances is intrigued and asks her mother question after question, wanting answers that only a child seems to ask.  Every little detail is important; but to a parent, the questions often seem to be a burden.  I can almost hear the mother sigh in the story.  I smile hearing the motherly tone reply, “Oh Frances.  Don’t ask me questions I can’t answer.”  But Frances is not swayed; she ponders:  where do the man and the monkey sleep?  I wonder:  what catches a child’s attention?

Bagram Ibatoulline paints the setting of Great Joy in the 1950’s, I’d presume (it’s definitely in the past with the car and hair styles).   I just realized that he also illustrated The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, also written by Kate DiCamillo.  The text, apart from the illustrations, could be set in modern times  (I’m not so sure about the organ grinder and his monkey being present day, but I’ve seen other instrumentalists playing on a street corner).  No matter.  The theme of the story is for all time.  The act of  noticing, acknowledging, respecting human life through a kind word resonates from Kate’s heart in her narrative.  Her dedication adds, “With great gratitutde for open doors….”

I think this book can lead to some interesting conversations.  Helping mankind.  Being respectful.  Having an open heart.  May we remember this during the holiday season.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Great Joy:

  • Varied sentences with the Magic of 3 – “The world was quiet.  Everyone waited.  Then, at the back of the sanctuary, the door opened.”  Most good writing does a mixture of varied sentences.  I find that Kate DiCamillo has done an extraordinary job with this craft to make a short piece of narrative stand out.
  • Questioning – why did the man play on the corner?  How can something intrigue a child so much?  Why did Frances care about the man?  Why was he so important?  Did she change the world?
  • Internal Conflict – “But Frances could not speak.  All she could think about was how cold it was outside and how sad the organ grinder eyes were, even when he smiled.”
  • Inference – The illustrator closes the story with a wordless two page scene. 

Although the scene is very satisfying (and prompted a smile), the reader is left to wonder what happens next.  You get to imagine the ending you wnat.  I want the story to be solidified with a concrete “this is what happens” ending, but it’s not.  Instead, Kate Dicamillo and Bagram Ibatoulline want to do is seep into your students’ minds, making them think and speculate.  (I’d love to hear if you try it and what some responses are.)