Tuesday, June 30, 2015

You are Special (Max Lucado)

I love this story. It is a great example of God's unconditional love for us.

Goodreads summary: 

Max was interested in helping children understand their value - not from the world's perspective, but from God's. Wemmicksville is a land created by Eli, the "God" figure of the story. He creates each Wemmick in Wemmicksville uniquely, each with its own look and personality. Each story and video is a new adventure with the citizens of Wemmicksville. Punchinello is the central character, along with his friends Lucia, Splint, and Chip. When Punchinello strays from Eli, he begins to have problems. Only when Punchinello stays close to Eli does he clearly see how to walk through his life in Wemmicksville.
In this heartwarming tale, Eli helps Punchinello understand how special he is-no matter what other Wemmicks may think. Children will learn a vital lesson-regardless of how the world sees them, God loves each of them just as they are.

Monday, June 29, 2015

It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

This week we are going to swimming provincials in Edmonton, so I will have lots of reading time. Can't wait!

Here is what I am reading: 

Life of Zarf: The Trouble with Weasels. 
Not sure where this one was recommended to me,,,,but it looks interesting!

Dietland. I heard great stuff about this one from The Books on the Nightstand podcast.

A Family of Readers: Colby Sharp mentioned he was reading this so I checked it out. Great book!

Longbourn is my book club's pick for September.

I had Mr. Terupt Falls Again out a while ago and never did read it. This time I got the online audio book from my library! It was recommended to me by the author of The Quirks when we skyped for Gr 3 book club.

Confession: I have never read the Harry Potter series. I actually did read this one more than 15 years ago, but I figure I might need to start from the very beginning. I have lots to read this summer if I am going to read all those books!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Clementine (Sara Pennypacker)

Clementine is hilarious. She is sassy and silly and matter of fact and messy and impulsive. I am looking forward to reading book 1 to my class and then turning them loose on the rest of the series.

Warning: never put Clementine, June B Jones, Marty McGuire, Ivy and Bean or Pippi Longstocking in the same room. They are all cut from the same cloth! 

Which makes me ask: what is with all these series of spunky (naughty?) tom-boy girls? 

Goodreads summary: 

Clementine is having not so good of a week.

-On Monday she's sent to the principal’s office for cutting off Margaret’s hair.
- Tuesday, Margaret's mother is mad at her. 
- Wednesday, she's sent to the principal... again. 
- Thursday, Margaret stops speaking to her. 
- Friday starts with yucky eggs and gets worse. 
- And by Saturday, even her mother is mad at her.

Okay, fine. Clementine is having a DISASTROUS week.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones (Will Mabbitt)


I learned about this book from a list of 'must read' books for this summer. I went to the library website to put it on hold and found that the digital copy was available (the printed form won't be out until later this summer). I am not a huge fan of digital books, but I am starting to see some great reasons to read digitally. As I found interesting parts I wanted to remember and blog about I highlighted the text and took a screen shot. It made putting this blog post together so easy! 

This story would be a great read aloud (some of the words might be tricky for my grade three students and it is not too long...about 130 pages) and would be a fun follow up to The BFG. It is full of awful creatures that steal children...but in a matter of fact way that children delight in! They will love the scary bits. They will love the grossness. It is kid perfect!

It is also full of lines that will make any adult snicker, and be perfectly sensible to children. I chuckled all the way through it.

P. 17 Captain Idryss Ebenezer Split turned to his crew and uttered an oath so foul it could NEVER be written down.
 (It contained a word so rude that if an adult whispered it to themselves after bedtime, under the quilt so no one could hear, they could still be arrested and thrown in prison for a very long time.)

The illustrations are hilarious! They seem like the illustrations that would be in Inkheart. Scary!!!

Mabel is taken in the night by a perfectly frightful band of pirates after she does THE DEED (errr, picking her nose and eating it!) They are aghast when they realize they have kidnapped a GIRL. They didn't realize girls did THE DEED.

P. 19 Any final words, girl?” snarled Captain Split.
He made the word “girl” sound like how the smell of dog poo would sound if it made a noise.

It's matter if fastness reminds me of many conversations I have at school with kids all the time. (Insert wings story and balls story): 

P. 23 This morning Mabel Jones had a feeling that she probably wouldn’t be going to school.
This morning she was sitting on a barrel in the cabin of a pirate ship, surrounded by a crew of excited animal pirates. It was actually surprisingly similar to being at school except, instead of a nice principal called Mr. Dobson, there was an evil wolf called Captain Idryss Ebenezer Split.

(That is pretty much the same, right?)

There is all sorts of good advice too! Like: Never trust a man who washes his underpants after just one use. (p. 63)

Mabel Jones is one tough girl....and she isn't even persuaded by handsome princes. She sees right through his beauty for what he really is:
p. 73 She was the man who wanted her to stay with him forever in his castle. As a princess?
A prisoner, more like!
Spinning away from his arm, she snarled...

And there is even a friendship theme that runs through.....poor Omynuss Hush really does need a friend.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wonderstruck (Brian Selznick)

I read this book years ago with my class. We did it again as an end of year novel study. Once again, it did not disappoint. This is a fantastic story. Brian Selznick seems to have a keen interest in theatre. Both this book and The Invention of Hugo Cabret involve cinema. Apparently his third book, The Marvels, does as well.

Goodreads Summary:

Reading it with my class this year was a really great experience. I got 9 copies of the book from the public library (thank you Calgary Public Library!) and we shared. I was so impressed with all the details we got this time around thanks to very observant students. Brian Selznick says that everything in his pictures is purposeful. I believe it!

Traditionally, when we do novel studies, it is paired with a workbook full of all sorts of comprehension questions, crossword puzzles, games and activities. I really simplified for this novel, and instead of a big booklet like that I usually use, we had a page where we wrote down cool vocabulary, some pages where we wrote summaries for each part of the book (it is divided into three parts) and then a page with finger spelling. At first, we'd stop when we came across cool words and write them down, but there was a lot of moaning and groaning. Eventually, I decided that isn't what real readers do. Instead, I gave them some sticky notes and had them put a sticky when they came across a word they thought was cool or didn't understand. The next day we'd start off our reading time by writing down 4 or 5 of these cool words and their definitions. Usually, we could get the meaning from the context. I encouraged kids, when they're reading other books, to use stickies to mark spots they want to remember to tell someone about or write about or have questions about.

Activity ideas:

  • Pair this book with Matchbox Diary and make our own boxes of wonder
  • Make a diorama about something we have been studying (pair with life cycle unit?)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Journal (Lois Donovan)

Although I find time travel a little silly, I think it works in this book. It is kind of like a Magic TreeHouse book, only this is for middle school aged kids. Lois Donovan's other book involves time travel too. 

I loved reading about The Famous Five. There was plenty to learn and appreciate about this story. Unfortunately, I think it is a little too old for my grade 3 students, but would be great for middle school!

GoodReads summary: 

Kami's grade-eight year in Vancouver is off to a fantastic start. The senior soccer team. A birthday bash to celebrate turning thirteen. This could be the best year ever! Then Kami's world crashes when a mysterious letter arrives, and her mother decides they must move to Edmonton. Lonely and upset, Kami discovers a family journal with newspaper clippings, which, upon reading, sends her hurtling back in time to 1929. Here she meets the heroic WWI flying ace, "Wop" May, as he embarks on a dangerous mission to the north. Kami then becomes involved with Judge Emily Murphy at the time when the "Famous Five" are fighting to have women recognized as "persons." But the Edmonton of 1929 is not exactly welcoming to persons of Asian heritage, and Kami encounters racial prejudice at every turn. When she also discovers a painful family secret, she begins to question everything she values and thought she knew. This is not how Kami had pictured her life as she turned thirteen. 

Although we really admire all that women like Emily Murphy did, being faced with prejudisms from that time made me squirm a little, and it would be a great discussion starter with kids: 

When Kami travels back in time she experiences the prejudicial attitudes of the day:
P. 89 Kami is talking to Emily Murphy, who has taken her in:

"I sense being a maid is distasteful to you, as though you consider yourself above that station." she paused. "You mentioned that your father is Scottish."
"His parents came from Scotland," I answered, wondering what that had to do with anything.
"Ah. Well, I can see some Scottish traits shining through, to be sure. But you are not Scottish. Not as far as society is concerned. You will always be considered Oriental. Working as a domestic, or something akin to it, is what will be available to you. Do you understand that?"
"No, I don't understand. I believe in equality. I thought you did, too."
"Kami, people arrive daily from other countries, wanting to make Canada their home. I don't blame them. It is a good country. But the fact remains that Canada is founded on British values, and those coming to our country must adhere to those British values." She began to cough, and I handed her the glass of water from her night time.
"Do British values exclude people who are Japanese?"
"Some races are known to have certain issues, shall we say, that are not in the best interest of society."

It was fascinating to read the discussions people of the 1920s had as they grappled with the idea that women might be considered persons and be allowed to vote and own land. Any reference to persons in the law at that time only meant men as women had a very defined role: working in the home and raising children. There was no need for them to vote or own anything, according to the creators of the British North America Act. Once women were considered "persons" it took two decades before Asian people were considered the same. The big question Kami struggles with is whether or not Emily Murphy was less a hero because of her prejudisms typical of the time. She decides that no one is perfect. Kami says: 

P. 180 Everyone is influenced by the society that raised them and the values they were taught. Emily Murphy fought for what she believed was right, and she left Canada a better place than she found it. If she were here today, I believe she would challenge each of us to leave the world better than we found it. What an awesome world we would have if we all followed her lead."

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Best Laid Plans (Terry Fallis)

It's true. This is funny! I didn't think I could get into this story very well. I was pleasantly surprised.

I loved the author's story of getting this book to print as well. I listened to his podcast while I walked for some of the chapters and read others. His podcast is really well done.

Currently, with our new NDP government in place in Alberta, this is a hilarious read. A little true to life!

Goodreads summary:

A burnt-out political aide quits just before an election — but is forced to run a hopeless campaign on the way out. He makes a deal with a crusty old Scot, Angus McLintock — an engineering professor who will do anything, anything, to avoid teaching English to engineers — to let his name stand in the election. No need to campaign, certain to lose - or is he?

Canadian Authors - Terry Fallis lives in Toronto. He went to McMaster and has won Canadian writing awards.

Canadian history - this is a story of political commentary and some history is involved
Feminism - one of the main characters, Angus, was married to a great feminist writer (she passed away months previous) and gets along well with feminists
Humor - this book is seriously funny
Making a difference - Angus stays true to his ideals (something unusual for politicians, it seems)
Personal Growth - a number of characters in the story do things that are uncomfortable, but important

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Skunk (Mac Barnett)

Mac Barnett is becoming one of my favorites! The books I have read of his are: Extra Yarn, Battle Bunny, Telephone,  Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, The Terrible Two, and now this one. They are all brilliant!

My students were able to make a connection with one of the Open Court stories we read: Stevie. It is about a boy who gets tired of a little boy his mom babysits - until he ends up not coming over anymore. We talked about how you should appreciate things when they're here because you will miss them later.

It's funny how much the man and the skunk look alike. Hmmmm.....

This is one book I'd be interested in hearing the author's perspective on why he wrote it.

Goodreads summary:

When a skunk first appears in the tuxedoed man's doorway, it's a strange but possibly harmless occurrence. But then the man finds the skunk following him, and the unlikely pair embark on an increasingly frantic chase through the city, from the streets to the opera house to the fairground. What does the skunk want? It's not clear--but soon the man has bought a new house in a new neighborhood to escape the little creature's attention, only to find himself missing something. . .
This slyly hilarious tale brings together picture book talents Mac Barnett and Patrick McDonnell for the first time.

There are lots of good questions that come out of this book. Is the skunk symbolic? Is the man trying to hide something stinky in his life? Why does he go looking for the skunk? Why is the skunk following him? Is this about anxiety?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

See You Next Year (Andrew Larsen and Todd Stewart)

We are looking for a great book to give our Assistant Principal who is not going to be here next year. This one seemed like a good idea, but didn't totally grab us when I read it to my class. Still searching!

The story is lovely though. It would be a great end of year story. We could talk about traditions our family has in the summer. The girl in the story goes to the same place every year for a vacation. The illustrations are beautiful.

Goodreads summary:

Every summer, a girl’s family drives down the same roads, passes through the same towns, and spends a week at the same beachside motel. Year after year, everything is comfortingly predictable: the families they see, the rhythm of the days, the stars, the bonfires, and even the pattern the tractor makes as it rakes the sand on their beach. But this year, something is different: the girl, our narrator, meets a new friend who shows her how to dive under the waves and spot satellites in the night sky. When it’s time to go, she’s sad to part ways. But she knows she can look forward to seeing him next year. Illustrated in a restrained, retro palette, this story perfectly captures the timelessness of a summer holiday. The effect is nostalgic and almost hazy, as if seen in a dream, a memory, or through the shimmering air of a hot summer day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bye, Bye, Butterflies! (Andrew Larsen Illustration by Jacqueline Hudon Verrelli)

I learned about this book by attending the Bookpalooza that I got to be on the committee to help organize for our school. We had a number of local authors and illustrators share some of their work. It was a WONDERFUL evening! The illustrator of this book, Jacqueline Hudon Verrelli, is from Calgary.

Right now, in my classroom, we have been observing caterpillars that we ordered from a website. Most of them have turned into pupas and we're impatiently waiting for them to emerge. It was really fun to read this book while we're in the midst of that experience.

June 8, 2016:
We read it again this year. Everyone was quite captivated by the story. This book is truly just like our experience with our butterflies this year. We're going to try to time things perfectly so that we're outside releasing them just before other kids come out so that we can tell them about the great things they have to look forward to with their butterflies when they're in grade 3!

Goodreads summary:

One day on a walk with his dad Charlie sees some boys and girls on the rooftop of the school saying goodbye as they release butterflies up into the sky. Charlie is amazed by all the butterflies flying around and wishes he could do something like that too. And when Charlie starts school next year he becomes a “butterfly scientist” as well and helps his teacher and classmates care for some teeny tiny caterpillars as they grow into butterflies and are released by Charlie and his class. “Bye Bye Butterflies!”

Friday, June 5, 2015

Pedro and Me (Judd Winnick)

I learned about this book from a Nerdy Book Club blog post.

This is a true story. It's about a man who is HIV +. The author meets him when they make it through the auditions for an MTV series and become roommates in the house where the show is filmed. The story talks about prejudisms and misunderstandings around the disease.

My best friend's brother died of HIV/AIDs about the same time. When I think of the sadness and the shame around that time, it breaks my heart. No one was really willing to talk about it. Frankly, they still have a hard time talking about it. I'm glad there are some people making efforts to make those kinds of things change.

I'm coming a bigger fan of graphic novels all the time. They express a story in a way that is different than just print. The pictures mixed with the words can be very moving.

This picture of them all surrounding his bed when he died.....makes me stop and feel the moment. Powerful.

Some of the pictures were hilarious. Again, they captured the feelings from the moment so perfectly.

The author captured the process of grieving so beautifully with this poem:

Monday, June 1, 2015

Chicken Big (Keith Graves)

On a teeny little farm, in an itty-bitty coop, a very small hen laid a big, giant egg. And out of this egg came one big, humongous . . . something. "It's big!" clucked the little rooster. "It's enormous!" clucked the small chicken. "It's an elephant!" peeped the smallest chicken. "Run for your lives!" they cried. No matter how they try, these clueless chickens can't make sense of the gigantic new member of their familyuntil he saves the day. With wacky, laugh-out-loud humor and silliness to spare, this BIG twist on the classicChicken Little story lends a whole new perspective to what it means to be chicken. 

This story is a take off from Chicken Little except the chicken is not little, he is Chicken Big. Chicken Big sticks out and isn't accepted by the other chickens. The story is about the chickens all trying to come to an understanding of whether or not he really is like them. They go through a series of assumptions and in the end, do become friends. We loved the not quite so bright chickens and the crazy antics all along the way. Fun illustrations. It is a great book for a laugh. Good be a good story on friendship and making judgments about people before you really know them.