Friday, December 2, 2016

Chester Racoon and the Big Bad Bully

This is a great approach to bullying. Some people just need the rough edges worked off. We can help them with that!

Goodreads summary:

In this latest addition to the Kissing Hand book collection, Chester Raccoon must learn to deal with another common problem of childhood: a bully at school.

When Mrs. Raccoon learns that there is a bully problem at school, she decides to investigate the situation. But after seeing the bully for herself, she shares a story about a forest that was full of smooth yellow stones, and how the animals living there changed a pointy stone they found into a smooth stone so that it wouldn't hurt any tender paws.

Chester, Ronny, and Cassy follow the spirit of Mrs. Raccoon's story when they next encounter the Bully. Approaching him as a group, they invite him to play, proving that the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make him or her a friend.

This book encourages children to understand that many child bullies are themselves unhappy and gives readers a good example of settling differences by peaceful means. Educators will embrace this story about a positive strategy for dealing with a bully.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wayside School is Falling Down (Louis Sacher)

I read this for our Gr 4 Battle of the Books. At first I thought it was just a cute story. It would make a great read aloud. As a matter of fact, I think I will read it to my class! As I read though, I realized all kinds of little things that are brilliant!
- the book has 30 chapters. Each chapter is its own story. The school has 30 stories/floors too. 
- there is a character in the book that has the same name as the author. He is the guy that fixes everything. He is a great resource for all sorts of problems. The first chapter says he is the yard teacher. What is a yard teacher?
- chapter 17 doesn't seem to make any sense....until you read it backwards, paragraph by paragraph. 

Chester (Melanie Watt)

...that moment when your class cheers about the book you're about to read.

Chester is a winner. Love it.

Goodreads summary:

Chester is more than a picture book. It is a story told, and retold, by dueling author-illustrators.
Melanie Watt starts out with the story of a mouse in a house. Then Melanie's cat, Chester, sends the mouse packing and proceeds to cover the pages with rewrites from his red marker, and the gloves are off. Melanie and her mouse won't take Chester's antics lying down. And Chester is obviously a creative powerhouse with confidence to spare. Where will this war of the picture-book makers lead? Is it a one-way ticket to Chesterville, or will Melanie get her mouse production off the ground?

Snappsy The Alligator (Julie Falatko)

When I first read this book it reminded me of the Chester books. I mentioned this to my class and they had no idea what I was talking about so we had to stop and read some Chester books before we read this one.

Books where a character in the story takes charge or speaks to the author are hilarious to kids.

Goodreads summary:
Snapppsy the alligator is trying to go about his very ordinary day when a pesky narrator steps in to spice up the story with slanderous claims. Is Snappsy making crafty plans? Is he prowling for defenseless birds and soft, fuzzy bunnies? Is Snappsy a big, mean alligator who’s obsessed with snack foods that start with the letter P? It’s no wonder Snappsy won't invite the narrator to his party! 

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) is an irreverent look at storytelling, friendship, and creative differences from a pair of rising stars in the picture book world.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Are We There Yet (Dan Santat)

My students have really loved this book. We talked a lot about how when we are bored it really is a personal decision and that your imagination can make all the difference in a boring situation.

My students really loved the illustrations. I have seen them take this book from our library corner again and again.

This author also wrote, Beekle, an award winning and very cute book from last year.

Goodreads summary:

Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat takes readers on the road trip of a lifetime!"Are we there yet?" Every parent has heard this classic kid question on a long car ride--and after reading this astonishingly inventive new book (that even turns upside down for several pages!), you'll never look at being bored the same way again.

Let's face it: everyone knows that car rides can be boring. And when things get boring, time slows down. In this book, a boy feels time slowing down so much that it starts going backward--into the time of pirates! Of princesses! Of dinosaurs! The boy was just trying to get to his grandmother's birthday party, but instead he's traveling through Ancient Egypt and rubbing shoulders with Ben Franklin. When time flies, who knows where--or when--he'll end up.

Monday, November 21, 2016

It's Monday, What Are You Reading #IMWAYR

Last week was a good week of reading. I read quite a few picture books and a couple chapter books. I'm working on report cards these days so any reading at all is a miracle. I'm grateful for any time I get.

Besides a picture book a day with my class, I have a feeling I will have to take it easy this week.

I plan to read The Memory Illusion, my book club's pick. I have been carrying it around for days. Time to actually crack it open!

I read a little of Healthy Body For Life every morning. I'm making changes slowly to take on a much healthier life. Besides, I know the author! She is amazing.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (Mindy Kaling)


I'm not one for watching TV, so I didn't know about Mindy Kaling. She was a writer for The Office and now has her own show, apparently. Someone recommended this book to me as being laugh out loud funny. They were right. This was an easy and fun read. It would be a great book to take on a trip.

She really covers it all in this book. I had to laugh at all her words for fat and the definitions. She has a great take on men and dating. Seriously funny stuff. I really look forward to her menopause edition!

Goodreads summary:

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?” 
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

Chester's Masterpiece (Melanie Watt)

 I was going to read Snappsy the Alligator to my class today. It reminds me of the Chester series because they both have characters that are aware of the author and those listening to the story. They are breaking the fourth wall. I said that to my class as I started in on Snappsy and realized they didn't know about Chester! How can we go on without first being introduced to Chester! I try to introduce my students to Canadian authors as much as possible. This series is also a good discussion starter for the work authors put into writing.

We laughed and laughed at his attitude. When we had Reading Buddies later in the day, it was snapped up quickly and passed around to many different partners. It is so fun to watch them share enthusiasm with grade one students that matches what I said to them when I introduced the book.

Goodreads summary:

Chester's finally ready to write his own masterpiece --- he just needs to get pesky writer-illustrator Mélanie Watt out of the way.

Chester's solo attempts at storytelling are messy, to say the least, but he's determined to go it alone. But where's his story going? After several alternative (but always unhappy) endings, Chester is confronted by a problem he never bargained for. A wry comment on the creative process and how good stories are constructed, this is the most uproarious Chester book yet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hungry Lion (Lucy Ruth Cummins)

I wonder what kind of person writes a crazy book like this??

At first we thought the lion was eating all the animals. Then he wasn't. They were sneaking off to give him a surprise party. But wait. Then he did eat them! (We think) But wait!! Then something bigger and nastier came along!

We read this one really quick at the end of the day. Everyone chuckled and talked about it as they got ready for home. It's a twisted sense of humor that loves this kind of stuff.

We loved it!

Goodreads summary:

Once upon a time there was a very hungry lion and some adorable little animals...

What do you think happened next?

The Vowel Family (Sally Walker)

This is a great way to review how important vowels are! We listened to it on Tumblebooks and I think that is probably the best way since reading it out loud  would actually be quite hard. It would take some practice.

Goodreads summary:

Come meet a very unusual family. Each of the 5 vowel children--Alan, E [etc]--represents one vowel. Until that child is born, his or her vowel is missing from the text of this silly story. As the Vowel family grows, pets from an [a] to a unicorn join their happy home. But then Otto goes missing. Thank goodness clever Aunt Cyndy comes to the rescue and makes the Vowels truly complete! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Flora and the Peacocks (Molly Idle)

I haven't read a wordless book to my class before though. As I started showing the pictures, they were puzzled. Why aren't there any words? Then one said: Hey! We read The Book With No Pictures and it was good. Now we have a book with no words! Soon they settled down and just watched as the story unfolded before them.

Flora does a dance of sorts with the peacocks. When she dances with one the other feels sad. They continue on in this little dance until the peacocks seem to break her fan and she is sad. They make it up to her though. On the last page the page folds out into beautiful peacock tails. My class literally gasped when I opened it up.

I read on Goodreads that there are more Flora books. I definitely need to check them out!

Goodreads summary:

The darling, dancing Flora is back, and this time she's found two new friends: a pair of peacocks! But amidst the fanning feathers and mirrored movements, Flora realizes that the push and pull between three friends can be a delicate dance. Will this trio find a way to get back in step? In the third book featuring Flora and her feathered friends, Molly Idle's gorgeous art combines with clever flaps to reveal that no matter the challenges, true friends will always find a way to dance, leap, and soar—together.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Frank and Laverne (Dave Whamond/Jennifer Stokes)

Cute stories! One story is told from Frank's perspective. One is told from Laverne's perspective. The author has the dog and cat personalities down pat. We loved these books!

Goodreads summary:

Every morning by 06:00 hours, Frank is awake and on duty for Squirrel Patrol. This pug takes his role seriously: basic training, neighborhood surveillance, and, most importantly, protecting his humans and the cat, Laverne, from the Great Dane next door.

Laverne, however, prefers a more refined lifestyle of napping, kneading her cat bed, and scorning humans’ ridiculous behavior. As much as Frank loves her, the deadpan Laverne loathes Frank. She dreams of sending him away forever and claiming his fish-shaped chew toy for herself.

Both pets report their perspectives separately, from opposite ends of the book, until the story comes to a head in the middle with a single encounter Frank and Laverne perceive in very different ways.

Written in the style of a daily log with text and illustrations interspersed, the story abounds with verbal and visual humor that will appeal to reluctant readers. Rich vocabulary, onomatopoeia, and the play on opposing points of view make this a smart, laugh-out-loud pick for critical reading.

It's Monday. What are you reading?

I'm reading Wayside School is Falling Down for my Battle of the Books group at school. It's a fun and silly book.


The Memory Illusion is the is my book club book for this month. I'm really intrigued by the concept.

This week the CEO of the Calgary Public Library is having a book discussion about Badlands. I really want to go so I'm going to try to get this read this week.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Shiloh Christmas


I almost didn't read this one. I read the other three books, Saving Shiloh, Shiloh Season, and Shiloh . I was going to skip this one for one reason: the cover of this one seemed a little too cheesy for me. I was also feeling like I'd had enough of the Shiloh story. Have I mentioned that I'm not much of a series reader? I get bored.

I'm so glad I did read this one though! It brings the Judd Travers issue full circle. I came close to a tear or two when he talked about his past. Definitely worth the read.

Warning: There are stories of abuse in here. It isn't anything graphic, but if this is a trigger for you, you might skip this one. They get a new preacher in their church and Marty and his family start to notice signs of abuse that concern them. Judd Travers also talks about the abuse he endured in his family. It all comes together well though and in the end, there is healing.

Favourite quotes: 

Page 1 "My dog's simple, all right, and next to getting his belly scratched, Shiloh's favorite thing in the whole world is rolling around in deer poop."

Page 7: "Problem, I guess, is that Judd's not changed enough to suit some people. Not fast enough to suit anybody, that's for sure. He don't keep his dogs chained and hugnry, the way they used to be, and they like romping around that fenced-in backyard. I haven't heard anymore complaints about him trying to cheat Mr. Wallace either, and he don't swear around Me, leastwise where she can hear it."

Page 55: "If there's a hell," he says, "I think it's what people make for themselves while they're living. Don't have to die to find that out .""

A rescued beagle and his boy owner seek love and understanding for their troubled small town in this holiday companion to the Newbery Medal–winning Shiloh, from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

Christmas is coming and Marty and his rescued pup Shiloh are sure glad about that—for their town is sure low on love and understanding and they hope that the joy of the holiday will bring with it the generosity of spirit that’s so lacking.

It’s been a year since Marty Preston rescued Shiloh from Judd Travers and his cruel ways, and since then, Marty and Shiloh have been inseparable. Anywhere Marty goes, the beagle’s at his side, and Marty couldn’t be happier about that. Even Judd has been working to improve his reputation.

But just as townsfolk grow more accepting of Judd, a fire in the woods destroys many homes, including Judd’s, and Judd’s newly formed reputation. Doubt, blame, and anger spread faster than the flames—flames that are fanned by the new minister, who seems fonder of fire and brimstone than love and mercy. And why are his daughters so skittish around him? And what’s happened to Judd’s dogs? With Christmas right around the corner, Marty has a lot of questions, and how they’re answered might just take a Christmas miracle.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s fourth book in the Newbery Award–winning Shiloh series—following ShilohShiloh Season, and Saving Shiloh—is full of heart-thudding suspense, as well as comfort and joy.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Girl With a Brave Heart - A Tale from Tehran (Rita Jahanforuz and Vali Mintzi)

Wow! This is a powerful book.

We had had some incidents in our classroom about making good choices. This book was a great conversation starter about how we need to take responsibility for our choices and what the fall out of our choices can be.

The story is kind of long, but my students didn't have trouble sitting still for it. It is a great story.

Goodreads summary:

After showing kindness to a strange old woman, Shiraz receives the gift of beauty but her lazy and unkind stepsister, Nargues, suffers a less pleasant fate in this adaptation of the Grimm's fairy tale, Mother Hulda, reset in Tehran, Iran.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Saving Shiloh (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor)

The saga of Judd Travers and Marty continues.

In this book we get more understanding of Judd and why he is the way he is. Marty's family tries to look at the best sides of Judd and they start to see good in him. This book is also full of mystery. It was a good page turner!

Just like Shiloh Season, the previous book in the series, I listened to this one on downloadable audio book. I liked the reader of this one much better.

Goodreads summary:

Marty Preston wonders why it is that despite Judd Traver's attempts to redeem himself everyone is still so willing to think the worst of him. Marty's friend David is sure that Judd will be named as the murderer of a man who has been missing. Others are sure that Judd is behind a series of burglaries in the area. But Marty's parents and, with some trepidation, Marty himself persist in their attempts to be good neighbors and to give Judd a second chance. Now that Marty has Shiloh, maybe he can help Judd to take better care of his other dogs. Then again, maybe folks are right -- there's no way a Judd Travers can ever change for the good. Then a terrifying life-or-death situation brings this dilemma into sharp focus. "Saving Shiloh" is a powerful novel that brings this trilogy to a close.

Kermit the Hermit (Bill Peet)

One of the reasons I'm doing the Book a Day challenge with my class is so that they have someone modelling reading of good books. As much as I love Bill Peet stories, these are very challenging reads and don't work well for Reading Buddies. They sure do lose listening to these stories though! They're quite amazing. My students call them chapter picture books.

Goodreads summary:

A little boy saves Kermit from disaster, and the once cranky crab works hard to repay him.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sad Book (Michael Rosen)

I picked up this book because we have looked at quite a few books lately that are illustrated by Quentin Blake. Our two book choices for book club this month were both illustrated by him. I wasn't sure about reading a book about being sad, but it went over well. My students were quite interested in whether or not the story was true. I told them I thought it was. It is probably a good topic to touch on now and then as kids can experience depression just as much as adults.

The first page surprised me - or in some ways, didn't surprise me:

With unmitigated honesty, a touch of humor, and sensitive illustrations by Quentin Blake, Michael Rosen explores the experience of sadness in a way that resonates with us all.

Sometimes I'm sad and I don’t know why.
It's just a cloud that comes along and covers me up.

Sad things happen to everyone, and sometimes people feel sad for no reason at all. What makes Michael Rosen sad is thinking about his son, Eddie, who died suddenly at the age of eighteen. In this book the author writes about his sadness, how it affects him, and some of the things he does to cope with it—like telling himself that everyone has sad stuff (not just him) and trying every day to do something he can be proud of. Expressively illustrated by the extraordinary Quentin Blake, this is a very personal story that speaks to everyone, from children to parents to grandparents, teachers to grief counselors. Whether or not you have known what it's like to feel deeply sad, the truth of this book will surely touch you.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Shiloh Season (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor)

I'm not much of a series person, but I was quite taken by the first book. I'm not really one to get caught in a series, but I had to know what happens to that mean old nasty Judd Travers. He remains mean and nasty in this book. I guess I have to go on to book three now! Will he ever get his just dues?

If you don't like guns, this is a good book to read. There's so much risk and danger thanks to Judd and his hunting. One of the big problems is his drinking. I loved how we see Marty get what he wants through some hard work. This book is also a good lesson in how not everything is black and white. Sometimes you have to do what you think is important despite disapproval by some.

There were some inconsistencies with the first book. They now have a phone (maybe I missed where they said they got a phone...not sure). I listened to this one on a downloadable audio book and wasn't that taken by the reader. He was an older man and that didn't match in my mind since it is Marty telling the story.

I think you'd be okay to read this book without reading the first. The author reviews the details of the first book well enough to catch people up.

Goodreads summary:

After Marty Preston worked so hard to earn the dog Shiloh, he had hoped that his troubles with Judd Travers were over. He could not rescue all the dogs that Judd mistreated, but since shiloh was the one who ran away and came to him, Shiloh was the one he loved. Judd, however, has other problems. Anyone who cheats and swears and lies and kicks his dogs has troubles inside himself, and when the man starts drinking, Marty realizes that Shiloh is in danger once again. As hunting season approaches and Judd begins hunting on their land, the Prestos know that something is bound to happen.

They're right. Marty does the only thing he can think of to do, and discovers just how deep a hurt can go and how long it takes to heal.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I Am Malala (Malala Yousafzai)

I read this book for book club. It was my turn to choose a book and I've dabbled in this one a number of times (Goodreads says I started reading it Aug 20, 2015!) so I decided it was a good one to pick to read and discuss. In the end, I think it was a good book to discuss at book club.

When I read this book, I was struck by her love for education and had to think about how many of us take the opportunities we have for granted.

It was interesting to read an account of what life was like as the Taliban gradually took over.  Honestly, I'm not sure I would have been as valiant a fighter and she and her father have been. They have lived their life in danger simply because they value education, choice, religion and the freedom to choose. I hesitate to be judgmental, but I really wondered about parents who would allow their child to be so outspoken. Clearly, she suffered the consequences. In the end though, she is a hero. I do not know if I'd be as brave as she and her family has been.

Goodreads summary:

I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. 

Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I Am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Shiloh (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor)

I started listening to this book with the audio book. I loved Marty's voice. I continued on without the audio and his voice continued to ring in my head. I'm not surprised they made this into a movie. It's heart warming and has plenty of exciting moments where I imagined dramatic music beating in the background. Sometimes I'm amazed at how J fiction can draw me in. This book is one of those.

There are some great topics that you could discuss from this book. Doing what's right, animal protection, determination and honesty would be great places to start. Honesty is a big one since Marty has plenty of times he "skims the truth"...all for the good of the dog. I like dogs, but I'm not one that people would say has a big soft spot. I moved a little further to a total dog sell out while reading this book.

This is one well written book. There are no wasted words or long dull descriptive narratives. The balance is perfect and it I think it would easily draw in a reluctant reader. I was visiting with family this past weekend and talked with my six year old niece about books she had been reading. She loves animals and plans to be a vet one day. I told her about Shiloh and she quickly jumped in that it reminded her of The Black Stallion and then went on to describe that story. I love discussing books with kids!

Goodreads summary:

When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it's love at first sight9 and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh belongs to Judd Travers who drinks too much and has a gun9 and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty's secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd's anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his? 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Doors in the Air (David Weale, Pierre Pratt)

This is a beautiful book! One of my students brought it to school for her Special Student presentation. I love the analogy in this book of how doors lead us to so many great things. It starts with doors at home and continues on building on the metaphor. It is poetic and sing-song-y. Loved it!

Goodreads summary:

Doors in the Air is the story of a boy who is fascinated by doors. He marvels at how stepping through a doorway can take him from one world to another. He is especially enthralled by the doors of his imagination, which he refers to as "doors in the air." He delights in discovering that when he passes through these doors, he leaves behind all feelings of boredom, fear and unpleasantness.
Doors in the Air is a lilting journey through house doors, dream doors and, best of all, doors in the air. 

The Ancient Oak (

This is a great story! We listened to it/read it on Tumblebooks. Great illustrations. The story kept my class enthralled.

Goodreads summary:

A princess struggles to save her kingdom from an ever-lasting winter. Will a stranger save the Kingdom - or destroy it? 'The Ancient Oak' is an all-ages fable that teaches the importance of doing the right thing.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Earl the Squirrel (Don Freeman)

You know you have a good one where there are lots of gasps and moments to laugh out loud. This is a simple story, but my students loved it!

I grabbed it when I saw it at the library because the author also wrote Cordoroy, a story that they read and love in grade 2 in our school. This one is equally loved. They loved that the squirrel has a friend (and her name is Jill!). They liked the mom's grumpiness. They LOVED The bull named Conrad. They totally predicted that the bull would get upset about the red scarf too.

I thought the names were great too....Earl the Squirrel and Conrad. So plain that they seemed funny!

Goodreads summary:

Earl the Squirrel doesn’t think of himself as spoiled, but his mother does. She decides it’s high time Earl learns to find acorns for himself. There’s only one problem—he doesn’t know where to look. Earl’s friend Jill offers to help, but that’s not what Earl’s mother had in mind. So, wearing his bright red scarf, Earl sets off on his own for an action-packed acornfinding mission.

Striking black-and-white scratchboard art is accented by Earl’s crimson scarf. The effect is classic, clean, and thoroughly recognizable as Don Freeman’s signature style.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Punished! (David Lubar)

This book took me about 25 minutes to read. It would be a great book for middle elementary kids who aren't super strong readers yet. The puns are entertaining. It teaches some great parts of language that would make for a great classroom discussion. It would be fun to build a wall full of puns,  oxymorons, anagrams and palindromes. We have talked about using this book for our Battle of the Books. Perhaps there could be an additional contest where teams could earn points by taking on the challenge that Logan finds himself absorbed in. I think this would also make a great read aloud. 

Goodreads summary: 

Logan and his friend Benedict run into the wrong guy at the library--literally. When Logan slams into the reference guy in the basement and gives him a little lip, Logan gets punished, really and truly punished. He has three days to complete three tasks before Professor Wordsworth will lift the magical punishment that keeps getting Logan in even more trouble.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Clark the Shark (Bruce Hale)

I love this story! It is a great example of how thinking about how someone else feels can make a big difference in relationships. It also could be a great discussion starter about using self-discipline at school.

There's a time and a place for everything is a great lesson to learn.

Goodreads summary:

Clark the Shark is a great read-aloud picture book, with fun rhythm and rhyme, from the ever-popular Bruce Hale and Guy Francis.

Clark is a shark with zingbang, and BOOM. Clark zooms into school, crashes through the classroom, and is rowdy at recess. Clark loves life—but when his enthusiasm is too much for his friends, Clark's teacher, Mrs. Inkydink, helps him figure out a way to tone it down.

Clark the Shark celebrates boisterous enthusiasm—and knowing when it's time for indoor voices!

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Story About Ping (Marjorie Flack)

The Children Who Loved Books (Peter Carnavas)

The children in my class very quickly caught on to the idea that we don't need things to make us happy and spending time with our family, even reading, can be wonderful.

We really loved the illustrations too! They kind of reminded me of a non-black and white possibly Quinten Blake style illustration. There were a number of pages that funny things got pointed out.

Everyone was very focused and into this story. Reads well.

Goodreads summary:

Angus and Lucy love books.They have hundreds of them.Then one day, all the books are taken away, and Angus and Lucy discover they need books more than they ever imagined. A warm and moving celebration of books and the way in which they bring us all together.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lily and the Octopus (Steven Rowley)

Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of PiLily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart. (source)

This is one of those books I would have never read if I wasn't in a book club. I've kept going to the book club at Indigo/Chapters I might have picked it up and started it since it has so many great reviews, but I doubt I would have kept going once I got into it. I wasn't quite sure what to think of it actually. It's not that bad, but then again, it's kind of 'meh'. Apparently, some were very impressed by the idea. I read that he was given an advance of almost a million dollars prior to it being published. Really?!

I was holding the book when I was at the cash register today to buy the next book club book and the cashier said, "Oh I love that book. Doesn't it just make you cry and cry?" I guess I'm hard-hearted. I didn't cry - although I did think the section where he chronologued taking the dog to be put down was really well written. The part where he is on a ship and fighting the octopus - well, that was just weird. Not sure what role that really played.

p. 219 (speaking to Lily): "Dogs are always good and full of selfless love. They are undiluted vessels of joy who never, ever deserve anything bad that happens to them. Especially you. Since the day I met you, you have done nothing but make my life better in every possible way. Do you understand?"

I'm not quite sure if the main character in this book was crazy, high or maybe he had a brain tumor himself?? I kept thinking there must be some kind of symbolism or higher meaning in the story. I couldn't find it. Then again, I can't often find those things. No one else in the book club could come up with any kind of deeper meaning either.

I liked the relationship focus and it does make me look at my dog with a little more respect and wonder - but that's about it. Sometimes though, I felt like the main character didn't resolve things in his real life because he put so much focus on his relationship with his dog. It was a kind of escapism.

The back cover says: Remember the last book you told someone they had to read? Lily and the Octopus is the next one.

I'm not so sure.

I did think his analogy of a tumor being like an octopus was pretty well thought out and fit well for a tumor - or even cancer. The author nailed that.

    I chose an octopus because they are smart, wily, and slimy. They can learn, adapt, and even (according to numerous scientists) play. I needed a foe that would needle Ted, toy with him, study his weaknesses, and adjust, just as cancer mutates in the body. It helped the story that they are in many ways the physical opposite of dogs, especially dachshunds. A hairless invertebrate that lives in the sea is nothing like a furry dog that is all spine and lives on the land. I did an incredible amount of research on octopuses, and gave each of the book’s eight sections an octopus theme. There are so many fascinating facts about them it’s hard to pick a favorite; in writing the book it was hard to shake their having three hearts. Once I learned that piece of trivia, I knew the entire book would be driving toward that end.

    While the octopus as villain fit the needs of this story, I want to be clear that they are magnificent creatures and are in no way inherently evil. I am quite in awe of them, really!  
Although, I have to say, when he got an octopus tattoo, again, I was grasping for something deeper and more meaningful. It didn't come.

p. 195 I rolled up the sleeve to slowly reveal my tattoo. Eight octopus arms hang from my bicep, and I can feel the octopus's eyes grow bigger. I pull up my shirt even farther, revealing Kal's work from the bottom up in dramatic fashion. Finally, my shirt sleeve is up near my shoulder and my entire tattoo is revealed: a dachshund standing triumphantly on the head of an octopus.

Goodreads summary:

This is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog.

Favorite quotes:
P. 81 The ceremony is perfect for my sister and her new husband - all business, no flourish. Nothing about the bride as property. 
(I hadn't thought about all the nuances in a wedding that insinuate that the bride is property)

In the story, his sister gets married - elopes. Only she invites him and his boyfriend and the groom's parents. I wondered why her parents weren't invited. There's something about their relationships with their mother especially that isn't really fleshed out in the story
p. 82 My mother is on the phone last. She's on the verge of tears, I can hear it in her voice. She would have liked to have been here. I think she's especially hurt that Franklin's parents were in attendance. She doesn't see my having been the ambassador for our family as adequate balance. And she's right. There is no one equal to a mother.

There's some interesting symbolism:
p. 82 After the calls I snap a few more pictures of the newlyweds in front of their enormous window. The top floor has a stunning vista of the city and the bay, and I frame them with Alcatraz far in the distance, just over my sister's shoulder. This is my silent statement about marriage.

Some words of wisdom on relationships:
p. 85 "Lily will be fine. It's you I'm worried about." Meredith puts a hand on my shoulder, but I don't say anything in response. "Don't use Lily as an excuse to ignore your own happiness."...."You have to communicate your needs to get them met. That's all I'm saying."

p. 90 Her floppy ears bound upward with each gallop, sometimes floating there in the window as if someone has put them on pause. When she comes back to me I know they will be flipped backward, pinned to her head and the back of her neck. I spend half my life restoring that dog's ears to their factory setting.

More words of wisdom on attachments to animals being legit:
p. 122 "But most of all, I'm thankful for Lily, who, since she entered my life, has taught me everything I know about patience and kindness and meeting adversity with quiet dignity and grace. No one makes me laugh harder, or want to hug them tighter. You have truly lived up to the promise of man's best friend."

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Science Comics: Dinosaurs (MK Reed)


This is a definitely classroom-keeper! I loved how it explained the history and ever evolving understanding of dinosaurs. There has been a lot of competition in the search for understanding about dinosaurs. The author shows how understanding has evolved and where we're at now. The illustrations are simply terrific. In my true style of reading graphic novels, I often had to remind myself to slow down and look at the illustrations and graphs as it is packed full of information. I don't have a good memory for all these facts, but I know a bunch of kids who'd totally absorb all this information and simply love it.

Earlier this month I read Coral Reefs from the same series. I will definitely watch for more of these books.

Goodreads summary:

Every volume of Science Comics offers a complete introduction to a particular topic--dinosaurs, coral reefs, the solar system, volcanoes, bats, flying machines, and more. These gorgeously illustrated graphic novels offer wildly entertaining views of their subjects. Whether you're a fourth grader doing a natural science unit at school or a thirty-year-old with a secret passion for airplanes, these books are for you!

This volume: in Dinosaurs, learn all about the history of paleontology! This fascinating look at dinosaur science covers the last 150 years of dinosaur hunting, and illuminates how our ideas about dinosaurs have changed--and continue to change.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (John Medina)


The brain fascinates me. I loved this book because it explains the science in ways I can understand (I'm really not a science person!) I also liked how he added ideas for ways to implement these ideas in regular work, home and school life.

The 12 rules are:
EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.
SURVIVAL | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
WIRING | Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.
ATTENTION | Rule #4: We don't pay attention to boring things.
SHORT-TERM MEMORY | Rule #5: Repeat to remember.
LONG-TERM MEMORY | Rule #6: Remember to repeat.
SLEEP | Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
STRESS | Rule #8: Stressed brains don't learn the same way as non-stressed
SENSORY INTEGRATION | Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses.
VISION | Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.
GENDER | Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.
EXPLORATION | Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.

Goodreads summary:

Most of us have no idea what’s really going on inside our heads. Yet brain scientists have uncovered details every business leader, parent, and teacher should know—like the need for physical activity to get your brain working its best.

How do we learn? What exactly do sleep and stress do to our brains? Why is multi-tasking a myth? Why is it so easy to forget—and so important to repeat new knowledge? Is it true that men and women have different brains?

In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. In each chapter, he describes a brain rule—what scientists know for sure about how our brains work—and then offers transformative ideas for our daily lives.

Medina’s fascinating stories and infectious sense of humor breathe life into brain science. You’ll learn why Michael Jordan was no good at baseball. You’ll peer over a surgeon’s shoulder as he proves that most of us have a Jennifer Aniston neuron. You’ll meet a boy who has an amazing memory for music but can’t tie his own shoes.

You will discover how:

Every brain is wired differently
Exercise improves cognition
We are designed to never stop learning and exploring
Memories are volatile
Sleep is powerfully linked with the ability to learn
Vision trumps all of the other senses
Stress changes the way we learn

In the end, you’ll understand how your brain really works—and how to get the most out of it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Swimmy (Leo Lionni)

We read some of Leo Lionni's French stories when my children were in elementary school. His books are beautiful and usually involve animals.

I love the problem solving in this story. Swimmy escapes disaster and learns to be happy. When trying to talk his new fish friends into an adventure, he has to help them work through their fears. They come up with a great solution.

It would be good to use this book as an example of different styles of illustrations. It is quite unique and very beautiful.

Goodreads summary:

Deep in the sea there lives a happy school of little fish. Their watery world is full of wonders, but there is also danger, and the little fish are afraid to come out of hiding . . . until Swimmy comes along. Swimmy shows his friends how—with ingenuity and team work—they can overcome any danger. With its graceful text and stunning artwork, this Caldecott Honor Book deserves a place on every child’s shelf.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

You Are (Not) Small (Anna Kang)

Good book for discussing comparative language (big, bigger, biggest) as well as how to write  elaborative detail.

Goodreads summary:

Two fuzzy creatures can't agree on who is small and who is big, until a couple of surprise guests show up, settling it once and for all!

The simple text of Anna Kang and bold illustrations of New Yorker cartoonist Christopher Weyant tell an original and very funny story about size -- it all depends on who's standing next to you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Floating on Mama's Song (Laura Lacamara)

Fascinating story. I have to wonder what the floating while singing is all about? Is it that when we do what is right for us, it is like we're floating? We are free and the powers of earth that tie us down no longer have power.

Mama's neighbors come and complain about her singing. It reminded me of the crabs in the bucket theory: If there are a bunch of crabs in a bucket, if one tries to get out, the others will pull it back down so it cannot escape the bucket.

Great story for students who know or are learning Spanish as it is bilingual.

Goodreads summary:

Anita's mama loves to sing. She sings such beautiful, happy songs that something magical happens: Everyone who hears her music floats high above the ground. But then Mama stops singing. Can Anita find a way to bring back happy times and magical moments for her family?

Debut author Laura Lacamara's lyrical, uplifting tale is paired with Yuyi Morales's stunning art for a magical celebration of family, music, and happiness.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs (Matthew Dicks)

I heard about this book from the book club I have started going to at Chapters. I decided to read it on our way back from Miami. We flew from Miami to Montreal to Calgary. Unfortunately, I finished it as we were barely in the air after leaving Montreal. It is s pretty quick read. 

I hadn't noticed that the author was a male and that really surprised me when I got to the end. It is a book about high school and popularity gone wrong and female friendship problem solving. I guess boys have those experiences too....but I was surprised at how authentic the relationships all seemed. Pretty good for a guy! Although, I must add, I thought it was weird the book was dedicated to his high school girlfriend: 

For Laura Marchand, my high school sweetheart and the first person to ever believe in me. The world deserved so much more of your light. 

This was a great summer read. As many family and school reunions happen and treks are made back to towns where people grew up, it is interesting to read about someone else's experience. I don't think unresolved problems are very uncommon. I think many people would be able to relate to this book.

The overriding theme in the book:
P. 100 There's no great dividing line between being a kid and an adult. We're not all caterpillars turning into butterflies. You are what you are. When you grow up, you may be more careful than you were when you we're a kid. You don't say what you think as much as you once did. You learn to play nice. But you're still the same person who did good things or rotten things when you were. Young. Whether you feel good about then or bad...whether you regret them, well, that's a different things. But it's not like they disappear forever.

P. 154 Only now did Caroline understand why she had to return to Blackstone. Emily had once been the impetus, but she wasn't the real reason for this journey. Spartacus was right. It's a tough way to live, never forgiving anyone for the indiscretions of their youth. Especially yourself. 

Her journey home was about a secret. Her secret. The burden that she had been carrying on her back for so long. The guilt she had carried for so long. 

The secret behind Lucy's death was more important than anything Emily had done to her. She had blamed Emily for her sister's death, and though she still believed that Emily owned a small part of it, that part was shrinking fast. 

P. 167-168 Emily and Caroline has it out a out what happened that day in the cafeteria:

These pages broke my heart. It is an example of how impactful unkind things can be. It happens to so many people in high school....but it happens later in life too. It truly is heartbreaking and often, life changing.

They talk through it though....and even come up with some answers (oh if only everyone could be so self reflective. Often people cannot find the meaning in these experiences):

Pages 180-181:

And Caroline does work through it. She seems to find peace and come to come good conclusions:

This book would make a great discussion for book club. Maybe that's why the author wrote it. 

Goodreads summary: 

Caroline Jacobs is a wimp, someone who specializes in the suffering of tiny indignities in silence. And the big ones, too. But when the twinset-wearing president of the local Parent Teacher Organization steps out of line one too many times, Caroline musters the courage to assert herself. With a four-letter word, no less.

Caroline's outburst has awakened something in her. Not just gumption, but a realization that the roots of her tirade can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, when her best friend very publicly betrayed her. So, with a little bit of bravery, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and tell off her childhood friend. She busts her daughter out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback...some twenty-five years later. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets rise to the surface, and Caroline finds she has to face much more than one old, bad best friend.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is an enchanting novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives. It's the story of a woman looking to fix her life through an act of bravery, and of a mother and daughter learning to understand one another. Deceptively simple and highly engaging, this latest novel by Matthew Dicks is perfect for those of us who were last to be picked at sports, and for everyone who is thrilled not to be in high school any more.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Love is Real (Janet Lawler)

This would be a good discussion starter when writing or talking about families and how we show love to teach other.

I have to wonder though about how people feel love in different ways. This book is full of acts of service and quality time. What about words of physical touch, words of affirmation and gifts?

Goodreads summary:

From author Janet Lawler comes a charming story celebrating the power of love, with warm and tender art from debut picture-book illustrator Anna Brown. Young readers will delight in following along families of foxes, bunnies, and bears as they learn about the nature of unconditional love in Love Is Real.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Doorbell Rang (Pat Hutchins)

Would be a good story for introducing division! Could also be a simple book to use when working on predicting.

Goodreads summary:

Each ring of the doorbell brings more friends to share the delicious cookies Ma has made. This terrific and suspenseful read-aloud picture book about friendship, sharing, and cookies can also be used to introduce basic math concepts to young children. "Refreshing, enjoyable and unpredictable."—School Library Journal

Pat Hutchins is the celebrated creator of numerous award-winning books for children, including Rosie's WalkTitch, andDon't Forget the Bacon! The Doorbell Rang was named a Notable Book for Children by the American Library Association.

Supports the Common Core State Standards

Thursday, July 7, 2016

School's First Day (Adam Rex)

Great book for the first day of school. We could talk about feeling nervous, talk about how to help others that are feeling nervous, etc. Sometimes kids are surprised to hear that teachers are nervous too. Who would have thought of a school feeling nervous?

Goodreads summary:

It's the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone's just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him?

The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he's not the only one going through first-day jitters.