Friday, January 29, 2016

Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War (Michel Chikwanine, Jessica Dee Humphreys, Claudia Davila)

This is like a children's version of A Long Way Gone.  It would be a good way to introduce children to this topic - if you felt like it was a good idea to introduce children to this topic. Maybe children would see something on the news and ask questions? Not sure I would ever bring this book to a child unless they already knew something about the topic.

I have friends who are currently missionaries in the country Michel is from: DRC. It is still a difficult country to live in. I was surprised at the beginning of this book when he talked about how beautiful this country was. It seems like a poor and sad country full of controversy.

It is a difficult story and a harsh reality. It is told in an appropriate way for children.

Goodreads summary:

Michel is like many other five-year-olds: he has a loving family and spends his days going to school and playing soccer. But in 1993, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Michel and his family live, is a country in tumult. One afternoon Michel and his friends are kidnapped by rebel militants and forced to become child soldiers.

The Invisible Wall (Harry Bernstein)

You could sum up the theme of the book with this quote:

P. 271 What is this world going to grow up? When are people going to learn that were all alike and nobody's better or worse than anybody else? How many wars do we have to fight, and how many more millions have to be slaughtered before the world gets any sense in its fat head?

I fond this story took me a long time to read. I found most of it quite dreary....which seems right. There lives were dreary. Reading it was a little like sitting around listening to relatives tell stories. A little painful, and I am easily distracted in the process...but it should be done.

 I do admire the author's memory though! I liked that he didn't immortalize his family by making everything a rosy memory. I think there is a lot to learn from the imperfections in life, and Harry certainly experienced them.

If I had to draw the story of this book it would be a long flat line until the last two chapters. It was worth getting there though. The epilogue totally warmed my heart too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The First Snow (David Christiana)

This book is beautiful! It has imagery that seemed to make everyone in my class sit and listen carefully. We have been reading poetry and talking about how words can mean different things. This story was a great follow up to the poetry because the imagery in this story is stunning. We feel like winter has gone away for a season because ours has been such a warm one.

Goodreads summary:

This beautifully illustrated tale of the first snowfall begins long ago, when Mother Nature was a child and liked only warm weather. When Winter wraps her in a blanket of soft crystals that fall from the sky, she finally awakens to the beauty of snow. Full-color illustrations.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

...and Nick (Emily Gore)

Such a cute story! Often those kids who are late bloomers are the ones who are gentle and sensitive like Nick.

The idea of being a "late bloomer" was a new one to my class. They did understand about "not having your growth spurt yet" though. 

Nick isn’t sure what he wants—and that’s okay! Youngest siblings and late bloomers will be delighted by this charming and reassuring picture book.

There are four mice brothers: Rick, Mick, Vick…and Nick!

Nick is the youngest, and while his brothers each know exactly what they want, Nick is never quite sure. Which color shirt is the nicest? What does Nick want to eat? Which flower will be best to pick from the meadow? Nick doesn’t know! But…

He might just be waiting for the right moment to bloom.

Monday, January 25, 2016

What a Party! (Ana Maria Machado, Hélène Moreau)

You have to be careful how you say things to kids....or you might end up with the party of the century!

There were a few kids in my class that were pretty adamant that they've had a party just like this :)

This was a good introduction to a number of Spanish cultural words and activities as well. Getting ready for Spanish in grade 4!

Goodreads Summary:

If it is just a few days until your birthday, and your mother says you can invite anyone you like to come over to play, be careful! If you don’t watch out, you might soon be having the craziest party ever. Before you know it, night could come and go and a new day could begin, and the dancing might still be going strong. In a celebration of neighbors and diversity, an open-ended party invitation results in a raucous gathering of children, pets, and parents (plus salsa dancers and a reggae band!), all feasting on food from all over the world. This is a humorous and irresistibly joyful cautionary tale.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Superfab Saves the Day (Jean Leroy, Bérengère Delaporte)

This is a superhero that has no sense of time and looking good takes priority over most everything else. It all works out in the end, proving that if you focus on your strengths, you can accomplish good things. However, the problem of always being late may not be something you want to overlook. I'm not sure kids would really catch that though. They certainly did enjoy a giggle as we read this story though.

Meet Superfab, the best-dressed superhero around. He’s got a walk-in closet, an extensive collection of outfits, and fabulous style to boot. The only problem is, he can’t leave his house to go fight crime until he has the perfect outfit on — and sometimes that takes awhile. Sometimes it takes so long that by the time he arrives at the scene of a crime, another superhero has already gotten the job done. Superfab finds himself less and less in demand, until one day he gets called to the scene and discovers that his exquisite sense of style is just the weapon he needs to beat (and befriend) this particular monster. This original take on the superhero story will have readers rooting for the underdog and celebrating Superfab’s unique pizazz. Whimsical illustrations show off the stylish side of this quirky and loveable character who knows the best way to save the day is to be true to yourself.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Big in a Vacuum (Mélanie Watt)

It took a long time for this one to come from the public library. It had a lot of holds. It is curious to me why this book is so popular because it is such a narrow topic: grief. However, the pictures are awesome and it is funny. My students didn't make any connection with the stages of grief. They just thought it was funny and had a good laugh at the pictures. I really enjoyed it too.

A bug flies through an open door into a house, through a bathroom, across a kitchen and bedroom and into a living room ... where its entire life changes with the switch of a button. Sucked into the void of a vacuum bag, this one little bug moves through denial, bargaining, anger, despair and eventually acceptance -- the five stages of grief -- as it comes to terms with its fate. Will there be a light at the end of the tunnel? Will there be dust bunnies in the void? A funny, suspenseful and poignant look at the travails of a bug trapped in a vacuum. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Mother Bruce (Ryan T Higgins)

This book is for all the mothers (or fathers?) out there who have days where they're a bit of a bear! It will make you laugh. The pictures and the words are hilarious. I think I enjoyed it much more than my students did - although, they did enjoy it. I think this would be a hilarious book to read in a Relief Society lesson (although, some might poo poo Bruce's unhappiness in his parenting situation). It is a great book for those willing to be honest about the fact that parenting isn't always all it's cracked up to be (no pun intended).

I think I need to own this one.

There are so many pictures I loved!

Goodreads summary:

Bruce the bear likes to keep to himself. That, and eat eggs. But when his hard-boiled goose eggs turn out to be real, live goslings, he starts to lose his appetite. And even worse, the goslings are convinced he's their mother. Bruce tries to get the geese to go south, but he can't seem to rid himself of his new companions. What's a bear to do?

Winter Lullaby (Barbara Seuling)

The pictures in this book are bright and beautiful. There aren't a lot of words, but there is lots of room for discussion, especially amongst winter experts, like my students!

As the natural world changes with winter's approach, young children worry about the creatures they see around them. Where do the ducks and other animals go? Will they find shelter from the cold? Will they be safe and warm? In Winter Lullaby, Barbara Seuling's reassuring, gentle verse and Greg Newbold's breathtaking paintings reveal what animals do to survive as winter takes hold.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Stella Queen of the Snow (Marie-Louise Gay)

We have recently been talking about similes and this book had a lot of great examples.

Loved the questions in this book. Some of them are questions many people wonder about. Others were questions that my students had never even thought to ask. They were quite captured by this story, which surprised me, since it is quite a simple story. Often the best ones are the simplest.

These two characters reminded my students of Max and Ruby. Me too!

I got to hear Marie-Louise Gay speak one time at Kaleidoscope. After listening to her talk about how she creates her illustrations, I was totally sold on her books. Love her!

Goodreads Summary:

In their second adventure, Stella and her little brother, Sam, spend the day discovering the wonders of winter together. Playing in the snow, they explore the white-draped forest, pelt each other with snowballs, and wave their arms while lying down in the snow to make snow angels. Marie-Louise Gay's evocative watercolors bring alive the magic of a winter day, as Sam asks a million questions and Stella patiently answers them in a big sister kind of way. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wolfie the Bunny (Ame Dyckman)

We started off, before we read this book, by talking about funny names our parents call us. I told them that when our daughter is cranky, we call her Jillzilla (her name is Jill). This story was written because the author had a daughter that they called Wolfie when she was cranky. We had a good laugh about it.

There were a few pictures in here that are quite interesting that my students pointed out (they're so good at that!). On one page, the shadow of the wolf looks much more ferocious than what it is reflecting. We talked about whether or not it's a real shadow or if it is reflecting what the illustrator and author thought the main character was seeing.

Goodreads summary:

The Bunny family has adopted a wolf son, and daughter Dot is the only one who realizes Wolfie can--and might--eat them all up! Dot tries to get through to her parents, but they are too smitten to listen. A new brother takes getting used to, and when (in a twist of fate) it's Wolfie who's threatened, can Dot save the day?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Paper Bag Princess (Robert Munsch)

Today we are "comparing and contrasting" after reading The Six Blind Men and the Elephant. To practice our compare and contrast skills we read The Paper Bag Princess and Cinderella and compared and contrasted the stories.

Goodreads summary:

One of Robert Munsch's most popular and ingenious characters is now available as a doll. Dressed in her trademark paper bag, the spunky but dishevelled Elizabeth is ready to tackle new adventures.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Yard Sale (Eve Bunting)

This story made me a little sad, especially given the economic conditions here these days. Some of the kids in my class seemed to take it kind of serious, and to others it was funny, especially when someone asked if Callie was for sale.

Goodreads Summary:

When a family has to leave their house and move to a small apartment, it’s hard to let go of things—but having one another is what counts.

Almost everything Callie’s family owns is spread out in their front yard—their furniture, their potted flowers, even Callie’s bike. They can’t stay in this house, so they’re moving to an apartment in the city. The new place is "small but nice," Mom says, and most of their things won’t fit, so today they are having a yard sale. But it’s kind of hard to watch people buy your stuff, even if you understand why it has to happen. With sensitivity and grace, Eve Bunting and Lauren Castillo portray an event at once familiar and difficult, making clear that a home isn’t about what you have, but whom you hold close.

Too Many Books (Gilles Tibo)

We've been reading a lot of Gilles Tibo books in my classroom and really enjoying them.

We loved how Nicholas has a book as soon as he needs to learn something :)

Book summary: Everytime Nichoals tries to do something - like brush his teeth or ride his bike - someone gives him a book on how to do it right. And he does. But when he's read too many books that tell him what to do, it's time for something new!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Counting Lions (Katie Cotton)

My students were less captivated by the words in this book. It didn't mean a lot to them. We talked a lot through reading it though because they loved the pictures so much. They are amazing. They always love oversized books, as this one is too.

All the animals in the book are close to endangered.

Goodreads Summary:

A spectacular, visually stunning celebration of wildlife—and gentle counting book—that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

Exquisite charcoal drawings of ten endangered creatures—lions, elephants, giraffes, pandas, tigers, chimpanzees, penguins, turtles, macaws, and zebras—startle the viewer with their size and astonishing detail. A poetic text notes each creature’s particular qualities and behavior, while providing a quiet counting exercise and a reminder that these animals must be cherished and protected.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Hurry Up Nicholas (Gilles Tibo)

This  book is along the same lines as The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister. It's only appropriate that this is a topic that gets written about. From the discussions in our class it sounds like Nicholas and Ernestine aren't the only ones who struggle with an over-scheduled life!

We had a good laugh at Nicholas and at the surprise ending in this book.

Nicholas is an over-scheduled child. What happens when he is too exhausted to go on? Every day Nicholas has to attend his after-school activities. Sculpture, violin lessons, swimming, archery there are several every afternoon, and even more on weekends! Back and forth, and to and fro, Nicholas can't take much more of this running around, but what is he to do? His parents come up with a novel solution they just bring the teachers to him! 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Where's My Hockey Sweater? (Gilles Tibo)

I have a soft spot for Canadian authors.

On the first day back to school, this seemed like the perfect book. Some of us had mornings like this!

Goodreads summary:

Will Nicholas be able to sift through his mess and find all of his hockey gear in time for practice? Nicholas’s room is a disaster area - he doesn’t know where anything is. And he still has to get all of his hockey gear together, put it on, eat breakfast and fly out the door in time to make the first practice of the year! Bruno St-Aubin’s colourful, amusing and action-filled illustrations perfectly complement the humorous text and will delight readers of all ages.Any parent who has had to hustle a child out the door for hockey will relate to the hunt for each piece of equipment! 

Ranger in Time - Danger in Ancient Rome (Kate Messner)

I've been meaning to check out this series for a while. I'm excited to introduce it to my students. Look out Magic Tree House! I loved how there was a lot to learn in this book. I would recommend reading the back matter before even starting the story.

Goodreads summary:

Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever, is back for the second book in Kate Messner's new chapter book series. This time, he's off to save the day in ancient Rome!

Ranger is a golden retriever who has been trained as a search-and-rescue dog. In this adventure, Ranger travels to the Colosseum in ancient Rome, where there are gladiator fights and wild animal hunts! Ranger befriends Marcus, a young boy Ranger saves from a runaway lion, and Quintus, a new volunteer gladiator who must prove himself in the arena. Can Ranger help Marcus and Quintus escape the brutal world of the Colosseum?

Fuzzy Mud ( Louis Sachar)

This is a great story! It mixes science, honesty, bullying and friendship into one suspenseful story. It has kids who are trying to be independent yet know it is important to listen to parents.

I would love to read this book aloud to students or do it as a novel study.

One reason I love J fiction is many of the truths of "kids" are actually quite eternal. A lot of adults still have the same issues they had as kids. Sometimes the peer pressure still exists and people try to look cool, like they did when they were in school. We are supposed to outgrow the need to look cool as adults, but we don't always.

This book has a bully in it. We learn that he is a bully mostly because he doesn't feel loved. 

P. 5 when did the rules change, she wondered. When did it become bad to be good?

The real strength comes in not worrying about the "cool factor". 
P. 6. Across the lunchroom, Marshakk sat admid a bunch of kids, all laughing and talking loudly. On one side of Marshakk sat one group. On his other side sat a different group. Between these two groups, Marshall silently ate alone.

Marshall is a good kid. Fear gets to him. Chad is a bully. Tamaya knows that if they will just be honest and good to each other, everything will be ok.

Goodreads summary: 

"Be careful. Your next step may be your last."

Fifth grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh grader Marshall Walsh have been walking to and from Woodbridge Academy together since elementary school. But their routine is disrupted when bully Chad Wilson challenges Marshall to a fight. To avoid the conflict, Marshall takes a shortcut home through the off-limits woods. Tamaya reluctantly follows. They soon get lost, and they find trouble. Bigger trouble than anyone could ever have imagined.

In the days and weeks that follow, the authorities and the U.S. Senate become involved, and what they uncover might affect the future of the world.