Thursday, February 25, 2016


We may be reading Ella Enchanted for Grade 3 book club. This was a great way to lead into the discussion about different versions of stories. We also have read The Bremen Town Musicians in Open Court. One of the members of our class found a Grimm's Fairy Tales in the library that had it as well. After watching a video, we learned that versions of stories really vary!

The illustrations in this story are amazing! We could have read through this book and pointed out interesting things for 30 minutes or more, I'm sure.

The ending is hilarious - the prince actually doesn't want to get married, just like Chickerella! They actually go into business together instead. :)

Goodreads Summary:

When Chickerella's new stepmother and stepsisters move in, life in the chicken coop takes a turn for the worse. Chickerella won't even be able to attend the Fowl Ball, that is, until her Fairy Goosemother appears. The unusually stylish Chickerella dazzles the prince in her eggsquisite gown, but at the stroke of midnight, she must race home before the spell is broken.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Suddenly Alligator (Rick Walton)

Cute story! The children in my class really enjoyed Suddenly Alligator. At first I tried to emphasize the adjectives, but after a while we decided to just enjoy the story. We read it a second time and this time every time they heard an adjective, they repeated it in a choral response. 

We are trying to remember to include adjectives in our paragraphs. This was a good reminder.

Apparently Rick Walton has some other books about parts of speech. Definitely want to check those out!

A young boy meets a hungry alligator. Throw in mistaken identity and a pair of stinky socks, and you have all the fun and surprise of the fabulous new picture book Suddenly Alligator. In his usual engaging way, author Rick Walton tells an entertaining story while also teaching language arts concepts to children. A great addition to Walton's line of language arts picture books, Suddenly Alligator is a rollicking little tale. With the superb illustrations and creative vision of Jim Bradshaw, this is a book you won't want to miss!

Rick Walton is the author of dozens of books for kids, including his popular books introducing language arts concepts: Once There Was a Bullfrog (which teaches adjectives, comparatives, and superlatives), Why the Banana Split (which teaches synonyms and idioms) and Herd of Cows Flock of Sheep (which teaches collective nouns).

Jim Bradshaw received his degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. He lives with his wife and three children in New Jersey, where he works as a graphic designer. He also does freelance design and illustrator.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken (Kate DiCamillo)

Oh how I love Kate DiCamillo! She weaves magical tales! Who could make any sense out of the idea of an adventurous chicken?! The story works beautifully.

I don't relate to Louise. She likes adventures. (I like to read about adventures). I did relate to how she needs to go home and tuck herself in and have a good sleep!!

I could totally relate to the other chickens. Their heart races when she tells them of their adventures...and they feel like they've been on the adventure too. And that is good enough for them! I often feel that way. I don't need to go out and do all the seemingly crazy things everyone else does....I'm okay to hear about it/read about it! I guess I'm a minimalist adventurer.

I loved the words in this book. They're beautiful woven. This story was a big hit!

Goodreads Summary:

She longed for adventure.

So she left her home and ventured out into the wide world.

The pleasures and perils she met proved plentiful: marauding pirates on the majestic seas, a ferocious lion under the bright lights of the big top, a mysterious stranger in an exotic and bustling bazaar.

Yet in the face of such daunting danger, our heroine . . .

She was brave.

She was fearless.

She was feathered.

She was a chicken.

A not-so-chicken chicken.

Her name?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

If I Built a Car (Chris Van Dusen)

My students loved this book. There was a lot of shouts of: 
  • Cool! 
  • As if! 
  • I would totally do that!
  • That's a great idea!
The illustrations are great. We are doing 'elaborative detail' in writing right now and this book is a great example of ways to describe an object. I'll use it again!

Goodreads Summary:

Young Jack is giving an eye-opening tour of the car he'd like to build. There's a snack bar, a pool, and even a robot named Robert to act as chauffeur. With Jack's soaring imagination in the driver's seat, we're deep-sea diving one minute and flying high above traffic the next in this whimsical, tantalizing take on the car of the future. Illustrations packed with witty detail, bright colors, and chrome recall the fabulous fifties and an era of classic American automobiles. Infectious rhythm and clever invention make this wonderful read-aloud a launch pad for imaginative fun. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Danny Champion of the World (Roald Dahl)

This book was recommended by one of the male teachers at my school (we don't have many male teachers...and they don't often give book I paid attention when this one did!) He says it is his favourite book of all time. I hadn't read it, so I decided I should. I think it'd be a great book for boys and dads, especially. I love Danny's admiration for his dad in this story. 

“I was glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it's impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren't feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different. You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I've also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you but his eyes stay the same. It's sure to be a phony.”

Danny's dad teaches him to fix cars, teaches him cool facts about animals, lets Danny take days off school for fake sicknesses, and takes him on great hunting adventures. There is no one Danny would rather spend time with.

This little bit made me laugh out loud:

“On this Thursday, on this particular walk to school, there was an old frog croaking in the stream behind the hedge as we went by.
'Can you hear him, Danny?'
'Yes,' I said,
'That is a bullfrog calling to his wife. He does it by blowing out his dewlap and letting it go with a burp.'
'What is a dewlap?' I asked.
'It's the loose skin on his throat. He can blow it up just like a balloon.'
'What happens when his wife hears him?'
'She goes hopping over to him. She is very happy to have been invited. But I'll tell you something very funny about the old bullfrog. He often becomes so pleased with the sound of his own voice that his wife has to nudge him several times before he'll stop his burping and turn round to hug her.'
That made me laugh.
'Dont laugh too loud,' he said, twinkling at me with his eyes. 'We men are not so very different from the bullfrog.” 

The more Roald Dahl books I read, the more I see overlaps in his stories. This one refers to the BFG, a bed-time story that Danny's dad tells. It doesn't go anywhere though. It is a minor part of this story.  The sergeant at the end of the story is a funny character. He puts h's at the front of words where they don't belong and removes them from words where they should be. It reminded me of how fun it is to read The Witches out loud. I wonder if Sargeant Samway shows up in any other books? 

One bothersome thing about this story is how doing something mean/dishonest/tricky to someone who is not nice is totally justifiable. This theme pops up in other Roald Dahl books like The Twits and Matilda.  ....maybe I am being too dull.....not sparky enough.

“A stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY” 

Goodreads summary:

Danny has a life any boy would love—his home is a gypsy caravan, he's the youngest master car mechanic around, and his best friend is his dad, who never runs out of wonderful stories to tell. But one night Danny discovers a shocking secret that his father has kept hidden for years. Soon Danny finds himself the mastermind behind the most incredible plot ever attempted against nasty Victor Hazell, a wealthy landowner with a bad attitude. Can they pull it off? If so, Danny will truly be the champion of the world. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Controlling People (Patricia Evans)

Interesting perspective on why some people feel the need to be controllers. Would have liked more insight on how to deal with people who treat you poorly and are controlling. This book was a good one to start on this topic. 

I listened to the audio book.

Goodreads summary:

Learn how to 'break the spell' of control with Patricia Evans' new bestseller. Already hailed by Oprah Winfrey, "Controlling People" deals with issues big and small - revealing the thought processes of those who seek to control in order to provide a 'spell-breaking' mind-set for those who suffer this insidious manipulation. Invaluable insight and advice for those who seek support. (less)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Flora and Ulysses (Kate DiCamillo)

I have read this book before and blogged about it here.

This time when I read it I kept wondering what the meaning of all the craziness was. There seems like there must be some meaning behind the crazy lamp, the crazy kid who is blind, the crazy parents, the other crazy adults, and of course, the crazy idea that a squirrel can be a superhero!

So many questions:

  • Why a superhero squirrel? Does the squirrel represent something? And how does that relate to the mundane superhero Flora loves? What is the connection with The Amazing Incandesto? And what is with Dr. Meescham's ability to fix everything? ...on her horse hair couch?? Is she/it also a superhero?
  • There's a theme of love happening here somewhere...Flora wanting love from her mom...her mom seeming to love the lamp more...but in the end we find out she really does love Flora more than the lamp...William goes blind after his mom remarries a man who doesn't respect William Spiver and calls him Billy (interesting that it's important to him to be called by his first AND last name...the name his father would have given him) For his step-father to disrespect that was the ultimate betrayal and of course, justifies putting his vehicle in a pond...and it isn't until William Spiver finally talks about this episode that he can see again. He can "see" again. Then there's the love Dr Meescham feels for her dead husband. And Flora's love for Ulysses, and Ulysses' love for's easy and instant. I think all these people really need to read The Five Love Languages!
  • Words! Words are very important in this book. Malfeasance. Treacle. Incandesto. Poetry. William Spiver helping Phyllis Buckman find just the right words. Words floating above people's heads.
  • Fitting in. Being a misfit. many funny people in this book. Flora's mother is concerned she's a misfit. Flora's father is odd. Flora's mother is odd. Their relationship is broken. Then there is the squid in the picture...lonely...ugly....naturally the way he is.
  • Good versus evil. Physllis Buckman = arch nemesis. William Spiver's step-father seems evil to William. Ulysses brings about good. Then there's the squid in the picture....\
  • Are Flora and her father, and maybe even William Spiver austic??
  • Is it called Illuminated Adventures because all these crazy escapades actually bring light to their lives? Flora finds out her mother does love her. William is able to deal with his mother's remarriage. Anyone else see the light??

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mercy Watson Fights Crime (Kate DiCamillo)

Re-read February 10, 2016

My class hasn't read Leroy Ninker yet this year - but I plan to get it from the public library ASAP!

They were totally taken by the story. They are starting to see the common threads in these stories: the toast, the firefighters, the cranky old ladies next door, etc. Love Mercy Watson!!

Originally read: January 13, 2015

We laughed and laughed at this book in our class. We had already read Leroy Ninker, so to find out he had been involved with Mercy Watson was a real delight.

Goodreads Summary:

Leroy Ninker is a small man with a big dream: he wants to be a cowboy, but for now he's just a thief. In fact, Leroy is robbing the Watsons' kitchen right this minute! As he drags the toaster across the counter — screeeeeech — and drops it into his bag — clannngggg — little does he know that a certain large pig who loves toast with a great deal of butter is stirring from sleep. Even less could he guess that comedy of errors (not to mention the buttery sweets in his pocket) will soon lead this little man on the wild and raucous rodeo ride he's always dreamed of! Nosy neighbors, astonished firemen, a puzzled policeman, and the ever-doting Watsons return for a new tongue-in-snout adventure about Kate DiCamillo's delightfully single-minded pig.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mercy Watson To The Rescue (Kate DiCamillo)

Re read Feb 9, 2016: This is a perfect book for kids not quite ready for bigger chapter books. My students were totally taken by the story. They laughed at the right spots and they listened intensely. Seemed just right for many. I plan to get them all out of the library for them!

Originally read: December 9, 2014:

I love how Kate DiCamillo is able to romanticize the simplest of things. In this book it is toast with lots of butter. She dedicates the book to someone who loves toast with lots of butter. In the 'about the author' she says she had the idea for the story in her head but didn't know how to tell its until she was listening to a friend one day go on about the virtues of toast. 

Mercy Watson is a pig that lives with Mr. and Mrs. Watson. They treat him just like he was their child. In this story there is an emergency and Mercy saves them with the help of a cantankerous neighbor. I loved the pictures of Mercy chasing around with Eugenia Lincoln from next door. It reminds me of how our dog likes to let you chase him.

Animals - of course, because there is a pig
Communication - Mercy is able to get Eugenia and Babe to call the fire department without actually talking
Early Chapter Books - Less than 100 pages and easy to read
Humor - How can you not smile when you look at Mercy's enthusiastic face?!
love - Mr and Mrs Watson love Mercy and Mercy reciprocates that love by saving them
Silly Stories - a pet pic is a little silly. I would have to agree with Eugenia

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Telling Time (Irene Watts)

Sometimes you pull a book off the library's shelf and it's a win. Sometimes it's not. This one wasn't so great for our class. The story is quite deep and requires a lot of background knowledge of the story of Purim, Queen Esther and more. My kids were totally lost.

Our read a book a day goal is a real benefit to when we have Reading Buddies with the grade ones. They have many books that have been read to them and they're familiar with and as a result, they do a little better job reading with their  buddies. I don't think I'll put this one on the shelf for that. Just won't work for Reading Buddies.

Quite a beautiful story if you are familiar with those topics though!

This tale is told in three time-frames. On the eve of the Festival of Purim, a grandmother tells her granddaughter how, as a little girl, she heard the story of Queen Esther from her family rabbi. This was in 1939, in Nazi-occupied Vienna, on the eve of WWII. Soon after the rabbi begins the story of the brave queen, soldiers come to arrest him. The young girl begs for the rabbi to finish his story, and the soldiers allow him to do so. When the tale is over, the soldiers permit him to send the children home. But when the children turn to wave goodbye, the rabbi had vanished in the snowflakes, safe from harm, saved by the miracle of a story from long ago. The illustrations by Kathryn Shoemaker perfectly highlight the story's message of hope. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Sound of Gravel (Ruth Wariner)

I am always curious about polygamous stories. I have never known anyone in a family like this and cannot understand how I could ever be a positive situation. I do, however, have ancestors who were polygamists. Nothing much is ever said about their experience in my family history loving tribe, so it has always made me assume it was not a great situation. How could I ever be?

This story made me sad for the women who get themselves stuck in situations where they turn all decision making, all power and all control of their life over to someone else....a man. The man in this story was a sick and twisted lazy abuser. It made me angry to read of her mother's decisions to stay with him and continue to have me children and not protect them. I cannot stand such backward thinking and cowardliness. I hated how Ruth's mother kept saying, "If he ever does it again...." I hated how, after expelling him from their community, they decided he had suffered enough and let him back. I hated how he le his family live in such squalor. I hated him and I despised his wives.

But I also could not put the book down. I started it yesterday morning then had a full day of commitments. All day I kept wishing for time to steal away to my vehicle and spend some me time in the story. There was no time for that though. This morning I got up early before everyone else and picked up the book right away. I read it through to the end.....and then slammed it shut. It has left a cloud over my day that has not been easily shaken.

I am so proud of Ruth for being brave enough to turn her life and her siblings lives around. Thank goodness for people like her grandmother who weren't afraid to voice her opinion on the problems in the religion. It put ideas into Ruth's head to her her see she had to get out.

...and may people like Lane rot in hell.

Goodreads summary:

A riveting, deeply-affecting true story of one girl's coming-of-age in a polygamist cult.

Ruth Wariner was the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turned a blind eye to the practices of her community, Ruth lives in a ramshackle house without indoor plumbing or electricity. At church, preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world and that women can only ascend to Heaven by entering into polygamous marriages and giving birth to as many children as possible. After Ruth's father--the man who had been the founding prophet of the colony--is brutally murdered by his brother in a bid for church power, her mother remarries, becoming the second wife of another faithful congregant.

In need of government assistance and supplemental income, Ruth and her siblings are carted back and forth between Mexico and the United States, where her mother collects welfare and her step-father works a variety of odd jobs. Ruth comes to love the time she spends in the States, realizing that perhaps the community into which she was born is not the right one for her. As Ruth begins to doubt her family’s beliefs and question her mother’s choices, she struggles to balance her fierce love for her siblings with her determination to forge a better life for herself.

Recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child, The Sound of Gravel is the remarkable true story of a girl fighting for peace and love. This is an intimate, gripping tale of triumph, courage, and resilience.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Little Red's Riding Hood (Peter Stein)

A great take on a classic story, with a fun twist for kids who really love vehicles! I know of a bunch of little boys who'd really love this one. We all had a good chuckle as we read it. My class did a lot of work last year on different versions of stories, so they really love this kind of story.

Goodreads Summary:

When Little Red's Granny Putt Putt gets sick, the tiny moped scooter races over the river and through the dark woods to bring her a basket of get-well goodies.

But when Little Red crosses paths with Tank, the biggest, loudest, meanest machine around, that no-good monster truck has plans of his own.

Why, Granny, what big wheels you have!
Why, Granny, what big headlights you have!
Why, Granny, what a big hood you have!

From the sparkplug, creative minds of Peter Stein and Chris Gall comes a full-throttle version of the classic LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD tale that will have everyone revving for more.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness (Colin Thompson)

That moment when you pick up a book to read to your class that you really haven't previewed.

This one made me a little nervous. The beginning is so sad and pathetic!! I almost stopped after:
Most Friday afternoons on his way home from school, in that time before the weekend when lonely people realize just how lonely they are, George visited the dog shelter.

One thing is for sure though, it sure grabbed everyone's attention. Every student my class was riveted and listening carefully to see what would happen to this poor sad pathetic boy.

Everyone was really curious about why the dog only had three legs. The story doesn't say and we decided sometimes that just happens. ...and sometimes life is just sad like that...but we can make the best of it.

We also loved the bit about how Jeremy, the dog, is so happy living with George that he has a smile as wide as Australia. We love good descriptive words!

The illustrations really tie in well to the sadness in this book. 

Goodreads summary:

George lived alone with his grandmother and an empty place where his mother and father should be. One Friday on his way home from school, George visited the animal shelter. There, in the very last cage, was Jeremy, a dog who looked as lost and as lonely as George. When Jeremy goes home to live with George and his grandmother, their whole lives change, and they learn that when it comes to love, it's quality not quantity that counts . 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My Name is Elizabeth (Annika Dunklee)

We read this book in a previous year for National Read Aloud Day. Some of my students remembered it.

 Is a simple story but it led to a great discussion about respect and how we have names that some people don't mind if other people call them and others are more particular about it. We talked about how calling someone by their preferred name is a great way to show respect.

Goodreads summary:

Meet Elizabeth. She's got an excellent pet duck, a loving granddad and a first name that's just awesome. After all, she's got a queen named after her! So she's really not amused when people insist on using nicknames like ?Lizzy? and ?Beth.? She bears her frustration in silence until an otherwise ordinary autumn day, when she discovers her power to change things once and for all. In the process, Elizabeth learns about communication and respect --- and their roles in building better relationships with family and friends. The two-toned illustrations reflect the story's energy and sass, and the comic-book-like format makes it easy to follow. The cheeky, retro drawings also keep it real --- depicting the sometimes-feisty Elizabeth as a resolutely normal kid --- whether she's flossing her teeth or feeding her pet duck.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Emily's Tiger (Miriam Latimer)

One of my student's bought this book for me as a gift at our school's book fair. What a great surprise!

We enjoyed the pictures. The children noticed that when Emily gets angry and roars she starts to get a tiger tail and paws. In the story her Grandma teaches her to control her anger. We talked about how it's okay to have feelings of anger, but we need to learn how to use those feelings appropriately.

Goodreads summary:

Whenever Emily doesn't get her way, she growls and roars like a tiger. She roars when her mother tries to cut her hair, she roars when she doesn't get picked to be the assistant to the clown at a birthday party???????????? what are her mom and dad going to do with their tiger-daughter? Then Grandma comes to stay ???????????? and she knows a thing or two about tigers and tempers! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Cloud Spinner (Michael Catchpool)

Today we were able to take more time with our story and discuss as we went. I am really realizing the value of reading stories every day. My students are starting to bring up connections with other stories. Today, while we were looking at the pictures, they pointed out the geese in the sky, and someone yelled out, "Honkers!" (That is what the Grandpa called the geese in Through Grandpa's Eyes)

I also saw again how children often see much more in the story than I do. They noticed the cute smiles all over the place. They noticed the pictures in the clouds. They had a laugh at the fat king and queen. They chuckled over his hair. They commented on the tropical weather, like the weather in India. Each of those things was an opportunity to connect to something we had learned.

They had no idea about weaving and spinning and how cloth is made. This was a great introduction to that topic, which we will cover more in Social Studies later when we talk about the weaving Peruvians do.

And then, most important of all, there are the lessons in the story:
  • greediness never works out in the end
  • only take what you can use
  • don't boss people around

Goodreads summary:

One small boy has a special gift—he can weave cloth from the clouds: gold in the early morning with the rising sun, white in the afternoon, and crimson in the evening. He spins just enough cloth for a warm scarf. But when the king sees the boy's magnificent cloth, he demands cloaks and gowns galore. "It would not be wise," the boy protests. "Your majesty does not need them!" But spin he must—and soon the world around him begins to change.

From author Michael Catchpool and illustrator Alison Jay comes a magical tale about the beauty and fragility of our natural world, and the wisdom and courage needed to protect it.