Thursday, June 30, 2016

Eleven and Holding (Mary Penney)

This is the same author that wrote Counting by 7s. This is a thoughtful and beautiful book, like that one.  

I love the main character, Macy. Books like this always make me wonder if I don't give kids enough credit. They watch and make sense of things they're not told.

P. 43 I took a big, unladylike bite into my cupcake. My taste buds nearly exploded with happiness. 

Her grandmother has passed away and her business was sold to Chuck, who is friends with her mom. In the story we find out he is also mourning the loss of his partner, Phillip. Then there is Ginger, Phillip's mother, who is in and out of senility  and not quite able to process loss. 

P. 226 I guess Ginger knew that somewhere in her head, but her heart wouldn't really let her know it.  So, she kept pretending he was alive if only she could find him. 

Macy's father is away on what she is told is a secret mission in the military and her mother is a probation officer. Macy is facing moving on to middle school without her best friend, who is a year younger. 

P. 227 Sometimes when we're not ready to hear something painful, we have to keep ourselves busy not hearing it. It can look crazy, but it's not. It's just coping. We all do it differently. 

It is called Eleven and Holding because she doesn't want to turn 12 without her dad being there. She teams up with a runaway boy who is actually a client of her mother's, unbeknownst to her. What they find out changes pretty much everything. 

Goodreads summary: 

Like The Thing About Jellyfish and Counting by 7s, this sweet, heartfelt middle grade novel illustrates for readers what it’s like to tackle loss, confront hard truths, and find the courage to begin again.

Macy Hollinquest is eleven years old, and don’t count on her to change that anytime soon.

Her birthday is just days away, but she has no intention of turning twelve without her dad by her side. He’d promised to be there for her big day—and yet he’s been gone for months, away doing some kind of secret “important work” after being discharged from the Marines. So she’s staying eleven, no matter what—that is, until she meets Ginger, a nice older lady who is searching for her missing dog. Could Ginger be the perfect cover for attempting to locate her dad?

Macy’s search puts her on a path to a head-on collision with the truth, where she discovers that knowing can sometimes be a heavy burden. And that change, when finally accepted, comes with an unexpected kind of grace.

Mary Penney’s earnest, heartfelt story of change, loss, and new beginnings will resonate with readers on the cusp of new beginnings, and stay in their hearts long after it’s done.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznick)

I'm not one to re-read books very often. I have read this book a number of times though and love it every time. I have done this as a read-aloud before (good thing for smart boards where you can easily show all the pictures!) and this year I decided to do it as a novel study. I have done other Brian Selznick books before. It has always been a fantastic experience. The tricky part is getting enough copies of the book. It is an expensive book to buy so I haven't even dared ask the school to buy a class set. Instead, the Calgary Public Library kindly got enough copies that we could share a book amongst two students. It was wonderful!

I love it how kids take more care with illustrations. In this book you cannot ignore the illustrations. They tell the story as much as the words do, and sometimes tell you parts of the story the words have not told you.

Most of my students have not read a book as big as this one (although many claim they have...they are really moreso in the Geronimo Stilton mode as a whole, it seems). This one is a great stretcher and hopefully they will go on to read Wonderstruck and The Marvels this summer.

Recently, I have been reading Notice and Note and have tried to implement its strategies when I'm reading. I definitely plan to start using these strategies next year with book club.

Some of my favorite quotes and some of the Notice and Note signposts I noticed:

This is a great look into how we often can't know everything about someone else. Sometimes people do things that seem mean and they would totally not give themselves the same label because they have reasons for what they're doing.
p. 168 Hugo blinked. He had never thought of himself as mean before. The old man was mean, not him. Hugo had no choice...he had to keep secrets, but he couldn't explain this to the girl.

Again and again (Everytime Hugo is about to steal something he tubs his buttons):
p. 186  Hugo continued flipping through the book, seeing if there was anything at all about automata, but the book was silent on the subject. Still, Hugo wanted it very much. He knew that Monsieur Labisse lent books to Isabelle, but Hugo didn't want to just borrow this one. He wanted to own it.
He slipped it under his arm and inched toward the door. He rubbed the remaining buttons on his jacket...

Ah ha moment (Hugo and Isabelle realize maybe they can help Papa Georges find happiness):
p. 374 "Did you ever notice that all machines are made for some reason?" he asked Isabelle. "They are built ot make you laugh, like a mouse here, or to tell the time, like clocks, or to fill you with wonder, like the automaton. Maybe that's why a broken machines always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do."
Isabelle picked up the mouse, wound it again, and set it down.
"Maybe it's the same with people," Hugo continued. "If you lose your's like you're broken."

then on p. 494 Isabelle and Hugo find out that Papa Georges was the one who painted an interesting picture of Prometheus that they saw. He says: "Then you know that Prometheus was rescued in the end. His chains were broken, and he was finally set free." The old man squinted one of his eyes and added, "How about that."

Goodreads summary:

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur (Mordecai Richler)

I decided that during DEAR time I will always read a book from our library corner so that I can book-talk it with the kids in my class. This week it was Jacob Two-Two.

Many years ago I went to a play at Olympic Plaza that was Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur. It was quite true to the book!

I was a little bothered at the way Jacob is treated in the beginning of the book. He is teased by everyone in his family. It seems a little over the top. Maybe I'm just too sensitive. Mordecai Richler definitely has a similar feel to his books as Roald Dahl: adults are mean and quite unnecessary and kids have to make it on their own. There's also lots of great humor that kids in Gr 3 will really crack up over - like the dinosaur causing huge wind storms because of gas he gets after eating his favorite food: Pizza!

There's some great elaborative detail in chapter 4 when Dippy is introduced! I will make a note of this for when I'm teaching elaborative detail.

One of the really fun things about this book is that it is set in Canada. They go to Banff and mention other places near us. The back page also notes that the children in the story have the same names as Mordecai Richler's children.

I think this would be a great book to read aloud.

Goodreads summary:

When his parents return from Kenya with a cute little green lizard on his eighth birthday (he’s two times two times two), Jacob Two-Two is thrilled. But it isn’t long before Jacob realizes that his new pet Dippy isn’t a lizard after all. And as months pass, it is apparent Dippy isn’t so little either. Soon Dippy is attracting all sorts of unwanted attention and before he knows it, Jacob is on the run from the Canadian government with a full-grown dinosaur to hide. 

The Widow's Broom (Chris Van Allsburg)

Nothing like a good mystery to keep everyone's attention! A fun story with a good twist at the end.

Goodreads summary:

A widow finds herself in possession of an extraordinary broom left by a witch who fell into the widow's garden.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie (Chris Van Allsburg)

I wanted to share some Chris van Allsburg stories with my class. He is one of my favourite authors. Children are mesmerised by his amazing stories! However, when I went to my local library I couldn't find any, except this one, which I had never seen  before. It turns out my library is one that only has book published in the last five oldies and goodies like Chris van Allsburg are off in other branches. I put a bunch on hold and took this one with me.

Sure enough, as we were reading it, everyone was totally captivated by the story. This one is different as most of the books of his that I've read are quite life-like. I hadn't pre-read it (you can always trust Chris Van Allsburg, right?!) and I was a little worried as the story wore on that perhaps he had some turn of heart and started writing stories with nasty endings! This one is about a hamster who goes through a series of less than caring owners. He goes from negligent child to negligent child. I was worried he'd end up dead. The children in my class had the same worry! Not only that, the name 'Sweetie Pie' seemed so out of character from his other had me wondering!

In the end, he doesn't. Turns out he escapes his cage after being forgotten at a playground. He ends up living out his days amongst some squirrels like Stellaluna and the birds.

From two-time Caldecott winner Chris Van Allsburg, creator ofJumanji and The Polar Express, comes a poignant story of one hamster’s struggle with destiny. Being a pet store hamster isn’t much fun for Sweetie Pie, but life in human homes proves downright perilous. As Sweetie Pie longingly gazes out of his cage at the squirrels frolicking in the trees, he wonders if he’ll ever have the chance to feel the wind in his fur. Allsburg’s expressive, soft-hued illustrations artfully capture a hamster’s-eye view of the wide and wonderful world where maybe, just maybe, Sweetie Pie could someday run free. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion

We probably should have read book one first. I assume you get introduced to the character and all her little animals in the first book. We were a little lost. Still though, the story was cute and we loved the explosions!

One of her stuffies wants to cook on his own, but it turns out he's buying his finished product at a bakery. Good potential for honesty discussion. Is it really dishonest to trick someone?

Anna Banana is at it again!

The lovable tyrant from Sleep Tight, Anna Banana! is up to no good, and so are all of her beloved stuffed animals. In this adorable sequel to the 2014 picture book, Anna Banana and her stuffed pals set out to make a chocolate cake...and end up making a big, big, big mess.

With all the charm and whimsy that won reader's hearts in the first book of the series, Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosionwill give Anna Banana's fans more of what they love...and win over new readers.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Story of Salt (Mark Kurlansky)

My student's laughed when I told them that salt has a great story. They couldn't imagine that there have been wars over salt, or that people have stolen it and had to go to jail over it. Salt is so common now! Fascinating story!

Goodreads summary:

From the team that created the ALA Notable Book The Cod's Tale comes the fascinating history of salt, which has been the object of wars and revolutions and is vital for life. Based on Mark Kurlansky's critically acclaimed bestseller Salt: A World History, this handsome picture book explores every aspect of salt: The many ways it's gathered from the earth and sea; how ancient emperors in China, Egypt, and Rome used it to keep their subjects happy; Why salt was key to the Age of Exploration; what salt meant to the American Revolution; And even how the search for salt eventually led to oil. Along the way, you'll meet a Celtic miner frozen in salt, learn how to make ketchup, and even experience salt's finest hour: Gandhi's famous Salt March.

The Museum (Susan Verde)

This is another beautifully illustrated book by Peter Reynolds. It was great to read with it being the end of the year because our students recognised many of the works of art. Fun story! Love the rhyming.

Goodreads summary:

When I see a work of art, something happens in my heart!
As a little girl tours and twirls through the halls of the art museum, she finds herself on an exciting adventure. Each piece of art evokes something new inside of her: silliness, curiosity, joy, and ultimately inspiration. When confronted with an empty white canvas, she is energized to create and express herself—which is the greatest feeling of all.
With exuberant illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds, The Museumplayfully captures the many emotions experienced through the power of art, and each child’s unique creative process.

Praise for The Museum 
"Verde and Reynolds deliver a simple premise with a charming payoff… this “twirly-whirly” homage to a museum is, on balance, a sweet-natured and handsome celebration."
Kirkus Reviews

"Debut author Verde makes an engaging case for understanding art as an experience rather than an object."
Publishers Weekly

"The rhymed text captures the excitement of a being sparked by art.”

"Communicates a fresh, playful, childlike perspective on art and normalizes childlike responses to it. The idea that posing, laughing, and curious questions are all appropriate museum behavior may be a new one for both children and parents, and knowing this is sure to make for more enjoyable museum visits."
School Library Journal

"For parents who have trouble communicating the excitement of art to their children, The Museum can serve as the starting point for a conversation. The book is also a wonderful reminder of visual art’s power to encourage and empower self-expression. Children and adults will finish this book excited about their next art experience, and perhaps tempted to dance through the halls of a museum in the near future."

"This playful picture book pays tribute to the joyous effect art can have on the viewer."

Friday, June 17, 2016

Crystal the Snow Fairy (Daisy Meadows)

I read this during DEAR time so I could do a book-talk with my students and use it for a Reading Response.

I see a lot of girls reading these Daisy Meadows book. Who the heck is Daisy Meadows anyway?? I might need to read a few more before I gain a great appreciation for them.

These kinds of books totally wreck my lessons on fiction versus non-fiction. Many of the kids are pretty sure that fairies really are real.

This book reminded me of a book I read a long time ago. It was a true story about two little girls in England who took pictures of paper fairies, but made them look real. They fooled people and soon all sorts of people started believing they had really captured pictures of fairies. They even fooled Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!  It was called the Fairy Ring by Mary Losure. There could also be a good discussion about global warming after reading it! :)

The Weather Fairies have lost their magical feathers! Rachel and Kirsty search for one in each Weather Fairies book. Read all seven books to help bring the weather back to Fairyland! 
Fairyland is home to the seven Weather Fairies! They use magical feathers to bring all of the weather to Fairyland. But when the feathers disappear, the weather turns wacky. The Weather Fairies must fix it -- fast! 
In this book, Crystal the Snow Fairy has lost her magic feather. Now it's snowing in summer! 
Find one feather in each book and fix the weather in Fairyland!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Leonardo the Terrible Monster (Mo Willems)

I'm a big Mo Willems fan. I was so happy to stumble across this one. This reminded me of the book from when I was little about there being a monster at the end of the book and it ended up being Grover, from Sesame Street.

This is a good story for teaching empathy. Sometimes we think we know why people react, and sometimes we're dead wrong.

Now, in my classroom, we talk a lot about scaring the tuna salad out of someone. :)

Goodreads Summary:

Leonardo is truly a terrible monster-terrible at being a monster that is. No matter how hard he tries, he can't seem to frighten anyone. Determined to succeed, Leonardo sets himself to training and research. Finally, he finds a nervous little boy, and scares the tuna salad out of him! But scaring people isn't quite as satisfying as he thought it would be. Leonardo realizes that he might be a terrible, awful monster-but he could be a really good friend. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Art and Max (David Wiesner)

Super cute story! We loved the mess made! A good story about diving in and just giving something a shot, even if you don't feel like you're an expert.

Goodreads summary:

Max and Arthur are friends who share an interest in painting. Arthur is an accomplished painter; Max is a beginner. Max’s first attempt at using a paintbrush sends the two friends on a whirlwind trip through various artistic media, which turn out to have unexpected pitfalls. Although Max is inexperienced, he’s courageous—and a quick learner. His energy and enthusiasm bring the adventure to its triumphant conclusion. Beginners everywhere will take heart. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Quiet Place (Douglas Wood)

I love this book. Sometimes kids get so caught up in the rush and noise and business of kid life they forget the beauty of finding a quiet place.

It reminded me a lot of the Quiet Revolution. We need to remember this idea!

Life doesn't always have to be noise and business and rushing.

Goodreads summary:

"Sometimes a person needs a quiet place." 
A place that's far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life -- a place that isn't ringing or talking or roaring or blaring or playing. But sometimes that place isn't easy to find. 
You could look under a bush in your own backyard, where the world seems far away...and you could be a pirate on a desert island. 
Or you could sit on an old stump in the woods amidst the glittering sunlight and mossy shadows and be a timber wolf. 
You could look by the sea or in the desert or in a cool dark cave, but if none of these places are right, you could come home and discover another quiet place. 
Perhaps the very best quiet place of all -- the one that's inside of you. 

In poetic and gently philosophical prose, acclaimed author Douglas Wood explores what it's like to find that special place where we all can think our own thoughts and feel our own feelings. Dan Andreasen brings exquisite imagination and thoughtful wonder to words that will inspire readers of all ages to seek out their very own quiet place.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Butterfly Park (Elly Mackay)

This is really a beautiful book. The pictures are amazing! It's a mash of sadness about having to move and finding friendship and beauty in what seems like an abandoned lot.

Goodreads summary:

When a little girl moves to a new town, she finds a place called Butterfly Park. But when she opens the gate, there are no butterflies.
Determined to lure the butterflies in, the girl inspires her entire town to help her. And with their combined efforts, soon the butterflies—and the girl—feel right at home.
Elly MacKay's luminous paper-cut illustrations and enchanting story encourage community, friendship, and wonderment in the beauty of everyday life.
Free poster on reverse side of book jacket.

Monday, June 6, 2016


These are our daily read alouds I have planned for this week?

Who Moved by Cheese by Spencer Johnson

Thank you, Mr. Falker

 Fancy Nancy Bonjour, Butterfly!
Bob and Otto

I am not sure I'm going to stick with this one. I'll decide in about 50 pages (not totally loving it so far):
The Round House by Louise Erdrich

We're also starting on our fabulous Novel Study in class! Can't wait!

Bob and Otto (Robert O Bruel, Nick Bruel)

I met another teacher when I was volunteering at Storybook Theatre. We got talking about school. She really loves science and was a great resource for some of the topics we do in grade three. She told me about a wonderful book, which, as she was talking, made me realize it would be great for our character assembly this month! Today we got to work on it. The kids are very excited. They totally got the concept that if everyone looks after their responsibilities, everything just goes much more smoothly.

Goodreads summary:

Bob and Otto do best-friend kinds of things together--eating leaves, digging, playing--until the day Bob decides to climb a tree, simply because . . . he has to. When the two meet again, Otto is still the same dirt-loving earthworm, but Bob has done the unthinkable: grown wings. Friendship overcomes all else in this sweet and funny story, because no matter what happens, ". . . friends are important." 

Who's Next Door (Mayuko Kishira and Jun Takabatake)

One of my students brought this to school for us to read. I love it when that happens!

She brought it because we are studying animals in science right now. We had a good discussion about nocturnal animals. Cute pictures! Simple and a great story.

Goodreads summary:

Chicken is thrilled when he finds out someone new has moved in next door. His quiet house deep in the woods can be lonely sometimes, and it would be so much fun to have a friend! But Chicken never catches so much as a glimpse of his neighbor, despite many days spent waiting, pacing, and knocking. As it turns out, his neighbor, Owl, has been doing the same thing, yearning to meet Chicken — only he’s been doing it at night. It's not until after the two exchange notes and mix up plans for a visit, each using his own definition of “tomorrow,” that they meet fortuitously and find a creative way to enjoy each other’s friendship despite their different schedules.

A comical look at nocturnal and diurnal creatures, this simple story explores the concept of opposites in a smart, subtly funny way. Kids and adults alike will have fun anticipating the punch line, hinted at through the mix of traditional and comic panel-style artwork. Through its fun, heartfelt look at the anticipation that comes with new friendships, this book celebrates the fact that even those as different as night and day can form a special bond.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Lemonade Club (Patricia Polacco)

It's good for kids to see the emotion that can come from a story, right?

This one definitely made me cry. It's a beautiful story! It would be good to read this one around Terry Fox run time as one of the girls gets cancer in the story.

Goodreads summary:

Everyone loves Miss Wichelman?s fifth-grade class?especially best friends Traci and Marilyn. That?s where they learn that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade! They are having a great year until Traci begins to notice some changes in Marilyn. She?s losing weight, and seems tired all the time. She has leukemia?and a tough road of chemotherapy ahead. It is not only Traci and Miss Wichelman who stand up for her, but in a surprising and unexpected turn, the whole fifth-grade class, who figures out a way to say we?re with you. In true Polacco fashion, this book turns lemons into lemonade and celebrates amazing life itself.

Lulu's Mysterious Mission (Judith Viorst)

Earlier in the year, we read Alexander Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday and Alexander and the No Good Horrible Very Bad  Day. When reading about the author, I realized she also had some chapter books and decided to check one out. It took a while for it to come in from the public library and when I got it I couldn't quite remember why I had put it on hold - so I put off reading it. I'm so glad I finally got around to it. It is a hilarious book and it would make a great read aloud. I will definitely put it up for a book draw for the last few weeks of school.

I loved how the book was tall and thin. It is an unusual shape for a book and there aren't a lot of words in each page. The story starts off with a confession: 

Lulu's babysitter is hilarious looking (big kudos go out to the illustrator....his illustrations are amazing!) 

The story reminded me of when I was a little girl. My parents used to travel a lot. I almost always had thoughts of terror run through my mind each time they left. I mused over what would happen if this was the trip they died on and never returned. I made plans for who I would go live with and what I would do as an orphan. 

Goodreads Summary: 

This irresistible third illustrated chapter book starring Judith Viorst’s Lulu is full of hilarious hijinks, delightful twists, and a top-secret mission!

Eeny meeny miney mo,
That babysitter’s got to go.

Lulu has put her tantrum-throwing days behind her. That is, until her parents announce that they are going on vacation—WITHOUT LULU. Not only that, but they are leaving her with the formidable Ms. Sonia Sofia Solinsky, who says hello by bellowing, “The Eagle has landed,” and smiles at you with the kind of smile that an alligator might give you before eating you for dinner.

The second her parents are out of the house, Lulu tries out several elaborate schemes to bring them straight back. But just when she seems to finally be making some headway, her babysitter reveals an astonishing secret…one that has Lulu crossing her fingers that her parents will go on vacation all the time—without her!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Elmer and Butterfly (David Mckee)

Cute story. Since we're studying butterflies right now this seemed to be a good one. We were a little stumped by the idea of a patchwork elephant. Why is he patchwork? The other stumpifying material was the elephant's friend, Wilbur. He seems to play a significant part of the story by throwing his voice, but he isn't a significant part of the story.

We did love the idea that a butterfly could save an elephant though. Everyone has strengths!

Goodreads summary:

The famous patchwork elephant is back in another heart-warming adventure about friendship and teamwork.

One day, as Elmer is strolling through the jungle, he hears a cry for help. A butterfly has been trapped in a hole by a fallen branch. Elmer rushes to the rescue and frees her with ease. In return she promises to help Elmer should he ever need it. Elmer cannot imagine how a tiny butterfly could ever help him, but he finds out sooner than he expects.