Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Lover Highlights from Portland inspires a reread of Ramona books

I recently returned from a trip to Portland, Oregon where I visited my daughter.  We had a wonderful time! Lots of food, drinks and sightseeing! A highlight for me was visiting Powell's City of Books. My husband and I spent several hours there - mostly in the children's section. As my husband hauled my basket of books around it kept getting heavier and heavier. We were delighted to find out they would ship my purchases back to New York for a very nominal shipping fee. Today the UPS guy showed up with my box of books. It's like Christmas in July!

You can watch the video to see all the goodies I purchased.

In case you are wondering about the title on the bookcase- Beverly Cleary, author of the beloved Ramona series, is from Portland.  In fact, because I am such a nerd, I visited the Beverly Cleary sculpture garden which is in Grant Park.  Now I want to reread the books.  It's been awhile.


My visit to Portland inspired me to reread a couple of Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. They are just as wonderful as I recall, and reminded me of the Ramona series that ran on PBS during the 80's.  My own children loved watching the series.

Ramona the Pest

In this book Ramona is preparing to go to Kindergarten. She is very excited and can't wait to learn to read and write. Along with her neighbor, Howie, they walk to school each morning. One of my favorite parts is the chapter about Ramona's new red boots.  They are the kind that fit on over your shoes - these are the kind that I remember having.  Ramona loves splashing through puddles and mud with her boots.  When Ramona gets stuck in the mud Henry has to save her by picking her up and carrying her out of the mud.  Ramona's need to be loved by her teacher is something that all children can relate to, but was particularly touching for me as a teacher.  The sibling relationship between Ramona and Beezus is perfectly accurate too. As the oldest of threes girls I fear that I was as bossy and sometimes as insensitive as Beezus. Beverly Cleary is so good at conveying a child's point of view that I find myself always siding with Ramona!

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

In this book Ramona is growing up and now preparing for third grade.  There are lots of changes for the Quimby family and as usual we get Ramona's sensitive, yet humorous perspective on it all.  Beezus seems to becoming a typical almost teenager as she prepares for junior high.  Ramona gets to take the bus and go to a new school.  Mrs. Quimby has started a job, while Mr. Quimby is going back to school.  From family arguments to throwing up at school this book is filled with typical scenes that most readers have experienced in their own lives.  One of my favorite chapters is when Mr. And Mrs. Quimbly require Ramona and Beezus to cook dinner one night after they both complain about a meal their mom prepared. I love how these parents teach their children important lessons and hold them accountable . There is nothing like sharing a punishment to draw siblings together, so they can complain how mean their parents are! The cooking scene is hilarious.

The Ramona series would make great read alouds as well as good independent choices for readers who like the Junie B. Jones and Clementine series.  If you have forgotten about the wonderful Ramona series give it a try or recommend it to a young reader - I think the stories are still relatable even though Beverly Cleary started writing them 50 years ago!

Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden - Grant Park
Portland Oregon - Ramona, Henry and Ribsy

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Thanks to Jen at TeachMentorText  and Kellee at UnleashingReaders for the weekly meme highlighting children's literature - picture books to young adult.  Don't forget to visit their sites so you can see what everyone else is reading this week!

Little Dog,  Lost by Marion Dane Baurer and illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell

Anyone who has longed for a dog, lost a dog or just needed a friend will love this book.  Buddy, the little dog, has been brought to a new home because her old family is moving to the city and can't have a dog.  Mark is a little bog who longs for a dog, but his mom says no.  And then there is Mr Larue, a lonesome old man that everyone in town is afraid of.  The novel is told in verse which I really enjoyed.
Kids will love this repeating line;

"Little black dog with brown paws
and a brown mask
and a sweet ruffle of brown fur on her bum
just beneath her black whip of a tail."

The story goes back and forth between different settings so there is a slight feeling of suspense as you wait and try to predict how all these characters will come together.  One of my favorite parts is when Mark explains to his mom how much he needs a dog.  A sweet story of friendship, love and what it means to be a community.  I think this book would go well with Because of Winn Dixie or A Dog Called Homeless. 

So what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Non-Fiction Picture Book Wednesday

Thanks to Alyson at KidLitFrenzy for hosting this weekly challenge.  There are so many wonderful non-fiction picture books these days - I just don't want to miss any of them!

The Eagles Are Back by Jean Craighead George and illustrations by Wendell Minor

In this book Jean Craighead George tells the story of how the American Eagle was brought back from possible extinction.  It is told as a narrative story about a young boy who helps a park ranger watch a pair of adult eagles - hoping the pair will take care of an egg inserted into the nest.  The boy helps the parents find food for their young adopted eaglet.  I liked how the book explained the reason the eagle was endangered and told how important the eagle was to to it's ecosystem.  One of my favorite lines was, "A nation of small animal citizens is sustained by the magnificent bald eagle."  This book is part of a series that George created with painter Wendell Minor.  There is also The Wolves are Back and The Buffalo are Back.  I haven't read the other 2 books but the collection would make a great addition to a study on the environment and endangered animals.  I enjoyed the book a lot - I am a big fan of Jean Craighead George, but the story left we wondering if the part about the boy helping the ranger and eagles is true.  What was the inspiration for the story?  Unfortunately, the book does not include an author's note.  I know my young students will definitely have lots of questions about the story too, which makes me think it could lead to a nice inquiry unit on eagles.  If you have never read any of George's books be sure to visit her website and checkout some of her books.  She was a prolific fiction and non-fiction writer, and has left nature lovers a wonderful collection of books.

Hip-Pocket Papa by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Alan Marks

How did I miss this wonderful book?  The book is written in narrative form and tells the interesting story of the tiny hip-pocket frog.  The little tadpoles are carried in the hidden pockets on the father frog's hip, until they have turned into froglets and can find food on their own.  The story reads like a little adventure as Papa frog bravely hides from predators, hunts for food and finally delivers his young froglets to a nice damp home.  The book is full of facts about the frog and includes other animals found in the Australian temperate forest.  This book would be a great addition to a study on frogs or amphibians, as well as Australian animals.  There is also a section in the back of the book that describes the other animals found in the book.

A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long

What a beautifully, poetic book chock full of facts and information on seeds and plants.  Anyone doing a study on plants must have this book!  The illustrations are exquisite.  The drawings alone can be a focus on observing and drawing nature.  I checked this book out from my library, but I must get my own copy!  You should also check out related books by the same authors - An Egg is Quiet and A Butterfly is Patient.  You can find teacher's guides for these books here.

What non-fiction picture books have you been reading?

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Thanks to Jen at TeachMentorText  and Kellee at UnleashingReaders for the weekly meme highlighting children's literature - picture books to young adult.  Don't forget to visit her site so you can see what everyone else is reading this week!

The book images are linked to Goodreads, so you can get a complete summary and easily add it to your books to read list!

This week I have focused on a few books that fall into the transitional, early reader category.  In my library and many bookstores they are often referred to as Easy readers, but please don't use that term with my second graders!  I have made the mistake of labeling a basket of books in my class with the term "Easy Readers", only to find that students avoided that basket like the plague!  So, now we call them beginning chapter books - that's more enticing!  I am always looking for more series books that fall into this category.


Joe and Sparky, Superstars! by Jamie Michalak and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz

This is a great little series that currently includes 3 books.  Joe and Sparky are a perfect partnership for adventure, fun and silliness.  Joe, is the more adventurous of the two, while Sparky, is the more careful and safety minded turtle.  In this book Joe helps Sparky find his special talent.  I particularly liked the chapter titled, 'The Dance Lesson' where Joe tries to teach Sparky the Hokey Pokey.  I think my students will laugh at the story, but also be able to dig a little deeper and relate to the themes of friendship and being yourself.

Bink & Gollie, Best Friends Forever by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee and illustrated by Tony Fucile

This is the third book in this wonderful series about 2 friends and their adventures.  The books are perfect early readers because each chapter is a separate story.  There is some (just a few) advanced vocabulary that beginning readers may struggle with - so be aware if students are reading independently.  You may need to highlight the words ahead of time.  The books are smart and clever - and so are the characters - something that I enjoy seeing in a transitional early chapter book.  And I love that they roller skate where ever they go!

Boris on the Move by Andrew Joyner

Boris, the little warthog, and his family live in a camper that his parents formally used to tour the world.  Boris yearns to have his own adventures beyond his little yard.  One day his parents decide to drive the van to a new adventure.  Boris is excited at first, but soon finds himself lost.  Boris learns that he doesn't have to go far from home to have an adventure.  Young readers will be able to relate to little Boris and his troubles.  The book includes an introduction, 7 short chapters and a section at the end to show readers how to make a compass.  The book has a graphic novel feel to it, with lots of speech bubbles and short text to accompany each illustration.

This new series published by Scholastic is part of a new line of books called Branches, books for independent readers that aren't quite ready for traditional chapter books.  I definitely think there is a gap between transitional early chapter books and longer chapter books like Magic Tree House books for my second grade readers.  I hope that the Branches line of books will be able to fill this gap.  I plan to read more of them before I give them my stamp of approval.


My Haunted House (Araminta Spookie #1) by Angie Sage and illustrated by Jimmie Pickering

 I was not sure if I was going to like the book during the first chapter or two - but I soon got into the story and quickly finished the entire novel in an evening.  Araminta lives with her aunt and uncle in a huge, old haunted house.  She has always wanted to  meet a ghost, and finally gets the chance when her Aunt Tabby decides to sell the house.  Araminta devises several plans to try to derail the sale of the house.  The story has a cute ending too.  This is a great fantasy for more advanced elementary readers.  It is advertised for grades 3- 5, but I think second grade readers that have lots of experience with longer chapter books will also enjoy the book.  Fans of Franny K. Stein will love Araminta - she loves spiders, ghosts and bats.  It is the first book in a series, but it stands alone and has no cliffhanger.


Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg and illustrated by Matthew Cordell

I have had this books on my list for awhile, and finally found it at my library. What a heartwarming book!  Eleanor learns that her babysitter will be moving away and she is so unhappy.  Julie Sternberg does such a wonderful job telling the story of how Eleanor mourns the loss of her beloved babysitter and comes to terms with this big life change.  A very realistic growing up story that I know my second graders will relate to.  I plan on either adding this book to my read aloud list or including it as a book club/guided reading selection for my more advanced readers.  I can also imagine writing about other events that could be like "pickle juice on a cookie".  Great read aloud for Grades 2 - 4.  Independent readers grade 2 - 5 will enjoy also.  It's a shorter chapter book, barely over 100 pages.

What are you reading this week?  Do you have any transitional early chapter books that you could recommend?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Non-fiction Wednesday

Thanks to Kid Lit Frenzy for keeping me informed about all the great non-fiction books out there!

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

This wonderful picture book is so much more than an introduction to the life of a most famous scientist! Jennifer Berne does such an outstanding job introducing complex scientific concepts and makes them accessible to both young readers and adults. Throughout the book, Jennifer points out the importance of imagination and play, and taking time to wonder about the world.

As soon as I bought and read my copy of this book I decided to give it away as a gift to a fellow teacher. She teaches science to 7th and 8th graders. I knew she would appreciate the message of the book - science is not about memorizing facts, it's about wondering and questioning. But now I have to purchase another copy for myself!

Dirt by Steve Tomecek and illustrated by Nancy Woodman

This book is part of the National Geographic Jump Into Science series.  It is a great introduction to soil. It describes the different types of soil, what lives in soil and the importance of dirt.  The illustrations are great and help the reader better understand the text.  There are simple diagrams and labels.  I love that there is a little mole that is used as the main character throughout the book.  Who knew a mole could be so cute!

This series is perfect for the second grade class library.  If you use guided reading levels it is listed as a Level L.  I want the whole collection for my class library!!

Monday, July 1, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Thanks to Jen at TeachMentorText for the weekly meme highlighting children's literature - picture books to young adult.  Gosh, I don't know where the time has gone.  I haven't posted in awhile.  The end of the school year always exhausts me!  I hope to keep up and post more regularly.  How do all you bloggers juggle it all - going to the gym, eating, laundry, cleaning, working, family, reading books, reading blogs?

The book images are linked to Goodreads, so you can get a complete summary and easily add it to your books to read list!

Rump:  The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

I just loved this wonderful and creative story of young Rumpelstiltskin, or Rump as he is called, and his search for his true destiny.  As we find out, the story isn't quite as simple as the fairy tale we are all familiar with!  Liesl Shurtliff has created a tale that is full of magic, trolls, and even some sassy pixies.  But most of all she has created an endearing character in young Rump.  As a young boy he is teased and picked on for his unusual name.  But he is full of heart and humor, so as a reader you can't help root for him!  Rump has found himself cursed after being  lured by the power of magic.  At every turn Rump finds himself pulled further and deeper into the magic, even when he tries to do the right thing.  I enjoyed seeing how Leisl weaved the traditional story of Rumpelstiltskin into the plot, and I think children will have fun with this aspect as well.
This book is considered a middle grade book.  I think independent readers in grades 4 - 7 would enjoy this story.   But I also think it could make a great read aloud for ages 6 - 9.  In fact, I think I will be adding this book to my chapter book read alouds for my second grade.  I love how the concept of destiny is introduced into the story and think it will make such a great discussion.  Do we choose our own destiny or is it chosen for us?  There are so many themes that come to mind as I think about the book which makes it a great choice for read aloud!  Friendship, acceptance, inner journeys, and doing the right thing, even when it may not be easy or popular are all themes that could be explored with this novel.  And of course it would be a terrific addition to a fairy tale unit.

If you like books or movies like Ella Enchanted, The True Story of The Three Little Pigs, Tangled or Wicked I think you will like this book.  Check out Liesl Shurtliff's website for the book trailer.

I have also read a lot of terrific picture books this last week.  Here are some highlights.

The following books have a theme of friendship.  Don't think these are just simple stories about friendship.  They are worthy of reading over and over and having deep discussions about the characters, the story, and the illustrations.  This is the power of a picture book.

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

A very original story about friendship.  I absolutely love Deborah's illustrations.  They are clever and inventive as both the fish and snail seem to jump off the pages.  And who doesn't like a pirate-fish?

Ribbit by Rodrigo Folgueira and illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Another wonderful story about friendship and acceptance.  Hurray for the little pig who doesn't let the little frogs get him down.  And what is is about pigs in children's literature?
Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea

When I first got the book I immediately felt the need to read the book aloud (I was alone) and to do voices for each of the main characters, Goat and Unicorn.  Sometimes friendships don't always start out so easily.  I think many readers, both young and old can relate to Goat's initial thoughts of Unicorn.  Sometime we can all be a little judgmental or even jealous.  But Unicorn shows us how to be a good and kind friend.  I also really like the style of the illustrations - sort of Picasso - ish with the faces.

Tea Rex by Molly Idle

Such a wonderfully cute story!  And the illustrations add so much to the story - you must stop and really enjoy them.  Can you imagine inviting a real dinosaur to your house?  I predict this book will go to the top of my second graders favorites.  Molly Idle is becoming one of my favorite picture book authors and I can't wait to see what she has planned next.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Each crayon writes a letter to their owner about their particular needs or problem.  Each crayon has their own personality that really comes out in each letter.  The child finds a great way to solve their problem.  The childlike drawings and hand written letters add to the charm of the book.  I can't wait to read this book to my second graders.  I am already filled with ideas of how to use the book.  Can you say persuasive writing mentor text??
Have you enjoyed any of these books?
What are you reading this week?