Saturday, October 31, 2009

Weekly Blog Plan, November 2-6

Here's the weekly blog plan! Again, please remember this is subject to change and is dependent upon whether or not my materials come in from the library as planned. I realize that this may fall too late for you to use in your classroom this year, but the activities will definitely swing from year-t0-year! If you see something you really want to incorporate into your classroom, leave me a comment on this post or send me an e-mail, I'd be glad to provide you with the links I have, if nothing more!

Monday, November 2 - Fran Manushkin's Birthday
  • The Shivers in the Fridge
  • How Mama Brought the Spring
  • Buster Loves Buttons
Tuesday, November 3 - Janell Cannon's Birthday
  • Crickwing
  • Verdi
  • Trupp: A Fuzzhead Tale
Wednesday, November 4 - National Adoption Month
  • Star of the Week, Darlene Friedman
  • Happy Adoption Day, John McCutcheon
  • Over the Moon, Karen Katz
Thursday, November 5 - November ARC Reviews
  • Step Forth, Mallory, Laurie Friedman
  • Happy new Year, Mallory!, Laurie Friedman
  • Campfire Mallory, Laurie Friedman
  • Red, White and True Blue Mallory, Laurie Friedman
Friday, November 6 - November ARC Reviews
  • Supersister, Beth Cadena
  • RAF, Anke deVries
  • The Truly Horrible Sweater... that Grandma Knit, Debbie Macomber

Friday, October 30, 2009

Freaky Friday

A frighteningly mixed bag today, making this a Freaky Friday post! These books have nothing in common other than the fact that they're all nominated for the Cybils Awards. Rather than just including them in my Sunday Cybils post, I want to do a special review of these three as they were all offered to me, courtesy of authors and publishers, prior to their nomination, making them worthy of a special post!

Fucile, Tony.
Let's Do Nothing.
May 2009.
Candlewick Press.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Frankie and Sal have already played every sport and board game invented, baked and eaten batches of cookies, and painted a zillion pictures. What’s left to do? Nothing! Ten seconds of nothing! Can they do it? Can they act like stone statues in the park? Can they simply hold their breath and not blink an eye? With a wink to the reader and a command of visual humor, feature film animator Tony Fucile demonstrates the Zen-like art of doing nothing...oops! Couldn’t do it!

This book is really funny and would make for an interesting gift for children who often complain, "There's nothing to do!" They'll quickly learn here that there's always something that can be done... sure, it might not be the most adventureous or appealing activity, but there's always something! An interview, provided by Fucile with the book, gave me an idea!
Q: Why did you want to write a book about doing nothing? How did you get the idea?
A: I vividly remember those childhood moments of excruciating boredom. We tend to remember the interesting and exciting parts of youth, but what about those times when you feel like you are stuck in a vat of molasses? A kid experiences that with such conviction. It was horrible! That said, I think those moments can be hugely catalytic. Great ideas come out of a bored mind. Or quiet mind. The concept of nothing wasn't the impetus for the book; it was a product of the characters and situation. I visualized these two bored boys - one kind of like me and the other kind of lik my childhood friend Steve. Then I had them interact. The idea of doing nothing really sprang from these characters yapping at each other.
After reading this book, challenge your child to do something different. Be creative... use your minds! If there's nothing else to do, challence your child to think about all the things they're really doing when they're complaining that there's nothing to do!

Rosenthal, Marc.
Archie and the Pirates.
September 2009.
HarperCollins Publishers.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Ahoy, landlubbers, prepare yerselves for a rip-roaring adventure... with a shipwrecked monkey, a sweet-singing ibis, a ferocious tiger, and a band of rough smelly, no-good pirates! Coconuts fly, danger lurks, and only one clever monkey can save the day: ARCHIE!

I really enjoyed the simple story shared here! It's light-hearted, yet cleverly written and will definitely keep children focused and eager to listen! I think this book would really inspire children to show their creativity and because of that, I have created an activity that coordinates with the book. I would probably use this in collaboration with a unit on the community - as it reinforces children in thinking about how the community consists of all kinds of families, homes, and businesses that work together.

Johnston, Tony.
My Abuelita.
September 2009.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Abuelita’s hair is the color of salt. Her face is as crinkled as a dried chile. She booms out words as wild as blossoms blooming. She stuffs her carcacha—her jalopy—with all the things she needs: a plumed snake, a castle, a skeleton, and more. Her grandson knows he has the most amazing grandmother ever—with a very important job. What does Abuelita do? With her booming voice and wonderful props, Abuelita is a storyteller. Next to being a grandmother, that may be the most important job of all.

This is a wonderful book for grandparents to share with their grandchildren! It promotes the idea of storytelling, a wonderful tool to use with children when trying to share with them their heritage and stories from the past that help children see where they "came from." Not only will children enjoy this book, grandparents will likely enjoy sharing it with their grandchildren, making it great idea for a Christmas gift this year!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday in Motion

These are some books I've had hanging around for a while now, awaiting a day when there was no themed review to go up! I decided to clump this bunch together because they all focus on some kind of movement and action, making them perfect for an "in Motion" post! They are some very clever books that could easily fit into the classroom or home library!

Cuyler, Margery.
The Little Dump Truck.
September 2009.
Henry Holt and Company.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Meet Hard Hat Pete and his little dump truck as they haul stones and rocks, carry debris, and unload at the landfill. It’s hard work, but the little dump truck is ready for action.

The rhyming text and set-up of this book make me think of "I'm a Little Teapot," except it's perfect for boys! What boy doesn't love dump trucks? I could almost see trying to come up with some kind of a little dance for the little men in your life to coincide with the reading of this story, as boys are sure to love it! This is definitely a book that would be a perfect fit in any little boy's library!

Berger, Carin.
OK Go.

April 2009.

HarperCollins Publishers.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

In a world of go! go! go! go! go! it's time to stop! and find a new way. Carin Berger's playful new picture book is a jubilant celebration of going green. We live in a world that's constantly in motion - we're constantly doing something to keep busy.

This new book by Carin Berger urges readers to stop - to take a moment and see how our actions are impacting the world around us. However, what makes this book so great are the suggests that Berger suggests to children as ways to stop and re-evaluate our actions in order to "Go Green." This is definitely a great book to use when teaching about saving the Earth!

Schertle, Alice.
Little Blue Truck.

October 19, 2008.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

A little blue truck finds his way out of a jam, with a bit of help from his friends.

Earlier this month, Little Blue Truck was released in board-book format and I'm so glad to see that this happened, as this book is wonderfully appropriate for young children! There's much to be learned here, even through the eyes of a child as young as age 2! Parents and children can work together to learn the sounds that animals make in this book! Not only will they learn all about animal sounds, children will also see the benefits that working together has. Perhaps, they will not be able to connect to the idea in this way, but you could probably get the same lesson across at clean-up time, when everyone works together to clean up. They'll surely be able to understand (in that setting) how much time is saved when you work together.

Schertle, Alice.
Little Blue Truck Leads the Way.
October 19, 2009.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Zooom! Wooeeee . . . ! "Make way!" The big city sure is a speedy, noisy place for a country truck like Blue. Everywhere Blue looks, he sees buses, police cars, taxis, vans, a street sweeper, and even the mayor’s limousine. With everyone pushing to be first, soon there’s a giant traffic jam! But even a wrangle-tangle is no match for Little Blue Truck, who comes to the rescue in true Blue style.

Released on the same day as the board book format of Little Blue Truck, Schertle's latest in the Little Blue Truck series is sure to please just as much! Children should instantly make the connection, as the book starts out in the very same manner as the original,
Horn went "Beep!"
Engine purred.
Friendliest sounds
you ever heard.
This book would be absolutely perfect for Pre-K or Kindergarten teachers to introduce children to the concept of walking in line singe file, as it shows (through the use of various vehicles), the chaos that ensues when everyone thinks they need to be first, rather than being patient and realizing they will all reach their destination eventually. I will definitely keep this book in mind should I ever work with Pre-K and Kindergarten kids, as having "Little Blue" be the line leader, wearing a cardboard stencil necklace of Little Blue's front to represent him being the leader after the mayor's speech and a cardboard rear-view of a taxi, as he represented the end of the parade line, as mentioned by the mayor. Of course, in order for this to be successful in teaching children about walking single file in line and being patient, they'd need to hear the story several times first!

Jenkins, Steve and Robin Page.

October 18, 2009.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Guided Reading Level: L

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Animals move! Follow them as they swing, dance, float, leap, and slide from page to page. Move! is a playful introduction to motion in the animal kingdom that invites young readers to guess some of the unusual ways that animals get around.

This book, recently released earlier this month in board-book format is absolutely perfect for young children (ages 2-5) to share with parents and/or caretakers. The book focuses on a topic which many children observe and can verbalize at a very young age - types of movement (jumping, running, walking, etc). What I particularly liked about this book is that it is very parent-friendly! The last page of the book engages parents to share and discuss with children the question, " about you?" Books of this nature allow parents to see the ways in which they books can be used to interact and communicate with their child(ren). I would recommend this book to parents of young children who are searching for ways to begin sharing literature, perhaps as part of a Success by 6 program, coordinated with the United Way.

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Statue of Liberty Dedication Day

On October 28, 1886, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi's famous sculpture, the statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, on Bedloe's Island at New York Harbor was dedicated. Groundbreaking for the structure was in April 1883. A sonnet by Emma Lazarus, inside the pedestal of the statue, contains the words: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

Still today, many of the children attending public schools here in the United States come from families of parents who were immigrants or are immigrants themselves. Let's take a moment today to share a bit of literature to honor these children and the lives they are living, thanks to the freedoms found within the United States!

Stevens, Carla.
Lily and Miss Liberty.
Scholastic, Inc.
Guided Reading Level: N

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

A little girl makes crowns and sells them to help raise money for the pedestal needed for mounting France's gift of the Statue of Liberty to this country.

This book really goes to great detail to show the level of importance that the Statue of Liberty was and still is to immigrant families across the United States. While Lily's family doesn't quite feel the importance of sharing their money, they do allow Lily to set to work earning money that can be added to the funds to raise the pedestal. It's nice to see a child working for a good cause and this will enable children to see that they too, can make a difference!

Lesson Plans/Learning Activities:
Bunting, Eve.
A Picnic in October.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Guided Reading Level: P

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

A boy finally comes to understand why his grandmother insists that the family come to Ellis Island each year to celebrate Lady Liberty's birthday.

This book is perfect to share with children this week, as the picnic celebrating Lady Liberty's birth takes place in this story during this same day! This book allows children to see the importance that Lady Liberty means to immigrants, while they themselves might not have firsthand experience is just how important she is to those who have traveled here from other countries. This book would also fit well into a unit centering on the topic of immigration!

Lewison, Wendy Cheyette.
L is for Liberty.
Penguin Group (USA).

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

For more than a century, the Statue of Liberty has stood proudly in New York Harbor, welcoming people from near and far. Perfect for reading together with a young child, L Is for Liberty uses simple language and bold illustrations to celebrate the statue, her history, and the freedom she stands for.

I like this book because it can be used throughout numerous grade levels with different activities catering to the abilities of students.
  • For the youngest of readers (PreK-1), this book will introduce the Statue of Liberty and will act as a starting point for introducing other symbols of American importance.
  • With middle-grade readers (2-4), this book could be the introduction to a writing project in which students reflect on the freedoms they have, as the Statue of Liberty is a symbols of freedom and new-life for immigrants who have and will be entering the USA for years to come. Have children create an alphabet book titled "L is for Liberty: The Liberties of ______" (their name). Each letter of the alphabet should reflect some activity they are free to participate in because of living in a liberated (free) country. For example,
    R is for Reading.
    Books aplenty!
    Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery.
    I am free to read all genres because I live in the United States of America!
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

National Magic Week

Celebrated annually beginning on October 25, International Magic Week takes place to celebrate the world of magic and the magicians who create it. The week culminates on October 31, the anniversary of Houdini's death and Magic Day.
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

Base, Graeme.
Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Enter a magical world in this warm, funny, and enduring story about the special relationship between a grandson and his grandpa—and their love for magic. Bertie Badger loves to visit the Retirement Home for Elderly Magicians and watch his grandpa perform magic tricks. But one day all the magicians’ props go missing, so Bertie sets off to investigate. Can he solve the mystery in time to save the show? This clever book will engage readers as they are challenged to solve the mystery along with Bertie, discovering where the missing props have gone by using a decoder included with the book that reveals the mystery.

This is a great book to get children actively involved in the reading process, as children are prompted to search for specific items related to the story on each page. The illustrations are amazing and are sure to have children engaged! I've seen other Graeme Base stories in the past, but none of them caught my attention (and kept it) as much as this one! Perhaps this book would be perfect to use with children as a read-aloud over a school vacation. Read it at the beginning of the week. Borrow some library books that will teach them some magic tricks. Have each child choose two or three. Practice all week. On Friday or Saturday, allow children to have a sleep-over or pizza party, inviting a friend or two. Allow your children to put on a magic show for all of their friends to show off all their hard work.

Wallace, Ian.
The Man Who Walked the Earth.
Douglas & McIntyre.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Andre and Elise’s father has gone in search of work, and may not be home for Christmas. The day he left, their mother set an extra place at the table in case a hungry stranger visits. “Wherever your father is, I hope someone will set a place for him,” she says. Eight months later, no one has come to their door. Then a mysterious stranger arrives on Christmas night and performs dazzling magic tricks. Can he use magic to bring back their father? In this wonderful story about the rewards of being kind to strangers, Ian Wallace has performed his own kind of magic.

This is a great read-aloud for National Magic Week. The illustrations are such that you actually can feel the magic taking place! Not only is this book appropriate for this week, it's also an interesting choice for a Christmas read, as it takes place during the Christmas season.

Lesson Plans/Learning Activities:
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Monday, October 26, 2009

Erie Canal Anniversary

On October 26, 1825, the Erie Canal, the first US major man-made waterway, was opened, providing a water route from Lake Erie to the Hudson River. Construction started on July 4, 1817, and the canal cost $7,602,000. Cannons fired and celebrations were held all along the route for the opening.
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

For those of you who aren't aware, I live in Central New York and the Erie Canal practically ran through my back yard! Portions of the canal can still be visited today! My historic location makes the Erie Canal a major unit of study in the NY state 4th grade social studies curriculum. In 2005, when I was student teaching, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to teach this unit, so I think you may just find this post pretty darn resourceful!

Petrie, Lettie A.
Minnie the Mule and the Erie Canal.
Petrie Press.

Summary from Amazon:

Formatted for children in grades four through eight, this first in a series of historical adventure stories, is told through the eyes of Sarah, Captain John's thirteen-year-old daughter, and Minnie the Mule, one of the mules who towed Captain John Fairweather's barge on the Erie Canal. The story takes place in the middle of the nineteenth century when the Erie Canal teemed with activity twenty-five years after its opening in Rome, NY in 1825, and introduces young readers to the locks along the canal and the lives of "canawlers" those hardy folk who traveled from New York City's busy harbor, up the Hudson River to Albany and into the Erie Canal, going west to Buffalo, where the canal emptied into the Niagara River and Lake Erie, "the way west". Leaving Rome that spring to deliver freight to New York City the Fairweathers seem to be followed by a series of bank robberies along the canal. Read how Sarah and Minnie come to suspect that their "hogee" the man who walks the mules, is connected with the robberies, and how they catch him. Along the way readers will learn a little about the lock system of the canal, and some of their country's history in its colonial days.

I love when I have the chance to share with you all a book that I've been fortunate enough to share with children! When I've had that opportunity, I feel the insight I can give you is more meaningful and when I can provide you with a lesson plan I created based on the book that has been successfully taught, it's that much more self-satisfying for me! The 4th graders I used this book with absolutely loved it! They loved the suspense and better yet, they LOVED the journal writing activity that went along with the entire book! This is most definitely a book worthy of your time, especially if you teach a unit about the Erie Canal!

Bullard, Lisa.
The Erie Canal.
September 2009.
Lerner Publishing Company.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Have you ever heard of a road that was built for boats? That's what the Erie Canal is. In the 1800s, people dug a canal that was 363 miles long. It helped link the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Can you guess how long it took to build the canal? Or why the canal was important? Read this book to find out!

Oh, Lisa, how I wish this book had been around 4 years ago! Believe it or not, it's extremely hard to find quality literature that teaches the Erie Canal. This book is brief, yet wonderfully resourceful. All of the information that is found within The Amazing, Impossible Erie Canal is found here, yet there's not the distraction through the pictures that might turn children's attention away from learning. It's a wonderful book and I feel very fortunate to have added this to my Social Studies collection, especially since the village I live in was part of the original canal!

Harness, Cheryl.
The Amazing, Impossible Erie Canal.
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

When De Witt Clinton, a young politician, first dreams of building a canal to connect the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, folks don't believe such a thing can be done. But eight long years after the first shovelful of earth is dug, Clinton realizes his vision at last. The longest uninterrupted canal in history has been built, and it is now possible to travel by water from the American prairie all the way to Europe!Join Cheryl Harness on a fascinating and fun-filled trip as she depicts the amazing construction and workings of the Erie Canal. From the groundbreaking ceremony on the Fourth of July in 1817 to a triumphant journey down America's first superhighway, it's a trip you definitely don't want to miss.

This is another incredible book to use to enhance a unit on the Erie Canal! It is chuck-full of information, from pure trivia to the great details about how the Canal came to be. I was also able to use this book with the same group of 4th graders as I did with Minnie the Mule and the Erie Canal. I did find a few students distracted because of the amount of wording and details on each page. However, when using the book as a whole class activity and in small groups, I think it was a wonderful resource for the unit!

The Amazing, Impossible Erie Canal Lesson Plan

I have also decided that since I have such devoted blog readers, I would post my entire Erie Canal Unit for download, absolutely free of charge. The unit includes 8 lesson plans, a quiz, a unit test, and two power-point "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" review games. Hopefully you'll be able to find a way to incorporate these into your curriculum! The download folder for the entire unit can be found here!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cybils Post #1

Well, the Cybils race is on and I'm so excited to share with you my thoughts about the first 18 of 176 books nominated for the Fiction Picture Book award! The Cybils committee has described an award-winning Fiction Picture Book as "a celebration of story and illustration, with lasting appeal for kids and/or adults. The best picture books completely excel in art, story, kid-friendliness, and adult appeal. A Cybils-winning picture book adds that special "It Factor." In message, in world-view, in connection, in humor, in reach, a book with "It Factor" rises to a higher level." (Cybils: 2009 Nominations Fiction Picture Books).

For my own review of the nominated books, I am doing mini-reviews just to get my initial thoughts on the books out there!

Goodrich, Carter.
The Hermit Crab.
June 2009.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

The story told here is simple yet moving - a hermit crab who wishes to remain a hermit (in every sense of the word) despite his "heroic" actions. The beautiful illustrations definitely help set the atmosphere for under-sea life while adding to the intensity of the message shared - it's important to do good deeds (and treat others as you wish to be treated) without requiring or even wanting recognition as a hero. Adults are sure to appreciate teaching children modesty in their doing of good deeds.

Smith, Danna.
Two at the Zoo.

February 2009.

Clarion Books.

This is a great story focusing on counting and one-to-one correspondence. It also accurately depicts animals that you'd expect to see at the zoo. That being said though, this book doesn't have a huge reach. It's geared toward young children (2-5) who are just becoming familiar with the concept of numbers and counting. It won't likely appeal with older children, despite the rhyming text which usually helps draw readers in.

McPhail, David.
March 2009.
Roaring Brook Press.

This wordless picture book is appropriate for very young children who are not yet reading on their own, but like to create stories and "read" based on the pictures in a book! While I found some of the illustrations seemingly unappropriate for children, I think that with carefully discussion prior to distribution of the book, children would be able to maturely handle the story. The story portray a strong message: In order for the world to be a safe place, there must be an appreciation and acceptances of the diversity among individuals. My earlier review of No! can be found here.

Urban, Linda.
Mouse Was Mad.
May 2009.

Harcourt Children's Books.

From my raving initial review (found here), my thoughts on this book have not changed too much! The perfect length, teamed with the kid-friendly language, the import message being taught and the cartoonish characters that are accurately portrayed will have children loving this book as much as adults. Parents will appreciate the idea of teaching children about effective ways of dealing with their anger - that hopping, stomping, screaming, and rolling-around-on the ground aren't always the best way to deal with anger. You have to find effective anger management techniques that work for you - standing silent and still, writing your feelings in a journal, painting... there are any number of ways that are more appropriate than acting out to deal with anger. And since all children (and even adults) experience anger at some point, this book is more than appropriate for all!

Restrepo, Bettina.
Moose and Magpie.
June 2009.
Sylvan Dell Publishing.

All of Sylvan Dell Publishing's books are wonderful books to consider for use in any science curriculum. This particular book focuses on the migration of moose in winter, making it a perfect fit for an "Animals in Winter" thematic unit. While there's no strong moral message taught, the book is very education and children will likely appreciate the colorful, realistic portrayals of both Moose and Magpie, as well as Magpie's jokes that are told throughout the story along the migration route. An earlier review of this book can be found here.

Monroe, Chris.
Monkey With a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem.

April 2009.
Carlrhoda Books.

This very funny, well-organized story is sure to appeal mostly to boys, due to the draw of tools and tool belts. As for girls, I'm not so sure. I haven't had an opportunity to introduce it with any children. The illustrations thoroughly support the story, being very colorful and full of details that will help children catch on to the use of everyday tools. I didn't find any strong moral-type message within this book, but I think it would be a wonderful father-son read aloud when the men in your life need some bonding time! You can read my previous review of Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem here.

Whelan, Gloria.
The Listeners.

September 2009.

Sleeping Bear Press.

An important message about the value of listening is portrayed through the eyes of a slave child as a group of them use the "skill" of listening to try and determine the fate of their families' lives. As this book definitely shows, there is much to be learned from simple, active listening! The illustrations (mainly which depict night time) help set the dark mood that reveals what life as a slave was like. I think this book will allow children to better relate to what slavery really was all about, as they will be seeing children their own age going through entirely different things than themselves. Children should easily be able to see that with active listening, these slave children were able to change their fate. If they can make that connection, children will recognize that if they pay attention to their surroundings, they will be much more in-tune with life and prepared for what's to come!

Ouellet, Debbie.
How Robin Saved Spring.
March 2009.

Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt).

This book shares with youngsters (and readers of all ages) the tale of how seasons pass and then come to be. The magical, colorful illustrations set the scene for the story and children (especially those living in locations that experience all four seasons) will easily connect with the animals' urgency for spring's arrival! The humorous attempts of all the different animals to awaken Sister Spring and silence Lady Winter make book all the more better! My more detailed review with learning activities can be found here!

VonBuhler, Cynthia.
But Who Will Bell the Cats?.

September 2009.

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

Answering Aesop's age-old question, "Who will bell the cats?," Cynthia VonBuhler's latest book also teaches children an extremely valuable lesson - one that will last a lifetime - hard work and dedication coupled with persistence do pay off! The very colorful illustrations helps set the mood and draws readers into the story, enabling children to connect with the mice's efforts to finally bell the cats after numerous (yet funny) failed attempt.

Mahy, Margaret.
Bubble Trouble.

April 2009.

Clarion Books.

My initial review of Bubble Trouble, found here, shows my mixed feelings about the book. Since that review, I've talked with numerous other people who have also had the opportunity to review the book. With the help of their explanations, I've come to realize that this is the type of book that is meant solely as a read-aloud. In order to fully appreciate the humor within this story, it must be read-aloud by someone who puts that extra fluctuation in their voice - someone who comes alive when reading and elicits excitement! If you have someone who can read this book in that nature, let me tell you, your children will definitely enjoy this. The illustrations only add to the story, with their almost scrapbooked-appearance! While connection and message for children seem to be lacking, the humor and read-aloud quality definitely make this a book worthy of being shared!

Alter, Anna.
Abigail Spells.

April 2009.

Alfred A. Knopf.

Alter takes a very clever approach to teaching children a very important message in this story - she uses a spelling bee! The characters, whom will definitely appeal to young children provide the bright color that is needed to draw in readers initially. Once readers are drawn in, they'll for sure pick up the message Alter intends for readers - Winning isn't everything. A good friend is just as much, when not more important than a good win. A good friend will always be there - the win is only temporary! Children will surely relate to this in some aspect, as they'll likely be able to mention a time when a good friend was able to help them overcome the sadness of a loss. You can check out my first review of Abigail Spells here.

Warburton, Tom.
1000 Times No.
April 2009.

Laura Geringer Books (HarperCollins).

A toddler's favorite word - "NO" is celebrated in this multi-language book! While adults may not wish to teach their child how to say no in any more languages, children will surely be eager to pick up this book and set to work learning! The downfall I saw in this book, was at the end when little Noah finally learned the other answer parent's wish to hear, "YES." It was used in the context of bribing Noah to the park in order to end his use of the word "No." He says yes, but I don't feel mother should have given in at that point after the "no" tantrum we'd heard throughout the story. I just felt that this will empower children to seek their way all the time. However, if used with older children, who have learned the yes/no concept, this book could be used educationally to introduce new languages! You can see my thoughts on using the book in this manner by clicking here.

Barnett, Mac.
Billy Twitter and His Blue Whale Problem.

June 2009.

Disney*Hyperion Books.

Realistic life-like looking people almost have you believing this could be a true story that's very well told with a clear beginning, middle and end. There is a lot of humor that is evident and will be easy for children to recognize. Many children will readily connect with this story because they've surely shared some of the same emotions that Billy experienced. This will likely enable them to quickly pick up the important message being conveyed by Barnett - listen to your parents and take care of your responsibilities!

Meschenmoser, Sebastian.
Waiting for Winter.

June 2009.

Kane Miller (EDC Publishing).

While a squirrel excitedly awaits his first arrival of winter, he encounters a variety of other forest animals who attempt to help him in his eagerness. The illustrations are simple, yet allow the main characters to stand out in the pencil-drawings. I think kids will definitely connect with the anticipation of waiting for winter and will find many of squirrel's objects that represent winter to be quite humorous. I will be honest with saying this book had a hard time holding my attention span, as I just had a hard time connecting with some of what was going on.

Braeuner, Shellie.
The Great Dog Wash.
July 2009.

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

This story is funny and well written! The rhyming text quickly drew my attention, as it will with children! What I really liked about this book was the depiction of children of all ethnicities, working together to accomplish the "Great Dog Wash." The depiction of multiple ethinicities should encourage children about the importance of working together, while promoting cooperative work and learning. While there was no hugely obvious message, I would take away from this book that hard work pays off, as the dogs participating in the "Great Dog Wash" cause all sorts of mischief for these poor children!

McGuirk, Leslie.
Wiggens Learns His Manners at the Four-Seasons Restaurant.

August 2009.

Candlewick Press.

Manners are a big part of getting along world-wide! Wiggens and his obedience class at the Four Seasons Restaurant aim to teach children appropriate manners for dining out. While Wiggens being a dog will certainly help to capture children's attention, I fear that they will not make a connection that the manners they need to consider when eating out are the same as those that Wiggens is trying to teach them. If this is blatantly discussed with children, I think this book is a good resource for children who are in need of learning manners.

Fleischman, Paul.
The Dunderheads.

June 2009.

Candlewick Press.

Children will likely find this book hilarious... I kind of liked the message that the "Dunderheads" sent their teacher, but overall, I wasn't a huge fan of the book itself. I didn't feel this book accurately depicts a teacher. Most teachers are in their profession because they enjoy working with students, not cutting them down. However, I know that children don't always see this side of their teachers for whatever the reason, so I'm keeping an open mind! The length of the book was also another downfall that I noticed, although it probably would make the book appropriate for an older age range (8-12). The comic-y, almost gothic-like appearance of the illustrations would also catch the eye of older readers. I'm open for thoughts. Are you familiar with this book? Have you read it with your child(ren)? What are you thinking?

Sauer, Tammi.
Chicken Dance.
August 2009.
Sterling Publishing.

This is definitely a book choice if you're looking for a fun barnyard read-aloud. The bright, colorful illustrations nicely complement the feel of the text. The story itself is full of humor that kids will likely be able to pick up on and shows an appropriate, healthy amount of competition among different groups (in this case, barnyard animals) "friends."

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weekly Blog Plan, October 26-30

Here's the weekly blog plan! Again, please remember this is subject to change and is dependent upon whether or not my materials come in from the library as planned. I realize that this may fall too late for you to use in your classroom this year, but the activities will definitely swing from year-t0-year! If you see something you really want to incorporate into your classroom, leave me a comment on this post or send me an e-mail, I'd be glad to provide you with the links I have, if nothing more!

Monday, October 26 - Erie Canal Anniversary
  • The Erie Canal, Lisa Bullard
  • The Amazing, Impossible Erie Canal, Cheryl Harness
  • Let Me Tell You about "Minnie the Mule and the Erie Canal," Lettie A. Petrie
Tuesday, October 27 - National Magic Week
  • Enigma: A Magical Mystery, Graeme Base
  • Presto Change-O, Audrey Wood
  • Man Who Walked the Earth, Ian Wallace
  • The Paper Bag Princess, Robert Munsch
Wednesday, October 28 - Statue of Liberty Dedication Week
  • A Picnic in October, Eve Bunting
  • L is for Liberty, Wendy Cheyette Lewison
  • Lily and Miss Liberty, Carla Stevens
Thursday, October 29 - October ARC Reviews
  • Little Blue Truck, Alice Schertle
  • Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, Alice Schertle
  • The Little Dump Truck, Margery Cuyler
Friday, October 30 - October ARC Reviews
  • Archie and the Pirates, Marc Rosenthal
  • Let's Do Nothing, Tony Fucille
  • My Abuelita, Tony Johnston

Friday, October 23, 2009

Teen Read Week

What did you read for Teen Read Week? These were my two choices!
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

Patterson, Valerie O.
The Other Side of Blue.
October 2009.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Source: Review copy provided courtesy of publisher

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Cyan was named after a shade of blue, her artist mother's favorite color. The color of the sea. Since her father's death last year, she’s felt just as mercurial and dark as her namesake, and the distance between Cyan and her mother has grown as wide as an ocean. Now they're returning to the island of CuraƧao in the Caribbean, where her father's mysterious accident occurred, and joining them will be Kammi--who may soon become a stepsister. Haunted by the secrets of the past, Cyan will explore all the depths of her blueness this summer, discovering the light, the darkness, and the many shades in between that are within her—and within us all.

This was one of those books that once you start reading, you can't put it down! It was that moving and incredible! Prior to reading this book, I never considered looking at the "shades" of my life - meaning colors. But, after reading and now that I've given it a great deal of consideration, I can totally relate to this idea of quantifying your life in terms of color shades. Lately, I guess lately (overall) you could say my life shade would be crimson - red - depicting anger, frustration (all having to do with my grandma's dementia which has taken a turn)... Today however, I think I'd go with Cyan - I got out of the house, enjoyed myself, actually saw some sunshine in this dreary NY fall. It's really interesting to consider your life in terms of colors!

Beam, Matt.
Last December.
October 2009.
Boyds Mills Press.
Source: Review copy provided courtesy of publisher

Summary from Inside Jacket Cover:

Fifteen-year-old Steven needs to explain something - everything - to his sister, Sam. She needs to know about Jenny from his new high school and how the freckles on her arm make his synapses go crazy. She needs to know about the Toronto Maple Leafs and trying out for the school hockey team and the crazy thing Steven did to number 11 on the ice. She needs to know about Trevor's crooked eyebrow and what the Jar is and why it's not even close to righteous Rastifari. She needs to know about eighteen-year old dropout Byron, all his fascinating ideas about chaos and coolness and trying to keep it together. And she definitely needs to know about what drastic measures Steven is now considering and why. But there are two major problems: his sister isn't even born yet, and Steven is seriously struggling with the why part. In fact, Steven doesn't even know why his mother's having Sam in the first place... and if Sam's actually a she. Whatever happens, though, Steven knows one thing: he needs to get this all down, so that someday Sam'll know what happened to him - to all of them - last December.

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Thursday, October 22, 2009

School Bus Safety Week

This week is set aside to focus attention on school bus safety - from the standpoint of the bus drivers, students and the motoring public. Annually, the third full week of October (October 18-23, 2009), starting on Sunday. For more information, visit:
National Association for Pupil Transportation.
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

Pulver, Robin.
Axle Annie and the Speed Grump.
Dial Books for Young Readers.
Source: Borrowed copy from local library

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Axle Annie, Burskyville's best, most beloved school bus driver, has a big problem, and that problem has a name: Rush Hotfoot. Rush is an absolute menace -- always in both a hurry and a bad mood, driving full blast down the street. He even ignores the bus's stop-sign arm! But if anybody can tame the speed grump, Annie can. With hilarious illustrations and tons of kid-appeal, this companion to the original Axle Annie is sure to make readers giggle and cheer for the kind of superhero they might see every day.

So... I'm thinking this book is probably more appropriate for parents as far as "bus safety" is concerned! While kids will definitely enjoy the somewhat rhyming text and funny story, parents are the real ones learning a lesson here - to be cautious of school buses and to obey the rules in their presence! It's definitely a great book to put out on display in the library throughout the school-year in an effort to be sure children who ride the bus are safe when boarding and departing! The book would also be appropriate for bus safety week, because it could be used as a springboard for a discussion about bus safety rules for children after discussing bus safety for adults!

Crews, Donald.
School Bus.
Greenwillow Books.
Source: Borrowed from local library

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Follows the progress of school buses as they take children to school and bring them home again.

This book would be perfect for first year school children who will be riding the bus for the first time. It's doesn't make mention of any bus safety rules, but it would make for a perfect introduction to youngsters about riding the bus. From there, you could easily use this book to discuss bus safety!

Bus Safety Games:
Bus Safety Worksheets (PreK-Grade 2)
Bus Safety Worksheets (Grades 3-5):
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

National Character Counts Week

One of the greatest building blocks of character is citizen service. The future belongs to those who have the strength of character to live a life of service to others. Character Counts week is celebrated this week, October 18-24, 2009.
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

Character education is a huge part of today's school curriculum. Alongside literature, simple daily activities can allow children to see "character" in the works. These discreet stories really allow children to see how to be a good "character" or citizen, while also enjoying participating in a reading or listening to a story.

Sommer, Carl.
King of the Pond.
Advance Publishing, Inc.
Guided Reading Level: L
Source: Copy borrowed from local library

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Tombo the tadpole declares himself King of the Pond. He brags that he's the biggest, the fastest, and the strongest tadpole, and he teases and chases all the other tadpoles. But one day while showing off doing a triple flip, Tombo's life takes a major turn. He's captured by a boy and taken from his lush pond to a fish tank. There Tombo is fed dry fish flakes, a food he despises. When Tombo turns into a frog, the boy releases him back into his pond. Tombo discovers that he's no longer the biggest and fastest. It's then he discovers something much more important than being King of the Pond. Explore the themes of bullying, friendship, and forgiveness in this beautifully illustrated story.

Respect for others, forgiveness and sportsmanship are the character traits that are featured in this edition of "Another Sommer-Time Story" series. Here, a bully learns that being a bully and bragging about all that he can do doesn't pay off in the end. However, perhaps the most important lesson to be learned is that it's important to forgive in the end - and that's just what Tombo's friend's do, despite the way in which they were earlier treated. This book would fit perfectly into a science curriculum, as it also explains the lifecycle of the frog. Definitely a great book to have on hand for teachers (and parents, as well).

Sommer, Carl.
The Ugly Caterpillar.


Advance Publishing, Inc.

Guided Reading Level: K
Source: Copy borrowed from local library

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

When a tiny, yellow egg appears on the scene, three friends, Speckles the spider, Crumbs the cricket, and Annie the ant, aren't sure what to think. But when Katy the caterpillar appears, Speckles and Crumbs think the caterpillar is much too ugly to be their friend. Only Annie the ant looks past the caterpillar's funny shape and makes friends with Katy. As Katy the caterpillar begins her strange transformation into a beautiful butterfly, Annie is shocked and amazed. This educational and beautifully illustrated story shows the true meaning of beauty and friendship and the pitfalls of judging others by their appearances.

I had the opportunity to use this book with a third-grader over the course of the summer - she loved the story... and even better, she learned a LOT while reading the book! Respect for others, as well as kindness and friendship are expressed throughout this story, when Annie befriends an "ugly caterpillar" who develops into a beautiful butterfly. The lesson to be learned is "not to judge a book by its cover" - that true beauty lies within. Perhaps what I enjoyed most about the book is the fact that it also would work perfectly in a science unit when studying the life cycle of a butterfly, as we watch while Katy the Caterpillar transforms from an ugly caterpillar into a butterfly. This definitely holds a place on my shelf!

Sommer, Carl.
No One Will Ever Know.
Advance Publishing, Inc.
Guided Reading Level: L
Source: Copy borrowed from local library

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Teased by their friends that no one will ever know, Johnny and Janie ignore their parents' warnings about the big, bad wolf. Wanting big, delicious acorns at Mr. Smith's farm, they and their friends hatch a plan to sneak out of their homes during the night. They can't wait to feast on the delicious acorns from Mr. Smith's farm. The young squirrels' moon-lit adventure and delightful meal suddenly ends when a very hungry wolf chases them. Barely escaping with their lives, the young squirrels learn to disobey is wrong even when you think no one will ever know.

After reading this story, children will begin to understand the importance of listening to their parents and elders, even if something might not make sense to them. I don't think the lesson to be learned here is quite as clear as in the previous two books reviewed, but I do think it begins to show children the importance of listening and follow the rules - as rules exist for a reason!

Carl Sommer's Other Books about Character Education:
  1. Proud Rooster and Little Red Hen
  2. It's Not Fair
  3. If Only I Were...
  4. Can You Help Me Find My Smile?
  5. Three Little Pigs
  6. The Sly Fox and the Chicks
  7. The Richest Poor Kid
  8. The Little Red Train
  9. I am a Lion!
  10. You Move, You Lose
  11. Time Remote
  12. Dare to Dream
  13. Spike the Rebel
  14. Tied Up in Knots
  15. Noise! Noise! Noise!
  16. No Longer a Dilly Dally
  17. Light Your Candle
  18. The Great Royal Race
  19. Your Job is Easy
  20. Miserable Millie
  21. Mayor for the Day
  22. Character Education Curriculum Guide
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

National Day on Writing

On Thursday, October 8, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution declaring October 20 as the National Day on Writing. Established by the NCTE a National Gallery and the National Day on Writing:
  • highlight the remarkable variety of writing we engage in today;
  • provide a collection for research on whether writing today has risen to new highs or sunk to new lows; and
  • help us help others to write better.
For more information, to contribute your writing to a gallery or to start a local gallery, visit :

Hershenhorn, Esther.
S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet.
September 2009.
Sleeping Bear Press.

Source: Review Copy provided courtesy of Publisher

Summary from Inside Jacket Cover:

In S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet, an A to Z journey through a writer's life and process, author Esther Hershenhorn masterfully connects the reader and the writer. Writers' tips and inspiring quotes from award-winning authors dot the entries, from A is for the Alphabet and D is for Drafts through K is for Four Kinds of Writing on to the end. All facets of being and becoming a writer at any level are introduced in rhyme and explained in simple expository text. Writing terms such as revision, voice, and word choice, story elements such as plot and character, and writing opportunities such as letters, journals, and notebooks are defined in easy-to-understand language.
J is for your Journal,
yours alone to write,
a record true
of what you do
morning, noon, or night.

A journal is a notebook for recording what
happens in your life and your reactions to those
events. You choose your writing time, theme,
style, readers. Be sure to not each entry's date
and setting. Revisiting your journal lets you
re-explore your life.
Imaginiative, colorful illustrations by artist Zachary Pullen vividly bring the poetry and prose to life. Readers of all ages will enjoy the depth and creativity expressed in these original compositions.

I have been a huge fan of Sleeping Bear Press' alphabet stories for some time now. However, I have to be honest in saying that this is one of my favorites. Writing is a task that I see students struggling with constantly. Whether its their inability to get words down on paper or their struggle to find the imagination that helps them write, I've yet to discover. However, this book will (hopefully) get children excited about writing, by allowing them to see all that writing can be. It's truly wonderful... and what I really like about it is that each page can be used alone in the classroom if you're trying to emphasize one aspect of writing with students, or it can be used as a read-aloud at the beginning the year when introducing students to the class writing program! Definitely a must have for teachers and home-school parents!

Lesson Plans/Reading Activities:
Brown, Marc.
Arthur Writes a Story.
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Guided Reading Level: K
Source: Copy borrowed from local library

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

When Mr. Ratburn asks the class to write a story, Arthur immediately produces a composition entitled "How I Got My Puppy Pal." But as one person after another gives him advice about what constitutes a good story, he keeps making changes until he ends up with an outlandish song and dance number about elephants on the Planet Shmellafint!

I've always loved the Arthur stories to use in a classroom. I guess it's because there's such a broad range of topics that are covered, that almost any child will be able to connect at many points. I love Arthur so much, that I've actually bought an "Arthur" stuffed animal, in hopes of one day being able to use him in a classroom as a take-home journaling activity in which one student would take Arthur home each weekend and journal their weekend together. It turns writing into a fun activity. Now that I've discovered this book, it would most definitely make for the perfect introduction to the activity of take-home journaling! I would think this book would be a must-read for the National Day on Writing if you have access to it!

Wong, Janet S.
You Have To Write.
Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group.
Source: Copy borrowed from local library

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

You have to write! It's a class assignment. But you have nothing to write about. All the other kids seem to have something to tell because they start in right away. What can you do? Stop and think. No one else can tell your stories — about your family, your dog or cat. No one else can tell how it was when your library book got soaked in the rain. But what if you don't like what you write? There are all sorts of ways to change it, to make it better. Keep on playing with your words, putting them together in different ways. You want whatever you write to be good. It will get better and better as you work on it. This is an encouraging book, sympathetically illustrated by Teresa Flavin's charming pictures, for all young readers who worry when they're told to write something.

Many children struggle with "what" to write when given the opportunity to have a "free write." For me, that was always my most enjoyable writing assignment, as I loved being creative and watching things unfold the way I wanted them to! However, this isn't the case for many. If you have children or students who are struggling writers, this book would certainly be good to have on hand, as it offers tons of information and ideas to jumpstart the writing process. This is definitely a book I will consider adding to my personal library for future use in a classroom!

Lesson Plans/Reading Activities:

Well, it's the National Day on Writing, so I've found (it actually is done every year at this time) this creative activity that will hopefully inspire children! Bruce Coville hails from my neck of the woods, and each year, he writes the start of a Halloween story which is published in my local newspaper encouraging children to write the middle and ending. There are prizes awarded and I've seen some really creative stories come away from this activity. The link for the Halloween story starter can be found here. Hopefully your child(ren) will enjoy this activity!!!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to