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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: kindergarten, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 112
1. Back to school: easing your kindergarten worries (ages 4-7)

Are you getting nervous about the beginning of the school year? Will your child be able to make the transition to a new school, new teacher, new friends? There's nothing like the nervous excitement of the first day of school. Some kids are raring to go, while others are tentatively clinging to their parents. Whatever the case, try out these two new favorites to add some humor as you read about the first day of school.

Planet Kindergarten
by Sue Ganz-Schmitt
illustrated by Shane Prigmore
Chronicle, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
“The countdown started. Dad and I checked the plans for my next big mission… I am ready to explore: Planet Kindergarten!”
Planet Kindergarten, click to enlarge
Starting school is certainly exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking. One imaginative little kid knows it might be just like blasting off into outer space. There are strange routines, new crewmembers, and you might even get a bit homesick.

Bold colors and a retro-style amp up the humor in this fun twist on getting used to a new school. You can definitely tell that Shane Prigmore has an animator's background -- check out his blog to see some of the fun inspiration he used in developing the artwork for this.
Planet Kindergarten, click to enlarge
I just love the way Ganz-Schmitt captures the joyful chaos of kindergarten. Share this with any kindergarten teacher, and she/he will love the line, "Gravity works differently here. We have to try hard to stay in our seats. And our hands go up a lot."
Mom, It's My First Day of Kindergarten!
by Hyewon Yum
Farrar Straus Giroux / Macmillan, 2012
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
In a delightful turning of the tables, a five-year old boy can’t wait to start kindergarten and his mom is anxious about his going to a new school.
“Will you be okay in the big kids’ school? You’re still so little,” she frets.
“Mom, don’t worry. I’ll be fine, I am already five!” he declares as he dashes off to school. 
The boy is full of confidence -- I just love the way that Hyewon Yum shows this visually, with the kindergartner big and bold, and his mom small and blue. Until he peeks inside the classroom door ... and the roles reverse again.

Enjoy this video to get a sense of this delightful story and artwork:


I hope your little ones come home declaring, "Kindergarten is awesome!!!" The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Chronicle Books and Macmillan. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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2. Back to School Fun: Silly and Sweet (ages 3-6)

Summer is ending and soon kids will head back to school. Some are excited for new adventures, but many will be sad to see summer over. Help your kids talk about the changes that are coming with two new books that take a silly and sweet look at the new school year. These are both perfect for little kids starting preschool or kindergarten.

Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2014
ages 4-6
Lola is one cute little kitty, ready to pounce, play and explore. When she finds pink glasses, a stylish outfit and a backpack, she decides to join the rest of the kids on the school bus. "Hooray! Lola is going to school!" Lola has fun doing all sorts of activities at school -- writing, reading, painting, singing, and more. "Lola loved it all!" The story might be slight (dare I say fluffy like a kitty?), but it will help bring smiles to any little kid who's anxious about what happens at school. Lola's positive attitude is sure to rub off on them.
Monsters Love School
by Mike Austin
HarperCollins, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
Mike Austin's monsters bring even more silliness to the scene, while still helping kids who are feeling nervous about starting a new school year. Summer fun is ending and all the little monster head to school. Most are excited to see their friends-- “Oh Yeah! Monster School!!” But one little blue monster is worried: “School?! Gulp.”
Blue is sure that he already knows his “ABGs and 413s and XYDs,” so why does he need to go to school? Sure enough, once Blue gets to school he starts having fun. Just look at how great art class can be:
Austin’s playful monsters are sure to bring laughs, with their bright colors and googly eyes. Check out what Kirkus Reviews had to say about Monsters Love School:
"Austin has masterfully folded some valuable information about the first day of school into his funny tale, but the monsters are the big draw. Not the least bit scary, their simple shapes and accessories and scrawled style will likely have kids reaching for their own 'monster pencils, monster crayons, monster ink and brushes.'"
Looking for more Back to School book ideas? Check out this article in School Library Journal: Backpacks, Lunch Boxes, and Giggles Galore: Back-to-School Adventures, by Joy Fleishhacker.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, HarperCollins. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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3. Summer reading favorites for Kindergarteners

Summer is here. Kids are excited to have free time, but with that can come the eventual moans of: "I'm bored!" Head to the library and stock up on a pile of books. Here are some of my favorite books to recommend for kids just finishing kindergarten.

Note: Our schools use the Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to help indicate "just right books" for students. I like to band these levels together, to look at a group of similar books.

Beginning to Read (level C-E-F)
Folktales and Trickster Tales
Beginning to Read More (level F-G-H-I)
Exploring Animals All Around
  • Biggest, Strongest, Fastest, by Steve Jenkins (library--Amazon)
  • Fly Guy Presents: Sharks, by Tedd Arnold (library--Amazon)
  • Puppies and Kittens (Scholastic Discover More), by Penelope Arlon (library--Amazon)
  • ZooBorns! Zoo Babies from Around the World, by Andrew Bleiman (library--Amazon)
Picture Books that Make Us Laugh!
Do you like these? Print out the whole list to take to the library or bookstore! Share it with friends!


Check out all of the 2014 summer reading lists I developed for grades K through 5 through SlideShare or this page.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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4. Number One Sam, by Greg Pizzoli (ages 3-6)

Kids love racing against each other -- but how do we help them learn to have fun racing without hurting their friendships? It's a delicate line that kids, especially competitive ones, need to learn. Here's a book you'll love sharing with your kids, because it will make them laugh, but it will also help them think.
Number One Sam
Disney Hyperion, 2014
ages 3-6
Sam is the number one racer, always coming in first place. Just look how happy he is racing around the curves -- he's a guy that kids will love cheering on. I love Greg Pizzoli's artwork, full of dramatic lines and curves, but imbued with such bright, happy colors.


But one race day Sam's friend Maggie comes in first place, and Sam is devastated. "The night before the next race, Sam didn't sleep one wink." Little kids will know just how nervous he is. Sam works hard not to be a sore loser, and to do his best to win the next day.


Pizzoli throws a delightfully unexpected twist in the story--Sam is driving his best, passing all his friends and confident that he will win the race again. But, oh no!!!, he sees five adorable little chicks crossing the road.
"Sam could steer around the chicks,
but would the other racers see them in time?"
I can't wait to read this to little kids and see how they react to Sam's dilemma! Pizzoli creates a situation that kids will be able to relate to: how they can be competitive but also good friends. What makes this book so great is that it will help families share an experience and create conversations. And Pizzoli does this while keeping the story trimmed down to its essence: dynamic yet spare, easy to read yet captivating.

Just take a look at the Kirkus starred review of Number One Sam:
"No. 1 takes on a whole new meaning. Pizzoli’s story is a simple class act. Do the right thing—you can’t lose, ever. And most of the time, the right thing is no great philosophical conundrum but as clear as the checkered flag.
A polished work, from the words to the finish on the race cars."
Number one in my book. I'll be sharing this with our kindergarteners as we talk about what it means to be a friend.

If you like this story, you might enjoy checking out:


The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Disney Hyperion Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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5. Race Cars: Read all about them! (ages 4-8)

Many of my young students love nonfiction. They're fascinated to learn real facts and quickly learn just where their favorite books are. Here are two nonfiction books for kids who love fast race cars.

Race Day!
National Geographic Reader
by Gail Tuchman
National Geographic, 2010
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-7
Head out to the race track and see just what car racers do in this fast-paced book for kids just beginning to read. The dynamic photos and very simple text make this a great place to start with young speedsters. Here you can see how simple the text is:
Race Day, National Geographic, 2010
Share this either with a three year old who doesn't like to sit still for long stories, or a kindergartner just beginning to read. They'll love the bright photographs and clean design. For kids who want more info, but like learning about lots of different car models, try My Big Fast Car Book.
My Big Fast Car Book
text and design, Duck Egg Blue
Ticktock Books, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-8
This book will draw in readers who look out the car window and tell you each car model that passes. Kids will learn about the LaFerrari, the Bugatti Veyron, stock cars and more. Each double-page spread has one large photograph of the car, with bite-sized facts surrounding it.
My Big Fast Race Car, Ticktock Books, 2014
The details make this more appropriate for a first grader listening to an adult read it aloud, or a reader who already knows a lot about racing. The language is actually quite complicated, probably too complicated for a preschooler to understand. But they'll love the pictures and learning the car names.
If you're looking for a good over-all introduction, check out Race Cars: Start Your Engines!
Race Cars: Start Your Engines!
by Molly Aloian and Bobbie Kalman
Crabtree, 2007
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-9
Although it gets off to a slow start, I think this book will appeal to kids who want to learn more about what makes some cars faster than others. The first sentences have no kid-appeal: "A racecar is a vehicle. A vehicle is machine that moves from place to place." Any kids who wants to read this book will know that already. But the text picks up speed from there. Here's a section that talks about the shape of a race car.
Race Cars: Start Your Engines, Crabtree, 2007
I particularly like the design of this book. The diagrams, labels and captions draw kids into the content and do not overwhelm the reader. For example, after the section above on the shape of the car, there's a subsection on wings that help the race car move quickly and keep low to the ground. Other chapters cover topics such as Indy 500 cars, Formula One cars, dragsters and go-carts.

If you like sharing nonfiction picture books with kids, definitely head over to Kid Lit Frenzy, where Alyson Beecher hosts the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge every Wednesday. This week, she's sharing Sniffer Dogs (on my must-read list!), and you'll see links of all sorts of nonfiction books teachers and parents love sharing with kids.

The review copies came from our home library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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6. The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca (ages 4-8)

Wow-oh-wow. The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca, is absolutely brilliant -- perfect for young speed racers (and their parents, too!). Kids will be drawn in by his dynamic illustrations, but they'll come back again and again for the layers of information they discover with each reading.

The Racecar Alphabet
by Brian Floca
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2003
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
You can just about feel the wind and hear the roar as you see the 1934 Mercedes-Benz thundering across the cover, can't you? But this is no ordinary alphabet book. Floca combines alliteration, rhythm and rhymes to pull readers right in. Here are the opening stanzas:
Automobiles--
machines on wheels.//

Belts turning,
  fuel burning,
the buzz and bark of engines.
   The flap of a flag--
     a race begins!
But there's more! Look closely at the endpapers as you open the book, and you'll notice that the cars are arranged in chronological order. Read the text again and you'll notice that each letter of the alphabet progresses through automobile history, from the 1906 Renault (emblazoned with a number 1, because it's on the A page) to a 1934 Mercedes-Benz (number 9, "instruments / indicating speed") to a 2001 Ferrari F1 (number 26, "zipping, zigzagging, with zeal and zing").
The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca
Brian Floca, winner of this year's Caldecott Award for the mightily impressive Locamotive, brings readers right into the race, shifting perspective at each turn. Just look above as the BMW barrels down on you, or below as you sit in the driver's seat:
The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca
Floca writes in his blog about his inspiration for writing The Racecar Alphabet:
When I came across an image of one of those cars a few years ago, a switch went off in my head. I had never been much of a racing fan, but suddenly I appreciated how extraordinarily beautiful these cars could be. Here was sculpture, nothing less. It just happened to be sculpture you could drive through scenic European settings at extraordinary speeds.
I truly believe that picture books are an essential way we can introduce our children to art. I'm guessing many parents will never take their children to a museum. But here, they can get a feel for the importance of perspective, colors, lines, and composition. And make tons of zooming, churning, speeding noises at the same time!

The review copy came from our home library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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7. Twenty Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street, by Mark Lee & Kurt Cyrus (ages 3-5)

When I look for a great counting book, I am looking for a book that pulls young readers back to read it again and again. It has to have clear, dynamic illustrations and text that invites the adult to interact with the child while they read together. Mark Lee's debut picture book Twenty Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street is a fantastic new counting book, perfect for little kids wowed by huge, towering trucks.


Twenty Big Trucks
in the Middle of the Street
by Mark Lee
illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
Candlewick, 2013
available at
Amazon
your local library
ages 3-5
*best new book*
A little boy watches as an ice-cream truck rumbles down the street. When the ice-cream truck breaks down, it blocks middle of the street. This leads to a chain-reaction traffic jam, with truck after truck getting stuck in the street. Lee's rhyming text is wonderful to read aloud, adding interest for parents and children. He uses the page turns perfectly, building suspense along the way.
"A mail truck stops, so now there are two.
Their drivers don't know what to do.

Watch out! Two trucks are in the way.
They stop a third truck carrying hay."
We start realizing the pattern just as the little guy on his bike starts counting the trucks. Kurt Cyrus, veteran picture book author and illustrator, captures our attention with bold digital illustrations.


I love how Lee and Cyrus each layer in many aspects to this counting book, inviting repeated readings. Some kids will spend hours naming each type of truck, while others will notice all of the different items the trucks carry.


Cyrus keeps the little kid on the bike as part of each picture, helping kids see themselves in this busy traffic jam, but he switches up the perspective throughout, zooming in and out of the scene. My favorite spread is near the end, looking down at the whole big mess, when you can count each truck that's piled up waiting for the ice cream truck to move.

Best of all: the little kid comes up with the final solution!

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick Press. The illustrations are copyright ©2013 Kurt Cyrus, share with permission of the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

20 BIG TRUCKS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET. Text copyright © 2013 by Mark Lee. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Kurt Cyrus. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

1 Comments on Twenty Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street, by Mark Lee & Kurt Cyrus (ages 3-5), last added: 9/7/2013
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8. Integrating Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening in Grades K-1

Katherine AliGuest BloggerKatherine Ali is a dual-certified elementary and special education teacher. She recently graduated as a literacy specialist with a Masters in Science from Manhattanville College. She has experience teaching internationally in northern China and now teaches in the Bronx, NY.

As educators, we witness the transformations of students throughout elementary school.  First graders will one day become fifth graders, while fifth graders were once first graders.  So we must think, where did our students come from? and where are they going next? Our classroom must be structured to prepare our students for the future and help them build a skillset they can bring with them.  In order to be active participants in the literate world, students must be reading, writing, speaking, and listening at all ages.

Here on the LEE & LOW blog, I’ll illustrate what it looks like to integrate reading, writing, speaking, and listening across several grade levels: K-1, 2-3, and 4-5. The natural interplay of language looks slightly different across grade levels, but the foundations and mission are the same.

Reading:  Text Complexity and the growth of comprehension

We want our students to ascend the staircase of text complexity and simultaneously sharpen their comprehension skills.  Students of all ages need to build stamina through independently reading more rigorous and complex texts.  Additionally, read-alouds allow students to access content and concepts they may not be able to decode themselves.

Writing: Text types, responding to reading, and research

The three main categories of student writing the standards focus on are opinion pieces, research-based projects, and narratives.  It is also imperative that our students engage in the writing process and expand their writing style using the conventions of the English language.

Speaking and Listening: Flexible Communication and Collaboration

Speaking and Listening in each grade level includes (but is certainly not limited to) presentations, group work, and class discussion.  Students need to be aware of their oral language skills and communicate their thoughts and research appropriately.   Building off other students’ ideas is also an important component in developing these skills.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share a few titles published by LEE & LOW BOOKS that illustrate opportunities for integrating oral and written language in the classroom. The stories can be used in different capacities depending on students’ interest and ability; therefore I focus on the interest level as well as the guided reading level to determine each book’s grade-level appropriateness.  Furthermore, while the mini-lesson ideas and strategy-based activities are categorized by each key feature, they are still connected.

Grades K-1Integrating Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening in Grades K-1

Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell

Interest Level: Grades K -3

DRA: 16, Guided Reading: I

Reading:   The rhythm and rhyming of Rainbow Stew (“Whimper, sigh, cloudy sky, is it to wet to play? We don’t want to stay inside/ because of rain today“) make it a fantastic read aloud.  Teachers can model how to use the bright, colorful pictures and other context clues to unlock the meaning of unfamiliar words such as “soggy” and “grasshopper.”

image from Rainbow Stew

image from Rainbow Stew

Students can also practice reading together through choral reading exercises in either whole class or small group instruction. Choral reading supports struggling readers and strengthens fluency.  Students are also then listening to the rhythm and rhyming of the author’s words repeatedly.   Additionally, students may be able to read this story independently to practice fluency and build vocabulary.  For emergent readers, this text can be a tool to teach phonemic awareness and word patterns as well.

Writing:  Author Cathryn Falwell uses a methodical writing style of action words followed by rhyming verses.  Young learners can discuss the writer’s craft in this picture book as well as notice some nuances in the different verses with strong scaffolding.  Teachers can lead a shared writing project in which the class borrows Falwell’s style and writes their own book, playing with words.  Another age-appropriate reading and writing strategy presented in Rainbow Stew is sequencing.  Students will need to refer to the story in order to recount the events by either drawing pictures or writing.

Speaking & Listening:  Teachers can facilitate an interactive read-aloud in which students turn and talk to one another about the story.  Asking questions such as, “What other stories does Rainbow Stew remind you of?” adheres to the reading standards in making connections across different texts and fosters intentional discussions.  Through the choral reading exercise students are reading, speaking, and listening to the text.  Creating a class book improves collaboration skills such as taking turns, listening to other’s ideas, and compromising.

Stay tuned next week as I demonstrate how to integrate reading, writing, speaking & listening for grades 2-3 using As Fast As Words Can Fly by Pamela Tuck!

Further Reading:

Integrating Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening in the Classroom

What Does Close Reading Look Like in Kindergarten?


Filed under: Curriculum Corner, guest blogger Tagged: CCSS, close reading, common core standards, ELA common core standards, kindergarten, listening and speaking standards, literacy, Rainbow Stew, reading comprehension, Reading Standards, writing standards

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9. The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck, by Laura Murray & Mike Lowery (ages 4 - 7)

One of my favorite memories has to be watching little kids go to the local fire station for the first time. They look up at the huge fire fighters and their trucks in such awe and amazement. Laura Murray has created a rollicking fun read aloud to celebrate this adventure.

The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck
by Linda Murray
illustrated by Mike Lowery
G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin, 2013
available at
Amazon
your local library
ages 4-7
The pint size hero of The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School returns for a class field trip to the local fire station. After their teacher announces they’ll be riding the bus to meet the fire fighters, Sophia reassures the Gingerbread Man that she can take him along in the pocket of her backpack.
But just as the class reaches their destination, the little cookie falls out of his hiding spot and falls right on top of Spot, the hungry Dalmatian. Readers familiar with the traditional tale will relish the similarities as the Gingerbread Man evades being eaten, shouting,
"I'll run and I'll dodge,
As fast as I can.
I'm not a dog bone! I'm the
Gingerbread Man!"
The ensuing chase leads throughout the fire house, into the truck, up the shiny pole, through the bedroom and into the kitchen. When the alarm sounds, the fire fighters rush to the truck and the Gingerbread Man hops aboard, riding to the rescue.

Murray’s bouncing rhythms keep the story moving at a quick pace, and are matched by Lowery’s action-packed cartoon-style illustrations. In the end, female Fire Chief Anne rewards the little hero and his classmates with helmets, paralleling many children’s own trips to the fire station.

Read a fun interview with Laura Murray over at Mr. Schu's Watch.Connect.Read. What a great school visit this would be!

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Penguin Books for Young Readers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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10. Dr. Seuss’ Birthday + School Visit = GREAT DAY!

Yesterday was Read Across America Day and the day schools celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday… and I had such a fabulous day! I had the opportunity to visit Mineral Springs Elementary School and share Being Frank with Pre-K through 2nd grade students! Big thanks to Jerry Ethridge for the pics below! Filed under: writing for children […]

3 Comments on Dr. Seuss’ Birthday + School Visit = GREAT DAY!, last added: 3/5/2014
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11. Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (ages 3-6)

Sometimes my kids ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because they are just craving comfort food. Jarrett Krosoczka's newest picture book, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, is exactly like that -- comforting, a little gooey and certainly sweet. Reach for it if you're in the mood for something that will make you smile.

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014
your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
Best friends Peanut Butter and Jellyfish love to swim up, down and around--all over their ocean home. But every time they swim past Crabby, he shouts out something mean to them, like: “What a bunch of bubbleheads!” or “You guys smell like rotten barnacles!” What is it with that guy? More importantly, what should these two happy friends do about it?
Best of friends who spent their days exploring...
When Crabby gets caught in a lobster trap, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish have to decide whether they're going to reach out to help him. Krosoczka's story touches just the right notes, creating empathy and suspense along the way. His artwork is bright and cheerful, with lots of kid appeal.

I know many families will enjoy this as they snuggle up for a story at the end of the day. Lovely comfort food, and without the sticky mess! Enjoy this delightful trailer:



Illustration copyright ©2014 by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Knopf Books for Young Readers / Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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12. Firefly July: A year of very short poems, selected by Paul B. Janeczko (ages 5-10)

I adore poetry--hooray for National Poetry Month! I love the amazing tumbling, turning and twisting that poets do with words. I marvel at the layered meanings in poems, and I have so much fun with the silliness of other poems. The only the I have such trouble with is memorizing poems. So imagine my delight when I read a whole book of poems just right for me to try to remember!
Firefly July
A year of very short poems
selected by Paul B. Janeczko
illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick, 2014
*best new book*
your local library
Amazon
ages 5-10
This picture book balances poetry and illustrations in a lovely way, so that children from preschool through upper elementary can linger over each page. Paul Janeczko has selected 36 poems to reflect our four seasons, and Melissa Sweet illustrates each poem, balancing literal and figurative meanings in ways that help children understand the poems fully. Take this lovely poem
"The Island", by Lillian Morrison
At first glance, this is just a peaceful picture of an island on a summer's day. But Sweet's illustration helps young children understand how "wrinkled stone" might indeed look "like an elephant's skin." As the Horn Book says, "Sweet's expansive mixed-media illustrations -- loosely rendered, collage-like assemblages in seasonal palettes -- are just detailed enough to clarify meaning without intruding on young imaginations."

Sweet includes children in so many of her illustrations. Do you see the young child looking out at the island? It's a small detail, but just enough for a young child to put themselves in the scene, to imagine being their on a summer's day. Take a look at the picture below, and notice how Sweet includes children just as silhouettes -- letting the fireflies take center stage, but inviting children to be part of the poem as well.
"Firefly July" by J. Patrick Lewis
I absolutely agree with five starred reviews Firefly July has received! This is a delightful collection that children will enjoy returning to time and again. My sense is that this collection will captivate children from kindergarten through fourth grade, precisely because poetry can be read on so many different levels. For other reviews, check out Betsy Bird's review on SLJ's Fuse #8, and Anita Silvey's post on The Children's Book-a-Day Almanac.

Illustration copyright ©2014 by Melissa Sweet. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick Press. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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13. Picture books for launching mathematicians

My school uses a play-based approach to teaching math, which is advantageous because as an early childhood teacher, my students still love math and they love to play games. They enjoy learning and working with numbers and I can build on this through math games.

For me, teaching math is often challenging because my own mathematical background emphasized “doing” math over understanding with drills, formulas, and math algorithms rather than reinforcing why we use specific math procedures. Add to this the new Common Core Math Standard’s focus on conceptual understanding, fluency, and application and you get a recipe for highly reflective lesson planning!

One way to bridge this gap between doing and understanding math is with picture books. They provide purposeful ways to ground students intuitive use of math and easily get them using and talking about the most effective strategies.

There are so many wonderful math concept and picture books out there, yet selecting books that effectively support mini lessons and launch play requires a bit more searching. The books need to interest students, embed rather than simply present math concepts, lend themselves well to differentiated extension activities, and of course, be fun!

Some books I’ve successfully used and that meet these criteria are:

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean — This is a Kevin Sherry’s story about a giant squid who thinks he’s bigger than everything in the ocean. He’s very big, but is he the biggest? This book is great for introducing relative size, comparisons. This is an alternative text for introducing standard measurements as well as scale when students are challenged to rank by size or to think of reliable ways to determine how much bigger he might be than other animals.

roostersofftoseeworld 218x300 Picture books for launching mathematicians Rooster’s Off to See the World — This classic Eric Carle book can help launch math activities about number sets. In the book, Rooster seeks company as he travels around the world. Along the way, he encounters different types of animals and invites them along. The best part of this book is that every time he meets a new animal, the number of them increases. It’s a great way to introduce students to counting in groups and helps students to distinguish between total numbers and sets of numbers. With this book, students played sorting games and counted number sets.

Ppigswillbepigs 300x259 Picture books for launching mathematiciansigs Will be Pigs — This is the hilarious tale of a family of pigs who need to find enough money to pay for dinner at a restaurant. The author Amy Axelrod wrote this book to teach explicitly about money and she does a fabulous job. I especially love this story because it can also be used across the curriculum. I’m connecting this to a social studies unit on access to healthful food. Grocery store or restaurant math games using coins are natural extension activities with this book.

alexanderwhousedtoberich 300x229 Picture books for launching mathematiciansAlexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday — Judith Viorst’s Alexander tales normalize my students’ every day experiences and emotions. This one is no different. Alexander has just spent every cent of the money his grandparents gave him. As he recounts how he spent it, students add up how much he spends or can subtract from the initial total. I love this one because a few of the items have prices that some students might find awkward to work with. As with Pigs Will be Pigs, it also lends itself well to cross-curricular connections, especially the basic economic principle of scarcity: Alexander had to learn the hard way about saving versus spending his limited income. For this book, a game to help Alexander save is also a next step for money.

When using picture books to teach math, pre- and post-assessment of student understanding can easily get lost. Talking to students about the math concepts in the books before sending them off to play math extension games can give you a sense of their thinking. For post-assessment, reviewing student work and requiring them to either to write or share out their strategies for success on the games lets them talk about their math knowledge and provides natural entry points for correcting misconceptions or pushing learning.

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14. The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl -- Blog Tour & Giveaway (ages 4-7)

Change is in the air all around my school, as children look forward to summer vacation. But change isn't always easy. What if you absolutely adore your teacher? Will next year's teacher ever be as wonderful? Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton show that this is a familiar feeling, in this delightful installment of their Very Fairy Princess series.
The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl
by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
illustrated by Christine Davenier
Little, Brown, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
Gerry is getting ready for the end of the school year and celebrating her graduation! She's excited to celebrate, but the end of the year always feels a little sad. Students clean their desks, empty their cubbies, take home all their art projects. But Gerry is also a little nervous about leaving her teacher Miss Pym, who always knows just what this very fairy princess needs.

This story has gotten lots of giggles from my students. One loved Gerry's "exuberance"; others could connect to how change really can be hard. Others found it delightfully silly -- Gerry even worries that her teacher might be a grumpy witch with a wart on her nose! It's definitely the right fit for kids who like their stories sweet, with lots of pluck and sparkle.

Thanks to the publishers Little, Brown, one lucky reader (with a US mailing address) has the chance to win a copy of The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl, just in time for the end of the school year. Please complete the Rafflecopter below to enter the giveaway -- entries due May 15th by 9pm PST:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The review copies was kindly sent by the publishers, Little, Brown. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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15. Red, White and Boom! by Lee Wardlaw (ages 3-8): celebrating Independence Day!

Are you still basking in the glow of Fourth of July? My children love our local Independence Day traditions - a neighborhood parade, patriotic songs and a ringing of the liberty bell. Every year, we wonder if we'll stay up late to watch the fireworks. If you're looking for a book that celebrates this holiday, find a copy of Lee Wardlaw's newest book, Red White and Boom! It will bring back your children's memories of this holiday and show them how other families celebrate, too.

Red, White and Boom!
by Lee Wardlaw
illustrated by Huy Voun Lee
NY: Henry Holt / Macmillan, 2012
ages 3 - 8
available at your local library and on Amazon
Wardlaw and Lee capture the joy, excitement and pure fun of Fourth of July celebrations across the country in this bold, eye-catching picture book. Wardlaw, the author of the award-winning Won Ton Cat, writes short, focused rhyming pairs that bring readers right into the celebration with their many sensory details.
"Flags unfurl/batons twirl...
Corncob sweet/Drippy treat...
Rockets wing/Crackle, sing
Burst and zoom/Red, white, boom!"
Lee's papercut artwork brings readers right into the celebrations. Families watch a parade marching through their city, with children leading off the parade carrying a large balloon of an American eagle. Throughout, children and families of many colors and ethnic backgrounds celebrate together.

But the fun doesn't stop there. Some families love going to the beach every summer for their Fourth of July celebrations. Families and friends have fun together, enjoying a picnic, throwing frisbees and playing in the water.

Finally, a crowd gathers in a local park that evening to enjoy the fireworks. Throughout this book, you get a child's sense of the fun and excitement of the celebrations. Lee's colorful papercut illustrations emphasize the sense of communities coming together to celebrate. She varies the perspectives, drawing up close so you can see the watermelon dripping and zoo

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16. Gearing Up for Kindergarten

By Luisa LaFleur, The Children’s Book Review
Published: August 14, 2012

September is just a few short weeks away and children going into kindergarten will enter a whole new realm that is really quite different from Pre-K or daycare settings. And because young children are highly observant, it’s important to prepare yourself so that you can face your child’s feelings. The following books will help explain the school setting and hopefully clear up any doubts or lingering fears in preparation for the first day of school.

Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!

By Nancy Carlson

Reading level: Ages 3-6

Hardcover: 28 pages

Publisher: VikingPublishing

What to expect: Preparing for the first day of kindergarten

Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! is a story about Henry’s first day of school. The book sets out the basics of the new routine: waking up in the morning, getting ready, having breakfast, packing supplies and walking to school. Henry is excited and asks what the day will be like—he’s ready for the new class, new friends and new activities but as he gets closer to school he starts to get anxious. And acknowledging fears is essential to preparing the little ones for the challenges ahead. The simple story gets to the heart of the matter and will reassure your young one that kindergarten will be loads of fun.

My School Trip

By Lynn Maslen Kertell

Reading level: Ages 4-7

Hardcover: 28 pages

Publisher: Scholastic

What to expect: Preparing for school

My School Trip is part of the BOB Books series for budding readers. They are intended to help children love learning how to read. This particular book tells of a trip to the zoo. It sets out the details of how school trips are conducted, establishes that school trips are educational and are also lots of fun. Budding readers can sound out words and will be able to decipher words based on the simple illustrations and story.

Bailey at the Museum

By Harry Bliss

Reading level: Ages 3 to 6

Hardcover: 30 pages

Publisher: Scholastic

What to expect: School trips, following the rules

In Bailey at the Museum, we meet adorable Bailey the dog who’s going on a class trip with his schoolmates to the Natural History Museum. Bailey embarks

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17. Emily's First 100 Days of School, by Rosemary Wells (ages 4-7)

September is a month of changes. Children have grown over the summer, learned new skills and made new friends. Now they are meeting new teachers, learning new routines and getting ready for the new challenges ahead. It’s a perfect time to share a favorite author,  Rosemary Wells, who has written more than 150 books for youngsters and captures the world of young children in the midst of these big changes, starting school and making friends.

Emily’s First 100 Days of School
by Rosemary Wells
NY: Disney Hyperion, 2000
ages 4–7
available from your local library and on Amazon
This is one of my favorite books to share at this time of year. Emily is an eager, enthusiastic bunny.
“On the first day of school, leave my mama’s arms. I am too excited to cry. I have my own desk and my own notebook and my own teacher, Miss Cribbage.”
Miss Cribbage tells her new students they will “make a new number friend” every day for the next hundred days, at the end of which they will have a big party.

Rosemary Wells shows different aspects of Emily’s life in school and at home, introducing one number at a time, expanding this beyond a simple counting book. Young listeners will relate to Emily’s excitement picking a dozen roses for her mother, reading 17 words in a story and collecting 25 beetles from the school garden. Soon, Emily writes a letter to her parents celebrating the 100th day of school and all the things she has learned, sealed with 100 kisses.

Check out this sweet book trailer for Emily's First 100 Days of School:


Emily's First 100 Days of School from Rosemary Wells on Vimeo.

This is the perfect book for starting the new school year, celebrating the joy in discovering new strengths and wonders.

For more of favorite Rosemary Wells picture books, check out my monthly bookshelf column over at Parents Press.

The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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18. What does close reading look like in Kindergarten?

Jaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be modeling how to do a close reading at several different grade levels.  First up: Close Reading in Kindergarten using the D level text Bedtime Fun by Barbara J. Newkirk and illustrated by Laura Freeman.

In terms of student questioning, start general and move up Bloom’s Taxonomy by gradually increasing the rigor.  For example, say you want to focus your close reading of Bedtime Fun on character development.  Here are the questions I would ask:

Question 1 (Knowledge):  Who is the main character in the story?  Who is the story mostly about?  Who are the other characters in the story? How do you know?

Question 2 (Comprehension): What was the big thing that the entire story was about? How do you know?

Question 3 (Comprehension):  Can you explain what is happening on page 3?  On page 4?  On page 6?  How does the little boy change over the course of the story?  What clues does the illustrator give us that show that the little boy is changing?  How do you know?

Question 4 (Application): What would have happened if the little boy had tried to lay down and go to sleep after page 4?  What makes you think that?

Question 5 (Analysis):  Why do you think the little boy chose to play with his bear, jump on his bed, stand on his head, etc?  What makes you think that?  Make a connection to your own life or to another book you’ve read to support your answer.

Question 6 (Analysis):  How would you describe the little boy?  What is he like?  How does he behave?  How do you know?

Question 7 (Synthesis): Can you think of another thing the little boy could have done so he could stay up later?

Question 8 (Evaluation):  What did you think of the little boy?  Did you agree with the choices he made?  Think about the author.  Did you like the choices she made for the main character?  Did you like the way the author ended the story?  Why or why not?

Additional questions to ask:

  • How does the main character remind you of yourself or of a character in another book you’ve read?
  • Why do you think the author included Mama and Papa in the story?
  • How do you think the little boy probably behaves when it’s time to get up and get ready for school?  What makes you think that?
  • What is important to the little boy?  How do you know?
  • What did the author do to make the little boy realistic?

Even an 8 page book can serve as the foundation for some rigorous student discussions when read closely!

What are your favorite questions to ask when doing a close reading focused on character development?


Filed under: Curriculum Corner, Resources Tagged: bloom's taxonomy, close reading, common core standards, guided reading, kindergarten, literacy, reading, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension, rigor, slow reading

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19. Perfect gift for your little daredevil

Do you have a little daredevil at home? My nephew loves everything that goes fast, jumps high and makes loud noises. His dad's favorite hobby? Going to the car races. So we know where this little guy gets his passion!

This holiday I'm going to make him a daredevil cape - bright red and shiny. It's going to be the perfect "go faster" special effect for him. But the book that I'm going to have tucked inside this cape? Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show - it's a fun spoof on a little boy's quest to be a daredevil in his own right.


Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show
by Michael Buckley
and Dan Santat
Abrams, 2012
ages 5-8
find it: Amazon and your local library
Kel Gilligan is a daredevil - brave enough to attempt awe-inspiring feats like eating broccoli, facing "the Potty of Doom," and taking a bath with only ONE assistant. Santat's illustrations heighten both the drama and the humor in Buckley's story. You can tell just by the cover how much kids are going to love this.

Our kindergartners thought the Potty of Doom was hilarious. They are just the right age to remember those little potties and know just what an achievement it is to master them. As the review in Kirkus says,
"Whether he is in underpants, in his caped stuntman outfit or bare-bottomed, young readers (and their grown-ups) cannot help but laugh out loud at the hilarious details of Kel's silly adventures because they tackle them daily and know them too well."


It's interesting that Kel appeals most to kids ages 5-8 who are able to laugh at Buckley's exaggeration and understand that he's really making fun of these small achievements. They know that Kel talks tough, but is really soft inside - especially when it comes to checking for monsters under his bed.

Take a look at Santat's early sketches for Kel - he had originally imagined him as a preschooler, but through editing changes it was decided that Kel should be older, perhaps around 5. Santat developed the flashback device using the parent's videocam to recall the potty and broccoli scenes from Kel's younger days. My kindergartners were a bit confused at these transitions, but it did not detract from the overall impact of the hilarious scenes.


If I can't get my act together to make a red cape, I think this one will do the trick just perfectly: Creative Edition's Red Adventure Cape. I must say that I have not seen this cape in action, but it's gotten great reviews on Amazon.
The artwork is copyright © Dan Santat, shared by the artist. The review copy of this book came from my local review group, the Association of Children's Librarians of Northern California, and was sent by the publishers Abrams Books for Young Readers. Thank you to ACL and Abrams for sharing this very funny book. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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20. Holiday books to share with your children (ages 2 - 8)

Do you have any special holiday books that you read every year? Here are some of my favorites from this year. Some honor the spirit of giving, while others tell traditional religious stories from a child’s perspective. All celebrate the warmth, love and togetherness we feel during this time of year.

Who Built the Stable? A Nativity Poemby Ashley Bryan
Simon & Schuster / Atheneum, 2012
ages 4 – 8
Amazon or your local library
Award-winning artist Bryan combines colorful, vibrant illustrations in strong, bold strokes with a touching poem about the Nativity story from a child’s point of view. The rhyming text follows a young shepherd who builds a stable for his animals and then invites Mary and Joseph to stay on this fateful night.

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mamaby Selina Alko
Random House / Knopf, 2012
ages 4 - 8
Google preview
Amazon or your local library
Many families will relate to the way Sadie’s family blends different holiday traditions. They scatter Hanukkah gelt underneath the Christmas tree and hang candy canes from the menorah on the mantelpiece, focusing on the joy of spending time together.

The Christmas Quiet Bookby Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Renata Liwska
Houghton Mifflin, 2012
ages 2 - 6
Google preview
Amazon or your local library
San Francisco author Underwood teams again with Liwska to celebrate quiet, small moments, focusing on the many emotions that come with the holidays. “Reading by the fire quiet” and “listening for sleigh bells quiet” will bring readers back to those special moments we remember year-round. Here is a lovely preview of The Christmas Quiet Book from Google Books.



For more holiday books to share, head over to my article in this month's Parents Press. The review copy of Who Built the Stable came from our home library. Random House kindly sent a review copy of Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama. Houghton Mifflin kindly sent a review copy of The Christmas Quiet Book. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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21. Mock Caldecott discussions, part 3 - how our students are reacting

Our 2nd graders have loved sharing their thoughts and opinions about what the best picture books have been this year. We've talked lots about how the Caldecott Medal is awarded to the illustrator, and how we need to think about how the pictures add to the story above and beyond the words. We've talked about the color choices illustrators make, the way the convey emotions in characters' expressions, and the perspectives they use and how this brings readers into the picture books.

Above all, they feel part of the process and are excited to find out the winners of the 2013 Caldecott Medal. Are you looking forward to it? Check out this website: ALA Youth Media Awards. You can also check into Facebook for the announcements on Monday morning.

My students passionately discussed three more books today, declaring love and admiration for all three. They're convinced that the Caldecott Committee has a very hard job on their hands, comparing these different illustrations!

Chloe and the Lion
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Adam Rex
Disney / Hyperion, 2012
reviewed here
ages 4-8
available at your local library and on Amazon
Our second graders thought it was hilarious the way that the author and illustrator argued in this story. But more than that, they argued vociferously that the illustrations add to the humor and pizazz of this story. The love the combination of different media - with the puppet figures for Adam and Mac, the cartoon characters for Chloe, and the stage elements that give the story a 3-D feeling. They laughed at the way Adam's dragon is way-cooler than Mac's lion. And they loved the resolution at the end. This is a smart story that completely hooks its audience. In many ways, it reminds me of Interrupting Chicken, a Caldecott honor book in 2011.
Unspoken
by Henry Cole
Scholastic, 2012
reviewed at 100 Scope Notes
ages 7-10
available at your local library and on Amazon
This wordless book took our breath away when we read it. It's truly a book that makes you think at each step of the way, as you unravel and make sense of the story. As the pieces of the puzzle came together for my 2nd graders, they were amazed at the young girl's kindness and courage, and the runaway slave's daunting challenge escaping to freedom. We talk all the time about "reading is thinking" and Henry Cole asks his readers to do just this. On our first read, some of my students were frustrated that we never see the full face of the African American hiding in the corn stalks. But as we talked about it today, those same students talked about how much this story stayed with them. Cole's pencil drawings evoke the girl's emotions and the setting of Civil War Virginia, creating tension and mystery within this quiet book. It's a book that will stay with us for many years.
Z is for Moose
by Kelly Bingham
illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2012
discussed at Calling Caldecott
ages 3-7
available at your local library and on Amazon
With giggles and pointing, our 2nd graders ate up every inch of Bingham and Zelinsky's mad romp in Z is for Moose. They loved the goofiness of the premise, but they also loved the heart of the story - declaring that this is really a friendship story in the end. We talked at length about how the illustrations add to the story. The love the chaos that ensues when Moose disrupts the story, but they also responded to the emotions in Moose's face as he felt left out from all the fun. Just look at Zebra's expression on the cover and you can tell the way Zelinsky adds tension through those angry eyes. Other children noticed the way the color frames contrast with the background and the stage. But mostly, our second graders just loved this silly, funny book and wanted to read it over and over again.

We did not have an official Mock Caldecott vote with our second graders. Over five weeks, I read three classes different sets of books. Maybe next year I'll rotate a set amongst the classes, the way that Travis Jonkers did (see his post here). Whatever the case, the children really developed their ability to talk about picture books they love, support their ideas with clear reasoning, and share their love with other children.

Many thanks to the publishers for supporting our Mock Caldecott unit: Disney / Hyperion, Harper Collins, and Scholastic. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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22. Librarians Gone Wild! Celebrating the best books of the year: Newbery, Caldecott and more

Today was a certainly a day for Librarians Gone Wild! Across the nation, librarians gathered to watch the live announcements of the Newbery, Caldecott, Corretta Scott King Awards and more. Their were shouts of joy as favorites were honored, and sighs as others were not selected. But it is a happy day for all, as our profession celebrates the most distinguished and outstanding books for children.

I'll do a quick roundup today, and feature these outstanding books over the next several weeks.

Caldecott Award
As our Emerson 2nd graders know, this award honors the illustrator of the most distinguished American picture book. One book receives the gold medal, and today four books also received the silver honor awards.

This Is Not My Hat
illustrated and written by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, 2012
2013 Caldecott Medal winner
available at your local library and on Amazon
This darkly humorous tale will take kids by surprise as they wonder about the little fish who steals the enormous fish's hat and thinks he can get away with it. I can't wait to have kids act out this book, telling it from different points of view.

Five Caldecott Honor Books also were named. I am so happy that such a wide range of books have been honored. Some, like Creepy Carrots, amp up the fun, while others, like Green, mesmerize you with their beauty.

Creepy Carrots! 
illustrated by Peter Brown
written by Aaron Reynolds
Simon & Schuster, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
my review
available at your local library and on Amazon

Extra Yarn
illustrated by Jon Klassen
written by Mac Barnett
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
our Mock Caldecott discussion
available at your local library and on Amazon


Green
illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Neal Porter Books / Roaring Brook Press, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon


One Cool Friend
illustrated by David Small
written by Toni Buzzeo
Dial Books / Penguin, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon


Sleep Like a Tiger
illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
written by Mary Logue
Houghton Mifflin, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

This award honors the writer of the most distinguished American book for children. It can be a picture book, but much more often it is a full length book. It can be either fiction or nonfiction, although most commonly it's fiction. One book receives the gold medal, and today three books also received the silver honor awards.

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
HarperCollins, 2012
my review
2013 Newbery Medal winner
available at your local library or on Amazon
I have been giving The One and Only Ivan to kids all summer and fall - as birthday presents, pressing into their hands in the library, carrying it to classrooms as soon as it's returned. This is a book that will touch your heart, make you think deeply about the way we treat animals. Even more than that, it will lead to conversations about friendship, humanity and respect. What a joy that this wonderful book received the Newbery Medal.

Three Newbery Honor Books also were named. They also show us the splendid range of children's books. I adored each and every one, from the enchanting historical fantasy of Spendors and Glooms to the fast-paced nonfiction of Bomb, to the mystery that kept me laughing of Three Times Lucky.

Splendors and Glooms
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Candlewick Press, 2012
2013 Newbery honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point / Roaring Brook Press, 2012
2013 Newbery honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon


Three Times Lucky
by Sheila Turnage
Dial Books / Penguin, 2012
2013 Newbery honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

I know I'm not able to say much about these books right now, but if you're willing to take a gamble, try one of them out. Each one of them is truly outstanding. That doesn't mean it will work for every kid, but rather that for the right audience they are exceptionally compelling, engrossing and memorable.
Well, I'm off to bed to rest after a wonderful weekend full of "Librarians Gone Wild". I feel truly lucky to be able to connect with amazing authors, inspiring professionals and enthusiastic publishers. But most of all, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to share these books with children, thinking of just the right book for each different kid.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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23. Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? and Other Prehistoric Picture Books

In Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? young Dave's uneventful trip to the museum takes an unlikely and entertaining twist. From the book's inside flap:

Dad takes Dave to the museum to see the dinosaurs. Dad is sure he knows all there is to know about these amazing creatures. But soon Dave gets the feeling that Dad has one hugely important fact very, very wrong.

Because, you see, as Dad and Davey pass each dino, the dino seems to come to life!

This is one of those terrific books that relies upon dramatic irony via the illustrations, because Julie Middleton's text doesn't let on to what's happening. Young readers, however, can certainly see for themselves that toes, tails, and terrible jaws are moving! During a read-aloud, a "knowing" adult will wisely avoid  being in on the joke, as children love to scream and point out the "secrets" that adults (because of their advanced age and failing eyesight) apparently don't notice for themselves.

Artist Russell Ayto's whimsical images are half the fun, showing us giant-headed monsters balanced on impossibly tiny legs. The creatures' equally understated, overstated, and improbably body part dimensions are fun to discuss as well. The format is large, with plenty of open space on each spreads that lends credibility to the size of the space and the dinosaurs themselves.

And this fantastic book can be yours! Peachtree Publishers is offering a giveaway copy of Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? to one lucky winner. 

Simply email me at keithschoch at gmail dot com (using standard email format) with the phrase Dinosaurs Live! and you're entered! That's it. No need to jump through any more hoops! Following the blog (to the left) would be appreciated (and you would be in some really good company), but is by no means necessary. 

Contest is open to US only, and ends Friday, March 1st, 11:59 PM EST.

Below you'll find some terrific companion books with activity extensions that could work equally well with Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? In addition to being mistaken about dinos, some adults are also mistaken in thinking you can ever have enough dinosaur books!

Cretaceous Companions
For the younger set, Harry and the Dinosaurs Go to School by Ian Whybrow is a wonderful combination of a dino book and a first-day-of-school-jitters book. Harry's toy dinos help him makes new friends, and even assist another shy boy in acclimating to his new surroundings. Adrian Reynolds' bright and sunny illustrations are perfect for sharing and discussing during read-alouds. Check out other titles in this series including Harry and the Dinosaurs Say, "Raahh!" and Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs.

Extensions:
  • Students can bring in one of their own "prized possessions" and discuss what makes it special. 
  • Students might want to create their own simple paper plate dinosaurs, which can be displayed with a colorful bucket on the bulletin board. 
  • Students could imagine that they have a real, live dinosaur for a pet. How would that work? How would you feed him? Where would he sleep?
  • Looking for a fun and easy cooking project? Check out these fossil cookies.

Marvelous, Monstrous Models
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley with illustrations by Brian Selznick ("many of which are based on the original sketches of Mr. Hawkins"). Working with scientist Richard Owens, Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins wanted to create such perfect models of dinosaurs that anyone who gazed at his creations would see into the past. By using just the bits and pieces of fossils, bones, and teeth that had been found by early palaeontologists, Waterhouse filled in "gaps" by thinking of existing animals which the dinosaurs might have resembled. This book chronicles his triumphal premiere in the Crystal Palace at Sydenham Park (when tens of thousands of spectators, including the Queen, gaped in wonder at his creatures), as well as his tragedy in Central Park (when vandals under the vindictive order of Boss Tweed destroyed his dinosaurs destined for the Americans). Although we now realize that many of Waterhouse's guesses were somewhat inaccurate, no one can dispute his ability to light the imaginations of the thousands who viewed his works.

For more explorations into what we've learned about dinosaurs since the earliest days of their discovery, check out Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs by Kathleen Kudlinksi and S.D.Schindler.A terrific book for helping students understand that science never rests!

Extensions:
  • Students can use clay to design their own dinosaurs. They don't need to sculpt one specific, real-life dino; instead, they should simply use their imaginations to create an original prehistoric monster. Since scientist continue to discover new dinosaurs all the time, who's to say what the next dino discovery might look like?
  • Students might also enjoy building their own prehistoric pasta pets. Show students pictures of assembled dino skeletons in museums. Explain that while these models take many years to collect, piece together, and display, today students will create their own models using pasta as bones. Given a wide variety of different pasta shapes, students can assemble their own dinos by gluing their selected noodles to black construction paper. Once partially dry, the pasta will need a second coat to affix it well to the paper. 
  • For a look at how those dinosaurs get to the museum, check out the book (coincidentally called) How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland. This book explains how dinosaur bones go from the earth to you, the museum visitor, via fourteen other people, who are named and collected in a House-that-Jack-Built type progression.
Bold and Beautiful
A wonderful abecedarium can be discovered in An Alphabet of Dinosaurs by Peter Dodson, with paintings by Wayne D. Barlowe. Familiar favorites mix with newcomer neighbors on full spreads that features two text sections (one for emerging readers and another for fluent readers) and a full color illustration. The vivid and uniquely imagined colors and patterns of these dinos is what caught my eye when I first viewed this book. In the books' introduction we read: "The paintings in this book show the dinosaurs as we now think of them. Gone is the image of slow-moving giants. Gone is the picture of tail-dragging lizards. Instead, we see vibrant, active dinosaurs living in a world filled with brightly colored animals and plants.

Extensions: 
  • Taking a cue from this book, students can create their own unique dino patterns on simple coloring sheets. They can either color with vivid colors (danger! stay back!, bold colors (look at me!), muted colors (I need to hide), or patterns which create camouflage (to avoid being seen by prey or predator).
  • Older students can be given a simple white dino silhouette (shape) and a variety of a magazine from which to choose pictures. After choosing a large picture which can serve as a background, students will color in their dino shape to camouflage into the background.
Dino for a Day
In Jim Murphy's Dinosaur for a Day, older readers can explore a typical day in the life of a Hypsilophodon, a 90 pound herd animal that depended upon its wits and its companions for survival. Additional information from the author precedes and follows this din's "biography," providing for a complete profile of one specific creature. Mark Alan Weatherby's gorgeous paintings put us at dinosaur's-eye view with our surroundings, a perspective rarely seen in other dino books.

Extensions:
  • Have each student choose a dinosaur, and write about "a day in the life of..." Students may need to do some research on which dinosaurs lived in which period, and many students may discover that their dinos and their friends' dinos might have shared the same habitats!
  • Instead of a dinosaur, have students choose any other animal (or use an animal they've already researched). Require that students illustrate their "daily routine" with view that would be seen from their critter's perspective.
  • Create dino fossils in the classroom.
Modern Monsters
What if dinosaurs were alive today? How would our daily lives be different? In If Dinosaurs Were Alive Today, author Dougal Dixon answers that question with frightening predictions of predatory sea creatures that hunt sperm whales, and tyrannosaurs that terrorize longhorns. The photo-realistic illustrations are amazing as they juxtapose the prehistoric past with the present.
Can you picture yourself flying in a jet across peaceful skies, and suddenly seeing a Quetzalcoatlus, a pterosaur with the wingspan exceeding a small airplane? Can you imagine seeing your trashcan tipped over at the curb, not by a raccoon or even a coyote, but a scavenging carnivorous dino called Coelophysis? Students will love the retouched photos, so disturbingly realistic that one might begin to wonder, "What are the chances of the dinosaurs coming back?"

Extensions:
  • Challenge students to draw dinosaurs in modern day settings. How would their traits and habits affect their interactions with people?
  • Challenge students to put dinos to work. If they existed today, how could their size and strength be helpful to humans?
Wordless Wonders
Two clever books that tell neat dino tales are Time Flies by Eric Rohmann and Chalk by Bill Thomson.

Extensions:
  • The wordless format of both books offers the perfect opportunity for students to tell their own stories. Students can "write" similar books as a group, and tell their own stories.
  • Students might also be challenged to write the tales they "see" using poetry rather than prose.
How Do Dinosaurs...
From Jane Yolen and Mark Teague come the fantastic series of How Do Dinosaurs... books including How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? and How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? Kids will love all the dinos that Mark Teague includes, and they'll also appreciate the funny and fun-to-recite rhymes of Jane Yolen.

Extension:
  • Brainstorm a How to... problem with the class and write a similar story as a group, or challenge pairs or teams to come up with their own ideas (focusing on social skills seems to work well here).

Don't forget to enter to win!



1 Comments on Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? and Other Prehistoric Picture Books, last added: 2/22/2013
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24. Building readers one brick (or book) at a time: Dreaming Up, by Christy Hale (ages 3-8)

Every child I know has loved building things out of materials they find everywhere - whether it's stacking a huge tower of blocks, or making a pillow fort, or using toothpicks and green peas to make a pyramid. If you have a little builder at home, definitely look for Christy Hale's new book, Dreaming Up.

Dreaming Up: 
A Celebration of Building 
by Christy Hale
Lee & Low, 2012
ages 3 - 8
available at your local library and on Amazon
Christy Hale imaginatively pairs drawings of young children building forts, sandcastles and more with photographs of fascinating architectural structures that mirror the children’s creations. Each comes with a concrete poem that will bring a smile to your face. Here, children are building toothpick creations, alongside the Montreal Biosphere. The concrete poem reads,
"Easy peasy as can be /
toothpicks joining /
One, two, three."
Hale's comparisons and poems are accessible to young preschoolers, but they'll also intrigue seven and eight year olds. My daughter says, "I *love* that book! The thing I love most about it is that it can be for all age groups. It does not matter if you're a grandma reading it to your little grandchild or if you're a middle school kid who's fascinated by buildings."


I especially appreciate the way Hale carefully included so many different children, architects and types of buildings throughout Dreaming Up. As you can see, the children have a range of skin tones and ethnic backgrounds. In the back, you can read about architects ranging from Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi woman who designed the Vitra Fire Station in Germany, to Simon Velez, a Columbian man who designed the Bamboo Church in Columbia.


Children will adore the way Hale celebrates their creativity - just look at the building that looks like a child's pillow fort! Older children will be interested to read that Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain (pictured above) is located on a river, and that it often gives the impression of looking like a fish or a ship. Children who are interested in learning more will appreciate the extra information Hale includes at the end of the book, especially the quotes and pictures of each architect.

On her website, Christy Hale shares six creative projects that engage children in building. She includes plans to make a paper pyramid with tubes of rolled paper and tape, and shows children how to build an ever-expanding labyrinth from interlocking cardboard boxes. You might also have fun checking out two Pinterest sites Hale put together:
All images shared with permission from Christy Hale, © 2012. The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

3 Comments on Building readers one brick (or book) at a time: Dreaming Up, by Christy Hale (ages 3-8), last added: 3/24/2013
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25. A Place for Turtles, by Melissa Stewart - celebrating Earth Day 2013 (ages 4 - 8)

Children are eager to explore the world around them. Many love to read about animals, learning about different species, their habitats and life cycles. I've often wondered how we help young children learn about problems caused by pollution, habitat loss or global warming without making children too worried or sad. Melissa Stewart's A Place for... series of picture books look at environmental problems, but focus on ways people can change them and help animals live and grow.

A Place for Turtles
by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Higgins Bond
Peachtree Publishers, 2013
ages 4 - 8
available at your local library and on Amazon
Turtles live in all sorts of different environments, but many have faced challenges brought about by environmental problems. Melissa Stewart introduces young children to specific problems that turtles face, such as habitat loss caused by invasive nonnative plants, but does so in a clear, simple way. Throughout, she emphasizes that we can all help change these problems.
"Some turtles have trouble building nests when new kinds of plants spread into their home habitat. When people find ways to control the new plants, turtles can live and grow."
Stewart balances this clear, simple narrative with sidebars that provide more details on different species and the challenges they face. These specific examples add detail and interest, especially when combined with Bond's detailed acrylic illustrations. For example, Stewart writes that the bog turtle's wetland habitat has been threatened by invasive purple loosestrife that is growing too thickly. Families will find it interesting to talk about different projects that communities are undertaking to improve life for turtles.

If you like this, check out the other books in Melissa Stewart's A Place for... series:
I have greatly enjoyed following Melissa Stewart's blog: Celebrate Science. - she shares her passion for science, animals and the environment in many different ways. She has been thinking deeply about how to connect information picture books to the Common Core, and has many helpful ideas for teachers and librarians.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Peachtree Publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

2 Comments on A Place for Turtles, by Melissa Stewart - celebrating Earth Day 2013 (ages 4 - 8), last added: 4/26/2013
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