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1. Plank Road Summer by Hilda and Emily Demuth (Book Giveaway Contest)

I am happy to be hosting sisters, Hilda and Emily Demuth, on my blog today to discuss their wonderful middle-grade, historical fiction novel, Plank Road Summer. Here’s a description of the book from Amazon.com: ” Welcome to the adventures of two 13-year-olds, Katie McEachron and her friend Florence Mather, who experience an exciting summer in 1852 as the plank road that runs by their homes brings mysterious strangers to their dinner tables and the plight of runaway slaves to their consciences. Katie McEachron is a forthright, impulsive girl who has not yet learned the importance of keeping silent. Her friend Florence Mather, a solemn and hardworking girl, came with her family from Cornwall, England. She has an eager mind, but her mother is less interested in Florence’s education than in having her help at the inn. One day in May, a stranger arrives at the Mather Inn. The visit of the stranger launches a string of events that will make this a most unforgettable summer for the two girls. . . . “

**Anyone who leaves a comment or question for Hilda and Emily will be automatically entered into a comment contest. One lucky commenter will receive a copy of the book. Please leave comments by Thursday, June 3 at 8:00 p.m. CST. Now on to the interview. . .

Margo: Welcome, Hilda and Emily. What made you decide to write Plank Road Summer together?

HILDA: In the spring of 1999, I’d started writing again after a ten-year hiatus, and I was casting about for a new project. Emy had been working on various projects. At some point, she or I mentioned the plank road story she’d had in mind for years. In some free-writing, I described a view of the lilacs from the bedroom window of the farmhouse in which we’d grown up, and somewhere Emy had written a very similar description. She and I had shared that bedroom for many years, after all. For me that was the sign that the two of us were meant to write a story set in our childhood home.

EMILY: It really was my idea to write about the plank road. When Hilda approached me about writing it together, I decided there was a better chance of getting it done if we collaborated. That we were both very familiar with the setting—the lay of the land, the McEachron homestead, the two staircases in the Mather Inn—made the work much easier. We didn’t need to describe to one another what the Mather Inn might have looked like—we’d both been there.

HILDA: And we’d both run across the pasture to visit the neighbor girls, just like Katie McEachron runs across the pasture to visit Florence Mather.

Margo: How wonderful that you took your childhood home and made it into this story! How did the collaboration work? Did you each write different parts, work on it together?

HILDA: That first summer, we spent a couple of days together plotting the novel, sitting up late after our kids went to bed. Emy’s three children and my three, all aged ten and under, were thrilled to spend so much time with their cousins. Early on, Emy and I decided to have two main characters, a toll-gate keeper’s daughter and an innkeeper’s daughter and to alternate the points of view in the chapters. It seemed perfectly natural that each of us would focus on one character. We’d write our chapters and then e-mail the drafts and edit one another’s work.

Margo: E-mail is so wonderful–what did we used to do without it? :) And with it, you both have created a beautiful, interesting, and educational book for children! Why

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2. Tuesday Tales: Amber Brown Sees Red by Paula Danzinger

photo by chefranden www.flickr.com

*Chapter book, contemporary fiction
*Elementary-school aged girl as main character
*Rating: Amber Brown Sees Red by Paula Danzinger is a terrific book for children in first through third grade who love a series and love a quirky character like Amber!

Short, short summary:

Amber Brown is seeing red! She’s mad–she’s madder than mad. Why can’t everything just stay the same? She doesn’t want to like her soon-to-be stepfather, Max, but he’s always there for her. She misses her dad–but where is he? Living in France! However, she gets a call from her dad, and he’s moving back. Plus, he wants joint custody. So, what’s her mom going to think about that? She’s not going to be happy. On top of all these “serious” issues, Paula Danzinger doesn’t disappoint by mixing into the story a school full of skunks, a new student, a best friend who always says: “Bulletin, bulletin, bulletin,” and 1,282 points at the arcade. Amber Brown Sees Red reaches young readers who may also be dealing with a parents’ divorce while making us all laugh and become huge fans of Amber Brown.

So, how do I use this book?

1. Do your children or students ever feel like Amber Brown? They could relate to her in many ways: if their parents are going through a divorce, if they have a best friend, if they are going through a growth spurt, if there’s a new student in their classroom, and so on. The great thing about Paula Danzinger’s book is that even though it’s fiction, she deals with real life, kid issues. Kids can write about Amber in their reading response journals, or you can lead them in class discussions. Personal connections also help students improve comprehension skills.

2. One of the less serious problems in Amber Brown Sees Red is that skunks have invaded the school. The way the administration solves this problem is to hold school on the school bus. What does Amber think of this solution? What other problems does it cause? Ask students to come up with alternative solutions to this problem in the novel. Students can also name other problems and solutions in the novel, also.

3. Amber gets a haircut in the story, and it’s too short for her. Some of the students make fun of her. How does Amber deal with this problem? You can use this event in the book to start a discussion with students or your own children about teasing and bullying.

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3. Tuesday Tales: Orson Blasts Off by Raul Colon

photo by papertygre www.flickr.com

*Picture book, fantasy for preschoolers through second graders
*Young boy as main character
*Rating: Orson Blasts Off by Raul Colon is a great adventure-type picture book that kids will love to read over and over again.

Short, short summary:

When Orson’s computer breaks, he doesn’t know what he’ll do to pass the time. He’s already bored! But then his jack-in-the-box, named Weasel (as in Pop Goes the Weasel), talks to him and suggests he goes outside to play in the snow. Of course, Orson can’t believe Weasel can talk or that it’s snowy in July. But when he looks out the window, that’s just what he discovers. This starts Orson’s big adventure through the North Pole, a terrible storm at sea, and outer space–with Weasel as his faithful companion. Raul Colon’s wonderful illustrations paired with his creative story and cute pictures make this a picture book that boys (and girls, too) will love!

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Children can choose which setting from the story they like the best such as the North Pole, the sea during the storm, or outer space. Then they draw a picture of themselves, enjoying an adventure like Orson. Depending on the age of the child, ask students to write a sentence or short story about spending a day at this place. They can put Orson and Weasel in their picture and story, too.

2. Have any of your students or your children ever felt like Orson when a favorite toy breaks? Or how about if you lose your electricity? Will they survive without the T.V. or video games? Ask students to tell you about a time when they had to find something else to do just like Orson. You can also ask students which seems more fun–the video games Orson likes to have or the adventures that he went on in his imagination? (Or was it imagination? See #3 below.)

3. Here’s a question for debate: Is this a fantasy story where Orson really goes on these adventures OR is this a story about Orson’s imagination? Ask students what they think and ask them to give reasons to support their answers.

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4. Tuesday Tales: Don’t Grown-Ups Ever Have Fun? by Jamie Harper

*Picture book for preschoolers through first graders
*Three fun and adorable children as main characters
*Rating: Don’t Grown-Ups Ever Have Fun? will make you wish you could stay young forever and remind you to be young-at-heart!

Short, short summary: In Jamie Harper’s first picture book, she tells the story of three children who cannot understand why their parents don’t like to have fun. They want to sleep all the time, and then they have to rush when they finally get up. Parents have to clean–and the children ask, “Why does everything have to be so perfect all the time?” Then Mom and Dad overhear their children wonder why adults don’t like to have fun, they decide they need to do something about that! Jamie Harper has drawn wonderful, cute, and clever illustrations in her first picture book: Don’t Grown-Ups Ever Have Fun?

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Ask children what their perceptions are of their parents after reading this book. Do they think their parents have fun? What do their parents like to do? Students can draw a picture of their family having fun together, and write a sentence if age-appropriate.

2. Since this book title is a question, you can talk to children and students about question marks and about the difference between a question and a statement. Of course, children know that when they are asked a question, they answer; but do they know this is called a question and it ends with a question mark? This is something you can start working on with Don’t Grown-Ups Ever Have Fun?

3. If you are reading this book at a preschool or elementary school, it is often fun to discuss with students what they think about you–their teacher. Some young children are so shocked when they see their teacher out in public because they think of her as only being at the school–all the time. What do children think you do to have fun? DO you ever have fun? Where do you go after school is over? You can ask students to write a sentence and/or draw a picture on this subject also.

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5. Tuesday Tales: Wake the Dead by Monica A. Harris; Illustrations by Susan Estelle Kwas

*Picture book, contemporary fantasy for first through fifth graders
*Young boy as main character
*Rating: Wake the Dead by Monica A. Harris is definitely a witty and entertaining picture book–but for a little older audience than most picture books.

Short, short summary:

Henry is VERY loud; and his entire family is telling him if he’s not careful, he’ll wake the dead. Well, guess what? That’s exactly what happens. Some rather cute skeletons come out of their graves and try to find the source of the noise that woke them out of their sleep. Along the way, a beautician tells one skeleton, “Oh, honey, you look like death warmed over.” At the library, the librarian tells another corpse, “I expect dead silence in here.” When they finally find Henry, he “could guess by their deadpan expressions that they had a bone to pick with him.” He does his best to try and convince this crew to go back to their graves, but they are now wide-awake! So with some witty puns and funny illustrations, Monica A. Harris and Susan Estelle Kwas help Henry solve his problem and get the dead where they need to be! (I realize this is the middle of April, but you should bookmark this book for October!!!)

So, what do I do with this book?

1. The reason why Wake the Dead is so perfect for older students is because they’ve probably heard many of these puns and expressions before in their lives. And so, they can take one of the puns from the book, create their own sentence with it, and then draw an illustration to go with it. Younger students might have a harder time with this book and/or activity. Although, they will still enjoy the cute illustrations. You could have them draw a picture of their favorite part of the book and write sentences explaining why they like that part.

2. A writing journal prompt to go with Wake the Dead: In the book, Henry throws a sleep over for the dead folks. He plans many fun activities. If you could plan this sleep over with Henry, what would you do? What are some of your favorite activities to do at sleep overs?

3. A fun October activity would be to show students the two-page spread of the skeletons dressed up in their Halloween costumes and let them choose the winner of the costume contest. Henry chooses George Washington because the winner was a “dead-ringer” for him. Which one would your students choose and why? You could display your results on a bar graph to find the winner.

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6. Tuesday Tales: First Come the Zebra by Lynne Barasch

zebra in Tanzania by wwarby www.flickr.com

*picture book, contemporary realistic fiction for preschoolers through third graders
*two adolescent boys as main characters
*Rating: Books like First Come the Zebra by Lynne Barasch are why I love to blog about children’s books. This book is beautifully done with a wonderful message and sharing an interesting place and event in our world.

Short, short summary:

In rural Kenya, Abaani, a Maasai boy, takes his family’s cattle to graze when he sees a new boy with a vegetable stand along the road. He learns this new boy’s name is Haki, and he is a Kikuyu boy. Abaani remembers all the things his elders have said about the way the Kikuyu ruin the land, and he tells Haki this. The boys, of course, quarrel. Then some women come along who want to trade their handmade baskets for vegetables. When one of the women is involved in her transaction, her toddler wanders into a field where some warthogs are feeding. Abaani sees this, and he knows the danger the toddler is in. He quickly figures out a plan that involves the help of Haki. Will the boys save the toddler? Will they learn to let go of their differences and get to know each other as people? Make sure to check out First Come the Zebra to learn more about this area of Kenya and how people can learn to get along with each other in spite of a history of conflict.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. The author’s note in the back of the book tells readers more about this area of Kenya and the tribes involved in the story. Lynne Barasch also lets readers know about the game the boys play–mancala. Make sure to share this information with your students or your children as well as the map of Kenya and Tanzania in the back of the book. If possible, try to find a mancala game for children to play. They have versions for sale at game stores in the United States and/or online. You can also assign students a topic to research and find out more about, depending on their age. Topics could range from: Kenya, Tanzania, Maasai, Kikuyu, The Great Migration, and animals such as zebras and warthogs.

2. The boys in this book do not get along at first because of their families. Once they get to know each other, they start to think differently. Ask your children or students if they can explain why this happens in the book. Also, ask them if they have ever had trouble getting along with someone but then worked out their differences. Use this book as a starting point for discussions on learning to know people as individuals, conflict resolution, and even prejudices.

3. First Come the Zebra doesn’t start with the two boys and their problem like most picture books do. Instead, it starts with The Great Migration. Talk about the first few pages of the book and the last page, and how they serve as a frame for the story. Discuss why the book is titled First Come the Zebra. Share other animals that come to graze during The Great Migration. Students can draw pictures of their favorite animals, and you can create a wall mural of this event in your classroom.

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7. Tuesday Tales: Cute Easter Books for Kids #1 (The Easter Egg by Jan Brett)

photo by terren in Virginia

One of the cute Easter books for kids is The Easter Egg by Jan Brett. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with Jan Brett books!

*Picture book, fantasy for preschoolers through 2nd graders
*Hoppi the young bunny as the main character
*Rating: Say hello to one of the cute Easter books for kids this year–you won’t want to miss this touching story, The Easter Egg by Jan Brett, OR the marvelous illustrations.

Short, short summary:

Hoppi is ready to start on his first-ever Easter egg for the Easter Rabbit. The bunny who decorates the winning egg gets to hide eggs for girls and boys with the Easter Bunny! Hoppi goes out and sees all the beautiful, and I do mean amazingly beautiful, Easter eggs his bunny friends are creating. Once again, Jan Brett’s illustrations on the border of the book tell more of the story than the text and main illustrations do. Besides all the bunnies that Hoppi talks to about decorating eggs and who offer him advice, she also shows amazing rabbits creating all sorts of cool eggs that match each of their personalities. But the most important border picture to keep track of is at the top of each page and shows the robin in her nest. This robin becomes a very important part of Hoppi’s story when squirrels cause one of her beautiful blue robin eggs to fall out of the nest. Hoppi sees this, and he agrees to keep the egg warm for the mother robin. However, this gives him no time to prepare his egg for the Easter bunny. So, what will happen when the Easter bunny comes, and who will win the prize to help hide eggs on Easter morning? The Easter Egg by Jan Brett is one of the cute Easter books for kids this 2010 holiday season.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Ask children to design their own Easter eggs based on their activities and interests. Give each child a cut out of a large Easter egg. If a child is interested in hunting, he could make a brown and green camo egg with maybe some splashes of orange. If she’s interested in dancing and baseball, she could make an Easter egg to reflect that. When reading the book to children, pay close attention to the illustrations and the different types of eggs, so children can see how the decorated eggs are unique and exemplifying each bunny’s personality.

2. Discuss why the Easter Bunny chose Hoppi as the winner even though he didn’t design an egg himself in this super cute Easter book for kids. Ask children why what Hoppi did for the robin was so special! Ask students to compare a time in their lives when someone did something special for them–even something like a parent cooking a favorite meal. Students can discuss how this made them feel and why people who do special things are worthy of awards. You can take this discussion one step further and make “Easter Bunny Awards” with students for people in their lives who have helped them. (This is a good home school activity, too.)

3. Pick four or five Easter eggs out of the book or out of Easter pictures from the Internet and let students be the Easter Bunny. Print, cut out, and line these Easter eggs up on the chalk board at the bottom, one next to each other at the same height. Give students a post-it note. Students write their names on the post-it note and hang it above the egg that they like the best. They hang the post-it notes one on top of another, so students are creating a type of bar graph. The top of one post-it note touches the bottom of the next post-it note, and so on. When the class has finished voting, the post-it note bar graph should show the

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8. Tuesday Tales: On the Edge with Coolhead Luke (Written by Jennifer White; Illustrated by Colin White)

SnakeBabies How Snake Babies are Born

Not with a sigh
Nor with a cry

Not with a groan
Nor with a moan

Not with a slurp
Nor with a chirp

But with a burp!

Mother and son team, Jennifer and Colin White, have their second poetry book out, On the Edge with Coolhead Luke, after great success with their first collaboration Coolhead Luke and Other Stories. If you like silly poems and poems with some wit in the style of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, then you will love these books. The poem and illustration above, “How Snake Babies are Born,” is one of the poems from the second book.

***Good news, good news! Anyone who leaves a comment on today’s post or tomorrow’s interview with Jennifer and Colin will be entered to win a copy of On the Edge with Coolhead Luke. You can share this link using the button below this post and leave a comment that you shared it (like on Facebook or Twitter) for an extra entry into the contest.

Here’s a description of the book from the author herself:

On The Edge with Coolhead Luke (Oct. 2009)

Brought to you by the mother and son team that created Coolhead Luke and Other Stories, this second collection has been eagerly anticipated by fans of Coolhead Luke. Jennifer’s funny poems and Colin’s delightful illustrations play off each other beautifully, inventing a new cast of bizarre characters presented with a unique set of challenges and absurdities. The poems are composed in an animated, jaunty style that is a joy to read. In the midst of the fun, there are teachable opportunities to demonstrate the fundamentals of poetry, including a teacher’s guide in the back of the book. Ideal for ages 8-12, this is a charming collection for children and parents alike.

Here’s another illustration and poem from the book:

Ghoulfest2Invitation to a Ghoulfest

Witches, warlocks, goblins and ghosts
answer this call from your hideous hosts.

Come to our Halloween Ghoulfest and be
startled by specters that jump from a tree,
skeleton bones coming out of the ground
and slippery creepers that slither around.

We live on an inland that’s somewhat remote
and reached by a bridge, for there isn’t a boat.
The night will be cold and the air will be thick;
be careful, the footpath is slimy and slick.

The ghouls will be there and will want you to play.
We’re confident you won’t be stolen away
by wizards and lizards that hide in the night
or linger in bushes just out of your sight.

At dinner you’ll join in the slurping of brew
and feasting upon our delectable stew
of dragon tongue, newt eye and talon of owl;
a recipe sure to make anyone howl.

Come to our Ghoulfest, we’re sure you’ll have fun.
We’re happy to serve you… rare or well done.

On the Coolhead Luke website, there are resources for parents and teachers and more sample poems. Don’t forget to leave a comment or question by Friday at 4:00 p.m. CST for a chance to win a copy of On the Edge with Coolhead Luke.

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9. Tuesday Tales: Clementine’s Letter by Sara Pennypacker; Illustrated by Marla Frazee

clementine's letter *Chapter book for second to fourth graders, realistic contemporary
*Third-grade girl as main character
*Rating: Clementine’s Letter is laugh-out-loud funny while being touching and so true to life at the same time!

Short, short summary: Clementine is back and in third grade. She is finally “in sync” with her teacher, Mr. D’Matz (be careful how you say his name–you might accidentally say two bad words, according to Clementine). Her principal visits are fewer. But one day, Mr. D’Matz sends Clementine to get the principal who has a special announcement about the teacher. Mr. D’Matz could be selected to spend the rest of the school year in Egypt. But Clementine can’t believe her ears, and she doesn’t think much of this special announcement. Mr. D’Matz promised to do all sorts of fun activities with his third grade students; and if he leaves, he will be breaking his promise. So, when Clementine has an assignment to write a letter of recommendation for her teacher to receive this chance of a lifetime, she decides to write quite a letter. She even asks her parents how to spell, “Menace to Society.” In Clementine’s Letter, Sara Pennypacker writes a funny tale once again with lovable, quirky Clementine in the middle–still searching for vegetable names for her brother and trying to help her mom organize her art supplies.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Clementine is angry at Mr. D’Matz for breaking his promise; but as he explains, he didn’t know that he was going to be up for this award or given the chance to go to Egypt. Ask students to write in reading sreponse journals if they think Clementine should be angry at Mr. D’Matz. Do they agree that he broke his promise? Have they ever made a promise that they had to break? Has someone else ever made a promise to them that was broken? Should people be careful when they use the words, “I promise”? If you are reading this book with your child at home, have a discussion with him or her about promises. This is often a hot topic between kids and parents, and Sara Pennypacker’s book can help you get the conversation started.

2. When Clementine writes her letter, the reader does not know everything that she says, but it is easy to guess that she wrote a lot of bad things about her teacher. Ask students to use their prediction skills and predict what they think will happen to Mr. D’Matz and Clementine because of her letter. Will Clementine’s letter stop her teacher from going to Egypt? Will she get in trouble for writing this letter? Ask students to base their predictions on book details or personal life experiences.

3. In Clementine’s Letter, she visits an Asian-American grocery store to find more vegetable names for her brother. Based on what she calls her brother after her visit, what are some vegetables she found at the grocery store? Ask students to make a list. If you (and your students) are really brave, you could bring in some of these vegetables for children to try. If you are at home with your child, maybe you could visit a grocery store similar to the one Clementine goes to in Boston.

Have you and your child or students read Clementine’s Letter by Sara Pennypacker? If so, what are your thoughts? What discussions or activities did you do?

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10. Tuesday Tale: Who Would Like a Christmas Tree? by Ellen Bryan Obed; Illustrated by Anne Hunter

christmas tree by GraceFamily by GraceFamily www.flickr.com

Teaching habitats or teaching Christmas can easily be done with this remarkably clever and cute picture book: Who Would Like a Christmas Tree?

*Picture book for preschoolers through second graders
*Animals on a Christmas Tree Farm as main characters
*Rating: Who Would Like a Christmas Tree? is one of those children’s Christmas books that can actually be used any time of the year, especially during a science unit on teaching habitats or food chains/webs. Cute! Cute! Cute!

Short, short summary: Who would like a Christmas tree in January? What a great question to start off this book that goes through each month of the year, explaining the animals who like to live on a Christmas tree farm until a family comes and cuts down a tree in December. For example, black-capped chickadees like Christmas trees in January because they find their food there and roost in the thick branches. Who would like a Christmas tree in July? Well, the wildflowers do because they like to grow in the same soil as the Christmas trees and some of them like the shade the trees provide. Who would like a Christmas tree in November? Wild turkeys–of course, and I’m sure they’re hoping not to be Thanksgiving dinner. The author includes some notes from an actual Christmas tree farmer at the end of the book for more educational opportunities. At Christmas time, this is a great book for “teaching Christmas” without teaching anything about the holiday that might get some parents upset. Teaching habitats or food webs is a great idea with this book also! Each page provides details and facts about the animal/plant/human and why they like the Christmas tree.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Make a calendar with the book. The picture for each month would be an illustration of the Christmas tree or Christmas tree farm with the animal/plant/human that would like it for that month. Children can illustrate the calendar, using Anne Hunter’s illustrations as an example. You can laminate these pictures and then put them together with a calendar for each month that you printed from your computer’s word processing program. This is a great activity for preschoolers, kindergartners, and first graders who are doing calendar math, learning the order and spelling of the months, and figuring out which months are in which seasons.

2. As mentioned earlier, teaching habitats is super-easy with Who Would Like a Christmas Tree? Once you’ve read this book, your students or children have learned a great deal about a forest/Christmas tree farm. You can then read a book like The Great Kapok Tree, and you can compare and contrast the two books. With The Great Kapok Tree, students are learning about a rainforest habitat, and they are learning the animals, plants, and humans that rely on the tree and make up the habitat around it, just like they are with the Christmas tree book.

3. Since this book has a pattern with repeatable text, children can read along with the book. By looking at the cover, they can also try to predict what animals might like a Christmas tree in a certain month, or they can also predict why. This is a fun read-aloud, and children won’t even realize how much they are learning about an environment!

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11. Tuesday Tales: Groundhog Weather School, a Groundhog’s Day book

photo by jimbowen0306 www.flickr.com

*Picture book for kindergarten students through third graders
*Groundhog teacher as main character
*Rating: A perfect picture book to celebrate Groundhog’s Day or to supplement a weather unit in science!

Short, short summary: Rabbit (and a few other animals) write to Professor W. Groundhog about his weather forecast on Feb. 2. Professor Groundhog said spring was coming, and Rabbit was all ready. But he found snow. Rabbit suggested recruiting some more groundhogs to help Professor predict the seasons across North America on Groundhog’s Day. The professor puts an ad in the newspaper for some groundhog students at his Groundhog Weather School. Groundhogs from all over the country attend his school (and even one skunk). They learn that Groundhog + Shadow = Winter or Groundhog – Shadow = Spring. They also learn geHOGraphy, Famous Furry Hognosticators, nature’s weather predictors (like cows!), and the reason for the seasons. Once the groundhogs graduate, they set their alarms for February 2 (Groundhog’s Day), and they are off to hibernate. A few of the groundhogs have some troubles when it’s time to see their shadows, but the majority see them, so there’s six more weeks of winter. Rabbit is so happy, and he can’t wait to go sledding. He gets all bundled up and. . . well, you’ll have to read the book to find out!

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Celebrate Groundhog’s Day with this book! Not only is it super cute, and kids will love the humor and Groundhog Weather School; but also it is full of facts about all sorts of things to do with this holiday. Read this book on Groundhog’s Day, and students can either draw a picture and write a fact they learned; or they can write a paragraph about it in their reading response journals; or they can create a pretend lesson for the Groundhog Weather School.

2. Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub can also be used with a weather unit and not just on February 2. In the middle of this book, there are several pages of facts about shadows, the four seasons, famous weathermen, and weather and nature. Kristin Sorra’s illustrations make learning these facts interesting and fun!

3. Professor W.Groundhog puts an ad in the paper and tells the animals that if they meet six criteria then they should attend Groundhog Weather School to prepare for Groundhog’s Day. The six criteria are the animals have to be: a mammal, a rodent, a herbivore, furry, live in a burrow, and hibernate in the winter. Several different animals such as a pig, skunk, and monkey see the ad and are disappointed because they do not fit all six criteria. One fun activity to do with students, especially if you are studying different animals in science, is to see which animals fit most of the characteristics and if any animals fit all six like groundhogs do.

Happy Groundhog’s Day!

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12. Tuesday Tales: The Big Cheese of Third Street by Laurie Halse Anderson; Illustrated by David Gordon

photo by Stepheye www.flickr.com

*Picture book for preschoolers through second graders
*Young (and tiny) boy as the main character
*Rating: You might be more familiar with Laurie Halse Anderson’s novels, but this picture book is funny with a terrific voice! A modern-day take on the old-David-and-Goliath theme.

Short, short summary: The Antonellis of Third Street are BIG. Their friends are BIG too. Well, everyone except Little Benny, the tiny Antonelli. The big Antonelli kids like to play WITH Benny, which means they stuff him into snowballs, tape him to toy airplanes, and let the dogs walk him. :) As you can imagine, Little Benny is very unhappy and tired of being tiny. The way he finds some peace and quiet is to climb up high on top of street signs, fire escapes, and telephone poles. He can climb fast and high. So, the day of the annual Third Street block party, one of the activities is to climb a greased pole and grab a big hunk of cheese. All the big Antonellis and their big “friends” try it. But who do you think can do it?

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Who hasn’t felt like little Benny sometime in their life? Some of the students in your class may be the youngest sibling. Others may be tired of being told, “You can do it when you’re older.” This book is perfect for talking with students about self-esteem and their self-image. Point out that maybe Little Benny is small, but he is the best climber. Give your students some drawing paper and ask them to illustrate a picture of themselves and one activity they are really good at. Older students can write some sentences to go with their illustrations.

2. If you are teaching the 6 plus 1 traits of writing, this is an excellent book to use for voice. The Big Cheese of Third Street has a unique voice. Read the book out loud to students a few times. Talk about Laurie Halse Anderson’s word choice, and the way she sometimes speaks to the reader. You can use this book with older grades as an example of good voice, too.

3. Can students use their prediction skills and predict what’s going to happen when they see the big greased pole in the first scene of the block party? The author tells the reader that everything changed on Third Street after the block party. What do they think is going to happen and why? What evidence is there in the book to support their opinions?

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13. Tuesday Tales: Watersmeet by Ellen Jensen Abbott (Book Giveaway Contest!)

Last week, I featured historical fiction author, Clara Gillow Clark, on my blog on Tuesday and Wednesday. We had a great discussion about historical fiction, and we both appreciate all your comments. This week, I am featuring YA fantasy writer, Ellen Jensen Abbott, and her book, Watersmeet. Please leave a comment below about the book or a question for Ellen for your chance to win a copy. You can also follow me on Twitter for an extra entry and/or subscribe to my RSS Feed. Just make sure to leave it in a comment that you did one of those things! The contest runs until Thursday, January 28, 8:00 p.m. CST. Now on to the book. . .

*Young adult fantasy novel
*14-year-old girl as main character
*Rating: Abisina, the main character, catches your heart from page one, and you can’t stop cheering her through her journey even after you read the last page!

Short, short summary: Abisina is an outcast in her village of Vranille because of the way she looks–no light skin, blue eyes, or blonde hair. She has dark skin and dark hair and no father around. She is only tolerated because her mother is the only healer in Vranille. She is made to feel worthless on a daily basis. Unbelievably, things get worse for Abisina when a powerful, mythic leader (Charach) comes to her village, disguised. However, Abisina can see him for whom he truly is. The villagers cannot, and they become violent against the outcasts. Abisina runs for her life, barely escaping. This starts her on a great journey to find her father and the one place where she might be accepted–Watersmeet. Along the way, she comes into contact with some fantastical creatures such as dwarves and centaurs. Her opinions of these creatures are biased because of her childhood in Vranille where these creatures are thought of as not worthy and even vile. On her adventure to find her father and who she truly is she must face her prejudices and learn to accept others as she wants to be accepted.

So, what do I do with this book?

This section is going to look a little different today because Ellen Jensen Abbott has already come up with some great activities with her teachers’ guide, and so I would love for you guys to check out her guide. Here are a few highlights from her guide:

*Questions to go with each part of the book about Vranille and prejudice, Abisina and her parents, etc.
*Reading skills practice such as comparing and contrasting Vranille and Watersmeet, making personal connections with the plot/characters, and character studies like how Abisinia is or is not heroic.
*Projects and activities like reenacting the council meeting, building a model or drawing a map of a place in the novel, or writing a scene from Watersmeet in another character’s point of view.

Click here for the complete teacher’s study guide.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a young adult fantasy novel that explores the themes of family, racism, adventure, friendship, and trust; and tune in tomorrow for an interview with the author. She’ll tell us where she got the idea, challenges of writing fantasy, and about a sequel in the works!

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14. Tuesday Tales: You? by Vladimir Radunsky

My Basset Hound, Hush Puppy, under the Christmas tree

*Picture book for preschoolers through 2nd graders
*Young girl and cute dog as main characters
*Rating: Anyone, child or adult, who has ever been searching for the perfect pet will love You? by Vladimir Radunsky.

Short, short summary: In the park, a poor, little lonely dog is searching for someone to love him. A poor, little lonely girl is searching for a friend in the same park but in a different place (like over the fence). Many funny, cute, and peculiar dogs and their owners pass by, and the lonely dog and the lonely girl wish to be with them all. Finally in the end, they spot each other and say, “Woof?” and “You?” One of the cutest things about You? is that the dog speaks in “dog language” with woofs, arfs, and bow-wows, and this is translated into English by Vladimir Radunsky’s dog, Tsetsa. (Brilliant dog!)

Speaking of brilliant dogs, here’s our Boxer, Chester, when he was 7 1/2 months old.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Children will have such fun with this book. They will love the dog speak and translations! Students can get creative, pick an animal, do a couple illustrations, and write in cat speak or tiger speak or bird speak what the animal is saying and the English translation!

2. You? is a good book to discuss children’s emotions. How is the little girl feeling at the beginning? Sad and lonely. Ask students to tell you, write about, or draw a time when they felt the same way. In the end, the girl feels differently. How does she feel? Why? Students can also make a personal connection with this feeling at the end, too.

3. Children will want to talk all about their pets after you finish reading this book. You might want to save You? for a pet day or a show and tell day. Students could bring in pictures of their pets (or their favorite animals if they don’t have a pet) and share their pets with the class. If you home school, children could make a book about their pets, almost like a baby book–when the pet was born, when he came to your house, what he likes to eat, and activities he likes to do.

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15. Tuesday Tales: Hate List by Jennifer Brown (BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST!)

photo by tibchris www.flickr.com

I am so happy to hold this contest on my blog today for Hate List by Jennifer Brown. I am IN LOVE with this book. It is perfect for tweens and teens, and I think all parents and teens should HAVE to read it. It’s great for a mother-daughter book club. So, I am going to give my copy away to a lucky winner. All you have to do is leave a comment about the book, about the photo I posted here (this is not the author, but this picture just reminded me of Hate List so I posted it), about high school, about your teenager or teaching teenagers, or a pick-me comment. :) Contest will close on the day we celebrate LOVE–February 14 at 8:00 pm CST.

*Young adult contemporary novel
*Senior girl as the main character
*Rating: Hate List will grab you from page one and keep you riveted until the end. It’s tragic and heartbreaking and shows there are no easy answers when it comes to being a teen. (Starred review from School Library Journal.)

Short, short summary: Valerie is getting ready to start her senior year in high school, which would normally be an exciting time for any girl. But this is not the case for Valerie. From page one, you learn that at the end of her junior year, her boyfriend Nick pulled a gun in the Commons and shot their classmates as revenge for the way he and Valerie were treated. Nick wound up shooting Valerie in the leg when she tried to stop him and then took his own life. Besides dealing with mental and physical pain, Valerie must also deal with the fact that many people at her high school and in her community (including her own family members) think she knew what Nick was planning and that she was a co-conspirator. Turns out, Valerie and Nick had a “hate list,” a notebook full of people they hated, and those same people were targets of the shooting. In Hate List, Jennifer Brown reveals what happened on that tragic day last May and how everyone is dealing with the aftermath. You follow Valerie through this book, hoping that somehow she can overcome one of the worst nightmares anyone has ever had to face.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. When you read a book like this with teenagers, they are bound to have strong opinions on Nick, Valerie, and the “bullies.” Some people will identify with Nick and Valerie; others will identify with the victims of the shooting. Brown does a good job of showing the reader that everything is not always as black and white as it seems, and I think this will bring out even stronger reader reactions because Brown has written a realistic book. Students and teens will need plenty of time to process, write about, and discuss this book. As a teacher or parent, you will want to give them space and time to express themselves without being hurtful to others. Set some ground rules, suggest students jot down notes or even free write before discussions take place, and try not to let it get too personal (as in naming teens) in your classroom. Students who need to talk personally could schedule a time with you, or you could put together a small group that you think would work for this type of discussion. Some themes to discuss: forgiveness, bullying, hate, divorce, honesty, and friendship.

2. Valerie uses art to help her through the healing process. You can do several things with this theme, depending on if you are using this book in a classroom, homeschool, or mother-daughter book club. In a smaller setting, you could give teens an opportunity to paint eith

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16. Tuesday Tales: A Crazy Day at the Critter Cafe by Barbara Odanaka; Illustrated by Lee White

photo by digitalART2 www.flickr.com

*Picture book for preschoolers through second graders
*A skateboarding cow and other critters as main characters
*Rating: A Crazy Day at the Critter Cafe is a fun, crazy read that will leave kids laughing and wanting more. Cute ending!

Short, short summary:

In rhyme and with super illustrations, Barbara Odanaka and Lee White tell the story of the critter cafe. The cook and the waiter are relaxing on a quiet morning when a bus full of critters breaks down and in walks five raccoons. You might think five raccoons are bad enough at a restaurant, but they aren’t even the half of it. There are elephants playing instruments and Skateboard Cow as well as macaws, turtles, lizards, lambs, and penguins (and more!). As you can imagine, all these animals are very demanding when they are hungry and make quite a mess of things at the Critter Cafe! How do the waiter and cook survive this onslaught of customers? You’ll have to read the ending to find out–and to find out what happens to Skateboard Cow!

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Let students choose their favorite animal from the cast of characters, draw a picture, and write two sentences about it–something it does in the book and something it does in real life. For older students who are starting to research, you can ask them to find three facts about the animal to share with classmates. These can be displayed on a bulletin board (or on your kitchen refrigerator if you home school) with the title: “Here’s Our Crazy Critter Cafe.” You can use a checkered tablecloth as the background paper for your bulletin board.

2. The rhyme in A Crazy Day at the Critter Cafe is wonderful, and some of the words aren’t usual, familiar rhyming words for your students or children. For example: tunes rhymes with raccoons, grub rhymes with Bub, and fritters rhymes with critters. Ask students to put their thumbs up every time they hear a rhyming pair. Make a list of rhyming pairs on chart paper. Ask students to add their own words to the list. Talk to students about why words rhyme. Older students can attempt their own rhyming poem with 4 to 6 lines.

3. This is a great book to talk with students about how to act at a restaurant, the dinner table, and/or a friend’s house for supper. The animals have TERRIBLE manners, so children can have fun correcting the animals’ behavior without the book seeming preachy or a guide to “This is what you are supposed to do. . .” Students can even draw pictures illustrating one half of their papers with a picture of an animal behaving rudely, and the other half of the picture with themselves using their manners.

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17. Tuesday Tales: A Shadow in the Dark by Ronica Stromberg (Book Giveaway Contest)

It’s time for another book giveaway contest! Please leave a comment below for the author or about the book or simply, “Pick me!” And tune in tomorrow, author Ronica Stromberg is here to talk about her book and her writing career. You can leave a comment there, too, for another chance to win a copy of A Shadow in the Dark from Royal Fireworks Press.

*Tween novel, contemporary inspirational fiction
*12-year-old girl as main character
*Rating: A Shadow in the Dark will keep you turning the page to find out what is going on in the new country neighborhood where Kirsten has moved.

Short, short summary: Kirsten moves to the country with her mom and brother when her parents separate, and she is looking for a friend. A young neighbor boy tells her there’s a girl about Kirsten’s age, living in a nearby farmhouse. But when Kirsten goes to meet her, an old woman opens the door and says she lives there alone. Soon, Kirsten befriends the granddaughter of a neighbor, whose name is Gail, and draws her into the mystery, too. One day, Gail and Kirsten even see small dresses for a girl hanging on the old woman’s clothesline, and they think they see a shadowy figure at the front window of the house. While Gail and Kirsten are trying to figure out this mystery and are quickly becoming friends, Gail is also sharing information with Kirsten about her Christian faith, including inviting her to help at Bible School.

To order this book for $7.99, visit Royal Fireworks Press: http://rfwp.com/series96.htm#900

So, what do I do with this book:

1. Mystery books are GREAT for this age group because kids can try to solve the mystery right along with the main characters. Ask students or your children what they would do if they thought an old woman in their neighborhood was hiding a girl. How would they solve the problem? Also, ask them to predict what they think is going on and what clues the author is providing to them. These make great journal writing prompts to assign while kids are reading A Shadow in the Dark.

2. If you home school or teach at a Christian school, then this is the perfect book to discuss the Christian themes present in the story. Why does Kirsten struggle with faith? Why doesn’t she want to go back to Bible School? How does Gail talk to her? How does Gail show her what being a Christian is all about? Your students or your children have probably been in situations like Gail and/or Kirsten. How did they handle these situations? What can they learn from the characters in this book? Again, these are great journal writing prompts, and then the answers can be discussed.

3. Down syndrome is also introduced in this book. Do students know what this is? Most probably will or have at least met someone with Down syndrome. This book give students and children a great opportunity to find out more about this chromosomal disorder and to understand people with it. The National Down Syndrome Society website is a great place to start.

Remember to leave a comment for a chance to win this book!

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18. Tuesday Tales: If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss

photo by mape_s www.flickr.com

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

*Picture book for preschoolers through second graders, fantasy
*Young boy as main character
*Rating: Dr. Seuss is at his best in If I Ran the Zoo–from made-up creatures to fantastical places to those ever-clever rhymes.

Short, short summary: Gerald McGrew says that his local zoo is a “pretty good zoo.” But it just has the normal, old animals that all zoos have. So, if Gerald ran it. . .he would do things a little differently. For example, he would travel up past the North Pole in his Skeegle-mobile and bring back a family of “What-do-you-know!” He would hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant and even brave the blistering sands of the Desert of Zind. People from all over, of course, will want to see these amazing animals at the McGrew Zoo. And as he points out at the end, Gerald would just make a few changes to the zoo. (BTW, did you know that Dr. Seuss’s father actually ran a zoo in Springfield, Massachusetts for thirty years? Write what you know, everyone. :) )

So, what do I do with this book?

1. If I Ran the Zoo is full of Dr. Seuss’s wonderful illustrations. You can do two activities with illustrations. You can read the descriptions of a creature to your students and ask them to draw what they imagine. You can also ask them to create an animal for McGrew’s Zoo, name it, and even write a description–depending on their age and ability levels.

2. Students can write their own versions of If I Ran the Zoo by writing about what they would do with a zoo, or they can also change the place: If I Ran the School or If I Ran a Pizza Parlor. If you have young students, you can do this as a shared writing activity with the repeating sentence: “If I ran the zoo, I would have a ____________________.” If you have older students, they can create their stories themselves.

3. Some of the places such as the North Pole, Africa, and North Dakota are real (of course). Other places, it is clear that Dr. Seuss made them up. Ask your students to give you a thumbs-up if the place you are reading about is a real place (with made-up creatures) or a made-up place. You can also make a list of both on chart paper in a T-table. This can also lead to a discussion of what makes If I Ran the Zoo a fantasy even though parts of it are real.

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19. Tuesday Tales: Aries Rising by Bonnie Hearn Hill (Blog Tour and Book Giveaway Contest)

I’m very happy to host Bonnie Hearn Hill’s blog tour today on Read These Books and Use Them. Bonnie is part of WOW! Women On Writing’s blog tour, and she is doing 31 blogs in 31 days. She’s a busy woman. She’s also giving away a copy of the first book, Aries Rising, from [...]

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20. Tuesday Tales: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick by Lucille Colandro; Illustrated by Jared Lee

Easter books for preschool kids and primary students can be fun and give you several activity options to welcome spring!

*Picture book for preschool through second grade students
*Our favorite, old-eating-everything lady as the main character
*Rating: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick is another fun book for young children in this wonderful series.

Short, short summary:

“There was an old lady who swallowed a chick. I don’t know why she swallowed that chick, but she didn’t get sick.” Of course, she didn’t get sick. This lady can swallow just about anything as we’ve learned from other books about her. In this Easter book for preschool kids and elementary students, the old lady swallows a chick, straw, Easter egg, jellybeans, Easter basket, and more. What finally does her in this time? Well, nothing really, she starts to hop, and she meets the Easter bunny!

So, what do I do with this book?

1. With this fun Easter book for preschool kids and primary children, you can either order felt board pieces for a retelling of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick, or you can make your own. Children love to be a part of telling the story, and they can help you manipulate the felt board pieces and retell the story.

2. Lucille Colandro has written another great book that can help young children work on sequencing skills. After you have read the book a few times, ask students or your children what does the old lady swallow first, second, and so on. You can even ask students questions such as: “What happens first–the old lady swallows the straw or the candy?” or “What does she eat after she swallows the Easter egg?” You can extend this discussion by providing a worksheet with pictures of the different objects the old lady swallows out of order. Students would cut these objects out and glue them onto a separate sheet of paper in the correct order.

3. Students may want to write their own class version of this fun Easter book for preschoolers. As a shared writing activity, you could either stick with the Easter theme or switch to another theme such as summer or Independence Day. You will want to help students with the format, such as writing on chart paper ahead of time: “There was an old lady who swallowed a _______________. I don’t know why she swallowed a __________.” and so on. Once you have written a version as a class, you can assign different students to illustrate different parts of your class book. If you do this as a home school project, you and your children can work together to create the book.

Do you have a favorite There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed. . . book?

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21. Tuesday Tales: Smile by Leigh Hodgkinson

photo by lel4nd www.flickr.com

*Picture book for preschoolers through second graders, contemporary fiction
*Little girl as main character
*Rating: Smile by Leigh Hodgkinson will make you smile. One of the cutest picture books I’ve seen recently–I think kids and adults will love it!

Short, short summary:

Sunny is usually happy! But today, she can’t find her smile. Where could it have gone? She can’t find it under her bed or in her room, so she cleans her room to look for it better. She wonders if somebody took it, but who would do that? Her goldfish? No way! The twins? Nope! Maybe she lost it in the big, wide world somewhere. So, she continues looking for it and gets caught up in having fun with her dog along the way. And then the twins point out–she found her smile!

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Ask students to draw a picture of what makes them smile. Then ask them to bring in a photo of them smiling. Attach the photo to the illustration, and post these on a bulletin board that says: “What Makes Us Smile!”

2. You can have a great discussion with young children about this book. Why does Sunny lose her smile? How does she find it again? Have children ever lost their smile like Sunny does? You can even get into discussions such as: “What does it mean to be happy or sad?”

3. One of the cutest illustrations in Smile! by Leigh Hodgkinson is when Sunny makes a wanted poster for her smile. Ask students to make a wanted poster for something–it can be Sunny’s smile, a friend, a pet, or so on. This activity can also be a bulletin board or classroom display.

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22. Tuesday Tales: Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile

kids sitting by Clearly Ambiquous
by Clearly Ambiquous www.flickr.com

*Picture book for preschoolers through second graders
*Two young boys as main characters
*Rating: I am in love with Let’s Do Nothing! I laughed out loud at this picture book. Tony Fucile’s illustrations are hilarious, and the story is so cute!

Short, short summary: Frankie and Sal do not know what else to do with themselves. They have “played every sport ever invented, painted more pictures than Van Gogh, and baked enough cookies to feed a small country.” So, they decide to do nothing. But did you know that doing nothing is much harder than it seems? When Frankie tries to be as still as can be and imagine the things that Sal says to imagine, he just can’t do nothing. Even through Sal’s frustration, he still realizes that they have proved a very important point that the whole world should realize!

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Ask students what they would pretend to be if they had to sit still and do nothing. In the book, the boys pretend to be statues, trees, and buildings. You can do this as a shared writing activity for younger students, where you make a list on chart paper and each child comes up with an idea to illustrate. For older primary children who are reading Let’s Do Nothing!, you can ask them to write about this prompt in their reading response journals.

2. Is it impossible to do nothing? That’s what the boys say in the book. Ask children this question and brainstorm answers. You can even work this into a health lesson. What parts of the body are still working and moving when you are doing nothing? How about when you are sleeping? Why do these particular body systems continue to work even when you are doing nothing?

3. Ask children to tell you what they like to do when they are bored. Have they ever run into the same problem as Frankie and Sal in the book? How would they solve this problem? Help children to make a personal connection to the text. When students or your children make personal connections with Tony Fucile’s text, then they are improving their reading comprehension, which is a very important skill.

Have you read Let’s Do Nothing! with your class or your children? What did you think?

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23. Tuesday Tales: Family Relationships Mass Blogging Day and Patricia Polacco books

wow logoToday I’m participating in a mass blogging! WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We’re celebrating the release of Therese Walsh’s debut novel today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy, (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost when they were teenagers. Visit “The Muffin” to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit Therese’s website to find out more about the author.

therese walsh last will book cover

I chose WOW!’s “Family Relationships Mass Blogging Day” to write about one of my favorite picture book authors/illustrators, Patricia Polacco. She has written and illustrated many picture books, including some of my favorites: My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother; Thank You, Mr. Falker; and Pink and Say.

The reason I chose her for today is many of her picture books are based on true accounts of her childhood, and she does not try to mask these events behind some fictional characters. She includes herself and her family members, and the stories are touching, often bringing tears. The book I chose especially for today is Thunder Cake. If you have a child scared of storms, this is the perfect book for you. It will help you and your child share special moments as Patricia and her grandmother did when she was a child.

Short, short summary: Thunder Cake is the story of how Patricia Polacco learned to conquer her fear of storms when she was a young girl. Her grandmother senses a storm is coming, and so she convinces Patricia to go outside and gather the ingredients they need to bake thunder cake. This includes eggs, tomatoes, and milk. While the cake is baking, Grandmother recaps what young Patricia did OUTSIDE as the storm was approaching, and she convinces her granddaughter that only a brave girl could do those things. Patricia agrees. This is one of the perfect family relationship books as it shows the heartwarming love between a grandma and her granddaughter, and it can help you as a parent (or even a teacher) with a child who has a fear of storms.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Make a thunder cake with your students or you child. (If you are doing this with a classroom, you can also turn any cooking lesson into a math lesson–studying fractions, doubling recipes, and so on.)

2. Ask students or your child to write (or make a list together) all the reasons why rain is a positive thing–why do we need rain? Why is this important? If children can see why rain is necessary and helpful, it might give them more positive feelings toward storms. When your child starts to become afraid during storms, draw pictures of the ways rain helps, create poems, or even make up a play or story with older children. This will distract them from the storm and promote positive feelings.

3. Make noise with your child or students as a storm is approaching. Can you make your own thunder? Often children just don’t like loud noises they can not control, and this is why thunder scares them. Get out some pots, pans, and wooden spoons. Have a storm concert. Chant favorite poems and play music to drown out the outside sounds.

Another super easy thing to do is just talk with your child about Patricia’s bravery and see what they think. Thanks for checking out my post today as part of WOW!’s mass blogging day!

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24. Tuesday Tales: Bear-ly There by Rebekah Raye (Book Giveaway Contest and Author Interview)

Becky_Goose_Portrait I am excited to host author and illustrator Rebekah Raye on Read These Books and Use Them today with her new book Bear-ly There, published by Tilbury House. Along with this great publishing company, I’ve got a lot to share with you today, so let’s get started!

CONTEST! CONTEST! FABULOUS CONTEST!!!!! **First of all, Tilbury House is offering some fabulous prizes for ten winners. You can win by commenting on my blog and on any of the other blogs on the tour. You can also win by participating on Twitter! Here’s more information about the contest:

From Tilbury House: We will draw 9 lucky winners from all of those who comment on these participating blog posts, from October 16-30, to win one of the following prizes:

Winners #1 & 2 = A set of four art notecards (two sets available)
Winner #3 = A signed wildlife art print
Winners #4, 5, 6 = An original sketch from Bear-ly There, The Very Best Bed, or Thanks to the Animals (See www.rebekahraye.com for samples of her gorgeous artwork!)
Winners #7, 8, 9 = A copy of Bear-ly There, The Very Best Bed, or Thanks to the Animals, signed by Rebekah.

And, anyone who participates in the Twitter Book Party or posts anything on Twitter about the tour, using the hashtag #BearlyThere from October 15-30, will be entered to win a complete set of Bear-ly There, The Very Best Bed, and Thanks to the Animals, all signed by Rebekah! Winners for all 10 prizes will be announced on Oct. 31. US/Canada addresses only.

Bear-ly There, a beautifully-illustrated picture book, is the story of Charlie and a bear who wanted a snack in Charlie’s family’s storage shed. Charlie figures out how to get rid of the bear and get him back to eating blueberries in the forest like he should. The books shows children in a kind and gentle way that wildlife belongs in the wild where everyone, including the animal, is safe. I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview, Rebekah Raye, the author, about her book Bear-ly There.

Margo: Hi Rebekah, thanks for stopping by on your tour. I’m sure many people who read your book wonder this: where did you get the idea for Bear-ly There?

Rebekah: It was really based on a true story. Last summer, I had made an appointment with Tilbury House Publishing to come in and discuss some new concepts and ideas I had about another book. I had a couple of ideas that I really liked. The very night before my meeting, we had an incredible first-time black bear visit in the moonlight just at dawn in our backyard–that was both exciting and frightening. I went into my meeting with Jennifer Bunting, Audrey Maynard, and Karen Fiske. I felt very comfortable talking to them about my new ideas but was still bubbling over with excitement about the bear visit that it seemed to be prominent in our conversation. They were quiet as they listened to all of my story summaries. Then after a pause, they thought we should do the story of the bear visit.

Margo: Well, thank goodness for that bear visit then, or we wouldn’t have this delightful story now! Your illustrations are absolutely beautiful. How do you make your illustrations look so real? Do you use models? Photos? Your imagination?

Rebekah: I seem to be most inspired by events, sightings, and actual experiences that I can express in a painting, sculpture, or story. I have learned so much about the animals I paint. I am fascinated by what they look like and how they act. It is important to me to give the animal dignity and respect and love the animal as it is. So, I want my paintings to be a close likeness. For Bear-ly There, my husband, a photographer, was able to photograph the bear that visited us on several different occasions, and I had lots of reference from his photographs. I also had such a memory of the night he came to visit us. My two geese were always modeling for me; the rest of the critters were from past sightings.

Margo: Your paintings are definitely a close likeness, and I love that your two geese model for you! :) Please briefly explain your writing process for us.

Rebekah: My dearest older friend, Eggie Razi, once told me, “Just do the pictures first, and then imagine telling your story to your children and grandson, and the words will come.” She was right. I love to think of the images first, the characters. Then I take a tape recorder and speak about what’s happening, and it seems to help me write like I was verbally telling the story. I then sketch out sort of a story board. I can then start to see the story change, build. And thank goodness for editors.

Margo: What an interesting writing process. I wonder if a lot of author/illustrators work that way. I think I found a new question to ask. What are two or three lesson plan ideas that teachers can use with Bear-ly There?

Rebekah: I would recommend doing research about the different foods bears like to eat. It is fascinating to note they eat the very things that are bad for our gardens and trees like cut worms and tent caterpillars. I have always loved to combine art and science, so I would have the children draw the bear eating the particular plants and insects–making a poster of the different plants in a detailed drawing, of course with the bear. Maybe ink markers and pastel pencils. I also recommend everyone to visit www.tilburyhouse.com because they specify classroom activities related to the books under TEACHERS TAKE NOTE.

Margo: Rebekah, thanks for letting us know about the Tilbury House site and their resources for teachers. We wish you much luck with your book, your tour, and your future projects!

Don’t forget to leave a comment below to be entered into Tilbury House’s awesome contest. To enter more than once, go to these other blog tour stops for Rebekah and make a comment!

More blog stops for Rebekah:

Oct. 21 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – http://insatiablereaders.blogspot.com/
Oct. 22 – On My Bookshelf – http://hollybooknotes.blogspot.com/
Oct. 23 – Nature Moms – http://www.naturemoms.com/blog/
Oct. 24 – Tilbury House on Facebook – http://tinyurl.com/c2cnav
Oct. 25 – Ready Set Read – http://readysetreadreviews.blogspot.com/
Oct. 26 – Mozi Esmé – http://moziesme.blogspot.com/
Oct. 27 – Anastasia Suen’s Picture Book of the Day – http://6traits.wordpress.com/
Oct. 28 – Byron T. Bear Foundation – http://www.byronbear.com
Oct. 29 – Amy Lundebrek’s blog – http://www.amylundebrek.com/blog
Oct. 30 – Get Bear Smart Society – http://www.bearsmart.com/news-room/blog-posts

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25. Tuesday Tales: Fussy Freya (Written By: Katharine Quarmby; Illustrated by: Piet Grobler)

fussy eater by H Dickens photo by H Dickins www.flickr.com

I picked up this book at the library immediately because most parents I know, including myself and my husband, deal with a fussy eater. My stepson is not terrible, but there’s still some days when he will throw me for a loop over something he won’t eat. That’s kind of what happens to Freya’s parents in this book. I think this book is an hysterical way to get kids to go back to eating foods they decided they didn’t like anymore, but some parents might find it a bit extreme in dealing with fussy eaters. Read on . . .

*Picture book for preschoolers through second graders
*Young girl as main character
*Rating: Fussy Freya is a great book for talking to kids about eating and not being a picky eater. The illustrations are super cute and fun!

Short, short summary: Katharine Quarmby tells Freya’s tale of being a fussy eater in rhyme with some repeatable text. Fussy Freya is great for a read aloud in a classroom, at a library story time, or before bedtime. Freya used to eat all her food; but one day, she decides that she is not going to eat her mum’s dhal and rice, even though her baby brother and the cat eat every spicy bite. She says some not-so-nice things to her mum and does not eat anything her mum puts in front of her. She throws fits–throwing fish on the floor, which the cat loves, of course. But soon, her mum and dad have had enough, and so Mum calls Grandma. Grandma tells Mum that she acted the same way when she was three years old, and Grandma says, “Send her to me!” When Freya goes to Grandma’s house, she’s sure she will get anything she wants–candy and sweets, especially. But she is not prepared for the lesson that Grandpa and Grandma teach Freya about the delicious food she could be getting at her parents’ house. Cute idea and the illustrations in Fussy Freya are the type that children can look at again and again and find new stuff while teaching a small lesson to fussy eaters.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Ask children to draw a collage of their favorite foods. (You could also have them cut pictures out of magazines.) Once children have their collages made, ask them to write a short poem (with a rhyming 2nd and 4th line like in Fussy Freya) about one of their favorite foods (or all of them). If you have young students, you could write one poem together as a class that they could copy, or they could write a poem at home with their families. Display the collages and the poems around the room.

2. This is a great book for starting a discussion with students about manners since Freya displays so many bad manners throughout the book. You can easily use Fussy Freya as part of character education. Have fun with it! Maybe students can even role play examples of good and bad manners.

3. This is also a great book to use for teaching about the Food Pyramid and healthy eating. The United States Department of Agriculture has many resources for teachers to talk with students of all ages about nutrition and healthy eating. Click the link and check them out!

Before I was in first grade, I was Fussy Margo. My mom made me all sorts of separate meals, so I didn’t have to eat what my parents were eating. Then in first grade, my teacher had a food challenge. We got a star on a chart for each new food we tried. I loved this contest and came in 2nd place. Since then, I haven’t been quite as fussy. So, it’s an idea if you have some fussy eaters around you.

Any more ideas? Let us know!

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