Monday, May 28, 2012

New Books!

Week 34

To cheer us up after Amy left our school, we read some brand-new picture books! See all of our new books here.

Press Here, by Herve Tullet
In this inventive interactive book, students get to press, tap, shake, and blow on the book's pages to see what the dots will do. A wonderful reminder of the power of the page-turn...such drama!

Grandpa Green, by Lane Smith
This is the quiet story of a beloved great-grandfather whose key life events are represented as sculpted hedges. For example, his childhood story books are topiary characters from The Wizard of Oz, and The Little Engine That Could. Each stage of his life grows in his garden, and trimming and pruning them helps his memories stay vivid in his mind. The style of illustration is unique: hedges are shown in realistic leafy greens while a line-drawn boy (the great-grandchild) plays among them. 2012 Caldecott Honor book.

Another Brother, by Matthew Cordell
This story perfectly captures the complexities of being the oldest sibling. Davy is blissfully alone with his parents for four years, but then siblings strike. They're all brothers (12 of 'em!) and they copy his every move and follow him around constantly. Will he ever get some peace? Adorable line drawings with lots of detail and expression add to our picture of Davey's plight. 

My Rhinoceros, by Jon Agee
This is one of those books that kids like better than adults. It's so ridiculous! A boy is disappointed that his pet rhinoceros doesn't do much: he won't fetch, he won't even move. A quick call to the rhino expert reveals that all he'll do is pop balloons and poke holes in kites. That turns out to be kind of handy, but when we find out his best talent it's a LOL moment.

Grade 3: Guiding Question - How does our understanding of story elements help us compare and contrast works by the same author?

We read two stories by Eve Bunting and compared their story elements: character, conflict, point of view, climax, setting, theme.

Fly Away Home, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler
A boy and his father are homeless, so they live inside an airport. They are careful not to get noticed, careful not to get caught. The boy explains in detail how they manage the logistics of this: how they eat, wash, sleep, and earn money. They have a tender bond and a positive outlook despite their difficult circumstance. The story raises lots of questions and sparks thoughtful discussion among students about the issue of homelessness. Mentor text for theme, symbols, and word choice.

A Day's Work, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler
A boy and his grandfather, recently emigrated from Mexico, are looking for a day's work. They get hired for a landscaping job because the boy tells the boss that his grandfather has experience. Since he doesn't know English, the grandfather isn't aware of the lie. They do the job and work hard at it. Unfortunately, they didn't understand the directions, so the boss is very upset with the outcome. The core values of honesty and a strong work ethic come through without being preachy. This is good for personal narrative, units about rights and responsibilities, and it makes a good mentor text for theme.

Grade 4: Guiding question - What is good "word choice" and how can we recognize it?

Two teachers asked me to connect a writing focus on word choice (one of the 6 Traits) to picture books. 

I read two favorite books: Bread and Jam for Frances and When I Was Young in the Mountains. We noted strong word choice along the way. 

Afterward, students were paired up with two other books: one by Kevin Henkes and one by William Steig. They pair-read and picked out the words that created pictures in their minds, noting them on Post-it notes.

Classroom extension ideas: post notes on a word wall, create wordles, sort the words by part of speech, share and compare with each other.

Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban

One of my favorites of all time, this is the story of Frances, a picky eater with creative parents. She refuses to eat what everyone else in the family eats at mealtime, choosing bread and jam instead. After a couple of days of this, her mother employs some reverse psychology and only allows her to eat bread and jam. That certainly takes the fun out of the argument for Frances!

I love the little songs Frances sings to herself that reveal how she's feeling about her food choices, and I love the supporting characters. Her father is such a lovely fellow - so positive and sensible.  And the final scene, of Frances unpacking her lunch is one of my favorites in all of literature - it makes a great passage for looking at detail.

When I Was Young in the Mountains, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode
This is a mentor text studied for its word choice, a personal narrative about a girl's memories of her grandparents and their life together in Appalachia. The watercolor and pencil illustrations are cheery, a good match for the text lest readers begin to feel sorry for the family - they don't have much but they are happy.

Strong word choice such as the description of the grandfather after a day in the coal mines, the food grandmother "spreads" on the table, and the night-time trip to the johnny house create a picture in our minds of difficulties balanced by familial warmth and contentment.

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