151. The Ant Bully by John Nickle

Retell:  Lucas constantly gets picked on by the neighborhood bully. He takes out his frustration on the ants in front of his house. The ants decide to take revenge and teach Lucas a lesson.

Topics:  bullying, revenge, ants

Units of Study:  Fantasy

Tribes:  mutual respect

Reading Skills:  analyzing character motivation, interpretation

Writing Skills:  experimenting with sentence structure

Thoughts:  Apparently this story was made into an animated movie back in 2006.  I guess I’ve been out of the loop.

This is a great read aloud for teaching about karma, the Golden Rule and the basic concept of treating others (even non-humans) with respect.  It’s also a great mentor text for students writing fantasy stories.  The structure is short and simple enough to mirror the fantasy stories that upper grade students may be writing.  It’s also great for demonstrating how stories can be structured around teaching the reader a lesson.

Unfortunately, it looks like this book is out of print.  Definitely worth a trip to your local library.

August 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm Leave a comment

150. Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini

Retell:  Gritch the Witch wakes up one morning with an intense craving for ‘piggie pie’. When she discovers that she is missing the main ingredient she heads to Old MacDonald’s Farm where she meets some crafty pigs.

Topics: witches, pigs, nursery rhymes, cultural literacy, Old MacDonald, wolves, Wizard of Oz

Units of Study:  Fairy Tales, Fantasy

Habits of Mind:  Persisting, Thinking Flexibly

Reading Skills:  Understanding humor, catching cultural references

Writing Skills:  Writing commas in a list, Including alliteration, Using sentence variety

Thoughts:  I can see reading this book during a study of fairy tales and folk tales.  To thoroughly understand the story, students need to have a good understanding of the song “Old Macdonald”, the movie The Wizard of Oz as well as the role of the wolf in fairy tales.  Though this book may be geared to children under 8, this could be a good book to read for older children when teaching readers to analyze cultural references.  The “Spy vs. Spy” endings makes the story.

July 3, 2012 at 5:17 pm Leave a comment

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May 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

149. Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka

Retell:  The subtitle says it all:  “Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka.”

Topics: boys, brothers, growing up, catholic school, rough-housing, adventure, reading, family

Units of Study:  Memoir, Personal Narrative, Nonfiction

Tribes:  Mutual Respect, Appreciations/No Put-Downs

Habits of Mind:  Finding Humor

Reading Skills:  Understanding figurative language and humor

Writing Skills:  Balancing dialogue with description and inner thinking, including prologues

Thoughts:  This is a must-read for any teacher who plans on doing a Personal Narrative or Memoir unit.  Most stories are short (1-3 pages), hilarious and at times disgusting.  I personally love the story entitled, “Car Trip,” a story about brothers in the back of a car reacting to a cat puking.  Many of the stories end with a reflection making them ideal mentor texts if you’re teaching Memoir. One story, “Random Reading” may be useful during a Nonfiction unit.  In this story he talks about enjoying the diagrams found within the pages of the Golden Book Encyclopedia series.   Jon Scieszka writes particularly with boy readers and writers in mind.  If you haven’t already, check out his website called Guys Read.

August 27, 2011 at 6:57 pm Leave a comment

I’m Back!

Sorry for the long hiatus.  I had to take a break from the blog in order to focus on pursuing National Board certification and planning my wedding (I don’t recommend doing both at the same time.)  Now that my portfolio has been submitted and thank you cards have been sent, I have more time to read children’s literature!

Check back each week for more reviews.

June 30, 2011 at 6:40 pm Leave a comment

147. Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog by Pamela S. Turner

Retell: Everyday Hachiko accompanies his owner,  Dr. Ueno to Shibuya Station and patiently awaits his return.  When Dr. Ueno doesn’t return one day Hachiko continues to wait at the station…for ten years.

Topics:  dogs, Japan, loss, loyalty, Tokyo

Units of Study:  Nonfiction, Memoir

Tribes:  mutual respect, appreciations/no put downs

Habits of Mind:  persistence

Writing Skills:  using imagery, describing setting details

My Thoughts:  A colleague of mine gave me this book as a gift knowing my connection with Japan.  I taught in Japan for three years.  Last summer when I visited Japan again I took a trip to Shibuya Station and learned about the story of Hachiko.

I’m not sure if I’d be able to read this book out loud to my class without crying, or making someone else cry.  It’s such a beautiful book though.  I can see using this as a mentor text for showing how writers describe the setting.  Many of my students have difficulty describing anything but the weather.  This text shows how a writer takes time to describe the ‘action’ of the setting–the movement of the crowd, the clothes the people are wearing, etc.

June 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm Leave a comment

146. When I Was Young In the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

Retell: Rylant beautifully recalls her childhood where she swam in swimming holes and sat on porch swings.

Topics: grandparents, family, rural communities, childhood, country

Units of Study: Memoir, Personal Narrative

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation

Writing Skills: writing commas in lists, including poignant details

My Thoughts: This is a read aloud classic that I have rediscovered.  My class has just started collecting ideas for their memoirs.  I read this book out loud the other day.  Though half the class had read it previously, there were no groans when I showed the cover and read the title.  During a “turn-and-talk” I over heard one student convincing her partner that the author was trying to show how special rural life can be.  She said, “In the city, you are never allowed to go outside by yourself.  But in this book the girl was allowed to go to the swimming hole all by herself.  I think this book might be about freedom.”  I had never actually read this book in that way before.  I love it when my students make me see a book in a new light.

Read this book when you need the room to go to a peaceful, sentimental silence.

May 9, 2010 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

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