Posts tagged ‘fantasy’

52. Night of the Gargoyles by Eve Bunting

night of the gargoylesRetell: During the day gargoyles suffer a lot of abuse.  They get rained on, they endure the heat and they tolerate nasty pigeons.  However, during the evening the gargoyles come out to play.

Topics: gargoyles, play, perspectives, night

Units of Study: Fantasy

Reading Skills: envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using descriptive language, incorporating interesting vocabulary

My Thoughts: I never realized how much I love the works of Eve Bunting.  This is the third book of hers that I’ve reviewed.  Night of the Gargoyles might be a nice book to read on or prior to Halloween.  It’s spooky but not too creepy.  It’s also a good book for introducing the idea that there are different perspectives other than our own.  A lot of writers have created fabulous stories by considering the perspective of animals, objects, insects, etc. (ex. James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web).  This could then lead to a discussion about using personification in our writing.

August 18, 2009 at 1:46 am Leave a comment

48. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

the paper bag princessRetell: After a fire-breathing dragon destroys her castle, Elizabeth dons a paper bag and goes off to rescue the ‘charming’ Prince Ronald.  Through cunning wit she tricks the dragon and frees the prince only to realize that perhaps he wasn’t worth saving after all.

Topics: fairy tales, dragons, princesses, princes

Units of Study: Fantasy, Social Issues, Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: persisting, managing impulsivity, thinking flexibly, striving for accuracy

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference

Writing Skills: writing interesting dialogue

My Thoughts: This is a TC read aloud classic that I have seen used in several workshops on planning effective interactive read alouds.  For such a short book, there are many ways you could teach with it.  It’s a great book for discussing gender issues during the Social Issues unit.  After rereading this book for the 20th time I just realized what a great text it is for teaching the Habits of Mind.  Elizabeth uses a lot of them!  For example, her entire castle burns down but she persists and goes to save Prince Ronald.  She has no clothes but thinks flexibly and fashions a dress out of a paper bag.  After competely exhausting the dragon she strives for accuracy and manages impulsivity by checking to make sure the dragon is truly knocked out.

August 13, 2009 at 9:37 am 1 comment

44. Shrek! by William Steig

shrekRetell: Shrek is proud to be an ugly ogre.  He loves everything disgusting and enjoys scaring people around him.  One day he visits a fortune teller who tells him that he is destined to meet a princess even uglier than he.  With the help of a donkey he travels to the castle, defeats a knight and meets the princess of his dreams.

Topics: ogres, nightmares, monsters, fortune tellers

Units of Study: Fantasy

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment

Writing Skills: using rhyme, including interesting vocabulary

My Thoughts: I never realized how different the original story was from the movie.  The movie version has a much stronger moral more lesson but that doesn’t mean Steig’s classic does not have value as a read aloud.  I think this book lends itself quite well to modeling how readers monitor for sense.  Steig writes with rich vocabulary.  His characters never walk, speak, or work.  Rather they, stalk, hiss, and scythe.  Giggle alert:  the story includes the word jackass, which refers of course to the donkey in the story.  Read aloud with discretion.

August 9, 2009 at 9:05 am Leave a comment

25. Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life by Jerdine Nolen

hewitt anderson's great big lifeRetell: Hewitt Anderson has it all.  Loving parents, a gorgeous house and fabulous birthday parties.  The only problem is that Hewitt wasn’t the son his parents expected.  Hewitt’s parents, and indeed the entire town, are giants.  This causes a lot of problems but soon they realize that with a few modifications they can still live a ‘normal’ life.

Topics: acceptance, family, giants, differences, size

Units of Study: Fantasy, Character

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment

Writing Skills: using interesting vocabulary

My Thoughts: This is a nice twist on “Jack and the Beanstalk”.  When next I teach a Fantasy unit I would like to either read this while immersing students in the genre, or use it as a writing mentor text.  The characters are African-American which students don’t often encounter when reading fantasy or fairy tales.  The language in the book is gorgeous.   Since there are many different words for ‘large’ and ‘small’ throughout the story, one could use this book during a lesson on synonyms.

July 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

18. Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

library lionRetell: Miss Merriweather, the librarian, is obsessed with enforcing the rules.  One day a lion walks into her library and becomes a regular helper.  Later, he proves to be a lifesaver.

Topics: libraries, librarians, lions, rules, work, volunteering, books, storytime, breaking the rules

Units of Study: Fantasy, Character

Tribes: attentive listening, personal best, mutual respect, appreciations/no putdowns

Reading Skills: inference, prediction, making connections

Writing Skills: using interesting verbs (ex. padded instead of walked)

My Thoughts: This book is obviously a good book to read before a trip to the public library.  By focusing on the actions of the lion, the reader is also getting to know the features of a public library, such as storytime, new books, the circulation desk, etc.  The story highlights the importance and reciprocal benefits of volunteering.  Library Lion is also a good read aloud for reviewing agreements and rules in the classroom.  For example, to model attentive listening, you could ask students to notice what the students in the illustrations are doing during storytime.  Later in the book, you could discuss how the lion feels hearing all of the appreciations he is receiving. The lion in this story is so cute.  I love its facial expression when he is admonished by Miss Merriweather.

July 14, 2009 at 9:15 am Leave a comment

11. The Whingdingdilly by Bill Peet

the whingdingdillyRetell: Scamp is tired of being a dog and wishes he was a grand horse.  He runs away and encounters a witch who turns him into a creature called the Whingdingdilly.

Topics: dogs, witches

Units of Study: Fantasy, Character

Tribes: Appreciations/No Putdowns

Reading Skills: inference, prediction, making connections

Writing Skills: using a balance of description and dialogue, using interesting verbs

My Thoughts: I really felt for Scamp in the beginning of this book.  I’m a sucker for dogs who are down in the dumps.  Unfortunately Scamp’s owner, Orvie calls him a “silly old dog” when he catches his dog pretending to be a horse.  Though calling someone ‘silly’ may not be the worst putdown heard at school, I can still see using this book as a way to discuss the damage brought about by insults and putdowns.  Scamp begins to feel better, and his luck begins to change when he hears how much Orvie appreciates him.  The Whingdingdilly also teaches the importance of appreciating ourselves for our strengths rather than putting ourselves down for our faults.  This could also be used as a mentor text during a unit on Fantasy writing.  The story has a few fantastical elements but is mostly based on reality.

July 7, 2009 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

7. Guys Write for Guys Read

guys readRetell: Jon Scieszka edits this fabulous collection of stories, comics, essays, illustrations and vignettes contributed by prominent male authors and illustrators.  Contributors include:  Stephen King, Matt Groening, Jerry Spinelli, Seymour Simon, James Howe, Neil Gaiman, Gary Paulsen and many more.  Royalties from the book are used to support Scieszka’s Guys Read Program.

Topics: boys, family, growing up, reading, writing, art

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Launching the Reading and Writing Workshop, Character, Personal Essay, Content-Area Reading and Writing, Nonfiction, Memoir, Social Issues, Fantasy, Preparing for the ELA

Tribes: Mutual Respect, Personal Best, Appreciations/No Putdowns, Right to Pass

Reading Skills: inference, making connections, interpretation

Writing Skills: writing with voice, zooming in on a small moment, observing the world for stories

My Thoughts: This book is teacher gold!  Guys Write for Guys Read has a plethora of short stories that can be used for mentor texts in almost every Reading and Writing unit.  One of the stories, “Reading Can Be Dangerous” by Tedd Arnold was featured on the 5th grade ELA test last year.  James Howe, author of Bunnicula, writes a personal narrative about getting help from a friend on how to be a boy–a great text for personal essay or discussing gender issues.  Many authors write about how they came to love reading and writing.  Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon, writes about how he fell in love with fantasy–great to read when you launch a unit on Fantasy reading and writing.  Patrick Jones, a librarian, writes about how being interested in wrestling inspired him to become a voracious reader.  Many entries include samples of famous authors childhood work alongside their adult work.  For example, Dav Pilkey, author/illustrator of the infamous Captain Underpants series, writes about a comic strip he started when he was 11.  I will probably use this book for almost every unit I teach this year.

If you don’t pick up a copy of this book you must go to Scieska’s website, Guys Read.  The site is dedicated to inspiring more young boys to fall in love with reading.  Mr. Scieszka, you’re my hero.

July 3, 2009 at 6:18 pm 4 comments

5. The Girl Who Lost Her Smile by Karim Alrawi

the girl who lost her smileRetell: One day in Baghdad a girl named Jehan loses her smile.  Her father searches the world for someone who will help his daughter find her smile.

Topics: Baghdad, art, folk tales

Units of Study: Fantasy, Creating Community, Geography

Tribes: Personal Best, Mutual Respect

Reading Skills: envisionment, making connections, prediction

My Thoughts: This is a very quick read aloud which could be good for discussing the expectation of doing one’s personal best and the satisfaction it brings.  Throughout the book Jehan’s father brings her the most beautiful art in the world to cheer her up.  However, it is not until she participates in the arduous process of making a wall gleam that she finally finds her smile.  It woule be nice to use this as a community building mentor text.  We can discuss how Jehan’s family did their best to cheer her up and how we should try and give our friends encouragement and help them find their smiles when they are down.  Her father brings art from around the world to cheer her up.  I could see asking students to find those places on a world map to practice their geography skills.

July 1, 2009 at 9:14 am 2 comments

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