Posts tagged ‘making connections’

51. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner

skippyjonjonesRetell: Skippyjon Jones is an imaginative Siamese cat.  After catching her son in a bird’s nest she banishes Skippyjon to his room so he can think about what it means to be a cat.  Instead he imagines that he is a chihuahua named Skippito Friskito.

Topics: individuality, creativity, imagination, parents, Spanish

Units of Study: Talking and Writing about Texts, Realistic Fiction

Habits of Mind: creating-imagining-innovating

Reading Skills: envisionment, making connections, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: incorporating rhyme and rhythm, writing stories based on real life

My Thoughts: I purchased this book at JFK while waiting for my flight to Portland.  The rhyming chants in the book caught my eye.  It seems like it will be a fun book to read aloud.  I like how the book promotes having an active imagination.  However, I don’t feel I’d be comfortable reading this book aloud without encouraging my students to think critically about whether or not the book is culturally sensitive.  When Skippyjon becomes a chihuahua he starts speaking in a Spanish accent–which means ending most of his words with -ito.  He doesn’t say ‘big’ he says ‘beeg’.  The author isn’t trying to create an authentic Mexican character.  She’s trying to write a story about a character who likes to play pretend.  At any rate, this book could be great to read or reread during a critical reading study.  If you click on the book image above the link will take you to an interesting comments thread on Powell’s website.

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August 17, 2009 at 12:45 am Leave a comment

50. Home: A Collaboration of Thirty Distinguished Authors and Illustrators of Children’s Books to Aid the Homeless

homeRetell: An anthology of poetry and prose all based on the subject ‘home’.  Many famous writers and illustrators contributed pieces such as:  Virginia Hamilton, Aliki, Jon Sciszka, Jane Yolen and more.

Topics: home, hiding places, family, children

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Launching the Reading Workshop

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly, creating-imagining-innovating

Reading Skills: making connections, envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments, using sensory details

My Thoughts: This is a handy resource for the Personal Narrative unit.  Many of the poems and stories within the anthology will be great ‘small moment’ mentor texts.  Home contains some great pieces that will encourage students as they author their independent reading lives.  The story “Comfortable Old Chair” by Karla Kuskin features a girl who loves reading in her favorite chair.  In the poem, “Elevator” Lucille Clifton describes a girl who reads in the corner of her building’s elevator.  I plan on using these pieces to show how dedicated readers take charge of their lives at home and find a place that’s entirely theirs.  I knew a student who used to have trouble finding a quiet space to read in his crowded apartment.  He started scheduling bathroom reading time.  He would bring in pillows, blankets and books and make a comfy reading spot in the bathtub.

August 16, 2009 at 1:19 am Leave a comment

47. The House That Crack Built by Clark Taylor

the house that crack builtRetell: A serious poem, told in cumulative verse, detailing the many lives affected by crack.

Topics: crack, drug abuse, responsibility

Units of Study: Social Issues

Tribes: right to pass

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference, questioning, making connections

Writing Skills: using rhythm and rhyme

My Thoughts: This is an intense book.  I’m trying to decide if I will read it aloud to my students this year or not.  On one hand I think it’s important to have realistic discussions about drugs with elementary school students, but on the other hand I have to be aware that this book may be too heavy for some students.  If I do decide to read it aloud this year I think it could be a great for the Social Issues unit.  Chronicle Books has a great reading guide for the book which provides questions appropriate for both elementary and middle school aged children.

August 13, 2009 at 1:19 am 1 comment

41. Shanghai Messenger by Andrea Cheng

shanghai messengerRetell: Xiao Mei is invited by her uncle to visit China.  At first she is reluctant to travel by herself and once she arrives she finds the new setting lonely and disorienting.  She eventually adjusts and begins to appreciate her extended Chinese family.

Topics: Chinese, China, poetry, family, mixed-race, language barrier, traveling, homesickness

Units of Study: Character, Personal Narrative, Social Issues

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference, envisionment, making connections

Writing Skills: incoporating foreign languages, zooming in on small moments, including sensory details

My Thoughts: I love how this story is told as a series of free verse poems.  I plan on reading this book aloud when I teach how writers zoom in on small moments.  Each poem is a small moment from her trip.  It can be a good mentor text for writers who want to write about a vacation and are tempted to write about the entire vacation.  Cheng incorporates Chinese vocabulary throughout the story.  She even includes a Chinese glossary with a pronunciation guide which will aid readers when they attempt to read it aloud.  It’s also a good book to read when studying character change.  In the beginning, Xiao Mei is afraid to go to China by herself and thinks she will never adjust to life in China.  By the end she develops into a grown-up girl who is both completely American and completely Chinese.

August 6, 2009 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

29. Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas

saying goodbye to luluRetell: A young girl has difficulty saying goodbye to her beloved dog Lulu.  With help from her parents, she learns how to move on without forgetting the wonderful memories of Lulu.

Topics: loss, dogs, reflection, death, dying, pets, grief, memories, family

Units of Study: Personal Narrative

Reading Skills: synthesis, making connections

Writing Skills: creating flashbacks, zooming in on small moments, using sensory details

My Thoughts: I shouldn’t have read this book in a cafe.  Let’s just say that my eyes were quite red and puffy after reading this book.  It is however, a great text for discussing various stages of the grieving process.  She goes through denial, anger, sadness, reflection and finally acceptance.  The author zooms in on small but important details (“I missed the sound of her tail going thump, thump while she waited for me at the bottom of the stairs…”) making it a great mentor text for writing narratives.

July 25, 2009 at 9:27 am Leave a comment

27. The Road to Santiago by D.H. Figueredo

the road to santiagoRetell: Every year Figueredo and his family return to Santiago, Cuba for Christmas.  When calls for revolution sounded throughout Cuba the author recalls how his family almost didn’t make it home for his favorite holiday.

Topics: Cuba, Christmas, rebels, family, kindness of strangers, traditions

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Historical Fiction

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Reading Skills: making connections, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments, incorporating vocabulary from another language, generating notebook ideas

My Thoughts: A common thread thoughout the story is kindness.  Each scene highlights how people were kind to the author’s family:  a mill worker helps them fix a flat tire, a young man gives up his seat on the bus. Though this is technically a personal narrative I could see reading this book during a unit on writing historical fiction.  The story takes place during the 1950s revolutionary period in Cuba.  He threads details of the time period throughout the story making this a good historical fiction mentor text.

July 23, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

26. Emily’s Art by Peter Catalanotto

emily's artRetell: Emily loves to paint.  She enters her painting of her dog Thor in the school art contest.  After narrowly losing the contest, Emily vows never to paint again.  With her help from her friend Emily realizes that she should continue doing what makes her happy.

Topics: art, contests, friendship, school, painting, self-esteem

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

Tribes: attentive listening, appreciations, personal best

Reading Skills: inference, making connections, interpretation

My Thoughts: I feel like I’m coming across a lot of books about young artists lately (see post on Ish).  I’m a big fan of books with illustrations that not only support the text but enhance it.  At the beginning of the book the illustrations of Emily are vivid and opaque.  However, as soon as she loses the contest, the illustrations of Emily are transparent, conveying the idea that she feels alone and invisible.  Another cool feature about Emily’s Art is how the book begins.  It reminds me of the Harry Potter films.  The story begins with a scene that draws the reader into the story and then like the opening credits in a movie, the title page appears.  I plan on using this book early in the year when we do a lot of community-building.  It’s a great book for showing how far appreciations can go.

July 22, 2009 at 9:09 am Leave a comment

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