Posts tagged ‘realistic fiction’

71. The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco

the bee treeRetell: When Mary Ellen becomes bored of reading her grampa takes her on a hunt for a bee tree.  People from the community join them as they run through the Michigan countryside chasing bees.  By the end of the bee tree chase Mary Ellen learns that there are many similarities between chasing knowledge through the pages of a book and chasing bees.

Topics: reading, outdoors, adventure, grandparents, community, knowledge

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Personal Narrative, Authoring an Independent Reading Life

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, interpretation

My Thoughts: I like reading this book at the beginning of the year when we author our own independent reading lives.  I think this year I want to keep referring back to the book when we have particularly juicy conversations.  When students ask interesting, provocative questions I could refer to them as ‘honey questions’.  I need to make a banner with Grampa’s words:  “[Adventure, knowledge and wisdom] do not come easily.  You have to pursue them.  Just like we ran after the bees to find their tree, so you must also chase these things through the pages of a book!”

September 5, 2009 at 9:07 pm Leave a comment

68. Old MacDonald Had an Apartment House by Judi Barrett

old macdonald had an apartment houseRetell: A super decides to turn the apartment building he manages into a vegetable garden.  When Mr. Wrental, the owner, finds out he’s furious.  But when he thinks about all the money he could make, the owner has a change of heart.

Topics: gardening, apartments, cities, indoor gardening

Units of Study: Social Issues, Realistic Fiction

Habits: thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: Prediction, making connections

Writing Skills: Using the ‘rule of three’ when listing examples

My Thoughts: This is a very cute book by the author of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.  Before reading this book aloud, you may want to find a copy of Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic so students will understand the joke behind the cover illustration.  I can certainly identify with the characters in this book.  Both my apartment and my classroom get little to no light.  My classroom doesn’t have any windows at all so I wrote a grant proposal for a GroLab on Donors Choose and it was funded in three days!  When it arrives I plan on reading this book to the class.  Perhaps after the read aloud we’ll try growing vegetables.

September 3, 2009 at 12:05 am Leave a comment

66. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

amazing graceRetell: Grace loves to act.  When her school puts on a production of Peter Pan she is eager to audition.  Her classmates tell her that she can’t be Peter Pan because she is a girl and she’s black.   After an inspiring visit to the ballet Grace finds confidence to audition.

Topics: reading, stories, acting, school, gender issues, racism, role models, theater, ballet

Units of Study: Social Issues, Realistic Fiction, Character

Tribes: Personal Best

Habits of Mind: persistence, striving for accuracy, thinking interdependently

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation

My Thoughts: Amazing Grace has been a favorite read aloud of mine for introducing the Social Issues unit.  However, I’m thinking of reading it earlier this year when introducing the Habit of Mind–‘persistence’.  Grace is a good example of how one persists when they have a dream.  Grace’s dream is to play Peter Pan.  Despite the discouragement she receives from a few of her classmates, Grace practices over the weekend and ends up getting the part.  However, it’s interesting to note that this persistence didn’t just come from herself–she had to be encouraged by her family.  I wonder if Grace would have succeeded if her Nana hadn’t taken her to the ballet.

August 31, 2009 at 9:20 am Leave a comment

65. Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully

mirette on the high wireRetell: Mirette works at her mother’s boarding house.  When a mysterious stranger asks for a room and takes his meals alone, Mirette is intrigued.  One day she discovers the stranger walking across the clothesline.  The stranger turns out to be the great Bellini, a famous tightrope walker.  Mirette falls in love with the high wire and is determined to walk high above a crowd.

Topics: artists, dreams, Paris

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: persistence, striving for accuracy

Reading Skills: interpretation, prediction

Writing Skills: incorporating diaglogue

My Thoughts: Though this book is not a true story, the tightrope walker is based on a real person–a daredevil named Blondin who walked over Niagara Falls on a high wire.  I like it when authors describe their inspiration in the author’s note.  I plan on using this book when we focus on the Habits of Mind ‘persistence’ and ‘ striving for accuracy.’  The author shows the main character making a lot of mistakes and having someone fine tune her every movement.

August 30, 2009 at 8:39 am 1 comment

56. What Joe Saw by Anna Grossnickle Hines

what joe sawRetell: Joe is always lagging behind the class.  His teacher and his classmates are always telling him to hurry up.  It’s not until a classmate stops to tie his shoes that he realizes why Joe keeps falling behind.

Topics: school, field trips, discovery, curiosity

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

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference

Writing Skills: using repetition, dialogue

My Thoughts: The main character in this book reminds me of my sweetheart.  When we’re on route somewhere he always stops to smell the flowers on butterfly bushes or picks fruit from trees.  If I’m in a hurry it can be frustrating at first, but most of the time it’s worth it to be a few minutes late.  I appreciate how he makes me slow down and notice the world around me.  What Joe Saw is a good book to read when you want your class to discuss the importance of paying attention to small details.  However, you may not want to read this book to your class just before going on a field trip.  It may be good to read during an interpretation unit.  I can imagine having interesting discussions about the  individual vs. the group.

August 22, 2009 at 2:57 am Leave a comment

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.

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

46. Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards by Serge Bloch

butterflies in my stomach and other school hazardsRetell: It’s the first day of school and the narrator is nervous.  Each person he encounters speaks in confusing idioms.

Topics: first day of school, idioms, school

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Realistic Fiction

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment

My Thoughts: It’s well into August and that means that my mind is beginning to think more and more about the first weeks of school.  I’m on the hunt for engaging books to start the year out well.  I found this cute book a few days ago during a visit to Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon.  Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards not only makes for a good read aloud on the first day of school, but it is also great for introducing idioms.  On each page the main character encounters a person who says an idiom.  Each idiom is illustrated literally.  For example, when his teacher said “he was all ears,” the illustration shows the teacher with giant ears.  If you didn’t want to read this book aloud in one sitting, you could read a page or two each day as a warm-up activity.  You could keep a chart of idioms that the class learns each day.

August 12, 2009 at 12:45 am 1 comment

39. Mama Loves Me From Away by Pat Brisson

mama loves me from awayRetell: Sugar and her mama share the same birthday.  Sugar enjoys listening to her mother’s stories.  She especially misses them now that her mother is in prison.  Her mother finds a way to share her stories even from far away.

Topics: mothers, families, prison, stories, birthdays

Units of Study: Social Issues, Personal Narratives, Realistic Fiction

Tribes: attentive listening

Reading Skills: interpretation, questioning, empathy

Writing Skills: writing with a balance of description and reflection, keeping a writers notebook

My Thoughts: This is a moving story about a girl who is dealing with the fact that her mother is imprisoned.  There aren’t many published stories like this in the world.  It’s a great model to use when you teach your students to write about stories you wish belonged in the world–the ones that show aspects of your life or struggles you are going through.  The author never reveals what the mother did to land her in prison which I think is a nice touch.  The book isn’t about the mother, but about how much her daughter misses her.

August 4, 2009 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

35. One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

one green appleRetell: One Green Apple is the story of Farah, a Muslim immigrant, who struggles to fit in.  Despite the language barrier she manages to make friends and participate during the field trip to the apple orchard.

Topics: immigration, language barrier, dupatta, field trips, friendship, Muslim characters

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

Tribes: mutual respect, right to pass

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference, empathy

Writing Skills: including metaphors, using sensory details

My Thoughts: I wish I knew about this book last year.  I had two students who recently came from China.  Other students were having difficulty communicating with them.  They got frustrated when the Chinese students didn’t understand their rapid speech.  The Chinese students got frustrated when people spoke too loud to them and ‘dumbed material down’.  I intend to use this book to address language issues.  In the story Farah thinks to herself, “I understand.  It’s not that I am stupid.  It is just that I am lost in this new place.”  I can see using this book as a mentor text for teaching about metaphors.  You could discuss Eve Bunting’s decision to make Farah choose a green apple rather than a red apple like the others.

July 31, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

33. The A+ Custodian by Louise Borden

the a+ custodianRetell: John Carillo is the custodian for Dublin Elementary School.  Everyone in the school thinks he is a great custodian.  A few students decide to find a way to appreciate all his hard work.

Topics: custodians, school, hard work,

Units of Study: personal essay, realistic fiction

Tribes: personal best, appreciations/no put-downs, mutual respect

Reading Skills: inference, envsionment

Writing Skills: incorporating tight lists, elaboration, including sensory details

My Thoughts: This is a fabulous book to take out when you feel the class needs to take more responsiblity picking up after themselves.  The A+ Custodian reminds me that I should take more time thoughout the year to appreciate the janitors and custodians at my school.  I love how the author emphasizes how much Mr. Carillo loves and is proud of the students of Dublin Elementary School.  I plan to use this book when collecting ideas for personal essays.  The text is a great example of the strategy, “Writers think of a person in their life and jot down ideas about him/her.”  In fact the author’s note at the beginning itself makes a good mentor text for personal essay.

July 29, 2009 at 4:06 pm Leave a comment

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