Picture Book a Day

Just in case you missed it as you have perused Flamingos and Butterflies, I am a bit of a book junkie. Yes, we may be in need of an intervention, but we won't mention it to my husband. (No worries of him reading it here since his eyes glaze over for most any discussion involving "teacher, book, or blog." ;) And although I am not a book snob (like some people I know, cough cough, Sarah) and I enjoy just about any book you put in my hands, I am particularly fond of picture books.

I have made an effort to share one of my many favorite picture books each day for a year. The use of the word effort is very generous in this instance because at this point I seem to only make it online every two days or so. I work hard to compensate on these days by sharing more than one. What is funny is that I am already at the point of wondering which books I have shared and which books I haven't.  Is that I sign of old age? Probably, but that is yet another story all together.

This page will be a place where I can pull out the books I share for easy reference. To see any anchors or related information for each text, simply click on the date. :)

Happy Reading!

8/9/12 #1

I made a serious mistake when I read this book to my class the first time. I had picked it up in a bargain bin at Books-A-Million because I loved the author/illustrator team, Sarah Stewart and David Small, and it reminded me so much of their Caldecott Honor book The Gardener. My mistake came in that I had picked up so many books that day that I did not actually read The Friend until I read it in front of my class. It was such a sweet rhyming book that I was almost in tears reading it. My kiddos were looking up at me with big eyes, but I just couldn't stop.  When I finally made it to the last page, I turned to the back cover and saw a note from the author. That was enough to put it at the very top of my favorites list! Now I look forward, even though my eyes still water, to reading this every year when I launch writing workshop. It is such a moving story and demonstration of WHY writers write!

The Friend

"To all the people across the world who have saved the lives of children by paying attention when others did not - but especially to Ola Beatrice Smith" - Sarah Stewart

We spend a lot of time looking at the illustrations and sharing the text. Lots of discussion happens regarding how writers share their own story, and because this story moves me as much as it does, we spend just as much time talking about how wonderful writers can move us. I could not imagine launching writing workshop without sharing this book!

8/10/12 #2

It is my firm belief that as I continue to share through this blog, the more apparent it will be that, yes, I am a bit on the crazy side when it comes to picture books (well, probably most books, but we will stick with picture books for now.) I do believe my friends are ready to have an intervention - I have heard the whispers lol.... I only say this because when I brought this book to school, I stopped anyone that got near me just to share! (I think I even hunted down a few that were afraid to get near, giggle.) I LOVE Berkeley Breathed, and you will see his books often here.

The first time I read Mars Needs Moms!, it is always just for fun, but we always go back and revisit it to learn from the amazing word choice. In this story, Milo is more than just a little upset with his mother and cannot see what makes mothers so special. Some of Milo's thoughts regarding mothers in general: "they were giant, summer-stealing, child-working perfumy garden goblins ...bellowing broccoli bullies...slave-driving, trash-mashing, rubbish odor ogres..." How can you NOT love that?! Now if you can manage to see past your "writer's eyes" and the beautiful language of the text, the story itself is beyond precious and opens itself to much inferring. Many great discussions revolve around this story each year!

Berkeley Breathed is such an amazing illustrator!

8/11/12 #3

This time of year I always have plans rolling around in my head ~ even on lazy days! Thinking of the first day with my new fourth graders, I decided on today's picture book, Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt. 

My goal every year is to create a fun and safe place to learn, a place where every student is comfortable enough to step out into the unknown - something that cute little Scaredy Squirrel is just too afraid to do.

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watts
This is always a student favorite (a teacher favorite too, but they all are it seems lol.) There is something silly and lighthearted about Scaredy Squirrel and his minute by minute schedule and list of fears. My kiddos are eager to find out if Scaredy will make it out of his tree. We refer back to Scaredy often as we talk about taking risks and being comfortable with our choices. Scaredy becomes our poster child for stepping outside our comfort zone and trying new things.

8/13/12 #4-5

This first book I love just for the fun of it! A Splendid Friend, Indeed by Suzanne Bloom is light on words but full of amazing character, patience, and friendship. Reading it usually draws sweet giggles and laughter and tons of encores when I finish it. I usually have to revisit it throughout the year because my kiddos love it so much. This little book is great for reminding kids that many inferences can be pulled from the illustrations. Because much has to be inferred, the expression and fluency with which you read this story makes all the difference in the world, and trust me, I get all the mileage that I can out of that!
As a parent of three boys, this next one is pretty high up on my favorites list. It also doesn't hurt that I am a huge fan of Will Smith. In this book, Just the Two of Us, he is inspired by the 1981 hit song; however, instead of being a song or book about a couple, he has remade it to be a song about his relationship with his son. This book is beautifully illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 

When I share this story with my students, I will often play the song and flip the pages with the music, and I will share the whole story before we stop and discuss exactly why I might be sharing it with them. This is usually pretty early in my launch of writing workshop when we are sharing why writers write and where they sometimes get their ideas. I share that good writers are often inspired by other writers and that when Will Smith heard this song he must have been inspired by it and the thought of his son. We also touch on text structure and audience here a bit as well. 

Just the Two of Us by Will Smith
One of my favorite parts of this book is that not only is this a story inspired by his son, but it is also dedicated to his parents. I love finding a book with a message or a note from the author. Every year I read his message as well as the story, and every year I find it just as touching as the year before. After sharing the book, I will often play the video so that students can see the relationship between father and son and how it may have inspired him. This lesson is usually a big hit, and I send students off to write, singing and smiling!

8/19/12 #6-8

The Tin Forest by Helen Ward, beautifully illustrated by Wayne Anderson, opens the conversation about what does it mean to have a dream and even more important what does it mean to work for a dream! We are going to spend the week sharing and discussing our hopes and dreams and setting positive commitments to each other to help us achieve them. 

All right now, this next picture book, well you don't have to tell me just how silly it is - I know! But I just cannot help myself! I share it even if it is just to create a fun and common vocabulary regarding coming to carpet. Instead of asking students to join me and to sit on their bottoms or criss-cross applesause, I can ask them to park their "chicken cheeks" or their "kangaroo keisters" or, my favorite, their "platypus gluteus maximus." Fun and silly and not much else ~ but hey, sometimes we need a light hearted moment to giggle and just have fun with a book!


Not sure if sharing one more book will get me caught up on my goal to share one picture book a day, but hopefully, it gets me close!

This next book was one of the awesome finds I found in our annual junk pile at school! Again, not sure who decided to clean their bookshelves, but I am a huge fan! 

Can you believe this beauty was almost tossed out - ugh? I look forward to sharing this with my lovely readers and writers! It seems that poetry is lost on our students as they get older; something that makes  me very sad. I love the illustrations in this book and one of the last poems caught my eye:

Just look at that title: Instructions for Growing Poetry...I love it! Just goes to show you, you never know where you might find a wonderful book! 

8/20/12 #9-10

I also read another fun favorite of mine, Bark, George by Jules Feiffer. This is another of my just "put a smile" on their face stories. Even though we giggled along with it today, we will come back and revisit this when we talk about different kinds of endings in our own writing. This was a surprise ending for the kiddos, and it cracks me up to see those gaping smiles every time. 

The first time I heard this story was when I listened to author Michael Shoulders speak. Mr. Shoulders is author of many alphabet books including N is for the Natural State. If he could get up and read that in front of a room full of teachers missing a day of their summer and make us giggle, well, I knew my fourth graders would love it as much!

As we continue to build a safe place to grow and learn from each other, this book is a MUST! The fact that it is illustrated by David Catrow only helps. I love anything illustrated by Mr. Catrow and usually will buy it without even reading it. There are a few of his that I will share early on, but let's start with Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell.

I feel like I say, "This is such a sweet story," so often, but this is really a sweet story! Not sure of how many other ways to say it. Molly Lou Melon is a precious character who is not afraid to be just that, her very own character. In our room it is perfectly fine to be different; that is what makes us special, and we will revel our differences and use them to help each other in every way possible! 

"Walk as proudly as you can and the world will look up to you."

8/26/12 #11-16


When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant and What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan are both beautifully illustrated examples of writers writing from what means the most to them. When thinking about why writers write, these are perfect mentor texts. 

"I love being a writer because I want to leave something here on earth to make it a better, prettier, stronger. I want to do something important in my life, and I think that adding beauty to the world with books like The Relatives Came or Waiting to Waltz or Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea really is important." ~ Cynthia Rylant

"I, myself, write to change my life, to make it come out the way I want it to. But other people write for other reasons: to see more closely what it is they are thinking about, what they may be afraid of. Sometimes writers write to solve a problem, to answer their own question. All these reasons are good reasons. And that is the most important thing I'll ever tell you. Maybe it is the most important thing you'll ever hear. Ever." ~ Patricia MacLachlan from Word After Word After Word

Have I mentioned my love of David Catrow illustrations?? Just kidding, I am sure I have rambled on about it at length, but here is another of my favorites illustrated by Catrow and written by Alan Zweibel. Our Tree Named Steve worked its way into my heart instantly! Such an adorable little story about how something as simple as the tree in our front yard can work its own way into the important moments of our life. It is the small things in life that can make the most impact in our stories. 

Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter is a fun example of writing about what you know. Funny stories can happen in the everyday moments of living. I love the language and vocabulary throughout this story, and we will revisit it often as we begin our daily pages in our writer's notebooks.

Are you starting to see a theme today? Yes, I know - I have launching writing workshop on the brain. One of my goals has always been to have my readers read like a writer! A Chair For My Mother by Vera Williams is another example of writing from what we know. In this sweet story, Rosa shares her story of working hard to earn money for a chair for her mother. The objects around us can tell a story, and here we see a families effort to recover from a fire that destroyed all of their belongings. Lots of inferring here as we see how the concern that Rosa shows for her mother. Super book for character traits as well. What everyday items create powerful memories in you?

8/28/12 #17-19

Today I read Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind by Judy Finchler. Makes me smile when kiddos exclaim she is just like me! Like Miss Malarkey, I try my best to find the perfect book for all kiddos. I wish I could say that it is always easy, but I give it my best. 


Still focusing on how each of us has a story to share, we are moving forward in our launch. My Very Own Room by Amada Irma Perez has a wonderful note from the author. After reading and discussing why she may have written her story, I share her note. Family is very important, and it is easy to see how many of our own stories can be pulled from family. I cannot say enough how precious Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is! (So if I say Mem Fox is one of my faves will that make me sound like I say that about them all?)  Such a sweet little story about how small trinkets and objects can inspire memories and stories; even more important how special friends of all ages and sizes can be, and what a wonderful stories for us to share!

8/29/12 #20-21

I want to share a fun little read aloud that was a perfect addition to our writing workshop launch as we continue to add a variety of entries in our writer's notebook. Lists are a perfect addition to any notebook. 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to do Anymore by Jenny Offill is a cute list book that starts out, "I had an idea to staple my brother's hair his pillow... I am not allowed to use the stapler anymore." Giggles EVERY time :)

Rimshots by Charles R. Smith Jr. is way up there on my list of favorites for poetry and launching writing workshop. "Reading books filled with stories and poems inspired me to write my own. The more I read, the more I wrote. And if I wasn't reading a book, I was playing a sport; I played everything, particularly basketball, and spent many afternoons on the court, perfecting my jump shot." ~ Charles R. Smith Jr. What could be more perfect to show where writers get ideas, how they write from what they know and love, and the variety of writing styles they can bring to their notebooks! Not only that, his poems are amazing! 

9/3/12 #22-27

In looking at how the small details of our life can end up as a great story, there are a number of great texts to share. Amelia's Notebook by Marissa Moss is a perfect example of everyday moments and observations creating such a personal story. I love how lighthearted and fun Amelia is even as her thoughts and ramblings fill the margins of her notebook. 


Is There Really a Human Race and Where Do Balloons Go? both by Jamie Lee Curtis and illustrated by Laura Cornell are easy examples of  how silly questions and "fierce wonderings" can trigger their own stories. I am a huge fan of this team, and I use most of there stories as mentors at one point or another. I love this clip where Jamie Lee Curtis shares how she came up with the idea for Where Do Balloons Go? and how quickly she wanted to write her story. Ideas can come to us in the craziest ways!

In the early days my writing workshop, my big push in selecting read alouds focuses on "why writers write" and "where they get their ideas." Two great books that I have not shared with you yet are My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Gray and My Rotten Red Headed Older Brother by Patricia Polacco. Mama's dancing heart is such a lyrical beautifully illustrated story that you cannot help but to love it. Rual Colon did an amazing job on the illustrations, and the language of the story is just as moving as we see a daughter's memory of her mother move through the seasons, and her life, and her story. You honestly cannot go wrong with a Polacco book. I can use just about any of her books to share digging deep and adding more of "you" to your story. 


One of our "for fun read alouds" is a fave of mine. No really, more than most haha. This playful story, Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian, starts off simple enough: "Day One I swam around my bowl. Day Two I swam around my bowl. Twice." However, before you know it Goldfish's simple life is filled with a number of challenging characters and it is more than he can handle. In the end, Goldfish learns how much he loves his new "family." I like to think of my classroom as our own little family, full of many of its own challenging um... interesting characters!

9/4/12 #28-29


Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and The Curious Garden by Peter Brown are both wonderful little examples of working hard to achieve your hopes and dreams. Not only is it important for us to verbalize our hopes and dreams or set goals, it is just as important for us to work hard for them!

9/6/12 #30-31

Yesterday, we revisited Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter.  We discussed how the character Eva had to really be observant to help her become a better writer! Sometimes it is the little things around us that can make the best story. Another great example of using observation in our writing is Twilight Comes Twice by Ralph Fletcher. LOVE, love me some Ralph Fletcher! Such an amazing writer and teacher of writing! I share so many of his ideas every year!

9/7/12 #32-33

In the next few weeks, most of the mentor texts that I share will help with sensory detail and figurative language. These small daily pages and details we add to our Writer's Notebooks will be just be one more tool to help us plan and write that amazing narrative story. Revisited throughout these few weeks will be The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter and Max's Words by Kate Banks. Both of these selections will add purposeful and detailed vocabulary to our pieces. Such fun vocab! 


9/9/12 #34-39

This next few weeks are some of my favorites in Writing Workshop. We have spent hours adding ideas to our notebooks, and now we are going to start adding some craft! I love pulling out sensory detail and figurative language. We usually have lots of fun with this, so I am excited to see how this year goes!

The Lonely Scarecrow by Tim Preston is one of my faves for sensory detail, but we will definitely revisit this sweet story when we focus on figurative language. This lonely scarecrow has such beautifully written story. I share it every year! 

Under the Silvery Moon by Colleen McKeown is another story full of sensory detail. We listen to the sounds of the night as a mother tries to sooth her little one with a lullaby. Again, purposeful language and detail are used, making this an easy choice as a mentor for sensory detail. 

I was so happy when I stumbled upon the beautifully illustrated See the Ocean by Estelle Condra.  I often use this to teach sensory detail, but in all honesty, the sensory detail is somewhat implied through the story of the little sister. So lots of inferring discussion can take place here as well. I love to share this so we open the door to all the many ways we can use sensory detail, even if we are not describing all that we can see with our "eyes."

Of course, I would not begin to teach sensory detail or figurative language without the wonderful Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. Certainly it is a teacher favorite. Every year I pull it out and students ooh and ah because they remember and love the story. As we continue sharing author's craft these next few weeks, we will be reading with our "writer's eyes." We will then be ready to add amazing sensory detail to our own writing!
Before I found The Friend, my very favorite picture book was The Farmer by Mark Ludy. Precious does not begin to describe the illustrations and moving does not touch the endearing story. Love, love the sweet farmer and all his story has to share! An excellent mentor for perseverance!

Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka has a bit of a theme to it, but my goal in using this text this week will be to help guide some of my sweet kiddos in "reading the punctuation" and help with the appropriate fluency. 
Such a fun, easy read.

9/12/12 #40-47

September 12th We Knew Everything Would Be All Right by Masterson Elementary Students and There's A Big, Beautiful World Out There by Nancy Carlson are both wonderful ways to bring such a difficult topic to the carpet. My sweet fourth graders have such a difficult time understanding this moment in our history, and each year I notice the disconnect grows. There is such a delicate balance of bringing out the sheer magnitude of this event without frightening students. I have found that both of these books open conversation in a gentle and appropriate way.

Not only do these stories open the door to relevant discussions of our history, both stories led right into our conversations of common themes in literature. I shared the author's notes in each, and we decided where they fit best.

Switching gears to something a little more lighthearted, I was glad to share my next book, another of my top faves by Berkeley Breathed! Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big is such a witty rhyming story stressing the importance of honesty. Mr. Breathed's illustrations here are just as amazing and unique as Mars Needs Moms, and the text is just as well written! His word choice is perfect! Honestly, I am usually giggling before I have completely turned the page.

So creative... love Berkeley Breathed!



Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan, It is the Wind by Ferida Wolff, Katie and the Night Noises by Jacqueline Sweeney, and Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant are full of sensory details...lots of sound descriptive words. Hello Ocean actually has small details from all of our senses, such a great mentor for sensory detail, and you can certainly never go wrong with a Rylant story! It is the Wind was a gift from my sweet daughter; she said as soon as she saw it, she thought of me. :) She couldn't be more right because it is a pretty little story with wonderful word choice. Katie and the Night Noises is just the opposite in that it reminds me of my own little Katie when she was a little girl. Such a chore to get that child to sleep. 

I Need my Monster by Amanda Noll has been another fun and silly text full of excellent word choice! Such a cute way to show just much impact the right amount of sensory detail can add to a story. LOVE this story, but love the giggles and participation in evokes even more! Poor Ethan must have a monster under his bed to help him sleep...check out the book trailer I found on YouTube.

Come on, Rain! by Karen Hesse is story easily connected to just full of sensory detail and figurative language. Most of Arkansas can make strong connections with this story last July. Just not sure we would have said it as beautifully as Karen Hesse. We will definitely be looking at this one again. 
My Brother Dan's Delicious by Stephen Layne is a fun one for the senses of taste and smell. Delectable, delicious, a mouthwatering flavor factory is how Joey tries to convince his imagined monsters that his brother would make a much more satisfying meal than him. Excellent word choice and the theme jumps out at you! Can't beat that in a mentor text!


My Father's Hands by Joanne Ryder is moving little story of a girl and her father as they work in the garden. The sensory detail expressed as she shares her feelings of safety and comfort with her father are so sweet. The Perfect Bear by Gillean Shields is much like The Velveteen Rabbit. There is something very moving in the rich illustrations, and as we see the "No Touch" bear transform into just "bear," we are moved by his transformation. The figurative language and sensory detail help show us, and the theme is usually pretty easy for the children to grasp.

Here is another perfect look at theme. I love Big Al by Andrew Clements. I am all around a huge Andrew Clements fan anyway! Big Al wants so badly to have friends and be accepted! Don't we all! This is also a perfect example of how many times a book may have more than one overall theme. Could we say that acceptance would be the most fitting, or would it be that Big Al persevered until he did exactly what it took to reach his dreams? Great story for Responsive Classroom and hopes and dreams with those kiddos that have more social hopes than academic.

This next one is just for fun! Let's Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile...I was hooked as soon as I saw the precious illustrations, but the characters won me over forever! They are too cute, and somedays, I just wish I could have a "do nothing" kind of day! This is always a favorite of my kiddos. Check out the cute little book trailer on YouTube,

Now this last book, well, it just plain ol' cracks me up! I mean you have to giggle because if you can write an entire book (very successfully mind you) about dung, well then you can write about anything. I tell my kids after they hee-haw and giggle over this one - NO Excuses, you have plenty to write about. hehe All grossness and silliness aside, the word choice in this is absolutely perfect, and I do not care if it is about dung - I LOVE it! Who Flung Dung by Ben Redlich is also packed with amazing opportunities to model expression and fluency.

9/16/12 #55-60


Of course you cannot go wrong with Crazy like a Fox A Simile Story by Lorren Leedy and I'm as Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood. Both are amusing little mentor texts packed full of simile, and they both make the concept very easy to grasp.

Yes, I know we are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we all do. I almost hate to admit that when I picked up this book I purchased it simply because of the cover and title - butterflies! Happily, it turned out to be a perfect purchase. Velma Gratch & the Way Cool Butterfly by Alan Madison. Such a easy theme to pick out and amazing word choice! Great similies...Velma with her sisters that "can sing like an angel" or "run like the devil." Lots of alliteration, too. Both sisters have "miraculous math and spectacular spelling."

Red Sings from the Treetops a Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski is full of personification, metaphor, and simile! So beautifully illustrated! I cannot say enough how wonderful this book of color poems is for sharing how magical figurative language can be in our writing.

Okay, mentioning the book Quick as a Cricket by the team of Audrey and Don Wood has made me want to share one of my all time favorite silly, little picture books. Don Wood is such a talented artist! And this next book is over the top silly but so much fun! We will of course mention the alliteration, but one of my favorite things to teach with it is story elements. I mean...we have a very clear look at character, setting, problem, and solution - a little oversimplified, but it is there in all its bare-bottom glory anyway! Help, King Bidgood's in the Bathtub and he won't get out!

A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker  is a winner of The E.B. White Read Aloud Award. Books are nominated for their universal appeal as a "terrific" book to read aloud, and this is truly a sweet read aloud! I use this often when we are talking about themes in reading. Although, we will focus much of this week on genre, from this point on with every book we share, we will most certainly discuss theme.  Here, Bear has made it very clear that NO visitors are allowed, but mouse has something else in mind. Kindness and friendship are very clear themes in this award winning read aloud.

9/19/12 #61- 69


Tuesday started with a celebration of David Catrow. Ok, well not really, but we sure enjoyed a couple of his illustrated masterpieces as we looked at onomatopoeia. (What a word that is!) Wet Dog! by Elise Broach and That's Good! That's Bad! by Margery Cuyler are packed with great sound words, better known as onomatopoeia. I did warn you that you would see much of Mr. Catrow on this blog. There is not much that I don't love about his quirky illustrations.

Mud by Mary Lyn Ray is a messy look at touch sensory detail and onomatopoeia. The gardener in me loves Mud!                        

Now, moving on to alliteration. Lots of lessons to be learned in the stories we shared for alliteration. So here I double dipped, and we of course discussed common themes in literature. Bootsie Barker Bites by Barbara Bottner and Some Smug Slug by Pamela Edwards not only showed us the power of alliteration but also that sometimes we get what we deserve. Kindness can go a long way and Bootsie Barker and Smug Slug learned a hard lesson.

Tomorrow we will be looking at metaphor! This lesson is right up there as one of my faves, but I am a broken record at this point with all my "faves."

My School's a Zoo by Stu Smith (ah-hmm, yes ~ illustrated by one Mr. David Catrow. I promise I am not a stalker.) and Misery is a Smell in Your Backpack by Harriet Ziefert are both great metaphors. Not the only great ones of course, but I enjoy them. After reading Misery is a Smell...we will create a metaphor poem of sorts, but we will have fun and think happier thoughts, looking at "Happiness is."

Just thought I would share another glaring example of cheesiness. Not sure if I should, but I just can't help myself. My friends have already rolled eyes and giggled, so why not you? As we began The Trumpet of the Swan, we started with a short biography of E.B. White which discussed his love of animals. At one point we discovered that Mr. White collected all sorts of animals including, oddly enough, polliwogs. Of course my kiddos wanted to know what a polliwog was. Please give a small guess as to who might have had the perfect picture book to answer that question...yes, I have THE perfect picture book to describe and share what a polliwog is. Polliwog by Tammy Carter Bronson. Are we knee deep in cheese yet? I think we will be when I share, trying to hold back my silly excitement, that my book is not only autographed but it has a great theme as well. Woohoo...


So would you think less of me if sometimes I share a book  just to meet MY needs in the classroom? One guess as to what my goal was with this wonderful read aloud. Hmmm...Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein turned out to be a perfect mentor text at just the exact time I needed it. You just have to love mentor texts.

9/19/12 #70- 81

In honor of National Talk Like a Pirate Day, we celebrated by reading Tough Boris by Mem Fox and then greeting each other as pirates. So fun! Arrgghh matey, I have surprisingly great pirates in my room. This book is also an amusing look at how the illustrations can play a critical role in carrying the story. Kathryn Browns illustrations really show a deeper side to Tough Boris.
We had such a blast looking at figurative language last week, and we have just a bit more to go! 


More Parts by Tedd Arnold and Who Let the Cat Out of the Bag? by the Fourth grade students of Newcastle Ave. Elementary are both an amusing look into idioms! We giggled and giggled, and then we had fun creating our own idiom masterpieces.

That pretty much wraps up the figurative language focused on last week. We have even more ahead of us though!

Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant, The Snow Speaks by Nancy White Carlstrom,  The Lonely Scarecrow by Tim Preston, and The Perfect Bear by Gillean Shields are great and perfectly seasonal examples of personification (Well, maybe all but The Snow Speaks). Because I have already read two of the four, we will be able to go back and look more closely at these texts without taking up too much time. We won't forget to revisit Red Sings from the Treetops.

The next books are a promise of outrageously fun and loud reading. I love hyperbole! You can always find tons of hyperbole in most any tall tale, but these are some of my faves!


Just look at that title: Steamboat Annie and the Thousand-Pound Catfish by Catherine Wright. I mean if that doesn't scream hyperbole, then I don't know what does! Library Lil by Suzanne Williams is another great example, and I will be excited to share my autographed copy! Yes, insert nerd giggles here! And oh how I love to pull out my country cowpoke accent for the Widdermaker by Pattie Schnetzler. Although I am not an official cowpoke of any sort, I do feel that being a southern Arkansas girl qualifies me as somewhat the expert of cowpoke accents. How loud and crazy we can be when reading hyperbole!

All of these great titles and the practice in sensory detail and figurative language are still leading us to our first narrative of the year. We will wrap up these studies soon to really start digging deep and getting ready to publish something personal to each of us. As we go through this process, I will write a personal narrative of my own to share and model. There are so very many amazing mentors in writing personal narratives. I will try to fit in a few each week that we work on our own. I will be starting with The Orange Shoes by Trinka Hakes Nobel, but I will also be using another wonderful title The Silver Swan by Michael Morpurgo. I love that this is from a young boys point of view and that it ties in so nicely to our study of The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White.
I feel as if I am rambling on and on about books, but of course, those of you that know me well, know that this is not a new trait. I have a few more to share to be caught up on some of last week's read alouds, and then I will wrap up this impossibly long post.

From our last book order, we had a few sweet little picture books that my kiddos could just not wait for me to read. Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich is beyond adorable! Zorro cracks me up in his crankiness, but what a happy little ending. Great little text to revisit theme ~ acceptance is a wonderful thing!

Now I have professed my love of Melanie Watt and Scaredy Squirrel with you. You just cannot imagine how excited my kiddos were for me to share our new Melanie Watt book. You're Finally Here! played perfectly into our use of idioms and similes this week. Don't you just love it when it works out that way. That's when I wink and say I planned it. 

9/19/12 #82- 83

One of the fun lessons in his book Mechanically Inclined refers to When I Was Little by Jamie Lee Curtis as a gentle introduction to the ever-so-lovely subordinating conjunction, and luck of all luck, wouldn't you know I already had the book. After reading the book, I display some of my own when I was little thoughts, and we discuss what we notice about the sentences. This truly is an easy bridge into complex sentences, and it is so simple that it's genius! The fun part is listening to their ideas of "when I was little." So cute, my kiddos!

Where's My Mummy? by Carolyn Crimi was one of the sweet (cheap) little finds I found on my minute hour long run into Books-a-Million. I really didn't buy it so much to read aloud, but rather just to add to my library. As soon as the kids saw it though, their begging and pleading won out, and I read it aloud. The pleasant surprise was all of the wonderful alliteration and onomatopoeia in it. So yet again, I planned that!

9/30/12 #82- 88

Just look at all of the exceptional narratives we have already shared. The Silver Swan and The Orange Shoes both made me tear up. So moving! Because we have already spent some time with these texts, bringing them back out and revisiting them will allow us to look at what makes a narrative "a narrative" without taking up to much time. This will also allow us to read and enjoy a few more selections... Sister Anne's Hands by Marybeth Lorbiecki is a sweet and touching story of acceptance, so although our main focus is looking at the narrative structure of the text, we will not miss out on the opportunity to talk about the theme of the story as well. Just about anything written by Patricia Polacco makes an excellent narrative pieces worth sharing! When Lightning Comes in a Jar is beautifully written and illustrated. I love sharing this story because of the connections we can make with Fireflies! by Julie Brinkloe, another sweet narrative that is easily connected to by most kids. In all honesty, I am sure when I pull out Polacco's narrative, most of my kiddos will be almost as familiar with it. She is such a favorite of third grade, but I can't help but to share her stories again!


As we continue to share and revisit personal narratives, we will begin planning and drafting our own. When we begin, it will be important for us to look at narrowing our topic. Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee and The Screaming Mean Machine by Joy Cowley are two of my favorite ways to do this! I tell my kids to thinks small, but write big!                    

We have done a lot of gathering seed ideas and studying author's craft, leading up to our first narratives. We should be thoroughly prepared. "Should" being the key word, lol. 

One of our fun little read alouds this week, because you always need one just for fun, was Chicken Big by Keith Graves. Great hyperbole to wrap up our figurative 0language study! The smallest chicken had us all cracking up! We made lots of fun predictions with this one, too! 
Last week was the first week for us to actually have assigned homework, so I enjoyed sharing this little beauty! Greatest Homework Excuse Book Ever by the fourth grade students of Sycolin Creek Elementary was a perfect discussion board for what it means to be responsible for your own actions. This was also an easy discussion in theme.

10/07/12 #89- 90

Just for fun we read a couple of my favorites for this time of year. Here is another David Catrow beauty! Lu and the Swamp Ghost by James Carville. My book came with a CD narrated by Mr. Carville, but honestly most of the time I cannot bring myself to use it because that would mean giving up a chance to read to my kiddos. Besides, it is so fun to try and bring out that deep down southern girl. There are a plethora of things I could teach with this, but seems like I focus on the fun of it mostly. We giggle at the illustrations and make predictions as to just who the ghost may be. After we have our fun, I do manage to go back a discuss the theme of this story, kindess and loyalty.

Now this next favorite...well, I try to start out reading it for fun, but I must say that Tony Johnson paints such a brilliant picture with words, we often slow down, really breath in, and savor the text. When I have fourth graders oohing and ahhing at how well written something is, then you know it is noticeable! How many times is it acceptable for me to say "I LOVE this story" in one post? LOL...I don't think I could go one Halloween without sharing this, and the timing of it is perfect in that students are finding all kinds of figurative language in this fun little read, The Ghost of Nicholas Greebe.

10/07/12 #91-95

While thinking about our work in writing our own narratives and our pulling apart story elements in our reading, I have pulled as many of my favorite narratives as I could. There are so many great titles and authors out there: Bunting, Lowry, Rylant, and Polacco. I really want to encourage my students as we read this week, to take a look at some of these wonderful and touching stories. I will share a few with the class as we talk about character traits and plot and then bring it back to our study of narratives.


Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnel will have my kiddos asking lots of questions as five year old Charlotte May tells the story of how she was mailed to her Grandmother with such a sweet and honest little voice. The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson is a wonderful narrative full of theme: acceptance and kindness. Both characters learn and grow watching each other from "the other side" of the fence. Just like Mailing May, this story is told with such an honest little voice; I can almost hear the little girl herself telling me her story. 

Crow Call by Lois Lowry is so perfectly illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, and Ms. Lowry left a beautiful author's note showing the significance of this story for her. This is a bit on the longer side for one mini-lesson, but it is definitely worth sharing over a couple of days. Again, I love sharing how a narrative story can pull in one small moment in time, one memory, and magnify it with such beautiful detail. 


OK, these next two are for seasonal fun! The Bones of Fred McFee by Eve Bunting and The Follower by Richard Thompson are rhythmical and repeating  and great Halloween reads. Would you think me completely over the edge if I told you that The Follower is great for reviewing prepositional phrases? Yes, I will try to find a way to fit grammar in just about anywhere, LOL.  I love them both and you just can't go wrong with a Bunting book.

10/13/12 #97-99

One of my favorite seasonal books to share is Halloween by Jerry Seinfeld. Now, I don't share this so much because I think the kiddos will have the connections, but rather, I share it because my connections are so strong that I can't help but giggle every time I share it! I love for them to see me connect so strongly to something that makes me happy. I think most of you adults out there will get it! 
How much fun is this! Reminds me of being a kid!

This next little beauty is one of my purchases from the book fair this year. Yes it is a David Catrow! I fall in love with his illustrations more with each book, and my kiddos can point out a Catrow in a heartbeat, LOL. Monster Mash is a whimsically illustrated take on an old song that just like Seinfeld's Halloween, most of us adults will have stronger connections with than my kiddos, but I love it!

Now that I have shared some seasonal fun, here is one that I cannot believe that we have not already talked about. The Best Story Ever by Eileen Spinelli was a perfect start to looking at our narrative and how we really need to write from the heart. Write what moves you! 

10/14/12 #100-102

One of my favorite picture book purchases from the book fair was Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. You already know how much I love Molly Lou! This is a great character education book and wonderful for looking at theme ~ believe in yourself and never lose your imagination!

Substitute Creacher by Chris Gall is another fun story that I cannot wait to share with my kiddos. We ordered this picture book with our first book order, but we have been so engrossed in our study of narratives, we have not had a chance to read it. This is just such a fun little read aloud with a bit of a graphic novel feel to it. My students are really loving graphic novels at the moment, so this will be right up their alley. 

You know I am all about Chris Van Allsburg! One of my seasonal favorites of his is The Widow's Broom! Great story - with even better illustrations. One of my favorite things about this author is how he leaves so many things unsaid. It is up to you to read between the lines, to infer!    

10/15/12 #103

Just one picture book for tonight, but it is perfectly fitting for the topic of letters. :) We all love to get them don't we! The Long, Long, Letter by Elizabeth Spurr and illustrated by David Catrow is a great little read for of hyperbole and alliteration. We move through the seasons as sweet, lonely Hetta waits for her letter. Love the illustrations, but if you have been visiting long, you are not surprised. ;)

10/22/12 #104- 112

First of all, it is hard to go wrong with a Bunting Book. There are just so many things I can say that I love about Ms. Eve Bunting. In The Wednesday Surprise we enjoy a sweet surprise that many students find moving. Great look at linear movement in a story and one that we will definitely revisit when we talk about surprise endings.
Another Bunting that I absolutely love is The Memory String. Again, I am starting simple and looking at the linear movement of a story from beginning to end and how the plot of the story progresses throughout. This is also a great share because of all the connections that many students have with it; lots of great reading strategies can be modeled and discussed with this one.

This next one is a masterfully illustrated story based on true events. Gabi Swiatkkowska moves Ms. Schaefer's story (told through the hawk's point of view) so beautifully. Every time I read this, the illustrations pull me right back into the hawk's treacherous journey and rescue, and the photograph and author's note at the end are right up my alley. You know I always love a good author's note! Again, we are looking at the movement from beginning to end without it necessarily being a narrative story  written in first person.

As we step lightly into our look at different structures, I am again focusing on something the kids are familiar with. When we look at circular studies, I will not have to spend to much time as most students are very comfortable with this type of structure. The great and time saving part is that we will be looking back and books we have already shared, My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Grey and The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant!


The next circle story that I will share is another Bunting beauty and absolutely perfect for this time of year! One of my favorite things about Eve Bunting is her choice of such diverse illustrators. One of my colleagues pointed out how completely different most of her books are and not because of her writing style but rather how the illustrators carry her stories. Night of the Gargoyles is illustrated by David Wiesner. Can I say another of my favorites and you still respect me, LOL? He is a master at his craft, and I have been known to purchase a book simply because it has his name on it. I cannot wait to share this fun and lyrical circle story! 

Alright, one last text structure for the night. We will be looking closely at cause/effect with another amazing (dare I say favorite?) illustrator, Steven Kellogg. Both The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble and The Day the Goose Got Loose by Reeve Lindbergh are picture perfect displays of cause and effect. Chaos ensues in both books, and kiddos giggle as we share how many times the effects multiply and yet become the next cause and each continue to build upon the other. So fun and silly! 


I just have to share one more amusing little seasonal read. I can't even tell you just what it is about Pumpkin Town! by Katie McKy that I love so much, but nonetheless, I love it! It could be Pablo Bernasconi's whimsical illustrations or the open-ended loop ending. You just know when we look at loop endings to help us with our own conclusions, this will be a revisit for sure! 

10/29/12 #113-115

Look at sweet Elmer by David McKee. He has been one of my favorite little character education reads for a while now, and this week I found a bag full of 8 more Elmer books. You know I just had to pull him down and share his sweet story. Great read for common themes in literature! I will share a pic of our new books as soon as I can. So cute!
Here is another great read for common themes in literature ~ acceptance and kindness. The Bumpy Little Pumpkin by Margery Cuyler is a sweet, little seasonal story. How boring it would be if we were all alike! Each year I am surprised by how much my kiddos enjoy it. I often wonder if they will feel to old for this story, but so far they all have enjoyed it just the same.
Now my next picture book is just for fun.  I love Tell Me a Scary Story by Carl Reiner as much as Halloween by Jerry Seinfeld. The illustrations are SO FUN! Fun as in creepy, silly Halloween fun. Love it! Students can also make some predictions with this one. I always enjoy seeing if the kiddos can pick up on the clues in the end just before Reiner spells them out for us. 

1 comment:

  1. Hello I just discovered your blog. It is terrific. You have so many of my favourite picture books on your page and so many I need to explore. I am a teacher librarian in Australia. I will add your blog to my sidebar on my blog... And thanks to you I have lots of titles to add to my library shopping list.