Saturday, July 31, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books #s 41-37

Well, hello end of July!  I can't believe how quickly you sneaked up on us!!  Yet again, let me share with you my thinking about summer and how it is really like one long weekend.  June is like Friday.  You're tired, you've worked a long day (month) and it's finally time to really relax and unwind.  This can go one of two ways.  You either a) fall asleep at 9 p.m. or b) rage like a lunatic, stay out until 3 a.m. and wake up with a raging hang over.  July is Saturday.  You feel like there is so much time left in the weekend...the possibilities seem endless and Sunday (aka August) seem impossibly far away. So does your To Do List. And then wham!  August is like Sunday.  Your To Do List which has remained untouched all summer and is suddenly taunting you from it's magnetized place on your fridge.  You feel like it's all gone by so quickly and you may even have the Sunday Night Blues about it all coming to an end.  Monday (aka September) is looming large and in charge.

Have I gone and killed your summer buzz?


Let's try to get our mind of things with some picture books!  Nothing like a trip to Barnsey...

At number 41 is The Relatives Came  by Cynthia Rylant.  I also like to refer to Ms. Rylant as Ms. Fabulous because I love her books.  Hence the Caldecott for this one.  (Have you READ The Old Lady Who Named Things???)

The Relatives Came (Click on the images for links and hold on to your debit cards!!)

I love this book.  A family sets out on a loooong drive to visit their relatives for the summer. Cynthia Rylant does such a rad job telling us about the drive, that you can almost feel it.  (Fab place for a little text-to-self connecting if you ask me.)  Then when the relatives finally get together there is hugging, and eating, laughing and sleeping, fixing and picnicking.  Until it's time for them to go home and dream about the next summer.

I always used this book in my classroom.  Best suited for friends in kindergarten through second grades (in my opinion), this book is totally perfect for a unit on family.  I used it again when we did our Cynthia Rylant author study too.  Also, the illustrations are gorgeous...I say, slam dunk, Ms. Rylant.

#40 is an oldie but a goodie that I remember from my childhood book shelf.  It's Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel [MIKE MULLIGAN & HIS STEAM SHOV]

Again, the theme of unlikely friendships is one of my faves and this book so hits that nail on the head.  I mean, we're talking a dude and a steam shovel...I say that qualifies as unlikely.  Anyhow, Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne are hot diggers.  They can dig anything for anyone. UNTIL...bigger and more efficient digging machines come along making Mary Anne and Mike a bit obsolete.  So they travel to a small town and offer to dig the basement of the town hall in one day or it's free.  With the whole town watching, Mike and Mary Anne rock it, but forget to leave a way to get out of the hole.  A boy suggests they build the town hall around them and let Mary Anne be the furnace and Mike the janitor and that's exactly what happens.

This story is such a classic.  It would totally fit in with a theme on friendship and loyalty.  But, I do think it's also nice to save some stories for pure enjoyment and this one would be a great choice for that as well. 

#39 is another one of my faves...finally a group of books and I am familiar with all of them!  See, I told you I had an obsession!  #39 is The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood.  (Also the authors of The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear  - which made an earlier appearance on this list - and one of my other faves, Silly Sally .)  I had this in big book form and it was pretty rad in addition to being a fan favorite.

The Napping House

Everyone in this house is taking a nap.  (Sounds kind of nice, right?)  There's the snoring granny, a dreaming child, a dozing dog, a snoozing cat and...a wakeful flea.  Obvi, the flea is the issue...there's a bite and everyone is suddenly awake and out of bed!  Funny and with a wonderful accumulating text, this book is fantastic to share with your small fry friends.  Plus, I love all the different ways of saying "sleeping" - it makes for the perfect opportunity to create a mini word wall of synonyms or to discuss ways to spice up your writing with word choice (with older friends that is). 

Friends.  I have to share with you a personal tale of nerd-dom when it comes to book #38.  I think we have reached the point in our relationship where I can make myself vulnerable and let you in on a nerdy little secret from nerdiness past.

#38 is Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion.  And I love this book.

Harry the Dirty Dog

Harry, a white dog with black spots who may be the cutest dog ever drawn, loves everything except for baths, so he buries his brush in the backyard and runs away.  He then proceeds to play in some very dirty locales, quickly becoming a black dog with white spots.  Concerned that his family is worried, he runs home.  Needless to say, they don't recognize him.  So, Harry has no choice but to dig up the scrubbing brush and run with it up to the bathtub. The children give him a bath and realize it's Harry.  He's so happy to be home that he falls asleep on his doggy bed and doesn't even feel the scrubbing brush he's already hidden underneath.

A cute dog AND a happy ending?!  Does it get any better?  Okay, so maybe this book isn't changing lives, but it is a childhood fave of mine and is an adorable story to share with your friends.  As I have said many times before, there is definitely a time and a place to just enjoy a story with your friends and forget about higher order thinking skills, comprehension and text-to-self connections for just a moment. (But you didn't hear that from me!)

Finally, at #37 is Eloise is Kay Thompson.

Eloise's What I Absolutely Love Love Love (Kay Thompson's Eloise)

I mean, is this girl the original Fabulous Girl or what?  Fancy Nancy from the 50s? 

Eloise is a from (evidently) a very wealthy family who lives in the Plaza in New York City.  She spends her days playing in the lobby, on the elevators and in her apartment with her dolls, dog and nanny.  Basically, girlfriend spends her day hopping all over the hotel getting into EVERYTHING.  However, Eloise rarely sees her parents and is home schooled by a tutor, which makes me feel a bit sad for her.  There isn't another child in the book...just the adults at the Plaza, her nanny and her tutor.  Although she doesn't seem to mind a bit and feels as if her days are super busy and filled with fun. 

While I enjoy this book, I'm not sure about it's connections to your goings on in the classroom.  I guess it would totes work as emergency sub read aloud...and those always come in handy.  Or for those surprise extra ten minutes at the end of the day.  Or if you're trying to get your friends to think about how their everyday lives can easily be turned into a story, this book could do the trick!

That's it for this weekend lov-ahs!  Enjoy the end of your July!!!


Friday, July 30, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Novel #88

These days, my free time is not only infrequent, it is a precious commodity.  Clearly, when said free time commences, I run to my To Do List and try to cross off as much as possible.  Um, yeah, someone needs to learn how to relax.  *cough* Organizational Freak! *cough* 

While I may not be the picture of zen, I have learned to add relaxing activities to my list.  The bonus there is I get to do something I enjoy (Hello pedicure!) and then...THEN, I get to cross it off my list.  Cha-ching! 

A constant on my list is "read the next chapter in ______ (insert children's novel and/or semi trashy magazine and/or book about baby sleep here)."  'Cuz in my world, no matter how busy a girl is, she needs to make time to read!  *cough* Nerd alert! *cough*

Sadly friends, novel #88 made it hard to cross this off my list.  After my colossal fail with Swallows and Amazons, I have become more determined than ever to give each of these books a chance.  Following the sage advice I received from many of you, I vowed to give each book at least 50 pages.  (Originally I was thinking of giving each books 100 pages to catch my attention, but honestly?  That's a serious time commitment for someone with a serious lack of free time.) 

In my many years as a nerdy-nerds-a-lot-lover-of-books on this planet, I have rarely come across books that I struggle to finish. 


What I'm trying to say is....I didn't make it through novel #88.  I gave it the old school try...and just no.

Before we continue, novel #88 is The High King by Lloyd Alexander.

The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain)  (Click for a link but hold on to your credit cards!)

And now I shall commence defending myself. 

First of all, within the first three three paragraphs of this book, like fifty ho-jillion characters were introduced.  And they all have these crazy old-timey names like Taran and Gordick or whatever.  Basically, I needed a family tree or a road map or a side tutorial to follow this puppy and on two hours of sleep?  No.  Just no.  Mama is not that smart.  Or motivated. 

I gave it 25 pages....25 long name filled pages.  Then I re-read the synopsis on the inside back cover.  Story about good versus evil?  Battles?  Love?  Sounds good, right?

25 pages later.  I still have no idea who anyone is, what they are doing and when the battles start. 

So, my internet friends and colleagues, tell me.  What is the draw to this book?  Should I suck it up for another 50?  (By the by, totally already started book #87 and am loving it, so the idea of me jumping back in with The High Kings?  Unlikely.)

Another week, another book.  Next time we're checking out novel #87 The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg.  (And I'm loving it!)

Enjoy your weekends! 


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pay It Forward: Get Some Good Karma Going With Elmer's and the Peeps Over At Adopt A Classroom

I know a lot of you are knee deep in a cocktail pool right now and really don't want to think about that time of year that rhymes with Shmack To Bool buuuuuuut, this is for a good cause so I know you'll forgive me.

You see, Elmer's glue is sponsoring a promotion to donate a crap load of money to Adopt a Classroom. And we bloggers can help by spreading the word while also donating a virtual bag of supplies to our peeps. By following the rules I'm posting below, $10 was donated to the cause just like that! You should tote get in on the action.

Word on the street is you can also help by shopping for Back To School supplies at Walmart- buy a few extra while you're there and donate them to educators in schools that are less fortunate. I know the Benjamins are tight for all of us these days, but I think even a package of extra Sharpies or a set of dry erase markers could make a deserving teacher's day. It's called paying it forward people.

I plan on hitting Walmart later this week (when Mr. Mimi can chill with the Mini at home for me) and donating some of the following oh-so-drool-worthy supplies. Enjoy the eye candy and then scroll down to see how you can help too!

 *sigh*  And that will just be the beginning of my basket.  Thanks Crafty Mom of 4 for letting me in on the good karma. 

In an effort to spread the love, I'm going to send a virtual bag of school supplies to:

Look At My Happy Rainbow

(I'd send a bag to all of you, but honestly?  My brain is fried from all the linking and photos and cutting and pasting.  Plus, Mini Mimi is about to wake from her late afternoon slumber!)

But you can join in too:

Help Elmer’s Help Adopt-A-Classroom

Helping classrooms in need this back to school season is as easy as 1 – 2 – 3
1.  Write a post about this charity blog meme
2. Send a virtual bag of school supplies to another blogger and challenge them to join the #bagitforward movement
3. Link up your post at
Easy peasy! Elmer’s just donated $10 for your post to Adopt-A-Classroom!
Here are the details of the program

Elmer’s will donate up to $10,000 to Adopt-A-Classroom with your participation. Join now!

The Elmer’s Virtual Bag It Forward is charity blog meme, bloggers are able to raise $10 per blog post for Adopt-A-Classroom by writing a blog post and donating a virtual bag of school supplies . Elmer’s will donate $10 per each post written to Adopt-A-Classroom, up to $10,000.

HOW CAN YOU JOIN? It’s easy.

  • Participate in the Elmer’s Virtual Bag It Forward and by giving away a virtual bag of school supplies and creating a blog post with specific rules described below.
  • Elmer’s will donate up to $10,000 to Adopt-A-Classroom.
  • You can give as many virtual bags as you want.
  • The Elmer’s Virtual Bag It Forward will officially begin at 12 AM EST on July 22, 2010 and end at 12 PM EST on August 12, 2010. Blog posts submitted to us before or after that time period will not be counted.
  • The blog post link has to be submitted in the comment section below for your participation to be counted.
  • In addition copy and paste the following text into your blog post:


  • Copy and paste these rules into your blog post.
  • Create a blog post giving a “virtual bag of school supplies” to other bloggers or write about your Back to School shopping trip at Walmart.
  • Link back to the person who gave you a bag of school supplies.
  • Let each person you are giving a virtual bag of school supplies know you have given them a bag.
  • Leave your link in the Elmer’s Virtual Bag It Forward comment section. You can also find the official rules of this virtual #bagitforward program there.
  • Elmer’s is donating $10 for each blog participating in the Virtual Bag It Forward Donation to Adopt-A-Classroom (up to total of $10,000 for blog posts written by August 12, 2010).
  • Please note that only one blog post per blog url will count towards the donation.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What Came First??

Alternative title for this post: Teachers Behaving Badly

I'm not sure whether it's better to be the chicken or the egg in this little scenario.  You see, I've been thinking a lot about professionalism, or rather UNprofessionalism.

If we're real with ourselves, we know we've seen other teachers acting unprofessionally.  So not Super Colleague behavior, but it's out there.  (And sometimes, from time to time, on those very frustrating days when we've had it up to here with test after test after lost prep after administrative demand after inside recess after canceled field trip...wait?  What was I saying? Oh, right...sometimes, on rare occasions, we may find ourselves acting unprofessionally too.)

HOWEVER (and this is a big however), we also know that teachers are frequently treated like unprofessional idiots.  I mean, how many times have I felt like I'm being treated as if I'm the same age as the students that I teach?  How often have I worried about "getting in trouble" if I am behind in my data collection?  How regularly did I feel as if I was being spoken down to or that my professional opinion was of little consequence?


That's how much.

Let's take a look at a few examples, shall we?

How about that spring when everyone from administrators to the school nurse were hell bent on effing with my flow?

Or the time that some individuals FELL ASLEEP during a demo lesson?

Or all the teeth sucking?  The eye rolling?  The dodging of responsibility?  The stealing of extra rolls during school-sponsored lunches?

And while it is easy for Mrs. Mimi to point fingers (It's the way of my people.), I know that from time to time, I myself have acted unprofessionally.  I know.  Take a moment to gather yourself.  It's true.

Remember this little tidbit for example?  The time when The Bacon Hunter essentially tried to break into my personal teacher stash of genius-ness in search of a binder full of mathematical wonder created by my team of Super Colleagues while I was absent and there was a substitute?  Yes, you read correctly.  Girlfriend took advantage of a substitute teacher in order to ransack through my things so that she could get her bacon grease covered paws on a collection of original work that I had (in all my unprofessionalism) refused to share with her?  Within this one little vignette, I can spot three instances where maybe I should have changed my ways to be more professional:
1.  Maybe I shouldn't have refused to share information that would only benefit children.  (But, in my defense, sister friend did virtually NOTHING to make my job easier or improve the learning opportunities for children and WOULD TOTALLY misuse, mistreat, and misplace our hard work.)
2.  Maybe I shouldn't have held my hand up in her face while she was talking.  (But again, in my defense, sometimes enough is enough!)
3.  Maybe I shouldn't have semi-interrogated my students about what went on in my absence.  (Here comes my defense again...but maybe she should have been smart enough to poke around when no one was looking.)

So yes, we all act unprofessionally from time to time.  And we can all probably defend our actions.  After all, (although we are sick, sick people who LOVE them) schools can be extremely political and infuriating places...

Here's the thing.  Is this behavior something we resort to (Some of us more than others...douche bags, I'm looking at YOU!) because we are inherently unprofessional people OR (and this is a big "or") are we acting this way because we are continuously treated poorly? Not to be all "poor us" but many times are we dismissed, told what to do and not considered?  How many times is our expertise overlooked?  How many times have we been told to "just do our jobs"?

How many of us have to be fired for no good reason?  How many numbers need to be compiled to prove that we are worth our salt?  How many ass hats have to mock our summer vacations?  I mean after all that ALL THAT, can you really blame us when we snap every once in awhile and throw out an eye roll or engage in a heated gossip session?

So what do YOU think?  What came first??

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Are YOU Fired Up About the DC Firings???

What to say, what to say....

I guess when it comes to firing teachers, I've had a little something to say before.  Remember the Rhode Island teacher massacre?  Mrs. Mimi got herself all worked up over that one.  If you don't remember, feel free to click here, here, aaaannnnndddd here.

As firing teachers is the latest rage amongst individuals trying to come off as Saviors of Education, Michelle Rhee decided to jump on the bandwagon and fire 241 Washington DC teachers, which is somewhere between 5 and 6% of the total teaching force.

I mean, it's like these people just don't GET IT!  Perhaps if they would take a moment and just listen to something other than the sound of their own voices...


I will try to stay calm.

Note I said "try".  I can not make any promises.

Should our education system tolerate inadequate and ineffective teachers?  Um, no.  (Duh.)  As a teacher I could barely tolerate inadequate and ineffective teachers...they make the jobs of rockstar teachers that much harder and do NOTHING to improve the educational outcomes for children.  In fact, I'm sure some of them are subtracting opportunities and knowledge from children, but that's just a hunch.

Should teachers be held to high standards as professionals?  Of course they should.  We are not idiots, and we can handle high standards as we are professional individuals who not only work hard to do our best everyday in our classrooms but actively seek out ways to improve our practice.

Should all of us be treated like morons because a few of us blow?  Should we be subjected to checklists of discrete skills that masquerade as the only markers of good teaching?  Should we work in fear that someone is going to catch us *gasp* spending an extra ten minutes on our science lesson, thus rendering us task OFF time and, as a result and according to many Checklists of Effectiveness, INeffective?

Can I get a big old "hells no" up in here?!

Some of the teachers fired in DC did not have the correct paperwork and credentials.  Fair enough.  Their bad.  Some of the teachers fired in DC probably were less than adequate.  Fair enough.  However, I take issue with the system of evaluation (IMPACT) which utilizes both "value added" (buzz word alert!) test score data and classroom observation.

I will leave the discussion of "value added-ness" to my colleagues out there who enjoy discussing and tearing apart numbers (Skoolboy, care to weigh in??) and will now focus on the reliability of classroom observations.

Now I know I am only a sample of one, but in my experience, observations have been canceled at the last minute, scheduled at the last minute, absently watched and blatantly hi-jacked.  Let's see, there was the time that my administrator suggested that I post a chart that she was sitting in front of at the time.  (Way to go powers of observation!)  Then there was the time I was told, "Let's just skip it all together.  You're fine."  Or the time when my suggestions for follow up were cut and pasted out of another colleague's observation report, AND considering we taught different grades and were observed in different subjects, were less than relevant or helpful.  Ooo!  How about the time I begged for feedback on my teaching and was told, "No."

Can we please base my salary and job security on that? 'Cuz it seems like fun.  Like a big old carnival game or something.  But more rigged and with no stuffed prize at the end.

Perhaps the folks who developed the system of observations in DC had good intentions.  I mean, they DID think to incorporate master teachers to conduct two of the five evaluations in an effort to alleviate the potential bias of an angry administrator.  Yet, they also expect teachers to demonstrate 22 different teaching elements in 30 minutes.  Again, I'm no math wizard, but essentially that means one needs to demonstrate a new skill roughly every second-ish.

Well that sounds like it would lead to a coherent lesson focused on the students!

(There I go again with that destructive sarcasm!)

What teacher in her right mind can focus on her students when she has to keep all 22 elements at the front of her mind in order to ensure that she jumps through all 22 hoops in a timely fashion?  Even a master teacher who inherently incorporates these 22 elements into her work naturally would be hard pressed to make sure that someone would be able to actively observe and identify each of them in a 30 minute period of time!

Dog and pony show, say whaaaaa?

And who is the genius that identified these 22 elements?  There are only 22?  Seriously?  Maybe this job is easier than I thought...

*cough, cough* bullshit!  *cough cough*

Sorry, I had a little hypocrisy stuck in my throat.  I was just wondering how effective the Powers That Be would be if we gave them 30 minutes to demonstrate their full range of effectiveness in what must be a highly complex job?

Ready, set, GO!

(P.S. Technically, I'm on a bit of a blogger maternity leave, so Powers That Be?  Could you try not to screw things up anymore while I'm away?  Thanks and big hugs!)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books # 46-42

We have cleared the half way point!  Cleared it!  Are you still with me or do these posts pop up, you roll your eyes and wonder when I'm just going to let it go?  Either way, I committed to reading and reviewing the Top 100 Picture Books.

Today, starting us off at #46 is Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt.  Not that we should encourage our little friends to judge a book by it's cover, but this is a pretty freaking cute cover.

Scaredy Squirrel (Click on the images for links and hold on to your credit cards!)

Scaredy Squirrel is scared of everything and would prefer to stay in his same old nut tree and stick to his daily predictable schedule.  However, one day when a killer bee startles Scaredy Squirrel, he drops his emergency kit and leaps to catch it as it falls out of his tree.  And he discovers that he...can...(wait for it)!  Suddenly he forgets about all his fears and changes his ways to incorporate some time away from his tree experiencing the world around him.

So, Scaredy Squirrel SO reminds me of one of my closest friends who also was a homebody (complete with schedule and a kit for any situation...labeled of course) who has had to fly from her nest.  She has done it with grace and amazing resilience, making new friends and realizing how strong we all knew she always was.  I know, super personal connection, but it makes me love this book even more and there's nothing wrong with a good old text-to-self connection, is there?

This is a super cute book though, that your first and second grade friends would love. It's a quick read with a fantastic new message about being brave and trying new things.  And couldn't we ALL use a lesson like that from time to time??

At #45 is one of everyone's faves...The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.  (Caldecott alert!)  I loved this book and, although I rarely do, I also loved the movie. As soon as Mini Mimi is old enough, I see this becoming a holiday viewing tradition.  (Clearly, she will be introduced to the book first though.)

The Polar Express

Do I really even need to summarize this Caldecott award winning holiday favorite?  I'm going to go with no, I don't.  (Nor do I need to make these posts any longer than they already are.)  While I don't know where you stand on the issue of reading holiday classics in your classroom...I mean, there is some mention of the Claus in here...but if you do it, do this book.  Or show the movie.  I know it's like a big secret, but c'mon, everyone loves to pop in the old DVD right before Winter Break, right?    

Hold onto your cannolis because #44 is my all-time fave Italian friend Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola.  I mean, I do a pretty mean accent during this oh-so-dramatic read aloud.  I love every single book in the Strega Nona series.  Every. Single. One.  Run, do not walk, to your local Barnsey and buy this, love this, and work this read aloud!

Strega Nona

Strega Nona is a witch, but not a pointy black hat wearing witch, an Italian witch in a rural village who helps the local people with aches, pains, warts and baldness.  You know, the usual.  She takes in a well-meaning but not so smart farm hand, Big Anthony, to help her around the house.  He overhears her talking to her magic pasta pot one night and...while Strega Nona is away, decides to show everyone in the village that he isn't so dumb and make some magic happen (with the pot of course.)  He decides to make pasta for everyone but...since he didn't watch the magic ritual carefully...he can't make the pasta stop and soon it overtakes the village. Strega Nona comes home to discover the mess and, after stopping the pasta, decides that Big Anthony needs to be punished.  Cut to him eating all that pasta...As a fan of logical consequences, I totally want to high five Strega Nona every time I read this. 

Besides winning and Caldecott and generally rocking pretty hardcore, this book has a fantastic story that will totally hold the attention of your friends.  It's a longer read aloud (more pages and more text on each page), so that is important.  I always used this book during our Tomie dePaola author study - which I held off until later in the school year because of the length of many of his books.  Although, these books (there's a bunch of Strega Nona stories) work well if you chop them up over a number of days too.  In addition to making a rockin' character study, I also used Strega Nona and Big Anthony as character studies in my classroom.  Basically, I am a woman obsessed.  Join me.

At #43 is Tuesday by David Wiesner.  (Mr. Wiesner in all his fabulousness has already appeared at #58 on this list with the Caldecott award winning Flotsam  and again at #54 with The Three Pigs - another Caldecott winner.  Talk about rockstar.)  This book is new to me and I'm pretty pumped to check it out.


I am totally digging this book.  TOTALLY!  First of all, the illustrations are gorgeous with a capital AMAZING!  And although there is almost no text (really just specific times of day are given), the story is phenomenal.  One Tuesday night a bazillion frogs fly into a little town on lily people's windows, through their laundry, over houses until they all leap off and away in the morning leaving only mysterious lily pads behind.  Then the NEXT Tuesday, we see the shadow of a flying pig...

SAY WHA?! What a great opportunity to do some oral story telling or even some shared writing with your class.  I think this book could work with such a wide range of grade levels - from sparking the imaginations of our littlest of small fries to encouraging some really creative shared story writing from our older friends (second, third, fourth graders...).  I'm sold.

And, last but certainly not least, is the very classic Curious George by H.A. Rey. Year after year, my friends LOVED these books.  LOVED.  They think George is hilarious and in first grade (or even in kindergarten) he makes a fab character study.

The Complete Adventures of Curious George, Anniversary Edition

I know most of you are pretty familiar with the Curious George stories, so I'll spare you the lengthy summary.  Just know that this is the one where The Man with the Big Yellow Hat gets George from Africa and brings him home.  Some of the shenanigans he gets himself into include calling the fire department (when there is no fire), escaping from his subsequent jail time and floating high over the city while hanging on to a bunch of balloons.

I mean, this story comes in at a level G (according to this leveled book list which utilizes Fountas and Pinnell's philosophy of leveling books) which makes it totally perf for first grade independent reading.  Or as a guided reading text.  It's up to you.  Also, as a set of read alouds, the Curious George series makes for a nice easy starting point to encouraging your friends to make connections or look for patterns across texts. 

All right, my friends and fellow nerds in loving picture books with all our hearts, I think it might just be cocktail time.  Don't forget the sunscreen!


Friday, July 23, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Novel #89

How fitting that novel number 89 tackles the topic of family and parenthood?  (Because I am also tackling said issues...along with sleeplessness and weight loss.) (It's a real party over here.)  (Actually, I'm kind of loving the whole thing, but complaining is kind of my shtick.)

I read this novel in about two days. Again, being sleep deprived and basically without any reliable amounts of free time, that's really saying something.  So I say three cheers for Beverly Cleary.

Girlfriend is the author of novel #89 on our list of Top 100 Children's novels (which I poached from the school library journal blog), Ramona and Her Father.

Ramona and Her Father 

See that bright shiny Newberry award? Yet another sign that this is a fab choice of read aloud or independent book (It's a Level O) for your friends.  

In this book, Ramona's father loses his job (A timely topic.) which causes his family to be under a bit of a financial strain.  Throughout the story, Ramona is frustrated with her parents anxiety and irritability, wondering if there is a way that she could make a million dollars by starring in a TV commercial.  She goes through the usual Ramona antics - getting a crown of burrs stuck in her hair, getting into fights with Beezus (Seriously, Beezus?  This is the nickname you pick when your name is Beatrice??)  In the end though, her family proves to be a strong one and things work out for the best.

I appreciate Beverly Cleary's ability to create an honest portrait of a family - not too sing-songy-everything-is-wonderful-and-the-rest-of-us-want-to-punch-you-and-your-overly-positive-attitude-in-the-face and not too trying-to-be-sarcastic-in-that-way-that-makes-you-think-their-children-were-actually-an-accident.  Basically, she strikes a very realistic note that rings true despite that fact that this book was originally published in 1975.  I think your friends will totes relate to Ramona. Plus, it gives you an excuse to take a class field trip to the movies when Ramona and Beezus comes out.  Cha-ching, am I right?

Speaking of honest portrayal of families and fathers?  I saw some dude at the grocery store essentially letting his children run amok in the produce aisle.  Um, sir?  A word to the wise?  Nobody wants your children's germ encrusted hands poking at their $6.99/lb cherries.  Take a page from Ramona's father's book and reign your children in.  However, I did relish the fairly rare opportunity to shoot a teacher look that could fry ice across the aisle, causing your children to stop dead in their tracks and slowly withdraw their paws from the avocado display. 

And on that note, I'll send you off for your Friday cocktails and cheese platters.  Next week, we're onto novel #88, The High King  The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain)by Lloyd Alexander.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books #51 - #47

Can you say, "Half-way point?"  Woot! Woot!  Thanks for sticking with me, but I can't take responsibility for your Barnsey/Amazon bill.  However, I can totes empathize.  I've been there before.  Many times.

If you have your coffee and your fave list making pen already, let's not waste any more time.

At #51 is Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg.  I have seen the movie, but never read this book before.  I KNOW!  To me, that is like a crime - I ALWAYS read the book first.  It's another Caldecott, which makes me feel even worse about not reading it before.

Jumanji  (Click on the images for the til you drop!)

So, you guys know the story, right?  Kids find spooky board game, kids play spooky board game, board game comes to life in the form of all sorts of jungle animals, kids finish game, throw it out the window and get everything back to normal just in time for their parents to return home with their guests.  In the end, they see two other children running away with the game...

This is a MUCH LESS scary version.  Fabulous for our friends in grades 1-3, in my opinion.  At times, that movie was downright scary.  In the book, things don't get quite so out of control, nor do other adults get involved.  It's really a very creative story with absolutely beautiful black and white illustrations.  BEAUTIFUL!  If your friends are brave enough, you could totes Venn diagram the book versus the movie.  (And who isn't tempted to just throw in a movie on those days right before a vacation or summer break?)  Or, this is another great text to have on hand for those extra few minutes OR a last minute substitute. 

Get ready for back to back Caldecotts, friends!  Number 50 is Black and White by David Macaulay.

Black and White

Um, wow.  I feel a little speechless right now. Talk about a creative text!!  So each page has four sections which could tell four different stories or all be part of the same story, depending on how you look at it.  Let's see, there's a boy coming home to his parents on the train, some commuters waiting for a train at the station, a set of fairly odd parents and a robber with a bunch of cows.   (Yes, I said cows.  You read correctly.) Careful inspection of the pictures reveals aspects of each of these stories present in the other...and really, you HAVE to study those pictures and really think about what's going on.  Basically, impossible to summarize since it is so dependent on how you look at the story each time.  I say...get this one for your class.  It will be fascinating to get their take on the story/stories.  I'm thinking at least grade two for this one.  I think your friends need to be a bit more sophisticated in their ability to interpret and comprehend a text to really dig into this one.  I would totally go all the way up to fourth or even fifth grade with this one too...but that's just me...I love using pictures books with the older guys too.

Next, at #49 is King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood (who is also the author of The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear  which I reviewed over here.) Another new title for Mrs. Mimi (and her bank account!)

King Bidgood's In The Bathtub

First off, it's a Caldecott and you know I'm partial to those!  And it is a pretty cute story.  So there's this king who refuses to get out of the bathtub.  The page appeals to the people to help him and one by one, some of them try to encourage the king to get out.  They try serving lunch, holding a dance, going fishing, but the king decides that all of these things can be done from the tub, so FAIL.  At the end of the day, the page gives up and simply pulls the plug.

This book is great for a number of reasons.  First, it has a lovely predictable piece to it that would make for a great read aloud with the younger friends.  You could make it super fun on repeated readings.  Second, the illustrations are lovely.  Third, it's kind of funny - or at least I think your kiddos will think it is.  And no worries, while you will get a few giggles, the whole "being naked in the bathtub" thing is a non-issue.  (Although when the king jumps out and is wrapped in a towel at the end, I can totally picture some of my naughty boys losing it, but hey...that is usually just par for the course.)

Ooooooo!  Get excited, people!!  At #48 is another one of Mrs. Mimi's all time favoritest of faves!!  It's The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater!!!  In this fabulous little book you've got a lesson about being your own person combined with endless possibilities for wonderful art projects!!  Be still my Banrsey-loving heart!

The Big Orange Splot

Mr. Plumbean lives on a street where all the houses are the same, and that's how people like it.  Until one day when a seagull carrying orange paint (just go with it) drops a big orange splot on Mr. P's house.  His neighbors want him to fix it right away but instead of making his house look the same again, Mr. Plumbean paints his house with all sorts of colors, and adds a few palm trees, a hammock and an alligator.  He says it looks like all his dreams.  One by one the neighbors try to convince Mr. Plumbean to make his house look like all of theirs again and one by one, each of the neighbors ends up changing their house to look like their dreams.  There's a boat house, a hot air balloon house and a palace house.  And that's just the way the people on Mr. Plumbean's street like it.

Cut to my friends drawing huge pieces of art showing the houses of their dreams.  Fab sub assignment or fab Friday-afternoon-this-is-all-I-can-handle-today assignment.  LOVE IT. Plus, the added bonus of having a lesson about being an individual and following your dreams.  Cha-freaking-ching, people.

To wrap up our list for this morning, we've got a newly minted classic among the little friends.  #47 is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff.  I have this one in big book form and it's a fave with my friends during partnered reading.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (If You Give...)

I think this is another book that doesn't really need a huge summary - it's pretty up there on the popularity scale.  Basically, a boy has a mouse who asks for a cookie, but then...asking for one thing leads to another and another and another until, at the end, you're right back where you started.  (And I imagine, the little boy is totally pooped.)

I used to use the big book version of this text to work on various reading strategies with my first grade friends such as using the first sound(s) and the picture, and/or listening to see if your reading looks right, sounds right and makes sense to name a few.

That's it for now fellow book lov-ahs.  We're mid-July and mid-list!  Hope you're loving both!


Friday, July 16, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Novel #90

Okay people, this one is a good one.  A real good one.  So good, in fact, that Mrs. Mimi read the entire thing in about 30 minutes after a late night feeding of Mini Mimi. 

I mean, if that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.  I'll let you know when they call me to do a commercial. 

Number 90 is Sarah, Plain and Tall  by Patricia MacLachlan.   Can you say Newberry Winner??  What, what!

Sarah, Plain and Tall

This book is fantastic. Classic, fantastic and a great read aloud!  I wish I had read it aloud to my second grade friends because they would have loved it!  The chapters are short enough, the story engaging enough and the language basic enough for friends of all ages to get into it.

Do I really need to summarize this one?  I will, because, honestly, while I have heard of this one and am sure I read it as a child, I totally forgot the story line.  Plus, I don't want to get all elitist book-snob on your asses. Not cool, not cool.

So, there is a family of three, a dad and two kids.  The mom died in childbirth having the youngest but no worries, that is not really a part of the story.  Just necessary background.  One day, the dad writes a letter to a newspaper asking for a wife. 

Okay.  Let us pause for a moment. This story takes place a long time ago and evidently such actions did not result in a barrage of sex fiends and other crazies.  I do have to admit, however, that I did stop to picture what this sort of request, most likely posted on Craigslist or something, would sound like.  It wasn't pretty, people.

Anyhow, a lovely woman named Sarah replies and joins the family.  The rest of the story is about Sarah getting to know the dad and two children.  They are nervous that she will be too homesick and want to go back to her own family in Maine, but ultimately they form a new sort of family.  Seriously, it's a very sweet story.  And, perhaps best of all...Sarah, the main character is a strong independent woman who is not stereotypical of the times.  I know I've said it before, but I loves me a strong female character.  I say Sarah definitely deserves a cape. 

I mean, we're talking I read this bad boy at like 3 a.m.  THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING!  How bad can it be?

So, at 3:00a.m. this morning, picture me working on novel number 89.  If you want to read along (I suggest you do it at more rational hours), next up is Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary.

Monday, July 12, 2010

And I Die.

I understand that this is a blog about education and teaching.  (You know, cuz I started the blog and all.)  And while from time to time I do drop little tid bits about my life, I tend to spare you all the details of living with an overweight cat.  I mean, do you really want to spend your time reading about how many pictures I took when the cat decided to FINALLY acknowledge that Mini Mimi was a permanent fixture in this family and laid down next to her, prompting me to tear up, grab the camera and fire away? 

I didn't think so.

HOWEVER, this is too fabulous not to share. 

(Note:  Before you read the following, I am in NO WAY advocating for peeps to send Mini Mimi gifts.  That would be tacky with a capital Holy Crap That's Inappropriate!) 

One of my lovely readers also happens to be the parent of one of Mr. Mimi's childhood friends.  (Did ya follow all that?)  The other day we received a box with two wrapped gifts.  The first box package contained the most gorgeous sweater and hat. (Both hand knit...I mean, COME ON!  I think of myself as pretty fabulous, but people who can knit stuff like that take fabulous to a whole new level.)   We were ooohing and ahhhing over these items as I opened the other package.   And then, silence.

Because I saw THESE:


I think that deserves a "Shut the front door!"

My first thought:  These are amazing.
My second thought:  I HAVE to share these on my blog.

Now, before you get all you-are-going-to-permanently-ruin-her-development on me, relax.  These are FAUX high heels.  As in, the heel part is stuffed and clearly these shoes were not made for walkin'.  They were made for photo opportunities and my own personal enjoyment...both of which these shoes will bring me many times over.  Although I love all things high heeled, Mini Mimi will not be allowed to don the real thing for a long long LOOOOOONNNNGGG time (with the occasional exception of shuffling along in mommy's from time to time).

Thank you so much, dear reader, you made my day.

(Also making my day is my internet BFF over at Notes From the School Psychologist who sent Mini Mimi a hand knit blanket and (obvi) some books to rock her developmental world.  I have a sneaking suspicion that she knit said blanket herself which makes me think that there is NOTHING she can't do.)  ( I am feeling inadequate next to but very lucky to have such crafty and thoughtful people in my life.)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books # 56- #52

We are almost at the halfway point people!  And it's not too late to join in the fun...check out the list I'm using of the Top 100 Picture Books.  It's pretty hot.  Could be a rockin' thing to do with that sum-sum-summertime stretched out before you.  (Of course, if you decide to, I don't know, do something for YOURSELF, I totally get that deserve it!  Get a pedicure!  Watch bad TV!  Work in your garden!  Have a cocktail before noon!)

That being said, at #56 we have my wonderful friend Leo Lionni with Frederick  and his Caldecott award.  I know I freaked out when Swimmy made an appearance earlier on the list, but it was well deserved.  Lionni = fan-freaking-tastic.

Frederick and His Friends: Four Favorite Fables (Treasured Gifts for the Holidays) (I'm including a link to a group of four fabulous fables since the link for Frederick as an individual text says it costs $38 or something insane like that.  I mean, I may loves me some Leo Lionni, but $38 for a paperback?  I don't think so...)

 Frederick is a rather eccentric mouse.  While all the other mice are busy gathering supplies for the winter, Frederick is gathering colors, sunshine and words.  That winter, after the mice have eaten their way through all their supplies and are feeling cold, they turn to Frederick and ask him about all the things he had been gathering.  He has the other mice close their eyes as he leads them in imagining all the colors, sunshine and words of summer, which makes everyone feel better.

I mean, at first you may think this book is going the way of the Little Red Hen or The Ant and The Grasshopper, but really, Frederick was doing some important work for his fellow mice.  In my opinion, he helps us remember that a creative spirit and beauty are just as important as all the things we typically think of in terms of survival.  (Mrs. Mimi is getting deep, y'all.)  This is a fun one to discuss with your friends - see what they think Frederick is trying to teach us.  You may be surprised with the wisdom that pops out. 

And as #55 we have the uber-classic The Little Engine That Could by Watty P
iper. This book has been around longer than I have and I'm fairly certain we all at least know this story, even if we've never actually read the book.

The Little Engine That Could mini

A train filled with fabulous toys and delicious food for a bunch of boys and girls gets stalled before it reaches it's final destinations.  The toys plead with various train engines that are passing by, but each engine is too important, too busy or too selfish to bother helping. Finally, a little engine comes along and although she is afraid she isn't small enough, she tries to help.  She chugs along saying, "I think I can, I think I can..." and clearly, saves the day.

A timeless story about helping others which totes reminds me of the Little Red Hen but with less grains of wheat and more train.  This would make a lovely read aloud for your kindergarten friends, but probably couldn't hold the attention of friends who are much older.

Okay.  #54, here we come!  It's The Three Pigs by David Wiesner.  (This author totally won me over with Flotsam, so I'm pumped to see his take on the classic pigs.  Plus, so far on this list, boyfriend is two for two in the Caldecott department.)

The Three Pigs

I mean, NO WONDER this guy has a ton of Caldecott awards lining his shelf!  Can you say genius?  The book starts off as a traditional story of the three little pigs, but then...OH THEN!  The wolf, during all his huffing and puffing, blows the pigs right out of the story! And then they fold the pages up  into a paper airplane and fly away.  (I am NOT making this up.  I swear.)  They then proceed to walk in and out of various other fairy tales where they befriend a dragon and a rabbit.  They end up all going back to the pig's brick house, and enjoying a lovely dinner together, safe from the wolf.

Talk about fabulous.  Talk about creative.  Talk about...I mean, just talk about this one!  I feel like every elementary school teacher everywhere does the fairy tale comparison thing at one time or another and this book would be perf to compare and contrast a variety of Three Little Pig stories.  What a way to put a spin on a classic.  I think I'm developing a legitimate crush on this guy.  Watch out!

At #53 is The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.   Yet another new picture book for Mrs. Mimi!
The Snowman (Step-Into-Reading, Step 1)

Spoiler alert!  This book has no words!  (Did she say, "no words?") Yes, she did!  This book has no words.  It is told entirely through illustrations.  (Reminding me of my beloved Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola...sigh.)  In a nutshell, a little boy builds a snowman.  The next day, he invites the snowman into his house to play (and the snowman discovers all sorts of things like stoves, fridges, and balloons).  Then, the snowman and the boy go out for a drive (evidently he is older than 16), have some dinner together before having a flying adventure.  Very planes, trains and automobiles. In the end, the snowman delivers the boy home safely, they say good bye and the next morning, the snowman is gone.

I say, use this book with friends PreK through grade 2.  Easy!  For our mini-friends, this book would be a great opportunity to tell a story through pictures and learn the importance of illustrations.  You could even use the pictures to generate a hot little shared writing to get their story writing ability flowing!  For our first and second grade friends, this book would be great to practice some oral story telling, to inspire a shared writing OR to practice coming up with related dialogue, rich descriptions of action OR even the setting.  TALK ABOUT ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES!!!  Sometimes saying less totally is saying more.

(A lesson which is tough for those wordy folk like yours truly...)

And, to close out our Saturday O Picture Book Fun, we have Miss Nelson is Missing by James Marshall at #52.  I mean, who hasn't  read this book?!

Miss Nelson Is Missing!

I'll sum this one up briefly - since I am fairly certain this one isn't new for most of you.  Miss Nelson can not control her class (Girlfriend is far too sweet.) but one day, she is absent and Miss Viola Swamp is a won't-take-anyone's-crap kind of sub.  (A woman after my own heart.)  The kids are whipped into shape and begin to miss Miss Nelson  (and realizing they have been taking her fabulous self for granted...).  They worry that she'll never come back.  But, she does and the kids are so appreciative that they never misbehave again.  At the end, we're left wondering if Miss Nelson and Miss Swamp are really one in the same...

I mean, don't we all have an inner Miss Nelson and an inner Miss Swamp?  Let's be honest with ourselves...we SO do.  Usually, the one who showed up in my classroom on any given day could be directly related to, if not predicted by, the amount of coffee I had had that morning.

Reading this book to friends who have never seen it before is A-MAZ-ING!  I mean, the looks on their faces when they think they have the whole thing figured out is priceless!  Sadly, if you teach second grade on up, they've probably already heard it, but they still love it the second (third?) time too.  
So, totally fab read aloud for your class...great to get a good debate going!!  Debate if you think they are both the same lady, debate which teacher you think is a better teacher, debate your faces off!  This puppy would also make a good independent/guided reading text for your friends.  According to this fabulous Leveled Book List, Miss Nelson is a level L.  Totally perf for your smarty first graders, on target second graders or need-some-support third graders.  But, then again, you know your kids better than I do.

Are your Barnsey shopping lists getting as long as mine?  I hope so...I mean, it's a given that we're all going to end up sinking our hard earned dollars into our own might as well be on books!!


Who's Peeking?