Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rescue In the Wild, written by Mary Faith Enyart, illustrated by David Enyart

I just finished reading what I hope is the first in a long series of Stick-Boy adventures written by former teacher, Mary Faith Enyart and illustrated by David Enyart. Entitled Rescue In the Wild, the story introduces us to 11-year-old Evan and his best friend Mace as school lets out for the summer. Evan is thrilled at the thought of the long summer days ahead, filled with exploring the vast of woods around his home next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The only dark shadow over his summer plans? School bully, "the Moose" Meckel, who seems to delight in stirring up trouble and hurting anyone or anything that gets in his way. To top it all off, Mace's dad has volunteered Evan and Mace to hang out with their new neighbor, (a girl!), who wants to tag along on their adventures. Evan is beginning to wonder if this summer will be as great as he'd hoped when things take a turn for the strange and he is "adopted" by what seems to be a magic stick. A great cast of characters, a beautiful setting, and thrilling adventure in our own back yard make for a fun read--to share as a class reading or as a read-aloud.

This first adventure is a great story to share in the classroom and an opportunity to entertain AND inform as well as celebrate with our students the wonders that are so close to us here in East Tennessee. I can see using this to reenforce literacy elements (great examples of alliteration, idioms & descriptive language), genre (fantasy versus reality), science (information about local poisonous snakes, types of rocks & how that knowledge can be used in a real-world setting), and social studies (names having meanings, community/roles within the community), figuring out word meaning based on content, and much, much more. Wow!

Be sure to take a moment to look at the author's website at for kids activities, such as coloring sheets and puzzles; teacher information, including activity sheets; information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), and more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Alpha Betti by Carlene Morton, illustrated by Margeaux Lucas

Betti is a girl with a problem. Her room is a disaster area and her mom wants it cleaned up. Sadly, stuffing everything into her closet doesn't really work out so well--making things even harder to find and mornings even more frantic. This story follows Betti through a lesson at her Media Center where she embarks on a scavenger hunt through fiction books, encyclopedias, and the unabridged dictionary. Armed with her newly found skills in alphabetizing, Betti is ready to tackle the mess in her room--and maybe more--with the help of her trusty dog, Gravy.

This story works well for me as a Library Lesson; however, I do not read the story straight through. When the story refers to the fiction section and the authors Beverly Cleary and Andrew Clements, I point out some of the titles by those authors in our own library. I also ask my students the answers to Betty's scavenger hunt questions before she finds them herself. There are several opportunities for reinforcing other lessons, including the use of contractions,compound words, possessives, and different uses for quotation marks. When Betti gets an idea from her "ABC Super Hero" button, it's a good chance to ask students to predict what her idea(s) might be. After the story, I use the lesson as a jump-off point for a game that allows us to practice ABC order and leading into the Dewey Decimal system.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Runaway Bunny, written by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

This is one case where, when I first read this book, it wasn't a favorite. I probably would have given it a 3 at most b/c it just bugged me that the bunny wanted to run away. That said, I've gained a whole new appreciation for this sweet story as a multi-purpose lesson platform--AND sweet story. I piggybacked this lesson onto a previous lesson where I shared Goodnight Moon (also by the Brown and Hurd team) and Goodnight Goon (by Michael Rex). The Runaway Bunny was originally copyrighted in 1942, a full 5 years before Goodnight Moon's date of 1947. Some of what made it fun to piggyback these books was pointing out that Hurd used some images/ideas from Runaway Bunny in Goodnight Moon--and by using a document camera, it's easy to lay the two books out side by side to show that the Mama Bunny Fisherman image was duplicated as a black and white painting in the Goodnight Moon bedroom and that both books included a cow jumping over the moon. Other similarities? Both books used the black and white to color then back to black and white color pattern and in both books the bunny was wearing blue striped pajamas.

Because I shared Goodnight Moon first, many of my students were wondering if Hurd hid something in Runaway Bunny--such as the mouse he hid in the color pictures of Goodnight Moon. While he didn't hide a mouse in Runaway Bunny, Hurd's images added extra depth to Brown's words. In this sense, the book also works well for pointing out how illustrations can enhance a story when an illustrator takes the words and adds all new depth to them--e.g., the painting of mama bunny fishing for baby bunny trout--using a carrot as bait. Pausing at this picture and giving kids a chance to discover the unusual bait usually gets a giggle out of them. With the older students, I also enjoy asking them if they've heard of or seen the Van Gogh painting, Starry Night then turning to the picture that shows a snippet of what looks suspiciously like Starry Night, hanging in the Bunny home.

Funny how reading a story and discussing it 50 different times can be so eye-opening--and how it can breathe new life into what seemed to be just a simple, sweet bedtime story. The Runaway Bunny is exactly that--but it is also so very much more.

Other discussion topics? Contractions, compound words, use of quotation marks, and, when paired with Michael Rex's The Runaway Mummy, parody.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

I loved sharing this sweet bedtime story with my son when he was little and am now rediscovering it for library lessons. For the younger grades, it works well for discussing rhyming words--"'mush' is kind of like oatmeal or porridge, but does 'brush' and 'hush' rhyme with 'oatmeal'? No!" With all the grades, I'm surprised at how many students had never noticed the mouse that Clement Hurd tucked into each of the color pictures--and all of the grades--K-5--have seemed to really enjoy this mouse scavenger hunt. Do YOU see the mouse in this picture? Of course, when sharing with a group, it's a lot easier because you can project the images as you read and also zoom in.

Also take a moment to point out that Clement Hurd included a painting of a picture from Runaway Bunny. Many of our aspiring illustrators (and your friendly bookdragon!) get a huge kick out that.

With 3rd grade and up, I point out the title page and ask them to locate the copyright date--they are usually surprised that it was published in 1947--and to put it into perspective, I tell them that, not only did many of their parents but probably their grandparents grew up with this story. That's a great segue for introduction of parody and Michael Rex's "Goodnight Goon."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Star Wars--The Cookbooks

Got Star Wars fans? If you do, be sure to take a look at these cookbooks. Wookie Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes by Robin Davis, photography by Frankie Frankeny and The Star Wars Cookbook II: Darth Malt and more Galactic Recipes by Frankie Frankeny and Wesley Martin.

Both books feature recipes for breakfasts, beverages, snacks & sides, main courses and desserts. Wookie Cookies, which focuses on characters and scenes from Episodes IV-VI, features dishes such as Mos Eisley Morsels, Hoth Chocolate, Yoda Soda, Greedo's Burritos, Sandtrooper Sandies--you get the idea. Darth Malt, which focus on characters and scenes from Episodes I-III, includes dishes such as Pickle Jar Jar, Pit Droid Pizza, Hideous Sidious Sorbet, Watto-melon Cubes, Qui-Gon Jinn-ger Snaps. Each recipe is accompanied by a great photo of the dish accompanied by the action figure, strategically staged, for which the dish is named. It is a blast just to browse through the pictures and enjoy the puns (one of my favorites is the image for Han-Burgers, which shows Han Solo, perched on the Millennium Falcon, firing a ketchup gun onto a burger, with armed Storm Troopers on the other side of the burger, preparing to fire back.

So, they're fun to look at and funny to read, but are they real cookbooks? Yes! The recipes are written with ingredients and steps clearly listed. Each volume also includes a table of contents and an index. These books are rarely on the shelves at my K-5 library. They are usually checked out from the beginning of the school year till the last possible minute before summer and there is usually a waiting list. Each of the books includes a bonus--stickers in Wookie Cookies and a hard plastic template of Darth Maul's face in Darth Malt.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Books Made Into Movies--A Great List

Just a quick visit to your favorite search engine will net you several different lists of children's and YA books that have been made into movies. Heck, I've got a running list posted on the right of this blog. Tonight, I was tickled to find a list that has a lot more going for it. If you have a little free time, take a look.

So, why bother with yet another list? This one goes beyond being "just another list" because it is a collaborative work-in-progress that includes:
1. Titles of both the books and the movies (when the two differ)
2. Dates of the different movie versions (and wow! that was an eye opener!)
3. Links to more information

Just a note about wikis in general--Wikis are handy tools and great forums for allowing many people to combine their knowledge into one virtual location. That said, a few words of caution may be in order, especially if you are unfamiliar with wikis in general, or Wikipedia in particular. Wikipedia seems to be doing a nice job of labeling articles that may need more work, however, because there are often so many different contributors, there are differing degrees of detail and accuracy. Some links may take you to entries with a large amount of information, complete with references. Others may take you to entries that are little more than place holders, holding only the name of a book or movie, and waiting for some enterprising soul to fill in the gaps. In cases like these, if you find yourself wanting more information about any of the movies that are listed, you can always take at look at the Internet Movie Database, aka IMDb, at

I warn you, a visit to this list or to IMDb may lead you into a lengthy trip down memory lane. Grab some popcorn and enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

Two men walk into the rainforest, one leaving the other to begin chopping down one of the great kapok trees. The man chops at the roots of the tree but soon tires. He sits down to rest and soon falls asleep to be visited by denizens of the rainforest, whispering in his ear the many reasons why he should spare the great tree. Will he continue to chop down the tree? Would you?
If you use this story as a read-aloud, be sure to share it using a document camera to really take advantage of the amazingly detailed, beautiful picture spreads. Be sure to spend some time on the endpapers. Some of my students really got into seeing how many creatures they could find and identify on each spread, kind of like a Where's Waldo or an I Spy.
A quick search with your favorite search engine will give you lots of ideas for using this story for a wide variety of lessons--easily adaptable for a wide range of age groups. Be sure to take a moment on the author's bio blurb on the book flap and visit the author's website at

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mud Puddle by Robert Munsch

Jule Ann is a little girl with a big problem--every time she goes outside, a Mud Puddle jumps on her head! She gets mud in her ears, mud in her eyes and even mud in her nose and each time, she has to take a bath and get dressed all over again. After several baths and clothes changes, Jule Ann decides to try a new strategy--wearing a raincoat outside. To see if she's ever able to go outside without a mud puddle ambush, be sure to read this one (& don't forget the sound effects!)

(This book is available on Tumblebooks and it has been a sure-fire crowd-pleaser with my students. The kids LOVE the sound effects Robert Munsch (who reads this story on Tumblebooks) makes when he reads about cleaning out Jule's ears and nose.) If you're a fan of Robert Munsch, be sure to visit his website at You can click and drag on the book covers and see what he has to say about the book or hear him read the book out loud. Way cool.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane Derolf, illustrated by Michael Leitzig

Have you ever been teased? Made fun of because of some esoteric difference--be it clothes, hair, accent, height, weight, what you bring for lunch, being "too smart", being "dumb"? Regardless the comparison that's being used, do you remember how it made you feel? Well, this story, may just help remind us all about the Golden Rule.

The many-hued crayons in this crayon box simply do not get along--teasing, arguing, treating each other poorly--until a savvy little girl buys the box, takes it home, and uses each of the colors to draw a picture.

The final lines, combined with the changes in those oh-so-expressive crayon faces (kudos to Mr. Leitzig for this), provide a simple but powerful catalyst for thought and for discussion.

"We are a box of crayons,
Each one of us unique.
But When we get together...
The picture is complete."

Enjoy this title as a short and sweet read aloud that may just help a child realize that differences are to be celebrated--not mocked or feared. Or use your favorite search engine to explore some of the many different lesson plans out there to make this title a catalyst for discussions of the Golden Rule, prejudice, bullying and tolerance. You might be surprised at who this story may help. One of my favorite memories from last school year? The big grin from one of my very shy ESL students as she checked this title out after a wonderful student-driven discussion after we read this story. Another bonus? The book can be a great lead-in to discussing how we can determine moods and feelings based on facial expression--and seeing the expressions on crayons helped to make this story one that any student, regardless of their own personal differences, can relate to.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Books & Quilts

One of my teachers has a great project that she does each year with her students. They create a book quilt, a design made on paper with student-drawn pictures based on books they've read. Each student's book quilt reflects what they've read--for class, for fun. What a wonderful idea! Made me think of my own virtual book quilt--me. My life, made up of all the bits and pieces, new and old, books read, memories shared--and how my own book quilt is ever changing--evolving with each new book read, story told, experience. I'm no poet, but these thoughts, these pictures in my mind, led me to write the following--an attempt to explain these thoughts.

Books & Quilts--Life Design

Scraps of old favorites--
shirts, skirts, pants,
Stories shared
Memories of times past.

Bits of new-found fabrics--
colors catch the eye-
New-found treasure,
Stories to be.

Cut. Shaped. Pieced.
Beauty and comfort
Old and new
Bound together

New design,
New purpose,
Life enriched.

Piper Reed, Navy Bratt by Kimberly Willis Holt

A series I will be happy to recommend to my readers who are fans of Junie B., Amber Brown, & Judy Moody. As the story opens, Piper's mother (an artist) and the Chief(Piper's father, a Navy mechanic)announce to their 3 daughters that they will be moving from their home in California to Pensacola, Florida. As a career Navy family, this isn't the first time that the Reeds have moved, but this move hits Piper hard. The Reed home in California was their first ever that wasn't on-base and their first where Piper was able to have a tree house and her own club--The Gypsy Club. Will she be able to make new friends? A new club? Even if there is no tree house? And what about school? What if her teacher asks her to read in front of the class? Piper is dyslexic. Add to these worries the fact that her father will be leaving for a 6-month tour and you can see that Piper has a lot on her plate. But maybe, living near the home base of the Blue Angels, Piper Reed, Navy Brat, can find her new place in their new home.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

If you pick this book up expecting a "typical" zombie story (hordes of shuffling undead slogging about, losing body parts and eating brains), you'll be disappointed. This isn't that kind of zombie book. In fact, it's not really a zombie book at all. It's a YA story of teens dealing with school, family, friends and the drama and humor that can be so overwhelming under even the most "normal" of circumstances. What makes this story different is that "normal", at least in the U.S. now includes dead teens who aren't. Dead. Well, not exactly. For some reason (and theories abound), some teens in the U.S. have simply not stayed dead. They're not exactly alive, and certainly not the same as they once were, but they're walking, talking, and yes, going back to school.

This story takes the reader outside the bounds of differences based on skin color, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any of the other myriad things that often make someone a target of bigots and bullies and puts discrimination into terms of life and un-life--made real by characters who are interesting and situations (barring the whole undead thing) that most everyone can relate to on some level.

Thought-provoking, interesting, and left me wanting to know more.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mickey Moonbeam by Mike Brownlow

Mickey is excited. Quiggle is finally coming for a visit, but a distress call from his friend leads him to a nearby asteroid on a rescue mission. The problem is, when Mickey gets to the asteroid, he can't find his Quiggle anywhere. Turns out, Mickey and Quiggle have never met in person--only on video-phone. Turns out, locating his friend isn't the only problem Mickey needs to solve.

I used this book in my lesson with 2nd grade genre lesson. Lots of good synonyms for the word "big" make for a fun discussion of synonyms and antonyms. The illustrations were vivid and engaging and easy for my students to see, whether in the front row or the back row--and that counts for a lot in a read-aloud setting!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

One of my parents at school brought this to me to read. When my son saw it, he snatched it up, read it, then immediately asked for the sequel. From the first chapter, I found myself swept into Katniss' world and her struggles to survive in District 12, a Post Apocalyptic Appalachia that finds itself on the bottom of the Panem food chain. After the death of her father in the District's mines, Katniss takes on the role of provider for her tattered family. When Prim, Katniss' young sister, is selected as one of the District's "Tributes" to the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place, launching her into a world that pits twenty-four young people, two from each District, against each other in a televised to-the-death reality show designed to entertain the pampered elite of the Capitol and to keep the subjugated Districts mindful of their place in the new order of the world. Her hard-won survival skills may mean the difference between life and death for Katniss--and for those she cares about.

I absolutely cannot wait to dive into the 2nd book.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Dogku by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Tim Bowers

Written entirely in haiku, each two-page spread is graced with colorful paintings of a family who invites a stray pup into their home, and his subsequent 1st bath, naming, introduction to the kids, sadness at their leaving on the big yellow bus, subsequent boredom and ensuing mischief and finally with an edge-of-the-seat ending that leaves the reader wondering if this adorable pup has found a home or if he'll end up at the pound. SPOILER ALERT: this adorable tale has a tail-wagging good ending.

What a great way to introduce haiku! Could also be used effectively for discussions on predicting what will happen next, interpreting untold events from illustrations, and a wonderful lead-in to creative writing efforts.