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.