Friday, August 30, 2019

Poetry Friday -- Play

©Amy LV, 2011

Today many (all?) of the classrooms at my school are participating in a Global School Play Day. It's very simple, but most every simple thing turns out to be incredibly powerful. Here are the rules:
  • No Screens: Students are encouraged to bring toys, but electronic toys or any devices with screens should be avoided.
  • No Structure: Adults should not attempt to organize or structure student play in any way.
  • Stay Out of the Way: Adults should let students manage their own play and should not interfere except in situations where someone could get hurt or fired.
Because we're doing this so early in the year, I will be explicit about this being a time when the class, who named themselves Ohahna (the Hawaiian word for family is ohana), can become even more of a family by making sure every member of our family is included and welcomed. We will learn so much about each other, about ourselves, and about our community. I can't wait!

Kathryn Apel has the Poetry Friday roundup this week. Looking ahead, please note that Cheriee and Carol V. have switched roundup weeks (September 27 and October 4).  Our sidebar is updated, as is the schedule at KidLitosphere Central.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Spencer's New Pet

Spencer's New Pet
by Jessie Sima
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, August 27, 2019
review copy compliments of the publisher

You will love this book.

Start with the dust jacket (front, back, and brilliantly written blurb on the front flap), then check out the covers. They are the best kind, with a simple drawing that connects across the spine.

Notice the old-time cinematic look with the countdown to the title page. The story is told in three parts, and the tension and drama build until...SURPRISE!

After you recover from the surprise, you will want to go back and reread the whole book, looking for clues and foreshadowing all the way through. Now look back at the covers. Who IS Spencer?

Have fun watching readers' faces when you share this book. I wish I could see yours. You'll love it!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Poetry Friday -- Inspiration

Because #DearOneLBH was such an inspiration to so many:

From the blog Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

Amy LV has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at The Poem Farm.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Moon

The 50th anniversary of the first moon landing has come and gone, but these books need a belated spotlight.

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11
by Brian Floca
Review copy compliments of Richard Jackson Books, 2019

The Kirkus review for this revised 2019 edition:
“A fresh, expanded edition of Floca’s top-drawer tribute to the first moon landing, which won a Sibert honor in 2010. New here is an early nod to the “thousands of people” who worked behind the scenes to make the mission a success... and a much-enlarged account of Apollo 11’s return flight to Earth. Both include new art: For the first, a set of vignettes clearly depicts women and people of color playing prominent roles (including a recognizable Katherine Johnson), and for the second, the 2009 original’s two pages grow to eight, climaxed by a close-up of the command module Columbia’s furious, fiery re-entry. The narrative... remains as stately and dramatic as ever.... Minor changes in other illustrations and added or clarified details in the text add further life and luster to a soaring commemoration of our space program’s most spectacular achievement. This is the rare revised edition that adds enough new material to demand purchase. Still essential reading, more so than ever for being broader in scope and more balanced of presentation than the original.”
I can't wait to share the story of how Brian Floca revised this book to be more inclusive!

Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon
by Suzanne Slade
illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Peachtree Publishing Company, 2018

This gorgeously illustrated nonfiction long-form picture-book-in-verse begins with the dream of space travel and the loss of President John F. Kennedy. Then comes Apollo 1 and the loss of the first three Apollo astronauts. Apollo 2 is grounded and plans for Apollo 3 cancelled. Apollos 4-6 are unmanned and have mixed successes. Apollo 7 takes men into space successfully. Apollo 8 flies around to the far side of the moon and back. Apollo 9 astronauts are the first to walk in space. Apollo 10 scouts a landing spot on the moon. Finally, Apollo 11 achieves the dream of men on the moon.

At the end of each chapter is more information about each of the astronauts and photographs from the mission.

This would make a fabulous read aloud (text in verse AND nonfiction) and pairs nicely with Moonshot.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Dog Man

Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls
by Dav Pilkey

(My review from GoodReads)

Yes, yes I did. I made my students wait for this book until I had a chance to read it. Because I know after we start passing it from reader to reader I might not see it again until November. And I'm just going to say to the graphic novel haters and those who can't stand the fact that their kids/students read Dog Man books over and over one. Better yet, read the whole series. These books are so good that they are WORTH reading again and again!

Dav Pilkey is a superhero. Who else is writing books for reluctant readers that quote Ernest Hemingway (page 50, panels 2 and 3...see the notes in the back of the book). Who else is creating chapter titles with allusions to great literature? (A Farewell to Arms and The Very Hangry Caterpillar were two of my favorites.) Who else is stretching readers with sentences like this tucked in the midst of sight gags, bad puns, and a superhero whose superpower is eating cupcakes: "As the soft, pink dusk of twilight blankets the vigilant soul heeds the sounds of despair...and bravely responds. Masked in the deep shadows of the surrounding sun...and armed only with an unquenchable appetite...for cupcakes." And who else is making important themes so clear: "It's not enough to just BE GOOD. We gotta DO GOOD." "Love is something you DO! Sometimes you gotta DO it first...THEN you feel it!" "And (to paraphrase one of the plot lines), you can look at the world and see mud and weeds and pollution (and all the other problems) and believe that's all there is, or you can look at the world and find all the love and beauty. "This world has a lot of problems...but it could never be a horrible place...because you're in it."

I tagged this book 

Yup. Check out all those tags. The "adhd" tag is kind of a joke. Haven't you noticed the name of the robot? 80-HD? Also, Dog Man undergoes behavior modification therapy in chapter 2 to help him focus. It backfires.

Read this book. Read this series. That is all.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Poetry Friday -- Trees



The hawks are whistling.
Every morning I listen,
wonder, imagine.

The nest, constructed
in a pignut hickory,
is hidden and safe.


Hawks in the city
remind us we are not far
from the wild. Ever.

Are they as aware
of me as I am of them?
I capture moments:

Whistling and screeing,
piercing dives through tree branches,
perching on our fence.


Every hope broken --
hickory falls in the storm.
Hawk home is destroyed.

Morning after. Sun.
Mournful hawks call tree to tree,
"Our babies...lost...gone."

I hear, on day two...
three hawks! Three means one survived!
Next day I see four!


Listen -- can you hear
hawks in your neighborhood trees?
Listen with your heart.

Wonder -- they survive:
paramount in the food chain,
tree top predators.

Imagine -- next year
another nest, another success...
perhaps in your oak.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2012

This "hawku" poem is about hawks. But it couldn't be about hawks if there weren't big trees in our part of the city, as well as plentiful chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, and possums. So much depends on the natural order of food chains and food webs, plants and animals, birds and insects, clean air and clean water. Let's care for and speak for our tiny corners of the planet. In this way, like a quilt, maybe we can keep the whole thing stitched together. Maybe.

Christie has this week's #fortheloveoftrees - themed Poetry Friday roundup at Wondering and Wandering.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Environmental Activism

Here are four picture books that are just right for comparing and contrasting. Pair these with the Global Climate Strike September 20-27 so that your students can write their own version of this story.

The Promise
by Nicola Davies
illustrated by Laura Carlin
Candlewick Press, 2017

The speaker, who lives in "a city that was mean and hard and ugly," snatches an old lady's bag one dark night. Before the old lady lets go of the bag, she makes the speaker promise they will "plant them."

The promise is kept and the city is transformed. Many transformed cities later, the speaker is mugged, another bag of seeds is stolen, and another promise is extracted.

Don't miss the endpapers on this one!

The Last Tree
by Ingrid Chabbert
illustrated by Guridi
English translation by Kids Can Press, 2017

A boy has heard stories from his father about grass and trees, but he lives in a city where neither exist. He and a friend discover the last tree...and then they find out that condominiums will be built where it is growing. They dig the tree up and replant it where it will be safe.

Another book with great endpapers.

The Digger and the Flower
by Joseph Kuefler
Balzer + Bray, 2018

Little Digger watches the big machines doing their big construction work. But when they threaten to destroy the last flower in the city, Little Digger takes action and saves the flower, which thrives and spreads.

The Green Giant
by Katie Cottle
review copy compliments of Pavilion Children's, 2019

A little girl is staying with her grandpa in the country. In the greenhouse next door, she meets the green giant, who has escaped from the grey city. When she has to leave, the giant gives the girl a handful of seeds, which she plants when she returns. The city is transformed. Perhaps the giant will return some day.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Poetry Friday -- In Mourning

photo via Unsplash

From In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
to let it go.

We have had to let go of two more luminaries of poetry this week. I imagine the Poetry Friday roundup will be a somber place as we remember Toni Morrison and Lee Bennett Hopkins. Molly Hogan has the roundup this week at Nix the Comfort Zone. Ironically perfect.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Room on our Rock

Room on our Rock
by Kate and Jol Temple
illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
Kane Miller Books, 2019

This picture book is a reverso, but a story, not a poem. Read it front to back and feel your heart sink. Then read it back to front and feel your heart soar.

Read from the front, one group of seals refuses to let another group onto their rock. Read the other direction, the first group of seals would never turn another group away.

You can see the implications for classroom discussions about current events/immigration policies and about point of view -- the book's subtitle is "There are two sides to every story."

This is an amazing book. I watched a friend read it today. The look on her face when the magic was revealed was priceless. I can't wait for you to read it, too.

A note from the publisher about purchasing this (or any other Kane Miller or Usborne books):

In 2012. our CEO/Company President made the decision that, in order to support independent booksellers and local communities, we would cease the sale of either Kane Miller or Usborne titles to Amazon. Now any of our titles sold on the site are through third-party vendors, charging whatever they wish. 
Our books are available to order from independent bookstores, including Barnes & Nobles and Indiebound. In addition, consumers/educators/schools/libraries may order through any of the 35,000+ nationwide independent sales consultants of our direct sales decision, Usborne Books & More or online at I’m happy to say that sales of our titles have increased dramatically in the years since this decision was made.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Poetry Friday -- Definitos

Unsplash photo by Torsten Dederichs

You Just Don't Get It

Befuddled and muddled
your noggin's confused

puzzled and troubled
you're coming unglued

mixed up and perplexed
you've been aggravated

your head is unscrewed, you're

©Mary Lee Hahn

This poem is a Definito, "a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem." (Hmm...I seem to have missed the bit about "free verse." Oh, well. We'll write off my rhymes as meeting the "wordplay" requirement. What good is a rule if it's not bent now and then?) I chose "addlepated" because it was the word of the day for July 29 on my Merriam Webster dictionary app. And it's fun to say, even if it's NOT fun to feel that way!

Heidi, at my juicy little universe, is the inventor of this form and our Poetry Friday Roundup hostess this week. She and her Sunday Poetry Peeps, the Poetry Swaggers, are playing with this form and Heidi invited me to join in since I tried her 2009 challenge with "Phlebotomist."

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Classroom Resource: Wordless News (and metaphors found in art)

Wordless News. If you don't subscribe and use this resource in your classroom, now's the time to start. Creator Maria Fabrizio has been away for a few months, busy with a newborn and a toddler, but she's back with an image at least once a week.

The images she creates are perfect for "notice and wonder." I noticed that the shadow was actually hands, and I wondered about the lines, but I didn't notice one key thing about the lines until I read the related article. I hadn't heard about this interactive art installation, so when I read the article, I had a huge WOW! moment. I'm saving this one to share with my students even though it will be old news in a couple of weeks. I want to open their eyes/minds to art as a response to current and historical events.

Earlier this week, at the Columbus Museum of Art, I saw this installation and had another WOW! moment:

What looked like a huge barrel balanced on a rope took on layers of deep meaning when I read the explanation outside the room:

We study the indigenous people of the Americas, including the effects of colonialism. So this image will be a great starting point for those studies, and another example of the way art can help us to think about our world.