Frankencrayon by Michael Hall

Schema: drama, acting out a play, crayons

The crayons were going to be in a picture book, but someone has scribbled in the book so the book has been canceled. Pencil is the narrator and the crayons encourage him to tell the reader about what happened. The book was about a mad scientist and his creation like Frankenstein. The crayons each had a part to play similar to a play. They had lines to remember. The three that made up Frankencrayon all practiced on their entrance. Suddenly the lights go out and a red scribble is seen on the next pages. It’s so horrible that the book is canceled.

This book is funny and creative. It can be used to teach drama elements, but also, it is a great example of how to care for books. The crayons try to erase the scribble by scribbling over the red, but only make more scribbles. The stage hand crayons are the ones that are trying to fix the scribbling.

The book characters find some notes taped in the book that say the book has been canceled because of the scribbling and because one of the characters is not in the story any longer. The pencil explains that he dropped the character of the mad scientist from the book because he was hard to get along with. Who could be scribbling and writing these notes in red crayon?

At the end, there’s other note. Students can conclude that the notes were written by the red crayon who was the one who was supposed to be the mad scientist.

Literary Nonfiction texts

Biographies, autobiographies, journals, memoirs, and diaries written in the form of a fictional story are part of the genre, literary nonfiction. The text should include story elements such as rising action, reaching a goal or high point and falling action. Years ago, I remember the librarians were told to update their biography sections by weeding all the biographies with dialogue that the author created to make the story seem more interesting. Now, in Texas, one of the genres on the STAAR is “Literary Nonfiction,” and we are having to hunt for elementary texts to fill this genre that are very much like the old style of biographies that were written in the form of a story. These two are new ones that might fit into this genre. Both are based on true stories. Both include author’s notes that explain more about the people the books are written about.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle
The author includes a historical note about the real Chinese-African-Cuban girl from Cuba, Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who at the age of ten-years-old, was the first female to play drums publicly in a band. Before, the drums had been an instrument only for boys.

The Book Itch Freedom, Truth, & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
This book is based on the life of Lewis Henri Michaux (1895-1976). He opened the first African-American book store in Harlem in the late 1930’s. The action in the story takes place in the 1960’s. His story not told as a true biography is a good one to use as literary nonfiction since the story has elements of a fiction story. Michaux had the grit and drive to sell books from a cart until he had enough to open a book store. The bank told him that they would loan him money for a food service business, but not for a book store because black people didn’t read. Micheaux believed knowledge is power and made his dream come true. One of his visitors to the store was Muhammad Ali. Michaux made up lots of verses and rhymes similar to the ones Ali was known for creating but they were all about reading and the power of words. Another of his visitors was Malcolm X. In the story, Malcolm X was planned to speak, and Michaux was supposed to sit right beside him. He was late and was not there when Malcolm X was shot and killed. This is a very good historical fiction picture book and a great read aloud.

Friendship

The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea: This books guides young readers in this easy reader format book on how to get along with friends. Sparkles, the horse, is not completely fond of ballet and he finds a way to tell Ballet Cat without hurting her feelings.

The Curvy Tree by Chris Colfer: A lonely girl tells the tree her troubles. A sad little girl runs to the forest to cry under a tree which turns out to be the Curvy Tree. The tree talks to her. She tells the tree that children make fun of her glasses and her curly hair. The tree then tells her his story about how other trees made fun of his curvy trunk and loopy branches. Because he was different, the wood cutters left him alone. They didn’t see the beauty in him or how he could be used to make anything. He tells her that after he grew up, he was able to see lots of other curvy trees in the forest. The little girl climbs up and sees other children like her in the other curvy trees. The story is a good example of an extended metaphor comparing the girl to the tree, and how after they mature, they see the value in themselves and others.

Revenge of the Dinotrux by Chris Gall: This book shows how angry the mechanical dinosaur exhibit got after being mistreated by kindergartners on a field trip. They break out, but find their way to the school where the children teach them to read and to thank them, they build a playground for the children. They learn to help each other and become friends.

Finders Keepers by Will and Nicolas: When two dogs can’t get along and share a big bone, they ask the advise of several people and animals who make them decide that sharing is the best advice of all.

Hello, My Name is Ruby by Philip C. Stead: Ruby has never seen another bird like herself, but she does want to have friends. She sets out to introduce herself to every bird she meets. She gets to try things she has never tried before. This pattern book will delight young readers. There’s a text-to-text connection with Leo Lionni’s Swimmy when a flock of birds for themselves into the shape of an elephant to appear large. The last bird she meets takes her to a tree where a flock of birds like her are roosting. Friendship takes us places we may have never gone to alone.

Who’s Shoe? by Eve Bunting


Told in rhyming text, a little mouse sets out to ask all of his animal friends if they have lost their shoe that he found in the bamboo. Elephant only wears heels to make her ankles look slim, and hippopotamus hates the mud between his toes, but hasn’t lost any of his shoes. The illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier are very cheerful and support the text well. The story is a great read aloud and will keep your children’s attention. I love the introduction of words in context such as catastrophe, dainty, pursue, and rare.

Schema: finding or losing something

Idiom: Finders Keepers Losers Weepers

Text-to-Self Connections: finding or losing something, throwing things away

Questioning: The main character, a little mouse, asks many animals in his community if the shoe he found belongs to them. Many examples of using the question mark.

Earth Day: The idea of the kangaroo throwing the shoe into the bamboo because it hurt his feet provides a great introduction to a conversation about littering, donating, re-purposing, and making good choices about how to get rid of something we don’t want. The shoe was used by the mouse as a wonderful king size bed.

Story Elements: Problem: The mouse finds a shoe and has been taught that finders keepers is not polite so he sets off to find its owner

Character Development: The main character, a mouse, has a good character in that he wants to do the right thing when he finds the lost shoe.

Firebird by Misty Copeland


Dancer, Misty Copeland, the first African American prima ballerina, writes from a young dancer’s point of view. The character believes she will never fly as a dancer like Misty Copeland. The author uses metaphors such as “you are the sky and clouds and air” to show the girl’s feelings toward her idol. After the dancer expresses her lack of self-confidence, Misty’s character tells her she is just beginning saying, “let the sun shine on your face your beginning’s just begun.” She shares with the reader that she was once like the girl with only a dream. This is a wonderfully inspirational story about practice and goal setting that students could relate to as they struggle to meet their goals and dreams. Students who struggle with confidence and self-esteem could gain a new perspective from Misty Copeland’s story. The author includes a wonderful note of encouragement to the reader at the end of the book. The illustrations are fluid and superbly depict the flying ballerina. This book would be a wonderful addition to any library.

Schema: dancing, learning

Story Elements: Problem, feeling like she will never reach her goal

Solution: practice and never give up

Metaphors and similes are used throughout the story to show the feelings of the characters.

Mental Imaging: The reader can imagine how high the ballerina is leaping with the help of the illustrations.

Bink & Gollie Two for One by Kate DiCamillo


Bink and Gollie, two friends, go to the state fair. At the fair they play a throwing game and enter a talent show. There’s a lot of humor as Bink throws wild balls and hits the game man three times. After each time he mixes up his words and acts stunned from being hit in the head with the ball. This is a great beginning reader for first, second, and third graders.

Schema: state fair games

Text-to-Self Connections: throwing games on the midway, visiting the fair, being in a talent show, stage fright

Point of View: Describe what happens at the Whack a Duck game from the game man’s point of view. What does Gollie mean when she says, “This fear this can only end in tragedy.”

Inferring: What clues do Madame Prunely notice on the girl’s clothes that give her an inference about what they have done at the fair? She sees the ribbon that says “participant” in the talent show and infers that Gollie was not a winner. She sees Bink’s button that says she lost at the whack a duck game.

Writing: What are some things you have seen at a fair? Did you win a prize? What about the school carnival? How is the school carnival like a fair?

Eric Carle and Friends: What’s Your Favorite Animal? by 14 children’s artists


Schema: Think about what is your favorite animals and why.

Text-to-Self Connections: Which animals in the book would be your favorite?

Making Mental Images: Try to imagine Eric Carle’s cat running up and down the hall with a green bean.

Idioms: “How’s the weather up there?” Have you ever heard this said to a person who is very tall?

Inferences: On the Mo Willems’ page do you infer that the snake has eaten the Amazonian Neotropical Lower River Tink-Tink?

Text-to-Text Connections: On the Peter Sis page he talks about in how people plan to eat carp every Christmas. I have read Merry Christmas, Strega Nona, by Tomie DePaola many, many times and did not realize that this was a widely practiced tradition in Italy and well as the Czech Republic.

Text-to-Text: Duck by Jon Klassen, Can you think of a book about a duck who likes to trick somebody? (Mo Willems’ Duckling books The Duckling Gets a Cookie

On Chris Raschka’s page, what other animals leave something of themselves behind? Starfish, turtles, shark’s teeth, animals we use to make clothing

Characterization: Nick Bruel’s page features his favorite animal, the Octopus, but his own character, Bad Kitty, interrupts his graphic story and gets a gift from Eric Carle. What are some of Bad Kitty’s character traits?

Writing: Write a short paragraph modeled after Peter McCarty’s paragraph about his pet bunny. Tell about your pet or a relative’s pet. What’s your favorite animal from the book?

Don’t Throw It To Mo! by David A. Adler


Schema: football, being on a team, being the smaller one on a team

Text-to-Self Connections: playing football, waking up for school

Story Elements: Problem: Mo is small and isn’t getting to play as much as he would like to

Plot: Mo wants to play and practices holding on to a buttery football. The coach uses Mo’s size to fool the opposing team into thinking that Mo will never carry the ball.

Solution: Mo gets to catch the winning pass in a game.

This is such a satisfying read for a beginning reader. It’s a level 2 in the Penguin Young Readers series. Full color illustrations feature Mo as an African American boy.

My Big Tree by Maria Ashworth

Everyone has their own special place and sometimes it’s hard to share! In this concept book a little blue bird has a favorite tree that gets taken over by lots of other tree critters. He finally finds a new tree, but readers will have to decide how he feels about that. Maybe having friends near is something to think about. Young readers will enjoy looking at the different animals that inhabit the tree. The reader could create his or her own story about what the dog is doing.

Maria’s favorite children’s books:

Tikki Tikki Tembo
Too Much Noise
Runaway Bunny
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
If You Give A Mouse A Cookie
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
Captain Underpants
Ferdinand
Mike Mulligan
Brown Bear, Brown Bear

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Art Parts: A Child’s Introduction to the Elements of Art by Kim Bogren Owen

What a beautiful book to introduce the elements of art to young children! The author explains and illustrates shapes then asks the reader to make similar drawings on the blank page provided. Next, the author demonstrates shading in colors and shows a dark green, a lighter green, a bright green, and a muted green. Following this, two blank pages are provided for exploration of colors. Texture, space, and feeling are explained in a similar way with pages to practice. This book is drawing book or workbook for beginning artists. I would recommend it for children ages 3-8. The drawings and comments that they make would be a wonderful keepsake for parents and grandparents. The child could also write some stories or captions to go with their art that could be given as a gift to loved ones. I would definitely read it with younger children, but I would hold off on the drawing part of the book until the child is able to make shapes and drawings that they could enjoy later on. Parents might enjoy using this book along with baby books and other memory type books that children write in. This book would be a wonderful gift book as well. After using this book as a tool to learn about art, children could then model their own books on its example.

Text-to-Text Connections: drawing

Genre: Expository text