Crinkle, Crackle, Crack It’s Spring! by Marion Dane Bauer

Schema: sounds, listening, wondering what they are

Text-to-Self Connections: Using your imagination to think of what is happening

Text-to-Text Connections: Winnie the Pooh, Bear Wants More, and other seasonal books

The story is told in partly second person using the pronoun “you” as the animals gather and follow the sounds. As they walk on, the snow is melting, baby birds are hatching, and suddenly the big egg cracks and out pops spring.

Onomatopoeia is illustrated with almost a word on every page.

Synthesis: What do you notice that tells you the seasons are about to change? What is your favorite season?

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best

Schema: kids with disabilities, wanting to fit in and be accepted

Text-to-Self Connections: learning to do new things, setting goals, not giving up, practicing for field day

Cause and Effect: Because Zulay tried even when she didn’t want to, the effect is that she meets her goal and succeeds.

Synthesis: How could you help a friend in school the way Zulay helped her friends and she helped them? What is a time when you succeeded in something that you really worked hard to learn?

Point of view: The story is written in first person from Zulay’s point of view.

Summary: List the events that tell the story.

There’s a Pig in my Class! by Johanna Thydell

Schema: pig stories, animals in school

Text-to-Self Connection: wanting a classroom pet

Idioms: “You’ve made a pig out of yourself” takes a whole new meaning in this story as the pig does get his clothes wet in the school bathroom.

Summary: List the ways the kids get the pig into the school without the teacher knowing it.

What would it be like to be a lonely pig just sitting in your pen so near a school and kids to play with that it’s just taunting you? Pig digs his way out and is welcomed to the playground by Honey Hair who knows exactly what to do. This is one of those great read alouds that kids from grades K-3 will truly enjoy. The illustrations support the text making this a fun read aloud or a short story for intermediate readings to enjoy.

Buddy and the Bunnies in Don’t Play with Your Food! by Bob Shea

Schema: eating

Text-to-Self: monsters, funny stories, playing with food

Summary: List the tactics that the bunnies used in order not to be eaten.

Synthesis: Talk about what you eat and how you could play with it. Would playing with it make you not want to eat it? How did the bunnies surprise the monster with this idea at the end of the story?

Bob Shea’s books are always funny for both the child and the adult. This one in particular was such a funny surprise to me at the end. One of the traits of a good read aloud is that the one reading it aloud never gets tired of it, and this one meets that criteria. It’s smart and thought-provoking.

Sequoia by Tony Johnston

Schema: trees, nature
Text-to-Self Connection: seeing tall trees, show images of the giant trees, talk about the senses and read how the tree hears and feels things. Also, the book represents the seasons as the tree lives through each year.

Extended Metaphor: The story is told from the tree’s point of view as if the tree is a very old soul.

Personification: The tree takes on human traits as “he smells fire” and “feels a chill.”

What a lovely book to read to children! The beauty of the west coast wildlife is illustrated throughout the book. The feelings of the ancient tree show readers the value of taking care of these beauties. Maybe this book will inspire readers to visit the Sequoia in their lifetime. I visited this area for the first time just a few years ago and even though I had seen the trees on video and in books, it was awesome to experience their magnificence in person.

New Shoes by Susan Meyers and illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Schema: being discriminated against

In the story, the main character and her mother arrive at the shoe store before a white girl and her father. The store clerk helps the white family first, and the white girl is allowed to try on several pairs of shoes before making her purchase. Ella Mae’s mother has to trace Ella Mae’s feet on some paper provided at the store, and that is how her size is decided.

Text-to-Text Connection: Going Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack

In this historical fiction picture book, two young African-American girls find a way to help children like themselves to be able to try on shoes before buying them. The author’s note explains that in the south before the civil rights movement, black people were not allowed to try on hats, shoes, or clothes before buying them. The girls in the story collect used shoes, clean and polish them, and open their own store in their storage building to help families needing shoes for their children. The girls are excellent female role models.

Eric Velasquez, an African-American, provides very realistic paintings to convey the feelings of the characters.

Read to Me! by Chris Helene Bridge

Schema: hearing a book read aloud

This is one of those special books that a parent or caregiver will never tire of re-reading aloud to little ones. Rhyming text will have your listeners memorizing the book and saying it with you quickly.

Children love to share in reading a predictive text with a repetitive phrase. The phrase “read to me,” will give young readers a part of the story that they can say with you each time. The idea that reading can take place anywhere we are is shown as the author shows reading taking place at home in a chair, on the floor, in between chores such as cooking and laundry, outdoors, in the car, on a boat, traveling, at the park, in the bath tub, and in bed. Each page is brightly illustrated in collage art.

Tips for parents about the importance of reading to a child are included.

This book would be a great gift for new parents.

Princess Patty Meets Her Match by Charise Mericle Harper

Schema: Princess fairy tales

Text-to-Text Connections: Cinderella, Princess and the Pea, Snow White, Rapunzel

Princess Patty decides to be proactive in finding her prince. As she travels, she meets princes who are looking for their princess, and with each one, Princess Patty sees their flaws and knows they are not for her.

Before leaving her castle, Princess Patty selects some items to take with her. She gives these items away to the people she meets on her journey. Character traits such as thoughtfulness, generosity, compassion, and helpfulness are demonstrated as she chooses one of her items to give away. The point is not lost on the reader as we learn what traits in a prince are important to Patty.

Characterization: As Patty gives her items away, the author states that Patty is showing a character trait such as compassion.

Sequencing: List the order of the princes Patty meets

Synthesis: What traits would you look for in a prince or princess?

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Making Money and Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

In Charlie Joe’s new adventure about how to make money, Charlie and his friends will keep you laughing again. If you take Charlie Joe’s advise about choosing books with short chapters, this one will qualify. Lots of short chapters, funny sketches, and embarrassing situations will keep middle level readers turning the pages. This book would also be a great read aloud throughout the year. The chapters are short and funny and will keep your listeners wanting more.

Charlie wants to find ways to make money without having to put himself out too much. Between having to pay some of his profits to mother to clean up the mess his job created to impressing his dad with his computer skills, Charlie makes a little money, but more than that, he learns more about himself and his friends and has a strange feeling about, could it be, a future girlfriend!

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading
Schema: procrastination

Summary: Charlie Joe received books as his birthday present when he was only young child and was so disappointed that he developed a very strong distaste for reading. He schemes, plans, connives, bribes, and experiments in every way he can think of to get out of reading. He worries, gets punished by losing his phone, computer, and everything he enjoys for his lack of reading. Charlie Joe is in  middle school.   Between the reading problems, Charlie Joe is shocked by the relationships and cliques that are developing in his school.   His parents are embarrassed by him, and his teachers are disappointed in him, but Charlie Joe likes himself and is optimistic. His final stand at getting out of reading involves him launching a social experiment to get kids from opposite cliques to like and hang out with each other.

Cause and Effect: Because Charlie Joe will not read his own books, the effect is that he suffers many consequences.

Voice: Charlie’s voice permeates the book.

The book is formatted with many short chapters and short lists.

Text-to-Text connection with The Diary of the Wimpy Kid series in storyline as well as art work.

Author’s POV: The book is written in  first person.

Check out the author’s website.

Way Down Deep and the sequel, The Treasure of Way Down Deep by Ruth White

Way Down Deep by Ruth White, is set in Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains in a small town named Way Down Deep, but the title has a meaning deeper than the name of the town.

The reader learns about several adults who have issues with their past and live in the town and at the Roost, the boarding house where Ruby has lived since she arrived in Way Down Deep.

As the plot is revealed, the reader sees many of the characters looking way down deep in their hearts and souls to face their problems so that they may live happily in the present.  The past sorrows of many of their lives had twisted their outlook on life in a negative way.

Ruby and her guardian, Miss Arbutus, express their deep feelings and in doing so show the others a way to communicate and help themselves to live productive lives.

Ruby realizes that life holds its sorrows and “bitter berries,” but life also holds many happy moments if you are open to receive them.

This book is a great book talk for grades 5 and up.  I found it to be a therapeutic read that opened me up to an optimistic view on life.  Way Down Deep is a book many adults who work with children should read.

In the sequel, The Treasure of Way Down Deep, Ruby is celebrating her thirteenth birthday, in 1955, with everyone at the Roost and school friends when she receives a gift from a six-year-old child, Rita, who is staying at the Roost and going to school with Ruby. The gift appears to be an old button, but later, Ruby realizes it is a “piece of eight” and may be part of a treasure that the man who started the town is rumored to have buried. Ruth White has a gift to make her characters authentic and true. She shows through her characters how we as readers can choose to be good to ourselves and each other. Like in the first book, Miss Arbutus, has dreams that show events that happen in the story. She sees a man in her dream that tells her that Ruby’s birthday wish will come true. Ruby pursues the treasure, but the real treasure is the love that the people in Way Down Deep have for the children and each other. I highly recommend this series to people of all ages. I put this one up at the top of the list of the best books I have ever read.