This Side of Paradise by Steven L. Layne

Layne writes the voice of his 17-year-old character in the way that a college educated, highly intelligent, professional speaker would talk. I read about this book in the introduction to his professional book, Igniting a Passion for Reading. The two teachers writing the intro seem to actually worship Layne. They said their sixth graders couldn’t put this novel down. That sounded so exciting so I then borrowed twelve copies from other schools in my district and started a sixth grade book study on it. A few of them are reading it, and a couple have returned the book and said it didn’t interest them as much as they thought it would. I have to say that I didn’t realize the book was self-published when I read it. The sentence structure is flawless, and the vocabulary is outstanding, but the voice is just so unrealistic. I will still do the book study and talk about the plot, voice, and characters in comparison to better books.

El Perro en Sombrero A Bilingual Doggy Tale by Derek Taylor Kent

This is such a fun read aloud with the rhyming words and animal characters. Students in both English and Spanish classes will enjoy reading about Pepe as he goes from being a homeless and hungry dog to becoming a famous movie star dog. There’s more that one kind of hunger though. For Pepe, he was hungrier for love and acceptance than for riches and being famous. Children and adults will relate to Pepe’s challenges and will love reading this story over and over as Pepe finds a family to love him.El perro 9780805099898

Schema: homeless animals

Text-to-Self Connection: television shows about dogs and cats

Text-to-Text Connection: Students will think of many books about dogs and cats, but one that includes a chase is The Great Gracie Chase by Cynthia Rylant.

Another book that includes a similar jealous cat and dog is Help Me, Mr. Mutt!: Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel.

Inference: Look at the pictures on the wall above the family at the end of the story? How do you infer that they figured out the cat and dog they adopted were movie stars?

Synthesis: If you had to choose between a family and losing the item that made you famous, which would you choose?

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?