Counting Sea Life with the Little Seahorse by Sheri Fink and Derek Taylor Kent

Counting_Sea_Life_Awards_Hi-Res-483x600 To Purchase click here
There’s so much to talk about with your little listeners with this sweet book! First, is the obvious, it’s a wonderful counting book with the number word in text as well as numerically with the appropriate number of items. I think discerning eyes will be entertained as they have to seek and find the number on each page as it is camouflaged within the scene.

Secondly, the rhyming text is very clever and will capture the attention of the listener. The alliteration throughout the text is playful to the ear and eye as the illustrations support the text so well.

Third, the types of sea life and the characterization of them appeal to all types of interest. There’s a ninja narwhal and a tuna in a tutu along with hungry sharks and a dancing dolphin! The way the authors and illustrator, Lynx Animation Studios, bring the sea life to the page will completely entertain young listeners and as the adult reader, I would certainly never get tired of reading this one.

This book would be an excellent addition to a unit on sea life for young students.

Kindergarten Parent Tips for First Day of School

stop-crying-mom

Your baby is starting kindergarten or preschool. You’ve bought all the clothes, all the supplies, but what else can you do to make that transition into kindergarten a happy one for you and your child?

1. Visit the school before that first day of kindergarten and walk around the building with your child. Visit the cafeteria, the library, the gym, the office, and the playground. Come to the playground several times just for fun before that first day.
2. Read books aloud to your child and show them how to sit on the floor with their feet and hands to themselves while listening like kids do in kindergarten.
3. Write your child’s name inside their lunch box, backpack, and when it gets cold, their coats. At the end of the school year, the school will have about one hundred coats with no name and usually give them to the Salvation Army because the kids don’t remember they have lost them. Kindergarten kids need help keeping up with their coats.
4. Talk about how to eat breakfast and lunch, and how they will feel if they don’t eat it. It’s a long afternoon in kindergarten till 3:00 when you haven’t eaten. Get a school menu and talk about what food they will be serving each day so your baby will be ready to make those choices. When you visit the cafeteria tell them their class will all sit at one of the long tables by whoever they were behind in the line. The teacher will not stay with them during lunch, but will drop them off in the line, and then, after lunch, will be back to line them up. Make sure they know that they don’t need money to eat at school because you will have already paid for it or make arrangements. Some kindergarten students may worry about eating if they don’t know their food has been prepaid.
5. Talk about how to walk in a line, keep their hands to themselves, and to wait to talk until they get back in the room. Tell you child that kindergarten kids have to listen in the hall so that they know where to go.
6. Talk about how your kindergarten child will feel if one of the other kids is crying for their momma. Some kids really lose it and scream at the top of their lungs. It is an incredibly stressful thing to see. I feel so sorry for them. If you think this might be your child, try to comfort them ahead of time about how at the end of the day you or someone they know will be there to take them home.
7. Above all, do not cry in front of your kindergartener. They will sense fear and uncertainty that will make it very hard for them to cope without you, and it will set a pattern that may take weeks to overcome. During the week before school, teachers will be about decorating their rooms. If you feel your child may have a hard time being left, try to meet with your teacher before school starts. Many schools have a night to meet the teacher and see the room before school starts. Look on your school’s website to see when this is and don’t miss it. If you can go to the room, practice having your child stay in the room and wave bye to you as you leave. Then pop right back in and tell them that’s what the first day will be like.
8. Update your child’s contacts so that someone can be reached if your child needs you. Remember to do this when anything changes during the year.
9. Fill out the paperwork to be a school volunteer. During the year there will be times when kindergarten parents are needed for field trips and book fairs. Plan to volunteer a few times to help your child’s teacher or to help the librarian. Your child will love seeing you at school and you will feel much more at ease by seeing how the school teachers and principal interact with children. The school workers will all know you and will remember your child’s name and speak to them more often in passing.
10. Make it a best practice to never say anything negative about the school, other students, the teacher, or principal in hearing range of your child. This practice will help your child to see school as a safe and happy place. Make appointments to visit with your child’s teacher to make sure any misunderstandings can be corrected as soon as possible.

 Now What?

Keep your phone nearby, and get ready for tomorrow! Make a routine each night to be ready for school the next morning.

When you see your child after school or daycare take time to talk with them about their day. Ask them to show you their take home folders and look for notes or papers that have been sent home. Your kindergartener will be excited to tell you about their day. Be excited for their accomplishments!

For the second day of school, urge your kindergarten child to go in without you. Principals will be at the door directing the children to where they need to go.

It’s hard to let them go, but you can’t hold them back. You have to run into the future with your child, taking each step with them, then letting go and watching them run ahead into their future until the next new thing, when you will hold their hands again.

 

Solve for Happy: Engineer You Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat

Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to JoySolve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mo has some great ideas to help others focus on the happy and joy in our lives. He uses a lot of graphics which makes it easy to read and find the parts that pertain to you. He touches on all aspects of our thoughts about being happy and searching for joy that make us unable to let go and Live In Peace. Live in peace everyday, let go of the negative, give, express gratitude, love, love, and love! Do not fear death because God has planned this wonderful universe with an afterlife in mind. Our loved ones who have passed on are still near and we will see them again. Throughout the book, Mo uses logic and mathematics to frame his thinking. This logical presentation was much more interesting than I expected. After some passages Mo tells the reader to think about what he has just said for a while before reading on. In some parts Mo tells the reader to get a pencil and some paper and make a list of things such as what truly makes you happy. He gets down to simplifying things and to reflect more on our current state of being. Toward the end Mo writes about belief in a higher power. He talks about evolution and intelligent design and doesn’t want to commit to one or the other, but he does say he knows he will see his son, Ali, again, and that he believes there’s too much to our universe for it to be unplanned by a brilliant designer. For me, I take away that he does believe God is our creator and gives us the promise of living on after our time on this old world is over. I really enjoyed his book, and I do think reading it has made me happier. In times when I’m not happy, I will remember what Mo has written and search for my default state of joy. Thank you for this great book, Mo Gawdat!

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Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was such a thought-provoking book and I couldn’t put it down. He talks about “Adverse Childhood Experiences” that kids cannot overcome without a stable home and an adult that they know who puts them first and cares for them. I recommend this book to all teachers and admins looking for ways to reach some of the tough kids we deal with. I don’t think as a school teacher that we can make the difference these kids need, but it does give understanding. We have to protect our children from these adverse experiences because it changes the way they process their own lives, making some have a give up attitude which means that they think no matter what they do, they’ll never make it. Life is too against them. But for JD Vance, his grandmother saved him. He had a few teachers he connected with, and most importantly, he was lucky in that he was very intelligent. He says he was very lucky with some of the connections he made throughout his life. He has a great TED talk if you are interested. His story just resonated with my own hillbilly roots.

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Old Wolf by Avi

Schema: hunting, playing video games
Text-to-text Connections: other books where the main characters are animals and the story is told from their point of view such as Charlotte’s Web.
Old Wolf, Nashoba, is challenged as pack leader to find food for his hungry pack.

Casey, a thirteen-year-old boy, loves his video game where he kills animals, and is so excited to receive a bow for his birthday.

The two characters’ stories run parallel to each other and converge at the end of the book.

Merla, a raven, is old like Nashoba, and tries to help him find a herd of elk, and ultimately gives her life to save him from Casey’s bow. When Casey sees that he hit Merla, it changes his way of thinking about killing. He is so changed that afterwards, he never played his animal kill game again. The reader concludes that his bow will be used as a sport in target shooting.

Avi tells the story in a very Zen fashion. Merla asks questions of Nashoba to get him to think about his goals. Merla tells Nashoba, “The bigger you think you are, the smaller you are.” p. 107 Then Nashoba shares with Merla, “There’s a old wolf expression: the smaller you think you are, the bigger you are.” p. 113 Both quotes would lend to an interesting expository paragraph assignment.

Characterization: Nashoba goes through such pain and pushes forward to serve his pack and to save his pride. We read that he is eight years old which is toward the end of his life expectancy. At the end, after he is helped by both Merla and Casey, he is able to push on and to accept what he is, an old wolf.

Theme: Respect life at all times and in all forms, both human and animal. The world is one and kindness can be found in the least likely places.

I enjoyed Avi’s book so much. The feelings that Nashoba feels are shared by leaders everywhere as our time to lead comes to an end.

Procedural or Functional Texts

Procedural texts inform the reader about how to do something. Sometimes it’s presented in a step-by-step format like how to make a recipe or put a toy together. The higher level procedural texts inform the reader about how to carry out goals such as how to begin a new career or learn or perfect a craft.

I often have teachers asking me for books to teach this skill. Here are a few that I have used that show the reader how to synthesize information from procedural or functional texts.

This one is good for kinder, first, and second and students will connect with learning to ride a bicycle.

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Philip & Phoebe by Anne Brandt


Schema: Brothers and Sisters

Text-to-Text Connections: wishing

Concept: In this story Philip has a new baby sister. As he feels the focus shift from himself to his new sibling, Philip begins to wish Phoebe would be something else. He wishes she were a horse, an ice cream cone, and a fire truck, but none fulfill his wish. Finally, he wishes she were herself again. In the illustration, Phoebe is missing in her bed while Philip is wishing her to be the other things. The idea that wishing makes things come true can be frightening to some children. This book could begin a great discussion with a four or five-year old about what happens when we wish. Does wishing make things come true? What was Philip really wishing for about his new sister?

Parents expecting a second child would enjoy reading and discussing this book with their current children. Sibling rivalry can last for years so anything to prepare a child for a brother or a sister that could help them cope with this big change in their lives would be very beneficial. I don’t think we give enough time and attention to this topic at a young age, and if not handled correctly, sibling rivalry can last a lifetime!

Annie Poon has done a marvelous job of creating happy illustrations with black, gray, and red. The illustrations are interesting. The floor plan of the room is pictured from an aerial view. The idea of a map could be discussed with these views. An unmentioned character, a cat, is included in the illustrations and adds humor to the story.

The size of the book is appropriate for little hands at 7.25″ X 7.25″.

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, articles or picture books about true events, 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.
Karen Barbour knew Mr. Williams as one of her grandmother’s friends. She interviewed him about what his life was like growing up on a farm in Arcadia, Louisana and has written his story in first person narrative as if he were telling it. This book is a good selection for African American History month as well as Mr. Williams is African American. He was born in 1929 and died in 2000.

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. An author’s note explains the history behind this story.

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. An author’s note explains the nonfiction inspiration of the story.

In this true book, we see a great plot, rising action, climax, and falling action. Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian from Winnipeg in Canada, rescues a bear cub from a hunter who has killed it’s mother. As he tames the bear, he lovingly decides he can no longer safely care for her while he is in the military service in WWI. It’s written in picture book format and works great as a read aloud.

Here’s another true story with the elements of literary nonfiction. The details are not provided about exactly how it came about, but an accountant discovered gum that would make bubbles.

In this story about how a school was built in a remote village of Pakistan The procedures are mentioned in the form of paragraphs. The story does have a beginning, middle, and end and fits the characteristics of literary nonfiction.

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.