Author Archives: Texas Librarian

About Texas Librarian

I began my teaching career as a high school English/Reading teacher and have been a school librarian for 18 years. I have a bachelor's degree from the University of North Texas and a master's degree from Texas A&M at Commerce, Texas.

Thunderstorm by Arthur Geisert

Narrative Writing Practice

In this wordless picture book, the pictures are time stamped as the story is revealed. The setting is a rural area that features barns, animals, and farm houses. At the beginning a storm is brewing and within less than an hour it becomes a tornado.

Author’s perspective: The illustrations show what is going on in three different areas: the sky, on top of the ground, and underground.  One could write the story from any of these perspectives showing a writer’s point of view.  Also, the writer must decide where to write in first person or third person.

Synthesis: Ask students to write a narrative of the events in the pictures. Focus on transitional works and phrases to go from one scene to the next.  The link to the Smart Words website has a section for transitional words about time, chronology, and sequence.  These words should help students to see a way to put the illustrations into a story.



Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Schema: Bullies, name calling

Text-to-Text Connection: Bluebird by Bob Staake

Inferring: The names of the animals printed in all capitals as used by the bull infer that the bull is using their name in a negative way.

Cause and Effect: Because the older bull told the younger one to “go away,” the effect is that the younger bull turns his rejection into anger toward the other barnyard animals.

Synthesis: Discuss ways in which hurt feelings turn into anger towards others.

Bluebird by Bob Staake

In this wordless picture book, a bluebird befriends a boy who is walking to school, walking home from school, stopping for a cookie, buying a toy boat, and ultimately is attacked by a gang of boys who want his boat.

At first the boy does not realize that the bird is following him, but he finally notices and makes the connection.

The bullies throw a stick at the boy, but the bluebird flies in front of the stick to protect the boy and is possibly killed. The bullies run away.

Several birds fly down to pick up the boy who is holding the bird. They lift the boy and bird up to the sky, and the bird flies up to the heavens. The boy waves good-bye to him. It is up to the reader to decide if they bird was killed or if it was revived by the love of his friends.

Students could write a narrative from their perspective based on the frames of illustrations in the story.

baby blue by Michelle D. Kwasney

The book is set in 1976 before there were laws in the state of Massachusetts to protect people who were being abused by family members.  At the time, the police has to actually witness a person being hit or injured by the violent family member.

Baby Blue, twelve years old at the beginning of the story, is the main character.  She represents a very strong female role model. Star, her sixteen-year-old sister, can not accept their mother’s complacency about being beaten by their stepfather, Jinx. The pattern is that Jinx would always apologize and be sorry afterwards. Prior to marrying Jinx, the girl’s father drowned while trying to rescue a boy in the river. Their father had his own problems of gambling and taking the family money without permission. The reader can see a pattern in the mother’s choice of needy men.

Blue leads her mother and her sister to the realization that they are all better than the way they are living. She shows her sister that they have the strength to fight back. Blue has a lot of heart. She feels for her father, her stepfather’s pet cat who is run over, and for her older sister, Star, even though she abandoned Blue and ran away for a while.

The book ends on a positive note with Jinx being arrested, the mother and the girls moving to a new apartment,and the mother starting to take some classes at the community college and saying, “I guess I’m off to make something,” of herself. The mother always loved flowers and hopes to open a flower shop some day. Blue sees a positive future for herself also.

River Royals Master the Mississippi by Katie Clark & Sarah Wynne

Romp down the Mississippi River with Eliza Jane and her little brother, Henry, as they experience the history of the states that touch the Mississippi River. The illustrations are full of color and life on the river. Though the book is one of fiction, the informational literature has true information.

The story begins with Eliza Jane being very distracted counting the pins in her teacher’s hair. As her teacher keeps checking in with her to make sure she is paying attention, readers will begin to recognize the traits of a child with attention deficit disorder. Instead of making this a problem, the authors show the joy and love of life that the main character has as she learns in her own unique way.

Schema: sitting in class and trying to pay attention waiting your turn to talk

Text-to-Self Connections: Melvis and the illustration of the Elvis impersonator

Mental Images: As Eliza tries her best to listen, her mind takes her into the lesson as she imagines herself having an adventure based on the factual information her teacher is telling the class. This would be a good illustration of how good readers make mental images while reading.

Theme: What matters about people is what they are like on the inside and not their social status.

The endpapers include a map of the Mississippi River.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Douwlina: A Rhino’s Story by Grace Borgeson

The author is the current caregiver of Douwlina, an orphan white rhino. She tells the story of how Douwlina is rescued and nurtured from the day she was born to present day.

At the end, she states that it is “the goodness of God” that helped Douwlina to survive. Christian schools will especially want this book with the reference to Christ.

The text is simple and is printed on colorful pages that make an attractive presentation. Photographs of other wild animals along with Douwlina are interspersed throughout the story. The information is very brief, but young readers needing a nonfiction book about white rhinos will enjoy this one.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

One Day I Went Rambling by Kelly Bennett

What a creative and thought-provoking, rhyming book for both adults and children!

As an elementary school librarian who reads books aloud to children every day, I can see this one as a book that will capture their attention because there is substance here that will connect with their prior knowledge to make this book worthy of their time. I predict that this title will be on several award lists this year. Readers are challenged to use their imaginations to repurpose and recycle objects that they own or discover on their path.

The illustrations, created by Terri Murphy, and names of the characters are multi-ethnic featuring children of all races. The expressions show joy, contentment, and pure fun as they “ramble” around the neighborhood. Even the kid who makes fun at first is motivated to join in the fun.

Schema: repurposing
Text-to-Self: Can you think of something you have re-used as a pencil container? Ever made a jewelry box from an egg carton?
Text-to-Text: Oliver by Birgitta Sif; Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
Compare and Contrast: How is each “find” similar and different from what they imagine it to be?
Mental Image: Can you imagine the “find” being what they imagine it to be?
Predicting: Try predicting what the items on the last page might be used for. There is an illustration, but no text so the reader has to use his or her imagination to infer or predict what these could be used for.
Synthesis: Can you think of other things their “finds” could be? Can you think of something you see that could be like something else? Think about the places you like to play and what you have played with there. I remember as a child playing house inside a group of Cedar trees where there was a small clearing in the middle of them. It was like nature made me my own playhouse.
Extension: Do a search on the Internet to find how people have repurposed what might be trash to some people into useful or artistic objects.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Danielle & The Strawberry Fairies: How Strawberries Become Red by Rini

This book has two traits that little girls will enjoy reading about: fairies and Yorkies. The story begins with Danielle visiting a strawberry farm. While there, she meets fairies who transform her and Oscar, her Yorkie, into fairies. They enjoy painting and polishing the strawberries to the beautiful red color that characterizes a delicious strawberry.

The fairy world will make this a fun read for primary grade elementary girls. The illustrations are very sweet and wispy just like a fairy should be. Beautiful illustrations of cupcakes, tea party accessories, and strawberries create a delightful image that could be reality for moms and daughters who would like to use this book as a party theme. What’s more fun that a real life dress-up like a fairy tea party! I hope I’m invited!

As a bedtime story, this one will definitely take away the cares of the world and transform thoughts of the day into ones of dreamy sleep. A CD of soothing music accompanies the lyrics of the song included in the book which would be a soothing melody to hear as one falls asleep.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

Schema: Spring, planting a garden
Text-to-Self Connections: trying new foods, asking lots of questions when doing something new with your family, getting to know new people and learning about their cultures
Comparing and Contrasting: a vegetable garden to a flower garden
“The vegetable garden was dark green and “ugly” with black-purple-green, fuzzy wrinkled leaves, prickly stems, and a few little yellow flowers.”
Inferences: The neighbors have a new appreciation for Chinese vegetables that they did not have before which made them want to grow them in with their flowers next year.
Mental Images: Imagine butterflies and bees everywhere
The scent of the vegetable soup traveling through the neighborhood
Point of View: The author writes the book from the first person point of view.
Sequencing: steps to planting and growing a garden
Synthesis: I recently visited a local Vietnamese Grocery store and shopped for some of the vegetables mentioned in the book. In sharing the vegetables with students, they were able to touch and smell the vegetables to make a connection with the story that they will never forget.

Two Minute Biographies by Steve Reifman

Your students will love guessing who the biography is about as the author describes each entry’s early life, parents’ views, and the individual’s contributions.  The person’s name is revealed at the very end.  Each entry is a worthy and diverse person that people of all ages should know about and be able to mention and recognize in an intelligent conversation. Many of the entries are appropriate for African American History Month as well.  The author has offered to provide you with a PDF file that has a each entry on a single page for easy printing of each biography if that would work better for the way you are using the biographies. I am estimating that the reading level is approximately sixth grade.  For listening, I would recommend the book for grades 4-adult.  Steve Reifman’s ideas and books are very in touch with the ways kids learn.  I highly recommend his YouTube videos, books, and website.

Two Minute Biographies

Rock It! by Steve Reifman