Whose 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
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

Orchids by Kim Bogren Owen Photographs by: Amber Owen, Hanko, and Pearson

Have you ever wondered how vanilla ice cream gets that wonderful vanilla flavor? Vanilla seed pods grow from the Vanilla Orchid flowering plant. This book includes beautiful full color photographs of several different types of orchids including the Vanilla Orchid. Teachers and parents could use this book as an introduction to many concepts such as color, taste, and a more complicated concept of symmetry. Simple text paired with factual information create a perfect expository book for the youngest reader. The author includes ideas for further exploration with young children at the end of the book.

Four blank pages are included at the end of the book for young art students to make a symmetrical drawing or to make their own shapes like those seen in the orchids.

The hardback book has a very sturdy binding and will hold up to many readings and circulations.

Schema: flowers

Text-to-Text connection: vanilla flavorings

Main Idea: Orchid flowers are colorful and filled with elements of art.

Genre: Informational text or expository text are terms for nonfiction books that young children need to be familiar with and know the difference between this and other genres such as fiction.

The Story Circle / El círculo de cuentos by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and Wendy Martin

What happens in a school after a flood? After storms flood a school the children return to empty bookshelves. In this picture book a very creative teacher helps her class cope with the loss of their books by teaching them to use their imaginations to create mental images of the story she is telling them. The teacher allows the class to act out her words as she tells them her story. Then the teacher asks the children to share what they imagined which leads to the children writing about their mental images. The books the children create are filling their empty bookshelves.

Mental Images: Good readers naturally make mental images, but research tells us that this does not come naturally to everyone. It can be taught and with practice, can become automatic. This book is an excellent tool to use when teaching how to make mental images. The children are illustrated with what they are imagining. The illustrator, Wendy Martin, has created excellent illustrations that reflect what each child has imagined in the text.

Wendy Martin’s artistic interpretation of Bertrand’s text features a southwest setting with Hispanic characters. This books will be a perfect additionWendyMartinHiRes to any elementary bilingual collection. The illustrations and text will inspire children to practice making mental images. The illustrator offered a question and answer time about her newest book. I am so excited to include Wendy Martin’s interview:
Q: How did you become interested in illustrating literature for children?
A: I’ve always loved storytelling. And I’ve always loved creating narrative art. After a couple of decades working as a graphic designer and painting fine art on the weekends for gallery shows, I decided I wanted a bigger challenge. Creating a book to showcase a collection of art seemed like a natural progression. Some of my favorite artists were, and are, children’s book illustrators. Fifteen years ago I came up with a plan to be a children’s book illustrator and have been following it ever since.
Q: Do you like to read a lot and, if so, why?
A: I’ve been a voracious reader since I was little. I’d read anything I could get my hands on. I may have slowed down now that I have so many other demands and obligations on my time, but the last thing I do every day is spend time with a good book. My favorite genres are fantasy, magical realism and historical adventures. I’ve read about 45 books so far this year. I’d say a quarter of that figure is from picture books. Part of my job is to keep current on what’s new in the children’s book industry. The rest are either novels or non-fiction books.
Q: Are you interested in speaking to school, library, writer or other groups about your book(s)? If so, how can people get in contact with you?
A: I’ve been giving workshops for all age groups for many years. I do both in-person visits and electronic visits, either via Skype or Google Hangouts. I speak about how an illustrator works, how a picture book is made or guide students through their own book creation. People can find out more about my author visits here.
Find the book on Amazon or the publisher’s website.

A transplanted New Yorker now living in Missouri, Wendy Martin has been working as an illustrator for 25+ years.
Her love affair with art and illustration began at an early age. She never wanted to do anything else. So, she followed her heart and earned a degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology, then continued her art education at the School of Visual Arts, earning a B.F.A. in Graphic Design. These disciplines can still be seen in her work as a children’s book illustrator and fantasy artist in the strong lines, textures and detailed patterns. See additional art and find out more author visits at Wendy Martin.

Space Case (Moon Base Alpha) by Stuart Gibbs

Looking for a book for tweens or boys? The protagonist is Dash, a twelve-year-old, living on the moon with his family in the first colony from earth to make the moon their home. In between narrating about the horrendous bathrooms and the tasteless food, Dash reveals that he thinks a death of an older scientist was not an accident. When he approaches the head of the colony and his parents, they tell him that they think he is wrong and that he should drop it. They think the scientist had mental issues and that he caused his own accidental death. Things get more complicated when a Zan, a mysterious woman who says she’s working with the space agency, arrives on the shipment rocket and tells Dash that he is on target and to continue investigating secretly. She can’t be seen with him, but she will make contact with him when she can. Other characters give some good laughs with food flying through the air and fights with moon gravity allowing the victims to literally rise above the bullies. One family is there because they paid billions to be in the first colony. They and their children are obnoxious and create some interesting situations for the other kids and adults.

This is a great science fiction read that is entertaining for all ages. The science parts of the story seem like what it could really be like to live on the moon some day. Nothing is perfect, but the moon colonists must not complain or tell the nitty gritty or funding could be lost. Phone calls to earth can be made, and the kids are required to make video logs to share with the world as everyone is watching the real life reality show set on the moon. I couldn’t put it down. The ending was a surprise and I can’t wait to read the sequel.