Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I'm a huge believer in the power of a good folktale. Folktales communicate important life lessons with only a little bit of text. Folktales are great for teaching metacognitive strategies like inferring. The repetitive structures and language support kids who are just starting down the reading road.

Maybe most importantly, folktales build children's sense of story. And that sense of story strongly impacts children's ability to write well, especially when it comes to personal narrative, memoir, and fiction. I think it's important then, to expose kids to lots of these short, strong, texts that can embed in their hearts, brains, and tongues. And so I read aloud tons of fairy tales, myths and legends, and trickster tales.

AESOP'S FABLES, by Beverly Naidoo, author of Journey to Jo'Burg is definitely going in that pile. The collection of 16 fables beg to be read, practiced, and performed as Readers' Theaters. There are some old favorites-- The Lion and the Mouse, The Grasshopper and the Ant," but there are also lots of others that are new to me- The Farmer and his Children, The Mosquito and the Lion, and The Eagle and the Warthog. And what kid is going to be able to resist South African animals like Rinkhals and Klipspringers and Tamboti? Each of the fables carries a great life lesson:
  • It is easier to be friends than enemies
  • If you betray a friend, don't be surprised when someone betrays you
  • Just wishing for something doesn't make it happen
Naidoo's fables are enhanced by Piet Grobler's absolutely gorgeous watercolor, (I think), illustrations. This one is a must have for your folktale basket!

Review copy provided by publisher.

Monday, September 26, 2011


OK, so not only is this one a mini-review, but it probably falls into the "Everyone else has already read that, so why is she reviewing it" category. Well, I just bought it and read it this weekend, and it's on top of my bag waiting to go to school this morning, so here goes…

STINK is a series I love. The books are funny enough, and gross enough, that they grab the attention of my less engaged readers right away. The books are chapter books, but the chapters are short, and fairly easy, and there are comic/graphic novel inserts between each chapter, so kids who are not great readers can get through one in a few days. And there are six books in the series (and several more in the STINK AND JUDY MOODY series), so when I get a kid going on this series, I don't have to worry about that reader for a week or two.

In STINK: THE ULTIMATE THUMB WRESTLING SMACKDOWN, Stink has just received a report card. His graders are terrific, well, all except for his grade in gym, which is an UNSATISFACTORY (OK, so if I'm really honest maybe I love this book because I can so relate!). Stink's parents want him to take up a sport to improve his gym grade. Stink considers several, and finally decides on thumb wrestling. The only problem is, he is not very good at it, and keeps getting beaten by everyone, even the first grade girls…

Can't wait to hand this to Mr. T. this morning…

Friday, September 23, 2011


As a teacher, I have long marveled at bathroom issues. Schools that make teachers take group bathroom breaks. Schools that don't allow group bathroom breaks. Kids that want to go every five minutes. Kids that wait until the last possible second and then have to run all the way down the hall. Kids that ask to of and don't come back until you send a search party. Kids that can make their own private water parks in five minutes or less. Kids that create art galleries or anatomy lessons on bathroom walls with a single half-broken red crayon…

And now children's poet Kalli Dakos has written an entire book of bathroom poems!

Some of the poems are silly…
"Meet Me in the Bathroom"
Meet me in the bathroom,
right at two o'clock.
You leave your class,
I'll leave mine
we'll have a chance to talk…"

"Trapped in the Bathroom"
I'm trapped in the bathroom.
What rotten luck!
Right at recess,
with a door that is stuck…"

"The Bathroom Dance"
cross our legs,
hold our pants,
we all know,
the Bathroom Dance!"

Some of the poems are serious…
"Laughing Machine"
Jarrod says my nose
is big enough for two heads,
so I go to the bathroom
to check…"

"There Should be a Place Kids Can Go"
There should be a place
kids can go
when life has dealt
another blow…"

I think these are all poems that kids are going to love! Can't wait to share them with my fourth graders at our Poetry Friday meeting this morning.

Poetry Friday is at Anastasia Suen's Picture Book of the Day.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I adore pretty much anything Loren Long writes and/or illustrates- MR PEABODY'S APPLES and OF THEE I SING are two of my favorites. I also love OTIS, partly, I think, because it reminds me of MIKE MULLIGAN'S STEAM SHOVEL, a book I absolutely loved as a child.

Today I was at the bookstore investing another chunk of my life's savings in series chapter books for my fourth grade classroom. Wandered over to the picture book section and found Loren Long's newest book, OTIS AND THE TORNADO.

Otis and his friends are enjoying a day on the farm, when the weather changes. The humans heads for shelter in an underground tornado shelter, and Otis bravely breaks open the barns and corrals and leads all of the animals to safety at the lowest point on the farm. They have no sooner gotten settled when Otis hears a cry of fear. It is from the Bull, the meanest, unfriendliest animal on the farm, who is still trapped in his pen. Should Otis risk his life to go back and free the most feared animal on the farm?

A great story about risk taking and courage and friendship!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


It is Monday morning, and Marvin McGregor is eagerly anticipating seeing his teacher's pet tarantula. When he arrives at school, however, he discovers that the teacher has broken his arm and will be out sick for a few days. The substitute, Ms. Payne, gives lots and lots of homework.

Marvin has the best of intentions, but he keeps having homework mishaps. On Monday, he spills peanut butter on his homework and the dog eats it. On Tuesday, he accidentally leaves it in his pocket, and his mother washes it. Another day, he exchanges backpacks with his little sister, and takes her doll to school.

Shared this, along with the poem, "Homework, Oh Homework" today. The fourth graders loved it!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

KING HUGO'S HUGE EGO by Chris Van Dusen

OK, so I'm trying to get back into blogging again, but alongside a full time job, and single mom, not to mention football board member (my second full time job every Fall!) it's a teeny bit much. This, then, will be another one of those mini-reviews.

KING HUGO is a king who thinks very highly of himself. One day, on a foray of his kingdom, his path is blocked by Tessa, a villager, carrying a heavy load. Not knowing she is actually a sorceress, he orders her to move aside. She responds by placing a spell on him, so that every time he thinks/speaks about himself his head grows a little. Before long, his head is so large that he can't get through doorways, or stand on his balcony to give his weekly "Speech of Adoration."

This book has a fairy/cautionary tale kind of feel. It's told in rhyme, which I usually don't love, but this one is terrific. I loved it, as did my fourth graders!

Quote of the week (by one of my little ELL guys who had come in to help me set up a science experiment one day during lunch recess):
Student: When I get old, I am going to have a men's club.
Me (stopping mid-sand pouring, a little startled): You are?
Student: Yes. We are going to drink Coca Cola and then go to bed. And that's all.

As the very tired mother of two teenagers who came home after their football game, and then went out again to visit their adoring fans (girls), I think this sounds terrific. I hope my boys join soon!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

WHITE WATER- Michael S. Bandy and Richard Stein

It's been over a month since I last blogged. I've returned to the classroom after more than a decade of literacy coaching, administration, etc. and life is more than a little overwhelming. Finally decided I am going to write a few quick sentences and that will have to be enough.

This weekend I was out shopping for more BABYMOUSE books. Found those, but also found WHITE WATER, which I have added to my Civil Rights basket. The book is based on author Michael S. Bandy's experiences growing up in the South during the Jim Crow era. One hot day, he and his grandmother ride the bus to town. When they get there, Michael is thirsty, and takes a drink from the public fountain. The water is brown and warm and nasty, and Michael takes only a quick drink. When the white child next to him takes a much longer drink from the "Whites Only" fountain, Michael is sure that it's because the water in that fountain is much colder and better tasting. He becomes obsessed with taking a drink out of the whites only fountain.

I'm planning on reading this book in a string with SISTER ANNE'S HANDS and SIT IN.