On my blog:
- A celebration of all things Twitter
- A Top 10 List of my favorite Caldecotts
- A review of a picture book biography of Malcolm X
- A plea for more teachers to talk about Ferguson and the Mike Brown shooting
Another week where I finished very little–and actually read very little. I wouldn’t really call this a reading slump because I am reading three or four books I find highly engaging. I’m just struggling to find the time and calm home space to sit down and read. My kids go back to school next week–and I may spend the entire week reading!
R. A. Spratt’s The Adventures of Nanny Piggins makes a superb read-aloud. It’s witty and occasionally absurd and more than a little Roald Dahllesque. The writing is very strong, and there are plenty of jokes to amuse both children and adults. The premise is a bit thin: some motherless children with a stupid father get a pig for a nanny. But what a pig! The plot is highly episodic with each chapter narrating a different adventure with Nanny Piggins. There is very little in the way of character or plot development and no theme to speak of, but that’s not really the point. I read a couple of hilarious reviews online arguing that this is not a healthy book to share with children because Nanny Piggins encourages children to eat chocolate for breakfast and lie to adults. So if you’re that kind of grown-up, definitely avoid this book.
The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away From Home, written by Jennifer Larue Huget and illustrated by Red Nose Studio (Chris Sickels), is visually stunning. Red Nose Studio’s clay figures are incredibly expressive and the sets are stuffed with interesting details and visual humor. There is so much to pour over. The writing is quite strong in this book as well, and I can easily imagine using it as a mentor text for students’ own “Beginner’s Guide to….”
I’m so glad I broke down and purchased Firefly July for my lending library. Gorgeous art by Melissa Sweet and many fine poems by a variety of poets organized by season (though many of the poems relate only very tangentially to a season). It’s a thoughtful curation and a book I’ll return to again and again.
Peter and Paul Reynolds’s Going Places celebrates thinking outside the box and throwing away the instruction manual. I might read this one in my Composition class this week to start a discussion of the “rules” of writing that students have learned over the years and why many of those rules hinder effective writing.
Another lovely title from Jon Muth, Hi, Koo! follows Koo and two children through the seasons as they play and observe nature. The haiku are simple and full of imagery, and of course the illustrations are beautiful. Indispensable if you’re studying haiku, but well worth having in any classroom library regardless.
The Hungry Coat, written and illustrated by Demi, is a Turkish folk tale starring Nasrettin Hoca, a 13th-century Turkish philosopher. Nasrettin is late to a fancy party because he helps a friend catch a runaway goat. He’s dirty and smelly when he arrives, and his host is embarrassed by him and the other guests ignore him. Nasrettin heads home, cleans up, and puts on his most sumptuous clothes. He returns to the party, where he is welcomed and lavishly fed and entertained. He plays a clever trick on the other guests to teach them an important lesson about appearances.
One Grain of Rice, also by Demi, is a “mathematical folktale” from India. In this story, a greedy raja hordes rice while his people starve. A clever girl uses her math knowledge to trick him into releasing all of the stores of rice to her so that she can feed the hungry. There is a fascinating math chart on the back page that shows how quickly numbers add up when one grain of rice is doubled each day for 30 days.
Strong to the Hoop, written by John Coy and illustrated by Leslie Jean-Bart, is the story of ten-year-old James, who unexpectedly gets asked to join his older brother’s game of four-on-four when an older boy is hurt. Jean-Bart’s pictures are really interesting–a mix of photographs and scratchboard drawings–and Coy’s writing vividly brings a rough game of basketball to life. Good mentor text potential here for students who write about sports.
The OK Book is another winner by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenfeld. Our main character, a stick figure designed from the O and K, is merely OK at lots of different things but knows eventually he/she/it will discover something to excel at. Lichtenfeld’s illustrations cleverly incorporate the O and K in each spread, and the message here that it’s good to try lots of things and enjoy activities even when you aren’t the best is a welcome one. This would be a great choice to work on growth mindsets!