Posts Tagged ‘picture books’

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.


Raising three daughters is a challenge. Now that they are adults, I try to forget the tough times. I like to forget that Maggie hated the dresses that I smocked. And that Katherine wanted to wear Sunday shoes to school. Martha wore the smocked dresses, but did not like matching her sisters. Each girl had her own personality, and in truth, I had a hard time keeping up. “Mom, don’t you know I Hate baked fruit?”

This weekend at the first SCBWI LA/MS regional conference, I met picture book author and illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy. Who knew when she sat at my table that we would connect in so many ways? She now lives in Oxford, MS, but she grew up in Jackson, like me. Later in the evening we sat next to each other at dinner and found out more things we have in common; we both have three daughters.

Sarah hilariously depicts the individual likes and dislikes of girls in her latest picture book, Puzzled by Pink.

Izzy’s sister Rose loves pink, but Izzy wears black, has a black cat, and carries a monster doll. It’s Rose’s birthday and Izzy refuses to wear a pink tutu. Izzy makes a party of her own in the attic complete with an invisible friend. This book speaks not only about being unique and accepting every one as they are, it also speaks to creativity and imagination. I am especially attracted to the details in Sarah’s artwork. All the way to the creepy spiders.

Sample page from Puzzled by Pink. Can you find the spiders?

On Sarah’s blog site, there is a post about making a birthday party celebration based on the book. There are links to fun crafts, too. Consider having a Puzzled by Pink party in your classroom. What costumes would each student wear? Let’s celebrate differences!

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Join in the fun of nonfiction picture books at Kid Lit Frenzy.

Join in the fun of nonfiction picture books at Kid Lit Frenzy.

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I am determined this year to get more nonfiction and more reading aloud into my daily class time. This new book about the life of George Mendoza by J.L.Powers helped me inspire my students for their dot painting on Dot Day. (See Tuesday’s post.)

By the time George Mendoza was 15, he was legally blind. But George’s blindness was unique. He didn’t totally lose his sight. His condition caused him to see colors in an unusual way, like a kaleidoscope. This true story is inspirational on many counts. George became an Olympic athlete, setting world records as a blind runner. Later, he took up painting. A priest once told him to paint what he sees. The book is full of George Mendoza’s amazing, colorful paintings.

I paired this book with Peter Reynold’s book The Dot which tells the story of Vashti becoming an artist. Through both of these books, my students could see that anyone can be an artist. All you have to do is try. Both George and Vashti’s stories waved a creative magic wand over my students. They were primed and ready to make their own mark.

Colors of the Wind is written for an early reader. The sentence structure and word choice are easy to read. Some sentences are repeated throughout. An early reader would enjoy being able to read the words as well as look at the colorful images. As a read aloud for older students, I included the back matter, the last two pages that tell the whole story. Whichever part you read, this book will fascinate the inner artist.

"Sometimes, George uses paintbrushes.  But most days, he fingerpaints, using heavy work gloves with gobs and gobs of paint."

“Sometimes, George uses paintbrushes. But most days, he fingerpaints, using heavy work gloves with gobs and gobs of paint.”

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Link up with Teach Mentor Texts

Link up with Teach Mentor Texts

Today is a big day for me. Not only is it my dog Charlie’s birthday (and Labor Day), I am the featured blogger on The Nerdy Book Club. I was excited to be invited to write a post about my reading life. Follow the link: Friend Request an Author.

I am not a reader who believes that every book is made for every one. I have students who adore fantasy fiction. I appreciate this, but I much prefer realistic fiction. I have tried and liked many historical fiction books as well. This week I finished reading Keeping Safe the Stars by Sheila O’Connor. The Stars (Pride, Nightingale, and Baby) are orphans living with their grandfather in the year of the Watergate scandal. For students to fully understand some of the underlying themes, they would need some knowledge of this event. As I recall being a teenager during this time, the whole thing was confusing. Was Nixon a bad guy? Nobody really said so, but he did bad things. Pride is the oldest and is left in charge of the family while her grandfather is ill. She struggles with taking on this huge responsibility, and like Nixon, finds herself telling a few lies. She is only 13. The burden is huge for her. Over and over I wanted to pull her aside and give her my advice. The storyline went on too long for me. I wanted a resolution sooner than it came. Eventually, the people Pride has entrusted rally to care for them, and there is hope for Old Finn’s recovery. This is a story of resilience and independence.

Keeping Safe the Stars


Frank by Connah Brecon will be on sale at the end of September. Frank is a cute little bear dressed in a blue scarf and red vest. He has a problem. He is always late for school, but he has good excuses, such as helping a cat stuck in a tree. When I turned the page, the tree was running off with Frank in it. This does not teach Frank a lesson about being late. He is late again. This time he is challenged to a charity dance-off. His reasons for being late get wackier and wackier. The illustrations are as crazy as the text. In the end, a zombie threatens the school, but Frank saves the day when he challenges the zombie to a dance off. Connah Brecon is a talented artist. The drawings are busy and full of quirky characters. The text lacks a cohesive logic, and the lesson of taking time to make friends is lost in the exaggeration of events.

What are you reading this week? Don’t forget to check out The Nerdy Book Club.

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Link up with Teach Mentor Texts

Link up with Teach Mentor Texts

I am sporadically participating in this online book review meme for kidlit from Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey.

This summer I committed myself to reading middle grade novels. One, because I love reading them, and two, because I want to be better prepared to be a book whisperer for my students. (#bookaday)

absolutely almost

Donalyn Miller recommended Absolutely Almost saying that it was an important book like Wonder. I am a huge fan of Wonder and think everybody should read it, so I thought I should read Absolutely Almost. At first I was not too sure how I was going to like Albie. The voice of the character in my opinion is too young. After reading The Year of Billy Miller, I thought Albie sounded more like a second grader than a fifth grader. Eventually I fell in love with Albie. He has the coolest babysitter Calista who does anything to make Albie more accepting of himself. Calista makes up for the shortcomings of Albie’s parents. I was a bit frustrated by their shortcomings. His father does not even remember buying the A-10 Thunderbolt model and promising to help Albie build it. In fact, Dad buys him another one for his birthday. I know some real life parents are career minded, but would a dad really be this stupid and heartless? And Albie’s mother is not too much better. She does tell him again and again that he is caring and thoughtful and good. Which he is, but I can’t help but think that Mom doesn’t see her son for who he really is. And to top off his difficulty at home, he is bullied at school. I found myself becoming more and more empathetic with Albie. He is a hero, and students should read this book. They will learn to understand that not everyone is gifted, but everyone is valuable.

Lisa Graff crafts a lovely novel with word play beginning with the title of Absolutely Almost and continuing with crafted chapters using anaphora (a repeated phrase). My favorite is “rain in New York”:

When it rains in New York, no one knows where to walk…When it rains in New York, The playgrounds are empty and the buses are full. When it rains in New York, the garbage cans at every corner are stuffed with the twisted bits of broken umbrellas. I like it when it rains in New York.

An interview with Lisa Graff about Absolutely Almost.

Albie is slower than most kids in a lot of ways, and I wanted to explore what that would be like for him in a world that constantly expects him to be smarter, faster, better than he is. In a world like that, where does a kid like Albie fit? How does he find his own worth?


I am loving Cynthia Lord’s books. I finished half a chance, and I’m almost finished with Rules. In half a chance, Lucy’s family moves to a house on a lake in New Hampshire. There she meets Nate’s family and helps them track the habits of loons living in the lake. I love nature and the descriptions of the lake and the loons is beautifully done. Lucy is trying to prove to her photographer father that she has a talent for photography, too. She enters a contest that her father will be judging. For students, I like the ideas for the photo contest as metaphor. The contest calls for photos that reflect abstract words, such as secret and lost. I’d like to use these words with students as writing prompts. We could discuss how Lucy interpreted the words with her photographs and then make our own interpretations.

Song for Papa Crow

Schiffer Publishing sent me a copy of a new picture book, Song for Papa Crow by Marit Menzin. The story follows the common children’s book theme that you are special just as you are. Little Crow loves to sing until he is taunted by all the other birds who do not appreciate his “Caw! Caw!” So, a magic seed transforms Little Crows voice; that is, until he is in danger. In the end, Little Crow comes to appreciate his out of tune voice. The illustrations are made with collage. I love the art work. Marit Menzin personifies her birds. For students, they could make their own book using the common theme and use collage for illustrating. Song for Papa Crow is available at Schiffer Publishing.

Used by permission from Schiffer Publishing.  All rights reserved.

Used by permission from Schiffer Publishing. All rights reserved.

Marit Menzin, all rights reserved.

Marit Menzin, all rights reserved.

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