If you ever hear someone say picture books are just for kids, don’t listen! Read these picture books. You’ll be glad you opened your heart.
Wolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell. (Feiwel and Friends, 2017)
Matthew Cordell doesn’t need words to convey the message of empathy, love, and kindness in this Caldecott nominee for 2018. I felt so much — for the humans and the wolves — in this story about being lost in the snow. A small child waves goodbye to her school friends, and begins her walk home. A pack of wolves also sets out around the same time, with a little one struggling to keep up in the blowing snow. Both the small girl and the small wolf become lost as the pages turn white. What happened next pulled at my “mom” heartstrings.This is a MUST READ book for all ages.
Love, by Matt de la Peña. Illustrated by Loren Long. (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018)
I LOVE this book! Love is NOT just red roses and pink hearts, and Matt de la Peña and Loren Long focus on the daily definitions of love in this beautiful new book. There is love when you play in the sprinklers, when you hide from parents who fight, when you fish with grandpa. There is love in flowers, laughter, and rain puddles. There is love, even when you cannot find love and you try, try, try. Enjoy the sounds, smells, and colors of LOVE and share the book, and your love, with everyone.
I read The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse by Mac Barnett. Mr. Barnett is always so clever with his storytelling skills, and he got me giggling again. “Early one morning, a mouse met a wolf, and he was quickly gobbled up.” End of story, right? Not quite.
See, there’s already a duck that has made a home in the wolf’s belly. The mouse and the duck made such a ruckus inside the wolf that the wolf got a stomach ache. A hunter then hears the wolf, and sets up to shoot. I can’t give the story away, but I promise you’ll be amused. The ending is also a surprise. Genius.
A twisted tale about predators and prey with a load a laughs. You’ll never think of hunting the same way again. (Good thing.) By the way, the illustrations with familiar bright eyed-animals created by Jon Klassen make The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse another Barnett/Klassen classic. A good book for a long winter’s night.
My plan was to start tomorrow, but I opened The Creativity Project by Colby Sharp tonight after a longer-than-expected drive home from the NCTE annual conference, and fell in love immediately with the structure of this amazing text. I’m sure I’ll read this one quickly again, and later slow down and really ponder the wonder of this amazing project. Colby Sharp is the co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club, so by nature, he is a reader and writer. He asked several authors to supply creative writing prompts for each other, then sent packages to authors with the prompts, asking each to share their writing/creating process. He wanted to share (with his elementary school students) how writers come up with ideas and “observe the way that creativity works.”
Mr. Sharp wrote in the introduction, “A few weeks later, the pieces started coming in, and HOLY SMOKES! I was completely blown away.” As I flipped through the pages tonight myself, perusing the structure of the book, I, too, was in awe of the prompts themselves and the projects that were submitted. For example, author Peter Brown submitted this prompt: “Create something that includes a tree looking out-of-place.” Illustrator Lauren Castillo answered with a drawing of a city scene, and there’s a tree there, looking quite out-of-place.
I can’t wait to read this book deeply and maybe even try something myself. Thank you, Mr. Sharp, for challenging all of us — experts and amateurs — to create!
October weather is beautiful! I love the autumn season, especially when it’s this nice outside — perfect for reading Swing It, Sunny! by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm out on the front porch. This is the sequel to Sunny Side Up (2015), and it’s just as fun, although Sunny Lewin may not think so.
“Summer’s over, and it’s time for Sunny Lewin to enter the strange and unfriendly hallways of…middle school.” Yes, middle school, where I am stationed each day. Middle school IS a strange place; it’s no different for our main character.
Sunny is accompanied by other characters from the first installment, which makes this book easy to read. I feel like I know these people from the past, and I do! Revisiting characters to read more about their lives makes me root for Sunny even more. “She is NOT going to let all the confusion get her down.” I like the message, and I’m happy to help Sunny stay “sunny-side up!”
Wishtree has been around for over 200 years, and in that time she has seen many changes in the lives of the animals and the humans who surround her. Every May Day (May 1st) people come from all around to tie pieces of cloth with written wishes on the tree. It’s a tradition that Wishtree enjoys, until one day, a young male comes and changes the tree’s life, and the lives of all who live nearby. Wishtree decides that maybe wishes should come true — she’s an optimist, you see; but the animals who live in her hollows disagree. With the help of her best friend, a crow named Bongo, and 2 school children, Wishtree provides more to the neighborhood than even she realized she could. This is a beautiful story of hope, friendship, and acceptance, told by a tree. And what a story it is!
Welcome to ReadingTeacherWrites.org. This is my professional site where I share information about literacy learning, my own research-based reflections, and lessons I’ve learned while teaching. Now that I am a school librarian, I will post much more on titles and authors for classrooms and schools.
You can also use this page to contact me regarding your reading and writing classroom needs. “Collaboration is key.” I would love to collaborate with you on your next literacy-based project or professional development event.
Lucy Calkins, the Founding Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, said, “Passion is powerful.” I am passionate about teaching and learning; I want to share my passion with you.
I am currently working on:
“Picture Books are Powerful” in the Middle School Classroom
Research on Independent Reading
“SOLO” Launch Team for Solo, by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (until August 1, 2017)
Solo is Kwame Alexander’s latest release (from Blink YA Books) and features Mary Rand Hess. These amazing authors expertly weave the story of Blade, a teen who would rather not be associated with his famous father, Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star. Blade’s girlfriend, Chapel, is the light in his life of darkness, but her parents forbid her to see Blade amid continued family drama. Blade finds that his life is not as it seems – is it worse? The one connection that the family shares is music – much music. “But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities…”
The music that connects Blade, his father, and the other intriguing characters in the book are the web that Alexander and Hess create to lead the reader (and Blade) from Hollywood to West Africa in search of life’s answers. Tracks from Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, U2 ,Van Halen, Aretha Franklin, and more all bring memories to carry the reader (and Blade) into the future. The story is a true hero’s journey through music and time. (Suggestion: Get the audio version!)
What I loved most about Solo is that it is written in Kwame’s famous novel-in-verse style, and adding Mary’s poetic contributions made my heart sing. The book features nostalgic hits and original music by Randy Preston, Alexander’s talented musical friend. The twists, turns, and surprises throughout the book made this a quick read, yet I revisited pages again and again. I downloaded the music to listen to as I traveled with Blade through my third read! I highly recommend Solo for any teen trying to find him/herself in the world, anyone who loves music, or anyone who loves a fantastic story line. (That means “Go Get This Title Now!”) “When the heart gets lost, let the music find you.”
Today I opened Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, and my thinking has been disrupted! In all my years of teaching, I’ve never had it so good — I’m past the “trying to impress the administration” stage of my early years, and I am able to focus on the authentic purposes of teaching reading (to enjoy the stories, to think, to learn…) and forget about the nay-sayers and their agendas. In the introduction to this fabulous, eye-opening professional read, Bob confirms that “our students won’t learn to read these difficult texts by taking quizzes or preparing for them, or by collecting points and prizes…” (see below, page 9)
The nay-sayers don’t bother me anymore. I already know what page 9 states:
My thinking has been disrupted. Kylene and Bob hope that we teachers “jot notes…join us at workshops, or connect with us via social media.” Check. Check. Check. I love Kylene and Bob because they really do want us teachers to be successful, but they want our students to be successful even more. They are helping us, guiding us, and cheering us on! Thank you!
I hope that you are lucky enough to grab this book (as soon as possible!), read it, and have your thinking disrupted this summer. Happy Reading!
I just love using picture books for my middle school classroom! This book will help both math and reading teachers spread the book love. This is 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story, by Tara Lazar, and illustrated by Ross MacDonald, and it is comic genius in picture book form.
Private I tells the story of his newest case: 6 banged on the detective’s door, scared that 7 is coming to get him. Private I took the odd case and started looking for the root of the problem. But 7 cannot be found for questioning. There are a number of suspects, and quite a few witnesses to interview, too. Private I’s work seems to multiply as the case moves forward. Can he solve the case in time, or will the numbers be subtracted, one by one?
If you’re looking for a twisted mystery, Tara Lazar provides the narrative. If you’re looking for some math vocabulary to add to your lesson plans, this book is a positive addition to your library. If you want to read a beautifully-illustrated picture book during your child’s bedtime routine, Ross MacDonald serves up the cake — I mean, pi.
In elementary school I learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I read about his calm demeanor, listened to his moving speeches, and learned about a dark time in my American history. However, I felt like I was hearing only parts of a bigger story; there was something missing. From the time I was in middle school, I acknowledged that civil rights was (and is) a hard-fought battle of minds and bodies, but it still seemed all too easy. One week there was segregation, and then one week there wasn’t anymore? A little colored girl finally got to go to a white school? A lady refused to move from her seat on a bus? I knew I wasn’t hearing everything. I read newspaper articles and archives, and watched movies about history and they way the world used to be before my time. I’m so happy to have found that our current generation of young readers have more answers than I did when I was their age. I’ve been inspired by the work of John Lewis and many other non-violent leaders of our country’s history. Now I will spread the news to others through Mr. Lewis’ books, the March trilogy. I read March: Book One today for the first time.
Riveting! Please read it. Then pick up the other two books, as well. (If you bought the set, you’re on your way!) John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell tell the gripping true stories of life in America, as they happened.
Bonus! March: Book Three won FOUR book awards today. What a fabulous day to be a reader!