Sunday, August 21, 2011

5 Back to School Middle Grade Read Alouds

Since participating in the recent 10 for 10 Picture Book Event hosted by Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and Enjoy and Embrace Learning, I have been thinking my favorite read aloud chapter books.
Very soon many of my teachers will be looking for middle grade (ages 8-12) classroom read alouds to start the year, and I have a few old favorites and some new reads at the ready to recommend:

Silverwing by Oppel 
What it's about: Young Bat, Shade, goes on an epic adventure after being separated from his clan during migration.
What I love: Shade is the most likable bat character you will ever meet. Shade is a thinker who questions the status quo. That and being on the small side, make him not fit in well with his clan mates. But after he gets lost in a storm, fitting in doesn't matter so much anymore, it's all about survival. 
Great adventure and cheering for the underdog, ahem, underbat.

The World According to Humphrey by Birney
What it's about: Humphrey, the class pet hamster of room 26, goes home each weekend with students, and is somehow able to solve everyone's problems.
What I love: This story is told from the point of view of Humphrey who takes it to heart when Ms. Mac says, "You can learn a lot about life by observing another species." Humphrey pays close attention to everyone, including the janitor, and figures out ways that he, little hamster that he is, can solve everyone's problems. So much humor and hamster fun! There are even jokes and puzzles in the back of the book.

Out of My Mind by Draper
What it's about: No one knows it, but 11 year old Melody is the smartest kid in her school; with severe CP she can't talk, write or walk.
What I love: This is the ultimate book about finding your voice and not judging someone by looks alone. I can't recommend this book enough for building community and creating empathy within a classroom.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Angleberger
What it's about: Dwight is not the classmate students usually turn to for advice, but the paper Yoda puppet on his finger seems to be able to predict the future.
What I love: This book is quirky and profound at the same time. Fans of Diary of a Wimpy kid will love it. Be prepared to have everyone making origami yodas: 

When Life Gives You O.J. by Perl
What it's about:  Zelly Fried wants a dog so badly, she is willing to care for a plastic jug is if it were a real dog just to prove it.
What I love: Kids will be mortified (in a good way) that Zelly actually agrees to drag around an orange juice jug on a leash in public and even pick up pretend poop. There is such wonderful self-discovery in this book, as Zelly says, "I guess sometimes you don't know things about yourself until you do." 

Are you planning a classroom read aloud for this fall?
I would love to hear your ideas and recommendations!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Giveaway!

I'm giving away three picture books on another blog I manage for the 15 Books Student Choice Picture Book Award

Click through to 15 Books to enter the giveaway.

Each of these three fabulous picture books has a special connection to Minnesota, my home state.

If your home state or region of the world does not have a student choice picture book award, consider joining us at 15 Books!

Mali Under the Night Sky is the true story of Lao-American artist Malichansouk Kouanchao ( based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who walked with her family from Laos to Thailand when she was five years old.

by Wendy Orr
Illustrated by Lauren Stringer 
(Minnesota illustrator) 
My earlier Blog Post about Princess and Her Panther.

by Alison McGhee (Minnesota Author)
Illustrated by Scott Menchin

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 Read Alouds I Can't Live Without

This is a crazy picture heavy post. I just couldn't help myself.

I have been thinking for awhile now about my 10 "Must Have" picture books for August 10 for 10 (on twitter: #pb10for10

I wear two hats in my read aloud life, one as a school library media specialist, and the other as a parent.
There is so much cross over with what I read at school and home, but this list seemed to have a clear line for me with 6 school favorites and 4 home favorites. 

My School Favorites:
by Jacqueline Briggs Martin 
Illustrated by Mary Azarian

What it's about: 
Wilson Bentley had a passion for snowflakes, and spent his life trying to capture and preserve them for future generations.

What I love: 
I love stories about having passions and hobbies that are life changing, as well as stories about leaving a legacy. Snowflake Bentley does both. I hold back tears each time I read the end of the book about his death and his snow crystal photos living on as his "gift to the world." 

Wilson Bentley intentionally gave a gift to the world with his photographs by placing the images in the public domain (you may print your own copies of many snowflake images here:
I love to use this book to discuss biography, copyright, public domain, and leaving a legacy.

I also have a collection of Bentley's photographs, Snow Crystals (Dover photography collections), in my library, which is hardly ever on the shelf.

It includes over 2400 of Wilson Bentley's images.

And it includes a few dew covered spider webs (also talked about in the book).

The Happiest Tree
by Uma Krishnaswami
What it's about: 
Meena feels clumsy most of the time, through yoga she learns how to feel more in control of her body.

What I love:
Meena makes a discovery near the end that she "can change her body by how [she] feel[s] inside...if [she] is quiet on the inside, [her] body will be still." Anyone who has ever worked with young children knows that is a powerful message. I love doing some relaxing breathing and intro to yoga with kids when reading this book.

I also love that Meena's teacher is a teacher of color. Something that is not as common as it should be in picture books.

by Barbara Lehman

I blogged about why I love The Red Book and Lehman's other fabulous wordless stories here:

Tops and Bottoms
by Janet Stevens
What it's about: 
Hare tricks a lazy bear into giving him all the good parts of his crops.

What I love: 
Hare is so clever, and Bear keeps getting conned. When I read it for the first time with a group, I love having them try to figure out "how is Hare going to get the good part of the crop this time?"
"It's a done deal, Bear!"

Sam and the Tigers
by Julius Lester
Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

What it's about:
Sam loses all of his brand new clothes to a bunch of tigers on the way to school, but when the tigers start fighting with each other, he gets them back again.
What I love:
I love that everyone in Sam's town is named "Sam". I love that Sam convinces a tiger that his shoes are "ear shoes" so that the tiger won't eat him.  I love the fabulous examples of hyperbole, metaphor and simile.
And I love all of the faces hidden in the trees all through the story.

One Dog Canoe
by Mary Casanova
illustrated by Ard Hoyt

I blogged about why I love this favorite before as well:

Home Favorites:
by Bruce Degen
Our very worn out copy of Jamberry.
What it's about:
A boy and a bear go on a berry adventure in berryland.

What I love:
This book was a gift to us when my 5.5 year old was born.
It totally won me over with it's rhythm and language: "Raspberry, Jazzberry, Razzmatazzberry, Berryband, Merryband, Jamming in Berryland."

Snuggle Puppy
by Sandra Boynton
What it's about:
Snuggle Puppy is a sweet love song to a child.

What I love: 
I love books that connect to singing. Listen to Snuggle Puppy sung by Eric Stolz here: We love to make the "whisper verse" barely audible and try to hold the "oooooohs" until we are absolutely out of breath. Life is about the little things, right?
One of my Snuggle Puppies

The Little Mouse,
The Red Ripe Strawberry
and the Big Hungry Bear
by Don and Audrey Wood 

What it's about:
A little mouse is trying to save a strawberry from being found by a bear, eventually deciding to share it with the you, the reader.

What I love:
Just look at that little mouse!

Babybug Magazine
by Carus Publishing
What it's about: 
Babybug is a magazine made for board book readers with NO advertising.

What I love:
I know that this is not officially a picture book, but I am breaking the rules for good reason: Babybug rocks! It's made for small hands, and each page of the magazine is heavy card stock. Each issue starts with story about Kim and her stuffed bunny named Carrots. The rest of each issue includes a variety of stories, poems, nursery rhymes and finger plays. The illustrations are wonderful and varied in within each issue.

I keep a copy in my "diaper bag" at all times.
Also a plus... my kids always enjoy getting something in the mail.

(Carus Publishing also has other fabulous magazines: Ladybug, Spider, Cricket, Click, Ask, Oddyssey, Muse, Appleseeds, Faces, Cobblestone - I'm a big fan)

There they are... my 10 picture books for August 10 that I can't live without.

Thanks to...
@mandyrobek  of
@cathymere of
for organizing this second annual picture book event!

I am excited to read about others' favorites.

Participants' posts are all linked here: