Monday, June 27, 2011

Perfect Square by Michael Hall

Thank you to all those who participate in #bookaday on twitter. I am finding so many fabulous books based on your recommendations.

Including the subject of today's post...

Perfect Squareby Michael Hall

What It's About:
Perfect Square is a square (piece of paper) happy as is, who gets torn, cut, pinked, crumpled, but each time turns into something interesting and wonderful because of it.

What I Love: 
 I love happy accidents. So often students are focused on making things look "right" or perfect and get frustrated when they "ruin" something. Sometimes it's the unexpected turns that make all the difference. Each day Perfect Square is somehow made "unperfect" - and each day it creatively turns itself into something new and different. On the day the the Square gets crumpled and ripped, it turns itself into a mountain..

My Favorite Part:
On the last day, nothing happens to square. It waits and waits. So instead of waiting any longer for something else to change it, it changes itself.

Other Connections:
This book made me think of the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Martin and Carle. I see many connections with artistic style and pattern to the story. My kindergartners study Eric Carle during the year. It will be fun to see what they think.

Other fabulous titles to read along with Perfect Square: 
Beautiful Oops by Barney Salzberg

Monday, June 20, 2011

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach
Retold by Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrated by Michael Austin

What it's about: 
Martina's grandmother gives her some strange advice to help her decide if a suitor would be the right choice as a husband: spill coffee on his shoes.

What I love:
Martina is a beautiful cockroach, and has many suitors asking, "Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha, beautiful muchacha, won't you be my wife?" There is Don Gallo - the rooster, Don Cerdo - the pig, and Don Lagarto - the lizard. Following her grandmother's advice she spills coffee on their shoes and each in turn reveals his true intentions, including the lizard's intention to eat her!

This story has great repetition and rhythm allowing students to predict and help tell the story along with you. It also has wonderful wordplay: the rooster is too cocky, the pig is too boorish, and the lizard to cold-blooded.

I love the surprise at the end when Martina (against her wishes) is ready to spill coffee on Perez the mouse, but he beats her to it, spills some on her and reveals that he too has a Cuban grandmother.

My favorite part:
My favorite part is when Martina asks about Perez, "where has he been?" and her grandmother replies, "Right here all along."
Students love to look back and see that Perez is hidden in illustrations throughout the story right under Martina's nose.

Other connections:
When introducing the Pura Belpre Award, I like to share Belpre's version of Perez and Martina (a little tragic, yes). Deedy's retelling makes a great comparison along with being a Belpre Award honor book as well.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Wordless Books of Barbara Lehman

What they are about:
Red Book- A girl finds a magic book that lets her see a boy on a far-away island; the boy on the island has a magic book that lets him see her.

Museum Trip- On a school field trip to an art museum, a boy finds a secret room where he sucessfully completes a series of magical mazes.

Rainstorm- A lonely boy living in a mansion, finds a secret passage to a nearby island where he makes friends and can escape his very formal life for an afternoon.

Trainstop- On a train ride with her parents, the adults fall asleep and a young girl is the only one to experience a magical trainstop.

The Secret Box- Long ago a young boy hid a secret box, many years later three kids find the box and the clues inside that lead them to a special place.

What I love:
All of the magic and secrets I desperately wanted to believe could really happen when I was a kid come alive in each of Barbara Lehman's stories.
I will never forget the feeling of absolute awe I felt when, after dutifully ordering the Caldecott award winner and honor books back in 2005, I opened the very unassuming Red Book for the first time. That spring I shared The Red Book with every class Kindergarten through 6th grade, and all were captivated by the innocent, intricate, magical, entirely wordless story.

You may be thinking, "wordless books for read-alouds?", and my response is an emphatic YES! Wordless books are an opportunity for the students to help tell the story by reading the pictures.

 I love to talk about using "picture clues". Picture clues can help you figure out what is happening or predict what is coming next in a story. Reading the pictures can be as important as reading words. I "read aloud" Leman's books by constantly questioning, "What's happening now?", "How do you know?", "What clues from the picture make you think that?".

In the past I shared many wordless books with larger groups having only the book and continuously moving around so all students can see. Now I usually project the pages on a screen as we read.

My Favorite Part:
I love how each book ends with an opening to more story that can continue on in your own imagination. In the Red Book a new child finds the magic book the girl has dropped. In the Museum Trip, as the students are leaving readers can see that the docent has a medal exactly like the young boy. In Trainstop there are more trees around the city presumably given as gifts to other kids. The endings make for great discussions.

However,  I think my absolute favorite part is from The Red Book, when we as readers can tell the girl is arriving by balloon to the boy's island, but he has not seen her yet. We get to figure out the surprise, and then experience his joy at seeing her arrive on the next page.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Turtle's Penguin Day by Valeri Gorbachev

Turtle's Penguin Day
by Valeri Gorbachev

What it's about:
Little Turtle's dad reads him a story about penguins at bedtime - the next day he pretends to be a penguin and convinces his friends at school to play along.

What I love:
This book totally nails that developmental phase for so many kids of pretend-playing whatever you learn about, read or watch. Perhaps I connect so much with this book because every day at my house I hear from my 5 year old "let's play (insert topic of interest or title of book/show here). I'll be ________ and you be __________!" My favorite has been "let's play superhero, robot dogs" - a combination of multiple favorite interests.
When Turtle and his friends at school play "penguin", their fun gets incorporated into music class, recess, and even rest time.
Student's love the ending when the following night Turtle's dad reads a bedtime story about monkeys. The last page (the copyright page at the end) shows an image of Turtle ready for school dressed as a monkey. They enjoy predicting all the things that might happen as Turtle and his friends at school pretend to be monkeys, and what Turtle's dad might read the night after that.

My favorite part:
Whenever Turtle has "penguin dreams", he is pictured with his head on a penguin's body. In the part of the story where he and his classmates are all having penguin dreams at rest time, each different animal is pictured with their head on a penguin's body. Every group I have read to loves this page and wants to connect each sleeping animal with their dreamy penguin counterpart.

Other connections:
Animal Fantasy is the way I start to introduce the genre of fantasy in Kindergarten. Talking about what makes a story fantasy or an "impossible story" gets a little complicated when the discussion turns to questions of "what about the tooth fairy?", or "but Santa is real, right?"
In Kindergarten we can dig into the difference between realistic animal stories vs. those that have animals walking, talking and dressing up like people without challenging beliefs about magic or family traditions.