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Refugees and Migrants: April 2017 Intermediate

March 17th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | April - (Comments Off on Refugees and Migrants: April 2017 Intermediate)

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago. Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. Translated from the Spanish by Elisa Amado. Groundwood Books / House  of Anansi Press, 2015

“When we travel, I count what I see … One little bored donkey and fifty birds in the sky … the people who live by the train tracks.” A singular and extraordinary picture book pairs the matter-of-fact of a voice of a young girl giving a childlike accounting of the journey she and her father are taking with detailed color illus-trations that show the context and content of their travels. They are journeying away from their home and toward some unknown that surely represents safety, and, one can imagine, freedom and opportunity. However, none of this is stated in a narrative firmly grounded in the child’s voice. From riding atop her father’s shoulders to crossing a river on a raft, sitting on top of a train car to sleeping in the back of a pickup truck, the challenges and potential dangers of their travels are revealed through the art, in which the warmth between father and child is also apparent. So, too, is the weight of the father’s worry, although he is clearly trying to keep it from being her burden, too. Tender, heartbreaking, exceptional, this volume concludes with a note about the movement of refugees across Central America and Mexico toward the United States.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What significance do rabbits play in this story? What other animals have significant roles in the story? What do those animals represent?
  2. Why do you think the girl overlooked how difficult her family situation was?
  3. Use the question at the back of book: What do those of us who have safe comfortable lives owe to people who do not?

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord. Scholastic Press, 2015

Lily has never given much thought to the migrant workers who harvest blueberries in her Maine community. Then she meets Salma Santiago, and they become friends. When Salma, with Lily’s support, decides to enter the local Blueberry Queen contest—the first migrant child ever to do so—Lily’s friend Hannah offers to help, despite also being in the competition. In the hands of a less skilled author, this premise would turn into mean girl drama, but Cynthia Lord is sure-handed in a novel that focuses first and foremost on the deepening friendship between Lily and Salma but doesn’t freeze out Hannah. Lily, whose single mother died when she was two, wants her tightly contained world to be fixable when it isn’t predictable. She’s saving money so her dog, Lucky, can have cataract surgery, because she is convinced he’s miserable. Salma can’t control many things about her life, but her family is a reassuring constant. The same is true of Lily’s grandparents, but Lily misses not having a mother. Nuanced, fully realized characters and a well-developed story arc distinguish this quiet, satisfying novel in which Lily begins to see her life not in terms of what is missing, but rather what she has.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why is it good to try new things? Why is it good to let other things go? Give some examples from the book of a time that a character tried something new? Let go?
  2. What did you learn about where your food comes from? How did the migrant lifestyle impact each girl’s life?
  3. What does each girl learn from the other?

Find discussion guides and more resources for Two White Rabbits and A Handful of Stars at TeachingBooks.net!

Refugees and migrants: “The two terms have distinct and different meanings, and confusing them leads to problems for both populations.” Learn more from The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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Animals All Around: September 2016 Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers Titles

August 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | September | 2016-2017 - (Comments Off on Animals All Around: September 2016 Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers Titles)

RagweedRagweed’s Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy.  Candlewick Press, 2015

A how-to handbook offering sage advice from an experienced farm dog begins, “Here’s the first thing you need to know: The rooster wakes the farmer early in the morning. That’s his job. That’s not your job. Don’t wake the farmer. You will really, really want to wake the farmer … If you DO wake the farmer, you can get a biscuit just to go away.” Each lesson proves to be a slight variation on this theme as Ragweed, one of the most entertaining and authentic canine narrator’s ever to speak from the pages of a picture book, lays out who does what on the farm, what not to do as a farm dog, and how doing it anyway will generally result in a biscuit (or three!). Ragweed’s enthusiasm and almost single-minded focus on biscuits is consistent and convincingly doglike, while the occasional variation on the pattern only adds to the humor. (“If the farmer is away, chase the sheep! No biscuit. It’s just worth it.”). Anne Vittur Kennedy’s pairs her terrific narrative with illustrations full of color and movement. Ragweed’s joy in the life he lives is irresistible. Highly Commended, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
The Babies and Doggies Book by John Schindel and Molly Woodward. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

  • Talk: Ragweed is proud to be an excellent farm dog. Talk about what you do well.
  • Sing: Old MacDonald Had a Farm
  • Write: Draw a picture or make a small book about the things you do well.
  • Play: Pretend to be a dog or another farm animal
  • Math or Science: Visit a farm or petting zoo.

babies and doggies bookThe Babies and Doggies Book by John Schindel and Molly Woodward. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

Babies and puppies feature in this adorable board book that looks at how many things babies and puppies have in common. Both hide and peek, for example, and both like to eat, and both like to be silly. A simple series of rhyming and almost rhyming statements is paired with smile-inducing color photographs sure to charm both babies and toddlers and their adult caregivers.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Talk: Try reading the story with the word “puppies” instead of doggies.
  • Sing: “BINGO”
  • Write: Make a collage with pictures of dogs and puppies. Look for pictures in magazines or online.
  • Play: Practice the downward facing dog yoga pose.
  • Math or Science: How are puppies and babies different? How are they alike?

why do I singWhy Do I Sing?  Animal Songs of the Pacific Northwest by Jennifer Blomgren. Illustrated by Andrea Gabriel. Little Bigfoot / Sasquatch Books, 2015

Realistically rendered illustrations of ten animals with habitats in the Pacific Northwest are each paired with a four-line rhyme describing their vocalizations. From honeybees to fin whales to marmots, a wide-ranging lineup of species is showcased in a board book to be shared with the youngest of naturalists. Even amphibians are accounted for, as “the Pacific tree frogs / lead a big twilight chorus / that fills up the wetlands / and pastures and forests.” © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Talk: Look at a map. Where do these animals live? Where do you live?
  • Sing: Can you sing like the animals? What sounds do they make?
  • Write: Practice forming the letter “S” for sing out of string. What other materials can you use to create the letter S
  • Play: Can you move like the animals? Try them all!
  • Math or Science: Talk a walk in the park. What animals do you see? What animals do you hear?

Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection: “A Dog”, page 28

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New Year, New Stories to Share: January 2016 Primary K-2 Titles

December 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2015-2016 | January - (Comments Off on New Year, New Stories to Share: January 2016 Primary K-2 Titles)

blizzardBlizzard by John Rocco.  Disney / Hyperion, 2014.Primary Icon of a White-Tailed Deer

“Outside, the ground is cold and white. Inside, my home is warm and bright,” begins this satisfying picture book for young children. A small boy describes what is happening, both outside and inside his home, during a snowstorm. While the snow “swirls and blows” deeper and deeper into drifts, he warms his toes by the fireplace, drinks hot cocoa, and snuggles under a quilt. Pairs of simple sentences and their accompanying illustrations contrast the wild beauty of the storm with the snug comfort of the boy’s warm house. As the storm abates, the boy ventures out into a calm, cold, crystalline nighttime to make a snow angel. Then it’s back inside and off to bed, but not before he takes one more look at his sleeping angel. CCBC categories: Seasons and Celebrations; Books for Babies and Toddlers; Concept Books.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: What would you not want to be without in a snow storm?
  2. What visual clues show you the depth of the snow?
  3. How do the illustrations tell you about the passage of time?
  4. Which member of the family saves the day? How does he or she save the day? Show examples of this from the illustrations.

The Incredible Life of Balto by Meghan McCarthy.  Alfred A. Knopf, incredible life of balto2011.

Meghan McCarthy offers a compelling expansion on the usual story of Balto, the sled dog leader of the team that completed the famed delivery of Diptherium serum to Nome in 1925. From an exhilarating description of the final leg of the serum run, McCarthy goes on to describe Balto’s celebrity status after the event (he even starred in a movie!), and then his decline from fame into life as a side-show attraction. Eventually money was raised in a public effort in Cleveland to purchase Balto and his teammates from the sideshow owner. The dogs were donated to the Brookside Zoo, where “Balto could relax and enjoy the rest of his life.” A lengthy section in the afterword titled “Detective Work” is a fascinating account of the author’s efforts to track down Balto’s history and accurate physical description, separating rumor and error from fact. McCarthy’s distinctive art style offers up an endearingly googly-eyed Balto, which seems fitting for a dog considered an unlikely choice for a hero.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What is the setting for the book or when and where does Balto’s story take place?
  2. In what ways do you think Balto was a hero? Show examples from the book to support your opinion.
  3. Kimble did not have enough money to buy Balto, how did he manage to pay for him?

Family Fun: January 2016 Intermediate Titles

December 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | January - (Comments Off on Family Fun: January 2016 Intermediate Titles)

lulu and the cat in the bagLulu and the Cat in the Bag by Hilary McKay. Illustrated by Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readersPriscilla Lamont. U.S. edition: Albert Whitman, 2013.

Irrepressible, animal-loving Lulu is back in two new breezy outings. In Lulu and the Cat in the Bag, Lulu’s grandma, Nan, has come to stay with Lulu and her cousin, Mellie, while their parents are on vacation. Nan is decidedly not an animal lover, and the arrival of a breathing burlap bag on the doorstep has her in a panic about what might be inside. The marigold cat it proves to be isn’t too thrilled, either, and bolts when Lulu opens the bag. But she returns when Nan isn’t looking, making herself at home on Lulu’s bed. When the cat disappears, it’s Lulu’s turn to panic. The outcome of her search for the missing feline is surprising to everyone—perhaps Nan most of all. In Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, Lulu’s parents take Lulu and Mellie on a trip to a seaside cottage. After spotting a stray dog on the beach, Lulu is determined to capture the canine and take care of it. Mellie, meanwhile, is determined to build a kite from the complicated kit she has brought along. Hilary McKay, masterful at writing funny books about families and friends alike, once again offers up a cast of singular, delightful characters in two outstanding books for newly independent readers continuing the series about brown-skinned Lulu that began with Lulu and the Duck in the Park (U.S. edition: Albert Whitman, 2012).  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: What would you do if you found a cat on your doorstep?
  2. What role do pets play in the family in this book? What role do pets play for the main character?
  3. How is the grandmother different at the beginning of the story from the end of the story? Why did the grandmother change her mind about the cat?
  4. How does the setting affect the story? What setting might create a different ending for this story?

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy. misadventures of the family fletcher001Delacorte, 2014.

The multiracial Fletcher family is comprised of four boys — twelve-year-old Sam, ten-year-olds Jax and Eli (who are not twins), and six-year-old Frog — along with their adoptive Dads, whom they call Dad and Papa. Set over the course of a single school year, a warm, funny story in the tradition of classics like The Saturdays features wonderful family dynamics that will ring true to readers regardless of what their own family structure looks like. Over the course of the novel, each of the boys faces a dilemma. Sam, who has been single-minded about soccer, is taken by surprise at how much he enjoys acting in the school play and feels torn about where to put his energy. Jax chooses their crabby next-door neighbor as the focus of a year-long Veteran’s Project for school, but then finds it impossible to engage the unfriendly man. Eli hates the special school for gifted academic kids that he begged to attend, but now feels he has to stick with it. And Frog has a new friend, Ladybug, that the rest of the family assumes is imaginary, like the cheetah that lived under his bed. Their good-humored yet often exasperated parents and a variety of friends and neighbors all add to the fun of a story that is fresh, lively, and comforting.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How is each brother featured as a protagonist? How does that change the story?
  2. This book features messages and emails at the beginning of each chapter. How does that affect your understanding of the narrative? What do you learn about the characters from these notes?
  3. Why did Mr. Nelson appear to be grumpy for much of the story?
  4. Which character changes the most throughout the story? Why do you think this? Cite examples.

Sweet Bedtime Stories: December 2015 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

November 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2015-2016 | December - (Comments Off on Sweet Bedtime Stories: December 2015 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers)

chengduChengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep by Icon_PreSchoolBarney Saltzberg. Disney / Hyperion, 2014.

While everyone else in the bamboo grove slumbers, a panda named Chengdu is tossing, twitching, scrunching, rolling, even hanging upside down, but no matter what he does he can’t fall asleep. His eye-popping, wide-awake visage is one of the charms of a picture book in which the black and white panda is once shown as nothing but big open eyes. He finally climbs up high in a tree and finds a perfect spot to slumber. Too bad for his brother Yuan it’s right on top of him. A witty and wonderfully paced pairing of text and illustrations will definitely charm young readers and listeners, with occasional fold-out and varied trim-size pages adding to the fun. Honor Book, 2015 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Early literacy activities for both books below.

It Is Night by Phyllis Rowland. Illustrated by Laura Dronzek. it is nightGreenwillow / HarperCollins, 2014.

Originally published in 1953 with illustrations by the author, an almost stream-of-conscious bedtime book is given a cozy, comforting new look with the warm, rich hues and soft, soothing, curved lines of Laura Dronzek’s art. The narrative ponders where a variety of animals and objects might sleep at night. “Where should a sleek seal rest his head? On the quiet beach of a faraway island, or safe in an island cave.” A dog in a doghouse “can keep his eye on the stars and see that they don’t bump into the moon.” Rooster and rabbit, elephant and mouse, not to mention a train and dolls “big and small” are all considered. But do any of them sleep in the places imagined? “No! They sleep in the bed of one small child … ALL OF THEM.” It’s a familiar ritual of childhood made fresh.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

For both books:

  • Read: Find other books about plants, animals, and the solar system.
  • Talk & Write: Talk about your bedtime routine. Make a list of your bedtime routine as your child describes the routine and hang the list by your child’s bed. Encourage your child to draw a picture of each routine.
  • Sing: Sing a favorite or traditional lullaby together. For example, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
  • Play: Have your child get their favorite doll or toy ready for bed.
  • STEM: Collect twigs, stones, leaves and other natural materials. Which of these materials do you think animals would use in their habitats? Why?

Find more early literacy activities from the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association’s 2015 Early Literacy Calendar created by Youth Services librarians across Wisconsin.

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