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Grandma in Blue with Red Hat by Scott Menchin. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. Abrams, 2015

An art teacher asks a boy and his classmates touring a museum to consider why various pieces are on display: What makes them art? “Because it’s beautiful,” says Alice about one painting. “Because it came from somewhere far away,” says Thomas about another. “Because it’s different.” “Because it tells a story.” “Because it makes me feel good.” “Because it’s funny.” That night the boy thinks about his classmates’ observations, and about what the teacher said, “Anything can be in an art exhibition.” And then he thinks about his Grandma, who is different, funny, tells him stories, makes him feel good, and comes from far away. “I should give Grandma to the museum!” Alas, the museum director explains, they don’t accept Grandmas. A playful yet probing narrative is paired with illustrations blending cartoon styling with renditions of the real works of art that inspire the students’ thinking and creativity. The African American boy at story’s center goes on to paint a whimsical series in tribute to his Grandma.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  1. Pre-reading: What is art?
  2. Do you recognize some of the paintings and sculptures in the book?
  3. Why do you think text appears in two formats?
  4. After reading this book, how has your understanding of art and making art changed?

I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos. Illustrated by Jennifer Plecas. Henry Holt, 2015

The fly narrating this informative picture book is full of enthusiasm, not to mention knowledge, eager to convince a class studying butterflies that flies are just as worthy a subject. “Here’s how the story goes: My 500 brothers and sisters and I started out as eggs. Our mom tucked us into a warm, smelly bed of dog doo.” The fly’s impromptu lecture (it came in through the window during a science class) is followed by a Q-and-A session, with the fly dispelling misinformation about its species. Bridget Heos’s funny, factual narrative (well, except for the talking fly) is perfectly matched by Jennifer Plecas’s clean-lined, cartoon-like illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  1. How does the fly show us the difference between facts and myths?
  2. What information about flies do you find most interesting in this book?
  3. In what ways are flies and butterflies alike? different?

Find more resources for Grandma in Blue with Red Hat and I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are at TeachingBooks.net!

Maya’s Blanket / La Manta de Maya by Monica Brown. Illustrated by David Diaz. Children’s Book Press / Lee & Low, 2015

Little Maya loves her manta (blanket), which was made by her abuelita. When the edges of the blanket fray from use, Abuelita helps Maya turn it into a vestido (dress). They later make the vestido into a falda (skirt), which they eventually sew into a rebozo (shawl), before turning it into a bufanda (scarf), and then a cinta (headband). When Maya gets her hair cut, she turns the cinta into a marcador de libros (bookmark). When she loses her bookmark, Maya realizes she can write the entire story down. And when she is grown with a little girl of her own, she tells that story to her. Based on a traditional Yiddish folk song, this lively contemporary story is grounded in Latino culture and told in both English and Spanish. Monica Brown’s engaging cumulative narrative seamlessly integrates Spanish words into the English text, defining them in context, while the cultural details and a wonderful, warm sense of family as Maya grows are brought into full visual relief in David Diaz’s richly hued illustrations that are both heartfelt and whimsical. Highly Commended, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Share these early literacy activities with caregivers or add them in story time.

  • Talk: This book is in both English and Spanish. What other languages do you hear or speak?
  • Sing: Do you know any songs or poems in different languages? Sing one of these songs.
  • Write: Draw your favorite thing. Is it a blanket, pillow, or something else?
  • Play: Create a story about your favorite thing. Can you act out your story?
  • Math or Science: Make a blanket fort.

Squirrel Round and Round: A Bilingual Book of Seasons by Belle Yang. Candlewick Press, 2015

Squirrel Round and Round describes the changing landscape and activities of its inhabitants as a squirrel travels through the seasons of the year. The squirrel observes blooming camellias, noisy cicadas, ripe persimmons, and more as winter turns to spring then to summer and fall. The first frost and fresh tracks in the snow bring the squirrel back to winter. The book offers a rich vocabulary in English and Mandarin Chinese while attractive illustrations painted in impressionistic colors are simple yet detailed.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center.

Share these early literacy activities with caregivers or add them in story time.

  • Talk: What different animals live outside your house? Where do they live?
  • Sing: Listen for the sounds in your world. What sounds can you make? Do different languages make different sounds?
  • Write: Can you create Mandarin characters?
  • Play: Go outside and make some tracks.
  • Math or Science: How can you tell what season it is? Use all 5 senses.

Include some poetry: Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection: page 20 and Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Firsts section

For more bilingual titles, try the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) bibliography, 50 Bilingual and Spanish/English Integrated Books, or search on the CCBC website.

Find more resources for Maya’s Blanket/La Manta de Maya and Squirrel Round and Round: A Bilingual Book of Seasons at TeachingBooks.net.

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New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer. Illustrated by Eric Velasquez. Holiday House, 2015

When Ella Mae, who’s always had hand-me-downs, goes shoe shopping for the first time, she’s eager to try on the pair of new saddle shoes she’d been eyeing in the window. But it turns out Black people aren’t allowed to try on shoes at the shoe store. Ella Mae’s mom traces Ella Mae’s foot on a piece of paper and they determine what size to buy based on the tracing. The experience diminishes the joy of new shoes for Ella Mae, but it also inspires her. She and a friend begin to do odd jobs for a nickel and a pair of outgrown shoes. They invest the money in polish and laces, scrub and shine the pairs they’ve collected, and invite anyone to come in and try them on before purchasing, asking for more old shoes as part of the price of payment to guarantee the goodwill can continue. A story set in the mid–20th century South underscores the unfairness of racism through a common childhood event. The story pulls no punches in describing how it feels to Ella Mae to be treated so unfairly. Ella Mae’s response is one that also underscores determination, generosity, and fairness. An author’s note provides additional historical context, as do the period illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-Reading: What do you know about segregation?
  2. What happened in the shoe store? How do you think it made Ella Mae and her Mother feel?
  3. How do Ella Mae and her mother react to what happened in the shoe store?  What actions does Ella Mae take to change her experience of shoe shopping?
  4. How does the community benefit from Ella Mae’s and Charlotte’s creative solution?

 

Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue by Robert Burleigh. Illustrated by Wendell Minor. Charlesbridge, 2015

“The huge humpback whale dips and dives. Her sleek black sides shimmering, she spyhops, lobtails, flashes her flukes.” The whale becomes entangled in nets used for crab fishing. She struggles, tiring, before a team of divers arrives and embarks on a rescue mission. Will they free the whale in time to save her? Robert Burleigh’s tense, dramatic picture book narrative is based on an actual event that happened off the California coast in 2005. When the whale is finally freed, she swims past her rescuers and gently nudges each one, “as if saying thanks.” Wendell Minor’s gorgeous illustrations offer a variety of arresting perspectives of the whale and the divers in the sea in an account that concludes with additional information about the event on which it is based, as well as more about whales and whale rescues.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What roles do you think humans play in the whale’s story?
  2. How do you know whether or not the whale understands that the humans helped to free the whale?
  3. How do the illustrations show the difference between the whale feeling trapped and feeling free?
  4. What do you think are some of the words that the author uses to show the whale’s movement?

Find more great resources, including discussion guides, for New Shoes and Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue at TeachingBooks.net.

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Making a Difference in the World: September 2016 Intermediate Titles

August 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | September | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) - (Comments Off on Making a Difference in the World: September 2016 Intermediate Titles)

one plastic bag smallOne Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. Millbrook Press, 2015

When Isatou Ceesay first noticed a piece of silky fabric on the ground in her Gambian community, she wasn’t sure what it was. “Plastic,” her Grandmother explains with a frown. Soon there is more. The bags are convenient but people discard them when they break. The litter is unsightly, and a hazard to livestock that eat it. It’s a problem that grows as Isatou reaches adulthood. Watching her sister crochet gives Isatou the idea to turn the worn bags into something useful again, and soon a group of women are transforming old plastic bags into purses after washing and cutting them into strips to crochet. The new bags are not only a solution to the litter problem but become a means of economic development in their community. Debut Wisconsin author Miranda Paul brings a storyteller’s gift for language and pacing to this picture book account based on real events and set against Elizabeth Zunon’s illustrations full of texture and color. An author’s note with more about Isatou and the ongoing initiative, pronunciation guide for the Wolof words incorporated into the narrative, timeline, bibliography, and color photographs are included in the end matter.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-reading: What does your family do with plastic bags?
  2. Isatou show’s great persistence. Think of examples of other people whose perseverance impacted a broad group.
  3. How do you help your community? Does that also touch the global community?

tiger boyTiger Boy by Mitali Perkins. Illustrated by Jamie Hogan. Charlesbridge, 2015

Neel lives on one of the Sundarban islands off the coast of Bangladesh. Neel’s father has always said it’s important to protect the land and the tigers, so Neel is dismayed when Baba agrees to work for wealthy Mr. Gupta hunting a tiger cub that escaped from a nearby refuge. Everyone knows Mr. Gupta wants to sell the cub on the black market. But hardworking Baba needs extra money to hire a tutor to help Neel prepare for an upcoming scholarship exam. Neel doesn’t care about the scholarship; he has no desire to leave the island for further schooling. He does care about the little cub, however, so he and his older sister, Rupa, who wishes she could go to school, are determined to find the cub before anyone else, even Baba, and return it to the refuge. The sense of urgency that propels Neel and Rupa’s hunt for the cub creates the perfect amount of tension in an engaging story wonderfully grounded in Neel’s point of view and his experiences in his family and community. Their effort to save the cub helps Neel understand how furthering his education is one means of helping protect the place he lives. Just the right amount of information about the complexities of economic and environmental issues is seamlessly incorporated into this warm, lively chapter book featuring occasional illustrations and a satisfying and believable ending. An author’s note tells more about the islands and their environmental and economic struggles. (MS)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-reading: What does school mean to you?
  2. How does Neel feel about school? Why? How does his opinion of or feelings toward education change from the beginning of the story to the end of the story?
  3. How does the desperate situation in the story affect people’s decisions? How can one person’s actions have a profound impact on the world? Give examples from at least two characters from the book.
  4. What role does the setting play in this story?

Find a complete discussion guide from the publisher here! Find more resources for Tiger Boy at TeachingBooks.net

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