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Two Unusual Mysteries: May 2017 Intermediate

April 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | May - (Comments Off on Two Unusual Mysteries: May 2017 Intermediate)

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones. Illustrated by Katie Kath. Alfred A. Knopf, 2015

Adjusting to life in the country brings challenges and surprises for Sophie Brown. While her unemployed dad learns about small-scale farming, her mom is churning out one freelance article after another to stay on top of bills. Sophie, meanwhile, is learning to care for the chickens that once belonged to her Great Uncle Jim, only Uncle Jim’s chickens prove to be far from ordinary. Henrietta has a Forceful gaze—literally. Sophie has seen her levitate things. Chameleon turns invisible. And all six are the target of a would-be chicken thief who clearly knows they’re special. A funny, spirited story is told almost entirely through letters. Many are from Sophie to her Abuelita or her Great Uncle Jim, both of whom have passed away. Letters full of questions and advice also go back and forth between Sophie and Agnes, owner of Redwood Farm Supply. Agnes’s letters are mysteriously typo-ridden, but her poultry correspondence course is informative and no-nonsense. Trying to protect her flock, Sophie makes the first friend her own age in town while asserting her claim on the chickens she’s come to love. Sophie, who is biracial (her mom is Mexican American; her dad is white), occasionally reflects on cultural aspects of her family history and identity in ways that are genuine and unforced in this blithe but not unsubstantial debut novel featuring pitch-perfect black-and-white illustrations. (MS) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why do you think the author uses letters to tell the story?
  2. How do the illustrations add to the story?
  3. What community resources does Sophie use to care for her chickens? Who does Sophie build relationships with in the community?
  4. What challenges does Sophie perceive in making friends?

Finders Keepers by Shelley Tougas. Roaring Brook Press, 2015

Enjoy this book from a Wisconsin author. Shelley Tougas lives in Hudson, WI!

Christa spends every summer at the most awesome place in the whole world: her family’s cabin on Whitefish Lake, Wisconsin. Only her dad recently lost his job and her parents have decided to sell the cabin. But not if Christa can help it. Everyone knows there is Al Capone blood money hidden somewhere in Whitefish Lake, and her friend Alex’s cranky grandpa might have the key to finding it. Grumpa says the loot is gone, or worse—cursed!—but Christa knows better. That loot is the only thing that can save her family. – from the publisher

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-reading: Who was Al Capone and where did you live?
  2. How believable do you think it is that Al Capone’s money would be buried in Wisconsin? Why do you think Christa believes that his money is buried in Whitefish Lake?
  3. Choose 4 characters for the book and describe how their relationships with each other change throughout the story?
  4. What impact did the imaginative play have on the overall story?

Find resources for Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer  and Finders Keepers at TeachingBooks.net!

Art, Science, and Creativity: March 2017 Primary

February 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | March - (Comments Off on Art, Science, and Creativity: March 2017 Primary)

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!

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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