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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!

Wonderful Stories for Cold Days: January 2017 Primary (K-2)

December 15th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | January - (Comments Off on Wonderful Stories for Cold Days: January 2017 Primary (K-2))

Amazing storytelling, endearing characters and warm illustrations make these books favorites for many kids, parents, librarians and teachers.

finding winnieFinding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick.  Illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  Little, Brown, 2015

Honor Book, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award

Author Lindsay Mattick is the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, the Winnipeg veterinarian who purchased an orphaned cub at a train station while on his way to service in World War I. Mattick’s unique perspective and engaging style (punctuated with plenty of humor) make for an irresistible narrative that includes herself and her young son, Cole, as characters as she tells what is clearly a familiar and much loved story to the little boy. Harry named the cub Winnipeg (soon shortened to Winnie) and she charmed everyone. Winnie was full of affection and exploits, and it was hard for Harry to imagine leaving her behind in England when word came his unit was leaving for the front. But he took Winnie to the London Zoo and it was there, years later, that a little boy named Christopher Robin Milne first saw her. The conversational style of Mattick’s narrative is finely crafted and utterly charming. So, too, are Sophie Blackall’s warm illustrations, which are finely detailed and emotionally expansive, emphasizing the bond between mother and son, and man, child, and bear. An album of photographs of Colebourn, Winnie, Christopher Robin, and Mattick and Cole round out this winsome volume. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion questions:

  1. Pre-reading: What do you know about a bear named Winnie?
  2. What are the three different stories in the book?
  3. How do the illustrations add to the story? Do they add information, emotions, and/or movement to the story?
  4. In what ways, do the author and illustrator use the photos in the scrapbook in the text and Illustrations?
  5. Who would be on your family tree?

first caseThe First Case by Ulf Nilsson. Illustrated by Gitte Spee.  Translated from the Swedish by Julia Marshall. (Detective Gordon) U.S. edition: Gecko Press, 2015

An engaging, character-driven mystery begins with an aging toad detective investigating the theft of nuts from a very upset squirrel. Detective Gordon can’t move as quickly or as easily as he once did. Then he meets a nameless mouse who is young and spry and eager and she quickly becomes his able assistant. First order of business: give her a name. He suggests one he’s always loved: Buffy. The interactions between Buffy–so bright and optimistic and open-hearted–and Detective Gordon–slightly world-weary but wise and buoyed by her presence—are warm and wonderful in a story full of understated humor punctuated by brighter, laugh-out-loud moments (often involving the squirrel). The duo inspects the scenes of the crime, gathers clues, conjectures based on what they’ve observed (clearly the suspect can climb trees, for example), then lays a trap and eventually capture the thieves. Beautiful design, including charming spot and full-page color illustrations, embellish a winning, winsome short chapter book. Add it to your read-aloud repertoire! (MS) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Describe how Detective Gordon and Buffy are different from and similar to each other. Why do you think Detective Gordon and Buffy work well together?
  2. Why do you think Detective Gordon handed the squirrel the mirror?
  3. What rituals and routines does Detective Gordon eventually share with Buffy?

Find more resources for Finding Winnie and The First Case at TeachingBooks.net!

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