Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Weekend with Wendell (Kevin Henkes)


This would be a great book to read when we read Stevie in our Open Court unit on friendship. Kevin Henkes is so good at thoughtful books. Love him.

Goodreads summary:

Wendell was spending the weekend at Sophie's house. Playing house, Wendell was the mother, the father, and the children; Sophie was the dog. Playing bakery, Wendell was the baker; Sophie got to be the sweet roll. Wendell shone his flashlight in Sophie's eyes when she tried to sleep. But when he gave her a new hairdo with shaving cream, it was the last straw, and Sophie made up a game that left Wendell speechless for a time -- and won the day for friendship.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Rainbow Fish (Marcus Pfister)


My daughter has a video of this movie when she was little and she watched it over and over and over. It really does have a great story. I've never really thought about reading it in my classroom because I have always thought of it as a book for pre-schoolers. I think it could work though.

These guys do a fabulous job reading it:

Goodreads says:

The Rainbow Fish is an international bestseller and a modern classic. Eye-catching foilstamping, glittering on every page, offers instant child-appeal, but it is the universal message at the heart of this simple story about a beautiful fish, who learns to make friends by sharing his most prized possessions, that gives the book its lasting value.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Looks Like Daylight (Deborah Ellis)

Earlier in the Spring, I went to what I thought was a reading at the Calgary Public Library. It was during the Children's Festival and Deborah Ellis was a speaker! I was so excited to go listen to her. It turned out it really wasn't about Deborah Ellis. It was about students who are doing cool projects in Calgary to better the world. Their projects were centered on First Nation's issues. I found it all quite inspiring. After the presentations, I asked Deborah Ellis if she'd ever considered writing a book about First Nations and it turns out she had! I got straight on to the library website to get a copy of the book.


This isn't a novel. It is interviews with First Nations youth that Deborah Ellis had met over the course of two years. Each chapter is a different story. Stories are told in first person. After a while, I figured I got the gist of the book, but something told me I should continue on. After reading story after story after story, there is a great impact on the reader's heart. There are so many amends to be made for all the First Nations people have gone through. I think they will rise up though. I feel like times are changing for their entire culture. Perhaps that is why it is called Looks Like Daylight. The last page is a story about Waakekom, an Ojibwe boy who is 16 from Saugeen First Nation in Ontario. He says:

 “My spirit name (“Waasekom”) means ‘when it’s night and lightning fills the sky and it suddenly looks like daylight,’”.

Like she has in the past, all the royalties from this book go to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (

Some parts that really struck me:

p. 117 The US government referred to the Cochtaw Nation as one of the Five Civilized Tribes, along with the Cherokee, Creek, Chicksaw and Seminole. They were called civilized because many had begun to adopt European ways - living in log cabins, wearing European style clothing and attending school. But in 1829, President Andrew Jackson decided that assimilation wasn't good enough. He launched a plan to remove all Native Americans from the US South to places west of the Mississippi River. The idea was to move 60,000 Native Americans who had been living in the Eastern Woodlands since time immemorial and put them in an area vastly unsuited to their traditional way of life. The bulk of the Five Tribes were rounded up at gunpoint and then forced to walk, leaving behind farms and homes. One in four died along the way.

p. 151 Lacrosse originated with the people of the Ongwahonwe Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations, the people of the Longhouse....also known as The Ancient Game/the Creator's Game, its purpose was- and still is-spiritual. It's offered up to the Creator asa prayer for healing or as an expression of gratitude. Some people are given miniature lacross sticks when they are born, & when they pass, a lacrosse stick is placed beside them. 

*Lacrosse = Canada's National Sport

p. 175American Indians have a higher percentage of enrollment in the armed services than any other group. The first Native American recipient of the Medal of Honor (1869) was Co-Rux-Te-Chod-ish, or Co-Tux-Kah-Waddle, who served with the Indian Scouts. In WWI, a law was passed requiring all Native American men to register for the draft even though they were not considered citizens and could not vote .Many thousands voluntarily joined the military. Many others protested this law. In Utah, for instance, the protests were so vehement that the army was called in to stop them.More than 44,000 Native Americans served in WWII, where Navajo Code Talkers played a pivotal role. Ten thousand served in Korea and 42,000 in Vietnam. Ten thousand of those who have served have been women. 18,000 have been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. First Nations people in Canada have also served with great distinction.In Canada, Aboriginal veterans were for a long time not entitled to the same benefits granted to soldiers of European descent. Native veterans were told that since they were not considered Canadian citizens (First Nations people did not obtain the right to vote until 1960), they were not eligible for veterans' benefits. And it wasn't until 1992 that Aboriginal vets were allowed to lay a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Remembrance Day.At powwows, veterans are treated with special respect, and a ceremonial dance is done in their honor.

Goodreads says:

After her critically acclaimed books of interviews with Afghan, Iraqi, Israeli and Palestinian children, Deborah Ellis turns her attention closer to home. For two years she traveled across the United States and Canada interviewing Native children. The result is a compelling collection of interviews with children aged nine to eighteen. They come from all over the continent, from Iqaluit to Texas, Haida Gwaai to North Carolina, and their stories run the gamut — some heartbreaking; many others full of pride and hope.

You’ll meet Tingo, who has spent most of his young life living in foster homes and motels, and is now thriving after becoming involved with a Native Friendship Center; Myleka and Tulane, young artists in Utah; Eagleson, who started drinking at age twelve but now continues his family tradition working as a carver in Seattle; Nena, whose Seminole ancestors remained behind in Florida during the Indian Removals, and who is heading to New Mexico as winner of her local science fair; Isabella, who defines herself more as Native than American; Destiny, with a family history of alcoholism and suicide, who is now a writer and powwow dancer.

Many of these children are living with the legacy of the residential schools; many have lived through the cycle of foster care. Many others have found something in their roots that sustains them, have found their place in the arts, the sciences, athletics. Like all kids, they want to find something that engages them; something they love.

Deborah briefly introduces each child and then steps back, letting the kids speak directly to the reader, talking about their daily lives, about the things that interest them, and about how being Native has affected who they are and how they see the world.

As one reviewer has pointed out, Deborah Ellis gives children a voice that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to express so readily in the mainstream media. The voices in this book are as frank and varied as the children themselves.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

This House Once (Deborah Freedman)


This would be great to read at the beginning of our structures unit.

Emily Arrow shares what this book is about best of all:

Goodreads says:

Deborah Freedman’s masterful new picture book is at once an introduction to the pieces of a house, a cozy story to share and explore, and a dreamy meditation on the magic of our homes and our world.

Before there was this house,
there were stones,
and mud,
and a colossal oak tree—
three hugs around
and as high as the blue.

What was your home, once?

This poetically simple, thought-provoking, and gorgeously illustrated book invites readers to think about where things come from and what nature provides.

Monday, July 10, 2017

This Is Not My Hat (Jon Klassen)

This is the perfect book for these guys. It's hilarious. I seriously love Jon Klassen. As Donalyn Miller says: #teamfish!

Goodreads says:

When a tiny fish shoots into view wearing a round blue topper (which happens to fit him perfectly), trouble could be following close behind. So it's a good thing that enormous fish won't wake up. And even if he does, it's not like he'll ever know what happened...
Visual humor swims to the fore as the best-selling Jon Klassenfollows his breakout debut with another deadpan-funny tale.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

I Want My Hat Back (Jon Klassen)


This reminds me of a problem in our house. Our dad is always losing his back scratcher. Have you seen my back scratcher??

This is a great one to be read by a dad, for sure! It has to be read aloud and enjoyed together.

Then you have to read the next one: This Is Not My Hat

Goodreads says:

A picture-book delight by a rising talent tells a cumulative tale with a mischievous twist.

The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently and politely, he asks the animals he comes across, one by one, whether they have seen it. Each animal says no, some more elaborately than others. But just as the bear begins to despond, a deer comes by and asks a simple question that sparks the bear’s memory and renews his search with a vengeance. Told completely in dialogue, this delicious take on the classic repetitive tale plays out in sly illustrations laced with visual humor-- and winks at the reader with a wry irreverence that will have kids of all ages thrilled to be in on the joke.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Mind Boggling Numbers (Michael Rosen)


This one is pretty much just like How Many Guinea Pigs..., only picture book form. All the questions are answered by a character named Miss Mary Math.

Goodreads says:

How many glasses of lemonade would fit in an Olympic-sized swimming pool? Find the answers to all sorts of mind-boggling math questions in this fun, engaging book.

Friday, July 7, 2017

How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit On a Plane


As soon as I saw the cover, I knew I would love this book. Math people everywhere will love it! I can totally see my students pouring over it and discussing it. So fun! ....and now I finally get what pi means!

It answers all sorts of great questions and even has super good math tricks. This one is a keeper!

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Goodreads says:

How many bees does it take to make one jar of honey?

How many soccer balls would fit inside a hollow Earth?

How many pieces of gum would it take to stick you to a wall and keep you there?

Believe it or not, you can find out the answers to these questions yourself using math! Combining questions from real readers like you with surprising answers, How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit on a Plane? proves that numbers can be fun and that math is power.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery)

My goodness. I started this book in April and it took me until July to finish it. I had a hard time getting into it. One of the problems was the words. oh the words in this book!! There were so many words I'm just unfamiliar with. Is all the wordiness really necessary??

page 1 There he stood, the most recent eructation of the ruling corporate elite-a class that reproduces itself solely by means of virtuous and proper hiccups....
eruct (verb) to belch forth, as gas from a stomach or to emit or issue violently, as matter from a volcano
"You ought to read The German Ideology," I told him. Little cretin in his confer green duffle coat.
cretin (noun) a stupid, obtuse or mentally defective person

Then there was the rambling. It rambles on and on and seems to not be about anything. One of the great readers I admire and follow in Goodreads is Donalyn Miller. She abandoned the book and said:

Abandoned on page 145. I could not connect to the characters at all and did not care what happened to them. Perhaps, I would have liked it better if I was French-- the book was originally published in France.

However, this is one of those books that makes me glad I"m in a book club. I did finally finish it. I had to re-start it a number of times and it took a deadline to get me to finish it. And in the end, I'm glad I did.

The story is set in France and I have a great love affair with everything French. Despite their social awkwardness and preference to be invisible, I really did enjoy getting to know Renee ( "a widow, short, ugly, chubby", with "bunions on my feet and, on certain difficult mornings, it seems, the breath of a mammoth") and Paloma. There's something about those two that we all live.

You have to be really smart to read this book, I think. I'm glad I have my book club to help me get more out of it than I could ever get on my own.

Goodreads says:

We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.
Then there's Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.
Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renée's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Pig on the Hill (John Kelly)


What is it with ducks? This pig must be related to Jory John's bear from Goodnight Already and I Love You Already.  This one would be good to read with Treehouse in our Open Court unit on friendship because duck builds a bridge between their two houses.

There are some hilarious illustrations in this book!

Goodreads says:

The pig lives all alone in a house on top of a hill. He’s very happy with his quiet life. He has his books, his tidy tidy house and a lovely view.

Until one morning he opens the curtains to find a duck has taken up residence on the tiny pinnacle of rock outside his window. Much to the pigs annoyance the excessively friendly duck likes the spot and decides to build a house there. With a swimming pool. And a garden and patio.

The duck tries to be friendly. He’s very confident and outgoing. It seems he’s been everywhere (unlike the pig), done everything; skiing, mountain climbing, parachuting, scuba-diving, even brain surgery. The pig just wants to be left alone.

Eventually, after a particularly loud party, the pig shouts at the duck, and the next morning finds a note pinned to the duck’s front door. It reads:


At first the pig is pleased. But gradually realises that his life without the duck is quiet and slightly dull. He comes to miss the duck and regrets rejecting him.

One day there is a knock on the door and the pig opens it to find the duck wearing a som- brero and carrying a pinata. He’d only been on holiday in the South. He does it every year. Maybe next year the pig will join him.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Kitten's First Full Moon (Kevin Henkes)


Great story for our imagination unit. Things aren't always what they appear. The illustrations are black and white and beautiful. Another beautiful Kevin Henkes book.

Could also be a good springboard for a discussion about goals and how we sometimes run into problems as we try to reach goals. And sometimes, in the end, things end up differently than we expected, and that's ok.

Goodreads says:

The nationally bestselling picture book about a kitten, the moon, and a bowl of milk, written by the celebrated author and illustrator Kevin Henkes, was awarded a Caldecott Medal.

From one of the most celebrated and beloved picture book creators working in the field today comes a memorable new character and a suspenseful adventure just right for reading and sharing at home and in the classroom. It is Kitten's first full moon, and when she sees it she thinks it is a bowl of milk in the sky. And she wants it. Does she get it? Well, no . . . and yes. What a night!

A brief text, large type, and luminescent pictures play second fiddle to the star of this classic picture book—brave, sweet and lucky Kitten! "Henkes's text, reminiscent of Margaret Wise Brown's work in the elemental words, rhythms, and appealing sounds, tells a warm, humorous story that's beautifully extended in his shimmering, gray-toned artwork."—ALA Booklist

Winner of the Caldecott Medal, an ALA Notable Book, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book, and winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award

Supports the Common Core State Standards

Monday, July 3, 2017

My Old Pal Oscar (Amy Hest)


The illustrations in this book are beautiful. I am a fast reader and tend to skim though picture books but the topic of loss and the beautiful ocean pictures brought a sense of peace that made me want to slow down and really feel what the character was sharing. And also because dogs and oceans are good for the soul.

"I know what you want. You want to be pals. Well, we can't be pals. No sir. No way. Won't. Ever. Do. That. Again. Ever."

Goodreads says:

After a young boy’s beloved pet passes away, he encounters an adorable stray dog on the beach. The boy tries to walk away and ignore the cuddly creature, but the puppy continues to follow him, undeterred. Though the boy is still dealing with the pain of his loss and feels afraid to care about a new pet again, as the two walk the sand together, the boy slowly opens himself up to the joy of having a new dog in his life and making peace with the past.

New York Times bestselling Amy Hest and Amy Bates, the beloved team who created The Dog Who Belonged to No One, have created a touching story about new beginnings and how friendship and love have the power to heal.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

I Love You Already (Jory John and Benji Davies)


The friendship between Bear and Duck continues precariously. Goodnight Already was hilarious. So is this one. I think Jory John is secretly writing to help people understand introverts. Introverts are ok with being alone. Let it be!  This would be an interesting discussion during our friendship unit.

Goodreads says:

From the creators of Goodnight Already!, Jory John and Benji Davies, comes another standout hilarious picture book about Bear and Duck. Bear can't wait to spend a pleasant day by himself. His persistent next-door neighbor, Duck, wants to take a morning stroll . . . with Bear. He just wants Bear to like him already. . . .

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Cage Went in Search of a Bird (Cary Fagan)

The illustrations in this book are beautiful. The idea of a cage searching for fulfillment in his life to find a bird to cage was a little disturbing. I'm sure kids would just think it was funny. For me, it bordered on my fear for women who get into abusive relationships. This is a great metaphor for that.

Goodreads says:

A long-empty birdcage takes a chance and leaves behind its attic home to find a bird to keep. Out in the world, the cage encounters many birds and offers shelter to each of them. One by one, they refuse, explaining why they belong elsewhere. The cage feels lonelier than ever – until the cage in search of a bird finds a bird in search of a cage.

Based on an aphorism by Franz Kafka.