Friday, May 2, 2008

Alice the Fairy

Shannon, David
Scholastic, 2004
Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: This book is about a little girl named Alice. Alice is a "temporary" fairy, and she loves pretending that she can preform magic with her wand. She can change her dad into a horse, make leaves fall from trees, disappear in the dark, and change oatmeal into cake. She has a very large imagination. Then she decides that she is a temporary fairy because her mother says that fairies should know how to make their clothes disappear off their floor and to learn how to fly. She doesnt like this so she says that she will be a temporary fairy for forever.

Response: I absolutely love this book! The first time I saw this author was during the author studies, and I fell in love. Alice reminds me of when i was a little girl. I used to wear my dads shoes around the house and ride my dog like a horse. My favorite color was also pinkish purple! I love, love David Shannons illustrations. The author first outlines the illustrations with pen and then paints them with watercolor. The pictures are so colorful and beautiful that it amazes me how good they are. I think that this book would really appeal to younger girls when learning how to read. My favorite page of the book is where it says "Fairies also hate baths. I'd like to turn my bathwater into strawberry jello . That would be fun!" This is such a fun book! I really like how Alice refers her mother to "The Duchess". The Duchess gets very angry at her when she spills a red drink all over her dress. What a great book for younger children!!

Classroom: I think that this book would be fun for children to read when they are learning how to read. The students could create their own fantasy like story about their lives. For example: Peter the great Baseball player or Mary the Fluttering butterfly. This is just a great book to use to get childrens imaginations going! I will definately have this book and ALL of David Shannons books in my classroom!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Paulsen, Gary
Newberry Honor Book
Aladdin Paperbacks, 1996
5th grade and up

Summary: This book is about a boy named Brian Robeson. Brians parents just got a divorce and he is going to spend time with his father in Canada. During the flight there his pilot has a massive heartattack and dies. Brians plane crashes into an L shaped river in Canada. He is lucky to be alive, but is left to survive by himself in the woods. During this time he teaches himself how to fish, how to build a fire and how to live in the wilderness with nothing but the hatchet that his mother gave him as a gift. He is angry at his mother because he knows that she had an affair, something that he is going to tell his father about. He lives through a tornado and getting attacked by a porcipine and a moose. He learns that the only important thing that matters now is to survive. Eventually he swims into the lake to find the crashed airplane and comes upon a survival kit with food, tools, and a transmitter. He thinks that the transmitter is dead but soon enough help comes to find him.

Response: When I was in the 5th grade we had to read this book for school. For some reason it has stuck with me as being one of my all time favorite novels. Brian is a boy who is dealing with something that is hard for any adolescent to deal with and that is divorce. At this time his life is changing and he has to learn how to adapt to it, just like he has to learn to adapt to his new life in the woods. I like how he becomes so idependent. Throughout the book you see him change and grow and to realize the things in life that matter most. That holding grudges and staying mad at people is not a good idea because you may never see them again. "The memory was like a knife cuttinginto him. Slicing deep into him with hate." pg 31. I thought that this was a really powerful line in the book. He is talking about his mothers affair and how much it has hurt him. I think that every person can relate to this in someway. Many people have a memory or a story that they can never let go. As a young girl i loved the wilderness, i loved being outside, i loved camping and I loved playing in the dirt. I think that is why I am so drawn to this book. I went on trip to Alaska one year and it sounds very much like the same place that he describes. I just can't imagine being this character. Being 13 years old and having to hunt your own food, and bathe in a lake. Having no bed to sleep in or air conditioning to keep you cool. It really makes you realize not to take things for granted because many people in this world live just like this...every single day! "Treasure...unbelievable riches. He could not believe the contents of the survival pack." To him this was treasure. Ask any American what treasure is and I am almost sure that this would not be their response.

Classroom: There are many classroom connections in this book. You could talk about dealing with feelings, survival and how to adapt to situtations when needed. (Ex: Moving to a new place) Students could also do an author study on Gary Paulsen. They could create a writing log and pretend they are Brian. What they would do, how they would feel ect. Survival scenarios could be given out like living in a desert, cold place, no electricity ect.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Becoming Naomi Leon


Author: Ryan, Pam Muno
Publisher Scholastic, Inc., 2004
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Multicultural
Age:4th and up

Summary: This book is about a brave and courageous little girl by the name of Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw. Naomi lives with her relative whom she calls Gram and her younger brother Owen, who was born with a birth defect. They live in a trailer which they call Baby Beluga in Lemon Tree, CA. When they were young their mother “Skyla” dropped them off and really wanted nothing to do with them. She struggled with a mental disorder, alcoholism and pure selfishness. Naomi tells the story from her point of view and shares her issues with growing up and finding her self. She is a mixed child, her mother is American and her father is Hispanic. She struggles with this at school because she is “different” than the other kids her age. She is a very shy girl who appreciates everyone around her. Her great grandmother has taught her to be a strong young girl and to have such a positive outlook on life. Naomies little brother Owen was born with a deformity and has gone through several grueling surgeries to try and correct it. He is too is not accepted at school, and the boys make fun of him and call him a retard. He finds comfort in wearing tape on his shirt. One day their mother “Skyla” shows up at their door all the sudden wanting to be a part of Naomis life. Just Naomi, not Owen. She promises that she is not trying to take the children and that she just wants to get to know them. She buys all these gifts for Naomi, trying to buy her love. She never gives Owen any attention, and is very turned off by his deformity. She says that all of her money comes from her boyfriend, Clive. One day Skyla comes and says that she is going to take Naomi to live with her in Las Vegas. Naomi is very scared because her mother has hit her before and Naomi knows what kind of person she is inside. Gram decides to take the trailer and go on a vacation to Mexico so that Naomi and Owen can meet their father, and hopefully get a letter of recommendation from the court so that the children can remain in Grams care. Naomi finally gets to meet her father, and really bonds with him. After their visit they head back to California to deal with the court. They end up fighting in court, and eventually winning against their mother. This is a story of a brave little girl and her realization that there are going to many bumps in the road in life.

RESPONSE: This was an absolutely WONDERFUL book. I had no idea what I was going to be reading about when I first picked this book up because I like the surprise, but this really has become a book that has moved me. I loved everything about this book, the characters, the setting and the message at the end of the book.

There was something about every one of these characters that I felt like I could relate to. Naomi was such a sweet, shy girl who genuinely cared about people. I was always the shy kid in school and never talked much, and was always ridiculed because of it so I can definitely relate to her on this level. I felt like Naomi was someone that I could really look up to. She was dealing with so much in her life but she remained calm, and true to herself. It didn’t really bother her what other people thought about her, she just brushed it off and I really respected that. The end of the book was really powerful for me. “It was like a stampede crashed through the wall in front of me. No , I said again, and slowly began telling the story from the beginning. How Gram was widow and lost her only daughter…” “As if a dam had burst, I couldn’t stop the rush of words.” This was really powerful because I feel like she held so much in for so long and finally she let it all go.

I really loved Owens character as well. The poor child had dealt with so much but still continued to be strong. He had faced several surgeries which I am sure were tough for him. He faced being made fun of at school, and even his own mother not accepting him. It really made me smile when the kids at school were making fun of him and they ripped his tape off of his shirt and he fell down and started convulsing and it really scared his classmates. He did this on purpose, to play a joke on them even though they are so mean to him. He could have said so many hurtful things to those kids but he didn’t. It was so hard for me to sit and read about how Skyla did not accept him. Right in front of his face she said that she did not want him, and instead of taking it to heart he let it slide off of his shoulders, he knew that Gram loved him and that is all that matters.

Do the author and illustrator present authentic perspectives?
Is the culture portrayed multi-dimensionally?
Are the cultural details naturally integrated?
Are details accurate and is the interpretation current?
Is language used authentically?

I think that this book possessed all of these qualities. The author did a wonderful job really researching the places and the events that took place. You really get a feel for the Mexican culture, especially in the second half of the book when they travel to Mexico. Noche De Rabanos is a celebration where radishes are carved to create figures or scenes. The book did an awesome job teaching the reader about different activities that the Mexican people participate in. Here is a link I found about more information on this festival. The author also introduces many Hispanic foods like pan dulce, which is sweet bread and tortillas. The author uses authentic language throughout the book. “ I wore a new white blouse with puffed sleeves that Gram had bought at el Mercado.” “Manana? Asked Rueben.” “Superb Spanish Words 1.Jalatlaco 2.Mercado 3.Quesillo 4. Mole 5. Pina Coco.” 157. Naomi is constantly trying to learn Spanish whenever she visits Mexico and is intrigued by its culture, especially since she loves carving so much. I thought that the author did a great job providing the audience with an authentic perspective. When I was reading I felt like I was Naomi Leon and I was experiencing everything that she was going through. The details are also accurate, in the back of the book there is an Author Question section, and the author chose real places, real events and even Naomi Leon is a real persons name.

Teaching Ideas: I think that this would be a great book to use in the classroom when learning about different cultures. It would be fun to bring in some of the foods that they talk about in the book and compare and contrast between American dishes and Mexican dishes. Also it would be a lot of fun to have a day of soap carving. There is a section in the book that give you directions on how to do it. After reading about the soap carving I thought “Wow, that would be fun!”

Websites for research:

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Giving Tree

Silverstein, Shel
Harper Collins Publishers, 1964
Picture Book
1st and up

The Giving Tree is written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein. This book is the story of a young boy who once had a favorite tree. The tree absolutely loved this little boy and whenever the tree saw the little boy she would become so happy. The little boy loved to play in her leaves, swing on her branches and eat her apples. He would play hide-and-go-seek with the tree, and he would sleep in her shade. The boy gave all of his love to the tree and she appreciated it so much.
As the boy started to grow up, he began taking advantage of the tree. The tree felt very lonely when the boy was not around. One day the boy began coming to the tree and asking for favors. First, the boy asked for money. The tree said to take her apples and the sell them, and so he did. Then the boy came back again and said that he needed a house to keep warm and so the boy cut off all of her branches. Then the boy came back and said he wanted a boat, so the tree told him to cut her trunk and he did. The tree had given everything she had to give to the boy and she had nothing left to give and was very sad. The boy came back once more, but he was very old. The tree said “I have nothing left to give you, you have taken everything.” The boy said that he needed nothing except for a quiet place to sit and rest, so the boy sat and rested on the old stump, and the tree was happy.

I LOVE this book. This book is about a boy and his relationship with a friend, who happened to be a tree. The tree had the gift of giving, and gave everything she possibly could to make the boy happy. The boy took advantage of her for many years but when he got older he realized that he didn’t need any of the material things so he sat with his old friend, and that was the best gift he could have given back to the tree. The pictures in the book were very simple, along with the word choice, but the message at the end of the book was overpowering so it balanced out very well.

Classroom: I would use this book in the classroom for a lesson on respect and giving. You could create your own classroom giving tree and have students write on apple cutouts gifts that they can give such as friendship, loyalty, and trust. This would be great on talking about emotions and building healthy relationships as well.

Birds, Beasts and Fishes

Carter, Anne
Cartwright, Reg
Macmillion Publishing, 1991
2nd and up

He blinks upon the hearth rug
And yawns in deep content,
Accepting all the comforts
That Providence has sent.

Louder he purrs, and louder
In one glad hymn of praise,
For all the night's adventures,
For quiet, restful days.

Life will go one for ever,
With all that cat can wish;
Warmth, and the glad procession
Of fish, and milk and fish.

Only-the thought disturbs him-
He's noticed once ot twice,
The times are somehow bredding
A nimbler race of mice.
-Alexander Gray

I chose this poem because I love animals. This book was just full of great animal poems, so it was hard to choose just one. I really liked this poem because you could really sense the attitude of the cat. A cat is a simple, familiar animal so talking about poetry and using a cat I thought would be great for younger kids. "Life will go on forever, with all that cat can wish, warmth and the glad procession of fish and milk and fish" was my favorite stanza from the poem. Cats often have this attitude that they own the area where they are at and they lay around without a care in the world. Sometimes I wonder what cats are thinking while they lay there and purr and I guess it would be fish and milk just like the poem says! The first part of the poem talks about how the cat yawns accepting all the comforts and it makes me laugh because i feel like I can really apply this poem to my own cat. I thought that this poem did such a great job capturing the description of a cat and a cats feelings and attitudes towards life. I thought that this poem had a few elements of poetry including rhythm, rhyme, and images. You can really picture this cat and what he is doing and thinking. The poem really flows together each part being about equal and I think that this gives it rhythm. The author uses rhyme throughout the poem as well. For example: "And yawns in deep content, accepting all the comforts, that providence has sent."

I would use this poem, and the whole book in my classroom. You could use it when learning about poetry and you could even do a lesson on animals. Every page has a poem about a different animal so you could have the kids read some of these poems and then make up their very own poem about one of their favorite animals!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Blizzard of the Blue Moon

Osborne, Mary Pope
Murdocca, Sal
Random House, 2006
2nd grade and up
Fantasy Fiction

Summary: This book is about Jack and Annie and their next Merlin Mission. This time they are in New York City, looking to save a magical Unicorn. They are sent back in time to the Great Depression. Here they see how America was during this time, and just how poor people really were. There is a horrible blizzard that is taking over the city and they must make their way to find this unicorn to save him. They are given a poem which gives them all the clues that they will need throughout the story. When they finally get to Cloisters there are two other people trying to find the magical unicorn. When they do, Jack and Annie have to come up with a way to save the unicorn and keep him from going back to the Dark Wizard.

Response: I really enjoyed reading this book, and learned a lot from reading it as well! The author does a really good job informing the reader and tying in facts within the story. For example “The city of New York is the largest city in the Western Hemisphere. It covers an area of 322 square miles.” She would tie in really interesting information and this was all stuff that I was unaware of. Throughout the book I also saw that Mary Pope Osborne would talk about carnivals and merry-go-rounds, which was related to Carnival at Candlelight, the book we read in class. I also liked how the author compared today now and then by using concepts children could understand, such as money. In Carnival at Candlelight I felt that Jack was superior to Annie, but in this book I think they really worked together to make a great team. Jack could sometimes be stubborn, but Annie was so smart and I liked that. I really liked the illustrations that the illustrator used as well. On page 83 there is a picture of Jack and Annie riding on the unicorn through the blizzard. When I looked at this picture it is exactly what I had pictured in my head. The last part of the book includes More Facts for Jack and Annie and You! Section. This part of the book is full of information for kids to read. It tells you all about the places that Jack and Annie visited during their trip. It also talks about the Great Depression, subways, and Central Park. She also says that Unicorns appear in old stories from all over the world which I thought was so interesting!

Classroom Connections: I would definitely use this book in my classroom. There is so much information in this book. You could use it for a history lesson to help kids really understand what went on during the Great Depression. You could also use this and have them create a “what happens next” story with Jack and Annie. There is so much that you could do with the Magic Tree House books!

By Barry Moser

By Barry Moser

By David Wiesner

By David Wiesner

The Three Little Pigs

The Three Little Pigs