Sunday, February 24, 2008


Author/Illustrator: Wiesner, David
Publisher and Date: Houghton Mifflin Company 1991
Genre: Wordless Picture Book, Fantasy
Age Level: K-3
Awards: The Caldecott Medal

Summary: Tuesday is a story of a large number of frogs who are set free one Tuesday evening, soaring around town on their lily pads. They leave their home at the swamp, and fly through a nearby neighborhood. The frogs stir up a lot of commotion and leave the town scratching their heads. In the morning they return safely to their home at the swamp. The next Tuesday, some pigs have their chance to fly.

Response: I LOVED this book! I was a little skeptical of wordless picture books, but I gave this one a chance since it had won a Caldecott Medal. I enjoy the fact that the narration, which is left up to the reader, is simply guided by the illustrations. This leaves all the creativity in the story up to the reader. There are so many different things younger children could come up with, from reasons why the frogs are flying where they are to what they are even thinking. I would like to be able to challenge my students to think creatively by 'reading' through this story.

My favorite page in the book is where the man is sitting in his kitchen having a sandwich and a glass of milk. The expression on his face just makes me laugh. What adds to it is one of the frogs flying by his window, which appears to be smiling and waving at him like nothing is out of the ordinary.

On Wiesner's website it shows how he created Tuesday. I wouldn't think that a picture book would being with a story board sketch, but that is exactly what he did with it. It looked like a small comic strip at first and then he put it into its chronological order. After he had the story line he created a rough sketch in pencil of each page. In order to get an idea of the correct lighting, he used clay models and photographs of frogs, homes and other key elements to the drawings. The finished drawing was done on tracing paper, transferred to watercolor paper, then painted with all watercolor.

All of the illustrations in this book were created using watercolor and watercolor alone. Wiesner did not use any ink lines or any other type of opaque paint. I really admire that. I was never an artist, but I had a few art classes in high school and we used watercolor for one of our projects. It is not easy to work with and you can't really hide your mistakes. Once the color is down, it is there. In the project I did it turned out perfectly except for a little smudge in the white space. I had to create a dove holding an olive branch in its mouth to cover it up and had to use an ink pen to do it. I'm sure the more skilled you are the easier it is to execute a painting with only watercolor. Wiesner did a wonderful job with it.

Teaching Ideas: This book would be great to use as a creative writing activity. Students could write down what they think is going on and write down the thoughts of the characters illustrated throughout the book. They could also be encouraged to write or draw out what they think will happen when the pigs fly around the next Tuesday night. Have them show where the pigs go, what they do, and who they might encounter. Another way to get the students more involved is to have them draw out their own story, following the guidelines of a wordless picture book, like Tuesday.

Behind the Mask - A Book About Prepositions

Author/Illustrator: Heller, Ruth
Publisher and Date: Scholastic 1995
Genre: Concept Picture Book, Informational, Poetry
Age Range: 2nd-5th grades

Summary: This is a very informative book on what prepositions are and some proper uses for them. The prepostitions used are made distinct by their bold blue font. The book captures the reader with vibrant illustrations as well as its rhymes.

Response: I really enjoyed reading through this book. The information is presented to the reader in an informal manner, making it fun and easy to learn. I liked how the author incorporated other children's stories into this book. This makes it easier for students to relate and get into the book because it includes something they are already familiar with. One of my favorite pages was the the spread of Jack and Jill. The page reads, "Be angry with a person, but angry at a thing. I'm angry with Jack and I'm angry with Jill... but, I'm angrier still at the pail and the hill." Students learn without even realizing it, because they are seeing some of their favorite storybook characters.

This book not only lists several prepositions throughout the book but adds in rules about the proper usage of them. For example, using two prepositions is not always better than using one. They are also okay to use at the end of a sentence, but it might not always be the best way to word the sentence.

Teaching Ideas: This book, of course, would be perfect to use as part of a Language Arts lesson. It also could be made avaiable to students throughout the day if they finish assignments early. I think students would enjoy this book with its rhymes and pcitures, but also with its educational content.

Baseball Saved Us

Author: Mochizuki, Ken
Illustrator: Lee, Dom
Publisher and Date: Lee & Low books Inc. 1993
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Range: K-3
Awards: 1993 Parents Choice Award

Summary: This is a story told by a little Japanese American boy whose family was taken away to an internment camp. He doesn't understand why the other kids at school made fun of him or why they have to stay in a dusty camp that isn't fun. The boy's dad comes up with the idea to build a baseball field in the middle of camp and they have a tournament. At the end, the boy is back at school where he was before the camp and they are playing baseball. People still make fun of him but his teammates encourage him and he hits a home run.

Response: I have never learned much about the Japanese Internment camps that were set up in the middle of the American deserts. This book taught me some of what it might have been like for those who were taken away from their homes to live there. The author's note in the beginning was very helpful in providing the background information for the time and setting of the story.

On the second page of the story it tells how the boy was taken out of school one day because him and his parents had to move out of their house really quickly. It tells how a bus took them away to a place where they had to live in horse stalls until they got to the camp. I can understand trying to protect our country from people who could potentially do a lot of harm to it, but that is just ridiculous to me. It is awful to think that we put our own people in situations like that. I can't imagine what I would think or do if my own country turned its back on me.

Teaching Ideas: This story would be good to use when talking about discrimination and even bullying. Students would probably be able to relate it most to the events of 9/11 and how we, as Americans, tend treat people of Middle-Eastern descent now. It is a terrible situation to be in, but we have to move on and not hold people accountable to how others have wronged us just because they look alike. I think it goes back to Because of Winn-Dixie where Gloria Dump tells Opal not to judge other people because of their past but to look at what they're doing now. In this case it isn't necessarily a specific person's past but the events of the past.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Aleutian Sparrow Free Verse

Torn from her home for no action of her own.
Vera is American, her father's line among some of the first.
She has lost what is most precious to her,
Her father by death and her mother by choice
Living with either privacy or warmth
They all ate food fit for animals, not humans.
However, there are friendships made and love found.
There are those who care and stick it out.
Despite the fact that Germans were treated better,
Vera makes the best of the situation she's in.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Where I'm From

I am from sidewalk chalk, from Osh Kosh and oreos.
I am from the flat land and rolling hills.
I am from the peach trees, the dandelions.
I am from fishing trips and dimpled chins, from Peggy and John and Dan.
I am from the jokes and stubbornness.
From "stop drawing on the walls" and "wear your helmet when you ride your bike".
I am from stand up sit down drink of the wine and behave, to freedom of my love in Christ and juice.
I am from Findlay, homemade mac & cheese and flake potatoes.
From the World War II where grandpa fought and stole a Japanese flag, the countless hours grandma spent crocheting afghans, and the late night shifts at the hospital.
I am from Japan and Germany, Mexico and Hancock county.
From cuckoo clocks and thousand piece puzzles, board games and Wizard of Oz ornaments.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Thief Lord

From the Book
“The alleys they walked through became narrower. It was quiet between the houses and soon they entered the hidden heart of the city, where there were hardly any strangers. Cats darted away as their footsteps rang out on the paving stones. Pigeons cooed from the roofs. The ever-present water swayed beneath the bridges, splashing against the boats and wooden posts, and reflecting back the old faces of the houses. The children wandered deeper and deeper into the maze of alleys. The houses seemed to be moving in on them, watching them, as if they knew who they were.”
p.22 par.2

What this means to me
The imagery used makes me feel like I am right there with the children, sneaking off to their secret hiding place through the alleys. I can just picture the cats being startled by the echoing footsteps of the children as they creep along the alleys between the tall houses.

The metaphor the author used to say the children’s home was “the hidden heart of the city” was really clever. I took it to a more literal standpoint as in a heart of a person, their inmost being. The Star-Palace is where the children had made their home, as much as a theatre can be a home for street children. Their hearts lay there with their most prized possessions and it was where they spent time growing together.

I really like how the author personifies the houses at the end of the paragraph. It gives you the sense that this is where the children’s safe haven in Venice was, like the houses were protecting them and shielding them from the rest of the city.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Thief Lord. Funke did such a wonderful job with developing the characters throughout the story as well as the imagery. Once I got into the reading it never left me bored and was full of surprises.

My favorite character in the book was probably Ida. I loved how she was still such a child at heart and truly cared for the children (even after they broke into her house to steal the wooden wing). Her and Hornet had a strong connection after the police caught Hornet and took her to the orphanage where Ida once lived. Ida was so compassionate toward the children, but especially toward Hornet. I think she was truly able to understand what Hornet was going through in the orphanage because of her experience. I really enjoyed the fact that Ida and Victor (in disguise) went over to the orphanage together to claim Hornet as their own so she could be reunited with the rest of the children. Ida was really a character to look up to and someone the children really admired.

Carnival at Candlelight

At first I was not sure whether or not I would enjoy reading Carnival at Candlelight. I was convinced that it would just be some corny story of a make believe adventure of two children. I am happy to say that I was proved wrong and I can understand why it is so popular among children today.

I specifically like the fact that it encourages children to use their imaginations even when they might think it won't work. There was a theme of being patient that I also noticed throughout the book. With the way our society is now, everything is so fast paced and hectic. We live in a 'fast food' society where our wonderful technology advancements, as helpful as they may be, have us trained to expect gratification in an minutes time... or less! The children in the book got ahead of themselves a couple of times, but then had to re-trace their steps. Patience is a big thing and children would benefit greatly from learning this practice early on.

When I was trying to figure out how to incorporate this Magic Tree House series into the classroom, I visited the Magic Tree House Web site. There is a link for the Merlin Missions books within the series and on that page is a link to print out your own passport. I am a big traveler myself, so when I found this it really caught my attention. Children can print out their own 'Official Magic Tree House Passport' and collect stamps to put in it after they complete a book in the series. If you click on any of the books listed on the site it will take you to a page that tells a little about the book itself with a short quiz underneath. After answering the questions on the quiz correctly it will give you a link to a stamp you can print out for your passport. This would be a great way to motivate the children to read more of the books.

Throughout the book it gave little definitions and facts about people and places in the story. It helped the two children in getting through their adventure and also allowed the reader to have more insight as to where they were and what it might be like. I enjoyed reading through them and learning a little bit about Venice myself. Overall this book was very enjoyable and I hope to read more of them in the future!

Because of Winn-Dixie

This is the type of book that warms your heart, and makes you smile so hard that you sneeze! (Sorry, I had to. That was one of my favorite parts!)

I really enjoyed this novel by Kate DiCamillo. I fell in love with Winn-Dixie from the very beginning and I could tell Opal was a special kind of girl as well. The two had such a strong bond and Winn-Dixie was just what Opal needed to get her started in a new town.

In Chapter 8 of our Temple text, it discusses Realistic Fiction and provides many different categories and books that would fit into them. Because of Winn-Dixie is in the 'Books about Nature & Animals' and rightly so. I feel like it could also fit into the category of 'Books about Self-Discovery and Growing Up'. I say that because Opal developed so much through the relationships she built with the characters in the book, even with the Dewberry boys.
Opal Learned from Gloria Dump to not judge other people because of their past but to look at what they're doing now. That helped her to look at the everyone in a new light and give people a chance. Opal learns why Amanda is so 'pinch-faced' and Gloria tells her that sometimes 'the whole world has an aching heart'. I think that teaches Opal some empathy and allows her to relate better to people because of the aching heart she has from her mama leaving.

I think DiCamillo creates a very authentic setting with this book. It is in a small town with everyday people in a somewhat middle class area. None of the characters are perfect, and neither are the families. It shows that everyone comes from a different background, learns from what has happened, and helps other people to also understand what they have learned.

One of my favorite characters in this book was Otis, and it may just be because I have seen the movie and Dave Matthews plays this character. He is a very free-spirited person who just wants to play his music. The book made you feel sorry for him for having been put in jail. All he was doing was playing his music, not even asking money for it and the police had to go and cause a scene with it. Granted, I know I am guilty of rolling my eyes at people in big cities who stand at a corner and play their music with their instrument case sitting in front of them for anyone who wants to leave some spare change. It was intriguing how Otis was able to calm the animals with his music in the pet shop. I know music calms me down when I am stressed, so I can relate to the animals in that sense. It must really stress animals out when they are caged up all the time.

I really liked the idea of the Littmus Lozenges Miss Franny told Opal about. I know such thing doesn't actually exist, but I found a web page online a class made that has their own recipe for Littmus Lozenges, minus the ingredient of sorrow. The whole concept of the candy made me think that there are bittersweet moments throughout life. It is good to recognize them every once in a while to remember where you have come from, and how far you have come along since then.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!

Author/Illustrator: Willems, Mo
Publisher and Date: Hyperion Books for Children 2004
Genre: Picture Book
Age Range: K-1

Summary: In this book a pigeon finds a hot dog and is approached by a little duckling. The duckling keeps questioning the pigeon about the hot dog while the duckling takes notes. The pigeon gets annoyed and doesn't want to share the hot dog because he is the one that found it. In the end they split the hot dog and sit down to eat it together.

Response: I really liked the unique drawings of both birds in this book. Their eye takes up the majority of their head and the expression is shown by how much of the eyelid covers the eye.
The relationship between the two birds reminds me of that between an older and younger sibling. I am the younger sibling and have always been very inquisitive. My sister, on the other hand, did not always enjoy answering all of my questions all of the time. And though we are nine years apart, she still did not always want to share her things with me.

Teaching Ideas: This book would be good for a lesson on compromise and sharing with others. The duckling obviously wanted a taste of the hot dog and the pigeon obviously did not want to share its delicious hot dog with anyone else, especially the duckling. In the end they split the hot dog in half and each were able to eat some. This can teach children that even though they may not want to always share something with someone else, it is the polite and right thing to do.

Knuffle Bunny Too

Author/Illustrator: Willems, Mo
Publisher and Date: Hyperion Books for Children 2007
Genre: Picture Book
Age Range: K-1
Awards: 2008 Honor Book

Summary: This picture book is about a girl named Trixie who was excited to show her Knuffle Bunny to her friends at school. When she got to school she saw that another girl, Sonja, had the same Knuffle Bunny. Their Knuffle Bunnies got switched after the teacher had taken them away and the girls had their fathers switch them in the middle of the night. After the bunnies were returned to their rightful owners, Trixie and Sonja became best friends.

Response: I can relate so well to this book! I know it was absolutely awful to show up at school with the same anything as another kid in the class. After that happens though, you realize you have something in common with the other person and it usually would end in a friendship unless one of the children was a real bully!
Willems did an excellent job with the illustrations in this book. I loved how the background of the picture was a black and white photo and the characters were illustrated. The lighting from the photo was reflected in the illustrated characters, which really pulled the whole picture together. In the picture where Trixie's dad is talking to Sonja's on the phone, Trixie's dad is standing in front of a mirror and his reflection is drawn in on the mirror of the black and white photo. I think the pictures were my favorite part, I love it when artists mix mediums.
I liked how Willems was able to incorporate aspects of his other books into Knuffle Bunny Too. In the picture where Trixie's parents are putting her to bed she has a stuffed animal at the end of her bed which is actually Leonardo The Terrible Monster from one of his other picture books. This reminded me of the Pixar movies, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. In Monsters Inc., the litter girl, Boo, has a fish mobile in her bedroom. In Finding Nemo, Pixar placed that mobile from Boo's room in the dentist office when Nigel, the pelican, flies into the office. [I've included pictures below and circled the mobile in red!]

Teaching Ideas: This would be good for encouraging the children to make new friends and find people they have things in common with. It is also good in talking polite manners and how to share your things with others.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Author/Illustrator: Selznick, Brian
Publisher and Date: Scholastic Press 2007
Genre: Illustrated Novel, Historical Fiction
Age Range: 4-6 grades
Awards: Caldecott Award Winner 2008

Summary: This book is about an imaginative young orphan boy named Hugo Cabret who lives behind the walls of a train station in Paris. He steals from local shops to survive keeps the clocks running to cover the disappearance of his uncle. Hugo's stealing brings him in the path of a famous magician and filmmaker, Georges Méliès who has tried to shut his past out of his life. Hugo is able to help bring Méliès' past back to life and Méliès gives Hugo a home and a family.

Response: I absolutely loved this book! Selznick's illustrations are so detailed and captivating, it made the book seem like a movie with subtitles. I like how it tells the reader to picture yourself in a theatre before the movie starts. It brought that type of anticipation and had me trying to guess what would happen next.
The description in the book was very well done! I loved the pages that described the automaton. It made me feel like I was right there watching it draw out the picture of the man on the moon with the rocket in it's eye.
I enjoyed the incorporation of actors, movies, and machines of the time. It made the story more realistic and had you learning some history without digging into a history book.

I liked the extra information Selznick included at the back of the book. A link he provided shows a video of an automaton in action. I also looked up some of Méliès' movies on the internet and found a video of A Trip to the Moon on youtube. It is in French, but it is still really neat to see the actual film.

Teaching Ideas:
This book could be used as a lesson on the time period and the people that lived in it. Also could be used in an art or film lesson and look at works from that time period and how they differ from more contemporary works. For a more hands-on activity the children could draw or make out of clay their own automaton and write a story about what they would have it to write or draw. They could also reenact the movies mentioned in the book from their perspective. These could all be performed in front of the class as their own 'Georges Méliès' rememberence day.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Leonardo the Terrible Monster

Author/Illustrator: Willems, Mo
Publisher and Date: Hyperion Books for Children 2005
Genre: Picture book
Age Range: K-2

Summary: This picture book is about a discouraged little monster named Leonardo. He is not good at scaring like the other monsters. After much research he finds a boy named Sam to scare. Sam is having a bad day and is not scared by Leonardo. Leonardo decides to become a friend to Sam instead of being a terrible monster.

Response: I love the story of Leonardo the Terrible Monster! The illustrations were very well done and it reminded me somewhat of Where the Wild Things Are.
I think the story does good with the underlying theme of bullying. Most kids who are bullies do so because they are insecure about themselves just as Leonardo was. They feel better if they can pick on someone else and make them feel bad or upset. I like how in the end Leonardo and Sam become friends because Leonardo realizes that is really what Sam needs.
Something that made me laugh was the expression 'scare the tuna salad out of him' that Willems used in this book. It is just such a silly expression and it adds a lightheartedness to the story.

Teaching Ideas: This would be a great story to read any time to the class throughout the year. Bullying is an issue that never really dissipates among children and should be addressed, especially in younger grades. Children in the class could be challenged to make a new friend (like Leonardo made friends with Sam) or to make up with someone they did or said something mean to.