Monthly Archives: September 2012

Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier

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Beatrice’s Goat (by Pat McBrier; illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter) is an inspiring story about a young girl in Uganda who uses the profits from the milk of her family’s new goat to attend school for the first time.  The book is based on a true story of a Ugandan family who received a goat through Heifer International.

Throughout this story, readers are warmed by the powerful drive shown by Beatrice to provide for her family.  The readers also become informed of Beatrice’s desire to attend school although she understands that her family does not have the money to allow this.  Even after the family receives the goat and begins to make money from the milk, Beatrice understands that the well-being of the family must come before her education.  However, her mother definitively states that Beatrice’s education is the most important use of the money.  Beatrice is exuberant.

We believe this would be an effective book for 3rd and 4th graders to provide an introduction to diversity of cultures and the issue of poverty worldwide.  The book could also be a launching point for a more in-depth discussion of poverty and issues of aid and sustainability. This type of analysis would be more appropriate for grades 4-6.

Cover Art

“School?” Beatrcie gasped in disbelief.  “But what about all the other things we need?”

“First things first,” Mama said.

This quote encapsulates the idea that while free education is not universal, the importance of learning is.

Post by Blair Perry and Derek Reinhold

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Sing to the Sun is a collection of poems celebrating and depicting different aspects of African American culture.  The topics cover everything from music to nature, African heritage, family, play, and other aspects of everyday life.  The poems “Granny” and “The Black Birds’ Party” are written in the classic African call and response style, making it a fabulous read-aloud.  The poems are all very joyful and vibrant, in keeping with the title of the collection.  Kids of all ages should enjoy and be able to relate to these poems.

The illustrations are done in a brightly colored, African-inspired style, and there is at least one illustration for every poem.  Just like the poems, Bryan’s contrast of vivid warm and cool colors is sure to put a smile on your face.

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Because of the numerous references to family and African heritage, this book could be a good tool in a social studies class for young children.  It could be used to tie parts of our everyday lives to the lives of ancestors who came long, long before us.  The tradition of call and response is just one example.  This connection could also be made with songs children are used to singing, games they play, hairstyles they are used to seeing, and art they enjoy.

This book would also work just fine as a simple soul-lifter on a dreary Monday morning.  Whatever your purpose in reading them, I hope you enjoy these poems.

“Sing to the Sun

It will listen

And warm your words

Your joy will rise

Like the sun

And glow

Within you”

-Sing to the Sun, Sing to the Sun by Ashley Bryan

Post by Hallie

Sing to the Sun, Poems and Pictures by Ashley Bryan

We Are in a Book!

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Elephant and Piggie are back at it again in this wonderful book written and illustrated by the talented Mo Willems!

Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor (an honor awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States), this book is fun for children of all ages!

In this book, Gerald the elephant and Piggie notice something strange… Someone is looking at them!

Who could it be?

The reader!

When they discover they are in a book, the characters celebrate and rejoice! But now Elephant and Piggie have a BIG problem! What happens when the book ends?

Make sure to pick up a copy and find out!

Join Elephant and Piggie and turn the pages with them. Delight in how Willems experiments with conventions and has his characters “break the fourth wall.” Enjoy how he plays with text and speech bubbles. This book will truly surprise the reader and make the reader smile! 🙂

– Reviewed by Laura Wilczek

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

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WHAT DO YOU HEAR?

“I hear children…

growling like a polar bear,

roaring like a lion,

snorting like a hippopotamus,

fluting like a flamingo,

braying like a zebra,

hissing like a boa constrictor,

trumpeting like an elephant,

snarling like a leopard,

yelping like a peacock,

bellowing like a walrus…

that’s what I hear”

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In Bill Martin Jr.’s engaging story Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, children go on an adventure filled journey at the zoo. Each page the children encounter a new animal matched with its sound. Even though the kids hear all of the animals making the noises, the zookeeper in fact hears all of the children embodying all of the animals and their sounds!

This book will be great for reading circles because of its active learning style. Children will enjoy this book due to the fact that it gives them the opportunity to actively engage in a story whilst making fun animal noises. If planning a trip to the zoo, this would be a great book to introduce beforehand. For kindergarten to first grade age groups, a craft activity could also accompany this book, such as drawing animal faces on paper plates. Kids would love to use their newly learned sounds to act out their paper plate animal. To top it all off, the images drawn by Eric Carle are guaranteed to grasp every child’s attention, as the animals are large and show great contrast with the background.

So now teachers and readers, what do you hear?

Blog post by Elizabeth Gunckle and Nichole Forde

Big Al by Andrew Clements & Illustrated by Yoshi

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From the imaginative minds of Andrew Clements and Yoshi comes the book Big Al, the story of a very big and very scary-looking fish named, of course, Big Al.  All Big Al wants is a friend, but all the other fish are too scared of him!

“He did not really blame the other fish.  How could he expect little fish to trust a great big fish with eyes and skin and TEETH like his?”

He tries everything to blend in – such as covering himself with seaweed – but nothing works!  One day, Big Al is swimming along and notices a bunch of little fish struggling to be set free from a net.  He saves them, and the little fish realize that Big Al is indeed the nicest fish in the sea!

“When the little fish were able to speak again, all they talked about was the huge, wonderful fish that had saved them.”

This book shows children that they shouldn’t judge people based on what they look like.  Even if they look scary, they might actually be the nicest person in the world!  This book would be good for children ages four and up, and would make a good addition to any collection!  Children will love the colorful pictures as well!  It’s definitely a book we recommend!

Reviewed by Bianca Novo & Abbey Stephens

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka

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Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys is a collection of haikus written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. This wonderful book of short poems combines the adventurous spirits of boys with the world of nature.  Divided into the four seasons, each haiku has a simple message of playing in nature, whether it be through flying kites, building campfires, jumping in piles of leaves, or wishing for snow days. In his author’s note, Raczka mentions how each haiku is a piece of his own childhood, or that of his sons. He adds that he favors the haiku because it is an observation of nature, and the tangibility of a three-line poem make for ease of reading and writing. Paired with thoughtful illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds, this book would be a great mentor text in introducing the world of poetry, especially haiku. Although the title suggests that only boys might appreciate the sentiments, we firmly believe that any daring explorer would enjoy them. Guyku is an A+ book in our classroom library!

Here are two of our favorite haiku from the book.

It’s our sincere hope,

That you enjoy this book too,

A and J, peace out!

– Anna Tobia & Jillian Kemper –

Fishing in the Air by Sharon Creech & Illustrated by Chris Raschka

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Fishing in the Air is a beautifully spun tale of that ever-treasured right of passage for many little boys and girls.  This story is about a boy experiencing the joy of learning to fish with his father.  Creech shines light on the magic this adventure can hold for a child.  Her words evoke powerful imagery that is then brought to life by Raschka.  This book would be great to read to elementary students of any age who are working on learning similes or figures of speech.  The illustrations bring the many similes to life, helping to deepen the reader’s understanding.  It could also serve as inspiration for young writers looking for ways to bring greater detail and imagery to their stories. 

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Readers of this book will want to spend a great deal of time just with the illustrations.  They are vibrant watercolors containing incredible detail.  They bring a sense of motion and whimsy to the book, adding to Creech’s ethereal description of this typical experience shared between a father and a son.  This book will enthrall both children and adults.  Kids will be taken with the language, illustrations, and story.  For adults, it will evoke a sense of nostalgia and send you cruising down memory lane to some sweet memory with an adult you revered.

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Enjoy this lovely story.

-Hallie Paul & Nupur Singh