Monthly Archives: January 2014

Free Fridays: Sheep Blast Off!


sheep blast offOn this free Friday, I am posting about Sheep Blast Off! written by Nancy Shaw and illustrated by Margot Apple. When I think about children’s books, this book immediately comes to mind–most likely because I have read it many, many times. I used it for a final project in a language development class. For the project, I was required to meet one-on-one with a child in pre-school over the course of the semester. I read this book to him every week for about 5 weeks and focused on vocabulary instruction and teaching comprehension skills. This book is definitely suited for lower ages, but there were plenty of opportunities to teach new words to the child!

In the story, sheep find a rocket ship in their backyard, and, of course, hop in it and blast off! They encounter some technical difficulties along the way, but arrive safely back to the farm by the end of the story.

One thing I really liked about this book was the action-oriented content. Sentences are infused with action verbs, making it very easy to get kids engaged in reading. Such action words are also easier to teach as you can act out the definitions with your kids. Overall, it is a fun book to read with young kids, and I would recommend it to pre-school teachers who are looking for an easy read that can be used to incorporate a little instruction. I will say, however, that book is not very long and the text has about 1 sentence per page, which can be a blessing or a hindrance, depending on what kind of instruction you are going for.

Throwback Thursday: Ox-cart Man

Source: Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Image retrieved from Amazon.

Source: Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Image retrieved from Amazon.

In the beginning of the book the ox-cart man packs up the cart with all his family  made during the year: wool sheared from the sheep, shawl and mittens made from the wool by his wife and daughter, linen fabricated from flax, candles formed from wax, shingles cut from the wood by himself, broom handles carved by his son. Ox-cart man packs all into his cart and treks to the town to market. He there sells all the wares and his ox and cart. With the coins he buys a gift for each member of his family, and then he walks back home. The family  sedulously work as the seasons pass. Ox-cart man builds another cart, and a calf is born. October here, time is ready for another trip to market.

Donald Hall based the book on a poem he had written, expanding the poem into a text fitting for children. I appreciate the simplicity and concreteness of his word choice. The down-to-earthness of producing works by hand, traveling on foot, buying gifts with coins earned by selling own wares, and the cycle of the year reassure me. It makes me feel secure and at peace. Barbara Cooney’s illustrations are likewise heartening. The book also has an educational side. It shows how some people lived in the past and the process of industry as well as  economics. Quieting and enlightening, Ox-cart Man is a book in the top of the list for my future children’s library.

E. Schellhase

Book information: Hall, Donald, and Barbara Cooney. Ox-cart Man. New York: Viking, 1979. Print.

Winner Wednesday: Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping


Screen shot 2014-01-29 at 9.40.13 AMThe Amelia Bedelia series recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of print, so it seems fitting that today’s book is a member of the series. Peggy Parish’s story, Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping, is recipient of New Jersey’s Garden State Children’s Book Award. For a chance to hear a read-aloud of the story, click on the title!

Mr. Rogers: “Let’s hit the road!”
Amelia Bedelia: “If you say so!”

For those of you new to the series, Amelia is a housemaid for Mr. and Mrs. Rogers. Her unique perceptions of the world make for comical stories. Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping is a heartwarming tale of Amelia’s first camping adventure with the Rogers. From the initial pages of the book, it’s apparent that she makes literal interpretations of everything she’s told.

After numerous mishaps and misunderstandings, Amelia learns how to camp through jumping in head first, sometimes literally, with a zest for life and trying new things.

“I’m going to catch a fish!”

The book would be a fantastic resource for elementary-aged children to teach saying what you mean (by learning how NOT to from the story). It is equally important to be understood by your audience, as it is to say the right thing. After enjoying this book, readers will be amused by Amelia’s odd sense of humor and want to read more stories about her charmingly quirky life!

Other wonderful titles in the series include (among others):

~Hannah Gravitt

Trendy Tuesday: What DOES the Fox Say? by Ylvis



This “Trendy Tuesday,” I’m going to talk about a book that is based off of a YouTube video—the infamous What Does the Fox Say. If you haven’t seen it, please  have a few laughs: While in a bookstore the other day, I had the pleasure of reading the children’s book, released December 10th, the text of which is simply the lyrics to the song.

The comedic duo Ylvis, who wrote the original song, always wanted to create the book. But it wasn’t in the works until Simon & Schuster quickly picked up the idea. Rumor is the mock-up of said book was put together in a single day.

However, besides the ridiculous nature of the whole project, and the strange quality reading aloud the book would have (especially without singing it to the tune of the song!), the most remarkable part of the read-through was definitely the illustrations. 

They match the strange quality that marks the whole project—they are disconcerting to say the least.  At worst, they are a bit terrifying. Here’s a sample of what the inside of the book looks like:


Although the book is very current, and topical, and might really draw kids in, the thing about a “trend” is it isn’t always meant to last.

by Charity McCracken

( )

Sentimental Sunday: I Hate English!


Please excuse the irony of this title–I think English is great, and there is a reason why there is a sentiment behind this story.  I Hate English is a book about a girl named Mei Mei who has just moved to the United States. I recently read the book in a class I am taking for teaching English Language Learners. Though I am not an English Language Learner myself, I am in the process of getting my ELL endorsement and emergent bilingual students hold a huge place in my heart.

Ellen Levine, the author of the book, takes her readers on the roller-coaster-ride of a journey that is second language acquisition. The main character, Mei Mei, gives an honest insight into the ups and downs that anyone could experience when thrown into a new environment that has a completely different set of linguistic, cultural, and social norms. And as I said, I myself am not an English Language Learner, but I was still able to  relate to this book. I think everyone can identify with the feeling of being out of place.

Levine talks about the raw emotions, both the good and the bad, that Mei Mei feels when she seems to be the odd one out in a new school. I know I will be sure to use this book in my future classrooms of English Language Learners as I know it can be used as a great resource for kids to identify with a character who is experiencing the same thing that they are. But what I really love about this book is that it sheds light on the many obstacles that emergent bilingual students must overcome that their native-English speaking peers may not understand. What an awesome tool to use to get students to connect and empathize with each other. 

I want to value all of the students in my future classroom, and I think this book will help me do just that.Image

Marvelous Monday: Thank You, Mr. Falker


Thank You, Mr. Falker

Thank You, Mr. Falker tells the story of a young girl’s difficulties learning to read and the teacher who helped her overcome them. Trisha faces discouragement, failure, and bullies as she moves through her elementary years unable to read. However, things change when she meets Mr. Falker, the fifth grade teacher who recognizes her artistic talents, stops the bullying, and helps Trisha get the specialized reading help she needs. Mr. Falker’s influence on Trisha was so great that she grew up to become Patricia Pollaco, the author of this very book!

I first encountered this book in my struggling readers class, and I think this is such a fantastic book for this population of children. It conveys several important messages, such as the fact that encountering difficulties with reading does not mean that one is doomed to forever be a poor reader. Teachers who are attuned to their students’ needs and willing to go the extra mile to help them can make all the difference! Additionally, this is a positive book for addressing bullying situations in the classroom.


I can absolutely see myself including Thank You, Mr. Falker in my own classroom library. As a true story of perseverance in reading, it shows that students with even the greatest reading difficulties can overcome their struggles and become accomplished, passionate readers.

By Madeleine Jones