Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fool for Books Giveaway Hop

Thank you for visiting Books4Learning during the Fool for Books Giveaway Hop.  I hope you will find this site beneficial.  Please check it out!      

I am giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate. 

To enter the Fool for Books Giveaway Hop at this blog, you MUST be a follower of Books4Learning on Google Friend connect.  To enter, just post a comment below this post that includes your email address.   It is the only requirement.  

If you would like additional entries, follow me on Twitter and/or post a link to this giveaway on your Twitter or blog.   If you share this giveaway, please post the link. 

To find more blogs hosting giveaways, click on ImAReaderNotAWriter.   For other current giveaways on this blog, click here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Picture Book (Math): Sort It Out by Barbara Mariconda

Sort.php                      Summary of Sort It Out:  
Packy, a pack rat, comes home to his mother and sister with a wagon load of items he found.  His mother instructs him to sort them out and put them away.   Packy marvels at his diverse collection of trinkets and carefully ponders how he will organize them.  In rhyming couplets, he reveals the common attributes he finds in groups of items from his treasure.  Here is a sneak peak!

The turtle, the clover, the skinny string bean,
he placed in a pile made of things that are…green.

The turtle, the egg, and the acorn that fell,
these are all things with a hard outer…shell.

After going through several possible combinations, he realizes that many of his trinkets have vanished.  Baffled, he tells his mom about the missing items.   The next page reveals what happened to them!

Sort It Out is an enjoyable math “mystery.”  The first time I read it out loud to my son, I was caught up in the playful rhyme and pleasing text.  As a result, the final outcome or “mystery” was a delightful surprise.  My son and I went back and re-examined Sherry Rogers’ adorable illustrations to discover the “clues.”   I love that multi-dimensional aspect of the book.  Barbara Mariconda’s Sort It Out is an ideal set or lead in to a preschool or kindergarten math lesson on sorting.  I love the rhyming couplets.  Not only do they provide a teaching opportunity in rhyming words and sorting, but also in predicting skills.  The final rhyme (and also the way the items are sorted) is not revealed right away.  Instead, it is in a little box on the next page.  Parents or teachers can cover up the word with a finger or sticky note.  Then, allow the child to predict what the word might be.   Whether they are correct or not, they are sure to delight in solving the “mystery.” 

More Teaching Opportunities:
As with all their amazing books, Sylvan Dell provides an across-the-curriculum teacher’s activity guide as well as other resources on their website, including a preview of this outstanding teaching resource.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Picture Book: Don't Lick the Dog: Making Friends with Dogs

A trio of children runs up to a lady walking six diverse dogs.   As they enthusiastically reach out to touch them, they are warned to stop, prompting the children to ask if they can pet them.  The owner gives permission for five of the dogs, but warns that the six, Maddie, might bite.  Then, in short rhyming stanzas, the children are instructed in how to approach and to treat dogs.   For instances, she tells them:

Don’t stick your nose in Stella’s face—
until your friends,
she needs her space.

Stand still and let dogs come to you
to smell your hand or sniff your shoe.

But curl your fingers underneath
in case one greets you
with his teeth.

Also, general tips are given in how to offer a treat and where to pet a dog.  Sound advice about shy, jumpy, and irritable dogs is presented.  As the book comes to a close, the dog owner reminds the children:  “Dogs aren’t toys to hug and squeeze or poke or chase or tug or tease.”  As a result, demonstrate good manners to show you care. 

The fanciful illustrations and fun rhyming text (by Wendy Wahman) make this book appealing while offering practice advice to youngsters.  Don’t Lick the Dog:  Making Friends with Dogs can assist parents and childcare givers in teaching children how to be safe and how to respect dogs.   Children will become more confident and safety-conscious as they approach new dogs or deal with family pets.  I recommend this book for ages 2-5. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Picture Books (Science): Rocks and Minerals (Geology)

In science, we are learning about rocks and minerals.   I have been researching picture book resources to use for teaching this fascinating science topic.  Here are a couple good ones I have found so far:

Rocks! Rocks! Rocks!Rocks! Rocks! Rocks! (ages 3-7) by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace 
Buddy loves collecting rocks, so his mother suggests they go on a rock walk at the local Nature Center.  At each stop on the trail, Buddy learns about rocks and minerals.  Rock Stop 1 explains that Earth is a ball of rock.  Next, Stop 2 teaches how rocks are formed—erosion, plant roots, and weather. The most interesting is Rock Stop 3.  A Rock Ridge Ranger shows various rocks as he teaches the three rock types—sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous.  Buddy finds a box of rocks at Stop 4.  He sorts them in various ways, such as by design, shape, and texture.  Then, he uses them to create designs and figures.  Finally, at Rock Stop 5, he discovers how rocks and minerals are used as materials in  houses and everyday objects.  Buddy is more enthusiastic than ever after his trip to the Nature Center.  The simple cut-paper artwork contrasts nicely with the photographs of rocks and minerals.   The text and information in Rocks! Rocks! Rocks! is perfect for young children.  The facts are revealed in small segments with Buddy asking questions and responding.  Along the way, he also adds some silly “rock” humor.  Your young geology enthusiast will feel like a “rock” star after reading Rocks! Rocks! Rocks!

Jump into Science: Rocks and MineralsJump Into Science: Rocks & Minerals (ages 5-10) by Steve Tomecek  
This vibrantly illustrated guide through basic geology begins with minerals as the building blocks of all rocks.  Then, the history of rocks is revealed.  Examples of rocks being used as ancient tools (spear point, arrow head, and scraper) as well as in architecture (Egyptian pyramids, Pantheon, Notre Dame Cathedral) are displayed.  The bulk of the books is devoted to how rocks are formed which broken into three ways or types—igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary.  Using concise text, colorful pictures, diagrams, and photographs the development of each type is well documented. Also, the rock cycle is diagramed and briefly explained.  Young readers are challenged to think about how the rocks they discover might have been formed and to figure out what minerals are in them.  An experiment in making a rock at home is also included. The author does an outstanding job presenting the material in a concise and engaging manner.  The diagrams and pictures also make this resource first-rate.  Use Jump Into Science: Rocks & Minerals in your study of elementary geology or for leisure reading with your youngsters. 

This week Practically Paradise is hosting Non-Fiction Monday.  Check out what other bloggers are reading. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Picture Book: Dust Devil by Anne Isaacs

Summary of Dust Devil:  
Swamp Angel, otherwise known as Angelica Longrider, moves to Montana because she is too big for Tennessee.  With no trees or mountains near her new prarie home, the sun wakes her early each morning.  As a result, Swamp Angel plucks the tallest mountain from the Rockies and plants it east of her ranch.  Now she has shade and a later sun rise.  All her neighbors want a mountain too, so Angel grabs several more and places them along the prairie.  Soon after, the worst dust storm anyone had ever seen hits the plains.  The air is so thick with dust that neither sun nor moon light can get through.  Deciding it is time for that storm to quit horsing around, Angel springs right on its back, riding it all the way to what is now (as a result of the storm) the Grand Canyon.  After three days, she finds that in the middle of that tempest is a giant horse!  After taming the wild beast, he becomes her faithful sidekick, Dust Devil.  She has finally found a horse powerful enough to carry her.  Together, they chase down and outwit Backward Bart and his mosquito flying gang who are stealing the money out of everyone’s piggy bank along the plains!  Backward Bart’s capture causes the development of the Saw Tooth Mountain Range, the California Gold Rush, and the numerous geysers throughout the state of Montana!  Well, so the legend says. 

Like Thunder Rose, Dust Devil is a tall tale focusing on a female legend of the old west.   Author Anne Isaacs uses colorful language and images in her descriptions.  The heroic protagonist is cunning, determined, and helpful.  The pictures (by Paul O. Zelinsky) illustrate much of the excitement and creativity of the narrative, like the battle between Swamp Angel on her giant horse and Backward Bart’s gang on their enormous flying mosquitoes as well as Angel’s ride through the countryside on a colossal dust storm.  Like ancient myths, the tall tale provides an explanation for natural events and land features, such as the mountains, geysers, and dust storms.  The narrative entertains and prompts some excellent learning opportunities. 

Teaching Opportunities:
·         History—Discover what important historical events occurred in 1821 as well as the political and cultural climate of the era; click here and here for examples
·         Geography—Use a map to learn about the important geographical features of Montana; compare them to the descriptions in Dust Devil  (i.e. geysers, Saw Tooth Range, free standing mountains--buttes); Check out Netstate and MontanaKids
·         Science—Read about dust storms:  how they develop, how long they last, and the damage that can result
·         Cooking—Make some sourdough biscuits
·         History—Learn about the California Gold Rush and/or famous outlaws of the Old West
·         Art—Draw a Wanted Poster of an outlaw of your own creation
·         Literature—Identify characteristics of a tall tale and connect them to the narrative; Compare Dust Devil to Thunder Rose
·         Figurative Language—Identify the alliteration, similes, and other figurative language
·         Comprehension Skills—Identify cause/effect relationships in the narrative

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Picture Book: Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen

Summary of Thunder Rose:  
On a summer night during a fierce thunder storm, a lively baby is born.  Rather than cry out while taking her first breath of life, she sits up and takes hold of the lightning and thunder.  Then, she tells her parents she is partial to the name Rose, so they call her Thunder Rose.  Full of spunk, determination, and confidence, Thunder Rose accomplishes everything she sets out to do.  She amazes her parents by drinking her milk while holding up a cow, creating objects with scrap metal, staking a fence without assistance, and building a sky scraper—all before the age of ten!  At the age of 12, she single-handedly takes down the leader of a pack of 2700 wild cattle with her quick wit and song, making them a part of her family’s herd on their Old West ranch.  Later that year, as she drives those cattle to market in Abilene, she utilizes some spare metals rods she always carries to lasso a gang of desperadoes and deliver them to a local jail.  During the long journey, the air is so dry and sour that she lassos a cloud in an attempt to squeeze some rain out of it.  The cloud fights back and develops into a vicious double tornado which Thunder Rose successfully placates  with a sweet melody.  Finally, “a soft, drenching-and-soaking rain” falls as she journeys on to Abilene.  Rose realizes the power of the music of her heart.  Stories of her amazing abilities spreads like wildfire throughout the West.

Jerdine Nolen’s Thunder Rose is a feisty protagonist.  She knows nothing of fear or failure.  She is determined and creative in her problem solving and daily activities.  The plot is full of action and playful exaggeration. The picturesque watercolor illustrations (by Kadir Nelson) capture the beauty of the landscape and the daring spirit of Thunder Rose.  This tall tale inspires and amuses. 

Teaching Opportunities:
Use this Guide for your activities and lesson plans.  It includes links, figurative language, vocabulary, and across the curriculum ideas.  Also, click on these resources Tall Tale Chart  and Figurative Language Worksheet

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Summary of The Hunger Games:  
From the publisher, Scholastic

Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

As I read The Hunger Games, I could not help but to wonder how far our society is from the “game show” scenario of the novel's setting.  There is a reality TV show for just about everything in life.  Clearly, the producers manipulate the contestants and the audience—one reason I don’t watch much reality TV.  Contemporary society seems ever hungry for more blood, gore, violence, and drama.   Our own government is bent on keeping people enslaved and dependent on it for food, money, and health care.  Their laws and policies encourage debt, ignorance, and unemployment.  If the course does not change, nearly everyone will eventually be dependent on the government for his livelihood.  It is the surest way to maintain power and control over the populace.  All of these present-day symptoms make The Hunger Games feel more like a coming reality than a passing fantasy. 

The characterization in the novel is multi-facet.   Katniss, the main protagonist, is the most complex of the characters.  Her genuine struggles reveal the complexity of human choices and feelings.   With her family, she is wholly devoted to them, yet she struggles to trust her mother.  Interestingly, she has had to step up to play the role of provider and protector.  On the other hand, she has a vulnerable and insecure dimension.   Katniss has a quality I think is important in any appealing character or person:  She has an edge.  For her,  it is quiet rebellion.  

While the plot has the commercial quality of being a page-turner, the author has added depth and authenticity to it.  Katniss consistently contemplates the motives of the other players, the government, the gamekeepers, and even herself, prompting me to think about it as well. The overall realistic plot twists and turns are not easily predicted.  Each turn also uncovers a hidden motivation, prompts an individual's development, or escalates inner conflicts.  Despite the storyline’s potential for gore, Suzanne Collins, the author, provides sufficient detail without inducing squeamish disgust.  Like a high powered zoom lens, the reader is brought in close to the action and anguish momentarily, but then pulled away at a protective distance—parallel to the protagonist’ internal survival mechanism.  

Bottom line:  I could not put this novel down!  It has been a while since I have been so captivated with a book of this length.  I read it in only a few days…and I have been busy!  I had to sneak in the time to read—staying up late, telling my kids to go play for a while, and ignoring the mess around the house.   I highly recommend The Hunger Games with an enthusiastic five stars and two thumbs up for ages 13 and up.  Go get your copy at the store or library right away! 

Click here for more about this thrilling book and its sequels.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Picture Book: The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernest

Summary of The Gingerbread Girl:  
Everyone is familiar with the sad story of the Gingerbread Boy.  It has been a year since his untimely demise at the mouth of the wily fox!  Despite the lonely elderly couple's fear of losing another Gingerbread Child, they resolves to bake again.  This time they dress a Gingerbread Girl with candies from head to toe and create a brilliant licorice whip hairdo for her.  As the Gingerbread Girl bakes in the oven, she overhears the couple reminisce about the Gingerbread Boy.  She determines, “Sweet or not…things will be different this time.”   When it is time for the cookie to be done, the little old woman carefully opens the door and peeks inside.  BAM!  Out jumps the Gingerbread Girl.  She calls back to them:

I’ll run and I’ll run
With a leap and a twirl.
You can’t catch me,
I’m the Gingerbread Girl!

Next, she dashes passed a group of farmers who are charmed by her sweet aroma.  As they run after her, she laughs and says:

Hey, farmers, don’t bother!
Like my brother, I’m fast!
Run all you want,
But I’ve learned from his past!

Then, she repeats her Gingerbread Girl mantra.  Similarly, she passes a pig, an artist, cows, dogs, and school children who all join the procession chasing her.  She assures each one with their own distinctive rhyming stanza that she will not repeat her brother’s mistake nor does she mind them all chasing her.  She seems to be inviting them along on her flight.

Like her brother before her, she comes to the river where the cunning fox is anxiously waiting for her.  He coyly coerces her and uses the same tricks, but the Gingerbread Girl outsmarts him!  She pulls from her head one of the leathery licorice strands.  Like an expert ranch hand, she lassos up fox’s mouth and rides him back to shore.  The amazed crowd follow the lonely couple back to their home.  Everyone quickly joins in to help feed the hungry houseful.  From that day on, the couple is never lonely again.   Neither is the Gingerbread Girl.  She also has a new friend. 

I have read several versions of this story.  I was pleasantly surprised by this fresh, inventive retelling by Lisa Campbell Ernst.  The text is fast-paced and engaging.  The prose and poetry combination is fluid.  The poetic lines are well-written and insightful.  The protagonist is dynamic and clever.  The ending is satisfying.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story out loud with my son.   

Teaching Opportunities:
·         Reading Skills—Sequence the Story Events using a graphic organizer
·         Pretend Play—Students can re-enact the story using themselves as the characters or created materials like stick or finger puppets to use
·         Choral Reading—Signal the children each time the Gingerbread Girl chants her mantra; student can “read” along
·         Rhyme—Identify end rhymes in each stanza
·         Art—Decorate Gingerbread boy or girl cut outs with crayons, markers, or other supplies (glitter, ribbon, faux jewels)
·         Math—Click on Gingerbread Math Ideas for lots of great ideas
·         Building—Create a gingerbread house or small ones for a village

Also, click on The Gingerbread Cowboy post and BabblingAbby’s blog for more lesson plan idea and activities.   For technology connections, check out InTech Insights.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Picture Book: Dear Teacher by Amy Husband

Summary of Dear Teacher
It is mid-August.  Michael, a student at Sunnybank Elementary School, has received a letter from his principal welcoming him to another school year and introducing his new teacher, Miss Brooks.  This note prompts Michael to begin a letter writing campaign to Miss Brooks, informing her of his summer exploits as a secret agent along with his dog Bruno. The duo jet-set around the world, from Mount Everest to Egypt to the Amazon River.  They encounter pirates, find treasure, and ride motorcycles.  In each letter, he warns Miss Brooks he may not be back in time to start school, but assures her that he is dreadfully unhappy about missing his class and home work—especially in math. On August 29, Michael receives a response from Miss Brooks, a wise and witty teacher.  She expresses her regret at his missing out on being soccer captain, the school trip to the zoo, and class swimming lessons.  The final note is a post card from Michael to his parents, hinting at his next adventure. 

Dear Teacher (by Amy Husband) is a unique book.  It appears as a large “Top Secret” envelope that seals up.  All the letters and illustrations are viewed as you open up the book vertically (rather than the usual horizontal manner).  The letters are written in a variety of ways, such as typed on school letterhead, on a post card, and as a telegraph.  The majority of them, though, are in a handwriting font on notebook paper with quirky, child-like illustrations of Michael’s adventures.  The story (as told through the letters and pictures) is imaginative and entertaining.  I have seen my 10 year old son looking at the book every day since I brought it home!  While the story is positive and upbeat, the subtext reveals the fears and apprehensions that some students feel about school.  Children ages 7-10 will enjoy and benefit from reading Dear Teacher.

Teaching Opportunities:

  • Language Arts—Teach (or review) the parts of a personal letter vs. a business letter; compare them to the letters in the book
  • Geography—Locate on a map the places Michael visits
  • Social Studies—Research the places Michael visits
  • Literature—Analyze the characters;  discuss the difference between direct and indirect characterization;  brainstorm character qualities that describe Miss Brooks and Michael using their letters
  • Persuasion—Evaluate how Miss Brooks indirectly assures and persuades Michael to come the first day of school; learn about types of persuasion and/or write a persuasive letter/paragraph

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Picture Book: Rumble in the Jungle

I came across another wonderful book from Tiger Tales called Rumble in the Jungle.   It prompted me to consider: What is the difference between the rainforest and the jungle?  Here is a quick overview:

Though jungle and rainforest might appear to be similar, there are differences between the two. A rainforest area is often surrounded by a jungle, with the primary difference being that a rainforest has a very thick canopy of tall trees, which make it very difficult for light to penetrate to the ground level making it difficult for plants to flourish. A jungle floor on the other hand will usually have a thick undergrowth of plants and vegetation.

Because jungles and rainforests are closely connected, they share some similar animals.  On the other hand, the rainforest has many rare plants and animals only found in that habitat that make it indispensable to mankind.  Read more at Difference Between.  

Summary of Rumble in the Jungle:  
As the morning light sifts through the trees, there is a rumble in the jungle and a whisper in the trees.  The animals are waking up!  The hidden narrator invites the reader along on a jungle expedition:

Some animals are frightening,
And some are sweet and kind,
So let’s go to the jungle now
And see who we can find...

Lots of funny, scary, and marvelous creatures are encountered on this extraordinary day trip—monkeys, big cats, zebras, gazelles, snakes, and much more.   Using free-verse poetic stanzas, each animal reveals a little about itself.  Here are a couple samples: 

It’s great to be a chimpanzee
Swinging through the trees,
And if we can’t find nuts to eat
We munch each other’s fleas!

The gorilla is big, black, and hairy,
And the thing that he likes to do best
 Is to look all ferocious and scary
And wallop his giant great chest.

The narrative concludes with the night falling on the jungle.  Animals like the vulture and the leopard are still slowly and softly moving about while many others are quietly dozing off.

Giles Andreae’s Rumble in the Jungle is a humorous rhyming safari.  The rich illustrations (by David Wojtowycz) are dynamic and delightful.  Oversized drawings make it a perfect read-out-loud book for classrooms and small groups.  Along with the bold pictures, children will enjoy the poetic verses and witty creatures.  I recommend this book for ages 3-8.  There are many excellent opportunities for extension activities and lessons from the basic (identifying animals) to the more challenging (learning the difference between the jungle and the rainforest). 

Teaching Opportunities:

  • Pre-Reading—Identify the animals and their sounds (where applicable)
  • Poetry—Read the individual stanzas to identify sound devices (rhyme, alliteration) and to discover information about each creature
  • Science—Read other books about favorite creatures illustrated in the book
  • Science—Teach the difference between the jungle and the rainforest habitats; identify animals that dwell in both
  • Language—Locate examples of onomatopoeia in the illustrations; discuss (or guess) the sounds of animals whose sounds are not revealed in the text
  • Art—Create animal masks using paper plates; have an animal safari parade around the class, house, or school
  • Writing—Compose a first person free-verse stanza for another animal in the jungle as a class or in small groups OR allow students to compose a first person stanza about themselves (can be done as homework with their families)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Picture Books: The Rainforest

Children’s imaginations are sure to soar as they discover and explore the rainforest. We’re Roaming in the Rainforest: An Amazon Adventure and The Rainforest Grew All Around are two remarkable picture books to use in your study of this extraordinary habitat.  

As the sun rises, three children trek through the colorful and lively rainforest, discovering amazing creatures of all kinds.  Written in playful poetic verse, rainforest animal habitats and behaviors are revealed.  For example:

“Fly,” squawk the parrots,
from branches and twigs.
“We’ll swoop down to breakfast
on ripe, juicy figs.” 

The illustrations (by Anne Wilson) are vivid and energetic.  Butterflies are fluttering in search of nectar.   Leaf-cutter ants are on parade.  Monkeys swing in the branches.  Other pictures depict a quieter side of the rainforest.  Sloths are yawning and dozing on trees.  A jaguar stalks its prey.  Otters cuddle together as they fall asleep.  As the day comes to a close, the children leave the lulling sounds of the night.  We’re Roaming in the Rainforest offers a sweeping look at a day in this mysterious and irreplaceable habitat.  Children will become familiar with many of the creatures that dwell there which include birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.  The concluding pages include a wealth of information about the Amazon Rainforest, the native people, conservation, and creatures. 

Rainforest.phpThe Rainforest Grew All Around (ages 4-9) by Susan K. Mitchell 
Using a clever adaption of the song “The Green Grass Grows All Around,” children learn about the rainforest from the floor to the canopy.  It begins with a seed of a Kapok tree which grows to become an essential habitat for many creatures—jaguar, emerald tree snake, leaf-cutter ants, sloth, poison dart frogs, toucans, bats, and many insects.  The poetic song is cumulative with a repeating stanza for choral reading: 

And by the snake
there crawled an ant…
the busiest ant
that you ever did see.

the ant by the snake,
and the snake by the vine,
and the vine near the cat,
and the cat in the tree,
and the tree from the seed,
and the seed in the ground,

and the rainforest grew
all around, all around;
the rainforest grew all around.

The wondrous world of the rainforest is depicted in the brilliant illustrations (by Connie McLennan).  Each page spread also has a side bar with fascinating facts about the plants, animals, and insects highlighted in the book.  The end pages provide activities, including a cookie recipe with many ingredients that come from the rainforest.  As always, Sylvan Dell provides an extensive across-the-curriculum teaching guide and other resources at their website to accompany your study and assist you in your lesson planning. 

Freedom Over Me (Ashley Bryan)

Title:   Freedom Over Me:  Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life Author :   Ashley Bryan Illustrator :   Ashley...