Sunday, February 27, 2011

Picture Book: Hugless Douglas by David Melling

Hugless DouglasSummary of Hugless Douglas:
Douglas, a young brown bear, wakes up one spring morning.   His first thought is, “I need a hug.”    Douglas proposes that the best hugs are big.  He finds the biggest object around, and he hugs it.  It is a rock, though, so it does not feel right.  Instead, it is heavy and hard.   Next, he decides that the best hugs are tall.   The tallest thing he sees is a tree.  No matter where he hugs it—top, middle, and bottom—he only gets splinters rather than returned affection.  Douglas does not give up!    He resolves that the best hugs are comfy, but the “comfy” bush he embraces quivers, trembles, and flees.   He finds some sheep hiding in it.  They won’t hug him either!  After a couple more failed attempts, a forest friend leads him to a deep dark cave.  Inside, he finally find the perfect hug…from him mommy!   Douglas realizes the best hugs are from someone he loves.   He snuggles into the “biggest, warmest arms he knew.” 

One of the best parts of this book is the illustrations by David Melling.   Much of the character, action, and humor are found in the pictures and in the darling character he has created.   The text is enjoyable and sweet.   Hugless Douglas is one of those books you want in your home or class library because children are going to ask to listen to it over and over.   Check out other beloved books by Tiger Tales.

Teaching Suggestions:
·         Add Hugless Douglas to a unit on spring, bears, or hibernation
·         Print the events on cards; students (in groups or individually) can practice putting them in sequential order
·         Draw a pictorial time line of the main events in sequence
·         Challenge the students to think about what the other characters in the story feel;  list adjectives on the board that the students brainstorm
·         Discuss other adjectives in the story like tall, big, comfy; then brainstorm synonyms and antonyms for each one
·         Consider what Douglas may do next in the narrative and what he might eat now that he is awake from his long winter’s nap

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ancient World (Greece): The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus by Aliki

One of my favorite subjects to study is ancient Greece.  The history is absolutely fascinating! I read books, watch documentaries, and listen to online course by university professors. I adore Greek dramas like Oedipus and Antigone.   I love the epics The Iliad and The Odyssey. I have even grown to appreciate (and to begin to understand) the philosophy of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.  One of my favorite parts of ancient Greek culture and history is the mythology of the gods and heroes.  Here is a good introductory picture book to the Greek creation myth and the twelve divinities of Olympus: 

The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus (ages 6 and up) by Aliki 
First, the Greek creation narrative is related.  Gaea—the Earth—grew out of the dark space called Chaos.  Gaea gave birth to Uranus—the sky.  Together, they created the plants, animals, rivers, and all living things.  Gaea and Uranus had many children—twelve Titans, three Cyclops, and the Hecatoncheires.  After Uranus threw the Cyclops and Hecatoncheires into Tartarus, Gaea prompted her son Cronus to depose his father.   Cronus became the ruler of the universe.  He married Rhea.  Together, they had five children whom Cronus swallowed whole to prevent from being overthrown like his father.   Rhea managed to trick Cronus and to safely hide her youngest child, Zeus.  When he grew up, he freed his siblings.  With the help of the Cyclops and the Hecatoncheires, he toppled Cronus.   Zeus ruled from Olympus along with his siblings, six of his children, and Aphrodite. 

Second, the remainder of the book introduces each of the twelve gods and their dominions.   Briefly, background information and the stories they are often associated with each one are introduced.  The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus is an ideal book to lay down the foundation for a study of Greek mythology.   There are vibrant pictures depicting the characters and the action of each story. The final two page spread offers a visual summary of the divinities in relations to one another and their roles on Olympus.  To help my children memorize the gods and goddess, I created a study guide.  After our unit study, I gave them a quiz on it. 

For other ancient Greek posts, click here.  More posts on ancient Greece and mythology coming soon!

Game and Flashcards on Greek Gods and Goddesses
To Print on Business Cards, click on Flashcards and Game.
To Print on Card Stock, click on Game, Flashcards 2-Sided, or Flashcards Folded.
Instructions for Printing and Game Play and List of Gods and Goddesses

Friday, February 25, 2011

Stunning Non-Fiction Picture Books about Animals by Nic Bishop

I have to rave about an amazing photographer—Nic Bishop!  His photography has been featured in over 20 dazzling non-fiction picture books, focusing on animals, insects, arachnids, and nature.  I previously highlighted his book Chameleon, Chameleon.   Nic Bishop is both author and photographer of three books on vertebrate animals—Frogs, Lizards, and Marsupials.  The illustrations alone are worth the price of the book!  Mr. Bishop captures amazing shots of animals in their natural habitats.  The text is engaging and fascinating.   Facts about each animal’s diverse habitat, diet, life cycle, and habits are captivatingly revealed.  As I read them, I was in awe of God’s staggering creativity.   I thoroughly enjoyed each of these books. 

I learned there are over 200 different marsupials, many with unique characteristics.   There are gorgeous pictures of koala bears, wombats, and kangaroos.   Lesser known marsupials are included like a numbat, Tasmanian devils, a quoll, a fat-tailed dunnart, and a bilby.   Witness frame-by-frame in a double-page pull out as a sugar glider leaps from a branch, soars through the air, and lands safely.   View kangaroos wrestling and a baby koala resting on her mother’s back as she sleeps.  Every page is a wonder! 

The habitats of lizards range from under the desert sands to high in tropical trees, making their lives intriguing and varied.  Observe a gliding gecko soar to a neighboring branch and a basilisks walk on water.  Close up shots of Africa’s Jackson chameleon (looks like a prehistoric dinosaur), a flying dragon in mid-air, a leaf-tailed gecko camouflaged, and an Australian frilled dragon puffing itself up are just some of the must-see photographs in the book.

The pictures of these colorful creatures are so dazzling it is hard to believe they are real!   One of the most stunning pictures is of a frog mid-air (water dripping down from him he leaps out of the pond) snatching a caterpillar with its tongue from a leaf hanging over the water.  The 2-page double spread depicts frame-by-frame a frog bounding from the shore, through the air, and into the water.   See through the underbelly of a glass frog hanging on a vine and witness a young tadpole being caught by a giant water bug.   My favorite pictures, though, are of the vibrant tree frogs! 

To learn more about his many other titles, click here. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Picture Book: Bella and Stella Come Home by Anika Denise

Summary of Bella and Stella Come Home:
Bella and Stella bid farewell to their home as they load up the truck to move to a new place.  Bella comforts Stella (a stuffed elephant) as they drive away and watch their former home getting smaller and smaller.  When they arrive at their new house, the girls immediately observe it doesn’t look anything like the old one.  It looks empty and feels spooky.  Their old kitchen was blue.  The new one is yellow.  Stella and Bella think kitchens should be blue.  As they look in the backyard, they recall their old garden had an oak tree.  The new garden only has shrubs and grass.  The girls believe every garden should have an oak tree.   Bella suggests they find their bedroom, but they are afraid to go up the stairs.  They hold hands as they creep up the stairs and find the right room.  There are no polka dot curtains or stars on the ceiling.   No bed.  No dresser.  No rug.  Just a box in the middle of the floor which contains a tea set.  To comfort Stella, Bella suggests they have some tea.  As they play, the bedroom furniture and toys are brought in.   Lying in bed that night, everything looks, feels, and sounds different.   It is too dark in the room with no stars on the ceiling, but with some extra lights on and some snuggling close together, Stella and Bella eventually fall asleep.   In the morning with the room decorate like their former one, it feels a little more like home.   When some neighbors come over to welcome them, Bella and Stella meet some new friends.  Making new friends and decorating the bedroom prompt Bella (and her counterpart Stella) to feel more comfortable and content with her new house. 

I chose Bella and Stella Come Home because it aptly conveys the emotions that many children feel when they move to a new home.  The illustrations depict a subtext, showing the anxiety felt by Bella during the move.  They also illuminate her imagination.  She often imagines Stella as a full grown elephant and projects her emotions onto her stuffed animal. This book is ideal for families who are moving or going through a transition.   Educators may use Bella and Stella Come Home to discuss fears, transitions, or comfort objects. 

Also Check Out:
I Like Where I Am (Jessica Harper)
Written in entertaining poetic form, a boy expresses his distress about moving away from his home, friends, and school.  Ultimately, he learns to enjoy his new home, friends, and school. 

Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptions

This week I am participating in Top Ten Tuesday.  The topic is Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations.  Check out other lists at the Broke and the Bookish.  Here is my list. 

1.     Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
As a teen and early adult, I watched this movie religiously.  I wanted to be Anne.  I wanted to find my Gilbert.  Most of all, I wanted to be an inspiring teacher like Miss Stacy.   I love “The Highwayman” and “The Lady of Shalott.”  Yea, this movie inspired me J
2.    Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson)
This book was one of my favorites from my children’s literature class in college.  The movie is beautiful.  I weep every time I watch it, despite knowing what is going to happen. 
3.    Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney)
Even though the movie is not 100% true to the book, it does capture the characters well.  I have watched this movie several times, and each time I laugh hysterically. 
4.    Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince (J.K. Rowling)
This movie is the best in the series.  I can watch it over and over.  I know the Harry Potter books always have a lot more detail which often makes for choppy movies, lacking clear reasons for character motivation.  This movie had the smoothest flow and depth.
5.    Holes (Louis Sachar)
This movie stayed pretty faithful to the book.  Like A Little Princess, I love the story within the story.   It is a wonderful illustration of redemption and friendship.
6.    A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
I adore the 1995 version of this movie.  The visuals are beautiful.  They do an excellent job contrasting Sara’s drab world with the vivid world of her stories.   The world of her stories though parallels her real world.   It is an excellent film. 
7.    Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
My favorite movie version of this book is the one with Winona Ryder and Christian Bale.  Every one of the characters is remarkably played.   My favorite is Jo.  I love her spirit and passion. 
8.    The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
I have enjoyed the recent succession of movies based on the Chronicles of Narnia series.  The sacrifice of one for the good of all (i.e. Christ’s death) is depicted beautifully.  The visuals and acting are memorable. 
9.    The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
Beautiful book.  Beautiful movie.  Love the cast.  Glad they kept true to the book. 
10.  The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
This movie stays true to the book and characters.   I love their individual stories and the metaphor of the pants as a symbol of their bond. 

The book I most want to see made into a great movie is Walk Two Moons.  I have enjoyed all of Sharon Creech’s novels, but this one is the best of all of her stories and one of the best in all children’s literature. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Picture Book: The Moonlight Message by Denice Barlow Brown

Summary of The Moonlight Message:  
The Redcoats have arrived.  They enter homes uninvited, demanding food and shelter.   The injustices the colonists are facing prompt the men in the village to grapple with whether they are the King’s Men or Patriots.  Soon, many of the men leave to fight for their freedoms as Patriots.  Tension and uncertainty permeates through each home of those left behind—the women, the children, and the elderly.  Everyone has to work together to do their usual chores and those of the absent men.   Grace and Rachel miss their father and brother who have gone to fight with the Patriots.  The girls ponder what they can do to help the cause.   In the still of the night while lying in bed, Rachel gets an idea.   During a visit the next day to their aunt’s house, Rachel slips into her house while Grace keeps their aunt company in the barn.   Rachel comes out with a bundle of boy’s clothes hidden under her skirts.  Upon leaving, the girls disguise themselves as boys.   Moving stealthily through the town under the moonlight, they stumble across a secret meeting of the King’s Men.  After witnessing a clandestine exchange, the girls follow the recipient and cut him off.  Under the dark of night, their single old rifle and long stick look intimidating.  They boldly demand and successfully acquire the package which they pass on to the Patriot General Greene. 

The Moonlight Message is a fascinating tale of children who acted heroically.  The narrative is based on a true story that occurred during the American Revolution.  The illustrations depict well the action as well as the historical setting.  This book can be used in a unit on the war or in the study of American history.  The protagonists depict admirable character qualities, such as personal responsibility, courage, and heroism.   Also, the importance of patriotism and freedom is displayed.  The Moonlight Message is a great addition to the study of character or patriotism. 

Coming soon from Cypress Productions are more books in their Founder’s Series focusing on patriotism, freedom, and character.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Picture Book: Hero Dad by Melinda Hardin

Hero DadSummary of Hero Dad:  
As his father is leaving to go on a mission, a young boy muses that his dad is a superhero.  Instead of rocket-propelled boots and x-ray vision, his dad has army boots and night vision glasses.  He drives a super-powered vehicle—a tank.   Even though he doesn’t have an invisibility cloak, he does wear camouflage to blend into his surroundings.  There are no sidekicks or laser guns on his dad’s missions, but he does have a platoon and a rifle.  Like fictional superheroes, his dad sometimes goes on long trips.   His dad is an American soldier…and a superhero. 

Hero Dad  (by Melinda Hardin) celebrates the men and women serving in the armed services.  Military and patriotic families will find this book to be a comfort and a source of pride.  Teachers can share it to remind students of the sacrifices made for their freedoms and way of life.

The bright illustrations depict soldiers in the desert and touching moments with their families.  The pictures are geared for younger children (ages 3-8).  They show some of the realities of being a soldier, but they are not at all frightening.

There are some excellent teachable moments prompted by Hero Dad.
§  Discuss heroism.  What does it mean to be a hero?  Who do the children think are heroes?  Compare and contrast real heroes with super heroes. 
§  Make a comparison chart showing a one-to-one correspondence the narrator made  between his realistic heroic father and the fantasy superheroes. 
§  Students can make their own comparison charts either related to heroes or some other topic. 
§  Students can write one or more comparisons that can be illustrated, similar to the book.
§  Incorporate a writing activity.   For younger children, demonstrate how to write a paragraph using a class comparison chart.  Older children can write a paragraph using their comparison charts.     

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Picture Book: My Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

I was immediately endeared to My Heart Is Like a Zoo (ages 3-10) by Michael Hall.  Each lovable animal in the "zoo" expresses a different aspect of the speaker’s love.  The book begins with the following poetic verse: 

My heart is like a zoo—
eager as a beaver,
steady as a yak
hopeful as a hungry heron
fishing for a snack…

The same framework is used until the end when the tired zookeeper (small boy) cuddles up in bed with all his animals surrounding him.  Using die cut shapes (primarily hearts), a menagerie of animals is created---from the sea, the land, and the air.  My Heart Is Like a Zoo is versatile enough that it can be used for teachable moments from early childhood to elementary school.  

Lesson Plan and Learning Extension Ideas

Younger children can…

  • identify circles, rectangles, triangles, and squares  
  • count the number of hearts (or other shapes) that make up each animal
  • name colors
  • identify animals
  • connect to a zoo or animal unit
Older children can…
  • recognize sound devices like rhyme and alliteration
  • recognize similes (and practice creating their own)
  • identify adjectives and nouns (parts of speech)
  • classify animals into groups—sea, land, and air
  • distinguish fantasy from fact
  • create animals using various shapes similar to the illustrations

Blog Giveaway: $20 Gift Certificate

The Books4Learning blog has made several benchmarks this month!  It hit 100 posts.  February 8 was the blog’s four month anniversary.   The blog has over 8,000 views!   Averaging about 2,000 a month!  I am excited to see the daily averages climb.  The blog is now building a Twitter following. 

I have been thrilled to receive feedback from teachers and published authors via email.   It motivates me to keep writing, knowing that others are benefiting from the posts. 

To thank all my followers, I am offering a $20 gift certificate giveaway to either Barnes and Noble or Amazon to a winner drawn at random.  Let me know about your favorite post and what you find beneficial about this blog.  This feedback will help me make posts more relevant and useful.  You can earn additional entries into the giveaway by being a Twitter or a Facebook follower as well as sharing the link to this giveaway with others.  

To enter the giveaway, you must be a follower on Google Friend Connect (Top Right Side of Blog).   The deadline to enter is February 28, 2011.   A winner will be announced on March 2, 2011. 

Giveaway is closed.
For other great book blog giveaways, click here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Picture Book Lesson Plan: The Cat's Pajamas by Wallace Edwards

Cat's Pajamas, TheI have had a copy of The Cat's Pajamas sitting around for weeks.   I finally picked it up today to find it was the perfect day to read it!  It just so happened that in my children's daily grammar review, they had to identify the meanings of idioms.  Wallace Edwards' book, The Cat's Pajamas, is a collection of idioms.   The book begins with a definition of these fun figures of speech.  Each page has a single sentence with an idiom included.  An elaborate and vivid illustration depicts the literal meaning of the idiom.  The context clues help to identify the figurative meaning of it (if the child is not already familiar with it).  There is a list at the back of the book of all the idioms and their meanings which I found helpful since there were a few I was not familiar with already.  I used this book in a simple way to teach about idioms.  It is an easy lesson for parents or teachers to impliment.  No advance preparation is needed aside from having a copy of the book.

First, I read and briefly discussed the definition provided in the book.
Second, I read the sentence out loud on the first page.  I pointed out how the picture shows the literal meaning of the figure of speech.  In this case, a mouse is "hanging" on to the cloth he is sewing. 
Third, I identified the idiom "getting the hang of." 
Fourth, we discussed the meaning.
Finally, we went through the remaining pages.  Each time, I asked my children to identify the idiom.  Then, they guessed what they thought it meant based on previous knowledge and/or context clues. 

Extension activities or assessment opportunities are plentiful.  For instance, provide each student or group of students with an idiom.  Instruct them to illustrate it and/or write a sentence using the idiom.   In addition, you can provide a list of other idioms within sentences to practice context clues and to identify the meanings.  Finally, give the students a list of idioms to use to write a funny story.  They can have the idiom use the literal or figurative meaning.   Ameilia Bedelia books are great examples of this technique. 

Lesson Plans and Activities for Idioms on the Internet
Idiom Lesson Plan (Grades 4-6)
What are Idioms?  Uses More Parts book by Tedd Arnold.
Idioms for Dummies
Idiom Activities
Idiom Lesson Plan (Grade 7)
Eat Up Idioms

Also Check Out:
You Are What You Eat and Other Mealtime Hazards by Serge Bloch
Using sketch drawings and color pictures (primarily of food items), idioms are humorously illustrated and properly used in sentences.  Use as a follow up to The Cat's Pajamas.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Picture Book: Astro The Steller Sea Lion by Jeanne Walker Harvey

A baby sea lion, only a few days old, is separated from his mother.  Fortunately, he is rescued by a scientist and taken to The Marine Mammal Center—a place for sick, injured, and stranded marine mammals.  The lost sea lion is named Astro.  For 10 months, he is cared for and feed by the staff.  When Astro is mature enough to join the other sea lions, he is taken down to the ocean shore.  Confused and frightened, he refuses to leave the beach area to find food.  He has bonded with humans instead of other steller sea lions, so he does not feel “at home” in the open sea.   Workers attempt on two more occasions to acclimate Astro back into his natural habitat.  Each time though, he returns to the area near the Center where he seeks to interact with humans.   The staff decides to find him an alternate home.  Fortunately, an aquarium in Connecticut offers him a place to live.  After some training in the Long Marine Lab at the University of California, Astro flies on a plane across the country.  He quickly acclimates into his new home, complete with lots of people visiting him each day!   This happy and playful seal is now a stellar attraction at the Mystic Aquarium.

Astro, The Steller Seal is based on real events.  Author Jeanne Walker Harvey brings this remarkable and beloved sea lion’s story to students all over the country.  Realistic pictures accompany the fascinating narrative.  This book is especially conducive to teachable moments and the classroom instruction.  The resource pages in the back give general and life cycle information on steller sea lions.  A map is provided to plot out Astro’s travels.  Also, there is a comparison of steller sea lions to harbor seals.  Finally, Sylvan Dell, the publisher, has provided a 31-page Teaching Activity Guide full of across the curriculum handouts and ideas to accompany the book.  The website includes quizzes and other information.   Families and classroom students are sure to enjoy this story! 

Visit the Mystic Aquarium to see him in person or click on Meet the Real Astro to meet him on the web.    

Monday, February 14, 2011

Picture Book: Mole's in Love by David Bedford

Story Summary of Mole’s in Love
Morris, the mole, enthusiastically peeps out of his hole.  Yippee! It’s spring.   Morris is ready to find someone to love.   He doesn’t see well though.  To find a mate, he decides to look for similar physical qualities as his own.   First, he resolves to find an animal with “luscious shiny black fur.”  Finding it, he instantly falls in love!  Unfortunately, Morris has not found another mole, but rather a large black horse—that quickly knocks him into a pile of leaves.  No one comes to see if Morris is all right, making him feel glum.   The smell of colorful spring flowers cheers him up and prods him on.  Next, he decides to look for a “pretty pink nose.”  Once again, Morris thinks he is in love as he hugs the pretty pink nose. The nose belongs to a pig—that pushes Morris away, landing him in some mud!  Nobody comes to see if he is all right, so he feels sad.  The sound of birds singing makes him joyful again.  He continues his search to find someone to love.  This time, he decides to look for “gorgeous big wide feet.” He comes across a pair, falling in love again. Unluckily, the feet belong to a white duck—that tickles Morris with his feathers, resulting in him falling on a sharp thistle.  Nobody comes to see if he is all right.   Downtrodden, Morris goes back to his molehill, where he contemplates all the qualities he has sought.  He does not understand why he has not found love yet.  Suddenly, he hears a tiny voice, “You have not looked hard enough!” Someone reaches over, gives him a present, and asks if he is all right. Morris isn’t looking for love anymore.  Love has found him…in the form of a sweet female mole.

Morris the mole is absolutely precious!  The illustrations are wonderful.  Mole’s in Love is a perfect Valentine’s Day story.  First, it celebrates spring.  Children can discuss the signs of spring illustrated in the book as well as other ones.  Also, this book could accompany a unit on farms or animals.  Moles are interesting animals to study or to research.  They can cause havoc on farms or yards though.  There are some opportunities for making predictions.  As Morris comes across each physical characteristic, only a part of the animals is shown.  Younger students can predict (using the descriptive words, pictures, or both) what type of animal he finds.  Of course, the topic of love can be discussed—what does it mean to love someone (parents, siblings, friends), how can we show love, what types of characteristics do animals or people look for in a mate, and so forth.   Other possible motifs are friendship and helping others. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Picture Book: Bridget's Beret by Tom Litchtenheld

Story Summary of Bridget’s Beret (Tom Lichtenheld)
Bridget loves drawing and painting beautiful works of art, especially when she is sitting outdoors.  Her masterpieces fill the walls inside her home and decorate the sidewalks outside.  Like many of the great artists of the past, Bridget wears a beret.  It is her most important art supply.  One day, while sitting at the picnic table outside, her beret goes flying off her head like a kite in a strong wind.   Though she tries to catch it, the hat blows out of her reach.  She scours the neighborhood looking for it, even making out a Missing Beret Report and putting up a Missing Beret sign.  She tries out other hats, but none of them can take the place of her beloved beret.   Bridget is downhearted and uninspired.  She refuses to draw or to paint.   A few days later, her sister sets up a lemonade stand.  She begs Bridget to make her sign.  After much prodding, she agrees to make a simple one.  Once she gets started, her creativity exudes.  She makes sign, after sign, after sign—all with her unique artistic flare!   Posting them all around her street, the neighbors are drawn to what they think is a wonderful art opening with refreshments.   Bridget gets back her inspiration…and her hat finds its way back as well.

Bridget’s Beret is a sweet book. My 10 year old and I loved it!  Bridget has a passion and a gift that she readily shares with others.  Through her loss, she perseveres and overcomes her artist’s block. (The book actually makes some cute suggestions on how to do it.)  She learns how to build her confidence in her abilities rather than a lucky charm.  This book could be used to accompany an art lesson.  Many famous artists are briefly introduced at the end of the book, accompanied by ideas for inspiration using their art works. 

Teaching & Lesson Plan Ideas:

Freedom Over Me (Ashley Bryan)

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