Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Picture Book (Science): Animalogy, Animal Analogies (by Marianne Berkes)

Animalogy is not your traditional book about animals.  Instead, author Marianne Berkes compares and contrasts various creatures from insects to mammals using analogies.   Behaviors, sounds, body parts, and classifications are just some of the comparisons made between creatures that on the surface appear to have no connection.  Here is a sample:  

Robin is to wing, as goldfish is to fin.
Beaver is to build, as spider is to spin.

Youngsters have the opportunity to discover the connections within the analogies and to practice creating their own using similar patterns.  In addition, each pair (as exemplified above) of analogies ends in rhyme.  Children can identify the rhyming words and brainstorm other related ones. 

CathyMorrison, illustrator, depicts her subjects in minute detail—whether it is the fins on a goldfish or the hairs on a spider’s legs.  Every living thing is beautifully portrayed in its natural habitat.  Readers catch a glimpse of the African savannah, rocky mountain terrain, dense forests, and much more!   Each page and comparison is a starting point for lively discussion and interaction between adult readers and child listeners. 

I recommend Animalogy for ages 4-9.  It is a excellent resource for teachers and parents.  For additional resources to extend student learning, visit the Sylvan Dell website for a FREE full-color 48-page color teaching guide full of exciting and educational ideas.

This post is linked up with Enchanted Thursday blog hop at Enchanted Homeschooling.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Picture Book (Math & Science): Multiple on the Fly (by Suzanne Slade)

Summary of Math on the Fly (by Suzanne Slade):
Multiply on the Fly demonstrates that math is a relevant part of our every day experience.   Readers are treated to an insect safari, viewing commonly known bugs like grasshoppers, butterflies, and ladybugs as well as lesser known insects like pirate bugs and spittlebugs.   Each two-page spread illustrates a multiplication riddle, such as:  

Four lovely Luna moths
Rest upon a pine.
Each one spans three inches.
How long is the luna line? 

Underneath the riddles is a multiplication problem. For the aforementioned rhyme it is 4 x 3 = ?  Young listeners are prompted then to solve the problem.   There are three ways to approach, depending on the developmental level of the child(ren).   First, count out the items being multiplied and connect it to the multiplication problem.  Second, count by one of the numbers represented in the problem, like 3’s or 4’s.  The final stage is for the child to be able to look at the page and know right away the answer. 

Author Suzanne Slade has fashioned a wonderful combination of math and science, fostering an appreciation for the little things of nature.   She use rich adjectives and verbs to describe the physical features and daily activities of insects.  Her high spirited rhymes, which effectively use rhyme and alliteration, are engaging and enjoyable.  Erin E. Hunter (illustrator) has beautifully captured the insects in their habitats.  Her brilliant illustrations draw young readers in to the world of insects. 

Teaching Opportunities:
One of the things I appreciate most about Sylvan Dell publishers is their mission to make math and science exciting and applicable.  To further that mission, they create a FREE teaching guide for all their titles that include activities and ideas for extending the book.  For Multiple on the Fly, you will want to check out their 41-page color guide by clicking HERE.  You are sure to find many activities your child(ren) or students will enjoy! 
This post is linked with Non-Fiction Monday weekly round up, hosted this week at The Children's War blog and Math Mondays at love2learn2day.  

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Picture Book: Not a Buzz to Be Found: Insects in Winter (by Linda Glaswer):

The secret winter lives of insects are exposed in Not a Buzz to Be Found:  Insects in Winter.  Author Linda Glaswer writes in a gentle poetic language that reveals the mysteries surrounding the whereabouts of insects like woolly bear caterpillars, honeybees, ants, black swallowtail butterflies, ladybugs, and others.  The concise, straightforward text is ideal for young readers.  It provides essential information while engaging them in the language.  Here is an excerpt:   

If you were a gall fly in winter,
You’d still be a baby living in a gall.
You’d chew a little opening to get out in spring. 
But all winter you’d stay in that small round ball. 

The illustrations (by Jaime Zollars) wonderfully parallel the text while also depicting the seasonal activities of children, connecting the lives of people with those of insects/nature.  As the children play amongst the fall foliage, wooly bear caterpillars are close by curled up sleeping under a blanket of leaves or as a boy and girl have a snowball fight, the field cricket are safely under the Earth—waiting for spring.  The pictures capture well the colors and textures of the seasons. 

The book ends with the arrival of spring and reemergence of the insects:

Then slowly, slowly the air grows warmer.
And just as slowly the days grow longer.
You feel a change in the air
and so do insects everywhere.

Some wake up.  Some hatch.
Some fly north.  Some grow wings.
It’s time to zip and buzz and fly.
Winter is over.  At last, it’s spring. 

I recommend Not a Buzz to Be Found:  Insects in Winter for readers ages 4-10.  

Teaching Opportunities:
  • Unit Study:  Include as part of a unit study on insects or seasons
  • Comparison/Contrast:   Compare and contrast one to one (ants to ladybugs) or groups; ask questions such as:  Which ones hibernate underground?  Which ones emerge as babies?  Which as adult?  Which ones sleep under leaves or parts of trees?  Which ones migrate?
  • Writing:  Write a journal entry from the perspective of one of the insects or one of the children discovering some hibernating
  • Research & Writing:  Research an insect not included to learn how it survives the winter; then write a poetic stanza like the ones in the book (try to have at least two lines rhyme)
  • Language:  Identify rhymes—true and slant—and onomatopoeia
This post is linked up with Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom.  Click HERE for more great posts on science activities.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Picture Book: Nothing like a Puffin (by Sue Soltis)

Summary of Nothing like a Puffin (by Sue Soltis):  
“Look, a puffin!  What a marvelous creature, one of a kind and amazing.  Indeed, there is nothing like a puffin.”  Not a ladder.  Not a house.  Not a newspaper.  Wait.  A newspaper does have something in common with a puffin—they are both black and white.  The narrator realizes that a lot of things have something in common with a puffin—a pair of jeans, a goldfish, a shovel, a snake, and a helicopter.  When they meet a penguin, the striking similarities can’t be overlooked. They appear to be almost identical, but there is one major difference though.  It is clear--"There is nothing like a puffin!"  

Author Sue Soltis leads readers on an amusing ride of compare and contrast, prompting children to look at things in their world in a refreshing manner.  Even though she takes seemingly random objects, a clear link is made between them.  Children will be challenged to look at how other objects are similar.  On another level, identical twins can be encouraged to look for and to cherish their unique qualities.  All children have the opportunity to ponder how they are special.   Bob Kolar, the illustrator, has created artwork that is bright, witty, and lively.   Youngsters will want to revise this stunning book over and over.  I recommend Nothing like a Puffin for ages 4-9.    

Teaching Opportunities:  
  • Science:  Learn about puffins, penguins, and other arctic animals
  • Comparison Chart:  Make a chart showing how puffins and penguins are similar; then, create another chart on two animals or things to show their similarities or differences
  • Predicting Skills:  Before reading, list all the objects that are connected in the book; ask, “Do you see how each one might be like a puffin?”
  • Critical Thinking:  Write the names of objects on note cards; allow children in small groups or independently to connect them and explain why (you will need to think through this ahead of time to make sure there is one or more connections)
  • Writing:  Using the objects provided or creating their own object links, write a story that parallels Nothing like a Puffin
  • Similes:  Teach or reinforce the concept of similes (because they are also focused on similarities); children can practice identifying them or creating their own
  • Other Resources on the Internet
This post is linked with the Sunday Showcase at Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas.  Check out  this LINK with dozens of great ideas you can do at home with your kids.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Poetry Friday: I Am the Book (compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins)

Today is Poetry Friday.  “This Book” is one of my favorite poems from I Am the Book, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins.   

This Book  (by Avis Harley)

This book is the best—
I woke up to read it
Befoe getting dressed.

This book is so cool—
It’s the first thing I grabbed
When I rushed in from school.

This book is a winner—
I forgot I was hungry.
I almost missed dinner.

This book is just right—
I’m reading by flashlight deep into the night
Deliciously thirsty to see how it ends.

Books are such mind-thrilling
Spine-tingling friends.

The Collection:
Mr. Hopkins has compiled 13 poems, each from a different author, as a celebration of reading.  The poems capture the thrill of reading a good book and the imaginative journey it take us on.  Many of the poems have a structure that is ideal for mimicking.   For instance, the selected poem above can be a springboard for students to write their own “This book is” stanza.   Tom Robert Shields’ poem “I Am the Book” parallels the seasons with the experience of a book.  Children could write a similar comparison or another parallel like to a holiday or an ocean.  Overall, I found I Am the Book a fun collection. 

Check it Out is hosting Poetry Friday this week.  Click on her blog to have the full poetic experience! 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Picture Book: Perfect Square (Michael Hall)

Summary of Perfect Square (by Michael Hall): 

“A perfect square is transformed in this adventure story that will transport you far beyond the four equal sides of this square book” (from end paper of book).  

The perfect square is perfectly happy.  Each day of the week, something unexpected happens which prompts the square to change.  For instance, on Monday it is cut into pieces and poked full of holes.  As a result, it makes itself into a babbling fountain.  On Tuesday it is torn into scraps, but it does not get discouraged.  It makes itself into a garden.  The square embraces the changes that happen to it—like being shredded, shattered, snipped, or crumpled—to becomes more resourceful and creative.  When on Sunday nothing new happens to it, the square initially feels confined and rigid.   In this satisfying ending, the square finds a way to continue to embrace the world around it and to be content in any circumstance. 

Like his earlier critically acclaimed My Heart is Like a Zoo, author Michael Hall takes a simple concept and makes it something brilliant.  I love the minimal illustrations that depict what has happened to the square and then what it becomes.   In each incident it is difficult to imagine how the square can transform into something amazing, but it never ceases to delight.  Each development has one dominate color to signify a new stage, but for young listeners it is an opportunity to practice identifying colors and for older readers you may discuss why each color was chosen.  Also, the straightforward text and narrative makes this a book that people of all ages can enjoy and appreciate.  A young child will be enchanted by the colors and pictures created with basic shapes.  Older readers will find pleasure in the square's journey.  Despite all manner of circumstance, it never gets discouraged.  Instead, it “thinks outside the box” to make something beautiful out of a seemingly unfortunate situations.  The square’s resilience and contentment are remarkable.   I highly recommend Perfect Square to all ages.  

Teaching Opportunities:
  • Art—Give each child a square and basic paper tools; allow them to make their own creative pictures using only the square, the tools, and minimal pen marks OR prompt them to mimic the art work in the book (see Fun & Engaging Activities for Toddlers blog post for an example)  
  • Math—Identify the shapes on each page (where relevant) and count how many there are of each
  • Colors—Identify the colors together (younger); brainstorm the feelings associated with each color and how they may related to the narrative (older)
  • Calender—Recite the days of the week (younger); teach how the days of the week are used as a narrative framework for the action and to signify the passing of time (older)
  • Writing —Write a story using the days of the week as the framework (from Karen at Layers of Learning)
  • Language Arts—Allow children to summarize the story (younger); discuss how this story uses symbolism (the square going through changes) to illustrate the abstract (how circumstances impact people)--draw parallels between what happens to the square and the lives of people or characters in other books (older)
  • Predicting Skills —As each new change occurs to the square, allow the listener(s) to guess what he might become 
  • Character Development—Discuss the character qualities of the square (resilience, determination, creativity) and how it helped him to be content and fulfilled in all circumstances
This post is linked up at Hope is a Word for Read Aloud Thursday.  Check out other great read alouds HERE.  

This post is up at Enchanted Homeschooling for Enchanted Thursday.  Check out other great reads and activities for home HERE.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Picture Book (Science): Prairie Storms (by Darcy Pattison)

Summary of Prairie Storms (by Darcy Pattison):  
The prairie grasslands are explored in this ecosystem adventure.   Month by month the various seasonal storms and other weather conditions are depicted and accompanied by expressive lines.  Here is an excerpt: 

"Rain and rain and rain and--it's a flashflood!  Walls of water crash through the prairie dog town.  Deep in the muddy burrows, prairie dog families hunker, safe in pockets of air--until the waters go down."

Readers get a glimpse of the lives of a number of prairie animals, such as prairie chickens, ground hogs, prairie dogs, red foxes, cougars, bald eagles, bison, burrowing owls, and lesser earless lizards.  This celebration of the American grassland habitat is sure to leave an impression. 


As with all of Sylvan Dell’s amazing titles, Prairie Storms incorporates a mixture of science and language enrichment opportunities.  The striking illustrations (by Kathleen Rietz) are spring boards for discussing the attributes of both the seasons and the diverse weather portrayals.  Each two-page spread is labeled with the month for opportunities to discuss the spelling, which season it belongs to, and typical weather during that time.  There is a nice mix of more commonly known animals with lesser known ones, allowing vocabulary and visual recognition skills to be expanded.  The lyrical lines are well-written and appealing.  I recommend this book for ages 4-8.  

Teaching Opportunities:
Sylvan Dell has developed a FREE 52-page across the curriculum teaching guide to help you with some of teaching ideas above and many more in areas like geography, science, language-arts, and math.  The book page also includes various quizzes and other resources. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Picture Book (Science): Hey Diddle Diddle (by Pam Kapchinske)

Summary of Hey Diddle Diddle (by Pam Kapchinske):   
The narrative takes place in the forest where living thing from tiny bugs to great bobcats live.  It begins with a jolly-looking insect roaming among the flora and with this stanza: 

A shiny green beetle was strollin' along
tappin' his feet and singin' a song.
He said, "Hey diddle diddle--whaddaya know?
I've got six legs to help me go."

On the next page, a slithering snake swallows him up, followed by hawk swooping down to snatch up the snake.  The illustrations help transition to a new food chain beginning in and along a pond with a group of frogs sitting on a lily pad.  The account continues using various creatures and rhyming quatrains, which also reveal facts about the various insects and animals.  It ends with a bobcat (the top of the food chain), singing

"Hey diddle diddle--now fancy that, 
a nap sounds good to this old cat.
The lion's king (or so they say),
I guess that makes me queen today."

Hey Diddle Diddle is an ideal way to introduce or reinforce the concept of food chains as well as science terms, like vertebrate, invertebrate, prey, predator, herbivore, and carnivore.  Children will enjoy the vivid illustrations in shades of green and brown that aptly capture the natural habitat of the living things.  In addition, the light-hearted, rhythmic lines are pleasing to the ears.  They can be used as a spring board for early readers to learn about sounds (rhyme and alliteration).  Older readers learn to appreciate poetic language and rhythm.  I recommend this book for ages 5-8.  

Teaching Opportunities:
Sylvan Dell has developed a 49-page across the curriculum teaching guide to help you with some of teaching ideas above and many more.  The book page also includes various quizzes and other resources.  

This post is link up at Hope is a Word for Read Aloud Thursday.  Check out other great read alouds HERE.  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey (by Jeanne Walker Harvey)

Summary of My Hands Sing the Blues:  Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey (by Jeanne Walker Harvey):
Written as a first-person flashback, Romare Bearden (African-American artist) reveals one of the inspirations for his art—his past.  Memories of listening to stories from his Great-grandmother, remembering life in the rural South, and riding on a train from North Carolina to New York City, reveal more than mere biographical data.  Author Jeanne Walker Harvey writes in rhythmic, poetic language mirroring the jazz and blues music that also inspired the artist and reflects the rich culture heritage of Bearden and other African-Americans of his generation.  Illustrator Elizabeth Zunon uses glowing oil paints with mixed media collage (paralleling Bearden’s own style).  The pictures depict his memories along with images of rural life and segregation during the 1910’s and 1920’s when he was young.  A focal point on many of the pages is trains both as narrative emphasis and as a way to make known Bearden’s passion for them.

My Hands Sing the Blues is a work of art in and of itself.  The stunning blend of illustrations and poetic language make this book a must read.  I love how Harvey brilliantly incorporates the blues music style in the text which makes it soothing and striking.  While this book is an ideal selection to have on hand during Black History Month, its appeal is not limit to that event.  There is a wide range of activities it can be used for by teachers from art and literature to history and music.  Parents can enjoy reading it to their children just for the fantastic storytelling, melodic language, and brilliant illustrations.  I highly recommend this book for all audiences. 

Teaching Opportunities:
  • Language—Use the examples of onomatopoeia, alliteration, and rhyme to teach these sound devices to younger children learning beginning reading skills or older students learning about poetic language
  • Art—The exquisite use of collage will inspire budding artist to practice this art media; students can, like Bearden, use their life experiences or music as inspiration
  • History—Glimpses and references to the Harlem Renaissance, segregation, and the Jim Crow laws are craftily incorporated
  • Literature—In a study of biographies, utilize as an example and discuss how it is like a type biography and how it is different; also can be used in a study of multicultural/African-American literature or poetry
  • Music—Play samples of jazz and blues music; parallel the language and imagery of book to that of the music
  • Literary Flashback—Define what a flashback is in literature; use the picture book as model, discuss how/why writers use it
  • Writing—Students can write a story with a flashback or write lines of poetry imitating the blues inspired stanzas
  • Moving—The artist looks back at his memory of moving from the South to the North; discuss how he probably felt and allow students to talk about their own moving experiences
I have link this post with the Non-Fiction Monday weekly blog hop which is being hosted this week at Lori Calabrese blog spot.  Check out these other great titles and bloggers.   

Freedom Over Me (Ashley Bryan)

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