Friday, March 16, 2018

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t: Poems About Creatures That Hide (David L. Harrison)

Illustrator:  Giles Laroche

Target Ages:  5 and up

Genre:  Nonfiction Poetry

Publisher Summary:
Some animals hide to hunt for food, and others hide to avoid becoming dinner.  It’s easy to see why a disappearing act is important for many animals. 

From the octopus to the polar bear, and from the praying mantis to the hawk, discover how and why many animals cleverly camouflage. 

Sample Poems:  Click on illustrations to make larger and to read the poems.

What initially drew me to this collection were the illustrations after I saw some samples in an online review.  Fortunately, the vivid colors, varied textures, multi-dimensional artwork are even more stunning in person. Each two-page spread brilliantly illustrates the theme of the book from the flounder blending into the sand on the ocean floor to the copperhead snake hidden between layers of leaves to the American Alligator floating at the edge of the river waters.  Adults and children will enjoy looking at the pictures over and over. 

The nineteen poems in the collection blend science and art seamlessly.  A wide variety of creatures from the octopus to the owl to the walking stick to the American bullfrog are highlighted.  The rhythm, rhyme, and alliteration create a lovely read-aloud experience.  Lines like “The octopus is slyly shy./It’s hard to spot it lurking by” and “Without a scent,/the slightest trace,/to give away/its hiding place” are smooth and pleasant to the ear. 

I highly recommend Now You See Them, Now You Don’t:  Poems About Creatures That Hide.   The interconnectedness of illustrations and text as well as the perfect blend of science and art make it a memorable and beautiful collection.

Activities and Extension Ideas for Lesson Plans:
  • Predicting:  Show an illustration.  Allow children to discuss their observations.  Then, encourage them to predict which animal it will be about (if more than one on the page) and to guess how the animal uses camouflage.  
  • Science:  Use poems as a springboard to teach about animals, their habitats, and habits (especially use of camouflage). 
  • Animal Classes:  Introduce children to animal classes.  Older ones can learn about the characteristics of each one and identify other animals in the same class.  Use this book with a unit on mammals, reptiles, amphibians, sea life, insects, or birds.
  • Animal Food Chains:  Identify and draw the parts of one or more animal food chains represented. 
  • Classify:  Classify animals based on their use of camouflage (to catch prey, to avoid prey, or both) or if they are hunters or prey. 
  • Language:  The poems use ample rhyme and alliteration.  They would be perfect for a lesson—formal or informal—on either topic.
  • Context Clues:  Write a poem on the board or on paper without the title.  Read it together.  Then, allow the students to use context clues to guess which animal the poem is describing.   (If the name of the animal is in the poem, cover it or leave a blank.) 
  • Poetry Models:  Use one or more poems as models to create original poems with students (or they can work independently).  “Ghost Crab” is written using a list of words to describe what he “knows” like “scurry, hide, dig, hole.”  In addition, “Copperhead” is a letter written in poetic form from the perspective of the snake.  Write poems about what another animal “knows” or from different animal’s point of view in the form of a letter.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Echo Echo (Marilyn Singer)

TitleEcho Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths               

Author:  Marilyn Singer

Illustrator:  Josee Masse

Target Ages:  6 and up

Genre:  Poetry Collection

Publisher Summary:
There are two sides to every story—especially the Greek myths.  From Perseus and Medusa to Arachne and Athena, gods and mortals rarely see eye-to-eye.

In this third collection of ingenious reverso poems, Marilyn Singer brings classic myths to new and vivid life.  When read from topic to bottom, each poem tells a well-known story from a world of heroes and monsters.  When read in reverse, however, the very same words convey a whole new point of view!

Sample Poems (Click on Picture for a Larger View):

I am a fan of the first two reverso poetry collections by Singer.  I also love ancient Greek history and mythology.  This book appealed to my many loves! 

The poems are fantastic.  The illustrations are a stunning wonder.  I love the rich golds and blues with splashes of red and green.  Each picture captures multiple perspectives. 

Echo Echo is an engaging and memorable read. 

Activities and Extension Ideas for Lesson Plans:
  • Literature:  Add these poems to a study of Greek myths or use them as a springboard to read some myths. 
  • Point of View:  Discuss how there can be different points of view to the same event.  Make observations about the characters—their perspectives, background, motivations, and such. 
  • Grammar:  Study how punctuation (and even word placement in relation to poetry) changes the meaning of a text. 
  • Poetry:  Try to write a reverso for a Greek (or other cultural) myth not already covered in the book.
  • History:  Read about ancient Greece and the Greek gods for a better understanding of the context of these poems.
  • Origin Stories: Distinguish the stories that give an origin of something (spiders, seasons, daffodil flowers, evil in the world).  Teach about how the Greeks and other ancient people made up stories to understand what was incompressible at the time.  
  • Writing:  Write (or draw a picture and tell orally) an origin story for something in nature or happens naturally.
  • Visual Texts:  Study the illustrations.  Evaluate how they convey the different perspectives.
  • Connections: With such so many concise mythological retellings, it would be easy to look for connections and patterns. For instance, identify common motifs like pride, heroism, family, love, courage, and so forth.  Group character types--heroes and villains, gods and mortals--and character qualities--prideful, competitive, brave, sacrificial, selfish,and such.
Literary Connections:
Arachne and Athena
King Midas
Perseus and Medusa
Bellerophon and Pegasus
Narcissus and Echo
Pygmalion and Galatea
Theseus and Ariadne
Icarus and Daedalus
Melanion and Atalanta
Demeter and Persephone
Eurydice and Orpheus

Historical Connections:
Ancient Greece

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Crawly School for Bugs: Poems to Drive You Buggy (David L. Harrison) GIVEAWAY

Illustrator:  Julie Bayless

Target Ages:  4 - 10

Genre:  Poetry Collection

Publisher Summary:
Welcome hummers, diggers, leapers, and creepers to Crawly School for Bugs!  Meet your classmates and teachers, and get ready to learn all the important buggy lessons, such as

The danger of welcome mats
How to avoid birds
And the best way to bug humans

Watch out for the school nurse (she loves to draw blood), and please try not to eat any fellow classmates!

Sample Poems:
“Tick Lesson:  The Problem with People”
Teacher says it’s not a rumor,
people have no sense of humor.
She says they hate it when we bite,
hide our heads and dig in tight.
She says they’re good with evil squeezers,
quick to grab us with their tweezers.
She says if someone yells, “I gottom!”
prepare to have a painful bottom.

“Camouflage Class”
“It pays to hide,”
our teacher said.
“Change your color,
play dead.
Look like
something else instead.
Sit so still
you disappear.”

One kid went
too far,
we fear.

He’s gone
without a trace
behind him.

We’ve looked
and looked
but we can’t
find him.

This playful collection envisions life through the perspective of insects attending school.  Children will connect to the natural and imaginative worlds as they read these poems. 

Some of the poems are on lessons the bugs need in relation to humans.  For instance, “Cricket Lessons: How to be Annoying in 4 Easy Steps,” provides instructions for driving people crazy at night!  The process is broken into 4 lyrical stanzas, each part with an illustration. The humorous and all too realistic steps including hiding, waiting, chirping, and doing it again!  In “Today’s Lesson in Grasshopper Class,” the grasshoppers do not understand how humans can eat them—and in so many different ways (creamed, roasted, sautéed).  The grasshoppers look with horror at a recipe book .  The final line adds a twist of irony: “It’s fine to eat/the farmer’s crop/but eating US/has got to stop!!”  

Sometimes the bugs learn lessons about themselves.  In “My Life as a Lightening Bug,” the speaker feels like the butt of others’ jokes as they call him “dim bulb,” “winky,” and similar names.  The only time he feels appreciated is when the lights go out.  An illustration shows another bug following him and trying to read a book.  In “Stink Bug Class” everyone is wondering about the “awful” and “unlawful” smell.  Even the stink bugs do not realize they are the source of it until everyone is pointing at them.  Finally, “Private Thoughts of a Praying Mantis in the Lunchroom” reveals the daily struggle to resist his natural tendency to eat other bug (i.e. his classmates).  

In addition, the insects take classes in survival, such as “Camouflage Class,” “What We Learn in Bird Class,” and “Hiding from Spiders:  Run, Don’t Count!”  Each poem teaches the students in an amusing way how to avoid predators.  The illustrations add humor.  For instance, as they learn how to avoid birds and study a flip chart with one on it, there is a bird shadow right above them.  To avoid looking at the spider, they walk by with books on top of their heads. 

Crawly School for Bugs is an entertaining and creative collection of poems full of whimsical illustrations, lively language, catchy rhythmic patterns, witty situations, and imagination aplenty.  The collection can be enjoyed for an engaging read-a-loud session or as a springboard for other lessons and extension activities. 

Activities and Extension Ideas for Lesson Plans:
  • Science:  This book connects well to a study of insects.  Incorporate the poems into an insect unit or use the book as a springboard to learn more about insect.  
  • Sound devices:  Connect with a lesson on rhyme or alliteration. “What’s Left of Termite Class” is especially well suited for a lesson about alliteration, and “Tick Lesson” is perfect for a rhyming one. 
  • Poetry:  Pick an insect.  Write a poem from its perspective. 
  • Fact vs. Fiction:  Children learn facts about the various insects through the poems.  However, through the literary elements of hyperbole and personification, there are also fictional elements as well. Together, distinguish fact from fiction in one or more poems. 
  • Writing:  Using “Cricket Lessons:  How to be Annoying in 4 Easy Steps” as the inspiration, teach students how to write a simple process paragraph.   Then, instruct students to write one on a creative or funny topic of their choice.
  • Social Studies:  Discuss what quality or qualities makes each bug special.  Connect that idea to how each person has his/her own special qualities that make him/her special.
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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans (Phil Bildner)

Author:  Phil Bildner

Illustrator:  John Parra

Target Ages:  5 and up

Genre:  Semi-Biographical Folk Tale

Publisher Summary:
In New Orleans,
there lived a man who saw the streets
as his calling,
and he swept them clean. 
He danced up one avenue and down another
and everyone danced along—
The old ladies whistled and whirled. 
The old men hooted and hollered.
The barbers, bead twirlers, and beignet
bakers bounded behind that one-man parade.

But then came the rising Mississippi—
and a storm bigger than anyone had
seen before. 

This is the inspiring story of a humble man, and the heroic difference he made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. 

First Lines:
In the Quarter,
there worked a man
known in New Orleans as Marvelous Cornelius.

“Mornin’.” He saluted the silver haired man with the
Times-Picayune tucked under his arm.

“Greetings.” He waved to the couple
with the baby on the balcony.
“Ma’am.” He nodded to the woman
shaking rugs out at her front window.

Memorable Lines:
Cornelius rose.
He dried his eyes. 
For his spirit and will were waterproof.

Inspirational Quote:  

“Even if it’s called your lot to be a street sweeper, go out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.  Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

There are several things about this semi-biographical picture book that stand out.  I love that the main character is a garbage man, which is a job rarely acknowledged, much less celebrated.  Instead, it is often derided for its unsavoriness.  I appreciate the author acknowledging such an underappreciated, yet vital occupation.

He incorporates sound words, like “bang” and “whizzing,” and rhythmic lines, like “behind his back/between his legs/into the truck.” Repetitive phrases are used like “washed away” and “bag after bag” to build momentum.  Alliteration and rhyme add to the lyrical rhythm as well with lines, such as “tango-ing up Toulouse, Samba-ing down St. Peter. Rumba-ing up Royal.” Together, these elements create an exciting read-a-loud experience. 

John Parra textured paintings are full of rich colors and animated action.  Young readers gain a glimpse of the architecture and character of the city.

Even though the subject was a real person, the author takes artistic liberties with his story.  Cornelius did have calls for his driver, but in the story they have more rhythm and flair: “Woo! Woo! Woooooo!” “Hootie Hoo! Hootie Hooooo!”  “Rat-a-tat-TaT!”  Also, Cornelius was a showman, but Bildner uses hyperbole to accent this trait.  For instance, he “front flipped to the curb and flung the bags over his head”  Eventually, they land in “a perfect pyramid inside the hopper’s mental mouth.” To emphasize the vibrant life of the New Orleans community, the people are dancing, playing instruments, and hollering right along with Cornelius.   

Hyperbole and figurative elements are also used to describe the storm that creates “a gumbo of mush and mud.”  The trash and ruins are depicted as being “high as the steeple stop St. Louis Cathedral,” and he laments it will take “millions” of people to clean up.  Each reference drives home the destruction of the storm.   

This memorable modern folk tale celebrates an ordinary man doing his part to make his community an extraordinary better place.  It is a beautiful illustration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s inspiring words to do your job—no matter who lowly by society’s standards—with the gusto of a great artist.  

I highly recommend Marvelous Cornelius:  Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans.

Activities and Extension Ideas for Lesson Plans:
  • Literature:  Read examples of traditional folk tales.  Identify the characteristics of these tales.  What elements of Cornelius’ story line up with these characteristics?
  • Writing:  Use this book as a mentor text for creating a folk tale.  Students can identify someone who does an important, but undervalued job in the community.  Using hyperbole, alliteration, and repetition, embellish and elevate the person’s contribution. 
  • Sounds:  For younger children, help them practice identifying the words with the same beginning sounds. Brainstorm additional words with the same sound.  For older children, teach about alliteration.  Allow them to practice writing their own alliterative lines. 
  • History:  Gather some newspaper articles about Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath.  Discuss the impact of the natural disaster on the community.
  • Science:  Read about hurricanes.  Identify the difference between a hurricane and a tornado.
  • Comparison:  Look up some of the sources on the real Cornelius.  Compare what the articles reveal about his character to the story elements.  Which are real?  Which are fictionalized?
  • Social Studies:  Discuss the important role that trash collectors have on the community.  Brainstorm what would happen if all of them went on strike, and there was no one to remove trash from our neighborhoods and businesses.
  • Community Service:  Identify ways to give back to the community.  As a group, pick up trash around the school grounds, neighborhood, or other public area.  Show your trash collectors some appreciation by bringing out a small gift when they come around like a cold drink or gift card to a coffee shop. 
  • Figurative Language:  Identify examples of hyperbole. Create hyperbolic statements together or independently.  For older children discuss the purpose and role of hyperbole in literature.
Historical Connections:
Hurricane Katrina

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Five Fabulous Picture Books about Trailblazing Women

Margarita Engle, author
Rafael Lopez, illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Girls cannot be drummers.  Long ago on an island filled with music and rhythm, no one questioned that rule—until the drum dream girl.  She longed to play tall congas and small bongos and silvery, moon-bright timbales.  She had to keep her dream quiet.  She had to practice in secret.  But when at last her music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that boys and girls should be free to drum and dream.

Inspired by a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers, Drum Dream Girls tells an inspiring true story for dreamers everywhere. 

Why It’s Fabulous:
This Pura Belpre winner’s stunning illustrations are full of bright colors and vivid imagination: A blend of the real and the fantastic as well as of nature and of culture. The lyrical free verse is intoxicating.  Drum Dream Girl works both independently and with a teacher until she has mastered the art.  Her determination and skill wins her father over. As a result, she finally plays for an audience,  prompting a change in the cultural tradition.  Now, both men and women are allowed to play the drums.

Shana Corey, author
Edwin Fotheringham, illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Are you brave enough to make a wave?

If you love sports and people who aren’t afraid to swim against the tide, Annette Kellerman and her freestyle approach to life will make you heart swell.

This book is a winning portrait of a little-known athlete, performer, and fashion revolutionary who broke records (and rules) and dazzled the world with her splashy pluck and courage.

Why She’s Fabulous:
Annette begins life with physical limitations.  To build up her strength, she swims. The water is the one place she feels graceful and strong.  At a time when female athletes were not common, she begins winning swimming races and develops a new sport—water ballet.  Not only does she break down barriers in sports, but she does in swimwear as well.  The women who did swim were covered from neck to ankles—some even wore corsets!  Annette’s bathing suit is so scandalous at the time, she is arrested!  She argues before a judge and wins!  Women begin swimming more for exercise and fun.  Even more importantly, they are able to do it more comfortably because now they wear suits like Annette’s.  As a trailblazer for women in sports and in fashion, Annette makes a lasting impact.

Sue Macy, author
C. F. Payne, illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Press Box:  Women and Children Not Admitted

So read the press pass that Mary Garber had to wear as a reporter at sporting events.  It was embarrassing, even insulting, but in the 1940s, sports—and sports reporting—was a man’s world.

Mary didn’t let that stop her.  She never let anything stop her, really. As a kid, she played quarterback for her local football team.  Later, as a reporter, she dug in her heels and built up her own sports beat.  For close to fifty years, Mary shined the spotlight on local heroes whose efforts might otherwise have gone unnoticed.  “That’s Miss Mary Garber,” one boy said at a soapbox derby.  “And she doesn’t care who you are, or where you’re from, or what you are.  If you do something, she’s going to write about you.”

This is the story of a woman who pursued her dream and changed the world.

Why She’s Fabulous:
Mary combines the two things she loves—writing and sports—and makes a career out of it when few women had professional careers outside a nurse or a teacher. She also has a keen eye and optimistic perspective. Using all these passions and talents, Mary covers beats that include athletes in their novice days and in their professional careers:  Big sports competitions, like Major League Baseball games, and small town ones, like soapbox derbies.  She writes about men and women as well as Blacks and Whites. Many athletes are positively impacted by her work, and she blazes a trail that eventually allows women more opportunities in sports reporting. 

Duncan Tonatiuh, author and illustrator

Publisher Summary:
As a child Amalia Hernandez saw a pair of dancers in the town square.  The way they stomped and swayed to the rhythm of the music inspired her. She knew one day she would become a dancer.

Amalia studied ballet and modern dance under the direction of skilled teachers who had performed in world-renowned dance companies. But she never forgot the folk dance she had seen years earlier.  She began traveling through the Mexican countryside, witnessing the dances of many regions, and she used her knowledge of ballet and modern dance to adapt the traditional dances to the stage.  She founded her own dance company, a group that became known as El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico.

Why She’s Fabulous:
Not only does Amalia become a successful dancer through years of practice and rehearsals, but she also creates new ones merging various styles.  Traveling all over Mexico, she studies traditional dances and cultural traditions (like dress and music).  Inspired by all of her training and traveling, Amalia produces original dances that celebrate her culture and country’s history.  She takes on many roles—choreographer, company founder, teacher, and director.  Amelia’s innovative vision resonates long after her passing.  Her dance company continues to perform all over the world, celebrating both the artistry of dance as well as the culture of the Mexican people.

Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, authors
Brigette Barrager, illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Mary Blair lived her life in color: vivid, wild color.

For her imaginative childhood to her career as an illustrator, designer, and animator for Walt Disney Studios, Mary wouldn’t play by the rules.  At a time when studios wanted to hire men and think in black and white, Mary painted twinkling emerald skies, peach giraffes with tangerine spots, and magenta horses that could fly.  She painted her world.

Why She’s Fabulous:
Mary collects colors everywhere she goes and saves them in her imagination. When she is hired at Disney Studios, she thinks she will finally have the opportunity to share her artistic flair.  Unfortunately, her colors and creatively are met with resistance in a then male-dominated field.  Walt Disney appreciates her vision though.  He commissions her for a special project that utilizes her talents.  Mary creates a “world of laughter, a world of smiles. And color, color, color, everywhere.”  She is a woman who refuses “to color in the lines.” As a result, she makes her mark on the culture. 

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t: Poems About Creatures That Hide (David L. Harrison)

Title :   Now You See Them, Now You Don’t:  Poems About Creatures That Hide  Author : David L. Harrison Illustrator :   Giles L...