If you want to quickly check out the books, figure out where they could fit into your classroom programming, and connect with a few cool resources to support this year's Ontario Library Association's Blue Spruce Nominees, scroll down.
I loved learning how the Fan Brothers collaborate in The Night Gardener. I think I'm the newest fan of the Mayor of Edmonton & I now know the importance of Vincent Van Gogh's Wheatfield with Crows.
Every year we run the Ontario Library Association's Blue Spruce Program, along with the other Forest of Reading programs, through our library. The Blue Spruce program has provided us with many quality picture books by Canadian authors & illustrators, as well as giving us a lot to discuss over the years. This year is no different!
So many of the character traits we want our students to develop are embedded into these ten nominated stories. Introduce them to your students randomly or on an as-needed basis. I've posted quick blurbs & connections on each book, so you can get a feel for them before you share them with your students.
Don't forget! I'd love to book a time to share the program & kick it off by reading a book or two to your class!
Over my life, I've heard many songs, jingles, tongue twisters, riddles and rhymes from the mouth of my grandfather and I think that opened my brain to the rhythm of words. Poetry was easy for me. Best read out loud and always enjoyed.
I want that for my students.
I had the pleasure of hearing Canadian poet, author, editor, teacher & co-founder of Anansi Press, Dennis Lee, speak at the Reading For the Love of It conference in Toronto last year (#RFTLOI). He spoke of "Poemicide" and how, we, as teachers, kill the love of poetry. This was his recommendation to overcome this phenomena and my response to it from a blog post:
I was creating the overview for the Blue Spruce books and every time read a book, I thought of two other books that would pair nicely or I found some great links that would extend student thinking, so like wine & cheese or wine & a meal. (I think I see a wine theme here.) I've put together links, trailers & some perfect pairings for you!
Ashely Spires explores the process of creativity in The Most Magnificent Thing. In the midst of fabulous verbs, we see our main character create designs and prototypes, but we also see the importance of getting away from your creation when frustration sets in. Sometimes coming back with fresh eyes and a relaxed brain is all we need to discover the beauty of our own Most Magnificent Thing.
This role reversal story has a Mother who comes to Kindergarten embarrassing her daughter due to her inability to follow the rules. A great book to outline what is expected and needed in a classroom & how it takes some time and patience to get there.
Last year we were introduced to Oddrey and we got used to her unique ways. This year a new kid joins Oddrey’s class. She is just as odd as Oddrey and, perhaps, stealing Oddrey’s limelight with outlandish stories. How will Oddrey figure this out? In Oddrey fashion, of course!
Author, Christine Balacchino, was bullied as a child and the effects of it kept her world very small. She writes about it as a guest on the National Day to End Bullying website.Eventually Christine got brave enough to overcome the fears that restricted her and Morris Micklewhite is a fictional account of that bullying and the brave steps she took to not let bullying beat her.
Morris Mickewhite's reasons for liking what he does and the tangerine dress are wonderful as the sensory descriptions accompanying them. Watch Morris defend his life choices with grace!
A perfect pairing? Join these other children as they find voices and stand up for themselves and others with Louder Lili, by Gennifer Choldenko and Willow Finds a Way, by Lana Button.
Roy Macgregor does it again. He explores and explains the magic of the number 9 in hockey history through the eyes of Gabriella , a move-creating, play- with-the-boys hockey girl, who truly dreamed of having Wickenheiser’s number 22 until her Grandma reveals some secrets and knowledge of her own. I love the play on what, "The Highest Number," truly means.
My Blue Is Happy explores the emotions, actions and objects associated with various colours. It’s a great point of view book acknowledging that different people have different responses to colours and that blue doesn’t necessarily have to be sad.
Students could easily respond to this story outlining what various colours mean to them. The watercolour illustrations are fabulous too. Pink might be my favourite.
Kathy Stinson’s The Man with the Violin is a deeply layered book with so many ideas to explore. The theme of being too busy to see what is beautiful is not only described through sensory language, but is revealed by the illustrator through the use of colour to juxtapose creativity against the dark noise of every day. Your students will love the jazzy use of sound running through the book.
Pair this book with the very important end notes on Josh Bell and watch him talk about music and listen to him on his own website.
Anne Villeneuve, is an author illustrator, who plays with colour using watercolours and ink. My favourite pages are at the end where, after an imaginative trip to Africa to escape the MEAN, HORRIBLE, STINKY brothers Loula & her kind chauffeur sit and enjoy the sunset. Each page is the same scene with different colours washing over them.
Don’t let me tell you about this one. Click on the image below & let the MoMa explain the world of creativity, architecture and architects to you through links, images and the book trailer!
Through a simple story, Ruth Ohi explains the power of a tsunami and the loss that can occur. It shows not only the journey of Kenta’s family after the 2011 tsunami hit Japan, but also the journey of Kenta’s soccer ball.
Amazingly enough the journey and return of items after the tsumani was also a story that stayed in the minds of many. For younger students you may want to check out the story of one Japanese boy and his soccer ball and to examine the environmental aspects and see some footage of the tsumani check out the trailer of Lost and Found. This is a Hot Docs documentary that was made based on the journey of people’s possessions, where they went and the people who found them.
I’ve always believed in the power of a read-aloud. Kindergarten kids settle down when you read a story to them and Intermediate students are miraculously quiet. In university, I couldn’t believe my luck when one of my profs would start off each lecture with a read-aloud. I discovered Kevin Henkes’ Chrysanthemum then and cherish his books to this day. Who doesn’t love Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse? Every year I've taught, I've waited for a day that doesn’t go right so I can read Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dayto my students. I know there is something slightly off about that. Yet somehow I always felt guilty about just reading a story to kids for the sake of a story.
A librarian colleague of mine told me she doesn’t just read to the students. She uses the books to teach inferring, making connections, determining importance and all those very important skills that children need and I felt guilty because, yes I do teach these, but I also feel the need to just read a good story. I don't make my primary students fill out sheets, mostly because of the negativity I found came from that practice. I know it is a necessity in the classroom, but often I find a book that relates to the day, the emotion in the room, a moment, an idea, a book with great words, a hilarious character and we just read. We talk about parts we like, characters that stand out, favourite pictures, they share their stories and that’s it. We explore authors & illustrators packed with charm and action so the students come to love them and seek them out on their own and I felt a bit guilty. Not guilty enough to change it, but guilty in that you should be doing more way.
World Read-Aloud Day was March 5th and in the spirit of that I started reading Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook, although next year we should celebrate this day with lots of read alouds, I can’t believe how empowering this extraordinarily well-researched book is for my guilty soul and I appreciate, but didn't read, the 22 pages dedicated to the references and studies to back up my new found guiltlessness.
Here are some interesting and motivating facts I took from the book that reinforce my just read-aloud tendencies:
The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children p. 4, Trelease quoting Becoming a Nation of Readers
The prime predictor of success and failure(at school) is the child’s vocabulary upon entering school. Yes, the child goes to school to learn new words, but words he already knows determine how much of what the teacher says will be understood. And since most instruction for the first four years of school is oral, the child who has the largest vocabulary will understand the most, while the child with the smallest vocabulary will grasp the least. P.15
The eventual strength of our vocabulary is determined not by the ten thousand common words, but by how many rare words we understand….printed text contains the most rare words.p.17
Why are students failing and dropping out of school? Because they cannot read well enough to do the assigned work p. xxvi
So reading aloud builds our student’s vocabulary, better preparing them for school, exposing them to the social joys of reading and, hopefully, reinforcing that reading is a pleasurable thing. This will then provide them with the vocabulary and understanding to pick up reading on their own, barring other difficulties, so they can build their reading skills and stamina providing them with the skills to finish the post-secondary course of their choice. Whew! That’s a lot to come from simply reading aloud.
Jim Trelease reinforces that we must keep reading aloud to our students at all ages and above their reading level, so they see the pleasure from books they can’t read yet. We need to keep reinforcing those pleasure centres so that we can compete against the television, iPads, texts, tweets, and the sports teams that demand a lot of their time.
Here are some great books and authors that would provide great read-alouds for different levels and, hopefully, reinforce the joys of reading with your students.
Whimsy's Heavy Things by Julie Kraulis
In this beautifully illustrated book, with every page being a contrast of light and dark, Whimsy recognizes that you can't ignore or hide the issues that weigh you down. She also discovers that breaking down your problems can help. This is an interesting analogy that could spark discussions and raise awareness of the heavy things in all of us.
Bad Kitty Books by Nick Bruel
Bad Kitty is one of our family favourites! Hilarious, quirky characters & the best alphabet lists ever...it is a mix of novel, graphic novel & picture book so it's great for those students who are on the edge of reading independently, but aren't quite ready for the full novel format. Also there are many in the series!
The Story of Fish & Snail by Deborah Freedman
Be Brave! Be Accepting of Others!
These could be the mottos of the friendship of Fish and Snail who love each other, but experience the normal conflicts of friendship. With few words, gorgeous images and unique perspectives you can explore what these mean to you, your students and Fish and Snail.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
August is different. He was born with a severe facial deformity that makes everyone stare at him and, now, at ten his mother decides to enroll him in a public school. This book is narrated by Auggie. He has such a wonderful voice that you can only cheer for him. Interspersed between his chapters are the honest points of view of other characters close to him, giving a full perspective of his story. This book inspired a Choose Kind Campaign and is an engaging read-aloud and character builder for your class.
Forgive me, I Meant To Do It. False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine
Forget what I have to say! Listen to Jenny at @60secondrecap explain the book.
Sometimes you don't have time for a novel and these witty "false apology poems" based on William Carlos Williams poem This Is Just To Say might just inspire your students to write false apology poems of their own...or at least...have fun identifying who is apologizing to whom for what. Great point of view game right here!
Zomboy by Richard Scrimger
A good partner to go with Wonder. These might even be great grade 6 literature circle books with a theme of Acceptance. Imre has a physical disability of sorts. He is an indestructable, but not-so-smart zombie and he now goes to Bob's school. The SCC is not happy and Bob's best friend Evil-O has decided to befriend Imre, even if Bob's not so sure about him. This leaves Bob with no friends to speak of. An exploration of friendship and acceptance with a number of zany twists and a dark secret that hides within the book.
Although Intermedaties do like listening to a good story too, it's sometimes hard to get a whole 200 page novel in especially if you only have them on rotation, but there are great picture books with mature topics that students love. Every year I read Faithful Elephants on Remembrance Day and every year I cry. They often ask to hear it again. Also there are some great collections that give you snippets of books and can hook your students onto great authors. Extend your literature circles by reading a thematically connected short story together.
Guys Read Series by Jon Scieszka
Pick a genre: Sports, Humour, Sci Fi, Horror Pick an author: Patrick Carmen, James Patterson, Anthony Horowitz, Tom Angleberger, Ray Bradbury, Rick Riordan, Rebecca Stead, Neil Gaiman, James Howe Pick a story. Read it & see where you go!
Read All About It by Jim Trelease
I haven't read this one yet, but I do have it on order so here is an excerpt of the review from Goodreads: A treasury of fifty sensational read-aloud pieces for young adults. From Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass to Maniac Magee, sci-fi to op-ed. “Casey at the Bat” to a moving true story about the reunion of two Holocaust survivors, this wonderfully diverse collection of excerpts from newspapers, magazines, and books has been created by Jim Trelease especially to turn young people on to the many pleasures of reading. If you want to read the rest of the excerpt click here!
Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades by Paul B. Janeczko
I like poetry. Not everybody likes poetry and this is what I like about it: It is short. It doesn't have to rhyme. It gets to the point. It uses various literary elements. It doesn't have to follow rules. Great vocabulary. It is short. If you aren't sure about poetry. This is a great collection to start with. Paul Janeczko gives lots of ways to tie them into your language program, and there is a poem for everyone. Here's one which usually grabs your action, sports boys ....Foul Shot.
A number of people have been using the #NF10fo10 hashtag on Twitter to share their top 10 non-fiction books. Although the books that I ordered with the money from the Blue Heron Book Fair aren't all technically non-fiction, there is an informational theme that runs through them, so I've decided they count!
If you wish to check out the official #NF10for10 posts go to Julie Balen's Write At The Edge blog and check out the comments section. You'll find lots of links to lots of blogs posting lots of outstanding non-fiction titles that could be perfect for your class!
It's not really ten! It's not really all non-fiction! It's certainly exciting and all ours to share with our students though!
George O'Connor has created a much loved series about the original Olympians, in graphic novel format. You can get all the information in a much less intimidating format for your reluctant readers or those who just like a different format every now and then.
Katherine Sokolowksi has assured me in her Nerdy Book Club Post , Titles That Have Legs, that you won't see these books in the library for long
George O'Connor also has a very informational website to help you teach myth, comic book format, drawing, writing process and more. It is definitely worth a look.
Fairy Tales are officially non-fiction and can be found in the Dewey Decimal section 398.2. This fun series is another great one for point of view. Each fairy tale is told from the perspective of a different character. The title shows the characters main point of view and it even states who tells it on the front. Nothing but fun here!
These are officially chapter books, but Kate McMullan tells the stories of the Greek Gods and Goddesses in a fun and action packed way and there is a "Quick-and-Easy Guide To Myths" at the end to help the mythology newbies!
These would be great for your Rick Riordan lovers, those who aren't quite ready for Riordan's reading level yet, a follow up to the Olympics, or a point of view activity. All the stories are told from the point of view of the main god or goddess. Perfect read aloud for Ancient Civilizations too!
If you even wanted to push your boundaries, Kate's willing to Skype for fifteen minutes with your class. Check out her site for more information! I'll push my boundaries & help you out too!
David Shannon gives you the quick and dirty about lice in a hilarious way! A classic David Shannon! But don't let me tell you about the book. Scroll to the bottom of the page and let David Shannon all about his itchy inspiration. Get a sneak peek into his illustrations as well!
If it's hard to refocus your students after the Canadian hockey golds! What better way then with this Canadian series Brady Brady!
Mary Shaw (author) & Chuck Temple (illustrator) have a lot of fun with these stories while exploring life, sport and character with fun-loving, active boys and girls! The title comes from the fact that their main character, Brady, is so obsessed with sports that everyone has to call his name twice to get his attention!
Check out theBrady Brady site for more information. We have other Brady Brady books focusing on different sports, but I think the hockey books will do for now...
Fly Guy has gone Non-Fiction and I couldn't be happier! We often can't keep the Fly Guy series on the shelf & I expect the same with these . True to Fly Guy tradition the words are few and easy to read, but the story rocks and the illustrations are fabulous!
In the library the call number for every picture book starts with an E. The E supposedly stands for Easy, but I don't think so. I don't believe that picture books are easy and I never have. I always thought of them as "everybody books" because picture books aren't just for kids. As you know, picture books explore diverse topics in thoughtful and engaging ways and sometimes aren't even appropriate for younger readers.
As a ten year old at Uxbridge Public School among the bookshelves in the library, I declared to myself that I would never stop reading picture books and I never have. I even got in trouble in grade 8 for including a picture book on my list of books read during a "Challenge Yourself to Read" assignment. My response was, "It's a book and you didn't say we couldn't read it." She gave that one to me, but told me not to do it again. It probably helped that I had read a wide variety of other books, ranging from Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew to Stephen King and Flowers in the Attic to balance it out, but still, I was making a point.
Over the break my philosophy of "everybody books" was confirmed by an insightful review on Jim Trelease's newly re-released book, The Read Aloud Handbook. Matt Renwick wrote about this book as a Nerdy Book Club Post, as his school is reading it together to bring a greater "awareness of the importance of reading aloud both at home and at school."
In his review he provided ten takeaway points from the book and although I agreed and rejoiced with many of them the one that most applies to this post was:
Ha! I had no idea they were called "everybody books" now. I thought that was just my take. I love it when the world confirms I'm not as strange as I'm led to believe I am.
Finally...since they are "everybody books" and they are sooo good I'm going to share with all of you. Here are the top ten Canadian picture books of 2013 as chosen by the Ontario Library Association. We have them in the library to share with the primaries as they participate in the Blue Spruce Program, but perhaps you'll be able to use them in your program too. I've highlighted themes, links and activities and hope you and your students will enjoy and grow from them. ***PDF with live links available at the bottom of page.
Click here to access Blue Spruce pdf with live links. Click here to access the activity resource for Sky Color.
At the end of the school year we still had $777 in our Indigo Love of Reading account. I just didn't want to buy books for the sake of buying books. I wanted to buy good books. This summer through Twitter, I found good books of all kinds. You can see all titles purchased if you wish! We don't have that money anymore!
Only a sampling of the books!
How could Twitter do this? Hashtag conversations and meetings are a great way to learn from & connect with amazing people without ever leaving your house. If you want to know more about what that is click here. If you don't read on or just skip down to the images with links for some of my favourites.
Some of the amazing book/education hashtags that I've been following & you could too are
#titletalk - meets last Sunday of the month from 8 to 9 online & participants discuss books around a certain theme. (i.e. professional books, picture books, sci-fi,...) #bookaday - started by Donalynn Miller, author of Book Whisperer, teachers challenge themselves to read a book a day during the summer and share their ratings and titles with others. #pb10for10 - every August teachers make blog posts of their 10 favourite picture books and post them to their blog & a host blog gathers the lists. You can check out all 126 posts at Cathy Mere's Jog The Web. Mine was about low down humour #59! Shocking that!
Some Of My Favourites With Links to Reviews & Descriptions, Of Course!
I didn't expect this blog to be so technical, so now it's time for fun!
I got some great new picture books which could have many uses in your classroom as well as just being plain, old fun! These books will be processed and ready to go by Tuesday. Which will you sign out first...
Whether learning how to use an exclamation mark properly, a little less or, maybe, trying to figure out your own importance in this mixed up world, Exclamation Mark, with it's simple text and his other punctuation mark friends, is the book for you!
This is the funniest thing, I've read in a long time. Poor stick man. I never thought about the different scrapes he gets into all around the world. This wordless picture book tells the story of one really bad day with only signs. It's a great inferencing text or a perfectly amusing health and safety tie-in. I've learned there is need to be more aware of the Amish and I want to know which country has the hungry, bike-eating buses!
Thank you to Brenda for introducing me to the joy and irreverence of Mo Willems. If you ask the kindergartens you'll find out he's my new favourite author and one of theirs too. This is a different direction than his Piggie and Elephant series or his Pigeon series, but it has the same hiliarious twists of plot. Just where is Mo Willems going with this one? Read it to my kids before bed! We read it four times, on demand. The play format was great and every child fought over which voice they were going to be. That's why we had to read it so much. Everyone wanted a turn being different characters.
Meet the charming characters in This Is NOT a Good Idea! in the book trailer below:
This trailer would be great to show as a pre-reading activity. Get those brains rolling! What could the book be about!