Saturday, May 30, 2015

King of the Playground 
 By Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Illustrated by Nola Langner Malone

A fun book to read and form opinions on how Kevin should deal with Sammy, the bully at the playground.

Book Talk
Kevin happily goes off to the playground to play everyday—only to return quickly! Dad asks him every day why he has returned—only to hear the same answer—Sammy at the playground will not let Kevin play there.

Dad wisely talks Kevin through the situation each time to help Kevin come up with some solutions that he can handle dealing with himself.

And each time, Kevin again goes off to the playground only to return to discuss the situation with Dad.

Finally, Kevin stays at the playground and answers back to Sammy’s threats.  This seems to surprise Sammy and a game of ‘one-up-man-ship’ begins.  Soon the negative tension seems to dissipate and the verbal back-and-forth becomes fun between the two boys. 

Favorite lines from this part of the book:
“Kevin slowly walked over. ‘You can’t play here!’ Sammy yelled when he saw him. ‘I’m the King of the Sandbox!’ Kevin put one foot in the sandbox. ‘Go home!’ yelled Sammy, even louder. ‘If you try to play here, I’ll put you in a cage with bears in it.’ Kevin put his other foot in the sandbox. ‘Then I’ll ride on their backs and teach them tricks,’ Kevin said.”

In the end, they are still verbally going at it, but they are working together in the sandbox and having a great time together!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop strategies: Predicting, Inferring, Connecting
Writing Workshop genre: Narrative, Small Moment
Curricular Themes: Character Ed (treating each other kindly, sharing)

A bio of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor:
What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You?  
by Steve Jenkins

Younger students will delight in this informational text by award winning author Steve Jenkins, that shows different ways that  different animals protect themselves.

Book Talk
This is an excellent informational book for grades K-2 centered on the topic of animal survival techniques. Simple and informative. 

Jenkins leads the reader into instant inquiry by presenting a question about the survival technique of an animal on one page…..and answering it on the next page. This causes the reader to have to turn the page to find the answer…I predict that readers will do this quickly while reading this book! 

This is a great for read aloud, stopping, discussing and predicting possibilities before turning the page.

Jenkins also chooses to introduce the reader to several unfamiliar, yet fascinating animals: the bombardier beetle, the glass snake, the pangolin, the basilisk lizard, and the Javanese leaf insect-to name a few.  This could lead to deeper inquiry and more research and learning by interested in students.

Graphic, clear illustrations give readers a good sense of what the animal looks like in its 'survival mode".

An example of the informational text writing:
“The glass snake is really a lizard without legs. When it is grabbed by the tail…..(1st page)

….it’s tail breaks into many small wiggling pieces.” (2nd page)

“The pangolin protects itself…. (1st page)

…by rolling into an armor-plated ball.” (2nd page)

The book ends with a fun twist: asking students what they would do if something wanted to eat them?  I’m sure that would make for an interesting class discussion—-or something to write about!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Informational
Reading Workshop Strategies: Search for and Use Information, Questioning, Visualizing
Writing Workshop genre: Informational Writing
Curricular Themes: Science / animal survival

Steve Jenkins website:

Friday, May 29, 2015

Those Shoes 
by Maribeth Boelts
Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Touching, beautiful story about the struggle of one boy (who has very little), to do the right thing for a classmate (who has less).

Book Talk
Jeremy sees a pair of very cool shoes on a very big advertisement and of course, wants them immediately!  But he knows that his grandmother struggles to get by and that there is little money in his household. He knows he has little chance of every affording those shoes.

At school, several of the kids start showing up with those new, very cool shoes, which, of course, increases Jeremy’s desire to have the shoes. HIs own shoes break and he has to go to Mr. Alfrey, the school counselor, who has a big box of extra clothes for kids in need.  Jeremy gets a pair of shoes that have a velcro closure and a silly cartoon character on the side—the complete opposite of those very cool shoes. When he returns to class, several of the kids laugh at him. Except for Antonio. Antonio doesn’t laugh and at recess, Antonio is happy to play with Jeremy.

Jeremy finally asks his grandmother about getting the shoes. She tells him that he needs new boots for winter and she is struggling to save for what he needs, not what he wants. But they go shopping anyway, and they are shocked with the astronomical price of those shoes.  They decide to visit thrift stores to see if they can find a pair—-and they do!  Jeremy is thrilled, until he realizes they are two sizes too small.  

They buy the shoes anyway and he tries at night to stretch the shoes. Of course, they don't stretch.

About this time at school he notices several things: more kids are showing up with those shoes, Antonio’s shoes are now taped together and Antonio’s feet  are a lot smaller than Jeremy’s.   Jeremy realizes that Antonio is always nice to him, never passing judgement about the velcro shoes and always willing to play a game of hoops.

It dawns on Jeremy that he should give his thrift store, new, very cool shoes to Antonio. The idea first creeps into his mind and he tries to ignore it—because he really wants to keep them. Even if he can’t wear them—he has them and he wants them.   But, because he knows it’s the right thing to do, the idea keeps growing and growing.   Yet, even so, he can’t quite bring himself to give the shoes to Antonio.

Favorite lines from this part of the story:  “One day during Math, I glance at Antonio’s shoes. One of them is taped up, and his feet look smaller than mine. After school, I head to the park to think. Antonio is there-the only kid who didn’t laugh at my Mr. Alfrey shoes. We shoot baskets-a loose piece of tape on Antonio’s shoes smacks the concrete every time he jumps. I think, I’m not going to do it.

Until one night when it snows and Jeremy thinks about his friend, Antonio, having to go to school in his taped shoes in the snow.  He thinks about his own embarrassment of his velcro shoes and he thinks about Antonio’s kindness towards him.

At last, he runs across the street to Antonio’s house, leaves the shoes, rings the doorbell and runs away.  Antonio shows up at school with the biggest smile…..and the new, very cool shoes. Antonio knows it was Jeremy who gave him the shoes and he humbly thanks Jeremy.  They go out to play in the snow together—this time Jeremy has on his new winter boots.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Realistic Fiction (Contemporary)
Reading Workshop strategies: Inferring, Connecting, Synthesizing
Writing Workshop genre and strategies: Personal Narrative,Opinion Writing, Elaboration
Curricular Themes: Character Ed (Doing the right thing), We Need Diverse Books

Maribeth Boelts website:
The Day of Ahmed’s Secret 
 By Florence Parry Heide & Judith Heide Gilliland
 Illustrated by Ted Lewin

Awards: School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

You just never know which students you are going reach, which students whose imaginations you are going to touch, when you introduce different cultures to them.  

The more we do, the more cultural tolerance and acceptance grows. 

Book Talk
We meet Ahmed, who is our narrator. He tells the reader right away that he has a secret, building curiosity and suspense. Ahmed is excited about the secret and readers will sense that his secret is very special, but we have to wait to learn what it is, as Ahmed has a big job to do this particular day.

Ahmed takes us through his busy day and from his narrative he introduces us to his city and his culture.  Ahmed is able to help his family business by delivering canisters of butane gas to different customers across the city of Cairo, Egypt. 

As readers follow Ahmed through the bustling streets of Cairo-passing camels, carts, and cars- Ahmed explains his job and responsibilities. Beautifully woven into his narrative are explanations of the busy city life, the culture and the wonderful people of Cairo. From Ahmed’s descriptions, I could almost hear the sounds and see the colors of Cairo myself!

Some favorite lines: “Over all the noise I hear my name, “Ahmed! Ahmed!” And my name becomes part of the city sound too.  It is Hassan calling to me. He leans over the counter of his cart, and the bright colors of the cart mingle with the other colors of the street, the way the noises all go together to make the sound of the city.”

Ted Lewin’s illustrations are excellent and grasp the ‘busy-ness’ and the fascinating tempo of the streets of Cairo full of: people, stalls, animals, vendors, carts, shops, colors, bargaining, chatting, laughter and more!

Ahmed reminds us that he does have his secret that he cannot wait to share with his family.

He does at the end—a lovely secret and a lovely surprise for his family!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Memoir
Reading Workshop strategies: Predicting, Analyzing, Inferring, 
Writing Workshop Genre: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Strong Endings
Curricular Themes: Middle East Studies, We Need Diverse Books

Monday, May 25, 2015

Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street
 by Toni Schotter
Illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker

A perfect book to inspire and encourage our writers!

Book Talk
I guess you really never know what is going to happen in the course of a day—and Eva starts the story rather bored with her prospects.  Her teacher has told her to “Write about what you know” (ala Ralph Fletcher?!), yet, as she sits on her stoop with her blank writing pad and her blank mind, she is convinced that nothing happens on 90th Street.

She begins to get writing advice from her neighbors and friends. 

Some favorite lines:Eva answered, “But nothing ever happens on 90th Street!” “You are mistaken, my dear,” Mr. Sims said. “the whole world’s a stage-even 90th Street-and each of us plays a part. Watch the stage, observe the players carefully, and don’t neglect the details,” he said.”

Eva then starts zeroing in on, observing and taking notes about  'small moments’ happening in the neighborhood. She is amazed how the neighbor people and their personalities start revealing themselves to her!  

As a hilarious sequence of events begins, she soon finds that she has plenty to write. It is like she is watching a play unfold before her very eyes as she listens and observes her neighbor interact. Events seem to domino and the details seem to make the story even bigger and funnier.

An actor, a ballerina, a homemaker, fish monger and a mother with a baby in a stroller all stop by and talk to Eva.  The baby looses his ball and starts to cry. A pizza delivery man runs over the ball and flips off his bike. The ballerina (who never smiles) runs to the rescue and immediately falls in love with the pizza man (and finally smiles).

And Eva writes.  The neighborhood action—and interaction—continues and Eva happily observes and continues to write.

Her result? A fun twist—her result is the book, that the reader is holding in her hand!

 Suggested Use as a Mentor Text
 Book Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop strategies: Predicting, Analyzing, 
Writing Workshop genre: Narrative, Small Moment, Inspiring Writers, Strong Lead

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How Do You Raise a Raisin?
By Pam Munoz Ryan
Illustrated by Craig Brown

How Do You Raise a Raisin? is a great model for a narrative informational text.

Book Talk
Pam Munoz Ryan provides a creative example of informational writing for young writers. 

She introduces the information about different aspects of a raisin by asking questions framed in a fun, rhyming poem.  Then, on the same page, she provides the answers to the questions-in-the-poem in an interesting, easy to read text.

An example of this unique informational text:
Poem at the top of the page:
“So, who discovered raisins?
Were they here when Earth began?
Who was the first to nibble them—dinosaur or man?”

Answer at the bottom of the page:(Great illustration in between!)
“Raisins were probably discovered when someone 
or someTHING tasted grapes that had dried on
the vine. Over the years people and animals
figured out which grapes produced the sweetest, 
yummiest raisins.”

The book continues in this way, with every turn of the page presenting a new poem asking a question about raisins.  

The last few pages, a narrative timeline is presented telling readers what is known about the history of the raisin.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Informational (Narrative)
Reading Workshop strategies: Inferring, Questioning, Search and Use Information
Writing Workshop genre: Informational (Narrative), Strong Lead
Curricular Themes: Health/Food Groups

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Golden Sandal-
A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story
 By Rebecca Hickox 
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

My teaching colleagues and friends in the Middle East are always looking for mentor texts that reflect our student population.  There are many aspects of this book that are part of our students’ fascinating cultures.

Book Talk
Maha’s mother has died and her widowed father is rearing her alone.  She encourages her father to marry the neighbor, which he does.  The new wife moves in with her own daughter, and soon things get hard for Maha.  The new wife treats her with disrespect, barely gives her any food and she and her daughter make Maha do all the hard work.

Once, when Maha is returning to the house with a basket of catfish that she has been sent to fetch, she hears a voice and finds a bright red fish under the others, speaking to her.  He asks to be released back into the river and when Maha does it, he says he will repay the favor someday.

The years went by, the girls grew and Maha continued to do all the hard work.  She also grew in beauty inside and out, which made her stepmother even more jealous of her. When the work got so hard for her, she would always go to the river and seek the friendship and comfort of the red fish 

One day, an important merchant’s daughter was to be married.  Traditionally, at the time of a wedding, all the women in the village gather to sing, celebrate and paint beautiful henna designs on the bride's hands. This is a very exciting time for all the village women-young and old.

A favorite line: "One day the daughter of the master merchant was to be married. All the women of the town gathered before the wedding to sing and celebrate and watch the bride's arms and feet be painted with red henna stain.This was a time of great excitement among the unmarried girls, for it was at the women's celebration that they were seen by the mothers of the young men. Whom would they choose to be brides for their sons?"

Maha’s stepmother was very excited about the opportunities for her own daughter, so Maha has to dress and ready the stepsister for the big event. Maha, of course, was not included.  When all had gone to the festivities, Maha visited her friend, the red fish.

She tells the fish she wants to go to the wedding preparations and the fish magically arranges for a gorgeous gown and golden slippers for her. Maha dresses herself and she is beautiful.  The fish tells her to be sure to leave before her stepmother does.

Maha is warmly greeted at the wedding house and is invited to sit next to the bride. She has such a wonderful time she forgets to watch when her stepmother leaves.  She has to run out of the house and she looses one of her golden sandals.

The very next day, Tariq, the brother of the bride, happens to find the sandal and decides he want to marry the owner and sets out to find her.  He visits every village house in his search and finally comes to Maha’s house.  A rooster tells the Tariq where to look for Maha, he finds her and of course the golden sandal fits Maha's foot perfectly!  They marry the next day.

The story ends with a humorous, non-traditional, non-Cinderella type twist that students will enjoy!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Fairytale
Reading Workshop strategies: Predicting, Summarizing
Writing Workshop genre: Fairytale
Curricular Themes: Mulit-cultural, We Need Diverse Books
Amos & Boris
 By William Steig

In this classic fable by William Steig, an unlikely friendship combines with elements of “The Lion and the Mouse”.
I am so glad that William Steig went from writing cartoons to writing children’s books!  The sentence structures he uses, the elaboration of descriptions and the strong, exciting vocabulary he embeds in his stories are all inspiring for any age writer.

Book Talk
Amos the Mouse loves the ocean and is curious about lands on the other side.  He is determined to explore, so he builds himself a boat for his adventure.   He sets off and has a wonderful time. He loves every aspect of being out to sea—the ocean spray, the smells, the bouncy waves, the sea at night, the huge, starry night sky.

A favorite line from this part of the story: "One night, in a phosphorescent sea, he marveled at the sight of some whales spouting luminous water; and later, lying on the deck of his boat gazing at the immense, starry sky, the tiny mouse, Amos, a little speck of a living thing in the vast living universe, felt thoroughly akin to it all.

Except for one night—he falls off the side of the boat and cannot swim back to it!  He soon is lost at sea and is very desperate.  By-and-by, a whale, Boris, swims to him and offers to help.  

Amos climbs on his back and they begin their journey together to return Amos to his homeland. During the long journey the two develop a deep friendship. They thoroughly enjoy each other’s company sharing their deepest secrets and their ambitions.

Finally, they arrive at Amos’ home and they have to bid a sad farewell. Amos assures Boris that if Boris every needs help, Amos will assist him if possible.

Years pass and the two grow much older. One day a powerful tidal wave hurls Boris onto a beach and he is ‘beached’ and stranded.  As it so happens, it is the beach where Amos lives.

The two friends immediately recognize each other. Boris pleads for help and Amos rushes off to find some friends who can assist in getting Boris back into the water.  Amos returns with two elephants who roll Boris back to where he needs to be—the ocean.

The two friends bid tearful goodbyes to each other, knowing that they most likely will never see each other again.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Fable
Reading Workshop strategies: Predicting, Inferring, Synthesizing
Writing Workshop genre/strategies: Narrative Writing, Elaboration, Word Choice
Grammar: strong verbs, vocabulary
Curricular Themes:  Character Ed/ Friendship

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hush, a Thai Lullaby 
By Minfong Ho
Illustrated by Holly Meade

Awards: Caldecott Honor

A lovely Thai lullaby; beautiful rhythm and rhyme throughout the story.

Book Talk
It’s bedtime and a mother is putting her little one to bed in a hammock in a hut in Thailand.

She tries to quiet all the wonderful, noisy insects and animals that seem to be singing in their usual  nighttime chorus.

She sings a lovely, melodic poetic verse to each animal, trying desperately to keep the animals quiet so that her baby can get to sleep.

A favorite line from the story:
“Hush!  Who’s that leaping by the well?
A bright green frog.

Green frog, green frog, 
don’t come leaping
Can’t you see that 
Baby’s sleeping?

Green frog, green frog,
Don’t you cry,
My baby’s sleeping
right nearby.

The mother sings that same poetic song to each animal-the mosquito, lizard, cat, frog, mouse, pig, monkey, duck, water buffalo and elephant.  As we read and watch the mother interact with the animals that she is trying to ‘Hush’ (through the wonderful illustrations), we notice the baby getting out of the hammock and doing everything but sleep!

The student’s will love the sing-songy, repeated verse. It's guaranteed that they will join right in to try out the unique animal sounds as you read aloud!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Folktale/ Free verse
Reading Workshop strategies: Connecting, Questioning, Visualizing 
Writing Workshop genre: Poetry
Curricular Themes: Diversity/ We Need Diverse Books

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dear Mrs. LaRue,
Letters from Obedience School
By Mark Teague

Humorous story told in letters that would be a fun, lively mentor text  for Opinion Writing.

Book Talk
Ike LaRue, a dog and the pet of Mrs. Gertrude LaRue, is sent to the Igor Botweiler Canine Academy because he has been misbehaving. (Doing regular type dog ‘stuff”.)  The announcement is put in the local newspaper which introduces readers to the story and sets the scene and mood for the tale.

In the preceding pages, Ike uses every ounce of  charm and persuasion in the way of written letters…to try to convince Mrs. LaRue to take him out of Obedience School.

HIs letters are hilarious and the illustrations add humor to the funny situations that Ike describes.

An example of one letter:
“Dear Mrs. LaRue, You should see what goes on around here. The way my teach—I mean WARDEN. Miss Klondike, barks orders is shocking. Day after day I’m forced to perform the most meaningless tasks. Today it was ‘sit “ and “rollover,” all day long. I flatly refused to roll over.”

The story ends with Ike escaping the Obedience School, Mrs. LaRue feeling guilty, Ike returning and saving Mrs. LaRue as she crosses the street.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Fiction
Reading Workshop strategies:  Connecting, Questioning, Analyze
Writing Workshop genre: Opinion Writing

A video interview with Mark Teague: 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

First the Egg  
by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Pre-schoolers and Kinders will love this!

Awards: Caldecott Honor; Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor

Book Talk
Laura Seeger takes the reader through several nature sequences—the lifecycle of a chicken, frog and plant; and several sequences that happen everyday in a child’s life—the process of a story and a painting.

Example of the writing of a sequence over four pages:
the tadpole
the frog”

the word
the story.”

Primary colors are mainly used in the illustrations making them attractive for our little ones. The second page of the sequence has a cut-out/ look through hole—giving the readers a bit of a clue--and anticipation--of what might be coming on the next pages.

First the Egg is very predictable—adding to the fun for emerging readers.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Informational
Reading Workshop strategies: Predicting, Questioning
Writing Workshop: Informational Writing
Curricular Themes: Science-lifecycles

Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s website:
The Three Questions  
By Jon J Muth

Awards: Book Sense Book of the Year finalist 

Beautiful, powerful message in this beautiful, powerful book by Jon J Muth

Book Talk
Nikolai, a young boy who wants to be a good person, is seeking the answers to three simple, yet complex questions: 
When is the best time to do things?
Who is the most important one?
What is the right thing to do?

He begins by asking his friends: the heron, the monkey and the dog.  He gets responses that are typical for their point of view.  For example, for the answer to the last question (What is the right thing to do?), the heron responds: Flying; the monkey responds: Having fun; and the dog responds: Fighting.

None of these answers feel right to Nikolai, so he seeks out the advice of his friend, Leo the wise, old Turtle.  But before Leo could answer, Nikolai can see that Leo needs help digging his garden, so Nikolai starts helping Leo immediately. As Nikolai is finishing up with the garden, he hears a cry for help in the forest.  It is a panda who had gotten injured. Nikolai goes immediately to help the panda, carrying her to Leo’s house to recover.  When the panda recovers, she asks about the whereabouts of her baby.  Nikolai goes out immediately again,  braves a storm, and finds the panda baby.  He unites the baby and mother panda.

The next day, Nikolai feels peace inside of him, but is still pondering the answers to his pressing questions.

Leo explains, to Nikolai’s surprise, that his unselfish actions from the day before beautifully answered the questions.

Eloquent lines from the story:
“Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with.  The most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.”

Jon Muth’s illustrations are breathtaking and deepens the message of the story.  He provides an explanation at the end of the book that the title and story idea is an adaption of a short story by Leo Tolstoy.

Genre: Fiction
Reading Workshop strategies: Questioning, Synthesizing
Writing Workshop genre: Small Moment, Strong Lead, Elaboration
Curricular Themes:  LIfeskills, Building Class Community

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Baseball Saved Us
By Ken Mochizuki
Illustrated by Dom Lee

Awards: Parent’s Choice Award

Poignant and thought-provoking memoir of a young Japanese American boy’s years in a WWII internment camp.

Book Talk
Our narrator begins his story explaining to us that his family had been sent to live in a desolate detention camp.  It was in a desert and behind a  barbed-wire fence. He often asked his father to explain to him, yet again, why his family had been sent there and the answer was always the same-and something the boy simply cannot understand.  They were there because the American government thought that they could not be trusted while the US was at war with Japan.

Some lines from the book:
“We weren’t in a camp that was fun, like summer camp. Ours was in the middle of nowhere, and we were behind a barbed-wire fence. Soldiers with guns made sure we stayed there, and the man in the tower saw everything we did, no matter where we were.”

The families in the camp were suffering on many levels and the boy tells us of detailed examples of loss of dignity and loss of respect for themselves.

The boy’s father decided that they all need something positive to focus on—so he created baseball teams for the children. The mothers plunged into finding whatever they could to make uniforms and the fathers prepared the fields and practiced with the children.

The boy tells us that he is the smallest and always the last to be picked on the team.  Yet he seems to have tremendous determination to do well. One afternoon, he became the hero of the team by hitting a home run and helping the team to win the game.  He was hoisted up into the air by his team in celebration. It was a tremendously happy moment for him.

Soon after that, the war was over but things didn't get any better for the family as they tried to readjust back at their old house.  The neighbors and the kids at school still did not trust them. Even though the family was, of course, American-they looked Japanese. Our narrator tells us that he had no friends at school and again, he was never picked for teams.

When baseball season came around again, he went out for the team. He knew he had really improved because of all the practice at the camp, but he was not taken seriously by his teammates—his size and heritage factored in again. But once he was on the team, everyone saw that he was a pretty good player. Even so, he had to endure prejudice and verbal insults by the opposing crowds when his team played their first game. 

However, he again comes through as the hero of the team by hitting a big home run to win the game and the respect of his teammates.  Baseball did, indeed, save him.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Historical Fiction
Reading Workshop strategies: Predicting, Connecting, Synthesizing
Writing Workshop: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Strong Leads / Good Beginnings, Elaboration
Curricular Themes: US History (WW2 / Japanese Internment Camps), Diversity/ We Need Diverse Books

Ken Mochizuki’s website

Monday, May 11, 2015

HEY, AL   
by Arthur Yorinks
Pictures by Richard Egielski

Awards: Caldecott Winner

Strong lead / good beginning and a ridiculously funny fantasy!

Book Talk
At the beginning of Hey, Al, we meet Al and his dog, Eddie.  Al is a janitor who lives simply, but is beginning to wish things were better for him. This could be because Eddie (who speaks English to Al) is encouraging Al to move.  But life remains difficult and they continue to struggle.

Until one day….a giant, beautiful bird pops his head thru Al’s bathroom window and starts talking to him!  He asks Al if he is working too hard, if he is still struggling and going nowhere. Al admits that all of that was true.  The bird assures him that if Al and Eddie join him tomorrow, that the bird will show them a terrific place with ‘no worries, no cares.’

With Eddie’s encouragement (pleading, actually!), the two are transported by the bird to a magical, beautiful island in the sky. They were warmly greeted by a host of other beautiful,magical tropical birds and Al and Eddie begin their first of many lazy, do-nothing days.  Al spends his days sitting in waterfalls while being waited on by the birds and eating fruit. Eddie spends his days doing nothing but chasing beautiful butterflies.  They soon have no idea how long they have been on the island in the sky.

One day, Al notices that he and Eddie are changing into birds themselves! They are horrified and know that they must get home.  They try flying and Al is successful because he is stronger and has more wings.  Al arrives home by himself, heartbroken to be without Eddie. But soon Eddie(somehow) arrives, too—and they are thrilled to be back in their very humble little home again.

Favorite lines: "What could be bad? Plenty. ‘Look at this dump!’ Eddie (the dog) growled. ‘We can’t have a house? A little back yard to run around in for a change?’ ‘Oh sure.’ Al snapped. ‘Today it’s a house you want. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe the moon!’"                       

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text
Book Genre: Fantasy
Reading Workshop strategies: Questioning, Summarizing
Writing Workshop Genre: Fantasy, Strong Lead
Grammar: Use of quotation marks /dialogue

Information about Arthur Yorinks:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Book of Trucks 
by Seymour Simon

Seymour Simon does it again with a high interest informational book!

Book Talk
Seymour Simon puts together relevant, interesting information about trucks and wonderful close up photos that will really whet the nonfiction appetite of students and reach many readers.

The book is well organized. On the first two pages Simon gives a definition of what a truck is and introduces the reader to the different uses of different trucks. Each two page open spread is about a particular type of truck. One side of the page is text and the other side of the page is a photo of that type of truck.

The font is bolded and easy to see.  The students are introduced to many content related words.  Simon does an excellent job of using those words within sentences so that their meanings can be easily understood.

Types of trucks that are featured: log truck, cement mixer, telescoping forklift truck, dump truck, semitrailer truck, flatbed truck, tractor, buses, tanker truck, fire engine platform truck, sanitation truck, road-train truck and last, but not least—a monster truck!

A example of Simon’s writing:
“This powerful monster truck crushes cars at a truck show. Each monster truck is unique, because it is built by hand from other trucks and spare parts.  Some monster trucks weigh as much as five elephants and have tires that are taller than a person.”

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Informational
Reading Workshop strategies: Search for and Use Information, Questioning, Critiquing, Synthesize
Writing Workshop genre: Informational Writing
Curricular Themes: Transportation

Seymour Simon’s website:
The Lotus Seed 
By Sherry Garland
Illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi

Sherry Garland tells a meaningful story of the symbolism of a lotus seed for a Vietnamese woman.

Book Talk
The story is told by a granddaughter who relates events of her grandmother’s early years in Vietnam.

When the grandmother was a young girl, the Vietnamese emperor lost his throne, and she witnessed him crying.  She ran to the palace ponds and pulled out a lotus plant and seed to always remind her of this day. She cared for the seed.  keeping it wrapped in silk and placed under the family altar.  She had it for many years and even kept it in her pocket of her wedding dress for good luck in her marriage.

Grandmother began her family, but alas, another war had begun in Vietnam.  Her husband went  away to fight, never to return and leaving her alone to raise the children.

When the war was ending, the family flees Vietnam by boat.  Grandmother takes very little with her, but she manages to take her lotus seed.  When the family arrives in America, they are unfamiliar with the language and customs, but work very, very hard to lead a successful life. And they do.  

In  America, Grandma again hid the lotus seed under the family altar. By now the lotus seed not only symbolizes the emperor, but all that she has left behind—the country that she loves.

One night, the storyteller’s little brother finds the lotus seed and takes it.  He finds a muddy spot in the garden to plant the seed. When Grandmother realizes that her seed has been taken, she is heart-broken.  Little brother cannot remember where he planted it.

Sometime later, the plant grows and displays its glorious flower for all to see!  Grandmother is overjoyed as it reminds her of Vietnam.  She eventually gives the grandchildren a seed of their own.  The granddaughter wraps her in silk and hides it in a very special place.

This story is written is simple free verse. The font is large and there are two or three sentences per page.

Favorite line from the story:
"It is the flower
of life and hope,"
my grandmother said.
"No matter how ugly the mud
or how long the seed lies dormant,
the bloom will be beautiful.
It is the flower 
of my country."

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction (Vietnam War)
Reading Workshop strategies: Fluency, Predicting, Connecting, Summarizing
Writing Workshop genre: Narrative Writing, Historical Fiction
Curricular Themes: Diversity / We Need Diverse Books

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