Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick 
 By Chris Van Allsburg
 Published 2011

If you teach upper elementary and are covering units of study on Fantasy in reading or writing, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is an outstanding selection for a go-to mentor text!  It should be attached to your hip during a fantasy UoS!

In 1984, Chris Van Allsburg introduced the  world to The Mysteries of Harris Burdick—a book filled with mysterious illustrations that bordered between fantasy and reality.  The illustrations were also accompanied with a title and just one, strange, cryptic sentence—pulling the reader in immediately! (Usually stories are already spinning in a child’s head before they know it!)

Fast forward to 2011—Van Allsburg published an adaptation of Harris Burdick.  This time he reached out to fourteen outstanding authors (including Lois Lowry, Kate DeCamillo,LInda Sue Park, Walter Dean Myers, Jon Scieszka, Stephen King and Van Allsburg-to name a few).

Each author was asked to each take one of the Harris Burdick illustrations and compose an equally mystifying and delightfully perplexing short story to go with it.

And thus…The Chronicles of Harris Burdick was created to the delight of us all!

What makes Van Allsburg’s work (all of his books, actually) magical is that fine line that is walked between reality and fantasy that keeps the readers guessing, thinking, wondering, enjoying the magical and the strange. 

All the contributing authors in The Chronicles of Harris Burdick created their stories with that same intrigue.

According to Fountas and PInnell’s Genre’s Quick Guide Grades K-8+, ‘high fantasy’ requires a readers (and writers)  to:

* Suspend disbelief and understand human and animal characters that could not exist in the real world
* Notice the setting, which is usually an imagined other world.
* Understand characters that have unusual traits or abilities.
* Understand the conflict between good and evil.
* Recognize many elements of fantasy such as the hero, the quest, magical powers, magical objects.
* Recognize and undertand symbolism
* Process complex language that often departs from everyday language.
* Notice universal truths revealed in the story.

Fourteen short stories to choose from to help lift your students' thinking and understanding of fantasy in the ways that Fountas and PInnell describe!!!  And all stories created by exceptional, award-winning authors!

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick will help lead, guide, mentor your students through the challenges of reading and writing the genre of Fantasy.  Pick one story, delve deeply into it—-or select several stories to use as mentors. The choice is yours--and you cannot miss!

One thing is for sure—once you finish with the book for the day—it will be immediately scooped up by a motivated reader or writer!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Fantasy-Grades 4 and up
Reading Workshop Strategies: Questioning, Synthesizing, Inferring, Visualizing
Writing Workshop Strategies: Fantasy writing, Strong leads, Strong Endings, Inspiring Writers, Elaboration, 

Chris Van Allsburg website: http://hmhbooks.com/chrisvanallsburg/

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

We are celebrating today! It's Mentor Text Central's 1st birthday! I have tremendously enjoyed sharing my insights about how to use children's literature as a tool to deepen student's understanding of the reading and writing process and I plan to continue. If you have a moment, I invite you to leave me a comment on your thoughts /impressions /suggestions about Mentor Text Central.  The Relatives Came was my first review on April 20, 2015. Here is revision for MTC's birthday entry! Thank you so much for visiting my blog! Patty

The Relatives Came 
Story by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Stephen Gammell

Awards: Caldecott Honor AwardBoston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book

This is one of my favorite Cynthia Rylant's books! I love the visual imagery that she creates for readers by her use of easy-flowing language. 

Because of Rylant's brilliant use of language, The Relatives Came would be an outstanding writing workshop mentor text for older student working on word choice, elaboration, and writer's voice. Most students at all grade levels will be able to relate to family get-togethers and family traditions.  The Relatives Came would also be a strong mentor text for personal narrative or memoir. (It will be interesting to point out information about Cynthia Rylant's younger years. The Relatives Came is often thought of as one of her memoir pieces.)

In reading workshop, The Relatives Came, could be used for the different strategies of connecting, inferring, visualizing. Because of Rylant's smooth writing style by writing long flowy sentences, The Relatives Came would be a good choice to also work on fluency.

No wonder it was a Caldecott Honor for Stephen Gammell: the soft, water-color illustrations are beautiful, funny and animated.

Book Talk: The relatives live in Virginia and they travel to the storyteller's home.  As they travel, they think about the home they are leaving, as well as the visiting that will happen all summer.

Some favorite lines:  "They drove all day and into the night and while they traveled along they looked at the strange houses and different mountains and they thought about their almost purple grapes back home. They thought about Virginia--but they thought about us, too."

When the relatives arrive, there are endless rounds of hugs at the car....in the yard to the house.....and through the house.

More favorite lines: Then it was hugging time. Talk about hugging! Those relatives just passed us all around their car, puling us against their wrinkled Virgina clothes, crying sometimes. Then it was into the house and so much laughing, shining faces and hugging in the doorway! You have to go through at least four different hugs to get from the kitchen to the front room. Those relatives!"

The storyteller describes the meals together ("A big supper-two or three times around the table") and the after-meal 'glow'.  

The description of the crowded sleeping arrangements is humorous, yet sweet.
Even more favorite lines: 
 "The relatives weren't particular about beds, which was good since there weren't any extras. So a few squeezed in with us and the rest slept on the floor. It was different going to sleep with all that new breathing going on."

The summer continues, the relatives stay for weeks and weeks--eating, fixing things, playing music, sleeping and of course, hugging!

The story ends with the relatives going back home to Virginia in their rainbowed colored car--with promises of returning next summer.

Stephen Gammell won a Caldecott Honor Award for his explicit, yet humorous, colorful illustrations.

Suggested uses as a Mentor Text:
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop Strategies: Making Connections, Inferring, Visualizing, Maintaining Fluency
Writing Workshop Genre and Strategies:  Narrative, Memoir, Writer's Voice, Elaboration, Inspiring Writers
Grammar: adjectives, sentence fluency
Curricular themes: family, extended family, traditions

Cynthia Rylant's webpage: http://www.cynthiarylant.com/

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Bad Birthday Idea  
By Madeline Valentine
Published 2013

Recognition:  A Junior Library Guild Selection.

The Bad Birthday Idea is a delightful story full of action that your students will easily be able to relate to:  sibling rivalry, sharing possessions, birthday parties and playing together to name a few.  

Because of this, The Bad Birthday Idea is a solid choice as a mentor text in writing workshop as an example of a ‘small moment’ or as a personal narrative. For older students new to writing workshop, The Bad Birthday Idea could even be introduced as a memoir.  

In reading workshop, The Bad Birthday Idea could easily be used with younger students as a mentor text to start a conversation about understanding characters actions as well as inferring feelings, connecting and predicting.

Book Talk
Ben has as younger sister, Alice, who greatly admires him and is ALWAYS wanting to play with him.  But Ben will have none of that, for many reasons.  The main reason is that Alice plays with dolls and Ben is basically obsessed with robots. No matter how hard she tries to play with Ben, he always tells Alice: “No dolls allowed. This is a robot game.”

Then along comes Alice’s birthday. Alice tells her parents the she want the new Roboy 2000 for her big birthday present from the family.

Ben was shocked because HE really wants the Roboy 2000 toy!!!  But his parents get it for Alice instead.

Some favorite lines:
“On the day of Alice’s birthday party, Ben has to put the wrapped Roboy 2000 on the presents table. It was so unfair. That’s when Ben had an idea.  He very quietly opened the wrapping paper. Then he very carefully opened the cardboard box and untwisted the little wires.”

And Ben looses himself in playing with Alice’s birthday present (before she opens it!!). He plays with it so vigorously that it hits the birthday piƱata, spins out of control, falls on the floor and breaks!

Of course, that is when the doorbell rings and the birthday guests start to arrive!  Ben quickly hides the broken toy, wrapping paper and cardboard box.  

The party begins and everyone is having a great time dancing, playing games and eating.  Then it is time to open the gifts.  Alice is delighted with all the presents, but when Mom and Dad ask Ben where the family present is, he feels sick. 

He admits to what he has done and tries to make amends with Alice by giving her his very favorite robot. Alice forgives him and asks him to play with her, which, of course, is all she really wanted all along.

**Illustrations by the author are delightful and help carry the story, especially when things go awry for Ben when the robot crashes.  Have students search that illustration for where pieces of the robot fall in the room and how kids at the party end up with those pieces.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre:  Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop Strategies: Connecting, Inferring, Predicting, Understanding Character Actions, Boy Hook
Writing Workshop Strategies: Small Moment, Personal Narrative, Narrative, Memoir

Madeline Valentine’s website: http://www.madelinevalentine.com/

Monday, April 11, 2016

 by Peter H. Reynolds
Published 2004

Thank you Peter Reynolds for continuing  to influence and encourage creativity and individuality through your wonderfully poignant books!

Ish, by way of it’s simple but compelling message, inspires readers and writers, children and adults alike to be themselves, explore and find their creativity and be proud of what they can share with the world.  

As a mentor text in writing workshop, Ish is an excellent text to use with older students to focus on character development. Even though the book is not complicated—it is powerful and the emotions that the main character go through are worth noticing, discussing, and emulating into one’s writing. For younger students, Ish would be a good example of taking a ‘small moment’ and developing a story from that.

For reading strategies-the strategy of “Making a Connection” will be strong with some children in your class as they—or you—read Ish. 

Book Talk
Ramon loves to draw and draw he does! He draws anything, any time and anywhere…..until his brother, Leon, comes in and laughs, mocks and criticizes Ramon’s latest creation.

Ramon is horrified and humiliated. Leon’s criticism rings in his ears. As he continues to draw, he attempts to change his artistic style to make it ‘perfect’.  But Ramon never does live up to what he thinks Leon would approve of, so Ramon-while crumbling and throwing his latest picture—declares that he is ‘done” with drawing. 

Then along comes his sister, Marisol.

Marisol runs to retrieve Ramon’s latest crumbled up picture, then runs to her room with Ramon chasing her. When Ramon enter’s her room, he gets the surprise of his life!  Her walls were lined with his pictures that he had crumbled up over the past few months.

Some favorite lines:
“This is one of my favorites,” Marisol said, pointing.
“That was supposed to be a vase of flowers,” Ramon said. “but it doesn’t look like one.”
“Well, it looks vase-ISH!” she exclaimed.
Ramon looked closer. 
Then he studied all the drawings on Marisol’s wall and began to see them in a new way.
“They do look…..ish,” he said.

Marisol helped Ramon to see his drawings in a new way—the ‘ish’ way—opening the door for more creativity and a much lighter heart for Ramon.  He begins to joyfully continue to let his artistic style develop…which even reaches over into ‘ish’ poetry!  

In the end, Ramon happily accepts himself, his drawings, his poetry and joyfully lives in his ‘ish’ world.

Suggested Uses As a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop Strategies: Making a Connection, Inferring, Synthesizing, Summarizing, Realistic Fiction
Writing Workshop Strategies: Character Development, Inspiring Writers, Narrative Writing, Small Moment, Strong/Clever Endings
Curricular Themes:  Self-confidence,Respecting individuals

Peter H. Reynolds' website: http://www.peterhreynolds.com/

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Naked Mole Rat 
Gets Dressed
By Mo Willems
Published 2009

Awards/Recognition: Gold Medal-Parents’ Choice Award Spring 2009 Picture Books; Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Book (2009); Black-Eyed Susan Book Awards - Picture Books 2011

So-when I was shelving Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed in the library the other day—I stopped and thought:

"What a GREAT mentor text to use in a writing workshop minilesson to model ‘writing a strong/ catchy title to grab the interest of your audience!!!”  

I mean—isn’t it??? 

Yes—students usually give a big chuckle with the word ‘naked’ (or ‘underwear’)……AND you might run the risk of students coming up with some titles of their own that may need to be dialed back a bit, but Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed  is a strong mentor to clearly demonstrate this important writing strategy to students.

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed  also has a good amount of dialogue written in a simple, visual way that makes it also a good mentor when introducing dialogue and the correct use/placement of quotation marks.

In reality, the naked mole rat is an intriguing animal from East Africa with some fascinating adaptations to research, if students’ interest go in that direction after reading this book. 

Book Talk
Wilbur is a naked mole rat who loved to get dressed! The other naked mole rats were shocked when they see Wilbur, but Wilbur tried to politely explain how much he enjoys dressing up and pretending different personas.

Some favorite lines:
“I like clothes,” replied Wilbur. “When I get dressed I can be….fancy, or funny, or cool, or I can just be an astronaut.” (Mo Willems’  illustrations are perfect!)
When the others heard that, they said:
“If you like clothes so much, they why don’t you open a store or something?!”

Wilbur thought that was a wonderful idea and indeed opened a clothing store—but alas, he did not see much business!

When the others in the naked mole rat colony approached Wilbur again and told him bluntly that naked mole rats do NOT wear clothes—Wilbur simply responded by saying, “Why not?”

The other naked mole rats then went to Grand-pah for advise on what to do about Wilbur. Grand-pay was the oldest, wisest and most naked naked mole rat that ever- so the perfect naked mole rat to give advise!

The colony told Grand-pah all of their concerns about Wilbur.  Grand-pah left to think very deeply about the problem.

When Grand-pah returned, he shocked the colony by being completely dressed! He makes this proclamation:
“Fellow naked mole rats! I have never worn clothes until I heard Wilbur’s simple questions: Why not?
“Why not, indeed? Do clothes hurt anyone? No.”

Wilbur ran to get dressed up and so did some of the other naked mole rats! And from there on out—Wilbur’s clothes store flourished!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Animal Fantasy
Reading Workshop Strategies: Fluency, Connecting, Inferring, Summarizing
Writing Workshop Strategies: Strong leads/ titles, Grammar-dialogue, Fantasy Writing

Mo Willems' websitehttp://www.mowillems.com/