Saturday, February 27, 2016

How to Read a Story 
By Kate Messner
Illustrated by Mark Siegel
Published 2015

Kate Messner does it yet again! 

How to Read a Story is an absolute ‘must-have’ for any teacher’s mentor text library!  

It’s an enduring,  simple, and delightful story told through the eyes of a child on the most important points to consider when selecting a book to read.  Interestingly enough—-the points the child makes are all details and elements that we, as teachers, want students to consider when choosing a story, as well!  

So, why not introduce these ideas to your students with a picture book!

How to Read a Story would be a great mentor text for any grade level ‘How-to’ writing unit of study but especially K-2.  Messner’s character does an excellent job of presenting steps 1-10 and adding elaboration to detail each step.  Again, as it is written through a child’s perspective, the steps and elaboration are all in ‘child speak’ and ones your students can easily relate to.

In addition, How to Read a Story  would be a great read-aloud for any teacher who manages her/his literacy block with the Daily 5.  How to Read a Story is a great model for things to consider for “Read to Self” or “Read to Someone”.

Book Talk
The story starts immediately with “Step 1” of How to Read a Story.  The narrator (the boy who is in the illustrations) addresses the reader and speaks as if having direct conversation with the reader and dispensing his advice (and not necessarily following all rules of grammar, but shows delightful grammatical liberties and writer’s voice).

Some favorite lines:
A good one.
It have have princesses and castles,
if you like that sort of thing,
or witches and trolls.
(As long as they’re not too scary.)”

The story continues in this familiar way: counting the steps of How to Read a Story, adding the advice and elaboration of the narrator.

Another favorite line:
A good one.
A buddy can be older….
or younger…
or a person your age.
Or many not a person at all.”

GET THIS BOOK!  It's perfect for so many uses in your classroom--from simply enjoying it and having your students identify with the choices that the narrator makes--to using it as a mentor text for reading and writing workshop.  

I think the format of How to Read a Story can be inspirational for some of your reluctant writers.

Suggested Uses As a Mentor Text:
Book Genre:  How-To, Procedural, Narrative Informational
Reading Workshop Strategies: Fluency, Predicting, Questioning
Writing Workshop Strategies: How-To, Procedural Writing, Elaboration/details, Grades K-2, Boy Hook, Inspiring Writers, Strong Ending

Kate Messner’s website :

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Two Mrs. Gibsons   
By Toyomi Igus
Illustrated by Daryl Wells
Published in 1996

Two Mrs. Gibsons is an affectionate and heartfelt story about the loving convergence of two cultures in one racially diverse family. The narrator describes two very different women--both name Mrs. Gibson- from two very different cultures, with two very different ways of doing absolutely everything-who both love the narrator deeply-making her life rich with a variety of cultural influences.

Toyomi Igus, whose ethnicity is Japanese African American, creates a poignant memoir and shares with readers the beautiful differences between the two Mrs. Gibsons.  Young readers will be surprised at the end of the book to discover that the Japanese Mrs.Gibson is the narrator’s mother and the African American Mrs. Gibson is the narrator’s grandmother.  Older readers will put this together earlier in the book.

For writing workshop, Two Mrs. Gibsons, is an excellent mentor text for narrative writing, personal narrative and /or memoir writing.  In comparing and contrasting the two Mrs. Gibsons throughout the book, Igus sets an effective example for comparative writing for students who are ready to add depth or a new style to their writing. 

Two Mrs. Gibsons is also an excellent mentor for using descriptive language. Igus writes with a brilliant use of adjectives, metaphors and similes. 

If you are looking for books to add depth to your library on diverse characters, Two Mrs. Gibsons, is a must and will be appreciated by our many students who have families that are similar to Toyomi Igus’ family.

Of special note is the beautifully written dedication by the illustrator, Daryl Wells, to her niece:  “May your diverse heritage be a source of inspiration and pride for you always.”

Book Talk
Readers meet the two Mrs. Gibsons and the descriptions of the beautiful, rich differences begins.  One Mrs. Gibson has skin the color of chocolate, the other Mrs. Gibson has skin the color of vanilla.  One Mrs. Gibson is loud, especially when she sings or is angry.  The other Mrs. Gibson is quiet, especially when she laughs or is angry.  One Mrs. Gibson’s hands are small and perfect for writing Japanese calligraphy. The other Mrs. Gibson has large hands that are perfect for playing spirituals on the piano. One Mrs. Gibson is always cooking rice quickly. The other Mrs. Gibson is always any kind of greens and takes all day.

Some favorite lines:
“This Mrs. Gibson gave hugs that were like being wrapped up in a great big fat bearskin rug. “Come here and give me some sugar” she would say.
This Mrs. Gibson gave hugs that were like being wrapped up in a light, down filled comforter. At bedtime she’d stroke my hair and hum “Sakura” until I fell asleep.”

The story ends with readers learning that the narrator calls one Mrs Gibson ‘mommy’ and the other Mrs. Gibson ‘nanny’, because she is her grandmother.

The illustration on the last page features a lovely, racially diverse family.

Another favorite line:
“I once knew two Mrs. Gibsons. They were very different, but they had a lot in common. They both loved my Daddy and they both loved me.”

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Narrative, Memoir
Reading Workshop Strategies: Connecting, Fluency, Inferring, Questioning
Writing Workshop Strategies: Narrative Writing, Memoir, Personal Narrative, Strong Endings, Descriptive language
Curricular Themes: Black History Month, We Need Diverse Books, Strong Female Examples, Inspiring Writers

Toyomi Igus bio and Q&A: