Monday, March 28, 2016

The Black Rabbit 
By Philippa Leathers
Published 2013

Recognitions: 2014-2015 Florida Reading Association Children’s Book Award-Honorable Mention

The Black Rabbit is author’s Philippa Leathers first book--and she has published several others since The Black Rabbit. It is a simple, yet amusing and cleverly written story that can work well as a mentor text for narrative writing, especially in 1st -3rd grades.  The sentences are uncomplicated, but, along with the illustrations, carry the story with humor and keep interest high-which is always worth talking about with writers.  The Black Rabbit  has a fun twist at the end of the story that students will enjoy. This twist makes it a great mentor text for ‘strong endings’, especially for older students who may be new to Writing Workshop.

Book Talk
Rabbit wakes up one beautiful morning and steps outside ready for the day! Almost immediately, he noticed that he is not alone. Behind him on a rock was a very, very large black rabbit! (Students will notice right away that the ‘black rabbit’ is the rabbit’s shadow.)  Rabbit was scared and yelled at the big Black Rabbit to go away! 

The big Black Rabbit did not go away, but instead, followed Rabbit absolutely everywhere!  Rabbit tried to hide in all kinds of place, but still big Black Rabbit was always with him.

Some Favorite Lines:
But when Rabbit stepped out from behind the tree…there was the Black Rabbit right in front of him!
Maybe he is not a good swimmer like me, thought Rabbit, and he jumped into the river and swam to the other side.
But when he pulled himself up onto the bank…the Black Rabbit climbed out of the water, too!

Scared and nearly in a panic, the Rabbit ran as fast as he ever had before—straight into the deep, dark wood!  After he was deep in the wood, Rabbit stopped and rested.  While he was resting, he saw two big, scary eyes gleaming at him from the dark trees!  He thought it was Black Rabbit again, but no—it was a Wolf!

Some More Favorite Lines:
But it was NOT the Black Rabbit!
Rabbit ran as fast as he could out of the deep, dark forest, with Wolf close behind him.
Then Rabbit tripped!
Rabbit scrambled to his feet, but it was too late. He shut his eyes tight and waited for Wolf to attack…

But nothing happened, because Rabbit was out in the sunshine at this point….and there was the big Black Rabbit, yet again, this time to save the day!  Wolf took one look at the Black Rabbit and ran as fast and as deep in the wood that he could!  

And Rabbit and Black Rabbit became fast friends!

Suggest Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Fiction / Animal Fantasy
Reading Workshop Strategies: Making Connections, Character Development, Fluency, Predicting, Inferring
Writing Workshop Stratregies: Narrative writing, Fantasy writing, Strong Endings

Philippa Leathers website:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

I Wanna Iguana 
by Karen Kaufman Orloff
Illustrated by David Catrow
Published 2004

Awards/ Recognition:  2005 IRA (International Reading Association) Notable Book,  2005-6 Read-Aloud Books Too Good To Miss AIME, Children's Book-of-the-Month Club selection, Junior Library Guild selection. I Wanna Iguana also received nominations in many state wide book awards including the 2006-07 California Young Reader Medal.

I totally agree with the “Read-Aloud Books Too Good To Miss” recognition that I Wanna Iguana  received!  What a fun book to use as a read-aloud in your class!  Many students will be able to relate to Alex, the main character, who desperately wants a pet—specifically an iguana—and tries everything under the sun to persuade his mother to get him one.

I Wanna Iguanna would be great mentor text for writing workshop for students writing an opinion or persuasive piece!  The format of humorous letters written back and forth between Alex and his mother would be an easy format for young writers (perhaps grades 1-3) to emulate to try to persuade someone of their strong opinion on a particular topic. The author does an excellent job of presenting a claim and supporting statements in each letter and in a format that would be easy to understand and apply for young writers.

David Catrow’s colorful and comical illustrations add to the humor and enjoyment of this book.

Book Talk
I Wanna Iguanna  starts with Alex writing a letter to his mother asking to take a friend’s iguana as a permanent friend. (The friend is moving away.)  Alex uses charm, reasoning, claims, supporting statements, evidence—everything you can think of to convince Mom to allow him to have the iguana. Mom’s letters back to Alex are full of humor—and don’t necessarily tell Alex an outright ‘no’—but rather raises questions.  Which, of course, in turn—motivates Alex to use more charm, reasoning, claims, supporting statements to persuade Mom!

Some Favorite Lines:
It was hard to pick my favorite letters, but here is an example of the fun, humor…and opinion writing, of course!

Dear Mom,
I know you don’t think I should have Mikey Gulligan’s baby iguana when he moves, but here’s why I should. If I don’t take it, he goes to Stinky and Stinky’s dog, Lurch will eat it. You don’t want that to happen, do you?
Signed, Your sensitive son, Alex

Dear Alex,
I’m glad you’re so compassionate, but I doubt that Stinky’s mother will let Lurch get into the iguana’s cage. Nice try, though.
Love, Mom

Later in the book….
Dear Mom,
Forget the girl. I need a new friend now! The iguana can be the brother I’ve always wanted.
Love, Your lonely child, Alex

Dear Alex,
You have a brother.
Love, Mom

The story continues in the back-and-forth amusing style of letters between mother and son, until Alex does the trick! Mom and Dad are finally convinced by Alex to give him a ‘trial-run’ with the iguana!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop Strategies: Connecting, Inferring, Fluency
Writing Workshop Genre and Strategies: Opinion Writing, Strong Lead, Strong Ending, Character Development, Writing with humor

Karen Kaufman Orloff’s website:

David Catrow’s website: