Posts tagged ‘first grade’

October 17, 2012

I like my robots with a little zombie, a little Frankenstein, and definitely some pie

I love this book! I love it so much that I think I screamed the first time I read it. Here, don’t listen to me. Listen to the awesome prose:



“Robot?” (one of the robots leaves)

“Robot ZOMBIE!” (He comes back dressed as a zombie. The other one leaves.)

“Robot zombie FRANKENSTEIN!” (He comes back dressed as a zombie Frankenstein.)

This continues until they are both dressed as Robot Zombie Frankenstein pirate superhero-in-disguise outer space invader chefs. And then there is cherry pie. That is shared. In just a few words (the new picture book is the minimalist picture book), Robot Zombie Frankenstein is truly “a tale of competition, friendship, and pie.”

Title: Robot Zombie Frankenstein
Author: Annette Simon
Genre: Picture book, Halloween, Awesomeness
Age: Any, really

Two great follow-ups to this book. One is art. Cut out a bunch of shapes in different colors and let your little ones assemble robots. Watching how the shapes fit together will not only give them spatial awareness and teach some beginning geometry concepts, but they will be doing art, flexing their creative muscles, and having fun to book!

Another option is more literary and would be fun for home-schoolers or a classroom teacher. While I do LOVE this book AND it’s zen-like prose which is perfect for this particular story, it would be interesting to ask budding writers how it could have been written in story form. Example, rewriting the lines quoted above: Once upon a time there were two robots. They saw each other and smiled. But then one of them left. The other robot wondered where he had gone. He was sad that his new friend had disappeared so quickly. But wait! Here he was again. But something is different…what is it? He’s dressed as a zombie! Etc…

If I’m not conveying it’s awesomeness strongly enough, here’s the trailer.

Happy reading! And artsying! And rewriting! And while you are here, tell me what YOU think about the trend for picture books these days to be so minimalistic in their word usage.

November 21, 2011

IVY and BEAN probably don’t play German Crossing

The little one escaping to play with the neighborhood kids.

I loved my neighborhood friends growing up. With the exception of one or two families, I wasn’t really close to that many of them, but that never mattered when it came to baseball or tag. On a long Seattle summer night, when the light stayed up as late as your mom let you, neighborhood friends were always there and ready to play. One of our favorites (and this admittedly sounds ridiculous in 2011) was German Crossing. Yes, one side of the road was East Germany and one was West. You had to cross from one to the other (presumably from East to West although the details of the game escape me) without being tagged by the guard with the flashlight, who wasn’t allowed to stray far from his/her post. You could sneak your friends out of jail by sneaking over to the jail near the guard and tagging them. Hours and hours and even nights and nights were spent at this game, sneaking through the neighbors yards, hiding in their bushes, and trying to stay out of their sight if they were one of those “adult” houses with no kids in the game who may or may not understand people sneaking through their yard.

Reading Ivy and Bean–the at first reluctant to be friends neighbors–reminded me of that game. But when they finally cross the street and meet, the tomboyishly adventurous Bean and the imaginative bookworm Ivy become fast friends and hilarity ensues. There’s even some sneaking around in neighbors’ yards. I want to thank my niece because without her recommendation of these books, I might never have found them!

Title: Ivy and Bean
Author: Annie Barrows
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Genre: Early Chapter Book
Age: K – third grade

Follow-up with the kids: This is the kind of level for kids who are really starting to read on their own. This is a great time to engage them in conversations about books so they get used to thinking about their reading and talking about it while they still have memories of cuddling up with picture books with their family. Ask your daughter (it is probably a daughter reading this book as boys tend to prefer books with boy characters–the same is not necessarily true for girls) if she is more like Ivy or more like Bean. Or does she have elements of both? What about her friends? Getting kids to think about their reading and to relate their reading to their own lives, is an important first step to higher level reading comprehension. And also a great step towards really enjoying books!

December 9, 2010

Donkeys and Asses and Children’s Delicate Ears

I remember reading a book aloud to a third grade class in my first year of teaching.  Technically, I was student teaching, but full-time student teaching in the middle of Dorchester, MA, counts as full-time teaching any day of the week.  I forget the book; I think it was Roald Dahl–maybe James and the Giant Peach?  Or maybe we just read that one that year and it wasn’t the same one I’m thinking of.  It doesn’t really matter.  The point is, I was reading along and noticed that a few sentences ahead (yes, when you are reading aloud to third graders–or any graders, really–it’s a good idea to have your lips pronouncing words your eyes have already read) there was the word “ass”.  I had to make a quick decision.  Did I skip it?  Change it to “donkey” (as was the meaning here–it was not intended to be a swear word or a part of the body)?  Change the sentence entirely?  Eventually I went with just reading it.  I read right through it as if it was no big deal, glared a a few kids who dared to laugh (with my best “are you seriously that immature?” glare I could produce at the time) and continued on.  Later, the teacher (the actual teacher in the classroom) came up to me saying she was impressed that I said that.  I’m not sure if she meant impressed that I was that brave, or that stupid, or both, but I just smiled and shrugged.  I had been embarrassed to do it, but I was also embarrasssed at my embarrassment, so I let it go as if it was no big deal.

But I smile to remember this incident because apparently it is a big deal all over again.  It now comes from a great picture book that I first saw in a wonderful independent bookstore in Asheville, NC.  My husband saw it first and handed it to me, knowing I would like it.  The book is all about two characters talking about what a book can do.  “Can you turn it on?” one character asks, and proceeds to question the other about things you can’t do with a book.  “Can you scroll down?”  “Can you blog with it?”   The lesson learned is that no, you can’t turn it on, scroll, or blog, but it’s an amazing tool anyway, and the skeptical character is carried away on the literature-powered ride of the imagination.  It’s a beautiful book with a beautiful lesson for today’s plugged in kids.

But apparently the author had to get in one last joke.  The character reading is a donkey, or as he is otherwise known, a jackass.  So the last line, “It’s a book, Jackass” has caused some heads to spin.  It is this line that is responsible for every 1-star review on Amazon.  And it has apparently put a halt on a project in Gloucester, Massachusetts, that was due to give a copy of this book to every child in the school district.  Click here to read the article in the Gloucester Times.

I’m not sure I have an opinion on this really one way or the other.  If I had my choice, as a mother, I would rather my son not call people “Jackass”.  And as a reader, I find the joke funny, but not so funny or original that it really justifies the obvious backlash it was going to get.  It feels a little bit as if the author wanted to be edgy just for the sake of it.  I mean, what if he had ended the book with, “It’s a book … Donkey.”  Some people might have seen the hidden joke in there anyway–the thing that couldn’t be said.  That would have been funnier.  But subtlety is lost in the modern world, I suspect.  Oh well, it did gain the book publicity—was that the point?

At any rate, it’s a great book—I loved reading it—and definitely worth checking out, but maybe slightly more appropriate for older children (6 and up or so), who can be taught the difference between using that word appropriately and inappropriately.  I’m not sure I’d read it to my 2-year-old.  Or actually, I would, but I’d just change the last line.  I mean, I try not to be a total prude, but seriously.  If they are old enough to read and be able to tell that you’re reading it wrong, then they are probably old enough to be taught the difference between jackass and jackass.

November 11, 2010

It’s meta-literary fun with your favorite characters

This is the BEST Elephant and Piggie book ever!  Well, there was “Are you ready to play outside?” which I really love and might be my favorite.  And of course, “Can I play too?” which is genius.  Come to think of it, I like them all.  But this one is really, truly great  Elephant and Piggie are at their best interacting with each other.  But in this book, they interact with YOU, too!  This is the latest in Mo Willem’s beloved series, so make sure you don’t miss it!

Title: We are in a book!
Author: Mo Willems
: Very Early Reader
Age: 2 – 7 (Amazon says 4 to 8, but that’s crazy.  This is a GREAT book for 2-year-olds, and it isn’t because I’m trying to push them out of picture books too early, as you would know by reading this blog.  It’s because I LOVE Elephant and Piggie!  Why deny them?)

Summary and Review:

Elephant notices someone watching him and is a little scared.  But when Piggie goes to investigate and finds out it’s a reader, they rejoice with happiness that they are in a book!

You can NOT have too much Mo! Or even too many Elephant and Piggie stories!

In a moment of genius, Piggie decides to make the reader say the word “bananas” by saying it himself.  Hysterical.  And then they notice what page they are on and what page the book ends so they start to hatch a plot to get the book to never end.  Any guesses?  It’s sheer genius!  (And explains the first page a little better than the first time you read it!)  Great book, great characters.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

This book really gets kids thinking about what a book actually is.  The characters notice the page numbers, and so can you and your child!  Go back to the beginning of the book and ask you child what number she thinks the book will start on.  Then count up and look at the page numbers.  Then research to find out what page the book ends on.  This is teaching them good skills of looking in a book to find information.

Get a little surreal.  Ask your child what happens to Elephant and Piggie when the book ends.  Why is Elephant scared to have the book end and what is their plot to keep it from ending?  How does this relate to the very first page of the book?

When you read a book (any book), you probably start with the title.  Also include the author’s name.  Give your kid a sense that books come from people; understanding this may make his early years of writing more magical.  We talk about movie stars, why not lowly authors, too?  This is a good one to talk about the author because you are already in the mode of talking about the actual book itself, rather than just the story, which after all, isn’t so much a story in this one.