Friday, November 20, 2015

Jackrabbit McCabe and the Electric Telegraph by Lucy Margaret Rozier and Leo Espinosa

My students were glued to this one. Even though it took place more than one hundred years ago. A fictionalized text based on history, this is a fabulous read for folks who want to know more about the Morse code, about historical transmission of messages, of the trials between man and machine.

Being a picture book, the illustrations bring this book to life in ways words can't quite do. The double-page spreads make all the difference at times, the main character obviously has some long legs, and the outcome is a happy one. Seek this out if you feel drawn to the images. The words will only buoy you as well.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

What a  sweet surprise this book was! I know how folks raved about The Invention of Hugo Cabret and some of his other texts, but I never got around to reading them. If The Marvels is anything like his other books, I will indeed search his work out.

The first half of The Marvels is all sketchings, the second half mostly text. Amazingly, brilliantly the author must have intended for my brain to connect pictures to words and words to pictures over and again because that is what it did. The basic storyline surprised me, and the ending blew me out of the water. I like graphic novels, but I have never read one like this, this combination of written and drawn messages. At least not like this.

Are you searching for an unpredictable book? Are you hoping to find a blending of young-coming-of-age and life-can-be-really-important-and-amazing-and-worth-the-struggle novel? Are you seeking a text that will create a story in your mind and your mouth at the same time, all launching you into knowing in your very being? Read The Marvels.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner

As I was searching for some books on political leaders, I found this amazing text by Bildner. Illustrated by John Parra with capturing artwork, I cannot put this one down. I keep returning to it, and so do my second graders.

The story of a sanitation worker who loved his job, Cornelius is one of those amazing humans who seems always happy and upbeat. Then Katrina hits and presents him with a job seemingly too large to combat. Based on a true story, Cornelius must have been one of those people who enrich your life. A lovely text that captures and holds....I often wish these were the people who we elect to office....or at least they are placed in jobs where that resilient characteristic shows up!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of A Broken Heart by Jane St. Anthony

Adults deal with grief differently than children. My father died a few years ago after a prolonged illness, and as an adult, I journeyed with him until his death and negotiated his loss in my own way. Last year I witnessed and supported a five-year-old student whose father passed away during the school year. When I learned of John's passing, I knew that our classroom would feel the ripples of grief with my student, each in our own way. For the rest of the school year, this father's passing was carried with all of us in that class, and each child knew it.

Isabelle Day, the main character in the book, is an eighth-grade student whose father had recently passed. She and her mother made a major move to try and settle some of the inevitable dust caused by such a tragic and devestating loss. For Isabelle, the move only seems to escalate the difficult time. But wonderfully, Isabelle, just like my student last year, refuses to be captured and swallowed by the losses. Rather she finds her way in realistic ways, and she finds some friends who are just as committed to creating their own meaning during their adolescent lives.

At first I worried that this book was too short, that the author might not be able to accomplish her goals in this 140-page novel. My worry was completely off-base; this is a rock-solid and complete novel, one that left me wanting to know what happens next to many of the characters even after the book had ended. St Anthony is a new author to me, and I will seek out her books in the future. Very interesting read for me. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo

Long a fave of mine, I will read just about anything by Kate DiCamillo. And I will read just about anything by said amazing author/ America's Children's Literature Laureate. So with my second graders, I just launched right in with Francine Poulet. They had no background schema, no knowledge of any of DiCamillo's work ( tragedy right there for SURE!). And we went into the story.

At times, it was a little slow for my guys but there is absolutely no question that they wanted to know what happened, that they wanted to see the pictures, that the y wanted to laugh and guffaw with Francine and the other seriously crafty characters in the book. And they wanted to know about the ghost raccoon. They savored the last little bit of the book, they kept demanding more, they knew we had something crazy on our hands. And they smiled at the end. All 23 of them. What a sweet moment.

You probably want to know why Francine Poulet, of fame and fortune around all things involving animal rescue, had a little loss in her life. Maybe if you are lucky, you have read the prior adventures involving Francine and the porcine wonder Mercy Watson. Maybe if you are really lucky, you have read all of the Mercy Watson series and know exactly where DiCamillo is going. All I can say is read them, all of her books that involve Mercy Watson and/or Francine will want to know the twins for sure. And more, so much more....butter!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Miss Todd and Her Wonderful Flying Machine by Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee

I often forget the story behind a simple-seeming picture book. I sure did with this book....until I wrote this blog entry. Ahem, please forgive my cluelessness.

I love unique illustrations and so do my students. This book is a series of paper cuts and drawings that help frame a sweet and intense students and I were simply bound with the book as I read it to them. But today I discovered so much more about this story. Like the movie from which the book came won a long list of international awards, including a Student Academy Award.  The illustrations that we were so captured by: those are actually paper-cut out puppets in a model set, clips actually from the movie itself. Find the movie here: The brown-tinted set captured my imagination in amazing ways. 

Happiest when her feet were not touching the ground, Lily grew up trying to create flying machines to satisfy her great passion for moving in the air. A brilliant and endless dreamer, her dreams were not at all dashed by the extreme and limiting behaviors and norms for women around the turn of the century. The story centers on the real Miss Lily Todd becoming the first female in the world to build and design an airplane amid all sorts of trials of the times. 

The story in book form is uplifting and inspiring from true story of the original Miss Lily Todd to the true story of the movie craft and execution. Brilliant. And for those of you wondering, I do intend to share the movie with my students. Very soon!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

The Day the Crayons Quit was a huge hit with readers of all ages. This much-anticipated and drooled-after sequel is out! And it doesn't disappoint.

Crayons get lost. The fact is just a part of life. But what do the crayons have to say about it? Daywelt and Jeffers team up again in seriously funny ways. I mean, I could actually hear these crayons telling stories. In the first book, the crayons took off to see the world for a wonderful variety of reasons. In this text, the crayons are writing their owner to communicate that they want to return home.
You are gonna have to get your hands on The Day the Crayons Came Home to read about why they want to return, but let's just say serious and crass go hand in hand in this book. I loved it and I can't wait to see what my second graders think of it!