Thursday, April 30, 2015

Poetry Friday: Orangutanka

Orangutanka: a story in poems (2015) by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Renée Kurilla.

I was introduced to this adorable new poetry book this week by our school librarian. Orangutanka combines a family of orangutans with the poetry form tanka. The author's note at the beginning explains a bit about tanka and why the author chose to use the idea of tanka poetry rather than a strict interpretation of lines and syllables.

The story follows a family of orangutans throughout their day in an animal sanctuary in Borneo. The story is a bit more cute than fact-filled, especially as the baby orangutan dances with/near a group of children near the end of the story. But the poetry itself is lovely and emotive, and kids will enjoy the lively, colorful illustrations as well.

This could also be a potential mentor text for teaching kids about poetry forms, like tanka, especially if you want to get the idea of creativity and meaning across, rather than a simple counting of lines and syllables. Who could not be inspired by poems such as these?

riding happily
on mama's soft, furry back
curious baby
watches the dazzling fruit feast
and discovers butterflies

How precious is that?

Space City Scribes will have this week's Poetry Friday Roundup.

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/27/15

Oh, how I love book sales! I volunteered at this one and got first pick of the loot ...

It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

Last Week's Posts

  • Books about Seeing the Possibilities. This collection of picture books include real-life and fictional stories about people who seek out the possible in their lives and make the most of it. Inspire the young artist and inventor in your life!

    Picture Books

    One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the recycling women of the Gambia (2015) by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. This book tells the true story behind the Njau Recycling and Income Generating Group and their success at creating sellable goods from discarded plastic bags. It is a great, inspirational story of how one person can make a difference, but I am concerned that readers will come away with the wrong idea about Africa and life in the Gambia.

    No real explanation is given in the text or copious author's notes about why plastic bags became such a problem, and my fear is that children will misinterpret the beginning of the story - seeing the people as too "stupid" to know about garbage cans or how to throw away trash safely. I understand it may be a hard issue to explain in a picture book. I am curious whether those of you who have read the book had a similar concern?

    You can read an in-depth interview with the author here on Carrie On ... Together!


    When I Was Eight (2013) and Not My Girl (2014) by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard. These two powerful picture books tell the true story of co-author Margaret's experiences attending an Indian Residential School in Canada. When I Was Eight introduces her desire to go to school and learn to read, contrasted with the realities of school once she arrived. Not My Girl tells the painful rejection by her father when Olemaun/Margaret is finally allowed to return home.

    These books are an incredible way to introduce older children to the history of indoctrination and discrimination faced by Native American children. It would be really helpful, however, if both books were updated with an expanded author's note providing a bit more context and information.


    Palazzo Inverso (2010) by D. B. Johnson. This incredibly clever and complex picture book is an ode to the work of M.C. Escher, and the book itself is a convoluted Möbius strip of a story that turns in on itself and is read front-to-back-to-front again. I am a bigger Escher fan and was quite astounded at how this whole book came together. Definitely one that will fascinate the visual among us!

    Wings (2000) by Christopher Myers. This unique take on bullying features a supporting character, Ikarus Jackson, a young (presumably black) boy with wings. The narrator, a bystander and fellow student, shares his/her own observations about the new boy and everyone's reactions to him. Only after witnessing much does the narrator step up and stop the bullying. This could be a great book for generating discussion about diversity, inclusion, bullying, and differences.

    Middle Fiction

    A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans (2015) by Laurence Yep and Joanna Ryder, with illustrations by Marie GrandPré. This entertaining but brief (152 pages) middle fiction fantasy novel is a great fit for the reader who can't get enough of dragons. Told from the perspective of elder dragon, Miss Drake, the book immediately grabs the readers' attention with the particular tone and style of the narrator. With some action, adventure, and, of course, magic thrown in, this is a book many students might enjoy.


    Smile (2010) by Raina Telgemeier and with color by Stephanie Yue and Sisters (2014) by Raina Telgemeier and with color by Braden Lamb. These two autobiographical-graphic novels detail different episodes in the author's childhood. Smile covers the years of middle school and high school when Raina struggled with her dental-related adventures, while Sisters focuses in on a family road trip and reunion that revolves around Raina's relationship with her younger sister, Amara.

    Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Tales (2014) by Terry Pratchett. This was another of my recent book sale finds, and with my current Terry Pratchett kick, I knew I had to pick it up. This book is a collection of short stories written by the young Terry Pratchett during his stint as a newspaper reporter. There are some interesting and engaging little worlds created here, and one cannot help but think of the influences of Roald Dahl with the inclusion of the very Quentin Blake-esque illustrations. An amusing read and the short story format might be a good one for drawing in reluctant readers.

    Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 10 books, 2 dedicated posts

    Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 80 books, 26 dedicated posts (Books about Seeing the Possibilities and Call Me Tree / Llámame arbol)

    Happy Reading!

    Friday, April 24, 2015

    Call Me Tree / Llámame arbol

    Call Me Tree / Llámame arbol (2014) by Maya Christina Gonzalez and translated by Dana Goldberg.

    This bilingual poem celebrates the size, power, and grandeur of trees. The simple words are expanded upon in the colorful and imaginative illustrations. The young narrator is joined by more and more children as he continues to dream and imagine what it would be to become a tree. This is a great story for environmental or Earth Day purposes, as well as a story for encourage children to be themselves and explore who they can become.

    The Poetry Friday roundup is over at No Water River this week.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2015

    Books about Seeing the Possibilities

    I love books that invite readers to reconsider the world around them. Just last week I finally had a chance to read the brand new book In Mary's Garden about Milwaukee, Wisconsin resident and artist Mary Nohl. The theme of this book, of seeing the possibilities in everyday life, immediately made me start making connections to other favorite books around this theme. Here are a few of my favorite books for inspiring kids, inventors, and artists.

    In Mary's Garden (2015) by Tina and Carson Kűgler. This biography of artist Mary Nohl revolves around her interest in unusual topics and her ability to see the possibilities. For Mary, driftwood and a feather were not items to glance at and walk on but were a "marvelous creature" waiting to be discovered and assembled. Her collections of found objects became incredible sculptures and works of art, and I love how the author's note includes photographs of Mary and her art. I think this picture book is a powerful one for showing kids the possibilities for art in everyday objects and even "junk."

    The Iridescence of Birds a book about Henri Matisse (2014) by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Hadley Hooper. This biography about Henri Matisse focuses on the influences and environment of his life as a child. I really liked the emphasis within the text about how these influences shaped and inspired Matisse and his art. I think this book would be a great resource for art teachers to introduce Matisse to their students and to encourage kids to think about their own lives and how to turn them into art.

    Roxaboxen (2004) by Alice McLerran and illustrated by Barbara Cooney . Roxaboxen tells the true story of an imaginary town created by the author's aunt and neighbors. Kids can immediately relate to this imaginative play, and the illustrations bring this invented place to life. I read this book to my students every year as part of our end-of-the-year memoir unit, and every year it inspires them to start building and creating. I love how something so small - broken glass, some black stones - can become an entire world.

    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2012) by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer with illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon. This picture book tells the true story of William Kamkwamba who at age 14 saw the possibilities in junkyard scraps and the knowledge found in his library in Malawi. He eventually taught himself enough engineering skills to creata functioning windmill that brought electricity and pump-irrigation to help his village.

    On the fictional side of things, there are many great stories that continue this theme of seeing and believing in the possibilities of everyday life.

    The Most Magnificent Thing (2014) by Ashley Spires. This fabulous new picture book by Ashley Spires, the author of the Binky the Space Cat graphic novels, chronicles the trials and tribulations of the nameless main character as she attempts to build the most magnificent thing. I love the combination of styles in the illustrations. I shared this book with my students earlier in the year, and it touched off a great classroom conversation about perseverance, creativity, frustration, and perfectionism.

    Papa's Mechanical Fish (2013) by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov. This fictionalized tale is based on the true story of inventor Lodner Phillips and his efforts to create a functional submarine in the 1850s. It is quite a whimsical take on the story but interesting at least from the perspective of getting kids to think about the barriers to invention and creation and how to overcome them when faced with difficulties. (H/T Christie at Write Wild.)

    What are your favorite books for encouraging children to see and embrace the possibilities in their lives?

    Monday, April 20, 2015

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/20/15

    It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

    Last Week's Posts

    Picture Books

    P. Zonka Lays an Egg (2015) by Julie Paschkis. This is a lovely little 'imagined' folktale about the origins of the Ukrainian pysanky eggs (or, the singular, pysanka). It is also a great story about the power of noticing and celebrating the world around you, plus, who can dislike a story with a rooster accidentally named Gloria? I look forward to sharing this book along with some of my own pysanky eggs that I picked up on my own travels through Europe.

    Seeds of Freedom: the peaceful integration of Huntsville, Alabama (2015) by Hester Bass and illustrated by E. B. Lewis. (Review copy provided courtesy of Candlewick's inagural Best in Class mailing.)

    Seeds of Freedom tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement during 1962 and 1963 through the lens of Huntsville, Alabama. Readers are exposed to many of the major issues of the time, like not being allowed to try on shoes, not being served in restaurants, and not having integrated schools. References are made to violent reactions elsewhere, but the focus is on the creativity and peaceful ingenuity of residents, such as the three woman and baby arrested at the lunch counter or Blue Jeans Sunday at Easter time. This is a great book for introducing younger and intermediate students to the issues of Civil Rights in an understandable context.

    The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade (2015) by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian Robinson. I really wanted to like this book, and I did really like the illustrations - especially the diversity of kids represented! But the story was SO simplistic. One little girl raises one little finger and suddenly the whole world decides to be nice to each other? Switching from being a bystander to doing something about it takes more work than that.


    Juan Bobo Goes to Work: a Puerto Rican folktale (2000) by Marisa Montes and illustrated by Joe Cepeda or, in Spanish, Juan Bobo Busca Trabajo. This folktale is a favorite read aloud during our Latin American unit. Students love the foolish innocence of Juan Bobo, and this is a great book to see prediction skills in action, as hapless Juan follows his Mama's advice each day ... with disastrous results!

    Lost City: the discovery of Machu Picchu (2003) by Ted Lewin. This book tells the true story of Hiram Bingham's efforts to find the lost Inca city of Vilcapampa in 1911 but instead being introduced to Machu Picchu. What I appreciate about this "discovery" story is the credit given to locals and local knowledge, and it's a great book for helping kids discuss the idea of "discovering" something some one already knows about.

    Middle Fiction

    Wintersmith (2006) by Terry Pratchett. The third Tiffany Aching book was my least favorite the first time when I read these books, but I liked it much more now. I appreciated seeing how the idea of 'being a witch' continues to grow and develop.

    Thanks for the Discworld and Terry Pratchett-related recommendations. Please do keep them coming!

    Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 10 books, 2 dedicated posts

    Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 80 books, 24 dedicated posts (Books about Modern Immigration and Immigrants)

    Happy Reading!

    Friday, April 17, 2015

    New Book Alert: Won Ton and Chopstick

    Won Ton and Chopstick: a cat and dog tale told in haiku (2015) by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin.

    I was so excited a few months back when I found out that there was a sequel coming out to Won Ton: a cat tale in haiku. (It is one of several books featured in my post Books Told in Haiku.)

    Won Ton is back, in this sequel, also told in haiku (specifically, in senryu), but now he faces a new challenge ... a puppy! Betrayed and aghast, Won Ton's feelings become clear through his various acts and protests related via the poems.

    I love the use of haiku to tell these stories, as these brief poems can give such a complete glimpse into each different moments. Kids and adults will relate to feelings of "sibling rivalry" and the interactions between pets and families.

    Haikus are a great poem type for kids to try, as their small, compact size makes them manageable, although they can also lead to a lot of stilted, laborious syllable-counting. Sharing books like this one helps kids recognize the potential of haiku!

    Interest in haiku? Read more in Do You Haiku? , Picture Books about Haiku, Books Told in Haiku (featuring Won Ton), and Indigenous Food Haiku.

    Robyn has this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Life on the Deckle Edge.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2015

    Books about Modern Immigration and Immigrants

    This third post concludes our series about teaching kids about the history and impact of US immigration. The first post introduced nonfiction resources for studying immigration, and the second post covered historical fiction and memoirs, including novels and picture books. (Even more posts: Picture Books by René Colato Laínez, New Immigration Books, part 1: Syrian and Central American immigrants, and part 2: picture books and anthologies.)

    Modern Immigration: immigrants and the children of immigrants

    My Name is Sangoel (2009) by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed and illustrated by Catherine Stock. Sangoel and his mother and little sister are refugees from Sudan who are resettled in the United States. Sangoel tries hard to adjust to many differences, including a frustration that no one can pronounce his name properly.

    The Name Jar (2001) by Yangsook Choi. Unhei has just moved to the US from Korea and has decided that she should trade in her name for a new, American, name. After her classmates help out by offering suggestions, an interaction with a new friend helps her change her mind and keep her name.

    One Green Apple (2006) by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ted Lewin. This 'second day of school' book is one that I always share during the first week of school. Farah's story of being in a new school and a new country is one that resonates as we begin to establish our own class community. Students immediately grab onto the symbolism of her "different" apple becoming a part of the blended cider. This is a book we return to again and again as we learn about new people and new cultures and as well think about how to be a welcoming and inclusive community ourselves.

    Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Doug Chayka. This book gently introduces children to the existence of refugees and refugee camps through the touching friendship of Lina and Feroza, two girls from Afghanistan who have made their way to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Both the text and illustrations offer insights into life at camp (including the detail that the girls are excluded from the camp-run school), as well as provides a bit of the tragic back story that led them both to flee their homes and lose members of their families. An important book for introducing a difficult topic.

    Lights on the River (1994) by Jane Resh Thomas and illustrated by Michael Dooling. This picture book focuses on the difficult life of some migrant workers in the US. Teresa and her family who moved to the US from Mexico are told to live in a chicken coop with an outhouse.

    My Name is Bilal (2005) by Asma Mobin-Uddin and illustrated by Barbara Kiwak. This picture book tells the story of a boy's inner struggle when he and his sister (who wears a headscarf) start at a new school. Bilal learns facts about the historical Bilal and soon makes new friends. This book is geared towards older elementary or middle school-aged students.

    Playing War (2005) by Kathy Beckwith and illustrated by Lea Lyon. A group of kids decide to play a game of war only to discover that Sameer, who has recently moved to the neighborhood, lost his family to real war in his home country (unidentified by implied Middle East or Central Asia). I have shared this book in the past with fourth grade students to help them understand the implications of some of the games of pretend that they play and that how they treat each other matters.

    The Lotus Seed (1993) by Sherry Garland and illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi. This sparse picture book tells the story of the narrator's grandmother and her flight from Vietnam and her resettlement in America (implied). When the narrator's little brother steals grandmother's special lotus seed and tries to plant it, the family learns a lesson about history and perseverance.

    Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic (2012) by Ginnie Lo and illustrated by Beth Lo. Chinese-American sisters Ginnie and Beth based this picture book on their own experiences growing up as the child of Chinese immigrants. Homesick for China, Auntie Yang was delighted to find soybeans growing in a nearby field, though the farmer intended to sell them to feed livestock, not people. Thus began the first Great Soybean Picnic, which became an annual event for Chinese-American families in the Chicago area. This is a great story for showing how to find the familiar in a new country and new situation.

    Dia's Story Cloth (1996) by Dia Cha and stitched by Chue Cha and Nhia Thoa Cha. This powerful picture book "translates" the Hmong story cloth stitched by the author's aunt and uncle that tells the family's history and migration from Laos to Thailand to resettlement in the United States. The author's note at the beginning gives the context for the cloth, and the lengthy afterwards includes a four-page history of the Hmong or Free People plus a bibliography.

    Molly's Pilgrim (1983) by Barbara Cohen. Molly is Jewish and a recent immigrant to the United States. After being mocked by her classmates, Molly's mother helps her make a Russian doll for their Thanksgiving pilgrim display and Molly teaches her classmates a lesson about tolerance and the long history of immigration in the US.

    Grandfather's Journey (1993) by Allen Say. Allen Say's grandfather left Japan for America as a young man, but when he is older, he become homesick. He moves his family back to Japan, but his nearly-grown daughter prefers the big city. After the war destroys their city, they all move back to grandfather's ancestral home. As a young man himself, the author leaves Japan and moves to California himself. A really interesting and poignant take on immigration, homesickness, and belonging.

    Erika-San (2009) by Allen Say. Erika falls in love with Japan and chooses to study Japanese and then leaves to teach in Japan after college graduation. She wants to learn more about the traditional tea ceremony, but when her friend cannot help her, she finds her own way. This book provides an interesting to contrast to many immigration stories, because in this case, Erika chooses to marry and stay in Japan.

    My Mom is a Foreigner, But Not to Me (2013) by Julianne Moore and illustrated by Meilo So. I really wanted to like this book, and I was excited about the concept - a celebration of children whose moms immigrated to the US from another country. However, the rhyme is absolutely abysmal and the constantly changing font is odd and interrupts the flow. (I spent time attempting to analyze it, and the differences in font do not appear to correlate to a specific mom/child, which would be the only reason I can see for using them.) I also found it odd how many of the mom/child pairs do not actually look genetically related, but this is supposed to be a book about family histories. Kids of immigrant parents may be able to see themselves in this book, but I really was hoping for more.

    Finally, author Rene Colato Laínez has written many picture books which feature immigrants to the US. Or read more in the immigration series: nonfiction resources for studying immigration and historical fiction and memoirs.

    Kid Lit Blog Hop and Twitter Linkup

    Welcome back to another great Kid Lit Blog Hop and chance to meetup with other Kid Lit bloggers, authors, and parents!

    Join in for the 58th Kid Lit Blog Hop where we continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children's books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. Please share a post and hop around to meet some of your fellow Kid Lit bloggers and authors!

    This week, we are excited to be including a Twitter Linky Party to be held in conjunction with the Kid Lit Blog Hop. These linky parties are designed to give you the opportunity to connect with and grow your network of fellow kid lit bloggers, authors, and parents through your various social media platforms.


    Mother Daughter Book Reviews

    Julie Grasso, Author/ Blogger

    Cheryl Carpinello, Author / Blogger

    Stacking Books


    Pragmatic Mom

    Reading Authors

    The Logonauts

    A Book Long Enough

    Spark and Pook

    Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

    Kid Lit Blog Hop

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