Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tall Tales from Latin America

This post is part of a series of posts celebrating the countries and cultures of Latin America. The first post featured creation stories from Latin America, and the second introduced clever folk heroes and trickster tales. This post shares a few favorite tall tales from Latin America.

Doña Flor: a tall tale about a giant woman with a great big heart (2005) by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raul Colón (a Golden Kite Award winner and a Pura Belpré Award winner). Doña Flor is a giant of a woman, of the likes of Paul Bunyon and other earth-shaping tall tale heroes. She uses her kindness and ability to talk to animals to help both the neighboring villagers and the wildlife. But when a ferocious puma's growl threatens people and animals alike, Flor knows she must take action!

When the Pigs Took Over (2002) by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Diane Greenseid. In this absurd story, Alonzo's big brother Don Carlos takes everything to extremes. He wears seven hats - instead of one. And still he asks for "más" (more). As his requests spiral out of control, his little brother teaches him that perhaps there are times when enough is enough!

Do you have a favorite Latin American tall tale to share?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

#3rdfor3rd: The Doll People series

Welcome to #3rdfor3rd where I share books that my third graders recommend for other third graders. (Please note that my third graders read a wide variety of books across a wide variety of genres, levels, and topics. Do not think that these books are "only" for third graders.) Read more about this book recommendation series and format here.

The Doll People series

Book recommendation by Ava.

The Doll People by Ann Martin and Laura Godwin.

The doll people is about a family of dolls who are alive. The main character is named Annabelle who is owned by Kate Palmer from the Palmer family. She is on a search to find her Auntie Sarah who has been missing for many years.

Then she meets another family of dolls owned by Kate's little sister, Nora. One of the dolls from the new family is Tiffany. Annabelle becomes friends with her. Tiffany helps Annabelle look for Auntie Sarah. Annabelle is excited to have her new friend that is the same age as her to play with and you will find out more and more by reading this book.

I recommend this book because is is a great book and it is creative and has lots of adventures! I recommend this book to anyone who likes adventures. I hope you read this book because it is an awesome book. I rate this book five stars!

Click here or the #3rdfor3rd tag for more great book recommendations!

(Note from me: I reviewed an advanced copy of the newest book in the series, book four, here.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Interested in Teaching Cursive?

Thought this might be of interest to some of my teacher-readers.

Get Sponsored Cursive Handwriting Curriculum for Your Classroom

Now through Oct. 17th, elementary school teachers and principals are invited to request CursiveLogic workbooks for their classrooms.

CursiveLogic is a patent-pending handwriting instruction method that teaches the entire lowercase cursive alphabet in four lessons―meaning it requires far less classroom time than traditional cursive instruction. You can learn more about the CursiveLogic method here and read reviews here.

The workbooks are being sponsored by companies and individuals who are concerned about the disappearance of cursive from many classrooms.

Sponsored workbooks will be allocated to schools on a first-come, first-served basis. Learn more and request workbooks at More questions? Email

[Full disclosure, CursiveLogic was started by my college roommate, and some of my students used a pilot version of the program last year.]

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Trickster Tales from Latin America

This post is part of a series of posts celebrating the countries and cultures of Latin America. The first post featured creation stories from Latin America. This post will focus on clever folk heros and trickster tales. The final post features tall tales.

Señor Cat's Romance and Other Favorite Stories from Latin America (1997) retold by Lucia M. González and illustrated by Lulu Delacre. This collection features six short tales collected from across Latin America. Several feature folk heroes featured in other books in this post, including Juan Bobo, a trickster rabbit, and Martina the Beautiful Cockroach. (Read this post for reviews of other books featuring the Puerto Rican folk hero Juan Bobo.)

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: a Cuban folktale (2007) retold by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Michael Austin. (A Pura Belpré Honor Book.) In this version of the story, Martina must decide who to marry and agrees to follow the unusual advice of her Abuela - to see how each suitor reacts when coffee is spilled on him! This humorous tale provides great advice for looking beyond appearances and determining someone's inner character.

Just a Minute: a trickster tale and counting book (2003) by Yuyi Morales (a Pura Belpré Award winner). In this inventive trickster tale, Grandma Beetle is surprised to find the skeleton Señor Calavera beckoning her to follow. Imposing on his politeness, Grandma Beetle continues with an escalating list of tasks (with numbers in both English and Spanish). Kids will delight in this outrageous outsmarting of Death.

Juan Bobo is a popular trickster from Puerto Rico and one I have shared about many times before. There are many picture books written about him, and you can read more about all of them at this post: Meet Juan Bobo!


Love and Roast Chicken: a trickster tale from the Andes Mountains retold by Barbara Knutson (also available in Spanish as Amor Y Pollo Asado). Poor cuy (guinea pig) is such a small, defenseless creature, that he must rely on his wits when he is threatened by Tio Antonio, the fox. His clever solutions to difficult situations will keep kids laughing and impressed by his creativity.

Borreguita and the Coyote by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Petra Mathers. Based on a Mexican folktale poor Borreguita must find a way to outwit the wily coyote!

Jabuti the Tortoise: a trickster tale from the Amazon by Gerald McDermott. This Jabuti tale references several others tricked by Jabuti, but in this story, Jabuti himself is tricked by Vulture who is jealous of his song and colors. This pourquoi tale explains why the tortoise's shell looks cracked and why Vulture is black when other birds are colorful. This Jabuti tale comes from the Tupi-Guarani tribe of the rain forests of Brazil.

Papago: the Mischief Maker by Gerald McDermott. Papagayo is a bit of a bully and annoyance to the other creatures of the Amazon rain forest, especially to those who preferred to sleep during the day. But when the fearsome moon-dog starts eating away at the moon, it is Papagayo who convinces the nocturnal animals to scare him away. (No specific cultural attribution.)

Share your favorite trickster tales in the comments!

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9/21/15

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. (Don't you love the updated logo?)

Last Week's Posts

  • Kid Lit Blog Hop. The Kid Lit Blog Hop is a great community of kidlit bloggers, authors, and publishers. Come share a post or find some new posts to check out!
Also, my exciting news of the week is that I have been named a Round 2 judge for the 2015 Cybils Picture Book Award! I am delighted to continue to delve into the amazing picture books of this past year and to join this talented commitee in picking the eventual winner! You can read the full announcement here. Book nominations will be open Oct. 1-15th, so please share your favorites.

Picture Books

The Hunter's Promise: an Abenaki Tale (2015) by Joseph Bruchac and illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. I was excited to hear of a new tale from master Native American storyteller Joseph Bruchac. The story opens with a full page author's note about the origins and earlier versions of the tale and its links to Wabanaki culture. It is an interesting story and well-told. I love the focus of Wisdom Press and their books, but something about the layout decisions and the text make this edition seem unprofessional. (The text seems too large and the margins around it too small in places.) Curious if anyone else has this same gut reaction to these books.

Middle Grade / Young Adult

The Shepherd's Crown (2015) by Terry Pratchett, book four in the Tiffany Aching series and number 41 of the Discworld series. This posthumous release by Terry Pratchett features the death and departure of a beloved Discworld character, the powerful Granny Weatherwax, whom Death himself regrets having to take. A fitting tribute to a beloved author.

Adult Books

The Martian (2014) by Andy Weir. This was an enjoyable read, but one where I actually think the (upcoming) movie might be better than the book. The changing narration and point-of-view shifts really did not work smoothly for me, though I understand why the author couldn't make only the first-person logs work for the whole book. (Read via Kindle.)


Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 13 books, 2 dedicated posts

Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 175 books, 35 dedicated posts

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Creation Stories from Latin America

Latin America is a diverse region of the world, and this great mix of cultures, people, and geography leads to great stories and cultural tales. This first post highlights some of my favorite creation stories from this part of the world. The next two posts highlight favorite trickster tales and tall tales.

The Golden Flower: a Taino myth from Puerto Rico (2005) by Nina Jaffe and illustrated by Enrique O. Sánchez. This version of the creation myth for the island of Puerto Rico begins with a desert and a young boy who plants the mysterious seeds that he finds. Only after these seeds grow and one produces an enormous pumpkin, do problems follow. Two men, fighting over the pumpkin, release the sea that was held inside, flooding the desert, and leaving behind just the top of the mountain as the island of Boriquén.

How the Sea Began: a Taino myth retold and illustrated by George Crespo. Another Taino story from Puerto Rico. In this version it is a group of young boys who accidentally release the sea the covers the land and leaves behind the island of Boriquén.

How We Came to the Fifth World / Cómo vinimos al quinto mundo (1988) adapted by Harriet Rohmer and Mary Anchondo and illustrated by Graciela Carrillo. This bilingual tale is a retelling of the classic Aztec creation myth about how humanity came into the fifth (and current) world and what happened to the previous four worlds.

The Two Mountains: an Aztec legend (2000) retold by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher. This legend comes from the Nahua people, descendants of the Aztec, and tells the origin of the two great mountains in the Valley of Mexico, which were once a son of the sun and a daughter of the moon.

The Gentle People (from Tales Alive! Ten multicultural folktales) This story from the Patagonia region of Argentina tells of the origins of the guanaco.

The Llama's Secret: a Peruvian legend (1993) adapted by Argentina Palacios and illustrated by Charles Reasoner. This ancient tale from Peru is a flood story. The farmer is warned by his llama about an impending flood, so he, his family, and the llama hike to the top of the great mountain, Huillcacoto. Along the way they warn two of many kinds of animals who accompany them and are spared from the flood. An author's note at the end explains the cultural significance of the llama and draws connections to other well-known flood stories.

The Princess and the Warrior: a tale of two volcanoes by Duncan Tonatiuh. This classic legend from ancient Mexico has roots in the Aztec and Tlaxcalan cultures, and Duncan has also included a connection to the Mixtec codices which inspired his signature artistic style. Rather than a creation-of-the-world story, this is the origin story of two mountains. The artwork is incredible, and the story reads like a Shakespearean tragedy. This is a wonderful addition to any classroom or library and definitely one I will be talking about come Caldecott time! For more about Duncan Tonatiuh, please read Featured Illustrator: Duncan Tonatiuh, part 1: fictional stories and part 2: biographies.

Do you have other favorite creation stories from Latin America? Please share them in the comments below!

It's Kid Lit Blog Hop Time!

Welcome to the 66th Kid Lit Blog Hop where we continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children's books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of your fellow Kid Lit bloggers and authors!


Mother Daughter Book Reviews

Julie Grasso, Author/ Blogger

Cheryl Carpinello, Author / Blogger

Stacking Books


Music Teaching and Parenting

Pragmatic Mom

Reading Authors

The Logonauts

Spark and Pook

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Kid Lit Blog Hop Rules *Please Read*

1. Link up any Kid Lit related post in the Kid Lit Blog Hop. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.

* Don't link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post.*
* For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one. Please link unique posts each time ~ no repeats please. *
* Make sure you include an image relevant to the POST (e.g., book cover), not your blog button or photo of yourself.*
* Feel free to link more than one post.*

2. Please visit AT LEAST the TWO LINKS from the Kid Lit Blog Hop directly ahead of your own and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you!

3. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you're linking up. If you'd prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links!

4. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!

Happy Hopping!


Monday, September 14, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9/14/15

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

  • More Smart Board Ideas. Part 3 in my Smart Board provides a bunch of ideas for using a Smart Board (outside of just Smart Notebook).

Picture Books

Leo: a ghost story (2015) by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Christian Robinson. Another in the recent pantheon of books about invisible friends, Leo is a ghost who finds himself sadly unwanted when a new family moves in. Rather than give up, he sets off to find out where he belongs. A predictable, yet still adorable, conclusion awaits. (H/T Mr. Shu.)

Hope Springs (2014) by Eric Walters and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes. This book is based on the author's foundation and experience working with orphans in Kenya and focuses on the digging of a new well for the orphanage and then for the village. Another book to use with children when discussing issues of water rights and water availability in the world. (H/T Carrie at There is a Book for That.)

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (2015) by Don Tate. This biographical picture book introduces readers to enslaved poet George Moses Horton, the first southern African-American man to be published. I found it interesting that the author's note opens with a comment about his initial reluctance to illustrate stories about slavery.

Chukfi Robbit's Big, Bad Bellyache: a trickster's tale (2014) retold by Greg Rodgers and illustrated by Leslie Stall Widener. This story is based on a Choctaw tale, and the character's names are the names of their species in the Choctaw language. I love a good trickster tale, but this one just did not stick with me. There was nothing particularly memorable about Chukfi or his exploits.

Middle Grade

Little Robot (2015) by Ben Hatke. My students love Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl series, so there was much excitement about his newest graphic novel. The book did not disappoint. This is a very sweet story with minimal text, making it great for reluctant readers.

Adult Books

Go Set a Watchman: a novel (2015) by Harper Lee. Bit belated on this one - waited to get it from the library. Really, I don't understand the point of this book at all. It is not particularly well-written, the story makes very little sense, and I finished it out of sheer stubbornness. I'm surprised an editor asked for more if this truly resembles the original submission.


Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 13 books, 2 dedicated posts

Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 175 books, 35 dedicated posts

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Poetry Friday: Flutter & Hum / Aleteo y Zumbido

Flutter & Hum: animal poems / Aleteo y Zumbido: poemas de animales (2015) by Julie Paschkis.

Folk artist Julie Paschkis has assembled a delightful collection of animal poems in Spanish and English. A native English speaker, she was recently inspired to learn Spanish by a picture book project about Pablo Neruda. Composed in Spanish and translated into English, these poems feature a variety of animals of the land, air, and sea.


I love the combination of Julie Paschkis' unique art style with the bilingual poems as well. She uses words as such integral parts of her illustrations, and the language of the words chosen matches whichever language she is using for the poem on that part of the page. So clever!

Happy Poetry Friday! Robyn has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Life on the Deckle Edge.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

#3rdfor3rd: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Welcome to #3rdfor3rd where I share books that my third graders recommend for other third graders. (Please note that my third graders read a wide variety of books across a wide variety of genres, levels, and topics. Do not think that these books are "only" for third graders.) Read more about this book recommendation series and format here.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Book recommendation by Maeve.

I will tell you about a book that is magical and mysterious at the same time. It is called The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

In the book there are 4 children whose names are Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. They left London because of the air-raids they now live in a mysterious house with a very old professor who helps with their problems and helps them with alot of things around the house.

This is a great book because first Lucy goes into the wardrobe then no one believes her until they see for themselves. It is also a great book because it is magical and there is some made-up things like a faun. You would think of it as a baby deer but it is really a man with goat legs and horns but man head and chest.

My favorite quote is "Are you my councillor or my slave?" said the white witch. It is my favorite quote because she says that when she changes from bad to really bad.

If you like mysteries or magic you will love this book because it has a lot of questions you come up with and answer too, and most of the questions are about one thing.

I love this book so much I am going to rate the book 5 stars.

Click here or the #3rdfor3rd tag for more great book recommendations!

(Note from me: I strongly stand by the original publication order for reading this series, which is why students started with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

More Smart Board Ideas

Smart Boards have lots of potential uses in the classroom. This post will share more ideas for using your Smart Board on the web. The first post in this series provides more general tips and tricks for using Smart Boards, while the second explores my favorite ways to use Smart Notebook in my classroom.

More Smart Board Ideas

Media Center

Having a Smart Board eliminates the need for a separate TV or DVD player in your classroom, as long as the computer you use has a DVD player. I recommend getting a separate set of speakers to help with the sound. A Smart Board can easily share DVDs as well as You Tube or other online videos, provided you have a fast enough Internet connect to stream videos.


Last year was the first time using our Smart Board for Skype, and it was a great success! We had a Skype author visit from the ever-engaging Tara Lazar, who read aloud her book The Monstore, while I flipped pages in our class copy. We also did a Mystery Skype with another class, where we switched off asking yes/no questions to try and determine their location. (Pro tip, remind your students not to wear identifiable t-shirts that day, local sports teams, etc. Kids are ruthless observers!)

Skype-ing with a Smart Board works best if you can easily position your computer and webcam near the Smart Board itself. For our Tara Lazar talk, the laptop was a little off to the side (on a folding kitchen step stool), which meant she usually saw the side of kids' heads. When we did our Mystery Skype, it was in our computer lab, which is a longer room, so we put the computer on a cart in front of the board.

Giant Read Alouds

You can use the Kindle app on any computer, tablet, or phone to share books with students on the Smart Board. This is great for stories with really detailed illustrations or other text features that you want everyone to easily to able to see. Back in the day, I scanned the entirety of Love that Dog for reading aloud, because I wanted my students to see and appreciate the line breaks. (Read more about Teaching Poetry with Love that Dog.)

PowerPoint, Google Slides, Haiku Deck, Prezi, etc.

The Smart Board is an excellent way to present information. Since you are not limited to only using Smart Notebook, you can use any type of presentation software or web site to share information. When I bring in parents to share about other countries, PowerPoint is often their software of choice for sharing photographs and facts.

Padlet for Real-Time Collaboration

This is one I have not tackled yet, but I know of many teachers who use Padlet for collaboration within the classroom. For schools where students have access to their own tablets or laptops, you could conceivably have the whole class logged into a single Padlet page, sharing thoughts and ideas in real time. (I will admit that when I picture this with third graders, I picture mass chaos!)

Student Screen Sharing

There are also devices available that let students share their own tablet or laptop screens directly with the Smart Board. The Chromecast from Google plugs into the projector itself and allows anyone with a Chromebook or Chromecast app to send their screen to the projector. I observed a middle school teacher who had his students use the Chromecast to each share a presentation with the class.

Document Camera

Document cameras are another great piece of technology to integrate with a Smart Board. A document camera allows you to easy share print media up on the board. You place the book, for example, underneath the camera, which then sends a live image of it onto the screen. This would also work well with items like math manipulatives.


The Smart Board can also be used like a giant projection screen TV. Once a year as part of our school fundraiser, my classroom becomes the game room, and either a Wii or XBox gets plugged into the projector for giant-sized gaming fun. For last year's "Teach a Teacher Tuesday," several of my third graders used the web-based version of Minecraft to teach me all about the game on the big screen.

The Web

Finally, of course, you can do anything on your Smart Board that you can do on your regular computer. You can also use the pens and "ink" to mark up a digital page for reference. I appreciate the ability to model reading or using a web site in front of students.

How Do You Use Your Smart Board?

What other great ideas do you have for using a Smart Board in the classroom? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Monday, September 7, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9/7/15

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

  • #3rdfor3rd: The BFG. Third grader Lily says, "If you like giants, orphans, adventure, and caveman speech, you will love this book."
  • My Favorite Uses of Smart Notebook. Part 2 in my Smart Board series provides an overview of many different applications of the Smart Notebook program to classroom learning.

    Picture Books

    Shi-shi-etko (2005) by Nicola I. Campbell and illustrated by Kim LaFave. This story of the Native American residential schools focuses on the days before a young girl leaves for such a school for the first time. The author's note at the beginning sets the context for the story and explains some of the history of these schools. Because the story focuses only on her home life and preparing to leave, it is a less bleak book than others on this topic. Her story continues in Shin-chi's Canoe. This might be a good book to pair with When I Was Eight and Not My Girl which continue the story to school and home again.

    Mr. Peabody's Apples (2003) by Madonna. I understand the point this story was aiming for (you cannot easily undo a rumor, once spoken), but the book itself took too long in the telling. The illustrations remind me of the exaggerated style of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which also made it harder for me to take this story seriously.

    Loula and Mister the Monster (2015) by Anne Villeneuve. This third and newest picture book in the Loula series features the young girl and her trouble trying to get new dog Mister under control. Loula and her chauffeur Gilbert try valiantly to teach Mister the lessons of manners and civility, but he has different ideas.

    The book is cute, and the dog's responses amusing, but I felt like there just was not a lot to this story (even with the "twist" at the end). Plus in this era of seeking diverse and inclusive books, I have a hard time understanding the choice to make a main character so wealthy her family has a personal chauffeur. (Digital ARC provided via Net Galley in return for an honest review.)

    Middle Grade

    The Lion Who Stole my Arm (2013) by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Annabel Wright. This gripping realistic fiction novel will draw in adventure-lovers and reluctant readers alike. Young Pedru loses his arm to a lion attack in the first chapter and must spend the rest of the story deciding how to respond. The action will draw readers in, allowing the environmental message to resonate. A new book in this Heroes in the Wild series, Manatee Rescue, is coming in January. (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)


    Five, Six, Seven, Nate! (2015) by Tim Federle and read by Tim Federle. At the suggestion of several of you, I listened to the audiobook of Tim Federle's latest contribution to his Nate series, which was a great companion during a few long drives right before the school year kicked into gear.

    Five, Six, Seven, Nate! continues where Better Nate than Ever left off, focusing on the rehearsals and lead up to an actual Broadway production. (Each chapter is subtitled with a count down towards previews.) Nate finds some unexpected allies and friends as his improbable good fortune continues to get him in (and out) of some pretty elaborate situations. Listening to the story rather than reading it myself forced me to slow down and enjoy even more the humorous dialogue and internal voice of this endearing character.

    Challenges and Summer Plans

    Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 13 books, 2 dedicated posts

    Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 170 books, 35 dedicated posts

    Happy Reading!