by Linda Walker
New Year’s Eve 2016 my husband and I enjoyed the company of our two young grandchildren. My granddaughter brought along her digital camera to document the evening. She snapped photos of balloons, streamers, noise makers and Grandad wearing a silly hat and an even sillier expression. While driving to the local pizza parlor for our dinner, she and I stopped at several places to snap some more pictures: the local high school her mom attended, the water tower, and several nighttime shots of the Domino pizza sign just to verify that yes, we did eat something other than chips and dip. Later we talked about how much fun it was to go back and relive the night through her photos. Days after I began to think about how those captured digital moments could become the springboard for poetry writing. This idea led me to search for poetry books with photographs as a medium. And that is how I discovered April Pulley Sayre. Read more
by Sharon Williams
Each year I teach a historical fiction reading unit in the reading workshop format. Students are offered 14 titles to choose from and are paired with other students who pick the same title. When our grade level team of LA teachers first began teaching this unit, we had a limited number of novels from which our students could choose. Past practice found the LA teachers spending time combing through internet searches for historical fiction novels to add to our repertoire.
Last year, upon finishing our unit, I encouraged my students to do a bit of searching on their own to find a historical fiction novel to use for their independent reading and to report back to me any titles they found to be outstanding. I had a few students take me up on this challenge, and I have spent some time reading their recommendations over the past few months. One novel that a student had deemed a worthy read was Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Read more
by Linda Walker
Who Done It books help young readers and writers make inferences and draw conclusions. The opening pages of The First Case by Ulf Nilsson, a celebrated Swedish children’s author, illustrated by Gitte Spee, generates the questions of why is squirrel hurrying through the deep snow and what is the destination. The accompanying text arouses interest…” Wretched thieves!” cried a small creature as it scurried through the snow. “Thieving wretches!” It was late in the evening and the whole forest was asleep. It was snowing softly and beautifully. “Monstrous plunderers!” called the little animal in a trembling, squeaky voice. “Plundering monsters!” Read more
by Melissa Hurwitz
“Warning! This book looks serious but it is actually completely ridiculous! If a kid is trying to make you read this book, the kid is playing a trick on you. You will end up saying silly things and making everybody laugh and laugh! Don’t say I didn’t warn you…”
Do you enjoy hilarious, laugh out loud fun? Are you looking for a way to spark your students’ interest in reading? If you answered yes, then look no further than B.J. Novak’s The Book With No Pictures. Read more
by Lynne Dorfman
a wide silk of bluesilver
spotted with treegreen islands
a banner of bluewhite sky
If you loved reading Love That Dog and Hate That Cat, you will not want to miss Sharon Creech’s newest tween novel, Moo. This story is about a family’s momentous move from the city to rural Maine, and an unexpected bond that develops between twelve-year-old Reena and one very ornery cow.
When the family moves to Maine, Reena is dreaming of picking blueberries and eating all the lobster she wants. Instead, she and her younger brother Luke are volunteered by their mother to help an eccentric neighbor named Mrs. Falala who has a pig named Paulie, a cat named China, a parrot named Crockett, a snake named Edna, and an enormous belted Galloway named Zora. What happens next is amazing…
Told in a blend of poetry and prose with defining variation in print of different fonts and sizes and unusual placements of words on pages to create word pictures for the reader, this delightful story will warm your heart. It is just right for so many middle schoolers who are between wanting to be children and wanting to be adults. The story has a full range of emotions from light and funny to sad and reflective. The characters are so different that they complement each other completely. Moo is a story about opening our minds and hearts to new experiences and letting others into our life so that we can grow, develop relationships and insights, and be renewed. Themes of loss, friendship, courage, and family are represented here in a story to love long after you finish reading the final page!
Lynne R. Dorfman is a Co-director of PAWLP and an adjunct professor at Arcadia University. She is eagerly awaiting the second edition publication this spring of her first book, Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing Through Children’s Literature, co-authored with PAWLP fellow Rose Cappelli. Currently, she is writing Welcome to Writing Workshop with Stacey Shubitz. Lynne enjoys her role as President of Eta chapter of ADK and working with women educators who tirelessly raise monies for charities
Searching for a Multi-Purpose Mentor Text
by Linda Walker
During the summer I co-teach a specialty course for young writers. I am always searching for texts I can use to show writing craft. Katie Wood Ray’s Wondrous Words gives two tenets about craft; story structure and ways with words. So I keep that forefront when I visit a book store or a library; discover an interesting book which will appeal to young readers showing an author’s craft structure and word use. But I also want a book urging readers to move beyond the story in search of answers to questions about the places, events and people within the pages of the book. Could the characters be based on real life people? Could I visit the places cited in the book online or in person? Did the events and daily living of the time period really happen? I want to show young writers how an author can weave snippets of fact into a satisfying fiction tale. In short I want to multi-purpose the book. I found this unique package in The Cheshire Cheese Cat :A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright.
So begins the tale of Skilley. HE WAS THE BEST OF TOMS. He was the worst of toms. Tired of London’s seedy back alleys and fighting off Pinch, an evil tomcat, Skilley prowls the streets for a safe place to call home. As luck would have it, the innkeeper of the renown Cheshire Cheese tavern is looking for an expert mouser to eradicate cheese stealing rodents overrunning his establishment. Now mice are not Skilley’s preferred delicacy but he’ll do anything to secure a place at The Cheshire. And so he forms an unheard of alliance with Pip, a resident mouse at the esteemed inn which attracts the famous writer and word lover, Charles Dickens (an onlooker and commentator throughout the story). There is much intrigue between Skilley and Pip as they try to hide private secrets and fears from one another and attempt to return Maldwyn, one of Queen Victoria’s prized ravens, to The Tower. Read more