Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Charlotte's Web

Student teaching is officially over and I didn't even cry until I got home and read the card all my students signed! I finished my portfolio presentation on Tuesday and everything for my Master's is done now!! Now it's so crazy to have absolutely nothing to do until Graduation! Andy's in Maine for his mom's graduation on Saturday, so it's just me and Loki until he comes back for mine on Sunday!!! Yay!

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Illustrated by Garth Williams

The #1 Children's Book of all time does not disappoint. In this book, a little girl named Fern saves the life of the runt of pig litter, Wilbur. She raises the pig for a month by feeding it with a bottle and playing with him everyday. When her father wants her to sell it, Fern is devastated but realizes she can sell Wilbur to her uncle down the street and visit him whenever she wants! Which she does, everyday. However, her uncle won't let her play with Wilbur, she has to sit next to his pen and watch him.

Wilbur starts to feel lonely in his pen but soon begins to make friends with all the other animals in the barn. There is one friend in particular that Wilbur is drawn to, and that is Charlotte, a little gray spider with a web spun above Wilbur's pen. She is beautiful and very smart and they quickly become friends. Other animals in the barn scare Wilbur by telling him that the humans are going to kill him and eat him when winter comes. Charlotte devises a plan that will help save Wilbur's life. She begins to spin words in her web, beginning with "Some Pig." These magical words in Charlotte's web begin to make Wilbur famous. It is because of Charlotte that Wilbur's life is saved. Charlotte gave everything she had to help Wilbur and even in her last days, she was with Wilbur, spinning the last word she'd ever write for him.

At the very end, Charlotte spins her egg sac, saying "It's something for me, for a change" (p. 143). When Wilbur realizes that Charlotte is dying and won't be able to come home with him, he knows he has to at least take her eggs with him. As winter ends and spring comes around, the eggs begin to hatch and hundreds of spiders pour out. However, when the warm winds start blowing, one by one, they all fly away to start their own lives. All except for three, Joy, Aranea, and Nellie. Every year as Charlotte's offspring continue to lay their own eggs, Wilbur continues to have friends in the barn!

I had never read this book until today. My reading professor praised it all the time in class and Andy told me I had to read it, but I never wanted to. I'm glad I finally did though. To be honest, I didn't like it as much as everyone else seems to, but I wasn't disappointed in reading it. I know the story is about the friendship and love between Wilbur and Charlotte, but I just felt like there was a lot missing. It seemed like Fern kind of dropped out of the story and then all of a sudden she was back. I was also confused as to whether or not she could always hear Wilbur talk or if it was just in the barn? These are just trivial things, but while I was reading, they were things I was thinking about.

I thought this was a great story though about love and friendship and the dedication for friends. Charlotte gave Wilbur everything she had, up until she didn't have anything left to give. She saved Wilbur's life and was always there for support, even when she should've been in the barn preparing for her babies. I feel like Wilbur didn't know how much she really gave him until she was gone. If there is one thing that I take from this book, I think it would be about how much Wilbur loved life and wanted to be happy and also not to take the great things, friends, and family that you have for granted. Ok, so maybe that was actually two things.

When Andy and I went back to Maine last summer to visit him family, he gave me a bunch of his books as a child to bring back for my classroom book collection. Charlotte's Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, and Stuart Little were among them. I know these books were special and important to him and now I'm glad I read them. I really thought that this book was going to make me really sad because I am one of those people who cries when an animal gets hurt or dies in a movie, but not so much about the humans and I knew this was an animal book. I'm glad this book was not that way! It was sad though how scared Wilbur got that he might be killed.

In August, I read E.B. White: Beyond Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little and I learned a lot about the author of these amazing children's books.

Also, I had no idea that a movie was made in 2006 titled Charlotte's Web! You can watch the trailer for the movie below.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Review: If You Give A Mouse A Cookie

Thursday was my last day of actual teaching during my student teaching time and the last day of our kindergarten author study of Laura Numeroff! Graduation is on Mother's Day! This year has gone by so fast!

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond

In this circular story of cause and effect, a mouse is given a cookie, which leads to him wanting milk and a straw and then a napkin. Each thing he gets or does causes something else to happen until he wants to hang a drawing on the refrigerator and that reminds him of the milk and then the cookie all over again!

This book is the first in the If You Give A... series by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond. Other books in this series include If You Give A Pig A Pancake, If You Give A Cat A Cupcake, and If You Give A Moose A Muffin. These four books together comprised the author study that I did with my students this week. We were able to work on a variety of skills relating to these books. We worked on cause and effect, of course, as well as compound words. We also looked at how our selected Laura Numeroff books were the same and different. The students came up with some great ideas too! One little girl said the books were similar because all the main characters were mammals! We had just learned about mammals a few weeks before so that was so exciting to hear.

The illustrator, Felicia Bond, is the illustrator for the entire "If You Give A..." series. She's also the illustrator of many other children's books. The illustrations in this book at not full page spreads, but they are not boxed either. I think this makes the book flow more because they're not boxed onto one page. Many of the sentences stretch onto more than one page as well, so this works well.

I thought this series was a great series to use for my first kindergarten author study. We incorporated a lot of great writing and creativity into our activities. Please check out the FREE activities I created to use in this unit at my TpT store. Included in the pack I made are writing activities, sequencing pictures, compound word work, and math activities that incorporate tallying and graphing.

Many activities we did came from Mrs. Wills Kindergarten including the graphic organizer below that we created as a class!

We also made adorable cats inspired by Mrs. Saylor's Log to go with If You Give A Cat A Cupcake. The kids loved putting all the cat parts together and each one was unique!

I really enjoyed teaching this unit with my students and I hope you can find some of the activities I created useful! Three more days of student teaching! :)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: Is Everyone Ready for Fun?

Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas

This book is a lot of fun for young kids! Three cows are looking for some fun! They jump, dance, and wiggle on Chicken's couch. But each time, Chicken gets so mad at them. This book would be very interactive for children because each time the cows do something on the couch, the reader is encouraged to do it too. At the very end, the cows are so exhausted that they have to take a nap! And Chicken's ready for one too!

I would love to read this book with the kindergarteners in my student teaching classroom but I think it would be more appropriate for the beginning of the year. The text is very easy. All the words are big and thick so students can easily see them. Sight words are written in bold text in opposite colors than the background colors. I also really liked how colorful and clear the pictures are.

Jan Thomas is the author and illustrator of many other children's picturebooks as well. On her website, you can also find a bunch of activities that the author has created for using with most of her books. Another book of hers that looks really cute is Rhyming Dust Bunnies and it's sequel, Here Comes the Big Mean Dust Bunny. These books would both be great for working on rhyming words or word families with students. I'm really excited to find out about this author and look forward to using it in my future classroom!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day! and My First FREEBIE!

I hope everyone had a lovely Earth Day! I created and uploaded my first product to Teachers pay Teachers last night for Earth Day. I hope you all will check it out and use it this week with your students! :)

This Recycle It! FREEBIE activity was created to integrate Earth Day, recycling, and tallying work. Students will mark a tally for each piece of recyclable material. They will then count the tallies and make their graph. I'm going to use this activity on Thursday when we talk specifically about the last of the 3 R's... Recycling!

Today we read It's Earth Day by Mercer Mayer. I loved the Little Critter books when I was a little girl! And this book was just as cute as I remember all of the books being. In this book, Little Critter is on a mission to save the polar bears from global warming. He learns all about how he can save the planet and the polar bears. He learns that he needs to shut off lights and electronics when he's not using them. He also helps Little Sister save the Earth by turning off the water when she brushes her teeth. Little Critter recycles plastic, paper, and cans with his friends. He finally tries to create his own Climate Control Machine to cool down the planet and save the polar bears. Unfortunately, it doesn't work, but his family became the Climate Control Machines because they started taking better care of the Earth and conserving resources!

My students did a great job brainstorming and identifying things that were good and bad for the Earth! I had them create these awesome "Earth Day Promises" from Cara Carroll today too.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

This is the story of a little girl named Chrysanthemum. Her parents picked her name because it was absolutely perfect, just like their daughter. Chrysanthemum also loved her name and knew it was absolutely perfect until she started school.

Her classmates at school made fun of Chrysanthemum's name because it was too long and she was named after a flower. Chrysanthemum came home from school every day upset. Her parents tried to cheer her up and reassure her that her name was absolutely perfect, just as she was. It wasn't until the class met the music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle, that Chrysanthemum accepted her name once again. All the students adored Mrs. Twinkle. Mrs. Twinkle's first name was also long and the name of a flower. Her name was Delphinium. She told her students that if her baby ended up being a girl, she was considering naming her Chrysanthemum. All the students who had once made fun of her decided they liked her name and gave themselves flower nicknames. Chrysanthemum was so happy and knew that her name was absolutely perfect.

I think this is a great book to read with young children going to school. It would help them understand that other people get made fun of, but what is really important is how you deal with it. This book is great for children, but it's also entertaining for adults reading it. The author named the books that Chrysanthemum's father is reading "The Inner Mouse Vol. 1: Childhood Anxiety" and "A Rose By Any Other Name... Understanding Identity" which are titles that children might not understand.

There is a lot of repetition in this book which I think would help students be able to predict what was going to happen next. The students make fun of Chrysanthemum in the morning, at nap time, Victoria says something mean, and then lining up to go home, Victoria says something mean again. When she gets home, her parents reassure her, they eat, hug, and play Parcheesi.

The illustrations in this book are very colorfully made with watercolor paints and a black pen. All the
illustrations are contained in boxes on each page. Many of the pages in the front have pictures that follow a succession. When she grows up, there are various pictures from her childhood. When it talks about how much she loves her name in all the ways that she loves it, there are pictures to represent each.

The author, Kevin Henkes, has written many many other children's books. He is the author of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse and Owen, a Caldecott Honor Book. Many of his books are about little mouse characters growing up and dealing with problems that other young children may be facing.

I thought this book was really cute and I look forward to reading it to my student teaching class soon!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!

Happy 2013! 
This is a big year for me! I'm starting my full-time student teaching in less than a month, then graduation in May! This is also the year I'll start teaching in my own classroom with my own little students!! I'm so excited for what this year holds for me. :)

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! by Dr. Seuss
With some help from Jack Prelutsky & Lane Smith

The students of Dinkerville attend a school that teaches things a little differently than everywhere else. They attend the free-thinking Diffendoofer School. They have teachers who teach listening, smelling, laughing, tying knots, yelling and how to tell chrysanthemums from miniature poodles. One day during lunch Mr. Lowe, the sad school principal, announces that there will be a test that every student must pass or the school will be torn down! Mrs. Bonkers tells the students not to worry about the test because,
"We're taught you that the earth is round,
That red and white make pink,
And something else that matters more--
We've taught you how to think."
Will the students of Diffendoofer School be able to pass the test? Or will they be sent to the dreadful school in Flobbertown? Luckily the students had learned so much about how to think from their teachers that they got the highest score in the land, 10000000%!!

Dr. Seuss first created the characters and plots of this book and set it aside to work on another project, Oh, The Places You'll Go! When he died in 1991, he had not completed this book. His publisher talked to his secretary and got the manuscripts to finish the book. She got together author, Jack Prelutsky and illustrator, Lane Smith to put their charm on the book to finish it.
Many elements of Dr. Seuss's original ideas are included. Some of the words are exactly as he had written them, and many more were written by Jack Prelutsky. The illustrations are very different from a traditional Dr. Seuss book, however, Lane Smith threw in some of Dr. Seuss's illustrations. Characters from older Dr. Seuss books show up throughout the book on paper that gives you the impression they were ripped out and added to the book. Check out the picture on the left to see some of the characters and illustrations from Dr. Seuss's other books!

My Reading Methods professor read this book to us towards the end of our semester. She told us that she often reads it to 3rd graders on Read Across America Day, which is celebrated on Dr. Seuss's birthday! She said that she asks the students if they think this book should be a book, since it's based on Dr. Seuss's ideas, but it's so different from all the other Dr. Seuss books. They usually say no! I grew up reading Dr. Seuss books. We used to have soooooooo many of them at my house when I was little and I loved reading them. But I enjoyed this book. I thought it was a great tribute to Dr. Seuss and the book has a good message. As a future teacher, I think teachers get too focused on teaching for the standardized tests and don't spend as much time just teaching students how to think for themselves.

Another awesome thing that my professor pointed out is that at the end of the book, they've included a section called "How This Book Came to Be" and it tells the entire story of how it came to be a book! What is really cool about it is that it has sections of Dr. Seuss's original manuscript! You can see sketches he'd made and lines he'd written and then scratched out. There is a whole page of brainstorming on what a good name for the school and town would be. This is a great book to show students that even great authors like Dr. Seuss don't just come up with great ideas right away. They have to work at it just like the students do!

This is a great teaching guide for the book from It has a lot of fun activities for students and teachers.

Also, I think the following video is relevant to the message in this book. So check it out! :)

"Give the world a reason to dance."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Review: A Pirate's Night Before Christmas

Day 6!

A Pirate's Night Before Christmas by Philip Yates
Illustrated by Sebastia Serra

"'Twas the night before Christmas aboard the Black Stark. 
Not a creature was stirrin', not even a shark!"

This book is a lot of fun to read! It's basically The Night Before Christmas but written in pirate speak and it takes place on a ship. The book still has the awesome rhyme that goes through everything. Pirate slang is used throughout the book which makes it fun.

Instead of Santa Claus, this book has Sir Peg and the eight reindeer are eight seahorses named Salty, Scurvy, Sinbad, Mollie, Cutthroat, Cross-Eyes, Roger, and Jolly!

I think this take on the classic story would be entertaining to children. Especially children who like pirates! Andy is a sailor and I knew he would love this book! He and his brother love pirate talk too, so that makes it even better. Philip Yates and Sebastia Serra released another pirate Christmas tale in October. This book is titled A Pirate's Twelve Days of Christmas. I assume it's very similar in concept to this book. From the front cover you can see that the illustrations are very similar.

The illustrations in this book are fun and colorful. Every page is a full bleed two page spread. Since it's a Christmas book, red and green are pretty big colors throughout, but since it's also on the ocean, blue's an important color too! This story is very cheerful and the reader can see this through the illustrations. All the characters are smiling and happy in the pictures. According to the book, the illustrations were created with pencil and ink on parchment and then digitally colored. I think that really helps to keep the colors bright and lively.

At Cynsations, you can read an interview with Philip Yates, the author, about A Pirate's Night Before Christmas. I believe that this is Sebastia Serra's illustrator blog, however, the whole thing is written in Spanish since he lives in Barcelona, Spain and I can't read any of it! The blog is mostly pictures though.

At the end of the book, there's a "Pirate Glossary" which defines many of the pirate words in the book. Including the glossary keeps the book light and funny and it is a great way for readers to fully understand the story. The author adds his sense of humor to this part of the book as well. As all Night Before Christmas stories end, so does this one...

"Merry Christmas, me buckos, an' a Happy New Yaargghhhhhhh!"

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review: Ten Christmas Wishes

Day 5!

Ten Christmas Wishes by Claire Freedman
Illustrated by Gail Yerrill

This is a really sweet Christmas story where all the little animals each wish up a star. Each page has a star and a rhyming story to go with it. On each new page, a new star appears for a new animal to wish upon. The animals wish for snow, family, warmth, presents, pie, and lots more in this book! The last star is saved for the reader to close their eyes and make their wish.

I thought this book was really cute and I love that it rhymed because I feel like that just made it sound nicer. Each animal had their own star to wish upon, except Little Bear seemed to have two stars. I'm not sure why though! Also, I know that Christmas for some people is all about presents, but I felt like Little Bear wishing for lots of presents could have been changed to something less materialistic. I still think the book was really cute, and that was actually the only animal that wishes for presents.

Claire Freedman and Gail Yerrill have written and illustrated two other Christmas stories. These two stories include The Christmas Angels and A Magical Christmas. Just from the front covers, you can see that the illustrative styles are very similar to Ten Christmas Wishes. If these books are anything like this one, they should be very cheery and just a feel-good Christmas story. However, while I was reading reviews, I saw that The Christmas Angels did not get the best review on Amazon, so I would definitely like to check that one out at some point.

The illustrations in this book are very warm and colorful, despite the book being about making wishes on stars at night and from the first impression of the book from the front cover. Every page is a full bleed two page spread. I think it's great how in every picture, there is a window or door and the little animal is looking outside, but the house is colorful to represent the happiness and love that is inside with the family. I think that's a great way to depict it. I also like that in each picture a new star is added. Children could easily follow along with this book and practice counting the stars as they got to each page.

Claire Freedman is also the author of the popular children's book series, Aliens Love Underpants illustrated by Ben Cort. This series includes:
Aliens Love Underpants
Aliens in Underpants Save the World
Dinosaurs in Underpants
Pirates in Underpants
Aliens Love Panta Claus
This sounds like an interesting series of books. I might have to check out a couple of these and see what all the hub-bub is about. Also they seem to have a Christmas book as well! How did I miss that one for my special Christmas edition of my blog?!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review: Gingerbread Mouse

Day 4!

Gingerbread Mouse by Katy Bratun

When Mouse's house is destroyed by a falling tree, she has to find a new place to live! She travels that night to find a new home. Mouse finds a house off in the distance and heads to it to see if she can move in. Inside the house, there's a little house, just her size! She moved into her new gingerbread house and makes all her furniture out of boxes and cardboard.

That night, Santa arrives! He drops gifts off for the two kids at the house and sits down to eat his cookies with Mouse. He tells her that her house is lovely, but she really needs a more permanent house. Santa leaves a gift for Mouse and scurries up the chimney. Mouse opens her box and finds a beautiful doll house that she can call home. At the very end, Mouse finds a little red gift outside her door from one of the humans in the house with a note saying, "Merry Christmas Gingerbread Mouse."

I thought this book was really cute! It starts our sad when Mouse's house is crushed by a tree! I am a little confused about how Mouse heard the crack of the branch while she was asleep and she got outside fast enough that she didn't get crushed by it. It seems a little unrealistic, but so is a mouse that talks, so I guess that's okay.

This book was written and illustrated by Katy Bratun. The illustrations are very pretty, full of color and on two page full bleed spreads. The illustrations are often done in dark, warm, homey colors that make the story feel happy and lets you know that even though Mouse had a rough start, she's going to be okay! Katy Bratun has worked as an author and illustrator on many other books. Many of her illustrations in other books are quite similar to Gingerbread Mouse illustrations.

On the last page of the book, the author has included the recipe for Gingerbread Mouse's Cookie Recipe. I'm not a big fan of gingerbread cookies, but it might be a cute thing to make after reading this book!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: Pete the Cat Saves Christmas

Day 3!

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin
Illustrated by James Dean

In the most recent book from the Pete the Cat saga, Pete has to save Christmas because Santa is sick!! He thinks about how small he is but how at Christmas we have to give it our all. He hops in his minibus to head to the North Pole. The elves load up his minibus and hook up the reindeer. They're off! Pete delivers all the presents and saves Christmas for Santa!

Throughout the story Pete sings his song "Give it your all, give it your all. At Christmas we give, so give it your all" and that's what he did! He gave his all even when he was small. I thought this was a great message about Christmas and doing your best even when you don't think you can do it. No matter how much you can give, give it your all!

When you read this book with your class, make sure you download the Free Song! You can find it here: Pete the Cat Saves Christmas. The author, Eric Litwin reads the story and sings Pete's song with the help of some children. I let my sister and Andy experience Pete the Cat the right way with the music when I read it to them the other day! All his other books also come with a free downloadable song for you to play when you read the book. He has also written Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, and Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes.

Andy got me the whole set of Pete the Cat books for Christmas! He's the best ever! I decided to share this book today because I had to take him to the airport so he can go home to Maine for Christmas. Pretty lame if you ask me.