Marilyn’s Monster, by Michelle Knudsen

Published November 29, 2015 by Dagmar

Marilyn's MonsterI wrote about a wonderful book called Going Places a few weeks. ago.  It’s about a young girl who takes a go cart kit and builds something completely different.  I love creative thinkers, kids and characters who have the courage to follow their hearts, even if it means doing something completely different from what others are doing.

In this same spirit, I would like to introduce you to Marilyn, a young girl who is waiting and waiting for her monster to arrive.  All the other children have already met their monsters…at the library, or the playground, on the way home from school or while riding their bikes. Monsters are fun.  They become playmates and protectors. Monsters are great.  Marilyn starts to become upset, even a little angry that her monster hasn’t arrived.

Finally, Marilyn decides to break the rules.  Instead of continuing to wait for her monster, as she is told she must, Marilyn strikes out to find her monster. Like any worthy adventurer, she brings peanut butter and banana sandwiches and juice.  Marilyn looks everywhere.  She calls out to her monster.  Finally, she hears a faint sound.  It’s her monster.  He got lost and then stuck on his way to her.  He was waiting for her to find him.

Michelle Knudsen’s story makes you cheer for Marilyn and Matt Phelan’s illustrations will make you want a monster of your very own.

This is a wonderful story, perfect for younger students.  My students loved it.

Humphrey the Lost Whale, by Wendy Tokuda

Published November 3, 2015 by Dagmar

humphrey whaleI love to take my first graders on journeys around the world on library planes, boats and rocket ships.

Each year, I teach them about whales, and we read the fabulous book, The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson. I promised them last week that we would get on our boat again and visit Humphrey, the humpback whale.

This is the true story of Humphrey the Lost Whale, a humpback whale that swam under the Golden Gate Bridge one day in 1985, right into San Francisco Bay. As wonderful a sight as it was, having a humpback whale as big as a city bus right there in the Bay, there was trouble ahead. Instead of swimming back to the ocean, Humphrey went the wrong way, through the Delta and up the Sacramento River.  The Sacramento River is fresh water. Whales need salt water to live.  Even more troubling, Humphrey squeezed himself under a very small bridge to a place in the river where the water was shallow and narrow.

Everyone banded together, scientists, the Coast guard and citizens. They made loud noises underwater to scare Humphrey back down the river to the Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Humphrey, tired, lonely and hungry headed back down the river, only to stop in front of the small bridge.  He couldn’t get through it. So, once again, his rescuers worked to help him, digging a bigger space for him under the bridge. Humphrey saw the hole and started to swim through, only to get suck in the pilings under the bridge. With a twist of his body, he got through the bridge and moved back toward San Francisco Bay and finally the ocean.

Humphrey came back to the San Francisco Bay several times after his dramatic rescue, one time requiring another rescue. This book combines just the right amount of suspense for young students. My students were waiting with baited breath to see if Humphrey could be saved and all cheered when he made it to the ocean again.

 

Ninja Red Riding Hood, by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Published September 20, 2015 by Dagmar

Ninja Red Riding HoodI love fractured fairy tales. This one is one of my favorites. In Ninja Red Riding Hood, Corey Rosen Schwartz’s wolf is tired of struggling for his dinner. He’s decided that enough is enough. Time to go to the dojo for some martial arts lessons. He trains and he trains until one day, in the woods, he runs into Little Red Riding Hood. Perfect. Did someone say, dinner?

Wolf takes a short cut to Grandma’s house.  Grandma is not there, so Wolf slips into her nightgown and into her bed just in time to greet Red Riding Hood. Red Riding Hood, or Red for short, is suspicious. Why are Grandma’s eyes so big, ears so long, biceps to big, and teeth so sharp? Wolf leaps out of bed but is shocked to learn that Red went to Ninja school, too. Yikes. Evenly matched, wolf is still hopeful that he’ll have his dinner when in comes Grandma. She has been to Ninja school, too; and, Grandma looks fierce in her gi. In the blink of an eye, Red gets a grip on Wolf and flips him.

Wolf tries to give up and leave, but Grandma drives a hard bargain. If he wants to leave, he has to give up Red meat. (get it?) Wolf is stressed by this whole situation. He swears to give up red meat and decides to take up yoga. 🙂

Schwartz’s rhyming is great. Dan Santat’s illustrations are colorful and bold. The characters expressions are priceless. What a fun book. Lots of cheers from my second graders when I read this to them!

The Secret Shortcut, by Mark Teague

Published September 20, 2015 by Dagmar

Have you ever beSecretShortcuten late for school or work and no one believed your excuse? Wendell and Floyd have the worst luck.  The first day they go to school, they are nearly captured by space creatures.  Their teacher doesn’t believe them.  The second day, pirates are loose in the neighborhood.  The teacher does not believe them again.  On the third day, there is a plague of frogs.

Determined to finally get to school on time, they leave extra early one day and take Wendell’s secret shortcut.  This shortcut goes through a thick jungle, quick sand, sleeping crocodiles, a deep gorge and finally a big mud puddle.  It’s amazing, but they actually get to school on time, if a little muddy.  Their teacher, happy that they’re finally at school on time, decides that maybe she doesn’t really want to know why the boys are all muddy.

This is a fun read aloud that my second graders really loved.  It was a CA Young Readers’ Medal nominee in 2000.

Love Twelve Miles Long, by Glenda Armand

Published September 20, 2015 by Dagmar

This book is so touching, that honestly, it’s hard not to well up as I read it.  I shared this book with my third graders for African-AmLove Twelve Miles Longerican History Month in February.

Love Twelve Miles Long is the story of young Frederick Douglass, whose mother travels 12 miles each weekend to see him. She works in the corn fields. Frederick works in the Big House. The story begins as she is about to leave to return to her work. She is tucking him in to sleep. Frederick asks her about her long walk back to her home. She tells him that each mile has a special meaning and helps make the journey shorter. The first mile is for forgetting, the second for remembering, the third for listening, the fourth for looking up, the fifth for wondering, the sixth is for praying, the seventh is for singing, the eighth is for smiling, the ninth is for giving thanks, the tenth is for hoping, the eleventh is for dreaming and the twelve is for love. Each mile is another expression of love for her son and hope that they will be able to live together as a family when they are free.

Colin Bootman’s illustrations are beautiful and bring Armand’s text to life. My students study Frederick Douglass’ life and know that he learned to read, became a free man and a great leader. Now they have the opportunity to imagine his life as a child.

Blackout, by John Rocco

Published September 20, 2015 by Dagmar

blackoutIt’s summer.  It’s hot.  Everyone is busy – too busy to play a game with a little boy.  Mom is working.  Dad is cooking.  Older sister is on the phone.  So, the boy ends up playing video games by himself.  Until…the lights go out.

Huddled together with flashlights and candles, the family plays games.  When the apartment gets too hot, the family goes up to the roof and looks at the stars.  The whole neighborhood ends up on the rooftops – and down in the streets.  It may be a blackout, but it’s a party, too.  When the lights come back on, the family turns the lights right back off. 🙂

This book makes you feel good.  It has great colorful, playful illustrations and was a real hit with my students.  Enjoy!

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming

Published September 19, 2015 by Dagmar

MunchaHave you ever really wanted to do something and then had the chance to do it?  Well, Mr. McGreely had just such a moment.  He’d wanted a garden so that he could plant vegetables and then gobble them all up.  Unfortunately for Mr. McGreely, there are very cute little bunnies who want nothing more than to gobble all those vegetables, too. (Muncha, Muncha, Muncha).  Mr. McGreely does NOT want bunnies eating his vegetables.  So, he builds a small fence around his garden.  “And the sun went down. And the moon came up. And- Tippy-tippy-tippy, Pat! Spring-hurdle, Dash! Dash! Dash! Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!”  Those bunnies ate those vegetables again.  Each day Mr. McGreely improves the fortifications around his garden.  And each day, “…the sun went down. And the moon came up,” and those bunnies got into the garden.  Finally, Mr. McGreely builds a wall that no bunny, no matter how clever, could ever defeat.  Mr. McGreely is happy.  Little does he know that those little bunnies crawled into his basket when he wasn’t looking!  When it’s time for Mr. McGreely to pick his vegetables, he picks up the basket and climbs a big ladder to get to his garden.  He picks his vegetables and places them in his basket.  As he reaches into the basket, “Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!” Oh no!

Thanks to a friend and volunteer at my school who recommended this book to me as a great read aloud for spring.  She was right!  My students loved it.