All posts for the month May, 2014

There was a Tree, by Rachel Isadora

Published May 17, 2014 by Dagmar

there was a treeI love to sing with my students.  We have a whole list of favorite “song books”.  This is a new one that we’ve added to our list.  I tried it with my transitional kindergarten to first grade classes.  They all loved it.

This book takes you through the song, “There was a Tree” with really great illustrations with an African theme.  The colors are vibrant and the art is reminiscent of Eric Carle, a combination of painted brush strokes and collage.

The song goes, “There was a tree, the prettiest tree that you ever did see…Oh the tree in the hole and the hole in the ground. And the green grass grew all around, all around, the green grass grew all around.”  The list of things grows and grows from the tree, to its branch, to a nest, and on and on.  It’s fun watching the kids try to remember the whole list!

This book worked particularly well as an end of year book when students are getting tired of school and ready for summer.  Have fun with it!


The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, by Jon Scieszka

Published May 13, 2014 by Dagmar

TheTrueStoryThe author of The Frog Prince continued is back with another fractured fairy tale, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by A. Wolf (as told to) Jon Scieszka.

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! is the story of the Three Little Pigs told from the wolf’s point of view.  As you can imagine, he has quite a different story to tell.

According to the wolf, on that fateful day when some pigs lost their homes, he was just baking a cake for his granny and needed a cup of sugar.  Sadly, he also had a sneezing cold.  He walked down the street to ask his neighbor, who lived in a straw house, for a cup of sugar.  As anyone with a cold might, the wolf sneezed.  Unfortunately, his sneeze knocked the house down and killed the pig within.  The same thing happened at the next neighbor’s house, which was made of sticks.  No one could blame a wolf for not letting a good ham go to waste, right?  So, the wolf ate both pigs.  When the wolf went to the last neighbor’s house, he found it was made of brick.  Not only did that pig not give him any sugar, the pig actually said, “…And your old granny can sit on a pin!”  Quite understandably, the wolf huffed and puffed…until the police arrived and arrested him.

Here’s a very funny spin on a well-known fairy tale that my students really enjoyed.

The Painter and the Wild Swans, by Claude Clement

Published May 12, 2014 by Dagmar

wildswansI was drawn to this book because of the illustrations by Frederic Clement.  They are beautiful.  I was delighted that the story is beautiful as well.

Teiji is a famous painter whose paintings are sought after by people far and wide.  One day, while he is painting, he sees a beautiful flock of birds fly by.  The birds are the most beautiful that he has ever seen.  So beautiful, in fact, that he cannot paint anymore.  He goes off in search of the birds.  He walks and walks until he finds an old man.  The old man tells him that the birds are wild swans who come from Siberia and spend the winter on an island in the middle of the lake.  The old man warns Teiji that it is dangerous to cross the lake in the winter, because of the ice.  Teiji says that he can’t paint unless he sees that real beauty again.  He feels such a strong need to see the birds that he sells everything he has, with the exception of his brushes and paints, and gives it to the old man for his boat.  Teiji takes the boat across the lake.  When the ice breaks the hull and the boat capsizes, Teiji is plunged into the icy water.  Freezing, but determined to see the beautiful birds again, he drags himself to the island.  There he sees the wild swans.  He realizes that true beauty is impossible to capture in a painting and is grateful that he has had the chance to see the birds before he dies.

My students were very quiet while I read this book.  I think they were taken in by the fact that Teiji would give away everything he had just to see the birds again.  Although adults reading the book understand that Teiji has died at the end of the book, not all students do. We often spend time discussing the ending as so few books end this way.  This is a thoughtful, beautiful book.

Interestingly, Claude Clement and Frederic Clement are not related.  Please note that both their last names should appear with l’accent aigu over the first “e”.

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McCann

Published May 10, 2014 by Dagmar

theunwantedsMy students really loved The Unwanteds.  In fact, 28 students of mine from 3rd-5th grade read this and two other books for the 2014 California Young Readers’ Medal, a Medal awarded to the book that receives the most votes in a category from students throughout the state.  The Unwanteds was the winner at our school and in the state.

When children in Quill turn 13, they wait to hear their judgement.  Will they be Wanted, Necessary or Unwanted?  Wanteds are the strongest in society and train to defend Quill from those outside.  Necessarys provide the services needed by Wanteds.  And the Unwanteds?  Each year, the Unwanteds of Quill disappeear forever.

Expecting to be put to death, the Unwanteds actually enter a magical world very different from the decrepit and bleak world of Quill.  Artime is a beautiful world full of color, where creativity is revered.  Magical spells and creatures keep Artime safe from those in Quill who would destroy it, but those magic spells are wearing thin.  Now, the residents of Artime must learn to use their talents to prepare for battle to save their world.

Will Artime survive?  Read and find out.  This series has captivated my students who are now reading the other two books in the series.  I couldn’t put the book down myself.


The Black Rabbit, by Philippa Leathers

Published May 8, 2014 by Dagmar

BlackRabbitHere’s a really fun read aloud.  I read this to students from our transitional kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade.  All of them LOVED this book.

Black Rabbit comes out of his burrow into the bright sunlight.  He sees a big black rabbit behind him and is very scared.  He runs from Black Rabbit, but Black Rabbit runs after him.  Rabbit hides behind a tree but when he comes out from behind the tree there is big Black Rabbit.  All my students yelled out, “It’s his shadow!”, but this book has a couple of great twists that kept them totally interested until the end.

My students all immediately said, “Read it again!”  Don’t miss this great book.  A Junior Library Guild selection.

Tippy-Toe Chick, Go!, by George Shannon

Published May 4, 2014 by Dagmar

This is one of my favorite books to read to my Pre-k – Kindergarten students.  People constantly underestimate young children’s abilities, and in this case?  Big chickens underestimate chicks, until they fiTippyToend out just how smart a little chick can be.

Every morning, Hen takes her three chicks, Big Chick, Middle Chick and Little Chick to go eat sweet itty-bitty beans and potato bugs.  Until one day, when a dog, tied up near the garden, barks at them as they head to the garden.  Hen decides they better go back home and eat chicken feed, but the chicks don’t want chicken feed. Big Chick tries to reason with the big dog.  The dog barks, and Big Chick runs under his mother’s wing.  The same happens with Middle Chick.  Then, Little Chick, the hero of our story, realizes that if he makes the dog run around the tree, the dog will tie himself up.  So, Little Chick runs, tippy-toe, tippy-toe, around the tree with the big dog chasing him until the dog ties himself up.  Little Chick leads his family past the dog to the garden for sweet itty-bitty beans and potato bugs.

A great, fun  read for all your small, clever chicks.


Getting Ready: Summer Reading List 2014

Published May 2, 2014 by Dagmar

I’ve been asking my students which books are “must reads” for my summer reading list this year.  This is what my 3rd-7th grade students have been saying, plus some books I added to my list myself:

Middle School students have recommended:if I stay

  • Cherub, by Robert Muchamore (series)
  • Timeless, by Alexandra Monir
  • If I Stay, by Gayle Forman (series)
  • Anything!! by Sonya Sones (they added the !!)
  • The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

My 3-5th grade students recommended:the unwanteds

  • A Nest for Celeste, by Henry Cole
  • The Unwanteds, by Lisa McCann (series)
  • Peter and the Star Catchers, by Dave Barry (series)
  • Lauren Myracle’s Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Thirteen+One (series)

Here are some books I hope to be able to recommend to students next school year:same sun here

  • Caminar, by Skila Brown (middle school)
  • Same Sun Here, by Silas House and Neela Vaswani (5th-7th grade)
  • The Boundless, by Kenneth Oppel (3rd-5th grade)
  • Dark Lord, by Jamie Lawrence (5th-8th grade) (series)