Chris Van Allsburg is a great picture book author that my students love. His books, usually drawn in black and white, which include: Widow’s Broom, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi and The Z was Zapped are always favorites. A Bad Day at Riverbend is not immediately identifiable as a Chris Van Allsburg, because it’s full of color. The way it introduces color makes my students, even the most obedient ones, cry out in dismay.
The town of Riverbend is in trouble. Riverbend looks like a coloring book. Everything is white, outlined in black. Now, something very strange and scary is happening in Riverbend. Lines of color, like scribbles, are covering things. Stagecoaches rarely come to town, but now a stagecoach has stopped in town… without a driver. It is covered in a slimy, colored substance. No one knows what it could be. The town’s residents are scared. What Luckily, Sheriff Ned Hardy is on the trail.
Read this wonderful book to find out what is threatening the town of Riverbend. My students loved the ending!
For those of us who see ourselves as inventors, scientists, or just creative types, we know the frustration of trying to recreate the vision in our heads. So it goes for a “regular girl and her best friend in the whole wide world.”
The girl sets out to build the “most magnificent thing”, “easy-peasy”. She gathers materials, hires an assistant (her dog) and starts to build. When she is finished, she is “shocked to discover that the thing isn’t magnificent.” Determined to get it right, she tinkers, adjusts, examines and builds many things. None of them fit the image in her head; and, needless to say, none of them are magnificent. Finally, she gets MAD. Completely losing her patience with the creative process, she starts smashing, jamming and pummeling her creation and in the process smashes her finger. “It is not her finest moment.” Her assistant, the essence of calm, holding his leash in his mouth, suggests a walk to clear her head. She has a hard time calming down, but after a while, “the mad gets pushed out of her head.” She starts to see some good elements in each of her earlier designs and sets out to try again. Finally, she finishes her creation. It isn’t exactly what she imagined, but turns out to be a most magnificent thing.
I think everyone that reads this book will totally relate to this girl’s emotions as she creates her magnificent thing. Ashley Spires is not only a gifted author, but also a very gifted illustrator. I loved absolutely loved this book, and so did my students.
This is a very peaceful book about the changing seasons and the coming of winter. Beautiful illustrations by Jill Kastner are a great accompaniment to Cynthia Rylant’s words.
“In November, the earth is growing quiet. It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures.” “In November, some birds move away and some birds stay.” “In November, the smell of food is different. It is an orange smell. A squash and a pumpkin smell.”
The story talks about the animals, birds, trees and finally ends with a family joining in a special meal, presumably Thanksgiving. This is a wonderful book to share with your younger students as Thanksgiving approaches.
Here’s a fun read for your younger Halloween fans. This book is a perennial favorite at my school. I usually read it with kindergarten, pre-k and 1st grade students around Halloween and love to have them join in with me as I read.
There once was a little old lady who wasn’t afraid of anything. As she walks in the woods, she is followed, first by shoes that go CLOMP, CLOMP. Then, she is followed by pants that go WIGGLE WIGGLE, a shirt that goes SHAKE SHAKE. Each time, she turns and says “Get out of my way, I’m not afraid of you!”. When she gets home, who should knock on the door, but the shoes, pants, shirt and a pumpkin head all trying to scare her. When she says she’s not afraid, the pumpkin head looks so sad that she comes up with a great way for him to scare someone. Read the book to find out how!
Here is a great, simple book about fall for young students. I like to read this with my pre-k and K students. The book begins with leaves in summer and then moves to how we know fall is here…leaves changing color and falling from trees. The simple illustrations show children catching falling leaves, collecting different leaves and comparing them, raking leaves and finally jumping in leaves! The children then drink warm cider and make pictures using the leaves they’ve collected.
Grouch, Grump and little Gloom ‘n’ Doom are monsters. They each think they are biggest, baddest monster. They spend their time arguing and trying to best each other. Then, they decide to settle their argument with tape, gunk, glue and a lightning bolt. The monster they create will be truly horrible and will scare everyone in the monster-fearing village just down the hill from their castle.
What a surprise when their terrible, giant monster doesn’t realize that he’s a monster. His first words are “Dank you!” He then proceeds to greet all the bats, snakes and other creatures in the room – much to Grouch, Grump and little Gloom ‘n’ Doom’s chagrin.
They are hopeful when their monster goes down the hill to town, sure that he’ll wreak havoc there. They are disappointed again as their monster goes inside the bakery and then leaves it with a “Dank you!” and a white paper bag. The monster goes to the beach and sits. The three little monsters sit next to him. When their monster hands them each a powdery jelly donut, they do something they don’t do often. They say, “Thank you.”
This is a funny, sweet book that my students loved. Enjoy.
I 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”.
For those of you who know Mo Willem’s very naughty pigeon, it won’t surprise you that now he wants to stay up late. In fact, he’ll say anything to be able to stay up late. It’s up to you (and your students) to say “NO!”.
The book begins with a man who asks you to please do him a favor while he brushes his teeth. “Please do NOT let the pigeon stay up late.” Pigeon has other ideas. This is your chance to live your dream of becoming a (very) naughty pigeon. Kids love the role reversal of getting to tell you “No!” as you (the pigeon) give all the excuses they themselves would give to try to get you to let them stay up late.
This one had my students laughing out loud. They loved it. I hope you do too!
The Chinese Emperor is looking for someone to succeed him as Emperor. The Emperor launches a competition. He provides all the children with seeds to grow. The child who grows the most beautiful flowers from the seeds will become the new ruler of the empire.
Ping is a child who not only loves flowers but is able to grow beautiful flowers. When he receives his seed, he plants it and cares for it every day. Unfortunately, nothing grows. Ping replants the seed in a new pot. He changes the soil that the seed is planted in, and still nothing grows. The children around him are all able to grow beautiful flowers. When it is time for the children to present their flowers to the Emperor, they laugh at Ping and tell him that he can’t present an empty pot to the Emperor. Ping’s father overhears the other children and tells Ping that it’s fine to present his best efforts to the Emperor.
On the day that the children present their pots, Ping approaches the Emperor with his empty pot. The Emperor, much to everyone’s surprise, smiles. Ping was the only child unable to grow the seed he was given by the Emperor. Since the Emperor had boiled the seeds before he gave them to the children, not one of the seeds should have grown. Ping was the only child who was honest about trying to grow only the seed he was given by the Emperor. Because of his honesty, the Emperor crowns Ping the new Emperor.
My students loved this ending and couldn’t stop talking about how the other children were deceitful and how Ping’s honesty was rewarded.
Goyangi Means Cat is about a young Korean girl, Soo Min, who is adopted by an American family and brought to the United States. Soo Min knows no English. Her new family knows only a few words of Korean. Slowly, she teaches her new parents a few Korean words, including “no”, “hurt” and most importantly the world for “cat”, goyangi. Soo Min is struggling to adjust to her new life with her new family in America. She finds comfort petting their cat. When Goyangi escapes the apartment one day, Soo Min and her new mom look for the cat everywhere. Goyangi finally returns, and Soo Min, as she hugs Goyangi, says her first English word, “home”.
The author did a wonderful job helping my students understand how hard it was for Soo Min to adjust to her new home and family in the United States and how having a pet like Goyangi was a great comfort to her. We all felt Goyangi’s loss when he escaped and all were so relieved when he returned.