I 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.
Have you ever been 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.
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-American 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.
It’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!
Have 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.
I’m a rule follower, excellent at following directions and getting things done on time, but I’ve always admired people that take a different path – who have minds so creative, ingenious and unafraid that they feel comfortable completely departing from the norm to create something new. I think the best projects take a combination of rule followers and dreamers to be successful.
In Going Places, Rafael is just like me. He is so excited when his class receives go-cart kits. All the students are to build the kit and then have a race. Rafael goes home and builds the kit, following the directions to the letter. His go-cart looks exactly like the picture. He decides to check on his friend and next door neighbor, Maya to see how she is progressing. He sees her sitting in her yard staring at a bird on a tree and then at a bird flying. When she builds her go cart, it doesn’t look at all like the picture on the kit. It looks more like an awkward flying machine. When Rafael asks Maya why she didn’t building a go-cart, she says that no one said she had to build a go-cart. Rafael sees where Maya is going with her project and asks if they can team up. Nothing in the rules says that they can’t team up.
The result? A plane! As they roll up to the start line, other kids laugh. It’s clear that everyone else in the class has followed the directions exactly, just as Rafael had. When the race starts, the go-carts take off. The plane doesn’t move; but, then it does move…past all those go-carts. Rafael and Maya fly to the finish line well ahead of their competitors. As they roll to a stop, Maya sees a frog jumping off a rock in the lake. She turns to Rafael and smiles. He smiles back. Guess what they build next? 🙂
This is a wonderful book that makes you cheer for all your dreamers and the rule followers can spot a great idea and help bring it to reality.
In celebration of Earth Day on April 22nd, I highly recommend Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa. I shared this book with my students from first grade to fourth grade. We started our discussion with things we could do to protect the earth. We talked a lot about litter clean up and the 4 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot). This book gave me the opportunity to introduce the importance of trees.
Each page in Wangari’s Trees of Peace has just a sentence or two accompanied by a colorful, simple picture. The book’s simple format makes it accessible to students of all ages and leaves time for questions. The story shows students how deforestation hurt Wangari’s country of Kenya and the value of trees. Trees not only provide oxygen for us to breathe, but also provide fertile soil, protected from erosion, firewood, and habitat for birds.
My favorite part of the book is the way it shows my students that one person can take action and make change. Wangari’s determination, even going to jail to protect the trees, made a big impression on my students. At the end of each class, students clapped for Wangari’s Trees of Peace.
Wangari Maathai was born in 1940 in Kenya. After seeing the cost of deforestation in Kenya, she enlisted women to plant indigenous trees. Her Green Belt Movement resulted in the planting of over 30 million trees by 2004. Maathai won the Nobel Peace Price in 2004.
Happy Earth Day, everyone. I hope we can all make an impression on children that the Earth needs our protection not only on Earth Day but everyday.
I love looking for new books to share with my students during African-American history month. This year, I found quite a few that I really enjoyed for all ages. This book really resonated with my fourth and fifth graders.
The Case for Loving is the story of the marriage of Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, an African-American woman. The Lovings lived in Central Point, Virginia. In 1959, interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia and 16 other states; so, the Lovings went to Washington, D.C. to get married. Upon return to their home in Virginia, the Lovings were arrested for illegal cohabitation and sent to jail. (I heard gasps from my students. It does make you gasp, doesn’t it?) They were told to move out of Virginia if they wanted to live together. The Lovings moved to Washington, D.C. and had three children; but, they were not happy with their new urban life. The Lovings wanted to return to Virginia where they could live in the countryside. “By now it was 1966, and the times they were a changin’.” The Lovings moved back to Central Point and filed a lawsuit, Loving v. Virginia. The Loving case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Richard and Mildred did not attend the Supreme Court hearings. Their lawyers read Richard’s words to the justices, “Tell the Court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.” These words were so plain and so honest, they resonated with all my students.
The Lovings were victorious in their battle and nine years after marrying, they were able to legally move back to Virginia to live.
When I finished reading this book, my students all asked if this book was true. I found the author’s note at the end of the book particularly poignant. Selina Alko, a white, Jewish woman, married Sean Qualls, an African-American man and one of the illustrators of this book, in 2003, having benefitted from the Lovings fight for justice so long ago.
I love it when I find a great book for my preschool and TK students. How to Hide a Lion is a sweet book with endearing illustrations.
Lion comes to town looking for a hat. Everyone is scared of him, so he runs away. He ends up in the backyard of a strong and very brave girl named Iris. Iris finds Lion in her playhouse. Lion is much too big to hide in her playhouse. So, Iris takes him inside her house. First, she grooms him and puts a bandage on his hurt paw. Then, she tries to hide him. Iris succeeds for a while, but while reading a story to Lion, he falls fast asleep. It happens that lions are very hard to wake up. Lions that are hard to wake up are unable to hide quickly. Needless to say, disaster strikes. Iris’ mom discovers Lion, screams, and Lion is on the run again. He decides to hide in plain site, sitting still, between two statues next to the Town Hall. Unfortunately for two crooks, and fortunately for Iris’ town, Lion’s hiding place is the perfect place to catch crooks leaving the Town Hall with the mayor’s candlesticks. The towns people, no longer scared of Lion, honor him and present him with a …hat. Of course.
I was charmed by this book as were my students. Please enjoy.
There have been a few books in my library that have made students laugh and roll on the floor. Not polite little “I’m using my library voice” laughing and rolling on the floor…happy, loud laughing and rolling on the floor. And, really, why not? If you can make your usually quiet librarian say things like, “My best friend is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt,” just by asking her to read this book, wouldn’t you do the same? Not since their favorite “Pigeon” books, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems have my students found a book that is SO funny. I wasn’t planning to read this book a second week in a row, but my students insisted. 🙂
Why is this book such a success? Like Mo Willems Pigeon books, this book puts kids in control. They get to tell you what to do, and they really love it.
I loved reading this book and seeing my students have a great time.