Spooky – But Not Too Scary- Books to Read Aloud

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October is the month when thoughts turn to pumpkins, ghosts, witches, and spiders.  Oftentimes our younger students want to be swept up in the thrill of a spine-tingling story, but they don’t want it to be so scary that they actually become afraid.  Here are some just-right books for younger listeners:

Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara
This book became an instant favorite with me when it debuted.  The simple orange, black, and translucent white color palette won it a spot on the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2008 list as well as starred reviews from Booklist and Horn Book.  (Yes, I still remember that 11 years later.  That’s how big an impression this book made on me!)  The illustrations of the girl and her cat reacting to the ghosts and then catching them are amusing, and the sight of the white cat in his black cat costume is delightful.  This one never fails to please young audiences.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything written by Linda Williams and Illustrated by Megan Lloyd
Our title character is traveling through the dark woods when she realizes she’s being followed by some creepy clothing items.  She bravely tells each “You can’t scare me!” until she’s finally confronted by a huge jack-o-lantern who sends her hurrying home.  She ultimately conquers her fear and puts the pumpkin-headed man in his place — literally!  The audience will enjoy repeating the refrain “Clomp clomp wiggle wiggle shake shake” with you, and adding movement to the chant can give energetic children a chance to move a little as well.

 Bone Soup: a Spooky, Tasty Tale by Alyssa-Joan Capucilli
The tale of Stone Soup gets a seasonal makeover in this version of the folktale favorite.  The witches and monsters are absolutely not scary looking, but the ingredients (slimy sludge, old toenails) used in their bone soup deliver the “ick” factor nicely.  Bonus: The author includes a recipe in the back of the book listing the creature ingredients and their corresponding human ingredients.  For example, you can substitute 3 Tablespoons of olive oil for the juice of a toad and 2 carrots for wrinkled fingers.  A tasty tale, indeed.

Ghost in the House by Ammi-Joan Paquette
The bouncy, repetitive text in this counting book is just begging to be read aloud, and the titular ghost encounters one surprising creature after another as he slip-slides through the house.  The audience is given an opportunity to guess who will appear around each corner before he/she/it is revealed, and can repeat the “monster” noises that signal each encounter, which keeps them engaged in the story.  Note that this is a lift-the-flap book, so you could even have audience members take turns revealing the surprises.

 Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming
Rhyming books – when done well – make great read-alouds, and this one is definitely done well.  The playful rhymes (toothless hags with tattered rags) will appeal to older listeners as well as little ones.  I’m a big fan of Denise Fleming and her handmade paper illustrations, and the technique is quite effective here. The theme of trick-or-treating has become somewhat outdated as more organizations host fall festivals instead, but the thrill of donning a costume and collecting candy is still a popular one.

 The Too-Scary Story by Bathanie Deeney Murguia
This reads well as a bedtime story, but can also be used for a story time session since there is so much to notice and discuss.  Grace wants a SCARY store but Walter doesn’t want it to be too scary, so every time Papa introduces a plot twist (creatures, footsteps, growling) Walter puts a benign interpretation on it while Grace’s imagination runs wild.  Ultimately the darkness in the room makes even Grace nervous, and Walter finds his courage to confront the frightening shadow.  Bonus: Students will enjoy looking for the little owl on each page spread.

What are your favorite read-alouds for younger readers?  Please share in the comments!

 

Characteristics of Wise Readers

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My library door this year is featuring some “Wise Reader” owls in an interactive display to remind students of some of the characteristics of good readers.

Click to enlarge

The owls are saying:

    • Wise readers ask for help finding good books
    • Wise readers have favorite authors and illustrators
    • Wise readers take care of books
    • Wise readers wonder and make predictions about the characters in the story
    • Wise readers choose books that are just right
    • Wise readers find comfortable spots to read
    • Wise readers recommend books to their friends

The right-hand door offers students and teachers an opportunity to add their own ideas to the display.  I have more owls I can put up if needed.

I chose broad ideas for the display, which gives me a chance for deeper conversations with the students about each one.  Are there any characteristics you would add?  Please share in the comments so I can add your suggestions to the doors!

 

 

Who Said It: Book Quotes Bulletin Board

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I like to make my library displays dynamic and interactive, so for my bulletin board last month I incorporated my “Wise Readers” library theme and created the Who Said It contest.  I pulled a stack of new books I wanted to introduce to the upper elementary students, and I typed up the first sentence or two from each in a speech bubble.  Then I printed some plain “clip art” books and numbered them.  I wanted to let the books do the talking and the kids do the listening, so I only chose books that had intriguing opening paragraphs and I made sure to include a variety of genres.  I stapled the blank books and the excerpts to the bulletin board with the heading “Whooo Said It?” at the top.

Students had about two weeks to figure out which books were being quoted and turn in an entry form with the title or the name of the character doing the speaking in each excerpt.  All students who got at least one correct answer received a treat, and the student with the most correct answers won a $5.00 gift certificate to our upcoming book fair.  After the entries had been turned in, I replaced the numbered books with the actual book covers, including the call numbers where the books could be found in the library (added after I took the photo below).

The books I used are as follows.  Click the title for a “Look Inside” preview.

I plan to use this idea again to highlight more great books from our library collection.  Do you have any recommendations for middle grade chapter books with compelling opening paragraphs?  Please share in the comments!

 

Welcome Fall! Picture Books to Celebrate Autumn

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Welcome Fall!

Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year, and I enjoy fall picture books just as much as I enjoy fall weather.  Here are some of my favorites to welcome the season. (Yes, we are still having temperatures in the 90s here but we’re going to welcome fall anyway!)

 Fall Leaves: Colorful and Crunchy by Martha Rustad
This one has been around for several years but it’s still a fun celebration of the beautiful foliage that is synonymous with autumn. Because it’s written on two levels (simple narrative main text, plus more information shared in side notes) it works for preschool/kindergarten and elementary learners. This book is part of a series which includes five other books about the season: Fall’s Here!

. Because of an Acorn by Lola Schaefer
A simple cause-and-effect book that depicts and entire ecosystem then circles back to the acorn as it falls from the oak tree. It’s a book intended for young students, but children of all ages will appreciate the detailed artwork and the progression of ideas as they flow through the cycle of nature.

 Counting on Fall by Lizanna Flatt
Another book for younger readers, this is a nice addition to a STEAM collection because of the math connection to the scientific world of nature, with some creative collage art to round things out. It explores numbers, patterns, shapes, estimation, etc – all within the context of animal behavior and traditional symbols of autumn. This book is also part of a series: Math in Nature.

 Look What I Did With a Leaf by Morteza Sohi
Part craft book and part field guide, this is a book just begging to be used in a makerspace! The illustrations do a nice job of showing the reader how to follow the written instructions, and the projects are easily do-able by even young artists. As someone who has used leaf-picture activities with my students and my own children, I was very pleased with this book.

  Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
And of course if you’re going to make leaf pictures, you MUST share this inventive book first! The books I’ve mentioned so far have all been nonfiction, but we’re moving into pure fantasy now as we marvel at the collages Ehlert creates from paper leaves showing us animals, vegetables, and leaf people. The regular version of the book is fine, but if you’re using it as a read aloud you may want to invest in the big book edition so your audience won’t miss the small charming details, such as the mice in the pumpkin patch.

 Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
If you want to go beyond leaves to the life cycle of a tree (a sugar maple, to be specific) this is another winning title from Lois Ehlert. The vibrant illustrations are sure to draw the reader in, and the factual details are communicated in a lovely narrative told from a child’s point of view.

What are your favorite books to share the joy of fall? Please leave a comment!

 

Alliteration Anyone? Picture Books to Teach Figurative Language

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Learning Librarian’s the name, figurative language is my game!  I had a request for books from a teacher who wanted to provide examples of alliteration to her students.  Here’s what I recommended:

Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre
This is seasonally appropriate as I’m typing this, and it’s gorgeous in terms of both words and photos.  Sayre is a perennial favorite with me, and this book did not disappoint.

Get the backstory and the page notes for each spread in the book from the author.

 

Wonderfall by Michael Hall
Another seasonal choice, but different in tone from Full of Fall.  The brightly colored illustrations celebrate the joy of cooler weather, colorful leaves, and

Enjoy the book trailer:

 

Some Smug Slug written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrated by Henry Cole
In this story, the slug slowly starts up the steep surface of the slope, all the while ignoring the please of the other animals to stop.  Sadly, she doesn’t heed the warning, and is in for a shock at the top!  The phrase “oldie but goodie” applies to all of PDE’s alliteration books, which also include Dinorella, Clara Caterpillar, and Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke.

Listen to Pamela Duncan Edwards talk about her alliteration books:

 

Rosie Raccoon’s Rock and Roll Raft written by Barbara deRubertis and illustrated by R. W. Alley
Rosie is determined to win the Rocky River Raft Race, by building the best raft (STEM connection!) and piloting it down the river and through the rapids to the finish line.  In addition to the alliteration (“Rosie rocked around the rocks and rolled through the rest of the rapids.”) the story features a heavy dose of onomatopoeia (“Rattle! Bang! Rumble! Crash! Rosie was raising a ruckus in her backyard.”).  There are some raccoon facts and follow-up activities at the end of the book.  This is one in a whole series of books from A-Z that celebrate alliteration.

Lerner Books offers a printable activity guide for the book (and for the others in the series).

 

Betty’s Burgled Bakery by Travis Nichols
Graphic novel aficionados will enjoy this detective story told in comic book format, and teachers will appreciate the notes at the end explaining alliteration and providing additional facts about hungry animals.  Nichols cleverly features one letter of the alphabet on each page, from A (“All right Antoine, always anticipate an alarm!” to Z (“We zipped this zany, zigzagging zinger with zeal!”).  Even the dedication is alliterative — now that’s dedication!  (groan!)

Enjoy this book launch celebration video created by the author:

 

If You Were Alliteration written by Trisha Speed Shaskan and illustrated by Sara Gray
And finally, this non-fiction title explaining alliteration and how it’s used is an enjoyable read aloud choice.  The examples given include simple sentences, metaphor and simile, tongue-twisters, and poems.  At the end of the book there’s also a writing prompt, a glossary, an index, and a bibliography,  This is part of a series on figurative language, parts of speech, and math concepts.

This book is included in the Fact Hound website, which offers recommended titles and websites for Capstone books.

Enjoy a preview of the book:

What are your favorite alliteration books?  Please share in the comments!

 

 

Wise Readers: Owl Lanterns and Rugs

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Our new library theme this year is Wise Readers, and I’m loving the flexibility that concept gives me to go in several directions.  We are giving the media center a face-lift in terms of decor, and I’m especially pleased with the pops of color our owl rugs and lanterns are providing!

The lanterns came from Amazon ($7.50 for a pack of 8) and are 8″ in diameter.  The faces were printed onto cardstock and then laminated for durability.  It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the wings are cut from cloth, which gives a nice visual contrast to the paper lanterns.  As you can see, they are hanging from fishing line in front of our vents, which provides just enough air movement to give them a gentle sway, as if they’re fluttering over the room!

The rugs are both made by Joy Carpets, and I’m really pleased with the quality.  The colors are bright, and the rugs themselves are thick and heavy.  I feel confident that they will hold up well.  I also like that they don’t scream “classroom rug” since I’m using them in the media center, but the numbers and letters do come in handy if I need to re-position the students during story time.

Please share your other owl-theme ideas in the comments!

 

Building Relationships With Books – Community

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Today’s post features books that can help foster an inclusive mindset in the classroom. If, as Rudine Sims Bishop tells us, books are meant to serve as windows as well as mirrors, we must share titles that offer our children a glimpse of people who are unlike themselves.  I’ve already shared the book The Day You Begin in a previous post, and here are some more titles that I particularly like for building community:

Books to Appreciate Our Differences

  Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea

What starts off as Goat’s envy of the new kid — aka Unicorn — and all his fancy dance moves, cupcake conjuring, and general showing off, ultimately turns into appreciation once Unicorn shares all his problems along with the things he admires about Goat.  By the end of the book, the two realize that their differences make them an UNSTOPPABLE team.

Here’s the official trailer for the book:

 

  Wild About Us written by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by Janet Stevens

“We’re all a little bit different, and that’s the way we like it!” is the message of this cheerful story about a group of animals who have warts, long noses, spots, big behinds, and ears that stick out.  No matter their size, shape, or color each animal is shown smiling and content with who he/she is.  The large colorful illustrations and snappy colorful language make it a great read-aloud, and students can have a lively discussion afterwards about how each animal’s body type is suited to its habitat and lifestyle.

Bridge to Reading offers an activity guide for the book, and Love to Learn offers a printable activity.

 

Books to Build Our Community

  A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham

The abandoned bus provides a gathering place on Stella’s street as everyone contributes to making it a welcoming place for the families in the neighborhood.  And while this book emphasizes the importance of the whole group coming together, it also highlights how just one person can make a difference for the entire community.  Graham does such a wonderful job of conveying empathy in his writing, and children will want one-on-one time with this book so they can fully appreciate all the small details in his illustrations.

Candlewick Press offers a guide of Classroom Ideas for using the book with students.

This window display at The Children’s Bookshop might inspire a makerspace project! 

 

  Stone Soup retold by Heather Forest and illustrated by Susan Gaber

Two tired hungry travelers arrive in a mountain town, only to find themselves turned away from every door and told the household has no food.  It’s not until the clever men offer to make their “magic soup from a stone” that the townspeople come together and share their vegetables and seasonings.  There are many good versions of this folktale available, but I like that in this one the author names the magical ingredient: sharing.  There’s also a nice rhyming rhythm to the text that makes it a success as a read-aloud. There’s a recipe for stone soup on the last page, and the ingredient list includes one large stockpot, one stone the size of an egg, and a group of friends.

August House offers a guide for the book with some vegetable riddles, assessment questions, and follow-up activities.

 

  The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates

The anthropomorphic red umbrella in this story stretches to accommodate all those who seek its shelter.  The lovely message of inclusion and acceptance is presented in simple sentences and allows teachers to sneak in a lesson about personification as well.  Students will be interested to learn that the book is authored by a mother-daughter team, and the daughter was only in 6th grade when it was written.

Simon and Schuster offer a set of printable activity sheets for the book.

Listen to Amy and Juniper discuss how the book came about:

 

Do you have additional resources or ideas for using these books?  Do you have other favorite books about diversity and inclusion that you share with your students?  Please tell us about them in the comments!