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!

 

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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!

 

 

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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!

 

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Building Relationships with Books – Friendships

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Lately I’ve been working on putting together a collection of books and accompanying resources that can help students strengthen their friendship skills.  A new school year brings new classroom groupings, and I want our students to be prepared for making (and keeping!) new friends.  We also have more new students in our building than normal this year, so it’s important for the “old-timers” to realize how hard it can be for the newcomers to start over in a new situation.  I’m hoping the following titles will inspire them!

Books to Welcome New Students

The Day You Begin written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez

A touching story about students who are starting over in a new country (America), and how hurtful it is when their classmates aren’t accepting.  The illustrations are charming, and the closing lines of the story rejoice over the fact that “every new friend has something a little like you — and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.”  A standout collaboration between an author who has won the Newbery Honor award and the Coretta Scott King award, and an illustrator who has won the Pura Belpre’ Illustrator award.

The Curriculum Corner offers an extensive book study printable packet for the book.

Here’s the Brightly Storytime read-aloud of the Book:

 

Duck at the Door by Jackie Urbanovic

This title is not new, but I love the exuberant story of Max the Duck, who comes in from the cold and then makes himself completely at home.  At first the other animals in the household aren’t quite sure what to make of his hobbies and messes, but when he leaves to rejoin his flock they realize that he had truly become part of the family.  The ending espouses a “the more the merrier” outlook that can often be needed in the classroom when newcomers join the group after the year has begun, and everyone has to adjust to the change.

Urbanovic offers a Duck at the Door coloring sheet on her website.  And students who fall in love with Duck will be happy to learn there are three sequels: Duck Soup, Sitting Duck, and Duck and Cover.

 

Books for Being a Good Friend

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill

Here we see the main character pondering what it actually means to be kind, both in the classroom and out in the world.  Is it cleaning up after the class pet, choosing to include the new girl in class, making cookies for an elderly neighbor who lives alone, recycling a bottle?  And can one person’s act of kindness inspire others to pay it forward until it reaches all around the world?  The author acknowledges that being kind can be hard — even when you know what to do — and it’s up to each individual to decide to make that choice.  These are important ideas for children to grapple with, and brainstorming additional acts of kindness is a natural follow-up activity.

The official book trailer includes interviews with several kids about their experiences with kindness, which can inspire students engaging in their own discussions::

 

How To Grow A Friend by Sara Gillingham

This book is an extended metaphor that compares nurturing friendships to tending a garden.  The text gives an outline of the steps necessary for building and sustaining relationships, while still leaving room for a class discussion on the meaning of each piece of advice.  For example, Gillingham suggests that friendships need space to bloom, and she warns that sometimes friends bug you.  Students can then offer their own ideas of what that means, and what it might look like in real life.  The illustrations are delightful and almost demand a follow-up art and/or gardening activity.

Here’s a link to a story hour guide for the book. (I love the printable friendship bracelets!)

 

Blue vs Yellow by Tom Sullivan

Blue and Yellow argue about which color is best, until an accidental collision shows what they can do when they join forces.  Then Red comes along, and they have to decide whether or not to include another color.  This book is a humorous reminder that you won’t win friends by constantly bragging about yourself, and that when you share your talents with others you might be surprised at what you can achieve.  The format of the story can also serve as a model for student writing about other colors competing against one another (red vs yellow, blue vs red) and what types of partnerships might result.

Here’s the official trailer for the book:

 

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

 

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