Holiday Book-A-Day: Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert

  Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

Santa Claus Toy Expert Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee

Can I just gush for a moment about how much I enjoy Marla Frazee’s artwork?  From her delightful romp A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever (my personal favorite) to the charming All the World (written by Liz Garton Scanlon) to the triumphant Walk On!: A Guide for Babies of All Ages to her new wordless book The Farmer and the Clown to her spunky drawings for Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine books, I’m just a HUGE fan of her illustrations!

Okay, now that I have that out of my system, I can talk about this book.

Have you ever thought about how much preparation goes into choosing and wrapping toys for ALL the good boys and girls in the world?  Frazee takes us behind the scenes as Santa prepares throughout the year for the Big Day by meeting children, testing toys, and selecting the perfect gifts for everyone on his list.  (It involves lots of sticky notes and cocoa!  You can see both in the excerpt below.)  She even includes one final surprise on the back cover — don’t miss it!

Page from SANTA CLAUS THE WORLD'S NUMBER ONE TOY EXPERT.

Page from SANTA CLAUS THE WORLD’S NUMBER ONE TOY EXPERT.

Learn more by watching this video:

Download a free I’M A TOY EXPERT TOO! writing worksheet based on the book.

 

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Holiday Book-A-Day: Here Comes Santa Cat

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

here comes santa cat Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda

I just got this book Tuesday, and it’s already a favorite! The text and the illustrations of Cat (who communicates by holding up signs) work together perfectly.  I don’t know when I’ve ever seen a more expressive cat in a picture book — Rueda just nails it on every page!  (I know, I’m gushing again.)

In this sequel to Here Comes the Easter Cat, Cat is worried that he’s been too naughty to get a present from Santa.

Spread from HERE COMES SANTA CAT.

Spread from HERE COMES SANTA CAT.

After being convinced that dressing as Santa and giving himself a gift is not the solution, Cat tries a few last-minute efforts at being nice.  Unfortunately, gift-giving doesn’t come naturally to Cat, and it isn’t until Santa himself steps in that Cat discovers the true meaning of the season.

There aren’t a lot of activities for this book floating around on the internet yet, but two ideas that come to mind are:

  • having children make their own pie charts to show where they stand on the “naughty or nice” issue
  • using the book as a basis for a Reader’s Theater activity, with the kids making the signs that Cat uses in the story

Enjoy the book trailer!

 

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Big Plans!

Have you got Big Plans for your students this year?

big-plans-by-bob-shea  I started the school year off sharing the book Big Plans by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith with my library classes.  It’s a perfect choice for many reasons, not the least of which is because there is so much for kids to notice in the illustrations!

bob-shea-and-lane-smith

Image courtesy of Publishers Weekly.

We begin (as I always do when sharing a picture book) by examining the end papers for clues to the story.  It won’t be until we read about the football game that some observant student will exclaim “It’s the end papers!” upon seeing the “crowd” background, and then the hunt is on for more callbacks to the opening double-page spread showing our protagonist sitting in time-out in his classroom.  (A brief glance at the chalkboard will reveal why!)  Showing no remorse at all, he seizes this opportunity to envision himself conquering the worlds of business, sports, politics, and space travel on his way to world domination.

Layout 1

By the time we get to the last page of the book the kids are falling all over themselves to tell me how all the illustrations fit together, and how the hero of the story has been inspired by all the things around him in his classroom.  The myna bird sidekick adds a “Where’s Waldo” element to the illustrations, and the book ends with one last tidbit of information to share: The book was designed by Molly Leach, who is – wait for it – married to Lane Smith!  This revelation simply BLOWS kids’ minds, and provides a perfect opportunity to discuss a largely unknown (among elementary students) job in the publishing world.

big-plans-spread

Be prepared when reading this book aloud to “go big or go home” because this guy has BIG PLANS!  BIG PLANS I SAY! and you have to read it like you mean it!  Shea’s word choice, repetition, and larger-than-life story line cry out for a no-holds-barred presentation!  And it leads right into a discussion of my enthusiasm for the big plans I have for the students this year, and how I hope that the things they see and do in the library will inspire them to start forming big plans of their own.

Take a look inside BIG PLANS at the Amazon website.

Kudos to Bob, Lane, and Molly for giving us such a fun, wacky, inspirational book!

 

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Minecraft for Education

Minecraft for Education

Coming June 9: free educator access to the new Minecraft for Education software!

As the mother of two boys and as a facilitator for the Code.org free coding curriculum in my library, I have seen firsthand the power of Minecraft to engage kids in problem solving, creative thinking, math and logic activities, and teamwork.  Now Minecraft is launching a new platform specifically for use in the classroom, complete with user tutorials and mentors to get you started, and lesson plans for K-12 students.  What a great way to integrate technology that is both familiar (from the home version so many kids use) and challenging (moving from just building “cool” worlds to exploring issues such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, state history, area and perimeter, Rube Goldberg machines, and much more).

Watch this video for more info, then sign up for your own Minecraft educator account!

Are you aready using Minecraft in your classroom?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Books for the Last Days of School

Are you looking for some read-alouds for the last few days of school?  Try one of these:

The Last Day of School  The Last Day of School by Louise Borden
This cover illustration (by Adam Gustavson) just says it all, doesn’t it?!?  But despite the exuberance of embracing summer with both arms depicted shown here, this is actually a somewhat sentimental look at the special moments of the year that have brought Matthew to the last day of school, and his determination to find just the right time during the day to give Mrs. Mallory the special gift he has for her.  A realistic look at what goes on during the last day of school.

Lizzie and the Last Day of School  Lizzie and the Last Day of School by Trinka Hakes Noble
Sure, most kids are just relieved to put school behind them and get on with having fun, but for the students who enjoy school this book will speak to their sense of sadness that the year is over.  Her teacher, Miss G, and also feeling a bit blue but the ending allows them both to look forward to the summer cheerfully.  Sharing this read-aloud offers a perfect lead-in to discussing the all special things that happened during the school year, and the activities that everyone is looking forward to during the break.

Last Day Blues Last Day Blues by Julie Danneberg
This book acknowledges that while the kids are looking forward to being away from school for the summer, there are things they will miss: being away from their friends, the class pet, and their favorite school lunches.  When their teacher announces she will miss the kids, they begin brainstorming ideas for a gift that will remind her of them during the break.  A colorful look at how a close-knit “classroom family” approaches the looming summer separation.

What Do Teacher Do After You Leave School What Do Teachers Do After You Leave School? by Anne Bowen
Kids who can only imagine their teachers as stern, rule-enforcing party poopers will be surprised and delighted by this boisterous look at how the adults at school behave after the kids leave.  Illustrator Barry Gott perfectly captures the exuberance of teachers roller skating down the halls, sliding and swinging on the playground, engaging in a cafeteria food fight, and more.  I sometimes share this book first without showing the illustrations, and ask kids to draw their own pictures to match the text.  Then we compare what they drew to Gott’s artwork, and brainstorm other things teachers might do when their students aren’t around.

My Teacher's Secret Life  My Teacher’s Secret Life by Stephen Krensky
In the same vein is this fanciful look at what happens when teacher Mrs. Quirk (who surely lives at school) is spotted at the supermarket, the mall, and the park.  Does she really have a life outside the school?  This is not an end-of-the-year book, but the “quirky” artwork by Joann Adinolfi makes it a winner for sharing.

What are your favorite read-alouds for the last week/day of school?  Please share them in the comments!

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Labo Leaves App for Leaf Collages

I just found out about Labo Leaves, an app that will fit perfectly into my annual “Fall Leaves” lesson plan!

Fletcher Falling Leaves Lucky Leaf Read Leaf Yellow Leaf Leaf Man

Along with the books Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson and Lucky Leaf by Kevin O’Malley, I always share Red Leaf Yellow Leaf and Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I’m drawn to books that feature collage illustrations, and Ehlert is a master of this art form.

In Leaf Man she takes us on a journey with the title character and shows us all the flora and fauna that can be created using different combinations of leaves.

Leaf Man spread

Can you find all four mice in this illustration from LEAF MAN by Lois Ehlert?

At the end of the book, Leaf Man settles down happily with a Leaf Woman, which always wins approval from my listeners.  After we examine Ehlert’s clever cut-paper illustrations, students draw (or trace) and cut out their own selection of leaves and use them to design an original leaf collage.  I show them an example that I created:

1-Leaf GirlThere are always a few students, though, that seem unsure how to begin the art project.  Enter Labo Leaves!

Labo LeavesThis app provides students with digital leaves that they can drag into position to create leaf animals that burst into life when completed.  What a great hands-on introduction to the possibilities of designing with leaves!  See for yourself:

You can purchase Labo Leaves for ios ($1.99) or android ($0.99) and once you download the app you can use it without an internet connection.  You can see other Labo apps here.

Too bad autumn is still five months away!

 

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Children’s Book Week 2016

CBW2016  Happy Children’s Book Week!

Established in 1919, Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year, commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes — wherever young readers and books connect!

You can download and print some wonderful resources to celebrate reading this week, including a poster by Brian Won featuring characters from his book Hooray for Hat! and a bookmark by Cece Bell based on her graphic novel memoir El Deafo.

CBW2016Poster   CBW2016Bookmark

You can also print lesson plans and activity kits for kids of all ages, and right now the awesome site TeachingBooks.net is offering a collection of free resources for all the Children’s Choice Book Award nominees, including videos!  Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page for the links to each category.

Are you doing something special for Children’s Book Week?  Tell us about it in the comments, or tweet me at @LibraryLoriJune

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Spring Garden Books and Activities

Previously I wrote about some of my favorite, fabulous spring collage-art books, but last week we explored seeds and gardens in the library so I wanted share those titles too:

up in the garden  Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
If you’ve seen the book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, then you’re familiar with the concept behind this book which shows us what’s going on above and below ground in the garden.  The book opens just as spring is arriving, melting the snow that covers last year’s garden, and the illustrations show how the garden grows and evolves throughout the year and explain the symbiotic relationship between the insects and animals that live and visit there.  As always Messner’s writing says much in just a few well-chosen words, wrapping scientific facts in poetic prose, and additional information about each animal is provided in the end notes.  (Bonus: Right now you can get the ebook version for only $1.99 on Amazon.  I used the free Kindle Reading App on my desktop computer to share this book on my interactive whiteboard so no one would miss any of the details in Neal’s mixed media illustrations.)  Be sure to share Over and Under the Snow by this duo next winter!

And Then It's Spring  And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin Stead
This young protagonist has had enough of winter’s endless brown (haven’t we all!) and with his faithful animal companions decides to plant an assortment of seeds to brighten his world.  The pencil and woodblock illustrations provide us with small signs that spring is indeed coming, even though it seems as though nothing will ever happen in the brown dirt.  Stead includes a nice peek below ground as well, which lends this book to comparison and contrast with Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt.  (You could also share the spring poems from Fogliano’s book When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons.)  Enjoy the book trailer:

 

Planting the Wild Garden  Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
In contrast to the planned gardens in our first two titles, this book focuses on the many ways seeds travel and take root without (intentional) assistance from humans.  Solid science combined with lyrical language (including lots of onomatopoeia) make it a perfect choice for story time, and the soft colored pencil and watercolor illustrations give solitary readers much to examine.  The page layouts create the effect of a nature sketchbook, and may inspire some readers to take a nature walk and record what they observe!  (Includes a bibliography of related nonfiction titles.)

      Wild Garden spread   Wild Garden page

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt was our inspiration for these garden pictures, created by some of my 1st graders:

7-garden art 4   5-garden art 1   6-garden art 3

I hope you’ll share your favorite garden books in the comments, or tweet me at @LibraryLoriJune

 

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Spring Collage Books and Activities

I don’t know about you, but I was REALLY ready for spring this year!  As a result, I’ve been sharing picture books about spring with many of my classes, and we’ve been celebrating in our makerspace and STEAM lab with related activities.  This week I used some springtime books that feature paper collage illustrations (I’m a huge fan of this type of art) and that inspired some paper cutting projects in my library:

Finding Spring  Finding Spring  by Carin Berger
It was love at first sight as soon as I laid eyes on this gorgeously constructed story of a little bear who can’t wait to experience his first spring.  The soft collage illustrations have a slightly vintage feel, and it’s easy to empathize with Maurice’s impatient yearning for spring.  And don’t miss Berger’s other cut-paper books, including Friends Forever which explores friendship in the context of changing seasons, and A Perfect Day which celebrates one magical snowy day in winter.

Finding Spring spread(Note: Be sure to visit Carin Berger’s website; the splash page is delightfully clever!)

 

Sorting Through Spring  Sorting Through Spring by Lizann Flatt, illustrations by Ashley Barron
This book is part of the Math in Nature Series by this author/illustrator duo, and it features a full measure of onomatopoeia, rhythm, rhyme, and whimsical questions about animals and nature on every page.  The math concepts covered include patterns, graphs, and probability, and the author has also included Nature Notes on the animals featured in the text.

Sorting Through Spring pageI included some math cards based on these pages in my STEAM Lab, and students used manipulatives to recreate and solve them.  You may also be interested in the Sorting Through Spring teacher guide.

 

In the Small Small Pond  In the Small Small Pond written and illustrated by Denise Fleming

In the Tall Tall Grass  In the Tall Tall Grass written and illustrated by Denise Fleming

These books take collage art to a whole new level, in that Fleming makes her own paper that she then uses to create her illustrations.  There are plenty of spring pond and meadow animals to inspire young artists to depict their own colorful scenes, and wide variety of descriptive rhyming verbs on each double page spread to move the action along from early morning to late at night.

In the Small Small Pond spread

I wasn’t ambitious enough to try making paper with my classes, but I stocked my Creation Station with construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, crayons, and extra copies of these books.  Here are some of the spring collages my 2nd grade students created:

3-spring collage 3   4-spring collage 4

1-spring collage 1   2-spring collage 2

Can you recommend some other spring books using collage art?  Please share them in the comments, or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune

 

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