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I love bilignual picture books because it gives access to literature to our students who are still learning English. Books specifically from Arte Público Press also are so good at making sure a variety of kids are represented in their books which is so heartwarming because I know so many ESL students do not see themselves in books. Another positive of bilingual books is for learning Spanish also. I hope Trent gets into a dual language program for elementary school, so bilingual picture books will be perfect for him and his classmates. Here are some of my new-to-me favorite bilingual picture books from Arte Público Press!

Growing Up with Tamales | Los tamales de Ana 
Author: Gwendolyn Zepeda
Illustrator: April Ward
Published May 31st, 2008

Summary: My name is Ana. Every year, my family makes tamales for Christmas. This year, I am six, so I get to mix the dough, which is made of cornmeal. My sister Lidia is eight, so she gets to spread the dough on the corn husk leaves. I wish I was eight, so that my hands would be big enough to spread the dough just right–not too thick and not too thin.

And so the years pass, and Ana turns eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen. But every year, big sister Lidia is always two years older. Ana envies her elder sibling and wishes she could do what Lidia does: put just the right amount of meat inside the tamales and roll them up; steam the tamales without scalding herself with the hot, hot steam; chop and cook the meat for the tamales without cutting or burning her hands.

When she turns eighteen, though, Ana knows she will keep making tamales and she will be able to do all of the steps herself in her very own factory. When Christmas comes around, Ana will deliver tamales to all of her customers around the world, in delivery trucks that say Ana’s Tamales. And maybe Ana will even let Lidia work for her.

Gwendolyn Zepeda’s rhythmic prose is combined with April Ward’s bright illustrations to create an affectionate and amusing story about sibling relationships that introduces an important Hispanic holiday tradition — making tamales!

Praise: 

A Charlotte Zolotow Award Highly Commended Title

ForeWord Book of the Year Awards Finalist

Tejas Star Book Award Finalist

My Thoughts: I love the focus on seeing ahead to the future in this book. Although Ana is a bit jealous of her older sister, she can look to the future and see that she is going to be able to accomplish everything her sister does, and she has such high ambitions even past what she knows is coming. I also loved the inclusion of family. Tamales are obviously a tradition and something that is important to Ana and her family so much that the process is passed down. It is always so touching to see a great family unit in a picture book.

Esteban De Luna, Baby Rescuer! | Esteban de Luna, ¡rescatador de bebés
Author: Larissa M. Mercado-López
Illustrator: Alex Pardo DeLange
Published May 31st, 2017

Summary: It’s a bird…it’s a plane..it’s Esteban de Luna!

With whimsical illustrations by Alex Pardo DeLange, Larissa M. Mercado-López’s first bilingual picture book, Esteban De Luna, Baby Rescuer! | Esteban de Luna, ¡rescatador de bebés, features a kind and compassionate boy who learns how to be a superhero in an unexpected way.

Esteban wears his green cape every day. He wears it to breakfast. He wears it to the park. He even wears it to the grocery story. The only problems is that it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t help him fly or become invisible. He decides to sell it.

Just then his mother tells him they’re going to the park, so Esteban puts his cape back on. At the park, he sees a baby doll on the swings. Suddenly a story blows in, and Esteban’s mom calls him to run home. If Esteban leaves the doll, it will get wet and dirty. So he wraps the doll in his cape and ties it back on. “Don’t worry, baby! I’ll save you!”

On the way home, he jumps over puddles and walks under awnings to keep the baby dry. At home, he wears the doll in his cape as he plays and does his chores. That night — with the baby clean and dry — the boy feels like a super hero. He will not sell his cape after all. “From now on, I am Esteban de Luna, Baby Rescuer!”

This charming bilingual picture book for children ages 4-8 will generate dialogue about what it means to be a boy while broadening the definition of masculinity to include tenderness and caring.

My Thoughts: Such a cute book! It does so much to promote imagination and play which always makes me so happy. I love that Esteban gets a baby in this book! So often boys are steered away from playing house or playing with dolls, but I really believe that pretending with dolls really builds caring and empathy with kids and we shouldn’t take that away from our boys.

(One question though that bothered me though: What about the poor kid that lost the baby?!?! They must be so sad!)

The Little Doctor El doctorcito
Author: Juan J. Guerra
Illustrator: Victoria Castillo
Published April 4th, 2017

Summary: The doctor is in! A young boy’s visit to the clinic with his grandmother leads to a career aspiration.

In Juan Guerra’s engaging bilingual picture book, The Little Doctor El doctorcito, a young Salvadoran boy dreams of becoming a doctor who speaks both English and Spanish so that patients like his beloved grandmother aren’t afraid to visit the doctor.

Salvador raced home from school to share exciting news with his abuela, he made an A+ on his science test! But at home, he learns that his grandmother needs his help. She is going to the doctor and wants her grandson to interpret for her. Abuela is nervous because she has never been to a doctor in the United States. In El Salvador, she either saw a curandera or drank té de manzanilla when she felt sick.

When he learns that none of the physicians speak Spanish, the boy realizes that he is completely responsible for making sure the doctor understand his grandmother — and that he understands his instructions! But in spite of his help, the visit does not go well. The doctor rushes in and out. He doesn’t listen to Abuela. And he tells Salvador that she should not eat so much Mexican food! Abuela is so upset that she threatens not to take the medicine the doctor prescribes! What can Salvador do to help her?

Paired with lovely, colorful illustrations by Victoria Castillo, this book for ages 4-8 will encourage kids to think about their own futures as well as the role their culture can play in helping the community.

My Thoughts: I love (yet am saddened–I’ll explain) that a Salvadoran doctor wrote compelled to write a book to show the hardships many kids face as their parents/grandparents use them as translators. It must be so hard for both parties: to be an adult and have no schooling or any way to learn English AND to be a kid who does know English and have to be an adult so young because of translating needs. I hated how mean the doctor was in the book, but I know that it really helped with the point of the book–more doctors for our immigrants are needed either ones who know Spanish or are sympathetic. And I’m so happy that Juan became a doctor–shows kids the lack of limits in the future no matter your heritage.

Dalia’s Wondrous Hair El cabello maravilloso de Dalia
Author: Laura Lacámara
Published May 1st, 2014

Summary: Butterflies in your beehive?! A girl’s imagination grows into a garden in this bilingual picture book.

In Dalia’s Wondrous Hair El cabello maravilloso de Dalia, author and illustrator Laura Lacámara delights children ages 4-9 with her vibrant illustrations and an imaginative story about a girl’s fanciful encounters with nature in this bilingual picture book.

One night, while Dalia slept safely wrapped in her mother’s cool silken sheets, her hair grew and grew. By the time the rooster crowed, her hair had “grown straight up to the sky, tall and thick as a Cuban royal palm tree.” Her mother was amazed and wondered what her daughter would do with her wondrous hair.

As Dalia looked at the flowers blooming in the garden, an idea sprouted inside her. She decorated her hair with leaves from the forest and mud from the marsh. Her mother was puzzled and could not imagine what she was. “Are you a leaf-crusted mud-tree?” she guessed incorrectly. That night, while Dalia slept safely cocooned in her mama’s sheets, something stired and unfolded. When the rooster crowed, the girl ran outside and everyone watched in awe as she carefully unwrapped her towering hair. Could it be? Is Dalia a…blossoming butterfly tree?!

In this whimsical bilingual picture book, Dalia’s hair becomes a magical force of nature, a life giving cocoon. Bonus features include a guide for how to create your own butterfly garden at home, as well as a bilingual glossary of select plant and animal species native to the island of Cuba.

Praise: 

Américas Award Commended Title

Named to the Tejas Star Reading List

My Thoughts: Whimsical is a perfect adjective for this book! Dalia is so free spirited and throughout much of the book, you have no idea why she is doing what she is doing. You are as puzzled as her mom. But the ending is beautiful and all of Dalia’s intentions are clear.  Her hair really is wondrous!

The Runaway Piggy El conchinito fugitivo
Author: James Luna
Illustrator: Laura Lacámara
Published November 30th, 2010

Summary: In the classic tradition of The Gingerbread Man, James Luna’s piggy cookie leaps off the baking tray in Martha’s Panaderia and takes the reader on a mad dash through the barrio, past Lorenzo’s Auto Shop, Nita’s Beauty Salon, Leti’s Flower Shop, and Juana’s Thrift Shop. Each person the piggy encounters is greeted by his high laugh and the repeated refrain: “Chase me! Chase me down the street! But this is one piggy you won’t get to eat! I ran away from the others and I’ll run away from you!” The cochinito fugitivo avoids being eaten by the long line of people chasing him . . . until he meets a crafty little girl named Rosa!

Children and adults too will delight in the clever piggy’s escape from Martha’s Panaderia in this entertaining retelling of a familiar story set in a colorful Latino neighborhood. A recipe to make Mexican gingerbread pig cookies is included in both English and Spanish.

Praise: 

Named to the Tejas Star Book Award List

My Thoughts: What a fun retelling of The Gingerbread Man! I think this book a perfect pairing with a community unit in an early education classroom. While it is a fun story of chasing a piggy cookie, it also shows so many different aspects of Martha’s neighborhood and gives another type of community to see and learn about 🙂

Grandma’s Chocolate El chocolate de abuelita
Author: Mara Price
Illustrator: Lisa Fields
Published November 30th, 2010

Summary: Abuela’s visits from Mexico are always exciting for young Sabrina, who can’t wait to see what’s in her grandmother’s suitcase. “Abuelita, do you want to play a game? Let’s pretend that I’m a princess,” Sabrina says. “Okay,” Abuela says, “but a Mayan princess should wear a beautiful dress called a huipil.” And she pulls out the traditional garment worn by Mayan and Aztec women.

Sabrina has lots of questions about her ancestors. With her grandmother’s help, Sabrina learns all about the cacao tree, which was first cultivated by Mexico’s indigenous tribes. Today, the seeds give us chocolate, but years ago they were used as money. And Moctezuma, the Aztec emperor, liked to eat chocolate poured over bowls of snow !

Sabrina discovers that “chocolate is perfect for a Mayan princess.” And children will agree as they curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and this charming bilingual picture book that depicts a loving relationship and shares the history and customs of the native peoples of Mexico.

Praise: 

Winner, International Latino Book Award

Honor Book, Paterson Prize for Books for Young People

Winner, San Diego Book Award

Named to the Tejas Star Book Award List

My Thoughts: Anyone who has a grandmother visit knows the warmness that comes with her visit, and Sabrina’s visit with her grandmother from Mexico is no different. Through the visit, Sabrina asks many different questions about her ancestors and Mexico, and her grandmother tells her about cacao trees which have a huge history in Mexico. As grandmother’s visit ends, you feel as sad as Sabrina!

All Recommended For: 

**Thank you to Eloisa from Arte Público for sharing these books with me!**

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Here Comes Teacher Cat
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Claudia Rueda
Published: August 8, 2017 by Dial

Goodreads Summary: It’s back to school for the New York Times bestselling Cat when he steps in as a substitute teacher.

Cat is not pleased to be tapped as substitute teacher. Not only is it cutting into his naptime, but a roomful of kittens is a little, well, scary. At school, he’s faced with six adorable kittens and follows the lesson plan of music, building, and painting–only in pure, mischief-making Cat style. By the end, Cat has learned a thing or two about inspiring others by being himself. But even more heart-melting and humorous is what the kittens have learned from Cat.

Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is very funny. Every time my son and I read it together, he giggles wildly across the pages. Cat is very unhappy when he is asked to play the role of teacher for the day. He doesn’t want to have to deal with the kitties, and he just wants to nap. He gets pretty creative, though, and it makes for a wonderfully fun story. I really like this book because it is very easy to ask my son questions while reading it. For example, I will ask him “What is Teacher Cat doing now? How do you think he feels? What are the kitties doing?” It is also very easy to practice making predictions with this text.

Discussion Questions: How does Teacher Cat change from the beginning to the end of the story?; How is he creative?; What does this story teach us?; Why did the author/illustrator choose to have Teacher Cat and the kitties hold up signs rather than speak?; Who is the narrator?

Reading by Brightly: 

Read This if You Loved: Any of the Here Comes _____ Cat books by Deborah Underwood, Won Ton and Chopstick by Lee Wardlaw; One Leaf Rides the Wind by Celeste Davidson Mannis; If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky; I Haiku You by Betsy E. Snyder; Dogku by Andrew Clements

 Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Penguin for providing a copy of this book for review!**

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Flashlight Night
Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine
Illustrator: Fred Koehler
Published September 19th, 2017 by Boyds Mills Press

Summary: Flashlight Night is an ode to the power of imagination and the wonder of books. Three children use a flashlight to light a path around their backyard at night; in the flashlight’s beam another world looms. Our heroes encounter spooky woods, a fearsome tiger, a time-forgotten tomb, an Egyptian god, a sword-fighting pirate, and a giant squid. With ingenuity, they vanquish all, then return to their tree house–braver, closer, and wiser than before–to read the books that inspired their adventure.

“Delicious language . . . ingenious metamorphoses . . . a rousing read.” – Kirkus Reviews, Starred review

About the Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine’s poetry has been published in Highlights as well as in anthologies selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Carol-Ann Hoyte, and J. Patrick Lewis. He lives with his family in Warner, New Hampshire. Visit mattforrest.com.

About the Illustrator: Fred Koehler is and author-illustrator. His debut picture book, How to Cheer Up Dad, received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and BCCB. Fred has a background in advertising and lives with his two spirited kids in Lakeland, Florida, where he loves boating, camping, and the great outdoors.

Review: Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Fred Koehler takes the reader on an adventure that truly illuminates the power of imagination. Esenwine’s poetic language is lyrical and filled with imagery and when accompanied with Koehler’s beautifully detailed pencil illustrations, the story comes to life.

I was so lucky to be able to spend some time with Fred at ALA and learn all about his adventures to find just the right inspiration for these illustrations. He went on some amazing adventures to Great Britain where he hiked and visited sites all to ensure that his illustrations were perfect for Matt’s story. He also showed us a time-lapse video of his pencil drawing one spread for the book. Yes, hand drawn with pencil. Beautiful and so impressive!

And this story is going to be loved by kids of all ages because of the fun adventures and parents will love the promotion of imagination. For example, this story made Trent want to go exploring, and Trent loves flashlights, so he loved the idea that a flashlight at night can bring about a how imaginative world!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to see what kids could come up with if given the opportunity to write about what their flashlight “showed them” when they go on an adventure around their house or outside. It would be a really fun activity for students to take and print photos of different places around their house and outside their house then write narratives about their adventures around these places and what is “actually there” if they explored with their flashlight.

Some other elements that could be discussed with Flashlight Night are: compare/contrast between what is there and what’s in their imagination and imagery/descriptive language including figurative language.

Discussion Questions: What are some different cultural influences you see in the adventures the kids went on?; What are the differences between reality and their imagination?; What descriptive language did the author use to help add imagery to the story?

Time Lapse Video of the Creation of One of Flashlight Night‘s Illustrations: It took Fred 30-35 hours per spread to create the amazing world the children explore throughout the book.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Journey Trilogy by Aaron BeckerThe Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson, Noisy Night by Mac Barnett, Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth by Ellie HattieDad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko, The Night Gardener by Terry Fan, My Pen by Christopher Myers, The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein, Lenny and Lucy by Philip C. Stead

Recommended For: 

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GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t miss the other stops on the blog tour!

Friday, 9/15  Jama’s Alphabet Soup

Monday 9/18 KitLit Exchange/The Loud Library Lady

Tuesday 9/19 Penny Klostermann Book Blog

Wednesday 9/20 Unleashing Readers

Thursday 9/21 KidLit Frenzy

Friday 9/22 Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook

Monday 9/25 Librarian in Cute Shoes

Tuesday 9/26 Nerdy Book Club

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**Thank you to Boyds Mills Press for having us be part of the blog tour!**

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It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Anticipated Publication: September 19, 2017 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: A fresh take on a young Jack who is not keen on climbing any beanstalks and would much prefer to tell his own story.

Ricki’s Review: This book is hysterical. My four-year-old and I love reading it. (I am not entirely sure he understands that it is a fairy tale retelling, but he still adores it.) Every night, it is the first book he picks to read together. The book has an unnamed narrator who insists on telling the traditional “Jack and the Beanstalk” story. Jack has other plans, though. He and the giant decide that they don’t want to follow the traditions of the story. As you can see below in the flagged spread, Jack pushes back on the tale. I laugh every time I read this. My favorite part is the appears of Cindy (Cinderella), who invites Jack to her ball. Josh Funk is an incredible author, and I will read anything that he writes. This is a fantastic book for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Kellee’s Review: Trent loves the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. They must read it at his school because he knew the whole story, and I think it is hilarious that he argues with me about what is happening in the book. We’ve talked about how this is a different Jack story but he, like the narrator, just really wants Jack to do what he is supposed to. I love the way that Josh Funk has broken the 4th wall and has the narrator talk to the characters; it is such a unique way to twist the fairy tale and makes it so hilarious. I look forward to reading this to Trent and students for many years.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Most obviously, this book would be great to kick off a unit on writing fairy tale retellings. It teaches students to break the mold and repurpose stories to add humor and intrigue. It would also be fun to pair this story with other fairy tale retellings to ask students: What did the authors do to revision the stories? How are they successful?

Check out a book trailer, collector’s cards, and more at https://www.joshfunkbooks.com/stuff-for-kids

Discussion Questions: How does Jack break our expectations?; How are Jack and the Giant different from the narrator? Who did you find yourself rooting for?; How does the author add humor to the story?; How is the text structured to help the reader follow both the narrator and Jack?; What other fairy tales could you retell?

Flagged Spreads: 

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Read This If You Loved: Dear Dragon by Josh Funk; Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk; Whose Story is This, Anyway? by Mike Flaherty; Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett; A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Recommended For: 

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About the Author and Illustrator:

Like Jack, Josh Funk loves telling his own stories. He is the author of the popular picture books Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and itssequel, The Case of the Stinky Stench, illustrated by Brendan Kearney; Dear Dragon, illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo; and the upcoming How to Code a Sandcastle illustrated by Sara Palacios in partnership with Girls Who Code. Josh lives in New England with his wife and children. Learn more about him at www.joshfunkbooks.com, and follow him on Twitter @joshfunkbooks.
Edwardian Taylor currently works as a visual development artist and character designer for TV and animation feature film. His work can also be seen in mobile games, films, and commercials. He is the illustrator of the picture book Race!, written by Sue Fliess. Edwardian lives in Texas with his partner, their three dogs, and seven chickens. Learn more about him at www.edwardiantaylor.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @edwardiantaylor.

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**Special Thanks to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for Providing Copies to Review*

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Tinyville Town Series
Author & Illustrator: Brian Biggs
Published by Appleseed, an Abrams Imprint starting in 2016

Brian Biggs describes the series as Sesame Street meets Fisher Price. 

I say it is Richard Scarry meets Mr. Rogers and Thomas the Train (but there are no talking trains).

There will be at least 8 books. 

Though hopefully more because I want one about every member of the town!

There are two kinds of books in the series: 

Board books about individual members of the society

Large-format picture books about how the whole town comes together. 

This set up is perfect because when you read the picture book, you can find all of the members of the board books in the picture book. They become friends that you recognize like a search-and-find within the story.

In the classroom, Tinyville Town would fit perfectly with Junior Achievement and early-ed social studies as students learn about jobs and communities.

Parents, your kids will love these books! It is a perfect combination of everything kids and adults want in picture books.

For more information:
Here’s an interview with Brian Biggs about Tinyville Town
Here’s Brian Biggs’s Blog Post about Tinyville Town

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Marti’s Song for Freedom | Martí y sus versos por la libertad
Author: Emma Otheguy
Illustrator: Beatriz Vidal
Published July 17, 2017 by Lee & Low Books

Summary:

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma,
Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma
.

As a boy, José Martí was inspired by the natural world. He found freedom in the river that rushed to the sea and peace in the palmas reales that swayed in the wind. Freedom, he believed, was the inherent right of all men and women. But his home island of Cuba was colonized by Spain, and some of the people were enslaved by rich landowners. Enraged, Martí took up his pen and fought against this oppression through his writings. By age seventeen, he was declared an enemy of Spain and forced to leave his beloved island.

Martí traveled the world, speaking out for Cuba’s independence. But throughout his exile, he suffered from illness and homesickness. He found solace in New York’s Catskill Mountains, where nature inspired him once again to fight for independence.

Written in verse, with excerpts from Martí’s seminal Versos sencillos, this book is a beautiful tribute to a brilliant political writer and courageous fighter of freedom for all men and women.

Praise: 

“A sensitive and poignant tribute to one of Latin America’s most important historical figures.” – School Library Journal, starred review

“A moving account of [Marti’s] crusade for justice.” -Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A timely story that will inspire many to fight for equality and sing songs for freedom.” -Booklist, starred review

“Spotlights a steadfast hero and brilliant writer still worth admiring today.” -Kirkus reviews, starred review

“A direct and approachable introduction to the life and works of Cuban poet and freedom fighter José Martí.” -Shelf Awareness, starred review

About the Creators: 

Emma Otheguy is a children’s book author and a historian of Spain and colonial Latin America. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, and her short story “Fairies in Town” was awarded a Magazine Merit Honor by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Otheguy lives with her husband in New York City. This is her picture book debut. You can find her online at emmaotheguy.com.

Beatriz Vidal is an award-winning painter, illustrator, and teacher. Her work has appeared in well-known publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Woman’s Day, and the New Yorker. Her artwork has also been featured on PBS programs and in numerous exhibitions around the world, including the International Exhibition of Illustrations for Children in Italy and the Society of Illustrators in New York. Vidal divides her time between New York City and Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can visit her online at beatrizvidal.com.

ReviewThis beautiful bilingual biography deserves all the praise it is receiving. The beautiful pieces of art that accompany the poetic verses turns this picture book biography into a piece of art! I also loved that not only is Martí’s biography in Spanish and English, but so is the author’s back matter.

I also am so glad that I learned about José Martí! I didn’t know anything about the Cuban war for independence and emancipation from slavery. Cuba has such an extensive history that is not taught here, so this story definitely fills a gap in history education. While the story teaches primarily of Martí’s life, the back matter goes deeper into Cuban independence and reading both is definitely going to pique interests to learn more. I think this book would pair nicely with books about our Civil War to compare the United States to other countries’ fights for freedom.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Emma Otheguy was kind enough to share an activity guide for the text. All of the activities come in Spanish and English and can be downloaded at http://emmaotheguy.com/my-new-book/.

Activity 1: “José Martí wrote many letters throughout his life. He wrote about things he found beautiful or interesting, and also about injustices, and how he though they might get better. Write a letter to a friend, a relative, or an elected official about something you’re passionate about. It can be anything you care about, whether it’s helping your neighbors, caring for animals, or respecting the planet–just share how you feel. Then cut out your letter an mail it.” Followed by a outlined letter for kids to feel out.

Activity 2: “Did you know that José Martí was a poet, and that is poetry book Versos Sencillos was written and published right here in the United States? If you ever hear the song Guantanamera you’ll notice words from Marti’s poetry in the song! Read the first stanza of Martí’s poem, then fill in the blanks to create your own poem.”

Activity 3: “Read the book and solve this crossword puzzle”

Activity 4: “As teenagers, José Martí and his friends wrote and published their own newspaper, La Patria Libre (the free homeland), supporting Cuban independence. Can you create a newspaper? Fill out the boxes with the latest news.” Includes a place for Read All About It, Letter to the Editor, and an illustration.

Discussion Questions: How did José Martí play a part in Cuba’s fight for independence?; Did his age when sent to America surprise you?; Why is Cuba such a mix of culture?; How did the author use José Martí’s own words within her biography of him?; If you were to write to your government about an injustice you see in your country, what would you write about?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Margarita Engle’s books, Henry’s Freedom Box  by Henry Levine and other biographies about the fight for emancipation in the United States, Nonfiction picture book biographies

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Emma Otheguy for providing a copy for review!**

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“Cap’n Rex’s Steps to Writing a Fictional Picture Book”

Today, author Henry Herz joins us. His picture books include: MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES, WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY, MABEL & THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, AND LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH.  His latest, just out from Sterling, is CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW. The protagonist, Cap’n Rex, has agreed to offer advice about how to get classrooms excited about a writing assignment, and some of the other things they will learn along the way. Please welcome, Cap’n Rex.

Arrr! It’s a pleasure to be aboard, me lasses. I may be a long-in-the-tooth dinosaur pirate, but I’ve a mess o’ experience teaching wee sailors how to write fictional picture books. It keeps ’em from getting bored on our long sea voyages. There be seven steps on my map to the buried treasure of children’s literacy. Read on, if ye dare!

  1. Form crews – Arrr, there be nothin’ like a little friendly competition to inspire performance. Arrange yer students into teams o’ four. Have each team pick a name. Some o’ me favorites arrr Mystery Marauders, Biography Buccaneers, and Paranormal Pirates. But, I may be biased toward piratey appellations. Each team’ll be writing their own picture book. Savvy?
  2. Define the details – Have each team parley among themselves to figger out the story elements listed below. This here be a bonus learning opportunity to teach them some writing concepts.
    • Main character – What is the main character’s name, race/species, gender, title/role, and personality traits?
    • Other characters – Do the same for yer other characters. Limit yerself to no more than four characters in all.
    • Theme – If yer story will offer a lesson for the reader, what is it? Fer example, do unto others as you’d have others do unto you, or think outside the box.
    • Goal/obstacles – Stories are more fun if there’s tension. What goal is the main character trying to reach (in my case, it’s usually booty). And what obstacle(s) must he or she overcome to reach that goal? One tried and true formula is: try-fail, try-fail, try-succeed. That makes victory all the sweeter, me buccos.
    • Time frame – Will yer story take place in the past, present, or future? How far back in the past or into the future?
    • Setting – Where will your tale unfold? On the high seas? In yer backyard? On Mars? In an ant hill?
    • Genre – Will yer tale be fantasy, science fiction, mystery, historical, comedy, romance, horror, tragedy, or somethin’ else?
    • Point of view – Does it work better if the tale be told by the main character or by a narrator?
    • Tense – Should the tale be told in the present tense, as if it’s happening right now? Or, would it be better described in the past tense as something that’s already happened?
  3. Tell yer tale – Fictional picture books can have anywhere from zero (it’s true!) to 1,000 words. Aim fer about 500 words. Since there are often fourteen two-page “spreads”, that works out to an average of 36 words (three to four sentences) per spread. Picture books are usually written fer three to seven year-olds. So, make sure yer word choices are suitable for younger readers. Not too many syllables per word or words per sentence, or ye’ll walk the plank! Now yer teams can write their first draft of the manuscript.
  4. Time fer inspection – Just as dinosaur pirates have their work inspected by their handsome T-rex captain, yer young writers will need some guidance. Pair up yer teams. Have each member of one team read the other team’s story. Then, they offer feedback, alternating between things they liked about the story and things in the story that didn’t make sense or didn’t seem to help the story. Team members should not defend their writing. Just listen politely and take notes.
  5. Swab the deck – Just as a ship’s deck needs cleaning, so too does yer writin’. Now it be time for the teams to use the feedback they received to revise their story and make it seaworthy.
  6. Draw yer pictures – Now it be time to paint a pretty picture. A spread can be completely filled with a single illustration. Or, it can contain two to four smaller spot images. The latter is often used when the story pace has quickened. Give each team fourteen 11”x17” pieces o’ paper. Each team will divide their revised manuscript text up across the fourteen spreads. Then they’ll draw or paint pictures that help describe what is happening.
  7. Celebrate – Treats and grog (non-alcoholic) fer all when the stories be done! Each team takes turn reading their yarn to the class. Stories can be posted on the mainmast fer later parental enjoyment. What fine little writers ye arrr!

Cap’n Rex & His Clever Crew
Author: Henry L. Herz
Illustrator: Benjamin Schipper
Published August 1st, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Shiver me timbers! It’s the DINOSAUR PIRATES!

Meet Captain Rex and his band of buccaneers. These dinosaur pirates sail the seven seas in search of buried treasure, but whenever they hit an obstacle—like a giant shark or pea-soup fog—the crew members are quick to say they can’t overcome. To this, Captain Rex just glares with teeth bared and says, “CAN’T YE?” And, somehow, the crew always comes up with a clever solution.

A delightful story about using one’s creativity and individual strengths to solve problems. It will encourage kids everywhere to think and say, “I can!”

Learn more about CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW and author Henry Herz at www.henryherz.com.

We Thank Ye fer Today’s Post, Cap’n Rex & Henry!

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