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Terrible Times Tables
Author: Michelle Markel
Illustrator: Merrilee Liddiard
Published August 6, 2019 by Cameron Kids

Goodreads Summary: Inspired by a Victorian math primer, Terrible Times Tables is a modern take on learning one’s multiplication tables, from numbers 2 to 10, featuring elementary school themes of homeroom, field trips, cafeteria food, holidays, and recitals. Featuring a reluctant narrator and a few unwitting critters, learning math has never been so much fun or amusing.

My Review: Ah! This book is so charming. The art and the words feel simultaneously old-fashioned and contemporary! It feels just like an older Victorian math primer, but yet the words make it relevant to children today! I read this with my son (who is in kindergarten and too young for multiplication), and we were giggling away at the rhymes and illustration. I’d love to see this book in classrooms. It makes math genuinely fun!

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: Elementary school math teachers will find great joy in this book. Students might write and illustrate their own math primer with a theme. In this book, each number has a different theme, and I think students would love to create their own! This text is very inspiring for me as an adult, and I wanted to play with words, too! 🙂 I can’t wait for my sons to be old enough to use this book.

I’d also love to compare this with an older, Victorian math primer. Kids would get a kick out of that!

Discussion Questions: Which theme was your favorite, and why?; How do the words and art work together to make this book so successful?; How does the author integrate clever rhymes to make readers enjoy math?

We Flagged: “4 x 1 is 4

Sam pukes. Same pukes some more.”

Read This If You Love: I’m Trying to Love Math by Bethany Barton; On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne; Math 

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Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove
Author: Barry Wittenstein
Illustrator: Keith Mallett
Published May 21st, 2019 by Charlesbridge Publishing

Summary: This groovy, bebopping picture book biography chronicles the legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins’s search for inspiration on the Williamsburg Bridge after quitting the jazz scene in 1959.

Rollins is one of the most prolific sax players in the history of jazz, but, in 1959, at the height of his career, he vanished from the jazz scene. His return to music was an interesting journey–with a long detour on the Williamsburg Bridge. Too loud to practice in his apartment, Rollins played on the New York City landmark for two years among the cacophony of traffic and the stares of bystanders, leading to the release of his album, The Bridge.

Written in rhythmic prose with a bebop edge, this picture-book biography of Sonny Rollins’s journey to get his groove back will delight young and old fans alike.

About the Author: Barry Wittenstein has worked at CBS Records, CBS News, and was a web editor and writer for Major League Baseball. He is now a New York City elementary-school substitute teacher and children’s author. He is the author of The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: The True Story About an Accidental Invention (Really!) and Waiting for Pumpsie. Barry lives in the Bronx.

About the Illustrator: Keith Mallett studied art at Hunter College in New York City. Keith’s work was commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s historic breakthrough into major league baseball, has graced the cover of Chicken Soup for the African American Soul, and has been featured in many movies and TV shows. He is the illustrator of Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee and How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz. Keith lives in San Diego, California.

Praise: “An appropriately jazzy picture-book biography of African-American musician Sonny Rollins. It impresses from the endpapers, which mirror a vinyl LP in its paper sleeve and then playing on a turntable, to the liner notes about Rollins’ seminal album “The Bridge” in the back.” -Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“The life of jazz legend Sonny Rollins pulses with the rousing spontaneity of his music in Wittenstein’s free verse biography. Readers witness Rollins’s career as an acclaimed musician followed by his explosive success and the subsequent reincarnations of his art.” -School Library Journal, starred review

Review: The rhythm of the writing in Sonny’s Bridge automatically gets you toe tapping while reading. It captures the feeling and flow of jazz which truly sets the stage for Sonny’s story because in the end this is the story of Sonny Rollins and his path to finding his musical voice.

In addition to the rhythm in the writing, the illustrators images bring the words to life using movement, color, and line to show the power of the music.

Together, the words and music bring Sonny’s story to the readers in a way that will illuminate his struggles and his triumphs.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Because of the rhythmic writing, this will be an amazing read aloud! And then the students can listen to The Bridge.

We are lucky to be living in a time with so many wonderful biographies out there about amazing people and a lot of them happen to be musicians, so what a great opportunity for book clubs or jig saws to look at different musicians and how they became who they are/were and how they changed not only musical history but sometimes even history.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why does Sonny find the bridge to be the best place for him to practice?
  • Why did Sonny take off two years and how did it change his life?
  • How did Sonny’s life correspond with Black Americans’ fight for equal rights?
  • How did the illustrator show Sonny’s music through is artwork?
  • Why would some want the bridge to be renamed Sonny’s Bridge?
  • After listening to The Bridge, how did the author capture the feeling of jazz in his writing?

Creator Corner with Barry Wittenstein from KidLitTV: 

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Music (specifically jazz), Jazz Day by Roxane Orgill, Trombone Shorty by Troy AndrewsLittle Melba and her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, Ella Fitzgerald by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Hip Hop Lollipop by Susan Montanari, The 5 O’Clock Band by Troy Andrews, Born to Swing by Mara Rockliff, Muddy by Michael James Mahin, Stand Up and Sing by Suanna Reich

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**Thank you to Charlesbridge Publishing for providing a copy for review**

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Max Attacks
Author: Kathi Appelt
Illustrator: Penelope Dullaghan
Publication Date: June 11th, 2019 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Summary: Fish and birds and lizards and socks…is there anything Max won’t attack? Watch your ankles and find out in this clever, rhyming picture book about a very naughty kitty cat.

Max is a cat. He attacks. From socks to strings to many a fish, attacking, for Max, is most de-lish. But how many of these things can he actually catch? Well, let’s just say it’s no even match.

About the Creators: Kathi Appelt is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults. Her first novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. It also received the PEN USA Award. Her other novels include Angel Thieves, for young adults, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, a National Book Award finalist, and Maybe a Fox, one of the Bank Street Books Best Children’s Books of the Year. In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in College Station, Texas. To learn more, and to find curriculum materials and activity pages, visit her website at kathiappelt.com.

Penelope Dullaghan is an award-winning artist with an attack-happy cat of her own. The main difference is that Rainy, her cat, is dark gray instead of blue. Penelope and Rainy share many favorite hobbies, including watching activity at the bird feeder, collecting interesting bugs, and outstretched snoozing in sunbeams. Max Attacks is Penelope’s debut picture book. Visit her at PenelopeDullaghan.com.

Praise: A paean to the pleasures of having a cat companion, this catalog of Max’s actions should win plenty of accolades: Max, a million; readers a million-plus. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

Appelt writes with catlike flexibility and bounce (Publishers Weekly)

“Max is sure to be a hit.” (School Library Journal)

Review: Both the illustrator and author have to be cat owners and cat lovers because Max’s story is obviously a narrative directly from a cat’s brain. Well, a narrative directly from a very rhythmic and rhyming cat 🙂 

Appelt does a wonderful job using rhythm to capture both how focused a cat gets when it has chosen whatever it has chosen as well as the ease that cats are distracted by another thing and loses all focus. As you read, you notice the rhythm changes between slow and focused and choppy and jumpy. This masterful poetry mixed with the fun illustrations that capture all of the emotions and movement of max. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Max Attacks will first and foremost be such a fun read aloud. Kids will love Max’s story and teachers will love the rhythm and rhyming in Appelt’s writing. 

Discussion Questions: 

  • Choose a different pet and use Appelt’s text structure and Dullaghan’s illustration style to create your own spread. 
  • What are some examples in Max’s story that fit the personality of a cat? 
  • How did rhythm effect Max’s narrative? 
  • What are some examples of the illustrations capturing a cat’s movement? Personality? Focus? 

Flagged Passages:

Read This If You Love: They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel; Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper; Kat Kong by Dav Pilkey; Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel; I Hate My Cats by Davide Cali

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!!**

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Love
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Published December 4, 2018 by Running Press

Summary:From award-winning author Stacy McAnulty comes a sweet story about love and what it’s really all about.

What is love? Can you only express it in fancy meals, greeting cards, and heart-shaped chocolates? Kids will find love everywhere in this delightful book. It can be found in everyday moments such as baking cookies with grandma, notes from Mom in your lunchbox, or a family singing together on a car trip, and it isn’t always what you expect!

With delightful illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff and sweetly simple prose by award-winning author Stacy McAnulty, thisis the perfect book to teach children what love means, why it’s important, and how they can spread the love in their daily lives.

My Review: This is a very heart-warming book. I received it on Valentine’s Day, and my kids and I have read it dozens of times. It would make a wonderful gift to a friend or family member because it offers many angles for the power of love. This book offers a lot of teaching potential as students explore abstract concepts and the idea of the metaphor. One thing, in particular, that I like about this book is that it resists the commercialization of love. As readers might see in the spread below, “love needs special presents” but those presents are homemade or expressed with kindness. This is a very touching book, and I think readers will find joy in it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’d love to have students take an abstract concept (hope, grief, etc.) and create their own books to parallel this one. It would require a lot of brain power and would help students explore the idea of metaphors in their writing. I might even offer poetry that does this (e.g. “Hope is a thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson).

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is love? Who do you love?
  • How do you express your love?
  • Write your own page to add to this book. How does it fit in with the other pages?

Flagged Spread:

 

Read This If You Love: Love. And who doesn’t?

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Bone Soup: A Spooky Tasty Tale
Author: Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Illustrator: Tom Knight
Published: July 24, 2018 by Simon & Schuster

Goodreads Summary: Three little witches and a bunch of spooky characters come together to prepare a delicious batch of Bone Soup in this Halloween tale based on the beloved fable, Stone Soup. This just-scary-enough picture book comes with a recipe for Bone Soup—perfect for Halloween eating.

Trick-or-treat? Trick-or-treat!
We’ve something usually good to eat!

One Halloween morning three witches are looking for a tasty treat and they find only a small bone in their cupboard. So they decide to go from door to door in their village to find just the right ingredients for their Bone Soup. No one in the village is convinced that soup can be made from a bone, until the littlest monster reveals just what the special ingredient should be.

My Review: We received this book earlier in the month, and we’ve read it dozens and dozens of times. I was very excited about it and have held it in my pocket for Halloween! If you enjoy spooky, fun tales, this book is for you. I find myself walking around repeating, “It’s bone soup! Soup from the bone!” and “Piff-Poof!” The text is quite catchy, and it’s a highly entertaining read-aloud. This is a book that parents and teachers will find extra fun for their classrooms and homes. I recommend adding Bone Soup to your Halloween collection!

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Students might take a trip outdoors and gather their own materials for bone soup. For instance, a stick could be imagined as the bone from a pirate. Grass might be the hair from a goblin. Then, they can take their materials inside and craft their own class story together.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the sister witches interact?
  • How do they build their bone soup? What do they add to it?
  • What creative things would you add to your own bone soup?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved: Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson, Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt, Dragon’s Halloween by Dav Pilkey, Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex, Monster Mash (Babymouse #9) by Jennifer L. Holm, Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween by Melanie Watt; Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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Don’t Ask a Dinosaur
Author: Deborah Bruss & Matt Forrest Esenwine
Illustrator: Louie Chin
Published April 17th by POW!

Summary: Don’t Ask a Dinosaur is about a party that goes wildly awry when a pack of dinosaurs with very unique physical attributes attempt to help set up.

“Don’t ask Deinocheirus to set the forks and spoons,” because his hands were enormous, “Therizinosaurus cannot blow up balloons,” because he had very long claws. In the end they find the one thing everyone can help do is to blow out the candles on the cake…but will it create yet another mess?

ReviewDon’t ask a dinosaur what he thinks about this book! Unless he says it is awesome, funny, and informative. Then ask him, and trust his answer.

I was introduced to Esenwine’s work when I read Flashlight Night, and I was immediately impressed with his work–he just had a way with words! While this picture book is quite different, it is not going to let Esenwine fans down. It for sure didn’t let Trent down; he already has had us read this multiple times with different questions each time we read. He also thinks it is hilarious, finding something silly each time he reads.

I also loved the book for a couple other specific reasons. First, I loved that the story included some pretty unknown dinosaurs to help the readers get introduced to them in a fun way. Esenwine and Bruss also did a fantastic job with their rhyming using syllable count to make it even more rhythmic than it would be without. And the addition of phonetic spellings of the dinosaur names was a nice touch to help with the pronunciation for the adult reader and for the child as they learn about the dinosaurs.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: On the surface, this text will be a way to introduce a bunch of different types of dinosaurs in a fun, rhyming text; however, this can just be a jumping off point for either a creative writing activity or a science activity (or both!). Because of Esenwine & Bruss’s specific syllables and rhyming, it would be quite challenging and fun to ask students to pick dinosaurs and try to think of other things that they may not be good at and ask them to write their own mini-dino poems. Or students can take the dinosaurs that are introduced in the book and research them to find out what they really wouldn’t be able to do in real life.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the certain dino get chosen for each activity?
  • What dinosaur was new to you?
  • If you could have one dinosaur at your birthday party, what dinosaur would you pick? What would you make sure not to have it do?
  • How does the phonetic spelling of the dinosaur names help with the rhythm of the text?
  • What is going on in the background, in the illustrations, as the narrator helps you see what dinosaurs shouldn’t do?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Dinosaurs!, Jane Yolen & Mark Teague “How Does a Dinosaur” series, PBS’s Dinosaur Train

Recommended For: 

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Make sure to stop by other stops on the Dinosaur Tour!

April 6:        Michelle H. Barnes (Interview w/month-long writing prompt)
April 8:        Kate Narita (Trailer & activity sheet spotlight)
April 11:      Deborah Kalb (Interview w/Matt Forrest Esenwine & Deborah Bruss)
April 13:      Radio, Rhythm, & Rhyme (Interview w/Louie Chin)
April 16:      KidLit Exchange (Blog post re: process of illustration)
April 17:      Momma’s Bacon
April 18:      Bonnie Ferrante
April 19:      Brenda Harsham
April 25:      Bonnie Ferrante (Interview)
May 2:         Unleashing Readers

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**Thank you to POW! and Matt Forrest Esenwine for making this blog tour happen!**

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On Gull Beach
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Bob Marstall
Published March 27th, 2018 by Cornell Lab Publishing Group

Summary: Together again! On Gull Beach reunites bestselling children’s author Jane Yolen and award-winning illustrator Bob Marstall for the third installment of the acclaimed On Bird Hill and Beyondseries of children’s books written for the renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

In On Bird Hill, Yolen and Marstall took readers on a surreal journey with a boy and his dog as they see the natural world, ultimately witnessing the miracle of a chick emerging from an egg.

On Duck Pond continued their journey, this time at a serene pond filled with birds, frogs, and turtles who are suddenly disrupted by their intrusion, but soon settle back into a quiet equilibrium.

On Gull Beach brings us to an idyllic shoreline in Cape Cod, where gulls hover, dive, and chase with pitched acrobatics in pursuit of a seastar. This enchanting sequel in a brand new habitat will delight readers young and old.

As with all Cornell Lab Publishing Group books, 35% of net proceeds from the sale of this title goes directly to the Cornell Lab to support projects such as children’s educational and community programs.

Our review of On Duck Pond from May 4, 2017.

Kellee’s Review: What I love about this series of books by Yolen and Marstall are the way they have combined the beauty of Yolen’s lyrical words with information about the birds and other animals and their habitats that the books focus on. In this one we follow a young boy as he takes a walk on the beach and tried to say a starfish from the birds on the beach. Yolen’s rhythmic writing takes you on the journey while Marstall’s illustrations make them come to life. 

Ricki’s Review: I am still waiting for the day that I read a Jane Yolen book that I don’t love. Today isn’t that day. As Kellee said, Yolen’s words are lyrical. She rhymes, but it isn’t a cheesy sort of rhyme. Instead, it’s quite beautiful and urges readers to keep turning the pages. Marstall’s illustrations are realistic, and they pull the reader into the story. The back matter provides clarifying information about gulls (see the page spread that we feature below). As a New Englander, I smiled at the variety of gulls that the authors feature. The book features photographs along with informational text to teach readers all about the “So many gulls!” This made me long for the summer, and I am looking forward to identifying these gulls on our next beach trip! 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Each of the books Yolen and Marstall have done focus on a different bird in a different habitat. What a great way to combine reading, writing, and science! In an elementary classroom, have students jigsaw to each of the books and come together in a home group so share what they learned about each habitat and the animals that live there. Then students can research a bird of their choice and its habitat to write their own poem about a visit to see the bird.

Discussion Questions: 

  • The habitat Yolen and Marstall were focusing on is a New England Beach. If you have been to a beach in another area, how is the New England beach in the book different and similar to the beach you have gone to?
  • What other birds other than gulls live on beaches all over the world?
  • What parts of the beach habitat did Yolen and Marstall highlight in their book?
  • How does the structure of poetry change this nonfiction book to make it different than other books about birds and habitats?
  • What are the differences and similarities between the three habitats and three birds that Yolen and Marstall have focused on?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Yolen & Marstall’s other ornithology books, Books about birds like Hello, Hippo! Goodbye, Bird! by Kristyn Crow, The Sky Painter by Margarita Engle, Elwood Bigfood: Wanted Birdie Friends by Jill Esbaum, Birds by Kevin Henkes, Look Up! by Annette LeBlanc Cate, Seabird in the Forest by Joan Dunning

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