Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Beginnings/Endings


top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

Today’s Topic: Top Ten Book Beginnings/Endings
(Don’t worry! No spoilers!)



1. Wonder– The first page in Wonder is one of my favorite first pages ever.

“I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.

If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all. I would wish that I could walk down the street without people seeing me and then doing that look-away thing. Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.

But I’m kind of used to how I look by now. I know how to pretend I don’t see the faces people make. We’ve all gotten pretty good at that sort of thing: me, Mom and Dad, Via. Actually, I take that back: Via’s not so good at it. She can get really annoyed when people do something rude. Like, for instance, one time in the playground some older kids made some noises. I don’t even know what the noises were exactly because I didn’t hear them myself, but Via heard and she just started yelling at the kids. That’s the way she is. I’m not that way.

Via doesn’t see me as ordinary. She says she does, but if I were ordinary, she wouldn’t feel like she needs to protect me as much. And Mom and Dad don’t see me as ordinary, either. They see me as extraordinary. I think the only person in the world who realizes how ordinary I am is me.

My name is August, by the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

Don’t you want to read it now?!?! [Ricki says, “YES, Kellee. Now you made me want to RE-READ it!)

2. A Tale Darm and Grimm– This first page always sucks in my students when I read it outloud to them.

“Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.

I know, I know. You don’t believe me. I don’t blame you. A little while ago, I wouldn’t have believed it myself. Little girls in red caps skipping around the forest? Awesome? I don’t think so.

But then I started to read them. The real, Grimm ones. Very few little girls in red caps in those.

Well, there’s one. But she gets eaten.”

Awesome is right!


3. Graceling– The ending of this perfect book is a beautiful allusion to Jane Eyre. I loved it.

4. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe– The power of truly finding your identity is purely captured in this amazing book.

5. The Giver– Ah, one of the most controversial endings ever! I actually loved it because it causes such amazing discussion and even pure anger in its readers. This is my all-time favorite book, and I will always cherish the ambiguity that Lowry ends this novel with. (And if you really want to know what happens, read the companions.)



1. Between Shades of Gray I told myself I was going to do just beginnings or just endings, but I felt like I would be really dropping the ball if I didn’t mention the beginning of this book. Readers are thrown into the action, where the NKVD are pounding on Lina’s door. I love reading this beginning to students because I have fifteen copies of this book, and almost every single copy is signed out by the end of class. Lina’s mother begs and barters for her son’s life. She is successful, and Lina’s words at the end of the chapter are chilling. I know them by heart. “Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”


2. Shine This is the only ending of any book that made me hold my breath. My heart actually stopped for a moment (My brother, who is a physician, would argue with me, I am sure). All I can say is–HOLD ON! (Did you catch that pun—those of you who have read this one?)

3. To Kill a Mockingbird This book almost feels like a story within a story to me. I love how the trial is separate yet connected to everything Scout learns. The final scene provides a lot of closure for readers. Overall, it is the most satisfying ending of any book I’ve read.

4. Of Mice and Men I didn’t want to discuss two classics because there are so many great beginnings and endings in YAL, but this is one of my favorite books to read aloud to students because of the ending. There are two closing scenes (one with Curley’s wife and the other on the last few pages) that make my students audibly gasp. I have those scenes memorized so I can see the looks on their faces as I read them—and it never gets old. The final few pages of this book are great because they really allow readers to ponder the message of the book. My students always have strong opinions about the characters immediately after I read it, but after some discussion and a few differing comments from their peers, many of them change their minds.

5. The Fault in our Stars Ah, what an ending! I love this ending not because of what happens but because of how it is said. Green masterfully weaves the words at the end of this book in a way that sticks with readers forever.


What is your favorite book beginning? Endings? 

Signature andRickiSig

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/29/13



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.







Last Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday stardines beers

Award Seal building IMG-20120123-00888

 **Click on any picture above to view the post**

Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: I feel like I have really been struggling with reading this summer. Usually summers are my free time where I find myself taking part in #summerthrowdown and #bookaday, but I have not been reading enough to do either. I think it is because I have A) been writing and researching a lot this summer; B) taught summer reading camp and been doing a lot of professional development; C) just wanted to relax when I finally had free time. The thing is, though, I feel guilty for not reading as much. Guilty only because I have higher expectations for myself. I only have 2 weeks left of summer and I just know I am not going to live up to those expectations now, so I am working on realizing it is okay. Has anyone else felt this way ever?

This week I was able to read a couple of books among my classroom moving (I am officially my school’s reading coach next year, so I had to move from the largest classroom in the school to a room that is half the size of a normal classroom; however, we did it in just 2 days!!) and the Solution Tree PLC Conference:

First, because of all of the driving, I did finish Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (audiobook) by David Sedaris. I loved it like all of his books, but I found that some parts of it were majorly serious and just didn’t affect me as much. I also read two nonfiction picture books that I really enjoyed and will definitely share on a NF PB Wednesday- Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sara C. Levine and Hey Charleston!: The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band. Next I read Doug TenNapel’s newest graphic novel Tommysaurus Rex which will definitely fly off my shelf when the school year begins (and I’ll be reviewing on Friday). Finally, I read a humorous poetry book called I Could Pee On This and Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano which had some quite hilarious kitty poems.


Ricki: For starters, I finished The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I liked it, but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would (isn’t that usually the case with classics?). Then, I read The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate because so many of you commented on last week’s post that it was a must read. THANK YOU! I loved it.

And then something magical happened. I couldn’t decide which book to read out of the stacks that covered my floor, and I discovered NetGalley. Okay, I always knew about it, but I didn’t realize just how awesome it was. I have been attached to my Kindle all week. I read The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle which was great—come back Thursday for the review. Because I am a Micmac Indian, I couldn’t resist ordering and reading Real Justice: Convicted for being Mi’kmaq: The Story of Donald Marshall Jr. (swing by on Wednesday for that review). And lastly, I also finished my 600-page book, Baby Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields, as I am trying to get a head-start on my baby registry. If you are a new mom or going to be a new mom, this one is great. It came highly recommended to me. I am pretty proud of myself this week. Perhaps, I will get back on track with my reading goal.


This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: I am currently on vacation and brought a bunch of books with me, so I will have to pick out of them which I’m going to read. I have a pile of nonfiction picture books from the library, some graphic novels, and a few novels. I know I definitely am going to read Feynman by Jim Ottaviani this week as @CbethM and @mselke highly recommended it and I requested it from the library because of them. I hope that this week will be a more successful reading week as I have no work things to do!! *fingers crossed*


Ricki: Because I am new to NetGalley, I recently learned that most publishers request that people not blog about their books until 30 days prior to their publication. This is a bummer for me because I like to share about a book right after I read it to hear your thoughts. So I have to slow down on my galleys. First, I am going to finish the galley, The Truth about You & Me by Amanda Grace. I started it last night and am enjoying it thus far. It is about a high school teen who takes a college course and falls in love with the professor (scandalous!). Then, I want to read The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb. It is a YA narrative nonfiction text, and I love World War II books, so I am excited. A few of the books I received aren’t going to be published for a few months, so we will see if I can hold off. If not, I will have to read them and then twiddle my thumbs until I am allowed to post their reviews. I am a very patient person, except when it comes to sharing about books. I’ve been known to drive to friends’ houses to deliver a book that they “must read!”


Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday 17198555 17290266

north tommy stained


 So, what are you reading?

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading.
Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs.
If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

Signature andRickiSig

Top Books for Struggling/Reluctant Middle School Readers


For my first 5 years of teaching, I taught 6th and 7th grade Language Arts; however, in 2011, I switched to teaching Intensive Reading for the students in my school who had not passed the state assessment. When I moved to primarily teaching struggling readers, I knew I had to exam more deeply which books would truly grab these students’ attention and help them identify as readers. After a year in this position, I have some go-to books that I find have become great foundations for my students to grow into just plain readers, not struggling or reluctant. And now, after two years as an intensive reading teacher, I’m very lucky to become my school’s Reading Coach. I cannot wait to help all of the struggling/reluctant readers in our school find the just-right books to make them love reading.


Top 20 Books for Struggling and Reluctant Middle School Students 2012-2013

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (series) by Jeff Kinney

Big Nate (series) by Lincoln Peirce

Amulet (series) by Kazu Kibuishi
(And Kazu’s anthology Explorer is a big hit between Amulet books.)

Bone (series) by Jeff Smith

Knights of the Lunch Table (series) by Frank Cammuso

Graphic novels Bad IslandGhostopolis, Tommysaurus Rex, and Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

Sidekicks by Dan Santat

I Survived… (series) by Lauren Tarshis

Maximum Ride: The Manga (series) by James Patterson

Any nonfiction book by Seymour Simon

Dork Diaries (series) by Rachel Renee Russell

Smile and  Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

dear dumb
Dear Dumb Diary (series) by Jim Benton

Love that Dog & Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech

Bluford (series) by various

Surviving Southside (series) by various

Popularity Papers (series) by Amy Ignatow

Any novel in verse, specifically Lisa Schroeder and Sonya Sones

After looking at my students’ checkouts for the year, I would definitely also add these to the list: 

Bird and Squirrel On the Run and Gabby and Gator by James Burks

Teen Boat by John Green

Liam O’Donnell’s Graphic Guide Adventures

The 9/11 Report by Sid Jacobson

Olympians graphic novels by George O’Connor

Mal and Chad (series) by Stephen McCranie

Discovery Channel’s Top 10 Deadliest Sharks and Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators

The Elsewhere Chronicles (series) by Nykko

Ghetto Cowboy and Yummy by G. Neri

Adventures of Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey

charlie joe
Charlie Joe Jackson (series) by Tommy Greenwald

cow boy
Cow Boy by Nate Cosby

Vladimir Tod (series) by Zac Brewer

The Lightning Thief (series) by Rick Riordan

These books listed may not all be relevant now. Each year, I will share my students’ favorites to keep you all updated:

An updated post about the books that were checked out most frequently from my classroom library in 2014-2015

Post about the most checked out graphic novels and novels in the 2015-2016 school year

Top Checked Out Books by Kellee’s Middle School Readers 2016-2017

Kellee’s End of Year Student Survey Results, Students’ Favorite Books, and Top Checked Out Books 2017-18

Kellee’s End of Year Student Survey Results, Students’ Favorite Books, and Top Checked Out Books 2018-19

2023 Note: These posts end in 2019 because I moved to the library starting int he 2019-2020 school year. Reflecting now, I should start pulling statistics from my whole library to share–I’ll do that from now on!

Reflection Note (2018): This post was originally written years ago, and I now struggle with the terms struggling and reluctant readers. The connotation behind these terms is so negative when really these students need all positivity in their lives. There are other options I’ve heard over the year like striving, undiscovered, or developing; however, I think in general we need to just remember that all readers are individuals, and we need to get to know each kid to see exactly what they need. I explain more in my You Tube Literacy Teachers Vlog interview:

What books/series do you find to be most popular with your middle school readers? Have you found success with the books I listed above? Have you/your students read any of the books I’ve listed? Did you/your students enjoy them?

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean



Building Our House
Author and Illustrator: Jonathan Bean
Published January 8th, 2013 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Summary: Based on Jonathan Bean’s childhood experience, Building Our House follows a family who moves to a piece of land and builds their own home over the course of many years.

My Review: What an amazing story! It is even more amazing because it is based off of the author’s true childhood events. In the book, we follow the family from living in a trailer surrounded by bare land to living in their dream home. Though the summary seems so simple, it is much more than just watching a family build a home. It is about being determined, resilient, hardworking, a strong family, and patient. I also see it drawing in readers who are curious by building and tools. Finally, to make this story even better, the illustrations are so intricate and colorful which will also draw in readers (and has gotten it on Mock Caldecott lists).

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The story is told in a very sequential way and would be a great introduction or resource for teaching sequence. Then, I noticed as reading, that often there is more going on in the illustrations then is stated in the words. It would be a great activity to reinforce sequence to tell the other story to the story- the story told in the illustrations.

Discussion Questions: What character traits must the Mom and Dad have to work this long/hard on their dream home?; Put the main events in sequential order.; When was a time that your family came together to do something?

We Flagged: “Our crew works until the sun sets and the frame stands strong in the middle of the field. Mom makes places for everyone to sit around a fire. We eat and talk and play until the stars shine and the owls call.” (p. 24)

Read This If You Loved: Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, Mitchell Goes Bowling by Hallie Durand

Recommended For: 

closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

The building of his childhood home is a memory that has lasted for Jonathan Bean. If you were going to write a book about a moment or memory from your childhood, what would it be?


Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award


Award Seal

 Last week, we were thrilled to announce the finalists for the 2013 Walden Award, and today, we wanted to share more about the award and the committee.

Background of the Award

The Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award was established in 2008 and is presented by ALAN (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE) yearly. The award honors Amelia Elizabeth Walden, a pioneer in the field of young adult literature. The criteria for the award is that the honored titles must: possess a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and strong literary merit.  What makes the award different from  ALA’s Printz, for example, is that although literary merit is important, the book needs to meet the other two criteria as well.

The Committee

Ricki’s Experiences

When I first heard about the committee at the ALAN Workshop, I knew I wanted to apply. I thought it was a long-shot, but I submitted my application and was thrilled to be accepted. I knew some of the other members on the committee, and I was so excited to work with such important, knowledgeable individuals.

Opening up the first box of books was very exciting. I could wait to review and discuss them. I’ll admit—it was hard work. In the beginning, I had to schedule reading time (something I’d never done before because I was always a voracious reader), and that first year, I think I drove my husband nuts. While I felt my stacks of books were very organized, he didn’t enjoy that he had to walk through a maze of books to get from our bedroom to the bathroom. I should also add that he didn’t enjoy that I was up until three in the morning most nights, waking him up as I sobbed or laughed at a scene from a book. I have always read an excessive number of books, but these past few years, I have truly learned the meaning of the phrase: There is ALWAYS time to read.

Being on the committee has been like a second job for me, but it is equally as rewarding as teaching. I have read more than I ever thought I could read. We discussed, discussed, and discussed each of the books. I reread books until I began to know their lines by heart. The books became a part of me, as I had spent hours looking at every aspect of them as we exchanged conversations about each of them. I have always been willing to give any book of any genre a try, but now, I find myself eagerly looking for more variety in my reading. I love to find books in new topics or subgenres because I have learned so much from the books I’ve read on the committee. This year is my fifth (and last) year on the committee, where I served as the past chair. I am sad to part ways, as the committee has become a major part of my life. I’ve formed so many close bonds with wonderful individuals (after all—were it not for this committee, I wouldn’t have found Kellee!), and I have truly loved the hundreds upon hundreds of conversations I have had with my colleagues about the incredible books that were submitted.

Kellee’s Experiences

I first heard about the Walden award at my first ALAN workshop where I was lucky enough to see Kristin Cashore receive the award for Fire. I was currently in love with The Monstrumologist series, so I knew that the award was something I needed to keep my eye on. Then in 2011, I saw a call for applications tweet come from Teri Lesesne to become part of the award committee, and I immediately went to ALAN’s website to learn more. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I, a normal teacher from Florida, could become part of this amazing procedure. I could be part of reviewing books and choosing which book deserves that coveted award sticker. So, I applied, and voila! I got to be part of this amazing committee.

Like Ricki, receiving the books was such a treat! Though, I surprised myself, because I actually ended up being more excited about the process than the actual quantities of books. I got caught up in the reading and recording and discussing. Though sometimes it is a lot of work, it is so worth it! And yes, it includes lots and lots of reading, but it is so, so, so worth it. Being at the ALAN workshop last year to meet authors who were honored partially because of being—AMAZING! 

Being on the committee has changed my life. It has helped me become a larger part of ALAN, it has helped me meet more authors, and, probably most importantly, it has helped me connect with colleagues (and friends!!! *cough* Ricki) that I will have as part of my life forever.

Award Recipients




 1583449 3236307 2213661 1237574





 0-545-05474-5 6457229 3238153 6400654





0-439-83706-5 7661718 6763730 6621146





7824322 9266762 9917938 8423931



12000020 13069935 13591678 11870085

Finalists (Winner to be Announced Shortly)

Committee Members

Past and Current Chairs

Wendy Glenn (2009), Daria Plumb (2010), Teri Lesesne (2011), Ricki Ginsberg (2012), Lois Buckman (2013)

Past and Current Committee Members

Carolyn Angus, Mary Arnold, Jonatha Basye, cj Bott, Jean Boreen, Jennifer Buehler, Paul Hankins, Jeff Harr, Jeff Kaplan, Bonnie Kunzel, Mark Letcher, Suzanne Metcalfe, Kellee Moye, Mindi Rench, Lois Stover, Diane Tuccillo, Barbara Ward, Jennifer Walsh

Apply to Be on the Committee

 The committee is made up of three teachers, three librarians, three university professors, and one chair. The committee is looking to fill three vacancies (a teacher, a librarian, and a university professor).  Currently (and annually), ALAN calls for applications for new committee members and information can be found on their website: The deadline for applications is September 15, 2013.

We hope we have helped you understand the joy of being part of this amazing committee. We wouldn’t trade our experiences for the world.  

Signature andRickiSig

When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12 by Kylene Beers



When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12
Author: Kylene Beers
Published: October 22, 2002 by Heinemann Educational Books

Summary: When Kylene Beers entered the classroom in the 1970s, she had dreams of teaching AP classes, filled with students who were passionate, high-level readers. She was shocked when she was confronted by classes of students who not only couldn’t read but didn’t want to read. While she wanted a job teaching seniors in high school, she took the only available position as a seventh grade teacher. George was a boy in her classroom. He couldn’t read. In a conference, his parents asked Beers how she planned to help George, and she didn’t have the answers. After a few years with students like George, Beers set out to find more effective ways to teach students like him.

Review: This practical handbook will prove to be an invaluable guide for both beginning and experienced middle and high school English teachers. I was told by more than one professor that this is the “best book to teach struggling readers.” I expected to learn a few strategies from the book, but I was shocked by just how much I learned. There are so many new ideas, practical tips, and classroom activities that I wish I’d discovered this book much earlier. The book helps teachers diagnose struggling readers’ issues and offers practical solutions.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The book is divided into major sections of: Comprehension, Vocabulary, Fluency, Word Recognition, and Motivation. I don’t believe it is intended to be read cover-to-cover (although I read it that way because I found it to be so fascinating), and teachers can use it as more of a guidebook for diagnosing and addressing concerns with particular students. The inside cover directs teachers to the chapter they might be looking for.

I can’t share all of the awesome details of the book, so I will hone in on one chapter. I’ve always considered myself to be an excellent planner and implementer of pre-reading strategies. I use KWL charts, have students walk around the room to discover concepts, and just adore student debates that stem from anticipation guides. Beers’ book put me to shame. She introduced the idea of a KWGL chart (the G standing for where the students plan to GO for the information). Why didn’t I think of that? Additionally, she presented ideas called the “Probable Passage” and the “Tea Party,” two strategies I had never heard of. In the next chapter about “Constructing Meaning,” she describes ELEVEN (yes, I said eleven) different strategies to engage readers with constructing meaning. I liked the strategies a lot because many of them seemed very fun. I can imagine my students would be extremely engaged in their reading, had I used these strategies. She also provides blank worksheets of the strategies in the appendices (and we love this, don’t we?).

I have read many professional development books. This is certainly one of my favorites because it is practical, easy-to-employ, and extremely useful. I am jealous that I haven’t thought of all of the great strategies, activities, and pointers that Beers has used in her classroom. If I employed more of these ideas, I would feel like the Wonder Woman of the School.

Discussion Questions: What do we do when a student comes tell us they ‘just don’t get it’? What is a struggling reader? Once we’ve discovered that a student can’t read, what can we do about it? How do we create independent readers out of dependent readers? What is the best way to teach vocabulary? How do we help students with fluency and automaticity? Are phonics important? How do we create confidence in our readers?

We Flagged: “I think back to any one of the many days that I encouraged George to ‘just reread it’ and acknowledge that there’s wisdom in that comment, but more important[ly], I recognize the assumption that guided me for a long time: if they read it (the text), it (the meaning) will come. ‘Did you read it?’ I asked. ‘Well, go read it again. You can get it.’ Meaning was obviously something in the text that George could surely grasp if he just read it often enough” (p. 8).

Read This If You Loved: In the Middle by Nancie Atwell, The English Teacher’s Companion by Jim Burke, Readicide by Kelly Gallagher, Deeper Reading by Kelly Gallagher, I Read it but I Don’t Get It by Cris Tovani


What is your favorite book for professional development? Have you read this one? What did you think? Share your thoughts!


Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky


NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book 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!



Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems
Author: Jack Prelutsky
Illustrator: Carin Berger
Published February 26th, 2013 by Greenwillow Books

Summary: Jack Prelutsky combines inanimate objects with animals to give us a new collection of fun poetry that is accompanied by Carin Berger’s amazing fine artwork.

My Review: I love the concept behind this book. It is set up like an informational nonfiction book with each poem being presented like a specimen. Carin Berger’s artwork is full of found objects that were photographed to add to the nonfiction feeling of each poem.   And, of course, Prelutsky adds a sense of humor to each poem as that is what he does.

The creatures that Prelutsky came up with are so clever – SOBCATS who are sad cats, JOLLYFISH who are happy jellyfish, TATTLESNAKE are snakes that won’t stop tattling, and GLOOSE are a bird that keep sticking to everything. And these are just four examples of sixteen in the book.

I cannot review this book without talking about the artwork. I originally chose this book because I saw it on a Mock Caldecott list and I can definitely see why. Carin Berger illustrates this novel with beautiful pieces of artwork. As stated on the copyright page: “The miniature dioramas in this book are assemblages created using a combination of cut paper, found ephemera, vintage engravings (which were scanned, manipulated in Photoshop, and then printed out), beeswax, wire, thread, and wood. Once each piece was made, it was then photographed digitally to prepare the full-color art.” What a fantastic process to discuss with students and it definitely added an essential aspect to the book.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Each poem is its own discussion starter. First, to separate the title creatures into the two words that were combined and looking at what the animals is and what the word is that it was combined with. For example: “Chormorants” is a combination of CORMORANT and CHORES. Then I’d look through the poem and find where the animal is represented and where the combined word plays a role. And on top of that, each poem can be looked at as a poem and look for poetic elements within it.  Each poem is a stand-alone, well done poem that is sure to start a conversation.

Discussion Questions: Which poem is your favorite? Why?; Combine an animal with a word and write a poem about this new creature.; How do you think Berger’s artwork added to the book? How would cartoon illustrations have made the book different?

We Flagged: Every poem is a gem, but this is my favorite-

“PLANDAS sit around all day,
Planning what to do.
Their plans amount to nothing,
For they never see them through.
They plan to run a marathon
Or take a railroad trip.
They plan to cross the ocean
On a wooden sailing ship.
They plan to learn to roller-skate,
To juggle, and to fence.
They plan to go to clown school
And cavort in circus tents.
They plan to play the saxophone
And form their own brass bands. . . .
But PLANDAS never do these things –
They just keep making plans.” (p. 21)

Read This If You Loved: Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky, My Teacher Likes to Say by Denise Brennan-Nelson,  Lemonade by Bob Raczka

Recommended For:

closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall