Monday, November 7, 2011

About the Authors

Author of Oh, the Places You'll Go and Hop on Pop, Dr. Seuss was born, Theodor Geisel on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Ted Geisel, as he was called, attended Dartmouth College for his undergraduate and later attended Oxford University in England to become a professor.  While there, he met Helen Palmer who encouraged him to become an artist rather than a professor.  The two were later wed.  Dr. Seuss is one of the most well known authors of all time.  His stories, illustrations, and imagination have been enjoyed for generations.  For more information on Dr. Seuss, visit The Cat In the Hat website.

Barbara Cooney

Barbara Cooney is the author/illustrator of Miss Rumphius and Island Boy, which she said was her "hymn to Maine" (Cooney Biography).    Barbara Cooney was born on August 6, 1917, in Brooklyn, New York along with her twin brother.  She never felt the love for the city that she felt for Maine, which was where she spent her summers as a child.  She later attended Smith College where she studied art history and received her degree in 1938.  In 1959, she was awarded the Caldecott Medal for her adaptation of Chaucer's "The Nun Priest's Tale." Cooney died in 2000 at her home in Damariscotta, Maine.  She was 82 years old. 

Alice McLerran

Barbara Cooney worked with author Alice McLerran to create the images to the nonfiction children's book called Roxaboxen.  McLerran earned her Ph.D in anthropology from U.C. Berkeley as well as an M.P.H. and M.S. from the Harvard School of Public Health.  She has been writing and sharing what she has wrote ever since she can remember.  Her first book was published in 1985.  The following is a list of titles by McLerran; Roxaboxen, Secrets, The Year of the Ranch, I Want to Go Home, Dreamsong, The Legacy of Roxaboxen; A Collection of Voices, and Dragonfly.  If you are interested in the life and work of Alice McLerran then visit her website at

Judi Barrett

Judi Barrett is the author of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.  Her husband was the illustrator. She is also the author of Pickles to Pittsburgh, Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing, and Things That Are Most in the World.  She currently teaches art to kindergarten students at a school in Brooklyn, New York.  

Daisy Corning Stone Spedden
Margaretta Corning Stone, known to others as "Daisy," was born in 1872, in Morristown, New Jersey.  She lived with her husband Frederic and son Douglas at Wee Wah Lodge in Tuxedo Park, New York.  Spedden and her family boarded the Titanic on April 10, 1912, in Cherbourg, France.  She was on the ship when it struck an iceberg four days later.  Polar the Titanic Bear is the story about the events on the Titanic told from the point of view of her son's teddy bear.  In 1915, her son was killed by an automobile, marking his death as the first automobile fatality in the state of Maine.  Spedden eventually died in her home on February 2, 1950, at her home in New York.  Learn more by visiting

Author/Illustrator Jan Brett

Jan Brett is a well known author and illustrator with over 37 million books in print and author/illustrator of The Mitten.  As a child, she loved to draw and spent hours doing so.  She followed her passion for art and attended the Boston Museum School.  Other titles by Brett include The Hat, Christmas Trolls, Annie and the Wild Animals, Gingerbread Babies, The Easter Egg, and many more.  Brett currently lives in a seacoast town in Massachusetts and spends summers at their home in the Berkshires.  Learn more about Brett at her homepage.

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen was born on April 2, 1805, and died on August 4, 1875.  He has been dead for over a century, but is still an extremely recognizable figure in the literary world.  He was a Danish author, fairy tale writer, and poet noted for his children's stories and memorable characters.  Some of his titles include "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," "The Snow Queen," "The Little Mermaid," "Thumbelina," "The Ugly Ducking," and "The Little Match Girl," which has been adapted by many authors.  The version illustrated by Rachel Isadora is the one that I was familiar with as a child.  

Rafe Martin

Rafe was born in New York City in 1946.  Martin became the first student to graduate with Highest Honors in English from Harpur College (now Binghamton University), for his thesis on Moby Dick.  Aside from having a M.A in English Literature he is also a trained literary critic.  His first book was published in 1984 and twenty more have followed.  The Rough-Face Girl is one of his well known titles.  A. Levine is the editor and publisher of the Harry Potter books.  He wrote in a review that "Rafe Martin is an amazing performer and storyteller...he is magical in the way he tells books" (  

Jeanne Martinet

Jeanne Martinet compiled the facts for 1987: The Year You Were Born and is also the author of seven books, including the recently published Life is Friends and the widely acclaimed The Art of Mingling, which has sold more than 150,000 copies in the United States alone. Her books have been published in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Poland.  Her books are directed towards an older audience of readers.  Read more about her at

Chris Van Allsbur
Chris Van Allsburg is a very well known author of children's book.  One of his more popular stories is The Polar Express, which has also been made into a major motion picture.  Van Allsburg was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 18th, 1949.  As a child, Van Allsburg moved around with his family.  One of the houses that they lived in was an old brick Tudor Style house in East Grand Rapids. It was a street that looked like the street on the cover of The Polar Express. He attended the University of Michigan for Art and Design and later earned his master's degree in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design.  For more information on Chris Van Allsburg visit his user-friendly and interactive website at

Christine Maxfield's story called Christmas in Water Village was published in 1989.

E.B White

Elwyn Brooks White was born on July 11, 1899.  Known to the world as E.B White, he is the author of Charlotte's Web and other beloved classics such as Stuart Little.  White was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity during his college years.  He graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1923.  He wrote for The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  He also worked in an advertising agency before returning to New York City in 1924.  In 1963, White was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 1978, he won an honorary Pulitzer Prize for his work as a whole.  White died in 1985, in Brooklin, Maine.  

Shel Silverstein

Sheldon Allan Silverstein was born on September 25, 1930.  He is an author, illustrator, cartoonist, singer-songwriter, musician, composer, and screenwriter.  Perhaps he is most known for his children's poems; all of which are clever, serious, and silly.  Some titles that you may recognize are The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up, and Everything On It. His books have been translated into twenty languages and sold over 20 million copies.  This talented man died in May of 1999.  Visit his website at

Judith Viorst

Judith Viorst is the author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Other books in the "Alexander" series include Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday published in 1978, and  Alexander, Who's Not (Do Your Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move published in 1995.  Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1931, Viorst is the author of many works of fiction and nonfiction, for children as well as adults.  She attended Rutgers University. 

Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown wrote hundreds of books and stories during her life, but she is best known for Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny.  Even though she died over 55 years ago, many of her books are still in print.  A lover of animals, Brown, or "Brownie" as her friends called her, would dream of children's stories and would have to write them down when she woke up.  She died suddenly of an embolism at the age of 42.  For more information about the author, her books, and lesson ideas visit

Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda.  Both are well loved children's classics and both have been made into motion picture films.  He was born in Llandoff, Wales on September 13, 1916, to Norwegian parents.  As a child he kept a secret diary in which he would record the events of the day.  In an interview he stated that he would hide the diary in a tree so that his sisters would not be able to get it and read it.  Please, anyone who is a teacher or practicing teacher should visit the Roald Dahl website.  It is informative and interactive; great for students and ideas for teaching with his books. * *

Don Freeman

Don Freeman was born in San Diego, California, in 1908, and grew up in Chula Visais.  He is known by many people as the author of Corduroy, A Pocket for Corduroy, and other children's book.  However, Freeman was also graphic artist, painter, and lithographer. For more facts about

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born in a log cabin near Pepin, Wisconsin, on February 7, 1867.  Her parents possessed a pionnering spirit that urged them ever westward.  Much of their family travels are recorded in Laura's books. Little House in the Big Woods takes place in Pepin, Wisconsin, Little House on the Prairie takes place in Independence, Kansas.  On the Banks of Plum Creek takes place in Walnut Grove, Minnesota.  By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years take place in DeSmet, South Dakota.  For more information about the author, her family, and her books, please visit this website.

Jon Scieszka

Jon Scieszka is the author of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.  He was born in Flint, Michigan on September 8, 1954.  He is of Polish ancestry on his father's side of the family.  He attended the Culver Military Academy for high school and became a lieutenant.  Scieszka thought about being a doctor and studied both Science and English at Albion College in Albion, Michigan.  He graduated in 1976, lived in Detroit, then moved to Brooklyn, NY, write instead.  He later earned his MFA in Fiction from Columbia University in 1980.  Visit Scieszka at his website.

Clement Clarke Moore

Clement Clarke Moore was born on July 15, 1779 in New York, New York.  He was an only child and his early education was conducted at home.  He later graduated from Columbia University in 1798.  He is usually known for Twas the Night Before Christmas, which he wrote for his children.  He also wrote many other works, including a political pamphlet and a textbook. 

Audrey Wood

Audrey Wood is the author of The Napping House, which was illustrated by her husband.  The two have been a team on many children's books.  Wood was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and currently lives in Santa Barbara, California.  As a child, her younger sisters were Wood's audience for her stories.  As you can see from her picture, Wood is a lover of animals.  She has several pets, most of which appear in her stories.  Wood says that writing and illustrating is a demanding, but rewarding experience.  Information about the author was gathered from

Arnold Lobel

Arnold Lobel is the author and illustrator of the Frog and Toad series.  Lobel grew up in Schenectady, New York, where he lived with his grandparents.  When he graduated from art school, he married Anita Kempler who is also a children's book author and illustrator.  The two moved to New York and had two children. When he first started coming up with ideas for children's books, his illustrations were based on characters from cartoons that his children watched.  In 1980, he won a Caldecott Medal for Fables (  

Else Holmelund Minarik

Else Holmelund Minarik was born in Denmark in 1920.  After she graduated from Queens College, City University of New York, she became a journalist for the Rome Daily Centennial and taught first grade during WWII.  Minarik introduced readers to Little Bear.  The character quickly became a timeless character and was later made into a successful children's show.  Publication of this book, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak, launched the I Can Read series.

Arlene Mosel

Arlene Mosel was born Arlene Tichy on August 27, 1921.  She attended Ohio Wesleyan University where she earned her B.A in 1942.  She later attended Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University) where she graduated with a M.S in Library Science in 1959.  Mosel was an American author of children's literature who was best known for her illustrated books Tikki Tikki Tembo and the award winning The Funny Little Woman, which was the recipient of the Caldecott Medal for illustration in 1973. 

Marjorie Flack

Marjorie Flack was born in Greenport, Long Island on October 22,1897. She met and married the artist Karl Larsson and had a daughter named Hilma. Their daughter later married artist and illustrator Jay Hyde Barnum. The four of them collaborated on illustrations for some of Marjorie's books.  In 1941, Marjorie married poet William Rose Benet.  In 1947, Flack received the Caldecott Honor for her book, The Boat on the River.  Her most well known book is The Story About PingLearn more about the author and get teaching ideas to go along with her books at

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Little Bear

Little Bear
Written by Else Holmelund Minarik
Illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Published in 1957
Grade Level: 1st-2nd grade

Synopsis: Little Bear is just one of five books written by Else Holmelund Minarik about Little Bear.  Others include Father Bear Comes Home (1959), Little Bear's Friend (1960), Little Bear's Visit (1961), and A Kiss For Little Bear (1968) (Wikipedia article, June 25, 2011).  All the books in the Little Bear series are comforting and playful.  In one story, "Birthday Soup," Little Bear cannot find his mother and presumes she has forgotten his birthday.  With the prospect of guests arriving and no cake in sight, he sets out to make birthday soup because all of his friends like soup.  Just as the guests are sitting down for soup, Mother Bear shows up with a big, beautiful birthday cake.  "I never did forget your birthday, and I never will," she says to her son.  In "Little Bear Goes to the Moon," Little Bear declares that he will fly to the moon in his new space helmet. Mother Bear tells him to be back by lunch and he is.   

Theme/Skill: The Little Bear series is designed for beginning readers.  The relationship between Little Bear and his mother is loving and jovial and the spacious layout and large type will encourage children to keep on reading.  The teacher can use this book and others in the series to help students with their reading and decoding skills.  Students learn and progress at different rates, yet this book will hold their attention and entice them to continue reading.  It is the perfect book to transition children from picture books to chapter books.

Pre-reading activity: The entire Little Bear book would not be read to students in one day.  The book could be spread out in order to spend more time on details of individual chapters.  Before reading a chapter to the students, be sure that they have a purpose for reading.  Make them aware of what they should be noticing while you read.  Students could also be placed in reading groups with a copy of the book to read to each other or listen to on tape.  For example, before reading the chapter about Little Bear's Birthday, tell students to be sure to notice what each guest brings to Little Bear.  This will give the students a focus while reading.

Post-reading activity: After reading the assigned chapter for that day, have students (in their reading groups) list the characters that came to the party.  They should also list what each character brings.  Students can then take a large piece of white paper that has been folded into six sections.  They should number each box and write a sentence about what each character brought to Little Bear's party and illustrate that image.  Each reading group will be completing an activity and will share when they are finished. 

Assessment: Students will be informally assessed on how well they work in groups.  The reading groups should go smoothly because students work with the same peers for weeks at a time.  All students should be providing insight and answers to their group discussions/assignment.  I want students to learn how to work well with others; compromise, patience, problem solving.  Students will also be formally assessed on whether or not they followed the directions and did what was asked of their group. 

Reflection: Minarik and Sendak were able to work together to create literature that would not only engage the child, but promote imagination and make them laugh out loud.  Little Bear is just like children their age are; silly, inquisitive, and curious.  Children will learn from reading Little Bear because they want to.  It is a book that would intrigue them, but not overwhelm them.  The chapters are set up so that they can be read in one sitting, yet they are not so interconnected with one another that students would be lost if they had not read other chapters.  All in all, Little Bear is a book that has stood the test of time.  It has been popular for generations and is still relevant and interesting for young children today.  

When teaching a lesson or unit on Little Bear, Teacher's Net Lesson Plans would be very helpful. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Polar Express

The Polar Express
Written and Illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
Published in 1985
Grade Level: 4th-5th grade

Synopsis: Honored with the Caldecott Award for children's literature in 1986, The Polar Express is considered by many to be a classic Christmas story.  The book begins on Christmas Eve night.  A young boy is laying awake in bed, waiting to hear the sound of Santa Claus' sleigh bells.  Rather than hear the bells, the boy hears a loud rumbling outside on the street as a magical train called The Polar Express pulls up in front of his house.  The boy goes downstairs and outside into the snow where he is invited by the train's conductor to journey to the North Pole.  The train is filled with children; all dressed in their pajamas and drinking hot chocolate.  The train eventually reaches the North Pole and the children see elves standing in a large group waiting to say farewell to Santa Claus.  The boy is handpicked by Santa to receive the first gift of Christmas.  Realizing that he could choose anything in the world, the boy asks for one beautiful-sounding silver bell from Santa's sleigh.  The boy places the bell in the pocket of his robe and all the children watch as Santa takes off into the night for his annual deliveries.  On the train ride home, the boy realizes that he has lost the bell through a hole in his pocket.  When the train arrives at his house, the boy goes to bed.  On Christmas morning, his sister finds a small package for the boy under the tree, behind all of the other gifts.  The boy opens the box and discovers that it is the bell, delivered by Santa who found it on the seat of his sleigh. When the boy rings the bell, both he and his sister marvel at the beautiful sound.  His parents, however, are unable to hear the bell and remark that it must be broken. The book ends with a quote; "At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them.  Even Sarah (the boy's sister) found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound.  Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe."

Theme/Skill: The theme of Van Allsburg's  story is simply the innocent and true beliefs of children.  The boy in the story continues to believe in the spirit of Santa Claus into adulthood.  The skill that could be focused on during a unit based on The Polar Express is identifying similes and metaphors; how they add to the detail of the story.  A unit based on this book could focus on factual information such as information about the North Pole, trains, and the meaning of Christmas/spirit of Christmas.  This unit could also incorporate creativity and imagination through crafts and recreation of story elements such as tickets onto the train.

Pre-reading activity: When students have background knowledge about a topic it increases their understanding.  Create a WebQuest in which students are required to discover information about the North Pole, trains, Saint Nicholas, and the tradition of gift-giving.  After students have completed the WebQuest with a partner the teacher should hold a class discussion and review session to review and reinforce the information that students have found.  Connect the information to The Polar Express.  Read the story to students and allow them to share their thoughts and opinions about the book. 

Post-reading activity: After reading the book one time to students, the teacher can show the students a T-chart.  One side of the chart will say, "Plain Language" and the other will say, "Comparisons."  Talk to the students about the chart; what it means and what it's asking for.  Tell students that when you read the story a second time that they should be listening for comparisons.  When they hear a comparison (simile or metaphor) they should silently raise their hand.  At that point the teacher should pause to write down the comparison.  At the end of the story, once all the comparisons have been identified, the students will put each comparison into plain language.  The teacher will guide the students at first and then allow them to finish the rest on their own. 

Assessment: Students will be given a grade for their answers pertaining to the WebQuest.  The WebQuest was not meant to trick the students.  Answers were, for the most part, stated directly in the text, while others were personal responses that technically do not have a right answer.  They will also be informally assessed on how capable they are at identifying comparisons as well as how capable they are at taking meaning from those comparisons; it is one thing to identify a simile or metaphor, but to understand the meaning is more difficult. 

Reflection: Chris Van Allsburg's The Polar Express is a great children's story that can be shared at Christmastime or anytime of year.  The illustrations in the book are so well done that they make the reader feel as though they are there on the train and with the children and elves at the North Pole.  All children want to believe in Santa Claus.  As they get older, it gets harder and harder to believe because they see with less clear eyes.  This story will show young readers that the belief in the generosity and spirit of Santa Claus will always live on in their hearts and memories. 

-Watch the preview to the film The Polar Express, directed by Robert Zemeckis.  The film was nominated for three Oscars (Best Original Song, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing) at the Academy Awards in 2005.  It also won the Grammy and Golden Globe for original song written for a motion picture.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Napping House

The Napping House
Written by Audrey Wood
Illustrated by Don Wood
Published in 1984
Grade Level: 1st-3rd
Synopsis: The Napping House is an engaging story of a napping house, where a granny lies sound asleep and snoring on her cozy bed.  Soon she is joined by a dreaming child, who lies right on top of her.  As the story progresses, animals are added to the bed with the sleeping people.  A dozing dog sleeps on top of the dreaming child.  A snoozing cat sleeps on top of the dozing dog.  A slumbering mouse sleeps on top of the snoozing cat.  Finally, a wakeful flea sits on top of the pile.  The flea wakes the mouse, who wakes the cat, who wakes the dog, who wakes the child, who wakes the snoring granny, which all leads to the breaking of the cozy bed.  The story ends with all the characters wide awake and enjoying the beautiful morning in the front yard of the house that is no longer a napping house.

Theme/Skill: There is a lot of repetition in Wood's The Napping House.  The repetition should help students recall the events and sequence of the story.  The skill that they should acquire from several readings of this book is retelling and plot/sequence of events.  Perhaps the teacher could introduce and define the term 'chronological order' and talk about how it appears in this story. 

Pre-reading activity: Introduce students to the animals that appear in The Napping House.  Ask students what sounds these animals make.  Ask them if the sounds are loud or quiet, deep or soft, etc.  Show the students the items you have brought in to symbolize the sounds of the animals.  Ask students to match each sound with an object.  These will be used in the post-reading activity. 

Post-reading activity: Print worksheets and other activities from Making Learning Fun.  Students could use cut outs of characters in the story to answer sequence of events questions.  Students could also identify words that rhyme with common and repeated words from the story.  After discussing the story, give students the items that symbolize the sounds that the characters in the story might make while sleeping/snoring.  Read the story again while individual students use the object to make the sound of each animal.  For instance, one student may hold a squeaky toy to represent the mouse while another student may use a drum to represent the sound of a dog. 

Assessment: The lesson will be an informal assessment of how well students are able to understand sequencing and symbolism.  Students should be able to define the two, perhaps not in complete sentences, but nonetheless they should be able to identify characteristics of each. 

Reflection: Audrey and Don Wood have created a fun story for children.  The story has teachable elements in it as well as silly situations.  My kindergarten teacher created a great program for my kindergarten graduation (1994).  One of the acts in our show was a reading of The Napping House.  The big board version of the book sat on an easel.  While my teacher read the story, six students stood at the front of the stage.  Each represented a character from the book; a snoring granny, a dreaming child, a dozing dog, a snoozing cat, a slumbering mouse, and a wakeful flea.  When our part was read, we used our instrument to make the noise of the animal we represented.  In my opinion, this was a great way to read a story.  It made the reading memorable because it was so interactive and exciting.  To this day, I remember the story by heart. 

Recipients of the Caldecott Medal for King Bidgood's in the Bathtub

The Mitten

The Mitten
Adapted and Illustrated by Jan Brett
Published in 1989
Grade Level: 1st-3rd grade
Synopsis: Jan Brett has adapted and illustrated this Ukrainian folktale into The Mitten.  The story, which is wonderfully illustrated with details faithful to the Ukrainian tradition, is about a young boy named Nicki.  It is winter-time and Nicki wants nothing more than to have mittens as white as the snow.  His grandmother, Baba, warns him that he will never find a white mitten if he drops it in the snow, but he wants them anyway.  When Baba is finished making the mittens, Nicki takes them and goes outside to play in the snow.  It isn't long before he unknowingly drops one of the mittens and it becomes lost in the snow.  Before long, a mole discovers the mitten and burrows inside to stay warm.  A snowshoe rabbit arrives on the scene and it too wiggles into the mitten.  Then, a hedgehog waddles into the mitten followed by an owl who was attracted to the commotion.  A badger comes along next and is allowed to crawl into the thumb of the mitten.  When the fox came along the other animals gave it a lot of room because they saw its sharp teeth.  All the animals were sure that the mitten was packed full until a bear came along; none of them would argue with a bear so they allowed it to climb in.  A meadow mouse, who is last to find the mitten, makes itself comfortable on the snout of the bear.  Baba's mitten had held strong up to this point, but the bear sneezes from the tickle of the mouse's whiskers.  The force of the sneeze shoots the mitten and the animals into the air.  The animals scurry off and Nicki finds the mitten and returns home to show Baba. 

Theme/Skill: Jan Brett's version of The Mitten offers many options for teachers.  The focus can be on opposites (i.e-old/young, empty/full), winter clothing and weather, theater/acting, retelling, recreation (writing a similar version). 

Pre-reading activity: There are several animals that appear in the story that may not be familiar to the students.  It would be beneficial to talk to students about the actual size of the animals.  This could lead to an after-reading discussion about whether or not the situation in the book could really happen.  Before teaching this lesson, the teacher should research the size (height, girth, and weight) of these animals.  Then, bring in a mitten and some sort of representation of the size of the animals.  Bring in a yard stick or measuring tape to show the students how big or small the animals are compared to them. 

Post-reading activity: Have the students work individually or with a partner to rewrite the story of The Mitten.  Each set of students will choose an animal to go into the mitten.  The students will also come up with a way that the animal finds the mitten and how they get it.  (The teacher should have a template for students to follow/copy/match as a model).  You will then combine the students' work and bind it into a book.  Students will also find a picture of the animal on the computer.  Share the book with students the next day.

Assessment: Students will be informally assessed on their ability to work well with a partner; compromise and problem solving will be noted by the teacher.  The formal assessment will be based on whether or not the student was able to follow the sample template to portray how the animal of their choice discovers and enters the mitten.  Students will be graded on neatness, spelling, and sentence structure. 

Reflection: This book is worth looking at simply for the illustrations.  They are done with such intricate detail that they tell the story without need for the words.  For example, while teaching this book an instructor could make students aware of the foreshadowing that the images portray.  On each side of the page there is an illustration inside the shape of a mitten.  The image on the right shows what is going to happen on the next page.  This would be an easy way to introduce foreshadowing and predicting to students or young readers who are not yet attending school.  In other words, The Mitten is a story that can be read and enjoyed for pleasure and for teaching/learning purposes. 

For anyone interested in teaching The Mitten by Jan Brett or The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt, The Virtual Vine and Enchanted Learning are great resources.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Rough-Face Girl

The Rough-Face Girl
Written by Rafe Martin
Illustrated by David Shannon
Published in 1992
Grade Level: 4th-5th grade

Synopsis: Rafe Martin has adapted the classic fairy tale of "Cinderella" into the moving children's story called The Rough-Face Girl.  The story is set in a Native American village on the shores of Lake Ontario.  There was an Invisible Being that lived in the village, but because he was invisible, no one had ever seen him.  The Invisible Being is looking for a wife.  All the young women in the village want to win the affections of this mysterious being, but only the girl who proves she can see him will be his bride.  There is a man in the village who has three daughters, two of whom are very beautiful, yet "cruel and hard-hearted."  The third daughter, the youngest of the sisters, did chores and eventually her arms and face became charred and burned from the flames of the fire.  The two beautiful sisters try their best to be chosen by the Invisible Being, but they fail.  It is their sister, whom they call the Rough-Face Girl who passes the test of the Invisible Being's sister.  The youngest sister is able to see the Invisible Being in the wonders of nature and soon they are wed. 
The dramatic illustrations reflect the vibrant earth colors of the native landscape and the wisdom and sensitivity of the protagonist.

Theme/Skill: This story is an adaptation of the classic and well known fairy tale of "Cinderella," the young girl who is forced into servitude by her step-mother and wicked step-sisters.  Students should be able to identify a fairy tale based on its defining characteristics.  Students should also be able to identify the moral in any fairytale.

Pre-reading activity: Share with the students the characteristics of a fairytale.  The common characteristics of a fairy tale are:  
  • Fairy tales often begin with “Once upon a time”
  • The number 3 often appears in Fairy tales. For example: “Three Little Pigs,” “The Three Bears,” etc.
  • Fairy tales usually have good, evil, and royal characters.
  • Magical elements often appear in fairytales.
  • Good wins over evil in fairy tales, so the endings are usually happy.
  • Repetition is used in Fairy Tales. Example: In the “Three Little Pigs,” the wolf repeats “Not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin.” In “Little Red Riding Hood,” the main character repeats, “OH, What big (ears, eyes, teeth) you have.”
(list taken from Fairy Tale Characteristics).

Post-reading activity: Read the students a version of "Cinderella."  Compare and contrast the elements of fairy tales that appear in each.  What makes the stories similar and what makes them different?  Did good win over evil?  What is the moral of the story?

Assessment: Students will be assessed on their ability to recall and identify the characteristics of fairy tale stories.  They will be formally assessed on a quiz which requires them to read several short passages and pick out which ones are fairy tales.  The students must then write down why the passage is a fairy tale. 

Reflection: It is my opinion that The Rough-Face Girl is a story that people can sympathize with.  No reader wants to see the youngest daughter get mistreated by her sisters or the villagers.  They are rooting for her as she walks through the village with her over-sized moccasins and broken shell necklace towards the tent of the Invisible Being.  Good triumphs over evil in this story because the Rough-Face Girl's inner beauty shines through.  Children, who are extremely impressionable, would see that true beauty is on the inside.  This wonderful story to share with young readers. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Frog and Toad Are Friends

 Frog and Toad are Friends
Written and Illustrated by Arnold Lobel 
Published in 1970
Grade Level: 2nd grade

Synopsis: Frog and Toad are Friends is a series of short stories about two friends.  The stories are compiled together to make this wonderful children's book.  The story begins in April.  Frog is looking forward to the year to come.  He can't wait to spend it with his best friend, Toad, who still has not woken up from his long winter nap.  In the first of five short stories, clever Frog finds a way to rouse his sleepy friend.  When Frog doesn't feel well, Toad tries to tell him a story.  When Toad loses a button, Frog helps him look for it.  When Toad goes swimming in his funny bathing suit, Frog tries not to laugh.  When Toad is sad because he never gets any mail, Frog knows just what to do. 

Theme/Skill: To put it simply, the story of Frog and Toad is about friendship.  It is about caring for others and being there for them always.  This book gives teachers the opportunity to link science and literature.

Pre-reading activity: Have students write for a couple minutes about what a friend is.  Have students share their answers and write down common words that students use to describe friendship.  Next, have students write down five characteristics that make them a good friend.  They should write down five characteristics that make one of their friends a friend.  Allow students time to draw a picture of them with a friend.  Ask that they write down the defining terms that make them a friend on their illustration.  This should segway nicely to the story of Frog and Toad.

Post-reading activity: Teach students about the similarities and differences between frogs and toads.  For instance, bring in a frog and a toad and allow students to gently feel the amphibians.  Create a Venn Diagram and ask students to identify the similarities and differences about their appearances.  You should write their responses neatly in the Venn Diagram that can then be displayed for the rest of the unit.  Teaching students about the unique life cycle of a frog will be a great way to move from literature to science.  The life cycle of a frog and/or a toad could easily translate into a craft activity.  
The Life Cycle of a Frog
Assessment: Students will be given a quiz on the life cycle of a frog/toad.  They will be expected to be able to label each of the cycles and write at least two sentences about each part of the cycle. 

Reflection: Frog and Toad are Friends was one of the first books that I recall reading.  This story is about friendship.  Frog and Toad are friends who go for walks, tell stories, and help each other out.  I believe that friendship is something that all people should have in their lives, especially children.  The story of Frog and Toad should be read to children at a young age them to show them the value of friendship and companionship.  If children like the story, which I am sure they will, you can also pick up other stories about Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. 

*For any teacher that would be interested in teaching Frog and Toad are Friends or anything relating to the content of the story, the following website would be very helpful: Frog and Toad.