Wednesday, December 15, 2010


By Margery Cuyler
Publisher: Walker and Company, Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-0-8027-9795-7

FROM THE FLAP: Mr. Gilbert tells our class that soon we’ll have a pet. A garter snake? A hermit crab? We wonder what we’ll get.
What starts as an innocent search for the perfect classroom pet turns into a furry fiasco when one guinea pig turns into two, then five, then twenty! The students love their newfound friends, but how can Mr. Gilbert stop the guinea pigs from taking over the classroom.

KATE’S TAKE: A humorous way to spice up a math lesson.

CLASSROOM PET BOOKS: Verbal/Linguistic and Visual/Spatial
Give each student an 8x11 sheet of paper with this sentence starter: If I could have any pet, I’d get _________________. Have them complete the sentence and illustrate the pet. Bound the pages together into a classroom book, and send it home with each child to read.

MATH MADNESS: Logical/Mathematical
This story lends itself to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Show the students how to do each type of number story. Then, ask each student to write a pet number story.

PET STORE: Visual/Spatial, Logical/Mathematical, and Interpersonal
Give each student a dollar in paper coins. Mark each coin with a q for quarter, d for dime, n for nickel and p for penny. Ask them to draw a picture of their ideal pet, or use color copies from the classroom book activity. Have each student label their pet with a price under a dollar. Display all the pictures on the chalkboard and ask students to come to the store and purchase a pet. One of the students can be the shopkeeper and be responsible for making the correct change. Special thanks to Mr. Hacket for this activity.

PET CHARADES: Kinesthetic and Interpersonal
Ask students to sit in a circle on the rug. Give each student a chance to come to the middle of the rug and imitate an animal without speaking or making noises. The rest of the students can guess which animal the student is impersonating.

WRITER’S WORKSHOP: Verbal/Linguistic
At the end of the book, the author hints at another pet problem. Ask students to write a sequel to this book and make sure their characters solve the new problem.

-Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell
-I Love Guinea-Pigs by Dick King-Smith
-Oh, Theodore! Guinea Pig Poems by Susan Katz
-Princess Justina Albertina: A Cautionary Tale by Ellen Dee Davidson
-Sammy: The Classroom Guinea Pig by Alex Berenzy

Sunday, December 5, 2010


By Lauren Child
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3536-7

FROM THE FLAP: Always remember: It’s the worry you haven’t even thought to worry about that should worry you the most.

That’s what Clarice Bean’s copy of the Ruby Redfort Survival Handbook says, anyway—it’s crammed with useful information about getting out of tricky situations, like “How to Deal with Alien Life Forms” (give them the slip and run like crazy).

Clarice Bean has quite a few worries of her own, such as Worry No. 19: Robert Granger—will he ever leave her alone? Or Worry No. 9: largish spiders. But lately, she’s been more concerned with things like Worry No. 3: change, and how it sometimes comes along when you least expect it.

KATE’S TAKE: Lauren Child’s outstanding voice and her tongue-in-cheek humor make for an engaging, fun read.

DON’T LOSE SLEEP OVER IT, KID CLASSROOM BOOKS: Verbal/Linguistic, Intrapersonal, and Visual/Spatial
Give each student an 8x11 sheet of paper that has a lined bottom half, and a space for a picture at the top. Have each student write about their worst worry and end his or her entry with Ruby Redfort’s advice, Don’t lose sleep over it, kid. Send the book home with each student to share with her family and/or guardians.

LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS OH MY! (Kinesthetic and Interpersonal)
Ruby Redfort’s Survival Guide has lots of tongue in cheek “useful” advice about how to avoid large predators such as lions and bears. Play charades and ask the students to act out various predators and have the rest of the class guess which animal each student is impersonating.

PEN PALS: Interpersonal and Verbal/Linguistic
Clarice Bean and her classmates visit elderly people in a nursing home. Ask a local nursing home for the names of residents who might like to participate in a pen pal program. Have students pick a name from the list and write a letter to that individual.

On page 21 in the book, there’s an illustration of different facial expressions and what they actually mean. Compare and contrast two photos of people’s facial expressions and have students talk about the emotions each person is feeling. Then, ask them to share about a situation where they felt one way about an event that was happening and a friend or a sibling felt a different way about the same feeling. Here’s a link if you’re interested in finding out more about the Second Step program

SCENE SNIPPETS: Interpersonal and Verbal/Linguistic
Clarice Bean and her friend participate in acting class. In small groups of four or five students, have kids act out various scenes from the book. Afterward, have the whole class sequence the scenes from the beginning to the end of the book.

-Clarice Bean Spells Trouble by Lauren Child
-Lilly and the Pirates by Phyllis Root
-School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari
-The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
-Utterly Me, Clarice Bean by Lauren Child

I apologize for last week's missed post. An illness knocked my family and I off of our feet. Thanks for your understanding.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Written by Candace Fleming
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 978-0-375-84979-4

FROM THE FLAP: What would you do if you were invited to the princess’s tenth birthday party but didn’t have money for a gift?

Well, clever Jack decides to bake the princess a cake.

Now he just has to get it to the castle in one piece.

What could possibly go wrong?

Here’s a deliciously fresh and funny picture book by the creators of the bestselling Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

KATE’S TAKE: Sometimes a book makes me want to jump for joy, which is exactly what I did after I read this book.

FRACTION CAKES: Interpersonal and Logical/Mathematical
Cut out several different colored, large circles. Cut each one into different fractions such as: ½, 1/3, ¼, 1/5. Give each child a slice of cake. Then ask them to walk around the room and find the rest of their cake. When all the cakes are whole, ask them to line up in order from the smallest piece of cake to the largest piece of cake. Point out how with fractions the larger the number in the denominator, the smaller the fraction or the slice of cake is.

READER’S THEATER: Verbal/Linguistic and Interpersonal
If you’re looking for a story to act out as a class, this is a great pick. There’s a role for everyone and the dialogue is short and snappy.

STORY ELEMENTS LAYER CAKE: Verbal/Linguistic and Visual/Spatial
Give each child four strips of lined paper. Each strip of paper should have one of four story element headings: main character, setting, problem, and solution. Ask the children to write the appropriate information onto each strip of paper. Then, have them arrange these strips, the cake layers, in order from top to bottom on a piece of construction paper. With their pencils, they can outline each cake layer and top it off with a strawberry. Finally, they can outline their cakes with black markers.

THE TROLL’S BRIDGE: Interpersonal, Kinesthetic, Logical/Mathematical
Jack has to pay the troll, half of his cake, to cross the bridge. Set-up a small balance beam or a line of duck tape that crosses the classroom rug. Ask one student to be the troll. Give other students play coins that add up to a dollar. If you don’t have enough play coins, you can make them out of construction paper and write Q for quarter, D for dime, P for penny, and N for nickel, on each coin. Then have each student ask the troll how much money he or she needs to pay to cross the bridge. After the student pays the troll and the troll returns the correct amount of change, the student may cross the bridge.

WALTZING WITH BEARS: Kinesthetic, Musical, and Interpersonal
When Jack stops to dance with a bear, he loses his gift for the princess—his cake. Usually though dancing is a cause for celebration, not mourning. Show students the basic waltz step and ask them to dance around the classroom, or better yet, the gymnasium, while playing Priscilla Herdman’s “Waltzing with Bears.” Here’s the musician’s site

-Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss
-Jack and the Beanstalk by John Cech
-Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky
-The Three Billy Goats Gruff/Los Tres Chivitos by Carol Ottolenghi
-The Lion's Share by Matt McElligott

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Dear Readers,

When I opened my e-mail, I was thrilled to learn that Guide to Online School's list of the Top 50 Early Childhood Education blogs featured my blog. The list of all the winners can be found here:

It's so refreshing to know that other people find the blog useful. Thank you all for your support.

Best wishes,

Monday, November 15, 2010


By Kate Banks
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
ISBN: 0-374-39949-2

FROM THE FLAP: Benjamin collects stamps. Karl collects coins. When their younger brother Max decides to collect words, one word leads to another until Max has a story worth telling. Now all he needs is pictures.

Enter Boris Kulikov in a brilliant collaboration with Kate Banks that attests to the wonder of words.

KATE'S TAKE: A fantastical tribute to imagination, collections, and a can-do attitude.

COIN COLLECTIONS: Logical/Mathematical and Visual/Spatial
Max’s brother collects coins. Give each student a dollar’s worth of cut-out paper coins. Label each coin with a Q for quarter, D for dime, N for nickel, and P for penny. Then ask them to draw a picture of their favorite pet and label it with a price under a dollar. Hang the pets up at the front of the classroom and ask students to come shopping at the pet store. In order to take their pet home with them, the students must give the proper amount of change to the cashier to pay for the pet. Many thanks to Andy Hacket for this activity. Check out his blog here

COLLAGE TALES: Verbal/Linguistic and Visual/Spatial
Word process words in different colors and cut out for kids. Ask students to choose ten cut-out words and create a sentence. Then, have them glue their sentence to the long side of a piece of 11x18 piece of construction paper. Last, ask them to illustrate their story.

COLLECTION BOOKS: Verbal/Linguistic, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Visual/Spatial
Give students an 8x11 sheet of paper that has space for writing a sentence at the bottom of the sheet. Ask them to finish the following sentence: If I could collect anything in the world, I would collect_____________________ because____________________________________________.
Have them illustrate their sentence and bind the papers in a book to send home with students.

CROCODILE AND ALLIGATOR SEE-SAW BOOKS: Verbal/Linguistic, Naturalist, and Visual/Spatial
Collate an eight-page book for each students, and ask them to fill in the blanks.
Page 1: Crocodiles and alligators hatch from __________________(eggs) but,
Page 2: crocodiles have a _______________(v-shaped) snout, and
Page 3: alligators have a _________________ (u-shaped) snout.
Page 4: A crocodile’s fourth tooth_____________( sticks out) when its mouth is closed, but
Page 5: an alligator’s fourth tooth is ___________ (hidden) when its mouth is closed.
Page 6: Most crocodiles live in ________________ (salt) water, but
Page 7: most alligators live in __________________ (fresh) water.
Page 8: Crocodiles and alligators are _________________(reptiles).
After they have filled in the blanks, ask students to illustrate the books.

FAMILY LETTERS: Verbal/Linguistic and Interpersonal
Ask students to write a letter to a family member or a friend who lives far away. Ask parents to send in an addressed envelope and give students a stamp to affix to their letter. Relatives are always thrilled to receive the kids’ letters.

-Alligator Tails and Crocodile Cakes by Nicola Moon
-Max’s Dragon by Kate Banks
-Snap! A Book About Alligators and Crocodiles by Melvin Berger
-The Coin Counting Book by Rozanne Williams
-Word Wizard by Cathryn Falwell

Monday, November 8, 2010


By Laura Ljungkvist
Published by Viking

FROM THE FLAP: Follow the line on a journey from the city to the country, from the sky to the ocean, from morning till night. In this stunning counting storybook, Laura Ljungkvist uses her trademark continuous line to create an array of crisp, innovative, detail-packed pictures.

Each scene contains questions designed to get children counting, thinking, and observing. Young counters will enjoy following the very same line all the way through the book, from front to back.

KATE’S TAKE: Line up some fun activities with Laura Ljungkvist’s Follow The Line.

HOW MANY? MATH Logical/Mathematical and Visual Spatial
Ask children to solve these math problems which are based on spreads in the book, and ask them to draw a picture to illustrate each problem.

1. A house has two rows of windows. If there are three windows in each row, how many windows are there all together?

2. There are four blue fish in the ocean and three red fish, how many fish are there all together?

3. There were nine trees in the forest, two fell down. How many trees are standing in the forest?

4. There are three apple trees and twelve apples. If each tree has the same amount of apples, how many apples are on each tree?

LINE CLASSROOM BOOKS Visual/Spatial and Verbal/Linguistic
Draw one line on a sheet of 8x11 paper. Draw a different line for each child in your class: squiggly, jagged, curved, straight, vertical or horizontal. Ask them to turn the line into a picture. On the bottom have them finish the sentence starter: I turned my line into _______________________. Special thanks to Ingrid Holmes for this activity.

LINE DANCING Kinesthetic and Musical
Do a line dance with the kids. This site has a great line dancing video to the tune of Grand Old Flag.

Kinesthetic and Interpersonal
Ask kids to stand in a line. Have a child step out of the line and face their peers. Ask the child to lead the class in simple movements such as tapping, patting, or stretching. Everyone in the line mirrors the leader’s actions. This is a great way to build confidence in the leader and classroom community.

LINE PATTERNS Logical/Mathematical and Visual/Spatial
Give the students small strips of paper of various colors. Ask them to form a pattern with the strips of paper. Students might choose to make a pattern out of straight lines, or they might choose to form shapes with the strips and make a pattern with shapes.

-Harold And The Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
-Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
-Follow The Line Around The World by Laura Ljungkvist
-Follow The Line Through The House by Laura Ljungkvist
-The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Monday, November 1, 2010


By Janice Shefelman
ISBN: 978-0-375-95881-6
Publisher: Random House

FROM THE FLAP: After her father’s death, Anna Maria is sent to the Pieta, an orphanage in Venice. She misses her father, but at least she will always have the violin he made for her. When she plays it, she hears his voice.

Luckily, the Pieta is not just any orphanage. It’s also a famous music school, and the teacher there is the great composer Antonio Vivaldi. Anna Maria quickly becomes his favorite student. But not everyone at the Pieta likes Anna Maria. Soon she has a rival—the talented, cruel Paolina, who throws Anna Maria’s violin into a canal. With the help of her beloved teacher, and new friends, Anna Maria searches Venice’s bridges, streets, and canals. Will Anna Maria find her father’s violin? Can she ever be happy in Venice without it.

Inspired by a real orphanage, this lyrical story by Janice Shefelman perfectly captures the beauty of Venice, the joy of music, and the way a little kindness can help make a scary new place feel like home.

KATE’S TAKE: Great characterization, and a peek inside Italy’s impressive musical culture.

FOUR SEASONS SKITS Musical, Intrapersonal, and Verbal/Linguistic

Divide the class into four groups, one for each season. Have each group listen to The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. Then, ask each group to design a two to three minute skit that’s inspired by the music. If you have any musicians in the class, they might choose to play musical accompaniment for their group’s skit.

GREAT GONDOLAS: Visual/Spatial, Logical/Mathematical and Interpersonal

Ask students to work in pairs and give each pair a 10x10 sheet of aluminum foil. Ask them to construct boats out of the tinfoil. Then place pennies inside each boat to determine which boat is the strongest. Boats with the most surface area are able to hold the most pennies.

INSTRUMENT-SHAPED POEMS Verbal/Linguistic and Visual/Spatial

Have students write a poem about an orchestra instrument. Then have them outline the shape of the instrument on the paper. Next have them copy their poem along the outline of the instrument.

SILVIA OF THE CELLO PARAGRAPHS: Verbal/Linguistic and Intrapersonal

Author Janice Shefelman explains that most of the orphans did not have last names. So, they were given the last name of whatever instrument they played. Ask students to think about a talent or a hobby that best describes them. Ask them to write a paragraph explaining why they chose this last name.

VENICE VIEWS: Visual/Spatial

Anna Maria thinks the city of Venice floats on a lagoon, but her guardian informs her that Vienna stands on thousands of posts set on the bottom of the lagoon. Give each student a blue 11x18 sheet of construction paper. Ask them to cut out different shaped houses from various shades of construction paper and make views of Venice.


-Gabriella’s Song by Candace Fleming
-I, Vivaldi by Janice Shefelman
-Mole Music by David McPhail
-Zin! ZIn! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss
-Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook: An Adventure in Venice by Claudia Mauner

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Hi Everyone,

I just want to let you know that this was my first phone interview, and I had a blast. Denys Cazet is as whimsical and passionate as his books.

Happy reading,

1. I love the alliteration in the title The Perfect Pumpkin Pie. Did you choose to feature pumpkin over apple because of alliteration?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that the fall season lends itself to Halloween. An apple pie simply doesn’t have the same power as a pumpkin pie.

2. Mr. Wilkerson speaks in fun rhyme which balances the bitterness of his words. Could you please tell us about how Mr. Wilkerson came to speak in rhyme?

Rhyme is funny. When Mr. Wilkerson dies, he gains a slight sense of humor even though he remains aloof. He’s dead but doesn’t know it, and he reduces all the aspects of life into one thing—an insatiable appetite for pie. Mr. Wilkerson is wandering because he left something undone in his past life, and he’s lying. He’s not going to go away whether or not Jack and Grandma make him a perfect pie. In fact, I’ve thought about writing a sequel where Mr. Wilkerson becomes a part of Jack and Grandma’s family.

3. Jack’s grandma is a strong, spunky character. She’s determined not to be out done by Mr. Wilkerson. She’s not afraid of him, she’s not afraid to taste a pie he’s smashed his face into, and in the end she succeeds in baking the perfect pumpkin pie. In a biography written about you found at the following link , it mentions that your characters are always based off the wonderful people in your life. Is Jack’s grandma based on one person in your life or a conglomeration of different people?

I had two grandmothers. One was very sweet and according to her the sun rose and set on my shoulders. After all, I was the only boy in a large extended family. My other grandma was a very strict, no-nonsense kind of lady. She ran the show, and nobody questioned it. She had one of those looks that said, “Don’t say another word.” Even though she was strict, she still made me pancakes in the morning.

4. I also that you saw a real estate ad for an old farm, formerly owned by bakers, listed for $1 and you asked yourself what if they sell the farm and the bakers’ ghost still lives in it? At the time the work in progress was Halloween Pie. Am I correct in assuming that’s the one and only book we’re talking about, The Perfect Pumpkin Pie? Could you please tell readers about your revision process?

Yes, it’s the same book. The baker apparently disappeared in the late 1800’s. However, every year lo and behold around Halloween, people could smell pumpkin pie baking on the property. I love Halloween and the Mexican celebration of The Day of the Dead.

I write many drafts. Then, I revise more based on suggestions from my editor. After I’m holding the book in my hands, I wish I would have revised it two or three more times. Sometimes I think The Perfect Pumpkin Pie is too long to be classified as a picture book, and that the book is better classified as a story book. I love writing and storytelling, although both arts differ from one another. In this book, I tried to include an element of storytelling so that when the book is read, it feels more like a story being told.

5. Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Please read my book Will You Read To Me. A little pig writes a poem and asks his parents if they’ll read it to him, but the parents are too busy eating. So the pig walks to a lake where he sees his reflection and reads to himself. In so doing, his belief in himself is reinforced.

As a teacher, librarian, parent, and a writer, I feel that what’s happening to children’s literature is very disturbing. As mentioned in this New York Times article, picture book sales are down 25-30% because parents want their children to read longer books. There’s an assumption that picture books are inferior to chapter books which means that people don’t understand what a picture book is. Picture books often have more advanced vocabulary than chapter books, and the visual clues help students figure out unknown words. When I was a school librarian, the pictures in the Tin-Tin books helped reluctant readers become fluent readers.

School testing is narrowing choices for teachers and students, which means that as a country we are drifting away from a liberal arts’ education. We need to expand choices to improve education, not narrow them. Furthermore, we are all different. When we test, we’re looking for similarities and if someone is different and doesn’t fit a certain definition, they’re labeled as deficient.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


By Denys Cazet
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9780689864674

FROM THE FLAP: When he was alive, Mr. Wilkerson was an ill-tempered, disagreeable, sour, and impatient old man. Once he died, he got better.

But not much.

Now he is back and very, very hungry.

When Jack and his grandma move into the old Wilkerson house, they find out just how hungry, and why.

At least they think they know.

It has something to do with the pie.

A perfect pie.

KATE’S TAKE: Clear your calendars. You'll want plenty of time to flavor and savor The Perfect Pumpkin Pie.

FAVORITE PIE CLASSROOM BOOK Verbal/Linguistic, Visual/Spatial, and Interpersonal

Give each student an 8x11 sheet of paper with the following sentence starter: My favorite kind of pie is _____________________. Have them illustrate making and/or eating their favorite pie. Compile a classroom book and send it home with the students.

FAVORITE PIES GRAPH Logical/Mathematical, Visual/Spatial, and Interpersonal

Mr. Wilkerson’s favorite pie is pumpkin pie, but what’s the class’s? As a class brainstorm four different kinds of pies. Make a large bar graph on the board. Give each child an index card with their name on it, and ask them to add it to the graph. Afterwards, each student can make their own perfect pie graph.

FIVE LITTLE PUMPKINS SITTING ON A GATE Kinesthetic, Verbal/Linguistic, Interpersonal

Act out the popular FIVE LITTLE PUMPKINS rhyme:
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, “Oh my! It’s getting late.”
The second one said, “There are witches in the air.”
The third one said, “But we don’t care.”
The fourth one said, “Let’s run, run, run.”
The fifth one said, “It’s Halloween fun.”
WOOOOO went the wind, and out went the lights.
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.


Mix canned pumpkin and cinnamon into orange paint. Then ask each child to paint his or her perfect pumpkin. Special thanks to Diane Esser for this activity.

PUMPKIN PIE RHYME Verbal/Linguistic

Mr. Wilkerson speaks in rhyme. Print out one of his speeches and leave six spaces blank, one for each rhyming word. Give the children a word bank and ask them to fill in the missing words. Then, ask them to write the six words in alphabetical order. I’ve typed out one of Mr. Wilkerson’s speeches below:

“Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkin pie!
I must have one before I die.
It must be round and brown as toast,
Or I’ll haunt this house a hungry ghost.
It must be perfect or a ghost I’ll stay,
And haunt this house, and never, ever go away!

-The Bake Shop Ghost by Jacqueline K. Ogburn
-The Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman
-In The Haunted House by Eve Bunting
-Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper
-Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie (Picture the Seasons) by Jill Esbaum

Monday, October 18, 2010


By Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Illustrated by Brian Floca
ISBN: 978-1-59643-338-0
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press


Martha Graham: trailblazing choreographer
Aaron Copland: distinguished American Composer
Isamu Noguchi: artist, sculptor, craftsman

Together they created an American masterpiece: Appalachian Spring. In the tradition of their award- winning Action Jackson, acclaimed authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan tell the story behind the scenes of this classic ballet from the first spark of imagination through the music’s composition, Martha’s intense rehearsal process, and on to its first performance on October 30, 1944 at the Library of Congress. This book puts you in a prime seat at that performance, watching as this iconic dance unfolds.

Ultimately this is a book about collaboration, and the authors’ collaborator is Sibert Honor artist Brian Floca, whose vivid watercolors bring both the process and the performance to life.

Also included are extensive source notes, biographies of each of the three principal collaborators, and a full bibliography.

KATE'S TAKE: If you want to incorporate, movement, music, and art into your curriculum, don't miss this book.

INTERESTING INTERVIEWS Verbal/Linguistic and Interpersonal
Have students write, conduct, and record interviews of people who were alive during the 1940’s.

STORIES AND MOVEMENT Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, and Verbal-Linguistic

Copland wrote many pieces of music including Billy the Kid, Rodeo, Hoe Down, Music for a Great City, Of Mice and Men, Fanfare for the Common Man, A Lincoln Portrait. In small groups ask students to create a scene to accompany one piece of Copland’s music. Students could choose to interpret the music through choreography like Martha did, or they could write out dialogue for their stories. Either way they get to collaborate to create art just like Graham, Copland, and Noguchi.


During the 1940’s, society marginalized many groups of people including women, people of Jewish faith, and American citizens of Japanese heritage. Ask students to write a report on a famous person or group of people who triumphed despite the discrimination that occurred during that era.

STAGE DIORAMAS Visual/Spatial and Bodily-Kinesthetic

Isamu Noguchi built models of his set for Appalachian Spring before building the set. Ask students to make a set diarama of their favorite tv show, movie, play or book.

STORY SETS Visual/Spatial and Bodily-Kinesthetic
Ask students to collaborate in groups to design sets for their Copland stories.

-Aaron Copland by Mike Venezia
-Kids Dance by Jim Varriale
-Martha Graham, A Dancer’s Life by Russell Freedman
-The Children of Topaz: the Story of a Japanese Internment Camp Based on a Classroom Diary by Michael O. Tunnell
-The East-West house: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan by Christy Hale

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


1. Joe Dumpty's voice is fantastic. Please tell us what strategies you used to create such an authentic voice.

Thank you! Unfortunately, I don’t know that I have any strategies for creating an authentic voice --- not anything I do consciously anyway. I do know that for me, writing a story in first person seems most natural. I’ve heard editors say that if your story doesn’t seem to be working in third person, try rewriting the story in first person, and vice versa.

2. How did you decide which Mother Goose characters to include and which characters to exclude?

When I first starting writing the book, I included just a few basic Mother Goose characters. But as the plot thickened, as they say, I made a list of other characters I could weave into the story. From that list, I played around with which characters would best help advance the story. Of course, I couldn’t use everyone, but that’s what sequels are for.

3. I love that spider turns into a good guy, and Miss Muffet turns out to be corrupt. Was it your intention to switch their roles?

I really didn’t have any intentions when I started the story. In fact, these two characters were pretty much true to their traditional roles in the Mother Goose tales. But somewhere in the revision process – and it was quite a process! --these minor characters wrote themselves into major roles. I’m a strong believer in letting my characters take the lead in creating the story. It’s fun to see what they come up with, but I must admit, Little Miss Muffet took me totally by surprise!

4. Having a deadline of five o'clock definitely ups the ante. Are many mysteries races against the clock?

I can’t really speak with any authority, since this is the first mystery I’ve written, and I tend to read more suspense novels than I do mysteries. However, I knew that because I was writing a picture book, I had to get a whole mystery set up and solved in just 32 pages. I decided that having a deadline was one way to accomplish that.

5. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?

I’m happy to say that this past summer, WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO HUMPTY became available in paperback. As for Detective Joe Dumpty, he’s busy working on his next big case. I’m not at liberty to discuss it right now, but I’m sure you’ll be reading about it at some time in the not-so-distant future.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CALVIN CAN'T FLY: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie

By Jennifer Berne
Publisher: Sterling
ISBN: 978-1-4027-7323-5

FROM THE FLAP: Calvin was born under the eaves of an old barn with his three brothers, four sisters, and sixty-seven thousand four hundred and thirty-two cousins. Calvin may be one of many, but he’s certainly different from the rest.

While the other little starlings learn to swoop and hover and fly figure eights, Calvin buries his beak in books. In the library his mind soars, taking him places his wings never could.

KATE’S TAKE: A fun fall read that celebrates books and being one's self.

FALL FUN BOOKS: Verbal/Linguistic, Visual/Spatial, and Intrapersonal
Give each student a piece of paper with the sentence starter: In the fall I like to_____________. Ask each student to finish the sentence and draw a picture to go with it. Then, have students illustrate their sentences. Put each sheet in a three ring binder and make a class book to send home with the students.

FORMATION TAG-Bodily/Kinesthetic and Naturalist
Discuss the possible reasons why starlings might fly in formations. One reason is to protect themselves from possible predators such as hawks. Take students outside to play a game of predator vs. prey tag, hawks vs. the starlings. As the starlings try to cross from one line to the other, they’ll learn the benefit of flying in a group vs. flying solo.

STARLING BLACK BIRDS-Musical and Bodily Kinesthetic
These lyrics are adapted from Music Together
Starlings black birds-put hands in your armpits and flap wings
Crow flying round-flap arms out at your side
Nut hatch hopping down the tree-have one hand hop down your opposite arm
Chickadee, dee, dee, dee-hold both hands out front and open and close fingers to thumb like a bird beak, using quick, small motions
Caw, caw, caw, caw-do same motion as chickadee but open the beaks wider and at a slower pace
Repeat chickadee line and actions four times
This is a fun song to sing in a round, too.

Starlings form all sorts of amazing formations while flying through the sky. Ask each student to outline their favorite shape on a large piece of sky blue construction paper. Make bird stamps out of a potato or apple and have kids stamp multiple bird shapes inside their outline.

Divide a 8x11 sheet of paper into 6 parts. Trace a flying bird shape into each section. Write one of the following six words on each bird: Starlings fly south for the winter. Make enough copies for the class. Ask each student to cut out the six birds and glue them in order onto a long strip of paper made from a 11x18 sheet of construction paper cut in half length wise and stapled together. Ask students to glue the birds down in order on their paper.

-Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss
-How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
-Swimmy by Leo Lionni
-The Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
-Wolf! by Becky Bloom

Monday, October 4, 2010


By Karen Jo Shapiro
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN 978-1-58089-143-1

FROM THE FLAP: I must go down to the beach again, where there’s water, sand, and sky…

It sounds familiar, but it’s not quite what your parents memorized in school.

In this delightful collection of poetic parodies, Karen Jo Shapiro has taken 23 classic poems spanning nearly five centuries and given them a kid-sized twist. Channeling wordsmiths from Shakespeare to Blake, Dickinson to Poe, this celebration of poetry and parody is sure to spark your imagination.

KATE’S TAKE: A whimsical introduction to the classics.

CLASSICS TIMELINE: Verbal/Linguistic, Interpersonal, Visual/Spatial
Karen Jo Shapiro introduces fifteen classic poets in English and American Literature. Break the class into pairs and give each pair an index card. Ask each pair to write down some basic biographical information on a specific poet, including date of birth which can be found in the back of Ms. Shapiro’s book. Have students arrange themselves in chronological order without speaking. Then ask each pair to present their poet’s biographical information to the class.

GUESS WHO: Verbal/Linguistic, Interpersonal
Ask students to dress up as one of the fifteen classic poets, memorize the classic poem mentioned in Ms Shapiro’s book, and prepare five clues to read out loud to the class. Invite each student up to the front of the class to recite his or her poem and read his or her clues. Ask the audience to guess which poet the student is imitating.

MACBETH MADNESS: Interpersonal, Verbal/Linguistic, Visual/Spatial
Break the class into small groups, and ask each group to act out a scene from Macbeth. If you have more time, put on a class play of Macbeth complete with scenery.

PERSONAL PICKS: Verbal/Linguistic and Visual/Spatial
Ask students to choose one of Ms. Shapiro’s poems and write their own poetic parody of her work. Have them illustrate a picture to go along with their poem.


-Come Fall by A.C.E. Bauer
-Macbeth by William Shakespeare
-My Letter to the World and other Poems by Emily Dickinson
-Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach
-Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, October 1, 2010


Hey Everyone,

I've got great news.

Choose to Read Ohio linked to Classroom Book of the Week. Here's the link:

If you want to read The Giant of Seville post on this blog, please visit November 1, 2009.

Have a great weekend!


Sunday, September 26, 2010


By Greg Foley
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN 978-0-06-154750-8

FROM THE FLAP: This is the story of Willoughby, whose new house feels too small and very lonely.
It’s also the story of an enchanted lion and spectacular wishes come true: of roller coasters, and fast, fast shoes, and enormous crowds of people.
But most of all, it’s the story of one important question: What is the most wonderful thing of all?

KATE’S TAKE: Stunning illustrations and a heart-warming read.

ANIMAL CHARADES: Kinesthetic and Interpersonal

At the end of the book, Willoughby becomes true friends with the lion. Gather students in a circle on the rug, and ask them if they could have any animal as a true friend, which one would they choose? Then, one-by-one ask students to move like their animal on the rug, and ask the spectators to guess which animal their classmate is imitating.

MAKE A WISH CLASS BOOK Intrapersonal, Visual/Spatial, and Verbal/Linguistic
Give each student an 8 x 11.5 sheet of paper with the following sentence starter: If I could wish for anything in the world, I would wish for ___________________________________________. Ask students to fill in the blank and illustrate their sentence. Put all of the work in a three ring binder and send the binder home with each individual student.

Sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by Robert John.

WISH MATH Logical/Mathematical
Give each student ten manipulatives and a white board. Ask them how many wishes Willoughby had at the beginning of the book. Counting down from ten, subtract each wish. Ask students to model each problem with their manipulatives and write the number sentence for each problem.

WISH SCAPES Visual/Spatial
Give each student an 11x18 sheet of black construction paper. Ask students to illustrate their wishes using white chalk. Then give students white and gold paint to mimic the illustrations in Willoughby and the Lion.

-Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
-If I Were a Lion by Sarah Weeks
-Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
-Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
-Willoughby and the Moon by Greg Foley

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


1. Your characters are so deep and complex. Please tell us how you get to know your characters so well.

Thank you, Kate. When I start writing a story, I usually begin with the characters. I have a general idea about the kind of person I want to write about, but to make that person come to life, I conduct an interview. That is what I did for Lu and Salman, two of the main characters in Come Fall. I asked them a whole lot of questions and I let myself write pages and pages to explore where they were coming from. Most of that material didn’t get used in the book, but it did provide the basis for a few scenes.

I didn’t interview Blos, at first, because I thought he was going to be a minor character. I modeled him on several people I had known at various points in my life, and his personality came to me almost whole. I knew he lived by rules and parameters he had set for himself, and so I was able to fit him in situations following those rules. It wasn’t until I began redrafting that I realized how important he was to the story, and that is when I asked him questions.

Puck was altogether different. Like Blos, he had a minor part in the story at first. As his part grew, I envisioned him acting the way he did in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So I reread Shakespeare’s play, as well as Kipling’s Puck stories and other authors’ take on the character. Then I imagined what it must be like to be a servant to two extremely strong-willed and powerful sovereigns. His character came quickly after that.

2. Since you know your characters so well, they each have a distinctive voice. Please tell us how you honed each character’s voice.

Blos’ voice actually arrived whole. I found his to be the easiest to write—I knew him the minute I started writing about him, perhaps because I have known people like him in real life. My main objective was to keep him consistent and in character. For example, he was not good at recognizing other people’s emotions, and so I had to be careful when he observed people’s reactions.

Puck, too, arrived whole, but for a different reason. I stole him from Shakespeare. My challenge was to keep him playful and trickster-like while staying out of trouble with the king and queen. My favorite passages were when he lied by misdirection yet spoke the literal truth.

Lu and Salman required more work. Their interviews gave me their initial voices. As I wrote their scenes, I tried to keep the observations, the tone, the manner of speech consistent with each of their points of view. What matters to a boy who has spent his life in foster care will be different from what matters to a girl who feels like she has too many brothers. I tried to let each character tell the story in the way which made sense to them.

3. In a Blos Pease way, I counted how many chapters each character had, and looked to see if there was a pattern that dictated when you switched voices, but I couldn’t find one. Please talk about how you organized Come Fall.

You didn’t find a pattern because there really wasn’t one. Initially, I chose a voice for a particular chapter based upon what made the most sense for that scene. When several characters were featured in the same scene, I chose a voice different from the one the reader had last heard, to mix it up.

Once I had a working draft of the book, I created an outline—one sentence per chapter—and noted which voice I used for each chapter. That’s when I consciously balanced the voices. I wanted the reader to hear from each of the characters in the beginning. I had written fewer chapters with Blos’ and Puck’s voices, so I made sure these were spaced somewhat evenly throughout the story. And then I considered whether I had too many scenes in a row in Salman’s or Lu’s voice, and how best to balance their points of view without confusing the reader or slowing the pace of the novel.

Although I did count the chapters each character had, I didn’t use any mathematical formula. I built the novel like a musical composition, or a painting—I was balancing almost by feel.

4. This novel is a tribute to gardeners, bird-watchers, and forest lovers. Do you have a special affinity for gardens, birds, and/or forests?

I am a terrible gardener. I cannot exaggerate how bad I am at caring for plants, which is why I consider a beautiful and bountiful garden to be magical. But I have a lifelong love of forests—I spent large portions of my childhood in the wilds of Quebec, and I go back there as often as I can.

Although I find all birds interesting, I am particularly enamored by crows. I enjoy watching them squabble around our backyard bird feeder. They can be noisy and bullies, but they are some of the most intelligent birds around. They are capable of solving problems and in some cases using tools, and have been known to befriend people.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I rewrote the novel a great deal. Although the interviews were helpful to start me off, I had to reconsider my characterizations and my structure with each rewrite. My editor had a great deal of input. Some characters, like Queen Titania, didn’t quite settle into who they needed to be until the last few drafts.

The rewriting stages are when I truly craft a novel. The first draft is just a structure to hang characters on. As I rewrite, I make more sense of the order of things, the way the story best unfolds, and the way I want to introduce the characters to the reader.

Thank you so much for inviting me to be interviewed. You had some very interesting questions!

Monday, September 20, 2010


By A.C.E. Bauer
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 978-0-375-85825-3

FROM THE FLAP: Heading back to school is never easy, but it’s especially difficult when you are doing it alone.

Lu Zimmer—kind of pretty and very quiet; this year a little lost now that her best friend has moved away.

Salman Page—knows how to stay under the radar at a new school, a lesson he had to learn early as a foster kid.

Blos Pease—literal to a fault. He gets queasy when things aren’t “just so.”
Puck—the mischievous messenger of the faerie realm who likes to meddle in the human world.

Bird—a large black crow whose attraction to shiny things brings them all together.

Three very real kids, a very unreal spirit, and a wily crow spring from the pages in this feel-it-in-your-heart-tale of finding and losing friends. A.C.E. Bauer has once again created complex and absorbing characters, all trying to define themselves as they navigate the fragile beginnings of friendship.

KATE’S TAKE: A magical romp through the woods complete with student writing prompts and samples.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Verbal/Linguistic and Interpersonal
Split students up into small groups and ask them to act out scenes from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.

BOOK BUDDIES Verbal/Linguistic and Interpersonal
In Come Fall, the characters meet each other through a designated buddy program. Pair up your student with a book buddy-another student in a younger classroom. This is a great way to build school community, and increase student confidence.

ORIGAMI DREAMS Visual/Spatial and Intrapersonal
Give each student a piece of origami paper. Ask him or her to write one of their dreams on the white side of paper. Have them fold the paper into a bird. Hang the birds up around the classroom.

PHOTOS PLEASE Visual/Spatial, Verbal/Linguistic, and Naturalist
Take a nature walk with the class and ask each student to take a photo with a digital camera. Ask them to write a poem about their picture.

RUMINATION AND WRITING WITH MRS. R. Verbal/Linguistic and Intrapersonal
Ask students to complete one of Mrs. R.’s writing assignments from the book. The great thing is you can use the character’s writing samples to provide scaffolding for your students.

-A Backyard Vegetable Garden for Kids by Amie Jane Leavitt
-A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare
-A Place for Birds by Melissa Stewart
-Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach
-I Must Go Down to the Beach Again by Karen Jo Shapiro

Thursday, September 16, 2010


1. Thanks for joining us Professor Tunnell. A tremendous amount of research went into the Candy Bomber. How did you decide to break up the information into six different chapters?

The Candy Bomber’s story seemed automatically to fall into six chapters. First, I needed to give the “candy bombing” its context—so it was clear I needed chapter one to introduce and explain the Berlin Airlift. There was no question about what needed to follow: Lt. Gail Halvorsen must make his entrance. The event that launched Operation Little Vittles was the best way to bring him on stage. His meeting with the German children at the end of the Templehof runway, and the subsequent promise to drop them some sweets, made for a perfect chapter two. With the “candy bombing” underway by the end of the second chapter, the establishment and early growth of the official, Air Force-approved Operation Little Vittles was the next logical step. This part of the story easily filled a third chapter. Taking the operation into maturity was a natural choice for chapter four—it grew to be much bigger than Halvorsen. It took on a life of its own, continuing successfully even after Halvorsen was no longer in Germany. With access to all the letters and drawings children and adults sent to Halvorsen, I had a plethora of great personal stories shared in that correspondence; I wanted to include as many as possible. Chapter five became the place in the book where I did that. Of course, every book needs a conclusion, and so chapter six brought the Berlin Air Lift to a close and then followed Halvorsen forward in his life to show how the ties he’d established with those hungry children bound them together to this very day.

2. Your voice in Candy Bomber honors Gail Halvorsen’s compassion, bravery, and moral strength. Please tell us how you achieved this reverent tone throughout your book.

Getting to know Gail Halvorsen personally during the process of creating the book had everything to do with the tone. His humility and strength of character are undeniable, as well as his genuine care for other human beings. Gail was so gracious in helping me with this project. He opened up his files to me, and I scanned hundreds of his photographs and documents, many of which appear in the book. Never have I met a more genuine person, and I hope that came through as I wrote about him. Also, when you read and hear what others have to say about him, you quickly come to the conclusion that many other people see him in that same way. I read many, many letters sent to Gail over several decades from the children of the Air Lift who were parents or grandparents themselves when they wrote. Their love and respect for him communicated in their correspondence also affected the tone I adopted for the book.

3. I love all of the letters and drawings from the German children. How did you decide which letters to include and which to exclude?

At first it was difficult to choose. I wanted to include every single one of them. When I finally had to get serious about making the selections, it became an easier task than I would have believed. There were certain letters and drawings that seemed to stand out for one reason or another. Often this had to do with the personalities of the particular children. Who could have eliminated the letter from someone like Peter Zimmerman, who, when frustrated that Halvorsen wasn’t finding his house, wrote: “Are you a pilot? I gave you a map. How did you guys win the war?” Or the letter from Mercedes Simon that scolded Halverson for scaring her chickens when making the approach to land, thus ending egg production, but then going on to offer the pilot a way to make things right. “When you see the white chickens please drop the chocolate there.”

4. Candy Bomber and another one of your books, The Children of Topaz, take place during the 1940’s. Do you have a special interest in the WWII era?

I suppose I do. Even one of my novels (Brothers in Valor) is set in Germany during WW II. I’m not one hundred percent sure why I have such an interest, but it obviously manifests itself in what I write, read, and watch on TV or at the movies.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I think it is interesting to know that Gail Halvorsen is ninety years old and as active as someone half his age. He travels constantly to meet the demands of groups who want him to speak about his candy-bombing experiences. He is greatly loved in Germany to this day and is often invited back to commemorate the Air Lift in one way or another. He even is still qualified to fly the C-54 transport planes he flew in the 1940s, though he takes the co-piloting duties these days. As a side note, you might be interested in hearing Gail explain the Air Lift and see some original film footage of the candy drops and other Air Lift events. Go to my website ( Choose the Candy Bomber icon, and you will see a link to this YouTube video.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Dear Readers,

I wanted to share a bit of exciting news with you. CHOOSE TO READ OHIO has linked to Classroom Book of the Week's interview with picture book author and illustrator Loren Long. Here's the link:

CHOOSE TO READ OHIO has many great resources for teachers, librarians, and homeschoolers. Be sure to check out their site.

Happy reading.


Monday, September 13, 2010


By Joe Dumpty as told to Jeanie Franz Ransom
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN: 978-1-58089-391-6

FROM THE FLAP: Private detective Joe Dumpty, Humpty’s brother, thinks Humpty Dumpty’s fall was no accident. But who would have pushed him? Was it Little Miss Muffet? Old Mother Hubbard? Chicken Little? Joe has until five o’clock to to question characters and catch the culprit.

KATE’S TAKE: Looking for a fun way to spice up a nursery rhyme unit? Don’t miss this book.

CLASSROOM WEB: Bodily/Kinesthetic and Interpersonal

Spider entraps Wolf and Muffy in her web at the end of the book. Ask the class to stand in a circle. Call out a student’s name and throw a ball of yarn to that student while you hold onto the loose end. The student holds onto her section of yarn, calls another student’s name, and throws it to him or her. Before you know it, the whole class will be wrapped up.


Give each student a bag with six puzzle pieces. Ask them to put the puzzle together. Make sure each puzzle piece has an x on the back so that students know which is the front of the puzzle piece. After they have put together the puzzle, have them transform the egg into Humpty’s face.

INTERESTING INTERVIEWS: Intrapersonal and Interpersonal.

Joe Dumpty cracked the case by interviewing characters. As a class brainstorm four simple interview questions for partners. Break the kids up into partners, have them interview one another, and present their partners to the class.

JOE DUMPTY COMIC STRIPS: Verbal/Linguistic and Visual/Spatial

Together as a class, sequence the main events of the book. Give each child a strip of paper divided into five squares and ask him to illustrate each event.


In a small group, give each child a small container with ten, bone-shaped dog biscuits. Do some simple addition and subtraction problems using the bones as manipulatives. Thanks to Diane Esser for this activity.


-And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
-Dear Peter Rabbit by Alma Flor Ada
-Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf by Judy Sierra
-The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka
-Yours Truly Goldilocks by Alma Flor Ada

Monday, September 6, 2010


By: Michael O. Tunnell
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN: 978-1-58089-337-4

FROM THE FLAP: This is a true story of chocolate, bubble gum, and hope. World War II was over, and Berlin was in ruins. US Air Force pilot Gail Halvorsen wanted to bring some happiness to the children of the city—but what could one man in a plane do?

KATE’S TAKE: “From little things come big things.” Author Michael O. Tunnell shows readers how one pilot, Gail Halvorsen, took one small action that brought a large gift, hope, to thousands of children.

AVIATION TIMELINE: Verbal/Linguistic, Visual/Spatial, and Kinesthetic

Have each student research a different plane from 1903 to the present. Write a brief summary of each plane on the lined side of a 4x6 index card and draw a picture of the plane on the back. Ask students to line up in front of the class in chronological order and present their reports to the class.

FROM LITTLE THINGS COME BIG THINGS: Verbal/linguistic, Intrapersonal, and Interpersonal

Gail Halvorsen gave thirty kids two sticks of gum and started a movement that borought hope to thousands across the world for decades. Think about a time you did something simple that brought hope, joy, or happiness to someone else. Write an essay about this incident.

INTERESTING INTERVIEWS: Verbal/Linguistic, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal

Author Michael O. Tunnell learned about the candy bomber, when Gail Halvorsen came to Mr. Tunnell’s church to speak to a youth group. Ask students to interview a senior citizen about his or her life. Have students choose one interesting fact they learned from their interview with the class.

PAPER AIRPLANE PRAISE: Verbal/Linguistic , Visual/Spatial, and Interpersonal

Give each student five ten-by-ten squares of paper. On each paper have the student compliment another student, but do not have the author sign his or her name. Hand the compliments into the teacher so that he or she can make sure the comments are appropriate. Give the squares back to the students after you have proofread them. Then, ask them to fold each one into a paper airplane and write the name of the student he or she complimented on the airplane's wing. When you’re done reading Candy Bomber, ask students in groups of five to fly their five airplanes from the top of playground equipment. Students collect their individual compliments. This is a great way to build community.

UNCLE WIGGLY WINGS MATH: Logistical/Mathematical

Here are some Candy Bomber math word problems you can put out at your math center.

1. Easter Sunday, 1949, a plane landed almost every sixty seconds in Berlin for twenty-four hours. Approximately how many U.S. planes landed in Berlin that day?

2. The American Confectioners Association donated 6,500 pounds of candy in one month to Operation Vittles. If there were thirty days in that month, on average, how many pounds of candy were donated each day? How many tons of candy were donated each day?

3. Lieutenant Halvorsen told German children that a C-54 could carry 200 sacks of flour weighing a total of 20,000 pounds. How much did each sack weigh?

4. U.S. Citizens donated 1,100 square yards of linen to make parachutes. If each parachute was one square foot, how many parachutes did Operation Vittles make out of that linen?

5. Lifesavers Corporation donated 200 boxes of Lifesavers to Operation Vittles, totaling 4,000 rolls. How many rolls of Lifesavers were in each box?


-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
-Life as a Fighter Pilot by Brian Williams
-Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot by Margot Theis Raven
-The Two Great Wars by Janine Scott
-World War II for kids: a History with 21 Activities by Richard Panchyk

Sunday, June 13, 2010


School ends on the 18th, and I'm taking the summer off from creating book-based activities. I look forward to posting and connecting again in September. Have a wonderful summer.

Happy travels!

Happy reading!

Take care,

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


KN: I love the diverse and vibrant characters in ROCKY ROAD. How did you create characters that feel like best friends?

RK: Thank you, Kate. Character development is a process that I work hard at, and it takes time. I liken this to the way close friendships develop and blossom. First you meet, have an exchange and a spark of connection that grows stronger as you get to know each other on, during both good times and bad. Sometimes I’ll “interview” a character before I write a scene. I ask her questions about what makes her mad or sad or what she wants. The process of writing down responses feels like a chat over tea and cookies. (Okay, sometimes I enjoy tea and cookies during these interviews!)

I am drawn to “diverse” characters in many senses of the word. Tess, for example, stood out with her gentle spirit and fashionable style, even if she was a kid who had struggled and hadn’t lived a privileged life. I’ve noticed in stories that the stylish girl is usually the snooty one. (Think Sharpei in “High School Musical.”) I wanted to create a character whose face lit up when she talked about plush fabrics she could sew with, but who would also do anything in the world for her little brother. Winnie, Tess’s senior, African-American friend from the Mohawk Valley Village, drew me because she was a breath of fresh air. Her love of Motown coupled with her wisdom, caring nurse instincts, and spry sense of humor were very appealing -- and just what the Dobsons needed in their lives.

KN: Along that same line, how did you distinguish your characters’s voices from one another?

RK: I think some of this happens on a subconscious level. It’s kind of like how we know our family members so well that, when one calls us from afar, we don’t need to see their faces to recognize them. I work at finding the essence of my characters’ voices before I begin writing. How they speak, how they feel, even the words they chose to make a point. Take Delilah Dobson, for example. She considers herself a proud Texan through and through, and I wanted to reflect that, in part, through her language. For this reason I studied up on Texan slang. That was fun research, even if it didn’t all make its way into Rocky Road. For example, here’s a Lone Star description that makes me smile: “To a Texan, ‘arrogance’ means you’ve got more crust than a pecan pie factory.”

KN: Why did you choose to feature mental illness in ROCKY ROAD?

RK: A few years back a family friend was in crisis after his teenage son made a suicide attempt. I remember my friend telling me that he felt like he couldn’t share this heartbreak with many of his friends, even though it was the most difficult thing he and his wife had ever endured. The stigma attached to mental illness prevented him from doing so. And in a few cases, when he did confide to others about it, friends seemed paralyzed, unable to respond. That stayed with me. It must be hard enough to cope when your child is in such crisis, and twice as hard if you feel you can’t reach out to others.

In any given year mental illness affects about fifty-eight million people. That’s one in four adults struggling with bipolar disorder (like Delilah Dobson) and other mental health conditions. I wanted to shed some light on this. And I also wanted to show hope. Having a mental illness, though difficult, is not a terminal diagnosis. I don’t think many people realize that the best mental health treatments are highly effective. While it is far from easy, people can take care of themselves and live quality lives, providing they get the support of medical personnel and their families. I also have empathy for family members with a loved one dealing with mental illness. In Rocky Road I wanted to show the impact that mental health has in a family and in particular, on children who feel so powerless.

KN: Your first novel, Kimchi and Calamari, has a food-based title. When you set out to write Rocky Road, did you intend to pick another food-based title based on your favorite ice-cream flavor or did the story lead you to the title?

RK: I didn’t set out to give Rocky Road a food-related title, like Kimchi & Calamari. Its working title in fact was “Whatever It Takes” because that epitomized Tess’s spirit. The title drew upon the Dobson family motto: “Ice cream warms the heart, no matter the weather”. Then I learned about a study that linked ice cream flavor preference to personality, and it hit me that Tess indeed was a rocky road lover who had experienced a rocky road life. (Rocky road lovers are balanced, charming, and goal-oriented.) That, of course, served up the title. (Pun intended!) Full disclosure: coffee is my favorite ice cream flavor, although I certainly wouldn’t turn down rocky road if you offered it to me.

KN: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

RK: I want to thank you for your time and for your blog, Kate. It’s a terrific source of information for me as an author. I love hearing other writers reflect on their craft & the inspiration for their work. And I am in awe of how teachers take texts, analyze and interpret them, and facilitate so much creative learning with students through them. Three cheers for you and for all educators!

And before I forget... I’m excited to share my book trailer with your readers. It gives a little “sample” of Rocky Road. You can view it at!

KN: Thanks so much for the interview. Check out the March 14th post for Rocky Road activities.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


KN: In your fantastic back matter, you note that so far scientists have discovered more than 5,000 different species of frogs. A Place for Frogs features 12 different species. How did you decide which 12 frogs to include?

MS: Whittling down frog possibilities until I ended up with that perfect core group was half the challenge of researching the book. The endpapers of the book feature range maps that show where each frog lives. I wanted to be sure that no matter where a reader lives in North America, there would be at least one frog in his or her area. For the most part, there are at least two frogs in each geographic region.

I also wanted to include some large frogs and some small frogs, some toads and some tree frogs, some common frogs and some rare ones. Also, I need to think about what the illustrator, Higgins Bond, would show in her paintings. I needed diversity in habitats and settings too.

And, of course, each frog I discuss faces a different environmental challenge, and that challenge is being successfully addressed by people. Focusing on problems that people, including kids, can and are doing something about helps to make the book more positive, more hopeful. I’m hoping this book and it’s companions, A Place for Butterflies [link:] and A Place for Birds [link:] help to promote environmental stewardship.

KN: Another back matter feature I love is the Fascinating Frog Facts. Would you please share one of those facts with our readers? Also, I know you feature Friday Fun Facts on your blog. Could you include a link to one of those posts for our inquisitive readers?

MS: Kids love fun, weird, wacky, gross, and goofy facts, so I try to include them as much as possible. I want kids to say, “Oh, wow! That’s cool. Science is cool.” My favorite fact from the back matter of A Place for Frogs is “Harlequin frog tadpoles only eat one kind of food—extra eggs laid by their moms.” Talk about cannibals!

You’re right, Kate. I do often include five fascinating facts on my blog on Fridays. In this [link:] post, I’ve listed facts about ears and hearing, and this [link:] post includes some pretty surprising facts about spit. These are pulled straight out of a series of books I wrote called Gross & Goofy Body [link:]. Six of the books were published last fall, and six more will come out in September.

I always include five facts because some teachers have told me that they like to use the facts to refresh the science center in their classrooms. The five facts I offer on Friday mornings give teachers a different fact for each day the following week.

KN: The structure of the book features an environmental problem that affects frogs and ecosystems, and then you offer a solution. When writing fiction, authors of all ages are encouraged to have their main character encounter a problem and find a solution. What inspired you to use a similar format for this non-fiction series?

MS: Hmm, the parallel that you draw to fiction is very interesting. I’d never considered that. I chose the problem/solution format for each spread because while I was writing the first book, A Place for Butterflies, I was also working as a substitute teacher. One day at lunch, I overheard two teachers discussing the difficulty of teaching their students the concept of cause and effect. They said they wished there were resources for them to use. I had that conversation in mind as I developed the structure for the book’s main text.

Substitute teaching also exposed me to a popular program called Reading Buddies, in which a first or second grader who is just learning to read is paired with a third, fourth or fifth grader. Both students gain from this partnership. The younger child develops his/her reading skills, and acting as a mentor builds the self-esteem of the older child.

Most Reading Buddies programs use books written at the reading level of the younger child. I thought it would be even better if each spread featured text at two different levels. In the A Place for books, simpler main text is perfect for the younger child. The sidebars can be read by an older child (or a parent or teacher), and then the two buddies can look at the art and discuss the content together.

Whenever I write a book, I always think about its applications in the classroom when I am developing the structure and organization as well as the language.

KN: In the process of researching this book, did you become inspired to take a specific action yourself to help protect frogs? If so, could you tell us what you did?

MS: One spread in the book features wood frogs crossing a road (from the woods where they hibernate to the vernal pool where they mate and lay eggs) on Big Night—the first warm, rainy night of spring. Even before I started researching this book, I knew I wanted to include this example. I’ve been participating in Big Night amphibian rescue efforts in Central Massachusetts for almost 10 years. Of course, it’s important to help the frogs and salamanders, but I also really love watching how excited the kids are by the spectacular migration and how proud they are to be helping.

KN: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

MS: Thanks, Kate, for featuring my book and this interview on Classroom Book of the Week. I really like the creative activities you have come up with. If teachers are interested in more activities related to A Place for Frogs, they can find a Curriculum Guide on the Teacher Page of my website:

KN: Thanks so much for the interview.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


By Melissa Stewart
Publisher: Peachtree
ISBN 13: 978-1-56145-521-8

FROM THE FLAP: Frogs make our world a better place. But sometimes people do things that make it hard for them to live and grow.

In simple yet informative language, award-winning children’s science writer Melissa Stewart introduces readers to some of the ways human action or inaction can affect frog populations. More than just a book about frogs, A PLACE FOR FROGS will open readers’ minds to a wide range of environmental issues.

Describing various examples—from the northern leopard frog in Minnesota ponds to the harlequin frog in rainforests of Central America—the text provides an intriguing look at frogs, at the ecosystems that support their survival, and at the efforts of some people to save them.

At the end of the book, the author offers readers a list of things they can do in their own communities to help protect these special creatures.

Artist Higgins Bond ‘s glorious full-color illustrations vividly and accurately depict the frogs and their surroundings.

KATE’S TAKE: Young artists will hop for joy when they read Melissa Stewart’s A Place For Frogs.

FROG ART, ESSAY, AND POETRY CONTESTS ( Visual/Spatial and Verbal/Linguistic)

If you go to the Save The Frogs website at , you’ll find rules and guidelines for the above contests. They have a category for elementary students and offer cash prizes to the winners.

FROG LIFE CYCLES (Naturalist and Visual/Spatial)

Have students draw a version of the frog life cycle illustrated on the first few pages of the book. Ask them to fold their paper in half twice to create four equal rectangles. In one space draw eggs, the next a tadpole, then a froglet, and last a frog. Don’t forget to add the circular arrow. Teachers in the intermediate grades may choose to add the tadpole with legs stage to the life cycles.

LEAP FROG RELAY RACES (Kinesthetic and Interpersonal)

Divide your class into groups of four kids and see which team can leap frog to the finish line first. This could be a fun school-wide Field Day activity.

MATH FROG FACTS (Logical/Mathematical and Kinesthetic)

Cut out lily pads and write a different number on each one. Give students frog bean bags and call out a math fact. Ask students to throw their frog on the correct answer. Students can work in groups of three. One person can call out facts while the other two compete to be the first frog on the correct answer. Then, players can switch roles. You can get a set of six different colored frog bean bags for $15.95 at or a set of six identical green frogs for under $5 at .

SAVE THE FROGS DAY EVENT (Naturalist and Interpersonal)

The last Friday in April Save The Frogs Day is celebrated worldwide. As a class plan a school or community-wide event to help spread awareness about the declining frog population and the effect on our environment. Don’t forget to record your event at .


-A Place for Birds by Melissa Stewart
-A Place for Butterflies by Melissa Stewart
-All About Frogs by Jim Arnosky
-Frogs by Nic Bishop
-Frog Rescue by Garry Hamilton

Monday, May 31, 2010


KN: On your website Roy has a top-five baseball list and Sturgis has a top-ten music list. Did you make other contrasting lists in order to get to know your characters?

KS: I make a lot of those lists mentally, even if I don't write them down. I feel like, at least with major characters like Roy and Sturgis, authors should be able to answer the kinds of questions they'd be able to answer about their friends: what do they read or watch on TV, what kind of music do they like, what do they want to be when they grow up, and who are their heroes? But I only include those interests if they stand out or are a big part of a character's personality. Sturgis's music and books are a way for him to get to know his dad better, so they're important. Roy's taste in music isn't important so I don't mention it, but at I do know that about Roy -- he's OK with whatever's on the radio, unless it's jazz. But one thing about kids is that their tastes are always changing and they're always discovering new things. So as a writer, I have to keep that in mind. For example, Roy likes reading non-fiction better than fiction, but he tries reading something different in Mudville.

KN: I have to ask. Have you really cooked and eaten the dishes on Mr. McGuire’s favorite recipe pages? If so, have you served them to anyone else?

KS: Ha. Funny you should ask! My wife celebrated the week Mudville came out by planning a whole week of menus around Mr. McGuire's experiments. We had spinach surprise and spam manicotti and chili dog pie [] Chili dog pie is actually really good, although it's not that healthy. What's scary is that I made those recipes up for the book, but was able to find every one online when I put the website extras together. They were all real things people had done.

KN: Before the story starts, you quote Roy Hobbs from The Natural, “A father makes all the difference.” Did you make Roy’s mother be uninvolved so you could focus on Roy’s relationship with his father?

KS: Yes, that's exactly what it was. It was a book about fathers and sons and brothers, so I decided to downplay the mothers of both of the main characters in Mudville. Women (and girls) are also only a minor presence in Mamba Point, which is mainly about brothers and masculine friendships. I'm making up for it with my third novel, which is in progress. There are several important female characters of different generations (and different species!) that the hero gets to know, and they're all important to him without filling a role as his mother or his girlfriend. It's of the things that I feel really good about as I slog through the nth draft. I'm confident that boys will connect with those characters and find them appealing.

KN: Mudville is a pleasure to read. Could you please talk about what you did to make sure Roy’s voice is consistent and strong throughout the novel?

KS: Thanks for the compliment! Roy's voice is a synthesis of my voice and one of the great narrators in baseball fiction, Henry Wiggen. He's the narrator and hero of The Southpaw and Bang the Drum Slowly and two other novels by Mark Harris []. Wiggen is unpretentious and often funny, but those books are gorgeously written. Harris himself was taking a lot of cues from Ring Lardner's Jack Keefe stories. Anyway, that's how I found Roy's voice... the plot is like a W. P. Kinsella book, but I really owe a lot more to Mark Harris, and I said so in the acknowledgments.

KN: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

KS: Well, I already worked in one plug but let me work in another. I have a new book coming out this summer. It's not a baseball book, or even a sports book, but I hope people who liked Mudville will like this one, too. It's called Mamba Point, and it's about an American kid living in Monrovia, Liberia (that's in West Africa) who befriends a black mamba, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. A lot of the book is based on personal experience, because I moved to Liberia myself when I was thirteen. My dad worked at the U.S. Embassy, just like Linus's dad does in the book. I never befriended a mamba, but I did see a couple.

KN: Thanks so much for the interview.

KS: Thanks for the invitation. I really like your blog; the educational tie-ins are creative.

KN: Thanks for the compliment.

Monday, May 24, 2010


By Kurtis Scaletta
Publisher: Knopf
ISBN: 978-0-375-95579-2

FROM THE FLAP: The sky had opened, sending sheets of rain across the baseball field, while lightning was flashing in the distance.

The last two boys were my father and the Sinister Bend pitcher. They were the only ones whose parents had not yet come to pick them up. They waited, wet and cold, in different corners of the muddy diamond, a full hour after every single other person had gone home.

At last, the Sinister Bend pitcher stood up and stepped out of the rain.

“This isn’t over!” he shouted at my Dad. “Not by a long shot!”

It still isn’t over, twenty-two years later. After all, it’s still raining.

KATE’S TAKE: This is a baseball curse story that tops ‘em all.

BASEBALL (Interpersonal, Kinesthetic)

After students have done the timeline and researched past town rivals, divide the class into two groups and head out for an inning or two of baseball or softball.

BIOMIMICRY (Naturalist, Logical/Mathematical, Visual/Spatial, and Interpersonal)

Roy’s dad’s business installs, “sheets of heavy-duty plastic arced over roofs like the protective wings of a mother bird” to protect houses from rain damage. Ask students to pair up and brainstorm a new product that mimics an animal or a plant from nature and will help people improve their ability in a specific hobby. First, ask each pair to brainstorm five activities/hobbies they have in common. Then ask each pair to think about what product would help them enjoy more or increase their skills in a certain hobby.Students will make a drawing of the product and present their poster to the class. Here are two great sites with more information on biomimicry: and Special thanks to Lisa Sama for this activity.

PERCENTAGES (Logical/Mathematical)

“To understand baseball, you have to understand percentages.” That’s what Roy, the main character, tells us in his first line. Invite each student to pick his or her favorite athlete and calculate percentages and fractions for that players statistics. Anyone who finishes early can write the numbers as decimals too.

TOWN TIMELINE (Interpersonal, Kinesthetic, Verbal/Linguistic)

After students have completed their posters in Sly Sleuths, ask them to come up to the front of the classroom, make a timeline, and do an oral presentation on the information they found. Invite other classes to come learn about their town.

SLY SLEUTHS (Verbal/Linguistic, Interpersonal)

Have students work in pairs and research their town’s history from a certain time period. Give each pair a different time period to research. Students should report on major date and facts as well as any tension between groups of new and old settlers. Ask them to make posters for their time period.


-Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse by David A. Kelly
-Baseball Great by Tim Green
-Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
-Lucky by Wes Tooke
-Six Innings by James Preller
-The Boy Who Saved Baseball by John H. Ritter
-The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz
-Top of the Order by John Coy