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Review & Lesson: Weslandia (1999)

WeslandiaWeslandia by Paul Fleischman

Wesley is a thinker and a dreamer.  He is an outcast.  Other kids pick on him and he has no friends.  So Wesley creates a world all his own, a world he calls Weslandia.  Weslandia begins as a small garden and develops into a community.  Wesley grows his own food, creates his own sport, and even makes up an entirely new language (with an 80 letter alphabet!).  By using his knowledge and putting his energy toward something productive, Wesley finds that he is able to find true happiness and make friends.

This would a great book to teach children about civilizations, however I recently used it for another reason: to teach kids how to be a thinker.  There is no stronger tool, I feel, for teaching our students than the books we read to or with them.  I like how this book honors Wesley being himself, how Wesley’s brain and smarts help him find his happiness, and how by not being afraid to think outside the box and do something other people wouldn’t do, Wesley was able to teach others and make friends.  Attached is the lesson I wrote for grades 3-5.   -Marika

3-5 Thinker Lesson

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Review: Fish in a Tree (2015)

fishtreeI want to share this book with every teacher that I know.

This is the story of Ally, a bright young girl who has creatively managed to fool a lot of people. Her poor behavior at school hides her truth. She can’t read.

This is also the story of Mr. Daniels, a teacher who sees Ally’s potential and finds a way to reach her.

The irony is that the kids who this book will speak to the most are not likely to be kids who pick it up to read. This book would be a great title for teachers to read aloud. It would appeal to a wide variety of ages, and I think could do well in grades 2-5.

Ally’s determination and optimism send a positive message to readers on the power of hard work and perseverance. The kindnesses shown by Mr. Daniels and by some of Ally’s classmates illustrate how simple acts of caring can change a person’s life.

I highly recommend reading this book, and sharing it with kids in your life!

-Erin

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Review: Maude: The Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton (2012)

Maude

Maude: The Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton by Lauren Child

I stumbled across this darkly humorous book at the library while I was looking for another written by Lauren Child.  I was drawn in by the pictures (the book is illustrated by Trisha Krauss) which are stylish and unique, filled with bold texture and color, and unlike any I have seen in a children’s picture book before.

I love stories that can appeal to both children and tothe adults who read to them, and Child has written this one to do just that.  Maude, the main character, comes from a family of attention-seekers. They all have a special talent that makes them stand out in a crowd, but Maude is different. She prefers to go unnoticed. Maude is pitied for her blandness but, when she receives an unusual gift (one she didn’t ask for), it turns out she is quite lucky to be inconspicuous. I appreciated the audacious irony Child uses as a curtain for unveiling the lesson that sometimes “not being noticeable is the very best talent of all.”

My children have been choosing this book as a bedtime read-aloud each night since we brought it home from the library.  They love looking for Maude in each of the pictures (as Krauss has cleverly drawn her to blend into the background of the pictures).  As a parent and teacher, I appreciate the wonderfully descriptive vocabulary used by Child to describe each of the characters.

This book is clever and entertaining, and just a little bit dark.  A perfect pick for your next library visit!  -Marika

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Review: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (2013)

tiger

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown has been on my mind today. I recently came across a fantastic video of author and illustrator Peter Brown discussing his inspiration for this work. Watching the video reminded me of how much I love, love, love these illustrations. The story tells about Mr. Tiger’s transformation from a proper tiger to one who embraces his wild side. The classes that I shared this book with enjoyed the pictures every bit as much as I did, especially the page where he sheds his clothes. (This illustration is just perfection – the look on his face, the way he is standing. It makes me smile every time I see it.) Truly, every page in this book is a delight.

tiger

Now, will someone please buy me these pajamas?

tiger

-Erin