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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: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011)

Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris LessmoreThe Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

I feel like I have read a lot of really great books lately, and a lot of those really great books have been picture books for children.  But no book that I’ve read lately (or ever, really) has affected me as emotionally as The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore which I stumbled across for the first time this week.

What an amazing concept for a book!  Morris Lessmore is a man who loves stories, and is even writing his own life in a book, “one orderly page after another”.  His story is overturned and the words of his book scatter everywhere.  Not knowing what to do or where to go, Morris wanders aimlessly until he is rescued from his daze by one amiable book.  He follows that book and is led to more books who begin to give a new purpose and joy to Morris’ life.

There is so much about this book that is simply wonderful.  The symbolism of Morris’ life represented by the book he is writing is powerful.  The profound way the book tells the story of Morris’ entire life is spellbinding.  The word choice is impeccable, and the pictures evoke an odd mix of feelings, both of tenderness and amusement. More than anything, the message of this story is so, so important!  Books can and do have power in our lives.  They inspire us and bring us wonder. They help us connect to other people.  They help us find purpose in our own lives.  They make us happy.

If I could, I would make sure every teacher had a copy of this book in their classroom, every parent read this book to their children, and every librarian displayed this book in their library.

And….. as if the book itself were not enough to make it worth a read, there is also an app (Imag.N.O.Tron) that you can purchase for $.99 that makes reading The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore quite remarkable.  I won’t even try to explain the app, I would just recommend purchasing it.  It’s worth the money!

Finally, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was the inspiration for a short film, which is also fabulous.  But, you don’t have to take my word for it, just ask the Academy.  The movie won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2011.  You can watch the entire movie here, but (like always) I would recommend reading the book first!   -Marika

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Review: Once Upon a Cloud (2015)

celeste 2On a recent trip to the public library, I picked up this exquisite new picture book debut by a Disney animator, Claire Keane. Oh, the illustrations in this book! Magical, lush, evocative. I could stare at the drawings of Celeste on their own and never tire of their many nuances, but then there is so much more on each page. The story follows Celeste through her dreams as she attempts to find a good gift for her mother. This book is a treasure for all of us who love to dream and believe in the power of our subconscious to lead us to answers for life’s puzzles.  It is a true example of a book where the art and text enhance each other. Highly recommended for fans of Disney animation. -Erinceleste2 2