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Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonneblick.

 Curveball

 The sensitive male teen, yes he actually exists and you’ll find him in the narration of books by Jordan Sonneblick.  His characters always seem like the teens I’d like to adopt.  They are often handsome and smart without knowing it, use a lot of self-deprecating humor and are in the process of falling in love.

In Curveball, The Year I Lost my Grip, Peter Friedman is facing two crushing disappointments.. 

Since Little League, he has always been a star pitcher.   The summer before entering high school, he has his best season ever on the pitching mound.   Then in the championship game, he injures his elbow so severely that he will never be able to pitch again.

Then, there’s his grandfather, he and Pete have always shared a special relationship.  Grandpa is a professional photographer who has taught Peter everything he knows.  Suddenly grandpa is doing strange things like giving Pete all his photo equipment and getting lost on familiar streets.

For many students, high school can feel like a letdown after ruling middle school.  Josh no longer has his baseball to set him apart.  Life becomes brighter when he meets Angelika in photography class.  Angelika is a sensitive girl who has a way of getting to the real issues.  She understands that Peter has experienced a great loss and empathizes with his worries about his grandfather, encouraging him to discuss it with his parents instead of keeping his grandfather’s secret.

This is a great book for middle and high school students.  While there is definitely romance going on, this book is about much more.  Readers will find Pete’s narration to be humorous even as he deals with loss and finds a new life after baseball.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ten-Gallon Bart

Ten Gallon Bart is the sheriff of Dog City, the most peaceful town in the West, thanks to brave and courageous sheriff.  He’s served the town for 10 years. The other characters in Dog City include Miss Kitty, the  owner of the local saloon, two chickens named Pixie and Dixie,  and two pigs named   Bill and Wyatt.

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None of the children at Hollis Academy knew  about Gunsmoke but that didn’t stop them from giggling at this silly story.

Ten-Gallon Bart is just about to announce his retirement when he learns that Billy the Kid,  “the roughest, toughest, gruffest goat in the country” is headed into town on the noon train. It’s up to Bart and all the other animals to put Billy in his place.

I read this book aloud to first, second and third grade groups.  They all enjoyed the story but needed guidance at getting all the jokes in the story.  For example:

“I  see this place is going to the dogs” snarled Billy the Kid.

“You gotta bone to pick?” asked Bart

This is a great book for teaching visual literacy.  It was helpful to have the Promethean Board so I  could zero in on the details.  Most of the children needed help understanding the story.

The artwork by Dorothy Donahue is unusual.  She uses cut paper collages and a variety of textures.

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Here  are a few other stories about Ten-Gallon Bart:

bart_wild    bart_beats_heat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Epossumondas

Possums are not cute!

 

Epossumondas

Unless you’re reading Epossumondas by Colleen Salley and illustrated by Janet Stevens

When I was very young my mother used to read me  a story called Epaminondas by Sara Cone Bryant (copyright 1938).  I remember loving the story about this boy “who didn’t have the sense he was born with.” I didn’t remember that the boy was black  I only remembered that he did foolish things that make me laugh..

Actually, this tale had a long oral tradition often known as the noodlehead tale. A noodlehead is a person who brain is filled with noodles instead of brains.

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Epossumondas is a dutiful obedient possum with no common sense.  When his mother tells him to be careful how he steps in her pies, he slowly and deliberately steps right in the middle of every single one.

 

I love how Colleen Salley and Janet Stevens redeemed this tale by portraying the character as a possum.  The second graders at Sara Collins Elementary School howled with laughter at this picture of  a possum wearing a diaper.   They wanted to know how about the safety pins.

Epossumondas’s human mother and aunt are modelled on author Colleen Salley, a resident of the French Quarter in New Orleans  also known as Queen Colleen, a popular Mardi Gras figure.  She has written three other books about Epossumondas, all based on Southern folktales.

 

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EpossumondasSavestheDay

 

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More Rhyming Books

“The Measured Mom”    blog shares five ways that rhyming stories and songs benefit children.

  1. Rhyming teaches children how language works. It helps them notice and work with the sounds within words.
  2. Rhymes help children experience the rhythm of language.
  3. When children are familiar with a nursery rhyme or rhyming book, they learn to anticipate the rhyming word.  This prepares them to make predictions when they read, another important rhyming skill.
  4. It can help children understand that words that share common sounds often share common sounds with common letters.
  5. When listening to rhyming songs and poems, children create a mental picture, expanding the imagination.
  6. Because rhyming is fun, it adds joy to the sometimes daunting task of learning to read.]

http://www.themeasuredmom.com/why-is-rhyming-important/

Here  are some books that combine rhymes with fun stories and encourage children to predict the outcomes of the story:

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Baby Danced the Polka-Karen Beaumont, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas

This is such a perfect read aloud for the very young.  In this story of a baby who refuses to nap, Karen Beaumont skillfully uses rhyme to encourage children to guess the animals hiding under the flaps.

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Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Gurarino, illustrated by Steven Kellogg

This book will conjure up memories of Dr. Seuss and P.D. Eastman, author of Are You My Mother?. as a young llama asked questions all the  animals nearby.  Children have the opportunity to use their rhyming skills to answer the questions.  This book will be quickly memorized.

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Mrs. Brown went to Town by Wong Herbert Yee

Mrs. Brown lives in the barn out back

With a cow, two pig, three ducks and a yak.

These animals are nothing but trouble for Mrs. Brown, but it’s clear, she loves them anyway.  Children will be too busy laughing at the silly antics of the animals to take this story seriously.

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Move Over Rover by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by Jane Dyer

Rover is sad and lonely until a thunderstorm arrives.  Suddenly all the animals are seeking shelter from the storm in his doghouse.  Children will enjoy chanting,  “Move Over Rover.”

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Novelist: A Cure for the Reading Funk

novel

I have been in a reading funk lately. Even as a librarian, I find myself having a hard time connecting with that just right book.  Usually my motto is “So Many Books-so little time.”

Life feels stressful at present and I want pure escapism.  Perhaps I’ve worked so hard reading children’s books for this blog that I haven’t found time to read for  me.  Usually when I walk into a library, I feel like a kid in a candy store.  But sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by the choices.  My reading life has never fit in to simple categories.

One great cure for the reading funk is the Novelist Online Database.  It’s available on most public library’s webpages.  Library employees will be happy to share this resource with you.  Novelist recommends books for adults, teens and children. It links back to the library catalog so you can reserve the book

Novelist can…

  • help you locate all the books by your favorite author.
  • provide read-alikes for popular authors and titles
  • provide genre lists for countless interests.  (There are 8 themed lists for teen graphic novels and 13 themed lists for adult mysteries.)
  • locate a book with a particular setting.
  • find books in series
  • find informational as well as fiction books.

Once you locate a book, there are book reviews, age range, lexile levels and subject headings.  I have been using Novelist and Novelist K-8 for years. I have yet to tap into to all the resources available.

Novelist is a great tool for teachers and homeschoolers.  It’s easy to find books that supplement the curriculum.  Historical fiction can be a great way to help students grasp history.  Parents can also use Novelist to help children explore their interests. This database has evolved over time to meet the changing needs of its users.

Novelist is as its best recommending books to upper elementary, teens and adults. The upper elementary years  can be a golden age of reading. .  During this time, children begin getting more specific in their reading choices. If we want children to enjoy reading, we need to offer them lots of choices. There will be more competition for entertainment as children reach their teens.   Finding the right books for children and teens is a key ingredient in creating lifelong readers.  Novelist is a great tool in this process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Good Rhymes Make Good Readers

Rhyming words are a key ingredient in helping children develop the skills they need for reading.  There is significant research that children well versed in rhyme have an easier time mastering reading.   http://www.bookstart.org.uk/professionals/about-bookstart-and-the-packs/research/reviews-and-resources/the-benefit-of-rhymes/

Here are a few of my  favorite rhyming books:

The Nonsense Show by Eric Carle    41n1rZGSsYL._SX393_BO1,204,203,200_

A new book by Eric Carle is always a treat.  Carle wanted to expose young children to surrealism.  The children may not care about that but they will love the silly rhymes and illustrations of birds swimming, fish flying and a boy in a kangaroo’s pouch.  Fan of Carle will notice that he recycles some of his illustrations from other books.

 

 

Louella Mae, She’s Run Away by Karen Beaumont Alarcon, illustrated by Roseanne Litzinger

51BVlF6vc0L._SX424_BO1,204,203,200_Louella Mae,  She’s run away!

Look in the cornfields!

Look in the hay!

Where, oh where is Louella Mae?

When Louella May runs away, the family goes on a frantic search to find her.  Rhyming words provide clues to the action on the next page.  Making predictions is also a key reading skill.  This is great to read aloud with a southern accent.

 

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Tumble Bumble by Felicia Bond

A tiny bug went for a walk.

He met a cat and stopped to talk.

They fell in step and strolled a while,

And bumped into a crocodile…

The bug, the cat and the crocodile continue to make new friends as they travel along and enjoy each other’s company.

 

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Shoe Baby by Joyce Dunbar, illustrated by Polly Dunbar,

A baby goes for an adventure in a flying shoe.  He goes to the sea, stops by the zoo, and meets the King and Queens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting Them Reading..

Some children take to books like ducks to water. Others need more encouragement.  Here are ways to encourage your child to read more…

Adult Reading

Be a role model.  Make time to read for your own enjoyment.  Last summer’s public library reading program included a program for adults.  Many people were eager to sign up their children but would cite excuses for themselves like “I don’t have time.” or “I am too busy reading to my children.”

 

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Limit screens.  I’m a lifelong bookworm and the Internet has impacted my reading time.  Time watching television or surfing the Internet is ultimately less satisfying than reading, playing  or creating.  Children need downtime.  It’s good for them to be bored sometimes.  If television and organized activities are always present, children lose the ability to create their own fun.  Unstructured play is crucial to healthy childhood development (but that’s another post.) Children are more likely to read when they have unscheduled time.

 

Use books to help children pursue their passions.  The DK readers feature many high interest topics with great pictures.  There are numerous Star Wars and Super Hero Books as well as books about natural disasters, sports and animals.

Boys often  prefer informational books to fiction.  Many of these boys are surrounded by females who tend to value fiction.. Be aware that the DK titles are more  difficult than the typical easy reader.  Visual appeal will attract reluctant readers.

.   Some children dislike reading because they are still struggling with decoding words. Being in touch with your child’s teacher is important.  But keep in mind that children do not all develop at the same rate.

If your child needs to practice reading, keep the sessions short.  In an earlier blog post, I recommended the You Read to Me, I Read to You books. These are set up as short poems for parents and child to read together.  Or just read some silly poetry together.    If your child is enjoying reading, they will make greater progress.   Reading aloud to children even after they become readers can reinforce their skills and show them the possibilities that reading can offer.

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