Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book talk: A Zeal of Zebras (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2013-2014)

The English language has some craziness to it, especially when you’re talking about groups of animals as one unit.  For example, you can say “a pride of lions,” but not “a pride of pandas.” When you’re using “pride” as a collective noun, it only applies to lions. This is an alphabet book about those weird collective nouns.

If you have a group of parrots, you can say “a pandemonium of parrots” instead of “a group of parrots.” Isn’t that crazy? Pandemonium usually means chaos or disorder, but if you attach “of parrots” after it, it just means parrots in a group considered to be one unit. Say it with me: “a pandemonium of parrots.”

My next favorite collective noun is “a quiver of cobras.” These are king cobras in this picture here, and as many as 30 to 40 baby cobras are born in a nest made of vegetation gathered by their mother. Obviously, you should never, ever, ever step into a quiver of cobras. Big mistake.

My final favorite example is “a troubling of goldfish.” It should be a “troubling of tarantulas” or something, but it’s not.
Actually goldfish are quite social and like living with other fish. I learned from this book that goldfish have been known to interact with any fish belonging to their species: that’s quite social, actually. They like having friends.

A Zeal of Zebras will also tell you about an unkindness of ravens, a galaxy of starfish, and an embarrassment of pandas.

A Zeal of Zebras: An Alphabet of Collective Nouns by Woop Studios. Unpaged. 2011: Chronicle Books. Virginia Readers’ Choice (primary grades), 2013-2014. This book would also work well for intermediate grades.

Book talk: Tiny Little Fly (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2013-2014)

[Do not display the cover or title before you booktalk this one: you are going to make the children guess that you are describing a fly.]

We are going to play a little guessing game involving the main character in our next book. I am going to give you some clues about this character, and you are going to try and guess what type of creature I am talking about. Let’s start.

This character is brave enough to sit on an elephant’s nose.

This character is brave enough to settle on a hippo’s ear.

This character avoided getting hit by a tiger’s paw.

This character can drive you crazy.

This character is a type of bug found all over the world.

This character makes a buzzing sound.

[Allow time for guesses.] You guessed it! It’s a fly, and he’s fast and he’s devious. Read about his adventures in Tiny Little Fly.

Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron. 2010: Candlewick. Unpaged. Virginia Readers’ Choice, 2013-2014. Booktalk to primary grades.

Book talk: Over and Under the Snow (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2013-2014)

I want you to pretend that it’s winter, and you’re looking at a white field, completely covered with snow. It’s quiet and peaceful, and there seem to be no animals around. The scene is like a blank sheet of paper.

But there’s an entire secret kingdom under the snow that you can’t see and you can’t hear. This secret kingdom is called the subnivean zone, and it’s a network of small spaces and tunnels between the snowpack and the ground. It’s a small zone but it’s enough to keep a host of animals alive and hidden from your sight.

 If you were a red fox, though, you’d actually be able to hear the sounds of scampering mice under the snow. If you can hear them, you can catch them, fox.

If you were a small vole, you’d use that subnivean zone to slip through tunnels, searching for food, bits of old plants or roots in the ground.

If you were a black bear, the snow wouldn’t bother you: you’d be asleep in a hollowed out tree, or under a log or rock, or even in a cave.

This is a beautiful portrait of an invisible, secret winter kingdom.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal. Virginia Readers' Choice, 2013-2014. Unpaged. Informative author’s note in the back. Chronicle Books, 2011. Booktalk to primary grades.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book talk: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2013-2014)

What would you do if you found a box filled with yarn of every color?

Some of you might play with the yarn. Some of you might ignore the yarn. Some of you might give your parents the box of yarn.

Not Annabelle. She went home and knit herself a sweater, and when she was done, she had extra yarn.

So she kept knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting. Annabelle would knit for anyone or anything – human, animal, or…thing. She’d knit a sweater for a birdhouse or a pickup truck  or a house or a tree.

She enjoyed it, and it added color to her world. I’d say she’s one of the most generous characters I’ve met. Annabelle is so cool. I wish there were more Annabelles in this world.

[Gasp.] Oh my gosh! I can’t even tell you. [Pause for effect.] If I tell you something, will you promise not to get upset? [Or you could make them promise to read the book].

Someone STOLE her box of yarn. I can't say any more than that. You'll just have to read it.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Unpaged.  2012: Balzer + Bray. Booktalk to primary grades. Virginia Readers' Choice 2013-2014.

Book talk: These Hands by Margaret H. Mason (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2013-2014)

Everyone take a look at your hands for a moment. Your hands are amazing. There are so many things they can do: tie your shoe, write a story, swing from a tree branch. Your hands give you so many opportunities and so much freedom. But what if your hands were not allowed to do things they could naturally do? Can you imagine living that way?

[Turn to the opening pages of the story.] This young boy is Joseph, and this is grandfather who is helping Joseph to tie his shoes.

[Turn to pp. {3-4}] Joseph’s grandfather is so cool: his hands can play the piano, do incredible card tricks, and throw a great curveball in a baseball game. Joseph’s  grandfather’s got some smart, skilled hands.

But you know what’s really sad?

When Joseph’s grandfather was a young man, he worked in a bread factory, and he wasn’t allowed to touch the bread dough. [Show pp. {9-10}]. Because he was African-American, he was only allowed to sweep the floor and load the trucks. His bosses told him that white people wouldn’t want bread touched by his hands. It’s so sad and unfair.

Luckily Joseph does not live in his grandfather’s world, and his hands will be allowed to do much, much more.

These Hands by Margaret H. Mason, ill. Floyd Cooper. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010. Unpaged. Virginia Readers Choice, 2013-2014. Booktalk to primary grades. Includes an author’s historical background note.