Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book talk: Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean

A circus stuntman is not supposed to fall off a high wire. Unfortunately, this happened to Luciano Anastasini, but luckily he was not killed. He had been a great circus stunt man and acrobat, but in his fall, he broke so many bones that it took four operation to put him back together. No more stunts. He was too damaged.

So what would he do with his life? He wasn't go to quit the circus: it had always been his whole life.

Luciano had an idea involving other performers: dogs! But where would he get these dogs? He thought and he thought. After all, Luciano was getting a second chance, and he'd choose dogs who needed a second chance, too.

And so many dogs did. Dogs who misbehaved, dogs who had too much energy, and dogs who had been given away by their owners. There were so many dogs who just couldn't find a good home with owners who appreciated their faults and flaws.

My favorites of the ten are Penny and Stick. Poor Penny was adorable, but owners kept returning her, saying she ran in circles and ran into walls and furniture. Stick was a cute stray who was so thin that you could see all his ribs. He was desperate for a good meal.

Luciano figured out Penny's vision problems: she was cross-eyed, but if he trained her properly, she knew where to jump and how to land. Pretty soon, Penny could jump correctly through hoops, amazing audiences. And Stick, with food and love, could be trained to walk on his back legs! The audiences loved all of Luciano's dogs, and each dog had a special skill and a special look. They were great performers, and they always did their best for Luciano. Luciano's ten dogs -- some of whom had been declared untrainable and unloveable -- loved him with all their hearts.

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean; photographs by K.C. Bailey and Stephen Kazmierski. Unpaged. Scholastic: 2012. Booktalk to grades 2-6.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book talk: The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett

In fairy tales, there are good queens and bad queens. 

In this fairy tale, the queen is completely stupid. {Show page 4}. When looking at her new baby girl, stupid queen holds her by the edge of the tower. Mistake #1. Then she decides her new baby girl needs a diaper change, so she leaves her alone to get a nanny to do it. Mistake #2. Then she doesn’t even notice when her own daughter falls off the edge of a very, very high tower. Mistake #3. Poor baby. Stupid, stupid queen.

Luckily, a poor farmer with a soft cart of straw was below. In his cart he had a little pink pig which no one would buy. Down comes baby, hits the cart, and up goes the pig, landing in the baby’s cradle. I know, it’s a fairy tale. But it really happened.

So now we have a stupid queen with a pig in her baby’s cradle, and a poor farmer with a princess baby in his straw cart. A recipe for disaster, right? But who do you think is the better parent…the stupid queen or the poor farmer? If you guessed the poor farmer, you’re right. That princess baby probably got a good set of parents instead of an idiot royal pair.

Wait until you see how the pig acts when she gets older [show example page/s]…what a disaster!

The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Poly Bernatene. Unpaged. Walker and Company, 2011. Booktalk to K-2.

Book talk: That is NOT a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

[Start this book talk by asking the children if they can repeat the refrain, "That is not a good idea!" when you prompt them (with a hand gesture, etc.)]

A hungry fox would love nothing more than to eat a plump, delicious-looking goose for his supper. Yum.....goose!

If you were a goose, and a fox came up to you and asked you to go for a stroll with him, what would you think? [Now have them repeat, "That is not a good idea!"]

And if this hungry-looking fox then asked you to walk with him into the deep dark woods, what would you think? [Repeat refrain.]

And if this fox asked you to visit his nearby kitchen? [Repeat refrain.]

And if this fox asked you to help him get a really big pot of boiling hot water ready? [Have kids repeat refrain.]

[Sigh and wipe your forehead in relief.] Luckily, you all make one collectively smart goose. But do you think the goose in this story is as smart as you? Dumber? Smarter? Can she outfox the fox?

That is NOT a Good Idea! by  Mo Willems.Unpaged. Balzer + Bray, 2013. Booktalk to pre-K through 2. Great read-aloud.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book talk: I Am So Strong by Mario Ramos

The big bad wolf had a very high opinion of himself. He thought he was the fiercest, scariest, strongest creature in the woods.
 After all, he is the bad bad wolf, right?

So he strolled through the forest demanding that others tell him how strong he was. 

On the way, he met a very small rabbit, Little Red Riding Hood, 
the three little pigs, and the seven dwarves. I have this nagging feeling I'm forgetting someone, though. Each one told him how strong he was, probably because none wants to get eaten by the big bad wolf.

Oh, shoot. There was one other encounter which may have changed things - really, really changed things. But who is bigger and badder than the big bad wolf?

I Am So Strong by Mario Ramos. Unpaged. 2011: Gecko Press. Booktalk to K-2.

Book talk: The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz

What do pigs have in common with the martial arts? Have you ever seen a pig practice karate or jujitsu? No?! 
Well, you've heard the classic story of the three pigs and the big bad wolf, right? You've never heard the funny martial arts version? What a shame. It's called The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz.

The three little pigs were fed up with the wolf and his threats, so each one enrolled in a different form of martial arts: Pig 1 took aikido, Pig 2 took jujitsu, and Pig 3 took karate. Although these were determined pigs, not all of them actually stuck to and practiced their martial arts skills, though. You have to practice this stuff. There's no getting around it, seriously.

Luckily, one of the pigs practiced, but I can't tell you which one. And I can't tell you what happened when this pig got called "bacon" to his or her face. You don't mess with a ninja pig, and I don't care if you are the big bad wolf.

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat. Unpaged. 2012. Booktalk to K-2.

Book talk: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Morris Lessmore is a quiet man who is writing down his life story when a horrible storm scatters all its words and forces him to wander, lost and dazed. Things get even weirder: he then sees a lady being pulled through the air by a squadron of flying books.

So you're thinking 2 things right now: what an odd story, and can the flying book lady help Morris?

She threw him a lifeline -- in the form of a book -- and this book led Morris to a nesting place of many, many books. A nesting place of books? [Show p. {16}]. That looks suspiciously like a really cool library to me.

Does this mean Morris Lessmore is finally home? What else do those flying books do? Where can I find a cool library like that one?

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce, illustrated by Joe Bluhm. Unpaged. 2012: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Booktalk to K-2.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Book talk: Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2013-2014)

It takes a lot of energy to be on your best behavior, doesn’t it?

[Show cover.] George is a dog, and his owner Harry has left him all alone in the house.

[Act this out briefly]. “Will you be good, George?” Harry asked him.

[Switching characters.] “Yes, I’ll be very good,” said George.

[Back to your booktalking self.] But you know, all dogs have their weaknesses, just as people do. One of George’s weaknesses is cake [show page 5]. Who can resist cake? What will George do? [Invite brief guesses, and then flip the page.]

Oh, no, George! George, you are positively shoveling that whole cake right into your mouth!

Well, at least George has that temptation out of his way. He probably won’t need to eat for a while, right? So it should be smooth sailing until his owner Harry gets home, right?

[Flip the page to George encountering the cat.] Did I remember to tell you that George loves playing with cat? What dog can resist playing with cat? What will George do? [Invite brief guesses and then flip the page.]

Oh, no, George! You are creating such a scene, and Harry isn’t even back yet!

It is so hard to be good, isn’t it?

Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton. Unpaged. Candlewick Press, 2012. VRC, 2013-2014. Booktalk to K-2.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book talk: Choker by Elizabeth Woods (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2013-2014)

What would you do if the best friend you ever had – whom you hadn’t seen in years – showed up in your bedroom, sitting on your bed, and asked you if she could stay with you (unbeknownst to any parents) to escape an abusive home situation?

If you were Cara, you’d let her stay. Zoe was Cara’s best friend when they were younger, and now Cara’s a teenager who struggles with the social situation at her high school. Cara doesn’t have any real friends at school, and she just got the nickname “Choker” from an embarrassing incident in which she almost choked to death on a carrot in the school cafeteria. The cool kids witnessed it, and they won’t let Cara forget it.

So Zoe hides out in Cara’s bedroom while Cara’s at school, and Cara’s parents are too busy with their important legal careers even to notice. At first it’s fun – like a slumber party that never ends – but Zoe’s strange and difficult moods – and her disappearances - get harder and harder for Cara to handle. Cara has told Zoe about the mean popular kids and knows that Zoe hates them. Zoe might be strange, but she’s loyal to Cara, and perhaps too loyal.

But something nags at Cara. One of the girls in the popular crowd is found dead and another goes missing. Does Zoe have anything to do with this?

Choker by Elizabeth Woods. 233 pages. Booktalk to high school. Virginia Readers’ Choice, 2013-2014.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Book talk: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

If you’ve read any of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, you’ll know that the author, Rick Riordan, tells a great story.
In his new series, The Kane Chronicles, he once again sets us on a strange journey. The Red Pyramid features two new main characters, Carter and Sadie, who are brother and sister but who haven’t lived together for years. In fact, the last time they lived together, a birthday cake exploded at a party, and their parents decided they’d live apart - in separate countries. It’s a long story.
            Carter and Sadie have an odd, complicated family history of which they know very little when the story begins. Their father is a brilliant Egyptologist who moves around a lot and seems paranoid. At one point, their father seemed to attack the world famous Rosetta Stone, which really backfired, and released some ticked off Egyptian gods. Do not tick off an Egyptian god. They are extremely vengeful, whether they’re male, or female, or…animal.

Of course, now that their father is gone, Carter and Sadie have to fight back, and they gain some interesting allies along the way. One of their allies is a cat named Muffin [awww!] and a basketball-playing baboon named Khufu who only eats food ending in the letter O. Strange friends? Don’t get me started about their enemies, who are even weirder. The Red Pyramid is one strange and wonderful journey.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Book talk: The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2013-2014)

[For this booktalk, you’ll be acting out one scene from the story. You’ll need a whistle or a baseball hat (something coach-like) and a ball – a soccer ball or anything comparable – and a little paper gingerbread man, missing part of his foot.]

Hi, I’m the coach of the elementary school just down the road, and kids lose stuff in gym class all the time. Just today I found the oddest thing in the world stuck to a soccer ball. I was just bouncing this soccer ball and all of a sudden it started making noises. I looked down, and guess what?

There was a cookie stuck to my soccer ball! And it spoke to me!

“I’m the gingerbread man, and I’m trying to find / the children who made me, but left me behind.”

What kind of children would leave behind a gingerbread man?

So, being the good coach that I am, I advised him to run after the kids, but the story keeps getting weirder and weirder.

The poor little gingerbread man had lost his toe! So he looked for it and finally found it, and he went off limping to the nurse’s office. Gee…I hope he’s okay. I felt sorry for the poor little fellow. Hey, have you seen him lately? I wonder where he is now?

The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery. Unpaged. 2011: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Virginia Readers’ Choice, 2013-2014. Booktalk to primary grades.

Book talk: Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2013-2014)

Before I tell you the title of this book, I want you to think about all the shapes you see out in nature. What’s one shape that you see in plants and flowers, in animals, in the water, and in weather patterns? [Give the kids time to guess.]

If you guessed a circle, you’re very close. The answer is a spiral. A spiral is a shape that curls around a center point.

[Show the first pages with the snake, woodchuck, and mouse.] In this picture we see a chipmunk, a woodchuck, a snake, and a mouse – all curled up into spirals. They’re sleeping or hibernating. [Turn page.] Fitting into a spiral helps them conserve precious body heat and fit into tiny, hidden spaces.

Spirals are also great at protecting what’s inside. [Show page with hedgehog and millipede.] If a hedgehog feels threatened, it rolls up into a tight spiral, so all you see is a ball of quills. Tiny millipedes use the same tactic: rolling up into a spiral, they’ve got an armored external shell as defense.

[Show page with rose, daisy, and sunflower.] The petals, leaves, and seed heads of many flowers grow in spirals – the spiral shape makes the best possible use of space and sunlight: pretty wise!

You can see spirals in whirlpools, in tornados, and in galaxies. [Show page with spiral galaxy.] There are also spirals inside you: 3-D spirals called helixes in your genetic makeup, your DNA. Read more about the cool, smart spiral in Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman.

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman, pictures by Beth Krommes. Unpaged. 2011: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. Virginia Readers’ Choice, 2013-2014 (primary grades).