Monday, May 25, 2015

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers (Booktalk)

There has been a big secret which your parents and teachers have kept from you, but it just got leaked in this book. Did you know that each letter of the alphabet has a secret history, a secret tale? You thought the alphabet was boring: HA! Nope. But to keep you and all the other students of the world in line, they kept the secrets from you. I only have time to leak three of these stories.

Bob and Bernard are not buddies.
The letter B is all about battles and burning and Bernard and Bob. B is actually kind of an angry letter. Bernard and Bob cannot stand one another. They live on opposite sides of a bridge and have been battling each other for years. Bob burned the bridge and cannot get back!

H is sort of a scary, haunted letter. Helen lived in half a house. The other half of the house fell into the sea during a hurricane. Oh my gosh, I cannot bear to tell you what happened to Helen. It's too horrible.

O is full of wonder.
Owl and octopus
Out in the ocean there is an owl who lives on the back of an octopus. They search for a problem, solve it, and move on...

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers. 2014: Philomel Books. Booktalk to K-3. Would make a great read-aloud or starting point for creative writing.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill (Booktalk)

Bo's dads are goldminers (and blacksmiths) who came to Alaska in the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush: an exciting time. That time is past, and many miners have left, but Bo's dads are still there. Wait? Dads? Yes, Bo has two: her mother didn't want her, and she literally handed baby Bo to a man and left. That man, Arvid, didn't have the heart to give Bo up to an orphanage. His best friend, Jack, helped Arvid raise Bo. It's normal for towns in early 1900s Alaska to be mostly men: they're all miners, and life can be tough.

Bo is older now, and I want to share my favorite facts about her. She can swear (bad words!) in both an Eskimo language and in Swedish. It's possible she has no idea what the words mean. She helps cook for the miners and she really loves biscuits. Her favorite Eskimo dish, though, is caribou bone marrow and caribou fat. Yum.

You have to be tough and resourceful if you live in Alaska. You also have to be fast on your feet. One day, when Bo was outside (it was summer), she inadvertently startled a grizzly bear. The bear started to run after her. Bo did what she had been told and dropped to the ground, totally flat. That's not exactly running, though, is it?

If you like adventure, animals, outdoor life, and interesting weather, you'll love a historical fiction novel called Bo at Ballard Creek.

Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill. 278 pages. 2013: Henry Holt and Company. Booktalk to grades 3-8. Scott O'Dell Historical Fiction Award, 2014.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett (Booktalk)

[When starting this booktalk, don't show the cover, and don't reveal the title. Just have the book open to page 11, pictured below. You will have the students examine the picture without talking for at least 45 seconds.]

I want you to take a close look at this picture. I will give you plenty of time. I want you to think of at least five facts you can deduce from this picture. They can be facts about the plot - what is happening, or facts about what the book means.

Page 11
[Allow quiet time to examine picture. When they're done, let them discuss their deductions: the boys are digging a hole; they missed the first jewel; the dog knows about the jewel; one boy seems to be consoling the other boy; etc.]

You did a good job of picking apart this cool illustration. Did you know that this book [show cover now] has puzzled a lot of people - including adults? Even your teachers might disagree with each other about what this picture book, seemingly simple, means! I've read this picture book several times and I'm still thinking about it!

You must read Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and decide for yourself what this story is really about.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Unpaged. Candlewick, 2014. Booktalk to 1st - 5th. Also great for classroom read-alouds. Caldecott Honor. E. B. White Read Aloud Award. Irma Black Award.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (Booktalk)

What if your twin brother was your best friend in the whole world? And what if he stopped being your best friend?

Josh and Jordan (called JB) are twins who both love basketball. And they love each other, until things start going downhill in their friendship. Josh lost a bet with JB and JB cut off a lot of Josh's beloved dreadlocks. The results were freaking looking.

They used to eat lunch together -- actually, they ate all their meals together -- until JB got a girlfriend named Alexis. Now he eats lunch with her. Josh saw JB kissing Alexis in the school library. Fun. JB barely speaks to Josh. Josh is feeling increasingly isolated and alone.

The anger is growing. Josh messes up in a big game, sees JB wink at Alexis, and feels a surge of resentment - so much so that he hurls the ball unreasonably hard at JB who then starts bleeding and has to go to the hospital. Bad drama. Josh's mom is furious and chews Josh out. She asks Josh: you going to get mad at your brother every time he has a girlfriend? "You're twins, not the same person."

Will Josh ever get his best friend back?

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. 237 p. HMH Books for Young Readers. Newbery Medal, 2015. Booktalk to grades 5-9.