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Top Ten Kid-Recommended Picture Books to Celebrate Kindness

Books We Love, Literacy in the Classroom

Happy World Kindness Day! Every November 13th, we have the opportunity to celebrate kindness, while recognizing that kindness is important every day of the year. Today, during snack, my third graders and I started discussing books that fit a theme of kindness. This launched a fascinating conversation that stretched into our literacy block and throughout the rest of the day. My students compiled the following list of Top Ten Kid-Recommended Books to Celebrate Kindness. Enjoy, and be sure to let us know how you celebrate kindness in the comments below!


Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev was one of our read alouds on the first day of school. Telling the story of a boy and his pet elephant, this book captures the isolating feeling of exclusion as well as the joyful feeling of including others. My third grade readers said the message of this book can be expressed in just three words: “All are welcome.”

Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi is an absolutely gorgeous wordless picture book. It’s fitting that this book has no words, as it communicates a feeling that can be so hard to articulate: the feeling of genuine friendship. While friendship can be messy and hard, it can also be beautiful. My third grade readers love the colors and creativity with which this story is told.

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio captures the feeling of longing to belong – something that we all experience at some point in our lives. In the same way that her novel asks students to “choose kind,” Palacio’s picture book encourages readers to see the strengths that we all hold inside ourselves.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts makes me cry every time I read it aloud! It can feel so isolating to be the only one who is “missing out” on the newest thing. This book celebrates the people in our lives who try to give us the world, and teaches us that it’s okay when we can’t get everything we want. In fact, what doesn’t work out for us might be the perfect thing for someone else.

 

Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh chronicles young Sylvia Mendez’s fight for quality education in the 1940s. When a student proposed it as a book about kindness today, he pointed out that being fair and inclusive is necessary in order to be kind. This nonfiction text reminds us that justice for all is another way to show kindness towards all.

 

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes just effuses kindness. A little gardener, no bigger than a worm, puts his whole heart into helping his garden. While he doesn’t look like much, he makes an impact a million times larger than he could imagine. This book is a celebration of kindness towards the environment and kindness towards each other.

 

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney is a gorgeous wordless retelling of an Aesop fable. Today, our class discussed how kindness can circle back towards you when you least expect it. If you put kindness out into the world, you may get a little bit (or a big bit!) back.

 

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister shows how unkind behavior like bragging and excluding others can harm everyone. Celebrating our strengths and using them to bring joy to others is the way to go! My students have such fond memories of reading this book for the first time in kindergarten or first grade. It’s definitely a kindness classic!

 


One by Kathryn Otoshi is such a great read aloud for any grade level, K through 12. My students love the playful way in which the colors learn to stand up for themselves, and eventually stand together. This is a book we return to again and again throughout the year as we explore ways in which we can speak up and stand up.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson is a heartprint book that always leaves my third graders thinking. Every day, we take actions that create hurricanes or sunshine for others. How will you bring sunshine to the lives of those around you? Each Kindness reminds us of the importance of considering this question every single day.

Books We Love: Draw the Line

Books We Love

Have you ever thought about the power we give to lines? We use them to connect, and we use them to divide. They make up paths from place to place, as well as borders that separate. In Draw the Line, two boys are each drawing their own lines when they discover that some magical things can happen if they team up. In order to create something amazing, they’re going to have to let go of the things that stand between them.

The fact that this book is wordless creates so many possibilities for its use in the classroom. It will inspire countless conversations on friendship, community, and communication. Younger readers can use the book to discuss how they connect with others, while readers through high school age can connect this story to current events. Readers of all ages can imagine the thoughts and conversations of the two artists. How might words help them achieve their goal? How might words stand in their way?

I can only imagine the impact this book would have if it were put in the hands of every child and adult. This is a book that is desperately needed in today’s world. Draw the Line will inspire us all to live our lives drawing lines of connection.


Draw the Line will be released in October 2017 by Roaring Brook Press.

Thanks to Roaring Brook Press for making an Advanced Review Copy of this book available at the International Literacy Association conference.

Books We Love: One Proud Penny

Books We Love

I’m always looking to add more informational texts to my classroom library, so I was so excited to take a look at One Proud Penny! This inventive and engaging picture book follows a penny protagonist as he pops up in many different places. Readers will be rooting for the penny as he gets left behind and stuck in some precarious situations, and again as he makes his way out and fulfills his purpose. With hilarious narrative and great illustrations, One Proud Penny will draw readers in from the very first page. Throughout the story, the authors include informative tidbits and fun facts that will stick with readers. Infographic-like spreads with facts about pennies through the years give readers experience in interpreting data.

While the penny isn’t usually a go-to when naming fascinating objects, Siegel and Bloch bring the penny to life for readers everywhere! I know this will be a favorite in my classroom this year.

Reflecting on a Year as Readers

Literacy in the Classroom

One of my colleagues shared an amazing idea with me this past spring, and I just had to give it a try in my classroom. My colleague has her students write letters about their reading journeys. The insights students share are amazing! My students came up with questions they could answer in their letters. Here are a few:

  • What have you discovered about yourself as a reader this year?
  • What is your favorite reading memory from third grade?
  • What new things did you try as a reader in grade three?
  • Are there any books that stuck with you this year?
  • How have your reading habits changed in third grade?
  • What are your reading plans for summer and beyond?

All the questions were optional, and there wasn’t a sentence or page requirement. I was amazed with the writing that came back. Students wrote pages upon pages about the books that made a difference in their lives, the ways they have grown, and their plans to keep reading in their futures.

Many of my students described finding the genres and book formats that fit their reading styles. Learning how to make reading choices was a big focus of ours this year, so I was so excited that many students now know where to look to find new reads!

I love how this reader admitted to losing her reading log. (I tell students all the time that it’s about the reading, not the piece of paper that says you read!) I also loved the description of finishing a great book: a mix of sadness and understanding.

As this reader says, this letter was my “ticket to knowing town” when it comes to learning about him as a reader. After finishing Stone Fox, I knew this reader would appreciate Pax. I’m so happy he stuck with it!

What a great description of a cozy reading moment! I hope that all of my students can identify some landmark reading memories. There’s nothing like curling up with a good book when it’s raining outside.

As this reader illustrated, “reading is what I live for!” When there are so many books out there and kiddos want them all, we know that our school has created a strong reading community.


How do your students reflect on their year as readers and writers? Let us know in the comments below!

Books We Love: The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do

Books We Love

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do
by Ashley Spires

Lou is just an ordinary girl – one who loves to play with friends and go on adventures. That is, until the adventure is something new. When Lou’s friends want to climb a tree, Lou thinks of every excuse possible for staying on the ground. One reason in particular keeps her from trying: “I CAN’T climb the tree.” When Lou tries to climb, she learns that she really can’t climb. “Not yet, anyway.”

This book is a sweet and simple look at how saying “I can’t” makes us miss out on adventures. Adding a “yet” to that sentence inspires us to give things a try until we get closer to our goal. This book pairs nicely with Ashley Spire’s The Most Magnificent ThingSpires’ writing teaches kids that by trying and learning from our attempts, we can grow stronger and reach our goals.

Classroom Connections

I can’t wait to use this book with some of my 3rd grade kiddos. In a time where the world places so much pressure on kids to be “perfect,” this book takes some weight off kids’ shoulders and shows them to trust the journey. This book is perfect for introducing growth mindset in your classroom, or for a reminder of the power of “yet.”


 The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do will be released in May 2017 by Kids Can Press.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Kids Can Press. in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Review: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White

Books We Love

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet

My Rating:
★★★★★

Note: Some Writer! will be released on October 4th, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.

 

Earlier this year, I shared how excited I was to hear that Melissa Sweet would be publishing an E.B. White biography. When I received an advanced review copy, the book took my expectations and completely blew them out of the park. Some Writer! is one of the most well-written biographies for children that I have ever read. I have no doubt in my mind that this book deserves and will receive a place on classroom bookshelves everywhere.

Melissa Sweet digs deep into the life of the beloved children’s author, starting with his early life and carrying the reader through his final days. Along the way, Sweet masterfully weaves in remarkable artifacts and quotations from E.B. White’s own writing. The book is a celebration of the genius found in White and his work. Although I didn’t think it was possible, Sweet’s writing made me love White’s work even more than I already did.

While Sweet celebrates White’s incredible writing, Sweet’s writing deserves similar recognition. It is rare that a biography for children carries so much emotion and weight. Sweet paints a picture of White’s life in a way that is easy for children to understand, but still draws them in. Sweet enables readers to feel as if they were a character in White’s life story, walking alongside him through all his adventures.

With truly unbelievable illustrations and graphic design, Sweet makes White’s story accessible for readers of all levels. This book is bound to be enjoyed by kids and parents for generations to come, just as White’s book’s are.

This is a don’t-miss book that tells the beautiful backstory of the children’s stories we all know and love.

Memorable Quotes

The most memorable quotes from the text don’t come from Sweet’s writing, but from White’s. Sweet seamlessly incorporates quotations from White’s books and essays in order to support her comments about White’s life. Here are a few favorites:

On writing for children:
“I would rather wait a year than publish a bad children’s book, as I have too much respect for children.”

“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up to children, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and general congenial readers on earth… Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net.”

On being human:

“Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.”

“Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.”

Classroom Connections

This book is a great fit for the fourth to sixth grade classroom, although it could be used across many grade levels.

  • Sweet uses fantastic vocabulary throughout the book. Many different terms can be introduced using the text, such as footloose and sound advice. Sweet does a great job of providing context for these words, so readers can be challenged to infer the meaning of words that are new to them.
  • The book includes absolutely amazing advice on writing from E.B. White and other children’s authors who loved his work. Chapters on style and substance in children’s writing could inspire students to demonstrate some of the strategies in their own writing. Middle school students could use White’s advice on writing in conjunction with E.B.’s children’s books to find exemplars for the writing strategies White championed.

Book Information
Title: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White
Author: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: October 2016
Price: US $18.99
Source: Edelweiss – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
Amazon
HMH

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Review: Max at Night

Books We Love

Max at Night
by Ed Vere

My Rating:
★★★★★

Note: Max at Night will be released on September 3rd by Sourcebooks. A link to preorder is included at the bottom of this review.

 

Last September, Ed Vere’s Max the Brave hit bookstores and became a favorite of many kids (and reviewers!). Having absolutely loved the first book, I was so excited to read Vere’s sequel, Max at Night. Those of us that fell in love with Max in his debut will love the sequel!

While Max the Brave reminded readers of Are You My Mother?Max at Night is reminiscent of Goodnight, Moon in that the little black kitten is literally trying to say goodnight to the moon. We follow on his journey as he seeks to find the moon in the sky. A super sweet, playful tale is accompanied by beautiful illustrations. With this book, Vere has definitely established Max as a beloved picture book character. This book is a great fit for Pre-K to 2 classrooms, or children’s bedroom bookshelves.

Book Information
Title: Max at Night
Author and Illustrator: Ed Vere
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Release Date: September 2016
Price: US $16.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
Sourcebooks.com

Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this text from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for reading!

Review: Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony

Books We Love

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony
by Ellen Potter

My Rating:
★★★★★

Note: Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony will be released on Tuesday, August 16th, 2016.

Last year, I totally fell in love with Ellen Potter’s Piper Green series. A spunky heroine, a charming New England setting, and laugh-out-loud humor? I just knew that these books would become a favorite for my third grade kiddos.

After we read the first book in the series as a read-aloud, my students were begging to read book two. The boys and girls in my class couldn’t wait to read more about Piper’s adventures! I absolutely love when kids find books they can’t put down, and Piper Green has that type of draw.

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony, the third book in the series, has the same charm as the first two books. Piper’s spunky personality shines, as does her empathy and willingness for hard work. Her mistake-making helps students to learn valuable lessons within the fun and light-hearted story line. Potter includes many humorous lines that will have students laughing during read-alouds. I can’t wait for Book 4 in 2017!

Classroom Connections

  • When it comes to chapter endings, Ellen Potter is an expert at the cliffhanger. This is a great mentor text for students as they learn about cliffhanger endings, especially since the story is told as a personal narrative. The Piper Green books can be great mentor texts for students who are ready to add cliffhangers in their storytelling.
  • Having read Piper Green as a read aloud in my third grade class this year, I can say that the books include many opportunities for making connections, asking questions, and visualizing for reading comprehension. Reading this book aloud is a great way to practice those skills as a class.

Book Information
Title: Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony
Author: Ellen Potter
Illustrator: Qin Leng
Publisher: Random House Children’s
Release Date: August 16th, 2016
Price: US $5.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
Random House

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this text from Random House Children’s in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Thanks for reading!

Review: Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?

Books We Love, Uncategorized

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Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?
by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

WhereAreYouGoingBook

My Rating:
★★★★☆

Note: Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? will be released on Tuesday, August 2, 2016 by Capstone Young Readers. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.

 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the students in my class absolutely love Kate DiCamillo. As a kid, I loved Because of Winn-Dixie because the story completely captivated me. As a teacher, I love that Kate DiCamillo is an author kids can stick with as they become more experienced readers. Since she has so many books at different levels, kids can start reading her books in first grade and discover some of her more challenging texts in middle school and beyond. While I’ve read many of DiCamillo’s novels, I was so excited to read Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? so that I could take a look at her books for younger audiences.

Fans of DiCamillo will love how the Tales from Deckawoo Drive books dig deep into the backstories of some minor characters from the Mercy Watson series. In this case, DiCamillo explores the adventures of Baby Lincoln and her protective older sister, Eugenia. DiCamillo’s use of humor and her distinct voice as a narrator make this book a fun read. The book is very readable, and will be a great bridge from simple chapter books to more complex novels. While the book is listed for ages 6-9, some of the big words in the book will require context clues for readers at that age bracket.

In addition to being an endearing and well-written book for children, this book will speak to adults who share it with the children in their lives. At is roots, this book is a coming-of-age story, even though the main character isn’t at the start of her adulthood. With strong messages about being yourself and finding your own path in life, this sweet read will be great for family read-alouds and shared reading experiences. It will also find its place on the shelves of many classrooms, next to other Kate DiCamillo masterpieces.

Classroom Connections

DiCamillo’s writing is filled with rich language and fantastic internal punctuation. Many passages in the book lend themselves to visualization. This would be a great book to use when practicing visualization in small groups or as a class.

Book Information
Title: Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: August 2016
Price: US $14.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
Amazon

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Review: Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library!

Books We Love, Uncategorized

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Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library
by Julie Gassman
Illustrated by Andy Elkerton

DragonBook

My Rating:
★★★½

Note: Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library will be released on August 1, 2016 by Capstone Young Readers. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.

 

My mom is a librarian, so I absolutely love stories of all kinds that take place in libraries. I was so excited to read the latest title from Julie Gassman: Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library!  This adorable story shares the most important rule for going to the library: be sure to leave your dragon at home.

Gassman does a great job establishing the tone of the text. While some of the rhymes are a little clunky and would require some re-reads for true fluency, young readers can understand the point of view of the librarian and the child. However, at times the book changes speakers without warning. For example, at one point in the book the child begins speaking, but the image does not show the child speaking. No changes in font, punctuation, or text placement indicate that the speaker has changed, so children will have to pay close attention to determine that the child has become the speaker.

One of the great strengths of this book is its commitment to diversity in the images and text. In the pictures, we see children and adults of color, people with physical disabilities, and people with many different body types. As a big supporter of We Need Diverse Books, I was thrilled to see that many children will be able to see themselves in the pages of Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library. 

The author also used the pronouns “he” and “she” for different dragons in the book, which reminded me off this great article from the Washington Post: Why are there so few girls in childrens’ books? This unbelievable statistic from the article seems relevant: “No more than 33 percent of children’s books in any given year featured an adult woman or female animal, but adult men and male animals appeared in 100 percent of the books.” While the book has an adult female librarian, it’s also so important that there are both male and female readers and dragons portrayed in the book. This is just another way that all children can identify with this book.

While the rhymes aren’t perfect and the speakers can be unclear, I can see this book being loved by many kiddos who are fans of dragons and/or libraries.

Classroom Connections

This book would be great for introducing rules for a school library or classroom library at the beginning of the year. It would activate interest for students and allow them to reflect on why we have certain guidelines in place during library time.

Another way this book could be used would be to talk about cause and effect. The librarian makes many arguments using cause and effect. Students could identify these examples, then make their own cause and effect examples using the scenario of a dragon in a library.

Book Information
Title: Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library
Author: Julie Gassman
Illustrator: Belle Wuthrich
Publisher: Andy Elkerton
Release Date: August 2016
Price: US $14.95
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
Amazon

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Capstone Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!