Friday, December 30, 2016

31st December Pangolins

I'm on holidays and enjoying having time to read all sorts of things I don't usually have time for like the newspaper. Today in the Sydney Morning Herald (page18 in an article by Lindsay Murdoch), I read something alarming about pangolins, an animal I first met in a wonderful picture book by Bert Kitchen called Tenrec's Twigs. This story is set in Madagascar and has an amazing array of obscure animals, supposedly native to there. A friend visited Madagascar recently and I told her to be sure to see a tenrec and a pangolin. Well she saw a tenrec, but not the pangolin. And reading this today I wonder if that is why.
" Among the environmentalists' biggest concerns in South-east Asia is the pangolin, a scaly aardvark-like mammal that is the inspiration for Pokemon's Sandlash, a character adept at battling foes. The real-life ant-eating and nocturnal pangolins have the dubious distinction of being the most poached animal on Earth...More than 100,000 of the shy and near-sighted animals are captured every year across Africa and Asia."

The UN's Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species (CITES) has banned global trade in pangolins in the hope that they do not become extinct, a good reason too, to ensure that the students we teach know about them. I bought these two books for the library, so that when I share Tenrec's Twigs I can offer the children more to read. Not a lot, but a start without having to look through an index in a general animal  nonfiction book.

Monday, November 14, 2016

14th November Supermoon (perigee-syzygy)

We had great fun in the library today putting together a display of books that had a 'fullmoon' pictured on their covers in time for tonight's supermoon that we probably won't see here in Sydney. I love the name perigee-syzygy and couldn't wait to use it with the children. On Kidrex we learned what it was and how "The Supermoon on November 14, 2016, will be the closest a Full Moon has been to Earth since January 26, 1948. The next time a Full Moon is even closer to Earth will be on November 25, 2034".

Here's some of the books:

Monday, November 7, 2016

13th International Tongue Twister Day

Today is a day to celebrate tongue twisters! What fun! The children at school love to hear them and try themselves to say them as quickly as possible. These phrases or sentences with alliteration or a sequence of similar sounds beg to be repeated as quickly as possible without stumbling.

There are many lists of them on the internet and they appear in children's anthologies and joke books. One Kindergarten class teacher loves to do 'She sells seashells by the seashore' with her class and this year her class have really got involved by following its recitation with finding out about its origin. They learned that the 'she' refers to Mary Anning, the great fossil collector who made a living for her destitute family by selling trilobite shells on Lyme Regis beach. Much has been written about her and now there are at least three picture book biographies about her life. These are: (from my blog on 8th March)

 • Stone Girl Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt tells the story of Mary Fanning who as a ten year old child found a fossilised sea monster which was a major prehistoric discovery at the time. 
The Fossil Girl by Catherine Brighton  
• Mary Anning by Kay Barnham.

On line here you can see this book about Mary Anning and the tongue twister. This includes information about Mary as well as a revamped version of the original song.

Whatever tongue twisters you choose to share you and the students are sure to have fun. Perhaps you can find out if Peter Piper and Betty Botter were real people too.


Friday, November 4, 2016

7th November Marie Curie (1867 - 1934)

Today is Marie Curie's birthday and I thought it fitting to see what picture books were available to share with my young audience. Because of books such as Ada Twist, Scientist and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World there has been renewed interest in the library for reading biographies and reading about science and women scientists. There's certainly much written about Marie Curie, but not all of it is easily accessible to under 10 year old readers. Therefore I am really looking forward to next March when another title, Marie Curie in the  Little People Big Dreams series by Isabel Sanchez Vegara  arrives in the bookshops. The other titles in this series that we have have proved to be popular and the perfect amount of words for prep school readers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

1st November Melbourne Cup

I've had fun in the library today. I took down all the Halloween display and the library looked very bare, so quickly before my first class I pulled out as many 'horse' books as I could find. Year 1 are currently undertaking a unit of inquiry on Celebrations so I thought we'd celebrate the Melbourne Cup by reading horse books. We had quite a collection. I focused on the beautiful Australian picture books of Alison Lester, Patricia Mullins and Glenda Millard but I couldn't believe how many little chapter books we had and many of these hadn't been borrowed for a long time. Five classes later and a little coercion and many of the horse books, picture books, novels and non-fiction have gone home for a visit.


26th October - 1st November Bat Week

We've had bats flying across the windows in the library as part of a bat display for three weeks now. I cut the bats out from black cardboard folded in half (I used this Martha Stewart template) so they look as if they are flying and move if there is any breeze. They look very effective and have certainly helped the bat books be viewed and borrowed. Brian Lies' bat books which started with Bats in the Library  and now has four titles were the most popular but the pinterest list here shows that we had quite a few to choose from and several toys. Bat Week is well worth celebrating book-wise.

Friday, October 21, 2016

24th - 31st October Honey Week

It is Honey Week in the UK, but I thought I'd dig out books that feature honey, put them out on display and celebrate in the library anyway.
All the pizza books went on the first day so I am hoping these will be borrowed too. Besides it's a good excuse to revisit Elizabeth Honey's poem Honey Sandwich which is in her book of poetry by the same name. There are masses of books about bees (see pinterest page here) but here I've included only the books that have honey in their title and where honey means that wonderful tasting golden syrup that bees produce, not someone's name.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

18th October Vampire series for beginning readers

Well just as I thought I was doing a good job of encouraging the children to borrow all the witch and wizard series in the library, I got 'but where are the vampire books?' Ten years ago this age group did not know about vampires or werewolves, but now these two are sometimes asked for. Is it television or older siblings?

Well luckily after a quick search I came up with two series:
• Mona the Vampire by Hiawyn Oram. This series is old, out of print currently, and mine have two different covers depending on whether they were published before or after it was a television series, but they are still borrowed and read as 'readers' for Year 1 students. we have four titles.

Vampire School  by Peter Bently.  These are newer, about the same length and there are six books in the series. They are set in a school called St Orlok's which you have to be a vampire to attend. Lee, Bella and Billy are students in Miss Gargoyle's class. We appear to have a mixture of covers from two different issues of this series as well.

Then recently I purchased a new series of books about Isadora Moon which are written and illustrated by Harriet Muncaster. Isadora is half fairy and half vampire because her mother was a fairy and her father a vampire. These four stories are attractive beginning chapter books from Oxford and like many of the new books for newly fluent readers these feature one colour and here it is pink. They stayed on the shelf this morning for less than ten minutes! So far they are popular, let's see if they continue to walk out the door with very little upselling.

I also have
Three Little Vampires by Georgie Adams
Daisy and the Trouble With Vampires by Kes Gray
Horrid Henry and the Zombie Vampire  by Francesca Simon
Jake Cake The Visiting Vampire by Michael Broad

Saturday, October 15, 2016

16th October Chooks in Space

On the 13th October Speech Pathology Australia announced their winning books of the year. The books relevant to the age groups I teach are the winner for 3 to 5 year olds, Something Wonderful and the winner for 5 to 8 year olds, Funky Chicken: Chooks in Space. When I read this I thought to myself why are chickens in picture books so much lately? Are they fashionable? We've had a lot of books about sloths, lemurs and skunks but somehow chickens don't seem to have the same 'cutesy' appeal. Nevertheless these five books are worth a look. Each has a message about creativity, determination, perseverance and problem solving. Four are Australian and they are FUN.

This year I have purchased three books about adventurous chickens going into space!
Chooks in Space by Chris Colin and Megan Kitchin. Funky Chicken is back and this time wants to go into space. There is a bonus CD with this one.

Chicken in Space by Adam Lehrhaupt and Shahar Kober.
Zoey, the chicken is determined to make it into space. Together with her friend, Sam, a pig she plans her adventure.

Zelda's Big Adventure by Marie Alafaci and Shane McG. Just like the other two, there is a plucky chicken determined to get into space.

Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair is not about a chook although there is one on the front cover. It is a bout a daydreaming boy called Sam who loves to make things. He makes a machine that will do his chores for him. That is the something wonderful. This book is quite inspirational for children and parents as it shows how children can be effective problem solvers and fill in their time without technology.

It is technology that is part of the message in Nick Bland's new chicken picture book too. In The Fabulous Friend MachinePopcorn, the chicken finds a new friend in the barn and wants to be friends with the pictures on the screen. Can she?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

14th October Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize

The first thing I heard on the news as I woke this morning was that Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. As I like Dylan's songs and know so many of the lyrics I thought it was highly appropriate that he win for his poetry, but as I have listened to the radio today I see that not everyone agrees that he should win a prize for writing. Too bad, I say, because his words definitely are worth sharing and I will make sure that the students I teach know who Dylan is and some of what he has written. I will do this by sharing the picture books in our library that have his words accompanied by wonderful artwork.

Starting with this biography of his younger life, the children will discover that the American poet Bob Dylan was born Bob Zimmerman in rural Minnesota. He changed his surname to Dylan after his favourite poet, Dylan Thomas. He pursued his love of music in New York where he met and was mentored by Woody Guthrie.

Then we have four books which feature his words. They are:
* Blowin' in the Wind illustrated by Jon J. Muth.
* Man Gave Names to All the Animals illustrated by Jim Arnosky
* If Dogs Run Free  illustrated by Scott Campbell
* If Not For You  illustrated by David Walker


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

10th October World Mental Health Day

This week is Mental Health Week. Yesterday was World Mental Health Day and mental health is certainly something that teachers need to be more aware of than we were in the past. Every class has children who struggle with anxiety, who worry excessively, who have anger issues and who appear especially despondent or unengaged, but the good thing is that because teachers now worry about emotional intelligence as well as academic and social intelligences, they plan for the teaching of it and have much better protocols for identifying and remedying these concerns.

Teachers program for and conduct Circle Time in their classrooms. They encourage students to talk about their feelings, to express their feelings through play, drama and art. They read and discuss wonderful stories that highlight feelings and strategies for overcoming feelings.

In the last couple of years four books have been published about feelings which allow for children to understand that everyone feels a gambit of emotions and that this is normal. These are:

* Feelings: Inside My Heart and in My Head...
 by Libby Walden and Richard Jones.
* In My Heart A Book of Feelings  by Jo Witek
* The Great Big Book of Feelings by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith
* A Book of Feelings by Amanda McCardie and Salvatore Rubbino

While these are certainly not the only books that may be useful, these do cover more than one feeling in one book. There is a myriad of purpose written series about emotions with one emotion per book.

With the young children I teach I like to look at the expressions a fish can have in Mies Van Hout's illustrations in her book Happy and then discuss the emotion illustrated by connecting it back to themselves and when they have felt this way.

Another approach is to read a picture book where a character is having a particularly sad time and look at what happens to the character before discussing this situation. Two recent books that do this are:
* Mr Huff by Anna Walker,    and
* Willy and the Cloud by Anthony Browne.


Friday, October 7, 2016

8th - 12th October Cephalopod Awareness Days

'Every year from the 8th to the 12th of October, International Cephalopod Awareness Days come around to teach the world about cephalopods. This event is all about celebrating and sharing how fascinating and incredible they are!

Cephalopods are a class of marine invertebrates that are easy to recognize by all their arms and tentacles. They are part of the Phylum Mollusca, which means they’re related to other animals with soft bodies and shells, like snails and clams. Unlike the other molluscs, though, cephalopods have large brains and are known for their intelligence. Cephalopods are also interesting because they have three hearts and blue blood. They have highly developed eyes, and they have an amazing ability to camouflage because their skin can quickly change color and texture.'

Each of the days is designated:
October 8 – Octopus Day, for all the eight-armed species
October 9 – Nautilus Night, a time for all the lesser-known extant cephalopods
October 10 – Squid Day/Cuttlefish Day, or Squidturday, covering the tentacular species
October 11 – Myths and Legends Day, for all the fantastical cephalopods of movies, literature and legend. Release the Kraken!

October 12 – Fossil Day (to coincide with National Fossil Day), for all the incredible suckers that have gone extinct.

Kindergarten's unit of enquiry this term is to do with the sea, so there isn't anything left in my library to display, but if I could these books would be there to borrow:
Two that I especially like are new and they do what a lot of good nonfiction for younger children does so well. Look for Octopuses One to Ten by Ellen Jackson and Robin Page and Octopus Escapes Again by Laurie Ellen Angus.
And I would really like to see this one, Giant Squid because I am a fan of Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann and I'm sure it will be good.

We have a lovely octopus toy so I will need to do this display at some time earlier in the year.

P.S. Why do we spell molluscs with a 'c' and Americans put a 'k' so it is mollusks?


Thursday, October 6, 2016

October Pizza Month

October is Pizza Month in the USA. The children I teach love pizza, so much so that if I want to reward them for finishing something like the Premier's Reading Challenge we have a pizza party in the library. The students love the thought of eating in the library even if the reality isn't what they think it will be! We read Adam Rubin's Secret Pizza Party and everyone is sworn to secrecy so that the students who weren't there have to keep wondering what it was like.

My students will be back at school next week after two week's holiday when they probably ate plenty of pizza, but nevertheless I have put out a table full of these resources (all the pizza books in the library) to celebrate Pizza Month. I will also add some cook books which have pizza making.

Monday, October 3, 2016

3rd October Wizards - series for beginning readers

There's nowhere near the number of wizard series as there was for witches, and what there is, is extremely light-weight by comparison, but I do have boys who will ask for a chapter book about wizards. These are the three series that I suggest they choose from:

1. Woozy the Wizard by Elli Woodward. The three titles in this series are written in rhyming text and readers who can cope with the text, like Woozy, a confused old wizard who while meaning well does some very silly things.

2. Wizzbang Wizard by Scoular Anderson. There are only two books in this series. They tell readers the story of of Freddy Frogpurse who goes to visit his Great Uncle Sneezer to learn to become a wizard.

3. Oliver Moon by Sue Mongredien. This is the most popular of the series. There are twelve titles in this series and I have children who will read them all. Oliver Moon is the hardest working wizard at Magic School, but at home he has problems dealing with his unmagical parents.

The picture books about wizards are much better, (e.g.  Little Wizard by Kazuno Kohara, The Princess and the Wizard by Julia Donaldson) but my good readers want chapter books and they really don't mind if they are formulaic or a bit 'twee'. The boys who are keen soon move onto Kate McMullan's Dragon Slayer's Academy and become engrossed in the adventures of Wiglaf.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

2nd October Witches - series for beginning readers

Last post I wrote about beginning chapter books about ghosts and here I want to tell you about what is popular in the library for my students who love to read about witches. There is plenty to excite those who are fluent readers but not yet ready for the more sophisticated series such as Araminta Spook, Septimus Heap, Ottoline, Goth GirlWitchworld or Harry Potter. 

I was a witch fan when I was a young reader and there wasn't a lot to choose from. E.L. Konigsburg's Jennifer, Hecate Macbeth, William McKinlay and and Me, Elizabeth and Eva Ibbotson's Which Witch?though are still favourite books of mine. The witch fans at school start of course with picture books like  Meg and Mog and Valerie Thomas' Winnie the Witch series and as they start to read for themselves they borrow Deborah Hautzig's  Little Witch and Rose Impey's Titchy Witch, which has just been reimaged and reissued.  So here, in roughly increasing difficulty and length is ten other series witch fans will love.

1. Witch in Training by Maeve Friels. Jessica the heroine here is learning to be a witch and there are eight books in which you get to know her well.

2. Heidi Hecklebeck by Wanda Coven. Eight year old Heidi has a secret. She is a witch in disguise and only the family is meant to know. There are currently 16 books in this series  and it is probably the most popular series with the Year 1 girls once they have read all of Billie B. Brown and Ella and Olivia.

3. Dorrie the Little Witch  by Patricia Coombs. This series of books was popular when I started teaching but then they disappeared. They are now back and at least four have been reissued with the original endearing black and white illustrations,  but in hardback. It is a pity the publishers didn't increase the size of the print because my readers are put off by small font size even though there is not too much text on each page.

4. Winnie the Witch by Laura Owen and Korky Paul. These stories originated as a spin-off from the picture books by Valerie Thomas. Recently when I tried to replace a missing copy I saw that these have also been remerged and are now called Winnie and Wilbur. Wilbur is Winnie's cat.

5. Rumblewick's Diary by Hiawyn Oram. Like Wilbur, Rumblewick is a witch's cat. He is tasked with turning Haggy Aggy his unwilling witch into a credible witch. He records in his diary all the problems he has with her. There are two picture books in this series too, with wonderful illustrations by Sarah Warburton.

6. Hubble Bubble by Tracey Corderoy. Pandora's granny is a witch. We meet her first in a picture book with illustrations by Joe Berger, but there are five chapter books for beginning readers, that are full of mayhem and a little magic.

7. Witch Baby and Me by Debi Gliori.  The narrator, Lily is nine and she has a one year old sister, Daisy. She is no ordinary baby. She is a witch baby and nobody knows this except Lily who sees her make the fridge float and turn people into slugs.  There are four books about these sisters.

8. Bella Donna by Ruth Symes. Bella Donna is a witchling – a young witch who must keep her powers a secret, and only use magic when she’s at home in the enchanted Coven Road. There are six books in this series.

9. Monstrous Maud by A.B. Saddlewick. There are six books about Maud and Rotwood where she goes to school. She has a pet rat called Quentin and a perfect twin sister, Milly.

10. The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy is a series everyone should read. Mildred Hubble attends a boarding school for witches and has many mishaps, lots of friend and teacher problems just like Harry Potter, but it is for much younger readers and it was written long before Harry Potter. Some of my Year 2 readers struggle to get into these because the sentences are longer and more complex, but once someone reads them some or they listen to the audio book they are hooked. There are now seven books in this series.

Are there any good witch series for this age group, that I have missed?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

1st October National Ghost Hunting Day

I have just come home from school where I was doing the library displays for the beginning of next term. Halloween is quite popular with the children I teach, possibly because of the large number of expat families at school. I like the chance to get all the books out that feature ghosts, witches, wizards, monsters and 'creepy dark'. These books tend to only go out of the library at this time of year when they are 'facing'  children and being talked about. I also take the opportunity to do a pumpkin display and this year bats. In that way there is a good balance of fiction and nonfiction out and there's plenty to explore.

So when I noticed that in the USA the first day of October is Ghost Hunting Day I thought it very fitting that October starts and finishes with ghosts. There's so many good books to read with ghosts as characters. In the the picture books these are popular:
Ghost in the House by Ammi-Joan Paquette
Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara
Leo a Ghost Story by Mac Barnett
Little Ghost by Vivian French
We're Going on a Ghost Hunt by Susan Pearson
We're Going on a Ghost Hunt by Marcia Vaughan
Ghost  by Luk Depondt and Guido van Genechten
Ready Steady Ghost! by Elizabeth Baguley
Zen Ghosts by Jon M. Muth

As the school year gets closer to the end, I also have a larger number of fluent readers looking to immerse themselves in a good chapter book or series of books, so I have also put these 'ghost' stories out on display.

The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler    (eight books)
Ghost Hunters and the Incredibly Gruesome Ghost by Cornelia Funke (four books)
The Toilet Ghost by Pamela Butchart ( one of the three stories from Wigglesbottom Primary)
Agatha Parrot and the Odd Street Ghost by Kjartan Poskitt (one of six books)
Knitbone Pepper Ghost Dog by Claire Barker (one of three books)
 Ghosts on the Loose  by Tim Healey  (one of the Mortimer Keene series of five books) )
 The Ghost Library by David Melling
The Ghost Teacher by Tony Bradman
The Little Ghost by Otfried Preussler
The Case of the Graveyard Ghost and other Mysteries by Duncan Ball
Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Here's quite a list to get you started on the ghost hunt!


Saturday, September 17, 2016

13th September Roald Dahl Day

Roald Dahl Day took on even more significance this year because it marked the day that he would have turned 100 years old. The new movie of The BFG has just been released so the children I teach have a renewed interest in Dahl's books. But, I have noticed, that in recent years less and less of my Year 2 students are reading his books independently than used to be the case. While I still have many Year 2 students who are good readers and can probably read most things if they choose to, they are not choosing to read anything that requires reading stamina on their part. They are turned off by the amount of text, the compactness of text and the lack of coloured pictures. They cannot loose themselves for over half an hour of interrupted reading. There are too many other things vying for their time. They are too busy. Such as shame I think. I yearn for the readers I had ten years ago before devices took up so much of their time.

Because of this, earlier in the year I made a decision to replace all of the library's Dahl books with the new, larger format editions that have coloured pictures. I put them on display and made a point of showing them to the children and there has been a resurgence in borrowing of Dahl books. So much so that when I decided to put together a birthday display last week there was only two of his books in the library, the two books of verse and a biography, so not enough to bother! Inadvertently, we celebrated Roald Dahl Day!

Friday, September 9, 2016

7th September Threatened Species Day

"Threatened Species Day is a national day held each year on 7 September to commemorate the death of the last remaining Tasmanian tiger (also known as the thylacine) at Hobart Zoo in 1936. It is a time to reflect on what has happened in the past and how we can protect our threatened species in the future. A day to celebrate our success stories and ongoing threatened species recovery work."
While there are some books about thylacines I had kindergarten on this day and wanted to read something slightly easier. I had recently purchased Penelope the Mountain Pygmy Possum, which is a story about a pygmy possum in the Snowy Mountains, and these possums are endangered. I knew that the idea of the tunnel under the road would appeal to Kindergarten. They ended up comparing this tunnel with a possum tunnel we have nearby on the Wakehurst Parkway that goes over the road. The information page at the back of the book brought us back to the real issue of pygmy possums and why they are endangered. Many of the children are skiers and spend time at Thredbo so they made some very pertinent connections with the text.  Then the  children wanted to borrow other books about pygmy possums which we don't have, but many borrowed books about Tasmanian devils and bilbies, both of which do also need saving. The conversation came back to the issue of the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect too and Zoos Victoria, so this term's reading has made for some good connections, both text-to-text and text-to-world. 


Friday, September 2, 2016

1st September Post Book Week

Now that Book Week is over and I have the chance to reflect on past weeks and teaching I want to share some successes. Initially I looked at the shortlisted books and wasn't truly inspired. Many of the Picture Books were too sophisticated for my 5 to 8 year olds and some of the Early Childhood list lacked enough 'meat' to warrant more than a  reading. I planned library lessons tentatively and thought I would try some titles out and go from there. I read Jane Jolly's One Step at a Time to Year 2 and was amazed at how much empathy they displayed and how much more meaning it had to them once they could see that it could be a true story. (See video of Mosha, the elephant with a prosthetic leg).  Mr Huff  was a success with all three grades, Kindergarten to Year 2 and it was made even more successful by having Anna Walker read the story herself as she does on Story Box Library.

The 'sleeper' was Phasmid by Rohan Cleave, the story of the endangered Lord Howe Island stick insect which was shortlisted for the Eve Pownall Award. I read it to Year 2 and they were full of questions and wanted to learn more. First we read the book and didn't even get to the end in one lesson. So in the next lesson we watched this video of a nymph hatching and finished the book. In pairs students chatted about what should happen next for the stick insects and made a list of questions they still had. I couldn't get Lord Howe Island phasmids, but I got two Goliath stick insects for the library and all the students, not just Year 2 are now into keeping a watchful eye on Sticky and Twiggy as they have named them. Yesterday I found two preschoolers with books open looking for pictures of Sticky. They found three pictures of a goliath stick insect and were telling their mothers in great detail about them. I haven't read any stick insect books to my preschool classes. They have just observed them in their jar and become fascinated. On the table with the stick insects we put out any information and story books that we had about stick insects for perusal and borrowing. We were surprised how many we had. If you are looking for some this is what we had.

* Stick Insects  by Valerie Bodden
* Stick Insects by Chris Macro
* Sneaky Stick Insects by Rebecca Johnson
Weird Insects by Michael Worek
* Stanley Sticks Out by Peter Rigby and Craig Smith
* Good Trick Walking Stick by Sheri M.Bestor
* Invisible Me by Melinda Shoen
* Walkingsticks  by Fran Howard
* Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer