More than books

I’ve had the idea bouncing around in my head to post about the many ways I find to read beyond physical books.

  •  Listverse is probably my favorite website. The site has many writers writing about the world around us, so it’s not fiction. I can read about history, science, mysteries bizarre events or just pull up random lists. I feel like it’s a reasonably trustworthy site and I trust the information.
  • Pinterest, specifically I like to read pins from the history board but the science boards interest me too.
  • eBooks – I like iBooks, Amazon eBooks, Nook Books, and WattPad. Free=awesome in my book, so I’m often found reading self published books that can be awful or diamonds in the rough.
  • Library eBooks & Audio Books – our library uses Overdrive Media and One Click Digital. I love these sites! If my girls and I go traveling without my husband, we always download a few books to listen to in the car.

I’m not much for reading magazines or newspapers but sometimes I need a break from the kids books I read. I like unsolved mysteries, historical oddities, and new scientific finds. When I want fiction I often go looking for a good post-apocalyptic or zombie book, and I like said, I like them free.

It’s hard to remember what life was like before the Internet made it so easy to read about new things. I read a lot of books but finding the really obscure titles wasn’t easy in a small midwestern town.

Are there any great sites I’m missing out on? Tell me, I’d love to know so I can try them myself! 


Folktales and Fairytales 

Since I started working on inventory, I’ve been finding a lot of books to read just because they catch my eye.  As I reached the end of the picture books, I grabbed some fun titles.

Epossumondas by Coleen Salley is a cute retelling of a “noodlehead” story. The original story is from the southern United States, called Epamindas. In real life possums are one of the few animals I really don’t like, but this little guy is too cute! His diaper is adorable, and he is so silly. I also brought home Why Epossumondas Has No Hair On His Tail. Both stories read like old folk tales, but I’ll keep them in the picture books where they will have a bigger audience.

The Fairytale I found this weekend is The Enchanted Wood by Ruth Sanderson.

This story, though original to Sanderson, has the look and feel of a traditional fairytale. You easily see the two older brothers’ folly and bravado when they attempt to find the heart of the world. The youngest brother is much kinder and actually listens to the warnings before entering the wood. He is able to save the kingdom, save his foolhardy brothers and win the beautiful girl.

It’s not much of a post but I have another stack of picture books to bring home tomorrow and a nice thick chapter book to start as well, so no worries.

The Gaither sisters 

I really enjoy reading about characters with different lives then mine, and in terms of realistic fiction, the Gaither Sisters definitely fit the bill. 

It’s 1968, and sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern have spent most of their lives without a mother. Big Mama, their Daddy’s mother, lives with them and it helps, but just isn’t the same. Then word comes from Oakland, CA that they are going to stay with their mother Cecile. Oakland is the birthplace of The Black Panthers and the girls quickly learn about the civil rights movement. They also learn about being sisters and being daughters.

In the second book, the girls have come home to Brooklyn, NY and things there have changed. Their father has a new girlfriend who is very liberated (which drives Big Mama so crazy that she leaves) and Uncle Darnell has come home from Viet Nam a very changed man. Cecile keeps reminding Delphine to just be 11, but it’s hard in such chaotic times.

The girls are going south to Alabama to visit Big Mama. They are warned that things are very different in the south when it comes to civil rights. The girls discover their Great Grandma has a half sister whom she won’t speak to, but sure likes to talk about.  From them D, V & F learn the family’s turbulent history. A tornado rips the family apart as V goes missing. It also brings them together as Daddy and his new wife and Cecile come to help find Vonetta.

I really liked how Williams-Garcia uses the family’s diverse residences to show how different the Civil Rights movement was for people in different parts of America. You can’t help but love these sassy girls. Delphine is the epitome of oldest sisters and Vonetta  reminds me of my own sister (who’s the middle child). Fern is sassy and sweet and I love her tag line, “Surely do.”

I’m from the generation after the sisters, so I appreciate this look into life at this time. Maybe you yourself are from their generation-you might still find the sisters’ experiences to be very different from your own.

Comics in school?!?

Yes. Comics, or Graphic Novels are here to and they are here to stay. You might find it unthinkable, but the kids love them, critics (sometimes) praise them and teachers endorse them. Me? I buy them and I’ve tried a few out and I’m okay with making them part of my collection.

Most kids start off with fiction graphic novels, which tend to have lower AR levels, and so struggling readers are excited to have them. There are completely original series as well as adaptations of full length books for them to read.

Once kids reach higher AR levels, they can struggle to find Grapic Novels that aren’t too low. Enter nonfiction graphic novels. I ordered a new set just this year of famous battles from all of America’s major military campaigns. I haven’t read them but the boys are excited. 

My favorite nonfiction graphic novels are Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale. You can check out his site here. I bought them because they looked fun and decided to read them after purchasing one which may have had gruesome content.

In the first book we learn that the author has the same name as a famous American spy from the Revolutionary War, Nathan Hale.

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” 

-Nathan Hale

The author tells us Hale’s story but then, on the gallows, amagical eagle   appears and pulls Hale into a history book, allowing him to tell stories from before and after his time. These tales are used to stay his execution in homage to 1001 Arabian Nights. 

I don’t care what you say, World War I is hard to understand! Hale uses animals to represent the different countries, like a bulldog for England. It helps a lot! I think this is the highest leveled book in the set, falling in the fourth grade range somewhere.

After Treaties, Trenches Mud and Blood, Gale said he wouldn’t tackle an entire war in one book again. This is a nice look at the ironclad ships the were created in the Civil War. Educational without being overwhelming.

Yep, this is the one I was worried about content-wise. It’s a tragic tale but Hale did something perfect in this one. The narrator notices his audience seems agitated and so he stops and tells us to skip ahead to page ____ if we don’t want to see the worst part of the story. I read through it anyway and the story is handled well, informative but not gory.

I read a lot of biographies but this was one of the best about Harriet Tubman I’ve ever read. Telling the story in this style makes Harriet, or Minty as her friends and family called her, seem much more real, if that makes sense.

This is the newest story and I haven’t gotten to it yet. I’m excited to see how Hale tells this famous story.

While I barely touched the tip of the iceberg of Graphic Novels, I think I’ve been able to honestly tell you about the ones I recommend to kids myself. What a sneaky way to get kids to enjoy history!

And if you’re worried about the historical integrity of the stories, just ask the fact checker baby!

Happy Chinese New Year!

2017 is the year of the rooster (fire rooster to be exact) and I was excited to put up displays about it at school today.

I started with my mini bulletin board a.k.a. an old flannel board. I found some great illustrations of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac. I thought the kids might like to know what animal represents their birth year so I created mini posters with the years listed. I went back to the 1940s since the kids ugh the interested in their teachers’ animals too.

The next step was to find any books on the celebration for display. I only had 2 books officially about the holiday so I branched out to Chinese culture and some great Chinese-American authors like Grace Lin and Laurence Yep. I even found Good Luck Ivy in the American Girl books. I think she is friends with Julie, the girl from the 1970s.

The last step was to put out picture books with a rooster theme. Not a lot on just roosters, but why not chickens in general? I have to admit, I love me some chicken books! Here are some of my favorites:

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein is hilarious! Little Chicken promises Papa she will be quiet but it’s so hard not to warn Red Riding Hood about the Big Bad Wolf. I love reading this to kindergarten.

Chicks Run Wild by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen is another cute story. Mama should not trust those chicks to go to bed easily! I really like this author and I’d like to get more of her books.

Minerva Louise by Janet Morgan Stoeke is probably my favorite chicken. She is so naive and sweet, her stories so simple, the kids just can’t get enough. 

And now, a book I haven’t read yet but I’m sure looking forward to:

Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer looks hilarious. Two chickens are dying to see Elvis Poultry and need to win a dance contest to get the tickets. 

I hope my displays leave you feeling a little more culturally enlightened! Happy New Year!

Just plain odd.

Yesterday’s post about weird stuff got me thinking about the weirdest books I’ve ever read. Brace yourselves.

I always introduce this book to students by telling them “I read it in 3rd grade and look at me now!” (A dramatic pose helps them to see just how perfect this gen of a book made me.) How To Be a Perfect Person In Just Three Days by Stephen Manes is just hilarious. The kids are confused by the stunts Milo is asked to perform in the quest of perfection but they do learn a valuable lesson in the end.

Blue Moose and The Return of the Moose by Daniel Manus Pinkwater are very weird. I actually read The Return of the Moose first, and let me tell you…wow. The Moose writes an autobiography and tells us that he was president Harry Truman! It was a read aloud and the kids were enthralled by the oddity of it.

I read Lafcadio the lion who shot back by Shel Silverstein to my 6th graders last year. It’s done in Silverstein’s typical line drawing style but it is a chapter book. Lafcadio s tired of being hunted and decides to put a stop to it. He is actually a great shot and which eventually leads him on an adventure in the human world. The only problems though are too many marshmallows and becoming too human himself.

The weird stuff

One of my daily jobs at school is a reading group with three 3rd grade boys. They just moved up in levels and all of them chose a story about Bigfoot. It got me thinking that I could do a decent display of “weird stuff” – typically found in the 000s of Nonfiction (along with librarians…why are we with Bigfoot and other cryptids?!?)

Cryptids – an animal whose existence or survival is unproved – aren’t easy to represent in my Nonfiction section. I found a puzzle of a globe, putting one together is an experience I’ll never repeat. It had a golfing theme so I painted it. Then I got the bright idea to add little cartoon cryptids in the correlating locations. North America has a lot! You can see the Sasquatch of the Northwestern part of the continent, the aliens in Area 51, Mothman in New Jersey, the Skunk Ape (a cousin to Bigfoot) in Florida and the Chupecabra in the southern end of the continent. I thought the mermaid was a nice touch in the Caribbean too. The Jackalope is in the general area of South Dakota. I doubt anyone actually believes they exist but it’s just something great about living here. I also included the Sea Monsters and the Krakken. South America has man-eating trees and giant serpents. Europe has the Loch Ness monster, dragons and unicorns, Asia has the kappa of Japan, Mongolian Death Worms, dragons and the yeti and Africa has the Mokele Mbembe, a surviving Brontosaurus-type creature. Most of the artwork was found online, my favorites being done by Jess Bradley. Which brings me to my first book:

I Know Sasquatch by Jess Bradley is a fun picture book about meeting and befriending Sasquatch in the forest one afternoon. It uses a fun style, real photographs with Jess’ cartoon characters over the top. The funny thing is I made the globe long before I knew she had a book!

There were a surprising amount of books that I thought fit this display. My students love the nonfiction which is called Hi/Lo – meaning it’s high interest but lower reading levels. I pulled fiction too, like the Cryptid series by Roland Smith for my higher readers and some of The Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey for my lower readers.

I recently bought some unicorn books but my favorite is Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krause Rosenthal. 

It’s a great story that proves if you believe hard enough, little girls can be real too.