Booklovers Anonymous: The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit. As you can see, our copy has been very much loved.

 

One of the first books to ever make me cry as a child, The Velveteen Rabbit is a beautiful story of love and loyalty. Written by Margery Williams and published in 1922, the story has enthralled children for decades. The beautiful illustrations, drawn by William Nicholson, make the characters seem so real. I remember wanting to hear the story over and over again as a child. I loved listening to the rabbit as he got to know the other toys in the nursery, feeling elation when he became the boys best friend, sadness when he was cast aside, and pure joy when he became real. This is an incredible story to share with your children.

The rabbit and his boy.

Of course, you can just read this book with your children for pure pleasure, but if you would like to do more, check out these resources.

Arkarts.com has a PDF with activities that involve studying the life cycle of real animals, visiting the seaside and learning about scarlet fever, crafts like making your own bunny, and more.

Hiding under the covers.

Pearson has a guide with some printable activities for younger elementary students.

This PDF has vocabulary activities, writing activities, discussion questions and activities for older children.

He’s a real rabbit!

At EDHelper, find links to crossword puzzles, writing prompts, quizzes, and bunch of other activities for younger and older students.

Snuggle up on the couch with your kids and their favorite stuffed animals and enjoy a classic, heart-warming story!

Saying goodbye.

Thanks for joining me for Booklovers Anonymous this week. If you have your own special memories of this story, please let me know in the comments. See you next Thursday!

Bookovers Anonymous: Jumanji

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

I’ve mentioned before that Chris Van Allsburg is one of my favorite children’s authors of all time. Today I am sharing another one of his fabulous books, Jumanji. First written in 1981, it went on to become a movie starring Robin Williams in 1995. The Jumanji movie is a great resource to use with the book, possibly as a culminating activity to a unit study.

The book tells the story of Judy and Peter, a brother and sister looking to have some fun when their parents leave them alone for the day. When playing outside, they find a mysterious box containing the Jumanji Jungle Adventure Game. What follows is an exciting adventure where each role of the dice brings them face to face with lions, monkeys, monsoons, and bumbling guides. By the end of their day, an exhausted Judy and Peter bury the game in the park, which sets up another Van Allsburg book, Zathura.

Look out! Rhinoceros!

Jumanji is loaded with things to study and talk about. First, if you have a child that loves animals, you could certainly spend time researching each animal in the book as a unit study. I’ve read this with my kids and had them create their own version of the game, which they really enjoyed. In addition, there are a lot of resources and lesson plans available online.

First, the Chris Van Allsburg website gives you information about the author, as well as links to other resources. Houghton Mifflin has put together a teachers guide with writing and reading lessons for the primary grades. At Carol Hurst.com, read a review of the book and view some questions for discussion as well as suggested activities.

Teaching Books provides links to interviews with the author as well as other resources. At Better Lesson, find a lesson plan focused on using the book to teach figurative language.

Jumanji is so much fun to read! I love how it encourages a kids imagination.

Thanks for joining me for Booklovers Anonymous this week! Be sure to come back next Thursday!

Booklovers Anonymous: Diary of a Worm

Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin

Welcome back to Booklovers Anonymous! This week I am sharing a really fun story by author Doreen Cronin, Diary of a Worm. This little gem of a book covers a few months in a young worms life, told from his perspective. It is part diary, part scrapbook, with pasted “pictures” of images like a “family vacation” at Compost Island, a Superworm comic, and the worm’s favorite pile of dirt.

In the story, the worm shares important details of his life, like how his mother told him that the earth gives him everything he needs, how he learned not to bother his father when he is eating the newspaper, how fruitless it is to try to teach his friend spider to dig, and the dangers of hopscotch. My kids loved to listen to how worm tried to annoy his big sister and how he made spider laugh so hard that he fell out of a tree. Aside from the fun, there are a lot of resources available for using this book for lessons.

PB works has a lesson plan for teaching about worms. At Writing Fix, students can practice using voice in their own writing. Teachers Net has a fun lesson for tying the story into creating a worm’s habitat, and Scholastic has ideas for using the book as a springboard for having students research an animal and create their own diary based on that animal’s life.¬† Check out this Pinterest board for Diary of a Worm unit study ideas on composting, recipes, crafts, and other activities.

Diary of a Worm is just so much fun, and could easily be used for a science unit study! Thanks for stopping by this week, be sure to come back next Thursday!

Booklovers Anonymous: A Wrinkle in Time

The first time I read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, I was in fifth grade. This is one of the first books I can remember wanting to read over and over. I was so excited by the adventures of Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace. And the thought of traveling through time, and tesseracts, and the incredible worlds they visited….they were the stuff a dreams. The Christian themes in the book are quite obvious, and easily lend themselves to discussion. However, it is the relationships between the characters that stand out to me the most. The fact that Meg rescues her little brother because her love for him is the one thing IT can’t overcome, sends a very powerful message.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Both of my boys read this book as part of their literature class in about the sixth grade, although I also used it as a read aloud when they were younger. A Wrinkle in Time is actually the first book in a series that can set your kids off on a wonderful adventure. First written in 1962, it is still enormously popular today.

When my kids read this book, we do numerous activities, like sketching their favorite scenes, drawing or making models of each planet, creating a comic based on the book, and making their own “map” of the different universes the children visit. Glencoe also has a study guide with questions and graphic organizers available. Scholastic has put together a nice little study guide with background about the book and the author, as well as questions for each chapter. Shmoop has some general questions and quizzes. The Edsitement website has great directions for creating a board game based on the book.

A Wrinkle in Time lends itself to creativity, so with an artistic child the possibilities are endless. Of course, you can also tie some of the topics into science (just look up tesseracts to get started). There is also quite a bit of math in the story, and literature references as well. This book will work for any child in 5th grade and above who loves excitement and adventure. Check it out and enjoy!

I appreciate you stopping by to visit. Be sure to come back next Thursday! Did you ever read A Wrinkle in Time as a kid? Let me know in the comments!

Booklovers Anonymous: Where the Sidewalk Ends

“If you are a dreamer, come in,

If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,

A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…

If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.

Come in!

Come in!

Where the Sidewalk Ends

So begins Invitation, one of my favorite poems by one of my all-time favorite poets, Shel Silverstein. Where the Sidewalk Ends is one of his collections of poetry that I have been reading out loud, in my home and in my classroom, for years. My kids and I love the silly rhymes “Fred?” and “The Yipiyuk” and the more serious tones of “Invitation” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends”.

I usually start our day with reading a random poem just for fun. In the past, my kids have drawn illustrations to go with Shel Silverstein’s poems and his work has inspired them to write their own. What I think I love most about his work is how clearly he illustrates pictures in your head. Since I was a little girl, when my Nana read me The Giving Tree, his work has just rolled off the page and into my head. A great intro to poetry for big and little children, Where the Sidewalk Ends has examples of many poetry forms.

In addition to reading, my kids have also used poems from this book for memory work and copy work. For more fun lessons and activities, check out the Shel Silverstein website. Here you will find animations to go with his poems, lessons and activities with printables, and drawing pages. Readworks has a lesson plan for Where the Sidewalk Ends that teaches about author’s voice. At Fun with Poetry, find multiple teacher resources and an audio recording of The Unicorn Song (one of the first poems my kids ever memorized).

Shel Silverstein books are readily available in the library, but I would recommend purchasing them because they are a treasure to have on your bookshelf. I believe Where the Sidewalk Ends will end up on my grandchild’s shelf one day, because this is just the type of book you pass down for generations.¬† Take your kids to the magical place where the sidewalk ends:

“Yes, we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow.

And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,

For the children, they mark, and the children, they know,

The place where the sidewalk ends.”

If you have a favorite Shel Silverstein poem, let me know in the comments. Thanks for stopping by this week, be sure to come back next Thursday for more books!

Booklovers Anonymous: The Outsiders

For this week’s Booklovers Anonymous I share one of my favorite books from my middle school years. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is a coming of age story set in the 1960s. The themes of love, friendship, and fitting in are things all teens can relate to. The story of Dallas, Pony Boy, Johnny, and Sodapop grabs the readers attention and draws them in.

The Oustiders

I have my boys read this book when they are in the 8th grade. At that point, they are ready to tackle the subtle and obvious plot points and themes. This book provides all kinds of discussion about topics like social class, boundaries, making right choices, and how, sometimes, the least likely person can be the hero.

Published in 1967, the story of the Socs and the Greasers has been around a long time and there are plenty of resources available for using it in your homeschool.

This PDF has some great activities like making character posters and possible discussion or essay ideas. I love the printables and discussion questions found in these lesson plans. Incorporate the study of music with the story with these ideas from Rockhall. Pearltrees has numerous resources for The Oustiders including charts, study guides, and web-related activities.

Of course, The Outsiders movie is now considered a classic (which makes me feel really old) and I am happy to say it sticks really close to the book. Appropriate for grades 7 and up, watch the movie as a wrap up activity when you finish the book.

While this is a favorite for boys ages 13 and older, plenty of girls (like me) enjoy this story. I also think the broader topics of fitting in and acceptance are especially important ones to talk about with teens today. In the end, the Outsiders was really all about love and acceptance. If you want an exciting story to read with your middle or high school student, definitely give The Outsiders a try!

Do you have any books from your childhood that made an impression on you? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for joining me and be sure to come back next week!

Booklovers Anonymous: Owen and Mzee

For Booklovers Anonymous this week I am sharing a story of two unlikely friends: a hippo and a giant tortoise, Owen and Mzee. Written by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Khaumbu, this is a beautiful story of friendship and survival.

Owen & Mzee

This true story takes place in Kenya, when a baby hippo, orphaned and stranded by a tsunami in 2004 washes up onshore. Local villagers come together to perform a daring rescue. Hippos are known to be very dangerous animals, but they could not sit and watch the baby die. After a lot of effort, the hippo is rescued and sent to Haller Park, an animal sanctuary. At the park, Owen (as the hippo comes to be called) meets, Mzee, a 130 year old giant tortoise. Up to this time, Mzee was not a very friendly creature, and kept to himself. Upon reaching the park, a very frightened Owen immediately snuggled up to Mzee. At first, the tortoise was not very happy about this, but over time, things changed. Owen and Mzee became friends, and Owen began his recovery.

This story itself opens up so much discussion. It is also full of learning opportunities. For starters you could study Africa, Kenya, tsunamis, hippos, and tortoises. A documentary about Owen and Mzee is available on the book’s website. The Owen and Mzee website also has videos, sing-alongs, links for parents and teachers, and a tour of Haller Park.

Also, a free special ebook of the story was created for the Tribeca Film Festival in 2005. It contains more pictures, a coloring page, and updated information on the two animals.

The pictures in this book are gorgeous, and the story itself will bring tears to your eyes. Read it just for fun or use it for science or social studies.

Thanks for joining me for Booklovers Anonymous this week. Be sure to come back next Thursday. If you know of any other great animal stories, let me know in the comments!

Booklovers Anonymous: Jennifer Jones Won’t Leave Me Alone!

For this week, I am sharing a fun little book that is great for Valentine’s Day. The book, Jennifer Jones Won’t Leave Me Alone, by Frieda Wishinksy, tells the story of a young boy and his classmate, Jennifer.

Jennifer Jones Won’t Leave Me Alone

Jennifer writes him poems, and talks to him, leading to teasing from his classmates. He wishes for an escape, and is overjoyed to hear that Jennifer will be leaving as her mom starts a new job. However, his feelings begin to change as he realizes he misses his friend. Along the way, Jennifer sends letters describing her adventures in Paris and Italy. By the end of the story, the boy is happy to admit that he is excited when he finds out his friend is returning from her journey.

The story is written in rhyme, and lends itself easily to choral readings. The heartwarming story reminds me of the days on the playground when boys and girls used to tease each other and play together. For Valentine’s Day, you could read the story and create your own rhymes to write on homemade valentines. You could also read this story just for a laugh!

Do you know of a great Valetine’s story to read with your kids? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for stopping by this week. Be sure to join me again next week!

Valentine's Day Resources

Booklovers Anonymous: The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig

This week for Booklovers Anonymous I share a fun twist on an old fairy tale. The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury revisits the story with the pig as the antagonist!

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig

In the story, the three soft and cuddly little wolves are sent out into the world by their mother. Before they leave, she warns them to watch out for the big bad pig! Along the way, they meet other animals who give them materials to build houses out of brick, concrete, and even steel. But nothing is strong enough to protect them from the pig! (and he doesn’t just blow houses down, sometimes he blows them up!). As a last resort, the wolves build a house out of flowers, and something amazing happens! (but you will have to read the story to find out what!)

In addition to having fun reading the story (and my kids have asked me to read it over and over) there is a lot you can do with this book. For starters, it’s great for introducing the concept of compare and contrast, when you read the story along with the original. Learn NC has a lesson already created for this purpose.

Scholastic also has a lesson plan laid out for this story that focuses on the study of folktales as well as a writing lesson where students take on the point of view of the pig and rewrite the story.

If you are looking to build reading fluency, reader’s theater is a great way to do that. Timeless Teacher Stuff has a script of the book that works great for a group!

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig is a lot of fun to read and serves as a great base for a few lessons, or even a unit study on fairy tales.

Thanks for joining me this week for Booklovers Anonymous! Be sure to come back next Thursday when I talk about a great book for Valetine’s Day!

Booklovers Anonymous: The Night at the Museum

The Night at the Museum

If you are looking for a fun book to begin a unit study I would definitely suggest The Night at the Museum by Milan Trenc. Written in 1993, the book is set in the Museum of Natural History and follows the adventures of Larry, the museum’s latest night guard. He begins his night sitting in his chair thinking he will be able to take a nap, but is incredibly surprised when things turn out differently!

Of course, many people are familiar with this story from the 2006 Night at the Museum movie starring Ben Stiller, which would make a great resource for the study. However, there is so much more you can do with this book. For starters, visit the American Museum of Natural History website to explore current exhibitions, take a peak behind the scenes, and learn about various science topics.

From there, customize your unit study by choosing specific animals to learn about. Or choose some of the historical figures in the book to research. A wide range of topics are available from monkeys, tigers, and dinosaurs to Lewis and Clark and John Audubon. You could even wrap up your unit study by having your kids create their own museum diorama or display to share with the family, or having a day where they dress up as their favorite character and give a speech.

This book is so much fun, it is still one of my kids favorites for a bed time read aloud!

Thanks for joining me for Booklovers Anonymous! Be sure to come back next week. Feel free to share or pin this post!

Booklovers Anonymous: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

For Booklovers Anonymous today I am sharing another favorite picture book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems. This is a book I discovered when my youngest was in early elementary school and the whole series quickly became a family favorite.

Mo Willems has a fantastic ability to write characters kids connect with, and the funny, imaginative pigeon in this books is no exception. He longs to drive the bus while the bus driver is away, and he works hard to convince you he should! The illustrations make the bird come to life, and kids totally relate as he pleads for his way.

This book is a great read aloud, and there are some really fun internet extras to go along with it. On the official website, Pigeon Presents, there are teachers guides, games, and printable coloring pages. In addition, the Pigeon has his own twitter account full of interesting info and kid-friendly humor.

I would highly recommend any of the pigeon books for a fun read! Do you have any ideas for fun pigeon-related activities? Let me know in the comments. Feel free to share this post with others who love to read books! Make sure to stop by next week for another Booklovers Anonymous post!

Booklovers Anonymous: Inkheart

 

Growing up on a farm as an only child, books and animals were my friends and playmates. How I longed to enter the world of my books! I wanted to solve mysteries with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. I dreamed about going with Alice down the rabbit hole and visiting the Shire. That’s why the book I am talking about this week is so close to my heart. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is about a girl named Meggie, whose father, Mo (a bookbinder) has the ability to make the world of books real!

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

On the inside page of the book is printed one of my favorite Shel Silverstein Poems, “Invitation”, which to me, speaks to the heart of what all books are about. Inviting you to another world where you can experience all sorts of great things.

In the course of Inkheart, Meggie and her father have to fight Capricorn and his gang, whom Meggie’s father accidentally read out of a book a long time ago. Another character who helps them is Dustfinger, a man who longs to return to his family in the book world. Meggie also discovers that her mother was accidentally trapped in the world of books when Dustfinger and the others were brought out. It is an exciting read, suitable for 4th grade and up, and great as a read aloud for anyone. There was also an Inkheart movie starring Brendan Fraser.

Online, Scholastic has a few resources for Inkheart, including a guide with suggested questions, an activity page with quizzes, and suggested writing lessons

Web English teacher also has a page with links to other resources for the book.

If you or your child enjoy fantasy books with rich characters, I would encourage you to check Inkheart out! Thanks for joining me this week. Next week, I will be sharing another of my favorite picture books. Be sure to come back and check it out!

Booklovers Anonymous: The Mysterious Benedict Society

A strange add in the newspaper catches young Reynie Muldoon’s eye. The orphan answers it and takes a series of odd tests. So begins his adventure….

The Mysterious Benedict Society

Today I am sharing another fun chapter book, The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart. It tells the story of four children, each gifted in their own way, as they battle the group L.I.V.E. in a bid to save children everywhere. For one reason or another, all four children find themselves orphaned, and as they bond together to defeat the bad guys, each finds a family.

I love this book for a lot of reasons, most notably, the excellent vocabulary work it promotes. Words like “inconsequential”, “diminutive”, and “imprudent” are sprinkled throughout the book. I like to use this book to teach determining definitions in context. There are also a lot of riddles and logic puzzles to solve along the way.

What do kids love about this book? The characters, the adventures, the twists and turns. When I read this with my 6th graders when I was teaching, I had to lock the books up to make sure they didn’t read ahead! They spent many hours trying to use the clues to solve the puzzle themselves!

Internet resources for the book abound, from the official Mysterious Benedict Society website with puzzles, games, and other resources, to quizzes on GoodReads and even this PDF with questions and answers.

Of course, The Mysterious Benedict Society is also well suited to written and oral narrations, discussion, and even projects. When I read it with my son this year, he will have a few hands-on projects to do, like making “trading cards” for the major characters with details about their personalities, making “wanted posters” for the bad guys, and creating a mock radio ad to recruit other members to join the Benedicts! You could also have your kids draw scenes from the book, stage important scenes using lego figures or army men, and even create maps based on the action in the book.

Aside from the vocabulary, this book is easy to read and I would recommend it for 5th grade and up (or younger if you want to read it aloud). It is a very LONG book, with about 40 chapters and around 400 pages, so plan some time if you want to savor it, or hand it over to your avid reader and let them finish it at their own pace. Since the original Benedict Society was written, Trenton Lee Stewart has added two more books to the series, so if your child enjoys this one, they may be inspired to read the other books too.

If you have a mystery and adventure loving reader at home, or a reluctant reader looking for something fun and exciting to read, check out The Mysterious Benedict Society! Join me next week to hear about another great book. If you have a recommendation for another fun mystery, let me know in the comments. And feel free to share or pin this post to share it with others!

Booklovers Anonymous: The Westing Game

This week for Booklovers Anonymous, I am talking about a great little chapter book called The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Written in 1979, the Newberry Award winner is a wonderfully pleasant introduction to the mystery genre. I used this book for my English students in 6th grade when I was teaching, and my boys have read it in 6th and 7th grades as homeschoolers. The book is not difficult to read, but it does have a lot of twists and turns. I would recommend it for 6th grade and up, or strong 5th graders.

The Westing Game

What I love about this book is the variety of characters, each perfectly fleshed out, and it’s multiple intricacies. This is a great book for teaching the topics of foreshadowing and suspense. Like I said, it is pretty involved, so I usually have my boys use various graphic organizers as they read each chapter. Usually one to keep track of the characters and another for keeping up with the major events in each section. Scholastic has some great printable organizers you can use.

In addition to oral and written narration, I have found some excellent online resources to go along with The Westing Game. This PDF contains chapter summaries and discussion questions. My kids have also enjoyed this Thinkquest about the book.

I will say that I have yet to have a student who did NOT enjoy this book. Most of them have fun trying to figure out “who did it” before they get to the end. When I was teaching, I overheard many a lunchtime discussion about various theories in the cafeteria! As a culminating activity when we do finish the book, I ask my kids to create their own version of “The Westing Game”. I have seen some very creative ideas for this, from a chess-style game (chess is a big part of the story), to various gameboards, trivia, and card games. It’s a fun way to wrap up the story and give kids a chance to show off how much they know. You would be surprised at the depth of this project. Having them create a game based on the book really gives you a chance to see how deeply they understood what they read.

So, if you would like a fun mystery to add to your homeschool, or to just read-aloud with your kids, check The Westing Game out! If you have any favorite mysteries of your own, let me know in the comments! Feel free to share and pin this post if you know someone who can benefit from it. Join me next week to read about another great book!

Booklovers Anonymous: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

In last week’s post I told you about the book Zathura, by Chris Van Allsburg. Today I am going to share another one of his books, however, this picture book is great for use with older students (I’m talking middle school and high school students) to inspire some creative writing. I stumbled upon The Mysteries of Harris Burdick in my first or second year of teaching and immediately recognized it’s potential!

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

The book begins with an introduction from Mr. Van Allsburg explaining how he stumbled across Mr. Burdick’s pictures via a friend. Apparently, each picture was created for a story that Harris Burdick was writing. He brought them to an editor was supposed to return with the rest of the stories, but instead, he disappeared. The intro on its own is enough to whet any kids appetite! From there, each of the pictures is shared on it’s own page, with the title of the story and a one sentence caption on the other page.

Harris Burdick title and caption

The titles and captions are simple, but leave enough description to get a good sense of what a story could be about. This caption for the story “Another Place, Another Time” simply states : “If there was an answer, he would find it there.” That’s it…can you just close your eyes for a minute and imagine where you could go with that? Try it!! When I do it myself I come up with so many ideas!! And that is one of the things I love about this book. You could have three kids write about the same picture, and come up with three completely different stories!!

The pictures, as usual for Van Allsburg’s books, are exquisite and inspire creative writing on their own:

Skipping stones? Maybe, maybe not!

Sometimes they feature people (usually kids) in a situation that gives just enough information to get the creative juices flowing:

This could definitely be a fun story!

Other times, the pictures are of a place:

A hidden room? Treasure? Passage to another place? You decide! That’s what creative writing is all about!

However, all of the pictures are a great idea for creative writing story starters. When I used these in my classroom, I actually bought two copies of the book. I tore out and laminated the pages from one, and hung them around the room. I read the other copy out loud to my students then I asked the kids to walk around, find their favorite picture and study it. Even my most reluctant writers enjoyed this assignment, and many of them wanted to write more than one story! The only requirements I had for their writing was that the use the title of the picture as the title of the story, and they had to work the caption into the story somewhere. Other than that, they had the freedom to go in any direction they wanted.

Now that we are homeschooling, I do generally the same thing with my boys. When we are working on creative writing, I take this book off the shelf and we read it together. Then I let my boys thumb through it on their own and choose a picture to write about. The most difficult thing is narrowing their choice down to just one! I keep The Mysteries of Harris Burdick handy and use it a lot for times when we do “light” schooling as well. You know, those busy seasons (like the holidays). I like to work lots of different styles of writing into their schooling, so we may focus on persuasive writing for a while, go on to narratives, then go back to creative writing for a little break. Over the years, my oldest son (now in 10th grade) has written about many of the pictures from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

It’s funny how you can do so much from just a simple picture book isn’t it? So, if you have a student, younger or older, who needs some inspiration for their creative writing, I would suggest you add this book to your library. Believe me, you will use it for YEARS to come! Thanks for joining me for Booklovers Anonymous again, be sure to come back next week!