My Colorful Chameleon – An Interview with Leonie Roberts

We were each generously given copies of My Colorful Chameleon by Leonie Roberts to review and enjoy with our children.  And I have to say, the books are definitely being enjoyed!  There are so many elements of the book that are appealing to younger children, especially the rhyming that is found throughout.  In addition, on almost every page, the young girl’s chameleon is hiding, which adds to the mother’s frustration, but makes for a fun search at each turn.  Throughout the book, there are also opportunities for conversations about more rich vocabulary words.  In the story, the girl and her mother take the chameleon to the veterinarian, and the doctor discusses why her pet changes colors, which is a great jumping off point to talk about the word camouflage.  But be careful, this book just might have your children asking for a pet chameleon!

We had the opportunity to interview Leonie Roberts to learn more about her and My Colorful Chameleon.       

Three Questions About My Colorful Chameleon

What are three words you would use to describe your book?

Cute, funny and colorful!

Did you initially set out to create a book that rhymes?  Or did you initially draft it differently?

I didn’t deliberately set out to write this in rhyme but the story seemed to lend itself to rhyme and so even the early drafts were rhyming. Since then I have been writing both in rhyme and prose.

We love how well the illustrations match your words.  Did you have a lot of say in the illustrations?  What was your collaboration like with Mike Byrne?

The illustrations were completely down to Mike. He had free rein on how to interpret the text and I was delighted with the results.

Three Questions About Leonie Roberts

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be and why?

I am actually still a primary school teacher and I love working with young children because they never fail to brighten up my day. Children are so clever and funny and there aren’t many more rewarding jobs out there.

If I wasn’t a writer and I could be anything I would probably be a singer. I’ve always loved singing even before I dreamt of becoming a writer.

What is one book that you have read that has stuck with you?

As a child the book that stuck with me was, “Pongwiffy” by Kate Umansky. I can’t remember what happened in it I can just recall how much I enjoyed it.

As an adult, “The Hunger Games” trilogy stuck with me, so much so that it is the only trilogy I have read twice.

What is one thing in your refrigerator that tells us about you.

A creme caramel because I love my sweet treats.

 

The Storymamas review board books, picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels. The majority of the books we review on our site and social media are purchased from a bookstore or checked out from the library. However, at times when we receive Advanced Readers Copies of books from authors, illustrators, publishers, or publicists we will note that in our review of a book. We are not and have not been compensated for our reviews. For every review, all opinions are our own regardless of how we received the book.

Just Try It Wyatt – Author Interview & Review


One of my favorite parts of Storymamas is interviewing authors and illustrators. It is always fascinating to hear the evolution of the book and the inspirations for creating the characters or story. I also love to hear more about their lives. Since we are three people, it is often hard to meet in person due to being in various locations, so many interviews have taken place using video technology or email exchanges. When a local author in my hometown outside of Detroit reached out to me and wanted to meet me and talk about her book, I jumped at the chance. Kelsey and I met at a coffee shop and talked all about literacy and our passions for what we do. Kelsey Fox is the author of the book Just Try It Wyatt.

Just Try It Wyatt is a book about a fox named Wyatt who is stubborn and doesn’t want to try anything new. When all the things he knows and likes aren’t available, Wyatt becomes annoyed and sad. Will his frustrated lead him to try something out of his comfort zone? And if he does, will he like it?
What is great about the story is it is relatable to everyone who reads it- kids, parents, teachers; we’ve all either been Wyatt or known someone like Wyatt. Kelsey has done a wonderful job of creating an engaging story around this difficult concept. I think the way Wyatt acts and feels throughout the book will help strike conversation around this idea of not being afraid to try something new. Preschool and primary classroom teachers can benefit from using this book as a resource in their classroom. Parents of young children can also get a lot out of it with their kids. I’ve started to refer to Wyatt when I’m encouraging my 3 year old son to try new foods.

Another great addition to the book is the true facts about the red fox in the back of the book. Many times I’ve had kids ask questions about animals in books and I have not known what to tell them at that moment, and we’ve had to find another resource to figure it out. Kelsey was thoughtful and has added information to the back of her book.

Something else that is so special about the book is Kelsey. I know I can’t meet ever author out there (although we would love to), but hearing her talk about how this book is a labor of love for her, the countless hours she’s put into writing, rewriting, editing, and finding how to publish, is inspiring. I loved listening and learning about how much she has learned in the business and how much she still wants to find out. She shared with me that she needed to redo most of the book, illustrations, books size, paper weight, just so that stores would even consider putting it on their shelves. It was wonderful to meet her and hear her talk about her book. And so I hope you will take a chance with a book you might not have heard of before and Just Try It!

Kelsey was kind enough to answer our Storymamas questions. Three questions about the book and three about the her.

3 ?s about Just Try It Wyatt

What three words would you use to describe your book?
Educate. Entertain. Inform.

What was your inspiration for creating the book?
As a teacher, I understand that we want stories to correlate with a greater lesson we’re trying to teach our students. I sometimes found it hard to find the perfect book to teach to, so I wrote my own. My plan is to create an entire series that teachers can use the first few weeks of school about good character and being a part of a classroom family!

Can you tell our readers about your choice to self publish and what are some of your big take-aways after going through the process?
Deciding to self-publish was such a hard choice to make. There are pros and cons for both self and traditional publishing paths. Self-publishing allowed me to have more control and creativity throughout the whole writing process. I also am able to have my book out to the public practically years before if I would have went to a large publishing house. My biggest take away is that self-publishing is very hard work! You’re your own editor, formatter, publicist marketing manager and everything in between! You need to be a go-getter and dedicated. Even after meeting with two publishers, I choose to self-publish and have been 100% happy with my choice!

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?
If I was not a writer, I would like to be a farmer. I like animals and gardening. I have a small urban farm now where I grow all my family’s vegetables in the summer, can them in the fall and raise chickens year long. It would be great to live in the country and have lots of land.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?
When I was growing up I love the Little House on the Prairie books! My mom introduced me to them and I was hooked! Reading about someone who went through so much, but lived to tell the tale amazed me. I think that may be why I enjoy memoirs so much today.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?
I always have coffee in my fridge! It’s a staple in my diet. As a mom, teacher, wife, and writer, I am always on the go and need that pick me up to help me with my busy lifestyle. I would like to think that means I am a go-getter and am up for any challenge!

To learn more about Kelsey, please follow Wyatt on Facebook and Twitter!

Be Kind – A Must Read For All & Illustrator Interview

We don’t even know what to say except Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and Illustrated by Jen Hill should live in every classroom, every home, and every library! What a special book Pat & Jen have created. In a time where there is so much going on, reminding us that “being kind can be easy” but it also says it can be hard and sometimes scary. This book is a great reminder of how we can begin and continue to spread kindness from all different places.

When Tanisha gets grape juice spilled on her, all the kids laugh, except one, our main character. She is a wonderful person who shows empathy toward Tanisha and tries to cheer her up. When her attempt fails, she thinks of what it really means to be kind. Is it the little things, the big things, will small acts of kindness add up to something great? This book tackles these complex questions and helps us see that kindness can be both big and small. 

Pat and Jen have created something beautiful together, as the words and pictures work in perfect harmony. The character who has gotten the spill on her, is covered in purple. The hues of purple woven into the story tell even more of the mood and layers the characters are feeling. And something that struck me is the plain purple endpapers. It made me stop and think and gather my thoughts. Lots of books these days have designs or even the story on the endpapers, this is just purple, and the color helped me stop and reflect before and after the book.

Thank you for creating this book, we look forward to sharing it with our kids and students.

Jen Hill was kind enough to answer 3 questions about her art and three questions about herself.

3?s about your art

What is your go to medium for creating illustrations and why?

I use combinations of Gouache, Photoshop, pencil + paper, and recently have begun experimenting with Adobe Sketch on my iPad. Painting in gouache will always be my favorite, but I use it less and less as digital rendering allows for easier revisions. The medium I choose for the final art depends on the piece. For middle-grade I work in a black and white pen-and-ink style. For picture books I’ll use gouache or photoshop or a combination of both.

Because you illustrate for a variety of authors with varying stories, how do you create art to look different while still adding your signature look?

Color and application of medium is probably the best answer here. Every story has a distinct voice, and I choose my approach accordingly. A “loud” story will have heavier pictures; for a “quiet” story I’ll use a softer touch and more muted palette. For a wry story I’ll give the characters a bit of an edge. I always begin the same way: I print the manuscript so I can doodle along the margins as I read. After a few readings I’ll have a proper feel for the tone and mood. From here it’s matter of instinct. Imagery typically pops into my mind and I attempt to create what I see using the medium which best fits the picture in my head. The end result may resemble what was in my imagination., but sometimes it differs wildly. That’s okay, because I trust the process.

In your email you described this as  “perhaps the most meaningful collaboration I’ve been a part of.” Can you tell us more about that.

When I read the manuscript for BE KIND I was moved by the message of thoughtfulness and empathy. I admire Pat’s skill in creating a deeply felt experience with minimal words. There is no moralizing in this book; the reader is instead invited to ponder a variety of scenarios relating to kindness and compassion. It’s a direct appeal to one’s best self, powerful in its subtlety. The opportunity to make art is even more of a privilege when the message promotes kindness and celebrates humanity.

3?s about you

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you want to be and why?

Oh, so many things. I always knew I would be an illustrator and never considered a different career, but I have had a few side gigs along the way. I’m an armchair psychologist, a hairdresser, and a secret singer-songwriter.  If I had the means I’d be a career college student. There’s so much to learn. History is full of fascinating stories.  

What is one artist that you would outfit your home with if you had all the money in the world?

Saul Steinberg or Georges Braque.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Seltzer. I am an addict.

To learn more about Jen Hill, please visit her website or follow her on twitter and Instagram.

What Do You Do With a Chance? An Interview With Author Kobi Yamada

You know you’ve found an amazing picture book when it makes you truly think and reflect on the world around you.  Author Kobi Yamada’s first book in the series, What Do You Do With an Idea? spoke to the reader metaphorically, encouraging those ideas we might not think good enough to be set free into the world of possible.  We were further impressed with the second title, What Do You Do With a Problem. It proved to be an inspirational read aloud, providing a bright outlook on how to approach problems, and the meaningful experiences that might unfold.  So when we were contacted by Compendium to review the third and final book, What Do You Do With a Chance, we couldn’t wait to read it.

The book follows the same character, who this time is presented with a chance.  We’ve all been there, internally debating if we should take a chance we are presented with, the dialogue going through our heads of the endless possibilities and outcomes that lie within this one decision.  The reader is able to relate to the character’s thoughts of all eyes looking at him and the seeming pressure from those around us when we step outside of our comfort zone.  And sometimes those pressures become too much, and opportunities get pushed aside.  It’s only when we courageously dig down deep that the chance of something wonderful can truly exist.  We can all relate to this theory of thought, and What Do You Do With a Chance? will inspire those young and old to always seize the opportunities given to us…they might just change our lives.

We had the chance to interview Kobi Yamada about himself and his books.

Three Questions About What Do You Do With a Chance?

What was your inspiration for your What Do You Do… series?

It all started with an idea.  I think in many ways, I didn’t write What Do You Do With An Idea? as much as the story chose me.  I’ve always felt deeply honored that the inspiration for the book woke me up one morning and wanted me to share it with the world.

Tell us about your collaboration with Mae Besom.  The pictures fit so perfectly with your words.  Did you have a lot of input on the illustrations?  

When I was writing the book, in my mind, I always pictured Mae illustrating it.  I had descriptions and notes for each page, but then when I reached out to her agent, I discovered that Mae lived in China and didn’t speak English.  I was concerned because in order for the book to work, the illustrator needed to understand its deeper meaning.  What I discovered through the interpreter was that Mae not only understood what I was trying to do, but was moved and inspired by it.  She embraced the concept of bringing the book from black and white to color as the idea influences its surroundings and added so many wonderful visual elements.  It was ridiculously fun to collaborate in such a magical way.

Why did you decide to stop the series at three books?  I know there is a lot of love and admiration for your series, so we’d like to know your thoughts behind just making the three.  (After reading it to my students, they suggested What Do You Do With a Question…even they want more!)

I didn’t set out to write a series.  It just happened with the concept for the second book.  And when I wrote that second book, I purposefully had the bones of the book match the structure of the first one.  Naturally, this carried over to book number three. I felt it was time for me to create a picture book in a brand new way and so my next book is something completely different and I am really excited by the challenge of it.

3 Questions About Kobi Yamada

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

Actually, I don’t really think of myself as a writer.  I am grateful and honored to author books but my day job is running Compendium and I couldn’t be happier or feel more fortunate.  I am surrounded by talented, caring, big-hearted people trying to make a positive difference in the world.  Who could ask for more?

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  I was a young person when I first read it, and to an optimist like me, when I read his words such as, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”  Well, they have a way of sticking with you.  

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Kombucha.  Healthy, bubbly, tasty, with a bit of kick…that’s good for your gut.  I think that says a lot about why I like it.  

 

A big thank you to Kobi Yamada for answering our questions and sharing his thoughts.  Be sure to check out Compedium for a wide variety of inspiration books and gifts, including an adorable Idea plush!

*Can’t wait to read What Do You Do With a Chance? Enter on Instagram or twitter @storymamas to win a copy!

 

 

 

 

All opinions and reviews are our own.

Voices From The Underground Railroad


Happy Book Birthday to Voices From The Underground Railroad from Kay Winters and illustrator, Larry Day.  I met Larry last year, along with his writer wife, Miriam Busch, at a book signing at Second Star To The Right Bookstore.  We chatted about their work and how I was involved in a kidlit enthusiast group called Storymamas. They both were kind enough to follow us on social media. Larry began tagging Storymamas while in the process of drawing this book. We loved every sketch, draft and drawing he showed. We knew that as the publishing date got closer, we wanted to help spread the word about this wonderful book. The final copy of the book is magnificent. The colors, details, and facial expressions Larry has created is spectacular.  Kay writes this book using several points of view. The two main voices are, Jeb and Mattie, who are escaping slavery to seek freedom through the underground railroad. Kay’s text is so powerful and the pictures Larry has drawn make you feel all the emotions these characters are going through. It is a fabulous book to teach readers about the historical events during this time. We hope you will add it to your home, school, or classroom libraries.

Here is the book trailer! Check it out!

Larry was also kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about himself.

3 ?s  about Voices From the Underground Railroad

What are three words you’d use to describe this book?

Escape. Running. Freedom.

The colors, the facial expressions, and details on the page are truly spectacular. What was the process for getting each page the way you wanted it?

What a good question!

Normally, I draw expressions without thinking. Detail comes naturally. Expressions come from a respectful appreciation of the subject.

What was the collaboration like with Kay? Did she see your drawings through the draft phase? Did she send you information on what she envisioned?

I always share with authors. There are times when an author’s information is crucial to the visual story.  One never knows.

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you want to be and why?

Another great question!

Sometimes. I think about losing the capability to draw.

If that happened, I would write.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

How about four, instead:

Milo’s Hat Trick, Jon Agee.

Alfie, by Thyra Heder

Bone Dog, by Eric Rohmann

Lion, Lion, by Miriam Busch

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Blueberries!

Thank you Larry for chatting with Storymamas. We are excited about all your upcoming projects, including a collaboration with Jerry Spinelli, publishing by Holiday House in 2019!

To learn more about Larry feel free to visit his website or follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Wide Awake Bear & Chat with Author: Pat Zietlow Miller

If you’ve ever had the child who just can’t fall asleep, Pat Zietlow Miller’s newest picture book is just what you need. It is a sweet story about a bear who just can’t fall asleep during winter. He has many thoughts of spring and it makes it even harder to fall back to sleep. This story is a great read for the younger kids in your life. The pictures are warm and gentle and match the rhythm of Pat’s text.

Pat was gracious enough to gift Storymamas with the F & G of the book and we can’t wait for it to be welcomed into the world so we can buy a copy for our own kids! The book will be released on January 2nd!

Along with our advanced copy, Pat was willing to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her.

3 Questions about Wide-Awake Bear

The dedication to your mother-in-law is so sweet, can you tell us more about why you chose her?

My mother-in-law, Lynn Miller, lives in Door County, Wisconsin, an area full of charming, small towns with a resort feel. She has taken my books and walked into every little library up there and basically insisted that the unsuspecting librarians purchase my books. She’s also convinced bookstores to carry them and came very close to getting a local bakery to make themed-cookies that coordinate with my books. She’s a force of nature. All that effort and support are worth a dedication at the very least.

What does your workspace look like?

I always wish I could say that I write in a funky coffee shop in Manhattan or in a cottage on a  sweeping, sheep-filled moor in Scotland. But, no. I write at my kitchen table in Madison, Wisconsin surrounded by mail, newspapers, snack wrappers, cats that want to sit on my computer keyboard  and the occasional dirty sock. Why is there a dirty sock on my kitchen table? Who knows? I’ve stopped asking. We will be moving later this fall, and my goal is to have my own reading/writing room that is a debris-free zone. We’ll see if that happens.

What was your process for writing Wide-Awake Bear?

The story is based on an absolutely epic meltdown of a tantrum my youngest daughter had several years ago when I woke her up from a nap to go to volleyball practice. Later, when I asked her why she’d gotten so upset, she uttered this memorable line: “I was a hibernating bear. You woke me up, and I went into a bear frenzy.”

That comment inspired the book. I tell the whole story in this blog post.

This is the same daughter who inspired my first picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH. I may need to start giving her co-author credit.

3 Questions about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

This is probably cheating, but I’d want to be an editor. I love making copy as good as it can be. And I’m an AP Style geek. I love knowing that sauce-covered, grilled meat is “barbecue” not “barbeque” or “BBQ” or any other variant.

And, I’ve always thought being the person who names nail polish colors would be an awesome job. Maybe I could do nail polish colors to coordinate with children’s books, like:

  •    Blueberries for Sal.
  •    The Man with the Yellow Nails. (Who needs a hat?)
  •    Pinkalicious.
  •    My Many-Colored Toes

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

STARS, a picture book written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Marla Frazee. It’s picture book perfection, and the simplicity of the language is something I constantly aspire to. And it has memorable lines for adults and kids. Read it. Buy it. Share it. Love it.

But I have a whole shelf of much-loved books that I keep for inspiration. And I have a list of practically perfect picture books on my blog. Check it out.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Every day, I take a Fage raspberry yogurt to work with me. (I have a non-kidlit-related job.)  So the fridge always has a week’s supply. And you might find a Dove dark-chocolate candy bar cooling in there too. That candy is better cold.

Please also check out some of her other picture books we’ve enjoyed:

 Sophie’s Squash

The Quickest Kid In Clarksville

  Be Kind – Released February 6th (and we can’t wait)

For more information on Pat Zietlow Miller, check out her website or follow her on Instagram & Twitter.

Spotlight On: Debbie Ridpath Ohi

If you’ve never heard of or interacted with Debbie Ridpath Ohi, you need to immediately! We met her a few years back at Nerdcamp Michigan, when she had just come out with her debut picture book, Where Are My Books?   

During our chat we asked her if she’d Skype with our students in the coming year and she was thrilled to do so. Boy, are we glad we asked her. Our students had the best time “meeting” her. She had boundless energy and was also able to do a demonstration of how she created her found object art. During the Skype she turned a crumbled up piece of paper into a beautiful ballerina wearing a tutu.  One of the questions I asked her toward the end of our session was “what advice would you give to these students?” Her answer was incredible and the message she spoke about is still mentioned to this day, over two years later! She told my kids she had wished she knew earlier, that you don’t always need to be perfect the first time! Here’s a tweet a student sent her following the Skype session:

Besides being a wonderful person, I want to talk about her illustrations. We were so excited to read her new solo book Sam and Eva that came out a few weeks ago. The illustrations tell a lot of the story, but the book itself has many important themes. If you have not read this book, it’s a great one to add to #classroombookaday to discuss friendship, flexible thinking, or how art can tell many stories!

We are so happy she continues to come out with new books so often. Whether she is doing both writing and drawing or just illustrating, you will love her work! Debbie was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her. Enjoy!

3 questions about the book

What can fans of your work expect from Sam and Eva?

A fun creative clash between two young artists, inspired by cartoon wars that a friend and I had back in our university days. Sam is drawing when Eva arrives, wanting to collaborate. The creative clash that ensues when their drawings start to come to life is fun and chaotic…but then both children realize things are getting out of hand and decide to work together. Sam & Eva is about art, creative collaboration and friendship.

What does your workplace look like?

As you can tell, I do not have one of those spacious, sunlit artist studios that overlooks a verdant meadow blooming with wildflowers. My office is in the basement, and I have covered up the windows with colourful scarves because (1) I never look out the windows anyway when I’m working, and (2) one window “looks out” under our deck and the other is blocked by bushes.

My husband Jeff and I call my office my “cave.” And I do so love my Office Cave.

What was your process for writing and illustrating Sam and Eva?  Was it the same as when you created Where Are My Books?

For Sam and Eva, I came up with a picture book dummy (a rough mock-up of the picture book) ahead of time and sent that to my editor, Justin Chanda at Simon & Schuster Children’s. He accepted it the next morning! I had to put off working on Sam & Eva for a while since I was working on other book projects first, so I had to reread it several times when it WAS time to work on the book to remind myself of the story.

Then I worked on the text with Justin, improving the story flow, page turns and language. Although I started working on character sketches earlier, I didn’t start working on the layout sketches for the interior spreads until the text was finalized. During the art phase, I worked mainly with my art director at Simon & Schuster, Laurent Linn. Laurent helped me figure out how to improve the visual aspect. I’ve worked with Justin and Laurent on my other picture books with S&S, and I learn so much from them with each project!

In contrast, Where Are My Books? took a lot longer to finalize the story and art. The main reason? It was my first solo picture book! I felt like such a newbie and had so many questions. Hm…in many ways, I still feel like a newbie and do keep asking a lot of questions! I figure that’s a good thing, however — it means that I’m still learning.

3 questions about you

If you weren’t an illustrator/author, what would you want to be and why?

A songwriter/musician. I’ve always loved making music with other people, and have written and co-written songs for my music group as a fun hobby, plus have done a few session musician gigs. A couple of the songs I wrote made it to national radio! In a parallel universe, I think I’d try to make a living writing music and playing music. It’s a whole other type of creative collaboration.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. It’s the first book that made me aware of how voice can enhance my reading experience.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Ha! Fun question. Hm, let me think. Ok, how about this: some radish tops, leaves attached. Most people discard this part of the radish but I like saving them for potential found object art. Also: some shrivelled up basil leaves – I had been planning to use them for found object art but, um….forgot!

Thank you Debbie for chatting with us!

To learn more about Debbie please visit her website. Or follow her on Instragram and Twitter.

A Holiday Tradition: #holidaybookaday and #kindnesscalendar

If you’ve been following our blog since the very beginning you may remember that I posted around this time last year about starting a holiday tradition with my boys called #holidaybookaday and the #kindness calendar.

The premise is instead of opening a small gift every day in December to count down the holidays we open a holiday book (it could be about any of the December holidays including Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve) and we also open a small piece of paper with an activity that promotes kindness. For example some of the kindness activities we did last year were, ‘candy cane bombing’ a parking lot, bringing teachers coffee, holding open the door for others, drawing a picture for someone, making a list of polite words to use, etc. We had such a wonderful time reading holiday books and being kind to others that I can’t wait to continue these traditions this year. With so many great new books to add to our list I know this month is going to be just as special as last years!

Here is a list of some of the books we will be reading:

CHRISTMAS

The 12 Days of Christmas by Greg Pizzoli

Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey

Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina illustrated by Chandra Cox

Fly Guy’s Ninja Christmas by Tedd Arnold

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht illustrated by Jarvis

Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas by Laura Murray illustrated by Mike Lowery

Olive the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Siebold

A Piñata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora illustrated by Magaly Morales

HANUKKAH

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket illustrated by Lisa Brown

Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah by Sylvia Rouss illustrated by Katherine Kahn

How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

Bright Baby Touch and Feel Hanukkah by Roger Priddy

KWANZAA

Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Shelf Medearis illustrated by Daniel Minter

K is for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford and Ken Wilson-Max

Here are a few others that I still need to wrap…

Stayed tuned for more wonderful holiday books in the month of December including some great ones to celebrate New Year’s Eve and the coming of a new year!

Voices in the Park

Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne is one of my favorite books to teach with!  Every year, my students are mesmerized by the illustrations and love to see how the different points of view are woven together.

I use this book teach point of view.  This year I used it to introduce a short writing unit that we are going to do between Thanksgiving and winter break which focuses on looking at a person from different points of view.  I divided the students into four equal groups and spread the groups out in the room and the hallway.  The book is told from four points of view, or voices, so each group was assigned to a different voice, and they were given a file folder with a copy of each illustration from their voice.

The students had time to look at all of their pictures and share what they saw.  After enough time for discussion, they were instructed to put the pictures in what they thought was a logical order, coming up with a story about what was happening as they worked.  When the groups were finished writing down their stories, I put the pictures up on the board in their order and they took turns telling their stories to their peers.  One of my favorite parts of this activity is when at this point, they realize that “their” characters are in someone else’s story, too.  After each group had gone, I gathered the students on the rug and read aloud the text.

I love this lesson for so many reasons.  The conversations at all stages are organic and each year I do this activity, there has never been a student disengaged on the sidelines.  The book provides an authentic discussion on how the point of view of the story can make such a difference, even with a plot as simple as going to the park.

If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at this book, I highly recommend you do.  I do this lesson each year with third graders and love teaching it every time!

World Kindness- #middleschoolpicturebook

Last year I wrote a post about how I use Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco in my classroom for a special Thanksgiving activity. Please take the time to read that post here. 

Today is also World Kindness Day and although I am currently staying home with my two boys for the year and don’t have a class to do this activity with, I decided to become my own student and show kindness to an old teacher. Last night I reread the book and then wrote a thank you letter to an old teacher in my life. I picked a woman who was my cooperating teacher for my student teaching in 2001! I have been in contact with her off and on through the years and decided I wanted her to be the recipient of a letter from me. I hope I hear back from her. Please keep your fingers crossed with me.

Another reason I want bring this book up is because I want to reiterate how important picture books can be for all ages. Right now there is a movement called #classroombookaday, which has many elementary, middle and even high school classes taking the time each day to read a picture book. I feel this book is the perfect #picturebooksformiddleschool! Published in 2012, it is a heart warming story about a bright girl, who has difficulty reading, finds comfort in drawing, and in 5th grade finally meets a teacher who helps her become a reader. Every time I read it I get tears in my eyes when she reencounters her teacher at the end. This is a great time to read it aloud in your classroom and have the students give thanks to the many teachers who have helped shaped who they are.

Please leave a comment on how you’ve used this book or any other “giving thanks” favorites!