Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Brainstorm 52: Similar picture books for compare/contrast & other activities

In honor of Picture Book Month, here are three sets of picture books that lend themselves nicely to compare/contrast activities (and other activities too). And no, these aren't just for the younger grades.

Picture Book Resources

Set #1

My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth, ill. by Barbara McClintock
Based on the traditional Yiddish song, the tale of a thrifty immigrant who makes a coat, then when it is worn continually remakes it into other smaller pieces of clothing until it is completely used up.

Joseph's coat gets worn so he turns it into a jacket, and when that gets worn it becomes a vest, and so on and so on until it is gone.

Activity Tie-ins:
  • Compare/contrast: There are many points to compare and contrast, from the way the story is told and illustrated to the setting to the way the books make you feel as you read them.
  • Patterns (& Prediction): Both of these books follow a specific pattern in what happens to the coat over time and word choice. Ask students to identify patterns in the story, or predict what will happen next as you read.
  • Jewish Culture: Both books are based on a traditional Yiddish song, so both are good options when doing a study of Israel, Judaism, or looking at different cultures.
  • Immigrants: The Aylesworth book portrays grandfather as an immigrant coming to America. The back of that book has some great personal stories from both the author and the illustrator on immigrants in their own families.
  • Music : Both of these books are inspired by a song, and the Taback version has a copy of the music so you can sing the song too.

 Set #2

The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane DeRolf, ill. by Michael Letzig
A little girl comes across a box of quibbling crayons who dislike each other in the toy store. She decides to buy them, take them home and teach them how well they go together by drawing a picture with them.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, ill. by Oliver Jeffers
Duncan's crayons have decided to go on strike. They've left him letters explaining their complaints. Duncan really wants to color, so he finds a way to make everyone happy.

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt, ill. by Oliver Jeffers
 More of Duncan's crayons are sending him communications. Several send out pleas for recovery from various parts of the house in which they have been lost. Pea Green crayon is giving notice that he's changing his name and leaving for a grand adventure since no one likes peas. Hot Red crayon is giving updates on his journey home after being abandoned at the pool of the hotel on vacation. And Jumbo crayon is sending an SOS for rescue from the horrors Duncan's baby brother is putting him through.

Activity Tie-ins:
  • Compare/contrast: All three stories feature disgruntled communicative crayons, but the object of their frustrations is different. Students can compare and contrast the stories, the messages of each book, the illustration styles, the text (one is in rhyme and the others are not), etc.
  • Opinion vs. Fact: Have students look back at their compare/contrast points and determine which ones are fact-based and which ones are opinion-based.
  • Plagarism: When Daywalt’s first book came out, there were several people saying it was plagiarizing DeRolf’s book. Obviously, no lawsuit was filed, so it was decided it didn’t. These two do provide a good opportunity to discuss what plagiarism is, how to make sure you aren’t plagiarizing in your works, and when similarities are acceptable.
  • Conflict Resolution: All three books focus on various conflicts that need resolution and provide an opportunity to talk about how to resolve differences and problems in healthy ways.
  • Responsibility: The most recent Daywalt book has a subtle message about needing to be responsible with your things. It’s a good opportunity to talk to kids about why this is important.
  • Geography: In the second Daywalt book Hot Red crayon has horrible geography skills. Have students see if they can use the clues in the illustrations to identify where he really is, versus where his postcards say he is.

Set #3

(Any traditional nursery rhyme book will work for this, but here’s one we have in our library.)
My Very First Mother Goose edited by Iona Opie, ill. by Rosemary Wells
A collection of traditional nursery rhymes.

Mary Had a Little Jam: and other silly rhymes by Bruce Lansky, ill. by Stephen Carpenter
Bruce Lansky puts a new twist on many classic nursery rhymes and poems. They're very clever, and most all of them make the rhymes funnier, nicer (for example, the blind mice are kind mice and give the farmer's wife a slice of cheese instead of losing tails to a knife), and overall are more relevant to modern kids.

Activity Tie-ins:
  • Compare/contrast: The challenge in comparing and contrasting traditional nursery rhymes with Lansky’s versions will be finding similarities, but they can be found.
  • History of Nursery Rhymes: Many of Lansky’s rhymes make more sense to modern readers, but at one point in time, most of the original nursery rhymes had deeper meaning for the original hearers. Have students research the origins of some nursery rhymes. (This is probably a better activity for older elementary or secondary students as the roots of many nursery rhymes are rather gruesome.)
  • Creative Writing: Have students follow Bruce Lansky’s example and put their own twist on old rhymes.
  • Humorous Read Aloud: Mary Had a Little Jam is a great, fun read aloud that can be read in short segments when you need a filler.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Brainstorm 51: Picture Books & Gratitude

November is Picture Book Month! (Remember, you're never too old for picture books.) It is also a month when we think about things we are grateful for. So here are three picture books that look at some everyday things we often take for granted. They invite us to pause and be thankful for the often overlooked.

On My Beach There Are Many Pebbles by Leo Lionni
There are many pebbles on the beach. All shapes and sizes. Some look like people, some look like animals, some look like numbers, and some look like letters.
I’m familiar with Leo Lionni, but I had never even heard of this book that is somewhat different from his normal animal tales. The black and white sketches of pebbles are intricate and stunning. This is a level of artistry that didn’t often get to come through in Lionni’s animal stories. It’s a simple book inviting you to look carefully at everyday objects.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Illustrator Compare/Contrast: Have students compare and contrast this book with one of Lionni’s more famous books, like Swimmy. Which one do they like better and why?
  • Everyday Thankful Moments: Have students brainstorm some other things they may see every day and not take the time to be grateful for their beauty or how they help them.
  • Geology: For classes studying rocks, this can help boring rocks more interesting and challenge them to look at things in a different way. 

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead,  ill. by Erin E. Stead
Amos McGee works at the zoo and takes good care of his animal friends meeting their unique needs each day. So when Amos is sick, his animal friends come to his house and take care of him.

Activity Tie-Ins:

  • Unexpected Thank Yous: After reading this story, have students brain storm people they appreciate who they might take for granted. Challenge students to say thank you to them, or even have them make thank you cards for those little everyday things that often go unnoticed.
  • Kindess: This is a good book to read when talking about kindness. Amos McGee is shown kindness because he takes time for each of the animals and they know he cares about them. What are some ways students can show kindness? Were the things Amos did with each animal really part of his job? Why do students think he did them if he didn’t have to? Did he do anything really difficult or exceptional when showing kindness? How about the animals, did they buy expensive presents for Amos? Brainstorm some ways to show kindness that cost nothing, but mean everything.
  • Caldecott Medal: This book won the Caldecott Medal just a few years ago, so if you’re looking for Caldecott winners, this is a good one.

The Most Wonderful Thing in the World by Vivian French, ill. by Angela Barrett
Long ago a King and Queen realized that their beloved daughter would need a husband to rule the land with her in the future. So, following the advice of a wise old man, they sought out the prince who could show them the most wonderful thing in the world to prove he should be the future king. To get the princess out of the way during this arduous process, the King and Queen agree to finally let her explore the kingdom. So while they hunt for a worthy son-in-law, Princess Lucia is shown around her grand city by a kind young man named Salvatore. In the end, the least likely young man in the kingdom proves the only one able to show the King and Queen something they deem the most wonderful thing in the world.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Gratitude for What You Take for Granted: The most wonderful thing in this book does not end up being a thing, but a person. Before reading, ask students what they think the most wonderful thing in the world is. After reading, see if students would like to change their answer to that question. What things or people do they really appreciate and take for granted? Brainstorm ways to show appreciation for those special people in their lives they may often forget to tell just how much they mean to them.
  • Genres: If you’re talking about genres with students, this book is a great example of a book that fits in multiple genres. It seems to be historical fiction (the setting is never clearly identified, but based on dress and geography, it looks to be early 1900s Venice). It also has clear fantasy elements (one of the wonderful gifts is a mermaid). And, horrifying as it may be to some students, it is also a love story. Many times it blows kids’ minds that books can fit in multiple categories, and this is a quick read that can help them wrap their minds around that concept.
  • Art: The illustrations in this book are beautiful and incredibly detailed. It will take more than one reading to take it all in. Art classes can look at ways the art enhances the story and helps create the setting. Without the art, would you know where the story is supposed to take place?
  • Setting & Research: I’ve already mentioned that the setting is not clearly stated, but there are enough clues that students should be able to figure out the probable time period and setting if they pay close attention and do some research. If you’re talking about setting, it’s a good example of how important clothing and geography can be. If you're working on research, it's a good time to talk about how to research images or how to find something when you aren't really sure what you're looking for.
  • Prediction: There are some hints throughout this story about the conclusion. See if students can predict which man will be able to show them the most wonderful thing in the world and what it is. What are the clues that led them to that conclusion?
  • “Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder” Debate: This book is perfect for a discussion of how different people can see the exact same thing in different ways and value it differently. All the people who come to the King and Queen think their gift is the most wonderful thing in the world. Is there something you treasure that a friend doesn’t like? What are the pros and cons of this? Why is it important to remember about differences of view and opinion? When is it important? Are there things you think everyone should value equally? What are they?