Thursday, February 23, 2017

Brainstorm 103: Let's go on a safari...through books

Let’s go on a book safari today. Instead of flying to Africa, we’ll pick up some books that feature African animals one might see on safari. So put on some khaki, grab a pith helmet, get your notepad or camera or phone to record your sightings, and let the safari begin!
(Sorry, not sorry, this is a long post. I’m making up for missing last week while away on a school trip.)

Picture Book Resources

Chameleon, Chameleon by Joy Cowley, photos by Nic Bishop (also published as Chameleon!)
Follow a chameleon as he leaves his tree home in search of a meal and encounters other camouflaged critters in his neighborhood.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Safari Animal: Chameleons
  • Curious Readers: A great picture book introduction to chameleons and other camouflaging animals. 
  • Wannabe Photographers: As always, Nic Bishop's photography is amazing. Be sure to read the notes in the back of the book about chameleons and how long it took Bishop to photograph this book due to the sensitive nature of these animals. 
  • Reptiles/Camouflage: A great book to use when studying reptiles or camouflage with lower grades.

Bogart and Vinnie: a Completely Made-Up Story of True Friendship by Audrey Vernick, ill. by Henry Cole
Vinnie, a hyper-active dog who loves everyone gets lost and wanders into a wildlife park. There, he befriends Bogart, the grumpy rhino. What will happen to their friendship when Vinnie's family finds him?

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Safari Animal: Rhino
  • Humor Fans: This had me laughing quite a bit. Vinnie reminded me a bit of a family dog (and also the dog from Up). Cole worked comedic magic with his illustrations in this. And Vernick's twist in the way the story ended was unexpected and more humorous. Lots of fun. 
  • Animal Lovers: This story is a must for animal lovers.
  • Making Predictions: As mentioned, this doesn’t quite go the way most readers would expect so it’s a good story to use in making and then revising predictions.
  • Fiction/Nonfiction Pair: Do a fiction/nonfiction reading pair by combining this with a real life interspecies relationship story like Koko's Kitten. There's lots out there. 
  • Observation Skills: You can check out kids' observation skills and have them debate whether Bogart is happy with the way things turned out or not; see if they can find clues in the text and illustrations to back up their opinion.

Honey… Honey… Lion! by Jan Brett
Honeyguide kindly shows honey badger where to find his favorite sweet, but the greedy honey badger doesn't share any with the friendly bird. So the honeyguide decides it is time to teach the honey badger a lesson. The little bird leads him on quite the trek to get some honey, only to lead him straight to a lion and a scare. The other animals all observe that if you want honeyguide's help you better share.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Safari Animals: Honeyguides, Honey Badgers, Lions, and more!
  • Animal Lovers: Lots of animals and Brett’s fantastic illustrations make this a great pick for animal fans.
  • Sharing (& Note of Warning): Obviously, if you read the summary this book’s whole point is sharing, so it provides a good chance to talk about that. A note of warning though, some parents/teachers may not like the somewhat vindictive way honeyguide teaches honey badger this lesson. You may also need to talk about how to teach someone a lesson in love.
  • Onomatopoeia: This book could be used when teaching about onomatopoeia as on honey badger's wild goose chase, there is a new sound for each action, like "clickety-click” for going through the papyrus and "splish splash" through the water hole. 
  • Memory/Predicting Skills: Also a nice book to use for beginning readers and for working on memory/predicting as the path the honeyguide takes the honey badger on is retraced backwards when honey badger is running from the lion. 
  • Compare/Contrast: This book does read somewhat like an African animal version of “Going on a Bear Hunt,” so find your favorite book version of that rhyme for a good compare/contrast.

Have You Seen Elephant? By David Barrow
A little boy and his elephant play hide and seek. Elephant is so good, though, that the boy has trouble finding him!

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Safari Animal: Elephant
  • Humor Fans: This one will make most kids laugh at the hilarity of the boy's inability to find the huge elephant hiding in pretty obvious spots. 
  • Creative Writing: At the end of the book a tortoise shows up asking them if they want to play tag, and he claims to be pretty good, so the invitation is there for kids to continue the story in their imaginations or even on paper. 
  • Multicultural Family: A rather unique aspect of the book is the mixed-racial family the boy belongs to. It isn't the main point of the book, it's just a nice side point. There aren't a whole lot of picture books out there for mixed-racial kids to see a character like themselves. 
  • Philosophical Interpretations: High school and college classes who want to purposefully overthink the book could also debate potential symbolism relating this book to the proverbial elephant in the room. What are current "elephants?"

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema, ill. by Leo and Diane Dillon
Mosquito tells iguana a whopper setting off a chain of events that results in disaster. Lion calls a meeting to get to the bottom of what happened and works backwards through the chain of animals to find it was all mosquito's fault.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Safari Animals: Iguanas, Lions, and more.
  • Note of Warning: There is a death of a young animal in this, so parents/teachers of super sensitive little ones beware and make sure you preview this before sharing it with kids.
  • Think Before Acting: This book illustrates just how powerful even small actions can be. That can be positive or negative. What are some other things that have seemed small and ended with really big good or bad results?
  • Onomatopoiea: The animals in this make different noises, providing examples of onomatopoeia. 
  • Pre-Readers: The repetitive nature of the second half of the tale that will allow little ones to join in the reading.

All Aboard for the Bobo Road by Stephen Davies, ill. by Christopher Corr
Fatima and Galo join their father on his bus route taking the Bobo Road. They help load the luggage at each stop and see amazing sights.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Safari Animals: Hippos & a few others
  • Burkina Faso Tour: For those who don't know (because the book does not say) the Bobo Road is in the African country of Burkina Faso. Through the travels of the bus, the book gives a tour of some of the famous sights of that country, from hippo watering holes to desert scenes to famous cities. 
  • Culture & Transportation: This will definitely be an eye-opener for kids who are not used to this kind of bus transportation. Fatima and Galo get to ride on top of the bus, and the amount and type of luggage that gets added at each stop will raise some eyebrows. 
  • Bright Color Fans: The illustrations in this are bright and cheery, sure to be a hit with kids who like their stuff in all shades of bright.
  • Pre-Readers: There's repeated phrases that will help little ones be able to "read" with someone else. 
  • Counting: Each stop provides an opportunity to practice counting the things to be loaded on the bus.

Animalia by Graeme Base
An alliterative ABC book of animals.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Safari Animals: Still haven’t seen some of those African animals you were hoping to spot on this safari? Need a zebra? How ‘bout a hyena? You’ll be able to find several African animals in here. (Though you may have to hunt for some in the background hidden pictures.)
  • ABCs: This is hands down my absolute favorite alphabet book.
  • Animal Lovers: It’s an ABC book full of gorgeously illustrated animals. Base’s website says it usually takes him 2-6 weeks to make just one illustration!
  • Alliteration/Vocabulary: Each spread features an alliterative phrase about the feature animals, many of which employ some impressive vocabulary.
  • Hidden Picture Fans: In each spread the author hid an illustration of himself to be found. He also peppered the background with tons and tons of things that start with that letter. There’s years of entertainment in this book.
  • Anyone: This is one of those books that kids will never outgrow. 

Middle Grade Fiction

Big Game (FunJungle, #3) by Stuart Gibbs
Someone is targeting the rhinos at FunJungle zoo, and the security staff is scrambling to catch the wannabe poacher. Well, most of the security staff. Large Marge is on the case of the candy shop smash and grab. She thinks it's a no brainer: kids are the ones obsessed with candy and there's only one kid who lives at FunJungle. While working to clear his name, Teddy is also trying to help solve the case of who might want to harm Rhonda Rhino. Is it someone in the zoo or some crazy Texan big game hunter?

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Safari Animals: Rhinos and others
  • Animal Fans/Mystery Fans/Contemporary Fiction Fans: If you like animals, a cast of mild to zany characters, and puzzling mysteries, you should check out the FunJungle series. Teddy is a great character to follow around. 
  • Current Eco Issues Awareness: Gibbs uses the attempted crime set up to highlight an important current wildlife issue (killing of rhinos for their horns) in a non-teachy way. More resources on this issue are included in the back of the book.
  • Reluctant Readers: Hand this series to middle school kids who say they don’t like to read. It’s hard to resist the allure of FunJungle and Teddy’s mystery adventures.

Juvenile/YA Nonfiction

Giraffes (National Geographic Kids Readers) by Laura Marsh
A nonfiction informative book about giraffes for beginning readers.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:
Safari Animal: Giraffe

  • Beginning Readers/Curious Readers: This is a level 1 National Geographic Kids reader (think 1st grade-ish). Some of the vocab will be challenging for just beginning readers (well, just giraffe itself is a hard word to sound out correctly) so perhaps review words before kids crack the cover.
  • Giraffe Lovers: Lots of great little info tidbits on giraffes with fantastic accompanying photographs. There's a little activity in the back, along with vocab and jokes along the way. 

Chasing Cheetahs: the Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cat (Scientists in the Field) by Sy Montgomery, photos by Nic Bishop
Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop travel to Namibia and visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund's African headquarters. There they learn about the variety of programs the CCF has instituted to rescue cheetahs, reintroduce them to the wild, prevent their deaths, and increase their numbers.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Safari Animal: Cheetahs
  • Animal Lovers/Nonfiction Fans/Science Teachers: This was a fascinating book in many aspects. The ways the CCF are using dogs and education to save cheetahs from being killed by farmers was fascinating and such a great example of a scientist finding the root cause, and instead of pointing a finger, finding a way to help both the cheetahs and the farmers. I also appreciated the way this book demonstrated the importance of each species in an ecosystem. It does a fantastic job of demonstrating how the elimination of the top predators can hurt everything down the food chain. If I were still teaching Biology I would definitely use this book as a resource during the ecology and biodiversity unit (the book also explains the harmful effects a limited gene pool is having on cheetahs). So much good science in here, and of course there's the info on the big cats themselves which would probably be enough on its own to draw many readers in. All around an excellent nonfiction book. Interesting enough to be read for fun, and also a rich resource for numerous science classrooms from elementary all the way to AP Bio. Look in the back of the book for ways to get involved helping the CCF.

The Elephant Scientist (Scientists in the Field) by Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson, photos by Caitlin O’Connell and Timothy Rodwell
Caitlin O'Connell had a problem to solve. While farmers and gardeners in America may look out their window to see those pesky rabbits had gotten in the cabbages again, the farmers Caitlin was working with had a much, much bigger problem. Elephants were getting in their corn. I'm sure you can imagine what a couple of hungry elephants can do with a field of corn in a very short amount of time. Farmers then would resort to desperate measures to keep their livelihood safe and elephants were getting shot. Caitlin was trying to figure out a way to keep both the elephants and the corn fields safe. While electric fences were a temporary solution, Caitlin wanted to find a less harmful way to keep the elephants out. During her observations of elephants over the years, Caitlin started to notice elephants stopping and doing odd poses with their feet. This made her think of an earlier study she did with an insect that communicated using vibrations and used similar poses. Did elephants communicate with vibrations? Over the course of the following years, Caitlin and her team were able to find that elephants do indeed communicate with vibrations and that those rumblings can be used to deter elephants from certain areas.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Safari Animal: Elephants
  • Animal Lovers/Nonfiction Fans/Science Teachers: O'Connell's work with elephants did not follow the normal pattern of other preservation methods. It was so interesting to see how her other studies helped her notice something many, many others had missed before and allowed her to discover something new about elephant communication. The photographs in the book are excellent too. Definitely recommended for elephant lovers, classes studying animal communication, sound waves, or examples of unconventional animal control methods.

Adult Nonfiction

The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence
Lawrence Anthony bought a game park in South Africa called Thula Thula used for hunting and turned it into an animal reserve with eco tourism. In this book he shares some of the challenges of getting the reserve up and running, battling poachers, keeping good relations with his Zulu neighbors, building up the animals protected in the reserve, and figuring out how to get a restless herd of elephants settled there. Next to the poachers the elephant herd provided one of Anthony's biggest challenges. He was the herd's last shot at life. They had broken out of too many other reserves. It took all of Anthony's creative juices to figure out a way to outsmart these wily animals who did things like smash the batteries running the electric fences so they could break out. While relating these challenges, and showing the progress Anthony makes over several years, readers get a peek into the life of a ranger running a reserve that keeps itself running with eco tourism.

Activity Tie-ins/Target Readers:

  • Safari Animals: They’re all in here somewhere.
  • Those Wanting the Complete Virtual Safari in One Book/Exotic Read Fans/Animal Lovers/Biography Fans/Those Interested in Eco Tourism/Wild Story Fans/Those Who Appreciate Cross-Culture Done Well: This was a fascinating and captivatingly written book. Not only do you get invested in seeing how Anthony manages to save a herd of elephants who seem bound and determined to get themselves shot, but you also run into a whole host of other African critters and a taste of cultural and political hoops that must be run through to keep things running smoothly with the neighbors. I really appreciated how much respect Anthony has for his Zulu neighbors. This isn't the story of a white man barging in and telling the Africans how to run things. He was raised in Africa himself. He grew up in the area and so has an almost insider's understanding of how things work in Zulu culture. He respects their beliefs and ways of doing things. Most of the workers and rangers employed on the reserve are Zulus, so he's also giving them some ownership. Of course, the fun parts of this book involve stories of animal antics on the reserve. After years of working and living amongst wild animals, Anthony has some really good stories. And I like that he was well balanced in his views of both animals and people. While reading this I was reminded of the John Wayne movie Hatari! Change the purpose of the people from catching animals to conserving them, and it has a lot of the same feel. Only, of course, this story is real and happened within recent history. It's a mostly-pleasant African safari from the safety of your couch. I loved this so much I quickly purchased two of Anthony’s other books for the library: The Last Rhinos: the Powerful Story of One Man's Battle to Save a Species and Babylon’s Ark: the Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo. I’m reading the 2nd of those titles now, and so far I haven’t been disappointed.

What's that? You're not ready for the safari to be done? Here's some books I have on my to-read list and/or ran out of room to put up above. And of course, you can comment with your favorite safari animal reads. Happy continuing safari!

Picture Books

Hippo and Rabbit in Three Short Tales by Jeff Mack

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andrae, ill. by Guy Parker-Rees

I Know a Rhino by Charles Fuge

Lower Grade Fiction

The African Safari Discovery (Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures, #6) by Jeff Brown, ill. by Macky Pamintuan

Lions at Lunchtime (Magic Tree House, #11) by Mary Pope Osborne, ill. by Salvatore Murdocca


Anansi the Spider: a Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald Mcdermott

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema, ill. by Beatriz Vidal

The Hatseller and the Monkeys by Baba Wagué Diakité

The Ox of the Wonderful Horns: and Other African Folktales retold and illustrated by Ashley Bryan

Middle Grade Fiction

The Bolds by Julian Clary, ill. by David Roberts

Juvenile Nonfiction

How to Draw African Animals by Justin Lee

Elephants (National Geographic Kids Readers Lvl 3) by Laura Marsh

Bulu, African Wonder Dog by Dick Houston

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Brainstorm 102: Books We Love ❤️

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought it’d be a good time to share books we love. Now, I think it’s important to distinguish what we mean by love here. (Time for a DTR.) I don’t mean a book that you read and like a lot. Oh no, this is a deeper commitment. These are the books that you come back to over, and over, and over. You don’t just crack the cover of these books, you come back and dwell within the pages. It’s a book that doesn’t get old, no matter how many times you’ve re-read it. It’s the book the adult finishes reading to a child for the 146th time, and that child immediately begs for the 147th reading.
I decided to get our whole school community involved in this post, so I asked our faculty and staff to share one book they love(d) as teens/adults, one book their childhood selves loved, and a book that their students or children love. I also included a few I’ve seen several students check out to re-read.

So without further ado, here’s books the International Community School of Bangkok readers LOVE. (The ones that get their covers on display were books loved by multiple readers. And in case you're curious, the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings series were the most frequently mentioned.)

Picture Books

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault, ill. by Lois Elhert

Animalia by Graeme Base

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Kraus, ill. by Crocket Johnson

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, ill. by Betsy Lewin

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, ill. by Clement Hurd

“I Can’t” Said the Ant by Polly Cameron

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff, ill. by Felicia Bond

Koala Lou by Mem Fox

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik, ill. by Maurice Sendak

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, ill. by Sheila McGraw

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin, ill. by James Dean

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, ill. by Clement Hurd

Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt

"The Shoemaker and the Elves" by the Brothers Grimm

Six by Seuss by Dr. Seuss

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Wacky Wednesday by Dr. Seuss (writing as Theo LeSieg), ill. by George Booth

Lower Grade Fiction

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, ill. by Ruth Chrisman Gannett

Geronimo Stilton series by Geronimo Stilton, et al

Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot series by Dav Pilkey, ill. by Martin Ontiveros (old editions) or Dan Santat (new editions)

Middle Grade Fiction

The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis

Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series by Robert Arthur

The Booky Trilogy by Bernice Thurman Hunter

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, ill. by Garth Williams

Chi’s Sweet Home series by Kanata Konami

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

The Doll People by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, ill. by Brian Selznik

El Deafo by CeCe Bell

The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key

George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl, ill. by Quentin Blake

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Holes by Louis Sachar

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, ill. by Garth Williams

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Matilda by Roald Dahl

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

A Series of Unfortunate Events: the Complete Wreck by Lemony Snicket, ill. by Brett Helquist

The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, ill. by Alton Raible

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

YA/Adult Fiction

The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

The Belgariad series by David & Leigh Eddings

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Christy by Catherine Marshall

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson

Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valet

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Matched series by Ally Condie

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey

On the Fence by Kasie West

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Rora by James Byron Huggins

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Scribbler of Dreams by Mary E. Pearson

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


Garfield comics series by Jim Davis

The Bible

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

James Herriot’s Animal Stories by James Herriot

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

My First Big Book of the Ocean by Catherine D. Hughes

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale

National Geographic Kids Almanacs

The Origami Handbook by Rick Beech (this goes for several of our origami books)

Peanuts comics by Charles M. Schulz

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Weird But True series by National Geographic Kids

Don't see a book you love? One that you re-read and love to dwell inside it's pages? Mention it in the comments.