FerdinandThe Story of Ferdinand is a tale of a big and strong bull that finds happiness sitting under his favorite cork tree and smelling the flowers, unlike the other bulls that run and jump and butt their heads. One day, five men came to the pasture looking for the biggest, fastest, roughest bull for the bullfights in Madrid. Ferdinand was completely uninterested in trying to impress them and instead found his favorite spot but there was already something sitting there… a bee. As you have already guessed, Ferdinand did not see that bee and is what causes a great misunderstanding.

This story ends where it begins with Ferdinand, “sitting there still, under his favorite cork tree, smelling the flowers just quietly. He is very happy.”

The book is beautifully simple and would be a perfect book for an introverted child to help them realize they are many more people out there like them.

Munro Leaf said, “There is no better passport through the world than a smile and a laugh.” This book will surely make you smile.

Recommended for children 3-8 years old.  As well, a video for those who have not read this treasure yet.

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EmpathyDr.Laura

From the book, Peaceful Parent Happy Kids- How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Dr. Laura Markham.  Whether you are a parent or teacher, there are thousands of insightful comments and helpful hints to understand and connect with children in a healthy way.  Highly recommended read!

Dr. Laura Markham is also the creator of AhaParenting.com; a great resource for any parent.

 

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“Love ‘em to Pieces” is all about ways to emotionally, creatively, and playfully connect with children.

With Halloween just around the corner, we created Halloween cards using Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Weirdos. He can teach anyone to draw!P1060117

Get down to business and start creating works of cute horror with your kids or classes.  Or even better create your own using his method of using shapes, lines, dots and squiggles.

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You only have to worry about who you will make card for.

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Hi, Koo!The title, a sweet pun, sets the tone for the beautiful world of Koo, a little panda who shares his experiences of the changing seasons in the form of haiku. Children will automatically relate to the wonder Koo experiences.

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons is a great introduction to the pleasure poetry can bring with simple haikus and soft watercolors.  This story highlights the importance of appreciating nature, everyday experiences, and the smallest things life has to offer.  The author, Jon J. Muth, beautifully blends these ideas in the last page with Koo sitting in a tree with a bird and its nest upon his head and the ending lines,

becoming so quiet
Zero sound
only breath

And if you look closely, through the 26 haikus you find an “alphabetic path”;  a detail not to be missed.

There is wonderment and a certain kind of stillness to the work of Jon J. Muth.  He perfectly captures the small moments of childhood, whether it be a singular moment or the struggles at this stage in life and creates a stunning piece of art.

This book can be reread season after season and as your child grows, they will experience the book differently each time.

Hi, Koo!  A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth

Published by Scholastic Press, March 2014

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Those-Shoes

Want versus need is a hard distinction to make at times especially when you just wish to fit in.

In the book, Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, Jeremy wants so bad to have the shoes that everyone else is wearing, but they just don’t have enough money. He learned through somewhat of a hard lesson that the more important things in life are the things he needs; warm boots, his grandma, and friends.

What makes this story exceptional are the characters.

Jeremy’s strength and kindness shine through when he gives the shoes to Antonio Parker, a boy in his class who has taped up, old shoes and smaller feet than Jeremy. While Jeremy struggles internally, he does the deed secretly and knows it’s the right choice.

Jeremy’s grandmother is the voice of reason and constant love. She lets him buy “those shoes” that everyone has at thrift store even though they are too small. And she is still there to hug him at the end of the day when Jeremy’s feet hurt and his hopes of the shoes stretching are crushed.

Antonio shows gratitude with recognizing Jeremy’s kind act with the simple expression, “Thanks”.

With children, sometimes shoes aren’t just shoes or test isn’t just a test. This story shows the depth and complexity of a child’s life so clearly and will be a book every child can relate too.

  • Recommended for children 3 to 8 years old.
  • Suburban Mosaic has some great discussion questions to go along with this book.
  • Scholastic has a mini-lesson for boosting Reading Comprehension used with 3rd graders.
  • Library Sparks also has some great ideas for lessons with elementary aged students.

Emotionally it can be a struggle when children really want something.  I’d love to hear how you teach your children the difference between wants and needs in the comments.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Published by Candlewick Press, 2007
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Everything you love about trees in one book.

The opening is of a boy relaxing in the woods. Trees are very nice. They fill up the sky.

Here we enter a world of trees. Their beauty in such perfect spots like beside rivers and up on hills. Even just one tree is nice: to shade your house or for cows to rest under on hot days. Trees are there to climb, pick apples, swing in or be the pirate ship you need to navigate the treacherous waters of the neighborhood. They have leaves which whisper in the breeze and sticks so we can draw in the sand.

A tree is nice to plant. You can feel proud as you watch them grow and tell people you planted that tree. They wish they had one so they go home and plant a tree too.

The author, Janice May Udry, conveys in such simple language the magic of trees that children emotional connection with. Marc Simont whimsically illustrates this book with page spreads alternating between color and black and from vibrant paints to soft watercolors.

This is about as close as a children’s book might come to an Ode to Trees. There is an implicate feeling of gratitude and this undying presence felt throughout the story which appeals to adults. And for children, trees represent a free space they can explore, have adventures and retreat to at times when tired.  They are, of sorts, a permanent friend.


A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry

Illustrated by Marc Simont
Published by HarperCollins, 1956
  • Find the book  here.
  • Digging deeper and learning more about trees.  Here is an activity with worksheets to use with this book.  Great for 1st graders and Earth Day Activities.
  • Writing and coloring mini book to use with this book.  Children can write what they love about trees.

A Tree is Nice captures the beauty in the everyday life.  What do you do to impart such an idea to help your children recognize, respect, and appreciate simple beauty?

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Inspired by the paper museum I visited a few weeks, I came up with a fun and creative way to retell a story. This interactive way allows children to create their own pictures to help sequence the events in the book. Simple books work great for helping to build children’s confidence.

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Supplies needed:

  • construction paper
  • scissors
  • double-sided tape
  • pastels
  • paintbrush and water (optional)

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1.  Create two origami boxes. One slightly larger than the other so they will make a complete box. I used this simple origami box pattern.

2.  Create the inside by cutting long stripes. Make sure the width will fit inside your smallest box. Then fold them in an accordion style. To create a length, use the double-sided tape to attach each stripe together by taping one square on top of the another.

3.  Have your kids use two squares to create a picture of one scene from a story. Here is an example using the story, The Wind Crab, where the breeze comes to help hide the wind crab.

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4.  I used pastels so they would pop on the black construction paper. Because chalk pastels are messy, I opted to paint with them using water and a paint brush which makes less mess but creates the same results.

5.  When finished with the pictures, use the double-sided tape to tape the first square into the top of the box and the last in the bottom of the box. You will have a miniature story box that will help children remember when retelling a story.

I hope you will try this activity out. These boxes are adorable and could be used for many other things as well.  Any ideas?

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P1050932This is the story of  a colorless, grey wind crab.  He envies the beautiful colors of shells, the emerald sea, the gleaming moon, the breathless blueness of the sky, the rich gold of the sun, and feels upset by his lifeless color.  And no one could not help him. The wind crab panics when he hears the voices of children gathering shells and barking dogs, then he hears the breeze calling him.  He “surrendered himself to the serenity of his greyness” and stayed there blanketed by the soft sand until the children and dogs pass by.

A fan of ambiguous endings, I love that the author stopped there.  This leads to great discussion about how the crab felt about himself after the children and dogs passed.  The wind crab goes from feeling upset, envious, ashamed, panicked and finally, calm.  This leaves us to choose if the crab had changed his opinion about his greyness.

The universal themes in The Wind Crab are what make it classic.  We all have felt envious of someone else and had days when we wished we were someone else.  And hopefully we learn that being our unique self is where we find happiness.

Written in both English and Thai, the book is great for your library at home or in the classroom.  The descriptive language has great vocabulary to teach children (ungainly, flaunted, iridescent, pleaded, ebbed, waned, cresting, surrendered, yapping). As well as, the variety of emotions the crab and other characters feel, such as, the vain tup tim shells and the proud chedi shell.

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The Wind Crab by Chamnongsri L. Rutnin

Illustrated by Thaiwijit Puangkasemsomboon
-Published by Foundation for Children, 1996-
  • P1050930This book isn’t so easily found but I would definitely check your local library.
  • Don’t know what a wind crab is.  Check out this video of a wind crab doing its finest work.  Amazing.
  • This story is simple and The Wind Crab makes a great book to teach story retelling.  Check out a story retelling activity here.

If you liked Stellaluna, I am sure you will love this book too.

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Verkehr, Shimizu Port Terminal Museum has a paper exhibition running from August 23rd to October 12th.  The exhibition’s art is completely made of paper materials from shoes to a miniature diorama of Paris to a giant P-Rex (this is not a spelling mistake).

From something ordinary inspired extraordinary pieces of art.  Each seeming have their own little story and I wanted to know them all.

Looking around the exhibition, I thought these would make great ideas for book reports.  How fascinating it would be to have a student create something they imagined when reading  a book. Here are some ideas I was inspired by when looking at the art.

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Diorama

Opting for something larger than a shoebox definitely gives the artist/student leeway to create something wondrous.  A short flat box with a small window you can see the lovely setting of Paris lit up with bridges, the canal, the beautiful skyline, the Eiffel Tower and so many more magical details.

 

P1050886Special object the character used or wear

This was also fully made of paper and appropriately titled Alligator Skin Shoes.  Where the bottom of the shoe and the sole meet actually don’t touch as to resemble an alligator’s mouth.  How clever and bizarre.

 

P1050892A miniature accordion booklet of characters

I’m unsure how much detail you can really see.  It’s a paper hippo that has mini characters on black paper that fold into the body.  Imagine if a book could take a shape and you put the characters in a fold-out accordion that would be spectacular.

il_570xN.582627781_bixnOr how about a crayon cast of the characters from the book (this is from Game of Thrones).  Unfortunately, this was not at the exhibition but I saw this found on Etsy and thought it was quite clever.

 

 

 

P1050890Imagine your own movie poster or book cover

This actually is an advertisement for Kirin lemon beer but all the same, we can understand a lot from just the picture.  Students could create something entirely based upon what they imagine the story, the characters, and the setting to be like.

 

P1050887Symbolic object in the book

Many story have symbolic  or important objects that help the characters and are an integral part of the story.  This is a bit bizarre but again it was created completely of paper.

 

I love the idea of using paper, something so inexpensive and often reusable to create something extraordinary.  I hope you enjoyed this post, I’d love to hear from you now. Do you have any creative ideas for book reports?  If so, please post them in the comments.

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If you have never taken the time to read the classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, I highly recommend that you do.

WARNING:  There are no ruby-red slippers; they are actually silver.  And the Land of Oz is much more bizarre than MGM’s 1939 musical, with crazy hammer-head people and miniature porcelain dolls that walk and talk just as people do.  The story is much more rich and the characters much more developed than the film.

First published in 1900, Baum wrote this story with the purpose “solely to please children.”  I lucked out and found a copy with the gorgeous illustrations from Lisbeth Zwerger who had never seen the complete MGM film and didn’t come with any preconceived ideas.  Zwerger really wanted to bring something new to Baum’s story and her unique, whimsical watercolors surely do.   Included with this book is a pair of green-tinted glasses that you wear only when Dorothy enters the Emerald City creating the illusion that you are right there with the characters.

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The chapters are short and this would make a wonderful chapter book to read aloud to your child.  As there are adventurous scenes, witches, scary animal-like enemies, and death (though, not written about in a particularly scary fashion), I would recommend this story for, at least, 6 or 7 years old and up.  Parents definitely read through once before sharing with your children, as you are the best judge to know what is suitable for your child.

I love the way Baum so thoughtfully expresses emotions of his characters.  There are tons of wonderful lines in this story.  Here were a few of my favorites.

“…she still looked at the girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.”

“I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.”

“I shall take the heart. For brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.”

“A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get.”

“True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid…”

“Dorothy said nothing. Oz had not kept the promise he made her, but he had done his best. So she forgave him. As he said, he was a good man, even if he was a bad Wizard.”

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

by L. Frank Baum, Illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
-Published by North-South Books, 1996-
  • The copy I read is hard to come by, but here is another wonderfully illustrated copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Dover Children’s Evergreen Classics.
  • This book is a FREE download through Amazon.  Even if you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon has a free Kindle Cloud Reader for computers.
  • Anne Hathaway does a brilliant reading of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with tons of ridiculous and funny accents.  Quite a steal for on .99¢.
  • With this book being over 100 years old, there are tons of lesson planning resources online. Here is one that has loads of good ideas to use in the classroom.

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Have you read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as an adult?  I would love to hear your impressions of it in the comments.

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