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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In mythology and literature, there are many stories of humans being raised by animals after being lost or abandoned, such as, Tarzan, Mowgli, Romulus and Remus and many others.  These animals protect, teach survival skills and offer wisdom to these characters.

Stellaluna is a tale similar in storyline but it’s of a baby bat who gets dropped in the forest after her mother gets attacked by an owl.  She finds herself in the most unlikely of places in a nest with three baby birds: Pip, Flitter, and Flap.  The Momma Bird takes her in as one of her own, as long as, Stellaluna promises to follow the rules of the nest.  This is when she learns the ways of birds and begins a friendship with very different, yet similar creatures.

This is a special story in which children will naturally learn characteristics, differences and similarities of bats and birds and on a deeper level, they will hear undertones of empathy, equality, and acceptance.  There is much to love about this book.

My favorite

…dialogue.

“Hey!” a loud voice said.  “Why are you hanging upside down?”

Stellaluna’s eyes opened wide.  She saw a most peculiar face.  “I’m not upside down, you are!” Stellaluna said.

“Ah, but you’re a bat.  Bats hang by their feet.  You are hanging by your thumbs, so that makes you upside down!” the creature said.  “I’m a bat.  I am hanging by my feet.  That makes me right side up!”

…detail in the book.

P1050868On the top of every text page, there is a small black and white drawing of a part of the text.  As well, there is a collection of these drawings on the inside cover in the front and back of the book.  These tell a story all on their own. It’s the small details that make this book absolutely amazing.

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Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Published by Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993
  • Get the book here.
  • Recommended for 3 to 10-year-olds.
  • Scholastic has a video and activity booklet (haven’t seen it but it seems to have mixed reviews).

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Resources:
  • This download has a million great ideas, worksheets, plus some printable bingo sheets from Homeschool Share.   Best for 2nd to 4th graders.
  • Working on reading and double phonics sounds?  The First Grade Parade has some great printables and ideas to use with Stellaluna.
  • Book Report Project printables for elementary school students from Unique Teaching Resources.
  • A lovely freebie by Aynsley Patton with comprehension charts and diagrams for 2nd and 3rd graders on TeachersPayTeachers.

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It’s quite rare to run across a picture book that teaches so much about animals and is a beautiful story in itself.  I wonder if you have any recommendations of books like this. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  

“In life there are many options.  Olivia likes to STAND OUT.  She marches to the beat of her OWN DRUM.  She wants to do more than just FIT IN.  So how will Olivia do that?”

Olivia

This sassy little pig has a keen eye and a desire to be different.   Olivia doesn’t want to subscribe to the pink fairy princess dream that everyone else her age has.  She thinks of options, tries them out, and stays true to herself.

This simple story teaches children many important things about life. Such as, good parents will be a support system throughout your life. Olivia opens up to her parents in the middle of what she calls an “identity crisis” and her parents are there to listen to her struggles and ideas.

In the middle of this process, we don’t see Olivia break down but quite the opposite. She explores her options,

“Why not an Indian princess or a princess from Thailand or an African princess or a princess from China?  There are alternatives.”  -Click to tweet

Such options do not have to be good or bad, they can be just different. Through the story, Olivia stays true to herself while in the midst of trying to discover who that might be. She is such a good example of what it means to think outside of the box.

The opening page is Olivia laying on the ground, her face looking in pain, her pets looking at her with worry and it says, “Olivia was depressed”.  The author labels Olivia’s feeling throughout the story and helps the readers understand her journey. We see her go from depressed to confused, frustrated to sad, and contemplative to happy. The illustrations, done in simple black and white with pops of reds, do a wonderful job to display her emotional journey.

Ian Falconer uses humor and tons of great dialogue to create a character that we can’t help but love to bits. Olivia is so silly, emotional, and unique that she will inspire children to stay true to themselves on their own journey to discover what makes them exactly who they are.

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Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

- Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012 -
  • Get the book here.
  • Recommended for ages 3-8 years old.
  • Check out the entire Olivia collection of books.

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Resources

Coloring Story Book that help children understand the difference between WANT and NEED.

Activities printouts for your kids by Simon and Schuster (great for kindergartens).

Kids that like dress-up will love Olivia Paper Doll Pack Printables (fun for all ages).

Nick Jr. has tons of great craft ideas, recipes, online games and video clips of Olivia.

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If your kids love this story, they might also like..

Standing out can be scary at times. How do you encourage your kids and students to be themselves especially when everyone else seems to be different?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  

I imagine one of the saddest things in life is a child dying before their parents do.  It isn’t the natural order of things.

P1050457Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, based on his own experience, talks of this situation. It’s the story of a man trying to cope with the many emotions and strange things that accompany his sadness after the loss of his son.  This book helps the reader understand there are many ways of dealing with sadness…some good, some bad, and some we can’t fully understand.

The opening picture of this book is of a man with a huge smile across his face and the story starts, “This is me being sad. Maybe you think I’m happy in this picture. Really I’m sad but pretending I’m happy. I’m doing this because I think people won’t like me if I look sad.”

The author so clearly shows that there is not only one reaction to sadness.  We see the narrator go through ups and downs of sadness, from shouting in the shower to reminiscing about the good times with his son.  At one point, he pretends he is fine and another he is angry.  He goes from wanting to talk to someone then wanting to be alone.

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I was particularly touched by these lines.  “Every day I try to do one thing I can be proud of.  Then, when I go to bed, I think very, very, very hard about this one thing.”

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Illustrated by Quentin Blake, the story is in soft watercolors (and ink) that become a muted gray when the sadness is overwhelming. As wonderful counterpoint, this book ends with the man saying how much he loves birthdays…not just his but other people’s too. A full spread layout shows candles glowing in all different yellows across a page of lit birthday cakes glowing on smiling faces and when you flip to the last page, you see the narrator sitting at a desk with a candle reflecting a soft glow on his solemn face… a beautiful, appropriate ending.

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Overall, I really loved this story. I think people tend to pick up a book like this after someone dies or another such event, more as a band-aid solution but I encourage everyone to add such books to your home and class libraries.  These types of books encourage empathy and understanding.  They help children to understand what someone might act like if they are feeling sad and they will have a better chance to understand when situations like this occur in the future whether it be to themselves or others.  Kids are interested in so much, especially trying to make sense of the world they live in.

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P1050458Michael Rosen’s Sad Book

Illustrated by Quentin Blake

- Candlewick Press, 2004 -
  • Find the book here.
  • Discussion questions ideas.
  • Michael Rosen is quite an animated character… check out some videos of him on his website.
  • Worksheets on sadness to use with your class from what your faces looks like to where you feel it in your body.

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I’d love to hear what you think of picture books addressing such heavy topics. Are they a part of your child’s library? Let me know why or why not in the comments.

For the “unseen, ignored and overlooked”.

Little George notices a dragon one wet Thursday and before too long, he can’t stop seeing them, but no one else seems to notice them. George felt just like the little dragons did…unseen, ignored and overlooked.

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The naughty little dragons seemed to cause havoc wherever they were and the real problem started when George made the mistake of feeding them. Of course, they started to follow him everywhere, causing all sorts of problems. Soon… enough was enough. George went to the library in search of a solution.

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There he found a map to a safe, unnoticed place dragons belonged and began building a dragon machine to lead them home which he did. But after all the dragons had gone, George was left feeling alone and empty in the great wilderness wishing he was back home again.  His family, of course, went to find him.  When they brought George home, everyone was so happy to see him, and he no longer was unseen, ignored and overlooked.  To celebrate his return, they even bought him a dog… or was it?

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The story is really well-written, text is super concise and the illustrations by Wayne Anderson are really interestingly detailed and have a fuzzy, ethereal feeling.  This book is great for children from 3 to 10 years old.

Pre-reading discussion questions:
  • What do you know about dragons?
  • What are they like?
  • What do you think a dragon would do if it was in this room right now?
  • What do you think the story will be about? (showing the book cover)
  • What does ignore mean?  How does it feel to be ignored?
Post-reading discussion questions and ideas:
  • Retell the story together (as a class or with your child).
  • What do the George and the dragons have in common?
  • How do you feel inside when you are unseen, ignored or overlooked?
  • Do you remember a time when you felt ignored? What did you do?
  • Imagine you were George, what would you say to your parents if you felt ignored?

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P1050422The Dragon Machine by Helen Ward

Illustrated by Wayne Anderson
- Published by Templar, 2003 -

 

  • Get the book here.
  • Grade 2- Ideas on using this book for all subjects.
  • Grade 3- Lesson plan ideas from story retelling from first person to sequencing, etc.

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The Dragon Machine is great for kids that feel ignored, have an imaginary friend, love dragons and adventures.  If your interested in this story, you might like Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes which is about a little girl whose parents don’t pay attention to her.

What do you do to comfort your children or students whey they feel left out or ignored?  

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Help!  My friend from when I lived in Australia is now pregnant.   And her baby is about to come out next week!!! I stayed with her parents most of the time I lived in Melbourne and would like to get her something special. I’m going back for a visit soon and thought a picture book would be nice as one of the gifts. Can you recommend something wonderful?

 

These books are just as much for the parents as they are for the children. They are the type that will ease the nerves of expecting parents and transition right into the perfect books for newborn babies.

 

where are you fromWhere You Came From by Sara O’Leary

Published by Simply Read Books, 2008

Where did this little boy really come from? The parents in this story come up with completely imaginative and hilarious answers. The author, Sara O’Leary and the illustrator, Julie Morstad, make a stellar duo with two more books just as precious as this one, When You Were Small and When I Was Small.

Memorable image:  “Your father saw a red balloon appear far off in the sky.  And at the end of the string, there you were holding on for dear life.”

 

alltheworldAll the World by Liz Garton Scanlon

Published by Beach Lane Books, 2009

Written in a sing-song style, All the World is the perfect book to read your baby to sleep and comfort momma or papa too. The illustrations, by Marla Frazee, are bright and children will enjoy the subtle details that continue the storyline from page to page.

Favorite lines:  “Hive, bee, wings, hum /  Husk, cob, corn, yum! / Tomato blossom, fruit so red / All the world’s a garden bed.”

 

TheRunawayBunnyThe Runaway Bunny

by Margaret Wise Brown

Published by HarperCollins, 1942

There is such a sweet hum to this book. The story of a momma rabbit who foils each plan her little bunny thinks of, with her continuous love for him. Clement Hurd’s illustrations are completely captivating and imaginative.

Best illustrated pages:  “If you become a bird and fly away from me, said his mother, I will be a tree that you come home to.”

 

GuessHowMuchILoveYouGuess How Much I Love You

by Sam McBratney

Published by Candlewick, 1994

Is possible for a child to out-love their parents?  Not in this book.  This sweet tale of Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare who have the most lovable argument possible… who loves who more.

Ending lines:  “Then he (Big Nutbrown Hare) lay down close by and whispered with a smile, ‘I love you right up to the moon – and back.'”

 

AllInADayAll in a Day by Cynthia Rylant

Published by Harry N. Abrams, 2009

This book is truly inspiration and might possibly be the most perfect book to start imagining all the possibilities for your little newborn.  Nikki McClure’s style is just striking with the black cutout illustration.

Inspirational:  “This day will soon be over and it won’t come back again. So live it well, make it count, fill it up with you. The day’s all yours, it’s waiting now… See what you can do.”

Previous recommendations that also are fabulous books for expecting parents!

A big thank you to my friend, Emi, who wrote in for this week’s “Tell Your Story“. Feel free to write me your story! I’d love to recommend the perfect book for you.

Do you know of any other picture books that make great gifts for expecting parents?  I’d love to hear from you.