Tag Archives: historical fiction

We’re Full…of Beans

Oh, Jenni Holm. How I am thankful for you.

As a parent, your books make reading fun. Babymouse was J’s first graphic novel that she loved. Proof: her 2nd grade diorama.  H, like any younger sibling, followed suit. He doesn’t care if a book is pink or blue. He’s all about fun. And Babymouse is fun to read.

When your new chapter book came out – Full of Beans – I read it. LOVED it. Talked about it. And gave it to J – now a 4th grader – to read. And she did: she likes Jenni Holm books, after all. And like the little brother he is, H picked it up. He started reading it a week ago, then said he was almost done the other night. Like a good teacher-parent, I asked what he liked about it. Turns out, there was a lot that went over his head. So: FAMILY READ ALOUD.

Full of Beans is a brilliant read aloud: fast-paced, diverse characters, memorable setting. And as we read, we sometimes talk. About Key West. Rum-running. Choices. Through your story, we’re building understanding and empathy for others whose lives might be different from ours.  We are inferring (who DID paint “Queen Dot’s Throne” on the outhouses?). Learning. Enjoying. And, ultimately, connecting.

History is a tricky subject to teach and to learn. (My childhood report cards are evidence of this.) I truly believe literature – specifically kidlit – is a magic portal for learning and understanding historical events and outcomes.  Full of Beans is a brilliantly accessible novel to introduce readers to the Depression, the New Deal, and how lives are impacted by economics. This was not my goal; rather, it is a happy result of our time spent reading and reflecting on Beans, his choices, and his family.

Our reading and conversations about Full of Beans has really stuck with my kids. Yesterday, while grocery shopping, there was a kid-initiated discussion on which character each child would choose to be and why. Ultimately, H chose Termite…because everyone loves dogs, even flea-ridden ones. J was Beans. Naturally.

So Jenni, thank you. Our family is full – full of appreciation for the stories you share with us readers year in and year out. Full of gratitude for creating memorable characters who have depth and flaws.  Full of admiration for writing historical fiction that is appealing and informative.  The bright, shiny 2017 Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award is truly deserved.

Library Lessons: January 2016

Week 17 of the school year, week 1 of 2016!

It MUST be January, since the kindergartners began the Ezra Jack Keats author/illustrator study.  Stories by EJK make me so very happy. Rereading these stories aloud and sharing them for the first time to the K’s is one of the highlights of my year!

With very squirrelly K’s this year, I was happy to lead an abbreviated Rhyme Time (Humpty Dumpty, Tommy Thumbs) and read 2 stories: Goggles! and Whistle for Willie. We even had a bit of time for critical thinking questions and check out!

Students focused on similar EJK questions from previous years:

  • Before reading Goggles!, students are asked to think of as many types of goggles – protective eye ware that is not sugnlasses – as they can.
  • After reading Whistle for Willie, students are asked to predict how Peter might be based on what they heard/saw in the story. Most common answer this year: 6!

One class had time to start thinking of how old Peter was in both stories. In the coming weeks, we’ll construct a chronological display of EJK books with Peter based on Peter’s perceived age. This is a great Claim-Evidence-Reasoning question, too!

The 2nd graders made connections between a WCCPBA nominee and a local news story. A gorilla at our Woodland Park Zoo had a new baby a few weeks ago, and it seemed like the perfect time to share Katherine Applegate’s Ivan: the remarkably true story of a shopping mall gorilla. Stressing that the story was entirely true, students were horrified that such treatment to animals could occur. Cries of “that’s just MEAN!” were often mumbled during the read-aloud.  Sharing the news of our zoo’s new baby gorilla – with pics to boot – cemented the concept that animals deserve to be treated with humane respect.

The 2nd AND 4th graders had a mini-lesson on Readolutions to start their classes. Examples were given, tracking was explained, and homework was given (!!!). All families were emailed, explaining Readolutions and library goals. Students have a week to write their goal and return it to the library. Next week, I’ll type their goals and make progress charts (to be kept on their library circ pass). If they forget to bring back their work, they can come in during recess to set an appropriate goal.

The 4th graders had a whole-group discussion on historical fiction vs nonfiction prior to listening to Henry’s Freedom Box. One student came up with a brilliant definition: “historical fiction takes place in a non-fiction point in time”. Nicely worded, Alex! Informed that our read-aloud was, indeed, historical fiction, students created questions that would help expound on the fact/fiction points of the story. Next week, we’ll use KCLS databases to research their questions and learn more about the true story of Henry Box Brown.

And my beloved 5th graders! They showed up in droves for the first Lunch and Listen of 2016! What a treat they had: two nonfiction stories, both brilliant and well-received.

They were particularly impressed with the musical prowess of Trombone Shorty, as we watched a YouTube video of the then-13-year-old’s phenominal skill. Perhaps the most impressive to them was that he did all the voices of the parents/teachers in the recent The Peanuts Movie!

Library Lessons: Jan 5-9, 2015 – Ezra Jack Keats, WCCPBA, historical fiction, READolutions!

Week 1 of 2015…and Week 17 of the school year!

Kindergarten:  Feature author: Ezra Jack Keats (my fav!)  This week: Whistle for Willie and Goggles!

Before reading Goggles!, students are asked to think of as many types of goggles – protective eyeware that is not suglasses – as they can.  This divergent question generates lots of correct answers and gives great insight into the thinking of the group.  Common answers include swim goggles, ski goggles, construction goggles.  Sometimes students even say pilot goggles and army goggles…but never motorcycle goggles, like Peter finds!

The Keats author study is perfect for making connections.  Our text-to-text connnections focused on similar characters.  After hearing both stories, students were invited to make text-to-self connections on ways they were similar to Peter.  Again, a question that generates conversation among even the most reluctant students.

2nd grade:  READolutions.  Genre: non-fiction.  This week: Little Dog Lost by Monica Carnesi.    Before reading, we used our world carpet map to locate the setting of the story – the Baltic Sea – and connect it to our location in the world.  Integrating map skills!

Notice that #4 on the white board is empty.  Instead of providing a thinking question for the students, I had them think of one at the end of the story.  As class dismissed, students shared their q’s: Is Baltic still alive?  What kind of dog is Baltic?  How much did he weigh?  Does he still live on the ship?  Were his owners ever found?  Thinking about reading is what great learners do.  Nice work, 2nd graders!

4th grade:  READolutions.  Genre: historical fiction.  This week: Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine. As teachers are focusing on non-fiction and the questions that it raises, library lessons will highlight historical fiction and questioning.

After reading, students brought up some great questions: What is oil of vitriol?  Why aren’t slaves allowed to know their birthdays?  Did Henry ever find his real family?  How long was he upside-down in the box?

Some of the answers are a simple search away, while others require more focused research using historical newspapers.  We’ll be looking at those newspapers – and how to access them – next week.

Some quick pics from this week!