Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Adventures of Exploring Mentor Text Layers

The business of mentor texts, whether fiction or nonfiction, is analyzing different layers.  Even the funniest fiction can model important elements for writers. As you write your own stories, do you consider the learning opportunities that your text offers? Whether it is lap time, naptime, story time, school time, or anytime at all, learning takes place through underlying themes, messages, information, and modeled elements.

The end of the school year is near, but you absolutely must put Adventures to School on your radar for the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. Understanding our diverse world starts with exploring different cultures and environments. School is something kids can relate to in most places. But we don’t all get to school the same way, not even in the United States. So why not open this discussion as soon as school starts back up?

There are many unique learning points for Adventures to School, which gives it lots of layers.

1)    Fiction and Nonfiction Elements
This text is broken into mini first-person narratives of children from different countries as they journey to school. Side panels offer information on topics from landforms to transportation to capitals, families, and school. The combination of both fiction and nonfiction makes it extra engaging.

2)    Culture and Country Research
While the panels give us an information head start on some countries, this text is a springboard to additional inquiry about these and other countries, as well. As an educator, I plan to delve further into what students learn and do at varied schools and how their days are structured. I will also encourage students to branch into additional information about their chosen country, the villages, the climate, or any other areas that students find interesting. By presenting and sharing finished projects, students can teach each other about different school experiences around the world. I will likely strike up Skype connections with several different classrooms, as well.

3)    Comprehension through Compare and Contrast
Great stories create opportunities to make real-world connections. A evergreen topic like school will surely allow them to make connections each time they hear about a different school experience. Are there similarities to their experience? Are there differences? I will also encourage students to compare and contrast the illustrations in the book to real photographs. You can find some great comprehension resources on Miranda Paul's teacher resource page.

4)    Rich Vocabulary
There is no shying away from rich vocabulary in Miranda and Baptiste Paul’s books. This selection features many foreign language words, as well as contextual English words to grow vocabulary in unique ways. Check out some of the vocab here.

As you request this story from your library or find it in book stores, what additional learning opportunities can you identify with this book? Which mentor text elements stand out to you?

Thinking back to your current work in progress, what learning opportunities do you offer?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Monthly Challenge---A Magic Crayon

Embed from Getty Images
By Janie Reinart

Drawing is the first form of storytelling.  My granddaughter, Madeline said,"I can hardly wait for spring so I can dance in the grass."

Just look at the beloved classic, Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. What fun to draw your own adventures.

Aaron Becker, the author/illustrator of Journey comments on the back flap of the book jacket. "To this day, his favoriet destination remains his imagination, where he can often be found drawing secret doors and magic lanterns."

Don't forget Drew Daywalt's "crayons books".  Have you seen his latest?

Or if you prefer chalk:

My grandson, Oscar came running to tell us he found the dinosaur. He yelled, "Come on!" We didn't know what he meant until we saw it. He remembered the image from the cover of the book. The children in the story draw with the magic chalk and have to think fast to get out of a predicament.

What would you do with a magicrayon? Use your imagination and start drawing a story. You might even find a secret door. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

THINK QUICK with Author Casey W. Robinson

Hi Casey! I love how your debut picture book, Iver and Ellsworth, draws us in with a story of unlikely friendship.  

On rooftop bears: 
Friend or Foe?

Friend! A rooftop bear is the friendliest sort of bear. 

On dust jackets:
Love them or leave them?

Love them... Except when there are mysteries hidden underneath (hint, hint)

On lunches:
Hummus on whole wheat, or P B and J? 

PB&J on whole wheat 

On friendship:

A few good friends or many good friends? 

Many good friends, plus a few great ones 

On unlikely friendship:

Yay or Nay?

Yay, definitely. Unlikely friendships can be the most fun stories to tell 

On taking care of others:

All seasons or seasonally?

All seasons, though how you take care of others could vary seasonally

On support: 

Tug the ropes, or let them go free? 

Tug the ropes on what keeps you grounded & steady 

On Adventure:
New somewhere or familiar view?

Though I'm a creature of habit and familiar views recharge me, new somewheres can spark imagination and inspiration 

On moving on:
Stay put or move on?

Move on --  endless adventures await

On Satisfying endings:
Predictable or twist? 


On books:
Iver and Ellsworth or Iver and Ellsworth? 

Iver & Ellsworth :) 

Thank you, Casey!  And as an added bonus, here's how Casey was inspired to write the story: 

The idea for Iver & Ellsworth came during a road trip with my family. We drove down the highway past the inflatable Polar Seltzer bear, which is perched atop the Polar Seltzer factory in Worcester. I wondered whether that bear had any friends... *story idea is born* 

Review of Iver and Ellsworth, by Kirsti Call

"Everyone's going somewhere," he says. "We can see the whole world from up here. That's enough somewhere for me!"'

This book's lyrical language and whimsical illustrations explore the friendship of an old man and a giant inflatable bear. I love how Casey Robinson and Melissa Larson show the close relationship of these two characters without the bear ever saying a word. The illustrations truly enhance the text in this story about quiet adventure, finding a new somewhere, and keeping important friendships along the way. 

Casey W. Robinson grew up in Maine and used to keep a shoebox of favorite words and phrases under her bed. She graduated from Amherst College with a degree in English and now lives with her family just outside of Boston, Massachusetts in a yellow house overflowing with books. IVER & ELLSWORTH is her debut picture book. You can connect with her at www.CaseyWRobinson.com or on Instagram (@cwrobinson) or Twitter (@CaseyWRobinson). 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mentor Text Study: Corey Rosen Schwartz

Corey Rosen Schwartz is an award winning picture book ninja. KIYA!

As a child, Corey loved to read and figured she would grow up to be an author. But first she became a teacher and worked in a dot.com startup. And when she decided to write for kids, the picture book format is what she chose to write.

Her debut picture book, Hop! Plop!co-authored with Tali Klein, was on the list of 2006 Eric Carle Museum “Picture Books of Distinction” and in 2007 made the Bank Street College list "Best Children’s Books of the Year." Check out this impressive list of awards for her books that followed, far too numerous to mention here! 

What makes Corey’s books award winning?

Fun Rhymes, Flawless Meter, Fresh Themes

In an interview over at Angie Karcher’s Rhyme Revolution blog, Corey said, “My stories are not character-driven or plot-driven. They are language-driven.”  

In WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?, co-authored with Rebecca J. Gomez, Corey sticks to all the necessary narrative story plot points while keeping perfect meter and rhyme. She introduces readers to a character kids can readily identify with - one very bossy moose.

Modern Fairytale Characters & Settings
Corey masterfully recreates unique characters in clever new settings to create fun fractured fairy tales.

co-authored with Beth Coulton, 
the Three Bears and Goldi love to rock and roll.
Corey's stories are filled with adventure and action. The fact that Pig 3, Little Red, and Hensel & Gretel from her ninja series are all girls that save the day is refreshing.


Plot Twist

In TWINDERELLA, illustrated by Deborah Marcero, the added plot twist provides twice the fun!

It’s fair to say, anyone who writes in rhyme is familiar with Corey's books. If interested in learning how she does it, Corey and fellow rhymer, Tiffany Strelitz Haber created a blog, Meter Maids: Learn to Rhyme. Or do the time. Check out their posts and advice on how to avoid rhyme crimes.

Playful language, fun characters, and re-imagined plots make stories by Corey Rosen Schwartz excellent mentor texts to study. Happy reading!

Corey on Twitter: @CoreyPBNinja
Corey’s Facebook Fan Page: Corey Rosen Schwartz – PB Ninja

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Digging for More: Tanya Konerman and Elizabeth Saba Make Research Work for Them

Mentor Text Reviews by Tanya Konerman and Elizabeth Saba

In search of ways to master word count in lyrical ways, I pulled out mentor texts from my “nonfiction idols.” Three from April Pulley Sayre gave me the inspiration I needed: Best in Snow, Raindrops Roll, and Full of Fall. These succinct, sensory-rich, and delightfully poetic picture books captured each of her concepts with flow and flair (not to mention, wonderful photography by Sayre herself). And most importantly for my revision struggles, they were still able to provide detailed information with word counts more in line with the industry standard. How? BACKMATTER! Sayre used the “story” part of the book to provide an overview and create a feeling about the subject matter, while offering additional scientific tidbits and facts to further learning and understanding in her backmatter (which is not included in word count for picture books).

As you write and revise, consider: Could backmatter help support your nonfiction story’s weight? Would readers benefit from a more lyrical approach to your subject matter? How can you offer an educational book that appeals to the senses?

Tanya Konerman is a bit obsessed with picture books, reading and studying 15 or more a week throughout the year. She currently writes them too. You can find her picture book reviews and some other cool stuff at www.tanyakonerman.wordpress.com.

A How To Book without the How To? Pick A Pine Tree written by Patricia Toht and illustrated by Jarvis is actually a ‘how to’ book. I love the way Patricia took a tradition, scooped up a plethora of experiences and items and then laid out the best parts of those in this book. Combined with the illustrations Pick a Pine Tree is a great mentor text for a jaunty joyful ‘how to’ book. As a writer, this mentor text shows that you do not need to have ‘how to’ in the title to be a ‘how to’ book. We can translate that to other genres. Do you need to say ‘true story’ in a title to indicate that it is nonfiction and so forth. I also took the time to type this book up to see if I could understand why the page turns and near rhymes were effective and not distracting. Because of the combination of text and pictures, readers will identify with at least two if not more experiences in this book making this a fun, satisfying read and read aloud. The illustrator does an excellent job enhancing the readers experience with the variety of characters and scenes throughout the book. Thanks Patricia for a wonderful book to read and to learn from.

Elizabeth Saba is a children’s book writer. She has an MFA Certificate in Children’s Literature from the Stonybrook Fellows Program. She is a literacy advocate, teaches reading and reads aloud to preschool children and 2nd grade students every Friday. Elizabeth is a member of SCBWI and 12 x 12.