Friday, March 22, 2013

Previously by Allan Ahlberg - Perfect Picture Book Friday

I've been grumbling for weeks about how it doesn't look like spring outside one bit. My husband's turned the long winter blues into a psychology survey, asking everyone we meet what they would do if spring didn't come this year. (The responses have been interesting!)

I emailed a dear friend of mine this question, along with annoying grumblings about spring not arriving when it was supposed to. He works in a secret lab underground (no joke) and is involved in all kinds of astronomy research and chemistry experiments. I figured if anyone could come up with a way to make spring come, it would be him.

In my inbox this morning, he sent me a link to this photo:

NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured this image of the Earth at the spring equinox, on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 7:45 a.m. EDT.

Along with the link, he sent me a reminder that it actually does look like spring. . .somewhere. From outer space, spring arrived quite beautifully, in fact. Before looking at this photo, however, I just couldn't see it from my perspective.

His email cheered me up tremendously, and made me think of how so many books bring children and adults new, needed perspectives on a subject. And that brings us to today's Perfect Picture Book:

PREVIOUSLY

I first stumbled on this book about a year ago, at Linda Skeers and Jill Esbaum's Whispering Woods writing retreat. I'm sure many of you know my love for folk tales and folk tale spins, so this one naturally caught my attention. But what's especially neat is how this one ties many stories together, and presents a different perspective on what really happened (before the part of the story that we know) with each page turn.

Here are the details:

Title: Previously
Author: Allan Ahlberg
Illustrator: Bruce Ingman
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Year: 2007
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 4-8
Subject/Topics: folk tales, fairy tales, humor, different perspectives, adverbs
Synopsis: Every story, every person, and every thing started somewhere. Find out what all of your favorite fairy-tale characters were up to PREVIOUSLY. . .

First page(s): 
Goldilocks arrived home all bothered and hot. Previously she had been running like mad in the dark woods. 

Previously she had been climbing out of somebody else's window.

Previously she had been sleeping in somebody else's bed, eating somebody else's porridge, and breaking somebody else's chair! 

Previously she had been humming a tune and having a little skip by herself in the dark woods. 

Previously she had bumped into a hurtling and older boy named . . .[page turn] 

Jack. 

Jack was running like mad. . .previously he had stolen. . . 

[I'm cutting, but it goes on like this.]

Why I chose this book: 
The structure is so fresh and new, yet the subject matter so familiar. I think kids will use a unique set of skills as they follow along with this book in its backwards-format.

Resources or Activities:  
I think teachers can try to encourage students to rethink stories they already know by writing them from a different angle. A teacher named Mrs. Gold did that with her students, and you can read samples here: http://www.mrsgoldsclass.com/Archive/FairyTales.htm

I also think teachers or parents can examine the "page-turn" structure of books like PREVIOUSLY and books like EXCEPT IF by Jim Averbeck. Have students write a story where the last word of a sentence actually comes after the page turn, making the end of one sentence the beginning of a new scene. 

With middle grade students, you'll want to introduce them to the ellipsis if they are going to embark on activities like this. The National Punctuation Day website has some great resources for studying the ellipsis, also known as dot-dot-dot. :) http://www.nationalpunctuationday.com/ellipsis.html

I'm off to celebrate the fact that it's spring—But I've got to shovel a driveway of snow, first. :(

Have a great weekend!

P.S. If you don't know about Perfect Picture Book Fridays yet, click here for a list of great books!



Friday, March 1, 2013

But and For, Yet and Nor - What is a Conjunction? Perfect Picture Book Friday

I'm going to be brief today, folks. I have a whopping stack of students' papers to grade. I've been correcting grammar and style all morning.

Which brings me to today's Perfect Picture Book selection:


Title: BUT and FOR, YET and NOR: What is a Conjunction? (part of the "Words are CATegorical series)
Author: By Brian P. Cleary
Publisher: Lerner/Millbrook Press 
(which just happens to be the fantastic publisher that's putting out my PB in 2015!)
Think he'll still be dancing when my book comes out in 2015?!

Year: 2010
Ages: 4-9
Genre: Nonfiction, Rhyme
Subjects: Conjunctions, Grammar, Humor, Rhyme, Educational

Opening Line(s): 
Conjunctions are connecting words 
like but and and or or
yet, until, unless, and as
along with for and nor.

Why I chose this book: Well, I'm a bit of a grammarian. As an English teacher, I'd have to say that grammar usage among each year's incoming students seems to be on the decline. I'm also planning to teach an upcoming Grammar Groove course with Mira Reisberg at the Picture Book Academy, launching sometime in April or so. Good grammar is essential for children as they grow, because effectively communicating is so important—whether you're writing a story or writing up a birthday party invitation. And this book makes grammar GROOVY! It's hilarious!

Resources: 
Brian P. Cleary has made my job easy. There are tons of resources and games for his Words are CATegorical series at his website, here: http://www.brianpcleary.com/words/index.html. Kids could probably poke around this site for hours.

Of course, SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK! is a great grammar resource for additional lessons. You can find some of them at this site: http://www.sqooltools.com/edvideos/shr/master.html. These were childhood favorites of mine. I hope your children enjoy them, too!


Now, go have a great Friday. And don't forget to check out these other Perfect Picture Books at Susanna Leonard Hill's blog!







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