Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sun & Spoon

Title: Sun & Spoon

Author: Kevin Henkes

Publisher & Publication Date: Greenwillow Books, 1997


Grade Level: 4-6

Summary: Spoon Gilmore is a ten year old boy who is dealing with the sudden loss of his paternal grandmother. The book begins with Spoon trying to figure out what object he can find of his grandmother's that he could keep to remember her. He has dreams about her almost every night, good ones not bad ones. He has an older brother, who is on vacation with the maternal grandmother, and a younger sister who always wants to tag along with Spoon. In the first part of the novel, Spoon decides he wants to go to his grandfather's house and look around for something that will make him think of his grandmother. He decided he did not want a picture, because he hates pictures of himself, so a picture wouldn't be enough to satisfy his personal item. While he is at his grandfather's he helps clean out the garage, but takes a few trips to the bathroom so he can look around the house. He figures out that he wants the deck of cards his grandmother used to play triple solitaire with because they have suns on them and she had collected suns. They seemed like they would be the perfect item to remember her by, so he takes them without telling his grandfather. Later he finds out that his grandfather is stressed because he can't find the playing cards. Spoon decides to return the cards without telling anyone and then he finally breaks down and tells his grandfather what happened. His grandfather in return gives Spoon a picture of his grandmother when she was about ten years old and also shows him a tracing of her hand that she did. With the tracing she wrote "M always stands for Martha" (Martha was her name). At first Spoon didn't understand what that meant, but later he figured it out. He looked at his sister's hand and then at his and his parents and realized that the letter "M" is in the markings on all of their hands. He then decides that the marking of the "M" will be the thing to help him remember his grandmother.

Response: This was a sad and touching book. I could relate to Spoon because I lost my grandmother and it was very hard on me. At first I was a bit shocked by the story, then I realized that this is a topic that has to be covered with young children. I think the story was a bit choppy, but overall it was a good book. Henkes did a good job with this novel, even though I think he is stronger in writing picture books because they can be more choppy than novels. Some parts of the story were hard to follow, but after I re-read them a couple of times I understood what was going on. The book made me feel sad. I felt sad for Spoon, and sad in general because it was talking about death. I cannot think of any other books I have read that relate to this one. I am sure I have, but I just can't think of any that make me automatically connect one to the other.

Teaching Ideas: This is a great book to use with the coping area in the NC Stardard Course of Study Health section. The book deals with a death of a close loved one and shows how well the child handles with coping. A teaching idea that I would incorporate into my classroom would be to have an open discussion about the topic, coping with loss. Then I would read the novel out loud to my students and ask questions as I read. After I finished reading the book I would have my students talk about any deaths they have experienced (only if they are willing to do so) and then ask them to talk about how they coped with the death. Once everyone who wanted to share was done, I would have all my students write a journal entry either about the book or about the death that they had to cope with (something more personal so some students might not want to write on this topic, so give options).


Title: Owen (Caldecott Honor Book)

Author: Kevin Henkes

Illustrator: Kevin Henkes

Publisher & Publication Date: Greenwillow Books, 1993

Genre: Traditional Literature, picture book

Grade Level: K-1

Summary: Owen is about a young mouse that carries around his favorite blanket all the time. His parents try to get him to stop carrying it around before he has to start school, but he refuses. They go to their neighbor for advice and she gives them different ideas, but nothing seems to work. Finally, his mother comes up with her "absolutely wonderful, positively perfect, especially terrific idea" of making the blanket into a handkerchief. Owen is satisfied with this solution and then begins to take his handkerchief everywhere like he did the blanket.

Response: I love Owen! I remember reading this book in elementary school. I would make my mom listen to me read it all the time. I had completely forgotten about it until I selected Kevin Henkes as my author/illustrator study. Reading it brought back all the childhood memories of looking forward to reading circle in Kindergarten and of all the countless times I read it on my own or to my family. I never realized how much a simple item meant to a young child when I read it when I was younger, but now that I am grown and I understand things better I understand the idea of the story. I never really had an item that I was so attached to that I wouldn't give it up for anything. I do however have a few blankets that I like to take with me everywhere I go (college, home, vacation). I am not attached to it, I just really like it and it is really warm. I associated this book with the other mouse books that Kevin Henkes wrote, like Chrysanthemum and Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse.

Teaching Ideas: A simple activity that you can use in your classroom would be to have your students bring in their favorite blanket for show-and-tell. Then design a sheet with different shaped "blankets" with the names of different colors in each of the shapes. Have your students color the "blankets" correctly and then have them show you which "blanket" is the same as Owen's and which "blanket" matches the color and shape of like their favorite that they brought in for show-and-tell. This helps students learn how to spell and recognize colors and match shapes of things.

Snowflake Bentley

Title: Snowflake Bentley (Caldecott Medal Winner)

Author: Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Illustrator: Mary Azarian

Publisher & Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998

Genre: Biography, informational, picture book

Grade Level: 2-4

Summary: Snowflake Bentley is a picture book biography of the self-taught scientist, Wilson Bentley. The book tells the story of how Willie Bentley became a famous photographer of snowflakes and other things in nature. On almost every page there is some biographical information of Bentley. The story takes you through his life, but on a level that young children would be able to understand. It starts with his love of the snow, then goes on to tell how he wanted a camera, and then how he got one. It then goes on to tell of how he tries to photograph the snowflakes and then how he starts to photograph nature. It tells when he died and how he died, and also gives information about the monument that was built in his honor in his hometown.

Response: I think that Snowflake Bentley is a wonderful book. It is so inspiring and really teaches the reader a lot about someone from history. I noticed as I was reading that in the side margins of the pages there were small pieces of information about Wilson Bentley. I think that is a great idea, because information is given not only about Bentley's life but about Vermont, early cameras, and snowflakes. I did not know of Wilson Bentley before I read this book, and I think that my students will not know who he is either. This book reminded me of when I was younger and how I was interested in caterpillars. I used to catch them all the time and keep them to examine them. I wanted to know everything about them, where they were coming from and what they ate. I made a strong connection with this story because of the fact that I was so interested in something so simple when I was growing up.

Teaching Ideas: An activity that you could do with your students is to have them think of something that they are really interested in. Then have them do a mini-research assignment. Take them to the computer lab and to the library to do their research. Have the students write down what they want to know about the thing they have selected, and then have them do the research to answer their questions. Of course you would have to help them find ways to research their topic. This is also a great way to introduce children the idea of researching. This would be very beneficial to them as they progress in school. They will already have basic research skills and knowledge of something that is really interesting to them. You could also provide good, credible websites for the children the check out while they are researching.

What Do You Do With A Tail Like This?

Title: What Do You Do With A Tail Like This? (Caldecott Honor Book)

Author & Illustrators: Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Publisher & Date of Publication: Houghton Mifflin Children's Books, 2003

Genre: Informational, Picture book

Grade Level: K-3

Summary: What Do You Do With A Tail Like This? is an informational, picture book about different animals and their body parts. A question is asked and the body part of the animal that the question is asking about is illustrated. Then on the following page the answers to the questions are given. The questions asked are; "What do you do with a nose like this?", "What do you do with ears like these?", "What do you do with a tail like this?", What do you do with eyes like these?", "What do you do with feet like these?", and "What do you do with a mouth like this?", in that order. At the end of the book descriptions and information is given about the different animals that were asked about in the book.

Response: I think this is a wonderful and very informative book for growing minds. I liked the illustrations of the different animals. I also liked the way uncommon animals were used in the book. Young children have probably never heard of some of the animals so this book is a great learning experience. I even learned from the book, so I know my students would learn a lot from it. I could see myself reading this to my class and being surprised at the things I learned from it. It made me feel young and innocent again, because of the information that I did not already know that I learned from the simple picture book. The book kind of reminded me of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? I think it was because of the animal associations and maybe because of the illustrations.

Teaching Ideas: Have your students draw an animal that they have made up. Make sure they draw the body parts from the book; nose, tail, eyes, feet. Then have your students describe the animal to you, and then tell you what each body part is used for. For older students (second and third grade) have them write down their description and the uses of the body parts. For younger students (Kindergarten and first grade) have them tell you and then have them write down their favorite body part and what it does.