Review: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

The Invisible Boy The Invisible Boy
by Trudy Ludwig

ISBN-13: 9781582464503
Published: October 8, 2013 from Alfred A. Knopf
Purchased by my school
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party… until, that is, a new kid comes to class.

When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.

pencil divider

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig is a sweet book about what it means to acknowledge others. I love reading this one to my students early in the year as we often refer to it as conflicts arise in the classroom. Every year, a student makes connections to the beginning of the book when it talks about students who talk loudly, or misbehave, or are silly, etc. taking up most of the teacher’s time and other students not being noticed because of it.

Students notice how Brian is faded and colourless in the beginning, but slowly changes to full colour as he is “seen” by Justin. We have discussions around how it only takes one person to make another feel happy and confident, and included. We talk about reaching out past our current friends to find someone knew, who they may not have thought to play with.

It’s a powerful story with beautiful illustrations and definitely belongs in every classroom!


Review: The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

The Wild Robot The Wild Robot
by Peter Brown

ISBN-13: 9780316381994
Publication: April 5, 2016 from Little, Brown BYR
Purchased by me
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz’s only hope is to learn from the island’s hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her…

pencil divider

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown is a class favourite. It has taken a number of years to find decently long chapter books that are suitable as read alouds for my grade one/two class – children aged 5-8 (it’s quite a range!) and The Wild Robot is a winner. It’s written in amazingly kid friendly language using a fantastic mix of “big” words and simple sentences in a vivid visual manner, and the narrator often speaks to the audience. The story doesn’t shy away from the often harsh aspects of life for wild animals (and wild robots) living on a wild island. It speaks of death plainly and matter-of-factly, but also the beautiful moments of living in and with nature.

I read The Wild Robot near the end of the school year, around March – my kiddos are more mature and I leave myself enough time to read the sequel, The Wild Robot Escapes if they ask for it. And they always do. Students become attached to Roz and Brightbill and the other animals of the island, and need to know what happens after the end.

I found this story perfect for helping students visualize, infer and predict. Chapter titles help students predict what will be happening next, and they use their knowledge of the characters and the island to read between the lines in many scenes. The illustrations are nice additions to their own visualizations.

The Wild Robot is a book that is here to stay in my classroom!

Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch

Moira's Birthday Moira’s Birthday
by Robert Munsch
ISBN-13: 9-780920-303832
Publisher: Annick Press

Moira invites grades 1 to 6 and kindergarten to her birthday party. But her parents don’t know – until…

Teachable Moment

Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch belongs to the Cumulative Sequence section of the Touchstone books. Books found in this section all involve a plot which introduces a series of events, characters or items in cumulative order, with the previous events, characters or items being repeated with each addition.

I adore Robert Munsch books. I think they are perfect for early reading, and are usually quite humourous. In Moira’s Birthday, Moira invites grade 1, grade 2, grade 3, grade 4, grade 5, grade 6 and kindergarten to her birthday party, with unforeseen results. How will her parents feed all those children? Where will Moira put all her presents? And who is expected to clean up the huge mess! The story is cute and funny, and will definitely hold a child’s attention. What makes it fit into the Cumulative Sequence section is the repetition and addition of the 200 students, the pizzas, cakes, and presents. Not only characters and things, but places and events are also repeated as each new one is added into the story.

Grade: two
Time: 1 hour

None – just the book

Bring students together in a group and read Moira’s Birthday out loud. As you are reading, stop frequently to discuss the order of events in the story, and how things just keep building on top of each other. The six guests become two hundred, ten pizzas arrive before ten cakes, etc. Use the illustrations in the book to help students predict what will happen next, and to judge comprehension of the story. Have the students predict what Moira will do with the gifts and the food. Ask what they would do if they were Moira.

Once you have read the book, sit the students in a book circle. Play a game that deals with cumulative events called Going on a Picnic. The first student states that he/she is going on a picnic and is going to bring [something] (the teacher could start to showcase what to do). The next student in the circle will say they are going on a picnic and will bring [first item] and [they pick an item].
Teacher: I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring a blanket.
1st Student: I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring a blanket and a Frisbee.

As the circle goes on, the list gets longer and longer. This will help teach students that things or events that come before are just as important as the ones happening immediately. One thing affects another. Not only will this book help in prediction, but in student memory as well. They will need to remember what has come before in the story in order to better understand what is happening, and will happen.

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato
by Lauren Child

ISBN-13: 9-780763-621803
Publication: September 2003 from Candlewick Press

Lola is a fussy eater. A very fussy eater. She won’t eat her carrots (until her brother Charlie reveals that they’re orange twiglets from Jupiter). She won’t eat her mashed potatoes (until Charlie explains that they’re cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji). There are many things Lola won’t eat, including – and especially – tomatoes. Or will she? Two endearing siblings star in a witty story about the triumph of imagination over proclivity.

Teachable Moment

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child belongs to the Seeking Meaning During Reading section of the Touchstone books. This section contains books that can be used to engage students in making connections. This helps in encouraging children to really think about what it is they are reading, by asking questions, re-reading, and talking about specific sections. All of this will aid in the student’s comprehension of the text.

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato is a very cute book, about an older sister who gets her younger picky-eater sister to eat various foods by telling her they are things like cloud fluff, mermaid food and twiglets from Jupiter. It is cute at the end of the story how the younger sister, Lola, turns the tables on her older sister, Charlie, by requesting to eat a tomato and calling it a moonsquirter – Charlie didn’t think they were actually tomatoes, did she? The story is good for Seeking Meaning due to all of the changes to the food made throughout the book. Students should be encouraged to stop and discuss the changes made – how are peas like green drops from Greenland? Have students clarify that the carrots are still carrots, even though Charlie gives them a different name. Question why Lola agrees to eat the food – doesn’t she realize the mashed potatoes are still potatoes, not cloud fluff? Talk about imagination and belief with the students in order to understand why Charlie and Lola give the food different names.

Grade: two
Time: 1 hour

Chart Paper

Read the story out loud to students in a group setting. As I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato is part of the Seeking Meaning section, use frequent stops to question the students about what they are hearing. Double check that students understand that the food Lola and Charlie are eating has not actually changed – the sisters are using their imaginations to make the food more interesting to eat.
Why did Charlie tell Lola the food is different?
Are there any foods you don’t like to eat?
How does Lola’s imagination let her eat the food after Charlie changes the name?

Using chart paper, ask each student for one food that they will never eat. After the list is complete, add your own food to it. Using your own as an example, ask the students to brainstorm what they could imagine that food to be that would make it interesting and good to eat.

After the brainstorming session is complete, instruct students that they are to do the same thing with the food they listed previously on the chart paper. After explaining the instructions, hand out a worksheet. Allow them to consult with the students sitting around them for brainstorming ideas, but make sure they are doing their own work. Students will draw a picture of what their food looks like, and then write a paragraph explaining what it ‘really’ is.

Please e-mail me if you would like the worksheet to this, or any, of the lessons.

Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak

Chicken Soup with Rice Chicken Soup with Rice
by Maurice Sendak

ISBN-13: 9-780064-432535
Publisher: HarperCollins

Each month is gay,
each season nice,
when eating
chicken soup
with rice.

Teachable Moment

Books listed in each section of the fiction Touchstone Books have particular characteristics. For the section Known or Familiar Sequence, the books are all built around common knowledge that a student should already be in possession of. Think days of the week, months, time, etc. Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak is a small book (literally. It’s only about 6 inches tall) that revolves around the twelve months of the year. Each month consists of a small poem of about ten lines that fits in with the characteristics of that month (snow in winter, sun in summer) and talks about chicken soup with rice – our main characters favourite food, by the looks of it. It’s a very cute rhyming book that could also fit into the section of Repetition.

Chicken Soup with Rice is an exact match to the description of its section. At the top of each small poem is the name of the month it corresponds with, and so children will be able to make the connection with the poem subject matter to the month it represents (ex. skating or snowmen. The pictures will let students see right away that the poem they are going to read is one of the winter months). The illustrations will help with subject and text comprehension, while the rhyming aspects of the poems will help with fluency, and the repetition about the chicken soup with rice at the end of each poem will help with word recognition. This book would work well for children in grades primary (kindergarten), one and two.

Grade: two
Time: 1 hour

Chart Paper
Month Worksheets

Conduct a read aloud with students. Talk about poetry with the students, since each page is a small poem. Discuss how some poems rhyme, and are made up of short sentences. After reading the first month poem (January), have students state which month comes next each time you move on.
– If wanting to use this book for primary/kindergarten, this is a good teaching tool to help teach the order of the months.

Have them predict subject matter for each month by looking at the illustrations.
What do you think this poem is going to be about?
Why do you think the author picked [the subject] to go with [the month]?

After reading a couple of the poems talk with students about how the rhyming aspect of the poetry makes it seem almost like a song – it flows well and is easy to remember. Once the book has been read, have students brainstorm a list of activities/subjects that could go with each month and write them on the chart paper. Make sure to have at least one or two descriptors for each month.

While the students are still in the reading group, explain the activity. They will be given worksheets with twelve squares and they are to draw a picture to describe each month. Underneath each square, there will be space for the student to write down what their picture is representing (ex. a rain cloud – April showers).