Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wild About Books (and who isn't?)

I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday and simply could not leave without this awesome picture book:  Wild About Books by Judy Sierra.  I was not familiar with the works of Judy Sierra, but if you click on her name it will take you to her web page where she has many other books that look fun.  However, this is about her most recent book that I am wild about!

This book is about a librarian who drives her bookmobile into the zoo.  The animals discover all the wonderful books she has and begin reading. They read everything!  The monkeys read banana cook books, the crocodiles read Peter Pan, the otters read Harry Potter, and the hyenas read joke books.  That's just a few of them.  All the different animals read books that somehow connect to the type of animal they are.  Best of all, the love of reading in the book leads to, wait for it. . . , WRITING!  The animals are inspired to write their own stories.

When I read this book in the store, I immediately made a text-to-self connection.  When I was a little girl, we lived in an apartment complex.  Every other week, the local book mobile would come and park itself next to the playground.  My parents didn't have a lot of money, so buying books wasn't an option.  I remember walking into the bookmobile that first time and being simply stunned that I could read all these books for FREE! It was like someone had opened a candy store just for me.  I haven't seen a bookmobile in ages.  Do they still even have them?  Hmmm , thinking about it now, you might have to explain the concept to your friends before you read this book!

Regardless, there are so many things to love about this book and so many ways to use it in your teaching:
  • Introduce a love of reading and having an opening for your classroom library:  These animals LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the books they get to read, and it comes across well.
  • Genre:  There so many different genres referred to in the text and through the illustrations making it a really good lead into a genre lesson.  It would be great to read aloud and have your friends jot down the different genres they hear and notice.
  • Vocabulary:  This is a great picture book for the upper elementary crowd because it has some sophisticated vocabulary woven throughout.  You will find words like conquer, resistance, niches, devoured, outrageous, pretentious, and  redundant. You can easily use the text to teach using context clues to define unknown words.  However, the more sophisticated vocabulary will in no way prevent out lower elementary friends from enjoying the book.
  • Word Choice: As Molly McGrew, the librarian, reads aloud the animals don't come to her.  They are attracted to her.  The animals don't walk over, they are stampeding.  The termites don't eat the book, they devoured it.  There are many, many examples of excellent word choice throughout the text.
  • Poetry:  There is a two page spread where the insects write haiku.  They are silly and fun and perfect examples.
  • Strong Openings in Writing:  Just look at this picture I took from the book:
On the page you find this illustration, the cheetah has begun to write a novel.  In case you can't read it, the illustration above shows the opening to his novel.  It reads:  "It was a dark and stormy night.  The wind howled.  The moon cast a mournful pale yellow glow.  Dogs wailed in the . . . "  Come on, how great is that?!  The look on the monkey's face is priceless.  If that doesn't clearly show your friends how a good beginning can pull in a reader, I don't know what does.  It would also be great for teaching mood.

Those are just a few of the lessons I could think of off the top of my head.  I have no doubt you will find many uses for this amazing picture book.  I should mention just a couple of other things.  First, the illustrator.  The illustrator is Marc Brown.  Our friend from all the Arthur books?  Yep, that's him, and the illustrations are amazing.  Amazing as in beautiful to look at, but also amazingly detailed.  You can really examine the illustrations to get more information than the text offers.  The illustrations are great for a lesson on drawing conclusions or making inferences.

The other thing I want to mention is that the book is an award winner.  Now, I'm ashamed to admit that I was not so familiar with the E.B. White Read Aloud Award.  Here's a blurb from their web page to explain:
"The E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, established in 2004, honor books that reflect the universal read aloud standards that were created by the work of the author E.B. White in his classic books for children: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. In the first two years of the award, a single book was selected.  In 2006, in recognition of the fact that reading aloud is a pleasure at any age, the award was expanded into two categories: Picture Books, and Older Readers.Books are nominated for their universal appeal as a “terrific” books to read aloud.
After a list of nominations is gathered from ABC booksellers, a shortlist of four books in each category is determined by a committee of booksellers chaired by an ABC Board member."

If you follow the link I highlighted above, it will take you to their web page where you can view current and previous winners in the different categories.  I plan to check it out and see what I've been missing!

Finally, I leave you with this illustration from the book.  After you read Wild About Books, you will be sure to feel the way this little lady does. . .
Disclaimer:  These are my own thoughts on the book I purchased.  Judy Sierra, Marc Brown, and their publishing company don't even know I can read!

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