Monday, February 13, 2017

Frederick


Author and Illustrator: Leo Lionni

Publisher: Alfred A. Knoff, Inc.

Publication Year: 1967

ISBN-13: 978-0399555527

In Frederick, a family of field mice prepares for the winter. The other field mice get upset when Frederick appears to sit around instead of gathering food like the rest of them. Instead, Frederick reports that he gathers sun rays, colors, and words for winter. When winter comes and they begin to run low on food, Frederick shares the things he has been gathering. After hearing his beautiful words, the mice see the value in Frederick's gift.

This book blurs the lines between animal fantasy and fable. The illustrations and simple plot lead the reader to quickly develop an interest for the story and a love for Frederick and his gift. Leo Lionni presents a lesson that audiences will appreciate and relate to for years to come.

Awards and Reviews:
“A charming fable, it deserves to take its place once again with other beloved Lionni favorites.”          -Children’s Literature

This book received the Caldecott Honor.

The message of Frederick speaks to the gifted learner struggling with seeing the value in others or the gifted learner needing to understand the value of oneself when they seem so different. Those struggling to see the value in others' differences learn that sometimes people may surprise you. Those needing to understand the value of oneself relate to Frederick as the field mice disapprove of his behaviors, but then imagine seeing the value in their own gifts when Frederick comes through for his family. 

I like to use this book to lead into discussions of each of our gifts and their values. Additionally, Leo Lionni makes a great choice for an author study in the primary classroom.

What Do You Do with an Idea?



Author: Kobi Yamada

Illustrator: Mae Besom

Publisher: Compendium, Inc.

Publication Year: 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1938298073


What Do You Do with an Idea? presents an inspirational message for students.

In this book, Kobi Yamada writes the story of a boy who has a brilliant idea. He first tries to ignore it, but finds that the idea follows him. Later, after he accepts the idea, others disapprove and the boy almost leaves it behind. Eventually, the boy's confidence grows, and with it the idea.

Yamada writes this story almost as a procedural text. The illustrations and language of the book make it easily accessible to its audience. While it may not represent a traditional procedural text with very specific steps, this one still leads audiences to imagine how to go through the same process with their own ideas.

Awards:
Gold medal winner of the Independent Publishers Award, the Washington State Book Award, and the Moonbeam Children's Book Award.

Children's Book Review:
"What makes this message so unique is the simple but beautiful way it's delivered, in narrative and illustration, through the eyes and voice of an innocent and hopeful child. What Do You Do With An Idea? is a spectacular book for all ages and is a wonderful treasure for any home or school library." 

For gifted students, What Do You Do with an Idea? acts as an inspiration to work hard at developing their own ideas. This non-traditional procedural text helps teach gifted students how to make a decision about sticking with an idea. It shows them that they should expect others to disapprove and push through that. It also reiterates the fact that they will need to work on their idea to improve it.

In the classroom, this book works wonderfully with the Design Process or in conjunction with an introduction to Genius Hour. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Just Plain Fancy


Author and Illustrator: Patricia Polacco

Publisher: Dragonfly Books

Publication Year: 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0440409373

Two sisters, Naomi and Ruth, live in an Amish community. They discover an egg in the hen house that looks different than the others. In a plain world, this egg presents intrigue. Once the egg hatches, they find a "chicken" who does not appear plain at all. In fear of the elders shunning this fancy "chicken", Naomi and Ruth attempt to hide him. With quite an entrance, the elders discover the fancy chicken and the girls learn that this peacock was meant to be fancy.

This example of realistic fiction provides a plot that readers will enjoy. Readers learn about the Amish community and easily understand the characters. Polacco's incredible illustrations add to the understanding and power of the story. Best of all, even though Polacco wrote the book in 1990, the message relates to children today.

Publishers Weekly:
"Naomi and Ruth are sisters who live on a farm in Pennyslvania's Amish country, where people take pride in their uncomplicated lives. But Naomi complains that everything in her life--from her clothes to her chickens--is plain. The girl longs for "something fancy." When she and Ruth find an unusual egg by the side of the road, they place it in their hen's nest, hoping it will hatch. It does, and the bird that emerges is obviously not a garden-variety chick. The sisters name it "Fancy," and keep its existence a secret from the grownups, who they fear will shun it. On the day the elders of the community have gathered for a working bee, Fancy breaks out of the henhouse and spreads its feathers in front of the group. By this time perceptive young readers will have gathered that Fancy is a peacock--and Polacco's pictures reveal it to be a magnificent one at that. Naomi is praised for raising such a beautiful bird, and learns that some kinds of "fancy" are acceptable. Polacco's warm story and sensitive illustrations offer a fresh, balanced perspective on Amish life."

Many gifted students need to learn that it is okay to be different. After hearing this story, students learn that individual differences are not only okay, but they are to be celebrated. Presenting this message through realistic fiction is perfect as it allows students to learn and almost experience the lesson as they live vicariously through the characters they read about.

In the classroom this story lends itself well to lead into discussion about what makes each of them unique. Additionally, teachers could use this story when working on realistic predictions or to offer a glimpse into life in an Amish community.

Beautiful Oops!

I see Beautiful Oops! as an essential piece to any GT teacher's book collection.


Author and Illustrator: Barney Saltzberg

Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.

Publication Year: 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0761157281

In Beautiful Oops!, Barney Saltzberg takes readers on an adventure of "happy accidents." As the reader unfolds, lifts, or turns the pages,he enters a world where mistakes present a chance for creativity. That torn piece of paper becomes the mouth of an alligator. The bent page becomes a penguin beak. The story sets off to convince readers that mistakes are not the end of the world, but in fact present an opportunity for celebration.

This unusual example of persuasive text presents a strong case against feeling sorry for mistakes. Saltzberg's illustrations and the whimsical design of the book draw readers in and open their minds to the possibilities mistakes present. Despite the fact that Saltzberg uses very few words in this book, the creative examples he provides give solid support to the argument that people should celebrate their mistakes.

Kirkus Reviews:
"A pleasingly tactile exploration of the possibilities inherent in mistakes. "A torn piece of paper... is just the beginning!" Spills, folded paper, drips of paint, smudges and smears—they "all can make magic appear." An increasingly complex series of scenarios celebrates random accidents, encouraging artistic experimentation rather than discouragement. The folded-over paper can be a penguin's head; a torn piece of newsprint can turn into a smiling dog with a little application of paint; a hot-chocolate stain can become a bog for a frog. Thanks to a telescoping pop-up, a hole is filled with nearly limitless possibilities. The interactive elements work beautifully with the photo-collaged "mistakes," never overwhelming the intent with showiness. Saltzberg's trademark cartoon animals provide a sweetly childlike counterpoint to the artful scribbles and smears of gloppy paint. A festive invitation to creative liberation."

For the gifted child struggling with perfectionism, this book provides an alternative view. Additionally, a goal of many if not most gifted programs remains the development of student creativity. This book holds potential to open doors of possibility for students needing more examples of creativity.

One way to use the book in a gifted classroom is in conjunction with draw starts. After reading and discussing the book, the teacher gives students a paper (or choice between two papers) with 1-2 lines drawn on it. Then, each student looks at the line and determines what picture they could draw that would utilize that line or "mistake."

Author and illustrator, Barney Saltzberg created a site with resources for teachers who want to take the message of Beautiful Oops! to their classrooms everyday. Click here to learn more.


Ish

Somewhat similar to Beautiful Oops!, Ish also makes a great addition to the GT classroom library.


Author and Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Year: 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0763623449

In the story Ish, Ramon loves to draw. Well, he loved to draw until his brother Leon laughed at one of his drawings. After that, Ramon attempted to draw, but never found himself satisfied with any of his pieces. One day, he discovers his sister Marisol's room full of his crumpled drawings. She explains to him that his drawings are not perfect, but are "ish." That's all Ramon needed to let his ideas flow freely and to develop his love for drawing once again.

This work of realistic fiction boasts incredible illustrations that accompany the easy-to-follow plot. Students who read or listen to this book easily relate to the story, the characters, and the message. Its audiences will find the message applicable for years to come.

School Library Journal:
"Reynolds follows The Dot (Candlewick, 2003) with this companion story about creativity and the artistic process. Ramon loves to draw: "Anytime. Anything. Anywhere." When his older brother laughs at one of his pictures and points out that it does not look like a real vase of flowers, a dejected Ramon crumples up all of his efforts. However, he soon learns that his younger sister has hung the discarded papers on her bedroom walls. When he declares that the picture of the vase doesn't look like the real thing, she says that it looks "vase-ISH." The child then begins to produce paintings that look "tree-ish," "afternoon-ish," and "silly-ish." His "ish art" inspires him to look at all creative endeavors differently. The watercolor, ink, and tea illustrations have a childlike charm. Set against white backgrounds, the quirky line drawings and restrained use of color combine to create an attractive, unique picture book. The small size lends itself to one-on-one sharing and thoughtful examination. Ish, like Leo Lionni's Frederick (Knopf, 1967), encourages readers to see the world anew." - Shawn Brommer, South Central Library System, Madison, WI

This book speaks directly to the gifted perfectionists. As they listen to the story, they see themselves in Ramon's character. After seeing the frustration he goes through and then hearing the wonderful freedom Marisol grants her brother with the word "ish," students will find themselves using the "ish" philosophy as well.

In my classroom, I simply use this as a discussion about allowing ourselves to put forth our best effort each day, and understanding that does not equal perfection. After reading this book, we quickly adopt the word "ish" in our classroom and use it throughout the year to remind ourselves of Peter H. Reynolds message.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Thanks for the Feedback... (I Think!)






Author: Julia Cook

Illustrator: Kelsey De Weerd

Publisher: Boys Town Press

Publication Year: 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1934490495

Thanks for the Feedback... (I Think!) represents another excellent story for gifted children.

In this story, RJ struggles to know exactly what to say when he receives compliments or criticism. With the help of his mom and dad, RJ learns the social skills he needs to accept compliments and criticism.

In this narrative nonfiction piece, illustrator Kelsey De Weerd has created illustrations that perfectly support the message Julia Cook has written for children. Julia Cook writes in a way that students can so easily understand her message and apply it to their own lives. 

This book has been honored by Mom's Choice Awards.

The story of RJ learning how to accept compliments and criticism can act as a social story for gifted students struggling with the same thing. Many gifted students grapple with perfectionism, and this story touches on that in such an easy-to-understand way.

In my classroom, I use this story in connection with goal setting. At the beginning of the year, we usually set goals in at least two areas as this is an important skill for students to learn and is a big push in my district. We read the story, talk about RJ's struggles and share any connections or "ah-has" we have, and then refer back to the story when we set and reflect on our goals.

We just finished mid-year goal setting in my classroom. To simplify it for second graders, I had them look back some work I had saved since the beginning of the year, note their specific improvements, and then set a new goal that they were responsible for tracking. Feel free to download the work reflection and goal setting sheets below.


Eggbert, The Slightly Cracked Egg

Over the next few weeks, I plan to share fifteen of my favorite books to use with elementary gifted students.



Author: Tom Ross

Illustrator: Rex Barron

Publisher: PaperStar

Publication Year: 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0698114449

Eggbert, The Slightly Cracked Egg always finds its way into my beginning of the year must read pile.

In this story, the foods in the fridge discover that Eggbert is slighty cracked. After they kick him out, Eggbert searches for his place in the world, and uses his artistic talent to attempt to blend in. Eventually Eggbert discovers that the world is full of cracks, and instead of trying to hide it he should take pride in his crack.

This low fantasy story does a great job captivating the reader right away. The illustrations follow the plot beautifully, and help develop a believable story despite the fact that the main character is an egg who can talk, paint, and survive much longer than an actual cracked egg! Best of all, what Eggbert learns from his quest for his place in the world represents a universal truth that children easily relate to.

From School Library Journal:
"PreSchool-Grade 2-The other eggs in the refrigerator admire Eggbert's remarkable paintings-until they discover that he has a slight crack. Because of his defect, he is banished from his home. At first he uses his artistic talent to attempt to camouflage himself, but his disguises are quickly discovered. Then he realizes that the world contains many lovely cracks. Brush in hand, he travels the globe and produces wonderful paintings of fissures found in things such as volcanoes and the Liberty Bell. Back at the refrigerator, his former friends ponder his hand-painted postcards with amazement and a touch of sadness. The story might be read as a commentary on the lives of artists and/or the dangers and blessings of nonconformity; however, young readers will be more engaged by the illustrations than by philosophical reflections. Eggs and vegetables rarely assume such lifelike expressions and stances, and the simple text and clear design add up to read-aloud potential. Eggbert is an egg worth watching."-Kathy Piehl, Mankato State University, MN

Gifted students often struggle with understanding and accepting themselves. Even at a young age students notice how they differ from other students and need to learn to accept and appreciate themselves. Eggbert, The Slightly Cracked Egg represents an excellent choice to help primary students learn to understand themselves.

I typically read this book during the first week of school. Afterwards, we have a discussion about what makes each student unique, and we celebrate that. To remind them of this message throughout the year, we create an Eggbert puzzle poster.


Beforehand, I draw an egg on a piece of poster board, and write each student's name to ensure they know which direction is up. Without telling my class what the puzzle pieces will create when put together, they decorate their pieces to represent themselves. Once everyone is finished, they work together to fit the pieces together and discover that they have created Eggbert!