Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunshine State Book Reviews 2014-2015: 8 Class Pets

Hey y'all!  Today's post is another Sunshine State Book review for the book 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel Divided by 1 Dog = Chaos by Vivian Vande Velde.

Here is the summary from Amazon:
Twitch, the school yard squirrel, has really gotten himself into a bind this time. While trying to escape from a hungry owl, he roused the principal's dog and got chased into the school. Now he's locked in for a dangerous and disastrous night. Can Green Eggs and Hamster, Sweetie the library rat, and the other school pets save Twitch from the crazed dog, Cuddles? In this uproarious chapter book, a group of small animals manages to turn an elementary school into a real zoo.

I loved this book!  It was SO cute!  It's essentially a comedy of errors as this squirrel is running through the school, classroom to classroom, looking for help trying to escape an angry dog.  As he visits each classroom he also finally meets the class pets he has only seen through the windows.  Each chapter is a new class pet and these characters are hysterical!  I think my favorite is Miss Lucy Cottontail (the bunny rabbit in second grade).  She is very smart, almost too smart for her own good, and doesn't really understand how others are not as smart as her.  Needless to say we've all had a kid like this in our class and I just love them!  They might drive some people batty and others might think they have bad manners but I don't know what it is, I just like them!  So of course, I love Lucy - which is also my favorite TV show ;)  Fancy that!

Now, this SSS list is for third through fifth grade but I think this book falls into a much broader category.  It is a very short read and a very easy read.  Here are it's stats:

Reading Level: 4.4
Lexile Level: 740L
Pages: 68 pgs.

You look at that and say, "Besides the small amount of page numbers, what's the big deal?"  I think the only reason it got such a high Lexile level is because at the beginning of each chapter it tells some background information about that particular animal: what it eats, where it lives/comes from, habits, sometimes it even goes into their Latin names, etc.  I really do think that some second graders could read this independently or it could even be a first grade read aloud.  Some of the scientific information and sarcasm might go over their head but they will still understand the story.  Now, this in no way diminishes the book in my eyes!  This will be perfect for some of my lower readers and might entice them to read more of the SSS books after they finish this one.  I did want to give you a heads up that this is not the normal size/readability that we have seen from the SSS list in the past ;o)

Possible ways to use this in your classroom:
  • Compare and contrast two of the class pets in the book.
  • Research one of the class pets.  You can come up with your own criteria on what you want them to find and how you want them to present it to the class.
  • Come up with your own class pet!  What would their name be?  What is their personality?
  • Divide your class up into roles and reenact the story.
  • Create a book trailer.
I hope y'all enjoy this book as much as I did!  Very quick read but it will bring a smile to your face :o)  Next up on the review list, thanks to my friend Alison over at Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin' for the recommendation, Elvis and the Underdogs by Jenny Lee!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunshine State Book Reviews 2014-2015: King of the Mound

It's another year and another set of Sunshine State books!  I'm actually pretty excited about this year's line-up.  There seem to be a good mix of genres and I think my kids will really enjoy them.


I've joined up with a couple other teacher's from my county and we're meeting weekly for a Sunshine State Book Club to discuss the different books and ways to incorporate them into our classroom.  The first book I read was King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige by Wes Tooke.

Description from Amazon:

When Nick is released from the hospital after suffering from polio, he is sure that his father will never look at him in the same way again. Once the best pitcher in youth league, Nick now walks with a limp and is dependent on a heavy leg brace. He isn’t sure he will ever return to the mound, never mind be the star he once was.

When Nick starts working for Mr. Churchill, the owner of the semiprofessional team Nick’s dad plays for, he meets Satchel Paige, arguably the best pitcher in the world. Not allowed in the major leagues because of his skin color, Satchel teaches Nick that some things can be overcome with hard work and dedication, and that just because you’re down, you are most certainly not out.

As Satchel and his unique teammates barnstorm toward a national baseball tournament, Nick wonders if he can really overcome what seems like the impossible and pitch again.

I really liked this book!  It showed what life was like during this time period, not only the injustice against African Americans in the United States and baseball, but also how the American people were effected by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.  It doesn't come right out and mention these historical moments, so they are something you will probably want to discuss with your class.  I also love that the chapter titles are innings, a wonderful metaphor for Nick's life: top of the eighth, bottom of the ninth, etc.

I would recommend this book for 4th and 5th graders for multiple reasons!  I will read it to my 4th graders aloud because there is just SO much to discuss but your fifth graders can probably understand most of it on their own.  There is tons of fabulous vocabulary, both robust and historical.  There is also an ABUNDANCE of figurative language!  That Satchel Paige is just full of colorful similes and metaphors!  This would be an excellent read aloud during Black History month as well :o)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Grades: 4th - 5th
Lexile: 900
Length: 155 pgs.
Food: Ice Cream, Coke (glass bottle), Sunflower Seeds, Baseball foods (although none of these were actually ever mentioned in the book)

You might or might not remember, but we usually do a Sunshine State Feast at the end of the year for our kids who read all 15 of the books.  Included in the feast are games, scavenger hunts, and a food item from every book.  Hence the food choices above (just in case you want to do the same)!

Supplemental Resources:

This is a short (four minute) video about Satchel Paige and his baseball career.  I love that this video talks about his "mysterious age" and you will hear Satch himself say some of his famous quotes that your kids will find in the book as well!

A great companion picture book is Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead.  They mention this moment, when Satch plays against Joe, a couple of times in King of the Mound but this picture book tells the actual story of what happened at that fateful meeting.
My kids always love the little side stories and want to know more!  This would be a perfect book to introduce the Great Depression, Segregation, and the Dust Bowl.  Again, the author never comes out and mentions these events by name (except for segregation) but the things that are happening to the main and secondary characters are because of these events.  Here are a few resources if your kids would like to know more about them.

BrainPop Great Depression - The Great Depression was a tough time for everyone. Find out just how tough in this BrainPOP movie, as Tim and Moby introduce you to life during the Great Depression! You’ll learn exactly how many Americans were out of work, as well as some of the ways that people tried to make money and survive. You’ll also find out why the Depression was actually good for unions — and why it was especially bad for farmers in the Great Plains. Plus, you’ll see how people tried to keep up hope, and why things eventually started to get a little better. Even the worst of times pass on eventually!

PBS Interactive Dust Bowl - Students will be able to make their own choices one whether they want to stay and risk it all or move away.  They will experience the ups and downs of farming in the 1930's and how the market was at this time.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I do and stay tuned for the next Sunshine State Book... 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel / 1 Dog = CHAOS by Steve Bjorkman.