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Archive for November, 2010

Leaf Man

November’s already on its way out, and before all the trees are completely bare, I needed to actually talk about fall kinds of things–like leaves, maybe.

So before Thanksgiving, I whipped out one of my favorites: Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. I’m always looking to stretch my kids’ imaginations and this book, in conjunction with Look What I Did with a Leaf! by Morteza E. Sohi does just that.

Ehlert begins with a Leaf Man–one meant to travel on the winds. And that he does, flying over rolling mountains, leaf animals, foliage, and crops. Eye-catching colors and interesting design elements (the page tops curve or zigzag here and there) keep the class focused, as do the illustrations made from leaves. For kinders, the ability to see past the actual object and onto another level can be a learned skill, and they take delight in being able to do just that.

I always remind my class that leaves can be found everywhere. We talk about the different kinds of leaves and acorns that we find on our campus, and that the variety is greater in the community around them. I’ve never followed up with a Leaf Man of our own, although the urge is there. I’ve got too many crafts already with the holidays, but I’m determined to squeeze it in this year after a fall walk to collect leaves. And as an extension into writing, I’m going to have them add the sentence “My Leaf Man went to _________________.” at the bottom of their art.

Following this book up with the non-fiction book Look What I Did With a Leaf! extends the project even further, for now they can contemplate elephants! Cows! Turtles! Fish!

Then, if you want another book to tie in, why not Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf , also by Lois Ehlert. All three work perfectly together, and your kindergartners will be enthralled and delighted by fall and the leaves around them.

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Thanksgiving, already?

I’ve dragged out all those books, along with my nonfiction and fiction about Indians, since our Indian jackets, necklaces, headbands, and drums are ready to go. Yes, it’s craft season in the classroom, but also time to give them some sense of how various Indian tribes lived and to convey the notion that tribal life–homes, clothing, food–varied due to location. So I contrast the tribes of the Northeast with other Indian peoples and use fiction to support that.

One of the most beautifully illustrated books in my collection is The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon, and a retelling of an Algonquin folktale.

An Invisible Being lives near this Algonquin village, and every young maiden wishes to marry him–but in order to do that, the young woman he chooses must have seen him.

Enter the two cruel older sisters and the younger sister who has been the fire tender of the family–and is covered with scars from the burns she has received over the years.

Does it remind you of Cinderella?

You bet. The two older sisters attempt to lie their way into becoming the bride of the Invisible Being, and fail. The youngest, who must make do with her father’s remaining broken bits of shells and too-large moccasins, is mocked as she leaves the village. But because she, of all the people, can see the Invisible Being, the tale ends with her being the chosen bride.

After the reading–in which certain vocabulary words need explaining and the image of the Invisible Being’s face merged with her world needs to be pointed out–I always ask what story this sounds like, and there’s usually at least one child who can connect it to Cinderella.

The illustrations, though, make this book. The youngest daughter, scars and all, is beautiful. The natural phenomena that surround the village and reflect the Invisible Being are also images of beauty.

One of the best illustrated books ever and well worth a place in your child’s or classroom’s library. And then, right after reading this one, pull out The Mud Pony or Raven.

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It’s feeling like fall here in Southern California, even though it’s stopped raining and the temperatures have hit the 80’s again. Still leaves have dropped, and there’s a nice crispness to the mornings.

Plus Halloween is over. So, no matter the temperature, it’s time for something… fallish.

Which means: Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper.

This story is relatively new to me, but what first captured my attention were the delightfully amusing illustrations and Cooper’s amazing use of light. I love them.

So does my class.

Cat, Squirrel, and Duck share a small teapot-shaped house, and each has an assigned task: Cat cuts the pumpkins, Squirrel stirs in the water, and Duck adds the salt.

Until one morning, when Duck decides he should man the spoon.

A rousing squabble ensues, and Duck, angered by the others’ inability to share, leaves home.

But when Duck does not return in time for lunch, his friends, imagining his dire fate, decide to search. Unsuccessful, they sadly return home only to find Duck already there.

And there is much rejoicing. Duck gets to stir the soup, the others say nothing at his obvious lack or expertise, and all is well.

Until Duck decides he should be able to play Cat’s bagpipes.

This is a lovely tale about friendship and dealing with a friend’s desire to grow. Children understand the squabbling animals’ dilemma, and it’s easy for them to empathize with both Duck’s and his friends’ points of view–because chances are quite good they’ve experienced both sides before.

I’m grateful to have this one in my personal library, and in my search for online sites to link to, I discovered two more of the series. Guess what I’m buying immediately?

A Pipkin of Pepper and Delicious! by Helen Cooper, of course! I can’t wait to read them to my class.

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