James Marshall has written five short stories about George and Martha in George and Martha: One Fine Day.

  1. The Tightrope: Martha loves walking on her tightrope, but Martha loses her confidence when George becomes frightened.
  2. The Diary: Martha cannot seem to find a private moment to write in her diary. Will George learn to be polite and respectful of Martha’s wishes?
  3. The Icky Story: George decides that lunchtime is the perfect time to tell icky stories, so Martha comes up with a plan to prove to George how undesirable such stories are when one is eating.
  4. The Big Scare: When George scares the daylights out of Martha, she threatens to scare him, too, but when?
  5. The Amusement Park: After a day of fun, Martha gets her revenge and scares the daylights out of George.

Each of these amusing stories is accompanied by charming drawings. The pictures are simple but engaging. Marshall is able to put the weight of every emotion into the faces of each hippopotamus. You will always find George or Martha looking amused, innocent, annoyed, sly, or angry. George even turns completely green when Martha tells her icky story!

Through George and Martha, Marshall has written several unassuming moral lessons. Children learn the importance of minding their manners at the table and toward individual people, and they learn the value in encouraging their friends. George and Martha provide teachers and parents with the perfect opportunity to fulfill a teachable moment.

For another look at George Marshall’s work, read this article which places George and Martha as #48 on a list of Top 100 Picture Books!

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It’s Saturday again, and time for another Picture Book Weekend! Today we’ll be reading George and Martha: One Fine Day by James Marshall. George and Martha are two best (hippopotamus) friends who are always having exciting little adventures, and they have been two of my favorite storybook characters for as long as I can remember. While reading this book, consider what it means to be a friend and the different ways we should (or should not) treat our friends. Then, if you find some other George and Martha stories, let me know what you think of those, too!

Hooray for high school literature! I am sure that I will find this to be rocky ground as I am much more familiar with the elementary area and a bit fearful of adolescent matters, but I do love young adult books, so today we will start with one of my favorites.

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty is a book about two rival schools and six students from these two schools. The entire story is told in “diary entries, rude graffiti, hate mail, love letters, revenge plots, date plans, notes between friends, and famous last words” (quote taken from the cover page of the paperback edition). Cassie, Lydia, and Emily are best friends at Ashbury High School. Matthew, Charlie, and Sebastian are not best friends at Brookfield High School. These students are united in their misadventures through the Ashbury-Brookfield pen pal program that is supposed to teach the students to get along with each other. We’ll see how that goes.

Jaclyn Moriarty is an Australian author, and The Year of Secret Assignments is set in Australia. Therefore, if you are not from Australia, be prepared for some mildly confusing terms and phrases. Also, do not be afraid to read this book aloud with a fake Australian accent. Unless, of course, you have a real Australian accent.

Have fun reading this hilarious book, and check out Jaclyn Moriarty’s website, too! The review will be posted on Thursday, 14 June 2012, so prepare those insightful comments. I’ll give you a break – no guidelines for now, just have fun reading!

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems is a wonderful story for any child who has an attachment to a stuffed animal or blanket. In this story Daddy, Trixie, and Knuffle Bunny take a trip to the Laundromat. Trixie helps Daddy do the laundry, but she leaves Knuffle Bunny behind.

Every child, no matter how young or old, fears that she will lose something. Mo Willems’ illustrations help the reader see Trixie’s emotions as she and Knuffle Bunny experience their frightening adventure. In the pictures, the background scenes are black-and-white photographs of the cityscape where Daddy and Trixie live, and all of the people are Mo Willems’ own cartoonish color drawings superimposed on the photographs. It is an interesting medium that produces a realistic but whimsical mood for the story. The characters are larger than life, playing to the child’s imagination, but the setting is exactly what any city kids might see.

I know that most children won’t be making comparisons between their own lives and the pictures in the book, but it does highlight the important fact of the story: Take care of your favorite things. When Trixie didn’t take care of Knuffle Bunny, she lost him. However, Mommy and Daddy love Trixie so much that they dash back to the Laundromat, and Daddy won’t give up searching for Knuffle Bunny. As teachers and parents, it is our job to take care of our students and children so we can teach them how to take care of their belongings.

What are your thoughts on this story? Did you enjoy it? Were you able to learn or teach a lesson with this book? Have you had your own experiences with a lost toy or favorite thing?

Find out more about Mo Willems, Trixie and Knuffle Bunny, and all of his other books on his website. Let us know what you think of his other books, too!

I love traditions, so we’ll start one here. Every weekend we will read and review a new picture book. This weekend we’ll start with Knuffle Bunny: A Cautonary Tale by Mo Willems. This precious little book almost brought tears to my eyes. So, go find this book, let yourself get a little sentimental, and we’ll have the review ready on Sunday, 3 June 2012. Then, come back every Saturday for more picture book fun!

So, you’ve finished reading Frindle by Andrew Clements. How was it?

I personally enjoy this book because I love the ingenuity and creativity of Nick Allen. Nick’s teachers and parents would declare him a troublemaker who doesn’t find much use for school, but he is one of those bright students who will do anything for a challenge, and he found one in Mrs. Granger. Mrs. Granger teaches the rules of the English language, and she runs her classroom on the strictest rules, and she expects everyone to abide by the rules – all of them! When rules are broken she serves out punishments with absolute sternness and the most piercing eyes. Every student is afraid of Mrs. Granger’s eyes. It’s almost as if she knows what mischief will occur even before the mischief maker knows himself! These aren’t the only characters in the book, and they certainly don’t tell the whole story, but Nick and Mrs. Granger are the driving purpose behind the story.

As a punishment from Mrs. Granger, Nick has to write a report on the origin of words and the dictionary, and he soon learns that words are created by people. The words we use every day, the words we shouldn’t use, and the words we should use more often, haven’t always existed. Instead, they had to be created because someone needed to communicate. So, Nick decides he’ll create his own word, frindle, and just to show Mrs. Granger that she doesn’t own the English language, he convinces his friends to substitute the word frindle for pen. Mrs. Granger is infuriated that her students show such utter disrespect for the word pen, but she can’t make them stop. Soon, she realizes that Nick has created something so big that it cannot be stopped. Nick owns this word, legally and figuratively, and it has begun to spread across the country. By the end of the book, frindle has entered into the American vernacular, and even Nick hardly feels that he can lay claim to it. When frindle is added to the dictionary, Mrs. Granger finally congratulates Nick on creating a new word.

On the surface, Mrs. Granger is the teacher that every student would be afraid to know. She is strict and maintains high expectations. Yet, she cares for her students. She requires that they follow the rules because she knows that students need boundaries in order to learn what is proper and healthy. However, she also knows that many students need to push those boundaries before they will find any purpose. At first, Mrs. Granger is fighting a battle against Nick to prove to him the importance of the rules. After a while, though, she realizes that as soon as she stops fighting, Nick will stop creating. Without an antagonist, Nick would never have created such a permanent word.

As teachers, this is our challenge. With so many students and so many regulations, how can we encourage creativity? How do we ensure that students follow the rules but still find the desire to strike out on the own? Can we, the teachers, push the boundaries in order to find our own creativity? Whatever the answers, Frindle is a book that begs every student and teacher to explore life and continue learning at every stage in life.

To kick start this reading adventure, we will begin reading Frindle by Andrew Clements. If I am not mistaken, this is one of his most popular books, and it certainly one of my favorites. This book truly shows what kind of positive impression teachers can have on their students.

So, go to your local library or bookstore and find Frindle. On Friday, 1 June 2012 we will begin reviewing and discussing this book. While you are reading, consider how this book portrays the ideas of creativity, a child’s inquisitive spirit, and the importance of rules in schools and society. Also, as a teacher, how could you use this book in your own classroom?

Have fun reading, and I’ll see you again next week!