Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wizards - Oh, My!

 Wizards - Oh, My!
There was a time when the genre of Fantasy had lost its appeal to readers of all ages.  With gratitude to J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter, that has changed.  Since the birth of Harry, there has been increased popularity of fantasy stories.  I am glad.  I believe that each of us has to believe in just a bit of Magic and Pixie Dust.  It helps make our daily life more interesting. 
Mercer Mayer's children's book, The Wizard Comes to Town, is a wonderful example of fantasy.  Mayer's art work is beautiful and very detailed.  This terrific story has all of the silly elements that children love.

We visit Disney on a yearly basis.  We pride ourselves on being a "Disney family".  Being fascinated with all things Disney cultivates an interest in magic and fantastical creatures.  Stories that involve these characteristics hold a special place in my heart.  They bring out the child in us and make us believe that with a little magic, our world can be a better place.  This genre of literature is one that can be enjoyed by all age groups and all members of the family, which is why it is so popular.  With the release of Oz and the popularity of novels like The Hunger Games, magic has once again taken hold of our imaginations.

The Wizard Comes to Town is a wonderful example of how a little fun with magic can liven up the day.  Although the book is out of print, it can be found at the library.  Children will love reading about all the spells Mrs. Beggs conjures up, as well as the humorous complications that unfold when a new guest arrives to stay at her boarding house.


Here are some Wizardry ideas!

The titles link to the websites.

Family Theme Day has a wonderful collection of activities to use for a Wizard Family Theme Day!

Magic potion  
Magic Potion

 Part science experiment, part magic trick, this is a recipe for a kid friendly magic potion.

A dragon comes to visit and causes new problems for Mrs. Beggs.  This would be a great enrichment activity after reading the story.

 The Amazing Worlds 
of Fantasy has a wonderful webquest to teach students about the genre of fantasy. 

  "All our dreams can come true, 
if we have the courage 
to pursue them."
Walt Disney 

Linking to:
Poppins Book Nook 
monthly book club

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What Makes Us Who We Are

What Makes Us Who We Are?


While spending the day with my great-nephew, we visited Barnes and Noble.  I am always drawn to the children's picture books and since we were in that area of B&N, I naturally started looking for some new finds.  I found the most wonderful book by Paul Fleishman, The Matchbook Diary.  The book is illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, who illustrated The Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane.  Fleishman's book is about immigration and remembrances.  His book certainly caused me to remember all those people and events throughout my life that have made me WHO I AM.......

There are several reasons why I really enjoyed this book.  First, it teaches us the importance of making changes in our lives when necessary.  As with many immigrant families, the great-grandfater came to America in hopes of making a better life.  It was hard to leave Italy, but his family knew it was for the best.  I cannot imagine having to uproot my entire family, moving to someplace so far away. It really causes me to be grateful for all the help I have and how my goals seems so much more attainable.
Along with the challenge of leaving Italy, the family struggled with work, the language, school, and prejudice in America.  It is truly inspiring to see how much they endured and how hard they worked.  I teach special education to many students who are the first or second generation in this country.  I hope that reading about how hard people work to succeed will inspire them to do the same with their education.  I hope they will remain determined and positive when faced with challenges.
The Matchbox Diary also makes me think of my own ancestors coming to America from Italy.  Although I know basic information about them, like when they arrived and where they lived in Italy, I know little else.  However, I am sure many of the sacrifices and challenges that the great-grandfather faced were similar to the ones my relatives had to face.  Even though I did not know them, I am so grateful that they settled here and started a new life for so many generations of our family.  The past has always fascinated me and a part of me is jealous when people can trace their lineage back for centuries.  Learning about our ancestors has been an ongoing process for my family and one that I am sure I will continue.

Here are some ideas for The Matchbox Diary!

The titles link to the websites.
The Paul Fleischman website offers the author's insights into the writing of this book.  Fleischman also offers a whimsical video showing his Matchbox Theaters.

Things to make and do - Matchbox Chest of DrawersThings to Make and Do has a tutorial to make a chest of drawers using matchboxes.  It is a great way to follow in the tradition of the great-grandfather and a way to hold onto keepsakes.

Deep Fried Olives RecipeMy husband and I actually had these in a little restaurant in Assisi on our honeymoon.  It was one of our favorite foods on the whole trip.  One of the first items the great-grandfather explains from his matchbox is the olive pit that reminds him of Italy.
Olives marinated in orange and thyme infused olive oilMarinated Olives                                    Marinated olives have become synonymous with Italian dinners.  This recipe is a unique version that marinates the olives in orange and thyme-infused oil. is a great source to use to trace your roots.  You can purchase a membership.  However, there is some exploring that you can do for free.  There is also a 14-day free trial.  
If you are lucky enough to have your ancestors' pictures, you can make one of these creative family trees to keep on display.

Alphabet Kids has a great tutorial for creating family trees with children.

The Matchbox Diary  is written in dialogue.  It would be a great book to use when teaching dialogue. It is a great example of how characterization is developed through the use of dialogue.  Students can complete a characterization chart that encourages them to use inferencing skills to determine the traits using the dialogue in the story.  Education Oasis has a number of characterization charts.
Crafty Chic Mommy has a tutorial for a fun and modern way to display sentimental items.  There are so many ways these items can be displayed and decorated.

 Matchbox Item
After reading The Matchbox Diary, each student can be directed to place one item in a matchbox that represents something meaningful to the student.  Students could either write about the item and its meaning or offer a presentation about the item.

 "What is it?"
"An olive pit.  I put it in my palm, and I am right back in Italy."
Paul Fleischman, The Matchbox Diary

How do you remember what makes you who you are?  
What special way do you keep your remembrances? 

 Leave us a comment....We would love to hear from you 

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Listen! Once Upon a Poem

I have often found that we have become a nation of poor listeners.  At least, I know I am not a good listener.  I only learned when I first became a principal, that I need to see everything in writing for my memory to function properly.  If I am under stress, too busy, or tired, I pay very careful attention to what someone is saying to me and then I immediately forget it!

When I think about all the times my parents  and teachers told me to "Listen!", I cannot help but smile because I think of the hilarious poem by Hillaire Belloc, Jim,Who Ran Away From His Nurse, and Was Eaten by A Lion.  You see, Jim did not listen to what he was told and he was eaten by a lion!   This Belloc poem is beautifully illustrated by Peter Bailey in the poetry collection Once Upon a Poem.
The whole concept of the cautionary tale is so much fun to work with.  I love the whimsical rhymes; the graphic imagery of Jim being eaten by the lion, and the dark humor that Belloc makes so eloquent.  I am reminded of a few different things.  I immediately thought of Alice in Wonderland  and was happy to learn that Lewis Carrol was actually influenced by Belloc.  

There is also a connection between the poems and Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  The drastic consequences the children face for their misbehavior are similar to that of Jim's fate.  The style and imagery are also reminiscent of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunately Events.  Although the Baudelaire children are not immoral in character, there is a dark humor and cautionary style that can be seen in both writings.

Here are some ideas to celebrate Poetry and Jim!

The titles link to the websites.

The Poets' Corner website offers a collection of poems by Belloc, which would be  fun to use in an author study or to supplement lessons with additional cautionary tales.

Poem to Prose
The storytelling and imagery is so powerful in the poem that it would be fun to allow students to be create a prose version of the story.  Students can illustrate their stories and bind them to create a book. 


The cautionary tale is synonymous with the Victorian era and the high moral standards that existed during that time period.  Children today would definitely have difficulty relating to those standards.  This website is a great resource offering insight into the Victorian era and acceptable behavior of the time.

The ReadWriteThink website from the International Reading Association offers lesson plans on Satire that align with the Common Core Content Standards.   The lesson plan using clips from the movie Shrek to explain satire in writing.


When Nurse informed his parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:
His Mother, as she dried her eyes,
Said, "Well
it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!"  
Belaire Helloc, from Jim, Who Ran Away From His Nurse and Was Eaten by a Lion

How Are Your Listening Skills? 

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Share It Saturday