Up In The Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses by Shira Boss and Jamey Christoph

The picture book, Up In The Leaves by Shira Boss and Jamey Christoph, is in the center of this image. A hammer, rope, hard hat, collage stems and leaves and brown paper surround the book.

Summary

Have you ever built a treehouse? Where did you build it? I bet it was in your backyard. Imagine building a treehouse in a public park. How would you accomplish that without anyone noticing? Especially when the park is in a busy city full of people!

Up in the Leaves is a fascinating story about Bob Redman. As a boy, he found solace climbing trees in Central Park. The trees provided space away from crowded living in Manhattan. He began building treehouses in the park.

But there was a problem. When Redman built a treehouse, someone would take it down. This did not discourage him. He continued to build structures, each one grander than the one before.

The story has a wonderful ending; one that I won’t share here because I don’t want to ruin it for you. I’ll say this, though. It’s nice to have empathetic people in the world that find smart ways to solve problems.

Author Shira Boss didn’t have to travel far to research this story. Redman happens to be her husband! They met when she needed help from an arborist. Guess who answered the call? You guessed it. It was Bob Redman.

I am a big fan of Jamey Christoph, the illustrator of this story. His style has a sort of retro feel that I appreciate. Readers will enjoy seeing Central Park from a birds-eye view. The illustrations evoke a quiet calm in a noisy city.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: I.A.1 Learners engage with new knowledge by formulating questions about a personal interest or a curricular topic.

Prepare for the lesson by drawing a tree without leaves on a piece of chart paper. Cut shapes of leaves from construction paper.

Open the book to the end of the story and read the epilogue. Ask learners what questions they have about growing a healthy tree in a congested city. Write questions on shapes of leaves and tape them to the tree.

Introduce Bob Redman’s website. Ask learners what questions they have after reading about his services. Direct them to write their questions on leaves and tape them to the tree.

Invite a local arborist to answer questions. This can be done in person, or through email.

If you like this lesson idea, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included.

Check out Outside My Window, a thought-provoking book illustrated by Jamey Christoph.

Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel and Other Poems of Birds in Flight by Susan Vande Griek and Mark Hoffman

The cover of Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel and Other Poems of Birds in Flight is surrounded by birds featured in the book.

Summary

Did you know that crows protect each other by forming a mob? When a crow feels threatened, he caws for help. His buddies fly in and harass predators. They caw and peck and use their feet to make the threat go away. Author Susan Vande Griek describes this fascinating bird behavior with poetry and descriptive text. Intriguing artwork by Mark Hoffman fills the double-page spread with movement and action.

Twelve birds are featured in this captivating book. Readers will enjoy the engaging snippets of information about each bird. The striking illustrations support the text by showing the birds in motion.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: I.B.3 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning.

How do illustrators create the illusion of movement? Ask learners to notice the techniques Mark Hoffman uses to show how birds move. They will notice how the direction of the wings and the placement of the beak work together to tell an animated story.

Close readers will notice how Hoffman uses lines to create movement. Streaked lines in the background point to where the bird is going. Trailing white lines behind the birds show where the bird is coming from. Readers may compare this white path to the contrails planes leave in the sky.

Watch how illustrator Steve Jenkins shows movement with collage. Notice how he studies pictures of moving animals before he puts pencil to paper. Invite learners to study an animal of their choosing. They can use books, images or watch a live video from Explore.org. Encourage learners to try techniques found in Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel and Other Poems of Birds in Flight.

If you like this lesson idea, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included.

One Dark Bird by Liz Garton Scanlon and Frann Preston-Gannon

Summary

Can you guess what a murmuration is? The image above might give you a hint. A murmuration occurs when starlings fly together and change direction in a fluid movement. Their flight pattern looks like a choreographed dance that fills the sky with swarming spirals.

One Dark Bird describes a murmuration in a fascinating way. The story begins as a counting book with one starling in a tree. The bird takes flight, and soon other starlings join him. Each bird is tallied as it enters the group. The counting pauses when hundreds of birds join the first group of ten. A hawk appears, and the birds dive and swerve to escape danger. Lyrical text and gorgeous illustrations sweep the reader into an acrobatic whirl. A countdown commences when danger is averted and the group disperses. The story ends as it begins with one starling in a tree.

A flock of birds swirl together in the sky above a cityscape in this double page spread of the book "One Dark Bird".

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Inquire/Think I.A.2 Learners display curiosity and initiative by recalling prior and background knowledge as context for new meaning.

A murmuration is a phenomena that will fascinate learners. Share One Dark Bird with a classroom educator. Collaborate on a lesson that supports the Next Generation Science Standards.

If you like this lesson idea that connects with the Next Generation Science Standards, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes a standards chart that connects lessons with nationals standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included. 

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egneus

LubnaAndPebble

Summary

How can we best support and encourage one another? How can we, ourselves, have courage in the face of adversity?  In the book, Lubna and Pebble, Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egneus offer many opportunities to consider the answers to these questions.  The opening image is that of a boat, which leads into a child peering at a shiny, smooth pebble. This pebble may bring about ideas of a “worry stone” or other special item.  The important role that this pebble plays is pivotal to the way that this story transpires. It is a friend and comfort to those that hold it.

Explore the “land of tents” and those that “arrive in the night” as well as the supporting illustrations to get a sense of immigration or refugee status in a new land.  Many conclusions can be supported through this wonderful and touching book.

The importance of a comfort item is explored throughout this story as the pebble crosses hands across the arrivals of newcomers to a land. The “Pebble” becomes a friend and comfort to newcomers to a land.

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Lesson Resources

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Grow II.D.2 Learners demonstrate empathy and equity in knowledge building within the global learning community by demonstrating interest in other perspectives during learning activities. 

  • Consider push and pull factors for individuals from different backgrounds
  • Explore what it is like to be the “new person”
  • Inquire about the meanings and importance of mementos, souvenirs, and touchstone items.  Younger learners may consider a favorite stuffed animal or hand-me-down. Older learners may consider the importance of gratitude and giving.

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included. 

Fairy Spell by Marc Tyler Nobleman

What is real, and what is fake? How do we know when a source is truly credible?  In the interesting true story Fairy Spell, by Marc Tyler Nobleman, we read the story of two British girls that convinced the world that fairies are real! Based on the true story of cousins that for over 60 years held to their claim that they had taken photographs of fairies. They took the photos to prove that “fairies frolicked at the beck (stream) where they played”. These photos were shared and authenticated by several experts in photography.  

FairySpell

The question that arises in the reading of this book is how do you determine a credible source?  How do you know when something is untrue? It took decades for these cousins to open up about the actual events, though questions still remain! Be sure not to miss this great one!

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Lesson Resources
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Engage/Think VI.A.2 Learners follow ethical and legal guidelines for gathering and using information by understanding the ethical use of information, technology, and media.

  • Have learners consider what it means to be a credible source.  In this story, the cousins were considered credible because they had “decent families” and “no history of hoaxing”.  Ask learners what conditions they consider important to determine credibility.
  • Have learners consider motivation.  Why would an individual “fake” an event or “fake” news?
  • Consider what it means to convince others.  What is real, and what does real mean?

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included. 

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor – The Woman Who Loved Reptiles By Patricia Valdez, Illustrated by Felicita Sala

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor- The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez

JoanProcter, Dragon Doctor

Watch out! This is the story of a girl with very unusual guests to her tea parties…reptiles!  Yes, Joan Procter was a pioneer in the field of woman scientists. She was fascinated by reptiles, and was often joined by her companion crocodile.  

Not only was she enthralled with reptiles, she managed to turn her passion into a career.  During the war, when women were first invited into the workforce, Joan Procter took the job as a designer for the Reptile House at the London Zoo.  There, she even hosted children’s tea parties with the deadly komodo dragon as a special guest.

Joan Procter paved the way for women to become involved in fields that were previously seen as male oriented careers. She dared to think outside of the box and follow her passion.

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AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Think V.A.1 Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by reading widely and deeply in multiple formats and write and create for a variety of purposes.

Lesson Resources

  • Consider the statement “authors write about what they know”. Patricia Valdez is a scientist with a Ph.D in Molecular and Cellular Biology. She works at the National Institute of Health as well as being an author.  Ask learners “why do you think she wrote this book?”
  • Have learners consider the historical impact of the war on Joan Procter’s path.  How did the war create a door that was opened for Procter’s role at the London Zoo?
  • Dig in to the non-fiction possibilities for research and writing. Have learners create a “zoo” with artwork and images to examine the details of reptiles and create blurbs of information to be shared with “zoo visitors”.

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included.

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems by Paul B. Janeczko, Illustrated by Richard Jones

SummaryTheProperWayToMeetAHedgehog

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems by Paul B. Janeczko is a great way to share step by step processes with kids through poetry. There are many out of the box poem ideas that focus on  key words and phrases. In some poems, there are plays on the way text is used, in others, a key element of an object is focused in on. There is a poem that uses clever text layout to identify elements of a camel’s physical features. In another, there is a focus on an environment from the viewpoint of a mole.  

What is really special about this book is how it takes very diverse topics and simplifies them through choice words and illustrations.  The poems are free form and offer light hearted, funny and informative depictions of topics.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Share V.C.1 Learners engage with the learning community by expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance.

There are some really exciting ways that this text can be used to develop learner’s inquiry skills as well as writing abilities.  A few ideas include:

  • In reading the poems, learners will notice that big ideas are conveyed through a few choice words.  Learners can dissect the poems to develop questions about why those other chose certain key words to explain a complex system, process or creature
  • Have learners identify a topic of interest and generate interesting, key words to begin developing into a How-to poem of their own.  Differentiation can be enhanced through the use of pictures for those that are not yet reading and writing independently. Learners can use these to create a “How to” picture collage to express their understandings about a topic.
  • Many classrooms across primary grade levels write a version of “How To” poems or books.  Use this book as a connection for collaboration with classroom teachers!

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included.

Little Libraries, Big Heroes by Miranda Paul and John Parra

This is an image of the book, Little Libraries, Big Heroes, surrounded by building materials. The purpose of this image is to promote the book.
#BookBento of Little Libraries, Big Heroes by Maureen Schlosser

Summary

If you ever wondered who started the Little Free Library phenomenon, read Little Libraries, Big Heroes by Miranda Paul and John Parra. This fascinating story informs readers about Todd Bol; a regular guy with a great idea. Bol created the first little library to honor his mother who died. She had a great love for reading, and he wanted to recognize that by giving away free books placed in a replica of a schoolhouse.

Bol’s neighbors loved reading and trading the books found in the repository. He knew his idea had potential to become something really big. And it did! Little Free Libraries are making an impact around the world.

Author Miranda Paul delivers an inspirational story that readers will want to revisit. Her message of how one person can make a big difference will resonate with learners. The colorful illustrations by John Parra add more details to the story. Readers will enjoy looking at the painted versions of Little Free Libraries located around the world.

This is a double-page spread found in the book Little Libraries, Big Heroes. It shows Todd Bol sharing his idea of Little Libraries with Rick Brooks.
Double-page spread in Little Libraries, Big Heroes

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Collaborate/Create III.B.2 Learners participate in personal, social, and intellectual networks by establishing connections with other learners to build on their own prior knowledge and create new knowledge.

The double-page spread with Todd Bol brainstorming with Rick Brooks resonates with me. It reminds me of how I work with Becky Granatini, the coauthor of this blog. She takes ideas with potential and makes them really big!

  • Share this illustration with learners. Consider how collaboration inspires great work.
  • Invite learners to explore the Little Free Libraries site with a collaborative partner. Direct them to the Little Free Library World Map. Each location describes the purpose of the library.
  • Encourage learners to explore ideas to give back to their communities. They could design their own Little Free Library. Consider other ways to make a difference.

Resources

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included.

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng by Sophia Gholz and Kayla Harren

TheBoyWhoGrewAForestWhen Jadav Payeng was a little boy, he noticed the impact the rainy season had on his island. The heavy rains washed away soil and vegetation, leaving animals without shelter or food. It worried Payeng to find dead animals after a storm. He was afraid that someday the entire island would be washed away. Payeng began planting trees to save the environment. Today, as an adult, he continues to plant trees to expand his 1,300-acre forest in India. Payeng’s work brought life and vegetation back to his island.

This is a story about soil erosion, ecology and perseverance. Author Sophia Gholz does an incredible job of making these big topics interesting to young readers. Her use of ellipses throughout the text help learners see Payeng’s determination. Beautiful illustrations show the evolution of his work. Readers will be amazed to see the animals that thrive in Payeng’s forest.

TheBoyWhoGrewAForestInsides

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Create V.B.1 Learners construct new knowledge by problem solving through cycles of design, implementation, and reflection.

After reading The Boy Who Grew a Forest, learners will want to know more about Payeng. Watch Forest Man, a fascinating video about Payeng created by William Douglas McMaster.

Introduce the video about Payeng by telling learners they have a job to do. Explain that as they watch the video, they will consider the problems Payeng faces and watch how he solves them.

Pause at these points of the recording and ask the following questions:

  • 0:08 / 16:34 What questions do you have about the opening statement? What does it make you wonder about?
  • 0:20 / 16:34 What do you notice about the land? How would this impact plant life?
  • 1:40 / 16:34 What do you wonder about the animals that live in Payeng’s part of India?
  • 6:25 / 16:34 What do you notice about Payeng’s home? What questions do you have about the way he lives? How is it different from the way you live? Why do you suppose that is? What impacts the way we live?
  • 8:48 / 16:34 What do you notice about the soil? What questions do you have?
  • 10:36 / 16:34 What big problem does Payeng face now? 
  • 12:18 / 16:34 What is Payeng’s idea to stop soil erosion?
  • 15:20 / 16:34 Why do you suppose Payeng works so hard to make a difference?

I’m thankful that book creators and journalists documented Payeng’s journey so we could learn about his remarkable work.

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included. 

The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul

TheBreakingNewsWe all know how pervasive bad news is. We try to shield it from young learners, but they can see our faces full of worry. They watch us read news alerts and hear us whispering with coworkers. Imagine what it must be like for them to see adults so distressed?

Author Sarah Lynne Reul takes an interesting approach to help readers work through dealing with bad news. In her book, The Breaking News, we see a loving family, in their kitchen, filling pots of soil with indoor plants. Their happy moment is disrupted by a report on the television. We don’t know what the news is, but we can tell it’s bad. The following pages show parents, neighbors, children, and an educator full of worry and grief.

It’s sad to think that every child and adult will connect with this story. But they will, and that’s why The Breaking News is an important book. Readers will learn how to make a difference when everyone is upset. They’ll follow the story of a young girl who makes people smile with small gestures. She waters plants, opens drapes, and reads to her brother. She brings goodwill to her neighborhood by planting flower pots and giving them away. These ideas will resonate with young learners as they think about what they can do to make the world a happier place.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Collaborate/Share III.A.3 Learners identify collaborative opportunities by deciding to solve problems informed by group interaction.

Invite learners to read the story by just looking at the illustrations. Ask the following questions:

  • “What do you notice?”
  • “What’s happening in the story that makes you say that?”
  • “What does the girl do to make a difference?”

Divide the class into groups. Ask each group to brainstorm things they can do to make people happier. Invite them to draw an illustration of their ideas. They can draw doodles on sticky notes and add them to a hallway display.

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included. 

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