If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall

Summary

If You Come to Earth, by Sophie Blackall, is an incredible treasure. The wondrous illustrations and storyline will fill your heart and mind with awe. Evocative artwork fills every page, inviting readers to notice our amazing world. You’ll appreciate the incredible amount of work that went into every detail in this brilliant book.

In the story, Quinn writes a letter to a martian. He tells the extra-terrestrial all there is to know about Earth. Quinn captures the beauty, joys and splendors of our world. He describes the people and animals that inhabit the planet.

Fans of Hello Lighthouse will smile when they recognize Blackall’s technique for containing illustrations in circular shapes. The images inside each circle add information to the story. Some circles show what characters are thinking, while others illustrate feelings.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners Inquire/Create l.B.3 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning.

If You Come to Earth invites us to recognize how amazing our world is. This concept might be hard to realize today when the world is in turmoil. Encourage learners to think about something or someone that gives them peace and makes them smile. Share ideas with the group.

Encourage learners to illustrate and write about their ideas. Invite them to add things they wonder about. They can save their work for a time when they need respite from troublesome world events.

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.

I am an affiliate of Bookshop; a business that gives back to local independent book stores and affiliates.

Undercover Ostrich by Joe Kulka

Summary

If you were an ostrich, how would you disguise yourself? It can’t be easy. But the narrator of Undercover Ostrich believes that these large birds are experts at camouflage. The illustrations, however, tell a different story. When the narrator challenges readers to find the ostrich, it’s not hard to do. The world’s largest bird stands out on every page.

Readers will laugh when they see the ostrich “hiding” on a telephone wire and on the subway train. They’ll enjoy the befuddled looks the ostrich gives while “undercover.” More giggles will ensue when the narrator makes an appearance at the end of the story.

Author/illustrator Joe Kulka delivers a humorous story by juxtaposing the narrator’s words with the illustrations. This interesting method of storytelling will engage readers to appreciate the outrageous scenarios of an ostrich hiding in plain sight. The cartoon illustrations add to the fun.

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.

The ostrich in this story clearly needs help hiding. Invite learners to consider why the ostrich stood out in each setting. Then, watch “Can You Find the Camouflaged Animals” by Earth Rangers to see what it takes to hide in plain sight.

Next, show learners pictures of ostriches in nature. Ask what they notice about the features and colors of the ostriches. Encourage learners to consider what kind of natural scenery an ostrich would need in order to hide. Explain that they will illustrate a picture of an ostrich that blends in with the background.

If you are wondering how to draw an ostrich, this video from the Art for Kids Hub YouTube channel will show you how.

Have fun!

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.

I am an affiliate of Bookshop; a business that gives back to local independent book stores and affiliates.

Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali and rahele Jomepour Bell

The cover of the book Our Favorite Day of the Year is centered on top of a green chalkboard with images of holiday icons.

How do we build a sense of community in our classrooms? Start by reading Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali and Rahele Jomepour Bell. This important story features a diverse classroom where cultural traditions are celebrated.

The story begins with a teacher explaining why she loves the first day of school. It’s on this day that she gets to meet new people. She explains that they will all become close friends. They’ll learn about each other by celebrating everyone’s favorite day. This is exciting news to four boys who are the main focus of the story.

Through the boys presentations, we see how they celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, Rosh Hashanah, Las Posadas and Pi Day with their families. The boys are delighted to learn about the different celebrations. They get to know more about each other and become friends.

The illustrations in this book are heartwarming. Readers can feel the excitement from the children as they learn about each other’s families and traditions. The textured illustrations add interest to the story. My favorite picture shows a mother wearing a colorful hijab, a patterned dress and striped leggings. The natural flow in the material make the clothes seem three-dimensional.

The endpapers are a real treat. A quilt made of twenty-eight squares represent different cultures and holidays. Readers will be curious about the meaning behind some of the illustrated squares. They’ll also make connections with familiar symbols.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners II.B.3 Learners adjust their awareness of the global learning community by representing diverse perspectives during learning activities.

Ask learners if they ever heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” In Our Favorite Day of the Year, Musa judged the boys at his table just by looking at them. He doubted that they could be friends because they “didn’t look like his friends.” Ask learners how the show-and-tell presentations changed Musa’s thinking. Invite them to consider how things would be different if they didn’t share their favorite days of the year.

Explain that today they will imagine how people might judge them the first time they meet. They’ll also consider what they want people to know about them. Learners will need a paper bag, scissors, paper and colored pencils, crayons or markers for this lesson.

On the outside of the bag, learners will draw a picture of themselves. They’ll also write how people might see them the first time they meet.

The inside of the bag is for what they wish people knew about them. They will write things people would miss if they judged them solely on their looks. They can write about their hopes, dreams and accomplishments on scraps of paper and put them in the bag. Here are some sentence starters to consider:

Sentence Starters to Learn More About Each Other
  • I am curious about…
  • People may think I am…, but I am really…
  • My favorite thing to do is…
  • I worry about…
  • I am really good at…
  • What I really want people to know about me is that I…
  • By the end of the year, I want to know how to…
  • I’m having a tough time with…

After the writing exercise, learners will share their bags with classmates. They will ask each other questions and have discussions to learn more about one another.

Resources

This lesson idea was inspired by Liz Kleinrock, an anti-bias, antiracist educator/writer. She uses the paper bag lesson to inspire meaningful discussions on identity. Learn more about her work on these websites: Teach and Transform and Empowering Educators. Click here to see Kleinrock’s TED Talk.

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.

I am an affiliate of Bookshop; a business that gives back to local independent book stores and affiliates.

Hike by Pete Oswald

Summary

Imagine telling a story using only illustrations. How would you engage readers to look closely at the images to gather meaning? Author-illustrator Pete Oswald is a master at visual storytelling. In his book Hike, Oswald uses vignettes, sequenced panels and double-page spreads to guide readers in a visual journey.

The magic of reading Hike starts on the book’s cover. The title, in block letters, reads from the bottom up. A father and son climb the letters with hiking gear. Each letter in the title illustrates the pair hiking in the mountains. The artwork conveys a sense of adventure that readers will enjoy.

The most fascinating feature of Hike is the revelation on the copyright page. Here, we learn that the story is not really about a hike. Instead, it’s about family tradition. We begin to notice something is up when a family album appears on the pages at the end of the story. We first see the album in the boys hand. Then it appears on the kitchen counter. Finally, the opened album is on the boy’s lap. The copyright page reveals what’s inside the album; generations of family members planting a tree in the mountains. Close readers will remember seeing the album at the beginning of the book on the boy’s bedside table.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners V.A.3 Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by engaging in inquiry-based processes for personal growth.

Ask learners to write about a family tradition for three minutes. Challenge learners to keep their pencils writing. They don’t have to write complete sentences. Lists and key words will work. If learners can’t think of something to write, they can just write something like “what else can I write about my family tradition”.

After the writing exercise, invite learners to choose a word that represents their family tradition. Explain that they will create block letters out of that word and illustrate the inside of each letter. The illustrations will tell a story about their tradition. They will use the cover of the book Hike as a model for their illustration.

Want to learn how to create big, bold letters? Watch this demonstration of how to create block letters by Dave McDonald. A segment about drawing bubble letters is also included.

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.

I am an affiliate of Bookshop; a business that gives back to local independent book stores and affiliates.

Just Because by Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault

Summary

Are you looking for a book that shows readers how to ask compelling questions? If so, take a look at Just Because by Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault. The story begins with a familiar bedtime scene. A little girl, tucked in her bed, asks her dad why the ocean is blue. Readers will infer that she’s asking such a big question because she doesn’t want to fall asleep. They may predict that the father will give a scientific answer. Instead, they’ll be delighted to turn the page where a fantastic explanation fills a double-page spread.

This story has an interesting text structure that will engage readers. It starts with a question that appears in a big circle of color. The questions have no quotation marks, but readers will understand the girl is talking. The answers on the next page float in white circles. It is understood that the father answers the questions, even though it is never stated.

Readers will also love the playful illustrations. The careful observer will notice a common color thread. The color of each circle with a question is featured on the next page. Readers will also realize that the father’s stories are inspired by toys in the bedroom.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: l.B.2 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning.

Ask learners what they thought about the father’s answers. If he were visiting their school library, what resources could he use to find answers to the questions?

Invite learners to pretend the father needs their help to answer his daughter’s questions. Learners will pick one question from the book to research. They will make a plan to find the answer to the question.

Invite learners to create a zine, or a little notebook, to record their findings. They can follow the example in the book and write a question on one page and the answer on the next page.

Click here to watch a video on how to make a zine without scissors or staples. I created this video for young learners. They will need to pause the video along the way as they follow the directions.

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.

Click here to purchase a copy of Just Because by Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault from Bookshop. I am an affiliate of Bookshop; a business that gives back to local independent book stores and affiliates.

Please click here to join our Facebook Group where we discuss lesson ideas for picture books.

Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry, Jessica Curry and Brittany Jackson

Cover of the picture book Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry, Jessica Curry and Brittany Jackson.

Think of a time when a painting made you pause and wonder. What was it about the artwork that caught your attention? When Parker Curry was two years old, the portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama stopped her in her tracks. She was entranced by the “queen” who looked like the the women in her family. This connection opened a world of possibilities for Parker. She wrote Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment with her mother to explain why the portrait resonated with her.

Readers are going to love the digitally rendered illustrations. Falling confetti and twinkling sparkles float around the pages like magic. There’s a sense of play with the words, too. Some words show up bright and pink, while others are bold and black. Speech bubbles in blue, pink, purple and yellow bring more fun to the pages. Ellipses fill readers with suspense about the wonderful possibilities that could appear on the next page.

Double-page spread of Ava and her sister running through the National Portrait Gallery. The painting Young Omahaw, War Eagle, Little Missouri and Pawnees hangs on the wall.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: I.A.1 Learners display curiosity and initiative by formulating questions about a personal interest or a curricular topic.

Parker noticed nine paintings in the National Portrait Gallery. Create a Padlet with links to the paintings mentioned in the book (see links below). Ask learners what painting intrigues them? Give them time to appreciate the work of art. Learners will record what they notice and wonder about the art on the Padlet.

August Belmont and Isabel Perry by Wouterus Verschuur

George Washington Carver by Betsy Graves Reyneau

Albert Einstein by Max Westfield

Frida Kahlo by Magda Pach

Peacocks and Peonies by John La Farge

The Chinese Fishmonger by Theodore Wores

Young Omahaw, War Eagle, Little Missouri, and Pawnees by Charles Bird King

The White Ballet by Everett Shinn

First Lady Michelle Obama by Everett Shinn

Click here to see Parker share her story on the Ellen Show.

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.

Click here to purchase a copy of Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment. I am an affiliate of Bookshop; a business that gives back to local independent book stores and affiliates.

Please click here to join our Facebook Group where we discuss lesson ideas for picture books.

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van Thanh Rudd

This is a promotional image of the book The Patchwork Bike. The book lays flat on painted cardboard with paintbrushes and wet paint next to it.

Summary

Here’s something fun to try with The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van Thanh Rudd. Give the book to someone and tell them to check it out. Watch them as they read the pages. I am willing to bet the reader will touch the illustrations in anticipation of feeling the textured artwork. They’ll be surprised to realize the bumpy cardboard, the wet paint, and the gloopy mud is an optical illusion.

The Patchwork Bike gives readers a chance to explore a place that is much different from where they live. The narrator of the story, a girl with dark skin and cornrows, introduces us to her village. She is happy to show us her house made of mud. Readers see how she describes her “crazy” brothers and “fed-up” mom with affection. But what she is really excited to show readers is her bike. It’s different from the bikes most readers are familiar with. It’s made from branches and various objects.

The engaging text tells this joyful story with words that are fun to say aloud; words like “shicketty shake”, winketty wonk” and “bumpetty bump”. The letters are fun to look at, too. They appear to be hand-painted with a heavy, felt tip pen; almost like the writing learners see on anchor charts in the classroom.

The first pages of the book The Patchwork Bike are shown in this image.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Think II.A.Learners contribute a balanced perspective when participating in a learning community by describing their understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community.

Picture books invite readers to build their schema about the global community. Readers draw on background information and clues from text and illustrations to shape a new understanding of their world. The Patchwork Bike provides readers with an opportunity to learn about life in a village of Africa.

In this exercise, learners will find clues from the text and illustrations to consider what the author and illustrator want them to know about the protagonist and where she lives.

Before showing readers a copy of The Patchwork Bike, tell learners that you have a fabulous book to read. Explain that both the author and the illustrator want readers to learn something about the narrator of the story. The words and illustrations work together to deliver a big message. Tell learners that you are going to read the book aloud twice. The first time you read the story, they will not see the illustrations. They will focus their attention on what the author wants them to know about the narrator of the story. The second time you read the story, they will look at the illustrations and think about what the artist wants them to know about the narrator. They will jot down what they notice and think about the big message.

Discussion Questions

Here are some questions for further discussion:

  • What did you learn about the narrator by just listening to the words?
  • What words help you imagine the bike?
  • How does the narrator feel about the family and the place where they live? How do you know this?
  • What words convey movement? How does the illustrator show movement?
  • What does the illustrator want us to know about how the girl feels about her life? Point to the pictures that support your ideas.

The Patchwork Bike Worksheet

Learners can use this worksheet to take notes while reading The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van Thanh Rudd.

$1.50

Click here to watch author Maxine Beneba Clarke read her book.

Learn more about this important book by reading Five Questions for 2019 Boston-Globe Horn Book Picture Book Award Winners Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van Thanh Ruddd.

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.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van Thanh Rudd. I am an affiliate of Bookshop; a business that gives back to local independent book stores and affiliates.

Please click here to join our Facebook Group where we discuss lesson ideas for picture books.

Moth: An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas and Daniel Egnéus

Summary

Moth: An Evolution Story begins as it ends with this sentence:

“This is a story of light and dark, of change and adaptation, of survival and hope.”

When a book ends as it begins, it gives the reader a sense that the story continues to evolve when the book is closed. Author Isabel Thomas uses a circular story format to inform readers that the peppered moth is still evolving. It continues to change and adapt to survive.

The evolution of the peppered moth is quite fascinating, and Thomas does a great job telling it to young readers. The light peppered moth survived for many years by blending in trees covered with lichen. When the Industrial Revolution pumped smoke and soot into the air, light peppered moths stood out to predators, while the dark peppered moths stayed safe in the polluted environment.

Now that Earth-conscious businesses are making the air better, the peppered moth must change and adapt again. The moth’s story is circular as it continues to evolve in order to survive.

Readers are going to love Daniel Egnéus’s illustrations. He uses different art mediums to enrich story of the peppered moth. Readers will find illustrations created with crayons, collage, Photoshop, acrylics and watercolor. The reflective elements on the book cover will have everyone wanting to hold the book up to the light to see the moths sparkle.

The text adds playful drama to the story. Some words curve around tree branches to express flight while others stagger to show the passage of time. The text and illustrations work well together to tell the tale of the peppered moth.

Curious readers will appreciate the information at the back of the book that adds meaning to concepts introduced in the book. Readers will learn more about evolution, natural selection and adaption.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Grow V.D.2 Learners develop through experience and
reflection by
recognizing capabilities and skills that can be developed, improved, and expanded.

We live in a world that is always changing, and we adapt to carry on. COVID-19 is presenting us with a front row seat to this reality. The idea of “school” changed overnight because of the virus. All readers can connect with this experience, but their stories are different.

After reading Moth, ask learners to think about what changed for them when schools closed and they had to learn from home. Ask the following questions:

  • How did you adapt to learning from home?
  • What went well? What didn’t go so well? How did you change and adapt to make it better?
  • How did you stay motivated to learn?

See how the New York City School Library System adapted their roles to accommodate online learning with a table showing online vs. face-to-face support: Translation of Practice for School Librarians

Reflecting on Learning From Home Worksheet

This worksheet provides learners a space to reflect on their experiences with learning from home.

$1.50

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.

Click here to purchase Moth: An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas and Daniel Egnéus from Bookshop. I am an affiliate of Bookshop; a business that gives back to local independent book stores and affiliates.

Please click here to join our Facebook Group where we discuss lesson ideas for picture books.

You Matter by Christian Robinson

Summary

Author-illustrator Christian Robinson cares about his readers. How do I know this? Let’s start with the title of his book You Matter. Here, we can almost imagine Robinson pointing at the reader, telling them with confidence, “You matter.” Readers will find more encouragement on the copyright page where Robinson writes, “For anyone who isn’t sure if they matter, you do.” What a way to enter a story. Imagine how a reader will feel when they realize the author cares about them.

The story begins with a Black girl looking through a microscope. The illustration helps readers feel like they are looking through the lens, too. They’ll see tiny green organisms floating around the glass slide. The science theme continues with illustrations of the ocean, land, and outer space. Then, readers are brought to a city, where a diverse group of people walk, relax and travel through the pages.

Readers will enjoy the simple text and the colorful illustrations that convey an important message we all need to hear.

Response to Reading

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Share II.C.2 Learners exhibit empathy with and tolerance for diverse ideas by contributing to discussions in which multiple viewpoints on a topic are expressed.

Invite learners to consider the title of the book You Matter by Christian Robinson. Ask the following questions:

  • “What can we expect from this story?”
  • “Who do you think the author is talking to?”
  • “How do you know this?”

Read the message on the copyright page before digging into the book. Consider how this message gives readers a clue about how author feels about the people reading his book.

After reading You Matter, ask learners why they think the author wrote the story. Tell learners that you agree with the author. Invite learners to give the thumbs up sign if they agree with the author. Explain that they will write what matters to them. They will think about the dreams they have, the people and things they love, and the activities they like to do.They can write words or draw pictures. Explain that they will share what they write, so they shouldn’t record things they want to keep private.

Divide the class into groups. Invite learners to take turns sharing dreams, activities, and people that matter to them. Then, ask learners to make connections with others in the group. Discuss similarities and ask for more information about interesting statements. Learners can share with the entire class if time allows.

Check out Christian Robinson’s “Making Space” YouTube channel. Share it with learners. Everyone will fall in love with Robinson and his message while watching his videos.

Worksheet

Here’s a worksheet for learners to record their ideas for sharing with the group:

You Matter Worksheet

Learners will write or draw what's important to them in the parachute panels. They can use their recordings to connect with other learners in the class.

$1.50

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.

Click here to order a copy of You Matter by Christian Robinson. I am an affiliate of Bookshop; a business that gives back to local independent book stores and affiliates.

Please click here to join our Facebook Group where we discuss lesson ideas for picture books.

Across the Bay by Carlos Aponte

Summary

Would you like to visit the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico? If so, follow young Carlitos as he roams the city in Across the Bay by Carlos Aponte. Carlitos is searching for his father in this award-winning book. He wonders about Papi because he left home with no plans to return. Carlitos carries a photo of Papi. He uses it to ask people if they recognize the man in the picture. He seeks help from a street vendor selling piragua, gentlemen playing dominos, and a lady feeding stray cats.

When Carlitos loses hope, a park ranger restores it. He explains that Carlitos’s dad can live in his memory. Carlitos feels better and heads home to his loving family.

Readers will observe Carlitos and his surroundings from different view points. Some illustrations make the reader feel like they are looking down on the scene while sitting in a tree. Other pictures view the scene looking up from the ground. A fascinating viewpoint is from the other side of a mirror in a barbershop. This perspective allows readers to notice the barber shaving a young boys hair while fathers and sons wait for their turn. We also see how uncomfortable Carlitos is as he stands next to his mother.

Aponte’s illustrations are captivating. He uses bold, thick lines to outline figures and cityscapes. Some drawings are transparent, while others are full of saturated colors. This style of illustration will engage readers as they gather information about San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Curate/Think lV.A.1 Learners act on an information need by determining the need to gather information.

Across the Bay won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book award. Introduce the book by asking readers what they notice and wonder about the medal. Share information about the Pura Belpré medal by visiting the Association for Library Service to Children page dedicated to the award.

Next, ask learners to read the title and look at the illustration on the book cover. What they can expect to learn from this story?

Explain that as you read the story, learners have a job to do. Learners will gather information about what is across the bay by looking for clues in the story. They will record questions they have about what they read.

At the end of the story, ask learners to share their questions. How will they find answers to their questions? Create a class plan to gather and share information about Puerto Rico. Consider illustrating new information from different perspectives. Use examples from the book to inspire ideas.

Here’s a note-taking worksheet to guide learners as they read Across the Bay.

Gathering Information about Puerto Rico

This guide will prompt learners to notice and wonder about Puerto Rico while reading Across the Bay by Carlos Aponte.

$1.50

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.

Click here to order a copy of Across the Bay. I am an affiliate of Bookshop; a business that gives back to local independent book stores and affiliates.

Please click here to join our Facebook Group where we discuss lesson ideas for picture books.

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