The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons by Natascha Biebow and Steven Salerno

TheCrayonMan

Summary

How do you develop a product that people love?  You start by listening to what people need. Then you research, experiment and ask for feedback. In The Crayon Man, we see how Edwin Binney created Crayola crayons. Binney was an inventor. His products made life easier for people. When his wife, a teacher, explained that children needed crayons made for their young hands, Binney got to work.

Author Natascha Biebow walks readers through the invention of Crayola crayons. The careful pacing of the story highlights the slow process of waiting and watching. Snippets of background information are displayed in framed boxes throughout the story. Explosions of color fill the pages in this delightful account of Crayola crayons.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Collaborate/Share III.C.1 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes using evidence to investigate questions.

The Crayon Man is the perfect mentor text for modeling the invention process. Readers see how Binney investigates questions and uses evidence to make crayons better.

After reading The Crayon Man, watch Ellen DeGeneres interview children about their inventions. She begins by asking, “What did you invent and why did you invent it?” We learn how they created products to solve a problem.

Invite learners to work in groups to brainstorm everyday problems. Challenge them to research products that make life easier. Can they make the product better? How? Encourage learners to design a modification that will make a difference.

Behind the Book

To learn more about the illustrations in Crayon Man, read this interview with Steven Salerno:

Q & A with Steven Salerno: The Process of Illustrating Creative Non-Fiction Picture Books

To watch Natascha Biebow read her book, watch this video on KidLit TV:

Read Out Loud The Crayon Man

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. 

Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World To Laugh (and Cry) by Gary Golio and Ed Young

Smile

Summary

What would happen if you showed a silhouette of Charlie Chaplin to different generations? Just his outline. No name or labels. I bet older people will call out Chaplin’s name, but younger audiences will not recognize the figure.

It’s interesting to think of Chaplin’s silhouette as an endangered image. We are lucky that Author Gary Golio and illustrator Ed Young decided to bring the iconic figure back to life. Their story of Chaplin is told with a conversational voice and fitting collage. Each page shows silhouettes of the people and places in Chaplin’s life. The typeset is reminiscent of text found in silent films.

Readers will have fun creating a silent animation of their own by flipping through the pages. They’ll notice Chaplin’s figure in the bottom right-hand corner moves. Just like a silent movie!

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Inquire/Create I.B.2 Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by reading widely and deeply in multiple formats and write and create for a variety of purposes

Explore a lesson in visual literacy by watching a short film with Chaplin. The Mirror Maze will generate lots of questions. Pause at various points of the video to notice and wonder. Learners may wonder why the movie is in black and white. They may recognize how a story can be told without words. Write questions and observations on chart paper. Give learners an opportunity to find answers to their questions. They can express their learning by creating a silhouette that represents the topic of inquiry. Consider displaying the designs on a wall featuring the cover of Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry).

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. 

Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer

SummaryDaniel'sGoodDay1

Summary

What makes a good day for you? This is the question Daniel asks people on his way to his grandmother’s house. Everyone has a different answer, depending on what they are doing at the moment. A bus driver has a good day when passengers say “please” and “thank you.” A mail carrier appreciates “wagging tails.” Finally, Grandma has a good day when she gets a hug from Daniel.

Reading this book is like walking through a poetic art gallery. The words take readers on a lyrical journey through a colorful neighborhood. The fascinating illustrations are mesmerizing. Different design elements were used to create each blade of grass and every flower petal. Readers will love exploring Daniel’s beautiful neighborhood.

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Response to Literature

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

The idea of asking people what makes a good day rather than just telling them to have one is a fascinating concept. It’s an interesting way to learn more about people.

Invite learners to share their good day by creating a collage. Watch Archer’s video to learn how to paint paper for collage projects. Explore her website for inspiration. Invite the art specialist to join you in this lesson so they can share their expertise.

Pair this book with Outside My Window by Linda Ashman. The two stories together will help learners see the world through different lenses.

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. 

Pies From Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dee Romito and Laura Freeman

PiesFromNowhere

Summary

“Every time I take a flight, I am always mindful of the many people who make a successful journey possible—the known pilots and the unknown ground crew.”

Martin Luther King spoke these words as he accepted the Noble Peace Prize. He was referring to incredible people like Georgia Gilmore. In Pies From Nowhere, we learn how Gilmore raised money during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She baked pies and cakes and sold them to local businesses. Other women wanted to help, but they were afraid. They would lose their jobs if their bosses found out about the fundraising activities.  Gilmore promised to keep their names a secret. She would say the proceeds “came from nowhere.”

Dee Romito does a beautiful job telling the story of quiet crew members. She addresses the unfairness of the times with descriptions for young audiences. Digital illustrations enrich the story. The Author’s Note gives more details about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and The Club from Nowhere. A recipe for pound cake with Gilmore’s name on it is featured on the back endpaper.

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Response to Literature

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

Write the following proverb on chart paper: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Explore the proverb with learners. Discuss how the women in the story wanted to help but were afraid. Ask learners to think about a time when they were afraid to help solve a problem. What made them fearful? How did they work around their fear?

Invite learners to share causes that are important to them. How can they contribute? Create a collaborative plan to make a difference.

You’ll appreciate listening to this recording of people describing Gilmore and her 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.

Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis

HeyWater

Summary

This sweet story is written as a letter of thanks to water. A young girl expresses her gratitude to this essential natural resource. In her letter, she highlights where she finds water. Playful descriptions and illustrations capture water in thirty-one different places. Stenciled letters sponged with white paint name the various nouns. This poetic work of art captures the expansive role water plays in our lives.

Three pages at the end of the book give readers information about water. Here, readers learn about water forms, the water cycle, and water conservation. Water forms are defined and supported with thumbnail sketches from the story. The water cycle is illustrated with the same color palette and art features found in the book. These design elements make the information appealing to young readers.

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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 information page about water conservation explains why we need to be mindful about using water. Ask learners to investigate different ways to conserve water. They may find fun videos like this one from Sesame Street: Sesame Street: Water Conservation. 

Invite learners to work in groups to create a water conservation campaign. They might consider creating posters with sponged-stenciled letters to mimic the book. Collect and analyze data to see if efforts made an impact. Consider how this information might be gathered and shared.

Learn more about water by visiting Wonderopolisan AASL Best Website for Teaching and Learning. 

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 Farmer: Growing An Environmental Movement In Cameroon by Baptiste Paul, Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon

IAmFarmer

Summary

Are you thinking about starting a Passion Project in your school? If so, read I Am Farmer: Growing An Environmental Movement in Cameroon. In this true account, we learn how Tantoh Nforba’s passion for farming saved lives. As a young boy, Nforba asked many questions about agriculture. He spent a great deal of time digging, planting, reading and observing. Nforba’s devotion to farming deepened after he got sick from drinking the local water. Villagers also got sick. Nforba knew how to fix this problem. But with limited resources, he needed help. He asked the villagers to bring whatever tools and materials they had to start building wells. They got to work and made a difference. Their water is clean. They are feeling better and their crops are thriving.

Baptiste and Miranda Paul did an excellent job telling this true story. The engaging text connects readers to Cameroon, Africa by using local phrases. A glossary and pronunciation guide help decipher the words. Heartwarming details of Nforba’s profound work are described in the Author’s Note. Readers will appreciate seeing Nforba and his village in photographs on the endpapers. Mixed-medium illustrations offer visual details that enrich the story. Elizabeth Zunon invites readers to see the landscape of Cameroon with a collage of different shades and patterns. Readers will also see the true joy on Nforba’s face as he pursues his passion for learning about farming.

IAmFarmerInsides

Response to Literature

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.

Farmer Tantoh’s story will inspire learners to immerse themselves in a passion project. Try these ideas to bring a passion project to your library or classroom:

Day 1: Write the words, “I want to learn more about…” on an anchor chart. Invite learners to write or draw ideas on sticky notes and add them to the chart. Ask learners to write questions they have about their topic.

Before Day 2: Look for possible groupings with the sticky notes and questions. Collect books and online resources for each group. Allow older learners to curate their own resources.

Day 2: Invite learners to work in groups to find answers to their questions.

Day 3: Ask learners to share why learning about their passions matter. Brainstorm ideas on how they can use their passions to help a community project.

Ongoing: Identify a community problem. Develop a class action plan to solve the problem using the skills learned from the passion projects.

Let’s see how far learners can go by following their passion for learning. Take a look at this video of Famer Tantoh for more inspiration:

Meet Farmer Tantoh, Grassroots Environmentalist from Cameroon, Africa

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.

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

HelloLighthouseBannerSummary

With contemplative illustrations and word structure, Sophie Blackall tells the story of a lighthouse. Her creative talents shine with her ability to portray simultaneous events. We see the life of a lighthouse keeper contained in circles surrounded by rope. The evocative seascape takes over double-page spreads. Interesting elements point to the passage of time both inside and outside the lighthouse. We see days and nights go by, seasons change, the birth of a baby, and the end of a job.

Hello Lighthouse is a book to be explored and studied. There are opportunities to compare and contrast, notice and wonder, and consider how new technologies replace jobs. The back endpapers give the reader more information about the idea behind the story and interesting facts. It’s fascinating to know that this story was inspired by a cutaway image of a lighthouse found at a flea market.

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Response to Literature

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

Set the stage for inquiry by inviting learners to explore the back cover. View the illustration on a large screen to see the intricate details. Prompt learners to ask “I Wonder” questions about what they see. Record questions on chart paper.

Pass out sheets of paper with a two-column chart. Tell learners to write “I Notice” in the left-hand cell and “I Wonder” in the right-hand cell.

Read the story and invite learners to record what they notice and what they wonder. They can use words or doodles to chart their thinking. Include the front endpapers in this exploration.

The “About Lighthouses” page at the end of the book will help learners answer some of their questions. The information may provoke more inquiries! The following resources will enrich investigations:

  • The fascinating illustrations may intrigue readers to learn more about Blackall. Watch The BIG Picture LIVE Caldecott Special with Sophie Blackall! to learn more about this talented artist. She talks about a book that inspired her to become an artist. Viewers will learn about Mr. Squiggles, a fun game that takes the scary out of drawing. Blackall also demonstrates how to paint a lighthouse using Chinese ink and watercolors.
  • To learn more about lighthouses, check out the I Am a Lighthouse Engineer Educator Guide by Jennifer McMahon. Learners will investigate the purpose of a lighthouse and solve an engineering challenge.
  • If embroidery captures the attention of some learners, visit Cassie Stephens’s blog. She is an art educator who shares creative projects designed for young learners. Watch her videos to see her deliver colorful, lively lessons in the classroom.

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.

Outside My Window by Linda Ashman

OutsideMyWindowSummary

Are you wondering how to open our world to learners? Just ask people from around the world to describe what’s outside their windows!

Linda Ashman, the author of Outside My Window, invites readers to see different landscapes from around the world. They’ll embark on a visual journey through American cities and faraway villages. Gorgeous illustrations, by Jamey Christoph, compel learners to soak in the scenery and wonder about different places. The rhyming text follows a lyrical pattern that is fun to read aloud. The end of the story lists the names of each of the locations described in the book.

What’s outside your window? This is what I see:

Just outside my window, blue hydrangeas thrive.

Seagulls drop shells on rocks and eat the food inside.

Now it’s your turn! How does your scenery compare to this view of rural Ethiopia?

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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.

  • Show the book cover to learners. Ask what they can expect to learn from the story. Invite them to create a mental image of what they see outside their windows. Explain that as you read the book, they should think about how the view from their window compares to the different views in the book.
  • Ask learners to describe a favorite illustration from the book. How does the scenery compare with what they see from their windows? What did they notice about the text? How did the text structure engage the reader?
  • Provide art supplies for learners to illustrate the outside of their homes. Learners may want to follow the rhyming pattern in the story to write a poem to describe their picture.

For more ideas based on this beautiful book, please read Do You Need Lesson Ideas to Make Global Connections? Try These on KnowledgeQuest.

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. 

Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story by Lesléa Newman

Gittel's JourneySummary

Imagine leaving your country, all by yourself, at the age of ten. Now see yourself arriving in a new country. No one is there to meet you, and you don’t understand the language. Imagine what that must feel like. This is Gittel’s story. When she arrived to Ellis Island, she was scared, sad and unsure. Fortunately, an interpreter made Gittel feel less afraid. He found a crafty way to locate Gittel’s cousin, and the story has a happy ending.

Gittel’s Journey is based on two stories. The Author’s Note describes her family history that inspired this book. Also included is information about how immigrants were processed once they reached Ellis Island. Websites at the end of the book invite further research.

Readers will enjoy this accessible story. The beautiful illustrations, done with soft watercolors, bring Gittel’s journey to life. The sepia colors give the book an aged feel, setting the stage for the time period of the story.

Gittel's Journey

Response to Literature

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

After reading this story, ask learners to share their questions. Explore Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today by Scholastic. Learners will appreciate this informative site with an interactive tour and stories of young immigrants. Charts with thought-provoking questions will compel learners to consider how world events impact immigration.

Learners can also interview family members or neighbors who immigrated to America. They can share their story on StoryCorps. This free platform shares audio clips of meaningful conversations. Sara Ratliff, the school librarian at Warrington Middle School in Pensacola, uses StoryCorps with her learners. They practice interviewing techniques and consider how to ask thought-provoking questions. These relevant skills will help them outside of the classroom. Read more about Ratliff’s program on the KnowledgeQuest blog.

For more picture books to broaden ideas about immigration, read Humanizing Immigration with Picture Books on the KnowledgeQuest blog. 

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. 

Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove by Barry Wittenstein

Sonny'sBridge

Summary

Sonny Rollins was born during the Harlem Renaissance; a time when jazz exploded all over the city. The movement cultivated genius musicians who grabbed the attention of music lovers everywhere. One entertainer caught Sonny Rollins’s eye. His name was Louis Jordan, and his sharp tuxedo and star appeal fascinated Rollins. Rollins dreamed of becoming a saxophone player like Jordan. A few years later, Rollins starts playing the saxophone and begins a focused journey to stardom.

This biography of Sonny Bridge reads like a jazz song. Syncopated notes of jazz greats and historical events emerge throughout the text. The conversational language flows with a creative tempo. Interesting use of punctuation enhances the rhythm of the story.

Readers will appreciate the illustrations by Keith Mallett. He captured movements in dance, music and light with his artwork. The engaging images point to the influence jazz had in Harlem in the early 1900s. Emerging readers will be able to read the illustrations and understand the storyline.

Extra information is added at the end of the book. There is a note from the author explaining how jazz entered his life. There is also information about The Bridge album, a timeline, quotes, websites, videos and a bibliography.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Curate/Create IV.B.4 Learners gather information appropriate to the task by organizing information by priority, topic, or other systematic scheme.

Gather Information

Readers may find themselves asking questions about the musicians mentioned in this book. Invite learners to work in groups and research the musicians. Curate information using Padlet, a Google Doc or SeeSaw.

Organize Information

Ask groups to share highlights from their research. Consider common threads with the musicians.

Tell learners that they will create a class ebook, slideshow or electronic pinboard about the musicians. Explain that the presentation should be cohesive. Brainstorm theme ideas and common elements for the digital presentation.

Bibliography

Engage learners in a discussion of giving credit to information used in the presentation. Point to the bibliography in Sonny’s Bridge. Ask why it’s important to make note of these resources. Use the bibliography to model how to cite 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. 

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