Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

The cover of the book Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins and Sara Palacios is featured in this image. A blue sky and a sandy hill fill the background. Garland drapes above the cover of the book.

Have you heard about La Posada Sin Fronteras? I just learned about this significant gathering by reading Between Us and Abueala: A Family Story from the Border.

La Posada Sin Fronteras takes place at the border of the United States and Mexico. Every December, family and friends gather on both sides of the fences that divide the countries. They touch hands and sing songs to celebrate Las Posadas; a holiday that commemorates the journey before the birth of Jesus.

Between Us and Abuela opens with a family making gifts for their grandmother who lives in Mexico. They are planning to meet her at the border of San Diego and Tijuana for Las Posadas. The little girl is both happy and worried about the gathering. She knows a fence will divide their reunion. Will she find her grandmother? Will the gifts fit through the fence?

This important book will inspire great questions and discussions about borders. The author and illustrator did an outstanding job of bringing this topic to young readers. The storyline is engaging and approachable. The theme of holiday celebrations and family gatherings is one that all readers will connect with. Organic questions will arise when readers see that this event is quite different from other celebrations.

Between Us and Abuela Activity

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.

Write “Questions I Have About La Posada Sin Fronteras” on chart paper. Pass out sticky notes and pencils.

Invite learners to write questions they have about the story on their sticky notes. They will place their questions on the chart paper at the end of the story.

Ask the following questions as you read Between Us and Abuela:

Page 1: Look closely at the illustration. What does the image tell you about the setting of the story? Read the text. What new information do you have?

Page 2-3: Where is the family going? How do you know? What questions do you have about their journey?

Page 4-5: How is the mother feeling as she walks towards the fence? How do you know? What does the author want us to know about this visit? What makes you say that?

Page 6-7: What does the author want us to know about the gifts? Why is this important to understand?

Page 8-9: Read the text and notice the illustration. What information can you gather about the families and their reunion? What questions you have?

Page 10-11: Why is there concern about Juan’s gift?

Pages 12-13: Here the author mentions that the fences seem invisible. What does she mean by that? What questions do you have about Las Posadas?

Pages 14-15: How is the family feeling? What makes you say that?

Pages 18-19: How is Mama feeling on this page? What makes you think so?

Pages 20-23: What questions do you have about how the officers react to the girl’s plan?

La Posada Sin Fronteras took place on December 14, 2019. Check social media postings to share with learners.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
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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Every Month Is A New Year Activity

A copy of the book "Every Month is a New Year" sits on top of a calendar made of collage.

Summary

Are you looking for a book that teaches readers about the world around them? Take a look at Every Month is a New Year. It’s a treasure that needs to be explored by every child and educator. The book offers the quintessential window into other cultures by using a common thread: New Year’s Day.

The features in this book are captivating. Let’s start with how the pages turn; from bottom to top. Just like a calendar. Next, a colorful map highlights different countries that celebrate New Year’s Day. Below the map is a synopsis of what this day means.

Now onto the calendar. Each month describes a New Year’s Day celebration in a different country. Poetic text and gorgeous illustrations explain the special observances. The artwork, done in collage, is full of texture. Readers will find themselves running their hands across the pages to feel the illustrations.

There is something for everyone at the end of the book. Here, readers will find more details about the referenced celebrations and calendars. A glossary defines unknown words. New Year’s Day greetings from around the world will invite readers to speak a different language.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Think II.A.3 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.

Let’s focus on a visual literacy lesson to inspire thoughtful questions.

Begin with gathering background information. Ask:

  • “What do you already know about calendars?
  • “How do the pages turn in a calendar?”
  • “What questions do you have about calendars?”

Next, look at the cover. Ask:

  • “What questions do you have about the title?”
  • “Notice the segmented circle. What is the illustrator trying to tell us?”
  • “What questions do you have about the title or the illustration?”

Open the book to the introductory pages. Read the information. Ask learners to share “I Wonder” questions as you read. Write the questions on chart paper.

Next, choral read the months of the year and flip through the pages. Ask readers what they noticed about the quick scan through the illustrations. Choose one page to explore. Read the text and notice the illustration. What questions do readers have? Show how the back of the book has information that might answer their questions. Discuss other ways learners can find answers.

Give learners an opportunity to learn more about the featured country with library resources.

If you have 4 copies of the book, divide the class into groups. Ask each group to choose a New Year’s Day celebration from the book. Invite them to ask questions and find answers. Share new learning with the class.

Enrichment Ideas

Give learners the opportunity to create with collage. Find a page in the book to copy. This activity will compel learners to look closely at the illustrations and consider how the images were constructed. More questions will arise as they think about the illustrator’s craft.

Illustrator Susan L. Roth will do collage with your learners! Click here to learn more.

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

Pair this book with Outside My Window to learn more about our amazing world.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
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.

Camilla, Cartographer Lesson Activity

Summary

A cartographer is a person who draws or produces maps. Warthogs can draw maps, too. Well, only in the pages of this illuminating book about tracking your path. The story opens on a wintery day. A blanket of snow covers the forest. Camilla, a warthog, surrounds herself with her favorite collection of maps. When Parsley, a porcupine, can’t find her way to the creek, she asks Camilla for help. A map of the forest and a compass gives them direction.

Author Julie Dillemuth engages readers with playful text. Her use of alliteration and occasional rhyming words makes the story a fun read-aloud. The illustrations, by Laura Wood, will give readers solid examples of what is featured in a map. The double-page spread below shows the legend, a compass rose, the scale, and the title.

Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Inquire/Create I.B.2 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes devising and implementing a plan to fill knowledge gaps.

Camilla uses a compass and a compass rose to follow and create maps. Ask learners to consider how these tools help her.

Next, pass out compasses for learners to explore. Don’t have any? Send an email to staff asking if they have some you can borrow. Sneak in a blurb about how you will use the compass for a lesson that supports the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by asking questions and defining problems.

Invite learners to wonder how a compass works. Watch Make Your Own Compass. Ask learners what questions they have about the experiment. Write the questions on chart paper.

Discuss how learners can find answers to their questions. Once they develop a plan to investigate the workings of a compass, give them time to research the answer.

For more lesson ideas that connect with the NGSS, check out the One Dark Bird blog post.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
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.

A Green Place To Be: The Creation of Central Park Activity

Summary

Imagine a contest where you get to design a community park. What would you include in your plan? In 1858, architect Calvert Vaux had great ideas for a park in New York City. He entered a contest with Frederick Law Olmsted, a landscape expert. Together they submitted grand plans for a park, and they won! They were awarded the job of designing and developing Central Park.

A Green Place to Be is a fascinating story. Author Ashley Benham Yazdani did an incredible job delivering information through text and illustrations. Readers will learn how the park evolved. They will see how it was designed so everyone could enjoy it.

Yazdani reminds me of Vaux and Olmsted. She created a book that everyone can appreciate. Budding architects will love the double-page spread that features the park’s bridges. Detectives will have fun finding the twenty-two squirrels hidden in the pages. There are also some facts and ideas for artists and gardeners to explore. And of course, there are plenty of interesting details to satisfy history buffs.

A Green Place to Be Activity

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 learners for the story by asking what they know and wonder about Central Park. Record questions on chart paper.

Encourage learners to ask “I Wonder” questions during and after the reading. Allow time to explore questions by visiting CentralPark.com. Here they’ll find events, tours, and historical information. There is also an interactive mapping tool that learners may enjoy investigating.

Visit the WhatWasThere website to see how Central Park has changed over the years. Start by typing in New York City, NY and find Central Park. You’ll see old pictures layered on top of current images. The older pictures can fade, revealing a current image underneath. Learn more about this AASL Best Website for Teaching and Learning by reading a KnowledgeQuest post from Heather Moorefield-Lang.

Share Up In The Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouse by Shira Boss and Jamey Christoph. This story will appeal to the arborists in your class. Click here to find lesson ideas for the book.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
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.

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.

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

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
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.

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.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
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.

One Dark Bird Activity

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".

One Dark Bird Activity

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.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
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.

Lubna and Pebble Activity

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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Lubna and Pebble Activity

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.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
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?

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
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”.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
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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