The Polar Express

Written by Chris Van AllsburgPolar Express

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is a heart-warming and enticing Christmas story which takes one on the treasured adventure to the North Pole. If you have never been to the North Pole, grab your ticket and pick your seat on the Polar Express for this is a ride you do not want to miss!

In the exhilarating book, The Polar Express a young boy is taken on the adventure of a lifetime to the North Pole, and to his great delight, Santa chooses him to be the first child to receive a present. The young boy is given the opportunity to select anything he wants in the world! What is his response? The reader is captivated, wanting to find out. To the great surprise and confusion to the reader, the young boy chooses not money and not toys but a bell. He knew he could have anything but he also knew that he did not need everything.

This story is a stark reminder that happiness is not found in the many toys and material things of life. Happiness is simple and founded on simply believing. While this book was alluding to the belief in Santa Claus, I would further this overarching idea to be a calling out to people to have faith. All one has to do is have faith. Children can be taught at a young age that Christmas is so much more than the presents to be received on Christmas day. Christmas is about Jesus Christ being born into the world and we have faith that he came to save us.

 

Caldecott Medal Winner 1986.

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Nine Days to Christmas

Written by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida. Illustrated by Marie Hall Ets

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Being old enough to start Kindergarten gave the little Mexican girl Ceci the “right” to have her first Posada. The book narrates Ceci’s excitement about the traditional Mexican celebration. However, after choosing her first Piñata, Ceci does not want to break it. During the Posada, something mysterious happens that makes Ceci very happy.

Nine Days to Christmas describes one aspect of Mexican culture in a beautiful and positive way. It gives teachers an opportunity to talk about Mexican culture and about how students can prepare for Christmas.

Grade Level: Kindergarten through 2nd grade.

Caldecott Medal 1960.

Koala Lou, I Do Love You!

 

Koala Lou

Koala Lou Cover

written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Pamela Lofts

Having grown up with her mother telling her all the time that she loves her, Koala Lou’s eponymous heroine is discouraged by the dramatic decrease of verbal affection from her mother because of her numerous siblings. In an attempt to “regain” her mother’s love, Koala Lou begins training for the Bush Olympics at which she will oppose Koala Klaws in the climb up the eucalyptus tree. If she wins, surely her mother will exclaim, as she used to do, “Koala Lou, I do love you!” If not, well, Koala Lou doesn’t want to think about that…

A beautiful story about unconditional love, Koala Lou presents teachers and parents with a profound opportunity to speak about how real love is not based on what a person does. Teachers and parents can point out that before Koala Lou’s mother became very busy with her numerous children, she told Koala Lou she loved her in relation to nothing that the Koala Lou happened to be doing at the time. This is contrasted with the fact that the first plan Koala Lou comes up with to reclaim her mother’s affection is by showing her that she can do something worthy of love.

Koala Lou also offers an excellent variety of Australian animals with beautiful illustrations. It would make a good multicultural and natural science add to any teacher’s library. Koala Lou is suitable for grades PreK through 1st. 30 pages.

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte’s Web was written by EB White and is considered one of the greatest children’s books of all time.

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This sweet story tells the tale of two unlikely friends, Charlotte the Spider and Wilbur the Pig, who display what true friendship is. Throughout this entire story a tremendous emphasis is placed upon friendship and self-sacrifice. This story would be an excellent read to display to students what it means to be a true friend. Charlotte’s Web is an easy read that uses great detail and paints a picture in the reader’s mind. E.B. White does an incredible job of capturing an audience of all ages!

 

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

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Judy Blume, in my perspective, is a genius when she writes from the child’s point of view.    She truly understands what the child is feeling in that particular moment. As for this young reader chapter book, meant for a third grade reading level, Judy Blume entertains the reader with the ups and downs of what it is like growing up with a little brother and being the example, but also being seen as a maturing child. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is the being of a series of children’s chapter books that include the two main characters Peter Warren Hatcher and Farley Drexel “Fudge” Hatcher. They learn what it means about family, growing up, and brotherhood or what it means to be siblings. This goes especially for Fudge as he is looking more and more to his big brother for guidance instead of his parents. Peter on the other hand is also maturing in regards to taking ownership and responsibility for his pet turtle dribble, homework assignments, and by choosing to set the example for his brother.

Reading this book, I was thinking back to my childhood as a young girl and always being the example for my baby brother, at the time, and never wanting to do what mother asked of me, but I did it anyway to make everyone happing including myself. As a new and up in coming teacher, the knowledge of this particular book can help a student who is struggling with being a sibling in a big family or small family. It can help that child understand what it means to grow up and become responsible and reliable to not only parents and adults, like teachers, but also to younger sibling – showing what family looks like. It is not always pretty and it definitely has challenges, especially when your pet turtle gets eaten by your baby brother, but it is worth it in the end – family counts more than a replaceable turtle.

The Lemonade War

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies is the first in a series of books that tells the story of two siblings – Jessie and Evan – who are budding entrepreneurs, rivals, but ultimately, good friends.

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The story is highly engaging for students and many will want to continue reading the other four books in the series (see The Lemonade Crime, The Bell Bandit, The Candy Smash, and The Magic Trap). Teachers will enjoy this book because it introduces basic economic principles and vocabulary throughout the text. The book connects well with and supports a social studies unit on economics. It also inspires students to pursue their own business adventures.

The story takes place at the end of summer before the start of another school year. The reader is introduced to Jessie and Evan at a time when Evan is trying to avoid Jessie. These two siblings are generally good friends and enjoy one another’s company. They also make a good business partnership because Jessie is very good with numbers and Evan is good with people. However, Evan and Jessie recently found out that Jessie, who is skipping 3rd grade, will be in the same 4th grade class as Evan. This news is understandably traumatic for Evan who is afraid of looking dumb compared to his little sisters.

The rising action of the story includes Evan and Jessie’s attempts to out due one another with their competing lemonade stands. Although Jessie and Even previously worked together, they challenge each other to see who can make the most money by Labor Day. As they each pursue their economic adventures, they learn the fundamentals of good business. The climax of the story demonstrates that there is more at stake than simply winning the competition. Jessie and Evan’s relationship is at stake. In a moment of desperation and fear that the other has won the competition, both Jessie and Evan sabotage the other’s efforts. Ultimately, both learn a valuable lesson, and they are reconciled on Labor Day. The story is left unfinished because one of Evan’s friends steals his money. The second book in the series, The Lemonade Crime, takes place at school where Jessie and Evan set up court to discover who stole the lemonade money.

Although it is not explicitly stated, the author seems to suggest that Jessie may fall somewhere on the Autism spectrum and so the book can also be used to teach understanding and compassion for those who, like Jessie, have a hard time understanding people’s feelings.

 

The Song of el Coqui and Other Tales of Puerto Rico

Do you ever wonder where the great winds and the sound of the rain came from? Or how strange birds like Guinean Fowls made their way from Africa to Puerto Rico? One need only quiet their mind and delve deep into Nicholas Mohr and Antonio Martorell’s book, The Song of el Coqui, to discover these Puerto Rican legends.

61BHG4TW96L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_This book of legends contains three stories. The first is about the god Huracán who lived in a sad silence until the noise of the Coquí broke the silence and brought music and joy to his life. The second follows La Guinea, a small bird who, after hiding in a basket aboard a ship, finds herself a long way from Africa and on the shores of Puerto Rico only to be harshly treated until her beauty is recognized by Don Elías. Finally, the story of La Mula, a strong and hardworking mule who is harshly treated by her masters until she is sold, befriends Don Eduardo, and helps him escape his own slavery and return to his people, the Cimmarones.

These three stories help to tell something distinct of the Puerto Rican people. Their ancestry is expressed in the beautiful words of the authors and illustrated in grand color, typical of Puerto Rican art. This story would be wonderful to incorporate into a world culture unit, and to encourage students to write a story explaining things in their own culture. Finally, the authors preserved many Puerto Rican words that students may find interesting.

Olivia Casbarro