Posts Tagged: picture books


Posted by | March 31, 2014 | No Comments

GALAPAGOS GEORGE is the story of the famous Lonesome George, a giant tortoise who was the last of his species, lived to be one hundred years old, and became known as the rarest creature in the world. This incredible evolution story by renowned naturalist and Newbery Medal winner Jean Craighead George gives readers a glimpse of the amazing creatures inhabiting the ever-fascinating Galápagos Islands, complete with back matter that features key terms, a timeline, and further resources for research.

Galapagos George

Here are some Common Core objectives that GALAPAGOS GEORGE can help meet:

Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe. Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a book to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot. Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.

And you can use the following questions to help start a specific discussion about this book or a general discussion about informational texts and/or literature:

  1. How does a reader determine the genre of a particular book? What characteristics apply to GALAPAGOS GEORGE? RI.2.5, RL.2.3
  2. What elements of a book help the reader determine the main idea? What details support the main idea? RI.2.2, RL.2.2
  3. How do the illustrations contribute to the text (characters, setting, and plot)? RI.2.7, RL.2.7

GALAPAGOS GEORGE will be available next week!


Math Skills are Life Skills: Early Math, the Common Core, Visual Learning and MathStart

Posted by | March 5, 2014 | No Comments


Math is everywhere! That’s a message I always try to get across to kids, teachers and parents in my MathStart books and presentations. Too often, when students leave math class, I hear them say, “I’m done with my math.”  Yet they never say “I’m done with my words” after reading and language arts. Well, just like words, you can’t do much without math. Math is an integral part of sports and music. You need math to go shopping, check on the time and count the number of candles on your birthday cake!

mathstart1START EARLY

“Who Says Math Has to Be Boring?”—that was the eye-opening question posed in a recent New York Times editorial headline. Several improvements to math education were listed in the article, with early exposure to mathematical concepts singled out as a particularly rich area for improvement. In fact, new research suggests that children as young as three may be math-ready. It turns out we are wired for math!

The interest in early math is part of a larger movement to support universal Pre-K in the US—a rare non-partisan issue with the President and Congress as well as governors and mayors in dozens of states declaring their support. Over just the last year, 30 states have increased funding, while Congress has budgeted $1 billion for programs. The US military is also on board in a big way through Mission Readiness, an effort spearheaded by a who’s who list of retired generals and admirals.


Another important trend in education is the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) currently being implemented in 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense schools. Teachers, librarians, parents, and caregivers of children are clamoring for ways to effectively address the broad-reaching goals of the CCSS. These goals require elementary school educators to develop a new mind-set regarding their role in advancing mathematics education, as well as a new skill set for facilitating the teaching and learning of mathematical concepts.


Visual learning describes how we gather and process information from illustrations, diagrams, graphs, symbols, photographs, icons and other models. Since visual learning strategies build on children’s innate talent to interpret visual information, they can play an important role in reaching the goals of the CCSS for Mathematics. Visual models help students understand difficult concepts, make connections to other areas of learning and build mathematical comprehension. They are especially relevant for the youngest learners, who are accomplished visual learners even as pre-readers.


“Math Skills are Life Skills!” That’s the motto of the kids in the Main Street Kids’ Club  a musical based on six MathStart stories.


A good grounding in math from an early age is critical and visual learning strategies can play an important role. Children who are comfortable with mathematical concepts and understand that they use math all the time are more likely to do well in school and in everything else, too. It is a formula for success!

sjmurphy_5941Stuart J. Murphy is a Boston-based visual learning specialist, author and consultant. He is the author of the award-winning MathStart series (HarperCollins), which includes a total of 63 children’s books that present mathematical concepts in the context of stories for Pre-K through Grade 4. (Over 10 million copies sold.) He is also the author of Stuart J. Murphy’s I SEE I LEARN (Charlesbridge), a 16-book series of storybooks for children in Pre-K, Kindergarten, and Grade 1 that focus on social, emotional, health and safety, and cognitive skills. Most of all, Stuart is an advocate of helping our children develop their visual learning skills so that they become more successful students.


Posted by | March 3, 2014 | No Comments

The recently-published FOUNDING MOTHERS, by Cokie Roberts, presents the incredible accomplishments of the women who orchestrated the American Revolution behind the scenes.

Founding Mothers

In this vibrant nonfiction picture book, Roberts traces the stories of heroic, patriotic women such as Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren, Sarah Livingston Jay, and others through their personal correspondence, private journals, ledgers and lists, and even favored recipes. The extraordinary triumphs of these women created a shared bond that urged the founding fathers to “Remember the Ladies.”

Here are some Common Core objectives that FOUNDING MOTHERS can help meet:

  • Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • Describe the overall structure of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
  • Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.

And here are some questions you can use and build on for a Common Core-ready lesson:

  1. How does the structure of nonfiction text affect how we understand the material? RI.5.5
  2. What composite structure does the author use to shape events, ideas, concepts and information? RI.5.5
  3. What is the author’s purpose for writing this book? Do you think the author is a reliable source? Discuss. RI.5.8, SL.5.1d, SL.5.4

We’ll be highlighting lots more titles and how they can be used to support the Common Core in the coming months, so be sure to check back often for our Common Core Spotlight feature!


Posted by | February 5, 2014 | No Comments

We’re so proud of our award-winning authors, and we’d love for you to be able to use these great books in your classroom right away (if you aren’t already, of course)! Read on for some teaching resources to help jump-start discussions and lessons centered around these stellar titles . . .

billy miller

penny and her

Here’s a downloadable Kevin Henkes Author Study that includes Common Core-aligned teaching guides for THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER, PENNY AND HER MARBLE, and several more Kevin Henkes titles.


Here’s a downloadable Common Core-aligned discussion guide for Rita Williams-Garcia’s P.S. BE ELEVEN, and one for ONE CRAZY SUMMER, as well.

nelson mandela

Here are a handful of images from NELSON MANDELA that you can use as visual inspiration for lessons or projects on history, politics, biography, or even just to print and hang in your classroom or library.

Mandela image 1
Mandela image 2
Mandela image 3

Don’t forget to check out our Common Core Resources page for lots more teaching guides, discussion guides, lesson ideas, and more!


Posted by | August 22, 2013 | 12 Comments

Looking for a fun, interactive picture book to use for story time (or any time)? Christie Matheson’s debut picture book, TAP THE MAGIC TREE, fits the bill perfectly. TAP THE MAGIC TREE combines the magic of the changing seasons with the magic of turning a page as the reader taps, pats, claps, and wiggles to make leaves grow, blossoms bloom, apples appear, and leaves swirl away with the autumn breeze.

Tap the Magic Tree
Here’s a little demo of how much fun can be had with one page turn!

You can have a sneak peek up-close at the first several pages here, and you can download a Common Core-aligned Teaching Guide here. Tap away and make magic happen!


Posted by | August 13, 2013 | 1 Comment

Who’s ready for September? No one yet? That’s alright. We still have plenty of summer left. Whenever you’re ready, though, we want to help you start the school year off right with a little bit of inspiration. There are so many great back-to-school books out there that it’s difficult to choose just a few, but here’s a small sampling of some of our favorites!


My New Teacher and MeThis follow-up to “Weird Al” Yankovic’s bestselling debut picture book WHEN I GROW UP will get your students (and you, too) laughing out loud. The irrepressible Billy returns in this hilarious back-to-school tale filled with wordplay and energetic rhyme.

Amelia Bedelia's First Dayof SchoolHow could you not love Amelia Bedelia and her charmingly mixed-up view of the world? We bet you can guess what happens when Amelia Bedelia is told on her first day of school to “hop on the bus.” And it only gets funnier from there! You can visit for all kinds of fun downloadable activities and teaching resources.


Lulu Goes to Witch SchoolKids will love this clever spin on a starting-school story by Jane O’Connor (yes, THAT Jane O’Connor, author of the beloved Fancy Nancy books!). First published in 1990 and just released with adorable new illustrations by debut illustrator Bella Sinclair, this is a perfect book for any kid who might be a little nervous about heading off to school for the first time.

Fancy Day in Room 1-AGet some ideas for fancy-ing up your class from everyone’s favorite Fancy Expert, and make this school year the most glamorous yet!


The Year of Billy MillerKevin Henkes’s newest novel, due out September 17, is a humorous, heartwarming school and family story for young middle-grade readers. Kids will see a lot of themselves in Billy Miller, whose second-grade year includes such universal experiences as homework (dioramas!), school shows (original poetry performed at microphones!), canceled sleepovers, and epic sibling temper tantrums. Visit for more information, teaching guides, and more!

MWS #8: Dr. Nicholas Is RidiculousAre your students hungry for more of Dan Gutman’s wacky My Weird School stories? Book #8 in the My Weirder School series, DR. NICHOLAS IS RIDICULOUS!, is the most recent installment, and you can look for book #9, MS. SUE HAS NO CLUE! this October. Don’t forget, you can always head over to the My Weird Classroom Club website for all kinds of great teaching resources, including downloadables, for all of the My Weird School books!

Coming soon: Back-to-school books for older readers . . . stay tuned!

Teaching JFK

Posted by | August 12, 2013 | No Comments

JFK Jonah WinterOnce upon a time in America, there was a man who mattered to a lot of people. His name was John F. Kennedy.

This is a story about how a little boy grew up to be a President. It’s a story of hope and courage. It’s a story about the power of words. And it is a story that has been told many times, in many voices.

Acclaimed picture book biographer Jonah Winter offers his own voice and memories about JFK and his significance in this heartfelt personal profile, illustrated in vibrant detail by AG Ford.

Looking for extra materials to go alongside this book? Check out the printable Author’s note and a JFK Timeline!


Posted by | June 14, 2013 | No Comments

If you love Pete the Cat as much as we do, then, boy, do we have good news for you! Pete is back in THE WHEELS ON THE BUS, with his own very groovy version of the popular song. The book will be available on June 25th, and in the meantime, here’s a little treat for you and your students to enjoy on this lovely summer Friday:


Posted by | June 6, 2013 | 1 Comment

As you may have heard, 2013 marks 50 years of the beloved, mixed-up housekeeper Amelia Bedelia. Our celebration continues with this heartwarming video featuring Herman Parish, footage of Peggy Parish, illustrators Lynne Avril and Barbara Siebel Thomas, Gretchen Siebel, editor Susan Hirschman, and everyone’s favorite dressed chicken. Hear about the history and evolution of Amelia Bedelia from the people who created her and those who have continued her legacy, and reminisce about your favorite moments from the books. (Dressing the chicken? Stringing the beans? Hitting the road? It’s tough to choose, but our favorite might be the “surprise shower.”)

In case you’d like to share the video with students or others whose attention spans are more suited for brevity, here’s a shorter (but equally warm and fuzzy) version:

Don’t forget to download an Amelia Bedelia Party Kit and join the celebration! Here’s to 50 years of hilarity and delicious baked goods.


Posted by | April 8, 2013 | 4 Comments

Giants can’t dance. Can they?! In GIANT DANCE PARTY, coming April 23 from Betsy Bird and Brandon Dorman, everyone can dance!

Giant Dance Party

Ms. Bird, a seasoned librarian who has put on many a storytime event, has kindly shared with us some great ideas for hosting a dance party in your library, classroom, or store that will get everyone moving and grooving. We hope you’ll use this guide to throw your own Giant Dance Party for your little giants. And don’t forget to check out the book, which Kirkus Reviews called “Full of pep and verve and enthusiasm . . . Sheer joy.”

Many thanks to Betsy Bird, and happy dancing to everyone!

From Betsy Bird:

In GIANT DANCE PARTY, we see what happens when some furry blue big ’uns cut loose on the floor. Now here’s your chance to have your very own Giant Dance Party in the comfort of your own store, school, or library. When hosting any kind of a dance event, it is important to remember the four essential elements of any good party involving kids:

  1. Loud music
  2. Fabulous snacks
  3. Fun costumes
  4. Goofy adults

You’re responsible for the goofy adults. For all other items, here are some ideas for having a GIANT DANCE PARTY to beat all other giant dance parties.

Food: It Gotta Be Blue

Are you the kind of person who quails at the thought of providing delicious, healthy, and one-of-a-kind snacks at a party? Well, quail not. Kids love specialized foods, but what they like even more is filling their bellies. And since the giants in GIANT DANCE PARTY are as blue as the sky above, try serving treats of a similar hue. Here are some simple party ideas that can be fancied up if you’ve a yen to do so.

Blue ice pops—In GIANT DANCE PARTY, Lexy turns into the human equivalent of an ice pop whenever she’s called upon to dance. Consider making some ice pops of your own.

Blue juice—Time to get nice and cozy with the Kool-Aid man, yet again. Find your favorite blue version and make up a nice big pitcher.

Blue popcorn—It can be done! Combine butter, oil, salt, corn syrup, and blue food coloring in a big bowl. Next, microwave the mixture for 30–40 seconds, just until butter melts. Stir to combine, and then add the unpopped popcorn kernels and stir so that the kernels get completely covered with the syrup mixture. Spread them out evenly in the bottom of the bowl. Then just cover the bowl with a vented lid and microwave on high for 3–5 minutes, or until there are 1–2 seconds between pops. Instant blue popcorn awaits you!

Cupcakes—Consider blueberry cupcakes with blue frosting and M&Ms for a topper. Healthier alternatives can include blueberry muffins or just big bowls of blueberries.

Suggested Tunes for Little Monsters

The number one most important thing you need when you host a dance party? Dancing! Now that you’ve gotten them hepped up on sugar, it’s time to let those kiddos strut their signature dance moves on the floor. Trust your gut when it comes to great music. If it has a beat, the kids will be able to dance to it. Some recommended selections include:

“Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” by C&C Music Factory

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (Cindi Lauper’s version)

“Walk Like an Egyptian,” by The Bangles

“Hey Ya!” by OutKast

“La Bamba” (Los Lobos version)

“Twist and Shout” (the Beatles’ version)

The Kidz Bop albums—You may roll your eyes when you hear the oddly infantilized versions of the latest songs on the radio. But hey, if it comes down to the dirty real lyrics and the ones Kidz Bop comes up with, you may as well go for the safe and secure, if only to avoid the glares of irate parents.

Big on Costumes

Everyone has a different idea of what a giant looks like. In GIANT DANCE PARTY the giants are huge (as per usual), furry, and blue. But leave yourself open to a range of different giant interpretations. Here are some great giants in pop culture you might want to consider replicating:

The giants in GIANT DANCE PARTY—Furry-and-blue is the name of the game here. Don’t want to go all out with a hot and heavy costume? Consider going to Etsy and purchasing a pair of furry blue boot covers for the legs alone. They’re sure to gussy up any outfit.

The Jolly Green Giant—The nice thing about this guy is that he doesn’t require fur. Just a toga of green, maybe some green tights, and some makeup for the skin. Toss in a little green dye for the hair, and voila! Instant giant.

Hagrid from the Harry Potter series—This is for your future motorcycle tough guy. All you need is a ginormous beard and maybe an old bathrobe, and it’s Hagrid in the flesh.

Finn MacCoul—He’s the most famous giant in Ireland, so run to your local library to pick up some books on him (we recommend Finn MacCoul and His Fearless Wife, by Robert Byrd, or Fin M’Coul, by Tomie dePaola). Next, construct an outfit. You can go all out with a kilt or just find some plaid fabric to make an appropriate sash.

Your standard Fe Fi Fo Fum giant—Bad teeth, warts, raggedy clothes, and maybe a club for grinding men’s bones into bread. Extra points if you bring along your own beanstalk.

King Kong—Who says all giants have to be humans? Go ape by dressing up as everyone’s favorite Empire State Building ascender. Consider attaching a couple of paper airplanes here and there for the kids to swipe at for fun (and don’t forget to carry a Faye Wray-esque doll around, too!).

Most important of all, have fun! There’s no wrong way to throw a Giant Dance Party. Each one, like each giant, is unique in its very own way.

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