Sunday, March 29, 2015

Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes

Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes
Edited by Elizabeth Hammill; Illustrated by over 70 acclaimed artists
Published by Candlewick Press, 2015
ISBN #978-0763677299

Grades PreK and up

Book Review

Listen carefully, and you’ll notice there are “tiny masterpieces of verse” all around us. Celebrate this observation (and April as National Poetry Month) with Over the Hills and Far Away, where 150 childhood nursery rhymes abound in this colorful compilation, edited by Elizabeth Hammill and illustrated by over 70 different artists. This is no ordinary collection of jump-rope chants, riddles, finger games, lullabies, and just fun nonsensical rhymes. While it may initially seem like an eclectic collection, Hammill’s acuity as an editor becomes clear as we see rhymes purposefully juxtaposed with each other in very clever ways. Sometimes a rhyme is matched with its counterpart from another culture: did you know “Little Miss Muffet” has English, Jamaican, American, and Australian versions? Other times, paired rhymes share stylistic similarities (tongue-twisters featuring Peter Piper and Betty Botter comprise a double-page spread). The illustrations are likewise globally diverse and inspired, provided by acclaimed artists including Emily Gravett, Eric Carle, Jon Klassen, Jerry Pinkney, Nina Crews, and many others. Useful back matter includes information about each illustrator, an index of first lines, and a list of sources. A stunning and surefire hit among students and teachers alike, with dozens of possibilities for instructional application, this may perhaps be the ultimate classroom nursery rhyme collection.

Teaching Ideas and Invitations

Shared Reading. Keep this volume close at hand to read its poems aloud throughout National Poetry Month and the rest of the school year. Select children’s favorites to rewrite on sentence strips to post in a pocket chart. Keep the lines of the poem whole on the sentence strips or cut them into individual word cards so that students can reassemble the poem from memory using letter/sound or sight word cues.

Rimes and Rhymes. Use the nursery rhymes in this volume as authentic texts for word study of rimes and rhymes. When teaching students about a particular rhyme sound, have them also find examples from the poems that show the various rimes that spell that sound (e.g., -ale and –ail, -oon and -une). Have them do this individually or in small groups, focusing on one rhyme sound at a time. You might want to photocopy certain poems from the book and arm students with highlighters, or rewrite some poems on large chart paper and have students circle the rimes during whole-class interactive reading sessions. Then, challenge them to come up with more rimes on their own to match a particular rhyme sound.

Nursery Rhymes Across the Ages. Hammill’s collection is wonderfully multicultural in its inclusion of nursery rhymes. Because of their oral tradition, what’s also interesting about nursery rhymes is that they often undergo various iterations across different generations. Have students ask family and community members across different generations about all the nursery rhymes that were popular when they were children, including riddles, lullabies, and playground rhymes. Have them transcribe these rhymes and display them before the class to compare and contrast them. You might even invite students’ family and community members to visit your class and recite some of the nursery rhymes from their childhood for the class.

Be the Editor. If your students were to gather a collection of their favorite poems, how might they purposefully arrange them into a book? Teach students the analytic and organizational skills needed to be an editor of a volume of collected works. Use Over the Hills and Far Away as a mentor text, explicitly discussing with students how Elizabeth Hammill thought carefully not just about which nursery rhymes to include, but also how to group and juxtapose them to convey more meaning than they poems themselves do. You might also want to use the poetry collections edited by Paul Janeczko, Lee Bennett Hopkins, and Chris Raschka. Ask the school or local library to display the class volume for others to reflect upon and peruse.

Illustrating Poetry. Over the Hills and Far Away has a unique illustration for each of its poems. Have your class study the illustrations, using a reference like Molly Bang's Picture This to understand how line, color, composition, and other artistic principles enhance the meaning of a written text. Then have each of your students gather a few of their favorite nursery rhymes and apply those principles to illustrate the rhymes. Have each student create an anthology of their illustrated rhymes, or have small groups individually illustrate the same rhyme, then compare and discuss their different illustrative interpretations create a class anthology or bulletin board that showcases the variety of selected nursery rhymes and illustrations.

Illustrator Studies. The celebration of illustrators in this book invites readers to compare and contrast the artwork of the contributors. Have your students spend time examining the illustrations in this book and then, individually or in small groups, select an illustrator to study more closely. Help them gather a variety of that illustrator's books to survey the artwork in it. What characterizes the illustrator's artistic style? Are there any idiosyncrasies particular to that illustrator? What is his or her favorite media to use? You may want to refer to the illustrator compilation by Eric Carle, Artist to Artist, and consult your local librarian, the Internet, and other biographical sources to answer these questions. You might also have students look at the books What’s Your Favorite Animal? and Nursery Rhyme Comics. which also brings together celebrated children’s illustrators. Then, have students try their hand at illustrating their favorite nursery rhyme in the style of the illustrator they studied.

Reading Buddies and Poetry Month. Have your older elementary students read aloud some of the poems in Over the Hills and Far Away with their primary grade reading buddies. Have them take notes on their reading buddies’ reactions to the poems, and then compare and contrast with one another. What do their reading buddies think of the poems and illustrations in this book? As a component of this exercise, you might want to have the older students work with their reading buddies in jointly authoring and illustrating short poems.

Nursery Rhyme Origins
. Many of these verses have origins that go back for centuries; others for perhaps only decades. In the book’s introduction, Hammill notes these rhymes “have outlasted their origins as street cries, folk songs, political satire, remnants of custom and proverb and have been polished into perfect form over time.” Engage students in inquiry projects that research the origins of one or several of these nursery rhymes. What are the differences between the rhyme and its origins? Why do you think it changed across time? How were topics treated, and what perspectives on them were given power.? Besides helping them conduct research online, have them work with the school or local librarian to find other sources of information. Be warned, though, that some of these rhymes do have dark origins, so you may want to do this research on your own ahead of time.

Further Explorations

Online Resources 

Nursery rhyme websites

Benefits of reading nursery rhymes

Origins of nursery rhymes


Ada, A. F., & Campob, F. I. (Eds.). (2003). Pio peep! Trans. by A. Schertle, Ill. by V. Escrivá. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Carle, E., & others. (2007). Artist to artist: 23 major illustrators talk to children about their art. New York: Philomel.

Carle, E., & others. (2014). What’s your favorite animal? New York: Henry Holt and Co. 

Chorao, K. (2009). Rhymes 'round the world. New York: Dutton Books for Young Readers.

Crews, N. (2003). The neighborhood Mother Goose. New York: Greenwillow Books.

Crews, N. (2011). The neighborhood sing-along. New York: Greenwillow Books.

Duffy, C. (Ed.) (2011). Nursery rhyme comics. Ill. by various artists. New York: First Second.

Hallworth, G. (Ed.). (2011). Down by the river: Afro-Caribbean rhymes, games, and songs for children. Ill. by C. Binch. London, UK: Frances Lincoln Children's Books.

Henderson, K. (Ed.). (2011). Hush, baby, hush!: Lullabies from around the world. Ill. by P. Smy. London, UK: Frances Lincoln Children's Books.

Sierra, J. (Ed.) (2012). Schoolyard rhymes. Ill. by M. Sweet. New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Echo: A Novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Echo: A Novel
Written by Pam Munoz Ryan
Published in 2015 by Scholastic

Grades 3-8

Book Review

Pam Muñoz Ryan, acclaimed author of Esperanza Rising and The Dreamer, has merged fairy tale with historical fiction in her beautifully crafted new novel Echo. Dinara Mirtalipova’s intricate black-and-white illustrations signal the fairy tale beginning, where we meet a boy lost in the woods. Three enchanted women give him a harmonica. This seemingly simple instrument carries the women’s deepest hopes which echoes those we all share—“to be free, to be loved, and to belong somewhere.” We are then swept across time and place through narratives woven together by the ethereal-sounding harmonica. We are taken to Nazi Germany, Depression-era Pennsylvania, Southern California during World War II, and finally to Carnegie Hall in New York City. We meet characters that experience heart aching struggle but ultimately triumph in the face of discrimination—Friedrich, a boy with a facial deformity living in Nazi Germany who composes music in his mind, Mike and Frankie Flannery, orphaned brothers during the Great Depression who find a home in piano playing, and Ivy Lopez, a Mexican-American girl whose musical talents make her feel noticed even when she is placed in a disadvantaged, segregated school. As the title suggests, each character’s story echoes the one that came before it, revealing stories of fear, loneliness, and human atrocity. Even more powerful though, are the echoes of hope, joy, and beauty that reverberate throughout this book through the power of music. Ideal for a class read-aloud, literature club, or independent reading, this book will grab students and offers an education in music and history alongside a captivating multilayered story.

Teaching Ideas / Invitations for Your Classroom:

Grades 2 – 8

Genre Blending. In Echo, Pam Muñoz Ryan uses a fairytale to bookend the historical fiction heart of the story. Reread the beginning and ending sections of the book with students, noticing common elements of fairy tales such as magic, repetition of threes, royalty, and good versus evil. Consider why Pam Muñoz Ryan would begin and end in this way emphasizing the ways magic could offer an opportunity to rewrite history during times of intolerance and discrimination. Next, support students to reread one of the four historical fiction sections of the novel noting historical details woven within the fictional narratives. Support students as historians to notice details about the people, places, and time periods represented by each section. What themes do students notice echoed across the historical fiction sections of the text that are universal human themes?  Finally, support students to do some genre blending in their own writing such as weaving fairy tale with fiction or fantasy with informational texts.

Closely Reading Characters. Throughout the book, Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy are brought to life through the powerful language choices Ryan makes. We feel their pain, self-doubt, and worry and leap for their successes. Support students to zoom in on one character tracking their feelings, inner thoughts, challenges, and courage throughout the story. In what ways do these characters teach us about vulnerability? Hope? Community? Support students to zoom in even more closely by finding sentences that they feel best portray each character. What do they notice about Ryan’s lyrical use of language and word choice? In what ways can they apply Ryan’s craft techniques to their own narrative texts?

Studying Character’s Voice.  Each of the main characters has a strong and compelling voice. Have students select one character and then find passages that reveal pivotal moments in that character’s life. Next, have students to create audiorecordings in the character’s voice. What emotion do they want to project? What should they do with their voices to convey this?  Compile the audiorecordings into a podcast for other classes to listen to and comment on.

The Language of Music. Music itself travels in many directions throughout the novel as seen across the characters’ stories as they come to own the harmonica. Start an anchor chart with students to track the new language and knowledge they gain about music. Have students keep their own music glossaries that they add to as they are reading Echo. Support student to research what musical terms mean online, through books about music, and by interviewing musical members of the community such as the school’s music teacher.

A Seemingly Simple Symbol. The harmonica. It’s an instrument that young children can pick up and play. Not often seen as a powerful sound-making machine, the harmonica becomes the star of this book, redefining how we think about this seemingly simple instrument. Consider with students why Ryan would select the harmonica as the instrument of choice for all of the characters to play. Introduce the term symbolism and consider the ways in which the harmonica means more to the story than simply being a tool for the delivery of sound. Read, view, and learn about the real Albert N. Hoxie Philadelphia Harmonica Band referenced throughout Mike Flannery’s chapters as well as the rise and fall of harmonica ensembles in America. Listen with students to the work of musicians known for their harmonica playing including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Billy Joel, and Bruce Springstein (See Resources below). If possible, reach out to community partnerships to support your own students as harmonica players to experience the sounds and beauty of the harmonica for themselves. Have students compare and contrast their thoughts on the harmonica based on the ways various artists use the instrument.

Historical Fiction Text Sets.  Pam Muñoz Ryan has chosen some of the most devastating moments in history to portray through Echo. Support students in research teams to learn more about one of the central time periods explored in the novel: Nazi Germany, The Great Depression, School Segregation in the 1940s, and the Japanese Internment Camps of World War II.  Pair Echo with other unforgettable novels and picture books that capture these historical time periods including The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Harmonica by Tony Johnston, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan , Moon over Manifest by Clare VaderpoolSeparate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, So Far from the Sea by Eve Bungin, and Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki.

Author Review. Pam Muñoz Ryan is the author of Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi León, Riding Freedom, Paint the Wind, and TheDreamer. Support students to read across her novels noticing common themes about human struggle, identity, discrimination and freedom as well as specific ways she draws from earlier work in the creation of characters in Echo. Pair students as author reviewers writing brief summaries of the books they have read, opinions of her work, and recommendations for other readers who would enjoy her writing style. Share The Classroom Bookshelf along with book reviews from The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, and the School Library Journal to discuss craft techniques for how to write a review.

Critical Literacy

Discrimination Across Time and Place. Central to the book is the theme of discrimination. Consider with students the ways in which each of the main characters, as well as secondary characters, are discriminated against based on their life circumstances, race, ethnicity, religion, or family structure. Discuss with students the ways in which discrimination takes shape in their own lives or in the lives of people they know. Have students comb digital pages of national newspapers for evidence of discrimination. What actions can they take to counter discriminatory statements and actions by others? If the harmonica traveled to a modern day character who would they be and what would their story have to teach us about understanding? Consider pairing students or using the method of shared writing to craft a new final chapter that takes place today. In what ways could the harmonica bring harmony to communities that are actively fighting against discrimination?

Online Resources

Author’s Site

Illustrator’s Site

Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Book Talk About Echo

Pam Muñoz Ryan on Writing Historical Fiction

New York Times Book Review

Harmonica Gallery including Albert N. Hoxie’s Philadelphia Harmonica Band and Philip Sousa’s Harmonica Wizard March

Harmonica Solos

History of the Harmonica Trailer

Classroom Bookshelf Entry for Southern California Mexican-American School Segregation Resources

Children of Japanese Internment Camps

National Archives on Japanese Relocation During WWII

Bunting, E. (1989). Terrible things: An allegory of the Holocaust. The Jewish Publication Society. Philadelphia, PA.

Bunting, E. (1998). So far from the sea. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers.

Johnston, T. (2008). The harmonica. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Mochizuki, K. (1993). Baseball saved us. New York: Lee and Low Books.

Ryan, P. M. (2000). Esperanza rising. New York: Scholastic.

Ryan, P.M. (2004). Becoming Naomi León. New York: Scholastic.

Ryan, P.M. (2010). Riding freedom. New York: Scholastic.

Ryan, P.M. (2007). Paint the wind. New York: Scholastic.

Tonatiuh, D. (2014). Separate is never equal: Sylvia Mendez & her family’s fight for desegregation. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Vanderpool, C. (2010). Moon over manifest. New York: Delacorte Press.

Zusak, M. (2007). The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Welcome to the Neighborwood

Welcome to the Neighborwood
Written and Illustrated by Shawn Sheehy
Published by Candlewick Press in 2015
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6594-4

Book Review

“Animal builders are born with their own tools. “ And they use these tools, such as their teeth, beaks, or claws for various purposes: to catch food, to create shelter, to provide a safe place for their young. Shawn Sheehy’s breathtaking pop-up book illustrates a range of animal craftsmanship in full three- dimensional glory. Merging the art forms of paper making, collage, and paper engineering, Sheehy’s constructions pay homage to the ingenuity they reveal. Each double page spread features a single animal with a primary text describing the animal’s building techniques and the functions of the structure it creates. Since the animal representations are not proportional to one another across the book, a brief secondary text includes a helpful size reference, for example “At the length of a baseball bat (not counting his tail, the beaver is world’s second-largest rodent.” The last sentence of each expository section inspires the page turn by linking the animal to a neighbor in this ecosystem. The page that depicts a hummingbird perched in her woven nest concludes with,  “The sticky silk fiber that Hummingbird uses is provided by her eight legged neighbor…”  The next page then showcases that neighbor, in this case, a garden spider.  A final spread brings all these neighbors together in a single glorious upright image and provides a reminder that we, too, can serve as neighbors to and stewards of the natural world.

All Ages

Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? This book can be used to prompt consideration of the relationships among people and animals in your local community. Invite your students to consider the connections they have locally with people beyond their family members. A concrete way to begin this conversation with younger students would be to ask them to keep a list of the people they encounter in their community over the course of a week.

More About Animal Builders. During a second reading of Welcome to the Neighborwood, keep a running list on chart paper of the animals and their construction techniques. Use survey texts, online resources, and additional books that explore animal building techniques to learn more about the construction processes of these animals. Expand your study to include animals found in different ecosystems. Older students can explore how animal builders have adapted to their environment, maximizing their chances of survival.

Building Materials and Methods. Welcome to the Neighborwood could also be used as a resource in a unit of study of construction methods. Used in a text sets that explores construction materials and methods, this title invites students to compare animal and human architecture. You might begin the comparison with a conversation about function: For what reasons do animals build structures? For what reasons do humans build structures? Expand your exploration with books and online resources, for example,  a picture book biography of Gaudi, Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi, or the wonderful poetry collection celebrating child and adult builders, Dreaming Up, or the detailed look at house construction in  Building Our House. As a culmination to this look at the methods and materials on animal and human builders, invite students to design and build a prototype for a home / shelter.

Learning About Ecosystems. Welcome to the Neighborhood is ideal for use in a Solar System model (see out Teaching with Text Sets entry) comprised of texts that focus on the interdependent relationships in an ecosystem. Suggested books that feature animal, plant, and environment relationships include: Trout Are Made of Trees, Meadowlands: AWetlands Survival Story, Planting the Wild Garden, and No Monkeys No Chocolate. Create a note maker or graphic organizer to help students map out the connections in these habitats / ecosystems.

Study of the Pop-Up Book. Gather together a collection of Pop-Up Books for a study of the form of the Pop-Up Book. Invite students to discuss the variations in genre, medium, text design and text structures, paper engineering techniques that they discover through and examination of a range of books. If you have more time, conduct author/illustrator studies, asking students to work in small groups to look more closely a the work of studies of author/illustrators who use this art form, including Robert Sabuda, David A. Carter, Robert Crowther, and Matthew Reinhart (see Further Resources for links to their websites). Guide students to develop evaluation criteria for Pop Up books – What makes a good Pop Up book? This activity will likely inspire your students to create their own!

Paper Engineering. Bring in a collection of Pop Up books and invite students to examine the paper engineering, making a list of what they notice about the physical construction of the books. What techniques do paper engineers use to make two dimensional paper into a three dimensional structure? What shapes can be made? How many layers are possible? How is movement created? Engage the students in hands on explorations of these techniques, fostering conversations about the physics, geometry, and measurement involved. Guidance for this activity is available through YouTube videos on the construction of Pop-Up books and the How To Guides listed in the Further Explorations section.

Paper Artists. Explore the work of picture book illustrators who use paper as the primary media for the art – creating images through techniques such as collage, paper pulp painting, paper cutting, and paper engineering. Along with a selection of PopUp book illustrators, include artists such as Steve Jenkins, Laura Vacarro Seeger, Petr Horacek, Denise Fleming, Giles LaRoche, and David Wisniewski. Invite your students to try these different techniques enhancing a written text with paper art.

Using 3-D to Teach. Engage students in a conversation of how the images in Welcome to the Neighborwood help us to visualize these animals and to understand them as builders in their environment. Watch the TED Ed Talk in which a pop-up book combined with animation is used to discuss the movement of tectonic plates. Consider other examples of how 3D representations may failitate understanding, for example, an animated image of the earth’s rotation and orbit or more simply, a globe as compared to a map. Work collaboratively with art and technology specialists to guide students through a project in wich they create a teaching tool that is a 3D representation of some kind.

An Artist’s Book. Welcome to the Neighborwood was initially created as an “Artist’s Book” before being published by Candlewick as a trade book. Unpack the definition provided by Johanna Drucker: “A book which integrates the formal means of its realization and production with its thematic or aesthetic issues.” Explore examples of Artist’s Books on Shawn Sheehy’s website and that of The Center for Book Arts. Along with a teacher at a grade level different than your own (to create cross-age collaboration), plan a book-making workshop in which younger and older students will work collaboratively to create an Artist’s Book that has been fully planned, drafted, revised, and co-constructed. Invite families and community members to view the final products.

Further Explorations

Online Resources

Candlewick Press: Welcome to the Neighborwood: Resources for Teachers

You Tube Video of Book Interior

Carroll University: Book Art with Shawn Sheehy

The Center for Book Arts

ABC3D Pop-Up Book You Tube Video

TED Ed: The Pangaea Pop-up - Michael Molina
Bringing a Pop-Up Book to Life

The Artist’s Book as Idea and Form

Pop-Up Books Artists:

Robert Sabuda

David A. Carter

Kelli Anderson: A Video Profile

Robert Crowther

Matthew Reinhart

Children’s Book Illustrators Who Use Paper as Their Medium:

Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Petr Horacek
David Wisniewski (presented by Kay Vandergrift)
Steve Jenkins
Denise Fleming
Giles LaRoche


Barton, C. (2005). The pocket paper engineer: How to make pop-ups step-by-step. Popular Kinetics Press.

Bean, J. (2013). Building our house. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux.

Galbraith, K.O. (2011). Planting the wild garden. Ill. by W.A. Halperin. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers.

Hale, C. (2012). Dreaming up: A celebration of building. New York: Lee & Low.

Irvine, J. (1992) How to make super pop-ups. Dover Publications.

Jackson, P. (2011). Folding techniques for designers: From sheet to form. London: Laurence King Publishers.

Kalman, B. (2015). How and why animals build homes. New York: Crabtree Publishing.

Rodriguez, R. (2009). Building on nature: The life of Antoni Gaudi. Ill. by J. Paschkis. New York: Henry Holt.

Sayre, A.P. (2008) Trout are made of trees. Ill. by. K. Endle. Cambridge, MA: Charlesbridge.

Stewart, M. (2013). No monkeys no chocolate. Ill. by N. Wong. Cambridge, MA: Charlesbridge.

Yezerski, T.F. (2011). Meadowlands: A wetlands survival story. New York: Farrar Straus, Giroux.