Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Mums matter

I'm just having a bit of fun on my blog this week, just being me.  It will be interesting to see if anyone actually reads it, and if they do, please leave a comment below to prove it (Ta).  It's just a bit of an experiment..even if it's just a comment, "I read your blog", I would appreciate it :)

I am loving these new picture books for Mothers' Day this year.  

Who doesn't love Nick Bland? Published in 2015, Some Mums is a joyful celebration of mothers and their individuality.  (They are actually my own words even though they sound like they come off a Hallmark card!!) Some Mums is a terrific mentor text for studying adjectives to describe qualities and characteristics of mothers and also for rhyming words.  The illustrations are gorgeous and support visual literacy, adding meaning to the text.  This lends itself so well to the children describing the qualities and characteristics that make their own mums unique and special.  Free teaching notes for Some Mums are available here and Reading Time provides a synopsis of the book here.

The publisher's description states:
"Some mums are graceful and some mums are tough.
Each mum has her own way of being a mum and they are all delightful!
Another instant classic from Nick Bland!"'

Kylie's pink rating:  Minimal use of pink. Mums represented with a variety of individual strengths and characteristics.


I just love Bruce Whatley's illustrations. My Mum's the Best, published in 2015 and written by Rosie Smith is another celebration of what makes mums special.  Bruce Whatley's illustrations are gorgeous and add to the text about that special bond between mums and their young. You can read a review of My Mum's the Best on My Book Corner here or at Kids' Book Review here.
Kylie's pink rating:  Pretty use of pink on cover and no mums with blonde hair in the kitchen cooking :)

Dear Mum, I Love You is a really special book.  In the tradition of The Jolly Postman and Other Such Letters, it includes letters or postcards inside.  Written by Ed Allen and published in 2015, this picture book would be a terrific mentor text for writing in the early years of school, with children writing their own letter, postcard or card to mum for Mothers' Day.   

You can read a review of the book from Reading Time (the Children's Book Council) here, or by clicking on the image below.  I am really liking this title as a picture book that has a lot of curriculum potential as a learning resource in schools.  Each double page spread features a different animal mother and baby and a letter written for their mum. The illustrations by Simon Williams are just gorgeous.  I love the way the letter from the chameleon is written in a range of changing colours - very clever and lends itself so well to inferring.  

This picture book is not cheesy.  It is authentic and has a depth of potential as a learning resource in so many different ways, including learning about animal mothers and their babies and letter writing.  Have a read of an activity Melissa from Honey Bee Books organised after sharing this picture book. This is sure to be a picture book that is read over and over again and used time and again for real learning purposes in classrooms each year, that goes beyond making pink love heart cards...in fact, this is an interesting blog post I am currently reading that you might like to ponder: What typical preschool crafts are a total waste of time.
Pink rating:  Limited use of pink on cover only.  Great teaching potential.

All this pink, was making me think...I was looking for an "out-of-the-box" picture book where Mums are represented in different ways, other than through pink backgrounds, images and cleaning/cooking stereotypes.  

With regard to teaching potential, I am loving My Mum Says the Strangest Things by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Tom Jellett and published by Black Dog Books (2016).  This is such a fantastic picture book for teaching idioms and those sayings that all of our mums have that have become classics over the years.  Oh look, the author has a Facebook Page - I'll just hop over and "like" that.  All the authors and illustrators in this blog post probably have FB and twitter etc...If you know their links, please share in the comments below as I really do need to expand my groupie circles :)  

Okay, back to My Mum Says the Strangest Things which has so many teachable opportunities...The son shares some of his mother's sayings (idioms) which leaves the reader pondering about their literal meanings.  Students could reflect on the unique sayings their own mothers have.
 Kids Book Review interviews the author here.  That is such a good blog by the way - kindred spirits :)  Free teaching notes for My Mum Says the Strangest Things are available here.  You can also read an interview with the author here or view a video preview on the author's website here.
Pink rating:  Was there pink in there?  Great teaching potential.

Supermum and My Mum is a Supermum (also published in 2016) would make terrific companion texts for Mother's Day in the classroom. A time-release vimeo of Supermum is available here that shows how the cover illustration was created. This would be useful within the visual arts and design technology curriculum areas. My Mum has X-Ray vision would be an excellent companion text with My Mum is a Supermum as they have similar themes.  Scholastic's blurb about  Supermum reads: 
My mum has secret superpowers,
she can do amazing things..."
Superheroes have all kinds of special powers. They are super clever, super brave, super kind and super fun. And so are mums!

What amazing superpowers does your SUPERMUM have?

Supermum lends itself beautifully to writing and children writing about their own mum's superpowers or to create a "Super Mum" card for Mothers' Day.  
Pink rating:  Minimal use of pink. Good teaching potential for descriptions.

I imagine there will be plenty of blog posts in the lead up to Mother's Day with links to crafts, so I will cut to the chase and just share the link to my pinterest board for Mother's Day where I have pinned plenty of ideas for home and school.

I was all excited when I came across The Messy Mother's Day in my search for alternative representations of mums in picture books. I thought I had finally a picture book about Mums that I could relate to, but it wasn't about Mum being messy (I like to call it "creative" by the way) but rather about the mess kids make when they are doing something special for mum for Mother's Day :)

On that train of thought, I am liking the sound of this new picture book by Emily Gravett (click on the image) about the perils of overzealous neatness and being too tidy :)  You can never be too careful, I say!

I was looking for a picture book that was about real mums who aren't all pink, pretty and perfect :)

And then I found it...My Hippie Grandmother - I wonder if there is one about mums? I also wonder if there is a version about mothers who are addicted to picture books or have a picture book obsession?  I am loving this description of the book on Amazon (and yes I bought it  and I wasn't disappointed):
An enthusiastic ode to free spirits of all generations. (You're speaking to me sister!)
"Who says grandmothers have to wear tidy buns and be relegated to rocking chairs? In lilting rhyme and sunny psychedelic colors, Reeve Lindbergh and Abby Carter introduce the most vibrant, tie-dyed grandmother ever to dance her way across a picture book - together with her cat named Woodstock, her guitar-strumming boyfriend, her organic garden, and her very proud granddaughter. Flower power forever!"

I am suddenly feeling the need to do some composting, or companion gardening, or picking up those African drums or red uke I bought a couple of years ago and haven't learnt to play yet :)  Kelly, if you are reading this, you are way ahead of me in the uke department :)

Now for older kids...this is way beyond the pink factor :) Grannies are mums too and for younger children, Our Granny is a classic.  Our Granny is another picture book that is a terrific mentor text for teaching adjectives to describe grannies, to value difference and the illustrations are devine (as well as very funny!). 

Gansta Granny sounds like a fun read for children aged 10+. You can read a review of it by Kids' Book Review here. It is written by David Walliams who is part of the Little Britain comedy team.  The review states that this book, "has its thoughtful moments, with some interesting insights into parental expectations, the generation gap and the very special bond that can exist between grandparents and their grandchildren."

My Little Bookcase provides a list of titles with brief reviews about grannies here.  I am especially liking the sound of the picture book Mind Your Gramma by Yvonne Morrison (ching, ching = ordered!), who, by the way, has published some awesome picture books recently that are spot on for teaching critical literacy...watch this space as I will blog about them soon...

Here's a title I think I can relate to The Important Things (although I don't have this one) but this sounds like my kind of Mothers' Day picture book, that I think other single mums who have been mum, dad, best friend and worst enemy might also relate to (although I haven't read the text, I am very interested!). The publisher's description states:
The Important Things is the story of Christopher and his mother. Christopher’s mother does everything, for his father has faded from their lives. When they give away a box of his father’s old things, a series of events takes place to reveal the difference in which Christopher and his mother deal with the absent father.

And not a hint of pink in sight so far (except for her skirt on the cover).  So, I needed to investigate further...Oh looky looky, the author, Peter Carnavas grew up in Brisbane, so he is a Queensland boy (I knew I was going to connect to this text) and he went to Runcorn, Currimundi and Caloundra schools for those reading who are a little bit local.  In high school he had long hair and could play the guitar...and he also likes mangoes...hang on, back to the book :)  Ha ha.  

The author, Peter Carnavas, is a teacher (albeit retired, I think, working full-time as an author/illustrator).  Wouldn't it be bizarre if he read my blog?! I don't think many people read my blog anyway, so it's just an extended conversation with myself really :)  I wonder why he would write a picture book about a single mum and her child when he's married with kids? Hmm...I guess other children's authors write about animals and they are not animals!  Ha ha ha - you should see the images on Peter's blog home page - they remind me a bit of Mr McGee.  Oh goodness, now I am a bit embarrassed - look at all these picture books he has authored...I have so many of them in my collection!  I wonder if he would do a guest post on my blog?  Watch this space :)  

Oh dear, I have stepped into dangerous, "interrogating texts" type territory here with this review of My Beautiful Mommy.  This is not the alternative, representative example I was thinking of when I was searching for picture books that represent mothers in different ways in children's literature.  My goodness, do we really need to expose little children to these adult concepts (i.e. plastic surgery and self-image)?  This reminds me of a levelled reader we removed years ago that was about a married couple who were separated and when the children went to visit Daddy it was all about Mummy breaking her diet and how many donuts Mummy ate!  There were parent complaints and the book was removed from the guided reading and home reading collections.

My Little Bookcase shares reviews of other picture books about mums for Mother's Day here.  My Book Corner also reviews picture books for Mothers' Day here.
The lyrics to a Mother's Day song called My Mum can be found here.

By the way, if you read this far and are wondering what Kylie's pink rating is - it's my original pink, cheesiness, stereotype analysis/reflection on how mothers are positioned or represented in titles to do with Mothers' Day.

There are so many wonderful choices to make Mothers' Day this year really special - and representative of difference - a celebration of all mums wherever they are and whatever they do!  I would be really interested in reading about picture books that represent mothers from different cultural backgrounds in authentic contexts.  If you know of any, please leave a comment below with the title/s.

Before you go, check out the 2016 CBCA notables book lists here.

If you love picture books as much as I do, you may consider joining our new FB page: Picturebook Fanatics.  We don't have many members yet as it was only created about a week ago, but it really is a support group for those of us who love picture books, sharing new titles and ideas to use them in the classroom.  Come and join the fun and help get the group active and happening :)

Have a good week everyone!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Mud crabs, mangroves and memories

Reading the newly published picture book, Crabbing with Dad brought back so many lovely memories for me of growing up in Far North Queensland and fishing with my brother on the beach...well, he fished and I carried the bucket.  Memories of the cast net, the yabby pump, pippies, mangroves and mud crabs :)  

Reading this picture book also brought memories of my very favourite poem studied in high school in Cairns, "The Crabs" by Brian Vrepont.  I still vividly remember the lines in that poem and the sense of futility of the human condition in comparison to the simplicity of the existence of the crabs.  Disappointing that there are a couple of typos in the version hyperlinked here, but nonetheless, I remember it well...
"I laugh, knowing crabs wiser than man;
When man, suicided from his home, the earth

Shall see no lord sun spray gold on wave,

Nor moon come like vespers, go in full song,

Crabs still will ply their chop-sticks,

Knowing nor caring that man is dust."

Crabbing with Dad is written and illustrated by Darwin-based author and illustrator, Paul Seden who is descended from the Wuthathi and Muralag people of North Queensland.  This is the first children's picture book that he has both written and illustrated.  It is published by Magabala Books, Australia's oldest independent Indigenous publishing company, based in Broome, in the far north of Western Australia.

I love so many of the picture books published by Magabala Books and have blogged about some of them before.  You can read these other posts using the "search this blog" link on the right hand side or by clicking here.  Free teachers' notes for many of the picture books published by Magabala Books are available here.

Crabbing with Dad tells the story of Mahli and Sam who go out crabbing with Dad in their boat to their secret spot in the creek. They set their crab pots and wait patiently until they pull up an angry crab and then more crabs and their Dad teaches them how to handle the crabs so they don't get nipped.  Interestingly, nowhere in the text does it mention that the girl's name is Mahli (I found that out on the publisher's blurb about the book).  The story is told through the eyes of Mahli, the narrator.

This would be a terrific mentor text for writing personal recounts and retellings and also for children to write about their favourite activities with their own fathers (making it a great choice of text and activity for Father's Day).
Some teaching ideas for Crabbing with Dad
  • Writing a narrative recount/retell of a personal experience 
  • [Australian Curriculum: English Year 2 Achievement Standard:  Students create texts, drawing on their own experiences, their imagination and information they have learnt]
  • Exploring figurative language and literary devices e.g. alliteration, consonance, assonance and sibilance - for example, from the text: "The fish in the creek SHIMMY and SPLASH and play hide and seek." 
  • Examining subject specific vocabulary and phrases - e.g. longbums, shellfish, mangroves, fishing, tide, hunting, nippers, crab pots, untangle, crabbing, life jackets, mates, mud crabbing, sink the pots, glide to our secret spot, turn of the tide. 
  • Investigating adjectives and noun groups e.g. slimy fish bait, secret spot.  Students could expand sentences from within the text by using noun groups 
  • [Australian Curriculum: English Year 2 Strand: Language; Sub-strand: Expressing and developing ideas: ...noun groups/phrases can be expanded using articles and adjectives (ACELA1468)Understand the use of vocabulary about familiar and new topics and experiment with and begin to make conscious choices of vocabulary to suit audience and purpose (ACELA1470) ]
  • Questioning, inferring and justifying with evidence from the text: What's the difference between fishing and hunting? What does 'turn of the tide' mean?  What does the sign mean in the illustration that shows Dad's mates fishing? What are longbums?  What do the children do while they are waiting up the creek?  Why do the children have to wait in the boat up the creek, away from the crab pots?  What are mud crabs and where do they live?  Which parts of Australia can they be found in? Why do you think the first mud crab was angry?  
  • [Australian Curriculum: English Year 2 StrandLiteracySub-strandInterpreting, analysing, evaluatingUse comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning and begin to analyse texts by drawing on growing knowledge of context, language and visual features and print and multimodal text structures (ACELY1670)]
  • Interpreting visual representations in the text: Why do you think the author/illustrator wrote the words about the first crab catch the way he did? 
  • [Australian Curriculum: English Year 2 StrandLanguageSub-strandExpressing and developing ideas:Identify visual representations of characters’ actions, reactions, speech and thought processes in narratives, and consider how these images add to or contradict or multiply the meaning of accompanying words (ACELA1469)
In preparing for this blog post, I did quite a few Internet searches and was really surprised by how few picture books or resources for children there are about mud crabs.  If you know of any, please share the links in the comments below this post.  It seems that hermit crabs are madly popular in primary schools, but other crabs have a very lean dance card. I will share some of the ideas I did find.  
If you have been following my blog for some time, you will know that I love using multiple text sources, text sets or companion texts to support students to make inter-textual connections (text-to-text connections and intertextuality).

Magabala Books publishes a series called, Deadly Reads for Deadly Readers and within this series I found the text, Claws, Eyes, Flippers, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Speech Pathology of Australia Book of the Year Awards (Indigenous Children category). Has anyone seen or used this series before?  I hadn't heard of it, so I decided to find out more.  In the blurb for the book, the publisher's website states:
"Do crabs have claws or flippers? One of the first of four books in a series of levelled readers.The series has been carefully designed to provide young Indigenous and non-Indigenous children with engaging, enjoyable and meaningful experiences with print that will support their reading skills and their desire to read."

Free teacher notes are available here.  The teaching notes, written by Trish Bremner, have links to the Australian Curriculum across several curriculum areas.  The English notes include book sharing, modelled reading, shared reading, guided reading, repeated reading and independent reading ideas.  They introduce teachers to the GRREaD strategy for repeated readings of the text.  If you haven't heard of the GRREaD approach before, it is worthwhile reading the teaching notes as a comprehensive explanation is included.


I found this other picture book, published in 2006 by the Batchelor Institute in the Northern Territory through the Book Depository, however I do not have a copy so cannot review it.  The description of the book states that the book is:  
"The story of the mud crab, the magpie goose and the pied cormorant who meet together to dance a corroboree. They all dance until they are exhausted when the magpie goose man and his family decide to become birds, the pied cormorant and his family decide to grow feathers and swim in fresh water and the crab man grows a shell."
I also found the title, Pet Crabs published in the series of Indji readers (for little fullas, for big fullas, Series 2).  The blurb states:
"An old Koori lad tricks some 'gungies' (police) about his seafood hunting practices, highlighting laws about Native Title fishing rights."
Information about the Indji readers can be found here.


I love Bruce Whatley's illustrations and especially those in his picture books, The Ugliest Dog in the World and That Magnetic Dog.   They are just terrific for teaching visual literacy.  Looking for Crabs by Bruce Whatley is sure not to disappoint and I cannot wait for my copy to arrive in the post.  You can read about Bruce Whatley and his works here.
The description of "Looking for Crabs" states:
"When you are on holidays and it's too cold to swim, what can you do? You can look for crabs! But search carefully, they are very hard to find. *Shortlisted, Young Adults Best Book Awards (YABBA) (VIC), 1994 and 1995 Ages 3+"

Our World: Bardi Jaawi: Life at Ardiyooloon is written by the children of One Arm Point Community School.  Ardiyooloon is home to the Bardi-Jaawi people at the top of the Dampier Peninsula, 200km north of Broome in the north-west of Western Australia.  In this book, readers follow the children as they go 'Camping at Gooda', and learn how to make mens' spears, how to dig for mud crabs, how to find fresh water and how to make damper.  It sounds like it could be a useful mentor text for procedural writing.

I found the picture book, "Spearing Crabs" published in 2013 by Black Ink Press on Booktopia.  The description states:
"Written and illustrated by youngsters, these small books tell some stories that are far-fetched and others very down-to-earth. They all share a lively Indigenous sensibility and sense of humour. With bright, spontaneous illustrations they will be enjoyed by other primary and even secondary students. They might even make books seem relevant and their short texts will be enjoyable for reluctant readers."

I also found another picture book published by Magabala Books, "Joshua and the Two Crabs".  The description states:
"Joshua Button is a young Indigenous author with a keen interest in the saltwater country he has grown up in. His observations of his family’s fishing trip to Crab Creek give us a unique opportunity to see this adventure through his eyes. Joshua’s illustrations evoke the beauty of Crab Creek—a tidal creek that lies in the mangroves of Roebuck Bay near Broome in Australia’s north west."

I didn't know about Zombie Crabs until I started reading for this blog post.  I am sure children would be highly motivated to read and learn about this phenomenon.  This is the blurb from Fishpond for this non-fiction children's book published in 2015:  
"A parasite exists that can make a male crab believe its a female crab. It forces the crab it infects to care for parasite eggs and even help release the larvae into the ocean to infect other crabs! These zombie crabs are never aware that they are infected nor do they harm the parasite."
I wonder if there are zombie crabs in Australia?

Not about mud crabs, but "Catching Blueys" looks like an interesting title written and illustrated in Cherbourg and published by Budburra Books.  The description reads:
"Brave Mim knows the best way to catch blueys! Robyn shares her special family story about catching crawfish with her sister at the waterhole."

So, what all of this hunting around the Internet about mud crabs has reinforced to me, is that "Crabbing with Dad" by Paul Seden is a wonderful and welcome addition to a very sparsely published topic for kids - mud crabs and crabbing in Australia.  

Just for fun, for an Art activity, I love this paper plate crab on the Crafts by Amanda website. Another idea for a "crab" hat was found on pinterest here.  Ideas for Indigenous resource activities are provided by the Queensland State Library here.

More information about mud crabs can be found at these websites:
Fish Facts: Mud Crabs
Australian Tropical Foods: Mud Crabs
Cape York Travel Guide: Mud Crabbing

Please leave a comment if you know of any other picture books about mud crabs and crabbing in Australia.

If you love picture books as much as I do, you may be interested in joining our new Facebook group, Picturebook Fanatics - a support group for sharing ideas and picture book titles for people who are obsessed with picture books, like me :)

Please make sure you are following my blog, because I can feel a resource coming on... 

Have a terrific week everyone.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Hot off the press - Reading comprehension resources for "ANZAC Biscuits" by Phil Cummings

I am so excited about my new ANZAC Day resource based on "ANZAC Biscuits" by Phil Cummings. 

The resource is 40 pages and includes:

Word Work – vocabulary development: thinking maps, definitions, inferring and synonyms
Sensory language – Y charts
Making connections
Character traits – using text evidence
Student-generated questioning
Story mapping
Summarising parallel storylines
Analysing figurative language in the story
Matching adjectives and nouns from the story
Interactive notebook activity - summarising
Exploring verbs and nouns in cooking
Close reading activities – Investigating the history of ANZAC biscuits
ANZAC writing papers
ANZAC bookmarks


This new resource is so "hot off the press" that I haven't even had time to do a preview overview of it.  I wanted to post about it because ANZAC Day is on 25 April here in Australia (next Monday).  You can check it out by clicking here or on the image below.


I made this resource as I just love this picture book and I  couldn't find any other teaching resources that use this fabulous picture book.  "ANZAC Biscuits" is suitable for the early years for a read aloud.  It was only when I was making up the resource, which I intended to initially be for the early years, that I realised the potential this picture book has, with what appears to be such a simple story, for exploring some higher order literary devices, such as parallel storylines and figurative language.


I have created two other resources for ANZAC Day based on picture books.  One is a bundle for three picture books that feature dogs during the First World War.   You can read about this bundle and view previews of the resources that accompany the three picture books in my blog post here.  See the YouTube video preview of this resource here.  View the resource on TPT here.



The other resource is a mega big resource of 70 pages based on "ANZAC Ted".  You can read about my ANZAC Ted resource here and here.  See the YouTube video preview of this resource here.  View the resource on TPT here.

Check out my TPT store to download two freebies for ANZAC Day, including ANZAC bookmarks and an outline of ANZAC Ted that can be used for a class display.

I would love to hear what other Aussies or kiwis do in their classrooms for ANZAC Day.  Did you know that the origin of the ANZAC biscuit is contested? Read more in my "ANZAC biscuits" resource in the close reading activities.

Have a terrific week everyone !

Monday, 11 April 2016

Incorporating Indigenous Australian perspectives within the curriculum

Hi everyone

This is a very brief post.  I wanted to share with you a post I did earlier this year for the Australian Teachers' Collaborative Blog on Australian Indigenous Perspectives.  

It took me a great deal of time to research and consult about the ideas in that blog post and I hadn't realised that I hadn't shared that thinking and those ideas on my own blog.

This image was reproduced with permission from Magabala Books and the illustrator, Renee Fogorty, of the children's picture book, "Fair Skin, Black Fella".

The ideas and resources I shared are just terrific for embedding Indigenous Australian perspectives within the curriculum and I also shared ideas for developing critical literacy in the middle and upper primary years - ideas that I have seen in action in classrooms in very powerful ways.

You can read my blog post about ideas and resources for embedding Australian Indigenous Perspectives within the curriculum here
http://australianteachers.blogspot.com.au/2016/01/australian-indigenous-perspectives-and.html

Please note that the giveaways mentioned in that blog post have been completed!

Have a terrific week!