#MentorTextMoment

#MentorTextMoment: Look I Wrote A Book!

As part of my writing process, I read dozens of books by other nonfiction authors. When I read, I make notes about the craft choices authors make in terms of voice, structure, POV, and other unique elements that add up to amazing books. I recently decided to share my notes (in a searchable format), so teachers and fellow writers can see what I find new and noteworthy. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Book: Look! I Wrote a Book! (And You Can Too!)

Author: Sally Lloyd-Jones

Illustrator: Neal Layton

Publication Info.: Schwartz& Wade, July 23,2019

Ages/Grades: ages 4 to 8 (or aspiring authors of all ages)

Categories: second-person POV, expository nonfiction, how-to structure

First lines: “When you want to write a book, first you need a Good Idea.”

Overview (from the publisher): “Want to write a book? Well, the spunky, know-it-all narrator of this side-splitting story can tell you just how to do it. She walks readers through the whole process, from deciding what to write about (like dump trucks or The Olden Days) to writing a story that doesn’t put everyone to sleep and getting people to buy your book (tips: be nice, give them cookies, and if all else fails, tie them to a chair).”

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

After reading this book, I’m left wondering why I have shelves and shelves of “how-to-write” books with hundreds of pages. All I need is Look! I Wrote a Book! Lloyd-Jones and Layton have crafted a concise, hilarious, yet so-helpful how-to book for beginning students and aspiring grown-up writers alike. Lloyd-Jones helps readers assess their ideas, figure out their audience, plot, draft, revise, and even create titles (my weakness for sure).

For aspiring nonfiction authors, this book is a wonderful example of the less-used “how-to” expository text structure. Paired with a second-person POV, the reader is left thinking “sure I can write a book.”

Additional resources for authors, educators, and parents:

  • Write a book following Lloyd-Jones’s instructions. Is there any better activity? LLoyd-Jones even tells you what materials you need to get started (table, pencil, paper, stapler, etc.)
  • Artists Helping Children has instructions for making many types of books, including scrolls, heart-shaped books, and a fold-in square book.
  • Many creators like to have a special journal for their ideas and doodles. Buy a composition notebook or inexpensive sketchbook and decorate with torn paper and spray adhesive. Or make your own recycled journal like this one.
#MentorTextMoment

#MentorTextMoment: Two Brothers, Four Hands

As part of my writing process, I read dozens of books by other nonfiction authors. When I read, I make notes about the craft choices authors make in terms of voice, structure, POV, and other unique elements that add up to amazing books. I recently decided to share my notes (in a searchable format), so teachers and fellow writers can see what I find new and noteworthy. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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The Book:

Two Brothers: Four Hands: The Artists Alberto and Diego Giacometti

Authors: Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan; illustrator: Hadley Hooper

Publication Info.: Neal Porter Books (April 2019)

Ages/Grades: 7 to 10 years old

Categories: third-person POV, narrative nonfiction, present tense, dual biography

First lines:

“In the Swiss village of Stampa, surrounded by mountains so high that in winter their shadows fill the valley live two brothers.”

Overview (from the publisher): “The inspiring true story of the Giacometti brothers, one an artist, the other a daredevil, both devoted to their craft . . . but even more devoted to each other.

Everyone who knew them agreed. Alberto was the genius of the family. His younger brother Diego was his opposite–he didn’t care much for books or schoolwork, and he had no idea what he would be when he grew up. But despite their differences, the two brothers shared an intense bond.

Alberto Giacometti became one of the iconic artists of the twentieth century, whose tall, spindly sculptures grace the collections of museums around the world. Diego was always at his side, helping and encouraging, and in his spare time creating remarkable pieces of furniture, works of sculpture in their own right.

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

The trick with writing a dual biography, in my mind, is finding the focus of the book. What theme connects the two lives together? In this book, the connection is apparent from the title: two brothers, four hands. Alberto Giacometti simply couldn’t have achieved his enormous success without his brother, Diego, who served as a model; built pedestals and molds and picked patinas; and in many ways sacrificed his own creative work to support Alberto. As Greenberg and Jordan write, Diego’s hands touched each and every one of Alberto’s sculptures. Children certainly will connect to the fierce bonds of family.

For teachers, this book serves as an excellent example of a “growth mindset.” Alberto Giacometti was far from an overnight success, instead, he honed his craft for more than two decades. He was a perfectionist who never felt his work was finished. And when he moved away from Surrealism, he was rejected by fellow artists, as well as art dealers, and friends. Through all of this, Alberto experimented, trying new things and striving to perfectly capture the human form.

Additional resources for authors, educators, and parents:

  • The backmatter for this book contains a basic explanation of art concepts and discussion questions for evaluating Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man II sculpture.
  • The Nurture Store has the perfect Giacometti craft activity: making foil sculptures.
  • Why not incorporate this book into a growth-mindset lesson? Khan Academy has a growth mindset lesson here.
  • This Tate video not only shows Giacometti’s sculptures but also explains why his work resonated after World War II.
#MentorTextMoment

#MentorTextMoment: Moth

As part of my writing process, I read dozens of books by other nonfiction authors. When I read, I make notes about the craft choices authors make in terms of voice, structure, POV, and other unique elements that add up to amazing books. I recently decided to share my notes (in a searchable format), so teachers and fellow writers can see what I find new and noteworthy. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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The Book:

Moth: An Evolution Story

Author: Isabel Thomas; illustrator: Daniel Egnéus

Publication Info.: Bloomsbury (June 2019)

Ages/Grades: 6 to 10 years old

Categories: third-person POV, lyrical language, narrative nonfiction, nature, #STEM

First lines:

“This is a story of light and dark. Of change and adaptation, or survival and hope.”

Overview (from the publisher): “Powerful and visually spectacular, Moth is the remarkable evolution story that captures the struggle of animal survival against the background of an evolving human world in a unique and atmospheric introduction to Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection.

Against a lush backdrop of lichen-covered trees, the peppered moth lies hidden. Until the world begins to change…

Along come people with their magnificent machines which stain the land with soot. In a beautiful landscape changed by humans how will one little moth survive?

A clever picture book text about the extraordinary way in which animals have evolved, intertwined with the complication of human intervention. This remarkable retelling of the story of the peppered moth is the perfect introduction to natural selection and evolution for children.”

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

There have been a few evolution picture books in recent years like I USED TO BE A FISH (Sullivan) and GRANDMOTHER FISH (Tweet and Lewis). But as far as I know, no one’s attempted to explain natural selection, the mechanism of evolution, at the elementary school level…until now.

Through stunning illustrations and simple, lyrical language, Thomas and Egnéus show students how natural selection happens over time in response to changes in an animal’s habitat. As a mentor text, the great power in this book is the balance of words and pictures. It forces authors to consider how much they can rely upon illustrations to carry the story. And how much they need to explain.

Additional resources for authors, educators, and parents:

Books, Nature, Uncategorized

Review: Can You Find These Butterflies?

Author: Carmen Bredeson
Illustrator: Lindsey Cousins
Publication Info: Enslow Elementary, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7660-3980-3
Source: publisher-provided complimentary copy
Intended audience: PreK through first grade
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (24 pages)
Themes/topics: butterflies, nature
Opening and synopsis: “A butterfly starts out as an egg. A tiny caterpillar hatches from the egg. It eats and grows.” Using simple language, Bredeson describes how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. Then she challenges young readers to learn about nine different types of butterflies and spot them in nature.
Why I like this book: This book invites children to become butterfly experts. Rather than just feeding them facts about butterflies, it encourages them to explore their own backyards, parks and open spaces and see if they can tell a Monarch from a Viceroy. Stunning time-lapse photography shows a caterpillar forming a chrysalis and emerging as a butterfly. Additional, close up photographs show primary features of each butterfly. Simple language geared towards first-grade readers make this a wonderful book for progressing readers.
Resources/activities: Raising butterflies is always a favorite for small children. You can order caterpillars through Insect Lore. Also, if you are on the migration path for monarch butterflies, you can record your sightings online.
Books, Geography, History, Homeschool

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Mummies, Pyramids, and Pharoahs

Title: Mummies, Pyramids, and Pharaohs

Author/Illustrator: Gail Gibbons

Publication Info: Little, Brown and Company, 2004
Intended audience: preschool and up
Genre: nonfiction picture book
Themes/topics: ancient Egypt, geography, world history, civilizations
Opening and synopsis:
“One of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations began about five thousand years ago, in the land of Egypt. For the next three thousand years the Egyptians were ruled by kings called pharaohs. While he was in power, each pharaoh was believed to be Horus, the son of the great sun god, Re.”
Gail Gibbons provides an age-appropriate overview of ancient Egypt including social structure, religious customs, and, of course, mummies.
Why I like this book: Have I mentioned that my three-year-old is obsessed with mummies? Our visit to The Getty Museum, with its Roman mummy in April made an impression, and we’ve been reading books about mummies ever since. Gibbons’ book, which we’ve read approximately 100 times, is the clear favorite. Gibbons is a prolific nonfiction writer. Her picture books are perfect for preschooler audiences.
Resources: This book is a wonderful way to explore ancient Egypt. Online resources abound, so here’s just a few. The British Museum has wonderful mummy collection. Check out the museum’s young explorers’ online explorer to learn more about ancient Egypt. National Geographic has a lesson plan for grades three through five, here. The site also has fun games, including “Tomb of the Unknown Mummy Game.” Kids become Egyptologist to explore the tomb and solve the mystery. The site also has a Day in the Life brainteaser/quiz game for children. Scholastic boasts several lesson plans with Egyptian themes. For grades six through twelve, educators can find lesson plans on PBS. Really, opportunities to extend the learning from this book abound.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday will be on hiatus until September 7. I’ll be taking a bit of a blog-cation over the next month, but I’ll return with more book reviews in early August.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.