Tuesday, 30 December 2014

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Monday, 29 December 2014

Picture books with animals as activists

Nothing like a little bit of anarchy to bring in the New Year :)

I just love text sets/companion texts and think they really help the students to make text-to-text connections using compare/contrast of textual features etc. to develop higher order thinking.  The picture books I am featuring today work together beautifully.

Let's start with Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and what a controversial little picture book this has become!  I love this story of literate cows who can type and leave notes for Farmer Brown regarding improvements they want to see made to their conditions on the farm.  The social critical literacy person is like = Yay for social action!

Here's a little overview of ideas I put together using the Four Resource Model.  Find out more about the Four Resource Model for a balanced approach to literacy planning here. Unfortunately the hyperlinks in the table below won't work, however I will post some of the links to the issues around this book below the table.

However, others have interpreted the intent behind this entertaining story quite differently as you can see in the text analyst section of the table above.  You can read some of the controversy here and here.  What do you think?

Teaching resources for "Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type" can be found here.

Dear Mrs LaRue: Letters From Obedience School by Mark Teague is a wonderful companion text in that Ike LaRue is unhappy with being "imprisoned" at the Canine Academy and tries everything he can to be sent home including writing weepy letters to Mrs LaRue and feigning illness.  Another creative text for studying point of view, letter writing and persuasive text.  A letter template is available from Scholastic here, comprehension and vocabulary work based on the story here,  and a lesson plan on persuasive writing based on the book here

The Sheep Go on Strike by Jean-Francois Dumont is a wonderful story to teach about collaboration, teamwork and compromise.  The sheep are sick of being sheared so they decide to go on strike and the rest of the animals start to take sides until they all sit down together and the sheep learn how important their wool is to the farm.  the animals work together to come up with a creative solution to everyone's problem, so it is also an excellent story for problem/solution top level structure.

Animal Strike at the Zoo by Karma Wilson
focuses on the chaos at the zoo when the lions and bears refuse to roar, prowl and growl and go on strike.

I haven't used this text, so if you have, please leave a comment below about whether you would recommend it or not.

Finally, The Great Reindeer Rebellion by Lisa Trumbauer is my most recent purchase. The paperback edition was only published in 2014.  The reindeer are sick of pulling Santa's heavy sleigh, so they go on strike. Santa writes up a wanted advertisement for substitute animals and the results are hilarious.  Written in rhyme as an innovation on The Night Before Christmas, this is bound to be a firm favourite. 

It's also a terrific mentor text for teaching verbs, rhyming words, cause/effect and problem/solution.  This would be a terrific text to compare and contrast to "Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type" as Santa learns to compromise and meet the reindeers' demands to a sauna, real beds, a heater and cable television.

Do you know any other texts that would fit in with this text set about animals taking action against their current conditions?  If so, I would love you to leave a comment below so I may grow my collection.  Also if you know any other resources to match these texts, please leave the links below.  To leave a comment, just click on the link underneath my signature avatar.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year's Eve and all the very best for 2015.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

An interview with children's author Artie Knapp

It is my great pleasure and privilege to share with you an interview with one of my favourite children's authors - Artie Knapp.

KM: Hi Artie, I became interested in your work when I stumbled across your book, "Stuttering Stan Takes a Stand".  I just love it, not just because it deals with an embarrassing issue that many children and adults face, but also for how you deal with the issue of bullying and bystanders in this junior novel.  How did you get the inspiration for this title?

AK: Hello Kylie. Thank you. I am glad that you enjoyed the book. Much to the surprise of several Speech Pathologists over the years, the story didn’t derive from my own personal experience with stuttering. I was out taking a walk one autumn day, and saw a little squirrel bouncing around in some fallen leaves. Later that night I remember thinking to myself, I am going to have to write a story about that little squirrel.  Alliteration has been a part of my process throughout my career. So because of “s” for squirrel, I picked the name Stan/Stanley. From there, stuttering popped into my head because it starts with “s” too. And then I started to think of well-known characters that stuttered, but couldn’t think of one that tried to reflect how being teased might make kids feel. I grew up on Buggs Bunny and absolutely love those characters to this day. But when you think of Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig, for example, stuttering was part of their characterization, and was by no means sympathetic to the condition. Taking all of that into consideration inspired me to write the story.

KM:  Artie, I would love to learn more about your work.  You seem to have a real interest in the disabilities field.  Could you tell us more?

AK: The original publisher of “Stuttering Stan Takes a Stand” was Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, which has the largest pediatric speech pathology program in the United States. I was asked by members of the hospital to write a story on Autism, which wasn’t a subject matter that I knew a lot about. Prior to my relationship with the hospital, my work had focused almost solely on humorous stories for kids, versus ones that tackled disabilities. So it was a nice change of pace for me as a writer to start writing different kinds of stories for kids. I enjoyed the research involved with learning about Autism, and from there trying to come up with a creative story in which to teach kids about the subject matter.

KM:  I came across this link https://www.youtube.com/user/ThurmanTurtley Can you tell us more about these titles?

AK: The site that you’re referring to showcases three of my illustrated prints books in video format on YouTube. These titles are: Stuttering Stan Takes a Stand,” “Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet,” and “View from a Zoo.” These videos are fun to share with kids when I visit schools. Additionally, my published Christmas story titled “Light on a Snowy Day” was recently added to this site as well. To date, I have had over 30 children’s literature works published. This includes print books, stories, videos, and poems. My work has been published in close to 300 publications, which includes traditional book publishers, print newspapers, magazines and kids’ sites across the word.

KM:  Can you tell me more about your story on Autism? I can't see it in the YouTube link above?

AK: My story “Getting to know Ronnie: A Story about Autism” is not presently available in video format, which is why it can’t be found at the site. To date, the story has only been published in print newspapers and online. Here is a link for your readers to read the story.

I am presently in talks with Reading Rainbow about them producing a video version of the story. In April of 2014, each scene of the story was professionally photographed by my friend and photographer Vinson Lewis here in the United States. Hopefully the video will be out by March/April of next year. Will keep you posted.

KM:  Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?

AK: That is always a great question that I get asked when I visit schools. I find inspiration all around me, but it’s often not something in particular that I am looking for. For me, sitting down and searching for ideas seems stale and forced. I let things come to me instead, which is unexpected and invigorating when the ideas start flowing. An example of this is a visit one night at my local grocery store. As I reached for a jar of pickles, one of the dills looked like a crocodile looking up at the top of the lid. Right then and there my widely published children’s story “There’s a Crocodile in Our Pickle Jar” was born.  

KM:  Which has been your most popular children's book so far?

AK: As far as sales goes, “Stuttering Stan Takes a Stand” is my bestselling book. In fairness to some of my other titles, Stuttering Stan has been out the longest. I am fortunate that my print books are also published in flash-animation. That format has really enabled my work to be introduced to kids across the world.   

KM:  Do you have any upcoming projects in the pipeline?  

AK: In addition to my Autism project, I am also working on two new picture book scripts. One of which was inspired by a project my daughter did for her class at school. I am also underway on a children’s story that I plan on submitting this January to a children’s magazine for consideration.  

KM:  How can people find out more about your work?  Do you have a website?

AK: The best way to learn more about me and my work is by visiting my website www.artieknapp.com.

KM:  Is there anything else you can tell us about your work, what inspired you to be a children's author or what makes you tick?

AK: Before I started writing children’s literature I had a couple of science fiction stories published. I grew up watching reruns of the original Twilight Zone and Star Trek. Those two shows more than anything else, fueled my interest in storytelling. The random circumstance of my writing a story called “The Wasp and the Canary” is what led me to children’s literature. I never set out to be a children’s author, but now I cannot imagine not writing for kids. It has become such a big part of my life. Being able to do this and visit with kids at schools is a lot of fun.  

You can also find and follow Artie on FB here or google+ here.

I found these wonderful free resources for "There's a Crocodile in Our Pickle Jar" on the DLTK books website.  In fact, here's a list of Artie's stories from the DLTK Book Breaks website with links to heaps of ideas and activities :)

Finally, I am absolutely thrilled that Artie has allowed me to create a couple of resources for two of his titles (so far).  Find out more by clicking on the images.

Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful work with us Artie :)

Have a great week everyone!