Book of the Month

The Book of the Month is a book I choose to share with the students and teachers each month. Each teacher is given a new book of the month and a letter from me to introduce the book. Teachers read the book to the class and do various activities with it as it relates to a theme or topic.  I read a section of the book each day over the announcements in the morning as well. The books always have a topic that students discuss with the class and then they write their responses to me on the chart by the main office for all the school to read.
Mrs. Hollinger

December, 2010: By My Brother's Side

posted Dec 2, 2010, 4:02 PM by Unknown user

Dear Students and Teachers,

The school year is really moving quickly and I cannot believe we are already sending out our December Book of the Month. Our book this month is called By My Brother’s Side by Tiki and Ronde Barber, and it is illustrated by Barry Root. I am just positive that this book will touch each student and teacher. Those of you who love sports or have a brother or sister will be especially inspired by this incredible book.

As always, there are many connections to be made from our book this month. The characters and story lines caused me to remember times in my life when I worried that perhaps I couldn’t finish a task, or be successful at something I really wanted to do. I remember wondering if it just wasn’t going to happen for me. Maybe I would not be able to do that very thing I had my heart set on. What a feeling of failure!

Tiki and Ronde Barber are the main characters from our story. They are twin brothers and do everything together. They dream of “making it big” in football someday. Their mother continues to support them and tells them if they work hard – anything is possible. Tiki is in a biking accident and hurts his knee very badly. The injury is so bad, the doctor doesn’t believe he will be able to participate in sports ever again. You’ll have to read the rest of the story to find out what happens.

We have all had events in our lives which may have led us to feel we will not be successful for one reason or another. That feeling of doubt is not a very pleasant feeling. Sometimes, all it takes is a little practice and a lot of belief in ourselves to prove the critics wrong. Then, just like Tiki and Ronde, we can step up to the task and give it our all. Who knows what the results will be when we put everything we have into the jobs and personal dreams in front of us! I hope you will be inspired by this book to do your best at whatever it is that you would like to try. One of the writing techniques the author does in the book is to make the reader aware of the support both brothers have for one another. The character traits of both boys are described in their actions and behaviors in the story. When was a time that you supported one of your family members when they needed you?

Maybe you’d like to tell me about a time when you worked really hard to accomplish one of your dreams or supported someone else when they needed help. I’d love to hear from each one of you! Let’s dream big this month and see where it might take us! Go ahead – dream big! But don’t forget to put all your energy into working hard to make that dream of yours come true.

Happy Reading!
Mrs. Hollinger

November, 2010: Is There Really A Human Race?

posted Nov 29, 2010, 1:03 PM by Unknown user

Dear Students and Teachers,

This month’s Book of the Month, Is There Really A Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell, is a little different from the previous books we have been reading together lately. Hopefully, you will notice that the book is full of questions. It is packed full with big ideas, though! “Who am I, and what am I supposed to be doing here?” is the main idea that runs its course all through this thought provoking book. Please read and discuss this huge idea in your classes and remember to write your responses for me to enjoy and share with others. I love to read what you are writing about the books we are reading together as a school.

One of the important ideas to me is: “make the world a better place.” It is my heart’s hope that we are mastering that concept here at Lily B. Clayton. None of us will do that in exactly the same way. However, we must embrace the idea of making our world a better place – not just worrying about what’s in this life for “me”. I’m sure the discussions will be wonderful as we decide how we can make our world a better place.

Another big idea in our book of the month is the idea of running a race. Where is the race? Where is the finish line? Who is going to come in first, second, third, or last place? Is that a good way to think about life? How do we “win” or “lose” in life? Is that the ultimate goal – to finish first – no matter how we get there? I think our authors have a different thought about life – that we should slow down – look around us – help others who need us – and make our world a better place.

I have a challenge for you! I’d like you to think about how you – yes, you – can make our world a better place. Look at the last 2 pages of the text. It is written in command form – “make friends and love well, bring art to this place. And make the world better for the whole human race.” Write a paragraph or two telling me what you think you as an elementary student can do to follow the command of these last 2 pages. I can’t wait to read your thoughts! I’ll be anxiously awaiting your responses to this special book.

Happy reading!
Mrs. Hollinger

October, 2010: Fox

posted Nov 29, 2010, 12:53 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Nov 29, 2010, 1:12 PM ]

Dear Students and Teachers,

This month’s Book of the Month, Fox, by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks, is a book I read this summer and I love reading it over and over. There are so many different ideas and themes to think about when reading the book. The illustrator does a beautiful job explaining the story with pictures and making you feel the way the characters are feeling and thinking. Look at the illustrations. Why do you think the illustrator used the colors that he did? As you read the story, notice how the author and illustrator worked together to piece the story together. Why do you think the book was put together this way? Do you think it has anything to do with the storyline? If you think so, how does it relate to the story?

The author uses rich word choice and vocabulary to describe scenes and especially to describe how the characters feel. For example, the author writes, “Dog beams, but Magpie shrinks away. She can feel Fox staring at her burnt wing.” The author uses words like, “beams,” “shrinks,” and “staring” to describe how the characters feel or think. As a reader, you can picture the scene in your mind like a movie and see the characters. The author could have used sentences like, “Dog was happy and Magpie was nervous.” However, the authors wanted you to feel the characters emotions and added richer words instead.

The story also has three main characters that have different personalities. What do you know about each type of animal and the characteristics people usually associate with them? Are they the same in the story? What other stories have you read with animal characters? Do the characters mirror the personalities or characteristics we usually label with the animal?

I have a challenge for you! I’d like you to think about the theme or the big idea of the book. What do you think is the theme and why? Have you ever trusted someone before and later realized you probably should not have? Please use your ideas to write a response to this book. I love reading what you write about the books we share together as a school. I’d love to read some wonderful responses during the announcement time in the morning. Be sure to hang them up on the chart by the office. I’ll be waiting to hear from you!

Happy reading!
Mrs. Hollinger

September, 2010: Big Chickens

posted Sep 23, 2010, 6:35 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Sep 23, 2010, 6:56 PM ]

Dear Students and Teachers,

Happy New School Year! As we begin the 2010-2011 school year, I want to remind you that each month your class will get a new book from me. These Books of the Month are stories that everyone in our school will read together. We’ll be able to talk about the same characters, the same problems, and the same authors. That helps us build a learning community of readers.

The September Book of the Month is Big Chickens, by Leslie Helakoski. When I read it at last year’s Book Fair, I knew that it was destined to become a Book of the Month because it contains at least one really good lesson. I’d like you to talk about the lessons you notice in the book when you read it with your class. What lessons do the chickens learn?
One of the things I noticed about the book is how Leslie Helakoski plays with language. Every time the chickens get into trouble she uses three words that all begin with the same sound – “cautions, careful, cowardly,” or “squeaked, squirmed and squealed.” This makes the story fun to read and fun to listen to aloud. This is a technique I’ve seen other authors use. The title is also funny if you think about it.
Another thing I like is the way the author repeats the same pattern as the story begins to unfold. See if you notice the pattern she uses. This makes the story easy for me to follow. Leslie Helakoski really thought about her audience of readers when she wrote this book. That’s an important thing for a writer to do.

Now that I’m a grown up, I try really hard not to be a BIG CHICKEN. I’ve learned that worrying about the “what ifs” are just a waste of my time and energy. What do you think?

Happy reading,
Mrs. Hollinger
P.S. If you like this book, there is another one called Big Chickens Fly the Coop.

May 2010: WOLF!

posted May 9, 2010, 2:35 PM by Holly Shipman

Dear Students and Teachers,

I am so excited about our Book of the Month this month. It is called Wolf! It is all about the amazing power of reading. (Surely you would understand how that would get me so excited!) It was written by Becky Bloom and illustrated by Pascal Biet – both of whom happen to live in France.

Now you already know how important I think reading is – obviously, as a principal, I believe it is one of the most important skills any person can achieve. In our book this month, a wolf learns the most important lesson of reading from a group of “educated” barnyard animals. Mr. Wolf expects the animals to be frightened of him and run away, however, due to their education and ability to read, they are not scared of him – because he is uneducated – and horror of horrors, he CAN’T read! You’ll just have to read on to find out what happens next. It has a great ending!

Someone once told me that education is a very powerful thing – and now, I have experienced that power first hand – for myself in my own education, for my own children through their education, and by working with you, the students of Lily B. Clayton. One of the reasons your education is so powerful is because no one can ever take it away from you once you possess it. Education gives you power – the power to learn and think for yourself. You don’t have to be afraid of things you don’t know about – just like the barnyard animals were not afraid of Mr. Wolf. What a powerful tool for all of your life! Wow!

I know that many of you right now in your classes, in the library, and in your homes are learning and practicing the art of reading and reading to learn. I am so glad to know that I work in a place that helps boys and girls to learn to read, and that they will always be able to take that skill with them wherever they may go in life. This knowledge makes my job such a pleasure every single day.

I hope you find this book as inspiring as I did. It kind of helped me remember how special Lily B. Clayton really is and the important work we do each day. Don’t forget how precious reading is to you now and will be forever in your lifetime. Please share with me your experiences learning to read and enjoying the practice of reading.

Keep Reading! Always!

Mrs. Hollinger

April 2010: Mia Hamm - Winners Never Quit!

posted Apr 6, 2010, 2:12 PM by Holly Shipman   [ updated Apr 6, 2010, 2:17 PM ]

Dear Students and Teachers,

I am so excited about The Book of the Month for April. It is called Mia Hamm – Winners Never Quit! written by Mia Hamm and illustrated by Carol Thompson. I am positive that this book will reach each student and teacher in some way this month. Those of you who like to play soccer will be especially excited about this great story. I have seen lots of soccer going on during recess, so I know there are many soccer fans at Lily B. Clayton!

As you know, I like to make connections between different pieces of literature. This particular story reminds me of the book Amazing Grace. Do you remember that book? The main character, Grace, loved to act and sing and tell stories, and she had to decide whether or not to quit trying. Unlike our main character in this story, Grace refused to give up. She worked very hard and in the end, reached her goal. In our book this month, Mia really loves soccer. As she’s going through a losing streak, she chooses to quit for a little while, but then decides to try again, and truly succeeds at the thing she most loves in her life.

Have you ever wanted to quit working at something? Have you ever felt it would be easier for you to just give up? I think we have all felt that way at some point in our lives. Yes, I’ll bet even your teachers can agree that they grew tired and wanted to just stop working hard at something they loved somewhere along the way. It is very important to remember that "winners never quit." I think you will also see in this book that winners don’t always win either. Everyone has set backs and disappointments, but what is most important is getting back up and trying again and again.

This is a true story told by Mia Hamm herself. Since the story is told by the person it happened to, it makes it a biographical story. The main character, Mia Hamm, is a world reknown soccer player who has won many awards including a gold medal at the Olympics. She actually now lives right here in Texas! The illlustrator of Mia Hamm, Winners Never Quit! is Carol Thompson. She lives in England and has also won many awards for her book illustrations.

I’d like to hear about whatever it is in your world that you love to do. Have you ever wanted to quit? Tell me about how difficult it might have been to keep going. Perhaps you find reading, math or science really hard, and you’d like to just give up sometimes. Write down your feelings and thoughts. I always love to read what you write. Please don’t forget that hard work always pays off, and winners NEVER quit!

Happy Reading!  

Mrs. Hollinger

February 2010 - The Secret Olivia Told Me

posted Feb 10, 2010, 5:01 PM by Holly Shipman   [ updated Feb 10, 2010, 5:07 PM ]

Dear Students and Teachers,

Have you ever had a secret…..a secret so big you just couldn’t hold it inside you? And once you have a hold on that secret, what do you do with it? Do you tell someone – and if you choose to share – who will that special trustworthy someone be? This month’s Book of the Month, The Secret Olivia Told Me, by N. Joy, is about a little girl who is chosen to keep a special secret for her friend, Olivia, who begs her not to tell anyone. She tries really hard, but soon the secret just has to come out.

You might think our book would be written about the secret itself, but suprisingly enough, we don’t even get to know what the secret is. All we know is that the "beans are spilled" – the "cat’s out of the bag", the secret is shared – and then spread all over - until, of course, it is no longer a secret at all. This is a very interesting way of writing about a secret. It is unexpected, and it leaves the reader waiting and wanting for more information. The writer purposely chooses not to tell us everything about the story. What a great writing example!

I have a few challenges for you! I’d like you to think about several things as we read this book together in the mornings during the announcements. I’d like you to imagine you are Olivia. How do you think she felt once her secret was out? Perhaps you could write a diary entry for the day she realized her secret had been shared with the world. How did she feel? Next, I’d like you to tell me what the secret was. The book doesn’t tell us what the secret was – so dream it up – what do you think this special secret was all about? And, finally, I’d like you to tell me about a time when you either told your own secret to a friend, or how you told a secret that had been told to you. You can make it funny, or maybe not so funny….just put your feelings into words and then send them to the office so I can read all your wonderful thoughts. I really do enjoy reading your responses to the book of the month.

I can’t wait to read your stories. I can tell that this one is going to be fun!

Happy reading! 

Mrs. Hollinger

January 2010 - Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars by Douglas Florian

posted Jan 4, 2010, 6:48 AM by Holly Shipman   [ updated Jan 4, 2010, 6:57 AM ]

Dear Students and Teachers,

This month’s Book of the Month, Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars, by Douglas Florian, is a change of pace from our most recent books. Hopefully, you will notice that this month’s book can naturally be related to Science. It encourages the reader to consider our celestial surroundings in the sky. There are twenty whimsical poems about space – from the moon to the stars, and from the Earth to Mars. Each double-page spread features a short poem about a heavenly subject that is set within an impressive painting. All were created by our wonderful author, Douglas Florian. He can do both – create art and poetry….simply amazing!

As all of our Lily B. Science experts surely know, the solar system is such an interesting and fun thing to study. I also think this book presents a neat trio – poetry, art and science. Sometimes we don’t think about mixing these two mediums, but as Mr. Florian shows us – it is a great partnership. Mr. Florian was asked if he wrote the poems or created the illustrations first. He replied that the poems were written before he started on the art. I think it is very interesting and unique that Mr. Florian is interested in art, space, and writing. What a combination!

We always try to find some personal connections to the books we read. The connection that I made was one night when I was outside looking into the sky. My family and I were camping out in the woods, so there were not many electrical lights around. The sky was simply dazzling with many stars. I looked up and saw how lovely the sky was that night – it was an amazing sight for me. It was then that I began researching more about space and what was beyond our atmosphere. I can certainly understand why our author would want to write beautiful poetry about the starry sky.

I have a challenge for you! I’d like you to look at the night sky one night this week. Watch the sky for a little while, and then see if you can write a poem about the wonderful things that you see. See how many descriptive adjectives and vivid verbs you can use. I would simply love to read your poetry! Be sure and bring it to the office for me to read! I’ll be waiting to hear from our own Lily B. poets.

Happy reading! 

Mrs. Hollinger

December 2009 - Pinduli by Janell Cannon

posted Dec 7, 2009, 7:25 PM by Holly Shipman   [ updated Dec 7, 2009, 7:31 PM ]

Dear Students and Teachers,

The Book of the Month for December is an awesome story this month. It is called Pinduli by Janell Cannon who is also the creator of Stellaluna. The story teaches some important life lessons, and the illustrations are really neat! I just know all our animal lovers are going to love this book. Isn’t it fun when we can learn lessons from animals?

Whenever I read a book, there are always connections to be made and my imagination can create a movie out of the scenes and activities of the characters from the story in my head. Sometimes, I can actually see myself right there inside the story as I read. This book is no exception. It takes place in majestic Africa. The fictional characters are animals who are actually native to that area of the world. There are hyenas, prairie dogs, a lion, and zebras. Our main character is a young hyena named Pinduli. When some of his animal friends are not very nice to him, he tries to change himself, but actually ends up changing his friends’ attitudes.

Everyone has personal attributes they don’t like about themselves – things that make them feel self conscious. Pinduli is told by the other animals that his ears are large, his stripes are weird, and that his mane was prickly. What mean things to say to someone! Pinduli feels awful and tries to fix the things his friends laughed at. Of course, he can’t fix them, however, in his attempts, he winds up teaching his so-called friends a great lesson. The lesson - we should always be kind to others. Isn’t that an awesome rule to live by? I won’t ruin the end of the story, but read carefully all the way to the end! The conclusion is the best part!

Is there anything about "you" that you don’t exactly like very much? Has anyone ever said something hurtful to you? Perhaps someone made fun of your hair, or your eyes, or your clothes? This does not feel very nice does it? Hopefully, we can learn from how badly we feel when someone makes fun of us, so we don’t say mean things to anyone else. It’s the "do unto others as you would have them do to you" rule. If the whole world would learn to live by this – wow, this would be an awesome place wouldn’t it?

As you read the story, think about a time when someone made you feel badly about yourself. What did you do? How did you respond to them? What can we learn from how others make us feel? I can’t wait to read about your interesting experiences! I always like to read what you write in response to our Book of the Month.

Happy Reading!

Mrs. Hollinger

November - Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley

posted Nov 17, 2009, 6:37 PM by Holly Shipman   [ updated Nov 17, 2009, 6:42 PM ]

Dear Students and Teachers,

As we get ready for the special season of Thanksgiving, our Book of the Month comes at just the right time. Gracias, The Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley and illustrated by Joe Cepeda is truly a fun, yet touching story. I’m betting that when you sit down to eat your Thanksgiving dinner, you will think about this very cute story! I am also hoping that while you are with your family and friends for this coming holiday time you will write about your special traditions and experiences of the week. I love to read your thoughts and tales about your amazing adventures!

As always, there are many connections to be made from our book this month. As I read this book, the characters and story line caused me to remember when I was a young girl during Thanksgiving time. Waiting for family members to arrive for Thanksgiving dinner was sometimes very difficult. I remember thinking they would NEVER get there so we could enjoy the holiday meal. I guess being young sometimes makes us impatient! I also remember some special pets I had throughout my childhood years. These are such great memories that this book brought forward for me!

Miguel is our main character for our story. He lives with his grandparents and his parents. His father sends him a special gift a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I think his dad meant for the gift to be useful for the Thanksgiving meal, but through the course of the story, Miguel decides that his present is NOT going to be used in this way. I won’t spoil the details of the story for you, but what a great way to twist the idea of Thanksgiving and that very special dinner.

This book is rich with Spanish language that is very interesting – words that our Spanish speaking friends will be very familiar with. Wasn’t that a great idea to put real Spanish words into the story? Vocabulary for story writing should be authentic to the characters and the plot. I think Joy Cowley, the author, did a great job helping us to "feel" the story and to "imagine" ourselves right in the middle of the action. This is referred to as the author’s "voice" in the story.

Another connection I made is the closeness of the community in the neighborhood where Miguel, the main character, lives. I was so impressed with how the neighborhood folks "got in on the act" of helping Miguel with his "present", especially when he needed some assistance. I can’t help but think about the wonderful community we are a part of right here at Lily B. Clayton – our neighborhood families and friends are so very generous in helping us out – with whatever we may need. Right now during this time of thankfulness – I’m thankful for our great community. We are very blessed.

So now, it’s time to get started with our super story for the month of November. Don’t forget to write about your Thanksgiving traditions and experiences. I want to hear about the special things your family does during the holiday – and maybe you could let me know what you are thankful for. I know one thing I’m thankful for – Lily B. Clayton – and each one of its students and staff members.

Happy Reading! Happy Thanksgiving!

Mrs. Hollinger

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