Two About Matisse








Today at Supratentorial I’m sharing  two relatively new books on Henri Matisse offer complementary accounts of his life and work and make for a great elementary artist study. Colorful Dreamerby Marjorie Blain Parker looks at Matisse’s entire life, with about half the book in the period before he really became an artist. Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter focuses briefly covers Matisse’s early years but instead focuses on the time after he is confined to bed as an old man and how he managed to find a way to continue creating art when he couldn’t paint by using his giant paper cutouts.

For the full review and some Matisse inspired artwork, visit Supratentorial.

Middle Grade Science: Plastic, Ahoy

At Wrapped in Foil today we are sharing Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman and with photographs by Annie Crawley. This middle grade book follows three graduate students who are part of team observing and sampling a giant patch of floating debris during a nearly three week ocean voyage in 2009.

Plastic, Ahoy!- Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Have you heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It is a giant floating mass of plastic debris in the northern Pacific Ocean. It was discovered in 1997, and not much is known about it. One surprising finding from the book was that much of the plastic is broken down into tiny bits. It isn’t like the floating trash heap you might envision. Virtually every net sample the students took, however, had plastic in it. One has to wonder how all that debris is changing the marine ecosystem.

Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a compelling and relevant introduction to modern marine science. You will want to share it with children interested in marine biology, chemistry or conservation. It would make perfect reading for Earth Day (April 22, 2014) or World Ocean Day (June 8, 2014). It would also be a useful addition to a unit on the environment, particularly the marine ecosystem.

For the book trailer and ideas for accompanying activities, see a related post at Growing with Science blog.

The Boy Who Loved Math

boy who loved math a The Boy Who Loved Math

by Debora Heiligman; illustrated by LeUyen Pham

44 pages; ages 5 & up

Roaring Brook Press, 2013

Paul Erdos loved numbers and grew up to be one of the greatest mathematicians in the world. And it all started with a big problem …his nanny. Nanny loved rules. Paul didn’t. So he counted the days until his mama returned. And he kept on counting. He added numbers, subtracted numbers, and discovered that you could go the other way beyond zero. Negative numbers – what a cool concept for a young child!

This book describes the life of a very eccentric mathematician who couldn’t tie his shoes but could find patterns for prime numbers. If you’re not too sure about prime numbers, don’t worry –  there’s a great explanation in the story. There are wonderful illustrations of Paul and his college classmates “doing math” around Budapest; they see math in rooftops and steeples. Read the rest of the review at Archimedes Notebook.

Call of the Klondike

Jacket (10)

Call of the Klondike
by David Meissner; illus by Kim Richardson
Calkins Creek, 2013

Between my driveway turning into a steep hockey rink and the icicles growing from my roof, I can’t think of a better book to read. If your kids love Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, or Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, they’ll love this true story of Arctic tales that will make their blood run cold (as Robert Service would say).

Call of the Klondike tells the true story of two unlikely cheekachos – Yale graduates who decided to try their luck in the Alaskan gold fields. It is chock-full of photos, letters, journal entries – all tied together with David Meissner’s wonderful narrative. A fun read, but put on your wool socks and grab some hot cocoa because it’s cold up there. You can read more at Sally’s Bookshelf.

Lighting Our World: A Year of Celebrations

Lighting Our World: A Year of Celebrations
by Catherine Rondina (Author) and Jacqui Oakley (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Throughout the year and around the globe, people use light — candles, bonfires, lanterns and fireworks — to celebrate special occasions. (This Friday it will be Chinese New Year.)

Chinese New Year (China)
At the end of the celebration we have a beautiful lantern festival, which also includes a giant paper dragon. This tradition is more than two thousand years old. Red lanterns are lit and hung everywhere for good luck. Fireworks explode in the night, making loud noises that scare evil spirits away.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved. Site Meter

Oceans & Seas

Oceans and Seas


Oceans & Seas

by Margaret Hynes

Lexile Level: NC 1130L (Non-Conforming)


What allows animals to live in a specific water ecosystem?

Help K-5 students answer this essential question (and meet the Common Core State Standards) with the Teaching STEM lesson plans for this mentor text: Oceans & Seas by Margaret Hynes (Lexile Level: NC 1130L)

Students will examine the essential question, “What allows animals to live in a specific water ecosystem?” Students will be grouped and assigned a specific ecosystem chosen from the suggested list. They will conduct research using a variety of sources to identify important information about an animal that lives in their assigned ecosystem and identify the adaptations the animal has that allows it to successfully live there.

The Library Activity begins on page 40. The Collaborative Teacher Activity is on page 42. Extension Activities (sample)

1. Investigate James Cook and other early ocean explorers. Create a timeline of the early explorations and where they took place from journey’s start to end. Add information about the explorers.

2. Look up cultured pearls and read about the process for creating these pearls. Write a description of how it’s done and the science behind it.

3. Explore the issues facing oceans today. Name the largest issues and assign students to research and present the information in a debate-style setting.

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Whose Tools Are These?

Whose Tools Are These?
written by Amanda Doering Tourville
2012 (Capstone Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Community helpers are an important subject in preschool and kindergarten. We have guest speakers come to school and teach students about their occupation. In the Community Helper Mysteries series from Capstone Press, students receive several clues about a particular service job. In Whose Tools Are These?, readers are shown a large room with chairs and a worker behind a computer. I would be curious to see how many readers would know from this first photograph where it was taken. In succeeding spreads, special gloves are shown as an important part of this line of work. An otoscope, which is used to look into a patient’s ear, is the subject of another photograph. By this point, most, if not all, of your students will know whose occupation is being featured. Other clues include a needle and thread for stitches, a needle for providing medicine, and a person looking at an x-ray. In the back of the book, a glossary reviews vocabulary from the text and a FactHound code is provided for further research.

This series of books will be a fun resource for community studies in preschool and kindergarten. You can use them to teach prediction lessons and for writing about community helpers. Before reading, I would create a circle map and fill out the outer circle of the map as we read the book. At the end of the book, we would fill in the inner circle. If you teach a unit on community helpers, find this series of books.

Come on over to NC Teacher Stuff for more book reviews and other thoughts.

Martin & Mahalia: his words, her song


by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. 40 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, July, 2013. 9780316070133. (Review copy borrowed from the public library.)

Do we really need another book about Martin Luther King Jr.? Well, yes. I have a variety of books about him in my middle school library, from picture books to longer biographies. But this one is a new collaboration by the Pinkneys. Not only is a new book by them an automatic purchase regardless of subject, this one is a dual biography and it’s gorgeous.

Follow this link to proseandkahn to read the rest of my review.


Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table


Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table
written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin; illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin
2013 (Readers to Eaters Books)
Source: Orange County Library

Speaking about his childhood, Will Allen said “We never had a car or a TV, but we always had good food. My mother often fixed enough food for thirty.” Growing food was an important part of Will’s young life, even though he didn’t like the hard work of pulling weeds. As an adult, Will was a basketball player who spent time playing professionally in Belgium. A friend in Belgium asked him to help dig potatoes one day and he rediscovered how much he enjoyed growing food and sharing it. After finishing his basketball career, Will worked in Wisconsin in an office job and also found time to grow vegetables on his in-law’s land. Wanting to find his own place, Will found a plot of land in Milwaukee that had six empty greenhouses. Could you grow food in a city where the soil was filled with chemicals and pollution? Through the use of composting, volunteers, and red wiggler worms, Will’s city farm became a success after years of experimenting. Will went on to share his story and start farms around the globe.

How would I use this in the classroom? Go to NC Teacher Stuff and read the rest of this review.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker’s fascinating life has been examined in books, films, and documentaries. But perhaps none is so beautifully done as Patricia Hruby Powell‘s picture book Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (Chronicle Books, January 14, 2014). Illustrated by Christian Robinson, Josephine tells the inspiring story of this boundary-breaking performer and champion for racial equality. A biography written in verse, Josephine is already collecting a jewel box of starred reviews, including one from Kirkus that says it’s “celebrated with style and empathy.”

Question: You’re a former dancer, so it’s easy to see the interest you might have for writing about another dancer. But why Josephine Baker? What drew you to her story?

Patricia Hruby Powell: It wasn’t till I hit my more advanced adult years that I took a close look at Josephine and was smitten. Her style, verve, her originality—as seen in the early film footage and the three movies she made—are irresistible. But when I was a serious young dancer—of Graham, Limon, and Cunningham techniques and of ballet, who became a choreographer and concert dancer—I did not take Josephine Baker seriously.

In my more recent capacity as a children’s librarian, surrounded by unfocused preteen African American girls, I thought Josephine could be a wonderful role model. Josephine had phenomenal confidence. Blind confidence, perhaps. That’s what drew me.

Q: Josephine is both beautifully illustrated, immensely informative, and well-written. And it clocks in at a whopping 104 pages! It is not every picture book that gets an editor’s green light to reach 100 pages! How did you win over your editor? Did the size of the book begin to worry you at any point?

PHP: Josephine evolved, you might say. I’d written it first as a 1,000 word picture book, received a lot of agent and editorial attention, but ultimate rejection. I then wrote it as a YA verse piece imagining Paul Colin-like black and white illustrations. Never mind that there’s really no such thing as a novella-length verse YA volume, I was writing what I wanted, as we’re always advised to do.

Read more of this interview over at, where you’ll find conversations with writers of some of the best books for children – from picture book to middle-grade, fiction and non-fiction.