Book Chat

AR Update: 5 Weeks In

Another AR update!

Here’s a glance at my AR folder:

Date of Test Title Author Quiz
Book Level Points Score
10/18/10 In the Belly of an Ox Rebecca Bond 133513 5.3 0.5 100%
10/19/10 The Cat’s Pajamas Wallace Edwards 138251 4.4 0.5 80%
10/19/10 The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups David Wisniewski 32180 5.5 0.5 100%
10/20/10 The Three Questions Jon Muth 58930 3.4 0.5 100%
10/20/10 Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen 714 12.0 27 100%
11/2/10 Uncommon Traveler Don Brown 43954 4.6 0.5 100%
11/2/10 The Best School Year Ever Barbara Robinson 10212 5.4 3 100%
11/2/10 Yeh-Shen Ai-Ling Louie 6300 5.1 0.5 100%
11/2/10 Never Smile at a Monkey Steve Jenkins 133438 6.3 0.5 100%
11/2/10 Eight Hands Round Ann Whitford Paul 112334 5.6 0.5 100%
11/2/10 Talkin’ About Bessie Nikki Grimes 67497 6.1 1 100%
11/3/10 Cinderella K.Y. Craft 114953 5.9 0.5 100%
11/3/10 Wilma Unlimited Kathleen Krull 13757 5.1 0.5 100%

I’ve been reading a lot of picture books, and they’re so much fun!  I’ve forgotten the pleasure of absorbing a page of illustrations and the concise phrases necessary to keep a child’s attention.  They’re beautiful!

I will include all these books in my monthly Reading Log, but I’d like to give a more detailed review of a few of my favorite picture books that I’ve been reading.

In the Belly of an Ox: The Unexpected Photographic Adventures of Richard and Cherry Kearton, by Rebecca Bond

Interest level: Lower and Middle Elementary grades (1-5)

I loved this quietly adventurous picture book about the pair of brothers behind the first photographic nature book.  They used elaborate disguises to set up their camera in the late 1800s to capture photographs of birds in their nests, which led to the phenomena of bird watching.  As a child of two bird watchers, this book feels special to me.  I especially loved the real photographs in the back of the book, which showed that the implausible watercolors of the brothers dangling high in a tree or hiding under a wooden sheep were all true.

Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa, by Don Brown

Interest level: Lower and Middle Elementary grades (1-5)

Really intriguing!  Dreamy, somewhat bleak illustrations with evocative text.  Another nonfiction picture book about a real person: Mary Kinglsey, who, after a dreary childhood nursing her bedridden mother with only books for company, travels to Africa at the age of 30.  Alone.  In the 1800s.  Wearing heavy Victorian dresses.  Amazing!  The quotes from her diary and journals are really funny, as are the details from her travels.  It made me think: who is this?  Is she someone obscure, or should I know about her already?  Off to Wikipedia I go!

Never Smile at a Monkey: And 17 Other Important Things to Remember, by Steve Jenkins

Interest Level: Middle Elementary grades (3-6)

Steve Jenkins writes wonderfully interesting nonfiction books, most about animals, and this is no exception.  Eighteen seemingly harmless animals that have developed deadly defense mechanisms.  Don’t pet a platypus!  Don’t touch a tang!  Never collect a cone shell!  To find out why… read the book!

Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman, by Nikki Grimes

Interest Level: Middle Elementary grades (3-6)

There are a lot of picture book biographies out there about famous people, and famous African American women have their own place in that genre, but I have to say that this book is really special.  Instead of a typical biography of her childhood and adulthood accomplishments, the story is told from a variety of different perspectives.  Each page is from the point of view of a different person in Elizabeth Coleman’s life, from her mother to a white customer to an American reporter to a fellow aviation student in France.  The story is remarkable: a black woman who becomes a stunt aviator in the early 1900s, but in my opinion it’s the way the story is told that makes this story so engrossing. You could do an entire language arts unit using the book: perspective and history and woman’s rights and civil rights, etc.!  And the illustrations!  The watercolors are so life-like, they feel so familiar and honest and straight from a photograph.  This was a hidden gem in the library that I’ve overlooked.

We seem to have a lot of nonfiction picture books in the library… which I think is great!  I’ve never noticed any of these books before, which is another perk of putting myself in the AR program.  It’s been fun to search the shelves to find something interesting to read.  That’s one thing about being a school librarian: you don’t piece a collection together yourself like your home library, you inherit it from the tastes and priorities of generations of teachers, students, donations, and other librarians.  I am still learning the in’s and out’s of my collection, and there’s always a surprise lurking on the shelves!

One thought on “AR Update: 5 Weeks In

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