Tag Archives: Ann Nolan Clark

December’s Elementary & Junior High Library Class and ‘Share the Gift of Story’ Reads

Constable Helder reads Red Parka Mary to the Grade 4 class

December is a short month with one week of library classes happily taken up with a community read-in called “Share the Gift of Story“.

Students really enjoy the program with parents and other community members coming in to read either a selection of their own or a seasonal book from the library collection in front of the fireplace (projected video) to the class.

Hey! Guess What! Reading is Fun! 🙂


Continuing the snow theme, we read Norman’s Snowball by Hazel Hutchins, which the kids and I love despite such bad decisions throughout. We also enjoyed the delightfully imaginative Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn and Mark Buehner.

Parent, Mrs. Stenberg brought her own favourites to read to the morning class for the read-in. They were Charlie & the Christmas Kitty by Ree Drummond and The Christmas Surprise.  The afternoon class again enjoyed Snowmen at Christmas (they never mind a repeat of a favourite) read by RCMP Sergeant Dunn.

Grade 1

Grade 1 students enjoyed following woodland animals as they prepared for winter in First Snow in the Woods by Carl Sams & Jean Stoick, introduced with the author’s video below. The following week we read Stranger in the Woods another ‘Photographic Fantasy’ by Sams and Stoik, in woodlands that could almost be out our back door.

Just before the break, we read Elton the Elf by Lisa Mallen. This book is particularly appropriate for Grade 1 as poor Elton tours the year from New Year’s Day through Valentines and Halloween to find his way home to Christmas. RCMP Constable Helder choose It’s Christmas David by David Shannon.

Grade 2

We’re still in the arctic in Grade 2 with Jan Brett’s The Three Snow Bears and the demonstration of drawing a snow bear from the video below.

We also read another of Michael Kusugak’s books (we read Hide and Sneak in October). Baseball Bats for Christmas was a perfect combination of the seasonal theme and Social Studies as the book reinforces the isolation of arctic communities and how it was possible that arctic children truly may not have recognized trees a half a century ago – before ubiquitous media.

Former town mayor Mrs. Marriot always brings in a new book to leave with us after she has read it to a class for the Christmas read-in. This year she brought Santa Claus and the Three Bears by Maria Modugno, which Grade 2 thoroughly enjoyed.

Grade 3

At the beginning of the month we mutually agreed that Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark, while an excellent book, was not holding the students’ attention with weekly readings. My hope, of course, is that one or two of the students will pick it up to read in the future. Instead we looked at Spotlight on Peru by Robin Johnson and You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Inca Mummy by Colin Hynson before saying goodbye to Peru in the library class. (That is until I find a perfectly Grade 3-appropriate book to share with them.)

Mrs. Fenez is former program assistant and the parent of a graduate, who still loves to come in and read to a class for the read-in. This year she brought her own childrens’ favourite, The Very Best Christmas Present by Jim Razzi to read to Grade 3.

We finished off the month with The Christmas Day Kitten, a sweet story by James Herriot. I showed them the other Herriott picture books we have in the library and they were all checked out by the end of the class.

Grade 4

Short weekly readings from a novel are a great test of it’s power to engage and Sigmund Brouwer’s Tyrant of the Badlands is succeeding with Grade 4. The mystery is building as Ricky (aka Rocky) gets himself deeper and deeper into his adopted criminal persona to try to help his aunt discover what’s going on with her trailer park.

After perusing several choices, RCMP Constable Helder selected Peter Eyvindson’s Red Parka Mary to read to this class because he liked the message of how first impressions can be wrong; how not to judge a book by it’s cover, so to speak. A good discussion followed with children thinking about how people they were originally unsure of turned out to be good folk.

Grade 5

Happily, the Dear Canada series has been flying off the shelf again since we started reading A Prairie as Wide as the Sea by Sarah Ellis. Although a few of the students are not as ‘into it’ as others, they all listen and participate well in our weekly readings. What with Christmas Concert practice and other interruptions, we didn’t quite get to the entries on Christmas but will this month.

Mr. Goebel, a grandfather who has been coming in to read since the project’s inception when his children were in school, always gives the class a choice of which books they would like to hear. Grade 5 chose the ‘old’ favourites: It’s Christmas, David by David Shannon & Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini.

Grade 6

We finished The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis this month and, supported by activities that their classroom teacher has devised, it was such a winner,  that the class begged to continue the series. That wasn’t my plan, but not one to pass up an opportunity to nurture literary enthusiasm I asked them to decide whether to read on with this character in Parvana’s Journey or to see what happened to Parvana’s best friend, Shauzia in Mud City. They want to read them both but opted for Parvana’s Journey first. They are shocked, enlightened and intrigued. What more could I ask?

Unfortunately their program reader, an RCMP officer, was called away at the last minute and couldn’t make it to the scheduled reading. The class was looking forward to it so rather than follow the usual routine, I gave them a choice from about 20 assembled books and was delighted that they chose my favourite The Gift of the Magi by O’Henry in a beautiful edition illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger.

Junior High

We don’t usually read aloud in Junior High as the teachers prefer the class to be dedicated to book exchange and silent reading, but they are always included in the read-in. Sometimes I have to recruit teachers and support staff to read as ‘the public’ often can’t imagine this age group enjoying picture books. Far from it, I think they look forward to it just as much as the younger students and are no less receptive (although albeit a little less responsive) when community members read picture books to them.

I had sent several books home for volunteer parent, Mrs. Robertson to choose from. The Grade 7 class was quite touched by her selection:  The Christmas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski. The illustrations by P.J. Lynch are just gorgeous in this book – atmospheric and evocative.

Mrs. Acorn, a former staff member and parent, who happened to be visiting town and volunteered for the read-in, chose Red Parka Mary for the same reasons as Constable Helder did above. The Grade 8’s were very receptive and it was interesting how much more maturely their 4-years-older minds processed the message.

Mr. Goebel had his second reading with the Grade 9’s and again let them have their choices. Their selections show how much this age enjoys revisiting their younger years: David Shannon’s It’s Christmas David & How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. (I think Mr. Goebel may have read the latter book at least once every year and still reads it happily and patiently when the students ask for it.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Authors & Illustrators, Education, Library Class, Library Programs

November’s Elementary Library Class Reads

Division 1

https://i1.wp.com/www.michelleknudsen.com/images/Lion300-330.jpgA lion, who starts visiting a library, runs into trouble when he tries to both obey the rules and help his librarian friend in The Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. One of our grade 3 students happened to mention that her family has a copy of the book at home, and that her book was in Korean! I told her that I would love to see it if she was allowed to bring it in.

Generously, her mother brought the book and offered to allow us to keep it for a week or so, so that the students would have a chance to see it. It was fun to read the book in English to Grades 1, 2 & 3 (it’s a lovely read) and then to show them the Korean copy, which is identical to our copy except, of course for the text itself. It was a great opportunity to talk to the kids about translations and how people all over the world want to read great books.


At the beginning of the month, Kindergarten enjoyed I Know a Librarian Who Chewed on a Word by Laurie Knowlton and sat amazed as the librarian in the story (in the manner of “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”) downs various library items all for the love of the word ‘read’.

For the rest of the month we enjoyed celebrating snow and winter.  A Big Book and penguin puppet made the inimitable and admirable Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester even more enjoyable. Tacky is a character that helps us to celebrate uniqueness in people. When it Snows by Richard Collingridge makes us want to use our imaginations to travel anywhere and do anything when we’re playing. In our last November library class we read the classic Thomas’ Snowsuit by Robert Munsch, causing a run on the plethora of Munsch books, which, with Munsch’s incorrigible humour, never become outdated.

Grade 1

Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book was the choice for Grade 1 in anticipation of Remembrance Day. This story of the Yooks and the Zooks, who go to war over the way they butter their bread and the escalation of weaponry that ensues is the perfect allegory with which to start thinking about Remembrance Day.

I couldn’t resist sharing the new Tacky the Penguin Big Book with Grade 1 in the second week and although a familiar character to most of them, the students were tickled by Tacky’s quirky appeal, especially augmented by a tackily attired penguin puppet).

Continuing our intermittent discussion of the grade 1 science theme: Needs of Plants and Animals, we learned a few facts in Bears by Gallimard Jeunesse, a delightful, nonfiction First Discovery book where brightly colored transparent pages hide and then reveal secrets like a bear snoozing cozily in his den. To follow, the fictional The Very Hungry Bear by Nick Bland was a a good illustration of how an animal’s needs are met within their own, special habitat.

Grade 2

The arctic is a very popular theme Social Studies with the Grade 2 students; especially polar bears. In November we looked at and read several books about polar bears including Little Polar Bear by Hans de Beer,  Little Snow Bear by Hazel Lincoln and The Polar Bear’s Gift by Jeanne Bushey. We learned that polar bears are perfectly adapted to live in the cold, barren arctic; that they would not survive in warmer climates. We learned that polar bears need to be able to go out on the sea ice to hunt seals and that compassion is an important characteristic of a great hunter. I bring out a large pile of books on the arctic, the Inuit, inuksuks, polar bears and penguins each time Grade 2 comes in and almost all of them are checked out by the end of the class.

Grades 3

With other things getting in the way – like The Library Lion in Korean (see above) – we only had 2 short readings of the novel Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark. Because of where they follow in the school day, this class is a short one. A maximum of 10 minutes each week is not enough to get into a novel so I will summarize for them, hope a few of them decide to pick it up in the future, and move on to other things.

Division 2

Tyrant of the Badlands by Sigmund Brouwer continues to captivate the Grade 4 class as Ricky/Rocky works at creating a convincingly delinquent persona while at the same time staying out of any real trouble.

Grade 5 voted to continue  carry on with A prairie as Wide as the Sea by Sarah Ellis. They are intrigued by Ivy’s struggle to learn the Canadian vernacular for many of the British terms she uses and with the familiar and not-so familiar scrapes she gets into as she adjusts to this new way of life.

Parvana’s diminished family has found new friendship and support in one of her former teachers. Parvana herself has run into a school friend, who is also posing as a boy. What they decide to do to earn money for their family has shocked and disgusted the Grade 6 class as we continue reading The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. The students are transfixed, appalled and truly enlightened by this tale of a young girl’s struggle to support her family in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Next Month

Swan Hills School Share the Gift of Story Invitation

December will be a short month in school with Christmas holidays taking out a chunk and we are all looking forward to our annual “Share the Gift of Story” community readers program.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Authors & Illustrators, Education, Library Class, Library Programs

The Week in Elementary Library Class

Kindergarten didn’t have a class this week because of schedule changes but they did come and see me in their Halloween costumes on Thursday and sang “5 Little Pumpkins” just for me. What a treat!

Grade 1

Cindy Moo by Lori Mortenson showed us that the impossible can be possible if you try hard enough. Delightfully illustrated by Jeff Mack, Cindy Moo fit perfectly into our monthly character trait: Perseverance. After the story we shared stories of things that we have had to try very hard and sometimes for a very long time to get right. I found it interesting that what popped into many, if not most students’ minds, was the efforts they have put into video games to obtain mastery. (Maybe we will have to gamify education.)

Grade 2

After last week’s book, Hide and Sneak by Michael Kusugak, a closer look at  inuksuit was in order. The class was quite impressed when I explained that students from Nunavut had written and illustrated The Lonely Inukshuk. The simple story is engaging as the inukshuk searches for its purpose ‘in life’. Along the way we meet many arctic animals and learn their Inuit names. The text pages are split with the English words on top and Inuktitut below and a word list at the back gives us each Inuit name with its English equivalent. The Lonely Inukshuk was written and illustrated by students in a Nunavut school and fits in nicely with Alberta Grade 2 Social Studies.

We also had a brief look at The Inuksuk Book by Mary Wallace. In it, the many names and uses for different inuksuit are discussed. All dozen or so books that I put on display for the class were checked out: about inuksuit, the arctic and Inuit people. Hide and Sneak has gone to the classroom for a while so we don’t have to discuss who gets to check it out! A very popular topic!

Grade 3

For an introduction to mysteries and a personal feel for Peru, which is one of the countries studied in Grade 3 Social Studies, and as an experiment on my part, I have started the novel Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark. It’s an experiment because the book is rated for Grades 4-8 and they will have to make a lot of inferences from context clues, or I will have to interrupt the reading a lot. After this first reading only one student had figured out what a minstrel is from the oft-mentioned pan pipe music that he played. Not all students caught the (rather quiet) revelation that the boy had Royal Blood or what that meant or how it might be related to his isolated situation. I’ll do a supporting slide show and give it one more week and then, if necessary move on. There may be a student or two in the class who will want to try to finish it for themselves.

Grade 4

DSCF4563-1This class came in this week dressed in their Halloween costumes and just a little giddy. On the spur of the moment, on the premise of giving them advice for the evening’s Trick or Treating, I decided to read How to Catch a Ghost, in big book format – “Thought Up and Written Down by Noodles, Illustrated by Michael Foreman”.

We also read a chapter of our novel, Tyrant of the Badlands. Ricky got caught smashing up the living room with Mike’s brilliant – if rather sadistic – fly airplane, but the class really wasn’t able to sit for long so we didn’t read any further and they shared their books with each other at reading time.

Grade 5

We didn’t need any pictures this week as Ivy and her family settled into their new home in Saskatchewan in A prairie as wide as the sea : the immigrant diary of Ivy Weatherall by Sarah Ellis. Ivy’s family have moved out of her uncle’s sod house and into a slightly larger one and we moved out of the reading corner in Easy Street where the Smart Board is, since we didn’t need it and everyone settled onto bean bags to listen to the story. It was appropriate, but possibly a little too relaxing for this fairly quiet part of the story.

Grade 6

This class is so into The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis that even though it was Halloween, just before their end-of-the-day Halloween dance, they were very attentive as Parvana is asked by her family and makes her first foray out of the house as a boy. A discussion ensued about the potential discomfort of having to switch genders in order to survive. I was surprised to learn that although all the boys immediately said they would do it, most of the girls were much more hesitant. When a student brought up an acquaintance who is apparently transsexual, there was little overt judgement and one of the girls said, “That’s a choice, but I wouldn’t want to be forced to do it.”

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Authors & Illustrators, Education, Library Class, Library Programs