Sunday, February 7, 2016

Old School Sunday: The Goodbye Summer by Crosby Bonsall (1979)

The Goodbye Summer
by Crosby Bonsall
1979. Greenwillow Books
ISBN: 9780688802028
Allie, who lives with her widowed mom in a boarding house, hates endings and saying goodbye. She hates it when her mother makes her clean out her room and part with items she has had for years. She hates it when she begins spending time with a little baby in her neighborhood, and he moves away. And she hates the thought of having to say goodbye to anything else. When free-spirited aging actress Wanda Lenya takes a room in the boarding house, however, she begins to help Allie see that saying goodbye is not a tragedy, but just a natural part of life.

I have always known Crosby Bonsall as the author of easy readers such as The Case of the Hungry Stranger, The Day I Had to Play with My Sister, and Mine’s the Best, but it wasn’t until this book showed up at a local used book sale that I learned that she (yes, she) also wrote a novel! I’m disappointed that I didn’t know this sooner, as I think this book would have been a favorite had I discovered it in childhood. I was very much like Allie in terms of her fears about having to say goodbye, and I think this story would have been a help and a comfort.

If I had to describe this book in one word I would probably choose offbeat. Allie is not a typical kid, and her quirkiness permeates the entire story, making it a book for a very specific reader. Though there isn’t much to the plot - and the message is a bit cheesy and heavyhanded - there are many moments that stand out as memorable. Despite her strangeness, Allie comes across as very real, and her interactions with others, even the larger-than-life Ms. Lenya, ring true. Descriptions of Allie’s bedroom before her mother makes her clean it, and of the Independence Day celebration near the end of the book are especially delightful and stayed with me long after I finished the story.

The Goodbye Summer is similar in tone to Louise Fitzhugh’s books: Harriet the Spy, The Long Secret, and Sport (which was also published in 1979). Allie also reminds me somewhat of the misfit girls Ursula Nordstrom writes about in The Secret Language. It also makes a nice read-alike for Tara Altebrando’s contemporary middle grade novels, especially My Life in Dioramas.

I own a copy of The Goodbye Summer.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sequel Saturday: Sofia Martinez: My Vida Loca by Jacqueline Jules (ARC)

This is a second collection of Sofia Martinez stories, following My Family Adventure. The three stories in this collection are also being published as individual volumes. In "Singing Superstar," Sofia receives a singing machine as a Christmas gift and immediately begins to seek an audience for her loud, ear-piercing singing, but finds that most of her family is reluctant to listen. In "The Secret Recipe," Sofia tries to help her grandmother bake a special treat, but she ends up mistaking salt for sugar and having to find a way to replace the ruined dessert. Finally, in "The Marigold Mess," Sofia attempts to wash the car, but winds up flooding her mother's marigolds instead.

Just like the first set of Sofia Martinez stories, this one is brightly colored and filled with style and sass, as well as Spanish phrases. The expressive illustrations really capture Sofia's vibrant personality, and they also help the reader keep track of her many relatives. Though there is some humor in the text, the illustrations - especially of Sofia's exuberant singing performances - bring the true laughs. This collection is also a nice tribute to the warm relationship kids can have with their grandparents, as Sofia's grandma is the most understanding of all of the adults.

These upbeat stories about a spunky young girl are sure to have wide appeal. Kids will enjoy the format and characterization, while parents will appreciate the character-building lessons hidden in each episode. Recommend this series to fans of Katie Woo and Ling and Ting.

I received a digital ARC of My Vida Loca from Capstone via NetGalley.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Numbers Board Books

Today's board books are all about identifying numbers and learning to count.

Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton (ISBN: 9780689834349)
One lonely hippo makes a phone call, and suddenly, it's party time for him and all of his friends in this rhyming book.
One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Jane Chapman (ISBN: 9780763603342)
When one duck gets stuck in the muck, groups of animals in increasing numbers try to rescue it.

Say and Play: Numbers by Sterling Publishing (ISBN: 9781402798917)
Clean and simple photographs illustrate each number from one to ten. 

Let’s Count to Ten by Richard Scarry (ISBN: 9781742118918)
With his detailed, busy illustrations of anthropomorphic animals eating breakfast, driving cars, and feeling grumpy, Richard Scarry helps the youngest readers understand the concept of counting.

1 2 3 by Simms Taback (ISBN: 9781934706893)
Simple bold illustrations make this small, short board book a perfect introduction to counting for the littlest babies! 

One Red Sun: A Counting Book by Ezra Jack Keats (ISBN: 9780670884780)
This wordless book shows a numeral and a corresponding group of items on each page, all created using Keats's distinctive illustration style. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Third Grade CCD 2015-2016: The Church Community, 2/1/16

For the first two weeks of January, before MLK Day and our snow day, I was teaching my class about the Mass. There wasn't enough to the lesson to justify an entire blog post, but I do want to recommend two resources: 1. This printable set of sequencing cards from Grace and Gratitude and 2. Heart of the Nation which provides Sunday Mass for the homebound. I found both to be invaluable in explaining what happens at Mass to kids who do not attend regularly.

After the two weeks off, we had only one week before Lent, so I decided to combine two lessons that I did last year (which I did not blog about): one about the leaders of the Catholic Church and one about the role of the laypeople at Mass. These became a single lesson on The People of the Catholic Church. I was lucky enough to borrow an aide from another class this week, and the presence of another set of eyes in the room made all the difference. This was my best lesson of the year so far!

Gathering Activities

  • Make a St. Michael prayer card. (I gave each child one of these from Catholic Icing, and they had to cut them out and glue them together.)
  • Journaling question: Who is in our church community? (I did not tell the kids they were journaling, but asked them to write or draw some of the people they have seen helping out at Mass.) 

Opening Prayer

  • Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel 



  • Who is in our church community?
    We made a list on the board of who is part of the church community. I corrected answers that were way off-base, but otherwise wrote down what they said word for word, explaining that we would learn the proper names for each position as we went through the lesson. 



I created a simple slideshow in Google Drive, showing a photo (found online) and a brief description of the following community members: ushers, musicians, lector, cantor, choir, Eucharistic minister, altar servers, sister, brother, priest, bishop, Cardinal, Pope. The students took turns guessing what the people were called, and then reading the correct information from the slides. 

Question Bee

I didn't really give this game a name until I sat down to write this blog post, but I modeled it loosely after a spelling bee. Here is how to play: 
  • Divide the students into two teams. (My class likes to split up boys vs. girls, so I just went with that.)
  • Each team forms a line. (The kids decided on their own to line up oldest to youngest. I told them any order was fine.)
  • Ask the first student in Team One's line a question. (In this case, they were all "Who Am I?" questions based on the slideshow.) 
  • If the answer is correct, the student goes to the back of the line to play another round. If the answer is not correct, that student is out and must go sit down. 
  • Play passes back and forth between the two teams until everyone on one team is out. 
The first time we played, the kids knew very few answers, so, after the boys won, I gave them a word bank on the white board for round two. The girls won the second round, and they won the third game we played to be the tiebreaker. 


After the game, we took a bathroom break, and then reviewed some of the Mass parts we learned about in January. They did surprisingly well for having been off for three weeks. 

Prayer Practice

Since third graders need to memorize the St. Michael prayer, I had them practice in groups for a few minutes. I wanted them to memorize just the first couple of lines, and most of them accomplished that. 

Holy Water Distribution


The parish gives a gift to each student every year during Catholic schools week. Each student was given a small bottle of holy water. I went over with them what holy water is used for - and what it is not used for - and handed them out as they left at the end of class, after praying the St. Michael prayer again. 
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