Notable Books I Read In 2012

The BEST BOOKS of 2012 have already been covered extensively. Mr. Schu has a great roundup of Best of 2012 lists if you’d like to peruse the bulk of them. ERMAHGERD BERKS!!!

All I can really add to the conversation is to humbly provide recommendations for books I connected with this year. I’ve tried to filter out some of the great books you probably know about (Wonder, Green, etc.), unless they particularly resonated with me. Some months have more books than others, because some months I read more than others. You can tell when I was finishing my National Boards.

I didn’t consciously chose to include more nonfiction than most lists I’ve seen, but I do want to point out how important I think it is to highlight more traditional expository writing. YES, lyrical nonfiction books are fantastic, but we do a disservice to our kids when we aren’t seeking out good books of the type they’ll encounter when they’re doing research, even if they’re not as thrilling for us to read.

I owe a lot to the book recommendations from Nerdy Book Club folks who I’ve given shout-outs below.

I’ve included children’s books and adult books, and not all of them were published this year. Images were either created by me or swiped from GoodReads.





TRUTH TIME. I actually like the trailer for C. R. Mudgeon better than the book itself. Do yourself a favor and watch (or rewatch) Julian Hector’s work:





Watch me pimp out The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place on Mr. Sharp’s Nerdbery video:









Phew! What a year! I eagerly await your input on these selections.

Plant Books: 3rd Grade Unit

I’m preparing to do a rad GLAD integrated plants unit this year, so I want plenty of books I can use during our literacy block. Our school nonfiction selection, although significantly improved this past year, is still wimpy. I get most of these books from the Seattle Public Library. Our school district does a trees unit in Kindergarten, a plant unit in 3rd grade, and an ecosystem unit in 4th grade, so many of these books would work in all three of these units (HINT HINT, NEW WILDWOOD LIBRARIAN, PLEASE BUY THEM!!!). I’m organizing these books by approximate reading level for 3rd grade, although you may sort them differently. I’m also attaching a shopping list without cover pictures!

I know that no book list can be exhaustive. I tried to include mostly titles that you wouldn’t necessarily find if you ran a basic library search for “plants” unless they’re excellent (like How a Plant Grows, which is brilliant). I’ve also sorted them from most recently published to older, because I know my science curriculum does a pretty good job of covering classic kids’ books about plants (i.e. Aliki’s Corn is Maize).

What am I missing? Tell me in the comments!

Emergent Readers

And ANOTHER thing. Really quick. I hate it when curricula are like “here are some books for beginning readers” and I get them and I’m like NO WAY are these a good fit for my beginning readers. So most of the books in this section are wordless or have less than a sentence on each page. For real.

A Leaf Can Be..
A Leaf Can Be, Laura Purdie Salas (2012)
The Conductor
The Conductor, Laetitia Devernay (2012)
Ava's Poppy
Ava’s Poppy, Marcus Pfister (2012)
The Giant Seed
The Big Seed, Arthur Geisert (2012)
Green, Laura Vaccaro Seeger (2012)
Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant
Rah, Rah, Radishes!, April Pulley Sayre (2011)
Green Beans, Potatoes, And Even Tomatoes: What Is In The Vegetables Group? (Food Is Categorical)
Green Beans, Potatoes, And Even Tomatoes, Brian P. Cleary (2010)
Farm, Elisha Cooper (2010)
How a Plant Grows, Bobbie Kalman (1997)

Grade-level Readers

Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard
Citizen Scientists, Loree Griffin Burns (2012)
Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic
Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic, Ginnie Lo (2012)
C. R. Mudgeon
C.R. Mudgeon, Leslie Muir (2012)
Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring The Earth To Life
Living Sunlight, Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm (2009)
People Need Plants!
People Need Plants!, Mary Dodson Wade (2009). EVERY BOOK IN THIS SERIES (Plants Grow!, Flowers Bloom!) IS EXCEPTIONAL.
Uno's Garden
Uno’s Garden, Graeme Base (2006)
My Light
My Light, Molly Bang (2004)
Mathematickles!, Betsy Franco-Feeney (2003)
The Bee Tree
The Bee Tree, Patricia Polacco (1998)
Tops & Bottoms
Tops & Bottoms, Janet Stevens (1995)

Advanced Readers / Read Alouds

The Plant Hunters: True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the Earth
The Plant Hunters, Anita Silvey (2012)
Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas
Ocean Sunlight, Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm (2012)
The Camping Trip that Changed America
The Camping Trip that Changed America, Barb Rosenstock (2012)
First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew
First Garden, Robbin Gourley (2011)
Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces
Grow Great Grub, Gayla Trail (2010)
Mama Miti, Donna Jo Napoli (2010)
The Huckabuck Family: and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back
The Huckabuck Family, Carl Sandburg (1999)
The Legend of the Bluebonnet, Tomie dePaola (1996)

Look! PlantBooksShoppingList! Click and download! Then you can get ALL OF THE BOOKS!!!

Woodland Park Zoo!

Today, we had the opportunity to go to the Woodland Park Zoo! I’ll admit, I heard quite a few of my students say beforehand, “Uhhhhh, we go to the zoo evvvvvery yearrrrr.” But I’m pleased to say we had quite a fabulous time. We prefer the Woodland Park Zoo to the Point Defiance Zoo, and we also noticed that this zoo has a bunch of new exhibits that weren’t there a few years ago when some of us came as kindergarteners or first graders.

In addition to seeing all the fabulous animals, we also met up with Greg from the education department, who taught us about plant and animals and how they survive with each other. Here we are on our way to visit the komodo dragon.

He also showed us the tapir, the orangutan, the lion-tail macaque, and the siamang.

My group observed the jaguar walking like it was modeling on a catwalk!

My group of eight students (so well-behaved! Wheeee!) went to one of the aviaries where we saw birds less than three feet away from us.

The weather was ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, and whenever we got cold we were able to go to an indoor exhibit.

Not all the animals were exotic. In fact, we all enjoyed hanging out with the enormous chubby squirrels.

Book of the Week: Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here, by Jean Craighead George

I suppose this post has a bit of a Christmas in July feel, seeing as how most of the country is crazy-hot and humid. If you need to cool down, you can preview the book here at Google Books. As you’ll learn, winter actually began June 21, according to Grandma’s character.

This book is written in a letter format, and I could see it working well with The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart. I also received a great tip from Ohio teacher Ms. LaCrosse that Jean Craighead George books are a pretty great resource for folks looking to integrate science into their literacy block.

Scholastic has leveling information, and a quick search brings up all sorts of resources connecting this book to the winter solstice.  I plan on using this with our weather unit this fall. There’s a Reading Rainbow episode called Snowy Day: Stories and Poems, and a good supplemental lesson plan with several other suggested books can be found here.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:


  • Check for understanding. If you’ve been teaching students to stop every paragraph or page or so to check for understanding, this could be a good book to help them refine the strategy. The whole book is one letter, so you can’t really stop all the way at the end of the letter (this would be contrast to the multiple letters in The Gardener, because you CAN pause and check for understanding at the end of each letter in that book). But at the same time, if you stopped EVERY page, meaning could actually be LOST because there’s not much text on each page and you’d be pausing in your reading an awful lot.
  • Use text features (titles, headings, captions, graphic features). George has her author’s note right at the front of the book rather than buried at the end. Why do students think she made that choice? The author’s note is brief, clear, and interesting, so copying it for students for a shared read might be a good idea. There’s a master copy of the author’s note already in the book bag if you need it.
  • Use main idea and supporting details to determine importance. About once sentence is on each page, and each section of text is accompanied by a small image. How did the illustrator choose what creature or scene would be featured in that small image? Does it relate to the main idea of the page, or does it illustrate a supporting detail? Maybe break students into pairs and give each pair a different page of the book.


Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking! You can find this text in the red bookroom bucket labeled realistic fiction or narrative nonfiction.

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!