Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘Kaethe Zemach

This past month, I introduced nominated Golden Sower picture books to my reading club. They picked six out of eight for us to read. For your information, my reading club is for grades two and three. About eight students belong. The nominees are listed below in order of preference by students. The write-up includes their reactions and some sketches. Enjoy!

My students equally loved the following two nominees.

I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll

What if you needed a monster to go to sleep? What kind of monster would you want to visit you? What kind of monster would you hate to have visit you?

Gabe is a monster who lives under Ethan’s bed. Gabe’s ragged breathing and claw-scratching helps Ethan to get to sleep each night. My students liked Gabe because:

  • He is big
  • He has long spiky tail
  • He is scary
  • He is cool!

One student liked how Ethan could knock on his bedroom floor without getting caught by a monster. Instead, the knock invited Gabe to come visit.

Then one night, Gabe headed out on a fishing trip. In his place, other monsters come to visit Ethan. Some students liked this part because:

  • They like monsters
  • The monsters were scary
  • They love to watch scary stuff
  • Jake’s long claws could be bad

The rest of my students disliked this part because the visiting monsters were:

  • slobbery
  • fat
  • ugly
  • goofy

Willoughby and the Lion by Gregory Foley

If you could wish for anything, what would you ask for? Willoughby lives in a new house that feels too big and too lonely. Then he meets an enchanted lion who can grant him anything in the world.

My students liked the wishes because they are fun. Some of their favorite wishes were:

  • the fast shoes, because they help Willoughby be really, really fast
  • the fast shoes, because they are faster than Sonic speed; they’re toast
  • the rollercoaster, because Willoughby gets to ride in it all he wants
  • the coin that said true friend, because Willoughby and the lion are friends

The hardest part about reviewing books is how subjective the whole process is. What I might love, you might hate. Case in point: One of my students LOVED everything about Willoughby and the Lion. Another HATED everything about it–saying there was nothing fun about it and it was boring.

As for the rest of my students, they all agreed on the saddest part. I can’t tell you though, because it would spoil the end. Let me leave you instead with a question at the heart of the book: What is the most wonderful thing in the world?

PS If you really must know, take a peek at the next line.

The saddest part of the book is when:

  • the lion disappears
  • the lion went away
  • the lion went home

My students felt mixed about following two nominees.

Otis by Loren Long

Have you ever felt neglected or outdated? Otis is a special tractor who one day meets a special calf. In fact, the two become great friends. But when Otis is replaced with the big yellow tractor, he’s cast away behind the barn until the little calf gets stuck in Mud Pond.

Most of my students liked the two main characters: Otis the red tractor and the little calf who lives in the next stall.

They liked when:

  • Otis and the little calf become friends
  • Otis circles about the pond, because he gets the calf out
  • Otis tells the calf to “follow me” and then saves her from the mud.

They didn’t like that:

  • the farmer buys a big yellow tractor and puts Otis put in storage
  • Otis stops hanging out with his friend and having fun
  • the little calf running away and getting stuck in the mud

Although most of my students liked Otis by Loren Long, a few had these negative comments:

  • The calf was ugly.
  • The book was boring.
  • It was boring when Otis and the calf just sat on the mountains

Dewey: There’s a Cat in the Library! by Vicky Myron 

Have you ever adopted a cat? Based on a true story, this is a tale of how librarian Vicki Myron finds a young kitten abandoned in the Spencer Library return box. She nurses him back to health, decides he will be their library cat, and names him Dewey Readmore Books. When Dewey discovers the littlest library visitors–who like to chase him, pull his tail, and squeeze him extra tight–Dewey begins to wonder if he’s cut out to be a library cat.


Most of my students liked Dewey. They called him nice and cute. Of course, in every group, someone has to voice an opposing viewpoint. And so I had one student who hated Dewey, calling him ugly and stupid. Obviously, you can’t please everyone!

Their favorite scenes described when Dewey

  • turns up at the library
  • given a place to live
  • tries to make friends with a new girl
  • curls up with the new girl

My students didn’t like that kids turned Dewey upside down. It caused him to scramble. It was mean! Basically, they didn’t like any scenes where kids (even toddlers) were treating Dewey rough and hurting him.

My students didn’t particularly for the following two nominees.

Ms. McCaw Learns to Draw by Kaethe Zemach

What did you struggle most with in school? Dudley Ellington tries but just isn’t any good in anything at school. Fortunately, he has Mrs. McCaw has a teacher. She shows patience. He thinks she knows everything. Then one day, the tables are turned when he learns she doesn’t know how to draw.

I felt surprised by the thing that my students most disliked about this book. They felt it wrong that Mrs. McCaw couldn’t draw. After all, teachers know everything. Besides, art is taught in school. They also didn’t like that a student taught her to draw. Should teachers know how to do everything?

As for what my students enjoyed:

  • when Mrs. McCraw drew a good face
  • how it was drawing time the whole rest of the period

Ironically, this is the only for which my students didn’t create any artwork!

Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson

Do you like baseball? Who is your favorite star from history? Sharon Robinson, the daughter of baseball player Jackie Robinson, wanted to teach kids about her father, so she wrote a children’s book about him.

As a whole, my reading group didn’t like this book. Mostly, the boys thought it dull. One boy did like One boy liked the scene when Jackie Robinson went out on the ice and tested it.

As for the girls, they simply don’t like baseball. 🙂 Yet the girls managed to find a few high points:

  • the trophy room–because I like trophies
  • the soda fountain–because I like soda

Hmm, interests sure can dictate tastes in books. Have you ever rejected a book based on your dislike of its topic?

These nominees didn’t make it onto our reading list:

  • Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles by Patrick Lewis
  • The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen.

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