A Celebration of Color - My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood (a re-posting)

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This will be my second Michigan autumn. The vivid colors of the changing leaves, brilliant sunsets, and the rosy-red cheeked children continue to make me smile. Everyday is a celebration of change and color. So, this week, I'd like to focus on a guide I made for Tameka Fryer Brown's charming my cold plum lemon pie bluesy mood. The story explores the connection of the change of mood and its corresponding color. This book is a tribute to sibling rival survival and the tenacity it takes to do so.

 Folks, let me say that the story is lively, entertaining, and very clever. However, if you take a close look at the connection of theme and art, there is a whole lot of shaking going on. It's deep. Really deep. That being said, the guide consists of discussion questions, writing prompts, and basic color theory lessons that lead the reader to an intimate awareness of how color affects and/or reflects emotions.

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One of the most rudimentary-yet-satisfactory activities presented in the guide is Color Mixing. In it, the child experiences the joy of transposing primary colors into secondary and tertiary just by the drip of an eye dropper. It's a very simple activity that lends itself to some profound results.

I encourage you, on this blustery autumn weekend, to take a look at this guide. Better yet, check outmy cold plum lemon pie bluesy mood, the book that inspired the lessons within.

Ten Rules of a Super Hero

Book Title: Ten Rules of Being a Super Hero

Author/Illustrator: Deb Pilutti

Genre: Picture Book

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books - Henry Holt Books for Young Readers/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

ISBN: 978-0805097597

Click here to download the Common Core State Standards aligned Educator's Guide created for grades K-2.

Overview: In order to be a real superhero, you have to follow some important rules:

Rule #1: A superhero must ALWAYS respond to a call for help.

Rule #2: Saving the day is messy. But everyone understands.

In this handy guide, Captain Magma and his trusty sidekick, Lava Boy, take young readers on an adventure to learn all ten rules of being a good superhero (

The Battle of Darcy Lane

Book Title: The Battle of Darcy Lane

Author: Tara Altebrando

Genre: Middle-grade

Publisher: Running Press Book Publishers

ISBN: 9780762449484

Click here to download the Common Core State Standards aligned Educator's Guide created for grades 4-6.

Overview: It is summertime, and twelve-year-old Julia Richards cannot stand the anticipation. Everyone on Darcy Lane seems to be holding their breath waiting for the cicadas to emerge, but what Julia and her best friend, Taylor, want is some real excitement. Which arrives in the form of a new neighbor named Alyssa, who introduces a ball game called Russia . . . and an unwelcome level of BFF rivalry.

Suddenly nothing stands unchallenged—not Julia's friendships, her crush, or her independence. But while Julia realizes that she cannot control all the changes in her life, she hangs onto the hope that everything will go in her favor if she can just win one magnificent showdown.

Acclaimed author Tara Altebrando's middle-grade debut features a voice that is true to the adolescent experience, where everything is felt acutely in a whirlwind of all-or-nothing emotion (Running Press).

Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life

Title: Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life

Author: P. J. Hoover

Genre: Middle-grade

Publisher: Starscape

ISBN: 9780765334688

Click here to download the Common Core State Standards aligned Discussion & Book Trailer Guide created for grades 4-8.

Overview: Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life is a funny, fast-paced novel for young readers by P.J. Hoover which chronicles the mischievous adventures of King Tut, now an immortal eighth-grader living in Washington, D.C..

You’d think it would be great being an Egyptian demigod, but if King Tut has to sit through eighth grade one more time, he’ll mummify himself.

Granted the gift of immortality by the gods—or is it a curse?—Tut has been stuck in middle school for ages. Even worse, evil General Horemheb, the man who killed Tut’s father and whom Tut imprisoned in a tomb for three thousand years, is out and after him. The general is in league with the Cult of Set, a bunch of guys who worship one of the scariest gods of the Egyptian pantheon—Set, the god of Chaos.

The General and the Cult of Set have plans for Tut… and if Tut doesn’t find a way to keep out of their clutches, he’ll never make it to the afterworld alive (Indie Bound).

The Dino-Sports Series

Click on image for publisher's informationAuthor: Lisa Wheeler

Illustrator: Barry Gott

Genre: Picture books

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Titles included in guide: Dino-Soccer - ISBN: 9780761367895, Dino-Hockey - ISBN: 9780822561910, Dino-Basketball - ISBN: 9780761363934, Dino-Football - ISBN: 9780761363941, Dino-Baseball - ISBN: 9780761344292, Dino-Wrestling - ISBN: 9781467702126

 Click here to download the Common Core State Standards aligned Discussion & Project Guide created for grades K-3.

Overview: Play-by-play sports action series of picture books for 4-8 year olds featuring teams of Carnivorous dinosaurs against plant-eating dinos (Good Reads).

Travels with Charlie: Down South

Click on image for publisher's informationAuthor: Miles Backer

Illustrator: Chuck Nitzberg

Genre: Non-fiction Picture book

Publisher: Blue Apple Books

ISBN: 978-1-60905-353-6

Click here to download the Common Core State Standards aligned Discussion & Project Guide created for ages 6 to 9.

Overview: Part travelogue, part I SPY, part Where’s…Charlie!

Find a pirate museum. Look for Key West. Then find Miami where the beach is the best!
Is he on a Bourbon Street balcony? Riding the Ferris wheel on Atlantic City’s Steel Pier? Hiding out in a Nevada ghost town?

Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly

Click on image to purchase the book.Author: Anne Bustard

Illustrator: Kurt Cyrus

Genre: Non-fiction Picture book

Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

ISBN: 0689866678

Click here to download the Common Core State Standards aligned Discussion & Project Guide created for ages 5 to 9.

Overview: A time or two ago, out West Texas way, a boy named Charles Hardin Holley was born. He was named after his granddaddy Charles and his granddaddy Hardin. But his mama called him Buddy.

That Buddy could shoot marbles with the best, hit homers in the red dirt, and pelt cans with his slingshot. But come sixth grade, when Buddy met up with a guitar, he never let it go. And later, when Buddy heard a new sound--part country, part gospel, and part blues, he got fired up.

It was the birth of rock 'n' roll.

Wooby & Peep: The Story of an Unlikely Friendship

Author: Cynthea Liu

Illustrator: Mary Peterson

Genre: Picture Book

Publisher: Sterling Publishing

ISBN: 9781402796449

Click here to download the Common Core State Standards aligned Discussion & Project Guide and Reader's Theatre created for ages 4 to 8.

Overview: Opposites attract and become fast friends in this quirky, funny picture book.

Wooby lives in a nice, quiet neighborhood where everyone minds his own business. And he likes it that way. Then noisy, energetic Peep moves next door with her banging and smashing and crashing. She even gives a “wild” PARTY! At first, shy Wooby is beside himself—until he realizes that he and Peep have more in common than he ever imagined. Hilarious comic-book panels throughout add fun and joy to this unique story.

Survival Colony 9 (YA)

Click on image to purchase bookAuthor: Joshua David Bellin

Genre: YA

Publisher: Margaret K. Elderry Books

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0354-2

Click here to download the Common Core State Standards aligned Discussion & Project guide create for ages 14 & up.

Overview: Querry Genn is in trouble. He can’t remember anything before the last six months. And Querry needs to remember. Otherwise he is dead weight to the other members of Survival Colony 9, one of the groups formed after a brutal war ravaged the earth. And now the Skaldi have come to scavenge what is left of humanity. No one knows what the Skaldi are, or why they are here, just that they impersonate humans, taking their form before shedding the corpse like a skin.

In a futuristic landscape ravaged by war, a colony’s hopes for survival hinge on one teenage boy.


Try, Try Again - The Scientific Method

Click on image to access Science at - PowerPoint presentations for all ages!Famed author Clarence Day once said, “Information’s pretty thin stuff unless it’s mixed with experience.” I think Clarence would have been pleased with the experiential hoopla happening in my prior classroom.

My classroom’s science shelf was lined with informative botany, zoology, anatomy, chemistry, taxonomy, biology, and simple machine packets, thick with the promise of splendor for all of us to consider! I have to say that not all, but plenty of our experiments were busts. And, like real scientists do, when that happened, we pulled back, asked questions, considered our data, and try, tried again until we got it right. Together, we experienced the scientific method on a shoestring!

The key word in Clarence’s quote is “experience.” He didn’t say “testing” or “quizzing.” Instead, he was referring involvement, participation, and understanding. Mr. Day is talking about the need for active learning, the focus that helps to create the best kind of supplemental guide for a math or science related book.

Click on image and buy the book!!!!!The guide created for Patricia Newman’s latest, Plastic Ahoy!: Investigating The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, serves as an effective example of experiencing information. Newman crafted this compelling book as if it were a scientific quest to discover the phenomenon known as gyres - large systems of rotating ocean currents consisting of a heavy concentration of trashed plastic threatening to destroy ocean life. Plastic Ahoy!: Investigating The Great Pacific Garbage Patch allows the reader to join with a team of graduate students and become trash detectives by hypothesizing what the effects of plastic garbage might have on the future of the earth’s oceans.

In the guide, the lesson entitled The Summary of the Scientific Method ( pg. 13) serves as an effective example of leading the reader to discover answers to their own burning questions. Kids can use this step-by-step method to formulate a hypothesis and then generate a plan to prove it. Perhaps, much like my days in the classroom, though some of their experiments might turn out to be busts; they’ll have a grand time scientifically trying them over and over again until they get it right.

I only wish I could be here to join in the fun!

A Discussion Guide Discussion

Suitable for all genres, Discussion Guides serve to guide understanding of not only the text, but its emotional connection with the reader. They contain interesting, probing, and enlightening questions that get the reader thinking and talking. These guides and be quite short, perhaps ten or so questions long, or can be several pages in length, depending on the needs and intent of the publication.  Quite often the questions posed serve as effective writing prompts, leading to a deeper study of a variety of topics.

When a reader connects with the story, they are more likely to be led through analysis of all sorts of literary elements.  Character motivation can be closely considered. Plot twists can be pointed out. Structure can be scrutinized. Voice and point-of-view can be made visible.  In short, Discussion Guides keep kids and teachers talk-talk-talking about a book—an author’s and librarian’s dream.

The Discussion Guide created for The Secret Side of Empty is an example of an in-depth guide, which works perfectly for this fascinating YA. In it, the protagonist struggles with the limitations her illegal status brings. She cannot go to college. She cannot work. The forecast for her life after high school is ‘empty.’  And so, she emotionally drops out. She drinks, experiments with drugs, and contemplates suicide. Much fodder for deep discussion, don't you think?

In-depth writing prompts have been added to this Discussion Guide, as well. Students are asked to express themselves through short narratives, informative essays, and opinion pieces. While not all Discussion Guides include specific prompts such as these, the well-developed questions in most can be utilized in this way.

And, yes, the questions and writing prompts for this Discussion Guide created for The Secret Side of Empty have been aligned with the Common Core State Standards. This not only validates the acts of questioning, discussion, and written expression, the alignment will hopefully help Maria  Andreu's great work find a lasting place on the curriculum shelf. That's the goal, right?

Under the Freedom Tree - A Remarkable Story

The tale of Under the Freedom Tree is a moving historical account of bravery and tenacity and inner conviction.  Susan VanHecke’s beautifully written account of three runaway slaves who became contraband of war is the type of story that stays with a reader long after the final page is turned. And, illustrator London Ladd’s heartfelt renditions of tragedy and triumph breathe life into the bold acts that ultimately played convincing roles in Lincoln’s decision to craft the Emancipation Proclamation. Folks, it was and is a true honor to create a Discussion and Activity Guide for this incredible story. It’s a keeper, for certain.


Mary Smith Peake - my hero!!!!!There are number of critical players in Under the Freedom Tree, people who changed history because of their beliefs in civil rights for all. For instance, there are Frank Baker, James Townsend, and Shepard Mallory – the three runaway slaves who risked their lives to find asylum at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Then, there’s General Benjamin Butler of the Union Army who deemed these men as ‘chattel’ and refused to return them to Confederate Army. And my most favorite person in the story – one that I’ve come to love – is Mary Smith Peake, the heroic teacher who courageously taught the children of the Slabtown community to read under the shade of a broad-limbed Live Oak – The Freedom Tree.

The guide is crafted in such a way that students will be able to retell this poignant story time and time again. It is my hope that, through the writing, matching, and historical sequencing activities offered in the guide, this remarkable recounting of the courageous individuals introduced in Under the Freedom Tree are celebrated forever.


on 2014-11-26 12:24 by Debbie Gonzales


Note! The guide created for UNDER THE FREEDOM TREE has been included as a part of a review for the School Library Journal's Booktalks to Go: History in Picture Books. This amazing book is keeping some great company with several other fantastic titles. Now that's something to be thankful for, isn't it?

The Graphic Organizer - A God-Send!

As previously posted in

Graphic organizers are some of the most beneficial tools around to teach complicated literary concepts such as theme, text structure, chronology, and sequencing - to name just a few. Also known as knowledge maps, cognitive organizers, or concept diagrams – graphic organizers provide a visual opportunity to grasp complex learning and instruction. And, they’re fun to use!

Here's a graphic organizer made to compliment a lesson in P. J. Hoover's school visit programming document. Click on the image and see how a graphic organizer can be used!Maureen McLaughlin and Brenda J. Overturf have joined forces to create an excellent e-book collection of graphic organizers that address both the narrative and informational text CCSS standards. The collection is entitled The Common Core: Graphic Organizers for Teaching K-12 Students to Meet the Reading Standards.  All of the organizers are developed to support students’ thinking process, and each is sensational.

The authors offer the following tips for the most effective use of graphic organizers. They say that educators should:

·        Clearly explain how the organizer works.

·        Demonstrate how to use it.

·        Engage students in guided practice.

·        Allow students to practice using the graphic organizer on their own.

·        Finally, engage students in reflection regarding how to use the organizer and in the topics and/or skills that they learned.

If you are an educator looking for ways to help your students grasp the expectations of Common Core Reading Standards 1 to 10, consider downloading this insightful e-book. It is loaded with plenty of strand-specific, power-packed graphic organizers, each complete with clear definitions stating the purpose and intent.

I particularly like the ones created to guide the understanding of informational text structures. Then again, I’m kinda geeky that way!

A Book Guide and Readers' Theatre for NO PIRATES ALLOWED! Said Library Lou

Big Pirate Pete says, "Click here and buy the book - or else!"Got a lively, entertaining, and not-so-quiet story for you – NO PIRATES ALLOWED! Said Library Lou written by Michigan author Rhonda Gowler Greene and illustrated by Brian Ajhar. I tell you, the experience of creating a Readers’ Theatre script and a Discussion/Activity Guide  for this picture book was like digging through a pirate’s chest full of jewels. This story has it all – danger, intrigue, conflict, and a slight suggestion of a love interest at the end.


In it, Big Pirate Pete is in search of treasure. According to his map, X marks the spot, and the spot is located smack-dab in the middle of tiny Library Lou’s domain – the Seabreezy Library. Pete is boisterous and tries to intimidate Lou. Undaunted and unflappable, Lou is firm with Pete. She promises that she will lead him to the treasure, after he complies with a few directives (Some of which are hilarious). In the end, Pete discovers that true treasure lies in books, a bounty worth more than pirate’s booty!


One of the many aspects that made working this projectsuch funisthat Brian generously allowed me to use his illustrations to compliment the guide and the script. I fell in love with his style, the way he plays with size and color and expression. Fantastic!

I so strongly encourage you to read this great story and then check out the guide and script – most especially, take note of the character cut-outs provided as a part of the diorama foldable activity. They’re great!

Better yet, gather up a cast of kids and film a production of NO PIRATES ALLOWED! Said Library Lou. Rhonda, Brian, and I would love to see it. Lights! Camera! Action! Arrrrrrrrr, matey!

Spanky: A Soldier's Son by Sue LaNeve


Click on the image to order the book!As I’ve said many times before, each guide I create offers a unique opportunity to learn something wonderfully new. Creating book guides for authors and illustrators also grant me the great pleasure of getting to know the individuals on a more personal level. Such was the great experience I had creating a guide for author Sue LaNeve’s award-winning Spanky: A Soldier’s Son.  It’s no surprise that LaNeve’s novel earned a bronze medal from the 2013 Military Writers Society. It’s that good. I can attest for it!

Click here to access the guide.The story is about a boy whose father is deployed to Afghanistan, leaving Spanky and his broken-hearted mother to fend for themselves in a new community. His father’s departing words were, “Son, make me proud.” These words haunt him as he deals with bullies, self-doubt, and adult-like responsibilities. Eventually, Spanky begins to trust and believe in himself by acknowledging the leadership skills he holds within.  In the end, he makes his father proud – and then some.

The story is great. Sue is fantastic. But, the aspect I enjoyed most about this project was partnering with Sue’s mom, Audrey W. Lederman, M Ed., as a consultant for the guide’s contents. You see, Audrey once worked with the talented and gifted. She was a true gift to me, I’ll tell you. Her insights and ideas were astounding!

Sue and Audrey - now there's a mother/daughter team that can't be beat.

For sure!

A Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff

I’ve been teaching long enough to know that there are times when the student has more to teach than the instructor does. As a Montessorian, moments like these are sheer bliss. They mean we’ve worked ourselves out of a job. The students have become independent, which is the ultimate goal of the classroom experience and in life. Working with the lovely and talented Kit Grindstaff on her Teacher’s Guide for her most incredible fantasy The Flame in the Mist was one of those blissful "forging toward independence" experiences.  

Kit describes The Flame in the Mist as the story of courageous and fiery-headed Jemma, who, with the help of two magical golden rats and her friend Digby, has a dangerous destiny to fulfill: to stop the evil rulers of her country, and the mist and misery they create. Whoa! Stop right there. Magical rats. Evil rulers. Mist and misery. Shoot…I’m chomping at the bit to make a guide for an awesome story like this one. But alas, fair Kit has a plan of her own – a good one, too.

Kit created her own guide that far surpasses anything that I could have dared to attempt making – an astounding 35 page feat of splendor comprised of chapter-by-chapter analysis, historical setting, a summary of Medieval times facts, a cool section entitled “Nursery Rhymes – Innocent or Creepy”, character analysis done in marvelously creative way, and even a criss-cross puzzle! All she needed me to do was to pretty it up a little and add the Core Curriculum State Standards annotations to it. She did the heavy lifting. I merely cheered her on.

I became enraptured by the story as I poured over the guide she created. So much so, I dropped a bomb of a hint that I wanted to read the book. Kit graciously sent me a copy in which she inscribed, “Thank you for helping me rock the schools with Jemma and the Ratresses.” No….sweet, Kit. I think you’ve done it all by yourself! And, I’ve have to say, that I’m mighty proud of YOU!

The Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys: The Rat Brain Fiasco Game Board

Click on the image to buy the bookTo continue with the activity guide throw-back theme of late, let me tell you about this great game board I made for Julie Berry’s hilarious Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys: The Rat Brain Fiasco quite some time ago.  I made the guts of the game. She and her sister made it pretty – or rather, scary.

The Splurch Academy series is far from high fantasy, my friends. It’s just an example of some light-hearted, goofy, all-boy, brain-sucking fun. In it, protagonist Cody Mack, a mildy ill-mannered boy, is sent to a school run by a faculty of monsters! At first they work hard to conceal their fangs by posing as a polite principal and his studious staff. But then, like any horror story worth its blood, Cody uncovers clues that a boy was killed at the school and scrambles to avoid meeting the same demise.

Click on the image to download the game, if you dare!The game is constructed by tracing plot points of the book, most are cited from the text and are as ghoulish as ghoulish can be.  I like to imagine some wiry, seven-year-old boy’s grubby fingers flipping through the pages, intent upon relishing a re-read of the story's sloppy, slurpy gore. Delicious!

And, the best part is that the plot point game is inexpensive, easily reproduced, and distributed.

Ba-da-bing! Ba-da-BOO!

Vampire Baby by Kelly Bennett

Click on image to purchase Vampire BabyThis picture book was written by one my most favorite authors, Kelly Bennett, and it is the perfect pairing for the upcoming season of blood-sucking fun! In Vampire Baby, the once sweet and cuddly Tootie has transformed overnight into a diaper-wearing vampire! Tootie bites all the time, and her favorite person to gnaw on is her older brother. He tires of being her perpetual victim and encourages a real vampire family to take her away. In the end, his protective nature takes over and he realizes that he loves Tootie, fangs and all.

Needless to say, creating a guide for this delightful story was great fun for me to do. I encourage you to check out the book and then review the guide. In it, you’ll see plenty of fun and games as well as an academically sound manipulative activity focused on teaching story structure. Folks, this concept is a tough one to teach. However, with some paper, scissors and Vampire Baby in hand, the heady literary elements of setting, character, rising action, climax, and resolution become less threatening and easier to comprehend.

Hope you have a safe and happy Halloween. I plan on it. Wish me luck keeping my hands out of the candy bowl. I'm a blood-sucker for candy corn.

A Book Trailer Construction Guide for Black Pool - An E-Book

Creating a guide for C. H. Garbutt's Black Pool: A Jack Flynn Adventure was a first for me in that this compelling story has been printed as a e-book by That's e-book enhanced by this really cool WeJIT technology that engages the reader's decision-making process throughout the story's progression. Neat stuff.

To access the guide, click on its cover.Being that Black Pool is digitally contrived, I thought it would be suiting to create a CCSS Annotated Book Trailer Construction Guide - one in which the reader can delve deeply into characterization, theme, setting, mood, and sensory detail. There are tons of graphic organizers in the guide, each designed to explore specific aspects of literature. Upon completion, students will have all that they need to craft a story board and create a book trailer script!

The best part of doing what I do is working with the variety of books that come my way. I love reading them, and then thinking of the various ways I can interpret the story's message in through discussion and hands-on activities.

What's next, you ask? Stop by next week and I'll tell you all about it!