Thursday, April 30, 2009

Books to Tell 2008

One of the great things about books is that so many of them "retell" almost as well as they read aloud. Teachers and librarians can use many of these books to match the curriculum and supplement their textbooks. Books can be used in a science or social studies class.

I remember one of the best teachers I ever had was Janie Putnam at Boiling Springs High School. She was my 11th grade history teacher. I couldn't wait for that class each day. Why? Because she told stories. Stories about Abe Lincoln using his hat for a desk. Stories about Adams losing his clothes to a reporter who wanted an interview. Stories that I used to control the boys I babysat. They were wild boys who would do anything if only I would tell another story. Mrs. Putnam gave me those stories.

How do you know a book will retell?
As you look at books, read them aloud. Many times a story that retells well, reads well aloud. It may have a pattern in the style. There may be repetition of a phrase. When you try retelling it to others and you see their interest almost as soon as you begin, you may have a winner. A picture book can work if you can read the story without looking at the pictures. Sometimes illustrations complement the storyline, while other times they add details that the story cannot live without. You may be able to add something to the story that fills in the illustration gap, but it may not always work.

Look at picture books. Look at fairy tales (398.2). Look for short stories. Scary stories, of course, often retell well. Stories that have a surprise ending, like Beware the Frog (William Bee) for example, often tell well.

I found a story, now what?
Once you find a story that may work, you can practically memorize it or you can make it your own. Identify words or phrases that must be told exactly. Fill it with your own style. Tell it to your students.

You can also use these books without telling them. Give potential books to your students. Give them the criteria on how you know a book will retell. Ask them to write key phrases. Identify characters, plot and setting. Ask them to look for details that are missing without illustrations. What part of the setting, plot or character will have to be filled in with words? A worksheet may make it easier for them to flesh out their notes.

Then have students decide which story to tell. Students can use the sheet as a guide to learning their story. Practicing in groups or with partners can also be beneficial to learning new stories. Using stories written by others can be a big step towards learning to tell stories that work before you try telling your own.

Some stories that work from 2008
Abe Lincoln crosses a creek : a tall, thin tale (introducing his forgotten frontier friend) -- Hopkinson, Deborah. -- Schwartz & Wade Books, 2008., RL 3.4, 36p
In Knob Creek, Kentucky, in 1816, seven-year-old Abe Lincoln falls into a creek and is rescued by his best friend, Austin Gollaher.

Ain't nothing but a man : my quest to find the real John Henry -- Nelson, Scott Reynolds. -- National Geographic, 2008., RL 6.4, 64p
Historian Scott Nelson introduces children to the life of the real John Henry, drawing on songs, poems, and stories to describe the man behind the legendary African-American hero.

The apple-pip princess -- Ray, Jane. -- Candlewick Press, 2008., RL 4.5, 32p
In a land that has stood barren, parched by drought and ravaged by frosts since the Queen's death, the King sets his three daughters the task of making the kingdom bloom again, and discovers that sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference.

Bats at the library -- Lies, Brian. -- Houghton Mifflin, 2008., RL 2.7, 32p
Bored with another normal, inky evening, bats discover an open library window and fly in to enjoy the photocopier, water fountain, and especially the books and stories found there.

Beware of the frog -- Bee, William. -- Candlewick Press, 2008., RL 2.2, 42p
Sweet old Mrs. Collywobbles lives on the edge of a big, dark, scary wood, but has a pet frog to protect her from greedy goblins, smelly trolls, and hungry ogres.

The cow that laid an egg -- Cutbill, Andy. -- HarperCollins, 2008, c2006., RL 3.8, 32p
The chickens at the farm hatch a plan to help Marjorie the cow feel special, but some of the other cows get suspicious.

The fisherman and his wife -- Isadora, Rachel. -- G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2008., RL 2.6, 32p
The fisherman's greedy wife is never satisfied with the wishes granted her by an enchanted fish.

How I learned geography -- Shulevitz, Uri. -- Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008., RL 2.7, 32p
As he spends hours studying his father's world map, a young boy escapes the hunger and misery of refugee life. Based on the author's childhood in Kazakhstan, where he lived as a Polish refugee during World War II.

I, Matthew Henson : polar explorer -- Weatherford, Carole Boston. -- Walker, 2008., RL 6.5, 32p
Shares the story of Matthew Henson, an African-American man who vigorously pursued his dream to reach the North Pole along with explorer Robert Peary.

Look behind! : tales of animal ends -- Schaefer, Lola M. -- Greenwillow Books, 2008., RL 4.7, 32p
Looks at the characteristics of different animal butts and how their owners use them, featuring one rear end for each letter in the alphabet.

Maybe a bear ate it! -- Harris, Robie H. -- Orchard Books, 2008., RL 1.5, 36p
At bedtime, a young boy who cannot find his favorite book imagines the various creatures that might have taken it from him.

The McElderry book of Greek myths -- Kimmel, Eric A. -- M.K. McElderry Books, 2008., RL 5.2, 96p
Contains illustrated retellings of twelve classic Greek myths, including the stories of Pandora, Icarus, King Midas, and others.

The moon over Star -- Aston, Dianna Hutts. -- Dial Books for Young Readers, 2008., RL 4.8, 32p
On her family's farm in the town of Star, eight-year-old Mae eagerly follows the progress of the 1969 Apollo 11 flight and moon landing and dreams that she might one day be an astronaut, too.

More bones : scary stories from around the world -- Viking, 2008., RL 4.8, 162p
A collection of scary stories collected from civilizations around the globe and throughout history.

Pale Male : citizen hawk of New York City -- Schulman, Janet. {IL 3-6, 598.9} -- Knopf, 2008., RL 5.8, 34p
Recounts the true story of Pale Male, a red-tailed hawk living in New York City who has become one of the city's most-watched celebrities and bird watchers, tourists, and residents admire the bird and his nest, built on a Fifth Avenue apartment building.

Planting the trees of Kenya : the story of Wangari Maathai -- Nivola, Claire A. -- Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008., RL 3.3, 32p
Relates the story of Wangari Maathai, a native Kenyan who taught the people living in the highlands how to plant trees and care for the land.

The race of the century -- Downard, Barry. -- Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2008., RL 2.8, 32p
Fed up with his incessant taunting, Tom Tortoise challenges Flash Harry Hare to the race of the century, which turns into a worldwide media event, complete with television and newspaper coverage, photographers, and many other distractions.

Rapunzel -- Isadora, Rachel. -- G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008., RL 3.6, 32p
An illustrated adaptation of the familiar fairy tale that describes the story of a beautiful African girl with extraordinarily long hair who is imprisoned in a lonely tower by a witch.

The retired kid -- Agee, Jon. -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2008., RL 2.6, 32p
Although he enjoys some aspects of his retirement, eight-year-old Brian gains a new perspective on his job of being a child after spending time in Florida's Happy Sunset Retirement Community.

Snoring Beauty -- Hale, Bruce. -- Harcourt, 2008., RL 2.9, 44p
An adaptation of the traditional tale, featuring a sleeping, snoring princess who is rescued by a prince after being cursed by a bad fairy.

The storyteller's candle -- Gonzalez, Lucia M. -- Children's Book Press, 2008., RL 2.6, 30p During the early days of the Great Depression, New York City's first Puerto Rican librarian, Pura Belpre, introduces the public library to immigrants living in El Barrio and hosts the neighborhood's first Three Kings' Day fiesta.

There's a wolf at the door -- Alley, Zoe B. -- Roaring Brook Press, 2008., RL 3.5, 34p
As his plans are spoiled over and over again, the wolf keeps trying to find his dinner, in this retelling of five well-known stories and fables.

Way up and over everything -- McGill, Alice. -- Houghton Mifflin, 2008., RL 4.3, 32p
In this retelling of a folktale, five Africans escape the horrors of slavery by simply disappearing into thin air.

What to do about Alice? : how Alice Roosevelt broke the rules, charmed the world, and drove her father Teddy crazy! -- Kerley, Barbara. -- Scholastic Press, 2008., RL 4.8, 44p
An illustrated biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth that focuses on her experiences while her father was president of the United States.

The wolves are back -- George, Jean Craighead. -- Dutton Childrens Books, 2008., RL 2.5, 32p Describes the ecological benefits brought about by the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park.

For links to these and other great books, see my website Best Books. For other ideas about storytelling in the library or classroom see Vicky Reed's website at Filamentality, Stories to Tell.

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