Rodney’s Bookstore: Books are just the beginning

I visited Rodney’s Bookstore, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last week. Went with a good friend of mine, Aja Jackson, founder of MindUTeach. Whenever I venture to Rodney’s, I never leave empty-handed. They specialize in used books, and their prices are very reasonable. Here’s what I picked up:


Bed Crumbs: Sweet Dreams and Nightmares by John Kruth. Jackalope Press. 1986.

So Bed Crumbs: Sweet Dreams and Nightmares, by John Kruth, is chalk full of witty and wonderful poems. I saw this book sitting by the register. I opened it up and turned to this poem, that sold me on the purchase:

Lucifer’s Puberty

I’m not sure why

I’m beginning to sprout horns

and unknown alphabets

appear from my pen


Mama used to call me

her “little angel”

now I put tabasco

on everything”

– Kruth pg. 9

Bed Crumbs by John Kruth

Published by Jackalope Press 1986

I recommend this book for: 7th grade and up.

Retail Paperback: $6.00 Rodney’s: $2.82


Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan. Lee & Low Books, Inc. 1995

Personally, I’ve never seen a picture book about the United States’ holiday, Juneteenth. The fact that the book is published by one of my most favorite and trusted publishers, Lee & Low, made it an immediate purchase even more so. Out of all the captivating illustrations that artist, Yvonne Buchanan gives us, the illustration below stood out to me the most. Look how fun the kitchen can be! This book should be a staple in all elementary classrooms, in the United States.


“Cassandra raced into the kitchen, then stopped in her tracks. Dishes lined the countertop. From the looks of the place, her parents had big plans.” – Weatherford. ~ Illustration by Yvonne Buchanan in Juneteenth Jamboree

Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan.

Lee & Low Books, Inc. 1995.

I recommend this for: All ages.

Retail Paperback: $7.95. Rodney’s: $2.82


Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse by Walter Dean Myers. Harper Collins 1993.

Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse, by Walter Dean Myers, stole my heart. This collection, of pictures and verse, is a celebration of youth, in times past, in African-American communities. It highlights the joys and beauties, reminding us that not everything was a hardship, in the black communities of the United States. This book scaffolds a sense of thriving and fulfillment; and can contribute to young children’s sense of resiliency. If I still had a Kindergarten classroom, I would keep this book in the Dramatic Play/Housekeeping center. I keep books in all my centers. Here are some excerpts from the book:


Excerpt from Brown Angels by Walter Dean Myers


Excerpt from Brown Angels by Walter Dean Myers

Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse by Walter Dean Myers

HarperCollins. 1993.

I recommend this book for: All ages.

Retail Hardcover: ? Rodney’s: $6.00 


Ashley Bryan: Words to my Life’s Song – an autobiography. Photographs by Bill McGuinness. Illustrations by Ashley Bryan. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing 2009.

This book can be used in any age classroom. It is dynamic. I picture high school art classes critiquing Bryan’s many medium’s used in his art. I picture elementary school classrooms engaged in it’s storyline and vibrant images, learning to appreciate art & history. Ashley Bryan is a celebrated artist and picture book illustrator, a three-time Coretta Scott King award winner. He was raised in the Bronx, New York. His parents were from Antigua, British West Indies.


Excerpt from Ashley Bryan: Words to my Life’s Song

Excerpt from Ashley Bryan: Words to my Life's Song. Illustration of Langston Hughes by Ashley Bryan

Excerpt from Ashley Bryan: Words to my Life’s Song. Illustration of Langston Hughes by Ashley Bryan


“I set the sea-glass pieces on tinfoil and connected the pieces with pulp. When the maché dried, I peeled the tinfoil away and the maché held the pieces together. When held to the light, the pieces glowed like stained glass.” – Ashley Bryan.


“During the Depression, children often made their own toys. They made soap-box wagons with old carriage wheels, scooters with boards and skates. And so did I.”


“The Ashanti tribe have a saying they use to end their AFrican tales, which is just right for me to close mine with: This is my story. Whether it be bitter or whether it be sweet, take some of it elsewhere and let the rest come back to me.”- Ashley Bryan

Ashley Bryan: Words to my Life’s Song. An autobiography.

Photographs by Bill McGuinness. Illustrations by Ashley Bryan.

Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. 2009.

I recommend this for: All ages.

Retail Hardcover: $18.99. Rodney’s: $6.00

If you use any of the above mentioned books in your classroom, or with your children, please comment below.

Thanks for reading,

The Picture Book Pusher.

K2 Read Alouds: Week 10: Eboné Tales

Week of November 18-22.


We had a field trip to the Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday. One of our activities was to paint a mural on recycled paper, using bits of nature  to paint our strokes rather than bristled brushes. There was a book on a bench. So I read it to the children while they created our mural. The book was The Color Box by Dayle Ann Dodds. Illustrated by Giles Laroche.



Eboné tale, The Girl Who Spun Gold by Virginia Hamilton. Illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon. The children asked if we could act out this story sometime. So I’ll have to fit it into the curriculum at some point, to appease the budding actors.

The Girl Who Spun Gold By Virginia Hamilton

The Girl Who Spun Gold
By Virginia Hamilton

Illustration by Leo & Diane Dillon for Virginia Hamilton's The Girl Who Spun Gold

Illustration by Leo & Diane Dillon for Virginia Hamilton’s The Girl Who Spun Gold


The Science teacher read the students a story, but I don’t know which one. Though, I’m sure it was awesome because our Science teacher is pretty awesome.

 Thursday and Friday

Eboné tale, Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life by Jerdine Nolen. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

We’ve begun creating miniature furniture for Hewitt, in the classroom. The kids have begun learning to sew as well. Thus far, the protagonist, Hewitt, has three hand-sewn pillows to rest his petite head on beds of plastic crate pieces and feathers. Photos to come.



In the Listening Center

I picked up Nikki Giovanni’s Hip Hop Speaks to Children book & CD, for a steal at Rodney’s Used Bookstore in Cambridge.

hiphopcoverThanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher.

1st Graders deciphering Langston’s Train Ride


Langston’s Train Ride
by Robert Burleigh.
Illustrated by Leonard Jenkins

I look forward to more conversations like these, but closer to June…when my Kindergarten crew is developed and ready. Happy school ya’ll.

Thanks for watching The Picture Book Pusher.

S1E2 : Science Verse : Study One – STEM-themed Picture Books


Science Verse by Jon Scieszka. Illustrated by Lane Smith
Published by Viking, a division of Penguin. 2004

There is much reason in the rhymes that make up the 18 unique poetic verses in Jon Scieszka’s Science Verse ; illustrated by Lane Smith.


Words by Jon Scieszka.
From Science Verse. 2004

Many of the poems are plays off of classic nursery rhymes; but hey…it’s creative, scientifically accurate, and a great way to introduce kids to a plethora of scientific concepts; as well as providing teachers with an informal way to assess what students’ individual science interests are too:  Which poems stand out for the student? Which words do they ask about? Which pictures do they question the purpose of?


Illustration by Lane Smith
from Science Verse. 2004

 I first read Science Verse, this summer with a student who’ll be entering 3rd grade. He made connections from two poems to what he had learned in Science class the previous year. He questioned the first poem entitled “Evolution”, stating that he thought that we human beings began as “Amebo or something” (Amoeba). We pondered our origins for a moment and then began to read more poems. Eventually we actually came to a poem entitled “Amoeba”, and he corrected his “Amebo” reference and remembered learning that the organism is neither boy or girl.

            Science Verse is not designed to be read from front to cover in one sitting. It’s a volume of poetry. I like to think of it as an encyclopedic resource for Science teachers; using a poem at the beginning of specific Science units to introduce vocabulary in a stimulating, rhythmic way.  Cross-curriculum at its most splendid.

The pictures are a’ight. I’m more into the verse. Perhaps I’d re-write selected poems on the dry erase board or something, or on large oaktag, like teachers do, and include images of children that resemble my students.


          This copy is from the library, Boston Public – South End branch,  but I’ll buy my own for this up-coming school year.  I recommend introducing it even as early as Kindergarten. We’ve got readers at four years of age, others begin at eight. Regardless of curriculum standards and developmentally appropriateness, there’s no reason for us, as the gatekeepers of knowledge, to ceiling our students’ learning environments. ‘Boundaries’ and ‘STEM’ have nothing in common really anyways. So let’s keep pushing those academic boundaries in the classroom.

    Speaking of ‘pushing’,….thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher.

Poem: My Person by Josviel Diaz

 My Person  by Josviel Diaz

Langston Hughes
was a poet.

Now he is
a poem.

Poem written by one of my first graders, this past June. The assignment was: “Write a poem about a person, or people.”    No other guide lines were expected. We studied Langston during our Poets & Poetry unit. A selection of his poems were in the students’ poetry folders; making the student’s choice of theme, in My Person, more than fitting. He wrote the poem in front of me, and then read it aloud once completed. I fell in love with it instantly. Surely the title was inspired by our class’ class poem: My People by Langston Hughes. Over the course of the school year, my students recited My People for at least a half dozen audiences. Regardless of the inspiration the class curriculum provided, My Person is an original poem. Much respect to its young author.

Poetry in Pictures

 Poetry in Pictures: For the First-Grade Mind
Copy K Norris © 2009.
Original Artwork by 7 year old Keith Norris Jr.
(pictorial poetry at it’s finest)

I’ve never written a haiku.  I have been known to write a high coo’, though.

Working Overtime: A High Coo’

I’m not supposed to

Read at home each students’ poem

But I do just that


The month of May will soon be over.  June welcomes our Poetry Unit, in my classroom.  When choosing poems, for this unit, I am oh so selective. Time is precious, and so is the word.

I do not call myself a poet. I cannot write poems, but I try, every once in a while, to write a poette strictly from the heart.

Yesterday, as I sat at my classroom computer, preparing for our upcoming Poetry Unit, I jotted down (typed out) some quick words that came to mind.

Poette: Urban School Teacher Blues

at the computer
Over the Sonia Sanchez words
I type out
For my students’ poetry folders
at the copier
In the main office
Because their silent stares
are thinking
‘she’s not teaching what we told her’


The format of the poetry folders, that I create for my students, is inspired by a mentor of mine, from 2008. A veteran, genuinely highly qualified, first-grade teacher, in an affluent town one mile outside the city. I was fortunate enough to complete my teaching practicum in her classroom. To this day, I emulate many of her teaching practices, but the content of our lessons does differ. We teach two entirely different demographics of students, even though we teach just 6 miles apart from each other.

I choose the content of my lessons based on the needs, desires, and interests of my students. I pay attention to what sort of stories they engage most with, and the depth of their responses to those stories.

Going through some of the old poems that I kept from my mentor’s classroom, I decided that these poems would not do justice to the needs of my current students. One strength I do know that I have, is scaffolding – a fine art, and vital quality to any teacher’s repertoire. The poems that I chose, this year, may seem deep to many, but they make sense to my students. And with the right scaffolding, they will empower my students.

Listed below, are this year’s poems. It is not a complete list. I want to add more poems that describe our natural environment, and the seasons. Each poem is chosen from a book of poetry we have in the classroom –  Children’s editions, complete with pictures of course.





Langston Hughes

Poetry Means the World to Me

All My Life


My People

Anne Turner

The Park


Marchette Chute

My Dog

Sonia Sanchez

To P.J. (2 yrs old who sed write a poem for me in Portland, Oregon) 

Joyce Carol Thomas

Cherish Me

Eloise Greenfield


 Kay Winters

Books, Books, Books

Alice Wilkins

The Ducks

Lulu Delacre

Qué Linda Manito!

Vachel Lindsay

The Little Turtle

Pat Mora

Old Snake

Lee Bennett Hopkins



So this is the list, thus far.  I like the simple, and eloquent style of Lee Bennet Hopkins’ poems for young children, in his book Alphathoughts, illustrated by Marla Baggetta. However, I no longer keep it on the shelf for my students to grab at their leisure, because the pictures are not relevant enough for my students. Everything, in my classroom must be relatable, and kind, to the lives of my students.

         Langston Hughes; please someone stop me before I only fill my students’ ears with words of Langston. Do you know how difficult it was for me to limit our selection to just four poems of Hughes? My students are already very familiar with his poem, My People. We performed it over the loud speaker for the entire school. It will be the first poem in their poetry folders. The last poem, in their folders, will most definitely be Things, by Eloise Greenfield.

The last stanza reads, “Went to the kitchen/Lay down on the floor/Made me a poem/Still got it/Still got it.”

Eloise Greenfield is also a favorite of my students. On Valentine’s Day, her book of verse for young children, Honey, I Love was a gift to my class, from me. Celebrating ‘Love’ is always welcomed in our classroom. Below is a snapshot from our Valentine’s Day classroom party.

            Another part of our June Poetry Unit, is inviting poets into the classroom.  A couple months back, I met Mel King, long time activist and author, from Boston, Massachusetts. He gave me his number to call him to set up a time that he could come in my classroom, and read from his book of poems entitled, Streets. How grateful I will be, for his time with my students. 

I picked up our classroom copy of, Streets, at my favorite bookstore in Roxbury, MA – Frugal Books: A Multicultural Bookstore.

On scaffolding:

Below are some questions that you can discuss with students, before introducing a poem. The thoughtful, and relevant questions are taken from the website The discussion questions, that this website provides, are very similar to my own strategies in the classroom, however I wanted to promote this website because it does such a fine job of respecting valuable and relevant picture books. They provide teacher guides, for free online, so teachers may delve into a picture book in a more concrete and engaging way with their students. You can also purchase books from their site.

“Before Reading
Prereading Focus Questions
Before introducing the book, share the background information with students. Then you may wish to explore one or more of the following questions with them.  How would you honor someone you thought was really special?

  1. Who is your favorite writer? Has that writer influenced you in some way? How?
  2. What kinds of poetry do you enjoy? What is your favorite poem? Why do you like it?
  3. How do you show what you are feeling or thinking? Do you ever express yourself through art, stories, dance, or poems? How do these forms of expression help you communicate with others?
  4. When something is unjust, what could you say or do about it?”

Thank you for reading another blog post by The Picture Book Pusher. Write on.

Stellabella Toys: A Bookstore and More.

Yesterday, afternoon, I was driving through Dedham, with quite the appetite. Determined to find some good food, I stumbled into the mega complex off of Route 1, in Dedham, MA. A megaplex of all your favorite high-end retail. Favorites, that you didn’t even know were your favorites yet.

*Blank stare, and silent moment to allow  the cricket chirps to emphasize my facetiousness*

Since, I really can’t resist going into a bookstore that I’ve never been in yet, I decided to take a quick look in the toy store, Stellabella Toys, to see if they sold any quality books in their toy store. I was surprised at how much time I spent looking at their front shelf, full of new picture books. Titles, like always, I have never heard of. I am still young in the world of picture books, so I really only learn about them, as I am exposed to them. I loved that the first thing you see when you walk into the store, is a beautiful case of books to your right. I browsed over a shelf or two. Once I had  already picked out three books for purchase, I thought it best, to check and see if the store passed my ethical standards. So I asked the friendly staff, Kyle, my first of two questions: Do you carry Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes? No; neither in the store nor in their database. Correct response! Check! Second question: Do you give teacher discounts? Yes. Check! 10% discount. Semi-check. An hour and a half later, I come out with 11 books. All new. Which is not a habit that I embrace easily. Pockets aren’t that deep, but I have no regrets of my purchases. I look forward to using every one of them in the classroom, minus the one on Forensic Science, that I bought for my 11-year-old cousin. She just completed a Saturday class on Forensic Science, at Emmanuel College, in Boston.

This is what the book looks like.
 And below you see what it currently looks like, wrapped in complimentary wrapping at the do-it-yourself wrapping station inside Stellabella Toys.

5 of the 11 purchased books are picture books.

1. Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Madston, Inc. 2011. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers.

“If you stare at a painting and do not see yourself there, paint your own portrait.”

2. The Loud Book by Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Renata Liwska.  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children 2011.

“Uncle Alexander’s old car loud. Walking-to-school song loud.”

3. Busing Brewster by Richard Michelson. Illustrated by R.G. Roth.  Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House. 2010

“What’s that sign say?” I ask Bryan. There’s white people lined up on both sides of the street.”Welcome to Central,” Bryan answers

4. One Tree by Leslie Bockol. Illustrated by Jillian Philips.  InnovativeKids® 2009

“One sapling grows tall. Over many seasons, it becomes a new tree. In springtime, it will grow many new buds.”

5. In the Garden by Leslie Bockol. Illustrated by Jillian Philips.  InnovativeKids® 2009

“Our garden is growing, and we are growing too!”

What I like about the InnovativeKids Green Start books, is their attention to the environment. The books are made from 98% post consumer product. The book also has activities, and websites, in the back, with tips on how to prevent deforestation. The language is excellent for my second language learners. Writing in repeated grammatical patterns. “The grapes grow on the vine. I pick them and eat them.”  “The tomato grows on the vine. I pick it, and eat it.”The pictures are appropriate, relevant, and beautiful; the essential components to any acceptable classroom picture book. Any book pertaining to gardening in general, and the growing of produce, is welcomed in my classroom.

1 of the 11 books, is a book of poems.

Not just any poems, though. Haikus. The Picturebook Pusher’s personal favorite genre of poetry. Although, I do believe some of the haiku’s cheat the rules of writing a haiku. With sentences beginning in the middle of a stanza, and finishing in the middle of the next. Hmm. But not all are written like that. Many are perfect. Like the haiku below.

“The wind and I play/Tug-o-war with my new kite/The wind is winning.”

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka. Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. 2010

I’ll be honest, though. I will be concealing the title of the book. I will be covering the word, ‘boys’. From the cover. It is a book of Haiku for children, not just boys. In fact, I don’t see one delightful haiku in the book, that pays reference to ‘boys’. With the mild exception of the word, ‘man’, in a haiku about a snowman.

“Last week’s snowman looks/under the weather. Must be/a spring allergy.”

1 of the 11, an encyclopedia.

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World Religions. By Susan Meredith and Clare Hickman. Edited by Kirsteen Rogers

“Historians are uncertain of some exact dates in early religious history, so these dates begin with the abbreviation ‘c’. This stands for ‘circa‘, which is Latin for ‘about’.”

Religion comes up almost daily, in my classroom. The conversations are not initiated by me. I just try to help guide them, and keep them from telling each other what to do. “Don’t eat pork, or you’ll go to he$$.” “Don’t say ‘oh my g-d’.” “You can’t go trick-or-treating; g-d doesn’t like that.” Those are the kinds of statements I hear my students saying, and trying to process. They present a lot of anxiety over religion. I try to help them ease that anxiety. Of course, they don’t mean any harm to each other, but it must be awfully confusing for them to understand that they are each different, and practice being good people in different ways. This book uses language, and pictures to help students understand that religion stems from culture, and that they can be friends with each other, and learn what each other can teach the other.

1 of the 11 is an art book.

“There are lots of ways to apply paint. The dotty picture on the left was painted with brushes,  but you can get a similar effect with fingers too.”

This book is just great all around, and creating art is an everyday affair in my first-grade classroom. This book includes several different kid-friendly techniques for painting, drawing, collaging, etc. Its not a craft how-to book. It is a technique how-to book.

1 of the 11 is an activity/reference book

A Kid’s Guide to African American History by Nancy L. Sanders. Independent Publishers Groups. 2007

“Youths came to study law, math, and medicine at the University of Sankore in Timbuktu. Scholars came to Timbuktu to study its large collections of manuscripts, which included famous selections from Greek and Arabic literature. Scholars came to write their own books, too. The trading of books brought in more money than almost any other kind of business…People enjoyed dancing, fencing, gymnastics, and chess. Great respect was paid to learned people in this intellectual center of West Africa.”

I bought this book initially so I could compare my current practice ,and individual curriculum, to it. The organization of history by time and era, is very beneficial. This book will also benefit me when planning our unit on the ancient kingdoms of Africa.

The last book I bought is a reproducible workbook focusing on parts of speech, and other methods of classifying words by meaning.

It is designed for second graders, but it is all concepts that I am teaching my first-graders about.   What is key, is the organization of concepts and activities, on the worksheets.

                     Overall, a very successful trip.

 Stellabella Toys . Dedham Legacy Place Unit A-244. DedhamMA 781-329-6290.

Thank you for your time.