Children's books

Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner
Calkins Creek. Coming soon in November 2019—now available for pre-order here.


Catching a Storyfish
WordSong, 2016

“fully realized, deftly written, and utterly absorbing.” —School Library Journal, starred review

Teaching tips for Catching a Storyfish

Catching a Storyfish offers a bonanza of activities for classroom teachers: poetry writing, storytelling, paper folding, kite making, library visits, Dream Day presentations, and Spelling Baseball. Read a poem and see where your imagination takes you.

CAS showcases a variety of poetic forms. Ask students to write their own haibuns or share this form with a writing partner. One student can write the prose while another student writes a haiku in response. Or write an abecedarian together as a classroom project.

In “Keet’s Story for Grandpa about the Great Big Rocket,” Keet makes up and tells an original fable. A fable is a story with a lesson or a moral. Write a “moral” on a paper strip. Collect the strips in a large plastic jar. Invite students to draw a moral from the fable jar, and then write a story that will teach the moral they’ve selected.

Allie-gator enjoys origami, collage, and drawing. In “A Shiny Sheet of Paper,” she folds paper goldfish for Grandpa. Combine storytelling and paperfolding in a classroom activity. “The Rainhat” is a never-fail, easy-to-learn, paperfolding story. After telling the story to your students, teach them the folds so that they can tell “The Rainhat” and try out their own inner storyteller. Teachers can find it in Nancy Schimmel, Just Enough to Make a Story: A Sourcebook for Storytelling, 1992, 22-23.

mama nsoso

Busy-Busy Little Chick
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.

Teaching tips for Busy-Busy Little Chick:

Busy-Busy Little Chick is based on an African fable. A fable is a story with a moral or a lesson. The moral of Busy-Busy Little Chick might be Npankele ntakambak'olemo, a Lonkundo proverb that means "I will do it (one of these days) does not get the job done."

Ask students to write a "list" poem where every line begins "Tomorrow, I will" and a second poem where every line begins "Today, I will." Students can make their poems as imaginative or funny as they wish. This can also be a group activity with younger children. The children can generate the poems and the teacher can write down their poems.

Tomorrow, I will do my homework.
Tomorrow, I will take my vitamins.
Tomorrow, I will make my bed.
Tomorrow, I will eat anchovies.

Today, I will eat ice cream.
Today, I will grow wings and fly away.
Today, I will jump rope.
Today, I will drink the ocean.

Share Houses and Homes by Ann Morris. Morris shows photos of houses and homes from around the world. How are the houses the same? How do they differ? Students can make drawings, collages, or construction-paper pictures of a house they have seen, or of their own home.

Students can make popsickle-stick puppets for Little Chick and the crickets. These don't have to be anatomically correct: a yellow circle for Little Chick, small green rectangles for the crickets. Then they can act out the end of the story: "But Little Chick said nothing at all. He was busy-busy chasing cricky-cracky crickets all by himself!"

chicken chasing queen

The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007

Teaching tips for The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County:

Help students to define the word "proverb." As students read or listen to The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County ask them to find the proverbs that the young girl attributes to her grandmother. Ask students to interview an adult family member or another adult and ask about family sayings or proverbs. Bring a list of the sayings to share at school.

Ask students to pretend that Miss Hen can read and write. Ask them to write a letter from Miss Hen to the little girl or to Big Mama. What would she write?

The little girl wants to catch Miss Hen. That is her goal. But to accomplish a goal, you need smaller steps to reach the goal. What small steps did the young girl try to reach her goals? Ask your students to set a goal for something they would like to do within two weeks. Ask them to write down their goals and the necessary small steps on the path to their goals. Everyone who reaches their two week goal gets a paper chicken!

Students can turn file folders into marvelous chickens.


going north

Going North
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004

Teaching tips for Going North:

Before reading Going North aloud to students, let them to take a “picture walk” through the illustrations. Use visual thinking strategies to help students make predictions about the story’s plot and tone: What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What else do you see?

Jesse’s father says that they are going to be pioneers. Ask students to make a chart comparing the experiences of Jesse’s family with the experiences of pioneer families. How are they similar? How are they different?

Students often ask what happened to Jesse after her family moved to Lincoln. Allow students to brainstorm and imagine her new life in the North. Ask them to draw pictures or make a collage to show her neighborhood, school, friends, and the things that may have happened to her in the North. What do students think might go well for Jesse in the North? What challenges might she face?


roberto walks

Roberto Walks Home
Viking/Penguin, 2008

Teaching tips for Roberto Walks Home:

Roberto is angry at his brother. He jumps on the bed and kicks his blocks. Talk about emotions and how we handle them. Ask students to describe something that made them angry. How did they handle the bad feelings?

Ask students to interview an apartment dweller or passerby who might have seen Roberto flying home, or ask them to create an imaginary news report about a boy seen flying over the neighborhood. How would people react?

Read and compare other stories about children who fly, such as Abuela by Michael Dorros or Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold. Ask students to think about an imaginary skill that they might have and to write a story about their adventure.

Selected honors and awards

Harrington’s children’s books have won the Ezra Jack Keats Award from the New York Public Library, the Cybils Award for the year’s best fiction picture book, and been selected by TIME Magazine as one of the Top 10 Children’s Books of the year.

Janice N. Harrington