Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Adopted (#SOL15, Day 3)

Ordinary Angels (M.A. Reilly, Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, 2008)

I.

A word uttered still fails to encompass the whole of meaning.  I think of this as I read the word adopted in the opening to Darcy Moore's post, DNA and My Ancestral Tree.  He writes:
I was adopted as a baby. My adoptive parents made no secret of that fact but never had any information they could share about my ancestry. I often wondered what my ancestors had experienced and where they originated. It made me sad that I would likely never know. It was not something I talked about and if the topic came up I was very philosophical about it all. 

Darcy chronicles what he learned about his deep ancestry by participating in the Genographic Project.  I was fascinated as I read.  Imagining the whole time that I too might participate in the project.  Spend $150 and this slight fee might enable me to name a past I cannot name today.


II.

Meaning is never stationary, never stable.
Language allows us to know partially.

               Adopted.

Sometimes it is too hard
                                           to breathe.


III.

Decades ago I traveled with Rob to Ireland and while there we spent one morning at the Joyce House--a place in the Republic where birth records are kept.  I went there armed, knowing my name at birth: Olivia Muldoon, and the year, date, and place of my birth (Stamullen, Ireland).

I knew as much as I could, and yet I found no record.

When I was leaving, a man working there stopped me and said that about 50% of the records were never collected as registering a birth was voluntary at that time in Ireland.  He said this with such kindness.


IV.

Later that day, after we left Dublin and travelled to Grange I wrote the following poem.





Lineage

At the Joyce House on Lombard Street
in Dublin—we climbed the staircase
to the second floor. The narrow aisles
of the registry were crowded with others
searching too. I looked through
the oversized ledgers, moving a finger
steadily down the long list of names—stopping
with a jerk at each sound that hinted
of my birth—only to breathe out
exhausted, and then continue on, till we each
had looked through the same six years of paper
and names and I knew no record would be found.


We left that Dublin office, traveled
north of Sligo to the seacoast town
of Grange. There I slept the length
of afternoon while you explored
some jagged coves. Later, you took
me in hand over tall grass dunes
to a cliff, overlooking the strong
Atlantic. We sat there, dangling
our feet well above the foam
and smashing waves,
as my finger traced
and retraced the rock
hardness of a fossil.

V.

It wouldn't be until years later that I understood that being adopted is not the same as being abandoned.  

Each requires its own sense of time.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast (#SOL15 - Day 2)



(M.A. Reilly, 2015)

I was reminded yesterday when I read/viewed Kevin Hodgson's Slice of Life post, that there are lots of ways to represent ideas.  

I make things and wanted to remind myself that I can make posts too. Not just pen them.

So I made the image to the right and thought about six impossible things before breakfast that I believe (or at least want to). 


Here goes...

1.    Crocuses will reveal themselves (soon).

2.    The quiet of the house at dawn will remind me of the many ways I am becoming (other)wise.

3.    Schools will value error more than correctness. They will honor the spirit of Samuel Beckett who wrote: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

4.    We will know the value of dreaming and embrace it--live it in our ordinary lives. I blogged about dreaming earlier in what I suspect was a Slice of Life story well before I knew the term: Those Kids Could Dream...  It's a homage to my Da.

5.    I'll make an image today while in Manhattan that I'll want to keep forever.

6.    Later this morning, I'll cross the George Washington Bridge without delay.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Moonlight Not Written (#SOL15 Day 1)



An Offering (M.A Reilly, 2011)
I.

I had Wallace Stevens on my mind when it happened.  It was an insistent voice in my head chanting two of his lines over and over as I watched the streets slide past out the window of the car.

The book of moonlight is not written yet
Nor half begun...

It wasn't night, nor was there a promise for a full moon later. That was a week away. I don't know what triggered my memory of these lines, but I was intrigued, half listening to what my husband was saying, half thinking about what is not written.

It was Friday afternoon and we had left Newark and were making our way through Bloomfield to get on the Garden State Parkway. We were heading towards home when my husband slowed the car to a stop in order to yield to oncoming traffic.

The young man in the green car behind us did not yield.  He did not stop until after his car clipped the rear driver's side bumper of my year-old car.

Bang.


II.


"He's a communication major at William Paterson.  He wants to be a sports broadcaster," Rob is telling me an hour later as we sit in a restaurant. Off to our right three older men sit at a table, a small cup of custard is brought to them with a single lit candle and the waitresses gather and sing a quick Happy Birthday.

The he, Rob is talking about is Giuseppe, the young man who was diving the green car.

"He was nervous as hell," Rob says.  "I told him, 'Nothing bad happened.  Relax. We're all okay.  Just a few dents and all of it can be fixed.'"


III.


Even though Rob is now officially retired from teaching, the profession remains with him, continues to define him. He was pissed in the car but when he stepped out, when he saw that the driver was just a boy a bit older than our own son--he quickly morphed into teacher mode.

I am a teacher. I am.

He became what best defines him: a teacher soothing a kid who was panicking. Getting him to talk about himself, his schooling, his dreams. Soothing the boy's mom who arrived at the scene after her son had called. No one was hurt. Laughing with the cop from Bloomfield who told him, "Now I have draw this scene."

"Hey, you shouldn't have cut out that art course."

I was reminded later that afternoon as I sat in the restaurant with a slight headache pressing and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in hand that love is mostly complicated, but some days it feels less so.  It's like that book of moonlight, unwritten, not even half begun.





Saturday, February 28, 2015

AIR AND LIGHT AND TIME AND SPACE

Bowler (M.A. Reilly Dublin, Ireland, 2008)


AIR AND LIGHT AND TIME AND SPACE
Charles Bukowski


”– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
way
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to
create.”

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
or
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
welfare,
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
away,
you’re going to create blind
crippled
demented,
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses
for.

Monday, February 23, 2015

7 Recent YA Books You MUST Read

from Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices. 
de Fombelle, Timothée. (2014). Vango: Between Sky and Earth. Translated by Sarah Ardizzone. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. Set against the backdrop of the rise of the Nazi Party (1934-1935), 19-year-old Vango Romano is accused of killing a priest which sets him on the run. Who is Vango remains a central and compelling question in this novel. 432 pp.  (12 and older)

Charleyboy, Lisa and Mary Beth Leatherdale (Eds.). (2014). Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices. Buffalo, NY: Annick Press. 
An amazing collection of written and visual texts. Oh my. This is my favorite book of the lot. Artful. 128 pp. (HS and older)

Cokal, Susann. (2013). Kingdom of Little Wounds. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. (Printz Honor book 2014) Fantasy novel/dark fairy tale that explores power. For the older end of YA and adults. 554 pp.

Hemphill, Stephanie. (2013). Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Balzer + Bray.
Novel in verse told from the perspective of the "afflicted" girls who fake their symptoms in Salem in 1692 leading to the killing of would-be witches. (Grade 9+)

Isaacson, Philip M. (2015). A Short Walk Around the Pyramids & Through the World of Art. Ember. 
Nonfiction title that focuses on various definitions of art. A useful guide. (Grade 7+)

Niven, Jennifer. (2015). All the Bright Places. New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers. 
The novel opens with this question by the novel's subject, Violet: Is it a good day to die? Angsty. Poignant teen romance.

Walton, Leslye. (2014). The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava LavenderSomerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Beautifully written story about an unusual girl, Ava  who has been born with a pair of wings. First time author, Leslye Walton was a A 2015 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

ELA PARCC Represents an Old Culture of Learning


Two children sharing a draft of their work...
I. Building Possible Literary Worlds 


Years ago I was in a student in an English seminar and one of the texts we read and studied was Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. It was equal parts ruse and mystery--alongside a deeply semiotic text.  I grasped the plot as I read, but deeper understanding of the work happened through conversation, writing, rereading with those in the seminar. Writing critically about the text in more formal ways occurred after all of these rehearsals and required many revisions.  It's one thing to understand a text after reading and another to write critically about the text. Alongside all of this, I reread large sections of text for making meaning is most often a cumulative affair.  With literature, one reads more like a seeker of truth that a detective following prescribed clues.

Towards the beginning of Foucault's Pendulum, Diotallevi is having a conversation with Belbo about meaning making while reading the Torah.  He says:
But the important thing is not the finding, it is the seeking, it is the devotion with which one spins the wheel of prayer and scripture, discovering the truth little by little. If this machine gave you the truth immediately, you would not recognize it, because your heart would not have been purified by the long quest.  (Eco, Umberto (2007-03-05). Foucault's Pendulum (p. 33). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition. )
Composing possible literary worlds is the work of literary reading--work that often isn't confined to one reader but happens in conjunction with the text, the reader and the context (where, when  how & why the reading is happening). This making of possible worlds is a type of reading that has certainly allowed me to be career-successful, flexible, and able to shift into and out of numerous work scenarios.

In thinking about the work required to compose possible word while reading, Jerome Bruner in Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, concludes:
I have tried to make the case that the function of literature as art is to open us to dilemmas, to the hypothetical, to the range of possible worlds that a text can refer to. I have used the term "to subjunctivize," to render the world less fixed, less banal, more susceptible to recreation. Literature subjunctivizes, makes strange, renders the obvious less so, the unknowable less so as well, matters of value more open to reason and intuition. Literature, in this spirit, is an instrument of freedom, lightness, imagination, and yes, reason. It is our only hope against the long gray night. (p. 159)
Reading literature opens us.  It allows us to understand, perhaps experience, a world that is less fixed, banal. It allows us to contemplate and respond to complexity and uncertainty in ourselves and in others. Maxine Greene would tell us that reading literature is a way to make ourselves  more (other)wise. We compose possible world as we read literature.  It is not what is found on page 14 that is most essential. Extraction is not a literary end game, regardless of those who would tout reading as detective work.  It is much more complex. We come to understand page 14 in conjunction to the whole of the work. Meaning is accrued not only across the text--but as we read and reread it.

The logic of narrative is different from the logic of an informational or argumentative text. Yet, how we currently measure students' reading of literary texts here in the USA is more about privileging the fixed, the banal and the quick.  It's about extracting discrete bits of information.

Let's take a moment to look at the newly released end-of-the-year (EOY) PARCC tests.

II. A Sample Grade 3 EOY from PARCC

I was thinking about reading literature as I perused the released samples for the third grade end-of-the-year (EOY) English Language Arts (ELA) PARCC.  The test requires third graders to read two texts (literary and informational) and answer 12 questions, the majority of which are paired questions. If students do not answer Part A of the question correctly, they cannot receive credit for correctly answering Part B of the question.  Keep in mind that this is the high stakes test that is supposed to measure the essential ELA learning that has happened across a year. Essential  has been determined by the folks who wrote the Common Core.  So let's take a look at one paired question from the literature test and one paired from the informational text.  Both are said to measure the first reading standard: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers. 

The grade 3 EOY practice test begins with students reading a narrative text about a porcupine and answering 4 paired questions and a fifth question requiring students to manipulate text (drag and drop type question.).

Here's the first question:


Screen Shot from PARCC Grade 3 ELA EOY 

The correct answers for Part A is A (Hitting the ground would harm Pordy).
The correct answers for Part B is D and F.
The standards these questions measure are RL1, RL4, and L4.

After completing the literature test, students next read the informational text, “What is a Spacewalk?” by NASA. They answer 7 questions: 6 paired and one drag and drop type question. Now let's look at a paired question for the informational text.

Here is the section of the passage students would refer to when answering question 9.

from EOY Grade 3 test

Here is Part A and Part B questions.




The correct answers for Part A is C .
The correct answers for Part B is C and D.
The standards these questions measure are RI1, RI8 .

Extracting information happens more directly when reading informational text as the information is packaged logically and can be stripped out of the passage. I can put my finger on the exact spot to answer many of these types of questions. This is not the case when reading literature as meaning is accrued across the work, not merely across one or two paragraphs. Yet, the questions on PARCC's sample tests, regardless of text type, are largely about extracting information quickly rather than building possible reading worlds.

Now imagine that each day at school for 13 years, a la the Common Core State Standards and the various tests that accompany it,  a single type of reading is privileged.  Your child and mine are reduced to acting like detectives and extracting clues from what they read.  It is overly simple and wrong to reduce all possible reading to clue extraction. This is not only wrong, it is highly problematic.  Let's consider Bruner again. He writes:
There are two modes of cognitive functioning, two modes of thought, each providing distinctive ways of ordering experience, of constructing reality. The two (though complementary) are irreducible to one another. Efforts to reduce one mode to the other or to ignore one at the expense of the other inevitably fail to capture the rich diversity of thought. 
Each of the ways of knowing, moreover, has operating principles of its own and its own criteria of well-formedness. They differ radically in their procedures for verification. A good story and a well-formed argument are different natural kinds. Both can be used as means for convincing another. Yet what they convince of is fundamentally different: arguments convince one of their truth, stories of their lifelikeness.
The CCSS with its commitment to a single type of reading (New Criticism) and PARCC that privileges the testing of detail minutia do not allow for a rich diversity of thought.  Is this reliance on a single method going to ready your child or mine for a world that is far more complex?  For situations where others eschew the overly simplified? What exactly is produced via this singular fixation on an overly simplified sense of meaning making?

III. College & Career Ready?

So is being college and career ready about quickly extracting information regardless of the text or context?  Is that the type of learner you see as being able to do the work you currently do?  Is such practice even thoughtful, responsible, logical?  Is it representative of the challenges you face day-to-day? Is it responsive to self and other?  Is it complicated enough?  Is it an apt way to respond to the complexity with which you contend?

Only reading the landscape in order to quickly extract information is not the whole of what I do on a daily basis. Determining the best answer in a very limited field of possibles does not represent the types of thinking I am most often required to do daily. Yet we pay for high-stakes test to be administered to most students that do not resemble reality.  See if you agree with this set of truisms about work:

  1. I do not work in a silo. 
  2. I am not forced to use technologies I have never used before to complete high stakes work. 
  3. I am not limited to working only from a pre-established set of texts given to me by someone else. I can and do use multiple texts, many of which I have seen and read before.
  4. I am not separated from powerful tools while I work
  5. I am not required to be mute.
  6. I am not required to complete the work in a single sitting.
  7. I am not required to have cleared my desk of any and all beverages while I work.
  8. I am not limited as to where I work and what technologies I use. I can work in chair or on the floor with a laptop. I can work at a table with pen and paper. I can write and dictate responses. I can draw.
  9. I am not limited to using only the set of information I currently can access at that moment.
  10. I am not limited to faulty spelling because I cannot use outside resources to check how I have spelled specific words.
  11. I am not limited to first drafts only as I can leave the work I composed today and reread it later in order to revise and edit. 
  12. I am not limited to my first draft as I can send work to an editor, or more knowledgeable other, who gives me feedback that I can use.
  13. I follow passions and interests while working and am limited by constraints. These constraints can be liberating.
  14. I rely on tacit and explicit knowledge when problem solving.
  15. I do not merely answer questions others have formed.  More often I pose questions and frame problems.
Why do we continue to pay for testing that does not resemble actual realities of work? My life, like yours, is far more complicated and complex. And yet, we are paying for schools to be silos where children are considered 'ready' if they can quickly extract information regardless of text from a small field of possible answers. What next generation of standards and testing does this represent?

Should we not want more for our children? Should we not be questioning what this set of standards actually readies a body for? Should we not be questioning what these assessments actually measure?

IV.

A lifetime of reading literature with all of its uncertainties and messy complexities has allowed me to better negotiate the actual world as I am practiced at composing possible worlds.  When reading (listening) and writing, I am imaginative, not limited to following a set of clues to reach a prescribed outcome.  My work requires me to blend logic and intuition--to privilege both tacit and explicit knowledge.  Explicit knowledge is teachable and most often continues to be tested on high stakes tests. Tacit  knowledge is not teachable, although it can be learned. This requires a very different sense of school and a different set of measures than the CCSS currently purports.

In A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant ChangeDoug Thomas and John Seely Brown explain how measuring tacit knowledge represents a very new challenge for schools:

Measuring one’s level of tacit knowledge, however, is a challenge. Traditionally, every new model of learning has had to specify how much knowledge actually transfers from teacher to student—the more the better being the goal. But the transfer model simply doesn’t work for tacit knowledge. A student cannot ask his teacher to “give me your experience” or “tell me what it feels like to solve a problem” or “show me how to innovate.” We learn those things by watching, doing, experimenting, and simply absorbing knowledge from the things, events, and activities around us. 
Rather than measuring learning by having students find 'correct' answers,  what if the inverse was privileged?  Thomas and Seely Brown write:
We propose reversing the order of things. What if, for example, questions were more important than answers? What if the key to learning were not the application of techniques but their invention? What if students were asking questions about things that really mattered to them? With that shift in thinking, learning is transformed from a discrete, limited process—ask a question, find an answer—to a continuous one. Every answer serves as a starting point, not an end point. It invites us to ask more and better questions.

Imagine such a world for your child.

Imagine if the work of school was not limited to answering an authority's ready-made questions, but rather occasioned learners' question posing and problem framing? This is the depth of learning I have wanted for my son. I imagine it represents a depth you too would desire.

We cannot get to such higher learning if we continue to fund an old culture of learning. Let's not forget Diotallevi's words to Belbo: "the important thing is not the finding, it is the seeking, it is ...discovering the truth little by little. If this machine gave you the truth immediately, you would not recognize it, because your heart would not have been purified by the long quest." 

Let's not settle for the quick tour when the long quest can be had.



Thursday, February 19, 2015

10 Nonfiction Picture Books I Cant Live Without #nf10for10



Today is Non-Fiction Picture Book Sharing, #nf10for10, hosted by Cathy Mere, Reflect and Refine: Building A Learning Community and Mandy Robek, Enjoy and Embrace LearningBelow find ten nonfiction picture books I can't live without and how I might use these texts as mentor texts with children. 

(1). Nelson, S.D. (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) (2014). Digging a Hole to Heaven: Coal Miner Boys. New York: Abrams.
S.D. Nelson's Ledger Art Work
I waited anxiously for this title to be released as I have read all of S.D. Nelson's books and am a fan of his artwork and his writing. I am always learning when I read his work. It was the ledger book art he did in Crazy Horse's Vision  (written by Joseph Bruchac) that first drew my interest. (You can see some of his Ledger book art style work here). I also have a fascination about books about coal mining. So in September when I first received Digging a Hole to Heaven, I dug in. The acrylic paintings are moving, dark at times, and extend the text which is a blending of fiction (a 12-year-old boy's experience in the mines) and informational. Nelson also includes archival images alongside his own art. 
Rich writing. Multigenre.
Mentor Text Suggestion: How to author multigenre, narrative technique, using archival images (historical photographs) alongside made art, managing large topics, sensory writing, research, use of author note, use of fact boxes and side bars, 
from Parrots Over Puerto Rico.
(2). Roth, Susan & Cindy Trumbore. (2013). Parrots Over Puerto Rico. Illustrated by Susan Roth.  New York: Lee & Low Books.
When I first read Roth & Trumbore's The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families, I knew immediately I would include it an a read aloud unit I was designing at that time for second grade about inspiring people. I had not heard of Dr. Sato and was interested to learn more about him and his work. The writing was lyrical and informative and the art--well then art just knocked me out. Susan Roth's collages are works to imitate.  So intricate. 
So, I was interested to read and view Parrots Over Puerto Rico. The book tells about the rescue and return of the Puerto Rican parrot which has been endangered. The book was awarded the 2014 Robert F. Sibert Award for the most distinguished informational book for children published in 2013. It is rich in description, has the most amazing collages I've seen in a children's book, and conveys an important environmental history of parrots and the work that has been done to stem their extinction.
Mentor Text Suggestions: Use of direct address (second person), How to tell information in interesting and suspenseful ways, figurative language, sensory language, layout, collage, research, use of stunning facts (By 1975 only 13 parrots remain), research

(3). Debon, Nicholas. (2006).  Four Pictures by Emily Carr. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books.
One of my go-to publishers is Groundwood Books. In Four Pictures by Emily Carr, Nicholas Debon teaches us how to look mindfully at art through his telling of four paintings that Emily Carr, the Canadian artist, made.  Four Pictures by Emily Carr focuses on four paintings that express different periods of Carr's life. Debon's writing (a mixture of informational text and first person narrative) and illustration work (comic strips) allows us to know Emily Carr deeply. This cartoon-biography is well researched and well rendered. 
Mentor Text Suggestions: how to use cartoon format as a vehicle for biography, author's perspective, how to summarize, use of speech bubbles, 1st person narration, text organization
from Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose About Chinese Musical Instruments
(4).  Jiang, Emily. (2014). Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose About Chinese Musical Instruments. Illustrated by April Chu. New York: Lee & Low Books.
I was fascinated when I read this book.  Set as a narrative (13 children ready themselves for a musical performance), the text also includes free verse poetry and side-bar informational text about the history of each of the traditional Chinese musical instruments. 
Mentor Text Suggestions: How to author multigenre, description, free verse poetry, being curious about a topic, narrowing a topic

(5). Aruego, Jose & Ariane Dewey. (2002). Weird Friends: Unlikely Allies in the Animal Kingdom. San Diego, CA: Gulliver Books Harcourt.
I include this picture book in a first grade unit of study about animals. Children love this book and it is one they want hear and read again and again. There's so much to learn. Aruego and Dewey discuss 14 pairs of unlikely animals who are connected as each helps the other to survive. 
Mentor Text Suggestions: asking questions about a topic, narrowing a topic, science writing, extended metaphor
from Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
Duncan Tonatiuh tells about Sylvia Mendez's family's fight for desegregation in California in 1947.  This is an important topic and one not often found depicted for young children.  I appreciate the important slice of history Tonatiuh takes on in this picture book and how his use of Mixtec codex art builds cohesion between the visual work and the written text.  2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book and a 2015 Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor Book
Mentor Text Suggestions: Cohesion of text and art, use of archival images, how to use dialogue to progress a story, research, narrowing a topic, attending to a complex topic well
from Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank. 
(7). Yoo, Paula. (2014). Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank. Illustrated by Jamel Akib. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Several years ago in a unit of study I wrote four fourth graders featuring books about Nobel Prize winners, I included information about Muhammed Yunus. I was delighted this past summer to read Paula Yoo's picture book biography about Yunus.  Yoo's biography is well told and researched. There's humor, critical slices of life, and apt description. Akib's pastels are powerful and draw the eye. 
Mentor Text Suggestions: How to select slices of life when writing a biography, connecting the lead and the ending, how to simplify complex topics, research, using pastels, bold illustrations

(8). Weatherford, Carole Boston. (2015). Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America. Illustrated by Jamey Christoph. Chicago, IL: Albert Whitman & Company.
Carole Boston Weatherford's poetic biography about Gordon Parks, the photographer, has been on my to read list well before it was published. I have an interest in Parks' works and have enjoyed the books I've read by Weatherford.  Her writer's voice is always compelling.  I was suprised when reading this text of how straightforward Weatherford's biography (as poem) was rendered.  I also appreciated the way Jamey Christoph illustrated the text by digitally rendering images of Parks as photographs.
Mentor Text Suggestions: Using poetry to tell a biography and to shape a text about civil rights and race relationships, Power of single word sentence, Use of present tense, how to include background information that is not part of the central text, reading about a topic/profession that interests you, archival images, author's note
from Frog Song
(9). Guiberson, Brenda Z. (2013). Frog Song. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. New York: Henry Holt.
I included this picture book in a read aloud unit for first graders.  Children are fascinated by the descriptions of the unusual frogs and marvel at the illustrations. Brenda Guiberson introduces the reader to eleven unique frogs from different places in the world. The illustrations are portraits of each frog painted by Gennady Spirin. The writing is powerful (strong verbs) and relies at times on the use of onomatopoeia in order for the reader to hear the frog being described. The art work is nothing less than magnificent. 
Mentor Text Suggestions:  use strong verbs (“bellow, clang, rattle, sing, trill, warble, whistle"), parallel structure, onomatopoeia, narrowing a topic, portrait painting
(10). Jenkins, Steve & Robin Page. (2014). Creature Features: Twenty-Five Animals Explain Why They look the Way They Do. New York: HMH Books.
25 unusual animals explain why they look the way they do as you look the in the eye. A classic Steve Jenkins & Robin Page book.
Mentor Text Suggestions:  Interesting Question and answer format, essential question, narrow topic (What's your most unusual feature?) cut paper art, use of a biblography