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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

STUDY GUIDE - 11 Picture Books.

Margot Finke's
Fun and Educational


We can chat about what your students need,
and how to  get them writing and READING

for BOOKS or Writing Guidance


Many of my picture books are written in rhyming verse. I can't draw to save my life, but I was born with a "rhyming gene" that was raring to go! If you want to write stories in rhyme, it helps if you are born with this natural talent for creating rhyme and meter that flows effortlessly. For the benefit of your students I am adding a few simple rules:

1- Always begin with a great plot and characters. Your story and your rhyme are of equal importance.
2- Make sure your rhyming "end" words fit your plot and move it along. 
3-Words that are only there because they rhyme are NOT acceptable. They must also fit the story well.
4- If you have 4 lines in each verse, and 10 verses altogether, each first line, of each verse, must have a similar meter. 
This also applies to lines 2, 3, and 4.
5- Counting the syllables in your lines will help you create a good meter.
6- Watch where you add those long multi-syllable words. They will throw your meter out the window if they are not placed where they were in your original verse.
7- Read your finished story out loud. OR, have someone read it to you. Every place they stumble means there is a problem with your rhyme or meter.

For those not blessed with a heaping helping of the "rhyming" gene, writing in rhyme can be a hard slog. Sometimes, a story you imagine simply works better written in text.


Dive Into My

Both Listings:
#1 through #4 - Rhyming and Helpful
#1 through #7
 Rhyming and Text.
History- Animals - U.S. and Australia
Fun and Educational Facts.

#1 - "Dreamtime Man." (History told in rhyme)
How the Australian aboriginals survived the arrival of the white man. A PB History for older grades.

The lyrical verses in Dreamtime Man take readers back in time, to how Australian Aboriginal tribes lived for thousands of years. Their belief in the Dreamtime, and its Spirits that shaped their lives. What happened when they first came into contact with the white settlers had tragic consequences. The white man spread disaster, disease, and misery. Their aboriginal culture and way of life were forever changed.
** Suggested reading age eight and up.

*Do you think you could live in the harsh Aussie outback?

*There are no supermarkets, so what did the aboriginals eat?
*Where is the Daintree and what is it?
*What does the Dreamtime mean to the Tribes?
*Where do the Dreamtime spirits live?
*Why did the white settlers kill the aboriginals?
*What was the name of the bark and grass shelters they made?
*When did some tribesmen stop going naked?
*If your mom belonged to one of the tribes, what would they call her?
*Do you remember what goes on at a Corrobboree?
*If you fell into a Billabong, where would you be?
*When a tribesman says he is visiting URULU, where is he going?
*Would you eat a witchetty grub?

Check the Parent/Teacher guide at the back of Dreamtime for links to tribal life and lore, the Dreamtime culture, and places these tribes lived.


#2 - "Horatio Humble Beats the Big D."
Parent/Teacher guide included - + many helpful links.
This is a fun read that also helps kids with dyslexia - and their parents.

Ways to Help Your Child with Dyslexia Thrive: 
Children with Dyslexia are usually very smart-their brains are simply wired in a different way. If your child has dyslexia, it is important to let him/her know that some of the world's most famous actors, painters, musicians, and scientists, learned HOW to make their dyslexia behave. Here are just a few famous names: 
Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Tom Cruise, Mohamid Ali, Orlando Bloom, Magic Johnson, Oprah Winfrey + Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe. You can find more by Googling. Dyslectic kids are usually smart, and with the right early guidance, they will flourish as adults.

Dyslexia is a problem with the brain's ability to translate written images into meaningful language. It is the most common learning disability in children. Dyslexia usually occurs in children with normal vision and normal intelligence. Children with dyslexia usually have normal speech, but may have difficulty interpreting spoken language, reading, and writing. Children with dyslexia need individualized tutoring. This involves a multisensory education program. Supporting your child emotionally also plays an important part in their ability to learn ways for their brain to adapt.

Common Symptoms (taken from the Mayo Clinic link below) :
Dyslexia symptoms can be difficult to recognize before your child enters school, but some early clues may indicate a problem. Once your child reaches school age, the teacher may be first to notice a problem. 
Before School: Signs and symptoms that a young child may be at risk of dyslexia include: 
*Late talking
*Adding new words slowly
*Difficulty rhyming
School Age: Once your child is in school, dyslexia symptoms may become more apparent, including: 
*Reading at a level well below the expected level for the age of your child
*Problems processing and understanding what he or she hears
*Difficulty comprehending rapid instructions
*Trouble following more than one command at a time
*Problems remembering the sequence of things
*Difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words
*An inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word
* Seeing letters or words in reverse (b for d or saw for was) - although seeing words or letters in reverse is common for children younger than 8 who don't have dyslexia, children with dyslexia will continue to see reversals past that age + difficulty spelling
Definitive Articles on Dyslexia:
*Dyslexia the Gift. Information and Resources -  
*The International Dyslexia Association Promoting literacy through Research, Education and Advocacy - 
*Dyslexia - - Comprehensive overview covers signs, symptoms, causes, treatment of this common reading disability - 
Helpful Books on Dyslexia:
*Dyslexia - Margaret J. Snowling - 2000 - 253 pages + other books about dyslexia. Written from the standpoint of cognitive and developmental psychology.
*Dyslexia - a parents' and teachers' guide - Trevor Payne, Elizabeth Turner. Chapter Introduction: This chapter contains a brief overview of children with dyslexia.

Would you feel dumb if you had Dyslexia?
* Why was Horatio scared to ask for help?
* What made him angry when his parents wanted him to go to      Special Classes?
* How would YOU feel if you couldn't read fun books?
* Did his teacher and parents do the right thing?
* How did you feel when he learned how to read well?

#3 - "Ruthie and the Hippo's Fat Behind"
Parent/Teacher guide included. RUTHIE is a fun read that also offers thoughts and ideas that could help a child adjust to a
"Sudden Big Change."

 A huge change in a child's life can confuse and upset them. This is what happened in Ruthie and the Hippo's Fat Behind. Her parent's sudden move made Ruthie feel lost, lonely, and cross at everyone The death of a loved one, divorce, a new baby, or a move far from friends, are big changes that could make your child act out in ways similar to Ruthie. 

When you've finished reading about Ruthie and her Hippo, and you've enjoyed all the fun illustrations, ask your class what they think about Ruthie. Ask if they can guess why she acted so bratty and rude.
* Do you think Ruthie really hated her Mom and Dad?
* Was there a good reason for her to act rude and mean?
* Would Ruthie have felt better if she and her parents had talked about it?
* Was Ruthie lonely? Did she miss her friends?
* Do you think feeling lonely is an excuse for acting rude or mean?
* Would your parents put up with you being a brat, like Ruthie?
* Why do you think finding the puppy made Ruthie happy again?
* Do you sometimes have moods that are big and ugly, "Like some Hippo's Fat Behind?" 
* What makes you overflow with happiness like Ruthie did at the end of the book?
* Did you like the Hippo? Do you think he stole Ruthie's story?
If your child is reacting badly to big changes, like Ruthie, talking to them about it might make a difference.
* If possible, prepare them ahead of time, by explaining the reasons for the change.
* Keep your explanation simple and easy to understand.
* Play up any positive aspects the change may offer.
* Encourage your child to talk to you about this change, and what scares them about it.
* Then, listen to what they say in return. Answer each of their questions without unnecessary elaboration. 
* Reassure them that you will always love and care for them.
* A discreet bribe can smooth a transition period: like the promise of that kitten, or the computer game they have been nagging you about.
* Be patient, loving, and understanding. Your approach depends on the age and maturity of your child. However, you need to recognize when your efforts are not working. Be prepared, if necessary, to consult a professional about how-to guide and help your child through the scary hurdles of "Big Change."

Below are 3 websites that offer a great deal of help, plus insights into the problems children face, when dealing with big changes in their lives. 


 #4 - "Rattlesnake Jam" Quirky verses and story, + fun illustrations - written with boys in mind! 

Boys like yucky stuff, underarm noises, farts, frogs and lizards. This book is meant to HOOK small boys on reading. It has fast action and all the messy yuck a boy could want.

Pa catching rattlers, and Gran's determination to cook them up into jam, instead of the pies and fritters Pa craves, has instant appeal. That barfy green jam, full of gross lumps and bumps, hooks most boys - and lots of girls.  Giggles Galore!

*Do you have crazy grandparents like this?
* Would grandparents like this be fun?
* Why did Grandpa catch all those rattlers?
* Did he do it to make Grandma happy, or because he enjoyed hunting them?
* Would you rather hunt them with Grandpa or cook them with Grandma?
*What do you think her Rattlesnake Jam tasted like - delicious or yucky?

This is simply a fun story that will appeal to small boys.
No hidden agenda intended!


Now for
Both in Rhyme and in Text.
About animals from the U.S. and Australia.
Fun Facts and Educational.


#1 - "OSCAR is Different" (text)
Oscar looks mean, nasty, and ugly--like all Tasmanian Devils. But Oscar IS different. He has a warm and gentle heart, and he longs to make friends with the other Aussie bush critters. 

Yet everyone in the bush is scared of him. They run away when he appears. Oscar has to convince them that he IS DIFFERENT. But How? With help from a chatty Blue Kingfisher, a baby Koala, and a young Wombat. Finally, Oscar finally finds great bush mates. 

*Look at a map and find Tasmania (HINT-find Australia first)
*Were the bush animals wrong to judge Oscar by how he looked?
*Do you think being different is a good thing or bad thing?
*Would you make friends with Oscar?
*Do you think you should judge other kids by how they look, or by how well they treat you?
*Who was the first animal to stand up for Oscar?
*Who first made him see that he DID look mean and ugly?
*Would you like to be different--or like everyone else.
*If someone is kind and gentle, does it matter if they are a bit different in some way?
*If you were different in some way, would you hope that others would like you just the same?

In the Parent/Teacher guide at the back, there are links to more serious help, + guidance for parents, and also for kids that feel they do not fit in. There are questions to ask, plus answers. The heart of this story is to be aware that how you act is more important than what you look like. That being DIFFERENT is often a very GOOD THING!

#2 - KOBI Borrows a Pouch (Text)
Kobi the Koala thought he knew all the bush-smarts he needed. He ran away from his mom and looked for a gum tree of his own. 

This was a dangerous business. He ended up scared, homeless, and missing his mom very much. He needed to learn more bush-smarts--and FAST if he were to stay alive. Jumping Grasshoppers, how will poor Kobi manage all alone in the Aussie bush. You had better read on and see for yourself.

*What are BUSH-SMARTS?
*Does one set of SMARTS fit all critters?
*Who told Kobi that the bush was a dangerous place?
*Should you be scared of Dingoes-- and what are they?
*Do you know what Koalas eat and drink?
*Was Kobi dumb to go off on his own?
*What do you call a baby kangaroo?
*Would it be fun if ALL mothers had a cozy pouch--including yours? 
*What do you think Kobi learned?
*Where did Kobi finally go to find his own bush-smarts.
*Which Aussie critter is a real "house husband."

A Parent/Teacher Guide at the end of the book has an Aussie vocab-word and animal glossary, + a word puzzle and "Bush-Smarts" page.

#3 - "Kangaroo Clues" A smart Old Man Roo escapes a pack of wild dogs (dingoes), and teaches them a lesson they won't forget in a hurry. 

Other Aussie critters run and hide. 

** Based on an Australian aboriginal Dreamtime Fable.

*Go to Down Under Fun and read more about kangaroos and the other Aussie critters in this book.
*What is your favorite Aussie animal?
*Is Old Man Roo smart or brave?
*Do you think the dingoes are bullies?
*Do you know a bully?
*Did Old Man Roo do the right thing?
*If he hadn't drowned them what do you think would have happened to him?
*How do the dingoes hunt their prey?
*Are the other animals cowards for running and hiding?
*Why didn't Echidna worry or hide?

#4 - "Mama Grizzly Bear." 
(links to fun information and a word puzzle at the back of the book). A year in the life of Mama and her cubs.

*What do grizzly bears fear the most?
*Can you name a favorite food of Grizzlies?
*What would happen if cubs did not obey their mama?
*What do you call animals that eat meat and vegetation?
*Where do they go in winter?
*What do you call baby bears?
*Are there other animals that the US Grizzly Bears fear?
*What fish do they love to eat?
*Do you think Mama is a good mother?

A COOL Kids, + Parent/Teacher pages are at the back + a word puzzle.
#5 - "Never Say BOO to a Frilly."
Vocab words included at the bottom of each page.
3x Individual stories - Fun facts about unique Aussie critters.

1 - "Never Say BOO."  This story tells you the secret of the Frillneck Lizard. 
*What do Frillneck Lizards remind you of? 
*Do you know what they eat?
*Are they mean or shy?
*Is the Frillneck a coward?
*What happens when you shout BOO!

2 - "Rainbow Birds."  Go flying with Australia's wild parrots, cockatoos, and parakeets.
*What can cockatoos do that is unusual?
*What do these birds eat?
*Who do they say painted each bird's bright colors?
*Where do they live?

3 - "Tasmanian Devil Dance." 
Stalk the bad-tempered T.D. in all his nastiness!
*What does the TD's face look like?
*Does the Tasmanian Devil have lots of mates?
*What are meat eaters called?
*Name his special skills?
*Where is Tasmania? ( HINT: near Australia)
Tasmanian Devils are an endangered species. 
See more information on DOWN UNDER FUN

#6 - Prairie Dog Play Days -
US animals. 
( 3x separate critter tales)

Prairie Dogs - endangered in some areas.
*Where do Prairie dogs make their home?
*How long do the babies stay indoors?
*What animals hunt them?
*What do they eat?

Little Stinker (skunk). 
*Would you like one as a pet?
*What do you do when they spray you?
*How would you like what they eat on YOUR plate?
*Where do the like to snuggle up and sleep?

Bald Eagle - Once they were endangered.
*What helps Bald Eagles to fly?
*Do they have good eyesight-or do they need glasses?
*What do they eat?
*Where do eagles nest?
*When did they first become America's proud symbol?
*What color are the bald eagle's eyes?

These 3 short rhyming stories tell fun facts about US critters.
There is a Vocab Word page at the back of the book, + extra information about each animal. Visit WILD US CRITTERS for extra information about all the US animals in my books:

#7 - Squirrels Can't Help Being NUTS.
(3 stories--Fun facts about US garden critters)

** VOCAB Words at the bottom of each page

*What is a squirrel's favorite food?
*What kind of tails do they have?
*Where do they store their food?
*What colors are they?

Kitty Cats:
*What is another name for cats?
*Where do they like to nap?
*Do they like to hunt outside?
*Do they always come when you call?
* Do YOU have a cat?

*Do bumblebees have a sleek flying shape?
*Do they have stingers?
*What work do they do?
*Where do bumblebees live?
*What do they call the head bumblebee?

Find more information on the back cover.
Go to WILD US CRITTERS for more information on Bumblebees + other animals,


Aussie Frillneck Lizards, Koalas, Tasmanian devils + US Prairie Dogs, are just four of the animals that global warming and human expansion could push into extinction.

Global Warming is affecting everything on our Planet Earth. Forces that change how, where, and IF trees and plants will grow.  The rise of river and ocean temperatures, and the state of the ice at both poles, has a ripple effect, that if not stopped, will spread far beyond what we imagine today.

The powerful, fragile and delightful animals in my series of books might not be around when the children you are teaching reach middle age. Fun lessons can show children how not to repeat the ecological mistakes of their parents and grandparents.

The links below offer helpful information you can include in lessons about what makes Planet Earth keep spinning, and what needs to be done to keep our wonderfully diverse flora and fauna thriving for centuries to come - not to mention for future generations of our children.

Global Warming HELP!
Places where kids can get a feel for our planet, 
plus the flora and fauna treasures we could soon lose.

How to Recycle Anything - Where kids discover the art of recycling and how important it is for a clean and safer earth.

The Science Daily - This website overflows with first aid for our troubled environment.

Kids Do Ecology - This site includes all the links below. Are you interested in getting involved in Kids Do Ecology? Find out how by visiting our Teacher Information page. Below are some helpful links for integrating ecology into your classroom.

Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies – A useful list of resources for school and backyard ecology activities

Lesson Planet – The largest directory of lesson plans on the web

The Educators Reference Desk – Grade-specific lesson plans and resource guides for levels from K-12

The National Wildlife Federation – Schoolyard Habitats educator resources

EnviroLink – A wealth of environmental on-line resources

San Diego – Teachers’ Lounge – Online resources and information

Monterey Bay Aquarium – Teacher resources and programs

Smithsonian National Zoological Park – Education pages offer online and mail-order resources for the classroom

The Discovery Channel – Online educational resources, lesson plans, and MORE


Create a CLASS BOOK CLUB that works to
Keep Our Planet Thriving . . .
and GREEN.


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