The Wild Robot

Our trip to visit children and grandchildren included plans to read aloud The Wild Robot Escapes, by Peter Brown.  It is brand new, and the sequel to The Wild Robot, an outstanding book and one of my absolute favorites.

Within a few hours of arriving, I was ready to read aloud and so were the children– ages 10, 8, and 6.  Hubby wanted to listen, too.  But, things did not go as expected. Not at all.

We got to the end of chapter one, page four. The last sentences read:

“But this was no ordinary robot. This was ROZZUM unit 7134.  You might remember her old life on a remote, wild island.  Well, Roz’s new life was just about to begin.”

The eight-year-old asked, “Who is Roz?  What was the wild island?”

He hadn’t read the book.  Neither had the six-year-old.  Like me, the ten-year-old had not only read the book, she knew it ranked among the best.  I explained Roz and also the island to her siblings, with a brief overview of the story. That only led to more questions. At last she said, “Grammy, let’s read the first book.”  Yes!”, shouted her siblings. So, we snuggled in to read The Wild Robot.

The book is just as exciting and perhaps better, when reading it the second time around. That’s what happens with good books.  They’re meant to be read again and again.

Roz is a robot, one of many, assembled and packed into crates, and put on a cargo ship. The ship crashes and sinks, and only five crates wash ashore onto an island. All eventually break apart except the crate that contains Roz. Curious otters accidentally activate the robot, and thus begins the story. Roz slowly learns about the island and the inhabitants.  It is with great trepidation that the animals get to know Roz and begin to except her as anything but a monster.

“Grammy, why are the other animals so mean to Roz?  She likes them.  She’s nice,” asked the six-year-old.

A question that is music to my ears. It opens the door to talking about diversity and acceptance.

The book builds on Roz and the island and the animals, starting with the last surviving gosling egg– Roz accidentally killed the two geese and their eggs.  Relationships develop with different animals in a way that incorporates adventure and also life lessons into the story.  The reader feels strong ties with Roz and has a sense of understanding nature and the way of the world. A cliff hanger ending is perfect.  The Wild Robot is adventure, nature, diversity, robots, and animals all wrapped up into one great story.

Amazon’s 5-star review calls the book “Wall-E meets Hatchet“:

“When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island.  She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive.  After battling a fierce storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants.

As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home–until, one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes pack to haunt her.  A heartwarming and action-packed novel about what happens when nature and technology collide.”

We went to Barnes & Noble the next day. Look what we saw:

Both books were displayed together.  Next visit, The Wild Robot Escapes will be our read aloud.  Can’t wait!


Posted in Book Review, chapter reading, children's books, Diversity, Early Education, Imagination, Kindness, Nature, reading aloud, reading aloud | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Can’t Stop Reading

Dinner with family; grandparents, parents, brother and sister.

Grownups talking.

Can’t stop reading.


Posted in books, children's books, Family, Imagination, reading | Tagged , , , | 35 Comments

The Art Show!

“It took me a lifetime to learn to draw like a child.” –Pablo Picasso

“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.” –Claude Monet

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
Vincent van Gogh

“Color is a power that directly influences the soul.  Color is the keyboard.  The artist is the hand that plays.” –Wassily Kandinsky

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
Pablo Picasso

“Creativity takes courage.” –Henri Matisse

“Art should make you feel, like music.” –Wassily Kandinsky

“There are flowers for those who want to see them.” –Henri Matisse-

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” –E.B. White-


Posted in art, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, self esteem, Teaching young children, The Arts, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , | 71 Comments

Einstein’s Best

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Little House in the Big Woods

I began reading aloud a new chapter reading book, Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  In thirty minutes, I had read only four pages.  Four!  There was so much happening in the story, we had to stop and talk.  That always means learning.  And a captive audience.

Let me back up, as there is much to tell about yesterday…

The day before, we finished reading The Story of Doctor Dolittle.  At the end of the book I closed it and said, “I don’t want the book to end.”  This is what happened next:

Ella said, “Can we read it again and again and again?”

Me:  ” I wish we could, Ella.  Your Mom and Dad can read it to you again.”

Ella:  “But I don’t have the book.”

Me:  “The library has the book.  Mom and Dad can get it at the library and read it to you again.”

Me to all the children:  “Good books are meant to be read over and over.”

Alex:  “What book are we going to read next?”

Lincoln:  “Can we read Charlotte’s Web again?

Allie:  “Yes!  Please can we read it again?”

Noah:  “I love that book.”

This was a perfect conundrum.  Children had to let go of a favorite book that was over.  Then, they wanted to read another favorite book.  Yet, they knew that wouldn’t happen- there would be a new book.  Life lessons, at their best.

I went on to tell the children how much I loved Charlotte’s Web.  Then I told them the news:

“Every chapter book we have read this year has been fiction.  Fiction is pretend, “Once upon a time.”  Jennie stories are fact, “It happened like this.”  Our new chapter reading book is fact.  It’s real.  It happened.”

That opened the door to reading Little House in the Big Woods.  The children were thrilled.  Well, they were more than thrilled.  It happened like this…

In the first pages, we read  that there was nothing but woods.  There were no roads, no people.  There were only trees and wild animals.  And, those animals were wolves, bears, and huge wild cats.  A child asked what was a wild cat (wait till we read that there were panthers in Wisconsin!)  Another child asked about roads.  Just the concept of nothing but woods and animals is not easy for children to grasp.  It became even more difficult in the next few pages.

The little house was made of logs.  “What are logs?” I asked?  Good thing that earlier that day I  had read the picture book, A House in the Woods, by Inga Moore.  Beavers had felled the trees to build the house.  That image helped to describe a log house (wait till I show them pictures of my grandmother’s childhood house!)

Laura called her parents Ma and Pa.  We stopped to talk about all the different parent names we knew- four in all.

Laura woke up one night to see wolves outside the window (that was exciting!)  The next morning she saw deer that Pa had shot, hanging in the big oak tree outside.  That would be meat for dinner.  I closed the book and asked, “Why didn’t Pa just go to the store to buy some meat?”  Ten minutes later we were still talking about how and where to get food.  “What do you think they grew in their garden to eat?”

The conversation was filling young minds with images.  The words in the story were triggering questions and thinking.  Best of all, it is a really good book.  Children are already hooked- and we’ve only read four pages!

Posted in chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Imagination, Inspiration, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , | 80 Comments

“The Scream”, Round 2

Alex liked his painting of “The Scream.”  He called it “The Yeller Who Was Lost”, because he couldn’t remember scream, and he knew the painting had been lost.  Actually, Alex liked the original art by Edvard Munch far more than what he had painted.

I knew it.  While he patiently and passionately worked with small brushes and watercolors from a tube, they weren’t the right tools for what he wanted to paint.  Last week I saw Alex using markers and making orange swirls across the top of the page.  That was a red flag- he still needed to paint this again, his way.

Today I gave Alex big paper, and the right paints and brushes.  He was thrilled!  I also introduced Mozart at Morning Meeting on the record player.  As I played the album, I slowly panned pictures of art for the children.  No words.  Just listening to music and looking at art.  You could have heard a pin drop.  The music played the entire morning as children listened and painted their hearts out.

Alex was focused as he started.  Very focused.  Teachers and children tippy-toed as they walked by.  Everybody left him alone.

It was almost a relief.  Alex could finally paint his way, what he wanted to paint.  And, he did.  At one point he told me he wanted to paint the whole paper.  I was being the messenger of washed brushes and fresh paint.  I didn’t say a word.

Yes, he did.  He filled the paper.  Alex spent a good thirty minutes carefully looking at “The Scream” as he painted, and then painting it his way.  Look at the satisfaction on his face.  And, look at his masterpiece!

Teach children by giving them the tools, then stepping back.  All they need is encouragement.  Don’t get in the way.


Posted in art, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, Teaching young children, The Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 76 Comments

Snow Swim Challenge

Up until yesterday I had never participated in a challenge, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge, to raise awareness for illnesses.  The father of a young child at our school has been diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.  Vann Ly is 39 years old.   He has a wonderful family with two young children.  Little 3-year-old Evie goes to our school.

Devastating doesn’t even come close to describing what is happening with this family.

Yet, there is a wonderful backstory, and how happiness can make a difference:

Vann loves Captain America, and so does the family.  Vann wears his Captain America T-shirt to every chemo treatment.  In his words, “Captain America represents purity, goodness, and will never back down from a fight.”  Friends and family now wear a Captain America T-shirt.  Evie wears hers to school!

Van’s sister moved up her wedding date, and the wedding was held at the hospital in Boston, at Dana Farber Cancer Center, so Vann could be there.  Everyone at the wedding wore Captain America T-shirts.

Friends have started doing a “Snow Swim Challenge” and posting it on Facebook and YouTube.  This has given their family moments of joy and much happiness.  It is the highlight of their lives right now.  Laughter is the best medicine.

Yesterday my school participated in the challenge!  It was one of the best things we have done.  It took giving to another level.  Not only did it lift their spirits, it lifted mine as well.

Here is the YouTube video below.  Please share this, as March is Colon Cancer Awareness month.  I want to be able to tell Vann that people all over the world (you) have seen this.  I hope you are as lucky as I am, and get the opportunity to compete in a challenge and make a difference.  Never underestimate the power of Giving and Happiness.


Posted in Death and dying, Expressing words and feelings, Family, Giving, Inspiration, Kindness, Love | Tagged , , , , , , | 46 Comments