Meso-American Books for Kids?

I need your help!  This year I will be teaching an enrichment course based on monarch butterflies.  One of my focuses will be the Meso-American cultures in central Mexico, where the monarchs migrate. I am looking for great kid’s books(picture book to YA)about Aztecs, Mayans,Purepechua, etc.  In other words, I need fiction or non-fiction books about Meso-American cultures in Mexico.  So far I have found the following, but I need more!

 

I am interested in books that look at these cultures in the past and now.  I am especially looking for some chapter books/novels.  Any ideas?

Adios Oscar! A Butterfly Fable by Peter Elwell

Anytime I see a new monarch butterfly book I get excited, so when I received a review copy of Adios, Oscar!: A Butterfly Fable from Scholastic, I was very happy. Even better? This isn’t your typical monarch migration story. It’s a new twist on the topic and it is great!

Oscar is a caterpillar who lives on a plant near a window. One day a monarch butterfly named Bob happens upon his plant. Bob is in an awful rush and tells Oscar to look him up when he gets to Mexico someday. Well, Oscar is just enamored with Bob, his gorgeous orange-and-black wings, and this talk of Mexico. When a bookworm named Edna decides to help Oscar learn about Mexico in preparation for his journey, he is ecstatic. Soon it is time for him to go into his pupa phase before emerging as a butterfly.

Or so he thinks.

Oscar is heartbroken when he emerges from his cocoon and discovers he has short grey wings instead of the gorgeous orange-and-black ones he anticipated. And instead of the urge to fly to Mexico, he has the urge to eat sweaters! And fly around a light! Oscar’s friends all mock him for the time he spent learning Spanish and Mexican culture, and he is heartbroken. But that all changes when he finds a note Edna left behind for him.

I loved this fable about a moth who believes he can do anything, even fly 2000 miles to Mexico. And Elwell sprinkles Spanish phrases throughout the book. He also includes an afterword with some information on monarchs and moths and the differences between the two. The illustrations are also adorable, in a great cartoon style. I can’t wait to share this with my class and the Monarch Teacher Network!

Tonight PBS will be airing a documentary on NOVA that follows the monarch butterflies to their overwintering grounds in Mexico. Last February I was extremely privileged to visit the sanctuaries in Michoacan and it was a life-changing experience. The NOVA website has a wonderful page dedicated to The Incredible Journey of the Monarch Butterfly. It will air at 8pm tonight. I highly recommend taking a look at it!

Stenhouse Blog

A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a post for the Stenhouse blog about raising monarch butterflies in the classroom.  Well, that post has now been published.  Be sure to check it out!  

 

 

(There seems to be a formatting issue, as one of the paragraphs repeats in the middle of another, but you can get the gist.)

Houdini: The Amazing Caterpillar by Janet Pedersen

I am the crazy butterfly lady, no doubt about it. If a book so much as even mentions monarch butterflies I must have it for my classroom collection. Imagine my excitement when I received a review copy of Houdini the Amazing Caterpillar from Clarion Books this week!

Houdini is a monarch caterpillar who lives in a classroom. He is always the center of attention due to his amazing tricks, like eating milkweed leaves really fast and shedding his skin. The kids love him! But one day, they start paying attention to other animals in the classroom, like their pet turtle. Houdini is not thrilled with this new development (especially since he thinks the turtle is B-O-R-I-N-G). He tries to perform new, more amazing tricks but nothing holds their attention.

Until the big day.

The day that Houdini decides to pull out all the stops and shed his skin on last fabulous time. This time? He becomes a chrysalis! The students are in awe after viewing this last transformation and Houdini is one more the center of attention. He goes two weeks without moving, eating, or doing any other tricks! Finally, after 10-12 days he opens his eyes and emerges from the chrysalis. This amazing feat stuns the children, who are thrilled with their friend, Houdini! Now that he is a beautiful monarch butterfly, they hold a butterfly release and let him go.

This is a very cute book and one that rings very true for me. We just did our last monarch release a week ago and even my 6th graders are excited about the metamorphosis of the monarch butterfly. The book is very accurate and includes all the stages of the life cycle. The illustrations, watercolors done my Janet Pedersen, are gorgeous. The only small issue I have is that Houdini is more white/yellow striped than black/white/yellow striped. However, this is my only quibble with the book.

Janet Pedersen was inspired to write Houdini the Amazing Caterpillar after attending her son’s kindergarten butterfly release. How cool is that?! I hope that kindergarten teacher is as excited as I am! Pedersen also includes a page of monarch facts in the back, which makes me happy.
This is a great book for any classroom that raises monarchs. It is also great for teachers and parents who don’t have monarchs of their own but want to share these magical creatures with their children. I highly recommend it!

Monarch Emergence and Document Camera

Wow! This past week both of my classes were witness to one of nature’s miracles- the emergence of a monarch butterfly from its chrysalis. I have never managed to have both classes view this miracle as monarch usually emerge early in the morning, before we arrive at school. This year, I remembered to move their cage into the air-conditioned (and dark) supply closet overnight. When I removed them in the morning, both chrysalids were dark. I assumed that they would both emerge that morning. Well, lucky us- one held off until after lunch!

What made this experience even better was the fact that I hooked up the document camera and placed it only a few inches from the chrysalis. Then, I hooked up the document camera to the TV. Well, watching the monarch emerge, close-up, on the TV was amazing! (And it allowed me to keep the kids away from the cage so they didn’t inadvertently knock into it). Well, you could hear a pin drop as we watched our two boys crawl out of their chrysalis, flip upside-down, and slowly begin pumping their wings.

I love my document camera!!!

Our Monarch Release

Below is a brief slideshow of the monarch release our team held earlier this week.  All of the pictures were taken by our “class paparazzi” who did a great job!

Click to play Monarch Release
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New Zealand Monarchs and Teachers

Jacqui Knight, one of the participants in this past week’s workshop, flew in with two other educators from NEW ZEALAND!  She has posted a great summary of her experience on her blog, and it’s amazing to read about my area from a foreign perspective.

Madam Butterfly

Monarchs, Day 2

Tagging demonstration at MTN workshop

Today was another awesome day at the workshop. Busy, busy, busy as always! But we got through everything and did an great release. There were a few preschoolers and toddlers in the building who came to the event, which made it extra special. Holding one little boy’s hand, I watched his face light up with each monarch that alighted on a participant. And when one landed on his shirt? Absolutely priceless.

The Courier-Post sent a photographer who photographed a good deal of the morning activities, including the above photo where I am explaining tagging to the participants (with Sue, my amazing cooperating teacher from student teaching). There should be an article tomorrow and another story in the local section next week.

One more day left! But if you want to experience a bit of the workshop for yourself, check out this video from NJ.com and the Star-Ledger. This workshop ended today at Raritan Valley Community College. The video is great!

Monarch Workshop

Tuesday was my last day at my summer job.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are devoted to my passion- the Monarch Teacher Network.   As a former participant, I am now a volunteer staff member and the workshops are my favorite part of every summer.  It never fails to completely inspire me and motivate me for the new school year.

This year is no exception.  There are about 60 participants, including 3 from New Zealand and 2 from Peru.  At what other professional development workshop do you work with international teachers?  AMAZING.  The other participants are from NJ, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.  It’s a whirlwind three days, and today was a flurry of activity.  But it’s unbelievable just being able to share this amazing eperience with so many other extraordinary teachers!

I left today feeling completely revitalized and energized, despite the 8 hour day and 2 hours of driving.  Unbelievable.  And I can not wait to continue the workshop tomorrow and Friday.

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