A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

“Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”

A Christmas Carol

Scrooge’s and Elizabeth’s philosophies about life differ. Elizabeth has a more positive outlook on life, even though she is poor. Scrooge is the opposite, as he is very wealthy but is very negative and rude to others. “Bah, humbug,” he repeatedly grumbles. Elizabeth is very different, as she maintains an upbeat worldview. She invites Scrooge to Christmas dinner, keeping her Christmas spirit. “But I shall keep my Christmas spirit till the end,” she says. Even though she is still a child, a poor child, she remains as bright as the sun. Scrooge believes her spirit to be crazy, and since he is so rude and mean, he refuses to share Elizabeth’s joyful cheer. “If I had my way, every idiot who goes about saying ‘Merry Christmas’ should be boiled in their own pudding,” he says, an evil example of Scrooge’s demented demeanor. So overall, these characters are as different as night and day, with one being rude, rich, and cruel, and the other being kind, joyful, and jubilant.  – Riley



A Christmas Carol

“He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and for, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness.” 

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”

A Christmas Carol


‘The Night Before Christmas’ art lesson: HERE

The original Christmas story: HERE

 A World Book Online assignment: HERE 




Why Read Picture Books?

You are old enough to read novels, so…
why read picture books?

Keats's Neighborhood

1. Appreciate the classics.

Ezra Jack Keats, Robert McCloskey, and Bernard Waber.
Eric Carle, Robert Kraus, Leo Lionni, and Bill Peet.
Edward Ardizzone, Beatrix Potter, and Brian Wildsmith.
Ludwig Bemelmans, Jean de Brunhoff and Maurice Sendak.
Robert Munsch, H.A. Rey, and Dr. Seuss.
Remember outstanding writers.

I Carry Your Heart With Me

2. Relax with a heart-warming story.

The Harmonica by Tony Johnston
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson.
All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan.
On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman.
What You Know First by Patricia Maclachlan.
Remember that there is always goodness and hope in this world.

An Extraordinary Egg

3. Enjoy great friendships.

George and Martha by James Marshall.
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel.
Best Friends for Frances by Russell Hoban.
Two Bobbies: a True Story of Hurricane Katrina… by Kirby Lawson
How to Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson
Remind yourself of the qualities of true friendship.


4. Get the flow of a whole story in hardly any time at all.

Setting and characterization.
Plot and theme.
Remind yourself of the basic elements of stories in just a few minutes.

Born to Read

5. Absorb techniques of great writing.

Alliteration, consonance, and assonance.
Repetition, rhythm and rhyme.
Similes and metaphors.
Juxtaposition, hyperbole, and litotes.
Allusions to folklore, classic literature and popular culture.
Strengthen your awareness of literary techniques.

Artful Reading

6. Study great artistic techniques.

Museum Shapes by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Where in the World?: Around the World in 13 Great of Art by Bob Raczka.
The Ugly Duckling by Rachel Isadora.
The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers by Mordecai Gerstein.
Flotsam by David Wiesner.
Rome Antics by David Macaulay.
Appreciate the power of pictures.

On a Beam of Light

7. Expand your general knowledge.

Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird: A True Story by Stephanie Spinner.
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.
One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky.
The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter.
Mao and Me by Chen Jiang Hong.
The Grand Mosque of Paris: the Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle.
Learn about people, places, and historical events.

The Art of Clean Up

8. See life from different points of view.

Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne.
Jonah’s Whale by Eileen Spinelli.
Encounter by Jane Yolen.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt.
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson.
The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy by Ursus Wehrli.
The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola.
Pause and consider.

Stick Man

9. Expand your soul.

The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth.
Q is for Question by Tiffany Poirier. 
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.
The Elders are Watching by David Bouchard.
Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin.
Glory by Nancy White Carlstrom.
Ponder the meaning of life.

Crankee Doodle

10. Laugh.

Nothing Like a Puffin by Sue Soltis.
No! by David McPhail.
No, David! by David Shannon.
A Sick Day for Amos McKee by Philip Christian Stead.
Punk Farm by Jarrett Krosoczka.
Relax for a few minutes.

Enjoy life! 


Are you a reader?

Are you building good habits?

A = an avid reader and writer

– takes out as many library books as possible every week and visits the library at noon hour if absent during the weekly library class
– reads at least one novel per week
– reads at least one nonfiction book per week and memorizes some of the information
– browses through nonfiction books related to topics being studied in class and memorizes some of the information
– reads picture books for fun and to expand general knowledge
– reads at school every day, carrying a book along all the time in case there are a few minutes to read
– reads at home for at least an hour per day
– spends time revising assignments to improve accuracy and style
– quickly rewrites any assignment that earns less than top marks
– looks for opportunities to do extra research and literary projects
– eagerly and thoughtfully participates in class lessons and discussions

B = a highly skilled reader and writer

– takes out as many library books as possible every week and visits the library at noon hour if absent during the weekly library class
– reads one or more novels every week
– browses through at least one nonfiction book per week and memorizes some of the information
– looks at nonfiction books related to topics being studied in class and memorizes some of the information
– reads picture books for fun and to expand literary knowledge  as often as possible
– uses every opportunity possible to pick up a book and read at school
– reads at home every day for at least 45 minutes and would read more if other activities did not take up so much time
– spends time revising assignments to improve accuracy and style
– quickly rewrites any assignment that earns less than excellent marks
– frequently and voluntarily participates in class lessons and discussions

C+ = a competent reader and writer

– takes out as many library books as required every week but leaves most of them in the school locker
– reads an easy-to-read novel every week or part of a longer novel
– browses through nonfiction books if given time in class to do so
– reads picture books if given time in class to do so
– reads at home for about 30 minutes a day
– likes reading but usually prefers other activities outside of school time
– rewrites any assignments that earn less that good marks
– ask questions if unsure about how to properly complete assignments
– willingly stays after school for extra help or practice
– willingly participates in class lessons and discussions

C = a functional reader and writer

– takes out a few library books every week but generally leaves them in the school locker
– brings a book to class and reads when told to do so
– reads at home if required to do so
– browses through nonfiction books and reads picture books if required to do so
– doesn’t mind reading but doesn’t voluntarily read outside of school time
– is willing to take the time to complete assignments to a satisfactory level but does not rewrite assignments
– asks questions if unsure about how to properly complete assignments but avoids staying after school
– participates in class lessons and discussions only if called upon to speak

C- = a reluctant reader and writer

– avoids borrowing library books or frequently forgets library books at home
– generally does not bring a book to class for reading time
– opens a book in class if required to read, but generally grabs a book at random and does not finish it
– dislikes reading and avoids it as much as possible
– does as little as possible on assignments
– frequently hands assignments in late and may need many reminders
– avoids participating in class lessons and discussions and finds reasons not to stay after school for help

Learn secrets of avid readers: HERE

To learn how to raise a reader, read…
Cunningham, Anne E. Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Sullivan, Michael. Raising Boy Readers. Chicago: Huron Street Press, 2014.

This page may be copied for use by schools if the following credit is provided:  ©2014 Sophie Rosen


Learn a poem by heart…

Your teacher wants you to memorize poetry?

1. Learning by heart improves reading skills.

– You learn to notice punctuation marks. Those commas and periods mean it is time to stop, breathe, and send your eyes ahead to scan what is coming.
– You learn to notice the key words, so you can speak with the correct expression.
– You notice how phrasing creates meaning.
– You enlarge and enrich your vocabulary.

2. Learning by heart improves public-speaking skills.

– You learn to speak with confidence.
You learn how to stand with good posture.
You learn to enunciate words clearly and speak slowly enough that listeners can understand you.

3. Learning by heart improves memory skills.

– You will need to know many things by heart in life.
– Just like running laps gives your body practice for running a long-distance race, memorizing gives your brain practice at remembering.
Deeper understanding of problems in life comes from holding facts in your mind and coming up with new insights.

4. Learning by heart provides a rest from writing and reading.

– So much of school involves your eyes: reading the board, reading books, reading textbooks, reading assignments.
– So much of school also involves writing: taking notes and completing assignments.
– Memorizing gives students who are better at learning by listening a chance to shine.

5. Learning by heart develops listening skills.

– Memorizing requires listening to yourself: are you speaking clearly and at an appropriate pace?
– Reciting in a group requires listening to others so as to maintain an even pace.

6. Learning by heart develops an appreciation for language.

– Memorizing helps you become more aware of the rhythms of phrases and the sounds of words.
– It helps you understand the power of consonance and assonance and alliteration.
– It also helps develop knowledge of powerful words.

7. Learning by heart develops empathy.

– Reciting in a group develops an awareness of others.
– Reciting in a group creates a feeling of belonging.
– Memorizing the same poems as others develops a sense of belonging and shared culture.
– Memorizing takes time and so encourages a deeper understanding of some of the great themes of literature and life.
Memorizing enters the mind more deeply than reading and so can touch your heart more deeply.
Memorizing great poems helps you make connections with people of other times and in other places.

8. Learning by heart eases loneliness.

– Holding great poems in your heart can remind you that you are not alone in this world.
– Remembering those poems later on in life can give you hope.

9. Learning by heart helps you listen to the voice inside of yourself.

– Memorizing helps you pull your energy into your body and focus for an extended period of time.
It encourages you to feel the emotions inside of you but still have control of them.
It lets you shut out other people and gives you some private time.
Memorizing great poems encourages you to think great thoughts and come up with your own insights into life.

10. Learning by heart helps you become a person of great character.

– Great poems will surround you with beauty.
Filling your mind with beautiful and true thoughts will help you become a person who is truly great in this world. 

Great poems to memorize: HERE

 Read more…

Diffily, Deborah. “Revisiting Family Involvement: Perspectives of Teachers and Families.” (2001).
Fisher, Ryan, Sujey Romero, and Andy Shin. “Building Students’ Social Capital Onstage: Examining the Codman Academy-Huntington Theater Company Partnership.”
Hadaway, Nancy L., Sylvia M. Vardell, and Terrell A. Young. “Scaffolding oral language development through poetry for students learning English.” The Reading Teacher (2001): 796-806.
Kang, Nina. “The Lost Art of Memorizing Poetry.” The American Reader. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. <http://theamericanreader.com/the-lost-art-of-memorizing-poetry/>.
Snider, Justin. “Rote Memorization: Overrated or Underrated?.” Huffington Post Canada. 25 May 2011. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/justin-snider/rote-memorization-testing_b_817170.html>.
Turner, Ellen RM. “Why You Should Memorize Poetry.” Dappled Things. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. <http://dappledthings.org/2536/why-you-should-memorize-poetry/>.

This page may be copied for use by schools if the following credit is provided:  ©2014 Sophie Rosen.


A True Story: Literary Fiction

All That's Missing

A good novel tells us a story. In All That’s Missing, Arlo decides to run away to find the grandmother he’s never known after his grandfather is hospitalized due to a stroke. This 358-page novel has lots of action to keep the story interesting. We want to know what is going to happen.

Sullivan, Sarah. All That’s Missing. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2013.
“Secretly providing for himself and a beloved grandfather who is succumbing to dementia, young Arlo is placed in the care of a social worker and runs away to find and connect with his only other family member.” – CIP. [Dementia; Family problems; Grandparents; Runaways]

Way Down Deep

But a better novel tells us about life. In Way Down Deep, a police officer arrives to take twelve-year-old Ruby back to a grandmother she doesn’t remember. This 197-page novel not only has lots of action and humour, it also contains little passages to take away once the story is over:

“‘Miss Arbutus says that sleep is more important for the soul than for the body. She says when a person sleeps a lot like Mr. Crawford does, they are trying to work out their problems.’
“‘And how does sleeping help?’
“‘Because, according to Miss Arbutus,’ Ruby said, ‘God is in that place where sleep takes us. Way down deep inside, where all the answers lie'” (72).

“‘Who’s the doctor here anyway?’ Mr. Doctor said sternly. ‘I know cussitis when I see it. It is caused by two very dangerous germs – pain and anger. And these germs attack the vocabulary so that the afflicted person is not able to express his true feelings'” (90).

White, Ruth. Way Down Deep. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007.
“In the West Virginia town of Way Down Deep in the 1950s, a foundling called Ruby June is happily living with Miss Arbutus at the local boarding house when suddenly, after the arrival of a family of outsiders, the mystery of Ruby’s past begins to unravel.” – CIP. [Community life; Foundlings; Historical fiction; Identity; Orphans; West Virginia]

All That’s Missing is an entertaining story.  Way Down Deep is an entertaining and sophisticated story, carefully crafted by an accomplished author. 



Outdoor Survival: Novels of World War 2

Did you enjoy Hatchet by Gary Paulsen?

Are you interested in World War II?

Try these novels of outdoor survival!

Picture 12

Gleitzman, Morris. Once. New York : Henry Holt, 2010, c2005.
“After living in an Catholic orphanage for nearly four years, a naive Jewish boy runs away and embarks on a journey across Nazi-occupied Poland to find his parents.” – CIP.  A startling story for mature readers 12-years-old and up.

Picture 5

Gleitzman, Morris. Then. New York : Henry Holt, 2008.
In this sequel to Once, ten-year-old Felix and six-year-old find shelter with a woman who tries to hide from the Nazis in the Polish countryside. Highly recommended for mature readers 12-years-old and up. 

The Hideout

Heuck, Sigrid. The Hideout. Saskatoon : Western Producer Prairie Books, 1988.
“Rebecca, living in an orphanage in Germany during World War II, finds her only refuge with a boy hiding out in a nearby cornfield, where their imagination lets them retreat into a fantasy world of their own making.” – CIP.

I am David

Holm, Anne. I Am David. London: Egmont, 1992, c1963.
Twelve-year-old David escapes from a concentration camp in eastern Europe and sets out to find his mother. This powerful novel, translated from the Danish and winner of multiple awards, is highly recommended for readers 12-years-old and up.

Kensuke's Kingdom

Morpurgo, Michael. Kensuke’s Kingdom. New York : Scholastic Press, [2003], c1999.
Eleven-year-old Michael, his parents and his dog, Stella, are off on an adventure. They are going to sail around the world.  Around Africa, around Australia, all is going well until a storm strikes. Michael and Stella are washed overboard. And then the Robinson Crusoe adventure starts: survival on a tropical island, alone apart from an old Japanese man, a survivor of World War II.  Will Michael ever be reuinited with his family?  Will Kensuke ever go home to Japan?  If you enjoyed Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, try this survival novel by a well-known British writer.

Run, Boy, Run

Orlev, Uri. Run, Boy, Run. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
“Based on the true story of a nine-year-old boy who escapes the Warsaw Ghetto and must survive throughout the war in the Nazi-occupied Polish countryside.” – CIP. Written by a highly acclaimed Israeli writer, this astonishing novel is recommended for readers 12-years-old and up.


Pausewang, Gudrun. Traitor. Andersen Press, 2004.
Living in the German countryside with her grandmother, Anna finds an escaped Russian prisoner of war hiding in the barn. Instead of turning him over to the police, she helps him. She secretly takes him to an abandoned bunker in the woods and brings him food and supplies. Meanwhile, her younger brother Felix proudly proclaims that he wants to find the missing prisoner.  Will the prisoner escape over the border into Czechoslovakia or will he be caught?  This novel is for mature readers eleven-years-old and up.

The Cay

Taylor, Theodore. The Cay. New York : Dell Yearling, 2002, c1969.
“When the freighter on which they are traveling is torpedoed by a German submarine during World War II, an adolescent white boy, blinded by a blow on the head, and an old black man are stranded on a tiny Caribbean island where the boy acquires a new kind of vision, courage, and love from his old companion.” – CIP. A classic adventure story for readers 11-years-old and up.

More novels of World War II: HERE

A Hijacked Future World

Imagine a world…
where it is unsafe to walk to school,
unsafe to leave your home without armed guards.

Imagine a world…
where children are implanted with transmitters,
so they can be found if kidnapped.


Bloor, Edward. Taken. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.
In 2036, wealthy Americans live behind security gates in fear of being kidnapped, and transmitters are surgically implanted into their children so they can be found if kidnapped. Armed guards escort their children to and from school. Thirteen-year-old Charity tries to follow the survival strategies she has been taught when she is snatched from her home in the middle of the night. An engrossing novel for readers 12-years-old and up. [Fathers and daughters; Florida; Kidnapping; Poverty; Science fiction]

More science fiction novels: HERE