The very cranky bear in the classroom

The very cranky bear by Nick Bland

very crankyWhat you’ll need

  • A copy of The very cranky bear (My review)
  • Musical instruments
  • A talking stick

Age Level

This book is hilarious, but probably more suited to a junior classroom.

Reading The very cranky bear

I’m sorry to tell you that after the peacefulness of yesterday’s, Pool, we’re back to chaos. The very cranky bear is one of those madcap adventures with big voices and crazy outfits. The lovely cast of characters include Moose, Sheep, Lion, Zebra and of course cranky old Bear himself. I have used this book for a series of sound lessons. We came up with different body percussion sounds to represent the different animals and retold the story incorporating these sounds. The class could be split into four and they could each work out a sound for one animal, with everyone joining in when it’s Bear’s turn. If you have access to a music room, you can up the ante slightly and choose musical instruments to represent the animals. Try playing the instruments in different ways depending on how the animal is feeling. What will you do when it’s Bear’s turn and he’s yelling?



One of the challenges I set my class yesterday (we’re still online) was to create a shaker or maraca as suggested by our lovely music teacher. My own examplePXL_20210906_230403095 involved a toilet roll (or paper towel roll if you’re in the classroom), filled with rice. I stuck a bottle top in one end, although in other online versions I’ve seen both ends were squeezed shut in different directions. Instead of using musical instruments to retell the story, you could make and decorate your own noise makers. Different outer shells, like glass or plastic jars would create a different sound and could represent the different animals. Or you could experiment with how to make the shaker create a variety of sounds using long slow movements, short sharp snaps, or little tiny shakes.

Circle Time

Circle Time, or sharing circles are a really good way to share ideas, learn to listen and develop language skills. My current school ran our staff through training and encouraged us to incorporate circle times into our weekly timetable. I wasn’t sure how my class of new 5-year-olds would respond, but I gave it a whirl. A talking stick is passed around the circle. Each child responds to a question and hands the stick on. You can pass on your turn, but at the end I ask anyone who passed if they are ready to share. The very first time we tried this I was mind-blown as about 6 children passed on the first round and on the second round they all spoke and their ideas were lovely, honest, varied and showed genuine engagement with the questions. It just goes to show, that there are far smarter people out there who know a lot more than I do.

The very cranky bear raises lots of lovely issues around friendship and differences and seeing things from someone else’s point of view. There’s also nice discussion to be had about what you can do if your friend is cranky, or if you’re feeling cranky yourself. If you’re a circle time skeptic, give it a go and let me know if the experience changes your mind.

Check out The very cranky bear at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy The very cranky bear from Fishpond.


Leo the late bloomer by Robert Kraus; illustrated by Jose Aruego (1971)

[Published by Windmill Books]


It’s probably not very respectful, but I find Leo in his pre-blooming stage absolutely adorable. His father however is a little concerned by Leo’s inability to do anything right, he can’t read, write, draw or even talk. He is however the master of staring forlornly with his great big tigery eyes. That’s gotta count for something, surely?

“What’s the matter with Leo?” asked Leo’s father.

“Nothing,” said Leo’s mother.

“Leo is just a late bloomer.”

“Better late than never,” thought Leo’s father.”IMG_1885

It takes a long time, but finally after a lot of active non-watching by his father, everything comes together for wee Leo, and he does indeed bloom.

This delightful picture book is one you may remember from your own childhood. With its great message and wonderful illustrations, it is every bit as relevant today as it was when it was first published back in the 70s.

Check out Leo the late bloomer at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Leo the Late Bloomer from Fishpond.


The skunk with no funk by Rebecca Young; illustrated by Leila Rudge (2015)

[Published by Walker Books Australia]


This book might be free of funk, but I’ll tell you what it did have, a giant cockroach stuck to its cover when I picked it up from my spare room. I’m not a total wimp, but I will admit it’s taken me some time to forgive old funk-less skunk-features enough to write a review. Everything is okay again now, and hopefully all the holes in our floor (courtesy of a house renovation) are covered so we will be cockroach-free in the future. Shaking it off…

When Woody was born he was lacking a vital detail, “Not a whiff of mud, not a sniff of swamp, not a dash of dung. No smell at all. Woody was a skunk with no funk!”

Woody’s mother worries for his safety, how can he possibly survive in the wild with no nasty smell to deter predators? She refuses to let him out of her sight. When Woody follows the song of a robin one day, he finds himself alone in the middle of a meadow. With hungry owls IMG_1828coming ever closer, Woody discovers that funk comes in many forms.

A beautifully told, wonderfully illustrated story.

Check out The skunk with no funk at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy The Skunk with No Funk from Fishpond.


Beautiful oops! by Barney Saltzberg (2010)

[Published by Workman Publishing]

oopsOopses come in all shapes and sizes, and some people seem to take any type of oops in their stride. For small people a tear, a spill, a stain or a hole can be catastrophic. For those small children, I prescribe Beautiful oops. (And for any parents dealing with such children, I prescribe  Reasons my kid is crying).

A series of oopses are documented in this clever book, complete with their wonderful transformations. Imagine a jagged tear in a page for example, turned into the mouth of a crocodile.IMG_1894

“Oops! A torn piece of paper…

Is just the beginning!”

The paper engineering is awesome, there are all sorts of flaps and folds to interact with, and treasures are revealed on every page. An important message delivered in a beautiful package. “When you think you have made a mistake, think of it as an opportunity to make something… beautiful!”

Check out Beautiful oops! at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Beautiful Oops! [Board book] from Fishpond.


It’s a groovy world, Alfredo! by Sean Taylor; illustrated by Chris Garbutt (2015)

[Published by Walker Books]


The opening conversation between Alfredo and his friend Marty appealed to me a lot,

“Hello, Alfredo!” said Marty. “Rick’s having a birthday party with disco lights and groovy dancing! And you’re invited.”

“I don’t like groovy dancing,” said Alfredo.

“You’ve got to like groovy dancing,” replied Marty. “It’s a groovy world, Alfredo!”

Poor Alfredo is a horrible dancer, and in spite of some top-notch tuition from the super-groovy Marty, every time he attempts a new dance move, he ends up jumping. And when he jumps, he looks like a duck on a trampoline and Alfredo knows IMG_1881everyone will laugh.

At Rick’s party, Alfredo sits out the dancing for as long as he can. When he finally makes it onto the dance floor, the inevitable happens, but it turns out to be much better than Alfredo could have imagined.

If you have ever felt like the least cool person at a party full of cool people then you will love Alfredo. A little like a slightly mad version of Giraffes can’t dance, this delightful bright story will encourage your audience to strap on their dancing shoes and get their groove on.

Check out It’s a groovy world, Alfredo! at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy t’s a Groovy World, Alfredo from Fishpond.


You nest here with me by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple; illustrated by Melissa Sweet (2015)

[Published by Boyds Mills Press]


She’s such a wee sweetie today.

“My little nestling, time for bed.

Climb inside, you sleepyhead.

Like baby bird, your nest can be

Anywhere there’s you and me.”

A stunning array of birds then spill from the pages. From pigeons nesting on concrete ledges, to plovers IMG_1883on sandy shores, all your favourite feathered friends feature. The factual pages at the back of the book add fascinating information about all the birds featured.

The rhyming language is lovely and lyrical and the message is a special one to share with the small people in your life. Delicious.

Check out You nest here with me at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy You Nest Here with Me from Fishpond.


The farmer and the clown by Marla Frazee (2014)

[Published by Beach Lane Books]

farmerMy wordless picture book series continues today. To call it  a series is something of an exaggeration given that there are two wordless books in total. Let’s go with my mini-series of picture books sans words. (Apologies, I seem to feel the need to fill the space left by the lack of words in this book with my own verbal explosion, I will attempt to rein myself in).

In a field, a slightly grumpy-looking farmer works alone. A passing circus train distracts him for a moment and when a small clown tumbles off the back he doesn’t quite know what to make of it. The small clown makes himself right at home initially, but when his painted smile is washed away, it turns out he’s really not too sure IMG_1875about this new situation either. Together the farmer and the clown work towards creating a delightful friendship. But when the circus train returns…

Honestly, this wordless picture book thing is messing with my head, I need someone to talk to about this one. I’m heading out the door for pub quiz, that’s it, the book is coming with me.

Check out The farmer and the clown at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Farmer and the Clown from Fishpond.


Pom Pom gets the grumps by Sophy Henn (2015)

[Published by Puffin Books]

pompomCome closer everyone, I’m trying to keep my voice to a whisper, because I’ve got a serious question to ask and I really don’t want Pom Pom to hear me. Is it just me, or is a grumpy panda one of the cutest things you’ve ever seen?

Okay, normal transmission again… there’s nothing worse than not being taken seriously when you’re in a foul mood. Poor Pom Pom is having one of those days. His blanky is missing, his little brother has commandeered his favourite toy, and his mother is singing terrible songs during breakfast. Everything, and I mean everything, is awful. In the playground, Pom Pom finally snaps.

“GO AWAY!” yelled Pom Pom. And they did. “oh.” Pom Pom didn’t feel like shouting any more. He felt IMG_1889sad. And a bit silly.” Luckily, he’s willing to admit when he’s being a dork, and life gets fun again – mostly.

The illustrations in this story are magic. Pom Pom’s frown lines deserve a round of applause all on their own. Its perfect for reading to a grumpy small person, or if you have a few of your own harrumphs you need to get out of the system. You won’t stay grumpy for long with this delicious panda in your life.

[No longer available at Auckland Libraries.]

Or buy Pom Pom Gets the Grumps from Fishpond.


I will fight monsters for you by Santi Balmes; illustrated by Lyona

[Published by Albert Whitman & Company]
Look out world I’m speed reviewing this week. I’ve been teaching kids about summarising stories, identifying key words and key points. So, I’ve decided to attempt the twitter-style review challenge, which means I have 140 characters in which to convey the essence of the story for this week’s selection of picture books. I have a funny feeling this is going to be much harder than it sounds! Let’s go…

Monsters terrify Martina. But what if, in upside-down world monsters are equally petrified of her? Cue enormous hole between the two worlds.

IMG_1832Check out I will fight monsters for you at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy I Will Fight Monsters for You from Fishpond.