Abby Sunshine

Duck Toller

6-5-10 Ramsey Visit

Abby Sunshine got to visit some old friends at Ramsey. She first visited some of these students last year while her story was “in the works.” She was warmly received by the kids, performed a few tricks and let them know what a well-behaved dog can do! Not only was Abby Sunshine on her best behavior, the students rose to the occasion of having a classroom canine. They were calm with her and talked to her clearly so she could understand what they were saying. Needless to say, she got a few treats today. . .

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever - Ramsey - June 5, 2010 - Students and Abby

What is Abby thinking? Is she looking for more goodies? Or is she basking in all of this loving attention? Hard to say. . .could she be day dreaming about a game of fetch?

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever - Abby Sunshine - Ramsey - Students and Abby - June 5, 2010 002

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5-5-10 Creative Writers at Breck

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever - Abby Sunshine - Up Close - 4-17-10If only Abby Sunshine could have been there to watch those 2nd graders. . .wow, did they think of some clever ideas for their own animal stories.

With a large group book reading, and some small group writing responses, the creative juices were flowing in the lower school at Breck! Based on Abby’s book, A Day with Abby Sunshine, students thought about stories they could write about an animal of their choice, sequencing events that might happen during that animal’s day. There were so many exciting story starters. The kids were filling up idea sheets and thinking hard about what to do.

In another project, they came up with ideas about what to teach Abby Sunshine. I saw responses like teaching Abby to do back flips, or teaching her to run through a tube (like what is in a hamster cage), and even teaching her to talk! These kids were not stopped, they came up with all sorts of scenarios- both fiction and non-fiction.

The afternoon flies when your being creative. . . Do you think time feels like it’s moving slowly? Make up a story! That will surely speed things up. What is your idea for a good book?

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6-4-09 Another Ramsey Day

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers

It was a treat to see the Ramsey2nd graders once again. They were hoping Abby Sunshine was along again, but today she stayed at home. I was lucky enough to read to all four classrooms, one right after another! A special treat in Mrs. Erickson’s room was that two of her regular classroom volunteers were there today, Grandma Jeanne and Grandpa Glen. They listened to the story AND bought the classroom a book for an end of the year gift. That was very generous.


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6-1-09 More Meadowbrook 4th Graders

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers

Once again, I was inspired by 4th graders at Meadowbrook. It was such a good time to read with them. When conversing with the first classroom, we went off on a tangent, talking about dogs running–or shall I say trying to run on slippery surfaces. Some students recalled their dogs trying to run on tile, others noted dogs on ice skating rinks. . .the list goes on!

animation of running dog

In the other classroom, the discussion covered some experiences with dogs and chew toys, and their ability to totally destroy a chew toy from time to time!

dog with bone

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5-29-09 Return to Breck!

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Today I was lucky enough to return to the awesome writing students of Breck 2nd grade.


I was greeted with enthusiasm and got to read the story to a very upbeat audience. The big excitement came when they in turn read stories they had written from the ideas we generated when I last visited. They had written stories about an animal of their choice, based on A Day with Abby Sunshine. It was very exciting. It made me feel great to hear stories that had been inspired by Abby Sunshine. The stories ranged from animal adventures to pets in the White House with President Obama!


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5-28-09 The Very First Book Readings!

Of course, I dashed to Renae’s classroom at Meadowbrook Elementary.


As soon as possible I read to a group of really great 4th graders. I noticed something that I found surprising, yet it makes sense. I was so excited to have closure, and read the finished book to these kids who had been hearing this story, unfinished, since 3rd grade. They were supportive and excited, yet they already had the story locked in their heads. It was as if they really didn’t need to see the finished product! Kids are so imaginative that I think they felt like they already knew the story. Sure, they noticed finishing touches, but to them it was obvious. We adults often need to see the end product to get a feel for it. Not kids, they have vision!

Next stop, Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion.

Though this photo is not the class, at this school, I read the new book to a group of 2nd graders that had never heard the story before. It was very exciting and they were excellent listeners.
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4-22-09 Park Spanish Immersion

abby-tiles1 Abby and I were guests at a Spanish Immersion School yesterday. While we walked down the halls to get to the library, we admired some beautiful tilework . These animal designs were particularly interesting to Abby Sunshine. Oh, I nearly forgot, she’s a dog, so I don’t actually  know what she was thinking, but I really liked them. 


We visited 4th grade English classes. The students had just been taking standardized tests, so a creative session with a dog seemed to be OK with them! We did writing and shared many clever ideas.


The students worked on two different writing exercises. One had the students thinking about an animal they knew; next they brainstormed five activities that their animal would do during a typical day. These story starters could be the start of some great books! They were full of ideas. 


The second sheet involved students coming up with new tricks to teach Abby. They could choose “fictional” or “non-fictional” ideas. These were really exciting to read! All sheets were rough draft/brainstorms. We wanted the creativity to flow, not to be concerned with perfection.


Cute dog!


Wouldn’t Abby love to be able to climb trees to chase those squirrels! And then learning to use an iPod! What could be better??


Ah, yes, to fly. Wouldn’t that be lovely. I love the action sketch.


Even a frog made the list of chosen animals to write about. . . There was pleasing variety in the writing.


Here we have some agility exercises for Abby to learn–and the beginnings of a story about an amazing rabbit!


I like how this student lined up the Abby Sunshine sticker with the image of Abby on the paper! It looks like modern art. He had a clever idea based on a trick that he has seen before- making Abby sit, leaving a treat on her nose, making her stay, then letting her eat it! Maybe we’ll try that one.


It was a great day!

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4-8-09 St. Anne’s Place


Abby Sunshine made a visit to some very special kids today. St. Anne’s Place provides emergency housing for homeless women and children.  Their mission is to support women in crisis or transition by providing them with a stable environment and the opportunity to explore options for their future. I noticed it said on the door “Children Be Glad.” 


The kids warmly welcomed Abby and me. They gave her space and she was able to feel comfortable. Most of the children were younger than the students Abby has met in school classrooms.


Here we were looking carefully at the big, foam pages of the story. We noticed every detail! When I introduced the story, one child said “How’d she get in there?”


As we read through the pages, we would notice details in the pictures. Here we discovered pinecones. Look at the attention of this crowd! They sat so nicely for the story. The story is written from Abby’s voice, so another question about Abby was “Does she talk?”


Renae helped Abby feel calm in this new and exciting place. She sat behind her as we read the story.


Here is the view from where Abby and I were sitting. Young kids didn’t mind getting close! They scooted in, getting closer by the moment until we needed more space. Then everyone would back up a little bit.


As a grand finale, everyone pet Abby and practiced being calm and gentle. It got a little crowded, but the kids were nice to Abby.

Abby Sunshine was a good dog, don’t you think?


3-20-09 Visitation

Yesterday I read A Day With Abby Sunshine to a group of 4th graders at Visitation School. Little did I know that I would run into someone I knew in that class! A student that had been in a violin class with Renae was in the group. What a small world. It was fun to see her. I hope she tells her mom about my visit, though I forgot to tell her to send greetings to her mom. 

Have you ever been in a situation like that? You see someone you know, but it is out of context and you have to figure out who they are for a second? It feels kind of strange, and then quickly becomes cool! What was your situation like that? Where were you?

Anyway, the kids were great as I read the story. I especially enjoyed when they laughed out loud about Abby liking sticks! There is something funny about that, so I appreciate when a good audience sees the humor. They listened well and had great questions and comments afterward. The focus was writing and the writing process. One student noticed that I had chosen some interesting words. We discussed that in writing, it is a good idea to use descriptive words. Another noticed the illustration combined with photography. Really, we talked about so much.

I brought along a sheet that the students could use to generate their own story- a beginning to a story idea. 

writer-1 The center circle was where they sketched a picture of an animal they would like as the main character of their story.

writer-2 In the smaller circles going around the center, they would sketch images of what their animal might do in a day- using A Day With Abby Sunshine as a guide.

writer-3 On the lines, they jotted notes about these activities, or details important to the animal’s day. We discussed “fiction” and “non-fiction” ideas. They could choose either.

writer-4 This student chose to place her Abby Sunshine sticker on the top front of her desk. I like how this photo turned out. . .I think it captures that she is thinking about what to write, it shows her desk, paper, and an eraser handy for good writing!

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2-26-09 Breck School

Another impressive time reading A Day With Abby Sunshine. . .

This time, I read to a huge group- 80 kids! We projected the book to a large screen. This way everyone could see the pages and illustrations clearly. With a sizable group, conversing with one another becomes a different game. The kids shared with a partner. During the times we normally discuss things as a whole group, these 2nd graders turned to a neighbor to contribute their ideas. To regain the group’s attention, I simple blew a note on a recorder. . .worked like a charm! This way we got some good discussion, everyone got to participate, and no cacophony (other than my recorder music).

After the large-group reading, I stopped in each of the 4 classrooms to personally check out the creative writing adventures. I could see the creative juices flowing.


These photos capture one of many marvelous conversations with students during this time.




The creative project was to think of a realistic or fictional trick that they thought would be good to teach Abby. I heard so many good ideas. . . .

from teaching her to retrieve a Dr. Pepper from the refrigerator

to jumping to Mars

to playing Beethoven on the piano

to hand stands

to teaching her to cook dinner for us. . . 

The list goes on and on and on. . .these kids were big thinkers!

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