Monday, December 31, 2007

Blog Birthday Gala, Day 1

Welcome to our BLOG BIRTHDAY GALA!
We are so happy that you're here! Last year, we posted a special Birthday Post. But, we have had such a great time with the blog community during our second year of blogging, we thought we'd throw a party to celebrate the year!

We've grown so much since Melissa Wiley at Here in the Bonny Glen invented the name--Kidlitosphere--for us! When she invented in on June 5, 2006, there were no hits on Google. Today, when I googled the word, I got 15,500 hits!

2007 was a great year to be a blogger. In our second year of blogging, there were traditions that we looked forward to:
Carnivals, Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge, new issues of The Edge of the Forest, and contests like Lisa Yee's Book Title Contest.

We were also excited about new things that we did as a community of bloggers. Robert's Snow,
Cybils , our very first Kidlitosphere conference sponsored by Robin Brande, and Sunday Lists posted each week by HipWriterMama.
We've invited lots of our old friends and are happy to have new friends who have joined the blogging world in 2007...friends like Katie at Creative Literacy, Megan at Read, Read, Read and Sara Lewis Holmes at Read, Write Believe who entered the blog world on July 6. We hope you have the perfect party experience--reconnecting with old friends, meeting new friends, reminiscing about favorite moments in the blog community, and starting new conversations.


So, in celebration of another great year of blogging, let the party begin!

As your hosts, we'll let you know all of the fun things going on each day at our week-long party!

We are your hostesses, Mary Lee and Franki. We are two teachers who read. A lot. If you don't like to mingle, but would rather chat with us, we have lots of things we enjoy chatting with friends about--exercising, shopping for new books, graphic novels, how to throw a summer book party for children, Harry Potter, our goals, silly words, thoughts on our classrooms, or miscellaneous trivia about ourselves. But, if you like to mingle, you can dance or chat about the Newbery---Hmmm. Such a difficult decision, we know. Feel free to do both!

Dancing!!!
There is a great deal of dancing going on at the party. For those of you in the mood for a Happy Dance, you can join the crowd with Brotherhood 2.0. If you are not in the mood to dance, but want to see some interesting dance moves, this is the place to be. Or, for those of you who are still in the holiday spirit, feel free to join Mary Lee and Franki who are busy elf dancing. If you are tired of the music we're playing, pop over to Saints and Spinners and try dancing to one of your favorite Songs of the Week.


Newbery
Since we started our blog as a way to read and predict the Newbery Award, we thought we'd make sure that there was lots of Newbery talk going on at today's party. You can chat about the poem that Mary Lee wrote for the occasion or find Shannon and chat about her group's final list of this year's mock winners. Franki is wondering about Newbery winners with a teacher's eye. Or you can catch Monica from Educating Alice who is part of the Newbery Committee this year talk about final preparations, hopes and reflections.

And there seems to be a roomful of people thinking hard about the various reflections surrounding last year's winners and ways. You can join Adrienne, Roger,
or Mary Lee and Franki


We hope that you had a great time at Our Blog Birthday Gala today!
Come back tomorrow for more fun including snacks and teacher talk!
Don't miss the fun!
Thanks for coming!



















Sunday, December 30, 2007

You Are Invited


What: A Four Day Gala Celebrating the 2nd Blog Birthday of A Year of Reading
Where: Here!
When: Beginning Monday, December 31 and culminating with a special birthday edition of Poetry Friday on January 4.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Boot Camp, Books, and Blogging Month

I have named January "Boot Camp, Books, and Blogging Month" for myself. I just signed up for what looks to be an intense boot camp to try to get myself back in shape. 5 days a week at 5:30 am I will be exercising--trying to pull myself back together physically. (Lucky for me, they cannot use my before and after pictures without my permission!? Yes, this sounds like a serious camp...) So, I figure it will be a good month to read and blog too. I am committing to exercise, reading and blogging on a consistent basis in January. (I am pretty sure reading and blogging will be easier things to accomplish..) Winter seems to be a great month to concentrate on these three things. I am trying to get ahead at school so that I can really focus on this for 4-6 weeks.

Although I did not join HipWriterMama's 30 Day Challenge this fall, her posts got me thinking. 30 days to start a new habit. 30 days doesn't sound like too long. So, this boot camp seemed like the perfect idea once I heard about it.

Getting back in shape is not that much different from writing. There are parts in the process that a are just killer and parts where you hit that "high" of exercise. I know that the first couple of weeks will be incredibly hard and exhausting and painful but there is no easy way to do it. I have been in decent shape before but have somehow let exercise and healthy eating go. A full time job, kids, husband, writing, etc. all come first.

The interesting thing about this Boot Camp is that there are women of all ability levels in terms of fitness. So, I am thinking he must run camp in the same ways we run good reading and writing workshops--making sure everyone is reading and writing and progressing at their own level.

My Boot Camp begins on Monday, January 7 but I have to go for an assessment and a nutrition class next week. I will keep you all updated. I figure the more people I tell, the better chance I have of making good progress and holding myself accountable, right?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Poetry Friday -- Joys and Sorrows

I couldn't find a single poem
about eating Christmas cookies for breakfast.

There were also none
about that moment
halfway through vacation
when it becomes obvious
that nothing is going to get done
unless you make a list
and begin
accomplishing.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reading Glasses for 2008!









I think it is time for me to accept the fact that 2007 will become the last year I read without reading glasses. My vision has always been 20/20 and is still good. However, during my last few annual eye exams, I seemed to "qualify for" reading glasses. I think I got my first pair 4-5 years ago. I'd wear them once in a while, mostly for fun. This last year, I noticed that I needed glasses to read small print directions, etc. Lately, I have noticed that reading in bed lasts about 10 minutes before I fall asleep.

So, this week, I started reading with my reading glasses on. I was reading a book recommended by Karen in her Newbery Hopeful post--THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart when I realized how blurry the words seemed. (By the way, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book and would be thrilled to see it win an award!) What a difference the glasses make! I didn't realize how much I was straining to read the print on the page until I forced myself to wear them. It made a huge difference. I enjoyed the book, read 350+ pages yesterday and have moved on to EGGS by Jerry Spinelli (recommended by Larry in his Newbery Hopeful post).

The problem with my reading glasses is that I can't wear them if I am not reading. They are only for reading--I can't really walk while I am wearing them. They aren't meant for that. So, my dilemma is locating them when it is time to read. Taking them upstairs with me at night, having them at school for read aloud, etc. At 44, I finally understand people who wear their glasses on a chain--what a grand invention. But, one I am not yet ready for. Any good tips on having your reading glasses handy when you need them would be hugely appreciated!

So, in 2008, my reading will change in that I imagine I will be wearing my reading glasses far more often. A small price to pay for being able to see the words on the page. And I think it justifies buying some extra pairs with fun frames--to make sure I have a pair when and where I need them.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Middle School and High School Angst

I wouldn't go back to my pre-teen and teenage years if you paid me.

For my first piece of evidence, I give you

Stuck in the Middle
edited by Ariel Schrag
Viking, 2007
review copy compliments of the publisher
2007 Cybils Graphic Novel nominee

The subtitle is "Seventeen Comics from an UNPLEASANT Age." That pretty much sums it up. Want to remember what middle school was like? Read this book. It's just as bad as you remembered.

Next, we have

Dead High Yearbook
by Ivan Velez
Dutton Books, 2007
review copy compliments of the publisher
2007 Cybils Graphic Novel nominee

Apparently, before this yearbook goes to press, there are eight more stereotypical teens who need to die (or become undead, as it were). The bloody finger prints on the edges of the pages are a nice touch -- heh, heh. (Please tell me they are part of the book design...)

Two more have a light at the end of a tunnel. One for boys

Blindspot
by Kevin C. Pyle
Henry Holt and Co., 2007
review copy from the library
2007 Cybils Graphic Novel nominee

This coming-of-age story reminds me just a little bit of BLACK SWAN GREEN by David Mitchell. The main character makes it out of the woods (literally) in the end.

And for the girls, a story of a "spiky," unstereotypical girl -- a Korean-American martial arts champion who gets sideswiped by hormones and almost loses her way. Almost.


Re-Gifters
by Make Carey, Sonny Liew, Mark Hempel
DC Comics (MINX imprint), 2007
review copy from the library
2007 Cybils Graphic Novel nominee

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Couple More Reasons To Go To The Health Club On Christmas Eve

1. Need I say more?

2. They have this promotion going to help us keep exercising through the holiday season/month of December: Get 15 punches on your punchcard and you're entered in a drawing for I don't even know what, because just getting those punches is INCREDIBLY (ridiculously) motivating. December 24 and 26 are THREE POINT DAYS! (It occurred to me while swimming that they probably made them 3 point days to lure in more members and make it worth it to pay the poor employees who have to work those two days.)

3. The soprano in the church choir was practicing her parts for the Christmas Eve service...in the shower...at the health club. It was a little startling at first to be serenaded by angels in that venue, but it was really quite delightful once I got used to it.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Poetry Friday -- One More Day

As I looked for a poem for today,
the ones that caught my eye were mostly about sleep.
That's the first thing on my agenda
for tomorrow.
I will spend this day,
this four-days-before-Christmas day,
with a class full of preteens
who will begin the day
with a 30 minute dance party
and end the day with a Holiday party.
Which state standards should I try to meet in the middle time,
the time between those two excitements?


Back to tomorrow.
Check out Billy Collins' poem Reading Myself to Sleep. It's in QUESTIONS ABOUT ANGELS. I decided not to pick a sleep poem because what I really want is time for myself. I give you

MORNING
by Billy Collins

Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?

This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—

maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso


(The rest is here. Round up is at AmoXcalli.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Food Gift Ideas

Happy Blogversary HipWriterMama!

In her anniversary post, HWM, asks us about teacher gift ideas which got me thinking about good gift ideas for lots of people. Of course, I think books always make good gifts but it is hard to know what people already have, etc. I don't often have trouble finding gifts for teachers but I always struggle with new ideas for people who I am not sure what they'd like. I do lots of food gifts. This year, we bought some Mrs. Prindables Gourmet Apples. I have also had big success with giving from these great Ohio companies and would highly recommend gifts from all of these (I would also recommend ordering some for yourself as they are all quite delicious!):

Cheryl's Cookies
Anthony Thomas Buckeyes
Great Harvest Bread
Brownie Points

But, I am always looking for other food ideas to send to people on my holiday gift list. If you have any great food/gift ideas that you've had success with, I'd love to hear about them. I think food is a great gift--especially for out-of-town relatives and friends. So I'd love to hear any ideas.

One of My Favorite Cookie Cookbooks


Well, I have spent the weekend baking. I always do this--I try to do 8 kinds of cookies in one day. It is craziness and I always mess up my last few. I have trouble fitting baking in at night and I see no need to bake if I can't put together a tray with a big variety of cookies. And I LOVE to bake cookies! Easy ones and hard ones.

I pick up cookie cookbooks often. But, I usually find 1-2 recipes in each book that I like. However, THE COOKIE BIBLE is different. There are many, many recipes that look great. I have tried several. And, there is a photo of almost every cookie. That is important to me. I need that visual. My favorite recipe is for the Black and White Hearts. These make a great holiday cookie (I did star shapes instead of hearts.) For those of you that have cookie tables at weddings, they are beautiful in heart shapes.

There are so many recipes in this book that I've tried and several that I have tabbed to try sometime soon. (One of my daughter's friends was over the other day and she was looking through the cookbook. She laughed and said that it was like every page was dog-eared. She was almost right!

It is a pretty comprehensive cookie book--thus the title. Some old favorites as well as some new ideas for cookies.

Highly recommended for the holiday season and all other seasons.

December Carnival of Children's Literature

The Carnival is up at Big A little a, for your browsing and book shopping/buying pleasure!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules - #2
by Jeff Kinney
Amulet Books
Publication Date: February 2008
Review Copy: Uncorrected Proof received at NCTE

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is funny, but Roderick Rules is even funnier. The plot is tighter and more focused. The sibling rivalry between Roderick and Greg (which trickles down to Manny) is believable and relentless. And Rowley is weirder than ever.

I'm not the only one who thinks this book is funnier than the first. When I got back from NCTE, we made a sign-up sheet for the review copy, with the students who had read the first book getting first chance to sign up. Four guys have finished Roderick Rules and all but one of them agree that it is funnier.

The first to read it said that it is funnier because there are more of Roderick's crazy ideas (like trying to use the fake money he stole from Greg), and they go bad in worse ways. He especially liked when mom got involved playing the role-playing game and named her character "Mom." (That part reminded me of the Simpsons episode where Marge gets involved in the online game in which Bart's character is ruthless and evil.)

The second reader liked the suspense after the party they had when their parents were gone. The party went undetected for a long time, then the dad almost found out when he discovered that the downstairs bathroom door was not quite what he remembered, and then he did find out when the pictures in mom's camera were developed.

The third reader was the one who disagreed. He liked the first book better. He liked that it was longer, and he thought the Creighton the Cretin comic (Greg's invention) in the new book was simply not funny. (He can recite the joke in the first Cretin comic word for word.)

The fourth reader thought that Roderick definitely made this book funnier than the first. He thought it was funny when mom danced when Roderick's band played at the talent show. (It's always more funny when someone else is humiliated by their mom!)

Looks like a couple of girls are next up on the list to read Roderick Rules. It will be interesting to see if they agree with the guys!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Baking

There's a Christmas cookie party going on at jama rattigan's alphabet soup ("a children's writer offers food for thought & fine whining"). Here's another of my holiday baking traditions.

My first two years of teaching were in a school in the Dallas Independent School District that was on a federal low-income list. It was like being in the Peace Corps. Every year I taught there, my student loans were reduced and deferred. If I would have made it 5 years, I would have erased my student loans. I lasted for two. But I'm proud of what I accomplished in that short time. I took my kids on a field trip, single-handedly, to the (then) brand-new Dallas Museum of Art. I taught with literature. And I started a tradition that lasted 20 years: I made gingerbread people for the students to decorate. Some of them had never decorated cookies. I made myself a promise that I would make cookies every year in case I ever had students who had not decorated cookies.

After 20 years of gingerbread, I was ready for a change. I have an extensive collection of cookie cutters and only two were getting used. So, a few years back, I switched to sugar cookies. And, in a bold move that gave the whole event a new twist, I provided the kids with plain white butter frosting (yes, from scratch) and FOOD COLORING and let them make their icing colors. Here are some views from last year's event:





Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dear Santa...

For this gift book post, we decided to be a bit selfish. We thought it would be fun to create our own wish lists of books. Any family members who read our blog will have an easy time buying us gifts. And, if you know us, you know we'll just buy these books after the holidays if we don't get them as gifts! Win-win. We like it that way when it comes to books!

Franki's Holiday Wish List

My piles of Books-To-Read seem to be growing and growing and growing. Two that I am hoping to get to soon are Run by Ann Patchett and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I don't need to ask for those--I already have them! But, these are books I would LOVE to own that I don't own yet:

Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen
Somehow I missed that Anna Quindlen had a new book out. This seems like a different type of book for her. One about her dog. It seems like one of her short life-lesson books. I read and love EVERYTHING by Anna Quindlen so I would love to add this one to my shelf.

Fire From the Rock by Sharon Draper
Sally's Newbery Hopeful list prompted me to want to read this one. Sharon is an Ohio author which makes it even more fun.

Eggs by Jerry Spinelli
Larry Swartz has been talking about this book since he read it last winter. I usually read Spinelli's books right when they come out, but I've missed his new ones this year for some reason. So this is way up there on the list of books to read before the Newbery is announced.

Honeybee: Poems and Short Prose by Naomi Shy Nihab
I saw an advanced copy of this book at NCTE and LOVE it. I love the poems, the concept of people finding passions and looking at the world in new ways, and I always love this author. Can't wait to get a real copy of this one. I know that it won't be out before Christmas, but my husband could preorder it for me, I guess... (hint, hint)

Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli
This books keep showing up on my lists of books I want to read but I forget about it every time I go to the bookstore. It is one that has looked good to me since I first heard about it. And every time since. If I don't get it on my stack upstairs, I am afraid I'll forget about it.

The Italian Cookie Tray
I would love to have this book or one like it. A book about Italian cookie baking. I love to bake cookies--especially at Christmastime and I like to try a few new recipes each year. I was looking for some recipes when I found this book. A book on Italian cookies and all of the traditions that go with them would be a fun one to have.

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard
This is an interesting concept and it sounds like it would be fun to read. Who would think that someone would write a book about a topic like this--how could it not be an interesting read?

Regarding Emma: Photographs of American Women and Girls
I found this book a while ago while searching Ann Patchett. I love the whole idea of it and would love to have a copy.

But, what I would really, really, really like is this bibliochaise...who comes up with these things!? Thanks to Pixie Stix Kids Pix for sharing this find!


Mary Lee's Holiday Wish List


I mustmustmust have a copy of Andrea Beaty's Iggy Peck, Architect. Did you know it is number 4 on the Time Magazine Top 10 Children's Books list? (Thanks to Gregory K. for the heads-up!) Andrea is one of the Three Silly Chicks. She has her own blog, too.

While I was browsing around some of Time's other Top 10 lists, I checked out the Top 10 Graphic Novels. (Nope, none of the Cybils nominees made it to their list.) Number 4 on their list looks interesting: Jack of Fables Vol. 1: The (Nearly) Great Escape. It sounds a little like Into the Wild by Sarah Durst, except for the sex, nudity and corruption. Fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters are exiled and forced to live undercover in New York City.

This week's Poetry Friday (rounded up at The Miss Rumphius Effect) added an author to my must-have list. Shelf Elf introduced me to the poetry of Loris Lesynski. Books of funny poems do not stay on my shelf long during Poetry Friday. Lesynski's books will be a welcome addition to my collection.

Books that are coming out soon that I will have to have include: Babymouse #8: Puppy Love by Jennifer Holm (Dec 26, 2007), Clementine's Letter by Sara Pennypacker (April 15, 2008), and Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia by Barbara O'Connor (May 1, 2003).

My wish list is short because the one thing I want more than any more books is TIME TO READ THE ONES I ALREADY OWN!!!!

Holiday Traditions

There's a Christmas cookie party going on at jama rattigan's alphabet soup ("a children's writer offers food for thought & fine whining"). I'm going to join the party with a couple of my holiday baking traditions. First, the candy.

Today I finished up the last 40 bags of Christmas candy. Over Thanksgiving weekend, I made 60 bags. If you lived here, Kidlitosphere Friend, you'd be getting a bag.

There's not a lot in each bag -- three peanut clusters and three chunks of graham cracker toffee. I would tell you when I hand you the bag, that I intend it to be just enough for you -- you don't have to feel like you need to share it with anyone.

By the end of the day, you would probably make a guilty confession to me that the candy was all gone.

Next year, when I would hand you your bag, you would squeal with delight. My candy does that to people. I love that squeal. It's all I need in the way of thanks.

I give these recipes to anyone who asks. They are not a closely-guarded family secret. The key to making 100 bags of candy is the simplicity of the recipes.

Peanut Clusters
1 lb. white candy coating (at Kroger it is "Bark Coating")
12 oz. Nestle's semisweet chips
5 c. Planters Salty Cocktail Peanuts (almost 2 lbs.)

Melt chocolate and coating in microwave (3-5 minutes). Stir until smooth. Add peanuts. Drop on waxed paper by spoonfuls. Let set. Makes about 60 pieces. (20 bags)

Graham Cracker Crisps
Line a buttered 9.5 x 13.5 in. jellyroll pan with whole Keebler Original Graham Crackers. Combine 1 c. butter, 1/2 c. brown sugar, and 1/2 c. chopped pecans. Boil 3 min. Pour over crackers and bake at 350 for 9-10 minutes. Top with a 12 oz. package of Nestle's milk chocolate chips and spread when melted. Crack into pieces when cool. Makes about 30 big pieces. (I do 2 pans simultaneously for 20 bags.)

Happy Holidays! ENJOY!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Poetry Friday -- Picking Favorites

I kept snagging this poem as I ran my fingers through the teeming waters of the Poetry Foundation archive. The more I read it, the more perfect it seemed for this week. This week of Newbery Hopefuls and Newbery Potentials. (Did you notice that the first four letters of potential spell poet?)

Here is the first verse:

Reading to the Children
by Herbert Morris

The first child asks me: Are these poems yours?
The second asks: Where do you get ideas?
The third child says: I have always loved poems.
The fourth child wonders: What makes poems poems?
The fifth one asks: Which of them is your favorite?
The sixth one asks me: Is there ice cream later?
The seventh child asks: Is a poem dreaming?

The verses that follow answer the children's questions, one by one. You might expect me to share with you the answer to the fifth child, in keeping with the theme of "picking favorites." Here, however, is a part of the sixth answer, and it is just as apt:

Ice cream? Of course there will be ice cream later,
more flavors than you knew existed, cookies
shaped like cottages (plumes of chocolate coiling
from crumb-top chimneys), candied apples, plum tarts.
By the time the desserts are brought and passed
(I suggest this for your consideration,
no more than that, one possibility
among the many which may offer themselves),
what you have heard (and, hearing, felt) may well seem
more astonishing than the crisps, the pastries,
the butterscotch napoleons, the rum balls,
mocha parfaits, coconut wafers, jam cakes,
the goblets of vanilla-laced-with-mangoes,
brought on trays from the pantry. One can know that
only at the conclusion, having sampled,
one by one, what was deftly laid before you,
poems read, plates passed, music heard, half-heard,
a judgment reached, or not reached, a choice made.


The whole poem is here.

The Roundup today is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Newbery Hopefuls, Reflections

We hope you all enjoyed our Newbery Hopefuls series. It certainly gave us lots to read over our winter break. We love all of our friends who participated in the series and can't wait to see which book wins! It is always so fun to predict. We'll definitely have our own predictions/hopefuls list up in January--before the award is announced. We'll also do a round-up of other bloggers' predictions the week before so stay tuned so that you can share your thoughts!


In the meantime, don't miss Sharon's Newbery blog. They have chosen their finalist and it is another great list!
Happy reading:-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hannah Montana Concert!

Yes, we had a family concert event and attended the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concert this week! What an event, let me tell you. From what I hear, tickets sold out in 15 minutes. It was packed and loud. We even got a chance to see Hannah/Miley's bus that was parked outside the arena. The Jonas Brothers were also part of the show. They were also quite good!

And, it gets even better. (In case you were wondering how this fits into a blog about books by two teachers....) Miley is supporting Officemax's "Adopt-a-Classroom" program, realizing how much money teachers spend for classroom supplies each year. Miley/Hannah recently donated a large sum of money and had a surprise visit from one of her own teachers, it seems.

It seems lots of companies are picking up on the crazy surrounding Hannah Montana. Limited Too was passing out treat bags. Officemax had a sign-making station set up outside the concert. And, you can even get a Build-A-Bear in Hannah attire.

Newbery Hopefuls, Day 8 From Sally Oddi at Cover to Cover Bookstore

Today's Newbery predictions come from Sally Oddi, owner of our VERY FAVORITE children's bookstore in the world--Cover to Cover. (You may want to subscribe to their newsletter on the site!) Sally is a genius when it comes to children's books and if you live anywhere near Columbus, Ohio, you already know that. So, here is her Newbery thinking:

Edward's Eyes. Patricia MacLachlan. Atheneum, 2007.

This short novel is a gem. The author introduces the reader to a rambling
family and their extended family of friends that live on the Cape (Cod) and
love baseball. As we follow the family through a year, they experience love
and heartbreaking loss, but show us the resiliency that comes with hope.


Fire From the Rock. Sharon M. Draper. Dutton, 2007.

The integration of schools in Little Rock is the setting for this novel and
Sharon Draper illustrates the many points of view of families, both black
and white, with understanding and care. One of the pivotal events of the
civil rights movement, school integration affected young and old alike. The
complexities of institutional racism and efforts to end it, as experienced
by Sylvia Patterson and her family, brings the civil rights movement to
life for another generation.

Iron Thunder. Avi. Hyperion, 2007.

The building of the ironclad the Monitor was an endeavor filled with physical, financial, scientific and political challenges and 13-year-old Tom Carroll is in thick of it. Because of his small size he is recruited to work on welding particularly small spaces in the interior of the ship and becomes a witness to historic events that changed the course of the Civil War. Adventure and excitement are found on every page as Tom is pursued by spies, thugs, and eventually the Merrimac!

Book of a Thousand Days. Shannon Hale.Bloomsbury, 2007.

Lady Saren and her maid Dashti are imprisoned in the tower because Lady
Saren has refused to marry the man her father has chosen. In this little
known Grimm tale adapted by Hale, Dashti keeps a journal of their days, both
hopeful; and frightening. This is a romantic retelling with a satisfying
fairytale ending.


Uprising. Maragaret Peterson Haddix. Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Haddix weaves a compelling tale of three young woman, one wealthy and two
working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, with the history of labor
unionization, the plight of young immigrant workers, and the birth of the
women rights movement. It is both believable and possible that these young
women could have met and become friends, had they been real historical
figures. The tragedy of the fire that is a part of our early industrial
history is handled with precision and care, and the historical details are
well-researched but not overwhelming.

Wednesday Wars. Gary D. Schmidt. Clarion, 2007.

Holling HoodHood spends his Wednesday afternoons in 1967 reading Shakespeare with his 7th grade teacher, because he is the lone Protestant, not Jewish or Catholic and therefore not excused for an afternoon of religious education. The Vietnam War is raging, many families and friends are affected, and Holling is just trying to find his way through the middle school in what is a crazy world. Lots of funny classroom incidents and characteristically uncomfortable adolescent moments will be all-too-familiar to Schmidt's audience.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Newbery Hopefuls, Day 7

Today, we hear from our friend Beth from Cover to Cover. You can tell she is young and hip since she doesn't use capital letters or much punctuation! She reads a ton and always has a stack of books waiting for me when I visit the store. I end up spending a ton of money on her recommendations and I am never sorry!
Here's Beth:

thanks for the opportunity to share my favorites!

well. i obviously hope that the invention of hugo cabret wins everything. obviously.
in the event that this is not possible...

a friendship for today by patricia mckissack
book of a thousand days by shannon hale
talented clementine by sara pennypacker
bone by bone by bone by tony johnston
into the wild by sarah beth durst
crooked kind of perfect by linda urban


i am also reading grimpow by rafael abalos, true meaning of smekday by adam rex, and plan on reading home of the brave by katherine applegate. apparently this could change everything.

books that can't but should get shiny stickers:

woolvs in the sitee by margaret wild
the arrival by shaun tan
snow goose by paul gallico and illustrated by angela barrett
professor's daughter by joann sfar and emmanuel guibert

it isn't new, but if anyone needs to have their day made by a sheep on a vespa, read the surprise by sylvia van ommen.

Monday, December 10, 2007

7 Things Meme

We've been tagged by Travis at 100ScopeNotes for the "Seven Things" meme. We're never ones to follow the rules of a meme to the "T" (remember this one?), and we've already shared 8 random things about ourselves, so our seven things this time will be...

"Seven Things About Me As A Reader."
MARY LEE'S SEVEN
1. My to-read pile is a stack of 20 graphic novels for the Cybils Graphic Novels nominating committee. (I should say, ONE of my to-read piles. Piles, with an S.)
2. I am currently listening to WATER FOR ELEPHANTS on the commute to and from school. The readers are brilliant.
3. I am reading aloud THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET in my 4th grade classroom. Actually, if I use the correct educationese, it is a shared reading. We have a half-dozen copies of the book (thanks again for the loan, Franki!) and the students follow along as I read aloud. The conversation about the story and about the pictures is amazing.
4. I read series books in order. Part of the reason that stack of graphic novels is so big is that a book which is number FIVE in its series was nominated. I will read 1-4 first.
5. I keep a list of all the books I read. I've done this since 1987. So far this year, I have read 80+ children's books (I don't count picture books, but I do sometimes lump together easy readers or short graphic novels) and 17 adult books.
6. For me, listening to an audio books counts as reading.
7. I always give CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM at a baby shower for first babies.

FRANKI'S SEVEN
1. I only like to read new books-I hardly ever use the library or go to used bookstores. Something about new books make me happy.
2. Some of my favorite books are middle grade and young adult novels.
3. When I was in elementary school, I visited my grandma's library every Sunday to choose my Nancy Drew reading for the week. (She had the entire collection up there. I considered it my own personal library.)
4. Most of my reading takes place at night before I go to sleep. I also seem to get a lot of reading done as I am walking from place to place--magazine and journal articles get read that way.
5. I have subscribed to "Runner's World Magazine" for 12 months so far and haven't yet started to run. (I need to learn about it first?)
6. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls was one of the best adult books I've ever read.
7. A long time ago, I thought Mary Lee told me that she reads 26 children's books a year. So I thought I'd give that a try and was very proud at the end of the year when I had read 26 children's books. Turns out, that I misunderstood--Mary Lee reads 52 children's books a year. I love having lots of friends who read more than I do!


We're tagging Creative Literacy, Read,Read,Read, The Reading Zone, and My Breakfast Platter. Get busy, folks!

Are Your Creative Juices Flowing?

Time to enter Lisa Yee's 2nd Annual Bodacious Book Title Contest!

There are already THREE PAGES of entries, but all the good ideas aren't taken yet.

From Lisa's blog:

Here are THE NEW OFFICIAL RULES:
1. Think of a title from a children's/middle grade/young adult book.
2. Take ONE WORD and rhyme it to change the title.
3. Then add one SHORT sentence describing the new book.

Examples:

Original Title: Old Yeller
New Title: Old Speller
Short Sentence: Decades after winning the Spelling Bee, he still could not be s-t-o-p-p-e-d.


Original Title: Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
New Title: Lilly's Purple Plastic Hearse
Short Sentence: Upon death, Lilly finally got to ride in the big car.

MORE OFFICIAL RULES . . .
1. Enter as often as you'd like (and encourage others to do the same).
2. No nasty stuff. This contest is rated PG-13. Any questionable entries will be deleted.
3. Employees must wash hands before returning to work.
4. The contest will run until Sunday, December 16th at midnight, PST. Or around there, that's up to the Contest Entry Ending Committee.

Newbery Hopefuls, Day 6

Today, we hear from Karen--our friend from Cover to Cover. As you know, we love the Cover to Cover staff and they all help us choose books all year.

My favorite book this year is Red Glass by Laura Resau. She also wrote What the Moon Saw, which I enjoyed. I loved Red Glass. The descriptions in the book made me actually smell the tortillas and eggs that are typically eaten in Guatemala. I could feel the warm breezes and the close humid jungle air, too. Seeing life through the eyes of someone with a belief system and heritage so different yet so much the same as my own reminded me of experiencing this myself in the people I met in Guatemala. Sophie, the main character learns to be strong and to love herself. Her tellings of how she feels weak and plain and wants to burst out of herself are all too real to many people. I think this book might be a little to old of an audience for the Newbery but you never know.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Beowulf

Two graphic novel versions of Beowulf have been nominated for the Cybils.



Beowulf Monster Slayer: A British Legend
story by Paul D. Storrie, pencils and inks by Ron Randall
Graphic Universe/Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.
2007





Beowulf
adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds
Candlewick Press
2007






Storrie's version gives the reader a good introduction to the Beowulf legend. True to the Graphic Universe series, it comes with a map on the title page, and a column of background information on the copyright page. At the end of the book, there is a glossary/pronunciation guide, suggestions for further reading, including websites, and an index.

The language used in the story has a slightly formal sound, but is not difficult to understand. There is a good combination of speech bubbles and narrative text boxes that carry the story along. However, for the less able reader, the story holds together if you simply "read" the images.

The Hinds version includes an author's note about the text. The book was originally self-published with a verse translation, but the Candlewick publication used a 1904 translation. This makes for a much more difficult read. The text in the Hinds version is all in text boxes (no speech bubbles), often very awkwardly placed on the illustrations so that text covers characters' faces or key parts of the action. It looks like the book was drawn with no thought of integrating the text into the action. The fight scenes are the strongest pictorial narratives in this version -- they go on for pages without any interruptions of text.

Here are a couple of comparison points for the two books:

Grendel is a hairy beast in both. In Storrie's version, Grendel wears a loin cloth. In Hinds' version, Grendel's private parts are disguised by long serpentine hairs.

In the Storrie version, the first fight with Grendel, in which his arm is pulled off by Beowulf, lasts three pages. In the Hinds version, it goes on for 20 pages.

Grendel's mother is old in both versions. In the Storrie version, she is clothed, and looks like a monster who has aged, but is still a force to be dealt with. In the Hinds version, she has pendulous, old-woman breasts, a gigantic fat belly, and, like Grendel, serpentine pubic hairs. Her face is deeply wrinkled, and she looks like she is definitely past her prime as a monster. She cowers when Beowulf beheads her.

Both books take Beowulf's story through his time as king, his fight with the dragon, and the passing of his leadership to Wiglaf, ending with Beowulf's funeral pyre. In the Storrie version, each phase of Beowulf's life is a chapter. In the Hind's version, the phases are Books One, Two, and Three. Visually, Book Three, the fight with the dragon and the end of Beowulf's life, looks like it does not belong with the rest of the book. It is done in greys and black, the font of the text boxes ranges in size and style with no discernible reason, and the art style is very different from the rest of the book.

In the end of both books, Beowulf is an old man. In Storrie's version, he is old and grey, but with a full head of hair, a neatly trimmed beard, and the same smooth, strong muscles he had as a younger hero. Hinds' version gives us a more realistic view of what an aged superhero might look like. His Beowulf is balding on top with long stringy hair and a spade-length beard, he has a wrinkled, liver-spotted, and warty face, and he has ropey veins sticking out all over the muscles of his arms. He's a wreck, and the fight with the dragon was clearly his last.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Newbery Hopefuls From Our Reading Friends, Day 5: A Friend from Canada

Today's predictions come from our friend, Larry Swartz. Larry knows books! Larry Swartz is an instructor in the Elementary Pre-service Program at OISE/University of Toronto.He reads a ton and always has great recommendations for amazing books. Larry has written several books for teachers about books, literacy, drama, etc. One of his newer resources is The Novel Experience--a great flipchart on using fiction in the classroom. And, he is an expert on Books for Boys.

NEWBERY… OR NOT NEWBERY?

Hey folks

For what it's worth.. here's an opinion (north of the border) about possible NEWBERY winners...

The two best books I read this year haven’t' got a 'chance'

Sherman Alexis THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN
knocked me out.. but if 'they' couldn't handle the word scrotum.. I don't think 'they' would take to this...I think too the word 'Indian' might be jarring for some nitpickers... I also hesitate to recommend books when 'adult' authors cross-over into young people's territory.. (Carl Hiassen, Roddy Doyle, Nick Hornsby)...But I loved this book for its' humour and honesty... and really wish it could replace (ok maybe not replace.. but be read alongside) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD to help young folk understand contemporary issues with social justice, diversity and equity... life on the rez.. poverty… hope.. belonging… funny…. I loved this book! (and there’s pictures too)

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS was a knockout read.. I think best suited for over 11 year olds...The voice of innocence and irony... puts readers against the fence of a concentration camp...JOHN BOYNE is not American (i.e. IRISH).. this book is being translated throughout the world.. and needs to be read!!!! Soon to be a motion picture (YIKES!!!)

Jerry Spinelli gets my vote (ALWAYS)... bravo to him for the sequel to STARGIRL (a great love story).. but EGGS is a special read.. As I was reading, I couldn’t help thinking about the novels that I recently read that featured characters whose parents have died. . Give me a fifth grade class and I would love to organize Literature Circles (when all titles are available in paperback ) around The Higher Power of Lucky, The Meaning of Life According to Jeremy Fink, Wing Nut and Eggs not only because one or more character has a missing parent, but because they get inside the skin and hearts of these kids who are coping with life’s rotten eggs and hoping make omelettes out of life’s dilemmas large and small. …boy girl protagonists..... a quirky character or two.. and how bad could a book be that highlights the read aloud experience. Hooray for Mr. Spinelli... the best, the best, the best
(Best cover of the year too)
(See Larry's Guest Review of EGGS here!)

Early in the year, I predicted that THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick should win the Newbery.. It would be a brave choice.. but one that supports the reading session of graphic texts...I noticed that it was one of the top ten books featured as best illustrated books in the NEW YORK times list... but this is a novel... (isn't it?) and one that would hook a buncha readers.. (hey miss, can you believe I read a 530 page book?).. and yes.. appeal to those BOYS...

REALLY LIKED
THE CASTLE CORONA by Sharon Creech (a good adventure)
JACK PLANK TELLS TALES by Natalie Babbitt (great storytelling)

Sort of liked LARGER-THAN-LIFE LARA.. the kids were too mean .. by dandi daley mackall

Next on my book pile is ELIJAH OF BUXTON by Christopher Paul Curtis... a colleague declared 'it' should be the winner.. another friend at work.. said he needed an editor....

But end of discussion.. the award goes to HOME OF THE BRAVE by Katherine Applegate...
A beautiful beautiful read...
Wow! Let’s give ‘em a strong book that deals with refugees
And a strong first person (male) voice
And (exquisitely) written in free verse
And lets us care about ELL learners
And fills our hearts about the plight of longing and belonging

Here’s what my (smart) friend Nancy says about Home of the Brave…
The story is told through in the voice of the main character who speaks English in the way someone from a very different culture would speak it. The peculiarities of his speech draw you into the world he has left behind in a way that telling you about that world never would

We believe everything about his story. Having read memoirs written by children who have escaped similar situations I found everything I was being told rang true.
He and his cousin are real boys we've known.

As with all important stories about tragedy, you are not spared the details of the terrible evil of which humans are capable but you find hope in the acts of kindness that are shown. The story would have worked even if his mother had not been found but I enjoyed that little gift at the end.


So.. if the author’s won before do we* want to give another author a chance?
Do we want a novel that will get the BOYS reading and caring about a book?
Do we want a book that will be popular with boys and girls and not a hard sell?
Do we want a book that will lead them to other books?
Do we want to be brave about choosing a book with outside of the box format?

Do we care about ‘certain’ words / themes? Is safe the way to go?
Do we care about the cover?
Do we care what the kids think?

* we = the awards committee

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Newbery Hopefuls From Our Reading Friends, Day 4: A Librarian Weighs In

Bill Prosser is a teacher/librarian, new to the school library this year after many years in the classroom. He is LOVING the change. Here are his thoughtful picks for both the Newbery and the Caldecott:

NEWBERY:

Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson
I loved the plot of this book and the way the author reveals bits and pieces to you if you pay attention while you read. It was a book that I couldn’t put down and seemed to always be leaving you with a cliffhanger that brought you back. It has adventure, intrigue, hidden treasure, and mysterious bad guys. When I first began reading the book I thought it would be another single mom meets new husband that wants to be dad but can’t get along with the son story, but not even close. Great writing!

Greetings From Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley
I thought this book had an interesting hook to it. A science teacher gives the class the assignment to present Earth to alien life forms on a distant planet, much like the early satellite space probes did in the 70s. The author uses the assignment to take a 12 year old boy through some research, which leads him to discover some family secrets about his father’s return from Vietnam. The author does a great job of connecting all of the story lines and keeping the reader interested. It’s a great story of a family and how they deal with the “skeletons in the closet.” Well developed characters and plot.

Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
The story of an extremely bright girl who struggles to fit in with her peers because of her intelligence. She tries to handle all middle school problems logically, but middle school is anything but logical. This leads to some bigger problems including bullying, and all the other things middle school girls are good at! I really liked the way the author presented the story through three different perspectives, the gifted student, the girl who just wants to please everyone and be popular, and the just plain mean girl who likes to control everything. It was easy to see students in all three characters.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
I am not a big fan of fantasy, so if a story about dragons keeps me reading, it must be pretty good! This fantasy is more in the lines of an old fashioned fairy tale, only it has a heroine instead of a handsome prince saving the day. I liked it because of the simple fantasy story line, nothing really dark or “weird” involved. The author creates a world that is almost believable aside from the mythical dragons. It was easy to relate to and understand all of the characters in the book which made it a very enjoyable read.

CALDECOTT:

Wind Flyers by Angela Johnson Illustrated by Loren Long
Both author and illustrator are from Ohio, which had a certain appeal to me, but besides that this is a beautiful book. The story of a boy who dreams of flying and becomes a Tuskegee Airman is moving. The pictures, some of them are views from the airplane, are brightly colored and really take the reader into the pages with the pilots.

First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Simple text highlights the paintings in this book. The pictures look like they are paint on canvas and all of the texture of the medium comes through. To set it all off, it is a “cut out” book, that is the pages have space cut out that appears as part of the next picture as you turn the page. Very clever and fun for younger readers.

Seventeen Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore by Jenny Offill Illustrated by Nancy Capenter
Very funny text is set off by the collage type illustrations. The artist uses actual things like notebook paper, a pillow, and carpet as the backgrounds, then the characters are drawn on top of it. The illustrations also include real things like staplers, glue, toys and others. Very fun to read and look at.

The Cheese by Margie Palatini illustrated by S. Johnson & L. Fancher
A twist on “The Farmer in the Dell” in which the characters try to answer the question of “Why does The Cheese stand alone?” Since they can’t answer it, they eat the cheese! The pictures are very colorful and detailed but the truly interesting part is how the illustrators incorporate words from the text into them. A reader can look several times at the pictures and see different things each time. The illustrators have another book called Casey Back at the Bat done in the same way, but I like the story of The Cheese better.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Newbery Hopefuls From Our Reading Friends (Day 3): Hearing From Our Friend, Don

Today's predictions come from our friend Don. Don Zancanella is an Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He teaches several classes of children's literature. Don is also the author of Western Electric, a collection of short stories that is part of the Iowa Short Fiction Award series.

Here is what he says about this year's Newbery Award:

The Newbery Medal always brings to the surface what to my mind is the most important fact about children’s literature: it’s written by adults for children. By letting adults pick the best book for children (written by an adult), the Newbery just adds another layer of complexity to this already vexed situation. That said, here are the books I think might win (or in some instances, the ones I think should win), along with a few comments:

The Wednesday Wars
by Gary Schmidt

I’m a sucker for books set in the sixties (there it is already, a preference I have as an adult reader that no kid is likely to share) and Schmidt’s book captures much of what it was like to be growing up then. The use of Shakespeare’s plays is a clever plot device but I’m kind of fed up with authors who sneak classic authors into children’s books. And Holling is a little too precocious for my taste. But it all still works. It’s funny and charming and uplifting.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Graphic novel meets mystery novel meets silent film. I predict this one will win mostly because it’s different and because we do seem to have entered the era of the graphic novel. It didn’t involve me as much as I’d hoped it would, mostly because I thought the plot had kind of a clunky, old-fashioned feel to it. I’m sure that was Selznick’s intention (the old-fashioned part, not the clunky part) but I thought it was a little too self-consciously done.


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

I might very well pick this one because I like Alexie very much. However, I haven’t read it yet. I could say the same thing about Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days.

The Wall
by Peter Sis

This is my personal favorite. Yes, it flies right in the face of the adult/child problem I started with, but it’s just too good to ignore. I’ve heard people comparing it to Maus and Persepolis and it deserves those comparisons. A couple of Sis’s titles have been Caldecott Honor books, but like his earlier Tibet Through the Red Box (a 1999 Newbery Honor Book) this one blurs the Newbery/Caldecott boundary. It’s an outstanding piece of writing with wonderfully integrated illustrations--just a very fine book. Not to mention that shows us a more interesting picture of the 1960s than even The Wednesday Wars does.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Newbery Hopefuls, Day 2: Another Reading Friend's Picks

Our friend Karen Terlecky is a Language Arts/Social Studies Curriculum Support Teacher (CST) in our school district, and as such, works directly with Franki. She and Mary Lee started their careers in the district the same years in 4th grade classrooms across the hall from each other. They were CSTs for each other before the term had been invented. Karen is always up for a field trip to Cover to Cover Children's Books, our favorite local children's bookstore. Here are her Newbery picks:

I loved How to Steal a Dog -- one of the best morals I have ever read: "the footprints you leave behind are more important than the path in front of you" ( I know that's not the exact quote, but I don't have my book at home in front of me). I read this aloud to my 5th grade class at the end of last year, and then it was the book I started this year with. It was interesting how important the message was to both sets of students. In addition, O'Connor's description of the homelessness conditions was clear -- good for children to know how others live,and what they need to do to just get through the day. I also love the characters -- very well developed through dialogue and their actions.

I also really liked The Mysterious Benedict Society -- the concept of kids as heroes has been done in other books, but I thought there was a great twist to this since the kids had to use all their gifts together to overcome the evil in the book. It was like a spy novel for kids -- I'm partial to spy novels! Great twist at the end, also.

Me and the Pumpkin Queen -- loved it!!!!!!! Part of the reason I liked it so much was that I had a lot of background knowledge about places and events in the story. But, even if you take that away, the concept of this girl going through her own personal grief cycle by trying to grow the biggest pumpkin was very well done. And the friendship between her and the boy was amazing. This book is a winner for me!

The Thing About Georgie -- definitely a favorite! I almost forgot about it until I saw it when I looked in my cupboard at school!

3 others that I really like, but I'm sure won't win: Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf (hysterical!), No Talking (Andrew Clements is very predictable, but there is a clear underlying message that my students really understand), and Diary of a Wimpy Kid (another hysterical!).
I liked the Wednesday Wars, too, but I didn't love it as a Newbery, because I wasn't sure how much my kids would understand without the background knowledge that I possess because of my age.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Two Too (and tutu) Funny

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story
by Lemony Snicket
McSweeny's Books, 2007

Review copy...well, that's part of the whole story.

Report cards went home today, so I finally had time to take my tired, crabby self to the public library to complain about the online reserve system not working (a boatload of graphic novels for my CYBILS Graphic Novels Nominating Committee reading pleasure, if you must know). I went to one branch and they had the gall to tell me, "We're not really part of the library system, we just use their online reserves." So I went to the nearest for-real branch, and got my books custom-reserved by the guy at the help desk. He even went to look for a couple he thought might be on their shelves. While he did that, I wandered over to the new books display in the children's section. I picked up The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story. It was smaller than I expected. I glanced through it, and there was definitely a screaming latke inside. I saw the familiar images that Educating Alice linked to. I started reading. I started laughing out loud. I was no longer tired and crabby.

This book has a brilliant lead: "This story ends in someone's mouth, but it begins in a village more or less covered in snow." It is filled with classic Snicket-isms, most notably: "...a word that here means..." It features a latke that is sick to death of being Christmas-ized, like when the Christmas lights suggest, "So you're basically hash browns. Maybe you can be served alongside a Christmas ham," or when the candy cane says, "Someone should write a Christmas carol about you." I would have sprayed my milk out my nose if I'd been drinking any when the cute little pine tree says, "But different things can often blend together. Let me tell you a funny story about pagan rituals."

Anne at Book Buds has a great review. Her final paragraph answers the question, "Is this really a kids' book?" Check it out. I totally agree with her.

So I was feeling much better after I read The Latke. (And even better when I learned that I had finally discovered a book BEFORE Franki!) Then I opened the package that came in the mail and found another great laugh (yes, sigh, recommended by Franki):

Chester
by Melanie Watt (of Scaredy Squirrel fame)
Kids Can Press, 2007

Our cat is 20 years old. She has been reduced to the essence of cat by her age: skeleton, fur, loud demanding yowl, and attitude. If she were fat and had access to a red marker, she would be Chester. Poor Melanie! She's just trying to write a story about a mouse who lives in the country, but Chester keeps doodling all over her work, and changing it to suit himself, and to make himself the star of the story. When Melanie demands that he hand over the marker and apologize before the count of three, Chester has the nerve to assume position and "play the cello" instead! I'm pretty sure that's the kitty version of thumbing one's nose (since cats don't have opposed thumbs, after all). It all works out in the end. Mostly for Melanie and the mouse, but that's fair, since Chester got his all the way through the book. (The end is whence the tutu in the post title, in case you were wondering about that.)

So there you have it. A couple of sure-fire mood elevators. Take two and call me in the morning. Tell me how hard you laughed and how much better you felt for reading them!

Newbery Hopefuls From Our Reading Friends

When we started our blog (almost 2 years ago!) we started it as a way to make public our conversations about the books we hoped would win the Newbery Award. We have never been right, but we love the fun of guessing. This year, we asked some of our reading friends--people who we share our book thinking with throughout the year--to share their thoughts with us. These are people who read lots and know books. We know that we may scramble a bit this next month, reading those 2007 titles that we've haven't gotten to yet. With holiday break coming, we thought others might be interested in doing the same thing. We'll feature a different Reading Friend each day for a while. Enjoy!

Our first installment comes from Jen Allen, a Literacy Coach in Maine. She is also the author of Becoming a Literacy Leader. For anyone who has a job as a literacy coach, this is a must read.

If I had to choose one book to receive the Newbery award it would be
The Aurora County All -Stars by Deborah Wiles. It is just a great read-aloud for students
in the intermediate grades. Good clean fun! Although book evolves around
the kid grabbing topic of baseball, it also weaves in layers about
friendship, gender, judging others, and segregation. Great lessons to be
learned. During this read- aloud I also shared the book, Teammates by
Peter Golenbock to help students strengthen their understanding on the
history of baseball and segregation. An additional treat is how the author
incorporates quotes from poet Walt Whitman and famous baseball players.
I tried this book as a read aloud with both my ten year old son and a 4th
grade class this fall. Both audiences enjoyed the book. I love the feel
good ending. The Aurora County All- Stars is my Newbery pick for the year.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Robert's Snow



The final auction is upon us December 3-7. The Amazing HTML-tress, Tricia, at The Miss Rumphius Effect, has the complete list of Auction 3 illustrators and features compiled here. She and her partner in HTML-tress-ness, Jen Robinson, were responsible for the awesome side-bar info that you've seen throughout the Kidlitosphere. Thanks, Ladies, for all the help you gave to those of us who are HTML-challenged!

And of course, one last huge thanks to Jules, at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast, for getting the whole snowball rolling. I can't wait to find out what kinds of fund-raising records were broken at Dana-Farber during this year's Robert's Snow event.

Finally, to the person who out-bid me on the one flake I really really wanted, I hope it's making you as happy as it would have made me!