Thursday, January 31, 2008

Required Reading

By Keiko Tobe
Hachette Book Group, September 2007
(Vol. 2 to be published March 2008)
Review copy received at NCTE

This is an amazing book.

520+ pages of native manga (a graphic novel read right to left), originally published in Japan, this is the story of a young fictional Japanese couple whose first child is autistic.

Masato, the father, is a workaholic whose hope for his new son, Hikaru, is that he will “move up the corporate ladder like the shining sun.” Sachiko, the mother, tries hard to be the perfect wife and mother, but increasingly, she realizes that Hikaru is not like other babies.

Sachiko deals with in-laws and friends who assume she is not a good mother, doctors who misdiagnose Hikaru with deafness, anger at a child who will not respond to her, and frustration and despair when it seems her marriage will fall apart because of Hikaru.

As Sachiko learns about autism and about how to care for and find appropriate schooling for Hikaru, she also finds supportive professionals and true friends. She and Masato rescue their marriage and learn to work together to help Hikaru grow in his own way toward the goal that he will grow up to become a “cheerful, working adult.”

The book is full of information about autism, accurate portrayals of positive and negative reactions toward autistic children and their parents, and examples of the kinds of accommodations that often help autistic children to succeed in a mainstream classroom. Because it is in the format of a graphic novel, the story feels very immediate and real. You identify with Sachiko and understand the range of emotions she goes through as she grows as a parent through her stuggles to love and care for Hikaru.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

30-Day Challenge Update

So, I made it to WEEK 4 of Boot Camp! I can hardly believe that I have made it through 15 days.The name (Adventure Boot Camp for Women) certainly fits. It has certainly been an adventure. Today (a Sunday remember), I automatically woke up at 4:30 AM. Lucky for me, I have no trouble falling back to sleep but my body must be kind of getting used to getting up early. This week will be full last-week things at boot camp. Picture day, Weighing and Measuring too. My before and after picture would look exactly the same but I am thinking it will take months of working out to see big results. I don't know how much success I had with weight and inch loss but I do know I feel better and I actually started a habit that I like enough to stick with for a while. I guess I am okay with it taking longer than I thought since I like it enough to keep it up. I certainly had a few bad days--days I didn't want to wake up, days I thought I would die before the workout was over. But my goal was to get through it. And I knew it wouldn't be easy. For me, things have to be social and I have to like the people I am with. And this is social and fun and I like the people. I have always been willing to work hard if the environment is right. And I must say, we laugh a lot every morning. (How could you not laugh when you are told that you will be having wheelbarrow races next....)

So, I signed up for Round 2 of Boot Camp. (We will have a week in between camps.) To celebrate the fun, I bought a new pair of running shoes. I like them. They will wake me up in the morning. And the shoes now match my exercise mat--nothing like a little 80s aerobics feel. I wore the new shoes on Friday--they are quite lite and comfy. I bought them at a running store right down the street. I am always afraid to go into those stores because I think that only thin running people go there. But, I found out that a lot of people buy running shoes for their jobs so lots of nurses, etc. buy their shoes there. Not just runners. They had some pretty cool exercise clothes. I may have to revisit the store when camp moves outdoors in the spring. I will need some of those serious runner clothes that keep you warm when it is cold outside.

So, this week, we do the mile run, etc. I imagine I will still be almost last and I am okay with that. My goal was to get through it, to make it a habit--one that I could stick with for a long time. (And with losing only 1/2 pound a week, I am going to need to stick with this for a long time.)

So, this week was Week 3 of Success on my 30-Day Challenge. So glad HipWriterMama knows that we need 30 days to make things habit. It was easy for me to decide to commit January to this project. Now, I have done it long enough to make it part of next month too!

Support for Teachers

Lois Lowry appreciates all the work teachers do.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Orbis Pictus Awards Announced

The Orbis Pictus Awards were announced by NCTE on Friday. Such a great list of nonfiction!

Themes, Morals, Lessons

The moral of this story is, "Let them talk during read aloud."

In reading workshop, we've been working on finding the themes/morals/lessons that an author may or may not intend for us to extract or infer from his/her story.

In read aloud the other day, we had a bunch of fun finding silly themes/morals/lessons in 3 picture books.

How could we not read parts of Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith? Besides remembering or learning what a fable is, we also had a great discussion about why Scieszka can get away with writing a run-on sentence a whole paragraph long (in the Serious Historical Foreword), and fourth graders can't. Or should I say...and fourth graders are required to chop it into sentences, because some of my students CAN (and do) write whole paragraphs and pages without punctuation!

I read "Grasshopper Logic," and the conversation turned to the other things that are not good to say to a "hopping mad Grasshopper Mom."

Next, I read "He who..." because I knew they would be able to fill in the moral on their own. They could. ("He who smelt it...")

The last one I read, my own personal favorite of the entire collection, was "Straw and Matches." They started getting the double entendres and puns from the very beginning: "It was the end of summer vacation. Straw had done everything he could think of. He was bored. So he went over to play with someone he had been warned to stay away from." They groaned with laughter when they heard the moral and knew it was both about choosing one's friends and about playing with fire.

I didn't read any more from "Squids Will Be Squids," because my goal was for them to want to read more on their own. (It worked.)

Next came Jane Wattenberg's version of Henny-Penny. (How did it happen that this book got so old so fast! It's from seems-like-yesterday, but in-reality 2000!)

I read the whole book, because how often you get to shout, "CHICKABUNGA!" during a regular school day?

I swear, this class found more in Wattenberg's illustrations than any class ever! Not only that, but they could identify nearly every world landmark the flock of fowl visits in the course of the story. (Only the Coliseum and Stone Henge stumped them.) And one student knew what a cave would be like it it was "dank." WOW!

A few morals of this story? "Don't leave home until you lay your egg." "Stranger Danger -- Don't follow someone you don't know into a dark, dank cave." "Check to see what hit you in the head before you run off to tell the king the sky is falling." And here's mine: "Sometimes it's best to be the last one in the cave, because you might be the only one who makes it out!"
We ended with The Wolf Who Cried Boy by Bob Hartman. They knew the moral before I ever started reading, so this one, too, was more about the puns and word play. (Lamburgers, Sloppy Does, Chocolate Moose, Boy Chops, Three-Pig Salad, Baked Boy-tato, Boys-n-Berry goes on and on.)

After read aloud was over, one of my students asked if I had The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Sadly, I only have the variant. I will have to correct that soon. A day later, the same student came back from the book fair with The Dog Who Cried Wolf.

I love it when I get them started and they keep going on their own!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Poetry Friday--Note to self

Remember to think twice when you are frustrated. Perhaps you should think of him as a poet rather than a problem.

The Poet
by Tom Wayman

Loses his position on worksheet or page in textbook
May speak much but makes little sense
Cannot give clear verbal instructions
Does not understand what he reads
Does not understand what he hears
Cannot handle “yes-no” questions

(The rest is here. Round up is at Mentor Texts.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Humor, Memory, Imagination

Great read aloud today! I love it when the sense of humor part of 4th graders' brains starts to develop in earnest. Or in hilarity, as it were.

That's all I'm going to write for today because I left the books I read aloud today at school, and without them in front of me, all the specifics are gone. Poof.

So instead, let's ponder this article about what happens to an adult's brain when the memory starts to go.


Stay tuned for more about today's great read aloud.

Mr. Pine's Mixed-Up Signs

I visited Joseph-Beth Bookstore in Cincinnati over the weekend. I was thrilled to see a republished edition of one of my favorite books from childhood-Mr. Pine's Mixed-Up Signs! My husband was in the store with me and I recited the first page before opening the book! (Scary how you can still do that 40 years later...). So, of course I bought the book. I read it to my eight year old who loved it too. How could you not love Mr. Pine?

I did a little research on the publisher--Purple House Press. It seems their mission is to bring back those great children's books that have gone out of print. They have republished all of the Mr. Pine books! (I believe the company is names after their first project--Mr. Pine's Purple House.) And the site has a bit of info about the author, Leonard Kessler.

So, I found a great book from childhood and a great company with a mission that I love! I am looking forward to adding all of the Mr. Pine books to my collection once again!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Trucktown Debut!

It was a big week for us in Columbus. Jon Scieszka and Loren Long stopped by Columbus on their book tour for their new, amazing series for young readers--TRUCKTOWN!

They visited our school on Thursday, thanks to Cover to Cover Bookstore and Simon and Schuster. To get ready for the visit, I read the new book SMASH! CRASH! to lots of K-2 classrooms. I got the same feeling when I read this book as I did when I read Mo Willem's DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS to young children when it first came out. SMASH! CRASH! begs for child participation--yelling Smash! Crash! is part of the fun. But there is more to this first book than that.--great fun characters that are predictable in their actions, some great humor, fun fonts , and amazing illustrations. How three illustrators can come together to create one illustration is fascinating to me. And the result is amazing. If you know the work of Loren Long, David Shannon, and David Gordon, you can see in each illustration, what each person brings to the art. The colors, the characters, even the lettering is quite engaging.

The visit was great fun! Loren Long spoke to our K-2 students at Chapman. He drew a truck--showing them how he did that, read the book (asking them to join in when it was time to yell CRASH!), and spent time answering questions. Loren came dressed in his Trucktown Mechanic Suit which added to the fun.

Both Jon and Loren spoke at Cover to Cover and it was standing room only. The audience's reaction to the book was extremely positive as the kids joined in and laughed throughout the book. If either of them come anywhere near your city, go see them!

Jon, our new National Ambassador for Children's Literature, talked a bit about what we can expect from Trucktown in the next few years. I think he said that there will be 50 TRUCKTOWN books over the next few years. More picture books likes SMASH! CRASH!, some easy chapter books that young children can read on their own, board books, and more.

I am a huge fan of kids reading books where they know and love the characters. These Trucktown characters are certainly characters that we will all find ourselves falling in love with--my current favorite is IZZY the Ice Cream Truck. (After seeing Loren Long act out Izzy'a part, Izzy may be my lifetime favorite character!)

You can tell that Jon Scieszka did a great deal of research before embarking on such a project. These book are very inviting for the kids he wrote them for. In a Columbus Dispatch article announcing his visit to Columbus, Jon spoke a bit about his platform: The article said that his message is that: Adults should back off from making kids read the "right" books, expand the definition of reading to include all mediums and technologies, stop demonizing television and, above all, read themselves.

Perfect timing for a series like this and a perfect team to create the series. I can't wait to see the rest of the series!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Another Teacher to Add to the Cool Teachers List

Mrs. Baker from The Wednesday Wars definitely deserves a place on our list of 100+ Cool Teachers in Children's Literature. What a great teacher--someone who helps students find out who it is that they are. I LOVED her! She may be one of my favorite teachers of all time.

And I LOVED the book--definitely deserving of the Newbery Honor that it received last week.

With all of the new books that have come out recently, let us know if you know of any more recent teacher characters that belong on our list!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Congratulations, Mary Lee!

Woooohooooo! We just found out that Mary Lee Hahn has just been selected to serve on the Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts Committee sponsored by the Children's Literature Assembly of NCTE. This list is always one I look forward to each year.

I can't think of a better person to serve on this committee! They are lucky to have her join them.

January Carnival of Children's Literature -- Book Awards Edition

It's up at Wizards Wireless!

30-Day Challenge: Boot Camp and Struggling Readers

In late December, I decided I would join a one-month Women's Boot Camp to start exercising again. The bootcamp starts at 5:30 am each day so I figured that not much would interfere with that time! I was inspired by HipWriterMama's Fall 30 Day Challenge. Then, lucky for me, HipWriterMama announced her 2008 New Year's 30-Day Challenge so I immediately joined. My theory is that the more public I make this venture, the better chance I have of sticking with it.

HipWriterMama wants an update check-in each Monday. Friday marked the halfway mark of the first month of bootcamp. Getting up at 4:45 has been an interesting thing. But Bootcamp is a pretty fun time--even though I am totally and completely out of shape. I plan to sign up and pay for the February session this week.

Funny thing is that I have learned lots about teaching. As adults, we don't often put ourselves in positions where we struggle. Most of us have found work that we love and that we are pretty good at. Same thing with hobbies. So, participating in the class as a "struggling exerciser" has been a challenge. But I have learned a lot about what my struggling kids in school must go through each day.
I wrote an article about my first week at bootcamp that was posted on Choice Literacy's website on Saturday. It compares my experience with bootcamp to that of my struggling readers in reading workshop.

I haven't lost as much weight as I was hoping but since I am trying to make this a new habit, I am okay with that, I guess. I feel better, have a bit more energy and am hopefully healthier.


This is our blog.
Want to see what yours looks like? Give it a go. Have patience. Watch the design emerge.
Thanks, Megan. Thanks, Tricia.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Poetry Friday -- Work

For my grade level, after a release day of intense work:

To Be of Use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

(the rest of the poem is here...roundup is at Farm School.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"To the Ends of the Earth" Awards

I've been thinking a lot about the school librarian who wore a plastic tiara to school on Monday. She won a huge award for writing some short vignettes for her 5th graders to read aloud. She wanted to help to bring medieval England alive for them. She went To the Ends of the Earth for her kids, and she won a big award for it.

I'd like the para pros at my school to win a To the Ends of the Earth Award. They work with the trickiest kids (behavioral and learning challenges) every day and they are always cheerful, always patient, and always trying to find one more little thing that we can do to nudge these kids along.

A plastic tiara to the school nurse, who works tirelessly on behalf of the needy families in her district, tracking down beds, and washers and dryers, and warm clothes.

An interview on the Today Show for the ELL teacher who advocated to keep a second language learner out of special education. She knows that in the next five years, his English will develop at a faster and faster rate, if we just give him time. She also knows that if he ever goes back to his native country (a real possibility) with a special education label, it is likely that he would get NO education. (Now, if only we could only convince the NCLB'ers that he should be able to take a test that shows what he CAN do, not a test in a language he hasn't yet mastered.)

A special To the Ends of the Earth Award for the primary teacher who kept a school chess club alive even though she herself does not play chess, and another to all the teachers and librarians who support students in after school activities (or lunchtime poetry clubs) that develop them as thinkers and learners.

Please join me in handing out To the Ends of the Earth awards. Who are the people in your schools, who work with your children or with the children of others, who deserve a plastic tiara for the day?

Monday, January 14, 2008


So, how did I do over here in "attempting to have read the Newbery" land?

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz
Haven't read it, but it was one of the four last-ditch-effort books I TRIED to get at Cover to Cover on Saturday. They were sold out. I have one on hold.

Newbery Honors:
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis Also on my last-ditch-effort list.
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
Again, on my last-ditch-effort list.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick YAY! Not only have I read it, but my students have all read along in a shared read aloud.

The Caldecott Honors are a moot point for me. I don't follow picture books so much.

The Cybils had some canny nominating committees:

The Newbery winner Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is a Poetry finalist
Newbery Honor title Wednesday Wars is a YA finalist
Sibert Winner/Caldecott Honor title The Wall is a MG/YA Nonfiction finalist
Caldecott Honor Knuffle Bunny is a Fiction Picture Book finalist
Odyssey Honor audiobook Skulduggery Pleasant is a Fantasy/Science Fiction finalist
Printz Honor title Your Own Sylvia is a Poetry finalist
Printz Honor title Repossessed is a Fantasy/Science Fiction finalist
Sibert Honor book Lightship is a Nonfiction Picture Book finalist
Geisel Honor book Vulture View is a Nonfiction Picture Book finalist
(thank you Jen and Tricia for cross-referencing all of these)

**Edited to add: The above info was also at the Cybils site. Shame on me for not looking there first!**

If you want to know the truth, the best part of the day was getting the results by text message as I sat at my desk working before school. Whoever it was at ALA who thought that one up deserves a prize all her/his own!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop

Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop: Making Informed Instructional Decisions in Grades 3-6

by Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak
Forward by Nancie Atwell
Scholastic, 2008

Review copy compliments of the authors.

This is the right book at the right time for teachers of middle grade readers. The authors have set out to do nothing less than start a revolution in this crazy world of politics-driven standards, accountability, and testing, testing, testing.
Instead of looking at what our students can do and scaffolding them as they move forward, standards, tests, and measures are forcing us to use a deficit model of assessment -- and we wind up focusing on what kids can't do.

We've written this text to turn the tide. (p. 7-8)
Sibberson and Szymusiak begin by reminding us of the particular instructional needs of readers in grades 3-6, as they did in their 2003 Stenhouse book, Still Learning to Read. The shift from reading predictable primary texts to reading complex intermediate texts requires readers to acquire more sophisticated reading strategies.
We cannot prepare students in grades 3-6 for every challenge they will encounter in the books they read. Our goal shifts from preparing them for a text to preparing them for any text. (p.11)
As the authors lead us through in-depth discussions of the various routines and structures of the middle-grade reading workshop, the emphasis is continually on the kind of data and information we can gather about our students at that particular time. They never depart from their message that our stance when assessing readers should be what students can do, whether we are listening to conversations, observing, having an individual conference, looking over the students' reading interviews or logs, taking a status of the class before independent reading time, or any of the countless other times that we assess our students as a natural part of living in the same classroom with them throughout the day. And they never stray from the stance that the purpose of any and all of this assessment should be to inform our instruction of individual children, small groups of children with the same needs in a particular area, or our whole class.

This is a very user-friendly book. There are lots of samples of student work (not all pretty, and at a variety of levels -- just like you would find in your classroom), an abundance of text boxes with bulleted points for easy reference, and short lists of books throughout that support the facet of reading workshop being discussed in the text.

With the myriad of opportunities for day-to-day assessment in the reading workshop comes the challenge of record-keeping -- finding or creating the right forms, and remembering that
For our record-keeping system to inform our instruction, it should be ever changing...I have to remind myself often that there is a difference between record keeping and assessment. Just because I haven't written it down doesn't mean I haven't assessed a child. (p.51)
A generous 18-page appendix gives reproducible examples of the forms Franki has developed over time for her classroom. (But don't forget that notes-to-self jotted on stickie notes are sometimes the only form you need!)

New middle grade teachers, this is a book that will help you to implement your reading workshop. Not only will you understand each of the components of the workshop format, you will know why they are important to student learning, and how you can use assessment within each component to plan for your instruction in a meaningful way. Experienced middle grade teachers, this book is a breath of fresh air -- a reminder of the value in all we do, and chock full of new ideas for tweaking and polishing our workshops to make them more effective than ever before.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Newbery Round Up And Other Award Stuff

Well, this is the last weekend of wondering which books will win the big awards on Monday! We are anxiously awaiting all of the award announcements, especially the Newbery Award. We've done several things to think about this year's winner. We had several children's book friends share their Newbery Hopefuls lists with us. We heard from Don, Larry, Bill, Karen, Karen, Sally, Beth, Karen, and Jen. And, we shared our own lists of favorites of 2007. Lots of people in the Kidliotsphere are talking about awards. It's a great weekend to read books you missed, reflect on the 2007 books you've read and think about which books may win this year. As you wait, you can read lots of others' predictions and thoughts on this year's awards.

Felicity at Look Books has her Newbery picks posted as well as some thoughts on kids' thoughts on the award winners.

Monica at Educating Alice has list of all of her Newbery Thoughts posts gathered from throughout the year. Since she is on the committee, she has been very careful about her posts about books (so no top ten list from her!) but the thinking about being part of the Newbery is fun to read.

Allen County has posted its winners here.

BCCLS Mock Winners are here.

The Nassau Library results are here.

Sharon's Newbery

Betsy at Fuse #8 posts her Newbery and Caldecott 2008 "Predict-o-rama

Chicken Spaghetti's shares some info on lots of awards.

Read Roger shares info about this year's Scott O'Dell Award Winner.

There is a great post about the Sydney Taylor award at Blog From the Windowsill.

Mother Reader is not making any Newbery Predictions but does share thoughts on the Newbery and other awards in her post.

Miss Rumphius Effect shares the 2008 Charlotte Zolotow Award winners.

Poetry Friday -- Found Poem

A poem is a group of words, arranged just so, that moves our hearts, right? Here is a poem, then, that I found in an email this week:

sitting at the table with us,
said "Mary Lee gave me Today I Will Fly."
(Phil looked at me with shock.)
Yes, I replied, she certainly did.

We went on to list
the other books
you have sent to her
and decided
you were really good to send
such great books to read.

So lest you think you are an unknown quantity
or just mommy's friend,
I can assure you otherwise.

Round up this week is at The Book Mine Set.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Better Late Than Never?

You know by now that the Cybils Nominees have all been posted. My work on the Graphic Novels nominating committee is done. Franki is busy judging Poetry.

The Class of 2K8 is 28 authors strong. Check out their website and get psyched for the new publishing year!

The conversation about reading is hopping over at PBS Parents, where Jen Robinson is wearing the Expert Q&A hat. She has compiled an incredible resource of suggestions about helping struggling and/or reluctant readers.

Christopher Paul Curtis' Elijah of Buxton has won the 2008 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

The Bedtime Sh'ma: A Good Night Book by Sarah Gershman and Kristina Swarner, The Entertainer and the Dybbuk by Sid Fleischman, and Strange Relations by Sonia Levitin have won the 2008 Sydney Taylor Book Awards.

Susan, at Chicken Spaghetti, has more news on recent book awards.

On Monday, I went to the bookstore with Sara Lewis Holmes, and when I checked back at her blog today, she was creating the bookstore of the future (boys' version). Go give her input.

Enough. Dinner is ready and my couch awaits me.

Movie Thursday

Let's curl up on my new couch and watch some movies, okay?

I rented a couch once, when I lived in Dallas.

There have been no other couches in my life since then.

All the thousands of great books I've read in the past half-a-lifetime, and none of them read curled up on the end of a couch.

Well, that's all changing now. The first thing I did yesterday after it was delivered was grab the next book on my to-read list, The Garden of Eve, Beth's recommendation, cover up with a throw, make room for the cat, and read!

Now, the videos. First, coming from The Reading Zone, a thoughtful piece from a Kansas State University Introduction to Cultural Anthropology class about student learning in the 21st Century. The focus is college students, but there is lots of truth here about ALL of our students...and the disconnect between the ways we teach, the materials we use, and their lives outside of school.

Next, from Megan Germano, arguably the world's greatest Barbara O'Connor fan, and also from Barbara's blog, the book trailer for Barbara's spring release, Greetings from Nowhere.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George was my first read of 2008 and it was a great one! I read it after Librarian, Bill Prosser recommended it on his Newbery Hopefuls post in December. I love a good fairy tale and this was no let-down. I can't wait to share it with some of my students who love fairy tales and dragon books. So many others have reviewed it that I'll link you to those rather than repeat all of the wonderful things they've said. I would HIGHLY recommend it. It was a good fantasy. I have trouble finding fantasies that are good for 9,10,11 year olds. Sometimes they are too sophisticated or complex for kids new to the genre. This one is a perfect fit. Lots to think about but one kids would enjoy! And it seems that a sequel is due out this spring! Here are a few reviews:

Miss Erin's Review

Pixie Stix Kids Pix Review

Bookish 37 Review

You can also go to Shannon Hale's blog for an interview with Jessica Day George!

So, I may need to add this to my Top 10 Newbery Picks and make a Top 11 list!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Jon Scieszka and Loren Long at Cover to Cover!

For anyone who lives local, Cover to Cover:

On January 17th, Jon Scieszka (recently named the First Ambassador for Young People's Literature!) and Loren Long will visit Cover to Cover to launch their new Trucktown series with the book SMASH! CRASH! They will speak at 4:30 and autograph until 6:00 that night.

Thank You, Tina Nichols Coury...

...for interviewing us at your wonderful blog, Tales from the Rushmore Kid!

We're in pretty amazing company at Tina's blog. She has interviewed Cynthia Lord, Ralph Nader, and Gennifer Choldenko recently, too!

Monday, January 07, 2008

HipWriterMama's 30 Day Challenge--I'm In!

So, I joined HipWriterMama's 30 Day Challenge. I figured since I already made my Boot Camp registration public, I would make an even stronger commitment by reporting to HipWriterMama. My goal--to go to all 20 sessions (4 weeks, 5 days a week) of Boot Camp.
I'll keep you posted!

I have to send a comment to HipWriterMama every Monday during the challenge so I figured I'd post it here too.

And I am trying to eat healthy. A friend told me about the EAT CLEAN diet by Tosca Reno so I picked up a copy of the cookbook. It is quite good. Today, we had the vegetable lasagna. Quite healthy, lots of protein and veggies. Very filling. I like the cookbook because there is a color photo of every recipe in the book so I know what I am working on. I need those photos. The woman who wrote it lost weight and got in shape AFTER she was 40. So that is one of the reasons I picked it up.

I also boiled a dozen eggs so that I can grab some protein when needed:-)

So I made it through the first day of Boot Camp. It was pretty good. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't pleasant but I think once I get into a routine, it could be fun. And it seems like a really good workout---he was able to meet everyone's levels which was pretty impressive.
So, one day down.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

I just finished THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN. What an amazing book! Wow! So worthy of the National Book Award that it just won. I would highly recommend it to anyone who reads books.

But, I guess I am surprised to see it on so many Newbery Lists. It seems so young adult to me. I don't remember a book that is this YA ever winning the award. The Prinz Award seems like a better match. It is definitely written for high-school kids. And most Newbery winners are for a much younger audience. I assume that every elementary school in America has copies of most Newbery winners and this one doesn't seem like a good fit for older elementary kids. Don't get me wrong, I think it is worthy of any award it can get, I just think it is meant for much older readers than the Newbery Award has gone to in the past.

But, even if you only read children's/YA books that are appropriate for the students in your class, I would make an exception and read this one for yourself. It is amazing. One of those books you'll remember for a long time. One of the best I've ever read.

New Book by Annie Barrows

I was THRILLED to see a new book by Annie Barrows, author of the popular Ivy and Bean series, at one of my recent visits to Cover to Cover. I grabbed it without even previewing it. It was Annie Barrows so I had confidence that I would love it. And I did.

THE MAGIC HALF is a fantasy book--a great beginning Time Travel book. Miri and Molly are the two main characters. Miri is the middle child--between two sets of twins. A magical piece of glass transports Miri to Molly's world--nearly 70 years ago. The two become instant friends and the adventure begins.

I liked a lot about this books and I am pretty sure that my 3rd and 4th graders will love it too. It follows that same idea of two great friends just like Ivy and Bean. And it is a great first time-travel book for readers new to this genre. Simple enough to understand, yet with enough time travel questions--can you change history--to pull new readers into the genre of time travel books.

I am very excited to see that Annie Barrows will continue to write Ivy and Bean and ALSO write some other things. As a teacher, having favorite authors write a variety of books helps me to encourage kids to stretch their reading tastes a bit. I think this new book by Annie Barrows will encourage lots of kids who are already fans to read this genre that might be new for them.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Best Books of 2007 and A Newbery Roundup

Last year, we posted our Top 5 lists and did a Newbery Roundup--everyone's predictions for the Newbery. This year, the Newbery Award will be announced earlier than usual--on Monday, January 14. And our very own, Monica, has been busy serving on the committee!

There are many Mock Newbery Awards going on around the country. Many groups are getting ready to vote on their winners. In the meantime, you can see their final lists. Allen County, Anderson's Bookshop, Rhode Island Libraries, BCCLS, and Sharon's Newbery are some of the groups we follow.

Lots of people have been posting their own "Best of 2007" lists over the last few weeks including Miss Erin, Kids Reads, and Fuse #8 (who has some very fun categories!).

Franki's Top Books of 2007
I've read some GREAT children's books this year. I think that it was a great year for books and I couldn't seem to get my list down to my top five so I went with 10 that seem Newberyish to me! (There were lots more I loved too and it was so hard to decide!)

Castle Corona by Sharon Creech
Aurora County All Stars by Deborah Wiles
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell
Moxy Maxwell by Peggy Gifford
Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Violet Bing and the Grand House by Jennifer Paros

By the way, I am currently about 1/2 way through Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George and AM LOVING IT so it could change my list a bit before Newbery day.

Mary Lee's Lists
Like Franki, I'm not done reading 2007 books, so my thinking may change in the next two weeks. For now, here are my short lists of 5 favorite books in each of these categories:

Kids books (younger)
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
Moxy Maxwell by Peggy Gifford
How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor
Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper
Simply Sarah: Patches and Scratches by P.R. Naylor

Kids' books (older)
Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst
Edward's Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes
Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis

Graphic Novels
(Stay tuned for the Cybils Graphic Novels short lists -- I'm on the nominating committee so it wouldn't be proper for me to list personal favorites here!)

Neither Fish nor Fowl
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik
Faradawn (Fogmound II) by Susan Schade and Jon Buller
Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules by Jeff Kinney

Adult books (read in 2007)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Why I'm Like This by Cynthia Kaplan
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

Audiobooks (listened to in 2007)
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
Magyk by Angie Sage
Mayflower by Nathanial Philbrick
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini

Since we started our blog as a way to chat about our reading leading up to the Newbery Award, we thought we'd round up your Newbery picks. A few weeks ago, we had several kids' lit friends predict the Newbery on our blog. So many possibilities! So, if you post your picks on your blog, put the link in the comments and we'll add them to our list. We'll post the round up next Friday or Saturday so send us your posts before then.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Poetry Friday Roundup -- Happy New Year!

Ahhh...the party is over,
the guests have gone,
we've cleaned up (and found the party favor/bookmark we meant to include yesterday -- thank you to Franki's teen for creating it for us),
and it's quiet again.

We got a couple of inches of fluffy snow in the night, so even the natural world is looking like a blank slate, like a new year fresh with possibilities.

Please leave us a link and a little bit about about your Poetry Friday entry in the comments. We'll be rounding up throughout the day.

Hopes, Wishes, Prayers & Resolutions

Ruth, from There is no such thing as a god-forsaken town, gives us the Kenyan National Anthem as a prayer for the country of her childhood.

Liz, a Texan at Liz in Ink, shares an Irish poem that says much about Iowa.

Becky, at Farm School, gives us a companion poem to the one above, from Liz. (Be sure to check out the sidebar graphics!)

Laura, from laurasalas, has some poetry resolutions.

Sherry, at Semicolon, has a poem for the new year, and for every new day.

MotherReader gives us a New Year wish and a New Year blessing.

Karen, of Karen Edmiston, is Burning the Old Year with Naomi Shihab Nye.


Cloudscome, at a wrung sponge, shares with us an amazing first sonnet.

Elaine, Wild Rose Reader, wrote a poem about a pencil writing a poem! (You were too subtle about tooting your own horn, Elaine! Thank you for the correction, Tricia!)

Susan, from Wizards Wireless, writes about reading aloud to her son.

Stacey, one of Two Writing Teachers, wrote her poem the day after her wedding. (Be sure to enlarge it and check out the font on the title!)

Laura, at laurasalas, had a great picture this week for 15 Words or Less Poems. Go add one!

Jone, of MsMac and DeoWriter, has two frosty haiku for us today.

Children and Parents

Susan T., from Chicken Spaghetti, has a poem and a meditation on the swiftness of childhood.

Christine, at the simple and the ordinary, has another poem about childhood.

HipWriterMama is wondering how children turn out the way they do.

Sheila, at Greenridge Chronicles, shares a mother and child poem that's also about the river and the sea.

Jenny, from Little Acorns Treehouse, is *travelling* to Pennsylvania with her children this week.

Sarah, at The Reading Zone, used Dylan Thomas for her first Poetry Friday with her students.

Poets and Poetry

Jill, from The Well-Read Child, joins us for the first time for Poetry Friday! Welcome, Jill! We promise not to make any assumptions about you based on where you're from!

Sara, at Read, Write, Believe, savors poetry. How about you? Do you gobble, or savor?

Marci, at World of Words, features a Cybils Nominee.

Tricia, from The Miss Rumpius Effect, keeps us thinking about math with three poems from Sandburg.

Jules, at 7-Imp, shares a favorite from Deborah Keenan, and a bonus extra at the bottom of her post.

Mitali, at Mitali's Fire Escape, ponders her newfound Readergirlz Diva fame.

Little Willow shares some fragments of How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird, newly translated and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein.

Gregory K., at GottaBook, offers us an invitation to fib!

Freed from the poetry nominations panel for the Cybils, Kelly Fineman lists her top ten poetry books for 2007.

Sylvia also has a list of her top poetry books of 2007.

Annamaria, at Books Together, shares lots of gargoyle-y goodness, along with a gargoyle poem.

The Cole Mine is in with a poem by Maya Angelou.


Ahoy, S/V Mari-Hal-O-Jen, and welcome to your first Poetry Friday! Hopefully, Key West will warm up very soon!

RM1(SS) (ret), The Old Coot, shares with us The Man from Snowy River by Banjo Paterson.

writer2b, at Findings, brings us Frost's The Road Not Taken, and some personal connections to that poem.

Elaine, at Blue Rose Girls, is relearning winter, like the poet in her poem.

TadMack, from Finding Wonderland, is enjoying the dark, the solitude, and her tea.

Passionately Curious, a second grade teacher, has a snow poem for today.

Suzanne, at Adventures in Daily Living, has a poem about a cat who tracks in snow.


Jama, from jama rattigan's alphabet soup, has quite a bubbly pot on the stove for us!

Here's a New Year wish for you and for our world, from The Dixie Chicks' song, "I Hope":

There must be a way to change what's going on
No, I don't have all the answers, but
I hope
For more love, more joy and laughter
I hope
you'll have more than you'll ever need
I hope
There'll be more happy ever afters
I hope
We can all live more fearlessly
And we can lose all the pain and misery
I hope, I hope

And a reminder to appreciate every moment of this beautiful life you've been given, from Kenny Chesney's song, "Don't Blink":

Best start putting first things first
Cause when your hourglass runs out of sand
You can't flip it over and start again
Take every breathe God gives you for what it's worth

Don't Blink
Just like that you're six years old and you take a nap
And you wake up and you're twenty-five
And your high school sweetheart becomes your wife
Don't blink
You just might miss your babies growing like mine did
Turning into moms and dads
Next thing you know your "better half"
Of fifty years is there in bed
And you're praying God takes you instead
Trust me friend a hundred years goes faster than you think
So don't blink

Some Poetry Friday Trivia from 2007:
In May this year, Poetry Friday got it's official button. Suzanne is kind enough to provide the code for using the button as a link to the week's roundup, Susan has a list of links to all the Poetry Fridays from 2006 and 2007, and Susan T. wrote an article about Poetry Friday for the Poetry Foundation.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Blog Birthday Gala, Day 4

The party seems to be winding down a bit today. Everyone is tired from all of the dancing on Monday, the snacks on Tuesday, and they are feeling the impact of those wild party games on Wednesday! Today, most people are just sitting around chatting! defines gossip as "idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others" OR "light, familiar talk or writing".

Kim and Jason sent over these great birthday cake hats for today's party! And in the back of the room, Jason is running a special showing of Adultitis: Case Study #2: The Birthday for those of us who just can't get into the fun of partying!

You can join lots of interesting gossip today--people talking about things related and non-related to the children's book world. The crowd seems ready to kick back and just chat about life in general. Stacey is showing everyone pictures of the wedding tradition at the wedding she just celebrated. She also has some thoughts on the best way to write a toast for the occasion. And Ruth is sharing a poem that she thought of the day of the wedding.

Many bloggers had new babies born this year and Bud the Teacher and Shannon Hale are busy showing off their new adorable additions! And Mindy from Proper Noun is sharing some of the great new books she bought for her new addition!

A lot of people were sad to hear about the end of an era. Betsy at Fuse #8 decided to end her very popular "Hot Men in Children's Literature" series. She is explaining her decision to a crowd of her disappointed fans. Looks like standing room only.

Mo Willems brought some of his best mail to share with other partygoers. Barbara O'Conner also brought some pretty amusing letters from her readers. Definitely worth a trip to that side of the room.

Favorite holidays are a big topic of conversation. Mother Reader Week was quite a celebration last year. Not yet a Hallmark Holiday, but one that we all enjoyed! Franki is happy to share the news that today is the second day of National Hot Tea Month, a holiday that is equally as exciting as Christmas and her birthday!

There is a small group in the back of the room chatting about the big book events of the year. Franki and Mary Lee are still talking about the "scrotum" controversy surrounding last year's Newbery winner while Monica is sharing her impressions of the Golden Compass movie.
And you can join in on the discussion about the last Harry Potter book at the Scholar's
Blog Spoiler Zone

In April, lots of bloggers went to the Golden Compass movie site to take the quiz and learn what animal their daemon is. Wands and Worlds did a round up. Mary Lee's daemon was the creepiest of them all.

People are also busy chatting about this year's GOLDEN FUSE AWARDS--Betsy Bird's top books of 2007. Sam Riddleburger is listening in--thrilled to have his QWICKPICK ADVENTURE on her list!

Looks like there is also a typing competition going on started by Miss Erin. She says she can type 83 words a minute. Megan at Read, Read, Read is not so happy about her typing speed! Join in on the fun!

Oh, now this is exciting--it looks like Hank and John from Brotherhood 2.0 have stopped by the party to sing their "Goodbye Brotherhood 2.0 Song". If you haven't seen it yet, you don't want to miss it!

So glad that you could join us on Day 4 of our Birthday Gala! Please stay as long as you'd like! We are thrilled that so many of our friends could stop by.
The party will end tomorrow with a special New Year's edition of Poetry Friday!
See you then!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Blog Birthday Party Gala, Day 3

Woo-hoo! Day Three! The party's really hoppin' now! How about some fun and...

3 Silly Chicks, Lisa Yee, and HipWriter Mama are all busy sharing the fun contests they've run on their blogs. The contests have been quite creative and have given us lots to talk and laugh about. Anne at Book Buds is talking up her new CYBILS contest--you have to be quick to join--the deadline is January 5!

What would the Kidlitosphere be without the fun and games of memes? (Yes, I do know how some of you feel about this, but either play along politely, or take your snacks and move on to another part of the room! There's lots of fun for everyone!) Here's a Meme for teachers at My Breakfast Platter and 6 of our memes from 2007.

Sometimes it's fun to play around with the way we look at the world, or you can make a comic to show the world what you're thinking!

Writing Fibs is fun and games for Gregory K. at GottaBook. He even Fibbed about some games this year: golf, football, and hockey!

How about some word games? Try out Free Rice and Eight Letters in Search of a Word. But watch out, you might get addicted!

You might want to join the folks who are over by the fireplace. They are playing Name Your Favorite 2007 Carnival of Children's Literature. I'm hearing the10th, the State Fair, the Carnival carnival, the Fiesta, the Good News Carnival, The Play's The Thing Carnival, and the Tips Edition Carnival.

Are you working on your 2007 reading goals? There are some intriguing reading challenges at The Shady Glade. Maybe before you decide on your goals, you'd like to join in on a few (more)

Book Conversations
GoodReads took the Kidlitosphere by storm this summer and gave us yet another place to talk about what we're reading.

I know you've been admiring the table runners on our tables...we made them out of booklists! This one is our Master List of Books about Books and Reading, on that table over there is our 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature (we're up to 107), and over there on the longest table of all, you can see Mother Reader's Best Books of 2007 (so far) Megalist. After all the Best Books of 2007 posts are up this week, we'll probably be able to make wallpaper rather than just table runners!

Book conversation doesn't get much better than Kelly's Weekend Reviews at Big A little a. Lois Lowry recently highlighted a couple of great historical fiction titles for adults. Lots of book conversations get started by podcasts and other unique kinds of book marketing.

Hugo Cabret is a GREAT book for starting conversations. Children's Illustration gives us some new ways of thinking about the book and so does Planet Esme (along with a long ramble about other good books and trips and lives around books).

Stephanie invites us to join The Children's Literature Book Club, not just check out what they're reading.

The topic for discussion in this corner is, What's your Desert Island 10?

Over here, some teachers are comparing notes for the new year and asking, Have you found any good mentor texts recently?

This group is reminiscing about the Summer Blog Blast Tour -- One of our favorite author interviews Cecil Castellucci at Tea Cozy, what was yours?

Speaking of tours, lots of folks in the Kitlitosphere this year went to

Of course, the biggest conference news in the Kidlitosphere was the Kidlit Bloggers' Conference in Chicago, and Jen Robinson gave us a very thorough summary of the Conference, as well as the implications of that conference for further promotion/development of the Kidlitosphere. Kelly did a roundup of all the conference posts. There were lots of bloggers at National Council of Teachers of English Conference in NYC.
Chris Barton attended Texas Book Festival and gave us thoughts from an audience member's chair about being on the stage. Mother Reader shares great gossip from ALA. Mary Lee shares details from NEA, and Read Roger shares the news from the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards.

Thanks for joining us again today! The fun's not over -- tomorrow is the last day of the party! Hope to see you again then!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Blog Birthday Gala, Day 2

HAPPY NEW YEAR and welcome to Day 2 of our Blog Birthday Gala! Yesterday, we got the party started with a look back at our second year of blogging, some dancing, and some Newbery conversations.

There's a buffet set up in the other room -- how about some snacks? You won't go hungry in the Kidlitosphere!

There are lots of cookies left over from jama's Christmas Cookie party. (I took a couple of plates of candy.) Watch out for the screaming latkes still running around here and there.
If you've got a cup of cocoa, Farm School has some homemade marshmallows to float in your mug.

In the mood for healthier fare? Lots of us spent the summer talking about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. You can check out the roundup of posts at Adventures in Daily Living. There's always great food at A Wrung Sponge: figs, zucchini, fresh tomatoes, and more!

Is this blog A Year of READING, or A Year of EATING? We talk about Philly food, NCTE food, Dots, and even bacon!

Fill up your plate and head on over to the fireplace, where conversation has turned to

Teacher Talk
The beginning of school seems so long ago now. Remember that feeling you get when summer is ending? Borderland calls it Ground Rush -- the perfect term with a great story behind it. Camille at BookMoot had two great back to school posts -- one on pencils and one featuring a column from The Dallas Morning News.

Everybody's oohing and ahhing at the Thematic book lists Tricia has in the sidebar at The Miss Rumphius Effect. What a great resource for teachers who use literature in the content areas!

Speaking of great lists, Franki's list of best professional books of 2007 has a lot of folks talking. We're all comparing notes with The Reading Zone's monthly feature called Hot Books -- a list of books her students are loving. And don't forget, the best lists in all of the Kidlitosphere start making their debut today -- the Cybils Short Lists have begun rolling out!

Oh, hey! Did you see that Mo's Elephant and Piggie will be featured on the NEA Read Across America poster? Better order yours now!

Great teaching doesn't always take place in a classroom. Liz thinks about the differences between distance learning/teaching and classroom learning/teaching, and MsMac, a school librarian, facilitates a poetry writing club.

Glad you could stop by again today! Come back tomorrow for some party games and some book conversations!