Saturday, September 30, 2006

Kimberly Willis Holt

Kimberly Willis Holt was at our favorite children's bookstore--Cover to Cover--last Saturday. I have heard her speak before and I always love what she has to say. She was there talking about her new book PART OF ME: STORIES OF A LOUISIANA FAMILY which I just finished and loved! I am a huge fan of Holt's so I would be happy to see this one win the Newbery too. It is pretty new so we'll see if it makes any of the Mock Newbery lists. The book is another one of her stories with characters who stay with you. Actually, it is about 4 generations of a family. The fun thing for all of you teachers and librarians out there is the thread of books and reading throughout the book. The main character was a bookmobile driver which brought back great memories of my childhood bookmobile days. This book is really a tribute to books, reading, readers and family. I loved it!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Poetry Friday for the Changing Seasons

I found this poem for Jody Scott once, long ago. Her sticky note of thanks is still in the book by the poem. I love rediscovering that note and being flooded with memories of her.

The poem is RELUCTANCE, by Robert Frost.

My favorite stanza:

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

The last stanza:

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

The whole poem

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I just picked up a copy of BABYMOUSE: ROCK STAR today. I am very excited that this new addition to the series is out. I plan to read it tonight. Since so many people put BABYMOUSE: BEACH BABE on their Top 5 List for Mother Reader, I am anxious to check it out. It looks like it is going to be another good one:-)

Banned Books Week

Franki sent me a link from Outside of a Cat about Banned Books week...

...there it was, number 98 on the list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000: THE HEADLESS CUPID by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. The memories came flooding teacher, just out of OSU with an MA in Children's Literature; parents loud and threatening and defiant; questioning myself, my judgement, my professionalism; feeling of support when my principal read the book and defended it and me when we met with the parents...and my astonishment when I learned, at that meeting with the parents, that THEY HADN'T EVEN READ THE BOOK! We cooked up some activities for the kid to do in another book out in the hall while the class (or the group...that part's fuzzy) worked on THE HEADLESS CUPID, but his parents wound up reading the book (finally) and realized it wasn't so bad, and they let the kid finish the book on his own because he wanted to find out how the story ended.

Gigantic nothing-burger with a side of ignorance. Left me with a mild case of professional indigestion, but no permanent aversion to books that fringe cases might not approve of.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Reading First News

I don't know if any of you have seen the report done on Reading First. But here is the link to the New York Times article about it this weekend. I think scripted programs for teachers are getting out of control and that we need to work to make REAL books the anchor for reading instruction. Hopefully, more money will be given to book based reading instruction in the near future.
An interesting read.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Poetry Saturday

School has taken over my life, so this poem has particular resonance:


by George Bilgere

Instead we sit together by the fountain,
the important novel and I.

We are having coffee together
in that quiet first hour of the morning,
respecting each other's silences
in the shadow of an important old building
in this small but significant European city.

All the characters can relax.
I'm giving them the day off.

(click here for the rest of the poem)

And here are a few haiku my 5th graders wrote about favorite read-alouds from last year:


Despereaux is small
A mouse the size of a bug
A hero to all

Despereaux is a
mouse that gets his tail cut off
by a falling knife.

Shining warrior
he goes to save a princess
Name is Despereaux.


Edward Tulane lost
his beloved pocket watch,
a cherished item.

Edward Tulane was
a rich rabbit without love.
People, though, found it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Poetry Friday!

I found a fun, new poetry book that I thought I'd share. It is called DON'T FORGET YOUR ETIQUETTE! THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO MISBEHAVIOR. ("With advice from Miss Information"--get it?!) So, this is a cute book of poems for kids that talks all about ways to misbehave. It is illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott so if you know her other books, you know that her illustrations always add fun to the text.

Here is a stanza from a poem called "The Etiquette of Dress"

Tuck your tie into your belt
And wear it as a tail.
Put your undies on your head
And wear them as a veil.

I think my favorite part of the book is the placement of a quote above each poem. These are serious quotes about manners from manners books and experts. (Miss Manners, Emily Post, etc.). The quote above "The Etiquette of Dress" says, "You never get a second chance at a first impression, and a first impression is often based on how you look." Emily Post's Teen Etiquette. The brilliance in the choice of quotes is quite amusing:-)

I think kids will LOVE this book. I think MOST parents will too, but after reading the link from Read Roger, who knows how some parents will react to the humor.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The New Yorker in Haiku

Every New Yorker article turned into haiku.


Excessive, in a minimalist sort of way.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

My Top 5 Books

Top 5 2006 Series Books For Struggling Readers in Upper Elementary

NIGHT OF THE NEW MAGICIANS by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House Series)
LOSE, TEAM, LOSE by R.L. Stine (Rotten School Series)
BABYMOUSE: BEACH BABE by Jennifer and Matthew Holm (Babymouse Series)
THE DRAGONSLAYER by Jeff Smith (Bone Series -- graphic novel)

None of these books will win the Newbery. But they're what my struggling 4th/5th graders can pick up and read independently.

Three Cool Connections

A group of my students are reading COUNTING ON GRACE by Elizabeth Winthrop. I am reading GOSSAMER by Lois Lowry for our read aloud.

The group thinks Grace, who has just started working at the mill, is like Littlest, who has just started bestowing dreams. Grace and Littlest both are playful and curious and have a hard time concentrating on their work.

Pepe is like Grandpa in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, they think. I'm pretty sure they won't think that at the end of the book.

One of my avid BONE readers thinks the bad dreams that Thorn is having come from the Sinsteeds in GOSSAMER.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Poetry Friday, better late than never

Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone;
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.

by A.L. Gordon
in THIS PLACE I KNOW: POEMS OF COMFORT, selected by Georgia Heard

From School Library Journal
In memory of the September 11th tragedy, this book was compiled initially to offer hope and comfort to children who witnessed the event firsthand, but has far broader application, speaking to all people, young and old, who suffer trauma.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I heard an interview on NPR this morning, "The Joys and Perils of Whining at Work."

On that note, here are my two school haikus, in response to Franki's challenge.

I really do think
we work harder every day
than anyone else.

We educate your
future generations. You
begrudge us summers?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Franki's Top Picks (so far!) for 2006

Thanks to Mother Reader for another great idea! She has asked us to pick our top 5 books of 2006 in a few categories. Since the purpose of this blog is to read books that could win the Newbery, I have my top 5 in that area on my list. At the moment, based on what I've read and the mood I'm in, here are the top 5 picture books and chapter books for middle readers.

Top 5 Fiction for Middle Readers
(Novels that COULD Win the Newbery Award)

YELLOW STAR by Jennifer Roy

PENNY FROM HEAVEN by Jennifer Holm

YEAR OF THE DOG by Grace Lin

FAIRIES OF NUTFOLK WOOD by Barb Bentler Ullman

GOSSAMER by Lois Lowry

Fiction Picture Books


LAST DAY OF SCHOOL by Louise Borden


HIPPO! NO, RHINO! by Jeff Newman


Teacher Challenge!

I am fascinated by Fibonacci Poetry (thanks to Gotta Book) and Emily Reads Haiku Reviews (thanks to A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy). I'm also quite amused by Book-a-Minute.

So, teachers, here is your challenge,
create a Fibonacci Poem OR a Haiku OR a School-Day-A-Minute describing your day at school.

Mary Lee, you go first:-)

School Fib for Tuesday, September 12

dog and
swim laps, then
it's all a blur 'til
I fall asleep reading in bed.

To Teach Fib

is to
inspire, encourage,
watch, listen, cajole, celebrate.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Horn Book Article

Thanks to Read Roger, whose blog I read almost daily, I found this great article from this month's Horn Book Magazine. I hadn't dug into my copy yet but checked out the Table of Contents when Roger mentioned that it was available. I always love the sneak peak at the articles online. I am so interested in getting the right books into the hands of our new chapter book readers that I loved this one. It is a letter to parents from a second grade teacher about books and book choice at this age. If anyone knows the author, I'd love to tell her how amazing this letter to parents is!

The First Six Days of School

(Disclaimer: I am a looping teacher. One of the joys of the second year of the loop is that there is a weave of connectedness to everything that happens in our classroom right from the start.)

The first book I read aloud this year was DOOBY DOOBY MOO by Doreen Cronin. Last year we read Click Clack Moo, Giggle Giggle Quack, Duck for President, Diary of a Worm, and Diary of a Spider, so predictions and connections were numerous and were rich with background knowledge about the farm, the farmer, and the duck. The kids loved how Cronin uses asterisk footnotes that sound just like the fine print in real life.

The asterisk footnotes led me to read WOLVES by Emily Gravett next. (Yes, this is the one I stole out of Franki's pile at Cover to Cover.) I won't spoil it for you, but the end of this book is similar in tone and style to Cronin's asterisk footnotes. My students were touchingly distressed by the first ending, and laughed hysterically at the sarcasm of the second ending. 10 years old and already so jaded!

After two picture books, I was ready for a novel, and we jumped right into GOSSAMER by Lois Lowry. I say "jumped right into" because we usually spend time doing what readers do when they choose a new book -- studying the cover, reading the blurbs on the back and on the flaps of the cover, thinking about all we might know about the author's other books. All I told them was that they should expect to be confused, but that one of the main characters was also confused and would be asking lots of the questions they would have. As I read the first 10 pages or so, we stopped often, trying to piece together the clues about who these creatures are and what they are doing. The way Lowry writes with such authority about these imaginary (??or are they real??) dream givers reminded us of the way one of the students in our class wrote about the alien cultures in the lunar system that she invented last year.

I'm still making my way through Katie Wood Ray's STUDY DRIVEN, but I have read enough to know that our first study in writing workshop will be of the interesting things punctuation can do in our writing. (Ray writes about such a study in a first grade class. Why re-invent the wheel, eh?) It seemed natural to use Cronin's asterisks as the example that would send some students off to gather other anchor texts for our study. They went right to Cronin's other books, so it looks like we'll be doing a combination study of how Cronin uses punctuation, and, oh, yeah, how a few other writers use it, too.

I tabbed this important statement in Ray's STUDY DRIVEN: "When students are just writing on their own in writing workshops, they must learn to answer this essential question, 'What have you read that is like what you are trying to make?' " As we reviewed what a writer needs to think about when planning a piece, one student offered up, "You need to know what you're going to make." (goosebumps) So as I circulated around the room and asked students what they had read that they thought their writing might be like, one student said she was planning to make a story that would be like DOOBY DOOBY MOO, set on a farm, with a farmer and some farm animals for the characters. Two boys have attempted to write humor in the style of CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, but I'm going to send them back to Pilkey's books for more study. Their funniest joke so far is the one about the Barbies vs. Barneys: The Ultimate Battle video game that is rated M for Mature. The rest of the humor is gratuitous bathroom humor. Maybe they need to get some peer reviewers to look at their work, too. I could be way off on the bathroom humor.

Enough for tonight. I have to go make lunches for the week and then fall into bed and hope to get enough rest to tackle our first, full, five-days-in-a-row week of school, which will include both the unveiling of our science museum and curriculum night.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Poetry Friday!

I decided to feature two of my favorite professional books for teachers this week. If any of you know me, you know I am talking about Georgia Heard's books, FOR THE GOOD OF EARTH AND SUN: TEACHING POETRY and AWAKENING THE HEART: EXPLORING POETRY IN ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOL. Neither are new books, but they are books that I go back to every year to think about poetry teaching. I am a big fan of Georgia Heard's work. She is amazing and has helped so many teachers to teach poetry well. I used to dread the idea of getting kids to write poetry. But, after discovering FOR THE GOOD OF EARTH AND SUN years ago, we have a great time reading, writing and thinking about poems. She is a poet and teacher and her strategies for teaching poetry help kids (and teachers) to love the genre of poetry and to learn to write it well. I have found that studying poetry and language the way that Georgia Heard teaches us to, helps students improve their writing across genres. Georgia Heard is a poet who has also written several poetry books for kids, such as CREATURES OF EARTH, SEA, AND SKY, THIS PLACE I KNOW: POEMS OF COMFORT, and SONG OF MYSELF: AN ANTHOLOGY OF POEMS AND ART.

Monday, September 04, 2006

"Comments are the Lifeblood of Blogs"

I couldn't agree with Graham Wegner more.

Doug at Borderland shares some tips for organizing and tracking your comments...a little beyond my skill level right now, but maybe not yours...

Links for Teachers

I updated our generic and quirky "Links" section on the sidebar to (hopefully) be more useful to teachers who read here. Any other favorites you'd like us to consider?

Friday, September 01, 2006

archy and mehitabel

From the Don Marquis website: "Archy is a cockroach with the soul of a poet, and Mehitabel is an alley cat with a celebrated past -- she claims she was Cleopatra in a previous life. Together, cockroach and cat are the foundation of one of the most engaging collections of light poetry to come out of the twentieth century."

the lesson of the moth

By Don Marquis, in "archy and mehitabel," 1927

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself