Monday, October 30, 2006


Okay, so I am not a huge Madonna fan. I don't really pay attention to any of the gossip out there about Madonna. As a children's lit person, I am not a fan of her books. I don't really like many of the books published by celebrities or the fact that people think that "anyone can write a children's book". But, how can you miss all of the controversy about her recent plan to adopt a baby as a way to promote her new book? I am not sure what Madonna's adoption has to do with her new children's book. As part of the adoption community, I find it a bit appalling that people are accusing Madonna of planning to adopt a child in order to promote this new book. I think we can give our opinions about her book, but to negate her book because of something as important and unrelated as her adoption? What message does this give to children about adoption when we imply that she is adopting a child for this reason?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Book Collections/Habits

As part of helping my students think about their own reading identities, I always invite adult readers (parents, grandparents, staff members, etc.) to come to the classroom and talk about themselves as readers. It is quite fun. We spread it over the first months of school and it is a great builder of conversations. Every year I am amazed at collections and traditions people have around books. Over the years, we've heard from readers who buy a book in every city they visit for a collection of their travels. We've heard from readers who collect any version of Little Red Riding Hood that they can find. One mom collects Peter Rabbit books in every language. We've heard from people who buy books with their children's first names in them. This year we heard from a mom who buys a book for each child each year at Christmas. She picks out a special book for each child and writes the child a letter about their year in the front cover. Her thought is that when the children become adults, they'll have 21 books that chronicle their lives as readers, with a letter from mom in each one. What a gift! Last year, I started buying a few of my girlfriends my favorite book of the year as a Christmas present--what a better thing to share. And we all had so much to talk about! I love hearing about these traditions, collections, gift ideas etc. If anyone has others, we'd love to hear them. As a teacher, I love to share them with students--a vision of how readers live outside of the world of school. As a mom, friend, etc. I love the ideas--possibilities for my own life as a reader!

Comment if you have any great ideas. If we get enough, we'll compile them into a post.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Watch this film

Shannon Hale's books feature strong female characters. No surprise that I found this link at Sqeetus, her blog. Share this with all your friends, and not just the strong female ones.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Poetry Friday

Conference Comp Day Haiku

Teachers' holiday:
A one-day pause during the
Fall frenzy of school.

Fun Committees

Is "fun committees" an oxymoron? Not when the committees are for nominating or judging children's books for the newly conceived and unveiled Cybil Awards.

Here are the committees that are finalized so far:

Jen Robinson -- YA Fiction
Big A little a -- Picture Books (Franki's on this one!)
Fuse 8 -- Middle Grade Fiction

It appears that there is room left on the committees for Nonfiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels (I'm on this one!), Middle Grade and YA Nonfiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Poetry. Join in! If not to be on a FUN COMMITTEE, then to nominate a favorite in each category (following the rules, of course).

(Great logo, Stephanie!)

Newbery Ramblings

Nina, over at Nina's Newbery, wants to know if GOSSAMER is or is not an adult book.

Here's my two cents.

I read GOSSAMER aloud to my 5th graders. We had great conversation during the opening of the book about trusting an author and allowing yourself to revise your understanding of what's going on in a book as the author gives you more and more clues. Case in point: when you start reading, you have no idea what kind of creatures the Dream Givers are. Lowry gives the reader a character -- Gossamer -- who has no idea what kind of creature she is, and it's through her questions and explorations that she and the reader simultaneously learn what she is and what she does.

There were great connections between the fight of good vs. evil in GOSSAMER and in the BONE series, and between the somewhat flighty (pardon the pun), playful, simultaneously immature/deeply mature characters of Gossamer and Grace in COUNTING ON GRACE.

As early Tweens, my students really wanted to believe in the magic of the Dream Givers, but they could also talk about them in a very practical, no-nonsense way as well. This is where they're at right now in their development with Santa, the Easter Bunny, and The Great Pumpkin: they believe in spite of the evidence.

I did have to give them some background information on foster care (happily, there are no students in this class who have experienced this first-hand).

The day I was out with laryngitis so bad I could not make a single sound, my sub read the ending. After I returned, and as soon as I had enough voice to read aloud again, my students insisted I re-read the ending.

The idea of "gathering fragments" has become a metaphor in writing workshop for the kind of short entries we do in our writer's notebooks when we want to hold on to a moment (memory, scent, emotion, taste, etc.).

So is GOSSAMER an adult book? I say, "No." It's a great story for readers to connect to with heart and mind. It's a finely crafted short text for writers to study. I think it should be considered for the Newbery.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

Okay, so this is my very favorite story of the year. JEREMY FINK AND THE MEANING OF LIFE by Wendy Mass--LOVED IT! I decided to read it after FUSE #8 gave it such a great review. She was correct. It is a great book and I haven't heard much about it. I would highly recommend it. It would be a great read aloud for older kids. I got the same feel that I got many, many years ago when I was reading FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konigsburg, one of my favorite books from childhood. Jeremy Fink is a great character. His search for the meaning of life is one that is fun and one that makes you think. I've read the author's other books, but this is by far, my favorite! I don't think they give the Newbery anymore for a great story, but I would love to see this one win!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Literary Allusion

You thought The Excrement Poem was an oddly out-of-character poetry choice for the blog of elementary school teachers who are supposed to be writing about their reading lives and specifically about all of the wonderful new books that might win the Newbery Award? You allowed yourself to be deceived? You haven't wasted the last few years of your otherwise wonderful life reading THE SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS?

You didn't make the connection to THE END?

I quote, "We might even say that the world is always in medias res -- a Latin phrase which means 'in the midst of things' or 'in the middle of a narrative' -- and that it is impossible to solve any mystery, or find the root of any trouble..." In other words, WE GO ON, just as the Beaudelaire triplets and their new daughter do...or did, if I'm piecing together the clues about Lemony and Beatrice correctly, which is probably impossible, based on the circular illogicity (a word which here means "I don't get it," or some such thing) of THE SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and of life itself.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Poetry Friday

The Excrement Poem: by Maxine Kumin

It is done by us all, as God disposes, from
the least cast of worm to what may have been
in the case of the brontosaur, say, spoor
of considerable heft, something awesome.

We eat, we evacuate, survivors that we are.
I think these things each morning with shovel
and rake, drawing the risen brown buns
toward me, fresh from the horse oven, as it were,

or culling the alfalfa-green ones, expelled
in a state of ooze, through the sawdust bed
to take a serviceable form, as putty does,
so as to lift out entire from the stall.

And wheeling to it, storming up the slope,
I think of the angle of repose the manure
pile assumes, how sparrows come to pick
the redelivered grain, how inky-cap

coprinus mushrooms spring up in a downpour.
I think of what drops from us and must then
be moved to make way for the next and next.
However much we stain the world, spatter
it with our leavings, make stenches, defile
the great formal oceans with what leaks down,
trundling off today's last barrowful,
I honor shit for saying: We go on.


We go on.

And in case you think this is an odd poem choice, check this out for odd.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Cool Teacher Update

In our quest to list 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature, we are up to 84. Check the sidebar for the teachers who've been nominated so far and wrack your brains for any we've missed!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ten Poems to Last A Lifetime

I love Roger Housden's book TEN POEMS TO LAST A LIFETIME. I like the whole idea of it. In the introduction, he writes, "What is is about honey and bees that engages a beekeeper in his work for a lifetime? Or chimpanzees---Why does the primatologist Jane Goodall spend her working life alone in Africa watching and talking to them? What does a Shakespeare scholar find so fascinating about all those plays, which most of us are glad to be done with at the end of high school? And why do some people return to a few favorite poems over and over again, down through the years, when there are so many other books and anthologies out there just waiting to be digested and absorbed? .... It must be an unending source of discovery, of reflection, solace and insight; of pleasure; and also of warmth and nourishment, in athe way a fire can warm hands, and bread can fill the stomach." I am not one to read poetry anthologies from front to back but I love to find a poem that changes me. That is why I love this book and the concept of it--poems that you can go to over and over and over. Roger Housden mentions later in the introduction that everyone will have his/her own list of poems for a lifetime. I may start my own collection. Wouldn't it be fun for kids to do this? I'd love to see an anthology like this for kids. If you want to think about poems that would make a list of a kid version of an idea like this, we will be happy to post the list--poems that provide kids with some way to make sense of the world, that they could go to over and over. Comment away!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Art Teacher Suspended for Museum Trip?

Did anyone else see this article about a Texas teacher who has been suspended because her students saw nude art on an approved museum field trip?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Breaking News For Frost Fans

A previously unpublished poem by Robert Frost has been found! The poem, entitled "War Thoughts At Home" was found handwritten in the cover of a book, and will be published in Virginia Quarterly Review this week.