Friday, June 29, 2007


Sorry this Poetry Friday Post is late!
But here it is:

A fun new poetry book that I found at Cover to Cover last week when we visited with Lisa Yee. I am looking for anthologies for my classrooms--books kids can study and think about how collections go together.

POEMS IN BLACK AND WHITE by Kate Miller is unique in that all of the poems are about things that are black and white. The illustrations, of course, are black and white. The variety of topics makes it fun--First Steps (baby's first footprints), A Fly in February, The Cow, Bowling, Tic-Tac-Toe, and more. It is an anthology with good variety in the way the poems are written, their tones, and the topics.

A New Friend for Moxy and Clementine

Just Grace
Still Just Grace
by Charise Mericle Harper
Houghton Mifflin, 2007

When Mindy, at propernoun, said she loves Grace more than Clementine, my eyebrows shot up (left higher than right). How could this be possible?


1. There are whole chapters in Just Grace that are lists. Like the first chapter. "I Did Not Get To Be."
2. There are adorable sketches and comics sprinkled about in the text.
3. Grace's nemesis, Sammy Stringer, is obsessed with poop. What are the chances that I'd come across another poop-filled book?
4. Grace has the superhero superpower of empathy, just like Clementine.
5. Don't worry, Grace is not a rip-off of Clementine, but Grace does solve problems in unique ways that threaten to become worse problems, like when she makes a life-size cardboard Crinkles (her neighbor's cat) with photography and cardboard and glue. She takes pictures of cardboard Crinkles in different places around town and makes postcards and sends them to her neighbor to cheer her neighbor up. Except her neighbor thinks they are ransom notes from the person who stole Crinkles. Except Crinkles wasn't stolen, he was...

...well, you better read it yourself.

Grace is a fun girl character with a unique voice. This book would make a great mentor text (take note, Literacy Teacher) because of the super short chapters that are almost like notebook entries and the chapters that are lists. I'm thinking that my beginning-of-the-year 4th graders next fall will be relieved to see that they can satisfy their inner doodler by adding sketches and mini-comics to their writing and get away with it. I was already planning to start read aloud with Clementine, and Just Grace will make a great compare/contrast second book.

NEA N-E-1 ?

Are you going to NEA RA in Philadelphia?

Me, too!

All of the librarians had KidLit drink night at ALA, how about we have one at NEA?! (This is my first-ever rep. assembly, so I have exactly NO idea how realistic that suggestion is...)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blogging Continuum of Skills

Here's a perfect example of my spot on the continuum of blogging skills that exist in the blogosphere:

Alkelda the Gleeful, at Saints and Spinners, has become an iTunes affiliate site. (That's cool and new -- I had only ever heard of Amazon affiliates.)

She's going to use the money she earns to buy a goat through Heifer International. (Barbara Kingsolver would approve!)

She has this little linky thing on her blog that takes you right to iTunes. (Another linky thing on her blog, the one where we got to vote for the patron saint of potty training, gave me the idea for the surveys for our 5 Things Meme.)

But wait! Look at this! When you go to iTunes, you find a playlist that Alkelda herself has put together and which you can buy in part or in whole! Hand-picked tunes! (The purchase of which helps buy a goat!)

I'm in awe. I'm in heaven: I'm learning!

(The July Carnival of Children's Literature will be at Saints and Spinners. Something makes me believe that it will be accompanied by fireworks! And music for sure!)

Welcome Katie!

We are pleased to announce the birth of a new blog, Creative Literacy, authored by Katie, a primary teacher at Franki's school. Katie is also the mother of three boys, known on her blog as Mo, Larry and Curly. Her blog's mission is "Nurturing the lives of primary readers and writers while searching for my own reading and writing identity."

Last Saturday morning, Franki and I met Katie at Caribou Coffee to answer some of her blogging start-up questions. Because I am just a little ahead of Franki on the technology end of blogging, that makes me the "blogging guru" in her eyes. But the thing I love about blogging is that there is a huge continuum of blogging skills/abilities/tricks. I'm nowhere NEAR the high end of the continuum with my skills. (Just ask Tricia, who this week taught me to make a link in comments using html code!) But it is enough for me that I am even ON the continuum. I know that what we do with our blog is an approximation of what could be done, but right now, I can do most everything I want to, and when I need to know how to do more, I know where to go for help. (In teacher lingo: scaffoding.)

Katie was bemoaning the amount of time she already found herself devoting to her blog, and to finding and reading other blogs. In my eyes, this is not wasted time. It may not yield a product as visible as a weeded garden, a clean house, or a knitted sweater, but it is time spend MAKING something, rather than just consuming -- watching TV, shopping, etc. And invariably, blogging leads to LEARNING as well.

I think as teachers, we must MUST MUST keep ourselves on some kind of learning curve. It doesn't matter what we are learning to do, we need to keep learning. The craft of our teaching will automatically improve if we can share with our students not just the memory of, but the real and present joy of learning.

Welcome to the party, Katie!

The One O'Clock Chop by Ralph Fletcher

I received an advanced copy of THE ONE O'CLOCK CHOP by Ralph Fletcher. If you know his novels, most are middle grade novels. Fig Pudding, Flying Solo, and Spider Boy are three that are for middle grade kids. This new one, due out in the fall, seems more appropriate for the upper end of the middle grades--early middle school, I would say.

It is a great story with characters who stay with you. I read the book about a month ago and found myself thinking about the main character, Matt, long after I finished the book.

The plot is deals with an interesting issue--two first cousins who somehow fall in love.

Fourteen-year-old Matt learns that his cousin from Hawaii is coming to spend the summer with his family (Matt and his mom). His cousin "Jazzy" is beautiful and Matt begins to fall in love with her. Matt and Jazzy both know that you can't fall in love with your cousin but they can't stop what they are feeling. The story is well done--a real issue with believable characters.

The book and the writing remind me a bit of Carl Hiaasen. It could be the setting and the big part that clam digging plays in the book--Matt spends his days on a boat with a friend of his mom's--learning about the work of clam digging and about life. But there is something about the way that the story works that reminds me of Carl Hiaasen, only better.

A little romance, a little conflict, great characters and Fletcher's great writing make this a great read for kids. It is a delicate issue--a forbidden romance-and is very well done. I think it will appeal to lots of middle school kids.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE by Barbara Kingsolver

This is narrative nonfiction, a book about her family's year-long attempt to be locavores -- eating almost exclusively locally grown (mostly in their garden and on their farm) foods. I read this book with a pencil in my hand. I underlined and starred and exclamation pointed and smiley faced my way from beginning to end. There are too many great lines and important thoughts to share here, but I'll pick one:
"I share with almost every adult I know this crazy quilt of optimism and worries, feeling locked into certain habits but keen to change them in the right direction. And the tendency to feel like a jerk for falling short of absolute conversion. I'm not sure why. If a friend had a coronary scare and finally started exercising three days a week, who would hound him about the other four days? It's the worst of bad manners -- and self-protection, I think, in a nervously cynical society -- to ridicule the small gesture. These earnest efforts might just get us past the train-wreck of the daily news, or the anguish of standing behind a child, looking with her at the road ahead, searching out redemption where we can find it: recycling or carpooling or growing a garden or saving a species or something. Small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren't trivial. Ultimately they will, or won't add up to having been the thing that mattered."

Thank you, Barbara Kingsolver, for reassuring me that I AM making a difference by recycling and composting and completely giving up Mandarin oranges from China and flatly refusing to buy apples from New Zealand. Now that the farmers' markets are in full swing, you'll know where to find me on Saturdays. I'll probably do some canning again this summer. I'm back to baking bread. I'm making my own kind of difference.

When Heaven Fell by Carolyn Marsden

I read When Heaven Fell on the plane ride home for Portland, Maine today. I picked it up at Cover to Cover the other day. I was drawn to the cover and then realized that I had enjoyed several other books by Carolyn Marsden (especially THE GOLD THREADED DRESS). But, I had not heard anything about it and knew nothing about the plot.

WHEN HEAVEN FELL is a kind of adoption story--so I paid attention as an adoptive mom.

There is an interesting review of this book at Ethnically Incorrect Daughter. I trust this review because the write is a woman who was adopted from Vietnam. So much of what she says about the book makes sense. It is a review worth reading to really understand some of the issues in this book.

But, I saw this book to be one with a lot of merit--one I will put on a bookshelf for my daughter to read as she gets older. I thought it was a good story of the way adoption affects everyone.

This is the story of Binh, a little girl who finds out that she has an aunt that was sent to the US during Operation Babylift. The aunt was 5 years old at the time and the family is awaiting their first visit from her. Binh's family lives in poverty conditions and the expectations of an "American aunt" are based on the movies they've seen. The visit proves them all wrong.

I think what I liked about this book was that it addressed the pain that all partied have when adoption is involved. The struggle of the birthmother deciding to send her daughter to the US for a better life was well-handled. Her grief and sorrow are clear in the book. The sadness of the adopted daughter--even though she is happy- is also addressed. The connection to the birthfamily and the pain that they all feel based on their roles in the family seems authentic to me. The reunion seemed authentic to me--comfortable, yet difficult. I have yet to read a book on adoption written for children t--especially international adoption--that addresses the struggles and pain of all parties so equally.

So, this is a book I will have in my classroom--it gives a clear picture of the struggles of any adoption and shows each character as one to empathize with. I will also keep the book for my daughter as she gets older. You never know which book might help a child make sense of life and I thought this one did a good job with some of the adoption issues that most books ignore-like the birthmother struggle. A difficult subject but the author did a good job of addressing it for such young children.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The High King

A week ago, I finished my first summer reading goal: to reread the Prydain Chronicles in memory of Lloyd Alexander.

TARAN WANDERER is still my favorite, and THE HIGH KING was particularly hard for me to read this time. At its heart, this book is about war and conflict, power and leadership, ultimate evil vs. uncertain good. Friends die. Hard decisions must be made. It's all a little too close to current events right now to be a comfortable read.

At least in this book, we have a thoughtful leader who struggles with the need to use violence to preserve culture -- the culture he learned in TARAN WANDERER in the Free Commots. "My way is not the warrior's way; yet, if I do not bear my sword now, there will be no place in Prydain for the usefulness and beauty of any craftsman's handiwork. And if I fail, I will have lost all I gained from you." And later, Coll says of Taran, "It is harsh enough for each man to bear his own wound. But he who leads bears the wounds of all who follow him." (If only.)

The end of the book is filled with themes so huge that it seems impossible that Alexander could pull it all off and pull it all together. Certainly this is why the book was a Newbery winner. There is the nod to the Arthurian legend when Taran rolls a boulder off the enchanted sword Dyrnwyn and defeats the ultimate evil. There is the Biblical loss of enchantment and eternal life when the Sons of Don return to the Summer Country and Taran must stay behind and Eilowny chooses to stay behind, forfeiting her magical powers. Hen Wen becomes an ordinary, rather than an oracular, pig.

And there is the bittersweet realization that one's greatest accomplishment is only a beginning:
"Evil conquered?" said Gwydion. "You have learned much, but learn this last and hardest of lessons. You have conquered only the enchantments of evil. That was the easiest of your tasks, only a beginning, not an ending. Do you believe evil itself to be so quickly overcome? Not so long as men still hate and slay each other, when greed and anger goad them. Against these even a flaming sword cannot prevail, but only that portion of good in all men's hearts whose flame can never be quenched."

There you have it...

This rating was determined by the presence of the following words: poop (x7) and sex (x1). (I found two incidents of "sex" in our blog, here and here. I know where all the poop is!) I guess scrotum and other below-the-waist body part words managed to slip through this rating system, once again making us wonder what the big deal was... Thanks to the excelsior file for the link.

The Qwikpick Adventure Society

by Sam Riddleburger
Dial Books for Young Readers
May 2007
review copy compliments of the author

Add this book to your stack of "Perfect BOY Books."

The author suggested that members of my literature circle might like it, but as soon as I read it, I knew better. All of the boys who had been reading Andy Griffiths' Butt books (THE DAY MY BUTT WENT PSYCHO, ZOMBIE BUTTS FROM URANUS, and BUTT WARS: THE FINAL CONFLICT) needed to read this book which prominently features poop. And not just poop, but a poop fountain.

Stay with me here. Poop is just the hook to get the reader into this book. Once you're hooked, you get three memorable characters, "handwritten" sections that are "taped" in, photos that give the whole thing an air of authenticity (you'll have to read the book yourself to find out why there's no actual photo of the poop fountain), haikus that each character wrote to describe the poop fountain experience, and an author who obviously can channel his inner middle school self -- his writing has impeccable voice and timing and humor. The story is ludicrous and impossible (it all happens on Christmas Day, for heaven's sake!) and completely and totally believable.

I didn't get the chance to watch this book work through the underground readers' network in my room this year because it came too late. Only one of the Butt readers had a chance to read it (and LOVED it). I can't wait until next year when I pick a boy who will read this book and then pass it along. Funny thing is, after it makes the round of the boys, I'm pretty sure there will be girls who want to read it. Partly to find out what the stink is all about (pardon the pun), but also because one of the characters is a really cool girl!

I'm looking forward to more well-written, easy-ish books (for boys or not, doesn't matter) from Sam Riddleburger!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Taking A Bath With The Dog

I just picked up Taking a Bath With the Dog and Other Things That Make Me Happy by Scott Menchin in Maine. (I cannot visit anywhere without making a trip to at least one bookstore!)

This is a great picture book that I hadn't seen before. A child is looking sad and her mother asks her what would make her happy. The little girl goes around and asks people what makes them happy, only to find out that different things make different people happy. Then she thinks about all of the things that make her happy!

It is a simple, predictable picture book that can be read by early readers. But the lesson is good for readers of all ages. I bought a copy for my classroom--I think I can use it when we start writers' notebooks in the fall as ideas for lists (Things that Make Me Happy). I also think kids would love it for the message and colorful illustrations. It might also be a good one for K-1 classrooms--books that kids could easily read on their own because of the picture supports and predictable text.

We've Been Memed!

NYC Teacher (who is now known as Literacy Teacher) tagged us with the Five Things Meme. We're going to play a guessing game with this. In each category, either Franki or Mary Lee will supply the five things, and then you will be able to vote on whose five it is. Sometimes the answers are a combination of Franki and Mary Lee. How well do you think you "know" us?!? (Surveys are located BELOW each set of five.) Five Things I Was Doing Ten Years Ago 1. Looking for a house. 2. Learning to train my first dog. 3. Walking to our favorite restaurant (Gottlieb's). 4. Using a computer mostly for word processing. 5. Baking bread frequently.  Five Snacks I Enjoy 1. DOTS. 2. red licorice. 3. Oreos. 4. orange slice candy. 5. dark chocolate.  Five Songs I Know All the Lyrics To 1. All of the songs from GREASE. 2. "I think I love you" by the Partidge Family. 3. Don't Worry, Be Happy. 4. Ring of Fire. 5. Lollipop Tree.  Five Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire 1. Take a nap every day. 2. Buy family members lots of vacations. 3. Redecorate the whole house all at once. 4. Give lots of the $$ away. 5. Hire someone to do the laundry.  Five Bad Habits 1. Procrastination. I'm get lots done, but not always what I need to do right now. 2. Talking on the phone. 3. Asking questions before I get the answer to the one I just asked. 4. Not folding laundry when it comes out of the dryer. 5. Being late for appointments because I do just one more thing before I leave.  Five Things I Like To Do 1. Take naps. 2. Read. 3. Write. 4. Teach. 5. Fly fish, bike, hike, garden.  Five Things I Would Never Wear Again 1. A bikini. 2. The 1980's version of the Bob Evans hostess uniform. 3. Pigtails. 4. Cowboy boots. 5. Shoulder pads.  Five Favorite Toys 1. iPod. 2. USB vacuum cleaner. 3. iMovie/iDVD. 4. Fishing gear. 5. Office supplies.  Lots of folks seem to be on blog holiday, so we won't tag anyone in particular. Join in if you want!

A Day With Lisa Yee and Peepy!

We had a fun afternoon with Lisa Yee on Saturday. We started with a quick tour of her digs at Thurber House. Then we took a rather circuitous trip to one of our favorite places to eat, Northstar Cafe. The one near Cover to Cover Bookstore. To get there, we had to dodge ComFest traffic and the Gay Pride Parade in the Short North.

Over the best veggie burgers ever, we chatted about families (specifically, teenage daughters), books, and blogging. Lisa told us about the work she's doing at Thurber House -- her own reading and writing, as well as the writing classes she's teaching. In breaking news, we learned that Nancy Pearl will be featuring Millicent Min on NPR this morning as one of books in her summer reading for young readers piece.

At Cover to Cover, Lisa met Sally Oddi, the owner, and Peepy met some new friends, as you can see in the picture. Franki was honored to be able to hold Peepy, and check out those for-real bunny ears that Mary Lee is getting. Someone didn't want to be left out of the picture!

Because we couldn't get to North Market on this trip, we do have some unfinished business before Lisa heads back to California -- salty caramel ice cream at Jeni's!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Good News in the Kidlitosphere: The June Carnival of Children's Literature

It's Saturday, but for this month's carnival, we invite you to the relaxed feel of browsing the Sunday newspaper with a big cup of coffee. Enjoy!

Chris Barton shares his good news in Whoopee ti yi yo, get along little pseudonym posted at Bartography. Yipee!

Alyssa F. has some good news for all of you Carnival-goers at Contest, Contest, Contest! posted at The Shady Glade.

Becky Laney reviews Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller posted at Becky's Book Reviews.

Susan T. reminds us of an old favorite collection of folktales from around the world with Chicken Spaghetti: "Silly & Sillier," by Judy Sierra posted at Chicken Spaghetti.

Sonja Cole takes us to the beaches of Maui for a video blog of Mermaid Booktalks posted at Bookwink.

Sheila Ruth picked up a huge stack of promising new books at BEA. Check it out at Wands and Worlds: BEA: Books and other cool stuff posted at Wands and Worlds.

Royce Wells reviews Summerland posted at A Stack Of Books. Great timing!

:: Suzanne :: shares two family favorites -- Runaway Bunny and Handy-Dandy Helpful Hal: A Book about Helpfulness posted at :: adventures in daily living ::.

Niki Anders has found a new repeat read aloud: The-A-TEAM » A Seed Is Sleepy posted at The-A-TEAM.

Sandy D. read an adult book and a children's book that were both about the 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago. Check it out to see which she liked best at Fair Weather and The Devil in the White City: Book Review posted at the imponderabilia of actual life.

Maureen O'Brien declares, "Another new book by Roland Smith is a winner!" Read Trinity Prep School - Peak Experience of the Week posted at Trinity Prep School to find out more.

Author Cynthia Leitich Smith presents Author Interview: April Lurie on Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds posted at cynsations.

Author Liz Garton Scanlon throws down the gauntlet in Liz In Ink - C'mon and Tri posted at Liz In Ink.

Writer Kelly Fineman shares writing tips in kellyrfineman: Useful bits and photos, mmm mmm good posted at Writing and Ruminating.

Writer Emily shares picture book writing secrets in ...whimsy... - Part One: The Conference... posted at Whimsy Books.

polliwog interviews author Meg Cabot in Guest Frogger - Meg Cabot posted at Polliwog's Pond.

Jen Robinson interviews a book character in Sameera Righton (Sparrow) Interview posted at Jen Robinson's Book Page, saying, "This interview of Sameera Righton is good news because it was published on the release date of First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover, by Mitali Perkins."

DeputyHeadmistress remembers a favorite author in The Common Room: Lloyd Alexander, RIP posted at The Common Room.

Storytellers count as authors, don't they? Alkelda the Gleeful shares with us the story Little Monkey Face posted at Saints and Spinners.

The title says it all. NYCTEACHER presents I've come to believe you cannot ask your students to do what you don't do. posted at Mentor Texts and More.

Anne-Marie presents Summer school and a trip to the zoo with Sylvan Dell and Top 10 recommended summer reading lists posted at A Readable Feast.

Sherry Early presents Summer Reading List: Middle School Daughter at Semicolon posted at Semicolon.

Have you read THE TRUE STORY OF STELLINA to your NYC child yet? Get busy, says Mother Reader in MotherReader: Poetry Friday: Stellina posted at MotherReader.

Terrell shares some end-of-school-year thoughts in PTSW: Crystal Stair posted at Alone on a Limb.

:: Suzanne :: spotlights the poet Elsa Beskow in Around the Year - Elsa Beskow posted at :: adventures in daily living :: .

Allen Holman reminds us of the classic game Judge and Jury posted at Classic Kid's Games and Party Games.

Laurie Bluedorn introduces us to a dollmaker and illustrator at Trivium Pursuit » Blog Archive » Podcast #3 Interview with Eloise Wilkin’s Daughter, Part Two posted at Laurie Bluedorn.

Kelly shares some excellent news for girls who want more out of life than to be the best French braid maker in Excellent News (Finally) and a Feminist Rant posted at Big A little a.

Roderick Russell gives us a real conversation starter with Children's Book Preaches Cryonics posted at NOUMENON :: Art, Ideas, Culture & Capricious Opinion.

Rory Sullivan shares a conversation started by a book in Impromptu Sex Education - Is It Always When You Least Expect It? posted at hamelife.

Jeanne presents Kids Lit Itinerary posted at , saying, "Using books while you travel is a fantastic and fun way to home school on the move and helps enrich the experience for a child. We are on a multi year trip around the world but this same idea can be used for field trips at home or on any vacation or trip." You read that right -- a multi year trip around the world! You gotta check this one out!

The ultimate field trip for a book lover is probably the Book Expo. Liz reports on her BEA experience with BEA at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy.

Summer presents Thursday thirteen great books on conservation and the environment posted at Mom Is Teaching.

Veronica reports on a conversation prompted by AND TANGO MAKES THREE in What makes a family? posted at The Red Thread.

DHM debates the need to dilute children's intellectual food in Sesquipedalians and Children posted at The Common Room.

Phil shows how real life can be framed as a well-known fable in The Turtle and the Rabbit « Phil for Humanity posted at Phil for Humanity.

That's the good news for June in the Kidlitosphere!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Poetry Friday -- Barter

On the longest day of the year, what better than to use up every last minute of light on one of the few streams in Ohio with water cold enough to support trout?

No, I didn't catch any fish, but that's not always the point when fly fishing. We shared the river with a great blue heron. The woods were filled with evening birdsong. The drive out of the state forest twinkled with firefly lights.

by Sarah Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell.
All beautiful and splendid things...
Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

The rest is here.

Roundup at a wrung sponge this week.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

While We're Waiting For Your Carnival Submission...

(Six more hours before you miss the deadline. And even then, we'll work you in! Submit your Carnival of Children's Literature entry here.)

The Misadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff: You Wish
By Jason Lethcoe

I wanted to like this book. It has footnotes, for heaven's sake! And a time line in an appendix! And maps on the end papers!

Unfortunately, I couldn't get past Benjamin's wishes for Playstations and flat-screen tvs for himself and all the other kids at the orphanage. The author threw in a "massive outdoor power generator" to add a tiny bit of plausibility. Then one of the boys was "so overcome with emotion that he just sat with the unopened Playstation box on his lap, wiping tears from his eyes with his tiny, grubby fist." Gag. I nearly wept, too. We went from wishes vs. curses and good vs. evil directly into consumerism at its very ugliest.

I agree with all of this, but the excelsior file said it better, so I'm going to be lazy and let you read his review.

After you're done reading the review, get busy and submit your Carnival entry.

Monday, June 18, 2007

2 New Writing Books by Ralph Fletcher

Ralph Fletcher has written two new books for writers. One is HOW TO WRITE YOUR LIFE STORY. This is part of the series that he has written that includes POETRY MATTERS, A WRITER'S NOTEBOOK and HOW WRITERS WORK. All of these books are written to help young writers grow as writers and in each Ralph Fletcher shares his own process. In this new book, Ralph Fletcher focuses on writing memories and memoir. He does it in a way that makes sense for kids, helping them think through things like ideas, focus and craft. He also deals a bit with writing difficult scenes or topics. As with his other books, he's included interviews with other children's authors who have written their life stories. (He has chosen authors who have written memoirs of their childhoods.) Author interviews included in this book are Jack Gantos, Jerry Spinelli, and Kathi Appelt.

The other new book about his writing process is REFLECTIONS: AUTHOR AT WORK. This one is a short text--64 pages--with lots of great photos. In this book, he shares his writing process and little things about his life as a writer. The photos allow readers to see how his writing happens. He has specific examples from many of his books that readers will know.

Between the two of these new books, I can see possibilities for lots of great minilessons in Writing Workshop next year. I can also see these two books as books that kids will pick up to read cover to cover.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little

So, I have been having problems finding a character that I love ever since I read CLEMENTINE by Sara Pennypacker. How could anyone compare to Clementine? Well, I finally discovered the character who could be Clementine's new best friend. Moxy Maxwell is an amazing character. I picked up the book MOXY MAXWELL DOES NOT LOVE STUART LITTLE by Peggy Gifford because I loved the premise--a 4th grader who had procrastinated her assigned summer reading until the very last day of summer. The back cover reads:

"Now, Moxy loved to read books. She loved books so much that sometimes she would stay up all night and read. It's just that Maxy liked to read what she wanted to read and not what someone told her to read."

I expected to like the plot but I didn't really expect to love the main character so much that I am looking for the author's email address so that I can beg her to write more about Moxy.

Lots to love about this book--it is a great, short chapter book. Like I said, who can argue with the premise. The chapter titles are fun and the photos throughout are laugh-out-loud funny. But, the very best part of the book is Moxy. I should have known I would love her from the front cover photo--but I didn't spend enough time looking at it since I fell so quickly in love with the blurb on the back.

To help you know Moxy a bit better, here is the except where I decided that I needed more books about Moxy:

"Now, Moxy's mother was not wrong when she pointed out how rare cases of 'in-between' were for her older daughter. To the best of her knowledge, she had never witnessed Moxy in between anything: while Moxy was eating lunch, for example, she was already asking what was for dinner. The day she got her puppy, Mudd, she wanted to know if she could get another to keep him company. Before she could finish one sentence, she had often started another."

This is a quick read--less than an hour. It is one of my new favorites. A great read aloud for the middle grades. (Lots of the humor is meant for older readers--that is one of the things I love about it. Some of the funniest moments could be lost with younger readers.) I may have to read it aloud, although the photos are so fun, kids would have to be able to experience those, too.

Peggy Gifford, it seems from the back flap, originally planned to be a famous actress. After reading this book, I am pretty selfishly happy that her plan did not work out. Her new plan is to become a famous writer instead. I am in total support of this PLAN B. She is really, really good at this writing thing.

If anyone finds Peggy Gifford's address, we need to send letters in bulk, begging for more books about Moxy Maxwell.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Taran Wanderer

Book Four of the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander

This has forever and always been my favorite book of the series. It is bristling with stickie notes marking passages that speak to me. There are many pages with a corner turned down, indicating passages that have spoken to me.

In TARAN WANDERER, Taran leaves home in search of his true identity and in search of his parents. He is still a little obsessed with being born of noble blood so that he will be worthy of Eilowny, but by now, the reader (and Gurgi), at least, know that his nobility has nothing to do with his parents. He is engaged in the universal process of a person striving to become his own (noble) self.

Reading this book was a real surprise. I kept waiting and waiting for the part when Taran learns from the craftsmen of the Free Commots. In my memory, that was the whole book, but in reality it is only the final third! Before Taran gets to the Commots, he meets a king who rules with an iron fist who needs to learn compassion and mediation, and another who believes himself to be generous, but who is actually very stingy. "Indeed, is a man truly what he sees himself to be?" Taran wonders.

In two moments of foreshadowing, Taran learns that the people of the Free Commots are not beholden to any Cantrev Lord, rather they rule themselves. "Indeed, true allegiance is only given willingly," Taran muses. (Perhaps not the USA in actuality, but certainly the ideals of our country.) And Taran has an opportunity to mediate a conflict between the iron-fisted ruler and the not-so-generous ruler, showing a glimmer of leadership skills that will be a part of his destiny later on.

Here's more on the Free Commots: " man lords it over his fellows because he had the luck to be born in a king's castle instead of a farmer's hut. What matters in the Free Commots is the skill in a man's hands, not the blood in his veins."

And here's what Taran learns in the Free Commots:

"Life's a matter of luck. Trust it, and a man's bound to find what he seeks, one day or the next...Trust your luck, Taran Wanderer. But don't forget to put our your nets!" (Which I've also heard as "Trust Allah, but tie your camels!")

"Life's a forge! ...Yes, and hammer and anvil, too! You'll be roasted, smelted, and pounded, and you'll scarce know what's happening to you. But stand boldly to it! Metal's worthless till it's shaped and tempered!"

Life is "...a loom, rather, where lives and days intertwine; and wise is he who can learn to see the pattern."

"Craftsmanship isn't like water in an earthen pot, to be taken out by the dipperful until it's empty. No, the more drawn out the more remains. The heart renews itself, Wanderer, and skill grows all the better for it."

"Stale water is a poor drink. Stale skill is worse. And the man who walks in his own footsteps only ends where he began."

The quest for one's true self never ends. Because of that, this book remains timeless in its messages to those who seek to be more than they are at the moment.

Did We Mention...

You are invited to join the

June Carnival of Children's Literature

Theme: The Good News From The Kidlitosphere

Submission Deadline: June 19
Submit via the Carnival Site, or our blog email (see sidebar), or even in the comments!

The Carnival will be up on June 23

Poetry Friday -- A Fable

The Calf-Path

by Sam Walter Foss. Public Domain.

One day through the primeval wood
A calf walked home as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And I infer the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bell–wether sheep
Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bell–wethers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made.
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because 'twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed – do not laugh -
The first migrations of that calf,
And though this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.
This forest path became a lane
That bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street;
And this, before men were aware,
A city's crowded thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed this zigzag calf about
And o'er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way.
And lost one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.
A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.
They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move;
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf.
Ah, many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Poetry Friday is Famous!

Susan at Chicken Spaghetti has an excellent article about Poetry Friday on the website! Check it out!

(Thanks to Gregory K. for the link.)

The Castle of Llyr

Book Three of the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander

In THE BLACK CAULDRON, Taran had to learn to deal with the nasty, mean-spirited Ellidyr. In THE CASTLE OF Llyr he has to learn to deal with a nobleman who is a doofus. A nobleman who is a doofus who is also to be betrothed to Eilowny, Taran's beloved. So no matter how strong and brave and honorable Taran is, he believes all of those qualities to be trumped by an idiot who happens to be high-born. He must learn that "For a man to be worthy of any rank, he must first strive to be a man."

This book doesn't speak to me the way the others do, however, I know it is necessary in the scope of the series. Fflewddur gets his giant cat, Llyan. Eilowny is almost lost to Taran, but at the very end of the book, the reader is sure they will be reunited. And Taran seems to be done looking to others to discover who he really is and what he will really be. He is ready to look within.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Summer Book Party!

My brilliant friend Maureen called a few weeks ago with a great idea--"Let's get the girls together a few times this summer to read. We'll throw a bunch of books out and just let them have fun reading together."

I loved the idea so together we planned 6 Summer Book Parties for a few girls from the same first grade class this year. The invitation was simple--come for an hour and bring some good picture books--quick books you can read lots of in an hour. The girls were very excited and the party was a hit!

We put our favorite books everywhere (See, that money I spend on books is well worth it-we filled up the whole room with books!). The girls came in read alone, together, in the house, on the swing set...Then we made sundaes to celebrate. This first party, we had 3 girls. There are 6-7 total so we may have more at future parties. We'll have 3 at our house and 3 at Maureen's house. It is quite a fun thing and a fun way to keep the girls reading all summer.

One of the side benefits was that Ana remembered lots of her old favorites because we had them displayed all day in the house. She also found some that she could read that she hadn't been able to read before. It was a great way to refresh her reading and to remind her of the books she has. What better way to spend summer --with friends, books and ice cream!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Summer Goals Meme

It took me a while to think about my goals for summer-I am just settling in....
With the end of the school year, the book deadline, and life in general, most of my goals are about getting caught back up so I can start the school year semi-organized. Here goes:

1. I'd like to get back to exercising 5-6 days a week. Maybe start running.
2. Read lots--kid stuff but I have a pile of good adult books including WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS.
3. See family and friends often.
4. Get organized for the fall--I started a new job and school this year and never felt totally organized.
5. Learn how to make and decorate a few really good kinds of cupcakes. (I have no patience for cake decorating but I have seen lots of cupcake books that look fun, fancy and more fun than whole cakes.)
6. Like Mary Lee, do a better job with my writer's notebook.
7. Clean every drawer, cupboard, and closet in the house.
8. Nap often.
9. Keep up with Weight Watchers.

Okay, that's enough. Too overwhelming to think about for the 2nd day of summer!
We are not going to tag anyone but invite teachers who have started summer vacation to join in the fun:-)

Fuse #8 Open For Business at SLJ

Check it out here.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Second Book Finished

If THE BOOK OF THREE is about Taran's impetuous immaturity and the continuous mistakes he makes, THE BLACK CAULDRON is about how Taran begins to learn to deal with others. His biggest challenge is Ellidyr, a nasty, spiteful, mean-spirited person who acts as a mirror, forcing Taran to look at and overcome his own worst tendencies.

In the end, Ellidyr turns it around and makes the ultimate sacrifice by jumping into the cauldron to destroy it. "He has lost all else, even his steed."

"Or perhaps gained all," Gwydion answered. " And his honor shall be certain." Gwydion goes on to say that a barrow will be raised for Ellidyr, and also for Morgant, who switched sides at the end and who would have used the cauldron for ultimate power. Taran is incredulous that Gwydion would honor Morgant.

"It is easy to judge evil unmixed," replied Gwydion. "But, alas, in most of us good and bad are closely woven as the threads on a loom; greater wisdom than mine is needed for the judging...I honor Morgant for what he used to be, and Ellidyr for what he became."

Worth remembering.

I had hoped for all five books of the Prydain Chronicles in the 48 Hour Reading Challenge Weekend, but two will have to do. The other three will go with me to Colorado.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Marley: A Dog Like No Other

As Mary Lee mentioned, we are participating in Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge but not really the challenge part. We are kind of "auditing" but participating:-) We are trying to get in lots of reading and blogging but can't drop everything else. My youngest daughter has been visiting with my parents for the last few days. Today I had to drive to pick her up. So, I decided to pick up an audiotape. I chose MARLEY: A DOG LIKE NO OTHER by John Grogan--the middle grade version of MARLEY AND ME. It is performed by Neil Patrick Harris. I am not always a fan of dog books but I love this one for middle grade kids. I love that the book goes through the dog's whole life--from puppy 'til death. It is a great story and you come to love the dog and the family. I am putting it on my List of Possible Read Alouds for next school year. There are some places that seem a bit more adult than others but my 7 year old was listening to the last 1/2 with me on the way home and laughed and cried along with me. So, it works for both adults and kids. Regardless of whether or not I read it aloud, I will definitely pick up a copy of the book for the classroom and have the audio available too. I can think of lots of kids who would love the story. I also think that each chapter can almost stand alone and can see using it in Writing Workshop to really look at good writing--good samples of short pieces from real life. So, my first book was an audiobook but I think I used my time well. If it weren't for the 48 hour read,I wouldn't have picked up an audiobook. Made the trip far more fun! I am anxious to pick up the picture book, BAD DOG, MARLEY for my 7 year old since she seemed to love the audiobook of this version. I do love these books that the whole family can enjoy together. I also spent some time on the author's website . And you will be happy to know that he also has a blog .

Friday, June 08, 2007

First Book Finished

I'm not going to be able to read for 48 continuous hours, but over the course of the Challenge weekend, I hope to read all five of the books in the Prydain Chronicles by (and in memory of) Lloyd Alexander.

I wasn't 20 pages into THE BOOK OF THREE before I had to go get my stickie notes. I had forgotten how much wisdom Alexander packs into these books:

"In some cases, we learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself." p.18

"Well, that is one of the three foundations of learning: see much, study much, suffer much." p.19

"The task counts more than the one who does it." p.31

"I have never known courage to be judged by the length of a man's hair. Or, for the matter of that, whether he has any hair at all." p. 36

"Every living thing deserves our respect, be it humble or proud, ugly or beautiful." p. 142

"Neither refuse to give help when it is needed, nor refuse to accept it when it is offered." p. 143

"Once you have the courage to look upon evil, seeing it for what it is and naming it by its true name, it is powerless against you, and you can destroy it." p. 211-212

"As for me, what I mostly did was make mistakes." Dallben's reply to this, in part, reads, "If you made mistakes, you recognize them. As I told you, there a times when the seeking counts more than the finding.

Does it truly matter which of you did what, since all shared the same goal and the same danger? Nothing we do is ever done entirely alone. There is a part of us in everyone else -- you, of all people, should know that." p. 217-218

Summer Goals Meme

We've been tagged by NYC Teacher to list our summer goals. (btw--check out the new look on her blog! Way cool! I have banner envy!)

Here are some of my summer goals:
  • Read. Lots. Piles. Especially all the professional journals that haven't been touched for months.
  • Transfer the yard waste from the old composting bin in the corner of the garden to the new one that will not allow chipmunks to nest there. (did that today)
  • Plant the herbs I bought today. (That's on tap for tomorrow.)
  • Walk to the farm market every Saturday.
  • Dust off my bike and go biking again.
  • Swim in a one mile open water swim. (Somewhat unlikely, due to falling off the swimming bandwagon in May, but that's what goals are for, right?)
  • Catch up on letter writing.
  • Make bread baking a habit again.
  • Blog.
  • Scan all of my classroom books into LibraryThing with my new CueCat scanner.
  • Read. (Did I already mention that one?)
  • Try new recipes.
  • Start writing in my writer's notebook again.

Newspaper Clipping Roundup

The headline at The Daily Sponge reads: School's OUT!

Eric Luper's headline is Muscle Car Goes Missing.

Ask Amy's headline reads One Book Talk Done, 19 To Go. If I'm reading the article correctly, we're invited to help her with the remaining 19!

NYC Teacher explores the classroom posibilities for the Newspaper Clipping Generator in her article titled Discovery!

::Suzanne:: has found the cure for wiggling children! Find out more in Wiggle-less Children.

Go to The Newspaper Clipping Generator and make yours. Send me a link and I'll round you up here!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

How Did This Happen?

Back in April, when Mother Reader announced her 48 Hour Book Challenge, the weekend beginning June 8 was as smooth and clean as a new marble countertop.

School would be out, and, ahhhhhhh, we'd be FREE! The livin' would be easy!

Now reality has hit. That smooth, clean, new marble countertop of life is crowded and cluttered with everything that was delayed and deferred during the last few weeks of (I had a bunch of meaningless adjectives in here, but I'll leave them out and just go for the basics) end of school... stuff.

So...we'll be with y'all in spirit, but not in strict adherence to the rules of The Challenge. We will read in every spare minute between Friday morning and Monday morning (including, for me, blogs -- I've missed you!) and we'll try to put up a record number of reviews in three days. Hopefully, much of what happens this weekend will highlight...

...The Good News From The Kidlitosphere!

Reading Labels

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


So, I haven't had much time to blog.... It has been a crazy two weeks. I have been working on a book for Scholastic Professional and it finally went in the mail today. Won't be out until February but the final copy went to the editor today. So, I feel like I have time to breathe again. That deadline stuff is no fun.

No, I am not sure what we were thinking--a book deadline and the end of the school year all at the same time. Craziness for sure. But, it worked out well. I went on high-speed for a month or so and now everything will come to a close. It was actually good to have some diversion to the end of the year. As much as I love summer and the different pace, extra time with family, etc. the end of the school year is always sad. 20 years of teaching, 20 classes of kids. No matter how long you teach, every class is different. Every class takes on its own personality. Every class stays with you in some way. So when the last day of school comes up, you realize that there will never be another year like this. A great feeling to have been part of a great group of people learning together, but a sad time too.

The kids were feeling it today too. They were quite cute. We had a special POETRY FRIDAY on Tuesday since we don't have school on Friday. We had a ball. Several of the kids wrote and shared their own poems about the last few days of school. They certainly understand poetry and how to play with words. Others had fun sharing favorites from the year.

So today has been the first day I've been able to think about the actual end of the year. As I said, the book was a good diversion--the end of the year is a bummer. It is fun to see the kids grow up and move on but knowing that we'll never have a year just like this one is always a bit sad.

I imagine lots of us are having our last days of school sometime soon. And I think we all go through the same thing every year--as teachers, parents, kids.

Happy Last Day of School:-)

The Secret is Divulged

Here is the website where you, too, can make newspaper clippings:

The Newspaper Clipping Generator

Go make a clipping, post it on your blog, then send us a link in the comments and we'll do a round-up of clippings. Have fun!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Thank You For Your Patience

The finish line is in sight. Two more days.

We finished GOONEY BIRD GREENE today. She's no Clementine, but the kids did love trying to figure out what was absolutely true about her stories. I might read her first in the fall next year and start with story telling as our first unit of study in writing workshop. But I'll wait to see what the new District Language Arts Binder has in store for me before I set that in stone.

The reading assessments and math fact assessments are done and scored. The spelling assessments will be done tomorrow. Report cards will be done tonight before I sleep and printed tomorrow morning. Awards are ready for tomorrow's assembly. Six iMovies of our two years together as a looping class are done (not without near disaster and an unwanted learning experience) and about 1/3 of the 25 dvds are burned. The end of loop party is planned and ready for Wednesday. Students took home everything but their supply boxes today.

Mom's 80th birthday party is on rails -- some supplies have been mailed out to her, rental chairs are ordered, cakes will be ordered later this week, the soundtrack needs just one more tweaking and it will be perfect.

Yesterday we planted the rose bush that Bess' doggie play date buddy, Bender, sent in memory of her short but joyous life.

I beg to differ with T.S. Eliot that "April is the cruelest month." This year, May was. We couldn't flip the calendar pages over to June fast enough. As if to distance itself from May in every way, June has cooled down, substantial rains have come to break the drought, and, not to repeat myself, but...

The finish line is in sight. Two more days.

Friday, June 01, 2007

June Carnival of Children's Literature

Best place to submit your entry: The BlogCarnival site.
Entries will also be gladly accepted via our blog email or comment section.

Poetry Friday

Courtesy of The Writer's Almanac, today is John Masefield's birthday. I love his poem, Sea Fever.

In other poetry news, I borrowed the idea for having my students write letter poems from Elaine at Wild Rose Reader. I shared LOVE LETTERS by Arnold Adoff and DEAR WORLD by Takayo Noda. Then I invited my 5th graders to choose some object around the room or some activity we did in the past two years as the subject for a poem that I would post next year in the fall. These poems would be their way to tell the new loopers, the new 4th graders that I will teach for 2 years, a little about life in room 222. Here are a few of my favorites.

Dear Mr. Quaker Oats,

Sorry we
some of you
Sorry we got
on you from the apples
The taste
is still
in our mouths
We are sorry But
you taste
So good.

Formerly Known as Pests,
The Mealworms

Dear Future Class,

will have
lots of fun
with read alouds
and stories.

also will
have fun with
Christmas surprises but
you have

guess what
the surprise is.
You should behave
and be

sometimes the
best teacher in
the world a.k.a.
known as

Ms. Hahn
might give
you candy or
heads up

Well what
I'm saying is
good behavior leads
to good things.

The Teacher's Pet