Sunday, August 31, 2008

Great Post for School Librarians

As a new school librarian, I have been reading blogs a bit differently. I LOVED this post at BookMoot about hopes for the School Library. This is the way I think. I need the big picture. What am I shooting for in the school library. She captured my hopes and I will keep this close by throughout the fall months to remind myself of the big picture of the school library. Such great thinking!

TRADING (our favorite) SPACES: My New Space

I have spent the last few weeks getting my new space ready. Last spring, when they cut my job as a Curricular Support Teacher, I decided to apply for a school library position in our district. I love the classroom but I also loved the idea of working with all K-5 kids in the library. Since the principal's vision for the library was exactly what I wanted, I applied for the job and got it. So, for the last few weeks, I have been playing around with the space.

It is nice to move into a totally new space once in a while--it is like moving into a new house. I found myself having things that I needed to change right away and things that I might do down the road. My big goal this year was to create lots of spaces for books on display--places where kids could see lots books they might not know, touch lots of books and read them in a comfortable space. Here is what I've done so far.

This used to be a space that housed teacher resources. Because it was a place that you saw when you entered the library, I rearranged a bit so that I could use this space for books and a comfy reading spot. For now, I have lots of books on display. As the year begins, I can see this space housing baskets of books by authors we've discussed, new books, etc. I can see kids spreading out here to look at favorite books, read with friends, preview new books, etc.

I added a small coffee table near the window in the Everybody Section to give kids another comfortable place to browse books or read books. I can see this table with a basket of books on top--one that changes often.

I had a space like this in my classroom--a space with favorite series book characters. I think that the wall space can start great conversations between kids and I hope that this one invites kids to talk about the series book characters they love. I purchased several small black baskets to house books that were part of a series. This will help kids find the books and think about the characters that they might want to read about again and again.

I added a corner space for magazines. Our library gets several great children's magazines subscriptions. As a classroom teacher, I realized that I could use kids' love of magazines to teach lots about nonfiction. The magazines are in their own little spot and kids can find lots of topics to read about.

This coming week will be my first week with kids and I think the library is ready to go! I am excited about spending my days with children and books!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Poetry Friday -- Labor Day

For all the workers who take off their coats and hats and tackle the jobs no one else will do, no one else can do, or that no one thinks can even be accomplished:

It Couldn't Be Done
By Edgar Guest

Somebody said it couldn't be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing and he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you'll never do that;
At least no one has ever done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing and he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That "cannot be done," and you'll do it.

(first published in 1914)

The round up this week is at Charlotte's Library.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

TRADING (our favorite) SPACES Reminder

We have had several people post favorite spaces in their classrooms and libraries. Earlier this month, we thought it would be fun to collect all of those to share. So, we invited bloggers to share their favorite spaces. We'll compile all of the links in a post on September 1. So, if you haven't had time to take photos and post about your favorite classroom/library space, we'd love to have it for our September 1 round-up!

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears
by Emily Gravett
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
On shelves September 9, 2008
Winner of the 2007 Nestlé Children's Book Prize Bronze Award and
the 2008 Kate Greenaway Medal
review copy provided by the publisher

What's it with book characters taking the pencil (or the red marker) and revising the author's work?!? Chester messes with Mélanie Watt's writing, and now Little Mouse is messing with Emily Gravett's -- writing and drawing on the pages, chewing on the pages, and more.

Ms. Gravett has created a perfectly good self-help book for those who have fears and phobias. It is intended to be a sort of workbook for the phobic to face his/her fears with writing, drawing and collage. And Little Mouse takes her up on this.

I know we shouldn't laugh at others' fears, but this is a really funny book. Little Mouse's fears have literary references (Three Blind Mice and Hickory Dickory Dock), have real (Acrophobia) and imaginary (Whereamiophobia) names, and are so problematic to Little Mouse that his red pencil is a mere stump by the end of the book.

There are flaps, die-cuts, "chewed" edges of pages, "folded" page corners, and a VERY funny fold-out map of The Isle of Fright to keep the reader poring over the pages of this book. Every time you read it, you'll find a detail you had missed before.

I'm not sure this would be a therapeutic book for anyone with bonafide phobias, but the rest of us who have our share of fears and worries will completely empathize with Little Mouse, and in the end, with Emily Gravett.

Shelf Elf reviewed Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears last October. She must have gotten ahold of a British copy.
Visit Emily Gravett's website, where there's an activity for making your own collage of your fears, and a couple of page shots to give you a feel for the unique illustrations.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Series Book Character-AMY HODGEPODGE

I like to keep up on new series books that are available for transitional readers. I just finished AMY HODGEPODGE ALL MIXED UP. It is the first in this series. Amy Hodge has been home schooled up until now. But now she wants to go to school and be part of all the things that school brings. But the first few days are a little tough for Amy until she makes a great group of friends. Lots is tackled in this book--feeling new at school, the "mean girls", fitting in,etc.

One of the things that I really like about this series is that Amy's family is multiracial. Amy is part Asian, part Caucasian and part African-American. I am finding that it is often hard for kids to find themselves and their families in the books they read. Especially children who are mixed race. Amy Hodgepodge and the friends that she makes at her new school help to fill this gap in children's books--especially those for transitional readers.

I was stunned to see some statistics in a blog post titled "Why Are Children's Books Still So White" about books that featured African American, Latino, and American Indian characters. The numbers are unsettling.

I liked reading about Amy and her troubles at her new school. She is a likable character and the series is perfect for the age group that it is intended for. I am excited to add this series to our shelves and look forward to more books about Amy Hodge.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chester's Back!

Chester's Back!
by Mélanie Watt
Kids Can Press
September, 2008
review copy provided by the publisher

Mélanie Watt does her best to give us a new book starring Chester, the gigantic tortoiseshell cat with the equally gigantic attitude. But he's got his red marker in high gear and he hardly lets her get a word in edgewise. In the end, he lets down his guard and Mélanie gives him exactly what he asked for. Exactly. To his great dismay.

Both Chester and Chester's Back would make a great books for reader's theater for two voices. I get to be Chester, okay?


As a kid who put on plays for my parents almost daily (painful for them, I am quite sure), AMELIA MAKES A MOVIE is quite fun! This new picture book is all about Amelia and her process of making a movie. She goes through the whole thing--script, lights, building a set, etc. It is quite exciting to watch the movie unfold with surprises along the way.

I love that this book takes into account the fact that kids have the capabilities of producing a movie on their own. The video camera and computer for editing are all a part of the illustrations and these kids are quite confident with all of the things needed to pull together a movie.

I also love the illustrations. Lots of talking bubbles, good colors, a graphic type look. The characters are quite likable--as are the pets who help out quite a bit:-)

A great book for all ages. I can see kids reading this one for fun, as a model for how-to nonfiction writing, and I can see teachers adding it to collections of books that help kids see a variety of purposes for writing.

Thinking about everything out there on 21st Century Literacies, this is a great book to show how the tools of the 21st Century just add to the same great thinking process of those who create!

Sunday, August 24, 2008


For those of you who are Kelly Gallagher fans, he has a new website that is up and running this week. Included on this site is a list of books that Kelly's staff is reading as part of their book club as well as an "Article of the Week" feature that Kelly uses. The site just became live so checking back often for new stuff will probably be worth it.

For those of you who are not familiar with Kelly Gallagher and his work, his expertise is mostly middle school/high school literacy. As an upper elementary teacher, I have always learned so much from his books and workshops. He has written professional books such as READING REASONS, DEEPER READING, and TEACHING ADOLESCENT WRITERS.

On a related note, Kelly Gallagher will be doing a workshop in Columbus as part of the professional development provided by The Literacy Connection. He will be here for that workshop on Saturday, October 11.

Imaginary Menagerie

Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures
by Julie Larios
illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Harcourt, 2008
review copy provided by the publisher

You've seen this book around the Kidlitosphere:
7-Imp kicked off poetry month last April with it; at Big A little a, Kelly reviewed it for Poetry Friday, as did Charlotte, at Charlotte's Library, although her focus was a little more on the art; and Harcourt has a teaching guide that includes a coloring/activity sheet. (There may be more. If my blog search missed you, let me know!)

I'm sharing it again because I want to make sure it didn't slip off your radar.

Fourteen mythological creatures each get their own poem and a gorgeous, luminous illustration: dragon, mermaid, firebird, centaur, troll, cockatrice, hobgoblin, sea serpent, thunderbird, sphinx, will o' the wisp, gargoyle, naga, and phoenix. (Go to 7-Imp and Charlotte's Library -- links above -- to get a feel for these amazing illustrations.)

The book includes a table of contents, a little more information about each creature (including culture of origin, where possible), and some of the most gorgeous endpapers ever.

Are your students reading fantasy? They need this book! Are you studying mythology? Include this book! Poetry Friday, poetry unit, poetry month: gotta have this book!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Poetry Friday -- Bees

Substitute oregano for morning glories and this could be a poem about my garden. I let the oregano in my raised beds go wild this summer and it has bloomed nonstop. It has not spent a minute of the summer without a swarm of these "pirates" in "pantaloons heavy with gold and sunlight."

Bees and Morning Glories

by John Ciardi

Morning glories, pale as a mist drying,
fade from the heat of the day, but already
hunchback bees in pirate pants and with peg-leg
hooks have found and are boarding them.

This could do for the sack of the imaginary
fleet. The raiders loot the galleons even as they
one by one vanish and leave still real
only what has been snatched out of the spell.

I’ve never seen bees more purposeful except
when the hive is threatened. They know
the good of it must be grabbed and hauled
before the whole feast wisps off.

They swarm in light and, fast, dive in,
then drone out, slow, their pantaloons heavy
with gold and sunlight.

(the rest is here)

Today's round up is at Read. Imagine. Talk.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Start of School

It's getting a little crazy here in Back-to-School Land. Times like this, the best we can do is point you to the writing of others. Bud Hunt, at Bud the Teacher, has a great post that every teacher needs to read, whether this is your first year or your 25th year (*finger pointing at self*): An Open Letter To Teachers, by Bud the Teacher. Here are a couple of my favorite parts:
Be humble, but fight like crazy for your students. (Did this today. Proud of self.)

You’ll have nervous days and scared days and failure days. But you’ll also have “yes” days. Write about, reflect upon, and learn from all of them, but build a special place to keep a record of the “yes” ones. Return to it when you need a boost on some of the not-so-good days.

I wish you well. I ask you to be brave and humble and kind and tenacious and wise and caring and gentle and fierce. We so need you to do well. And there are lots of folks out there who want to help. Do good stuff.
JBlack at Transitioning to Web 2.0 made a Wordle poster of Bud's main points. Very cool. Words to live and teach by.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

PAPER TOWNS by John Green

As most people who read the blog know, I don't read or review many Young Adult novels. (Actually, I am not going to actually review this book. Just tell you all that I think everyone should read it. As soon as it comes out.) I love YA but really don't have time to read many. With reading the K-6 stuff for work and the professional things I read and the adult books I read, YA comes as a last priority. Unfortunate, but true. Not because I don't love YA, but because there are so many books and so little time. So, I have to be very, very picky about the ones I do read. I read the classics. The books that you feel like you can't live without.

So, I can't tell you how happy I am that I made time to read PAPER TOWNS by John Green. As a non-YA reader, I would recommend it to everyone--whether you are a YA reader or not. It definitely deserves to be at the top of your next read stack. Like I said, I read the classic YA stuff. Love Chris Crutcher, Sherman Alexie, etc.

PAPER TOWNS is a great story and I won't go into the plot. Other reviewers have done that here, and here and here. I do have to say, for me, reading is all about the characters. And, these characters, Margo Roth Spiegelman, Quentin Jacobsen, Ben, Radar, Lacey. These characters will stay with me for a very, very long time. After reading the book, I feel like we've spent a lot of time together. Green is a master at creating believable characters that you come to know and love.

The cover is pretty amazing. Actually, the TWO covers are pretty amazing. John Green talks about the two covers here. Or you may prefer to hear him talk about the covers in Video Blog form. You can also hear John Green read an excerpt from his book here. And again here.

To remind yourself exactly how many days, hours and minutes you have before you can actually go out and BUY this new amazing book, you can visit the Paper Towns Countdown Widget. That John Green makes things fun and easy for his fans, don't you think?

And here is the even better news! John Green will be visiting COVER TO COVER Bookstore in Columbus!!! He will be there on October 20th at 5ish. So, you will have plenty of time between the day it comes out (October 16) and the day he visits to read the book because it will only take you a day or two because you won't be able to put it down.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I was quite happy when I saw GOODNIGHT GOON: A PETRIFYING PARODY by Michael Rex at Cover to Cover today. GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret Wise Brown is a classic. A must have. And I do appreciate a good creative version of a favorite book. This one is perfect!

GOODNIGHT GOON is filled with monsters and Martians and mummies and more. I love how perfectly the author imitated each page of the original book in this version. As in the classic version, this makes for a great read aloud.

The illustrations are quite fun. Quite monster-like but not too scary for young readers. The colors make it a bit eerie but the smiling faces help to keep it more amusing than scary.

My favorite part is the Martians. It starts out
In a cold gray tomb
There was a gravestone
And a black lagoon
And a picture of---

Martians taking over the moon

How smart is that! Too fun!
I can see this book in all classrooms K-5. Younger students will just love a new version of this familiar classic. I can see older kids attempting to play with their own versions. And, of course, this is out in plenty of time for the Halloween season.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Poetry Friday -- Count Ten

Count Ten
by Arnold Wesker

(for Harold Pinter)

Count ten. Then

Count ten again.

That way is time measured

Death denied.

Each measures time

His own way - coffee breaks

Rejections, installments

On the car.

Count blessings. Then

Count them again.

(the rest is here)

Tomorrow I am celebrating 10 years since the end of treatments for breast cancer. I am counting blessings; counting ten. Then I will count ten again. And again and again and again...with hope, and luck, and confidence, and courage, and prayers/pleas to the universe, and surrounded by good friends and loving family no matter what the next ten bring.

Poetry Friday round up is at Big A little a this week.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I found this fun new book by Kyle Mewburn today--KISS! KISS! YUCK! YUCK!. This book was published in New Zealand where it won some good awards. It is just now being released in the US by Peachtree Publishers.
I am not so good at buying funny books. But this one amused me so I thought I'd add it to my collection. I think it was the art that was the decision maker. It is a bit graphic/cartoony. You can't not love the characters in these illustrations!

Andy's Aunt Elsie always comes to visit and greets Andy with kisses which he hates! (Thus the YUCK! YUCK!) He tries to hide but Antie Elsie is very smart and she finds ways to lure him out of his hiding places so that she can kiss him. But then Auntie Elsie can't come to visit for a few weeks and Andy finds that he actually misses those kisses!

I think this book would be a fun read aloud. It is predictable and kids can join into the "Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck!" part of the book. The font and text set-up would be a bit tricky for brand new readers. But it would be fun for readers who are more comfortable with text. The text is spread out across the page and in some places is diagonal. There are also speech bubbles and various sized fonts. I could see this as a fun read aloud for K-2. I imagine kid would want to hear it again and again--each time I reread it, I find something new to love!

I Should Never Write Summer Goals!

This should make Mary Lee feel better. Let's see.

1. Read Lots--okay, I feel good about that one.
2. Continue Boot Camp and add a walk 3-5 times a week. Ha! It seemed crazy to get up at 4:45 am in order to exercise at 5:30 when it was summer and I could sleep in. With all of my travel, I had to miss a lot and then this month, I figured I only had a few more weeks to sleep in. So, back to daily boot camp next week when school starts. It is interesting...when you've lived your entire life on the cycle of the school year calendar, it is harder to change than you would think. Getting up at 4:45 am in the summer will have to take a bit more of a commitment. Maybe next year.
3. Learn a few new recipes. If you count fruit dip, then I did this, but I was hoping for some new meals which I haven't gotten to.
4. Drink more water. Hmmm. I drank a bit more on some days but not consistently....

So, there will be no more summer goals. I see a clear pattern here. I don't meet the goals. So, I am not having a list of summer goals again. It seems quite silly when I look at my history of accomplishing them....

Summer Goals Revisited


This isn't going to be pretty. Here are the summer goals I set in June:
1. In an attempt to slow summer down and savor every minute, I vow to make fewer lists. (Ignore the fact that this is a list, please.)
2. I will exercise EVERY morning and walk EVERY morning that it's not raining. EVERY. (Embedded in this one is a daily glance at the ceiling to say, "Thanks for another day above ground.")
3. I will write in my writer's notebook EVERY day. (Embedded in this one is a close attention to what's right in front of me, reminiscing about what's behind, and anticipation for what lies ahead.)
4. Make multi-tasking an endangered species in my life. Focus. On. One. Thing. At. A. Time. Be a better listener.

Here's what I did first thing this morning:
1. Made lists -- not one, but TWO!
2. Gave myself permission not to exercise and walk. (It's not raining.)
3. Moved my writer's notebook to the other end of the kitchen table.
4. Stopped working on an enormous pile of Notables so I could write this post.

How did summer goals go for you? Anyone else want to come clean on their complete failures or stunning successes? (or anything in between)

Franki's goals are here. The round-up of goal-setters is here. Let us know if you post on your outcomes and we'll round those up as well.


Edited to add: Karen at Literate Lives gives herself a 50% success rate. Yay, Karen!
Megan at Read, Read, Read got 4 out of 5 for an 80% success rate. Yay, Megan!
Jen W. at Eclectic Reader is feeling good about her goals. Yay, Jen!
Abby, at Authentic Learner got married AND met her goals.  Yay, Abby!
Bill, at Literate Lives met almost all of his goals, and who cares if it was by accident!  (I call that good goal writing!)  Yay, Bill!
Barbara, at Greetings from Nowhere achieved every single one of her goals!  Yay, Barbara!
Cloudscome, at A Wrung Sponge, has checked in with her successes, accompanied, as you might expect, by a gorgeous photo.  Yay, Cloudscome!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Moxy Maxwell is Back!

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes
by Peggy Gifford, illustrated by Valorie Fisher
published by Schwartz and Wade (Random House)
hits the shelves TODAY, August 12, 2008
review copy compliments of the publisher

Moxy has one more day to write her Christmas thank-you notes. If she misses the deadline, her mom won't let her go to Hollywood to visit the father she hasn't seen for three years.

Only Moxy can make not writing thank-you notes so entertaining. Much of the not writing takes place in Ajax's office, and involves Ajax's new copy machine that he got for Christmas, and Ajax's La-Z-Boy chair, and Ajax's carefully organized piles that are everywhere. (Ajax is the "famous children's book writer" who married Moxy and Mark's mom. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Ajax is modeled after J. Patrick Lewis, Peggy Gifford's brother in-law.)

There is also a surprise return appearance by gold spray paint, even though readers of Moxy's experience with her summer reading in Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little might assume that Moxy had learned her lesson about spray paint.

Moxy's mom is again deserving of sainthood in this book, and although it's not clear whether Moxy will ever get her Christmas thank-yous written, she does indeed write the "first real thank-you note of her life."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Alan Silberberg at Thurber House

An article about Alan Silberberg's visit to the Thurber House appeared in today's Columbus Dispatch. I was out of town when he spoke at Cover to Cover but was happy to read about his work with kids at Thurber House.

Blue Vehicle Fables

Little Blue Truck
by Alice Schertle
illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Harcourt, 2008
review copy compliments of the publisher

I grew up with a little blue train that accomplished great things through the power of positive thinking and a deep and unswerving belief in himself.

Fast forward a bunch of years and we have a little blue truck, who takes time to "Beep" at all the animals along the road. A big important dump truck roars through the story and promptly gets stuck. When the little blue truck tries to help, he gets stuck, too. But all it takes is one "Beep," and all of that networking pays off -- all the animals come to help the little blue truck help the big dump truck.

So now it's all about cooperation and collaboration? Self-reliance and independence are out the window (or out-of-date)?

Maybe there needs to be room on the shelf for both the blue train and the blue truck.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Back to School Fears

Garmann's Summer
by Stian Hole
first published in Norway by J.W. Cappelens Forlag, 2006
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008
review copy compliments of the publisher

This is not your typical happy-happy joy-joy, don't-be-afraid
everything-will-turn-out-fine kind of book. Garmann works on his fears the way your tongue goes to the sore spot where you bit the inside of your lip. He asks his ancient aunts, his father, and his mother about their fears. He delivers deep, deep lines like, "If you can't remember anything, you have nothing to be scared of."

You may not decide to share this book with children after you read it. But if you are sending kids of any age off to school, or if you will be on the receiving end, you need to read this book to remember how scary the beginning of the school year can be.

Another blog review: Fuse #8


Late for School
by Stephanie Calmenson
illustrations by Sachiko Yoshikawa
Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books), 2008

Here's one that's perfect for the youngest readers. Mr. Bungles wakes up late one day, and realizes that he might be late for school. "Oh, no! I'm the teacher/and it's my rule/to never, ever, ever be late for school!" After the first two pages, which get the reader acquainted with the rhyme scheme, every double page spread sets up a rhyme for the type of transportation Mr. Bungles will use, but the rhyming word is on the next spread. Perfect for making predictions, especially when you start looking closely at the picture clues. (There is also a clock on every spread, ticking closer and closer to 9:00.) For example: "Where is my shoe?/It can't be far./I found it! I'm dressed./Now I'll hop in my..."

No happy ending in this one, either. Mr. Bungles is late for school. You'll have to read to find out how he changes his...


I Know an Old Teacher
by Anne Bowen
pictures by Stephen Gammell
Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books), 2008
review copy compliments of the publisher

Here's a great addition to your "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" variant collection.

Miss Bindley takes the class pets home over the long weekend and promises her class she'll take good care of them. Unbeknownst to her, the students are peeking in her window and they see her eat a flea, a spider, a fish, rat, snake, and lizard. She has her limits, though. "I know an old teacher who swallowed a child. 'Swallow a child?' the old teacher smiled...'I would never do that!' "

Finally, a happy ending!

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Here are two of my favorite spaces in my classroom. The first is the picture book area. The reason this is one of my favorite spaces is because it is one of my students' favorite spaces. They love the window. They race to it to watch it snow, the morning sun shines through the crystal hanging there and leaves scraps of rainbows on the chalkboard, we watch the leaves of the sweet gums outside the window turn every possible shade of red and orange and yellow in the fall, and, as you can see, that's where my collection of wind chimes (each was a student gift) hangs. They love it when the weather's right to open the windows and work with breezes and chimings.

Most teachers arrange their rooms so their desk blocks access to the window. They co-opt one of the best pieces of real estate in the classroom. I choose to share it. (Even if some book covers are faded by the sun!)

My desk faces the window...from across the room. I can track the seasons by watching the slant of the early morning sun change from further north to further south and back again.

I love my desk at this time of the year: there are no piles on it or anywhere around it! On the wall I have my collection of magnets (all student gifts), some favorite quotes, and clips ready for the artwork students will give to me. My professional books (small selection kept at school; the rest are at home) and district content binders are lined up and ready for service. The lamp is on so it feels like home. (Might as well be, I spend enough hours there!)

Having such a small desk is another visual statement I make about the value of the real estate in the classroom: I try not to take up too much more space than each of my students. It's our classroom more than it's mine. I usually have at least two empty desks in the classroom for alternative work spaces and if I need to spread out more than my little desk will allow, that's where I work.

What are some of your favorite spaces in your classroom, your library, your home office? Send us a link to your post -- we'll do a round up on September 1. (More info here.)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Supporting Our Struggling Readers

In Curt Dudley-Marling's post on the NCTE Elementary blog, he mentions a book that sounds like something I want to read. It is not a new book, but one that seems to be important to read now--seems to have good insights on our most struggling learners.
Curt's posts on the NCTE blog are always so thought-provoking. Glad I popped over there today. A great post to read as we get ready to start a new school year.

Poetry Friday -- Revulsion

by James McKean

There is little I can do
besides stoop to pluck them
one by one from the ground,
their roots all weak links,
this hoard of Lazaruses popping up
at night, not the Heavenly Blue
so like silk handkerchiefs,
nor the Giant White so timid
in the face of the moon,
but poor relations who visit
then stay.
(read the rest here)

I know that at least two of my readers went "GACK!" when they saw my poem for today. The very sight of bindweed makes them clench their teeth and snarl.

It would take a poem about graffiti, or logging roads in the wilderness, or abortion clinic protesters to get that same reaction out of me.

And it makes me wonder if one of the jobs of a poet is to take us gently by the chin and turn our head and make us look -- really look -- at the things that most repulse us. It is their job to show us it's not really that bad after all...or else that it's worse than we ever could have imagined.

The round up this week is at Becky's Book Reviews.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Denise Fleming to Visit Fundamentals

Karen and I had a book chat/book signing Tuesday night at Fundamentals, a Parent-Teacher Store in Delaware, Ohio. We were part of her weeklong 20th Anniversary Celebration! We had a great time chatting with teachers--it seems that we have all hit that panic state of August. It was great to talk amid lots of great books. Tami, the owner of the store is a friend I met at Bootcamp several months ago. She runs an amazing place--so many great books and teaching materials in such a cute environment. Loved it!

And, she let us know that Denise Fleming will be visiting the store on Saturday, August 9 from 4:00-5:30 PM. She will sign books and discuss her unique "paint with paper" technique. If you have never seen Denise Fleming and live close enough to Fundamentals, it would be well worth it!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Reading Village Brings Books to Guatemala

I was reading some of my adoption blogs (Our youngest daughter is adopted from Guatemala) and happened upon Reading Village. You know how it feels when you find something that seems a perfect fit? That is how I felt when I read about Linda's mission at The Reading Village. Linda is committed to bringing books to Guatemala. And she doesn't believe in just dropping them off. She is hosting reading festivals, building libraries, working with teachers and more. So connected to what I know and love.

I have become pretty interested lately in the reading lives of children around the world. I know the impact that books can make and also know that the absence of books can have an impact too.

Linda's project really speaks to me as a person who believes in books and reading. It also speaks to me as an adoptive mom. I think Linda is doing amazing things with her project--a fairly new project, I might add. And I just wanted to let you know about it. The website and blog are both worth visiting--so many happy faces discovering books!

Getting Ready for School

Thinking about what to use for your first read-alouds? Here are some of my favorite picture book read-alouds for the beginning of the year.

Not sure where to even start with your back-to-school thinking? Katie, at Creative Literacy, has a dynamite shortlist.

Need a new analogy for your resistance of high-stakes testing? Look no further than Abby's thinking at Authentic Learner.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Two New Titles From Graphic Universe

Graphic Universe, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, is publishing graphic myths and legends faster than I can keep up. They currently have 27 titles, including Atalanta, Hercules, and Theseus, but also including Yu the Great, Amaterasu, and Sunjata, plus King Arthur, Robinhood, and William Tell. Here is a complete list of all the titles in the series so far.

I started to say that they are "churning out" graphic myths and legends faster than I can keep up, but then you might think these books don't deserve your attention. Far from it. As the website proudly points out, these books have useful text structures: map, table of contents, glossary, index, websites and books for further reading, and information about the research that was done to ensure the authenticity of each story.

One of the two newest is PIGLING: A CINDERELLA STORY. Add this Korean version of Cinderella to your collection and your fairytale unit!

MARWE: INTO THE LAND OF THE DEAD is an East African Legend about a girl who, with her brother, fails to keep watch over the family's bean fields, allowing the monkeys to eat the beans. She does not want to return to face her father's wrath, so when the strange circle appears before her, she goes through, only to find herself in the Land of the Dead. She is careful to eat nothing while she is there, so that when she has learned to be a caring and thoughtful person, she can return home. A classic coming-of-age story.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Debbie Miller's New Book Available ONLINE

Debbie Miller's upcoming book TEACHING WITH INTENTION is due out later this month. While you are anxiously awaiting the release of the book, Stenhouse has posted the entire book online for readers. If you'd like to take a peek or read the whole book online, you can do that here.
It is a perfect book for this time of year--really thinking through our beliefs and practices with teachers.

And, you might find that it will inspire you to participate in our "Trading (OUR FAVORITE) Spaces" event:-).


I loved when Stella at My World-Mi Mundo shared her new new work space in her apartment. She said, "I need is a place where I can feel inspired and an organized mess where I can function." And she shared photos of the new space she created.

Bill at Literate Lives shares picks for the space in his library that he has named "The Pit". It is fun to see photos and hear the books that he chooses to share there.

It is that time of year when we are all getting ready for the school year, creating spaces at school and at home that allow for great thinking. We thought it would be fun if we collected and shared our favorite spaces this month. You might have a favorite space that you create in your classroom. Or you may have a spot you'd like to share from your office. If you work in a library, there may be a favorite space there.

We are inviting all bloggers to think about that favorite space and to capture it on a photo. We will post some of our favorite spaces at home and at school over the next few weeks as we get ready for a new school year. Post yours with a caption or description and then let us know that you've posted it. Then we'll do a big round up of all of the posts on September 1.

It will be fun to see the spaces we all create and I am sure we'll all get so many great new ideas from each other.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Alan Silberberg Makes Kids Giggle

Alan Silberberg, author of Pond Scum, and the Thurber House Children's Writer In Residence, spoke at Cover to Cover Children's Bookstore yesterday.

Here he is, telling about how the voices inside his head, aka his imagination, were responsible for his first creative responses to school writing assignments. The praise he got in elementary and middle school for his creative writing helped him to become the writer he is today. A career in TV and movie cartoon writing helped him to become a very visual writer, as evidenced in Pond Scum.

And his cartooning (you can get a taste of it at his blog and on his website) will get to shine in his next book, Milo, an illustrated novel (small nod of thanks from Alan to Jeff Kinney for opening that door) about "a 13 year-old kid who has to start over." Alan read a couple of the first chapters to us, and showed the accompanying cartoons. This was when he made the kids (especially the 3rd grade boy) giggle. (The adults laughed too.) Alan has found/created a great character in Milo, a character that kids are going to love and relate to. (I say, MOVE OVER, Jeff Kinney!)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Into the Volcano by Don Wood

Into the Volcano
by Don Wood (Yes, that Don Wood, of Don and Audrey Wood fame.)
Blue Sky Press (a Scholastic Imprint)
October, 2008
appropriate for grade 3 and up
review copy compliments of Sally at Cover to Cover

This week I've reviewed some books that made me say, "WOW!" mostly (only?) because I know they will reach some of the readers in my classroom. And I've reviewed some very simple graphic novels that will give beginning readers an appropriate early experience with the graphic novel format.

Now it's time for a book (a graphic novel) that makes me say an unconditional, "WOW!"

A WOW in every way, shape and form.

A chin-drop, I'm-gaga sort of WOW.

Don Wood's Into the Volcano is visually stunning and has a story that is packed with action, adventure, mystery, and surprises.

Quick plot summary to set the stage: Two brothers are suddenly taken out of school by their father and told they must travel to a volcanic island to help an aunt they've never met. Once they get there, they are taken on an expedition that involves a boat ride into an erupting volcano and a journey through underground lava-tube tunnels. All the while, the volcano is shaking the entire island and rivers of lava are blocking the exits.

Background on how this book came to be (excerpted from the editorial director's "Dear Reader" letter in the front of the ARC, and Don Wood's bio in the back):
"Don and Audrey Wood left California seven years ago and moved to the jungle side of a Hawaiian Island...Don and Audrey introduced us [editor and her son] to the wonders of their jungle life: late-night hikes to see Madame Pele splash her molten lava into the sea; an awesome hike through a lava tube that was formed in the 1400s and was 60 feet below the surface of the land..."

"Don Wood...lives surrounded by tropical jungle, not far from one of the longest lava tubes in the world. As the nearby active volcano pours rivers of lava into the ocean, Don and his wife, bestselling writer Audrey Wood, frequently hike at night across newly formed terrain to watch molten lava enter the sea. Don and Audrey hand-cleared a space int eh jungle themselves to build and off-grid house overlooking the ocean. A surfer and sailor, Wood also dives and kayaks around the island, and enjoys hiking through ancient lava tubes."
I had to tell you all of that so you would know why the art in this book is so stunning -- Wood didn't imagine it, he's lived it. And best of all, he takes us places and shows us sights we would never in all of our lives be able to see in person: waves (small gentle, huge crashing, gigantic washing-over-the-boat, and perfect-for-surfing waves), beaches of green sand, lava flowing, lava hitting water, a pod of whales blowing under a moonbow, untamed jungle. And we get to experience it through the characters the way he has: boating, climbing, spelunking, and surfing.

As important as the setting is in this book, Wood does not neglect character. The main characters are complex, and they change in satisfying ways. The supporting cast is a bunch of characters. Literally.

This story is perfectly suited to the format of graphic novel. There is no way it would have worked as a text-only novel and the story is too mature for a picture book. This book is not to be missed.

Early glowing review at Educating Alice is what caught my attention.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Poetry Friday: Living in America

(Available for purchase at

This week's poem came to me via A Writer's Almanac. You can read the whole poem there.  

Californians and New Englanders, be advised: the geographic center of the Lower 48 is near Lebanon, KS.   Nearby offbeat places include World's Largest Ball of Twine (Cawker City, KS - 23 mi.), World's Largest Collection of World's Smallest Versions of World's Largest... (Lucas, KS - 53 mi.), and the Birthplace of Kool-Aid (Hastings, NE - 53 mi.).

Living in America
by Anne Stevenson

'Living in America,'
the intelligent people at Harvard say,
'is the price you pay for living in New England.'

Californians think
living in America is a reward
for managing not to live anywhere else.

The rest of the country?
Could it be sagging between two poles,
tastelessly decorated, dangerously overweight?

The roundup today is at A Well-Read Child.