Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jacqueline Woodson Marathon

"Sometimes, when I'm sitting at my desk for long hours and nothing's coming to me, I remember my fifth grade teacher, the way her eyes lit up when she said, "This is really good." The way, I -- the skinny girl in the back of the classroom who was always getting into trouble for talking or missed homework assignments -- sat up a little straighter, folded my hands on the desks, smiled and began to believe in me."
According to Jacqueline Woodson's website, none of the four books I read during my Jacqueline Woodson Marathon are autobiographical. It's probably just unavoidable, though, to find bits of truths from the author's life in each one.

For instance, the opening quote could be Lonnie (aka Locomotion) or Frannie (in Feathers) talking. Although she was born in Columbus, Ohio, Woodson has lived in Brooklyn since she was 7 years old. City life features strongly in all four of the books I read. She speaks ASL, which is important in Feathers, as Frannie's brother Sean is deaf. Music is very important to Jacqueline Woodson, and the music and lyrics of Tupac Shakur are central to the plot of After Tupac and D Foster. Woodson sometimes sits on the stoop to write. The narrator and her friends Neeka and D in After Tupac and D Foster spend hours (in all weather) on the front stoop. And if she couldn't write, Woodson admits to a desire to play for the NBA for the Knicks. One of Neeka's brothers in After Tupac and D Foster goes from basketball crazy to a basketball scholarship to Georgetown over the course of the book.

by Jacqueline Woodson
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2003
review copy: public library

"Lonnie's voice was in my head." This novel in verse is told in the voice of a fifth grade boy who is in foster care. His sister is in different foster family. Writing poetry is lifesaving for Lonnie. This book would be interesting paired with Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.

by Jacqueline Woodson
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2009
review copy: provided by the publisher

"This book started out being about one kind of peace and then became about the many ways we search for and eventually find peace." In this book, Lonnie writes letters to his sister in an attempt to keep safe the memories of their childhood (both before their parents were killed in the fire and now that they are living in two different foster families). Both Lonnie and his sister Lili are becoming more and more a part of their separate foster families and they have to find peace with that. One of Lonnie's foster brothers comes home from the war without part of one leg -- he has to find peace with his new body. Lonnie's new friend Clyde struggles to be accepted for who he is -- another way of finding peace.

by Jacqueline Woodson
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2007
review copy: public library

"...I wanted to write about the many ways people find Hope in the world." This book has a complicated mix of themes: race, organized religion, the holiness of living without organized religion, false assumptions, bullies, and, in a surprise plot turn, mixed-race adoptions.

After Tupac and D Foster
by Jacqueline Woodson
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008
review copy: public library

"I think Tupac was an amazing activist..." Two strands are woven in this book. First, there is Tupac Shakur -- his music, his lyrics, his life (and his mother's life) as an activist for disenfranchised black youth. And then there is family -- tight city neighborhood family, foster family, families that include a gay brother who is wrongly jailed for a crime he did not commit.

As a middle class white woman who grew up on a small rural town, I read Jacqueline Woodson's books from the outside looking in. The worlds she writes about are as foreign to me as another country. She writes with language I do not hear in my everyday life, and the urban world in which her characters live is far different even from the small city in which I now live. Reading these four books made it abundantly clear to me how few books there are in my classroom library or in our school library that are written from anything but a white middle class world view. After Tupac and D Foster is a bit too YA for my 4th grade classroom, but the other three are on my to-buy list.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

2 Great New Nonfiction Picture Books About Endangered Animals

I just visited Bookies in Denver.  A great bookstore packed with books.  My friends here are taking such good care of me. It has been a great trip and today I did a bit of shopping.  I had never been to Bookies, so it was fun. (I also got some GREAT earrings at 5 Green Boxes. If you are ever in Denver, I would find this store. Very cool stuff.   

I picked up two new animal books for the library.  I have found that it is hard to find great nonfiction that younger readers can read on their own.  And, it seems like we never have enough books about animals. So I found two new nonfiction picture books that meet both needs. And both have great photographs that readers will love.

PANDA KINDERGARTEN by Joanne Ryder tells about a day in the life of the baby pandas at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda at Wolong Nature Preserve.  The photos of the panda cubs are adorable and the author gives us a peek into their day.  After the baby pandas are born and cared for they go off to "Panda Kindergarten" where they play with other panda cubs and discover new things. It is a great look into a place that is helping to protect the Giant Panda. The text is perfect--since so much of the story is told in photos, the text is perfect for younger readers.  6-10 lines of text are the average per page.  Lots of information about a great topic in a very kid-friendly book.

TIGER PUPS by Tom and Allie Harvey is the second book that I purchased.  At the Safari Zoological Park in Kansas, 3 Tiger cubs were born.  For some reason, the cubs' mother stopped taking care of the cubs so Tom and Allie Harvey's golden retriever, Isabella took over.  Tom and Allie and Isabella took care of the pups in their home until they were big enough to live outside. This book is a great story for all ages. Great photos accompany text that is perfect for primary students.  You can find lots of information about the pups as they grow on the zoo site.

These books are exactly the kinds of books I have been looking for for the school library--great animal stories that can be ready by young children and enjoyed by all ages.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Poetry Friday -- An Abecedarian Love Song to My Hometown

At the edge of nowhere,
Colorado is a place most
Drive through, not
Ever stopping
For more than
Gas and fast food by the

If they took time to explore, they'd find the
Jewel of the town: the
Listed as a National Historic Landmark, it's also listed in the
Memories of all who grew up here -- hot summer
Nights at the county fair, riding the carousel
On your favorite animal (hippocampus for me)

Quiet Main Street is 3 blocks away.
Remaining businesses do not thrive, but they
Survive. Farmers' pickup
Trucks cluster around Daylight Donuts at 6 a.m.

Under a
Vast sky and unbounded by
Wide horizons
Xpect to feel small here, even if
You are
Zipping by on I-70.

Miss Rumphius has a round up of abecedarian poems from her weekly poetry challenge.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


A simple lesson in economics, and a big thank you Jessica Hagy for giving teachers credit where credit is due. Found at Indexed.

Way cool interactive timeline of children's literature.

Fabulous interview with Jan Thomas at 7-Imp.

New Mo Willems character unveiled!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Sleepy LIttle Alphabet

Another pairing of two of my favorite people--How could I not like THE SLEEPLY LITTLE ALPHABET when I saw that it was written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. This book reminded me a bit of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom when I read it.  All of the letters are trying to fall asleep but they really can't.  H is busy standing on her head and i and j are jumping on the bed.  So goes the story of the letters at bedtime.  The book goes through the alphabet and the letters are finally in bed. 

This is a great alphabet book to add to your collection if you teach primary grades.  The illustrations--as I have come to expect from Melissa Sweet--are amazing.  Different from some of her other work but really fun and wonderful in the details and uniqueness. The illustrations give the book a very fun feel. 

This book can be enjoyed by kids learning the letters and or letter sounds of the alphabet.  Letters on the end pages, on every page of the book and then in their beds at the end of the story will be fun for kids just starting to understand print.  This would also make a great read aloud--at home or at school.  And the story is a fun one, especially when you put the text and the illustrations together. These letter characters have quite the personalities!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Another Great Baby Gift

Beth at Cover to Cover handed me ALL OF BABY NOSE TO TOES by Victoria Adler and I had to buy it right away. This book is precious. It is a square little book with an adorable baby peeking at you on the cover.  The colors are soft, but not quite pastel.  This is a great book to read to a baby or small child.

The first page begins with the words, "Baby's got eyes, bright little eyes."  Then the next page the eyes are described as "round as pie eyes", "just the right size eyes" and more. The spread ends with, "Who loves baby's eyes?"  And of course, on the next page, it says, "Me! I do." The book follows this pattern continuing on with the baby's nose, ears, tummy and more.  So many people love the baby!

A great fun and happy book!  Definitely on my list of new favorite baby gifts.   I'm also thinking it would be a great text to use in Writing Workshop. The language and the way the baby is described would make for a great conversation about word choice and language.  Just love this book!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I just read CYCLE OF RICE-CYCLE OF LIFE by Jan Reynolds.  This is a longer nonfiction book, meant for older elementary and middle school students.  The photos throughout the book are stunning and make this a very engaging book.

This book is not an easy one if you are not familiar with farming and production. But I so glad that I took the time to read it from cover to cover. I learned so much. On the island of Bali, a community has an amazing system for growing rice--one that involves everyone in different ways, one that understands the natural cycles of the earth, and one that connects to the spiritual lives of the people.  For a very long time, this system has been incredibly successful and has been able to sustain. The first part of the book explains this system, how it works, all of the components. The author helps us to see how much the farming of rice and the people of the community are connected.  Then we learn that because of the success of the system, the government decided to make it even more successful by interfering with the natural cycles and by spending lots of time and money to improve the system--interfering with many of the important things that made it successful. The last part of the book shares the work of J. Stephen Lansing, an American anthropologist who helped share information that helped Bali reinstate the original system.

This is an amazing story--one that helps us see more than the story of Bali and rice but also the importance of community, the ways in which we are clearly a global society and the ways in which new technologies do not always make things better. This is not an easy text but it is one that I am excited to share with kids.  There is a lot to learn and a lot to think about.  Whether it is a topic that is new to you or one that you are familiar with, this is a great read.

I have been thinking a lot about nonfiction books for middle grade readers.  As I have gone through the nonfiction section of our school library, it has become more obvious how nonfiction has changed in the last 20 years.  For so long, nonfiction for children was almost nonexistent.  The books were very encyclopedia-like and not really that much different from the actual encyclopedias.  But then we started to get some quality books, written specifically for kids.  One pattern I noticed later was that so many of the books that are in our library are on more of a "magazine" style--with photos, captions, etc. spread out all over the page. I realized that kids were spending lots of time with these books but were having trouble gathering information from them because of the volume and variety of information. So, I have been on the lookout for nonfiction books that can be read to cover to cover. 

I think if we think about our students and the types of content reading they will be doing in their lives, depending on their fields of study, sharing great nonfiction with them is hugely important.  I will be honest, this book was not an easy one for me to understand.  I read it through once to get the general idea of the concepts described.  I read it a second time to pick up more of the content details.  At first I couldn't imagine reading this book to elementary students but then I realized that so much of our nonfiction reading is about working through topics that are new and interesting to us. After having spent time with the book, I think it would be a perfect book to share with students--to think and wonder though together, to go back to adding more information than during the first read.  A great book and a great message for everyone.

Scaredy Squirrel Sighting (and a love letter to independent bookstores)

"Such a discouraging time for people who love reading. Independent bookstores are struggling, all those magical places built by people who loved books from the moment they could hold one, and wanted to share that love with others. Helen recalls one such store where she did a reading a couple of years ago, how inviting the place was, with its broken-in armchairs and lamps glowing a deep yellow, with the cat named Melville, who slept on his back in the front window. It was a browser's paradise, books so thoughtfully and attractively displayed you wanted everything you saw, whether it was a nonfiction book about cod, or a volume of poetry, or a fat novel with ragged-edged pages, or a cookbook featuring winter soups. It was a time -- the only time, as it happened -- that Helen had arrived far too early for her reading, and she spent forty minutes wandering around the store. In the children's section, she eavesdropped as a mother read Scaredy Squirrel to her son; both mother and child laughed aloud at the inclusion of sardines in Scaredy's emergency kit, and at his first step in what to do in case of emergency: "panic." Helen laughed, too, and stopped just short of asking if she could sit down and listen to the rest of the story." (p.227-228)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Not a Poem

No poem this week. Instead, a quote from home safe by Elizabeth Berg:

"She opens the novel again, reads one page, another. Then another. And finally, everything in her own life surrenders to the one being presented here. An uneasy pain thins, lifts, disappears. Dan once had a friend who died from metastatic cancer. Toward the end, Dan visited him with some frequency; and each time he would call before going, to see what his friend might want or need. Each time, his friend requested the same thing: books." (p.39)

The round up this week is at Carol's Corner.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Mom and I went out to eat here...

Right next to here...

Where I noticed this...

And lookie who I saw!

That's J. Patrick Lewis and his daughter, continuing the promo of their new book that started at Cover To Cover in Columbus, Ohio!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins
ARC shared by Karen Terlecky (I'll put it back in the mail to you today, Karen!)
Scholastic, September 1, 2009

I read more than half of this book on the plane on my way home. Got so deeply involved that I refused the free soda and peanuts between St. Louis and Denver.

I have forced myself to spread the second half of the book out over the last two days because I didn't want it to end. I didn't want to begin the limbo that will remain until the third book comes out. Now that I'm there, in that limbo, I'm feeling a little like Katniss. Manipulated (betrayed?). Numb. Incredulous.

It has been fun to read the kind of book I can get lost in, here in my childhood home where I spent so many hours lost in books right there at the end of the couch where I finished CHASING FIRE.

And Collins is masterful in the way she leads you into her story and then, with turns of plot and deepenings of characters, won't let you go until the story spits you out at the end.

But now we're left with a year to think about love and loss, family and friends, rebellion and revolution. And Mockingjays.

iPhone Apps-Are We Finding Ways to Go Beyond the Traditional

Matt really helped me out by posting this video at Creating Lifelong Learners. In my quest to find great apps for the iPod Touches that we are getting, I am not finding a huge number of schools that are using them yet. This clip is packed with apps that would be useful in a classroom setting. But, I am very worried that most of the apps being marketed to schools are pretty traditional applications. They do things like allow you to record lectures, give information about presidents, help you check your knowledge with premade flashcards. When looking at ISTE NETS and P21 and NCTE Frameworks, I worry that very few of the apps I am seeing for schools really have the ability to transform education. Doesn't seem to be the creativity piece in many of the apps-made-for-school that I am finding. Instead they are just a more high-tech way to do pretty traditional things. Creation, communication, global citizenship, critical and media literacy aren't present in many of the apps.

I did find an elementary school that is doing lots with podcasting. Nova Blanche Forman Elementary School in Florida has about 180 iPods (9 carts). Their website shows that they are using them in ways that go beyond traditional teaching. Kids are actually creating podcasts connected to field trips, sharing work with parents at home, running student-led conferences, and more. Several of the projects are posted on the school's website.

I think for these technologies to make a difference, we have to think hard about students creating and communicating in new ways. Students owning the creations. Expanding our definitions of literacy to include podcasts, public service announcements, etc. The questions I am asking myself are:

How can these tools support reading and writing?
What are the new mentor "texts"-pieces for kids to study to inform their own craft as writers?
How can we use these tools in ways to help students build relationships and to work collaboratively?
Can they use these tools to solve real problems and answer their own questions?
How can they synthesize the huge amount of information?
How can they use these tools to create new information or new forms of information?

This week, I am trying to think specifically about booktalks. How can these new iPhones support deeper conversations around books? I think for this to happen, I need to find apps that students can use to track ideas throughout a book--to answer questions they have. They may find evidence of a characters' changing as they read a book. They may highlight some text that helps them think through the theme of the book. The kids in elementary school get pretty savvy about reading with depth and supporting their thinking with evidence from the text. I am wondering if they can use iPod stickynotes and notebook apps to better record their thinking so that they can share it with others. I have played with Notebook and Stickies and both have the potential for students to record, sharing and synthesizing information and then create new information based on the collaboration. I envision kids creating separate notebooks for books they are thinking about and then creating separate notes to track that thinking. One note could record lines in the text that tell something about a character. Another note could track changes in thinking--how does my thinking change about theme or big idea and why? Instead of any form we would create for them, kids could use the tool to collect the thinking they have to make the booktalk authentic.

I am also thinking about the podcast aspect in terms of booktalk. Could recording thinking for others to listen to before the group gets together in person, elevate the level of talk--knowing where people are coming from?

Could entire booktalks be done via iPods in a way that expands the amount of time kids could have to ponder the meaning of a book? Would this type of communication allow more talk and learning for kids who aren't in the same classroom and don't have day-to-day contact?

Would love to hear from anyone who has used/seen used iPods to support quality book talks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lisa Graff is 3 for 3!

I have to admit, I was a little bit worried when I picked up my copy of Lisa Graff's brand new UMBRELLA SUMMER at Cover to Cover this week. I LOVE Lisa Graff. I recommend THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE as a read aloud to almost everyone who asks for good middle grade read-alouds.  I love THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF BERNETTA WALLFLOWER. Bernetta is one of those characters who has stayed with me--I find her popping into my brain once in a while. So, as I was saying I was a little bit worried about this 3rd book.  Could it really be as good as her first two?  Could it meet my expectations?

Well, UMBRELLA SUMMER was a wonderful read. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it! Lisa Graff has created another great middle grade novel. This book is about Annie--another character who I am sure will stay with me for a very long time.  Annie is a worrier (those of you who know me well can see instantly why I can so easily relate to Annie as I am quite a worrier too:-) But Annie has only been a worrier since her older brother's sudden death a few months earlier.  She is pretty sure that if she is careful, she can avoid lots of really bad things.  

This is the story of grief and friendship and all of the the things that go along with that.  As Annie continues to worry, she meets a neighbor who helps her through her sadness.  She also discovers that sometimes a good book can help you make sense of things. It was difficult not to cry while reading this book. Possible, but pretty difficult.

For a third time, Lisa Graff has created great characters, a story with great themes and lots to think about.  She seems to nail 10-11 year old kids and their issues.  She definitely knows what a great age those middle level kids are--so smart and so amazing.  She captures the age well again with Annie.  This is more than a story about death and grief, although it captures those well. 

I would definitely read this book aloud to 3rd, 4th, 5th graders.  I love the title and think that kids could have great conversations talking about the title and theme because of it.  It is very accessible to this age reader.  The 3rd graders at our school LOVED The Thing About Georgie so they will be thrilled to see this new book by one of their favorite authors! (I will have to buy another copy for the library because I am keeping this one for myself!)

So, I am already anxiously awaiting Lisa Graff's next book. I am amazed that she has written 3 perfect books in 3 years. Not to put any pressure on her, but I am hoping she continues to write at least a book a year.  

Did I mention that I LOVE the cover???

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mem Fox and Steve Jenkins Collaborate on Great New Book

I was so happy to see two of my very favorite people --Mem Fox and Steve Jenkins--collaborate on the new book HELLO BABY. This is my new favorite baby gift book as many of Mem Fox's books are. The book starts out with the words, "Hello, baby! Who are you?" It then goes on to ask, "Are you a monkey with clever toes? Perhaps you're a porcupine, twitching its nose" With the rhyme and rhythm that Mem Fox pulls off so well, the book suggests many animal possibilities. The ending is quite precious.

The pages are white and Steve Jenkins large illustrations of each animal take up most of the page. The text is recognizable as Mem Fox's and the art is recognizable as Steve Jenkins'. Together, the two create a fun happy celebration of babies. I couldn't be happier that these two great people collaborated on this book!

LUNCH LADY--A New Graphic Novel Series Coming Soon

Graphic novels have become so popular with kids that I am trying to read more of them as they are published. I received an advanced copy of Jarrett Krosoczka's LUNCH LADY AND THE CYBORG SUBSTITUTE last week and think that it will be quite the hit with kids.
Two Lunch Lady books will be available this summer with another due out in December.  There is lots to like about this new series. First of all, the concept is hilarious.  Lunch Lady by day, Superhero  when work is finished.  The Lunch Lady uses great gadgets that made me laugh--Fish Stick Nunchucks, a giant hairnet and more. And the Lunch Lady uses lots of food words throughout the book.
The books are done completely in yellows, blacks and whites.  A small, square book--similar in size and shape to the Babymouse series.  A very recognizable format.
I find that younger readers are loving graphic novels these days and there just aren't many  of them available that are appropriate for those readers.  This series has the humor that 2nd and 3rd graders will love and the format is easy enough to follow for younger readers.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books, July 2009
review copy provided by Educating Alice's ARC give-away contest (a million thanks to the "judges" in the contest for picking my entry!!!)

I've only read this book once so far. When I finished it, I immediately went back to the beginning and started rereading. Then I looked again at all the chapter titles. Then I studied the Peter Sis-esque cover and noticed all the hidden clues to parts of the story. I'll probably need to reread A Wrinkle In Time after I finish When You Reach Me for the second time. (A Wrinkle In Time was my favorite book when I was the age of Stead's main character, Miranda. I'm jealous that she got a signed first edition for Christmas in the book.)

All I'm going to tell you about this book is that you'll be reading it. I'm not going to spoil a single bit of the story for you. Let me know when you're finished so we can talk.

Here are some reviews, but if you read them, you run the risk of spoilers, so don't say I didn't warn you:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saline, Michigan and some new iPhone Apps!

Well, the last 2 days were a great reminder of why I do what I do. I think those of us who do any kind of writing or presenting do it because it energizes us.  And the last two days in Saline, Michigan were definitely a reminder of that.  I was lucky to be presenting with an amazing group of women including Debbie Miller, Ann Marie Corgill, Kathy Collins, Cathy Mere and Mary Lee Hahn.  We also met some great teachers from Saline and other area schools as well as those attending all the way from Colorado. It is amazing that when people get together who believe the same things about children and literacy, the energy is contagious.  So much learning occurred at the conference and in conversations with each other.  
I had my antennae up for great new iPhone apps that I might want to try.  And because I wanted to learn how to use my new Flip Video camera and the new version of iMovie, my friends were great sports by demonstrating favorite apps while I videotaped them. (We are thinking that Apple may want to hire us to do their commercials from now on. See what you think...)
Debbie Miller shared her new favorite iPhone app, a musical instrument on the iPhone--Ocarina.  In the spirit of 21st Century Learning, the sharing definitely became social as others wanted to try.  Quite a fun app and, as you can see, we had fun learning about it.  Ann Marie Corgill learns the app from Debbie.  I imagine we have all downloaded it after getting home since Debbie sold it so well.  You may want to try it too.  
I also learned my new favorite app--Notebook. I was sitting in the audience, listening to Cathy Mere's inspiring keynote, watching Ann Marie write furiously in her notebook. I wanted to write down so much of what I was thinking because of Cathy's talk but my notes app was not really what I wanted. So in the first few minutes of the keynote, I figured there must be a better app. I searched the Apps store, found a great new app called Notebook, purchased it, learned to use it, took notes on Cathy's talk, showed it to Ann Marie who also purchased and used it. Don't you love that?  Finding what you need and being able to use it immediately.  I must say that that this is a great new app. So useful. It allows me to create new notebooks for different things--conference notes, my writing, books I want to read, etc. Within each of the notebooks, I can create notes and reorganize as needed. I can also search my notebooks.  It is such a great tool for keeping notes and things in a more organized way than other notes programs I've seen. I can see lots of implications of this for kids but right now am excited about using the app myself.
Other exciting things include Jenny's new blog. Jenny made us feel so welcome.  We know you'll love her new blog, Literacy Conversations.
Also, rumor has it that Cathy Mere may have a new avatar on Twitter soon!

Saline, MI Literacy Conference

The organizers of C.L.A.S.S.--
Conference on Literacy And
Student Success.

The Colorado Ladies.

The Presenter Posse is
happy to have Starbucks.

"I have to do a keynote in
five minutes?!?!?!"

All together.

All together. All together.
Saying goodbyes.
Great conference!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Summer Solstice

Night in Day
by Joseph Stroud

The night never wants to end, to give itself over
to light. So it traps itself in things: obsidian, crows.
Even on summer solstice, the day of light's great
triumph, where fields of sunflowers guzzle in the sun--
we break open the watermelon and spit out
black seeds, bits of night glistening on the grass.

I found this poem at American Life in Poetry: Column 220.

We're still not quite to the Summer Solstice (closer than last week) but there's something about the light this year, the lengthening of the days, the amazement that 9:00 pm can feel like 7:00 pm (and if it were cold, it could be 5:00 pm!!) that has grabbed me and made me pay attention.

The round up this week is at Critique de Mr. Chompchomp.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

iPhone App-a-Day All Summer

My iPhone App-A-Day mission is going well so far. My first app--100 Sounds has been quite a hit with friends. I think it could be a great app for kids to use when developing videos--so many sound effects at your fingertips. Thanks to Tod Bernhard, the developer of the app, I was able to see some of the apps used in videos. My favorites are the cartoons and stick figure animation. Great ones to show kids when sharing the possibilities. I am thinking that I have to learn lots of apps and then live with the idea and think about the possibilities as the summer goes on. This week I've found more great apps.

APP #2 of my App-A-Day learning. Today, I learned Sketches, a pretty simple draw program.  I spent a little bit of time learning the tools and reading the FAQs on the site. I figured most of it out.  My 9 year old learned it a bit faster than I did and produced a much better drawing. This program gives you the capability to save up to 30 drawings, to send them via email and to tweet them out on twitter.  It also can create a type of slide show.

Not sure yet how I might use this with kids. I am hoping that some need arises where I need to sketch something out this summer. So many times, I am in a conversation with someone and a sketch explains my thinking.  Instead of paper and pencil, I can just pull out my phone to sketch my thinking.  I can see kids doing similar things with their thinking--another tool to help them hold on to some of their thinking. Much quicker than a draw program on the computer if you are just saving thinking rather than creating a product. I can see a quick sketch to solve a math problem, etc.

APP #3 was a Sunday and I decided to choose something quick and easy to learn. And something that was marketed for education and younger children. I tried WHEELS ON THE BUS which is a great song/reading app for young kids. Last week, I was looking at our very old cassette players with headphones. I believe strongly in the use of audiotapes to go along with text for new readers. I see the impact they make on language and literacy development. But CDs, playaways, etc. are pretty expensive. This new app is simple and fun. A colorful version of WHEELS ON THE BUS with some interactive things that kids can do. My daughter and i had fun opening the doors, swishing the wipers, etc. Kids have control of when to go to the next frame, how long to listen to one page, etc. I am hoping to find more apps like this. A great way for kids to read and listen to text on the iPod touch.

APP #4 Kerry at whatchareading recommended Indiebound, an application that shares new books and has great booklists from Indie Booksellers. A great way to keep up with new books on my iphone. There are several monthly lists that share top 10 books.  I can see how this will come in handy as I keep up with new books. 

APP #5 I bought CameraBag this week. It is a simple app that lets you alter photos on your iPhone/iTouch. You pull up the picture and then have lots of options to change it visually--infared, instant, fisheye, 1962 and more. There are some other things you can do with photos using the apps too. I think with a focus on visual literacy and media literacy, this will be an easy way for kids to alter photos for any type of presentation they are doing--just enough to change the feel of the presentation.

I am finding that the apps are not hard to learn at all. That seems to be the easy part. What I am finding is that there are so many apps out there, that the research and decision-making is what is taking most of my time. So many great apps, so many versions of similar apps, so many possibilities. I am learning a lot just from searching.  

I think I am going to focus on some apps that might support booktalks and conversation next week. Look at a few of the apps that might work to help kids hold their thinking.  Right now, I am starting to think about tools that might be out there that would support deeper thinking and encourage creativity and authentic communication. Time to focus a bit on the apps I am learning.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Hodge-Podge Books in Albany, NY Closing

When I visit new cities, I always try to find a great independent bookstore to visit. I am extra happy when I find an independent children's bookseller. I know we are lucky, lucky, lucky in Columbus to have Cover to Cover and its owner Sally Oddi right here. I think there are so many people who know and love children's books because of Sally.

When we were in Albany, New York last year, we had the chance to visit Hodge-Podge Books and to meet Frank Hodge. In our short visit with him, we all left with great new books that he shared with us. His knowledge of children's book and his ability to instill a love of children's book in others is phenomenal.

I was sad to hear that his great children's bookstore would be closing on June 30. I am glad that the Albany newspaper is celebrating the store and Hodge's work today.

I hope that all cities with great children's bookstores and owners like Frank Hodge and Sally Oddi realize that these stores are not the norm--that we are very lucky to have these resources. We sometimes take it for granted.

I am glad I had the chance to visit Hodge-Podge Books and to hear about books from Frank Hodge when I visited last year. Even though I only visited once, I am sad to see it close.

New Books From My Shopping Spree

I picked up several new picture books on my shopping spree on Saturday. I thought I'd share a few today.

I am excited to add LOOK AT THE STARS by Buzz Aldrin to my collection. I am kind of hooked on the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11. This is a great way to celebrate the flight. Astonaut, Buzz Aldrin starts with an introduction inviting readers to look at the history of flight. On each 2 page spread of the book, Aldrin looks at one piece of the timeline that led us to space travel and looks ahead to where we might go next. He highlights important times in the history of flight and space travel and gives interesting information with each. The book is definitely one that kids can read and follow. The end of the book includes an extensive timeline of important dates including events from the year 1543 through 2010. An exciting celebration of the discoveries that led us to current missions in space. An added bonus in this book are the end papers--they are filled with great quotes about flight by those who are known for their contributions. A great book!

I loved WHAT SHOULD I MAKE by Nandini Nayar the minute I picked it up. It is a simple story of a little boy, Neerah, who is"helping' his mother make chapatis (Indian flat bread). As she is making the dough, she gives Neerah a ball of dough to play with. He makes many things and uses his imagination about what the animals he created may do. The story is a simple one--fun between a mother and child while baking. The back of the book, there are directions for Making Chapitas. I could see lots of options for this book. I initially picked it up because I am looking for good "How-To" books to add to the library collection and the pages provide some good samples of simple "how-to" writing that kids could learn from and use in their own writing.

Bill at Literate Lives suggested GONE WITH THE WAND by Margie Palatini and I so glad I listened to him and ordered it immediately. I love a good fairy tale and I love fairy godmothers. (The ones in Sleeping Beauty are my favorites.) This is the story of a fairy godmother who has lost her magic. Her friend works hard to help her find a new way to use her magic but nothing seems to be the right fit. The story is a fun one and the illustrations make the fairies in the book quite a hit. The fairies definitely have personality and the illustrations really add to the characters.

Monday, June 08, 2009

48 Hour Read Challenge Summary

Well, I can never fully participate in Mother Reader's 48 Hour Read Challenge although it is one of my favorite "holidays" of the year. It usually falls just after our last day of school and is a great way to make sure to start the summer with lots of reading.

This year, we had our annual Central Ohio Blogger Breakfast followed by a rather expensive trip to Cover to Cover bookstore. Sally and the staff were gracious as always and we left with great books. I didn't get much reading in on Saturday except for catching up on blogs and twitter. But I spent a good part of Sunday reading. About 4 hours. It occurred to me that I had forgotten to tell my family that I would be participating in the 48 Hour Read. I thought it was clear that I would do nothing but read but they didn't realize it for a few hours. There were a few of us who were dying to read CATCHING FIRE so I finished that up last night.

And, I donated $2 per book from Cover to Cover to Mary Lee's Fish-A-Thon even to support Casting for Recovery. As a group, we raised over $200. I loved this new addition to Mother Reader's event.
All in all a great weekend, even though I did only have a few hours to read. I felt like it was a weekend filled with books and even though I couldn't participate fully, I did feel like it was a great reading weekend!

While You Were Shopping and Reading...

The first ever (first annual?) Ohio Casting For Recovery Fish-a-Thon took place Saturday, June 6 at the VOA Park near Cincinnati.

Melissa (pictured here) and I were the Past Participants team. She attended the 2008 retreat, and I attended in 2005.

Each of the 9 teams had balloons on a stake so they could be spotted around the lake, and a clipboard and a measuring tape to record catches.

Our clipboard didn't get much use, but we had a blast working on our casting, watching the ducks and ducklings,  and pretending we could land the 24" monster fish we could see but who could not be interested in our flies no matter how well we placed them. 

Here we are, measuring one of our five catches for the day. Yeah, I know. You're saying, "What fish?" 

That's why we took this picture so you could see the cute little bluegill that was silly enough to think my fly was real food!

So, we only caught 5 fish between the two of us in three hours of fishing, but if you divide our pledges by our fish, each of those fish was worth more than $200. 

That's right, together Melissa and I raised over $1000 in pledges for Ohio's Casting for Recovery program. The folks who supported us paid for one breast cancer survivor of "any age, any stage" to experience a Casting for Recovery weekend. One more survivor will come to Indian Bear Lodge alone and leave with a new group of friends who are fellow survivors. One more lady will experience the unique blend of a weekend of pampering, connecting with others, and learning fly fishing.

We were both diagnosed with breast cancer when we were relatively young, so we certainly appreciate all of the money that is raised for breast cancer research and education about early detection. But we are also both survivors, and we understand the need for programs like CFR that address the needs of those who have already had breast cancer.

Thank you to everyone who sponsored us, and an extra big shout-out to the Central Ohio Kidlitosphere Bloggers who supported us with their unique "bucks for books bought" pledges.

EDITED TO ADD...if I'm totaling correctly, you all raised $234 for CFR!!!!


I am always looking for new books that deal with issues of adoption. I picked up Darlene Friedman's STAR OF THE WEEK: A STORY OF LOVE, ADOPTION, AND BROWNIES WITH SPRINKLES. This is the story of Cassidy-Li. As part of being "Star of the Week", Cassidy-Li has to create a poster telling about herself. She adds many things to her poster--including the photo in China when her parents adopted her, she and her cousin at the beach, playing soccer and more. But, she realizes that the one thing that is missing is a picture of her birthparents. I am not a huge fan of "Star of the Week" routines, but I liked this book because it is one of the few that deals with issues adopted children face when doing some of the assigned school projects that are pretty typical. So many classrooms ask students to share baby pictures, create timelines and to make family trees. All of these things, along bring up some unique issues for children who are adopted. This book seems like a good one to start conversations about those issues and how to deal with them in a way that makes sense and respects privacy. Although my 9 year old is a little bit older than the anticipated audience for this book, I am glad to add this one to our shelf at home. It seems like a good one to have on hand to revisit when difficult school projects come up.

I also picked up a copy of TEN DAYS AND NINE NIGHTS, an adoption story by Yumi Heo. I reviewed it here earlier before it was released. It is now available.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins

Although I can't manage the entire 48 Hour Read event, I did take advantage of the event to get read lots. I have been reading most of the day and just finished CATCHING FIRE, the upcoming sequel to THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. "WHOA" as Mother Reader said about the book earlier today. I have not heard one bad thing from anyone who has read THE HUNGER GAMES. An amazing book that is engaging and disturbing. This new book is due out in September and it is as good, if not better than the first. Characters are big for me and I love these characters. The plot is brilliant and I am not sure how Collins does it. I don't want to give anything away but this book 2 is no disappointment. Well worth preordering it today. The only thing I am wondering is how I will ever make it until the final book in the trilogy is available. Loved the book. Not a book for an elementary school library but a great first read of summer.

If you have not read THE HUNGER GAMES, I would put it on the top of your pile for this summer. And then run out and get CATCHING FIRE as soon as you can!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Shopping For a Good Cause and the 48 Hour Read

In Central Ohio, we might have to rename Mother Reader's 48 Hour Read as the 48 Hour Shop. We have definitely made it a tradition to shop for books a lot on this reading weekend! Today, the Central Ohio Bloggers met at our favorite breakfast spot, Northstar Cafe. We ate and chatted. Then we headed over to our favorite children's bookstore, Cover to Cover. Since Mary Lee couldn't join us, due to her Fish-A-Thon, we made some donations based on books we left the store with. We missed Mary Lee today--it wasn't the same without her. But we are pretty sure that our books outnumbered her fish.

Sally, the owner, was nice enough to share several ARCs---they were set up on a table in the back. We tried to be kind but there was definitely some stress over some of the more anticipated titles. We all left with great ARCs and promise to share them with each other as we finish. We also each purchased several books. It was definitely a great way to start the 28 hour read.

Megan of Read, Read, Read was not able to join us today. Instead, she decided to pledge $1 for EVERY book that we walked out of the store with. Together. All of us. Now, Megan has shopped with us before, so I think she knew it would be a pretty hefty pledge. I took photos as we left and we tallied our books (both arcs and purchased books counted.) Cover to Cover was having a 20% off sale which made it even more worthwhile to buy lots.

Bill of Literate Lives left with 14 books.
Julie of Raising Readers and Writers left with 28 books.
I left with 16 books.
Karen S. of Talkworthy left with 15 books.
Katie of Creative Literacy left with 16 books.
Karen of Literate Lives left with 21 books.

So, the Central Ohio Bloggers have added 140 books to our collections and lots of money to Mary Lee's Fish-a-thon for Casting for Recovery.

We will be reviewing as we read.
A great way to start summer vacation!

Friday, June 05, 2009

An iPhone App-a-Day All Summer

Our school received a district grant and will be receiving 25 new iPod Touches this fall. So many possibilities for our students. So, I decided that my summer goal is to learn 50 new iPhone apps before school starts in the fall. That means about 1 per day if I take Sundays off. Over the course of the summer, I will share these applications. I figure that the more applications I find that are useful for me, the more possibilities I will have for students. I am looking for good, authentic applications. I'm thinking this is a good use of my summer--learning as much as I can and find ways that I authentically use apps and then figuring out what that means for kids. Just having the experience of researching apps, trying them out, thinking of ways to use them, etc. will be a great learning experience. I'll be blogging to share the new apps I find. (After today, I'll clump several together each week but since today is my kick-off of this summer fun, I thought I'd give my first app its own post:-)

Since it is officially the first evening of summer, I decided to try a "just for fun" application. Nothing too difficult for my first app. I was looking hard at "More Cowbell" and was ready to buy that but then I came across "100 Sounds". Yesterday, we had a clapout for our 5th graders on their last day. I was thinking it migh have been fun to have a loud sounding bell or whistle. So, I thought a sound application might come in handy someday.

I chose 100Sounds, downloaded it and played a bit. This app gives me 100 Sounds to use. Quick sounds such as an evil laugh, a burp, a trumpet, a gavel, a guitar and more. Many more. It was fun to listen to many of them and I imagine I will be driving people crazy with the new sounds I discover. You can have the sounds play once or loop and play over and over and over again.

I didn't download this because I thought it might be good for school. I just thought it sounded fun. But as I was playing, I realized that it could be great for kids who are creating slideshows, podcasts, videos, etc. A great, easy way to get a variety of sound effects. I imagine the kids will drive me nuts as they have as much fun with these new sounds as I do, but when the novelty wears off, this could be a great application for students to use in their own creations. It was well worth the 99cents!

If you have any great app recommendations, I am very open to suggestions!

Poetry Friday -- Change of Seasons

by Robert Louis Stevenson

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people's feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

We're not quite to the summer solstice, but that change of seasons between the end of the school year and the beginning of summer break is here, and it has the same powerful and elemental feeling to a person who has not been on any other calendar since before she was 6 years old.

I started taking pictures out my classroom window last winter when I started Project 365 on Flickr. It was a challenge to get enough pictures in the early months because I drove to school in the dark and drove home in the dark. Now there's an abundance of light at both ends of my day, just like in the poem. 

Happy Summer to you, whether that simply means a change of the natural seasons, or a change from school to not-school!

Sara Lewis Holmes has the round up today at Read Write Believe.