Friday, July 31, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Countdown

Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year
by J. Patrick Lewis
illustrated by Ethan Long
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

High Schools have had Poetry 180 ever since Billy Collins came up with the idea when he was Poet Laureate. Now elementary school has their own Poetry 180, brought to us by one of the most prolific poets in all of children's literature -- J. Patrick Lewis!

You've got about a month to get your copy so that you're ready to read a poem a day to your class. You'll begin on page one, on the poem numbered 180, and you'll count down, poem by poem, to summer.

Lewis has timed the placement of the poems in the countdown to roughly coincide with a traditional "after Labor Day" school start, and he includes an amazing variety of holiday poems: Eid ul-Fitr (a special thanks for this one from those of us who have Muslim students in our class whose families observe Ramadan), Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Groundhog Day, 100th Day of School, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, April Fool's Day, Passover, Easter, and Mother's and Father's Days. There probably are more that I've missed!

Also amazing is the variety of poetic forms included in this book! I found at least one limerick, epitaph, quatrain, haiku, abecedarian, concrete, acrostic, riddle, couplets, haik-lues, ode, lullaby, tongue twister, rebus, and free verse. Again, there are likely more that I've missed!

The simple line drawings by Ethan Long sometimes help the punch line of the poem, sometimes provide a clue to understanding or solving the poem, and sometimes are a visual retelling of the poem.

I tabbed seven poems I really wanted to share with you today, but I guess that's about 5 or 6 too many. You'll have to check these out when you buy your copy: #174 "The Librarian" (an abecedarian), #87 "Martin Luther King, Jr. Day" (a beautiful acrostic), #76 "The Ninth Ward: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans" (heartbreaking and true), #59 "When is Its It's?" (maybe this poem will help my students learn proper use of its and it's...we can hope), #28 "Ars Libri: after Archibald MacLeish (everything books are and should be).

Here are two teacher/teaching poems since this is (I proclaim it so) the current quintessential volume of poetry for the elementary classroom. Apologies for the lost formatting on the first one...the middle lines should be centered between the first and last lines:

#163 I Was Your Teacher Once

I was your teacher once. You may remember me.
I am the chalk dust of memory.
I was the trusted ship you sailed.
You were the promise I unveiled.
I was the show. You were the tell.
I was your magic. You were my spell.
I was the ticket. You were the game.
I was the candle. You were the flame.
I was the curtain. You were the play.
I was the sculptor. You were the clay.
I was your teacher once. You may remember me.

Proposed Amendment to the Constitution

The President and Vice-President
of the United States shall be required
to take the Fourth Grade Standardized
Achievement Test so that
No President or Vice-President
shall be left behind.

Sylvia Vardell at Poetry For Children reviewed Countdown to Summer during Poetry Month in April and, coincidentally, she's got the round up this week!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

14 Cows for America BLOG TOUR

with collaborator Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Peachtree Publishers, 2009

A young Maasai man returns home to Kenya nine months after witnessing the events of September 11, 2001 in New York City. He and his tribe want to do something to help America heal. This is the story of a remarkable connection between two cultures a world apart.

"It's one of those books like Pink & Say that'll make me cry in front of my students no matter how many times I read it but it makes you proud to be a human being. Which is saying something." -- teacherninja

"14 Cows for America is a picture book that prompts reflection, sensitivity to others, and appreciation for each individual's place in our interconnected world." -- Diane Chen, SLJ


Saturday, August 1, 2009

5 Minutes for Books

Sunday, August 2, 2009

**Right Here** A Year of Reading

Monday, August 3

The Picnic Basket

Maw Books Blog

Tuesday, August 4

Children’s Book Biz News

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Books Upon A Wee One's Shelf

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Patchwork of Books

Friday, August 7, 2009

I.N.K. Interesting Nonfiction for Kids

Hope is the Word

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Know an old Lady

I know an old lady who swallowed a fly, along with any number of other things. I have known this old lady since the early 1960's. I still have my 50 cent "Scholastic Book Services" book club copy of this classic.

I have a small collection of "old lady who swallowed" books and I use them to teach a unit on parody (along with Goodnight Goon and Goodnight Moon).

They include:

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell (all by Lucille Colandro and illustrated by Jared Lee. ...Looks like I need There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell and, new in 2009, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick to complete the Colandro segment of my collection!)

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Trout (by Teri Sloat and illustrated by Reynolds Ruffins -- a Northwest coast/Indian-themed version shared by a fellow Old Lady Book collector who used to live in Washington)

I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello (by Barbara S. Garriel and illustrated by John O'Brien -- did I share this with the music teacher, or did he share it with me? I don't remember, but it matters not -- we both love it!)

I Know an Old Teacher (by Anne Bowen and illustrated by Stephen Gammell -- new last fall. I reviewed it here, with some other back-to-school books.)

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed FLY GUY (by Tedd Arnold -- my 4th graders love finding the folk tale embedded in a FLY GUY book -- a series they read when they "were little."

One I don't own (yet), but found at the library -- I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie (by Alison Jackson and illustrated by Judith Byron Schachner -- a fun Thanksgiving-themed version with a surprise ending that's just PERFECT!)

And now (drumroll.....) the newest in my collection...

There Was an Old Monster
by Rebecca, Adrian & Ed Emberley
Orchard Books (Scholastic), 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

This one doesn't just break the mold, it swallows it!

It is bright and bold and delightfully icky -- the monster begins by swallowing a TICK! A larger than life bright purple but horribly life-like TICK! Ick! The tick is followed by ants, a lizard, a bat, a jackal and more. Eww!

This book is an Emberley family labor of love. The unique take on the story was written by Rebecca Emberley, the fabulous illustrations were made by Rebecca's father Ed Emberley, and the daughter of Rebecca and granddaughter of Ed, Adrian Emberley (a performing songwriter according to the back flap), joined the fun with with a recording of the story at the Scholastic website. Go listen. I'll wait until you come back.

Wasn't that fun?! Can you not wait to share this with your students?!? Will they not be inspired to write new versions of this often-parodied story? Will they not want to make pictures in the Emberley style?!?! (Buy reams of bright-bright paper now, so you can be ready!!) Will they not want to make podcasts of ALL of the versions for Swallow Fest?!?!?!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ghost in the Machine Video

For those of you waiting for the sequel to SKELETON CREEK by Patrick Carman, the video premiere is up--loved it and can't wait for the book, GHOST IN THE MACHINE coming out this fall.

Monday, July 27, 2009

2 Great Adult Novels

I have given myself permission these last few weeks to read adult fiction. I love children's books and my stack continues to grow. But working through the stack started to feel like a chore a few weeks ago. I was hearing from so many friends about great adult books they had read and I felt like I couldn't have the luxury of reading one myself until I "caught up" on my children's book reading. Just as Mary Lee was feeling overwhelmed with Twitter, I was feeling overwhelmed with my never ending stack of children's books. Being a K-5 school librarian, it is always a never-ending stack. I find that I have no trouble keeping up with middle grade realistic fiction but other genres take more of my time and energy. And if I want to be able to put the right book in a child's hand, reading widely is key.

I have always been amazed at the amount of reading that Mary Lee does and every month, my mouth drops when I read the list of books that Jen Robinson is able to finish. Her monthly post of books read is one of my favorites but I so wish I could fit more reading time into my life. And some months I can--but not so much lately. And when I do have time to read lots, I tend to read from the stack of children's books that were recently published.

So I have given myself permission to take a few weeks off and do some reading for me. Not that the children's books aren't for me. I love them. But I realized that I had not read an adult novel for almost a year. And there are so many that I have been dying to read. Somehow, with this job, I have to figure out how to balance out the reading of children's books and the reading of adult novels. How do I find the time to do both?

I must say, I am sooooo happy I gave myself the time to read some adult novels. This month, I read 2 great books. Since I don't give myself time to read many adult novels, I have to be VERY picky. And I was thrilled with both of these choices. Neither was a very happy or upbeat book. But I love great characters and these were filled with complex characters. I highly recommend both of them if you are looking for a few good adult novels.

The first book I read was was LITTLE BEE: A NOVEL by Chris Cleave. I love books in which characters come together in unexpected ways and this is one of those stories. In this story, a 16 year old orphan who has seen much tragedy in her home of Nigeria connects with a husband and wife who are vacationing there. Tragedy brings them together and their lives are forever changed. This author has been compared to Ian McEwan and I can see why. I have read 2 of McEwan's novels and there is a similar feeling--a similar tension. I will definitely read more books by Chris Cleave.

The other was THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Diaz. (I read the Kindle edition---more on that later!) I decided to read this for a few reasons. First of all, it was recommended by several people I trust as readers. But, I mostly wanted to read it because the author will be the opening speaker at this year's NCTE Annual Convention in Philadelphia. After reading the book, I am really looking forward to hearing him talk.

THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE is the story of Oscar--an overweight social outcast who spends his time reading, writing and looking for love. He is a great character. But this is more than the story of Oscar. It is the story of his family --the people who love him. The characters and their relationships were the thing that hooked me to this book. Characters you could believe. We come to know Oscar and his family over years and lifetimes. Through the stories we come to understand them and the decisions they make.

Since there are only a few more weeks left until school stars, I may just read a few more great adult books. I know that I'll be a bit behind on my children's books but it is okay. I guess I have to get used to the fact that I might always be behind. On my stack of possibilities for the other adult novels I might read this summer are THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, OLIVE KITTERIDGE and THE HELP.

Two For the Ocean

Vacation: We're Going to the Ocean
by David L. Harrison
illustrated by Rob Shepperton
Wordsong (Boyds Mills Press), 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

I saw this excellent little volume of poetry reviewed for Poetry Friday last week by Sylvia at Poetry for Children, and lo and behold, I found it today, waiting, on my very own bookshelf, for review for the Notables!

Kids will love the friendly little size of this book and the story it tells of going to the ocean for vacation, from the moment the family loads up into the car, through the sand burials, the no-see-ums and the sand castles, all the way to the dumping of the stinky dead crab and the return home. The poems and the pictures work perfectly together.

by Lucy Nolan
illustrated by Connie McLennan
Sylvan Dell, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

To continue on the theme of the ocean, we have a new collection of Mother Goose rhymes told by Mother Osprey. Here's an example:

Mary Had a Little Clam

Mary had a little clam--
its shell was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
the clam was sure to go.

He followed her to school one day.
He set out in September
but reached the school in mid July--
clams cannot rush, remember?

Where were all the boys and girls
to play with as he'd dreamed?
School was out for summer break--
boy, was that clam steamed!

Kids will love this! Jack and June go up a dune, the old woman lives in a shell, and Hattaras light is falling down, falling down, falling down. I'm sure this will be a favorite for choosing poems to perform for Poetry Friday in my 4th grade classroom!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Round Up is Here!

One of the books I won in Elaine's drawings last spring during National Poetry Month was American Wits: An Anthology of Light Verse, edited by John Hollander. Here's a poem by Robert Frost to set the tone for this week's Poetry Friday:

In a Poem

The sentencing goes blithely on its way,
And takes the playfully objected rhyme
As surely as it keeps the stroke and time
In having its undeviable say.

Leave your link in the comments. I'll round up throughout the day.


Readertotz has a Syrian poem about chickens this week. My last name means rooster in German!!


Linda, at Write Time, has an original villanelle that perfectly captures the frustration of how to tell someone something they already (intimately) know.

Kelly, at Writing and Ruminating, wrote her original poem for a writing exercise. She says the poem "went someplace she didn't expect it to go..." You'll likely agree.

Gregory K., at GottaBook, has baseball on his mind because of the perfect game that was tossed yesterday.

Diane, at Random Noodling, wrote a poem in honor of "National Drive-Thru Day," which is today!

Diane, at The Write Sisters, wrote a poem inspired by the photo of a child dripping in lace, and shares look at both sides of the story.

Andromeda Jazmon, at A Wrung Sponge, distills the sport of basketball into a haiku.

Jone, at Check it Out, gives us a glimpse into her own writing process as she walks us through her revision of a haiku based on her own personal summer book study.

Jim, at Haunts of a Children's Writer, has an original limerick that will be his toast at his son's rehearsal dinner.

Elaine, at Political Verses, has another poke at Palin. There's an element of "you gotta hear this" in her post as well.

Susan, at Susan Writes, is hosting the 15 Words or Less Poems again this week.

Charles Ghinga (aka Father Goose) started blogging in June. He's posting an original poem every week! This week's poem explores "What's A Meadow For?"

Lori Ann Glover, at On Point, shares her "Midsummer Fairies" today.

Here's what Marjorie, at Paper Tigers, says about her post this week: "I'm in this week with some original rap poems written via a youth project as a part of a local Community Opera production, Everyman, a modernized version of the 15th Century Morality play."


Eisha, at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, had a close encounter with Walt Whitman this week, and that's why she picked one of his poems.

Carol, at Carol's Corner, has an ee cummings poem that's as quiet as Eisha's Whitman pick is loud!

Kurious Kitty, at Kurious Kitty's Kurio Kabinet, shares two classics by Christina Rossetti.

Little Willow, at Bildungsroman, shares a poem by Emily Dickinson that is almost as loud as the Whitman that Eisha shared...but not quite.

Martha, at Martha Calderaro, has been enjoying Karla Kuskin this week.

Pam, at Mother Reader, uses the classic "I, Too" by Langston Hughes to make a strong point about a controversial book cover.


Shelf Elf has a very summery grasshopper poem for our delight this week.

Beth, at the Stone Arch Books Blog, shares a very relaxing water poem.


Tabatha A. Yeatts has a little bit of this-n-that this week. Be sure to check out her Christopher Morely picks.


Elaine, at Blue Rose Girls, shares "Otherwise" by Jane Kenyon.


Abby, at Abby (the) Librarian, tells about the (FABULOUS) poetry program she did in her library yesterday.

Zsofia, at The Stehouse Blog, uses Billy Collins' "Introduction to Poetry" to remind all teachers that the Stenhouse Poetry Contest is still going on! Check out this post for information about how to enter.


Laura Shovan, at Author Amok, posts about "portrait or persona poems" and shares the bio of her fellow Maryland poet-in-the-schools MiMi Zannino.

Esther Hershenhorn, at Teaching Authors, describes how she uses successive "name poems" (adjectives, then verbs, then nouns) to flesh out the characters in her novels.


Pudding the Bear posted this week for Jama at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup. He's got a boatload of funny teddy bear pictures and a recording of the song "The Teddy Bears' Picnic" to go with them.

Heidi, at My Juicy Little Universe, shares her discovery of The Favorite Poem Project. Scroll down and listen to photographer Seph Rodney read Sylvia Plath's "Nick and the Candlestick."

Liz, at Liz in Ink, is sorting through the pros and cons, weighing the ups and downs of the writerly life. You can listen to Garrison Keiller read her pick: Frank O'Hara's "Autobiographia Literaria."


Elaine, at Wild Rose Reader, reviews two collections of city poems this week.

Sylvia, at Poetry for Children, has a review of a perfect collection for summer -- vacation poems!

Anastasia, at Picture Book of the Day, has a word choice lesson to go with the book, I LOVE CATS.

Becky, at Becky's Book Reviews, has a peek at a new collection by Jane Yolen that is illustrated with photos by her son!

You Must Meet Hope Anita Smith

Five Facts and a Mission:

1. She's the author of three collections of poetry: The Way a Door Closes, Keeping the Night Watch, and Mother Poems. (All three of these collections could be considered novels in verse, but because she works hard to make sure that each poem stands alone, I'll call them poetry collections.)

2. She's an illustrator whose medium is torn paper collages. (Mother Poems)

3. She just completed her term as Thurber House Writer in Residence.

4. Every Valentine's Day, she makes 100 Valentines and passes them out to strangers on the street.

5. She is frustrated by the economics of hardbacks vs. paperbacks, and passionate about the politics of language and color.

The Mission: Hope Anita Smith wants to place two copies of each of her books in every inner city library in the United States, starting with her home city of Akron, OH.

What can you do to help make her mission a success? Details will be coming soon on her website.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Panorama: A Foldout Book by Fani Marceau

Panorama: A Foldout Book
by Fani Marceau
illustrated by Joelle Jolivet
(originally published in France in 2007)
Abrams, 2009
The review copy still lives at Cover to Cover, shown here extended to its full length, but I may have to go back and buy it!

This is a gorgeous, gorgeous book. (Thank you, Beth for taking it out of its shrink wrap so that I could properly swoon!) Each page is a natural scene from a different place around the world, and each scene morphs into the next, linking our world in surprising and wonderful ways. It is a new take on the interconnectedness of our world, and it invites wonder and further exploration by highlighting places beyond the typical: the first four pages show the Ganges River Delta, Bangladesh, India; Mount Katmai, Alaska, United States; Adrar Desert, Sahara, Mauritania; and Cotopaxi Volcano, Andes Mountains, Ecuador.

The return journey, on the backs of the pages, shows the scenes at night and invites the reader to look for changes. Night sends animals into hiding and brings new animals out, people stop working and go home, and if you look carefully, in the picture of Scotland, the Little People come out!

The message at the end reads, "Here you are, back at the start. At the bottom of your pocket, keep a pebble -- a star -- to remind you of the world."

Other books by this illustrator include 365 Penguins, Zoo-ology, and Almost Everything. All are oversized and visually stunning. Jolivet's website is here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nursery Rhyme Connections

I just picked up two books that connect to favorite nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

EGG DROP is Mini Grey's newest book. This is a fun take-off of Humpty Dumpty. In this story, one of the eggs wants to fly. Instead of waiting until he hatches, he climbs high and jumps. Needless to say the results are disastrous. The story and illustrations are quite fun with little surprises on each page. And, on the last page, the reader is invited to see the positive in the tragic ending. This book is a quite different story than Humpty Dumpty but the kids will definitely see the connections!

I also just discovered HEY, MAMA GOOSE by Jane Breskin Zalben. In this story, the woman who lived in the shoe, decides that her family has outgrown their home. Mama Goose suggests that they move into Snow White's house since she and the dwarfs have moved to help Rapunzel. And so the story goes, many of our favorite nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters moving into new places. Kids love to read new stories about characters they love and they should recognize all (or most) of the characters in this story. A fun way to revisit lots of favorite fairy tale characters.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Books to Celebrate Today--The First Men on the Moon!

Such a great celebration--40 years since we had men land on the moon. No matter how long it's been, it is still an amazing story. So much to celebrate about the day. As with any "event", there are many many books that tie into the first men on the moon. I am thrilled with the quality of so many of the books out on this topic. I think that the books will really invite our children to be part of this day in a way that makes it as exciting as it is to those of us who actually remember it.

I've shared two of these books before but thought that today was a great day to rerun the reviews.

ONE GIANT LEAP This book tells about the first trip to the moon from the time the Eagle took off to the time the astronauts landed. The book captures the power of the trip and the emotions of the astronauts well.

Mike Wimmer's illustrations are amazing. Most are dark as the moon would have looked when they landed. The details show so many things about the trip and the feel of the illustrations matches the feel of the world when the astronauts stepped out on the moon.

The language in the book is one that makes it a perfect read aloud. Yesterday, I read it to 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes and they were glued. Not much of a sound from any group that I read it to. And kids this age take space travel for granted. But somehow the author and illustrator helped them relive the excitement of the moment in this book.

After reading this aloud to 4th and 5th graders, many of the kids pulled out a laptop and quickly found the original film of the moon landing on the internet. They watched and were excited to see what they had just read about and to hear Neil Armstrong's actual voice saying, "One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind." (On a side note, kids had heard spinoffs of this famous quote on Spongebob and other shows and had no idea what the origin of the quote was...) Within minutes they found information on Neil Armstrong, clips of the trip, information on more recent space travel news.

It isn't often that a nonfiction picture book can capture history so clearly and so powerfully. Often, I read aloud a picture book and kids learn but this one actually allows the children who take space travel for granted, to feel the excitement and thrill of the day. For the astronauts who lived it and for the world who watched.

I am also excited about LOOK TO THE STARS by Buzz Aldrin to my collection. As you can tell, 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!

ONE SMALL STEP: CELEBRATING THE FIRST MEN ON THE MOON may end up being a favorite with the kids. This book is put together in the form of a scrapbook. Each spread focuses on one piece of the history of space travel. Photos, sketches, diagrams, and text work together to pull a lot of information into one book. I loved seeing so many photos and captions that explain them. I loved the way that this book captures Launch Day (July 16) with photos of President Johnson, the astronauts and the people in the control room. There are lots of invitations for readers to lift the flaps to learn more about certain topics. My personal favorite page is the one that celebrates the three astronauts and that shares info and photos of the actual spacesuit.

I have always thought it was pretty cool to live in Ohio--home of Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and so many other great astronauts. I think this new set of books is a great way to celebrate this anniversary but one that I think we will all be able to learn from for years to come. These books won't be popular only because of the anniversary. These books will be well-read because they give great insights into the history of this day and more.

There are also so many great sites to celebrate today. "We Choose the Moon" is one of my favorites. We can also watch the landing on Youtube. Love that!

I also started to follow Astronaut Mark Palansky on Twitter. Love that they can tweet from space. That is amazing to me.

Enjoy the day!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Professional Development--21st Century Literacy

There are several of us who continue to do lots of thinking around the area of 21st Century Literacy. There is so much to think about and it is fun to learn and think together. How do we make these experiences authentic for our students? Especially at the elementary level?

This week, we had another great meeting. We met at my house and shared our learning and thinking. We spent about 3 hours together. We started off talking about the things we've learned this summer and the things we were hoping to learn more about. Then we spread out throughout the house and shared with each other. Some of us learned to do Voicethreads. others learned how to use the Flip Video camera and to edit film. We played with lots of tools and left with lots to think about. You can see that once the whole group chat was over, we spread around the house and learned from/taught each other. Everyone left with something new to think about.
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A few blog posts connected to our professional development this week. We came together to learn from each other because we wanted to-because we trust the people we are learning with and we all have different goals and hopes for ways to use this new thinking in our teaching. Wesley Fryer wrote about professional development in his blog post TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND CHOCOLATE CAKE. I think that there are so many ways for us to learn and summer provides time for some of this more intense learning.

I also thought David Warlick's post Technology and Teaching was very thought-provoking. He asks some hard questions. Definitely something to think about.

We are hoping to have one more of these sessions before school begins and then to meet throughout the school year. A great network of people to think and learn with!

Laurie Keller Author Visit

I am a little late posting this. Okay, so I am a lot late. With the end of the school year, things got crazy as they do. And then I traveled a bit and didn't have the time to give this post the energy it deserved. So, now I finally have the time to reflect on the great author visit that we had in late May. Author and illustrator, Laurie Keller visited our school in May. She also visited the Dublin Branch Library. It was a great day!

If you haven't read each and every one of Laurie Keller's books, every one is great. The fact that she is author AND illustrator is key because so much of the story goes on in the illustrations--and even in the lettering. Her characters are great and her humor is brilliant. Each one of Keller's books is one that can grow with kids. My daughter's personal favorite book is ARNIE THE DOUGHNUT. And, it was the favorite among the whole K-5 school who read and enjoyed all of her books. The story is a fun one--Arnie is purchased by a nice man, only to discover that the man intends to eat him! Arnie is shocked and the story goes from there. I can see why this has been my daughter's favorite for years. The story is fun--the whole concept is pretty fun. And the side comments probably make more sense as her sense of humor has developed. So she can enjoy it on different levels as she grows. All of Keller's books do this.

Laurie Keller was a great author to have visit our school. I was lucky enough to be part of all of the sessions and the students had such a great time with her. One of the things that was so nice was the tie-in to art. She not only talked about her books and her writing process but she spent lots of each session teaching kids to draw those characters that they love. Kids came with pencil, paper and clipboard and they left with quite a sense of pride and accomplishment. Laurie taught us how to draw several things--I was amazed at how simple she made it look. After her visit, many kids in the school created their own stories about the characters she had taught them to draw! (And at the Dublin Library, even children's library, Loren Scully was learned to draw some of Keller's characters!)

Keller's books are all great books for home, classrooms and school libraries. She has a unique format and a unique sense of humor that kids an adults enjoy. Even though I read all of her books to all of our classes, I never tired of them. I laughed every time and during every read, I noticed something that I had missed before.

DO UNTO OTTERS is a book that we have in every classroom of our school. It is a great book about manners and Keller writes it in a way that makes the topic amusing and engaging for kids. It is a great way to start conversations with kids about manners and the ways we treat each other.

OPEN WIDE: TOOTH SCHOOL INSIDE does a great job of teaching kids about teeth and dental health.

SCRAMBLED STATES OF AMERICA and SCRAMBLED STATES OF AMERICA TALENT SHOW are two of Keller's most popular books. She brings each state to life in fun stories so that kids learn about the states. Not only are these books great but the game, Scrambled States of America was quite a hit in the library. 4th and 5th graders had a fun time learning about the states and US geography with the books and the game.

Laurie also shared her upcoming book ME AND MY ANIMAL FRIENDS. This one is written by Ralph Covert of Ralph's World. Laurie Keller's illustrations make the book quite fun and I can't wait to add this new book to our library.

I do not often like video versions of children's books but Weston Woods has done an amazing job with Keller's books. Because there is so much going on in the illustrations, and because the side comments are too good to skip when reading aloud, I loved sharing the videos with the kids at school. The characters really come to life in each of the videos.

I would highly recommend Laurie Keller as an author visit if you are looking for someone. Her books are great fun for students from K-5. And she is great with kids--building a confidence and inviting them to do more with her characters. Plus, she is great fun to be around. She is genuinely excited about the kids and their learning and that shows in the way she talks to them and the excitement she shows about their work. And if you aren't looking for an author to visit your school, I would definitely add Laurie's books to your collection. Her graphics and the humor that she uses are great ways to teach kids about lots of things.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

THE ONE AND ONLY MARIGOLD by Florence Parry Heide

I have just discovered a new character that I love--Marigold who stars in the new book THE ONE AND ONLY MARIGOLD by Florence Parry Heide. Marigold is a monkey and she is quite strong-willed. In this book, Marigold stars in 4 stories. I love that there are 4 separate stories about Marigold in this one picture book. Such a fun way to think about and get to know a new character. In the first story, Marigold goes shopping for a new coat, but she loves the one she has. In the second story, Marigold is looking for a new hobby. In the third story, Marigold sets up an alternative to the boring lemonade stand. And in the last story, Marigold wants a fancy new outfit for the first day of school.

All of these stories are quite short but the author humor and voice into each.

I just can't get enough of Marigold. Hopefully there will be more books starring this fun new monkey coming soon. Marigold is quite clever and I think kids will love her too.

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Blog on the Block!

Welcome to Shelly and Lisa and their new blog Two Learning Journeys!

Your contributions to the conversation about teaching and learning will be welcome and valuable!

Poetry Friday -- Against Travel

Last Friday, we drove 19 hours nonstop (except for dinner in Lawrence, KS and various restroom and gasoline breaks) between Eastern Colorado and Central Ohio.

We saw the sun set in the rear view mirror...

...and we saw the sun rise through the windshield.

It feels good to be home and NOT be traveling. That's why this week's poem spoke so clearly to me.

by Charles Tomlinson

These days are best when one goes nowhere,
The house a reservoir of quiet change,
The creak of furniture, the window panes
Brushed by the half-rhymes of activities
That do not quite declare what thing it was
Gave rise to them outside.

(the rest of the poem is here)

Are you delighted to be traveling or NOT traveling this week?
What are you against?
What are you for?

The round up this week is at Becky's Book Reviews. (Next Friday it will be here!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

ALL THE BROKEN PIECES by ann e. burg

all the broken pieces
by ann e. burg
Scholastic Press, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

We don't review YA books here very often, but this is one you won't want to miss.

This novel in verse shows the reader the ways that war breaks people, and the ways that they work to put the broken pieces back together.

Told in first person from the point of view of Matt Pin, a twelve year-old Vietnamese American boy who was airlifted out of Vietnam and adopted by an American family, the story weaves the threads of Matt learning to play the piano and joining the baseball team with his memories of his younger brother in Vietnam having his feet and hands blown off by a land mine. A variety of perspectives on war can be found in the course of the story: Matt's father feels guilty because he went to medical school instead of Vietnam. Matt suffers from the racism of a teammate whose brother was killed in Vietnam and from Vietnam Veterans who resent the reminders of the war in Matt's Vietnamese features. Matt and his piano teacher (a vet who takes him to a veterans' support group) help with the healing of a vet who becomes Matt's baseball coach, and this new coach helps to heal the rift between Matt and his teammate.

The parallels between the Vietnam War and all of the current global conflicts would make this an excellent read aloud or shared reading for a middle school or high school literature or social studies classroom. For those of us who grew up during the Vietnam War and lived in it without really learning about it, this book is an important education.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

LUCKY BREAKS by Susan Patron

lucky breaks
by Susan Patron
illustrated by Matt Phelan
Simon and Schuster, 2009
review copy was purchased with my own money

I can't wait to hand this book to my student who read The Higher Power of Lucky at the end of the year last year. She'll love it! Lucky is the kind of character, and Hard Pan (population 43) is the kind of place that stay with you.

Maybe every girl on the brink of turning eleven needs to read this book. Not since Sandra Cisneros' story eleven have I seen this age described so eloquently. (I'm not going to link to any of the online copies of Cisneros' story--they are all violating copyright, so I'll let you find them for yourself if you don't already know the story. It's from Cisneros' book Woman Hollering Creek.) Here are the lead paragraphs of lucky breaks:
"Eleven. Lucky thought from her seat at the back of the school bus, eleven, eleven, eleven, and the idea of it the sound of it threw off sparks in her head. You start with one, two, three: those clunky one-syllable beginner-ages like wooden blocks that toddlers play with. Keep going and you get to eight, nine, ten: the plodding steps you have to climb until, at last, you arrive. Finally, finally, you reach the best age, the one that, when you say it out loud, sounds like a little tap dance or a drumroll.

...She pictured 11 as a swinging double door, a saloon door in an old Western; you push the sides open, bam, with both hands and stride through before they flap shut again, your childhood behind you." (p.1-2)

This is a book that will satisfy readers who read for plot. In the first chapter, we learn (from Miles, who is about to turn six) the story of two miners from about a hundred years ago who loved the same woman who was tragically killed in their fight for her. A piece of her brooch is supposedly at the bottom of an abandoned (or condemned?) well. The story captures Lucky's imagination, and any reader worth their salt is going to know that sooner or later, Lucky will be down that well looking for the missing piece of the brooch and it's a good thing that the book is titled lucky breaks. It would be interesting to use this book in a literature circle or grand discussion and have readers focus on all of the things that break (literally and figuratively) in the book.

This is also a book that will satisfy readers who read for characters. Lucky's friend Lincoln is fully developed in this book. He is still complicated and quirky and constantly tying knots, but he is also mature and stable, which are both lucky breaks for Lucky. A new character is also introduced -- Paloma, who becomes Lucky's first best friend who is a girl.

And finally, this is a book that will satisfy readers who read for setting. Hard Pan, the desert around it, and the sky above it are beautifully described. Matt Phelan's small sketches help readers visualize the vastness and the emptiness of the desert landscape. In this interview, Susan Patron shares that the setting of a fictional former mining town in California's Eastern Sierras was the initial inspiration for Lucky's stories.

The third book in the series is promised for 2010. YAY!

Monday, July 13, 2009

DRAGONBREATH by Ursula Vernon

by Ursula Vernon
Dial Books, June 2009
Grades 3 and up

Review copy provided by the publisher

What do you read after you've read all the BABYMOUSE books? DRAGONBREATH!

You'll notice some similarities -- the dream sequences in color (green for this book), the imaginative but bumbling main character (Danny Dragonbreath cannot yet breathe fire), the school bully (in this case, a Komodo dragon named Big Eddy) and the intelligent sidekick (Wendell, the green iguana).

And there are also differences -- DRAGONBREATH is a hybrid graphic novel/novel, there is no conversation between the main character and the narrator, and at 146 pages, DRAGONBREATH will take a bit more stamina from the reader.

Danny Dragonbreath is the only mythical creature at the Herpitax-Phibbias School for Reptiles and Amphibians. He is also an incredible procrastinator, turning in a science paper which he writes in less than 15 minutes and which he's hoping his teacher will grade on length and not content, seeing as he completely made up the sea creature featured in his paper -- the Snorklebat. Danny is not so lucky. He gets an F on his paper and must rewrite it by the next day. Luckily, Danny's cousin is a sea serpent who takes Danny and Wendell on a deep sea tour to gather facts for the rewrite. Adventures with a shark and a giant squid ensue, but Danny gets enough good material for an A on his paper.

The next DRAGONBREATH adventure will be ATTACK OF THE NINJA FROGS, but what I really want to know is what happens to the predatory potato salad that Danny uses to get back at Big Eddy in the cafeteria.
A ferocious predator, what the common potato salad lacks in bone structure, it more than makes up for in viciousness. A school of potato salad can skeletonize a cow in under two weeks, assuming that the cow doesn't get bored and move.
The last we see of the potato salad, it is oozing down into a storm drain. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of it!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

NANA CRACKS THE CASE! by Kathleen Lane

Okay, I have been totally amused by the new book NANA CRACKS THE CASE! by Kathleen Lane. The story begins with Nana looking through the local newspaper for a job. She quickly finds one that sounds perfect for her:

It did seem that Nana had all of the qualifications necessary to be a detective. Not only did she own the various wigs mentioned in the ad, "but, " Nana said, "I must admit that I can also, when necessary, be a bit sneaky."

Nana is quite an amusing character--full of spunk and humor. Along with her grandchildren Eufala and Bog, she goes off to find a thief.

This is a short book--about 100 pages. It has a plot that will be easy for middle readers to follow. And the writing made me laugh throughout the book. From finding her orange and black spotted wig to going into a Lavatory instead of the Laboratory, Nana is full of fun surprises.

I have been looking for new mysteries and I like this one. A fun, beginning kind of mystery/detective story in which Nana has to find a thief. I was thinking that this would be a series because it certainly lends itself to a great one--a fun character that you want to read more about and a great concept--Nana looking for new jobs or Nana as detective. So, I am hoping that more stories about Nana are on their way.

Friday, July 10, 2009

2 New Series for Transitional Readers

I am excited about two new series that are just out. Both will appeal to transitional readers and I think both will appeal to boys as well as girls.

MAX DISASTER is by Marissa Moss. I think that this book was released a few years ago but seems to have been redone this year. The format is a bit different but it is going to be a great series. I picked up MAX DISASTER #1-ALIEN ERASER TO THE RESCUE yesterday and read it today. I am a big fan of Marissa Moss and love the Amela Books. This series is a similar set up but with a different twist. Max begins the book by saying, "This is a book I found that's perfect for writing scientific stuff in. There's a girl in my class who keeps a notebook of stuff about EVERYTHING in her life. SUPER BORING! I would never, I mean, NEVER do that, but suddenly, I have so many great ideas, I need a place to record them." So this book becomes a science journal and much more for Max. He shares inventions, comics that he writes, and experiments that he tries. The color graphics as well as the humor will make it a hit with kids. As much as Max doesn't want to write about all that is going on, he does write throughout this first book about the tension he is feeling between his parents. Dealing with that while doing all of the other things he does in a day, makes this a pretty realistic book. I think kids will enjoy it and I am anxious to pick up the next book in the series. (2 more come out this fall too.)

HORRID HENRY is the other series that I am excited about. I have 4 of the books but I think that there are 8 available right now. Horrid Henry is quite horrid. He is the oldest of 2 boys. His brother is "Perfect Peter" but Horrid Henry is always gettting into trouble. These books are each less than 100 pages long. There are some illustrations throughout but not necessarily on each page. Each book consists of 4 chapters or stories about Henry. Each chapter stands pretty much alone as a short story which makes this a great choice for kids new to chapter books. The books are funny and cause kids to laugh out loud. Horrid Henry is horrid but not really. He is a pretty likable character and his behaviors are usually pretty typical of kids his age. Thee books were originally published in the UK and are also a TV show there. They were so popular there that they recently began publishing the series in the US. This is a fun new series.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

4 Professional Books on Nonfiction/Inquiry

It is funny how fast my pile of to-read professional books is getting lately. I am just finishing TEACHING THE NEW WRITING and will review it soon. I have also just added BLOGS, WIKIS, PODCASTS, AND OTHER POWERFUL TOOLS FOR CLASSROOMS by Will Richardson to my shopping cart. I am on a huge learning curve when it comes to technology and what that means for our elementary classrooms. So I have added a huge new topic to my professional reading life. But I do have a few books that I have ordered and spent some time with that I want to read over the next several weeks. These are the books that I am hoping will help grow my own thinking. I find that much of my professional reading comes from online sources lately. I get lost finding articles and blog posts so I haven't committed the the professional "book" reading that I've done in the past. Thank goodness it is summer so I can catch up on a few. These are the 4 on top of my stack right now. I am looking for ways to create a great library environment next year-one that invites inquiry, collaboration, and student ownership of learning. So my focus for the next few weeks is connected to that specific goal.

I am also excited to read COMPREHENSION AND COLLABORATION: INQUIRY CIRCLES IN ACTION by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels. I am excited to see how the thinking of these two experts have come together when thinking about small-group projects around inquiry. I worry that we have gotten so far away from students' own questions in school. I love that this book is for all levels. Early in the book, the authors say, "This book is for everyone who teaches because the big ideas and processes of education, the really big ones, truly do apply to all learners. From Pre-K to college, we are in the business of teaching thinking. And that's something we are never done with: we don't start children off thinking in the primary grades and then assume we're finished. Nor do we hold off on thinking until middle school, give them a couple good years of instruction, and then shut down, figuring they're now ready for anything." We teach thinking all year, every year: we teach students how to listen, view, read, gather, and engage with information; we make sure students acquire cognitive strategies, weigh ideas, develop judgement, and build knowledge; and just as important, we help them to remember, care choose, and take action." Can't wait to read more!

Another book that is connected a bit to the one above is SCIENCE AS THINKING: THE CONSTANTS AND VARIABLES OF INQUIRY THINKING by Wendy Ward Offer. I was excited to receive this book when I did a workshop with the PEBC in Colorado last week. I learn from every single piece that any of the teachers associated with them write. The work is amazing and has influenced so much of what I do with kids. In the library position, I am thinking hard about kids taking charge of their own learning and creating a place in the library where this is possible. From what I can tell after a pretty lengthy preview, the author uses a workshop model for her science teaching. The blurb on the back hooked me immediately. It says, "Inquiry is how we learn about the world. Every day we ask questions, gather evidence, make observations, and draw conclusions. SCIENCE AS THINKING shows how powerful instruction can connect the natural curiosity students bring to class to the science curriculum. No matter what my content, I have always learned a great deal from science teachers--inquiry is their content and I am excited to learn more from this book.

Finally, I would like to spend more time with NONFICTION MENTOR TEXTS by Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli. I loved the authors' first book, MENTOR TEXTS and was even more excited about this one--focusing on nonfiction. So much of our students' world is filled with information. Nonfiction is such a key to the ways they gather and communicate information. This book focuses on the writing of good nonfiction with the use of good mentor texts. I am thinking that this will help me in several ways. The tie in to 21st Century Skills is key. If we want our kids to be able to synthesize and communicate information, having great models for this type of communication is key. This book is packed--with not only lessons and booklists, but also so much to think about when it comes to communicating information. I can't wait to dig in.

I love the new Lucy Calkins Series "WORKSHOP HELP DESK". I love the size and focus of these little books. I picked up the first four and am amazed at how much they have packed into each one. The one that I am most anxious to read is "A QUICK GUIDE TO BOOSTING ENGLISH ACQUISITION IN CHOICE TIME" by Alison Porcelli and Cheryl Tyler. I have always believed in Choice Time and have seen how much students learn when given time to explore, inquire and discover. I love the idea of this book--the fact that it focus on this time as a way to boost English acquisition. Like I said, I love the focus of these books. A way to look deeply at a very small topic. The photos throughout the book were the first things to draw me to this book. The play factor is huge and I am hoping to build more time for this into the library next year.