Saturday, October 31, 2009

October Mosaic

2 New Nonfiction Books About Animals

I just found two great new nonfiction animal books for kids. I saw LIFE-SIZE ZOO by Teruyuki Komiya at our book fair a few weeks ago. I didn't pay much attention to it but today I actually spent some time with it and I LOVE it! The end pages in the front of the book serve as a zoo map as well as a Table of Contents. Very clever, I thought. So, when you see the Giant Panda cage, you know that the info on that animal is on pages 4 and 5. How could you not love this book right from the TOC? Then each 2 page (giant) spread focuses on on zoo animal. There is a real life photo of the animal--a part of it shown true to size. There is a bit of text to tell a bit about the animal. And then there is a side column that tells about the details in the close up. (This column gives info about the specific animal photographed and then has a section called "Time for Close-Up" which gives kids things to look for with each animal. For example, when we look at the tiger, we learn can see (close up) the black lips, the four huge fangs, and thick whiskers around his cheeks. We can even see that his tongue is rough like sandpaper. Each page also has a few interesting facts about the animal.A few of the pages have fold outs that allow us to see even more of the animal close-up.
I love this book for lots of reasons. It is perfect for little kids--the close up piece is a great conversation starter--so much to look at in the pictures because they are so close up. The text adds a great deal and kids can enter at lots of levels. Younger kids can learn from the photos. Older kids have lots to learn when they add the different sections of text. From looking on amazon, it looks like there is another one coming out in 2010!

The other animal book that I love is FLIP THE FLAPS: ANIMAL HOMES by Judy Allen and Simon Mendez. I discovered this book at Cover to Cover today. The book is organized into places where animals live. So chapter titles include Trees, Stones, Burrows, Ponds and more. Each spread focuses on one of these places and tells a little about the way that it serves as an animal home. On the right side of each spread, the reader finds a "Flip the Flap". On the flap are 3 questions about the animals that live in this place. When you lift the flap, the three questions are answered. Each page also includes other information that adds to the information given on the page. I see lots of possibilities for this book. First of all, it is such a great book to help kids understand the concepts of animal habitats. I also think it is a great format to use as a model for student writing. It is a fun way to think about nonfiction information.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Fall

by Edward Hirsch

Fall, falling, fallen. That's the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.

(the rest of the poem is at

The round up this week is at Biblio File.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Great New LEGO BOOK Set

I have been looking for good Lego books for years. You would think there would be millions based on how popular Legos are. But I never find them. I had THE ULTIMATE LEGO BOOK a while ago but it is no longer in print. I was browsing Amazon's list of New Releases for Children earlier this week and discovered this set. I ordered it immediately.

It is definitely going to get lots of attention in the library. For a while, I won't put it in circulation. Everyone will want to spend time with it! I think I'll just set these books over by the Legos for everyone to enjoy for a while. I'd like to eventually create a display around Legos and building toys--similar to the amazing displays at The Allen Centre. But I have hard time finding books, etc. on the topic. So, I am thrilled with this find!

The LEGO Books are huge book, as you would expect. THE LEGO BOOK is paired with another called STANDING SMALL (A Celebration of 30 Years of the Lego Minifigure). They are both such great books. THE LEGO BOOK takes us through the history of LEGO. From how they are made to various sets, to the Logo history, to Legoland and more. So much information is packed in. And it has the feel of DK at its best. Great photos and great information--you really get an inside view of design, themes, etc.

STANDING SMALL focuses on the minifigure through history. Some information is shared about how they are made and how they've changed. But the majority of the book focuses on the various minifigures over the last 30 years.

Kids are going to love this book. It opens up so many new possibilities for kids--new ways to think about Legos. I can also see using pages of this with a document camera. Such a great model of nonfiction writing and a topic kids are interested in. I am not someone who plays with Legos but yet I could read this book for hours. I am fascinated by the whole design process and the creation of these.

This set would also make a great gift book. The whole set came from Amazon--shipping included--for less than $30. Well worth every penny!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two Books For Math Class

Tyrannosaurus Math
by Michelle Markel
illustrated by Doug Cushman
Tricycle Press, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

Tyrannosaurus Math is a number-crunching dinosaur who starts doing math the minute he hatches from his egg, counting his fingers and toes together to make a number sentence.

As he grows, his math becomes more advanced. Soon he's skip counting, subtracting and checking his work, and drawing a picture in the sand to solve a problem. He makes a pictograph and an array, and finally saves the day with an excellent use of estimation.

This would be a fun book to share with math learners of all ages AND their math teachers!

Also reviewed by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
Michelle Markel's blog, The Cat and the Fiddle

Zero is the Leaves on the Tree
by Betsy Franco
illustrated by Shino Arihara
Tricycle Press, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

In this beautiful little book, the concept of zero is explored throughout a child's school year. First, zero is the number of "balls in the bin at recess time," then the number of leaves on the oak. In winter, zero is "the sound of snowflakes landing on your mitten." In spring, zero is "the bikes in the bike rack on the last day of school."

This book just begs for students to create their own illustrations of zero...and maybe of the other numbers as well!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Great Read Aloud for November

I am not always a big fan of holiday books. I read them and like them but they are not the books that kids read year round so I don't often spend much energy finding good ones. But my friend Sarah pointed this one out to me and I am so glad she did. TURKEY TROUBLE by Wendi Silvano will be a fun story to read to kids in November. It is a bright colored book that is lots of fun. The story is a bout a Turkey who is in trouble because Thanksgiving is near. And Turkey knows what that mean. So, he works to try to disguise himself so that the farmer wouldn't eat him. The book takes us through lots of Turkey's ideas and the responses from the other animals on the farm. There is a little bit of predictability in the text and fun in the illustrations. You can't help but love Turkey and hope for the best. A great addition to our Thanksgiving book collection!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What's Inside?

What's Inside?
by Giles Laroche
Houghton Mifflin, 2009
Review copy received from the publisher

This is the perfect book to invite children to think about both ancient and modern architecture.

On one page, there is a multi-media illustration of an architectural structure made with intricate bas-relief cut-paper collages. (Laroche says on the back flap that creating this book "was somewhat like building the actual structures themselves: Each illustration involved many stages of drawing, cutting, painting, and gluing, and often ended up with seven or eight layers.") The illustration of the structure is accompanied by a short, descriptive paragraph of text and the question, "What's Inside?" When you turn the page, there is another illustration, and another short, descriptive paragraph of text about what can be found (or was once found) inside the structure. For the reader who wants a little more information, there are factoids in the sidebar that tell the name of the structure, its location, the date of construction, its height, the materials used to make it, its status today and a little known fact.

The structures range from Egyptian tombs and Mayan temples, to Independence Hall and a Shaker barn, to the Sydney Opera House and the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia.

The final illustrations cleverly invite readers back into the book to make connections and to find architectural details in the structures.

An illustrated glossary of architectural terms is included.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Hope

"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
by Emily Dickinson

"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

We were working in the land lab after school when a goldfinch, already in drab fall and winter colors, flew between us and smacked into a classroom window, falling to the stones below.

I scooped up the blinking, dazed little bird, and as I held it, I thought of the thing with feathers in Emily Dickinson's poem. After resting in a quiet spot for a few minutes, the goldfinch flew off, no worse for wear.

The thing with feathers perching in my soul has hit a wall this week, too. But true as it was for the bird in the land lab, it has only taken the kindness of one gentle hand to restore hope to its perch in my soul.

The round up today is at Big A little a.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


This week, we started a 5th grade Graphic Novels Club in the library. The Club will meet twice a month during lunch and recess. We had 19 kids attend and each came with lots of enthusiasm. Ray Barrett, one of our great Dublin Library librarians will be running the group through the year. Ray knows graphic novels well and I have already learned about lots of titles that I wasn't aware of. Since he is running the club, I was able to sit back and listen to the conversations between Ray and the students. He introduced the club by sharing many new titles with them. The kids were aware of some of them but many were new to all of us. Then they all chit chatted about the Graphic Novels they'd read and enjoyed as well as those that they hoped to read soon. Everyone left with one title in mind that they'd like to read before our next meeting. Ray and I will work together to gather the books they requested.

I was amazed at the level of talk and the knowledge that most of these kids had about graphic novels. I was also excited about the variety of things they were interested in reading. No one was worried about what other kids were choosing to read--they all felt pretty confident in their choicesI think that one thing Graphic Novels are doing for kids today is stretching the genres and authors they read. They seem more willing to try a new genre if it is in graphic novel form. .

It seems that we can't keep graphic novels in the library. Even though I felt like I added many Graphic Novels to the collection over the summer, there are never many available for check out. They are always checked out!

I am excited about the year ahead. We are so lucky that Ray has offered to run this club for us. Graphic Novels are not a genre that I choose to read often but I am hoping that this club will inspire me to read more of them. Ever since I read Terry Thompson's professional book, ADVENTURES IN GRAPHICA, I see the importance of this genre for all readers. The blog THE GRAPHIC CLASSROOM has also helped me learn about new books for elementary readers.

I think The Graphic Novel Club will be a great experience for the kids and we'll all learn so much. I'll keep you posted as we move forward in the year.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

National Day on Writing!

It's finally here! NCTE's National Day on Writing!

Check out the Kidlitosphere's Gallery, "A Lifetime of Reading."

KidLitCon09 attendees had this to say about their lifetime of reading:

Thanks to the folks who agreed to appear on camera (in order of appearance):

Pam Coughlan (MotherReader),
Jen Robinson (Jen Robinson's Book Page),
Melissa Fox (Book Nut),
Karen Terlecky (Literate Lives),
Bill Prosser (Literate Lives),
Sara Lewis Holmes (Read, Write, Believe),
Tricia Stohr-Hunt (The Miss Rumphius Effect),
Olgy Gary (Olgy's Blog),
Julie Dauksis (Grow Up With Books),
Lara Ivey (Grow Up With Books),
Terry Doherty (Scrub-a-Dub-Tub),
Maureen Kearney (Confessions of a Bibliovore), and
Greg Pincus (GottaBook).

Monday, October 19, 2009

A PLACE FOR WONDER: Author Interview Today

If you have not picked up a copy of A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades by Georgia Heard and Jen McDonough, you will definitely want to do so after you read today's interview. We are thrilled to be the first stop on a blog tour for the authors of this great new professional book for teachers.

Georgia Heard's work has had a huge impact on my teaching. Her first book for teachers, FOR THE GOOD OF THE EARTH AND SUN gave me a new way to think about poetry writing with my students. In this new book, she teams with classroom teacher Jennifer McDonough to help us think about how to build on children's natural sense of wonder in schools. Together the two authors help us see the importance of making time and space for children's curiosities and celebrations of the world around them. They also show us how to connect those natural wonders in ways that help them grow as readers, writers, and researchers.

Although this is a book written for classroom teachers in grades K-2, I can see it being read and used by teachers at many levels. As a school librarian, this book has helped me think about ways to make research more real in the library---ways to think about space in ways that invite students to own their learning by starting with their wonders.

If you want to preview the book, it is available on Stenhouse's website. I am planning on rereading it and thinking about ways that the brilliance of these two educators can help me transform the library.

Now, onto the interview!

Franki: (for Georgia): We have always known you to write about poetry and writing. What made you decide to take on a different topic for this book?
When my son was younger, he inspired me by how curious he was -- especially about the natural world. During every outing, he learned something new and he asked hundreds of questions about how the world works. I’ve written and spoken about this especially with poetry but with all writing really – how poems, novels –- come from curiosity, close observation and the freedom to explore. I believe that young children are natural poets because they have a poetic way of looking at the world.

Georgia: When my son attended school for the first time, I was surprised by how that poetic way of looking at the world, the appetite for learning and curiosity, was almost viewed as a negative and a distraction. The structure and curriculum of school seemed to want him to do the opposite – to rein his unbounded enthusiasm in. So, I began to investigate early childhood and primary grade classrooms and environments, and realized that particularly with No Child Left Behind – many primary classrooms were not places of exploration and curiosity because teachers were under so much pressure to plan their curriculums around state tests. I was so grateful to meet Jen, who was my son’s teacher, who felt the same way as I did, and we teamed up to explore creating a wonder-filled world for primary children. So, it was a personal decision to pursue the idea -- not just for my son -- but for all young children.

Franki: So much of the book is about valuing the things students wonder about and creating spaces for wonder in our classrooms. Can you share a bit of your thinking on that?

Georgia and Jen: Matthew Fox wrote that many of our schools have become “knowledge factories” rather than “wisdom schools.” I’ve always loved this description because it seems so true. But then we ask ourselves, What would a wisdom school look like? And what kind of wisdom would it teach?
We feel that wisdom is about thinking deeply and paying attention to what’s around us, perceiving things around you with a sense of what really matters, and asking questions about the world around you. Children are naturally curious and come to school wanting to know how the world works. How many schools truly nurture and value that natural sense of wonder? It’s important for children to know that we care enough about what they’re curious about to make a space and time for those questions during the school day. Last week, one of the hermit crabs came out of its shell, and the kids were so excited about this seemingly small event. Jen sent them to the pet observation journal where they wrote down their questions and observations. Because Jen made a place for their wonder, they were able to savor that moment in words.

Franki: What is your advice for teachers who are trying to create places of wonder while still meeting the high-stakes testing environment that is present in today¹s schools?

Georgia and Jen: Teachers with little, or no extra time, can still create places of wonder in their classrooms. Teachers can set up wonder centers as an activity in the morning when kids first arrive, or as after-school activities. You can write a question on a chart, and invite students to write their thoughts and answers throughout the day as a kind of shared writing. In A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades, we name numerous centers and activities that teachers can put in place without giving up curriculum time. But the bigger question is how can teachers find their voices, and make a stand as to what we value in the curriculum for young students.

Franki: You have so many great suggestions for teachers about ways to make room for spaces where children can be curious and creative. If teachers were going to create one space to start, what would you suggest?

Georgia and Jen: The Discovery Table is the most popular of all the centers because kids love the natural world, and this center seems to connect them to the wider world. They love holding the shells, acorns, and robin’s eggs, etc. in their hands, and seeing new details when they look through a magnifying glass. We would also set up a Wondering Center to start –- a chart, a board -- where children write down and explore their questions throughout the day.

Franki: You include several booklists in the book. Can you each tell us about one of your favorite children¹s books from the book and the ways that you¹ve seen children respond to the title?

Georgia: One of my favorite books, and one of children’s favorites as well, is Byrd Baylor’s THE OTHER WAY TO LISTEN because it speaks about walking in the world like a poet – not just labeling trees and rocks with proper names -- but being able to see and understand their beauty. Children love this book because that’s how they perceive the world. Another favorite is THE WISE OLD WOMAN AND HER SECRET by Eve Merriam because it tells the story of how a child’s natural gift of curiosity and wonder are the keys to living a wise and intelligent life. It’s a great read aloud as you introduce the wonder centers.

Jen: THE FIRST SONG EVERY SUNG by Laura Krauss Melmed is a great example for kids of a heart wonder book. It shows that big, thoughtful questions often have different answers depending on who you are asking, and what you, as the author, believe. My kids were so enthralled by the illustrations, and realized quickly that the same question was being asked again and again, and the boy was getting different answers each time he asked different people. When I finished reading, I asked them what they noticed and they were quick to point out that the way the question was being answered was different each time. Right after the read aloud, I gave my mini lesson on writing heart wonders -- exploring a question through your own beliefs instead of looking the answer up in a book. It’s hard to find text that support the idea of writing from heart wonders but this book does it really well!
For Research Wonder work, the
I Wonder Why Series by Kingfisher is an excellent choice for the classroom library. The illustrations are engaging and the text is fairly easy to read. These books are also great for examining non-fiction text features as they contain: table of contents; indexes; captions; fun facts and diagrams. These books are always in book baggies because the kids love to read them!

Franki: What do you see happen with research projects when students know that the things they wonder about are valued? How does classroom research and student learning change?

Georgia and Jen: We noticed that, prior to this wonder work, some of the topics, even ones that were personal, would fizzle out –the kids lost their enthusiasm to continue because they had little ownership over the process. When children’s wonders become part of their research the energy is tangible -- they are persistent and enthusiastic about exploring their questions, and also about becoming experts on their topics. We also discovered that the writing used to be more superficial, “Cats have four legs….” but with this way of exploring non-fiction, it helped push the children’s writing as the kids’ pieces were filled with craft, and voice as they try to emulate favorite non-fiction authors.

Franki: This book is targeted to teachers in grades K-2 but to me, there were so many things that would really support older kids as well. Through your research and writing, what tips do you have for teachers of upper elementary students when it comes to curiosity, creativity, research, and nonfiction writing?

Georgia and Jen: You’re right, encouraging wonder and curiosity in the classroom is not just for the primary grades. If you think about the genres of writing – poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays, newspaper articles, etc. – authors of those genres speak about getting their ideas from observation and wonder. A unit of study on personal essays could have a wonder component. We might start with asking students if they have a question or a wonder -- that they’ve asked themselves for awhile –that they could explore in a personal essay. Students could also keep wonder boxes – or wonder notebooks – of questions and ideas they want to pursue in independent projects. Teachers could write a question – pertaining to the curriculum, or not, -- on an easel, and kids could write down their theories and ideas during the day. And of course, their research writing could be fueled by their wonders.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


The Library of Congress,

The Capitol Building
(any possible symbolism contained
in the opposition of the flag and the
street sign is purely coincidental and
not intended as a political statement)

A fellow Dublin teacher's son
participated in the U.S. Department
of Energy's Solar Decathlon with
the OSU team.

The energy efficient homes were on
display on the Mall in front of the
Smithsonian, so we had to go check them out!

This is the OSU team's house.
Go, Bucks!

OSU placed 10th

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Library of Congress, Full Disclosure

1. We were late to the Library of Congress because it took us longer than we planned to find the hotel. (lesson: get driving directions from multiple sources)
2. We went to the Madison Building instead of the Jefferson Building. (lesson: read the instructions in the email carefully)
3. AJ's pocket knife was intercepted by security. (lesson: don't carry a pocket knife in D.C.)
4. The folks at the Jefferson Building information desk found the KidLitCon group and took us to them via a WAY cool spiral staircase. So we missed the general LOC tour, but we did get to see rare children's books in the Children's Room and rare illustrated books in the Rare Book Room. (lesson: never give up, because even though things aren't turning out the way you planned, something even more wonderful might happen)

Voice check: not back to full strength, but enough to be functional.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Library of Congress Bound!

Image by wallyg

Unfortunately, the sky won't be this blue and the temps won't be this warm! At least it won't snow...will it?

Voice check: None on Wednesday, some on Thursday, more today, high hopes for full volume tomorrow!

Stay tuned for more news from KidLitCon09!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle

I discovered NUBS: THE TRUE STORY OF A MUTT, A MARINE, AND A MIRACLE at the book fair last week. I am always looking for great nonfiction read alouds as I need to balance my read alouds a bit more. This is a great story that I think kids are going to love too! It is the story of Nubs, a wild dog who befriends Marine Major Brian Dennis who was stationed in Iraq. The two developed a strong, fast friendship but were separated when Brian had to move on. Since Marines aren't allowed to have pets, Brian knew that he couldn't take the dog with him. But, the dog followed Brian and found him miles away. This is a great dog story and the real photos and email messages on the side add to the information. The story has a happy ending and the book ends with a note from Brian Dennis. This is a great dog story and a great story about friendship and hope. I think it is going to make a great read aloud for any age. WIth Veteran's Day right around the corner, I am thinking teachers might like this one to tie into that day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2 Great New Gift Books

I had someone asking about a great book for someone getting ready to be a big brother. I didn't know of one but there is a great new one for a child preparing to be a big sister. SUPERSISTER by Beth Cadena is a great story of Supersister who dashes down the stairs like a whistling locomotive, slides down the slide like a speeding bullet and more. This is a fun story about a little girl anxiously awaiting a new baby--practicing the skills it takes to be a Supersister. The superhero language is quite fun and it would make for a good read aloud.

THE CHRISTMAS BABY by Marion Dane Bauer was a great surprise. I am not often drawn to books with religious themes. I have my favorite Christmas stories and it is not very often that I see a retelling of a Christmas story told in a way that outdoes my favorites. But this one was at book fair last week and I loved it. I think it would make a great book for a baby gift--a baby born near the holidays. In this book, Marion Dane Bauer shares a retelling of the story of Mary, Joseph and the manger. The ending of the book connects the story and the joy that families experience when a new baby is born. The added connection at the end makes this a new favorite for me. The illustrations are buy Richard Cowdrey who captures the spirit of the story well. A joyful celebration of the Christmas story and of babies!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2 Great New Novels for Middle School

I had a great reading week reading 2 new books that I picked up at the book fair this week. Both books are pretty heavy reads. Both deal with tough topics and both are amazing reads. I was reading them, thinking they might be good for our K-5 library but after reading them, I think they would be better at the middle school level. There might be a few students in the upper elementary who would enjoy them, but they struck me as perfect for grades 6th-7thish.

First, I read Gary Paulsen's new book, NOTES FROM THE DOG. This is different from lots of Paulsen's other books although as usual, he has a great character that you come to connect with very quickly. Finn is a teenage boy who likes to spend time by himself--doesn't feel like he fits in anywhere. He lives with his father , his dog, and he has a few good friends. His one good friend, Matthew is an important character in the story. In early summer, Johanna moves next door. She quickly becomes friends with Finn and his family and seems to bring out the best in everyone. Johanna is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and is also training for an event to support breast cancer. Just like Finn, as a reader, I sometimes forgot that Johanna was going through pretty difficult chemotherapy. A very real life story that deals with a hard topic. I haven't read much for this age group that deals with breast cancer but this book is an amazing one that to me, seems realistic and honest. Even though Johanna is an important character in the story, it is Finn who is the character who changes and whose story this is. This is a great coming of age story--a story of Finn who, because of Johanna becomes comfortable with who he is. A GREAT read.

I was so excited to see a new title by Katherine Paterson. She is one of my all-time favorite authors. But, I had forgotten that Katherine Paterson doesn't write about easy things. She takes on topics of people who are often going through hard times. THE DAY OF THE PELICAN drew me in and I think there were pages and pages where I completely forgot to breathe. It was a painful read but a hopeful read. The book is the story of an Albanian family who lived in Kosovo. Caught in a war, they escape the country and then eventually apply to move to the United States. The main character in the story is Meli, a thirteen year old girl. Her world is turned upside down by events that no one can predict or control. Paterson does her usual great job of making this authentic. The pain and terror that this family goes through in the story is real. So many issues that families in war torn countries endure. As with all of Paterson's books, it is not an easy read. But Meli will stay with me forever, just as Gilly, Jess and Leslie do. The story is based on a family that Paterson knows and she includes some historical information on Kosovo following the story. For me, this book was an important read. Reading fictional accounts of the things people are experiencing has always been important for me to better understand what is going on in the world.

I don't often make the time to read YA books but I am so glad that I read these two.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE, and the Changing Face of Comics

The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE, and the Changing Face of Comics
Director: Ken Mills, Mills James Productions, 2009
Rating: Not Rated
Format: DVD

Jeff Smith never intended his Bone series to be read by children. His inspiration came from Moby Dick and Huck Finn and Star Wars -- he wanted to make something really big, something that started simple and then darkened and got really complex. Something Epic. With Symbolism. Something that could be read differently each time the reader came back to it. He began working on Bone in 1991.

Thirteen years and 1300 pages later, Smith had completed the Bone series. Every two months, he finished a comic book, which became a chapter in the total work. The amazing thing about Bone is that ONE person conceived it, ONE person wrote it, and ONE person drew every line in it. He wanted Epic, and he created it. He wanted Symbolism, and Bone's got it.

This documentary does a fabulous job tracing the roots of the Bone series. It is also an amazing glimpse into a life that has been fueled by one passion since childhood. We get to see some of Jeff Smith's earliest drawings and learn about the lessons of risk-taking and failure from his four-year stint as a daily cartoonist for OSU's student newspaper, The Lantern. We meet his cartooning friends and colleagues, and learn about the animation studio he started. We get to see Old Man's Cave in the Hocking Hills of Ohio, which appears in Bone. I searched for myself in the shots from Smith's conversation with Scott McCloud at Mershon Auditorium last spring, but though I was there, the camera apparently didn't find me.

Jeff Smith has had an amazing life in cartooning and will live on in the canon of great strip artists, which includes his heroes Carl Barks and Walt Kelly, and such living cartooning legends as Art Spiegelman, Scott McCloud and Harvey Pekar.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

OTIS by Loren Long

I am a huge Loren Long fan. I have always loved his books and when he visited our school with Jon Scieszka when SMASH! CRASH! was released, I got to chat with him a bit and see how great he was with the kids. So, I have been looking forward to the release of OTIS for a while. I finally got my hands on a copy at Cover to Cover this past week and am so excited about this new title. I saw that OTIS is on the New Your Times Best Seller list already and I can see why!

This is a great story that will appeal to many readers. It is the story of Otis, a special tractor, and his friendship with a little calf. There is lots to love about this story. Long's illustrations are really perfect. He captures a spirit on the farm that makes you want to run and jump along with Otis and the calf throughout the book. The colors add a dimension of calm nostalgia to the book. Otis is brought to life in a way that makes him quite lovable early on. And it is a great story. Loren Long has just recently started both writing and illustrating his books. A good call on his part, I think. A story of friendship that has the feel of some old favorites. Kids will love Otis right off. They will love the way that Loren Long has brought him to life. And they will cheer for him when problems arise.

This book has the makings of a classic, I think. And, looking at the illustrations, I expect to see it on several Mock Caldecott lists this year. It will definitely make my list of favorite picture books of 2009.

For more on OTIS from Loren Long go here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Poetry Saturday -- Snap Out of It

Okay, folks. We've had our little whine-fest about how busy we are in October. Now it's time to snap out of it and look at the big picture, remember the vast importance of the work we do in our classrooms, not get bogged down on the little stuff when the big stuff is so huge.

Of History and Hope
by Miller Williams

We have memorized America,
how it was born and who we have been and where.
In ceremonies and silence we say the words,
telling the stories, singing the old songs.
We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.
The great and all the anonymous dead are there.
We know the sound of all the sounds we brought.
The rich taste of it is on our tongues.
But where are we going to be, and why, and who?
The disenfranchised dead want to know.
We mean to be the people we meant to be,
to keep on going where we meant to go.

But how do we fashion the future? Who can say how
except in the minds of those who will call it Now?
The children. The children. And how does our garden grow?
With waving hands—oh, rarely in a row—
and flowering faces. And brambles, that we can no longer allow.

(the rest is here)

Thank you to Liz for sharing this poem (and her thoughts on the selection of Barack Obama for the Nobel Peace Prize) for Poetry Friday.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Final Farmers' Markets

by Louise Gluck

It's autumn in the market—
not wise anymore to buy tomatoes.
They're beautiful still on the outside,
some perfectly round and red, the rare varieties
misshapen, individual, like human brains covered in red oilcloth—

Inside, they're gone. Black, moldy—
you can't take a bite without anxiety.
Here and there, among the tainted ones, a fruit
still perfect, picked before decay set in.

There were several poems on A Writer's Almanac that were pitch-perfect for my life this week, but this one seems particularly apropos. We've had our first frost, and the rains today (and forecast for tomorrow's market day -- pity the farmers standing out in the chill and damp with their final harvest) are starting to bring down the leaves. It's getting darker. The only drama about this season of death is the drama we humans create. For the earth, it is business as usual as the seasons turn, one after the other.

The round up this week is at Picture Book of the Day.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

My To-Read List

It is one of those times of the year where my Next Read stack is getting way too big. I just can't decide what to read next. I have pretty much set aside my adult novels--the ones I was hoping to finish this summer. And I am trying to read some new children's books. But even with that goal, there are many OLD children's books that I need to catch up on. I haven't read MISS SPITFIRE or any books in the Percy Jackson series or the Warrior series. I am not sure how to catch up. I guess it is something you never do as a reader--catch up on all the books you are dying to read. I worry about students who don't have a next read stack--those kids who have no idea what to read next. I have trouble prioritizing my Next Read Stack but I ALWAYS have several piles of books waiting to be read.

As of today, here is what I am hoping to read soon:

I picked up a copy of OPERATION YES by Sarah Lewis Holmes at the Book Fair. I read the first chapter aloud to several classes and I am totally hooked. I can already see why Mary Lee added Miss Loupe to our Cool Teachers list. I am thinking that this book would make a great read aloud for 5thish grade.

ICE by Sarah Beth Durst--I received a review copy of this book and am SOOO excited about it. I LOVE this author and have loved her books (INTO THE WILD and OUT OF THE WILD) I so love what Sarah Beth Durst does with fairy tales. I want to read this one when I have time to totally lose myself in it.

I am not a great reader of Graphic Novels but am very excited about this one. I have heard amazing things about it and have been waiting for it to be released. I love Matt Phalen--decided he was on my favorites list when I read WHERE I LIVE. I also LOVED his snowflake that was part of Robert's Snow. I am excited that he has a new book out and that it is a graphic novel.

And I am thrilled that Katherine Paterson has a new book out. THE DAY OF THE PELICAN looks as wonderful as all of her books. She has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember.

I visited Cover to Cover yesterday and was reminded at how BUSY this time of year is for new books. It is always exciting when there is lots of time to read. This is the time of year that I have the most trouble prioritizing my Next Read Stack. The time of year that the pile gets bigger and bigger and bigger..BUT, I do love my pile!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Overheard at the beginning of reading workshop this afternoon:

"I have a crush on Moxy Maxwell!"

Sigh. That's the other thing that starts happening this time of the year: I start falling in love with my class.


This Time of Year

I'm in my 9th year of a 10+ year journal/diary.

As I add entries, I often take time to glance through the previous years to get a feel for the "trending topics" of my life. Here's what I'm seeing for the first week of October:

Almost every year in the first week of October, I lose my voice and/or get a cold. (knock wood, healthy so far this year) It's about this time of year that I wear the first turtleneck or the first tights of the season. (But in 2007, we had temperatures in the 90's!!) The full moon catches my attention every year about now, and Orion keeps me company on my early morning walks.

And every year around this time, there are entries like this:
All of a sudden I feel swamped! How did this happen?!?

Work, work, work.

DRA - meetings before school - spelling assessments - meetings during planning - math facts assessments - meetings after school - interim reports, SAID data base complete - parent conferences - staff meeting - Friday, finally Friday, ahhhhh, blessed Friday...
Sound familiar, Karen?

The good news is, that by the end of October, there are entries about how writing workshop is coming together ("Poetry EXPLODED in my room today!"), dinners out with friends, the changing colors of the trees, the joys of broccoli soup, and special events (Billy Collins and Simon & Garfunkel within two weeks of each other in 2003).

Even though teachers know that The First Weeks of October (and all they bring) are coming, we are blindsided by the intense work of this season every year.

I'm writing this to remind us (me) that we get through it every year. Keep paying attention to the small moments whether you keep a diary/journal or not. Look up at the moon as you drive to school (if you can see it through the October rains), take a minute to laugh with friends, watch your classroom for the signs of the emerging community, breathe. Deep cleansing breath all together now...

Okay. Now go get (back) to work.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Great Resources for Young Readers

For all kids:

For boys: Guys Read

This information is brought to you courtesy of the collective brain of the Kidlitosphere Yahoo Group.

My Favorite Books at the Book Fair

This week, we are having a Scholastic Book Fair at our school. It is always fun to watch kids shop for books! There are lots of books we'll add to our library and several that I will put on my "Next-Read Stack". But, I do have 3 books that I just LOVE. For totally different reasons. They are new-to-me books and I am happy that I had time to discover them.

CROW CALL by Lois Lowry is an amazing picture book. It is the story from Lowry's childhood. She tells about a day she spent with her father shortly after he returned from the war. This is a wonderful story with gorgeous illustrations. So happy to have a picture book by one of my favorite authors. This will be a great mentor text for kids when writing personal narrative. There is such a strong theme about relationship and connections that goes beyond the plot.

DOGS DON'T BRUSH THEIR TEETH by Diane deGroat is totally amusing. Photos of dogs are used and each spread shows a dog doing something that dogs do (looking out the window) and something dogs don't do (lounging and watching TV with remote in hand). Every other page is a lift-the-flap page. This book is quite fun and the text is perfect for new readers who are just beginning to match words to print. The phrases "Dogs Do." and "Dogs Don't" are the only words the kids read.

ONCE I WAS A CARDBOARD BOX...BUT NOW I AM A BOOK ABOUT POLAR BEARS by Anton Poltier is a story of polar bears AND a story about recycling and how it can help the polar bears. The title is what drew me into this book. This is a nonfiction book about polar bears. But on the side column of each page, there is another thread about recycling and how this book started out as a box but became a book. It is a very smart way to show the relationship between recycling and the need for us to take better care of our world--how that impacts polar bears. Very well done and very engaging.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Time To Nominate Favorites For CYBILS!!

Go to the CYBILS website to find out which books have already been nominated in these categories:
Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle Grade Fiction
Nonfiction, Middle Grade/YA
Young Adult Fiction
There's a nominations form this year that's going to make it super simple to nominate AND to keep track of the nominations! This award keeps getting smarter and classier every year -- and now you can even find the CYBILS on Wikipedia!

Poetry Friday -- Small Moments

"This poem just tries to capture a moment in time."

This Moment
by Eavan Boland

A neighbourhood.
At dusk.

Things are getting ready
to happen
out of sight.

Stars and moths.
And rinds slanting around fruits.

But not yet.

(read the whole poem here)

I've been thinking about the importance of capturing moments in time.
My principal joined my class for a science experiment this week.
He watched and listened and questioned and took notes.
When it was time for him to leave, he held my eyes when he told the whole class that the big lesson he had learned was to closely observe what's happening right in front of you. And be ready to record.
Good reminders.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Happy October!
You know what October means? Halloween is coming.
And A Year of Reading is hosting a VIRTUAL HALLOWEEN PARTY!
YOU ARE INVITED! Now, in case you are wondering what to wear, we have some ideas.
Instead of dressing as your favorite decade (as we have all done in the past) we want you to dress as one of your favorite book characters.
If you'd like to join us, start thinking now. Then, sometime between October 26 and October 30, post a photo of yourself in your costume on your own blog or site and then send the link to A Year of Reading (details on where to link closer to the party date!). Then, we will all be together for this fun Halloween event. What better way to celebrate Halloween than to see all of the great costumes of the Kidlitosphere!)
And, of course, there will be a prize for BEST COSTUME. You are eligible if you dress as a book character and have your photo to us by Friday, October 30 at midnight. The winner of our BEST COSTUME contest will receive Ohio's favorite candy for their Trick-or-Treat bag --Buckeyes from Anthony Thomas.
We can't wait to see you at our party!
(And, don't forget: CYBILS Nominations begin today. So, while you are thinking about your costume, make sure to put in your nominations!)