Friday, September 30, 2011

Pumpkin; Autumn.


by Linda Pastan

I want to mention
summer ending
without meaning the death
of somebody loved

or even the death
of the trees.
Today in the market
I heard a mother say

Look at the pumpkins,
it's finally autumn!
And the child didn't think
of the death of her mother

which is due before her own
but tasted the sound
of the words on her clumsy tongue:
pumpkin; autumn.

Let the eye enlarge
with all it beholds.
I want to celebrate
color, how one red leaf

flickers like a match
held to a dry branch,
and the whole world goes up
in orange and gold.

Sara Lewis Holmes has the Poetry Friday round up today.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Wisdom of Aldo Zelnick

by Karla Oceanak
illustrated by Kendra Spanjer
Bailiwick Press, 2011
Review copy provided by the publisher

There's wisdom to be found in children's books. Here's a segment from the new Aldo Zelnick book:

Goosy (Aldo's artsy grandma) walked me (Aldo) over to a window in her studio. She flung it open, and we peered over the sill, onto the ground below. There, behind a big bush, lay a mashed-up pile of paper, canvas, pottery, and other atrsy stuff. 
"I listen to my gut," she said. "If it tells me, 'This piece doesn't make you happy,' I just throw it away and start over." 
"But why throw it out the window?" 
"Because it fels good to throw something out a window once in a while, don't you think?" 
"But you put so much work into your art!" 
"Of course. Except I don't think of it as work. Life is mostly in the doing, anyway, not in the having. Besides, not everything we do in life deserves to be on display, Aldo."

The Aldo Zelnick books keep getting better and better. In this volume, Aldo has to deal with starting fifth grade, having a crush on his new art teacher, figuring out what to create for the art contest, learning to communicate with a new friend who is deaf, and being Nick Bottom (wearing a donkey head) in his class' performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I bought far too many books at Cover to Cover last week. One of my favorite new finds was FRUIT CAKE. Sally showed it to me and I knew I had to add it to my collection of books on words and word play.

This book is a lift-the-flap type book. Each page gives the reader some new thing to do--lift the flap, pull the tab, etc.  And each page gives the reader a new way to think about words.

Each page consists of one word-usually a fruit. Then, the reader manipulates both the picture and the word to discover a fun word surprise.  For example, when you pull the BANANA tab, it splits the banana, turning it into a Banana Split.  There are so many great word surprises in this one--each page is fun to discover.  The book introduces some popular nicknames (The Big Apple) as well as meanings of more unique words like "limelight".  The large colorful photos and great fonts add to the wonderful-ness of this book.

The last page of the book lists the words and their meanings.

A truly fun celebration of words!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Great Time of Year for New Book Releases!!!

Several great new books are being released this week and next. This year, I have been getting some review copies and ARCs or I've heard about books long in advance of when they are being released. To keep track of when must-have books are available for purchase, I started a calendar of book release dates. I must say, it is the best idea I've had in years! September/October are great months of the year for book releases. An expensive time of year for readers, but well worth it!  Below are a few of the books I am excited about that are available in the next few week or two.  Some of the books I had the opportunity to read in advance--others are those I just can't wait to see! A great time for book shopping!

I am so excited that there are going to be a total of 15 books about Babymouse.  I am a huge Babymouse fan and so are many of my students. No matter how many copies I have in the library, it never seems like quite enough. I have so many readers who cannot get enough of this great character. So many who are anticipating this new book.  BABYMOUSE #15: A VERY BABYMOUSE CHRISTMAS is due out Tuesday. Can't wait!

On the same day, SQUISH #2 will also be released. If you have not met Squish--another character by Jennifer and Matthew Holm, you'll want to do that as soon as possible. A great new series by this great team.

I have the same feelings about the upcoming book HAPPY PIG DAY! I mean, who can ever have enough books about Elephant and Piggie?  I am sure this new one by Mo Willems will be a huge hit with everyone.  Can't wait to read it!

I was able to read several middle grade novels earlier than their release date. Many of my very favorites are coming out this week and next. I can't wait to share them with students.

I absolutely love fairy tale novels. I love retellings of traditional tales and I love new stories. Jessica Day George is one of my favorite fairy tale authors and I read PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL this summer. and I was excited to get an advanced copy of TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE. The main character, Celie, is great independent girl. And the castle is great fun--every Tuesday, it seems to change just a bit. It grows rooms, changes hallways, etc.  I love the whole concept of this castle. And the story inside the castle is one that kept me hooked. A great story!

BREADCRUMBS by Anne Ursu is an amazing re-envisioning of the traditional story, The Snow Queen. Whether you know this story or not, Breadcrumbs will be a great read. It is a great fairy tale. I loved this story--the characters, the story, everything about it.  We featured an excerpt from this book a few weeks ago on our blog.  A great review from Jen Robinson is up today on her blog.

BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX by Laurel Snyder is one I had the opportunity to read early.  It is one of my 2011 favorites. In this story, there is a magical breadbox. But the breadbox is not the whole story. This is a great middle grade novel about loss and change and one that really understands the age group it was written for. A great deal of depth and so much to talk about around this book.  The following book trailer was done by a student--it is brilliant! (And Next Best Book reviewed this one today!)

I was able to hear Lauren Oliver at Cover to Cover after reading DELIRIUM. I loved the book and was thrilled to hear that she was writing a middle grade novel. I was able to borrow an ARC of  LIESL AND PO and loved it. Below is a trailer of the book as well as a conversation with Lauren Oliver about the book.

And a new picture book I am excited about is I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen. I don't know much about it but keep hearing good things. Looking forward to seeing it!

Friday, September 23, 2011

To Fish is to Hope

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

“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.

*   *   *   *   

And "Hope" is the lady with a flyrod

And "Hope" is the lady with a flyrod -
Learning something new -
Just for the weekend she can drop her facade -
She can forget all that she's been through -

Or she can remember - without fear -
Supported by new friends -
She'll find a way to steer -
Through all life's twists and bends -

I've seen Hope by the pond -
Heard Hope in the happy shouts -
I've remembered those who've gone to the Beyond -
All this is what hope's about.

This is the weekend of our Ohio Casting for Recovery Retreat.  Here's a post I wrote about it a couple of years ago and a PSA:

Casting For Recovery (CFR) is an international non-profit support and education program for breast cancer survivors.

The program involves a free weekend wellness program where, in addition to support and education relating to breast cancer, women learn fly fishing, "A sport for life."

CFR weekend programs incorporate counseling, educational services, and the sport of fly fishing to promote mental and physical healing. Founded in 1996, CFR offers free programs across the United States and in several countries worldwide.

Today alone, over 500 women will be newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Tomorrow, it will be the same. This number does include those already living with the disease or those who do not know they have it.

The Poetry Friday round up is at Picture Book of the Day.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Knowing Your Readers

For the first month of school, I have struggled to recommend books to my new students. I've done a much better job reaching forward to the 5th graders who were in my class last year. I knew just who would want to read the new Worst-Case Scenario book:

Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure: Everest: You Decide How to Survive!
by Bill Doyle and David Borgenicht, with David Morton, climbing consultant
Chronicle Books, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

I knew just who would want to read the newest Just Grace book:

Just Grace and the Double Surprise
by Charise Mericle Harper
Houghton Mifflin, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

And I knew who would want to read the newest book in the Amulet series:

My review here.

But I haven't been able to do a satisfying job of matching my new readers to books.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, I handed The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson (Franki's mini-review here--last one in the list) to the reader whose first book pick of the year was Cinderella Smith by Stephanie Barden (my review here).

You know that feeling when the puzzle piece you picked fits perfectly in the spot you chose for it? That's how I felt when she came up to me at the end of reading workshop and said, "I LOVE The Friendship Doll!"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Wisdom of Clementine

Clementine and the Family Meeting
by Sara Pennypacker
illustrated by Marla Frazee
Disney*Hyperion, 2011

This is the fifth book in the Clementine series, and I like Clementine more than ever. I like her parents more than ever, I like her teacher, Mr. D'Matz more than ever, and even her makeup-obsessed friend Margaret is a little easier to deal with in this book.

I love that the characters in this series continue to grow and change.

But the thing I love most about the Clementine books is the wisdom that Sara Pennypacker weaves in so unobtrusively.

In this book, Clementine has to learn to deal with change. Her family is growing from the perfect number of FOUR people, to the awkward number of FIVE. She says, "It's all moving too fast and we're not ready."

Her mom replies,
"Oh, honey. Life is always moving too fast and we're never ready. That's how life is. But somehow that's just perfect." 
Her dad continues,
"Things are always changing -- that's life. And this?" He spread his hands to the tornadoed kitchen. "Us? Toy-truck ziti, missing hats, drill-gun mixers? Well, this is how we roll, Clementine. This is how we roll."

Lucky Clementine, to have such a family. Lucky us, to get to be a part of that family for another book. Keep 'em coming, Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee. Keep 'em coming!

My review of Clementine, Friend of the Week (#4) here.
Franki's review of Clementine's Letter (#3) here.
My review of The Talented Clementine (#2) here.
Franki's review of Clementine (#1) here.
And we have Mr. D'Matz, Clementine's teacher, on our 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature list.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A New Blog that You May Enjoy!

Today, we want to welcome a semi-new blog to the Kidlitosphere:  BOOK PEEP WONDERS. This one is unique in that the blog is written by a Mother/Daughter team. The tagline reads, "A blog showcasing the terrific literature a teen girl and her mom read and talk about."   I so love the whole concept of this blog!

To give you a little info on the blog's authors:
Alysa (the daughter)  is 13 and in 8th grade.She likes to read and listen to music. Sarah Dessen is a favorite author of hers. She also likes to write. She was the one who had the idea to start blog. She is currently exploring what high school she will go to next year.  

Andie (the mom) loves reading and writing. Andie says, "One of the things I love about writing is how it helps me uncover hidden truths." Andie is coauthor of the book, STARTING WITH COMPREHENSION. She's also done some DVDs with Choice Literacy including Write from the Start and "Synthesizing Butterflies".  All of Andie's work is centered on deep learning with young learners. Andie's current work is in  learning more about how trauma impacts learning in a third grade classroom and how educators can invite traumatized learners through literacy openings in the classroom. 

This is going to be a pretty expensive blog for me to follow. These two --a teenager and her mom--blog about the books they are reading. There are some books that are popular books and others that they have introduced me to. The mother/daughter team aren't necessarily reading and reviewing the same books, but they are sharing some YA and adult books that sound incredible as well as some conversations about books. A must-follow blog for anyone who is a reader of YA, has a teenage daughter, is a teenager, is a mom, etc.....

Monday, September 19, 2011

WAITING FOR MAGIC by Patricia MacLachlan

Does a book ever make your day?  Like you are so happy that you were so lucky to have discovered it and to have read it? That is how I felt about this book.  I LOVED LOVED LOVED Patricia MacLachlan's new book WAITING FOR MAGIC.  I am a huge Patricia MacLachlan fan and especially enjoy her short novels.  I remember reading BABY aloud to a 3rd grade class years ago and that was the book that I realized how powerful read aloud conversations could be.  BABY has been one of my all-time favorite books for years. And ALL THE PLACES TO LOVE is also still a favorite book of mine. So, I was excited to see a new title by Patricia MacLachlan. And I fell in love with it immediately-read it in one sitting!

This is the story of William and his family. In the first pages, William's father leaves. He leaves a note for William and William takes this to mean that this time, his father has left for good. Shortly after his father leaves, William's mother packs William and his 4 year old sister in the car and drives to the animal shelter to get a dog.  They come home with 4 dogs and a cat.   It is amazing how quickly you come to know the dogs and cat in the book.  They each have their own personalities and they each bring something unique to the story....and to the family.

William has the hardest time with his father's decision and carries sadness and anger with him. But the whole family is grieving and the new pets help them to heal.  One of my favorite lines in the book, is, "'This is a bit of magic, isn't it? All these nice dogs living with people who need them?' said Mama." But William doesn't believe in magic.

This is the story of family and healing and magic and love. It is a wonderful story with characters I will care about forever.  And it is truly Patricia MacLachlan at her best.  The writing is characteristic of MacLaclan's earlier books--I hear pieces that remind me of SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL and pieces that remind me of BABY. There is joy and sorrow all mixed together.

A perfect book really.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

We're Versatile Bloggers!

Thank you to Vintage Teacher for recognizing us!

After accepting this honor there are some things we are requested to do:
1. Thank the person (people) who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog.
2. Share 7 things about you.
3. Pass this award along to 15 other blogs that you have discovered.

So, here are 7 things about our blog:

1. Sometime this week, we will post our 2000th post.
2. We are only about 40 followers away from having 1000 blog followers (not counting all those who follow in a reader).
3. We are a few teachers away from having 150 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature on our list.
4. Franki has 21 books on her Books I Could Read A Million Times list.
5. The two of us combined have been teaching for about a half a century.
6. We've been blogging since 2006.
7. We don't HAVE time to do this, we MAKE time to do it! And we're thankful that we are co-bloggers, because neither one of us could keep a blog afloat on our own!!

Here are 15ish bloggers (in no particular order) that we'd recognize as Versatile Bloggers:

Friday, September 16, 2011

What We Need

What We Need 

The Emperor,
his bullies
and henchmen
terrorize the world
every day,

which is why
every day

we need

a little poem
of kindness,

a small song
of peace

a brief moment
of joy.

...and a box of donuts wouldn't hurt, either.

Amy has the round up this week at The Poem Farm.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Superhero Joe

Superhero Joe
written by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman
drawn by Ron Barrett
Simon & Schuster, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

I could use a superhero in my life about now. Someone who could tame the piles of books and papers on (and around) my desks at school and home, someone who would organize the junk drawer in the kitchen. Someone who could pull hard enough on the spin of the earth to slow it down and make more hours in the day.

I need Superhero Joe.

Superhero Joe learned from comic book heroes how to face his fears. That's why he has a cape of confidence, a shield of invincibility, a torch of radiance, a helmet of invisibility and super gravity-defying boots.

Joe's parents are in peril, but when they plead for his help, he is able to don his superhero apparel and brave the darkness and monsters of the basement to fetch the Staff of Power (aka mop).

This picture book with graphic novel formatting/structures might inspire young comic artists to give Superhero Joe some new adventures and rescues.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I am picky about new versions of THE GINGERBREAD MAN and I LOVE this new one, THE GINGERBREAD MAN LOOSE IN THE SCHOOL by Laura Murray.  I heard about this book from Shannon Miller (@shannonmmiller) on Twitter and ordered it right away when I heard how much her students were enjoying it.  And after reading it lots of times, it is my first BOOK I CAN READ A MILLION TIMES for 2011-2012. (And I am thinking Bill at Literate Lives may want to add it to his PICKS FROM THE PIT.)

First of all, the Gingerbread Man on the cover is quite lovable from the start.  He is standing quite happily with his hands on his hips.  The story starts out in a classroom where students are making the Gingerbread Man. But the fun is that it is told from the Gingerbread Man's perspective.  The first line reads, "I began in a bowl. I was not yet myself-"  How can you not love him already?

But, right after the Gingerbread Man comes out of the oven, the teacher lets the kids know it is time for recess and they all run out of the room. The Gingerbread Man panics and decides to run and find them. So, off he goes. He runs into lots of nice people who help him (the school nurse, the coach, the art teacher, etc.) To each one, he says, "I'm the Gingerbread Man and I'm trying to find the children who made me, but left me behind."  A few repeated phrases will invite student participation. There is a cute happy ending when he finally finds his class.

I can't end the review without mentioning the brilliant illustrations by Mike Lowery.  The Gingerbread boy is lovable and the colors the illustrator uses make this gingerbread story unique. There is a graphic novel feel to the book with boxes for various scenes. The illustrations add a great deal to the story.

This is a great one for any time of the year. I am sharing it with students this week and I like it more and more each time I read it.  The kids love the story and discovering the similarities and differences in this one and other versions they've read. They love joining in while I read and they are all so happy when it is finished.  Some kids have gone off during library time to write their own school versions of the Gingerbread man story.   I am pretty sure this will be a book I will never see again once it is available for check out! I can see it being quite popular!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2 New Nonfiction Picture Book Read Alouds

One of my goals this year is to read more nonfiction aloud to students. I love nonfiction but rarely make time to read it aloud to students.  So, I am on the lookout for nonfiction books that would make great read alouds.  I am excited about both of them.

Kate Messner's upcoming book OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW is fascinating.  This is the story of a father and daughter who are skiing across the snow. But as the ski over the snow, they are aware of all the things going on under the snow.  Honestly, I had no idea about this "subnivean zone" until I read about it in this book. But Kate does a great job of making the idea accessible to children by showing us what happens over the snow at the same time so much is happening under the snow. The author's notes at the end provide a great deal more information on the subnivean zone as well as the many animals in the story.  The art is gorgeous and almost makes me wish for winter!   I can't wait to share this one with students--closer to winter time, I think!

The other book that will make a great nonfiction read aloud is ANIMAL BATHS by Bob Barner. This one is written with younger readers in mind and it is quite fun! Each 2 page spread is gives us rhyming text with information about how various animals stay clean.  The bright illustrations and happy animals make this a happy read and children will learn lots about all the different ways animals keep themselves clean. There is lots of information packed into this quick read!

*Both of these books were review copies sent by Chronicle Books.

Monday, September 12, 2011

2 Events Hosted by The Literacy Connection

You may have already received information about this year's Literacy Connection events.  If not, we will be hosting 2 events this year and I am thrilled about both of them!

The Literacy Connection is partnering with the Columbus Area Writing Project this fall to host a Saturday conference on October 22. It will be held at the Quest Conference Center in Columbus, Ohio.  The day includes three keynote speakers:  Sonia Nieto, Asma Mobin-Uddin and Troy Hicks. Concurrent sessions will fill the day and participants will be able to learn about many topics of interest.  (Karen Szymusiak and I will be doing a session on "Mentor Texts in the Digital Writing Workshop" -something we've both been thinking about for a while.)  Lots of other great sessions are on the agenda.  We hope you'll think about joining us. I sent in my registration a few weeks ago and am already excited about the day.

As for our annual study group and spring event, The Literacy Connection will be hosting Cris Tovani. For those of you interested in the yearlong event, we will be reading and discussing Cris's new book SO WHAT DO THEY REALLY KNOW?  The book is written from Cris's experiences as a high school teacher but the implications span grades K-12.  We think teachers at all levels will be able to explore universal issues around assessment through the study of this book. (My review of the book is on the blog.)  The first meeting for the yearlong study will be on October 19.  As a culmination to the study, Cris will be doing demonstration teaching at Wickliffe Elementary School on Friday, April 27 followed by a full-day workshop on Saturday, April 28 at Wickliffe. Participants can attend individual sessions or the entire year of events around her book.  (Credit is available for those attending all parts of this event.)  More information, along with registration information can be found at The Literacy Connection website.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Listening

by Jean Valentine

My whole life I was swimming listening
beside the daylight world like a dolphin beside a boat

—no, swallowed up, young, like Jonah,
sitting like Jonah in the red room
behind that curving smile from the other side

but kept, not spat out,
kept, for love,

not for anything I did, or had,
I had nothing but our inside-
outside smile-skin ...
my paper and pen ...

but I was made for this: listening:
“Lightness wouldn't last if it wasn't used up on the lyre.”

*      *      *      *      *

Listen to the poem, or print the poem here, on Jean Valentine's website.
Katie has this week's Poetry Friday round up at Secrets & Sharing Soda

*      *      *      *      *

I'm working hard this year to listen well to my students. I want to be the dolphin beside their boat; I want to be like Jonah, listening from inside.

It takes focus and concentration to listen. It's one of the most important things I can do: really listen to them and really hear them.

As you can see from the photos above, I've captured some of the phrases my students have said so that we can come back to their wise words over and over again throughout the year. This year, the word wall includes their words along with the vocabulary words we're learning throughout the day. We have related their words to some of the read alouds we've shared so far this year -- "Let's just try it!" goes with the spirit of approximation in ISH by Peter Reynolds; "I think we should..." goes with with the team work found in LITTLE BLUE TRUCK by Alice Schertle; the whole idea of listening carefully before acting goes with RABBIT AND SQUIRREL: A TALE OF WAR AND PEAS by Kara LaReau; and I'm sure you know who the children echoed when they said "It's all good" -- Pete the Cat!

It takes focus and concentration to listen. Everyday life conspires to move me on to the next thing I will say, rather than letting me linger on the things my students say to me and to each other.

Last Friday, we listened in awe to our classmate from China. She and her Poetry Friday reading partners found a poem about the Great Wall of China (in J. Patrick Lewis' MONUMENTAL VERSES). She told us about the Great Wall, which she has seen firsthand, first in fluent Chinese, and then in broken, but passionate English. Her partners read the poem to us. We listened.

It takes focus and concentration to listen. It's one of the most important things we can do.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Graphic Novel Week: The Last Council (Amulet, Book 4)

The Last Council (Amulet, Book 4)
by Kazu Kibuishi
Scholastic, 2011
review copy purchased for my classroom library

I'm just about ready to take the Bone series out of my classroom library. First of all, the books are all falling apart, but mostly, now that graphic novels for kids have started to increase in number and quality, Bone stands out as a series that is n-o-t not for younger readers. The Amulet series is.

First of all, the main characters in Amulet are kids. Like Harry Potter, Emily has special powers. She is a Stonekeeper. She's not sure quite what that means for herself or the world -- as the books progress, she learns more. The story revolves around good vs. evil. Sometimes the evil turns out to be good and sometimes the good turns out to be evil.

This fourth book in the series had echoes of the Chaos Walking trilogy and the Hunger Games trilogy (although obviously, I wouldn't expect my fourth grade readers to make those connections -- it's just interesting to see echoes of big themes showing up in new places) : a new world, something's not quite right, working together for survival, betrayal in the name of power, seeming failure, trusted elder.

This is a great series. It's hard to wait a year between books! These books need to be read sequentially, in order to follow the story line.

My review of Book 1: The Stonekeeper.
Why didn't I review Book 2: The Stonekeeper's Curse?
My review of Book 3: The Cloud Searchers.

Very cool Amulet site over at Scholastic.

Recommended for readers in grades 4-6.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Graphic Novel Week: Big City Otto

Big City Otto
by Bill Slavin
Kids Can Press, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

Otto, the elephant, can't forget his childhood friend, Georgie, the chimp, who was stolen from the jungle by The Man With the Wooden Nose. Crackers, the parrot, and Otto set out to find Georgie. They manage to get on a plane as excess baggage, get to A Big City in America, and begin to search for Georgie. They wind up involved with some shady 'gators in the underground (literally) of the big city. They bust up the mob, get some clues about Georgie, and set off for the Bayou to find him.

There are a lot of sight gags and puns in this story that are likely to go right over younger readers' heads, but young readers are also more likely to accept the impossibility of...well, of the entire storyline. The talking animals, an elephant who can disguise himself in a jacket and hat and go undetected in a's all crazy enough to be on Saturday morning TV. Which is why it might work better for kids than logic-minded adults.

This is the second graphic novel this summer (see my review of Sidekicks) that has featured a character with a peanut allergy! Otto is allergic to peanuts, and the mobster 'gators use his explosive sneezes to their advantage.

This is book one of a series that might need to be read sequentially. It's interesting that the story line is the same basic story line as the THREE THIEVES series that I reviewed yesterday: the are chased, separated, helped, reunited, swindled, separated again, helped again, reunited, and the book ends as they set off on in a new direction to find the missing character.

Recommended for readers in 4th-6th grades.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Graphic Novel Week: Three Thieves series

Tower of Treasure
by Scott Chandler
Kids Can Press, 2010
review copy provided by the publisher

Three circus characters -- an orphan girl who's an acrobat, a blue elf-like creature who juggles (and can pick locks), and a giant purple creature who has enormous strength -- conspire to rob the queen's Tower of Treasure. Flashbacks in black and white show us that the girl, Dessa, has a twin brother who has met an uncertain fate by saving her. The trio finds the treasure room, is caught, escapes, are separated, and are reunited. In the process, Dessa gathers some clues about what might have happened to her brother, and in the end, the three set out together to find him.

The Sign of the Black Rock
by Scott Chandler
Kids Can Press, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

In book two, the three characters from TOWER OF TREASURE wind up at the same inn as the Queen's men who are chasing them. They are helped, discovered, and locked up. They escape, but are rediscovered, separated, locked up again, and escape and are reunited again with more help and more clues about how to find Dessa's brother.

I'm thinking of previewing this series by reading aloud Act One of the first book using the document camera and the SmartBoard.

We can continue to develop our habit of thoroughly previewing a book (and starting our reading thinking) before we ever open a book. The front cover image of THE TOWER OF TREASURE is great for prediction and wondering. The blurb on the back will introduce us to the characters before we meet them and set up the basic outline of the story.

When we open the book, we will see that it is divided into Acts, rather than chapters. We can look at the conventions of graphic novels: panels -- and the direction to read the panels, speech bubbles -- and the direction to read the speech bubbles, size of print, information that is in the illustration rather than the text, and the black and white flashbacks.

We will see that, just like in non-graphic novels, it takes awhile (in this case, about 30 pages) to set up the story for the reader. We will learn about the characters, the setting (place AND time), and the problems/conflicts/what the characters want.

Hmm...that sounds like about three different mini-lessons, not to mention the time it would take to read the first 30 pages under the document camera. Maybe I'll hijack read aloud for a MAXI-lesson...or it could be a week-long series of mini-lessons with one hijacked read aloud.

This is a graphic novel series that needs to be read sequentially. Recommended for readers in 4th-6th grade.

If you're looking for graphic novels for younger readers, browse through our Graphic Novel tag. For even younger readers, wordless books often work in some of the same ways. We haven't been as thorough about tagging wordless books, but a search of our blog with the term "wordless" does an okay job of finding lots of titles.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Gorging on Graphic Novels

The hottest books in my classroom in the first six days of 4th grade?

Graphic novels.

Maybe it's because my students have never had access to such a wide variety.

Maybe it's because my students have never so obviously been "given permission" to read graphic novels.

Maybe it's because lots of my students didn't read over the summer, or aren't fluent in English, and they need the support of the pictures in a not-babyish book.

Or all of the above.

Did you see Terry Thompson's (author of Adventures in Graphica, tweeting @terrytreads) guest post on The Book Whisperer Blog last week? He very concisely talks about how graphic novels are perfect for motivation, scaffolding, and versatility.

Each day this week, I'll be reviewing one or more new graphic novels that will be going into (or are in) my classroom library.

Luz Sees the Lightby Claudia Dávila
Kids Can Press, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

Luz is a spunky chica who learns the hard way that she needs to make better choices for the Earth. There are blackouts in her city that cause her to realize how dependent she is on electricity. She really wants a pair of expensive imported sneakers, but she has to abandon that dream along with frequent car rides to the mall. As she becomes more enlightened (as she "sees the light") she becomes a neighborhood activist, working with her friends to turn the vacant lot in their neighborhood into a beautiful garden.

Maybe it's a bit didactic, but how many spunky chica main characters do YOU have in your classroom library??? (Me, neither. Now I have one.)

Recommended for readers in 3rd-6th grade, and a perfect tie-in for a science unit on energy.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Tourism Sunday: Belgian Places and Food


Visit this photo set on Flickr for more details.

Visit this photo set on Flickr for more details.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

August Mosaic

Glimpses of August -- food, BIG dog, BIG bug, a trip to the West Side Market in Cleveland, fun with Central Ohio bloggers at Cover to Cover, a peek into my classroom.

Coming tomorrow -- the last of the photos from Belgium (food and places).

Friday, September 02, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Ode to the First Weeks of School

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Catrina Steams

Well, I’m a steamroller, baby
I’m bound to roll all over you
Yes, I’m a steamroller now, baby
I’m bound to roll all over you
I’m gonna inject your soul with some sweet rock ’n roll
And shoot you full of rhythm and blues

The rest of James Taylor's lyrics are here.
James Taylor with hair sings it here.
James Taylor without hair sings it here.

Commentary: It's the end of the first full week of school. Need I say more? 
...I didn't think so.
Looking forward to the long weekend.

Tricia, at The Miss Rumphius Effect, is rounding us up, in spite of being in her sixth day of no electricity. Talk about being steamrolled! And Irene-rolled, too!