Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pippi Longstocking and Lauren Child--what a match!

I am a huge Lauren Child fan. Love all of her books and can happily watch entire episodes of Charlie and Lola on TV. She is brilliant. So, I am not sure how I missed the exciting news that she has just illustrated a classic favorite--
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. But, I did find it yesterday.

I always liked Pippi but I didn't love her. I read all of the books and had a ball thinking about what it would be like to be her neighbor. But, I must say that Lauren Child's version of Pippi is quite lovable. She is still the same Pippi but more fun, in my opinion.

So, the story is the classic one that we all read. But the book is large with large print and not quite so many words on a page. It is a fun size for kids.

So, I brought it into my room today and just asked if anyone knew Pippi Longstocking. None of them had ever heard of the book but they were like bargain-shopping women at a sale trying to get it from me. (I finally let a little girl have it who had just finished a book yesterday. ) Really, there was something about the book that they had to have it. They knew nothing about it but it LOOKED like a book they wanted to read. Lauren Child has that impact on people. I imagine I will never get it back as several kids have their eye one it.

So, I am thrilled about this book. It is absolutely adorable.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Robert's Snow -- Matt Phelan

"She Never Misses"
(ink and watercolor on paper mounted to flake)

Mark your calendar for the third auction of the Robert's Snow: For Cancer's Cure fundraiser at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, December 3-7, so you can bid on Matt Phelan's snowflake.

Look at that sly little grin, those arched eyebrows just daring you to come within range of that perfectly formed snowball. What spirit! What spunk!

Come to think of it, she reminds me a bit of Matt Phelan himself! When you look at Matt's work, you'll see that he has not lost touch with his inner air guitarist/trampoline jumper/yodeler/Tarzan.

In Matt's interview with 1000 Times No, a blog/podcast that explores the No's in life, I learned that Matt went through quite a few No's before he became an illustrator of children's books. His most notable No was the time he learned that the optioned screenplay he had quit his job to write would never be made into a movie. However, all of Matt's work in theater developed his skills of interpretation, which he has applied to illustration. After getting the screenplay no, he joined SCBWI and risked a portfolio review. Turned out to be the best $30.00 he ever spent, because it led to his first illustrating job!

Matt's first book came out in 2005:

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs
written by Betty G. Birney
(Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2005).
Three more followed in 2006:

The New Girl…and Me
written by Jacqui Robbins
(Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2006)

The Higher Power of Lucky
written by Susan Patron
(Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2006)

Rosa Farm
written by Liz Wu
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2006)

Matt's 2007 books are:

Floridius Bloom and the Planet of Gloom
written by Lorijo Metz
(Dial Press, 2007)

A Box Full of Kittens
written by Sonia Manzano
(Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2007)

Where I Live
written by Eileen Spinelli
(Dial Press, 2007)

Very Hairy Bear
written by Alice Schertle
(Harcourt Children’s Books, 2007)

Matt keeps a sketch blog at Planet Ham. If you search his blog for all the posts labeled "Illustration Friday," you will see that he participated EVERY WEEK in 2006! Quite a goal, and quite a variety of pieces!

On Matt's website, you will learn that he is tickled to be able to say, "Now available in specially marked boxes of Cheerios is a cute-as-a-button miniature edition of The New Girl...and Me! The free book (one of five) is all part of Cheerios' very cool Spoonful of Stories program." You can also find some gorgeous Matt Phelan Original Wallpaper for your computer screen, and take a tour of his studio.

But here's what you've really been waiting for, my interview with Matt:

How and why did you get involved with the Robert's Snow project?
I first heard of the project two years ago and thought it was a fantastic idea. When the call for new snowflakes came up on the Blue Rose Girls blog this year, I wrote to Grace immediately and asked if I could participate.

What are some other children's book illustrators whose work you especially admire?
I'm a huge fan of children's books, so my list is pretty long. Emily Gravett, Brian Floca, and Alexandra Boiger are just a few current faves off the top of my head. Angela Barrett's recent version of Beauty and the Beast is stunning. David Small is not only one of our finest draftsmen, he is an absolute master of pacing. From the golden age, I have to put Ernest Shepard at the top of my list.

Did you have any sense when you were illustrating The Higher Power of Lucky that it might be Newbery material? Any idea that there would be the big brouhaha over the anatomical vocabulary?
I knew it was a wonderful book but it didn't occur to me to consider its award potential. To be honest, I wasn't sure an illustrated novel was even eligible. Although I realized that I had never read the word scrotum in a novel before, I had no idea it would cause a controversy. How naive.

Can you tell us anything about your top secret mission in Maine? (see sketches in recent posts on his blog)
Well heck, it wouldn't be much of a secret if I cracked the first time someone asked about it. No, I will say absolutely nothing. Except that the mission was for a book I'm writing. And the subject is somewhat nautical. But really, that's it. Stop your clever interrogation tricks!

Okay. No more clever interrogation. On to the silly stuff! Beer, wine, or sparkling water?
Beer. But only microbrewed beer, preferably from the Philadelphia area which includes some of the best breweries in the world.

Cake, pie, or creme brulee?
Creme brulee, because making it involves a tiny blow torch. It's the dessert of welders.

Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, or Oklahoma?
I'll have to pick Oklahoma because sometimes I whisper the phrase "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" as a mantra. It's very soothing.

Here's what ELSE you've been waiting for: a "raffle doodle" being offered by Matt to one lucky reader of this Robert's Snow feature. Just leave a comment, and at the end of the week, I'll put all of the commenters' names in a hat and we'll draw for a winner! This is the original sketch that you might win:
Let the auction fun begin! May Robert's Snow be a giant blizzard of bidding that shuts down schools for five days. When it stops snowing, let's meet at the park for a snowball fight. I get to be "She Never Misses," and I personally want to throw the snowball (maybe with a rock or piece of ice in the center -- he doesn't play fair, so why should I) that hits Cancer right between the eyes so that snow goes behind his glasses and he's blinded, he gets a bloody nose, and goes running to mommy. Take THAT, you creep, for the year of hell you gave me! And THAT for all of my friends you've pelted...especially the ones you've taken out of the game way too early.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Growing Kidlitosphere!

When we celebrated our Blog Birthday in January, we thanked Melissa for this post where she created the word KIDLITOSPHERE.

On January 2, 2007, the word KIDLITOSPHERE was official with 538 Google Hits.
On June 23, the word had 15, 700 hits.

Today, I was getting things ready for a workshop I have talking to teachers about words. I always share this true-to-life Frindle-like story, so I googled the word again to see how popular it is getting.

As of today, October 28, the word gets 36,900 hits when googled!
Pretty cool, huh?

Mom's Overture (Teachers' too!)

This is the funniest thing we've seen on YouTube in a long time. Maybe ever. It is everything a mom would say in 24 hours condensed into 2 minutes and 55 seconds, and set to the William Tell Overture.

So, it got us thinking about all the things teachers say in a school day.

Let's gather a list of all of the kinds of things we say. While we might never sing it on YouTube, perhaps you could hum the William Tell Overture while you read it.

Here are a few of our common phrases to get you started:

Have a seat, get ready for math, zip, exCUSE me?!?
Take out your homework, come to the meeting area, did you sign in?
Bring your writer's notebook, do your self-evaluation, find it!
What happens when...? What did you...? Where is your...?
Don't forget to do your lunch count.
Get your coats--it's cold out today.
Pick up the scraps around your table.
What's going on? Whatcha doin'?
Clean your desk, look again, are you sure?
What are you going to do about that?
Take out your planner, sit down please, shhhhhhh...
We're ready for a quiet line.
Have a good evening! Don't forget your homework!

Send us your best phrases, and we'll compile them all into a Teacher's Overture.

Edited to add this one I just found on Cynthia Lord's blog: "A fourth-grade teacher in Franconia, New Hampshire sent me a link to a podcast of his students discussing RULES. Wow.

First, my jaw dropped and then I got teary listening to those kids! What thoughtful comments. I especially loved when they are discussing, "Is life fair for Catherine?" and "How do you define regular and normal?" how one student said there is an "infinity chance" of normal.

I also smiled when the teacher said, "The only person who should be moving right now is . . . ." That reminded me so much of being a teacher, myself."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

This 'n That

I'm just getting ready to go check out today's Robert's Snow posts. I haven't kept up on my blog reading since this blizzard of posting started, but I have read almost every Robert's Snow post on the day it was posted. And if not on the day, the day after. This dedication to reading Snow posts and lack of regular blog reading habits has, of course, resulted in me being days late to important revelations, and thoughtful conversations. I'm sure there's plenty of other action in the kidlitosphere that I've missed, but since I don't know what it is, I'm not worrying about it!

How about a few Halloween diversions, just for hoots?!?!? (pun intended)
Now, get back to work, or go outside and enjoy the fall weather, all of you who have enjoyable fall weather.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Poetry Friday -- Halloween ABC

Halloween ABC
by Eve Merriam
Illustrated by Lane Smith
Copyright 1987

I'm feeling old. (It doesn't take much these days.) Eve Merriam's book of 26 Halloween poems has been one of my all-time favorite holiday books since...this is where the problem lies...since close to the beginning of my teaching career. Yeah. That long. And when I went to Powell's to get an image and a link, it wasn't there. Because it's out of print.

Come to find out, I missed the release of the updated version in 2002:

I doubt I would have bought it because, frankly, it doesn't look as spooky as the original book. I really liked Lane Smith's dark, foreboding illustrations. It appears from the reviews that the poems are the same in both books, only the illustrations have been updated. And the poems are classic Eve Merriam. If she chooses some predictable Halloween subjects for some of the letters, she writes a surprising poem. Every poem is completely unique -- there is no formula for the poems that make them repetitious and boring. The poem for Apple begins,

sweet apple,
what do you hide?
Wormy and
rotten inside.

(You can see the whole poem for Apple here.)

This poem is a good example of the way the whole book twists and turns your expectations for what each poem might be about, or what word she might choose for each letter of the alphabet.

Grab this book (if you can find it), turn the lights off and light a flickering candle, get out your spookiest voice, and have a great read aloud! Happy Halloween!


Today's roundup is at Literary Safari, a new blog for me. Look around their blog a bit before you click out to the poems today. They've got some great stuff over there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Plain Janes

The Plain Janes
by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
DC Comics
Copyright 2007

2007 Cybils Nominee

There are three main plot lines in this graphic novel for teens.

1. The main character, Jane, is walking by a cafe in Metro City when a bomb goes off. Her parents are afraid to live in the city, so they move to the suburbs.
2. As the new kid at Buzz Aldrin High, Jane consciously negotiates the cliques. She refuses to join the "cool girls," and yet when she sits at a table of outcasts, she finds herself in the unique position of being an outcast of even the outcasts.
3. Jane writes letters to another of the bomb blast victims, a young man known only as John Doe who has been in a coma since the blast. Jane saved him, picked up his "Art Saves" sketch book, put up posters of him to try to learn his identity, and visited him in the hospital. She takes his sketch book with her when her family moves to the 'burbs.

These three plot lines twist together to form the story of how Jane wins over the outcasts and turns them into the most popular group at Buzz Aldrin High. She involves the girls (another Jane, Jayne, and Polly Jane -- hence the Plain Janes of the title) in secretly creating public art installations/events/attacks that are claimed by the group P.L.A.I.N.: People Loving Art In Neighborhoods (hence the Plain Janes of the title).

Lo and behold, art does save -- it saves all of the Janes and gives them a powerful girl gang that helps them come to terms with high school cliques in their own unique ways.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Plot Thickens

Bone 6: Old Man's Cave
by Jeff Smith
Review copy -- purchased for the classroom by a parent at our school book fair (Thanks again!!!)

Suspense is building in the continuing saga of the three Bone cousins.

Grandma Ben's sister (who was thought to be dead) is actually The Hooded One who works for the Lord of the Locusts. Whoda thunk?

The Hooded One thinks Phoney Bone is the key to everything because his larger than life campaign-for-mayor balloon (the one that got the Bones run out of town in the first place) has become snagged at the entrance to the lair of the Lord of the Locusts. There looms this omen: a gigantic Phoney Bone with a torn ribbon across his chest reading, "Phoncible P. Bone Will Get You..."

Back when it was a campaign balloon, it read, "Phoncible P. Bone Will Get Your Vote." So it's all a big over-inflated misunderstanding, but before they can all have a chuckle about it and move on, the Lord of the Locusts swarms Princess Thorn and overtakes her. Fone Bone saves her with the necklace the Red Dragon gave him...or does he? She reawakens at the end of the book, but walks off the last page with her hood pulled down over her the Stick Eaters.

"To be continued..."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Robert's Snow--LIVE!

As I mentioned last week, my 81 Days of Balance ended with a workshop for Choice Literacy I had this past weekend. As I was pulling together final details a few days before the trip, I realized that my plane was landing just 22 minutes away from the Child At Heart Art Gallery where the Robert's Snow Snowflakes were on display! What luck! So, we decided to take a tiny detour to visit the gallery and the snowflakes. (So, it was pouring down rain and we had no umbrella--as you can tell by the photo--but it was so worth it!)

WOW! I thought they were amazing online but they are GORGEOUS in real life. Each one is absolutely breathtaking. It was pretty powerful to see them all in one place. There are several that I hope to bid on--a few that I fell immediately in love with. I know you must all be a bit jealous--I know Mary Lee was (It didn't really help that I reminded her every 30 minutes that I was going to see the snowflakes in real life!) The snowflakes have moved on from the gallery and onto the Danforth Museum of Art. If you are ANYWHERE near the museum, it is a pretty amazing thing to see--the snowflakes all in one place. The art was amazing but having the snowflakes on display here was such a powerful tribute it is to Robert Mercer.

And I am so happy to have met my new friend Paul, the owner of the gallery. What a place! As a children's book person, I can't believe my luck in finding it. The gallery is filled with children's book art. Original pieces and prints from so many artists. I feel like I found such a great treasure. Not only a place to purchase original art but a person who has developed great relationships with many of the artists and knows so much about children's book art.

It was a great day--the time we spent in the Gallery seeing the snowflakes, looking at the art, meeting and chatting with Paul, and of course buying a few things! If y0u are ANYWHERE near the gallery, I would highly recommend a visit. And if you aren't near it, but are looking for great children's book art, it seems like this is the place that can probably find it for you!

As an added resource for you moms out there, if you make it to Newburyport, I would make sure to get to the Pink Hearts/Blue Soles children's shoe store. A kind of dangerous place with the best children's shoes I've ever seen--all in one place. I am thinking of flying to Newburyport to shop for schools shoes for my daughter next fall:-) If our kids are going to learn to read in school, I think they need to do it in great shoes, don't you? (See, I knew I could connect this shoe store somehow....)

Needless to say, I loved Newburyport, the Child at Heart Art Gallery, the Snowflakes and the shoe store. What a great way to end my 81 Days of Balance:-)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Robert's Snow -- Week Two

Note to Blog Readers about Blogging for a Cure: When Jules of 7-Imp put out her call in September for bloggers to interview/feature artists who had created snowflakes for Robert’s Snow 2007 at their blogs, a number of artists had not yet sent in their snowflakes to Dana-Farber. As time was of the essence to get Blogging for a Cure underway, we worked with the list of artists whose snowflakes were already in possession of Dana-Farber. Therefore, not all the participating artists will be featured. This in no way diminishes our appreciation for their contributions to this worthy cause. We hope everyone will understand that once the list of artists was emailed to bloggers and it was determined which bloggers would feature which artists at their blogs, a schedule was organized and sent out so we could get to work on Blogging for a Cure ASAP. Our aim is to raise people’s awareness about Robert’s Snow and to promote the three auctions. We hope our efforts will help to make Robert’s Snow 2007 a resounding success.

  • Thank you to Elaine of Wild Rose Reader for the above Public Service Announcement.
  • Thanks also to Tricia of The Miss Rumphius Effect and Jen of Jen Robinson's Book Page for providing the html code for the links in the sidebar. Those two can write code to either relax from a stressful week of report writing at work, or while watching sports on TV. I just have one word for that: wow.
  • And, of course, MEGA thanks to the amazing Jules of 7-Imp for having the vision to bring the Kidlitosphere together for this important project, and the organizational skills to make it happen!