Friday, November 28, 2008

Poetry Friday: Grace

by Wendell Berry

for Gurney Norman, quoting him

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.

(the rest is here)

I am thankful for this five days off to "be still" and relocate the grace in my life. Wishing the same for you in some way, shape, or form.

The round up this week is at Under the Covers.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

NCTE in Words and Pictures: Franki's Version

Mary Lee inspired me to share my NCTE convention week in words and pictures!  As did everyone else, I had a great time and learned lots.  The energy at the convention was amazing and I came home with my head spinning from all of the new learning. I mentioned earlier that I heard several sessions on 21st century literacies and am glad to have had the chance to hear Karl Fisch after having followed his blog for so long.  I loved his message. Too often I got to "tech" workshops and the focus is on the technology or the product but the actual teaching goes against what I believe about kids and learning.  But Karl Fisch is grounded in good teaching and understands learning. It was definitely a highlight.
The convention opened with speaker Gary Knell, President and CEO of Sesame Workshop. What a great opening!  So many great things going on at Sesame Street. As always, I was amazed with their mission not only in the US but around the world. I was also happy to hear that "THE ELECTRIC COMPANY" will be returning! Wooohooo!  We saw some great clips and it was a great celebration of learning and literacy. And guess who joined Gary Knell at NCTE?  One of my favorite muppets--GROVER! What a treat!  You can see that my friend, Shari Frost, and I had our photo taken with him after the opening celebration. Check out the Sesame Street website and keep your eye out for The Electric Company that is sure to be a hit again!

Another treat was the Books for Children Luncheon featuring children's author, Tomie dePaola!  It was a great celebration with so many children's authors--one at every table. It was so fun to be in a room with so many children's authors and children's books!  I was excited to be able to sit at Tomie dePaola's table and I received a copy of his new and gorgeous pop-up book, BRAVA, STREGA NONA: A HEARTWARMING POP-UP BOOK  I LOVE this book. Growing up in a 100% Italian Family, this book is a true gift. Strega Nona gives us her secrets to a magical life and they include things like family and friends and food! The pop-up art is amazing and Tomie dePaola demonstrated how to open and close the book properly to see the gorgeous art! I had not heard dePaola speak for about 15+ years so it was such a treat. He talked a bit about some of the books he has coming out soon so we can look forward to those as well. But if you are looking for a great gift for a family member (especially an Italian one) this new pop-up book says so much!

If you don't know Nancy Johnson, she was a key person on the Elementary Section Steering Committee who organized the luncheon and she is the perfect person to do this! (You should check out her book THE WONDER OF IT ALL: WHEN LITERATURE AND LITERACY INTERSECT.) Here she is with Ralph Fletcher getting last minute details figured out before the event. Ralph announced this year's NCTE Excellence in Poetry Award winner which will be announced on the NCTE website soon!

Other highlights included Kathi Yancey's general session on Sunday, Barbara Ehrenreich's talk on her book NICKEL AND DIMED IN AMERICA, and Regie Routman's talk entitled, "Raising Expectation, Results and Enjoyment for All Learners: What Does It Take?" If you have the chance to hear any of these speakers, they were phenomenal!

NCTE In Words and Pictures

How often do you get to meet one of your personal heroes (or sheroes, as the case may be)?  The absolute highlight for me of NCTE 2008 was hearing Lynne Cox speak and meeting her in person.  Lynne Cox is an extraordinary open water swimmer.  She is as physically adapted to cold water swims as Lance Armstrong is to long distance biking.  She has swum from the U.S. to Russia through the Bering Straits, and she has swum with icebergs in Antarctica.  She is an amazing story teller with amazing stories to tell.  (I reviewed her book GRAYSON here.)

San Antonio was a lovely city for a conference.  I was struck how different evening rush hour in the center of the city was this year, compared to last year in NYC.  This is the Times Square of San Antonio.  

I had several memorable meals, but alas, neglected to take any food pictures. Use your imagination. At Rosario's I had a beautiful (and tasty) Prickly Pear margarita and (delicious) fish tacos (grilled talapia). The fish tacos were a risk, but I figured the best place to try them would be in Tex-Mex land. They were seasoned with lime and cilantro, so how could I go wrong? At the Random House author dinner at Little Rhein Steakhouse I had a fabulous steak. It looked just like the one in the ads on the convention center wall, if you were there. Yum. I sat at a table with Wendelin Van Draanen and got to hear about her new book CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL KILLER, and her upcoming new series THE GECKO AND STICKY (watch for a review soon). Finally, at Liberty Bar I had SALMON ENCILANTRADO, grilled salmon marinated in cilantro sauce. It came with a side of cilantro pesto, which I am definitely going to try to make!

Along with the obligatory Tex-Mex and the obligatory steak, there was the obligatory visit to the Alamo. Alas, we got there too late to go inside and take the tour, but we remembered (ha ha) to go.

There were several sessions that I really really really wanted to attend, but meetings or paid breakfasts or other mandatory sessions got in the way. I didn't get to hear Greg Mortenson (of THREE CUPS OF TEA fame), but I did see his extensive autographing line. I didn't get to go to the session on literature circles. I didn't get to hear Kathleen Yancy speak. (There's more, but I don't remember them, and it's a good thing I left my conference book behind -- my checked suitcase weighed EXACTLY 50 lbs., what with all the books I crammed in it!) 

Probably my favorite session was the impromptu Tech On The Go session that I did in the Hilton Lobby (the only place I could find with free wireless access) for Katie and Karen. Both of them got set up with GoogleReader and we played around with podcasting and composing on GarageBand. Katie swooned when Debbie Miller stopped by to chat and look over our shoulders at GarageBand. 

No, wait! My favorite session was the NCTE Notable Books session. I've never been to this Sunday from 1:00-3:00 session because I always left right after the CLA breakfast. I won't miss this session ever again...and especially not for the next few years since I'm on the Notables committee! What's so fun about it? First, you get to hear about each of the Notables. Then the authors do "speed dating" talks at each of the round tables. Audience sits still, authors rotate to you. This year there were EIGHT (!!) authors: Ralph Fletcher, Ann Bausum, Peggy Gifford, Jacqueline Woodson, Emily Gravett, Gary Schmidt, Linda Sue Park, and Ruth Forman. Ann Bausum brought historical documents for us to look at while she talked to us about MUCKRAKERS. Peggy Gifford confirmed that the stepfather in her MOXY MAXWELL books is indeed her brother in-law J. Patrick Lewis. Linda Sue Park taught us about sijo.  Ruth Forman read us YOUNG CORNROWS CALLIN OUT THE MOON, which is now on my to-get list. But my turn came to swoon when I got to hold and look at Emily Gravett's sketchbook for LITTLE MOUSE'S BIG BOOK OF FEARS!!! Wow. Wow. She read to us from THE ODD EGG, her next book out in the U.S. in January. Okay if I say it one more time? Wow. Emily Gravett. Wow. (Okay, I'll stop.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment

Last week, NCTE adopted a Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment.  Bill at Mr. Bass explains it will in his blog post today.  As a teacher and as a librarian, I think it has lots of possibilities. It ties in the NCTE/IRA standards. I think it will give me a tool to really think about the kinds of things I am asking of my students and help me become smarter about my practice.  See what you think.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I think you'll see lots of posts this week reflecting on NCTE. I just visited a few bloggers who have already reflected on the weekend.

21st Century Literacies was definitely something I thought about all week. The theme of the conference was SHIFT HAPPENS and I worked hard to get to several sessions dealing by people such as Karl Fisch and Tim Tyson. I was amazed at what they had to share. I loved the message from both of them and it all fits with what I believe about classrooms and schools. Amazing presenters and I feel lucky to have heard them. I plan to keep up with some new blogs--blogs that focus on these 21st Century issues. I am pretty excited about it.

And after talking with friends who are clearly more technologically savvy than I am, I decided that my technological world needs to expand a bit (actually, a lot!). I am going to try to add a few things to my life in the next few weeks. I just added blogs to Google Reader and am going to work to use the tool. I am also going to think about twitter (since Mary Lee is on the brink of twittering!) and I am also interested in learning more about Photovoice and a few other things. I am on a mission and hope to have fun playing around with all of the tools that I learned about in sessions and in informal conversations with friends!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Book Review From NCTE #2--A New Book by Georgia Heard

I was thrilled to see a new children's poetry book by Georgia Heard coming soon. (Yes, I got an advanced copy of it and am loving every page!) The book is called FALLING DOWN THE PAGE and it is an edited collection of list poems. This book is quite fun. The spine is on the top which works perfectly with the topic and clever title, don't you think?

The book is filled with 45 poems by some of our favorite poets--Jan Yolen, Eileen Spinelli, J. Patrick Lewis, Kristine O'Connell George and many others. Each poem is a list poem, although there is so much variety in the presentation.

As always, Georgia gives us a gret intro. She lets us know how important list-making is for her and for all of us. And then she shares her thoughts on the craft of creating list poems. She also lets us in on the fact that the poems in the book tell a sort of story--the sequence follows the cycle of a school year. She finishes by recognizing the fact that after reading this book, you will most likely want to write a list poem of your own!

A great book for everyone. Kids of any age will love it. It will serve as a great mentor text or be a great book to add to any poetry collection. I love everything about it and CAN'T WAIT until it comes out in early 2009!

(NOTE: I could not find a photo of the cover and I do not have a scanner here so you will have to imagine the cover. I think you will like it!)

Poetry Saturday -- Disconnected

I, too, am at NCTE. Learning lots. Having plenty of fun. On the brink of Twittering. 

The theme of the conference is Because Shift Happens: Teaching in the 21st Century. I have found it quite ironic that the only place I can get reliable (free) wireless internet access is in the lobby of my hotel. Not so convenient. A definite disconnect. 

So I wrote this poem (in pencil, in my before-21st-Century-technology writer's notebook):

No free wireless internet
Connection at a conference about
Teaching 21st Century literacies? 
Eh?  Really?

The round up was/is at Brimstone Soup.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Book Review from NCTE

I am in San Antonio attending the annual NCTE Convention. It is a GREAT convention and I am learning lots. I don't have time to write about so many of the great things I want to share but I do have time for a quick book review! The exhibits are full of new books and some ARCS. Today, I picked up a copy (ARC) of TEN DAYS AND NINE NIGHTS: AN ADOPTION STORY by Yumi Heo. I am always paying close attention to adoption books and this picture book is definitely one that we'll add to our collection.

This book is not our adoption story, but is is a great adoption story. Told in very simple text and gorgeous illustrations, this book follows a little girl (for 10 nights and nine days) as she waits for her new sister to arrive. Her mother leaves to pick up the baby on an airplane while the father and daughter stay home to get ready. Each day means less waiting and new things to do as excitement builds. The predictable pattern and the illustrations work together in a way to show how much is happening for both the family waiting at home and the mother and the new baby coming home.

At the end of the book, there is an author's note about her relationships with many families who had experienced adoption.

This is a great book. I think it is a great addition to any collection of books about adoption. It would also be a great book to give to any young child waiting for a new sibling. I will definitely add this one to the school library when it comes out--it looks like it is due out in May. I plan to get a copy right as soon as I can!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Grasshopper's Song: An Aesop's Fable Revisited

The Grasshopper's Song: An Aesop's Fable Revisited
illustrated by Chris Raschka
Candlewick Press, 2008

I didn't intend for this to be insect week at A Year of Reading. It just happened. 

Today's book finds Jimmy Grasshopper suing Nestor and Abigail Ant because, after a summer of providing them with entertainment, they refused to share the harvest with him. It's a question of respect, and it's a meditation on the value of art in society.
"Am I not worthy of my bread? Does not the work of my heart and soul earn respect? I am an artist. Is there no place for beauty, no solace for the ear, no hope for the heart? Must everything be in the marketplace? Doesn't the marketplace itself need and deserve beautification?"

This is not a version of Aesop's tale for the youngest readers and listeners. Instead, it might make a great gift for the artists and lawyers in your life. It's a beautiful little book with an important message, especially in these times when all eyes are on the marketplace.  

Reviewed by Jules at 7-Imp in June.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BIRD LAKE MOON by Kevin Henkes

I love Kevin Henkes. I love Chrysanthemum and Lilly and Wemberly. But I am also a HUGE fan of his children's novels. When I read THE BIRTHDAY ROOM several years ago, it quickly became a favorite and it ended up being one of the most powerful books I read aloud to my 5th grade class that year. So, I picked up BIRD LAKE MOON as soon as it came out last spring. But I bought it when things were busy and I had not time to read and somehow I forgot that I had it.

Last week, one of our third grade teachers reminded me of the book. She came in telling me she had read the book and that she LOVED it! It was just the reminder I needed to get back to this book. I read it on the plane on my way to NCTE and was not disappointed.

Henkes develops amazing characters. He does it with his picture book characters and he does it with the characters in this book. He is all about good characters who we know and love.

In this story, two boys become friends and each is dealing with his own family issues. Henkes alternates back and forth between the characters and you come to like and understand both characters well. You come to understand the stresses they are dealing with and you understand the choices that they make--both good and bad. Both boys are doing a lot of growing up and learning to deal with pain.

I have a hard time finding books with enough depth for younger (3rd/4th grade) children to talk about. I often find that either books are too shallow with not enough interesting issues OR they are too much for 8, 9 and 10 year olds. This book is perfect for upper elementary students. There are enough issues with the characters and things you find yourself thinking about, that it seems perfect for a read aloud or a book for a book club.

I continue to be amazed by Henkes talent. The fact that he can write well for so many different ages is fascinating to me. I look forward to whatever it is he decides to write next!