Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wish: Wishing Traditions Around the World

Wish: Wishing Traditions Around the World
by Roseanne Thong
illustrated by Elisa Kleven
Chronicle Books, 2008
review copy provided by the publisher

A lot of wishing happens at this time of the year. It starts with the elections and the turkey bones, and it progresses to letters to Santa and New Year resolutions (a sub-genre of wishing, don't you think?).

Thinking about wishing got me wondering:
Sometimes wishes are addressed to a recipient (Santa), but when they're not, where do they go?
What's the difference between wishing and asking? 
What's the difference between wishing and hoping?
Are blessings just wishes you make on behalf of another person?
Do you remember when you stopped wishing and started setting goals that you worked on to make happen?

WISH: WISHING TRADITIONS AROUND THE WORLD is the book that got me thinking about wishing. It's a beautiful book that introduces the reader to wishing traditions from 15 countries around the world, from Ireland and South Africa to Guatemala and Brazil. Each tradition is explained in a rhyme with a short paragraph of information and a gorgeous colorful illustration. In the back, there is a small amount of extra information about each tradition. It is more than a little amazing to learn that some wishes we take for granted (birthday candles on a round cake) have origins in ancient Greece, while others, such as wishing with coins, are universal. 

This book demonstrates that humans have always and will always attach meaning to symbols. So go ahead and make your wishes during this season of wishing, and deliver them to the hands of Santa or your loved ones, your own heart or the universe at large. Your wishing connects you to all the other past, present, and future humans on this planet. 

Other blog reviews:
7-Imp (illustrator feature)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Wangari's Trees of Peace

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
by Jeanette Winter
Harcourt, 2008
review copy provided by the publisher

Carol said it well:  
"I want my sons and the kids I teach to understand that heroes aren't necessarily people who ride in limousines, or make lots of money, or have been gifted with athletic ability. Instead, I want them to understand that heroes are ordinary people who show extraordinary courage and character in the face of difficult situations."
Jeanette Winter, who also wrote THE LIBRARIAN OF BASRA, teaches us about another determined woman who changes her corner of the world, one tree at a time, in her new book, WANGARI'S TREES OF PEACE.

Wangari Maathai grows up in a green, forested Kenya. When she returns to Kenya after being in America for six years of studies, "Wangari sees women bent from hauling firewood miles and miles from home. She sees barren land where no crops grow." First she begins planting and tending baby trees, then she starts a tree farm. Next she involves village women in the planting efforts. The word spreads. "The government men laugh." The women ignore them and keep planting. Wangari is jailed for protesting the destruction of old trees. The women keep planting.

Between 1977 and 2004, "thirty million trees had been planted, six thousand nurseries existed in Kenya, the income of eighty thousand people had been increased, and the movement had spread to thirty African countries--and beyond."

In 2004, Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jeanette Winter, please bring us more stories of hope and heroes like Wangari and the librarian of Basra.

other reviews:
The New York Times (along with PLANTING THE TREES OF KENYA by Claire A. Nivola, FSG, 2008 -- another picture book about the same woman)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Stretching Our Thinking -- Checking In

A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about a shift in our blog reading and our professional thinking. I thought I'd check in and let you know how that's going with me.

One of the shifts that seemed likely to happen while we were at NCTE was that I would become a 21st Century cellphone user. I was around people who text, tweet, chat, and check email by phone. People who would be lost without their cellphone. Me? Oh, I have one. It's off most of the time unless I'm traveling. I can't pull a signal in the empty part of CO where my mom lives. I can text and talk, but nothing else -- no email, tweets, or even photos. So it was obvious: if I was going to participate in the 21st Century literacies of cellphone usage, I would need to ramp up my phone.

I did a bunch of research over Thanksgiving break, and here's what I found out: connectivity costs. Big time. About $70 per month (for the two companies with signals strong enough to get to my hometown), and that's not counting the $50-$200 for the new phone. I'm thinking it's a lot healthier to use all that $$ for my health club membership. 

You see, currently I pay $25 every three months for my GoPhone plan and I regularly roll over most of my balance--I don't even use $25 every three months. 

So much for the cost comparison. Now, what about making the shift in the way I use my cellphone?

Only a handful of my close friends and family are avid cellphone users. The rest range from those who function just fine with a land line, thank you very much, to a few mavericks whose heels are dug in in resistance to the very idea of cellphones. So with whom would I be talking or texting or emailing when I got a fancy new phone and a super-duper plan? Hmm... And when would I be talking to them? Not in the car while I was driving. Not at home when I could be talking face to face with my man and my cat. Not in restaurants. Not at work. Not while walking around in the grocery store. (These are examples of cellphone usage that drives me CRAZY! Maybe I have more in common with the mavericks in my life than with the avid cellphone users!!)

Bottom line: no new cellphone for me. I'll stick with being ahead of the curve for people of my age group on blogging. And ahead of many teachers of ALL age groups on the amount of technology my students use on a regular basis. (I'll save that for another post.)

Here's my one positive move in terms of "stretching my thinking"--I'm no longer on the verge of Twittering. I tweet. This is something I can do with the computers I already own and the Internet access I already pay for. And Twittering can be used to make the world a better place.

Friday, December 05, 2008


NCTE announced the 2009 NCTE POETRY AWARD at this year's convention. Lee Bennett Hopkins is the 15th winner of this award.  He will be honored at the 2009 Annual Convention at the Books for Children Luncheon.

"The National Council of Teachers of English wishes to recognize and foster excellence in children's poetry by encouraging its publication and by exploring ways to acquaint teachers and children with poetry through such means as publications, programs, and displays. As one means of accomplishing this goal, NCTE established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1977 to honor a living American poet for his or her aggregate work for children ages 3–13."

My all-time favorite Lee Bennett Hopkins book is GOOD BOOKS!  GOOD TIMES!  I also LOVE HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

The round up this week is at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

New Joke Book

Joke books are quite popular in the library. I have never been a huge fan of riddles but I do love word play and I think these books are great for kids as they learn the fun of playing with words. Simms Taback, a favorite illustrator of mine, has a new book called SIMMS TABACK'S GREAT BIG BOOK OF SPACEY SNAKEY BUGGY RIDDLES. The riddles are written by Katy Hall and Lisa Eisenberg and are perfect for the youngest children. The riddles are a bit corny--just the way kids like them! And the illustrations make the riddles even funnier. Each page gives us a riddle such as "What kind of jacket would you wear on the sun?" with an accompanying illustration. In small print, under the riddle, the reader finds the answer (A blazer!). The format of this book is great. Often kids get overwhelmed with pages and pages of jokes and riddles and so many joke books are not written for new readers. But this book gives us one riddle per page. It is easy to navigate and can be read completely in a rather short amount of time. I am excited to add this one to our library.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Wordle of the NCTE Framework

I just wordled the NCTE Framework for 21st Century Learning and Assessment and it is so interesting to see what came up. You can see that students are at the center with lots of other things being important. An interesting way to think about this and how we can use the framework to reflect on our work. Karl Fisch has an interesting post on the reflectiveness of teaching and how important it is that we reflect on our own learning.

For so long I thought 21st Century Literacies/Learning was all about technology.  But the NCTE definition was something I could totally believe in because technology was only a small piece and there are so many other important pieces.  

I think I finally have my head around some vision for what literacy learning can be for kids if we embrace some of these things.


Another great book for young readers is THE FOGGY, FOGGY FOREST by Nick Sharratt. I picked this book up last week and was immediately amazed at the illustrations. They are done with a semi-see-through type of velum. The book starts out completely in black and white and kids can predict the things they see in the shadows (or fog). The first page asks, "What can this be in the foggy, foggy forest?" When children turn the page, they find a colorful illustration of the object they first saw in the shadows. A simple sentence accompanies the colorful illustration. I loved this book because of the unique illustrations. I can also see that it is inviting for young readers because of the repeated question on every other page and the picture supports for the remaining text. There are also some familiar characters lurking in the foggy, foggy forest that make it even more fun. I am anxious to share this one with my students this week.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Stretching Our Thinking--21st Century Literacies

We have dabbled in using more technology in the classroom and have been interested in learning more about authentic uses of new tools for our students. Our big goal is to make sure our use of 21st century tools matches our philosophy about how children learn language. For the last several years, we've both been reading and thinking about what it means to be a literacy teacher these days. How do we best meet the needs of our students? The NCTE Annual Convention themed SHIFT HAPPENS helped us to solidify our thinking a bit and to see new possibilities.

We have silently followed a few blogs--listening in on the thinking of some key tech people who seem to share our philosophies. We have learned lots and also realized how very much we have to learn. So, we have decided to dedicate more of our blog time to following the thinking of this group. We are adding a few of those that we have been reading to our blogroll and hope to find many more as we listen in on the tech network. We have had Bud the Teacher on our blogroll for some time and appreciate his role in helping us think through our changing roles. We have also followed Karl Fisch's blog, The Fischbowl and were fortunate enough to hear him at NCTE. His constructivist theory is evident in all that he does in his teaching. Dr. Tim Tyson has a blog that focuses on the work of his middle schoolers when he was principal. His focus is on student contribution and his respect for students and their work is amazing. Bill at Mr. Bass is a Technology Integration Specialist and shares thoughts on using tech in the classroom. We love the intro to Kevin's Meandering Mind. He says to readers "This blog is a place where I explore writing and teaching and technology. But I don’t like to go on such a journey by myself and I want you to come along as a companion." Bill Kist focuses on new medias and social networking. We are excited to learn from all of these educators and hope to add more as we continue on this learning journey.

We love books and children's literature. And it will always be the anchor of our work. But we can't be comfortable being literacy teachers today without expanding our notion of what it means to be literate in the 21st Century and to learn from experts who have a different set of expertise. We have no idea where this new thinking will take us but we are confident that we'll learn some exciting things and open new possibilities for our students. We know that many of you are on the same journey--thinking about our teaching lives and how new tools will change things.

Franki and Mary Lee

Monday, December 01, 2008

Join Team Shift Happens on Kiva

Karl Fisch of THE FISCHBOWL is taking the opportunity to invite his blog readers to think about giving a gift to KIVA during this holiday season.  He shares:

Kiva allows individuals to contribute a small amount of money that is then loaned to entrepreneurs in impoverished communities. When that loan is repaid (currently almost 97% are repaid), then the individual that originally made the loan can choose to loan the money out to another entrepreneur, donate it to kiva to help with their operating expenses, or actually get the money back.

Fisch has created TEAM SHIFT HAPPENS as a way to encourage people to give and to Pay It Forward.

You can either make a $25 loan yourself, or, what I’d love to see, do the same thing that I’m doing (make a $25 loan, then purchase two $25 gift certificates and email them to folks you know and ask them to do the same). If you’re a blogger, also consider blogging about this and making the same request to your readers. I realize not everyone will be comfortable with that, or has $75 to spare, so please contribute what you can. If you wish, it would be great if you then add your loan so it counts toward Team Shift Happens so we can see what we can accomplish together, and leave a comment on this post.

After reading lots on Kiva's website, I am convinced that this is a good place for me to donate a bit.  This organization supports women in poverty.  So, I have donated $25 to this woman in Guatemala. I wanted to donate something to the country of Guatemala so I searched the site and chose this woman's business.  You can find a cause or a country that you are committed to helping and make your decision that way.  I also purchased a Gift Certificate for Mary Lee so that she can choose an one of Kiva's entrepreneurs to lend to. Then I invited her to Pay It Forward by purchasing a gift certificate for someone else.  

I thought this idea was a good one and wanted to bring it to the Kidlitosphere and invite our readers to participate. 

The thing I love most about blogging is the way that it brings communities together.  When we started this blog, authors and librarians were not part of our social and professional network. Now they are. As we begin to learn more about 21st century literacies, we find ourselves reading lots of tech/ed blogs.   The learning communities are no longer separate and we love that about blogging.  So this seemed like a perfect team to join:-) Hope you'll check it out. 


Thanksgiving vacation gave me some extra time to spend at the bookstore finding new books for the library. One that I am excited about is THE BIG BIGGER BIGGEST BOOK. I knew immediately that I liked it.

Each spread shows an object with a word such as "FAST". When you lift or unfold the flap, you'll find a similar object with a new label (FASTER). Then you get to lift or unfold one more time for the completed illustration and the last word (FASTEST).

The book is quite fun. The flap lifting is a bit different on each page depending on the object and the way it is defined. Some spreads unfold horizontally while others unfold vertically. The variety adds to the fun.

The illustations are bright and colorful. Many use primary colors and the objects are all things that most kids are familiar with.
I see this book being popular for lots of reasons. First of all, the fold-outs make it quite fun. For new readers, the picture clues will allow them to read the simple text on their own. ANd it will support concepts in size and measurement. I can also see using it when thinking about playing with words or thinking about word choice in writing. I am not sure how teachers will use it but I see lots of possibilities!