Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I am so happy to have discovered this new nonfiction picture book. Last month, I attended a workshop and Selections Bookfairs was there selling books. Since our school has a courtyard, I have been trying to build our collection of books related to some of the things they kids see there and I've been lucky to find some great new bird books this year. WHOSE NEST IS THIS? by Heidi Bee Roemer is one of my new favorites. I thought at first glance that this book was about birds, but it is about more than just birds. I always forget that there are many other creatures that build nests. I think kids do too.

The first page of the book tells us that spring has arrived and many parents are making nests for their young. Then the rest of the book becomes a great guessing game. Each two-page spread has a clue filled with information on the left side. On the right side we find the answer. Although many of the nests belong to birds, we find that turtles, mice, and wasps also build nests. The guessing format makes it a fun one to read and along the way, we learn so many things about nests and habitats. So many different things are used to build nests and they are built in such a variety of places. This book is just packed with information.

The end of the book has a Fun-Fact Glossary with a bit more information on the animals in the book.

I can see so many reasons to read this book. It can serve as a type of field guide. It can be used for kids as they are learning about animals and/or habitats. And it is a great format for nonfiction writing. It could serve as a great mentor text. I always love to find nonfiction writing that has such rich language.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I love when people come up with new things and Lou Brooks has come up with Twimericks--Limericks and Tongue Twisters all rolled up. You can tell right away that this book is a fun one. There is a warning on the first page:


Then the author goes on to tell us a bit about the history of Limericks and a bit about Tongue Twisters. Then he goes on to tell us what happens when you put the two together. Following this introduction are 36 Twimericks that are quite fun. Some of my favorites (all listed in the Cable of Tontents:-) are Rufus the Goofus, Banana Bonanza and Six Silly Swiss Sisters. My very favorite is "Frankly, Frank Fankley" (of course, because it has my name in it--kind of).

This book is great fun and would be a great addition to any classroom poetry collection. It begs to be read aloud. Reading them aloud is quite fun! (I read a few aloud to my husband while he was watching hockey. My reading wasn't quite enough to pull him away from the TV but he did chuckle a bit.) I can also see kids having lots of word play fun in writing workshop, word study, etc. Just a fun, playful book!

Monday, November 16, 2009

NCTE 2009

NCTE's Annual Convention is the most important thing I do for my own professional development. Last year, I was able to hear Tim Tyson, Kathy Yancey, Karl Fisch and others who helped me create a vision for where I wanted to go in my own teaching and learning. And I did meet Grover from Sesame Street after hearing CEO, Gary Knell speak. Last year, the convention really helped me solidify my thinking about 21st Century Literacies and has carried me through the year. I always love to get together and learn from such smart people.

I am totally excited about this year's convention in Philadelphia. I am looking forward to seeing good friends, checking out new books and going to great sessions. I read the book THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Juno Diaz and am excited about hearing him speak at the Opening Session of the convention on Thursday. He is just the first of many amazing speakers.

I am not quite sure how to focus my time--so many great choices. I LOVE the theme of this year's convention, "Once and Future Classics: Reading Between the Lines". Carol Jago, NCTE's President-Elect, has put together an amazing program. So many great sessions about books and literacy. I was amazed to see the number of authors who would be at the convention. I am hoping to make time to see Jennifer and Matt Holm since I am such a Babymouse fan. I would love to see Gordon Korman and many of the others who are listed in the program.

I will probably focus my time on 21st Century topics again this year. I am looking forward to hearing Troy Hicks and Bud Hunt's session, "Creating Opportunities for Learning with Newer Literacies and Technologies". I am also anxious to hear Ralph Fletcher talk about word play and Teri Lesesne share new YA titles. I am totally bummed that I won't be able to hear my local friends and colleagues--Mary Lee, Katie D, and Karen T present on their work. I love the title of their session--"Going Public: How Sharing Your Teaching Beyond the Classroom Can Make You a Better Teacher"--Brilliant, don't you think? And I am also looking forward to hearing Kylene's Beers' address at the General Session on Sunday. She is always brilliant and her talks always make me think. I am attending several Children's Literature Assembly events and am looking forward to those.

It is always a great time to connect with friends and colleagues and to re-energize and think about the possibilities with people who believe in kids and in the power of literacy.

I loved Kevin's post at Kevin's Meandering Mind this week. He brought some sessions to my attention that I hadn't yet seen in the program. I am adding those as well as his session to my list. I think he started a great trend--sharing the sessions we've found. I feel like there are so many options that I'll miss many without the help of others who are also looking through the program.

Hopefully, we'll run into lots of you there!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Gift of Days: The Greatest Words to Live By

A Gift of Days: The Greatest Words to Live By
by Stephen Alcorn
Simon & Schuster, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

I'm not sure this is a children's book, but I LOVE books of quotations and this one is unique and stunningly beautiful.

Each of the 366 quotes is from a different famous person on their birthday. Those featured are "famous activists and artists, athletes and writers, inventors and explorers, healers and politicians, musicians and moguls." There is a full-page block print portrait of a famous person on every double-page spread, each one stylistically different and perfectly capturing the essence of the person featured. There is more information about each of the people whose quotes are featured in the back of the book.

Check out the Alcorn Studio & Gallery and you'll recognize many books that Alcorn has illustrated.

I'm thinking this will make a FABULOUS gift book...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Call for Poetry Friday Round Up Hosts

In an effort to keep this great good thing we know and love as Poetry Friday running as smoothly as possible until such time as its founder, Kelly Herold, is able to take the reins again, and under the advisement of Greg (GottaBook), Tricia (Miss Rumphius), Susan (Chicken Spaghetti), and Diane (Random Noodling), I am putting out a call for Poetry Friday Round Up Hosts for the next three months.

I will post the schedule on our blog, on the calendar of the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group, and on the Kidlitosphere website. In addition, I will make the code for the schedule available to whoever requests it so that you, too, can have the schedule in your blog's sidebar if you so desire!

Leave your requested Friday in the comments or email me directly at mlhahn at earthlink dot net.

EDITED: Dates are filling up fast -- see schedule in sidebar. Thanks to all who have (and will) volunteer!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Veterans' Day Coincidence

Tricia's Poetry Stretch this week at The Miss Rumphius Effect was to write a rictameter, which is an unrhymed nine line poetry form with a syllable count of 2,4,6,8,10,8,6,4,2 and the first and last lines the same.

Here's my rictameter, and then I'll tell you the rest of the story behind it:

Two books,
both about war,
both read on Veterans Day.
Coincidence. First, MARE'S WAR by
Tanita Davis, then CROSSING STONES by
Helen Frost. War's no solution,
and it's not the only
problem in these
two books.

by Tanita S. Davis
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

Mare's war was WWII. She joined the African American Women's Army Corps at the age of 17 (lying that she was 21) to escape the dead end of 1940's life in rural Alabama, where the best jobs she could hope for as a Black woman who hadn't finished high school were being the house girl for Mrs. Ida Payne and busing tables and cleaning the kitchen of Young's Diner.

In this book, Mare is taking a road trip from California to Alabama with her two teenage granddaughters. The narrative switches between chapters about "then" when Mare is telling her life story to her granddaughters, and "now" as we see the two girls' reluctance about the trip change to interest in their grandmother's experiences and finally appreciation and admiration for her strength and independence.

By listening in on Mare's stories, I learned things about WWII, the WAC, segregation, and Civil Rights that are never included in history books.

Besides the coincidence of finishing this book on Veterans Day, I was tickled to note that Mare's full name is Marey Lee Boylen (closest I've ever come to finding a book character with my name!) and one of the granddaughters is named Talitha, which is the name of one of my great grandmothers.

More reviews at ACPL Mock Newbery, The Miss Rumphius Effect, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Jen Robinson's Book Page, A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, Charlotte's Library...and there are probably more...if I missed yours, leave a link in the comments!

Here's Tanita's blog and here's more about the African American WACs.

by Helen Frost
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

I couldn't believe it when the next book I picked up after finishing MARE'S WAR on the afternoon of Veterans' Day was a book about WWI.

Remember how Frost's amazing diamond poems in DIAMOND WILLOW added so much to the story? (Bill's post at Literate Lives convinced me to read the book, and Tricia's Poetry Makers post featuring Helen Frost elevated her to One Of My Favorites!) Frost describes the poetry forms that she uses in CROSSING STONES this way:
"I've created a formal structure to give the sense of stepping from stone to stone across a flowing creek. I think of this kind of writing as painting with words, a process involving hands, eyes, ears, thought, and emotion, all simultaneously working together.

The relatively free style of Muriel's poems represent the creek flowing over the stones as it pushes against its banks. Ollie's and Emma's poems represent the stones. I "painted" them to look round and smooth, each with a slightly different shape, like real stones. They are "cupped-hand sonnets," fourteen-line poems in which the first line rhymes with the last line, the second line rhymes with the second-to-last, and so on, so that the seventh and eighth lines rhyme with each other at the poem's center. In Ollie's poems the rhymes are the beginning words of each line, and in Emma's poems they are the end words.

To give the sense of stepping from one stone to the next, I have used the middle rhyme of one sonnet as the outside rhyme of the next. You will see that the seventh and eighth lines of each of Emma's poems rhyme with the first and last lines of Ollie's next poem, and the seventh and eighth lines of Ollie's poems rhyme with the first an last lines of Emma's next poem."
Despite the seeming complexity of the structure of this book, the form NEVER gets in the way of the story. Muriel's free-flowing poems match her free thinking about her own future (NOT as a farm wife, as everyone else seems to expect of her) and the suffrage movement. Emma's and Ollie's poems are solid and almost invisibly interconnected, bringing their two families and their own lives closer and closer.

Again in this book, I learned things that are never found in history books about WWI, the suffragettes, the Spanish Flu Epidemic, settlement houses in Chicago (Hull House) and Washington, D.C., and the ability of body and soul to heal from the ravages of war.

Put both these books on your "must read" list. They are too good to pass by.

Greg's doing the Poetry Friday round up this week at GottaBook.

Where Else in the Wild?

Where Else in the Wild? More Camouflaged Creatures Concealed...and Revealed
Ear-Tickling Poems by David M. Schwartz and Yael Schy
Eye-Tricking Photos by Dwight Kuhn
Tricycle Press, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

This book has everything! There are fabulous poems, things to search for in the stunning photographs, flaps to lift that reveal the hidden animal in case you couldn't find it, and more information about the hidden animal to balance the information in the poem and photograph.

Apparently, I missed the first book, Where in the Wild? and David Schwartz writes on the I.N.K. blog about another book, What in the Wild?, that will accompany these two. Fun books that you will definitely want for your nonfiction collection...or your poetry collection...or both!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Making Plans for Newbery Announcement Day

100 Scope Notes has the scoop on where to watch the live webcast of the ALA Newbery/Caldecott Awards and how to stay in touch on Twitter. (Yes, I just gave you the links, but you need to go to his post to see the FABULOUS picture of him and his 1984 computer!)

Hopefully there won't be another Terrible Twitter Technology Fail like last year...not that anyone remembers...

And while you're waiting for the Newbery/Caldecott announcement, check out the list of 2009 *best of* lists that Susan, aka Chicken Spaghetti, is collecting.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan

Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan
by Jeanette Winter
Simon and Schuster, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

This book is based on a true story of a girl in Afghanistan who loses both parents to the Taliban and who is being raised by her grandmother. Seeing that her granddaughter has retreated into a mire of silent grief for her parents, the grandmother enrolls her in a secret school for girls. This book is a testament to the power of a teacher, a friend, and books to bring this little girl back to life and hope.

In the author's note, Winter writes: "Even now, after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, danger remains. Still, schools are bombed, set on fire, and closed down. Still, there are death threats to teachers. Still, girls are attacked or threatened if they go to school. And STILL, the girls, their families, and their teachers defy the tyranny by keeping the schools open. Their courage has never wavered.”

For more on the importance of educating the women of the world, see this New York Times Magazine article. Be sure you watch the audio slide show "A Powerful Truth" that can be found in the sidebar about halfway down the page, and view this montage of photographs submitted by readers "that illustrate the importance of educating girls and empowering women." (Thank you to @karenszymusiak for these links via Twitter.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Thank You Ink Spells!

A Year of Reading has been awarded a Kreativ Blogger award by Susan at Ink Spells. Thank you so much, Susan!

We've been looking for an excuse to share a little linky luv with a couple of new blogs you should check out, so we'll pass this award on to:

Read...Write...Talk, a new blog that is taking a smart look at reading and writing workshop. Her classroom is 8th grade, but her thinking is universally sound. Head over and take a look -- great stuff going on there!


Some Novel Ideas. Stacy is also a middle school teacher, but she's thinking about technology, school libraries, Scholastic Book Fairs, and more. Add her to your reader and watch for great things to develop on her blog!

Here are the rules for passing on this award, but we are going to fudge a few of the steps since things are pretty crazy in both of our lives this week.

1) Copy the pretty picture and post it on your blog.
2) Thank the person that gave it to you and link to their blog.
3) Write 7 things about yourself we don't know. (gotta pass this time, but here's an old meme that might tell you a few things about each of us that you don't know...)
4) Choose 7 other bloggers to pass the award to. (we'll stick with two...)
5) Link to those 7 other bloggers. (or two, as the case may be...)
6) Notify your 7 bloggers. (or two, as the case may be...)