Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crazy Brilliant

Of the 2014 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal books I have read and reviewed all of them but one; Parrots Over Puerto Rico written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, illustrated by Susan L. Roth (Winner), A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Honor), Look Up!:  Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard written and illustrated by Annette LaBlanc Cate (Honor) and Locomotive written and illustrated by Brian Floca (Honor)(Caldecott Award Winner).  The photograph on the matching dust jacket and book case of the remaining volume certainly catches your eye.  Everyone can agree the title immediately gets your attention, causing you to wonder exactly what it means.

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr Eccentric Genius (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Book Press, October 29, 2013) written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan provides a narrative of a most unusual life.  If you think of the historical time period in which Ohr lived (1857-1918), the reaction of people to his unconventional artistic endeavors makes sense.  The real discoveries though, to be gleaned from this biography, are much more.

Biloxi, Mississippi, 1968: The sign read "Ojo's Junk Yard and Machine Shop"---a place to find car parts for an old Model T Ford or a broken down washing machine, not a long lost treasure.  

I know what you are thinking about this first sentence in the introduction.  How did we get to a point fifty years from the date of George E. Ohr's death?  What significance does this hold?

From the time he was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, George was different.  Not only was he different but he seemed to attract the blame for anything and everything, like a bee to honey.  By the time he was thirteen, he had enough of schooling, ready to make a living.  Unable to work amicably with his father in the family business as a blacksmith, he left home.

After a series of jobs, still not finding his niche, George was asked by a friend, Joseph Meyer in New Orleans, to be his apprentice in a small pottery factory.  The potter's wheel and George were a match made in heaven.  Years later he began to travel around the states studying the skills and art of other potters.  Before long he was back in Biloxi to begin his own business.

George created pieces to be used as practical objects by the locals and more whimsical items for tourists.  He experimented with color, glazes and techniques.  More than once he packed up his "mud babies" taking them to huge exhibitions and fairs.  A decision to add a singular flair to his work, to be an artist in every sense of the word, making no two items alike, is when George became his happiest.

A determined passion to pursue his dream, to do what he loved, despite setbacks outside his control, never wavered.  Although his shop was decidedly a tourist attraction (his advertising and conversation mirroring that of a flamboyant entertainer), his pottery was never completely accepted within the art community as whole.  It was simply too unique, too specialized.

Husband to Josephine, father to ten children and artist extraordinaire, George's days were undoubtedly busy.  When he retired in 1910 instructions were given to his family as to the disposition of his pots.  This, readers, brings us to Jim Carpenter, an antiques dealer, visiting in Biloxi in 1968.  Needless to say, George was ahead of his time.  Time was about to recognize his inventive genius.

The style of writing used by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan will hook any reader on the first page.  Skillful use of beginning fifty years in the future, going back in time, moving forward in a circle to said future, keeps you turning the pages.  You have to know what happened.

Descriptions of period and place, painting a picture with words, make you feel like you are walking side by side with George. Extensive use of personal quotes adeptly inserted into the narrative enhances this sensation.  These two unquestionably have a gift of including the precise amount of detail without slowing the flow.  Here are a couple of examples of their writing.

"When I found the potter's wheel I felt it all over like a duck in water."
At age twenty-two, George was handsome and sure of himself---dark-haired with a full, well-groomed moustache and piercing eyes.  Shirtsleeves rolled up, a cap perched on his head to keep clay dust out of his eyes, he labored at the potter's wheel, using the foot pedal to make it turn, squishing the wet, slippery mud through his fingers.  

The effect was witty, rhythmic, and sensual.
They weren't containers to store foodstuffs or pitchers to pour lemonade.  George's pots were sculptures, three-dimensional works of art. "Shapes come to the potter as verses come to the poet," he wrote.

Captivating is assuredly an excellent one word description of The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr Eccentric Genius written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.  After reading this twice I keep thinking how interesting it would be to meet this man, to engage him in conversation.  He let nothing keep him from following his dream, working at it for nearly forty years.  If readers take nothing else away (but trust me they will) from reading this biography, they will come to understand the importance of being yourself and having confidence in your work even if others fail to recognize how truly amazing it is.  At only fifty-three pages long it would make an excellent read aloud or individual-choice selection.

Numerous photographs in black and white and color document the text expertly. An extensive bibliography and meticulous notes for each chapter appear at the end of the book.  Greenberg and Jordan include a discussion of The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, The Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center, How to Look at a Pot And How to "Boss" One of Your Own (As George Would Say) at the conclusion of his story.  Please follow the link embedded in their names to their official website.

I am more than glad to be participating in the 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy.  Without this challenge I might have missed this excellent book.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Flip For Flipgrid--Student Video Responses To Questions

This tweet certainly caught my attention.

When it was quickly followed by these, I knew what my next site to explore would be.

According to information at the home page, Flipgrid is a means for teachers to generate grids of short discussion-style questions.   Students reply to those questions through video.   Everyone can share the videos.

Each grid is composed of any group with a common element with an unlimited number of questions and unlimited number of responses per query available.  The cost is $65.00 per year for the teacher which includes ten grids.  There is a twenty-one day trial period available.  Students do not pay or register.

Communication with students is done via email.  They can create a snapshot photo with fun filters prior to recording their video using their device's (computer and iPad currently) webcam.  Videos are ninety seconds long.  The privacy and sharing is dictated by the administrator (teacher).

In the upper right-hand corner you can Get Started, read the informative FAQ, log in as the administrator or complete a form to contact the Flipgrid team. A new window overlays the home page when Get Started is selected.  You need to specify the type of educational institution.

After choosing Next Step, the new screen explains the pricing.  For the purpose of this post, I choose Demo.  When the form is completed, the terms of service read and the final green bar is clicked, an activation email is sent to get your account started.  You are asked to create a password.

When you log in for the first time, a beginning tutorial appears on the screen over your home page.  Upon closing this, across the top of your page, you see that this video can be accessed again.  You can alter your account settings and logout.  A tally is kept of all your grids and the interactions.

To make a grid move down the screen, choosing the blue + Add Grid button.  At this time you would name your grid and assign a password if it is not made public.  There are three other options for viewing; moderate a video response before it can be viewed, making the grid active when it is submitted and notification when a video is available.  Finally click the Add New Grid button.

A new screen pops up advising you about how to add a question, the URL link for this particular grid, and which icon to select for sharing your grid.  You can see how the list of your grids has now changed.  Your grid title is shown (1), you can change the color scheme of your grid (2), the number of questions on your grid (3), the date your grid was created (4), whether it is active (5), whether you are notified when videos are added (6), and icons for actions you can take with this grid (7).  The actions are a URL link for sharing, changing and adding security (per third image below), changing the title of your grid or deleting your grid.

You can see how each question is moderated; question, date, last response, number of responses and views, whether it is active, and the ability to share, edit or delete it.  When the blue Add New Question button is chosen, you type it in on a new window. Your text can be in bold or italics, you can change the date and decide to make it active or not.  Each new question appears at the top of the list.  You can drag them to alter the order.  Each question has a unique URL link. (I did not allow this to create more security, preferring videos not to be shown on social media.)

By clicking on the URL link for the entire grid, video replies can be made for one or more of the questions. To answer a question, click on it. At the next screen click on the big white plus sign. You are then asked if you are 13 years or older or have a parent, guardian or teacher present with you when you record.  When making a video you must also first agree to the terms of service shown.

You need to go through a few steps to check the operation of your webcam and microphone along with making a thumbnail photo.  When these are completed click Looks Good.  You then can record your answer.  If you are not satisfied with the video you can re-record.  Upon finishing click on Continue. 

Here is the link to my grid titled The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat. Here is the link to my response to one of the questions.  (The one take rule is a hoot tonight.) Please feel free to video your own responses to test out the site.  As an added note, if you want to see your questions, click on the grid title.  If you want to see responses to those questions, click on the question.  

No wonder this website has been honored in three Weebly categories!  It is so much fun to use and easy too.  Two big pluses are the non-registration of students and the ability to control security measures.  I highly recommend Flipgrid for interactive teaching and learning.   

Monday, April 14, 2014

Don't Forget To...

It can't be done quickly.  It's best when done with intention.  When hiking in a forest of pines, wading in the shallows of the ocean or walking by potted spring flowers in a display, stop, close your eyes and inhale.  The results are marvelous and sensory.  When you exhale, it will probably be accompanied by a sigh.

As adults or children, we understand what this deliberate action may produce; infants need to learn.  All you have to do is watch a toddler smell a hyacinth for the first time to know this to be true; their facial expression and body language will tell the tale.  On April 1, 2014 Breathe (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) written and illustrated by Scott Magoon was released into the wild.  Let's go to the arctic and see what we can see.

Breathe, little whale!

Riding on top of his mother, a whale is reminded to take air in and let it out.  His parent does not stop there.  Play as long as you can, as often as you can.

Practice what you do best; swim, again and again.  Most of all, the baby whale needs to breathe.  Diving, exploring, and making new friends have their place in his daily activities.

Pausing to listen, then joining in the chorus of sounds is warmly recommended.  Even if danger lurks nearby, do not be afraid.  There are other answers.  This giant of the ocean knows affection is to be given and received, dreams are supported, sleep follows the end of each day and most of all, it ends as it begins...


For a baby whale, navigating through his frozen world may seem simple (to us) but it's important.  Scott Magoon's spare text, one to seven words per illustration, is a reflection of these essential activities.  No word or words are wasted.  While the narrative is a mother whale speaking to her baby, the meaning will be easily understood by the youngest of human listeners and readers; a sense of security and peace is prevalent.

My first step is always to open the dust jacket, looking at the extent of the illustration.  Scott Magoon has chosen to extend this one flap edge to flap edge, including ice floes, a vast cool blue sky, flying puffins and a variety of fish schools swimming along with the white whale.  Beneath this the book case is an exact replica.  A pattern of the mother whale with her baby breathing covers the opening and closing endpapers.

A bird's eye view of the chilly region, water winding between ice with seven whales swimming just below the surface (one breathing) is so lovely you might have to remind yourself to breathe.  Magoon uses this to showcase the title page and verso.  Throughout this volume all the digitally rendered illustrations are spread across two pages.

Color palette and shading mirror the location above and below the ocean; a richness and texture is found in all of them.  Bubbles, swirls and easy, flowing lines enhance the movement of the whale and the fascination the water world brings to readers.  Creatures shown in the illustrations are native to the region; their eyes, like those of the whales, add to the lightheartedness of the pictures.

One of several favorite illustrations is for the words...

Listen to the sea.

It is a vast undersea scene with the baby whale in the upper left-hand corner singing, sounds circling out and around him.  The shifting colors, hues of blue and purple, provide the background for another whale, a squid, other fish, a shark, two turtles and a narwhal.  Light from a sunny sky filters down through the water.

No matter your age, even on the most hectic of days, the reading of Breathe written and illustrated by Scott Magoon is guaranteed to fill you with serenity.  It is perfectly perfect for a group read aloud with younger students or to share as a one-on-one with someone special.  Use it to introduce a specific unit or just because the words, pictures, design and layout work seamlessly together.

Please be sure to access Scott Magoon's official website by following the link embedded in his name.  For more illustrations follow this link to the publisher's website.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Seeking Self

You see them coming into your classrooms year after year; testing the waters, doing what they enjoy the most and wondering if anyone will notice their best efforts.  You use your skills to help them discover and enhance their own. Knowing who they truly are, what their purpose might be or where their talents lie can be a pursuit needing perseverance and patience.

It can be somewhat unsettling to find yourself one among many whose gifts are already shining like stars in a moonless sky.  The Mermaid and the Shoe (Kids Can Press) written and illustrated by K. G. Campbell takes us down into the depths of an undersea kingdom.  One very small mermaid has a huge thirst for answers and a brave heart to match.

King Neptune had fifty daughters.  Some might call them mermaids.  They were his pride and joy.

Forty-nine of them had savvy; a green thumb, a flair with fish or words spoken in dulcet song.  Minnow did not; no glorious gardens, only frantic fish and when she sang sea creatures cringed.  One thing she did endlessly was ask questions.

A single sister in particular, Calypso, thought Minnow and her inquisitiveness worthless.  This unkindness caused Minnow, without a word, to seek solitude in a particular spot;

where the current was warm and pleasant.

It was here a beautiful thing floats down to her one day.

One sister thought it might be a hat.  Another offered that it might be a jewel box.  And a third, cold Calypso, said it was junk.  Minnow thought otherwise.  Returning to the warm and pleasant current, she had a plan.  She needed answers.

Swimming through and up, all those she encountered could not identify the splendid object she carried.  Remember those questions she was always asking?  One by one solutions were seen except for one.  Now at the surface she started to wonder if Calypso might have been right.

Then another strange being appeared.  As Minnow watched her excitement grew.  She could hardly wait to share her discoveries.  On this day, a storyteller was born.  It was absolutely remarkable.

Using elements found in the best stories from the land of fairy, the fifty princesses, the three sisters (one with a nasty personality), the three questions, mermaids and lots of happily ever after, K. G. Campbell weaves a spell with words.  A pleasing blend of narrative and dialogue envelope readers gently like we are lovely things drifting through enchanted waters.  What sets this apart is Minnow accomplishes her goals alone by believing in herself and using her strengths. Here is a passage from the book.

She had arrived at the edge of the kingdom, where bubbles burst and the above place began.
"What a wondrous world!" gasped Minnow, eyes wide as sand dollars.

 When you open the matching dust jacket and book case of this title, you are immediately struck by the luminosity of K. G. Campbell's sea scenery.  You get a very real sense of being in the warm current with Minnow and the other beings in the watery depths. The rich brilliant red of the shoe is carried over to the spine.

Rendered in watercolor and pencil crayon Campbell chooses to alter his illustration sizes, breathtaking two page spreads and gorgeous oval insets on white, framed in a variety of sea and tiny floral weeds found on land.  Fine lines, subtle shading and a carefully-selected color palette combine to create a stunning ethereal quality.  Everything about the mermaids, especially Minnow, is magically marvelous; their wide eyes, delicate facial features, porcelain skin, golden tails and flowing hair.

One of my favorite illustrations is of Minnow rising to the surface through the seaweed asking the octopus if he knows what the shoe is.  A small orange seahorse is her constant companion. Readers will wish they could be there swimming in the water with her.

When I first held this book after it was handed to me by a clerk in my favorite indie store, she said everyone there had fallen in love with it.  I understand completely.  The Mermaid and the Shoe written and illustrated by K. G. Campbell is a lovely story; a once-upon-a-time tale to be cherished and shared.

Please be sure to follow the link embedded in K. G. Campbell's name to access his official website.  Here is a link to an interview at John Schumacher's blog at Watch. Connect. Read.  Be sure to visit, enjoying the book trailer.  There is another wonderful interview at Idle Illustration by Caldecott Honor winner author illustrator Molly Idle.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Friends Seeking One Another

Over the course of years you develop a respect for the writing style of authors and the artistic techniques of and mediums used by illustrators.  While you value the work of all, certain individual's creations will find a way into your reading soul. A virtual friend and colleague, JoEllen McCarthy wrote about heartprint books in a post at the Nerdy Book Club.

Nearly ten years ago author illustrator Dan Santat celebrated his first book's birthday; The Guild of Geniuses (Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.) was released in November of 2004.  In the intervening time I have watched him perfect his distinctive workmanship in writing and illustrating.  His visuals are brimming with a colorful vibrancy and his particular brand of humor.  His newest book, different from the others, which he both wrote and pictured, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (Little, Brown and Company) came out two days ago.  It's already left a huge print on my heart.  It's a love letter; perhaps to his eldest son for whom the book is dedicated or to all those seeking their most remembered friend.

He was born on an island far away where imaginary friends were created.

These beings residing on this island expectantly waited after their birth for a real child to imagine them into existence.  Each and every night he would look to the stars hoping to leave as others did.  He remained there night after night after night.

Thinking of all the activities and events keeping his friend too busy to think of him, he did what had never been done before.  He sailed from this extraordinary haven across uncharted seas seeking the only one for him.  To be sure, it was frightening but thoughts of his perfect pal kept him going.

Arriving at the real world, he found it to be a puzzling place.  It lacked what he was seeking until he caught a glimpse of hope in the form of another imaginary friend.  He trailed behind believing he was getting closer.  Where was his friend?

Do you remember climbing up a tree with branches perfectly placed to help you reach the top?  Do you remember finding something special when you surveyed the world below?  That's exactly what this imaginary friend did.  When sadness settled over him after no one came, a breeze blew in an astonishingly glorious answer.  One adventure ended as another began for... Beekle.

Spare text, at the most four sentences on any two pages, is expertly placed to provide a storyteller's cadence to the narrative.  Dan Santat has given meticulous attention to his word choices appealing to a child's heart. (But trust me when I say adults will be deeply moved too.) Like life he builds the tale to a point where goodness appears when needed most.  Here is a single set of sentences.

He sailed through unknown waters and faced many scary things. (placed in the upper left hand corner of the illustration on the left side)
But thinking about his friend gave him the courage to journey on... (placed in the lower right hand corner of the picture on the right side)
...until he reached the real world. (only text on the next two pages)

When speaking about the illustrations, I would first like to note the quality of the paper on the dust jacket, book case, and interior pages.  On the front of the dust jacket the title letters are raised as is Beekle.  The matte finish on the book case and thicker pages is the type of texture which prompts and promotes wondering in readers' minds.  This is what I call bookmanship; the true art of crafting a volume to treasure.

On the dust jacket we see Beekle in the real world among adults who are unaware of his presence.  The dog knows though.  On the back of the jacket he is walking through the crowded streets, his back to us, with a similar pooch glancing his way.  A spectacular, vibrant different book case is revealed beneath the jacket.  We see two views of Beekle as on the jacket; daylight in the city on the front, a starry night on the island on the back.  Opening and closing endpapers feature first eleven, then twelve children with their imaginary friends in black, gray and bright sky blue.

Except for four all of the visuals, rendered using pencil, crayon, watercolor, ink and Adobe Photoshop, by Santat span over two pages. (All the text is hand-lettered.) An array of hues is used in Beekle's world and that of the children.  The adults and the city are done in darker shades in a limited palette. You could look at all the individual elements large and small for hours. (I love the tape holding Beekle's crown together.)

One of my three favorite illustrations (I cannot pick only one.) is Beekle and the children climbing the tree filled with star-shaped leaves.  It was on the third reading I noticed one particular child as my eyes immediately drifted to Beekle toward the top.  When Alice shows the reader and Beekle her picture, each reader will find it hard not to sigh out loud.  The expression on her face is knowing and full of anticipation.  The following series of illustrations of her and Beekle becoming acquainted is simply precious.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend written and illustrated by Dan Santat is beautiful like any and all of your favorite things.  Read this to everyone.  I know, in my heart of hearts, you will be asked to share this story over and over.

Please follow the link embedded in Dan Santat's name to access his official website.  Here is a review of this title by Carter Higgins, teacher librarian, on her blog, Design of the Picture Book.  John Schumacher, teacher librarian, blogging at Watch. Connect. Read. devoted a post to Dan Santat  several years earlier. Find it here. UPDATE: Less than an hour after this review was posted, I discovered another at BookRiot which includes an interview. Enjoy the trailers below.  I've also included collected tweets about the book which began to generate buzz more than a month ago.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Survival At The Bottom

When you step into a wild place, a place where the sights and sounds of civilization are gone, for the briefest of moments it's easy to understand how the first person to see this particular spot might have felt.  Looking at the landscape about you, it's with a sense of awe and wonder.  For some this search to go where none have been before was (is) a lifelong quest.

Sir Ernest Shackleton made several trips to Antarctica but the one for which he is most remembered is the one taken on the ship Endurance.  I first became acquainted with a more detailed, vivid accounting of this expedition when I read Jennifer Armstrong's Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance.  I was even more intrigued after I read the fictional title, Shackleton's Stowaway, by Victoria McKernan.  Author illustrator William Grill now documents this voyage in Shackleton's Journey (Flying Eye Books) giving it his unique illustrative perspective.

Born on 15 February 1874, Shackleton was the second of ten children. 

With this single sentence the book and our relationship with this historic adventure begins.  In the subsequent thirty-two chapters we are drawn deeper and deeper into the lives of Shackleton and his crew.  Intriguing, insider-like details hold our interest.

Originally five thousand...yes...five thousand men applied to become members of Shackleton's crew aboard the Endurance.  You would be surprised to know the kind of questions asked about their abilities.  Twenty-six were chosen.  Later a stowaway, Percy Blackborrow, joined the group.  In addition to the men, sixty-nine dogs were essential to the goals (and outcome) of this venture.  Crew members were paired with at least one of these canine colleagues.

The construction of Endurance, the tools necessary to maintain her, and the equipment and supplies needed for the men and dogs are discussed in readiness for the launch day of August 8, 1914.  Sailing from England to South Georgia to the Weddell Sea the progress of the Endurance began to slow due to encounters with pack ice.  After seven hundred hard-earned miles the ice won; the ship was stuck.

Shackleton continually kept his crew busy altering plans to meet the conditions they all faced abroad the ship and on the ice floe as the winter months slowly passed.  Spring brought even more danger as the ice pressed against their vessel.  Again the forces of nature were the victor; the Endurance was crushed on October 27, 1914.

Over the course of the next six months men and dogs would create and live in two separate camps, Ocean Camp and Patience Camp. Their moves were dictated by safety on the ice until they were left with having to sail for land, Elephant Island, in three life boats.  Landfall on this island did not end the danger to their lives.  Help was more than eight hundred miles away.

A treacherous sea voyage, continued survival on an uninhabitable island and a crossing over mountains thought to be impossible, were three major feats to be met and accomplished.  More than two years after they set sail from England, the crew was once again reunited on August 30, 1916.  Rarely are the elements so bravely survived.  Perhaps the Shackleton family motto,

By Endurance We Conquer  

is what kept all these men alive.

By confining each chapter to two pages of text and pictures, William Grill establishes a tension; not uncomfortable but one propelling the reader forward.  He has a gift in selecting those precise pieces of information important to the story.  Lending authenticity to the recounting are direct quotes from Shackleton and crew members interspersed in the narrative.  Here is a single example.

Endurance creaked and groaned as the strain increased, and loud cracks and deafening sounds were heard as the ice slowly crushed the cross-bracing of the ship.
Frank Worsley wrote, "The behavior of our ship in the ice has been magnificent...It will be sad if such a brave little craft should be finally crushed in the remorseless, slowly strangling grip of the Weddell pack, after ten months of the bravest and most gallant fight ever put up by a ship."

The stark white book case emblazoned with the intricate design done in blue and black is a reflection of the starkness of the world in which Shackleton and his crew entered.  The design with Shackleton in its center surrounded by the three life boats, whales, birds, crew members and the dogs is stunning.  On the expedition map the representation for dense pack becomes the pattern for the opening and closing endpapers.

Rendered in colored pencils William Grill's illustrations are astonishing in their finer points; the tiniest of details encouraging readers to pause and glance between the text and visuals.  For Grill it's not enough to tell us...

Each piece of timber had been selected carefully from a single oak tree, so that it would fit the design and curvature of the ship.

...but he illustrates the cutting of the wood and how the individual sections are formed.  The texture and shading on his larger illustrations (and on some of the smaller ones, also), the Endurance leaving port, the Expedition Map, the Endurance breaking up, the voyage to Elephant Island, the blizzard, the James Caird sailing for help, crossing the mountains, the stay on Elephant Island, the rescue and the crew together at last, are marvelous.

I have many favorite illustrations in this title.  One which will make any reader gasp is titled Isolation.  A single phrase sits among a vast area of ice and snow with the tiny Endurance pictured above it.  The small visuals around the text for the chapter, A Change Of Plans, show the men and dogs adapting to conditions in twenty-two separate elements.

Incredible artwork enhancing the compelling text makes this book, Shackleton's Journey, written and illustrated by William Grill one of the finest nonfiction titles of 2014.  I keep opening it up to reread it in its entirety or to enjoy certain pages over and over.  New items are discovered each time.  Words appearing in bold text are gathered at the back of the book in a glossary.

For more information about William Grill and to see multiple pages from the title, visit his website and Tumblr page by following the links embedded in his names.  There is also a short animation of his illustrations at his website.  This link takes you to the publisher's website where Grill answers a few questions.  Here is a link to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast showcasing more art from the book.

Each week I am honored to participate in Alyson Beecher's 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge by linking with other bloggers at Kid Lit Frenzy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Create And Collaborate---Scrawlar

When a website draws the attention of three technology-minded people, it's time to visit.  On March 24, 2014 Larry Ferlazzo (Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day...) posted this article, "Scrawlar" Will Certainly Be One Of The Top Web 2.0 Tools Of The Year...  It was followed by a tweet on Twitter by Heather Moorefield, Education Librarian at Virginia Tech and chairperson for the American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching & Learning on March 28, 2014, giving it her recommendation.  Richard Byrne (Free Technology for Teachers) wrote a post on April 1, 2014, Scrawlar-Share Documents and Drawings Without Using Email

Designed by Brian Aspinall Scrawlar has these features (as stated at the site):

  • cloud-based word processing for schools
  • write, edit, collaborate, save and share work on any tablet, phone or computer 
  • no app, plug-in or installation required and
  • no student sign up.
Beneath the features section and three notes for educators, there is a Word Processor Demo, Whiteboard Demo, and a nine page Tutorial. Scrawlar is specifically for teachers and their students.  

To sign up enter in your email address, a password and a code for your students to use.  You also need to agree to the Terms of Service.  Even though students do not need to register to use the site, on the side of caution, I would make sure parents/guardians are aware of the website's use in your classroom by having a written acknowledgement on file for students under the age of thirteen.

After clicking on Sign Up you are taken to your home page.  The tool bar along the top and on the left side are nearly identical with the exception of New Doc, New Sketch and Settings (changing your password). Per the "invitation" I next selected Create One Now!

At the next window your cursor appears in the text box.  Along the top from left to right using the tool bar, you can make your text bold or in italics, add an unordered and ordered list, insert a URL link or an image, add two size headings, change the color of your text, insert speech or view the HTML code. To insert an image use a URL link. Make sure to save frequently.

On my document in progress I used a designated heading (1), inserted a link (2), changed the color of the text and added italics (3) and included an image (4).  When you are finished, after you have saved your work, click on Return Home. 

Back at your home page, your document is listed where it can be edited at any time (1).  It can also be shared or deleted (2)(3).  When you choose the Share option your student(s) will be listed.  You can choose to have them not share, view it only or edit.  

To continue I next clicked on New Sketch. When using this function the tool bar is located at the bottom of the screen.  Left to right the icons represent a pencil, an eraser, drawing lines, drawing four-sided shapes, add text in three fonts types in regular, bold or italics, move elements on the screen, and color fill.  Below these icons are two color options; the left is the line color, the right is the fill color.  You can choose from a range of hues.  On the right are your management tools.

One click saves your sketch.  Upon returning home you have options. A completed sketch can be edited, shared or deleted.  

As an explanation the Class Feed is where messages can be posted.  Manage Students is the page allowing the addition of students.  Each time a student's name is entered a password is assigned for them to use.  Students can be deleted with a simple click. When students log in they need to include the class code as well as their password.

After using Scrawlar for several hours, I can honestly understand the enthusiasm of those who have previously viewed it.  Younger students will find it very easy to use.  The most obvious plus is the no registration feature.  To be able to create and collaborate safely is fantastic.  Be sure to test this website yourself as soon as possible.   You'll be glad you did.