Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Smitten with Smith

Okay, I will freely admit that as soon as I see the name Lane Smith attached to a book this big grin starts to light up my face.  In my heart of hearts I know that at the very least I will burst out laughing once if not more.  Upon opening It's a Book to the title pages, the three characters are introduced; mouse, jackass and monkey.  Careful placement on the pages has them becoming a part of the title itself.

With short clipped sentences the computer-geek donkey and book-reading ape have a conversation beginning like this:
What do you have there?
It's a book.

How to you scroll down?                                                          
I don't.  I turn the page.  It's a book.

Do you blog with it?
No, it's a book.

On the next two page spread I defy the reader not to crack up when the donkey asks, Where's your mouse?  Without a word the ape shifts his eyes to the hat on his head which has been lifted up by the mouse who was underneath. 

Patience on the wan monkey finally asks if his partner in this conversation wants to look at the book.  At first jackass wants to reduce the page from Treasure Island to a few "texted" statements.  But within the next few lines of banter between this duo the reader knows that he has been drawn into this book not by its technological capabilities but by the sheer brillance of the writing.  In fact he does not want to give it back.  Needless to say the end will have readers young and old alike exploding with laughter as Lane via the mouse delivers yet another edgy play on words. (I have left the final exchange of words out of my review in order not to spoil the ending but please consider your audience before purchase.)

Even without the text Lane's illustrations crafted with layered oil paints, brush and ink are stunning in the subtle conveyance of exactly what his characters are thinking with the lift of an eyebrow, a twist of the mouth or a roll of the eye.  As in most of his books his choice of background colors lift the characters and setting off the page even though they are portrayed in earth-tone hues.  This is classic Lane Smith.  It's already been added to my list of favorites for 2010 and a copy has a home on my bookshelves.

View Curious Pages to get Smith's personal views on this book.  In addition to the web site associated with his name beginning this review Lane Smith Books is his official web site. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Picture--A Thousand Words

At the Art of Storytelling web site sponsored by the Delaware Art Museum users are treated to a visual feast.  By selecting one of three tabs at the top of the initial web page, Experience a Story, Tell a Story or Picture a Story one can view or use pieces of art to inspire.  By selecting the first tab those stories written by others can be read or listened to along with viewing a single piece of art.  The second tab offers various pieces of artwork which can be chosen.  Write and then record the story which has been prompted by the selected illustration.  Picture a Story is the tab best suited for students.  First choose a genre from either adventure, romance, fantasy, comedy, fairy tale, drama, mystery, western or horror.  Next from eight backgrounds which are actual artwork make a selection.  Users are allowed to choose from 31 characters and 31 props which can be positioned on the background and sized accordingly.  At the fifth step they are reminded of their choices, given space to write their script and then it can be recorded.  Having produced their story they can have it emailed to three others including themselves.  An email address must be entered and persons using this site under 13 years must have parental permission. 

This site not only gives our students a glimpse at artwork that they might not ever see but are guided through steps in generating their own stories which can be saved and shared.  As with many tasks/projects it is not the final project that is important but the true value lies in the ability to know what to do to get there.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who's going to blow the house in?

Jan Brett has fashioned yet another dazzling example of her signature artwork in her newest book, The 3 Little Dassies.  Widely traveled gaining inspiration for her books, she collects details of the flora, fauna, culture, customs and clothing.  The locations shown in her stories are a true reflection of that part of the world.  Knowing just a little bit more about people, places, animals or vegetation unlike their own, is a given for the reader of Jan Brett's books.  Using watercolor and gouache (watercolor paint which is opaque rather than transparent) each highly detailed illustration not only complements the storyline but true to her style the side panels tell another tale giving the reader a glimpse into that which is to come.

After making a trip to Namibia located in southern Africa with her husband, Jan kept thinking about seeing the rock hyraxes (dassies) and the agama lizard.  Having been introduced to the Namibian women and their traditional dress, Jan acquired many pieces of the brightly colored fabrics as well as varying types of grasses native to the area.  She uses these fabrics not only to dress her characters but as frames for each piece of art.  Never missing a chance to surround her reader with the story Brett begins and ends this book (endpapers) showing woven grasses dotted with insects found in Namibia.

The 3 Little Dassies is, of course, an adaptation of The Three Little Pigs but readers will find it richer in characters, lessons and a wee bit of a pourquoi message.   As the dassies leave home they meet the Agama Man at the base of a mountain.  He welcomes them having been lonely for too long.

Making their homes of grass, driftwood and stone resting as each is completed the dassies settle in their new surroundings.  It is the wily eagle, chicks in her nest on the mountain top, that seeks out the dassies for food.  Chanting

I'll flap and I'll clap and I'll blow your house in. 

she manages to fly upward with the first two sisters, Mimbi and Pimbi. 

Equally as clever is the Agama Man who sees a chance to save the already captured dassies.  Mirroring the story's predecessors is the eagle's flight down the chimney only to have her feathers severely burned changing their color for generations to see.  At Timibi's stone house all are reunited celebrating with their extended family who have come to live.

I have long been a collector of Jan Brett books enjoying them again and again as have my students over the years.  We eagerly await each of her new books.  Reading The 3 Little Dassies to them and adding it to our library media center collection will be a joy. As Jan Brett says, A picture is never finished until I feel I can walk into a page.  We will all be gladly walking with you, Jan Brett.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Riordan Rocks!

Readers are in for a rockin' roller coaster of a ride in Rick Riordan's latest and greatest, The Lost Hero.  This first book in the new Heroes of Olympus series takes fans back to the familiar territory of Camp Half-Blood.  Who could resist this opening line?--Even before he got electrocuted, Jason was having a rotten day.

To begin Jason finds himself on a bus with other students attending the Wilderness School; a school for those teens that live on the wrong side of the law.  He does not recognize his best friend Leo or his girlfriend, Piper.  When the bus arrives at its destination of the Grand Canyon an unnatural storm brings in the evil wind spirits, venti that threaten each of their lives.

Jason finds that a gold coin in his pocket can bring forth a weapon of gold that suits whatever situation presents itself to him.  He is also amazed to learn that his father is non-other than the King of Olympus, Zeus.  Finding himself at Camp Half-Blood after this first battle should be a relief to Jason but his loss of memory has him feeling uneasy.

He somehow knows that this is not where he belongs.  If so, why is he here?  And more importantly where has he been instead of at Camp Half-Blood?

From as far back as he can remember, Leo, has had a gift with tools.  Growing up by learning with and helping his mother in her workshop, Leo can build just about anything.  He also has a secret.

Calling forth fire through his emotions or for protection has cost him more than it has helped him.  In his younger days his mysteriously appearing babysitter offered words and situations of instruction and encouragement.  Imagine his surprise at finding out she is the Greek goddess, Hera, who is currently imprisoned by a force greater than the gods.

Hephaestus, god of blacksmiths and fire, has claimed him as son.  Where has this god been all his life especially when his mother died?  What is the explanation of the air-hanger-size cave in the woods around Camp Half-Blood that Leo discovers?  What is this Bunker 9? 

Leo is not the only one with a secret.  Piper's famous movie star father is missing.  Appearing to her in dreams, a huge ugly creature has told her that her father will lose his life unless she betrays her friends.

Even though the time spent with her father has been infrequent during her lifetime, her love for him is strong.  When it is revealed that Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, is her mother, she understands that her father's Cherokee heritage is not the only trait that will lend her strength when needed.  But can Piper use those strengths to help both her friends and her father? 

These three new champions of the demi-gods have until the solstice, just four short days, to save Piper's father and free Hera.  Through the use of visions and dreams of each of the heroes Riordan guides the reader through the events that have culminated in this quest that begins that fulfillment of the Great Prophecy:

Seven half bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire, the world must fall,
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

Alternating chapters between the voices, thoughts and actions of each of these characters creates a tension that supersedes the term, page-turner. 

This past spring when Riordan unveiled the first book in the Kane Chronicles, The Red Pyramid, which opens up the world of ancient Egyptian mythology to readers, I personally felt at that time that his writing was sharper; more descriptive and finer tuned.  Unlike what my father used to say, Anticipation is greater than realization, The Lost Hero takes it up another notch.  It's a total blast!  It seems downright cruel that fans and readers have to wait an entire year for the second book in the Heroes of Olympus series, The Son of Neptune, which is coming in the fall of 2011.  We can only hope that in the meantime another book in the Kane Chronicles will appear as planned in the late spring of 2011.

In addition to the web site in blue above check out Rick Riordan's blog .

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wizard...Pinball, that is.

Pinball  is an interactive site that invites its users to try four different devices for bouncing around ideas.  Brainstorming takes on a whole new fun-filled dimension. 

By selecting Dot Dash a series of ideas contained within connected circles float on the screen providing a visual which can be saved, printed or flipped to another Pinball tool.  If the user(s) think of an idea that is not initially connected to the others it can be added by choosing Lucky Dip.  The dots can be repositioned, images can be added and colors can be changed.

Snap Shot allows the user to import an image.  This image can be reflected, rotated, scaled, bent, erased or cut.  A pen tool and color wheel are provided to draw on the image.  When finished the result can be saved, printed or moved to a Pinball tool of the user's choice.

If the user needs to make a decision from a pool of ideas choose Drop Zone.  Ideas or images of their own can be placed in the cloud as well as those from the Pinball random selection tool, Lucky Dip.  As the ideas rotate by quickly click on those which catch your eye at first glance.  Examine your choices to save, print, refine or move to another application at the site.

With many ideas or choices to make Wild Reels permits the user to group those ideas by categories which then can be randomly shuffled.  When an acceptable combination appears it can be printed, saved as jpeg or as in the previous options moved to another tool.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Howling Good Time

What do children and wolves have in common?  Maryrose Wood, of course!  As author of the first book in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, The Mysterious Howling, she conjures up the right blend of English Victorian country life of the wealthy, subtle mystery, humorous mayhem and modern day references. 
Plucky, steadfast, fifteen year old Penelope Lumley, a recent graduate of Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, has been hired as governess at Ashton Place.  Imagine her surprise at finding that her new charges currently being housed in the barn were raised by wolves. On a recent hunting expedition in the estate woods Lord Frederick and his lifetime household servant, Old Thomas luckily realized their identity before taking a shot.  True to his saying of finders keepers Lord Frederick, despite his new bride's despair at becoming a mother so quickly, wants to raise the children, if for no other reason than as a curiosity.
Penelope eager to impart the same educational standards that she received at Swanburne Academy upon the three children finds that their canine tendencies need to be dealt with prior to studies beginning.  So with great patience Alexander (Alawoooooo), Beowulf (Beowoooooo), and Casseopeia (Casawoof) are taught by Miss Lumley the basics of cleanliness, how to dress in clothes, speech, letters and reading and of course, not to chase squirrels anymore.  When Lady Constance hears of their vast improvement she insists that they be presented at her first Christmas gala at Ashton Place.  As the days proceed toward the anticipated event, amid busy-bee preparations, constant and repetitious learning of proper etiquette, the mysteries surrounding Ashton Place begin to multiply as do the mounting tensions.
Who were Penelope's parents?  How did the children end up in the woods on the estate?  Why did Lord Frederick stay at his club so often?  Why did Old Thomas constantly hoover and hide in the background?    Why did Lord Frederick value his "almanac" so much?  Who sent the letter that added new dimensions to the Christmas celebration?  What was that noise in the walls on the fourth floor? 

Reading The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling is like opening a homemade present that has been lovingly crafted using witty, delightful words to create a cast of unforgettable characters whose lives intermingle for purposes that have yet to be revealed.  Artwork by Jon Klassen enticingly completes the package.  As Agatha Swanburne was know to say All books are judged by their covers until read.  The second installment, The Hidden Gallery, will be available February 22, 2011.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Info-What? # 2Cool Not To Share

I just had to share these two amazing infographics about technology courtesy of Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day.

Internet in 2020 initially appears as a small graphic on the left of your screen.  Just click on that image to have it fill the page.  The ten sections are visually pleasing and the information is amazing.  I can still be heard shouting out OMG when I find something new and cool online because I can remember surfing the Net in text only before Netscape and Internet Explorer.  But then I am older than dirt!

Technology in the classroom clearly and concisely lists the percentages and types of technology used in educational settings.  Numbers nine, ten and eleven were particularly interesting.  As educators they pose issues that we need to address in our teaching.

Learn, use and enjoy!

Chalking Up Good Reads

Bill Thomson embraced traditional painting techniques and meticulously painted each illustration by hand, using acrylic paint and colored pencils.  His illustrations are not photographs or computer generated images. That is the statement found at the end of Thomson's latest innovative tome for children, Chalk.  It is no surprise to this reader that he felt it necessary to make that declaration.

He begins with his cover artwork; a title drawn in chalk over a park dinosaur ride holding a gift bag decorated with stars and moons which in itself holds the promise of magic to come.
The dedication page is a close up of raindrops falling in a puddle.  As the story unfolds three young friends are walking through the park beneath an umbrella when they notice the bag.  Curiosity compels them to remove it looking inside to find jumbo pieces of colored chalk. 
Taking a yellow piece the first girl draws a sun on the pavement.  Imagine their astonishment when a sun rises from the drawing into the sky, parting the clouds and stopping the rain.  With wide-eyed delight the second girl withdraws an orange colored chalk sketching butterflies that quickly surround them with living monarchs.  The reader next sees the young boy, mischievous glint in his eyes, green chalk in hand.   Boys love dinosaurs.  Our young park goers gasp  and scream as a T-Rex rises from the pathway stalking them as they scurry to safety.  Crawling inside a Jungle Jim tunnel it's this same boy's quick thinking that saves the day with the story ending as it began; the gift bag hanging once more awaiting the next souls brave enough to explore what its contents offer.  The final page shows a rain splattered puddle but this time a monarch flutters across the surface.

It's hard to conceive of a finer example of the wordless picture book.  Without a doubt Bill Thomson's paintings are like the finest photographic gems with two page spreads that liken panoramic views through a camera's lens.  Among these his careful placement of chalk-framed zooms bring the reader closer to the here and now of his tale.  His close-ups capture light, expression and detail like a master's finger pushing the shutter at the precise moment.
Thank you for the gift of this book, Chalk, Mr. Thomson.   To be on the Caldecott committee this year is going to be a challenge.  In my opinion we have another contender. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Secrets, Secrets and More Secrets

Recently while walking along the shelves in a local bookstore I came upon a book titled This isn't what it looks like.  This September 2010 publication is the fourth book in the Terces Society Mysteries.  Based upon the fascinating name of the author, Pseudonymous Bosch and I'll admit it, the cover, I purchased a copy of the first book in the series, The name of this book is secret. 
After being amply warned numerous times about its dangers (which just makes one want to read it all the more), this title introduces the reader to its main characters. Cassandra, a survivalist prone to read disaster into every situation, carries a backpack loaded with essentials that are key to overcoming any situation that may befall her.  Of all her dire predictions only her two substitute grandfathers, Grandpa Larry and Grandpa Wayne, seem to listen.  An old fire station is the location of their antique business and residence.  Max-Ernest, a would-be stand-up comedian, cannot stop talking.  Despite numerous trips and examinations by various medical professionals the cause for this condition has not been determined .  A friendship develops between these two quirky and endearing middle school students. 

Gloria Fortune, a local realtor, delivers a box to the Grandfathers' business one afternoon containing odds and ends from a magician's house that she has listed to sell.  It seems that the magician died under unusual circumstances; only his teeth were found in a pile of ash in the incinerated kitchen which was the only room to be burned in the house.  Upon closer examination after Sebastian, the family basset hound, smells something funny about the contents, a very old item is discovered, The Symphony of Smells.

Max-Ernest and Cassandra decide to explore the home on their own only to discover a hidden room and what looks to be a journal written by the magician.  They are frightened away by the appearance of Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais villains of the first order in search of...well, I can't tell you.  But beware, our two young detectives find themselves in a life or death situation involving puzzles as old as time after they solve a riddle in what, at first glance, appeared to be a journal of blank pages.

The mysteries and unanswered questions are non-stop as is the heart-pounding action.  The author's comments and asides not only provide additional information but add to the intrigue and off-beat humor.   Ending this installment as the author does with a message written on a foggy window is pure genius for who could resist going to the next volume. See you at the bookstore.

For further fun check out The Name of This Book Is Secret if you dare.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Infographic or information graphic is a single visual presentation of ideas, knowledge or data.  Infographics really have been a part of our lives since the days of painting on cave walls.  With the advent of multiple and varied graphic applications the possibilities have very nearly become endless to create a visual with a definite WOW factor.

Learning Network of the New York Times  is a blog for educators that dedicated a week this past August to infographics and how to best use them in a classroom setting.  This blog has additional links relative to all aspects of education that look to be highly useful.

If you decide to use infographics as a means to assess a lesson or to fulfill a research requirement the following two web posts are recommended.
At the San Fran Beat blog, Randy Krum has an article,  10 Tips for designing infographics, that gives an educator a clear template for guiding students in generating their own graphic representation.
Daniels Mekss' article, Visualize Everything: 32 Free Tools to Create Different Diagrams is a comprehensive list of online applications that can be used to create charts, graphs and infographics.

To get an idea of the potential use of infographics view the following web sites which showcase the best of the best.

At  Cool Infographics blog author, Randy Krum, seeks and gathers the finest examples from magazines, newspapers and the Internet. 
It was at his site that mention was made of the contest for students at Kids.gov inviting them to create an infographic titled How Do I Become President?  The deadline is November 3, 2010.

27+ Beautiful Examples of Infographics is just what it says as is 40 Useful and Creative Infographics.

Have fun and pass it on to your students.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Canine Caldecott Contenders?

Each year at Charlevoix Elementary School in the Library Media Center our 3rd and 4th grade students participate in a Mock Caldecott Election.  During the course of the year I review potential Caldecott nominees narrowing it down to 10 or 12.  Sometimes we actually pick the same winner as the American Library Association committee.  Criteria for selection is excellence in the artistic medium that is used, excellence in pictorial compatibility with the story, theme or concept, and will the illustrations appeal to the audience for which they were intended--children. 
Two of my favorite author/illustrators, Mo Willems and Jon J Muth , who individually have received Caldecott awards,  have collaborated to create city dog, country frog.  In this union Willems is the author using spare text that conveys the changing of the seasons as well as the deepening, timeless friendship of a dog and frog.  His word selection captures the essence of "dogginess" and "frogginess" perfectly as they share favorite activities with one another. 
Beginning with the endpapers Muth gently beckons us to pass through spring, summer, fall, winter and into spring again.  Few can match his talent with watercolor paintings that express emotions spanning the spectrum of unbridled joy, contentment, acceptance, longing, patience and unconditional love.  His trademark use of the subtle shifting of colors, attention to detail and interpretation of text through illustration are portrayed beautifully in That was spring.; That was summer; and That was fall.  In the first what could be better than a dog paddling in a pond with a frog on his head or in the second when the two are caught in a gentle rain with the frog holding a huge leaf over dog's head or in the last with dog asleep curled up on their meeting rock with frog sitting beside him reaching out his hand to touch dog's shoulder.
 I am seriously considering purchasing several of these books so I can frame some of them to hang for artwork, that is unless I can find them available for purchase elsewhere. 

Snook Alone is written by Marilyn Nelson, who has won a Newbery Honor award, a Coretta Scott King award and the Michael L. Printz Honor award.  It is illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering who is known for his illustrations in The Tale of Despereaux, Finn Throws a Fit! and The Story of Fog Belly Rat Bone.
From the cover design, to the endpapers, to the title page and throughout the body of the story watercolor illustration interprets the story of Abba Jacob, a monk, living on an island with his rat terrier, Snook.  As the story unfolds in a journal-type format the reader becomes part of this duo's daily world enjoying their lives just as much as they enjoy one another.  Detail creates a sense of presence and immediacy; the reader is there on that island seeing it through the eyes not only of the monk but his companion, Snook.  When they become separated during a storm, each on separate islands,  text and pictures combine creating a sense of tension, sadness and constant longing, love and above all else hope.  Holding this book was like holding a piece of some one's personal history; like discovering a long-hidden treasure in an attic. It is priceless. 

These two books represent what is best in books being published for our children.  They will stand the test of time being remembered and passed on from generation to generation; enjoyed by all ages.   What more can I say?  Simply put--I love them!

Monday, October 11, 2010

How does your AnswerGarden grow?

Considering that two of my lifetime passions are gardening and books using words as flowers in
AnswerGarden is the perfect mix.  AnswerGarden is an online tool that is free with no login required.  Very simply it is a visual interactive space where answers are placed in response to a question or statement.  A growing word cloud is generated by all the users.  This word cloud can be imported into Wordle if you wish to print a hard copy.
Check out my first AnswerGarden. 
The best book I have read in the last five years is...... at AnswerGarden.ch.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Michigan gets the Blues

Since Blue Balliett's debut novel, Chasing Vermeer, was published in 2004 readers have been privy to her unique, detailed mysteries.  She invites us to think, solve and ponder the possibilities alongside her characters using the same techniques that they use to crack the case.  It is through her blend of mystery and the world of art that readers have been introduced to Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer, one of the greatest American architects, Frank Lloyd Wright in The Wright 3 and most noted American sculptor, Alexander Calder in The Calder Game.

Her newest release, The Danger Box, is set in Three Oaks, Michigan and includes mention of Flint, Michigan as part of her plot development.

It seems that wealthy "Mr. Zip" has gone to great lengths to acquire an unknown object of untold value using four separate couriers before it is delivered to his home in Dearborn, Michigan.  When courier number four is taking a break in Flint, much to his surprise, he hears on the news that "Mr. Zip" has died.  Faced now with the moral dilemma of whether to complete his task or keep the item for himself he finds, to his dismay, that decision has been made, however temporarily, for him---his truck along with the box has been stolen.

The thief is none other than the cruel, dangerous, alcoholic father of our main character, Zoomy.  Zoomy was left on his grandparents doorstep by his mother when he was just an infant.  He has grown to be a boy of gifted talents despite his disabilities in the warm and caring atmosphere of his Gam and Gumps' home.   It is after his father's sudden appearance and the leaving behind of "stuff" for the Chamberlain Antiques and Whatnots shop owned by his grandparents that Zoomy is drawn into the secret held within the box.

During the first of numerous visits to the library  Zoomy meets, Lorrol, a summer visitor and girl with a quirky nature, who becomes his true friend and partner. As the reader will discover the box holds a notebook, a personal journal, kept by a man who changed our world by publishing his controversial book,  On the Origin of Species.

 Balliett draws her readers into the plot through the use of Zoomy's passion for keeping notebooks of lists just as the journal writer did.  Interspersed between the chapters are issues of The Gas Gazette, a free newspaper about a mysterious soul, that begin to appear around town.  It offers clues as to the identity of an unknown person's life which the reader will deduce is none other than Charles Darwin.  Further tension is created by the appearance in town of courier number four looking  for the box, the police hunting Zoomy's father and a devastating fire.

Although the three friends that we have come to know in her previous books are not part of this newest title, Blue Balliett opens once again a door that we might not have opened encouraging us to step into an adventure of the best kind...an adventure that challenges, educates and perhaps changes our minds.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Everyone Counts!

In 2008 author/illustrator, Kathryn Otoshi, published a book titled One that continues to garner praise. Paint brushed circles of blue, yellow, green, purple, orange and red splash across a stark white page inviting the reader to lean in, to hear what needs to be heard.

Blue loves being blue; looking at the sky, floating on the waves, splashing in puddles although sometimes, just a little, wishes to be more like each of the other colors except for Red. Red makes Blue feel smaller and smaller with his mean words. When Red is cruel the other colors are silent. Their makes him bigger and bigger. Fear born of silence gives bullies power. Then everyone felt...a little blue.

But not so with the number One. One has the courage to stand tall and say no to Red. And that courage spreads color by color changing those circles until their numbers grew; even Blue.
Readers visualize tolerance, forgiveness and why sometimes it just takes One.

Two weeks ago Zero, companion to One was released. Silent, singular, solitude and sadness are words that come to mind when readers first see the black cover with raised silver letters that Kathryn Otoshi has designed for this volume. The story opens with: Zero was a big, round number. When she looked at herself, she just saw a hole...right in her center. She longs to count like the other numbers. But how could a number worth nothing become something?

Why can't she have fun like the other numbers? Trying to change her shape to imitate them just doesn't work. At her lowest moment it's Red, now the number seven, that offers advice which alters her perception and thinking. Zero realizes that together we are able to add value to one another. And that can, right in our center, make us feel whole.

Kathryn Otoshi is a truly gifted author/illustrator offering readers of these two books lasting insight into how we should relate with one another. Her choice of colors and numbers, simple in themselves, are profound in the messages that they convey. Please visit her publisher's web site.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Create Cool Comics Part 2

Last year when two "budding" comic book artists drew and designed two books,  knowing about this online comic creator would have been wonderful.  When presented with the completed volumes, they were duly cataloged, entered into OPAC and placed on the shelves of the media center.  To this day the "notebooks" continue to be appreciated and checked out by their former fellows classmates at Charlevoix Elementary School. 
Graphic Novel Creator: Comic Master allows the user to decide page layout, add backgrounds, characters, props, dialogue within speech or thought bubbles and text boxes and special effects.  A music player can be activated to provide inspiration as the user works.  A finished page or pages can be saved or printed. 

By selecting the Educational Resources box the viewer has the option of using six additional applications which cater to 11-14 year old boys (girls will like it too, I did) as designed by Reading for Life, the web site originators.
Thanks to Kelly Tenkely of iLearn Technology.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Books In Hand--YouTube to Print

Several weeks ago I posted YouTube videos about the newest books of authors, Mo Willems and Tad Hills.

Hills'  book, How Rocket Learned to Read, was published a couple of months ago during the summer.  Holding it in my hands and having just finished reading it, I can personally attest to the validity of all the rave reviews.  The reading audience will fall in love with the adorable illustrations rendered in oil paint and colored pencils as they explicitly convey expression, mood, time passage and, of course, the wide-eyed wonder of learning to read.

Rocket's idyllic life as a dog is interrupted one fall day by a small yellow bird that sings out that he is her student.  How can that be?  She says that because she is a teacher he must be her student.

Rocket is having none of that and moves to take a nap.  As she begins to read from a book Rocket's attention is captured and before he knows it, he goes over to investigate only to find that she has left.
Guess who shows up bright and early the next morning to find out how the story ends?

As with all great teacher and student connections patiently, step-by-step, the world of letters and words is linked together to reveal the possibilities to Rocket.  As the seasons shift from fall to winter, Rocket faithfully uses what he has been taught spelling out words that match those things in his world until his teacher can return in the spring. 
Spring brings the continuation of Rocket's education and with it the reader's wonderment at the amazing gift of words which are built one letter at a time

When I came home for lunch this past Thursday sitting on my front porch was a box.  Inside was Mo Willems Knuffle Bunny Free: an unexpected diversion published on September 28, 2010.  Immediately I read this newest tale of Trixie and her beloved bunny.

Willems is a genius of understated humor using his combination of hand drawn ink and colored illustrations that are digitally composed with photographs to convey each and every slightest emotion of the characters.  On subsequent readings the reader will, as I have, discover new details that only add to the sheer delight and tenderness of this story.

This volume completes the trilogy of Knuffle Bunny books which began with Knuffle Bunny: a cautionary tale, and was followed by Caldecott Honor book, Knuffle Bunny Too: a case of mistaken identity.

Trixie and her parents are flying to Holland to visit her "Oma" and "Opa".  It is a huge, exciting trip fraught with all the complications of air travel.  As we have come to expect Knuffle Bunny has an adventure that is completely separate from the others.

Trixie's anxiety at leaving Knuffle Bunny on the plane is heartfelt as is the portrayal of her trying to adjust to the loss while attempting to enjoy all the wonders of this long anticipated visit. 
Without giving away the twist in this tale Mo Willems concludes Trixie's Kuffle Bunny books with a letter of love to his daughter.  In my humble opinion he has saved the best book for last.

This trio will become, if not already, a classic for generations of all ages to enjoy.
Willems web site is a treasure trove of information about his books, ideas for educators, fun for younger readers and his blog contains videos which enrich the experience of his books.  The clips on this latest book are wonderfully informative.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Virtual Post-It Boards

My sanity as a librarian in two separate buildings is assured when I use notes and lists.  Memo and bulletin boards have an established reputation as conveyors of information.  Imagaine my delight in reading a recent post on Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day where he became of aware of a web 2.0 application called PinDax.  At this site the user designs boards where messages can be posted much as one would do with pins and paper.  A description of the board can be created along with a "look and feel" selection.  Privacy and users can be controlled.  As well as creating boards groups can be generated so users will be notified whenever someone in their group posts a note.  Files can be attached to notes.  Polls can be made.  I liked the feature of looking at the most popular boards and newest boards to get ideas about usage in the classrooom.

At the same time Larry mentioned another site called  Wallwisher.  Depending on your needs this may be a better site for you to use.  You can select a theme for your board, who can view and post to your board and the user can approve posts before they are seen.  You simply double click to add a message, image, audio or video link.  The advantage of Wallwisher is that the entire post can be seen when the board is accessed as opposed to PinDax where the message must be enlarged.

Both of the sites give the user the option of sharing the messages through a large variety of network venues.