Quote of the Month

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




Monday, January 31, 2011

Choices, choices, choices...Flex or Funky

Last week I needed to do some quick editing of a graphic that I wanted to use on this blog but Adobe Photoshop was on my computer at home.  Quickly searching online I discovered a site, while up and running for several years, was new to me...FotoFlexer.  This site boasts of being the world's most advanced online image editor.  Images can be uploaded from your computer, FotoFlexer, PhotoBucket, Facebook, MySpace, Picasa, Flickr, Phanfare, Smugmug and Yahoo Search.  Upon uploading your graphic a series of tabs appears at the top of the work area:  Basic, Effects, Decorate, Animations, Beautify, Distort, Layers and Geek.  The Basic tab includes Auto Fix, Fix Red Eye, Crop, Copy Region, Resize, Rotate, Flip Horizontal or Vertical, Adjust (hue, saturation and lightness), Contrast and EZ Collage.  There are 25 different options included in the Effects tab.  Stickers, text, glitter text, draw, erase, fill, grab color, insert a face, fun cards, borders and poster are choices within the Decorate tab.  The Animations tab reveals animated stars, animated lovies and animated stickers.  Believe it or not under the Beautify tab are smooth, sharpen, fix blemishes and smooth wrinkles.  Images can be twirled left or right, bulged, pinched, stretched or squished be selecting the Distort tab.  Under the Layers tab the user can add images, select, select all, duplicate, opacity, push back, push forward group, ungroup or merge.  And the Geek tab contains Smart resize, Smart recolor, Smart cutout, Smart scissors, curves, morph and web cam.  Some of these features are still in Beta form but will be useful to the more experienced photo editor user.  When you have tweaked the graphic you can save it to your computer or a variety of social or photo sites or a tiny pic can be created to embed it in your blog or web site, it can be emailed or a URL/Link can be generated.  I did have trouble trying to get the tiny pic function to work.  That is probably because my computer is older than dirt and slower than molasses in January.

As much as I like Be Funky ( it was mentioned in a blog on 9/21/2010 regarding the making of comics) in comparison it lacks the extent and sophistication of FotoFlexer.  After uploading a photo for editing a bar of choices appears across your image as opposed to tabs above your image in FotoFlexer.  The choices in Be Funky are Edit, Apply Effects, Add Goodies, Add Frames and Add Text.  Options included under Edit are rotate/flip, resize, brightness/contrast, exposure, hue/saturation, color filter, temperature, sharpen, blur filter, enhance detail, smooth, highlights/shadows and duotone.  These are similar to those available in Fotoflexer.  I did use the crop tool in both.  The tool in FotoFlexer was better by allowing more options for sizing before the crop.  There are 26 possibilities under Effects.  Many are the identical to those in FotoFlexer but not always. The Goodies are all stickers with various themes.  The Frames does offer more choices for fun and the holidays.  There are 15 fonts within the Add Text selection.   Upon completion of editing an image in Be Funky can be saved to your computer, the library, Facebook or Twitter.  It can be printed or shared via email, Facebook, MySpace or Flickr. 

For both of the web sites users need to be 13 years of age.  No registration is required and they are free.  These sites could be very useful in adding appealing graphics to school, professional or personal creations.  They offer excellent possibilities to users of various capabilities. 


Be Funky Pop Art Effect

FotoFlexer Pop Art Effect








Sunday, January 30, 2011

Unmatched

Upon completion of each book as a reader we tend to categorize them.  Sometimes a good book brings forth the exclamation of Wow!  We want to share our reading experience with someone else...soon.  Other times when we finish a great book it has us cheering and knowing that we will read it again and again.  Then there are those golden moments when the book whose last page has been turned and the cover has been closed cause us to quietly sigh in a state of euphoric wonder.  Such is the book, Matched, by Ally Condie.  Her imagination has given us a future where our very mealtimes and what we eat are chosen as well as our vocation, mate and death that is determined by the Society.  This perfect world is populated by citizens who do not question the authority of those in power.  What is..is and always will be.  Officials permeate all aspects of daily life quietly observing to ensure that the status quo is maintained.  If there should be any blips along the way each person has in their possession three tablets, red, green and blue, in a metal cylinder.  Each knows what the green and blue can do.  There have been rumors for years about the red capsule's purpose.

The story begins with Cassia and her childhood friend, Xander, along with their parents traveling by air train to City Hall for the Match Banquet.  At this evening event where special clothes can be worn and wonderful food is savored, young men and women will be given their match for life.  Each participant waits as their name is called facing a screen where Match Banquets are taking place throughout the region.  The screen reveals their match.  When Cassia's name is called the screen does not shown a match but remains black.  It means that her match is present at that banquet.  She and Xander have been selected for one another.  At that moment her world could not be more perfect.  Each is given a silver box with a microcard that contains data about their match.  A day later sure that no one knows Xander better than she, curiosity has her slipping the microcard into the port.  But the microcard discloses what initially appears to the reader to be a flaw in the match process.  In addition to Xander's face on the screen a blip sounds and the microcard restarts with another's face--Ky.    From this point on the pace accelerates to gripping; nothing in this certain world is certain any longer.  Nagging questions to be answered with frightening results haunt all the characters.  Condie's use of language is rich breathing life into the soul's of her characters so much so that readers will feel like they are seeing a film instead of the written word.

Although readers will be haunted by this tale of a possible future where free will has been removed, it is the love of parents for their children, of children for the parents, of Xander for Cassia and she for him and the forbidden love that grows between Ky and Cassia that sets this in a class all by itself.  Actions taken for the sake of love are unforgettable. Matched needs to be on everyone's list of books to read.   It is going on my bookshelf to be read again and again.
The next volume in this trilogy, Crossed, is set to be released in November 2011.  
   (By clicking on the book's title you are taken to the official site for this novel.  By clicking on the author's name you are linked to her blog.) 



Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Virtual Post-It-Boards-Snap, Crackle, "Popplet"

Just when you think it can't get any better it does.  Still in Beta form this web and iPad app, Popplet, can be used by submitting a request for an invitation.  You will receive an access code by email which enables you to register using your first and last name, your email address, that becomes your username, and a password.  Users must be 18 years or older.  The site proposes to be the best app for visual ideas; see what you think together.  If you are into mind mapping and pictorial brainstorming than I can think of no better app to use at this time.  This leaves the other boards in the dust combining text, drawings and images.


Once you have logged in and opened a board to create a popplet the steps (opportunities) are easy:  double click to add a popple which can be resized by clicking and dragging or moved by dragging it; type text in the popple; change a popple's color; set a popple's text by selecting one of 3 sizes; draw in a popple; or add an image from Flickr, Facebook, YouTube or your computer.

In addition to these options on the popple itself at the top of the Popplet board there is a zoom tool, the option of changing the background color, adding a new popple, editing that popple, adding content from Flickr, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube and Goggle Maps as well as changing the view of the popplet, exporting it in pdf or jpeg format, a labs option which needs futher exploring by yours truly and it can be printed. 

Once created your popplet can be shared by posting it on Facebook or Twitter, emailed, via a link or embedded in a blog or website.
 http://popplet.com/app/#/12808 (My simple beginning popplet) 
Collaborators can be added to any popple by adding their name or email address. 
Another neat feature is a bookmarklet can be added to your browser's bookmark board where you can clip images and text from other web sites to add to a popplet of your choice.


Check out this video created by the Popplet people that gives you a quick overview.

Yawn......

For several years in January, the month when the Caldecott Medal is given by the American Library Association, our kindergarten students partake in an author study of Denise FlemingIn the Small, Small Pond brought her a Caldecott Honor Award in 1994.  Throughout her career her books have repeatedly appeared on the annual American Library Association, Assocation for Library Service to Children Notable Lists.

Beginning with the title page illustration, Denise Fleming's unique technique of pulp painting softly lulls readers into her newest offering, Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy (Henry Holt and Company, August 3, 2010).  (Pulp painting is a papermaking technique using colored cotton fiber poured through hand-cut stencils.) Readers can not help but sit back, unwind and gently begin this tale when presented with the sleeping fledglings all cuddled in their cozy nest.  We are very close to them as if we are peeking through the leaves of the tree.

Fleming's choice of color for this theme evokes tranquility as does her selection of twelve animals which are perennial favorites of children.  Each two page spread features a small animal in the protective embrace of its parent as the words, Tiny baby panda, sleepy, oh so sleepy...Tiny baby ostrich, sleepy, oh so sleepy...tiny baby lion, sleepy, oh so sleepy.  Where's my sleepy baby? create a lullaby cadence.

Her artistic talent is prominent in the positioning  of the young babies and their parents.  In none of the illustrations is the full adult in view.  In some just the feet are showing, a mouth, a nose, back or stomach where the baby nestles in quiet repose.   As each animal is presented readers will long to reach out and stroke the page.

It is in the final pages that the question, Where's my sleepy baby?, is answered.  Closing with Sleep tight, sleepy babies, tiny sleepy babies curved around our blue planet Denise Fleming reminds us of our universal similarities and all that unites us.  For good reason she dedicates this book to her daughter, Indigo, who will be 32 this year.

Please check out Denise Fleming's web site by flowing the link attached to her name at this blog's beginning.  It is just as colorful and full of life as her books and loaded with activities to enhance each title as well as other information about her and her art.  To view some interior pages please follow this link to the publisher's website.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blast to the Past

Deborah Wiles, author of Countdown, has written a piece about our American history so well that I feel she must have been in my skin when I was growing up.  She captures the mood, family values, student life, fashion, food and political climate with absolute clarity.

The year is 1962 with the Cold War in full swing; President of the United States John Fitzgerald Kennedy and First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev are escalating the tone of their verbal battles.  In October of that year the Cuban Missile Crisis rears its ugly head creating a environment of fear in the daily lives of all Americans across the United States.  Wiles has chosen fifth grader, Franny Chapman, to narrate these turbulent times.

Through her eyes we witness the life of a military family stationed close to Washington, D. C.  Readers are privy to the struggles of young people her age as the book's first sentence clearly illustrates,

I am eleven years old, and I am invisible.

From being on the outs with her best friend, Margie, to wondering why her college-age older sister Jo Ellen seems to be distancing herself more and more from the family (what are those mysterious letters she hides in her hope chest), to dealing with Saint Drew her younger brother and the conflicting emotions of embarrassment and love she feels for her Uncle Otts who is still reliving the horror of World War I, Franny is a character to remember and embrace.

What sets this historical fiction apart is the documentary style that the author employs interspersing the storyline with quotes, photographs, parts of newspaper headlines and book covers (didn't every girl read and wait for the next Nancy Drew book to be published), ad slogans, and song lyrics revealing a true slice of life at that time.  Rather than being a distraction these elements enhance the dynamics of family life that she gives voice to with witty, well-written dialogue between all the parties.


Jo Ellen turns off the Hoover when she sees me. She's wearing one of Mom's aprons, and her hair is wound in pin curls that peek out from underneath a wispy green scarf.
"Red alert," she says.  Her voice is low and her eyes are puffy.  "Everybody left like they'd been struck by lightning as soon as Uncle Otts banged through the door, blathering about spies in the bushes and blueprints in the mailbox."  Jo Ellen wipes her nose with her apron and pushes the vacuum cleaner toward the hallway closet.  "Drew took him downstairs."
"Where's Jack?" (the dog)
"He's downstairs, too." 
"Have you been crying?" I ask.
"Of course not, " Jo Ellen says.
Dishes crash against one another in the kitchen.  The roar from the faucet is so loud it sounds like Mom is washing dishes in a typhoon.
"Was it bad?" she asks me, nodding toward the street.
"Terrible.  He held everyone hostage.  I'm embarrassed for life."
"I'm sorry, Squirt."  Jo Ellen winds the vacuum cleaner cord around its knobs and sniffs.  "Take heart.  You weren't standing next to Mom when Mrs. Ross flew out of here like she was on fire.  She almost ran over Mrs. Hornbuckle."
"Was it bad?" 
"Mom had a stroke," Jo Ellen says, her delivery picking up speed as she winds the cord faster.  "We heard the air-raid siren from school-it was clear it was a drill and not an attack, but that was bad enough--they've never used that siren during the week, and then when Uncle Otts came running in..."

Deborah Wiles is a wordsmith of considerable talent bringing to readers not only history but the strengths that bind families together in their daily lives which are often challenged by forces not of their making.  Much as an artist uses a particular medium to bring us a visual, so too does Wiles with her vivid writing.  Countdown is an outstanding beginning to what appears to be a promising trilogy. 

At the book's end she includes further explanation on the Cuban Missile Crisis, what compelled her to write this particular story and the beginning of a great bibliography.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Let It Snow

What a treat to be roaming the shelves in one of my favorite book stores over our Christmas break and finding Super Snow Day by Michael Garland.  This newest of his seek and find books brings warmth to those windy, chilling days of winter.

Just the words, snow day, bring a keen and joyous sense of anticipation.  That anticipation is realized when Garland begins this book with a letter to the reader from Aunt Jeanne welcoming them to look, search and keep track of winter sport symbols, titles of songs, poems and books about snow, and animal tracks as well as the animals themselves. 
Readers follow Tommy, the book's main character,  throughout the days' activities from shoveling snow, to marveling at giant snow sculptures, ice fishing, sleigh riding, walking through the wintry woods, climbing a mountain, watching a bobsled race and yes, swimming at the beach. 

Michael Garland's lively and colorful illustrations leap off the page as a visual treat to the wonder of this snowy event which makes us all feel young at heart.  At the book's end readers are asked to compare their lists with his which surprisingly enough has more goodies that need to be located---words from different languages that mean snow, six-pointed snowflakes, letters that spell Happy Snow Day and the infamous Aunt Jeanne that appears in every scene. 

Page after page of pure puzzling fun makes this a winner for seasonal lessons or the simple thrill of a new treasure hunt.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dots Across The USA


 
Using data from the 2005-9 American Community Survey from the Census Bureau Matthew Bloch, Shan Carter and Alan McLean of The New York Times have designed an interactive map called Mapping America:  Every City, Every Block.  On the education blog of that paper, The Learning Network, extensive suggestions for use of this map in our classrooms are given.  This visual interpretation of our census date is impressive and informative. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ghosts Galore

Graphic novels have been flying off the shelves at both the elementary and middle schools since they hit the scene and have steadily gained in popularity.  That is certainly no surprise to those of us that have been readers and collectors of comic books for decades.

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel is one of the finer examples that this genre has to offer young adult readers. In 2000 Mr. TenNapel won The Will Eisner Comic Industry Award (Eisner Award) for his work on Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #5 along with several other contributing artists.  He is well known for his Earthworm Jim creation.

Garth Hale, a boy who has an incurable disease, crosses paths with Frank Gallows, a less than stellar wrangler for The Supernatural Immigration Task Force.  As a wrangler it is his job to send ghosts back to the afterlife.  When a stubborn as well as illusive horse, a nightmare, finally gets zapped back Garth inadvertently is taken along.

Even though he has been fired for this latest snafu, Frank is determined to bring Garth back.  He enlists the help of Claire Voyant, his on again, off again girlfriend and a ghost no less. By using her plasmapod they should be able to go over and come back without a hitch while rescuing Garth.

 In the afterlife, Ghostopolis, Garth and his new found nightmare friend are having problems of their own while making the welcome or frightening acquaintance of a whole cast of otherworldly characters including Cecil, his grandfather.  Vaugner, a former boyfriend of Claire is now the living ruler of Ghostopolis with a hoard of grotesque, enormous bugs that do his bidding.  By pitting the rulers of the seven kingdoms against one another Vaugner's rule is supreme or it was until the arrival of Garth.  Though dying in our world in the afterlife Garth has acquired super powers that could be the key to overthrowing Vaugner's rule.  Vaugner will do whatever it takes to make sure that does not happen.

Action-packed adventure, quirky romance, creepy characters, friendship and family that stand the test of time, and laugh-out-loud one liners combine to create a fast-paced tale.  Pair that with graphics that tell their own story and readers will be craving the next graphic gem by Doug TenNapel.  This reader will be checking out some of his earlier graphic novels as well as waiting for the Disney production of Ghostopolis starring Hugh Jackman.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Love those Binders...

For several days, in fact since December 27, 2010, when I read a post on Kelly Tenkely's blog, iLearn Technology, I have been creating a binder at LiveBinders.  In this particular binder I am housing all my book reviews, YouTube book or book related movie trailers, and web 2.0 applications with their web sites that I have posted on this blog.  It will be a virtual log organized by subject tabs of all that has and will be discussed on Librarian's Quest.  No more checking lists of blog posts or trying to remember dates that items were discussed.
To sign up for using this application a user name, email address and password are required.  A user needs to be over the age of 13.  Rather than create a list of resources for staff or students to use, a binder can be designed to house web pages, videos, pdf or doc files as well as images that have a commonality.  A viewer can select tabs which will enable them to view documents, videos, images, or web pages in a matter of seconds.  Some of the featured binders that are at the site for public viewing have been created for use and tested in classrooms.

 I continue to be amazed at the technology available online for educators to use free of charge that will contribute to enhancing not only what happens on a daily basis in their classrooms, but as tools to share with other educators.  It can only mean that educators will have more time to do what they do best--prepare our students "to catch their own fish".


Virtual Post-It Boards-Continued

Try http://corkboard.me/PvlJAwMgGp
If simple is the name of the game for you when it comes to sharing quick notes with students, staff, family or friends just give Corkboard Me a try.  It is free and when you go to the site each time you will be given a unique URL for that particular board that you have created.  There is no registration required.

This is a much easier way to collaborate with students in seeking comments, brainstorming, listing events for the day or week than Wallwisher.  Image links can be added to the notes but I have not had success with that yet. Notes can be sized and moved.  It does not have all the bells and whistles such as adding images, videos, music and pages that Wallwisher allows.  But when I was using Wallwisher earlier this fall I did find it to be slow when I had a class using the same wall at the same time.  I will be testing the ease of use of Corkboard Me with a class this week.

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo and Kelly Tenkely for keeping the technology world (and me) up to date.