Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It Takes Two

One of them is short, the other is tall.  One of them has blond hair with a mind of its own, the other, straight brown hair.  In looking at the world, one sees a glass half full, the other tends to be less optimistic.  Exuberance versus restraint.

Yet, these two girls, opposite in nearly everything, have one of the most important qualities in common, their affection for one another.  In the early autumn of 2010 Candlewick Press released Bink & Golliean instant hit, written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee with illustrations by Tony Fucile.  This title earned the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children's Book of the Year, a Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book of the Year and a Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book.

Three short stories revealed that shockingly, bright socks and pancakes can teach the art of compromise, climbing a mountain can be done in the comfort of your home with a peanut butter sandwich snack at the peak and a marvelous companion, Fred the fish, can teach about the power of friendship.  It's just the two of them living in homes as different as they are; a tiny cottage at the base of a big old tree with a rock wall fence and gate, the other, slender, sleek and modern with an attached deck among the top branches, a series of wooden steps creating a path between the two.  Get ready readers, they're back!

Bink & Gollie: Two For One celebrated its book birthday on June 12, 2012.  The absolutely delightful duo head to the state fair for a fun-filled day.  Three separate events further define the characters and the strength of their attachment to each other.

Immediately Bink, who can never get enough to eat, is attracted to the Whack A Duck! game by the prize, the world's largest doughnut.  In what can only be described as a comedy of errors, three balls later, one carnival game man is definitely a changed man.  Moving through the grounds a large poster catches Gollie's eye.

Yearning to try her luck at a talent show and actually doing it are two different things.  Bink and the livestock barn provide the ideal answer to a healthy case of stage fright.  As the sky darkens into evening, Gollie, straight and tall,  clothed in a royal cape and crown carrying a scepter walks beside the perky, petite Bink, as she proudly gazes at her chipmunk balloon in hand.

Before Bink knows it, Gollie has them seated before Madame Prunely, crystal ball at the ready on her table.  Shrewd Madame Prunely doesn't miss a trick, quickly summing up the day's disappointments.  Her perceptions of the future though carry the two forever friends down the fairway, an added spring in their steps.

As in the first volume the dialogue between the two is filled with humor and heartwarming sentiment in brief but meaningful narratives penned by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee.  These two authors, like their characters, are completely in sync using language to not only tell a story of friendship but to play with the meaning of words; challenging readers to explore as they enjoy. They have a gift of knowing what needs to be said when.

Here is a passage from the first small chapter.

I'm going to whack a duck," said Bink.
"Step right up," said the duck man. "Whack a duck!"
"I'm going to win the world's largest donut," said Bink.
"Of course you are, little lady," said the Whack-a-Duck man. "You've got winner written all over you."
"I do?" said Bink.
"She does?" said Gollie.

 Taking the passage above a step further are the spectacular digital illustrations, for the large part, in black and white with bright splashes of color.  Tony Fucile depicts the literal Bink looking at her shirt for the writing all over and figurative Gollie is wondering what kind of winner the duck man sees.  Therein lies the dynamics of these three talented people working together on the lives of these incomparable companions; text extended by pictures speaking volumes without words.

No detail is too small; the sign over the Whack-a-Duck counter proclaims, A Game of Skill, Cunning, and Sweet Surprise, hanging on the wall are stuffed doughnut people with legs dangling as consolation prizes, or Bink's T-shirt with a goldfish pictured on the middle.  Fucile alters his image sizes, zooming in and out as needed, sometimes bleeding the illustrations to the page edge and other times giving them a frame.  Wordless two page spreads or a grouping of six small pictures on a single page pair perfectly with the story.  His facial expressions on all the characters are simply marvelous.

Bink & Gollie: Two for One written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee with illustrations by Tony Fucile is a fantastic follow-up to the first volume further cementing the friendship of the two opposites in readers' minds and hearts.  One can only hope that a third book is in the works.  By following the link to the first title visit the official Bink & Gollie website.  There are extras there for everyone including a teacher's guide for each book.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Spreads Like..

Some winter mornings after a snowfall when the full moon is setting and the sun has started to lighten the horizon, walking in the backyard, I see signs of a party, of dancing by the light of the moon.  Rabbits have left their footprints peppered across the landscape in gleeful circles.  It makes me wonder what happened when I was sleeping and they were not.

Are rabbits the only beings playing in the crispy air?  Maybe something else moves through the quiet hours during the seasons, silently leaving a mark.  Moonlight (Greenwillow Books, January 24, 2012) written by Helen V. Griffith with illustrations by Laura Dronzek whispers an invitation to readers about Earth's lunar orb.

Head lifted a bunny longs for the moon's glow to light the night.  A breeze frees the cloudy cloak but the rabbit has already left for the comfort of a burrow and longed-for sleep.  As if the moon is a knife, it begins to gently spread its luminescence.

Moonlight slides like butter
skims through outer space
skids past stars and comets
leaves a butter trace

Through mountains, among the trees, high and low, across streams, the light moves with purpose until it reaches the cozy haven of the resting rabbit.  Does the light rest easy there?  No, it does not, but continues to cast its warmth into the dreams of the one who desired its radiance. 

This is one of those very special books when the text is gathered together presents a six stanza poem, each with four lines, rhyming on the second and fourth lines.  Read as a single poem it's a graceful, lyrical ode to the moonlight reaching out.  How Helen V. Griffith choose to separate the poem, spacing and placing the lines throughout the pages, creates pauses, adding a calming, a sense of peace.

The imagery of using the moon's rays as if they're butter is a pleasing one.  Most readers associate butter as golden, adding color and warmth to the telling.  Butter makes the everyday, the simple, feel more than it was before, as does the moonlight.

Opening the book jacket readers see the rabbit nestled among leaves and flowers awash in the glow from the large moon on the left side.  Rich blue endpapers mimic the evening's presence.  The title page shows a cloud beginning to cover the moon.  All the illustrations within this title are across double pages.

The full color art rendered in acrylic paints by Laura Dronzek endearingly illustrates the moon's journey past sleeping parents and their children; goats, deer, robins, raccoons (wide awake) and trout.  Her depiction of the moon buttering Rabbit's dreams is gorgeous in its vivid colors surrounded by wide lines of yellow. While all the two page spreads with the brush strokes of yellow depict the moon's travels over the darkened land, my two favorites are when the moon passes through space and the final two pages; the party begins.

The combined talents of author, Helen V. Griffith, and illustrator, Laura Dronzek, bringing readers into Moonlight, is lovely, soothing to the soul.  One on one as a bedtime story, it's perfect.  With a group to introduce poetry, pacing in writing or to invite discussion about the difference between day and night, it would work wonderfully.  I can also see reading this before a rest time as a ritual, at the end of the day or a very special day, Pajama Day, in our classrooms.

Julie Danielson, blogger extraordinaire, at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast casts the spotlight on the artwork in this book here.  Take a peek inside the book below.  And for some reason I could not help thinking about the old song, Moonlight Serenade, written and made popular by Glen Miller.  I heard it quite a bit growing up.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Twitterville Talk #59

Twitter is definitely a go-to place for professional development in a nutshell; book recommendations abound, upcoming releases and new technologies to try for possible integration in our varied educational settings.  Enjoy my weekly wrap-up and have a wonderful weekend.

There were too many goodies not to pass along this link to Video Sunday: Han shot first

Thanks for the tweet go to Elizabeth Bird, New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist who blogs at A Fuse #8 Production.

Mr. John Schumacher and his friend, Donna, also a teacher librarian, have been on tour this week spreading the joy of reading in the southern States.  Follow their adventures, see the sights at Let's Go South '12:   Two Friends, a Gorilla, and a Map.

Mr. Schu's other blog is Watch. Connect. Read.

This writing technique is easy and adds the element of fun, Teachers Write 8: What's Your Number? :-)

This was tweeted by young adult author, Jo Knowles on her blog this week.

Amelia Elizabeth Walden Winner Announced!

Thanks to School Library Journal for this tweet.

Now is your chance to make your voice heard, Best-Ever Teen Novels?  Vote For Your Favorites.  The hard part is only being able to select ten.

In case you're curious as to how the list was generated read this, Best YA Fiction Poll:  You Asked, We Answer!

Thanks for these tweets goes to NPR Books.

Xena insisted that I post this retweet. (I have to remember to start making a note of who retweets some of these.) 10 of the Most Beloved Dogs in Literature   Agree?  Disagree?

Speaking of dogs, author/illustrator Chris Haughton (Oh No, George) tweeted about this video to commemorate the Summer Olympics 2012. 

Thanks to author Roland Smith for the tweet that sent people to this video.

A guest blogger at Free Technology for Teachers shared a fantastic idea for integrating technology into classroom projects inviting discussions on copyright and critical thinking skills, Make PicMonkey Collages to Pique Kids' Interest in Books.

Thanks to Richard Byrne for the tweet.

Okay, fans of The World of Earthsea, rejoice!  I can still remember reading these for the very first time.  A re-visit to this world created by Ursula LeGuin is long overdue.

Thanks to HMHKids for this tweet.

Doug TenNapel author/illustrator of the graphic novels, Ghostopolis, Bad Island and the soon to be released Cardboard, has created a webcomic called Nnewts.  Check it out.

Thanks to Doug TenNapel.

Having the space for one of these in a library media center would be the best of the best, Giant Scrabble at Canton Public Library.

Thanks to Travis Jonker librarian and blogger at 100 Scope Notes for this tweet.

I wonder if they could make this into a poster for fans of Harry Potter, Every "Harry Potter" Chapter Illustration.

Thanks to Scholastic for this tweet.

Well-known and much loved children's book author, Margaret Mahy passed away this week.  Here is only a small portion of the many tweets recalling her contribution to the world of books and reading.

Here are some of my favorites quotes tweeted this week.

Friday, July 27, 2012

You Can Feel It---It's In The Air

I remember the summer of 1964 having just turned 13, of understanding our country was in the midst of change.  The summer before, the I Have a Dream speech was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial by Martin Luther King, Jr. only to be followed less than three months later by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  When you live through history its mark is forever on your mind.

For those not having lived in those moments various forms of media, movies, television, history textbooks, nonfiction books and fiction novels, are their informants, teachers, coloring them with their perception of the past.  Children and young adults today (all of us really) are fortunate to have outstanding author's dedicated to bringing an honesty to their writing whether nonfiction or fiction.  Debut novelist, Augusta Scattergood, has penned a piece of historical fiction, Glory Be (Scholastic Press), stepping back to the summer of 1964, taking readers south to Hanging Moss, Mississippi where most everything in Gloriana June Hemphill's life is in flux.

Glory Be is more than ready to turn twelve years old.  She is excited for its annual celebration held at the segregated community pool on July 4th, her birthday.  What she's not expecting is the pool's closing predicted by J. T., the older, bullying, small town, football hero brother of her best friend, Frankie. 

The newly arrived Freedom Workers have some folks in town, those set in their ways, fearful of things not being the way they've always been, in an uproar.  Glory finds solace in the town library, having helped Miss Bloom, the librarian, after hearing this unsettling news.  While there she meets Laura Lampert, the daughter of the woman who has set up the Freedom Clinic, having come down south to help.

Emma, the cook at the Hemphill household, has been there since Glory Be's mother died, providing support, love and counsel for both Glory Be and her older sister, Jesslyn.  Their father, a preacher at First Fellowship United Church, when not involved in church business, is a strong central figure in the girls' lives.  Another newcomer in town is added to the cast of characters, a teen, also a Yankee, competition for J. T. on the football team, Robbie Fox.

What readers have in this story is a big ole' storm brewing like a pot of water getting ready to boil, each character giving their voice, their stand, to the pool's closing.  It's also a summer of shifts in relationships, some old and some new; between sisters, between friends, between the white people and the African Americans in Hanging Moss, Mississippi and between a boy and a girl.  Nothing is going to be the same except for the things that should be, freedom, courage, truth and love.

Every single character is exactly as they need to be for this story to work so well. Certainly some are flawed more than others but all exemplify the attitude, the beliefs, and the actions taken realistically during the summer of 1964 in Mississippi.  Readers are immediately drawn into the story through the interplay of Glory Be with each of these people; loving her openness and pure gumption.

Augusta Scattergood is a storyteller in the tradition of all good weavers of words.  Her descriptions of events are so vivid, like snapshots of time, you are sure you could remove and place them in a scrapbook. The essence of life in the south, the dialogue, is so real, after turning the final page, the first words out of your mouth will likely be spoken with a southern drawl.

Here are a couple of passages from Glory Be.

When she handed me my tea, I pressed our palms together. "Look here, Emma," I said.  "My hand's the same as yours."
She shook her head and laughed.  "Glory, sweetie, our hands aren't a thing alike.  But they match up pretty good."
I looked hard at our hands together.  Emma was right--they were different.  Mine were getting nearly as big as Emma's, but her hands were the color of her coffee.  Mine were white as Wonder bread.  Still, Emma and me, we fit together like that Praying Hands statue over at Daddy's church.

From over on the library lawn, drums and trumpets tuned up for the parade.  Dottie Ann Morgan, the Hanging Moss High School homecoming queen, waved from the back of a red convertible, wearing a tiara over her beehive hairdo.  I didn't wave back.  She kept smiling, but she was scratching at the place where her ruffly dress's poof skirt must've been itching the daylights out of her.  Some little kid dropped his cotton candy in the dirt and started bawling for his mamma.  A bee buzzed around my head, and finally landed in my juice pitcher. 

George Santayana is known for saying, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  It's not history textbooks that intrigue readers, that entice them into the past, but historical fiction excelling in its sense of place, time and people.  A book such as Glory Be, conceived and written by Augusta Scattergood, is what gives life to history, ringing with a crystal-clear truth, so readers can learn, grow and rise above what has happened before.

I will be placing a copy of this title on my personal shelves, recommending it to colleagues and students.  For more insight into the writing of this novel visit Augusta Scattergood's website linked to her name above.  The interview on NPR is especially interesting. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Orange" You Glad You're Different

As they say, if I've heard it once I've heard it a hundred times from my Dad, "Just because everyone else jumps off the cliff, doesn't mean you have to jump."  Individuality was a virtue in our household.  So in my mind, you can never have too many books that highlight the importance of being exactly who you are, of doing exactly what you believe you should do or not being afraid to stick out like a sore thumb.

As an author/illustrator, Oliver Jeffers has distinguished himself with each and every picture book to his credit by winning numerous awards and honors.  His stories are surprising, versatile and just plain different in their singular approach with narrative and illustration.  The Hueys in The New Sweater (Philomel Books), the first in an expected series, Jeffers's newest title, was released on May 24, 2012.

The thing about the Hueys...
...was that they were all the same.

Not only do the Hueys look the same, with the exception of the younger ones who are smaller, but they think and do everything the others are doing.  And there are not just a few Hueys but lots and lots of Hueys as if they've popped off an assembly line.  Things are about to change because one of the Hueys, named Rupert, has an idea, one that none of them has ever had before.

This fresh thought has him doing an activity unique to the Hueys' way of life; Rupert is knitting. Not only is he knitting but he is knitting an orange sweater with two distinct zig-zags, one red, the other white, right in the middle of the garment. Up to this point the Hueys have gone unclothed.  A sweater?!

Of course in the realm of Hueydom his new creation is viewed with whispered conversations, shock and crying; until he goes to Gillespie.  Gillespie is looking at Rupert, wondering what he might look like in a snazzy article of yarn such as that.  He's thinking different is a pretty good thing.

Before you can say knit one, purl two, Rupert and Gillespie are looking like and as happy as two peas in a pod, identical in appearance.  What was odd when one does something is stylish when two do it.  Soon it's an orange sweater craze.

As far as the eye can see, different, a la Rupert, has completely caught on.  Readers already know Rupert is no ordinary Huey.  Will he do anything else?  If so, what's next?  He might be on to something.

Oliver Jeffers is a genius with pencils used in these illustrations, along with a bit of orange as stated in the verso.  Pristine white front endpapers show five Huey poses done in a light black or gray; casual, moseying around.  The title page still in shades of black on white have a couple of Hueys chatting, cups and saucers in hand. 

Throughout the remainder of the book the Hueys are shown engaged in activities, thinking and displays of emotion; always drawn in the same color but the background shifts from white to sand to pink to mint to sky usually a single page unless illuminating an important part of the text; the color then extends across the center to a double. Jeffers's deft skill in depicting his figures' feelings and movement with a single line is extraordinary.  His placement of visuals on the pages draws the reader into and along with the story.

I could not help but compare the Hueys with those eggs you can open up in the middle, prizes revealed.  In the beginning I imagine opening them up to emptiness or complete sameness, except for Rupert.  When you open up Rupert, inside you see the world; a sea of endless possibilities.  I love The Hueys in The New Sweater written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers for its delightful, novel introduction to the perception of being different and to an endearing group of beings.

Follow the link attached to Oliver Jeffers name above to go to his official website.  This link is for his author page at HarperCollins.  Here is the book trailer from HarperCollinsCanada.  Notice the change of sweater to jumper.  The video beneath this is one of several author videos posted by PenguinYoungReaders on YouTube.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Virtual Post-It Boards---Educator Specific

On June 6, 2012 Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers, posted about a new web 2.0 application called eduClipper.  I immediately went to the eduClipper website and clicked on the Request an Invite button.  This past Saturday I received an email inviting me to participate in the services offered at the site.

The email relates the service is still in Alpha mode.  They are making every effort to have this as a go-to point for educators; inviting users to email them with suggestions or problems at support @eduClipper.net.  Their desire is to make eduClipper

fun and easy to find and share the best educational content.

At the home page I registered by entering in a desired username, first name, last name, email address, password and agreeing to the Terms of Service.  An option for a monthly newsletter is available. Users can also log in using their Facebook or Twitter account information. Across the home page and your first page is a task bar offering links to:

  • Home
  • How it works
  • Clipboard
  • eduTeacher.net
  • Submit
  • About
  • a box for searching
Beneath this bar is another reading left to right:
  • Popular
  • Most Recent
  • My Contacts
  • My Stuff
  • Categories
  • Type of eduClip
The How it works button links to the video embedded below.

The Clipboard tab takes you to the work area for creating your clipboards.  Arrows allow you to move left and right switching between boards.

eduTeacher.net is a site devoted to matching educators with web tools to integrate into classroom instruction.  This free service has been operational since 2007.

The Submit button opens a window for faster pasting of an URL, uploading a document or image or creating a new clipboard.

The About button links back to the Terms of Service, Privacy Policy and application extras such as an eduClip It button to place on your browser toolbar, an eduClipper follow button to embed in your website so viewers can keep up-to-date with your clipboards and an eduClip It button for clipping from your website plus an approved logo to use when spreading the word about this application.

The headings on the second task bar are pretty self explanatory allowing for different arrangements of clipboards generated by others and yourself.  The Categories include 28 divisions of interest.  Under the Type of eduClip are listed:  image, link, video, document, download and audio; allowing you to list those with ease.

Having visited all the task features, I decided to begin my first clipboard.  Upon asking to create a new clipboard a window pops down asking you to title the board and select a category.  Your screen changes adding a tab for that board.  Click the large plus sign to clip.

I selected Paste URL causing another window to float down asking if I wish the address for an image, link, video or document.  Paste in the link and title the clip selecting the clipboard in which you desire it to appear.  I found in order to link a YouTube video I needed to copy the link at the top of the browser rather than the shortened link in the share section beneath the video. 
Any time you wish to delete or rename a clipboard click on the My Clipboard orange tab at the bottom of the screen which you can get to by clicking on My Stuff.  It opens up your tabbed boards.  Click on the little pencil in the upper right hand corner of the tab to perform either function. Also when selecting My Stuff all your clips will appear on the screen.

By mousing over each item other options are:  edit (update description or delete), re-clip (select another board and add a description), share (Facebook, Evernote, Twitter, Edmodo, Google +, Tumblr, Pinterest or by sending an email) and write a comment.  To get back to your clipping screen click on the Clipboard button.

When you have a entire board you wish to share choose the blue Share This Clipboard button, making sure you have the right clipboard open on the screen.  In the pop-up window a social network can be linked to as noted above when sharing individual items or for every board a unique URL is generated which can be copied and pasted.

Here is a link to a small clipboard I made on an author study of Mo Willems.  Here is another link to a possible book study of The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate which I read to the entire fourth grade this past school year. 

This brand new, free web capture tool, eduClipper, is amazingly simple to use once you get going, in fact you could spend hours here clipping and making boards around a particular theme to use in your educational endeavors.  The beauty, besides the ease of use, is the share feature; allowing registered users and non-users the ability to see your boards.  Boards can be designed around themes, units or any area of study. 

Although not mentioned in the Terms of Service or Privacy Policy  I would still seek parental/guardian approval before having students under the age of thirteen create their own boards.  But what a great idea for students to gather appropriate information for study, becoming curators.  I am putting this new service in my virtual toolbox.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lost, But Not Forever

Like iron filings to a magnet, I am drawn to books about dogs, books with dogs as the sole characters, books about people and their dogs.  Having one who chose me twelve years ago is definitely part of the reason but my students, some of my most reluctant readers, are drawn to those stories.  Those are the volumes, fiction and nonfiction, constantly moving in and out of the library all year long.

My students' joy in the day they are picking out a new puppy or open grief in telling me a beloved friend has died, has been a frequent occurrence during my career. Children and dogs have their own special language, a tie, hard for some adults to understand.  Author, Marion Dane Bauer, has crafted a memorable tale of how wanting, different kinds of loneliness, bring characters together in Little Dog, Lost (Atheneum Books for Young Readers).

Through the voice of a narrator, character dialogue and thoughts,  over the course of two days, the strings attached to lives are caught and woven together.  Buddy,

Little black dog with brown paws
and a brown mask
and a sweet ruffle of brown fur on her bum
just beneath her black whip of a tail.
Satiny coat.
Ears like airplane wings
that drop
just at the tips.

has lost her boy.  The family has moved to an apartment in the city leaving him with a friend in another town, a woman in the town of Erthly, a woman not quite sure what to do with this newest member of her household.

Mark lives with his single mom, the mayor of Erthly, yearning for...yes, you guessed it, a dog.  But his mother has been very firm in her denial of this request despite his every attempt to persuade her.  All his friends have dogs or as in the case of Trent, a cat named Fido, who thinks he's a dog.

In the center of Erthly is a large oak tree right in front of an equally stately mansion, complete with a high iron fence, expansive yard, double entry doors, framed by pillars, with lion's-head knockers and a tall tower with a pointy peak.  Living a singular existence in this home is quiet, no one has ever heard him utter a word, shy, elderly Charles Larue.  Speculations run, as varied as the thinkers themselves, among the children and adults as to what happened to the lady for whom he cared for decades.

Miserable, sick with an emptiness, Buddy digs his way to freedom.  But where can he go, where is his boy?  Mark solves his need for a dog by arranging a rally for a dog park in town at the city council meeting.

From his tower Charles Larue sees the little lost dog looking.  He sees the children planning and gathering.  And Larue feels a stirring for all his missed opportunities.

Mother Nature steps in to escalate events as does the calculating claws of Fido.  It's a rush, a race, to save what needs saving.  Untold stories of truth surface, as they are prone to do, when love steps in.

Infinite care has been given in the telling of this tale as Marion Dane Bauer wefts her words deftly through verse.  Her skill in this form of writing is intricately detailed; settings vividly pictured in your mind and characters so real you can feel them standing next to you.  Bauer tells a compelling story to be sure, but her gift is making you a part of the story, too.

Here are some passages from Little Dog, Lost, examples of Marion Dane Bauer's way with language.

The night thrummed
with crickets,
wood frogs,
The popular tree
in the front yard
rustled its usual

And Mark,
feeling the coolness,
the dampness
of the nose
and the snuffle of warm breath
against his palm,
fell instantly,
in love.

The summer evening
lay across Erthly
like a wool blanket,
heavy and smothering,
without a breath of breeze.
Thunder stammered in the distance.

Soft, black and white, illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell compliment the telling in the best possible way; evoking joy, sadness, desperation, waiting and love.  Chapter notations are placed inside a paw print, a small glimpse of a scene tucked into a corner, a larger view bleeding across the center or wordless two page spreads, are a further invitation to participate.  One of my favorites is the final page, a joyful moment commemorated.

Readers will be enveloped by the strength of emotion in this book, Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer.  Having read it twice now (but by no means the last time I will) I can give it a high recommendation for dog lovers but truly to anyone who seeks a book about how stories, ours and others, shape who we are.  Consider it a guaranteed winner as a read aloud.

Be sure to follow the link to Marion Dane Bauer's website embedded in her name above.  She includes a reader's theater and discussion guide as companions to this title.  And right now...I'm going to reach down and stroke the fur of the body lying across my feet who's running in her dreams as she no longer can in real life.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Game On!

Most people like games.  Children love games.  Games in some form or other have been around for...well, when haven't they been around?  Whether with a group or as an individual, as a contest or just for fun, people like to play.

Two well-known members of the children's book community, author, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and illustrator, Tom Lichtenheld, have combined their significant gifts to bring forth an original book, Wumbers (Chronicle Books) that challenges in a most delightful way. I can almost imagine a whispered conversation with numbers going over to letters and saying, "Hey guys, we love the magic you create with words.  Can we try too?"  Obviously the letters responded in the affirmative.

As the pooch confirms on the front cover--

It's words cre8ed with numbers!

Covers, endpapers and all the pages in-between spell out phrases displaying a fresh way at looking at words and the way we use them.  Children making cozy domains, pretend tea parties, picnic boo-boos, music class, friendly tussles, under-the-sea and up with the angels, even penguins parading, all are part and parcel to the challenge.  Rosenthal's depiction of characters, their everyday activities (some straight out of her fruitful mind's eye) and what might be said, moves the narrative at a cheerful tempo giving each reader an opportunity to participate.

Right away the cover catches the reader's eye with its use of primary colors and slight variations with an occasional blast of purple.  Tom Lichtenheld's bold, black ink outlines are softened with his use of PanPastels throughout.  Endpapers are awash in red with colorful speech bubbles in blue, yellow and white displaying Wumber questions?

What is the lati2ude and longi2ude of where you live?

Readers will not be able to contain smiles at his illustrative interpretation of the text Rosenthal has fashioned; characters are usually grinning or at the very least exuberant in the display of their emotions.  Every illustration spreads across two pages capturing a special moment.  It's hard but my favorites are the children on the swings, shoes aloft,  a freckle-faced boy, huge grin displaying a missing tooth and a boy, arm hugging his dog, both curled in sleep.

Wumbers wri10 by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustr8ed by Tom Lichtenheld is a huge success on all counts.  The best part is this volume offers possibilities other than the norm. As a read aloud-splendid but for generating writing and reading activities-superb.

This is the link to a nine page activity kit at Chronicle Books. A very useful four page teacher's guide also at the Chronicle Books site is linked here.  Be sure to visit each of the artists's websites for information; Lichtenheld has more illustrations from the book posted at his.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Twitterville Talk #58

Summer is panning out to be a great time to share ideas, books everyone is reading and learn about new methods for implementing technology through the use of 140 character chats on Twitter.  This is what the week of July 14-20 has brought.  It was a very busy week.

It began with Shannon Miller, teacher-librarian and tech integrationist, citing a board on Pinterest called Slides.  It's a collection of pictures and quotes relative to education.

Thanks to Shannon Miller at Van Meter Library Voice.

One of the highlights of the week demonstrating the value of using Twitter was an evening discussion of the book, Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  I was so profoundly moved by this book, I ended up giving every member of my staff a copy to commemorate March Is Reading month this year.  Several did it as a class read aloud.  Students have made it a point to tell me it is the best book they've ever read or thanking me for giving it to their teacher. Moderators of this discussion on Twitter were Colby Sharp, a fourth grade teacher in Michigan, found at sharpread and
John Schumacher, K-5 librarian and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read.

Thanks to both and to Mr. Schu for providing a link to the discussion wrap-up here.

They may be older but they are irresistible, Adorable Vintage Photos of Kids Reading.

Thanks to The Children's Book Council for this tweet.

We can always be better at our own writing and in doing so, make us better at teaching our students.  This offers some help, Pixar's 22 Rules to Phenomenal Storytelling [Infographic].

I've been saying, living, doing this for 34 years, speaking at school board and staff meetings, presenting at professional conferences, providing research and statistics to one and all.  Now hear it from a teacher, Why You Need Your School Librarian.

The volume of information available on professional and personal topics continues to grow as we connect globally.  There are some very good tools listed here to assist and sort, The 50+ Best Ways to Curate and Share Your Favorite Social Media.

Thanks to Joyce Valenza, librarian and blogger at NeverEndingSearch for these tweets.

I know my students, and probably, some of my staff get tired of hearing me say to cite, cite, cite but here is why, Zeeland Schools Superintendent Dave Barry resigns just weeks after plagiarism incident.

Wondering what to do with all those weeded books?  Wonder know more.  Check out this Book Sculpture: Literary Maze On Display at London 2012 Festival (PHOTOS)That's a bunch of books.

Thanks to Travis Jonker blogger at 100 Scope Notes , book reviewer at School Library Journal and librarian in Michigan for these tweets.

This is one very fine short essay on reading motivation, Reflections on Sparking the Love of Reading.

Thanks to Jillian Heise, middle school language arts and reading teacher, found at Heise Reads & Recommends for this tweet.

This information is from a retweet whose source I was unable to trace but this resource is huge.  Bamboo DiRT is a tool, service, and collection registry of digital research tools for scholarly use.

Interested in making book trailers?  Author Barbara O'Connor has some ideas to share, Book Trailers for Dummies.

It boggles the mind how fast technology is changing daily but this is a good list, The 33 Digital Skills Every 21st Century Teacher Should Have.

Thanks to teacher librarian Debbie Alvarez found at The Styling Librarian for these tweets.

For a wonderful, more lengthy look at the draw of fairy tales read, Once Upon A TimeIt's truly hard to resist those four words.

Thanks to Monica Edinger, teacher, reader, writer, found at educating alice for this tweet.

At the Hail To The Books site of Macmillan Kids check out this comic depicting the timeless aspect of books.

This has to be one of the best fountains I have ever seen.

Thanks to Random House Kids for this tweet.

Thanks to Ellen Potter, author of the most recent title, The Humming Room, for tweeting about this post on The Official Website of Spilling Ink: The Book, On Creativity, Nonfiction, and Making Dough by Deborah Kops. Much in this post could be applied in the classroom.

This is an innovative use of the past, The Book Truck: Mobile Library Hits Mexico City's Streets.

Thanks to School Library Journal for this tweet.

Discover what books have been assigned to what states this year by The Library of Congress's Center for the Book during the National Book Festival--52 Great Reads.

Thank to Maria Selke, teacher, found at Maria's Melange for this tweet.

We lost two very well known authors this week.  The book/reading community has been hit hard in 2012.  Here are some tweets on the loss of Donald J.  Sobol and Else Minarik.

Here are some of my favorite quotes of the week.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fruitful Friendship

Sometimes when you go to your local bookstore you have a list in hand, a very specific purpose.  Other times you make a beeline to the recent release shelves.  And sometimes you wander...until the title on a spine, a familiar author's or illustrator's name pops out or when a color combination on a cover catches your eye. 

At first all I saw on a narrow strip was Claudia Boldt--- Odd Dog---NorthSouth.  Intrigued by the title, I pulled it off the shelf and opened it up so I could see the full jacket display, front and back.  I was completely hooked by the illustrations, comical-shaped dogs, one using an apple as a bowling ball and the other in front of his doghouse looking backward, both framed, top and sides with a pattern of leaves among red and orange apples.

Opening the book a single shade from one of the apples brightly colors front and back endpapers.  Appearing next is the first title page; author's name, title, the larger dog imploring the smaller who is holding an apple, all on steely, greenish teal paper.  This is followed by a two-page print of an apple tree loaded with fruit, others lying on the fringes.

Across the next two pages is an illustration of a cluster of houses surrounded by apple trees focusing on a visual similar to the front cover; featuring the verso and again the title and author's name with the publisher.

Peanut was an odd dog.  
Unlike all the other dogs he did not
care for bones, but he loved apples.
His apple tree was his pride and joy.

Not only is that apple tree his pride and joy but it is his obsession; believing the neighboring dog, Milo covets his fruit.

Having worrisome dreams, nightmares, he awakens each morning counting his apples to make sure they are all there.  To his abject horror one morning he notices the most scrumptious specimen is about to fall on the other side of the fence...right into Milo's yard.  His frantic efforts to secure his treasure are for naught. 

Falling into a pit of despair, woefully fretting about Milo always getting the best, disaster strikes pitiful Peanut.  Oh yes, that juicy, red circle of gourmet delight falls with a resounding thud right into the center of the other dog's dish.  An unexpected response from his neighbor prompts Peanut to reevaluate his assumptions and priorities.

Boldt's unique color palette, earthy backgrounds with a dusty gray undertone, splashes of color, reds, golds, browns and teals, combine to present a warm and pleasing effect. Hints of humor abound, Milo appearing in his dreams wearing a bandit mask, carrying a sack loaded with apples, the series of vignettes featuring Peanut's attempts to get that big apple and the facial expressions on each of the pooches.  By combining layers of india inks, line drawings and color using Photoshop Boldt is able to recreate her original artistic expression of using screen printing and linocut. (There is more about her technique in the link below.)

With a minimum amount of text but visuals packed with energy and emotion, Claudia Boldt, winner of the Booktrust Best New Illustrator 2011 Award, gives readers in Odd Dog (NorthSouth) a canine creation on the value of sharing and the resulting friendship it may bring.  The Booktrust charity, based in the UK, states their mission as:

Booktrust inspires everyone to enjoy books, reading and writing and the lifelong benefits that they bring. Our aim is to build a literate, connected and creative society.

Enjoy the extra visuals of some of the book's pages below as provided at the Random House Children's Books website.

It's a given that students love dog books.  Without exception my teachers are always in need of fresh, new books featuring apples for fall and plant studies.  This book covers all those desires with the added bonus of fun-filled illustrations and a narrative voice with insightful lessons learned.

Below is an earlier trailer using names different from the final printing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Weaving Words of Story

I have seen with my own eyes the transformative power of storytelling whether I am telling to one, five, fifty or five hundred; it's in the looks, the silence, the sighs, the knowing nods of my listeners and in the inevitable question, "Is this true?" My reply is always the same, "What do you think? Isn't there a truth to be found in every story for each listener, something that speaks to their heart?"   Unlike the oral teller in a limited setting (with the exception of taped tellings, duly noted), an author's written words can reach an unlimited readership for an unlimited amount of time; touching generations.

In Starry River Of The Sky (Little, Brown and Company, release date October 2, 2012) author, Grace Lin, bids readers to reenter the world of her 2010 Newbery Honor winning title, Where The Mountain Meets The Moon.  Blending traditional, timeless folktales from the Chinese culture with the main narrative, she fashions a story laced with life's most meaningful truths.  Her words are like a hand held open for us, hoping we will except the invitation to hold on and walk with her into this beautiful story.  From the first sentence to the final word we are under the spell of her magic.

Rendi was not sure how long the moon had been missing.

With this first sentence we're drawn into the story by questions.  Who is Rendi?  Where is the moon and why has it gone missing? 

Rendi, a boy, has hidden on a merchant's cart filled with large covered jugs (gangs) of Son Wine.  He is discovered when the innkeeper, Master Chao, in the poor Village of Clear Sky makes a purchase.  Left by the merchant, Rendi becomes the inn's new chore boy, a vacancy needing to be filled after the departure of the innkeeper's older son, Jiming.

Hints are left for the reader as to the wealthy way of life Rendi has left.  To himself, his intentions are clear; leaving this dusty, drought-ridden, sorry excuse of a village is his top priority.  Of interest to him though is the large expanse of stone, a plain, stretching beyond one's view next to the inn.  Why is this here? Where does it go?

With the arrival of a new guest, paying for one month's rent on their room in advance, every one's lives, their perspectives and relationships begin to alter.  Gently, but with purpose, the ethereal Madam Chang through story and conversation begins to offer explanations to the people living in and near the inn; causing them to question what they believe to be true and to recognize what is right before their eyes.  It seems there is a celestial imbalance paralleling the discord in the lives of Master Cho, his daughter, Peiyi, their neighbors Widow Yan and her daughter, MeiNan along with old, confused Mr. Shan.

Why is Rendi hearing a whimpering and moaning which appears to come from the moonless sky each night? Who are the government officials seeking?  Will the thieving traders succeed in their greedy plot?  Will love triumph?  Will wishes come true?

Imagine, if you will, beginning with a bud which a petal at a time opens until in full bloom; this book is the glorious result of a flowering realized. Madam Chang is not the only one with stories, others tell theirs, each building one upon the other. Soon the line between reality and story blur and blend.

Grace Lin's writing is so compelling, even though I have never heard her speak, I hear her voice as if she is reading this book to me.  Her setting is finely formed to the point where you can open a page and step right in.  Characters speak to readers with thoughts and desires timeless in quality.

What follows is a passage from Starry River Of The Sky.

The sky sent out another pitiful groan, and Rendi looked at her in confusion.
"Remember your story?" Madame Chang said. "The duke believed that if a listener truly understood, he can hear what another cannot.  You must understand in a way none of us do."
"But that wasn't true," Rendi protested. "The duke was tricked."
"The duke was tricked," Madam Chang said.  "But that does not mean what he believed was false."
The light of the firefly lanterns flickered, and shadows wavered over Rendi's frowning face.

Grace Lin has penned a story, Starry River Of The Sky, resplendent in its honor of the human need to listen to and tell stories bridging the gap between young and old, then and now, seeking to find the similarities in cultures and illuminate the differences.  My book is an advance reading copy without her intricate, stunning illustrations as were seen in Where The Mountain Meets The Moon. It will be a happy day when I can purchase the hardcover copy to sit next to its companion on my personal bookshelf.  Thank you Grace Lin for sharing your gift of story with so many.  Starry River Of The Sky is a treasure beyond value.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Innovations in Storytelling

In a post on July 5, 2012 Larry Ferlazzo of Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day, spoke of a new web 2.0 application which makes digital storytelling increasingly easier, especially, as a writer, you desire to give your readers choices.  In a subsequent post, The Best Web 2.0 Applications for Education in 2012-So Far he includes it on his list.  Inkle is the company responsible for the design of that application called Inklewriter.
At the site they state:

We've developed a unique format for interactive literature:  the "inklebook".

When you access the home page the tabs across the top read, left to right, home, about us, creative services, frankenstein, inklewriter and blog.  Frankenstein, under the teachers tab, informs us about their most recent app penned by Dave Morris, published by Profile books, which

provides an interactive retelling of Mary Shelly's classic novel.

This is an exciting tool offering insight and the potential for discussion; for giving readers and writers the opportunity to reflect and imagine possibilities.

Moving down the row of tabs, skipping to the last, blog, you can view all the latest and greatest happenings at the site.  Under the inklewriter tab are the headings of inklewriter, Future Voices competition, getting started and for teachers.  Inklewriter is a free application for designing, writing, interactive stories.  It keeps track of the story paths.  Once a story is completed it can be shared with a unique URL.

Future Voices competition is just that, a writing competition hosted by the site.  If you are a writer, the incentives look very good.  Yesterday on their blog was a post, 10 types of interactivity, which offers ideas for using inklewriter. The for teachers tab highlights the many uses of the application in the classroom, the ease of use and the very real plus of students not needing email addresses to save their work.

The getting started tab supplies answers and information about:

  • Start writing
  • Write, and add options
  • How do I change to another path?
  • How do I join different paths back together again?
  • How do I read my story?
  • What's this about signing up?
  • How to I use logic?
When you click on the start writing tab you are taken directly to the app Inklewriter.
You can sign in to continue work on a previous creation, start a new story or view a tutorial story.  I would recommend going through a couple of the tutorials to get a basic understanding.  For me, any more were confusing without actually using the application first.

When you click new the real fun (writing) starts.  On the left-side toolbar are the choices of making your text bold, in italics, running paragraphs together, inserting a new section or inserting a condition to test.  In the upper right-hand corner you can switch from write to read mode as well as view a list of your created contents.

A story title and author name can be added with a mouse click.  Begin typing your story hitting the enter (return) key to create a new paragraph adding options to the story as needed.  A section can only be added when you are working on a particular paragraph.  I found adding section numbers to be a quick way to navigate within the contents. You can change the section numbers to a specific name with a mouse click.

I was initially under the impression that every time you started a new paragraph in your writing, by hitting the enter key, it would allow you to add one or more options.  That is not the case.  If you want to add options to a paragraph it needs to be an option first.  Creating these chains is fun and easy by checking the contents from time to time to see how your story is unfolding.

I wholeheartedly agree with Larry Ferlazzo.  Inklewriter is an excellent tool for creating interactive stories.  It would easily work with students in groups or individually. Here is the link to my story started using Inklewriter.

In introducing the genre of adventure to sixth grade students, in the past, we have added a writing component.  Breaking a class into groups of four, the students generate an introduction.  They then pair up to each create a different path the story might take.  Endings for each of the paths are written by the students individually, thereby finishing with four separate stories.  This activity, usually done using a previously designed paper template, would be better accomplished using Inklewriter.

Inklewriter posted a trailer for this app on YouTube August 16, 2012.  Here it is.