Quote of the Month

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




Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Keeping Track of Time

Heather Moorefield, Education Librarian at Virginia Tech and former chair of the American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching and Learning frequently tweets about websites and apps she feels might be of interest to the educational community.  Recently she mentioned a web 2.0 application capable of creating simple timelines.  As far as I can tell this service has been up and running since 2009.

TimeToast is free to use with no age limitations that I could find in the Terms of Service or Privacy Policy but I always tend to be cautious, keeping parents and my administration advised about applications students are using.  I'm noting this because there is a Browse feature on the site allowing for the viewing of other created timelines.  It is necessary to have an email address to register.

The Browse button is located in the upper-right hand corner of the home page.  Included are these main categories:

  • music
  • politics
  • film
  • biography
  • science and technology
  • art and culture
  • business
  • personal
  • history
At the bottom of the home page is another way to search under the heading of Explore.  Users can search by popular timelines, updated timelines or latest timelines.

To register click the bright red Sign Up! button on the home page.  Registration requires a username, email address and password plus agreeing to follow the terms and conditions.  An email will be sent to activate your account.  You can also sign up using your Facebook account.

When you have signed in a new window appears asking if you want to create a new timeline, view your previously created timelines, browse the latest timelines, browse categories or view your profile.  Your profile is accessed along with editing or closing your account by clicking on the account button in the upper-right hand corner of the page.  Your profile can include a link to your website or blog.

When you click on create a new timeline a screen pops up asking you to give your timeline a title, select a category and insert an image. Click Go. You can now add an event, a timespan or edit the title and picture.  When you click Add event, new options are shown.

You must include a title and a date.  You can choose to add a description, a link and an image.  When using this with students, the  adding of images is always a good time to talk about copyright and appropriate sources to use.


At any time by clicking on an individual event you can edit or delete it.  After completing your work, beneath the timeline on the left side is a button to click, View this timeline.  This takes you to more options.

You can edit the timeline, change it from draft (draft timelines can't be viewed) to public, add tags and view it in text format.  Once you have made the timeline public it can be embedded or shared via Facebook or Twitter.  TimeToast creates a direct link, provides an HTML code or users can create their own code and color for the background.

A timeline status can be changed from public back to draft.  A box is provided for viewer comments.  


For generating a simple, interactive historical perspective with descriptions, images and links TimeToast is a great choice.  Students can work individually or together researching a series of events with different dates on a specific topic or a single date across the years. This could be used to plan a project with specific goals to be met in a given time period.  I can see using this with nonfiction titles as well as fiction titles or a combination of the two to design a visual representation.

I decided to do a little research about events that have happened on October 31 over the years.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Garden on the Move

Twenty-four titles are stacked next to me, all by the same author.  Prior to 1981 when the first book, Fritz and the Beautiful Horses, was both written and illustrated by her, the only other work to be found were her pictures in the title, St. Patrick's Day in the Morning published a year earlier.  With a few more titles to her credit, a characteristic style of borders, reflecting additional details of setting, flora and fauna, or foreshadowing, had become a part of her books that readers relished, looked forward to with anticipation.

Nearly forty volumes later, Jan Brett, has an artistic technique that is hers and hers alone.  Immersing readers in a title's setting with her exquisite paintings done in watercolor and gouache, she takes us to places we might never go.  Her newest title, Mossy (G. P. Putnam's Sons) is the result of observations made when she and her husband were enjoying a summer morning on their dock on Goose Lake.  Lucky for we readers, Jan Brett is able to see stories wherever she may be.


On a misty, moisty morning, a young turtle stood at the edge of Lilypad Pond.  Her name was Mossy.

This turtle, an eastern box turtle, is rather fond of her home.  So fond, in fact, that moss, ferns and eventually wild flowers begin to grow and bloom upon her shell.  Little does she know, when she looks at her image in the pond, her appearance is being noticed by others.

As she peers into the water one day, a face other than her own is looking back.  It's Scoot, another eastern box turtle.  Although he thinks her garden is lovely, it's Mossy that's captured his heart.  It's turtle love!

As the two, eyes locked, make their way toward one another, Mossy is lifted up, up and away.  Oh, no...Dr. Carolina, curator of a local natural history museum, believes Mossy will be her star exhibit.  Nothing could top the appeal of a colorful garden growing on a turtle's back.

She and her niece, Tory, design what they believe is the perfect home for Mossy.  But how can not being at Lilypad Pond be called home?  Mossy misses Scoot.  And Scoot waits for Mossy.  Summer moves into fall and fall into winter.  Mossy's popularity grows.

A visit by Tory's class, a question and spring's arrival cause the museum to be closed.  What's going on?  What's happened to Mossy?  The labor of two strangers answers all questions bringing this story to an unexpected but wonderfully natural conclusion.  Jan Brett wouldn't have it any other way.


When reading the narrative scripted by Jan Brett, it's not hard to imagine walking in the woods, coming upon a pond with an eastern box turtle sunning herself upon a rock.  Jan Brett would point to her, drawing attention to the beauty growing on her carapace.  Then she would begin a story stepping back to the Victorian times about this turtle and her mate, a naturalist and her niece blending the two tales into one of respect, admiration and faithfulness fulfilled.


If you open the jacket (cover) Scoot, on the back, is moving right along toward Mossy on the front as she glances back at him.  The opening and closing endpapers, identical, are an intricate montage of a myriad of mosses.  A small oval portrait of Mossy is centered on the title page surrounded by a collection of feathers.

Like a naturalist's sketchbook each two page spread features a collection; moths, mosses, fungi, wildflowers, rocks and minerals, sea shells, butterflies beetles, fossils, seeds, orchids, feathers, and butterflies.  Framing the illustrations these collections are themselves each framed with delicate lines  depicting new and numerous types of borders.  A realistic array of colors are captured in each picture making the reader feel as though they might step right into this spectacular world.

Having been a fan of Jan Brett's illustrations and stories for years, it would be hard for me to not like one of her books.  Without a doubt I am placing Mossy in my top ten.  I have already read this title again and again.  The one thing I have not been able to find yet is Hedgie, usually hidden in all her titles, but what I did find (oh, Jan Brett, most clever) is something  sure to please a very special person.

Not only will this book be enjoyed again and again by readers but the possibilities for extending the text are huge given all the natural collections displayed on every turn of page.  The link for Jan Brett's home page is embedded in her name above.

Mossy bookmarks can be found at this link.  A 2013 calendar using Mossy as a theme is here.  To make postcards with the Mossy illustrations click this link.  For news about this title, Jan Brett's ideas and extras about Mossy click here.

To see how Jan Brett draws Mossy watch this video.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A World Changed

The best kind of biography is not a dry compendium of a person's existence but an awakening; it's making them alive for today's readers and paying tribute to what made them who they were.  It is the result of years of research on the part of both the author and the illustrator.  Each of them know the person so well they live, however briefly, in the person's skin.

One of the most consistently popular historical figures is Helen Keller.  Justifiably, admiration for her accomplishments has never lessened with readers, no matter their age. Helen's Big World (Disney-Hyperion Books) is the third collaboration between author, Doreen Rappaport and illustrator, Matt Tavares.

Helen gurgled and giggled in her crib.  At six months, she crawled and said, "How-d' ye," and "wah-wah," for water.

Until she was nineteen months old Helen Keller was much like any other child, dearly loving the company of her parents.  Then a puzzling illness took away her ability to see, hear and speak.  Making sense of this change was beyond her young capabilities.

Five years passed before her teacher and companion, Annie Sullivan, entered her life.  With patience, persistence and firmness, Annie would spell words on Helen's palm, teach her social skills, and to use her fingers as eyes and ears, feeling what she could neither see nor hear.  Under Annie's tutelage, Helen learned to write, gaining her notoriety at the age of eight.

Learning to read on her own with Braille, outdoor adventures on land and sea in all seasons, lip reading by touch and graduating from college with honors were all milestones met by Helen. With Annie, all things were possible for this young woman.  Most people might have stopped growing at this point but not Helen.

Now that Helen had a voice she used it; championing for peace, labor rights, women's rights and civil rights.  Readers follow her and Annie, marveling at two lives well lived.  From birth to death the more Helen learned the larger her world became... as did the worlds of those whose lives she touched.


Reading what Doreen Rappaport has written about Helen Keller is like being Helen's shadow.  She has chosen to share significant moments in a vivid and personal manner.  After each narrative segment, in a bolder and larger font, beneath is a quotation made by Helen which directly correlates.

When her parents pressed her close,
she knew their smell and touch.
But she could not see them or hear them
or say their names.

"In the dreary month of February
came the illness which
closed my eyes and ears.
Gradually, I got used to the silence
and darkness that surrounded me."


Using watercolor, pencil and gouache Matt Tavares recreates stunning images of Helen Keller, allowing readers to visually experience those events in her life that held great importance.  The jacket and cover identical in every aspect except one, the Braille on the jacket is raised, focuses on Helen's pleasure in using those senses she did have.  It's interesting to observe as the story nears its end, Annie Sullivan's death noted, he pictures an older Helen, again holding roses to smell, but she is facing in the other direction.

Both sets of endpapers use a soft spring green as a background.  The opening illustration is a close-up of Annie spelling out the word "water" in Helen's right palm as the other catches and cups a stream of water.  The Manual Language Chart is featured on the closing two pages.  Featuring hands on both sets of endpapers further emphasizes their value in Helen's world.

Across the two pages for the title Tavares pictures Annie and Helen, hands clasped, jumping in the the sea so well you can almost hear the waves rolling and crashing.  All the remaining illustrations cross the gutter bleeding to the pages' edges, sometimes with a large white section holding the text or with the text tucked within the visual.  His color palette enhances the emotions of the text; joy, sadness, frustration, anger, patience, perseverance, discovery and dedication.  My favorite illustration is of Helen seated in the crook of a tree branch, clouds of pink blossoms surrounding her, as she faces toward Annie standing among the branches on the ground.

Helen's Big World:  The Life of Helen Keller adeptly written by Doreen Rappaport with illustrations rendered beautifully by Matt Tavares highlights the life of a woman who made a difference in our world; her passion for life captured by their passion for her.  This title is biography at its very best.  An author's note, an illustrator's note, important dates, and selected research sources are included at the book's end.

For more information on Doreen Rappaport or Matt Tavares please visit their websites linked to their names above.  For more information on Matt Tavares's illustrative process go to this interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

The Braille at the top of the jacket and cover spells Helen's Big World.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Twitterville Talk #72

Lively as ever Twitter delivers the best of the latest.  There are lots of Halloween treats this week. (I couldn't resist.) Enjoy and happy reading one and all.


This is an outstanding interview and worth every minute it takes to read.  There is no doubt about the impact this man has made in the world of literature not to mention his videos. Wouldn't You Like to Know---John Green

An invitation has been extended for all those on Twitter to join Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp, fourth grade teacher and the King of Reading Promotion in #titletalk on October 28, 2012 at 8:00 PM EST.  The topic will be short texts (poems, articles, short stories and picture books).  It will be more than worth your while.

Thanks go to Donalyn Miller, educator and author of The Book Whisperer, for these tweets.


Mark your calendars and clear the time to participate in the SharpSchu Book Club on November 7, 2012 at 8:00 PM EST.  Check out the four great early reader books which will be discussed.

Thanks to Colby Sharp, educator and blogger at sharpread for this reminder tweet.




Lemony Snicket's new title, Who Could That Be at This Hour?, the first in a series of four, released this week has prompted, Q & A with Lemony Snicket .

Thank you Publishers Weekly for this post and tweet.




It could not be presented in a simpler format for the younger crowd, Digital Citizenship Poster for Elementary Classrooms.

For the door in your classroom (or I'm thinking it would be cause for a smile or two in my home), check out this pin.

I've blogged about some of these resources but some are new to me---The Five Levels of Digital Storytelling.

Geography Awareness Week is on the horizon.  Check out these possibilities.

Thanks for these tweets goes to Debbie Alvarez, teacher librarian currently in Hong Kong and blogger at The Styling Librarian.


In case you might need more Halloween decorations look no further than these at the website of author, Tony DiTerlizzi.

Thanks to Tony DiTerlizzi for this tweet and the treats at his site.




Guess what lucky readers of the book, I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black with illustrations by Debbie Ridpath Ohi?  Ohi has posted some bonus goodies at her website to go with the book.  Hurray!

Thanks to Debbie Ridpath Ohi for these extras and for the tweet.




In a quandary as to a possible Halloween costume?  Look what Reading Rockets has pinned, Literary Costumes.

Thanks to The Horn Book for this tweet.


Here are a couple of educational games offered by ABCya!, The Typing Ghosts and Pumpkin Matching, that are lots of fun.

Thanks to John Schumacher, teacher librarian, Library Journal Movers and Shakers 2011 and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. for these tweets.



This looks like a fun activity for parents and their children or teachers and their students---Red Tricycle 2012 Totally Awesome Awards Most Awesome Beloved Bedtime Stories.  Or perhaps you could design one of your own to promote a discussion about what makes a book the best bedtime story.

Thanks to Teresa Rolfe Kravtin, SE Indie Rep and blogger at A Rep Reading.


Here's another interview of Lemony Snicket sure to generate some laughs.  I hope my copy of his new book arrives soon, until then---Daniel Handler's new Snicket series dives into noir.

Thanks go out to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for this tweet.




Tech guru, Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers has a timely post, Halloween and SMART boards.  This promises to be a great resource.

Thanks for this post and tweet.





I don't know how I've missed this but this looks to be a goldmine for educators and writing in the classroom---The Exquisite Prompt:  Classroom Writing Resources

Thanks for the post and tweet go to Reading Rockets.


You might want to tuck this away for next year---50+ Wicked Halloween Ideas, Resources, & Apps

Thanks to Steve found at Bongo LLP.




Did you miss this?  I can hardly stand to wait---Visiting the 23rd Floor:  Kelly Bingham
How lucky can we readers get?

Thanks to author, Kelly Bingham for this tweet.





PSSST---Did you know that TOON Books has A Halloween Giveaway.  Don't be afraid to see their great treats.

Thanks to TOON Books for this offer and tweet.




Renowned author, Frank Cottrell Boyce wins Guardian children's fiction prize.

Thanks for this tweet goes to educator and blogger, Monica Edinger.






I think this is great for those that missed the webcast. It has been archived.  Taylor Swift Read Every Day--A Live Classroom Webcast

Thanks to Scholastic Teachers for this tweet.





This continues to be a first stop for recommended resources.  Now there are even more---ALSC's Great Websites for Kids expands.

Thanks goes to the American Librarian Association for this tweet.








These are a few of my favorite quotes and thoughts from Twitter this week.






Friday, October 26, 2012

Look...See...Beneath...Below

When the Mock Caldecott election rolls around every year in school and public libraries, it's fun to to imagine the conversations taking place about the varied techniques employed by the illustrators in the rendering of their pictures.  Each year within my own building the discussions were lively about color, composition, detail, how skillful the particular artist was with their medium of choice and how the visuals contributed to and enhanced the storyline.  Once an explanation was offered about the means used by an illustrator to create their visuals, it was exciting to see the look of wonder on the students' faces.

One of the more popular, unusual illustrative styles is that of 1994 Caldecott Honor award winner, Denise Fleming.  With nineteen books to her credit including the newest title, underGround (Beach Lane Books, September 18, 2012), her work is easily recognizable and distinctive.  As described in the verso:

The illustrations were created by pulp painting---a papermaking technique using colored cotton fiber poured through hand-cut stencils.  Accents were added with pastel pencil and copy transfer.


Low down.
Way down.
Under ground.


High in the branches of a tree a robin watches rabbits on a garden plot.  He swoops down among the carrot tops spying a worm to tug up.  On the dirt beetles and ants are crawling as grubs nestle beneath the soil.

On top a rabbit munches as a mole meanders below.  A small child examines ants as readers see all the activity he cannot.  Chipmunks carry a feast of nuts to their tunnels as a groundhog snacks on a grassy treat.

As the story proceeds a mixture of animals above and below are highlighted busily going about their day.  The child's dog buries a bone among others deeper down.  A cherry tree is planted, carrots are picked and the two companions scamper away.


Denise Fleming's skill at using the least amount of words for the biggest impact is highly evident in this book.  Her crisp phrases relying on alliteration and rhyme convey constant motion.  It's like she's issued an invitation to everyone, "Come closer...look here, over there. Now, put on these special glasses.  Can you see beneath the above?  It's full of life, too."  When her three closing sentences match the first three, the circle is complete, but continuing.


The array of energetic greens and browns with touches of royal blue, orange and brilliant red shown on the jacket and cover are carried throughout the book.  Identical opening and closing endpapers are textured with marbled layers of dirt, lost treasures strewn about; a thimble, a bit of chain and a wrench.  A turn of page begins the story as the title, author and publishing information is shown underground with the rabbits in the garden greenery above, ants and bees joining them.

Another page turn shows a child and their dog running toward a red wheelbarrow carrying trees for planting; more publication informationis tucked on the far left side.  Page after page reveals lush portrayals beginning on the left spreading across to the right, bleeding out to the edges, for the entire book.  Perspective, detail and the texture of the pictures make you want to reach out and participate with more than your eyes.

At the story's completion Fleming takes readers on a short informative tour, Creature Identification.  Twenty-one small, captioned pictures set against a rusty, pebbled background feature additional facts about the critters found in this book.  It's the final jewel in a treasure chest filled to the brim.


Denise Fleming's gift is to draw our attention, to focus, on a specific aspect of our world.  In underGround we are able to view the activity of above and below at the same time with an uncommon closeness.  This title is another example of why most of her titles have found a place on my personal shelves.

Enjoy the book trailer.



I've used this video with great success, especially the part where she takes viewers into her studio
to demonstrate the pulp painting process.  It is nearly forty minutes in length.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's How Big?

Your heart races, your breathing speeds up and your eyes get as big as saucers.  Whether real or imagined, those are signs fear is present.  Your body is gearing up for the classic flight or fight.

Fear can also be a matter of perspective, lessening or growing depending on the individual person.  Author/illustrator, Levi Pinfold, in his second picture book, Black Dog (templar books, an imprint of Candlewick Press), in a most charming way, focuses on fear.  It seems the Hope family has a huge problem...or do they?

One day, a black dog came to visit the Hope family.  Mr. Hope was the first to see it.



Breakfast toast dropping to the floor Mr. Hope is shocked by what he sees out the window.  In a flash he's on the phone to the local police, claiming there's a dog the size of a tiger outside his home. Laughing they tell him not to go out.

Mrs. Hope gets up shouting to anyone who will listen, there's a dog as big as an elephant near their home.  Mr. Hope's solution is to hide in darkness by shutting off the lights.  As each of the children rise and begin to perform their morning rituals noticing the dog, his size magnifies as do the remedies for security.

There must be something strange in the air beyond the confines of the Hope abode.  That black dog grows from elephant to Tyrannosaurus rex, and finally to Big Jeffy.  Big Jeffy?  Lights off, check, curtains closed, check, hiding under the covers, check.  The Hope family is hoping.

Small Hope, the youngest and shortest, thinks Mr. Hope, Mrs. Hope, Adeline and Maurice are being utterly ridiculous.  To their horror, she bundles up, resolutely walks out the door and right up to the canine creature, who truth be told, compared to her, is big.  Singing a song she entices the black dog to follow along.

Her melody leads him under a bridge, over a frozen pond, down and around the playground for fun and through the cat door back home.  How is that possible?  Maybe a little hope is exactly what you need to face fear, to see the truth.  And when you see truth it might follow you home.


Levi Pinfold's  narrative is light, lively and guaranteed to have any reader smiling by the end of the first page.  With great success he creates a pattern of each member awakening, dropping an item, calling for help and asking for advice slightly altering responses to fit the family member.  When Small Hope confronts the black dog another rhythm is established.  Each time her different two line rhymes are sung, the same phrase follows.  In fact Pinfold uses it as his final line.  Perfection.

"You can't follow where I go,
unless you shrink, or don't you know?"


A luxurious, metallic, silvery winterscape with the Hope family home and Small Hope outside spreads across the jacket with three tiny sepia-toned insets on the back.  Unlike the jacket the cover is a version of the snowy woods empty of life, but close inspection shows a nearly invisible trail of paw prints.  The front endpapers are a replica of the jacket including the title page and verso.  A mirror image of the cover decorates the closing endpapers.

Using tempera paint on paper, some self-prepared, other premixed, Levi Pinfold's illustrations are magical.  He brings readers into a world of rumpled domestic bliss, slightly old fashioned, a little eccentric. Each of the two page spreads, until Small gazes up at the black dog, showcase a detailed full color visual on the right.  On the left six specifically-shaped, brown-hued exquisite miniature pictures frame the text on the top and bottom, reflecting the action.

Four lush, colorful illustrations span two pages as Small Hope faces the black dog leading him with her song around the village and surrounding woods until the two return home.  Inside again the original pattern repeats until the family gathers.  Readers will want to carefully examine every nook and cranny of each illustration noticing all the special touches; the childlike drawing on a kitchen cupboard labeled Jeffy, a pink elephant toy in Maurice's bedroom becomes a piece of playground equipment or the Royal typewriter sitting out in the open.


Black Dog written and illustrated by Levi Pinfold is absolutely stunning in its narrative and art.  I can't imagine this not becoming a favorite to be read again and again, relished at each reading.  Never has facing one's fears been so enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

List It, Map It

When reading the AASL, American Association of School Librarians, Standards for the 21st-Century Learner, the first standard states:

Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.

This standard addresses the idea of the process being as vital as the product.  The variety of Information Literacy Models and Inquiry Learning Models or Virtual Information Inquiry: Models is numerous to say the least.  Most of these do require, initially, a written plan, a series of goals to be met, prior to beginning.



If simplicity, ease of use, is a key requirement for a web 2.0 application to be selected, then this latest service posted by Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers should be part of your virtual toolbox.  Designed to convert an outline to a more visual display, Text 2 Mindmap, launched in 2008, is free to use without registration.  As soon as the home page is accessed users can begin.


On the left side of the screen is a text box with an outline already completed.  This is an example only; the mind map representation is shown on the right.  Before beginning highlight that text and strike the backspace key to erase it.  Outdent and indent icons are in the upper left-hand corner of the text box.

Prior to typing in your words you may click on the triangle of dots in the lower right-hand corner to re-size the box.  When you click on options you can alter the positions by locking and unlocking the boxes, select font color and size, choose the box colors and determine the color, width and type of line.  Colors of the boxes can be by level or branch; options for each can be picked to allow for a final decision later.

The created mind map can be moved around on the screen by clicking and dragging prior to saving (locking) as can each of the individual boxes.  What you see on the screen is what will be saved, so make sure all of your items are completely visible.  Note that font size and number of words will be a determining factor.

When your mind map is completed you have two options for exporting it:  downloading it as a PDF (A4size, high resolution, 300dpi) or downloading it in PNG format (MAC and PC).  It can be shared via Facebook or Twitter as view only. You can also save by giving it a title and entering in your email address.  If you should happen to lose your downloads, then Text 2 Mindmap can send them to you via email.

Here is an image of my mind map titled Caldecott Medal.


This is an ideal application to use with students who do not have individual email addresses. Not having to register is a huge plus with younger students. Text 2 MindMap is one of those applications where you can type, click, drag (arrange) and go, making it the perfect service for elementary and lower middle school students.  Not only would it be a good tool for beginning inquiry but also for writing, brainstorming, or searching for keywords and information within text.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

That Canine Classmate Is Back

Having a dog as a schoolmate is the most natural thing in the world for students at Champlain Elementary.  When Bailey (Scholastic Press, August 2011)(review here) written and illustrated by Harry Bliss was introduced to readers, I can imagine them wishing they could attend class with this comical four-footed, furry student.  Never a dull moment tops the agenda of days spent with Bailey.

In this companion title, Bailey at the Museum (Scholastic Press), Harry Bliss places his canine character with his school chums on a tour of the Museum of Natural History.  Field trip fun is in the offing.  Miss Smith, the epitome of Educator of the Year, is one very calm (usually), patient lady.

No one is more elated about this new adventure than Bailey.  Tail wagging like brushes in a car wash, Bailey can hardly await to arrive.  With instructions to select a buddy and stay in...Bailey...what are you doing in the fountain?

All begins well until the group, lead by the museum guide, stands before the bony Tyrannosaurus rex.  Bones plus dogs equals sheer satisfaction except in a museum exhibit.  Shouts, gasps, and one guard with a ladder saves the day and the dog.

Touring with Bailey is his new partner...you guessed it, the guard.  Lunch is a bonus for Bailey; the guy has a huge heart.  Doggy kisses are the dessert of the day.

From the Stone Age to the Native American exhibit complete with a totem pole, artifacts and a tepee the visit continues.  Wait a minute...where's Bailey?  He's snoozing away inside until the clever guard utters the one word all dogs jump to---SQUIRREL!

Despite their scurrying the class has disappeared.  But everyone knows, no nose is like a pooch's nose.  Rescued becomes the rescuer and a friendship is forged.


Harry Bliss uses one or two short, simple sentences for each of his illustrations as his narrative text.  Interspersed in his visuals are Bailey's thoughts in speech bubbles as well as other character's thoughts and dialogue which are similarly shown. It's in these additions readers are enticed to participate in the story and love being there.  While seeming to be as human as the other students Bailey's actions and unspoken words are all dog.  Hilarity abounds.

Museum guide:  Clown fish have orange and white coloring and live in reefs.

Bailey:  I wonder if they miss the circus?


According to an interview given at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast on April 2, 2009, Bliss states his usual medium is black ink and watercolor, having mastered this technique and created his own notable style over the course of his career.  A sense of movement is prevalent throughout the book with the alteration in perspective, extent of the illustrations on the pages (size), use of white space and Bailey's ever present tail wagging merrily.  The jacket and cover art, like the narrative, give readers a hint of Bliss's keen sense of humor. On the back Bailey is shown peering from behind an ancient vase encased in glass.  Pictured on the vase is a toga-wearing dog chasing a squirrel; bones completing the design at the top.

Attention to detail invites readers to pause or reread.  On the school bus a student is reading The New Yorkshire while others read graphic novels and chapter books.  On the guard's ladder is Warning: No Dancing.  Beneath the progression of mankind painting hanging on the wall is the class walking in a line--guard, Miss Smith, students, tallest to shortest, with Bailey leading.  The comparison is grin-worthy.


The combination of Harry Bliss's wit and artistic talent gives readers another grand episode in the life of this irresistible dog who loves school and everything it includes.  Bailey at the Museum is one trip you won't want to miss.  After all, he's just your average student...with a tail, paws, big black-tipped nose and a bright red collar.  This guy has captured my heart.

For another more recent interview of Harry Bliss follow this link.

Enjoy this short video of Harry Bliss drawing Bailey.



Monday, October 22, 2012

In The Dead of Night

Just a little over a month ago, the second year of Calling Caldecott, a blog devoted to discussion about possible Caldecott Medal and Honor worthy books, was reopened..  This blog is hosted by Robin Smith, a second grade teacher at Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee, who is also a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book and has served on numerous award committees including the Caldecott.  Her partner in this endeavor is Lolly Robinson, designer and production manager for The Horn Book, who has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees.

Of the twenty-one books on their initial discussion list (linked above) I had not read six.  Of these six is the book titled The Insomniacs (G. P. Putnam's Sons) written by debut author, Karina Wolf, with illustrations by The Brothers Hilts.  Every single one of us has had sleepless nights.  But how many of us are like these three?

The Insomniacs weren't always a night family.

Indeed, most people are not night families.  An ocean voyage across twelve time zones not only means a job change for Mrs. Insomniac but a whole new opportunity awaits.  It would seem their bodies are not adapting to the switch in location.

Mother, Father and Mika can hardly make it through the day without nodding off but come night--they are wide awake.  Each has their own remedies for inducing slumber; none of which seem to work.  A group huddle, a brainstorming session, has them looking to area animals for answers.

Into the darkness they go in search of the one creature who sleeps the longest, a bear.  Approaching the hibernator haven all they discover are...bats; lots and lots of bats.  When the swirling and swooping masses have passed, pausing to look around, the Insomniacs are amazed to see busy nocturnal beings; activity abounds.

This, they believe, will do nicely.  Dusk will be their dawn.  Dawn will be their dusk.

A stroll through the moonlight along the shadowy sea, fragrant flowers, fresh baked goods and silence are the well-earned rewards after each works the nights away.  Do they miss the sun?   When you have stars and fireflies and northern lights would you?


With the first sentence, first time picture book author, Karina Wolf, draws readers into the world of the Insomniacs.  Immediately your mind is filled with questions which she answers sentence by sentence, paying attention to atmosphere.  It is easy to get the sense that Wolf likes playing with words as some of her phrases roll with a slightly alliterative rhythm.

All her drowsy definitive words evoke a state of wakefulness and barely awake depending on the hour.  Her characters, Mother, Father and Mika respect one another, chatting, musing, thinking of possibilities.  It is in their openness one finds the delight in darkness.  Here are a couple of phrases.

Mother dragged herself to work and nodded at her desk.
Father took pictures at his studio and then took forty winks.

The cloud of animals roused and rushed into the night.


Ben Hilts and Sean Hilts, The Brothers Hilts, using pencil, charcoal and a computer, have illustrated their first children's book.  Steely, midnight blue endpapers with scattered stars set the stage.  The title page background is a dusty, tiny, floral print wallpaper with an oval framed family portrait of the Insomniacs hanging from the "M".

The first sentence sits exactly in the middle of a faded golden cityscape with a train of cars along the bottom heading into the gutter; a thin dotted line extending to the car of our characters. On the right side are six small studies of the family during their day.  This pattern is used throughout the book, double page spread, single pages and small groupings to enhance and emphasize the narrative.  The text placement is varied, becoming part of the design.

Golden yellow, spots of red, green and turquoise, rusts and browns, blues and blacks, all muted, lend to the quiet, the shift to a life in the night.  Their depiction of Father as a shorter (whose head is nearly egg-shaped) man, a photographer, next to Mother, tall, thin, a student of astronomy with short-haired, wide-eyed, Mika in her striped dress, is utterly wonderful.  Details on every turn of page invite repeated viewings.  One of my favorite pages is a tongue-in-groove wooden wall background, old fashioned single light bulb hanging down from the page top, illuminating two lines with five photographs clipped to them. These photographs illustrate the family's evening occupations as described on the opposite page, except for the last one...Mother and Mika dancing beneath a crescent moon...along with an aardvark and bear dancing too.


To be a member of The Insomniacs written by Karina Wolf with illustrations by The Brothers Hilts would indeed be a great adventure.  The attraction of living the opposite is stunning and strong.  I now know why this title is on the list; both words and pictures embrace individuality in simultaneous beauty.

For more on both the author and illustrators view their website links embedded in their names above. This is the official book trailer.

 I also thought it might be fun to read it another time playing this video in the background or on a whiteboard.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Porcine Ponderings

I'm sure I've mentioned more than once, over the course of my career I have enjoyed exploring the variations on folktales whether cultural or fractured.  After my review earlier this week of The Three Ninja Pigs (G. P Putnam's Sons) by Corey Rosen Schwartz with illustrations by Dan Santat, I started jotting down all the titles I could remember. Before I knew it, I was back at one of my favorite web 2.0 applications, Popplet, one of AASL's (American Association of School Librarians) Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2012.

Here is the newest Popplet, Little Pig Variants.  It's a work in progress.  I've tried to include links to lesson plans, reader's theaters and videos whenever possible. On the plus side I learned a couple of new things about the application today.  For example if you want to add links to your text, you need a new popple for each link.  I also experimented with adding a map via Google.

If the embedded version below does not work, here is the link.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Twitterville Talk #71

The fall book releases have been creating quite a buzz.  People are becoming more excited about the upcoming Caldecott and Newbery possibilities.  Creative ideas appear within seconds. Twitter keeps everyone informed and on their toes.  It's fantastic!  I hope you have a great weekend.  Make time for reading.


I have another place that readers might want to add to their literary bucket list---Bookworm Gardens.
On their website they announce:  Our gardens connect nature and literature to enrich children's lives.

My thanks goes to Sarah, a teacher librarian and blogger at Page in Training, for this tweet.




After the National Book Award Finalists for young adult literature were announced last week, this was posted---2012 NBA Finalists reviews.  


Thanks to The Horn Book for the post and tweet.





This looks like just the ticket for all those young authors you may know or teach---Kids' Short Story Contest held at The Official Website of Spilling Ink The Book! hosted by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter (author of The Humming Room reviewed here)

My thanks to Ellen Potter for this tweet.



With the release of the final volume in the series, Son, started with The Giver, School Library Journal presents a Webcast Event, Lois Lowry Live!  This will be held on November 7, 2012.  For fans of the series and all the works by this wonderful author, this is a must attend.

Thanks to School Library Journal for this tweet.






As the release date gets closer the anticipation (and laughs) builds.  Video: Daniel Handler on Lemony Snicket and 'Who Could That Be at This Hour?'

Thanks to Publishers Weekly for this tweet.


For more information, via a collection of videos and book blurbs, about The 2012 National Book Award Finalists head over to Watch. Connect. Read.

Mr. Schu is always posting links to book trailers which he thinks his followers will enjoy.  Xena insisted I post this video. (I wonder how she got on my laptop without my knowing.)




Thanks to John Schumacher, teacher librarian, 2011 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. for this tweet.






Some exquisite architecture is pictured here---Bizarre-Looking Libraries from All Over the World.

Thanks to Literacyhead for this tweet.


With her visit to the United States and the release of her adult title, J. K. Rowling has been in the news. Here is a great interview in The New York Times, J. K. Rowling: By The Book.

Thanks go to author, Bruce Coville for this tweet.




It doesn't seem possible but Some Book! 'Charlotte's Web' Turns 60.

My thanks to NPR for the story and the tweet.





Author Jeff Kinney is going electronic---Dear Digital Diary: 'Wimpy Kid' e-books coming.


Thanks to Children's Bookshelf of Publishers Weekly for this tweet.





Just in time for Halloween---Ed Emberley's Drawing Pages

Thanks to Chicken Little for this tweet.





Another announcement this week featuring some of the best from last year's books---YALSA's Teens' Top Ten. How many have you read?

Thanks to YALSA for this tweet.







This was pretty interesting news, Johnny Depp to launch a book imprint.

Thanks to HarperCollins for posting this tweet. (Although many, many others tweeted it also.)




Write down this date, October 23, 2012.  Ask Jay Asher & R. J. Palacio are chatting over at Goodreads.

Thanks to Random House Kids for this tweet.





This is a most enjoyable and informative interview, J. K. Rowling On 'The Daily Show': Expresses Shock At American Politics (VIDEO)

Thanks to HuffPost Books for this tweet.





Oh, boy...I would love to curl up with a good book in these reading spaces--Rooms To Read

Thanks to Reading Kingdom for this tweet.








Here's another great resource just in time for Halloween---A Reader's Theater for The Hallo-Wiener by Dav Pilkey.

Thanks to TeachingBooks for this post and tweet.






Are you participating in Neil Gaiman's All Hallows Read.  It's a spooktacular thing to do.  Gaiman explains all about it on this video.

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






This is an amazing slideshare presentation, 50 books in 50 minutes, a bibliography of books gathered by Teri Lesesne who teaches and blogs at Professor Nana, The Goddess of YA Literature.  Thank for sharing this and all your blog posts with us.




Neil Gaiman and some of his friends and author colleagues are reading Coraline in celebration of the tenth anniversary.  As was his reading of The Graveyard Book, this, too, is done free for listeners.












Enjoy some of my favorite quotes and tweets this week.