Quote of the Month

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




Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shhhh...It's Their Turn Now

Among all the books published in a given year, some books stand out in their particular area.  They become one of those volumes which should be on every book lover's shelf.  Now, on the last day of National Poetry Month 2013 and on the second day of Screen-Free Week 2013, is the perfect time to highlight a title not previously given focus on this blog.








This title is one of the 2011 Nerdies Book Award winners in the poetry category.  It won the 2012 Cybils Award for Poetry.  Written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Josee Bisaillon, BookSpeak! Poems About Books (Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2011) is a jaunty journey into the realm of What If.



Calling All Readers
I'll tell you a story.
I'll spin you a rhyme.
I'll spill some ideas---
and we'll travel through time. ...

The introductory stanza from the first poem is a call to the heart of all of us; we crave stories.  It goes on to tell us to leave our television sets and computers, taking time to make friends with a book.

Within the covers of this book twenty-one poems allow volumes to have their say.  Not only do the books themselves speak, but the parts of books want to be given equal time too.  Readers are asked to think about books in ways they may not have considered previously.

Can flocks of blackbirds be words of a story?  If a book is not read, what happens to the words inside the covers?  Do characters feel as if they are imprisoned?

There are books holding secrets; a person's life page by page.  There are well-loved books and perfect books never held by sticky fingers.  There are books not yet written which we deeply desire; a sequel can not come fast enough.

The times late at night when you want to finish a book, fighting sleep but loose the battle are pretty tough on the book whose pages become your pillow.  It's understood but nevertheless stated, books abhor...water.  Readers realize books enjoy vacations just as much as the people themselves (maybe even more).

We get the inside scoop, the absolute truth, from the index.  We are told exactly what to do with a dish that is not a dish.  And we discover the real definition of The End.


 Laura Purdie Salas answers questions readers didn't know they had in a clever, conversational tone of voice.  Different poetic styles, rhyming, free verse and acrostic, create a flow that's fun to follow, moving easily from page to page.  Salas knows which words are right, the exact amount of lines necessary, and where breaks should be placed to send an invitation to the reader, encouraging participation in her lighthearted look at the world of books.  One of my favorite poems is The Middle's Lament: A Poem for Three Voices.  The conversation between The Middle, The Beginning and The End is funny with a capital F.


Readers know with a first look at the jacket and cover of this title, they're in for a rare visual adventure.  Rendered using mixed media, Josee Bisaillon's illustrations are fanciful and fascinating.  On the title page an organ grinder's monkey is riding a tricycle pulling a wagon loaded with books, the side featuring the publisher information.  Above in the trail of a bee's flight the author's and illustrator's names wave across the page.  Dedications are signs pulled through the air by planes.

With a color palette as varied as the poems themselves, patterns and textures, objects, animals (real or imagined) and people doing amazing things, readers find themselves in the completely unique world wrought by the capable hands of Bisaillon.  Inkblots become blackbirds, a book unlocked by a special key, opens, casting a light filled with brilliant butterflies, and rain falls on an umbrella with flowers growing on top.  What we can only dream, she places on the pages for all to see.


Whether read silently or better still, aloud, BookSpeak: Poems About Books written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Josee Bisaillon, will leave readers marveling and thinking about the endless possibilities found and because of books.  By following the link embedded in Josee Bisaillon's name to her website, you can see more illustrations from this title.  At Laura Purdie Salas' website (linked to her name) she has a reading guide, activity sheets and several videos of her reading poems from this book.




I think it would be great fun to read Lights Out At The Bookstore, the third to the last poem in the book, either before or after this video, a favorite of mine.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Rare Sight

Infrequently seen, where I've lived and visited, a brief glimpse as they soar by, is what I've come to label, a cause for a pause.  Their color is so brilliant it's hard not to gasp.  For me the sight of a bluebird has always meant there is magic in the air.

When my copy of Bluebird (Schwartz & Wade Books) written and illustrated by Bob Staake arrived, I could hardly open the box fast enough.  I'd been reading about its reception in the children's literature community but had not read any of the reviews or interviews except for one.  I wanted any impressions of this book to be all my own.

As is my practice I looked over the front and back jacket.  Upon removing the jacket I was delighted to see the cover has another illustration, a double page spread of the bluebird looking over the city from above.  An initial glance at the opening and closing endpapers told me they are an essential part of the story.

The unique framing used throughout begins on the verso, dedication and title pages.  They are all a part of the pictorial narrative. As the bluebird flies from left to right, through four frames, alighting in a tree outside a school, we meet the boy.

Watching, the bluebird sees the sadness of the child, head lowered, silent, as others make fun of him; a new school year is beginning.  Leaving the school at day's end, the boy slowly makes his way home but the bluebird follows, weaving in and out of his path.  Before too long the bluebird's persistence makes the boy smile.

As the two make their way through the city streets to the park, each new scenario further defines each of their personalities and the growing relationship.  Due to the bluebird's guidance the sailing pond yields newfound friends.  Leaving their resting place in the sun, they enter another darker, more wooded part of the park.

Within moments the boy is approached by three other boys wanting his sailboat.  When an act done in anger threatens the boy, his bluebird friend intercedes.  The result has the three running and the boy left, tearful, holding the bluebird.  To the boy's bewilderment a colorful array of birds first one at a time, then in groups, approach with their own plan for him as he still holds his bluebird friend. A strikingly beautiful ending, for the shift in color and the ensuing final pages, will have each reader drawing their own conclusions.


This wordless wonder has readers immediately developing an emotional attachment with the boy and the bluebird.  We experience the loneliness, the light, freely given friendship of one then the other, the happiness of discovering other playmates, the fear, the sadness and ultimately the hope.  With each turn of page we are more deeply involved in the events of the day.

For most of the book Bob Staake uses shades of gray and blue with black and white making the burst of rainbow hues at the end more profoundly felt.  To tell you the truth, after the first few pages the palette choice, unique and definitely appealing, shifts slightly back as the reader intently studies the movements and facial expressions of the bluebird and the boy.  Every nuance of  their developing bond is clearly draw; visible with the line of an eye or mouth, the turn of head, the lift of wings or stature.

Each two page spread with different size square and rectangular frames, carefully placed, defines the speed in which the story is revealed. Inside those frames we might see a larger overview or zoom in for a shift in the story's actions or emotions. The layout and design is brilliant.  One of my favorite double page illustrations is after their adventure at the pond.  You have to wonder how long it's been since the boy has been this happy.


At my first reading of this title I was stunned (and tearful).  With each subsequent reading of Bluebird written and illustrated by Bob Staake I continue to be amazed at the power of storytelling in visuals alone.  The layers in this story, the opportunity for discussion, makes it a book to be read and shared...repeatedly.

The first interview of Bob Staake regarding Bluebird I read can be found at Watch. Connect. Read.  Here is an interview titled Hostile Questions at Booklist.   19 Questions with Author and Illustrator Bob Staake can be found at Random Acts of Reading.  Publishers Weekly conducted a Q & A with Bob Staake.  Be sure to follow the link embedded in Bob Staake's name above to read about the process of creating Bluebird.

 


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Twitterville Talk #98

On Monday, April 29, 2013 Screen-Free Week begins continuing until the following Sunday.  Not watching television will be a snap but giving up Facebook and Twitter will not be so easy.  I know too much time is devoted to both, especially Twitter but the connections I've made with people are unbelievable, personally and professionally.  For Screen-Free Week I will not go to Facebook or Twitter except to leave messages about posts on my blog (once on Facebook and three times on Twitter) per day.  I will only be posting book reviews on my blog on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  I will continue to check my favorite blogs because there I find some of the best reading. I will not miss the Ivan "hang-out" nor my first blog post on The Nerdy Book Club. This will be the last Twitterville Talk until May 11, 2013.  With all this extra time for reading there might be more giveaways here than usual.  Have a relaxing weekend.  Don't forget to take time for reading.



Last Saturday, author Linda Urban (A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Hound Dog True and The Center of Everything) wrote a post titled My Imaginary Board of Directors.  When she needs to make a decision she tries to imagine how these favorite people would guide her.  It's a great life exercise and would make for a terrific writing project.

Thanks to Linda Urban for this post and her tweet.


For all of us who have read and loved The One and Only Ivan this represents an amazing opportunity.



Mr. Schu moderated a panel at the International Reading Association last Saturday.  Caldecott Award winning illustrators, Marla Frazee, Chris Raschka and David Ezra Stein were on that panel.  This is a link to an abundance of resources on those three outstanding figures in children's literature.


Save this video for Earth Day next year!




I'm beginning to think Mr. Schu has some genetic link to book trailers.  This is this week's latest batch.













This is an amazing video made by Random House that showcases Newbery Award authors chatting.




The Teachers' Choices 2013 reading list has been released. To the first person who can tell me the title of the Tad Hills book on this list, I will send them a copy of that book. Please reply in the comments below or send me a DM on Twitter. (This title has been won.)

In case you missed the April @SharpSchu Book Club or want to read through all the great tweets again the archive is linked here.


Many, many thanks to teacher librarian, 2011 Library Journal Movers & Shakers, 2014 Newbery Award Committee member and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. , John Schumacher for these tweets.






Teri Lesesne presented at the recent International Reading Association conference in San Antonio, Texas.  Her presentation, Can It Be Done? 100 Books in 100 Minutes has been posted at SlideShare. There are lots of good titles here.
To the first person who can tell me the first title in her nonfiction about animals section, I will send a copy of Leave Your Sleep by Natalie Merchant & Barbara McClintock (CD included).

Don't forget!  #titletalk is this Sunday at 8:00 PM EST  The topic is summer PD and reading plans.  The guest for this month is Teri Lesesne.


Thanks to Donalyn Miller, teacher and author of The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, for these tweets.






Read as soon as you can for as long as you can; it's never too late.

Thanks to teacher and blogger at Reading Rocks!, Ryan M. Hanna for this tweet.





As a librarian you have to love a post titled 50 inspiring quotes about libraries and librarians.

Thanks to Lynda Mullaly Hunt, author of One for the Murphys, for this tweet.






Author Kate Messner was also a presenter at the International Reading Association conference this past weekend.  She is graciously sharing her two presentations, Research In Fiction and Reading & Writing Mysteries With Kids on SlideShare.

Many thanks to Kate Messner (Marty McGuire, Capture the Flag, Hide and Seek, Eye of the Storm, Over and Under the Snow) for sharing her work and for these tweets.




Who wouldn't want to go to any one of these libraries? The Most Playful Libraries in the World
To the first person who can tell me the main feature in the first library listed, I will send a copy of The Prince Who Fell From the Sky by John Claude Bemis (futuristic fantasy/science fiction) Please reply in the comments below or DM me a message on Twitter. (This title has been won.)

Thanks to Random House of Canada for this tweet.





Here is an excellent list per author/illustrator, Raina Telgemier, In Which I Recommend Some Graphic Novels
To the first person who can tell me the title of any of her recommended graphic novel titles for ages 8 and up, I will send a paperback copy of The Graveyard Voice by Neil Gaiman, the illustrated UK edition. (This title has been won.)

Thanks to teacher librarian and blogger at The Styling Librarian, Debbie Alvarez, currently working in Hong Kong, for this tweet.









Candlewick Press continues their celebration of We Believe In Picture Books! with this delightful video chat with John and Katherine Paterson.   Thanks for this tweet.








The winners of the Irma Black Award have been announced.

Thanks to the winning author, Michelle Knudsen (Big Mean Mike) for this tweet.
To the first person who can name one of the honor books on this list I will send a copy of Herve Tullet's Press Here.  Leave your answer in the comments below or send me a DM on Twitter. (This title has been won.)





I don't know how many of you are fans of Andrew Lane's Young Sherlock Holmes books, but his new title, Lost Worlds outside this series looks really exciting.

Thanks to Macmillan for this tweet.



Head on over to the Comics Are Great! for the Astronaut Academy Day! prizes.  You could be a winner.

Thanks to Colby Sharp, 4th grade teacher, half of the monthly book club chat #SharpSchu, half of the monthly chat #titletalk, one of the founders/moderators of the Nerdy Book Club and blogger at sharpread for this tweet. 







We lost one of the pillars of the children's literature community this past week, E. L. Konigsburg.  The following tweets are a tribute to the impact her presence made.





Here are some of my favorite quotes and tweets from this week.

















Friday, April 26, 2013

Matched Memories

It's impossible to remember a time when I have not been collecting something.  When I was younger it was rocks, seashells, pressed flowers and stamps.  When my niece and nephew were growing up, I collected what they did, comics and Beanie Babies.  (They have since found new homes with students.)  I have a bowl beside my computer filled with Petoskey stones and beach glass from my walks with Xena.

My love of books has always been a part of my life; my collection growing (sometimes daily).  In looking around my home, it seems the collections which I still have are a reflection of who I am and meaningful points on my life line; of what is important to me.  Paul Fleischman's The Matchbox Diary (Candlewick Press) with illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline is a story of collections and recollections.

"Pick whatever you like the most.  Then I'll tell you its story."

A young girl is meeting and visiting her great-grandfather for the first time.  They are standing in a room with shelves and cases brimming with items he has gathered over the years, antiques, framed pictures, vases, boxes, clocks and books...lots of books.  Her selection, he says, will tell him more about who she is.

She chooses an old cigar box, empty of cigars, but full of matchboxes.  Each box is like a passage in a diary, a record of his life.  Unable to read or write when he was her age, this is how he remembered.

An olive pit inside one recalls his life in Italy.  It reminds him of the olive trees, their home with dirt floors, no heat except for the cooking fire and hunger.  To help with the hunger he would suck on an olive pit given to him by his mother.

A crumpled black and white photograph of his father, the tip of a fountain pen, a piece of macaroni, a bottle cap, a hat pin, a Saint Christopher medal, sunflower seed shells, fish bones, strips of dated newspapers, a tooth, a ticket to a baseball game, a piece of coal, type from an old printing press, each placed inside a box, are silent reminders.  When the box is opened the great-grandfather gives these items life with his voice.  They tell of a long and terrifying sea voyage, the hardships of being an immigrant, of prejudice, and desire...the desire to read and write.

As he grew older his matchbox diary took on a new form.  He looked for items representing the stories of others.  Believing every age, every person, has stories, the gift of one generation is passed to another.  Even when the cover on this book is closed, the tale will continue, person to person to person.


As a reader Paul Fleischman had me hooked after the first two sentences; a story about stories.  Told entirely through the conversations of the child and her great-grandfather, as they open each box, creates an intimacy; the feeling of readers being a part of a shared experience.  Very specific, sensory details, of people and events are attached to each of the items.  The narrative is more than a retelling of the great-grandfather's past experiences though; it's the creation of a new relationship. Here is a sample passage.

"We were headed to Ellis Island, in New York.  Someone told me that men would stick buttonhooks in our eyes there."
"What's a buttonhook?"
"A metal tool for closing up shoes, before there were laces. I had nightmares about the buttonhook men.  Then we had bigger problems. A storm hit us. Maybe a hurricane.  The boat bucked like a horse. ...


The illustrations rendered in acrylic gouache by Bagram Ibatoulline are stunning in their realism. The rich, warm, golden-brown parchment like paper background on the back jacket and cover is replicated not only in the cigar box lid on the front jacket and cover but on all the pages in the book. The opening and closing endpapers are awash in faded, textured denim blue.  Heavy matte-finished pages highlight the artwork, creating a masterful blending of the present with the past.

Whenever the focus of the text is on the great-grandfather and the child, full color visuals (nearly photographic in detail) seem to glow.  In contrast each full page (sometimes crossing the gutter) illustration, also done in intricate detail, reminiscent of the events represented by the item, is done solely in the brown tones of an old-style photograph.  Each time a matchbox is opened to reveal the object inside, the perspective shifts presenting it and the contents in actual size.

 My favorite illustration is of the great-grandfather as a boy when he, his four older sisters and mother are reunited with their father in America.  They are shown in a group hugging one another against the background of a dock with a boat and building. The manner in which the emotions are captured makes this portrayal incredibly moving.


The Matchbox Diary written by Paul Fleischman with illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline is a treasure on numerous levels; stories within a story, a gallery of exquisite visuals, and having value with nearly any age group.  Every time this title is read, the reader will notice something new.  It is unmatched in its unique presentation of the immigration experience and a young boy's need to learn to read and write.

The link embedded in Paul Fleischman's name takes you to his website where he reveals how he came to write this book.  This link take you to one of the two-page spreads in the title. Candlewick Press provides a three-page teacher's guide at this link.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What Did He Say?

It happened on Monday night.  Stepping out the door for the final stroll around the yard with Xena, their music filled the night air.  The spring peepers were peeping.  The symphony announcing spring has started.  As soon as you get too close the cheerful tunes pause until you move away.  Neither they or their amphibious cousins stay visible but prefer the security of being under water.

It's a rarity, a treasured moment, when a frog does stay poised on a log, rock or lily pad.  You might even say it's surprising when this happens.  But not as surprising as Ribbit! (Alfred A. Knopf) written by Rodrigo Folgueira with illustrations by Poly Bernatene.


Once upon a time, there was a pond that was home to a family of frogs.

Well, they thought it was their home until one morning they make a shocking discovery.  Smack dab in the middle of the pond, sitting on a rock, is a pig.  You never heard so much muted croaking conversation and speculation among this crew until now, wondering why this little pink porker is where he shouldn't be.

Even more astounding is the pig's reply when asked by the fearless frog leader how they can help him.

"Ribbit!"

The chatter begins anew and he replies with the same resounding word. News of this unusual visitor spreads faster than a lightning strike through the forest.  Each animal, raccoon, weasel, turtle, duck, parrot, joins in the verbal exchange until even the pig's single word exclamations can hardly be heard above the din.  The frogs are getting madder and the animals are laughing louder.  Finally the elder shouts for their attention.

His suggestion fills them with fear but no other choice presents itself; a visit to the wise old beetle must be made.  Left all alone the little pig's ribbit takes on a different tone.  It's not easy with everyone speaking at once but in the end the wise old beetle suggest a return to the pond.  He needs to see this with his own eyes.

But what he and the other animals see upon their return is not what anyone expects.  What the wise old beetle suggests as he leaves never entered their minds.  They collectively glance upward, determined to correct their mistake.  Is that a "Tweet!"?


Rodrigo Folgueira has crafted the best kind of story alternating between an unseen narrator's voice and dialogue between the frogs, forest animals and the little pink pig.  He manages to convey with a few sentences the exact emotional tone and dilemma of all involved.  It is because of the conversations readers are well aware of the inherent humor; it's not everyday one sees a pig sitting in the middle of a pond saying "Ribbit!" Here is one example of the conversation around the pond that memorable morning.

"This new relative of yours is a little pink!" said the raccoon.
"He's no relation of ours!" declared the frogs.


It's a given when a bright pink pig is calmly sitting on a rock in a pond, eyes closed, uttering "Ribbit!", surrounded by aghast and disgruntled frogs, readers are going to be attracted to the title.  Solid color opening and closing endpapers are the same eye-catching hue as the misplaced porcine visitor.  With the exception of three opposing pages all of the illustrations within the book span two pages.

The background for each of the visuals is textured and layered in warm cremes, greens, blues, browns and pinks but readers are well aware of the passage of time because of the colors on the final three pages; an extraordinary sunset is closing the day.  With minimal use of lines Poly Bernatene captures the humor in the situation; the lifted eyebrows, the googly-eyed frogs, the frowning mouths, the perplexed and laughing forest animals and the intent of the little pink pig.  The shape of each animal's body, especially their faces, is full of charm and personality with a plus.

Having searched again and again online for information about Bernatene's technique and medium used in his illustrations and finding nothing, I decided to send him an email.  My Spanish is a little rusty since college (both he and Folgueira are Argentinian) but to my delight I received a response.  He says he does most of the original work, the textures by hand, then "applies" them in the computer using Photoshop.  He goes on to say the process for this project was very special as he and Rodrigo have been friends for twenty years.  It was and is very personal to them.  He continues by saying

It was almost 3 years of work between coming and going, with several changes in the development to reach to the best way to tell the story through with lot of care to keep balance within words and illustrations.


The first time I read Ribbit! with words by Rodrigo Folgueira, illustrated by Poly Bernatene, standing in my local indie bookstore, McLean & Eakin, I burst out laughing.  Without a doubt this collaboration between these two longtime friends is a magical, laughter-filled tale of the lengths taken by a friendship-seeking pig.  This is one story that must be read aloud.  It's a winner all the way.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Simply The Simplest--Saving The Web

Each week new services appear to make curating and saving the content on the Internet more efficient, pleasing to view, and simple to manage. Toward the end of last month, Heather Moorefield-Lang, Education and Applied Social Sciences Librarian at Virginia Tech and former chair of the American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching and Learning committee mentioned a new web 2.0 app on Twitter that is a bit different from other similar applications such as Symbaloo, Bundlenut, WebList and Urlist.  Dragdis (dragdis) proclaims to be the simplest way to collect the web.

Still in private beta, you need to enter in your email address at the main site to receive an invitation prior to use.  My request was answered within twenty-four hours via email with a link to register.  To register provide an email address and password.

When registration is complete, a new window appears on your screen asking you to install the browser extension (Chrome, Firefox or Safari) to allow the drag and drop method for collecting web content. (It will show up as a tiny icon at the end of your URL line at the browser top.) When the extension has been added another window automatically pops up offering a short tutorial on using dragdis.  All you have to do is drag an item to the right of your screen; a menu slides out with options.





Initially at the top are three pre-named folders in which to place items.  The other three items give you a chance to practice moving and manipulating them from position to position by dragging.  I moved all of these to the trash at the bottom of the column adding my own.  If you make a mistake in naming a folder, open the folder, click again and edit.

Items remain in the trash until you empty it.  All you have to do is select Trash.  Your items there will appear on your dashboard and the word Trash changes to Empty Trash.













I began by going to author/illustrator Matthew Cordell's website.  To save a website move your mouse to the tiny notebook paper like icon preceding the name of the website. Click and drag it to the right.

When you move that icon to the right of your screen the toolbar listing all your folders becomes visible. When you add it to a folder, the words Click to tag or share pop up. Click on those to bring up another work space.  Here the site is named, you have the opportunity to add tags and notes (1), your item is assigned a unique URL (2) and you can share it via Facebook, Twitter or Google + (3)

















To add a video from YouTube or Vimeo mouse over the video screen.  The small blue dragdis icon can now be seen in the upper left-hand corner.  Simply drag the symbol to the right.

When you do this, again the toolbar listing your folders will appear.  Once the item is added to a folder you can assign tags, write notes or share.  The adding of images is as simple as clicking on it and dragging it to the right.















If you wish to just save a portion of text from a site, highlight it, click and drag it to the right also.  Every time an item is included in your dragdis it becomes part of the screen at your home space.  If you want to locate a specific item, type the keywords into the search box above the folders and double click.  Then only those items will appear on the home space screen until you click on home again.



By clicking on the down arrow next to your email address, you can access a list of functions.
 The first takes you to the three browser extensions for downloading and the second is to change your password.  The about section explains the application, the terms of service, the privacy policy and how to contact the developers.  Users must be 13 years or older to use this site, no exceptions.

If you should have any questions or comments the feedback form is a good option.  When I used this I received a courteous reply within a few hours.



To view items you have saved, select them from an opened folder.  Videos can be viewed in your dragdis.  Websites are hyperlinked in your item. Click on the title to go directly to the saved page.  (You can choose the Source to go to the website, too.) Of course, images and text can be viewed from the dashboard within dragdis. To exit this screen click above the box.




Dragdis truly is the simplest means of saving web content. With a single step items are placed in folders for instant recall.  If you don't have a folder designated for your item, create a folder with a simple mouse click. This is an application I will be using on a daily basis.  (When you receive an invitation you too have the choice to issue an invite to five other people.)



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Two Fast Friends

Reactions upon finishing books for the first time are as varied as the books themselves. Tears may come if your heart is pierced to the core.  Laughter may burst forth if you are filled with joy from head to toe.  Hugging is assured if the book is endearingly adorable.  It goes without saying, especially if they are picture books, rereads are a given.

Even before I finished reading Ollie and Claire (Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.)written by Tiffany Strelitz Haber with illustrations by Matthew Cordell, I knew it would be a favorite.  To begin, the characters, best friends, are dogs.  Secondly, there is something about Matthew Cordell's illustrations that I find irresistible.

What I tend to do on the second reading is to read the story aloud.  Before I had finished the first page my reaction to this book made a tuneful appearance.  I was singing the narrative of Ollie and Claire!

Ollie and Claire were a tightly knit pair,
like hot buttered biscuits and jam.
They frolicked by day at the park and the bay,
where they yodeled and yoga'd and swam.

There is no doubt about it, Ollie and Claire are best buds day in and day out.  You could set your clock by their routine.  For Claire this perfect punctuality starts to become a problem.  She's ready for a little variation, new discoveries.

On a Friday morning stroll she sees an answer to her dilemma hanging on a nearby tree.  Someone wants a companion on a trip around the world.  The thought of what she might do or see thrills her, fills her with excitement. She quickly pens and posts a reply.

 Not wasting a second, she heads home to pack.  Though, truth be told, a phone call from Ollie that evening leaves her perplexed.  All weekend she worries and frets. Claire writes another note, this time left for a friend.  It's now Monday at 4 and there are surprises; surprises galore for both Ollie and Claire, friends to the end.


You couldn't ask for a more lively story penned in flawless rhyme.  Tiffany Strelitz Haber is a wizard with words; her selection a reflection of the canine companions' love for one another and their secret desire for a bit of adventure in their lives.  The narrative flows from one rhythmic sentence to the next with a catchy cadence.  The bits of humor, their yodeling, practicing yoga, running hurdles, bologna on white and their visions of travel, are sure to elicit smiles. (I'm grinning still.)


With no stretch of imagination you can feel the elation of Ollie and Claire on the front and back jacket and cover. Whether they are yodeling among the flowers or twirling in a circle, hands clasped, suitcases upraised Matthew Cordell 's special interpretation, his flair for creating comical creatures is evident.  Twelve possible scenarios of the two engaged in the most outrageous of activities, hand gliding, floating as astronauts in space, or snowmobiling or the most everyday, inline skating, biking or butterfly catching, decorate the opening and closing endpapers.  Their two houses, side by side, are shown on the title page as they meet, eat and leave in three small visuals on the verso and dedication pages.

Using pencil (with a hint of digital magic) and watercolor Cordell works his own brand of magic with a blend of light and bold colors using wide margins of white space to frame his pictures, except for several two page, edge to edge, spreads.  It's impossible not to laugh at the eyes, mouths, the facial expressions, and body movements of the two dogs; eating and talking while standing on a park bench or looking like ballet stars in the ocean wearing a bathing cap (Claire) and goggles (Ollie).  As Claire is dreaming of and packing for her new escapade, careful readers will see who her "new" partner really is as Cordell tucks them into the pictures. The downtown store front dream scene in this place populated by dogs is downright hilarious as is the visual of Claire throwing things out of her closet in her packing frenzy.


Ollie and Claire is a happy-go-lucky ode to friendship and its challenges.  When you pair the rhyming writing of Tiffany Strelitz Haber with the distinctive, detailed art of Matthew Cordell you have a book that will be a joy to read repeatedly.  This is a story where listeners will be moving to the narrative beat and laughing at the lovable dogs.

Make sure you follow the links embedded in both the author's and illustrator's names above to view their official websites.  Enjoy the book trailer below.


Monday, April 22, 2013

A Caretaker

Every time I make a discovery in my gardens or while walking along the lakeshore or in the woods, it's when I pause, kneel down and look.  When you narrow your field of vision, shrink it to another level, you can see a smaller world within the larger one.  Once you've explored like this and found something new, you begin to see it more often.  You've developed a different way to see.

You'll start to notice miniature burrows around your yard, spider habitats, tiny spotted green shoots coming through the brown leaves, adder's tongues, or vanishing ripples on a pond's surface, recently awakened frogs playing in the mud.  Miss Maple's Seeds (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.) with story and pictures by Eliza Wheeler imagines a very special, tiny person, living in this smaller world unseen by us...until now.  Her greatest joy, her work, is an essential element in the circle of life.


On a bright August morning, Miss Maple flies home.  She has hurried ahead of the flock to get ready for her guests.

During the summer months when everything is growing abundantly, a small figure has been gathering.  All those seeds, who somehow lost their way earlier in the spring, are being found throughout the land.  Upon the backs of her feathered friends, bluebirds many, in grass-filled baskets, in all shapes and sizes, they will find a loving home with Miss Maple.

She will learn about each of them, calling them by name.  Together they will travel down a stream, through the air and over the fields and forests.  During these little journeys she will explain how they need to settle in the mud or dirt; who will help them and who they should avoid.

Like a parent with a child each night she reads them stories.  Forest friends come to visit during the windy wintry weather when staying inside is for the best.  With the spring rains come dancing lessons .

 After eight months of tender loving care it's time to release the orphan seeds into the wild, each filled with a sense of purpose and direction.  With farewells murmuring in her mind, Miss Maple settles in for a spell.  In time she will be needed again.


This is a gentle tale, a yearly ritual, revealed in two, three or four descriptive sentences on a single page.  The narrative has been written with a lyrical pace, a lightness in tone, to the point you can almost sense a kind of music playing.  It is the repetition of one particular piece of advice during the story which binds the work of Miss Maple to her seeds.  Here are a couple of  examples of Wheeler's writing in this title.

In bustling gardens, seeds must take care to stay clear of weedy characters.

Snuggled in each night, Miss Maple reads flower tales by firefly light.


Through a pictorial display spanning across the front and back jacket and cover readers enter the world of Miss Maple as she floats over the fields in her flowery balloon.  Opening and closing endpapers, a lively shade of blue, provide the background for scattered buttercup petals and flowers.  Eliza Wheeler creates her illustrations throughout with dip pens, India ink and watercolors using hues taken from the natural world awash in glowing greens and yellows.

Infinite care has been given to the details of depicting the miniature world of Miss Maple; the small rosebud tucked into her hat, the door, windows, and steps of her home in the maple tree, her leafy boat and umbrella, and the tiny baskets used to send the seeds into the world by air or on the water.  Delicate lines capture the features of her helpers and friends, bluebirds, frogs, squirrels, mice, and rabbits.  An entire page opposite Miss Maple giving all her seeds a sudsy bath is dedicated to picturing and labeling twenty seeds.  Any of these illustrations are worthy of framing; the smaller insets highlighting text, or her single and double page visuals enhancing her story but my favorite is the one similar to the front cover of her gliding the wind currents, hand outstretched in explanation to the seeds.


I dare say I'll be looking for a wee woman from now on gathering in those forgotten seeds.  The debut picture book of Eliza Wheeler, Miss Maple's Seeds, is a charming glimpse into a wonderful world; a world where care is given to the smallest, where encouragement is delivered in loving and healthy doses.  This is a small treasure to be shared any time of the year but absolutely perfect for Earth Day.  It could be paired with A Seed Is Sleepy by Diana Hutts Aston with illustrations by Sylvia Long or And Then It's Spring  by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Erin E. Stead.

Please follow the link above embedded in Eliza Wheeler's name to her official website.  She has printable handouts available for this title.  This link takes you to an interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast where she explains her process for this title.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Twitterville Talk #97


From my perspective I have never been more grateful than I am today.  I hope you find something of value in this collection of tweets from Twitter.  Don't forget to look for the giveaways. Enjoy your weekend. Take time for reading.




Graphic novelist Raina Telgemier has written another excellent piece titled Graphic Novels: The Tools of the Trade.  As the second in the series this gives readers and those interested in the graphic arts more inside information.

Thanks to Raina Telgemier for this post and this tweet.




Read it, print it out or use it as a guideline to make your own; this is one infographic titled 27 Things Your Teacher Librarian that covers the multi-faceted aspect of the profession.

Thanks to Donna Macdonald, teacher librarian, tech integrationist and curator for this tweet.






 Author illustrator Michael J. Rosen created a video for the year-long Candlewick We Believe In Picture Books! celebration.  Last weekend he included it and other information in the Tackk, Picture Me. Picture You. below.

Thanks to Michael J. Rosen for this tweet.


Go to this Tackk on Tackk.com




Here is a Sibert Medal Infographic created by Cather Potter, K-5 School Librarian and blogger at The Nonfiction Detectives, to place beside the Caldecott and Newbery ones created by Travis Jonker.

Thanks to Travis Jonker, teacher librarian, 2014 Caldecott Committee member and blogger at 100 Scope Notes for this tweet.





Hang on for the Exclusive Teaser Trailer for the second film in Suzanne Collins' series, Catching Fire.

Thanks to io9 for the tweet and the post.





No one says it quite like author Jo Knowles---What's so important about your local library?


Thanks to Jo Knowles for this post and tweet.









Here's is a recommended good list of poetry books by age courtesy of The Horn Book.
To the first person who can tell me the title of the first book listed here I will send a copy of Nelly May Has Her Say by Cynthia DeFelice with illustrations by Henry Cole.
Leave your answer in the comments below or send me a DM on Twitter. (This title has been won.)

Thanks to them for the post and tweet.





The man is a magnet for book trailers.  Here are the latest for this week thanks to Mr. Schu.















This week Scholastic released two very special videos---Harry Potter: Beyond The Page and Five Questions with Arthur A. Levine






Here is a video posted by Patricia Polacco.  It's wonderful to see her more visible and recovering from her heart surgery.  A reflection on my recent visit to Connecticut 



Don't forget the #SharpSchu book club on April 24th.  Follow this link for all the details.


For most of my life I've appreciated the many benefits of public libraries; so much all for free.  This video for National Library Week says it all.




Thanks to John Schumacher, teacher librarian, 2011 Library Journal Movers & Shakers, 2014 Newbery Committee member and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. for these tweets.




Here is one more of the several videos Patricia Polacco posted this week about her work.  This is the process involved in her new book Fiona's Lace.




Thank you to Patricia Polacco for her many memorable books, for her videos and for this tweet.









The love of the books written by J. K. Rowling continues---Quidditching:  Harry Potter fans jump on broomsticks for the latest Internet fad

Author/illustrator Lita Judge is thrilled--Online Promotion Has Fans Seeing 'Red'

For fans this is huge.---Veronica Roth 'Divergent' video reveal: Book 3 is ...

Announcing the 2013 Indies Choice and E. B. White Award Winners  Congratulations to them all!  
To the first person who can tell me the title of the picture book winner I will send a copy of Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story by Deborah Hopkinson with illustrations by Steven Guarnaccia.  Leave your answer in the comments below or send me a DM on Twitter please. (This title has been won.)


Thanks to Children's Bookshelf of Publisher's Weekly for these tweets.





More thoughts on paper versus technology with a link on her blog to ---The Reading Brain in the Digital Age:  The Science of Paper versus Screens: Scientific American  

Thanks to Teresa Rolfe Kravtin, SE publishing rep and blogger at The Reading Rep for this tweet.




Let's have a drum roll please---Eisner Award Nominees Announced

Thanks to School Library Journal for this tweet.








I started dancing and laughing when I read this news.  I know a whole bunch of students are going to be overjoyed.  It's Jabba the Puppett!!!!!! Press release reveals title, cover and plot synopsis! Coming Aug. 6!

Thank to Tom Angleberger, author of the Origami Yoda series for this tweet.




Have you voted for your choice in The Global Read Aloud?  Don't ever miss a chance to make a decision when asked.

Thanks to Lynda Mullaly Hunt, author of One For the Murphys, for this reminder tweet.



These are a gathering of my favorite tweets and notable quotes for the week.  Xena might have sneaked in here and posted some too.













These tweets are in response to the bombing at the Boston Marathon.  Our collective hearts are broken again.





Friday, April 19, 2013

Chilly Mathematics

Regardless of the fact the calendar shows spring arrived almost a month ago, the piles of snow in my yard coupled with the forecast for wind gusts over forty-five miles per hour with more snow signifies Mother Nature is having her way.  Nevertheless, driving down one of the side streets in town the other afternoon (during Spring Break), I saw children gathered in front of one of the houses.  Industrious and hopeful they had set up a table, a pitcher filled with their beverage of choice and cups on top, with crates for seats.  A sign lettered by hand proclaimed their product and price.

Clearly those girls and boys had caught spring fever.  Then again, when a mind gets in the mood, an idea growing and growing, spring things might happen in the middle of a snowstorm.  Author Emily Jenkins and illustrator G. Brian Karas work their combined magic to bring readers Lemonade In Winter:  A Book About Two Kids Counting Money (A Schwartz & Wade Book, September 2012) where that very thing happens.


An empty street.
Outside, a mean wind blows.
Icicles hang from the windowsills.

Pauline has an idea.  Her little brother John-John can't wait to help.  Her mom and dad are calmly skeptical.  Pauline wants to sell lemonade, limeade and lemon-limeade at a stand...outside...in the wind...and the snow.

Excited and determined the sister and brother search the house collecting quarters.  Bundled up they head to the grocery store to make their purchases.  Lining the coins up on the counter, sugar, lemons, limes and cups are bought.  Trudging back inside, happily they walk past their parents who are still calmly skeptical.

Beverages made, table set up, signs written, Pauline and John-John wait for their customers to arrive.  No one comes.  The words of their parents might be right.

Mom says, "Nobody will be on the street."
Dad says, "Nobody will want cold drinks"

They decide to advertise by singing a song.  That gets the dog-walking Mr. Harvey's attention.  They decide to offer entertainment with cartwheels, drumming and singing.  That gets toddler-toting Ms. Gordon's attention.  They decide to have a sale, singing a slightly different tune.  That gets Heather-hugging Aidan's attention.  With each new attraction, customers arrive.  As they leave Pauline carefully explains to John-John what each amount means adding it to their container.

Eventually not a single drop is left.  Cups sold are tallied.  Coins are counted.  Pauline starts to cry.  With the optimistic exuberance of youth, John-John has the perfect solution; one usually reserved for summer.  Satisfied smiles can be worn in any season.


Within the first two pages the enthusiasm of Pauline and John-John rises from the story and surrounds the reader.  Emily Jenkins does this with her choice of words and descriptions; skipping with her idea, run through the bitter air and shouting wildly.  Jenkins has the two focused on the fun of their venture; one or the other is suggesting ideas to keep the day positive. Her simple sentences, short phrases, the variety of customers and their friendliness toward the children keep the narrative upbeat.  The adding of the money with every transaction is seamlessly blended into the story.


I dare you to look at the matching jacket and cover of this title and not smile.  Those two children dressed in winter clothing, head to toe, selling drinks in a snowstorm is a comical contrast.  On the back snow covered, a trail of snow behind them, heads tilted, they strain to reach the counter with their purchases and coins laid out before the grocer.  Pale pastel opening and closing endpapers feature a few scattered snowflakes.

The text on the tile and verso pages is placed on signs stuck in snow.  G. Brian Karas has rendered these illustrations with brush and walnut ink on (a heavier, matte-finished) paper, colored in Photoshop, and finished in pencil.  Whites, creams, browns, grays, lemony yellows, limey greens and some rusty red, all muted, contribute to the overall warmth of the story despite the wintry season.  Alternating perspective and picture sizes makes the reader feel like a participant.  His humorous touches ( the cushions off the sofa when the children are hunting for money, the sink overflowing in the kitchen, only John-John's feet sticking out of the snow after a cartwheel) further endear readers to these two characters' endeavors.


You'll want to have plenty of lemons, limes, sugar and quarters handy after reading Lemonade In Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money written by Emily Jenkins with illustrations by G. Brian Karas.  It's pure fun with numbers when readers follow these two supportive siblings.  
Your neighbors might think you're crazy but this could be the ticket to surviving those unexpected winter storms.