Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Waste Not...

With separate bins in every classroom for disposing of different kinds of waste, county centers or curbside recycling for home owners, compost bins in backyards, The Salvation Army, Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity stores in local communities, deposits on cans and bottles in many states and weekly garbage pick-up, it's hard to imagine a time when this was not commonplace.  Although forms of reuse have been around throughout history, the big push for recycling reemerged with the observance of the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.  Shortly thereafter the science of studying trash and how it reflects on a given society, garbology, became a branch of the field of archaeology through the efforts of Professor William Rathje of the University of Arizona.

The American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2013 have included in their new list a website completely focused on this study.  Falling under the category of Curriculum Collaboration, Standards for the 21st-Century Learner1.3.4 Contribute to the exchange of ideas within a learning community, 3.1.2 Participate and collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners, 3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess and 4.3.1 Participate in the social exchange of ideas, both electronically and in person this website is free to use and maintained with the support of sponsors by NatureBridge located in San Francisco, California.  Garbology is designed to be a resource for teachers, students and families.

When first accessing the home page users are greeted with an interactive game at the top of the page.  My Garbology defines the term by selecting the arrow on the left or the game can be started by choosing the arrow on the right.  The next screen features a row of colorful waste containers with items no longer needed by consumers.

Users have the option of dragging the items into the Reuse, Compost, Recycle or Landfill bins.  If, for example, the shirt is placed in the Compost can, it spits it back out again.  That is the incorrect way of disposing of used clothing.

If it is correctly placed in the Reuse container, a new window opens.  At this window a fact is provided for the person playing the game.  They can continue to learn more information by clicking on the next button [1], go back to the original screen with the row of containers [2] or shrink the size of the game window by choosing the box with the arrow in it [3].

When all of the facts have been explained, listened to by the user, a challenge pops up on the screen.  At this point by choosing the next arrow, you are taken back to the original screen with the item correctly placed in the container no longer available. When all of the items have been placed in the preferred container, a final window appears.

In this window users are asked to take the pledge.  You can download a printable PDF document and take the pledge on Facebook.  If you want to go through the game again, that option is also available.  There are numerous interactive choices within each portion of the game, looking at objects through x-ray glasses, moving a slider and dragging and dropping items to a scale, for example.

Beneath the game is a toolbar with choices for learning more about what the site offers, a page dedicated to listing the sources of information for the facts given in the game, links to pages geared toward teachers, students and families, Trash Talk (a page explaining Garbology as a term, its history, and the site) and a contact submission form.
When choosing any of these options, across the top of the new page users can gain more information about services offered by NatureBridge in California.  The tabs are:

  • About Us (Why We Teach, How We Teach, Research & Resources)
  • School & Group Field Science (at Yosemite, at Golden Gate, at Olympic, at Santa Monica Mountains, at Channel Islands)
  • Family & Youth Programs (at Yosemite, at Golden Gate, at Olympic)
  • Training & Tools (for Teachers, for Outdoor Professionals)
  • National Park Locations (Yosemite, Golden Gate, Olympic, Santa Monica Mountains, Channel Islands) and
  • News, Events & Community (News & Events, Blog, Media)

On the For Teachers page all the lessons (nine) and fact sheets (five) are in PDF format.  Each lesson includes the appropriate grade level, a summary, overview, vocabulary, materials, time needed, background introduction, a lengthy list of activities, National Science Standards covered in the lesson and any necessary activity sheets.  If any preparations are needed they are listed.  Some lessons include before and after questions to promote discussion and extensions to the listed activities. 

The For Students section provides activities (eight) geared toward conducting your own garbology.  Seven activities are included in the For Parents page.  Each of the three For pages contains a featured item as well as a link to the My Garbology game.

Due to the interactivity of the My Garbology game this website could be used by individuals or with groups.  Each layer of the game cleverly informs the player(s) but also encourages independent thinking and larger conversations.  The facts provided are astounding no matter the age of the user.  No one can use this website without wondering what they can do to make our planet better for future generations.

Make sure you place this top-notch website in your curriculum.  It's a must; highly recommended. There is also an option to sign up for teaching resources via email.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rain Forest Secrets

For whatever reason I'm noticing things this spring and summer, I've never noticed before.  There appear to be more of everything in my little corner of the natural world; more pine cones, maple seeds, blossoms on all my perennials, weeds, and a boom in the insect population.  Last week I noticed a particular bush next to my deck was not only loaded with flowers but hundreds of honey bees were swarming, gathering pollen, small bunches of yellow clinging to their legs.  Unlike yellow jackets, who attack with seemingly unprovoked glee, the bees allowed me to get close and watch their work.

Learning to listen not only to people but our natural world is an important lesson.  Each day parts are being played, vital roles in a chain of events crucial to the planet's numerous ecosystems continuing to function.  No Monkeys, No Chocolate (Charlesbridge) by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young with illustrations by Nicole Wong gives readers a greater appreciation and understanding of the intricate balance that brings chocolate into our lives.

Chocolate chip cookies.
Chocolate ice cream.
Moist, fudgy brownies.
What makes all these desserts so delicious?

The mouth-watering, delectable answer to that question is chocolate.  But what dots need to be connected to give us this food?  First a journey is in order, a journey to the tropical rain forests of Central and South America.

We readers follow, page by page, as each element is introduced.  Cocoa beans, cocoa pods, cocoa flowers, midges, cocoa leaves, maggots, cocoa stems, lizards, cocoa roots, fungi, and back to cocoa beans and yes, monkeys.  It's interesting to note how every step of the way the various parts of the tree, the flora, relies on some form of fauna and fungi to function.

Readers become further acquainted with each part through a careful, clear explanation of a particular process or detailed description of the object itself.  Cocoa beans are dried in the sun before being roasted, then washed and squished, thirty to forty beans are found in a pod, small, lumpy footballs, encased in a white material not unlike thick slime or hungry midges feast on cocoa pollen, unknowingly spreading it from blossom to blossom. The purpose of coffin flies (the name is a clue) in the control of leaf-cutter ants is a cringe-worthy but crucial fact.  You can't help but feel your wonder growing for the intricate workings of this particular cycle.

In one of the more interesting explanations of how a book is born, Melissa Stewart outlines the various stages she pursued over the course of ten years.  In the finished title the presentation of information is done using a three-layer technique; the specific terms, an elaboration on each and the commentary of two bookworms.  These insightful but humorous conversations begin as early as the front cover of the book and continue to the back.  The back and forth banter between the duo serves to supply balance.  For example after a description of the anole's connection to the cocoa tree---

Wow! No lizards, no chocolate.
That's right.  They eat the insects that harm cocoa stems.
Maybe we should send them a thank-you note.

Even without the timeline, the thorough research of Stewart is evident as is her knowledge of what to include for her intended audience.  Readers are told precisely what can be seen, what happens, but through using language understandable to them. Every reader will take away new information.

All of the illustrations by Nicole Wong are rendered in ink and watercolor.  Each are double-page spreads including the matching jacket and cover with the exception of the initial title page and Cocoa and Rain Forests, What You Can Do to Help and Author's Note pages.  Like the work of Melissa Stewart each representation is done with accuracy conveying to readers a true sense of the tropical rain forest.

Whether depicting a panoramic vista, a close-up, or a cutaway, the details are intricate; three tiny caterpillars are crawling away from a chewed leaf, a vibrant parrot is perched on the edge of the frame for the cocoa beans drying, a midge crawls from the inside of a blossom and roots finger their way through the ground.  Her delicate lines, colorful hues and shading are full of life.  The layout and design, in particular for the two bookworms, is eye-catching.  In the lower right-had corner of the two page illustrations a corner is turned up giving a space for the two.  That page curl is a perfect match to the next page.  One of my favorite illustrations is of the cocoa flowers forming the pods.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young with illustrations by Nicole Wong is a work of nonfiction rising above other titles for its authenticity in text and pictures.  Even after several readings I found myself actively engaged each time, looking for added items in the visuals and marveling at the knowledge I was gleaning from the writing.  I highly recommend this book to be included in library and classroom collections.

Please follow the links embedded above to the author's and illustrator's websites.  The ten-year timeline is a must see, containing videos, portions of drafts and artist sketches.  Here are links to a word search and a secret note shown at Melissa Stewart's website.  A reader's theater and teacher's guide can be accessed by following this link to the publisher website.

Monday, July 29, 2013

With Your Heart

As stories are gathered and studied it becomes apparent there are more similarities than differences in our cultures.  There seems to be a common thread running beneath tales, motifs, which are then colored to reflect the country from which they come.  It's interesting to trace the origins of a story, to see how it has changed as it travels from place to place.

Some of the best stories come from the oral tradition of storytelling, passed on from generation to generation, parent to child.  Debut author Rita Jahanforuz, best known for her singing talents in the country of Israel, has written a folktale placed in the country of her birth.  The Girl With A Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran (Barefoot Books) with illustrations by Vali Mintzi combines elements from a story told to her by her mother and those she added in the telling to her daughters. 

On a quiet street in the city of Tehran lived a little girl called Shiraz.

After Shiraz's mother dies her father remarries a woman with a daughter her age named Monir.  Up until his death the family lives in harmony and happiness.  Within a day of his passing, all changes for Shiraz; she becomes a servant in her own home.

One autumn day with her tasks completed Shiraz goes to the balcony at the top of their house.  She has found a ball of wool left in her mother's belongings.  Before she can begin knitting a sweater, a wind lifts it from the roof like a balloon to a neighbor's yard below where it lands on a rose bush in their garden.

Feeling frightened but desiring to get this remnant from her mother's life back, she soon makes her way to the neighbor's door.  After several knocks, a smaller door within the larger opens, eyes peering out at her.  Shiraz's question is answered with a requirement, if she wants the ball of wool back, she must do some chores for the elderly woman.

Shocked by the woman's and her home's appearance, Shiraz follows her to the kitchen.  Handing her a hammer, she tells Shiraz to destroy everything on and around the sink.  She does not do as the neighbor asks but instead cleans the entire space and even prepares a meal.  When she shows the woman, her efforts are met with silence.

Twice more the lady hands her tools which could be used to ruin but Shiraz chooses to use them for good creating beauty from neglect.  As promised the ball of wool is returned but in thanks for all her work, Shiraz is told to leave by the back gate.  There she will find two pools of water, one clear, the other dark.  She is told to dive into the clear pool three times first, then three times into the dark pool.  No more in either.

Returning home, fearful of punishment, she knocks on her own door.  Shiraz is greeted by her stepsister Monir, then her stepmother, as if she is a complete stranger.  Her transformation into a beautiful young woman stuns them.  Her explanation for the change spurs them into action.

The next morning after a visit to the market, the stepmother begins flinging balls of wool from the balcony; one finally landing in the old woman's garden.  Hiding outside the neighbor's home she watches as the conversation between Monir and the old woman ensues.  Unlike Shiraz, Monir does exactly as the woman asks, causing destruction in the kitchen, the garden and with the lady's hair.

She does leave...by the back gate.  She is given instructions.  She does follow them; even exceeding them.  The results are unexpected.  The difference is the two girls; one seeing with her eyes, the other with her heart.

Following in the footsteps of all good tellers of tales, Rita Jahanforuz paints a vivid picture with her words of the circumstance in which the main character find herself.  The number three is used more than once in the course of the events; the three tasks, diving into the pools three times.  Readers are left to predict the outcome for both Shiraz and Monir when performing their work for the woman; she views what they have done without speaking a word until handing them the ball of wool.  These elements when joined by the conversational narrative and dialogue make this story timeless.  You can almost hear Rita Jahanforuz speaking it to you; into your heart.

When I first held this book in my hands, spreading the cover open, I marveled at the beauty in the shades of browns, oranges, reds contrasting with the deep turquoise, splashes of bright green and the gold etching of the tree, leaves and bird.  (In the title verso it said Mintzi used the Middle Eastern market place as inspiration for her color choices.) With little imagination you can hear Shiraz's footsteps running down the street lined with the richly colored homes, hair streaming behind, her cat closely following. Dusty old-gold opening and closing endpapers compliment the double-page illustration of the cover.

Pictures rendered with gouache using transparent and opaque layers throughout most of the book extend edge to edge across two pages wrapping around the text.  Those on single pages or as smaller insets still convey, as do the larger illustrations, a vivid sense of place.  Vali Mintzi's mixture of pale washed, fine lines with the bolder, heavier brush strokes fashions a texture which will have you reaching out to touch the pages.  One of my favorite illustrations is of Shiraz leaning over the balcony gazing down at her village seeking to locate where the ball of wool has fallen.

The Girl With A Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran written by Rita Jahanforuz with illustrations by Vali Mintzi is a beautiful story in word and art.  Careful readers will see parallels to Cinderella, Diamonds and Toads as well as The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci with illustrations by Jerry Pinkney.  Make sure this book finds a spot in your folktale collection.

By following these links to the publisher website readers can view more illustrations and do extra activities.  I am very impressed with the mission statement of Barefoot Books stated in part below.

At Barefoot Books, we celebrate art and story that opens the hearts and minds of children from all walks of life, focusing on themes that encourage independence of spirit, enthusiasm for learning and respect for the world's diversity.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Twitterville Talk #110

One word, just one word sums up Twitter this week---busy.  Educators are constantly talking about their latest books read, curriculum changes for next year, how to integrate technology into their classrooms and so much more.  Summer may be a time for renewal and reflection but for most it's a continuation of constant PD.  Some of the conversations between authors and illustrators are downright hilarious but also give readers a chance to get to know them better.  I hope everyone had a great week.  Rest up this weekend. Take time for reading.  Look for the giveaways.

One of the most important things to continually stress is copyright, being sure to seek permission if necessary and most certainly to give credit when it is due.  Here is A Fabulous Flow Chart On How Students Should Use Images From The Web.

Have you seen these really cute pictorial Top Ten Reasons Reading Is Better Than Watching TV

Did you miss this four-part interview series with Donalyn Miller?  Here's the link for all four.

5 Tips for Encouraging Your Child to Read This Summer (It's not too late!)

Many thanks to teacher librarian and blogger at The Styling Librarian, Debbie Alvarez, currently working in a school library in Hong Kong for these tweets.

The Nerdy Book Club is looking for pictures of you reading on your vacation.  Follow the link for more information.  The due date is August 23, 2013.

I begin, end and as often as possible in between, my days with reading.  To not be able to read would be hard.  In this Nerdy Book Club post Franki Sibberson reflects on A Life Without Reading.

Thanks to the Nerdy Book Club for these tweets.

Mr. Schu has discovered that the Filmed Version of Broadway's Shrek Will Be Available in October.  

Lucky for us many outstanding illustrators were interviewed by Betsy Bird on the evening of the Caldecott Newbery Wilder banquet. Here is one of the videos.  For all the videos follow this link to Jim Averbeck presents The Kidlit Red Carpet

I don't know about you but after I read this blog post at author illustrator Bill Thomson's site, I placed an order.  His first solely created book, Chalk, continues to be a huge hit with readers.

The countdown has begun for Children's Book Week.

Are you signed up for International Dot Day?  Do you have your resources ready?

From one of our most respected and cherished authors, Mem Fox, read and post these words of wisdom. Ten read-aloud commandments

Get ready for Banned Books Week!  It's coming in September.

Are you ready for the book trailer blitz?

One of the most interesting things to do either before or after reading a book is to gain insight into the author's or illustrator's research behind why they did what they did.  Read Crawling Inside Stories in China by Lenore Look.

Remember September is Library Sign-Up Month.  Follow links here and here for information and ideas.

This is a tribute to beloved author/illustrator Simms Taback.

Sending huge thanks to John Schumacher, teacher librarian, 2014 Newbery Award Committee member, 2011 Library Journal Movers & Shakers, one half of the #SharpSchu Book Club team and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. for these tweets.

Did you know there is a Calvin and Hobbes Documentary Coming in November?  You do now.  Don't forget to watch it!

Thanks to author Tara Lazar (The Monstore) for this tweet.

Guess what fans of The Hunger Games?  There's a new movie trailer for Catching Fire!

The next #virtualbookclub chat on Twitter will be August 5, 2013.  The discussion will revolve around Holly Black's book, Doll Bones.  The time is 8:00 PM EDT.

To view the archives of the latest chat for Rump:  The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff follow this link.

Check out these 16 Of The Best Opening Lines From Children's Books
To the first person who can tell me the title of the book in which the first line is found I will send you a copy of Flight of the Last Dragon by Robert Burleigh with illustrations by Mary GrandPre.
Leave your answer in the comments below or send me a DM on Twitter.

Thanks to educator and blogger at Daydream Reader, Niki Ohs Barnes for these tweets.

File this article under the category of you've-got-to-be-kidding, A better story than J. K. Rowling's

Thanks to author Matthew Cody (Powerless) for this tweet.

Don't forget tomorrow night #titletalk begins at 8:00 PM EDT.  The topic this month is kicking off the reading year.  This chat is moderated by Colby Sharp and Donalyn Miller.

Thanks to Donalyn Miller, educator and author of The Book Whisperer:  Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child and the soon to be released Reading in the Wild:  The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits, for this tweet.

There are now four free podcasts for your listening enjoyment available at Let's Get Busy by Matthew C. Winner.  The most recent is an interview with author Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.  There is an upcoming interview with author Ame Dyckman in the works.

Thanks to Matthew C. Winner, teacher librarian, 2013 Library Journal Movers & Shakers, and blogger at The Busy Librarian for this tweet.

It's never to early to mark dates for 2014---School Lunch Superhero Day

Thanks to author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka for this tweet.

For the very first time JFK Library releases Hemingway scrapbooks

Thanks to educator Jane Garver for this tweet.

Here are some quick and simple ideas for integrating technology into the classroom on the very first day of school.  Technology Ideas for the First Day of School:  Video Walk and More

Thanks to teacher librarian and blogger at Neverending Search, Joyce Valenza for this tweet.

I've seen Vines popping up all over Twitter. There are some great ideas here---15 Cool Ways Libraries Can Use Vine to Create Social Videos
To the first person who can name one of the top five suggestions on this list I will send a copy of King Arthur's Very Great Grandson by Kenneth Kraegel.  Send me your answer via DM on Twitter or in the comments below. (This title has been won.)

Thanks to Donna Baumbach, former EdTech/Media professor at UCF, for this tweet.

Here's another intriguing book trailer for When The Butterflies Came by Kimberley Griffiths Little.

Thanks to educator, one half of the #SharpSchu Book Club team, co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club, co-host of the monthly #titletalk and blogger at sharpread, Colby Sharp for this tweet.

I love these feel-good kind of stories that lead to books---A Different Kind of Dog Run Leads to a Book Deal.  My students really enjoy reading true stories. (Plus Xena made my post this.)

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

Are you looking for inspiration to begin a classroom blog?  Look no further than this video.

Thanks to educator, blogger at JoeWoodOnline and writer, Joe Wood, for this tweet.

As people start to make plans to go back to their classrooms, here are some idea for creating reading nooks. 21 Cozy Makeshift Reading Nooks

Thanks to Random House Canada for this tweet.

Author illustrator Monica Carnesi (Little Dog Lost) is giving away two illustrated envelopes.  Head over to her website for all the information and to discover the reason why she's doing this.  Plus I think this might be a good literacy activity.

Thanks to author Ame Dyckman for this tweet.

Don't forget all the wonderful resources at Start With A Book.  There are so many ideas not only for summer reading but all year long.  This link focuses on Flight.
To the first person who can tell me which title on this list is illustrated by Caldecott Award winning Brian Selznick, I will send a copy of Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bit with words by Nick Bromley, pictures by Nicola O'Byrne.  Leave your answer in the comments below or send me a DM on Twitter. (This title has been won.)

Thanks for the tweet goes to Reading Rockets.

You just never know where all the writing you do will take you. Pair Of Elementary School Girls Get Publishing Deal For Their Little Book Of Rules

Thanks to Book Riot for this tweet.

This past week Carrie Gelson, educator in Vancouver, BC and blogger at There's a Book for That blogged about Wonder Inducing Read Alouds.  It's a wonderful resource.

Thanks to Carrie Gelson for this tweet and post.

There are loads of helpful articles, hints and more about Skype visits at The Scoop on Skype

Thanks to Cathy Potter, teacher librarian and blogger at The Nonfiction Detectives for this tweet and for sharing her LiveBinder.

I see the purchase of a video game in my future---Neil Gaiman Video Game: 'Wayland Manor' Announces Fall 2013 Release

Thanks to HuffPostBooks for this tweet.

Here's another good article about blogging in the classroom, Blogstitute Week 6:  Capture student thinking and learning with a classroom blog

Thanks to author Kate Messner for this tweet.

Now all of the Celebri-Dots can be seen in one place on their very own Pinterest board.

Thanks to Terry Shay, educator, college adjunct, FableVision Learning Ambassador and blogger at TJ On a Journey for this tweet.

Well you won't see this on the fashion runway every day, a dress made from the pages of a book.

Thanks to author R. L. Stine for this tweet.

Here's one of this week's videos to celebrate We Believe In Picture Books! Tom Angleberger!

Thanks to Candlewick Press for this tweet.

Here my collection of favorite quotes, tweets from the week, a couple from an online virtual book club chat about Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff plus a short story comprised of tweets sent by an author one evening.

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's All In Your Mind

There are moments when your memory fails you.  Waking up suddenly in the night can cause temporary confusion.  Going from one room to another, your mind loaded with tasks, only to discover the real reason you went to the room has left your mind.  Sometimes you will be writing along and the spelling for the simplest word has vanished from your thoughts entirely.

When joining my 93-year-old Mom for dinners in her assisted living home, I sit with her table companions listening and watching some of them struggle to put a sentence together.  You can see in their eyes as they search for the correct words to express their thoughts.  Imagine how this would be if you were only in middle school?  Kate Messner's newest title, Wake Up Missing (Walker Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc.), places six young people with head injuries, all hoping to get their normal lives back, together in circumstances where their very existence is threatened.

If you hit your head hard enough, your brain gets shaken up inside your skull.

Twelve-year-old Cat Grayson and her mom have recently arrived in the Florida Everglades to drop her off at the highly acclaimed International Center for Advanced Neurology, I-CAN.  They are taken to the former military facility by air boat along with another new patient Ben and his aunt.  Two other guests, Quentin and Sarah who have been there for two weeks already, and Dr. Mark Ames, head of I-CAN, greet them upon their arrival.  When Cat's mom and Ben's aunt leave, Cat is overwhelmed with conflicting emotions, should she be here or not.

Trent and Kaylee are in the final stages of treatment, their absence while noted by the other four, is dismissed as their first morning conversations focus on getting to know one another.  The initial inkling that something might be amiss is noticed by Cat that same day when she overhears an argument between Dr. Ames and a neurologist who specializes in genetic engineering, Dr. Gunther.  Later when Trent appears in the cafeteria, Sarah, who has spent the most time with him, insists he has changed; his personality, speech and mannerisms are altered.

Overhearing a cell phone conversation on the roof, Cat is certain she and the others are being told a distorted version of the facility's true purpose.  Sneaking into Dr. Gunther's office, she and Sarah discover even more alarming evidence.  Convincing the two boys, Quentin and Ben, is not so easy though....until they discover something and someone who are not supposed to be there.

Dead scientists' names adding up to a terrifying realization, clandestine trips into the Everglades, experiments gone wrong, kidnapping, a horrible statement overheard, drug runners and One-Eyed Lou spell serious trouble for the six.  They have become pawns in a truly frightening high stakes game reaching to the upper echelon.  In what can only be described as a tension-filled, page-turning series of events the group needs to work through their differences, find the best possible solution in multiple worse-case scenarios and search within themselves to find answers quickly.

Within the first two chapters readers will feel a sense of apprehension building.  Supported by meticulous research, in the capable hands of author Kate Messner, a sure knowledge grows that despite this being a work of fiction, it could happen.  It's this recognition combined with superb writing techniques which hooks readers, not letting them go until the final sentence is read.

We are there with Cat, Ben, Quentin, Sarah, Trent and Kaylee through conversation, thoughts, detailed descriptions of place and single potent sentences.  Supporting characters, Molly the air boat driver, Dr. Gunther, the neurologist with a less than stellar past, Gus and Eugene, the duo living on the wrong side of the law, good and bad all ring true.  Dr. Mark Ames, plotting and planning, with his eyes on the prize will stop at nothing to succeed.  Here are a few examples of her writing from this title.

I smiled back at her and reminded myself this was where I needed to be to get better.  I liked the birds.  The kids were friendly, and Dr. Ames seemed nice, too.  Like he cared about us, like he wanted to make sure we felt safe and happy.  Like we were important to him.
I guess we were, in a way.  Just not the way we thought.  

All the anxiety that had lifted from me watching the birds came back, twisting my stomach, pounding on my head from the inside.  Now I had to stay hidden; somehow, I knew I was hearing something I shouldn't.  

"Come on." Quentin offered Ben his hand.  Ben ignored it and almost fell in the water, but he caught a branch and started up the trail.  It didn't go far before the brush filled in, and we were climbing over snapping branches and mangrove roots thick as my arm.
"Did you hear that?" Sarah grabbed my arm.  We stopped and listened.
It was quiet.
I looked at Quinten.  His eyes narrowed, and I could tell he was thinking what I was thinking.
It was too quiet for the Everglades.

Kate Messner's Wake Up Missing is a science thriller jam-packed with heart-stopping action.  Precisely when you think you have all the dots connected, she throws in another tantalizing shift, a new element that changes everything.  You, like the characters, need to re-evaluate; they to survive, you to speculate on what the next turn of page will bring.  Plan on multiple copies; this is one book that will never be on the shelves.

In a detailed Author's Note, Messner outlines the spark for writing this book and the research involved.  Here is a link to the Pinterest board she has developed for this title.  My review is based upon an ARC I received from Kate Messner as part of one of her KidLit auctions.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stay Current With The News

One of our most important and challenging tasks is making our students feel a part of the international community.  Despite all the connectivity afforded by technology, it seems distractions and commitments outside the school building and the lack of any information resources (including print materials) in numerous homes, weigh heavily in keeping our students from expanding their knowledge of world people and events.  This makes it all the more important to select the right print, non-print and virtual content to help them be the best possible members of society.

Youngzine - News & more for the youngAt the 2013 American Library Association Annual Conference & Exhibition, the American Association of School Librarians selected Youngzine under the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner category, Curriculum Collaboration, 1.3.4 Contribute to the exchange of ideas within a learning community, 3.1.2 Participate and collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners, 3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess and 4.3.1 Participate in the social exchange of ideas, both electronically and in person.  This website, free to use, provides a secure means for the presentation of current events in a variety of areas as well as a format for young users, their teachers and their parents to submit writing.  Comments made and articles submitted by all users are moderated by Youngzine. In their About section it is stated:

Our goal is to help parents and educators create a vibrant community of globally aware young citizens in an increasingly connected world.  Along with news stories written specifically with our young audience in mind, Youngzine strives to inform using fun trivia, compelling visuals and videos.

When first accessing the site in the upper right-hand corner users can read all about the site, what others have to say regarding what the site offers, provide feedback and login.  Below this along the top is a toolbar listing a map of the various pages, Home, World News, Science & Tech, Our Earth, Society & Arts, U Write, Play Zine, Classrooms and Search.  The remainder of the home page is a series of panels featuring:

  • News Flash!
  • This Week
  • U Write
  • Contests
  • Videos
  • Recent Comments
  • Latest From Around The World (map pinpointing areas of interest)
  • Icons for sharing via email, Facebook, Twitter and through a news feed
When each of the pages is opened, some of those original columns still remain with the addition of new items.  The largest central panel still scrolls through recent events of interest but focuses on the specific area selected.  The World News page has included a This Time In History feature.  A Did You Know? spot is added to the Science & Tech page.  Our Earth asks users about animal travel and travel in general.  You are invited to review various forms of media and suggest book recommendations on the Society & Arts page.  

The interactive options on the U Write invite participation on several different levels with some special items.  In the center a slide show highlights recent U Writes.  The number of comments made about each one is shown in parentheses. Off to the right side users can enter a chat area for children only plus submit jokes in their own words.

Three separate areas below this allow registered children to submit pictures, videos and art, writings and reviews.  In each box a question is asked and answered by clicking on it.  It tells you that Youngzine welcomes all forms of writing, images and video.  It asks parents and teachers who wish to submit to the site to use the Feedback form.  Keep in mind everything is moderated.

At Play Zine you can participate by reading comics or a daily Ripley's Believe It Or Not, watch videos, play games (more than 80) and select from the regular options shown on previous pages such as Recent Comments, Chatter, and Contests.  One extra box shows the usernames of those with the highest points and badges earned.  Points and badges can be earned by registered users for writing an article, taking quizzes, participating in contests, and reading, rating and commenting on recent articles.
The final tab, Classroom, is an educators' goldmine.  When you register at Youngzine as a teacher, each added class gets a special code.  You can follow individual student work at the site.  Each class gets their own blog so you and your students can exchange information.  Suggestions on how to use this feature are listed.  

There is a separate feature, Search Lesson Plans, which ties into the Curriki website.  Teaching options can be looked for by grade level, subject area, and type such as exercise, unit, lesson plan and games.  

The last choice on the right is for searching the site using a keyword.  Every page at the bottom gives users the chance to read more about Youngzine on their blog, in the FAQ, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.  The FAQ is very complete.  One important point is the content on Youngzine is updated once every two weeks.  

Here is a snapshot of the form needed to be completed by any age user.  Once a teacher is registered classes can be added.

With much talk by colleagues this past year and more recently who desire to bring blogging into their classrooms, Youngzine seems like a fantastic solution.  It offers a variety of combinations for use by students, teachers and parents.  This format connects students with one another inside and outside the walls of the classroom into educational communities on a global level.  I give a gold star to Youngzine and the AASL committee for their selection of this website.