Quote of the Month

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




Monday, March 31, 2014

They're Here...They're There...They're A Passel Of Penguins

Given their coloration and mannerisms penguins attract a good number of fans.  It's highly unlikely any of my students will ever see them in the wild, considering they reside beneath the equator in the Southern Hemisphere. This does not deter their enthusiasm one little bit.  When Happy Feet was released more than seven years ago, penguins' popularity increased tenfold.

Their body shape, tuxedo-like feather placement coupled with their movement on land make penguins the perfect characters in stories about babies, mothers and family dynamics.  In her debut picture book, Baby Penguins Everywhere (Philomel Books, 2012)  Melissa Guion acquainted readers with a penguin who enjoyed her solitude but did have days when she felt lonely.  Imagine her surprise when she discovered a top hat floating in the water near her ice floe one day.

When first one, then another and yet one more baby penguin popped out of the hat, her astonishment grew.  In short order there were oodles of baby penguins.  Alone and lonely had been replaced with busy, happy and a whole lot of play.

Hold on to your top hats!  Melissa Guion has written and illustrated another title filled with this wonderful Mama and her babies.  Baby Penguins Love Their Mama! (Philomel Books) follows these lively birds during their learning of penguin-ish antics.

Once there was a family of penguins.  A mama penguin...
and lots and lots of baby penguins.


Each day was filled to the brim with activities.  Swimming, sliding and waddling took their proper position at the beginning of the week.  While preening has its place, it wasn't exactly a crowd favorite.

When Friday rolled around it was plain to see the joy on all those penguin faces (and surely their stuffed stomachs were mighty pleased too).  Lessons on fishing were positively popular.  Closing out the week's learning was the best thing of all, squawking.

Taking a much-needed nap after six days of teaching her babies, Mama is filled with pride for each and every one.  After offered words of encouragement, Mama questioned one of the baby penguin's replies.  Little did she know what they had been planning for her?  No one could have asked for a better answer.


The sheer charm of this title is in the simplicity of the text.  Melissa Guion has a gift in stating the known so even the youngest readers can follow the narrative.  Her commentary sentences after the daily statements make readers feel like wanted members of the penguin population.  Every time this title is read it's easy to hear the various voices and sense the range of emotion behind the words.  Here is a single example.

And waddling on Wednesday.
Waddling was harder than it looked.


The first thing you notice when looking at the matching dust jacket and book case is the return of the colorful balls and ribbon seen in the first book.  (They magically appeared from the top hat along with the penguins.)  The illustrations on the front and the back are similar to ones appearing in the body of the title.  Having one of the penguin babies looking at the ISBN is a nice touch.

The shading of the turquoise blue along with the liberal use of white space in the portrayed scenes easily transports readers to the colder region where this penguin family resides.  Details in body movement and facial expression attained with the minimum of lines sets the watercolor and pencil artwork of Melissa Guion apart from others.  Her penguins have pizzazz.

How can you not fall in love with a penguin swimming on his back blowing out a stream of water, penguins building ice castles, a conga line of penguins grasping the colored ribbon, the seal friend who learns along with them, and Mama covering her ears during squawking practice?  Careful readers will notice in several of the illustrations the penguins carefully preparing something special for Mama.  Bringing back the enchanted top hat as an element in many of the pictures adds to the continuity.

I think my favorite two-page illustration is of the squawking on Saturday.  Every single pictured penguin is in a different position and their enthusiasm is evident; so is Mama's tolerance for the noise.  With little effort you can envision the joyful hullabaloo.


Baby Penguins Love Their Mama! written and illustrated by Melissa Guion is a title meant to be shared with others...repeatedly.  It's one of those books which creates a sense of warmth, belonging and security between the reader and listener whether it's one-on-one or with a group.  You can pair it with the titles by Salina Yoon, Penguin and Pinecone, Penguin on Vacation  and Penguin in Love, Kristi Valiant's Penguin Cha-Cha and Toni Buzzeo's and David Small's One Cool Friend.

To learn more about Melissa Guion and her work visit her website by following the link embedded in her name.  Be sure to check out her links.  This title was recently reviewed by author Julie Falatko (Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)) on Katie Davis Brain Burps About Books.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Twitterville Talk Hiatus

On Monday past I sent out a tweet stating I was signing off Twitter for the remainder of the week.  This would mean there would be no Twitterville Talk on Saturday.  It occurred to me I might have a number of readers who do not hold accounts on Twitter.

In order for me to put together the best post each Saturday (my Mom drilled into me...anything worth doing is worth doing right) is to make sure I don't miss any tweets which appear in my feed.  I begin every morning going back to the last tweet I read before signing off at the end of my day.  If several hours pass during the day without access to my Twitter account, my goal is reading as many earlier tweets as possible to close the gap.

For the past twelve days four or more hours of my time have been needed in another direction.  At this juncture it appears as though this is going to continue for several more weeks.  With that kind of time commitment, maintaining Twitterville Talk is not an option.  If only I could tweet and read tweets in my sleep.

I think most of you who follow my blog know the value I place on Twitter.  Initially it was a forum for connecting with professionals in the field of education growing to connecting with authors and illustrators.  To say it is a life-changer would be an understatement.

I have met incredible people virtually first and then in person at conferences and during Skype contacts. It is a support group like none other I have ever encountered.  I definitely miss being a part of the daily conversations but I look forward to joining again soon.  It is my hope for Twitterville Talk to return with gusto.  Thanks to all of you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tree Togetherness

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
From Trees by Joyce Kilmer 

Time and time again I've stood among trees or gazed up at the leafy boughs beneath one with those two poetic lines running through my mind.  It's easy to recall fond memories of summer or autumn days spent gathering leaves, pressing them between sheets of wax paper.  Later after using the clothes iron to seal them shut, holes would be punched along the side, string binding all the pages together like a book.  A space on my bookshelf is reserved for my copy of A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs by George A. Petrides (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1972).

For these reasons the planting of a tree is life-affirming; a way to ensure others may enjoy the many benefits they offer.  As told in Maple (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), February 20, 2014), the first picture book written and illustrated by Lori Nichols, planting a tree can be the start of special surprises.  The joyful passion of a single little girl will encircle you even after the last page is turned.

Maple loved her name.

Before she was born her parents put a seedling in the ground in celebration of her yet unknown exuberant self.  The two grew together; both maples in name.  By her tree Maple could shout aloud, sing with gusto, dance and make-believe.

On the best days Maple would lie on the ground looking up at the leaves watching them dance in the wind.  You might have noticed Maple trying to keep her tree warm during autumn breezes or play snowy games during winter.  No matter the season the friendship flourished.

One spring morning Maple made not one but two discoveries.  New companions would become part of their world.  At every opportunity Maple offered her best but so did her tree.


In Maple Lori Nichols has created an absolute gem of a character.  Single succinct sentences, placed with care to convey a storyteller's pacing, embrace the reader as readily as Maple does her tree. The use of parenthetical comments adds just the right touch of gentle humor to the narrative. Here is one passage.

Sometimes Maple wished she had someone else to play with.
(The tree wasn't very good at throwing snowballs.)


When you look at the dust jacket and book case, it's hard to conceive the illustrations were rendered in pencil on Mylar and then digitally colored.  There is a subtle softness about all of them; reaching out and touching the pages is exactly what you want to do.  (You also can't help falling in love with Maple either.) On the front Maple is pictured with her tree in the summer.  On the back it's winter.  Maple is hanging on to her tree leaning in the opposite direction.

The opening and closing endpapers are designed using elements found in the story; the former is in two shades of bright lime green, the latter in two hues of a cool light blue.  Lots of white space frames Maple, her tree and the new additions.  It's interesting to note only the lower half of Maple's parents is shown; giving her and the tree center stage.

Maple's red shoes and boots, her three tiny toy friends, the small white bunny, and the birds building a nest in the maple tree and laying eggs are examples of the attention to detail Lori Nichols provides for her readers.  The two page illustration showing the tiny toy friends gathered around one surprise while Maple looks at the other is charming with a capital C.

One of my favorite illustrations is of baby Maple lying in her woven basket, gazing upward with maple leaves framing the page in variations of green and rust.  The quality of the maple leaves on this page (and the others) is astounding.  They look real enough to be rubbings.  You can almost see them flutter and hear the rustling.


In a word Maple written and illustrated by Lori Nichols is wonderfully winsome. (Okay...two)  It's meant to be shared one-on-one or with a group in the same voice as the combined text and pictures; comfortable conversation with laughter and love of life radiating from each page.  Everyone will want to plant a tree, their own tree.

Please follow the link embedded in Lori Nichols name to access her website.  She has a great book trailer there.  Lori Nichols is interviewed at Miss Marple's Musings.  Here is another lovely interview at Frog On A Blog.


  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bursting Into Video---FrameBlast

Just two days ago Heather Moorefield, Education Librarian at Virginia Tech and chairperson for the American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching & Learning mentioned in a tweet an app for Android phones and iOS devices.  (It can be installed on my Samsung phone but not my Samsung tablet even though the tablet is a newer version.)  It can be downloaded for free.  Users must be thirteen years or older providing completely accurate information when creating an account.  You are asked to check for changes in terms and conditions frequently.

FrameBlast is an HD video editor.  You can login using your Facebook or Twitter account.  To create a separate account you need to supply an email address and password along with a display name.

At the top of the initial screen in the upper left-hand corner you can access:

  • Home
  • Activity
  • Find Friends
  • My Blasts
  • My Profile
  • Help and
  • Settings.
By selecting the small video camera icon in the upper right-hand corner you are taken to the Create screen.  In the upper half of the screen is a play arrow in the center with a Save option in the upper right-hand corner.  To the left of an orange dot (on the lower half of the screen) are some musical notes.  That icon allows you to choose a tune from My library, Themes or No sound. If you choose the other icon (three rows of three dashes) you are taken to the Storyboard screen.  Beneath the orange dot you can change the effects of your images. Swipe up and down for filters, left and right for Edit Styles

When you tap the orange dot you are taken to the Shoot screen.  Every time you tap the orange dot at this screen, it takes a short video clip (three seconds).  If you press, hold and release you can start and stop the length of recording yourself.  When done capturing your images tap the back arrow in the upper left-hand corner.  Upon returning the shots you took are tied together into a video which plays immediately.  (This is pretty neat.) 

Those clips are also placed on your Storyboard.  The order of the clips can be changed by dragging them on the screen.  If you select a small box with a plus sign situated above your clips, you are taken to videos already on your device plus the ones you just added.  They have a green check mark on them.  If you remove the check mark they are no longer in your Storyboard.  

When you have all the clips taken and in order, select Save with a tap. (Currently 50 videos can be added to a Blast.)  As your Blast is saving helpful hints appear at the bottom of the screen like FAQs.  Once your Blast is saved, on the right in a band in the center of the screen is a share icon.

Your FrameBlast can be uploaded to YouTube, or shared on FrameBlast or Twitter.  Here is my first FrameBlast. Once the FrameBlast has been uploaded it appears in the activity screen of the app.  Viewers can like it or leave a comment.




I am so excited to have learned about this app.  It's as simple as can be to use with professional looking results.  The Android version is fairly new which makes it a plus for those without iOS devices. I recommend you give this a try for professional or personal use.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Functional Fantastic Feathers

During childhood finding a single bird feather lying on the ground was like finding a secret message.  You wondered if the bird was watching you look at it, pick it up and examine it.  You wondered why or how the feather came to be there.  Most of all the feather was thought of as a gift. (As an adult I still feel the same way.)

The purpose of the feather before it fell to the ground, other than for flying, had never occurred to me until now.  Feathers Not Just for Flying (Charlesbridge) by Melissa Stewart with illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen presents to readers the amazing capabilities of feathers on a variety of birds.  Prepare to be enlightened.


Feathers can warm like a blanket...

If you have ever speculated why birds fluff up their feathers on a cold day, it's to trap warm air next to their skin.  Layering feathers in a nest keeps eggs nice and toasty too.  When temperatures increase out-of-doors, feathers can shield birds from the glare of sunlight to better their hunting skills or again protect their skin.

Feathers can retain water, brush away dirt from other feathers, divert the attention of enemies or provide security like an invisibility cloak.   By calling out with a significant sound or flashing a colorful array, males make their presence known to females.  It's extraordinarily wonderful to discover feathers can whistle.

Do you need to dig a hole?  Do you need to carry building supplies?  Do you need to float or sink?  Feathers are designed to do these very things.  All you have to do is visit Utah, Namibia, Africa, Maryland or Louisiana to watch a Bank swallow, a Rosy-faced Lovebird, a Mute swan or an Anhinga in action.

Adapting to climate and seasons feathers serve to increase movement over ice and through snow.  The next time you hear the chirp of a cardinal, the cawing of crows or the sound of hundreds of wing beats, one word will come to mind...feathers.  They are an impressive example of the ingenuity of Mother Nature.


As in the case of the most recent book I reviewed by Melissa Stewart, No Monkeys, No Chocolate, this new title reflects painstaking research.  In her author's note, Stewart discusses her approach to

figuring out the most interesting way to frame the material.

Choosing to compare the attributes of feathers to items commonly seen in our lives not only makes it interesting but now whenever those are seen readers can easily recall the fact attached to each of them.

Each portion of eight statements, broken into two parts, represents one of sixteen birds.  A separate segment of text, one to three sentences long, details the particular characteristics of the feathers.  Here is a sample.

or cushion like a pillow.

A female wood duck
lines her nest with
feathers she plucks
from her own body.
These feathers cushion
the duck's eggs and
keep them warm.


Ten feathers, beautifully portrayed in their natural colors, arranged in descending order according to size, span both sides of the matching dust jacket and book case.  Opening and closing endpapers done in shades of brown are patterned with feathers displayed throughout the title.  An additional series of feathers adorns the opening two pages; identified by the name of the bird from which they come.

All of the illustrations, rendered in watercolor on Saunders Waterford cold-press paper by artist Sarah S. Brannen, are placed on lightly textured backgrounds of pale green, golden yellow, light sky blue, or white.  The arrangement of the elements, text, the feathers, the everyday item and the large portrait of the bird, is like viewing the pages in a naturalist's scrapbook.  Photograph corners, pins, frames, tape, brads, paperclips or glue adhere them artfully in place.  Eight of the birds are given two pages; the rest are tied together with single pages opposite one another.

One of my favorite displays is the depiction of the Club-winged manakin.  On the right with wings lifted among the leafy branches, he is whistling.  On the left is the informative text with three single feathers, a young boy playing a whistle and a close-up of the whistle placed upon a piece of sheet music.


Feathers Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart with illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen is one of my favorite nonfiction titles of 2014.  The mix of narrative and visuals is as pleasing as watching a feather floating on a current of air; light, airy and down-to-earth.  In addition to the author's note two pages are devoted to classifying feathers; six categories are described.

Please be sure to visit the author's and illustrator's websites via the links embedded in their names.  This link takes you to the publisher's website where you can get a peek at the representation of the first bird.  Author Melissa Stewart has several related posts for this book on her blog, Behind the Books: Feathers, Behind the Books: Another Gift for Educators and Behind the Books: Illustrating Feathers.  Each of these posts are filled with information to be used in the classroom setting.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy to enjoy the other titles on blogs who are participating in the 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.  It makes the middle of the week extra special.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

With A Quack And A Honk

With the advent of spring living in a city nestled between the shores of Lake Michigan and Round Lake, a common sight driving down the main street is a mother duck quickly waddling, babies trailing behind her.  In the morning and evening a flock of geese, creating a well-known symphony of sound, fly overhead in their trademark "V" formation.  If there is water there will be ducks and geese voicing their opinions, entertaining us with their daily adventures and habits.

In 2006 Tad Hills, in his first picture book (which earned him several starred reviews and numerous awards), featured two feathered friends in a story, Duck & Goose, as they worked through ownership issues.  There was also the misconception they both held of a spotted ball being an egg.  Duck, Duck, Goose followed in 2007; their friendship tested by the introduction of another duck, Thistle.  To the delight of younger readers a series of board books highlighting the duo, Thistle and Bluebird were published, What's Up Duck?: A Book of OppositesDuck & Goose, 1, 2, 3Duck & Goose, How Are You Feeling?, Duck & Goose, It's Time for Christmas!Duck & Goose, Here Comes the Easter Bunny!, Duck & Goose, Find a Pumpkin, and Duck & Goose, Goose Needs a Hug.

Let the quacking and honking begin!  For the first time in seven years the pals are back in a picture book.  Duck & Goose Go to the Beach (Schwartz & Wade Books) takes the terrific twosome on a new adventure far from their favorite spots, the meadow, the lily pond, the shady thicket and puddles by the river.

"Don't you just love it here, Duck?" Goose honked.
The two friends relaxed in the early morning sun and listened to the hum of the meadow.

Although replying in the affirmative, Duck stands up exclaiming that Goose has given him the best idea.  Goose is totally befuddled by the suggestion.  How can Duck's mind leap from contentment to taking a trip?

Immediately Goose counters with a reason not to go; not once but three times.  Duck sets off walking regardless.  Goose reluctantly tags along behind Duck.

As the pair travel through familiar territory Goose ponders the wisdom of this decision; what they need is right here.  Then Duck and Goose walk by unexplored points, over fields and up and down hills until they stop atop one.  Is what they see the sea?

Duck can't get to the bottom of the hill fast enough.  Goose has had enough of this excursion.  When they are finally standing on the beach gazing at the vastness spread before them, the tide turns...so to quack.

Loud waves, too much water and the hot sand are at the top of Duck's let's-not-stay-here list.  Goose dives in for a swim regardless.  Duck reluctantly wades in behind Goose.  WHOOSH!  Well, that wave was fun...or not.

A meet and greet with the area residents, tide pool explorations, sand sculpture and seashell sensations fill their afternoon.  As the day comes to a close, they rest and reflect.  It's Goose with the big question this time.  His friend Duck has the perfect answer.


As established in his earlier titles Tad Hills has created distinctive personalities for Duck and Goose.  Of the two Goose is more serious and thoughtful.  Duck tends to look at life as a series of surprises, welcoming variety. Their differences create a delightful harmonic blend.  This story, like the others, is told through simple observation statements, thoughts of both Goose and Duck and their friendly banter.  Throughout the entire narrative a hint of humor is evident.
Here is a single sample.

"We could go on an adventure!" Duck said.
"An adventure? That sounds scary," Goose honked.
"Come on, Goose.  A hike might be fun," Duck quacked.
"A hike? said Goose.  "That sounds like a fine way to twist your ankle."


In the initial scene on the dust jacket of Duck and Goose wading in the shallows along the beach, readers are given a hint of the reversal in outlook during the development of this latest escapade.  Variations in texture and hues of sea green and blue, brush strokes like ripples and waves, cover the opening and closing endpapers.  A panoramic view of the pals' little pastoral paradise spans the verso and title page.  They are lying on their backs in the meadow.

 Rendered in oil paint Tad Hills depicts softened scenery rich in color to highlight the facial features and body postures of his feathered friends.  The emotions expressed in their eyes enhance the narrative increasing the reader's desire to grin and giggle especially when they look directly at the reader involving them in the moment.  For the most part the illustrations extend across both pages. At times small oval insets, single page rough-shaped circles or single page, edge to edge, pictures follow the ebb and flow of the tale.  Hills switches perspective for the same purpose.

The hats Duck and Goose are wearing during this book elevate the attraction readers have for this adorable twosome.  One of my favorite illustrations is a single page of Duck and Goose peeking over the sand dune, getting their first glimpse of the sea.  The "Whoa!" look on their faces makes me laugh every single time.


When Tad Hills released Duck and Goose into the world he gave readers one of the most beloved pairs in children's literature.  I am thrilled he decided to continue their friendship in Duck & Goose Go to the Beach.  The care given to ensure the bond between the best buddies in text and pictures sends out a reassuring warmth; Duck standing on Goose's head to put a feather in the top of their drip castle, Goose holding up a shell to Duck's ear or

They both agreed it was nice to be home.

Make sure to share this newest edition with all your readers.  You might want to add the plush Duck and Goose to your collection. (I did.)

Please follow the embedded links above to a biographical sketch of Tad Hills at the publisher's website and to his official blog.  This links to five printable PDF posters for enjoying the beach according to Duck and Goose. There is all kinds of goodness in these pages about having a Duck and Goose party.

I am excited to be participating in the celebration of this new title with John Schumacher at Watch. Connect. Read. and with Colby Sharp at sharpread.  Make sure you visit their blogs today.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hearing Art

There is an art to discovering, creating and enhancing art...at least for me.  I have found that in slowing down, in stillness, I have been able to develop a more sensory appreciation for nearly everything.  I think you have to step away from, step outside, the normal hustle and bustle around you.

When you stand on the shore of Lake Michigan all alone and close your eyes, the sound of the waves becomes a string of notes reaching into your soul.  When you block out all sound and gaze at the star-studded sky, it lifts you up.  Have you ever reached out and touched a milkweed pod broken open with the seeds spilling out, feeling the different textures?  When cooking and then eating a favorite recipe, sometimes it's difficult to determine where taste ends and smell starts; the two are nearly blended together.

What I have never been able to do is to see color when hearing sounds or to hear sounds when seeing color.  Artist Vasily Kandinsky could.  The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art (Alfred A. Knopf) written by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Mary GrandPre traces his creative life from his youth into adulthood.

Vasya Kandinsky spent his days learning to be a proper Russian boy.
He studied bookfuls of math, science, and history.

Everything was going along rather dully according to his parents' plan until his aunt gave him

a small wooden paint box.

It was a subject necessary for a good and decent upbringing; an appreciation for art was integral to him becoming well-rounded.  After a lesson in mixing the colors from his aunt, he tried it on his own.

He heard hissing!  Did his aunt hear it?  Did his papa hear it?  Did his mama hear it?  No, they did not.  Only Vasya could.  He mixed and painted and listened to the noise filling the air.

The results of his efforts puzzled everyone.  They failed to understand what his work represented.  Vasya was asked to attend classes so he could paint exactly as everyone else did.  When he grew older he attended law school, setting aside his box of paints.

Even though his box was closed, colors still rang out to him wherever he went.  One evening the most astonishing thing happened; at the opera Vasya saw colors as the orchestra played.  His career in law no longer held any importance but becoming a painter did.

He studied and painted conforming to the instructions of his mentors.  These pictures were not a reflection of the sounds he heard.  Vasya could no longer ignore the music coming from his noisy paint box.  He mixed and painted and people began to listen.


When you look at a Vasily Kandinsky painting, a unique energy emanates.  That same type of vitality calls out from the narrative with Barb Rosenstock's use of language.  Details reflect her meticulous research but her depiction of them is completely captivating for readers.  When she describes Kandinsky's abilities the air around you will resonate in joyful colors.  Here is a sample passage.

As the orchestra's music crashed around him, the colors of the noisy paint box twirled wildly in his mind.  Stomping lines of vermilion and coral.  Caroling triangles in pistachio and garnet. Thundering arches of aqua and ebony, with shrill points of cobalt and saffron.


You can almost reach out and touch the magic in the air from looking at the matching dust jacket and book case illustration extending over the front and back.  Mary GrandPre uses acrylic paint and collage to make this and the other pictures in this title; most spanning two pages.  A thin white line frames those and the eight single-page visuals.  The opening and closing endpapers are done in a collage of creams and a paler shade of one of the brush strokes of color pattered on them; the red, blue, green and yellow.  The final set of endpapers includes a quote of Vasily Kandinsky done in script.

The title page is a close-up view of the interior of the paint box; the text cleverly positioned as if it's supposed to be there.  With a page turn the story begins with a scene of Vasya in his room studying.  Displayed items mirror the words (with the exception of his stuffed toy rabbit).  There is an authenticity to the architecture, decor, furniture and clothing of the era in every scene.

Mary GrandPre chooses a color palette that brings the hues from Kandinsky's artwork into her illustrations with an overtone of shades of blue (almost like a base).  Her lively paintings move with a vibrancy perhaps due to her lighting, lines and layout.  My favorites, by far, are the close-ups of Vasya's face over the years as he senses colors in sounds and hears sounds in color; as a boy mixing his paints for the first time or as a young man walking down a city street or sitting at the opera house during a performance.


This picture book presentation, The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art written by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Mary GrandPre, of Vasily Kandinsky's life is exuberant, informative and engaging.  It shines a light on one man's individuality, on his desire and determination to follow his heart.  You might want to have several paint box sets on hand after you read this book.  I know it will inspire others to do the same.  The outstanding illustrations of Mary GrandPre make this title a candidate for the Mock Caldecott 2015 list.

At the conclusion of the book are an author's note, four of Kandinsky's paintings, and a list of sources. The links embedded in Barb Rosenstock's and Mary GrandPre's names will lead to their official websites.  I urge you to visit them.  Please follow this link to an interview of Barb Rosenstock by John Schumacher at Watch. Connect. Read.  This is a link to The Noisy Paint Box Educator's Guide.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Twitterville Talk #144

Winter will not release its grip on northern Michigan.  Today the wind chills are in the single digits again with the temperatures dropping down to one or two above zero tonight and tomorrow night.  Brrr...  This makes it hard for the piles of snow to disappear.  It's a great thing so many people are heading to conferences in sunnier places tweeting about all they're learning.  Reading articles and watching book trailers about the new releases coming in the spring and summer really helps too.  I hope everyone had a good week.  Take time to relax this weekend and read...read...and read some more.  I finished A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd at 2AM this morning.  I can honestly say this book saved me this week.  Good luck with the giveaways.


Let's kick off this post with this article on a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, Turns out most engaged library users are also biggest tech users

What do you think of this?  Book snatching, the most violent act in the history of reading

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






Last weekend the Michigan Reading Association continued their annual conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Part of the activities and learning were captured in a Storify, Saturday at MRA14.


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





Across the board are we designing lessons following this thinking? Why It's Imperative to Teach Students to Question as the Ultimate Survival Skill 

On The New York Times Sunday Review|Opinion page a timely question is asked by former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Walter Dean Myers, Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?

Biographies for Women's History Month is a great list with many resources.


Thanks to teacher librarian and blogger at Reederama, Jennifer Reed, for these tweets and her post.







Have you registered for the Andy Griffiths Book Talk|Free Livestream Webcast?

Don't miss the additional thank you video by Aaron Becker entered this week at ALA Youth Media Awards.

Are you ready for the book trailers?  Are you ready for the author/illustrator videos?  Are you ready for books-made-into-a-movie trailers? Well, get ready because here they are!




















The 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Shortlist Announced features an author from the United States. 

Get out your list!




This is a huge event, the 95th annual Children's Book Week!


Here it is!  The Official trailer for the movie, The Giver.


Thanks to John Schumacher, teacher librarian, co-host of the monthly #SharpSchu Book Club, 2011 Library Journal Movers & Shakers, 2014 Newbery Medal Committee member, and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. for these tweets.






As a presenter at the recent Michigan Reading Association conference, Donalyn Miller is making available the contents of her session, Bring On The Books 2014.

Thanks to Donalyn Miller, teacher, author of The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child and Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits, co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club and blogger at Donalyn Miller for this tweet.







Two thought-provoking articles, Always Bridesmaids, Never Brides: Caldecott Almosts and Newbery/Caldecott 2015: Spring Prediction Edition are just the ticket to initiate discussions about the awards in your classrooms and book groups.


Thanks to Elizabeth Bird, New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist and blogger at A Fuse #8 Production, for these tweets.








Yahoo!  The Carnegie medal and Kate Greenaway shortlists announced!

Thanks to Carnegie Greenaway for this tweet.





Lucky us!  Guess who has the guest spot on Let's Get Busy this week?  It's author illustrator Dan Santat.

Thanks to Matthew C. Winner, elementary teacher librarian, founder of #slmshelfchallenge, co-founder of #geniuscon, 2013 Library Journal Tech Leader Movers & Shakers and blogger at The Busy Librarian, for this tweet.







In case you need more fuel for the fire, The Real Cost of Cutting School Libraries.


Thanks to Debbie Alvarez, teacher librarian and blogger at The Styling Librarian, for this tweet.









It's never too early to plan How to Create a Knockout Summer Literacy Program.


Thanks to educator and blogger at Zone 114: The Next Chapter, SheskeyS, for this tweet.








It's Time To Vote-First Round of Picks for #GRA14  The Global Read Aloud is an amazing opportunity to create worldwide community.


Thanks to author Kate Messner (Wake Up Missing) for this tweet.











These are excellent sources, 3 Great Websites For Free Public Domain Pictures To Use In Class.

Have you see A New Fantastic Bloom's Taxonomy Wheel For IPad Apps? 


Thanks for these tweets goes to Kate Hamilton, traveling teacher librarian.








Do not miss this wonderful article, Neil Gaiman on Why Scary Stories Appeal to Us, the Art of Fear in Children's Books, and the Most Terrifying Ghosts Haunting Society.

Thanks to Brain Pickings for this post and this tweet.







It's been an even more exciting week at School Library Journal's 2014 Battle of the Kids' Books.  Several other rounds have been decided, Round 1, Match 5: Hokey Pokey vs March: Book One, Round 1, Match 6: Midwinter Blood vs P. S. Be Eleven, Round 1, Match 7:Rose Under Fire vs The Thing About Luck and Round 1, Match 8:True Blue Scouts vs What The Heart Knows.



Thanks to the Battle Commander for these tweets.





2014 Indies Choice/E. B. White Read-Aloud Book Award Finalist have been announced.


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








Here are some great technology items you might want to consider if you are on spring break this week, Google Alert A Great Tool To Help Student Researchers, A Simple and Helpful Google Search Strategy for Students, and 39 Tools To Your Students Into Makers From edshelf.  

Thanks for these tweets go to Jennifer LaGarde, teacher librarian, 2012 Library Journal Movers & Shakers, ALA/NYT I Love My Librarian winner, co-founder of #levelupbc, and blogger at The Adventures of Library Girl.





Enjoy the collected quotes, announcements and links to even more book trailers.  I do believe Xena added something here too.














































Friday, March 21, 2014

In The Land Of Dreams

Every parent wishes for their children a peaceful, deep rest each night.  Most will agree seeing their son or daughter (no matter their age) sleeping is perhaps the sweetest thing in the whole wide world.  It seems as though the bond between parent and child becomes even stronger in those moments; the act of sleeping is one of trust.   It's a condition when we are more vulnerable.

Caregivers may read favorite books aloud, insure treasured toys and cozy blankets are near or softly sing a beloved melody.  May The Stars Drip Down (Abrams Books For Young Readers, March 11, 2014) written by Jeremy Chatelain, a musician, with illustrations by Nikki McClure is a lullaby of love.  A boy's dreams are choreographed masterfully in words and torn and cut paper illustrations.

May the stars drip down light on you,
And you close your eyes to see the moon,
And sleep will pull you through.

From starlight the dreaming traveler walks across desert sands.  Winds shift the grains into new shapes.  Higher up they float to touch the stars, bathed in the light of the moon.

Caught in clouds a journey along a well-traversed trail in the mountains leads them along a lake.  Sounds of nature reach their ears.  Again a gentle breeze moves through the surrounding grasses.

In the distance lights in houses along the shoreline signal the close of day, giving way to darkness. Waves fall gently on the sandy beach.  The dreamer drifts over the ocean until dawn brightens a new day and words are softly spoken.


If you've ever stepped outside to see a nighttime sky filled with stars or a full moon illuminating the landscape, you can understand the calm conveyed in the chosen words of Jeremy Chatelain.  Each verse speaks to the tranquility found in certain natural settings; a desert, clouds coursing across a darkened sky, a mountain lake, a shore and expansive ocean stretching as far as the eye can see.  You can't help but feel the secure embrace conveyed in every line; the world is watching and taking care of its dreaming son delivering him home to his mother in the morning.


Every detail of this book has received the utmost attention by artist Nikki McClure.  The scallop-edged dust jacket covering only the lower portion of the book case are clouds across waving grasses, moths fluttering among them.  On the front a boy peeks over the top.  Beneath a full moon and stars a fox gazes outward on the back.

The two shades of blue and white on the cover continue on the opening endpapers.  A boy and his mother are nestled in his bed reading this book.  Noted items in his bedroom appear in later illustrations; an old bone, a starfish, a sea shell, a feather, an ocean, a stuffed toy fox and hand-made owl snuggly toy. The image on the title page a circle with blue dots (stars) acting as the background for the text is reversed on the first page.  Pinpoints are cut-out showing the lighter blue of the following page.

Each of the subsequent two-page pictures are absolutely breathtaking; stunning in every respect.  Nikki McClure chooses to shift her perspective from close-up views of faces and feet to panoramic vistas of desert, sky, a mountain and the ocean.  The boy's breath as he falls asleep in his mother's arms becomes stars. A feather floats across water under a setting moon.  When morning arrives a new color element in introduced into the illustrations, a soft, rich golden yellow.  The closing endpapers take readers back to the boy's bedroom.  A neatly made bed absent of him and his mother is ringed by all his boyhood treasures.

I would gladly frame any one of these gorgeous illustrations to hang in my home.  One of my favorites is the fox in the grasses around the mountain lake.  The serenity conveyed by the layout of an evergreen branch shadowed across the moon, stars circling outward toward a mountain in the distance is brilliant.  You can feel the gentle breeze and hear the crickets as the stillness reaches out to you.


Written by Jeremy Chatelain, May The Stars Drip Down, illustrated by artwork made with cut and torn black paper by Nikki McClure, should be on every bookshelf in homes and classrooms.  It's beauty will lull any reader into a state of harmony no matter the time of day.  The blend of text and illustrations is flawless.  I will be adding this title to my Mock Caldecott list for 2015.

Please be sure to follow the link embedded in Nikki McClure's name to her official website.  On the verso of the book a link is provided to download the song May the Stars Drip Down.  I've played it over and over and over.  You can hear a portion of it in the video below.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Inching Upward!

The calendar may say spring has arrived but this morning I heard the grinding scrape of the plow along my cement drive after the snowfall last night.  Later walking with Xena I sunk into the snow over my knees in the backyard.  I have to hope green is peeking through the brown or maybe even through the last remnants of snow cover somewhere.

All those seeds blown about in the fall from plants, shrubs and trees certainly must be getting ready to make an appearance.  Or maybe not.  Rooting For You: A Moving Up Story (Disney Hyperion Books, March 11, 2014) penned by Susan Hood and pictures by Matthew Cordell chronicles the growth of a single reluctant seed.

I am NOT coming out!

There you have it, the latest news flash from deep underground.  Someone wants to stay right where they are.  Who knows what dangers are lurking in the dark?  What's that you say?  Now you're bored?

Well, that certainly changes everything.  Out bursts a root first.  Hmmm... That's not so bad. Next on top a shoot appears.  A close encounter with a rock prompts a sympathetic reply from a nearby friendly worm who offers to act as a guide.

It quickly becomes obvious the sprouted seed is surrounded by supporters.  Ants and beetles begin to call out words of encouragement.  Oh...oh...wait a minute.  Who knows what dangers are lurking in the light?

Not to worry, the worm speaks words of wisdom.  It's time to go up....up...and up some more.  From seed to root to sprout, give a shout...you made it out!


With spare text, at times conversational or with a rhythmic rhyme, Susan Hood gives readers the inside scoop on the world below and above ground.  The seed in all its stages, the wise worm and buggy friends all have their say.  Hood's words evoke the right amount of emotion to elicit reader attachment to all the characters; snickering snouts, stick by your side, friends all around, getting scared or talent to share.  Here is a sample passage.

With room to bloom,
to stand up straight.
Get going, get growing!
Your whole life awaits!


There is a certain something about the illustrations of Matthew Cordell which makes me smile.  Opening the matching dust jacket and book case, it's particularly pleasing to see the visual extend from one edge to the other.  (I really like the attention to detail; the seed representing the "o" in you.) A cheerful, colorful palette in delicate sunny shades is showcased above ground.  In the cutaway, giving readers a seed's eye view underground, warm rich browns, purple, pinks and a bright spring green color this world.  On the opening endpapers the single tiny seed is tucked in the lower right-hand corner looking a tad woebegone in its earthy home. All the buggy friends in their circular abodes and on their trails are portrayed on the closing endpapers.

Cordell continues his theme on the verso with ant-filled dirt loops.  On the title page the worm, wearing glasses, of course, is cleverly attached to the "f" in for.  On the first two pages readers are greeted with the solid spring green and three lines.  These represent an emphatic seed at close range.

In a brilliant feat of engineering as the seed sends out a root and a sprout, readers open a vertical page first, then a horizontal flap.  It's great fun to watch the facial expressions of the seed move to the sprout and finally to the center of the flower (which is a triple horizontal reveal).  To create continuity the nesting spider, the sprout navigates around below ground, is seen on the stem in the sunlight with a web between the petals.

One of my favorite illustrations is the triple horizontal pages unfolding on the right above ground with the underground view on the left.  Readers can see how far the seed has come to find its proper place in the sun.  It's a delightful blend of the narrative and illustrations with perfect pacing and placement of text.  The expressions on the characters and their body movements are as uplifting as the seed's transformation.

This title, Rooting For You: A Moving Up Story written by Susan Hood with illustrations by Matthew Cordell is exactly what we need to welcome in a new season or any new adventure.  I end up grinning every time I read it.  Use voices for the characters, open the numerous flaps with controlled slowness and pause at each picture, pass on the joy to readers that this book evokes on every page turn.  Wouldn't this book be fun to use for a gardening unit or teaching about seeds?

Please follow the links to the author's and illustrator's websites embedded in their names.

The Summer Of 1941

All one has to do is look at human history to realize the impact a single individual can make for good.  A community is created rallying around them in support of their endeavors.  For whatever reason, sometimes, this person rises to noteworthy status when needed the most.

During the summer of 1941 baseball yielded such a person.  A sense of unease had settled over most Americans; Europe was at war.  With illustrations by Terry Widener, well-received nonfiction author, Barb Rosenstock, has written The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America's Hero (Calkins Creek, an imprint of Highlights).

It all started quietly, like a conversation with Joe DiMaggio himself.  One shy single, hit to left field, smack in the middle of May, the fifteenth.

The Yankees lost that day so no one took any particular notice of that one shy single delivered by Joe.  It didn't take long though for it to come to people's attention when one week passed with Joe continuing to get hits.  Pretty soon he had hits in twenty games.  Someone might have softly suggested streak.

When Joe had hit in thirty straight games, he started to make newspaper headlines, replacing the attention given to the war.  Here was a man from a large family, generations of fishermen, raised in San Francisco, no stranger to hard work, making a name for himself in a sport Americans loved.  For each game (and for games only), Joe used a very special bat, given great care and named Betsy Ann.

Joe followed a ritual of sorts for each at bat; rubbing dirt on his hands, giving home plate a single tap and standing wide waiting for the right pitch.  With the best pitchers giving their best pitches, still nothing got by Joe.  As Joe got closer to breaking the record of a forty-one game hitting streak, the pressure really started to take its toll on him off field.

On June 29, 1941 the New York Yankees were playing the Washington Senators in Washington, D. C.  During the first of two games, Joe tied the record.  During the break between the games, the unthinkable happened.  Betsy Ann was stolen!

As the top of the seventh rolled around things looked grim for the baseball hero; three at bats, three strikeouts.  A teammate offered hope.  Joe DiMaggio proceeded to do what he did best, work hard.  The record results are unbroken to this day in baseball history.


Baseball fan or not, you will be caught up in the excitement of this retelling of Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak.  Prior to the narrative's start, Barb Rosenstock includes a quote from Joe DiMaggio to set the stage for the type of ball player he is.  Each portion of the story builds on this, creating an ever-increasing tension.  Rosenstock writes as if she is a sportscaster relaying each portion in snippets of details.

These elements are of the personal, insider, nature.  Readers are taken back in time to those ballparks; you believe you are a spectator witnessing the actual events.  Here is a sample passage.

Joe kept hitting.  A triple and a home run in the next game, one or two more every game that week.  When he hit in 20 straight games, the word "streak" whispered from the bleachers to the press box---DiMaggio was on a hitting streak.  
Joe kept the streak alive the next week and the next.


Although the matching dust jacket and book case images differ on the front and back, they extend into the flaps on the jacket. In the front we are closer watching the ball fly after a swing.  On the back Joe is standing ready at the plate with the perspective shifting, zooming back.  The turquoise shade in the upper left hand corner deepens and brightens on the endpapers, providing a background for large font quotes in white about Joe DiMaggio from Ted Williams, left fielder, Boston Red Sox and Ty Cobb, outfielder, Detroit Tigers.  

The red lettering used in the title appears repeatedly throughout the book drawing the reader's attention to the significant text within each of the two-page illustrations rendered in acrylic on bristol paper by Terry Widener.  You might be seated in the bleachers looking out at the field, seeing all stages of Joe's batting style, going in close to see only his hands sanding the handle of Betsy Ann as she rests on his lap, or getting a bird's eye view of Griffith Stadium on the fateful day in June.  The color palette is a softened, textural blend of white, gray, brown, blue, and green hues; taking us perfectly into the past.

One of my favorite illustrations is more introspective than the other action pieces.  On the right it shows Joe seated in the locker room next to his locker, head bowed in thought.  From the left newspapers with headlines of the day cross the gutter at the bottom.  Above is a cityscape, full moon shining on a saxophone player to depict the music of 1941.


Hand The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America's Hero written by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Terry Widener to sport fans, history buffs or anyone who enjoys a well told tale.  No matter where you are or the time of year it is, you will hear the crack of the bat and the chorus of cheers from the fans as Joe DiMaggio gets another hit.  You might even be yelling out in pure joy yourself!

Please be sure to follow the links embedded in both the author's and illustrator's names to access their official websites.  At the conclusion of the book an extensive author's note, a list of records, source notes, newspaper headlines, a bibliography of books, articles, websites, and additional sources is given.  You couldn't ask for a better nonfiction picture book about America's baseball hero.


I am pleased each Wednesday to participate in the 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy.  Please take a moment to follow the other blogger links listed there to get connected to some of the best nonfiction titles available.

PLEASE NOTE:  I extend an apology to my faithful readers for this post being so late today (or early morning) as my presence was needed for a family emergency.