Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Twitterville Talk #42

Spring break began for many schools in northern Michigan yesterday.  There are lots of new books to keep each and every one of us busy for months, let alone one week.  This wraps up my favorites tweets for the week.  Have a great weekend.

"The Hunger Games' Tops Weekend Box Office with $155 Million  For fans of the Suzanne Collins trilogy this is not surprising.  Wait until it comes out on DVD, more records broken?

Prolific James Patterson speaks to The Wall Street Journal, James Patterson Explains His Why His Books Sell Like Crazy. 

Only the famed E. B. White could write a letter like this.
Thanks to Children's Bookshelf of Publishers Weekly for these tweets.

This is a very impressive Prezi, 60 Educational Apps in 60 Minutes

April is just around the corner and so is National Poetry Month.  Participate in a daily poem by poets extraordinaire, Announcing the 2012 Edition of 30 Poets/30 Days!  Thanks to Donalyn Miller for the retweets.

It hardly seems possible.  Fresh Approaches:  'A Wrinkle in Time' Celebrates 50 Years.  This is a article paying tribute to a book that has stood the test of time along with listing many good resources for educators.

Press Release Fun---Do You Know Dia?  from A Fuse # 8 Production at School Library Journal acquaints readers with an upcoming celebration on April 30.  It's good news for children and books; my favorite combination.
Thanks to School Library Journal for the tweets.

Many thanks to Larry Ferlazzo of Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day... for putting most of my favorite videos in one place, The Best Fun Videos About Books & Reading.

Also thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for the link to the BBC Future page that posted an enormous infographic titled Space Race that puts our spot in the Solar System into perspective. 

I can not stop laughing at this video created by Dan Santat.  Sidekicks...

From a variety of sources came big news on March 27, 2012...Shortlist for the 2012 CILIP Carnegie Medal and Kate Greenway Medal announced.  There are outstanding titles on both lists.  Winners will be announced on June 14, 2012.

Earlier this week The Pigeon posted this tweet, Mo Willems' new Pigeon adventure"  Watch the trailer for 'The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?--Exclusive  Get ready to laugh...

It doesn't get any better than this for fans of Origami Yoda; book three title and cover is shared.

Reading Rockets reveals Top Ten Resources on Poetry.

At the NEA website there are plenty of resources lined up for National Poetry Month in April, Bringing Poetry to the Classroom, Grade K-5.

For a book lover like myself, this is, in a word, beautiful.

Birth of a Book from Glen Milner on Vimeo.
My sincerest thanks to John Schumacher, librarian of extraordinary talents, for the above tweets and postings on his fantastic blog, Watch. Connect. Read.

I am already completely captivated by the new series, The Guardians,  written and illustrated by William Joyce.  This trailer for the movie, Rise of the Guardians, reeled me in a little tighter, as if that was necessary.  I can't wait.  Is it November yet?
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the tweet.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Her Legacy Lives On

This week boxes of Girl Scout cookies were delivered to my library media center by my students.  I can not remember a time when I have not either been selling or buying Girl Scout cookies.  When I was growing up it was not a question of whether you would join Girl Scouts but when; we were all in scouting.

My troop leaders, Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Archer, were dynamos.  Growing up in the 1960s there was a plethora of things girls were expected to know but our leaders took us above and beyond those skills; putting us out in the woods to survive armed with knowledge.    I credit these two fine women and Girl Scouting with my ability to be resilient in the face of insurmountable odds.  In a word...gumption.

Here Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-true Story of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure (Scholastic Press) by Shana Corey, illustrated by Hadley Hooper, is more than a picture book biography. Illuminating the life of a woman responsible for directing the course of girl's and young women's visions, hopes, for decades, it offers readers insights into the power of one. 

One of my personal favorite quotes by Thomas Carlyle is:

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities:  It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak. 

Whether she knew it or not, Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low lived this quote.

Coming from a family known for forging new ground, Daisy longed for the thrill of going her own way unlike the other prim and proper girls of her day.  Even though an ear infection caused hearing loss Daisy moved forward in her world travels as a young woman.  There came a time though when adventure had served its purpose, Daisy wanted to make a difference.

Hearing of Girl Guides in England, Daisy passionately desired to bring something similar home to America.  On March 12, 1912 the first meeting of the Girl Scouts was held in Savannah, Georgia; beginning Daisy's greatest adventure of all.  Giving not only time but designing uniforms, providing a meeting place, land for a basketball court, and a canoe for boating, Daisy wished for Girl Scouts to come from all walks of life without the restrictions of money, upbringing, ethnic or racial barriers.  No detail was to small or large for her attention; the ten Girl Scout laws, a handbook and a series of badges to earn.

Girl Scouts were seen all over Savannah participating in a variety of activities; some viewed them with disdain, others applauded their efforts.  For the first time new avenues were open to girls; holding their heads up high, enjoying the out-of-doors, feeling a sense of camaraderie, because of Daisy they began to believe that anything was possible for them.  Speaking across the country Daisy inspired others to begin troops in their communities, though her heart continued to remain with the girls in Savannah.

While the genre of biography is not the first place I look for reading material, I can say, in all honesty, that I have read this title repeatedly.  I am drawn to the single short concise sentences, the groupings of single sentences to make a point, a short paragraph or several paragraphs carefully written to present the true character of Juliette Gordon Low, Daisy.  Two techniques employed stand out:  within a sentence or paragraph an individual word or words will be sized larger and bolder to emphasize a thought or comment on Daisy or the historical time period and cleverly tucked in the illustrations are quotes from Low aiding in readers' understanding of her belief system; bringing readers into her world, the world she imagined for the Girl Scouts.  There is an effervescent quality to Corey's narrative matching that of her subject.

To make yourself strong and healthy it is necessary to begin with your inside.

Whatever you take up, do it with all your might.

Hadley Hooper's charming, forthright illustrations done in paint, ink and printmaking techniques, then scanned and arranged in Photoshop, could not have found a better venue than this title.  Her debut picture book displays hues in sync with Low's adventurous life, championing the cause of scouting, exploring and appreciating our natural world; greens, blues, golds, rusts and browns.  Nearly all the visuals, two page spreads, are brimming with vitality. 

From the first page picturing a young girl in a period dress, hand on her hip, holding a fishing pole in front of a tree house to the final two pages depicting framed portraits of notable women, all former Girl Scouts, Lucille Ball, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, with one empty, captioned with a single word, YOU, readers relive, visually, the journey taken by Daisy.  Whenever appropriate Hooper places those flowers, in all sizes, whose name Juliette Gordon Low bore; even the earrings she wears on the front cover. But my favorite by far is the cover hat illustration repeated in the center of the book with one of Low's quotes replacing the author's and illustrator's names across the hat band; a truly memorable illustration more than worthy of framing.

At the end of the book are three pages of extensive additional information and resource notes.  By following the link above to Hadley Hooper's website readers can click on Links and visit her Tumblr pages to see more of the book's illustrations. Selecting Extras on Shana Corey's website provides just that; more information about scouting and how to celebrate the 100th anniversary this year.

Here Come the Girl Scouts!:  The Amazing All-true Story of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure by Shana Corey, illustrated by Hadley Hooper, is an awe-inspiring title showcasing the accomplishments of a single woman; one of the best in 2012. 

I can't believe I still have this
 but it represents a great deal of work.
This is a continuation from the front.
  Thank you Juliette Gordon Low.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gathering Nuts?

It's hard to break habits, especially when you have had them for years.  There are so many good online services to store and arrange website bookmarks that it doesn't make sense to not take advantage of what they provide.  But still, when I am in a hurry, I might quickly click on the Favorites icon just so I can come back to that place time permitting. 

When looking over my long list of apps to explore, I spotted one posted by Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers more than a year ago, Sqworl.  As stated on their home page:

Sqworl is a web application that provides a clean and simple way to visually bookmark multiple URLs.

To register enter in a username, your name, email address, password and answer the quirky "Are you human?" question by trying to decipher a blurred nearly incoherent set of letters.  Thankfully, there are no terms of service to read. 

Upon registering you are taken to a page which allows groups to be created, follow other groups by clicking on their heart icon, installing a bookmarklet to your browser toolbar, adding a Sqworl API or using a Sqworl application designed for iPhone or iPod Touch.  I elected to try  creating a group first.  The next page asks you to name your group and give a brief description. 

A unique URL generated for your new group appears in the center of the following page.  There is a blank for entering in the URL (web address) of the first site in your group followed by a blank for a short annotation.  Within minutes I had a group created.  Here is the link for my group, Online Apps for March.

In the lower right hand corner of each website thumbnail is a small red "-" which allows for easy deletion of a link.  To move from a group page on which you are working to create another, click on your username in the upper right hand corner of the page to toggle back to the beginning.

I decided to add a bookmarklet to my web browser to make adding to groups even easier.  Adding a bookmarklet allows you to add a website to a group without leaving its page.  You can even create a new group without going into Sqworl.  IE users need to add it to Favorites, others can simply drag it to their browser toolbar.

For my students creating groups in Sqworl, then placing them in the Shared Students' Space is much more appealing.  It's the visual aspect of the website thumbnails they will find easier, more than a simple title linked to a website.  To be able to see where they are going prior to making a selection will make all the difference for them.  This is one nut this squirrel is storing away.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

That's The Spot--Dot

Voting for The 2012 Children's Choice Book Awards opened on March 14th and will close on May 3rd.  In the K-2nd grade category one of the selections is Dot by Paticia Intriago.  As principal of Intriago Design, specializing in graphic design for printed and online companies and individuals, Patricia Intriago debuts as a children's book author/illustrator with Dot.

Through the use of dots concepts of opposites, stop and go, slow and fast, up and down, loud and quiet, heavy and light, happy and sad, hard and soft, are pictured.  Terms such as yummy and tastes bad are aptly visualized as are hurt dot and heal dot.  A question asked and an ending told subtly bring readers into the world of communicative circles.

Text, sometimes rhyming, sometimes not, provides a brief description of the dots' depictions. Expressive dots, such as these, can say a lot. 

The front and back cover are mirrored on the front and back endpapers; a bright yellow circle on a bright blue background (sun in the sky) and a large white dot surrounded by much  smaller white dots on black pages (moon and stars).  A clever cut-out on the title page leads into a first page replicating the front cover followed by a red dot; two pages portraying the three primary colors.  Combining the cover page colors gives us the third dot, the Go dot.  

With one exception the remainder of the illustrations are strictly in black and white; the bare basics relying on the intuitive interpretation of the dot definitions through design.  From start to finish turning the pages takes us on this dot's journey from the sunny beginning to the starry end; a day in the life of a dot.  There is an underlying sense of humor, a stretching of the meaning, visible at more than one point as seen in the heavy dot, a bowling ball with the finger holes (dots) showing and light dot, fine lines looking like blown bubbles.

Minimal narrative and simple, clear visuals equal an ideal match when sifted through the inventive mind of author/illustrator Patrica Intriago in her first picture book for children, Dot.  My students are going to love this book.  We might have to have a Dot contest of our own.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sophisticated Blogging Made Simple

In July of 2008 a web 2.0 blogging platform was launched.  As of March 12, 2012 this application was acquired by TwitterPosterous Spaces highlights three features:  share more, work less, control who sees what and post anything anywhere.

Stating the easiest way to share safely online at the sign up page, users are invited to enter in their email address, a password and username.  (A confirmation email will be sent.) Then click the green Start Posting button.   At this page users have a variety of options.

Across the top of the page you can click Readers to view Spaces (blogs, posts) of those you follow, or Popular to read those Spaces getting the most hits.  The Activity button reveals those who have commented, liked or followed your Spaces.  Spaces you follow, have created or wish to design are listed under the Spaces tab.

As you toggle through those top options, on the left the selections remain stable:  Edit Profile, Manage Spaces, Find Friends and Log Out.  Entire management of your Spaces is under the Edit Profile tab; choosing to list your first and last name rather than a username, any text to be added to your profile, a profile photograph, alterations to your email or password, account deletion, or notifications frequency.  Even without creating any Spaces when you sign up a unique Space is generated using your username; a URL is given, username dot posterous dot com.

When going into that first Space on the right are a list of management tools for Spaces.  Posting can be done online or via email. Posts, drafts of posts and new posts can be generated from the Posts tab.

Space Settings is where the title, look and layout of a space is designated.  Manage Members is a list of those who can use the Space.  Pages & Links are extra posts and links to items you most like. 

Privacy Control covers who can view, everyone, by invitation only, or password protected, who can post, members only or a guest, who can comment, everyone, logged-in users only, nobody or those given approval, and Content Protection, show downloaded links for media and show location of geotagged photos.  Twenty-four themes are available under the Customize.  Within those themes changes can be made to make the Space your own.

When you select Create Another Space a window pops up asking you to choose one of four options:  blog, photo or video, group or business.  At the next window privacy settings are chosen:  public, anyone can view but only you and members can post or private, only you and members can view and post.  The third window asks you to choose a name and URL address, each of which can be changed later.  As you type in the title the URL is generated.  Finally select a thematic layout for your Space.

When posting to a Space a work window provides room for naming the post, text, and uploading images, audio, video, and documents.  Text can be bold, in italics, underlined, struck through, sized and colored.  Two types of bulletts are available.  Indenting, block quotes, and page breaks are several of the formatting options.  Tags can be added to a post as well as when the post will appear on the Space.

I created a post first, then went through the numerous styles to select a theme.  Some designs can be changed more than others; it appears that most allow for Space name adjustments, sizing, and the uploading of a header image.  When a theme is adjusted and saved you are taken into your blog.

To get back to main work area click on Manage in the upper right hand corner.  By clicking on Post a new one can be added right from that point.  A post can always be edited, deleted or viewed on the website from the management area.

Ease of use with pleasing results makes this application a welcome alternative to other blogging platforms. Instead of spending days to learn, a blog can be up and running in under an hour.  I, of course, took longer testing out all the templates and possible alterations within each.  

Here is the link to my newly created blog sharing my TBR piles using Posterous Spaces.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Listen...Can You Hear?

Early this past Sunday morning, awake again at 1:30 a.m., I closed the covers of a book I could not believe was over.  The well-wrought characters placed in harrowing, unusual and mysterious circumstances bound this reader to them as only the best of stories can.  A novel inspired by The Secret Garden, The Humming Room (Feiwel and Friends), by Ellen Potter will undoubtedly bring new readers to the earlier title and have others going back for a second reading but on its own--brilliant.

Let's begin at the beginning.

There are no road signs to mark the tiny village of Limpette.  It lies between two towns that you have never heard of.  If you pass Ostrander's goat farm, you've gone too far.

We won't stay long in Limpette.  There's not much of anything here for us, except the girl. And the girl was not much of anything either, not back then.  Her name was Roo Fenshaw and she was too small for her age.

It's a good thing Roo is small for her age; giving her the ability to stay hidden in the smallest of places.  In the silent space beneath her trailer house she listens to the policemen examining the murder scene, overhears the conversation with the neighbor and discovers she is to be taken to live with an uncle she did not know she had, her father's brother.  Tragedy's heavy hand is scooping up twelve-year-old Roo.

Efficient Ms. Valentine whisks Roo away to Cough Rock Island, one of many such islands in the St. Lawrence River.  Her uncle, Emmett Fenshaw, a private, eccentric man, has purchased an abandoned children's hospital used to treat those with tuberculosis, as his home.  Within hours of her arrival the mysteries of which no one speaks, a strange humming and piercing screams, fill the air.

No nonsense but sympathetic Violet, an islander working for Roo's uncle, speaks to her of the legendary Yellow Girl, a ghost, and the Faigne, looking human but not quite, a creature of the water.  Before too long Mrs. Wixton, her newly acquired tutor attempts to suffocate Roo's new sense of belonging and freedom on the island.  Hiding from Mrs. Wixton within her secret cave by the river, she meets Jack, who eerily resembles the Faigne in appearance and in his skills on and around the waterway.

Further explorations along silent, twisting hallways, up and down staircases, through doorways rarely used and a sudden plunge along the death chute, lead Roo to discover she has a cousin, Phillip, and yes, there is a garden, a enclosed, glass-domed garden.  Lack of all life permeates every nook and cranny of the space, the very air itself.  Yet it calls to Roo; calling for her help.

So many questions without answers are centered on the garden.  Initially it draws Roo and Jack together working daily to bring forth any form of greenness despite both sensing, seeing, a vague shadowy form by a large boulder.  Within time Phillip, Violet, Ms. Valentine and eventually Emmett Fenshaw are drawn by circumstances into its confines.

Atmosphere thick with foreboding generated by her father's murder, the island's rocky isolation, the mansion whose empty rooms echo with lives lost, the sudden mysterious death of Ana, her uncle's wife and Phillip's mother, superstitions of the island's natives and the enigma of Jack drives the storyline forward.  Plot details tightly interwoven create a seamless fictional fabric patterned with timeless life-defining qualities, resilience, love, family, friendship, and loyalty.  Rich characterizations, primary and secondary, revealed by dialogue shine.

Squinting through the curtain of rain, she watched the shadowy form on the roof.  Suddenly, the wind changed directions, as though someone had summoned it.  It drove into her face so violently that it felt like an assault, forcing her to run.  Roo refused.  She turned her back to the wind, twisting her head to keep her eyes on the boy.  The river grew frantic, crashing against the island's banks.

"No, Roo.  It's not really a good place for anyone."
"You stay," Roo accused.
"I'm paid to stay.  I have three little sisters back on Donkey and a mom who's raising them on her own.  I need this job.  And I'm needed here. You're not."
Roo thought of the garden, of the freshly cleared earth, bare now but full of possibilities.
I am needed here, she thought.
"Come on," Violet said.  She walked over to Roo and took her hand, squeezing it once. "Let's go inside and get this over with.  Ms. Valentine will be so relieved to see you she might forget to tear you into bits and feed you to the gulls."

Several other points are worth mentioning.  Roo's father, however far he may have strayed, is fondly remembered; his stories' roots found among the islands.  Acting as guides Roo's black squirrel and Jack's heron, further cement their connection to nature; she to the earth and he to the water, each listening, hearing and understanding.

Ellen Potter has penned a novel so easy to visualize, a movie in your mind to replay over and over.  Beautifully, haunting The Humming Room tells of the spring that follows the winter in her characters' lives gently growing from their hearts as the plants rise from the soil in the garden.  Without a doubt, multiple copies will be needed.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Twittervile Talk #41

Relative calm on the wires this week but loads of information on The Hunger
Games hitting the silver screen yesterday.  The announcement of the Hans Christian Andersen Award winners creates an international buzz.  I am seriously thinking of buying enough LEGOS to make my own pigeon.

Enjoy the fruits of the labors of The Kentucky Virtual Library presents: How To Do Research perfect for K-6 students needing an interactive step by step guide.
Thanks to Richard Byrne blogger at Free Technology for Teachers.

Discovering the why and how about any author's book adds a new dimension to their work as does this article, Biographer finds spider who inspired Charlotte's Web.

Check out this video by Mary Pope Osborne highlighting her 20 year love affair with The Magic Tree House books. 

Thanks to John Schumacher librarian and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read  for the above two tweets.

School Library Journal has what you need and what you didn't know that you needed, Let 'The Hunger Games' Begin .

Why I'm Taking My Fourth Grader To See 'The Hunger Games' is a thoughtful explanation by an involved parent. 

The Hunger Names is one author's explanation for the names given to the characters; a feast for fans.

'Hunger Games' fans switch arenas from page to screen offers different perspectives on the movie.

Author Maria Teresa Andruetto from Argentina and illustrator Peter Sis from Czech Republic have won the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Awards.

Thanks to the Children's Bookshelf of Publishers Weekly for these two tweets.

The Odds Ever In Your Favor:   Ideas and Resources for Teaching 'The Hunger Games' is a retweet worth mentioning. 

Enjoy this reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle himself.
Thanks to PenguinTeen for the tweet.

Hilarious promotional video for the HarperCollins Class Acts: Authors in the Classroom coming this fall.  Check out the website for more information.

Don't let the Pigeon near the LEGOS.  Fans of Mo Willems' Pigeon books, dig out the LEGOS and get ready to create a LEGO Pigeon.  This is amazing!
Thanks to the Pigeon for this information.

Via TechCrunch, Pinterest Updates Terms Of Service As It Preps An API And Private Pinboards:  More Copyright Friendly.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sweet Nothings That Mean Everything

When watching those that are near and dear, time shared together day in and day out, some facial expression, an action or reaction might trigger something other than their name to spring forth from our lips.  Or perhaps a nickname has been passed down through generations.  Whatever the reason, those words provide confirmation to the recipient of affection on the part of the speaker.  Little Treasures:  Endearments from Around the World (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, pictures by Chris Raschka, crosses a spectrum of languages and countries bringing those phrases of love to readers.

All over the world, mothers and fathers, grandparents and cousins, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, love their children very much and call them by many different sweet names.

Turning and scanning the pages readers are treated to seventeen different sets of expressions arranged either by language or country.  Beginning with English-speaking families, America, England and Wales, we read baby-cakes, poppet and flossie.  For each of the groupings translations from the country/language of origin are given in English along with the pronunciation in parentheses.  Around our globe animals, ducky, possum, my flea, little mouse, or my chick, food, lambchop, my little cabbage, or dumpling or a more abstract thought such as happiness have found their way into the spoken words of those who love their children.

Primary colors splash across beige pages replete with the distinguishing artwork of Chris Raschka.  Orange endpapers promise a warmth that literally glows on each and every spread depicting truly huggable children and their families from the four corners of our planet.  Woven into, what can only be described as a portrayal of sheer happiness, are small creatures mentioned in the text as endearments, little mice, various bugs, and several versions of the sun. 

Generally the families are spread along the top of a two page spread, illustrations done in ink watercolor, and gouache, as the individual children are peppered beneath, text above and below them.  Laughter, shyness, wide-eyed wonder, or sleep are fully expressed by the children as they stand, run, crawl, lean or sit.  Raschka's children are the vivid visualization of each little treasure.

At the close of the book Ogburn acknowledges a host of friends and friends of friends that contributed to the quality of this title.  Her About the Book addresses the road she followed, the research involved, in selecting those endearments found within this book. 

Readers, young and old alike, will find much to enjoy in Little Treasures:  Endearments from Around the World words by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, pictures by Chris Raschka, as they roll the pronunciations around on their tongues and store the words of love within their minds and hearts.  I know this is going to be a favorite with the children in my world.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mix And Match--Masher

The 2010 Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning selected by the American Association of School Librarians included under the heading, Media Sharing, using the Standards for the 21st Century Learner, 2.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use and assess, 3.3.4 Create products that apply to authentic, real-world context and 4.1.8 Use creative and artistic formats to express personal learning, the free service provided by the web 2.0 application, Masher.  Combining video clips, photographs and music tracks to produce videos could not be easier.  The home page visually proclaims three easy steps to accomplish the desired results.

Blend together videos and/or photographs of your own with those from the Masher library which includes video clips from the  BBC Motion Gallery and Rip Curl to name two.  To this mixture add words, music and special effects.  Share the final product via a variety of social networks, embed in a website or blog post or via email.

Sign up by clicking on the large Get Started button on the home page.  You are requested to fill in a username, password, first and last name and email address.  Terms and Conditions, Code of Conduct and the Privacy Policy must be accepted.  A validation email will be sent.

They require, if you are under 13 years of age, to get parental or guardian permission prior to using any interactive features of the application.  It is recommended that no personal information for those under 13 (or anyone else), with their protection in mind, be revealed such as telephone numbers, a home or email address.

With registration completed log in to start.  Click on the tab that says Studio.  This takes you to the work area for the creation of your video. 

Scroll through the offerings by choosing Videos.  Drag them to the timeline.  Their order can be arranged and changed by dragging them along this line.

Skins (frames) can be added.  Currently there are 24 types specific to events, staging or a form of technology. 

To add text click the Text tab.  In the text box type what you desire to say.  As you type the text appears on the screen to the left.  Drag that text to a position on the screen.  Choose from eight font styles.  Text can be sized and colored. Drag the text tab to the timeline to put it in position.  Text can not be added unless a video is in place.

Adding music tracks is the same, drag a particular selection to the timeline.  There is a list of thirteen genres, many tracks within each.  Artist's name, track title and length are shown.  Mousing over any of these items begins the music so you can preview the sound.

A bar above the timelines allows for ease of movement to edit and arrange the videos, text, music and other extras.  I advise frequent saving of your work.  When initially saving you are asked for a title, description and tags for your Masher creation.  Any of the elements you have added can be deleted by moving your mouse to the right hand corner and clicking on the X.  

Click the View/Share button when you are satisfied with your work.  An HTML code and URL link are given.  The Masher can be submitted to MySpace, Facebook, Digg, Del.icio.us and StumbleUpon or emailed. 

By choosing the Gallery button at the top of the page, Masher videos by others can be viewed.  They are grouped by popular and featured on the home page as well.

The Masher below was made entirely with videos on site but you can also upload your own pictures, videos and music. Here is the link if the embedded video does not play for you. I recommend adding this to your web 2.0 toolbox.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Across The Generations, A Story To Tell

When climbing through their family tree most of those living in America find their roots are firmly cemented in a country other than the United States; we are immigrants one and all.  Individuals and families left their native countries, all that was familiar, to seek a new life.  A representative title paying homage to one such family is on the final four list of the 2012 Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature;  All The Way To America:  The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel (Alfred A. Knopf) written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.

Michele Iaccarino left his poor farming family in Sorrento, Italy to come to America seeking new possibilities for his future.  As he boarded a boat he carried these words and items from his parents.

"Work hard," his father told him, handing him the little shovel.  "But remember to enjoy life."
"And never forget your family," his mother said.  She hugged him and gave him their few family photographs and her recipe for tomato sauce.

Ellis Island, New York City, gave him a new name, Michael Yaccarino.  Initially finding work with friends from home Michael used that shovel to scoop flour and sugar in a bakery.  Within time Michael had his own business serving up dried fruit and nuts to his customers with the little shovel.

Of the five children he and his wife Adeline had, the oldest son, Aniello, helped his father, from the age of twelve, to support the family.  Growing up Aniello, called Dan, married Helen and together they ran their own market measuring out beans, macaroni and olives with the little shovel.  The two were able to realize their dream of living in a country home hosting many a family gathering.

After school Dan's son Mike helped out in the kitchen of the restaurant Dan opened using his grandmother's tomato sauce on many of the speciality dishes.  Growing in numbers the family now celebrated in the expanse of the restaurant.  Mike grew up to marry Elaine, Dan Yaccarino's parents. 

Outside his barber shop, Mike used the shovel to spread rock salt on the snowy sidewalks.  Though he grew up in a large home near his grandparents, helping his father with his tomato plants, when the opportunity presented itself, Dan moved back to New York City where his great-grandfather Michael had begun his new life.  Today Dan, his wife Sue and two children, Michael and Lucy, continue the family values of working hard, enjoying life and loving their family.  And the little shovel....it's used to tend the zucchini, tomatoes and strawberries in their terrace garden.

The conversational language and tone conveyed by word choice in this narrative is identical to what one might overhear between a parent and child; conveying the story of a family history built on work, play and love.  That commonality of beliefs passed on from generation to generation is strengthened by the little shovel given from father to son again and again.

The little shovel also becomes a vehicle for the telling of these four family stories much as the story wreath of old used by the African storytellers.  From these wreaths were hung a variety of objects, each representative of a particular tale in the teller's repertoire.

Illustrations in this title were rendered using gouache on Arches watercolor paper; bright, warm colors enhancing the unity within each family and between each generation.    Yaccarino's great grandfather is walking across the cover, buildings of New York City in the background.  Front endpapers depict a map showing the route across the Atlantic from Sorrento to New York.  Family portraits of the four generations appear on the back endpapers.

From the title pages depicting young Michele little shovel in hand as he strolls through a row of vines holding ripened tomatoes, all pictures complimenting the text within this story are shown in two page spreads blending the lines of time, deepening the sense of flow.  Some of the spreads highlight a family at work, some show them at play, but all the illustrations display the love.  So realistic are the portrayal of the characters' lives you can almost hear the noise at the seaport, the clatter of hooves on a city street, the chatter among customers, the laughter between family members, the clash of dishes and always the sound of the little shovel digging, measuring, serving each father and each son.

All The Way To America:  The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel by Dan Yaccarino is thirty-two pages filled with heart simply told with grand effect.

I can see asking readers what object in their family history has special meaning; what story or stories surround that object.  Or does their father or mother have a phrase or thought frequently expressed in guidance; a family value. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Virtual Post-It-Boards-Slatebox

At times it seems as though there are too many choices when it comes to online services but each one has their unique, individual options in order to serve a particular user's unique, individual needs.  Slatebox is a web 2.0 application for mind-mapping. 

Individuals can sign up to use Slatebox for free.  Registration requires a username, email address and password. Upon completion users are immediately taken to the Slatebox Canvas.  Beneath the canvas is a link to a YouTube video that simply explains the steps to begin using this application.

In the center of the canvas is the first node.  This node, as well as the screen, can be dragged.  In the corner is a bird's eye view of the canvas.  On the left side is a tool for zooming in and out.  When you mouse over the node four icons appear, settings, detached node, attached node and resize, going clockwise around the node.

The settings icon allows the user to change the shape of the node and its color.  An additional five icons within that option allow for connecting to a node, deletion, editing of text, embedding an image or adding a URL link.  Each time the detached or attached node icon is clicked the additional node will mirror the changes made in the shape and color of the original (parent) node.
(Note:   If you go back and change the parent node's shape and/or color the newer ones will not change.)

Across the top of the Slatebox Canvas are buttons representing the creation of a new canvas, opening a previous canvas, getting the HTML embed code for the current canvas, exporting the image to your computer, choosing to have the Slatebox creation to be searchable on site or allowing/not allowing collaboration on Twitter. 

This free, web 2.0 application is so easy to use it should be placed in your toolbox; it has been added to mine.  I found the adding of images to be outstanding as was the adding of links.

This is the canvas of a very simple Slatebox that I designed; exported to my computer as a .PNG file.  I did have trouble embedding the canvas HTML so it would appear correctly, I could not get the nodes to appear; only text and connectors are visible.  It might work better in one browser better than another.  I have IE 9.  Four of the nodes also have links to websites which can be viewed when moused over if embedded in a website or blog.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Who Knew?

Since 1972 The Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature has been hosted by the Bank Street College of Education.  Recently School Library Journal joined with the Bank Street College of Education to promote this award bringing the ability to vote to more children.  Yes, the winner of this award is selected solely by children.

Picture books combining text and illustrations which are inseparable are chosen by third and fourth grade students at the school leaving the final voting to first and second grade students.  One of the four finalists for 2012 is What Animals Really Like:  A New Song Composed and Conducted by Mr. Herbert Timberteeth (Abrams Books for Young Readers), lyrics and pictures by Fiona Robinson.

A tuxedo-clad beaver, Mr. Herbert Timberteeth, strides across a stage, red curtains closed.  The right and left pages unfold (curtains drawn open) revealing clusters of critters, lions, wolves, pigeons, cows, monkeys, horses, worms, warthogs, frogs, shrimp, kangaroos and mice all elegantly attired.  An octopus sits at the piano four arms adjusting the pages of his musical score as we read:

Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls!
Here, for the first time, I present my new song,
"What Animals Like Most."
A-one, a-two, a-one, two, three, and...

The first three groups, looking slightly woebegone, sing their lyrics, every other one rhyming with the previous group's last word. The fourth group, strangely enough is smiling.  Why are they smiling?  The cows have decided that they are going to say dig instead of moo.

"Dig?" says composer/conductor Timberteeth.  Dig, as we readers well know, does not rhyme with the pigeon's coo.  What's a conductor to do?

The presentation continues as the next three set of animals voice their lines perfectly, looking worried, until again the warthogs, grinning widely, ad lib.  The angry buck-toothed director stops the performance, a button popping off his coat.  Baton raised he strives for order but the creatures are in full revolt now.

Frazzled by this turn of events he is ready to quit. Quitting is not what the animals want.  Looking straight into the audience he asks:

Are you sure you want to hear what the animals really like?

What they like does not rhyme.  What they like is anything but ordinary; flower arranging lions, ballet dancing pigeons, skiing shrimp and other oddities span the next seven pages until another twist squeaks in.   Several other adornments falling off Mr. Herbert Timberteeth's tux precedes his final meltdown.

His attempt to close the curtains in disgust provides readers with another four-page fold.  This array of text and pictures leaves no doubt that individuality rules.  There is no place for pigeonholing in this performance, not even for Mr. Herbert Timberteeth, it would seem.

Using pen and ink and marker pens Fiona Robinson depicts the story's events, the character's unique pastimes, and a full range of emotion on heavy cream-colored paper bright with color and animation.  Humor resonates throughout in the obvious and in the tiniest of details; two overalls wearing squirrels are pasting up the title page billboard-style while a sunglasses wearing third lounges in a lawn chair, one of the skiing shrimp is wearing casts on three of her feet, rabbits from the magic show wolves are rampant and multiplying.  Each reading brings new particulars to light, even the front cover. 

Get ready to laugh loud and long from cover to cover as Fiona Robinson writes and illustrates What Animals Really Like.  Not only is this title pure fun to read, it lends itself to further discovery; having readers ponder other animals and what they may like or not like that breaks the mold. Divide a group into smaller groups; one providing the activities, the other the animals.  There's nothing better than the combination of learning and laughter.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Twitterville Talk #40

A little bit of this and a little bit of that came across the wires this week.  So much is happening in March but the most important item is Read Across America.  Keep reading and enjoy the weekend.

This retweet came across my feed this past week, Lucasfilm Research Library.  I am definitely adding that to my bucket list.

I could not agree more with this assessment,  5 reasons why we really need librarians and Information  Professionals in the Internet AgeThis was also I retweet.  Note to self:  write down retweet information.

39 Clues fans can rejoice, Cover Reveal:  Book 1 of Scholastic's New 39 Clues-Style Series.

The Hans Christian Andersen Award Jury of IBBY Announces the 2012 Short List.  Check out the names on this list.

Michael L. Printz Award winning author, Paola Bacigalupi, has written a sequel to Ship Breaker.  Read the starred review to The Drowned Cities.

Cake Wrecks pays tribute to picture books this past week; simply amazing.
Thanks to Children's Bookshelf of Publishers Weekly for the above tweets.

I am looking forward to sharing this site with my students, The 39 Clues Reading Club
Thanks to John Schumacher at Watch. Connect. Read.

This Is Everything You Need To Know About Pinterest (Infographic) written and tweeted by

If the majority of high school students are thinking and acting like Mankaprr Conteh, I would say that the future of the world is in good hands.  High School Student Builds School Library in Sierra Leone.

Elizabeth Bird, librarian and blogger at A Fuse #8 Production, writes Newbery/Caldecott 2013:  The Spring Prediction EditionSome of these I have read and totally agree with her placing them on the list, others I need to get.  I predict more wonderful reading in the future.
Thanks for the tweets School Library Journal.

I am laughing already; it always happens when I see that author/illustrator Dan Santat has a new title coming soon.  This is the book trailer to The Three Ninja Pigs.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author/illustrator of the graphic novel series, The Lunch Lady, (five copies of each title is still not enough for the demand) will be hosting The Children's Book Council Awards this year.  Watch these videos of those nominated.

Random House Kids tweeted about an interview held with R. J. Palacio.  You can never have too much information about the author of Wonder.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Worth The Wait

Our world runs on its own clock; picking and choosing what it will do when.  Over the years we humans have devised various calendars to plot the future and methods of determining the passage of time but when it comes right down to it, we are at the mercy of a rhythm beyond our control.  Debut author Julie Fogliano's tranquil telling of rebirth, And Then It's Spring (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Book Press, February 14, 2012), illustrated by 2011 Caldecott Award Medal winning illustrator, Erin E. Stead, is a tribute to the rewards of patience.

First you have brown,
all around you have brown

The snow may be gone but  a bespectacled boy, his dog, pet turtle and an onlooking rabbit see no sign of new life as a few birds hang on dried-up cattails nearby.  As the days get warmer he and his companions haul pots, seeds, seed markers and garden tools in a red wagon to a plot of ground beyond the plowed fields surrounding his home.  Rain is needed and it comes, but there is still so much brown.

As a week passes the foursome watches, waits and plants some more.  As with  anyone who waits, the more time passes, hopefulness is replaced by worry.  But worry can be replaced too, by a stillness, a quiet necessary to feel the beat of the heart, the heart of the world around us. 

Week after week of expectant observation leads to activities in preparation for the arrival, the arrival of a new season.  When one least expects the anticipated event, it can pleasantly surprise.  The right combination makes all the difference.  The all around is no longer brown but green.

Julie Fogliano's beautiful ode to a boy's trust in the fruits of his endeavors is told using peaceful prose with a hint of fancy.  Initially her narrative goes from brown to seeds to a wish for rain; a single word choice reflective of her command of language used throughout.  Her passage about the bears depicts the musings of a boy whose imagination is stretching for an answer; their lack of reading skills might be an explanation.  Even without the accompanying illustration the image conjured by her words at this point, as well as others, is a delightful daydream.

Using woodblock printing techniques and pencil pictures  Erin E. Stead colors in a world where readers will long to linger.  At each reading new details will reveal themselves; the turtle wearing a red ski cap as does the boy, as the weeks progress the smoke from the house's chimney decreases until it disappears, the dog's hole (a resting place for his bone) holds a marker picturing a bone or the rabbit standing on a smaller clay pot to peer into a larger version.   Readers are endeared to the boy and his companions by the delicate depiction of each. 

The book's jacket and cover foreshadow the events found in the story as do the endpapers' colors; front endpapers are a smoky blue-green and the back endpapers are a brighter, darker hue of the same color.  Earthy blues, browns, greens, some blue and those red highlights ( the boy's home, the umbrella, the winter clothing) are softly outlined.   Clouds in the background accentuate the characters, their activities and the landscape while unifying. 

The winsome words penned by Julie Fogliano for And Then It's Spring even without the pictures are lovely, a mind melody.  The illustrations painstakingly created by Erin E. Stead need no words telling a story, And Then It's Spring happens on their own.  Together the result is in a word...stunning.  To view interior images please visit the publisher's website.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Beyond Screen Capture

If you are looking to make your screencasts more personal by adding audio, then a simple online tool to use is ScreenrScreenr is free to users 13 years or older.  No registration is necessary before beginning your first screencast.

At the home page click RECORD in the middle of the page or the yellow bar reading:  Launch screen recorder now!  When you click either of these options a small window pops up advising you that the page uses Java.  A search will be made to determine if you have Java on your computer.  If not, it can be downloaded for free from that page.

That page must remain open when you are using Screenr.  Within seconds of that page's loading a dotted outline appears on your computer monitor.  This is the frame that will capture the exact portion of the screen upon which you wish to  focus.  It can be resized by dragging any of the small eight squares located in the corners and the side centers.  It can be moved around on the page with mouse placement.

When you have the screen in place click the red record button in the lower left hand corner.  Next to the record button is a graph illustrating the volume level of your voice.  Further right is the size of your screen. The last option is to cancel. As the instructions indicate press DONE when your recording is completed; five minutes is the allotted time.

You are able to move from page to page within that particular screen range, all activity is shown, as you record.  When you are done you can publish this screencast by logging in using your Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, or WindowsLive ID account.  To complete the ability to publish the site asks for your email address and a username.  As you type in your username a URL link is created.

The next screen asks you to fill in a small description of your screencast.  You can preview the video and audio, deleting it if necessary.  (I highly recommend writing down what you wish to say during the screencast before starting.)  At this time you can click on a publish button or another publish button which takes you to the application you used to login.

A variety of options are available at the next screen.   Front and center, play or share can be chosen.  When you click on share a URL link and an HTML embed code are given.  To the right of your screencast you can share this on Facebook or Twitter as well as getting the link and code information again.

Beneath that you can choose download an .MP4 file, publish the screencast to YouTube or delete it.  A Screenr bookmarklet can be dragged to your browser toolbar for ease of use.  A confirmation email was sent to your box when you entered in that information.  After confirmation you can further comment on your screencast.

The benefit of using this application for me was not having to download any other software.  It is entirely web-based.  Screenr is going into my toolbox.