Quote of the Month

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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Whose Book Is This?

Many hands make light work. (John Heywood, English playwright and poet)

If I had a dime for every time I heard my mother utter that phrase, my house would be paid for and I would not be driving a rusty but reliable Subaru.  One outcome of hearing this however, besides getting whatever project was at hand completed, was learning the value of teamwork, the true spirit of cooperation.  Annoying as it was, sometimes one or two were slow to appreciate the worth of another.

Author Mac Barnett and illustrator Adam Rex struggle with that very dilemma in Chloe and the Lion (Disney, Hyperion Books).  In creating a picture book who is more important?  Does the work of the author outweigh that of the illustrator?  What about the characters?

As the book opens Mac positioned in the corner of the title page waves a greeting at the readers proclaiming he is the author.  On the back of the page he introduces his friend, Adam, as the illustrator, who, pencil in hand, is completing the writing of the dedication.  Continuing to the right Adam is drawing as Chloe, the main character of the book is presented.

Sharp-eyed Chloe collects coins all week wherever she finds them, keeping them in a glass jar.  Come Saturday she walks, jar in hand, to the park eager to ride the merry-go-round.  One week she has so much change she is able to buy ticket after ticket. 

So many rides leaves our gal a bit disoriented. On the way home through the forest she becomes lost, walking in circles.  Readers next read:

a huge lion leapt out from behind an oak tree

But what they see creeping up behind the feisty Chloe is a rather large dragon. 

Illustrator Rex disagrees with author Barnett believing that a dragon would be cooler. In the middle of the narration, after a heated exchange and hilarious alterations of Barnett's appearance by Rex, Barnett fires Rex.  The storyline continues with a "new" friend walking in, an illustrator, Hank.

Hank's artistic talents are not quite up to par with Barnett's expectations.  Figuring he might as well be the author and illustrator leads to unfortunate results.  A dejected Barnett listens to the wise-for-her-years Chloe.

Three magic words and a phone call later changes are in the works. Tracking through a fairy tale and a couple of classics Chloe hits upon the perfect solution to the picture book problem with some help from the not-such-a good-drawer, Barnett.  Reunited pals proceed, providing readers and Chloe with an ending that coughs up rewards enough for all. 

Mac Barnett has a singular style of manipulating words.  Striking the right balance between storyline and his characters' personalities, imperfections and strengths, readers are lead exactly where they need to go.  Done with generous helpings of humor and attitude with a plus, entertainment is assured but a lesson will be learned.

In reading the title verso,

The art in this book was made with basswood, balsa wood, oil and acrylic paints, pencil, Sculpey clay, modified doll clothing, toilet paper, photography and Photoshop.  ...  Hand lettering by Adam Rex.

you have to deeply admire the versatile talent of author/illustrator, Adam Rex.  He, author, Mac Barnett and the additional illustrator, Hank, are portrayed as clay figures with lifelike detailing.  Chloe and the other characters are done as cartoons with definite pizazz.  These creations are set upon a stage with carefully placed free-standing props for scenery or for the sake of emphasis, on white space.

Blending these various media into a cohesive, engaging whole in tandem with the narration has marvelous results under the hand and eye of Rex.  Posture and facial expressions translate any given mood of the moment.  Color choice and page layout indicate a master of design.

As in earlier collaborations, Mac Barnett and Adam Rex, clearly demonstrate with Chloe and the Lion they are dynamic as a duo; two peas in the perfect picture book pod.

These book trailers regarding Chloe and the Lion are prime examples of the chemistry between these two, a combination with imagination and loads of laughter.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Twitterville Talk #46

Enjoy the weekend and my takes on Twitter for the week.

It hit Twitter almost immediately on the evening of April 26, 2012.  One of my favorite books of the fall of 2011 (October 1, 2011-Scholastic Press) Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby which I reviewed here, won the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Book sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America.  Other outstanding nominees in that category were:  Horton Halfpott by Tom Angleberger (link to my review here), It Happened On A Train by Mac Barnett, Vanished by Sheela Cari and The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey.  It looks like I have some more titles to add to my pile.

During the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books author Judy Blume graced the stage with her insights, Festival of Books:  Are you there Judy Blume?  It's us, your fan baseTalk about titles that touched topics no one else would, the power to make a difference, and you are speaking of books by Judy Blume.

Elizabeth Bird, New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist and blogger at A Fuse #8 Production gives us a hint of what to expect this fall and it looks mighty good, Librarian Preview:  Candlewick Press (Fall 2012)

Thanks to School Library Journal for these tweets.

Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer, posts on her blog a very timely article, Launching Summer Reading. What she advocates I have tried to stress to my school boards and administrators for years.  We should not, we can not fail our children.

Thanks to NPR Books for tweeting about The Artistry of  'Children's Picturebooks' Revealed.

This is one way of interpreting the common core standards, Common Core Haiku Stories.  Thanks to Literacyhead for the tweet.

Mo Willems' Pigeon gives tweeters a heads up about his chatting at NPR, MO-rning Edition NPR Books.

Author/illustrator, Tony DiTerlizzi, has a very special new website showcasing his world of WondLaThe Search for WondLa is now out in paperback with  A Hero for WondLa to be released May 8, 2012.

Flat Stanley has his own website!

Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth has hit the scene.  Check out these extras.

This has nothing to do with books, libraries or technology trends but everything to do with children.  I just had to add this; straight from a tweet by HarperChildrens, Frans Hofmeester, Filmmaker, Films Daughter For 12 Years, Makes Time-Lapse Video. 

I could happily live in one of these or at the very least, spend a few hours in total bliss, 10 Gorgeous Buildings Made Out Of Books.  Thanks to Penguin Books USA for the tweet.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Life of Color

I think it's genetic, on my father's side; all his cars, his clothing and his chair.  No room in my house is without it, even my KitchenAid mixer and dog's beds.  During the course of spring and summer I coax it from the gardens' ground, it becomes my bed on a sunny afternoon and I walk through its woodsy coolness.

I truly wanted to turn the pages of Green ( A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, March 27, 2012) written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger slowly, drinking in the visual displays.  But I found myself quickly moving from one two-page illustration to another marveling at the beauty of each, softly exclaiming aloud.  When I read through it again, I plucked out the words, stringing them together as a completed poem seen on a single page.

Two word verses titling each of the hues, forest green, sea green, lime green, pea green, awaken other senses, observations associated with the words.  So, too, do the other lines offering up states of green, slow green.  Pair the text with Seeger's paintings and words like rich, renew, remember and reverent come to mind.

Whether seeing a small white rabbit peering around a trunk in a forest thick with leafy trees, a sea turtle gliding through the pristine waters, a freshly sliced lime resting on a surface or weathered boards as backdrop for equally scarred signs with diminishing words, the acrylics are bold, thick, inviting readers to reach out and touch them.  So lavish are they, one can almost smell the earth, hear the birdsong, feel the water caress one's skin, taste the sharp, tangy fruit or touch the roughness of old wood.  Illustrations resonating, breathing, life with astounding color remind readers of a continual rebirth.  As one moves from one cover to the other a serenity descends; the world fades away as you enter Seeger's tribute to and respect of green.

Noted in previous titles for her use of die-cuts, Laura Vaccaro Seeger depicts her keen sense and meticulous care with regard to design in Green. Two leaves in the forest become small fish in the sea, triangles of camouflage become golden moths and grass chewed by a zebra become the petals on Black-eyed Susans in her masterful hands.  No matter how many times I have read this I am continually astounded by her placement of the die-cuts; downright magical.

From the embossed, raised Green of the book jacket to the final two small die-cut leaves on the large tree truck, replicating the original two die-cut leaves, Laura Vaccaro Seeger has wrought an impressive work of art glowing from within, far-reaching in its effect. 

Here is the link to an outstanding interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast on April 17, 2012.  Another interview conducted at Reading Rockets this past summer is linked here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Swinging High

Just a little over four months ago I posted about Picnik ( a day late and a dollar short) which closed officially on April 19, 2012.  They have moved some of their most loved assets over to the Google+ group.  Just prior to its closing several tweets on Twitter recommended PicMonkey . 

 This free web 2.0 application has the clearest, most concise and humorous Privacy Policy and Terms of Use that I've read yet.  Not to mention the About and Team sections which are worth reading just for fun.  Bottom line...users need to be 13 years of age.

When you access the site four boxes appear on screen; three filled with images you may edit.  The fourth represents an image of your own to edit by uploading from your computer.  When you import your image a new screen appears with your picture front and center.

To the left is a panel of editing tools.  The first set of tools are for the basic edits, crop, rotate, exposure, colors, sharpen and resize.  By clicking on the smaller icons on the far left of the bar the basic edits shift from top to bottom to:  effects, touch up (humans), text, overlays, frames and new.

The thirty-seven current effects are sorted into tried and true, basic, camera look, paintbox, area, artsy and advanced.  Fifteen touch-ups for skin, mouth, eyes and just a couple more are at the ready.  Fonts, thirty-two to be exact, can be added to your images.  Overlays or shapes come in twenty-two options.  There are eight frames from which to choose.  And seven new textures are available to try.

Here is an original image on the left.  The one on the right has been cropped, exposure and colors adjusted and the sharpening tool used.
In the third photograph I applied the effects of soften, dark edges and film grain.

In this final image I added some text which you can size, change the color, fade, make bold or in italics, justify and blend modes or right click for even more options.  I also added a drop shadow frame.  Some of the options will become part of the Royale package eventually but for now they are free, if you don't mind having a crowned monkey in your graphic.

It's safe to say that PicMonkey has my vote as a worthy photo editing tool.  I could have spent hours trying all the options for images.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Toothy Tale

Good books, like good recipes, not only need specific ingredients of the highest quality and exact quantity, but the perfect combination of those elements added at the precise moment.  The placement of a word, phrase, sentence or paragraph heightens the experience for the reader as a pinch of spice enhances the flavor of a delectable dish.  Certainly this opening sentence provides the enticing whiff, the first glimmer, of what promises to be a first class feast for the mind for those turning the pages of Chomp (Alfred A. Knopf) by Carl Hiaasen.

Mickey Cray had been out of work every since a dead iguana fell from a palm tree and hit him on the head.

Dead weight, courtesy of a freaky freeze in the Florida Everglades, has left Mickey Cray, a wildlife wrangler, seeing double and enduring killer headaches.  Behind in mortgage and truck payments his wife, an expert at Mandarin Chinese, has no choice but to go to China assisting big wigs in American companies from making language blunders.  With summer vacation looming in the near future it's up to Wahoo, Mickey's son, named after a professional wrestler not the saltwater fish, to manage the family menagerie populated by alligators, snakes, parrots, mynah birds, rats, mice, monkeys, raccoons, tortoises and a bald eagle.

Within minutes of Mrs. Cray's departure Wahoo, answering a phone call, accepts, to his father's disbelief, a job.  Wrangling for Derek Badger, superstar of Expedition Survival!, at one thousand dollars per day, just might save them if Wahoo can sooth his father's disgust and indulge the star's inflated ego.  Within one day Wahoo realizes survival for all of them is going to be a serious challenge; more grave than he can even imagine.

Thrown into the mix are the Cray's snapping turtle who disagrees with getting up close and personal with Sanders and Alice, their twelve foot alligator, who does not want a pudgy, fake, survivalist crawling around on her back.  Despite what happens at the Cray's, caution has been thrown to the wind.  Derek Sanders wants to shoot the rest of the show in the wild with only untamed animals. At this point the storyline, already a gripping, action-adventure, clicks it up a couple more notches.

Joining the ever present Raven Stark, Sanders' production assistant, sporting a red beehive hairdo, giving new definition to the term multi-tasking, is Link, a true blue good ole' boy of the swamp built like a bulldozer, loving his airboat like a child, Sickler, owner of the store and docks where the crew sets up camp, eager to make money any way he can, and a gun-toting alcoholic who has lost all reason.  Bag in hand asking for a ride when the Crays are stocking up at WalMart, Tuna, a girl in Wahoo's grade, needs a safe place to be.  With this cast of characters loose in the Everglades anything can and everything does happen.

Hiaasen's following has ever grown since his publication of Hoot (2002), followed by Flush (2005) and Scat (2009), not to mention the host of adult titles he has penned.  What sets Chomp apart, making it one of my favorite reads of 2012, is the descriptive, detailed, fully developed characters and the interplay between the characters through the sharp, snappy dialogue.  The pacing is brilliant, quick and flawless.  And the wit and humor tie it all together like the best bow on a prized package.

Here are a few examples:

Mickey seemed dazed.  "I used to like iguanas."
"We'll be okay."
"My head hurts."
"Take your medicine," said Wahoo.
"I threw it away."
Those yellow pills, they made me constipated."
Wahoo shook his head. "Unbelievable."
"Seriously.  I haven't had a satisfactory bowel movement since Easter."
"Thanks for sharing," said Wahoo. 

"Think positive," Raven said.
At that moment, a disgusting glop of something flew out of the monkey pen and splatted in her hair.
"You have got to be kidding," she said.
The director ran for cover as the monkeys threw more, yowling uproariously.

But Mickey's hands were locked in a death grip on the steering wheel, and he was squinting like a stamp collector through the windshield.

Two admirable teen protagonists thrown together by the daunting circumstances supplied by life, the flora and fauna of the Everglades, and a group of real people, flawed, funny and frightening, make for one spectacular, wild read, Chomp by Carl Hiaasen. 

Here is a link to an educator's guide at Random House Kids for Chomp.  Don't miss a visit to the Carl Hiaasen for Kids website complete with a video book trailer for Chomp, information about the other books and a couple of games.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Treat Yourself

On April 15th Joyce Valenza, teacher-librarian at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, and blogger at NeverEndingSearch with School Library Journal, posted an article titled Postering with new tools.  In that article she discusses using two web 2.0 tools, Smore and Block Posters (which I love too and talked about here.)  Being new to me and liking the results it produced, I went to the Smore website.

In order to begin using this free application click on the Try it now button found throughout the home page.  Smore is in private beta so use is by invitation only.  You need to fill in a simple form giving your name, email address and stating why you think you should go first.  Within a couple of days I had my confirmation email.

You can create an account using your Facebook account or have a separate account; all that's needed is a password.  Your first page contains a board of featured flyers by other users.  Across the top right as a user you can invite others, send in feedback to the Smore creators, go to your own flyers or log out.

To begin click on the Start a new flyer button.  The next screen is where you design your page or flyer.  You enter in a title and subtitle.

Beneath that you can add a title to your text.  Text can be bold, in italics, or underlined.  Links can be added or deleted. (When adding a URL do not include the http://).  Two forms for bulletts are available.

Between the title and subtitle space and the text space a plus sign opens up more options.  In that area more text, a title, an embedded link, a video, a picture, an event, a gallery (three images in a row), a biographical contact space or directions can be included. 

On the right hand side of the page users can create a finished page, save it at any time, or choose between three designs (modern, vintage, minimal).  When a design has been selected a new background, colors and fonts can be chosen.  The number of choices for each is determined by the design.

When create is clicked you are again asked for a page title, given a URL link and whether you want comments via Facebook to be allowed.  A created page has more options.  Across the top it can be liked on Facebook, posted on Twitter or a URL link can be copied.  On the side are buttons providing for editing, preview, the number of visitors, sharing on Facebook, Twitter or via email, and settings (sharing options). Analytics and more sharing are still to be developed further.

Here is the link to a page that I designed for Poem In Your Pocket Day on April 26, 2012.

I love this new web 2.0 application, Smore.  The steps to a finished page/flyer are easy to follow with professional results.  The options for information that can be included on a flyer are numerous and varied.  You could not ask for better sharing capabilities. 

Click---That's the sound of Smore being added to my virtual toolbox.

Monday, April 23, 2012

By Heart

By definition an anthology is a collection of selected literary pieces or passages (Merriam Webster).  It's very nature is dependent upon the theme of the compiler.  How fortunate for readers Forget-Me-Nots:  Poems to Learn by Heart (Little, Brown and Company) were selected by Mary Ann Hoberman, author, poet and recipient of the Children's Poet Laureate.  As in the You Read To Me, I'll Read To You series her collaborator is renowned illustrator, Michael Emberley.

Hoberman's opening line in the introduction states a profound truth.

When you learn a poem by heart, it becomes a part of you.

She further explains this, so all can grasp her intent for starting with that statement.  She continues by commenting why certain poems were selected for this book; they are memorable.  Defining memorable with two distinctive meanings brings readers to a greater understanding of the purpose for this collection of more than 120 poems. 

A Poem for the Reader by Mary Ann Hoberman, twenty lines of lyrical rhythm, sends readers down the poetry road with a spring in their step and soul.  Eleven subsequent categories are named:
The Short Of It, One And All, Beautiful Beasts, Delicious Dishes, It's About Time, Happiness Is, Weather And Seasons, Sad And Sorrowful, Strange And Mysterious, Poems From Storybooks and The Long Of It.  Each heading is followed by a short description of what readers can expect to read.

Eighty-eight authors' vivid, valid verses form this book; all but three of the groupings contain gems by Hoberman herself, a true treasure trove.  Love That Boy by Walter Dean Myers, Chums by Arthur Guiterman, Bat Patrol by Georgia Heard, The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay, Eletelephony by Laura E. Richards, Raw Carrots by Valerie Worth, Hurry by Eve Merriam, The Days Have Names by JonArno Lawson, Toad by the Road by Joanne Ryder, Things by Eloise Greenfield, The Arrow and the Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Song of the Train by David McCord, The Secret Song by Margaret Wise Brown and The Old Haunted House by Judith Viorst gives you a brief but delightful taste of the extent of offerings.  A full range of poets and their poems is presented; perfect for committing to memory.

Two pages of excellent suggestions by Hoberman for learning poetry by heart follow the selections.  An index of first lines and acknowledgements precede the final page of title information.

How appropriate that an elephant, their memories documented for longevity, is displayed on the cover with happy, speaking children perched cozily on trunk, foot and head.  Making an appearance throughout the table of contents, and closing pages this elephant ties everything in-between together.  Using pencil, watercolor and pastel on watercolor papers, Michael Emberley brings an added interpretation to the works with his lively illustrations.

With his light touch, varied color palettes and keen sense of humor one poem is tied to another by single elements blending across a page or a full graphic across two pages binds them together.  On one page readers see an enormous hippo facing to the right off the page, eyes glancing backward, holding an open book.  Within the body are two poems, To His Cat by Doris Orgel and Hippopotamus by Mary Ann Hoberman.  By gazing down at the hippo's seated bottom it is then we see four legs and a few whiskers peeking from beneath the giant.

The full page view of a horse's bespectacled face as it calmly munches a carrot with the poem running down its nose, at a second glance noticing the bird outside the night window gagged and bound so morning will be peaceful, a pink-finned, rocketed car that anyone would want to drive, the expressions on the different bears depicting the Weather And Seasons title page, and the dark, spooky double page spread for the Strange And Mysterious heading are some of my absolute favorite visuals.  Emberley knows how to seek and find beyond the obvious.  Pictures, like his, that not only compliment but enhance are magical.

Forget-Me-Nots:  Poems to Learn by Heart selected by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberley is a title to be relished any time of the year but in April it's indispensable. There's plenty here to help celebrate Poem In Your Pocket Day.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Twitterville Talk #45

There was a grab bag of announcements and trends across Twitter this week.  Enjoy my picks and have a great weekend.

Straight from The Horn Book comes a thoughtful article, On The Rights of Reading and Girls and Boys.

Via the Children's Book Council visit the ALSC, Association for Library Service to Children, The Caldecott Medal 75th Anniversary for plans in the making.

Thanks to Donalyn Miller, reader, teacher, blogger and author of The Book Whisperer,  for tweeting about this video.  Go to the RIF website to read more about the Book People Unite initiative.

Courtesy of a tweet from the Children's Bookshelf of Publishers Weekly comes an article, Pottermore:  My first weekend in Hogwarts Heaven.

From the mind of a master, E. B. White on the Role and Responsibility of the Writer.

Can't believe that I'm saying this but you might want to stop reading and...50 Things To Do Before You Are 11 3/4

The 2012 Spring New Voices Titles AnnouncedI've read one of the titles on the list, Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  If that's any indication, there is some great reading ahead.

There's another new award that's popped up, Bank Street/SLJ Unveil Children's Choice Award for Best STEM Picture Book.  Voting is done in a similar fashion to the Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature. 

Wait until I tell my students; our choice won.  'What Animals Really Like' Nabs Irma Black Award

Joyce Valenza, librarian and blogger, Neverending Search, at School Library Journal, provides numerous resources, Finding the right moment (and many more YouTube tricks).

Author Kate Messner (Over and Under the Snow, Marty McGuire) tweets about the Girl Scouts, The Studio, website for aspiring writers.

Check out this board created by Chronicle Books on Pinterest called Library Love.

You really should take a break and see the dots created by authors, illustrators and other celebrities at the Celebri-Dots website.  International Dot Day is a celebration of creativity that was inspired by Peter H. Reynolds' book "The Dot".
Thanks to John Schumacher at Watch. Connect. Read for the tweet.

The Think Books Project is the result of a joint effort between children’s book illustrators, Burkins and Yaris, Literacyhead, and Literacy Builders. The Think Books Project develops and freely shares special guided reading books, which include illustrations by your favorite children’s book illustrators.  Many thanks to Literacyhead for tweeting about this amazing undertaking.  Check out the books available by author/illustrator Steve Jenkins.

Another tweet from the folks at Literacyhead, Some Book:  Celebrating 60 Years of 'Charlotte's Web'

Thanks to Mo Willems' Pigeon for alerting fans about this interview given by Mo Willems.

I am not sure who retweeted this but look out world...librarians don't mess around.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dancing Divas

Picture book lovers, one and all, have their favorites; those choice volumes read and reread and gifted to others so they might experience what each title offers to them.  Whether it's the witty or profound narration, the engaging, endearing or entertaining illustrations or a combination of the two, once smitten it's forever.  About the only thing better is when a sequel makes an appearance; the colorful characters, the dialogue and storyline lavishly laden with humor and luminous, explicative illustrations, return.

When author Tammi Sauer and illustrator Dan Santat blended their substantial talents to bring readers, Chicken Dance (Sterling, 2009) we were introduced to the King of farmyard fame, Elvis Poultry, and those two feathered friends, Marge and Lola.  Strutting their stuff, rocking to their own rhythm, those ladies captured the eye of the one and only E.P.  Rejoice readers, they're back.  Sauer and Santat are jiving to their own special tune, better than ever, in Bawk & Roll (Sterling). 

Bawk & Roll begins not a single beat after the end of the first volume.  Marge and Lola, peering out the bus window, are about to go on tour with Elvis Poultry as the Chicken Dancers. On their first gig, McDoodle's Barnyard, a heavy dose of stage fright strikes.  As the audience shrieks in anticipation Elvis turns to look behind himself at the sound of a loud, resounding THUNK. 

Yes siree! those frantic fowl have fainted.  During the course of their conversation the next day, they think imagining the crowd in tightie whities might work.  Nope.

Poultry jumps, literally, at their next idea of easing into the following engagement.  Somehow crashing into the windmill as they plummet from the barn roof was not what they meant.  Leaving no pebble unpecked to relieve their heebie-jeebies, the gals are at a loss.

In the dead of night hatching a plan answering a riddle as old as time, the duo does what must be done.  Arriving the next evening at Dale's Dairy Farm, cries of Elvis! Elvis! Elvis! fill the stage as the curtains rise.  But that's not all Lola and Marge hear; an answered request reverberates off the rafters.

As a prolific producer of puns, Tammi Sauer wins hands down.  Her spare text conversationally proceeds, pauses and then sneaking up on you in the best way possible, causes you to explode with laughter. (Believe me, I did, at the second and third readings, too.)  There is an unmistakable pulse to her prose beckoning readers to participate.

In my typical fashion I opened up the book jacket, on the front is Elvis Poultry in his classic white suit, Lola and Marge now looking like showgirls in matching outfits and on the back is the sunglasses clad rooster crooning into a mike on the cover of an album by Sterling bawkabawk records, LP with song titles such as Are You Lonesome In Flight?  Mirroring the rich, golden oranges, yellows and reds with a splash of white from the jacket, the cover is plain except for a few floating feathers and a small portion of four chicken legs, feet pointing upward.  Endpapers are nearly identical zooming in on the tour bus but the front and back are different in who is hanging out the windows; a reflection of the storyline.

For Dan Santat this is but the beginning of his use of vibrant color, facial expression and impeccable attention to detail to visually chronicle Sauer's text.  The title verso is surrounded, scrapbook style, with small clips from the first book bringing readers up to speed.  On the title page the ampersand between Bawk and Roll has been traded for a musical clef.

Fresh fun is found on very page; a cow, a fan of Poultry's, wearing a cock's comb hat, the newspaper (The Daily Cluck) headlines after each failed performance, Elvis having rollers in his comb to give it curl, and his portrayal of Lola and Marge, in a series of vignettes, trying without success to calm themselves.  Each time the pair of cluckers look at the masses, their eyes, white circles of panic, say it all; a clear contrast to the cool, calm of Elvis as he moves through his days and nights as a true celebrity never without wearing the golden shades.  Two page spreads of the baffled but determined chicks with the rockin' rooster are hilarity defined; my favorite being Elvis Poultry wearing his parachute as Lola and Marge, greatly diminished watch from the barn roof.

Bawk & Roll written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Dan Santat is a collaboration clamoring for an encore.  Fowl featured so favorably will have readers flocking and rocking.

More fun, laughter and goodies can be found at the author and illustrator websites linked in this post.  When the initial title was released a separate website was started and is linked here.  Elvis Poultry can be followed on Twitter @elvispoultry.  To celebrate the release of this book follow their blog tour beginning here.  Don't miss any of these egg--stras.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stack 'Em Up

This past summer Richard Byrne posted on his blog, Free Technology for Teachers,  about an application, Slidestaxx.  This free service gathers various social media into a beautiful slide show for your blog, website or directly on slidestaxx.  All types of media, images, videos, or websites, can be added to create a slide show which can be shared on social networks or published using an embed code.

To begin click on the SIGN UP button.  Enter in a username and valid email address.  You are immediately sent a confirmation email which includes a password to use in logging in.  When you log in you are taken to your home page within this application.

Beneath your photo you can create a new slidestack, edit your account (email address, change password, add or change your picture, allow users to contact you by your email address and your time zone), view your full profile (picture and list of stacks), invite a friend to join Slidestaxx or logout.  Across the top you might wish to Explore other slidestacks.  They are grouped by new and noteworthy, most popular and new on Slidestaxx.  You can also conduct a Search by entering in a keyword.

When you create your slidestack the initial page asks for a title, description, cover picture, tags,  and publishing options (checked or unchecked published).  That information can be edited from the next screen which is your slidestack workspace.  Now images, videos, websites and products (links to amazon.com, interestingly enough) can be added.

To add any of the items, click on the add words, copy and paste in the URL plus give a short informative caption for each.  As the slides are added to the stack they appear in a list below the slide screen.  These can be edited, deleted or the order can be changed by clicking on the small drag icon on the far left.

To the right of your slidestack screen are the ability to like this on Facebook, post it to Twitter or more than 300 other social networks sites and additional options such as printing or sending via email.  Visitors to the stack can love or unlove, comment at the bottom and you can embed this using the provided code.

As viewers go through your slidestack the videos can be played immediately.  The link in the lower right hand corner will take them to the websites.

Here is my Slidestaxx creation for an upcoming author/illustrator study on Laura Vaccaro Seeger.

I did send an email asking about sizing of the embed.  The HTML code gives no indication on size.  This application is so easy to use with immediate and sophisticated results, it is going to the top of my web 2.0 toolbox.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Oh, For The Joy Of It All

Imagine the ringing of that final bell on the last day of school.  Spilling out of classrooms, students and their teachers fill the halls.  Drivers in school buses and parents in pickups and SUVs load the laughing, shouting children into the waiting vehicles.  Soon, very soon, it will begin; the sheer joy of three whole months of freedom.

What does one do with so much glorious time? The children filling the pages of A Stick Is An
Excellent Thing:  Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play (Clarion Books) by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, know exactly how to fill each and every minute of those days; doing it with gusto and grins.  Eighteen poems highlight all forms of play in the great outdoors.

Catch and fetch with a canine pal, quality versus quantity bubble blowing, jumping rope, viewing the world hanging from the monkey bars, splashing in the sprinkler, rolling down a hill or catching fireflies are written in rhythmic, rhyming odes; a music matching the magic of each activity.  Familiar games of monkey in the middle, hide and seek, statues, jacks and hopscotch recounted with relish remind readers of days gone by or of days to come.  Verses brimming with imagination, soup made with found items or the power of the perfect stick to be whatever you need it to be, lift readers into very special places.

In the hands of the masterful Singer these poems, words selected and arranged artfully, move; perfect play all day.  Delight spreads from page to page glowing and growing until it lights the night with stars.  Children living in the city, the country or somewhere in between will find something old or perhaps something new to do.

LeUyen Pham begins her visualization of this poetry collection with a full picture stretching across the back and front covers; a smiling group of diverse children perched on the branches of a tree each holding a stick.  On the endpapers we see a close-up of several leafy boughs from that tree.  Using pencil and ink, then coloring digitally, Pham's lively illustrations invite all children to participate in the fun found in each poem. 

A vivid spectrum of color fairly hums on the pages, all double page spreads.  Her varied choice of settings conveys a sense of community, a welcoming.  But most important is the happy energy, the gleeful motion, of all her children. 

Poet Marilyn Singer and illustrator LeUyen Pham have collaborated in A Stick Is An Excellent Thing to show readers the pure pleasure of enjoying the out-of-doors.   They have completely captured the essence of every activity.  I could read this book again and again.  I already have and I probably will.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Screen Capture With Zing

Under the Digital Storytelling heading using the Standards for the 21st Century Learner, the AASL, American Association of School Librarians selected Jing to appear on their 2010 list of Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning.  Jing is a free product provided by the TechSmith group.  The website claims:   Jing is a great tool for adding basic visual elements to all of your online conversations.

Capturing any size portion of your screen, sharing those screenshots on your blog, website, a social network, or via email, marking up those screenshots with an arrow, text box, highlight or picture caption, and when you send a screenshot to a place like Flickr a hyperlink is placed on your clipboard for instantaneous pasting, are all special features of Jing.  With Jing a short video (five minutes) can be made of what you say and do (mouse movements) on any given screen.  Whether your platform is Windows or Mac the software download is done within minutes.

With installation complete a tutorial pops up on your screen.  When the tutorial is completed you will be asked to create an account by giving an email address, display name, password and country.  By creating an account sharing is faster, secure and you are given a sizable amount of free space.

A sun, a yellow circle, will always be displayed top and center of your screen when Jing is open.  When you mouse over the sun three "rays" pop out; representing capture, history and more.  When the + sign, capture, icon is clicked a grid appears.  Size it over the area you wish to capture by clicking and dragging.

When you release your mouse several other options appear on the screen.  Left to right they are:  capture image, capture video, redo selection, and cancel.  The size of your screen capture is also shown. 

Initially I choose capture image.  A new screen pops up with a series of icons on the left and bottom of that screen.  Using icons on the left you can add an arrow, text, frame, highlight a portion of the screenshot, change your tool color, undo and redo.  At the bottom of the capture options are:  share via Screencast.com, save, copy, cancel or customize Jing buttons.

When adding text to the screen capture there is a fairly large selection of font choices.  Text size can be made smaller or larger.  There are nine basic colors for the tools or you can customize the color.  Each item added to the image can be sized using any of the four corners.  Delete an item by using the undo arrow.

When selecting the save button your completed screen capture is downloaded to your computer and a URL link is placed on your clipboard.  If I wish to share it using Screencast.com another file is created and it is viewed from that site at this link.  When I now click on the history ray of the sun, all the screen captures are shown, the one on my computer and the one located at Screencast.com.  My initial screen capture is of an interactive site about passengers aboard the Titanic.

If I wish to embed the screen capture in my blog with HTML code I need to do it via the TechSmith product, Screencast.com, 2GB of space is free.  Easy instructions for completing this process are supplied on site.

I decided to visit another interactive website regarding the history of the building of the Titanic and do a video capture.  Here is the link to that video.

Jing is an excellent web 2.0 application, easy to use, versatile and impressive.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Perception Versus Reality

We are halfway through the fourth month of 2012; books being written for young adults, middle grade readers and children to date have been phenomenal.  I began a new book on Friday during my lunch hour, came home after school and continued reading.  When I finally decided to catch my breath and peek at the clock it was 2:30 am Saturday morning.  Nearing completion of the title I found myself debating whether to pull an all-nighter.

The False Prince, The Ascendance Trilogy, Book One ( Scholastic Press) by Jennifer A. Nielsen reaches out and grabs you on page one and never lets go.  A thief is being hotly pursed by a cleaver-waving butcher from whom he has stolen a roast, a whole raw, slippery roast.  Knowing he is close to his destination, Mrs. Turbeldy's Orphanage for Disadvantaged Boys, he races on, only to be tripped by a bald man sitting in front of a tavern.

That bald man, Mott, and his companion, Cregan, in the employ of one, Bevin Connor, are collecting orphan boys, four to be exact.  These young men, Sage, Tobias, Roden and Latamer are told nothing about why they have been taken.  Slowly, carefully, with intent Connor reveals within two weeks one of them will be selected to play a role lasting the remainder of their lifetime; the others will be silenced.

Connor is one of twenty regents in the kingdom of Carthya, a kingdom in serious trouble from within and without.  What the regents know, but of which the general populous is unaware, is that the king, queen and heir have been murdered.  A younger son, Jaron, four years earlier was believed killed at sea by pirates, although his body has never been found.  The conniving Connor, master planner and puppeteer, will be presenting one of them at court as the missing prince.

Intense studies of history and reading, horseback riding, swordsmanship and all things princely ensues, each orphan knowing their very lives depend on being selected.  Tension between them mounts to a fever pitch; who will take a life to save his own?  Defiant, unwilling to bend his will to Connor's, it seems unlikely Sage will assume the part needed to be played.

It is through Sage's first person narrative the intrigue is peeled away layer by layer as the pieces in a puzzle, no one is wholly privy to, are put in place. Day to day survival, the balance between life and death, is kept in check by secrets; even Farthenwood, residence of Connor and temporarily for the boys, conceals.   As the deadline approaches plot twists increase and surprise, urging the reader to consume pages with lightning-like speed

Nielsen's storyline is tight, details of setting painting a vivid picture of place and time and peopled with characters readers will either admire or detest for forgivable or fatal flaws.  Her technique of ending a chapter with a telling piece of dialogue or predictive thought is addictive; you can not stop.
Humor, tinged with irony, sometimes even a little dark, emerges precisely when needed.

Here are some examples.

About an hour later, the wagon stopped in a small town I'd been to once before.  It was named Gelvins, although as small as it was, I'm not sure it deserved any name.  Gelvins was more like an outpost than a town, with only a few shops on the street and a dozen pathetic excuses for homes.  Carthyan homes were normally well built and sturdy, but Gelvins was poor and its farms dry.  A sturdy home was a luxury few here could dream of, much less afford to build.  Most of these thin wooden structures looked like they would be finished in a stiff windstorm.

My heart pounded so loudly in my ears that I barely heard him.  All I knew was that he would not get that rock even if my life depended on it.  And I suspected that it did.
"Take him," Connor said.  Mott and Cregan grabbed each of my arms and literally dragged me, kicking and screaming, out the door.

Graves was gone when Mott shook me awake some time later. "He called you incorrigible," Mott said.  "Honestly, Sage, are you trying to fail?"
"I already told you I could read a little.  This morning was a waste of my time."
"I though it was great." Roden sounded happier than I'd ever heard him.  "I never expected to be able to read, and Master Graves said he'll have me in a children's reader by tomorrow."
"Great.  Let me know what the children's reader has to say about impersonating a prince."

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen will, without a doubt, be brought to the Newbery discussion table.  As a read aloud it is unbeatable for its non-stop action, cliff-hanger plot ploys and fine-tuned characterizations.  Count me as one of those readers waiting impatiently in line for Book Two.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Twitterville Talk #44

There is a little bit of everything in my favorite tweets of this week.  Enjoy.

This is an essay that everyone who cares about school library media centers needs to read.  Kevin Hodgson is a sixth grade teacher, musician, webcomic creator and tech liaison with the Western Mass Writing Project.  Dear Librarian (at my son's school):  Remember the Books 

The 20 Biggest Reasons You Should Read is an outstanding article tweeted by Hodgson.  It's nice to know one's life's passion is also scientifically sound. 

Thanks to HarperCollinsPublishers for the tweet about this 60th anniversary edition of
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White book trailer.

Children's Bookshelf of Publishers Weekly tweeted about this on Monday, 'The Hunger Games': Mattel debuts Katniss Everdeen Barbie-EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK  What would Katniss think?  What do you think? 

Thanks to Children's Bookshelf of Publishers Weekly for this tweet about an Author Interview: Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith.

This week J. K. Rowling's adult title, The Casual Vacancy, and publication date was announced.  And believe it or not---Pottermore opens its doors for all, J K Rowling announces  (04/14/2012)

Two of my favorite authors speak about books they have written about one of the women I most admire in our world.

To hear a delightful reading of The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems himself, follow this link.
Thanks to John Schumacher at Watch. Connect. Read for these tweets.

10 Crazy and Unusual Book Designs is a retweet not to be missed.  You've got to wonder about the minds creating these books.

Author of A Monster Calls Patrick Ness tweeted about Shadowing Site The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenway Children's Book Awards.  Both he and the illustrator of A Monster Calls, Jim Kay, have wonderful videos at this website.  My review of their book is here
My review of another book on the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2012 Shortlist, Trash, by Andy Mulligan can be found here.
Two titles shortlisted for the 2012 CILIP Kate Greenway Medal, Wolf Won't Bite! written and illustrated by Emily Gravett and Can We Save The Tiger? written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White have also been reviewed on this blog. 

Elizabeth Bird, blogger at School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production, and the New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collection Specialist, has given we lucky readers another Librarian Preview:  Penguin Books for Young Readers, Viking, Philomel and Puffin.  Time...I need more time.

Bankstreet College of Education has announced The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2012.  This list has been divided into the following groups:  Under Five, Five to Nine, Nine to Twelve, Twelve to Fourteen and Fourteen and Up.
Thanks to the The Children's Book Council for this tweet.

Random House Kids tweets the good news for fans of Junie B. JonesHer site is up and running.

The Young Adult Library Services Association, YALSA's Teens' Top Ten Nominations Announced!  Twenty-four titles, some of which are on other lists already, will be voted upon by teens in August and September.  The winners will be revealed during Teen Read Week in October. 

Interview with Allan Wolf, author of The Watch That Ends the Night:  Voice from the Titanic is a must read for those having read this title or having it on their TBR pile.