Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Just Like Pen And Paper

Recently I posted about an online journal/diary application called Memiary.  This application asks users to focus on five specific thoughts for a given date.  No sooner had I written about Memiary than I read about another web 2.0 service, Penzu.

Penzu is not a new application having been in use for at least four years, including beta.  According to the site:

Penzu is an online diary and personal journal focusing on privacy.  With a unique and compelling user experience, it makes writing online as easy and intuitive as writing on a pad of paper. 

Penzu is free to users over the age of thirteen (13) but can be upgraded to the Pro version for $19.00 per year.  If users are between the ages of 13 to 18 they must have parental or guardian approval with full knowledge of the terms of use and privacy policy.  To sign up for use click on the green Create Your Free Journal button on the home page.

To register enter in your first and last name, email address and a password.  The terms of use and privacy policy must be read and accepted. The next screen hosts a leather bound journal requesting you to select an avatar. 

You are next advised that you can like on Facebook or tweet on Twitter about Penzu.  The Looking Glass feature is offered, on or off, and explained further.  Next a series of email reminders to journal are available.  Finally the settings are completed with twelve fonts listed from which to choose for your default font. 

On the cover of your journal appears your name.  To the left of your name the book icon, when clicked, takes you inside your journal to begin writing.  To the right the gear icon is your settings and the lock icon presents your privacy. 

At the first page (entry) of your journal on the left is a cursive lower case i; signifying access to your account.  Across the top of the page are a series of icons representing from left to right:  new entry, save, print, insert photo, share, lock entry, and format (bold, italics, and underline text, change font, change font size, text color, margin justification, strike through, background color, two bullet options, spell check, insert date, insert link and remove formatting).  The remaining icons are for Pro users only; tag, customize, and versions.  Of course comments can be left on either of the Penzu.

When you wish to insert an image it can be uploaded from your computer or Flickr.  As images are uploaded they appear across the top of the page.  They can be inserted, attached to the left margin of the page or deleted. 

At any time you can toggle back and forth between the pad and all the entries by selecting the pencil or the book icon to the right of the paper.  Recent entries are numbered in the small black tab in the upper right of the screen.  As you work the application is continually saving your work or you can save it manually. 

Be default everything in Penzu is private.  You can also put an additional lock (password) on each entry.  When you choose to share you are presented with several choices, email or public link.

When you send an email enter in one or more addresses and an optional message.  You can send this as yourself or anonymously. The public link can be viewed by anyone but only you can edit the entry.  The link can be sent to Twitter.

Here is the link for the simple Penzu I wrote as part of the Caldecott Challenge in which I am participating.

The overview of Penzu is complete and interesting.  Under the Why Journal heading there are many ideas that could be altered or expanded to make this application work in a classroom setting.  Mobile apps are available.  For more expansive and sophisticated journal keeping than Memiary this comes highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Did I Really Say Yes?

By the time I reached high school permanent lines of worry had found a home for life on my forehead.  As a member of Girl Scouts I took the motto, Be prepared, and the slogan, Do a good turn daily, more seriously than most.  For these reasons empathy for certain people and characters in literature is second nature; much like every breath I take.

Sophie's Fish (Viking) written by A. E. Cannon with illustrations by Lee White is a brief exploration into the mind of a young boy who commits to a good deed but is plagued with second thoughts.  Without a doubt this little guy has inherited a Murphy's Law gene.  Reality is quickly overshadowed by one very vivid imagination.

Sophie, a classmate of Jake's, asks him just before school is out on Friday if he will take care of her fish while she visits her gram.  Not giving it a second thought, (How hard can it be to babysit a fish?), he says yes.  At home with the minutes ticking by before her arrival, he begins to wonder about the wisdom of his decision.

He truly has no understanding about proper fish habits.  He pictures the fish wanting:  to eat a snack, to play a game, to hear a story before naptime, to be covered in a special blanket or Sophie to come get him.  Yikes!  This is a major disaster waiting to happen.

He has no ideas; none whatsoever.  What's a worry wart to do?  What else can he do but to say...  The doorbell rings.  Jake and Sophie surprise one another...bigtime.

A. E. (Anne Edwards) Cannon, employing an economy of words, manages to convey every nuance of young Jake's emotional state.  Her projections of fishy desires mimic those of acquiring an unknown human house guest.  Her "what-ifs" are candidly comical.

What if Yo-Yo gets cold while listening to a naptime story and wants me to cover him up with his special blanket?  Do fish care if their special blankets are all wet?  

Naming Sophie's fish Yo-Yo is the final perfect touch.

Before the cover is even opened you know that a red-haired, bespectacled boy in shorts, vest and bow tie is hesitant about a fish belonging to a rosy-cheeked, Sophie in pigtails.  Plain sea green endpapers, front and back, enhance the fish theme as the title page, verso and dedication are placed on a background replete with fish depicted in various sizes and mediums.  Lee White, using watercolor combined with mixed-media collage heightens the story with detail and a keen sense of humor.

At each reading the most intricate of fish images become apparent; depictions on the blackboard at school, as leaves on the trees, the tree bark resembles fish scales, the hands on Jake's clock, and the pattern on Jake's towel.  Suppositions by Jake are exaggerated; the potential game is depicted with a large fish attired in pirate garb, eye patch in place, sword in hand, splashing in a tub riding a large yellow rubber ducky.  Newsprint, patterned paper or fabric used in likely and unlikely portions of his illustrations adds texture, visual interest and an engaging uniqueness.

The splendid array of artwork by Lee White coupled with the polished narrative of A. E. Cannon make Sophie's Fish a charming, funny story that readers will beg to hear again and again.  If you want to learn more about A. E. Cannon and Lee White follow the links to their names at the beginning of this post.  A. E. Cannon's blog posts are hilarious.  Lee White shares artwork from his many books as well as several pages from this title. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Sing A Song", Slide By Slide

On May 17th Larry Ferlazzo posted on his blog, Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day..., about a new free web 2.0 application for creating slideshows.  For registration  Slide.ly  requires you are 18 years of age or older, (or) have your parent's or guardian's permission to enter into this agreement.  To register enter in your first and last name, email address and a password.  A confirmation email is sent immediately.

When you click the link in the confirmation email, a new working screen appears in Slide.ly.  Across the top you can enter a term in a search box, click on Create one now!, view most popular slidelys, view recently created slidelys, view slidelys within categories (art & design, entertainment, kids, other, wedding & events, birthdays, family, music and sports) or access your account information, your slidelys or logout.

On the left of the screen is a list of sites from which to obtain images, Facebook, Google Images, Flickr, Instagram, Picplz, Picasa and your computer.  As you toggle through each the access options appear on the screen.  For example, if you choose to bring pictures from Facebook, it asks you to connect.  Then you are asked who on Facebook can see your slidelys (privacy) and whether you allow Slide.ly to access your basic information, email address, profile information, your stories, friends' birthdays and photos shared with you.  I tend to err on the side of caution; uploading images from my computer.

You are allowed a maximum of ninety images.  When the upload is complete scroll down to the overview.  When mousing over each image it can be switched to the cover photograph, a caption can be added or it can be deleted.  Images can be dragged and dropped, randomly arranged or the entire array can be deleted.

To continue move down the page to choose the music.  Selections can be taken from YouTube or Soundcloud under the categories of popular music, movies & TV, all time classics, beautiful or thanks.  Suggestions are shown or a search can be conducted.  When you mouse over a selection you can play it or add it to your slidely.

When your music is determined another screen overlays allowing you to add an effect (normal, spots, orange glow, colors, dots, dust, a birthday clipart, seventies or old film) to your slideshow as well as play it to figure out the timing with your images and the music.  You can adjust the slideshow speed which for me was a tad bit tricky.

Tags can be entered into a text box and you can decide to make your slidely public or not by unchecking the checkmark.  To see how any captions appear it is a good idea to enlarge your preview to full screen.  Be sure to click the blue button at the bottom right of the preview screen to save and publish your work.

Your finished slidely can always be edited by selecting My Slidelys beneath your name.  Off to the left of your completed slidely it can be liked on Facebook, tweeted on Twitter, made public on Google +, pinned on Pinterest or submitted to StumbleUpon.  Beneath are more options:  share on Facebook, send an email, copy a URL or embed the HTML (four sizes are offered) code in a website or blog.

Slide.ly offers many options for getting images, a variety of music choices and special effects.  The ease of use and seamless results make it a good application to use for creating slideshows. My slidely is shown below.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dare To Be Scared...

There is a special kind of tension, almost a sense of urgency, in a good ghost story; the wanting to know but being slightly afraid to know, for characters and for readers.  Whether friendly, helpful even, or malevolent, with deadly intent, the ghosts, in the best of this kind of tale, are so believable you will be looking over your shoulder, wondering if the play of light making a shadow is not really something else.  What makes it even more disturbing is if only certain people can see these visions; causing them to doubt their sanity.

When authors base a haunted story on a place already steeped in the tradition of storytelling, sometimes the line between fiction and truth blurs beautifully as in Cornelia Funke's newest title, Ghost Knight (Little, Brown and Company).  After a visit to Salisbury, England and the Cathedral School there, an idea began in Funke's fertile fantastic mind.

I was eleven when my mother sent me to boarding school in Salisbury.  Yes, granted, she did have tears in her eyes as she brought me to the station.  But she still put me on that train.

Jon Whitcroft is feeling adrift for more reasons than being sent to boarding school.

Since the time of his father's death when he was four, he has had a solid place in the family hierarchy.  When The Beard, a new man, comes into his mother's life his sisters and even the dog welcome him with open arms.  Now removed from his home, after numerous failed attempts to rid them of this intruder, Jon is miserable.  But that misery is surpassed by extreme fear when, on his sixth night at school, he looks out his bedroom window to see three gruesome ghosts who clearly have come for him.

Trying to believe his imagination has gone wild, his roommates, Stu and Angus, could not see the ghosts, Jon almost has himself convinced until the next evening.  When they appear the number of ghostly riders has increased by one, the leader.  Jon makes a fool of himself in front of a group of students and an instructor. 

To his surprise the next day a local girl, Ella Littlejohn, attending the school approaches him believing he can see the ghosts because she can too. Her grandmother, thought by some to be a witch, conducts ghost tours in the area for tourists.  The toad-loving, spunky granny reveals the nature of Jon's persistent phantoms advising him to get as far away from Salisbury as possible.

Lord Stourton was hanged for murder and buried with four of his servants; one of the most ghastly murders of the day (1556), that of William Hartgill and his son, John. Hartgill is Jon's mother's maiden name.  Leaving Ella and her grandmother, Jon wondering if he will live to see another day, is stopped by Ella.  She has a plan.

Jon and Ella call forth the ghost of a dead knight buried in the Salisbury Cathedral, William Longspee, asking for his assistance.  But even assistance freely given, a lifetime bond created, can come at a price.  What has been stolen must be found; trusting the beings of the hereafter can be  precarious at best.

Escalating events double the life and death scenario with help coming from the unlikeliest of sources.  Demon hounds, ghost possession, a peeler, gatherings in cemeteries and battles among the living and the dead race readers along page after page.  Friendships that even death can't break are forged and opinions shift as all the characters converge toward a heart-pounding and heartwarming conclusion.

Cornelia Funke's writing has never been better; creating a sense of time, place and realistic characters, dead or alive. It's a given that she has penned an extraordinary adventure laced with ghosts, good, bad and somewhere in-between, but this is also a story of an eleven-year-old boy whose world has gone topsy-turvy.  How he navigates through this narrative, his family and new friends, is depicted with clever thoughts and dialogue.

Here are a couple of examples.

Four ghosts and a witch's granddaughter.  Can't get crazier than that, I thought.  But of course I was wrong about that as well.

The air behind the heavy doors was so chilly it made me shiver, and the twilight between the gray walls wrapped itself around me like a protective blanket.

Truth and lies, love and hate, then and now all blend flawlessly in Ghost Knight written by the gifted Cornelia Funke.  An author's note explains her visit to Salisbury and how this book began. Terms and noteworthy persons, not familiar to readers, are explained in a glossary.  Black and white drawings by Andrea Offermann compliment the story contributing to the atmosphere.

At the Scholastic Stacks website is an interview with Cornelia Funke and more information about other titles she has written.  The publisher, Little, Brown and Company,  of this title has posted the first three chapters.  I guarantee you will be hooked. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Twitterville Talk #50

This is the latest news from the tweeters I follow on Twitter.  There were lots of new book recommendations.  With the last day of school approaching for many, how about trying Donalyn Miller's Book A Day Challenge?
Have a wonderful, restful and safe weekend.

If you are one of those people who are drawn to a blend of old with the new, then this gadget, The iPad Typewriter, is for you.  One thing is for sure, it's a conversation starter.

Newbery Award winner for The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman, gives a commencement speech to graduating students at Philadelphia's University of the Arts I wish I would have heard decades ago; simply amazing observations and advice.

Follow this link to an outstanding video prepared by the New York Public Library recommending books for teens for summer reading.

Thanks to School Library Journal for these tweets.

I finally received my copy of Emily Gravett's book titled, Again!  She shows how she creates her character in the video below.

There is something special about the sound of Betty White's voice.  Her reading of Harry the Dirty Dog is exquisite.

Thanks to the Children's Book Council for these tweets.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bug Me...Number Three

As I may have stated before, every single one of us who has found the right book for the right reader at the right time knows, without a doubt, that books change lives.  From our own personal experience we treasure those titles evoking a change in our perception, adjusting our levels of tolerance, and leading us to definitions of absolute truths.  Those books which offer us the chance to change are not always works of fiction.

When I hold a book written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins in my hands, I am certain of being enriched in ways I am not expecting.  That being said, nothing could have prepared me for the impact of reading his newest title, The Beetle Book (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, April 3, 2012).  Stunning visuals accentuated with astounding facts clearly place this volume in the category as one of the finest nonfiction books of 2012.

Using a stark white canvas for his jacket and cover illuminating a single beetle (rose chafer beetle) on the front and twenty-six others fitted together across the back, Jenkins challenges readers to really look at what might be right in front of their eyes. His torn-and cut-paper collage illustrations are painstakingly formed in detailed accuracy.  Even the book's title appears as if a label on a naturalist's bug collection box. 

Endpapers swirl with looping spots patterned like leaves or bark colored in shades of green, red and an antique gold.  Following in the front are two bold orange-red pages with the title information written in white within a beetle silhouette on the left as on the right a huge head with open jaws hovers over the tile tag.  These colored pages are repeated in the back as background for a list of each beetle's scientific name, where in the world they live and if not noted in the body of the book, their size.

Jenkins begins his narrative:

Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth...
...and one of every four will be a beetle.

Continuing with white pages throughout readers are treated to beetle variations, beetle basics as part of the insect family and the parts found on each and every beetle.  Evolving at about the same time as the dinosaurs adaptions by beetles assisting in their survival are disclosed.   During his information impartment Jenkins shows the beetles enlarged in color but black silhouettes reveal the actual size. 

Beetles senses are keener and more unusual; delicate antennae of the feather-horn beetle make it aware of chemical signals from other beetles, tufts of hair on the body of the African jewel beetle protect it from predators through vibration and the whirligig beetle has four eyes, two for the surface of the water it skims and two for looking underneath the water.  I will never look at those quite the same way again.  Beetles battle with body parts and unique systems of chemical protection.

Stages of life, common and unusual, are disclosed; a female giraffe weevil will lay a single egg in a leaf rolled up like a tube by the male.  As eating habits, vegetarian and carnivore, are related I am certainly glad not to be a part of the beetle world inhabited by the six-spotted green tiger beetle.  Use of sound and light to signal and protect are more characteristic in some beetles than in others.
Continuing with a discussion on camouflage and methods of movement, Jenkins concludes with amazing facts about the  smallest and largest beetles and their parts. 

As a Caldecott Honor award winner in collaboration with his wife, Robin Page, in 2004 for What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?, Steve Jenkins has set himself apart with twenty-eight titles including The Beetle Book due to his distinctive artwork coupled with an intriguing array of factual text arranged to invite and educate.  His ability to zoom in and focus with intent on any given subject is truly gifted.  Readers will learn things they never knew they wanted to know but will be glad they now do.  I think I've become a beetle person; read this and you will too.

Enjoy Steve Jenkins's website by following the link to his name at the beginning of this post.  Connect to this link for one of several interviews at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  As a member of Literacyhead you can have access to other resources on Steve Jenkins; lessons on art and literacy using his books.  A discussion guide has been prepared at this link.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Give Me Five...

I am thinking that pretty much everyone has those days when they walk from one room to the next and can't remember why they did.  Too much to do, information overload, constant distractions, it all contributes to moments I have labeled with my students as "brain freeze".  On October 21, 2008 Sid Yadav established an answer to that specific problem with the creation of Memiary.

On the home page Memiary proclaims: 

Record up to five memories of your day and make them memorable forever. 
Memiary is the weightless pocket diary.

To begin type in an email address or username in the text box provided.  At the next screen enter in a password of your choice in the new text box, clicking on done when finished.  Congratulations at signing up appear on the third screen asking you to proceed.  The big font style set in the center of the large area of white space makes it simple to follow each of the directions.

At the top of the next page users can record messages for today as well as the three previous dates.  Changing account settings is a click away.  Browsing can be done by time frame, date, tags (keywords) or at random.  Beneath this is the recording space for listing five things you did on that date.

When an entry is completed click the green check mark.  Entries can be edited and deleted.  If you wish to generate tags place the #hashtag sign in front of a word or words making them searchable.  When all five are completed go to the top and click the record button for the current date.  Please note users can also list five items under the heading What will you do tomorrow?, by selecting the last day on the weekly + one tool bar. 

Beneath the list of five, users can search their pages by week, month, year or all time.  Another type of search can be conducted by entering in a keyword or words into an adjoining box.  When that word or words are found, the next screen will highlight in yellow the entry in which they appear.

When you want to check or modify your email address, set reminders, integrate your account with Twitter, import data, or embed a widget (making your memories public) on a website or blog go to the settings.

In your archives are two small icons near the search bar.  The first represents the ability to import your memories in iCal format to either iCal, Outlook or Google Calendar.  An RSS feed can be created using the second icon.

For educators this free application became even better a little more than two years ago.  With the financial and conceptual support of Mark Warner (UK) of Teaching Ideas the original site was modified with the classroom setting in mind.  Memiary for Education was born. 

On your first visit to the educational version you can log in using your original account information or create a new account.  If you are logging in as a student you will be asked to enter in your teacher's code, if you desire or if it is required as an assignment.  If you are logging in as a teacher you will need to convert your account from a student account to an educator's account. (When first logging in all are considered students.)  When you click on that option you are given a teacher code.

To set up your students' account information click on the settings word at the bottom of the fifth entry.  At this point you can alter and setup:  email address, password, import or export information or embed a widget.  Once your account is converted you can easily monitor your students' written responses.  The questions seen by your students can be either:  What did you learn today? What did you learn on this day? or What will you learn tomorrow? 

If you choose, your memories from your original account can be transferred to your educational account.  Some additional searching revealed that there is a Memiary app available for iPhone and Android users. 
What I do know is, the ease of use will make this advantageous in the classroom; checking for understanding with each individual student.  Whatever the subject area, students will be writing each class period.  This would be a great way for students to give specific reasons for a book recommendation to others.

I really like the idea of thinking of five distinct events, items, in a given day personally and professionally.  Memiary, while not new in the web 2.0 field, is new to me and I really like it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bug Me...Number Two

Anywhere you glance casually or carefully this time of year, you will see them in all shapes and sizes, in the air, among the greenery or beneath the dirt.  Sometimes you may hear, feel, smell or taste (yuck) them first but make no mistake they are there, in staggering numbers. Amazing, intriguing, beautiful, pesky, frightful and downright grossbugs are busy.

The twosome that brought readers the popular Cars Galore (2011) Peter Stein, author and Bob Staake, illustrator,  have thankfully returned in Bugs Galore (Candlewick Press).  Pages literally crawl with the critters as they move among girls and boys and jaunty phrases.

Big bugs, small bugs,
creep bugs, crawl bugs.
Sky bugs, land bugs,
slime-your-hand bugs!

Four line verses create a cadence akin to their buggy voices asking readers to dig and peek, look and seek, with caution and courage.  Stein's poetic text creates a mindful tour through the world of bug emotion (mean bugs, kind bugs, time-to-flee bug), bug habitat (mud safari), bug travel (cruise in groups, swimming skim bug), bug names (love bugs, bedbugs) and the time of day when some bugs shine (nighttime show bugs).  Closing with a question, he requests of readers a pause to ponder, how a bug might view our place in his domain.

With a book jacket the twin of its cover, Bob Staake attracts readers with his highly stylized illustrations; colorful, eccentric, bursting with feeling and life. Creamy endpapers patterned in happy, spring green bugs of every variety will bring smiles.  Each of these double page layouts pictures a boy and a girl done in his delightful depiction of large round faces with expressive wide eyes; curiosity, wonder, hesitation, fear, disgust and the absolute joy of discovery and observation is evident.

Staake's digitally designed denizens populate all the nooks and crannies of his two page spreads.  Readers will recognize many but his added details are guaranteed to elicit exclamations if not explosions of laughter; bugs wearing top hats, ties or crowns, some have checked or plaid bodies, red-and-white striped unicorn like noses, or another deep in a hole lounging while watching BUGZ on a television.  These imaginative visuals not only provide the perfect compliment to Stein's words but are sparks for igniting readers' inventiveness; you have to love the "what-ifs" they generate.

Bugs Galore written by Peter Stein and illustrated by Bob Staake will tease and tickle your senses as pages teeming with motion envelope readers.  Repeat readings are a given; the compulsion to do so can not be ignored.  Start saving your pennies for one of those insect boxes.

Candlewick Press has a very nice Read To Us Story-Hour Kit  for several stories including Bugs Galore.  Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has an extensive interview well worth reading with Bob Staake.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Working Together To Make It Better

On March 2, 2012 Larry Ferlazzo posted at his site, Larry Ferlazzo's Websites Of The Day..., about a new type of curation tool, a tool for gathering when something new is to be learned.  This service, Mentor Mob, gives users the opportunity to browse playlists previously made by other users or to create one of their own.  Users of this free application need to be over the age of thirteen (13).  If under the age of 18 they need to have parental or guardian consent.

To get a feel for the type of playlists being generated I first selected to browse Mentor Mob.  When you click the button for browsing the next screen offers users recreational or academic categories.  For each of those divisions browsing can be done by Top Playlists or Top Tags.

Under academic the playlist headings are:  math, science, technology, social studies, for teachers, business studies, art, English/reading, language, music, universities and health.  The top tags are shown beneath each of the playlist categories.  Academia & school, arts & crafts/hobbies, business, money & finance, computers & tech, cooking & baking, family & relationships, health & fitness, home, pets & garden, how-to & DIY, sports, games & outdooors, volunteerism, non-profit & activism and news & entertainment are the groupings under recreational.

To create a playlist you are taken to a screen where you can try a test playlist first.  When mousing over each step you are asked if you wish to edit or move the step.  Beneath the test click the create a playlist button. 

At this point you either log in or sign up.  You can sign in using Google, Facebook or by registering at Mentor Mob.  Registration requires you to enter in your first and last name, email address, a password, birth date and gender.  A photograph can be added too.  A verification email is sent with a link.

Upon logging in you are taken to your profile page.  Across the top you can browse playlists, create a playlist, search Mentor Mob, go to the home page, check for messages, view the Community page where updates by contributors are posted, go to the page where you currently are, logout or invite friends to use Mentor Mob.  You can go to saved playlists, recently viewed playlists or view those you have created.  Stats are kept regarding saved playlists, completed steps, completed playlists and created playlists. 

When selecting the Create a Playlist button you are first taken to a screen that reminds you not to create a test playlist.  You are asked to enter in a title, short description, type (recreational or academic), choose a category and tags (keywords).  Click continue when you are satisfied with the preview at the right.

You are then asked who can view your playlist, anyone on Mentor Mob or only those with a link.  You are also requested to choose who can edit your playlist, anyone on Mentor Mob or only you.  Then click Save and Add Content.

You can view your playlist while under construction in Playlist or Outline view.  Click on the create the first step button (+ sign) in the center of the playlist screen.  The small pop-up asks you to make the step from a link, from an upload or add a pop quiz.

When a link is added another pop-up lists the title, a short description, whether it is an article or video, and you can choose a skill level (beginner, intermediate or advanced).  Once a step is added it can be edited, moved or previewed.  Steps can be added behind or in front of a previously added step. 

Prior to clicking the Done Editing tab I clicked buttons for share, editing info & title and privacy settings.  Selecting the share button brings up a link and an embed code as well as one click sharing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, via email, with other networks (huge list) or publicly recommend the playlist on Google.  Viewers of playlists are allowed to comment.

Here is my playlist titled Caldecott Captive.

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

I can think of any number of possibilities for using this in the classroom.  Those already created on site are pretty good.  Mentor Mob has my recommendation for being a perfect web 3.0 application for professional and personal use.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bug Me...Number One

With the return of warmer weather joining the chorus of birdsong is the buzzing, humming and chirping of insects.  Creeping, crawling, jumping and flying through our world, integral to the completed whole, their place is assured whether deemed friend or foe.  Grateful we are then for the assistance provided by the small flash of red seen moving among our plants.

With more than 170 nonfiction books to her credit author/illustrator, Gail Gibbons, has most recently turned her attention to the world of Ladybugs (Holiday House, February 1, 2012).  Her never ending quest for answers to questions, her thirst for knowledge, educates readers about this popular bug.  No insect has claimed such appeal on clothing, jewelry, shoes, fabric, as a food decoration, costume design or even as fingernail decorations as have ladybugs.

Leading off with some general observations, next the side and top of the body are closely examined with the parts labeled appropriately.  Little known facts, at least to me, are shared; these small little creatures populate six of our seven continents numbering close to 5,000 different kinds.  Four hundred seventy five alone can be found in North America.

Devoting several pages to each, Gibbons explores the four stages of growth.  Interesting facts are overlaid on her illustrations as text along the bottom offers further explanation.   Did you know eggs are laid among aphids so the hatched larvae can feed, larvae eat until their outer covering splits several times prior to becoming a pupa and within an hour of emerging from the pupa casing a ladybug's spots began to show?

Three ways of keeping safe from enemies is disclosed as is how protection is sought in colder weather.  Six pages cover the benefits of using ladybugs in agriculture.  Gibbons closes with eight little squares of trivia.

This may very well be one of my favorite Gail Gibbons books. There are so many to love not only for the information found in each but the engaging, colorful illustrations but Ladybugs stands out.  The jacket and matching cover make a complete visual when unfolded, using hues which send a clear invitation to open the book.  Solid color endpapers are done in the brilliant red-pink found on the jacket and cover.

Most of the information is shown on pictures which extend across two pages.  Each illustration zooms in on the ladybugs's world among their natural habitat.  Using varied shades of green, pinks, yellows and purples against swirls of sky blues readers will want to reach out and touch the pages. (Believe me, I did.)  But when Gibbons wanted to change perspective in the presentation of her facts, a single page was divided into threes; discussing what ladybugs do in the season of winter.

Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons is a dazzling display of carefully researched details set among equally vibrant illustrations.  It should be added to any professional (library or classroom) collection; a copy is now sitting on my personal bookshelves.  Gail Gibbons has teaching guides at her web site linked above.  Here is a link to the Enchanted Learning page with some clever follow-up activities about ladybugs.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Twitterville Talk #49

Summer is fast approaching, the students are getting beyond restless and my book piles are getting taller and taller.  Enjoy your weekend.

Elizabeth Bird, New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist, and blogger at School Library Journal, A Fuse # 8 Production, has  Announced the New Top 100 Picture Books and Novels Polls.  Interesting results have begun to appear this week.

Children's Corner:  Where genius is:  Maurice Sendak and Ursula Nordstrom  is a fascinating article about this memorable team.
Thanks to Children's Bookshelf for the tweet.

From Raina Telgemeier, author of Smile, first but made the rounds in multiple tweets is this flow chart, of sorts, titled how a book is born (because you kids love the infographics) .  Thanks for sharing.

Thanks to The Children's Book Council for the tweet alerting readers to this great video about saving a school library.

One of my favorite tech bloggers, Richard Byrne, of Free Technology for Teachers, posted on May 17th about a Ken Burns video on Storytelling.  Byrne's comments on the video and thoughts on using it in the classroom are good.  I really like what Ken Burns has to say on this video.

The world of children's literature still finding it hard to believe that Maurice Sendak is no longer among us, has had another loss this week.  Jean Craighead George, author of the Newbery Award winning, Julie of the Wolves, has died.  Julie of the Wolves, Julie and Julie's Wolf Pack are among my favorite books.  Her My Side of the Mountain, a Newbery Honor book, and Water Sky are at the top, too.  When I began looking over her listed works I could not believe how many of them I had read. 
Here are some of the articles on her passing.

Newbery Winner Jean Craighead George Dies at 92---School Library Journal

Jean Craighead George, Children's Author, Dies at 92---The New York Times

Oh, The Places We Went:  My Travels with Jean---Publishers Weekly

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pieces and Passing

Children are like windows; seeing clearly, simply, openly.  Their honesty is at times startling but refreshing.  They are closer to the truth of things even if it may be fearful to them. 

Days, the seasons, years, our lives all circle; beginnings connected to endings continually spinning.  Perhaps for this very reason young people seem to seek and enjoy the company of the elderly as they do them in return.  In Patricia MacLachlan's new title, Kindred Souls (Katherine Tegen Books), Jake and his grandfather, Billy, are two parts of a large whole; identical in so many ways.

The story opens:

My grandfather, Billy, hears the talk of birds.  He leans out the open bedroom window with his head tilted to listen in the warm prairie morning.

Summer has come to this prairie farm family.  Eighty-eight year old Billy has a room in the house that was his.  Daily after chores, Jake and Billy walk about the farm visiting the cows, horses and finally arrive at the place of Billy's birth.  Among a group of Russian olive bushes is the remains of a sod house. 

Billy's comment is always how he loved that sod house but on this morning he quietly adds how he misses the sod house.  In the evening of this typical day something unusual occurs, a dog appears, walking up to Billy as if they are old friends.  In a heartbeat he has given her the name of Lucy.

During the next day's stroll around the property Lucy unearths a sod brick, prompting Jake to ask how hard it might be to cut a brick from sod.  An innocent question becomes a seed, a seed growing quickly in the fertile ground of Billy's memories.  Before Jake quite knows what's happening Billy is promising to teach him everything he knows about the construction of a sod house.

Perhaps Billy knows Jake better than he knows himself.  Jake doesn't want to build a sod house but Billy says he will; kindred souls that they are.  Maybe Jake's Mama is right. ...

"When you were born, Billy loved you right away.  When I see the two of you together..." She takes a breath. "Sometimes I think you were born for him."

Jake's decision becomes secondary to Billy's sudden illness which necessitates his hospitalization.  Lida, Jake's older sister and Jesse, his older brother, reach out to him offering their help; all know now the sod house must be built.  Jake believes it will make Billy well.

Each day construction proceeds.  Each day visits are made to the hospital with Lucy, now dubbed Angel Dog, providing comfort not only to Billy but other patients in the hospital as well.  A family secret is getting ready to bloom, nearing completion with assistance now from Mama and Papa.

Newly finished, the sod house, supplies Billy with the solace necessary to enjoy the seasons of the year and his life as they change from summer to fall.  Jake, all the members of the family, have presented Billy with a priceless gift; a treasured part of his past recreated.  He, in turn, has given them a focus for their love for each other and for him.

Patrica MacLachlan reaffirms her place as an author talented in examining the human heart; how relationships are molded by life's challenges and triumphs.  Jake's voice, the first person narrative, in each of the short but significant seventeen chapters of this book, is like stitches in a finely crafted tapestry.   Each word, sentence, and paragraph has purpose.

We are quiet.  I love the feel of his hand.

"Nope.  She's not from around here. She is my dog.  She came to me," says Billy.

Kindred Souls is a beautiful, deeply moving look at family; dealing with the grief of losing a beloved member.  Patricia MacLachlan was penned one of her finest books, one I have literally held close to my heart.  Her dedication says:

In memory of my father-------
born in a sod house on the prairie he loved.

Well done, Patricia MacLachlan, very well done.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Playing With Words

A single word can be very powerful; a carefully chosen group of words even more so.  Spoken or written they can change thinking, relationships or the course of history.  They can't be erased once they have been released.

Word clouds have become a visual expression, a more artistic display, of word arrangement.  Wordle was one of the first generators I used.  I enjoyed experimenting with Wordlings and Tagxedo for this post.

Word It Out is an application that offers the ability to create, explore other created word clouds or participate with other members of the Word It Out community by using the blog, checking out the FAQ section, read how others are using Word It Out, make suggestions and point out problems. It is free to users who are 13 years of age or older.  To begin enter in text at the home page.

As you type spelling errors are underlined in red.  When all the text has been entered, click the green Word it out! button.  At the next screen your cloud will appear.

At that point with a single click you can alter the look of the word cloud with a new random selection (Random settings), realign the center of the words (Set target) or redraw the word cloud with the settings already in place (Redraw).  By scrolling down beneath your word cloud you can manually customize the look of your creation (word cloud) altering the colours, text, size and layout.  Word list settings and how the text is analyzed(words/punctuation characters to leave in or take out) can be changed also.

When you are satisfied click the Save button.  The next screen asks you to enter in a title, short description of your word cloud, a related web page, the sharing options of public (everyone) or private (only for those with the link you provide) and your email address.  An email is sent immediately with a link to confirm your address and to provide you with a secret link to the word cloud.

Your word cloud can be posted on numerous social networks, emailed, printed, downloaded to your computer as an image or embedded using HTML into a website or blog.

I really like all the features of Word It Out.  It can be as simple as using the random selection or modified manually by using all the extra controls available.  Here is my Word It Out for Favorite First Lines.

Word cloud made with WordItOut

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dogs Will Be Dogs...They're Back!

I love walking through bookstores.  Strolling past shelves lined with old and new friends alike, gazing at the spines and covers, is akin to a little bit of heaven on earth.  There is nothing better than visiting your favorite Indie bookseller only to discover a very special author/illustrator has made good on a promise.

Those two lovable characters introduced by author/illustrator Carter Goodrich in Say Hello To Zorro! have returned in a new title, Zorro Gets An Outfit (Simon & Schuster)Mister Bud and his new housemate, Zorro, are inseparable canine companions, day in and day out.  Loving the routine of their lives together, makes them most contented.

On the day in question all begins normally; noses resting on their human's bed covers, tennis ball at the ready, breakfast side by side and the wait at the door for the morning walk.  What do they hear instead of the jingle of leashes but...

"Zorro, I've got a surprise for you..."

The duo are wondering what in their doggie universe could be more important than the first venture outside for the day. 

A blue hooded cape lined in red, appropriately aligned holes for ears and eyes, is being offered to Zorro.  Holy Dog Biscuits!  You have got to be kidding.  Zorro is humiliated at being made to wear this costume.

All of a sudden he no longer wants to go out and Mister Bud can still hardly wait.  His embarrassment hangs about him as does the cloak; the neighborhood dogs and even Slim, the cat, poking fun at his attire.  Mister Bud tries to perk Zorro up with a game of stick at the park with no success.

But wait a minute.  Who's that white blur in the striped sweater and snazzy bandanna chasing after the Frisbee?  It's tricky, faster-than-a-freight train Bart; Bart wearing something besides his fur. 

Bart wants to run a race with Mister Bud and Zorro.  The trio speed through the trees over the grass, each vying for the lead.  All leave the park winners, one of the race, one for overcoming life's challenges and the third with the restoration of his best bud's happiness.

As in the earlier title the story is told in simple spare sentences set in the center of a single white page or placed above or beneath an illustration.  This tale, taking place in the course of single day, is enhanced for readers with separate, hand-painted text for the human's remarks, the thoughts of the two friends, the other neighborhood dogs and the single striped feline, Slim.  Pristine pacing provides the perfect enticement.

Readers are greeted by endpapers depicting eight different small studies of Mister Bud and Zorro with that pesty outfit; trying to get if off, playing tug of war, running or even Mister Bud trying it on.  A small hint of Bart's appearance, later in the story, is seen leaping off the title verso.  Carter Goodrich's masterful use of watercolor painting captures the characters' every expression; pleading for the day to begin, anxious for the walk, the total dejection and discomfort of Zorro, Mister Bud's supportive efforts, Bart's zippiness and the complete, wild abandon of running full tilt, in a race, with your peers.

Liberal white space frames Goodrich's visuals with the setting, home, street, park, done in softer hues of steely blues, greens, golds and browns as is the human who is only partially shown, arms, legs or both.  Zorro, Mister Bud, the neighborhood canine gang, Slim and Dart are more sharply, darkly colored, grabbing the reader's attention.  Goodrich knows dogs; capturing their expressive eyes and mouths, their thought process.

There are more than several illustrations in this title I would happily frame and place on the walls of my home; the morning scene in the bedroom, Dart facing forward Frisbee firmly gripped in his jaws, or the three running with dogged determination at the reader.  Carter Goodrich promised that Say Hello To Zorro! was the beginning of a series but what he failed to mention was how superb Zorro Gets An Outfit would be.  Dog lovers are going to gobble this up for the treat it is and no one will be able to read it just once. 

If you follow the link attached to Carter Goodrich's name above you will be able to see more pages from this title.  I am most definitely adding this title to my Mock Caldecott list for 2013.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Like A Squirrel...

Nearly two months ago, tech people began speaking about a new, free web 2.0 application called Bundlenutmy go-to site, Free Technology for Teachers by Richard Byrne. In a nutshell this service allows the user to collect website URLs and then share them.  Whether the links seek to explore, collect, guide, convince, teach or help Bundlenut is the means to do so.

To begin go to the home page, enter in a title for your Bundle and click the green Go button.  Three simple steps appear on the next screen.  First you are asked to Bookmark your Bundle or log in into an account (Google) so you can modify it at a later time.  I simply bookmarked my Bundle; accessing it when I needed to make changes.

The second step is adding links to your Bundle by creating a title, adding the URL and any comments about the link.  Links can be dragged and dropped to change their order.  Entries can be deleted by clicking on the minus sign.

To change the information in any of the three boxes within the link line, click on it to reopen the text box.

After the websites are added proceed to the third step, Browse and Share.  Click on the blue link word to save the Bundle; a unique URL is created as a new screen appears.  The next page shows your bundle list with hyperlinks under the titles and your comments beneath.  By clicking on the acorn in the upper left hand corner viewers can toggle through the links.

Please note that links to YouTube videos will not display. 

The implications for using this in an educational setting are huge; the no registration requirement being a major plus.  Groups of students could create online investigations for others.  Bundles could be designed to teach research methods. 

I'm feeling a little "squirrely" at the ease of use and the great results.  Bundlenut has a new fan.  Check out the beginnings of my Bundle titled Mock Caldecott 2013.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Into The Wood...

Nothing quite tops the thrill of entering the pages of a good adventure; the lure of the unknown, the challenge of unprecedented risks and the pure excitement of a new undertaking.  For an author to articulate the compelling spontaneity of the action well, is never easy; conveying the characters' thoughts, emotions and assessments.  With the makings of a classic, Wildwood:  The Wildwood Chronicles, Book I (Balzer + Bray) written by Colin Meloy with illustrations by Carson Ellis, is a story addressing every element of a such an escapade creating a realm few will want to leave.

Beginning with the very first line (duly noted in my journal of gripping first lines) readers are swept up in the whirlwind as are the two protagonists of this tale.

How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries.

After a typical day in Portland, Oregon, taking care of her one-year-old brother, Mac, while her parents scout out an art fair, Prue, twelve years of age, is relaxing on a park bench only to watch in amazed fear as a murder of crows kidnaps her brother.  Shaking herself as if from a trance, Prue follows on her bike, the attached red wagon bouncing along like a pinball, through the streets of the St. Johns neighborhood to the bluff above the Willamette River.  In despair she stares as her airborne brother disappears into The Impassible Wilderness.

At all costs her parents must not discover her brother is missing.  Despite warnings from her father to never venture into that area Prue knows, she and she alone, must bring her brother home.  Leaving early the next morning her journey begins but nothing could have prepared her for what she will encounter including secrets from her parents' past.

Ready to cross the railroad bridge into the wilderness, she encounters a fellow classmate Curtis, somewhat of a loner and thinker, who is determined to follow regardless of Prue's insistence he return.  What the two discover is The Impassible Wilderness is another world altogether.  Here what they believe to be true about the world in general must be abandoned if they are to survive.

In short order Curtis is taken captive by a band of coyote soldiers walking on two legs, appropriately if shabbily attired, and talking.  Making her way to a main road Prue hails a red mail truck bound for South Wood knowing she must leave Curtis, for the time being, in what is called Wildwood.  Crossing through The Avian Principality, the country populated and ruled by birds, she and her new friend, Richard, the postmaster, travel to seek an audience with the Governor-Regent; hoping for assistance in locating her brother.

Through three parts, twenty-eight chapters and 541 pages readers are held spellbound by the narrative as it flows back and forth between the perils of Prue and Curtis as each attempts to find their way in and out of danger in a world on the brink of upheaval.  A host of characters, the dark-hearted Dowager Governess, commander of the coyote army bent on revenge, the bureaucratic menagerie of South Wood, a group of bandits, hearts like Robin Hood of old, prowling the woods, Owl Rex, supreme ruler of The Avian Principality, Septimus the rat, the Mystics, guardians of The Council Tree among the peaceable folk of North Wood and Prue's parents, all play their parts like notes in an intricate symphony.  It's a battle of the highest order, a fight between good and evil, a fight for life.

In this debut novel, Colin Meloy, the lead singer and songwriter for the Decemberists, displays his gift as a weaver of words depicting an extraordinary world, rich and elaborate in detail, set among an ordinary world equally defined.  In Prue and Curtis, as well as the secondary characters, struggles with personal values, definition of self and how one fits into the grand scheme are convincingly portrayed with vivid descriptions.  The feeling of being smack-dab in the middle of the events is clearly tangible.

There was a sudden rush of wind, and she looked up in the sky and was horrified to see that the group of crows had grown twentyfold.  The individual birds were now indiscernible from the mass, and the murder coalesced into a single, convulsive shape, blotting out the flat light of the afternoon sun.  The shape swung and bowed in the air, and the noise of their beating wings and screeching cries became almost deafening.  Prue cast about, seeing if anyone else was witnessing this bizarre event, but she was terrified to find that she was alone.

His warnings had no effect on Prue, who kept marching up the wooded slope, steadying herself on the trunks of the trees as she hiked.
"And coyotes, Prue!" continued Curtis, scrambling up the incline but stopping at the first tree of the boundary.  "They'll tear you apart! There has to be another way to go!"
"There isn't, Curtis," said Prue. "My brother's in here somewhere, and I have to find him."
Curtis was shocked.  "You think he's in here?" Prue was far enough into the woods now that Curtis could barely make out the red of her scarf through the bramble of trees.  Before she disappeared completely from view, Curtis took a deep breath and stepped into the woods. "Okay, Prue! I'll help you find your brother!" he shouted.

At the Wildwood website linked above, a video conversation between Colin Meloy and his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis, relates their collaboration to bring this title to fruition.  Ellis is well known in the world of art for her distinctive fine line drawings.  Illustrations in this title were first drawn in pencil on watercolor paper prior to being recreated in ink and paint.

Readers are treated to a map of The (Impassible) Wood on the book's endpapers.  According to an interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast this title showcases 85 illustrations; six as color plates.  Intrinsic to the narrative, giving readers a window into this magical world within our world, her drawings are remarkable in how they invite the reader into the story and in their conveyance of emotion.

The combination of writing by Colin Meloy and illustrations drawn and painted by Carson Ellis in Wildwood:  The Wildwood Chronicles, Book I is a true melding of vision, art and heart.  I, for one, can not wait to read it again, probably when the next book in the trilogy, Under Wildwood:  The Wildwood Chronicles, Book II, is to be released in September of this year.  Excelling in every aspect, this fantastical adventure is a definitive title in the field of literature.