Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Put Your Right Heart In

As I've stated here before, in my review of Jake and Lily, if Jerry Spinelli writes them, I read them.  I've laughed out loud during a wrestling match.  I've agonized with a boy dreading his tenth birthday.  I've been the girl who doesn't fit the mold, marching to more than her own drummer, eyes focused on a special star. I've run alongside Maniac and Penn racing for all their worth.

With his newest title Spinelli takes me to a place every reader visits and leaves, never staying.  In Hokey Pokey (Alfred A. Knopf) childhood is described so uniquely readers (myself included) are caught by surprise before being astounded by its brilliance.  In one day the marvelous, fantastical fun of this land is laid before us in all its innocent glory.

All night long Seven Sisters whisper and giggle and then, all together, they rush Orion the Hunter and tickle him, and Orion the Hunter laughs so hard he shakes every star in the sky, not to mention Mooncow, who looses her balance and falls--puh-loop!--into Big Dipper, which tip-tip-tips and dumps Mooncow into Milky Way...

Celestial antics begin the story of Jack as a teeny, tiny remnant of the night lands on his nose whispering it's...time.  He awakens with the belief the world as he knows it, has shifted.  Immediately he realizes his beloved bike, Scramjet, is missing.

Not only has his bike been stolen but it's now in the possession of his worst nightmare, a girl by the name of Jubilee. Sending the mightiest of his Tarzan yells over the land of Hokey Pokey he calls his amigos, LaJo and Dusty.  They quickly mount up and ride to his assistance, united in their determination to reclaim his black and silver stallion, as the day, the quest, the adventure unfolds.

In short chapters Spinelli alternates perspectives between Jack, his friends, Jubilee, a pint-sized bully named Destroyer and brief nods to characters important to Jack's life.  For this is not only a quest but through these chapters we are introduced to a world that never changes, day in and day out it remains the same; a world of dust, a herd of mustang-like bikes, tumbleweed-tossed plains, hills and valleys and places with names like Trucks, Doll Farm, Tantrums, Thousand Puddles, Gorilla Hill or Snuggle Stop.  We meet children of all ages, Newbies, Snotsippers, Gappergums, Sillynillies, Longspitters, Groundhog Chasers, and Big Kids whose lives revolve around all the playful possibilities in Hokey Pokey.  Oh, and one more thing...there are no adults in Hokey Pokey...well, except for the appearance of the Hokey Pokey man at noon every single day, providing each child a snow cone treat of their favorite flavor.

What also becomes readily apparent is this day is not really about reclaiming stolen property, it's about disappearing tattoos, walnut shells that tell stories, a small hut no one can enter, and a track with no train.  Jack's life on this day is topsy-turvy shrouded in mystery; being scared but excited, hanging on but letting go.  No one will admit to the truth of what is happening, whatever that is.  In a final stroke of genius, Spinelli ends the story as it began with whoop and a holler in the starry heavens.

As surely as he is the champion fisherman and we the hungry catch of the day, Jerry Spinelli moves the bait past us, closer and closer each time, until we bite.  He reels us deeper and deeper into the story depths until we are completely hooked. His poetic, descriptive writing, full of nostalgia and true-to-life dialogue, is the irresistible lure.

Here are a couple of passages.

Dusty cries, "She's coming!"
"Off the trail!" barks LaJo.
They cannot see yet but they can hear:  the chittering chain and axles, 
the stone-pocked crunch of rubber, the thief's crazed scream unfurling.  
They can feel the speed, feel it accelerate with every wheelturn, feel the
hill snuffle and grin and stiffen its spine, feel the air split like a snapped
stick as into the bow-bend they lean.

Ana Mae goes bananas, apples, kumquats.  She screams, twirls, cartwheels.
This is what Jubilee loves most about bestfriendship:  when something great happens
to one, it happens to both.  She kickstands Hazel and joins the celebration.  
They do their special fingermess handslap, their special shimmyshakejive buttbump.
Ana Mae thrusts her arms toward the bike:
"Albert did it!"
More howls.  The girls drop to their knees and bow grandly to the bike as if to
a Supreme Sultan of All.

What Jerry Spinelli has given readers in Hokey Pokey is a gift; the gift of going back in splendid remembrance or of seeing their place in life with greater gratitude.  His use of words is an example to readers of all ages of the potential power of creating a sensory vividness within a story.  I think I'll go bike shopping next week.  And when I find the perfect one, I'm naming it Scramjet.

Follow the link embedded in Jerry Spinelli's name above to his website.  This link is to an interview in which he speaks about Hokey Pokey.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Simplicity Supreme

Innovations in technology are changing so rapidly not only is it hard to stay current but it's very exciting.  Along with these innovations in hardware and software, the applications being designed for use on multiple devices are increasing by leaps and bounds.  Some are more complicated than others, providing more options, more sophistication.

When looking for web 2.0 services to use in the classroom, especially at the elementary level, the easier and simpler, the better.  Richard Byrne, educator and blogger at Free Technology for Teachers introduced an application a little more than two years ago called DropMocks.  It crossed my radar in a post on Twitter more recently.

DropMocks is a tool for presenting images in a gallery format.  There is no registration requirement unless you wish to save your work for future editing.  (I'm fairly confident if you use the same computer each time your mocklists are saved in your cookies without registration.) There is no charge for this service either.

While there are other services such as Flickr or Picasa (to name two of many) for sharing and/or editing of images, DropMocks produces results the quickest.  To use this application simply go to the site.
When you arrive, a screen appears asking you to drag your image files to the page.  The only other item on the page appears in the upper left-hand corner; Sign in and Your mocks.

Whether your images are on your desktop or in folders, simply click, drag and drop.  By using your control key you can bring multiple images to the screen at the same time.  Once an image is placed on the DropMocks window another item is added in the upper left-hand corner, a blue button with the word New on it.

An additional feature appears in the right-hand corner.  This box allows you to give your image or collection of images a title.  The small trash can is the option to remove the entire mocklist.  (The small square next to it opens and closes the list.) The x by each image is the deletion feature.  For every mocklist you create a unique URL is generated.  This is the only method for sharing your images with others.

As more images are brought to the window one is displayed front and center as the others fall back, smaller and blurry.  Click on any to move them to the same position. Images can be rearranged in the list be dragging them to new locations.

When selecting Your mocks a drop-down menu lists your titles.  By clicking on any of them you are taken to that mocklist.  Sign in takes you to a screen asking you to allow them access to your Google account for purposes of using your email only.  The New button takes you back to the original screen for the creation of a new mocklist.

I have yet to see an application as easy as DropMocks for creating a gallery of one or many so quickly and simply.  The uses are as endless as your imagination.  It could be used to feature a student of the week, student activities for each week of the year (one shot per day), booktalking genres, Mock Caldecott or Newbery units, highlighting award winning books, student book responses, as a portion of student explorations in any of the subject areas, images for writing prompts or teaching a new skill step by step.

Here is a link to my mocklist titled Caldecott 2013.  I created another titled Newbery 2013 linked here.  Using Jing (reviewed here) I generated another mocklist titled Newbery Award Winners 2013-Websites

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

They Are Our World

Without a doubt the most popular and most circulated sections of the library are those focused on animals whether they are wild or domesticated, large or small, or make their homes on land, water or air.  Year after year for decades I have never seen this fascination fade; a curiosity needing to be fed.  I would like to think this kinship does not diminish as people grow up; somewhere deep inside it is waiting to be wakened to the strength it held in days past.

Sometimes all it takes is a pause, a moment of awareness seeing with an acuteness, listening for a new sound or a strange smell carried by the wind.  Sometimes when you least expect it you'll look, see a flash of rust knowing a fox has traveled past or catch the fluttering of wings knowing a hummingbird is near a group of flowers.  Sometimes a book with photographs so stunning in color and detail, poems carefully tucked within the pages, will lift the kinship to new heights.  National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry with favorites from Robert Frost, Jack Prelutsky, Emily Dickinson, and more, 200 poems with photographs that SQUEAK, SOAR, and ROAR! edited by J. Patrick Lewis, U. S. Children's Poet Laureate, is such a book.

Have you ever thought about a day in the life of a giraffe, a porcupine, a whale, or a snail?  At this very moment, each one of them (if they are not asleep) is bustling about, fast or slow, as busy in his day, in her way, as you are in yours.

J. Patrick Lewis introduces readers to this brilliant body of work he selected from a vast array of poetic literature from the past to present.  The chosen names are as mind-boggling as the selections; Carl Sandburg, Valerie Worth, Jane Yolen, Janet S. Wong, Michael J. Rosen, Kristine O'Connell George, William Cowper, Avis Harley, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Arnold Adoff, William Jay Smith, Rudyard Kipling, Douglas Florian, Lilian Moore, Myra Cohn Livingston, Bobbi Katz, and Mary Ann Hoberman to list only a hint of the many notables.  Some of the poems are familiar examples of the poet's work, others are a delightful surprise.

The 160 plus pages of poetic pleasure are divided into headings: Welcome to the World, The Big Ones, The Little Ones, The Winged Ones, The Water Ones, The Strange Ones, The Noisy Ones, The Quiet Ones and Final Thoughts.  Readers are treated to a range of types; free verse, rhyming couplets, shape poems, haiku, or limericks.  One poem flows into another seamlessly as alliteration, simile and metaphor weave words creating a meter, a movement from page to page.

Representation of every form of living creature from the animal kingdom takes readers to the four corners of the world; for brief moments as words are read you enter their space, knowing what they know.  Whether it's Buffalo Dusk, Cow, Grandpa Bear's Lullaby, Mountain Gorilla, Inchworm, Hamster Hide-and Seek, Dust of Snow, The Eagle, Anemone, The Walrus, The Anteater, How to Paint a Zebra, Summertime, The Breed You Need, or from The Law of the Jungle each voice is heard.  It's hard not to imagine the poem was specifically written for the individual photographs; they're so carefully matched.

Microscopic detail, panoramic spreads, a partial page, single page or two, all are pieced together so well it's like watching a movie with the page turn controlling the speed.  Zooming in to see a baby orangutan kissing a parent, catching an elephant mid spiraling spray, a chipmunk cheek packed with a peanut, a snail crawling up a blade of grass, raindrops hanging like diamonds, or zooming out to see an amazing group of hundreds of flamingos gathered to shape the form of a single flamingo, will have readers pausing not only at the wonder to be found in our world but in the skill of those taking these photographs.  Color, composition, perspective and lighting are impeccable.

The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry with favorites from Robert Frost, Jack Prelutsky, Emily Dickinson, and more, 200 poems with photographs that SQUEAK, SOAR, and ROAR! edited by J. Patrick Lewis, U. S. Children's Poet Laureate is an astounding blend of poetry and pictures.  You might have to pace yourself to keep from reading it at one sitting.  Even completed you will want to go back for rereads of your favorite poems or sections.  It will invite further exploration of the animal world and other poems penned by specific authors.

J. Patrick Lewis includes two special pages at the back for those interested in writing their own poems along with a bibliography on the following two pages of resources for wordplay.  A title, poet, first line and subject index are available.  J. Patrick Lewis concludes this volume with a poem of his own titled Make the Earth Your Companion.  A video of his reading this poem with pictures taken from this title can be viewed by following this link.  It's beautiful.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Every How Many Years?

During the cloudy days of winter in northern Michigan we are reminded to not take for granted the beauty of sunrises and sunsets even though it's an everyday occurrence. Once a month around the world depending on the season and quality of the air, people are treated to a spectacular full moon.  Each August devoted viewers are dazzled by the display of the Perseid meteor shower.  Then, too, many have a verbal agreement (in my circle of friends) to call one another if the northern lights should make an appearance.

These natural phenomena remind us to be ready to enjoy the everyday and also the unexpected, knowing we might never see anything exactly like it again.  Keeping this in mind, let's step inside, supposing a most unusual visitor has appeared in your home announced.  This guest might be The Man from the Land of Fandango (Clarion Books) written by Margaret Mahy with illustrations by Polly Dunbar.

The man from the land of Fandango
Is coming to pay you a call.

Clothed in special attire, with exuberance and glee, this man can be anything he desires; a bird, a bell or a ball.  He'll show you how to dance with a bear and even a bison.  Musical tunes will be by bassoon-playing baboons.

Bouncing kangaroos and noisy dinosaurs will join in the fun.  Sweet treats will be enjoyed by all until the man from the land of Fandango swoops away to dance and dream.  His feats with food as he enters your room will delight and astonish.

Why the man is a marvel as he uses the walls and ceiling for his jolly jiving; gravity holds no claim.  So wait, watch and wonder.  Be set to go, you'll never know....he only comes every 500 years.

Hans Christian Andersen Award winning Margaret Mahy consistently demonstrated her versatility penning gripping middle/young adult books (I will never forget The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance or Underrunners.) and equally appealing, delightful picture books.  In this title her lilting, lyrical rhyming lines literally dance on the page along with the man from Fandango.  Readers will readily join in the joyful jamboree where a fantastical world enters the characters' home with an irresistible rhythm created by alliterative word choices.

On a pathway of soft rainbow colors the man from Fandango moves into the children's day laughter on all their faces among the colorful stars on the jacket and cover.  Opening and closing endpapers are scattered with large textured teal and white stars.  Using watercolor and collage throughout  Polly Dunbar begins picturing the young girl and boy painting a life-size figure on paper taped to the wall.  When he comes to life floating from the painting, changing shapes, and dancing, the melodious magic commences.

The text weaves and flows among the images on the pages; images which alter in size and perspective creating movement.  Extra details add to the fanciful antics; the bear wearing a tie and hat, the bison in red high heels, a red bow on her tail with ruby-red lipstick on her mouth, or the dinosaurs playing tambourines held in their mouths.  Skillful use of white space illuminates these illustrations bathed in happiness.  If you listen closely you can almost hear the laughter.

Looking at the cover readers will want to soar, giggle and frolic with The Man from the Land of Fandango written by Margaret Mahy with illustrations by Polly Dunbar.  The captivating rhythm felt with each read rhyme is an open invitation to join in the festivities.  Get ready readers, you never know...this year could be year 500.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Twitterville Talk #85

For many in the United States this past week bitter cold and snow was the name of the game, but Twitter was red hot with resources about books, reading, writing, libraries and technology trends.  Enjoy my wrap-up, look for the giveaways and take time for reading.

Remember the American Library Association Youth Media Awards will be announced starting at 8:00 AM PT  The link for the free, live webcast is here.

Let's start this week off with an amazing piece of innovative technology.  Sometimes I feel like I'm living on the set of The Jetsons.

Get Adobe Flash player

Thanks to Heather Moorefield, Education Librarian at Virginia Tech and former chair of the American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching and Learning for this tweet.

I never tire of looking at all the beautiful buildings designed to house libraries--11 Beautiful Libraries from Around the World

Thanks to Random House Canada for this tweet.

There are numerous blog posts each week highlighting, inspiring and urging us all to be better at what we do and who we are.  For whatever reason this week I feel the need to share more than one of them.
This first one was on The Nerdy Book Club blog.  READING IS DUMB. THERE, I SAID IT.  This post is written by Christopher Lehman, author of books for teachers and Senior Staff Developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

Thanks to The Nerdy Book Club for this tweet.

Do watch this video, Their Stories Change the World: Voices from LitWorld LitClubs Around the World.  LitWorld is the organization behind World Read Aloud Day held this year on March 6th.

Mr. Schu gives his very special twist (resources) to the 2013 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winners.

Thanks to John Schumacher, teacher librarian, 2011 Library Journal Movers & Shakers, and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read.

I just can't resist sharing this unique bookshelf with all my book loving friends.  Squaring Movable Bookshelf by Sehoon Lee

Thanks to Tarcher/Penguin for this tweet.

The 2013 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Announced by the Association of Jewish Libraries There are amazing titles on this list in all the categories including the winners, honors and notables.

Thanks to author, Joanne Levy (Small Medium at Large) for this tweet.

In the world of poetry this news is huge. Carl Sandburg Poem Discovery:  University of Illinois Archives Turn Up Previous Unknown Work

This might be one of those bookstores I could call home.  Baldwin's Book Barn in West Chester, PA Is Pretty Amazing

Thanks to HuffPost Books for sharing these bits and pieces of  information in these tweets.

I think time stood still for me as I read this interview between two Caldecott Medal Award winners, Erin E. Stead and Chris Raschka: A Caldecott Conversation.  

This interview was hosted by teacher librarian, Travis Jonker, on his blog 100 Scope Notes.  Thanks for this and your other tweets, too.

Two well-respected educators and reviewers at Booklist give us their picks for 2012---Cindy and Lynn's Best of 2012
To the first person who can tell me the three titles for picture books which appeared on both their lists by leaving a comment or sending me a DM, I will send you a copy of hello! hello! by Matthew Cordell including one of his signed bookplates.

If you don't have a plan in place for International Book Giving Day you might consider reading this post, International Book Giving Day and using the ideas presented here.  I know several classes in our building are using the process outlined in the article by Mr. Sharp.

Thanks to Colby Sharp, teacher and blogger at sharpread for this article and tweet.

I love that someone has taken the time to create these,  10 Literary Board Games for Book Nerds

Thanks to Margo Sorenson for this tweet.

What a movie this will make!  Ron Howard in Talks to Direct Disney's 'Graveyard Book' (Exclusive)

Thanks to author of Open This Little Book, Jesse Klausmeier, for this tweet.

An annual event worth waiting for by Philip C. Stead, author/illustrator and his wife, Erin E. Stead, illustrator, is the posting of their picks before the award ceremonies at ALA.  Announcing the 4th Annual Phildecott and Steadbery Awards!!!

Thanks to Julie Danielson blogger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for this tweet.

I think this is one of the best ideas, I've read about in a long time.  A Doll's Magic, Free to Renew

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

I don't know about you but when it comes to dystopian novels, Delirium by Lauren Oliver had me hooked almost immediately.  This is a great news for her fans---Announcing The Delirium TV Series

Thanks to Lauren Oliver for this tweet and all her books.

Here is another outstanding blog post by author Linda Urban---Point of View---One Writer's Perspective

Thanks go to Linda Urban for this post and for the tweet.

And it's back---SLJ's Battle of the Kids' Books: The 2013 Contenders

Thanks to Monica Edinger, educator and blogger at educating alice for this tweet.

This is the truth. Ten Fictional Libraries I'd Love to Visit

Thanks to Debbie Alvarez, teacher-librarian currently in Hong Kong and blogger at The Styling Librarian for this tweet.

To the first person who can tell me the name of the fourth library on this list (I love one particular line in this movie.  I actually cheered in the theater.) I will send a copy of Insurgent, the second title in the dystopian series by Veronica Roth. (This book has a winner.)

Many thanks for the tweet and for designing these book plates for International Book Giving Day go to Debbi Ridpath Ohi, illustrator of I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black.

For those that study fairy tales or have students write fractured fairy tales this video might be a good introduction.
Thanks to Macmillan Kids for the tweet.  Credit for this video goes to Cale Atkinson.

The much anticipated NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children was announced Friday.

Thanks to Candlewick Press for this tweet.

Take note #titletalk will begin at 8:00 PM EST on Twitter tomorrow hosted by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp.  The topic this month is Using Literature to Discuss Social Issues.

Thanks to Donalyn Miller, educator and  author of The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child.

These are the tweets and quotes this week that caught my eye, touched a personal belief or made me laugh.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Dogged Dogs

For anyone who follows this blog it's a given I not only love dogs, especially my chocolate lab, Xena, but I am fascinated with reading and reviewing books about dogs.  I've often thought maybe I should have a separate space for talking about the many fiction and nonfiction titles with canine characters, real or imagined, released for readers each year.  In May 2012 a title was sent out into the world which immediately captured my heart but I wanted to wait, until the right moment presented itself, before posting my thoughts here.

Bright and early yesterday morning, I visited teacher-librarian (and 2011 Library Journal Movers & Shakers) John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  His post, Video of the Day:  Remembering to be a Child, was a TEDx Beacon Street talk given by the winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and A Very Interesting Boy, author Jeanne Birdsall.  I was captivated for every second of the fourteen plus minutes; her soft spoken words weaving a marvelous spell around her listeners.  The right moment had arrived.

Jeanne Birdsall is the author of Lucky and Squash (Harper) with illustrations by her good friend Jane Dyer.  The title characters are based on two real-life canine companions, Scuppers (Tibetan terrier) who lives with Jane Dyer and Cagney (Boston terrier) who lives with Jeanne Birdsall.  Their friendship since puppyhood is the basis for this fictional story about two dogs who will do anything to spend the rest of their doggy lives as brothers.

Lucky and Squash were next-door neighbors and best friends.  

The friendship between the two is limited though, by a locked gate separating their two properties.  Lucky's human is Mr. Bernard and Squash's human is Miss Violet.  Unlike their dogs the people are so shy they've never spoken to each other.  What are the odds of them falling in love and getting married?  The howling of the pup pals is the answer.

With Squash's brains and Lucky's daring they devise a surefire plan, running away to the ocean scattering clues along the way.  Without a doubt when they are found together, Mr. Bernard and Miss Violet will instantly be attracted to one another.  Alas, barely a glance is exchanged and not a word is said.

Hmmm...it's time for scheme two, a visit to the city with another trail of hints.  Hooray, they discover them playing together again!  Do they speak?  Was that a smile?

Well, a dog's gotta' do what a dog's gotta' do.  Another adventure is devised.  Spreading signs to lead Miss Violet and Mr. Bernard right to them, the duo head off to the forest.

Oh, no!  This forest is not a nice place, not a nice place at all.  Lucky and Squash may have hatched their final escapade unless their people arrive immediately.  Love and friendship seek and find...finally.

There is a gentle rhythm to the telling of this tale.  Jeanne Birdsall, as she said in her TEDx talk, has watched, listened and remembered getting to the heart of how dogs might carry on a conversation with one another; an underlying humor is present in their persistence.  As they journey to the beach, the city and the forest, a phrase is repeated each time,

...they escaped and traveled for a day and a night, carefully leaving clues along the way.

For readers this connects each of their attempts but it also sprinkles a wee bit of magic into the narrative.  And that makes all the difference.

On the back jacket and cover readers can see the real Scuppers and Cagney sitting side by side in a garden looking right at them.  As their eyes shift to the right the two happy friends are running down the beach, side by side, looking at the readers.  Perhaps as foreshadowing Squash and Lucky are running along the fence, on the same side, on the title page.

Jane Dyer's watercolor pictures rendered in full color convey an welcoming warmth and charm.  She, too, captures the essence of dog showing them diligently digging under the fence time and time again or peeking between the slats.  When they make their escapes their activities mirror those of humans; building sand castles, snorkeling, a carriage ride in New York City or a visit to the Statue of Liberty.

Alternating between  double page, full page, or partial page pictures or small insets on a single page adds interest and invitation.  While the expressions on all the characters leave no doubt as to their personalities or current state of emotion, the close-ups of Lucky and Squash are total canine cuteness.  For an added touch of humor I particularly like the appearance of an "Absolutely No Digging" sign on the fence when they escape underneath for the third time.

What's not to love about Lucky and Squash written by Jeanne Birdsall with pictures painted by Jane Dyer?  This happily-ever-after modern day tale with match-making dogs will warm the hearts of readers of all ages; expect requests for repeat readings.

Embedded in Jeanne Birdsall's name is a link to her web page for this title.  By following this link you can browse inside the book at the publisher's website.  Just in case Mr. Bernard looks familiar to you, check out this blog post.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Third Time's The...Charm?

In ancient times it is written a sneeze was viewed as a good omen; believing, as they come unbidden, the gods must have caused it.  If a sneeze was heard when one was speaking then it must be the truth or if a new venture was being undertaken it would be successful.  Even though there is no definitive reason, the act of blessing someone who has sneezed dates back to the time of the Caesars.

It seems certain superstitions are attached to sneezing depending on the culture from which they come. Certain Asian cultures believe one is being talked about if they sneeze; even the number of sneezes have meaning.  All these notions pale in comparison to the unexpected (at least from the reader's view) potential of a sneeze happening on Chu's Day (Harper) written by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Adam Rex.

When Chu sneezed, bad things happened.

Chu, a little panda guy, begins his day with a trip to the library with his mother.  Everyone knows about the dust which loves to live in books.  Will this be the moment a sneeze pops out?

Midday he meanders into the diner with his father for a bite to eat.  People enjoying their lunch tend to spice up their meals with a bit (or more) of pepper.  Will this be the moment a sneeze pops out?

What a surprise!  Chu and his parents are going to the circus.  He tries to get their attention.  He really has to speak with them.

His final sentence is uttered with nary a soul hearing.  Then the bad thing happens because Chu sneezes.  He's truly sorry but what's a little panda guy to do.

Neil Gaiman has a masterful command of language and pacing.  Up until the circus when Chu wants his parents to listen to him, a single sentence suffices to tell the reader precisely what they need to know, not a syllable more.  (Although, a careful reader will wonder why his parents question whether he is going to sneeze.  Do they know something?) With the addition of more sentences, tension builds like blowing up a balloon until it pops.  When Chu speaks again, one word conveys complete comic relief to the point readers will be unable to restrain their laughter.  Again on the last page Gaiman uses one word, a word to close the day, the story and, in Chu's mind, his sneezing mishap.  All is right in Chu's world.

True to form, when I held Chu's Day in my hands for the first time, I opened up the jacket and cover; mirror images of each other.  Chu's attire, the green striped shirt and the pilot's helmet with goggles, coupled with his expression, immediately sets the stage for events to come.  On the back cover we see...the back of Chu with a snail behind him facing toward the reader.

Adam Rex surrounds most of his illustrations with white space with the exception of the colorful, bright scenes in the library, the diner, the circus, and the sneeze.  This contrast brings the reader right into those paintings looking over the intricate details.  I could happily frame the library scene to hang in my home; the mice on computers inside the card catalog drawers, the animal caricature for the national library symbol.

The features on the characters are lively and comic, especially the parents.  Even now, I'm unable to keep from laughing looking at the library and diner visuals during the sneeze and the circus after it has passed.  Looking for the snail throughout provides added interest and fun.

If you're looking for a lively story about a panda with a preposterous problem, then Chu's Day written by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Adam Rex is exactly the book for you and your readers.  The pairing of the spare text with the expressive, full-of-life, illustrations is guaranteed to bring on an abundance of gleeful giggles.

Here is a link to a wonderful interview of Adam Rex on the Bookie Woogie blog several years ago.  The link embedded in his name is to his website.  UPDATE:  Since the release of this blog post, Adam Rex wrote a wonderful post, How I Make a Picture Book,  describing his process for this title.

Here is a link to a poster celebrating Chu's Day.  A four page activity guide for Chu's Day is linked here.  At this page you can see inside some of the pages in Chu's Day.

Embedded in Neil Gaiman's name above is the link to his website for children.  This link is to his blog post about Chu's Day.  At this site Neil Gaiman reads Chu's Day aloud nearly in its entirety.

Here is the book trailer for Chu's Day.

And finally I could not resist sharing this short clip of a baby panda sneezing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Page By Page

loose-leaf...having leaves secured in book form in a cover whose spine may be opened for adding, arranging, or removing leaves

Yesterday afternoon my favorite source for interesting, professional and personal online or mobile applications, Heather Moorefield, Education Librarian and former chair of the American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, tweeted about a website featuring instant online publication of one's writing.  This same site is mentioned in a post dated November 19, 2011 by Larry Ferlazzo, educator and blogging at Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day...   Loose Leaves caught my attention immediately for several reasons. There is no registration requirement; writing is a click away.  The site is free of charge.

To begin writing simply click on the point of the leaf, Turn over a new leaf!, indicated by the arrow.  You are taken to a new window, a writing template, for composing your work.  Your first step is to enter in a title.

Beneath the title is the tool bar including font style, alignment, indenting, paragraph style and insert item.  Your font style can be bold, in italics, underlined or the text color can be altered.  Your writing can be aligned on the left, center, right or justified.  Paragraphs can be indented, outdented, bulleted or numbered.  Their style can be normal or header 1-6 in size.    Images can be inserted via a URL.  If a portion of text is highlighted a link can be embedded with a URL plus the addition of a description which appears when moused over.
In order to change the font color or the paragraph style the text must also be highlighted.

Yesterday a query was sent over Twitter for a simple template for students giving book recommendations.  Loose Leaves presents the perfect opportunity for an easy reader's response.  Based upon a template found at ReadWriteThink.org  they might include a very brief introduction (title, author, illustrator, fiction or nonfiction, genre or subject), the hook (set up the scene including the characters, setting and beginning action or a basic overview of the subject covered), their favorite part, paragraph or line and their recommendation and why.  Have them pretend it's a script for a booktalk.

As I started to fill in the template I discovered when you want to add an image another smaller window appears giving you further options.  You have:  a space to enter in the image URL, the option to alter the size, the decision to have the text flow left, inline, block or right, the choice to have a border or not (if you do it can be solid, dashed or dotted with varying sizes and colors), the option to alter the padding, the opportunity to enter in a description of the image and a space for entering in the link URL.  I am not sure what the open in a new window does because nothing seemed to changed when I checked the box.

If you make a spelling error the word will be underlined in red.  When you have completed all the tasks, click on save (cancel is an option also).  An new screen appears giving you two URLs associated with your Loose Leaves publication.  The first is one to view, to share.  For purposes of editing and managing a second URL is shown. Make sure you write both in a secure location. Or you can enter in your email address to have them sent to you.

When you click on the view URL a new screen appears.  In the upper right hand corner are icons allowing sharing options; tweet on Twitter, share on Facebook, like on Facebook or post on Google+.  When you select the manage URL you are taken to your publication.  Click on the edit button to make any changes.  Don't forget to save.

Once again I feel so fortunate to be a part of the Twitter community.  This application, Loose Leaves, is perfect for use in an educational setting due to the no registration requirement for use.  It is simple to understand the toolbar and options offered there.  A nice feature offered by the creator of the site is a contact option on the right side of the screen.  With a click, it pops out.  Loose Leaves has found a home in my virtual toolbox.

This is the link to my Loose Leaves titled Book Recommendation.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

To Bloom Where You Are Planted...

There is no question about the value of picture book biographies based on solid research written to inform and connect with the reader; illustrations evoking a culture, a historical climate and the person's place in each of those.  In the space of thirty-two pages a masterful author and illustrator can focus on the significant events of the selected individual's life making their struggles and triumphs relevant and timeless for any age.  It is the person who we may think has the least in common with us that is the most similar.

In May of 1962 a man who lived sixty years, born in 1579, was canonized, the first black saint in the Americas.  Author Gary D. Schmidt, two time Newbery Award Honor winner, and illustrator David Diaz, winner of the 1995 Caldecott Medal, compliment and enhance each other's skills in the summer 2012 release of Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).  This is a life to be remembered, a life which can give hope to many.

Anna Velazquez hurried out of the barrios of Lima and onto the plaza.  She carried a quiet baby, wrapped closely so that no one could see him---but no one was looking.

This woman, a freed African slave, is making her way to the cathedral to seek baptism for her child.  The boy's father, a Spanish nobleman, is not present.  Not pleased with this the priest nevertheless completes the christening.

Living in the abject poverty of the barrios of Lima, Peru, Martin and his younger sister Juana are haunted by hunger and illness until at the age of eight his father, Don Juan de Porres took them both to Ecuador.  Several years later back in Lima Martin becomes the apprentice of a cirujano, a type of doctor, per his father's arrangements.  It is during this time Martin's gifts begin to shine; his healing abilities, his capacity to make things grow quickly and well.

Due to his race, Martin is not allowed to study to be a Dominican brother but at the age of fifteen he is allowed to enter the monastery to serve the others doing menial tasks; sweeping and washing floors, cutting hair, opening doors and cleaning baths.  Father Lorenzana realizes through tales being told that Martin is no ordinary young man; his talents are increasing.  Martin's devotion to healing people in the barrios, spreading to include people from all walks of life, becomes legendary as does his care for dogs.  

Within thirteen years that which was written was broken.  Miracles multiplied; being seen in two places at once, candle-carrying angels lighting his way and those trees he planted bore fruit all year long.  In 1639 voices floated from the monastery to be joined by voices in the streets of Lima, a Mother's belief, "He is a rose in the desert." was no longer blooming.

There is a particular, unique, quality to the writing of Gary D. Schmidt; drawing readers into a place so completely you believe you are there.  The easy flow of his narrative mirrors the spare life of Martin de Porres but there is also an undercurrent of richness to be felt in the telling, a richness revealed and received by all whose lives were touched by Martin de Porres.  Schmidt's technique of repeating what the slave boys, Spanish royals and priests see and say in a given set of circumstances places emphasis on the class differences but also highlights the faith of each, their willingness to believe.  It strengthens the importance of the saint's beginnings and the obstacles overcome to do what he did.

A young Martin de Porres simply clothed as a servant of the Dominican brothers surrounded by shades of green and followed by the smallest of creatures (spread across the front and back jacket and cover) begins the tale of a quiet, servant who rose to miraculous achievements.  Opening and closing endpapers, a vibrant but soft shade of rose, encase the mixed media illustrations of David Diaz. An older Martin head bowed, a golden-orange glow framing his face graces the title page. 

All the pictures span two pages with the text set in various spots; never a distraction but a part of each.  On three of the visuals smaller illustrations showcase a particular part in the retelling; a baptismal font, a lemon tree and a rose. The color palette, the shades of green, blue, red, gold and brown, simply glow.      Perhaps my favorite illustration of all is Martin moving through the arched cathedral hallways at night, two angels flying by his side, lanterns in hand, as he carries bread to feed to the poor, a dog walking by his side.

With the richness of Gary D. Schmidt's writing matched by the peaceful, luminosity of David Diaz's illustrations, Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert is picture book perfection, a biography to be relished repeatedly.  Readers young and old alike will be able to identify with the barriers Martin faced in his life but can also take heart in knowing barriers can be surmounted in more ways than one.
Please follow the link embedded in Gary D. Schmidt's name to view his website.  This is a link to a Scholastic interview of David Diaz.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inside a Hat

I recently reread an article in Psychology Today written by Pamela Brown Rutledge Ph. D., M. B. A. in Positively Media titled The Psychological Power of Storytelling.  Two phrases from six of her main points which resonate are:

Stories are about collaboration and connection.  They transcend generations, they engage us through emotions, and they connect us to others.

Stories are how we are wired. ... To the human brain, imagined experiences are processed the same as real experiences.

And more recently an article written by Leo Widrich titled The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains another interesting point is:

When we are being told a story, things change dramatically.  Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.

For these reasons coupled with personal experience, I am continually looking for books to excite listeners to the sheer power, the fun, of story.  Sometime during the month of December author Ame Dyckman, Boy + Bot (Alfred A. Knopf) (reviewed here), tweeted about a terrific title she had just read, Mr. Zinger's Hat (Tundra Books, a division of Random House Canada Limited) by Cary Fagan with illustrations by Dusan Petricic.  At the first reading, as each page was turned, I became more and more excited.  You could not ask for a better book about story and storytelling.

Every day after school, Leo took his ball into the courtyard.  He threw the ball high into the air.  It would hit the brick wall and bounce back, and Leo would try to catch it.

About the same time each day when Leo was throwing that ball, a neighbor, a writer of stories, Mr. Zinger would walk in circles around the courtyard where Leo was playing.  One day after school that ball bouncing got a little out of control; the ball soaring too high for Leo to catch it.  It flew toward Mr. Zinger knocking his hat into the air.

A breeze caught that hat, Mr. Zinger called for Leo's help and Leo scurried to get it.  Like a magnet to metal Mr. Zinger's hat settled right on top of Leo's head over his baseball cap.  This ordeal had Mr. Zinger a little frazzled so he asked Leo to sit a spell with him on the bench.

Mr. Zinger questioned why his hat took off like it did, peering to see what might be inside.  His reply was:

"Ah, I see now," said Mr. Zinger.  "It's a story.  A story trying to get out."

Through a series of questions, answers and imaginative musings Leo and Mr. Zinger made a story.  Should the story be about a man or a boy, will he be poor or rich, happy or sad and what exactly happened to this person?  With the story finished Mr. Zinger left to go back to his writing.

As Mr. Zinger walked away Leo's final question to him prompted a reply as true as time.  Least you think the tale is over, think again.  Leo went back to his ball and throwing it against the wall.

That ball went too high again.  A voice called out.  Play.  Bench.  Baseball Cap.  Guess what happened next?

Through word choice, dialogue between his characters, and pacing Cary Fagan manages to make the everyday magical.  The gap between generations is easily bridged through a mutual respect and the exchange of imaginative thoughts.  Using the hat as a receptacle for stories is a stroke of genius; capturing our thoughts, dreams, or ideas.

 Choosing to make Mr. Zinger's hat the focal point of the front and back jacket and cover, the title page, verso and dedication page reinforces the title selection, its importance and, in the reader's mind, a question forms, "What is it about Mr. Zinger's hat?"  All the illustrations in this title are rendered in watercolor by Dusan Petricic.  Large amounts of white space act as frames around the different sized pictures, some single pages, others crossing the gutter, extending across two pages.

Readers cannot help being drawn to the animated features of the freckle-faced, red haired boy side-by-side the older gentleman with bushy white eyebrows, mustache and beard.  The casual bright play clothing, shorts, T-shirt, tennis shoes and ball cap of Leo contrast against those of Mr. Zinger, a dark suit and hat.  Petricic's technique of changing the style of the illustrations, more cartoon-like, to differentiate between the story within the story is a very nice touch.  These pictures, young and old, colorful and classic, soft and bold, enhance the idea of storytelling as a bridge between differences.  My two favorite visuals are the bench scenes; Leo looking inside the hat when Mr. Zinger holds it above his head and Leo holding his baseball cap so his new friend can look inside.

Mr. Zinger's Hat written by Cary Fagan with watercolor illustrations by Dusan Petricic is full of the might, the miracle, of making stories.  It's not hard to picture a group of students walking into an educational setting, being giving a hat as they enter and telling them that today "H is for Story".  The questions and answers will undoubtedly be as varied as the people themselves.  After hearing Mr. Zinger's Hat, I wonder what stories will emerge from inside their hats?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Twitterville Talk #84

All week long the recommendations and chats about books and reading are constant.  Twitter continues to be the best resource for up-to-date information exchanged between committed educators.  In honor of my Mom's 93rd birthday today there are three questions hidden in this post.  Have fun and take time for reading.

Let's start off the wrap-up this week with an outstanding video titled Teacher Librarians At The Heart Of School Learning.  This video says what all teacher librarians know to be true; thirty-four years tells me it is so.

Thanks to teacher librarian and blogger at Bulldog Readers Blog, Julie Hembree, for this tweet.

In case you are looking for a base collection of Graphic Novels you can't go wrong with the titles listed here at the Association for Library Service to Children's  Core Collection of Graphic Novels 2012 Update .
For a chance to win a copy of Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey by Mini Grey, which Babymouse book made this graphic novel list?  Leave your answer in the comments or DM me on Twitter. (This has been won.)

Thanks to Maria Selke, teacher and blogger at Maria's Melange for this tweet.

The Pew Research Center has designed a fourteen question quiz to determine How Millennial Are You?

Thanks to teacher librarian, tech specialist and blogger at The Mad River Librarian Meg Allison for this tweet.

Who really knows what the future will bring in terms of technology?  It is changing so rapidly.  I am not sure though if the "all or nothing" approach is the best. San Antonio's Launching the First Completely Bookless Public Library

Thanks to Education Librarian and former chair of the American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Heather Moorefield for this tweet.

Are you ready for International Book Giving Day on February 14th.  Make sure you head over to the website and get a copy of the poster.

Thanks so much to Julie Danielson, picture book expert extraordinaire and blogger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for this tweet.

Ever relevant and as a reminder The Rights of The Reader by Daniel Pennac illustrated by Quentin Blake

John Green on The Fault in Our Stars, One Year Later

If you missed John and Hank Green and the assorted stars at Carnegie Hall the entire video of the evening is here.  It was an amazing evening.

Jacqueline Woodson's 'Each Kindness' Wins 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award

Thanks for these tweets go to School Library Journal.

Every year you can feel the excitement in the air growing stronger and stronger as January gets closer.  Now it's less than ten days away---2013 ALA Youth Media Awards
Of the five authors who have won the Newbery award twice, name one and the book titles for a chance to win a copy of Edgar nominee, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.  Please DM your answer on Twitter or leave it in the comments.

Make sure you get a copy of the World Read Aloud Day packet.

In case you missed the #SharpSchu book club on Wednesday courtesy of Mr. Schu is The Angleberger-Buckley Book Club Meeting archives.

Thanks to John Schumacher teacher librarian, 2011 Library Journal's Movers & Shakers and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. for these tweets.

This is an excellent article written by Joseph Bruchac, Abenaki author and storyteller, Diversity 101: Not Injun Joe: Native American Stereotyping in Literature.

Thanks to the Children's Book Council for this tweet.

The Doodle 4 Google contest is open again.  Head over to Free Technology for Teachers to get the scoop.

Thanks to Richard Byrne for this tweet.

We have choices every single day.  Wonder by R. J. Palacio asked us to choose kind.  Watch this video about the choice a very special brother made for his very special brother.

Thanks for Katherine Sokolowski, fifth grade teacher and blogger at Read, Write, Reflect for this tweet.

This announcement is going to make a whole bunch of readers happy as can be---Hold On To Your Tighty Whities, Captain Underpants Is Back

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

This is your chance to make your voice heard.  Head over to Booklist Online and You First! What's Your Favorite Book Of The Year.

Thanks to Travis Jonker, teacher librarian and blogger at 100 Scope Notes for this tweet.

Extra, extra make sure you check out the new website for TOON Books.  

Many thanks to Candlewick Press for this tweet.

The 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction has been chosen.
For a chance to win a copy of The Dogs of Winter by Bobbie Pyron (signed) who won the Scott O'Dell Award in 1994 and what was the book's title? Please DM on Twitter or leave the answer in the comments.

Thanks to The Horn Book for this tweet.

Have you seen Dave Roman's online serialized graphic novel, Astronaut Academy?

Thanks to author/illustrator Dave Roman for this tweet.

When walking with Xena earlier in the snow I thought of another item I wish to add to this week's best picks.  On Friday this tweet was sent out---Eric Carle made me a doodle!  This post suggests we send doodles to one another.  How fun is that?! My Mom loves Eric Carle and back in the day he graced her school with an author visit. To the first person who can tell me the year Eric and Barbara Carle founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art by leaving the answer in the comments or via a DM on Twitter I will send a signed copy of his board book Let's Paint A Rainbow. (This item has been won.)

Thanks to The Pigeon for this tweet.

These are some of my favorite tweets and quotes of the week.