Quote of the Month

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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Wacky Vehicles

When my younger sister and I began driving, my parents bought us a "safe" but really old car.  It had seen one too many Michigan winters; the salt on the roads having had its way on the wagon's body.  It was a tad bit disconcerting to be able to see the roadway passing beneath your feet from a hole in the floor.

Nowadays my vehicle of choice, less than a year old, is more computer than anything else, having an owner's manual as thick as a phone book.  Although it's by far the best car I have ever purchased (since my chances of owning the Batmobile are slim to none), I can't help but wonder about the modes of transportation featured in this new book, Poem-Mobiles:  Crazy Car Poems (Schwartz & Wade Books) written by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian with illustrations by Jeremy Holmes.  There is no doubt in my mind taking one of these models for a spin will garner a bunch of gawkers in short order.

Train means train, bus means bus,
Truck means truck to most of us.

So auto ought to mean, you see,
Auto automatically. ...

Children flock to the enormous bookmobile running on imagination power driven by a book character as a car so tiny the driver is stuck inside follows behind.  It looks happier when under the sea but its two tails, seats with scales, fins and gills give the driver plenty of thrills on land.  If you thought dinosaurs are extinct, look again...behind your school to see a rip-roaring ride that might collide with The Dragonwagon. Yikes!

If you are tired of recycling all your paper, make a car that can easily be disposed of when it starts to go when it should stop.  If you continually miss the sights along the road, never fear.  The Backwards Car is your perfect set of wheels.  If your closet shelves and floors are lined with rows of shoes in every shade and shape, why not hitch a ride on the ultimate footwear form, The High-Heel Car?

Pulled by a cow, slightly lifted by balloons, or flown to the moon by sprouted wings, these marvelous machines move.  Take a bath in bubbles as you travel?  No thanks, I think I'll pass.  When hunger strikes and your destination is reached, don't worry because your car is the perfect feast.

Pink bubble gum, over-grown grass and eggs create parts and pieces of motorists' astonishing automobiles.  For love, for dessert, for speed and for bounce, they will never fail to please.  As a passenger, a driver behind the wheel or a reader needing light and laughter, these twenty-one poetic improbabilities are a transportation treat.

Both J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian, outstanding poets, have creatively collaborated to make the stuff of dreams a possibility on these pages.  They rhyme.  They have rhythm.  They cavort, careen, crack, swerve and slide down highways, alleys and streets.  The cadence generated by wordplay combined by the power of one's imagination will have readers wanting at least one of these vehicles waiting in their garage.  You can hear the laughter of the children riding the Giant Bookmobile of Tomorrow, feel the swish of water passing by the Eel-ectric Car, taste the condiments on the Hot Dog Car, smell the fudge and whipped cream on The Banana Split Car and see the wonder of one hundred balloons holding up the Balloon Car.  Here's a single sample from one of the poems.

There was an old woman
Who lived in high heels.
She loved one so much
That she gave it three wheels. ...

Several of the automobiles featured inside the title create the two page image on the matching jacket and cover.  Every element of this illustration, the title banner, the authors and illustrator names on signs, the ISBN attached to the car carrier truck on the back, the portion of the Dragonwagon poem on a cloud, is excellently designed.  Darkened opening and closing endpapers show tire tracks.  On the title page, the letters hang from strings coming from beneath the clouds as a signal light glows green.

Spreading across two pages the Contents depicts outlines of each car with the title and page number.  To the right an introductory poem sets things in motion.  A palette of pastels, bright and bold, creates luminous whimsy in all the pictures.  These automotive portrayals invented using pencil, watercolor and digital coloring by Jeremy Holmes would be the envy of any engineer.  With the exception of four pages all of the illustrations extend, edge to edge, over two pages.  One picture is even shown vertically.

Intricate details, the spines on the bookmobile books, the speech bubble declaring Recess has been canceled, the elderly woman sitting with her three cats on the roof of a building, the labels of insect stages, the Royal Throne and the facial features on the humans and creatures, all contribute to the wonder, the amazement, one feels when looking at all these pictures.  Each one is an invitation to pause, not only to read the poem but to look for the potential these words might generate.  I have more than one favorite illustration but two which I like in particular are the schoolyard scene with the dinosaur and dragon (Jurassic Park(ing) and The Dragonwagon) and the two pages, day and night, for The Love Car.

Don't wait for April, National Poetry Month, or even a special day of the week, to explore the fantastical fun in Poem-Mobiles:  Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian with pictures by Jeremy Holmes.  You, your children or your students will be ready to make your own nutty machines ready to ride or drive anyplace you can imagine.  Please visit the authors' and illustrator's websites via the links embedded in their names above.  Jeremy Holmes has several pages displayed for your enjoyment.  Follow this link to the publisher's website to get a glimpse inside at the first few pages.

UPDATE:  Please visit Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast hosted by Julie Danielson where she interviews Jeremy Holmes.  The amount of artwork is amazing.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Super Heroes in Aprons

Being able to eat lunch served in the cafeteria was a big deal when I was in school.  Our family was on a very tight budget so we ate brown bag lunches almost every single day from first grade through high school.  On those rare occasions when I was given money to eat lunch in the school cafeteria, I saved it until the noon hour macaroni and cheese was served.  To this day I've never tasted macaroni and cheese as delicious as served by those wonderful cooks.

I often wondered if they included a secret ingredient to make the flavor and texture so mouth-watering good.  In the summer of 2009 when the first Lunch Lady graphic novel entered the world, my previous thoughts of mysterious powers held by those culinary folks in the kitchen were confirmed,  All nine titles since that day, Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians, Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta, Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown, Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit, Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco, Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes, Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril, and Lunch Lady and the Video Game Villain, have all been leading up to the final episode in this phenomenal series, Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle (Alfred A. Knopf) written and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.

Everybody freeze!  This is a robbery!
Put all your cash in the bags and nobody gets hurt!
He's getting away!
C'mon! We've got the loot.  Let's get outta here!
We're filthy rich!

As if this latest crime spree of bank robberies isn't enough, things at Thompson Brook School are getting progressively worse.  Lunch Lady and her partner, Betty, are noticeable absent.  The new Superintendent Dr. Van Grindheimer, with her administrative cohorts, Vice Principal Pasteur and Principal Edison, and a strange new teaching staff, have the Breakfast Bunch crew, Hector, Dee and Terrence, and even Milmoe angry and worried.  Classes are being eliminated and the new rules are absolutely medieval.

On the whispered advice of the school custodian, Kalowski, the trio visit a local burger joint.  Betty, working at the counter there, finally leaps into action.  Arriving at Lunch Lady's apartment more than one startling discovery is made.  Two teams leave ready to thwart the as-yet-unknown plan of the evil Dr. Van Grindheimer.

Astonishing apples!  What's up with The League of Librarians!?  Terrifying tomatoes!  What's that you say about the treadmills?!  Monstrous melons!  Lunch Lady, Betty and the Breakfast Bunch need a plan in place now!

At Thompson Brook School students fill the hallways like rising bread.  Enemies appear in every corner like hot-popped corn.  As the sun sets and the moon climbs skyward, the fate of all falls on Lunch Lady (and her groovy gadgets).

Holy ravioli! Indeed.

Words and phrases readers have come to know and appreciate are present on every page.  Jarrett J. Krosoczka serves up a narrative spiced with spirit, determination, evil exclamations and of course, food.  Readers are in the middle of each moment, tied together with

In Principal Edison's office...
After school...
The next morning...  or
Throughout the day... .

His characters never disappoint in their zeal for good or bad making this latest installment a true page-turner.  What more could readers want than a boiler room, hidden behind a sliding refrigerator, filled with enough technology to rival the Bat Cave, Electronic Bananarangs, a beastly school bus or enough POW!, HIYAAAH! and ZAP! to make their hearts pound?  Here's a single dialogue exchange between Lunch Lady and Betty.

Oh my.  Hard-boiled egg for
breakfast.  Hard-boiled egg for lunch.
And for dinner---a slab of steak,
cooked rare.
Just as I
a tough

Using ink on paper with digital coloring Jarrett J. Krosoczka's signature black, white and yellow images fill the panels with animated movement and emotion.  Visuals vary in size, sometimes several on a single page; others occupy the entire page edge to edge.  If necessary to the plot smaller, narrower pictures cross the gutter extending across two pages.  When a single illustration covers double pages a crescendo is reached in the narrative.

Outlines around speech bubbles reveal the emphasis and volume of the speakers.  Tiny labels with arrows pointing to the gadgets add to the sense of adventure and humor.  It's hard to pick a favorite but a surprise greeted with cheers by the students has a single word on the small corner image,


Whether you are new to the series or a faithful reader of all ten books, Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle written and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a riveting romp of a ride right down to the final panel.  I read it in a single sitting, closed the cover and started it all over again.  These books have brought guys and gals into the reading community for nearly five years.  I applaud you Jarrett J. Krosoczka for the quality of your writing and illustrating and for being an integral part of children's literature.  Our world needs a hero who can serve lunch and justice.

For those of you who wish to know more about Jarrett J. Krosoczka and his other titles, follow the link to his website embedded in his name above.  There is an official Lunch Lady website linked above also.  It contains many types of resources and links to the publisher's website where you can peek inside other books in the series.  Have fun reading these Ten Random Facts About the Lunch Lady Series.  Enjoy the videos below.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Inside A Package

It's still somewhat of a miracle to me, not having grown up with computers and the Internet, how quickly information spreads and expands in content on almost any topic imaginable.  Toward the beginning of this month author Kate Messner (Over and Under the Snow Capture the Flag, Wake Up Missing) posted the following tweet on Twitter.

This led me to her blog post, Happy 2014!, discussing, among other things, the title of a new book by one of her critique partners.  On a wind-howling, frigid-temperature, snowy afternoon  a few days ago, it was delivered to my doorstep.

Whether you see them flitting past in your very own backyard, when out trekking through the countryside or walking through a place of wonder like The Butterflies in the Garden at the 4-H Children's Gardens at Michigan State University, your viewpoint will be positively changed after reading this book.  Author Loree Griffin Burns and photographer Ellen Harasimowicz collaborate again in their new release, Handle With Care:  An Unusual Butterfly Journey (Millbrook Press).  Thousands of miles away from the United States, a unique farm exists.

A mysterious package has arrived at the museum.  It's shiny and has traveled a long, long way.  

This package carries precious cargo from Costa Rica.  When opened there are rows of butterfly pupa placed in foam.  If you are unaware of the term pupa, it is defined succinctly as being a stage of insect life.

As a reader you might at this point be wondering why a box of pupa have been shipped from Central America to Boston, Massachusetts.  We begin...at the beginning.  Eggs are being laid by a mother butterfly.

The difference between this butterfly, and others you and I may have seen, is it lives inside a screened greenhouse.  On this particular farm, El Bosque Nuevo, three structures serve as residences for the butterflies.  When the eggs hatch, caterpillars eat, molt and grow over and over until they are ready to become pupae.

Farmers work tirelessly to make sure the caterpillars have plenty of leaves to eat as well as making crushed fruit and sugar water available for the adult butterflies.  Endless hours are spent each day making sure no enemies of these herds...yes, herds...of larvae enter the enclosures.  Watching and waiting, the farmers move elder caterpillars to the final home, the puparium.

Here they will hang until their departure.  Some go back into the forest, others to the screened greenhouses and many arrive in places far away wrapped carefully in layers for their journey.   How fortunate for all of us there are people, farmers, tending these gardens in order to preserve their land and to bring beauty to those who wish to see.

As I gaze out upon a snowy landscape, snug inside my home, it's a joy to be able to read about something I never knew existed due to the efforts of author, Loree Griffin Burns.  In sentences the youngest of readers can understand, she takes us on a circular tour from museum to forest and back to the museum.  Each portion of the journey, interesting details about the insect stages and the farmers who care for them, is expressed in a conversational manner.  It's as if we are there with her at El Bosque Nuevo.  Here is a sample passage.

This is a butterfly pupa.  Some people call it
a chrysalis.  Really, though, it's an ingenious
package.  Inside its sturdy skin, a butterfly
larva---you might call it a caterpillar---is
quietly changing into an adult.

The matching jacket and cover is only a welcoming preface to what can only be described as a stunning photographic display within the pages of this title.  Opening and closing endpapers feature panels of various grouped pupae and breathtaking adult butterflies.  Opposite the title page is a colorful collage composition of insect, handbook and flower.  Stretching from right to left, leaving space for the dedication and publication panel, pupae hanging in rows are pictured.

Ellen Harasimowicz has masterfully documented the narrative with her visuals.  Using accent colors of celery green to frame pictures and purple to feature captions, readers are treated to a seamless layout and design.  Photographs range in size and perspective; a close-up of an adult laying her eggs, a landscape view of the farm, farmers working among the leaves inside the greenhouse or the step-by-step opening of a single pupa.

One of the most fascinating photographs is of the puparium.  Seeing those white screened cabinets housing thousands of caterpillars, is a marvel.  A farmer is placing fresh leaves inside one of the homes for those larvae still eating.

Handle with Care:  An Unusual Butterfly Journey written by Loree Griffin Burns with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz is a captivating read about a topic of which many students will be unaware.  After reading this book, I guarantee their appreciation for their world and those caretakers in it will increase.  The closing pages of the title include Insects and their Life Cycles, Insect Words, a Glossary, Further Reading, a Selected Bibliography, an Index and an Author's Note.  

Please follow the links embedded in the author's and photographer's names to access their websites.  Here is a link to the publisher's website allowing you to view more pages from the book.  I think you might be interested in this tweet which I received from author, Loree Griffin Burns.

I am excited to be participating in Alyson Beecher's 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted at her blog Kid Lit Frenzy.  Make sure you stop over there to see all the other nonfiction picture books showcased by other bloggers.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Virtual Post-It Boards-Spaaze

All day yesterday, Twitter was literally exploding with news about the American Library Association Youth Media Awards.  Around the world those of us not able to attend the announcements in person were glued to our screens, watching the live streaming of the event.  As I watched, read, commented on and favorited tweets, I knew I wanted to save some of these memories if I could.

As I looked through my favorites last night I saw a tweet from Heather Moorefield-Lang, Education Librarian at Virginia Tech and current chairperson of the American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching & Learning committee.  She mentioned a web 2.0 application called Spaaze.  As far as I could discover Spaaze is not new but it's new to me.  I thought I might be able to use it to gather websites and tweets.

At the site Spaaze states:

Spaaze is an infinite virtual corkboard, and you can use it to do almost everything.

Beneath their header, left to right, you can learn more about the site, the pricing (it works on a point system, ninety-nine points are free), the extensive help section and their blog which keeps users informed on the latest news about the application.  As you can see from the image above, Spaaze can be used to collect bookmarks, to group together ideas, to create task lists, to work together on projects or brainstorm, to post information for research in the classroom or as a basic web page.  As you click on each of those "uses", the board to the right changes backgrounds and example information.  If you click on any of those boards a new window opens so you can begin to create your own Spaaze.

I decided to sign up for Spaaze before creating a board.  Simply go to the small black box in the upper right-hand corner.  You can sign in using a Spaaze, Google, Yahoo or OpenId account or create one using an email address.  For this reason I recommend this service for students over the age of thirteen.

After you click the Sign up button, a new window opens with a blank board.  In the center you will notice you can go to the Spaaze blog or a quick Getting started section.  If either of these are selected a new window opens so you can toggle back and forth between them and your board.  You can also edit each of them (choose the wrench icon) or open them up on top of your board (choose the magnifying icon).

To begin designing a board, go to the upper left-hand corner, selecting the plus sign.  A drop down menu gives you the option of adding a bookmark, label, note, YouTube or Vimeo video, an image, file or HTML snippet.  These are called items. Items can be edited, moved or deleted.   When you move an item to the bottom of the board, a menu of choices pops up.  You can drag the item to the trash can, share it by selecting the swooping arrow or move it to a hot spot.

When adding a bookmark you enter in the URL for the site, a title, a short description and whether you want it to be in a new window or the same window.  I would recommend a new window.  Click Ok to continue adding items.

The addition of labels, notes, a YouTube or Vimeo video and a file are very simple. (Please note the URL of the video in your browser needs to be entered in, not the share link URL.)  If you choose to include an image, you can do so by uploading one from your computer or by using a URL link.  If you upload one from your computer it costs you four points. Four types of file formats are acceptable.

To include an HTML snippet, add it to your board.  Then click on the wrench icon.  Copy and paste the HTML code into the space provided.  When I placed the embed code from tweets into the space and it worked I was thrilled. (I'm surprised I did not "break" Spaaze by adding so many tweets.)  Spaaze does state this also works for widgets and gadgets.

When you have collected a number of items they can be arranged, besides dragging them into position, by using the star on the tool bar.  Selecting the star creates hot spots where like information can be gathered.  (I also want to point out that as your screen fills with items the board moves up and down so more and more items can be added.)  When you choose Jump to...  you can move to those named hot spots.

When you are done with your board for the time being, click on Default board.  A drop down menu allows you to alter the board settings (change background and name the board), publish or collaborate on the board, export the board or create a new board.  To collaborate enter in the email address of those you wish to invite.  When you publish the board it will appear in a read-only format. You are given a URL link to your board when it is published.  Here is the link to my board titled American Library Association Youth Media Awards.  Place your mouse on the board to move it around to view all the content.

At any time you can install a Spaaze bookmarklet to assist you in gathering items for your board.  You can manage your account or read the Getting started post again by clicking on the small gear icon in the upper right-hand corner.  If you click on the house icon you are taken back to the initial home page but if you are still logged in you can navigate around the site as shown in the image below.

As near as I can tell Spaaze has been available for at least three years.  It's another great option for creating virtual post-it boards.  My favorite part is being able to copy and paste in HTML codes.  Allowing collaboration is another good feature.  I really love that I can read tweets, watch videos and scroll through web pages on the same board.  I recommend placing this web 2.0 application in your virtual toolbox.

Monday, January 27, 2014

An Equinox, Food Names, Bus Seven and a Visit to Plimoth

In my way of thinking it's all about perspective.  When my chocolate Labrador had a close encounter with a white-tailed deer, after a moment of stunned silence, she was ready for the chase.  Earnest barking begins if she gets a whiff of one in the neighborhood.  A younger child would probably be awestruck before the squeals of wonder began.  I freely admit a part of me feels the same as the child, even after seeing hundreds of deer, up close or from afar, in my lifetime.  Another part of me, the gardener, thinks about all the tulips I never see bloom after the deer come through munching on all the buds.

For an author to give a reader the perspective of one or all of the characters in their story, to see the world through their eyes, is golden.  Author Sara Pennypacker (with spirited, hilarious illustrations by Caldecott Honor Medalist Marla Frazee) further endears readers to a favorite third grade student in Clementine and the Spring Trip (Disney Hyperion Books, March 2013).  There is never, ever a dull moment in the life of this mostly optimistic, daring and effervescent gal.

Spring is a really big deal here in Boston, let me tell you.  After all that snow and ice, the whole city goes a little crazy when the first warm weather shows up.

Spring for Clementine's best friend, Margaret, means cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning.  The story opens with her scrubbing the duck statues in the Public Gardens at the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture.  For Margaret's brother, Mitchell, it equals baseball and the Red Sox.  It translates into walking through the park for Clementine's pregnant mom, her dad and little brother (who she gives various vegetable names throughout the story).  For Clementine it means remembering the apple seeds she planted last fall near their building.

Excitement for the field trips spring brings hits the students at Clementine's school and in her classroom.  You have an increasingly lively four days during a special week when you add to this mix her teacher's impending fatherhood, fourth grade quiet eating rules, a new student named Olive, the shenanigans of a former student Baxter and the odoriferous Bus Seven.  On the day before the visit to Plimoth Plantation, a teacher request causes creative thinking on Clementine's part along with unease due to unwanted challenges.

On the home front Clementine's mom teeters between her cheery self and crunchy moments.  Outspoken for all the right reasons, her passion is never quiet.  A secret Pentagon project with her dad spiced with his stories of how and when he fell in love with her mom provides balance for our spunky protagonist.

As fate would decree, Clementine's group is assigned to the infamous bus, home of The Cloud. Conversations and actions by this inventive third grader during the field trip will have readers alternately laughing, cheering and admiring her.  Spring may make people a little crazy but Clementine addresses it all with surety, success and by heeding words of wisdom from her dad.

Clearly evident in this title is Sara Pennypacker's ability to create characters readers will want to visit over and over again.  We want to know what they will say and do.  Their perfection as people is that they are not perfect!  What Clementine, her mom, her dad, little brother, Margaret, Mitchell, Olive and the rest of the crew represent are good people being the best they can, when they can.

Even if this is the first title in the series read, you will immediately become part of the story, an enthusiastic participant, due to Pennypacker's style of writing. Her assessment of any given situation through Clementine's dialog or thoughts (or conversations with other characters) will have you gleefully chuckling.  Every single word is carefully chosen, linked to another and to another, until there are a series of sentences creating this memorable book.  Here are a few of many examples I marked with sticky notes. (Upon completion of my reading this title, it definitely had the porcupine look.)

Some workmen were jackhammering up a curbstone, which made my brother so excited he looked like he was being electrocuted.  

My dad came in then, with my brother in his arms.  "There is a rule about eating sounds?" he asked.
"Of course," I said.  And then I explained to my parents everything Margaret had warned me about.
When I was finished, my dad looked up from stirring yogurt into my brother's cereal. "Who made this rule?" he asked.
"Dad.  I already said.  The fourth graders.  First the mean ones, and now all of them."
"Yes, but who are these people? The sound police?"

And that is when I saw something I had never seen in my entire life:  Mrs. Rice was not wearing her principal shoes!  Instead, her feet were strapped into some navy blue puffy things.  I climbed over the back of Olive's seat and hung down to get a better look.  I think the things on her feet were supposed to be sandals, but what they looked like was...car seats!

If the corners of your mouth don't curl up in a smile when looking at the four drawings of Clementine Marla Frazee has on the title, verso and dedication pages, you might want to check for a pulse.  The black and white drawings in various sizes, some full page, illuminate every delightful scenario.  They are placed opposite and among the narrative to generate a seamless flow, a complete whole.  I can't look at the pages of the students' reactions to the discussion of The Cloud or Clementine's plea to her principal prior to the field trip without laughing.

If you are searching for one hundred fifty pages of pure bliss, Clementine and the Spring Trip written by Sara Pennypacker with illustrations by Marla Frazee is the book for you.  I would not hesitate to recommend this for a group read aloud or to an individual reader looking for upbeat realistic fiction.  If they haven't read any of the other titles in the series, I can guarantee this will make them want to do so as quickly as possible.

Please follow the links embedded in the author and illustrator names above to access their websites to read more about them and their work.  There is a study guide for the series at Sara Pennypacker's website.  This link will take you to the publisher's website where you can read the first chapter.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Twitterville Talk #136

This week the weather and the anticipation for the award announcements on Monday has been filling up my Twitter feed.  If you want to watch the awards live here is the link.  There have been wonderful exchanges, as always, between authors and illustrators talking about their work.  Numerous cold and snow days gave everyone extra time to get caught up on their reading but still...take time for reading this weekend.  Rest and relax.  Look for the giveaways.

If you are looking for an author to Skype with for World Read Aloud Day on March 5, 2014 author Kate Messner has compiled a list of volunteers here.

This is a fantastic post about an amazing video; The Making of a TED-Ed Video

This is outstanding---Bodies & Bookstores:  An Open Letter to Russell Banks

Thanks to Kate Messner (Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets) for these posts and these tweets.

The author of this article, The Mission of Librarians is to Empower,  really gets "it".

This is a great article, Librarians in the digital age and an infographic round-up

Thanks to Joyce Valenza, teacher librarian and blogger at the NeverEnding Search for these tweets.

There are some new Celebri-dots at the site.  Check out artwork by Drew Daywalt and Erin Dealey.  

Thanks to Terry Shay, 5-12 vocal and computer teacher, college adjunct, FableVision Learning Ambassador and blogger at TJ On a Journey, for these tweets.

It's important to broaden our students exposure to authors and illustrators from places other than the country in which they live.  I really enjoyed this post at the Nerdy Book Club, Look to the North!  My Ten Favourite Canadian Illustrators and Their Books by Carrie Gelson.

Even when I served as the school librarian at a high school, I purchased picture books for the collection.  This essay explains why---Top Ten Things Picture Books Taught Me by Beth Shaum.  
To the first person who can tell me the first item on Beth's list, I will send a copy of Dream Animals:  A Bedtime Journey written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin.  Please leave your answer in the comments below or send me a DM on Twitter. (This title has been won.)

Thanks to the Nerdy Book Club for these tweets.

In case you missed the flurry of tweets last weekend, here is a document capturing the events at #nErDcampNNE.

Thanks to Cathy Potter, K-5 school librarian and blogger at The Nonfiction Detectives, for this tweet.

The celebrating of the Chinese New Year will be here before you know it.  This is an extensive list of book titles, Chinese Folktales For Kids.

Thanks for this tweet goes to Mia Wenjen, blogger at Pragmatic Mom.

Guess what's happening on February 26, 2014?  It's the #SharpSchu Book Club!

Now this is some video! 

Charlotte's Web / Spider-Man Mashup (Bookie Woogie) from Z-Dad on Vimeo.

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

This is the seventh in a series of book recommendations, Emily's Library, Part 7.  The other posts are archived at the site.

Thanks to Philip Nel, professor, author (Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss:  How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children's Literature) and blogger at Nine Kinds of Pie, for these posts and this tweet.

Get ready for the second annual Nonfiction Event #nf10for10.  It's taking place on February 19, 2014.  Get the scoop at the Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community blog linked above.

Thanks to Cathy Mere, elementary educator and blogger at Reflect & Refine:  Building a Learning Community, for this post and this tweet.

A powerful story generates other powerful stories; Seek first to understand... A principal reflects on the wonder of Wonder by R J Palacio.

Thanks to Ben Gilpin, principal and blogger at The Colorful Principalfor this tweet.

You can never have too many dragon books on your shelves.  It's Monday! What Are You Reading? -Dragon Delight!

Thanks to Carrie Gelson, educator and blogger at There's a Book for That, for this tweet.

If you are looking for a collection of digital storytelling tools, look no further than those gathered by Joyce Valenza.

Thanks to Donna Baumbach, formerly edtech/edmedia professor at UCF in Orlando, for this tweet.

It's never too early to start thinking about April being National Poetry Month---Erasure Poetry

This is quite a list of YouTube channels.  Top Ten YouTube Channels #QuietLibrary

Thanks to Debbie Alvarez, teacher librarian currently in Hong Kong and blogger at The Styling Librarian for these tweets.

Don't miss this week's podcast, Let's Get Busy with author illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka

Thanks to Matthew C. Winner, elementary library media specialist, co-founder of #levelupbc, Library Journal Movers & Shakers 2013 Tech Leader and blogger at The Busy Librarian for this tweet.

The Association of Jewish Libraries announced The 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Awards this week.

Thanks to author Madelyn Rosenberg (The Canary in the Coal Mine) for this tweet.

Without further ado, I present the book trailers and author illustrator videos of this week.

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

Lemony Snicket's 'The Dark' Takes 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award

Thanks to School Library Journal for this tweet and post.

We always have wonderful new books to add to our lists and piles.  Librarian Preview: Blue Apple Books (Spring 2014)

Did you see this?  Video Trailer Debut:  Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante

This is interesting to look over.---Mock Lists-The Ultimate Round-Up

Thanks to Elizabeth Bird, New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collection Specialist and blogger at A Fuse #8 Production, for this post and tweet.

I love when illustrators share their process with readers.  Look at this amazing animated GIF Dan Santat shared on Twitter.  It's for the cover of the new book titled, The Rain Dragon Rescue (The Imaginary Veterinary series).

Thanks to Dan Santat, author illustrator (Sidekicks, Crankenstein) for this tweet.

Have you read The 2014 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction?  I've read other titles by this author but not this one.  I quickly added it to my growing indie order.
To the first person who can tell me the winner of this award, I will send a copy of The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes.  Please leave your answer in the comments below or send me a DM on Twitter. (This title has been won.)

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

Every year there are amazing books never recognized by any of the award committees.  Elizabeth Bird talks about it here, Picture Books That Will Never Win Awards.

Thanks to the New York Public Library for this tweet.

Look at the amazing art in these illustrations!  Winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola Award is Announced!

Thanks to the Eric Carle Museum for this tweet.

As the snow keeps falling, the winds keep howling and the temperatures keep dropping this sounds like a good idea, 16 Quotes That Will Make You Want To Cuddle Up With A Book.

Thanks to Shannon Miller, teacher librarian, presenter, consultant and blogger at Van Meter Library Voice, for this tweet.

Don't forget to stop by The Book Report, podcasts hosted by author illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka.  New posts include Aaron Becker, David Wiesner, Jon Scieszka and Bob Shea.

Thanks to Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle) for this tweet.

Have you seen this super fun book trailer for Rosie & Rex:  A Nose for Fun?

Thanks to author illustrator Bob Boyle for this tweet.

If you haven't seen this you might want to take a moment to look and wonder---The Life-Cycle of a Single Water Drop, in a Pop-Up Book Animated in Stop Motion

Thanks to author illustrator Deborah Freedman (The Story of Fish & Snail) for this tweet.

Guess what? The NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children was announced this past week.

Thanks to NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) for this tweet.

Kate DiCamillo says Thank You from Candlewick Press on Vimeo.

Thanks to Candlewick Press for this tweet.

And yet another article on the importance of reading, Don't Underestimate The Power of Pleasure Reading.

Thanks to educator, Jane Garver, for this tweet.

This video is guaranteed to make you smile.  Have a great time on Monday watching the award ceremony.

Thanks to award winning author Sharon Creech (The Boy on the Porch) for this tweet.

There's been lots of news and lots of fun this week.  Here are some of Xena and my favorites.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Hat, A Lump, And Four People

It all started with a hat.  Not a top hat or a straw hat or even a cowboy hat but a baseball cap.  Without any observable effort on the part of anyone in particular, baseball caps have risen to the status of talisman.  Representative of a team, person, event or place, they hold significant meaning for the owner.  Each person has a unique way to wear their prized possession; even to the point of having the bill trained to a specific shape.

When you are seven years old vacationing on a family summer road trip before your second grade year, a black cap with silver letters reading Black Hills is like pirate's treasure.  If a strong wind should happen to blow said cap off your head, you might do something foolish without thinking to get it back.  This is why the main character of Kevin Henkes's new book, The Year of Billy Miller (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers) has a lump on his head.

It was the first day of second grade and Billy 
Miller was worried.  He was worried that he
wouldn't be smart enough for school this year.

Billy's mother, an English teacher at the local high school, is upbeat, cheerful, dedicated and she kisses the bump on his head before leaving.  An artist specializing in turning what others see as trash into treasure, Billy's father stays at home taking care of Sal, his younger sister.  A letter from Billy's new teacher, Ms. Silver, says this is the Year of the Rabbit but Billy's father assures him, in reply to Billy's question, this is the Year of Billy Miller.

In response to more than one unkind remark from an irritating new girl, Emma, Billy makes a drawing which he fears Ms. Silver thinks is about her.  His plan to assure his teacher how nice he really is involves a safety pin, a paper clip, a dime, a nickel, a quarter, a nail and a small rabbit figurine.  Ms. Silver's words in acknowledgement of Billy's gesture make the second day of school shine and his heart sing with happiness.  We readers know Ms. Silver is the perfect person to be teaching a classroom of second grade students.

While a Saturday morning, later in the fall, making dioramas with Papa, Ned, Billy's best friend and Sal, does not go as expected for Billy or his father, a shift in a bedtime ritual depicts the respect the two have for one another.  Glitter, a hair dryer and a quick-thinking adult save the day and pave the way for an after school discussion and welcome revelations.  We readers know, without a doubt, Papa is an unforgettable person giving and receiving unconditional love.

Sal can be downright pesky.  Her favorite friends are five pale yellow, plush whales she has named the Drop Sisters, Raindrop, Snowdrop, Gumdrop, Lemondrop and Dewdrop.  They get carted around in a much-loved pillowcase.  We readers know from a wintry adventure to a favorite restaurant, the lure of a magic pearl, a night of frustration and fright and a dragon-stamped letter, although he would rather not admit it, Billy cares deeply for Sal.

As the school year draws to a close, Ms. Silver has a plan for a special night.  Students are going to read original poems written about a member of their family.  Having decided to feature his mother, Billy is having a hard time putting any thoughts on paper.  An unexpected late night excursion to the back yard gives Billy all the words he needs.  A nudge to Billy's elbow, a necessary souvenir, and observed words said into a silenced microphone are the quintessential ingredients in this mother's love.  We readers know this is the Year of Billy Miller.

Having read The Year of Billy Miller twice and most of it a third time, the staying power of this book is Kevin Henkes's masterful writing.  Henkes divides Billy's school year into four parts represented by four people, Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother.  Five chapters in each depict moments over the course of a day or two or a little bit longer.

What elevates these seemingly ordinary, everyday episodes into treasures for our reader's heart is the portrayal of the interactions between Billy and these four people.  Henkes invites us, with his words, into pivotal conversations.  Realistic details, richly stated, bring us into each intimate instant endearing us to these fully human people.  Here are a few examples from this book.

Papa seemed to have a window into Billy's 
thoughts.  "If you pick Mama, that's fine with
me.  And if you pick me, it will be fine with
Mama.  Remember that."
"Member what?" asked Sal. who'd just
popped up behind Papa like a Whac-A-Mole
at the county fair.
Papa turned.  "Remember not to touch anything
until you wash your blueberry hands.
And don't you dare kiss me with those 
blueberry lips."  He snatched up Sal and hauled
her off to the kitchen, her giggles trailing 
behind them.
Billy sat alone, considering the choice he
had to make.  He sucked the web of skin
between his thumb and pointer finger, his
hand falling across his chin like a beard.

The air in the auditorium was heavy, but it
was not still---it was electric.  At least, that's
the way it felt to Billy.  Parents, brothers, sisters,
grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, 
and friends were filling up the room.  People
were talking and fanning themselves.  Little
kids were chasing up and down the aisles and
climbing on the seats.  Eruptions of laughter
came and went in waves.

From working with elementary students for thirteen years, I can't think of a more heartwarming, true-to-life depiction of a second grade boy than readers find in The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes.  The personalities of Ms. Silver, Papa, Sal and Mama developed by Henkes make you wish they were in your world.  Small black and white drawings sprinkled throughout the text highlight memorable points of time.  This title is one to be enjoyed over and over.  Whether you share it with a few or many, it will leave a lasting impression.

The link embedded in Kevin Henkes's name above will take you to his website.  This link takes you to a printable PDF file, an author study of Henkes's titles including The Year of Billy Miller. To access the publisher's website and look inside the book (forty plus pages) follow this link.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What's That You Say?

Raise your hand if you've ever been told "Don't play with your food!"  I'm not necessarily talking about the same type of fun as the little rascal twelve pages into No David! by David Shannon has.  I'm thinking how you might be moving your peas off to the side of your plate as you gaze off in the distance dreaming of hot fudge sundaes or swirling around your mashed potatoes as you envision the twister in The Wizard of Oz.  At my house we never really played with our food much because it meant eating a meal would take longer.  This translated into not being able to go back outside to play until dark snuffed out the daylight.

Author illustrator Bob Shea takes this activity to a whole new level.  Buddy and the Bunnies in Don't Play with Your Food! (Disney Hyperion Books) introduces readers to the most monstrous monster of all.  What this grumpy guy cannot know is he is about to meet his match, a whole bunch of crafty cottontails.

Don't make me come
up there, mountain!

Look out!  Flowers, trees, the lake, birds and the sun are all victims of this vile creature's verbal wrath as he strolls about the countryside. Uh, oh!  It's three sweet rabbits playing checkers.

Buddy the monster is hungry.  Buddy the monster is going to gobble up those bunnies.  Buddy the monster is stopped in his tracks.

It would seem the happy hoppers are just about to make cupcakes.  Having a fun-filled game of hide-and-seek as they bake to perfection is exactly what the foursome does.  Full to bursting Buddy, after nine of these delicious delights, promises to come back tomorrow to devour these clever chefs.

To Buddy's surprise it is much too hot to jump into his mouth the next day.  It's off to the local swimming hole for giggles and grins.  Tuckered out from all the frolic and floating, this monster softly walks away from the sleeping hares.  Perhaps another time would be better for keeping his vow.

A Stripey-Stripe Club and a visit to the carnival are Buddy's final undoing.  When he visits the bunnies again they deliver the fateful phrase.  Down in the dumps, Buddy ponders his position and makes a startling discovery.

There are words in stories, dialog and descriptions, which can be read silently with great effect but to be truly enjoyed they beg to be read aloud.  This book is one of those times when you will find it hard not to give voice to the narrative before you've even turned the title page.  Bob Shea's notable use of language shines forth as strong as Buddy's booming voice and personality.  His knack for knowing exactly what the child's ear wants to hear is exceptional.  Here's an example.

"No, please, no!
We were about to make cupcakes!"

"What kind of monster do you
think I am?" said Buddy.
"Cupcakes first.
Bunnies for dessert."

You have to admit the large-eyed, orange-striped, horned monster feeding a cupcake into his cavernous mouth, as bunnies merrily hop among others on the front jacket and cover, is a definite draw.  On the back your curiosity is peaked by the peaceful scene of the same creature blissfully asleep as five rabbits cuddle around him.  On the opening endpapers among a forest of tiny triangular trees Buddy is roaring his way toward three smiling bunnies playing badminton.  (At this point I'm laughing already.  Badminton?) Traveling along he gives the mountains a piece of his mind.  He growls out the title.  On the verso and dedication pages his obvious distaste for flowers is shouted out among a field of blossoms.

Backgrounds in retro shades of green, orange, pink, blue, gold, rosy red (and black) highlight his vivid, bold and lively illustrations.  Heavy black lines accentuate Buddy's ravenous nature and form in contrast to the dainty white shapes of the (cough) innocent bunnies. Extra attention given to details elevates the already humorous tale; tee-hees appearing as ears pop up from behind a turtle or out of a hole, bunny grins wearing cupcake frosting, or Buddy holding a drink as he drifts in an inner tube.  You have to wonder what particular tune might be spinning on the record player as gazillions of be-bopping bunnies surround a high-stepping Buddy on the closing endpapers.

One of my favorite two-page spreads is Buddy riding The Whip with seven other bunnies.  He's looking a tad bit queasy.  They are looking pretty pleased with themselves.  The background is black with bright blue, green, red and yellow splashes of color shooting off like fireworks around the spinning cars.  A texture similar to block printing shines through in some of the elements.

Who would have thought the food you are not supposed to play with is alive?  Author illustrator Bob Shea imagined it, bringing loads of laughter to any readers of Buddy and the Bunnies in Don't Play with Your Food!  If you think your listeners are going to be content to hear this only one time, think again.  I can already hear the chorus of "Read it again!"

For more information about Bob Shea and his work please follow the link embedded in his name above.  To hear the pronunciation of his name follow this link to TeachingBooks.Net.  Julie Danielson hosts Bob Shea and artwork from this book at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Enjoy the video below where we get a look at the process involved in creating this title.