Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Through the Fence

Recently I saw a preview showing of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas- based on the book by John Doyne (2006). It took me days to shake the movie off. I remember people sat in the theater without moving or talking for several minutes after the credits rolled. Usually I am the last to leave. Not so, this time. When people finally pulled themselves together enough to leave, they began to talk. They talked of Bruno. They talked of the boy he met through the fence.

There is a new book out this year- a picture book for older readers, also about two kids and a fence. A fence that surrounds a work camp near a small village in Germany. Based on a true story, Angel Girl by Laurie Friedman (2008) tells the story of a boy who was sent to a work camp where a young farm girl met him at the fence and brought him apples. It may not have the ending you expect, but you will be all the better for it.
Suggestion? Read it after The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It won’t take away the horrors of that story, but it will remind you that sometimes a good deed is rewarded.
By the way, I was able to see an advance screening through Grace Hill Media. Sign up with them and you can get invitations (first come first served seating) at many movies you might share with kids. I also get invitations from Walden Media. Sign up for their newsletter too. Both sites have links to discussion guides and many other resources that you might use. Publishers Weekly has a Children's Bookshelf Newsletter that will keep you in the know about what books are being made into movies. See the movie, but read the book. It's usually better!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Don't Shoot from the Hip...it might backfire

Don’t shoot from the hip…it might backfire- or at least not be appreciated for the genius bit of writing that it is.

Reading aloud can be a powerful tool towards increasing the literacy of our students. Publishers try to help us by providing a reading interest level to guide us in our choices. However, one needs to be conscious of the fact that a book that is promoted interest level K-3, may not, in fact, be a good idea to read to kindergarten. They really work better with older students. If you have ever read Amelia Bedelia books to young students, you know exactly what I mean. I call these books: Don’t-shoot-from-the-hip-because-it-might-backfire books.

For example, one of my favorites is Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross. It’s a love story about a caterpillar and tadpole who fall in love and promise to never change. That’s what these creatures do. They are all about change. The tadpole changes faster than the caterpillar. He is her “shiny black pearl” and she is “his beautiful rainbow.” When he breaks his promise the third time, she goes away angry and cries herself to sleep. Time passes and she has transformed into a beautiful butterfly. She has also lost her anger and decides to forgive him. She flies down to where the lily pad meets the water where a little green frog sits. “Have you seen my shiny black… But before she can finish her sentence, the frog leaps up and eats her- in one great gulp. And there he sits thinking fondly of his beautiful rainbow and wondering where she went. The end.”

Sometimes when I read this with adults, even they are taken aback. If you share this with your high school students, they will see the power of writing. They appreciate the surprise ending. It breaks the ice in a new class because people want to talk about it. If you read these to kindergarten, you may have to get out the box of tissues and spend the rest of the morning consoling little souls. So use the following books as a starter list of books that may be recommended by the publisher for K-3, but they will be better appreciated by grades 3-12.

Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis
Where Willy Went by Nicholas Allan
Whatever by William Bee
Beware the Frog by William Bee
Princess Justina by Ellen Dee Davidson
The Library Dragon by Carmen Deedy
Martina the Beautiful Cockroach by Carmen Deedy

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Booktalking- Count the Ways

“So there I was tied to an altar of outdated encyclopedias about to be sacrificed by a group of evil librarians.” (Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson)





“If your teacher has to die, August is a good time of year for it.” (The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck)

Booktalking is a great way to get kids (or adults) to read books they may otherwise miss. There are lots of ways to do it. One way is by reading the first few sentences. Sometimes, as in the books above, it may only take one sentence to raise interest. You can also read the last paragraph in a chapter.

Which leads me to another idea- have your students collect first and last sentences in a graffiti-kind of way. Place a long sheet of bulletin board paper somewhere in the school. The cafeteria is a great place because it advertises the library outside the library. Title it: Best First Lines or Best Last Lines. Invite students to write lines from their favorite books, being sure to write the author and title.

I also use a document camera to booktalk. Sometimes I read just a few pages, leading up to the exciting point and then stop, telling them that if they want to know what happens, they can check out the book. Sometimes I use the document camera to do something that advertises the book. For example, I do a magic card trick that I learned from Sid Fleischman's webpage to sell his book, Houdini.

I am a huge fan of slide shows with book covers. In fact, that’s the backbone of my book presentations. Everyone can see the covers while I read from the book. It also makes a more lasting impression on those who need to see as well as hear. Right now publishers are fine with us using this method, as it sells books. As long as you are not doing it to save money or raise money, you are probably fine to copy a jpg and paste it into a slide show. You might even make one that loops as your screen saver in the library. If you have an announcement board or a television station, loop your slide show throughout the day to provide more exposure.

There are also places to go to learn more about booktalks. Nancy Keane has a website that features booktalking skills and examples. Many publishers have booktalks on their websites now. I noticed last night that Scholastic has video booktalks. Watch some of these and then let your students make their own video booktalks. Sometimes the kids can sell the books to themselves faster than you can.

Let me make a couple of final points about booktalking.
1. Read the book. You can’t sell a product you don’t know.
2. Read the blurb aloud. It’s a good refresher.
3. Show an interest in the books you are trying to sell.
4. Talk outside your own interests. (Even genres you don’t love.)
5. Talk about fiction and nonfiction. You will reach more readers.

Booktalking is the teacher/librarians’ product. If you love it, it will sell. If you keep trying, you can find the right match from product to client. Don’t give up. Books are like shoes. Not every shoe works for every foot. There is a book to match every Cinderella- or Prince Charming. Try 'em on and see.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Trust Me

I had an interesting visit at a school library site yesterday. It turns out that this particular library was converted our computer circulation system in 2003, but the school never used it. Half of the books are not barcoded, as they were still using pocket cards to sign. There are no generic barcodes. The circulation computer wasn’t even put together, much less updated. (Remember now, this is a huge district, and only one of me... Sometimes you have to be grateful that the library is just not dark.)

Though neat and cheerful, the library books were not in Dewey order. There were mini-collections everywhere. It had been set up in standard shelving order when it was converted. Now, it is doing its own thing.

To top it off, the new library assistant there was, of course, bumped to this position. In this district if your position is eliminated or reduced, you can take someone's job that is comparable. It causes a big chain reaction with the last man standing doing something else. She is a long way from home at a school not of her choosing. She has inherited a great deal of work.

Here is the best part. There was a smile on her face. There was action in her steps. She has a plan to get things rolling. No complaints. No whining. No being ugly to her kids, teachers, parents, administration or even to me. She is determined to make the best of it because she is there for the kids and teachers- no matter whose they are.

She wouldn’t want me to tell you who she is. But let her be an example to all of you who are not where you want to be. Our job is to serve the children and the community where we are placed. Our job is to be helpful and make those who come into our door feel welcome and glad to be there. Rejoice in an opportunity to learn new things, meet new people and grow as a library staff person.

If you love your job, loving your place may come. Trust me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Go, Go America

Wouldn’t you know it? As soon as I turn in my handbook to BER for printing, I find another wonderful book for boys! I just finished Go, Go America by Dan Yaccarino. It has been on my “to do” list for awhile, but as I was trying to round out my recommended list for SDUSD, I discovered a need for books for grades 3-6. There it was with a red dot, waiting to be savored.

Go, Go is full of interesting tidbits about all 50 states. Following the Fabulous Farley Family, readers travel across the US discovering all kinds of wacky facts. Some are laws that are still on the books. For example on Market Street in San Francisco, elephants must be kept on a leash. In Atlanta, it is illegal to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole or a streetlight. That means that someone actually did it!

Fairbanks, Alaska hosts the Ice Art Championships of the world. I know, because I saw it last March with my own two eyes! (That's me on the left, hiding in Mary/Barbara's wonderful coat.) It’s also against the law to wake a sleeping bear in order to photograph it- at least in Alaska.

Items like these gems are just the tip of the iceberg. Rounding out the book, Yaccarino includes an alphabetical listing of the standard facts about states. Go, Go America is a book that upper elementary students- and probably a few adults- will turn to again and again.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bear's Picture

Learn something new every day. That should be a rule. Maybe not something that becomes a chore, but we should slow down enough to appreciate things that we see and do. For example, sometimes I read so fast that I forget to slow down and just enjoy the reading of a book. Zooming through, you may really miss something you could have seen for yourself.

Last night I spoke at USD about new picture books for 2008. One of the books was the new version of Bear’s Picture by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by D.B. Johnson. It first came out in 1972. Pinkwater wrote and illustrated the first book. Johnson adds his own twist to the story in the latest version. There is something in that book that I completely missed, even with several readings under my belt. To find out more about it, check out the NPR slide show, but be sure you have the book with you. It’s a moment for you to slow down and learn something new.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Real John Henry

When reading a nonfiction book in bed keeps you interested after 11 hours at work and cooking dinner in a summer apartment with no air conditioning, it would appear you have a winner. Such is the case in Ain’t Nothing But a Man by Scott Reynolds Nelson with Marc Aronson. A picture book for older readers, 57 pages in length with excellent back matter, Nelson tells the story of how history is discovered. As Aronson says in the appendix, when you read a secondary source, not only do you get facts, you also get the author’s opinions and conclusions as well. By searching primary sources and actually visiting related sites, researchers find clues that lead you to draw your own conclusions. The work of a historian is very much like being a detective.

Nothing But a Man is the search to find the real John Henry. You know the songs; you have probably sung them yourself. We have all read Lester and Pinkney’s award winning picture book of the legend of John Henry. The author used versions of the song to find clues to discover the identity of John Henry. He learned that there were 40,000 men, mostly African American, working on the railroads in the South as trackliners. One of those was an inmate from a penitentiary in Virginia. His name was John Henry.

How did he find out? He was persistent in his requests of a librarian until one finally gave him access to the “big ledger.” He visited places that were mentioned in the songs. He read other works. He studied pictures. Eventually the clues led him to Lewis Tunnel and a conclusion that the songs, as many songs are, were sending a message- the hammer that killed John Henry “can’t kill me.”

Read it today. Read it more than once. Then remember what you read as you do your own research. Question what you read. Compare information. Answers don’t always come easily. Be a detective and find your own answers.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sleeping Animals

I hadn’t intended to write about picture books today, but as I am readying a new workshop on picture books, I came across two books. Ironically both are about animals who have found a safe haven. One sleeps through storm and gale, while the other is soon startled awake. The Searcher and the Old Tree by David McPhail tells the story of a raccoon who settles down to sleep in the arms of an old tree. When seemingly gale force winds rock the tree, the Searcher sleeps on. (Oh! if only I could do that.) Scoot! By Cathryn Falwell tells the story of busy pond animals while six silent turtles slumber away.

Both stories are beautifully illustrated. McPhail’s lovely watercolor illustrations are peaceful and comforting until the storm hits. Even then, the branches of the old tree curl around, protecting its inhabitant. Falwell’s are paper cut collages, using- in fact, some of the things she found in nature to write about. Both are perfect for a Storytime. Add Scoot! to your science lessons on habitats. Use The Searcher in a lesson about animals or allegories. Where is your safe haven?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where in the World is Deborah?

By now, you may have wondered where I have been. This is the time of year that I make some time to do community theatre. Wonder of Wonders- This year I played the role of Annie Oakley in "Annie Get Your Gun." I also did the costumes, which was so much fun too! That, of course, led me to reread biographies of Little Sure Shot and others in the show. If you have ever seen the play or the movie, you should know that they are nothing like the true story of Annie and Frank. The real Frank Butler knew a good thing when he saw it and married Annie within a year of that first shooting match. Right away he saw that she had a gift for shooting and became her manager. My favorite is National Geographics' Bull's-eye : a Photobiography of Annie Oakley by Sue Macy.

One of the things I did while the show was running, was to give the kids in the cast books to read during their downtime. I pulled books about the old west, Annie Oakley and others in the play, and some books that are just plain good. For the last weekend, I pulled out some of my favorite picture books from last year-Chester, books by Mo Willems, and Princess Justina. See below for a complete list of what we read and talked about over the three week run.

The show ends on Sunday. After that, it's back to the world as usual. I go back on the road in September. In between, I have lots of reading to do. Stop in and see what I found!


Books about the Wild West, Annie Oakley and Books That Are Just Plain Good!


Abnett, Dan. -- Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Bighorn {IL 3-6, 978.004} -- PowerKids Press, 2007., RL 3.5, 24p
Agee, Jon. -- Nothing {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2007., RL 2.1, 32p
Agee, Jon. -- Terrific {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion, 2005., RL 2.9, 32p
Armstrong, Jennifer. -- The American story : 100 true tales from American history {IL 3-6, 973} – Knopf, 2006., RL 6.4, 358p
Arnold, Tedd. -- Even more parts : idioms from head to toe {IL K-3, -E-} -- Dial Books for Young Readers, 2004., RL 1.7, 30p
Arnold, Tedd. -- Hi! Fly Guy {IL K-3, -E-} -- Scholastic, 2005., RL 1.4, 30p
Arnold, Tedd. -- Parts {IL K-3, -E-} -- Puffin Books, 2000, c1997., RL 3.3, 32p
Asch, Frank. -- Mr. Maxwell's mouse {IL K-3, -E-} -- Kids Can Press, 2004., RL 5, 32p
Auch, Mary Jane. -- The princess and the pizza {IL K-3, -E-} -- Holiday House, 2002., RL 3.8, 32p
Banks, Kate. -- Max's words {IL K-3, -E-} -- Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006., RL 3.2, 32p
Biedrzycki, David. -- Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective {IL K-3, -E-} -- Charlesbridge, 2005., RL 2.4, 44p
Bishop, Nic. -- Nic Bishop spiders {IL K-3, 595.4} -- Scholastic Nonfiction, 2007., RL 3.3, 48p
Blair, Eric. -- Annie Oakley, sharp shooter {IL K-3, 799.3} -- Picture Window Books, 2005., RL 2.9, 32p
Bruchac, Joseph. -- A boy called Slow : the true story of Sitting Bull {IL K-3, 978} -- Philomel Books, 1994., RL 4.3, 32p
Bruel, Nick. -- Who is Melvin Bubble? {IL K-3, -E-} -- Roaring Brook Press, 2006., RL 2.4, 32p
Child, Lauren. -- But excuse me that is my book {IL K-3, -E-} -- Dial Books for Young Readers, 2005., RL 2.3, 32p
Child, Lauren. -- Who's afraid of the big bad book? {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2003, 2002., RL 5.5, 32p
Cronin, Doreen. -- Diary of a spider {IL K-3, -E-} -- Joanna Cotler Books, 2005., RL 2.5, 36p
Crummel, Susan Stevens. -- Ten-gallon Bart {IL K-3, -E-} -- Marshall Cavendish Children, 2006., RL 2, 32p
Crunk, Tony. -- Railroad John and the Red Rock run {IL K-3, -E-} -- Peachtree Publishers, 2006., RL 3.9, 32p
Cushman, Doug. -- Mystery at the Club Sandwich {IL K-3, -E-} -- Clarion, 2004., RL 1.6, 30p
Davidson, Ellen Dee. -- Princess Justina Albertina : a cautionary tale {IL K-3, -E-} -- Charlesbridge, 2007., RL 2.3, 32p
Deedy, Carmen Agra. -- The library dragon {IL K-3, -E-} -- Peachtree, c1994., RL 5.5, 32p
Deedy, Carmen Agra. -- Martina the beautiful cockroach {IL K-3, 398.2} -- Peachtree, 2007., RL 2.8, 32p
Dolan, Edward F. -- The Pony Express {IL 3-6, 383} -- Benchmark Books, 2003., RL 5.8, 48p
Duvoisin, Roger. -- Petunia {IL K-3, -E-} -- Dragonfly Books, 2002, c1950., RL 3.1, 32p
Englar, Mary. -- The Sioux and their history {IL 5-8, 978.004} -- Compass Point, 2006., RL 4.2, 48p
Finchler, Judy. -- Miss Malarkey leaves no reader behind {IL K-3, -E-} -- Walker, RL 3.5, 32p
Freedman, Russell. -- Children of the Wild West {IL 5-8, 978} -- Clarion, c1983., RL 7.5, 104p
Friend, Catherine. -- The perfect nest {IL K-3, -E-} -- Candlewick Press, 2007., RL 2.3, 34p
Fuchs, Bernie. -- Ride like the wind : a tale of the Pony Express {IL K-3, -E-} -- Blue Sky Press, 2004., RL 4.5, 32p
Gran, Julia. -- Big bug surprise {IL K-3, -E-} -- Scholastic Press, 2007., RL 3, 32p
Gravett, Emily. -- Wolves {IL K-3, -E-} -- Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2006, 2005., RL 3, 34p
Grey, Mini. -- The adventures of the dish and the spoon {IL K-3, -E-} -- Knopf, 2006., RL 2.3, 32p
Grey, Mini. -- Traction Man is here! {IL K-3, -E-} -- Knopf , 2005., RL 3.2, 32p
Gunderson, Jessica -- Young Riders of the Pony Express {IL 3-6, -E-} -- Capstone Press, 2006.
Harness, Cheryl. -- They're off! : the story of the Pony Express {IL 3-6, 383} -- Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002, 1996., RL 5.5, 32p
Haugen, Brenda. -- Annie Oakley : American sharpshooter {IL 5-8, 799.3} -- Compass Point Books, 2007., RL 6.7, 112p
Hawkes, Kevin. -- The wicked big toddlah {IL K-3, -E-} -- Knopf, 2007., RL 2.8, 34p
Hayden, Kate. -- Plains Indians {IL 3-6, 978} -- Two-Can in association with F. Watts, 1997., RL 5.2, 32p
Henkes, Kevin. -- A good day {IL K-3, -E-} -- Greenwillow Books, 2007., RL 2.1, 24p
Hicks, Peter. -- You wouldn't want to live in a Wild West town! : dust you'd rather not settle {IL 3-6, 978} -- Franklin Watts, 2002., RL 5, 32p
James, Helen Foster. -- S is for s'mores : a camping alphabet {IL 3-6, 796.54} -- Sleeping Bear Press , Thomson/Gale, 2007., RL 5.5, 40p
Jeffers, Oliver. -- The incredible book eating boy {IL K-3, -E-} -- Philomel Books, 2007, 2006., RL 2.2, 32p
Jenkins, Emily. -- That new animal {IL K-3, -E-} -- Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005., RL 3.3, 32p
Kalman, Bobbie. -- Women of the West {IL 3-6, 920.72} -- Crabtree Pub. Co., 2000., RL 5.7, 32p
Kellogg, Steven. -- Pecos Bill : a tall tale {IL K-3, 398.2} -- Morrow, 1986., RL 5.2, 46p
Kellogg, Steven. -- Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett : a tall tale {IL 3-6, 398.2} -- Mulberry Books, 1999, 1995., RL 5.3, 40p
Kimmel, Elizabeth Cody. -- The top job {IL K-3, -E-} -- Dutton Children's Books, 2007., RL 3.9, 32p
Kimmel, Eric A. -- The Great Texas hamster drive {IL K-3, -E-} -- Marshall Cavendish Children, 2007., RL 2.4, 40p
Kloske, Geoffrey. -- Once upon a time, the end : (asleep in 60 seconds) {IL K-3, -E-} -- Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2005., RL 2.6, 25p
Koestler-Grack, Rachel A. -- The Sioux : nomadic buffalo hunters {IL 3-6, 978.004} -- Blue Earth Books, 2003., RL 5.6, 32p
Krosoczka, Jarrett. -- Punk Farm {IL K-3, -E-} – Knopf, 2005., RL 1.6, 30p
Krosoczka, Jarrett. -- Punk Farm : on tour {IL K-3, -E-} -- Knopf, 2007., RL 2.3, 36p
Krull, Kathleen. -- Fartiste {IL K-3, -E-} -- Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2008., RL 1.8, 37p
Krull, Kathleen. -- Harvesting hope : the story of Cesar Chavez {IL K-3, 331.88} -- Harcourt, 2003., RL 6.3, 48p
Krull, Kathleen. -- Houdini : world's greatest mystery man and escape king {IL 3-6, 793.8} -- Walker, 2005., RL 5.8, 28p
Krull, Kathleen. -- Lives of extraordinary women : rulers, rebels (and what the neighbors thought) {IL 5-8, 320} -- Harcourt, 2000., RL 6.7, 95p
Krull, Kathleen. -- Lives of the artists : masterpieces, messes (and what the neighbors thought) {IL 3-6, 709} -- Harcourt Brace, 1995., RL 5.8, 96p
Krull, Kathleen. -- Lives of the athletes : thrills, spills (and what the neighbors thought) {IL 5-8, 796} -- Harcourt Brace, 1997., RL 7.3, 96p
Krull, Kathleen. -- Lives of the musicians : good times, bad times (and what the neighbors thought) {IL 5-8, 780} -- Harcourt Brace, 1993., RL 6.3, 96p
Krull, Kathleen. -- Lives of the presidents : fame, shame, and what the neighbors thought {IL 5-8, 973} -- Harcourt Brace & Co., 1998., RL 7.5, 96p
Krull, Kathleen. -- Lives of the writers : comedies, tragedies (and what the neighbors thought) {IL 5-8, 809} -- Harcourt Brace, 1994., RL 6.9, 96p
Krull, Kathleen. -- M is for music {IL K-3, 780} -- Harcourt, 2003., RL 4.3, 48p
Krull, Kathleen. -- Pocahontas : princess of the New World {IL K-3, 975.5} -- Walker, 2007., RL 4.6, 36p
Krull, Kathleen. -- A pot o' gold : a treasury of Irish stories, poetry, folklore, and (of course) blarney {IL 3-6, 820.8} -- Hyperion Books For Children, 2004., RL 3.9, 181p
Krull, Kathleen. -- Wilma unlimited : how Wilma Rudolph became the world's fastest woman {IL 3-6, 796.42} -- Harcourt Brace, 1996., RL 4.8, 44p
Krull, Kathleen. -- A woman for president : the story of Victoria Woodhull {IL 3-6, 305.42} -- Walker & Co., 2004., RL 5.8, 32p
LaRochelle, David. -- The end {IL K-3, -E-} -- Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007., RL 3.2, 36p
Long, Melinda. -- How I became a pirate {IL K-3, -E-} -- Harcourt, 2003., RL 3.1, 36p
Long, Melinda. -- Pirates don't change diapers {IL K-3, -E-} -- Harcourt, 2007., RL 2.7, 42p
Macy, Sue. -- Bull's-eye : a photobiography of Annie Oakley {IL 5-8, 799.3} -- National Geographic Society, 2001., RL 8.8, 64p
McLeod, Bob. -- SuperHero ABC {IL K-3, -E-} -- HarperCollins, 2006., RL 2.7, 34p
Morris, Carla. -- The boy who was raised by librarians {IL K-3, -E-} -- Peachtree, 2007., RL 4.1, 32p
Muntean, Michaela. -- Do not open this book {IL K-3, -E-} -- Scholastic Press, 2006., RL 1.4, 34p
O'Connor, Jane. -- Fancy Nancy and the posh puppy {IL K-3, -E-} -- HarperCollins, 2007., RL 1.7, 32p
O'Malley, Kevin. -- Captain Raptor and the moon mystery {IL K-3, -E-} -- Walker, 2005., RL 3, 32p
O'Malley, Kevin. -- Captain Raptor and the space pirates {IL K-3, -E-} -- Walker, RL 3.2, 32p
Offill, Jenny. -- 17 things I'm not allowed to do anymore {IL K-3, -E-} -- Schwartz & Wade Books, 2007., RL 3.9, 32p
Palatini, Margie. -- The cheese {IL K-3, -E-} -- Katherine Tegen Books, 2007., RL 2.7, 32p
Pallotta, Jerry. -- The beetle alphabet book {IL K-3, 595.76} -- Charlesbridge, 2004., RL 4.8, 32p
Pinkney, Andrea Davis. -- Bill Pickett : rodeo-ridin' cowboy {IL K-3, 636.2} -- Voyager Books, 1999, 1996., RL 5, 32p
Portis, Antoinette. -- Not a box {IL K-3, -E-} -- HarperCollins, 2006., RL .7, 32p
Prince, April Jones. -- Twenty-one elephants and still standing {IL K-3, -E-} -- Houghton Mifflin, 2005., RL 4.9, 32p
Rocco, John. -- Wolf! Wolf! {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2007., RL 3.7, 32p
Salley, Coleen. -- Epossumondas saves the day {IL K-3, -E-} -- Harcourt, 2006., RL 3.5, 42p
Salley, Coleen. -- Why epossumondas has no hair on his tail {IL K-3, -E-} -- Harcourt, 2004., RL 3, 34p
Shea, Bob. -- Big plans {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2008., RL 1.4, 42p
Sierra, Judy. -- Thelonius Monster's sky-high fly pie : a revolting rhyme {IL K-3, -E-} -- Knopf, 2006., RL 3.2, 34p
Silate, Jennifer. -- Little Sure Shot : Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show {IL 5-8, 799.3} -- Rosen Central Primary Source, 2004., RL 5.1, 32p
Simms, Laura. -- Rotten teeth {IL K-3, -E-} -- Houghton Mifflin, c1998., RL 2.5, 32p
Smith, Lane. -- John, Paul, George & Ben {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2006., RL 3.5, 40p
Sneed, Brad. -- Deputy Harvey and the ant cow caper {IL K-3, -E-} -- Dial Books for Young Readers, 2005., RL 3.9, 32p
Squires, Janet. -- The Gingerbread Cowboy {IL K-3, 398.21} -- Laura Geringer Books, 2006., RL 3.5, 32p
Stanley, Diane. -- Raising Sweetness {IL K-3, -E-} -- Putnam's, 1999., RL 3.5, 32p
Stanley, Diane. -- Saving Sweetness {IL K-3, -E-} -- Putnam's Sons, 1996., RL 3.5, 32p
Swanson, Wayne. -- Why the West was wild {IL 5-8, 978} -- Annick Press, 2004., RL 6.7, 46p
Sydor, Colleen. -- Raising a little stink {IL K-3, -E-} -- Kids Can Press, 2006., RL 4.1, 32p
Thayer, Ernest Lawrence. -- Casey at the bat : a ballad of the Republic sung in the year 1888 {IL 3-6, 811} -- Handprint Books, 2000., RL 5.5, 30p
Thomas, Jan. -- What will Fat Cat sit on? {IL K-3, -E-} -- Harcourt, 2007., RL 1.9, 33p
Trumbauer, Lisa. -- Sitting Bull {IL K-3, 978.004} -- Capstone Press, 2004., RL 2.8, 24p
Urbanovic, Jackie. -- Duck at the door {IL K-3, -E-} -- HarperCollins, 2007., RL 1.6, 32p
Van Allsburg, Chris. -- Probuditi! {IL K-3, -E-} -- Houghton Mifflin, 2006., RL 3.4, 32p
Watt, Melanie. -- Chester {IL K-3, -E-} -- Kids Can Press, 2007., RL 1.8, 32p
Wiesner, David. – Flotsam {IL K-3, -E-} -- Clarion Books, 2006., 40p
Willems, Mo. -- Don't let the pigeon drive the bus! {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2003., RL 1.3, 34p
Willems, Mo. -- Don't let the pigeon stay up late! {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2006., RL 1.6, 36p
Willems, Mo. -- I am invited to a party! {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2007., RL 1.2, 56p
Willems, Mo. -- Knuffle Bunny too : a case of mistaken identity {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2007., RL 2.9, 42p
Willems, Mo. -- Leonardo the terrible monster {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion, 2005., RL 1.9, 44p
Willems, Mo. -- My friend is sad {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2007., RL 1.2, 57p
Willems, Mo. -- The pigeon finds a hot dog! {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2004., RL 2, 34p
Willems, Mo. -- The pigeon wants a puppy! {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2008., RL 1.2, 34p
Willems, Mo. -- There is a bird on your head! {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2007., RL .8, 57p
Willems, Mo. -- Today I will fly! {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2007., RL 1.2, 57p
Williams, Jean Kinney. -- The Pony Express {IL 5-8, 383} -- Compass Point Books, 2003., RL 6.7, 48p
Willis, Jeanne. -- Tadpole's promise {IL K-3, -E-} -- Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2005., RL 2.6, 28p

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Picture Book Biography

I am regrouping my daily schedule to plan for times to read. So, early this morning, I looked on my “to read right away” shelf and found Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Eric Puybaret (2008 Chronicle Books). Berne writes for Nick Jr. and this is her first picture book. One of the things I look for in a new book is what happens after I finish. Do I want to read it again? Study the illustrations? Do some research? Tell someone else? If that is your measuring stick too, then, prepare yourself. That is exactly what you will feel after you read Berne’s book.

I am always on the lookout for picture book biographies and picture books for older readers. This book is both. Though the story could certainly be read to younger students, the style and font lean toward an older reader. Teachers of science can certainly use this book in their classes. One of my favorite uses of a PBOR is to proof the facts. Assign parts of the story to your students and have them verify the facts found in the book. Like all good writers, be sure to require more than one source, at least one in print. Be sure to check out the Cousteau Society website http://cousteau.org/.

Beautifully written and illustrated, readers will be inspired to do as Cousteau was often heard to say, “Il faut aller voir,” which translates from French to mean “We must go and see for ourselves.” I hope you will.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Alfred Kropp- The Thirteenth Skull

I just got back from my last books and boys workshop of the season. On the way to El Paso, TX, I read an advance copy of Alfred Kropp The Thirteenth Skull by Rick Yancey- book three of the Alfred Kropp Adventures, published by Bloomsbury Books, 2008 (rated YA for violence,- language is minimal). I remember when I read the first book The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, I thought, "Genius! He's Alex Rider meets Indiana Jones." 13th Skull is even better.

Ok- Here is what I think about Skulls.

1. This is not an "airplane" book. I almost missed my flight- twice!! I was so engrossed in the story that not once, but twice, I looked up to turn a page and found myself almost alone- everyone else had boarded.

2. Another reason it is not an airplane book- I read almost the whole thing by the time I got from San Diego to El Paso. I read so fast, I hardly took time for oxygen. Cliff-hanging chapters with sharp last sentences, just increases the chance that readers will finish in one sitting.

Another thing I liked is that it is not filled with gratuitous cursing. So many YA books just go on and on. By the time Alfred actually says something, I am thinking even this good ole’ Southern Baptist girl would be cursing too. (Don't tell my mother.)

I was exhausted after the first chapter. It was like reading an Indiana Jones movie. I laughed out loud. I cried. I got really scared when I thought Alfred was going to die about mid-book. It's genius! Good thing I took some other books for the return flights- a sad disappointment compared to Alfred's adventures.

I love Alfred because he’s real. He’s a hero, but flawed. He’s a teenager, but mature. He’s as real as a character can get and still be fiction. He’s brilliant!

Rick Yancey has written another adventure in a book that is sure to top the charts. Skulls is certainly one of my favorite books this year for boys or anyone else who likes a good read. Having a female co-star signs the deal for that!

I will restlessly wait for Alfred’s next adventures. In the meantime, you can check out Rick's website. There is a contest that begins August 4! http://www.rickyancey.com/ You could win an autographed copy of one of his books or a Seal of Solomon T-shirt.

Ciao For Now Y'all!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Laugh a Little, Laugh a Lot

After a long, tough week, I searched through my carts of "to-be-read-as-soon-as-possible" books, looking for potential ticklers. Eureka! I found some. First there was Chester by Melanie Watts (2007), a story about writing a story. Chester continues to interrupt the author and write corrections to her story with his red marker. Laugh out Loud! The cover is even marked for the award to follow.

Then I read The Cow Who Laid An Egg by Andy Cutbill (2008). Cow is feeling rather ordinary until the chickens decide to help her out. A surprise ending brought much needed laughter into my office.

Finally, a sister team that never fails to bring a chuckle or two- Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel's new picture book, Help Me, Mr. Mutt. Mr. Mutt, is full of sage advice for the dogfolk who write to him. The Queen (a cat with great cattitude) consistently offers a second opinion in this humorous tale of a power struggle.

I think I will start the weekend off with a new novel that has been compared to Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Iris, Messenger by Sarah Deming (2007, Harcourt). The first paragraph begins like this: "The main difference between school and prison is that prisons release you early for good behavior. School lasts about thirteen years no matter how good you are. Also, prison food is better." So far, so good...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tried and True Picture Books

Our elementary library staff development meeting took place at the new Serra Mesa Public Library. Over 50 people were in attendance. We began the training with a reading of It Could Always be Worse by Margot Zemach (1976). What followed were easy to use ideas about how to share some of the best of the oldies but goodies that you may already have in your library. The list came from the NY Public Library List: 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know.

Whether you have 15 minutes or even less, be sure to begin each story with an introduction and conclusion of sorts– title, author, illustrator– as well as some catch that will connect kids to the story. I used my recent travel experiences as a post reading example of how it could always be worse. (Note to self: Never say "it could always be worse out loud!)

Library Connection: Have kids write or draw about their “worse experiences.” Writers say that a good story takes an ordinary experience and gives it a problem, make the problem worse, and then make it worse again. If you do it one more time, you have a story.

Use this idea as a way to introduce a book while you check books in. Remember to push the cart on the floor, as kids frequently want what someone had last week. Place a sign on the cart that says, “Too Popular to Shelve!”

Other ideas included assigning areas of the library to students to pull books to the edge of shelves, or looking at shelves to make sure books weren’t lost in someone else’s neighborhood. You can also use the time to post a question kids can talk about or even have them locate an answer. From which book to which author, taking a few minutes at the beginning of the period allows time to get ready for checkout.

Finally, we ended with Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack (2001). The library is a place where everyone is special. So no matter what happens in our daily life, though it could always be worse, we must remember that each child who comes through our door deserves the best that we can give him or her. A room with books is a warehouse. Add a librarian and you have yourself a library.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Books for Boys 2007

In addition to the books I list in my seminar handbook, there are some 2007 titles that are not to be missed. Chalk it up to publisher deadlines. They are as follows:

Books for Boys 2007- Not to be Missed
The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian - Alexie, Sherman. {IL YA, -Fic-} -- Little, Brown, 2007., 229p
The alchemyst : the secrets of the immortal Nicholas Flamel - Scott, Michael Dylan. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Delacorte Press, 2007., RL 6, 375p
Alfred Kropp : the seal of Solomon - Yancey, Richard. {IL YA, -Fic-} -- Bloomsbury, 2007., 327p
Attack of the Turtle : a novel - Carlson, Drew. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Eerdman's Books for Young Readers, 2007., RL 4, 149p
Big bug surprise - Gran, Julia. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Scholastic Press, 2007., RL 2.3, 32p
Bugs : poems about creeping things - Harrison, David L. {IL K-3, 811} -- Wordsong, 2007., RL 2.7, 55p
Casey back at bat - Gutman, Dan. {IL K-3, -E-} – HarperCollins Publishers, 2007., RL 3.6, 32p
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - Williams, Marcia. {IL 5-8, 821} -- Candlewick Press, 2007., RL 5.3, 45p
The chicken dance - Couvillon, Jacques. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Bloomsbury Children's, 2007.
Cracker! : the best dog in Vietnam - Kadohata, Cynthia. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007., RL 5.1, 312p
The dangerous book for boys - Iggulden, Conn. {IL 5-8, 031} -- Collins, 2007., RL 5.9, 270p
Diary of a wimpy kid : Greg Heffley's journal - Kinney, Jeff. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Amulet Books, 2007., RL 5, 217p
Dino-dinners - Manning, Mick. {IL K-3, 567.9} -- Holiday House, 2007., RL 2.7, 28p
Disgusting foods - Miller, Connie Colwell. {IL 5-8, 641.3} -- Capstone Press, 2007., RL 3.6, 32p
Dogku - Clements, Andrew. {IL K-3, 811} -- Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2007., RL 2.6, 36p
Elijah of Buxton - Curtis, Christopher Paul. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Scholastic Press, 2007.
Encyclopedia horrifica : the terrifying truth! about vampires, ghosts, monsters, and more - Gee, Joshua. {IL 3-6, 001.9} -- Scholastic, 2007., RL 6.6, 129p
The end - LaRochelle, David. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007., RL 3.2, 36p
Epic - Kostick, Conor. {IL YA, -Fic-} -- Viking, 2007., 364p
Evil genius - Jinks, Catherine. {IL YA, -Fic-} -- Harcourt, 2007, 486
The explosive world of volcanoes with Max Axiom, super scientist - Harbo, Christopher L. {IL 5-8, 551.21} -- Capstone Press, 2008., RL 5.1, 32p
Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School - Fleming, Candace. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Schwartz Wade Books, 2007.
Face to face with grizzlies - Sartore, Joel. {IL 3-6, 599.784} -- National Geographic, 2007., RL 6.1, 32p
Flush! : the scoop on poop throughout the ages - Harper, Charise Mericle. {IL K-3, 392.3} -- Little, Brown, 2007., RL 3.8, 25p
Foolish physics - Townsend, John. {IL 5-8, 530.09} -- Raintree, 2007., RL 6, 56p
Formula One cars - Schuette, Sarah L. {IL 5-8, 629.228} -- Capstone Press, 2007., RL 3, 32p
Frankenstein - Burgan, Michael. {IL 5-8, 741.5} -- Stone Arch Books, 2008., RL 3.3, 63p
Good sports : rhymes about running, jumping, throwing, and more - Prelutsky, Jack. {IL 3-6, 811} -- Knopf, 2007., RL 4.6, 33p
Gotcha for guys! : nonfiction books to get boys excited about reading - Baxter, Kathleen A. {IL PF, 028.5} -- Libraries Unlimited, 2007., 269p
Gregor and the Code of Claw - Collins, Suzanne. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Scholastic Press, 2007., RL 5.5, 412p
Gut-eating bugs : maggots reveal the time of death! - Denega, Danielle. {IL 5-8, 614} -- Franklin Watts, 2007., RL 5.5, 64p
How to save your tail : if you are a rat nabbed by cats who really like stories about magic spoons, wolves with snout-warts, big hairy chimney trolls-- and cookies too - Hanson, Mary Elizabeth. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Schwartz & Wade Books, 2007., RL 6.9, 93p
The incredible book eating boy - Jeffers, Oliver. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Philomel Books, 2007, RL 2.2, 32p
The invention of Hugo Cabret : a novel in words and pictures - Selznick, Brian. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Scholastic Press, 2007., RL 6, 533p
Iron thunder --a Civil War novel – Avi. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2007.
Jack Plank tells tales - Babbitt, Natalie. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Michael di Capua Books, 2007., RL 3.9, 128p
Jesse Owens : fastest man alive - Weatherford, Carole Boston. {IL 3-6, 796.42} -- Walker, 2007., RL 4.9, 32p
Julius Caesar : the boy who conquered an empire - Galford, Ellen. {IL 3-6, 937} -- National Geographic, 2007., RL 6.9, 64p
The Land of the Silver Apples - Farmer, Nancy. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007., RL 4.8, 496p
Lawn boy - Paulsen, Gary. {IL YA, -Fic-} -- Wendy Lamb Books, 2007., 88p
The longest season : the story of the Orioles' 1988 losing streak - Ripken, Cal. {IL K-3, 796.357} -- Philomel Books, 2007., RL 3.5, 32p
Mr. Chickee's messy mission - Curtis, Christopher Paul. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Wendy Lamb Books, 2007., RL 4.8, 230p
Mysteries of the mummy kids - Halls, Kelly Milner. {IL 5-8, 393} -- Darby Creek Pub., 2007., RL 7.8, 72p
The mysterious Benedict Society - Stewart, Trenton Lee. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Little, Brown, 2007., RL 6.4, 485p
The name of this book is secret - Bosch, Pseudonymous. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Little, Brown, 2007., RL 5.7, 360p
The Neddiad : how Neddie took the train, went to Hollywood, and saved civilization - Pinkwater, Daniel Manus. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Houghton Mifflin, 2007., RL 5, 307p
Nic Bishop spiders - Bishop, Nic. {IL K-3, 595.4} -- Scholastic Nonfiction, 2007., RL 3.3, 48p
No talking - Clements, Andrew. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2007., RL 6.9, 146p
On the wings of heroes - Peck, Richard. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Dial Books, 2007., RL 5.1, 148p
Owen & Mzee : the language of friendship - Hatkoff, Isabella. {IL 3-6, 599.63} -- Scholastic Press, 2007., RL 6, 34p
Pirates don't change diapers - Long, Melinda. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Harcourt, 2007., RL 2.9, 42p
Princess Justina Albertina : a cautionary tale - Davidson, Ellen Dee. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Charlesbridge, 2007., RL 2.3, 32p
Rally cars - Braulick, Carrie A. {IL 5-8, 796.7} -- Capstone Press, 2007., RL 3.1, 32p
The real story of stone soup - Compestine, Ying Chang. {IL K-3, 398.2} -- Dutton Children's Books, 2007., RL 2.9, 30p
Rex Zero and the end of the world - Wynne-Jones, Tim. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Melanie Kroupa Books, 2007., RL 5.8, 186p
A samurai never fears death : a samurai mystery - Hoobler, Dorothy. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Sleuth/Philomel, 2007., RL 6.7, 198p
Sardine in outer space. 3 - Guibert, Emmanuel. {IL 3-6, 741.5} -- First Second, 2007., RL 3.4, 102p
Satchel Paige : don't look back - Adler, David A. {IL K-3, 796.357} -- Harcourt, 2007., RL 4.5, 32p
Slam dunk! - Robinson, Sharon. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Scholastic Press, 2007.
The snack smasher and other reasons why it's not my fault - Perry, Andrea. {IL 3-6, 811} -- Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007., RL 7.1, 33p
Snakehead - Horowitz, Anthony. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Philomel Books, 2007.
Stink and the world's worst super-stinky sneakers - McDonald, Megan. {IL K-3, -Fic-} -- Candlewick Press, 2007., RL 2, 130p
The tale of Pale Male : a true story - Winter, Jeanette. {IL K-3, 598.9} -- Harcourt, 2007., RL 3, 32p
The Titan's curse - Riordan, Rick. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Miramax Books/Hyperion Books for Children, 2007., RL 5.3, 312p
Tracking trash : flotsam, jetsam, and the science of ocean motion - Burns, Loree Griffin. {IL 5-8, 551.46} -- Houghton Mifflin, 2007., RL 7.3, 56p
The wall : growing up behind the Iron Curtain - Sis, Peter. {IL 3-6, 943.7} -- Frances Foster Books, 2007., RL 3.2, 50p
The Wednesday wars - Schmidt, Gary D. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Clarion Books, 2007., RL 5.6, 264p
The wizard heir - Chima, Cinda Williams. {IL YA, -Fic-} -- Hyperion, 2007., 458p
Wolf! Wolf! - Rocco, John. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2007., RL 3.7, 32p

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

This is my real job...

I thought perhaps, that you would like to know a little bit more about my "real job." Today, I learned how to use Microsoft Photo Story and within an hour, I took my digital pictures and created this movie. Watch it and learn a little bit about the facility where I work in San Diego. This fringe benefit is available to all of our teachers. The same office houses Library Services for Schools, which supports our 221 school libraries. http://www.sandi.net/imc/ video

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

BCCB Blue Ribbons 2007

Today BCCB released their annual Blue Ribbons list for 2007. Nine titles have already appeared on other top lists- SLJ, Kirkus, PW, and Hornbook Fanfare. You can probably guess some of the titles, as they also appear on more than one list. Unsurprisingly, Part-time Indian, The Arrival, Orange Pear Apple Bear, Robot Dreams, Good Masters and The Wall make another appearance.

One title that had slipped my mind is Today and Today: Haiku by Kobayashi. The story is a collection of Issa’s haiku from the 16th century, supported by illustrations that show a family throughout the year. Older readers will pick up the subtle storyline that concludes with the death of the grandfather. As Aunt Betty would say, “it’s a tissue book,” but an unexpected one at that.

Interestingly enough, the Blue Ribbons list is strong on the graphic novel. Three of its fiction titles and also three of its nonfiction titles are graphic novels. I was glad to see Remembering Mrs. Rossi by Amy Hest, which is not a graphic novel. It’s a lovely story for grades three to six about the death of a mother and teacher. It’s the words that bring tears to your eyes and a catch in your throat when you read it. Pictures and words… thank goodness for them both.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2007 Books in Review

January, my favorite time of the year. Committees are reviewing. Books are being re-read. And I am feverishly making my list and checking it twice. We are on the edges of the Oscars for Literature. The time of year when journals and experts alike publish their best lists of books from the previous year. Like any lover of lists, I compare my lists with those others. What titles show up on list after list? Did I read everything I should have? What did I miss?

The first book I almost missed (due to time- almost everyone starred it) was The Wednesday Wars by Schmidt. WOW! This is a must read, for sure. Great characters. Great conflicts. Lots of laughs and even a few tears. So much to think about.




Another book that flew under my radar is The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous. Thanks to Book Sense Quarterly Picks, I found it at the last minute. However, I am afraid that this is a book, that unlike Elijah of Buxton, may not get its due. Don't miss it, even if it doesn't make the lists.


Though there are some lists that are yet to be posted, several books have already made their Notable Presence known. Elijah of Buxton by Curtis and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie are strong entries in the fiction category. Orange Pear Apple Bear by Gravett and Dog and Bear by Seeger get several nods in the Picture Book Category. The Wall by Peter Sis and The Arrival by Shaun Tan dominate the graphic novel with Robot Dreams by Varon close behind. Who Was First? by Russell Freeman and Spiders by Nic Bishop appear strong in nonfiction.

Let's not forget The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Selznick. A book that so far has dodged the first of the lists is Kadir Nelson's Henry's Freedom Box, which is my personal favorite for Caldecott and CSK. I also like Good Day by Henkes. So many books, so little time...back to reading my last minute choices. Now where did I put my coffee?