Monday, November 22, 2010

Is it Time for a Nap?

After being awake since 3AM this morning, it’s no wonder when I took a reading break that I chose two picture books about sleeping. The first was Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Using a speech bubble format, a little girl gets her mommy ready for bed. Children will delight in the reverse role as they see themselves in the tricks that Mommy uses to stall bedtime. A surprise ending will have them shouting, “read it again.” A lovely read aloud, it will also be a nice Christmas gift for moms with young children.

For a great laugh out loud bedtime story, read A Bedtime for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. Bear is a bit set in his sleeping routines and he likes it quiet. When Mouse shows up for a sleepover, Bear tries to make the best of it. Once Mouse stops with the noise at bedtime, Bear begins to hear unsettling noises. “Mouse!” he cried. “Wake up!” Mouse wisely realizes the fear that Bear is having and helps him settle back to sleep. Readers will laugh out loud as they see through Bear. A lovely story of friendship, A Bedtime for Bear is sure to be a crowd pleaser too.

Now, about my nap...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Library Makeovers on a Budget

Before makeover
After the book shift and new theme
One of the services that my office provides is reorganization of the library facility. Janet, Elaine and I go to a school library, and compare the needs of the school with the layout of the furniture, books and other resources in the library. With changing technology and growing schools (many of our elementary schools have gone K-8), how we used to use a space often differs from the best way to use it now.

So we weed the collection, often moving books to better accommodate assignments from teachers. For example, at Fulton, the older students were looking for fiction books and nonfiction books in the same space. By moving the nonfiction and fiction to the outside walls, students spread out more when looking for books to check out. Sometimes, we move computer stations to an area closer to the circulation desk. We have, on occasion, moved free standing bookshelves away from the front door to open up the entrance space. This often creates an area suitable for multiple purposes or a Storytime.

Now that many of our libraries are utilitzing i21 technology, we want to create a space for teaching an entire class. In those spaces, we try to keep a Storytime area, but corral the tables together so that we can also seat an entire class for instruction. Sometimes the screen needs to be moved so that it is in the center of the instructional area.

Fiction area in transition

We recently finished a complete reorganization of a library that has become K-8. We wanted to create an area for younger students, but also set apart an area for the middle schoolers- the Double Digits. So, we moved the fiction and reference books to the instructional end of the library. We added a paperback book rack to shelve the edgy fiction. A space was created to make a cozy reading area.

To tie in both areas, we used a theme- rainforest. Using the resources at the TMC (Noah, especially), we added leaves, vines and creatures that students will research when they study the rainforest habitat. Old posters were taken down. A few “explorer” type props were added. We suggested adding camping chairs for the Double Digit special reading area. A mosquito netting canopy would set that off nicely.
Instructional area with student work
The next step is buy in from the school. We made a list of props that can be collected and added to the displays. The school will post these ideas. Students and parents will bring these into “their” library. Everyone will have an opportunity to have a part and continue to make the library more inviting and usable.

Students will also have an opportunity to fill out paper leaves and add to the vines. Whenever they read a book they especially liked, they can fill out a leaf with the title and author. The library staff will add it to the walls. Thus, another chance for ownership. Teachers and students who have ownership in a library are your biggest advocates. They take care of the space and care about what happens in it. Remember to call it “our library,” as well. No one cares about “your” library.

A final piece is that the library staff is the gathering volunteers- from parents to students to work in the library. The library staff has created an application form for students to fill out. A letter is going home to parents about helping on campus. The library is one of the places they can help. By creating a usable, inviting place that provides opportunities for ownership, students increase their chances to learn in a library that belongs to them. We, on the other hand, benefit from having help and having nurtured our best cheerleaders.

For more ideas about library themes, see my wikispace, Libraries Matter.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Shelf Worthy

I just finished a big weed project at a site. This site has gone through two circulation conversions in the last ten years. As I went through the decisions of what stays and what goes, I came to this conclusion: why do we spend time and money barcoding items that shouldn’t even be in the collection at all? Why do they transfer from one program to the next?

I know that in our district, we went from one system to the other so quickly, that it was hard to keep up. In many cases we didn’t have staffing or time to weed before we added all records. But if we are physically putting barcodes on a book or material that no longer has value to our collection, shouldn’t we just delete it then and there?

The same applies to materials we are given. If someone donates a book or material to the library, we should evaluate it before taking the time and energy to add it to our collection.

• Does it add value to the collection?
• Does it meet the needs of the curriculum?
• Is it grade level appropriate for our students?
• Will teachers and students use it?
• Is it more appropriate for a home library than a school library?
• If it was already on our shelf, would we weed it?
• Is the information current?
• Does it have mold or a smell? (straight to a plastic bag please)
• Do we already have a newer edition?

So before, you add a barcode to something, take just a second longer and ask yourself: Is this shelf worthy? If not, discard it or recycle it. You can also use some of the donations for a book sale. Collect these books all year long and sort them into boxes marked 25 cents, 50 cents or 1.00. At the end of the year, have a two day sale. Sell the books at half price on the second day.

Use other donated books as giveaways to your student helpers or as prizes for students who bring their books back. Most secondary schools have a spot near the front door for free books. Good idea! We all love free.

In short, even in tight times, it is better to have no information than misinformation. Discard books with misinformation. Delete worn materials. Free up space in your video or CDROM collection for newer materials. Point your patrons in the direction of digital databases. You are still the “keeper” of the information, just be sure it’s worth keeping.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Can I Keep Him, Please??

How many of you found an animal, brought it home and asked Mom if you  could keep it? And her answer? Well, it depends on the mom. I just read a delightful story about just that- only there is a twist. The animal is a child and the one who found it is a bear. The story is Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown. Lucy is playing in the woods when she hears a squeak coming from the bushes. “OH! MY! GOSH! You are the cutest critter in the WHOLE forest.” So like any child, Lucy takes him home to ask her parents if she can keep him. They agree on one condition- he’s Lucy’s responsibility.

Squeaker is a great pet- for awhile. They play together. They eat together. They nap together. Potty training is another story. Then the worst happens- Squeaker disappears. Lucy learns a valuable lesson about pets. One that kids can quickly see and relate to as well.

Children Make Terrible Pets is a great read aloud. You might combine it with Princess Justina Albertina: A Cautionary Tale by Ellen Lee Davidson or do a search in Destiny. Search pets. Then narrow your search by browsing subjects. Look in the list of subjects for pets—fiction. Teachers and library staff can create a resource list (after logging in) and make it public so your students can easily find all sorts of fiction stories about kids and their pets. Looking across the district, I can see 543 different titles. How many do you have at your school?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meaningful Work

Last week Elaine and I (Janet was still on vacation) went out to some of our secondary schools on what we call a reconnaissance mission. We listen to the needs and questions of the staff, look around and offer suggestions about improvements. One of the first high schools we visited has a new library staff member. She’s new to our district too. Her school is broken into 6 smaller schools. With over 5000 students, she is the lone wolf, coming into a situation that is just- plainly put- hard. There is no teacher librarian. No other classified staff. Only three students are currently coming in to help with clerical tasks, like shelving. Even in a library where things are in great order when you get there, it would be tough.

Unfortunately, staffing at this site has not been enough or consistent. The staff that has been there for the last 9 years (that’s all I can vouch for) have admirably done everything they can to just keep their heads above the water. With the new library tech starting after the first textbook distribution was over, there were still offices full of boxes of consumables. The library has been a place to put (or leave) things that don’t work- from equipment to furniture.
Before anything has been rearranged.

Enter new tech. She comes to training. She makes a list of what she thinks is a priority to make this high school a better place for kids. Elaine and I go out to look things over. We all jump right in and see what we can do right away. We clear out things that have been dumped in the front. We find signage to hang to welcome students in.

Teens flock to an area that has been created for them.
Elaine rearranges some furniture and creates a welcoming place for kids to sit and read. Within minutes of this, a class comes in to check out books. Instantly kids are there reading. Not going to the computers. Not leaving. Sitting and reading. They want to be there, but they need a space that speaks to them. With the three of us working, and the help of a substitute, the space begins to take shape.

When we talked about this at the next elementary training, some of our library assistants volunteered to come on their own time to help this school. When we talked to the new high school tech to encourage her about all the work there is to do, her response was “it’s meaningful work.”

We have great people in our team of SDUSD library staff. There is Elaine, who switches her days off so she can be with Janet when she comes back, as I am in Canada. Sharon, who volunteers to help a high school in need. Library assistants (and teachers) who came to Books and Boys on Saturday morning. Janet, who skips lunch to talk someone through and issue on the phone. The list goes on and on.

Yes, my job is hard too. There is a reason why I have a collection of crowns. Some days a girl just needs to wear one. Some days, she just has to think about all the great work being done by people who work harder than they get paid for because it’s “meaningful work.” Today is one of those days. So, thank you, library staff, on behalf of all the kids and teachers in this district for what you do for kids.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Birthday Book Clubs

I’m on my way to speak in Florida about how to do something with what you have. It seems like everywhere I go, funds and staffing are stretched to their limits. So we will talk about saving time and money when you don’t have much of either. As part of that we will talk about ways to raise money.

Start a fund raising project that adds new books to your collection at little cost to you. A Birthday Book Club provides funding for you to add new books to the collection while allowing your community to take ownership by donating materials you really want and need. Students who are members get to be the first to check out the books. You can host a party which could be offered several times throughout the year, adding new members to your club. Encourage area businesses or community members to donate so that your less fortunate students can also participate. Perhaps students who return their books, etc. can win chances for a drawing for these donor club memberships.

If you have upper grade students, you can adapt the idea to an Honor Club. Books/money can be donated in honor of a graduating student. Students can invite friends and family from all over the world to participate, so that many books are added in honor of the student.

As an alternative fundraiser, I learned yesterday that PermaBound has a new program called Book Busters. Schools can create a url that can be posted on a website. People from all over the world can go to the site and donate money for books. All you need to do is create a reason for buying them. How many reasons, let me count they ways… They even have promotional material for you to use. Contact your PermaBound representative for more information.

How do you start the book club? See the ideas below to get you started. There are forms you can adapt on my Libraries Matter wikispace on the Prepare for Fall page. Help yourself.

Oh and party refreshments? Ice cream and cake? Of course!

 At the end of the year, around Christmas or at the beginning of the school year, send a letter home to parents inviting them to participate in the Birthday Book Club.
 If you charge $20.00, you will be able to choose library bound books.
 Parents return the form with their money or check.
 Order the books, selecting age and topic appropriate books.
 Create a database from the forms.
 Use Microsoft Word to create a mail merge label for each child’s book.
 Use Word to create a spine label for the Birthday Book. A simple cake logo works.
 When the books are ready send out invitations to the Birthday Book Club Party.
 Plan age appropriate entertainment and refreshments.
 Enlist volunteers to help with the books and party.
 Place the labels on the spine and in the books.
 Sort the books by your distribution plan.
 Check out the books to the student whose family donated the book.
 Throw the party.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thank You Harry Wong

Years ago, I was the Susan Lucci of education. Every year I was nominated for Teacher of the Year and every year I lost. Then I earned my library degree. After that, I was nominated for Teacher of the Year and Media Specialist of the Year, and lost. Again and Again.

Then I read Harry Wong's The First Days of School. my classroom management was transformed. I taught more because kids knew what to do. I learned the difference between rules and procedures. Rules have consequences. Procedures get practice. If a student runs, he practices walking. Eventually he learns to walk.

Wong also teaches that students are our customers. Especially in a secondary library, we need to remember that. In a flexible schedule, students can and will go somewhere else, if their needs are not met or they don’t feel welcome. That’s the beginning of this story…

So we need to teach the rules and share the consequences. One way to do that is the yakking power point. You can improve that by adding photographs of students demonstrating the rules. Maybe they even do them incorrectly.

Now take this a step further. Save your power point presentation as jpgs. Then create a Photo Story using the rule slides that are now picture files. (See my blog article about Photo Story if this is news to you.) You will have to go into the motion feature and adjust the time and movement on the word slides. Choose start and stop in the same place and make sure the movement is the whole frame.

Narrate the slides. Add some opening and/or closing music and TA DA! You have an interesting movie to share with your students about rules. You’ve used technology that will capture their attention. Students like to see themselves “on camera.” And you save your voice. If you ever need to change it, and you will, you can just change or add pictures. Re-record the voice over and save your new production.

Now for the rest of the story…
After I learned the difference between rules and procedures and practiced. I was not only voted Teacher of the Year, but also Media Specialist of the Year for my state. Harry Wong made a difference in how I taught. My kids learned more, because I was able to guide them more when less time was wasted. How about you? Couldn’t you use more time to guide your students? Check it out at your library.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mockingjay Day

Today is Mockingjay Day. A day that Hunger Games’ fans have been anxiously awaiting. The third in a series staring a strong female character who lives in a dystopian world, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins has been kept under lock and key. Today the bird is released.

No. I did not get it early. Yes. I went to my local bookstore first thing this morning and got my copy. No. I left it in the car so I would actually work today.

I gave one of my theater friends (a fifty-ish male) a copy of Hunger Games last year to read on a transatlantic flight. When he got to his layover, he called me. “This is a kid’s book?," he said. “Yes,” I told him. “It’s what we call a YA (Young Adult)," which for elementary means R rated movie- run away.

“It's like a car wreck," he said. "You know you should look away but you can't help yourself. So...(big pause) do you have the sequel?” he asked me next. I smiled. “Of course I do.” Another reader hooked I thought to myself.

That’s the beauty of a really good book. It spans the ages for which it was written. Look at the success of Harry Potter. It almost became an offense to people if you hadn’t read it or a guilty secret for some of my librarian staff. "What do you mean you haven't read it?!"

A good read captures your audience on the first page. Sorry, this is so short. I have to get something out of my car...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Coffee Klatch

The SDUSD Teachers' Media Center
My staff and I, along with support from the TMC staff, are teaching a Back to School Coffee Klatch next Tuesday morning. In a fast one hour session, we will provide tips for classroom management, ideas for instructional/management bulletin boards and best uses of the Teachers Media Center. And yes, there will be coffee.

For those of you who haven’t been to the TMC or if it’s been awhile, the TMC is a make and take it area of the Instructional Media Center. SDUSD staff can visit during our regular hours to cut out letters, bind books, laminate or make posters for their classrooms or libraries. It’s our very own do-it-yourself-without-spending-as-much-money Teacher Store. You are only charged a small amount for anything consumable.

It’s a little overwhelming, so we decided to offer this in the morning, so that people can have the rest of the day to work. We’ll start in the lab to show online resources, but spend most of the time giving ideas and demonstrating how to use the TMC. The IMC/TMC is much like your first visit to DSW (shoe warehouse). There is so much to choose from, it’s hard to start. Our thought is that if we can get you started, you will be able to take it from there. Handouts will be posted on our website.

For example, every room in the school should have rules- even the library, which, as you know, is the largest classroom in the school. We will teach you that the rules should be less than 5, positive and posted. (We are disciples of Harry Wong for a reason.) Rules might be:

1. Take care of classroom/library materials.
2. Use quiet voices.
3. If you use it, put it away.
4. Stop, look and listen at the bell.
5. Mind your manners.

At the Coffee Klatch, we will show you how the rules can be made into a power point or Photo Story. Then we will take you into the TMC and show you how to make a great poster that can be posted in your classroom or school library. You could also take the same rules and/or procedures and make a Jeopardy power point game.

So many ideas, so little time. If you belong to SDUSD, join us on August 31 from 10:00 to 11:00 in the Lab, Room 3. Register at ERO so my numbers look accurate. If you haven't gotten a PIN number before, you'll have to sign up. Then search "coffee."

“The Powers That Be” need to know that Library Services does more than check out books. Help us toot our horn. Tell your principal, parents, school board members and upper administration about what we can do with and for you. Don’t know? Just ask…

Friday, August 20, 2010

Who is Aunt Betty?

Aunt Betty Takes Time to Read
Where I come from, our grandma’s go to the beauty parlor, not the salon. They get a curly perm and often, a rinse. Sometimes the rinse is blue, sometimes lavender or pink. It’s called a rinse for a reason. If you don’t wear your little plastic rain bonnet and you happen upon a little shower, your hair color is coming right off your hair and onto your lovely cardigan sweater. (This is the voice of experience talking.)

So, many years ago, I was at a yard sale in Mt. Pleasant, SC. In a box of costumes, I saw a blue curly wig. I thought, “Oh my. It’s like my grandma’s hair gone too long in the rinse.” But, since it was a quarter, I bought it. You never know when you might need a bright blue wig.

I took it to school and put it in a box of costume pieces and forgot about it. Almost a year later, our school decided to have school-wide rules (which is brilliant, by the way). On our daily news broadcast, one rule each day would be taught. The committee asked me to go on TV on the day of “respect” and sing, Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I said, “No, I don’t think so.”

But about ten minutes before we went on the air I thought, “A little old grandma lady- she would do it.” I grabbed that blue wig, a pair of my grandma’s ear bobs (earrings for you non-Southern folk) and Aunt Betty was born.

After that, Aunt Betty made periodic appearances to remind children to mind their manners- push your chair in, don’t say huh? or don’t wash your hands in the drinking fountain. From there I began to do Storytimes and class visits. After that I realized I could use her for staff development. Back then it was a lot easier to be someone else and do books talks about poop and snot than for me to do it.

Now Aunt Betty is an international speaker. Sometimes if I have been to a place as Aunt Betty and return another day as myself, people are disappointed. It’s amazing what you can do with a 25 cent wig.

Aunt Betty visits Field Elem School.
A couple of years ago I told a group of children about having lavender hair. I said that I would just keep it blue, since it matched my eyes. Five minutes into our visit, a little girl raised her hand. She said, "Aunt Betty. I don't think your hair has to match your eyes. You should just do it." So, I've had a makeover. We call it Lightly Lavender. If my Grams had worn glasses, I would look just like her. It's scary.

Where did the Betty come from? My nephew, who is now in his twenties, gave me the name when he was 3. He could say “Debbie,” but chose to use his own nickname. (By the way, very few people call me Debbie and I like that!!) So, it was a perfect choice, since all my family calls me Betty.

Having another person to do storytelling, staff development and other trainings works for me. Maybe it will work for you. Don’t we all wish there were two of us sometimes??

Great Beginnings

So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed by a cult of evil librarians…. (Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians)

If your teacher has to die, August isn’t a bad time of year for it. (Richard Peck, A Teacher’s Funeral)

Mom and Dad had known about the wedding at my uncle Autry’s ranch for months. But with the date set for a mere ten days after my thirteenth birthday, my family’s RSVP had remained solidly unconfirmed until the last possible wait-and-see moment….In my family, thirteenth birthdays were like time bombs, with no burning fuse or beeping countdown to tell you when to plug your ears, duck, brace yourself, or turn tail and get the hay bales out of Dodge. (Ingrid Law, Scumble)

I love a good hook on the first page of a story. How can you read any of the above without reading on? They get you from the start. That’s one of the criteria I use when I am choosing books to recommend. If it doesn’t have a good hook, right at the start, how can we expect that a young reader, especially a struggling one, will persevere?

Teaching Tip
So the first sentence, the first page of a book is important. Try this out:

Great Hooks Graffiti:
Post a large piece of bulletin board paper in your library or classroom. Start it off by writing your own favorite first sentence. Write it in quotes and underneath write the author and title of the book.

Ask your students to add their book graffiti as they read books that have a great first sentence. Nonfiction, picture books and fiction… any kind of reading works. Collect good first sentences or anything on the first page that grabs and hooks you into the next page.

After you have collected a fair number of starters, categorize each quote. Did the author start with dialogue? Setting? Character? Problem? Is there a pattern? Does one technique seem used more than others? What feeling does the author create with that technique?

Then have kids use these ideas to do their own writing. Getting started is the hardest part. By having concrete examples and starting a story in a given method, students who struggle can worry about other important things. How to end it, for example? Ah, but that’s another problem.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Clever Jack Takes the Cake

They have done it again. The team that brought us Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! have joined forces again to bring us another tale that will keep you turning pages and clapping your hands at the end.

All the children in the kingdom have been invited to the birthday party of the princess. Jack, a poor child, cannot afford to buy her anything. So, Clever Jack, barters and trades for the makings of a cake. His problems really begin when he has to travel from home to the castle to take the cake to the princess. It seems that everyone wants some of that cake.

Will Jack be clever enough to get the cake to its destination? And what will the princess think? Find out yourself in the newly released picture book, Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. You will clap your hands in delight. It's a great read aloud for all ages.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Want S'More?

Recently I attended an author visit at our local independent bookstore, Yellow Book Road. Helen Foster James was doing a talk about her book, S is for S’Mores, illustrated by Lita Judge. Just like any teacher or librarian, Helen welcomed children and parents as they entered and began by introducing herself and her book. Immediately she drew the children in and managed behavior with a trick of her hand.

Helen talked about camping and what you might need when you camp. Then she read from her book, which is a rhyming alphabet book about camping. It can also be used as a picture book for older readers, as each page also has a sidebar of more information on the topical letter. The illustrations are beautiful. Be sure you check out Lita's books too. She's writing her own books and illustrating them too.

G is for the Gear you’ll need
To organize and pack
To keep your camping full of fun
And bring you safely back.

Then she brought out a plastic container and took the lid off with a penny. Kids guessed about what its’ use might be. She said, “What do you think you might put in here?” One kid said, “a gun.” Well, probably not. In the end, we learned that it was for keeping food away from bears. She told us that we need to be careful when we are camping so that bears can’t get our food. How will they feed themselves from nature if they learn that they like Snickers bars better?

A is for adventure.
Let’s camp from A to Z.
On mountains and deserts or beaches,
If you want to have fun, follow me!

The author told us that the last line of the A page came from something her friend used to say when she was a little girl. One of the best things about going to an event like this is that you learn about where stories come from. You learn that authors are real people too. Certainly Helen Foster James is joy to listen to. Her final triumph was a folding paper story. Children were mesmerized and of course, wanted to learn to fold and tell as well.

The best thing is that this event was free. Check out your local children’s book store. Are you on their email list? Make time to visit the store. Listen to an author. Browse the shelf. Take home a few unexpected treasures. (Who can leave a bookstore without buying something??) What do you know? Sometimes you might even get to eat a S’more.

Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Amos who?
A mosquito bit me.

Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Andy who?
Andy bit me again.

Knock Knock.
Who’s there.
Betty who?
(Smack your arm.) Bet he won’t do that again.

May all your camping adventures be fun- and bug free.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My 15 Minutes Plus

It looks like perhaps I hit on a popular subject with my Comic Con gig. Word got to my school district. The media was alerted. The next day my office was filled with reporters and news cameras. The district gathered all the footage into one video clip that runs about 3.5 minutes. School Library Journal called me for an interview. The article will come out tomorrow.  Library Media Connection wants me to write an article, “Redefining Reading.” I was invited to speak at the SLJ Leadership Summit in Chicago. I have answered mail from all over the country about using graphic novels in the classroom. I stand amazed.

I was even more amazed at Comic Con. For those of you who are out of the popular culture loop, San Diego Comic Con is the place to be for popular culture, comic books, all things Star Trek and the like. It’s a place to see and be seen. 130,000 people attended this 4 day conference. The SD Convention Center main floor is completely covered with vendors, while break out sessions start in the morning and end at “prevening.” Costume balls, movie and TV premiers… So many costumes that you sometimes think you could be on the back lot of a movie production company.

I spoke on a panel with 3 university professors on the topic “Comics in the Classroom.” The room was set up for 260 people. I thought, “hmm, going to be a lot of empty seats.” Was I wrong! The room was full with standing room only. The hour passed quickly- I had so much more to say. Afterwards, our table was mobbed by people who wanted to ask questions, get our cards, or ask for help. Chris Butcher, our moderator, posted our handouts on his website. If you missed it, you can at least see these.

I did walk the vendor floor on Preview Night. I have to say, it was much different than a library conference. (Can you see my sign?) I am afraid that even though I had on my cowgirl boots for bravery, I was still very anxious. I was delighted to see publishers I knew. My sister’s big question was, “Did you see any stars?” I am afraid not.

Despite the crowds, the traffic, the unfamiliarity, a funny thing happened. I usually avoid downtown like the plague during the Con. Too many crowds, etc. But I have to say this. The folks who go to Comic Con are passionate about what they love. They love the characters. They love the buzz. They love the comics. I, too, fell under the spell. I went there to preach redefining reading, but left as a fan of Comic Con.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Comics in the Classroom

Recently we decided to do Saturday Matinees @ the IMC. My Saturday was today and with Comic Con just around the corner, I decided to do “Comics in the Classroom.” There are an amazing number of resources available for teachers in the use of this literature.

Literature? Comics? Yes, comics. When is the last time you looked at a comic without reading? Don’t you have to determine sequence of events, character, plot, and resolution? And don’t forget that these panels have a beginning, middle and end in as few as three squares. I found a website,, using Destiny that allows you to sort the panels into correct sequence and then you have to answer questions about them. It was not as easy as you would think!

Teachers can use comic books and graphic novels (fiction and nonfiction) to teach the same curriculum and standards as with traditional literature. Publishers are seeing the interest that students have placed in graphic novels. Some companies have published graphic novels of the classics. These versions make it easier for Second Language learners or students reading below grade level to grasp the storyline, as well as give them some background for reading the original. Stone Arch books and Capstone Press have created Graphic Libraries of content related curriculum. Now students can read what they want, and learn something while doing it. As with any literature, teachers and librarians will want to pre-read before using graphic materials with students. (Remember my article on Don’t Shoot From the Hip.) Our local sales rep is Diana McGeorge. Capstone books are also available in paperback for your classrooms!

As you learn more about graphic novels, you will find there are many strategies that carry over from using traditional literature. Many publishers and authors also have lesson plans on their websites, so there is no need to recreate the wheel. First Second Books, for example, has free lesson plans on their website. On the other hand, here are some strategies for using any graphic work with your students in the library or in the classroom.

• Use a document camera to “read” a graphic novel or picture book to your students. The pictures are as important as the text, so everyone needs to see both well.
• Instead of barcoding comic books in the library, have students sign for them on a clipboard-perhaps as a reward or over the weekend.
• Allow students who like to draw the opportunity to use their skills in their work from time to time.
• Graphic novels and comic books are expensive. Encourage your students to swap books with each other.
• Photocopy a page of comic panels. Cut them apart. Ask students to put them in order.
• Photocopy a page of comic panels. White out the text and ask students to either match the panels to the original text or create their own. Students can work separately or in pairs.
• As an alternate activity, give students the text and have them illustrate the panel.
• Mo Willems’ series, Elephant and Piggie, can be used as Reader’s Theater. Divide your students into pairs and let them read.
• Have a gaming activity- whether it’s Dance Dance Revolution or a video game challenge, this activity is sure to bring them into the library.
• Use graphic novels to teach transition words.
• Use graphic novels to teach fluency with ESL students. Turn a graphic novel into a readers’ theater just by reading the dialogue. Be sure to assign a narrator.

Once I told the group what graphic novels are and why and how to use them, the next logical step was where do I find them. Enter IMC and Destiny. Destiny is our one-stop digital shopping cart. Teachers choose their school, check IMC box also and search. In a matter of seconds we can use One Search to find hundreds of books, database articles and websites on our topic. We found that by typing in “comics” and our subject area, we can find content related materials. As an SDUSD staff person, they learned that they can make a resource list to keep track of those resources. By making it public, even their students can see those websites, databases and books or media. They also learned that they can book these materials from IMC in advance and have them delivered. Membership has its privileges.

To make it easier to find supportive websites, I directed participants to my internet hotlist of websites for books and boys. Searching through that list, you will find links to student and teacher resources, lesson plan ideas and even software that students can use to create their own comics.

There is a wealth of ready to use material for teachers and librarians on using comic books in the classroom. Try it. You might find that even you, enjoy it.

By the way, I am speaking at Comic Con Saturday at 3:30. How cool is that?!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Buzz 2010 K-6

Tomorrow I am doing two sessions at our County Professional Growth Day about what's getting the buzz for 2010 and how do you find out. So today I will post what I am hearing about for K-6 and tomorrow for 6-12. I'll include how to know in today's article.

As a literature specialist and resource librarian for SDUSD, publishers (and authors) send me their books for review. I read as many as I can, as reviews are helpful, but truthfully, only you know what is best for your students and community. So having the actual books in hand is a blessing. What do you do if that is not possible?

Webcasts- You can watch webcasts to find out what is being published. There have been quite a few offered in the last few months. Some of these are free. Try journals like School Library Journal or Library Journal, for example. Go to their websites and look at the archives. Get on their notification lists. Some publishers are also offering free webcasts. Capstone and Lerner recently held webcasts about new titles. Other publishers have offerings at a cost. Linworth, for example, gives you group discount rates, so the more the merrier ( and cheaper than doing it alone). Our CSLA listserv also announces webcasts. So check out your state's offerings as well. Membership has its privileges.

Newsletters- Another way to find out what is on the horizon is to subscribe to newsletters. School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly offer many different e-letters that will keep you up to date. Kids Reads and Teen Reads have e-letters that not only tell you what is coming, but which books have been purchased for movie options. Many book jobbers have newsletters or features on their websites about new books. Bound to Stay Bound (BTSB) has the Cream of the Crop. Ingram publishes Children's Advance Magazine. Check out your favorite vendor to see what they have to offer.

Book Sellers- Then there are book sellers. You know how I feel about Junior Library Guild. Love, love, love them. Their website will tell you what you have in store for you when you get their subscriptions. (Check out a past JLG blog article if you missed it.) Independent bookstores, such as our Yellow Book Road and Warwick's, belong to the Indie Booksellers who publish their quarterly top ten picks along with other favorite titles. These independents know the authors, read the books and have less vested interest than what you might get from a publisher. I am also a huge fan of Follett's Titlewave for new titles. I recently discovered that they even have a "set" of favorite authors who have books on the way.

Literature Specialists- Last but not least, there are folks like me. People who have actually had their hands on the books. Esme, Kathy Baxter, Judy Freeman, Peggy Sharp, Michael Cart. Check out their workshops and websites to find out what they have been reading. Then, you too, can be In the Know. Tomorrow I'll let you know what is getting the buzz for grades 6-12.

Some of the Possible Best Books for 2010, K-6
Most of these books have received starred reviews from 3 or more of the following journals: Booklist, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Hornbook, Kirkus, Kliatt, Library Media Connection, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. You should determine whether the books are appropriate for your school library.

Cat the cat, who is that? -- Willems, Mo. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Balzer & Bray, 2010., RL .7, 24p
An exuberant cat introduces readers to her friends.

Chester's masterpiece -- Watt, Melanie. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Kids Can Press, 2010., RL 3.5, 32p
A conflict over the creative process ensues when Chester, an egotistical cat, decides to produce a masterpiece.

The fabled fifth graders of Aesop elementary school -- Fleming, Candace {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Schwartz & Wade books, 2010
Sequel to The Fabled fourth graders of Aesop. Due out in the fall.

Henry Aaron's dream -- Tavares, Matt. {IL K-3, 796.357} -- Candlewick Press, 2010., RL 2.8, 40p
Chronicles the childhood of Henry Aaron, describing his dream of becoming a major league baseball player.

Lincoln tells a joke : how laughter saved the president (and the country) -- Krull, Kathleen. {IL 3-6, 973.7} -- Harcourt Children's Books, 2010., RL 4.5, 32p
Explores what made Abraham Lincoln's sense of humor so distinctive and how his ability to find humor in even the most dire circumstances helped him survive his difficult life and helped the country cope with the Civil War.

Miss Brooks loves books! (and I don't) -- Bottner, Barbara. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Alfred A. Knopf, 2010., RL 2.4, 26p
A first-grade girl--who does not like to read--stubbornly resists her school librarian's efforts to convince her to love books until she finds one that might change her mind.

Mirror mirror : a book of reversible verse -- Singer, Marilyn. {IL 3-6, 811} -- Dutton Children's Books, 2010., RL 4.1, 32p
A collection of short poems which, when reversed, provide new perspectives on the fairy tale characters they feature.

My garden -- Henkes, Kevin. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Greenwillow Books, 2010., RL 3.9, 32p
After helping her mother weed, water, and chase the rabbits from their garden, a young girl imagines her dream garden complete with jellybean bushes, chocolate rabbits, and tomatoes the size of beach balls.

The mysterious howling -- Wood, Maryrose. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Balzer & Bray, 2010., RL 6.6, 267p
Fifteen-year-old Miss Penelope Lumley, a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, is hired as governess to three young children who have been raised by wolves and must teach them to behave in a civilized manner quickly, in preparation for a Christmas ball.

A nest for Celeste : a story about art, inspiration, and the meaning of home -- Cole, Henry. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Katherine Tegen Books, 2010., RL 4.9, 342p
Celeste, a mouse longing for a real home, becomes a source of inspiration to teenaged Joseph, assistant to the artist and naturalist John James Audubon, at a New Orleans, Louisiana, plantation in 1821.

One crazy summer -- Williams-Garcia, Rita. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Amistad, 2010., RL 5.3, 218p
In the summer of 1968, after traveling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

Scary, gross, and enlightening books for boys grades 3-12 -- Ford, Deborah B. {IL PF, 028.5} -- Libraries Unlimited, 2010., 158p
Profiles books from a variety of genres, including nonfiction, graphic novels, science-fiction, and others, aimed at boys in third through twelfth grade, and includes strategies teachers and librarians can use to promote interest in them.

Ubiquitous : celebrating nature's survivors : poetry -- Sidman, Joyce. {IL 3-6, 811} -- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010., RL 6.8, 36p
Collects poems that examine survival in nature, and includes information about a number of plants and animals.

A whole nother story -- Soup, Cuthbert. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Bloomsbury, 2010., RL 6.1, 264p
Ethan Cheeseman and his children, ages eight, twelve, and fourteen, hope to settle in a nice small town, at least long enough to complete work on a time machine, but spies and government agents have been pursuing them for two years and are about to catch up.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let 'em Pick! Let 'em Read!

I remember years ago I taught a boy, Calvin, who checked out the same book every week for almost his entire kindergarten year. For awhile, it drove me crazy that he would only read There’s a Nightmare in My Closet. I tried everything. More Mayer books. Books about monsters. Books his classmates liked. Nothing interested him.

One day, Calvin came to me and said he needed a book about eagles. I was stunned. So, I took him to the 590’s and showed him his options. He chose two eagle books. I was thrilled. We have a break through, I thought.

The next week he came back. "What would you like to read this week?" I asked him.
"Books about eagles."
"Which books?" I asked.
"Any books about eagles."
So, we made a break through. The days of There’s a Nightmare were over. Now it was all about eagles.

We all have kids who get stuck on an author, a genre, a book. At some point, the reader moves on. Really, they do. Sometimes we are the motivator. Sometimes not. Whatever the case, if we let a reader read, and don’t hinder him with the number of pages, variety, or other factors, kids move on. What difference does it make if they read the same thing over and over? Don’t we eat at the same restaurant over and over? Watch the same movies or television shows?

So let ‘em pick. Let ‘em read. You’d be surprised at the results.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Where in the World is Deborah Now?

This week I am “on the road,” as we say at the office. I am on tour, so to speak, with BER, Bureau of Education and Research. This company sends educators across the United States and Canada to lead full day seminars on all sorts of subjects related to education. Today I am on my way to begin the week in Detroit, then we are off to Chicago, Peoria and St. Louis before heading home. My topic for the week is Increasing the Effectiveness of Your School Library Program. If you live near the areas where I will be, check out the BER website, sign up and join us. I have so many things to tell you while you’re there. I’ll fire you up and send you out. If you aren't in that part of the world, contact me and we can talk about how you can bring me to you.

So I have to tell you. I am on a flight to Detroit and guess who is sitting two people down from me? Jonathan Rand. You would be proud. I didn’t gush when I recognized him- unlike the time I literally ran into Esme Codell. It was pathetic, but she said she liked gushing. "Go ahead and gush!" Rand has been in San Diego and is on his way home. Search him on this blog for info about this author and fabulous speaker for Grades 1-6ish. FYI- he’s working on a story while he flies. So there you have it. Authors write on planes.

I’m also writing on the plane. Delta has Gogo which is a wifi service allowing passengers to use the internet while they fly. Amazing! Since it’s a long flight to Minneapolis, there is time to write on my blog, double-check my power point for tomorrow and catch up on email. I have thirty minutes left of battery, so I had better work quickly. Good thing I brought a book.

Speaking of books, I got my first royalty check this week. Now that is an amazing thing. I hung it on my refrigerator. I have to tell you- it feels pretty good. Now it’s time to start on another. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I Can't See the Pictures

If I had to name one tool that revolutionized the way I teach, it would be my document camera. How many times have you read a picture book to a class and there is a chorus of “I can’t see the pictures?” Using the camera, or visual presenter, everyone can see both pictures and text. If I find something in today's newspaper that I want to show a class, I can place it on the table and everyone can see the small print. If I want to show an example of a student’s work, I can take it from his desk and show the entire class. Kids get immediate feedback on their work.

A document camera replaces your old overhead projector. It's not loud. It doesn’t get hot. Many models don’t even need to use the lamp, so there is little maintenance cost. No transparencies or pens to buy. It’s a choose-and-go kind of tool. Choose what you want to show and place it on the table. Prep time is minimal and set up is fairly easy.

How can you use a document camera? Let me count the ways. You can use it to do experiments so that everyone can see your hands. You can use it to explain how to complete a worksheet or form. You can model writing samples. You can zoom in to show details of a painting. In a music class, you can show one piece of music and everyone can play it. If it’s too hard or too easy, you can easily change to another piece.

A document camera is great for assisting the visually impaired. Tiny print is now easy to see. When you only have one copy, and you show it on the document camera, you can still use the resource you want, but no copyright violations have occurred. It saves time and money. No overhead transparencies to make. No copies to make. Teachable moments are a reality.

The camera (or visual presenter) that I use only weighs 5 pounds, so it is easy to transport in my luggage or from school to school. My current camera of choice is a Lumens DC166. You do need some sort of projection system to use one. Perhaps you already have a Promethean board or Smart Board. I use an LCD projector and also hook up my laptop. This way I can switch between the camera and my powerpoint or the internet. Where do you get one? Probably the same place you can get an overhead projector. Certainly where you can buy a new LCD projector.

Last year I went to a school and worked with a Language Arts teacher on point of view. We were going to begin with a reading of Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. When I started to hold the book out to my right to read, there was a loud chorus of “No, Miss Ford. You have to use the document camera so we can all see.” So you, see, even kids know the value of the tool as well. Try it. You’ll never miss your overhead. I promise.

For more ideas, see Educational Technology Network. For lesson plans (all grade levels) see the Document Camera Experts. For even more ideas, check out 101 Ways to Use a Document Camera.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Boy Who Drew Birds

Thinking that I would love to read a story- kind of Kate Dicamillo-like, I stumbled upon an advance copy of Henry Cole’s new novel. Yes, novel. A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home is his first novel. Filled with charming illustrations of his heroine, Celeste, Cole tells the story of a humble mouse who is in need of a safe place to live. A place without the dangers of the cat or the bullying of the rats.

She finds that place in the boot of a young teenage artist. Joseph, it seems, is a gifted painter of backgrounds, just what a young John James Audubon needs as an assistant. On a plantation in Louisiana, Celeste learns that friends come from unexpected places and home is closer than you think.

Beautifully illustrated, the story brings history and ecology into its themes. However, for those of you who think K-3 when you think of Henry Cole, think a little older. It seems that Audubon, beloved painter of birds, shot many of his subjects and then wired them to look "lifelike" before he painted them. (For the record, other painters, shot and stuffed their subjects before painting.) In the novel, Celeste coaches live specimens to pose for Audubon, thereby saving their lives. Celeste seems to have nine lives herself, as she runs into many dangers on the plantation. Thankfully, her kindness to others saves her in the end.

A thorough afterword details Audubon’s life with information that Cole learned while he was writing the story. I love a book that makes me clap at the end and sends me to the library to read more. How can I not know about the shooting and wiring of the birds? I read four Audubon biographies in 2003. So, I reread them. Very subtle. If they do at all ("But he was also a crack shot with a rifle. He loved to explore the woods and study the habits of birds and make pictures of them." Armstrong, 2003), most of the books mentioned his use of a gun in the afterword or author notes. Thank you, Henry Cole, for sending me back for more information.

These picture book biographies are excellent partners to Cole’s novel. Share them with your older students before or after you read Celeste’s story. You may also want to dust off your copy of Birds of America that you can’t bear to discard.

Audubon : painter of birds in the wild frontier -- Armstrong, Jennifer. -- Harry N. Abrams, 2003., RL 5, 40p
Briefly tells the story of this nineteenth-century painter and naturalist who is most famous for his detailed paintings of birds.

The boy who drew birds : a story of John James Audubon -- Davies, Jacqueline. -- Houghton Mifflin, 2004., RL 4.4, 32p
John James Audubon, living in Pennsylvania far from his home and father in France, continues his obsession with birds, and comes up with the idea of banding the legs of his pewee bird friends to see if they will return in the spring to the nests they abandoned in the fall.

Into the Woods by Robert Burleigh. -- Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003., RL 5.1, 34p
Uses quotes from his journals to help explore Audubon's decision to follow his dream to paint every bird species in North America.

A Howling Good Story

It’s funny that Connie should mention by The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood. I just finished it myself. This is the first in a series, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. Wood tells the story of Miss Penelope Lumley and her first job as a governess. Are you a parent? Do you ever feel like your children are wild animals? It seems that Penelope’s charges almost are. Rumor has it they were raised by wolves. They certainly look and sound as if they were. The three orphans were found in the woods by the master of the house while he was out hunting. But keeping children in the barn is unacceptable to this governess, so she rolls up her sleeves and begins to teach the children. Perhaps not the Latin she intended, but certainly what they need to live in the house.

Horrible adults and pressure to perform keep the story moving. Humorous situations keep the story from being too dark. Then there’s an underlying mystery about the whole thing. Where did the children come from? Where are their parents? And why does the master disappear at the most odd moments for long periods of time? I have some ideas, but I shall restrain myself and wait anxiously for the sequel. Maybe not too many moons from now?

Remember that when you find a new book, always look for support material from the author's website. I found a lovely blog by the author. I also found support material on the publisher's website (another great place to look). Why reinvent the wheel? There is a fun game that makes you feel like one of the incorrigibles! Warning: Extremely addictive if you are competitive. Be sure you won't burn down the house before you begin.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Sometimes you just know you need to read something funny. A few years ago I got stuck at the car repair shop. I always keep an emergency book in my car, so I took out the book and read while my car was being repaired. The book I had in my trunk was Sold by Patricia McCormick. Though it is a wonderful (and now award winning book), it is not the story a person would want to read while her pocketbook is being drained. That’s the day I decided that only funny stories would be allowed to linger in the trunk. Now I keep a Junie B or a Judy Moody for emergencies.

Two weeks ago, I was speaking to Clark County School Librarians in Vegas. On the flight over, I took Pop by Gordon Korman. So, here I was, back to the car thing again. It was a wonderful, character-driven book about a football star and a 54 year old former NFL linebacker who had early onset of Alzheimer’s. Sigh. Not the most cheerful story. I raced to Borders (sorry independents) and bought one of the best LOL-Snort books I have read in awhile. It almost got me in trouble.

A Whole Nother Story by Cuthbert Soup is just that (Thanks, Connie). Fans of Lemony Snicket or Pseudenomymous Bosch (The Name of This Book is Secret, etc.) rejoice! Soup tells the story of a father with 3 children who are on the run from top secret government agents, international superspies and corporate villains. Their pink hairless dog alerts them to danger and they are off, trying to prevent the bad guys from stealing their almost-working time machine.

After every few chapters, there is a bit of timely advice. I knew I was in trouble when I got to the “much needed advice on tattoos.” “There was a time when, if you encountered someone with a tattoo, you could pretty much assume he was either a sailor or had, at one time or another, been in prison. There was something, it seemed, about men being cooped up together that made them want to draw on themselves.” At that point, I felt a LOL-Snort coming on. Because I was reading quietly in the back, I decided to give myself some timely advice, “When to Put the Book Down Before You Get into Trouble.”

Another hilarious book I recently read puts me in mind of Huck Finn, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick. Huck doesn’t hold a candle to Homer when it comes to telling whoppers. That boy can scare up a story faster than butter melts off a plate in the desert. Read it. You’ll laugh out loud too. Just be careful about where you are when you start to snort.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Word is Out!

My first book with Linworth Publishing, Scary, Gross and Enlightening: Books for Boys, Grades 3-12 is out. I have decided that publishing a book is kind of like producing a show. You work really hard for a long time behind the scenes and then you let it go. In a show, you rehearse the cast. You prepare the sets, costumes and lights. Then you let it go and hope for the best. In publishing, the editors and publishing company take over. One day, your copy comes in the mail. There it is.

I remember when I saw the movie, Julie and Julia, for the first time. The day her copy came was an ordinary day. Paul brought in the mail as usual, but there was a big envelope on the bottom of the pile. Like Julia, I opened the envelope, held my book to my chest and then cried. Finally, it was done. The show was delivered.

It actually has been released for awhile. But last week, I got the blessing of the library gods. It was reviewed in Curriculum Connections of School Library Journal- the featured professional title of all things! Being reviewed is one of the most terrifying things. You hope someone will review you, but you also hope he says something good. Getting the blessing from SLJ is amazing.

If you buy my book, I hope you will find it to be useful. I wrote it so that if I can’t get to your area, you can at least have a bit of what I would tell you. It’s for parents and educators who want to get boys to read. But as the review says, I chose great books that will work for all kinds of kids- even girls. Let 'em pick. Let 'em read.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Best Books for Boys of 2009

Yesterday I realized I neglected to post (some of) my favorite "boy" books for 2009. So without futher ado, here they are. I chose books that had action and adventure. Books that have a certain "gross-ness." Books full of facts. Books that are laugh out loud- try Alien Feast. Some of our favorite characters are back with a new book in a series: Percy, Alvin Ho, Peeta, and Melonhead who finally has his own book. Try these with your boys. And your girls too.

11 birthdays -- Mass,Wendy. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Scholastic Press, 2009., RL 3.9, 267p
After celebrating their first nine same-day birthdays together, Amanda and Leo, having fallen out on their tenth and not speaking to each other for the last year, prepare to celebrate their eleventh birthday separately but peculiar things begin to happen as the day of their birthday begins to repeat itself over and over again.

Alien feast -- Simmons, Michael.{IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Roaring Brook Press, 2009., RL 5.6, 231p
In 2017, human-eating aliens have kidnapped two scientists who might cure the disease that is destroying them, and twelve-year-old William Aitkin, his elderly, ailing Uncle Maynard, and the scientists' daughter, Sophie, set out to rescue them.

All-star Superman. Volume 2 -- Morrison, Grant. {IL YA, 741.5} -- DC Comics, 2009., 153p
A collection of comics in which Superman finds his powers tested as he faces off against his strangest adversaries yet.

Alvin Ho : allergic to camping, hiking, and other natural disasters -- Look, Lenore. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009., RL 3.8, 170p
Alvin makes a new friend and learns that he can be brave despite his fear of everything when his father takes him camping, hoping to install a love of nature like that of their hometown hero, Henry David Thoreau.

The Anne Frank case : Simon Wiesenthal's search for the truth -- Rubin, Susan Goldman. {IL 3-6, 940.53} -- Holiday House, 2009., RL 5.8, 40p
After witnessing a group of demonstrators halt a performance of "The Diary of Anne Frank," claiming that the girl never existed, Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor, goes on a personal quest in 1958 to track down the Gestapo officer who had arrested the Frank family.
Anything but typical -- Baskin, Nora Raleigh. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009., RL 5.3, 195p
Jason, a twelve-year-old autistic boy who wants to become a writer, relates what his life is like as he tries to make sense of his world.

Barnyard slam -- Regan, Dian Curtis. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Holiday House, 2009., RL 2.7, 32p
Farm animals express themselves at a poetry slam hosted by Yo Mama Goose.

Baseball great -- Green, Tim. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} – HarperCollins Publishers, 2009., RL 5.6, 250p
All twelve-year-old Josh wants to do is play baseball but when his father, a minor league pitcher, signs him up for a youth championship team, Josh finds himself embroiled in a situation with potentially illegal consequences.

The boy who invented TV : the story of Philo Farnsworth -- Krull, Kathleen. {IL K-3, 621.388} -- Alfred A. Knopf, 2009., RL 5.5, 34p
Presents a picture-book biography of Philo Farnsworth, who created the world's first television image in 1928.

The Brooklyn nine : a novel in nine innings -- Gratz, Alan.{IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Dial Books, 2009., RL 5, 299p
Follows the fortunes of a German immigrant family through nine generations, beginning in 1845, as they experience American life and play baseball.

Bubble homes and fish farts -- Bayrock, Fiona. {IL K-3, 590} -- Charlesbridge, 2009., RL 3.9, 45p
Presents humorous scientific information about the use of bubbles by various animals, such as whales, otters, dolphins, herring, and water shrews, for various recreational or functional purposes, such as hunting, warmth, communication, survival, or as a game.

Catching fire -- Collins, Suzanne. {IL YA, -Fic-} -- Scholastic Press, 2009., 391p
By winning the annual Hunger Games, District 12 tributes Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have secured a life of safety and plenty for themselves and their families, but because they won by defying the rules, they unwittingly become the faces of an impending rebellion.

Change-up : mystery at the World Series -- Feinstein, John. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Alfred A. Knopf, 2009., RL 4.6, 308p
While covering the World Series, teen reporters Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol uncover some inconsistencies in the life story of a popular, new pitcher and begin to investigate.

Chasing Lincoln's killer -- Swanson, James L. {IL YA, 973.7} -- Scholastic Press, 2009., 194p
Recounts the twelve-day pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth, covering the chase through Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, with a discussion of Abraham Lincoln as a father, husband, and friend that examines the impact of his death on those close to him.

Chicken Little -- Emberley, Rebecca. {IL K-3, 398.2} -- Roaring Brook Press, 2009., RL 2.8, 32p An illustrated retelling of the story in which Chicken Little becomes convinced the sky is falling after being hit on the head by an acorn.

Crafty critters -- Armentrout, David, 1962- {IL 3-6, 591.47} -- Rourke Pub., 2009., RL 4.8, 32p Photographs and easy-to-follow text introduce young readers to animals that utilize camouflage, mimicry, and other curious techniques as defense mechanisms against predators, including skunks, porcupines, walking sticks, kingsnakes, octopuses, and others.

Deeper -- Gordon, Roderick. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Chicken House, 2009., RL 7.3, 643p
Boy archaeologist Will Burrows wanders the caverns beneath the Colony with his best friend Chester and brother Cal, falls upon the Styx's plan to get rid of Topsoilers with a deadly plague, and risks his life to foil their plot while wondering if his killer stepsister is still on the loose.

Denied, detained, deported : stories from the dark side of American immigration -- Bausum, Ann. {IL 5-8, 325} -- National Geographic, 2009., RL 8.6, 111p
Discusses cases from the history of immigration in the U.S. in which immigrants are denied, such as the people aboard "The St. Louis" who were sent back to Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, the detained, such as Japanese Americans during WWII, and the deported, such as Emma Goldman, who was sent back to Russia in 1919 after living in the U.S. for thirty years.

Dodger for President -- Sonnenblick, Jordan. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Feiwel and Friends, 2009., RL 4.1, 168p
When Dodger, the big blue chimpanzee genie, magically portrays fifth-grader Willie one day at school, Willie finds himself running for student council president.

Down, down, down : a journey to the bottom of the sea -- Jenkins, Steve. {IL K-3, 591.779} -- Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009., RL 5.6, 40p
Illustrations explore the ocean from the birds and waves down to the deepest, darkest bottom; and feature jellyfish, squid, whales, and more.

Elephants cannot dance! -- Willems, Mo. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2009., RL 1.2, 57p
Piggy loves to dance and wants to teach everyone, including her best friend, Gerald the elephant.
Extra credit -- Clements, Andrew. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009., RL 5.2, 183p
Three young middle-school-age children, Abby, Amira, and Sadeed, exchange letters back and forth between the prairies of Illinois and the mountains of Afghanistan and begin to bridge a gap across cultural and religious divides.

Face to face with sharks -- Doubilet, David. {IL 3-6, 597.3} -- National Geographic, 2009., RL 6.2, 31p
The author describes his experiences photographing sharks, shares what he has learned about the animals, and showcases some of his pictures.

The fantastic undersea life of Jacques Cousteau -- Yaccarino, Dan. {IL K-3, 551.46} -- Knopf, 2009., RL 3.6, 33p
A pictorial biography of Jacques Cousteau, covering his adventures aboard "Calypso" with his team of scientists, diving equipment, and waterproof cameras, and work to protect the oceans from pollution.

Gettysburg : the graphic novel -- Butzer, C. M. {IL 5-8, 973.7} -- Bowen Press/Collins, 2009., RL 5.9, 80p
Presents a comic book style depiction of the Battle of Gettysburg; the national movement to create a memorial at the battle site; and the day of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in 1863, drawn from first-person letters, speeches, and other primary sources.

Gods of Manhattan : spirits in the park -- Mebus, Scott. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Dutton Children's Books, 2009., RL 6.6, 372p
As thirteen-year-old Rory continues his mission in Mannahatta, a spirit realm that co-exists alongside modern-day New York City, filled with fantastical creatures and people from the city's colorful past, he discovers that his father, whom he never wants to see again, is the only hope for peace.

Going, going, gone! : and other silly dilly sports songs -- Katz, Alan. {IL K-3, 782.42} -- Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009., RL 1.9, 31p
Provides new, sports-themed lyrics to well-known songs, including "On Top of the Bleachers" and "When Jimmy Gets in the Batter's Box."

The greatest baseball records -- Doeden, Matt. {IL 5-8, 796.357} -- Capstone Press, 2009., RL 5.3, 32p
Short stories and tables of statistics describe the history and greatest records of Major League Baseball.

Guinness World Records, 2009 -- {IL YA, 031} -- Bantam Books, 2009., 572p
Presents the biggest, smallest, fastest, longest, and other record setters for 2008 in such categories as the space, human achievements, sports, entertainment, science, technology, and engineering; and includes three-dimensional illustrations and gatefolds.

Guinness World Records, 2009 : gamer's edition -- {IL YA, 032} -- Guinness World Records, 2009., 216p
Collects world records set by the video game industry and players in 2008, and covers firsts, speed records, high scores, and mosts concerning video games of various genres on a variety of platforms; and includes a list of the top fifty console games, interviews, and other related information.

Heart of a shepherd -- Parry, Rosanne. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Random House, 2009., RL 4.5, 161p
Ignatius "Brother" Alderman, nearly twelve, promises to help his grandparents keep the family's Oregon ranch the same while his brothers are away and his father is deployed to Iraq, but as he comes to accept the inevitability of change, he also sees the man he is meant to be.

I and I : Bob Marley -- Medina, Tony. {IL 3-6, 782.421646} -- Lee & Low Books, 2009., RL 3.1, 42p
A biography in verse about Jamaican reggae musician Bob Marley, offering an overview of key events and themes in his life, including his biracial heritage, Rastafarian beliefs, and love of music.

The last Olympian -- Riordan, Rick. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Disney/Hyperion Books, 2009., RL 6, 381p
The long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy Jackson's sixteenth birthday unfolds as he leads an army of young demigods to stop Kronos in his advance on New York City, while the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster, Typhon.

The last straw -- Kinney, Jeff. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Amulet Books, 2009., RL 6.1, 217p
Middle-schooler Greg Heffley nimbly sidesteps his father's attempts to change Greg's wimpy ways until his father threatens to send him to military school.

Luke on the loose : a Toon book -- Bliss, Harry. {IL K-3, 741.5} -- RAW Junior, 2009., RL 1.7, 32p
A young boy's fascination with pigeons soon erupts into a full-blown chase around Central Park, across the Brooklyn Bridge, through a fancy restaurant, and into the sky.

Marcelo in the real world -- Stork, Francisco X. {IL YA, -Fic-} -- Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009., 312p
Marcelo Sandoval, a seventeen-year-old boy on the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum, faces new challenges, including romance and injustice, when he goes to work for his father in the mailroom of a corporate law firm.

Melonhead -- Kelly, Katy. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Delacorte Press, 2009., RL 4.6, 209p
In the Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Capitol Hill, Lucy Rose's friend Adam "Melonhead" Melon, a budding inventor with a knack for getting into trouble, enters a science contest that challenges students to recycle an older invention into a new invention.

Mudshark -- Paulsen, Gary. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Wendy Lamb Books, 2009., RL 6.5, 83p
Principal Wagner confidently deals with a faculty washroom crisis, a psychic parrot, and a terrorizing gerbil, but when sixty-five erasers go missing, he enlists the help of the school's best problem solver and lost item locator, twelve-year-old Lyle Williams, also known as Mudshark.

Mummies -- Spengler, Kremena. {IL K-3, 932} -- Capstone Press, 2009., RL 3.5, 24p
Describes mummies in ancient Egypt, including how and why people were mummified.

Murder at midnight – Avi. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Scholastic Press, 2009., RL 5.4, 254p
Falsely accused of plotting to overthrow King Claudio, scholarly Mangus the magician, along with his street-smart servant boy, Fabrizio, face deadly consequences unless they can track down the real traitor by the stroke of midnight.

The naked mole-rat -- Rake, Jody Sullivan. {IL K-3, 599.35} -- Capstone Press, 2009., RL 1.9, 24p
Photographs and simple text describe the physical characteristics, habits, and habitats of naked mole-rats.

Naked mole rat gets dressed -- Willems, Mo. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2009., RL 2.9, 36p
Wilbur is the only naked mole rat in his colony who enjoys wearing clothes, and when Grandpah, the oldest and most naked naked mole rat, discovers his secret, Wilbur fears he will be ostracized from the colony.

Orangutan tongs : poems to tangle your tongue -- Agee, Jon. {IL 3-6, 818} -- Disney/Hyperion Books, 2009., RL 3.4, 47p
Presents a humorous collection of poems and tricky tongue twisters.

Peace, Locomotion -- Woodson, Jacqueline. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Putnam's, 2009., RL 5, 134p
Through letters to his little sister, who is living in a different foster home, sixth-grader Lonnie, also known as "Locomotion," keeps a record of their lives while they are apart, describing his own foster family, including his foster brother who returns home after losing a leg in the Iraq War.

The potato chip puzzles -- Berlin, Eric. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Putnam's, 2009., RL 5.7, 244p
Winston and his friends enter an all-day puzzle contest to win fifty-thousand dollars for their school, but they must also figure out who is trying to keep them from winning. Puzzles for the reader to solve are included throughout the text.

Redwoods -- Chin, Jason. {IL K-3, 585} -- Flash Point, 2009., RL 4.8, 36p
While reading a book about redwood trees on the subway, a young boy travels as he learns, all the way to the forests of California.

The roar -- Clayton, Emma. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Chicken House, 2009., RL 5.7, 481p
In an overpopulated world where all signs of nature have been obliterated and a wall has been erected to keep out plague-ridden animals, twelve-year-old Mika refuses to believe that his twin sister was killed after being abducted, and continues to search for her in spite of the dangers he faces in doing so.

Scat -- Hiaasen, Carl. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Knopf, 2009., RL 6, 371p
Nick and Marta are both suspicious when their biology teacher, the feared Mrs. Bunny Starch, disappears, and try to uncover the truth despite the police and headmaster's insistence that nothing is wrong.

Sent -- Haddix, Margaret Peterson. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009., RL 5, 313p
Jonah, Katherine, Chip, and Alex find themselves in 1483 at the Tower of London, and discover that Chip and Alex are Prince Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, imprisoned by Richard III; but trying to repair history without knowing what is supposed to happen proves challenging.

Skeleton Creek -- Carman, Patrick. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Scholastic Press, 2009., RL 5.5, 185p
Although housebound following an eerie accident, teenaged Ryan continues to investigate the strange occurrences in his hometown of Skeleton Creek, recording his findings in a journal and viewing email video clips sent by fellow detective Sarah.

The storm in the barn -- Phelan, Matt. {IL 5-8, 741.5} -- Candlewick, 2009., RL 3.3, 201p
Eleven-year-old Jack Clark struggles with everyday obstacles while his family and community contend with the challenges brought on by the Dust Bowl in 1937 Kansas.

Villain's lair -- Van Draanen, Wendelin. {IL 3-6, -Fic-} -- Knopf, 2009., RL 4.7, 201p
Thirteen-year-old Dave and his sidekick, a talking gecko named Sticky, try to retrieve an ancient Aztec powerband and its magic ingots from the evil villain, Damien Black.

Watch me throw the ball! -- Willems, Mo. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Hyperion Books for Children, 2009., RL 1.3, 57p
Gerald gets serious about teaching Piggie to throw a ball, but Piggie, as usual, just wants to have fun.

What Darwin saw : the journey that changed the world -- Schanzer, Rosalyn. {IL 5-8, 508} -- National Geographic, 2009., RL 7.9, 47p
Introduces children to the life of Charles Darwin, describing how his innovative theories on evolution changed how people view the world.

What really happened to Humpty? : (from the files of a hard-boiled detective) -- Ransom, Jeanie Franz. {IL K-3, -E-} -- Charlesbridge, 2009., RL 2.2, 32p
Detective Joe Dumpty rushes to investigate the mysterious circumstances under which his older brother, Humpty, fell from a wall on his first day as captain of the new Neighborhood Watch program.

Written in bone : buried lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland -- Walker, Sally M. {IL 5-8, 614} -- Carolrhoda Books, 2009., RL 8.3, 144p
Reports on the work of forensic scientists who are excavating grave sites in James Fort, in Jamestown, Virginia, to understand who lived in the Chesapeake Bay area in the 1600s and 1700s; and uncovers the lives of a teenage boy, a ship's captain, a colonial officer, an African slave girl, and others.

The Yggyssey : how Iggy wondered what happened to all the ghosts, found out where they went, and went there -- Pinkwater, Daniel Manus. {IL 5-8, -Fic-} -- Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009., RL 5.4, 245p
In the mid-1950s, Yggdrasil Birnbaum and her friends, Seamus and Neddie, journey to Old New Hackensack, which is on another plane, to try to learn why ghosts are disappearing from the Birnbaum's hotel and other Hollywood, California, locations.

You never heard of Sandy Koufax?! -- Winter, Jonah. {IL K-3, 796.357} -- Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009., RL 3.7, 32p
Offers a brief overview of the life of Sandy Koufax, discussing the obstacles and physical challenges he faced, his successful career, his retirement, and other related topics.