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.