Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
It used to be our refrigerator door was almost impossible to view underneath layers of the boys' artwork and photographs. This memory was invoked when I glimpsed the back of Bridget's Beret by Tom Lichtenheld, one of my five favorites for the CLN event. Bridget's father is standing before the chilly gallery holding a milk carton, and he says, "Honey, have you seen the fridge? I can't find it!" We could always find the fridge, but some creations inevitably fell from the display when the door was opened or when a dump truck or Hot Wheels driver passed too closely.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Train tracks run just a block from my childhood home. Growing up, we crossed them many times, often stopping to put an ear by the track to listen for any coming trains. When a train did pass by, we waited to wave to the caboose. Never could I have imagined someone jumping from a moving train, especially not a young girl. Abilene Tucker is a twelve-year-old girl who waits "till the clack of the train wheels slows to the rhythm of your heartbeat" jumps just before getting to Manifest, Kansas in 1936. She was used to jumping, was not always a paying customer, and clearly had experience with trains. If she had rolled to a stop in the weeds near my house, I would probably have been frightened. Because she appeared in the pages of Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, I kept turning to learn more about this brave girl.
Friday, January 28, 2011
- Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey - I love the art, the story behind his drawing of the ducks, and the determination of Mrs. Mallard to teach her ducklings all the important things in life.
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg - Since reading this book (published the year I was born!), I have always wanted to stay overnight at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt - I experienced every emotion while reading this book...everyone should read it.
- Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg - Our sons requested this book so many times that we can still recite it from memory.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Today was a teacher work day, and my teaching partner and I spent part of it at the Red Balloon Bookshop (where preschool storytime was in full swing during our visit). Our goal was to peruse the store in search of non-book items to offer at the school’s spring book festival, conducted this time independent of a national corporation. Ideas sparked more ideas as we imagined the possibilities and connections for families. The staff offered insights and suggestions that led to more ideas. This book festival topic deserves numerous posts, and I will offer them in the coming weeks.
As we left the store, my teaching partner commented that being at a bookstore is far more effective than reading reviews. We read hundreds of reviews. We read the books mentioned in those reviews prior to deciding whether or not to purchase them. But at the bookshop this morning, we found books we had not previously known, made connections with those books and curriculum needs, and bantered with the booksellers about their popular titles and ours. We picked up second copies of some ALA award winners, another Because of Mr. Terupt because it is so popular with teachers, and a Folkmanis alligator puppet for a teacher wanting to use it with greater than/less than in math.
For the upcoming fifth grade biography/wax museum project starting next week, we loved Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo (the first for children about Audrey Hepburn!) and Demi’s Alexander the Great. For those who have forgotten about the magical abilities of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, know that books about her are always off the shelf. Thus, we know readers are going to love Nancy and Plum, published originally in 1952. All those girls who ask for horse books will adore Holly Hobbie’s autobiographical picture book Everything But the Horse. We will read aloud Patricia Polacco’s latest title Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln, a time travel tale to the battlefield of Antietam.
Of course we never leave a bookstore without personal purchases…a board book copy of Inside Freight Train for a young boy she knows and my own copy of Moon Over Manifest to read again.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
I love narrators who communicate so effectively through their unique mannerisms and thoughts that I am part of their world in just a few sentences. Eleven-year-old Franny Chapman is such a girl in Countdown by Deborah Wiles. She loves Nancy Drew, thinks she is invisible to her teacher, Mrs. Rodriquez, and silently “telegraphs” messages to others in important situations. Living in their house just outside Andrews Air Force Base (with the Pepto-Bismol pink kitchen), she is filled with anxiety and angst. Understandably so. It is 1962 in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Her mother seems to busy to notice her. Her father is flying most weeks. Her older sister, Jo Ellen, is becoming more secretive each week about the student groups at college. Her younger brother, Drew, reads about atoms and does everything perfectly. Uncle Otts, who also resides in the house and embarrasses the family with his WWII dress and commands, wakes her up own morning to the sound of reveille and plans for a bomb shelter in the backyard! Her friends seem to be changing without her as well.
A character’s love of books and words charms me. Franny’s admiration for Nancy Drew goes beyond her desire to solve mysteries. She aspires to figure out the mysterious letters in Jo Ellen’s stash (which Franny has carefully removed with assistance from her sometimes-friend Maggie) and says “without a book I don’t want to be alone at recess.” The words and titles of Jo Ellen’s “world’s best 45-rpm collection” define her existence, she says. “I can tell my whole life story through Jo Ellen’s records.” For an eleven-year-old girl, lines like “Are you lonesome tonight?” characterize her life! And as she tries to understand all the events of the world around her, Franny is compelled to compose a letter to Chairman Krushchev, thoughtfully suggesting they should get to know one another and writing,
“If you could see the world from outer space, the way my brother, Drew,
sees it, you would know that we are all made of the same things: atoms
and air and water and skin and bones and blood, and lots of the same
hopes and fears.”
As Franny struggles to find friends, to fit in, to understand the politics of the 1960s, and to be visible, I remembered with her the times in my life when I sought identity and acknowledgment from teachers, my parents, my brother, and others who shaped my character. The events occurring around her are interspersed for the reader as mini-documentaries between chapters. Headlines, photographs, quotations, Bert the Turtle Duck and Cover drills, prices (e.g. gas = 31¢ a gallon), sports (Sandy Koufax’s no-hitter), songs (“Where have all the flowers gone?”), student movements, a list of bomb shelter materials, maps, and biographies (Harry Truman, Pete Seeger, and more) bring the history of the time period up close at opportune times in the narration.
From the embossed 45 record on the book’s cover to the author’s notes about her own history in Camp Springs, Maryland, this captivating book took me to a time just before my birth, and Franny convincingly began her story (a trilogy!) which I look forward to finishing in the years to come.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
During library time this week, the children and I have been talking about the ALA awards and what each medal/honor represents. Many are well-versed in knowing the Newbery Medal is awarded to more than chapter books! I tell them a bit about Margi Preus's book Heart of a Samurai and how the numerous illustrations in the book are reproductions of those drawn by Manjiro himself. We also discuss nocturnal creatures before I read aloud from Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. They love the facts about the orb spider and its spinnerets. They smile like me when we chorally recite "I Am a Baby Porcupette." When I finish reading and it is time for them to browse for books, someone always asks, "Can I have that book?"
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
Sunday, January 16, 2011
My neighbor teaches 5th grade, and like me, she believes strongly in the power of reading aloud to her class. Whenever I read a fabulous book, I share it with her as I know she will incorporate it into her classroom. Over winter break, I read Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (first-time author and a teacher who clearly understands classroom dynamics and currents) and knew she would appreciate it for multiple reasons. My copy was an interlibrary loan book, but she promised to finish it quickly - and did. She loved it as well...and could relate to the plot because of things that occurred at her school. She's starting it on Tuesday with her students.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
This afternoon I read in my favorite spot: the window seat of my home library in the winter's afternoon sun. My book of choice was a new collection of Ansel Adams's work entitled Ansel Adams in the National Parks. It is filled with his stunning monochrome photographs and words from his own letters, as well as things written about him by Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose) and Richard B. Woodward. My love of the National Parks and my fascination with Ansel Adams drew me to this book. His photography career path was not what his originally parents intended (though they did take him to Yosemite in 1916 when he was 14 years old); he was a trained pianist. Yet the same attention to detail and certain familiarity with the keyboard transferred to his work with cameras.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The boys laughed uproariously as I read aloud again from Funny Business after dinner tonight. This time the story was "Artemis Begins" by Eoin Colfer. Though we have only three boys in our house in comparison to the five his mother enjoyed, certainly there have been broken objects, secrets kept, and interesting stories concealed from this mother as well. Not one of my sons compares to Eoin's brother Donal in the ability to blackmail others or to devise a devious plan.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Readers listened with rapt attention today as I read about the types of work search and rescue dogs perform, specifically Saint Bernards. I told them about Buster, the Saint Bernard of my childhood, and that was a perfect introduction to Don Freeman's 1963 book Ski Pup. Set in the Swiss Alps, where Saint Bernards were first bred to rescue skiers lost in avalanches, it is the story of Hugo, a dog whose job it was to keep track of children from a ski school. Trained by Herr Kasser, Hugo always obeys commands...until young Tino Pedotti strays from the school group, puts his goggles and hat on Hugo, and causes a stir. The children watched with wide eyes as the ski school leader and children looked for Tino, whom they thought was lost, and laughed when it was Hugo they uncovered from a snowdrift. All was well and hearts were warm when Tino (found in Hugo's doghouse) drank the hot chocolate from Hugo's thermos bottle.
Monday, January 10, 2011
In my world, I liken this day to the Academy Awards for the film world. So many of the books I love and share with readers are award winners (see some of my favorites), and anticipating the next winners is a conversation topic with my teaching partner and other book lovers.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Saturday, January 8, 2011
It is not a surprise to know I read every day. It might seem odd, however, to see me read-walking while on the treadmill at the community center or read-knitting while I eat my lunch. I use every opportunity to experience books. Some of those books need to be read by others, so I hope to write about at least one each week.
Enter the night where the great horned owl reigns as the dark emperor of the nocturnal world. Welcome the night where creatures creep and crawl, “throw off sleep” and take flight. The Dark Emperor is shaped as its own outline with ear tips marked with the words "perched" and "missile". "I do not rest, I do not sleep,/and all my promises I keep" in "Oak After Dark" weaves an echo of Robert Frost through my thoughts. The Night Spider advises building a frame and then sticking to it; the facts about nocturnal orb spiders reinforce that advice. "I Am a Baby Porcupette" begs to be read aloud and read again, just to say porcupette. The wandering eft that wanders throughout the book has a ballad all to himself - and a fascinating story to share about being a land-dweller (as a red-spotted newt) and a water-dweller (after several years on land). As the moon laments the passing of the sounds and sights of night life, questions abound. Creatures of the night take cover until the sun's rays subside once again.
Spend time with this incredible mix of powerful language and incredible images. Whether by night or day, it will infuse the feeling of nighttime in you and keep you thinking about the creatures who reign while we slumber.
Friday, January 7, 2011
At dinner this evening, I read aloud from Guys Read: Funny Business by Jon Scieszka, specifically the entry by Kate DiCamillo & Jon Scieszka entitled "Your Question for Author Here." My three teenage boys' interest piqued quickly as Joe Jones's straightforward, if not perfunctory, letters revealed a boy reluctantly responding to a teacher's assignment. Fictitious author Maureen O'Toople's witty responses soon had them laughing aloud. They quieted when I read Joe's haiku poem and gasped when his teacher gave him a C- on the author research assignment. The boys needed to leave for an event, but we were so close to the selection's end. "There are only four pages left," one pleaded. I kept reading till the end. As Maureen encouraged her new writing pal Joe to continue writing his book, the boys' satisfaction in a story well-told resonated around the table.