I marvel at the people I have met via the blog world and the ways my reading has been positively affected by their art, words, and responses. A lovely book arrived from one such talented and insightful blogger - Sketchbook Wandering - and I look forward to using it in the coming year to record some of the marvels I observe as I read and work with readers. Taking careful note of readers' ways of thinking and responding allows us to record anecdotal information about their habits and abilities. It also gives us a chance to reflect on our own reading processes as we model for them how readers think. The things we do automatically as adult readers are not so intuitive for inexperienced readers, and it is delightful to encounter their enthusiasm as they learn about themselves. Happy Reading! Happy New Year's Eve!
Monday, December 30, 2013
I must have memorized the text of each because when I found them on the shelves to read with my niece last week, the words were so familiar. She even spied the copyright date (almost hidden by the spiral binding) of 1945. On the back sides of each first page are the words "To Gary From Mary Kay" (one of his cousins). Almost 70 years later, they are still charming, delightful books!
Saturday, December 28, 2013
I am going to write to that dear teacher and tell her my story about the book she gave to me 41 years ago.
Friday, December 27, 2013
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
also known as "A Visit From St. Nicholas" as the end note reminds readers). Her notes about reinterpreting the classic poem and about her own artwork (which I read first) help explain some of her artistic creativity.
Four children are snuggled soundly in their bed, their cat asleep atop their pillows. When Papa hears the clatter on the roof and throws open the sash, snow swirls into the room. The toddler and cat are also awakened. They creep downstairs, each in wonder at the jolly old elf whose belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly when he laughs. Nestled between siblings on the last page, the toddler's reaction to the exclamation from St. Nicholas is bright-eyed delight.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
Friday, December 20, 2013
After explaining a brief definition (and reiterating that it is not a summary), I asked them to focus on one specific character as I read aloud and to draw a conclusion about her.
They were immediately engaged in the story of Yoon's birthday. Her wish for a jump rope was not granted by her mother, yet Yoon gratefully acknowledges the book she is given, a Korean story about a trickster tiger and a silly girl. Then her mother gives her the jade bracelet that was her own mother's. Yoon's own name is engraved in it in Korean letters. Enter the mean girl. She invites Yoon to jump rope at lunch recess, but she also tells her American children share things if they are friends. Then she demands Yoon's jade bracelet. Fierce looks appeared on the faces in front of me as I read about how the mean tiger girl would not return the bracelet to Yoon. Eventually, her teacher and her own determination come to the rescue.
The readers in my audience had much to say about the mean girl. They drew many conclusions and perfectly articulated them. And, as always, they begged me to leave the book in the classroom for them to reread later. I love it when that happens.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Each year we drive north a few miles to our friends' tree farm. Walking amongst the varieties of trees, I always seek a balsam, the perfect tree. So do Ruthie and her father in Gloria Houston's book The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. The two ride up to the high cliffs and rocky Craig's where they find that tree, all alone atop Grandfather Mountain. Ruthie's father takes a red ribbon from her hair and lifts her to tie that ribbon as a marker on the tree. The seasons pass, and he is called away to the Great War. The tree stands tall and grows even more perfectly, ready to be the tree in Pine Grove Church.
I adore this story. A girl's hope for her father's return and belief that St. Nicholas will bring her "a doll with a beautiful dress, the color or cream, all trimmed with ribbons and lace" resonates with her parents' love for her. Barbara Cooney's illustrations make it an even more beautiful book.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Whenever I see Steve Jenkins listed in book reviews, I immediately add my name to the reserve list at the library. This time it was for his most comprehensive book yet: The Animal Book. And check out this subtitle: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest - and Most Surprising - Animals on Earth. What an incredible collection it is!
In addition to talking generally about animals, he writes about animal families, senses, predators, and defenses. One chapter is devoted to animal extremes, featuring the blue whale (largest animal), the narwhal (longest tooth), the howler monkey (loudest land animal), and the sperm whale (deepest diver). The last chapter discusses the history of life on earth.
Though I love reading astonishing facts, I am more intrigued by his incredible cut-paper artwork. Some things look so life like...furry, detailed, colorful, or camouflaged. Imagine the man's paper stores! As an added bonus for the reader, he share the process of his own book-making processes in the final pages of the books. From getting ideas to conducting research to creating sketches, thumbnails, and dummies, he explains in words and artifacts just how his work becomes a finished book. This finished book is a gem.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Another reason I cannot sleep this week is a book. The images that remain in my mind and heart from Elizabeth Wein's newest book Rose Under Fire, a companion to Code Name Verity kept surfacing in my dreams and mixing history with my reality.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Friday, December 13, 2013
Each night I think to myself...you should really write a blog post. Then, somehow, the time passes with other duties, and I am too tired to write. It is not that I lack subject matter. There are plenty of books and reading stories to share. Like Max, the title character in Cynthia Voigt's latest chapter book (Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things), I am, perhaps, seeking to define my role as someone who writes about books. Do I write as a record of my own reading? Do I write to prompt others to read certain books? Do I write to create awareness of important ideas about reading? Yes, yes, yes. But I know that others do this far better than me, and so I thought perhaps I should just let this Library Jewel thing go. And yet...I am here again, at least for now.
Mister Max must find a way to exert his independence, manage a household, convince others of his competence, and somehow make a meager living in an English city. Faced with a house full of costumes and a librarian grandmother who only wants what is best for him, Max is fortunate to acquire small jobs that pay enough for him to maintain his art lessons and buy what he needs for food. As word spreads of his work, he sees that he is more than a detective or a problem-solver or spy. He decides he finds solutions for those who seek his services and thus calls himself a Solutioneer.
Intermingled with his cases are personal matters of great importance, mistaken identities, larger-than-life characters, and a baker whose pastries make my mouth water! Max's story ends with several solutions, but the case most essential for his well-being remains without one, prompting a sequel (to be released in 2014).