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1. Inspire interest in STEM with science biography picture books

With all of the push to get young children more interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics, many schools, libraries, and after school programs are integrating these topics into their activities. And, with so many great picture book biographies of scientists available, there is no reason that storytime activities and at-home reading time can’t also complement these activities and help to inspire young children to pursue their interest in STEM topics. Check out some of these books to bring out the inner scientist in your preschool through third grade students.

on a beam of lightOn a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
This book starts with Einstein’s childhood and introduces readers to a boy who didn’t talk, but did look with wonder at the world around him. As it progresses through to his later life, the book focuses on the way that Einstein thought and how this led to his contributions to science. The illustrations fit well with this focus as they have a decidedly dreamy quality to them. Perfect for younger readers.

LookUpLook Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raúl Colón
Though Henrietta Leavitt may not be a name that is familiar to most, she made key contributions to the field of astronomy during her time at the Harvard College Observatory during the late 1800s. This biography brings her work to life through a combination of beautiful artwork and a compelling story. Leavitt’s story and the included information about astronomy will inspire young children to study the stars.

TheWatcherThe Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter
Jane Goodall remains one of the most famous primatologists ever and this book tells her life story starting during her childhood in England through to her time working among the chimpanzees in Tanzania with the scientist Louis Leakey. The book also includes Goodall’s important work as an advocate and activist for chimpanzees and, as such, will introduce children who love animals to the world of activism as well.

sisson_star stuffStar Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson
Another great book for children who are interested in stars and the field of astronomy, this book offers an insight into Carl Sagan’s life and inspiration. Starting with a trip to the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and his nights spent looking out his window to stare at the stars, this book follows Sagan throughout his life and career as a renowned astronomer who worked with NASA. This is a wonderful addition to any collection of science picture books.

ABoyAndAJaguarA Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Catia Chien
The only book on this list written by its subject, this book tells the story of Alan Rabinowitz, a biologist and conservationist whose love of animals helped him to overcome his stuttering when he found that he could talk to animals without any problem. This winner of the 2015 Schneider Family Book Award will inspire all students to pursue their passions.

This list offers a few suggestions for great science biographies, but there are plenty more to choose from. Let me know in the comments if your favorites didn’t make my list. I also love learning about new science biography picture books!

 

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2. A View From Saturday

The View From Saturday. E.L. Konigsburg. 1996. 176 pages. [Source: Bought]

I enjoyed rereading E.L. Konigsburg's The View From Saturday. Though I don't usually "enjoy" (seek out) stories with multiple narrators--alternating narrators--in this case it was just right or practically perfect. Readers meet a teacher, Mrs. Olinski, and the four students on the sixth grade competitive team for the Academic Bowl. (They are Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian.) All five narrate The View From Saturday. Mrs. Olinki's chapters are of the BIG competition day, and each chapter generally ends with a question being asked of the competitors. Usually. The chapters narrated by the students cover much more time, generally are full of flashbacks. It is in these narratives that characters are developed and relationships explored. All four students in her class were connected BEFORE they were chosen.

View From Saturday is a great friendship-focused, school-focused coming of age novel. Each narrative is definitely unique. And I like how interconnected the stories really are.

When I think Newbery, this is the kind of book I think of most of the time.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Trimming down a classroom library

I recently found myself facing the dreaded task of packing up my entire classroom. Trying to see this as an opportunity to reduce the number of boxes labeled only with question marks, I sorted through papers and miscellany, recycling and tossing with gusto. Math papers that I never used? Recycled without a second thought. A plastic bag filled with a mixture of sequins? Donated to the art closet. I was slimming down my classroom materials without remorse…until I came to the last section: my classroom library.

My classroom library is, as I believe nearly all libraries are, a thing of beauty. Eighteen categorized sections and counting, displayed in neat baskets or arranged in an orderly fashion on the shelves. But now, as I pictured having to lift and carry all of these boxes out of my classroom, the sheer quantity of books daunted me. Surely, there were some books that I could leave behind or donate.

Nicole_Hewes_ Classroom_Library_5

For some people, the task of sifting through those books may have been as simple as I found paring down my papers to be. But for me, a lifelong saver and hoarder of books, this was a challenge of near-mythic proportions. Almost since I learned how to read, I’ve been a rescuer of books discarded from libraries, a purchaser of those books on the “last chance” shelves. I simply cannot stand the thought of a book floating around unread, unloved, and without a shelf to call home.

In the past, as I’ve tried to pare down my own collection of books, I’ve struggled to discard titles unless I vehemently hate them (a feeling I rarely experience). But I was determined to make a good-faith effort to look through each of my classroom bins with a critical eye.

I sat down on the hard, scratched tile floor in my nearly-bare classroom and started going through my books, bin by bin, looking for outcasts that I could discard. As I sifted through the books in each category, I found books in need of repair, which I set aside to add to my “book hospital” bin, but the “consider discarding” pile remained especially lean a couple hours into the project.

As I sorted, I tried to consider what criteria might help me determine if it was time to toss a book. I was vaguely operating with the assumption that I would consider discarding books that were older and featured dated information, centered around very obscure topics, or were lackluster or unlikely to spark student engagement. But soon I found myself making exceptions to these rules — for classics and especially for books about weird topics, since you never know what book is going to pique the interest of a reluctant reader.

I’m sure you can see where this going. By the end of the day, I had several books to repair with packing tape and a small pile of eleven to discard — mostly books that contained false information (though I kept some of those, too, to show students that knowledge evolves.) I couldn’t bear the thought of a future student saying to me, “Do we have any books in our library about…?” and then thinking of a book that I’d left behind at one point in time.

So when it came time to move everything, I happily heaved all of those boxes of books and transported them across the state line, still contemplating when, if ever, it would feel okay to get rid of books.

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4. Will we ever need maths after school?

What is the purpose of mathematics? Or, as many a pupil would ask the teacher on a daily basis: “When are we going to need this?” There is a considerably ruder version of a question posed by Billy Connolly on the internet, but let’s not go there.

The post Will we ever need maths after school? appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. Back to School Week: Collaboration is a Thing You Do NOT a Learning Outcome!

For years and years and years (I've worked in libraries for a long-time) I've talked about and heard about the importance of school and public library collaboration. And, over the years, I've talked about and heard about how hard it is to be successful in this area. It actually seems to me that the challenges and barriers that I've been talking about and hearing about for a couple of decades haven't really changed. And, they certainly haven't gone away.

image by George Couros on the best ways for leaders to use technologyThe fact that conversations remain the same over a long period of time, got me thinking - Maybe we are going about this the wrong way. Maybe, instead of the focus being on what we regularly call school and public library collaboration (the thing we do), what we really need to focus on is what is required in order to have positive lasting outcomes/impacts for students and teachers (what we want to achieve). This was brought home to me this week when I read the post Building Relationships Through the Use of Technology by George Couros. The ideas embedded in the image he included in that post (shown on the left) really resonated with me.

What if as the new school year starts you didn't talk about or focus on the act of collaborating with your school or public library, but instead talked about and worked towards answering the question, What should the outcome of public library school library collaboration be for students, teachers, parents, and school staff? What would be different and would you be more successful by the end of the school year? Taking the Couros post image as a model would you go from "Good Answers" like:

  • Making sure that library staff know about assignments
  • Being able to teach school staff (teachers and administrators) about library resources
  • Making sure to purchase materials that support teacher/student needs
  • Being able to add website links that support teacher/student needs
  • Having the chance to work on lessons with teachers

To Better Answers like:

  • Build relationships for long-lasting success within the public/school library community
  • Change cultures
  • Learn from each other - students, teachers, parents, administrators and other school and public library staff
  • Develop outcomes and stories that can be used in advocacy efforts
  • Drive change
  • Lead
  • Support learning of students no matter what.

Of course, as with many things in life, this is often easier said than done. But, it's doable, I'm certain. For example, this year instead of going into classrooms or talking with your counterpart colleagues about the resources you have for students and teachers, what if you had conversations that focused on what teachers, students, administrators, staff are:

  • Working on
  • What are they successful in/at
  • What they are finding difficult to accomplish
  • What would they like to be able to do more easily
  • What would they like to change

Would that lead to stronger relationships with everyone and as a result a better chance to bring about positive outcomes? As you think about the outcomes and the conversations you can have with your library counterpart and school personnel and parents and students remember, the outcomes are what the students, teachers, staff, and parents gain. While through these gains library staff might find that their resources and expertise and time are used successfully - the focus of the outcomes you work towards in this area should be about the people you serve, not about you and your library. The outcome is in what changes in the academic and formal and informal learning lives of those you work with.  For more information and resources about outcomes, visit YALSA's wiki.

I don't think the idea of collaboration is a bad thing. But, I do think that we spend a lot of time talking about the thing - collaboration - and not what the impact of the work needs to be for students and teachers and families. Change the conversation, listen to those you want to serve before you tell them what you can do for them, build relationships, focus on the goal for the user, and see what happens.

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6. A Curious Tale of the In-Between, by Lauren DeStefano

Pram has never truly been told the tale of her beginnings.  A beginning that started with her still inside her mother, even as she hung from the branch of the tree. Pram was orphaned right from the start, but was taken in by her two no-nonsense aunts. Pram is even short for Pragmatic -- named such because it was deemed sensible for a young lady, and sensible is just what the aunts wanted for Pram.

But Pram has always been the opposite of sensible.  She’s dreamy, and her oldest and best friend is a ghost named Felix who appeared one day in the pond by the home for the aged where she lives with her aunts.

Pram is forced by the state to actually attend school at the age of eleven and this is where Pram meets her first real life friend. She gets into an argument with Clarence before school even starts when he informs her that she is sitting in his desk. By lunch time they have discovered that both of their mothers are dead and with this the seeds of their friendship are planted.

As time goes on, Pram doesn’t tell Clarence that she can speak with ghosts, but she does agree to accompany him to a spiritualist show where he hopes his mother’s spirit will reveal herself. Things don’t go as Clarence hoped and instead the spiritualist is very interested in Pram. What Pram and Clarence cannot know is that the spiritualist is anything but a charlatan, and a girl like Pram is very valuable to her.

What follows is a haunting and frightening ghost story that straddles the world of the living and the dead. Lyrical and tender, DeStefano’s story will scare readers without tipping into horror. This is an achingly beautiful story of love and loss, of friendship and family. A Curious Tale of the In-Between is for the deep reader, and I can see it becoming that touchstone title that ferries readers into more complex and intricate stories.

Gorgeous.

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7. What is life?

Did you learn about Mrs Gren at school? She was a useful person to know when you wanted to remember that Movement, Respiration, Sensation, Growth, Reproduction, Excretion, and Nutrition were the defining signs of life. But did you ever wonder how accurate this classroom mnemonic really is, or where it comes from?

The post What is life? appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. #717 – If An Elephant Went to School by Ellen Fischer & Laura Wood

After a brief, thankfully, lupus flare-up, I am pleased to bring you a wonderful picture book from the talented team of Ellen Fischer and Laura Wood. I think you will smile and enjoy a laugh with this wonderful follow-up to If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant 

Cover-Elephant_700
If an Elephant Went to School

Written by Ellen Fischer
Illustrated by Laura Wood
Mighty Media Kids 8/11/2015
978-1-938063-61-9
32 pages Age 3—7

“Would an elephant learn the ABCs if she went to school? No way! She would learn how to use her trunk as a nose, a straw, a hand, and a hose! Through a series of questions and answers, readers learn about animals and their unique behaviors. And in the end, you might find yourself asking what you would learn.” [press release]

Elephant Spread final_2

Review
If an Elephant Went to School utilizes ten different animals to showcase what each would not learn in school, and then what it might learn based on that animal’s abilities, needs, and nature. The back cover asks:

“If a platypus went to school, would she learn to play the violin? NOT LIKELY! But what would she learn?”

“A platypus can’t play a violin,” young readers are bound to say. But what would a platypus learn in school?

“A platypus would learn to dive to find her food. NO SNORKEL NECESSARY.”

Kids will love learning what these animals—elephant, owl, zebra, frog, eel, bee, skunk, caterpillar, and platypus—would learn in school, while laughing at what it would not—could not—learn. Each “not learn” is something that a child will learn in school. For preschoolers, If an Elephant Went to School is a wonderful introduction into what they will encounter when kindergarten and first grade roll around. Older children will enjoy learning about these animals and poking fun at their own education.

Elephant Spread final_1

If an Elephant Went to School is a wonderful read a-loud book that encourages listener participation. With its winsome illustrations, If an Elephant Went to School is a funny, delightful read that children will want to go through on their own after a first reading. I think this charming follow up to If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant, will have kids wanting to read—or listen to—If an Elephant Went to School several times. Reading this enjoyable, educational, and entirely humorous picture book should not press on any parent’s nerve while reading multiple times. If an Elephant Went to School—a truly fun giggle-book—should be a wild bullseye for booksellers.

I have not had the privilege of reading If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant (book 1 in the series), though I would love to do so. I am also hoping that this picture book series from Mighty Media Kids (formerly Scarletta Kids), will continue with its fun pokes at the wild kingdom, while teaching youngster about wildlife. For me, If an Elephant Went to School earns an A+!

Wait, you say I only listed 9 animals, not 10?! You are correct. The tenth animal is YOU!

IF AN ELEPHANT WENT TO SCHOOL. Text copyright © 2015 by Ellen Fischer. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Laura Wood. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Mighty Media Kids, an imprint of Mighty Media Press, Minneapolis, MN.

Purchase If an Elephant Went to School at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunes BooksMighty Media Kids.

Learn more about If an Elephant Went to School HERE.
Teacher’s Guide can be found HERE.  (forthcoming)

Read my friend Eric’s excellent review of If An Elephant Went to School  HERE.

If you live near Greensboro, NC, plan to meet Ellen Fischer at the If An Elephant Went to School 08/15 Release Party.
Information can be found HERE.

Meet the author, Ellen Fischer, at linkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/pub/ellen-fischer/66/640/779
Meet the illustrator, Laura Wood, at her website:  http://laurawoodillustration.com/
Find more interesting picture books at the Mighty Media Kids website:  http://mightymediapress.com/

Mighty Media Kids is an imprint of Mighty Media Press.

If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant: Learn more HERE.  Purchase HERE.  View Illustration Samples HERE.

ArmadilloCover_web_1060

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: If an Elephant Went to School, by Ellen Fischer & Laura Wood, and received from Mighty Media Kids, (an imprint of Mighty Media Press), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Series Tagged: animal behaviors, Ellen Fischer, If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant, If an Elephant Went to School, Laura Wood, Mighty Media Kids, New for Summer 2015, school

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9. Edda: A Little Valkyrie’s First Day At School, by Adam Auerbach | Book Review

This book, wonderfully written and illustrated by Adam Auerbach, provides a fun and imaginative tale, with a uniquely voiced female character at its center.

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10. Picture Book Roundup - First Day of School Books

School will be starting before you know it! 
 Here are some new books that feature the first day of school.

(if you cannot access the slide show, reviews are below)
 



  • First Grade, Here I Come! by Tony Johnston 

A playfully rambunctious boy plans his first day of first grade, "For show-and-tell, no teddy bears. I'll bring my snake - oh joy! My friends will hold my boa up. (I call him Huggy Boy.)" For this scene, the playful illustrations show the teacher standing atop her desk while the kids hoist Huggy Boy. Cheerful, silly fun!

  • Bob and Flo by Rebecca Ashdown

It's Flo's first day at preschool. Not only does she find her missing bucket, she finds a friend. Cute.

  • ABC School's for Me! by Susan B. Katz

"Eating snack around the rug, Friends who share a hello hug." A cute, rhyming, and encouraging ABC book. Dad's First Day Mike Wohnoutka Here's a twist on "first day of school" books - it's Oliver's dad who has the first day of school jitters! (Picture Oliver's teacher carrying Oliver's crying dad outside.) "The teacher walked Oliver's dad outside." "Bye, Daddy!" But don't worry ... it all turns out OK.

  • Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten by Marc Brown

In crayon-inspired illustrations, Marc Brown tells the story of a monkey worried about his first day at school. "What if his teacher doesn't like him? What if he gets on the wrong bus? What if he can't find the bathroom? ..." With time and patient help from his parents and friends, Monkey slowly gets ready for Kindergarten.


  • Rosie Goes to Preschool by Karen Katz 

Rosie's not worried about her first day of preschool. In fact, she'll tell you all about it! Happy, simple, and multicultural - this is a classic Karen Katz book.

  • Not This Bear: A First Day of School Story by Alyssa Satin Capucilli 

In this story of a bear's first day at school, author Alyssa Satin Capucilli shows that going to school does not mean giving up one's individuality. Bear clings to some familiar things and habits from home, but still fits in and enjoys himself at school. An interesting and reassuring take on "first day at school" books.

  • Ally-saurus & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey 

Is there room for a dinosaur girl in a school filled with princess girls? Of course there is! "Taking off her favorite dinosaur pajamas, Ally-saurus dressed in her brand-new first-day-of-school outfit. "Your pants are on backward," said Father. "That's so my dinosaur tail can stick out," explained Ally-saurus. Let's wear our pants the right way," said Father. "ROAR!" said Ally-saurus."

  • Eva and Sadie and the Best Classroom EVER! by Jeff Cohen 

Big sister Sadie tries to help Eva get ready for Kindergarten - but teaching her math and reading may not be the best way to help!

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11. Poppy's Best Paper

Poppy's Best Paper. Susan Eaddy. Illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet. 2015. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Poppy loved books. "I might be a writer when I grow up," she told her best friend, Lavender.

Premise/plot: Poppy loves to read and write. She has even almost decided to be a writer when she grows up. So when Mrs. Rose, her teacher, assigns a few writing assignments to the class, Poppy is super-excited. She KNOWS that whatever the assignment, she'll be the best at it because it involves writing. She KNOWS that her teacher will praise her work and read her writing as an example for the class. So Poppy is disappointed and frustrated and ANGRY when other students' work is picked instead. Will Poppy have a chance to shine?

My thoughts: I really liked this one. I liked Poppy. She's a character easy to relate to. We see her at school and at home. We see her "doing" her homework. We see the writing process. This one is easily about writing and school. But it is also about emotions and feelings and learning to deal with them appropriately.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations 4.5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Top 5 meta books to teach print concepts

As a Pre-K teacher, one of the things I am focused on is helping children learn concepts of print. These concepts include that books are read from left to right and top to bottom (in English at least); the role of punctuation; that print has meaning; the relationship between print and speech; that books have a beginning, middle, and end; and more. One of the fun ways to teach these concepts is using a meta book. Essentially, these are self-referential books that teach children concepts of print and how books work through their plot line and design. Below, are my top 5 favorite meta books:

It's a BookIt’s a Book by Lane Smith
I have seen children not old enough to crawl who know how to operate an iPad. This fact has inspired countless think pieces and studies regarding the benefits and drawbacks of both traditional books and books on tablets and computers. Lane Smith’s It’s A Book plays off of this divide between traditionalists and digital book readers in a way that will amuse both children and adults. In the story, we get one character pestering the other with persistent questions about the book he is reading such as “Can it text? Tweet? Blog?” Since many five year olds are already familiar with tablets and smart phones, this book can inspire discussions regarding the differences between digital books and traditional print books, and how those books work. (Note to educators and parents: the end of the book refers to the Donkey as a “Jackass.”)

We Are in a Book!We Are In a Book! by Mo Willems
Most readers of Lolly’s Classroom are most likely already familiar with Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie series. One of my class’s favorites in the series is the meta book We Are In A Book! In this book, Elephant and Piggie discover that they are in fact in a book and go on to explain how books work in a myriad of funny scenes. For example, Piggie informs Elephant that “a reader is reading us” which leads to the two characters trying to get the reader to say random silly words like “banana.” Concepts like page numbers and that all books end are also learned via the plot line.

novak_bookwithnopixThe Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak
Most got to know Newton native B. J. Novak when he played Ryan Howard on the TV show The Office. Since the completion of the show, Novak has expanded his artistic oeuvre to include writing a children’s book called The Book With No Pictures. As you probably guessed from the title, this book contains no pictures. Instead, the book forces the adult who is reading the story to say ridiculous things like “blork,” “Bluurf,” and “I am a monkey who taught myself to read.” This is a great book to teach children that text can have meaning without pictures and can inspire a fun lesson plan for emerging writers by having the children try to author their own book with no pictures.

Grover_MonsterThe Monster At The End Of This Book by Jon Stone
In this book staring the iconic Sesame Street character, Grover sees the title and is fearful of the monster at the end of the book. As the reader turns the book, Grover gets increasingly scared and angry at the reader who, by turning the pages, is bringing him ever closer to the monster at the end of the book. (I won’t spoil the ending, but you can probably guess who the monster turns out to be)

! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Punctuation can be confusing to young children; fortunately, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld teamed up to create this great book simply titled !. In the story, the characters themselves are punctuation marks. At the beginning, we find the exclamation mark upset because he does not fit in with the periods. Eventually, the exclamation marks sets off and meets a question mark who can’t stop asking him questions, which leads to the exclamation mark finding his voice and purpose. This is a great book to read to set up a lesson plan about how different punctuation can change the tone and meaning of a sentence.

Finally, I will leave you with a simple lesson plan to create a “meta book” called “I Am In a Book” Get some small pieces of poster board and onto each piece of poster board attached a self-adhesive mirror tile (they are pretty cheap to buy). Use a hole-punch and book ring to turn it into a book. On the cover write “I am in a book”. On each subsequent page write phrases like “this is my happy face,” “this is my mad face,” “this is my sad face,” “this is my silly face,” and so on. As the children read the book they will make the face that goes along whatever is written underneath the mirror on that page.

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13. Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting (And Lives to Tell About It)

The first time I saw this title, I have to say I laughed out loud.  I lifted my gaze from the catalog, and surveyed the library to see most middle schoolers faces glued to their phones.  Needless to say, the title struck me even before I got my hands on the book.  While it was on my desk, it drummed up lots of interest from the kids and the adults alike.

Katie Friedman is an expert multitasker.  She's the kind of tech user who would have ALL THE TABS open.  As we begin she is texting her friend Hannah, posting a pic of her dog, receiving some texts from Becca, and sending texts to bff Charlie Joe Jackson. This is all before breakfast.  During breakfast she gets some texts from Nareem, Eliza, Hannah,  and Becca.  Then on the bus ride to school Katie is texting with Charlie Joe, and her mom.  Whew!  Exhausted yet?

The thing is, it's pretty easy to send a text to the wrong person.  Especially if you are texting multiple people at the same time.  Lots of times, it's kind of funny to send the wrong text to the wrong person. But sometimes it's really not.  Especially when you're texting about something personal.  Something like not liking your boyfriend so much anymore...and sending it to your boyfriend.

Hitting send changes everything for Katie.  Not only has she gone and really hurt Nareem's feelings, but she begins to realized how far into their phones her friends are.  She thinks about the fact that it just seems easier to text people instead of actually talk to them.

Inspired by her musical heroine, Jane Plantero, Katie sets out on a quest.  A quest to live without her phone for a while.  And Jane says if Katie can convince 10 of her friends to give up their phones for a week, she will come and play a show for them.  The twist is that Katie is not allowed to dangle to carrot of the concert.

How hard will it be to convince a bunch of middle schoolers to give up their phones?

Tommy Greenwald has tackled the topic of kids and phones without making it seem like a "topic".   Gweenwald nails the voice as usual, and if I didn't know better, I'd say he was a teacher.  Charlie Joe pops up throughout the book to lend his sarcastic wit with segments like, "Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Why Texting Is Awesome". Where Greenwald shines is in writing the relationships.   They are messy and fickle and constantly shifting ... totally like in middle school.  Katie isn't all good, just as Charlie Joe isn't all snark.  This is a book that should just show up on library tables, and in living rooms all over the place.  I think this would make a fantastic book club book, and the kind of classroom read that will get kids talking.

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14. the last half day

Due to a curious solution to the problem of too many snow days, our school year ended at 12:30 on Monday.  We finished everything important on Friday, and I had hoped just a little that maybe no one would come on Monday--but they did, and we found lots of nice ways to fill that last few hours (including giving everyone one last chance to count to 100, an assessment I had forgotten to squeeze in--just as well they all came!).

And then they were gone.


Sometimes a meager harvest

The last half day--
walls stripped, treasure bags packed,
Jim Joe jumped one last time;
gifts given and received,
farewell hugs ceremoniously
hugged, fast and earnest,
because we'd run out of time again
one last time.

Now the room  is hollow, dead--
nothing living but the teacher and
a single valiant sugar snap vine,
three feet high and climbing
a string up the Weather Window.
On the one vine, at the top, hangs
a single beautifully formed,
pleasingly plump green pod.

Teacher steps out of her sandals
onto a low chair and up onto
the radiator, plucks the fat pod
full of peas she forgot to share
and eats it, all by herself--
one last sweet crunchy mouthful
swallowed alone in the classroom
on the last half day.

HM 2015
all rights reserved

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Mary Lee herself is rounding up remotely at A Year of Reading today.  Go get yourself some farmyard fun and lots of poetry goodness from around the Kidlitosphere!


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15. Hilo - The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, by Judd Winick

There are never enough graphic novels for kids.  This is a simple truth. When I look to our circulation at school, out of the top 50 circulating titles during the school year 44 were graphic novels.  88%!  So I was pretty delighted when my colleague Karyn told me there was a graphic novel for kids I needed to check out.  I finally got my hands on the arc and sat down to give it a go.

DJ is just an average kid in the middle of an above average family.  The one thing he was really good at was being a good friend to Gina, but Gina moved away 3 years ago.

DJ is sitting on the roof of his club house when he sees something crash out of the sky.  Imagine his surprise when a blond boy in silver undies climbs out of the newly formed crater in the earth.  This kid has a lot of energy and even more questions since his "memory is a busted book" and he's not quite sure where he's from or what he's doing on earth.  DJ takes Hilo in without much of a plan, and quickly finds himself with his hands full.

DJ is surprised when Gina ends up back in town, and notices that she's changed quite a bit in the 3 years she's been out of Berke County which makes DJ notice that he hasn't really changed. At all.

As Hilo's past is revealed to him in his dreams bit by bit, it soon becomes apparent that danger is on the way.  And now maybe DJ will realize he's not so ordinary after all.

This outstanding graphic novel needs to be purchased in multiples.  Winick has created lovable, funny and real characters that readers will laugh with and cheer for.  The movement in the art is reminiscent of both Watterson and Gownley and I defy anyone to read Hilo without feeling moments of joy.  While reviewers have pegged this as a 9-12 title, I'm saying all ages.  I know we will have kids from 6 to 14 eager to check this one out.

I heart Hilo.

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16. We need (more) diverse authors

In the Age of Testing, it seems creativity is often left by the wayside. Professional development for teachers these days focuses on practices that supposedly raise test scores. Practice questions. Test-prep software. Data analysis. Incentives.

To make room for these practices, it seems that many high schools no longer teach creative writing. We teach reading and writing to prepare students for college (and tests), which means argument, research, and analysis. Yet, stories remain an object of study, so there’s no denying they’ve retained their cultural value even if we’ve stopped writing them in the classroom.

Just imagine if we stopped going nuts about test proficiency and instead aimed to inspire children to love and value stories so much that they want to create them.

I think there’s a tremendous loss in that many (possibly most) schools do not have this mindset.

Writing fiction is instructive in itself. Writing a story helps one understand plot. Creating a symbol helps one analyze symbolism. Proofreading a piece in hopes of publication motivates one to master Standard English conventions. Writing a story gives context and meaning to skills that are often taught devoid of either.

Beyond the lost opportunity for instruction, I think a more insidious effect is that we lose potential authors. And since test prep reigns supreme in the inner-city, where test scores tend to be low but racial and socioeconomic diversity tends to be high, this equates to the loss of potential authors of color.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing authors of color in the writing community today, both published and unpublished. Yet I don’t think anyone would claim that the publishing world — at any level — has arrived at a place where it accurately reflects the world we live in.

But if we push for more creative writing in schools — especially in schools with underrepresented populations — I think we will eventually see more diverse writers emerge. And more diverse writers will lead to more diverse stories in agents’ submission folders, in editors’ hands, and on bookshelves. And that, I believe, has far more potential to transform children’s lives than any standardized test.

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17. Chapter books | Class #3, 2015

julian_joey_omakayas

This week we are reading three chapter books — The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos, and The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. Each is the first book in a series and each has a strong central character, an element that I think is essential in early chapter books.

We’re also reading two articles to go along with these books. One is Robin Smith’s “Teaching New Readers to Love Books,” where, among other things, she describes reading The Birchbark House aloud to her second graders every year. The other article is an interview with Jack Gantos from the Embracing the Child website. I find that teachers tend to have a lot of questions about Gantos’s credentials for writing about ADHD, and he addresses them especially well here.

I hope you will join our discussions of these readings in the comments to the individual posts linked above.

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18. The Stories Julian Tells | Class #3, 2015

The Stories Julian TellsThe Stories Julian Tells is the first book in an ongoing series about brothers Julian and Hughie, and their neighbor Gloria. This is an early chapter book for readers who have acquired some fluency but aren’t ready to tackle longer books yet. The chapters are fairly short, there’s lots of conversation, the plot is easy to follow, and there is a clear central character.

What do you think of Ann Cameron’s writing? Is the story engaging enough for children who are still struggling a bit with reading?

How do you feel about a white author writing a book in which all the characters are African American?

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19. The Birchbark House | Class #3, 2015

The Birchbark HouseLouise Erdrich’s historical novel The Birchbark House is the first in a series, each book following a child from a different generation in an Ojibwa community.

Often, books for children contain a central character who is about the same age as the book’s readers. The Birchbark House would be a tough read for most children who are Omakayas’s age. There are beautiful descriptive passages that young readers tend to gloss over, and difficult vocabulary including some Ojibwe words. For these reasons, it works best when read aloud to those younger grades — as Robin Smith discusses in her article.

What did you think of this book? And what about reading aloud in school? For those of you who are teachers, do you? And what books have you found that work best?

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20. Information books | Class #4, 2015

informationbooks_2015

In next week’s class, we’ll be talking about four information books:

Things sure have changed since I was in elementary school. Instead of providing every fact known — or at least everything needed to write a report — information books nowadays aim to be as engaging as possible in order to get children interested in their subject. The idea is that it’s better to leave them wanting more and then provide a bibliography at the end of the book. I think this is a big improvement.

The other new development is that many new information books provide information on several levels, often using different typefaces. Every year, some of my ed students are frustrated by this kind of delivery, finding it draining or overwhelming, and they fear their students will dislike it, too. Others, particularly visual learners and those who know kids with attention issues, love it. I think the key is to let children explore these books rather making them “accountable for” reading and retaining every word. If the subject grabs a kid, then he or she might go through the book a second, third, and even fourth time, reading and noticing more and more.

Please join us in discussing these books at the links above. We’re also reading three articles related to Dave the Potter‘s Coretta Scott King award. You can find the articles at the links below, but we’ll discuss them here.

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21. Donna Shepherd Reading Miss Emma Ant to 2nd Graders

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.0"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Reading Miss Emma Ant to 2nd Graders - Be sure to click through to a sampling of the letters and artwork

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22. Join some mock award discussions

Hello, Calling Caldecott readers.

I want to alert you to a post that just went up in Lolly’s Classroom. My students will be holding mock award sessions during our last class on April 9. Come help them discuss these books here.

Since there are nearly 30 students, we have four groups: two Caldecott committees, one Geisel, and one Sibert (concentrating on younger books).

Follow the link above for more information and commenting. Here’s what the four slates look like:

Caldecott 1:

h810f_caldecott1_2015

Caldecott 2:

h810f_caldecott2_2015

Geisel:

h810f_geisel_2015

Sibert:

h810f_sibert_2015

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23. #668 – Alien Dude! #2: Mr. Evil Potato Man and the Food Fight! by E. K. Smith & Peter Grosshauser

WebPotatoManx

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Alien Dude! #2: Mr. Evil Potato Man and the Food Fight!

Written by E. K. Smith
Illustrated by Peter Grosshauser
Zip Line Publishing              9/27/2014
978-0-9883792-1-3
64 pages         Age 7—9
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“When the villain Mr. Evil Potato Man puts a spell on the school food, students start turning into food and a huge food fight erupts. Alien Dude morphs into a peeler and peels, then fries the giant potato. Once the fries are eaten, the spell is broken.” [publisher summary]
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Review
Alien Dude is an early reader for reluctant readers. Aimed at boys (and girls who enjoy alien superheroes), Alien Dude is an enjoyable story about a little alien-student. As Alien Dude sits, quietly working on his lessons, the lunch bell rings. He flies off to the cafeteria, but a quiet lunch will not last long. As kids eat, they start turning into items of food. Pizza, hot dogs, ice cream, and a hamburger with all the works begin popping up at lunch tables. Veggies, too. What in the name of popcorn is going on?

Alien Dude realizes the EVIL Mr. Evil Potato Man has caused the chaos. Alien Dude jumps onto his table and yells,

“Don’t eat the school food! He put a spell on the food.”

Then Mr. Evil Potato Man—the villain—yells . . .

Can you guess what he yells?

AD-PotatoManP11

He yells,

“Food Fight!!”

The grey-scale illustrations show kids morphing into food. I would have preferred color interior illustrations. Grosshauser’s ability shines on the covers; a marvelous sight sure to catch passing eyes. The cover also masks the simplicity of the story inside. Young boys—and girls—will not be ashamed to read Alien Dude. a story geared toward reading ability, not the reader’s age. The three chapters are composed of one or two sentences per page, with large illustrated characters. Smith repeats words and simple sentence structures to build reluctant readers’ ability and love of reading.

Alien Dude has special powers, as all superheroes should possess. He can fly, fr course, but the little alien can also morph into any working object of his choice. To defeat Mr. Evil Potato Man, Alien Dude morphs into a potato peeler, following up with a slicer, and finally a fryer. Still, the spell . . . Alien Dude disposed of the villain, but the kids, they’re still cafeteria food.

AD-PotatoManP16

Young children will enjoy the cafeteria humor and the unusual ending. However, I wonder why Alien Dude flies off rather than finish his school day. Maybe this Alien Dude’s reward for cooking the villain’s goose, so to speak. Alien Dude is a series. Book 1: Alien Dude! and the Attack of Wormzilla!! is also available. I enjoyed Alien Dude and think young children will also like the school age alien. He could be sitting next to them right now.

ALIEN DUDE!: MR. EVIL POTATO MAN AND THE FOOD FIGHT! Text copyright © 2014 by E. K. Smith. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Peter Grosshauser. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Zip Line Publishing, Charlotte, NC.
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Purchase Alien Dude! at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryZip Line Publishing.
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Learn more about Alien Dude! HERE.
Meet the author, E. K. Smith, at her linkedin:  http://linkd.in/1CvjTyw
Meet the illustrator, Peter Grosshauser, at his short bio:  http://bit.ly/1FdmW5y
Find more reluctant readers at the Zip Line Publishing website:  http://zipintoreading.com/

Alien Dude! #1: Alien Dude! and the Attack of Wormzilla!!

Alien Dude! #1: Alien Dude! and the Attack of Wormzilla!!

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Early Reader, Library Donated Books, Reluctant Readers, Series Tagged: Alien Dude!, Alien Dude! #2: Mr. Evil Potato Man and the Food Fight!, aliens, E. K. Smith, Peter Grosshauser, school, Zip Line Publishing

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24. Mock book award results | 2015

mockawardwinners2015

Committee results from left to right: the two Caldecott groups, Geisel, and Sibert.

My children’s lit students just met for the last time, and we spent most of our three-hour class in mock book award groups. I had been thinking about trying mock awards in this short six-week module for a few years, but this year Maleka Donaldson Gramling, the terrific course TF, thought it would be worth reconfiguring some tried and true aspects of the course to make room for this lengthy process. I am happy to report that it was worth it. The students had lively and informed discussions and proved that they really have learned a few things over the past few weeks.

In working out the logistics, I relied heavily on advice from Calling Caldecott readers. With 23 students and a handful of auditors, we ended up with four committees: two for Caldecott and one each for Geisel and Sibert. Each student nominated one or two books and tonight they completed the project, meeting in committees (we separated the two Caldecotts into two different rooms), presenting each book, discussing, and voting. You can see a photo of the results above. Here is the full list.

Caldecott committee #1 had an even number of members and after several ballots were still in a dead tie. The final decision was made by coin toss:

  • Winner:
    The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat
  • Honor Book:
    The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper

Caldecott committee #2 had a more traditional experience:

  • Winner:
    The Noisy Paintbox by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre
  • Honor Books:
    - Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo
    - The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper

Geisel committee choices:

  • Winner:
    You are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant
  • Honor Book:
    Tippy and the Night Parade by Lilly Carré

And the Sibert committee — the largest group — chose:

  • Winner:
    Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins
  • Honor Books:
    The Right Word by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
    The Noisy Paintbox by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre

The deliberations were fueled by snacks and each group had an instructor t0 help keep discussion focused on award criteria. I am so grateful to Maleka for moderating the Geisel group and to Lauren Adams (unofficial discussion facilitator and Adolescent Lit instructor) who oversaw the Sibert group. I bounced between the two rooms and helped the Caldecott groups.

What do you all think? Students? Other blog readers? Do you like their results? After all, part of the real committee experience is dealing with the post-decision social media fallout.

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25. Best book bracketology

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. A fresh, clean bracket has names neatly penciled into open slots, representing optimism and promise for excitement. Meanwhile, the sweetness of the beginning is quickly thrown into tumult, as surprises abound and unpredicted losses become the talk of Twitter. The competition is fierce, and the stakes are high. Naturally, I’m talking about March Picture Book Madness!

I was scouring through my daily dose of teacher blogs (a heavily addicting recreational activity, though I highly recommend it) when I came across an article in one of my absolute favorites. The Nerdy Book Club (yes, that’s its real name) was advocating for countrywide participation in a March Madness book battle. Over 700 schools across the US were putting in their picks for top-seeded picture books, middle grade novels, or young adult fiction. The website would then generate a bracket, with classrooms everywhere participating in the “madness!” My class just had to get in on all the fun — what an exciting excuse to indulge into picture books, and providing a fun incentive for read-aloud time!

Worried that your school may not have the funds to take on this challenge? Have no fear! Our grade level team didn’t enter the actual pool. We decided to use the list of books selected on the website as guide, and see which ones we could find in our school library. For ones that we could not find, we simply supplemented with other incredible picture books that we found! I put on my artistic hat and created my own bracket out of a large piece of card stock.

Just as the March Madness basketball brackets stem from different regions, the picture book bracket had two distinct categories: books written prior to 2014, and books written throughout the 2014-2015 season. This created a wonderful opportunity for all of us to explore the latest in children’s literature, as well as revisiting some old favorites. Check out the picture below for our classroom picks (click to see it larger). I know we’re past March now, but the fervor is still in the air as we come to our top pick. I hope you’ll consider an activity like this next year as it really isn’t that maddening to organize!

 marchmadness_500x368

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