Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Edge of Their Seats Every Time

Sometimes when I get a little bit anxious about how I'm doing as an elementary school librarian, I pick up an old favorite and sneak a peek at my audience as I'm reading.  Sometimes I see them sitting with their hands over their ears but eyes wide, sometimes they put their fingers over their eyes with just a teeny bit of separation so that they don't miss out entirely, other times it is just a silent group of children, each looking up at the book with their jaws hung slack.  Sometimes I can hardly get through the book...what with the laughter.  Sometimes at the end of the book my students applaud.  Spontaneously.

This is not a movie they're watching.  They are listening to another human being read written words on a page.  It amazes me, sometimes, the power of the read-aloud.  I love when I read a sentence and a child says, "I love how he said that."  Um...that was me saying it that way.  But really I'm just the go-between, the middle-woman if you will.  I will never forget when I had a high school senior with me for two weeks for her high school Senior Experience.  She was from Australia and she read the students Possum Magic.  I was one of those students with my jaw hung slack.  I can never read that book aloud again...I've been spoiled by her reading of it.  For the following read-alouds I rarely stop to ask questions or to check for understanding.  There's plenty of time for that.  I don't want to break the spell.

Here are three books that I read to my first grade students every year.


Epossumondas Saves the Day :: by Coleen Salley :: Illustrated by Janet Stevens
Sure it looks humorous enough except when you get to the Great, Huge, Ugly, Louisiana Snapping Turtle.  Read it to my Firsties every year and I never get tired of it.


My Best Friend :: by Mary Ann Rodman :: Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
There's nothing scary about this book, but my Firsties or Kinders are captivated by it.  They are on pins and needles wondering what's going to happen to Lily.  Will Tamika finally accept her as she is?  Will it take just another bathing suit change or half a popsicle to make them BFFs?  Friendships are so important to these little guys and I use this book whenever I can tell there's a little bit of friendship strife going on in the classroom.



Each Kindness :: Jacqueline Woodson :: Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Hmmm...okay, another book illustrated by E. B. Lewis.  Not intentional but there is no doubt that illustrations add to the allure of these picture books.  I read Each Kindness to each of my three first grade classes last year.  The reaction was literally stunned silence.  And if you know Firsties you know how monumental this is!  Then chatter.  "Maybe she came back."  "Maybe the author will write a second book."  Lots of hoping and wishing when this read-aloud was finished.  Sometimes you don't get second chances and I think this book made that a little bit more real for my compassionate Firsties.  Afterwards we wrote our acts of kindness on paper pebbles and set them on a paper pond, imagining the ripple effect.

What captivating tales do you read to your first graders every year?



Friday, July 10, 2015

Postings from the Past: Part One

I finally caught up with my old friend Carolyn from Risking Failure the other night on twitter.  We were both lamenting the fact that our blogs have fallen by the wayside and what could inspire us to update them with a little more frequency.  We also had a good virtual laugh because we found answers to some of our own questions in our very own past posts!  Wouldn't it be fun to revisit our past posts and reflect on how far {or not} we've come?  And so was born the #pastpresentpostingchallenge.

This Friday I've decided to reflect on my post from about this time two years ago {!}; a post that I called Four Down...Four to Go.  

:: Reading - Two years ago I was reading mostly adult fiction as summer began.  I still tend to do that over the summer but this year I started out with Finding Audrey, the new YA book by Sophie Kinsella.  I really enjoyed this book - it is full of the kind of oddball humor that I like and the main character's "issue" wasn't handled in a forced or contrived way.  So am I shifting to YA literature? This year I read a lot of MG literature - does this mean I'm maturing?  LOL!  Or, upon deeper reflection, what does this mean as I begin my eighth year as a K-5 librarian?  Do we age up or out of grade-level?

:: "The Office" - I am spinning a la Julie Andrews to report that my Library was PAINTED this week.  Yes, a lovely new white (that showed how disgustingly dingy the old white had become :: shudder ::), a beautiful sky blue on the expanse of cinderblock near the windows; and a darker blue to make the entryway pop!  I know that always say this on Home & Garden Television, but it is amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do.  Deeper reflection:  What do you do each year to re-energize your space?  Does it work?

:: Guest - Haha!  TWO years ago Carolyn came up to visit with me and my librarian friends.  This year I need to make some visits.  I need to observe other Librarians in their spaces as they work and teach. Deeper reflection:  How does observing other teacher-librarians help to improve your practice?

:: Family - We are home from our annual summer vacation.  As I mentioned two years ago, this summer time at home with my children is just another reason why I love my job.  Deeper reflection: If you have children and work during the school year, what are your summers like? 

:: National Boards - Two years ago I was contemplating whether or not to apply for National Boards. That following September I decided to go ahead with the process and this November I learned that I had in fact achieved my National Boards.  It was a long process and I have very mixed and tortured feelings about it.  If you'd like I can do a post on my experience.

:: Writing - Two years ago my article on selecting books for my Library was published in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Bulletin.  I still haven't finished that pesky MG novel but have since moved on.  I hoping for some better news two years hence.  Deeper reflection:  What are your personal long term goals?

Stay tuned for next Tuesday's post where I will write about this year's first time experience with flexible scheduling in my Library. 


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Interview with Robin Stevens - Murder Is Bad Manners

The US cover of Murder is Bad Manners
Dear Robin, 

Amy B: Welcome to the U.S.!
Robin Stevens: Thank you! It’s lovely to be here at last!
AB: I discovered your book "Murder Most Unladylike" when it first came out in the UK and I had to order it from the UK to read.  Now it's here in the U.S. with its new title "Murder is Bad Manners". You're originally from the U.S. yourself, although you moved when you were quite young.  Do you think Americans read mysteries differently from UK readers?
RS: I am! I was born in California, and still hold an American passport. I’m proud of belonging to both countries, and actually, Daisy and Hazel are as much influenced by Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown as they are by Poirot and the Famous Five. I think that we all bring our own cultural experience to the books we read, so I’m very pleased that you guys are going to see my heroines in the context of all of the American mysteries I grew up on – stuff that my British readers miss!
AB: Wells & Wong could easily have been Wells & Wagner or Wells & Watkins.  What made you decide that Hazel Wong's family was from Hong Kong.  Did you plan that or did you discover she was from Hong Kong as you wrote your book?
RS: Hazel’s nationality was one of the first things I knew about the book, actually. Most of my own friends at school were Hong Kong Chinese, so I grew up hearing their stories about their home lives, and the differences they noticed between England and Hong Kong. I think I connected to them because we were all from non-traditional English boarding school backgrounds: none of us fit in, and all of us slightly felt as though we were intruding on something. And, as a kid who read a lot of boarding school stories, I noticed that people who thought like us – and looked like them – didn’t feature at all. That made me cross, and I decided that when I wrote my own boarding school stories, I’d do something to redress the balance.
AB: I would imagine that a mystery writer has to be more of a plotter than a pantser.  Is this true?  What types of things surprised you even after you nailed your plot down?
RS: After a very painful redraft of Murder is Bad Manners when I first signed with my agent, I decided that I needed to learn how to be a plotter. I’m now fanatical about nailing down the exact events around each one of my murders – I do a huge spreadsheet with each character’s actions filled in in five or ten minute slots, to make sure that everyone’s alibis check out, and the right people see each other at the right time. Other than that, though, I’m looser – I have a basic idea of where I’m going and how I want to get there, but I like to leave room for my characters to breathe. I have to keep myself interested as I write – it’s a story I’m telling myself, so I’ve got to want to keep going!
AB: As an elementary school librarian I find that my students are always up for a good mystery. What is it about mysteries, do you think, that are so captivating for children?
RS: I think it’s partly the puzzle, and partly the rush of a pacy, exciting story – but I think the pull for kids also has a lot to do with the fact that they’re seeing people like them, totally in control of the story. Child detectives aren’t just the heroes, they’re driving the entire plot, and at the end of the day they get to outsmart the adults. That is so exciting to see when you’re nine and you spend your real life being ordered around by the grown-ups in your life.
AB: "Bunbreaks" seem to be an integral part of life in a 1930s boarding school and Murder Is Bad Manners.  Please describe for our American readers what exactly this entails.
RS: Bunbreak is a very exciting and important concept that I learned when I was at school. It’s really just another word for morning break – we would pause lessons at 11am and eat some cookies or a slice of cake – but it was the highlight of the day for us, as it is for Hazel and Daisy. I’ve slightly broadened the concept of bunbreak to mean any moment when you stop what you’re doing to enjoy a sweet treat, and it’s caught on hugely over here. A lot of my readers have taken pictures of themselves having a bunbreak with the book, and I hope Americans will embrace it in the same way.
AB: And finally, if readers wanted to sound particularly 1930s British, what expression would you have us add to our vocabulary?  

RB: Ooh! I do like spiffing (fantastic) for everyday use. I’m also a fan of words like waxy (angry) and pax (peace) – some of them have made it into the book, but some had to be cut. I read a lot of 1930s books and I love soaking up the language in them.

AB: Thank you Robin for taking time to answer my questions. I can't wait to see what Wells & Wong are up to next.
~~~

To discover more about Robin Stevens and about Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, visit her website or follow her on twitter.

Read more about Murder is Bad Manners at Simon and Schuster or Kirkus Reviews {starred review!}

~~~

All books by Robin Stevens were purchased on my own - well worth giving up my bun break fund.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Why I Bought It Wednesday

Hello Good Readers!

I just received my first book shipment of 2015!  Some people need to bungie-cord off bridges or go sky-diving to get their heart pumping, but for me just opening those boxes of new books is enough to make my heart go pitter-patter.

Here are five books and why I bought them.

You can see the others on my Pinterest Boards, here and here

Image of Food Trucks! Written and illustrated by Mark Todd

Why I Bought It:  No, it's not because I loved the move Chef, although that may have had something to do with with it.  Each page highlights a different type of food truck and gives a description in verse.  It's cataloged as an "E" book but I may have to move it to my 811s as I will definitely want to highlight this book when doing poetry with my students. Additional food-related quick facts add even more interest to this colorful, energetic book!  Here's the review in the New York Times book section.  Bon appetite!


Why I Bought It:  Well kiss my brain for actually purchasing this book BEFORE it won a Pure Belpre award this year.  But really I buy every thing by Duncan Tonatiuh, including a perennial favorite Dear Primo:  A Letter to My Cousin.


Why I Bought It:  GASP!  Where have you been all my life?  The idea behind this book is genius and it is executed to perfection.  Selected artists are asked to draw their favorite animal and to write a brief description of why.  The styles are so different and each are recognizable.  Everything from Bad Kitty to Lucy Cousins.  A beautiful book benefiting the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Massachusetts.


Why I Bought It:  So here is a lesson on Listen To Your Students.  I read this book.  I have to say I did not care for it.  My students asked me to buy it.  THEY LOVE IT.  Lesson:  Your School Library Is Not About The Librarian.  Here's the book trailer with a wonderfully dreamy description by the author Katherine Rundell.


Why I Bought It:  I am a huge fan of picture book biographies.  I read them to all of my students, even my youngest.  Here is a book by Deborah Heiligman about a person I had never even heard of before:  the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdos.  I haven't read it yet because it's been snatched up my our school's math coach.  We have so many boys who love math in our school {and girls too} that I think this is going to be a very popular pick.

And that's Why I Bought It for today!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Room with a Review: Gargoyles Gone A.W.O.L

Title:  Gargoyles Gone A.W.O.L

Author:  Cl√©mentine Beauvais

Illustrator:  Sarah Horne

Month/Year Published:  U.S. Edition expected publication date 5/15/15

You May Know Her:  If you live in the United Kingdom where the third Sesame Seade mystery is already on shelves. BTW, she's also an academic at Cambridge and she writes in French as well.  Wow!

Review You May Not Have Seen:  Since her books are already popular in the United Kingdom, here's the Kirkus review of her first Sesame Seade book published in the U.S.   

The Review
Okay, prepare for some name dropping, which I rarely get to do, so please indulge me.  About three months ago I was on Twitter and I asked my tweeps for some recommendations for Brit Kid Lit mysteries. So my tweep {here's where the name dropping begins} Robin Stevens {author of MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE, soon to be released in the US as MURDER IS BAD MANNERS} directed me to Ms. Beauvais and the Sesame Seade mysteries.  I tucked that away for future reference.  

Fast forward last week to the National Council of Teachers of English conference.  I was meandering my way through the exhibit hall when I came to a tiny booth {here is where my name dropping fails me - I have no idea what booth I was at - I am SO SORRY booth!!} where I picked up a cute little book solely on the cover art.  Then my eye traveled to the author's name...Beauvais...Beauvais...THINK!  "Oh," I said.  "Not what you want?" said the lovely lady at The Booth.  "No!  This is British!!"  "Yes," said mystery lady, "it is!  I'm very impressed that you knew that!"  And then I skipped off with my copy of GARGOYLES GONE A.W.O.L. not believing my luck!!  {I even tweeted Ms. Beauvais to let her know <--author name drop}

But enough about me.  Welcome to Gargoyles Gone A.W.O.L, the second book in the Sesame Seade Mystery series.  Sesame Seade is really Sophie Seade who lives in Cambridge (England, not Mass.) with her parents who seem to be lumps but are really ultimately quite loving.  She has two chums that she pals around with {either on roller skates or a too tall bicycle} and this time the mystery involves missing gargoyles.  I was a sucker for this book from basically the first page where there is a MAP {who cannot love a book with a map - although is it too late to add The Senate House? - wink, wink} and the fact that there is British jargon, slang, what-have-you, tossed around throughout the book.  I'm glad this was left in the US version because frankly, my readers can handle it and honestly, who doesn't love adding a little Brit Lit Lingo to your every day vocabulary.  Add a grouchy cat gone suspiciously docile and a red herring hornet and you have GARGOYLES GONE A.W.O.L. {Plus something else that will make most of GGA readers go AWWWWW but even to mention it will give away part of the mystery.}

I thoroughly enjoyed this light-hearted, fast-paced mystery that shall find a place on my library bookshelves for my readers who already enjoy those eclectic and adventuresome Americans Judy Moody and Gooney Bird Greene.

**This review was based on an Advance Reader's Copy I received free of charge from...SO SORRY...at NCTE.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Room with a Review: Mouseheart



Title:  Mouseheart

Author:  Lisa Fiedler

Illustrator:  Vivienne To

Month/Year Published:  Expected publication date May 2014

You May Know Her:  Hmm...not really sure!  We want to know more!

You May Find Her:  Hmm...  Lisa Fidler...where are yooooou?

Review You May Not Have Seen:  Not a lot of reviews quite yet - the buzz will begin soon though!

The Review

I'm not quite sure how I arrived by this Advanced Reader's Copy of MOUSEHEART, but let me tell you, the packaging alone, from Simon and Schuster free of charge, made me feel like I was receiving something special.  Nestled in a brown paper, the book, complete with a mock-up of the book display and cover with its pyramidical (pyramidical?) illustration in colors both vibrant and muted, definitely caught my attention.

But how would this little nestled egg hold up under the boiling water scrutiny (are ya catching my egg metaphor here) of my most critical readers:  my very own 3rd and 4th grade daughter and son?  Would it crack under the pressure? Would the plot be too scrambled? Or would it read easy (over)?  (Okay, I'm done with the egg metaphor now.)

Over the course of a week, we read this book aloud on successive evenings.  Here is what my own reviewers thought of this forthcoming book, the first in a trilogy.

My fourth grade son:  "I thought MOUSEHEART was very good. A lot of parts were very amusing to read.  This book also makes you think a little bit.  This book is sad, scary, and happy all at the same time.  I thought the characters in this book were very good.  Like, Hopper {the main character}, Zucker, Pinkie, Pup and Titus.  I really think that title matches the story.  I think that it being a trilogy is good because it makes you want to read the others.  I would read the others.  I would recommend this book to people who like action, animals, and cliffhangers.  I really loved this book!"

My third grade daughter:  "The book was awesome.  I can't wait for the sequel.  My favorite characters in order were Pup, Hopper, and Pinkie.  I would recommend this book to people that aren't afraid of rodents.  The title really makes you think about what it means.  I liked the whole story and how it was thought out.  My favorite part was one of the fighting scenes between certain characters in the book {no spoilers!}."

My children really did enjoy this book and asked me to read it to them every night.  I know this book will be a hit in my elementary school library as well.  It's a little less challenging in terms of reading stamina than Redwall and the Warriors series, to which it is being compared, and that will suit my students in grades 3-5 just fine.  A definite purchase for our collection and recommended reading, if, as my daughter cautions, you aren't afraid of rodents! 



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Creating Movie Dialogue Using Primary Sources

After several weeks of feeling like a creative slug, I finally got a jolt of inspiration made possible, in part, by a request to the Twitterverse.  I was looking for some lesson ideas for my third and fourth graders that utilized primary sources and technology.  Of course my trusty tweeps guided me to the Library of Congress website and from there things fell into place.

First, students will access TR Calls on Neighbors at Christmas, 1917.

Then they will complete the Graphic Organizer I have created and that is available here.

I welcome your comments and any suggestions  you might have for improving this graphic organizer.


 
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