Monday, January 30, 2012

JUST A SECOND- Steve Jenkins

Steve Jenkins is a Colorado author and illustrator. It only makes sense, then, that I would be a charter member of the Steve Jenkins' fan club. As I have said before, I think Jenkins, (sometimes in cahoots with wife Robin Page), writes some of the most interesting and visually attractive nonfiction out there for elementary and yeah, even middle and high school kids. In the past couple of years, I've reviewed lots of Jenkins' masterpieces: Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Ocean, Bones and Never Smile at a Monkey, and How to Clean a Hippopotamus.

Jenkins' newest book, JUST A SECOND, came out in November. And it's definitely one of my favorites. JUST A SECOND looks at time, but it looks at time in a really unique way. Each two-page spread features 5-7 of Jenkins' classic collage-type illustrations about a certain period of time, all the way from a second to a week. On one of the "one second" spreads, for example, I learned, among other things, that a vulture in flight flaps its wings once, a hummingbird beats its wings 50 times, a bumblebee 200 times, and a midge (a kind of gnat) 1000. There are also pages for "Very Quick" and "Very Long." Many of the pages feature a fact about human population or use of the Earth's resources.

The last few pages in the book are also classic Jenkins- more information on the subject organized in an entirely different way, but also fascinating in their own right. There's a one-page spiral-shaped history of the universe, a bar graph of the Earth's Human Population (with different continents done in different colors), and a two page spread about the lifespans of different plants and animals. Oh, and then there's a history of time and timekeeping.

This one is a winner. So-far it's my nominee for CYBILS nonfiction picture book of 2012.

Here's a link to a New York Times review.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Most people know about the discrimination experienced by Jackie Robinson, the first African American baseball player in the major leagues. I would venture, however, that not nearly as many know the story of William Powell, the creator of the Clearview Golf Course in Canton, Ohio. Richard Michelson, author of BUSING BREWSTER and LIPMAN PIKE is about to change that with his newest book, TWICE AS GOOD.

Third grader Willie Powell was fascinated by the new golf course in his town, so much so that he would run the seven miles from his home to the course. When he asked a man to teach him to play, the man told Willie that "his kind" weren't welcome there. Willie persevered in visiting the course, however, and soon the man invited him to become a caddy. After several years of caddying, his mother's employer, Dr. Casey, finally taught him to play, and Willie eventually became the captain of his high school golf team. Throughout his growing up years, and on into his adult life, Willie always remembered the words of an elementary school principal, who had told him that if he wanted to get ahead in this world, he would always need to be "twice as good as the white children."

When World War II started, Willie was drafted. In Europe, anyone could play any golf course, but when Willie returned to the United States, he once again encountered discrimination. "Folks don't mind me fighting for their freedom," he told his wife Marcella, "but they sure do mind me sharing their clubhouse." Willie decided that he would build his own golf course, where anyone would be welcome to play, so during the day, he worked on his course, then in the evenings, he supported his family by working as a security guard. Clearview started as a nine hole course, but today, it is an 18 hole course, run by Powell's daughter, Renee, who was the first African American member of the LPGA.

I'm looking forward to sharing TWICE AS GOOD with my fourth graders on Monday. It will be a really important addition to our African American history basket.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Poetry Friday

Life is bittersweet right now.
Last night, at my son's basketball game, a parent commented,
"Do you know why some species eat their young?
It's so they won't have to deal with teenagers."

And to some degree,
living with my sixteen and eighteen-year-olds
is a lot like that.

And yet, at the same time,
I grieve this growing.
Moving away.
Son #1 got a letter of intent yesterday.
And the idea of sending him
To live in an apartment
At a junior college
One thousand miles away
Seems absolutely

And I think of all the stories read
Jerseys washed
Texts exchanged
(Where are you? Call me. Be careful. Love you)
And I cannot believe
that this sweet time
Is almost gone.

"Winter Sundays"
Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Read the rest of the poem here.

Poetry Friday is at "Hey, Jim Hill!"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thoughts for Thursday

Dr. Richard Allington, on the issue of librarians and teachers being readers:

"I’ll give you my sporting analogy. Do you think football coaches should know anything about football? Do you think football coaches should have ever played football? Would anyone ever hire a football coach that had never played the game and didn’t know anything about it?

I seriously doubt it. If you don’t know anything about the game, trying to explain it to somebody who knows nothing about it is almost impossible…

One of the things that I find most worrisome is that 53% of teachers in the first three years of teaching say that they didn’t read a single book, over half of our beginning teachers have never read a single book in the first few years of teaching, which made me go a ways in understanding why so many kids don’t read books.

If you don’t read books I don’t know how you’d ever share the joys of reading with kids who are learning to read."

Monday, January 23, 2012


OK, so last year at this time, I was on Cloud Nine. I had read the Newbery. In fact, I was actually one of the few people I knew who had read it. This year, ummm, not soooo much......

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature 0/3:

Dead End in Norvelt,” by Jack Gantos- haven't read this one or even heard much about it.

Newbery Honor books
  • Inside Out & Back Again, written by Thanhha Lai- I haven't read this one, but I have seen it mentioned in lots and lots of different places, and it's on my TBR list
  • Breaking Stalin’s Nose, written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin- I hadn't heard of this one-- went hunting for reviews, they look great. Also found out that Yelchin illustrated WONTON, which I love.

Randolph Caldecott Medal and Honor books ( 3 out of 4):

  • A Ball for Daisy," illustrated and written by Chris Raschka- I'm a long time Chris Raschka fan, and read this one just last wee, in one of my Tattered Cover forays. .
Honor books
  • “Blackout,” illustrated and written by John Rocco- Nope, I haven't read this one. Don't even remember seeing it anywhere.
  • "Grandpa Green" Loved this. Thought it was unusual enough that maybe it would win.
  • “Me … Jane" Loved this one too. I'm planning on using it for a mentor text in a biography unit I will be doing next month

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:

Where Things Come Back,” by John Corey Whaley- I haven't read this one, but did read a couple of interviews online today, and I'm thinking I might have to hunt it down.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award (4/4 This was my best category this year!!!!)

“Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans” I love anything Kadir and am actually reading this one to my fourth graders right now.

Honor books (both of these were nominated for the CYBILS poetry category, so I had read both of them several times)

  • “The Great Migration: Journey to the North,” illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
  • “Never Forgotten,” illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:

  • “Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom,” Loved this one, thought the unusual use of light and color might even get Underground looked at for a Caldecott
  • “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans,”

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience (0/3)- haven't read any of these, not even Wonderstruck

  • “close to famous,” written byJoan Bauer
  • “Wonderstruck: A Novel in Words and Pictures,”
  • “The Running Dream,” written by Wendelin Van Draanen

Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children's book translated from a foreign language and subsequently published in the United States:

  • Soldier Bear” is the 2012 Batchelder Award winner.

Batchelder Honor Book

  • “The Lily Pond,” written by Annika Thor, and translated by Linda Schenck.

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience
Pura Belpre

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours,” illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh- haven't read this, but given that half of my class are ELL (Spanish speakers), it is definitely one I want to hunt down

Belpré Illustrator Honor Books

  • “The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred,” illustrated by Rafael López, written by Samantha R. Vamos - haven't read this but I did add it to my list after MaryLee reviewed it last week. That counts, right?
  • “Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match /Marisol McDonald no combina,” illustrated by Sara Palacios, written by Monica Brown- another one that I had not heard of, but it looks great

Pura Belpré (Author) Award (0/3)

  • Under the Mesquite,” written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall- no
Belpre Honor
  • “Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck,” written by Margarita Engle
  • “Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller,”

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children- 0/5- not quite sure how that could have happened, given that I love nonfiction and read tons of it!

  • Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade,” written by Melissa Sweet- not supposed to admit that I haven't read this right, even though everyone has been raving about it for months. I did put it on reserve at the library.
Honor Books
  • "Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor," written by Larry Dane Brimner
  • "Drawing from Memory," written and illustrated by Allen Saya
  • "The Elephant Scientist," written by Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson,
  • "Witches!: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem" written and illustrated by Rosalyn Schanzerand published by the National Geographic Society.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book-- 2/4:

"Tales for Very Picky Eaters," haven't read this, or even seen it.

Geisel Honor Books

  • "I Broke My Trunk,” written and illustrated by Mo Willems- love this one
  • "I Want My Hat Back," written and illustrated by Jon Klassen- I know everyone in the whole Twitter world loves this one.
  • "See Me Run," written and illustrated by Paul Meisel- haven't read this one yet.
Guess I have my work cut out for me!

Saturday, January 21, 2012


For the past couple of weeks, everyone on Twitter has been "talking" about Christopher Paul Curtis' new book, THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE. I've been trying to resist buying books, but last weekend, I couldn't stand it anymore. I broke down and bought THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE. It was definitely a good purchase!

Deza Malone is a sixth grader, living with her family in Gary, Indiana at the height of the Great Depression. Deza's father, who she adores, is unable to find work, and eventually leaves the family and heads for Flint, Michigan, where he believes that jobs will be more plentiful. He promises he will write and send for the family, but when Deza, Jimmy, and their mom don't hear for him for several months, they decide to hit the road to try to find him. They end up in a homeless camp outside of Flint.

There's lots to love about this book. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genre, and this book is terrific. It's rich with details from that time period-- e.g. Deza's family doesn't have money to send her to the dentist, so she holds cotton with camphor in her mouth to dull the pain. I love the character of Deza-- she's smart, and spunky, and tough, and resourceful. Just the kind of gal I would want for a friend!

A terrific read. I didn't want to put it down!

Friday, January 20, 2012


I interrupt my regular Poetry Friday posts to do a little shameless advertising. Each year, an uber-dedicated team of people from my district publishes an anthology of student poems from around the district. The team is led by a fourth grade teacher, Steve Replogle. This year's version, DREAMS AND DIRECTIONS, came out about a month ago.

DREAMS AND DIRECTIONS contains over 200 poems written by students in grades K-5. Previous volumes have been organized thematically, this year's poems are grouped by the areas in the city. Poems are illustrated by secondary students from the district's Career Education Center.

An added feature-- the book has two indexes. The first, as one might expect, is alphabetical by title, but the second is organized by poetic form or tool-- haiku, humor, onomatopoeia, similes, surprise endings, etc. Perhaps only a teacher who has frantically searched for a poem with an extended metaphor five minutes before her students arrived can appreciate this feature, but I thought it was way cool!

Here are a few sample poems from the anthology…

"The Heart"
Robert, Kindergarten, Fairview Elementary

The heart is big
The heart is bigger
than an elephant.

Tazi, Stedman Elementary School

How what?
How do?
How do what?
How do you?
How do you what?
How do you know?
How do you know what?
How do you know when?
How do you know when what?
How do you know when the stars will far?

'I Want A World'

--Hamza, 4th grade, McMeen Elementary School

I want a world
with peace and no war
so no loved ones have to die
I want a world
with fresh breathable air
and no crazy wildfires
I want a world
with no terrorist dictators
making bad choices
I want a world
where everyone
has food, shelter, and clothes
I want a world
where everyone gets a good education
and a great job
I want a world
where everyone's dreams
come true.

The website for DREAMS AND DIRECTIONS, as well as the three previous volumes of poetry, is here.

You can purchase DREAMS AND DIRECTIONS at my favorite local independent bookseller, THE TATTERED COVER.

Elaine Magliaro is hosting POETRY FRIDAY at WILD ROSE READER.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Sunday afternoon. Tired of being in the company of people who have an opinion about everything and feel the need to share it (aka teenagers!), I escape to the Tattered Cover to work on my CCIRA presentation about using picture books with older students. Before I enter, I tell myself I can only buy one book. Just one. I have just paid off Christmas, Son #1 has a birthday this week, and now, on top of everything else, I have to buy a new car. "Only one book," I say to myself firmly, as I push open the door of the bookstore, notebook in hand.

My intentions really are good. I am only going to buy one book. I think it will be Kadir Nelson's HEART AND SOUL, but on the way down the stairs to the children's department, I spy Shane Evans' MARCH ON and scoop that up. I loved THE UNDERGROUND and have heard good things about this one. I plant myself in a chair next to a rotating display of New York Times book winners. There I find HEART AND SOUL, but also A NATION'S HOPE: THE STORY OF JOE LOUIS, written by Matt DeLa Pena and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Now I have a stack of three. "Only one book," I tell myself. "I am only buying one book." Sadly, I return MARCH ON and NATION'S HOPE to the display.

As I put them back, I notice OLIVIA'S BIRDS: SAVING THE GULF. We are working on an ecosystems unit now in science, and this book looks perfect. As I leaf through it, I discover it has been written by an eleven-year-old girl. My students are in the middle of illustrating their own picture books, and this book would be perfect. "Only one book," I tell myself, but my resolve is weakening, and somehow, OLIVIA'S BIRDS makes its way into my stack. I look at a few more books, but manage to refrain from adding GRANDPA GREEN, MIGRANT, PASSING THE MUSIC DOWN, WHERE'S WALRUS, and A BALL FOR DAISY to my stack.

I make my way into the room where children's books are housed. On the way in, I peruse the books chosen by Tattered Cover employees. I leaf through STAR OF FEAR, STAR OF HOPE, a gorgeous Holocaust picture book. "Only two books," I tell myself. "You are only buying two books. If you want this one, you have to put OLIVIA or Kadir back." I move on to nonfiction.

There I discover two amazing new books about the Titanic. Stories of a cruise liner sinking off the coast of Italy have filled the news all weekend, and I know my kids would love TITANIC SINKS by Brian Denenberg and EXPLORE TITANIC by Peter Chrisp and Somchith Vongprachanh. I imagine handing these to Cameron and Taylor. Oh my gosh. They would love them. "Only two books," I remind myself. "You are only buying two books." I remember that I have an Amazon card at home and move on.

I stop for a second to look at novels and spy Christopher Paul Curtis' THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE. Twitter has been abuzz about this book all weekend. Everyone is talking about how great it is. I have just finished GABBY and need something new to read tonight. My resolve wavers again. "Maybe I can do three," I think. "Three is not that many." I add it to my pile.

From there I move to the picture book section. I am sitting on the couch looking at books that I am absolutely not buying, I am just reading the titles, when I overhear a woman talking to the clerk. Her daughter is having a baby. She is leaving for Ohio and wants some paperbacks to take to the older siblings of the new baby. I know just the book-- BOSS BABY by Marla Frazee. Then I remember that Raul's mom is having her baby this weekend. We need a book to celebrate. Even though I have loved BOSS BABY for over a year, I do not own it. I add it to my stack. It will be a perfect read aloud on Tuesday morning.

"I gotta get out of here," I think to myself. "This is getting way too expensive." On the way out of the children's department, I see the newest edition of poetry by DPS children. I have the other three. I really need this one too. My stack of five books is teetering a little as I walk up the stairs to the cashier.

A Sunday afternoon at Tattered Cover. I really was just going to buy one book…

Friday, January 13, 2012


That's my word for 2012.
Savor the last few months with my almost 18-year-old
before he heads out into the world.
And with his brother, our resident
16-year-old expert (on everything!).
Savor the days with my
23 ten-year-old treasures.
Just savor.

DEAR HOT DOG, by Mordecai Gerstein is a perfect book, then, for 2012. I discovered the book when I was serving as a First Round Cybils judge. DEAR HOT DOG was selected as a finalist in our category, and fellow judge and Poetry Friday participant, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, from The Poem Farm, wrote a beautiful synopsis for the CYBILS website:
Full of gratitude, this collection renews a reader’s appreciation for the stuff we touch and use each day, stuff that just might have feelings of its own. From morning through evening, Gerstein speaks to and about humble things, elevating them through observation and questions. We come to see that autumn leaves are really wearing Halloween costumes and hear a toothbrush “gargling your little song.” A cup “puts a handle” on liquids and a hot dog is “snug as a puppy in your bready bun. For the first time, we wonder where light goes in the darkness.
By celebrating daily objects, this delightful tribute offers readers of all ages a way to see our own lives – with whimsy, wonder, and thankfulness for the small stuff of our own lives.
Here is the title poem:


Dear hot dog,
snug as a puppy
in your bread bun,
I love you.
I squeeze the sunny
up and down
your ticklish tummy,
and cover you up
with relish and a blanket
of crimson ketchup.
You are so fragrant,
plump, and steamy.
I could

Mordecai Gerstein

(In the book it's really printed in two columns, the first ten lines on the left hand side, the last ten on the right, but I can't figure out how to make blogspot do that, my apologies to Mr. Gerstein).

I will be pairing this book with another favorite "savoring" book, dear world, by Takayo Noda.

Poetry Friday is at A Teaching Life. Thanks for hosting, Tara!

Savor the day!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


“The first essential

in any book

is that it have something significant to say --

a book that leaves the reader

with bigger ideas

than when he/she began reading -

that stimulates the thinking,

stretches the mind,

deepens the feelings.

A good book sticks to your ribs.”

– Rebecca Caudill

Monday, January 9, 2012


Way too much going on right now. We are in countdown mode until our state's "blessed event" (7 weeks, I think, but maybe eight, I sort of lost count) and I have a son who might graduate from high school and only knows that he wants to play football, and my school is closing and I have to find a new job, and so I did what I always do when life gets more intense than I can handle. I read.

This was a week of adult reads, which is actually pretty unusual for me. I always have at least one adult book going, but it usually takes me several weeks to get through them. This week I got through two, nibbled at a third, and also worked on THE ART OF SLOW READING by Tom Newkirk.

My book club has been reading Alice Hoffman's THE DOVEKEEPERS since November. It's historical fiction, set in Israel and the surrounding area, and tells the stories of four women who came together as dove keepers in a besieged town. It kind of reminds me of THE RED TENT, which I read several years ago. It's very good, and very sad, and very intense, and very literary, and I'm having a really hard time getting through it. I think I will go back and finish it, but probably not until things are a little less crazy in my own life, maybe this summer, I will be able to tackle it.

I found GABBY at the library, started it over break, and finished it this weekend. I am fascinated by the stories of people's lives and this book, a biography/memoir written mostly by Gabby's husband, astronaut Mark Kelly (with help from Jeff Zaslow, who is the author of several other biography/memoirs I have enjoyed) was interesting. I was fascinated by the decisions that they had to make when someone who is a very public person was injured, about how therapists used music to reactivate Giffords' language, and about Kelly's stories about his life as an astronaut. Only the last chapter is actually written by Giffords- at the point when the book was written she was not yet speaking in full sentences, and the last chapter is only a couple of pages, written mostly in phrases. I think it would be a really interesting piece to use to talk about voice.

OK, and Saturday night between interactions with teenagers ("Mom, we are going over to say hi to S***." An hour later, they are back, "Mom, this is my friend- I am expecting S***, but instead he brings J***, who I have never met, but who stands and talks to me for 20 minutes, while Son #2 plays video games in his room. She stays an hour, then Son #2 takes her home, but 15 minutes after he is back the girls who managed the football team arrive to hang out and I retreat to my room with LEARNING TO SWIM by Sara J. Henry. This is a mystery, a total page turner. The main character (whose name I can't even remember right now), a young woman who is a freelance journalist in Lake Placid, is on a ferry crossing Lake Champlain, when she sees a small boy fall off another ferry. She dives into the water to rescue him and discovers that his arms are tied, strait jacket fashion, around his neck. She spends the rest of the book trying to find out who the boy is, where his parents are, and who was trying to drown him. I had not heard of this book before, but evidently it has won several mystery awards in the past few months. I can see why- I couldn't put it down…