Tuesday, June 30, 2009

SLJ: Help Me Find A Book

A cool new tool to assist children and parents with finding books reported by Gail Junion-Metz in School Library Journal, 6/30/2009


Public libraries all over the country are kicking off their summer reading programs. During July, kids in record numbers attend library programs, take part in summer reading activities, check out tons of books, and ask library staff for recommendations on what to read next. This easy-to-use online search tool, created by Sylvan Learning, will help young patrons and the librarians who work with them discover great new titles.

To find books, use the Web site's pull-down menus to select grade level, reading level, fiction or non-fiction, and up to five genres. You can also search by author, title, or ISBN–just click on the orange “Search” star (all with the encouragement of Bailey the pink-nosed dog and other cartoon friends). The handy “5 Finger Test” will help kids to determine whether a book they've chosen is too hard for them. Children who are serious about reading tons of books will relish the challenge of tackling Sylvan's entire list of 7,000 recommended titles, available in either HTML or Excel format by clicking on "Book List" (found on the right of the homepage). Of course, the list is a goldmine for librarians, too. Summer reading is fun and this site will help your patrons to create sizzling reading lists.

New Portal for Teachers from the Library of Congress

From the Library of Congress blog:

Starting about two decades ago, the Library of Congress–under the direction of Librarian of Congress James Billington–began moving more ambitiously into the K-12 education space than it had previously. In 1990 the Library began a pilot program to distribute digital primary-source materials on CD-ROM to classrooms. The program, known as American Memory, has today blossomed into a vast web-based treasure trove of about 15.3 million digital files.

As the materials expanded, so to did their educational potential and the realization that students’ exposure to these resources can ignite a desire to learn, along with critical-thinking skills, in the context of high-quality, inquiry-based instruction. Thus was born the congressionally mandated Teaching With Primary Sources (TPS) program in 2005 and a full-time Educational Outreach office at the Library.

The Library’s K-12 mission has now taken another step forward: a web portal bringing together its resources for teacher in a single place at loc.gov/teachers. It’s a new, easy-to-find center just one click away from the Library’s homepage.

An important feature of the free online site is a new build-it-yourself professional-development tool for teachers called TPS Direct. TPS Direct will offers any educator, at any time, the ability to customize professional-development activities for use at the school, district or state level for delivery in a face-to-face, online or blended format.

TPS Direct is being formally rolled out tomorrow at a special gathering of attendees of the National Educational Computing Conference in Washington, D.C., a program of the International Society for Technology in Education.

Other features of loc.gov/teachers include:

A dedicated home page for primary source sets.
“Using Primary Sources,” a quick introduction to the authentic classroom use of primary sources.
And coming soon, a new search tool just for classroom materials.
The full transition of educational materials to the site will take place over time, and new features will become available from now on, so keep watching for the latest developments. If you’re having trouble finding a familiar resource, ask our reference staff using the “contact” link at the bottom of every Library Web page.

Whether you’re a longtime user or just beginning, we hope you’ll explore the new site, update your bookmarks, and discover the instructional power of primary sources at loc.gov/teachers.

Monday, June 29, 2009

PW's Starred Reviews

-- Publishers Weekly, 6/29/2009

Picture Books

Rattle and Rap by Susan Steggall. Frances Lincoln (PGW, dist.), $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-84507-703-7

Steggall's (The Life of a Car) virtuoso torn-paper collages follow a boy and his family on a train trip through the British countryside to the coast, where an unnamed (but grandmotherly) relative greets them with open arms. As the title hints, the economical text is strictly impressionistic: “Whoooooosh! Whoooooosh!... rocking and rolling and rushing and racing, skimming the sky, skimming the sky.” The detail-rich, full-spread pictures, however, are stunning in their evocation of the real world. Sleekly handsome, the long red, black and white–striped train cuts quite a figure, its boldly graphic exterior and zigzag shape playing counterpoint to lush hills, rippling waters and workaday towns. Steggall's tour de force appears near the end, when the train crosses a classic masonry arch bridge spanning an estuary. It's an image that's both postcard-perfect and triumphantly dynamic—a tribute to both the joys of trainspotting and the ingenuity of the human race. Ages 2–5. (July)

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton, illus. by Tony Persiani. Charlesbridge, $18.95 (44p) ISBN 978-1-57091-673-1

In this debut for both collaborators, Barton takes on the dual persona of popular historian and cool science teacher as he chronicles the Switzer brothers' invention of the first fluorescent paint visible in daylight. The aptly named Day-Glo, he explains, started out as a technological novelty act (Joe, an amateur magician, was looking for ways to make his illusions more exciting), but soon became much more: during WWII, one of its many uses was guiding Allied planes to safe landings on aircraft carriers. The story is one of quintessentially American ingenuity, with its beguiling combination of imaginative heroes (“Bob focused on specific goals, while Joe let his freewheeling mind roam every which way when he tried to solve a problem”), formidable obstacles (including, in Bob's case, a traumatic accident), a dash of serendipity and entrepreneurial zeal. Persiani's exuberantly retro 1960s drawings—splashed with Day-Glo, of course—bring to mind the goofy enthusiasm of vintage educational animation and should have readers eagerly following along as the Switzers turn fluorescence into fame and fortune. Ages 7–10. (July)

Congratulations to these authors!

IRA Facebook Discussion and HP Giveaway Reminder

Recently, the International Reading Association joined Facebook. This week, I am hosting a discussion about children's literature and technology. Do you use online resources to connect your students with children's or young adult literature? If you do or if you would like to learn more, join the conversation this week.

This is the last week of the Harry Potter Prize Pack Giveaway.To enter, leave a comment about your favorite Harry Potter memory between now and midnight on Sunday, July 5th. The winner will be randomly selected on Monday, July 6th.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

YouTube EDU and Children's Literature

YouTube EDU contains hundreds of free video clips from each college and university's YouTube channel, including lectures by well-known professors and scholars on a variety of subjects. Site visitors can browse through each of these channels individually, or search by the most viewed clips each month (or all time). Recently added content includes commencement speeches by President Barack Obama, talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, country singer Dolly Parton, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt; the science behind the movie "Angels and Demons," as revealed by Carnegie Mellon professor Manfred Paulini.

I wondered what would be available in the area of children's literature. After a quick search, I found a two-part video titled, "Office Chat: Importance of Quality Children's Literature" by Kelly Andrus of the University of Mary Washington College of Graduate of Professional Studies. I met Kelly a couple of years ago at the NCTE conference in NYC. We attended the ALAN breakfast together and heard Jerry Spinelli speak. We instantly hit it off so it was a treat to see her in this video.

In part one, Kelly discusses the importance of visuals in enhancing reading skills (7.15 mins). In Part 2, she discusses the importance of multicultural children's literature in the classroom (5.54 mins.). Throughout both clips, she introduces great picturebooks--well worth the time! Happy viewing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

PW's starred reviews and HP Giveaway reminder

Last week I announced the Harry Potter Prize Pack Giveaway. To enter, leave a comment about your favorite Harry Potter memory between now and midnight on Sunday, July 5th. The winner will be randomly selected on Monday, July 6th.

Below are this week's Publisher's Weekly starred reviews, one of which is Catching Fire, the second highly anticipated book after The Hunger Games. A couple of weeks ago, I was whining about not getting an ARC so I could read it in advance of the issue date in September. But, I did get to read it after all (a friend of a friend...)!!! And it is everything all of the bloggers and reviews are raving about. I couldn't put it down and now my son is reading it:-)

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Random/Lamb, $15.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-385-73742-5

Twelve-year-old Miranda, a latchkey kid whose single mother is a law school dropout, narrates this complex novel, a work of science fiction grounded in the nitty-gritty of Manhattan life in the late 1970s. Miranda’s story is set in motion by the appearance of cryptic notes that suggest that someone is watching her and that they know things about her life that have not yet happened. She’s especially freaked out by one that reads: “I’m coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.” Over the course of her sixth-grade year, Miranda details three distinct plot threads: her mother’s upcoming appearance on The $20,000 Pyramid; the sudden rupture of Miranda’s lifelong friendship with neighbor Sal; and the unsettling appearance of a deranged homeless person dubbed “the laughing man.” Eventually and improbably, these strands converge to form a thought-provoking whole. Stead (First Light) accomplishes this by making every detail count, including Miranda’s name, her hobby of knot tying and her favorite book, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. It’s easy to imagine readers studying Miranda’s story as many times as she’s read L’Engle’s, and spending hours pondering the provocative questions it raises. Ages 9–14. (July)

The Orange Houses by Paul Griffin. Dial, $16.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3346-6

This hard-hitting and lyrical novel opens with the apparent hanging of Jimmi Sixes, a disturbed 18-year-old veteran and street poet/junkie, back in the Bronx after his discharge from the army; the story then retraces the preceding month’s events. Stubborn 15-year-old Tamika (aka Mik), who lives in the projects called the Orange Houses, is hearing-impaired but often prefers to turn off her hearing aids and text message rather than speak. Jimmi introduces her to Fatima, an illegal refugee who has just arrived from Africa (“Her pinky and ring finger were gone. If she held up the hand, say to block a machete blade, the angle of the slash through her palm would match that of the slash crossing her cheek”), and a friendship blossoms. Fatima and Jimmi try to protect Mik from a box-cutter-wielding girl and her posse, but Jimmi ends up caught by a vigilante group. Griffin’s (Ten Mile River) prose is gorgeous and resonant, and he packs the slim novel with defeats, triumphs, rare moments of beauty and a cast of credible, skillfully drawn characters. A moving story of friendship and hope under harsh conditions. Ages 14–up. (June)

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-439-02349-8

Fresh from their improbable victory in the annual Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta get to enjoy the spoils only briefly before they must partake in a Capitol-sponsored victory tour. But trouble is brewing—President Snow tells Katniss directly he won’t stand for being outsmarted, and she overhears rumbles of uprisings in Panem’s districts. Before long it’s time for the next round of games, and because it’s the 75th anniversary of the competition, something out of the ordinary is in order. If this second installment spends too much time recapping events from book one, it doesn’t disappoint when it segues into the pulse-pounding action readers have come to expect. Characters from the previous volume reappear to good effect: Katniss’s stylist, Cinna, proves he’s about more than fashion; Haymitch becomes more dimensional. But the star remains Katniss, whose bravery, honesty and wry cynicism carry the narrative. (About her staff of beauticians she quips: “They never get up before noon unless there’s some sort of national emergency, like my leg hair.”) Collins has also created an exquisitely tense romantic triangle for her heroine. Forget Edward and Jacob: by book’s end (and it’s a cliffhanger), readers will be picking sides—Peeta or Gale? Ages 12–up. (Sept.)

Congratulations to these authors!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Harry Potter Prize Pack Give Away!

I am a HUGE fan of the Harry Potter series! I have so many wonderful memories around the books over the years. I remember that the talk about the first book really didn't get started until the second book was out. I bought the first book in paperback at the airport and started reading it on the way home from a trip. I was hooked and couldn't wait for the second book. By the time the third book came out, the midnight release parties started at bookstores across the country. The news carried footage of the unexpected long lines of children and adults waiting in line to buy the book. My family was getting ready to move and there were boxes all over the house. So, I was sitting in the floor as I watched the television and tears started running down my cheeks when I saw the lines. Not in my lifetime had I ever seen anything like it. Children actually waiting in line for hours, dressed up as their favorite character, to buy a book. This is a reading teacher's dream!!!

My son was too young when the first three books came out but by the fourth book, I started reading them aloud to him every night. Then, he joined me in the long lines as we waited for the release of the final books. When the first movie came out, we had a HP party and took all of the kids, dressed as their favorite character, to see it. You haven't lived until you sit with a dozen 10 and 11 year-olds in a theatre!

On July 7th, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will finally be released in paperback. I've been given five Harry Potter Prize Packs to give away! The prize pack includes paperback copies of:

•Book 5 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
•Book 6 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
•Book 7 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!

To enter, leave a comment about your favorite Harry Potter memory between now and midnight on Sunday, July 5th. The winner will be randomly selected on Monday, July 6th.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a breathtaking finish to a remarkable series. The final chapter to Harry Potter’s adventures will be released in paperback July 7th! It all comes down to this - a final face off between good and evil. You plan to pull out all the stops, but every time you solve one mystery, three more evolve.

Visit the Scholastic website for games, videos, posters, and more.

PW's Starred Reviews

-- Publishers Weekly, 6/15/2009

Picture Books

All of Baby, Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler, illus. by Hiroe Nakata. Dial, $14.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3217-9

As infectious as a baby's first smile, this celebratory book will enchant any family with a newborn to love. While ostensibly exploring a baby's anatomy, Adler's sunny poem and Nakata's ebullient watercolors demonstrate not only a baby's exploratory joy but also the palpable delight a baby brings to a family. The satisfyingly predictable pattern of verse lends itself to interactive hugs and tickles. A closeup illustration of the roly-poly baby (“Baby's got eyes,/ bright little eyes”) is followed by a page divided into four illustrations (“Round as pies eyes./ Just the right size eyes./ Like an owl—wise eyes./ Peeka-peeka-boo”). The question “Who loves baby's eyes?” (later asked about nose, ears, tummy, etc.) is answered at the turn of the page (“Me, I do.”) as Nakata shows the baby interacting with different family members. A final verse and spread featuring the whole clan—parents, grandparents, brother and even the dog—provides an adulatory conclusion. Although the book is recommended for those under age two, it is especially suitable as a new-baby present for any member of a warmhearted family. Up to age 2. (June)


Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Delacorte, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-73615-2

Newbery Medalist Naylor's (Shiloh) reflective, resonant novel shapes credible portraits of two Kentucky girls participating in a seventh-grade exchange program. Since her parents' house is too cramped, outspoken Ivy June lives nearby with her bighearted grandparents in aremote mountain hollow, with no indoor bathroom or phone. More reserved Catherine attends private school in Lexington, where she shares a rambling home with her family. In thoughtful, articulate journal entries interspersed with third-person chapters, the girls, who spend two weeks together with each family, share their initial expectations and subsequent impressions (“if Mammaw ever saw the stuff they put on our plates, she'd give it to a dog,” Ivy June writes about the cafeteria food). The bond between the girls strengthens when they simultaneously experience traumatic events (Ivy June's coal miner grandfather becomes trapped underground; Catherine's mother undergoes emergency heart surgery). Leaving the hollow, Catherine responds to a comment that she'll have a lot to tell when she arrives home: “To tell it's one thing.... To be here—that's something else.” Naylor's deft storytelling effortlessly transports readers to her Kentucky settings—and into two unexpectedly similar lives. Ages 9–12. (June)

The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford. Viking, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-01096-7

Ford's dark and stellar debut, which nicely updates many classic mystery tropes, tells the story of high school valedictorian Christopher Newell, who takes a summer job at the hospital morgue before heading to college. Naturally, he stumbles across something he shouldn't—$15,000 in cash and a dead body that the medical examiner has ruled a suicide, even though the body had been shot five times in the torso. Certain that the medical examiner and the sheriff are connected, Christopher starts to investigate alongside Tina, a sexy young reporter for the local paper. The plot covers a wide range of characters, including Christopher's ex-neighbor (and crush), Julia; her police officer older brother, Tim; the town's mayor and his daughter; and Christopher's best friend, Mike, an amateur bookie. Christopher and Tina uncover interlocking mysteries involving blackmail, corruption and murder, which span years of the town's history. Ford spins a tale that's complex but not confusing, never whitewashing some of the harsher crimes people commit. The result is a story that holds its own as a mainstream mystery as well as a teen novel. Ages 12–up. (June)

Congratulations to these authors!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

'Frog And Toad' Leap Off The Page Again

From All Things Considered, June 8, 2009 · If you're very young, your secret pleasure may come from two friends in children's books: Frog and Toad.

The two amphibian friends go sledding, look for spring, eat chocolate ice cream cones and are completely devoted to each other.

They're the creation of the late writer and illustrator Arnold Lobel, who led them through small adventures in four books during the 1970s.

Lobel died in 1987. But now, there's a new addition to the world of Frog and Toad, a collection of 10 rhyming stories called The Frogs and Toads All Sang.

These stories and pictures were drawn before the Frog and Toad books that were previously published. The stories were gifts written and drawn in black and white by Lobel and given to friends.

The newly published books have color added by his daughter, Adrianne Lobel. She tells NPR's Melissa Block that the manuscript turned up last year at an estate auction.

"In a box they found these three beautifully bound pamphlets that my father had handwritten and illustrated with little pencil, thumbnail sketches. These books were poems about frogs and toads," she says.

It was a big surprise to find them. Her father, she says, must have written them in the mid- or late 1960s in secret. Before she found them, she says, she had always credited herself as the person who instructed her father as to the difference between frogs and toads.

"I was in Vermont one summer. We used to rent houses. And I came in with a toad in my hand. And he said, 'What a nice frog you have there.' And I said, 'No, no, no, no, no. This is not a frog; this is a toad.' And then, a year later, the first Frog and Toad book came out."

She says, in adding color to the black and white paintings in the manuscripts, she remembered something her father used to tell her: Don't be afraid to color out of the lines.

"So, of course, on these illustrations, I worked with a huge brush and with very brilliant Dr. Martin's dyes and a lot of water, and the sloppier I was, in a controlled way, the happier I was with the illustrations," she says. "I wanted each illustration to have even more form than the original drawings and a lot of light, and, I think, for the most part, I did succeed in doing that."

Browne Named Children's Laureate in U.K.

From Publishers Weekly, 6/9/2009

Anthony Browne has been appointed the sixth Children’s Laureate in the U.K. Browne, who won the 2000 Hans Christian Andersen Medal, is only the second illustrator chosen as Children’s Laureate. The two-year position recognizes the contribution an individual has made to children and reading.

Browne’s trademarks include his iconic great ape characters. Gorilla, which won both the Kate Greenaway and the Kurt Maschler Medals in the U.K. and the New York Times Best Illustrated and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in the U.S., while Willy the Wimp and its sequels have become widely popular. His illustrations are instantly recognizable for their witty social observations, their surrealist visual references and their ability to show that picture books need not be confined to pre-readers.

Browne’s tenure will see him raising the profile of picture books to children of all ages and promoting the importance of illustrators’ work as art.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

2009 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards Announced

2009 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature

The 2009 winners are:

Fiction and Poetry: Nation by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins)

Nonfiction: The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade/Random House)

Picture Book: Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Polly Dunbar (Clarion)

All three of the winning authors are widely renowned. Mr. Pratchett, perhaps best known for his raucous comic fantasies for children and adults, displays a philosophical bent with Nation, a young adult novel about two nineteenth-century children who create a new society from the ground up. Candace Fleming’s dual biography of the President and Mrs. Lincoln employs the intricate scrapbook format that distinguished her earlier Ben Franklin’s Almanac and Our Eleanor. Margaret Mahy, winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award and a two-time recipient of Boston Globe–Horn Book Award honor book citations, has written scores of novels, easy readers, and picture books. Bubble Trouble, a tongue-twisting tale about an airborne baby, marks the New Zealander’s second collaboration with English illustrator Polly Dunbar.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Summer Reading List.....Anyone?

Now that the craziness that comes with the end of the spring semester has ended, I'm looking at my summer reading lists.

I usually try to accomplish several things in the summer. First, to catch up on the stack of children's/YA books that I've been dying to read but haven't gotten to yet. Second, ditto for professional reading (books and journals). Third, to read something that will stretch me a little--beyond my comfort zone. Last summer, I decided to read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. I thought it would be interesting. However, it ended up changing everything (long story that I won't go into, but HUGE).

So, how do I top that? I'm not sure. You wouldn't believe how many stacks of books I have all over my office that I have taken a lot of time and money to put together and that are just begging to be read. Here are a few:

Stack One: Brain research
How Children Think and Learn (2nd ed -- I've read the 1st ed) by David Wood
Building the Reading Brain, PreK-3 by Pat Wolfe and Pamela Nevills
How the Brain Learns (2nd Ed -- I've read the 1st ed) by David Sousa
How the Brain Learns to Read by David A. Sousa
Teaching Struggling Readers (I've read this but it begs for a second reading) by Carol Lyons
Proust and the Squid (same as above) by Maryanne Wolf

Stack Two: On Reading
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard
How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
On Reading by Proust

Stack Three: On Children's Literature
Shattering the Looking Glass edited by Susan Lehr
Free Within Ourselves by Rudine Bishop
Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children's Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors by Maria Jose Botelho
Children's Books for Grown-Up Teachers by Peter Appelbaum

Stack Four: On Technology
Teaching Writing Using Bogs, Wikis, and Other Digital Tools by Rick Beach, et al.
Interactive Literacy Education edited by Chuck Kinzer and Ludo Verhoeven
New Literacies in Action by William Kist
The Digital Pencil by Jing Lei, et al
Beyond Technology by David Buckingham
Literacy Moves On edited by Janet Evans

Now, none of these books really s-t-r-e-t-c-h me beyond my comfort zone. They really fall into the category of professional reading. Hmmmm.......... Any suggestions?

What about you? What are you reading this summer? Any "stacks" you'd like to share? Any thoughts about my stacks?