Monday, September 26, 2011

Two Webcasts from Scholastic

From the Scholastic OOM blog:

While not every kid “gets” history right away, it’s one of the most important subjects they need to take while in school.  It’s hard sometimes to see how things that happened 10, 20, 100, or 1,000 years ago have anything to do with today’s world. That’s why the upcoming webcasts – Dear America: History Speaks and The First Thanksgiving are so important, because they teach kids the importance of history in captivating, engrossing ways.  “You’ll never know where you’re going, unless you know where you’ve been,” said Jennifer L. aka my mom.

The first webcast, Dear America: History Speaks, takes place on Wednesday, October 26th at 1 p.m. and will feature Dear America® series authors Lois Lowry, Kirby Larson, and Andrea Davis Pinkney.  The award-winning authors will virtually talk to students about the art of writing historical fiction including how to craft compelling stories, conduct research and develop characters. Teachers will have access to tons of useful tools like free classroom discussion guides, whiteboard-ready slides and activities and more.  Visit to register your class today.

The First Thanksgiving, the second classroom event, broadcasts on November 16th at 1 p.m.  The virtual field trip will take students to the Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Mass. where they will meet Colonial and Wampanoag interpreters and learn what life was like during the first Thanksgiving.  Teachers can visit to access the webcast and get free classroom discussion guides, activities and book lists.

Many schools are not able to afford as many field trips as they could in the past, but Scholastic has made it so that students will get the experience for FREE!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Children's Authors in Richmond

There are two author events happening in Richmond, VA that might be of interest to local children's literature lovers.

On Thursday, September 27th, National Book Award winner Katherine Erskine will be speaking for the Children's Book Bank of Virginia. She will be at The Library of Virginia from 11:30-4:00 and the Children's Museum of Richmond from 4:30-8:00. Registration is here.

Newbery Award Honor winner Kathi Appelt will be presenting at the James River Writers Conference, October 6-8, at the Library of Virginia. Registration is here.

Of course, don't forget about The Joy of Children's Literature Conference at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA on October 15!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"I cannot see your face but in some far-off place, I hear you laughing — and I smile."

-- Shel Silverstein

NPR has a great article on the posthumous publication of Shel Silverstein's book, Every Thing On It, titled: Shel Silverstein's Poems Live On In "Every Thing."

From the article:

Every Thing On It includes 145 poems in all. Silverstein eliminated many of them from his earlier books, not because he didn't like them, but because they just didn't happen to fit in the perfect order he was looking for in a given collection. Toni Markiet, editor of the new collection, worked on other projects alongside Silverstein. Markiet says the poet paid close attention to every last detail.

"He would move a piece of art over an 18th of an inch ... and look at how it looked on a page," she tells NPR's David Greene. " ... It's a slight adjustment, but to him, it mattered. I think one of the reasons his books are still so immensely popular after almost 50 years is that every tiny detail was considered."

Night Circus

I just finished listening to Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The audio book was performed by the incomparable Jim Dale, which was treat in and of itself!

NPR did a nice story on Night Circus and author Erin Morgenstern that you might be interested in titled "Night Circus" Comes to Town with Magic, Mystery.

Summary from Amazon (best book of September):

Jim Dale
Erin Morgenstern’s dark, enchanting debut takes us to the black and white tents of Le Cirque des Reves, a circus that arrives without warning, simply appearing when yesterday it was not there. Young Celia and Marco have been cast into a rivalry at The Night Circus, one arranged long ago by powers they do not fully understand. Over time, their lives become more intricately enmeshed in a dance of love, joy, deceit, heartbreak, and magic. Author Morgenstern knows her world inside and out, and she guides the reader with a confident hand. The setting and tone are never less than mesmerizing. The characters are well-realized and memorable. But it is the Night Circus itself that might be the most memorable of all.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

JCL Conference - Only a Month Away!

The first Joy of Children's Literature Conference is only a month away - October 15th!!

Register now to reserve your space for what is sure to be an amazing day with this line up of authors:

          • Pamela Duncan Edwards
          • Candice Ransom
          • Sara Lewis Holmes
          • Laurie Krebs
          • Kim Norman
          • Ellen Potter (via Skype)

Another wonderful reason to attend is that the conference will be held in the brand new School of Education at The College of William & Mary. This state-of-the-art building is just a pleasure to be in and the new Professional Development Center where the conference will be held was built as part of the building.

Additionally, the city of Williamsburg where The College of William & Mary is located, is just beautiful in the fall. Consider visiting Colonial Williamsburg, only a few short blocks away from the School of Education, after the conference.

Any way you look at it, The Joy of Children's Literature Conference on October 15th is the place to be! Enjoy a day full of joyful learning, connecting, and collaborating around children's literature and then an afternoon and evening of fall fun in Colonial Williamsburg.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Join Me At The National Book Festival

Next weekend is the 11th Annual National Book Festival and this year, for the first time, it will be held for two days! If you have never been, do yourself a favor and go. Your favorite authors talking about your favorite books in the nation's capitol -- what more could you possible want?

An unprecedented 112 authors, poets and illustrators will speak and meet with their readers at the 2011 National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress. The event, to be held Saturday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 25 on the National Mall – rain or shine – also will offer more authors and activities for young readers than ever before.

The event is free and open to the public. Saturday hours will be from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday hours will be from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Authors’ speaking and book-signing schedules are available on the festival website,

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, the first lady, are the honorary chairs of the event. The distinguished benefactor of the event is David M. Rubenstein, who co-chairs the National Book Festival Board with Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress.

"Following on the great success of the 2010 National Book Festival, our 10th anniversary, the National Book Festival Board decided last January to make this a two-day event," Billington said. "We expect book-lovers to be delighted with the number of poets, authors and illustrators we’ve assembled this year, including several winners of major literary awards.

"The authors’ talks will be a bit longer, and we believe festival-goers’ access to authors in the book-signing area will be made a bit easier."

Festival fans will find the usual array of author pavilions this year – History & Biography, Fiction & Mystery, Poetry & Prose and Contemporary Life, along with a pavilion aimed at Teens and another for Children.

Target -- the distinguished corporate benefactor of the National Book Festival -- will sponsor the "Family Storytelling Stage," a pavilion offering briefer presentations by more than 20 authors and musicians whose books and performances are devoted to very young readers. The sponsorship is part of Target’s commitment to helping more children read proficiently by the end of grade 3.

"We are delighted that Target has helped us take our already very family-friendly event to a whole new, very young audience of book-lovers," said Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for Library Services at the Library of Congress and executive director of the National Book Festival. "The Family Storytelling Stage will carry the banner for this year’s National Book Festival theme, ‘Celebrate the Joy of Reading Aloud.’"

On Sunday, the National Book Festival will convert its spacious "Pavilion of the States" into three new genre pavilions: State Poets Laureate, "The Cutting Edge," and Graphic Novels.
Author lineups in all pavilions include:
  • Children: Mary Brigid Barrett, Harry Bliss, Calef Brown, Susan Cooper, Carmen Agra Deedy and John McCutcheon, Tomie dePaola, Jack Gantos, Joe Hayes, William Joyce, John Bemelmans Marciano, Patricia McKissack, Dorie McCullough Lawson, Sam McBratney, Julianne Moore, Jon J Muth and Chris Van Dusen
  • Family Storytelling Stage: Wally Amos, Tom Angleberger, Mac Barnett, Michael Buckley, Angela Farris, Daniel Kirk, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Josh Lewis, Tom Lichtenheld, Loren Long, Cedelia Marley, Julianne Moore, Lauren Myracle, Jane O’Connor, Matthew Reinhart, John Rocco, Mark Pett and Gary Rubenstein, Ellen Sabin, Bob Shea and Lisa Yee
  • Teens: Cassandra Clare, Susan Cooper, Sarah Dessen, Jack Gantos, Gordon Korman, Uma Krishaswami, Patricia McKissack, Shelia P. Moses, Kadir Nelson, Katherine Paterson, Gary D. Schmidt, Brian Selznick and Rita Williams-Garcia

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Roald Dahl's "Quirky" Writing Space

To the left is a picture of Roald Dahl's writing hut. Apparently, this is were he wrote most of his beloved stories over his long career. I love to see where authors write, don't you? And I think kids are also interested and even fascinated by the idea that real authors write real books in real places and are sometimes "quirky."

Dahl's long time illustrator, Quentin Blake, wrote an article for The Guardian in which some of Dahl's quirkiness is revealed. Your students might think some of these insights are quite fabulous!

From The Guardian article,

I didn't go into the shed very often, because the whole point of it as far as Roald was concerned was that it wasprivate, a sanctuary where he could work where no one interrupted him. The whole of the inside was organised as a place for writing: so the old wing-back chair had part of the back burrowed out to make it more comfortable; he had a sleeping bag that he put his legs in when it was cold and a footstool to rest them on; he had a very characteristic Roald arrangement for a writing table with a bar across the arms of the chair and a cardboard tube that altered the angle of the board on which he wrote. As he didn't want to move from his chair everything was within reach. He wrote on yellow legal paper with his favourite kind of pencils; he started off with a handful of them ready sharpened. He used to smoke and there is an ashtray with cigarette butts preserved to this day.

The table near to his right hand had all kinds of strange memorabilia on it, one of which was part of his own hip bone that had been removed; another was a ball of silver paper that he'd collected from bars of chocolate since he was a young man and it had gradually increased in size. There were various other things that had been sent to him by fans or schoolchildren.

On the wall were letters from schools, and photographs of his family. The three or four strips of paper behind his head were bookmarks, which I had drawn. He kept the curtains closed so that nothing from outside came in to interfere with the story that he was imagining. He went into the shed in the morning and wrote until lunchtime. He didn't write in the afternoon, but went back later to edit what he'd done after it had been typed out by his secretary.

He wrote in the shed as long as I knew him - we worked together for 15 years from 1975 to 1990 and I illustrated a dozen of his books. I would take my drawings down to Gipsy House for him to look at while sitting on the sofa in the dining room. I don't think he let anybody in the shed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I'm Wonderstruck

Today is the long anticipated release of Brian Selznick's Wonder Struck!

I am a big fan of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which won the 2008 Caldecott Medal and will be turned into a movie directed by Martin Scorsese and released November 23.  

Playing with the form he created in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey.

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother's room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories--Ben's told in words, Rose's in pictures--weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful--with over 460 pages of original artwork--Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.

NPR has a great story, Wonderstruck: A Novel Approach to Picture Books.

Horn Book has a nice review and The Atlantic's review includes lots of illustrations from the book.

Best of all, listen to Brian Selznick talk so passionately about his creative process in the video below. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years Later,,,

Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY
We all know where we were on September 11, 2001. Some people were affected more directly than others, but we were all affected. We all remember where we were at the time we learned of the terrorist attacks, and more importantly, we knew or quickly found out where our loved ones were.

I was working with a first grade student at a local elementary school where my son was also in second grade. As I was leaving the building, a colleague told me what had happened. I thought it was best to leave Derek in school even though all of the schools were later locked down. In the days that followed, the images of the attacks greatly affected Derek and in response, he wrote a poem about angels flying from a burning building. I was so happy that he could use poetry as a way to convey his emotions about such a horrific event.

Derek in front of his dorm.
Little did I know then, that ten years later, my son would attend college in New York City. Two weeks ago, my husband and I took our only son to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where he is majoring in writing. He is a poet. We are so very proud of him.

Even though it has been very difficult to let him go, I am happy that Derek is in NYC - which is an education in and of itself. He will be there for the 9/11 events, but most of us will not. Yet, we will all reflect on the events that occurred on 9/11 in our own way. 

I am thankful to the many policemen and firefighters that were so brave, but I am also very thankful to the thousands of teachers across the country who were also brave and stood with our children, even when they may not have known where their own children and family members were at the time, and helped them feel safe. Ten years later, many of those children have become teachers themselves and are teaching the children of today about the events of September 11, 2001.

There are two picturebooks I share with my preservice teachers that are not specifically about 9/11 but are dedicated to them in some way. The first is Mary Pope Osborne's tale tale, New York's Bravest, which is dedicated to the 343 New York City firefighters who gave their lives to save others on September 11, 2001.

The other is The Man Who Walked Between the Towers written and illustrated by Morticai Gertstein and also won the 2004 Caldecott Medal. The story takes place in 1974, as the World Trade Center was being completed, and a young French aerialist, Philippe Petit, threw a tight rope between the towers and spent almost an hour walking, dancing, and performing tricks a quarter of a mile in the sky. The documentary of Philippe Petit's amazing feat, Man On Wire, won an Oscar in 2009.

While not directly about the events of 9/11, both of these books honor the spirit of those who gave their lives and of New York City. More literature connections to 9/11 are on the blog.