Saturday, August 20, 2011

10 for 10; 10 Days Late 10 Books I had to Buy TODAY!

So I missed the 10 for 10 picture book celebration 10 days ago, and this morning the Central Ohio Blogger got together over granola. Cathy and Mandy both reminded me that they noticed that there was one person that didn't participate in the event. I tried explaining that I was out of town on a college visit to Ball State, but when Mary Lee reminded me that she was in Belgium, I knew I owed them a list. Mary Lee even came up with the 10 for 10, 10 Days Late title. Once we had been to Cover to Cover, I knew what my 10 would be. I haven't been to the book store all summer so today, I was like a kid in a candy store, so here's 10 that I came out with.

1. Bailey by Harry Bliss: I read this one from the library this week and it immediately made it to my list. When I walked into Cover to Cover and saw the feature display, I knew I had a winner. It sold faster than Northstar Cafe Granola does to Central Ohio Kidlit Bloggers! Of course I love the name, Bailey, like my school, but the little dog going to school and being, as Sally says, "a little off" make Bailey a new fave and will be well received in THE PIT!

2. Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door by Adam Rubin; Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri: I already reviewed this one here and can guarantee that it will be one of the first books I read in THE PIT this year. I still haven't gotten Franki to fall in love with the squirrels, but I'm not giving up! Old Man Fookwire is one of my all time favorite characters and grumpy old men.

3. Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin; Illustrated by James Dean: Pete's back and he is ROCKIN' in his school shoes, in the cafeteria, the library, the playground, all over the school. As big of a hit that the first Pete the Cat was, I had to buy this one to ROCK THE PIT.

4. Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat by Philip C. Stead: From the same creator of 2011 Caldecott Winner A Sick Day for Amos McGee Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat is the adventure of a boy looking for his lost teddy bear, Frederick. Only, the bear isn't really lost, his parents traded him for a toaster. The story builds with interesting animal characters as the crew of the big blue boat and collage illustrations are fascinating to look at.

5. Wiener Wolf by Jeff Crosby: Wiener Dog is bored with his cooped up life and chases the call of the wild. He hooks up with a wild wolf pack and runs with the big boys...until they go hunting and catch something. Wiener Wolf longs for his quiet life back home and his friends in the dog park. When he arrives home he is welcomed with open arms and a new sweater. The story is fun and the pictures made me laugh.

6. Cookiebot: A Harry and Horsie Adventure by Katie Van Camp; Illustrated by Lincoln Agnew: The first Harry and Horsie was a huge hit in THE PIT, especially with the younger kids, so I couldn't resist this one either. Harry wants cookies but the cookie jar is too high. He and Horsie build a robot to help get the cookies but when things get out of control, it's Horsie to the rescue.

7. Blackout by John Rocco: I read this one quite a while ago and sort of forgot about it. I'm so glad my friends reminded me today. It's a hot night in the city and the family is too busy on their electronics cooking to spend time together. When the lights go out the whole block comes outside to spend some quality time together. Very few words in this beautiful picture book. It's definitely on my Caldecott List.

8. I Will Not Read This Book by Cece Meng; Illustrated by Joy Ang: I'd never heard of this one, but my blogging partner Karen found it and knew I would love to read it out loud in THE PIT. I took one look and knew she was right. A boy gives every reason in the world why he will not read this book, needs a drink, to scratch his nose, to feed his fish. He gives all sorts of ways that will not force him to read this book, hanging upside down by his toe, over a cliff while tickling his feet! The book keeps building and building until he fears being dropped and then he may read the book.

9. A Place to Call Home by Alexis Deacon; Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz: The little critters are born in a small dark hole, but quickly outgrow it. They have to look for another small dark place to live, and that's where it gets funny. As they emerge into the world they are afraid they will never find another small dark place to live until one puts a cup on his head, another a straw, another a book, another a spigot, the picture of this is TOO FUNNY! Done sort of in a graphic novel style, I still haven't finished reading the book because every time I look at those critters with those things on their heads I laugh out loud! I think the kids in THE PIT will too. I almost didn't buy this one, but super sales person Beth made me take a look at it. She and I share a similar sense of humor when it comes to picture books, so she was pretty sure I would like it. She's good!

10. Time to Eat by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page: I reviewed it here. You can't really go wrong with anything this team puts together! Every one is high quality non fiction.

That's my 10 for 10, 10 days late. There were more purchases made today and I also picked up a couple ARCs, so all in all it was a good morning with the Central Ohio Bloggers.

Central Ohio Bloggers Together Again!

Our favorite independent children's bookstore, Cover to Cover, just opened a new area for adult reading. That warranted a celebratory breakfast at Northstar Cafe (I think there were 6 out of 9 orders for granola - many of us following that trendsetter, Bill!), followed by a trip to the newly renovated Cover to Cover.

The new area looks great and is full of potential. I found several books that are on my TBR list, but I held off today because I knew I would be buying many children's books. I'm so excited for the owners, Sally and Randy, as they make a foray into a new market for them.

I love my blogger friends, but if you've ever been book shopping with another book lover, you know how incredibly dangerous that can be. Multiply one book-loving friend by 8, and you know I had some serious book-buying issues today. :) You know, those people who put a book in your hand and say you just have to read it, and you realize they are right?!! A huge thanks to Nicole, Mandy, Cathy, Deb, Franki, MaryLee, Tony, and Bill for all the "help" you gave me finding books to add to my enormous pile. I've attached a picture of Bill's pile (right) as well as my pile (left) - we were declared the "winners" of blog-who-spent-the-most-money today.

I also love that, in addition to our book buying frenzy and great talks about our classrooms, we also make time for fun and lots of laughter. Who could resist sticking their faces in the cut-outs, especially the Fancy Nancy one?! Certainly not Mary Lee/ Franki and Bill / me.

I feel so fortunate to follow, and learn from, all these smart ladies and gentlemen on twitter, as well as their blogs. Our ability to gather like we did today is just a double bonus. Central Ohio bloggers rock!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What Does PD Look Like? (Part 2)

About 2 weeks ago, I shared some of my summer PPD (personal professional development). I said there would be another installation of that thinking, so here goes!

I had an amazing opportunity to present at a Choice Literacy workshop on workshops in the primary and intermediate classrooms with Katie (Creative Literacy). Those of you who have prepared for a half-day or a whole-day workshop know that your learning really starts months before the actual workshop. Katie and I spent a lot of time together reflecting about our workshop practices, teasing out those big beliefs we both share. Our conversation as we put together our presentation was priceless as a learning tool for me.

Some of my cohorts from the Conferring #cybperPD decided we needed a trip together to IKEA, about 2 hours from here. Our initial goal was simple: find a great stool/seat to be able to pull up alongside students while we conferred with them. The trip more than exceeded the initial goal. A 2 hour trip there, MANY actual hours in the store, and a two hour trip home allowed for some funny, personal, and yes, also very rich learning conversations! I know how much learning I took away from these smart ladies, and I hope they took something away from my being there too. :) A huge thanks to Mandy, Cathy, and Deb for such an amazing day together.

Like many educators, I take the opportunity in the summer to focus on a few professional books. I read many good books, but the two that will have the biggest impact on what I do in the classroom this next year are Conferring by Patrick Allen and Real Revision by Kate Messner. I've said much about Patrick's book while writing my reflections, but I have to say if you teach writing, and you haven't yet read Kate's book, it's a must read!!! First of all, she's a teacher, having the same experiences we all do in writing workshop. But here's the genius of her book -- she is an avid writer and has published many books already, including this one. Truly, I'm not sure where she finds all the time, but I am mesmerized as I read how she approaches one of the hardest parts of writing, revision. She does it in such a real way. I have taken so much away from her thinking. But, if that's not enough, she has other authors give revision tips throughout the book. What a great hook with kids!

Another great PPD resource this summer was twitter. I've had family, friends, and colleagues wonder why I involve myself in a social networking site that seems (to them) to be full of minutiae. For me, it is one of the best PPDs in which I've ever participated. As I think about many things in which I participated professionally this summer, they all stem from twitter. Whether it's following a certain person who shares great reading titles, or following authors like Kate Messner, Patrick Allen, Barbara O'Connor, and Louise Borden, I am smarter because of what they share. And then certain people on twitter sponsor events - the two most noticeable for me this summer were the Conferring #cyberPD and the #pb10for10 where educators from all over and all age groups shared 10 picture books they couldn't live without. What an amazing resource! I have also tried to participate in some "chats" on twitter this summer -- an easy one to try out if you're a bookaholic like me is the #titlechat led by @donalynbooks (The Book Whisperer) and @paulwhankins on the last Sunday evening of each month at 8:00 PM EST. So many great finds during this hour long chat.

And, the last summer PPD I always participate in is the opportunity to catch up on the most current children's books. What would a summer be without reading and professional development?!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 For 10 Event - 2011 version (karen)

Last year, when I participated in this fun event, I focused on picture books I used in multiple ways as mentor texts in my classroom. The picture books I chose this year are all nonfiction or informational. Their strengths lie in the fact they are full of wonderful information, they can easily be used to work on comprehension strategies, and they are all wonderful mentor texts for writing. Like the books I shared last year, these books will be ones our class will come back to time and time again.

So, with no further ado, here is my 2011 10 For 10:

1) Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Rick Allen. This book deserved every award it received this past year. It is a gorgeous book about creatures and events of the night. The pictures are very dark, appropriately so, given the setting of night. What I love about this book the most is how on one side of the 2-page spread is a poem about the creature, full of amazing, beautiful language. On the other side, is a clear concise nonfiction text that shares further information about the animal. When doing research last year, several of my students modeled their writing presentation like this book.

2) Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White. The layout of this book is gorgeous; I recently handed this book out to participants in a workshop, and you could hear gasps all over the room as they looked at the illustrations. Once you get past how beautiful the book is, the reader can then focus on the text which is equally as powerful. This picture book will again serve as a nonfiction writing mentor. In addition, when I got this book last year, the focus on saving the environment and specific animals were great lessons for students. It allowed us to talk about cause/effect and problem/solution over and over and over. What a great way to look at real problems in our world with a beautiful book.

3) Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog by Adrienne Sylver and illustrated by Elwood H. Smith. This is a very visually appealing nonfiction text, starting with the front cover where a hot dog is designed as a space ship. Fun for the reader! So many times in some of the "traditional" nonfiction texts for children, there are subheadings, fun facts, and informational text, but this book has taken those components and made them both easier, and more fun, to read. Each subheading starts on a new 2-page spread, and there is great information for the reader to find on each page. There are vocabulary words on the side, fun facts, easy narrative text to read about the subtopic, and great illustrations. Last year, this was a widely popular nonfiction writing mentor text as well as a great text for me to use time and time again with nonfiction comprehension strategies and vocabulary conversations.

4) Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World by Allan Drummond. Love, love, love this book! It takes an important topic like renewable and non-renewable energies and makes it incredibly friendly for students to understand. The narrative text tells the story of an island in Denmark, Samso. This island has strong winds that blow across it, and we find out how those winds were harnessed in a way that brought energy to Samso. The best part of this story however is the message that one person can make a difference. The actions of one farmer and one scientist ended up changing the thinking of the entire island population. Better yet, they started small and built up to bigger ways to harness the wind for energy.

5) Faith by Maya Ajmera Magda Nakassis, and Cynthia Pon. I read this book last year, but I had forgotten about it until I reread it a workshop this summer. It is a beautiful portrayal of what faith looks like in many different religions and cultures, using expressive photographs of children engaging in various aspects of their faith. As we become a more global society, and as our classrooms reflect that change, it is important to honor those cultures, traditions, and faiths. Equally important as honoring, however, is the need to expose children who only look at the world with one lens to a variety of different lenses. It doesn't take away from their own faith and beliefs, but allows them to make connections to others as well.

6) Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney. This is the story of the four college students who went into a Woolworth's hoping to get a cup of coffee and a doughnut. The text is written in verse with the phrase (or something similar to it) repeating over and over: They waited and wanted " a doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side." This patient waiting, respectful at all times, regardless of the hate directed to them, or things being thrown on them, is such a great conversational opening for students about similar topics. It shares with them how awful things were back in the 1960s, and allows us to talk about whether or not things have changed. This is important talk to have with children in this day and age. Andrea Davis Pinkney's words are brilliant and Brian Pinkney's illustrations are superb. This is a book that is shared over and over for so many reasons.

7) America's White Table by Margot Theis Raven and illustrated by Mike Benny. A colleague introduced me to this book about 5 years ago, and I've used it every November 11 (Veteran's Day) since then. This story is informational, while having a fictional narrative (so I'm stretching me category a little here). However, this book beautifully tells a tradition of setting a small table complete with white tablecloth, black napkin, turned-over glass, white candle, red rose in a vase tied with red ribbon, lemon slice, grains of salt on a plate, and an empty chair. The importance of each of these items is explained in greater detail. Throughout the book, the readers find the words of "America the Beautiful". It is a touching story with a backdrop of history.

8) How the Sphinx Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland. This was one of the Cybils nonfiction picture book nominees this past year, and I fell in love with it. The author takes the reader from the time 1470 B.C. when the Sphinx was first designed to recent times when the Sphinx was brought to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. So much to appreciate about the book. First, this is an add-on story where each person starting with the Pharaoh who ordered the Sphinx to be built and the sculptor who sculpted it. Everytime someone new deals with the Sphinx it is added in a different font and color and then everything that happened previously is repeated also. Second, the vocabulary in this book is amazing. Through each initial add-on, the reader learns something new about that person or person's occupation. Finally, it's great that students are exposed to a "how did that happen?" in the real world. Great picture book!

9) The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Suzy) by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Though students may not be all that familiar with Mark Twain, having the story told through his daughter's (Suzy) words helps bring it to a kid-friendly level. As a lover of words, I couldn't help but be delighted that actual phrases from Mark Twain are included. Because his words sound different from the way students talk, it makes for great conversation to discuss what exactly his phrases mean. In addition, a genius move on the part of the publisher/author/illustrator is that actual journal entries from Suzy are sewn into the binding of the book. It is so fun to turn the page and find a "journal" with the regular text. This is an appealing biography for students.

10) I wanted to include 2 biographies, and it was sooooo hard to commit to just 2, but if I'm not going to talk about Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, and Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, AND if I'm not going to talk about Henry Aaron's Dream by Matt Tavares (I know, I know! I'm so cheating right now!), I'll have to share my final pick which is Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (same illustrator as Mark Twain book). I fell in love with this book 2 years ago. The colors in the book are amazing, and Fotheringham does an amazing job having "waves of water" on every page; it totally ties the story together visually. This is another great mentor text if a student was writing a biography. The author plays with font and words, and the language is much fun to discuss. The fact that this is about a strong woman who didn't fear being different is just icing on the cake!

So, there you have it. My 10 (or really 12) for 10. Great nonfiction and informational picture books. Each has an important place in our class learning, thinking, writing, reading, and discussions.

Thanks so much to Mandy and Cathy for hosting this 2nd annual event. Now that I've finished my post, can't wait to read what others have on their lists!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

More Potential PICKS FROM THE PIT!

I'm still building my list of read alouds for the year, constantly on the lookout for the books that will make the cut for THE PIT! Here are three more candidates.

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan; illustrated by Stephane Jorisch: Betty Bunny is a picky eater who doesn't enjoy trying new things. Her mom talks her into trying chocolate cake and of course she falls in love saying,"I'm going to marry chocolate cake!" As the story goes on she is obsessed with chocolate cake and will go to any length to get it. She becomes quite contrary over chocolate cake and has to learn some discipline and patience waiting for more. Very fun story and excellent illustrations. The surprise ending will make it a fun read aloud.

More Reviews:
Waking Brain Cells
Read it Again Mom! (cool blog name)

A Pet for Miss Wright by Judy Young; Illustrated by Andrea Wesson: Miss Wright is an author who works alone. When she wishes for some companionship Miss Wright heads to the pet store and goes through several different animals that just don't seem to work out. Finally she picks out a dog who not only is good company, but also an inspiration for her writing. The adventures with the animals that don't make the cut provide some very funny stuff and I love the illustrations.

More Reviews:
Buckeye Bookworm (cool blog name)
Through the Looking Glass

The Pig Kahuna by Jennifer Sattler: Two pig brothers wander the beach looking for "treasure." The treasure they find is probably trash to most people, but they find uses for the stuff they find. When a surfboard washes up on the beach they collect it, give it a face and call it Dave. Neither one of them thinks to actually surf on the board, that's dangerous, however, when the board washes out to the waves with one of the pigs aboard, the brothers are introduced to a whole new beach adventure. Jennifer Sattler's other books, Sylvie and Chick n' Pug have been very popular in THE PIT so I'm pretty sure The Pig Kahuna will be loved and not stay on the shelves very long.

More Reviews:
Jen Robinson's Book Page
Time Out New York Kids

Friday, August 5, 2011

Me & Jack Would Be a Good Read Aloud Dog Book

First off, Me & Jack by Danette Haworth is a dog book. You know the type, boy meets dog, falls in love with dog, dog gets into trouble, everyone but the boy doubt the dog, and in the end the dog...

But as you read Me & Jack, you realize it's more than a dog book. It's a book about families adjusting to changes. Joshua Reed and his father are adjusting to life without a mom and wife. Josh's mom died of cancer and the two of them are still figuring out how to get along without her. One way that Josh's dad thinks will work is to get a dog for Josh.

It's a book about a time in our country's history when people all over, including a remote area of Pennsylvania are trying to figure out how to get along with one another. Me & Jack is set during the Vietnam war and Josh's dad is an Air Force recruiter. This adds to his burden, he's busy with work, trying to do his job but taking grief from anti war protesters and fathers who don't want their boys going over there. He's also worried about Josh's safety at home alone, so on their second day in their new community they go to the pound and get a dog.

It's a book about people and Danette Haworth does a fabulous job of writing characters. Josh is a typical new kid who knows how to read a new place with new kids because, as an Air Force kid he's moved around a lot. He has a shoebox from each place he's lived with things he's collected to help him remember each place. Allen Prater is the perfect, unlikeable bully to keep the story moving. As a reader I was always wondering what he would do next, I never thought good things about Allen, and sometimes I was right. Ray is Allen's cousin, sort of the anti-Allen, a good and loyal friend for Josh and his friend Jack. Josh's dad is strong and smart, like a recruiter should be. He's also there for Josh and really tries to make things right. Even though I was upset when he doubted his son, it made sense too. Finally, there's Mark, a recent returnee from Vietnam who experiences the ugliness that was happening when he got home. He even provides Josh with the opportunity to see what his fellow countrymen were doing. As a good Marine, Mark stays strong and doesn't disgrace the uniform. All strong characters and all well written.

But as I said, Me & Jack by Danette Haworth is a dog book, so it has to have a dog. I liked that it wasn't a common dog like a beagle or coon dog or retriever of some sort. Jack is a rare Pharaoh hound. He is bred to hunt and kill and bring back food for the table. When he is on to something his ears, eyes and nose blush and he's off to the hunt. That's where the trouble comes in, people find out what he can do and soon he is blamed for a string of small game killings in the community. Even though Jack can't talk, he expresses so much in his character. He's strong and loyal and a good friend to Josh.

I'll be recommending this to my students in grades 3, 4, and 5 as well as my teachers for a possible read aloud.

Me & Jack is a dog book, full of cliff hangers and excellent characters all brought together in a satisfying ending.

More Reviews;
You've GOTTA Read This!
Kim Kasch Blogsite
National Book

Monday, August 1, 2011

What Does PD Look Like? (Part 1)

Wow! That is the only word that comes to mind when I think about my professional development this summer. I think I should rename it PPD - PERSONAL professional development. This entire summer, I've been thinking about topics that are meaningful to me; exploring concepts or practices I'd like to refine in my workshop practice. The take-away from all of this -- mapping out and planning my own personal learning makes it very powerful.

Over the next few days, I'm going to share some of the ways I've been thinking about learning and workshop this summer.

One of the first activities in which I participated was #cyberPD chat. A group of teachers came together on twitter; we had all put Patrick Allen's book, Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop, on our professional TBR pile. Led by our gracious hosts, Cathy, Laura, and Jill, we spent a month looking at Patrick's book, reading it, responding about sections on our blogs, reading others' posts, responding to their thinking, and then meeting Patrick Allen online last Monday for a twitter conversation about conferring. Talk about a PD that had me entirely focused! So many ways in which to participate and think about conferring. I feel like the conferring part of my workshop will be stronger because of my active participation.

To follow up from this #cyberPD conversation, a small group of us got together to talk about using Evernote as a documentation tool while conferring. Cathy, Deb, Maria, and I all gathered around my kitchen table this past week, four of us actually sitting at the table, and Susan Dee from Maine, joining us on computer via Skype. Two benefits showed up here. First, the connected learning piece. All five of us were connected even though we teach in 3 different school districts and 4 different school buildings. Twitter has brought us together in powerful ways. We can truly form PLNs that span the world. That being said, the 2nd benefit of our meeting was the ability to sit side by side and talk together in person. We could talk in real-time about what we were doing and we could share our thinking on the spot and make it immediately visible to others. Non-stop learning took place that afternoon (ok, and some great chips and queso were eaten as well - sorry about that Susan!). Again, I had many great take-aways about my teaching practice from this personal PD session.

In an effort to not make each post too lengthy, I'll leave you with these two opportunities for now. Check back in the coming days for other PPD in which I've participated and learned. And in the meantime, what have your personal professional development learning opportunities been this summer? Would love to hear about them!!