Sunday, December 14, 2014

Our Caldecott Challenge

It's that time of year!  The kidlit world is a-buzz with "best lists", "top lists", a multitude of award predictions...and my library is no different.

As we prepare to begin our Mock Caldecott unit in January, we've closely examined some previous winners of the Caldecott Medal.

I was fortunate to receive a grant to start a special Caldecott section in our library.  While many of these titles are already in circulation in the library, this allows us to have a set (not complete yet) of Caldecott winners that don't circulate and are always available.

I shared with my students about how several people have attempted (and completed successfully) Newbery and Caldecott challenges....reading ALL of them.  I posed a somewhat modified version of the Caldecott Challenge to my third and fourth read TWENTY between now and the announcement of the next winner on February 2, 2015.

2000-2014  (choose five)

1990-1999 (choose three)

1980-1989 (choose three)

1970-1979 (choose three)

1960-1969 (choose three)

1938-1959 (choose three)

This activity is completely voluntary and will be done outside of regular library class.  I have 112 third and fourth graders participating!  

Students may choose to work by themselves or with partners.

One day last week we had 63 kids come to the library instead of going outside for recess!

Even though we are still in process with this challenge, I asked some of my third grade students to share a favorite that they have read so far.

Abby S. :  Owl Moon

Maris:  The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Stephen:  Kitten's First Full Moon

Michael:  Tuesday

Abby B:   This is Not My Hat 

I asked a few Nerdy Book Club friends to share a Caldecott winning book that they love and one or two sentences about why they love it...(and keeping a description about a book you love to one or two sentences is not easy!)

Cathy Potter (@cppotter):  I love Tuesday by David Wiesner.  I enjoy watching children's faces light up with each turn of the page as giant frogs float through town at night in this wordless picture book. 

Donna Kouri (@akgal68)   I love The Snowy Day because it captures the pure wonder and joy of a snowfall through the eyes of a child. I think those of us that grew up around snow remember the magic that accompanied a snowfall. The Snowy Day captures this.

Travis Jonker (@100scopenotes): I loved Flotsam by David Wiesner. There is no finer example of unbridled imagination than Wiesner’s 2006 wordless story about a boy who finds amazing things inside an old camera washed up on a beach.

Katherine Sokolowski (@katsok): My favorite Caldecott winner is from 1970, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. I grew up reading this book and whenever I'd ask my mom what was for dinner, she'd quote, "pickled oats, sassafras salad, and timothy compote." This book represents my childhood.

Margie Myers-Culver (@loveofxena): One of many Caldecott books I love is Tuesday by David Wiesner, the 1992 winner. Even thinking about those frogs makes me smile. The first time I read it after it arrived in a book order I could not stop laughing. I grabbed a colleague from the hall. We laughed ourselves silly. Laughter that lasts is the very best thing. The pig packed a punch too.

Feel free to share a Caldecott winning book that you love (and one or two sentences telling why you love it) in the comments below.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Our Day with the fabulous Laurie Keller!

The day was finally here!  We had been waiting for November 21, 2014 since the beginning of the school year. (I had been waiting for November 21, 2014 since last May!)....LAURIE KELLER DAY!

Preparations began weeks (months) ago.  We read and discussed books.  We watched book trailers. We watched video clips of Arnie the Doughnut (the musical).  All to make sure that we were ready for our day with the FABULOUS Laurie of The Scrambled States of America, Open Wide, Do Unto Otters, Arnie the Doughnut, Bowling Alley Bandit, Invasion of the UFOnuts (and many more).

Displays were constructed in the hallways and the library.

Books were purchased and ready to be signed.

Laurie arrived and was greeted by our special "Arnie" greeter.

Laurie spent the day telling us about what it's like to be an author/illustrator and her personal inspirations and process.

She captivated us with her stories.

She gave us a sneak peek of the next book in the Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut series:  The Spinny Icky Showdown...(available November 2015) YAY!

She taught us how to draw...otters, doughnuts and facial expressions.

She graciously took the time to talk with us and sign our books.

Our day wouldn't have been complete guessed it...DOUGHNUTS! (chocolate covered with sprinkles....of course!)  This was one of FOUR boxes of doughnuts.  Laurie called it "An army of Arnies!"

As the day ended, we learned that not only is Laurie Keller an amazingly talented author/illustrator, but she is also a kind, gracious and AWESOME person.

Thanks for spending the day with us, Laurie!  We won't forget it for a long time!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Our Visit with the Amazing Natalie Lloyd

If you have read A Snicker of Magic (Scholastic, 2014) by Natalie Lloyd you know that it's a book filled with kindness, compassion, beauty and heart.  Well, after today's Skype visit with Natalie Lloyd, it is more than apparent that the author is filled with all of these things and more!

All of our fourth grade classes started the year with their teacher reading A Snicker of Magic as their read aloud selection.  Kids were excited because Snicker had been one of our Battle of the Books selections last year, so some of them had already read it.  They were more than anxious to hear it again.

Today, we had the distinct pleasure of having Natalie visit our library via Skype.  We were SO excited to "meet" her and have to chance to listen to her...and ask her some questions.  She was AMAZING!  The kids were immediately drawn into her charming, enthusiastic personality.  She shared about her journey with A Snicker of Magic...and...we even got to meet Biscuit!

The wonderful Natalie Lloyd!
Fourth graders listen to the inspiration for A Snicker of  Magic.

This is what my students had to say about Natalie:

Carter:  I really liked Natalie because she was nice and she didn’t make us nervous to ask questions at all.
Lillian:  It was interesting to learn how she used her real family and friends to form her characters.

Logan: I liked Natalie because she shared the different covers of A Snicker of Magic from other countries.

Naveah:  I liked how she told us how she thought of the book and its name.

Brooke.  Natalie is a really nice person to talk with.

Lydia:  I like how she named the dog in her book after her own dog!

After our visit we had a special drawing for copies of A Snicker of Magic that I purchased and autographed bookmarks that Natalie so graciously sent us.
Some lucky winners got some great prizes!

There is no question that today's visit and A Snicker of Magic really made their mark on my students!

Thank you Natalie for a beautiful book...and for making our day absolutely SPINDIDDLY!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Wonderful Comfort of a "Blanket Book"

This summer I was sitting with a fifth grade student around a campfire.  We were, of course, discussing books.  She told me that Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo was her "blanket book"....the book that she reads and rereads...when she needs some comfort or when she just needs to feel good.  She doesn't own her own copy (which I'm going to take care of) but said that she has checked it out from the library dozens of times!  It just makes her feel good to "have it around".

That got me thinking about my own blanket book...I honestly can't say that I had one as a child.  I do, however, feel that as an adult, my choice would be The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (also by Kate DiCamillo).  It's a book that I grow to love more and more with each rereading...a book that always warms my heart and restores my hope!

I discussed the idea of blanket books with my students, colleagues, and Nerdy Book Club friends. Here is what they had to say...

Peyton (fourth grader)
My blanket book is Danny and the Dinosaur.  I would not go to sleep until my dad read it to me.  He probably read it over 100 times.  I still have it!!

Eva (third grader)
My blanket book is I Love My New Toy.  My Grandma and Papa always read it to me.  It makes me feel good.

Viola (fourth grader)
My blanket books are Zen Ties and Zen Shorts.  They are the books that I always go back to when I'm not reading another book.

Logan (fourth grader)
My blanket books are I Love My Mommy and I Love My Daddy.  My parents read one of those books to me every night when I was little.

Lydia (fourth grader)
My blanket books is Ferdinand.  When I was little, my grandma always read it to me.  It makes me happy!

John Schu (@mrschureads) teacher-librarian:
My blanket book is Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan. At least once per week I take it off the shelf in my home office, turn to a random page, and read. So much beauty and hope in that book! 

Niki Barnes (@daydreamreader) second grade teacher:
I would say that my blanket book is Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume! I adored my fourth grade teacher- Miss Luke  and she read us Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing! I thought Fudge was hilarious! The book love went full circle when I was able to read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to my fourth grade students. That book and series will always have a special place in my heart.

Dr. Michael Paskewicz (@DrPaskewicz) superintendent, Northview Public Schools
The first "can't put it down blanket book" was Old Yeller by Fred Gibson.  This happened when I was in 5th grade.  The second is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  This one happened to me in 10th grade.  I still read it every other year and this is the year for the re-read.

Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) eighth grade English teacher:
As a child my blanket book was Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. One of my family members who had a big impact on my reading as a child was my Uncle Tom. Though we lived in different states, whenever I was around him, I remember he would always sit me on his lap and read to me. Due to his influence, Charlotte's Web is the first chapter book I remember ever reading on my own, and so whenever my family would visit my aunt and uncle, I would always wander over to their bookshelves, plop down on the floor, and start reading Charlotte's Web. I don't think I ever even owned my own copy. I just knew it would always be waiting for me at Uncle Tom and Aunt Kathy's house. 

My blanket book as an adult is The View from Saturday by E.L. Kongisburg. The reason why this book has comforted me in my adulthood is because despite the fact that I loved to read as I child, the demands of life and schoolwork led me away from reading for pleasure in my high school and college years. One day when my husband and I were living in Germany, I impulsively picked the book up and put it in my suitcase right before we left on a weekend trip to Prague. I ended up reading the entire thing while stuck in a train station in some nondescript town in Germany due to a train delay. And believe me, it's hard for a town in Germany to be nondescript since everything there is so beautiful. But we happened to be stuck in the most boring, do-nothing town in all of Germany. I don't even remember its name. What I do remember from that town is reading The View from Saturday because it was the first time I felt joy from a book in many years. It is, quite simply, the book that brought me back to reading as an adult. 

Matthew Winner (@MatthewWinner) library media specialist:
My blanket book is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Each time I pick it up I am suddenly transported to the twin's vegetable garden in the dark of night alongside Cal, Meg, and Charles Wallace. There have been many moments in my life when I have wished to travel through time and space to right mistakes, take an adventure into the unknown, and get a second chance to do the right thing. A Wrinkle in Time has been that companion for me on those days I feel unsure, stuck, or alone. It is an adventure I feel I play a part in each time I read it and it is a journey I'd happily take over and over again.

Carrie Davies (@readwithdavies) teacher-librarian
My "blanket book" is Charlotte's Web.  I've read it over a dozen times...maybe even closer to 2 dozen times!  It has meant many different things to me at different times in my life.  

I remember reading it as a 3rd grader, and loving the story about a pig.  
I remember reading it for my children's lit class in college, and loving the message about friendship.  
I remember reading it when I was student teaching, and connecting with Wilbur's feelings of being new to Zuckerman's farm and the animals there, and how he adjusted to that "newness."  
I remember reading it countless times to my own students as a 4th grade teacher, and being amazed by E.B. White's vivid descriptions, word choice and author's craft.  
I remember, most recently, reading it aloud to my own children at home, and being touched by Charlotte's unconditional love in an entirely different way, as I read it as a mother to her children.

Charlotte's Web has provided comfort, life lessons, smiles, and tears over nearly 30 years for me.

Cynthia Alaniz (@utalaniz) teacher-librarian
I have several "blanket books", but this is my most recent one:
Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin, 2014) by Jacqueline Woodson

Since reading this book in April 2014, I have kept a copy nearby always (one even goes with me on trips). I marked favorite lines, put sticky notes everywhere, and read it whenever I needed - or wanted to. I have 2 ARCs of this book: one that I shared, and one that holds my notes. I also have a final copy of the book that was a gift, and it is on a very special shelf in my home. 

The gorgeous text gives me comfort, connects me to the beauty of the written word, and helps me remember how important reading and writing can be to someone. 

Dr. Julia Reynolds (@jmrliteracy) director of curriculum and school improvement, Northview Public Schools
My "blanket book" is Little Boy by Alison McGee and Peter H. Reynolds.

I read it from time to time - especially when things are busy - to remind me that family comes first. That balance is difficult to maintain at times. Yet, reading the book bring things back into focus and helps me calm down. After reading, I always give my son a hug and/or write him a small note.

Ben Gilpin (@benjamingilpin) elementrary principal
I have more than one blanket book.  I love Hatchet and I try to introduce that to 4th graders each year.  I also enjoy the Magic Tree House collection.  I push into 2nd grades and try to really get them excited for these fun adventures.  On a personal note...the author that sucks me in every time is Clive Cussler!

We have all been touched in some way by our own "blanket book".  Please feel free to leave your blanket book in the comments below, or continue the discussion using #blanketbook.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Journey of Journey (or...We celebrate Aaron Becker and interview him!)

For people who know me, you know that Journey, by Aaron Becker, was one of my favorite books last year (and ever).  Last year as we completed our Mock Caldecott unit, it took every ounce of restraint to not "influence" the decisions of my students.  In the end, Journey was the winner of our school mock Caldecott. And we all celebrated when it was chosen as a Caldecott Honor book by the Caldecott committee last January.

How could we share our love for this book with others???...

Answer:  "The Journey of Journey"

Our copies of Journey--ready to go out!

We purchased six copies of Journey and will be distributing them to various Little Free Libraries.  It is our hope that these copies will be enjoyed by many, many people.  As they circulate, we will keep track of where they are "journeying".  It is our hope that people will contact us and let us know that they've read it (and where they were when they read it!).
Our inside message.  We hope to hear from our readers!

The launch of our "Journey of Journey" also coincided with the recent release of Aaron's newest book, Quest.  To say that we were excited about this book was an understatement!  Knowing that I was planning on sharing Quest with students next week, I gave my third and fourth graders the opportunity to have a sneak peek of the book trailer and the book.  They could choose to come to the library during their lunch recess to be the first in the school to see these.  Imagine my delight when on a sunny, seventy-five degree, beautiful Michigan afternoon...NINETY students came to the library!  We watched the trailer (twice) and then began the book.  I must admit, reading a wordless picture book to 90 students is a bit of a challenge, but, challenge accepted...we jumped right in.  They were so excited and the discussion that occurred with each page turn was...well...magic!

Watching the book trailer for Quest by Aaron Becker

At long last...we get to read Quest!

The discussion was so awesome, that we actually didn't finish the book before it was time to head to they all came back the next day to finish!!!!

After reading Quest, we worked together to formulate questions for Aaron, who graciously agreed to be interviewed for Kids Talk Kid Lit.  It was hard for us to narrow down our questions, but here they are!  (Aaron's answers are in red!)

1.)  What do you like best about being an author/illustrator?

It’s a job that doesn’t require a lot of the things that other grown up jobs require: long meetings, commutes, phone conferences. I get to draw pictures all day and write stories. How cool is that?!!

2.)  When did you know that you wanted to write/illustrate children's books?

I started writing books when I was about eight years old, so it’s something I’ve always done. But Journey wasn’t published until I was about 38 years old. So it took me 30 years!!!

3.)  What inspired you to write this trilogy?

The architecture and places I wanted the girl to journey to. I drew a big picture of a castle one day and that’s where it all began.

4.)  When you started writing Journey, did you already know that it would be the first story in a trilogy?

Not at all, but once I was done, I realized I had created this whole world with lots of other things going on that never made it into the final book. I wrote out the general stories for the 2nd and 3rd books at the same time, so the trilogy was planned from that point forward. There’s lots of cool stuff still to come!

5.)  How did the girl and boy get the red and purple markers at the beginning of Journey?

Great question! And there is an answer! There’s a long back story about where the six colored markers come from and it involves an elder king and his three sons and the purple bird. And a black marker. And a white marker. Some of this will be hidden as backstory in Return but you really have to dig for it! But the markers make their way into our world so that someone in the fantasy realm won’t find them and use them for evil. It’s a much longer story as to how the girl and boy actually end up with them!

6.)  Can you give us a hint:  What will the setting be of Return?  Will there be any new characters?

The story still takes place in Pallonezia near the castle, but there’s some new underwater stuff and a cave. There are no brand new characters, but let’s just say that a character we met in Journey (briefly) comes back to play a much larger roll.

7.)  What are your writing plans after Return?

I have no idea! I’m thinking of working on a book with words in it. Maybe something with all of the backstory I’ve developed for the Journey Trilogy but in a middle-reader format, like a lost journal with pictures. But I also have some non-Journey related ideas too!

8.)  What was your favorite book when you were a child?

The Art of Star Wars by Carol Titelman. My copy is completely demolished from so many readings.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer theses questions.  We appreciate you and your books very much!!!!

Thank you so much to Aaron for taking the time to visit Kids Talk Kid Lit.  Be sure to check out Journey and Quest from your local library.  Whenever possible, please support independent bookstores.

Monday, September 8, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes!

Can I just say?...What a difference a year makes!

Today was the first day that I saw students in my library.  Yes, we started school last week, but I didn't see students because I had the privilege of helping the two new teacher-librarians in my district get their libraries up and running.  Imagine helping new librarians AND actually knowing what I'm talking about! What a difference a year makes!

Students came into the library at their scheduled times...sat where they knew they were supposed to sit and immediately started raising their hands (some frantically) to share with me what they had read this summer! What a difference a year makes!

When I shared some of the many new books that are going to be in the library this fall, the students could not wait to see them.  When I held up Mark Pett's The Girl and the Bicycle, I heard, "Oooh, just like The Boy and the Airplane!  When I shared Greg Pizzoli's Number One Sam, someone asked "Is the crocodile in this one too?"  When I shared Bob Staake's My Pet Book, one of my most quiet students whispered, "Bluebird"!  What a difference a year makes!

When I shared Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord, one student turned to another and said, "I hope it's as good as Rules.  When I shared book six in Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series, book three in Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl series, and Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus from Tom Angleberger's Origami Yoda series, students literally cheered!  What a difference a year makes!

Wow!  What a difference a year makes...and what an awesome year it was!!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Our Interview with Cynthia Lord

Last spring, Karen Aupperlee (@KarenAupperlee) and I had the wonderful opportunity to create a Battle of the Books experience for a group of third and fourth graders.  These students gave up their lunch and recess over 8 weeks to read, discuss and celebrate eight outstanding books.  The books were chosen from a variety of genres and were both newer and older titles .One of the books that students read was Rules by Cynthia Lord.  Our students thoroughly enjoyed this book and had some amazing discussions about it.  Cynthia graciously agreed to answer some questions that our students had regarding the book and about her life as a reader/writer.  (She also kindly agreed to let me repost her answers here at Kids Talk Kid Lit.)

1.)  What inspired you to write Rules?

was inspired by my children. My daughter is 24 years old, and my son is 21. My son has autism, just like David in Rules. Though the characters in Rules are not my own family, some of the small details in the book are true. When my son was young, he loved “Frog and Toad,” and he used to drop toys in our fish tank!

2.)  What is your favorite scene?

I have two favorites. I love the running scene with Catherine and Jason in the parking lot, and I like the scene where David drops the Barbie in the fish tank.
3.)  What is your favorite genre to read?

I like a variety of genres. I like to read poetry, realistic fiction, some fantasy, and non fiction.

4.)  What is your favorite book that you did not write?

Charlotte's Web, because I've read it at least 6 times and I've read it at different times in my life (as a child, as a mom, as a teacher). Every time I read it, I cry near the end. I've experienced the scene before, and I can even tell you the sentence E.B. White uses: "No one was with her when she died." Even though I know that line so well, E.B. White touches me in that moment, each and every time. That's the mark of a very powerful writer. 
5.)  What lesson do you want us to learn from reading

Well, first, I hope you just enjoy it as a story. But I hope readers take away less fear of people who are different. It can be scary to meet people who act in ways we don't always understand. I hope through meeting David and Jason, you'll look at the people you meet who have severe disabilities with more understanding and less fear. They really aren't so different, and I guess that's the main lesson I'd like the book to give.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.  We really appreciate it!
Cynthia Lord is the author of Rules, Touch Blue, Half a Chance, the Hot Rod Hamster series and coming August 26, 2014 Shelter Pet Squad #1:  Jellybean.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Heartfelt Thank You I said I wasn't going to write again until I had students, but...well...I lied!

A year ago, I found out that I was going to be moving into the library at my school.  My position would be a one year "pilot".  Prior to this, our librarian had been a paraprofessional. She was retiring, and my district was willing to look at making it a teacher-librarian position.  I had one year to prove myself...and the importance of the position.

Now, I had the position, and all I could think was..."Oh my goodness!  What in the world do I do?".

My colleague Karen (@KarenAupperlee) suggested that I go on Twitter.  Like John Schu has said, I, too, thought that Twitter was a place where people posted pictures of their food and outlined every detail of their day-to-day life.  She assured me that this wasn't the case, and that it would be a great connection for me.  I signed up...and followed a few people, and they eventually followed me.  I had NO idea what I was doing....(or what half of this stuff meant).
Soon I started making connections with other librarians and finally got the guts to start asking some questions.  WOW!  I never expected the outpouring of advice and support that I received.  It was so overwhelming, so unbelievable.  People were SO amazingly kind and helpful.  When I asked "beginner's (what were probably dumb) questions", I got sincere, thoughtful answers.   When I started to panic, I received reassurance. When I said that one of my first tasks was to get some graphic novels in my library, I was sent a box of new graphic novels from another librarian.  I naively asked why she had so many new graphic novels sitting around...and she replied, "They weren't sitting around, I bought them for you!".  Bought them for me?  I haven't even met you??  Really???

That's when I realized...this was something special!  These people were something special!!

Not having a mentor in my district, there is no way that I would have succeeded this year, if it weren't for my new PLN.  Their patience, wisdom. honesty, and expertise helped me turn my "pilot" into a permanent position...and spread it to the other buildings in my district.

I have my dream job...and I couldn't have done it without the help of so many people.

So...John, Margie, Travis, Sherry, Matthew, Julee, Chris, Cynthia (and many others) I sincerely and humbly thank you!,

Friday, July 18, 2014

Introducing...Kids Talk Kid Lit

Well...Here it is!

I have been considering the possibility of writing a blog ever since I started Twitter a year ago.  Every time I entertained the thought, I had the same response...NO!!!!

Why??  Oh, there are so many reasons:

Mine could never be as good as his.

Hers is so much more inspiring than mine could ever be.

He knows so much more about these topics than I do.

Who would even want to read it?

What in the world would I write about?

and the biggie...

I don't like to write!

However, I know that the best way to overcome this is to jump in and make myself do it! So, I've thought and thought about doing something that could be enjoyable for me and maybe a little bit different.

Hmmm...What DO I like to do?  I like to talk with kids about books!

Maybe combining something that I like with something that I don't like would make it a little bit easier.  So, how about a blog in which I share the conversations that I have with kids about books? OR even better...I share the conversations that kids have with me about books!

Ta Da!!!!  Kids Talk Kid Lit

My new blog will feature what kids have to say about the books they are reading and the authors and illustrators that they love. It will include various discussions, book reviews and author/illustrator interviews...all through the lens of my students. I WILL, also, interject some of my thoughts and opinions along the way. (Anyone who knows me, knows that I can't keep my thoughts and opinions to myself!)

Needless to say, it will be a while before I have students, so we won't be up and running until fall.  Until then I may (or may not) decide to write an entry on my own...we'll see!

I'm very excited about this new adventure, and even more excited that my students will be sharing it with me!

Until next time!