Thursday, October 28, 2010

Who doesn't love Douglas Wood?  I picked up Where the Sunrise Begins last week and, like many of his books, it's sure to find a spot on my shelf of favorites.  Wendy Popp's illustrations are calm, serene and match her motto of, "Find work with good purpose and create with passion."  It's a lovely book.
     Like A Quiet Place, this book is written in a lyrical, rhythmical, and predictable voice... answering the question, "Where does the sunrise begin?"  Douglas Wood captures everyday questions and events in the most surprising way.  Added to Nothing to Do and Old Turtle and others, this makes a grand addition to any classroom collection. 
     I think Douglas Wood's books are filled with possibilities to encourage children to fill up their own writer's notebooks with language that's rich, purposeful, and extraordinary.  There's a flow to his writing that might just nudge the most reticent writers in the classroom.  His writing is filled with images, inferences, and insights.
     Check out his website.  Paddle Whispers is on my list for my friends that trek to Boundary Waters with their family almost yearly.  And, many of his songs might just make it into the background of your reader's or writer's workshop.  What a talented man.
     Some say pictures books are a dying entity... But they haven't read Douglas Wood, I would surmise.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Books that naturally create a sense of song...

My dear friend, Randi Allison (click on her name to see her poetry website) just bought a house in the desert.  Palm Desert.  When I read this book by Tony Johnston, I thought of her.  Day is Done.  Twilight Comes.  The perfect first words for a lyrical, poetic piece.
     It's a beautifully illustrated book by Ed Young in beautiful colors, simple lines.  And his illustrations match Tony Johnston's words perfectly.  There's a stillness and quietness that created for me the perfect sensory image for desert life.  I'm sure as Randi looks out at the surroundings near her new home (away from home), she gets the same feeling I get, sitting here on my front porch reading.
     I love a book like Desert Songs that creates a crescendo then a lull, a crescendo then a lull... it's reminiscent of The Whales by Cynthia Rylant.  Hmm... perhaps they could be tied together within a study of picture books that create that sense of peace for the reader.  I may have to consider a unit of study using books like these as the anchor...
     If it brings such an incredible sense of peace to the reader, perhaps as a writer it will create that same gift.  I may have to do some experimenting in my own notebook!  See where it leads...
     What other books create this same sense?  Ideas?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Doris!

Happy Birthday, Dear Doris!  
     Dear Sister, Dare I acknowledge #65 in public?  What can I say to you other than, "Thank you!"  I wish all the world could share the gifts you have shared with me... smiles, laughter, stories, songs, memories.   Thank you, Dor Dor.
     You have been a beacon of light.  A pillar of strength.  A creator of joy.  A singer of songs.  A poet.  A story teller.  A prayer warrior.  A giver of hugs and smiles.  A disciplinarian.  A counselor.  A voice of reason.  A purveyor of truth.  A comic.  A caregiver.  A role model.  A baker.  A friend.     
     Today and every day, I count you among life's blessings!  So, celebrate today, Dear Doris, knowing there are hundreds of people celebrating you... especially your little brother!  All brothers should be so lucky!

Birthday Blessings
Instead of counting candles,
Or tallying the years,
Contemplate your blessings now,
As your birthday nears.
Consider special people
Who love you, and who care,
And others who’ve enriched your life
Just by being there.
Think about the memories
Passing years can never mar,
Experiences great and small
That have made you who you are.
Another year is a happy gift,
So cut your cake, and say,
"Instead of counting birthdays,
I count blessings every day!"
By Joanna Fuchs (c)

The Junkyard Wonders.

I found Patricia Polacco's latest book The Junkyard Wonders last Sunday while perusing the bookstore.  I'm such a creature of habit when it comes to shopping at the bookstore... a cup of coffee is a must, I search the "new releases" display,  I check my favorite authors to see if there are any new titles I have missed, then I look at which titles are facing out (and wonder why so many celebrities think they can write), and finally I thumb through the remaining titles until I find a book or two that intrigue me.  I take my five or ten titles and I plop in the most comfy spot I can to make my choices.  The Junkyard Wonders made it in to my bag this week.
     This book is classic Polacco... rich story telling, beautiful illustrations, wonderful words, schema-rich story line.  I love when I read through one of Polacco's books and say, "Can this be true?"  And, then at the end of the read she includes a small snippet of how the idea developed from her experiences.  Patricia Polacco is a master at taking a slice of life and growing it into a complex, rich, and engaging story.
     In The Junkyard Wonders, the main character Trish discovers that her new classroom is known as "The Junkyard," the classroom for students with special needs.  In fact, she moves to live with her grandparents so she won't have to be singled out because of her learning difficulties and is crushed when she discovers that despite the move she's placed in a "special" classroom.  What she discovers is that all the students in Mrs. Peterson's room have unique gifts and special talents.  I love Mrs. Peterson, she's innovative, quirky, and wise... and not once do we hear about her intervention checklist.  She teaches with "tears" and laughter and insight... not with "tiers" and checklists and data points and plot graphs and paperwork and progress monitoring... her response to intervention is to know her children and to challenge their intellect (oops, a little sermonizing).  Trish and her classmates realize that Mrs. Peterson recognizes their unique abilities and strengths as they grow together as a community of learners.
     The Junkyard Wonders celebrates children and their distinctive gifts.  Mrs. Peterson helps each child find wonder in learning and discovery in their own questions.  She divides the students into tribes and melts the entire group together.  They make a visit to a local junkyard searching for ideas for science fair projects.  Each student collects things that interests him or her.  They refurbish old model airplane and hope to fly it from the school's roof.  Of course, their plan is challenged, but in the end... well, let's just say the ending is symbolic.  The message is so apropos for today's educational climate!
     I am so appreciative of Patricia Polacco's sincerity, voice, candor, and insight.  I can't wait to hear her speak at our annual Colorado reading convention in February.  In this book, she's once again used her own experiences as a learner to nudge us to think deeply about our own teaching.  Perhaps it's time to bring out our inner "Mrs. Peterson" and take a closer look at some of the things we're being asked to do as educators that just don't quite mesh with the needs of our students, eh?  I wonder if we're encouraging the "Trishes" in our classrooms...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

She Did Do it!

Patricia MacLachlan's and Emily MacLachlan Charest's second book of poetry I Didn't Do It dedicated to our canine friends is a real treat.  It's the perfect sibling text to Once I Ate a Pie.  They've teamed up with Katy Schneider to create an adorable collection of poetry paired with irresistible illustrations.
     "Every Night" almost made me dash out an get that puppy my family so desperately wants!  Every night you sing the song about the stars and moon.  Every night you pat my head... who can resist these words?
     "Rules" is hilarious.  First the human rules, No tick! No Bite!... then the dog's rules... Eat all you want.  Sleep when you want... Drooling is good.  I laughed out loud when I read this one!  I read it the same day my friend told me his new basset hound puppy ate a muffin off the coffee table... on the run!  
     This is the kind of book that can get young writers writing... about their pets, their lives, their experiences.  Quickwrites, memory writes... the notebook possibilities are endless.  So rich in schema and inferring.  I think this book will find its way into a few crafting lessons when I go back to school next week.
     I adore Patricia MacLachlan.  From my first read of Sarah Plain and Tall to Arthur for the Very First Time to Baby.  From All the Places to Love to What You Know First to Painting the Wind.  There hasn't been a Patricia MacLachlan book that I haven't found compelling, beautifully written, and heart-warming.  Perhaps there's a kindred spirit we meet within the context of words... I think Patrician MacLachlan could be mine.  Maybe it's being from the west!
    I Didn't Do It is no exception.  In fact, she has done it... written another book that should be in every classroom!  When you see the cover sitting on the bookstore shelf... those puppy dog eyes say, "Buy me, buy me!"  And you should...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Elsie's Bird. A Must Have...

Breathtaking.  That's all I can say.  I love this book.  I'm sure that the shoppers in the Tattered Cover heard an audible sigh when I finished it and they looked over at the winged back chair in the corner to see who was sitting there reading... Jane Yolen has done it again.  I loved Elsie's Bird.  Jane's words coupled with David Small's illustrations have created, for me, a wonderful addition to my collection.  Who says picture books are dying?  Obviously they haven't read this one... 
     Elsie, the main character loves her life in Boston, full of noises and the bustle of the city.  She loves city live with all its sounds.  Then her mother dies and her father moves them to the prairies of Nebraska looking for a new life.  The change is almost more than Elsie can handle.
     She is frightened by her new life.  She finds hope and comfort in her canary, Timmy Tune.  But one day her bird flies out the window while she is alone and she has to look for him in the tall grass of the prairie.  There she discovers that all her fear was in vain as she listens to the sounds of wild birds singing.  When her father returns from his trip to town, he brings new animals to turn their home into "a true prairie home."
      This is a beautiful book both in both words and illustrations.  It's simplicity.  It's complexity.  It's beauty.  You won't be disappointed!  
      Trust me, as long as we have Jane Yolen and David Small... picture books are well and breathing into our souls!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Oh, THAT Henry Cole

I was looking over a blog about A Nest for Celeste and in my mind, I was repeating, "Henry Cole... Henry Cole... Henry Cole..." and then I realized why his name sounded so familiar.  I went on a search in my home and classroom libraries and realized how many books I had that were illustrated by Cole.  Although he didn't write the text, some of the  books are sweet, some hilarious, some full of wonderful words, some poignant, some happy, some sad, some delightful... The best part, all are illustrated by Henry Cole, beautifully!
  • On Meadowview Street is about a girl who goes about changing the fact that there is no view on her street (nor a meadow),  
  • Some Smug Slug is a great read aloud and full of rich vocabulary,
  • Little Bo is a bedtime favorite by Julie Edwards, 
  • Trudy is a delightful story of a girl whose grandfather buys her a goat at the county fair and she ends up with a special surprise, 
  • Chicken Butt is just plain hilarious and fun to read out loud, 
  • The Rubber-Legged Ducky is about being unique and your own person (duck?), 
  • BIG Chickens is a raucous read and fun to read with a friend.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10/10/10 Blogger Challenge

if you are so inclined...
It's 10/10/10... we have to have some sort of challenge, eh?  Here's a list of ten possibilities:
  • Read ten picture books off your shelf that you haven't read for a while.  Think about how you might use them in your classroom!
  • Email ten friends and tell them about a book that you've read recently that reminded you of them.
  • Write ten lines of poetry using ten words in each line.
  • Read ten blog entries from ten blogs you don't have listed on your blog list (click on some of your followers to see what they read that you do not have on your list).
  • Buy a $10 dollar gift certificate and mail it to a friend anonymously or hand it to a child in the bookstore.
  • Go to the bookstore, read ten books you've never read.  Create a list of your ten favorites and send it to someone you think might appreciate some new titles.
  • Write your next ten blog entries in one sitting.
  • Choose ten books from your collection that you can give to ten friends with a personal note inside!
  • Write ten letters to ten friends or former teachers and mail them... with a stamp! 
  • Write a comment on ten blogs, using ten sentences each with ten words.
Any takers?  Try at least one of these this week (or within the next ten days) and see what happens.  Let me know what you try... 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Soccer and Poetry

Opening Days:  Sports Poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins is another of my favorite books.  Something about the poetry, the artwork, the thrill of reading, the sport... draws me in!  I love reading these poems with students and listening to them read aloud with prosody... the tone, the emphasis on certain vowels, the pitch, the syllable length!  And we worry about fluency... all we have to do is practice with a poem or two! 
     One of my favorite poems is "Soccer" and that's where I will be today, watching my daughter play.  She loves the game and she plays with such grace with her gazelle-like legs.  Watching her play is like reading a poem by Lee Bennett Hopkins... she punctuates with her toes, kicks each side kick with execution, stops on a dime, such precision in the scores!  She plays with athletic prosody (I made that up).  Watching your children on the field is a wonderful treat!
     But as I type this (on Friday night), I look over and see a reader lying on the couch.  The television's off.  The house is quiet.  And we are both at work... reader and writer... enjoying the pleasure of the sport! 

reverent grass.




This is a picture of her in action, by the way!

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Sensagoria

I was cleaning the library upstairs a bit and found my copy of Voices from the Wild by David Bouchard in one of my bags.  Whenever I travel, I always toss it in my bag.  It's the perfect book of poetry to use with any thinking strategy... it's provocative, thought-provoking, and unusual.
     I got this book in 1999 from a student who had just begun to develop Stargardt's Disease.  Since that time, he's gone on to college to pursue a degree in engineering, he's hiked in the Andes, and runs in races.  He doesn't let his disability deter him.  When he was in my classroom, there was little technology for students with visual impairments, but I remember him as a gifted writer.  I think it's ironic that the book he gave me that year was a "sensagoria" about relying on senses to survive.
     Each section of the book deals with a specific sense in mind.  Written in first person, the poetry is rich in detail.  Each poem tells how animals use their senses to hunt and avoid being hunted.  The illustrations are beautiful.  We learn how animals rely on their keen senses to survive.
     I use several poems in the book for inferring, determining what's important in text, and creating sensory images.  It's beautiful and simple... and not easy!  I love this poetry book.  And, whenever I open it, I remember that one of my students, who himself relied on other senses to succeed gave it to me.  I wonder if he remembers?

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Fleabag by Helen Stephens was another irresistible book I picked up on my recent book shopping jaunt.  Why?  One reason.  My 12-year-old.  I immediately thought of her when I picked this one up!
     My daughter has been begging for a dog since she was old enough to point!  She devours books about dogs.  There's an audible "Ahhhhh" each time we see someone walking a dog.  Once, when she was about five, she got a heart-shaped pad of sticky notes from Granny (Thanks, Granny) and left at least 75 notes around the house--refrigerator, toilet lid, bookbag, computer screen--"Dad, a dog would be nice!  Woof, woof!  I think we need a dog!  Have you seen my puppy?"  And, I won't even mention every dog we've seen online on Big Dogs, Huge Paws or at the pound that is looking for a home.  Trouble is... much to her chagrin, we still don't have one (although we came close with a Newfoundland puppy last year)!  Instead, I buy great books about dogs... it's a long story!  I know what you're thinking... I may just have to give in soon (No mean dad comments... it's just that two of us can barely breath now)!
    Fleabag is a quaint story about a homeless dog that is "found" by a little boy named Bob... "A boy without a dog and a dog without a boy meet each other in the park."  I loved this story, it almost tugged hard enough at my "we need a dog" heartstrings to consider getting one... almost!  The illustrations are wonderful and full of whimsy... who knew you could say so much with two little black dots on a scruffy puppy!
     Hasn't every child at one time or another gotten a puppy, found a lost animal, "ran away" from home, or looked longingly in the pet shop window--this is the perfect book to activate a "memory" write for young writers.  The premise is familiar and weaves a wonderful tale that I think could inspire young writers to do some writing in their writer's notebooks.  Fleabag will be the perfect nudge. 
    Fleabag ended up getting a permanent home with his new family in the book and Fleabag will be the perfect addition to your permanent collection of "Books about Pets" in your classroom!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy 60th Birthday

How did you become a reader?  I was a comic book reader.  Comics featuring Peanuts were my favorites.  Each week my mom and I would trek to the local drug store and purchase the newest collections... Dennis the Menace or Charlie Brown and the gang!
     Tomorrow, October 2nd, is the 60th anniversary of the syndication of the Peanuts cartoon strip.  I couldn't let it slip by without a recognition.  Charles M. Schultz was a master.  It was reading Peanuts each day in the newspaper (my collection of comics also) that turned me into a reader.  I read each comic carefully, drew my own inferences, and had wonderful conversations with my mom about the intricacies of each frame.  I learned about the beauty of language play from reading comics.  I learned to write a complete sentence by creating comics of my own.  I learned about humor.  Each drawing gave me a nudge to think deeper... the subtle twist of a smile, the "movement" marks in the background, the complexity of each character's personality revealed in such creative ways.
     Happy Birthday, Peanuts.  We miss your creator, but cherish his memory!