You are currently browsing the archives for January 2008.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 16 entries.

High-Speed Thrills

  • Posted on January 31, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Gareth Stevens surprised me this year. They developed a series called The Science Behind Thrill Rides that has reawakened my love for physical science. I now know that centripetal force and changes in velocity are what make me ill on roller coasters every summer. It’s not the gravitation force or the accelerating force that get to me, but instead the "sideways force you feel as you round the corners."

Set in an amusement park, each title in this series explores physical science concepts using theme park rides. While correlated to the middle school physical science curriculum, my favorite in the set — High-Speed Thrills: Acceleration and Velocity is a perfect match for my third and fourth graders. I’ve had to pry it out of their hands three times just to jot down ideas for this blog post. 

After relenting and "allowing" them to read it first, I was finally able to snag back my copy to read in more depth. Did you know you can accelerate to 107 mph in under 2 seconds on the Dodonpa catapault coaster in Japan? I’m going to hide this book from #4 son before he starts planning a Japanese vacation! I still haven’t recovered from Kentucky Kingdom’s coasters two summers ago. Actually, I think I’ll buy him the entire series for his birthday. I am truly inspired and can’t wait to show these to my science teachers. 

Titles in the set include:

  • Falling for Fun: Gravity in Action
  • Marvelous Machinery: Rides at Work
  • Twists and Turns: Forces in Motion
  • High-Speed Thrills: Acceleration and Velocity

Gooey Jellyfish

  • Posted on January 30, 2008 at 12:00 AM

You must get Gooey Jellyfish by Natalie Lunis immediately. Stop your reading and make a note! Did you know that 95% of all animals are invertebrates? Yet, my teachers choose mammals first when doing research. Invertebrates of the world unite! Demand more time and attention! 

Thankfully the publishers at Bearport are acting. They have created this nearly perfect nonfiction title. I say this from a USER (reader) point of view not from a scientific viewpoint because I am talking from readers’ viewpoints today. 

This book is an excellent read-aloud. I have student testimonials ready. They loved every aspect including the glossary, the Read More section, and especially the notes on invertebrates in the back. Since it’s first read-aloud, I have had to fight to reclaim the title to share with another class. They keep reading and re-reading each page. Just wait until they discover the internet activities and information pages.

The illustrations are large enough for whole class read-alouds, but offer details for second and third individual reading. The bubbles of text information offer tidbits that amaze the listener. The photos perfectly match the text descriptions. AMAZINGLY MATCH! When you read that "The largest jellyfish is larger than a person," the main illustration on the page shows a diver in relationship to an enormous jellyfish. The teachers immediately started thinking how they could fold paper to the correct size for an experiential effect. 

I do want to ask the publisher this question: "Did the Australian box jellyfish sting the person pictured on pages 16-17?" We want to know! After you told us this is "the most dangerous of all" and that "its tentacles hold enough poison to kill 60 people." my students screamed "Get out of the water fast!" I think those first grade boys have a pool on whether the person died or not from just standing there. I’d love to be able to reassure them that no models were killed during the photographing of this book. 

I cannot wait to get my hands on the Complete No Backbone! (Marine Invertebrates) Series:

Crawling Crabs
Gooey Jellyfish
Prickly Sea Stars
Slimy Sea Slugs
Squirting Squids
Squishy Sponges 

Come on, look at those titles! Admit it. You liked saying "Squishy sponges." You can’t wait to see if the squids are really squirting people and you know the perfect group of students to scream "Yewww! Yuuuuck!" when you show them the slimy sea slugs. I could bring in a hermit crab to crawl around while reading Crawling Crabs. The possibilities for booktalking these are racing through my head. 

Yikes! I’d better get my order into the computer for the rest before you finish reading this blogpost and snatch up all the series. Later!

Some Kids Wear Leg Braces

  • Posted on January 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM

When I am reviewing books for children with disabilities, there are so many questions I just don’t know the answers. If I share this book, will a student feel spotlighted? Will this title make everyone focus their attention on the differences or help them understand similarities? I asked one of my students who wears a leg brace and uses a walker to give me her opinion on Some Kids Wear Leg Braces from the Pebble book series Understanding Differences.

She told me that she really liked this title and that more students should read it because (leans in and whispers) then they won’t be "staring at me and kids with braces." She said that it would help the kids by answering their questions so they don’t ask her rude questions.

 I sent this title home with one of my first grade teachers who has a daughter using leg braces due to a brain development issue. Both of them enjoyed this book and asked where I’d been hiding it. When her daughter saw the cover, her eyes lit up in amazement to see someone else using a walker.

Other titles in this series include:
Some Kids Are Blind
Some Kids Are Deaf
Some Kids Use Wheelchairs

Perhaps more children’s illustrators will include teachers or librarians who wear hearing aids. Then I might go in to get another hearing test and explore getting help. I have had 6 or 7 ear surgeries and don’t really like admitting to how much I miss.  I thanked the captionist during the ALA Council meetings for her work in captioning the speakers. It’s amazing how much I would miss if I couldn’t read along with the various speakers. I’ll blog more about that later this week.

Can kids review?

  • Posted on January 23, 2008 at 6:18 PM

I asked #3 son to help me review some books. His comments were typical for a relatively nonreader and made me laugh so hard. I appreciate his giving me 3 minutes of his teenage day. What did he say?  Buy lots of books like this Ferrari series because kids like cars and they’ll all check out the book just because the cover is cool, plus it’s not too hard to read because it’s in the Blazers series. 

 The Terror Bird book looks really cool, but it’s full of information on just one bird. I think you should find more scary birds. 

The Volcano book looks so cool, but it tricks you into learning facts about Volcanoes when you think you’re reading a comic book. If kids want to learn something, they should read it.

I am working with my students to help them become better writers than my own children have become. Before the holidays we began a new blog just to enable them to start writing about books. Our blog is called HickmanTales and is in very rough form, but the purpose is to have the students write. We wanted to protect the students so we allowed them to make up names and post their reviews in comments. I’m able to moderate every comment to increase safety. The teachers have noticed how often the students go to read each others’ work. They are avidly working on reviews and new ideas, plus engaging in peer editing. 

Hopefully when they are teens, they’ll be able to offer more detailed reviews and opinions. I will have them write about the same books #3 son reviewed so you can see the difference in opinions and voice. Stay tuned and remember that blogs don’t have to be perfect. They provide communication opportunities and real-life interactions.

Tracking Authors

  • Posted on January 20, 2008 at 9:50 AM

How do you keep up with your favorite authors? I search journals, favorite author websites, make lists on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, etc., but one of my favorite ways is subscribing to services like HarperCollins’ Author Tracker. When Kadir Nelson has a new title out, I want to immediately see those illustrations. Have you truly looked at his work? Amazing. How about Mike Wimmers? Have you truly studied these illustrations to see how they complement, enhance, and advance the story? Don’t forget Ted Lewin, Holly Keller, Mary Downing Hahn, Margie Palatini. Hmm! I may have to add to my list.

I do have other favorite author/illustrators like Ed Young that aren’t listed with HarperCollins so I have to stay on my toes and read my favorite journals. I have set Google Alerts for my favorite authors under desperation, too. Having caught a glimpse of Ed Young’s newest work set to be released this year, I cannot wait to get my hands on that book. This may be some of the best artwork I have seen in decades. I need to see Ed’s speaking schedule so I can chat with him about this book. If you are hosting Ed at your conferences or schools this year, let me know. I may have to take a road trip.

Help! by Holly Keller

  • Posted on January 20, 2008 at 9:40 AM

Help! A Story of Friendship by Holly Keller is much MORE than just a story of friendship. With its exploration of gossip, dealing with hurt feelings, and doing the right thing despite being hurt, this title has tremendous storytime possibilities. This title should be in every school library and personally put in the hands of elementary guidance counselors. The printed collages or collographs are so amazing you should put this in the hands of every art teacher, too. 

I enjoyed the story and the illustrations on a quick first run-through. Then I read the book flap with the author’s description of how she created each image including using a mesh onion bag for Snake’s body to provide texture. I re-read the book carefully to note all the textures. And I reread it and I pondered. Then I went in the kitchen and began puttering with objects and some acrylic paint I had to try my own prints. Wow! I had such fun. I can’t imagine what my creative students will do when I share this on Tuesday. I’m taking this with me to an art teacher’s house today so we can play in paint. She has chickens, so I’ll be plucking a few feathers, finding some grain and more to add to my play prints.

Thank you for this title, Holly. I think it will go on my list of children’s lit titles to which every college student should be exposed. I did like the comments on this blog post mentioning the fact that snakes actually do eat mice.  Go out and get this book from HarperCollins! If you don’t believe me, go check out the review by Mary Jean Smith in SLJ. Mary Jean was my youngest son’s librarian and I hold her in the highest esteem. Brian, I love my slj website, but is there any way we can search by reviewer’s names? I’d like to see what else Mary Jean Smith has reviewed. 

Steve Jenkins

  • Posted on January 19, 2008 at 8:35 PM

Living Color by Steve Jenkins is a new release from Houghton Mifflin Company. I like the pairing of informational text with color-grouped animals. The text includes facts, but also unusual sayings. Take the pink page:

Pink says!
Dressed to kill.
Turn off the light!
There’s no one home.
Pretty in armor plating. 
More shrimp, please.

Did you know Most female parrotfish are blue, green, or brown, but if there are no males around, they can change sex? Yes, I know this because Steve tells me "The new male fish signals the change by turning bright pink, red, or yellow." 

I just had a conversation with kindergartners about it being okay for a boy to wear a pink bracelet labeled hope. I even pulled out a photo of men wearing pink shirts, but these guys pooh-poohed the thought. If I were to read the above fact to them, who knows what they’d do?! 

I especially like the animal facts pages at the end of this book. For example, did you ever wonder why mammals are so drab? I’ve used the Amazon Alphabet book before, but I think Living Color has a better fact pages at the end with descriptions including facts like body length, habitat and diet. 

Are you thinking research with me? Just wait until I show the art teachers this book Tuesday morning. I’d better get busy and prepare some web page information on each of these animals for further reading. I know my students are going to be asking me for books on the white uakari (who actually has a bright red face) and the blue-tongued skink. Hey, Steve, how about some web links in the next book? Hmm, off to check out his website links.

By the way, did you see that Vulture View was named a Theodor Seuss Geisel honor book at ALA Midwinter? I know the medallion should be the silver honor sticker, but it’s a Saturday night and I’m getting tired. Way to go April and Steve!!! I’m excited that others recognize the value this book has for our young students.

What can kids do for the war?

  • Posted on January 19, 2008 at 7:22 PM

Yes, folks, we are a nation at war. I know that some of you have forgotten this and some of you wish you could, but if you were to visit a military post, you would see the signs reminding you of the men and women and their units who are currently serving overseas. When my sons graduated basic training, the dignitaries reminded us that this was a time of war. Why do I bring this up? The absolutely stunning drawings by Ted Lewin in Dori Chaconas’ new book Pennies in a Jar (Peachtree Publishing, 2007). 

When I first walked past the Peachtree booth, I glanced at the cover of a boy placing pennies in a Mason jar and walked on. But it haunted me so I returned later to chat and examine the book. The illustration was so stunning and reminded me of Caldecott Honor book Peppe, the Lamplighter which made sense as I drew closer to see this was also illustrated by Ted Lewin. As I read this title, I appreciated how Ted was able to illustrate this young boy’s fear of horses, yet his desire to do something to help the war effort, to raise money for a birthday gift for his father, and to be brave. 

Perhaps the notes from the author on the two pages at the back of the book are part of the appeal to me. These must be shared so students can understand how everyone contributed to the war effort during WWII. Be sure to point out the book flap info on the author and illustrator. When I read that Ted Lewin’s doorbell rang three times with dreaded telegrams concerning his brother Donn being wounded in action, I could appreciate the agony of waiting for news of a loved one at war. 

While I love the illustrations, I can tie this in to telling front porch stories from my childhood. Even back step stories. For many years we had a milk man who delivered milk in his truck each week to our house and left it in a metal box labeled Well’s Blue Bunny. I remember how sad it was when he took the box after the final delivery. 

While we lived overseas on a military base in Germany, I was re-introduced to a type of milk man. There was a beertruck that delivered to anyone who wanted beer, sodas, and German milk that didn’t have to be refrigerated. You could leave an order on the door, they’d deliver and they’d catch you sometime that month to pay the bill. We loved that service especially the orange-cola flavored Ravilla. There was also a fruit truck that came by selling fresh fruits and candies. It was more popular than the ice cream truck. This was only ten years ago so don’t think I’m talking about WAY LONG AGO. 

Remember the blue stars hanging on flags so you could see which families had children serving during times of war? When I came back from ALA, I had received a pin with two blue stars on it for me to wear. Thanks, Susan! I’ll keep walking around, doing my work, and maintain daily life, but part of me is always aware that we are at war and that we all have loved ones serving. 

Thanks Ted and Dori for the beautiful book.

No Bragging and Prioritizing

  • Posted on January 19, 2008 at 7:04 PM

How can you let great news out without sounding like you’re bragging? You’ll have to click the read more and get all the way to the bottom. I’m so excited that an elementary school librarian was elected to the ALA’s Executive Board which includes 8 members, the executive director, and the 3 officers. School librarians have been demanding more attention in ALA. AASL is the third largest division numbering about 9500. There are many more in the ranks because lots of school librarians join ALA, but can’t afford to add any divisions or roundtables to their memberships. It has been estimated that 17,000 of the 65,000 ALA members could be school librarians. You would think with those percentages that we’d have members on every committee and be represented in council by at least 25%, but we don’t. The best way to improve this is to volunteer to serve on council and in committees including FILLING OUT THE FORMS, renewing your membership by Jan. 31st so you can vote, and VOTING in the election. Other divisions do pay attention to our voting numbers, so we need to get the word out to vote. 

Well, since you are wondering who was elected, I guess I’ll tell you that it was me. Yes, me. I am so excited to think of joining Joseph Eagen and Em Claire Knowles on the board beginning at the end of Annual in Annaheim this year. So why wasn’t I screaming this all over LM_NET and the blogs? A friend of mine said that I shouldn’t brag about it. Yikes! I am just so happy to think of the good we can do. I think of people that are bragging as those who think they are wonderful. Folks, let me tell you that I am a plain speaking, practical, working person who has SOOOOO many faults, that I never for a minute think I’m better than any one else who could be serving. In fact, the members who were in the election and didn’t win are probably all much better than me including Fran Roscello and Dora T. Ho (plus Tom Wilding and Pamela C. Sieving) so I hope they all run again and get elected next year which is what I would have done if not elected. But, since I am elected, I am pledging to you that I am going to work HARD at being the best youth representative I can and to do the best I can to make ALL libraries better for our children and communities. 

You see, I do have some priorities here. My #1 son who sent me off on my crusade to "Go make libraries better" after his near-death experience several years ago called me immediately after I received the congratulatory call from ALA council secretary Lois Ann Gregory-Wood. He called to tell me that his paperwork would take too long so he wouldn’t be sent off to serve in Afghanistan this week after all. He was sad that his unit would be leaving without him and he would have to stay behind to take more training and begin college classes at night. Since he is barely 18 years old and has already given me some grey hairs with stories of his experiences in Infantry and Airborne, I am happy that he’ll get more training. This was truly the best news of the night. Glad to see someone is keeping me real and focused on the big picture of life.

So forgive me if it seems like bragging, but I hope you can share my happiness.

Hey! You! Display that better

  • Posted on January 12, 2008 at 6:32 AM

Call me Bossy Britches, but I can’t resist hassling the vendors in the Exhibit Hall. "Why are you hiding the gems of your new titles behind these others?" I demanded last night.  

The reply was that young and early reader easy chapter books don’t sell as well as picture books and nonfiction. Librarians don’t want to spend the $15 to purchase an easy reader so the publishers don’t bother promoting them or spending money on marketing that area.

Shame!!! Let’s change their thinking. Everyone should have been exposed to the Three Little Robbers. November 10th I blogged about Three Little Robbers (my favorite early reader/easy chapter book) . That same week I wrote about 3 other books including Maybelle in the Soup.  

Every week I hear from librarians who are seeking accessible chapter books to help their students transition from picture books to chapter fiction. I spend a huge amount of my time aiding students in accessing information from nonfiction books, but I need reviewers help in locating easy chapter books. I need strategies and suggestions. I need to know how to match these books.

For example, Three Little Robbers is perfect for my multicultural clientele, my folktale loving group, and my teachers who seek "good messages." You wouldn’t know it if you didn’t read the entire book or found reviews. I wish someone would develop the top ten early readers each year so I could purchase multiple copies and KNOW they would work. Help me out, readers. 

Just wait until I get back in the exhibit hall this afternoon. I’m already rubbing my hands in glee. Let’s see who I can boss around today.