You are currently browsing the archives for March 2008.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 31 entries.

Big Bad Witchiepoo

  • Posted on March 31, 2008 at 6:33 PM

Poor Parents! Some of them seem to only listen when we send out the overdue notices. Come on… I’m not really the big bad beast or even Witchiepoo . I have been telling your children to bring back their books every single visit. 

I’m sorry if the overdue note that went home with report cards is the first you’ve heard of this book. Didn’t you get the notes we sent every other week? How about the phone messages? I’m so sorry. 

Yes, my records show your child checked out that book on Monday in January at 10:23 which is exactly when the schedule says your child’s entire class was in for booktalks and checkouts. I’m sorry that your child never brought the book home. Would showing you the front cover image help trigger any hidden memories?

Do you really want to know the stories your dear hearts have been telling me? 

I’m sure mom’s boyfriend didn’t try to sell the books for quick cash. (only because it was torn & wouldn’t be worth much)
Auntie’s car got stolen with the library book inside? Isn’t that amazing because you told me Granny’s car was stolen last month with that book? (They were books #1 and #2 in a series, what are the odds?)
Uncle dropped it in the lake while you were fishing? At 5 a.m. on a school day?
The babysitter got mad at your dad for being late and tore it up? The same book she oohed and aahed about when she dropped by to visit me during break?
I really don’t think you tore out the pages to burn as fuel since you didn’t have any ‘lectricity because your best friend already told me she was over at your house watching that tv movie last night in surround sound HD. 

I promise. I won’t believe everything they say if YOU don’t believe everything they say about school. 

Ask the students. Here’s the truth. They will tell you that I am really sweet, loving, gentle, kind, motivational, bossy, smart, even funny. I help them find what they want (unless I’m on a Pokemon rant jumping up and down telling them that I threw out all the Pokemon books because they were driving me up the wall). I teach them how to do things so they can do them without me someday. I even give them 2nd, 3rd, 42nd chances to bring back their overdue books.

But, let’s face it. Someone pays me a salary to try to take care of the "stuff" taxpayers money is spent on. I have a responsibility to try to teach citizenship skills, also, and that means teaching your child to be responsible. Responsible is such a nasty word to some people. I’d like your children to know that it’s okay to be responsible. Even for our mistakes. 

I make them. Yes, I did find 11 books out of 271 overdues right there on the shelf and they weren’t even checked in. Yes, I looked through most of the 12,000 books and I’d made a mistake. I’m responsible. I apologized and tried to make it right. 

In the end we all make choices on what we believe. Either Mrs. Chen is the worst witchiepoo at report card time when overdues magically appear or she’s just doing the best she can as your child’s librarian. Come in and see for yourself. I do have to warn you… Many parents that come in to check us out become volunteers when they see our workload. Come on in. We put away 3 carts of nonfiction books Monday morning, I’m sure we could use your help today.

Review: Environmental Disasters

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

Environmental Disasters by Michael Woods and Mary B. Woods.

Trivia Time: When was the first air pollution control law introduced?

Give up? 1272 when King Edward I made the law to reduce smog in London. 

Let’s face it. Studies on the environment are not receiving enough attention in the U.S. right now. When you learn how important green studies are in Australia and other parts of the world, you may be embarassed at our lack of concern. Earth Day is recognized, but thanks to the intense focus on achievement tests, teachers are too busy to keep current with environmental efforts. There are no consistent curricular efforts nationwide. If they’re not on the test, do green studies matter to the administrators who are concerned that the state will take over their school if students test poorly in math or have poor attendance?

We encourage our middle school and high school students to study "social issues" and debatable items in government/history classes. Perhaps your school should consider purchasing a class set of Environmental Disasters.

Part of the Disasters Up Close series from Lerner Publications and written for middle school grades 5 up, Environmental Disasters presents a surprisingly large and varied number of incidents world-wide. There are times when I want to demand more details, but have to settle for further investigation with my students. The source notes provide examples for the students who are writing their own reports. The Selected Bibliography and the extensive list of Further Resources are very well done so I have starting places for my students! Thank you, Woods! 

I particularly like the timeline in the back (where I found the info for the trivia question). I even appreciate the index which enables me to search for FIRSTHAND ACCOUNTS. Don’t you include primary sources in your curriculum? 

With gas prices rising and scientists studying the effects of Global Warming, shouldn’t we be producing more knowledgeable citizens?

Speaking of being environmentally conscious: The Earth Hour campaign was held Saturday March 29 at 9:00 p.m. local time to promote energy conservation world-wide. Everyone around the world was encouraged to turn out their lights for that hour. Thanks to Amy Bowllan I learned about this campaign in time. I enjoyed seeing Google’s homepage all darkened as a visual reminder (even though they acknowledged what’s on your monitor doesn’t change the energy consumption). 

Review: First Step Nonfiction on the Environment

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

First Step Nonfiction - EcologyPeople and the Environment
Animals and the Environment
Plants and the Environment

First Step Nonfiction series from Lerner is definitely intended for our first graders to learn about ecology

The focus is not upon the harm we do, but instead on the interactions we have with the environment. There are two pages in the end of the People and the Environment title that provide information on how "people hurt the environment" and how "people help the environment."
This series is unusual in that each title seems to actually be two types of books in one. There is the very basic introduction for  kindergarten and first graders that shows the interactions between the environment and either plants, animals, or people. These are worthwhile additions to the collections and make for excellent introductions to the topic of interactions. 

Then in each title there are the two double-page spreads that provide more in-depth information on the problems our environment is facing. In the title Animals and the Environment, the pages on Animal Facts could have come before the page on Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf in my personal opinion. I was reading along, "Animals use the environment in many ways." Then turned the page to find a graph showing the recovering wolf population in Wisconsin. 

I was a little confused. But, then, that’s just me. I enjoyed reading the animal facts page, although I wanted to argue with them about beavers making problems for humans. Who has more rights to dam the rivers? Humans or animals? Are we too controlling and end up causinHmmmmm. I needed to wake up and think this morning.
The Plants and the Environment title is my favorite. It fills in a need for a different type of plant information book. The pages showing how plants and animals help other plants were very appropriate. 

Again, the last 2 double-page spreads provided more in-depth information on a specific topic – forests. I might save those two pages for use on our lesson on trees, forests, and environment damage to our temperate forests and rainforests. Individual readers may appreciate them, but if I am sharing these with a small group, I might hesitate on focusing on the last two pages. 

Fortunately the beginning sections of these books are strong enough to join my beginning reader nonfiction titles. I will continue to add First Step Nonfiction titles to my collection.

Forbidden City

  • Posted on March 30, 2008 at 11:30 AM

Bearport Publishing has produced Forbidden City: China’s Imperial Palace as part of their Castles, Palaces & Tombs series. 32 pages, reinforced library binding, written at a third grade reading level but of interest to grades 2-7. 

With 100 words or less on each two-page spread this title meets the needs of my elementary students and I’ll be sharing this as part of my Olympic Unit on China.

I wrote about this title as part of my post on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but I decided that I wasn’t able to tell you enough to satisfy myself so I’m going to share more here.

China Olympics & Forbidden City book

  • Posted on March 30, 2008 at 11:00 AM

The official website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in English is  With only 130 days to go, it’s not too early to be planning for the 2008 Olympic Games to be held in Beijing, China. On March 31, 2008 the Olympic torch will land at the Beijing Airport to begin its Chinese portion of the Torch Relay. You can follow along in English on the Official Torch Relay site. 

I have already begun planning lessons and webquests for my students. Perhaps you won’t be back in school for the Opening Ceremony, but it is important to educate your community on the significance of 08-08-08 in Chinese culture so they are sure to tune-in no matter where they are.

Bearport Publishing has produced Forbidden City: China’s Imperial Palace as part of their Castles, Palaces & Tombs series. 32 pages, reinforced library binding, written at a third grade reading level but of interest to grades 2-7. With 100 words or less on each two-page spread this title meets the needs of my elementary students and I’ll be sharing this as part of my Olympic Unit on China.

Series Listing

The Complete Castles, Palaces & Tombs Series includes:

Castle Dracula

Palace of Versailles

Edinburgh Castle

Taj Mahal

Forbidden City

The Great Pyramid

Hearst Castle

Tower of London

Himeji Castle

Windsor Castle 

King Ludwig’s Castle

Let me know what titles you are purchasing now in preparation for your 2008 Summer Olympics unit.

Wondering what the Olympic song will be? So am I! While I am waiting, I can follow Jay Chou, a popular Chinese singer (see his Wikipedia entry) who acted in and sang the theme song from the movie Curse of the Golden Flower. Curse of the Golden Flower is an amazing movie FOR ADULTS. It’s rated R for very good reasons beyond the violence and stars Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li. 

I watched this movie not knowing what to expect and found myself fascinated with the sets and backgrounds. I even watched every bit of the description on how they built the sets. I wish the producers would consider releasing that section on YouTube or TeacherTube so I could show that to my students. If you cannot go to China, watching this movie can help instill a sense of the wonder, corruption, grandeur, protocol, affluence, and more of this dynasty.  I noticed that some American reviewers were harsh on the martial arts scenes of this movie and some of the essential Chinese cultural magnifications of emotion, but the focus is on the deceptions, betrayals, and quests for redemption and revenge. 

I found this explanation of 888 on
The Chinese certainly think that August 8, 2008 is a very special day because the digits "888" is believed to be very lucky number to be born or get married on. It is not surprising then that the 2008 Olympic Games will be held in Beijing, China with the opening ceremonies held on Aug. 8, 2008 or 8/8/8. As East meets West and our society encourages cultures to intertwine, many non-Chinese couples have adopted the significance of the numeral 8 especially in multiples, and decided that it is meaningful enough to be chosen as their wedding date. According to Chinese culture, 8 is a Lucky number that stands for prosperity and good fortune. Triple it and you got a lucky 888-wedding day. When you take the numeral 8 and turn on its side 8, it becomes the symbol for infinity – forever. This is a symbol most fitting to represent love and the beginning of a marriage. 

I’ll keep up-dating my Beijing Olympic information and you be sure to let me know what you are doing.

What's Inside Your Tummy, Mommy?

  • Posted on March 30, 2008 at 9:06 AM

What’s Inside Your Tummy, Mommy? by Abby Cocovini for only $8.95 will be released in April. Published by Henry Holt & Company, this is a book designed to be read with little ones side-by-side, interactively, over & over again throughout the nine-months of pregnancy. 

Give this one to friends with children as soon as they share their pregnancy news with you. Then they and their families can enjoy this throughout the entire term. 

Life-size simple drawings show how their new sibling is developing. The end contains a flip-out page since we all know babies are bigger than books. 

This oversized book is intended to be held up against mommy’s tummy for comparisons. You could also gather some food to demonstrate size: a grain of rice, a baked-bean, an orange, a medium-sized melon, a carton of milk, a large pineapple, a loaf of bread, and a pumpkin. 

I’d recommend some bubble-wrap, too, because any child I know is going to say, "If the baby is only that big, why is your tummy THAT HUGE?" Come on, you know they’ll say that and your hormones are stressed enough so have lots of bubble-wrap and allow them to wrap it up until they can show you how big they think you are. Remember, someday, you won’t be that big again and you’ll miss all that activity going on inside and the bond you are developing.

AHA! Something for the boys, too!

  • Posted on March 30, 2008 at 8:16 AM

We love Junie B. Jones, Piper Reed, and Clementine, but we have been missing a fun first grade boy in this group. Enter Katherine Applegate’s new series on Roscoe Riley Rules. Put this on your list for multiple copies and slip a copy into every first and second grade teacher’s welcome back to school bag. 
Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs
I was reading an ARC (advance reader’s edition or copy) that had 2 galleys in 1 so I wasn’t able to view the illustrations for this. Hey, HarperCollins, you can send me the finished product, too. <hint, hint> With these titles, you know you have something special:

Never Glue Your Friends to ChairsRoscoe Riley Rules #2: Never Swipe a Bully's Bear
Never Swipe a Bully’s Bear

Short chapters, simple dialogue with some big words thrown in (proboscis, epidermis) and a very few first grade potty word phrases (pretty pooped and armpit farts), fast moving action and sweet-tempered friends. The morning action at their house reminded me of getting 4 boys ready to go. Katherine Applegate has captured the thoughts, actions, and emotions of our beloved boys. 

You are going to be captured by Roscoe and clamoring for more. I want to be on the fast-track for getting these books in May and as soon as they are released. How fast can you write, Kristina Applegate? You authored the Animorphs series for older readers that took my sons through elementary. Surely you can chain yourself to the computer and whip out 6 more this year. I need them for my boys. Please?????! Aha! On the HarperCollinschildrens website I find #3 in the series: Don’t Swap Your Sweater for a Dog.Roscoe Riley Rules #3: Don't Swap Your Sweater for a Dog

Girls will love this series. Guys will "relate" and feel justified when bad things happen because they couldn’t imagine it being wrong. The character is not selfish or mean and tries to make every ending happy.

The language is descriptive and allows for opportunities in read-alouds to pause and help children picture in their heads what’s happening. Chattering teeth and a wind-up gorilla duking it out on the floor of the principal’s office? I can see it, can’t you?

The ARC I read had a letter from Katherine Applegate letting you know WHY she wrote this series. She was searching for early chapter books for her son without magical powers and time travel. She wanted fun, energetic stories boys could relate to with stories about kid problems. Katherine, you have succeeded. I wish I’d taken a photo the day one of my sons superglued his hands together to try to make swim fins. We should really exchange stories. 

Would you like to hear about my brother calling the firemen when a squirrel was bullying our cat and wouldn’t let him climb down out of the tree? In a town of 250 people, everyone comes over to visit when the firetruck comes. Or how about climbing the tree to get in the window of the tool shed because they only told you not to cross that door? We just needed to check whether we’d put back the saw so grandpa wouldn’t get upset and hurt himself.

Actually I’m glad my sons didn’t read this book when they were in first grade. They might have discovered a new way to wake each other up. Yikes!

Review: Tornadoes by Matt Doeden

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

Tornadoes by Matt Doeden is part of Lerner’s Pull Ahead Books series Forces of Nature. With 32 pages and sized for smaller hands, this is definitely aimed at grades K-3. 

Trivia: When do most tornadoes form?

Answer: Between 3 and 7 p.m. (the hottest time of day) usually in spring and summer when it’s warmer.

Ask any author and they’ll tell you how very difficult it is to write for the very young – this was written at a second grade level. Trying to convey complex, tragic, or even scary topics to the very young is difficult. Trying to limit your vocabulary so they can read it themselves is even harder. 

Strength of this title: The illustrations of the growing stages of the tornado were very well designed to give a sense of the buildup of the storm.

Some of you may have heard about the recent tornadoes in the south. Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, even in Atlanta, Georgia, many places have been experiencing these twisters. I spoke with a book rep the other day who mentioned that each major storm that travels through our territory causes sales of that disaster to skyrocket, erupt, flood their desk or even knock them out with the demand. 

Be sure to order this title to have on hand for your younger crowd.

What's on Your Desk?

  • Posted on March 29, 2008 at 2:49 PM

Remember the commercial  with the line "What’s in YOUR wallet?" Librarians should periodically survey their rooms to see "What’s on YOUR desk?" or even "What’s in YOUR library?"

The question was asked on LM_NET today and I remembered writing something about that before so I went to the LM_NET archives (a Wonderful resource) and started searching. I found it on April 16, 2001 with the topic: Cool things for the desk. 

I’m putting that original post here: 
Hello All, Because I care very deeply about students who learn in ACTIVE ways, I always put "touchable objects" on the checkout desk and throughout the Library. Last week two students were examining some of the stuff and I overheard one say, "Mrs. Chen always has the coolest stuff for us to learn about." I was so pleased, but the pressure is on to keep getting better/different/more intriguing. As I travel around the world, I look for objects that spark curiousity. However, this summer I don’t think I will be traveling far and I am looking for new ideas. Any suggestions? Here are *some" of the objects that I have featured (yes the magnets did gradually disappear until only one was left):

  • ROMP’s magnet set from the Nature Store (magnets on base & pendulum magnet)
  • Amethysts from Thunder Bay
  • Pottery vase from Mexico (palm size)
  • Puppet 3 Blind Mice in a present box
  • mini battery-operated fans
  • smooth and rough rocks
  • Chinese objects galore!
  • German clock
  • my son’s Tacofish pottery projects
  • Clifford stamps with red ink (they stamp their hands so teacher knows they have checked out at the beginning of the year in K-1)
  • Zen garden with sand & rakes
  • Chiming Massage balls & lots of stress relievers
  • President dolls
  • 4 " high metal knights from Germany
  • dancing dolls for holidays with music to dance with the day before holiday
  • puppets and dolls like the armadillo & the cockroach
  • Race cars & hotwheels next to a photo of my son in grandpa’s racecar
  • sandalwood fans
  • beanie babies like the Penguin so we can play Emperor Penguin while in line 

Several years down the road, what have I had recently on my desk?

  • A box that looks like a present but contains 3 mice as puppets
  • My collection of "special" rocks in a jewelry box
  • Coins from around the world
  • An array of glass coffee cups with messages
  • A big treasure chest of rocks shared by a student
  • Tapestry curtain samples with an Oriental theme that make fun individual placemats
  • My personal mission statement in a little acrylic frame for everyone to read
  • Character Counts bookmarks and surveys for the Guidance Counselor
  • My dragon from Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry
  • Touristy photos and postcards from ALA Conferences to show that professionals travel and are involved with their organizations
  • Gumby doll (to remind me to be flexible)
  • Enough pencils to help 200 children at a time so they never can use the excuse that they don’t have a pencil with them.
  • A jar that says "Grace" to remind me to always be gracious to everyone and the yellow silk flowers my sons gave me to remind me that I’m loved
  • Animal eyeballs taped at various heights that these animals would be (Emperor Penguins, Grizzly bears, Adelie penguins, Rats

I think this summer I’ll once again explore changing my "stuff." Maybe I should consider this to be a mini museum exhibit with structured scheduling or maybe I should just continue to have fun and drive my assistant bonkers with all my "stuff" for people to touch?. Hmm. Off to do some thinking on this dreary grey day. 

Monkey with a Tool Belt

  • Posted on March 27, 2008 at 8:47 PM

If you read only one review of this book, make it Betsy Bird’s at A Fuse #8 If you want to enjoy with me a fun book, read on.  I remember reading this review back in February, but then I didn’t have the book in my hands so I didn’t pay it enough attention. Now that I have my hands on this book, I won’t give it up. Don’t make me give it to the library… I want it myself. I agree with the Fuse review, and I want to bring this back to your mind so YOU go out and get a copy, too. You’ll probably need extra copies because you are going to want to give this book to others.

Coming from a family of carpenters, mechanics, and race car fanatics, I grew up with tools. That doesn’t mean I know how to use them, just that I have snuck into my grandpa’s garage to play with his work tools far too many times. I quickly learned that I could play with the vice grips, boards, planes, and lots of hammers and nails. 

I also learned how much trouble you can get into if you don’t put everything back EXACTLY where you found it. I believe my father even measured his tools so that they were exactly 3/16ths apart. I never dared touch his tools at the gas station. But, knowing people that love tools makes buying presents much easier. We started giving our sons tools for Christmas and hope to continue this for years.

Monkey with a Tool Belt is simply great fun. I found this picture on flickr so you can see some of the incredible details. Aha! Probably the copyright police are going to go question where they came from, but I think it’s part of the web 2.0 phenom that everyone wants to share their favorite parts. Show and Tell gone wild. Just look at some of the other posts about this title. 

Goodreads review
Three Silly Chicks Blog Review
Shu’s Blog of Lit and More where he explains how he put down the book twice
Jen Robinson’s Book Blog

Why such a hit? The writing is so simple that preschoolers will enjoy it. There are details on every page for adults to cherish. Chris Monroe has done an excellent job of interweaving simple ideas with absurd intricate details. When you share this with others, they are bond to ask you about every single tool, "Is that a real tool?" 

You’ll read "He’ll need all his drill bits to fix up this ramp, plus a chisel, a frizzle, and a giant C-clamp." The kids will demand you show them what a frizzle is. Good luck?!

 The illustrations in this book vary so much from page to page that the reader cannot predict what will happen next. Chris Monroe varies large single illustrations on pages with 12 comic book style panes on the next double-page spread. The simplicity of the page where Chico Bon Bon is trapped and tied to a bike is immediately followed by a Richard Scarry-like maze of tiny drawings to accompany the words, "He rode a long, long way." Go back and count how many times the evil kidnapper and his bicycle appear. 

The rhyming structure is sure to appeal to teachers and students and offers reasons to read this again and again. I am on my 10th read for today. In fact, I drove to my friends house to check on a couple tools to see if they were real or imaginary myself. I threw the car in park, threw open the door, and three of us huddled around this book savoring the details while the car ran. With the price of gas, you KNOW this was an amazing book. 

Hey, Carolrhoda, when is the sequel going to be out? Will we learn more about the previously escaped monkey Bobo? Will Chico continue to sleep with his tool belt? Will Chris Monroe introduce us to Chico’s cousin, the mechanic? Will this title receive the honors and admiration due? Stay tuned.