You are currently browsing the archives for September 2008.
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Can I Capture You?

  • Posted on September 27, 2008 at 12:44 PM

Ever feel intimidated at the idea of speaking in front of large groups of people? Me, too. I’ve gotten better so I don’t have to vomit before every trip to the microphone – now I just don’t eat before those sessions. 

Fortunately along come webcasts where you don’t even have to look at me. You can focus on the content and on participating. I’m excited about this aspect, but now I have a new fear. What if no one comes? Argh! Something new to worry about. Please help calm this fear by going right now and registering for the Capturing Reluctant and Struggling Readers webcast for October 8th. 

I was worried about how we could do this, teach school, manage the library, and free up the time to participate. Then I thought about the positive spin. Try this opener with your principal:

"You know how I hate to close the library for an afternoon to drive across town for training or be gone for days to conferences? Now I won’t have to. October 8th I can sit at my desk and participate via the computer for just one hour in a professional webcast on Capturing Reluctant and Struggling Readers. There’s even fifteen minutes where I can ask questions.

I know this topic is vital for improving our reading scores and now I won’t have to be out of the building. I’ll just need your help in communicating to teachers that my one-hour of planning on October 8th will be at 1:00 p.m. CST so I can fully participate. 

It won’t even cost the school anything for me to attend as this is free through School Library Journal and Capstone Publishers. I’ll be able to document this for our professional development on the school improvement plan and the webcast will be archived for one year so I can take teachers through it for further training. 

Isn’t this exciting? I knew you’d want me to participate so I signed up this weekend. You or any educator interested can register online through School Library Journal’s website at by October 7th."

Uncommon Animals – uncommon titles

  • Posted on September 27, 2008 at 10:00 AM

Arctic Fox: Very cool! by Stephen Person. Bearport Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59716-730-7

Fossa: A Fearsome Predator by Meish Goldish.  Bearport Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59716-732-1

Bearport Publishing’s Uncommon Animal series falls between the Gross Out Defenses and the Earth in Danger series for readability. Part of the Narrative Nonfiction line, Uncommon Animals is intended for grades two through seven and written at a third grade level. These are written as high-interest stories but still have controlled text with an average of 100 words per two-page spread. Each title contains enough basic facts to enable an elementary student to research and the illustrations are well-chosen as always, but the hidden strength of these titles lies in their narratives. I will be purchasing all of this series for my middle school students. I can’t wait to read Aye-Aye: An Evil Omen.

Authors Stephen Person and Meish Goldish have written many nonfiction titles, yet when they approached these stories their narratives show they were not writing cookie-cutter-series titles. While the beauty of the Arctic Fox’s white winter coat attracted me to this title first, I found Fossa’s facts coming to mind again and again.

Fossa: A Fearsome Predator can be interwoven into units involving

  • animal myths and legends
  • endangered animals
  • environmental concerns such as burning rainforests/habitats
  • ecotourism
  • forest habitats
  • careers working with animals
  • biography units on scientists
  • predators and prey
  • mongooses (or is it mongeese?)
  • lemurs
  • African animals

When I first began reading Fossa, I approached it as a mystery. The back cover hints that this animal may not exist. Does it? The story focuses upon the investigations of professor Luke Dollar who while studying rare lemurs in Madagascar learned of a fearsome predator who viciously killed lemurs. Through his investigations he learned that parents told children scary bedtime stories of the fossa like we tell stories of the big bad wolf. Did these animals exist? Yes! They are no myth. Are they horrible monsters? A-ha! You will have to read this title.

Luke returned yearly to Madagascar to trap and study these animals. He became a college professor and trained teams to study these rarely seen animals. The photographs resulting from his studies will satisfy your big cat-loving students who will argue with you about whether the fossa is member of the cat or the mongoose. While information on the fossa is presented, I found myself focusing upon the scientist Luke Dollar and imagining how students could be inspired to devote their lives to investigating and studying animals. 

Fossa: A Fearsome Predator is a successful nonfiction title because it transcends it’s designation as an animal book. It inspires the reader to consider many other aspects of science including the importance of tourism to an economy to diminish the destruction of forests and teamwork in scientific investigation. 

The story includes statements from Luke Dollar like, "It’ll eat anything with a heartbeat…It’s a killing machine." With the scary bedtime stories accompanying fossas, I expect fossas to turn up in the next "animal gone bad" horror series. This will give the nerdy kids like me, who need to know the facts, opportunities to provide real information on the importance of the fossa to the food chain and farm economy. I’m ready for the next party to share something new – forget the weather, baseball, and politics, let’s chat predators. 

On to the Arctic and the northernmost town in the world – Ny-Ålesund, Norway. (How’s that for more party conversation?!) Arctic Fox: Very Cool! shows that Arctic foxes are not endangered, but uncommon (hence the series name). My favorite illustration in this text shows an arctic fox’s coat between winter and summer. Every time I look at it, I wrinkle my nose and snear at its ugliness; then I see the photos of the Arctic fox with its beautiful thick winter coat and even it’s thinner summer coat and I make the universal librarian sound for cute "aaawwww."  

Arctic Fox: Very Cool! also can be used for many curriculum areas:

  • predator/prey
  • global warming
  • animal adaptation
  • Arctic animals

This title was a very successful read-aloud for an animal unit and appealed to both boys and girls. I liked the Read More suggestions at the back, but I’m going to have to ask the publisher to improve on the bibliography of Arctic Fox before I can use that for instructional purposes. Perhaps they could flesh it out by describing their process of choosing photos if they were short on sources for information. The Fossa bibliography was extremely useful for teaching citations. If that’s the only criticism I have in the series, I think that’s easily overcome with the successful writing and unique topics.

Gross Me Out

  • Posted on September 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Remember using "GROSS" in the 80’s. I promise it was one of my very favorite words and it was 3 syllables long. Bearport Publishing has a Gross Out Defenses series for K-3 students that is the only source for some of these animals:

But I do have to protest, I don’t find these three gross at all:

  • Smelly Skunks
  • Tricky Opossums
  •  Prickly Porcupines

Perhaps it’s because I have actually seen skunks, opossums, and porcupines in the wild that I find their behavior natural. I also think watching a raccoon wash its hands is normal. 

I checked the shelves and I have books on these animals for the upper grade students, but I don’t have any of the first three. Uh-oh! Bearport, you aren’t finished. Now you have to go back and make a series for Middle-School students on these animals. I do warn you that our standards of grossness vary. You may even have to increase the grossness beyond this line in Poison Dart Frogs:

"To protect themselves, poison oozes from pores in their skin."  

Of course, when I read that passage "ooooooozes" has 8 vowels so students can picture the poison coming out and dangling there in slow motion.

Finally I can walk into the second grade classrooms who study all types of amphibians and reptiles and present them with poison dart frogs. "See," I’d say, "the publishers do know how to write about more than just red-eyed tree frogs." Drat! They finally make a series and I move to middle school. Hello, all you elementary teachers, go ahead and prepare now for these. 

Wait! I spent more time with the Tricky Opossums book by Catherine Nichols and I learned more. Oh, yeah! The opposum is R-E-A-L-L-Y gross when it pretends to be dead. You’ll have to read more to find out just what it does. I don’t think I’m going to get as close to an opposum in the future as I might have before reading this title. 

Just in case you are running out of ideas, I did find a list of the top 10 Animal Gross-Outs. #10 on the list was giraffes. Do you know what else they do with those 18 inch tongues? <shudder> Since I seldom can resist top 10 lists, I did have to read them all. If the book Disgusting Hagfish expands on what’s on that top ten list, you’re going to have to order it. EEWwwwww. Gross is right.

Football Books & Keeping Current

  • Posted on September 22, 2008 at 8:00 AM

Oh, great librarians, lend me your wisdom. How can we keep up with the demand for football books?! What do you do when the players move, retire, or change teams? What percentage of your collection is based on people? on teams? on techniques? on great moments? How much do you spend every year? Where are your gaps? It seems I just cannot have enough football books. Should you be providing more resources even if it’s not in the curriculum? YES! Please read to the end even if you hate football.

Eli Manning and the New York GiantsEli Manning and the New York Giants Super Bowl XLII by Michael Sandler. Bearport Publishing ISBN:  978-1-59716-736-9. © 2009

Bearport Publishing has a 2009 series out on Super Bowl Superstars and I was able to read Eli Manning. I think this series will help the timeliness problem. Students like to read about great players and linking them to the Super Bowls gives us the opportunity to hand them "yet another" in the series when they finish. These won’t be as quickly out-of-date because they are set in one moment in time. They have the immediacy of the game, the traditions of the team, and the uniqueness of the player. 

Reading this title helped me relive the exciting moments of the game. The format will be attractive to reluctant readers. The staff in charge of choosing photographs for this series did an excellent job once again. (I do believe they may have the best sense of the relationship of text and photos). 

I wasn’t as happy with the end materials. The glossary was great and I can see myself teaching that to students. The Bibliography wasn’t complete enough for me. I wouldn’t accept that from the students if they tried to turn it in. Instead of a bibliography, I think that was a list of sources: The New York Times, The Daily News (NY), Sports Illustrated, and Good for elementary, but I want more for middle school. These hit who they are targeted.

The website links are appropriate for elementary, but should tell us where we are going before we click the #1 and #2 stars. Now I’m ready for a little more depth in the website for middle schoolers. So I’ve included some weblinks below.

One of my favorite things to hand students is a simple bookmark with these titles to track their reading of the entire series. Yes, I have been known to copy the cover images and paste them into the bookmark to help keep interest high. I can’t wait until my new color printer arrives! I keep asking publishers to go online and create these for me to print out, but they don’t take me seriously enough about the demand. I wish publishers could see these bookmarks weeks down the road when students triumphantly announce they have read all the series. These are what I want to pick up at booths, not squishy balls and pens. Click here to view a pdf of this bookmark. 

Titles in the Series include:
Eli Manning and the New York Giants: Super Bowl XLII
Dexter Jackson and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Super Bowl XXXVII
Hines Ward and the Pittsburgh Steelers: Super Bowl XL
Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers: Super Bowl XXIV
John Elway and the Denver Broncos: Super Bowl XXXIII
Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams: Super Bowl XXXIV
Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts: Super Bowl XLI
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots: Super Bowl XXXVIII
Troy Aikman and the Dallas Cowboys: Super Bowl XXVII 

Rosen Publishing has a series new on my middle school shelves Inside College Football. Living in the SEC, I have learned to take this passion for football very seriously (mind you I’m still a soccer/ hockey/ volleyball/ basketball fan). These titles have been flying off the shelves every Monday and Friday as students prepare or rehash the weekend games.  The series is passionate about college football history, traditions, rivalries, and more. There are statistics for the die-hard fans and a definite appeal to reluctant readers. My book rep thought I’d need just our conference, but I am witnessing all of the series fly from the shelves.

Football in the SEC (Southeastern Conference) By Greg Roza ISBN: 978-1-4042-1919-9 © 2008 / Dewey: 796.332 List Price: $26.50 Interest Level: Grades 5 – 8, Reading Level: Grades 5 – 6.  

In the elementary school there are two football seasons – fall crunch time when our hometeam is playing and THE SUPER BOWL. For both I needed activities, videos, magazines, books, and current material. We’d do activities using the Almanacs to discuss statistics and integrate math. We’d use the Grolier Encyclopedia online and compare it to print encyclopedias to find out more about important moments in football history. This gave us the chance to discuss copyright dates and currency versus quantity and ease of use.

Many of my students like to share the sports books with family members (dads, grandparents, surrogates, grandmas). Some of the stars from previous years that we’d be tempted to dismiss lead to family discussions at home. Weeding football and sports biographies is a tough decision. Sometimes I’ve been known to wimp-out and only remove it when the book finally fell apart.

Websites to Support Football Interests:
What is the Super Bowl? Visit the NFL Official Super Bowl Site
NFLRush the official site for kids
Football Printables (ranked 4 of 5 stars)
How to read Roman Numerals from Dr. Math? (don’t tell me I’m the only one who had to think what L meant!)

I enjoy teaching validity, voice, reliability, etc. of web sites to students. For example, I viewed a group of boys "googling" football for kids and they found this ThinkQuest. They were going to list it immediately on their sources because they like the flaming word graphics. When I suggested they check the authors to see who created the site, they were dismayed to see the authors were 2 5th graders. Being burly 8th graders, they whacked each other around and teased themselves for stopping on the first play instead of going for the touchdown.

Climate Change

  • Posted on September 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Helen Orme contributes Climate Change to Bearport’s series Earth in Danger
ISBN: 978-1-59716-723-9  copyright 2009. 

This is a great title for grades 3-5, but I wanted to see how my middle school audience felt. I asked my book advisory students to take a look at some of the new High Interest Nonfiction titles on my preview shelf to find something that appealed to them this week. Three of them read Climate Change and came back to read me statements like these and relate them to what’s happening with the current hurricane season:

According to scientists, in the past 50 years hurricane wind speeds have increased by 50 percent. 

Hurricanes need warm ocean water to form. As seawater temperatures rise, scientists expect hurricanes to become more powerful and to last longer. 

"Hey!" they told me. "That’s coming true." <sigh> Shall I go over what informational texts and nonfiction means again. 

Take a peek inside to see how The Greenhouse Effect is described. This is an example of how high-interest nonfiction can be created that doesn’t diminish the reader. Students in grades three and four will be able to research to meet standards, but as my students told me "There’s stuff we need to know, too."

Climate Change explores the causes and effects of climate change as well as possible solutions. My middle schoolers spent the most time on the six pages at the back of "Just the Facts." They photocopied the page "How to Help" to run downstairs and show Ms J. She is choosing students for the Recycling Club and they thought their extra research might give them an edge. 

Perhaps these web sites will help:
EPA’s Climate Change for Kids.  
Global Warning: early warning signs
The National Science Foundation has created a very interesting site with a Global Climate exploratorium I can’t wait to continue exploring this so I can figure it out. Maybe I should put the advisory kids on it.
The Carbon Footprint Calculator
Pembina’s information is very timely as they count down to Copehagen
An interesting note as I was searching through NetTrekker was the preponderance of sites from Canada and not the U.S. Hmmmm? Need I say more. 

My personal note:
I spent this weekend trapped at home writing. Friday I was only able to put one gallon of gas in my car (using every nickel and penny in the car) knowing that I’d better save it for work this week. Nashville is experiencing a tremendous run on gas as people panic to fill up even when they don’t need it. Rumors go wild and web 2.0 technologies seem to stir up more trouble as people text, post on the Tennessean newspaper, and frantically speed-dial all their friends whenever they see a tanker filling up a station. I wanted to take photos, but didn’t want to contribute to the problem that is largely media-created. 

Isn’t it amazing that this week is National Stay-At-Home week as proposed by ABC TV so you can conserve gas and watch all the new TV shows? I think I’ll spend the week reading books. Gasp! Are you surprised?

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby

  • Posted on September 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby CoverHow can a positive picturebook full of joyful moments like winning the Kentucky Derby two times in a row make me sad? Because the underlying racial prejudice still exists. I celebrated the last black king – Jimmy Winkfield – as I read this with students. We rejoiced over his success and were thrilled with the descriptions of the race. 

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby by Crystal Hubbard. Illustrations by Robert McGuire. Lee & Low Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1-58430-274-2

Yet when I finished reading, the questions began. Is this true? We haven’t had a black jockey win the derby since 1902? Do they allow jockeys of any color or race to compete? Is there a rule against it? Why wouldn’t the horse’s owner want the best jockey no matter what race he was? Why was Jimmy Winkfield allowed to race and win so much in Europe but not the U.S.? Have there been any Asian jockeys? How about jockeys from South America? Are they racing and not winning, or not allowed to race?

Okay, Hubbard and McGuire, you two caused this by creating a suspenseful exciting picture book that middle school students related to as well as elementary. It seemed like a simple story of achievement that I was giving the students. The illustrations are okay – rough oil paintings with some details of mud but not the muscles. I have seen other paintings of horses that I like even better, why did the students enjoy this one so much. What drew them to this story?  Perhaps it was the writing. (You’ll have to read some of the students’ responses below) Perhaps the simplicity of the drawings maintains the quick flow of the story and keeps the pages turning.

Lee and Low books, you published this! Go on and give me some background information sources on the web so I can help students understand what prejudice is and how people changed in their treatment of others over the years.  Why was it acceptable to have 14 of 15 jockeys be black in the first Kentucky Derby on May 17, 1875, but Wink was the only black jockey in 1901?  Why were he and his daughter not allowed to enter the front door in 1961 for the Kentucky Derby Banquet?

Rats! I guess this is where being the librarian comes into play. I need to have more books ready for the students when they read this title. I need to have websites ready. I may even have to do some research myself on this topic. What? Only one of those students had ever seen or touched a real horse?! How am I going to get a real horse to school? We live in Tennessee – the home of the Walking Horse. There are horses near where I live in Mount Juliet. Oh, right, most of my students are living in the city.

Let’s see what else I can find out:

Wikipedia actually has some useful sources on Jimmy (Wink) Winkfield.

Let’s go check the Kentucky Derby’s official pages on African Americans in the Derby.
Aha! There was another black jockey, Marlon St. Julien,  recently. Whoops! He came in 7th. Hmm! There were some owners and trainers, but, nope, not many and not recently enough.

Uh, Oh! Women aren’t much more common as jockeys and trainers either.

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame has an article. I didn’t know that "during the Russian Revolution, he helped the racetrack community and 200 horses escape from Odessa on a 1,000-mile journey."

There’s more information in the U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 231 honoring Jimmy Winkfield. 

Okay, I found a couple of reviews, but where are all the comments? Somebody needs to go on Jacketflap, Shelfari, LibraryThing, or GoodReads, and start chatting. Hello, librarians, time to rise and shine. Go read this book and let’s have a chat over some coffee.

As for the racism involved, I’m going to throw this back to the teachers and say, "Your turn."

Here is what the students in Ms Rota’s class said:

It was great! It had great pictures. Was this a true story? It was a long story. My friends and I loved it. You’ve done a great job with this story, Ms Hubbard.

I like this book because I like the horse. I like all of the things that they had there and one day I want to see what they look like up close and I want to feed the horses.

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby is a good book, one of the best I’ve ever read. This book is about a black man that raced on horses all his life. You will love this book when you read this book.

I like this book very much. It is a great book to read and I think it is the best book ever.

He was very good at horse riding. He was very happy and I like it. It was exciting. I like when he got a whole lot of medals.

I really liked the story. It was good. It’s better than good. I think anybody would like to see this book because it is very interesting.

This book was the best book. Thank you ever so much Mrs. Chen for letting us read this.

The book is so good and I loved when he got to the Kentucky Derby. I love that book.

It was a really great story. You’re a good author and there are great pictures in the book.

You can learn more about this book from the publisher’s web site at Lee And Low Books.

Converse about the Boy Conundrum and abuse

  • Posted on September 20, 2008 at 6:09 AM

Let’s talk across blogs today. Marc Aronson has posted an insightful look at Open House and visiting a classroom through the eyes of a parent, nonfiction author, and champion of boys. Take a minute to go read it and then come back here because I want to discuss frustration. 

Our boys DO have feelings and these need to be recognized and respected. I have seen boys so angry about abuse they witness at home that they carry this frustration into the classroom to protest ALL injustices. They are looking for solutions and ways to deal with their emotions. You have heard about the stage when boys want to step up and "protect" others. The middle and high school ages are strong training grounds, but we don’t discuss this area anymore. Are we providing the tools to help boys cope? Are we helping them learn "realistic" techniques?

All of our students are learning what is right, what is wrong, and what could be either. They are learning what should be tolerated and what should be fixed. They are learning the "appropriate" responses to issues like bullying, abuse, violence, and protection. Yet, they witness in their homelives adults and children who aren’t coping like the textbook responses. The frustration builds because they see a problem – mom keeps taking abuse from dad – and they have been told the easy solutions – mom should get help, kick dad out, call the cops, etc. 

We don’t provide emotional training grounds for teens to deal with their emotions when the world doesn’t act the way they are being trained it should. The frustration builds. The students rebel. They walk around with their emotions screaming out of them. They demand solutions.  They need "someone" to swoop in and solve the problems. When this doesn’t happen, more frustration boils. 

We need counselors to come on these blogs and give us more concrete ideas how we can help these teens. We need outlets for expression. We need activities that we can do during advisory periods when we can actually help students grow emotionally. We need lists of books to share with all of the students on these topics. Whoops! I guess that’s where I can get to work. There are several new books with abuse at the core. I’ll be dashing into school and grabbing those to chat about this week because I don’t want this discussion to be a one-time blurb. 

My "L" story (to be continued the next 3 years)

I have several students who have "reputations." Fortunately the students know I am hearing impaired so they act as if I have never heard these rumors. (I do try to tune them out) The first day of school I met a sister who informed me that she was the good child and that her twin brother L was the demon of the family. When I met L in the next classroom, I made sure my responses to him were positive and I discovered he has a great wit. Throughout this month, I have asked L for help, expressed appreciation for his positive attitude, and taken the time to find out what he is interested in so I can locate things he is interested in. 

L is such a treasure to me and a wonderful spokesperson for the library. I know my efforts are worth it because he brought in another student yesterday who needed to get out of the hallway and calm down before some teenage girls created more havoc. The girls seem to like to "egg on" the boys and see just how far they can push them. L asked me, "Didn’t you have a catalog you needed him to look at for ideas?" 

Five minutes later they leave with a job, an excuse note, a great attitude, and a catalog to help me choose titles for our new graphic novel section. I don’t feel guilty about the lost instruction. The classroom teacher would have spent those 5 minutes taking role and dealing with an emotional meltdown if this student had walked in as he was. Instead we were able to provide peace, a little reinforcement on dealing with difficult girls, and a challenge that is real. I truly am gathering opinions from students and had "real" work to focus upon. 

What I need is guidance counselors out in the hallways and visible during transitions. Kids need to see them not just as the schedulers but also as the people who have quick ideas for handling situations, and as the people who care about them.

Who are you reaching out to this year? Who drives you batty the most? Why? What emotions is this student dealing with that are so overwhelming the child can’t act "human" in middle school? Who do you react negatively to and how can YOU change your own reaction? Can you do something positive and let your grudges go? Don’t make statements to me about this child always blah blah blah. Give the child room to change and then come talk to me. Find frustration outlets. Provide solace. Provide a space to "get it together again." Provide help areas where students can browse and no one knows what they are reading. Put those pamphlets on abuse around tables and magazine areas so students can glance through without looking like they are reading them. 

What other suggestions do you have? I’m open to them all. Tell me.

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat

  • Posted on September 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Wow! Want a reaction from faculty members? Bring in the new Nikki Giovanni title Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat and see what happens. 

I hadn’t finished listening to the entire CD that accompanies this beautifully illustrated poetry book on my way to school, so I plopped in the CD and cranked up the surround sound in my library while speakers prepared and teachers gathered. Just as the principal entered to begin our faculty meeting, we were able to listen to Martin Luther King, Jr’s speech from "I have a dream." It set the tone for our entire day. 

Throughout the morning, I replayed the entire CD while students came and went. I made sure to play and replay Eloise Greenfield’s poem Books. Visit SourceBooks website to see this page in larger format. The students can recite parts with me now

"I’ve got books on the bunk bed
books on the chair
books on the couch
And every old where
But   I   want     more       books….."

During the meeting, I carried the book from table to table and explained to teachers that I was gathering their opinions on the book. As each teacher traveled through the library (we have the only working printer in school), I pointed out unique aspects of different poems and challenged them to think of students who would benefit from the beat. 

What was their response? Absolutely 100% enrapturement. (Is that a word?) Every teacher of English and reading wrote down the information to order their own copy for their classroom collection. Eighth grade teachers agreed to work with me on a Poetry Slam this spring (with a mini jam this fall) using the surround sound and microphone in the library. Many teachers of math, science, and social studies wanted their own copy.

The art teachers were impressed with the illustrations and couldn’t wait to create more while listening to the CD.

The music teacher, AH!, the music teacher was the first to ask to borrow the book. She was doing an introduction to different types of music and had absolutely nothing on Hip Hop. She returned the book reluctantly with a promise that she could borrow it again until her copy arrived. She was so excited to hear Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight. She had already talked about it with the students, but couldn’t locate a copy for her curriculum. Along came Hip Hop Speaks to Children with everything she needed to discuss rhythm, beats, poetry, songs, and music. She also raved about the artwork.

Our consensus is Hip Hop Speaks to Children is the most essential poetry purchase to make this year. 

The poetry is enough.
The illustrations are enough.
The CD is enough.
Together, this book is a treasure of which you cannot get enough.

We shall accomplish much this year. Children will be encouraged to put their words to poetry and beats. Teachers will be encouraged to allow the artists to speak to children.

I was hesitating about writing about this title since Amy Bowlan wrote so eloquently about it this past week, but then I decided you deserve to keep having this title brought to your attention until you get out there and order several copies. 

I’m not another "joiner" in the blog world who writes about the same titles others do for the same reasons. Sometimes I work with a book for a month before gathering enough responses from librarians, students, and Nathaniel Talking (Writers and Readers)teachers to form a definitive approach. I had been studying this title and it is vital for you to have, so I decided to share what we have decided at my middle school. Thankfully the introduction of Hip Hop Speaks to Children helped me evaluate my poetry collection. None of my middle school teachers knew about Nathaniel Talking by Eloise Greenfield either. I can tell I have some work cut out for me this year. You cannot have a collection without Nikki Giovanni, Arnold Adoff, and Eloise Greenfield’s voices. I’ve got to get out the orders.

Becky’s Book Reviews had her blog post and listed Books as one of her favorite poems. This reassured me that we are on the same track to somewhere exciting. The excitement keeps building over this title and Hip Hop Speaks to Children is going to steam through your school. Order multiple copies.   

My First and why it should be Mi Primer

  • Posted on September 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

While struggling to meet the diverse language needs of my students, I have decided purchasing bilingual titles Enslow Publishers, Inc. K-12 Nonfiction Library Booksfrom Enslow is now one of my very first choices. If there is an English only set and a bilingual set available, with my limited resources, I’m going to choose the Bilingual set for my middle schoolers even if the ages targeted are younger.

Take the perfect example: My First Pet Bilingual Library from the American Humane Association and Enslow Publishers. Written by Linda Bozzo these 32 page titles are intended for grade levels 1-3 but perfectly met the needs of my 5 ELD (English Language Development) classes who are mainly at the very beginning levels of English. They were able to concentrate on extracting meaning and information rather than focusing upon difficult vocabulary and complicated sentence structure.

Having both English and Spanish on the same page including English and Spanish captions, fills some of the white space that would otherwise draw attention to the fact that these titles are written for beginning readers. The middle school students who tested these titles for me were not embarassed to be caught reading them by their friends. (Don’t laugh! That’s a big deal in middle school)

The students were engaged with the titles and pointed out the sentences that helped them the most were written in the second-person narrative like these:

"Your horse will need a grassy field to run and graze in. You can board your horse at a stable. This means you will have to pay someone to house your horse."

I wrote about my dashing into the ELD classroom and thrusting this series into poor Mr. S’s hands. "I NEED your students to tell me what they think of these titles," I begged. They chose to write a combination of opinion piece, review, and research study to tell me what they thought of the books. Here are some of the pages they shared with me. I did give them the option of writing in any language and reminded them that I wouldn’t be editing their responses. 

My First Fish

 Mi Primer Fish

Los peces doredo no viven no cristalina la mayoria de los pese tropicales nesesita aqua tibia. Tambien los pese tropicales nesesita mas cuidado. 
Tambien los pese del mar nesesitan aqua salade. The part que mes me gusta is Que necesitara mi nuevo pez?
Para que los peseras esten complete y para que los pesen no se nuevan nesesitas a air pump end thermometer. Esto is 10 que I like.

Mi primer pez/My First Fish
Author: Linda Bozzo
ISBN-13: 978-0-7660-3036-7
Publication Year: 2008
List price: $22.60
School & Library 
Discount: $16.95 
There are two different kinds of goldfish that I like. They are orange and the thing is that they are so cute. 

What I don’t like is that you have to clean the fish tank. 

I like all the kinds of fish but the one I most like is the goldfish and I have 5 goldfish’s. 

I don’t like cleaning the tank.

My First Guinea Pig and Other Small Pets
I like the book because it talks about animales like my favorite hamsters. I like hamsters because it is easy to take care of it. What I don’t like is that you have to put it in a cage and I don’t like that some of the hamsters are really messy.
Mi primera mascota pequena/My 
First Guinea Pig and Other Small Pets
Author: Linda Bozzo
ISBN-13: 978-0-7660-3037-4
Publication Year: 2008
List price: $22.60
School & Library 
Discount: $16.95 

I Don’t Like:
* I don’t like to clean the cage of my animal.
* I don’t like when my animal has long nails.
* I don’t like your eyes in the night. He is an animal ugly when I see your eyes in the night.

I Like:
* I like to play with my animal y so pretty.
* I like to give food in your mouth.
* I like when a hamster is white like when you see in the page #7 in this book.
* I like all animals beautiful.  

I like the picture how the book is illustrated and I think this book should be for sale.
My First Horse
  I liked that the book teaches you how to take care of horses. It teaches you where it should live, what to feed it, and what it will need.

What I didn’t like about the book is that it was short and I like reading nonfiction books that are at least 40 pages long.

Mi primer caballo/My First Horse
Author: Linda Bozzo
ISBN-13: 978-0-7660-3035-0
Publication Year: 2008
List price: $22.60
School & Library 
Discount: $16.95
This book is about horses. I like this book because abla como escojer un buen caballo. Y tambien abla de que existen many different kinds of horses. A great place to get a horse rescue group in otro buen lugar para conseguir cabllo es en sociedad humanitania. When picking a horse is good to have a vet look at the horse. Tambien nesesitas saber su edad y si tiene buena salud.
Este libro ese de caballos. A mi me encanto los paliminos. Los paliminos son mis favoritos su color me encunta estan hermoses. Me encanta que los veterinarios esten al pendiente de los caballos.
My First Bird
   No me gusto proque aleunas veces se enferman los pajantos y abeces se muenen leso es lo que a mi no me gusta.

Y lo que me gusta es que lo gana 1. Iimpia y puedes jugar con el y tambien le puedes ensena a hablar.

I don’t like because sometimes the birds is dead and is so sad.

I like teaching the bird. It is so pretty because you can lteach him to speak and he learns. I once had a bird in Honduras but he died.

Mi primer pajarito/My First Bird
Author: Linda Bozzo
ISBN-13: 978-0-7660-3034-3
Publication Year: 2008
List price: $22.60
School & Library 
Discount: $16.95

Description: Which bird is the best for me? 
Now in Spanish and English, with help from 
the American Humane Association, this book 
explores how to choose the right bird and how 
to care for your new pet. Learn what your 
new pet bird will need to stay healthy and 
happy in your home.

Well, about this book I like everything especially because it shows you how to keep your pet clean and safe. And 1 thing I don’t like? Well, I like everything about it and I don’t dislike anything. 

Bueno sobre este libro me gusta todo especialmente porque te ensena como cuidar a tus animales y mantener los limpios y seguros. Y una cosa que no me gusta bueno me gusten todo sobre el libro Y no ay ninguren cosa que no me gusta.

My First Dog


I like that dogs have all kinds of sizes. I can pick a kind of dog or pupply. 

I do not like that with dogs you have to go outside and wait for 45 minutes just to poo or pee. 

I like about this that you can get a collar with a tag and have fun with dogs. 

I do not like when they are just born or we have to wait when they are very little.

Mi primer perroo/My First Dog
Author: Linda Bozzo
ISBN-13: 978-0-7660-3032-9
Publication Year: 2008
List price: $22.60
School & Library 
Discount: $16.95
A great place to find a dog is at an animal shelter.

Some people adopt dogs from friends or neighbors. 

There are many dogs and animals that need families. 

A dog should have his own special place to sleep or rest.

A dog will need food and clean water.

The book is right. It is so exciting to have a dog as a pet. And it’s right because it does bring in love and fun in the family. 

But the most scariest thing is seeing your dog to the doctor to get a shot. It’s very scary because, your dog as soon as he sees the needle, it starts to cry. It’s very scary. 

But the most cutest thing is when you come home and see your dog waiting for you to come.

My First Cat
   I like this book because it tells me how to take care of cats and what you should do to make sure it’s healthy. And what to do to find a pet? You need a microchip.
Mi Primer Gato/My First Cat
Author: Linda Bozzo
ISBN-13: 978-0-7660-3033-6
Publication Year: 2008
List price: $22.60
School & Library 
Discount: $16.95
My first cat

I like to play with the cats. But I don’t like to wash the box. Watching them is fun. I like clear eyes. Cats like to play with me. I like brown and white hair.

My favorite thing about cats is how you can take care of them. The cats are really cute. All the tips are good tips in this book. 

The thing I don’t like about cats is that their hair falls out a lot. And the cat litter stinks a lot.

Elaine Landau asks "What Would You Do?"

  • Posted on September 8, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Enslow Publishing and the lovely Elaine Landau have created a new series "What Would You Do?" that must be in your elementary and middle school collections. The queen has spoken. Go get them now! What? You question me?! You’re just like my children. I tried commanding them and it didn’t work either. <sigh> They said we live in a democracy and they get to participate in the decisions being made. I guess I shall have to tell you more about these titles. Then you decide what you will do.

This is a visually appealing series. From the cover with its historical illustration and speech bubble coming from the mouth of George Washington (and others) with the words "What Would YOU Do?" you get the idea that this series may be more than just a historical book of facts about periods and incidents in American history. Each double-page spread is well-conceived with a mixture of maps, archival photos, and even modern photographs of items like the Delaware River choked with ice in winter. 

The text is very readable and engaging. Students will want you to continue to read and will seek out additional information from the resources listed in the end. Author Elaine Landau has a great talent for taking complex incidents in history and writing them in a new and appealing way for readers to be involved. Instead of a recitation of dry events, a story of the past is shared using vocabulary and sentence structure to interest students from the beginning English learners to the gifted and talented strong academics. The text is written for third and fourth graders; however, the content will be of interest through middle school. (I know, I tried it out on my U.S. History classes. My ELD and newly immigrated students were also very enthusiastic.

Look at George Washington Crosses the Delaware: Would YOU Risk the Revolution? This book will surprise you with the amount of historical details about many aspects of General Washington’s army that winter and the enemy they fought – the hired Hessians and the British. Each chapter ends with an interactive box of questions and possible answers. Students and teachers will be unable to resist the lure of interacting and second-guessing the decisions these leaders faced. Give students time to actually make a choice, then turn to the next chapter and read-on to see what decisions were made in history. It is acceptable to pause and ask the students who made the "correct" decision based upon hindsight. 

Examine The Revolutionary War Begins Would YOU Join the Fight? and you’ll gain needed background information about why the war began and what happened before 1776. At one point the Sons of Liberty needed to warn people that the British were coming. Haven’t you wondered why it was such a big deal? What was the real reason this was significant? Please don’t just give me facts. Entertain me with a story and involve me in empathizing with those who made choices. Aha! That’s exactly what Elaine does. 

What’s the effect? When you finish reading these 44 pages and look at the timeline, you realize the story of history continues and you want, no NEED!, more information. How many of these titles can Elaine write? If we’d had these earlier, students would have never decried studying history.

Some of the other titles in this series I examined:
The Louisiana Purchase Would YOU Close the Deal?
The California Gold Rush Would YOU Go For the Gold?
The Battle of Gettysburg Would YOU Lead the Fight?
The Emancipation Proclamation Would YOU Do What Lincoln Did?

Okay, I have laid out the facts. Appealing titles, high browsability, strong stories that lend themselves to being read aloud to large groups, interactive titles that involve the readers, accurate facts with details not found in other titles like this…. What will you do? Will you rush out and purchase the entire series? Yes, of course you will. I can see the next chapter already when you are joining me in writing to Elaine Landau pleading for more tales.