You are currently browsing the archives for February 2009.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 26 entries.

The library as changeable space

  • Posted on February 28, 2009 at 8:42 PM

Have you ever stood at the circ desk and surveyed your library when it was orderly with everything put away? This so seldom happens for me and is usually on a Friday night. Perhaps many of you find that you have one of the largest, most comfortable rooms in the school. Gyms don’t invite people to relax and can be too big. Cafeterias often smell and their seating is terribly uncomfortable. Where else can people and events go? To the library of course.

Move the chairs. Measure the floor space. Estimate how many projects per shelving unit. There is just not enough space!

That’s how I found myself on a Thursday trying to frantically arrange the library to host 400 project boards for National History Day the next day. Ignore the trashed biography shelves behind me. When every class in school does Black History research, you try to maintain order! 

Remember this occurred during the basketball conference tournament we held and for which I stayed to work all 5 nights. I had to help set up the space in the library and relinquish control. The teachers and some students stayed to set up project boards.

Be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom to see that immediately after school on Friday we took all these down, rearranged the library again in preparation for the next day’s reception with dignitaries and a 65-person band. The band director loved the sound so much he wanted to trade rooms. Not a chance, Kirk!


Enlist students to help setup projects. Use the floor space, walls, windowsills, everything.

Stack projects on chairs and below chairs.

Hide the computers. Use the floor space, table space, chairs.

Measure shelf top space and paperclip the edges together to create more space.

As far as your eye can see. Use the lights as reference to guess how many rows.

Projects everywhere.

We kept two terminals available if you could get to them.

Then off to survey their actual work. Did they cite their primary & secondary sources? Data Stem (our student intern) had taught the lesson. Did they show what they’d learned?

This project differentiated, also.

Oops! This project prompted reteaching on citations. Ms Chen is in corner banging her head on the wall. Lovely project. Great work for ELD student. ACK! Sources!! See I show my failures in this blog.

Great use of vivid colors. Now I need to reteach citing sources of images used, too.

This was creative use of a color scheme with the map as background. Lots of captions, too.
Aha! The teacher told me she’d been teaching media messages in history. This student paid attention and included many historical messages.

This was one of my favorites for design with the use of color & captions. The best aspect was the student personally chose this topic and related her reaction to facts learned. Research can be very personal.

March Theme for Carnival

  • Posted on February 28, 2009 at 7:38 PM

From the Kidlitosphere:  Jenny Schwartzberg of  the Wonder Land of Books blog announced this week that the March Carnival of Children’s Literature theme should be anything Irish, about the country, culture, literature history, anything Irish-American, or even something green for St. Pat’s. Let your imagination work and have fun! It’s entirely up to you to take it on or to give her something else you want to share and she’ll say something Irishy in the cover text.

The deadline for submission is Friday March 25th and Jenny will put the Carnival up Sunday March 27th. Remember, you go to and submit your link. Plenty of time to pick a post and theme.

Hmmm! Something Irish or green. I think I’ll be posting about money this month since I have been listening to the new Suze Orman book on CD Women and Money while driving to visit children. How about you?

Rule #6 BUI only with friends

  • Posted on February 26, 2009 at 7:20 PM

Wait! Wait! I’m talking about Blogging Under the Influence. Who you read has a tremendous impact on what you think. Who do you allow to influence your opinion on literature and children’s services?

Have you visited the February Carnival of Children’s Literature which was hosted on the Imaginary Blog this month? The Carnival is a unique collection of posts from the kidlitosphere blogs related to each month’s theme. February’s theme was We love Children’s (and YA) Books. 

Lynn E. Hazen asked bloggers to "Tell us what you love about reading, reviewing, writing, or illustrating children’s (and YA) books. What do you love about getting good books into the hands of children and youth? What do you love (or even what breaks your heart) about the world of children’s books?" Please go check out the compilations. 

Share a Story - Shape a FutureMarch 9 to 13, 2009, where will you be? Participating in Share A Story – Shape a Future of course! From their announcements:

Within the kidlitosphere, the children’s literature bloggers comprise and reach a very broad audience. One of the group’s greatest assets is its collective, community-minded approach to sharing information and ideas. Through events like blog tours, authors and illustrators have had wonderful opportunities to share their story and their craft. Given the success of tours for "producers," what about an event for and by the people who create and engage their readers: teachers, librarians, parents, and people passionate about literacy?

Voila! Share a Story – Shape a Future is just that event. This is an ensemble effort not only to celebrate reading among those of us who already love books, but to encourage each other to reach beyond ourselves and do it in a way that we are neither judging nor instructing others. This is a venue for communicating practical, useable, everyday ideas.

Fuse#8 blogged about this earlier and will be a participant, but since it’s such a "big" event, I had to mention it here, too. I’m all about the practical and usable ideas! In addition to the press release, now there is a facebook group and a page for tweeters

Readers, sometimes we are influenced by people who are not our friends. Sometimes you have to read what they write just so you can get annoyed, angry, and totally P.O.’d. In case you missed this post by the Annoyed Librarian, I thought I’d include the link. 

Now I’m off for more medication so I need to stop blogging. After the shots, x-rays, breathing treatments, and medications I endured today, it’s time to just curl up and read. No more BUI. I’m off to focus on breathing.

Mexican Immigrants in America – You Choose books

  • Posted on February 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Today’s review: Mexican Immigrants in America: An Interactive History Adventure by Rachael Hanel. A Capstone Press YOU CHOOSE series title, 2009. ISBN 9781429620130. Students who read Mexican Immigrants in America will benefit from this well-plotted introduction to the facts and the feelings behind Mexican immigration.

With three story paths, 43 choices, and 17 endings, this title will keep your students reading to the end (at least one of the 17).  When this title arrived, I immediately walked across the hallway to Dr. Scott for his professional opinion as the teacher of our ELD classes. He agreed to have students look at it. Less than an hour later he asked if he could keep it longer since the majority of his students were wanting to read the title on their own. Four weeks later he brought it back to me, stood in the doorway, and gave me two thumbs up. "It was a hit!" he said. 

It turns out most of his students took turns reading this title. They sat in small groups chatting about the book and relating it to their own experiences. Many of these students insist they read very little English so they cannot do the homework, yet they remarkably became adept enough to read through many endings of this 110 page book. This story was written at a third-fourth grade level, is intended to interest grades 3-7, but it held tremendous appeal to my 7th and 8th graders. 

The adults who read Mexican Immigrants in America were amazed at how complex this series is. While at first glance you might dismissively say it’s a history version of the Choose Your Own Adventure series, there is a great deal of factual, societal, and historical information inside. I felt saddened, hopeless, and desperate as I read various paths. "Why is immigration so difficult?" I kept wondering. You realize that everything in here is a real possibility and is based upon a real person’s events. The full-color photographs help anchor the plot possibilities in reality.

This series is a Finalist of the 2008 Distinguished Achievement Award for the Association of Educational Publishers. The series was also reviewed in Library Media Connection, Vol. 26, No. 5, Page 73, February 2008. 

I understand journals that use their limited space to review only one title in a series, but that doesn’t do justice to your needs as the reader/purchaser. That’s the advantage bloggers have over print publications. We can pick and choose titles throughout a series that need attention drawn to them. Mexican Immigrants in America is one such title. 

I was happy to open my latest box from Junior Library Guild to find another copy of this book. It came as the March selection for B+ Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5-7). If you were a member, you’d have access to their detailed guides for each book that include curriculum suggestions. Here are a couple snippets from JLG’s review:  "The second-person narrative draws in readers from the beginning, as they are encouraged to make choices that will determine their fates…The deprivation that impoverished Mexicans face in their native country is particularly striking, as are the working conditions some immigrants experience in the United States…The interactive format makes this a good choice for reluctant readers." Don’t you wish you could go read all of their reviews?
Crossing the Wire
If you aren’t a member of Junior Library Guild, you will have to content yourself with going to the Capstone site and exploring their new features Related Fiction and Titles Like This. I suggest you pair this title with Will Hobbs’ Crossing the Wire. If I had the funds, I’d purchase enough of Crossing the Wire so we could do a One Book, One School program.
This year I have been introducing middle schooler’s into the concept of putting yourself in the story. Blame it on the number of ESL, immigrant, or financially impoverished students in my population, blame it upon parents who don’t make reading exciting when students are young, blame it on Choose Your Own Adventure books wearing out and disappearing off shelves, or even blame it upon dwindling budgets that force libraries to meet curriculum needs instead of recreational ones. There are many "things" to which we can attach blame. Blaming won’t solve the problem that many of my students cannot read a text and empathetically put themselves into the place of the main character.

Readers, I should note that I did find new and revised editions of Choose Your Own Adventure books out and have purchased a set to help my students. I also want to say thank you to Capstone Press for counting the plots for me. I have a weird brain that makes me compulsively follow all paths, endings, etc. and count them in books like this so you took some pressure off my already overloaded mind.

Nostaligia – Hope Chests

  • Posted on February 22, 2009 at 6:48 AM

Lane Company advertisement Wooden toy boxes big enough to hold a child or all of our toys when we put them away. Jewelry Boxes made of wood and shaped like treasure chests. Wood lockers for my sons. My mother’s wood chest in her bedroom filled with her most precious memory items.  These are a few of my favorite things. But I never had a hope chest and I’m still dreaming. 

I often tell people that I grew up a hundred years ago. It seems that some aspects of my childhood were not the typical ones you may have experienced. In fourth grade for our celebration of the Bicentennial of the United States, I was able to wear my great-grandmother’s button-up shoes complete with shoe hook. How many of you were able to just walk into the basement and pull out a turn of the century wardrobe piece? We grew up with the wood and glass china cabinet holding our special china treasures passed down from girl to girl. The wooden trim in my parent’s house is neary 10 inches tall. The staircase was created by my great-grandfather when he took this home built in the 1860’s and moved it to the current location and remodeled it.

Being a good and dutiful girl in the Midwest, I was part of the local 4-H club, the Quimby Quorum. One day I visited one of the leaders’ homes and saw the HOPE CHEST of her oldest daughter Laura who was a senior in high school. She showed me everything and explained that she had been sewing linens and adding decorations to towels, beddings, pillowcases, and more in preparation for her upcoming marriage. Inside she had special dishes, silverware, and a unique variety of objects she had been accumulating for 6 years (junior and senior high school).  Her wooden chest was beautiful, but most attractive were the dreams inside. All of us left wishing we had a hope chest.

I thought of this yesterday when I was washing my favorite 25-year old spoon. All seniors in our 4-H club were able to visit the local jewelry store in Cherokee, Iowa, and pick out one spoon that was their favorite. This spoon was engraved with the 4-H symbol, year, and our club name. It was presented during one of our meetings so all the girls could see, hold, and covet. Their intentions were that this would be the first piece of silverware in our future collection. 

Coming from a less-than-wealthy family, it was several years before I was at the point of being able to purchase any of the set. Carrying my infant son, I rushed into a jewelry/silverware store in Chicago to seek the pattern – only to discover they had stopped making it. My dreams were not going to come true and I was never going to own that silverset. Well, I still didn’t own a cedar chest either, so I didn’t worry too much about it. 

Through the years and while I was working for a major department store,  I have watched new brides put together their bridal registry lists and I have contemplated the manner they do this. Some would treasure and plan for the moment. They’d bring their maid of honor or their mother and a list. Others would simply grab the tool and race around the store zapping every item that caught their eye. Examine a few wish lists for couples now and you’ll be amazed at the number of garden hoses, beer steins, and daily objects like garbage cans that appear. 

Since I was in a nostalgic mood, I decided to do some "incidental curiousity" research on hope chests. Of course Wikipedia had an article and it helped me tie in some feelings I’d had, but never connected. When I lived in Germany, one of my neighbors gave me parts of her German schrank. Even though it is extremely heavy, I love these true wood pieces and have moved them with me 4 times.The concept of the schrank is related to these hope chests – no wonder I love it. From wikipedia I learned:

The peak of the hope chest as folk art came with the waves of European immigrants to America. Many of these, from Scandinavia to the Northern Midwest and Germans in Pennsylvania, had long traditions of plainly constructed chests with extensive painted decoration.

Other terms used were:  hope chest, dowry chest, cedar chest, or glory box. I learned this was a common coming-of-age rite until approximately the 1950s. Viewing where I grew up and my Scandinavian ancestry, there were still people practicing this in the late 1970’s. The Lane Company produced many chests and I can remember viewing these through windows and in furniture stores until the company closed in 2001. 

According to the Virginia Historical Society from whom I found the photo of the ad above:

Reaching new heights of production and prosperity in the 1920s, Lane began to advertise its products nationally. These advertisements sought to equate the ideal of domesticity with a Lane "Hope Chest," in which a young woman stored clothing or home furnishings in anticipation of marriage. This was summed up in the company’s tag line: "The gift that starts the home."

Lane advertisements reached a high point during World War II, persuading thousands of GIs leaving for overseas to purchase a Lane Hope Chest for the sweethearts they were leaving behind. Ads combined romantic images of men in uniform and their fiancees with patriotic slogans and the well-known face of national spokeswoman, and symbol of all things American, Shirley Temple.

Learning all of this, I can see why I was destined to love the idea of having a hope chest. My father, grandfather, great-grandfather and so on were carpenters. They worked with wood and we grew up admiring solid woodwork. My dresser is made of solid wood not plyboard and has stayed with me over 30 years. My sons love wooden boxes, seachests, and footlockers. My #3 son has been studying cabinet-making in high school – which totally thrills me. When we lived in Germany, I loved the wooden toys, nesting boxes, and all things demonstrating carpentry ability. One of my favorite stories had the characters traveling through a wardrobe into another world (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).

Society has changed. It is no longer the single-minded goal of every young girl to grow up and get married. I myself have outlasted two marriages (to non-carpenter lads). Still, I will always cherish the love of wooden boxes, treasure chests, and places to put my dreams and hopes. Instead of linens, I wonder what I would gather today. Memories? Photographs? My dainty crochet works? The baby blankets I sewed for my sons? The beautiful jewelry from Taiwan? My favorite Polish pottery or German teapots? My favorite books? My dreams may have changed, but I will still gather memories and hopes.

I discovered a book on Google Books and on Amazon today called Treasure Chests: The Legacy of Extraordinary Boxes by Lon Schleining. You should really click the link and look at the photographs. Also, see the Library Journal review: 

Wooden chests have served many purposes throughout the centuries; they’ve held tools, the possessions of sailors, and the future housewares of brides often their owner’s most precious things. Schleining’s survey is part history and part picture book, with a multitude of colorful photographs supplementing the text. Nearly every chest is accompanied by a fascinating story; some of the chests have been in the same family for generations. Of particular interest is a section of unusual chests, including a "corpse preserver" (with an ice compartment) that was once used by undertakers. This interesting book is best suited for comprehensive public library collections.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. 

I think I’m off to the local library today to see if they have this title. Maybe I need to view some of the antique stores in Lebanon, TN, to see if any chests have appeared. Unfortunately, it seems everyone who has a well-made chest, keeps it. 

May you have a day of dreaming and hoping.


  • Posted on February 21, 2009 at 7:58 AM

I have been explaining why people "Facebook". Notice I am using this as a verb now. For everyone who isn’t part of the facebook phenom I want to remind you that according to Mark Zuckerberg  "More than 175 million people use Facebook. If it were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world." 

When Facebook administrators attempted to change their Terms of Use (TOU) recently, people reacted hysterically with some absurd claims amidst the reality of legitimate concerns. It became a bandwagon to join to decry Facebook’s stealing your information and claiming that what you created was now theirs – bwahaha. 

A good thing about this instant reaction was that Facebook is offering an unparalled opportunity to help re-examine their TOU to revise them to more easily explain the purpose and intentions. I hope you will join the group to thoughtfully consider new issues in web2.0 connectivity. When someone states something that seems ridiculous, why don’t you do as I do and go back to the original source and specificially ask them if this is what they intended? Instead of disseminating mayhew and madness, let’s participate in the groups that are revising and clarifying.

From the group Facebook Bill of Rights & Responsibilities, Here are responses to some of the things you’ve written below:

1.  You own your information. Facebook does not. This includes your photos and all other content.

2. Facebook doesn’t claim rights to any of your photos or other content. We need a license in order to help you share information with your friends, but we don’t claim to own your information.

3. We won’t use the information you share on Facebook for anything you haven’t asked us to. We realize our current terms are too broad here and they make it seem like we might share information in ways you don’t want, but this isn’t what we’re doing.

4. We will not share your information with anyone if you deactivate your account. If you’ve already sent a friend a message, they’ll still have that message. However, when you deactivate your account, all of your photos and other content are removed.

5. We apologize for the confusion around these issues. We never intended to claim ownership over people’s content even though that’s what it seems like to many people. This was a mistake and we apologize for the confusion.

That is pretty straightforward. Now they need to go find a way to incorporate this in their TOU. You can help. Why would you want to? Some of you are still telling me that "I’m too busy to join" LM_NET, ALA, aaslforum, nings, wikis, blogs, twitter, facebook, etc.  How could you possibily incorporate it into your life? 
One of the ways I’ve explained it is to compare my life activities at various stages in the past. When I was growing up in a small town, we’d go to school, gossip on the bus home, and then call each other from the one phone in the house. Mine was in the kitchen on a long cord, but everyone in the family would walk in to eavesdrop while they were getting food, making dinner, cleaning, going in and out of the house, etc. There was limited privacy and opportunity. If Dad was on the phone talking racing and cars, we’d never get a chance to talk to friends. The next morning we’d wait for the bus huddled in groups and update everyone on our evening. 

In college at Buena Vista, we had mainframe computers and suddenly IM’ing networks where we could work on our projects all hours of the day and still be connected. We could even play interactive networked games – I chased Romulans many a late night. Then the custodians would kick us out to clean the lab a couple hours each night (3-5am) and we’d anxiously wait for the chance to reconnect. While we were working on the computers, we’d sometimes stand on chairs and yell over the partitions or surprise someone by running over to talk to them personally. We’d organize study groups by going to tell people in various buildings on campus and hope they got the message. 

When online companies like aol, compuserv, etc. came out, we joined so we could develop new networks of friends and email buddies. We’d rush home to reconnect. We developed online listserv’s like LM_NET so we could create groups of interest and connect. We kept updating the way we connected so we could be part of a community.

When I lived overseas in Europe the second time, I had less access but I developed more face-to-face groups with other military spouses and families. We’d gather on the playground and at meetings of homeschool parents or parents of DoDDS school groups to share. When something bad would happen to one of our military families, a child would run from apartment to apartment letting us know we needed to go meet in say,  Ms Celeste’s room. Then we’d plan how to help or organize responses. We had phones, but face to face was best. We’d lose contact with our friends as they were deployed to other places. 

Then we tried programs like, but these cost money and not all of our friends would pay for the same levels of access so we could openly communicate.

Now we have our email and internet access on our phones, schools, work, and home computers so we can stay connected as much as we want. I still immediately check out my email, messages, blogs, RSS feeds, etc. to see who is doing what so I can feel like I am still an active part of my friends and families even though I’m far away and not on the same time schedule with them. I have more opportunities to share because I am not dependent upon a single phone line or access point and someone else’s schedule. 

If I want to know how my cousin Denise’s date went, I can check in with her by leaving a quick note on Facebook. If I want to know how a piece of legislation is going to affect my school, I can visit that group and read updates asynchronomously. I can get the information I want WHEN I want it. I determine how connected I want to be. I do not have to befriend anyone or allow them access to my content on Facebook. I can create groups within my friends so the close family members posts are foremost and my library buddies may be a little lower in priority.

I do not befriend everyone who asks – particularly students. Yet, everyone with computer access can read my blog and track my activities. People can google me to read everything I create on the internet (note I am not the Diane Chen who was recently arrested in Taipei). 

On Facebook, I can create mini communities of my friends and share information with them almost like we were huddling on the bus stop again. I may return home to an emptier house each evening, but I can log on to Facebook and feel a little bit closer to the rest of humanity. Sometimes I post homey things. Sometimes I post something for a reaction. Sometimes I just respond to my friends post. It’s like being in the group and nodding your head, or chiming in. Only you don’t have to wait for the popular people to stop hogging the conversation. You can chime in at any time. 

If you haven’t tried Facebook, it really is easy to begin. I’d suggest you create an account, search for one of your friends who is on Facebook and send a friend request. Take it slow and don’t start clicking on every application and "request" for games, etc. that comes your way. I’m sorry but I just won’t play the Mafia game with you because I have determined I’m too busy for that.

Begin by simply joining the conversation and the community and make decisions about how you want to be involved. If the only thing you want to do is log on, click on a friend’s name and see what they posted on their status line, start there. 

If you want to be connected to a huge number of school librarians, send a personal message with your request and we’ll recommend some other friends for you. Explore who your friend has befriended and you might realize you know others. Then click to add them to your network. They will have to decide if they know you, also, so it might take a couple days for them to log on.

If you just aren’t that excited, simply don’t log on every day. If you only want to check in once a month, you have the control to do that. I do get the monthly "Mommy!" message from #1 son when he gets out of the field and just wants to say hi. You can receive messages in your inbox, you can receive status updates, and you can control how much of your information others see. What would it hurt to try?

Heard in the stacks

  • Posted on February 20, 2009 at 8:47 PM

Thought I’d share a couple quick comments I heard in the library stacks lately.  A resource teacher came in to tell me: "Those students we "forced" to check out a book this week cannot be pried loose from reading. During the entire advisory period they read." She has no discipline problems and they are totally obsorbed. 
Book Cover
"What are they reading?" you readers ask me… the new Orca Soundings books we ordered. My good teacher friend Susan took time while her class was also in the library to booktalk these to the students of another class and we watched them reluctantly check out a book for the first time in months. The result was a bunch of converted readers. YES! This is why we spent money on Orca and other publishers who create books of high interest for lower reading ability levels. I don’t have Death Wind yet, but wouldn’t you read it just based on the cover? Susan is making me peel off the barcodes that hide some of the text and move them on the back cover to the bottom. She says our reluctant readers need to be able to read the entire paragraph on the back to interest them. They aren’t willing to invest as much time in a book if they can’t read the excerpt. What do you think?

Several boys were checking out football books about the SEC conference. When I asked them if they like the football books, they raved about them. I asked, "Should I purchase some of the other conference football books then?" and they said to me "There are other conferences?! Yes, sure, we’d read them." Guess, I’ll be heading back to Rosen Publishing for more titles. 

Maybe I’ll slip in a few basketball and other sports’ titles. I wish more companies put out wrestling, volleyball, soccer, and track books. The students who participate in those sports often feel neglected. They come in to ask, but don’t find what they need. 

Another resource teacher returned the 50 book "class set" of various titles I checked out to her room so I could choose another 50 titles. She was bemoaning the fact that one  book was nearly destroyed from "over-reading." It turns out the Eyewitness Football book was the absolute favorite title in her room. Her boys would come in every day and pull it out to read in a huddled mass. My assistant assured me we have 10 copies of the book, so we are repairing it, discarding it, and putting it in the teacher’s permanent classroom library so they can continue to read it. I’ll even put a note inside letting them know the library has more copies. 

 We also have the "greatest" books from Edge books (Capstone Press) like The Greatest Football Records. It’s strange, but I haven’t seen or put away this book since it went on the NEW BOOK display shelve.  Team Spirit - Football - Tennessee Titans

Norwood House has the series "Team Spirit" that has captured my students attention. They’ve realized they can tie their recreational reading into fun computer searching as they look for other books in the set. Now they want more basketball, baseball, and football titles. I think we’ve created monsters. They are learning they can seek, request, and receive books they want.

When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton

  • Posted on February 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

When the Whistle Blows is a surprising first-novel that will especially appeal to your boys and young men. It is a growing up novel that includes scenes reminiscent of Richard Peck’s Long Way from Chicago and has a classical mannerism that will steam its way on to state award lists all over the country. 

Rituals at midnight. Launching cabbages at the enemy. Eerie cemetery scenes. Death. Humor. Families joining together to thwart the tyrants in charge. The joys of living in the Appalachians especially hunting, swimming, and being outdoors. Looming changes hanging over your head as you are growing up.

I particularly love the way author Fran Cannon Slayton incorporates changes in technology (from steam engines to diesel train engines) to show how all of life in a community is impacted. This will lead to a great discussion of how economies are impacted when "improvements" occur. Students who are facing the question "what will you do when you graduate?" can empathize with main character Jimmy as he sees his life-goals changing and options disappearing for the life he imagined. 

Each chapter begins on All Hallow’s Eve which happens to be Jimmy’s father’s birthday. Starting in 1943 and ending in 1949 Fran Cannon Slayton shares not only growing up, but also the intensity of a father-son relationship that changes as Jimmy becomes a man. The tension grows throughout as you, the reader, realize Jimmy’s father is ailing. You want to warn Jimmy to appreciate every moment, each year, but you rejoice as you see him growing and becoming his own man. 

This novel is fresh, smart, witty, warm, well-written, funny — all those great adjectives you want to see and that help tip you over the purchasing edge. But it is also SO BOY. I love that. It is something to embrace and to not be ashamed. There is drama and there is football. It is a celebration of living with each new "birth"day chapter, but it is also a recognition of the part of death in our lives. Death is a mystery, a crossing point, a cry, a laugh, a letting-go, a grieving, and a ritual part of living. 

Sometimes you don’t realize how much a book impacts you until someone else asks you what you thought of it. So is the case of When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton. I read it in one sitting and could not put it down. I thought about it and thought about how to review it, but kept putting it off to think. Then, another librarian asked me if it was any good.

What? Any good? This is an amazing novel. You won’t get to see it until June, 2009, but you will want to go ahead and pre-order it. To the Teachers at my school who read over my shoulder, I am sorry but you cannot have my advanced reading copy. I like it so much that I actually wrote in it, dog-eared pages, and flagged some of my favorite scenes. Do I want you showing students that sometimes these sacred library books become more than clean pages to glance over and preserve? Do I want you showing students that fictional novels can become an important part of determining who you are? Do I want students to know that books are worthy of study, thinking, and re-reading? Well, maybe I’ll let you borrow it but only until I can get the final hardcover.

You will definitely want to check out Fran’s website. She includes teaching information for librarians and teachers plus the extras we want to see in this ever connected world. Be sure to read about Fran’s secret dream when she was writing When the Whistle Blows. There are some wonderful advance reviews out which made it hard for me. I wanted to purely read and develop my own opinion so any gushing on my part is purely involuntary and not just "me-too"ing. After reading, I did love the details in the Goodreads review by Jennifer Stradling from fame. You’ll be happy to note that Betsy Bird of AFuse#8 has reviewed this, also.

"The freezing water weighs down our clothes, but our hearts float high in the current, arms linked as we cross the river side by side. It’ll take hours for our clothes to drip-dry as we sit and talk on the bridge, but we don’t mind. We’ve got no place to go. We’ve got nothing but time. It’d be okay by me if this night just went on and on forever. And my father will never know."

So ends one chapter in the middle of this warm and witty debut novel by Fran Cannon Slayton. I’m sharing that quote because it shows throughout this 176 page novel the beautifully written language that sneaks into this story of life, death, change, and growing up in West Virginia. Yet at the same time, it brings us back to growing up and the impact this father has had on the main character. 

Dear Teacher, Please excuse this student to class

  • Posted on February 15, 2009 at 7:50 AM

In the follow-up to my post on how Stone Arch’s new DC Superheroes books got us into trouble, here is Michael Dahl’s answer when I wrote his publisher asking for an excuse note for class:

YES. Wouldn’t it be cool it you had a form printed up and I could sign it and say the kids missed class or were late due to “further literacy exploration and development.” ?  I would gladly sign it!
So, readers, now instead of reviewing everything I have scheduled this week to do, I am composing excuse notes in my mind. Which of these should I sent Michael to sign?

Dear Teacher,

Please excuse the following students and allow them to enter class. 

They were engaged in further literacy exploration and development in the library. 


Michael Dahl

Dear Teacher,
 Great books are meant to be enjoyed by students. So sorry your students chose my excellent books to read instead of attending your boring class. 

The author

Dear Teacher, 

Life-long learning is a goal of a sound educational program. To assist you in inspiring students to read and self-select novels, I have devoted my time to writing interesting books that students like to read. I am sure you realize this is an important goal and will excuse the following students from class while they pursue their interests in the library.

The Inspirational author of fun series and nonfiction books

Dear Teacher, 
Remember when learning occurred beyond the walls of the classroom? I’m sure you cannot blame these students for wanting to read. Thank you for allowing them to enter class without hassling them. This will aid in helping them conceptualize that you really were a child once a long time ago. 
The author
Dear Teacher, 

I confess. It’s all my fault. I believe if I write good books, students will read them. I apologize for writing such dog-gone fascinating books that the students forget to return to class. 

The author

Dear Teacher,

Statistics show that the amount of free-choice reading students engage in directly impacts their reading abilities. 

Please join the following students in the library to explore the great new series I have written. Your participation and modeling of reading is an essential part of a well-rounded education. (And you might actually enjoy the library books)

The author

Would you like to help me write more? Please comment below. Remember the darn comment code needs to be in all-caps.

Off-topic: Witches, Vampires, Werewolves & more

  • Posted on February 15, 2009 at 7:22 AM

I love my YA supernatural books with witches, vampires, werewolves and all the other non-human characters. Sometimes I need much more  – something like the delightful Kim Harrison The Hollows series. Today I paid attention to my Hollows newsletter, following all the links, reading the first two chapters online of White Witch, Black Curse, wishing I had the legs to wear those boots, etc. when suddenly I realized I only have to wait 10 days until my latest guilty pleasure is released. 

There are more reasons for rejoicing because Kim is releasing a new YA novel this May that I can’t wait to get my hands on – Once Dead, Twice Shy. Too bad Kim’s email is so overloaded by fans that she’ll never know how big a fan I am. If any of you happen to score this as an ARC, remember that I am your very good friend and reading buddy. I just have no patience when it comes to waiting for new books. 

Okay, back to reading all the must-reviews for the weekend.