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Online Children's Stories

  • Posted on August 30, 2011 at 8:25 AM

I recently shared this list in my newsletter for my teachers. I’d love to see your examples of items included in your newsletters. Links would be wonderful.

Looking for some great places online for READING CHILDREN’S STORIES?  Try these: Story Time for Me StoryLine Online Actors like Elijah Wood and Hillary Duff read aloud stories in their own voice through streaming. Mrs. P’s Magic Library StoryNory Story Cove International Children’s Digital Library (remains one of my favorites!) Smories are original stories for kids, read by kids Free Children’s eBooks for the iPad, nook, and other readers; and even some books for adults too! Aesop’s Fables includes a total of 655+ Fables, indexed in table format, with morals listed. Magic Keys Children’s Storybooks Online Mee Genius! s a reading application for the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, Google TV, Google Chrome Web Store, and the Web. The iPhone/iPad app is free as are the introductory books. Readeo offers a free 14 day trial to enable parents & children to read together virtually when they must be apart. Storybirds are short, art-inspired stories which reverse the process of visual storytelling by starting with the image and “unlocking” the story inside.

Backyard Safari series

  • Posted on July 25, 2011 at 2:43 AM

I think I neglected my elementary collection before by not purchasing enough Marshall Cavendish Benchmark titles like the Backyard Safari series. I had the most fun with the titles Birds and Squirrels, but the series also includes Spiders; Frogs and Toads; and Caterpillars and Butterflies.

Since moving to my five acres in the country, I spend even more time just sitting outside and watching the wildlife. Trudi Strain Trueit is the author of this series and leads the reader into wanting to get up off the couch and get outside to see for oneself these animals.

Personally, I love squirrels so I couldn’t wait to open this title. I learned so much that I drove everyone around me crazy with my “Did you know…” comments. For example, I read “tree squirrels…swivel their ankle joints so their feet face backward. This is how a squirrel races down a tree face-first without falling.” Isn’t that cool? I’ve watched squirrels run for years but never noticed that. Now I’ll have to force myself to sit quietly outside watching them. Oh… the sacrifices we librarians make to verify research.

The series is laid out with four chapters and lots of facts. These are not leveled-down titles with only two sentences on a page. Instead these are factually-packed with one chapter devoted to an overview of the animal, one chapter preparing the reader for the safari, one chapter that follows up on the safari and the notes taken during it, and one chapter with three projects for the reader to safely and ecologically help the animal.

The squirrel title had directions for creating a feeding station, a peanut string obstacle course, and a nesting bag. The text boxes throughout  contained fascinating facts like why squirrels lick and touch their food before burying it.

Chapter two in each title was called “You Are the Explorer.”  The chapter contains information about bird-watching or safariing, hints for the best type of weather and best time of day to safari, lists like What Do I Wear?, What Do I Take?, Where Do I Go?, and What Do I Do?

Chapter three in each provides a logical way to organize information and notes taken during the safari. A sample note-taking page is included along with several pages of full-color photographs of a various types of the featured animal to aid in identification.

I realize this series is being released this fall on September 1st, still I wanted to find out more on the Marshall Cavendish Benchmark site but I couldn’t. Instead I was able to view the series on the Marshall Cavendish ebook site. At first I was frustrated, then I was inspired.

When I first picked up this series, I wondered how teachers could use these titles to demonstrate scientific wonder and curiosity. How can younger students learn quickly enough to read, digest, and use this series? E-Books are a perfect tool – especially if the teacher or librarian utilizes the iPads, Nooks, and digital projectors to demonstrate how to read these nonfiction titles.

Reading information texts is a MAJOR part of every curriculum. Recently I attended my districts introduction to the new Common Core State Standards being implemented immediately in grades K-2 across the state of Tennessee. One of the guides suggested that by the time a student was a senior, 70% of their reading would be informational texts. WOW! You cannot ignore them in grades K-2, these core state standards focus on spiraling skills and adding more to them each year.

Teachers need creative ideas for incorporating more nonfiction and information texts in younger grades. Suggest they plan a Backyard Safari with their students and use this series early in the year.

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

  • Posted on July 22, 2011 at 8:10 AM

During ALA Annual in New Orleans I visited the HarlequinTeen booth to seek new romances for my mature eighth grade girls. When I was in middle school, I was reading my mother’s Harlequin Romances and  I wondered what the trend had veered toward.

Imagine my surprise when they asked me if I preferred my romances as steampunk, paranormal, historical, etc. Steampunk? I didn’t even know that word existed.

Harlequin had certainly diversified over the years. Contemporary, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi, historical and romance stories for teens were all available on the site I took one of their steampunk titles (The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross) and dived in.

Yesterday I wrote about what steampunk is. Today, I want to tell you about this particular title.

Have you heard of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? How about X-men? Well, author Kady Cross set out to write this novel without knowing that was the style she had chosen. She simply wanted to write “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets teen X-men”. Her editor Krista Stroever is the one who labeled it steampunk for her. Personally I wonder if Kady Cross knew the term herself.

Set in 1897 England, The Girl in the Steel Corset refers to main character Finley Jayne – a sweet girl who seems to have a dark “thing” inside her. When she is attacked by her employer’s son (a lord), this thing enables her to survive and fight back.

Terrified Finley escapes into the streets and is rescued by Griffin King and his friends – all of whom share some unusual abilities. While Finley struggles with her light and dark sides, her new friends need her abilities in their fight against the diabolical Machinist.

The Girl in the Steel Corset will appeal particularly to those loving a good royal cameo and tangled love lives. I liked the taste of darkness we dance with throughout this novel. The ending definitely prepares us for the next adventure. I’m excited. In fact, I think I’ll make my own notes on what I predict to happen in the sequel and I’ll open them again after the next title comes out. I wonder how fast Kady Cross (aka Kathryn Smith) can write?

If you are looking for a wonderfully fun romp through an alternate history set in England with technology and romance strewn throughout, try The Girl in the Steel Corset.

Do you ever forget the basics?

  • Posted on July 22, 2011 at 3:53 AM

Ever have a moment with you writing happily away when suddenly a term or phrase totally slips out of your mind?

I experienced that when I couldn’t pull the phrase “text box” out to describe why I liked certain features by Marshall Cavendish. I sat there moving my hands around as if they could pull the words out of air. I tried quickly opening the book to a page and saying, “Why there’s a …?” but my brain wasn’t playing along.

Fortunately, I was able to pull out this pdf file on Nonfiction text features from the website. I particulary liked how this pdf used one of Gareth Stevens publishing’s titles in the Cool Careers series to demonstrate these features.

After bridging my word gap, I took time to look at the pdf in a new light. My teachers in elementary and middle school NEED this information. It is very nicely designed and could be easily displayed for the entire class to see. The skills of reading informational texts and being able to use text features to increase comprehension are essential in education. In fact here is a key point in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts:

Through reading a diverse array of classic and contemporary literature as well as challenging informational texts in a range of subjects, students are expected to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspective.

Thank you to the Washington Library Media Association for including this in their handouts for their conference, but I do have one big concern. I cannot find the creator’s name of this pdf. I keep trying to click through screen after screen trying to see which page will link to this, but so far I haven’t found it.

Readers, do you have any clues for me to track this down? I do want to give credit where credit is due. I would like to receive permission to use this resource and I do wish the creator had put their name in the presentation. (Note to self, do this everytime!)

Google Squared and Ashfall

  • Posted on July 18, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Okay, I confess that I am still contemplating the possibilities of Ashfall occurring in real life and people writing off Iowa and states westernly as a dead zone. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll have to read my post and definitely get your hands on the book Ashfall when it releases.

I think I’m getting a little addicted because I keep visiting Mike Mullin’s author site, his blog, and his facebook page for any word. Ahem, Mike, get to work on writing the sequel please! I understand there is an extremely unlikely chance this disaster will occur in our lifetime. But look at all the weird things that happen unexpectedly and it makes you ponder.

My addiction strayed into my Google Docs workshop that I attended this morning. While others were playing with boring presidents for Google Squared, I was creating dystopian fiction and disasters squares. Go try out Google Squared and search for the word Volcanoes, then try adding your own columns like easiest route, age, volcanic arc/belt, etc. I added fiction and then realized that I’d be doing the locating of titles myself. What a fun project!

My obsession with volcanoes erupting has caused me to overcome my summer laziness and to seek out more information using Google Squared.

It has also validated my feelings about those fill in the blank charts teachers give students and call research. Excuse me, teachers, the students can input the same headings you ask for: Date of birth, Home state, vice president, death date, political party. In less than twenty seconds, Google Squared did all the searching for me. Now, what are you going to do with the students for the rest of the hour or block? Oh, it might take me ten minutes to COPY the information into your chart, but did I really read it or learn anything?

How about changing your research questions and making them fun,  meaningful or ESSENTIAL? Have students posit theories, look at historical examples, and write plots for their own presidential mysteries involving events that were occurring during their presidency. What kind of coverup could the president been involved with? Let’s go beyond Area 51, folks.

I’m going back to my steampunk book and learning about that style of writing and trying to resist the lure of a good disaster. Any suggestions of good steampunk series for a GoogleSquared document?

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

  • Posted on July 17, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Ever read a title expecting it to be a simplistic tale out of newsmedia headlines? You basically know the plot and expect to have all of the answers? Well, I’m afraid to disappoint you, but you aren’t going to find typical cliches, easy answers, and predictable plots in Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Instead you will find far more complex characters and a rich yet more realistically disturbing plot than her earlier works. I am still a big fan of the plot of Life As We Knew It and the “moon” books, but I am more impressed in Blood Wounds with the delicate handling Susan Beth Pfeffer does with her characters, their motivations, and their actions. It is impossible to separate people into categories of good and bad. People are complex and decisions are not always easy. What may seem to be perfect often shatters most easily.

Blood Wounds is Willa’s story of discovering how the illusion of a family cannot solve all wounds. Willa lives with her mother, her stepfather and his daughters. Suddenly she learns her biological father has committed a horrific crime murdering his new wife and children and is now headed east toward Willa and her mother.

While Willa deals with the truth of her blood relatives and her feelings of shame, she explores the difference between a healthy family relationship and one where members are forced to suppress their needs and wants to keep the peace.

Teens and tweens dealing with domestic violence, stepfamilies, and cutting will cling to this title seeking their own healing. The domestic violence is not easy to read about, but as a victim myself, I know it is important for titles of survivors to exist.

Blood Wounds will be released September 12, 2011, and later that month Susan Beth Pfeffer will be a featured author at the Tennessee Association of School Librarians conference. I cannot wait to capture a few moments of her time. Maybe some of the Tennessee authors and teachers will attend, too. You’re all welcome. Just go to the TASL website and register.

I hope that Cheryl Rainfield (author of Scars) has the opportunity to read Blood Wounds soon so we can have a well-rounded discussion of how cutting is used by teens for emotional survival and ways for teens to seek counseling help.

Now, if I can just get Susan Beth Pfeffer back to writing The Shade of the Moon and sending me an early ARC, I might be able to move on from the impact Blood Wounds has had on me.

Diane’s Note: I do apologize for constantly misspelling Susan Beth Pfeffer’s name. I don’t know why I insist on adding an ” i”  making it Pfeiffer, but I do appreciate each of you who pointed out my error. Thanks.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

  • Posted on July 17, 2011 at 8:38 AM

Oh, how fortunate I feel to have nabbed an advance reading copy of Laini Taylor’s newest title Daughter of Smoke & Bone. I found the writing so compelling it was difficult to break away from the world of seraphims and  chimaera.

The cover I read looked like the image on the right. The image below and to the left may be out there. Both are fascinating and you can read the author’s blog for more about the covers.

I found myself trimming weeds in the five acres of my new home wondering about layers of worlds overlapping. This novel’s main character Karou (meaning hope) dreamed of flying and realized her wish in a contemporary setting. What if all our childhood fantasies could come true and we could pull aside the veil to other worlds – or enter them through dark  portals?

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a love story and fantasy novel.  It challenges our prejudices on determining who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Why do we cheer for the angels and not the devils. This title was absorbing and surprising. I cannot wait for a follow-up title to come out to continue this story because I care about the characters. I also loved that feeling reading this book that my senses seemed heightened as if there were more possibilities in the world.

Consider these sentences: “She understood now why pain was the tithe for magic. It was more powerful than joy. Than anything. Than hope?”

Contemplate those words from the point of view of a hurting eighth grader or high school student who is discovering life’s good and bad moments. Give your teens the opportunity to connect with Daughter of Smoke & Bone.

i so don't do famous by Barrie Summy

  • Posted on July 2, 2011 at 8:22 AM

i so don’t do famous by Barrie Summy. Delacorte Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780385737906, $16.99.

When I grow up and become a writer, could I learn how to be snappy and lively like Barrie Summy? Her sentences are short, perky, and reflect the style of her main character Sherry (Sherlock Holmes Baldwin).

Even Barrie Summy’s blog is lively and fun. Be sure to check out The Book Review Club. I appreciate locating compilations of reviews. The June issue included many fiction titles and is a good companion to our Nonfiction Monday sessions.

How could I have missed the first books in this series?

i so don’t do mysteries

i so don’t do spooky

i so don’t do makeup

This series is upbeat, active, and grounded in some good values. I know this series would be acceptable to some of my strictest parents. Written in first person, i so don’t do famous incorporates fun, Hollywood trivia, ghost detectives, tween and teen relationships, and a loving family. Mistakes are made and acknowledged yet life’s difficulties don’t become the end of the world.

This mystery adds the quirk of having Sherry’s mother helping her solve cases – despite the fact that she’s a ghost and has been dead over a year. We learn about a society of ghosts that help each other learn how to adapt – especially crossing threshholds – and even surf the World Wide Web for the Dead.

Does it seem implausible that everything can work out easily and end in happy ever after? Sure, but this reader doesn’t care since the journey was so entertaining along the way. I’m definitely going to locate earlier titles in the series.

Just some of my favorite Hurricane Titles

  • Posted on June 22, 2011 at 6:55 PM

Remembering Hurricane Katrina, I wanted to share these titles with you briefly.

A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Renee Watson and illustrated by Shadra Strickland. Random House, 2010. Picture book.

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown., 2010. Fiction for ages 10 and up.

Hurricane Katrina from the series TurningPoints in U.S. History by Judith Bloom Fraden and Dennis Brindell Fraden. Marshall Cavendish, 2010. Nonfiction.

Hurricanes! from the series Eyewitness Disaster by Angela Royton. Marshall Cavendish, 2010.

Of these four titles, the Eyewitness Disaster series title Hurricanes! has been most popular. Even when I was working with these books out in public at my favorite beverage habitats, other adults would pick up each title then sit and pour over Hurricanes! Upon request I took other titlesin the series by for their perusal including:

    • Earthquakes
    • Floods
    • Storms
    • Tsunamis
    • Volcanoes

One of the students commented to me about why this series was so popular. He said that this book had details in it, but was designed so your eyes popped from box to box to read and you weren’t bored. Woohoo! High praise, indeed!

I like the series in part because it goes beyond a focus on just disasters in the U.S. but has a global span. My only negative is that I wish each title ended with a stronger wrap up, so I don’t suddenly turn the page to find the Glossary. Then I end up flipping back and forth moaning and wanting more information. This is a solid upper elementary and middle school nonfiction title.

Hurricane Katrina was popular for a younger group and ELL readers due to the photographs and straight forward narrative. The message of learning from our mistakes was clear to my students. I knew this title was a hit when students continued to ask each other questions after reading like “Why didn’t the government get there sooner? How could those people be calling for help and no one help them? What about their pets? Why did they write 5 people, 1 dog, 1 cat on the roof?”

Aha! I knew quite a bit about the pets question since I am a member of the ASPCA and donated what I could to help the animals stranded there be reunited with families. During the ALA Annual 2006, the ASPCA awards program was one of my favorite events and not just because it was held at the zoo. I felt like I had been able to contribute something to causes I cared about.  The ASPCA events remain some of my favorite at ALA Annual even though my schedule is super-heavy this year.

A Place Where Hurricanes Happen is a picture book written from the point of view of four young children living in a New Orleans neighborhood. As the opening states:

We’re from New Orleans, a place where hurricanes happen. But that’s only the bad side.

This title worked with my middle-schoolers while we were studying point of view, voice, and inferences. The moment of silence when they saw the double-page spread of the flood was worth listening to them complain that it was a little kids book when I began. After I ended, one of the students suggested that this would be a good title for Reader’s Theater and different voices reading. I agreed.

The author and illustrator managed to include the sense of joy and living in the moment that children do, no matter what city they live in. I’m happy to return to New Orleans after my visits in 2006 and 2007.

Ninth Ward is such an unusual title that I read my ARC twice. Jewell Parker Rhodes created a wonderfully unique character in Lanesha. Her approach to dealing with incredibly difficult situations was mystical yet practical. Mathematics and engineering grounded with “the sight” and an ability to reach out to others.

Once students finished Ninth Ward, they moved on to other disaster fiction titles by Peg Kehret. Several older boys sought out Paul Volponi’s Hurricane Song.

If I were at school, I’d pull out the other titles on hurricanes and disasters we’ve used this year.

My Heading to New Orleans & Remembering Hurricane Katrina Post

  • Posted on June 22, 2011 at 11:40 AM

The 2006 ALA Annual Conference will always remain a vibrant memory to me. As ALA was the first national organization to hold a conference, there was a great deal of attention on how libraries claimed to build communities. During this conference, librarians stepped up, showed up, and helped others up. To many local people we were special because we kept our promise and journeyed there. I blogged on my personal blog at that time Deep Thinking at blogsome dot com.

From an ALA Press Release on June 7, 2011: ““Libraries Build Communities” began in 2006, as the library community came to the aid of local libraries and community groups after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005. Coordinated by the ALA’s Chapter Relations Office, the volunteer effort has become an Annual Conference tradition, as conference attendees continue to volunteer to assist libraries and community groups in conference cities.

The ALA was the first national organization to hold a conference in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and conference volunteers will continue to support rebuilding efforts.

“When the ALA first came to New Orleans in 2006, there was an unimaginable amount of work that needed to be done throughout the city,” said ALA Chapter Relations Office director Michael Dowling. “In a few short days, the ALA was able to make a difference and illustrate that libraries do in fact build communities. Even now, five years later, we continue to demonstrate the importance of libraries in each city we visit whether it be through community services projects like “Libraries Build Communities” or through the free programs and services we provide.”

Fast Forward to the Future, what else is happening with ALA and the more recent disasters? Well, according to the most recent press release there are the “Disaster Relief Efforts at Annual for Haiti, Japan, Missouri, and Alabama.

International Relations and Chapter Relations Offices will be taking in donations at Annual for Haiti, Japan, Alabama, and Missouri.

This year, we will have two clearly marked donation boxes set up at the three Information Booths in the Convention Center. All funds donated will be split equally between the four relief efforts.

Information about the donation boxes will be shared in the Registration Area, in Cognotes and at the Opening General Session. Flyers on How and where to make donations will also be available at the Information Booths – for those attendees who would like to make an individual donation to a specific relief effort.

Alabama and Missouri (Joplin) donations will be used to provide assistance to librarians who have lost their homes or otherwise been affected by the recent tornados. The Chapters there have set up their own donation opportunities, so this is where we will refer interested parties after conference.

Haiti and Japan donations will be used for library reconstruction.

I can remember in 2006 going to New Orleans and chatting with as many local people as I could to gather their stories. I chatted with all walks of society and spent time listening. I listened to children talk about their feelings.

During that time we had several families move to Nashville and the students shared their feelings. I can vividly remember the face of one young boy who carried every toy car he owned with him to school each day in his backpack because they were the only things he had left when the flood came and the waters came into his car while they were fleeing. Stories matter.

The next blog post will highlight some of the titles I have shared with students lately on Hurricane Katrina and disasters.