Sunday, August 11, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6KB6-7uCrI

Neil Gaiman is a favorite author, although he writes faster than I can read, so I don't read everything he writes.  Here he addresses the Digital Minds Conference way back in April (I realize that I am way behind!) and talks about the future of books.  Many people have told me that they will never be comfortable with e-books and that curling up with a device doesn't have the same appeal as curling up with a good book.   

He doesn't see e-books "killing" reading any more than home mix-tapes and the internet have killed music.  But the world will change, and yesterday won't return. 

What does this mean for me in my little school library?  Most of my students will never have or value a "home library."  People will only keep a paper book when the object has a special meaning.  Meanwhile, the library will continue to be important, but not every book that I buy will be a paper book.  Already the encyclopedia is a dinosaur.  I can't see teaching students to locate outdated information through an arduous process, when I can teach them more easily to use the online versions of the encyclopedia.  I don't badmouth Wikipedia, but I do teach what it is.  Time moves on.   

Neil also talked about being a "dandelion;"  tossing out millions (or at least thousands) of seeds.  These seeds can be ideas, or trial balloons, and many of them will fail.  Some, however, will take root and surprise you.  So if I try things and they don't work out, I can imagine that I am just showing my students that one has to try many things to find the one that will be amazing.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I am back on Net Galley.  I finally figured out that all I had to do so I could download books from NetGalley and the NYPL reinstall Adobe Digital Editions.   That shouldn't have taken so long to figure out!   So now I can feed my reader - just in time for summer reading!

So here is my first summer reading log and book report.  After all, if we ask the kids to do it, shouldn't we teachers and librarians log our summer reading as well?

Stroud, Jonathan.   The Screaming Stair.  Book one of the Lockwood and Co. series.  (Due out 9/17/2013)
     What a great book for starting the summer!  This was a review copy.  A gift from the good people that arranged the school librarian's dinner at the BEA conference.  Jonathan Stroud also spoke at the dinner.  (This was an excellent evening out!) The Screaming Stair is just exciting enough to be fun to read but soothingly predictable enough that I could trust that no character I cared about would really die.  Set in a distopian version of London where most activity ceases after dark because hostile visitors (aka ghosts) threaten life and sanity.  Only children can fight these horrors, so young people like the protagonists Lucy Doyle who joins Anthony Lockwood in his ghost eradication company go out at night equipped with tools such as iron chains and filings, flares and silver nets to catch and conquer the ghosts.  A fun book.  Not life changing but readable and entertaining.  I will definitely purchase this for my library.  I know some 4th and 5th grade students who will devour it.

Rupp, Rebecca.  After Eli.  (2012)
Having been on vacation for a few days I was ready for my first good cry.  Danny was eleven when his big brother Eli was killed by a roadside IID in Iraq.  His family has never come to grips with their loss, Eli's room is a shrine, and Danny, feeling invisible and knowing he will never replace his brother has been writing obsessively about how people die.  This short book will make you think about the families around you.

Hills, Tad. Rocket Writes a Story.  (2012)  Awww.  I will get this for my library.  Sometimes an author wannabe needs a little encouragement.

I read this out loud to my husband as we drove up to Saratoga on the first day of summer vacation.  My vacation, not his.  In all of the wonderful places I go every year to read, write, and think, he is working.  Saratoga is for the Opera at Saratoga festival which started the week before school was out.  He used his precious day off to come and get me!  Thank you!

Barnard, Bryn.  Outbreak: Plagues that changed history.  (2005) My first nonfiction reading.  This was from NYPL.  This nonfiction book about how microbes includes chapters about Bubonic Plague, smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis, and influenza.  It changed my understanding of parts of history and the spread of disease and made me think about the intersection of politics, health, and our survival as a species.  Universal healthcare isn't just a safety net for those who can't afford! Note to self: get a flu shot next year...


Chevat, Richie.  The Omnivore's Delimna: The secrets behind what you eat.  (2009)  Another ebook from NYPL.  This is the youth version of the much-discussed book by Michael Pollan.  It is not outdated.  Many of the companies Chevat / Pollan visits and discusses are still the major players in their particular food chains.  The narrative centers around four meals; one (MacDonalds) meal from the industrial food chain, one organic, on locally sustainable, and one hunted and gathered.   The information I learned from this book is still being echoed in the daily papers.  I will definitely think carefully about where my chicken and eggs come from.

Snowe, Olivia.  Cassie and the Wolf.  From Capstone's  Twice Told Tales series.  (2014)  This electronic review copy was from NetGalley.  The copyright date made me catch my breath.  Quick and enjoyable, this is a really good example of a riff on a fairy tale theme.  I really liked that the wolfish thief is more engaging and sympathetic than the equally wolfish Little Red and Granny.  Granny can certainly take care of herself!  I will probably order the series from Captsone.  I hope it will inspire many young authors, and make other readers think about the inner meaning of the original stories.

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As you can see I am stiving to balance my reading between fiction and nonfiction.  I will try to get in a good biography and perhaps some poetry before the summer is over.  This is what is on my "shelf" for this week.

2 fun books from my Netgalley subscription:  Witch Twins by Adele Griffin and Mousemobile by Prudence Breitnose.  A paper review copy of Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper.  This looks like a blend of  magic and historical fiction with Native American themes.  It is due out at the end of August.

I want to read as my "big" (aka adult) book for the summer Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant.  I read a review in the NYT last Sunday and I can't wait to read more about the Borgia's who may not be the unrepentant criminals we have imagined.  It is due out next week, so I will buy it for my Nook when I return from Alaska.  While I am traveling I will try to finish my big (adult) book that I began this Spring.  Why Geography Matters More Than Ever by Harm J. De Blij.  I feel that having read most of this I understand a lot more about what climate change really means.  However my own wobbly geography skills made this a hard slow read especially in the sections about terrorism.  It is frightening that decisions are made sometimes at the highest levels by people whose grasp of the world situation isn't that much stronger than mine.  I will also keep dipping into the essays, poems, and stories in the Beautiful Anthology edited by Elizabeth Collins.  The Beautiful Anthology is also an adult book. If you are a grown woman and are looking for something wonderful and thought provoking to dip into, this is the the book for you.

I will keep on reading and will check in every few weeks to say how it is going.  I plan to seek out some good children's poetry and biographies to add to my list.  I haven't read a poetry novel in at least a year, so that may be a plan. At the end of the summer I will have a reading log.  Even if I never show it to anyone at least I can say when I collect reading logs from the students in my school "I don't ask you to do anything that I wouldn't do myself."



Monday, July 1, 2013

Jo Knowles writes the "Monday morning warmup" for the Teachers' Write summer workshop.  Today she asked us to write about what we and our characters want or hope.  I think this has spurned some possible directions for the next Megan and Munchie book.  Last week I also gathered some advice for what to do to send Megan and Munch off towards publication.  So maybe that will actually happen.  The book is actually complete - it just needs some buffing and hopefully down the road a professional reader.


Friday, June 28, 2013

It's been a while since I have written here.  Life in the school library was intense in 2012-13.  Somehow I am determined to make more time for myself and for writing next year. 

I have found an online writing workshop to help me towards this goal.  Kate Messner's Teacher's Write is an online writing workshop for teachers.  So far I have been lurking - doing the activities, but not contributing.  Today I will get my feet wet and post on the "How to critique writing" thread. 

Wednesday was the last day of school, and yesterday Gil took me up to Saratoga where I will make my home for the next couple of weeks, so I shouldn't feel badly about not jumping in with both feet.  The summer is only just beginning.

Monday, January 21, 2013



I have come across some interesting links this weekend on the topic of “close reading.”  As students are required to use more complex text in their work, this topic seems important.   

This is as clear a definition as I expect to find:
 Douglas Fisher
Close Reading and the CCSS: Part 1
“Close reading is a careful and purposeful re-reading of a text.”
http://www.schooltube.com/video/2586a181320549d687f4/

Close Reading is linked to the demand for more complex texts in the classroom.  If you are going to read challenging texts, then the teacher must coach the students on how to approach them.
 
Dr. Timothy Shanahan on Complex Texts. and the Implications in the Classroom
Teachers will have to “shift stance away from ‘can I find an easiest text’ to ‘what kind of supports and scaffolds could I use that will allow kids to handle the really hard text.’  So now they will have to read text closely themselves to figure out what’s challenging about it and think of what kinds of supports or scaffolds that would allow a youngster to [read the text.]  

So, what could this really look like in a classroom?  Notice that in these sample lessons one text is worked with over two to three days, including homework.

Readings with sample lessons –  Some models of close reading lessons.
http://www.achievethecore.org/steal-these-tools/close-reading-exemplars

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bankstreet Book Fest

Saturday was the the Backstreet Book Fest.
It was a wonderful day.  I got to talk to many people who share my day-to-day experiences. The whole group presentations were wonderful.  When there is video I promise to put a link here - I learned a lot about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House books.  Mary Pope Osborne deserves a big thank you for her generous offer!

The best part of my day was the mock Geisel  award workshop. This was led by Caroline Ward who literally "wrote the book" for the Geisel award criteria. The Geisel award is for "a book for beginning readers who, through their literary and artistic achievements, demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading." We examined and discussed some of the contenders for this year's Geisel award.  Talking about literary excellence and the needs of beginning readers is something I don't often get a chance to do at a professional level.  Many fine librarians are hesitant to explore what beginning readers need.  It seems to smack a little to much of censorship to say that a reader needs books at a particular level or written in a particular way. But, realistically, what beginning readers really want are books that will support them as they learn to read. 

The verdict was unanimous.  Kevin Henkes Penny and her Doll is the best book for beginning reader that we looked at.  However it is very pink... For boys, Elephant and Piggy is still the best of the best.  We showed the most recent entry Let's Go For a Drive a lot of love. 

The problem is that writing really good books in a way that supports children who are learning how to read is really, really, hard.  We need more excellent authors to take up this gauntlet.  Thank you Kate Dicamillo for doing something that is hard, when you could just keep writing great books for older readers.  If you haven't read Bink and Golly, buy one for yourself and one for a friend. 

Three Little Pumpkins

On my circulation desk I have three miniature pumpkins. The first question is always "is it real?"  Usually a student will pick up a pumpkin when they ask this question.  Because this is often asked while students are on line to check out books, I answer briefly "yes, they are real pumpkins."  Many students will then identify them (a la three bears) as big, medium, and little.  Here I have some fun, saying that (picking up the largest of the three) this is a small pumpkin.  (pointing to the next) this is a smaller pumpkin, and this is my smallest pumpkin.  This explanation usually echoes back through the check out line, as students explain this to each other.  The pumpkins were 69cents each.  I'm glad I bought them.