Sunday, October 30, 2011

2011 R.I. Festival of Children’s Books and Authors Recap

What a great day. I spent a ludicrous amount of money on books … but I got them all signed! Highlights of the talks I attended:

Michael Emberly: What does he do all day? Make mistakes! He told a hilarious story of an elementary school art class when the teacher (complete with flowing hair and scarves) declared that there were no mistakes in art … he had to sneak in a contraband eraser. With which he proceeded to make a giant hole in his paper. Oops.

Purchase: An Annoying ABC. Planning to do some kind of cheeky class alphabet project based on this, Edward Gorey offerings, and The Z Was Zapped.

Steve Jenkins/Robin Page: I cannot wait to tell my kids about the disgusting crucifix frog. Learned that the couple does a ton of research before each project so that they can try and present concepts differently than what’s already out there. Also got to see some of the pencil sketches for finished illustrations; the sketches define the edges of each piece of paper that will be used in the final artwork.

Purchases: So many. Looking forward to reading Just a Second aloud. Kids love measurement.

Linda Sue Park: Learned about the Korean tradition of placing objects in front of baby at his or her one-year birthday party. The one they pick tells their fortune. Linda’s mom claims that she picked a pen, which meant she would become a writer. However, there is no photographic evidence, so she’s not entirely sure if this really happened or if it just makes a good story.

One story that she does know is true is that of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Salva Dut, and the work he is doing to bring drinking water to villages in his home country. You need to know it too.

Purchase: A Long Walk to Water. 97% of Sudanese girls and women are illiterate, in part because they are often assigned the job to walk miles and miles and miles to fetch water for their family; there is no time for school.

Gail Carson Levine: The auditorium was full of young girls clutching their copies of Ella Enchanted. She showed photos from the movie shoot, on which she was given “consulting rights” … and a hug from Anne Hathaway. If you hug her, you’re one hug removed from Anne!

Purchase: It’s not out yet, but I will be buying several copies of Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It in March. Check out a sample false apology poem.

Norman Juster: Influences include the Marx Brothers. He didn’t write for anyone but himself, even when told by publishers that fantasy would be confusing to children. He did put some details in The Phantom Tollbooth, however, just to annoy Jules Pfeffer, his friend and illustrator. Evidently, Pfeffer hates drawing horses.

Purchase: The Phantom Tollbooth for my brother, who recently revealed that it’s his favorite book ever. Can you believe that I’ve never read it???? It’s on my list to get to after RICBA and Mock Newbery.

Deborah Wiles:
My eyes leaked during most of her presentation. She encouraged us all to know, feel, and imagine; to pay attention and ask questions; to know that “every moment we live is our story.” She related her story that inspired Freedom Summer, when her town’s roller rink/pool closed rather desegregate. When she and her husband explored the ruins of the place recently, “I felt ghosts and I was one of them.” Everyone should have a life notice.

Purchases: Countdown for my mom and Each Little Bird That Sings for me. “I’m coming to SEE you!!!”

Chris Van Allsburg: When he wrote his first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, most kids’ books “looked like kids did the illustrations.” There were messages, morals, and lessons, but no subtext. He went in the way opposite direction. He claimed that the style of illustration Abdul Gasazi was not a choice, but a reflection of his “limited” abilities.

Purchases: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. The new one with stories written by a variety of authors. I have to go back and pick it up, because I bought my copy before the official publication date and wasn’t allowed to bring it home!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

RI Mock Newbery 2012 - November Reads

(I will be adding to this post as I make it through the list ... favorites at the top)

Dead End in NorveltDead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I literally laughed out loud while reading this book. It lost some steam by the end, but I'm still giving it five stars. Loved the way he brought in this day in history. It's up there with Okay for Now. Except instead of sobbing my way through, I chortled.

When Life Gives You O.J.When Life Gives You O.J. by Erica S. Perl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a funny, sweet story. Cranky grandfather + fake dog + early adolescent angst = charming. And the touches of grief and understanding elevate it beyond quirky. Very nicely done.

Lucky for Good Lucky for Good by Susan Patron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book really grew on me. One of my favorite aspects is the way the community members' less-than-rosy life situations (disability, recovery) are presented in a matter of fact way. It's just the way things are. Ollie's insults about immigrants and Miles' confusion about there being no dinosaurs in the Bible were timely issues; I wonder if they'll cause as much of a kerfuffle as the scrotum did in book one of the trilogy.

The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True (Knights' Tales, #3)The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True by Gerald Morris

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A lively retelling of several legends woven together neatly and with humor (see p. 37: "Things are different nowadays. Nations are not founded on keeping promises so much as on bleak and gloomy things called economies, which expect people to do whatever suits them rather than what they've said they would do.")

The book has action, mystery, and even a moral. I would prefer to have read this instead of the full Gawain and the Green Knight back in college!

The Grand Plan to Fix EverythingThe Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I did like the way that Dini thinks in terms of possible plotlines, and how the movie theme was carried through with cuts to other characters' scenes and lines like "Life doesn't let you save the bloopers for the archives." But overall, I didn't connect with any of the characters, and I didn't really care about Dolly. At all.

Queen of the FallsQueen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The narrative seemed a little flat. But I was still outraged by the way people, including audience members and managers, treated this woman.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Whisperer Challenge #2

I have a student who will ONLY read Junie B. Jones. This week, I put Clementine into her hands. Fingers crossed that she gives it a chance.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Want to be a Book Whisperer

I owe much thanks to Janice Griffin for recommending The Book Whisperer to me, and suggesting that I have my students fill out a survey about their interests as a kickoff to my first year of teaching. The kids were amazed that I wanted to know about what TV shows they liked, and thought it was hilarious that I watch The Regular Show.

Back to The Book Whisperer, which I read in two sittings and absolutely loved. It was so refreshing to read my thoughts in print! Although I guess now the book I would want to write about encouraging readers is already written … The following quotes pretty much sum up my philosophy.

  • "Children love stories, which offer the escape of falling into unknown worlds and vicariously experiencing the lives of the characters. Children’s attachment to the story arcs in video games and television programs bears this out.” (p. 28) YES. To me, it’s all about the story. I don’t care how it gets into their brains.

    Which is how I explained my TV question to the kids who asked why we were discussing shows in library class. And why I wish we had audiobooks in the collection. And why I told the high school kids during my student teaching that I personally would be ok with them using Spark Notes, as long as they knew who Lady Macbeth and Miss Havisham are.

  • “Are we teaching books or teaching readers?” (p.85) / “Teaching whole-class novels does not create a society of literate people.” (p. 123) Life is too short to read a book you don’t like. Students sometimes gape at me when I say this. But as someone who loathed The Scarlet Letter and avoids most 19th-century American literature, I don’t think everyone should have to read entire Shakespeare plays or Dickens novels (which I happen to enjoy).

    As I said above, you should understand a reference to Lady Macbeth (and you should probably cover some of the more famous soliloquies) but unless you’re planning to be a Brit Lit major, you shouldn’t be forced to struggle through the whole thing. It’s just going to turn you off to Shakespeare entirely.

    If, on the other hand, you are allowed to read, say, a graphic novel version of Macbeth, and end up enjoying the bloody murders and intrigue, then you may be more likely to want to know what happens in Hamlet. Or read Caroline Cooney’s spectacular Three Witches (I recommend the audiobook version).

    And you’ll get why this Sleep No More Crossover with Friday Night Lights is funny.

I panicked that doing a multi-chapter readaloud that spanned several class sessions might be violating my philosophy, but so far, so good. Lulu and the Brontosaurus is a huge hit with the fourth graders, and the fifth graders are now obsessed with making their own Origami Yodas.

My first Book Whispering challenge: One of my students asked for "a book like Lulu." I asked what she liked about it ... Lulu's brattiness? (thought: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) The narrator speaking to the reader? (thought: A Series of Unfortunate Events) The talking animals? (thought: My Father's Dragon) She couldn't tell me. She just wanted "a book like Lulu." Out of the stack of books I pulled for her, she chose Coraline. I'll find out what she thought this week!
Creative Commons License
This work by Meredith C. Moore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.