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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Rose Meets Mr. Wintergarten

Rose Meets Mr. Wintergarten

Rose meets Mr. Wintergarten by Bob Graham has been around for awhile. I’ve been reading it to kids for almost as long as it’s been on this side of the pond. But I’ve read it two different ways, and I’m ready to confess that now.

I love most everything about this sweet picture book. I adore the Summerses—what a great hippie-like family!—especially Mom in her loose fitting dress and sandals and crazy earrings. I love the illustrations—particularly the gobs and gobs of flowers. And I experience nothing but delight with the marvelous contrast provided by Mr. Wintergarten—his dark house that the sun never hits; his cold, gray, uninviting dinner with floating gristle and mosquitoes breeding on top; his dusty coattails and huge empty dining room table. I think the not-so-subtle puns found in the neighbors’ last names (which a four-year-old had to point out to me) are brilliant.

And the story itself! Sweet Rose, brave enough to venture over to her neighbor’s house despite the neighborhood children’s stories of Mr. Wintergarten’s mean and horrible reputation, his wolf-dog and saltwater crocodile, his penchant for eating children…. I love it all.

Except that last bit. “No one ever goes in there,” said Arthur, “in case Mr. Wintergarten eats people.” I hate that. And it functions almost like a spell in the story, because as soon as Arthur delivers this worst-of-the-worse news, Rose’s ball goes over Mr. Wintergarten’s fence.

For a long time, I just left off the incaseMr.Wintergarteneatspeople part of what Arthur says. I thought it sufficiently exciting for my wee story-listeners that nobody ever went in there…(drumroll!)…and now Rose would go in there. It was but a small change—a tiny omission, I reasoned. It’s not like I totally changed the story.

Rose Meets Mr. WintergreenWhen Rose goes to ask her mother what to do and her mother suggests, like all good hippie-mothers, that she simply go ask Mr. Wintergarten to give her ball back, Rose says she can’t  “Because he eats kids.” To which her no-nonsense hippie-mother says, “We’ll take him some cookies instead.”

Again, the cannibalistic innuendo was just too much for me. I’d look at those sweet little faces, rapt in the story I was reading them…and it was just easiest to have Rose remain silent when her mother asks why she doesn’t just go make the proper inquiry. Then all I had to do was leave off the word “instead” when her mother suggests the cookie idea. The book taught hospitality among neighbors—excellent!

I read it like this for years. I didn’t feel bad about it at all. I was protecting the children! And then one day, amongst the crowd of children at my feet, there was a reader.

“Hey!” he said. “You skipped a line.”

“I did?” I said.

The boy stood and approached. “Yeah, right here. “No one ever goes in there,” said Arthur, “in case Mr. Wintergarten eats people.” He underlined the words with his index finger. I feigned surprise upon seeing them. I complimented him on his astute reading skills.

Nervously, I checked on the rest of the wee vulnerable storytime children at my feet. They were looking up at me in what I can only describe as thoroughly delighted horror.

“He EATS kids?” a little girl said.

“For real?” said another.

Rose Meets Mr. Wintergarten“Probably not,” said the reading child. “They probably just think he eats kids.”

“Oh….” Big eyes looked at me and the older, wiser, more worldly reading boy.

So when Rose’s Mom says they’ll take cookies, I, of course, put in the word “instead.”

“That’s a good idea,” said a sweet little girl with dark curls. She nodded vigorously. “A really good idea.”

“Yeah,” said her little brother. “Everyone likes cookies.”

As you might guess, Rose’s brave overtures earn her a new friend in Mr. Wintergarten. Turns out her old neighbor hadn’t even opened his drapes in years. Once he goes outside and kicks Rose’s ball back over the fence—losing his slipper in the process—he’s pretty much a new man. As are the children, who learn their reclusive neighbor’s reputation might be a bit exaggerated.

I’ve not omitted the cannibalistic lines since. I bite my tongue so I don’t soften them with a “Oh that’s just silly, isn’t it?!” I just read it straight. Kids love this book—I think, much as it pains me to admit it, all the more so because of the previously censored lines. They can take it, I guess. Who knew?

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End Cap: Little Cat’s Luck

Little Cat's LuckWe hope you enjoyed reading Little Cat’s Luck as much as we did. Didn’t Marion Dane Bauer and Jennifer A. Bell capture the nature of cats and dogs well? If you love puzzles and games, we hope you have a good time solving this Word Search. 

Simply use your mouse or touch pad to draw a line over your found words and the program will mark them off for you. Words can be found forwards, backwards, horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. As you find a word, it will be highlighted on the board and it will disappear from the word list.

Have fun!

Hidden Words

Puzzle by mypuzzle.org
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Celebrating Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack KeatsJackie: This is the time of year when I read the Travel Section of the Sunday paper. I just want to go away from gritty snow, brown yards and come back to Spring. Well, there are no tickets on the shelf this year so Phyllis and I are taking a trip to the city created by Ezra Jack Keats. And why not? This month, this year marks his one-hundredth birthday.

As our travel guide we’re taking The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats (Yale University Press, 2011), written by Claudia Nahsen to coincide with The Snowy Day’s 50th anniversary and the showing of many of his works at the Jewish Museum, New York

Last Stop on Market StreetI’ve been thinking of Keats since I read Last Stop on Market Street, this year’s Newbery Award winner, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. Robinson’s wonderful depictions of the urban landscape and the text’s suggestion that beauty is all around us, reminded me of Keats’s city scenes. Often they are set in his childhood home in Depression Era Brooklyn but enhanced with Keats’s brilliant collages, sketches, and jazzy palette.

A bit about his life, which I learned from Nahsen’s beautiful book: Jacob Ezra Katz was born in New York, on March 11, 1916. He was the youngest of three children born to immigrant parents in a “loveless marriage.” He grew up in a family marked by strife and unhappiness. He felt invisible as a child and believed “’life was measured by anguish.’” (Nahsen,p. 5). Art saved him. And in his art he gave life and validity to the streets he remembered from his childhood and to the kids, often invisible to society, who live on those streets.

The Snowy DayPhyllis: And up until publication of A Snowy Day, the first full-color picture book to feature an African American protagonist, those kids were virtually invisible in picture books as well. I especially love how Keats makes us see the city and the children and grown-ups who live in it with fresh eyes—his art includes graffiti, trashcans, and the struggles and celebrations of childhood. Nahsen quotes Keats: “Everything in life is waiting to be seen!” While some people criticized Keats, a white writer, for writing about black characters in The Snowy Day, the poet Langston Hughes wished he had “grandchildren to give it [the book] to.” Keats felt the criticisms deeply but continued to tell and illustrate the stories in his world “waiting to be seen.”

LouieJackie: Keats wrote and illustrated twenty-two books in his career. The ones I know are just as fresh, just as in tune with the lives of children as they were when he wrote them. We all know Peter of A Snowy Day, Peter’s Chair, A Letter to Amy. But Keats’s Louie is not quite as familiar. Louie is a quiet, kid who hardly ever speaks. But when he sees the puppet Gussie (Keats’s mother’s name) at Susie and Roberto’s puppet show, he stands up and yells “Hello!, Hello! Hello!” Susie and Roberto decide to have Gussie ask Louie to sit down so they can get on with the show. After the show they bring Gussie out so Louie can hold the puppet. Then the boy goes home, eventually sleeps and dreams he is falling and kids are laughing at him. When he wakes up, his mother tells him someone slipped a note under the door—“Go outside and follow the long green string.” At the end of the green string is—Gussie! There is so much to love about this story—a sensitive portrayal of a child who is somehow different, gets laughed at, yelled at by some kids; two kids, Susie and Roberto, who treat Louie with great kindness; and a hopeful ending.

Nahsen says: “…neglected characters, who had hitherto been living in the margins of picture books or had simply been absent from children’s literature take pride of place in Keats’s oeuvre.” She quotes from his unpublished autobiography: “When I did my first book about a black kid I wanted black kids and white kids to know that he’s there.” So it is with Louie. Keats reminds readers that the quiet kids, the kids who march to a different drum, the kids who live behind the broken doors, or on broken-down buses and can only have a cricket for a pet (Maggie and the Pirate) are there.

Maggie and the PiratePhyllis: Just as Keats portrays the real lives of kids who live in buses or city apartments without “even any steps in front of the door to sit on,” he doesn’t shy away from the small and large griefs and troubles of childhood. In Maggie and the Pirate, Maggie’s pet cricket, taken by a boy who admires the cricket’s cage, accidentally drowns in a river. Maggie and her friends hold a cricket funeral, and when the “pirate,” a boy who didn’t mean for the cricket to die but wanted the cage “real bad,” brings Maggie the cage with a new cricket, the children

                “all sat down together.
                Nobody said anything.
                They listened to the new cricket singing.
                Crickets all around joined in.”

Tragedies and consolation in the death of a cricket—a world seen through children’s eyes.

The Trip, Louie's Search, Regards to the Man in the Moon

Jackie: Keats came back to Louie with three other books and used this character to help him present some of the other problems of childhood—The Trip (1978), Louie’s Search (1980), and Regards to the Man in the Moon (1981).

The Trip tells us that Louie and his Mom move to a new neighborhood. Louie’s Search takes place after Louie has moved to a new neighborhood. “’What kind of neighborhood is this?’ thought Louie. “Nobody notices a kid around here.” He puts on a paper sack hat and paints his nose red and goes out for a walk. Eventually he picks up an object which has fallen off a junk wagon and so encounters the scary junkman Barney. Barney is huge and thinks Louie has stolen this object. “’Come back, you little crook,’ Barney bellowed.” They go to Louie’s house where Barney tells his Mom, “Your son’s a crook!’”

What Louie had found was a music box. When he holds it the box makes music. When he drops it, it stops. Barney decides to give the music box to Louie and stays for tea with Louie and his mom. It’s the beginning of a wonderful relationship that ends with a wedding and Louie finding the Dad he hoped for.

The Trip, Jennie's Hat, Dreams

Phyllis: Another thread throughout Keats’ work is the power of imagination. Louie in The Trip imagines a plane flying him to his old neighborhood. Jennie in Jennie’s Hat imagines a beautiful hat instead of the plain one her aunt has sent, and the birds, who she feeds daily, swoop down and decorate her hat with leaves, pictures, flowers (paper and real), colored eggs, a paper fan, and a pink valentine. In Dreams, Roberto imagines (or does it really happen?) that when a paper mouse he has made tumbles from his windowsill, its shadow “grew bigger—and bigger—and BIGGER” until it scared off the dog terrorizing his friend’s kitten on the sidewalk below.

Ezra Jack Keats: Artist and Picture-book MakerWe haven’t really even talked about his art and his brilliant use of collage and color. Just as Keats’s books celebrate the power of the imagination, Anita Silvey says that Keats took “absolute joy in the creative process.” We can share that joy in his books in stories and art that recognize that everyone needs to be seen, everyone has a place, and everyone, joyously, matters.

Jackie: Brian Alderson in Ezra Jack Keats: Artist and Picture-Book Maker writes that in The Snowy Day Keats “came home to his proper place: a colorist celebrating the hidden lives of the city kids.” I would add that that can be said for most of his works. And we are the richer for it.

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Time Travel

sun dialWhen you tour Rome, you’re not always sure if you’re traveling in taxis or time machines. Down one street, you’re transported back to around 2,000 years ago, watching the Christians take on the lions in the Forum. Head down another street, and you’re enraptured by one of Michelangelo’s Renaissance masterpieces. Turn your head, and you see—the Golden Arches?

It’s the kind of place where it’s hard to remember exactly “when” you are.

“When” can also be the perfect jumping-off point for a student writing road trip. Is your classroom studying a key time in history? Ancient Egypt? The American Revolution? World War II? Eliminate the distance between your history lesson and your writing lesson by asking students to write a story set in that historical time, using details accurate to the setting. Talk about how setting details such as the correct technology, period-appropriate clothing, food choices, even the smells of that place and time, will help shape not only the story’s setting, but the characters who live in the “then” and the “there” of that story.

Or why not create a story-writing time machine? List the various historical periods you’ve studied this year on different index cards. Count up the total number of cards. Assign each card a number. Then have students number off into that many groups, or choose some other way of randomly assigning time machine destinations to each student. You can even use the time machine over and over again, with students ending up in different “times” each day they journey down this writing road.

Writing can help take your students anywhere, and any-when, you want them to travel.

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Jennifer A. Bell

Jennifer A. BellIn this interview with Jennifer A. Bell, illustrator of many endearing books, we’ve asked about the process of illustrating Little Cat’s Luck, our Bookstorm™ this month, written for second, third, and fourth graders as a read-aloud or individual reading books.Jennifer was also the illustrator for Marion Dane Bauer’s earlier novel-in-verse, Little Dog, Lost.

What media and tools did you use to create the soft illustrations in Little Cat’s Luck?

These illustrations were rendered in pencil and finished in Adobe Photoshop.

Little Cat's LuckDo you use real animals for models? Are they animals you know?

I do have a cat. I find Google image searches to be a bit more helpful when I need to find details of different animal breeds or specific poses.

How are the decisions you make about drawing in black-and-white different than those you make about drawing in color?

I love working in black-and-white. I get to narrow my focus onto lighting, value contrast, and textures. It’s much faster than working in color. Color adds another layer of decision-making and can make things more complicated.

Little Dog Lost

The covers for Little Cat’s Luck and Little Dog, Lost are so vibrantly colored. Do you get to choose the color palette for the covers or are you asked to use those colors?

Initially, I had submitted many cover sketches for Little Dog, Lost. Most of them were moody nighttime scenes with the exception of a daytime park sketch. Simon and Schuster thought that image worked the best and we went from there. That cover went through many revisions. The dog changed, the composition was adjusted, and the colors got brighter and brighter. When we started working on Little Cat’s Luck the cover needed to look different than the dog book but still coordinate.

Little Dog, LostHow did you interact with the art director for these books?

There was a lot of back and forth on the covers but I had more freedom working on the interior illustrations. I had a set number of illustrations to come up with and they set me loose with the manuscript. The art director then used my sketches to lay out the book. Once they could see how it all came together we made some adjustments and I was able to work on the final artwork.

When does the book designer get into the process?

The art directors for these books were also the designers.

What does the book designer do beyond what you’ve already done?

So much! They design the cover and book jacket. They choose the fonts. They paginate the text and illustrations and prepare the book to be printed.

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Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to share these insights into your work with our readers. One of the reasons we fell in love with both Patches and Gus, and with Buddy in Little Dog, Lost, is because you have such a deft way with characterization.

For use with your students, Marion’s website includes a book trailer, a social-emotional learning guide, and a teaching guide that you’ll find useful as you incorporate this book into your planning.

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The Jungle Book

The Jungle BookThe word exquisite once won the game for me while playing Password. I have been fond of that word since that time and look for instances where it applies. That is surely the illustrated edition of The Jungle Book, written by Rudyard Kipling all of those years ago, and newly illustrated by Nicola Bayley. Candlewick published this edition of the classic stories and their classics are worth collecting, reading, and treasuring. They should be well-worn on the bookshelves in your home.

I first read The Jungle Book when I was ten. I don’t remember any illustrations in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books version but I remember that this book made a big impression on me. It was so “other.” It was not the world I knew and it was larger than the farm dogs and pet cats I observed. It gave me a sense of the world beyond my vision. I believe it can still do that for readers today.

Bagheera and Mowgli by Nicola BayleyThe story of Mowgli and his wolf-pack, of Shere Khan, the tiger who believes Mowgli is his to dispose of as he wishes, of Baloo and Kaa and Bagheera … is as captivating now as I remember reading it as a child. There is such dignity and grace in the words that Kipling wrote, the stories he weaves with fierceness and humor and respect, that The Jungle Book transcends time. Who would not be fascinated by this story of a young boy (cub) who is adopted by a wolf pack, grows up believing he is a wolf, and then must re-join the world of man when the animals judge it is time. He lives in the jungle, is accustomed to the ways of the animal tribes, and this never leaves him, especially in his dealing with humans.

Midday Nap by Nicola BayleyThe book is such a treat to read because the visual experience is so rewarding. There are richly-colored borders and sumptuous story-dividing pages with patterns evocative of India, where The Jungle Book takes place. Every spread has some illustration it, done in colored pencil, that set the scene or enhance the storytelling or give us a glimpse of Mowgli and the animals. The full-page illustrations are riveting.

You’ve read before of my fondness for “butter covers,” dust jackets finished with a smooth and tangibly soft cover that invites holding and reading. This book has such a cover and it is irresistible. (I made that term up, by the way. Don’t try Googling it.)

In the “Word” at the beginning of the book, Nicola Bayley writes, “I’d been to India and visited all sorts of places you wouldn’t normally see, and I went to libraries in London to find out what the country was like in Kipling’s time.”

In the author’s bio on the jacket flap, we learn that “Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was born in India and spent his early childhood there. He lived a migratory life: educated in England, he returned to India in 1882, then met his wife in London and spent the early years of their marriage in Vermont, eventually settling in England. The most famous writer of his time, Rudyard Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1907, thirteen years after the publication of The Jungle Book.” His writing is a look into his world and his time, his experience, his feelings about life.

This edition of The Jungle Book is exquisite. I recommend it highly for your family read-aloud time, for young and older. Don’t skip over the poetry. Its rhythm and words are part of the experience. It will give you much to discuss and a world to explore.

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Caps for Sale

Caps for SaleMy college boy is home this week. So far his spring break has been spent fighting a doozy of a virus, lying about feverish and wan. Perhaps there is slight comfort in Mom making tea and soup, verses the non-hominess of the dorm, I don’t know. He seems grateful. I asked if he wanted something to read and went to his bookshelves to see if there was something light a98nd fun—an old favorite, perhaps—to while away the languishing hours on the couch.

I’d imagined a novel he could lose himself in—Swallows & Amazons or Harry Potter, maybe, but I found myself flipping through picture books. Most of the picture books are in my office these days, but some of the extra special ones are kept on each of the kiddos’ bookshelves. Caps for Sale: The Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina is one such picture book for #1 Son.

Goodness how he loved that book when he was a little boy! For awhile we had it perpetually checked out from the library. I renewed and renewed until I could renew no more, then I found a sympathetic librarian who checked it back in and let me check it right back out. She did this for us twice. Then I lost my nerve to ask for such special favors yet again and I bought the book.

I bet we read that book every day for over a year. It was before he was really talking—he called monkeys key-keys and he thought they were hilarious. He’d shake his finger, just like the peddler in absolute delight. “You monkeys, you! You give me back my caps!” Then he’d shake both hands, again just like the peddler; then kick one foot against the couch when the peddler stamped his foot, and both feet when the peddler stamped both feet. Each time he’d make the monkey reply “Tsz, tsz, tsz!” as well.

Caps for Sale

He liked to pile layers of hats (or shirts or socks) on his head like the peddler stacked his caps, and he loved to throw them on the ground, which is how the peddler eventually gets the monkeys to give back the caps they’ve stolen from his napping head. I watched him re-enact the entire book once when he was supposed to be taking a nap.

He learned sorting as he noticed the different colors and patterns of the caps and how the peddler stacked them up to take his inventory under the tree. He did this with playdough disk. “Caps!” he’d say when he made tall columns of red circles, blue circles, and yellow circles. I remember thinking this was uncommonly brilliant for an under two-year-old.

I offered to read it to him this afternoon. He declined, but the smile was wide, if still weary, when I showed him the book. I left it next to the couch, just in case he starts to feel better and wants to revisit it.

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Sunflower Cat Treats

Sunflower Cat Treats
Here's a popular homemade treat your cat will enjoy! You'll need a dehydrator to prepare these.
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Print
Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  2. 2 cups flour
  3. ½ cup chopped apples
  4. ¼ cup carrots, peas, or other vegetables
  5. ¼ cup oats, ground to a powder
  6. 1 cup peanut butter
  7. 1 cup rolled oats
  8. 1 cup molasses
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients but molasses in a large bowl; add molasses and work in until dough is stiff. Additional oats may be added to make the dough stiff.
  2. Roll out dough and cut into shapes or squares.
  3. Dehydrate at the highest setting—145 to 155 degrees—until done, for approximately 4 hours.
  4. These treats should be very dry, so add time as necessary.
Bookology Magazine http://www.bookologymagazine.com/
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Middle Kingdom: Albuquerque, New Mexico

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard regularly visits the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This journey takes us to Albuquerque Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Lisa talks with librarian Jade Valenzuela.

Lisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

Jade ValenzuelaJade: Our school library is a large, multi-functional space with over 140,000 items and is a place students can come before, during and after school to study or have class, and to just hang out!

Lisa: What recent changes or new elements are affecting the work you do with students?

Jade: New school schedule, implementing a laptop program at the school, using new technologies like LibGuides and digital tools have changed the way I work with students, the latter in a very positive way.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by your middle school students?

Jade: Comic books like FoxTrot by Bill Amend. In the past couple of years, Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell, Divergent by Veronica Roth, the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and Rick Riordan books. John Green, too.

Albquerque Academy reads

Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into middle school students’ hands?

Skulduggery PleasantJade: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy–one of my personal favorites that most kids haven’t heard of, but all love it after they read it. I love going through the shelves with students, talking with them about what they have read and what they would like to read and then I offer suggestions based on what they say. It is a very personalized process, and I just love to get students reading something they are interested in.

Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle schoolers?

Jade: The energy and enthusiasm. It can be exhausting sometimes, but I love seeing them light up and get excited about books and reading.

Lisa: Could you share some information about your most popular/successful/innovative program for promoting books and reading?

Jade: I do booktalks with middle grades, so I meet with classes and get to share books that I like and want to recommend. Our lower division also brings students up to the library for Independent Reading hours, where students just pick books and sit and read, and I am available to help them pick. Lots of books get checked out on these days! I also sometimes do displays to promote books.

Albuquerque Academy Simms Library

Lisa: How have books or other things changed for Middle Kingdom readers during your time as a librarian?

Jade: I have definitely noticed a shift toward digital media, not necessarily for reading, but just for everything–playing video games, watching YouTube, etc., seems to have taken over for many students as their favorite hobby. It is always interesting to me to see the trends, especially in my own community. One year, manga may be all the rage, then dystopian, then realistic. It is really interesting and hard to predict. Keeps me on my toes!

Lisa: What do you want your students to remember about your library in ten years?

Jade: I want them to remember it as a place they liked to come to, welcoming and safe, where they could find what they needed, get help, and leave happy.

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Skinny Dip with Marsha Qualey

 Joni MitchellWhich celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Joni. And I’d come prepared with questions about her painting, not her music, because then, just maybe, she’d see beyond the gobsmacked fan. Maybe she’d draw something on a napkin for me.  

If she didn’t show, I’d be okay because I’d have a back-up date with Louisa May. 

buttered toastWhat’s your favorite late-night snack?

Buttered toast, but I can’t indulge that often now. Once upon a time, though, it was a nightly thing. Then when I was diagnosed with celiac disease I went years without it because the bread I made or could find in stores just didn’t cut it. And then along came Udi’s.

Most cherished childhood memory?

I had the best best friend any quiet, introverted, bookish girl could have. Mary was just the opposite of me, and when I was with her, adventure wasn’t just something that happened in books, it was something we made together.

earthwormsOne first grade day we were walking the six to seven blocks home for lunch. It had rained all morning and we were excited by all the earthworms still on the sidewalks. What if we gathered them all and sold them as bait? We began collecting the liveliest ones and putting them in the pockets of our raincoats. The pickings were grand and we didn’t notice the time pass. When we neared our houses, conveniently across the street from each other, something made us realize how late we were (A beckoning family member? Church bells? Kids returning to school? This detail is lost.).  We rushed to our respective homes for a quick lunch and met up again at her family car for a ride back to school—we were that late.

The sun was shining and we were in a car and neither of us wore a raincoat. The sun prevailed for many days thereafter. Only when at last we again needed our raincoats, did either of us remember the grand plan to make a seven-year-old’s fortune by selling worms.

The worms were dust in the pockets of our size 6x raincoats. There’s an old woman’s somber metaphor about dreams in there somewhere, but it wouldn’t have registered with Mary and me.  We laughed then and we still laugh about it now.  

Morning person? Night person?

Night, now and forever.

What’s the strangest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

Mary Nohl HomeI love environmental art—the concrete and bottle constructions that an individual artist builds over the years on his or her property. Thanks to the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and the Kohler Foundation several such installations in Wisconsin have been preserved. Any one of these would qualify as strange, and they are all worth a visit.

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Roads Not Taken

One Way SignMy brother’s driving directions are full of “roads not taken.”

He’ll say something like, “Go about a mile and you’ll see Hamilton. Don’t turn there! You want the next street.” But without fail, I see Hamilton, remember that it was part of his directions, and turn before I’m supposed to.

My father and I are equally directionally incompatible. He’ll recite a mystifying succession of compass points to me. To give him credit, I’m sure his directions are completely clear and sensible to somebody who can actually tell east from west.

Here’s the only kind of directions that seem to work for me: “Turn left at the third Dairy Queen.” I guarantee I won’t miss a single turn if you use “ice cream directions.”

It’s a simple truth:  different approaches work for different brains. What launches one student’s writing road trip might amount to a “road not taken” approach for another. There is no “one way” that works to inspire every student. But for every student, there is probably “one way” that will ultimately inspire them.

When I first started  teaching students to write, I found it frustrating when kids would ask if they could draw their stories instead of write them. I saw my job as reinforcing writing skills, and I was afraid that the writing would get upstaged.

But gradually I realized that for certain students, drawing was the perfect “gateway” activity to writing. So while I still encourage all students to work with words, I also make room for drawing as part of our brainstorming and pre-writing activities.

Words are my artistic medium; drawing remains my personal road not taken. But it turns out that you can follow two completely different sets of directions, offered by two people who think completely differently—and somehow still end up at the same place!

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Marion Dane Bauer

Marion Dane BauerIn this interview with Marion Dane Bauer, we’re asking about her novel-in-verse, Little Cat’s Luck, our Bookstorm™ this month, written for second, third, and fourth graders as a read-aloud or individual reading books. It’s a good companion to her earlier novel-in-verse, Little Dog, Lost.

 When the idea for this story came to you, was it a seed or a full-grown set of characters and a storyline?

I began by sitting down to write another Little Dog, Lost, but not with the same characters, so it was easiest to start with a cat. When I begin a story, any story, I always know three things: who my main character will be, what problem she will be struggling with (knowing the problem, of course, includes knowing about the story’s antagonist, in this case “the meanest dog in town), and what a resolution will feel like. So I knew Patches would be lost and I knew she would encounter “the meanest dog in town” and I knew she and Gus must be believable friends in the end. I wasn’t sure, though, how their friendship would evolve. So I sent her out the window after that golden leaf and then waited to see what would happen.

Little Cat's LuckYou’ve stated that Little Cat’s Luck is a “companion book” for your earlier novel-in-verse, Little Dog, Lost. What does that term mean to you?

It’s not a sequel, because it’s not the same characters or the same place (though it’s another small town). I have however written it in the same manner—a story told in verse through a narrator—which gives it the same kind of feel. The same artist, Jennifer Bell, did the illustrations, too. Each book stands alone, but they could also be read side-by-side, compared and enjoyed together. One significant difference is that Little Cat’s Luck is entirely devoted to the world of the animals where Little Dog, Lost is focused more on the humans. In Little Cat’s Luck we see the humans only tangentially as they affect the animals, and because the animals stand at the center of the story I allow them to converse with one another. That doesn’t happen from the human perspective of Little Dog, Lost.

When you’re writing animal characters, which you do so well, from where are you drawing knowledge of their behavior?

I have always had animals in my life, cats when I was a child, both dogs and cats as an adult, though in recent years I’ve grown somewhat allergic to cats so no longer have them in my home. But I have lived with dogs and cats, paid close attention to them, loved them all my life, and when I turn to them as characters in a story I know exactly how they will be. In fact, since I can’t cuddle real cats any longer without ending up with itchy eyes, I found deep pleasure in bringing Patches to life on the page.

In creating Patches, you’ve imbued her with characteristics and dialogue that could be identified as human and yet you’ve maintained her animal nature. At what part of your process did you find yourself watching for that border between human and animal?

RuntThe moment I give an animal human speech, I have violated its animal nature. We are who we are as humans precisely because we talk, and we do it constantly, with good and bad results. We converse to understand one another, and we call one another names. In stories it can be very difficult to hold onto the animal nature of a dog or cat while human words are coming from their mouths. When I wrote my novel Runt, about a wolf pup, I chose to give the animals speech, following the pattern of marvelous writers such as Felix Salten, the author of Bambi, a Life in the Woods. And while that was a very intentional choice, it was a choice I found myself not wanting to repeat when I considered writing a sequel to Runt. I returned to my wolf research in preparation for writing that second book and found myself so impressed with the subtle, complex ways wolves actually communicate with one another that I put the idea for a sequel aside. I found I didn’t want to put speech into their mouths again. However, when I wrote Little Cat’s Luck I put that concern aside easily, partly I suppose because cats are domesticated animals, so speech felt less a violation. I gave them roles that are familiar in our human world, too, for Patches be a mother and for Gus to be a hurting bully, which made it easy to know what they might say. Throughout, though, I retained their animal nature by staying close to their physicality. Describing the way they move and the things they do with their bodies kept their animal natures in view.

Gus, the dog, is at once the “meanest dog in town” and the character who earns the most sympathy and admiration from readers. Was the “villain” of your story always this dog? Did he become more or less mean during your revision process?

Gus was always the villain, and he always started out mean. In fact, I didn’t know how mean he could be until he took possession of those kittens … and then of Patches herself! But by that time I understood Gus, understood the need his pain—and thus his meanness—came from, and thus knew he was acting out of desperation, not out of a desire to hurt. So that meant my story could find a reasonable and believable solution, that Patches, the all-loving, all-wise mother, could succeed in reforming “the meanest dog in town.”

How conscious are you of your readers, their age and reading ability, when you’re writing a novel like Little Cat’s Luck or Little Dog, Lost?

Little Dog, LostWhen I’m writing, I’m focused on my story and my characters, not my readers. I hope there will be readers one day, of course, but I’m writing through my characters, through my story without giving much thought for what will happen to it out in the world. If I can inhabit my story well, and if my story comes out of my young readers’ world, it will serve them. However, reading ability is another matter, and one I must take into consideration. I have written many books for developing readers, and I love the kinds of stories that work for young readers, so I have loved writing them. I wrote a series of books for Stepping Stones aimed at developing readers, ghost stories The Blue Ghost, The Red Ghost, etc., The Secret of the Painted House, The Very Little Princess, and more. And they were a great pleasure to write. But after I time I grew restless over having to write in short sentences to make the reading manageable for those still developing their skills. So when I came to write Little Dog, Lost, I said to myself, What if I wrote in verse? If I did that, the bite-sized lines would make it easier to read, and I wouldn’t have to alter the natural flow of my style. I did it, and it seemed to work, not just for reviewers and the adults who care about kids’ books, but for my young readers themselves. And I have been very happy with having discovered a new—for me—way of presenting a story. That’s why I decided to do Little Cat’s Luck in the same way.

Little Dog, Lost was your first novel-in-verse. With Little Cat’s Luck, are you feeling comfortable with the form or do you feel there are more challenges to conquer?

I was much more comfortable with the form with Little Cat’s Luck. When I started Little Dog, Lost I felt tentative. Could I really do this? Would anyone want it if I did? Was I just dividing prose into short lines or was I truly writing verse? So many questions. But after a time, I grew to love the form, and when I was ready to start again with a new story, I knew verse was the right choice. The one change I brought to verse form in Little Cat’s Luck is that this time I began experimenting with concrete verse, letting a word fall down the page when it described falling, curl when Patches curls into a nap and more. That was fun, too, but the challenge was to play with the shape of the words on the page without making deciphering more difficult for young readers. I’m guessing there will be more discoveries ahead if I return to this form.

Little Cat's Luck concrete poetry

Do you think visually or primarily in words?

Totally through words. Absolutely and totally. In fact, when I receive the first art for one of my picture books, I always go through the entire thing reading the text. And then I say to myself, “Oh, I’m supposed to be looking at the pictures!” and I go back to look. I didn’t have to prompt myself to be more visual, though, to play with the concrete poetry. Once I’d started doing it, opportunities to do more kept popping up, so even though I was using only words my thinking became more visual.

What is the most important idea you’d like to share with teachers and librarians about Patches and Buddy that you hope they’ll take with them to their students and patrons?

Little Cat's Luck by Jennifer A. BellI believe that the most important thing a story does, any story, is to make us feel. By inhabiting a story, living through it, we are transformed in some small—or sometimes large—way. I know that when stories are used in the classroom, they are used for multiple purposes, and that is as it should be, but I hope adults presenting Patches and Buddy will first let the children experience the boy, the dog, the cat, will let them feel their stories from the inside. After the stories have been experienced, as stories, there is plenty of time to use those words on the page for vocabulary lessons or as a prompt for children to write their own verse stories or anything else they might be useful for. But always, I hope, the story will be first.

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Thank you, Marion, for sharing your thoughts and writing journey with us. 

For use with your students, Marion’s website includes a book trailer, a social-emotional learning guide, and a teaching guide that you’ll find useful as you incorporate this book into your planning.

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Juxtaposition

jux·ta·po·si·tion | jəkstəpəˈziSH(ə)n/ | noun

  1. the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect. Example: “the juxtaposition of these two images”

Parking lot signJuxtaposition.  The word has been swimming around my head for several weeks. The best month of my entire career filled with some of my proudest moments as an educator happening at the same time big decisions are being made by the “powers that be,” changes that will profoundly affect what happens each day in Room 123. As my colleagues, students and I celebrated our love of reading, the inevitable pendulum of change swept through, rattling my hopes and dreams for kids to become lifelong readers and lovers of literacy.

As mentioned in my previous post, my school celebrated with the theme “Reading is its own reward.” The bucket-list wish to stage a small-scale “flash mob” came true during our kick-off event. A talented crew of performers (we will likely need to keep our day jobs) danced and sang, “Darling, darling, read with me, oh read with me” to the Ben E. King classic “Stand by Me.”

Parent surveys gave an enthusiastic “thumbs up” to the surprise entertainment and, once again, a month of literacy-filled memories were in the making.  

Trophy wall

The days flew past as the paper trophies multiplied. Kids and teachers were reading and nominating books in droves. Doors were decorated with reading-related themes. Books were awarded to lucky kids in every classroom each week. Authors came into our classrooms via YouTube videos and Skype visits. A writing/art contest was held to select the “Crossover Crew”; two-dozen prodigious (as in getting Kwame’s autograph) artisans (as in creating a high-quality product) who would get to spend some one-on-one time with the author of a book they adored. And then came the day we had been planning for since November.

Kwame AlexanderBest. Teaching. Day. Ever! Friday, February 19th. Kwame Alexander was in the house. Kwame actually brought down the house. In all my 25 years of teaching, I can honestly say this day was the best. Thanks to generous funding from Penguin Random House, who sponsored Kwame’s visit and Scholastic Reading Clubs, who helped provide copies of The Crossover for every 4th and 5th grade student, I am convinced this was a day that will be a lifelong memory for the kids and their teachers.

The energy and excitement shook the shelves in the Media Center as our 4th and 5th graders hung on his every word. They recited words from The Crossover verbatim, chimed in during a lively call/response rendition of his latest picture book, Surf’s Up and had plenty of questions for this award-winning writer. 

Kwame Alexander Crossover Fans

One of my favorite exchanges of the day came from a thoughtful young man who asked Kwame about his TV viewing rules. After hearing that as a boy, Kwame was not allowed to watch TV and his parents pushed reading so much that he actually hated it, this curious kid wanted to know what the rules were for Kwame’s daughter. The answer was a good one. Each chapter of reading equals 15 minutes of TV. The questioner was apparently impressed with this idea. Later in the day, he announced to his teacher that he liked the plan so much that he was going to apply it to his own reading and TV viewing life. I’ve always believed that books change lives. This author and this book changed an entire school community. If you work in a school, I highly recommend bringing both to your students.

The culmination of our month-long literacy love fest brought 500 readers together to reveal the winners of the coveted Tiger Trophy awards. Our theme “Reading is its own reward” was reinforced with students and staff performing in our “EP Tigers Read” video.

Trophy case

Amid thunderous applause and an abundance of cheers (if our gym had rafters they surely would have been shaking), the book titles were announced. Feel free to insert your own drum roll before you read the following list of award recipients:

Kindergarten picks: Harry the Dirty Dog, Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues, Rainbow Fish, and Henry’s Wrong Turn

1st Grade picks: Zoom, The Snow Queen, The Book With No Pictures, and Duck, Rabbit

2nd Grade picks: The Jungle Book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today, and When I Feel Angry

 3rd Grade picks: Dog Breath, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and Bone

4th Grade pick: The Crossover (triple award)

5th Grade picks: The War That Saved My Life, Everyone Loves Bacon, and The Crossover

The Flip Side

When the confetti settled and the joy that had been tap-dancing in my heart subsided, I pondered the recent activity in my district regarding adopting a new reading curriculum. This is where that flip side of the juxtaposition coin comes into play. The reality is that the fall of 2016 will bring about vast changes in the way business is done in hundreds of classrooms across my district. The curriculum adoption process has determined that our current state of curriculum is sub-par. The data indicates that our test scores are simply not good enough. A “core” reading program (no longer referred to as a “basal”) at the price tag of $3.2 million is being touted as “the ticket” to fixing the problem. As a proponent of a growth mindset, I am someone who embraces change (over the years I have taught grades 1 through 5, in 12 different schools in 8 different districts and lost count of the number of times I changed classrooms). I typically do not take a skeptical stance going into a new initiative. Yet I cannot seem to ignore the questions that are tugging at my heart:

  1. Will weekly skills tests help my students gain confidence and grow as readers more than reading conferences, readers’ response notebooks, and small group reading sessions do?
  1. Does a one-size fits-all curriculum that promises to improve test scores also foster a joy of reading among my students?
  1. Will following the teacher’s manual with “fidelity,” as expected by my employer, allow any room for me to make informed decisions about what happens in my classroom based on my years of training and experience?
  1. Do the publishers of this “core program” know my students better than I do, so much so that the vocabulary lists and pacing of lessons (pre-determined and pre-selected for the entire year) will meet their wide range of needs?
  1. Will the set of anthology texts (again, pre-selected for the entire year) be more interesting and engaging than the authentic literature and award winning trade books my students and I are interested in reading?
  1. Where does the quality and expertise of the practitioner fit into this “ready to go” curriculum? In other words, what about our beloved read-alouds and book clubs that are cultivated from my extensive reading, networking, and knowledge of children’s literature?

And there you have it, the juxtaposition of my role as an educator. The elation of witnessing hundreds of kids pumped up about books, authors and reading sitting side by side with the trepidation of witnessing decisions that may or may not be in the best interest of kids. Stay tuned…I will be searching for answers to these questions and you can bet that I will be sharing more about this topic in future articles.

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Fashion Studio

Fashion Studio Oh. my goodness. When I opened up this box, I was immediately transported to my grandparents’ back yard, on the blue blanket under the elm tree, when a gaggle of friends brought their Barbies and Kens together and we sewed clothes out of fabric scraps and held fashion shows. Those days are some of my best memories of childhood.

If we had had this Fashion Studio from Candlewick Press, I’m convinced it would have altered lives. This would have amped up the creativity level and built confidence.

You see, we often became frustrated because we lacked new ideas or didn’t quite know how to construct a garment. Fashion Studio will crack that disappointment wide open. There are cardboard templates to help you make paper garments.

For those who are challenged by spatial relationships, this will provide many an Aha! Moment as designers fashion their clothing.

First of all, the Fashion Studio itself is chic (and purple!). Well-designed to have wide appeal, it’s made from sturdy cardboard that folds open to reveal a beautiful shop with its own type of runway. There are dress stands and a display rail. When designing is done for the day, it all folds up into an easy-to-carry box that is roughly the size of a Harry Potter book.

Fashion Studio

Want to make a Skater Dress? Pages 8 and 9 in the Fashion Handbook by author Helen Moslin take you step by step, with a drawing for every direction, cutting out, gluing (no stitching here but there are seam allowances and one can easily make the leap between a line of stitching and the glue).

When the dress is assembled and the glue is drying, it’s time to make the adorable little polka dot mules and the small bag.

At the end of each set of instructions, there are ideas for other combinations of paper and trim, just enough to spur the imagination into making its own designs using these templates and papers found around the house or designed with crayon or watercolor. The papers and stickers included with the Fashion Studio will appeal to a wide variety of tastes.

Fashion Studio

A glossary of Dressmaker Words is included—and the text uses them—so that the design and assembly processes are akin to the world of fabric and sewing.  

Like the outstanding Candlewick Press Animation Studio before it, this Fashion Studio will bring big smiles and happy hearts to the fashionistas in your life. Lucky kids!

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Worm Loves Worm

Worm Loves Wormfinally had a chance to read one of my new favorite picture books—Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato—to a group of kids. It was Valentine’s Day—the kids were making valentines, learning origami, and listening to love stories read by moi.

My mistake was trying to call them away from the origami and stickers and scraps by saying: Hey kids! Let’s read some love stories!

A couple of them looked up and made a face, but most ignored me. The adults came to my aid and tried to get everyone to circle up, but the assurances that everyone could go back to their crafting did little to persuade. They’re readers, but they’re also crafters. Unfair to make them choose, but I did. I announced grandly, “The first book is about worms….”

That got their attention.

“Worms?” they said.

“I thought you said you were reading love stories,” said one child (who will be a lawyer some day.)

“Yes,” I said. “This is a love story. About worms.”

A few left their scraps and stickers and came over to see. I started the story.

Worm loves Worm.

“Let’s be married,” says Worm to Worm.

“Yes!” answers Worm.

“Let’s be married.” 

“I didn’t know worms could get married!” said one child. More joined our circle.

I turned the page. Worm and Worm’s friend Cricket volunteers to marry them, because you have to have someone to marry you—“that’s how it’s always been done.”  

That’s How It’s Always Been Done is a major refrain in this book.

“Now can we be married?” asks Worm.

But no, not yet. Beetle insists on a best beetle, and volunteers himself for the role. The Bees insist on being bride’s bees. And then there are the rings to consider—because, of course, “that’s how it’s always been done.”

It goes on and on—the usual trapping of a wedding, the ways “it’s always been done”—are trotted out as hurdles, if not quite objections. Patiently the worms adapt. Their friends see how things can be different. They’ll wear the rings like belts, not having fingers. They’ll do The Worm at the dance, not having feet to dance with. Their friend Spider will attach the hat and flowers with sticky web and eat the cake “along with Cricket and Beetle,” since worms do not eat cake.

Now, the adults in the room understood the story as a clever way to turn the same-gender vs. different-gender marriage debate upside down. They were delighted. These are parents who have raised their kids to support marriage for all—indeed, some of the kids in my audience are being raised in a family with two moms/dads.

The kids understood the more subtle message behind the story, though. It’s about change. It’s about learning to see past How It’s Always Been Done. They didn’t even blink when one worm wore a veil and tux and the other wore a dress and top hat. This is how kids play dress up, after all. Details do not stymie children the way they do adults.

Worm Loves Worm0797

The ending to this book is happy. When Cricket objects that “That isn’t how it’s always been done.” Worm says, “Then we’ll just change how it’s done.” The other worm said, “Yes.”

And the children said, “Yes.” And then they went back to their Valentines.

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Molting Advice

Debra FrasierI just survived the Great Blizzard of 2016 from a cabin atop a mountain in western North Carolina. When the snow and wind stopped we emerged into a soft, untouched world. Tall snow-heavy pines. Layers of Blue Ridge mountains now white. Silent.

We shoveled.

Two days later I could finally drive down the mountain to a friend’s home and there, on the twisting creekside road, two red cardinals suddenly crossed in front of my car. Piercing red. An event lasting no longer than two seconds.

I should mention that I am currently artistically lost. Me, who once gave lectures on what to do when lost. I am more than lost. Psychically molting, I am the lobster who has outgrown a shell and shivers naked behind the coral arch, waiting for something dreadful to happen, or, in more hopeful moments, the caterpillar turned to mush with absolutely no brain to even invent a conception of the future. Every assured being amazes me—tree, bird, human—how can anything have such strength, bones, shell, wings, purpose?

Debra Frasier letter forms

Those two seconds of red birds flashing magic in front of my car’s first post-blizzard trip pierce this mush. But, I argue, what will it possibly matter if I try to put words to this tiny, tiny, startling moment?

Cardinals’ wings cross,
quick red threads stitch tree to tree
on snowbed’s white quilt.

Later, THIS quote crosses my Facebook (oh, inadequacy!) feed:

“The world is full of magic things
patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  
W.B. Yeats

In the dark the mush tremors slightly.

So I try again:

Startled red wings cross—
two sudden cardinal threads
stitching winter’s quilt.

Yes. Yeats speaks to ME on Facebook, of all godforsaken places.
Artist wakes artist.

I suddenly realize:
This is what we do to form the long bucket brigade to save each other.

Red flashes, flick, flick,
Two cardinal threads cross-stitch
The slow falling snow.

Debra Frasier Calligraphy

This is the advice I heard deep inside the molting mush: forget everything, every longing for meaning or contribution, for riches, for applause. Simply do this:

Grow your senses sharper.

Yeats told me. On Facebook.

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Skinny Dip with Caroline Starr Rose

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

L.M. MontgomeryAuthor L.M. Montgomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame. I’ve read all of her books several times over, including the journals she kept from fourteen until the time of her death. In fact, I’ve committed to revisiting Maud’s journals every ten years. So far, I’ve read all five volumes twice.

Though I have a feeling Maud wouldn’t approve of me (she was not fond of free verse), she has always felt like a kindred spirit. Like me, she was a teacher, a Presbyterian pastor’s wife, a mother to two boys, and an author. I’d like to think we’d have a lot to talk about!

Later this year my best friend and I are heading to Maud’s home, Prince Edward Island—a trip six years in the making and dream come true.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

The Phantom TollboothI adore Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. I’ve probably read it thirty times, first as a student, then as a student teacher, then with my students, and finally with my own children. It’s witty, it’s clever, it’s fun, and oh so quotable. It’s also great for teaching elements of story. There’s a reluctant hero on a classic quest, and even the climax takes place at the highest physical point in the story—the Castle in the Air.

Most cherished childhood memory?

Ernest HemingwayI’m going to change this one slightly to my most starry-eyed literary childhood memory. My family hosted a Spanish exchange student named Paula when I was in fourth grade. Since then, Paula’s family and my family have continued to remain close. The Maciciors own a home that is hundreds of years old, a grand thirty-four room structure in the Spanish countryside, near the city of Pamplona. In the 1920s Ernest Hemingway rented a room there while working on The Sun Also Rises.

I visited this house as a pre-teen and a teen. Though I hadn’t yet read anything by Hemingway, I knew his name and was thrilled to learn I’d get to stay in the room where a real-live author had temporarily lived. There are two beds in the room, and you better believe I slept in both, to cover my claim-to-fame bases.

Caroline Starr RoseBrother and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I have a half sister and half brother who are ten and twelve years older than I am.  I often describe myself as a semi-only child, as much of my childhood was spent as the only kid at home. This taught me to entertain myself, certainly, and meant I had plenty of time for reading and imagining and just making do.

Best tip for living a contented life?

This is one I’m still learning (and probably will be till I die). But so far I’ve learned contentment comes from gratitude, from realizing how many simple, wonderful, often-overlooked gifts we experience everyday. Like breathing. Have you ever considered how amazing it is that there’s air to fill your lungs every single moment? Contentment comes from loving and being loved. And it comes from acknowledging what you can control and letting go of what you can’t. Easier said than done, I know.

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Bookstorm™: Little Cat’s Luck

 

Little Cat's Luck

Little Cat's LuckMany people love cats. You might be one of them. Many children consider their cat or their dog to be one of the family. Marion Dane Bauer understands that. She wrote Little Cat’s Luck, the story of Patches, a cat, and Gus, the meanest dog in town, out of her deep affinity for both cats and dogs. You can tell. These are real animals who have adventures, challenges, and feelings that readers will avidly follow … and understand. Written as a novel-in-verse with charming use of concrete poetry, Little Cat’s Luck is a book that will interest both avid readers and those still gaining confidence.

We are pleased to feature Little Cat’s Luck as our March book selection, written by the perceptive Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by the playful Jennifer A. Bell, storytellers both.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. You’ll find books for a variety of tastes and interests. This month, we’re focusing on books for primary grade readers. We’ve included some books for adults with background information about cats, information texts, narrative nonfiction, and plenty of memorable cat characters. 

Downloadables

 

 

Don’t miss the exceptional resources on the author’s website. There’s a book trailer, a social-emotional learning guide, and a teaching guide that you’ll find useful as you incorporate this book into your planning.

BOOKSTORM TOPICS

Memorable Cat Characters. You may know and love these books but have your readers been introduced to Macavity, Pete the Cat, the Cat in the Hat, Atticus McClaw? From picture books to early readers to middle grade novels, there’s a wide range of books here for every taste.

Friendship. There have been excellent books published about animals who are friends, many you wouldn’t expect, both as fictional stories and true stories.

Smart Animals. Do you know the true story of Alex the Parrot? Or how smart an octopus is? Do you know what animals think and feel? There are books here that will amaze you and deepen your appreciation for animals and birds.

Caring for Animals. These fictional books are good discussion starters for the responsibility of having an animal pet, especially a cat. 

Spirit of Adventure. Animal adventures have been favorites ever since Jack London published Call of the Wild. These are some of the best stories, just like Little Cat’s Luck and Little Dog, Lost.

Animal Mothers and Their Offspring. How do animals care for their young? We’ve included a couple of books that will fascinate young readers.

The Truth about Cats. From The Cat Encyclopedia to How to Speak Cat, these are information texts filled with facts. Good choices for your students’ book bins.

Best of all? There are so many good books about cats!

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your ideas and any other books you’d add to this Bookstorm™.

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