Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Saying “Yes!”

Try­ing new things makes me uncom­fort­able. I don’t like to take risks; I like the famil­iar. That’s why when I was asked to give sev­er­al author pre­sen­ta­tions at inter­na­tion­al schools in Bei­jing, my gut reac­tion was to shout, “Not on your life!” Sure, I knew oth­er authors who had trav­eled over­seas and had won­der­ful expe­ri­ences vis­it­ing schools in India and Sau­di Ara­bia, but I’m not as brave or as com­pe­tent as these friends.

Still, some­thing inside me whis­pered that I would regret say­ing no to this oppor­tu­ni­ty. The whis­per con­tin­ued to nag until final­ly I told the inquir­ing school a hes­i­tant “yes.”

It didn’t take me long to imag­ine all the things that could go wrong. I could miss my flight. The East­ern food could dis­agree with my Mid­west­ern stom­ach. My dri­ver in Bei­jing might not show up.

My brave friends assured me that all of these wor­ries were unfound­ed.

And you know what?

They were wrong.

All of these wor­ries came true.

My depart­ing flight was delayed mul­ti­ple times until I was sent home and told to come back tomor­row and try again. When I even­tu­al­ly made it to Bei­jing a day late, two bites of an inno­cent look­ing “pan­cake” from the hotel’s break­fast buf­fet left me with instan­ta­neous “diges­tive issues” (aka explo­sive diar­rhea). And mid­way into my trip as I wait­ed (and wait­ed and wait­ed) one morn­ing for my dri­ver to arrive, it became clear that he was nev­er going to show, leav­ing me (with­out a cell phone) to fran­ti­cal­ly find a way to con­tact the school.

David LaRochelle AbroadWith all these set­backs, the trip should have been a dis­as­ter for a wor­ry­wart like me. But it was noth­ing of the sort. I brought back incred­i­ble mem­o­ries that I wouldn’t trade for any­thing: stand­ing on the Great Wall, vis­it­ing with preschool­ers who had baked a giant cake shaped like one of the char­ac­ters from my pic­ture books, learn­ing how to make Chi­nese dumplings from one of the teach­ers. None of these things would have hap­pened if I had stayed at home.

Version 2

And all those mini-dis­as­ters? They turned out to be bless­ings in dis­guise. When my worst wor­ries mate­ri­al­ized and I found a way to work around them, I dis­cov­ered that I was braver and more com­pe­tent than I thought.

Though I’m reluc­tant to admit it, some of the most reward­ing moments of my career have come when I’ve stepped out of my com­fort zone and attempt­ed things I didn’t think I could do: write for teenagers, illus­trate a book with tricky paper engi­neer­ing, tack­le non­fic­tion. I’ll nev­er be an enthu­si­as­tic risk-tak­er like some of my friends, but I’ve learned that being a lit­tle uncom­fort­able is worth the ben­e­fits I reap when I stretch myself.

Recent­ly I was asked to vis­it schools in Moscow and St. Peters­burg. As I remem­bered my time in Bei­jing, I visu­al­ized all the things that could go wrong on a trip to Rus­sia. Then I swal­lowed my fears, took a deep breath, and said, “Sure, I’d love to go!”

David LaRochelle in Moscow


Traveling Abroad

by Lisa Bullard

Swiss ChaletIn col­lege I spent a month trav­el­ing in Europe. I savored dozens of excit­ing new foods.

But it was the ketchup — some­thing I usu­al­ly took for grant­ed — that stood out. For­eign ketchup was so for­eign. Had ketchup become so famil­iar at home that I’d stopped notic­ing its taste? Was it because I was eat­ing ketchup in Switzer­land that it seemed like I was tast­ing ketchup for the first time?

To me, the elu­sive con­cept of “writer’s voice” is like for­eign ketchup. I know, now you’re say­ing, “Seri­ous­ly, ketchup?” But teach­ers are being asked to help even young stu­dents devel­op their writ­ing voic­es. The first step must be to define voice, yet adult writ­ers strug­gle to grasp what it means. Is a condi­ment com­par­i­son real­ly so out of line?

The best defi­ni­tion I have for voice is that it is the writer embed­ding her per­son­al­i­ty, his­to­ry, essence, into her writ­ing. Is it true that there are no new sto­ries? If so, then voice is the thing that makes us want to hear the old sto­ries told over and over again — because each new voice makes those sto­ries seem fresh and sur­pris­ing.

Voice is each new writer say­ing to you as the read­er:

I’m going to tell you a sto­ry… about being afraid… about los­ing some­one… about find­ing your true self… about stay­ing a good friend. Sounds famil­iar, right? But I’m going to tell you this sto­ry in the way that only I can tell it, so you’ll hear it as if for the very first time.”

My sto­ry, told in my voice, will taste like for­eign ketchup to you.  Still rec­og­niz­able as the condi­ment you take for grant­ed. And yet also so unex­pect­ed, so new­ly noticed, it will seem as if you have nev­er eat­en ketchup — or heard that par­tic­u­lar sto­ry — ever before.



Skinny Dip with Susan Cooper

7_1GhostHawkWhat ani­mal are you most like?

I’m a giraffe. A medi­um-sized giraffe, because I was tall when I was young, but now — to my fury — I’ve passed the age when you begin to shrink. A giraffe is shy, and does­n’t make much noise: that’s me, I think. The giraffe and I are both good at look­ing around and notic­ing things — though in my case I’m col­lect­ing mate­r­i­al for books, and in hers she’s look­ing out for the lion who wants to eat her. The giraffe is good at pol­li­nat­ing flow­ers and spread­ing seeds while she’s brows­ing on tree­tops, and I do those things while I’m gar­den­ing. And we both have spe­cial friends, though we don’t belong to a herd.

Oh yes, and we both have long eye­lash­es.

Which book of yours was the most dif­fi­cult to write?

It’s called Sil­ver on the Tree, and it drove me mad. It was the last in a sequence of five books called The Dark Is Ris­ing, so it had to tie togeth­er all the strands of sto­ry in the first four books, and rise to a ter­rif­ic cli­max in which good tri­umphs over evil. Writ­ing it took twice as long as any of the oth­er four. There are things in it that I love, though I nev­er did feel the cli­max was ter­rif­ic enough. But when I wrote the last page, I cried, because I’d lived with my fam­i­ly of char­ac­ters through five books and I was nev­er going to see them again.

Which of your books would make a good movie and who would be the star?

One of my books has been a bad movie, with a sto­ry remark­ably unlike the one I wrote. But I’d love to see a book called King of Shad­ows made into a film, ide­al­ly by Wes Ander­son. It’s about a mod­ern boy actor who finds him­self back in Eliz­a­bethan Eng­land, act­ing oppo­site William Shake­speare in the Globe The­atre. So the star would be a boy actor whom nobody’s yet heard about. And Shake­speare would be played by.……got any ideas?

What book do you tell every­one to read?

The next one by Mar­cus Sedg­wick or William Alexan­der.

Are you a night owl or an ear­ly bird?

In my twen­ties I was a night owl, sit­ting up late writ­ing books after spend­ing the day as a news­pa­per reporter. In my thir­ties I had young chil­dren, so I was up both ear­ly and late. Grad­u­al­ly since then I’ve turned into an ear­ly bird — because today I live on an island in an estu­ary salt­marsh, where I open my eyes in the morn­ing to the sun­rise. Every day it’s dif­fer­ent, every day it’s beau­ti­ful. Can I show you one?





I’m not ready for school!”

Dad's First DayI minored in the­atre in col­lege, where I crossed the street from Augs­burg to attend Arthur Bal­let’s leg­endary his­to­ry of the­atre class at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta.

Lessons learned in that class came rush­ing back as I savored Mike Wohnout­ka’s Dad’s First Day because it struck me how well this book would play as the­atre of the absurd.

Mike is a keen observ­er of behav­ior, know­ing what will delight kids … and their par­ents. Turn­ing that first day of school on its ear, show­ing that, truth­ful­ly, par­ents are just as wor­ried as the child is, pro­vides good fun, dis­cuss­able emo­tions, and a nat­ur­al lead-in to con­ver­sa­tions.

The dad’s behav­ior is drawn in friend­ly, real­is­ti­cal­ly com­ic style with a var­ied palette of gouache paint. His reac­tions are absurd. Kids will rec­og­nize that and whoop with acknowl­edg­ment. Dad is endear­ing and so is the lit­tle boy who non­cha­lant­ly, even dis­play­ing con­fi­dence, can’t wait to expe­ri­ence his first day at school. 

Word choic­es make this a good read-aloud while the illus­tra­tions make this a good side-by-side book. And you must find the ref­er­ences to three of Mike’s pre­vi­ous books in the illus­tra­tions. I found six … can you find more?

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for par­ents, grand­par­ents, care­givers, and preschool edu­ca­tors.


Cardboard L.I.T. Club: Linking Imagination & Text

by Mau­r­na Rome

There is no life I know to com­pare with pure imag­i­na­tion. Liv­ing there you’ll be free if you tru­ly wish to be…”

                            —Leslie Bricusse and Antho­ny New­ley

Each year I intro­duce my stu­dents to a young man named Caine. This cre­ative entre­pre­neur had spent the entire sum­mer in 2012 build­ing an elab­o­rate card­board arcade in his dad’s auto shop garage in Los Ange­les. Defin­ing the essence of per­se­ver­ance, he wait­ed patient­ly for weeks to meet his first cus­tomer, Nir­van, who hap­pened to be a film­mak­er. The inspir­ing sto­ry of this 9 year old and the guy who made “a movie that became a move­ment to fos­ter cre­ativ­i­ty world­wide” is cap­tured on sev­er­al YouTube videos

6_30Cardboard-ClubBorderThe result of this unlike­ly part­ner­ship is the “Glob­al Card­board Chal­lenge,” an event that takes place in 46 coun­tries around the world. It is also the back­sto­ry behind a lit­tle project that took place in Room 132 this past school year. After learn­ing about Caine’s sto­ry, my class also explored sev­er­al card­board themed books: Not a Box and The Card­board Box Book. We then brain­stormed ways to incor­po­rate Caine’s cre­ativ­i­ty and pas­sion for card­board into a lit­er­a­cy-based activ­i­ty. We came up with the “Card­board L.I.T. Club.”

Thanks to a gen­er­ous grant (see note at the end of this arti­cle) from the Min­neso­ta Read­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, the mis­sion was for kids and adults to come togeth­er to:

  1. Be cre­ative
  2. Pro­mote the reading/writing con­nec­tion
  3. Learn about team­work
  4. Encour­age each oth­er to read and dis­cuss good books
  5. Use art, tech­nol­o­gy, math, and engi­neer­ing to increase lit­er­a­cy learn­ing

Before launch­ing the club, kids were required to fill out a club appli­ca­tion stat­ing why they want­ed to join the club. They were also asked to com­plete a self-reflec­tion sur­vey about how they were doing in school in the areas of home­work com­ple­tion, show­ing respect, work­ing hard and being help­ful to oth­ers. Stu­dents who were on shaky ground were asked to sign an extra agree­ment with the under­stand­ing that in order to stay in the club dur­ing the next two months, they would need to main­tain good aca­d­e­m­ic and behav­ior sta­tus. This proved to be a huge moti­va­tor for a few stu­dents who made improve­ments with home­work and behav­ior in order to keep their good stand­ing.

In mid-March, we met for our first of five Card­board L.I.T. Club meet­ings. Kids were free to pick a book from a huge selec­tion of titles then groups were formed based on the titles cho­sen. The major­i­ty leaned towards ever-pop­u­lar graph­ic nov­el titles while oth­ers select­ed Mer­cy Wat­son to the Res­cue, Dork Diaries and Myths in 30 Sec­onds. From there the plan was sim­ple. Kids were asked to read the book, dis­cuss it with their group focus­ing on what mat­tered most, and final­ly, decide how to rep­re­sent the sto­ry and char­ac­ters using card­board, paint and tape.

Oth­er essen­tial ingre­di­ents were snacks (we start­ed each ses­sion with a “chat and chow” with kids talk­ing to one anoth­er about what they were cur­rent­ly read­ing), par­ent and high school vol­un­teers (a ratio of 1 helper to 5 kids is rec­om­mend­ed), an abun­dance of card­board (dona­tions from local busi­ness­es), lots of col­lab­o­ra­tion (a.k.a. prob­lem solv­ing), a photographer/videographer (a visu­al record of progress) and time for clean­ing up (keep­ing peace with the cus­to­di­an is a pri­or­i­ty).

Thanks to Caine and the “Card­board L.I.T. Club,” we are ready to take on the Glob­al Card­board Chal­lenge in Octo­ber and will be expand­ing our club next year to the “Lit­er­a­cy L.I.F.T. Club” — Link­ing Imag­i­na­tion FUN and Text! Check out a lit­tle video show­cas­ing our work.


I will be teach­ing two class­es on August 5th at Resource Train­ing and Solu­tions in St. Cloud, MN. The morn­ing class will cov­er launch­ing and coör­di­nat­ing a suc­cess­ful “Card­board Club.” The after­noon class will offer an overview on using and cre­at­ing videos in the class­room. Reg­is­tra­tion infor­ma­tion can be found here.

Be sure to con­sid­er par­tic­i­pat­ing in the 2015 Glob­al Card­board Chal­lenge on Octo­ber 10th. 

Each year mem­bers of the Min­neso­ta Read­ing Asso­ci­a­tion are invit­ed to apply for grants to sup­port class­room projects and/or book clubs for boys. The appli­ca­tion process is very straight­for­ward and do-able! The dead­line is Feb­ru­ary 1st, 2016. 



Dinosaur Eggs


Dinosaur Eggs

When you’re done with a day of tromp­ing through the pri­mor­dial savan­nah, on the look­out for dinosaurs, have some of these on hand for your avid dinosaur fans.
Prep Time35 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time1 hr
Serv­ings: 6
Author: Deneen Flow­ers


  • 6 medi­um hard-boiled eggs
  • 1.5 lbs ground spicy sausage
  • 12 cup bread crumbs
  • 14 tsp gar­lic pow­der
  • 14 tsp pep­per
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • Hot sauce option­al
  • Brown mus­tard option­al


  • Peel boiled eggs. Mix sea­son­ings and bread crumbs togeth­er.
  • Divide sausage into six equal amounts.
  • Flat­ten sausage into thin pat­ties and wrap around eggs.
  • Roll each egg in bread crumbs.
  • Heat oil in skil­let.
  • Fry eggs in hot oil until well browned, turn­ing fre­quent­ly.
  • May also be baked in oven at 325 deg F for 25 min­utes or until browned
  • Serve with hot sauce or mus­tard if desired.


Adapt­ed from

How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen

by Melanie Heuis­er Hill

RRB_TomI have writ­ten before about the need for longer pic­ture books in addi­tion to the short­er ones mak­ing up the cur­rent trend in pic­ture book pub­lish­ing. I want to stay on the record as say­ing there’s plen­ty of rea­son to keep pub­lish­ing pic­ture books that are longer than 300 – 500 words. I’m an advo­cate for 3000 – 5000 words — a sto­ry with details! And to those who think kids won’t sit for them — HA! Try it. If the sto­ry is good, they’ll lis­ten.

One of my favorite longer pic­ture books is How Tom Beat Cap­tain Najork And His Hired Sports­men, writ­ten by Rus­sell Hoban and illus­trat­ed by Quentin Blake. I did not count the words, but this is a sto­ry filled with long sen­tences, won­der­ful descrip­tion, and very fun­ny char­ac­ters. There’s not an extra word in there, in my opin­ion, and the sto­ry could not be told in 300 – 500 words.

The book opens intro­duc­ing Tom’s maid­en aunt, Aunt Fid­get Wonkham-Strong, who wears an iron hat and take “no non­sense from any­one.” Where she walks, the flow­ers droop. When she sings (which is hard to imag­ine), the trees shiv­er.

This open­ing descrip­tion and the accom­pa­ny­ing pic­ture can hook a room­ful of kids. When you turn the page and read about Tom, Aunt Fid­get Wonkham-Strong’s nephew, who likes to “fool around” the kid lis­ten­ers are sold — they will sit for the sev­er­al hun­dreds of words (many of them sophis­ti­cat­ed words) it takes to tell the sto­ry.

Tom fools around with sticks and stones and crum­pled paper and most any­thing else he can get his hands on. He’s gift­ed in the mud depart­ment and can make things from bent nails, cig­ar bands, and a cou­ple of paper clips. He’s a boy Mac­Gyver. And when his foe comes along, he is more than ready.

Who is his foe, you ask? Cap­tain Najork. And it’s Aunt Fid­get Wonkham-Strong who sets up the match. She sends for Cap­tain Najork and his hired sports­men to teach Tom a les­son about fool­ing around.

Cap­tain Najork,” said Aunt Fid­get Wonkham-Strong, “is sev­en feet tall, with eyes like fire, a voice like thun­der, and a han­dle­bar mous­tache. His trousers are always fresh­ly pressed, his blaz­er is immac­u­late, his shoes are pol­ished mir­ror-bright, and he is every inch a ter­ror.”

Well, when Cap­tain Najork arrives on his ped­al boat to reform Tom, Tom sees right away that he’s only six feet tall and his eyes are not like fire, nor is his voice like thun­der. They size each oth­er up, and the games begin. Cap­tain Najork announces that they shall com­pete at womble, muck, and sneed­ball.

   “How do you play womble?” said Tom.

   “You’ll find out,” said Capt­ian Najork.

   “Who’s on my side?” said Tom.

   “Nobody,” said Cap­tain Najork. “Let’s get start­ed.”

And so they do. The pic­tures are hys­ter­i­cal and the descrip­tions of the games— which aren’t real­ly descrip­tions at all, but make you think you already know the fin­er points of womble, muck, and sneed­ball — are delight­ful.

Spoil­er Alert: All of Tom’s fool­ing around turns out to have been most excel­lent train­ing for trounc­ing Cap­tain Najork and his ridicu­lous hired sports­men. But I won’t tell you the wager Tom makes with the Cap­tain or how that turns out for all involved. For that, you will have to find the book, which is not easy to find and which is expen­sive (though absolute­ly worth it) to make one’s own. Do look for it! It is out there, as is an under­ground crowd of extreme fans.

I had a writ­ing teacher who read this book to me, and so I hear it in her voice, a respectable lilt­ing British accent full of excel­lent dra­ma and good fun. (She can do a for­mi­da­ble Aunt Fid­get Wonkham-Strong!) I can’t quite pull off the accent, but I’ve nev­er found a kid who mind­ed. I once read this sto­ry in a Back-to-School Sto­ry­time along with a Skip­pyjon Jones book. It was an evening of hilar­i­ty and fun. And at the end, I had a request from two kids not old enough to start school yet to read it again. Which I did. To a room­ful of peo­ple who quick­ly gath­ered. THAT’S a good book. A most excel­lent longer pic­ture book.

P.S. Rus­sell Hoban and Quentin Blake are an inspired match — they’ve col­lab­o­rat­ed on sev­er­al books. For a treat, lis­ten to Blake talk about his fond­ness for this sto­ry and its char­ac­ters.



Picture Books and Dementia

by Jen­ny Bar­low

We could reach her through nurs­ery rhymes.

She reg­u­lar­ly sat in the liv­ing room, wrapped in a blan­ket in her wheel­chair. To peo­ple who don’t under­stand, she would seem with­ered, vacant, even loose in the joints, and maybe very shab­by. But we stroked her palsied hands and gen­tly called her name. On occa­sion, she’d open her eyes.

Hick­o­ry dick­o­ry,” we’d start.

Often fast, like an auc­tion­eer, she’d respond, “DOCK! The mouse ran up the clock, the sheep’s in the mead­ow the cow’s in the corn, hick­o­ry dick­o­ry dock!”

Ok, so she wasn’t perfect…but she deserved points for keep­ing with­in the nurs­ery rhyme genre. Demen­tia vis­its peo­ple dif­fer­ent­ly, but com­mon­ly the mem­o­ries it spares are ones from child­hood. Some­one, like­ly this woman’s moth­er, 90 some years ago, before WWI, before women’s suf­frage, before radio, took the time to sit with this now-wrin­kled woman as a then-chub­by-faced baby and sing her nurs­ery rhymes.

Near­ly a cen­tu­ry lat­er, we were blessed to enjoy the echoes of that love between par­ent and child.


Jen­ny in cos­tume for an activ­i­ty at work where she used the chil­dren’s book Rosie the Riv­et­er by Pen­ny Col­man, and had a dis­cus­sion about WWII,

We must not lim­it our­selves. Peo­ple of all ages and sit­u­a­tions love pic­ture books for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Kunio Yanagida’s pic­ture book was cit­ed in The Jour­nal of Inter­gen­er­a­tional Rela­tion­ships to express why this is true:

There is a Japan­ese say­ing that one should read a pic­ture book at three dif­fer­ent times through one’s life: at first, in child­hood; sec­ond, dur­ing the peri­od of rear­ing chil­dren, and third, in lat­er life. Old­er peo­ple are thought to be par­tic­u­lar­ly impressed and feel sym­pa­thy when read­ing pic­ture books because of their rich life expe­ri­ences.1

Viral videos show how peo­ple momen­tar­i­ly awak­en hiber­nat­ing per­son­al­i­ties by hear­ing just the right song. They use the scaf­fold­ing of the music to sing words they can’t say on their own in a sen­tence, yet their expres­sions sug­gest they very much know the con­text. The same can be true with read­ing.

It is now uni­ver­sal­ly accept­ed that music should be used dai­ly to empow­er the lives of those with demen­tia. It is time for read­ing, inde­pen­dent­ly or in a group, to become revered in a par­al­lel light. Reflect­ing back on how the woman remem­bered nurs­ery rhymes, the leap in log­ic with children’s sto­ries becom­ing senior’s sto­ries isn’t so out­landish.

The mod­ern day world of children’s lit­er­a­ture is vast, with clas­sics like Peter Pan or The Vel­veteen Rab­bit to sophis­ti­cat­ed non-fic­tion about his­tor­i­cal moments this old­er gen­er­a­tion cre­at­ed. Well-writ­ten sto­ries stay with us, change us into bet­ter human beings, and make our own hearts wis­er. C.S. Lewis once said, “A chil­dren’s sto­ry that can only be enjoyed by chil­dren is not a good chil­dren’s sto­ry in the slight­est.”

The words on the page, the illus­tra­tions woven with the sto­ry­line, the length, the page turns, the weight of the book itself: all of these aspects sup­port an inter­gen­er­a­tional mar­ket. Pre­co­cious pic­ture books work espe­cial­ly well as seniors, even those with advanced demen­tia, usu­al­ly retain much of their vocab­u­lary.  

The form and for­mat of pic­ture books are also effec­tive for engag­ing these read­ers. Although we see old­er folks sit­ting with their cup of black cof­fee and morn­ing paper, the font size of newsprint can be hard to deci­pher, the busy­ness of the ads mixed with blocks of dif­fer­ent arti­cles can be con­fus­ing, and, due to atten­tion dif­fi­cul­ties caused by dis­ease and stress, the length of news sto­ries, let alone nov­els, can be over­whelm­ing. The design and length of pic­ture books, on the oth­er hand, wel­comes these same read­ers.

The Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion reports there are cur­rent­ly over five mil­lion peo­ple in the Unit­ed States with this type of demen­tia, and that num­ber may triple in the next 35 years.2 The per­cent­age of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion made of chil­dren ages 12 and younger will dip in that same time peri­od.3 The busi­ness of writ­ing pic­ture books and plac­ing them with the per­fect read­er can, and should, grow up.  

There is a blue ocean of under-served and under­es­ti­mat­ed peo­ple, bro­ken-in-body chil­dren-at-heart, who need us. Pic­ture books can help fam­i­lies express love to those they thought they had lost. We already have the pow­er, we just need the refram­ing mind­set. It’s sim­ple, real­ly; we can even reach them through nurs­ery rhymes.

Long live “children’s” lit­er­a­ture.

Note from the Bookol­o­gist: Jen­ny sug­gests these pic­ture books to begin with:

Grand­fa­ther’s Jour­ney by Allen Say

The Name Quilt by Phyl­lis Root, illus. by Mar­got Apple

The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Tri­umphs in the Life of L.Frank Baum by Kath­leen Krull, illus. Kevin Hawkes

A Nation’s Hope: the Sto­ry of Box­ing Leg­end Joe Lewis by Matt De La Pena, illus. Kadir Nel­son

Up North at the Cab­in by Mar­sha Wil­son Chall, illus. Steve John­son






Catherine Thimmesh: Researching Paleoartistry

cover image How did you learn about pale­oartists?

 While I was work­ing on my book Lucy Long Ago, part of that research revealed the work of a pale­oartist who recon­struct­ed liv­ing crea­tures from paleo times based on fos­sil evi­dence, includ­ing the hominid, Lucy.

 How did you decide which pale­oartists to con­tact?

I researched the world’s top pale­oartists — as defined by the pale­on­tol­o­gists and pale­oartists them­selves. Then, from those artists, I select­ed the art I per­son­al­ly con­nect­ed with and thought might mix well togeth­er in a book. I then con­tact­ed those artists to see if they would par­tic­i­pate in the project. (One artist con­tact­ed declined.)

How do you ask them for infor­ma­tion?

It’s pret­ty straight­for­ward — just ask! Most of the time, I’m able to con­tact the artists ini­tial­ly through email. That’s help­ful for a cold-con­tact. I am able to intro­duce myself and attach a link to my web­site to famil­iar­ize them with my work. Then, after some ini­tial cor­re­spon­dence with email, I set up a tele­phone inter­view.

from Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled, image copyright Tyler Keillor

from Scaly Spot­ted Feath­ered Frilled, copy­right Tyler Keil­lor

What’s the process you went through for obtain­ing per­mis­sion to use the art in this book? Where did you go to find the art?

Usu­al­ly the artists own the copy­rights to their art­work (or some­times a muse­um has the copy­right), so it’s just a mat­ter of nego­ti­at­ing a usage fee and the terms with which to use the work. I scoured the inter­net, some books, and artists’ web­sites to find the art. Lat­er in the process, after the artists were select­ed, I would email spe­cif­ic requests to see if any­one had, say, a Tricer­atops with the scale pat­tern fair­ly vis­i­ble (or some such).

How do you write so that both chil­dren and adults are inter­est­ed in your books?

Hmmm .… I choose top­ics that inter­est and excite me and that I feel will inter­est and excite kids. Both ele­ments must be present or I won’t do the book. I’ve start­ed sev­er­al books and then some­where along the way either I lost inter­est or I felt the inter­est lev­el for kids would­n’t be there and so I aban­doned the projects. I don’t con­scious­ly write for any age. I do pur­pose­ful­ly write with a fair­ly casu­al tone — which I think tends to make a book more kid-friend­ly. It sur­pris­es me, still, that so many adults tell me they enjoy my books and per­haps that’s because while I try to write in an acces­si­ble man­ner for kids, I also refuse to dumb any­thing down for them — which in turn, might make the mate­r­i­al more appeal­ing.

Were you inter­est­ed in dinosaurs as a child?


What was the most sur­pris­ing thing you learned while writ­ing this book?

My ini­tial thought — the thought that led to dig­ging deep­er into the top­ic (How do we know what dinosaurs real­ly looked like?) — was: ‘Well, obvi­ous­ly the artists just make this stuff up. They’d have to; there’s no ref­er­ence to draw upon.’ But that thought led me to this: ‘But how can they just make stuff up and present it in a sci­en­tif­ic con­text (with­out an attached dis­claimer: THIS IS COMPLETELY MADE UP)?’ This of course got me agi­tat­ed; which, in turn, led to: ‘The sci­en­tif­ic pre­sen­ta­tions of dinosaurs (as opposed to movie dinosaurs or pic­ture book dinosaurs) MUST be based upon some­thing. What could it be?’ So, it was enor­mous­ly sur­pris­ing and grat­i­fy­ing to learn that pale­oartists base their art not just on “some­thing”; not even just on a hand­ful of fos­sils, but on a tremen­dous back­bone of sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence and sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly based infer­ence (with some artis­tic license tak­en when absolute­ly nec­es­sary — for instance with col­or).

Thank you, Cather­ine, for writ­ing a book that address­es ques­tions we did­n’t even know to ask, but which intrigued you enough to research and write Scaly Spot­ted Feath­ered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs real­ly looked like? And thank you for shar­ing some of your book-writ­ing jour­ney with our Bookol­o­gy read­ers.



Skinny Dip with Jen Bryant

What ani­mal are you most like?

Prob­a­bly a cat. I’m very inde­pen­dent, I love to sit in a pud­dle of warm sun, I spend a lot of my free time watch­ing birds, and I’m very attached to my home. (I would have said a dog, but I’m not that obe­di­ent!) 

Which book of yours was the most dif­fi­cult to write or illus­trate?

book coverThere were sev­er­al rea­sons why my verse nov­el Ring­side 1925: Views from the Scopes Tri­al was the most dif­fi­cult to write. I want­ed to tell the sto­ry in many voic­es, so I had to exper­i­ment with how to keep the real/ his­tor­i­cal events mov­ing for­ward, while at the same time keep­ing track of the fic­tion­al char­ac­ters and how they were grow­ing and chang­ing and inter­act­ing with one anoth­er. I used a LOT of those bright­ly col­ored sticky notes! I also used my husband’s pool table to peri­od­i­cal­ly lay out the pages for each sec­tion so that I could phys­i­cal­ly see where and how each char­ac­ter was con­tribut­ing to the sto­ry. I also faced the chal­lenge of mak­ing a tri­al that was (quite unlike the Lind­bergh baby kid­nap­ping tri­al, which cen­tered on a bru­tal crime) very philo­soph­i­cal and full of “legalese” into an enter­tain­ing and more eas­i­ly under­stand­able nar­ra­tive. 

Which of your books would make a good movie and who would be the star?

book coverI think sev­er­al of my nov­els would be good screen­play mate­r­i­al, but I think if Pieces of Geor­gia is ever made into a fea­ture film, I would want Robert Duvall to play Andrew Wyeth, Sab­ri­na Car­pen­ter (a south­east­ern PA native) to play Geor­gia, and Matthew McConaugh­ey to play Georgia’s father.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

There’s no place like home.” –from L. Frank Baum’s The Won­der­ful Wiz­ard of OZ.

What book do you tell every­one to read?

The Sto­ry of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wrob­lews­ki. It’s bril­liant. I was so relieved to read in the back mat­ter that it took him more than 10 years to write. It’s scaf­fold­ed on the Ham­let tale, but set in rur­al Wis­con­sin in the 1970’s. (It’s also a book that I only rec­om­mend to peo­ple who love dogs and who are empa­thet­ic.)  

Are you a night owl or an ear­ly bird?

Actu­al­ly, I’m nei­ther one. I’m very bor­ing in that regard — my best, most pro­duc­tive hours are gen­er­al­ly 9am to 5pm.

Were you most like­ly to vis­it the school office to deliv­er attendance/get sup­plies, vis­it the nurse, or meet with the prin­ci­pal?

Hmmm…. That was a long time ago! I’d say prob­a­bly to deliv­er attendance/ get sup­plies. I was a reli­able kid, although I’ll bet I made sev­er­al unsched­uled stops on the way there and back. I’ve always been pret­ty dis­tractible!



Middle Kingdom: Shakopee, Minnesota

The books that most delight mid­dle school and junior high read­ers often strad­dle a “Mid­dle King­dom” rang­ing from upper mid­dle grade to YA. Each month, Bookol­o­gy colum­nist Lisa Bullard will vis­it 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 month’s jour­ney takes us to East Junior High in Shakopee, Min­neso­ta, where Lisa talks with media spe­cial­ist Amy Sticha.

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

ph_shakopeeeastAmy: East Junior High is one of two junior high schools in Shakopee, Min­neso­ta, a rapid­ly grow­ing sub­urb of the Twin Cities. Because of our district’s growth over the past sev­er­al years, we have gone through a lot of recon­fig­u­ra­tion of grade lev­els at all of our build­ings. Cur­rent­ly, our junior highs house stu­dents in grades 7 – 9, but with the pas­sage of a ref­er­en­dum to build an addi­tion to our high school a few weeks ago, we will be chang­ing to grades 6 – 8 by 2018.

As a result of all this shuf­fling, the EJH library has been split twice in the last eight years to accom­mo­date oth­er schools’ libraries. It has been chal­leng­ing to main­tain a rel­e­vant col­lec­tion with the loss of so many mate­ri­als, but thanks to a sup­port­ive admin­is­tra­tion and com­mu­ni­ty, we are in the process of adding tech­nol­o­gy like medi­as­capes, charg­ing tables, Chrome­book carts, and 1:1 iPads, and updat­ing our district’s media cen­ters to add mak­er­space areas and oth­er spaces to stay cur­rent with­in the chang­ing scope of a school library/media cen­ter space. I invite you to vis­it my media web­page

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often? 


  • the Miss­ing series by Mar­garet Peter­son Had­dix
  • I Hunt Killers by Bar­ry Lyga
  • the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans
  • the Broth­erband Chron­i­cles series by John Flana­gan
  • the Mor­tal Instru­ments series by Cas­san­dra Clare

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


  • Won­der by R.J. Pala­cio
  • Bruis­er by Neal Shus­ter­man
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • Swim the Fly by Don Calame
  • Drums, Girls, and Dan­ger­ous Pie by Jor­dan Son­nen­blick
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  • Emako Blue by Bren­da Woods
  • Black Duck by Janet Tay­lor Lisle
  • The Scor­pio Races by Mag­gie Stief­vater

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

Amy Sticha's list

Amy Sticha’s list

Amy: Pro­mot­ing read­ing is prob­a­bly one of my favorite things to do as a junior high media spe­cial­ist.  In addi­tion to book talks and dis­plays, my para and I work close­ly togeth­er to come up with a vari­ety of fun and inter­ac­tive read­ing pro­mo­tions through­out the year. We use Face­book and Twit­ter accounts to announce con­tests, spe­cial events, and updates about new books or what we are cur­rent­ly read­ing. I actu­al­ly just fin­ished putting up my favorite dis­play of the year, which is our Top 10 Sum­mer Must-Reads and is made up of my para’s and my favorite books we have read through­out the year and would sug­gest for fun sum­mer read­ing. Both stu­dents and staff mem­bers around the school make com­ments about our lists every year. Sev­er­al times over the last few hours today, I have looked up from my desk to see some­one tak­ing a pic of our lists with their phone. 

Para's List

Para’s List

Every month, we have a stu­dent book club that is led by a dif­fer­ent staff mem­ber. At the begin­ning of each year, I ask for staff vol­un­teers who would be inter­est­ed in lead­ing the club for one of the months of the school year. In prepa­ra­tion for the upcom­ing month’s book club, the staff mem­ber and I decide on which book they would like to choose, and stu­dents who par­tic­i­pate get a free copy of the book and free break­fast at the two meet­ings held dur­ing the month. Some months have bet­ter par­tic­i­pa­tion than oth­ers, but over­all, it is a fun way to show stu­dents that staff mem­bers read for plea­sure out­side of school, too.  

We also have a Tour­na­ment of the Books every March to coin­cide with the NCAA bas­ket­ball tour­na­ments. Thir­ty-two books take on each oth­er in our annu­al tour­na­ment to see which one is cho­sen by our stu­dent body to be the ulti­mate win­ner. This year’s win­ner was The Lost Hero by Rick Rior­dan.  

This year for the first time, we had a spring break read­ing com­pe­ti­tion dur­ing which we encour­aged stu­dents to take pics of them­selves read­ing in unique, strange, fun, or inter­est­ing places. Our over­all win­ner took a pic of him­self read­ing in front of a moun­tain range while vis­it­ing his grand­par­ents in Ari­zona. This year we also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Young Adults’ Choic­es project spon­sored by the Inter­na­tion­al Lit­er­a­cy Asso­ci­a­tion and were intro­duced to a num­ber of real­ly great titles!  

We have a great time pro­mot­ing read­ing to EJH stu­dents!



Virginia Euwer Wolff: Considering Flaubert

by Vir­ginia Euw­er Wolff

Flaubert photo

Gus­tave Flaubert

For years I’ve tak­en prim­i­tive com­fort in Gus­tave Flaubert’s mid-nine­teenth cen­tu­ry remark in a let­ter to a friend: “Last week I spent five days writ­ing one page.”

And Gar­ri­son Keil­lor’s Writer’s Almanac remind­ed us (Dec. 12, 2014) that Flaubert often put in a com­ma one day and took it out the next. Yes, sure, fine, yeah, we all do that, and we can tell the key­board, or the cat, who­ev­er keeps us com­pa­ny, that in these inser­tions and dele­tions we’re hon­or­ing Flaubert and the noble tra­di­tion. But these hours of wifty inde­ci­sive­ness may instead illus­trate my own inabil­i­ty to per­ceive accu­rate­ly, rather than Flaubert’s lofty aes­thet­ic.

In this same Writer’s Almanac we hear that Flaubert said this (trans­lat­ed from the French):

It is a deli­cious thing to write, to be no longer your­self but to move in an entire     uni­verse of your own cre­at­ing. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mis­tress, I rode in a for­est on an autumn after­noon under the yel­low leaves, and I  was also the hors­es, the leaves, the wind, the words my peo­ple uttered, even the red  sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes.

We’ve all been told: Write what you know. Some of us have rolled our eyes when we hear it. A cou­ple of decades ago, Win­nie Mor­ris  was the first author I heard say this to that: “Instead of writ­ing what I know, I work at writ­ing what I want to find out about.”

Ah, yes. Did Jean Craig­head George know how she her­self would live with wolves when she sat down to begin Julie of the Wolves? Did Tol­stoy know how Kutu­zov brood­ed? Had Jer­ry Pinkney ever been a majes­tic Serengeti lion in vio­lent dis­tress? We can bet that J.K. Rowl­ing did­n’t even know the Quid­ditch rules when she began.

My hunch: Gus­tave Flaubert, that man of scan­dalous­ly racy mind, knew not a whit or a jot about actu­al­ly being a horse or a leaf. I’m will­ing to guess that instead he paid scrupu­lous atten­tion to things, cul­ti­vat­ing a vis­cer­al sense of life in motion, an immer­sion in the drift of pas­sion­ate giv­ing and tak­ing, using and being used, of hope, sor­row, envy, greed, kind­li­ness, faith and faith­less­ness, of the plucky pulse of plan­et earth breath­ing. How else could he know about “love-drowned eyes”? And those things he had to learn about includ­ed horse and leaf. And he helped him­self to them.

I think that must have been how he was able to force me to the front of my chair and cause me to plead, “Oh, no, Emma! Not him! Please, no!” Just as I want to leap from my seat and shout at Romeo in the tomb: “No! Don’t!” And to cheer Win­nie Fos­ter on as she makes her choice not to drink the water at Tree­gap. And every time I write “for deposit only” on a check, Dicey Tiller­man comes to mind, and I thank Cyn­thia Voigt for let­ting me into that big sto­ry.

We set out to make a nar­ra­tive nobody else has writ­ten. Of course it’s scary in there, that room or that cave we enter, alone, not know­ing if those sounds are the voic­es of our sto­ry or of the forces that don’t want us to write it. As an arti­cle of faith, we pay atten­tion. We exam­ine the drip­ping walls of that cave, we find it’s the cave of our uncon­scious, and every­thing lives there: love and hate and envy and devo­tion and betray­al and exu­ber­ance and grief and uproar­i­ous laugh­ter at what mar­velous­ly var­i­ous fools we mor­tals be.

woodpecker photoJust now a female downy wood­peck­er is scoot­ing up a pine tree out­side my win­dow. She does­n’t find an insect in every hole. She keeps hunt­ing, hop­ping about, doing her work, going where she may nev­er have been. I don’t expect ever to be her, but I cer­tain­ly learn lessons from her tenac­i­ty, her rou­tine of scoot­ing, scam­per­ing, soar­ing.

As I’m con­sid­er­ing Flaubert and wrestling with a recal­ci­trant man­u­script, I’m remind­ed that Mau­rice Rav­el took a year to com­pose the three and a half minute “Bac­cha­nale,” the lush com­mo­tion that con­cludes his Daph­nis et Chloé bal­let. A year to move from the periph­ery, where it may have seemed easy, into the invit­ing and defi­ant heart of the mat­ter.

Some faint melody, some shad­owy sto­ry is wait­ing, just over there. Of course it’s been made before, and by wis­er minds than mine. But maybe I can do it with a dif­fer­ence. Maybe. Make it an eighth-note just there. No, no, wait a minute: Make it two six­teenths. Yes, that’s it, exact­ly. No, I was wrong. Back to the eighth-note. Yes. I think.




I Would Like to Thank…

The annu­al meet­ing of the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion begins this week. The win­ners of the var­i­ous book awards are no doubt eye­ing the fes­tiv­i­ties with some trep­i­da­tion because they will be pre­sent­ing speech­es. This has been going on since the first New­bery Award was pre­sent­ed in 1922. Tra­di­tion­al­ly called “Accep­tance Papers,” the speech­es are the bul­l’s-eye of events that have over the years mor­phed from nice lit­tle white-glove lun­cheons into galas.

The Bookol­o­gist has been por­ing over the papers from the first 50+ years of the New­bery and Calde­cott awards* and thought, in cel­e­bra­tion of the speechi­fy­ing that will soon be going on in San Fran­cis­co, to share some snip­pets from speech­es past. Enjoy.



Mahoney, Bertha Miller, and Eli­nor Whit­ney Field, eds. New­bery Medal Books, 1922 – 1955, with Their Author’s Accep­tance Papers & Relat­ed Mate­r­i­al Chiefly from the Horn Book Mag­a­zine. Boston: Horn Book, 1955. Print.

Mahoney, Bertha Miller, and Eli­nor Whit­ney Field, eds. Calde­cott medal books, 1938 – 1957, with the Artist’s Accep­tance Papers & Relat­ed Mate­r­i­al Chiefly from the Horn Book Mag­a­zine. Boston: Horn Book, 1957. Print.

King­man, Lee, ed. New­bery and Calde­cott medal books, 1956 – 1965: with accep­tance papers, biogra­phies, and relat­ed mate­r­i­al chiefly from the Horn book mag­a­zine. Boston: Horn Book, 1965. Print.

King­man, Lee, ed. New­bery and Calde­cott medal books, 1966 – 1975: with accep­tance papers, biogra­phies, and relat­ed mate­r­i­al chiefly from the Horn book mag­a­zine. Boston: Horn Book, 1975. Print.




Changing Course

by Lisa Bullard

6_4DashboardMy fam­i­ly didn’t camp when I was a kid. So a few years ago, when a friend asked if I want­ed to go on a camp­ing trip to Arkansas, I said, “Sure. I’ve always want­ed to try camp­ing. It will be fun.” I assumed there would be lots of yum­my toast­ed-marsh­mal­low moments.

You know what they say about mak­ing assump­tions, right?

I’m not sure exact­ly when I real­ized that “fun” was the wrong word. Maybe it was when that park ranger warned us about cop­per­heads. Maybe it was the restrooms. Maybe it was the tor­ren­tial down­pours. Maybe it was the wood ticks. Maybe it was the mur­der­ous screams of war­ring rac­coons.

Or maybe it was that near­by baby shriek­ing all night. I’m with you, baby: I want­ed to shriek, too. With­in 48 hours I was beg­ging my camp­ing com­rades to com­plete­ly change all our trav­el plans.

But chang­ing course on a writ­ing road trip isn’t that sim­ple. When it’s time to revise our writ­ing, it’s hard to give up our orig­i­nal assump­tions about the piece. Those orig­i­nal ideas fueled us through the first draft, so they must be good enough to stick with, right?

Wrong. Re-vision­ing our work is cru­cial to the writ­ing process. A true writer is a re-writer.

Revis­ing is also, in my expe­ri­ence, the part of the writ­ing process kids most resist.

There’s no one easy way to teach stu­dents the val­ue of revis­ing. But the same “What if?” ques­tion I described as a great idea-gen­er­a­tor in my last post (“Pulled Over”) is also an invalu­able revi­sion tool. You can down­load some exam­ples here of how stu­dents can use it to revise.

What if?” may show your stu­dents that chang­ing course allows them to jour­ney through their piece again in a dif­fer­ent — but maybe even more sat­is­fy­ing — way.



Skinny Dip with Virginia Euwer Wolff

book coverWhat’s your favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

I have so many favorites. One of them is the hang­ing of the Christ­mas stock­ings. My aunt made felt and appliqué stock­ings for my two tiny chil­dren in the 1960s. Thir­ty years lat­er, my daugh­ter made felt and appliqué stock­ings for her hus­band, their two chil­dren, and me. She designed the appliqué motifs to reflect each fam­i­ly mem­ber. For instance, my son-in-law’s has an abstract paint­ing in felt pieces; mine has a vio­lin, com­plete with frag­ile strings made of thread. We hang these old and new stock­ings on Christ­mas Eve. The youngest fam­i­ly mem­bers go to bed. The old­er gen­er­a­tion sneak to the man­tel, one by one, and put San­ta’s gifts into the stock­ings. San­ta gives small sur­pris­es that will fit in the stock­ing, sou­venir post­cards, car­toons, lac­tose pills, always a can­dy cane, always a lump of coal. First thing on Christ­mas morn­ing we open our stock­ings, one by one with every­one watch­ing. Many laughs, many mem­o­ries of pre­vi­ous Christ­mas morn­ings, and Christ­mas spir­it in abun­dance.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s chal­lenge?

gr_campfireAs a small child whose father had died when I was five, liv­ing in a rur­al com­mu­ni­ty where every­one knew my fam­i­ly, I was at first han­dled care­ful­ly and ten­der­ly by teach­ers. As a painful­ly shy per­son and the last child in my first grade class to learn to read, I must have need­ed some extra cod­dling. And it turned out that I was a good read­er (at long last) and a very good speller. Those went a long way up the rungs to teacher’s pet. That and pity for our wid­owed and orphaned fam­i­ly in wartime, as well as the pub­lic fact that our moth­er was now run­ning the orchard busi­ness and play­ing the organ for church and serv­ing in the PTA and super­vis­ing our Camp Fire Girls’ group and see­ing that we had music lessons and Sun­day School. (And we did­n’t have elec­tric­i­ty yet.) Soon, though, That Thing hap­pened to me. That mys­ti­fy­ing Thing that some mid­dle school girls are sus­cep­ti­ble to. I became a prob­lem. Loud, irri­tat­ing, gos­sip­ing and whis­per­ing, near­ly blind to the beau­ties of sci­ence and math. And it turned out that I was actu­al­ly hav­ing to study in order to suc­ceed aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly. Oh, cru­el world, to have thrust such bur­dens upon me. These extremes, teacher’s pet and teacher’s irri­tant, have stood me in good stead as a watch­er, lis­ten­er, teacher, and sto­ry mak­er.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

We did some some oral ones in ear­ly grades, but I can’t remem­ber a writ­ten one till a ghast­ly hor­ri­ble inad­e­quate one I wrote in sev­enth grade (Jane Eyre), or maybe it was the ghast­ly hor­ri­ble inad­e­quate one I wrote in eighth grade (A Tale of Two Cities). Both still make me ashamed, which may be why I can’t remem­ber which was which, try­ing to dilute the guilt by drap­ing a cloud over the mem­o­ry.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

I LOVE gift-wrap­ping presents. Like iron­ing, it’s a craft that can sat­is­fy in min­utes. Unlike writ­ing a book or learn­ing a sonata, which can take years (and the grat­i­fi­ca­tion with these lat­ter two is nev­er com­plete), gift-wrap­ping is its own reward. I iron papers and rib­bons from pre­vi­ous gifts, and in our fam­i­ly we often wrap in maps from Nation­al Geo­graph­ic.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

Get a grip. Read more broad­ly, more deeply. Prac­tice the vio­lin much, much, much more method­i­cal­ly. Leave less and less to chance. In a cou­ple of years you’re going to find that math is get­ting hard­er and you’re going to have to have more tenac­i­ty than you’ve even dreamed of. Learn at least a cou­ple of new words each week. Yes, you will get breasts. Yes, you will even­tu­al­ly get your peri­od. No, your father is not going to come back to life. Be con­sid­er­ably more grate­ful to your moth­er, who’s work­ing hard­er than any oth­er five moth­ers you know. On the oth­er hand, you’re begin­ning to do some things OK: You’ve already learned at your moth­er’s knee that all peo­ple are cre­at­ed equal, but you will have to keep re-learn­ing how to deploy that truth. You’ve got some basic opti­mism; hang on to it. And anoth­er thing: Even­tu­al­ly, you’ll learn the word ‘hal­cy­on’. And then you’ll know the name for these sum­mer days on the lawn, read­ing about Bet­sy and Tacy and Nan­cy Drew, and play­ing with the cat and dog, and look­ing up at fly­ing squir­rels dart­ing among the tow­er­ing Dou­glas firs at the edge of the world.”

What 3 children’s book authors or illus­tra­tors or edi­tors would you like to invite to din­ner?

Ter­ry Pratch­ett, Ash­ley Bryan, A.A. Milne.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Any­where. The light has to be good, though. Indoors, out­doors, upstairs, down­stairs, in libraries, on trains, on porch­es, in the woods, on beach­es, on air­planes, in bed­rooms, in air­ports. At break­fast, at sun­set, in the mid­dle of the night. With clas­si­cal music in the back­ground or silence. And I love being read to, so in my car I always have a book going.



Epic felt

Three small board books … encom­pass­ing the first three Star Wars movies and a year-long craft project.

Star Wars Epic Felt

As I read each book, all 12 words, one word and one pho­to on each two-page spread, it slow­ly dawned on me just how inge­nious they are.

In those 12 care­ful­ly cho­sen words and scenes from the movie, Jack and Hol­man Wang, twin broth­ers and admirable artistes, man­age to evoke the entire saga of the first three movies. As a Star Wars-lov­ing par­ent , grand­par­ent (yes, the first fans are old enough to be read­ing to their grand­chil­dren), aunt or uncle, this is a clever way to com­mu­ni­cate across gen­er­a­tions, to bring your wee ones into the uni­verse of the Sky­walk­ers.

Each word in the books gives read­ers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk about ideas such as snow, friend, kiss, father … all of the tru­ly big con­cepts in a young person’s life … and how they weave into the Star Wars saga.

If we still had bards, they would be regal­ing us with the epic tales of Tatooine and Alde­baran, the Jedi, and the Force. These books are an unpar­al­leled way to encour­age sto­ry­telling of tales that are sure­ly as famil­iar to mod­ern bards as Beowulf or Gil­gamesh were to audi­ences of old.

Star Wars Epic Felt

For fur­ther aston­ish­ment, each pho­to on the page oppo­site those words is as heart­felt and con­cise in sto­ry­telling as are the words. Made by nee­dle felt­ing, con­sid­er as well the scale mod­el­ing of the char­ac­ters’ sur­round­ings and the excel­lent pho­tog­ra­phy. This is artis­tic skill at its finest.

Jack Wang is an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor teach­ing cre­ative writ­ing at Itha­ca Col­lege. Hol­man Wang left the life of a mid­dle school teacher and cor­po­rate lawyer to focus full­time on cre­at­ing children’s books. The boys grew up in Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia. Today, they live on oppo­site coasts, Jack in Itha­ca, New York, and Hol­man in Van­cou­ver. Their web­site is a must-vis­it.

In their own words, here’s how the books are made: “The pri­ma­ry tech­nique for mak­ing the fig­ures in Star Wars Epic Yarns is nee­dle felt­ing, which is essen­tial­ly sculpt­ing with wool. This is a painstak­ing process which involves stab­bing loose wool thou­sands of times with a spe­cial­ized barbed nee­dle. This entan­gles the wool fibers, mak­ing the wool firmer and firmer. It took us near­ly a year to cre­ate all the Star Wars fig­ures and space­ships in wool, build all the scale-mod­el sets, and do all the in-stu­dio or on loca­tion pho­tog­ra­phy. We even flew to Cal­i­for­nia and Ari­zona to find real desert to recre­ate the scenes on Tatooine! As life­long Star Wars fans, it was impor­tant to us to get the books just right. Think of Star Wars Epic Yarns as the ulti­mate, year-long craft project! It was def­i­nite­ly a labor of love.”

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed.

Star Wars Epic Yarns: A New Hope
Jack Wang and Hol­man Wang
Chron­i­cle Books, 2015

Be sure to look for their oth­er clas­sic books, Cozy Clas­sics from Sim­ply Read Books, a cou­ple of which are pic­tured here.

Cozy Creations


The Betsy Books

by Melanie Heuis­er Hill

book coverMy daugh­ter and I are fin­ish­ing what we call “The Bet­sy Books” — the won­der­ful series of books by Maud Hart Lovelace that fol­lows Bet­sy Ray and her friends as they grow up in Deep Val­ley, Min­neso­ta.

When I first read the Bet­sy Series, I start­ed with Bet­sy and the Great World and Betsy’s Wed­ding and did not dis­cov­er the ear­li­er books until we moved to Min­neso­ta, where they were all gath­ered togeth­er on a shelf in the library. My daugh­ter was intro­duced to the books in order, how­ev­er — we’ve read them togeth­er, and she lis­tened to the first two books over and over again because my moth­er record­ed them for her.

[A Small Aside: Record­ing books is a won­der­ful thing for grand­par­ents to do! Most computers/phones are equipped to make a pret­ty decent record­ing of a sin­gle voice. Doesn’t have to be fan­cy — my Mom just read the books aloud as if she were in the room read­ing to her grand­kids. Some­times she makes com­ments and asks ques­tions etc. When she’s fin­ished, she sends the book and the CD along in the mail — half of her grand­girls live far away, but all of them get the books and record­ings. What a gift!]

This week, daugh­ter and I are fin­ish­ing Emi­ly of Deep Val­ley—then on to Bet­sy and the Great World and Betsy’s Wed­ding. I can’t wait! I have such fond mem­o­ries of read­ing these books over and over again — I can remem­ber where I was sit­ting when read­ing many of them. We’ve had a won­der­ful time this last year or so read­ing the high school antics and angsts of Bet­sy and “The Crowd”. The details of shirt­waists and pom­padours, par­ties and danc­ing, train trips and con­tests are a hoot. We’ve had to look up vocab­u­lary, ref­er­ences, and songs (there’s a Bet­sy-Tacy Song­book!) here and there, and we’ve learned a lot.

bk_Betsy-Tacy-Songbook-coverThis is a great series  to read over sev­er­al years — fun to read about the five year old Bet­sy, Tacy, and Tib when your read­ing part­ner is five. (The books are writ­ten at age appro­pri­ate lev­els, as well — the ear­ly books are great “ear­ly chap­ter book” reads.) Now that my read­ing part­ner is about to enter her teens, we’ve been read­ing about The Crowd in their high school years. As the Deep Val­ley friends head off to col­lege, we mar­vel at how dif­fer­ent and how sim­i­lar her brother’s expe­ri­ence of head­ing out will be. He won’t be tak­ing a trunk on a train, that’s for sure.

We live in Min­neso­ta, home of the fic­tion­al­ized Deep Val­ley, which is real­ly Manka­to, Min­neso­ta. My Mom, daugh­ter, and I have vis­it­ed the sites in Manka­to — tremen­dous fun can be had there. There are cel­e­bra­tions held every year — the Bet­sy-Tacy Soci­ety does a valu­able and tremen­dous job of keep­ing the sto­ries and the lit­er­ary land­marks from the books alive and well.

I did not read this series with our son. Maybe we read the ear­li­est books when he was very young; but I don’t think he would find the tales of Mag­ic Wavers and house par­ties all that inter­est­ing. Although I despise the notion of “girl books” and “boy books,” I don’t know many men enam­ored with this series. Prove me wrong, dear read­ers! Tell me you read Bet­sy Tacy and Tib each year. Tell me your broth­er per­pet­u­al­ly reads the high school books, or your hus­band slips a vol­ume in his suit­case when he trav­els. Per­haps you have a co-work­er who keeps his child­hood set on his office cre­den­za?

Should these men not be in your life, grab a girl­friend and take in this year’s Deep Val­ley Home­com­ing! Or, if you’re male and intrigued, take your wife/sister/daughter. Maybe I’ll see you there.



Teaching K‑2 Science with Confidence

Per­fect Pairs: Using Fic­tion and Non­fic­tion Books to Teach Life Sci­ence, K‑2
Melis­sa Stew­art and Nan­cy Ches­ley
Sten­house Books, 2014

Authen­tic sci­ence always begins with a ques­tion, with a fleet­ing thought, with a curi­ous per­son. That curi­ous per­son has an idea, won­ders if it is valid, and then tries to find out. Because won­der­ing is at the heart of dis­cov­ery, each Per­fect Pairs les­son starts with a Won­der State­ment that we’ve care­ful­ly craft­ed to address one Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards Per­for­mance Expec­ta­tion. It is fol­lowed by a Learn­ing Goal, which clear­ly spec­i­fies the new knowl­edge and essen­tial under­stand­ing stu­dents will gain from the les­son. Togeth­er, the Won­der State­ment, Learn­ing Goal, and fic­tion-non­fic­tion book pair launch stu­dents into a fun and mean­ing­ful inves­tiga­tive process. (Per­fect Pairs, pg. 8)

Perfect PairsMelis­sa Stew­art, you and edu­ca­tor Nan­cy Ches­ley cre­at­ed Per­fect Pairs for teach­ers because you felt that children’s lit­er­a­ture could be a fun and effec­tive start­ing point for teach­ing life sci­ence to stu­dents in grades K‑2.

In your intro­duc­tion, you state that “many ele­men­tary teach­ers do not have a strong sci­ence back­ground. Some even report being intim­i­dat­ed by their school’s sci­ence cur­ricu­lum and feel ill-equipped to teach basic sci­ence con­cepts. Build­ing sci­ence lessons around children’s books enables many ele­men­tary edu­ca­tors to approach sci­ence instruc­tion with greater con­fi­dence.”

Why does this mat­ter to you?

Because stu­dents can tell when their teach­ers are com­fort­able and con­fi­dent, and when they’re hav­ing fun. If a teacher has a pos­i­tive atti­tude, his or her stu­dents are more like­ly to stay engaged and embrace the con­tent.

So many adults are turned off by or even afraid of sci­ence. They say, “Oh, that’s hard. That’s not for me.” But sci­ence is just the study of how our won­der­ful world works. It affects every­thing we do every day. I hope that Per­fect Pairs will help teach­ers and stu­dents to see that.

What type of sci­ence edu­ca­tion did you receive that pro­pels you to pro­vide this aid to edu­ca­tors?

I do have a degree in biol­o­gy, but my sci­ence edu­ca­tion real­ly began at home with my par­ents. My dad was an engi­neer and my mom worked in a med­ical lab­o­ra­to­ry. From a very young age, they helped me see that sci­ence is part of our lives every day.

As a children’s book author, my goal is to share the beau­ty and won­der of the nat­ur­al world with young read­ers. Per­fect Pairs is an exten­sion of that mis­sion. Nan­cy and I have cre­at­ed a resource to help teach­ers bring that mes­sage to their stu­dents.

For each les­son, where did you start mak­ing your choic­es, with the top­ic, the fic­tion book, or the non­fic­tion book?

We began with the NGSS Per­for­mance Expec­ta­tions, which out­line the con­cepts and skills stu­dents are expect­ed to mas­ter at each grade lev­el.  Each PE has three parts — a dis­ci­pli­nary core idea (the con­tent), a prac­tice (behav­iors young sci­en­tists should engage in, such as ask­ing ques­tions, devel­op­ing mod­els, plan­ning and car­ry­ing out inves­ti­ga­tions, con­struct­ing expla­na­tions, etc.), and a cross-cut­ting con­cept (pat­tern, cause and effect, struc­ture and func­tion, etc.) that bridges all areas of sci­ence and engi­neer­ing. Here’s a sam­ple PE for kinder­garten: “Use obser­va­tions to describe [prac­tice] pat­terns [cross­cut­ting con­cept] of what plants and ani­mals (includ­ing humans) need to sur­vive. [DCI]

Just Like My Papa and Bluebirds Do ItNext, we searched for fic­tion and non­fic­tion books that could be used to help stu­dents gain an under­stand­ing of the tar­get PE. The books became the heart of a care­ful­ly scaf­fold­ed les­son that ful­ly addressed the PE.

In Les­son 1.7,How Young Ani­mals Are Like Their Par­ents,” you paired Toni Buzzeo’s fic­tion title Just Like My Papa with Pamela F. Kirby’s non­fic­tion title, What Blue­birds Do. For this les­son, the Won­der State­ment is “I won­der how young ani­mals are like their par­ents.” Your les­son focus­es on Inher­i­tance of Traits and Vari­a­tion of Traits, look­ing at sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences.

With each les­son, you pro­vide tips for les­son prepa­ra­tion, engag­ing stu­dents, explor­ing with stu­dents, and encour­ag­ing stu­dents to draw con­clu­sions. What process is this estab­lish­ing for teach­ers?

We hope that our three-step inves­tiga­tive process (engag­ing stu­dents, explor­ing with stu­dents, and encour­ag­ing stu­dents to draw con­clu­sions) is some­thing that teach­ers will inter­nal­ize and adopt as they devel­op more sci­ence lessons in the future. The first step focus­es on whet­ting stu­dents’ appetites with a fun activ­i­ty or game. Dur­ing the sec­ond step, teach­ers read the books aloud and work with stu­dents to extract and orga­nize key con­tent from the fic­tion and non­fic­tion texts. Then, dur­ing the final step, stu­dents syn­the­size the infor­ma­tion from the books and     do a fun minds-on activ­i­ty that involves the NGSS prac­tice asso­ci­at­ed with the PE. The prac­tices are impor­tant because research shows that chil­dren learn bet­ter when they actu­al­ly “do” sci­ence.

This Wonder Journal entry shows what a student thinks a young bluebird might look like, pg 149.

This Won­der Jour­nal entry shows what a stu­dent thinks a young blue­bird might look like, pg 149.

In many cas­es, you’ve not only pro­vid­ed ques­tions that teach­ers can ask their stu­dents, but you’ve includ­ed the answers.  Is this the only pos­si­ble answer to the ques­tion?  

In many cas­es, we’ve includ­ed answers to help the teacher learn the sci­ence before work­ing with his or her class. Many ele­men­tary teach­ers have a lim­it­ed sci­ence back­ground and need the sup­port we’ve pro­vid­ed.

Our answers may not be the only ones that stu­dents sug­gest, but they are the ones teach­ers should guide their class to con­sid­er because they devel­op stu­dent think­ing in the right direc­tion for the con­cepts we are tar­get­ing in that par­tic­u­lar les­son.

Establishing a STEM bookshelf in your classroom is one way to promote reading these books as a special experience.

Estab­lish­ing a STEM book­shelf in your class­room is one way to pro­mote read­ing these books as a spe­cial expe­ri­ence.

I appre­ci­ate the pho­tos and exam­ples and kids’ draw­ings you’ve includ­ed through­out the book. How did you go about col­lect­ing these visu­als?

Nan­cy test­ed all the lessons in the book at Pow­nal Ele­men­tary School in Maine. She took the pho­tographs as she was work­ing with the stu­dents, and the stu­dent work in the book was cre­at­ed by those chil­dren. I love the pho­tos because you can tell that the chil­dren are real­ly enjoy­ing them­selves.

Students play the seed-plant Concentration game, pg. 225

Stu­dents play the seed-plant Con­cen­tra­tion game, pg. 225

You pro­vide more than 70 repro­ducibles to accom­pa­ny the lessons in your book, from Won­der Jour­nal Labels to Read­ers’ The­ater Script to sam­ple Data Tables to draw­ing tem­plates. How did you decide which items to pro­vide to teach­ers using your book?

Writ­ing can be a chal­lenge for K‑2 stu­dents. We cre­at­ed the Won­der Jour­nal Labels to min­i­mize the amount of writ­ing the chil­dren would have to do. The goal of the oth­er repro­ducibles was to help teach­ers as much as pos­si­ble and reduce their prep time. It was impor­tant to us to cre­ate lessons that were easy and inex­pen­sive to imple­ment.

Lesson 1.7 Wonder Journal Labels, pg. 299

Les­son 1.7 Won­der Jour­nal Labels, pg. 299

To Melis­sa and Nan­cy, I express my grat­i­tude for thought­ful­ly prepar­ing this guide, Per­fect Pairs, that will make sci­ence lessons an approach­able part of les­son plan­ning. Thank you!


Skinny Dip with Maryann Weidt

book coverWhat’s your favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

I love get­ting togeth­er with my chil­dren — all grown-ups now — at Christ­mas. My daugh­ter-in-law majored in ‘enter­tain­ing’ and she always has ‘Pop­pers’ and we always play games. One year she taped a ques­tion on the bot­tom of each plate. Ques­tions like these: What is the best Christ­mas present you ever received — and we each had a chance to answer the ques­tion. It was a great way to get to know each oth­er a lit­tle bet­ter — and to enjoy a laugh togeth­er too.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

I think the first book report I ever wrote was on Clara Bar­ton. It was one of those very old orange biogra­phies. Do they still exist? I kind of hope not. That might have been in 4th grade. Then in 9th grade, I wrote my first research paper and chose Eleanor Roo­sevelt as my sub­ject. When I was asked to write the Car­ol­rho­da biog­ra­phy of Eleanor, I kind of wished I had saved that paper.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

Who wraps presents any­more? Don’t we all just tuck them into a gift bag and stuff in lots of tis­sue paper? In fact, I loved wrap­ping presents when I was in my teens. I worked a few hours a week at Esther’s Gift Shop in my home town of Hutchin­son, MN. Peo­ple came in to buy wed­ding gifts, Mother’s Day gifts, gifts for every occa­sion. There was a machine we used to make bows. I became a wrap­ping whiz.

What 3 children’s book authors or illus­tra­tors or edi­tors would you like to invite to din­ner?

I’ve been very for­tu­nate to in fact have din­ner with sev­er­al authors — Judy Blume, Made­line L’Engle, Jane Resh Thomas, Mary Casano­va, and Mar­gi Preus, among oth­ers. But if I could sit down and have a chat with Eleanor Roo­sevelt, that would be a mighty thrill. O.k., I guess she wasn’t a children’s author — but she was an author.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Nowa­days I read in bed every night before going to sleep. I real­ly have to lim­it the amount of time I read and some­times I fall asleep with the book in my hands and the light on. When I was grow­ing up, my favorite place to read was lying on my bel­ly on a plaid wool blan­ket under the giant oak tree in the front yard of the farm. I could hold that posi­tion for hours, read­ing Bet­sy, Tacy and Tib and all the rest. I’d read the entire series and then start over.


Going Wild

By Phyl­lis Root and Jack­ie Brig­gs Mar­tin

Who doesn’t go a lit­tle wild when spring final­ly arrives? And even though we set out to choose pairs of books to write about, this month we couldn’t resist a hat trick of three books. At the heart of each is not only wild­ness but also how those around us react when our wild natures leak out.

cover image

by Mau­rice Sendak

At the cen­ter of the first two books is a yearn­ing to live in the world of one’s own choos­ing. In Where the Wild Things Are, the book against which we still mea­sure all oth­er pic­ture books, Max, sent sup­per­less to his room for wild behav­ior, con­jures up a for­est, a boat, and an ocean and sails away to where the wild things live. The wild things make him their king, and he declares a wild rum­pus — until he becomes lone­ly and wants to be “where some­one loved him best of all.” When Max sails back into his own room, his sup­per awaits him, still hot and proof that his moth­er does indeed love him. With Sendak’s clear con­ci­sion of lan­guage and syn­tax, we’ve gone on a wild jour­ney, com­plete with rum­pus, and returned to know we are loved. Best of all.

cover image

by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild’s epony­mous pro­tag­o­nist also yearns to live by his own rules. Even Brown’s art makes the case in the begin­ning that Mr. Tiger is a more col­or­ful char­ac­ter than the upright towns­peo­ple, shown in shades of brown and gray while Mr. Tiger him­self is orange down to his dia­logue bub­bles. Bored with being prop­er in a prop­er soci­ety, he walks on all fours, roars in pub­lic, and swims in a pub­lic foun­tain. When he emerge clothes-free, he has clear­ly gone too far, and the towns­peo­ple strong­ly sug­gest he take his wild self off to the wilder­ness, where he goes com­plete wild — until he, too, grows lone­ly. Return­ing to the town he dons a tee shirt and shorts that his friends pro­vide him and dis­cov­ers that the towns­peo­ple them­selves have changed. Some go on all fours, some walk upright, some still dress ele­gant­ly, some wear casu­al clothes. In this changed soci­ety (and changed, we infer, because of Mr. Tiger’s actions) “Mr. Tiger felt free to be him­self. And so did every­one else.”

by David Small

by David Small

Imo­gene in Imogene’s Antlers has wild­ness thrust upon her in the form of an enor­mous pair of antlers with which she awak­ens one Thurs­day. While the antlers com­pli­cate her morn­ing rou­tine (“Get­ting dressed was dif­fi­cult, and going through a door now took some think­ing”) Imo­gene seems cheer­i­ly accept­ing of the trans­for­ma­tion. Not so Imogene’s moth­er who faints when she sees her daughter’s new appendages. Imogene’s broth­er Nor­man takes the aca­d­e­m­ic approach and announces that Imo­gene has turned into a rare minia­ture elk. Their moth­er faints again. An attempt to hide the antlers under an enor­mous hat leads to still more faint­ing. Unlike Max’s moth­er, who loves her wild son best of all, or the towns­peo­ple who ulti­mate­ly accept Mr. Tiger for him­self, Imogene’s moth­er can­not cope. Luck­i­ly, the cook and kitchen maid admire Imogene’s antlers, deck her out with donuts for the birds, and look for­ward to dec­o­rat­ing her come Christ­mas. At the end of her event­ful day Imo­gene kiss­es her fam­i­ly and heads to bed. The next morn­ing her antlers have dis­ap­peared. As she peeks around the cor­ner into the kitchen, her moth­er is over­joyed that Imo­gene is back to nor­mal — until a smil­ing Imo­gene enters the room, her pea­cock tail spread behind her. We assume that faint­ing fol­lows.

While Imo­gene doesn’t choose her changes and nev­er engages in any­thing wilder than slid­ing down the ban­is­ter, she copes admirably with the unpre­dictabil­i­ty that marks child­hood. At times we all might need to look for sup­port and love beyond the folks from whom we most expect it and remem­ber to love our own wild, clothes-free, or antlered selves.

Wild­ness, love, accep­tance. Who doesn’t want it all? And why not? What’s against it?

So go ahead.

Be a lit­tle wild.

Like char­ac­ters in these books, we promise we’ll still love you.



Ready for the World with Powerful Literacy Practices

by Mau­r­na Rome

I believe whole-heart­ed­ly in the impor­tance of read­ing aloud dai­ly to my stu­dents. On days I fail to meet this goal, I go home feel­ing like I’ve let the kids down. I recall the fren­zy of Valentine’s Day with the excite­ment of school-wide bin­go, spe­cial class projects and more than enough can­dy — but no time spent read­ing aloud. I doubt that the kids left my class think­ing that some­thing was miss­ing that day and I am sure no one report­ed to their par­ents that their teacher real­ly blew it by not read­ing to them. Yet it both­ered me great­ly. It wasn’t the first and won’t be the last day I fall short. How­ev­er, I am ded­i­cat­ed to mak­ing read­ing aloud a pri­or­i­ty in my class­room. I encour­age every teacher to join me in mak­ing it a goal that stu­dents will not miss out on this essen­tial ingre­di­ent from our arse­nal of lit­er­a­cy best prac­tices.

cover imageMore than 30 years ago, Jim Tre­lease wrote a lit­tle book that would become a nation­al best sell­er, with more than a mil­lion copies sold. The 7th edi­tion of The Read Aloud Hand­book was released in 2013. It high­lights present-day lit­er­a­cy chal­lenges as well as those that have remained the same since 1982. I high­ly rec­om­mend this gem, along with sev­er­al oth­er “pro­fes­sion­al books” on this top­ic by experts I great­ly admire: Unwrap­ping the Read Aloud by Lester Lam­i­nack; Ignit­ing a Pas­sion for Read­ing by Steven Layne, and Read­ing Mag­ic: Why Read­ing Aloud to Our Chil­dren Will Change Their Lives For­ev­er by Mem Fox.
I can guar­an­tee that none of the 9 year olds in my class­room have read any of the texts men­tioned above. Chances are that they are also not aware of the recent report issued by Scholas­tic assert­ing that we can pre­dict which kids will become our best read­ers based on how often they have ben­e­fit­ted from being read to.

How­ev­er, when I recent­ly chal­lenged my stu­dents to write a let­ter to teach­ers every­where about the impor­tance of read­ing out loud to kids, they seem to have hit the nail on the head. Here is a sam­pling of their wis­dom and insight:

  • I think it’s a good idea because every stu­dent will be won­der­ing every time you read.
  • Your stu­dents might learn new words that they don’t know.
  • It’s a good idea to read chap­ter books to your stu­dents because they can see pic­tures in their minds.
  • Chap­ter books are full of adven­tures.
  • They can relate with some­thing they did or some­thing one of their fam­i­ly mem­bers did.
  • They can be bet­ter writ­ers.
  • If it’s a fun­ny chap­ter book, you will get a laugh out of it.
  • It gives kids ideas and more imag­i­na­tion. It might make kids want to read even more.

Lam­i­nack has iden­ti­fied six types of read alouds that offer teach­ers a sure fire way to accom­plish the fol­low­ing: sup­port stan­dards, mod­el the process of writ­ing, build vocab­u­lary, encour­age chil­dren to read inde­pen­dent­ly, demon­strate flu­ent read­ing and pro­mote com­mu­ni­ty. As I reflect on the respons­es from my stu­dents, I see that all six pur­pos­es are men­tioned. I am con­vinced that the very best books for read­ing aloud are able to incor­po­rate all of the above. What a pow­er­ful approach to mak­ing an impact on lit­er­a­cy achieve­ment!

cover imageLast week we fin­ished the unfor­get­table 2013 New­bery Award win­ner, The One and Only Ivan, by Kather­ine Apple­gate. Here is a peek at how this touch­ing sto­ry played out in Room 132.

Sup­port­ing the stan­dards: See the fol­low­ing exam­ples and nota­tions.

Mod­el­ing the process of writ­ing: Using the six “sign posts” from Notice and Note by Kylene Beers and Bob Prob­st, we are always on the look­out for tech­niques the writer uses to tell the sto­ry. While read­ing Ivan, we have dis­cov­ered that “tough ques­tions”, “again and again”, and “words of the wis­er” are woven through­out the sto­ry. Kids are now begin­ning to work these same ele­ments into their own sto­ries!
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.3.B Use dia­logue and descrip­tions of actions, thoughts, and feel­ings to devel­op expe­ri­ences and events or show the response of char­ac­ters to sit­u­a­tions.

Build­ing vocab­u­lary: Dur­ing each read aloud ses­sion, a stu­dent serves as the “word recorder”. Stu­dents are encour­aged to lis­ten care­ful­ly and hold up their thumb any­time they notice a spe­cial or fan­cy word in the text. We talk about those words and the word recorder makes a list of all the words we dis­cuss. Once we had over 30 words, each stu­dent select­ed one word, paint­ed it on poster sized paper (as Ivan would have done) and then drew a pic­ture to show the def­i­n­i­tion.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.4 Deter­mine the mean­ing of words and phras­es as they are used in a text, dis­tin­guish­ing lit­er­al from non­lit­er­al lan­guage.


Ivan char­ac­ters in the class­room

Encour­ag­ing stu­dents to read inde­pen­dent­ly: As with all of the books I read out loud in the class­room, stu­dents are eager to check out that very same title from the library. Those that are lucky enough to get their hands on the book bask in the light of know­ing what is yet to come in the sto­ry. They keep the promise of not spoil­ing things for their peers, as they are clear­ly moti­vat­ed to read ahead on their own.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.10 By the end of the year, read and com­pre­hend lit­er­a­ture, includ­ing sto­ries, dra­mas, and poet­ry, at the high end of the grades 2 – 3 text com­plex­i­ty band inde­pen­dent­ly and pro­fi­cient­ly.

Demon­strat­ing flu­ent read­ing: To show my stu­dents what smooth oral read­ing sounds like, I empha­size the voice of each char­ac­ter. While read­ing The One and Only Ivan, Ruby is rep­re­sent­ed with a 5 year-old lit­tle girl voice, Ivan has a deep voice and Bob takes on a more sar­cas­tic tone.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.3.4 Read with suf­fi­cient accu­ra­cy and flu­en­cy to sup­port com­pre­hen­sion.


Lit lunch cel­e­bra­tion of Ivan

Pro­mot­ing Com­mu­ni­ty: The well devel­oped char­ac­ters from our read aloud sto­ries become new friends to us. We talk and think about them as if they are actu­al mem­bers of our class­room, with lines such as “What would Ivan do?” or “Remem­ber when Ivan …” One rainy day dur­ing inside recess, the kids play­ing with our plas­tic ani­mal col­lec­tion proud­ly set up a dis­play of “Ivan” char­ac­ters; Stel­la and Ruby the ele­phants, Bob the dog, Ivan and his sis­ter, Not-Tag, the goril­las, were all arranged to reen­act a scene from the book. It struck me that my stu­dents real­ly are mind­ful of the char­ac­ters we grow to love and admire. I stopped every­thing to draw atten­tion to this sweet ges­ture and once again, my heart flut­tered all because of a great book. This lit­tle pre­tend group of friends remained intact until we fin­ished the book and cel­e­brat­ed with a “Lit Lunch” fea­tur­ing yogurt cov­ered raisins and bananas!

Yes, an effec­tive read aloud can pack a lot of lit­er­a­cy into a short amount of time, yet I know it is often one of the first things that goes when the sched­ule gets too full. If you need more con­vinc­ing to keep the read aloud front and cen­ter, con­sid­er what this young lady has to say…

Dear Teach­ers of Every Grade,
You should read to your stu­dents because they will be bet­ter read­ers and writ­ers and learn faster and they will be ready for the world!

Look­ing for resources to help you plan for suc­cess­ful read alouds in your class­room?
Find­ing the best of the best books to read aloud:

Book­storms on Bookol­o­gy
Teacher’s Choice from ILA
Children’s Choice from ILA
Nerdy Book Club Awards 



Mary Casanova: Three Questions

bk_GraceA year of school vis­its has just con­clud­ed, but I can’t unpack quite yet. I’ll soon head out on a book tour to sup­port the release of my lat­est titles. The ques­tions I get when I meet read­ers depend on the book — whether it’s a new release I’m pro­mot­ing or an old­er book a class has read and dis­cussed.

Because I will be on tour sup­port­ing the release of my Grace books for Amer­i­can Girl, I can safe­ly pre­dict the three most com­mon­ly asked ques­tions:

How did you get start­ed writ­ing for Amer­i­can Girl?
I’d nev­er planned on writ­ing for Amer­i­can Girl. They first approached me years ago via a phone call. They were look­ing for some­one to write a book for a series called “Girls of Many Lands” and need­ed some­one to write a sto­ry set in the l700s in France. (I’d writ­ten a grit­ty nov­el set in 1500s Provence called Curse of a Win­ter Moon.) I wrote Cecile: Gates of Gold, fol­lowed by eight more books and four “Girl of the Year” char­ac­ters: Jess, Chris­sa, McKen­na and now Grace.

Does Amer­i­can Girl tell you what to write?
I’ve nev­er been inter­est­ed in writ­ing from some­one else’s out­line. As the author, I want to dis­cov­er a sto­ry! But the ini­tial con­cepts come from with­in Amer­i­can Girl. When that phone call comes, I’m giv­en a few, small bits of infor­ma­tion for my writ­ing jour­ney. For exam­ple, for Grace’s three books, they might include: a girl who loves bak­ing / a trip to Paris / a return home with the desire to start a French bak­ing busi­ness.

Paris photo

Research des­ti­na­tion

That’s it. From there, I start find­ing ways to make the devel­op­ing sto­ry my own. Research is my first step. In this case, I went to Paris for a week with my adult daugh­ter, Kate, and we made it our work to explore Paris by bike, sam­ple its deli­cious pas­tries and treats, and take a bak­ing class at the home of a French chef. While there, I imag­ined expe­ri­enc­ing Paris through the eyes of a 9 year old girl whose aunt is hav­ing a baby, whose uncle owns a patis­serie, who comes across a stray dog at the Lux­em­bourg Gar­den.

Which comes first, the sto­ry or the doll?
The sto­ry comes first. As I research and write, my char­ac­ter begins to live and breathe. Her sto­ry — her fam­i­ly, her dreams, her strug­gles — become mine. I must live and breathe this char­ac­ter. I must care deeply about her if I hope read­ers to care.

I don’t choose the doll’s hair or eye or skin col­or. Though I have input on her name, I don’t have the final say. That’s fine with me. I’m most con­cerned with who she is on the inside and how she nav­i­gates in the world.

As my character’s sto­ries devel­op, I rec­og­nize that prod­ucts will be cre­at­ed hand-in-hand with the sto­ry. When I wrote the black and white stray dog into Grace, the first book, I knew prod­uct devel­op­ment would have fun turn­ing it into a small plush toy dog. When, on the oth­er hand, prod­uct devel­op­ment asked if I might weave a charm bracelet into the sto­ry, I found their request easy. Grace’s mom gives her a charm bracelet eon their plane flight to Paris, and Grace fills the bracelet up while she vis­its the Eif­fel Tow­er, and receives good­bye gifts, etc. If the request is one that feel nat­ur­al to the sto­ry, I’m hap­py to work it into the books. But as an author the sto­ry always comes first.




Pulled Over

by Lisa Bullard

Cousin Susie on our road trip to Galveston

Cousin Susie on our road trip to Galve­ston

My brother’s wed­ding rehearsal is in three hours, but my cousins and I take a jaunt from Hous­ton to Galve­ston any­way. Then a cop car pulls us over. One cop stands behind our car, gun drawn; anoth­er leans men­ac­ing­ly into the win­dow and grills us. Even­tu­al­ly, he admits that our car and the three of us match the descrip­tions of the per­pe­tra­tors of a just-com­mit­ted, seri­ous crime.

I start play­ing the “What if? Game” in my head:

—What if we have to spend the night in a Texas jail?

—What if we have to spend the next thir­ty years in jail?

—What if my broth­er kills me for miss­ing his wed­ding?

My over-devel­oped imag­i­na­tion loves to think up out­ra­geous pos­si­ble out­comes like this. So when I start­ed vis­it­ing schools, I was sur­prised by how many stu­dents told me they strug­gle to think up sto­ry ideas. I might have trou­ble trans­lat­ing my ideas into work­able sto­ries, but I nev­er lack for the ideas them­selves.

And then I real­ized: I need­ed to teach stu­dents the “What if? Game.” You sim­ply take some­thing pre­dictable— tomorrow’s bus ride, soc­cer prac­tice, din­ner at Grandma’s — and you brain­storm a list of the fun­ni­est, scari­est, or most life-alter­ing alter­na­tives as to how that event could turn out. Then you assign one of these imag­ined dis­as­ters to a char­ac­ter. Now you’ve got the start to a sto­ry.

Try it out. Prompt your stu­dents with, “What if when you walk into school tomor­row morn­ing — .” Then set them to brain­storm­ing: What if zom­bies are chas­ing your class­mates? What if the U.S. pres­i­dent is sit­ting in your desk? What if the prin­ci­pal has turned into an alien?

And, yes, the cops let us go and we made it to the wed­ding. But what if instead…?



Skinny Dip with Phyllis Root

cover imageWhat keeps you up at night?

My cat Catali­na keeps me up at night, meow­ing and wan­der­ing back and forth over me, look­ing for our oth­er cat Spike, who died last fall and with whom she’d been togeth­er since kit­ten­hood.

What is your proud­est career moment?

I have two, and they hap­pened close togeth­er. When Big Mom­ma Makes the World had its launch in Lon­don, the Lon­don plan­e­tar­i­um was filled with chil­dren, and some­one nar­rat­ed the text while Helen Oxenbury’s amaz­ing art was pro­ject­ed onto the plan­e­tar­i­um ceil­ing. The lights all went out when Big Mom­ma made the dark, and then the stars filled the sky. At the end of the book the Lon­don Gospel choir sang, and all the chil­dren waved the bal­loon sculp­tures and swords in time to the music.

cover imageNot long after, I vis­it­ed a school on the Nava­jo reser­va­tion where my daugh­ter was vol­un­teer­ing and read Rat­tle­trap Car to all the class­es at the school. Back in the trail­er where she stayed, I was help­ing my daugh­ter pack when one of the lit­tle boys from the school, maybe six years old, burst in, saw me, cried, “Bing Bang Pop!” and laughed and laughed. Sel­dom has a book of mine received such a joy­ous reac­tion.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?


Zam­bezi Riv­er, Africa

Some days I think just get­ting out of bed and sit­ting down to write is the bravest thing I ever do. Oth­er times I think it was stand­ing on the edge of a live vol­cano or white­wa­ter raft­ing down the Zam­bezi riv­er. Almost every­thing scares me, and I like the quote (although I can’t remem­ber who said it and I’m prob­a­bly man­gling it), “Use all your courage today. We’ll get more tomor­row.”

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

A Babar book, writ­ten in long­hand rather than type­set, in the book­mo­bile that came at the foot of the hill where we lived.

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Bas­ket­ball. Unless there’s a medal for read­ing.

What TV show can’t you turn off?

I no longer have a tele­vi­sion, so this one is hard to answer. I watch a few shows on my lap­top once in a while, and the one I watch most is the Rachel Mad­dow Show.




A Few Favorite Fossils

by The Bookol­o­gist

Here at the mag­a­zine we’ve been look­ing at a lot of pale­on­tol­ogy late­ly, and we thought we’d share a few of the down­right gor­geous or just plain cool fos­sils that sneaked onto our com­put­ers as we pre­pared this mon­th’s issue. After all, who’s not a pushover for a pret­ty rock?


Pho­to Cred­its
Ichthyosaur and Trilo­bite: Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um of Great Britain
Argen­tin­ian “Ter­ror Bird”: M. Taglioret­ti and F. Scaglia.
Chi­nese Fux­i­an­huia pro­ten­sa with brain: Xiaoya Ma
Aus­tralian stro­ma­to­lite: Shanan Peters/University of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son
Cana­di­an Arc­tic Fisha­pod: Ted Daeschler
Antarc­tic Sea Lil­lies: Shanan Peters/University of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son
South African hand bones: L.Berger — Uni­ver­si­ty of Wit­wa­ter­srand
All oth­er pho­tos cour­tesy Wiki­me­dia com­mons.


Authors Emeritus: Arna Bontemps

Arna BontempsBorn on Octo­ber 13, 1902 in Louisiana, Arna Bon­temps grew up and was edu­cat­ed in Cal­i­for­nia. Upon grad­u­at­ing from col­lege he accept­ed a teach­ing posi­tion in New York City, where he became friends with sev­er­al oth­er writ­ers and edu­ca­tors, includ­ing Langston Hugh­es.

Bon­temps would become, along with Hugh­es, one of the influ­en­tial artists of the Harlem Renais­sance who would expand the pres­ence of African Amer­i­can writ­ers in children’s lit­er­a­ture. From 1932 until his death in 1973 Bon­temps was one of the most pro­lif­ic African Amer­i­can children’s authors, pub­lish­ing con­tem­po­rary, his­tor­i­cal, and fan­ta­sy fic­tion as well as pic­ture books, biogra­phies, tall tales, and a poet­ry anthol­o­gy. His 1948 non­fic­tion book, The Sto­ry of the Negro, won a New­bery Hon­or.

bk_PopoBon­temps’ first book for chil­dren, Popo and Fifi­na, was a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Hugh­es, and was illus­trat­ed by E. Simms Camp­bell, an African Amer­i­can artist. Upon the pub­li­ca­tion of Bon­tremps’ 1937 nov­el, Sad-Faced Boy, Bon­temps wrote to Hugh­es that he believed he’d writ­ten the “first Harlem sto­ry for chil­dren.”

In 1941 Bon­temps pub­lished Gold­en Slip­pers, the first com­pre­hen­sive anthol­o­gy of poet­ry for chil­dren fea­tur­ing Black poets. His 1951 nov­el Char­i­ot in the Sky is a fic­tion­al­ized sto­ry of the first Fisk Jubilee Singers, who intro­duced Negro spir­i­tu­als to the con­cert stage. At the time he wrote the nov­el, Bon­temps was a librar­i­an at Fisk Uni­ver­si­ty.

bk_StoryNegroBon­temps also wrote poet­ry and fic­tion for adults.

His family’s old Louisiana home is now the Arna Bon­temps African Amer­i­can Muse­um and Cul­tur­al Arts Cen­ter.

Arna Bon­tremps died from a heart attack on June 4, 1973.

—Mar­sha Qua­ley

For more Authors Emer­i­tus bios please vis­it the AE index.



Bookstorm: Scaly Spotted …

In this Bookstorm™:

Scaly Spotted Feathered FrilledScaly Spotted
Feathered Frilled:
how do we know what dinosaurs really looked like?

writ­ten by Cather­ine Thimmesh
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2013

No human being has ever seen a tricer­atops or veloci­rap­tor or even the mighty Tyran­nosaurus rex. They left behind only their impres­sive bones. So how can sci­en­tists know what col­or dinosaurs were? Or if their flesh was scaly or feath­ered? Could that fierce T. rex have been born with spots?

In a first for young read­ers, Thimmesh intro­duces the incred­i­ble tal­ents of the pale­oartist, whose work rean­i­mates gone-but-nev­er-for­got­ten dinosaurs in giant full-col­or paint­ings that are as strik­ing­ly beau­ti­ful as they aim to be sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly accu­rate, down to the small­est detail. Fol­low a pale­oartist through the sci­en­tif­ic process of ascer­tain­ing the appear­ance of var­i­ous dinosaurs from mil­lions of years ago to learn how sci­ence, art, and imag­i­na­tion com­bine to bring us face-to-face with the past.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book, Scaly Spot­ted Feath­ered Frilled. You’ll find books for a vari­ety of tastes, inter­ests, and read­ing abil­i­ties.

Dinosaur Digs. There are some very cool dinosaur digs through­out the Unit­ed States in which you and your chil­dren can take part.

Dinosaur Non­fic­tion. It’s dif­fi­cult to assign a read­er’s age to these books. High inter­est lev­els can raise pro­fi­cien­cy and the graph­ics can be read even when the words can’t be. You may need to give these books a try to see if they’re with­in the skills of your read­er. Enjoy Gild­ed Dinosaur to read about two com­pet­ing pale­on­tol­o­gists who tried to out­wit each oth­er. Pre­his­toric Life from DK Pub­lish­ing looks at all ele­ments of the earth at the time of the dinosaurs. Dinosaurs: a Con­cise Nat­ur­al His­to­ry man­ages to be fun­ny and infor­ma­tive.

Draw­ing. From Audubon to Charles R. Knight on ani­mal anato­my to step-by-step instruc­tions for draw­ing dinosaurs, there are books here that will inspire artists-in-the-mak­ing to learn more about dinosaurs while they draw them as par­tic­u­lar­ly as the pale­oartists do.

Fic­tion. From pic­ture books to nov­els, from the youngest chil­dren to adults, dinosaurs are favorite sub­jects for writ­ers because they’re much loved by read­ers. You’ll enjoy books such as Dan­ny and the Dinosaur, Juras­sic Park, and Okay for Now.

Fos­sil Hunters. We rec­om­mend books that range from Mary Anning’s dis­cov­ery of the first com­plete ichthyosaurus fos­sil to Bob Barn­er exam­in­ing dinosaur bones to deter­mine what they ate to Ani­ta Sil­vey’s dar­ing plant hunters.

Graph­ic Nov­els. Dinosaurs are a favorite top­ic for car­toon­ists. Some of their graph­ic nov­els, such as Bar­ry Son­nen­feld’s Dinosaurs vs Aliens are epics.

Pale­oartists. In addi­tion to the work of the pale­oartists fea­tured in Scaly Spot­ted Feath­ered Frilled, you’ll read about Charles R. Knight, Water­house Hawkins, Julius Csotonyi, and oth­ers. These sci­en­tist-artists are larg­er than life!

Pale­on­tol­ogy. Ladies and gen­tle­men! Step right up! You’ll be amazed by the feats and dis­cov­er­ies of the pale­on­tol­o­gists in these books. Whether it’s Mr. Bones, Bar­num Brown, or The His­to­ry of Life in 100 Fos­sils or Jessie Hart­land’s How the Dinosaur Got to the Muse­um or Joyce Sid­man’s Ubiq­ui­tous: Cel­e­brat­ing Nature’s Sur­vivors, there are books here that will enthrall you.

Tech­niques for using each book:



Outer Space Ambassador

alarm clockby Vic­ki Palmquist

Every once in a while I come across a book that wakes up that breath­less, eager, sense-of-won­der-at-every­thing-new feel­ing I had about read­ing as a child. I admit it, after 3,000 or so books the plots and char­ac­ters and res­o­lu­tions can feel sim­i­lar to some­thing I’ve read before.

Well, I joy­ful­ly read a book that hit all the right notes and trans­port­ed me back to a bed­time read­ing expe­ri­ence where I couldn’t turn off the light, fell asleep, and then woke up in the morn­ing to fin­ish the book before my feet hit the floor.

AmbassadorAmbas­sador by William Alexan­der is just that good.

I’ve enjoyed sci­ence fic­tion since my sixth grade teacher read aloud A Wrin­kle in Time. Our entire class­room tried hard to tesser­act. Thank you, Mr. Rausch! Then our librar­i­an helped me find Eleanor Cameron’s Mush­room Plan­et books. There was­n’t much else in that genre for a sixth grade read­er so I moved on to fan­ta­sy … but today’s read­ers have a wider vari­ety of choic­es.

Will Alexan­der does what all good hero­ic jour­ney authors do. He starts us in a com­fort­able, right-at-home set­ting and then takes us to places unimag­in­able. Gabriel San­dro Fuentes, who recent­ly got into trou­ble for let­ting his friend Frankie set off a rock­et, is select­ed to be the next Ambas­sador from Earth to The Embassy, where sen­tient beings from all over the uni­verse gath­er for diplo­ma­cy. When the Envoy arrives, he tells Gabriel of his new respon­si­bil­i­ty. He should also give Gabe point­ers on how to trav­el through his dreams to reach the Embassy and what to do when he gets there. But some­one is try­ing to kill Gabe and the Envoy is busy defend­ing him … by cre­at­ing a black hole in the Fuentes’ dry­er. A small one.

Alexan­der plants clues through­out the book. When Gabe and Frankie argue over who has more pow­er, Zor­ro or Bat­man, the author is neat­ly set­ting up the theme in the book. I espe­cial­ly loved Gabe’s fas­ci­nat­ing, intre­pid, mul­ti-tal­ent­ed, and present par­ents … up until Gabe’s father faces depor­ta­tion. Alexander’s fresh descrip­tions, per­cep­tions, and actions keep the read­er upright, expec­tant, slight­ly ner­vous, and look­ing for­ward to turn­ing the page.

This is the per­fect book for most read­ers whether they have expe­ri­enced sci­ence fic­tion or not. It’s first and fore­most a rock­et-fueled sto­ry with intrigue, humor, and a very like­able hero. Read it!



From the Editor

by Mar­sha Qua­ley

cover imageThe con­flu­ence of sci­ence and art is at the heart of this month’s Book­storm™ book, Scaly Spot­ted Feath­ered Frilled by Cather­ine Thimmesh.

In con­ver­sa­tions about school cur­ricu­lum, STEM (sci­ence-tech­nol­o­gy-engi­neer­ing-math) turned into STEAM (+arts) quite some time ago. But why were sci­ence and art ever detached from each oth­er?

I sus­pect the truth is that wher­ev­er learn­ing has occurred, they nev­er were detached.

As a vet­er­an writer and writ­ing teacher, I know the impor­tance of ask­ing “What If?” Most often the ques­tion is used to nudge or explode a plot (Drag­ons!). But the ques­tion has equal impor­tance when applied to manip­u­lat­ing read­er reac­tion: What if I add some white space here? What if I move that page turn? How will that affect the reader’s response? Why?

As for the visu­al arts and music, well what’s NOT about explor­ing the sci­ence of the tools?

Helen Frankenthaler on Life Magazine cover

Helen Frak­en­thaler, artist. Pho­to by Gor­don Parks. Click to enlarge.

What sound will I get if I mute this horn?

What If I thin the paint and don’t prime the can­vas?

As you peruse this mon­th’s Bookol­o­gy you’ll see sci­ence and art hand in hand many places, most obvi­ous­ly in the books includ­ed in the Book­storm ™ and our fos­sil slide show. Lat­er this month we’ll have more that embraces the con­flu­ence: inter­views with Cather­ine Thimmesh and Melis­sa Stew­art (on teach­ing sci­ence through lit­er­a­ture), and an arti­cle by Jen­ny Bar­low on using pic­ture books to con­nect with peo­ple liv­ing with Alzheimer’s and demen­tia.

All that and our reg­u­lar columns and arti­cles. And of course, we’ll be skin­ny dip­ping. Glad you could join us.





Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled Companion Booktalks

To get you start­ed on the Book­storm™ books …

cover imageAge of Rep­tiles and Age of Rep­tiles: the Hunt, Richard Del­ga­do, Dark Horse Books, 2011. Ages 12 and up.

  • Word­less sto­ry­telling through beau­ti­ful (some­times gory) art
  • What hap­pens when you steal the T‑rex eggs? What hap­pens when an Allosaurus takes revenge on the Cer­atosaurs that killed his moth­er?
  • The author-artist has worked on movies such as Men in Black, The Incred­i­bles, WALL‑E

cover imageCap­tain Rap­tor series, writ­ten by Kevin O’Mal­ley, illus­trat­ed by Patrick O’Brien, Walk­er Books, 2005. Ages 5 – 8.

  • Dinosaurs are the char­ac­ters on the plan­et Juras­si­ca
  • Rock­et ships and action
  • Good guys, bad guys, scary stuff, and fun inven­tions

cover imageThe Dinosaurs of Water­house Hawkins, writ­ten by Bar­bara Ker­ley, illus­trat­ed by Bri­an Selznick, Scholas­tic Press, 2001.

  • Biog­ra­phy of  19th cen­tu­ry pale­oartist Water­house Hawkins who pop­u­lar­ized dinosaurs and once threw a din­ner par­ty inside one of his dinosaur sculp­tures
  • Just why are pieces of his dinosaur sculp­tures buried in New York’s Cen­tral Park?
  • Calde­cott Hon­or book

 cover imageDinosaurs: the Grand Tour, writ­ten by Keiron Pim and Jack Horner, The Exper­i­ment, 2014. Appro­pri­ate for chil­dren and adults.

  • Report mate­r­i­al on more than 300 dinosaurs and the sci­en­tists who have dis­cov­ered and stud­ied them
  • Help­ful orga­ni­za­tion (col­or-cod­ed by Geo­log­ic peri­od) with gray scale illus­tra­tions
  • Includes Chi­nese and Native Amer­i­can mythol­o­gy linked to dinosaurs

cover imageHow the Dinosaur Got to the Muse­um, Jessie Hart­land, Blue Apple Books, 2013. Ages 6 to 9

  • Pic­ture book about the team­work need­ed to bring a dinosaur skele­ton to a place where many peo­ple can see it and learn from it (the Smith­son­ian Muse­um)
  • Sol­id infor­ma­tion deliv­ered in bright art and live­ly lan­guage
  • A Book­list “Top Ten Sci-Tech Books for Youth” (2010)

cover imageHow to Draw Incred­i­ble Dinosaurs, writ­ten by Kris­ten McCur­ry, illus­trat­ed by Juan Calle, Smith­son­ian Draw­ing Books/Capstone Press, 2012. Ages 5 and up.

  • Step-by-step instruc­tions for ages 5 and up
  • Each draw­ing les­son comes with a brief “bio” of the dinosaur mod­el
  • One in a set of 4 draw­ing books (also: Incred­i­ble Ocean Ani­mals, Amaz­ing Ani­mals, Amaz­ing Space­craft)

cover imagePale­on­tol­ogy: the Study of Pre­his­toric Life, writ­ten by Susan H. Gray, Scholas­tic, 2012. ages 4 and up

  • A begin­ning intro­duc­tion to the sci­ence of pale­on­tol­ogy
  • Quick facts in col­or­ful large font, illus­trat­ed with many pho­tographs
  • Includes his­to­ry of pale­on­tol­ogy, how sci­en­tists date fos­sils, the tools they use

cover imagePlant Hunters: True sto­ries of their dar­ing adven­tures to the far cor­ners of the Earth, Ani­ta Sil­vey, Far­rar, Straus & Giroux, 2012. Ages 8 and up.

  • Sci­en­tists have had the cra­zi­est adven­tures
  • Beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed (many archival pho­tographs) and use­ful­ly orga­nized — great report mate­r­i­al
  • Includes a chap­ter on con­tem­po­rary sci­en­tists

bk_BulletPrehistoricLifPre­his­toric Life by DK Pub­lish­ing, 2010. Ages 8 and up

  • Dinosaurs and more: the plants, inver­te­brates, amphib­ians, birds, rep­tiles, and mam­mals from the ori­gins of life in the sea to the evo­lu­tion of man
  • DK’s sig­na­ture explod­ed dia­grams, cut­aways, and high-inter­est visu­als
  • Cof­fee table-beau­ti­ful and with tons of report mate­r­i­al

cover imageStone Girl, Bone Girl: the Sto­ry of Mary Anning, writ­ten by Lau­rence Anholt, illus­trat­ed by Sheila Mox­ley, Frances Lin­coln, 2006. Ages 6 – 9

  • Mary Anning: Struck by light­en­ing as a baby, famous at age 12, a girl work­ing in a man’s world
  • Vivid­ly illus­trat­ed pic­ture book sto­ry about the most famous fos­sil hunter of all (and the inspi­ra­tion for the wicked tongue twister “She Sells Sea Shells”)
  • Puts an engag­ing, human face on the 19th cen­tu­ry icon by mix­ing biog­ra­phy with an ele­ment of tall tale

cover imageUbiq­ui­tous: Cel­e­brat­ing Nature’s Sur­vivors, writ­ten by Joyce Sid­man, illus­trat­ed by Beck­ie Prange, HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2010. Ages 7 – 12.

  • Mam­mals and birds and rep­tiles that have sur­vived extinc­tion, excel­lent for con­trast in a dis­cus­sion about dinosaurs
  • Each spread includes a poem, facts, and a hand-col­ored linocut
  • From the cre­ators of the Calde­cott Hon­or Book Song of the Water Boat­man and Oth­er Pond Poems



Authors Emeritus: Syd Hoff

author photo

Syd Hoff, 1912 – 2004

His illus­tra­tions best char­ac­ter­ized as sim­plis­tic and humor­ous, Syd Hoff has held a warm place in children’s hearts through more than 200 books. Born on Sep­tem­ber 4th, Syd Hoff grew up in New York City. He went to the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Design as a fine arts stu­dent, but his teach­ers didn’t appre­ci­ate the humor that per­vad­ed his work.

Hoff sold his first car­toon to The New York­er at the age of eigh­teen. He drew many sin­gle-pan­el car­toons for that and oth­er mag­a­zines, as well as his own car­toon fea­ture, Laugh It Off, which ran in syn­di­ca­tion for almost twen­ty years.

cover imageIn 1958, he pub­lished his first children’s book, Dan­ny and the Dinosaur, which is a clas­sic for begin­ning read­ers. It was also one of the first. He has writ­ten sev­er­al fine books about car­toon­ing, all of which are worth find­ing in a used book­store.

Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty in New York state hous­es the orig­i­nal draw­ings for his com­ic strip and mag­a­zine art, while the deGrum­mond Col­lec­tion in Mis­sis­sip­pi holds orig­i­nal mate­ri­als for forty-six of his books for chil­dren.

Mr. Hoff died May 12, 2004, at the age of 91.

—Vic­ki Palmquist

For more Authors Emer­i­tus biogra­phies please vis­it the AE index.


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