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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 coordinating 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
Serves 6
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.
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Prep Time
35 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
35 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
1 hr
  1. 6 medium hard-boiled eggs
  2. 1.5 lbs ground spicy sausage
  3. 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  4. 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  5. 1/4 tsp pepper
  6. 2 Tbsp canola oil
  7. Hot sauce (optional)
  8. Brown mustard (optional)
  1. Peel boiled eggs. Mix seasonings and bread crumbs together.
  2. Divide sausage into six equal amounts.
  3. Flatten sausage into thin patties and wrap around eggs.
  4. Roll each egg in bread crumbs.
  5. Heat oil in skillet.
  6. Fry eggs in hot oil until well browned, turning frequently.
  7. May also be baked in oven at 325 deg F for 25 minutes or until browned
  8. Serve with hot sauce or mustard if desired.
Adapted from
Adapted from
Bookology Magazine

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.