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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Rose Meets Mr. Wintergarten

Rose Meets Mr. Wintergarten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey!” he said. “You skipped a line.”

I did?” I said.

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

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

He EATS kids?” a lit­tle girl said.

For real?” said anoth­er.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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End Cap: Little Cat’s Luck

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

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

Have fun!

Hid­den Words

Puz­zle by mypuzzle.org
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Celebrating Ezra Jack Keats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trip, Jennie's Hat, Dreams

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

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

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

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Time Travel

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

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

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

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

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

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Jennifer A. Bell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Dog Lost

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

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

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

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

When does the book design­er get into the process?

The art direc­tors for these books were also the design­ers.

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

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

___________________________________________

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

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

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The Jungle Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Caps for Sale

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

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

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

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

Caps for Sale

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

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

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

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Sunflower Cat Treats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albquerque Academy reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albuquerque Academy Simms Library

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

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

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

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

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Skinny Dip with Marsha Qualey

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

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

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

buttered toastWhat’s your favorite late-night snack?

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

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

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

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

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

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

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

Night, now and for­ev­er.

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

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

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Roads Not Taken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marion Dane Bauer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Cat's Luck concrete poetry

Do you think visu­al­ly or pri­mar­i­ly in words?

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

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

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

____________________________________________

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

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

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Juxtaposition

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

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

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

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

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

Trophy wall

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

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

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

Kwame Alexander Crossover Fans

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

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

Trophy case

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

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

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

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

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

4th Grade pick: The Crossover (triple award)

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

The Flip Side

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

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

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

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Fashion Studio

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

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

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

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

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

Fashion Studio

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

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

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

Fashion Studio

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

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

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Worm Loves Worm

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

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

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

That got their atten­tion.

Worms?” they said.

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

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

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

Worm loves Worm.

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

Yes!” answers Worm.

Let’s be mar­ried.” 

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

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

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

Now can we be mar­ried?” asks Worm.

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

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

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

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

Worm Loves Worm0797

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

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

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Molting Advice

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

We shov­eled.

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

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

Debra Frasier letter forms

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

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

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

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

In the dark the mush tremors slight­ly.

So I try again:

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

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

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

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

Debra Frasier Calligraphy

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

Grow your sens­es sharp­er.

Yeats told me. On Face­book.

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Skinny Dip with Caroline Starr Rose

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

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

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

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

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

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

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

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

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

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

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

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

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

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Bookstorm™: Little Cat’s Luck

 

Little Cat's Luck

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

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

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

Downloadables

 

 

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

BOOKSTORM TOPICS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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