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.

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

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

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The Jungle Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Caps for Sale

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

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

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

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

Caps for Sale

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

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

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

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Sunflower Cat Treats

Sun­flower Cat Treats
Here’s a pop­u­lar home­made treat your cat will enjoy! You’ll need a dehy­dra­tor to pre­pare these.
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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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