Friday, April 29, 2011

My Organizations

Ever wonder where I find some of the literacy news I share on this blog?  Check out some of these subscribed and free professional organizations focused on reading and literature for children.

PW Children's Bookshelf []
The National Center for Learning Disabilities []
Dyslexia Newsletter []
Curriculum Connections [] []
PW Daily [] []

Things I want to join this year:

Childrens Literature Asso of Ut

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Children's Books by Celebrities

One of the presentations I often do at conferences is one where the attendees analyze and form opinions about books written by celebrities.  I have all the copies there to preview as well.  Here is a list of just some of the more popular ones.  Which one's do you like?  How do you feel about "famous people" not necessarily authors/writers being able to publish books for children?

Children's Books by Celebrities
  • Jimmy Buffet, The Jolly Mon 
  • Jimmy & Amy Carter, The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer 
  • Prince of Wales Charles , The Old Man of Lochnagar 
  • Patricia Cornwell, Life's Little Fable 
  • Bill Cosby, series: Little Bill Books for Beginning Readers 
  • Katie Couric, The Brand New Kid 
  • Mario Cuomo, The Blue Spruce 
  • Jamie Lee Curtis, Where Do Balloons Go?, Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born, Today I Feel Silly, When I Was Little : A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth 
  • Dom DeLuise, Golidlocks, The Nightingale, Charlie the Caterpillar, King 
  • Bob's New Clothes, Hansel and Gretel 
  • Julie Andrews Edwards, Mandy , The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles , Little Bo: The Story of Bonnie Boadicea 
  • Julie Andrews Edwards & Emma Hamilton Blake, Dumpy the Dumptruck 
  • Sarah Ferguson (Fergie), Budgie: the Little Helicopter, Budgie: At Bendick's Point 
  • Jerry Garcia, The Teddy Bears' Picnic, There Ain't No Bugs on Me, What will Jenny Jenkins Wear? 
  • Whoopi Goldberg, Alice 
  • Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster), A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, The King Who Rained, A Little Pigeon Toad, Easy to See Why, Pondlarker, The Sixteen-Hand Horse, The Story of Ick, Ick's ABC, What's Nude? 
  • Susan Hampshire, Rosie's Ballet Slippers 
  • Naomi Judd, Naomi Judd's Love Can Build a Bridge, Naomi Judd's Guardian Angels 
  • Larry & Chaia King, Daddy Day, Daughter Day 
  • John Lithgow, The Remarkable Farkle McBride, Marsupial Sue (due out in October) 
  • Bette Midler, The Saga of Baby Divine 
  • Deborah Norville, I Don't Want to Sleep Tonight, I Can Fly (due out in March) 
  • Dolly Parton, Coat of Many Colors 
  • Dini Petty, The Queen, the Bear, and the Bumblebee 
  • Della Reese, God Inside of Me 
  • Faith Ringgold, Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky, Tar Beach, The Invisible Princess, If  a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks, My Dream of Martin Luther King, Dinner at Aunt Connie's House 
  • (Dr.)  Laura Schlessinger, Why Do You Love Me?, Dr. Laura Schlessinger's But I Waaannt It! 
  • Pete Seeger, Abiyoyo 
  • Jane Seymour (with James Keach), Eat, Talk, Play, Me & Me (all in the This One and That One block books series), Boing!: No Bouncing on the Bed, This 
  • One 'N That One in Splat!: The Tale of a Colorful Cat (both This One 'N That One) 
  • Ally Sheedy, She Was Nice to Mice 
  • (Judge) Judy Sheindlin, Judge Judy Sheindlin's You Can't Judge a Book by its Cover: Cool Rules for School, Judge Judy Sheindlin's Win or Lose by How You Choose! 
  • Maria Shriver, What's Heaven? 
  • Carly Simon, Amy the Dancing Bear, The Nighttime Chauffeur, The Fisherman's Song, The Boy of the Bells, Midnight Farm 
  • Will Smith, Just the Two of Us (due out in April) 
  • Danielle Steel, Martha's New Puppy, Max Runs Away 
  • John Travolta, Propeller One-Way Night Coach 

My own personal opinion on the matter follows that of this audio clip by Jon Sciezka, former ambassador for children's literature.  Have a listen HERE.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gingerbread Man Tour

I wish I had pictures of this but don't...only my story to tell.  One of the best ideas I've seen for the first day of school for kindergarten is to take a Gingerbread Man Tour.

  1. Email/notify the staff that you will be doing this so they can help.
  2. In the classroom, read The Gingerbread Man story
  3. Tell the class that you had heard that the gingerbread man was at school that day and that you'd were going to go find him.
  4. Head to the main places in the school:  office, library, bathrooms, cafeteria, music room, etc.   Ask whoever is there if they've seen the gingerbread man.  They should respond that you "just missed him."  Many people enjoy joining in on the fun.  "Did he have buttons down his front and have brown skin?  Oh, he just went down the hall towards that way."  
  5. After having toured the school in search of the gingerbread man and introduced the kindergarteners to whoever you meet along the way and also the main parts of the school they'll need to know about, you end up back at your class for gingerbread cookies for all.
You can add extension activities galore.  HERE is a link to make a mini book that could go home that day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Power Teaching

This is a popular classroom management program that many schools are adopting as the schoolwide program to help increase student engagement and motivation.  There are many varieties of videos on you tube with grade level examples.  Here are a few of my favorites.  

Sixth grade math:

Kindergarten Calendar Time:

High School Math Class

College Lecture:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Icebreakers and Energizers

Click here for another great powerpoint collection of activities to use in the classroom to build up the team/community.  I suggest you print them out 6 slides to a page in color and make a ring of cards to refer back to.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Children's Book Week May 2-8

Game designer, author, and illustrator Jeff Kinney is the multi talented mastermind behind the New York Times bestselling series Diary of A Wimpy Kid, now with over 40 million copies in print worldwide! In 2009, Jeff was named one of Time magazine's 100 "Most Influential People" in the world.
This year, Jeff lends his talent to celebrate books and reading with the 2011 Children's Book Week bookmark!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Universal Quotes

Some people have asked about the quotes on the side of my blog...

When I teach Children's Literature, the funnest class ever, one of the assignments in our wide reading is to locate what I call Universal Quotes.  These are quotes from literature that have an element of timelessness, can reach across races, ethnicities and nationalities and speak to a common human nature.  Sometimes it is the moral of a story, sometimes just an interesting way of thinking.  Here are some more examples:

“Some knowledge is too heavy for children.  When you are older and stronger you can bear it.  For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”
THE HIDING PLACE by Corrie Ten Boon
“I had never realized how much I needed the attention of others to confirm my own presence.”
“People were always giving each other secret looks around me.  But I didn’t care.  I had private thoughts of my own that I didn’t share with them, so it made us even.”
“You gotta face the hand you’re dealt and deal with it, and make your problems be the smallest part of who you are.”
“Might just as well be happy, seeing as it doesn’t make a difference to anyone but you if you are not.” 
Laughter need not be cut out of anything, since it improves everything.
~ James Thurber

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bulletin Boards about Content

Click on this link to see a variety of bulletin board ideas categorized by content area.  It was an assignment for some of my university students.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Golden Books

This is a great article from a few years back but it reminds me that I need to amp up my golden books collection.  

Children's books celebrated in two new volumes


Scripps Howard News Service 

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Two marvelous new books explore different aspects of children's books. Here's a closer look at these two gems, which would make great gifts for adult fans of children's literature: 
-- One hundred years ago, an energetic young businessman named Edward H. Wadewitz teamed up with his younger brother Al to buy a debt-ridden printing business in Racine, Wis. At that point, no one would have guessed how the West Side Printing Company -- renamed the Western Printing and Lithographing Co. -- would revolutionize the children's-literature world by creating a line of inexpensive picture books known as Golden Books. One of those books, "The Poky Little Puppy," remains one of the top-selling children's books of all time. 
In "Golden Legacy" (Golden Books/Random House, $40), Leonard S. Marcus tells the story of how Wadewitz (known as "E.H.") and his partners combined business acumen, printing knowledge and a willingness to take risks as they built Western into a publishing powerhouse. As the subtitle of Marcus' book puts it, "Golden Legacy" is the story of "how Golden Books won children's hearts, changed publishing forever, and became an American icon along the way." 
It's a captivating tale, told with verve and insight by Marcus, a well-respected author and children's book historian. Marcus details how the little Racine company grew over the years by opening offices in New York and Beverly Hills, Calif., and joining forces with publishers like Dell and Simon & Schuster, as well as with other savvy businessmen like Walt Disney. 
In 1942, Western officials made history when they launched Golden Books. The idea was to offer parents high-quality picture books created by top authors and illustrators, but to sell the volumes for 25 cents each -- far less than the $1.50-$2 price then commanded by other picture books. The roster of authors and illustrators who created books in the Golden Books series is impressive: Margaret Wise Brown, Richard Scarry, Garth Williams, Ruth Krauss and Leonard Weisgard, to name just a few. 
The company's early interest in licensing, particularly with Disney, also brought it unprecedented commercial success. Parents and children loved the Golden Books, whose affordable price allowed families to create their own libraries. But librarians hated the mass-produced books, contending they weren't good enough for children to spend time reading. 
Meanwhile, Western continued to expand into other publishing areas, producing the now-famous pocket-sized "Golden Nature Guides" and the multivolume Golden Book Encyclopedia set. The company ventured into audio, producing some of the first book and record sets, and also began to try to add more racial diversity to the lily-white world of its Golden Books.
In recent years, however, Western has suffered a number of financial ups and downs. The company finally was purchased in 2001 by Random House, which is working to bring new luster to the Golden Books brand. 
While "Golden Legacy" has obvious appeal to those interested in children's books, its coffee-table size, plus the numerous gorgeous illustrations from dozens of Golden Books, makes this a book that many readers would enjoy. Readers of a certain age will particularly enjoy reliving some of their favorite times spent reading books like "The Saggy Baggy Elephant," "Tootle" and "Doctor Dan the Bandage Man." (Ages 12-adult.) 
-- In "Artist to Artist," top children's-book illustrators offer brief essays telling how they work as a way of inspiring young artists who might be considering a career in children's books. These nuggets of information, accompanied by lots of wonderful artwork, also make fascinating reading for those adults interested in children's books. 
Profits from the sale of the book are designated for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass., and Carle, author-illustrator of such classics as "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," introduces the volume: 
"I hope that this book will be a kind of mentor for you, young artist. And that you will feel when reading these artists' stories that you are among friends, fellow dreamers and scribblers, who follow their instincts and listen to their own inner voices." 
One of the most perceptive essays was written by Maurice Sendak, author of the Caldecott Medal-winning classic "Where the Wild Things Are." Sendak succinctly describes the delicate balance between words and art in the best children's picture books, telling young artists: "You must never illustrate exactly what is written. You must find a space in the text so that the pictures can do the work." (Ages 10 up.) 
(Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.macpherson(at)

~ James Thurber

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Get to Know Your Genre's-Part III

The final installment of our clarification on genre.  Have any of them surprised you?  

PLEASE NOTE: YA, MIDDLE GRADE, PICTURE BOOK, GRAPHIC NOVEL, FICTION, NON-FICTION & BIOGRAPHY ARE NOT GENRES. THEY ARE CATEGORIES. "Genre" is a further classification beyond category. If I were to use a Biology class analogy (bear with me, I had to go to summer school for Biology) I'd say that in the taxonomic hierarchy Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Species, "Kingdom" is book, "Phylum" is format of book (electronic, hardbound, paperback), "Class" is category (YA, fiction, etc), "Order" is big-genre, "Species" is sub-genre. (And yes, there are even-more-specific sub-subgenres, but you don't need to get into that unless you are hardcore.)

DYSTOPIAN - These books are concerned with an end-of-the-world, or life-as-we-don't-know-it post-apocalyptic scenario. There might be mutants or bizarro creatures, but the stars are always humans struggling to survive in a terrible future-earth. Dystopian (aka "dystopic", which sounds terrible to me so I never say it) can have romance, but it doesn't have to. IF your book is NOT about a bleak futurescape, it is NOT DYSTOPIAN.
FANTASY is set in a different world from our own (sometimes VERY different) and the weirdness there is generally MAGIC, and creatures are MAGICAL. This world can certainly be earth, but it will be an earth that operates under different rules than earth and society as we understand it now, or set in a community on earth that "normals" can't see. (Hogwarts or Xanth, for example). Wizards & Witches are generally considered creatures of Fantasy, though they are human/humanoid, because they have magic. Fantasy can definitely be funny and fun, and romantic too!
HIGH FANTASY is usually set in a TOTALLY different world, and very often involves quests, swords, and people with unusually strange and strangely punctuated names. There is often a serious or "legendary" tone to High Fantasy. Lord of the Rings, for example, is High Fantasy.
HORROR Is your story scary? REALLY scary? If it was a movie, would there be blood on screen at any time, and would people scream and cover their eyes while watching it? That's horror. Horror can be paranormal or fantasy or realistic or historical. 
PARANORMAL means that it is filled with human or humanoid creatures or human-something-shapeshifters in an essentially human or human-esque world, but they have extra SUPER-human abilities or powers. IE, psychics, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, kids who draw things that come to life, ghosts, visions, etc, are all paranormal phenomena. Vampires and Werewolves are arguably mythical creatures and therefore fantasy, but I'd call them paranormal actually, since they are humans that have changed into something else through some set of circumstances, not magic.
Some things are sort of on the border between "paranormal" and "fantasy" - in that case I'd pick the one that you feel is the closest match.
PARANORMAL ROMANCE - Does your story have smoking-hot werewolf sex, or a vampire/human love that defies the boundaries of time and mortality, or a ghost who makes out with his living girfriend in the school locker room, or forbidden incestuous desire discovered while fending off demons? That'd be Paranormal Romance.
SF/SCIENCE FICTION/SPECULATIVE FICTION- Sometimes confused with Fantasy or Dystopian, but IS NOT THOSE THINGS. SF generally seeks to answer a "what if" question, extrapolating things we know about our world and where future scientific development might go, or what might have happened if something was different in the past. Like, time travel. How would we do that REALLY, not using magic? What if in twenty years there was really a way to travel through time, and it was accessible to even high school students? Stories about space travel, aliens, time travel, faster-than-light travel, alternative history (ie, "What if England had colonized Mars?") fall under the SF banner.
STEAMPUNK Steampunk concerns itself with alternative history, usually in a Victorian (or Victorian-esque) setting where steam power and clockwork are used, but featuring anachronistic technology & fictional machines. So like, if your story has clockwork beetles with razorblade teeth who try to bite you to death onboard the dirigible you've hijacked, but you put on your goggles and spray them with your special Aether Gun... that's steampunk. Jules Verne or HG Wells were the original "steampunk" writers, though I am pretty sure they just called them Stories. There is much popular steampunk - think of LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, or the new (Robert Downey Jr) version of SHERLOCK HOLMES, or Scott Westerfeld's LEVIATHAN, for just a few examples.
URBAN FANTASY is always set in a city, and features um... FANTASY scenarios. For example, faeries that are addicted to drugs and live in the subway system. Or trolls who hang out in clubs and impregnate human chicks. Or whatever. If you haven't written a dark and gritty fantasy set what we would recognize as a human-style city, you haven't written an urban fantasy.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Get to Know Your Genre's-Part II

Part II of an article regarding misconceptions about genre.  

PLEASE NOTE: YA, MIDDLE GRADE, PICTURE BOOK, GRAPHIC NOVEL, FICTION, NON-FICTION & BIOGRAPHY ARE NOT GENRES. THEY ARE CATEGORIES. "Genre" is a further classification beyond category. If I were to use a Biology class analogy (bear with me, I had to go to summer school for Biology) I'd say that in the taxonomic hierarchy Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Species, "Kingdom" is book, "Phylum" is format of book (electronic, hardbound, paperback), "Class" is category (YA, fiction, etc), "Order" is big-genre, "Species" is sub-genre. (And yes, there are even-more-specific sub-subgenres, but you don't need to get into that unless you are hardcore.)

If you don't think your book falls into ANY of these categories, but it is fictional... you can just call it fiction.
CHICK LIT This term is so out of fashion at the moment that if your book IS chick-lit, you'd probably be better off finding a different way to describe it. But basically, chick-lit is aspirational, fun, usually comedic and romantic, often a romp, often featuring a girl aged 20-38 and her search for the perfect guy. And perfect shoes. And mis-steps along the way to both. I happen to really like these books, but I think they were overpublished earlier in the decade. If your book could have shopping bags, heels, or a diamond ring on the cover, it is very likely chick lit (or another type of fiction wearing chick-lit clothing.) I would personally prefer to call these stories Romantic Comedies.
HISTORICAL Come on, you know what this is. Historical is stuff set in the past. YES, the 80's count as the past and are historical. YES, that means you are old. Historical can be romance, or fantasy, or mystery, or just fiction.
LITERARY FICTION - A term I hate! How pretentious sounding. And my first definition was very cranky. But it really is a term that people use all the time, no matter how much I personally don't like it. So I will use the words of genius Nova Ren Suma, who says, "Hard to define, but to me litfic has more of a focus on language, often voice—sometimes to the detriment of plot. It's often about HOW the story is told or crafted rather than simply the story, the action, itself." 
MAGICAL REALISM Is your story basically realistic, but with one or just a few elements that are gently magical? Like for example, everything is like normal in your big huge family, except when Auntie Rosita makes her special stew, people fall in love, and when Uncle Pedro strums his guitar, watch out, because children start to dance on air... literally! Magical Realism is usually somewhat romantic and has heightened language, and is most associated with authors like Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, though certainly the books/movies CHOCOLAT, LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE and BABETTE'S FEAST are good examples too.
URBAN FICTION Urban Fiction is always realistic or at least semi-realistic fiction, often featuring hot sex, violence, thug life, gang themes, corrupt bajillionaires, gold-digging women, drug use, people doing time, etc. Often there are cars, legs, dice or guns (or some combo) on the covers. If you haven't written a book like this, do not call your book Urban Fiction.
WOMEN'S FICTION Whoa do I hate this term. I think ALL fiction is women's fiction. But this is a real marketing term, and this is the world we live in, sooo... "Women's Fiction" can be translated to mean "Fiction about Middle Class or Wealthy People and their Families and Relationships (and/or obsession with romantics of another era), usually with pastel umbrellas or rainboots or daisies or a hat on a hook or some other cutesy thing on the cover, favored by certain types of book clubs." "UPMARKET WOMEN'S FICTION" is the same thing, but more likely to win an award and/or sell a ton of copies.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Get to know your Genre's-Part I

An interesting article I came across dealing with the topic of genre.  Read through this three part series to become informed.  It is a very popular topic with the rise of basals the past few years.  




"Genre" is a further classification beyond category. If I were to use a Biology class analogy (bear with me, I had to go to summer school for Biology) I'd say that in the taxonomic hierarchy Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Species, "Kingdom" is book, "Phylum" is format of book (electronic, hardbound, paperback), "Class" is category (YA, fiction, etc), "Order" is big-genre, "Species" is sub-genre. (And yes, there are even-more-specific sub-subgenres, but you don't need to get into that unless you are hardcore.)

A mystery is by definition... mysterious, and often involves a crime or problem and a "whodunit" question. Mysteries can be either historical, or contemporary; realistic, or fantasy, or even paranormal. Something can be just a mystery, of course, but sometimes a book falls into a subsection of mystery, like one of the following:
COZY Cute mysteries, usually in series. Sometimes there is a theme to the books, like a cat solves the clues, or each book includes crossword puzzles or cookie recipes or similar. Sometimes the main character is a nice older person who lives in a cute town where trouble just seems to follow them around (think Father Dowling, or Jessica Fletcher from MURDER SHE WROTE), though modern cozies often have younger, hipper characters. Cozies may include crime or murder, but there is likely to be little to no bloodshed "onstage" and little to no sex, violence or profanity.
LOCKED DOOR MYSTERY A sleuth is given a set of circumstances that seem impossible - murders have happened in a sealed room, inaccessible to anyone, and the only possible suspects are ruled impossible, etc. Like MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE and similar. These stories are usually historical or just old (see "traditional mystery")
POLICE PROCEDURAL/FORENSIC/LEGAL A species of crime/detective novel that involves... well, POLICE, and how they go about solving a crime or crimes. Sometimes the perpetrator is known at the outset of the story and the book is more about the profiling, dna testing, forensics, and "manhunt". Anything where there is a crotchety old captain who is counting down the days to retirement, and a rookie wise-ass who doesn't want to ride a desk for the rest of his life... well, you get the idea. SUB-SUB-GENRES: If there is a lot of forensic or autopsy type material or a medical examiner at the heart of the story, it is acceptable to call it a "forensic" mystery. If there is a court case at the heart of the story, you can call it a "courtroom drama" or "legal thriller."
THRILLER is a fast-paced story usually with a mystery/crime element that is inherently THRILLING, often involving a hero who must solve a problem, or find clues, generally via adventure, daring, escapes, karate, CIA training, etc. Thrillers can be legal, or forensic, or historical, or true-crime, or actually of these CAN be thrillers, because extremely fast pacing is what really makes a thriller. (Cozies and Traditional Mysteries cannot be thrillers.)
TRADITIONAL MYSTERY like Agatha Christie or similar - a sleuth (Poirot for example, or Maisie Dobbs) who is given a crime and a set of suspects and clues, often with a specific location (train, Italian Villa, girl's school, etc) and a time frame (the end of the train ride, the end of the holiday, the end of school term) in which to solve the crime, and everything is wrapped up neatly at the end (possibly with all the suspects in one room, red herrings discussed, and villain apprehended.) "Traditional" mysteries of this sort do not necessarily have to be historical, but they often are, or they are just literally old books, and were contemporary in the 20's or whenever they were written. 
TRUE CRIME This is actually non-fiction but is often shelved next to mysteries in a bookstore. Nonfiction about, well, A TRUE CRIME (duh) - but written in such a fast-paced and compelling manner that it could be fiction itself. Like DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, or the new to paperback DOGTOWN, or HELTER SKELTER.