Friday, May 17, 2013
Tomorrow, I'll be headed to UPenn for #edcampphilly. I attended last year for the first time and loved the un-conference format. I loved everyone's ability to share. I find that, as teachers, we learn the most when we teach others and we have the most to learn from each other. We have invaluable experiences each day and limited time to share with each other. Through channels like my PLN on twitter, my blog follows on Google Reader (which is going away very soon...what to do about that!?!) and other online sources, I feel pretty well "developed" but I think connecting in real time and in real physical spaces with other educators is such a valuable opportunity. And...it's free. Can't beat that. I'm excited to share more about what I learn at #edcampphilly tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Last year, I learned about the following tech tools that I don't think I could live without a year later:
Smore (well, technically some of these I haven't quite used it yet..but I definitely plan to!)
Thursday, February 28, 2013
So, after the first round shortlist for the Nonfiction Picture Book category was announced on New Years Day, I was told I could "lift the curtain" and discuss some of the process, my favorites, etc. And I meant to do that. Well, sort of. I really did mean to do that. But February was a bit of a hectic month, and so, January was a bit of a hectic month just thinking about February, and tomorrow is Read Across America, which made things feel like they never stopped being hectic and, therefore, blogging was put on the back burner. Enough excuses. For entirely different reasons, I have a smidge of time to blog today. And, as far as CYBILS are concerned, reason to gloat! So, I shall give you a look at the great and powerful CYBILS and what I have learned this year.
1) When they say it's a lot of work, that's no joke. I read a LOT of books. Lucky for me though, I really, really like to read lots of books. And, it was a professional opportunity to familiarize myself with a number of awesome authors and illustrators and their newest work. Which, in turn, made me research some of their older work as well.
2) I had no idea what the expectations were...but now I do. When they say shortlist, they mean shortlist. There was some confusion on my part where at one point, I thought we, as a panel, were trimming things down to a list of 30. Which (I thought) compared to 100, was pretty short. But no, a shortlist is 5-7 books. Which meant many, many of my contenders had to be dismissed. Sigh.
3) I had no idea what the timelines were. Now I do. First round shortlists are announced on New Years Day and winners are announced on Valentine's Day. I mean. Could they make it any easier to remember that? Now I know.
4) I thought I had to blog about every book. I started to, but if I had continued to, I wouldn't have had time to read every book. Reading trumps blogging. As it should. Clearly.
So, on to deliberations. I purposefully did not look at any other panelists short lists as I was building my own. I didn't want any biases to creep in prior to discussion of the books. So, I read, and I blogged, and I added books to my personal shortlist that I thought stood head and shoulders above the rest. Our short lists were to include 10 books and we were allowed an additional 5 in reserves. After reading 100 awesome books, that was a tricky feat. I loved many more than appeared on my short list. Here is my short list, in no particular order:
Now, back to deliberations. I was told that my list was the most "unique". Of the ten titles on my shortlist, six of those titles did not appear on any other panelists list. SIX. The remaining four only appeared on one other panelist's shortlist. Meaning, most people did not agree with my choices. Well, that is why a panel is a panel, right? Lots of different opinions. Healthy discussion. But, I felt like I was either on the wrong track, or going to hold things up unnecessarily. I felt sort of bad. But...I also felt strongly about the titles I had selected. I had my reasons. And I was ready to bring those reasons to the table. So, I did.
And I'm glad that I did. With any deliberations, there is some give and take. If you are familiar with this year's finalists, you'll realize only one of my titles from above made it to the short, shortlist. And, with that give and take, one title made it to that finalist short list that I disagreed with wholeheartedly, and wasn't afraid to let anyone know how much I disliked it. One of my fellow panelists insinuated that I didn't dislike it that much...but I did. I was just kinder in my blog post because I'm all for encouraging reading, even if it's not my favorite. But...I trusted that the final panel would see reason. And..they did. The one title I fought for hardest was the one I "blurbed" on the finalist post: Mrs. Harkness and the Panda. And...it WON!!!!!
|That's me with ALL of the books our library received from my participation on the CYBILS NFPB first round panel. All catalogued and ready for kids! Featuring (of course) Mrs. H. and the Panda.|
So, Valentine's Day was extra sweet for me this year. I felt a little like Colby Sharp after The One and Only Ivan won the Newbery Medal. Though, he did a much better job than I of backing his horse in that race and letting the world know how he felt about. But, I got my horse in the race. And, that's a start.
I hope to be involved in the CYBILS on a panel again next year. Maybe NFPB, maybe something else. I'm looking forward to diversifying my reading and, in the meantime, reading and blogging about some 2013 titles now to save some time come fall.
Monday, January 7, 2013
School Library website.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
twitter, I summed up my thoughts on this book in one word:
Let's begin at the beginning though. I LOVED "When You Reach Me," Rebecca Stead's recent Newbery medal winning novel. I liken it to "The Time Traveler's Wife" for kids. So, not to give too much away there, but there's some time travel. And, there are a lot of references to the main character's favorite book, "A Wrinkle in Time." I'm also a big fan of books for kids that refer to other great books for kids, like a reading road map.
So, anyway, I loved "When You Reach Me," so my expectations were high and as I read "Liar and Spy," I thought perhaps they were too high. L and S follows Georges (named for Georges Seurat) as he navigates middle school bullies, an abrupt move, and family turmoil. He befriends a boy in his new apartment building, Safer, and reluctantly involves himself in spying. The story moves along. A little slowly. Until pretty close to the end. And then bam. Rebecca Stead proceeds to slap you in the face 3-4 times (at least). There was a smidge of foreshadowing. In middle grade novels, foreshadowing is usually SO obvious that you, as an adult reader, are saying, "Oh, I know where this is going...". And kids usually read along, taking in all the pieces and putting them together. Just the way it is. As someone who will skip to the end to figure something out if it's THAT kind of book, I will shamelessly say that I rather like being the omniscient adult when it comes to foreshadowing. But, noooo. Stead slips in foreshadowing so that you momentarily pause and think, huh, that's weird. And you continue with this niggling thought in the back of your brain, a seed that blossoms when you get to THAT part, the reveal so to speak.
Am I being very cryptic? I'm being very cryptic, aren't I? Well...you'll just have to read it then, won't you. And it's one of those books that you might have to read twice. Not to understand it, but to go back and examine it, very closely, for more clues.
You know the movie, The Sixth Sense? It's sort of like that, except for there are no little boys talking to dead people.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The Elephant from Baghdad is written by Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris and illustrated by Jon Cannell. The story itself, of Charlemagne being gifted an albino elephant from Harun al-Rashid, caliph of Baghdad, is FASCINATING. The journeys that the ambassadors made, on FOOT, from present day Germany to Baghdad was long and arduous. I can only imagine the return trip with…an elephant. I think I would be pretty concerned that the ginormous clock would fall off the elephant’s back. Just me? I believe it is all true as transcribed by Notker the Stammerer. He even says, “But it is true. I swear it.” I like that photographs of real artifacts were interspersed with Cannell’s illustrations. The story telling from Notker the Stammerer’s point of view was well done, realistic and also showed that it was the monks of the time who recorded history and so, it was from their point of view that accounts came to be known to others.
The Elephant From Baghdad
Published 2012 by Marshall Cavendish Children
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.
Just today, I received a review copy from the publisher for CYBILS.
Here Come the Girl Scouts by Shana Corey and illustrated by Hadley Hooper has gump-shun, just like Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low. While I was a girl scout myself, I never knew the story of Juliette Gordon Low. In fact, I didn't know who the founder of the girl scouts was. Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the girl scouts and as such, many of my students participated in celebrations surrounding the centennial of the Girl Scouts and celebrating its founding leader, Juliette Gordon Low. As a result, more than one of my third graders were asking for books on Juliette Gordon Low when they began their wax museum biography assignment. To which I replied...who? I promptly got materials from the public library to fill the gap that existed in our school library at the time. And, now, after reading this picture book biography of Juliette Gordon Low, I can understand the fascination with her. From childhood on, Juliette or Daisy (as I will now refer to her as because I'm getting tired of typing out Juliette Gordon Low...), so Daisy was different. She'd actually fit in quite well 100 years later (I think), but maybe because she changed the way the world looks at girls. She changed the way girls look at the world. Daisy was truly ahead of her time, recognizing the importance of conservation, the importance of building confident young females, the importance of acceptance and understanding. She was my kinda gal!
Some things I wish I'd learned as a girl scout:
- How to secure a burglar with eight inches of cord (because, you know what I always have on hand...eight inches of cord!)
- How to stop a runaway horse (what did they do??)
- How to get the skin off a sardine (are you supposed to?)
- How to brush your teeth if a crocodile takes your toothbrush (IF? I think you might have bigger problems in this situation...)
And badges I wish had existed:
- Dairy Maid
My favorite element are the quotes from the first Girl Scout Handbook throughout the story. "Every little girl...goes to make up some part or parcel of our great whole nation."
Here Come the Girl Scouts!
Published 2012 by Scholastic Press
I borrowed this copy from the library to read and review.
I plan to add this book to our school library collection.
If You Lived Here…You’d already be home. Each time I looked at this book, that is what I thought. And yet, not one of these homes reflected my own. I’d love to see each of them up close and some I have in my travels. I’ve seen a Greek island village as pictured on the cover, and I’ve seen the canals of Venice and the homes that exist there. Others I’ve seen in movies, but I welcomed this unique opportunity to learn details of how they came to look the way they do and why. I never pictured a log cabin as being two separate spaces. With the explanation that trees taller than 16 feet were tough to find, it makes perfect sense. Many homes had features designed for protection from outside intruders. Adobe homes had ladders that could be pulled up and inside so that intruders could not get inside. It’s a wonder though that invaders didn’t start carrying ladders with them. Where there’s a will. Drawbridges used to access, or drawn up to not access do provide quite the barrier to entering a French chateau. Protection isn’t always from outsiders, though the design of a Chinese Fujian tulou does look to present quite an obstacle with its high walls. Natural elements, such as earthquakes also need to be considered, especially depending on your location and the likelihood of such events. The Fujian tulou is designed to withstand the impact of an earthquake with walls that thin out at the ground level and curve. Back to intruders, “white towns” found on many Greek islands through the Aegean Sea had streets throughout the village that were laid out like a maze, intentionally, to trick invaders and make them get lost once on land. Overall, each of the homes featured in “If You Lived Here” was fascinating and the illustrations which were also created by author Giles LaRoche appear to have painstaking detail. The style of bas-relief paper cut collage is such an intricate process to create each of these homes. I am interested to check out LaRoche’s other work as well.
If You Lived Here
Published 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
I borrowed this copy from the public library to review.
After reading and reviewing, I also received a review copy from the publisher specifically for the CYBILS.