Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Tech Tip: Virtual Field Trip: The First Thanksgiving

While cleaning out my office (a much needed task!), I came across many things and one of them was quite timely, so today, enjoy a DOUBLE Friday Tech Tip!  A virtual field trip from Scholastic on the first Thanksgiving.

The First Thanksgiving Virtual Field Trip

Including information on:

There are also book suggestions, printables, and additional websites to check out, including Plimoth Plantation.

Overall, there are a great number of resources available for learning more about our Thanksgiving tradition and exploring a little deeper as this holiday approaches.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday Tech Tip: Smithsonian Education

I recently received a mailer from Smithsonian about their lessons, art, and digital resources available for teachers to teach about mythology.  Available here:

And I thought to myself, well this must be a cost based program.  Then I thought to myself, but none of the Smithsonian museums charge entry.  Lo and behold Smithsonian Education's offerings are FREE, FREE, FREE (one of my favorite words in technology).  And, the offerings are not limited to mythology, a topic that greatly interests many of my K-5 students, but isn't strictly a part of our curriculum.

Here are some examples (just a few) of topics that DO integrate quite well with our curriculum:

And, for students, there are Smithsonian Students  and Smithsonian Kids  both with some great activities.  I added both of these to my curation lists.  For more "reliable resources" for students, check out the Pine Road Library website.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Follow the Drinking Gourd

Follow the Drinking Gourd as retold by Cari Meister and illustrated by Robert Squier

Follow the Drinking Gourd is published by an imprint of Capstone, so it is no surprise that the illustrations have a graphic feel to them.  Though many books for children have been published about the underground railroad and different methods of communicating its route, I had not heard of the "Drinking Gourd" before.  I looked up a video to hear the song, to feel its words and the power, and I can only imagine the captive audience that Peg Leg Joe must have had each night.  I wish we knew more about his story, besides his heroic journey to tell the slaves of a way North to freedom.  Meister does an excellent job of interspersing lyrics from the song within the text to bring authenticity to the story.  The inclusion of a glossary, additional reading, and additional websites for students will keep children learning more about this fascinating topic.

Follow the Drinking Gourd
ISBN: 978-1-4048-7375-9
Published 2012 by Picture Window Books
I received this copy from the publisher to review for the CYBILS.
I plan to add this review copy to our school library collection.

Looking at Lincoln

Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman 

I enjoyed the path of this story, of a child passing a Lincoln impersonator on the street and then digressing into the tale of his life with some meandering thoughts and opinions interspersed.  While Kalman's style of illustration isn't my favorite, I think she made some excellent choices in what she chose to portray.  A lone log cabin, a stepmother who allowed Abe to dream, a hat that held notes, a soldier's uniform with a shot through the heart.  Powerful stuff.  My favorite illustration is the one of the cherry blossoms in DC.  I have been there for their blooming and it is spectacular!  The simple spots of pink, offset by the vibrant green grass brings this page to life for me.  The topic itself, is well timed to coincide with the movie, Lincoln.  The endpapers show the text of the Gettysburg Address, highlighting specific words to bring them to the fore of our thinking, as they may have been for Lincoln himself.

Looking at Lincoln
ISBN: 978-0-399-24039-3
Published 2012 by Nancy Paulsen Books
I borrowed this copy from the public library to read and review it.

Balloons Over Broadway

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet is already a Sibert Medal Winner and is a nominee for a CYBILs award as well.  Melissa Sweet intersperses dense text about Tony Sarg with more animated features with word bubbles that seem to pop off the page and fun fonts to show strokes of genius on the part of the puppeteer.  And, I love any book that you have to turn from landscape to portrait as Sweet does when showing the first balloon marionette, the elephant, shown high above the parade goers.  Sarg's story is an inspiration to do what you love.  A quote under the author's note reads, "I have never done a stroke of work in my life." - Tony Sarg.  Meaning (at least to my interpretation) not that he didn't "work" hard, but that he didn't consider his  It was fun!  It was what he loved to do!  Within the story, the origin of the Macy's Parade lies in the traditions of many of the immigrant workers, who were accustomed to music and dancing in the streets to celebrate the upcoming holidays.  I really like that Mr. Macy honored their tradition and in such a BIG way.  So, good readers, thing BIG and (if you haven't seen it already) check out Balloons Over Broadway.  Just in time for Thanksgiving and the parades that will be coming soon.

Balloons Over Broadway
ISBN: 978-0-329-92629-8
Published 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
This book was already a part of our school library collection following the awarding of the Sibert Medal.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Georgia In Hawaii

Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O'Keefe Painted What She Pleased written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Yuyi Morales is a breath of fresh air with a gorgeous color palette inspired by the art of Georgia O'Keefe.  This particular story follows her journey to Hawaii to paint, as she was asked by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, a pineapple.  The first information that really piqued my interest was the  company's refusal to allow Georgia to live near the fields as the other workers did, to observe the plant in its setting, instead of plucked.  What were they trying to hide?  Were they concerned that she might paint a less becoming scene?  She was hired as an artist for the company, but she was still an artist and refused to paint what was dictated to her.  Instead, she found plenty of inspiration in the lush Hawaiian landscape.  The fact that, in the end, Georgia gave into the company makes me sad, as a reader, and as a defiant spirit.  Yuyi Morales does a beautiful job of capturing Georgia O'Keefe's well known flowers, and specifically the flowers native to Hawaii.  Amy Novesky captures a story in a way students can understand and gives a glimpse into Georgia O'Keefe's story, leaving readers wanting even more.

Here is Georgia O'Keefe's Pineapple Bud painting as commissioned by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company

Georgia In Hawaii: When Georgia O'Keefe Painted What She Pleased
ISBN: 978-0-15-205420-5
Published 2012 by Harcourt Children's Books
I read and reviewed this copy discreetly in my local Barnes and Noble.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda is written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  Melissa Sweet is also notably nominated for a CYBILS for her book, "Balloons Over Broadway" which won last year's Sibert Medal.  Once again, a story unknown to me (and extremely interesting) is always going to be a favorite.  The story of Ruth Harkness and her eventual and lengthy and painstaking search for a panda, the first to be brought to the US, is in one word...incredible.  Melissa Sweet's illustrations and use of authentic material and textures from China enhance an extraordinary story.  Something that struck me about the story is the timeline itself.  Not to give too much away, but Ruth Harkness married at the age of 34, which, in 1934, I would imagine would be considered sort of old to be getting married.  She also got married to a man she'd been friends with for ten years.  A lengthy courtship.  And then, a mere 23 DAYS later, her newly wed husband left for an expedition to China and...died.  What a tragic beginning.  Now, he died 2 years later, but he was gone all that time.  So, for all intents and purposes, they were together for 23 days after being married.  Now, this is a book written for an audience of children, but I am very interested to read more about Ruth and William's courtship and marriage.  But I would imagine that is a story (literally) for a different day.  Also, looking at the handy dandy timeline, or as Alicia Potter terms it "Chronology of Events," Ruch Harkness was able to accomplish in approximately 4 months what her husband was unable to do in 2 years.  Not an explorer.  Hah!  Ruth Harkness sure did prove a few folks wrong!  And her forethought to bring a bottle to feed a baby panda.  Smart!  Now, this story is perfect for a read aloud with students.  It's engaging, but not too long, not too heavy on information.  On the same token, if a student needs enough information on Ruth Harkness to, for example, write a report, this book will not provide enough depth.  With that said, I LOVE it.  I love the illustrations, I love the story.  I love it.  And it leaves me wanting more.  And I think it will do the same for you.  Enjoy!

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda
ISBN: 978-0-375-84448-5
Published 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.
I plan to add this book to our school library collection.