Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The House That Jane Built

Jane seems like my kind of gal.  I'm going to be honest here.  About my ignorance.  I thought Jane Addams was related, in some way, to Abigail and John Adams.  She is not.  Their last names aren't spelled the same.  And THIS is what I love about reading a LOT of nonfiction for the CYBILS and #NFNovember.  All the learning I get to do about interesting people and animals and events WHILE reading books that might be awesome for my school library.  Best. Job. Ever.  But I digress, while this book is catalogued 92 (biography) according to the library from which I borrowed it, I see it to be more a story of the HOUSE and her work than about Jane herself.  It seems that the popular nominees for the elementary/nonfiction category are picture book biographies, but I'm not sure I would consider this a biography.  For starters, it really only scratches the surface of Jane Addams.  It has, for me, opened a door into a room I would like to explore more so I look forward to doing so.  I admire the work Jane Addams did in establishing and building the community surrounding Hull House and her altruistic actions which shaped a community with a goal to help those who had less.  Jane seems like someone who looked for the root of the problem and worked to solve problems in her efforts.  When a boy threw rocks at the window, she identified he needed something more to do with his time...and gave him that.  When a man stole from her, she asked him why.  And gave him a job.  The illustrations by Kathryn Brown bring a color to a time most of us have only ever seen in black and white.  The bright colors emphasize the hope that Hull House brought to so many.  Tanya Lee Stone artfully weaves a story explaining the poverty Jane saw both as a child and then abroad in London as an adult which likely inspired her work building Hull House and reaching out to the community of Chicago.  Included are an author's note with more background information as well as sources and source notes.


The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams
Author: Tanya Lee Stone
Illustrator: Kathryn Brown
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9049-9
Published 2015 by Henry Holt and Co.

I borrowed this book from the public library to read and review.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

@CYBILS Season and #NFNovember

CYBILS Judges have been announced and I, once again, have the honor and pleasure of serving by reading and weighing in on the discussion for the first round of nonfiction.  Nominations have been rolling in since October 1st.  If you'd like to add to my TBR pile, you can nominate some great nonfiction (and in the other categories, of course!) right here.  Just requesting the books via inter-library loan has me all excited for the breadth and depth of what I get to read this fall and winter.  What I enjoy most about being a nonfiction panelist is getting to LEARN so much!  Follow along as I blog about some of my favorites from now through December.  Read with me!  And, if you can make it, come to KidLitCon this Friday in Baltimore, or join in the fun virtually via Twitter.  Along with Alysa Stewart, Jennie Rothschild, Jennifer Wharton, Carol Wilcox, and Amy Broadmoore, I will be a part of a panel on nonfiction blogging and book reviewing.  Concluding our panel, we hope to set out a challenge to make November the month of Nonfiction.  That gives you plenty of time to wrap your brain around a good book.  It doesn't have to be a nominee, it can be an old favorite, but blog about it.  Get your feet wet with some nonfiction and spread the #nfnovember love!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Artistic Self Expression and the Blank Canvas

You know what is an interesting phenomena?  Kids drawing on themselves.  My daughter was secretly doing so.  On herself and random surfaces throughout her home.  That stage seems to have waned, but if it's a topic you find yourself needing to discuss, there are two pretty awesome picture books for doing so.


Friday, July 17, 2015

The Great Depression and Rail Riding Children

I'm working on reading some Newbery Winners I never got around to and just started Richard Peck's A Year Down Yonder.  It instantly tickled my brain as similar to another book and then another.  I'm sure they are all three very different books, but there is a thread that connects them.  The phenomena of children being sent away to live with relatives, specifically during or following The Great Depression.  So, I present to you more books to check out if you liked any of these three.

You may have noticed a few shiny medals on these covers.  I'm excited to read more of "A Year Down Yonder" and see what lies in store for Mary Alice.  Do you have any other great Depression Era historical fiction to add to this list?  Comment below with more book alike titles to check out.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Questioning and Learning Speed

While getting to know my collection further, I stumbled across Henry Possum by Harold Berson.  This title can be matched with two other familiar reads.  

Like Leo, Henry doesn't catch on right away like his siblings as mom teaches them to play dead.  He also has a tendency to hum that any early childhood educator will recognize in at least one student per year (probably more).

And like P. D. Eastman's character, Henry get separated from his mother and finds himself searching and asking "Are you my mother?"  The repetitive pattern helps reinforce questions and question marks for students.  It is also another good book for finding repetition with the sight words are, you, or my.

So, if you've used either Leo The Late Bloomer or Are You My Mother in lessons in the past, consider trying Henry Possum, either to compare and contrast or to try something new.  And by new, I mean old.  But good.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Metacognition and Fluency

Learning to read is easy peasy for some kids.  For others, it is a more arduous task.  

In Becky Bloom's Wolf, the title character strives to become more "educated" like the farm animals he originally sets out to ingest.  His first attempts are very Dick and Jane.  Run Wolf, run.  Then he comes back with this gem of an example of a fluency intervention: 

This book and the journey of the wolf are a great conversation starter for metacogntion with some of our youngest readers, discussing how we think about our thinking, learning, and processes associated with fluent reading.

We have three copies of this book.  I am really enjoying getting to know the collection!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fictional Battles of Epic Porportions

I've begun actively getting to know my collection.  You may be asking yourself what I've been doing for the past five years.  Well, loads of things.  Let me explain.  The picture book section, in particular has always been a bit daunting to me.  I never felt sure that I wouldn't remove a book that a teacher has used in a lesson for years unknowingly.  I feel I have a handle on that sort of thing now.  You also can't very well systematically weed books based just on age because some great books are quite old.  But then there are gems like this one.  
Old.  And after a close read, it has gotta go.  This summer, I have embarked on a project and it probably won't get finished this summer, but at least I'm starting.  I am going through one shelf at a time and reading every book.  Not only does it help
Me make decisions if a book is still suitable for an elementary library, it helps me book talk the collection and present books to readers, both teachers and students in a knowledgeable manner.  Previously, I book talked.  And did so in a knowledgeable manner, BUT I probably plugged the books I knew in high rotation.  Now I am getting to know ALL of the collection.  It's a big job, but I think I am up to it.  And my daughter is getting to read a wide variety of books along with me.  Tonight, we read The Marshmallow Incident.  I was familiar with this one.  But I love it and didn't want to miss the opportunity to share with you all out there in the world.  I'm hoping to create lists of books l, like a wordless picture book list, as well as pairings.  So, tonight, I present a pairing of terrible misunderstandings.  In other words, the way most/all World Wars and Civil Wars begin.  

Now, do battle with some books.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


I am about to embark on my final day of #ISTE2015 and I'm having that feeling where concurrently my brain is full AND I want to do allofthethings.  Right now.  Some things that have been bouncing around my brain since before ISTE and continue to bounce like crazy molecules are:

  • Maker Spaces/Genius Hour/ Breaker Spaces
  • Genius Hour
  • Green Screening (DoInk)
  • Book Trailers/Book Talks Using Green Screen
  • QR Codes Everywhere
  • Signage in the Library
  • PD for Teachers
    • Ted Talks For Teachers
    • Bytes, Books, and Bites
  • Book Clubs for Students
  • Book Clubs for Teachers
  • Google Chrome Extensions and Add Ons
  • Library Like a Pirate
I have attended some awesome sessions, gleaned great ideas at poster sessions and connected with some amazing educators, leaders and teacher-librarians.  Yesterday, at a Birds of a Feather session, I connected with a TL in MD and we are planning to do sessions at our respective state library conferences on sneaking in some teacher PD.  I am so excited for this collaboration across state lines.  Any other TL's want to join us?  Should be fun, plus many hands make light the work.  We can model super-sharing!

Are you at #ISTE2015 or even #NotAtIste?  What is bouncing around your brain?  Ain't summer grand?

Monday, June 22, 2015


As a grad student (actually...post grad student, but that's getting a little too detail oriented) completing course work towards my school library media specialist certification, several of my courses included observation components which were, perhaps, THE most useful observations I completed.  As a school teacher, we perhaps assume we know what the other teachers do.  We drop off our class at art, so we know what the art teacher does.  Much as many people who have been to school assume they know what a teacher "does", I made the same naive mistake thinking I know what a school librarian does.  But, there is more.  So much more.  Or rather, there can be.  In fact, as a teacher librarian there are nearly limitless possibilities for awesome.  And I try to embrace those opportunities.  But back to the point.  I had the opportunity to observe AWESOME teacher librarians who had crafted engaging lessons.  I happened to visit a school librarian on the very same day that the school was celebrating "Talk Like a Pirate Day."  I watched as the librarian seamlessly integrated the theme into her lessons, complete with double sided hooks for students to respond if a book was fiction or nonfiction.  A simple "hook" but it definitely hooked the kids.  And that is what is most important.

As a frequenter of the twitters, one day, I stumbled upon the hashtag #tlap.  I had no idea what that meant but was intrigued by my pln (professional learning network) who were clearly ALL IN.  So I researched.  eg I googled.  And discovered that #tlap stood for Teach Like A Pirate.  Sounds good to me.  

As a pirate teacher, I consistently steal booty from other awesome teachers.  And I encourage others to steal from me too.  Hopefully, it is understood that the "booty" here is really ideas.  I continue to observe other great teacher librarians, both by getting off my island and onto theirs, collaborating at conferences or virtually and poking around Pinterest and Twitter digging for treasure.  And I am always on the lookout for ways to connect teachers in my own building with great ideas from the experts.  The experts here are generally our fellow colleagues.  So, to answer the challenge.  How have I led like a pirate.  Hopefully, by example.  I don't think of pirates as a smiley bunch, but a smile can go a long way.  A smile for a student, a colleague, a leader.  It sends the message that it is going to be ok.  That we can weather any storm that comes our way.  Extra bonus challenge points for including as many pirate cliches as possible.  Think about how to teach like a pirate, learn like a pirate, and lead like a pirate.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Our first ISSUU of Pine Road Library Letter

I'm feeling a little ridiculously proud of this right now...

That is all.