With some much needed time spent resting after the whirlwind that was the Wonderful World of Reading, today I decided to load up my virtual bookshelf in anticipation of all the free reading time I’ll have once Thanksgiving and Christmas break approaches (that’s minus the eating and #shoppingsmall and socializing time, mind you.)
NetGalley is such a lifesaver, especially when you:
a) are awake at 4am on a Sunday and can’t sleep
b) want a diverse collection of titles to read for personal and professional purposes
c) realize the bag of books you’ve been meaning to read are in the trunk of your car and it’s 30 degrees out at 4am…and raining (finally, California!)
d) have a cat sleeping by your side that wouldn’t take kindly to your getting out of bed, thank you very much.
Boy oh boy, it was such a nice surprise to see that THIS title, not available until May 2017 was available for request:
That’s Ben Clanton’s second book in the Narwhal and Jelly series: Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt. If you’re looking for a fantastically optimistic and fun book to share with young ones, in the vein of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series, you must, must, MUST read this.
If that doesn’t sell it, take a look at how cheery and happy the main character is:
Sadly, I have to patiently wait for the powers that be to approve my request so that I can infuse my day with a dose of Narwhal cheer. But for the record, I’m such a fan that I *may* be taken as someone who is somewhat, mildly obsessed with the book.
That’s me working to get the first book into the hands of young readers everywhere, and me dressing up as Narwhal for Halloween, and me succumbing to Narwhal and Jelly’s mentioned treat of choice in book #1 (a waffle maker is on the Christmas wish list now, thank you Mr. Clanton).
Can you tell that I really, really like the book?
Notwithstanding the great news about Narwhal, I did pick out a few other titles that I’m excited about sharing:
The first of which ties into a post I made a while back about my challenge to myself regarding mindsets & salads, and I wish I had this book in my hands to encourage me:
The book is my kind of cookbook: simple and straightforward without a whole lot of storytelling, and the photos by Victoria Wall Harris are gorgeous.
For starters, the table of contents utilizes plenty of white space (thank you, designers) and the book is split into 5 sections: dressings, raw food, small jars, big jars and sweet endings.
A short introduction follows, and it covers the types of jars and other equipment needed (spinners, peelers, mandolin). After that are two pages of what I anticipate will be highly pinned images: page 9 showing how to layer the salads and page 11 with a list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.
Then you have the recipes. Take for example, the breakdown of the Southeast Asian salad. The ingredients are spread out in front of you with a photo shot from above so you see everything needed at a glance. Turn the page and the salad is assembled, with notes at top on the health properties of the salad, and notes below on how to assemble: simply genius!
With 68 recipes included, there’s no shortage of ways to prepare a delicious salad, and there’s even a section for those who are looking for a sweet treat following a salad.
THIS gal will be studying up on the book for the upcoming vegetarian Thanksgiving (2 in the party that are vegetarian, but everybody skips on meat, another story for another day) and I’m hoping…perhaps there will be a follow up on noodle soups in a jar? I also downloaded The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen, and judging from the photos within (it’s a storytelling cookbook folks), the content looks detailed and intricate and amazingly delicious.
The next series of books I downloaded come from First Second Press, a publisher that’s been growing in my estimation. I read about the Science Comics series via the Horn Book Guide and flipped through their recommended Coral Reefs title with a smile as I found it was beautifully drawn and informative. This morning, while browsing NetGalley, I found three more to add to the collection: Bats, Plagues, Flying Machines.
Each page is intricately detailed, and the panels contain such great information that I can’t wait until they’re published to share them with students.
The Wonderful World of Reading has come and gone which means there’s a few days to breathe before Thanksgiving.
Many thanks to the hard work of the Book Fair Chairs who put in countless hours to ensure everything ran smoothly, and to the committee of dedicated volunteers.
As ever, Tremendous Thanks go to the wonderful authors who always go above and beyond to make their visits special.
Not to be outdone by 2nd graders, today the 4th graders and I read through another riveting chapter of Shredderman (he’s on the roof!!!) and then we prepared for questions after I read the short blurb about Ms. Van Draanen on the back jacket flap.
Perhaps the primary question was how to pronounce her last name, because you know, it’s hard to properly say hello to an author if you don’t know the right way to say their name.
Next up, a question unrelated to writing:
I think the boys are intrigued by the mention of an author playing in a band:
Sari had a question I wanted to ask:
And then there was a question on timing:
All told, we’re so looking forward to the visit!
In preparation for David Shannon’s return visit to MJS this November, I had students practice their questions for him. It was a hectic Tuesday as we had a lockdown drill, and a group of 8th graders unattended for a good portion of the period, but the 2nd graders really rallied and came up with wonderful questions.
We first re-read A Bad Case of Stripes, a book that can keep their attention no matter how many times they hear it. Then, we reviewed what a question is and is not, something I may need to work with K and 1st graders on as they’re at the age where they just like to share random facts about themselves. I had students partner up and brainstorm questions with a classmate and alternated taking videos of students asking their questions either by themselves or part of a group. Here are the questions they came up with!
Great job, 2nd grade!
So, it’s late October, which means I have to brush up on my design skills in preparation for all things Book Fair.
Looking back at my history with design, I think it started when I was in middle school as a group of friends and I put together a literary magazine called Wet Ink. In high school, I took a photojournalism course, where the instructor introduced me to merging graphics with photography on old school MacBooks. He then suggested, because of my enthusiasm, that I consider joining the yearbook staff, which I did. I was one of those eager beavers, on the staff for both yearbook and newspaper. The whole writing, layout and technology combination had me hooked.
I’m convinced kids who take part in journalism and any media arts course are so much better equipped for the world. If you need proof, look into JEA and their annual journalism conventions. I’ve been to two of their conferences, and the students who I saw were all seriously passionate and ready to take on the world.
Having “done design” for so many years, I’ve come to find it’s a challenge, not just to meet the deadline, or to effectively communicate a message, but more so a challenge to myself. There’s the puzzle of trying to get all pieces of the message out to the audience, and still have something that looks good, while also generating interest and buy in. It’s not unlike library work, where you find yourself juggling multiple tasks and each day brings something new.
This year will be an interesting one in terms of design, largely because our annual Book Fair starts for a day, and then stops. It resumes for an abbreviated 4 days thereafter, but a lot of our key dates, which our families have grown accustomed to, have changed.
When I first sat down to begin the work of putting together our booklet of materials, I realized that these changes needed to be addressed. At the same time, I also realized that a bunch of the information on events that are forthcoming was missing.
One of the challenges in working with a group of people to put on an event that runs for a week is that communication doesn’t flow in a linear fashion. You have one group of individuals working on event A, another on event B or C. And then there’s me, working to make sure all this information on all these inter-related events is collected and written about in a way that parents can quickly make sense of everything given their busy and hectic lives. (And on whichever is their preferred device).
It becomes more of a challenge when you consider that I have to put together a 16 page booklet on top of my usual library work. This includes scheduled classes yes, and also drop ins for book talks or research on specific topics, and coincidentally this year, working with a group of students for their speech and debate tournament.
Needless to say, October through November are pretty stressful months.
On Thursday, I sat down to carefully look over what was known, and what was unknown in terms of Book Fair events. I started with the Parent Author Brunch and whittled down key components. Dates. Times. Individuals involved. Graphics/photos. Copy/Text.
I usually refer to what I created the prior year and here’s how last year’s print document looked:
After comparing events, I realized that this year’s content would be a whole lot more sparse (fewer individuals and books involved). I played with the components and wrote out what key pieces of information needed to be relayed:
A: Vitals: Date, time, location
B: Event timeline
C: Individuals/books (with high resolution graphics)
D: Info on how/were to register and $25 fee
E: Required logo
F: Copy and text “blurb” describing the event.
Our Book Fair chair had kindly created a flyer that worked as a rough first pass. Unfortunately, it was heavily edited as my boss attempted to figure out where to move images and where to place content.
From my sketches and notes, I had a rough idea of what was required, but I needed a little design inspiration. A quick browse on Pinterest resulted in this lovely graphic, and I loved how the three words were stacked on top of each other, with the dates clearly visible.
Our event was also a title with 3 words, plus the date had changed and making it stand out at the top would mean it’d be easy to see. A little more doodling followed after I saw the image and I opted for a two column design. (Note how I wrote in GUI interface in the upper right hand corner. It was jotted down as a possible search term on Pinterest. There’s some amazing stuff being designed there which highlighted the things I wanted to emphasize; mainly the date and time.)
With the design framework a little more fleshed out, I hopped onto the computer and launched InDesign. Work on the layout could begin! It went through a series of changes, and still may undergo some more changes as we finalize the book, but here’s how this year’s info for the Parent Author Event looks:
Notice the second layout is more text heavy. In the first, I had thought there’d be two different areas of copy. After writing out the copy, I realized it didn’t make sense to create a split on the info, so kept it all in one chunk. There was extra white space, which was filled with a combination of other images tied to the visiting author’s book. Then, directly underneath, would be the the required credit for author photo and website photos.
So that was what I worked on this Thursday. On Friday, I repeated the process for the FAQ and Book Club amongst other things. It was a LOT of work spent sitting in front of the computer for over 6 hours. I’d try to focus on one thing, but then would have to backtrack to make a minor edit on another item. Or I’d make a change and new info would come in via email, requiring that I edit on the fly.
I’m fortunate to be working with someone else this year, which is a nice change. We talk shop, or laugh when my tiredness gets the better of me. (I was running on about 6 hours of sleep between Thursday and Friday).
My old yearbook jokes from the 7th Guest games we played kicks in here. I kept saying over and over on Friday, “that’s not it” whenever I need to edit, undo. (Thanks for the voice, Mike Lopez!) I’m finding that working with another person keeps me on my toes, makes me want to improve my work, makes me stay obsessively organized in terms of file saving/storage as we need to swap files back and forth.
An email went a while ago at work, asking how we balance work life, stress and personal life. After a two day push, I’m not sure how I feel about the crazy amount of time and effort put into the booklet. A good part of my enthusiasm over the years has dwindled whenever I had to start work on it, precisely because of how time consuming and draining it can be. Now that I’m working with a design partner, I don’t know if I want to introduce her to the same crazy work ethic, where we push and push to meet a deadline (and at what cost?)
There’s still a lot more work to be done. I’ve tackled the design challenge, but have some thinking to do on my efforts put into making the booklet happen.
I’ve been making my way through books that make me laugh as a method to de-stress from the hectic months ahead. Some of the books I’ve read recently have come as a surprise, some I heard about en route home listening to NPR, but for October, my aim has been to laugh because, why not?
I really think I deserve it.
I also read some realistic fiction from visiting author Wendelin Van Draanen and caught up with Jordan Sonnenblick’s newest title. But first, the humor.
Scholastic sent a box of advance reader copies and one of the galleys caught the attention of a mom who brings her youngest son to our library every day before he goes to preschool. She noticed the author and commented about how funny his other book was, and that had me curious: how could she know about a book in advance of the advance reader copy?
Turns out, she’d been following Scholastic and bought the book from abroad seeing as author Aaron Blabey’s The Bad Guys book 1 was such a hit with her sons. She was so excited, we dug through the box looking for his book, which she hoped would be the third in the series. Sadly, it turned out to be book one which she’d already read but she said I’d be in for a treat.
She was right.
The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey tells of a wolf trying to enlist other fearsome animals to reform and do good deeds in the world. In addition to the (big bad) wolf, there’s also a shark, piranha and snake. They warm up to goodness by trying to save a cat stuck in a tree (it doesn’t go well). After that feat, their next attempt is to free all the dogs locked up inside a prison/pound. The writing is nothing short of hilarious and the illustrations really add to what’s happening in the story. Typically, my barometer of when a book is funny is when I can’t keep a straight face reading it out loud. As soon as the kids see me laugh, they start too and I really enjoy hearing them do this (especially one student who has the most delightful belly chuckle).
Sadly, the book won’t come out until January 2017 but it is one guaranteed to engage even the most reluctant reader. I recommend it for grades 2 and up (and secretly wish Scholastic would release the box set all at once in January).
When I first saw the cover for Booki Viviat’s Frazzled, I thought it looked interesting, but I never had a chance to really focus on it. On the long drive home one day, NPR happened to feature her for a segment, and I learned her book was written for middle schoolers with a surprise twist at the end, and I knew I had to read it. True to the interview, the book is written with the most insightful perspective from Abby Wu, who lives in a state of impending doom. I read the first few chapters during the looooonnng waiting period of the debate tournament and it had me chuckling with both the words and the illustrations. A strict mom is depicted as a “momster” complete with fire breath. Abby Wu draws out her imagined lunch tray versus her real lunch tray and moans, “There must be a mistake!” This is a great first book from Viviat, and readers (myself included) will surely clamor for more. I recommend this book for grades 4 and up.
In my sadness over the end of Mo Williams’ Elephant and Piggie series, I’ve since learned that there’s a set of “Elephant and Piggie Like Reading” books that encourage young readers (#eplr). Laurie Keller’s, We Are Growing is part of the new series, as is Dan Santat’s, The Cookie Fiasco. There are more slated to be released which is wonderful news, but they lack the togetherness and twosome-ness of the Elephant and Piggie duo.
Enter Ben Clanton’s A Narwhal and Jelly Book! Book one, Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea, features the sunny Narwhal swimming through the ocean only to meet Jellyfish who has NO idea what a narwhal is. That’s ok because they get to know one another, and after what looks to be a rocky start (prove you’re real, no you!), the two become fast friends. It’s a terrific book and Clanton’s illustrations are delightful. He writes about the making of the series if you care to read about it. (You do). I thought it was refreshing to share a graphic novel aloud and am eagerly awaiting book two in the series. Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt comes out in May which, coincidence, is the month of my birthday! I like the book so much, I may be dressing up as a narwhal for Halloween…more on that when it comes. I recommend this for grades 1 and above and think the last chapter is the best. The chapter with the kung-fu waffle is a pretty close second.
Speaking of which, you’ve been warned: If you’ll be reading Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea, you may get cravings for waffles afterwards. Honest.
Gene Luen Yang’s reading without walls challenge asks participants to read about:
- A character who doesn’t look like you or live like you
- A topic you don’t know much about
- A book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun
I’d agreed to a series of book talks and was set to remind students about this when I realized: if I was going to put it out there for my students, I should try and adhere to it too.
I picked up Ghost by Jason Reynolds because I didn’t know much about track and field and running. I’d been doing a lot of reading of realistic books and I thought I should challenge myself, broaden the span of my interests and I’m so, so I happy that I did.
A quick note: this was a book I tried via Audible. In addition to wanting to read and blog more this year, I realized I’d be able to do one, but the other would be a little more difficult. I’d been reading over the weekend for pleasure, but with all the driving I do, it made it hard to stop and pause mid-way through the book when what I really wanted to do was to keep reading. What’s more, my weekend reading times were often lost when I visited the family for our get-togethers. I put the two challenges together and thought, why don’t I try listening to books on my commute? Sure enough, I troubleshooted my problem.
Back to Ghost. I book talked it after listening to it via Audible and mentioned to the students how desperately I was rooting for the main character, Ghost. A poor decision maker, Ghost gets into fights, is ashamed of his neighborhood, steals and lies about stealing and somehow, still manages to face each day with humor and a hotshot attitude. It’s that attitude that gets him on the track team. Sitting on the sidelines watching runners practice one day, he strolls on up to the line as runners are getting ready to run, and races along with them. Soon, he’s part of a team and shares with his teammates a dark secret about why he’s a runner. The ending of the book, like some of the others, has me wanting more and I really hope to reunite with Ghost soon and see if I can continue cheering him on. I think middle school students who enjoy sports would appreciate this title.
Finally, my two realistic reads are both from authors I’ve enjoyed and admired over the years. Jordan Sonnenblick has a new title out, Falling Over Sideways. It’s a story from 7th grader Claire as she works her way through middle school. Her best friends are fading away to an advance class in ballet, the kid she thought was an ally in elementary school keeps being mean to her, and she has to continue to be compared to her perfect older brother. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, they do: her dad suffers a stroke and she’s the one that has to accompany him to the hospital. When he leaves the hospital, things are not quite the same with him back home.
I’ve continually said that this is a book that I would’ve appreciated as a kid. My dad had a mild heart attack when I was in the fourth grade and I really would’ve liked reading about a strong character facing the same or similar struggle. Plus, there’s a chapter rather early on where Claire talks about her girl issues that is so spot on. What really had me appreciative is how Claire pushes her dad to be more like himself, to work to get better. The last lines of the book had me tearing up, in a good way. Jordan Sonnenblick is an author that should never stop writing, and I’ve recommended his books over the years to anyone I can. I say grades 5 and up would like his work. Adults, too.
Author Wendelin Van Draanen is visiting MJS this November, so I had to catch up with her newest book, The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones. I’ve introduced her Shredderman book to 3rd and 4th grade students, letting them know that I shared it with 4th and 3rd graders some years ago because I was so impressed the kid in the story is actually using technology!
In The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones, we have Lincoln, hiding his life from his new school mates. See, Lincoln has to stay with mom after school in an old folks home, where his mom works as a caregiver. The folks there are sometimes ornery and have faulty memories, and Lincoln is embarrassed he has to be there. He spends his time making up stories and writing them down in his journal until the ever curious Kandi Kain catches him and helps him focus on the people around him.
There are both laughable moments in this book (zombie in a wheelchair!) as there are touching moments that brought me to tears (when Lincoln witnesses two deaths). The neighbor who lives next door to Lincoln is grounds for discussion on a great number of topics and Van Draanen doesn’t sugar coat things when she writes about domestic abuse (which I’m noticing more authors are addressing). It’s a change from her mysteries and her other stand alone titles and I can’t wait to meet her to talk more about Lincoln and how his story came about.
What are you reading? What have you read?
A colleague at work has been quite the inspiration. Each time I see her, she has an amazingly colorful salad and she’s upped her game recently by creating what looks to be delicious mason jar salads. I’ve seen mason jar salads trending on Pinterest and have pinned a few (the ones that show how you layer and assemble for the best culinary experience) but had yet to try and attempt my hand at making one.
On Monday last week, this colleague was gifting jars of salads to others as thanks for their good deeds in an already crazy school year. I sat by, pouting and lamenting that I couldn’t do anything quite as lovely. My salads are always boring, I don’t have any interesting vegetables. I can’t….
I challenge students to push themselves and sometimes forget how hard is to apply the same principle to myself. I’m reminded of the series of events that led me to try hosting a DIY Paint Night and of the character I’m sharing with students this year who, while brave, has a very fixed mindset (Ally from Fish in a Tree). If I’m going to be asking students to make an effort, to think outside the box and get out of their comfort zones…shouldn’t I be able to do the same?
So, taking advantage of the farmer’s market that’s down at Bixby Park this Tuesday, I wandered through various stalls, studying produce, jumping for joy at golden beets and I gradually amassed an army of vegetables.
Sitting down for the lunches this week was a double celebration. One in the fact that I had a beautiful lunch before me. The other, was for my joining the ranks of students who take the first step and try.
In retrospect, maybe I’ve been wanting to make mason jar salads subconsciously all this time. I somehow happened to have a case of mason jars delivered on the same day as the farmer’s market and, now that I think about it, I may have planned for this over the summer, by helping mom grow her garden.
If you don’t already know, I’m something of a DIY fan. I think it comes from how my dad, when we were younger, would always be tinkering to make things for us: Disney Princess lamps, a zoetrope machine after my siblings and I couldn’t step away from one at a museum (we all fought over who got to use it), or bookshelves that fit, Lego® like, around our bunk beds so we could tuck away both books and glasses. Mom would make dresses, fun hair ties and bows, clothes for the dolls—she was the reason why I admired Maria von Trapp.
Mom mentioned wanting to build a trellis this summer. She had a packet of seeds that she wanted to plant and vaguely remembered that the seeds she had would result in vines that spread upward and sideways and liked to climb. She didn’t know what would grow, only that things would grow. I think we spent a day thumbing through Pinterest looking at ideas and exploring possibilities.
This is what we ended up building.
The first trellis was constructed from PVC on the left side of the yard and it used netting, the type you lay down to prevent weeds. The idea was that the vines would climb up, and there’d be enough space for whatever grew to drape downwards.
The second trellis was constructed with the same frame and placed on the right side of the yard. We ran out of netting but mom didn’t want us to make another run to Home Depot, so she got creative with rope and twine and twist ties.
I had a little assistance with trimming PVC. A variety of tools was at my disposal, including a saw and a jigsaw that I think was about as old as I was.
The funny thing was, the older jigsaw was designed with no safeguards. The Craftsman saw was newer, but I couldn’t figure out how to bypass the safety mechanism. I used the older jigsaw, being hyper careful to unplug it after each use, annoying myself each and every time I did this.
Here’s what the trellis and plants looked like just starting out:
It’s a nice reminder that mother nature also works hard and try and stretch and grow. My favorite things to watch growing are the little strands that latch on and to something and twist around and around, becoming curly Qs: they show such tenacity (and look just a little bit wacky).
Here’s what the trellis looked like as of today:
Inspired by a colleague to make a simple salad this week, I’m ever grateful for the chance to explore and attempt new things, provided that my mind stop second guessing itself. I’m reminded of the word play in Fish in a Tree, when Mr. Daniels challenges Ally to look at the word IMPOSSIBLE in a different way.
Now let’s talk about the two different prototypes, the netting vs. rope: which worked better and why?
I’m currently making my way through Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart which is a novel I want to deliberately take my time with. It tells the story of Timothy McGrother who wants more than anything to start eighth grade as Lily Jo McGrother. And then there’s Norbert Dorfman who has just moved from New Jersey and is dealing with bipolar disorder and a hidden secret, something to do with his father and why he moved.
I’m doing what Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature calls Reading Without Walls. He’s challenged us to read in one of three ways:
- Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or doesn’t live like you.
- Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about
- Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun (chapter book, graphic novel, book in verse, picture book, hybrid book, etc)
I shared the challenge with students during our book talk on Monday, and am tackling 1 and 2 in the challenge above. So far, the book is tough. My heart aches for Lily Jo and I’m holding my breath as to what Norbert has done, both to fit in with the boys at school and with (or to?) his family.
It’s not an easy book, but I didn’t expect it to be. Reading outside of my comfort zone opens my eyes to other perspectives that I would otherwise be blind to. I’m ever so grateful for authors and their bravery at tackling a topic, bringing it to light and showing others, yes, this is life.
Norbert (aka Dunkin) has just made the final cut for the basketball team. Page 148. The next chapter is called “It’s Time To Go”
In preparation for visiting author David Shannon’s return to MJS, we’ll be discussing his books this week in grades K-2. His latest book, Duck on a Tractor, was met with giggles and smiles, and there were several gasps when I showed the classic, A Bad Case of Stripes.
3rd grade this week will continue with fictionalized biographies: last week we read about Louis Braille, Chris Hadfield and Millo Castro Zaldarriaga. This week, we’ll learn about Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the man who invented the super soaker: Lonnie Johnson.
In 4th grade, we’ll continue to dive deeper into Fish in a Tree and consider the mindset of Ally Nickerson, a kid who’s struggling with dyslexia. The students have peppered me with questions about dyslexia, so maybe some research is in order. One thing’s for certain: I can’t wait to introduce them to Mr. Daniels and how he eventually changes her mindset.