Sunday, August 31, 2008

Author: Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos is coming to Houston,Texas!!!
I will be at Zilkha Hall on Sunday, September 7 at 3 p.m.

Thank you INPRINT!

Jack Gantos
Seven Imp Interview

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Rush of a New School Year

Parking lots and streets were overflowing as "Meet your Teacher" events were scheduled this evening at local elementary schools. If you are a school librarian, one of your goals for today was to get something on the bulletin boards before the crowds descended. Bulletin boards are hard. The expanse has to be covered and there are all those letters to cut.

I am re-crafting a post from a year ago with some thoughts for school librarians as the new year begins.

First the hopes, the dreams, the aspirations:

1. Do your students look forward to their time in the library?

2. Do you interact with your students while they look for books? This means you have to leave the check-out desk. (I know, this is hard if you do not have a library aide or volunteers.)

If I'm asked for advice, I like to walk the shelves with the kids and point out titles they might consider. Often, children just want some attention from an adult (in addition to your excellent booktalking) so this is time well spent.

3. Do you learn your students interests and reading strengths? They love it when someone takes a personal interest. Parents love it too. A parent asked me, once, if I knew what every child on my campus liked to read. I could honestly answer, "not every child, but I'm working on it."

4. Do your students recognize you in the hall? Do they know your name? Do you recognize them in the hall and do you know their names?

5. Is the library part of the "welcome to your new school tour?"

6. Do parents hear about the "very cool" things you are doing in the library from their kids?

7. Does your administration hear about the "very cool" things you are doing in the library from you?

8. Do you take the opportunity to speak to the PTA or other parent groups at your campus about your program? They always need speakers. Volunteer!
If the PTA or PTO paid for you to attend a workshop or conference, give them a report and send a thank you note. They may fund your efforts again if you do.

9. Are you proactive in spreading the word about the importance of school libraries? Too often budget cutters think eliminating or cutting back on library programs is a valid way to cut costs. Share the research on the impact school libraries have on test scores.

I've never know a principal who did NOT care about state assessment testing results or who thought their school rating was too HIGH. School libraries improve test scores.

10. Does the library have a presence on the school website? Do you contribute to the school newsletter regularly? These are PR opportunities.

11. Do you read the books so you can booktalk at the drop of a hat with passion and enthusiasm to students, parents and teachers?

12. Do your teachers rely on you for recommendations and support in the classroom?

Phew! Tired yet?

Now, in addition to all that:

You must:
1. Understand your automation system
2. Answer reference questions
3. Plan lessons that engage, teach and fire the imagination
4. Catalog your collection
5. Plan book fairs and reading celebrations
6. Order light bulbs for the overhead projectors.
7. You may also be the sponsor for a student group or mentor a child or provide bef0re school/after school tutoring.

I salute the librarians who work so hard to teach important research skills, stoke young people's imaginations and instill a love of books and reading in their students.

Your joy and passion for your job is contagious.

But, this year, remember:

There are only so many hours in the day.
Try to leave on time or close to it.
Enjoy and take care of your family.

Have fun and a wonderful school year.

Clip art from School of Library Science, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX

Monday, August 18, 2008

NonFiction Monday: Swifter, Higher, Stronger

Dewey: 796.48

Swifter, Higher, Stronger: a photographic history of the Summer Olympics
by Sue Macy, National Geographic, 2008

It is fitting that the cover for this comprehensive and engaging history of the Summer Olympics features a straight-on photograph of Michael Phelps, striking across the surface of the pool, towards the camera. The moment captures his energy and speed as the water, churned up in his wake, hangs in the air around him.

As I listened to Phelps in his interviews with Bob Costas this week, I was struck by his determination, his disciplined answers and his genuine joy in this Olympic experience. Last night, his mother, a school principal, talked candidly about her son's ADHD and how swimming was such a positive way to channel his creativity and energy. She recalled the bullying and teasing he received as a child (we mothers bears NEVER EVER forget) and other challenges he had to overcome. I am looking forward to the forthcoming biographies about Phelps which will no doubt soon grace the shelves of school libraries everywhere. His story is one kids will identify with. I pray, that in light of this record medal success, he can keep his head on straight and spirit together.

Costas provides the foreward for this book, noting,
"It's hard to find an atheletic honor geater than Olympic champion. Still many competitors take to the track, or pool, or court, with no chance of earning a medal. They find fulfillment in representing their nation in challenging themselves against the best, in exceeding their personal records, in experiencing a moment for which they waited four years or more."

The book covers the games from 1896 through the 2004 games in Athens. A snapshot of each Olympiad is included at the end, including a look forward to the Beijing games and the 30th Olympiad in London.

Jim Thorpe, Mark Spitz, Wilma Rudolph, Nadia Comaneci are well known names in Olympic lore and their stories are related. The lesser known Esther Kim who earned the Fair Play trophy after giving up her spot on the tae kwon do team to a rival is also highlighted.

The troubles and controversies surrounding the games are addressed. The murder of the Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists during the 1072 Munich games is illustrated by the well known photograph of the masked face on the balcony. Macy relates President Carter's boycott of the Moscow games, the bomb explosion in Atlanta and the ongoing need for drug testing as testament to the larger role the Olympics play in world politics.

This book will find an audience with young people who are enjoying the games now and are intrigued with the traditions and history of the events. No doubt, many watching these games are preparing for the Olympic games of the future.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Author: Bruce Coville

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!

There is going to be a third book in Bruce Covilles' Unicorn Chronicles series!!!!!!!!!!

DARK WHISPERS: Book 3 of the Unicorn Chronicles
Per Bruce Coville's blog.

These books were read and re-read in my home and at my school library.
The edges off the library bound editions of Into The Land Of The Unicorns (Unicorn Chronicles) and Song of the Wanderer (The Unicorn Chronicles, Book 2) were worn and battered by many, many readings.

Author Paula Yoo gives an excellent summary of Coville's inspiring opening speech at the SCBWI National conference. I love his thoughts about kids needing heroes and that books are where they can find them.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


I do not know if it is because I am so busy right now or maybe it is because I need new reading glasses, but, I seem to be listening to more books than I am reading right now.
I can accomplish other things while I am listening. I can drive to camp to pick up the entling, I can sew, I can cook, I can knit, I can work in the yard.

(Entlings: "When do you ever work in the yard? It is summer in Texas. People, she does NOT work in the yard")

Well, what ever.

I can clean up MARC cataloging records and I can shop for bridesmaid dresses, wedding invitations and study wedding sites for winter wedding ideas while listening to a book.

Certainly, I cannot blog, I cannot read blogs or the newspaper, I cannot carry on a conversation. I cannot do anything that requires word crafting or interpretive text handling. (I can "watch" television and do these things, though.) I am aware that I am having a different experience with the book than if I were reading it.

Many, many of the school libraries where I work are building wonderful audiobook collections. If you are considering these materials for your library, do check out Audiobooker, who is taking notes on the benefits of audiobooks.

Do read:
International Association of School Librarians Conference: Beyond the Book Session Notes

and International Association of School Librarians Conference Session: Beyond the Book Resource List.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Whip Cracking Wednesday: Dish and Spoon: the rest of the story

The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon by Mini Grey, Knopf, 2006

..and the dish ran away with the spoon is the end of the nursery rhyme but is the beginning of the rest of the story in Mini Grey's take on the story.

Dish and Spoon take off over the edge of a cliff and sail for New York City where they become a hit on the vaudeville circuit. Alas shopping at Tiffany, macy's and Bloomingdales and too many turns at the roulette wheel deplete their money. Also, a panel shows a new act, The Knife & the Fork are now a hit.

Now down and out and living on the fringes (a broken cup sits begging against a run down building with a sign "Jug and 6 saucers to support," Dish and Spoon become victims of the Carving Knife Gang and in an attempt to repay their debt to the gang become bank robbers. Wanted for "unarmed robbery" they try to escape but Dish hits a rock, is captured and deported. Spoon is capture and jailed in Alcatraz before he is deported twenty five years later.

The illustrations are full humor, (posters for a "Lost Cow" appear through out the story--the cow jumped over the moon, remember? ) and characters from earlier in the story re-appear (Fork and Knife walk dejectedly down a street.)

And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Susan Stevens Crummel, illustrated by Janet Stevens, Harcourt, 2001

So Dish and Spoon run away at the end of the rhyme but now the story needs to be read again and the pair have not returned. Characters from other Mother Goose rhymes take off to find them. Little Boy Blue, a giant, the cow, and Humpty Dumpty all play a role. Crummel's characteristic humor is fun to read aloud.

A lavish map allows young readers to follow the action. I often used this book as an introduction to map skills with my primary grades. Crummel's sister, Janet Stevens, paints quirky expressions and humorous situations that underscore the story. Children will enjoy finding Fork on each page as a sort of "where's Waldo/I Spy" entertainment.

Visitors to Susan Stephens Crummel's website are invited with "Teacher Tips" to use along with her books.

The hum of a new year

Along with other essential personnel, school librarians start the school year early. The librarians started back to work, this week, in my neck of the woods.

The first day on contract is spent checking in with the other important folks who have turned up, the financial clerk, the school nurse, the attendance clerk and the principals. They all enjoy a sort of reunion, bringing each other up to date with family news, vacations enjoyed and health reports.

They fall into that fellowship that comes from experience, mutual goals and the camaraderie of soldiers in a foxhole. This solidarity and support is essential in order to get the job done each school year.

Back in the library, automation systems must be updated with the new school calendar, new faculty members must be added and of course the students' names must be imported. The library schedule must be devised and new district edicts must be incorporated into the routine.

Boxes of new books, which were delivered over the summer, must be checked against the packing slips. Glowing new covers must be caressed, new titles must be exclaimed over, marc records must be shined up. There are bulletin boards to cover, reading programs to prepare and lesson plans to write.

The teachers arrive early, long before their contracts start. Overhead projectors, cd players, globes and other life sustaining classroom equipment will be mustered in the library and moved into teachers' rooms. After the first or second day, the library staff is not working for itself anymore but for the teachers, so it should burn rubber those first few days.

Just as you start to get some things done, you realize that the building is still on summer hours so you will be booted out just as the work begins to flow. Frustration.

Before you know it, there will soon be new faces to meet, new reading interests to learn. There will be kindergarteners and first graders who cannot wait to learn to read. There will be fifth graders who do not care to touch a book.

They are waiting for you to make this the year they fell in love with books and reading.
The year ahead beckons and you can't wait.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Kidlitospherian, TLA Bloggers' Tea Organizer, author, consultant, staff developer, and Nonfiction Monday founder, Anastasia Suen, has a new gig to share her interest and knowledge of children's books.

She is now blogging at Scholastic's Teaching Resources. Check out Kid Lit Kit: Your Toolkit for Teaching with Books.