Saturday, December 15, 2007

Philip Pullman and The Golden Compass

Over the years, Horn Book Magazine has published articles by Pullman as well as interviews with him. Click on the link to read these resources. See especially Pullman’s fascinating 2001 article, "The Republic of Heaven" in which he writes:
"… we must find a way of believing that we are not subservient creatures dependent on the whim of some celestial monarch, but free citizens of the republic of Heaven … And I think I can see glimpses of such a republic in books that children read…"

Monday, December 10, 2007

All that Glitters is not Gold

Hollywood brings two popular children's books to the "silver screen":

The Dark is Rising ... set in contemporary America? Read Susan Cooper's thoughts about significant changes made to her book as it is adapted to the screen.

Philip Pullman comments (very politely) on the watering down of his powerful commentary about religious authority and control in the The Golden Compass.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Featured Author: Meindert DeJong

Although Meindert DeJong (1906-1991) lived for most of his life in America, his stories reflect his early years in Holland. Raised in the Calvinst faith, "...he saw religion as a source of strength and character and a base for cultural roots."

The family's move to the United States (they settled in Michigan) was difficult: his father, unable to speak English, could not continue work as architect, his mother and a fourth brother died shortly after the child was born, and Meindert and his brothers, while good students in Holland, were placed in younger grades in U.S. schools. The older brothers eventually quit school to help support the struggling family, but encouraged Meindert to stay in school.

Meindert attended Calvin College and pursued his interest in writing. Before becoming a full time children's writer he worked as a college professor, a gravedigger, a mason, a tiner, a sexton, and a bricklayer.

He won several awards including the Hans Christian Anderson Award, the Newbery Award (and an honor), and a National Book Award. His children's titles include:
Wheel on the School (Newbery Award, 1955). The people in a little town in Holland try to bring storks to nest in their village (grades 4+).

Journey from Peppermint Hill (National Book Award for children). How the events of a young boy's journey to visit an aunt affect his return home to his house on Peppermint Street (grades 3-6).

Shadrach. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Newbery Honor).The story of Davie and his little black rabbit, Shadrach, told with perceptions and emotions experienced by all children (grades 3-6).

Far Out the Long Canal. A nine-year-old Dutch boy is the last child in his village to learn to skate (grades 3-6).


Living Book Reviews

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hooray, it’s Summer!

On your mark, get set, ready, READ!!!

Public libraries are gearing up for their annual summer reading programs and there are powerful reasons for enrolling your children in one:

1. They’re FREE ... need I say more?

2. They help children continue their reading development and keep skills sharp. Studies show children can lose the previous year’s gains over the summer break (see below for more information).

3. Support your public library! Visit, attend programs, check out materials--you’ll be amazed at what’s available, largely for free. Despite frequent and ferocious attacks, public libraries continue to remain one of the cornerstones of our democracy, advocating everyone’s right to freely access literature, information, and other resources in order to create a more informed citizenry. Um, isn’t this what our country’s founders wanted? Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox.

So, contact your local public library for details.

Resources About the value of Summer Reading Programs

Summer Reading and Learning for Children

Benefits of a Summer Reading Program
Highlights of Research on Summer Reading and Effects on Student Achievement

Friday, April 27, 2007

Poetry Articles

Here's links to some interesting poetry articles:

Sloan, Glenna. "Perspectives: poetry and literacy, "Children's Book Council Magazine.

On how to get children to love poetry and teachers to love using it (lots of it) in the classroom.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. "The Power of Poetry," Children's Book Council Magazine.

How poetry transformed one man's life.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Log Blog

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes.

Sidman’s previous poetry collection, Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems, a joyous celebration of the seasonal life of a pond, won a Caldecott honor for Becky Prange’s stunning woodcut illustrations. Once again, Sidman uses a variety of poetic styles to explore the ecosystem of a meadow. Fascinated by interrelationships she saw in there, Sidman groups her poems in complimenting pairs, and, with visual clues from Krommes’ lush scratchboard illustrations, ends each poem with a riddle, inviting children to guess which flora or fauna the poem is about:

softwormtoes …”

What am I? (a toad)

From “Don’t I Look Delicious?”

The pages following each poem answer the riddle and provide basic information about the life represented in the poem. Like its predecessor, this book is a handsome blend of art, science, and poetry recommended for ages 5-9, but can be enjoyed by all.

Want more Sidman? Visit her website:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

New Nonfiction

Habitat Explorer

Using an imaginary journey as a vehicle, each title in this series invites children to closely examine the plants, animals, and organisms of a particular habitat. Children reading Desert Habitats, will board a helicopter for the Sahara Desert, where a guide and camel team await them (p. 4). Engaging and informative text (the guide is anxious to get started “… because, later in the day it will soar to near 120 F …, p. 5) is coupled with vivid photographs, illustrations, side panel information, glossaries and more recommend this series. An informative and imaginative approach to the study of the earth’s ecosystems. Other titles include Forest Explorer, Rain Forest Explorer, Mountain Explorer, and River Explorer. Recommended for grades 3-5.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

International Children's Book Day

“You open the book, take in the words and the good story explodes inside you …”From a message by Margaret Mahy, Hans Christian Andersen Award Winner on International Children’s Book Day, April 2, 2007.

This celebration is sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People. IBBY is a non-profit organization representing people from all over the world who are committed to bringing books and children together. Celebrate International Children’s Book Day by visiting their virtual exhibition, “Books for Africa, Books from Africa” Some 80+ books from all over Africa are represented here. Select a category (picture books, folk tales, etc.) and click on a jacket cover image to read a commentary about the book and see a few pages. Book titles in the exhibit are also searchable by language. See the exhibit at

Saturday, April 7, 2007

April is National Poetry Month

Thanks to the National Academy of Poets, National Poetry Month was created to focus attention on America’s poetic heritage. Students and I will spend the month focusing on the library's poetry collection and using it in a variety of ways to strengthen reading and information literacy skills and explore how poetry can be used throughout the curriculum.

Poetry in print
We have a small, but rich and diverse collection of poetry titles for K-8 students. To explore our collection, staff and students can use the Destiny (Follett Library Resources) management program from anywhere on campus. Records display book jackets, summaries, reviews, recommended age and reading levels, and links to similar titles. In addition, users can access two poetry resource lists (bibliographies) I compiled for beginning and older readers. “State Standards” a searchable component to this database, allows users to access high quality, grade-level appropriate, web sites. I'll feature some titles in the coming days and weeks.

Teacher Resources
Rhymes and reasons; librarians and teachers using poetry to foster literacy
grades K-6
Projects and activities for teaching language and literacy with poetry, covering the alphabet, syllables, words, phrases, and more.

Teaching ten fabulous forms of poetry by Paul B. Janeczko
Projects designed to help readers learn about different forms of poetry.

Subscription Databases (passwords required)
To access click on link to Sequoyah Library Databases at right.

Student Resource Center
Comprehensive subscription database for grades 5 and up. Database includes texts of poems, explanations, criticisms, historical and cultural context, and biographical information.

NoveList (EbscoHost)
Interesting articles on novels in verse.

"A Conversation with Janet Wong"(workshop).
Poet and author Wong discussed her poetry for children and youth, answered questions about inspiration and shared ideas for teaching and writing with an enthusiastic group of teachers (and one librarian, wonder who that was?). An inspirational writer with a lovely and graceful style. We have some of her titles, including:
You have to write, a picture book for younger readers demonstrating that everyone can find something to write about.
On order: Dumpster Driver, Twist, and The Rainbow Hand (collections of her poetry).
Visit her web site to learn more about her and hear her read some of her poems.

Poetry in the Virtual World

The American Verse Project
A searchable database of American poetry published prior to 1920 (National Academy of Poets)
National Poetry Month
Great site for older children and adults. See these resources: Poem-A-Day: have a poem sent to your email address each day during April. It’s free! For educators: lesson plans, essays, great poems to teach, links to other poetry, resources and more.

The Children’s Book Council: Young People’s Poetry Week
An impressive site dedicated to encouraging reading and literacy through children’s books and programs. Links to two articles about teaching poetry.

Poetry Teacher (Meadowbrook Press)
Created to help teachers teach poetry and inspire their students with a love of poetry. A joyful, fun, and sometimes silly site perfect for the 6-10 crowd. Children learn about different poetic forms through poetry races (tongue twisters), giggle poetry, riddles, poetry based on songs, poetry theatre, etc.

Poet’s Corner (Poetry month resources from Thomson Gale)
Free resources include biographies, timelines, quiz, activities, and downloads.

Read, Write, Think (National Council of Teachers of English)
April is National Poetry Month
One of those stellar sites (after the Library of Congress, of course) all educators should consult often. Lesson plans and activities for K-12 Language Arts teachers.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Even More Women's History

Thanks to the Music specialist for helping our students celebrate Women’s History Month. She led the children in a song about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad and had older students read biographical sketches on famous women. Another staffer taught the children “This Little Light of Mine." Hope these books will be just as inspirational:

Society’s Sisters, stories of women who fought for social justice in America by Catherine Gourley.

An exciting and inspiring book, chronicling the activism of 25 women, “who dared to make a difference” in this country despite crushing gender and racial bias. These fighters for social change include Margaret Fuller, Jane Addams, Ida B. Wells, Sara Joseph Baker, Alice Paul, Carry Nation and more. Packed with period illustrations. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Rabble Rousers; 20 women who made a difference by Cheryl Harness

I like the author’s introduction to this book: “this book is about 20 bighearted women who dared to try to change the world” and ended up making things better for everyone. Lively, two page biographical sketches of twenty American women spanning pre-Revolutionary War period to the present are featured here, including Ann Lee, Margaret Sanger, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dolores Huerta. Enhanced by the author’s colorful cartoon-style illustrations, timelines, and resources. Recommended for ages 8 and up.

Don’t recognize the above names? Well, you'd better check these books out! Reading them will be time well spent. Both have lively, highly readable narratives and work well as read-a-louds. Packed with eye-catching visuals, informational sidebars and quotes sprinkled throughout the text, these books will provide hours of browsing suitable for all ages.

Monday, March 19, 2007

More Women's History: Websites

Thanks to a parent who sent me the links to these very important websites about women's history, health, and reproductive freedom:

National Women's History Project

NWHP is an educational orgainization dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the history and many accomplishments of women by providing information and resources. See "Resources" for history of the women's rights movement, honored Latinas, Pathbreakers, biographical sketches, a women's history quiz, and more. Sign up for monthly free e-newsletter highlighting historic events and birthdays of current month. A great site for teachers and students.

United Nations Population Fund

For news, events, and links about the international development agency that promotes health and equal opportunity for all see:

34 Million Friends of UNFPA

A grassroots organization formed in response to Bush Administration's 2002 funding cut of to the United Nations Population Fund based on false claims that adults were forcibly sterilized or forced to have abortions. Despite the fact that the U.S. State Department found no evidence to support these claims, the U. S. has continued to withhold funding from UNFA.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Check out Calisphere

Calisphere: a world of digital resources

I came across references to this website in a library listserv not long ago and have visited the site a few times. It is an amazing collection of primary source photographs and documents from the collections of the UC library system. Some of the resources have been arranged into "themed" sets (Gold Rush, California Cultures, etc.) to support California content standards in K-12 classrooms. Nicely arranged and searchable.


Monday, March 5, 2007

March is Women's History Month

What an exciting opportunity to bring attention to women's history and achievements. Throughout the month, I'll celebrate in the best way I know how: by sharing resources from this library and the virtual world. Hopefully these resources will be inspirational for women and girls and men and boys. Happy Woman's History Month and happy reading!

Picture Book

Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.
Move over Paul Bunyon, the greatest woodswoman in Tennessee is about to punch a hole in the universe. Well, not quite, but she does leave a big (very big) impression. A tall tale about a big (very big) woman who's "man" enough to take on "Thundering Tarnation", a big (very big) bear rampaging across the countryside and devouring all the settlers' food stores. Tongue-in-check humor, outrageous antics, colloquialisms and backwoods mannerisms, and Zelinsky's stunning American Primitive style paintings highlight this book.

For another tall tale heroine, read Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolan and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Rose, an African American girl, proves from an early age that she's capable of taming the Wild West all by herself. Why this little gal is able to lift a cow with one hand, squeeze the rain out of the clouds, stop cattle stampedes, round up rustlers, and face down tornados. And that's before she reaches puberty! The story, while not as tongue in cheek as some tall tales, is loving and affectionate, and Nelson's robust watercolors and oils vividly capture the vast spaces of the frontier and reinforce the sense of "huge".

Nonfiction for Youth

With Courage and Cloth; winning the fight for a woman's right to vote
by Ann Bausum.

The fight for women's suffrage was long and difficult and is often oversimplified, or ignored, by historians. Bausum's book, packed with period photos, goes a long way towards overcoming that bias and portrays the momentous years leading up to the ratification of the 19th amendment, which finally granted half this country's citizens the right to vote. Bausum writes about the leaders and participants for and against ("antis") women's suffrage, their goals and strategies, philosophical differences among suffragist groups, arrests and imprisonments, racism inside and outside the movement, fear tactics, and election tampering and fraud. Any of this sound familiar?

As I read through the book, I was struck by the determination of thousands of women (and men) to continue to fight for a basic democratic right despite harassment , intimidation, and violence. "Antis" soon adopted tougher methods when President Wilson's decision to enter WWI (for democracy) was challenged by the suffragists, who noted the hypocrisy between defending democracy abroad and suppressing it at home. Labeling the suffragists and their supporters as unpatriotic, "antis" used more violent methods, including arrest, imprisonment, and torture against suffragists. Despite the escalating violence, suffragists continued to march and picket, practicing methods of nonviolent civil disobedience that would be used later by the Civil Rights movement.

But, it's hard to keep a good woman down, and in the end the nineteenth amendment was passed (and quickly signed into law before the "antis" could challenge it!). Bausum's final chapter discusses the ERA in the context of the suffragists belief that the struggle for women's rights does not end with securing the right to vote. Bausum also looks at how fraud and manipulation in recent elections has compromised a basic democratic right for all. She concludes with a quote from Carrie Chapman Catt, a suffragist leader, about voter responsibility: " ... let us do our part to keep (our country) a free and triuimphant democracy."

Bausum deftly handles complex political and social history in dramatic and accessible language for youth ages 10+. Who says history has to be boring? Who says herstory has to be forgotten?

Library of Congress: Women's History Month
2007 theme: Generations of Women Moving Forward

Hooray for America's library! The LC website is one of the finest I've ever visited. The resources that are available--free--to anyone with Internet access, are unparalleled for learning about America's history throught the experiences of her people. Also, extremely well organized, but hey, whadda ya expect from bunch of librarians? For links to LC resources from the Women's History collections, lesson plans for teachers using LC primary sources, and so much more, see:

The United Nations (for children)

Visit the United Nation's Cyber School Bus for events, activities, lesson plans, etc.

Senator Barbara Boxer "Women's History Month" Resources.

These include profiles of "Extrodinary Women" and links to other organizations celebrating Women's History Month and International Women's Day.

Sorry to end this post on a downer, but this is reality for most women and girls (mature content):

The United Nations

Recent UN press releases note that, despite progress and accomplishments, “ ... violence against women and girls remains pervasive ...” There's an enormous amount of info here, sometimes difficult to navigate through, but see "Women at a Glance" for a brief, but powerful and disturbing, summary on the status of women throughout the world:

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Word Collectors

Backyard students enjoyed the following story so much that lead teacher Renee and I had the children begin building their own word collections:

Max's Words by Kate Banks. Illustrated by Boris Kulikov
When Max's brothers won't share their stamp and coin collections with him, he decides to start his own collection -- of words! Max cuts out or copies words he knows, words that make him feel good, words that he hears, etc. Max and his brothers soon realize they can't do much of anything with the stamp and coin collections but they can create thoughts, sentences, and stories with all the words Max has collected.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Log Blog

Just in time for African American History Month--two recently published children’s books covering different aspects of the Civil Rights Movement.
Freedom Walkers; The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman.
Award winning Freedman’s compelling narrative ties the personal stories of famous and forgotten participants to the background and events of one of the most dramatic and powerful events of the civil rights movement. Packed with period black and white photos this is a well researched, highly readable book.
Freedom Riders; John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement by Ann Bausum.
Bausum’s award winning book brings the turbulent story of the freedom riders alive with clear text and powerful period photos. In alternating chapters, Bausum’s captivating narration captures the dramatic experiences of two young men: African American John Lewis, and Caucasian Jim Zwerg. Both books are recommended for grades 4 and up and work well as read alouds.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tree Day Celebration

Last week, the Field Studies specialist organized a school-wide environmental awareness day which included tree planting activities. The Music specialist and I collaborated on a "TreeLit" lesson with the lower classes. We browsed some fiction and nonfiction books, studied diagrams of trees, and learned a lovely song, "I Love Trees". While preparing for the classes, I stumbled across some wonderful fiction and nonfiction titles in our collection:

Picture Books
Bunting, Eve. Some Day a Tree.
Young Alice and her family and friends band together to save a dying oak tree. When all seems lost, Alice finds hope in a simple, life affirming act.

George, Jean Craighead. One Day in the Woods.A young girl discovers many things about plant and animal life while spending the day in the woods. The story is interwoven with factual information and highlited by Gary Allen's realistic sketches.

Hopkinson, Deborah. Apples to Oregon: being the(slightly) true narrative of how a brave pioneer father brought apples, peaches, pears, plum, grapes, and cherries (and children) across the plains..A hilarious story about a man who wasn't about to leave his "babies" (trees) behind despite the many obstacles he and his family faced while heading west. Narrated by his older daughter "Delicious" whose heroic efforts make her the "apple" of her father's eyes.

Kervan, Rosalind. The Tree in the Moon and Other Legends of Plants and Trees.
A readable collection of folktales from around the world.

Sanders, Scott. Meeting Trees.
A father and his son take a walk in the woods sharing what they know about tree and the wildlife trees attract. Lushly illustrated by Robert Hynes, this National Geographic Society publication deftly weaves factual information through the narrative.

YA fiction
Smith, Betty. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
A young girl comes of age in the slums of early 20th century Brooklyn, N. Y. A tree, which grows out of the cement by her home, represents joy and hope.

We have many nonfiction children's books on trees, plants, but I really enjoyed Rona Beames' Backyard Explorer: leaf and tree guide. In a lively style, Beames discusses the types and life cycle of trees and how their leaves function. She also includes instructions for lessons and activites.