Friday, October 31, 2008

Picture Book Suggestions

Everybody who can will be coming to the Emerson Book Fair on November 9. Since everyone loves picture books, let me suggest a few of the best that I have read recently.

Be sure to add your favorites by posting a comment.

New Clothes for the New Year by Hyun-Joo Bae is a book that I first admired for its beautiful illustrations and simple story. It tells of a little Korean girl getting dressed for New Year celebrations. Each part of her traditional clothing explained as she puts it on. The story took on new meaning when first grader Isabel’s mother told me that Isabel had an almost identical outfit sent to her from grandparents in Korea. Alas, the outfit is too small for Isabel.

Daft Bat by Jeanne Willis is designed to help people learn to look at things from varying perspectives. Bat is hanging upside down from a tree so he sees things differently from the animals standing on the ground. It takes wise old owl to ask the right questions to convince everyone that bat is not a bit batty.

Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo is a picture book with chapters. Each chapter takes Louise on a new adventure. The illustrations give more character than one would imagine possible for even as bold and inquisitive chicken as Louise.

Little Beauty by Anthony Browne, like everything else by Browne, has its charm multiplied by his wonderful artwork. A big, burly gorilla who has been taught sign language is given a tiny, fragile kitten. There is love at first sight between them but also a stern warning from the keeper that nothing must harm the kitten. The surprise ending is perfect.

Yoko Writes Her Name by Rosemary Wells finds the little Japanese kitten of other Yoko stories facing some teasing in her American kindergarten. Yoko can read, but only in Japanese. She writes beautiful Japanese characters but struggles with the English alphabet. As with the other books, the illustrations are lush and appealing. The ending is a bit simplistic, perhaps, but will appeal to everyone who has grown to love Yoko.

A Roomful of Questions by Tracy Gallup is truly a picture book for all ages. This Ann Arbor author and artist has created intricate and intriguing black and white illustrations to pair with simple, yet often profound and complex, questions. The entire family will enjoy discussing this charming little book.

Chester and Chester’s Back by Melanie Watt offers a story written by a human and then boldly re-written (in bright red marker) by her cat. This give and take creates a couple of amusing stories on top of each other right up to the clever resolution of the argument.

Lazy Little Loafers by Susan Orlean is written in the voice of a young girl who obviously has observed babies for some time. She wonders how come babies never have to do any work. Her pondering is apt and reasonable and quite amusing to the reader. She ultimately reaches the only possible and supremely logical conclusion.

Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards by Serge Bloch is a simply wonderful and wonderfully simple way to learn about idioms. Each page accompanies a one line idiom with a simple black and white illustration and a splash of color. There is an actual story line here, too, as narrator deals with first-day-of-school jitters.

Madam President by Lane Smith deftly includes political insight and a strong dose of humor. A young girl imagines her entire life as if she were president. This means that her acts are all official acts. Her every word is a press conference. She proves to be a president that is lovable and over-bearing at the same time. Sound like any people you know?

Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival by Kirby Larson features a cat and dog who were abandoned when humans fled New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They somehow found each other and supported each other until rescued by humans many weeks later. The story is even more moving when we realize that one of them is blind and that the story is absolutely true. Thank goodness for a happy ending.

Starlight Goes to Town by Harry Allard puts the spotlight on a chicken who dreams of movie fame. The story follows her successes and many foibles as she follows that dream. The pictures are funky fun and add much to the story.

Thump, Quack, Moo by Doreen Cronin is the latest adventure of the farm animals who typed in Click, Clack, Moo, a book that now has almost reached classic status. In this case the farmer is trying to create a super-special corn maze. Duck has other ideas. My favorite in this series is the first or last year’s Dooby, Dooby Moo. Don’t miss the “Diary” series by this same author. You will never look at a worm or a fly or a spider the same way again.

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham has the perfect pictures for this gentle story of a little boy who finds a bird with a broken wing lying on the sidewalk. His understanding parents help him take it home and care for it. Much of the story is wordless making it even better for discussion and quiet appreciation.

John Patrick Norman McHennessy: The Boy Who Was Always Late by John Burningham offers a young man walking down "the road to learn” a variety of unexpected reasons for being late. His strict and crotchety teacher gives increasingly unreasonable punishments but the boy keeps heading back. The one day that John Patrick Norman McHennessy is not late leads to a very satisfying ending. John Burningham is a treasured author/illustrator. Look for his Mr. Gumpy’s Outing and Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car for other pleasant adventures.

Beware of the Frog by William Bee has almost psychedelic illustrations, wild and strange characters, a sweet little old lady and her guard frog. Best of all, it has a surprise ending that will leave you chuckling. Be sure to read the cover flap to see just how interesting William Bee must be.

Reading Suggestions for Adult Readers

With the annual Emerson Book Fair coming upon us soon, it is time for me to give some reading suggestions for everyone in the Emerson community. Let's get the adults out of the way.

Here are a few of the books that I have read and enjoyed in the past few months. After reading the list, I am betting you will have some suggestions of your own or some comments on what I have been reading. Please add your suggestions and comments so that this blog becomes an active discussion board.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery demands thought from the reader as it throws out profound thoughts—some identified as such and others interwoven within the tale—at every opportunity. The protagonist sees herself and assumes others see her as a short, ugly, plump concierge at a bourgeois building in a posh Parisian neighborhood. Her little secret is that she has a devout interest in art, literature, philosophy, and music. Also in the building is a super-smart twelve-year-old who works diligently to hide her intelligence behind a facade of mediocrity. When these two women meet, the result is both funny and heart wrenching.

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink was one of the gift books that Oprah gave to Stanford graduates in June. It has been on best seller lists for quite awhile. Therefore, it had little initial appeal for a contrarian. This fall, however, the University Musical Society invited educators to gather and talk about the ideas found here, and I could resist no longer. I was amazed by how interesting and useful it was. I feel a need to re-read and underline it to I can promote for myself and others the valuable six traits that Pink says we all need to thrive in the world of the near future.

The Family That Couldn’t Sleep: A Medical Mystery by D. T. Max is a book I would never have selected had I not been pushed by one of my book clubs. The mystery here is in the sense of science trying to find the causes and cures for a range of diseases that seem to be caused by prions, a disorder affecting the shape and activity of proteins. Specifically this book looks at Fatal Familial Insomnia by following an Italian family with a history of slow, painful deaths marked by an inability to sleep. While it drags at times and rants at others, this proved to be an interesting and educational read.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks is not my favorite of her books such as March, Nine Parts of Desire, and Year of Wonders, but it is nonetheless worth reading. In this book, the reader is taken into the world of art fraud investigation as well as through history as it follows a 15th century illuminated Haggadah. Each stain or other out of the order find in the book leads to a dip into the lives of the people who handled and admired it though history. The result is a wide span of history tied together with stories past and present.

Lottery by Patricia Wood is told in the voice of a 30-something man with an IQ, he reminds us, is 76. This is important to him because it is one point above officially being mentally retarded. He lives with his grandmother for many years, learning how to enjoy life while getting by on limited funds. Together they buy a lottery ticket every week and spend much time dreaming of how they will spend their potential winnings. Alas, it is not until shortly after the grandmother’s death, that Perry wins the lottery. From there he learns who his true friends are as well as what is really important to him.

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle seemed very real to me as it looked at the traditional folks out West—those who kept horses for ranch work—as they meet with the new suburbanites who want to be around horses for the social status they provide. The narrator of the story, Alice Winston, is a 12 year old trying to understand life as the family falls into more troubles as the horse farm gets further away from its roots. There is some humor here, but it is mostly a sad story of a family looking for the one thing that will give them the life they want, whatever that may be.

A Far Country by Daniel Mason creates a rather surreal world that soon becomes all consuming. Two young people live in a community that depends on the weather to keep the sugar cane providing jobs and others to deal with political strife. Inevitably in a story such as this, drought forces them to leave for the city. With many political, environmental, and social comments, this book includes much to ponder.

The Birth House by Ami McKay offers a mix of rural and urban Nova Scotia in the early 20th century, naturopathy, women’s rights, and history. The author’s other job is with documentary television and her fact checking is very apparent. The main character, Ms. Dare, is the only Dare woman in a long line of men. That, along with some other interesting quirks, leads many to consider her to be a witch. She learns how to be a mid-wife right at the time that the outside world is encouraging woman to give birth in modern hospitals. These two worlds of health providers conflict in an engaging story.

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig features the beautifully skillful writing for which Doig has rightfully become famous. Once again, Doig sets his story in rural Montana. The family in the story needs a housekeeper after the mother dies leaving a father and three sons to fend for themselves on the ranch. With a beginning like that you can easily predict how it will be end, but the writing and some unexpected turns will keep you reading until that end is reached.

Stealing Buddha’s Dinner: A Memoir by Bich M. Nguyen takes place primarily in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the 1970s, which is not where one would expect to find a Vietnamese refugee family. Nguyen came to Michigan with her father and sister after being separated from her mother as Vietnam fell. After a few detours, the family and their Buddhist grandmother arrive in Grand Rapids, sponsored by a Dutch Reform Church. This clash of cultures, complicated when the father marries a woman of Mexican decent, makes for an interesting story, told in large part through her views of food. Which does she crave more; a Twinkie or her grandmother’s Vietnamese cookies?

Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam mixes the beauty of language and the wonders of nature in a wrenching story of love, religion, pride, sorrow, and the full range of human strengths and failings. Pakistanis living in Britain deal in their own ways with the need to keep their religious roots and ties to the homeland strong, while facing the inevitable changes that come from living in a new society. This dilemma is brought to the forefront when two young people decide to live together until one can finally get a divorce. The young lovers are murdered for their perceived sin and the world that the community has so carefully constructed falls apart.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wacky Wednesday--Joke of the Week #009

What did the fish Cinderella wear to the undersea ball?

Glass Flippers

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's Special About This Week--Oct. 27-31

October 27--Global Environment Day

Today would be a good day to read some of the many books that are now out about the environment, global warming and other issues. Try Al Gore's book for young adults, An Inconvenient Truth or watch his movie by the same name. Maybe you would like The Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming by David Laurie or the DK book Climate Change by John Woodward. For a somewhat different viewpoint, take a look at The North Pole Was Here: Puzzles and Perils at the Top of the World by Andrew Revkin. If you prefer fiction, even if it is not very optimistic, the young adult novel Exodus by Julia Bertagna imagines the world in 2100. When the protagonist learns learns about communities in space, she tries to convince the others on her home island to head there before they are all covered by the rising seas.

October 27, 1787--The First of the Federalist Papers were published

The Federalist Papers are a collection of 85 articles that were written by the United States' founding fathers, primarily Alexander Hamilton, urging the ratification of the newly written Constitution. The Library Congress has kindly put the full text of the Federalist Papers on line, but I am going to bet that even with the link you won't be reading them any time soon.

October 28, 1846--The Donner Party is stopped by snow

As someone who grew up in the West, I suppose we learned a lot more about the history of that area than the people who grew up in the Mid-West. You can bet I did not know much about the history of the middle part of this country when I was in Middle or High School. None the less, it still surprises me that kids don't know about the gruesome Donner Party story. The essence of the story is that this group of people heading west to California from Laramie, Wyoming, and other points East took a wrong turn along the way. This meant they were trapped by late October snow in what is now known as Donner Pass. As folks died, the survivors had little or no choice but to eat the flesh of those who had already frozen. Read all about it at the PBS site or read the book The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party by Marian Calabro.

October 28, 1886--The Statue of Liberty dedicated

The Statue of Liberty sits proudly in New York harbor. This lovely lady may be the symbol of America that is most widely known around the world. Immigrants speak with awe of the first time they saw her, welcoming them to their new lives. Offered as gift for America's 100th birthday, the statue took years to build, arriving a full ten years late. You can read more about her at the Statue of Liberty official website or read one of the great books about Lady Liberty in the library. My personal favorite is Lady Liberty: A Biography by Doreen Rappaport which looks at all of the people who played a part in the creation of the Statue of Liberty, from the first germ of an idea, through the fund raising efforts, and on to the people still honor her today.

October 29--Biographies are Beautiful Day

What an exciting day it was when I discovered biographies. At their best--and there are many, many biographies that fit this description--biographies are as exciting as a good novel with the bonus that they are true. Think of someone who interests you and find their biography to read. You could also browse the shelves to discover someone you never knew existed. Reading a biography encourages one to wonder about how to live a biography-worthy life.

October 29, 1960--Muhammad Ali's First Professional Fight

Muhammad Ali grew famous not just for his boxing skills, but also for his political and social activities. Born Cassius Clay, he changed his name when he joined the Nation of Islam. He was an Olympic boxing champion in 1960. Soon after the Olympics he fought his first professional boxing match against Tunny Hunsaker who was then the chief of police in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Ali's win in that fight was the start of an amazingly successful boxing career. There was a time when every child I knew wanted to also "Soar like a butterfly/Sting like a bee". Read about this fascinating life at the official Ali website or check out a good biography from the library. The Greatest: Muhammad Ali by Walter Dean Myer is a good choice if you are in grades 4 to 7. If you would like a quick and easier biography try The Story of Muhammad Ali by Leslie Garrett.

October 30, 1864--Helena, Montana, founded

Helena, as you all know, is the capital of my home state. It has an interesting history. In July of 1864, four gold miners from Georgia, now affectionately known as "the Four Georgians", were about to give up and go home. They decided to give gold one last chance. They were near what is now Helena's main street when they struck it rich. The street is known as Last Chance Gulch. While it seemed like the city grew up overnight, the name took a while longer to settle. Among the names that were tried on for size were Crabtown (one of the Georgians had the name of Crab), Pumpkinville and Squashtown. Eventually many of the miners were from Minnesota and decided to name the town after the Minnesota town of Saint Helena. Helena was made the state capital in 1875. Today it is a beautiful, historic town worth a visit, if only in a virtual realm.

October 30, 1938--"War of the Worlds" radio broadcast

Imagine sitting around a big radio, the center of your evening entertainment. As you listen carefully to the usual scratchy broadcast, a voice interrupts to announce that there has been an alien attack. How would you react? The people who heard the "War of the Worlds" broadcast on their radios in 1938, but missed the introduction that stated that it was a radio play, got more than a little concerned. Orson Wells had little idea that his acting would have such an impact. You can read more about this evening of fear and excitement on the Internet or you can read the wonderful picture book by Meghan McCarthy called Aliens are Coming: The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast. This book includes actual text from the program, some history, and wonderful illustrations.

October 31--Halloween

Oh, but you knew that!

October 31, 1864--Nevada became the 36th state in the United States

Learn the facts about Nevada at the official Nevada Facts site.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Quote of the Week--#010

"If you wish to be a good reader, read."
Last Tuesday, Emerson teachers attended a full day workshop where we learned about the human brain. We learned all kinds of things about the reptilian brain, the cortex, and more. The most interesting part to me was how the brain stores information. We have just a short time to start growing those connections that will serve us throughout life. Most of those connections (for reading, language development, and so many other things that are related to what are generally considered to be academic skills) are formed by the time you read the age of 10. Many have to be firmly in place before age five to be acquired without a lot of extra work.
For me, life without reading is impossible to imagine. I read for pleasure and for information. I made a pact with myself when I was about 10 that I would read every night before bed. With few exceptions I have held to that pact for nearly fifty years. It may be no more than ten minutes, but reading gets me ready for bed and my mind processes what I have read while I sleep.
As a librarian and as a mother, I put a great deal of effort into getting the world to be a place full of readers. Read on, read on, and enjoy all that reading has to offer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dragon's Keep

Fourth Grader Arianna wrote this about a book she just finished today.

Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey

"Dragon's Keep
is what I recommend for people who like active books. There is mean and and good and Queen/King war and, of course, dragons. It is a "cover to cover" book."

Thanks, Arianna, I know that I am putting this book at the top of my list of books to read next. The cover, for those of you who have not seen it, is a little creepy. It shows an otherwise normal hand with one green, scaly, dragon-like finger. Because this finger belongs to a princess, it cause more than a few worries for the queen. In fact, Rosalind, the princess, is forced to wear to wear gloves all the time. After all, Rosalind must be perfect to fulfill a 600 year old prophecy that she will restore her family to the rightful throne. I got this information from the cover flap. I got the excitement to open the book from Arianna.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wacky Wednesday--Joke of the Week #008

This joke comes from my niece in San Jose, California. She made it up for her daughter. Proof of the creativity (or something) that runs in my family.

What kind of crown does a pirate princess wear?

A tiarrrrrrrra!

Thanks, Heather and Elise.

Now other folks need to share their wit and wisdom.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book Quest Begins

This week Emerson students in grades four and five will begin regular meetings to read, discuss, and enjoy books as a part of Book Quest 2008. They will also be preparing to test other teams on how much they know about the books they are all reading.

This program was developed several years by Will Purves and myself to replace other reading programs that had resulted in more tears than teamwork. The idea is for every participant to share and enjoy the same five books. The teams then undertake the top secret task of creating a challenge regarding one of the books that they have read. This challenge can be almost anything. For example, if the teams had all ready "The Three Little Pigs" the challenge might include questions about the story. Each correct answer would result in some material for building a house fit for a pig. The team's construction would then be blow tested by a wolf or, more likely, a fan posing as a wolf. Perhaps the challenge would be to run a race that included stops at all of the pigs' houses, with questions to answers or feats to perform at each house. Maybe there would be an art and architecture challenge to built a house better house for the pigs. The options are limited only by time and imagination.

Of course, the books that this year's Book Quest members will read are a little more challenging than "The Three Little Pigs". Here are the great books that we are reading this year.
  • Joey Pigza Swallows the Key by Jack Gantos
  • Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
  • The Kid Who Ran For President by Dan Gutman
  • The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

After the challenges are completed by all teams at our grand finale event, families join for a much loved pot luck dinner.

This event is enjoyed by all, but could never happen without the help of parent coaches who give up their time to come to meetings and to create inventive ways to help students appreciate and understand the books. Thank you, wonderful parent coaches.

Second and third grade Book Quest comes in the spring.

What's Special About This Week--Oct. 20-24

October 20--Skydiving Day

Look through my earlier posts to find why this day seems special to me.

October 20--National Bring Your Teddy Bear to Work Day

My very special teddy bear as a child was given to me by my Uncle Frank who gave wonderful stuffed toys every year for Christmas. (After he got married, he always sent books instead. I suspect that idea came from his wife. Luckily, by that time I was old enough to read to myself so I could enjoy the books as much as I had enjoyed the many stuffed animals.) My teddy bear looked a little like Winnie the Pooh before Disney got their hands on him. I named him Pal because my brother got a Pal jack knife that year and I not-so-secretly wanted a jack knife. Pal slept with me every night for years (what jack knife would have done that?) and got toted around everywhere. At some point his foam stuffing started coming out of his paws. My mother took felt from some outgrown slippers to make covers for the holes. My brother's slippers were blue and mine were red. Pal got blue patches on his left side and red on the right. That is how I learned to tell left from right. If I still had my ratty, well-loved Pal, you can bet that he would come to work with me.

October 21--Infomaniacs Day

Infomaniacs are people who are constantly on the look out for information. You could say that librarians fit this description. Yes, they do, but they are not as obsessed with information seeking as those people who label themselves as infomaniacs. These information hounds spend hours every day searching the Internet (and, one hopes, books) for new information. Librarians take time out to read books, put things in order, and help others learn to find their own information.

October 21, 1959--The Guggenheim Museum of Art opened in New York City

The Guggenheim Museum of Art is as famous for the art within as for the unique Frank Lloyd Wright design of the building. The Guggenheim invites you to view its collection here.

October 22, 1938--First Xerography Copy Made

The invention of the copy machine made a huge impact on the world. Chester Carlson, working on his own time, had little idea how much his work would change the way people look at paper in their daily lives. It took more than five years and twenty tries to get a company to see the value of his invention. Now we take copies so much for granted that the copier company Xerox has seen its name become a verb, as in "Let me xerox this for you." Some people argue that we use much more paper in our world because of the copy machine. Do people really make more copies of things than they actually need? Look at the recycle bins by the copy machines and printers in the school. They fill up quickly with unwanted or misprinted papers.

October 22, 1883--The Metropolitan Opera House opened

The first performance at the Met, which was then located at Broadway and 39th Street in New York City, was Gounod's Faust. Since that time millions of people have enjoyed opera with the Met. The company moved to Lincoln Center in 1966. The Metropolitan Opera site offers audio and video of recent opera productions.

October 23--National Mole Day

From 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m. on 11/23, join the celebration of National Mole Day. Known as Avogadro's number, a mole is a basic unit of measurement in chemistry. It is simply (and to non-chemists such as myself, not all that clearly) the quantity of any substance whose mass in grams is the same as its formula weight and is based on the amount of atoms in 0.012 kilograms of carbon-12. That number is 6.02 times 10 to the 23rd. It appears that there are many chemists around the world who enjoy using this number to come up with fun facts and even jokes. For example: One mole of pennies would pay off the United States national debt about 86 million times. A one liter bottle of water contains 55.5 moles of water. Go to this site for mole jokes, Mole Day celebration ideas, and mole cards.

October 23, 1964--First Olympic Women's Volleyball Championship Game

Since we at Emerson have all met a person who played in this year's Women's Water Polo Championship game, (Yeah, Allison) it seems appropriate to celebrate other women in the Olympics. This first Olympic Women's Indoor volleyball game was won by Japan, the host nation that year.

October 24--United Nations Day

This date has been recognized as United Nations Day since 1948 and remembers the day in 1945 when the Charter of the United Nations went into force. Read more about the United Nations at their website.

October 24, 1901--First Woman to go over Niagara Falls in a Barrel

Anna Edison Taylor was a teacher in Bay City, Michigan, (hometown of Emerson's own second grade teacher, Barb) when she decided to gain some fame by going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The Niagara Falls Information site has pictures of Anna Taylor with her barrel. It also says that she took her pet kitten with her for the trip. I can only imagine how scared that poor little kitty mush have been.

Quote of the Week--#009

"Children are notoriously curious abut everything--everything except. . . the things people want them to know. It then remains for us to refrain from forcing any kind of knowledge upon them, and they will be curious about everything."

Floyd Dell
Quoted in Quotations on Education
Compiled by Rosalie Maggio

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wacky Wednesday--Joke of the Week #007

Think on this one--

What has a spine but has no bones?

A Book

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What's Special About This Week--Oct. 13-17

October 13, 1775--United States Navy established
You can see that when the United States Navy was established there was no United States of America. Technically speaking, it was the Continental Navy that was used to fight in the Revolutionary War. Read more about it at this Navy history site.

October 13, 1921--WWJ radio was issued the first license for a radio station in Michigan
WWJ did not go on the air until the following spring. WWJ, currently an all-news station, is broadcast from Detroit and can be found at 950 on your AM dial.

October 14--national lower case day
This day honors the birth of the poet E. E. Cummings who was born on October 14, 1894. He became famous not only for his poetry but also for writing most of his works without any capital letters. In fact, he often signed his name using only lower case letters. To read some of his poetry you can visit the famous poets site. Warning: sometimes his work is a little difficult to understand but some of it is just wonderful. One of my favorites is "in just-spring".

October 14, 1960--Formation of the Peace Corps announced
At 2:00 a.m. on October 14, 1960, President John F. Kennedy stood on the steps of the Student Union at the University of Michigan to announce the formation of the Peace Corps. Hundreds of thousands of people have served around the world under the auspices of the Peace Corps. Read more about the Peace Corps, including the speech that President Kennedy gave 48 years ago.

October 15--National Grouch Day
Even if your name is not Oscar, you may be a grouch sometimes. According to Sesame Street Magazine today is the day to celebrate all the grouches and the grouchiness in your world.

October 15, 1951--"I Love Lucy" premier
It never ceases to amaze me that this TV show, now 57 years old, is still loved today. It is in reruns everywhere and I know many people whose parents were not even born when Lucy was on the air who can tell you all about a few favorite episodes. It was never a show that I enjoyed so that adds to my amazement that so many of you enjoy it today.

October 16--Dictionary Day
This day recognizes the birthday of Noah Webster who was born in Connecticut in 1758. Webster is known as the "father of the American dictionary" because he wrote the first comprehensive dictionary of American usage. He believed that American students should not have to learn British English and grammar. Learn more about Noah Webster here.

October 16--Let Them Eat Cake Day
Most people would say that this phrase comes from the former queen of France, Marie Antoinette, who, along with her husband, was thrown out of power by the French Revolution. Historians doubt that she really said "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" which is the French for "Let them eat cake." The unrest of the French people was very real, though. Read more about the origins of this phrase and a little about the French Revolution here.

October 17, 1961--MOMA hangs a work by Matisse upside down
MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art, must have this kind of problem often if they are hurrying to hang up modern art. This mistake was not corrected until December 3 of the same year.

October 17--Do Something Daring Day
I dare you to do something daring.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quote of the Week--#008

"All children are artists, and it is an indictment of our culture that so many of them lose their creativity, their unfettered imaginations, as they grow older."
Madeleine L'Engle
Quoted in Quotations on Education
Compiled by Rosalie Maggio

Telling Stories

In the past few of weeks a couple of classes have come to the library seeking stories to tell to their class, their younger reading buddies, and/or their senior citizen buddies. That is quite a range of storytelling opportunities. Whoever will be in your listening group--and often your listeners will have a wide age range--there are few rules that always apply.

1. Find a story that you love. Trust me, if you don't like the story you are telling, you audience will figure that out pretty quickly. Odds are, they won't like the story much either, no matter how well you think that you are telling it. If you love the story, your enthusiasm will show and pull others into the story. This is true even when the truth of the matter is that the story itself is not all the great. I am not a big fan of stories about sweet, obedient children doing just what the adults around them expect them to do. There are some stories about good, sweet children that are really pretty good stories. I have heard other people tell them with great success--so much success that even I liked them. However, when I try to tell them, my disdain soon shows and I am not very convincing. On the other hand, I have made up some pretty awful stories that I was able to sell because I was having so much fun making them up that I loved the stories and I loved telling them.

2. Find a story that stands by itself. Many times the stories found in picture books depend on the pictures in the book as well as the text of the story. That is what makes great picture books. From the storyteller's point of view, however, the pictures can not be a part of the story. You may add a few props to your story, but you won't be holding up those wonderful illustrations as you tell the story. The listener should be depending on your words, your expressions, your actions, your voice to give everything that the story is offering. Legends, folktales, fairy tales, and other stories that have come down through the ages are truly made for telling because they came from the oral tradition before anyone wrote them down, put them in books, and offered them up to new generations of people. Such tales are a perfect way to share the cultures of the world with your listeners. It is also interesting to compare stories from around the world and see how much they often have in common.

3. Don't memorize. Read the story multiple times until you feel as though you really know it. Some people create a story board or other notes to get the key words and flow of the story. Once you know what is really important and the order in which they appear, the rest will come pretty naturally. If you memorize the story word for word, you set yourself up to forget a word and then lose the entire story. A memorized story is also more apt to come out in a monotone as you struggle to remember the exact words. If you know the bones of your story, you can deal with unexpected events from a sneeze to a bat flying in the window and still keep the story going. This kind of storytelling also allows you to shape the story to your audience more easily. At birthday parties I often change the name of a main character to that of the birthday child. I can change a story about fairies to one about cowboys with very little thought if I already have that frame.

4. Practice, practice, practice. You need to tell that story over and over and over for it to fit comfortably in your mind and your mouth. This is especially true if you are using props of any kind. Puppets are great, but not if they don't move naturally with your telling. String stories are wonderful but if you can't get the string figure to look right, you better have some great ad libs at hand while you figure out your mistake. You get the idea.

5. Have fun. Storytelling is fun. Try not to let it become a burden. I know it may be a class assignment, but that should not keep it from being fun. Tell the story to friends and relatives until they get a little bit batty. That alone can add joy to the experience.

The library has a number of good books about storytelling. Most of them have hints as well as a selection of tested stories for you to tell.

One of my favorite storytelling books is The Storytelling Handbook by Anne Pellowski. It is written especially for young storytellers and is full of interviews with young storytellers who tell what works for them. Pellowski has written many books on storytelling and all of them are worth reading.

In Tell Me a Tale, well known storyteller Joseph Bruchac talks about the four basic components of storytelling: listening, observing, remembering, and sharing. Bruchac also has many collections of stories, often from Native American traditions, that are wonderful for telling.

Pete Seeger's Storytelling Book draws on the famous singer's long experience as a storyteller, including some examples of taking a familiar story and drawing it to new, often wild and crazy, conclusions. Seeger's Abiyoyo is a good story to tell to audiences of all ages.

Don't just take my word on the tricks of the trade for storytelling. I used the library catalog's Webpath Express feature to find the following storytelling websites.

The Kid's Storytelling Club has lots of tips for storytelling plus activities and craft ideas to help spice up your story selections.

A Storytelling Workshop with Gerald Fierst, sponsored by Scholastic, takes you through the steps to master your own story. Included are a chance to listen to professional tell his story, imagination exercises, and practice time.

Canada's Aboriginal and First People storytelling traditions, Circle of Stories from PBS, and Cherokee Stories are all websites with examples of stories being told that you can just sit back and enjoy.

Merpy may not teach you any great new stories to tell, but it has lots of animated stories plus games and activities. Now that you have worked so hard on learning to tell a great story, you deserve a break.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


There are many ELFs around the library these days. Despite their requests for cute green hats and shoes with toes that curl up, they are not elves. No, indeed, these helpful folks in grades four and five are Emerson Library Friends of the friendliest sort. They give up some of their free time to give service to the library by tending the shelves and giving to the library in many, many ways. The library is better for their help. In just a week of service, they have put books in order, dusted up a storm, and put their names on shelves that will be their personal responsibility for the year.

As time goes by, these hardworking Friends will grow in skills and interests. They will add their ideas and personal touches to library projects of all sorts. We will meet as a group once every six weeks or so to share ideas and think of new ways to make the library better for everyone.

Does this sound like fun to you? If you are an Emerson student in grades four to eight, you are invited to join. You will feel good about helping and the library will make everyone who enters feel better because of your service.

Thank you, ELFs.

Wacky Wednesday --#007

What is the special of the day at the Internet Cafe?

Spam sandwiches

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What's Special About This Week--Oct. 6-10

October 6--German American Day
Given that 17% of the population of the United States can trace their roots to Germany, it is not surprising that there are many famous folks who can celebrate their heritage today. As you settle down to read your favorite book by Dr. Seuss or to watch "The Simpsons" (Mattt Groening) or at Disney movie (Walt Disney), you might want to also grab a hot dog (Oscar Meyer) and cover it with ketchup (Henry J. Heinz). Of course, you kept your food fresh in the refrigerator (George Westinghouse). Are you wearing blue jeans? Thank Levi Strauss. Rudolph Wurlitzer may be the man behind the piano in your living room. Thank Charles Pfizer for some of the medicines that help keep you healthy. We have had at least three U. S. presidents with roots in Germany--Dwight D. Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, and Teddy Roosevelt. University of Michigan sports names Bo Schembechler and Fritz Chrisler both had German ancestry. Other sports names include Babe Ruth and Casey Stengel. The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, is of German heritage. The list goes on and on with celebrities like Sandra Bullock, Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Hilary Duff, Dakota Fanning, Tina Fey, Angelina Jolie, and Elvis Presley. Don't forget those Emerson School Germans--Rolf Wucherer, me and, I'll wager, a lot more people.

October 6--Librarians Day
Say hello to a librarian.

October 7, 1983--Cabbage Patch Kids debuted
Xavier Roberts created this toy craze of soft dolls that came with adoption papers. I made the mistake of trying to make a Cabbage Patch clone at home for my daughters. They were fun to make but their curl soon fell out and, most importantly, they did not have Xavier Roberts' autograph on their bottoms.

October 7, 1935--The first time the Detroit Tigers won the World Series
The Tigers beat the Chicago Cubs four games to two. Will they win the Series again? Maybe next year.

October 8, 1906--Permanent Wave first demonstrated
A German hairdresser named Charles Nessler developed the first permanent wave process to make curls last longer than regular curling. His process used cow urine and water for the chemical reaction. A dozen hair rollers, weighing two pounds each, were put in the hair. They were kept from touching the scalp or putting too much pressure on the head by means of an elaborate system of counter weights hung from a chandelier like contraption. After the solution was applied, the hair and rollers were heated to the boiling point. The entire process took about six hours. The first two times Nessler tried this process he tested it on his wife, burning her hair off. Aren't you glad that this process, while still really smelly, has improved in the last 100 years?

October 8, 1871--Great Peshtigo Fire and Great Chicago Fire started
It is a strange coincidence that two devastating fires began on the same day. The Peshtigo Fire burned more than a million acres of forests in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and northern Wisconsin. Read about it here.

The Great Chicago Fire is more famous from the legendary tale of the cow who kicked over a lantern to the way it changed the face of the city and its history. The best place to learn about the Chicago Fire is to read The Great Fire by Jim Murphy. This book traces the story of the fire from the first alarm until the final spark went out with stories of the people who were dealing with it. My favorite part is the map that ends each chapter so you can follow the spread of the fire as it consumes most of the city. You will learn about the social conditions and the living conditions that contributed to the spread of the fire. This non-fiction is as exciting as a good novel.

October 9--Korean Alphabet Day
The Korean alphabet is not made up of millions of characters like Chinese. It has 10 basic vowels and 14 basic consonants. This site will show these letters and link you to a chance to see your name written in Han Gul, as the alphabet is called.

October 9, 1855--Calliope patented
While the concept of playing steam whistles to create music had been around for quite awhile, it was Joshua Stoddard who patented the calliope in 1855. Because it produced sounds loud enough to be heard for many miles, he imagined that it would replace church bells. However, it soon was used on steamboats where the sound could float down the river. I usually think of a calliope in relation to old circus trains. The process is simple--steam is directed through large whistles such as those that were found on locomotives. You can see pictures of calliopes by going to this parade floats site.

October 10--World Egg Day
World Egg Day was created in 2006 and is now celebrated on the second Friday in October. The day was created to get more people to eat eggs. There are at least a dozen reasons to celebrate Egg Day.

October 10--Bonza Bottler or Party Party Day
Elaine Fremont, a woman who must have loved to celebrate, created the Bonza Bottler Day idea. This is one of the few holidays that occurs every month. It is celebrated whenever the number of the day is the same as the number of the month, such as January 1, May 5, or October 10. Some people will find any excuse they can for a party. Party on, dudes.

Quote of the Week--#007

"Nobody knows enough, but many know too much."

Marie von Ebner-Eschenback
Quoted in
Quotations on Education
Compiled by Rosalie Maggio

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wacky Wednesday--Joke of the Week #006

A librarian was thrilled to have a new baby. Of course, this was the most beautiful and smartest baby in the world. Just to make sure, however, hanging over the crib there was---

A bookmobile