Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Hallloween

The school's Halloween parade has come and gone. The rain kept us inside but everyone had a wonderful time parading through the school, including a gym filled with parents.

As difficult as this may be to believe, I do not like to wear a costume and I stress more than is necessary about finding the perfect costume. This year's costume was very uncomfortable, but it provided a week of library classes. Most of the third to fifth grade classes were involved with the creation of a book costume. The continue to come to the library to see the finished product, even though it no longer graces my shoulders.

One class chose the catchy title of Linda Gets Stuck in a Book and another picked Bookabee Poochy as the suitable pseudonym for the multiple authors. Many children pointed out how this is much like the non-existent Erin Hunter who represents the team that writes the Warriors series. Which lead to a good discussion about why people would want to use a pseudonym. A third class designed the colorful cover which was In all three instances there were close votes to determine the ultimate winners. This means, of course, that there were many good ideas that could not be used this time.

Two classes were called upon for the ultimate in collaboration to create the story--or at least page one of it.

Reading the text in the picture is more than a little difficult so let me reproduce the entire text here:

One day Linda was reading a book to little green men from Venus. Suddenly the book attacked her. Linda fought back but the book kept trying to eat her. The book was too strong. Linda got pulled into the book. She tried to pry the book open but it was a like a steel trap. Soon all you could see were Linda's arms, legs, and head.

"Oh, well," said Linda, "I've always wanted to be in a good book."

Since there was nothing better to do inside the book, Linda read all of the pages. Then she got tired and fell asleep. The little green men from Venus woke her up by shouting, "Where's Linda?"

When she was awake, Linda realized that she was craving a bagel. Luckily she found one that the book had eaten earlier that week. But the bagel was stale.

Even though only her arms, legs, and head stuck out of the book, Linda walked to the store to get a fresh bagel. When she was full of bagel, she wanted some apple cider. On the way to the orchard, Linda passed a bookstore. The bookstore owner ran after her shouting, "Get back here book."

The bookstore owner caught Linda and put her on the shelf next to The Book About Books.
Two months later, a little girl came into the bookstore. She saw the book with Linda in it and thought it looked good. The little girl opened the book and

So, ends the story, unless your imagination can carry it to page two and beyond.

Referring to the picture of the open book, you will also notice that we spent some time dreaming up a publishing company. This book, copyright 2009, was published by Vampire Princess Press, a division of How to Eat a Whole Pie in Under 30
Seconds Publishers, Inc., 1877 Chicken Fingers and Fries Street, Emerson, Michigan.

The back cover was decorated by a second grade class with a few additions by others. You will notice that the price that students determined to be appropriate was $5,000,000.00 (higher in Canada). They had a hard time choosing between $0.01, $5.99 9/10, $14.99, and millions of dollars for this one-of-a-kind collaboration.

So ends the story, or does it?

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Halloween Poetry

Today the poetry comes from a fourth grade who, as you will see, put some thought into their pseudonyms.

Zombie Hamster by Piffy and Chip (who encourage you to read this as a rap or a song)

Once live a hamster name PChip
It had Purple hips,
It had a huge head
Like a mad scientist.
Its eyes were black with white pupils.
Its legs and arms were shaped like hills.
And that was the Zombie Hamster!

Skeleton by Emily Hickory and Alex Numbers

Sickly icky bones
Kids scr-
Likes to scare people
Everyone's scared of it
Outrageously scary skeleton
Never lives.

Mysterious Hole by Hermione Ranger

I once went for a stroll
But then I bumped into a pole
then fell through a hole
I got hurt
And fell in the dirt
And got a new name, Mirt.

The Black Cat by Mooing Moose and Morgan Mock

There was a black cat
On the cat
There was a hat
On the hat
Thee was a bat...
The ghost appeared.

The Cat and Rat
by Bailey Staginahw

I once met a fat black cat.
That can knew a rat.
The little rat ran
Just as fast he can.
Though the cat was chasing his tail.
The RAt started tow ail.
A boat took off to sail.
Because the cat was chasing the rat's tail.

Hot Chocolate by Beafy Beaf Lover
(This is a concrete poem that I will try to scan in later, but the words are too good to miss. Picture these words sitting in a green cup with the first line as steamy steam.)

I want
hot chocolate
And I want it now.
Hot Heat rising from the mug.
Steamy steam steaming from the mug.
As I said,
I want hot chocolate.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Halloween Poetry

Today I had a third grade class write some poetry. After many discussions, they were not left with much time to write their poems, but as you can see below, they rose to the challenge. In addition to thinking about poetry forms, we worked in a little talk about pseudonyms and Internet safety as we thought about the dangers of putting your full name out for the world to see. You will note some pretty creative pseudonyms here. We also talked about copyright. Each student signed a release allowing me to put their poetry on this blog. There will be more poems coming soon from other students as well as concrete poems that will require my scanner to be fully operative.

And now, some poems.

The Bat by "blah, blah, blah"

The bat that wanted
A cat
Was eating
I think,
Ah Yes,
A rat.
The rat was big, he thought
So he sold the rat
And got a cat.
The cat wanted to eat
A Kit Kat
So the bat gave
A Kit Kat
To the cat.
And the bat
Ate another rat.

Lizard by Omar


Cat by Benyo-man

Always are

Owls by A. W.


Rat by P.G.


Cat by Michael H.

A big cat
The fat rat.

Witch by Jessica

Witches fly on
Gnarled wood
Smoke in the air.

Pumpkin by Elie

Unicorns fly through the mushy pumpkin pie.
Mommy carves jack-o-lanterns.
Pumpkin pies don't like unicorns.
Kenny is fat because he eats pumpkins raw.
I like Halloween.
Nice Halloween Pumpkins.

Pumpkin by Emma

Pumpkin pie
Kind of squishy
Insides are gooey
Nice orange pumpkins.

Halloween's Night by Madeleine

At Halloween's night
We go to trick-or-treating.
When dark falls
Witches with their cats
Come out. When all is dark
And midnight strokes
Witches gather together
And tell stories.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Happy Diwali

Yes, it is Diwali time again and folks all over the world have been lighting oil lamps to welcome good fortune to their doorstep. As the bride of someone India, I have gotten a number of Diwali greetings. The truth is that in 36 plus years of marriage we have never really celebrated Diwali at our house. My husband tells me that in the far south of India where he grew up, it is a festival for the husband to visit the home of his in-laws. He would not have gotten much celebration by going to visit my folks in Montana. Maybe we can make a big deal over our future sons-in-law, though I doubt that my girls will think of it.

I have gotten to know more about Diwali from the parents of Indian origin at the school. They have generously shared with me and with our students many of their customs and foods. These are the same folks who will soon be celebrating Children's Day with the school.

I wish I could tell you more about Diwali, but all could give you would be pretty slim or collected from books and the Internet. I suggest that you go to this brief blog article called Ganesha, Diwali, and Ravi Shankar, Too to get another perspective on this holiday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Let's Start at the Beginning

Many people have been asking me for age specific book lists. Let's start with those designed for the beginning reader.

Easy Readers are the first books that people usually read by themselves. This trend started with Dr. Seuss and The Cat in the Hat which has a controlled vocabulary of just over 200 words. This book was inspired by a magazine article that wondered if children had a hard time learning to read because the first books we gave them were not very interesting and had illustrations that did not build on the plot. Seuss tested this theory and found great success for himself and for young readers.

The story goes that Bennett Cerf then bet Seuss $50.00 that he could not write a book using only 50 words. Green Eggs and Ham, the response to that challenge, is one of the most popular books in the English language—in 2001 Publisher’s Weekly said it was the fourth most popular book in the English language. I love the story, perhaps not entirely based on fact, that when Seuss went to give a speech at MIT or some other important and serious university, the entire student audience stood to recent that beloved book back to its audience.

From Seuss’s beginning grew a new genre of books—the Easy Reader.

Here are a few of my favorites. You will recognize some from your own childhood or from reading them to a special child. I hope that some are new to you and start you on exploring all of the quality literature that has been written for those just beginning a life long love of reading. (As you look for these titles, remember that every publisher seems to have a different system of marking the titles. What is a level 2 in one series may be level 4 in something else. Be sure to look in the book to see if it suits your particular needs, both in terms of reading level and interest.)

Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold introduces young readers to an amazing and very funny fly.

Minnie and Moo will soon become your bovine favorites in this series by Denys Cazet.

Sam and the Firefly, Are You My Mother, and Go Dog Go are just a few of the well-loved books by P. D. Eastman.

Danny and the Dinosaur by Sid Hoff endures as a favorite.

Pinky and Rex adventures are brought to you from the pen of James Howe.

Frog and Toad and the many more in this series and others by Arnold Lobel are read over and over again.

Fox All Week and the rest of this series by Edward Marshall made my husband laugh out loud when he read them to our daughters.

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik will always hold a special spot in my heart.

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parrish and continued today by Herman Parrish is loved by any child old enough to enjoy playing with words and their meanings.

Cynthia Rylant writes for all ages and her three Easy Reader series are a great introduction— Take a look at Henry and Mudge, Pinky and Rex and Mr. Putter and Tabby.

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat has inspired many a young detective.

Good Night, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas a perfect bedtime story and a fun story to read at any time of the day.

Amanda Pig and her brother Oliver Pig bring humor and life to several books by Jean Van Leeuwen.

Commander Toad by Jane Yolen commands a series of wild space adventures.


Several publisher have started putting out quality non-fiction in an easy reader format.

Dorling Kindersly (DK) has several non-fiction readers that feature the same kinds of great pictures in the Eyewitness books but with more straight forward information.

Scholastic Rookie books are feature bright illustrations and photos along with simple text to talk about topics in health, science, geography, and biography.

Seymour Simon produces fact-filled books with amazing photos for slightly older kids and now has a series of See More Readers for the youngest readers.

Time for Kids, Random House, and Golden Books also have good non-fiction books on the market.

Two of my favorite non-fiction titles are The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford and George Washington and the General’s Dog by Frank Murphy.

As you begin to look at these books you will soon realize that simple sentences and a controlled vocabulary does not mean the the lose of a good story or some solid information.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Series-ously speaking

Every year at this time, parents come to me with the deep concern that their child is reading and rereading a entire series. Often it is a series that was read (and maybe reread several times) last year. "Is she regressing?" they ask. "Will Susie ever read fine literature?" "Why won't Billy move on?" I don't know the research on this topic, but I do have some thoughts.

The start of the new school year can be stressful--new teacher, new classmates, new requirements, and other real and imagined changes. A series offers familiar friends in familiar settings. Even the language is familiar. All of that can be very comforting.

I have never known an adult who still reads nothing but Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys or Tin Tin, but I know of many successful adults who read those books as fast as they could get their hands on them, our newest Supreme Court Justice being a case in point.

Everybody needs some relaxing reading. Adults are encouraged to read for relaxation. Kids have that same right and that same need. For many adults and children, series offer than relaxation.

There is currently one of may library patrons who is rereading all of the Babysitters' Club as fast as she can, often at the rate of four a day. She says they are just fun. Then she turns around and asks for something that will challenge her outstanding fourth grade reading skills. I am always impressed by her versatile and voracious reading habits. She is getting new things from those babysitters and she is branching out in many directions. Some day she will realize how similar all of the Babysitters' stories are. She may even did what my daughter did.

One of my daughters joined her friends at a certain age in reading every Babysitters' Club book she could find. She wanted to change her name to Stacy. She wanted to have a club. She wanted to discuss whether it was Jesse or Mallory who was the most interesting. Then one fine day, she said, "I figured out what would happen in this book by about page 10. I am not going to read any more of these." To the best of my knowledge she has never read another one. Now she suggests some pretty tough reading material for me as well as some good relaxing stuff.

Not only are there now a lot more Babysitters' Club by Ann M. Martin books available than there were when my daughter was young, there are a lot more series in general. Here are few old favorites as well as some that are newer. They just scratch the surface of the series books out there, with more coming out every day.

Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene and Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon (you all know of course that those are pseudonyms for the many authors who contributed to the creation of these series) are detective stories that will live on for generations. The older ones are still more popular with most kids than the newer ones. None of my students seem to care for the graphic format ones.

Encyclopedia Brown by Donald Sobol have also been around for a long while and have kept many a young reader happily entertained.

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat is loved for getting beginning readers hooked on mysteries, series, and reading in general.

Today's Wall Street Journal had an article on the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. I confess that I don't remember whether I ever read these or not, but Meg Cabot gives a good argument in this article for why these books are still popular nearly 70 years after they first appeared.

You know many other well-loved series that are considered fine literature as well--The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling and Winne-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne to name just a few.

There are some new series that should not be missed.

I have mentioned Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm before but must mention it again because it offers very funny stories with interesting twists and turns in a graphic format.

Also in the graphic format are the Bone books by Jeff Smith. More than one young man credits a new found joy of reading to these wild and wacky tales.

The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan are set to become classics because of their timely twist on mythology, their humor, and their adventures.

Nicola's Bookstore brought Story Pirate performers to introduce The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan to Emerson School a week ago. Those kids who were not interested in this adventure-filled series before are now reading it at a rapid clip. The children's book buyer at Nicola's has seen the pre-publication copy of the next in the series and says it is even better than the last two, which she also thought were great. That is high praise.

American Chillers and Michigan Chillers by Jonathan Rand are almost impossible to keep on the library shelves. These stories of monsters devouring cities in Michigan and entire states are devoured by boys in grades three and up. They have a generous dose of humor plus lots of adventure. We also like them because Rand lives in Michigan.

For those who like animal adventures--as in animals with human characteristics who fight major battles--there are the owls of The Guardians of Ga'Hoole by Kathryn Lasky and the cats of Warriors by Erin Hunter.

Finally, let me comment on the new 39 Clues series. The kids tell me that some of them are great and others are not so good. This is not surprising because each one is by a different author. I am put off by the number of commercial tie-ins. You can collect the cards, enter the contest, and make repeated visits to the web-site for more tie-ins. Groan.