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June 2010 Archives


Bookworm Basics: The Craft of Writing

Posted by Terry on June 30, 2010 at 10:30 AM in creative literacy
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Here in the mid-Atlantic, summer has definitely made its presence known, and many of us are spending much of our day around the pool. While the kids are splashing, we moms are sweltering and exchanging ideas on other ways to fill their time.

One of the most common things I hear is "I wish I were a crafty mom," meaning I don't do arts and crafts. Well Mom, with a few easy steps, you can be crafty ... in all senses of the word!

spiral-notebooks.jpgBuy a bound book. Spiral-bound books work great, because the pages "fold back" out of the way. The key is that it looks nothing like a school notebook. Get one for you, one for each child. Look for books with pre-printed lines or blank pages. Pick your books based on your child's preferences, as well as your own. Some kids like drawing, some like writing, some can draw on pages with lines, others can't see past them.

DSCN4000.JPGPull out the boxes of crayons, markers, pencils, pens, watercolors ... whatever drawing or writing tools you've got lying around. We just "refreshed" our stash with all of the stuff that came back from school.

Put everything into a basket or plastic tub. Grab one big enough to hold the notebooks and the tools so that it is always accessible. Keeping the stash where kids pass it regularly and see it may be just enough to get them to pick it up regularly.

parent-child-drawingSit down together and go to it. There are no rules for the books, except that the contents can't in any way resemble schoolwork (e.g., no practicing letters or math). Kids can jot down their stories and poems, doodle, scribble, and/or create incredible art. You can do the same ... or just generate the grocery list.

That's where the true craftiness comes in ... kids are using their imagination and you are showing them the way just by writing or drawing. Modeling literacy is an easy way to encourage reading and writing. And the bonus? You earn your crafty mom badge and you have a personalized book to remember this summer, all without glue, scissors, or sticky fingers!

So, how would you fill your book?

Image Credits

Shelf of Notebooks from P.W.'s "stationary" photostream on
Drawer of crayons by Taylor Schlades on
Father and child drawing together by Lori L. Dunbar, Copyright Marzipan, Inc. Used with Permission.


2010 Newbery Caldecott Banquet

Posted by Susan on June 28, 2010 at 9:46 AM in AwardsBanquet
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Last night I attended my fourth Newbery Caldecott Banquet at the American Library Association Annual Conference.

I can tell you all about it... or I can show you.

ALA Annual 2010 074.JPG

Did you attend the banquet? Did you hear about it? Do you wish you were there?

Please, please, please leave a comment on this post (even if you've never commented on anything else ever before) and help me document this incredible and historic evening.

You can also share comments, photos and links here and tweet about it here.
Thank you so much!


Thursday Three: Funny Picture Books

Posted by Pam on June 24, 2010 at 10:29 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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It's hard to pick funny picture books, because the age of the reader makes such a big difference. Even a year in development can completely change the nature of the book. For instance, my go-to book for reading in classrooms was Sweet Tooth, by Margie Palatini because doing a cranky voice for the named tooth is well, so sweeeeet. When I tried this book with kindergartners though, they didn't really get it or laugh. However, first and second graders loved it. So, what I've shared today is a progression of funny books, from a lightly amusing book for a preschooler and moving up in age. Enjoy.

Mouse Was Mad
by Linda Urban, illustrated by Henry Cole

Mouse Was MadMouse was definitely mad, but as he expresses himself by hopping, stomping, screaming and more, other animals take the starch out of his tantrum by showing him how expertly hopping, stomping, screaming and more can be done. Finally mouse finds something he does better than anyone, and it calms him down. While there is certainly a lesson to be learned here about taming a tantrum, it is amusing to see the other animals take his actions at face value and challenge his technique. Great story, with Henry Cole's always friendly illustrations.

Dinosaur Woods: Can Seven Clever Critters Save Their Forest Home?
by George McClements

Dinosaur Woods: Can Seven Clever Critters Save Their Forest Home?Coming construction is going to chase a bunch of animals out of their wooded home, and though they try to talk to the people, no one will listen. They come up with a plan to build a dinosaur, knowing that people won't tear down the woods with a dinosaur. They all try to work together but Something Goes Wrong. However when the animals are exposed they turn out to be endangered and the woods are preserved after all - along with their friendship. Lots of amusing asides and touches throughout the book keep it funny. Look for the specially named "Crabby-Faced Punching Rabbits" or the great facial expressions on the collage illustrations. Environmentally safe and seriously fun.

The Hermit Crab
by Carter Goodrich

The Hermit CrabA shy hermit crab, stumbles into being a hero when he dons an unusual "shell" - the discarded, broken top half of an action figure. When a crab trap lands in an unfortunate place - "Hey, where's the flounder? Has anyone seen the flounder?" - everyone see the hero near the trap and assumes that he's responsible for moving it and saving the day. But the best part is in the unexpected result. The hermit crab draws into the shell, doesn't take credit, doesn't change, and leaves the "hero" shell as soon as he can. I love the idea that it's okay to stay out of the limelight. It's okay to be shy. Funny pictures add to the joy of this quirky book.


Bookworm Basics: The Rainy Day Bookshelf

Posted by Terry on June 23, 2010 at 11:00 AM in RecommendationsSeriescreative literacy
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Books are great to share every day, but it is also nice to keep a few books in reserve for those times when you need to jump-start some interest in literacy activities and can't get to the library or bookstore. This is a stash of books - and it doesn't need to be many - that are the perfect response to "Mom, I'm bored!"

Joke books and riddles keep the kids talking to each other and laughing for hours. These books are essentially anthologies. They have lots of content, there is no required order of reading, they are (usually) good for mixed-age audiences, and everyone will find at least one thing that tickles their funny bone and/or stumps them.

Activity books are titles that engage the reader to use the book. Although workbooks fall into this category, I'd recommend keeping the fun in the books on your rainy day shelf. Coloring books and learn-to-draw books are always fun, as are books of word games (crossword puzzles, word hunts, and word scrambles). These types of books can often be found in a dollar store.

A kid-friendly craft or project book can offer hours of activity, too. A quick check at returned nearly 800 craft/project books for kids - 756 of them for kids ages 4 to 12! So if you want to find fun in a subject that interests them ... there is probably a book for that! Some need more unique supplies, so you may want to read carefully through the book to make sure you will have what you need on that rainy day.

Last but not least, books with blank pages (bound or spiral) are also good to have on hand. You may even think about adding a special set of crayons or pens to keep with it. Kids can turn the "empty book" into art or story portfolios, reporter's notebooks, lists of their favorite (or least favorite) things, journals ... anything their imagination dreams up.

Do you have any favorite books you like to save for rainy days?
Note: Book cover images link to the Childrens and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards (CYBILS) affiliate account with Purchases made through these links can earn income for the Cybils, but there is no obligation to use those links or to purchase the product.


Flannel Board Stories

Posted by Susan on June 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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Blue Hat.jpgThis post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.

Do you know what a flannel board story is? That's when you tell a story without the book, using pieces of felt to represent the characters. Teachers and children's librarians make these all the time. Getting dressedA felt story can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You can make five felt apples (or anything else), put them on the flannel board and do a song or a story about them. But then there are those small or out of print books that you really want to give a second life to.

That's when you go all out.

Start by picking a book. Okay, this sounds easy, but there are only certain books that work well as flannel board stories. They have to be repetitive and have a relatively small number of characters. The book I picked for this one is Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton, because it's a small board book about important concepts. And, let's face it, it's downright adorable.
In process
Once you've got your book, making a super complicated, exactly-like-the-book flannel takes no time at all.

Nope, I lied. It takes forever, and then a little longer. But, the good news is that it lasts forever too. You can keep a flannel story for a decade or two (or more!) if you treat them nicely. So, my feeling is that it's always worth the extra effort to make it great.

Now, this certainly isn't the most glamorous part of the job. It involves a lot of mess and glue and patience and then more mess, glue and patience. But it's incredibly rewarding when the kids see characters on the flannel board that they recognize instantly.

Blue Hat Final
How did I do? Please ignore the fact that I accidentally put the green hat on the bear instead of the moose, and that the elephant isn't wearing his shoes....


Thursday Three: Help the Gulf!

Posted by Pam on June 17, 2010 at 9:24 AM in Authors and Illustrators
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Hearing about Ripple - this wonderful project to help the birds and animals of the Gulf Coast - I have become addicted to the pages and pages of artwork. Many were created by children's illustrators and some of published children's books. At this point the children's literature "rock star" illustrators haven't made an appearance, but I'm hopeful that some of them will be willing to lend a hand to publicize this fantastic idea. (Hello, Mo?)

Here's the deal. Artists send an electronic file of their sketchcard to the organizer, often with some notes about the work or their feelings on the Gulf disaster. You make a donation of $10.00 to The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies or The International Bird Rescue Research Center. You email the donation confirmation to, along with your address, and which card you want. The artist will mail you the signed card.

The nonprofits get money to help with the Gulf oil spill and more exposure for their important work. The artists get exposure for their talents and a chance to help the charity. You get an opportunity to help the charity and a bonus piece of art. Win-Win-Win!

Here are three children's illustrators who at this moment have sketches still available:

1. Katie Davis is the author/illustrator of picture books, including Who Hops?, and Kindergarten Rocks! and the upcoming Little Chicken's Big Day.


2. Michele Henninger is an illustrator from New Hampshire who has work featured in the SCBWI Bulletin and children's magazines.


3. Ginger Nielson is children's picture book illustrator living in New Hampshire whose books include My African Bedtime Story and Song for a Giraffe.


The website has raised 3,000 dollars so far and new sketches are added every day. But if you're ready to contribute now, consider some of these sketches lost in the surge of newer items. (The titles are the post headlines, which are sometimes the title of piece and sometimes not. You'll see the whole list of titles at the bottom of Ripple.)

oil spill otter.jpg11. Charlotte's Card (Someone has to buy this sad otter. Please.)
14. New News and Cards
19. I'm a Cartoonist After All
34. She Can Bring out the Best (A little hermit crab picture.)
44. Across the Pond
ATC Tay Heart Lady oil cause 001.jpg83. The Way things should be
85. Situation is Graphic
92. SOS
94. Family Ripples (A child's artwork. Think how happy she'll be when it's sold.)

Of course, you can also do what I've been doing - visiting the page constantly, skimming through all the artwork, bemoaning what I missed, and celebrating what I bought. ripple-10.jpg


A Summer of Reading

Posted by Susan on June 14, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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This post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.

makeasplash.jpgBooktalks are finally over. Public children's librarians can breath a sigh of relief. No longer will they have to explain the summer reading program 10 times a day.

Because, now it's time to explain summer reading 300 times a day. Kids from all over come to sign up for the program and each one gets a personal explanation of how many books need to be read, what the prizes are, what the deadlines are, etc. If you poke a librarian in their sleep in mid-July, they'll be able to tell you, without waking up, how many books a second grader needs to read to complete the program and what day summer reading ends.

Every summer reading program is different. Some count the number of minutes the kids read, other count the number of books. One prize can be given out at the end, or lots of prizes can be distributed throughout the summer. You might need to fill out a reading log or complete a game board. The prizes might be toys, coupons, books or something else. Some libraries may host one big program such as a magician or a puppet show, others might have a program each week.

makewaves.jpgHowever, there's a few things all library programs have in common.
~They all promote the joy of reading.
~They're all free.
~They all have a theme. This summer, it's all about water and fish.
~They're all an enormous amount of work. Planning starts for summer reading at the end of last year's program and takes the entire year.

Why does every public library in the country have a summer reading program? For a few reasons: to keep kids from losing reading skills over the summer, to make sure kids know there's a place they can get books while their school library is closed and to show kids that reading can be fun. For more details, see the New York State Library's research findings on the subject.

Find out what your library has to offer this summer. And sign up today!


Thursday Three: Bedtime Books

Posted by Pam on June 10, 2010 at 7:00 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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by Karma Wilson, illustrated by John Segal

Sleepyhead In this simple story, a grown-up cat tries to get the little bear to go to sleep,but the little bear wants to delay bedtime just a little bit longer. Surprise, surprise. The sing-song feel of the text —isn't a straight rhyme scheme, but uses rhyming words and a gentle rhythm. The beautiful watercolors are dreamy. One thing I particularly like about the book is the characters: a cat and bear, both of indeterminate gender. It could be a mother and son, father and daughter, aunt and niece, etc. The two characters from different species also leaves it open as an adoption story, perhaps of a child of a different race. In any case, it's a lovely bedtime book to be shared with a special little bear of one's own.

No More Yawning!
by Paeony Lewis, illlustrated by Brita Granström

No More Yawning!Generally I'm not a big fan of bedtime books where the child keeps getting out of bed or otherwise disrupting bedtime. They tend to make me feel more like the child needs more limits and parental authority. But this book includes yawning, and having yawning in a bedtime book is pure genius, because as the parent reads the book with the yawns, the child starts yawning and is soon ready for bed. In fact, it makes it a little confusing that the mother keeps telling the little girl, "No more yawning," even though it is paired with all the other instructions like "No more kissing" or "No more singing" or "No more stories." Yawn away, I say. Cute book and nice, soft watercolor illlustrations. Oh and good tips on falling asleep are included in the back.

Once Upon a Time, The End (asleep in 60 seconds)
by Geoffrey Kloske, illustrated by Barry Blitt

Once Upon a Time, The End (asleep in 60 seconds) In this tale, the father is putting his kid to bed, but just wants to get through the bedtime stories as quickly as possible. The stories are all the classics, just shorter. Much, much shorter. And generally with a theme of going to sleep at the end of each one. A great book for parents. Oh, and for kids too, but particularly ones that are old enough to get the references to the classic stories and the overarching tongue-in-cheek theme that "enough already, bedtime is NOW."


Bookworm Basics: Bedtime Stories (5 to 9)

Posted by Terry on June 9, 2010 at 10:30 AM in Book Buying Easy ReadersPicture BooksRecommendations
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Creating a starter library can be lots of fun, but it can also get very expensive. Kids are interested in more involved stories and the list of bedtime stories is endless. There are bedtime-themed books that cover their worries (monsters, the dark) or their favorite things (dinosaurs, unicorns), as well as quiet, soothing stories that have nothing to do with sleep but are perfect just before lights out.

Because there are so many options, it may help to borrow a couple from the library to see if any become instant treasures and then make a buying decision (or not). This is also the time that many families introduce chapter books into their bedtime routine. I'm a picture book gal, myself, but I have discovered some great early-reader chapter books that allow us to share reading with our daughter.

Thumbnail image for bread-and-jam.jpgTo start, you can't go wrong with any of Pam's Beginning Bookshelves recommendations. You'll find some favorite characters from our childhood, like Curious George, Madeline, and Frances; and new friends like Fancy Nancy, Knuffle Bunny, and the Pigeon. Some of these stories now have multiple editions, too. For example, there is an easy reader edition of Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban. Here are a few more recommendations ...

anatole.jpgSusan Thomsen and her son like Anatole by Eve Titus. Anatole, a mouse who lives in France, rides his bicycle to the cheese factory each day. He earns his living tasting cheese and offering suggestions on how to improve it. Anatole is a 1957 Caldecott Honor Book, and Anatole and the Cat is a 1958 Caldecott Honor Book. There are two other titles in the series: Anatole and the Toy Shop and Anatole and the Piano. These last two books are out of print, but probably available at your library.

monster-trap.jpgThe Monster Trap by Dean Morrissey was a favorite in our house for about a year! Paddy, a young boy, is staying with his grandfather. His house seems different - spookier - than he remembered. Paddy can't sleep because he is sure he heard a monster. Together, they build traps to catch the monsters, each trap becoming more elaborate than the last. When they finally snare a monster, they learn just how much fun these critters are. This book turns the monster theme upside down. From Publishers Weekly: "The pictures comically reveal benign, silly-looking creatures as the source of the boy's fears."

poppleton.jpgCynthia Rylant's easy reader series - Henry and Mudge, Mr. Putter and Tabby, Annie and Snowball, the High Rise Private Eyes, and Poppleton - are wonderful stories that allow you and your audience to share the reading. The stories are light, build on each other, and have a twist that make it fun for adults and children alike.

To see the full list of favorites, and to keep the ideas in an easy-to-grab spot, I have created a list of these titles at Indie Bound and an Amazon aStore.

Note: The bookcover images in this post link to and include an affiliate code that, through purchases, may earn income for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards (aka Cybils). The Indie Bound List and aStore include an affiliate code for the Reading Tub that, through purchases, may earn income for this literacy nonprofit. You are not obligated to use those links or make purchases through them.


Let's talk books

Posted by Susan on June 8, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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This post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.

It may be hard to catch a glimpse of your children's librarian during early June. That's because they're at the local schools doing booktalks. Don't know what a booktalk is? (That's okay- almost nobody does, hence the reason for this post).

BooktalksThe first part of a booktalk is basically a summer reading pep rally. The public librarians go to the elementary schools and explain the summer reading program to the kids. We tell them all about how to sign up, the rules of the program, and all the exciting events we have during the summer. Then comes the fun part. We also bring lots of cool books with us to tell the kids about. The goal is to tell just enough about a book to whet their interest without giving anything away.

And then the next grade comes in, and we do the whole spiel again, with different books. And then we do it again. And again. And again. We see each grade separately, so that we can tell them about age appropriate books. At the school I went to yesterday, we talked to almost 600 kids over a six hour period. Finally, the day is over (booktalks are exhilarating but completely exhausting)... which means it's time for tomorrow and another round of booktalks at a new school. And so on, and on and on, until we've talked to every class of every public elementary school in the county.

Magical Ms. Plum.JPGHere are a few examples of booktalks I've been doing this year:

Ms. Plum is the best teacher at Springtime Elementary School. Why? Nobody's quite sure, but everyone wants a chance to go into her supply closet. Discover what's hiding in there... everything from incredibly organized squirrels, to a tiny horse to an extremely talkative parrot. Read The Magical Ms. Plum by Bonny Becker to find out what's waiting for you in the closet.

Never Smile at a Monkey.jpgCan everyone smile? Be careful not to do that when you see a monkey because they interpret it as an aggressive gesture and respond violently. Check out this book by Steve Jenkins and learn many other important things to remember the next time you're in the wild. Find out why you shouldn't pet a platypus, step on a stingray, bother a blue-ringed octopus or confront a kangaroo. And remember, Never Smile at a Monkey!

Curious what this looks like? Ask your child's school media specialist if there are booktalks at your school from the public librarians this year. They're well worth watching (they really end up being quite a performance) and you get lots of great book recommendations.

Ever seen a booktalk? Ever give one? Please leave a comment and tell us about it.

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