It’s Monday, What are you Reading

Children’s/YA Lit Read Last Week:

  I loved it and am still thinking about Deza & Jimmie. Looking forward to heading to Ann Arbor tomorrow to meet Christopher Paul Curtis at Nicola’s Books. <update: just found out it’s been canceled due to illness, hoping it will be rescheduled soon!>

Next up:

I have heard so many great things about this, I’m excited to start it.

Practicum Reading:
(I know this isn’t children’s/ya lit, but it pertains to my practicum work about children’s/YA lit in the classroom so I’ve decided to start including it in my posts. More on the practicum in a future post.)

Why Johnny Can’t Read – Rudolph Flesch – the 1955 edition.
WOW! The language that he uses in here to discredit and discount teacher and teacher researchers cuts right to the quick. Flesch also published a version of his work in a research journal which I’m going to hunt down this week to read.

Next up:

Jeanne Chall’s The Great Debate, published in 1967. I’m reading this to have a better understanding of how the “reading wars” debate between whole word and phonics started.

I ♥ #titletalk

The last sunday of the month from 8-9pm EST has become a favorite time for me. Why you ask…. because it’s #titletalk hosted by Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) and Colby Sharp (@colbysharp).

I love this time because it is an opportunity to talk in real time (also called synchronous) about children’s & young adult literature, reading, motivation, and teaching: favorite topics of mine that I am passionate about. I’m encouraging the students from both my children’s literature course (#kmcte348) and language arts methods course (#kmcte402) to follow along and join in.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you don’t like, know, understand twitter – please don’t let that stop you! You can follow along without participating and without a twitter account. If you are new to twitter and terminology like “tage”,”tweet” and “hashtag” are intimidating, following along was one way that I became more comfortable with twitter-land. If you just want to follow along: go to, enter titletalk in the top box and hit enter.

If you want to know more or participate, read on!

The way that the conversation works is that everyone who wants to participate tags their tweets with #titletalk, then any tweet tagged with it will show up when you search for this hashtag.  I suggest using to follow along for a few different reasons:

  • You don’t have to have a twitter account to follow along, just enter #titletalk
  • If you do have a twitter account, you sign in to tweetchat with your twitter login.
  • in order to participate in the conversation, you must enter the #titletalk, the first time I participated I kept forgetting to add it and couldn’t figure out why the weren’t showing up. A huge plus of tweetchat is that the tag is automatically placed in your tweet ensuring that are joining in the discussion.

Here are some tips for anyone interested in following along and/or joining in.

  • You can follow the conversation without joining in. This is what I did for the first time until I got the hang of things. I was a twitter newby and completely overwhelmed by the experience. Deciding to not participate for the first 15-20 minutes helped take the pressure off and allowed me to engage with the conversation.
  • That being said, join in! There are no dumb questions or comments, everyone has something to contribute or ask that helps each other (348 & 402 folks, I’m talking to you here!)
  • It moves fast, be prepared! This can be overwhelming, when I had students participate last semester some of them quit because they were frustrated by the speed. Give yourself some time to get used to it and be patient. You may not catch everything, but you’ll catch some of it and it will be worth it!
  • If you do miss something that you want to go back to, the entire chat is archived and posted as a pdf.
  • Some people open a separate window of their goodreads account or a separate document so that they can add titles as the conversation moves along.
  • If you want to know more about twitter in general, check out my previous post Tweet, Tweet, Tweet which includes some links to sites explaining and introducing twitter.

Hope to see you tonight!

Eye of the Storm

As I was on my way to my first ALA Midwinter Conference, I read a tweet by Kate Messner (@katemessner) telling followers to head to her publishers to pick up an ARC (advanced review copy) of her upcoming book Eye of the Storm. Having picked up a copy of Marty McGuire at NCTE in Novemeber, I couldn’t wait. My 2nd grade daughter & I loved Marty – she shared it with her teacher as well as last year’s teacher. (We can’t wait for the new one!)

Eye of the Storm is complete different from Marty – but it is completely wonderful. Once I got about half way through, I couldn’t put it down. Literally I just sat and read all afternoon. Here are two things that I loved about this book:

  • it has not one but TWO strong female characters, who love science, who go to science camp. Jaden & Risha are not only strong, intelligent characters – they are portrayed as equally intelligent to the boys that attend the same camp.
  • The scientific information is fascinating and not simplified. Jaden uses the same language as her father – a top researcher in the field of meteorology. I appreciate that I had to work a bit to stay with the concepts.

The main character of this book, Jaden, is a sixth grader. As I was reading, I couldn’t wait to find out what my own sixth grade daughter would think about the book. After I finished reading, I passed it along to her. She loved it as well and offered to answer some questions and share her thoughts.

K=Kristin, D1=Eldest Daughter
(Kristin typed up the questions and D1 responded in writing. These answers are written and edited solely by D1.) 

K: I loved that there were not one but two strong girl main characters in this book, and that they were into science. What did you think about Jaden & Risha as characters?

D1: I was very intrigued by the depth of character description. For example, one particular part I liked is when Kate Messner describes the way Risha rides; free handed. I made an inference that Risha was a daring girl, and the inference developed throughout the book due to all of the daring, and partially life-threatening things Risha did. Even though the reader is just getting to know Risha, it was nice not to have a regular friend-friend thing with the characters. I liked the fact that Risha was used to the StormSafe community, yet Jaden was still scared. I think this as a good example because it goes to show how the two friends (or at least Jaden) weren’t in total in trust with each other.

K: Eye of the Storm has a strong basis in scientific knowledge and information. How did you feel about that aspect of this book?

D1: I liked how the information was not entirely discombobulating, but it still made sense in a way that an 11-year-old would understand. When I read the scientific information, I thought it was very helpful to the understanding of the schemes and plans that Alex and Jaden had. I liked that I could relate to the characters more because of the fact that I understood ideas and was more connected to their train of thought. I felt so much more involved in the book because of the strong scientific knowledge/information basis.

K: The night you finished this book you told me that you would never think about storms in the same way again. Tell me more about what made you say this.

D1: Well, my point of view might have changed more than my thoughts. Some of the dates in the book were pretty close to the present time, and because of how fierce the storms were, it nerve-wracks me a bit. Since a lot of storms like the ones described in the book ( I mean like tornadoes and thunder storms, not the ferocity of the storms) will not happen in the winter-which is now- more likely in the future, and concluding with the fact that this specific book takes place in the future, the idea of the storms…especially finding out that the storms were natural, and Jaden’s dad only controlled…is a bit scary.

K: What genre would you say this book is and why?

D1: I would say science fiction. The science involved with all of the storms is definitely obvious (in a good way), but there is also some fiction…well now that I think about it, it’s more just science and realistic fiction in a mix. I already said why for science, but I say realistic fiction because controlling the storms is actually a valid generalization because it is backed up by information, also valid. The science used is believable and understandable, so it does seem possible for realistic fiction to be a possible part of the genre of this book.

K: What would you tell your friends about this book?

D1: Well, I would definitely recommend the book to them. I would tell them that it was a great sci-fi book, and has a lot of action, and very good character development. The clarity of the science is helpful to the understanding of the book, because if there were no science descriptions of what was happening, then the book would make absolutely no sense.

I love Kate’s blog (and following her on twitter @katemessner)

Advanced Review Copy received from Publisher at ALA Midwinter 2012
Walker Childrens, Hardcover, 9780802723130, 304pp.
Publication Date: February 28, 2012

Tweet tweet tweet

Today in my children’s literature course we’re going to continue our exploration of Children’s Literature on the Web. For the first four weeks of class, I asked students to select a blog about children’s or YA literature that was interesting to them and follow it. Some of the weeks, we had conversations in class about what we were finding/learning/discovering. Each week I asked them to post a list of things that they had found interesting on a discussion board of our class website.

Today, I’m going to introduce them to the world of children’s literature and twitter. I have @Colby Sharp to thank for this. When his fourth grade class skyped with my undergrad students, one of the things that he mentioned was how important twitter has become for him for pd and connecting with other teachers. Then, at NCTE, I attended a fantastic session with Sarah Mulhern Gross (@thereadingzone), Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks), Cindy Minnich (@cbethm), Meenoo Rami (@mrami2), & Colby Sharp (@colbysharp) titled: POUND FOR #: TWITTER HASHTAGS FOSTER POWERFUL PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND FUEL LITERACY INITIATIVES

Here are some sources that I’ve found that may be helpful for those new to twitter, or for those who have never considered it as a professional platform:

Twitter 101 – “New to Twitter? Been there a little while, but don’t really understand what’s going on?” Not an official twitter site, but very very helpful.

The Twitter Guidebook – very thorough and easy to navigate, divided into chapters

Clarifications for “rules” – This is a great post that clarifies ideas like ‘tweet a lot’ and ‘follow everyone’

#4pound – this is the fantastic google doc created for the NCTE presentation I mentioned earlier. It explains hashtags and talks about some that are specific to children’s literature and teaching.

Hashtags and twitter chats are two aspects that I particularly enjoy. Here are some that I follow:

  • #titletalk
  • #bookaday
  • #nerdybookclub
  • #engchat

I put a query out on twitter and here were some other suggestions (I have not followed or used these yet, but am planning on it):

  • #edchat
  • #elmchat
  • #teachchat
  • #kidlitchat
  • #kidlit
  • #rwworkshop

What are some of your favorite hashtags, people, trends to follow on twitter? How does it inform your thinking about children’s literature, teaching, reading, etc.?

Teaching: A new brand I can get behind

Here is the link to the Studio 360 site explaining where the idea for the project came from as well as links to listen to the radio broadcast and 2 youtube videos.

Here is the link to the presentation and materials developed by Hyperakt, the New York design firm that took on the challenge of creating a new visual image for teaching. You can watch the presentation and download materials. It’s really interesting to listen to how they came up with the idea for “connecting the dots” and develop that into the brand. I love the thought of these visuals representing my profession.

There are also fantastic posters, my favorites have visuals and say:

“Nurture Brilliance”

“Help Potential Blossom”

“The Art of Teaching is Art of Assisting Discovery. – Mark VanDoran” 

But you really MUST see them in the poster format!

Thank you thank you to Studio 360 & to Hyperakt!

Valentine to Books…

Thanks to @CBethM over at Nerdy Book Club for this lovely Valentine to Books. Nerdy Book Club members* were invited to email photos of the TBR piles/stacks/shelves (to be read) and this is the outcome:

* If you are reading this, chances are you are a member of the Nerdy Book Club! Head on over and sign up to be a Nerdy Blogger – or just follow along!

When Blue Met Egg

Blue wakes up one morning and discovers a strange looking Egg in her nest. Blue decides that they should look for Egg’s mother and so begins an journey throughout New York City. When Egg’s family can’t be found, Blue decides to care for it and keep on looking. Spring brings changes and things momentarily look bleak, but Blue’s optimism wins in the end.

I picked up and read this book for the first time yesterday and am so taken with it. I reread it at least four times last night and again this morning and am going to try and put into words what it is that I find so endearing. Here is my list so far:

  • The color palate is a calming, subtle and beautiful. As I sat here thinking about how to describe it, I realized that the color palate is similar to An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long, making me wonder if Ward selected her palate from colors of actual eggs.

  • A whimsical pink and purple hat emphasizes Blue’s character but doesn’t detract from the overall illustrations (or color palate)
  • I made my first visit to New York City 3 years ago and fell in love. The obsessive, I can’t wait to go back, watch any movie with NYC in it kind of love. The end papers immediately drew me to NYC as the setting with small “telescope views” of the different sites Blue & Egg visit – all connected with Blue’s footprints of course. I also appreciated that each of the sites are labeled in the end papers, allowing me to confirm the locations that Blue & Egg visited on their journey if I wanted to.
  • I’ve heard and read about the idea that a city, particularly New York City, is often more of a character than a setting. I got that sense from this book as well, I love the three page spread of the Brooklyn Bridge to show the spanse and the view of the city.
  • Ward’s use of different papers and the layering of the papers creates a lovely dimension to the illustrations. I appreciate that in the illustrations of skylines, the different papers (math homework, grading book, scantron forms) give each building a unique character in a subtle and unique way. It reminds me of the feeling I get when I look at an actual skyline; at first glance buildings may seem very similar, but closer look reveals that each has unique features and character.
  • Blue is a delightful character. I appreciate her positive outlook and persistance to keep looking for Egg’s family. She has a relaxed, yet focused matter-of-fact nature.
    • “Blue knew they wouldn’t make it in time if she tried to carry Egg, so she decided they would do what anyone would: take the subway uptown.”
  • Blue clearly enjoys life – I only need to look at her eyes, beak and wings to get a sense of the emotions she feels. A favorite example is the illustration of Blue & Egg iceskating, sledding and making snow birds together.

I’ll be rereading this book multiple times – definitely with my daughters and my undergraduate students – and I am confident that I will be able to add to this list of things that I appreciate and love about this story.

Lindsay Ward’s Blog:
Lindsay Ward’s Website:
Interview with Lindsey over on 7-Imp:

When Blue Met Egg
Written & Illustrated by Lindsay Ward
Dial Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3718-1
Received from publisher at MSU Children’s Literature Team office.

Book Whispering with Undergrads

The first time I read Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer, I felt like I had found a kindred spirit. The ways that she writes about matching books and readers to increase engagement and interest aligns with my thinking when I was a classroom teacher. It also made me think about how I teach children’s literature to future teachers.

Last semester I incorporated choice into our book discussions (the students also write a paper before each discussion). We all started out reading the same picture books: Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne and The Three Pigs by David Wiesner.  Then I began scaffolding choice by asking them to select between Artemis Fowl and Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer. Next they could select between four different Biographies (Knucklehead by Jon Scieszcka, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, The Voice that Challenged a Nation by Russell Freedman, Charles & Emma by Deborah Heiligman). For our last of five discussions, they could select any realistic fiction book that they wanted to read – the only parameters were that it needed to be children’s or young adult literature and needed to be a “chapter book.” This idea of scaffolding selection to increase interest is thanks to my friend and colleague Laura Jimenez, who was determined to figure out a way to help her students because more engaged readers.

This semester I’m trying something a little different. I adapted the Reading interest-a-lyzer from The Book Whisperer. I wanted to really get a sense of who these 25 readers are sitting in class with me each week. As we begin to learn about different genres, I’m trying to incorporate interest and choice. For instance, this coming week we are going to be talking about biography and historical fiction. Students are reading about the genres from their textbook as well as from Family of Readers (Sutton and Paravano). In addition, I brought two boxes of biographies and historical fiction books to class and asked students to select one to take home with them and read. One goal for asking them to read a piece of literature at the same time as the textbook is that their understandings of the genre will be more tangible. Another goal is that by giving them choice, that maybe they will remember or experience for the first time what it feels like to be really engaged as a reader. While I was gathering books together, I realized that I won’t be able to match up each individual with a book unique to their interest each week (I’m dealing with my limited personal library, and not everyone likes every genre). But I shared with the students that I will match up a book for them personally at least once during the semester, hopefully twice.

This week I was able to give Drawing From Memory to a student who is a graphic design major, and Those Rebels, John and Tom to a student who is a social studies major and read about a review of this title in a blog.

As my pre-service teachers experience engagement and interest with literature, my hope is that in the future, they will remember the feelings of being engaged (or not engaged) readers, and will make a commitment to creating similar connections between their own students and books. In this time of standardized testing and implementing basal reading series, I feel even more strongly about preparing professionally-minded teachers who will work to help their own students become engaged readers. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going!

Google Map of USBBY 2012 Outstanding International Books

Check out this fantastic map created by Constance Vidor and Ragina Shearer for USBBY (United States Board on Books for the Young). Each book is mapped and includes and cover image and brief description. I’m going to start with the three from Australia since I’ll be teaching a children’s literature course in Sydney this summer for Michigan State University College of Education students.