Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Twas the week before Christmas ...

If you know me you know that my idea of a perfect day is pajamas, coffee, and a stack of books!  Well, I am having that perfect day (actually, morning, since I will be springing into action this afternoon!).  I am in Canada, visiting my son, there is the gentlest hint of snow lazily drifting to the ground, and holiday music as my mood enhancer.  I have several books to read: "The Rules of Survival" by Nancy Werlin, which I will be using as part of English 11's tiered novels; "Marked," the first book of the House of Night series and part of my quest to read the fiction section of my new high school library; "Bal's Quick & Healthy Indian," my son's latest attempt to get me to eat healthier!  I am about to put a new Christmas novel on my Kindle, something warm and mushy, sentimental, and fun -- anyone with a suggestion??
Of course, there is also a stack of work by my chair, which I am currently ignoring; a few articles to flesh out, some lesson plans to critique, a newsletter to create, and planning to do.  All of these can just wait until later, I am enjoying that endangered art of enjoying a good book. So ... Here's hoping you are also having that perfect day ...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wondering and Rambling Thoughts

Are  the holidays here?  I guess it depends on whether yours begins before or after school is out for the winter break!! I have 3 days (but who's counting?) before my official holiday break-- two weeks with no alarm clock, a stack of books to read, and no schedule run by bells!
I've been doing a lot of reading about trends in education, the flipped classroom, curating instead of collecting, uses for cell phones in classrooms and all of these have me thinking -- can we convince the educator leaders that school libraries are the next great trend? After all, we can flip, our media centers.  They can be used to accommodate the inquiry learning of individuals, small groups, or large classes.  We can share all the potentials of smart phones (and how to get information without one!), and all the other new technologies.  We curate all the time, by pulling collections, in print and online.  Thinking about this, those educational leaders should say we are their most economical investment in education!  Anyone out there using these tools for 21st century learning with their faculty?  Do you have a winning strategy for building that collaboration?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Further reflections from AASL conference

It has been two weeks since the AASL conference and I am reflecting on what exactly were my take-aways from the conference, and what one thing am I going to do as a result of what I learned.  I literally took away many free books and catalogs and cards from the vendors who participated -- and really enjoyed taking the time to really talk to them about what is happening in school libraries today, and tomorrow.  I learned a great deal about ebooks (I need to "put on my big girl panties" and jump on this train!) and got a few ideas for funding the project.  From my peers I learned about collaboration ideas, curation rather than collection, and how one person can actually affect change.   As a result of the conference, I am now using Scoop it to collect articles about curation and 21st century education.  (Check out, easy, free and informative!) 
What one thing am I doing as a result of what I learned?  That is the hard one, folks.  Because I am in a new building and grade level, I don't have the collaborative piece here yet.  So, I am trying to zero in on one teacher from each content area with whom to build a dialogue; it may lead to my team teaching, collaborating, or even just assisting with a project, but I have decided that one person can affect change, and this year that one person will be me.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mid Conference Reflections, am I a curator? Are you?

Here I am, up at 4 in the morning, thinking about everything I have heard or seen in the last two days.  I am at the AASL (American Association of School Librarians) in Minneapolis.  While the conference has barely started, my mind is already filled with so many thoughts, ideas and questions.  I heard sharing about some wonderful web 2.9 tools I had missed; vimeo, lib guides, and many more I will share later.  I was introduced to a new idea for libraries; curation.  The idea behind this is that collection, by definition, is a person selecting, choosing, and organizing in a group of their own creation.  It has the stamp of that individual on it.  If you stop and think about your library collection, you will agree that it is filtered by the things you don't care as much about, and is more heavily filled with your personal interests and passions.   Curation, on the other hand, is creating a group of materials that answer one question, or are arranged to share one theme or thread.  Alright, I am not explaining that as well as I could, I am still processing through my thoughts about all of this, but hopefully you get the idea.  I think it is fine that we have collections for our libraries, but I also like the idea of curating a subject or theme.  The web 2.0 twist is that you design a curation page and download or link to all the resources you find that supports it.  This idea would come from a unit of study you were doing with students, or even better, show those students how to curate their own theme or idea to build a wealth of information on their topic of study!  One website that will help you find information, especially if you are looking for the most current, is  You sign up, list what you want to follow (OCCUPY, or Bully in schools, etc.) and this site will send a page to you daily that links you to what has been said or done about that topic.  It continues to do this daily so you are creating oyour "collection" to curate.  You can delete pieces you do not want so that you have this page of information relevant to your theme.  Can you see the implications for student research?!?!  Here are a few places for you to read more about curation. , (Robin Good),  and
Have I left you with a lot to think about, GOOD!
More later ...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reflecting, and more reading

What? It's the middle of October already?!  Time is constantly speeding by -- and what do I have to show for it?  Well, I have been working on making my media center welcoming for students, and it sure feels like I have more visiting every week.  I wanted to improve collecting statistics, I now have students signing in online (  That has also broken down the invisible wall around the circulation desk because sometimes students need to use the computers behind the desk to sign in.  These things are all good.
 Here's my problem, I am still trying to build connections with teachers, and that seems to be more difficult to accomplish.  I am looking for suggestions that would break the ice; any ideas??
On a different note, I am reading a great (YA, of course) book, Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.  One reviewer called it an adventure with a heroine that rivals Buffy, but with werewolves.  The writing is sharp, the main character, Brynn is someone you would definitely want in your corner, and the story has plenty of twists and turns to keep you reading.  I also finished Glow which is another distopian society, this time on a spaceship.  Funny, I had a student who was reading Lord of the Flies ask me why these kind of stories always take place on an island; good question, right?  That's the same issue with Glow, an island space ship.  Why is it that parents are always absent in these books? 
Of course, my best book recommendations come from students, and that is great!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What are you reading? Are you reading?

At this moment by my bed I have Glow, ThisDarkEndeavor, The Wizard Heir, WinterTown, as well as The Art and Science of Teaching, and every book on inquiry that I own.  Out by my favorite chair in the living room I have a mountain of magazines, Woman's Day, Oprah, Rachel Ray, Prevention, School Media Monthly, and LMC.  And let's not begin talking about what's on my Kindle.   Is this an example of literacy gone wrong?   Do you feel like you read for enjoyment, for information, or because you are trying to keep up with the librarian "Jones's"?  Is this how our students feel?  With the continued push for nonfiction comprehension and required readings for college prep is it any wonder that students do not check out fiction in the high school? (I know, I know, every library has that group of "bookies" who drop in weekly to check out stacks of books.)
Is there anything we can do in the media center to give students the gift of time to read?  Is luring them into the library with events, games, even food givng them a reading opportunity or just filling the room?  I am really struggling with this question, let me know what you think.

On a different thread, I am looking for a site that gives lists of "If you liked this, read that" type of thing. 
If you know of one would you please send me the link?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Great start to a year of teaching and learning (tall students!)

Almost 3 weeks of high school under my belt, and I have learned two things; first, that students are students whatever their age.  They all want help, independence, acknowledgement, encouragement,and acceptance!  They love a space that makes them feel welcome and that gives them a sense of ownership.

Second, there are many, many things I DON'T know about high school idiosyncrasies!  At the end of each day, I mentally tally up what I have accomplished versus what confounded me, on a good day it is a tie.  It does make me appreciate what it feels like to be a new (student) in a new school.  Everything is done slightly differently, teachers want things done in a certain way that is not the way I learned, who is willing to be friendly and make me feel comfortable?

Happily, I say that I embrace change, and so I am changing, with a smile on my face.  Everyday I know the names of more students, I find one more thing I have been looking for, and I make another connection with a teacher.  Change is hard, but it is good -- I am definitely learning more than teaching right now!

Here's hoping that your school year is also off to a great start! 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First week of school

What a week! Almost 7,000 textbooks checked out, which means 7,000 students passing through the library doors. Our students come in by class to get their textbook checked out, so many students were in 3 and 4 times in a day.  Every time I looked up from the computer, I saw a sea of bodies; tall, filled out bodies with loud voices attached. The first time I looked up and saw a bearded face looking back at me, I did a double take.  This is so different from my previous life in the elementary.
But, what was the same?  The energy in the room, students ready for a new year, with new opportunities. Students dying to get to the new books that arrived over the summer, sneaking in between classes to grab a handful of titles.  Teachers who need materials, yesterday!, and others who want to plan a time to plan.
My reflection on this week?  the media center houses resources in all formats, but the students bring the life to the room!  My long term goal for this year is to harness that energy, and use it to make the physical space the "center" of the school; a place where all feel welcome, comfortable, and supported, in social as as well as academic ways.  I want this space to become a true learning commons that is shaped by what kind of learning is happening, and a place where students want to share their learning.  And of course, I will be looking for the joy in everyday!
I will be learning so much this year and am hoping to get help from all of you as I experience life in a high school.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 on the 10th!

This year I am attempting to share picture books that can be used effectively in secondary classrooms. Because this is a new teaching arena for me, I have picked mostly personal favorites. I hope you enjoy these and I look forward to more ideas from you.  If you don't already know about this, it is a challenge by a bloggger friend of mine to share 10 great picture books.

1. Palazza Invorso by D.B. Johnson is a fascinating picture book. The Escher-style illustrations are accompanied by a story with its own twists and turns. This one would captivate anyone who likes mysteries or puzzles.

2. Me, All Alone, at the End of the World by M. T. Anderson and Kevin Hawkes is more thought-provoking and poignant. A young boy has a spot on the edge, at the top of a mountain where he sits to enjoy the world around him. Soon civilization encroaches, and he finds a new spot. A captivating man comes along and builds an exciting, fun expanse and the boy makes friends and enjoys the frenzy for a while. Finally, though, he longs for his place at the end of the world and leaves to find it. There are many underlying questions at the core of this book. Is it good to be alone or are people meant to be in communities? Where is our balance with nature? Just to mention a few. A great unit opener for global awareness. I love the illustrations by Kevin Hawkes, they make this story.

3. Ish by Peter H. Reynolds is just one of my favorites! A quick story that reminds you that talent is driven by passion, and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I would read it before giving a challenging assignment.

4. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis is a perfect choice for inviting students to think outside the box, literally!

5. Weslandia by Paul Fleishman. I just love this book. There are so many uses. For social studies, how a culture is created; for guidance, be yourself and follow your passion, for science, diversity in a biome. OK, the science tie in is a stretch, but I would find any reason to share this with students!

6. Flotsam by David Wiesner shows the power of illustration. This award winning title is meant for older readers; it demonstrates that in graphic works inference is a necessary skill. One must “read” between the illustrations to follow the story.

7. 14 Cows by Carmen Agra Deedy is perfect for both American and global studies. Is it the size of a gift or the intent behind it? This is a true story, brought to life by Deedy and should tug on your heartstrings.

8. Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust by Eve Bunting shares in a simplistic way how the Holocaust was created and was able to spread.

9. A Taste of Colored Water by Matt Faulker. These bright, fun illustrations are a great contrast to the more serious topic, segregation. A child hears of a fountain in a nearby town with “colored water” and has an opportunity to go and see it. While at the top of the hill where this fountain is, a peaceful protest is happening on the street below. Use this title to introduce segregation and misunderstandings.

10. A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson and Eric Velasquez is memorable, first because it is in black and white charcoal illustrations with a touch of red occasionally. It shows two children who run to join a parade, which is a civil rights march. A first person account through the eyes of a child that could spark lots of conversation and lead to a unit of study. One discussion may be, why are only certain things shown in red?

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I always know I am trying to juggle too many things when I start dithering about the less important ones, like, what should I wear tomorrow?  Or stop for gas before work or after?  Well, here is my dithering dilemma for today, what should I put in my school library office to make a good first impression.  Silly, I know, but still ... should I hang my degrees or does that seem pretentious?  Family pictures or not?  My professional books? 
I do know that I will be rotating some of my favorite quotations about education and libraries, and that there will always be a candy jar, and soft music.  I will have the AASL standards at the ready along with our state's common core standards, and any district initiatives. These are non negotiables.
What do you think?  What is non negotiable to you? 
Any suggestions you can give me?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Check it out!

That is the QR code to the library media center survey.  It is done in Google docs, and it has a Bitly URL for those who can't access by SmartPhone!  Wow!  I now have all my new technologies done for the year!  OK, not really, but this is so cool, and so easy.  (I will give your the site address to do this and you can look cool, too.  Just don't tell anyone else, otherwise everyone will be doing it and none of us will be cool.)  I used the site, to create the code.  You just title your Code and enter the URL address and, just like magic, you have one of these boxes.  Then I used  to shorten the absurdly long URL address of the google doc survey, and PRESTO!

I'm back to my getting ready for school stuff now.  Book marks to be copies, new signage (Yes! using QR codes!) and the other hundred  assorted things that are not teaching but that make the teaching easier.

Don't you work too hard, either!

Monday, July 25, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night ...

Some day I will write a story that starts this way, for now Snoopy has nothing to worry about! (Vintage Charlie Brown comic for you youngsters reading this!)  Actually it is early morning, the storms are over, and I am awake, wide awake, and feeling the pressures of getting ready for the start of school.  So I am going to make a list of what needs to be done as I move into the high school experience, and you feel free to add anything I have forgotten.
  • Learn my way around the library print collection!  I have used the online Destiny catalog and reports to try and get a sense of what is there and how it circulates, but I still want to go in and touch books and see exactly how the collection is physically arranged.
  • Check out the subscription databases!  I have an email in to my Ebsco rep to walk me through what we have already, and what else might be available. Note to self: ask rep about checking the usage of these sites.
  • Find out who (teachers) already use the library, and how.  I wonder if I make a quick online survey and email it to staff, will anyone respond? (This is like the tree falling in the woods question.)
  • Check, is the library the meeting place or the meeting place?  Does it get used for every meeting in the building and does that either bring people in to use the library or cause the library to be closed to individual and groups?  Other meeting place, do students actually choose to come to the library?  Why or why not.  How can we improve on that?  I want to form a student advisory board with a broad spectrum of students both to support existing users and to encourage those who do not feel welcomed.
  • Virtual 24/7 accessibility.  Beyond school databases, what other vehicles are in place to assist students beyond the school day?  What do they really need to help themselves?
  • Cutting edge technology tools.  Are the students using cell phones for learning? (Are they allowed?)  Can QR codes help learning and increase interest?  Kindles or nooks? iPods? Anything beyond PowerPoint as a final product?  I have a QR code for the library home page, maybe I will make book marks to pass out that have this link and also a survey for students?  I have started a LiveBinder page, want to create a "virtual book shelf", what other suggestions do you have?
  • Building connections.  With staff, students, other high school librarians?  Is there anything that works better than chocolate?
  • PLN?  I have found some great blogs by high school folk, and am following some tweeters who talk books with high school themes.  I just need to continue to use these and other resources when the school year is in full swing.
  • ??? Everything I have forgotten, that nagging feeling that keeps me awake at night, like tonight!
I will be working on these things in the coming weeks before school starts, and will continue to share my ideas and reflections.  Please feel free to join me by adding your comments and ideas!


Friday, July 08, 2011

Are you the change?

I am wondering how many school librarians will be starting fall in a new position or a greatly changed position?  There have been so many changes, not only in my district but around my state of Ohio.  I was excited to read Judi Moreillon's question to Arne Duncan about mandating media specialists, but not surprised by his "politically correct" vague response.   Once again we must take up the mantra, "be the change you wish to see in the world" (a quote from Gandhi) if we want to continue to positively impact our students and staffs.  It will be difficult to maintain the passion for the job when you feel under appreciated and overworked, but we must bolster each other and demonstrate what could and should be expected in the library of the 21st century.
With that in mind, I was very excited to see that Judy's new book, "Co teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact" will be published this fall; it will be a MUST purchase for me as I move to a high school library.  
What other great books are on the horizon that we should put on our purchase list?

I so appreciate other resources we have, such as: LM_Net, TLNing, AASL forum, to name just a few that we can use to "talk" to others in our field.  What else can we do to feel supported this school year?

I want to be sure to authenticate and advocate what learning opportunities are occurring in my library space this year.  I am thinking about a media page connected to my home page and a space in the school newsletter, but I want to also try something new, 21st century, flashy enough to attract attention but grounded in authenticity so that it will be taken seriously.  What things are you planning for this year?

Monday, July 04, 2011

New to me!

First, I just finished "Unwind", great suggestion!  What a thought, to go through raising a child almost to adulthood, then essentially giving it up as an organ donor?!?  This book gave me alot to think about, now I really want to talk to students and get their impressions.  Then I needed something fun to read so I chose "Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie" which was also a recommendation.  It was funny, clever, and gave me, maybe, so insight into the minds of freshmen boys.
Second, I have read several comments about "LibGuides."  I first thought it was just something new for the librarian to create, like pathfinders, but now I see it is a product for purchase.  Can anyone tell me more about it?  How much setup do I need to do if I am paying?  Do your students like it?  How does it support using databases?
I think I am going to create a LiveBinder page for the high school.  It will at least be a good starting point as I collect websites and discover what my new teachers want for their students.
Any ideas on breaking the ice with a staff?  Besides always having chocolate available?
I am getting excited about this!!!

Here's my new theme for a while, The New Adventures of a Old Librarian!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Turning the page

Well, it's official, I am a high school librarian.  Time to start reflecting, what skills do I already have for this new space?  I know the AASL standards, know about AASL's lesson plan database, know about AASL's Common Core Crosswalks.  I know search strategies, information literacy, and reader's advisory.  I am frantically reading YA literature.  Still to learn, high school curriculum (Yikes!), high school humor, and my new staff (of over 100 people).   I know about databases, but need to learn the ins and outs of the databases used by the kids.  I know about our district's online campus, but need to learn how to use it with students.

I need some help!  Do you have a "go to" database/resource that you couldn't teach without?  I would love to know about it.  Is there one book that I simply must read before I start back to school?  Leisure reading or professional.  Do you have a sure fire way to introduce yourself to staff and/or students, and to get to know them as well?

If you look at my YA reading list you will notice I have no problem reading YA fantasy!  How about some help with the other genres?

I am a pioneer on a new frontier, and I could sure use some guides.  I would love to hear from you!

Friday, May 27, 2011

End of the year, and a new beginning

This is one crazy end of the school year!  Inventory must be done, plus all my things packed up for my move (literally) to high school!  While I am cleaning, organizing, and rethinking my approach to teaching and learning in the secondary school, I will be making lists: of things to get done, of resources to explore, of curriculum to learn, and of great YA books to read.
If you have a suggestion for any of my lists that would assist me in this shift in thinking, I would appreciate hearing from you.  I am already reading "Readicide", "Curriculum 21", and will be reading "The Shallows" this summer.  I would love to know of some fun new YA novels I can read and share with my new students.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Things to do at a hospital

My mother is in the hospital.  If you have parents of an age, you know all about this.  Some body parts are no longer under warranty and just don't work like they used to.  So we came to the emergency room on a Sunday -- she was taken back immediately then .... we.... waited ..... and .... waited ....  Time moves differently in places like this.  So, during this waiting period I tried to keep myself entertained by:
Reading  - True, mostly by the author of Ida B.; The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan, and the latest Prevention magazine.
Computing - Mostly window shopping on the Internet; readying my library catalog for inventory, and looking at  high school library websites for ideas.
Television -- have you tried watching daytime TV???
Chocolate -- I consumed more than is healthy!

How do you entertain yourself at places like this?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New job!

Well, it's official, with the failure of our school levy cuts have been made to staffing.  Through some convoluted plan, I have been moved from the elementary setting, which will turn into librarians sharing 2 buildings, to the high school, where I will, for the first time, be working with students taller than me.   Talk about joining me on an adventure in Libraryland, I will be having a lot of talks with myself on this site; and will be looking for suggestions and support!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Books about mothers

On this special Sunday I am thinking of books I love that have a strong mother theme.  These books make me think not only about motherhood, but the way other characters think about mothers. The first book I think of is "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMN."  The lengths that Mrs. Frisby goes to protecting her family are amazing.  She faces every fear she has, all in the name of mother's love.  This next book does not have a mother in the story, but instead demonstrates and the different ways people in  your life can make  you feel loved and cared for.  "Everything on a Waffle" shows the unwavering faith of a little girl, and the town who cares for her each in their own way.  And finally, "One Crazy Summer" which chronicles 3 little girls attempts to connect with their mother, only to discover that mother's love is not a guarantee, but their love for each other can help assuage the pain of finding this out.
I having been trying for years to write a book about my mother's childhood, to keep alive the memories of her idyllic moments, and save the memories for future generations of family.  Do you share books with mother's themes with your students?  If so, do you share the broad spectrum of motherhood books that are available?  Do all of your students have the same type of mothers?  Are these reflected in your book choices?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

May day!

The first day of May, a day to surprise your neighbors with flowers or dance around a Maypole.  Not for those of us in education!  Yikes, is my first thought, so much left to do -- where to fit it all in?  My teaching schedule is full of classes trying to finish that one last project and me trying to get ready for an inventory at the same time.  It's an age old conundrum, customer service or library management?  Which do you take care of first?  Usually I fit in every class and worry about things like inventory once the school year is over.  This happens on my own dime, no extended contract here.  But this year, with all of the bad feelings and turmoil about the state of education and the value of teachers, I am giving serious reflection to how I finish out the year.  Does professionalism equate to volunteerism?  Where do my  passion for my career and my love of my students factor in?  Are you having the same qualms?  Do  you have a plan to solve your dilemma?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What a day!

Does your teaching schedule fill up this time of year?  Everyone decides it is time to get in that research project they have been putting off all year?  Today I had classes of kindergarten all day, doing their "research" from their life sciences strand.  It was fun, it was crazy, and it was loud!  I loved it -- most of it anyway.  By the 4th class I finally wised up and asked a fifth grade class, who needed to review life cycles, to come in and help out the Ks.  When everyone arrived, I explained to the Ks that as scientists they were continuing their study of zoo animals (after a visit to the zoo) by using books.  Because scientists had research assistants, I was providing them each a 5th grader to assist them as they searched for answers to their questions.   It was awesome! ( I will upload clips from my flip camera as soon as I figure out how.)  My cozy library space was full of bodies and their was a steady hum of noise, but the productive sounds, not just noisy.  It was a positive learning experience for both groups.
I do love my job.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Small moments make a great day

I love my job!  Some days, though, its hard not to get grumpy when I have to jump through bureaucratic hoops. Amazingly, those seem to be the days my students sense that I need a good vibe and never fail to brighten my day.  The latest was a sweet cherub who came in this morning in a frilly, lacy pink outfit with a purple jacket.  I said, " Don't you look beautiful, just like Purplicious  or Pinkalicious."  She responded with, "My favorite color is orange, but some days you just have to wear purple." LOL.  I think tomorrow will be a day I just have to wear purple, too!  Maybe I will even add some orange.
Hope you get the chance to find the color in your day!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why not saying no has an up side!

If you know me then you know that I say yes to almost everything, then wonder why I am always running around like a crazy woman.  Sometimes, many times actually, these impulsive acts result in a positive return.  If you are a member of AASL (if not, why not??) you might know that they are about to share a database of exemplary lesson plans that follow the plan format of Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.  I volunteered to be a moderator for this database, which involves checking lesson plans against a rubric and the standards to be sure they teach what they say they will, etc.  Anyway, I couldn't believe I said I would do this, but I pulled out my laptop and AASL standards resources and started.  Reading these lessons has me evaluating my own lessons; do I follow the standards? Do I upgrade my lessons with technology when applicable? Do I include self reflection time for my students?   What I have learned already is worth the time I invest in editing!
How about you?  Do you say yes to new opportunities to grow and evolve?  You won't regret it!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How I spent my weekend

I just spent the weekend reading a new book I got for the library.  It was "No Passengers Beyond This Point" by Gennifer Choldenko, the author of "Al Capone Does My Shirts."  It was intriguing, to say the least.  Three children find out that their family home will be foreclosed by the bank.  Their mother, who is a teacher, is sending them to live with their Uncle Red while she stays behind to finish out her school year.  Everything seems very ordinary, squabbling siblings on a plane, until the plane lands.  Following a person who has their name on a sign they enter a cab, then everything changes.  The fact that the book is told by three points of view, from each of the three children, keeps your attention through this maze of a place they have landed in.  Each child needs to decide whether to stay here or go on, they must depend on each other and ultimately on themselves.  The ending is a real twist, and makes me question whether or not this book is right for many of my students.  I will be curious to see who picks it up and reads it.

Of course, I also went to the Virginia Hamilton Multicultural  Conference, and it was wonderful!  I was so glad to get the chance to hear Nikki Giovanni, not once, but twice!  She is a wonderful speaker, I guess if you are an award winning poet you would have an amazing way with words.  She was funny, charming, and slightly outrageous by turns, and always surprising.  Charles F. Smith, Jr. was also a presenter, a photographer/poet/performer who was a delightful new author to meet.  He is one I can't wait to introduce to my students, especially the boys.  Just wait until they see the Mohammad Ali book he has written.   The third presenter was Chris Raschka, who was as interesting as his illustrations!  All in all, this was a terrific a wonderful conference!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I fell into a bookstore and ...

Took a trip to our local children’s book store, Cover to Cover, and bought some great books. Not all new titles, but still great. In a few weeks I will be attending the Virginia Hamilton Multicultural Conference, held every year at Kent State University. This year’s speakers will be Nikki Giovanni, Chris Raschka, and Charles R. Smith, Jr. and I picked up the following books to get autographed. The Grasshopper’s Song: an Aesop’s fable revisited was written by Nikki and illustrated by Chris, and is an interesting retelling of this famous fable. There is a trial to determine whether the grasshopper deserves a part of the ant’s winter supply of food, which is a new twist! The illustrations are rather subdued for a Raschka book, but the two work together very well. Another exciting purchase was The Mighty 12: Superheroes of Greek Myth told in rhyming form by Charles Smith. I love this book, with comic book-like illustrations by P. Craig Russell, it gives some information about the major gods and goddesses of Olympus, and without telling so much that I can’t put it in an elementary library! My boys will be so excited to examine this book as they continue to devour the Demi god series by Rick Riordin. The other book I picked up for signing that I believe will be very popular with my male readers was 12 Rounds to Glory: the story of Muhammad Ali.  Fantastic illustrations by Bryan Collier helped this title win the Coretta Scott King award, along with Smith’s poetic retelling of important events in the life of Ali.

I also picked up two books about rabbits, although they could not be more different. The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravatt, really intrigued me as it attempted to explain the Fibonacci problem, a math study I had to read more about after I finished enjoying the book. On a back sale shelf I found a retelling of Snow White by Melinda Copper in which the characters are illustrated as rabbits done in a detailed oil painting method. The evil step mother is a beautiful, but evil white cat.

My last book, Story Time by Edward Bloor, caught my interest as I read the blurb on the back of it. “Welcome to Whittaker Magnet School, where standardized testing truly is the work of the devil.” A middle school tale with reviews like this; “ a dark comedy that skewers the national craze for standardized testing,” and “a no-holds barred, deeply subversive tale about modern education …” This sounds like the kind of book I wish I had written! I’ll report on it once I have read it.

What great titles have you come across during spring break? I would love to hear about them.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring break - time to reflect and recharge

This has been a rough couple of months and I am really ready for this break!  The school library world is on a wild roller coaster ride without an end in sight.  I know that many of us will be faced with the fact that our libraries will no longer be maintained by certified media specialists, and am wondering what this will mean for our students and faculty.  Just in case this is my last year in one building, in a functioning program I love, I am going to use this week to decide how I want to finish this school year.  Do I try and cram in all the internet 21st century skills I know they will need for the next few years, or do I go back to the original reason I got into this career and share great children's literature to anyone who comes near?  Do I hide in my media center and wallow in my misery; I can't believe this is happening?  Why are "they" doing this to me?  Or do I continue to be an advocate for the things I know are important in the educational lives of my students?
Honestly, I spent the weekend wallowing -- reading children's books, eating chocolate and generally pining for the "good all days", now I think I am ready for action!  How about you?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

True confession time

I am still taking the Newbery course and am now reading books from the 50s and 60s.  I am liking them better, but still ...  so, I did something bad.  My copy of "Moon Over Manifest" came in with a book order, and can you guess what I did?  Yes, I have been sneaking in reading time for this 2011 winner!  I feel like I did when I read with a flashlight under the covers as a child.  Maybe this is how you should feel when you read a great, distinguished book?

BTW, how many of you use the lesson plan template offered by AASL that uses our new standards?  If not, do you at least list these standards when you write your lessons plans?  Or do you at least think about them as you craft lessons?

What are you doing to engage students during these long, gray days before spring's arrival?

Monday, February 21, 2011


I should have known that if I talked about the nice weather, it would change!  I am only getting rain (for now) but I see by the weather map (yes, I am a closet meteorologist) that many states are getting snow.  So, no more talk about weather -- let's talk books!  As I continue with my Newbery course, I realize that I don't really remember reading any Newberys until I was an adult taking literature classes.  Can you remember the first Newbery you read?   Of course, the first book I really remember hearing was "Charlotte's Web", is that the same for you?

On another theme,  as a school librarian do you plan your year (curriculum mapping), what you will teach at each grade level?  Do you wait to see what your teachers are teachers and then combine your instruction with theirs?  Or do you do some kind of combination?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sunny days!

I hope you  are in a part of the country that has had this gorgeous sunshine!  I can't help but stop at every window to enjoy it.  This weekend I am spending a lot of time reading, because I am taking an online course from ALSC about Newbery's -- the history, misconceptions, and mystique's.  It is great, because I have not read many of them, feeling like they must include at least one chapter with a dead dog!  We are reading through the decades, looking at trends, and reading articles that come from those decades.  I'll let you know if I enjoy more Newberys after this course is finished.
So far I have read: The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, The Cat Who Went to Heaven, and Rabbit Hill.  Do you see a trend emerging in my reading choices?

BTW, has anyone gone to see "I am Number 4"?  I read the book and am wondering about the movie.  So let me know.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

How did you spend your snow days?

I think most of us in the U.S. have had several calamity days this school year.  I had two this past week.  How did I spend them?  Reading books, mostly.  I brought back a whole bag of ARCs from ALA midwinter and I couldn't get out, so what's a girl to do?  (Housework, laundry, writing deadlines, actually all needed done!)  Just a few of the ARCs I enjoyed were: a new book by Kevin Henkes "Junonia," a chapter book for middle grade readers  A gentle, yet realistic story that shows nothing stays the same, but change is good.  "Across the Universe" by Beth Revis is a young adult title that takes place on space ship "Godspeed" transporting selected frozen people to create a new world on a new planet and save the human race.  They will be on this ship for 300 years, asleep -- except for Amy who is mysteriously awakened 50 years too early. This book has teen romance and angst.  The teen book I liked better was "Unearthly" by Cynthia Hand about Clara, who discovers she is one quarter angel, with certain gifts to be developed and a divine purpose to be done.  The characters are likable, the plot different, and the ending hard to predict.  The last book I read (to avoid doing I what needed to do ...) was "The Unseen World of Poppy Malone."  I loved this middle grade reader.  The parents are real life ghost hunters, but not very successful.  Poppy and her brother do NOT believe in ghosts, vampires, or any of the creatures their parents try to hunt, .... until Poppy accidentally finds the Goblin living the the house they just moved into.  Her brother and baby sibling get pulled into the adventure that ensues while the parents are blissfully unaware as they continue to try to contact the presence in the house.  After reading these, guilt set in and I got busy with my deadlines.
I am still struggling with my professional reflection portfolio which I am completing for professional development, which I must go and work on right now .....

Monday, January 17, 2011

Do you have an individual professional development plan?

I do, two actually.  The first is my own professional goals, where I see myself in 5 years, 10 years.  The things I want to accomplish, including articles I want to write, that book idea that is percolating in the back of my brain, roles I want to play in my professional organizations.  I also have my plan for my teaching and learning year with my students, my plan for collection development, and more. 
My other IPDP is the one required by my district.  I'm not complaining, I agree fully that I should have a plan in accordance with district goals.  My issue is with the format for this plan, it is very much like pushing a square block into a round space.  It would be so much easier for me to craft a narrative that describes my ideas and goals. 
Oh well, back to work ... wish me luck!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Update on my Newbery contenders

I want you to know that I did read the books I listed, and be fore any winners are announced I thought I would share my thoughts.  I loved "One Crazy Summer".  Period. The characters were so believable I felt as though I was there in California in the height of the Black Panther movement.  The author did an amazing job of juxtaposing the traditional behavior of the time for African Americans with the attitudes of this "new" group.  Here were 3 sisters swept into the middle of it all.  With this as the setting, the story is actually a quest to connect with the mother who left them right after the youngest sister was born.  This opportunity is ever so slowly developed throughout the summer, leaving the reader to implore the mother to "act like one!"  Excellent book all around, and certainly deserving of the Newbery.
I kept putting "Out of My Mind" to the bottom of the pile.  Hard as it is to believe, I don't always enjoy Sharon Draper's books.Finally it was the last book yet to read, so I picked it up.  Wow! Melody is someone I will continue to think about forever.  She is has Cerebral Palsy, essentially a quadriplegic, and cannot talk.  I know this sounds like a real downer, but talk about amazing character development~I know this girl.  She is in 5th grade, and finally is getting mainstreamed into classes.  This is great because she has a photographic memory and is brilliant.  Melody is also a 10 year old with the concerns and ideas that come with the age.  Definitely not a character to pity, she is feisty, and determined to find a way to have a "voice" to share her thoughts and ideas.  You, the lucky reader are privy to these and so share with her wishes,  dreams, and frustrations.  If this book doesn't win, I will be shocked; but I know that Melody would rise from that disappointment as well, an even stronger character!
Other quick mentions, "The Night Fairy" grew on me.  I really wanted to love it, I'm a sucker for fairies, but initially she was such a self-absorbed creature it was really hard. When disaster strikes, we get the opportunity to see her true character develop.  In much the same way Edward Tulane grows, so does this tiny creature.  A very nice job of describing the setting from the point of view of a tiny protagonist.
More later, and I will share my thoughts about ALA Midwinter .....

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Back to school tomorrow!

I believe I am ready.  Clothes chosen, alarm set, attitude ~ great!  My plan of action, to find the joy in little things, and little people. This means sharing books I love, web sites I find interesting, and technology that will spur curiosity.  I do realize this will be difficult as we are so tied to data and testing scores, but I have been thinking, reflecting actually, and I think that making this small difference daily in the lives of my students will enable them to better handle all the content and stress that is present in their school lives. 

This week at school I have offered to teach a quickie picture book evaluation lesson and then have students use that to vote for the book that they think will be the Caldecott winner.  Many teachers have accepted the offer, so my days leading up the the ALA midwinter will be immersed in Caldecott discussions, fun! 

I am also opening at selected recess times for students to learn about websites with great activities.  There is never enough time to share these in a formal setting, so I'm going to try this.  Maybe I'll even bring back the Lunch Bunch book clubs.  Whatever I can to do to bring joy into my teaching day.  I'll bet I will learn more about joy from these activities with students than I can possibly teach them.