Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom

Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.

Iris Murdoch

shared by Ralph Keyes 
(Whidbey Island Writers Conference, 2004)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please join me in welcoming today's guest blogger, Amanda Furman. Amanda is an elementary school English as a Second Language teacher from Virginia. She loves to read and share the love of books! She is a member of the Virginia Reader’s Choice book selection committee for elementary readers. This is NOT a picture of her. This is a picture of Luna, her Frenchton (French Bulldog/Boston Terrier) puppy who comes to school with her to listen to her students read (again--spreading the love of and excitement for reading!) Amanda can be found on twitter, on her blog, and on instagram (which, be warned, is usually filled with ridiculously cute pictures of Luna). Her school will post pictures on twitter on April 23 of the students receiving their books (@alesbuzzybees).


I first heard about World Book Night and being a World Book Night Giver three years ago, the day before the applications for being a giver were due. I remember thinking, “This is WONDERFUL! I’d love to give books to kids at my school!”

World Book Night US is an organization that basically wants to get books into the hands of readers. They understand the importance of reading and how books can change our lives. For more information, links on how to become involved, and order merchandise, click here.

But, back to my story. Unfortunately, that year, they didn’t have any elementary-level books. But, I was able to share THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins with students at the high school my elementary school feeds into. In fact, I gave books to some of my former students. Here is a link to my write up of that experience. I don’t know what happened to the pictures :( 

Last year, I was able to give away MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE by James Patterson to 20 fifth grade students at my school. I asked the five fifth grade teachers to send me a list of four students who weren’t necessarily the students who always won, or got recognized, who enjoyed reading, but might need a little encouragement. I took that list of 20 names and read them aloud on the morning announcements for the entire school to see and hear. I asked them to wait until announcements were over to meet me at my room (you know, to give me time to get down there!), but by the time I got there, all 20 kids were waiting at my door! For weeks afterwards, I had students coming up to me telling me how jealous they were of the fifth graders, how they got that book from the library because they saw it on the announcements, that it was one of the best books they had ever read, and that they had read it in two days! Here is a link to that write-up post.

This year, I was chosen to give away HOOT by Carl Hiaasen. I haven’t read HOOT yet, but I have read CHOMP and thought it was hilarious! I think it worked really well last year to have teachers nominate 4 students and then call them down on the morning announcements and make a big deal of it. I want to get as many kids as possible excited about reading, and I know this will! 

Here is a list of 2014 books that are available to be given away.

I always feel so lucky when I get that email saying I’ve been chosen to be a giver. April 23 has been my favorite day of the school year for the past few years. I can’t think of a better way to spend my day---spreading the love of reading, creating excitement about books, and making kids happy. 

Thank you Amanda for sharing about this amazing opportunity and how you have used it to impact so many students!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friend Friday

I fell in love with Jaime Temairik the very first time we met. She is one of those people who makes you happy just to be around. In addition to being funny and kind, she is incredibly talented. My advice is to stock up on first editions of her books so you can sell them on eBay in ten years and send all your grandkids to college on the proceeds.

Jaime Temairik

I have been called a lot of things in my day, some of them not suitable for PG-13 ears or eyes, but one of the BEST things I've ever been called is Kirby's Friend. I am so honored to share TROLL 2... 3... 4... with you here on her blog.

The book! It is slowly making its way from England to America. It may not even be in stores yet, unless you live in a troll-dominated region. The publisher, Parragon Books, is based in England, in Bath, no less, and while working on TROLL I did have dreams of visiting the company, being greeted at the Parragon doorstep and getting promptly sucked into a Jane Austen time portal.*

I am the only illustrator for TROLL—when I got the manuscript it had a different author. Which is to say, after turning in the final art, the book was rewritten.**

While I probably can't share too much of the hiring and working process I can probably share that after the rewrite I was hired to redo a few of the illustration spreads that needed to change for the rewrite, and WHO AMONG US WOULD EVER turn down the chance to draw more trolls?

One new experience for me on this project: The cover was finished waaaay before the interiors. I really like this cover, and it was a nice standard to hold the rest of the book's drawings up to for look and feel. 

There were a lot of trolls in this book. A lot. Like, more than four. But in life how many puzzles are more pleasing than figuring out how to draw twenty or so unique-looking imaginary beings?***

You can’t make twenty trolls look different if you don’t know their backstories, so yes, though the book only centers on the littlest green troll and the human boy on the cover, every figure in the book has a backstory to me and a whole, full life.

Maybe it's the week I've had, or the year, but I'd like to say, I’m really thankful for the opportunity to work at making books for kids. It really is more fun than insurance, or, quite possibly, animal husbandry.**** 

I know what a special thing it is to do this, I hope I never take it for granted, and I can't wait to work on my next project. Which happens to be the first book I've both written and illustrated, ALICE AND LUCY WILL WORK FOR BUNK BEDS, out with Hyperion*Disney next year. I should be working on it right now, in fact, so I bid you all a Happy Friday and a Long Live Kirby!!


*As you may well know, authors and illustrators spend a lot of their working/waking hours alone so I will spare you the full and sordid details of my imagined visits to Parragon, but we definitely had high tea.

**Lo! Writers reading this! Do not fear! Apparently things like this can happen to ideas created in-house. But not out-house ideas. I'm not sure if that's the proper term, but let's go with it.

***If your answer is there are VERY FEW puzzles in life more pleasing, then you will love being an illustrator. You will also be a BIG hit at the sanitariums.

****I'm 98% sure I haven't had experience with either.

Jaime is a children's book illustrator (and nearly author!) living in Seattle. Check out her website! And buy her books.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please join me in welcoming today's guest blogger, Katy Ackerson. Katy has been a teacher librarian for 11 years, spending the first 10 of these as an elementary school library specialist, gaining her National Board certificate in 2008. Katy currently serves 6th – 8th graders at Kulshan Middle School in Bellingham, WA. She loves the quirky, awkward nature of middle school students and relates with their goofy sense of humor.

Katy Ackerson

Reading Madness 

I have struggled during my entire career as a teacher librarian to balance my main roles of “reading enthusiast and advisor,” and “teacher of 21st century skills.” I have generally fallen heavy on the skills side as I watch my colleagues labor in teaching and feel that I, too, should be fretting over the acquisition and mastery of skills. Reading books, talking to students about books, and helping kids find books that match their interests and reading levels just seems too good to be true in education’s world of assessments, data, and accountability, so it must not be important.

This year I have taken the opportunity to scale back the skills teaching, working in tandem with Language Arts teachers to get the right books in the hands of readers. I have let myself believe this year that this is the most important thing I do – being enthusiastic about books and reading, and guiding my students to books that will excite and challenge them, too.

One of the more engaging events that I have run was the brain child of Darilyn Sigel, a fellow librarian in my district. Coinciding with the NCAA March Madness tournament, we selected 32 great books from a variety of genres and at a variety of reading levels. We paired them with similar books and presented the Battle of the Books, or Reading Madness, a bracketed tournament. Students could vote, using an online Google form, on any pairs as long as they had attempted to read both books and had a true sense of which one they liked best. After the first round of voting, students were given time to read the new pairs, and so on until a final reader’s choice winner was announced. This was a fun way to encourage students to step outside of their normal genre of choice, to expose both some new titles and some forgotten favorites, and to inspire conversation between students about which books they liked better than others and why.

March Reading Madness

Hear me, O haggard school librarians! When you read and recommend books to students and they in turn read and enjoy those books, you have inspired the future of that child! You have led that child one step closer to a future that is filled with books: books that will entertain, transport, open eyes, teach, inspire, challenge ideas, and make the mind stronger! While I still teach skills and collaborate with classroom teachers to integrate the technology required by the Common Core State Standards, I will not let myself fall into the guilty trap of neglecting my readers because it doesn’t feel like I’m “working hard enough” when I get to do what I love, every day. Read on!

Wow, Katy: what a call to action! I can't imagine the push-pull teachers and librarians feel but I for one am grateful for educators like you who keep the most important thing as the most important thing. And I say "amen" to your challenge to "Read on!"

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom

"Let me tell you a story -- that will ease my creaks."

Uncle Elephant, from Uncle Elephant, by Arnold Lobel

Shared by George Shannon, circa 2003/4

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please help me welcome today's guest blogger, Samantha Steinberg, a second grade teacher at Trinity School in Atlanta, Georgia. A mother, reader, and book lover, Samantha hopes to inspire children to find the books they love to read. She has 16 years of teaching experience.

Samantha Steinberg

Genre Studies Open Doors to New Books

As a second grade teacher, matching books to readers is a big part (and a favorite part) of my job. I love getting to know my students-- their personalities, likes and dislikes, reading level, hobbies, etc—so I can figure out which books, authors, or series to recommend. It is an amazing feeling when my suggestion ends up being the perfect fit for that student at that moment, propelling the reader forward as a result.

In second grade, many readers gravitate toward realistic characters whom they can relate to: Junie B. Jones, that funny “Wimpy Kid,” Ramona Quimby, and Nate the Great. Most children this age love the hilarious exploits of Captain Underpants and the adventures of the Magic Tree House books. Given these typical favorites of the eight year-old set, I was pleasantly surprised this year when our genre study of folktales enthralled and engaged my students in a way I had not anticipated.

Every year prior to writing our own folktales, my class delves into reading lots and lots of folktales and identifying the unique characteristics of this genre. We read many different folktales, compare them, and identify commonalities and differences. Often, I will read several versions of the same folktale to my class, so they can notice how different authors retell the same story, or put their own spin on an old classic, such as in Jon Sciezska’s Stinky Cheese Man (always a huge hit!).

This year, I grabbed some old favorites from my bookshelf. As we read Verna Aardema’s beautiful Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, my students were excited by the colorful illustrations and the rhythm of the words. After just a few pages, they caught on to the repetitive parts of the story and joined in, reading along with me. I’m not sure why it surprised me, but my students’ level of enthusiasm for the story gave me pause. Not because it isn’t a great book (it is), but because it was so different from their usual book choices.

As we continued reading folktales aloud, in partners, and independently, the children’s enthusiasm grew. They began talking about books, asking to borrow their favorites, and seeking out the usually lonely collection of folktale books in our classroom library. Although I had planned to work on Reader’s Theater a little bit later in the school year, the buzz and excitement in the classroom gave me an idea to use some of our favorite folktales and turn them into Reader’s Theater plays. My students couldn’t wait to get started! They used the books to help them write scripts and began practicing immediately. No one needed to be prodded or cajoled. The entire class was incredibly engaged.


Our genre study of folktales opened the doors to a whole new world of books for my second grade students. The experience made me wonder: If I had not exposed my class to this genre, what wonderful reading experiences would they have missed? Opening up children’s eyes and minds to a new genre, author, or series could be just the hook they need to become life-long readers and book lovers.


Thank you Samantha for sharing your adventures into folktales, and for reminding us that just one step outside our reading comfort zones can be the beginning of an amazing new reading/learning experience!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friends Friday

Normally on Fridays, I celebrate friends' new books; today I want to celebrate friends. Specifically, my ten thousand closest Texas Librarian friends!

I got home very late last night so forgive any typos but I am still on such a high from TLA 2014 that I just had to share. And, considering I was only in San Antonio for 24 hours, it's amazing how much there is to share.

Here is the view from my hotel room -- love that Riverwalk. After checking in and a quick change, it was off to a Random House dinner with wonderful librarian friends. I got to meet Mr. T, the librarian of the year (missed my photo op), as well as the adorable Michelle Cooper, who was my guest blogger for From the Office of the Future of Reading on March 4. 
me with guest blogger Michelle Cooper, getting all graphic!

I thoroughly enjoyed my table partners: Emily Froese, high school principal and Kim Drawbaugh, both from Coppell Texas, and Donna Cook, high school librarian from Pollock Texas. And it was such an honor to be included on the author guest list with Chris Grabenstein, Jennifer Holm and Trudy Ludwig.

After dinner, I got to mingle with some authors and editors at an Irish pub (!) right on the Riverwalk. I nearly fell over when Shannon Hale recognized me and said hello -- we'd only met once a few years ago. What a kind woman she is! I also got to meet illustrator Nathan Hale (no relation to Shannon) and promised to get him a t-shirt from my alma mater high school, Nathan Hale, in Seattle. It was a star studded gathering and I only made one social gaffe: upon being introduced to Trent Reedy, I exclaimed that I expected him to be much older. He was gracious to me anyway.

The whole reason I was in San Antonio for TLA was to present on a panel with Nerdy Book club founders Colby Sharp and John Schu, with charming moderator Cynthia Alaniz (a first year librarian but you would never know it. I predict big things for that gal. President of TLA?). 
Colby and John

My fellow authors were Tom Angleberger, Jenni Holm and Linda Urban. Talk about a dream team. Now, when you think panel, you might think talking heads. Not this panel! We played Whose Line Is It Anyway (on Kahoot; something new to me), folded Origami Yodas, wrote haiku and generally had one heck of a good time talking about why we love the Nerdy Book Club so danged much. If you are a reader, you are a member!
I'm so excited to get an ARC of the QwickPick Papers!

I had a terrific signing following the panel, where I got to autograph ARCs of DASH -- Scholastic has designed another beautiful looking book. (Thank you, Whitney Lyle!) I also signed tons of Dukes, Hattie Big Skys, Hattie Ever Afters and The Friendship Doll. I don't think I got to put my pen down for a solid hour. AND I got to meet nearly every committee member of the Horned Toad Tales committee, all beaming with DUKE love: that book is on their Horned Toad Tales list for next school year. Go, Duke!

After that, I decided to walk the floor. I bumped into former Woodinville writer Molly Blaisdell (she'll be my guest on May 2 to talk about her new book, Plumb Crazy), and Stephanie Bodeen, who writes as S.A. Bodeen. She's got a new middle grade mystery series, Shipwrecked Island, that looks terrific. Then I turned another corner, walking past the Whitman booth, where I saw my dear, dear friend Helen Ketteman signing. We didn't know we'd both be at TLA and hadn't seen each other in ages. So we took an hour over a cup of coffee to catch up.

Tall tale queen, Helen Ketteman 

The body's a little jet-lagged and weary this morning, but my heart and spirits are buoyant. Nothing like spending time with some of the most dedicated, enthusiastic, generous and fun loving librarians in this great country to get your toes to tapping.

Thank you, Random House -- especially the amazing Adrienne Waintraub and Laura Antonacci--, for sending me and thank you, Texas Library Association, for showing this writer such a good time.