"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I am a Teacher

I am a teacher.

I love to say these words. I say them with pride.

Inevitably someone then asks, "What do you teach?"

This is such a difficult question to answer.  When I say, "I am a Library Teacher" or "Teacher Librarian" I feel compelled to then get very specific about the things I actually teach.

hat do I teach?  I teach information literacy skills.  I teach Website evaluation. I teach location and access in a library. I teach nonfiction conventions.  I teach about authors and illustrators. Yikes! That’s dry and sterile.

Maybe I should say, "I am a trained and skilled professional who provides the environment, opportunities and tools for learning."

SO...then what do I teach?
I hope I teach a love of learning.

I hope I inspire a love of reading.

I hope I teach children to love books and all the information they contain and from which they construct knowledge. Books create bridges to new information, new understanding, and new ideas. If the Internet is the information super highway, then books are the necessary bridges that connect all the meaning and knowledge found there.  Book readers practice skills essential to life long learning -- critical reading -  thinking, evaluation, and assessment.

So, yes. I am a teacher.  Meet me at the corner of reader and book.  We'll be learning something new there.

ALA Bookstack: Three Times Lucky

ThreeTimes Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Welcome to Tupelo Landing!  Meet Mo, the "Three Times Lucky," wise-beyond-her-years eleven-year-old who, as a baby, was washed ashore during a hurricane.  Mo is busy. She’s busy trying to find her Upstream Mother; she's busy helping to run the CafĂ© owned by the Colonel and Miss Lana; and, she's busy trying to solve a murder mystery.

Luckily, Mo can handle it all.

She's clever.

Mo is a thinker and she's inquisitive.
When told she asks too many questions, she replies, “occupational hazard. Detective.” And ask questions she does!  Through sheer gumption and spunk, she manages to make her “natural born detective” skills indispensable to solving the crime.
Mo has devised a way to try and find her Upstream Mother, a way that reveals a lot more than where Mo might have come from.

And when the Colonel and Miss Lana can't open the Cafe, Mo serves up a very creative menu, none of which involves actually cooking!

She's honest,forthright and loyal.
In another scene where her best friend Dale is being questioned, she interjects like this:
“I object,” I said. “We’ve already established this wasn’t a technical steal. This was more like a surprise borrowing between neighbors. Don’t say nothing, Dale.” I warned.

When referring to some fickle young women, Mo says “Those girls are like crows. Probably saw something shinier on the other side of town.” 

She's surrounded by great people.
Ms. Lana, caring person, cook extraordinaire and part time actress, gives Mo advice like this from “Bill” Shakespeare:
“All the world’s a stage, sugar, so hop on up there."
From the Colonel she learns about the "three day rule," amongst other things. 
Mo's best friend and co-detective, Dale, and his mother Rose, demonstrate a strength anyone can admire.

Miss Retzyl, the teacher (whose “lair” Mo visits) has some surprises up her own sleeve.

There are others a plenty, but that would spoil the story.
Beyond the wise and wonderful Mo, why should you read this book?

It's Funny!
The hilarious driving adventure with Miss Lana had me guffawing out loud. Here's a snippet:

“Hello, dear friends,” Miss Lana said, opening her door as far as the front porch would allow.  She slithered out sideways, wiggling her butt along the porch until she reached the back of the car.
“Gosh,” Dale said. “I didn’t know you could drive.”
“She can’t,” Miss Rose said, her voice as flat as her petunias.  Like Dale, Miss Rose has a firm grasp of the obvious.”

This is a
book you will read with a smile on your face and a softness in your heart. Our young heroine, Mo, is not the only one who is “lucky,” we the readers are as well.  We are lucky to have found this spunky, engaging and wise young girl.

By the way, I've adopted a new saying from the book: “slept restless and dreamed thin.” It captures some of my nights perfectly. Sheila Turnage has created many other wonderful turns of phrase like this one that will engage and capture readers.My #ALA12 #Bookstack has been a mighty sweet treasure trove this summer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

ALA Bookstack: Starry River of the Sky

Keeping any Grace Lin books on my shelves is hard and this one will be no different.  Grace Lin has a gift of weaving traditional Chinese folklore into magical stories with beautiful messages.  

Starry River carries ideas about who we are and how we exist within our environments-- what can be changed and how to find your place within the rightness of things.   

Having run away from his family, young Rendi finds himself trapped in a small village where all is not well.  Rendi’s own journey intertwines with that of the villagers, who include the strong-willed and bold Peiyi, the mysterious Madame Chang, the enigmatic Mr. Shan along with one very personable toad.  

Not final full color art
Through his own storytelling and that of Madame Chang, Rendi find the answers he needs to right his own world and to help the villagers right theirs.  Truths are revealed and paths are laid through stories such as: "The Story of the WangYi's Wife" and "The Story of Son Wine."  Not all stories need to have such import though, the reader will grin along with the other characters when "The Tale of the Noxious Toad of the Five Poisons" is told.

I love the community the develops as this story unfolds. Friendships can sometimes be found in unlikely places and with unlikely people, as Starry River of the Sky so beautifully demonstrates.


ALA Bookstack: Guys Read: The Sports Pages

And now for something completely different...

It was time.  I needed a change.  I had to switch from one #bookstack to the other #bookstack(I know, they don't look any different with just this text, but trust me, there are two different piles.)
So, from the other #bookstack I picked up:
Guys Read: The Sports Pages
I have good news, The Guys Read franchise is staying strong. The amazing Jon Scieszka continues to do a fabulous job of editing this series.  This third book offers another great reading experience sure to engage not just the "guys." (I say this with authority -- being not a guy myself and having enjoyed it.)

He assured me of this when I met him...

This volume is illustrated by the awesome and very talented Dan Santat, who also assured me that I would like the book...

And I did! 

With a line up like this: Dan Gutman, Tim Green, Anne Ursu, Dustin Brown, Jacqueline Woodson, Chris Crutcher, James Brown, Joseph Bruchac, Gordon Korman and Chris Rylander, how could this book go wrong? The varying perspectives and diverse writing styles make for a great reading experience.

These stories are funny, poignant and inspiring and carry messages about dedication, passion, commitment and effort as well as others regarding self-reflection, understanding and growth.

I cannot wait to hear my students' perspective on these and other stories:
Max Swings for the Fences by Anne Ursu
The Distance by Jacqueline Woodson 

I Will Destroy You, Derek Jeter by Chris Rylander
I love that I can hand the Guys Read books to a student knowing that he or she will connect with at least one of the stories.

My apologies in advance for #statingtheobvious, but the other great thing about the Guys Read series is that it allows for student-directed reading -- I can encourage my students to look at the table of contents and begin with an author they are familiar with or with a story title that sounds interesting. It's Reader's Choice! 

Guys Read: The Sports Pages** is another book that I can't wait to hand to student in September...well, maybe not my signed copy!

**Don't be fooled by the title, this book is not just for sports enthusiasts, it will appeal to a broader audience and there are plenty of good life lessons, like those I mentioned above.

Friday, July 13, 2012

ALA Bookstack: Palace of Stone

I came back from the #ALA12 Conference with a #bookstack I could not wait to dive into.

The second book I stepped into Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale.

The long awaited sequel to Princess Academy, Palace of Stone is a page turner.  With elements of romance, political unrest and suspense, it will quickly engage readers.  Miri, Peder, Esa, Gerti and other familiar characters have come down off the mountain to face a new life in Asland, where their friend Britta is soon to become the Princess. Miri must navigate not only a new environment in Asland, but also navigate new friendships and new ideas, which could threaten the life she has known.

It will be interesting to see how readers connect the social and ethical issues in this story to those of the present day. These issues are additionally brought to light in the letters Miri writes to her sister, Marda.

"I worry that much of my letters makes no sense to you, Marda. I do not want to think anything separates us but the distance itself. I do not want to become someone you would not understand."

The letters give insight into Miri's internal struggles regarding: Eskel and Asland: Peder and a new acquaintance, Timon; and, the inequities in the kingdom.

"I'm on the mountain

But the mount's in me

I can't shake the dust

I won't wash it free."
I love how the mountain and its precious Linder stone create a unifying element both between the two books and among the story threads within this book.  It seems so fitting that this earthly substance should ground both stories (no pun intended!).  Hale effectively employs the Eskalites' gift for Quarry-Speech in the low lander environment.  I would like to believe in this and other gifts the Linder bestows as I am fascinated with geological history.  Who walked on these rocks?  How far have they traveled?  I love this very tangible connection to this Earth, our island home.   

But I digress!  Back to the book!  

A great cast of characters, a Kingdom experiencing social unrest, and friendships pushed to the brink revealing loyalties and betrayals all guarantee that Princess Academy: Palace of Stone will be a top circulating book.


Readers are readers no matter their resources and readers know great books.

**Just a quick note about Princess Academy.  For five years I split my work week between a suburban school and an urban school.  (That’s right, I worked in two different districts in two very different schools. ) I spent part of the week in my “galley kitchen” library of 1000 books, replete with old fashioned book pockets and cards, in a school of 250 students and the other part of the week job sharing in a fully-automated, fully-stocked library, with a collection of 12,000 books, in a school of 380 students. Princess Academy was a top circulating book in both libraries.  How cool is that.

Hanging out at the corner of reader and story...

I love to write about what happens in my elementary school library

Celebrating International Dot Day inspired by Peter H. Reynolds' book, The Dot.
Making bookmarks for World Read Aloud Day
Watching students read.
As I have said before, I am lucky to reside (work, exist, be) at this magical place where the reader and the story meet.
What better place to be than where students construct knowledge and understanding?
So, lacking my natural environment and one half of this very beautiful duo (my students), what will I write (sporadically) about in these next six weeks?  I am not a book reviewer, there are many others that do that so well already, so I will not duplicate those efforts, but as I have done thus far, I will share the books I am reading.  Think of it as a preview for when the real fun begins, when this blog once again will be filled with my students' voices.

Here's what I noticed the last two weeks: I miss writing about what is happening in my library.  Why do I write?

I write because I have to, thoughts and phrases knock around in my head as if asking to be let out or yearning to be formed into an idea. 

I write to understand.  Writing helps to clarify what both I and my students are learning.

A Wordle for the blog.  I LOVE these themes and ideas.
When I don't write on a regular basis, like right now, the cacophony in my head becomes chaotic and the ideas, thoughts and phrases move fleeting past my conscious never fully forming. Case in point, I was at the river (more on this in a subsequent post) and fetched my phone from the sitting rock to take a photograph.  I was forming a blog post in my mind and knew this was an image I would include. I came up from the river an hour later and could not recall the caption I thought of for the photo.  One might chalk this up to my age, but I: number one, refuse to give into this logic; and, number two, know that when I write on a daily basis, this doesn't happen.  There is a sharpness and clarity to my thinking when I write.

I write to become better at the craft of teaching.  Writing helps me reflect.

Reflecting on a lesson.
From the age of ten to some point in my twenties, I was a dedicated diary writer.  The early entries are typical, but the later ones reveal my need for self reflection.  Why did I feel a certain way?  What might I have done differently?  I imagine this is not unlike all diaries, but it correlates to this blog. I blog because it helps me to reflect and therefore become a better teacher.  

I am enjoying this much needed respite, knowing that soon enough I'll be back in the library with my students and once again learning and exploring with them. In the meantime, there are my children to share books with.
My daughter has been my co-reader this summer, following rapidly along behind me in my reading stack.

My son lost in the book, Wonder.
Meet me at the corner of reader and story, I'll be waiting for you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ALA Bookstack: The Great Unexpected

Those that follow the blog (or know me) know that I am a huge fan, reader, admirer (and the list goes on) of Sharon Creech, a writer well-established in my rock star hall of fame. I had the opportunity to finally meet Sharon at ALA. 

I also picked up an ARC of her latest book, The Great Unexpected.  This was the first book I read from my #ALA12 #bookstack.  

I loved it

Magical things happen in the small town of Blackbird Tree, where Irish Folklore, personal stories and a cast of engaging characters come together to demonstrate the interconnected nature of life.

I love how the chapter art is a reminder about place.  Big things are happening in the little town of Blackbird Tree.  I am including this chapter heading because it gave me great joy to discover that the characters known as the "unfortunate souls" are neither poor nor unfortunate and, even better, have gifts to bestow.

"Oh, lar de dar!"
I am enamored with the two young girls in this book; Naomi and Lizzie are spirited and spunky. This story of friendship and family has gentle reminders about the perceptions and misconceptions we carry, along with the importance of forgiveness. This story and the characters within it have quietly worked their way into my heart. There is much to say about this book, but that will have to wait for my students, who are much better at this than I! 

As I have said before, I love that I am present at the magical moment when young reader and story meet.  It is a beautiful place to be. 

I cannot wait to be there for this book.  

Sadly, I will have to wait another eight weeks to share The Great Unexpected with my “Creech Readers” – as they call themselves -- but I am glad that the discussions we will have will keep Naomi and Lizzie and the other characters in my realm.

I don't know if it had to do with just meeting Sharon Creech, but sometimes I could hear her voice reading the words. Cool Beans.  

Off to read... 

ALA Roundup: The book Wonder and a funny thing happened...

On the flight to Anaheim for the ALA Conference, I was finally able to finish Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  
Those of you who have read the book will wonder how I was ever able to put it down. I am wondering this myself. I had started this book in early spring, but graduate classes, other commitments, and books to be read for lessons took precedence. 

I decided to start the book back at the beginning.  I'm not sure I looked up for the next few hours. Without reservation, I let the story wash over me, allowing both laughter and tears to flow.  I am not sure the last time I read a book cover to cover in one sitting.

This book is the real thing, a full seven course meal of story, from soup to nuts -- well, in this case character, setting and plot, etc.  There are so many wonderful, moving, thought-provoking aspects to this book.  I love Auggie.  I love his family.  I love his friends.  I love their relationships.  Courageous, brave, true and fallible -- these words define the characters in this book and make it the power house that it is. 

A funny thing happened...

Here’s the short and skinny: I spent some minutes talking with a lovely woman (a friend of a friend)  while visiting an author in one of the publishing house exhibit booth.  Our conversation was ranging, but did rest, for a time, on the book Wonder.  

Fast forward to the afternoon, where I head to a different publishing house booth for the Wonder signing.  (You know where this is going.)   

You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that the very nice and lovely woman I had spent some time speaking with that morning was no less than R.J. Palacio.  Needless to say, this produced a good laugh for us both.  

What does this say about me?   

(Don't answer that!  Probably quite a lot.) 

But here's what I was thinking: I had had this book in my possession for almost 4 months and had never looked at the back jacket to see what the author looked like. 

I don’t actually have an answer to this question.  

I think I so love being at this wonderful intersection of stories and readers that I do not always focus on the actual who of the story.  I know the author's or illustrator's name and works and I traditionally know a good deal of biographical history and creative back story or inspiration, but not always.   

My interest is in the magical moment when young reader and story meet.  It is a beautiful place.

I am eager to experience that moment with my students and this book. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

ALA Roundup: The Photo Op

"Do you mind taking a picture with me?"

"Is there a chance I could get a picture with you?"

"Is it possible to get a photograph?"

I do not know what possessed me at this conference, but I somehow found the courage to ask to have my picture taken with some of the authors and illustrators I was meeting.

It all started with the author and illustrator Tad Hills.  Tad Hills has a significant following at my school and I was hoping to earn significant "cool points" for having a photo with him in my possession when the school year started.  It was basically all embarrassment from there as I asked other authors and illustrators for a photograph with them.  The best photograph?  Hmmmm... That's hard to say, but if it is any indicator, one of the one's with the incredible Sharon Creech is getting framed.  The other two outstanding author photo op experiences were meeting two other women I admire greatly: Jacqueline Woodson and Andrea Davis Pinkney.

You will hear more about these meetings in future posts. 

I stood in many a long line to meet an author or illustrator, making the "Authors are My Rock Stars" tee-shirt feel like a very true statement. 

Authors and illustrators are my rock stars because I see the impact of their work.  

I am at the beautiful intersection of book and reader.

I witness:
~~how a book can change a student's perception of himself or herself as a reader. 
~~how a book can broaden a student's outlook or understanding
~~how a book can inspire or feed a student's passion

Lucky Me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The greatest gift summer bestows: time to read

I am remiss.

(In so many things.)

But in this one regard, I am very remiss.

I promised my students and their families insight into what a school librarian does during the summer.  You know what I am talking about, I am sure you have gotten the question as well:

"What do you do during the summer when you are not teaching and engaged in shared literature experiences with your students?"

(Okay, I may have added a bit to the typical question, but you get the drift.) 

This is the longest time I have gone without blogging in quite a while.  It feels strange:  at once like hopping back on a bicycle and yet as if greeting an old friend (a familiar friend, but an old friend who requires some catching up).

SO, what have I done in the last month?  I have:

~said goodbye to another year of teaching, which includes closing up a school library,

~wished 425 students a summer full of reading adventures,

~helped teach workshops at a teachers' technology camp,

~cooked some delicious meals,

~attended the American Library Association Conference in Anaheim,

Wait...that last one needs something more...

~attended the American Library Association Conference in Anaheim (you will hear more about this),

~painted a room at my parents' house,

~helped clean the garage and found some old treasured toys

and most importantly ....


This is the greatest gift summer bestows:
the time to read
I read during the school year, but summer reading is leisurely.

So, please forgive me if my blogging is sporadic.  It only means that I am likely off reading, or, equally as fun, engaged in hiking, biking, photographing, catching up with friends or simply sitting and looking out upon the world.