Friday, January 29, 2010

Poetry Friday - Erasers

I'm always on the lookout for new sources of poetry online. I was looking for a poem by Marie Ponsot when I came across the Poetry Series from Online NewsHour. As any good stumble on the Internet is bound to encourage, I spent an hour or so exploring all this site had to offer. You'll find audio, video, and a wealth of poems. Be sure to check it out.

While there I came across a terrific poem, which I am sharing today.

by Mary Jo Salter

As punishment, my father said, the nuns
        would send him and the others
out to the schoolyard with the day's erasers.

Punishment? The pounding symphony
        of padded cymbals clapped
together at arm's length overhead

(a snow of vanished alphabets and numbers
        powdering their noses
until they sneezed and laughed out loud at last)

Read the poem in it's entirety. You can also listen to the poet read this piece.
The round up is being hosted by Anastasia Suen at Picture Book of the Day. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Tritina

The challenge this week was to write a tritina, a 10-line poem composed of three, 3-line stanzas and a 1-line envoi. Like the sestina, a tritina uses an end-word scheme instead of a rhyme scheme. Here are the results.
by Steven Withrow of Crackles of Speech

That Sunday you wanted a drive,
So we drove south, you and I,
Singing alphabet songs, to the sea.

Some roads lead only to the sea.
We passed a sign for “Scenic Drive,”
You pointed out a lighthouse, which I

Saw was a mammoth lowercase “i”
Topped with a beacon, and the sea
Strove with its moon-driven drive

To drive us, home, beyond what my eye could see.

This poem was left by Lee Wind of I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?

Four days till the SCBWI Conference and I'm excited.

My first New York Conference so I'm scared.

Who knows what could happen? I don't, so I'm nervous.

Excited, Nervous, Scared... but mostly excited. That's me.

Jane Yolen left this poem in the comments.

To write a poem takes great heart ,
But do not leave behind the head.
Of course the other body part is the foot.

With poetic coin, the bill you foot,
But never neglect great (h)art.
Still, some poems begin in the head.

The poetic road that lies ahead?
You will need to go on foot.
Do not, my rhyming friend, lose heart

It takes all three to walk that road, to make a poem: heart, head, foot.

The Deluge
by Diane Mayr of Random Noodling

I imagine the deluge began
in the winter's darkest days
when the already bone-chilling rain

turned to relentless bone-breaking rain.
Beating, bashing, battering, it began
to obliterate nights and days.

No difference between the days
and nights--just pain--and rain--
and pain. Until the fortieth night began.

Forty days and nights lost to rain before forgiveness began.

by Kate Coombs of Book Aunt

Last week the sky was made of gray
and all the eyes reflected rain,
the kind of weather that asks why.

Like children tugging, asking why,
we waded through a sea of gray,
the only light in gleaming rain.

But there are those who read the rain,
who think its falling tells us why
the world's tenderness is gray.

Why, soft and gray as eiderdown is rain.

--Kate Coombs, 2010

by K. Thomas Slesarik

Pet shops seldom sell ‘em (those sneachers)
because they’ve a small cerebellum
but some sing karaoke by day.

They make little pay working each day
and many teachers are really sneachers
so please don’t stress their cerebellum.

And don’t speak of their cerebellum
‘cause it likely will ruin their day.
In fact, just run away from sneachers.

But celebrate their cerebellum each day. Go sneachers!

Stu Pidasso of Mudville Musings left this poem in the comments.

My temper makes me want to hit.
On me, it has such a firm hold.
Dealing with it daily can be a drag.

Stressed, I’m found in need of a drag;
or as it’s known, by some, a hit;
on this joint which I stand and hold.

I light it, breathe it in deep and hold;
before, to the car, my bag, I drag,
It preps me for a practice of rugby hits.

Tackling practice, where we learn to hit, hold and drag.

by Barbara J. Turner of Afternoons With Grammy

Strolling through the apple orchard, just you and I.
You don’t want to come, but I insist. So me and you
bask beneath plump red fruit, unseen by even him.

I feed you apples under the boughs, never thinking of him.
I see the man you were, the man you could be. I
see light in your eyes, feel your lovemaking change, and you -

you say you love me. The triad breaks. We become me and you,
no longer me, you, and him. You are the one I love. And him?
A memory. Now I cleave to you. Now there is only you and I.

We leave the garden, I unashamed, you, a whole man, neither of us caring a fig leaf for him.

Caroline left this poem in the comments.

In the damp, she peeled up moss
piecing the rugged squares
together again under the trees.

The wind shook the wet off the trees,
the soft bed of moss
squished in their cushioned squares.

Mud sealed and joined the squares,
little flowers fell from the trees,
decorating the moss.

A patchwork quilt of moss or what she considered squares of tiny trees.

These next two poems were written by Liz Korba.

My First Tritina
Oh how does one begin to find a way
To write three words repeating in ten lines
Four times - change ‘round the order ‘till the end
Where three words reflect what’s written at the end
Of the beginning lines (first three) (No way!)
Just how to make that happen in the lines
Complete with thoughts to read between the lines
I’ve no idea…but almost at the end
I think, “Who feels the need to write this way?!”
This way with lines, three words – four times… The End!!

Third Day Tritina
And so they build not shelters yet but time
Each second forged to make up one more day
And night - not thinking what some future days will hold
To breathe that’s all and putting hope on hold
Still waiting for life to return with time
Though no one can begin to see that day
Imagine something other than this day
Now that the earthquake came, left and took hold
Of lives that once built other things in time
Some time, one day, again, life will take hold.

Jone of Deo Writer shares a poem entitled Old Chair.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Books for Elementary Science - Physical Science

Last week my preservice teachers posted their reviews of books for teaching process skills in science. This week they focused on physical science. This time around you'll find a wealth of nonfiction titles. Head on over to Open Wide, Look Inside this week to see what they're sharing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review - Looking Closely Around the Pond

I have always been a fan of the Games Magazine puzzles called "Eyeball Benders." These are a type of puzzle in which the reader must identify a common object pictured in a close-up and generally uncommon view. Here is an example from the July 2008 cover of the magazine.

Why do I mention these puzzles in a book review? Because books in the series Looking Closely from Kids Can Press uses this type of visual puzzle as an introduction to natural environments. Written and photographed by Frank Serafini, the books challenge readers to guess the identity of each close-up photo. The cropped images on the right hand page are framed in black. The small circle that is visible allows readers to focus on just one part of the larger image. The left hand page in each spread begins with "Look very closely. What do you see?" What appears next are two ideas designed to get readers thinking. The page ends with the words, "What could it be?" On the next page each object is shown in its habitat and accompanied by a description.

The first spread from Looking Closely Around the Pond is focused on the a portion of a turtle shell. The next page begins with the words "It's a Box Turtle." The text reads:

Box turtles are shy creatures. They creep slowly around the pond, eating snails, mushrooms and small berries. They stay close to shore because they are not very good swimmers. In winter, box turtles dig into the ground. There, they sleep, or hibernate, until spring.

The colorful designs on a box turtle's shell help it to blend in with grasses. When a box turtle gets scared, it pulls it legs and head inside its shell to protect itself.

Looking Closely Around the Pond highlights nine plants and animals that can be found in this environment. The last page features a double-page photograph of a pond. The book ends with the following photographer's note.

Photographers pay attention to things that most people overlook or take for granted. I can spend hours wandering along the shore, through the forest, across the desert or in my garden, looking for interesting things to photograph. My destination is not a place, but rather a new way of seeing.

It takes time to notice things. To be a photographer, you have to slow down and imagine in your "mind's eye" what the camera can capture. Ansel Adams said you could discover a whole life's worth of images in a six-square-foot patch of Earth. In order to do so, you have to look very closely.

By creating the images featured in this series of picture books, I hope to help people attend to nature, to things they might have normally passed by. I want people to pay attention to the world around them, to appreciated what nature has to offer, and to being to protect the fragile environment in which we live.

Dr. Serafini succeeds beautifully in getting readers to attend to the small details found in nature. His images will surely capture the imagination of children and adults alike. Readers will delight in the challenges provided by the close-up photographs and this welcome introduction to the pond environment. I know I did. Highly recommended.

Books: Looking Closely Around the Pond
Author/Illustrator: Frank Serafini
Kids Can Press
Publication Date:
40 pages
Source of Book: Review copy received from Raab Associates.

Fantastic Fiction Guest Post

William helped me put together a list of some of our favorite books on dogs. You can find our contribution to the Fantastic Fiction for Kids series over at the amazing blog Playing by the Book.

Thanks for having us, Zoe!

My Top Ten Middle Grade Books - Answering Betsy's Call

Following on the heels of last year's Top 100 Picture Book Poll, Fuse #8 (Betsy Bird) has created a new poll to discover our views on the Top 100 Children's Fictional Chapter Books. I thought I'd share my books with you here, though not in the rank order I submitted them. Hey, a girl's got to have some secrets, right?

Okay, first things first. Here's how the rules begin.
Vote for your top ten middle grade books of all time (not just this year or last year) by 11:59 Eastern on January 31, 2010.
See the your I highlighted. This means that what follows below is MY list. Mine, mine, mine! I can say without hesitation that this also means there are books you will love that will NOT be on my list. (I'm talking about you, Wilbur.)

So, how does one decide on the best middle grade books of all time? I made a list, pulled dog-eared copies of books off the shelf, made another list, reread some books, and then did the painful job of cutting titles and whittling favorites down to 10. It wasn't easy, but it was fun.

Somehow all the "animal" books fell off the list. I said goodbye to Charlotte's Web, The Mouse and His Child, Rabbit Hill, and The Cricket in Times Square fairly early in the process. I gave up Ann Frank: Diary of a Young Girl at the bitter end, but only because nonfiction is not allowed on this list. I also dumped The Hobbit because it seemed like it was right on the edge of YA and I didn't want to waste a vote.

Without further ado I present my selections, alpha by title. Kudos to you if you can guess which is number 1.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo - I love Opal and the bond she forms with Winn-Dixie. I also love the crazy cast of characters. But most of all, I love how through the dog Opal finds friends and begins to understand that everyone carries some kind of baggage, and how this helps her to settle into her own place in the world.

Half Magic by Edward Eager - A magical coin--oops, make that a half magical coin, four precocious children (Jane, Katherine, Mark and Martha), and a slew of wishes, few of which turn out as planned, make this one a witty, entertaining read.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh - Harriet made me want to write everything down, and once I did, I then fretted over who would find my notebook and how I might be tortured if my "real" feelings were discovered.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
by J.K. Rowling - Yes, I've read them all, MULTIPLE times. Book 3 is my favorite of the lot. (Yes, I know there would be no series without the first!) All I can say is, "I solemnly swear I'm up to no good."

Holes by Louis Sachar - Stanley Yelnats is down on his luck, and after his latest misfortune is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention center. Camp Green Lake is neither green nor wet, but a dry, flat wasteland where boys dig holes for rehabilitation. Or is it something else? In telling the story of the present and the past, while introducing a host of memorable characters, Sachar has crafted a book that is quirky, mysterious, and a lot of fun.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - I stole this one from my older brother's bookshelf and never gave it back. Oh how I wanted one of those tollbooths! As a lover of words and numbers I was thrilled with every new character and adventure Milo encountered.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce - What's a curious boy to do when the clock in the hall strikes thirteen? Why investigate, of course! Tom goes to the first floor and opens the back door, only to find himself faced with a garden, and not the alleyway that exists there by day. In this new world Tom meets a girl names Hattie, but what's he to do when he faces leaving the home that houses the entry to this other world?

The Watson’s Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis - While plenty of folks may be choosing Bud, Not Buddy or Elijah of Buxton, I'm hanging with Kenny and his family. This book moves between laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreaking. It also oozes characters with strength who have a whole lot of love for one another, regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in.

The Willoughby’s by Lois Lowry - You have to love a book that by page 2 says, "The Willoughby parents frequently forgot that they had children and became quite irritable when they were reminded of it." While the Willoughby children plot to make themselves orphans, Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby are doing some plotting of their own, and it isn't good.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle - First there's Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. There's also a tesseract, the planet of Camazotz, and the power of love. And really, it begins with what must be one of the most famous line in children's literature--"It was a dark and stormy night."
It's not too late if you want to join in the fun. You have until 11:59 Eastern on January 31, 2010 to send Betsy your list.

Books for Elementary Social Studies - Geography

Did I mention I'm team teaching this semester? I am still teaching two sections of Integrated Curriculum Methods (pedagogical approaches to teaching science and social studies in the elementary classroom), though this time around I am thrilled to be working with a social studies consultant from a local school division. That means I get to teach all the science and she teaches all the social studies. While I do miss (just a little bit) the responsibility for the whole shootin' match, I get to focus on what I do best--math (my other class) and science.

So, one class has jumped into science while the other has begun with social studies. This means that new books suggestions coming out each week will be for two different areas of the curriculum!

This week the social studies folks have posted their reviews of books for teaching geography in the elementary classroom. They have selected some really wonderful books that span the globe, so head on over to Open Wide, Look Inside to see what they're sharing this week.

Books for Elementary Science - Process Skills

The semester is well underway (we're in week 3!) and my preservice teachers have already begun reading books and writing blog posts. Last week they tackled process skills. You'll find book suggestions, curriculum connections, and links to additional resources for topics like the senses, measurement, the nature of science, and more. I'm thrilled that they've included biographies of scientists as well. There are some surprising and creative choices here, including Amelia Bedelia and Science Fair Bunnies!

Head on over to Open Wide, Look Inside to see what they're sharing.

Female Teachers and Math Anxiety

This is NOT good news.
Girls have long embraced the stereotype that they're not supposed to be good at math. It seems they may be getting the idea from a surprising source -- their female elementary school teachers.

First- and second-graders whose teachers were anxious about mathematics were more likely to believe that boys are hard-wired for math and that girls are better at reading, a new study has found. What's more, the girls who bought into that notion scored significantly lower on math tests than their peers who didn't.

You can read more at the Los Angeles Times and Business Week.

All the more reason to prepare elementary teachers who are highly confident in their ability to know, do, and teach math.

School System Bans the Dictionary

In more book banning news, this time from southern California ...
Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster's 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week.

School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the "sexually graphic" entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus. The dictionaries were initially purchased a few years ago for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms districtwide, according to a memo to the superintendent.

"It's just not age appropriate," said Cadmus, adding that this is the first time a book has been removed from classrooms throughout the district.

You can read more at The Press-Enterprise and the KCal9 web site.

I don't know about you, but I grew up in the day when looking up swear words in the dictionary was half the fun of getting to use the blasted thing. How else was I going to learn what all those words meant?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Poetry Stretch - Tritina

I'm struggling with writing a poem right now (drat you roundeau redoublé!), but that doesn't mean I'm not willing to keep writing in different ways. So, I'm turning to something different today. The tritina is related to the sestina, though a bit easier to manage. Here are the nuts and bolts of the form.

10-line poem made of three, 3-line stanzas and a 1-line envoi

There is no rhyme scheme but rather an end word scheme. It is:




A, B, and C (all words used in the last line/envoi)
Generally the end words are unrhymed.
So, your challenge for the week is to write a tritina. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Poetry Friday - Drinking With My Father in London

I'm a big fan of the blog How a Poem Happens. Each week a poet shares a poem and answers questions about its construction. Each interview provides a peek into a writer's soul and speaks volumes about process. What have I learned? Inspiration can come from the strangest of places. No one writes in the same manner. Revision is the hallmark of a good poem. And more ...

This week I'm sharing a poem I read back in December that is still with me.
by Philip Pardi

With his mate, Wilfred, who was dying,
I discussed ornithology as best I could
given the circumstances, my father flushed
and silent, a second pint before me,
my fish and chips not yet in sight.
Condensation covered the windows
and in the corner a couple played
tic-tac-toe with their fingers.

Read the poem in its entirety. Don't miss Pardi's interview, as his answers are quite insightful and inspiring.
The round up is being hosted by the inimitable Liz Scanlon at Liz in Ink. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared this week. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Winners and Losers

The challenge this week was to write about winners and losers. Here are the results.
by Steven Withrow of Crackles of Speech

Losing the Williams Junior High School
spelling bee, on “eleemosynary,”
was, I now see, an act of charity.
Knowing the Latin root for “alms”
(could you use it in a sentence?)
guarantees no one a varsity letter.

Although it burned me that I flubbed
the double e’s, entreating the floor
for the proper etymology
before retreating to my seat
to small applause, conciliatory
(c-o-n-c-i-l-i-a-t-o-r-y, conciliatory),

Worse by far would have been
the booming backlash in homeroom
next morning, hearing my name
among the roster of brainiacs,
“loo-zer” in any language, certain
I’d perish (part of speech?) a virgin.

by Kate Coombs of Book Aunt

There is no winning
now, no trophy with its rim
curved like a golden smile,
no tape to burst through,
no joy to shout, no hands
to bear you aloft, no song
to sing except a lullaby
as you turn gray
with pain and shoulder
your way swordless into
that dark, silent wood.

--Kate Coombs, 2010

Laura Salas shares a poem entitled R You Sure?

Massachusetts Mourning
by Jane Yolen

Yes, I voted, and would have voted twice.
But I am a good girl, moral, clean, and nice.
I always stop for red lights, I listen to advice.
But if I could have,
I really would have
Voted yesterday

©2010 Jane Yolen. All rights reserved.

Historical Fiction
by Liz Korba

They aim
The guns
Life lost
War won
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review - Food Chains

The series Follow That Food Chain from Lerner Publishing uses the "choose your own adventure" format to provide readers with an exciting new way to learn about the food chain. The books in the series examine food chains by situating them in different ecosystems and then allowing readers to choose an animal to follow through the chain. Ecosystems explored include the Australian Outback, cloud forest, coral reef, desert, estuary, Galápagos Islands, mangrove forest, Nile River, rain forest, savanna, temperate forest, and tundra.

Each book begins with an introduction to the ecosystem or biome that is the focus of the book. The Rain Forest book focuses on rain forests of south America, while the Temperate Forest book focuses on the woods of North America. The next step is for readers to select a tertiary consumer to follow through the chain. In the case of the temperate forest, readers can select the American black bear, gray wolf, great horned owl, Canada lynx, or bald eagle. In the rain forest they can select the jaguar, anaconda, or harpy eagle.

From the outset, there are two things that work really well here. First, one page of text fully describes the members of the food chain (consumers, producers, and decomposers) and their role in it. Then readers are told how to use the book. Here's an excerpt.
Begin your journey through the temperate forest food web by choosing a tertiary consumer. These large carnivores, or meat eaters, as at the top of the food chain. That means, for the most part, they don't have any enemies in the woods (except for humans).

When it's time for the tertiary consumer to eat, pick its meal and flip to that page. As you go through the book, don't be surprised if you backtrack and end up where you never expected to be. That's how food webs work--they're complicated. And watch out for those dead ends! When you hit one of those, you have to go back to page 7 and start over with another tertiary consumer.
So, knowing the task at hand, I chose the gray wolf and turned to page 28 to begin my adventure. Ostensibly, these books are about the food chain, right? That's what the title says. But here's the second thing I really appreciate about these books. They're just as much about the ecosystem and animals as the food chain. The interdependence of all these things becomes apparent as you read. When I got to page 28 I learned a whole lot about gray wolves before I even got to the next phase of food chain investigation. Here are a few examples.
  • Wolves hunt over more space than any other land mammals, except humans.
  • Until the 1960s, rewards were offered for killing gray wolves.
  • Wolves can go up to two weeks without eating.
  • Wolves have been known to eat up to 22 pound in one feeding. (That's almost 1/3 their weight!)
After reading about wolves the text reads, "Last night for dinner, the pack tracked down ..." On the facing page are a series of choices. They include:
  • a pine marten caught scampering across the pine needles
  • a raccoon rubbing his food in a river
  • a panicked white-tailed deer that gave a good chase
  • burying beetles on their way to a new carcass
  • a northern flying squirrel that surprised the pack as he glided to the ground
  • an elk that's been sick all winter
  • an American beaver distracted by the fall of a large tree
I chose the poor elk and flipped to page 14 to read on. This is where I hit a dead end. DRAT! So, I went back to the beginning and chose a great horned owl. From here I followed the chain to a raccoon (the owl ate a baby left alone), then a Canada goose (the raccoon ate goose eggs hidden in the tall grass), then grass and plants near the water (a goose's preferred food), and finally to the earthworms decomposing materials in the soil (which eventually served as nutrients for the plants). PHEW!

The rain forest food chain was just as interesting. I started with the anaconda and was surprised to see the sentence stem read, "Last year for dinner, the anaconda swallowed ..." Last year! The anaconda ate a capybara swimming in the river, which ate leaves from a kapok tree. Once you get to the producers, the cycles takes you to decomposers and you start again. My second trip through the text took me from jaguar to green iguana to rhinoceros beetle (accompanied by the word crunchy!) to fungus growing on a tree trunk. That particular decomposer allowed me to choose from a host of carcasses, including the jaguar, giant armadillo, giant anteater, harpy eagle, anaconda, army ants, bromeliad flower, and nuts from a cacao tree.

I had a great deal of fun reading through these books and learned a lot in the process. Readers will learn about much more than food chains as they work their way through these texts. The two books in this series that I reviewed were thoughtfully planned and dense with information. Students in the upper elementary grades are sure to be intrigued and excited about this interactive format. Highly recommended.

Source of Books: Review copies received from publisher.

Book Review - Life Cycle Series

For young readers there are some exciting new series books that explore animal life cycles. Both are small in dimension (7" x 6") and fit nicely into little hands.

From Lerner Publishing comes the series First Step Nonfiction - Animal Life Cycles. Books in this series introduce readers to deer, dragonflies, grasshoppers, robins, salamanders, and worms. Written with emerging readers in mind, the books use short, simple sentences and glossy, full-color photographs. At 24 pages they're just the right length to hold interest and provide information.

The text contains a number of highlighted words that appear in the book's glossary. Here's an example.
A robin is a bird, like a duck or an owl.
In the glossary readers will find a picture of a bird (the robin) with this definition.
bird - an animal that lays eggs and has wings and feathers
The final pages of the book contain an illustrated diagrams of a robin highlighting major body parts. Also included are robin facts and and index.

From Capstone Press comes the series Watch It Grow. Books in this series introduce readers to goldfish, mealworms, milkweed bugs, painted lady butterflies, pillbugs, silkworms, and snails. Also designed with emerging readers in mind, the books combine simple, easy to read sentences with color photographs, many of them labeled to highlight features described in the text. The books in this series contain an important note for parents and teachers. Here's the one from the Snails book.
The Watch it Grow set supports national science standards related to life science. This book describes and illustrated apple snails. The images support early readers in understanding the text. The repetition of words and phrases helps early readers learn new words. This book also introduces early readers to subject-specific vocabulary words, where are defined in the Glossary section. Early readers may need assistance to read some words and to use the Table of Contents, Glossary, Read More, Internet Sites, and Index sections of the book.
There is a lot of information packed into the 24 pages of the books in this series. Unlike the Lerner series which contains a photo on and text on every page, these books contain a full-page photograph on the left side of every spread with accompanying text on the right. Here is how the snail book begins.
What Are Snails?
Snails are invertebrates.
They have a soft body
and a hard shell.
Apple snails live in water.
They change as they grow.
The phases of the life cycle are divided into sections in the book, so readers move from the introduction to snails to From Egg to Hatchling and then to From Hatchling to Adult.

The Goldfish book is just as interesting, though divided differently because of the stages in the life cycle of a goldfish. This one contains the sections Metamorphosis, From Egg to Larva, From Larva to Fry, and From Fry to Adult. The pictures of the goldfish larvae are fascinating, and made me wonder how the photographer managed to capture the tiny creatures. The photo on page 12 is a bit blurry, but otherwise the images all standout and do a fine job of supporting the text.

Both of these series would be fine additions to nonfiction collections and are excellent resources for young readers.

Source of Books: Review copies received from publisher.

Book Review - Follow That Map!

Follow That Map!: A First Look at Mapping Skills, written and illustrated by Scot Ritchie, provides readers with an introduction to map skills while whisking them off on an adventure to find some missing pets.

The Table of Contents identifies the 14 double-page spreads that take kids through this problem-solving adventure. The book opens with a Getting Started spread. It begins this way.

Do you know how to find a hidden treasure? Do you know how far your house is from the candy store? Do you know the way to your favorite ride at the amusement park? It's easy! Join the friends below and follow that map!
This text is accompanied by a simple definition and a drawing of a map that contains a number of features that are highlighted and defined, including a compass rose, landmark, symbol, legend, routes, and a scale bar.

The next double-page spread presents the problem that begins the map-reading adventure.
Sally and her friends are playing in her backyard. Pedro notices that Sally's dog, Max, and her cat, Ollie, are missing.

Where have Max and Ollie gone? The five friends decide to find out!
Each stop along the way presents a map, a question, and some helpful information. Here is an example from the spread "In the City."
No luck on the trail. Yulee suggest going to the city zoo. Maybe Max and Ollie are visiting the animals.

Martin is getting close to the zoo. Which direction is he running?

The compass rose on a map shows you directs such as north, south, east and west.
I'm not sure what the motivation for answering the questions will be, but as a part of lesson on mapping these will be helpful tools for teachers.

Readers are introduced to 10 sights and a variety of maps along the way, including a weather map, treasure map, physical map, world map, and more. The maps are colorful, interesting, well captioned, and will be interesting for kids to explore. I did have one area of concern and that is in regards to the physical map. On the page it is called a topographical map and accompanied by this definition.
A topographical map shows the natural features of a landscape. You can use this kind of map to find rolling hills, low-lying lakes or high mountains.
The map that accompanies this text is the one on the cover of the book. My problem is not with the definition, but with the map itself and the title of the map. True topographic maps use contour lines to show the shape and elevation of the earth's surface. This map does not have these lines. That's why I referred to this map as a physical map. To avoid confusion later a teacher would likely need to explain this distinction and perhaps show examples of both topographic and physical maps of an area.

The book wraps up with the kids returning home to find the missing pets asleep under a tree. The final spread leads readers through the process of creating their own maps. Teachers will find the learning resource material (pdf) for this book to a source of useful ideas and classroom activities.

I generally liked this book, though I thought the inclusion of the map of the planets to be a bit over the top, though young readers will find it fun to look at and think about. the introductory pages alone make this one worthwhile for the clear and concise way maps are presented.

Book: Follow That Map!: A First Book of Mapping Skills
Author/Illustrator: Scot Ritchie
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: K-3
Source of Book: Review copy received from Raab Associates.

Book Review - Who Lives Here? Savanna Animals

The Who Lives Here? series, written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Pat Stephens, examines animals in their natural environments and explains how those animals are uniquely adapted to their habitats. The books are organized by habitat and include titles on Desert Animals, Forest Animals, Polar Animals, Rain Forest Animals, Savanna Animals and Wetland Animals.

Who Lives Here? Savanna Animals opens with a Table of Contents that begins with a page that defines that habitat (What is a Savanna?) and ends with a page containing animals words (pictorial index) and information for parents and teachers. In between are 9 double-page spreads, each introducing a different animal.

The opening page that asks the question "What is a __?" provides a good basic introduction to the habitat. Here is how the What is a Savanna? page begins.
A savanna is a huge area of grassy land, dotted by trees and bushes. Savannas are found in hot parts of the world. Most have a long dry season and a shorter rainy season.

The savanna is home to many exciting animals. Their bodies and habits are suited for living on the warm grassy plain.
The facing page briefly describes the savanna after it rains, a bit about what happens when the rainy season ends, the importance of grass to the animals that live here.

Once the background information has been covered, this book all about the animals. Readers will find information on these savanna inhabitants.
  • Elephant
  • Wildebeest
  • Giraffe
  • Meerkat
  • Zebra
  • Black Mamba
  • Lion
  • Ostrich
  • Rhinoceros
Each set of animal pages includes a description of the animal and a sidebar with facts about the animal and its adaptations, as well as an illustration that covers a full one and a third of the double-page spread. Here is an example.
(Main Spread, p.10)
The giraffe is the tallest animal in the world. Some big males are as tall as two-story buildings.

Giraffes stay near acacia trees that grow on the savanna. A calf drinks its mother's milk, but soon it will eat acacia leaves, too. Delicious!

(Sidebar, p.11)
A giraffe nibbles high in the treetops. It picks leaves with a tongue that is as long as your arm.

Male giraffes wrestle with their powerful necks to see who is the strongest.

Long, strong legs help the giraffe run fast. Hooves, as big as dinner plates, give a fierce kick.
Here's a sample spread of these animal pages.
Each of these animal entries is packed with information. The text is easy to read and the illustrations in the sidebar support the text by providing close-up views of the adaptations described. The animal words section on the last page of each book provides a search-and-find opportunity for readers. Six close-up views of a body part are accompanied by a name, page number, and the question "Can you find pictures of these body parts in the book?" The idea here is for students to revisit the pages and think about how the body part helps the animal adapt to its environment.

This is a strong entry in the series that will be a useful resources for students studying how a variety of animals adapt to their environments. The accessibility of the language and detailed illustrations make them helpful texts for young readers. The fact that this book contains elephants, giraffes, and other "exotic" animals makes this one particularly appealing. Recommended.

Book: Who Lives Here? Savanna Animals
Author: Deborah Hodge
Illustrator: Pat Stephens
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 24 pages
Grades: K-3
Source of Book: Review copy received from Raab Associates.

Monday, January 18, 2010

How Poetry Fared

Here's how poetry titles fared in the awards this year.
Caldecott Honor Book
written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
(Cybils poetry finalist)

Coretta Scott King Honor Book for Illustrator
The Negro Speaks of Rivers
written by Langston Hughes and illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Gorgeous illustrations breathe new life into Hughes' poem. Each line of the poem is paired with a watercolor illustration that highlights water as a source of life and sorrow in the lives of black people.

Coretta Scott King Medal for Illustrator
My People
written by Langston Hughes and illustrated by Charles R. Smith

Hughes familiar poem that begins "The night is beautiful/So the faces of my people" is brilliantly illustrated in sepia-toned photos. Though only 33-words in length, the poem is brought vibrantly to life in a series of double-page spreads containing only 2 or 3 words each.

Pura Belpré Author and Illustrator Honor Book
Diego: Bigger Than Life
written by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand and illustrated by David Diaz

Pura Belpré Author Honor Book
Federico Garcia Lorca (Cuando Los Grandes Eran Pequenos/ When the Grown-Ups Were Children)
written by Georgina Lazaro and illustrated by Enrique S. Moreiro
Congratulations to the winners.

Sibert Medal Winners

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in English during the preceding year. Here are this year's winners.
Honor Books
The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors
written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani
(Cybils nonfiction picture/information books finalist)

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11
written and illustrated by Brian Floca
(Cybils nonfiction picture/information books finalist)

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
written by Phillip M Hoose
(Cybils nonfiction middle grade & young adult books finalist)

Medal Winner
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
written by Tanya Lee Stone

Congratulations to all the winners.

Where's That Shiny New Sticker Going to Go?!

Congrats to Tanita Davis for her Coretta Scott King honor award for Mare's War. Here's a summary.
Alternating between present and past, the story of Marey Lee Boylen's service in the African American unit of the Women’s Army Corp (WAC) unfolds against the backdrop of a roadtrip with her bickering granddaughters. Mare's story is told as she experienced life in the 40's, and as such is filled details about day-to-day life during the war, the humiliations of segregation (even in the army), and the role of WACs in World War II.
Where do you think they'll put that shiny new sticker?

Monday Poetry Stretch - Winners and Losers

Everyone in the world of children's literature is thinking about winners this morning. Who will they be? I hesitate to say that there are winners and losers here, as anyone who has walked the long road to publication is surely a winner.

I am thinking now of occasions when I have won and lost things, when others have won grand victories, and yet others have felt the sting of defeat. So, while many winners will be celebrated in the days to come, let's write about winners and/or losers.

Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Poetry Friday - Nocturnal

This week I'm sharing a poem by Stephen Edgar. I simply haven't been able to get it out of my mind. Maybe once you read it you'll feel the same as I do.
by Stephen Edgar

It's midnight now and sounds like midnight then,
The words like distant stars that faintly grace
               The all-pervading dark of space,
               But not meant for the world of men.
                              It's not what we forget
But what was never known we most regret
Discovery of. Checking one last cassette
Among my old unlabelled discards, few
Of which reward the playing, I find you.

Read the poem in its entirety.
The round up is being hosted by Mary Ann at Great Kid Books. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared this week. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Firsts

The challenge this week was to write a poem about a first. Here are the results.
by Jane Yolen

My first kiss was a revelation,
not because it was deep, soulful,
full of tongue,
but rather hesitant
or perhaps respectful,
hard to know at the moment
of such new, sweet heat
or even years later, trying to recall.
A quick peck on the lips,
a butterfly not a wasp,
and yet I was stung
there under the Vermont trees.
That boy, I think his name was Paul.
The trees, I think they might have been birches.
The place, by the main house at summer camp.
I remember that name at least:
or Indian Brook,
now Farm & Wilderness,
because Quakers are wary of misnomers.
But names fall away fifty-five years later
and only that first young kiss,
Whether Paul or the birches do as well,
well, it little matters
when the matter is not reality
but memory.

©2010 Jane Yolen All Rights Reserved

My First Poem this Week
by Ken Slesarik

Can you fix this poem?
For Jane Yolen I am not.
It’s not a sonnet or an ode
with a complicated plot.
It’s closer to a limerick,
a basic, simple jaunt.
The best parts of my poem
are the paper and the font.
The meter it is woeful.
The cadence clearly weak.
My grammar needs some work
so go on and take a peek.
Please do your best to fix this.
I’m certain you won’t fail.
And if you know a publisher
this poem, it’s for sale.

©2010 by K. Thomas Slesarik

First Time Roasting a Turkey
by Diane Mayr of Random Noodling

Come to think of it
I'm now sixty and I
have yet to roast a turkey,
or even to cook a roast
beef. I've got endless
"firsts" possibilities--
making the aforementioned
roasts, knitting--anything,
writing a sonnet, welcoming
a grandchild, traveling
west of Pennsylvania,
getting a pedicure, taking
tap dance lessons, going
up in a hot air balloon,
seeing a Broadway musical--
on Broadway, winning a Newbury
(actually any award would do),
growing clematis, wearing
high heels (nah, I'll never
do that), running a mile,
eating a hot fudge sundae
with three scoops of ice
cream, nuts, a cherry, and
real whipped cream without
feeling guilty. Hey, I'm
sixty--that doesn't make
me old--only I can do that.

for Lesley
by Steven Withrow of Crackles of Speech

February night, stuck inside
a stuffy, dim-lit dorm room,
people talking nonsense.

I say to no one, anyone,
"I'm going for a walk,"
hoping it won't draw a crowd.

I've got your attention.
You ask, "Can I come too?"
We grab our warm coats

slip out the door to the hall.
Multiple musics surround us:
Frankie Valli's "Oh, What a Night"

mixes with Pearl Jam's "Black."
The corridor reeks of popcorn.
Outside, cold air blows

swirls of snow on the road
that goes from Cedar Hall
up toward the frog pond

by the auditorium.
It's well below freezing --
maybe fifteen degrees --

but I don't notice.
In fact, I'm flushed in the face.
We're both eighteen.

The heat between us
is palpable,
like a delicate shape

of glass in soul-space.
I start to speak, stop,
awake to something new

in your sidelong smile,
a kiss of dark, dark eyes,
an inner shift I cannot name

and know how loved
I am in love, how we'll never
be separate, or the same.

Shirley Klock shared this modified tanka.

Creek gurgles, out there.
Trout sizzles, in here.
My first time to crunch down whole,
Head-first, a bony small fry,
While outside, fish rise to feed.

Liz left this poem in the comments.

The End

First Child
How I waited
Prayed and yearned
For you
To be
To see
The you
Of you
Alone – with a small part of me
And he – the one I love the most
(He waited
Wanted too)
But you
Of all we thought should be
Will never be
No part of him
No part of me
No dream
No hope
No faith not dark
No first born
Beloved one…

Greg K. of GottaBook shares a poem entitled Getting Ready.

First Sentence
by Kate Coombs of Book Aunt

It was a dark and—
no. She ran, shrieking—
no. The breath of dawn,
the pink breath of dawn?
No. No. I couldn't believe—
If an octopus would only—
maybe. Tilly had flown
just once. Not bad. But if—
okay. His fangs dripped—
no. Absolutely NO vampires!
The hydrocephalic earwig—
yuck. Or maybe...
I wanted to tell a story.
But nothing worked.

That works.

--Kate Coombs, 2010

I wonder if anyone had a first love like mine?
by Carol Weis

it was his lack of
respect for
that I fell for
his (parentheses)
out of nowhere
his words
swaggering down
the lines
luring me in
with mouth
my blossoming body
could only dream of
ee(first love)

© Carol Weis

by Barbara Turner of Afternoons With Grammy

a month or more
in chysalis,
limbs sore
and stiff at this
moment of awakening.

surging wings
antennae strings
pop, unflex.
A butterfly’s first breath.

Susan Taylor Brown shares a poem entitled First Kiss.

Taking the Years Away
by Rachel Green

i gave you a piece of my mind
and you took it away; kept it with
my heart (which i gave you the day we met)
in an old Liquorice Allsorts tin
you bought at an antiques fair.
i lost my mind when you left
but you stayed in touch
and over the years came to love me
like a well-remembered aunt
and you gave me back that first piece,
dried and withered as it was.
i remembered our youth
and the old quarry where we fell in love
over a fossilised snail shell.

Jone of DeoWriter shares two poems about firsts.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thematic Book List - Earthquakes

While the world watches events unfold in Haiti, many children will have questions about earthquakes and the damage they do, as well as this place called Haiti. Mitali Perkins has Haiti covered with a terrific short list of children's and YA books set in Haiti. For my part I've put together a short list of books about earthquakes.

Given the devastation that follows in the wake of a powerful earthquake, it's hard to see them as constructive, but geologically speaking, that's exactly what they are--constructive forces of nature. Constructive forces (earthquakes, volcanoes, deposition) are forces that build up the earth's surface. Destructive forces (weathering and erosion) are forces that tear it down.

The list that follows explains the science behind earthquakes. You'll find some nonfiction titles, some poetry, and a bit of history, both true and imagined.

Earthshake: Poems From the Ground Up, written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Cathie Felstead - This collection of twenty-two poems introduces geologic concepts through metaphor and word play in a variety of poetic forms.

Earthquakes, written by Michael Woods and Mary Woods - Did you know that there is an earthquake somewhere on earth every day? This book in the Disasters Up Close series includes dramatic images and stories of survivors while examining the facts and figures related to some of the world’s biggest earthquake disasters.

Earthquakes: Earth's Mightiest Moments, written by David Harrison and illustrated by Cheryl Nathan - A good choice for younger readers, this book provides a nice introduction to earthquakes. Readers will learn about the layers of the earth, plate tectonics, the scientists that study earthquakes, and more.

Earthquakes, written by Franklyn Branley and illustrated by Megan Lloyd - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series explains why earthquakes happen, where they occur most often, and what to do if one happens near you.

How Mountains Are Made, written by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and illustrated by James Graham Hale - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series explains the constructive forces behind mountain building.

Jump Into Science: Earthquakes, written by Ellen Prager and illustrated by Susan Greenstein - This series from the National Geographic Society explains the causes and effects of earthquakes.

Time for Kids: Earthquakes!, written by the Editors of Time for Kids - Using simple language, this book is divided into short chapters and includes the topics of The Earth Rocks, Measuring Movement, Monster Quakes, and Stay Safe. A glossary is included.

Earthquakes by Seymour Simon - Full color photographs on every page enhance this clear and concise text that introduces the cause of earthquakes and their effects. Historic information on earthquake events is also included.

Witness to Disaster: Earthquakes, written by Judy Fradin - This book delves into the science of earthquakes and focuses on the more deadly aspects of earthquake disasters, including building collapse, fire, landslides, avalanches, and tsunamis. Also included is a good deal of information on notable earthquakes in history.

The Earth-Shaking Facts About Earthquakes with Max Axiom, written by Katherine Krohn and illustrated by Tod Smith and Al Milgrom - Max Axiom, super-cool scientist and teacher, explains the science behind earthquakes in graphic novel format.

Janice VanCleave's Earthquakes: Mind-boggling Experiments You Can Turn Into Science Fair Projects, written by Janice VanCleave and illustrated by Ray Burns - This book contains numerous hands-on activities that will help students better understand earthquakes. The science is good and the explanations are particularly clear and accessible to readers.

If You Lived at the Time of the Great San Francisco Earthquake, written by Ellen Devine and illustrated by Pat Grant Porter - This book takes readers to San Francisco before, during and after the 1906 earthquake.

The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, written by Marc Tyler Nobleman - This title in the We The People series uses photographs and illustrations to describe the events of the San Francisco earthquake. (See a sample at Google Books.)

The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, written by Laurence Yep - Told in the alternating voices of two young boys, Yep tells a gripping story about the events surrounding the San Francisco earthquake. Also included are real-life anecdotes and information about earthquakes.

Earthquake in the Early Morning (Magic Tree House #24), written by Mary Pope Osbourne and illustrated by Sal Murdocca - Annie and Jack find themselves in San Francisco shortly before the 1906 earthquake strikes.

Earthquake, written by Milly Lee and illustrated by Yangsook Choi - Milly Lee based this story of a child and her family on the memories of her mother, who was eight years old when the 1906 earthquake devastated San Francisco. When the earthquake hits the family must leave their home in Chinatown and make their way to the safety of Golden Gate Park. Includes an author's note that provides more details about the earthquake and describes what happened to Lee's family.
If you are interested in additional titles about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, see the annotated list put together at Through The Looking Glass.

In addition to the titles listed above, here are a number of useful sites for teachers and kids.
If I've missed a useful title, please let me know and I will add it to the list.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Books on Haiti

This morning after watching the coverage of the earthquake in Haiti I thought it would be nice to put a thematic list together. However, the ever-amazing Mitali Perkins was way ahead of me. Click on over to Mitali's Fire Escape and check out her list of children's and YA books set in Haiti. Thanks, Mitali!

Karen Lynn Williams has written a number of books that are set in Haiti. If you visit her web site you'll find teacher's guides for Circles of Hope, Painted Dreams, and Tap-Tap.