Thursday, July 28, 2011

Technology Media Teacher!

The long search for the right position has come to an end!  I have accepted a position at a local school as their Technology Media Teacher.  This is a brand new school and, while they have classroom libraries, they do not have a School Library Media Center (yet).  My job will be to order books for the school, manage the collection, and incorporate literacy and reading into my technology lessons.  I will have a lot of creative freedom in this position and a great opportunity to teach Information Literacy, Transliteracy, and get children excited about reading and technology.  I hope to post my experiences here as I learn and grow from this new position.  Of course, I will keep my school anonymous.  I am looking forward to furthering my career as an Information Literacy Educator!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden StirredThe Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred to children is a delicious way to teach Spanish vocabulary, Spanish culture, and order of events in a story.

A Cazuela is a large terra-cotta pot used for cooking soups, stews, and casseroles. It is also the term used for the meals you cook inside of it. The Farm Maiden (campesina), the farmer (campesino) and all of the farm animals take part in preparing the food in the Cazuela. Each character and ingredient is first introduced in English and then repeated in Spanish. The cazuela in this story is making a delicious, traditional Spanish dessert, Arroz Con Leche (rice with milk). There is even an Arroz Con Leche recipe at the end of the story!

Filled with colorful adjectives and easy prose, Vamos tells a lovely story that children of any culture can enjoy. There is a glossary at the end of the book which can help non-Spanish speakers with the pronunciation of words. The illustrations by Rafael Lopez are warm, vivid and engaging.

Teacher-Librarians- be sure to use the Discussion and Activity Guide  provided on Samantha Vamos' website  when you teach this story!

What an excellent cultural resource for any library collection!

Yoga, Zumba, and Books!

Today in my Preschool @ the Library class the theme was EXERCISE!  We started off class with a good stretch and then read:

Get Up and Go!Get Up and Go! by Nancy Carlson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


After reading time, we did all the yoga moves depicted in this book:

Sleepy Little Yoga: A Toddler's Sleepy Book of YogaSleepy Little Yoga: A Toddler's Sleepy Book of Yoga by Rebecca Whitford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had the kids do each pose together on the story time rug while listening to Baby Mozart.  It was so sweet and they had a blast!

To liven things up a bit, we changed the CD to Reggaeton Ninos Vol.2 (specifically track #7) and I taught the kids some simple Zumba moves.  

My daughter and I take Zumba classes twice a week and we LOVE it.  It is an excellent way to exercise while really having fun.  

I taught my preschool students a simple Merengue step:

followed by the Zumba Cuban Salsa, which is a side to side Salsa instead of front to back.  The children were then given time to freestyle dance to music.  It was a wonderful program and everyone had fun! 

To learn more about why movement is such an important part of the learning process, vist Rae Pica's website Moving and Learning.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wildthorn- a Young Adult Novel

WildthornWildthorn by Jane Eagland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was amazing! I felt the entire spectrum of emotions as I poured through the pages of Wildthorn: longing, frustration, indignation, rage, love. Eagland captures the ignorance of the time period perfectly.

The dangerously male-dominated medical field in Victorian England was one in which any show of strong emotion or independence of thought displayed by women could be interpreted as instability or insanity. (Unfortunately, this ideology persisted well into the 20th century).
Louisa, a smart, academic, and strong-minded young woman has a difficult time living in a world that doesn't respect female intelligence. She longs to be a doctor, like her father. However, through the schemings of others, she winds up a victim of this very same profession. BUT-Louisa isn't a woman to underestimate.

This book is a tribute to the spirit of women that took us out of oppression and into a more equal society. It is also a testament to the gay rights movement which is still fighting for the equality they deserve.

This book should be in any Young Adult collection and can be enjoyed by people of any sexual orientation. Eagland beautifully conveys the message that love is love. Love saves us from the darkness in this world.

My only criticism of this book is that I found at least 4 typographical errors- so a better editing job needs to be done on the reprint.

I give this book 5 stars- for making me cry, making me feel, and gluing me to its pages.

Interest Level: 13 and up

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nicoletta Ceccoli, Illustrator

Nicoletta Ceccoli is an Italian illustrator and artist whose work has been featured in children's books in Italy, the United States and the United Kingdom.  Her work has a dark beauty and surreal quality- like a combination of Dali, Escher, and Porcelain dolls.  It is truly stunning.  As I have fallen in love with her work, I want to share it with you...

You may visit her website to see her gorgeous work, or you may check your local library to see some of the books she has illustrated.

The Girl in the Castle Inside the MuseumThe Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Breathtakingly beautiful! Nicoletta Ceccoli's illustrations are both eerie and lovely. They bring goosebumps to the flesh as they are simultaneously mysterious and entrancing. Kate Bernheimer's tale of a tiny girl, living in a castle, in a magical glass globe, in a museum is both heartbreaking and magical. Deeper still within the story lies the question- as we read her story, who is reading ours? A beautiful addition to any child's library, especially since it calls for a child's picture to be placed within. An almost frighteningly enticing story!

Horns and WrinklesHorns and Wrinkles by Joseph Helgerson

 A Dignity of DragonsA Dignity of Dragons by Jacqueline K. Ogburn

 How Robin Saved SpringHow Robin Saved Spring by Debbie Ouellet

 Firefighters in the DarkFirefighters in the Dark by Dashka Slater

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My New Favorite Internet Tool

Do you want your students/patrons to do an online search for an academic subject, but do not want all the unrelated clutter that can come from a search engine?  Want an online encyclopedia that isn't a wiki (which can be edited by anyone with internet access) but has a Wikipedia tab for those who love it?  Would you like this service to be free?

Ok- so, go to Mashpedia!

Unlike Wikipedia, Mashpedia isn't able to be edited by the public.  Mashpedia is a mashup encyclopedia that borrows real-time content from all over the web to answer queries.  It is NOT a search engine (which can search for any trivial, or very broad query).  Mashpedia is for academic and specific topic searches only.  The information is free and, therefore, is not peer reviewed for accuracy.  This means that, as with any online search tool, students/patrons will have to gather multiple sources and analyze their data for credibility.  However, this type of search tool will eliminate all the spam-like clutter and irrelevant information that can come through a typical search engine.  I REALLY like it (more than that copy-cat poser, Zomobo).  I will be using it a LOT at my library!

Awesome Transliteracy Poster!

Joyce Valenza of School Library Journal's Blog Neverendingsearch, created and posted this excellent poster all about what Teacher-Librarians do.  It is covered under an Attribution-Non-Commercial Creative Commons License, so you can print it and use it in your library (just don't sell it, or claim you created it!).  Perhaps I should paste one of these on the office door of the Superintendent of my county's school district!  Maybe then our schools would get their librarians back!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I've learned a new word today.  That is always an exciting thing. 


Don't know what it is?  Well, I am just starting to learn myself.  

According to Professor Sue Thomas:
Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.

  My interpretation of Transliteracy is that it is simply the expansion of the term Literacy.  Today there are so many more ways to digest information than just the printed word.  While books are still a valid medium, there is an entire digital universe of information that we are exposed to as well.  This digital universe is multilayered.  Whereas books are two-dimensional physical objects that require an imagination to become multidimensional, digital information can be as layered and multidimensional as the operating system will allow. (Thank goodness books exist, however, because people must NEVER lose the ability to create images in their minds!!!)

   Being able to read is just the first step of transliteracy- one also needs to know how to operate the media through which they are consuming information.  A book needs very few instructions to use- open, read from left to right, close. However a computer, a Smartphone, a Nook or Kindle requires a type of literacy that goes beyond being able to read.  There is a technological literacy required to extract information from this medium. 

Libraries will have to become the places where this type of literacy can be taught.  We already teach basic computer classes and some libraries even teach classes on social networking online.  We will, however, have to expand this education service to include the world of portable computer devices.

From what I am reading Transliteracy and Information Literacy seem to be codependent terms.  As School Librarians, we are responsible for educating students to know how to analyze and dissect information for credibility, validity, and worth.  That is Information Literacy.  However, they will first have to know how to get access to that information.  Knowing how to access information begins with a core skill of Literacy and evolves into the broader set of skills (knowing how to operate multiple devices and formats) which is Transliteracy.  Once Transliteracy is accomplished, Information Literacy is the next step in the evolution of knowledge.

Now more than ever Librarians will be needed to act as guides, and libraries will be needed to provide equitable access in this revolutionary metamorphosis in the world of information.  The smart librarian will stay current in their knowledge and skills and will bend and sway with the changes ahead of us.  Ultimately, our job is to help people attain information- good information- accurate information.  In this new universe of instant information- people can get quite lost, or worse, misinformed.

KnowledgeWorks Foundation- Institute for the Future
Libraries and Transliteracy
Transliteracy Resource Group

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thank You Jo...for everything.

J.K. Rowling is one woman- and she has touched the entire world.  Her stories have brought reading back to a generation whose lives have become digitized and prepackaged.  She created a world that (almost) the entire planet fell in love with.

Today I saw the final Harry Potter movie and I wept as if I were saying goodbye to family.  I should say, I wept all over again, because I also wept when I read the final novel.  I can honestly say that I love those characters as if they wore actual flesh and bone.

I am not sure if Jo will ever touch pen to paper again in her life.  She certainly doesn't need to for money, or fame, or anything other than the desire to share her thoughts.

She is one woman and she has brought joy to so many.  I just want to publicly say thank you, Ms. Rowling.  Thank you for giving us Harry and Hogwarts and every intricate detail of Harry's world.

I don't believe any author, in the history of mankind, has reached more hearts than you have.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

OMG- Itsy Mitsy is sooooo CUTE!

Itsy Mitsy Runs AwayItsy Mitsy Runs Away by Elanna Allen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Itsy Mitsy is the CUTEST storybook child ever drawn. If CindyLou Who and Max,King of All Wild Things grew up and had a child together- Itsy Mitsy would be her.

This palm-sized, dinosaur-costumed, rebel has decided that bedtime is NOT for her and that she must run away. However, her broken-hearted father can't bear to let her go without at least helping her pack! She needs all the right gear to protect her from the Bedtime Beasties! (These Beasties look very similar to some well-known monsters that live on a famous street known for its sunny days!)

As the story begins to layer itself, the prose forms a pattern that little ones will enjoy. They will also love this tiny little heroine with super-human strength and spunky independence as she prepares to run away.

With lime green and orange as the dominating colors on the palest blue backdrop, Allen's characters pop off the page. This is a beautiful book that is super fun to read!

Recommended for ages 3-7.  Received Starred Reviews from Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus!

Visit Itsy Mitsy at her website!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Audio Book Addiction

As a working mother with a fairly long commute, I go through a ton of audio books a year.  In my car, at all times, there are the audio books I listen to with my 6 year old son and 11 year old daughter, and then there are those I listen to after I drop them off at school.  If I don't have an audio book (or three) in my car I get very grumpy!

This is quite a beneficial addiction for a Children's Librarian because my repertoire increases much faster than if I were only reading books. I tend to digest a lot of teen fiction via audio which is helpful since they are longer than most children's books.  My YA knowledge stays up to date even though I work with the 12 and under set.

This obsession with Audio Books also helps me to be a better housekeeper!  Using Audible, or free WMA/MP3 downloads from my library via Overdrive, I can listen to Audio Books as I clean house.  I simply plugging ear buds into my Android phone!  Folding laundry and scrubbing bathtubs goes much faster while engrossed in a really great Tamora Pierce novel!

Not only has this Audio Addiction benefited me- but my children have developed very sophisticated vocabularies from all the books they have been introduced to.  My son, who has been listening to audio books in the car with us since before he could even speak, is now an excellent reader with superior language skills.  My daughter has gained amazing comprehension and recall skills from her years and years of audio book car rides.  She actually prefers to commute with whichever parent is listening to the better audio book. (I couldn't compete the year my husband went through all 7 Harry Potters with them!)

Audio Books are also excellent resources for struggling readers, children with attention issues, and English Language Learners.  Hearing the words read in the correct rhythm, inflection, context, and emotion helps readers who cannot use those skills in their own reading.  Reading along with a novel as the audio takes the guess work out of pronunciation and inflection can help hesitant readers get over that final reading hurdle.

And, of course, they are a blessing for any family who wants a peaceful commute to school!

Resources: Audio Books and Literacy  ; Audiobooks and Literacy Toolbox; The Literacy Benefits of Listening ; Using Audio Books to Increase Literacy; Audible; Overdrive

Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

Visit my Audio Book Bookshelf on Goodreads to see which books I devoured in Audio form!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Artwork of Rafael Lopez

The 2011 Summer Reading theme from the Collaborative Summer Library Program is "One World, Many Stories."  This international theme has been illustrated by renouned Mexican artist, Rafael Lopez.  Click HERE to listen to Mr. Lopez talking about his work on this project.

Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children's Day/Book Day; Celebremos El dia de los ninos/El dia de los librosBook Fiesta!: Celebrate Children's Day/Book Day; Celebremos El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros by Pat Mora
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lopez also illustrated Book Fiesta! by Pat Mora, which won the Pura Belpre awardBook Fiesta is about the adventure of reading and how reading inspires the imagination.  For the past 15 years, thanks to Pat Mora, there has been a celebration of children and reading called El Dia de los Ninos/El Dia de los Libros.  Book Fiesta was written in honor of this celebration.

Here is another example of Lopez's Children's book illustrations that captures his fire and Spanish flair:

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden StirredThe Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos

Rafael Lopez was the perfect choice for this year's summer reading theme illustrator! His artistic style is vibrantly colorful, warm, and engaging. With Hispanic flavor and international appeal, his work glows and emits emotion.

The "One World Many Stories" artwork is beautiful!  If your local library is participating in the program you should stop by the children's department to see the posters and decorations all designed by Rafael Lopez!    

Say Daddy! by Michael Shoulders

Not every book I review is a new publication.  There is something to be said for discovering treasures in your collection and sharing them with your colleagues.  One of my fellow librarians is the mother of a toddler who refuses to say "daddy."  He calls his father by his first name while slyly smiling about it.  He will say "Mama" all day long- but shakes his head and says "no!" when asked to say daddy.  It is very funny!  When we found this book on the shelf this morning we thought that we'd find a similar scenario in its pages, but this story isn't quite the same situation.  The toddler in this story won't say anyone's name- but LOVES to be read to...

Say Daddy! (Picture Books)Say Daddy! by Michael Shoulders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Everyone wants the baby to say their name first as they spend time reading stories, and teaching the new baby about the world- but the baby just coos and gurgles. This is a wonderful story about family, and the importance of reading to children. Told from the perspective of a toddler, this story will touch your heart and make you giggle. Say Daddy makes a nice one-on-one storybook to read with your youngest child and also works as a story time book for themes like family or babies.

Interest Level: Preschool-2nd
Reading Level: 2nd and up
Published 2008

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In Praise of Academics!

Calvin Can't FlyCalvin Can't Fly by Jennifer Berne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A librarian friend of mine just handed me a copy of Calvin Can't Fly by Jennifer Berne. This is a great story about having a passion for learning.

As we start out our lives, we all discover something that sparks our interest. For a little black starling named Calvin- that something is books. Calvin reads so much- he never learns to fly. When it is time to migrate south will Calvin perish, or will his book knowledge come in handy?

...Find out as your 2nd through 4th grader reads this story to you!

Scumble by Ingrid Law

ScumbleScumble by Ingrid Law
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Companion novels, in my humble opinion, can be harder to get into than sequels because it takes some time to let go of your attachment to the original characters.  I had my feet dug in the ground when I first started Scumble- deeply pouting over the absence of Mibs, Will, Bobby, and Fish.  Jumping ahead 9 years and only getting a glimpse of beloved characters takes some adjustment.  However- when I got over myself and allowed Scumble to make its way into my heart- I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Scumble is a much more lighthearted story than Savvy and yet is just as endearing.  Ledger Kale, cousin to the Beaumont kids, just had his 13th birthday and is very disappointed by his unimpressive savvy.  Soon enough, however, he discovers his savvy is anything BUT is actually destructive!

After he practically ruins a family wedding and almost destroys his Uncle's barn, Ledger's parents decide that a summer on Uncle Autry's ranch will help Ledger learn to scumble his savvy. However, it is HARD to learn to scumble when a nosy girl from town, named Sarah Jane, keeps trying to write newspaper articles about your family or when your cousins want to electrocute or levitate you.

Will Ledger wind up like Rocket, 20-something and still hiding from the world on Uncle Autry's ranch?

Ingrid Law's Scumble will leave you guessing and hoping while capturing your heart with her folksy prose.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 11, 2011

Google+: Like Facebook but Smarter

Finally a Social Networking platform where I can choose who sees which posts!

Google+ is in a test phase- to which I have been added.  From my Gmail account, I can click right on my Google+ link and be instantly directed to my page.

I am able to place my contacts into different "circles" and can choose which "circles" can see which posts.  This is wonderful!  After just having had another unsuccessful round of job interviews, how liberating it feels to be able to say how I feel with only my ACTUAL friends eyes looking on!  :)

I can have a separate "circle" for professional contacts, my children's school contacts, specific organization contacts.  No longer will you have to create a separate profile for your professional life!

This could be a revolution in the social networking world if Facebook doesn't hop on board and figure out a way to filter posts as well.

The ONE downside I see to this platform is how parents will be able to monitor their children's posts.  You may be excluded from the really juicy ones!  So- parents, the only option, which I firmly believe in, is to have access to your child's username and password!

I think Google+ is going to be HUGE.  Facebook better step up.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Melanie Watt's books Speak to Her Readers...Literally!

You're Finally Here!You're Finally Here! by Mélanie Watt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Melanie Watt's stories are famous for talking directly to their readers.  This style engages children and appeals to their imaginations.

As in her Chester books, You're Finally Here is written as a frank conversation between its character and the reader (who cannot get a word in!).

An adorable bunny with eyebrows is SO excited you have finally showed up to read his book, but he still cannot get over his irritation at how long it took you to show up!  This bunny expects a very high level of courtesy from his reader, but can he behave according to these expectations?  Find out when you read this story with your preschooler or when your K-1st grader reads it to you!

Bob Shea Understands Kids!

I'm a SharkI'm a Shark by Bob Shea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a Shark would make a cute read-aloud duet: The black text to be read by the adult, the white text by the child.  It would also be fun to have two librarians team up and read this as a duet for story time!  This book is adorable from its dedication (which includes a scanned copy of the author's young son's artwork) to the jacket flap (which includes a father-son photo).  I'm a Shark contains a dialogue between narrator and shark which is truly between father and son.  You can just imagine the bedside conversations that sparked the inspiration for this story.  Shark is fearless!  Nothing scares him!  Nothing? Well...

Check this one out to read with your 2-4 year old or have your 5-7 year old read it to you!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Amazing Book Trailer!

I LOVE book trailers.  I think this is a wonderful medium for spreading the word and increasing the enthusiasm for great books.  Instead of commercials inundating our children as they watch their favorite programs, how wonderful would it be if age appropriate book trailers appeared on screen.

While perusing one of my favorite book review blogs Waking Brain Cells, I discovered this trailer for a graphic novel out this month called Sidekicks by Dan Santat:

I was so impressed by the professional quality and suspenseful tone of this trailer.  This will motivate kids to want to read this book.  I will definitely be purchasing Sidekicks for my children!

So, how can we make book trailers with our students?  Do we need to be tech geniuses?  Nope.  This relatively simple process can be an excellent way to express creativity and get students excited about books.  Here are some resources you can use:

Book Trailers for Readers: How to Make a Book Trailer

Squidoo: Book Trailers

Book Trailers as Educational Tools

Using Windows Movie Maker

Tech & Learning: Making Book Trailers with Photo Story 3

Microsoft Photo Story 3

Book Trailers: 11 steps to make your own

43 Book Trailers Sites

Good luck and have fun inspiring young readers to share their excitement!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Checking in...

One of the interesting things about running a blog is the ability to see where in the world your viewers are from. My blog is still an infant, and yet I have had hits from South Korea, South America, and, quite often, France. I am amazed by the power the internet has to reach the world and enable us to share ideas and information. I would love to hear from you when you stop by, so feel free to leave a comment on any of my posts.

 As for books, right now I am reading Scumble by Ingrid Law, The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull, and Graceling by Kristin Cashore. As always, I'll let you know what I think when I am through.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Underland Chronicles: Gregor and the Code of Claw

Gregor and the Code of Claw (Underland Chronicles, #5)Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As an author, Suzanne Collins isn't looking to present a fantasy to her readers that glosses over the true nature of humanity. In the Underland Chronicles, as in life, people resist peace for all that they say they seek it. Despite the fact that many of the Underland characters are talking animals, this series is best read by children who are able to deal with the reality of violence. The killing and the rage in the Underland is intense. These books are about balance. They are about the dance of diplomacy that is peacekeeping. They are about humanity- in all its ugliness and beauty. Who is the enemy? Can anyone group of people truly be an absolute enemy? These are the questions Collins raises in her Underland Chronicles.

The Code of Claw is the final installment in the Underland Chronicles. Who will survive the Prophecy of Time? Will Gregor, the warrior, die in the war against the Bane? If you are looking for a neat and tidy happy ending- then you may need to choose a different author to read. Collins pulls you in, makes you feel, and then keeps it real.

Reading Level: 9 and up
Interest Level: 11 and up

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind

Out of My MindOut of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Let me begin this review by saying that I did not read this book- my 11 year old daughter did.

I've been avoiding this book because I know it will make me cry.

Out of My Mind is on the Sunshine State Young Readers Award list for 6th-8th grade 2011. All I knew about it before my daughter read it was that it was a sad story about a girl with a disability. I tend to avoid books that have the power to hurt me...or, let's say, I put them off for a while. My daughter was 7 pages into this book when I knew I would have to be mentally prepared before I ever picked it up. She said, "Mom, I am 7 pages into this book and already I am depressed."

However- the book called to her. She chose to remain glued to the couch reading instead of enjoying her summer freedom because she just had to read this book. She kept saying, "Mom, this book is so sad, but so good." At one point she came to me and said, "This book is making me so angry."

When she was done reading, I could see that the ending wasn't "and they all lived happily ever after." My daughter was both frustrated and enamored with the story. Reading this book affected her emotionally, physically, intellectually. She was engaged in some deep thinking and evolving. Draper's words really reached her-waking up an empathy and humanistic fire in her.

I will read this book- one day...soon. The book is obviously powerful. I just wanted to share with you my daughter's journey through these pages to demonstrate the effect a good book can have on a child. Reading truly enriches the psyche.