Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reading Aloud to Kids!

Jen Robinson has a post about starting a read aloud to kids campaign (
This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I believe my own mother "created" an English teacher by reading to me constantly and never denying me that time. Even as a virtual non-reader herself, she still understood the importance of reading aloud to kids.

In my own classroom, I read aloud to my 7th and 8th graders every year and they love it! I even sneak in some "activities" for reading comprehension once in a while so I can judge their attentiveness and understanding. Believe me, that zeros in on possible reading issues much more so than any test I've ever seen.

Someone in the blogosphere clued me in to the website Vista Print where teachers can make just about anything for their classrooms. Recently, I had a large magnet made for my car that reads "Please read to your kids everyday". It's on the passenger side of my van and I hope people read it and take it to heart. This is SUCH an important issue to me- and Jen Robinson writes that over 60% of kids under age 6 are NOT being read to on a daily basis! My kids think that their nighttime routine isn't complete without their books. And, my daughter twin has pushed me into the direction of now doing individual reading in each child's bed rather than "twin book time" in my bed. What this actually does is make mommy drop off to sleep by the end of the third read aloud. :) But, they love it and depend on this nightly.

Please, please read to your kids- your own and your students! No matter how old they are. EMU Professor, Mary Bigler, always says in her presentations that you should: "Read to kids from the time you get them until the time they leave your home." Wouldn't that be powerful if the whole country did that? Think about it- an end to poverty through reading? What a great concept.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tomie DePaola Strikes Gold Again

Does Tomie dePaola ever write a bad book? I have loved his writing for decades now! I even used his books when I taught preschool, eons ago. This book also does not disappoint. When I saw him speak at NCTE this year, he mentioned this book (it's in my notes) and said he did the art as a collage with avery labels and prismacolor markers. What a beautiful result! The book covers the actual song of St. Francis in a shortened version for children. But, the pictures- they are clean and bright, almost giving the birds and St. Francis an illuminated quality. Sun and moon follow with their ethereal qualities. I may be biased because I love this author and St. Francis, but this is a real treasure for my family.

I also love the fact that dePaola dedicated the book to a Benedictine nun at an east coast Abbey (my Oblate status). Sometimes I think that Mr. de and I share a lot in common. He's really the "santa claus-y" kind of guy you want to sit down and enjoy a
good meal with. Happy reading all!

I'm reading... I really am!

January has always been a horrid time for me. The weather in Michigan is COLD (especially this year) and all I want to do is drink coffee and eat chocolate chip cookies, which makes for a less than desirable pant size. :) Oh well. Cream and sugar with that?

Okay, thanks so much to Rachel over at Penguin for sending me my first box of ARCs; it's awesome! Unfortunately, I am reading so much (in between finalizing grades) that I haven't been blogging! This upcoming book, 2030: A Day in the Life of Tomorrow's Kids(Dutton, March '09) was one of the upcoming picture books that was in my box. I just started a science fiction genre study today and this book was awesome! The whole premise is to let kids know what the future will be like after talking to "futurists" and scientists. They follow the "day in the life" of a typical (what looks to me like) teenager. From waking to sleeping and everything in between,authors Amy Zuckerman and James Daly have predicted an average day twenty or so years from now. The pictures are vibrantly colored with cartoon characters that look almost as if they stepped out of a manga, but not quite. My favorite possibility is the "Clean-a-rella", a robot that will vacuum and dust your home! Can't wait for that one! (Note to self: must get a Roomba) Because this book covered everything from going to the mall to skateboarding, all of my students were interested and it will give them a great jumping off point for starting some science fiction writing tomorrow.

Another viewpoint was from my almost 9 year-old who insisted that she read the book to me last night because she wanted to share "how cool" all of these future inventions were. She, of course, loved the talking dog. Overall, I think this book will have LOTS of appeal in many different age ranges. Teachers of the science fiction genre should definitely put this one on their list. As an added bonus, it will be published right on my daughter's birthday!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Everything Frank!

Well, it's been too long. I read like a fiend over break and have failed to post anything due to my hectic school schedule and family life. So, here's an update.

I finished PEACE, LOVE AND BABY DUCKS by Lauren Myracle (due out May, 2009) and declared it a definite "girl book". Young, wealthy and privileged Carly returns home after a granola summer away to find her slightly younger sister has "blossomed" into a striking woman. In her opulent Atlanta suburb, however, Carly is becoming disenchanted with the shallowness of everyone around her in her community as well as her very expensive private school. With a little romance and "sister warring" thrown in, Myracle has hit on a very trendy and upbeat YA girl novel. Most of my students will love this and I thought it was a bit deeper than most YA girl books in vogue at the present. At least Carly is questioning the unbridled consumerism in her town and some of the situations are just downright funny! Couldn't find the cover art though, sorry.

Then, I embarked on my first Frank Lloyd Wright obsession. I have always had an interest in the incredible architect who changed American buildings, but I have never studied his life or his work aside from Falling Water and Ann Arbor's own Domino's Farm building- though I believe that Domino's may be Wright-esque and not actually designed by FLW. So....with that said, my oldest daughter and I read Blue Balliett's THE WRIGHT 3 just recently and we both became obsessed with Wright's work.
Calder, Petra and Tommy set out on another mystery to find out who is snooping around Hyde Park's Robie House (scheduled to be demolished)and they need to help their teacher's efforts to save the landmark. The three unlikely friends explore Wright's work and learn some of the history behind the house during their undertakings. I found the ending scenes to be quite exciting and I absolutely loved the denouement! Such a feel-good, happy story but incredibly well-crafted. My daughter and I have plans to go to Hyde Park this summer to tour the Robie House as well as visit Powell's bookstore and the Medici Bakery. Oh yes, and the Japanese Gardens. Then, we'll take on Taliesin.

Strangely enough, I was reading LOVING FRANK by Nancy Horan at the same time we were reading Balliett's book together. This was a sheer coincidence, but one that began my craving for more Frank Lloyd Wright info. While I'm still finishing the Horan book, I LOVE the way she took the history and weaved it into fiction. The novel revolves around Wright's leaving his first wife (and six children) to run off with a client's wife, Mamah Bothwick. Their travels made me envious and I often wonder where she got that kind of money to roam around Europe, but perhaps Frank picked up the tab for everything. I won't give away what I know is a tragic ending, but I was fortunate enough to get my book group to agree to read this for February. I look forward to discussing so many parts of this novel from the feminist perspective to the changing architecture that Wright coerced Americans into. Websites and books on Wright and Prairie style architecture are strewn about my entire house! I even dragged the twins out for a drive during break to find the FLW house that's for sale in my neighborhood. How I wish I could live there!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! Something, Maybe......

Happy 2009 to all....actually, anyone who is bothering to read this. :)

Now, don't get me wrong with this one; I LOVE Elizabeth Scott! She has written some novels that have brought me right back to high school, feelings and all. And, I've often wondered how she is able to produce so many novels so quickly. On the ride to Indy, I finished SOMETHING, MAYBE (March, Simon Pulse) and I was not as enthralled as I was with her other novels. They are, to be sure, all feel good novels about boys and girls finding each other, going through trials and ending up reasonably happy. This one, however, I didn't have characters flushed out enough to seem real to me. The writing was lackluster compared to the other novels of hers that I've read and I just think this one could have used a bit more time on the back burner.

Hannah has a mom who is a dying star trying to keep her image alive on the internet, literally. Her father is a super famous, 72 year-old playboy who lives, Hugh Hefner-like, with his "bunnies" in NYC. Hannah is the product of her mother (when she was a bunny) and Jackson James, her father. Most of the novel is spent with Hannah trying to be invisible (her goal in high school)and trying to decide between two equally adorable boys at work. The plot just didn't seem to have the life that other Scott novels have. Characters were somewhat 2 dimensional and the plot just didn't seem to go anywhere. Perhaps teens would find this more scintillating than I, but this one just didn't do it for me. More later- I read a LOT over break.