Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dance Saturday?

After a long-short week at school, I was exhausted last night and totally forgot about Dance Friday.  Sorry!!!!!

This is for all of you looking for a new dance craze!  A friend suggested I check out Azonto, a dance form started in Ghana.  For more info, hit up the Google or check out this link!  Here are two Azonto dance videos from London. Get your Saturday Dance on!

Friday, February 22, 2013


I've been keeping mum but it is officially out now...a troop of my fantastic 4th and 5th Grade Storytelling students have a real gig!  On March 17th, yes St. Patrick's Day, we will perform an hour of storytelling at Skylight Books, my favorite bookstore in LA!  Check out the official announcement here.  Special thanks to all those who helped me make this happen!

For those of you who aren't quite sure, this is not a book reading.  I teach a storytelling class at my school each quarter.  At this point I have had 150 storytelling students.  They learn the basics of oral storytelling and usually perform in front of their class or in front of the student body at our weekly assembly.  Generally these stories are traditional folktales, stories that have been passed down.  Students learn how to use their body, voice, and sometimes the audience, to bring their story to life. 

Our upcoming stage, bookshelves will be moved, of course!

If you are in the LA area, please stop by!  I am so excited for my kiddos to show the world how amazing they are and I know you will have a great time! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

May I Pick Your Brain?

When I first joined the world of Twitter, my sister advised me that I should follow Brain Picker.  Boy, was she ever right! Maria Popova, who writes the website Brain Pickings as well, is the genius behind this amazing wealth of information.  Think Wikipedia for the creative soul.  I retweet and repost her stuff so often that I feel like she could be the one and only source of the new thing I learn every day.

Two of my favorite posts of hers include her book spine poetry and her Literary Jukebox posts.  The book spine poetry involves making combinations of books so that the titles on the spines create a poem.  (Seems a little self-explanatory, I know.)  The Literary Jukebox combines a quote from a book and a song that matches the theme of the quote.  Now you see why I follow her!

Tonight, as I was making a comfy, cozy dinner on our rainy LA night, I felt inspired to try my hand at both of these. 

For your Children's Lit Jukebox, I offer not a quote but a book and a song.  Tonight's book is The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne.  Since Pooh is known for being a little simple and a whole lotta love, I felt like "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd really captured his hold-hands-with-a-pig nature.

"Ohh take your time... Don't live too fast, troubles will come, and they will pass." - Lynyrd Skynyrd

"...It's the best way to write poetry, letting things come.”- Pooh

See what I mean?

Here is my attempt at the book spine poetry.  The books involved are: Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff, Zoom by Istvan Banyai, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, and In the Spin of Things by Rebecca Kai Dotlich.

What about you?  Any inspiration?

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Last Bookstore, an I Heart LA Story

I was going to try and go somewhere new this weekend but I decided to stick around town and have an I Heart LA weekend.  Thank goodness I did! I spent some time with friends who were in town visiting other friends, got myself pampered, ate lots of good food, and took some friends from Boston on a walking tour of downtown LA.  For those of you who think LA is all Beverly Hills, plastic surgery, and overly-tanned beach dudes, I assure you there is more to this fabulous city.

During our tour of DTLA, we made a stop at Wonderland The Last Bookstore.  I had been here before but they have updated it quite a bit!  Did you know this is only one of two bookstores in the US on the list of 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World??  (If you follow that link you will notice there is no upstairs yet!) The other is also here in SoCal.  Anyway, the store was beautiful before but the updates are truly amazing.  Included is an updated upstairs consisting of a labyrinth of books ( all books cost only $1 and they provide a box at the entryway for you to start collecting), a few vaults that have been turned into little book rooms, a yarn shop (!!!!), and a few small artist studios.

Walking through the upstairs really was like a trip through Wonderland.  Obviously these booksellers love books.  Each display was carefully placed and held just the right amount of whimsy.  Pages of books cascaded overhead, books were carefully stacked to create the check out counter, four books were used as an anchor to hold the rope of an overhead lamp.  It felt like the world of Mr. Morris Lessmore and his fantastic flying books.  I love a place that loves books as much as I do, and would help convince anybody who was teetering on the edge of not loving books.

So, if you ever find yourself in our sunny city, take some time to head downtown to see another, dare I say even more beautiful, part of LA.

The swag I picked up for a whopping $15.
Did I mention...used bookstore...
amazing children's section
The stories are bursting to get out of this book on display

Mr. Morris Lessmore?  Were you here??

Enter the labyrinth of books!

Take a peek into a tunnel...made of books!

A view from the tunnel side into more labyrinth

Looking down to the first floor...note the mammoth

Leaving the labyrinth.  I love the ceilings here!

Friday, February 15, 2013


This week, I watched the publishers over at Harper Collins do a Harlem Shake dance.  At the time, and keep in mind this is only about 2 days ago, I had no idea this was a new dance craze inspired by the song of the same name by some techno guy called Baauer.  So apparently I have been out of the loop.  Honestly, when I first saw the Harper Collins video I thought, "Wait. That's not the Harlem Shake."  Enter new dance craze.  For all of you folks who think those crazy people in costumes are really doing the Harlem Shake...sorry!  I am presenting to you a dance video that featured the original.  Play it for your kids. Teach 'em how to shake.  Then you can watch the other video for fun!  (Please note, I am not against ANY form of dancing, whether it is the chicken dance or a silly dance craze.  I just want you all to be informed dancers because I think you rock!)

I am also delighted to report that some of you are jumping on the band wagon.  I've heard from a few people about suggestions for Dance Friday.  Keep sending 'em folks!  Thanks to Sarah for this week's runner up, "Lover Not a Fighter" a song by kindie rock group Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips.  They get bonus points for playing Soul Train in the background.

Hey...I'm starting to notice a trend.  We are bringing it back to the good ol' days.  Tonight, I will be joining the likes of a couple of LA's finest in getting my boogie on.  Fun Fact:  While KG Superstar teaches us how to Dougie, Anthony Valadez always projects old Soul Train videos. Now that is motivation to keep dancing!

A Recommendation Before the Dancing

Today was Role Model Day at school.  Last year I went as Maurice Sendak, as he had just passed away.  This year, I scoured my bookshelf for someone else I could be.  I ended up choosing Marie Curie because I have a fabulous nonfiction book about her, because she happens to be my mom's role model, and because, well, I could probably whip something together.

So, today, I recommend reading the book that inspired me!  Marie Curie: A Brilliant Life by Elizabeth MacLeod tells all the wonderful details of this inspiring woman's life.

If it were your role model day, who would you have been?

My best Marie Curie impression

Sunday, February 10, 2013

When the Moon Hits Your Eye

This year I am prepared for Valentine's Day. This will be my 3rd Valentine's in a row without a valentine.  The first two years, I will admit, even though I have never been one to revel in exchanging "mandatory" gifts on a holiday, it was a bit lonely.  Maybe I'm stronger, maybe I am remembering that I didn't like this holiday to begin with, maybe I've just given up.  Who knows?

Either way, I am still a sucker for a good love story.  Yes, the silly rom-coms are a nice way to pass the time, but I'm talking, like, for real love story.  I always thought that if I ended up married I would want it to be a good story.  So far, lots of good happily ever after.  However, this Valentine's Day I am ready.  Thursday night I will be reading The Jungle Book and watching Die Hard. (For realz though, I recently watched Big Fish again and it is quite possibly one of the best love stories ever.  If I hadn't just watched it I would watch it again.  Alas, Die Hard it is.)

So, whether you are like me and your tales of wooing come from a book, or you want to read one to keep feeling the love, here are four five picks just in time for this week's holiday.  Reach out and love someone!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (YA)

Yes, I know, I know.  I have already recommended this book.  However, I just can't speak highly enough about it.  I was a little bummed when it didn't get an award at the ALAs this year, but I know it has all the right ingredients.  This is Valentine's week however, so let's talk about the love.  Augustus and Hazel, two teenagers who know all too well how cancer can change your life. The book starts by telling us Hazel has terminal cancer so when she falls for Augustus, who she meets at a cancer support group, we are at once delighted and saddened.  This can't end well for them.  Yet John Green writes a relationship that truly captures the meaning of love.  Their modern romance is found in their small exchanges, their text messages, and their quick wit.  It made me feel the way it feels to be loved.  Their relationship is so honest and challenging, and even though you are pretty sure how it is going to can't helping loving the love they share.  *sigh

I loved this so much I kept taking pictures of
the parts that made me *sigh

Rosie and Michael by Judith Viorst

I read this book many, many moons ago.  It is not necessarily a gooshy love story but it sure has a lot of love!  Rosie and Michael are best friends.  Their friendship and love is captured through the little things they do for each other.  They take turns telling why they are such good friends.

Michael tells us,  "When my parakeet died, I called Rosie.  When my bike got swiped, I called Rosie.  When I cut my head and the blood came gushing out, as soon as the blood stopped, I called Rosie.  She is my friend."

Rosie, of course, tells us why Michael is her friend.  "When my dog ran away, I called Michael.  When my bike got swiped, I called Michael.  When I broke my wrist and the bone was sticking out, as soon as they stuck it back in, I called Michael.  Michael is my friend."

I love those pages in particular because there are some friends I know I just have to call whenever anything happens.  Thanks, friends, for listening to my rattling on about my students, my cat, and my obsession with overcoming-adversity-through dance movies.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (YA)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I haven't actually read this book.  However, when my students and I watched the live streaming of the ALAs, this book was on a lot of lists!  It tells the story of two teenage boys struggling to figure out their place in the world.  Amid the story of cultural identity and family struggles, there is the story of love.  Dante is open about his homosexuality but Ari isn't ready to come to terms with his yet.  This is high on my list of books to read.  Love... it may be everywhere but it sure ain't easy!

Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell

My mom loves zombies.  In fact, she made us watch Walking Dead for most of my holiday back home.  Nothin' says lovin' like brains, right?  My mom's obsession is probably why I feel like I am drawn to anything with zombies.  This book came out last year and I knew it was a winner just from the title.  Mortimer is "tall, dead, and handsome," and a lonely zombie who is looking for love with no luck.  He even tries putting an ad in the paper, using his own lyrics for Jimmy Buffet's "If you like Pina Coladas" that starts like this, "If you like taking walks in the graveyard, and falling down in the rain. If you're not into cooking, if you have half a brain."  Yes? Yes!

One of Grimly's beautiful
This book reminds me of another ghoulish love story, Boris and Bella by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Gris Grimly.  In this story, Bella Legrossi is the messiest monster in Booville and Boris Kleanitoff is disgusted by her.  However, they learn the wonderful art of compromise and fall in love.  Move over Edward and whats-her-face, vampire love is out and monsters are in!

I hope these books send a little love your way.  Happy Valentine's Day!

P.S.  There are more where that came from!  Keep checking our Facebook page this week for other great books!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Ice Ice Baby

I know I shouldn't wish for something like a snowstorm.  However, yesterday while I was teaching exponential notation, I got a text message.  Yep...Boston schools cancelled...for today!  Apparently I am still on the text notification system in Boston.  Definitely would have loved a snow day today!!

I am hunkering down and pretending I am snowed in.  To all my friends on the East careful, stay safe, and keep warm!  Snuggle up tonight!

This Friday's dance video is for you! If you still have power, try and perfect your Vanilla Ice dance moves to keep warm and stay entertained!

Here's Mo!

Last night, my merry band of children's author stalkers and I crashed the party at a local B&N to see the one and only Mo Willems.  (I'm thinking we may need to invest in super hero costumes.)  He was hilarious.  My kids were enthralled.  It was a packed house and we had "VIP" passes thanks to a mom who made a stop earlier in the day.  Today, we read lots of Mo Willems and continued the celebration of REAL celebrities here in LaLa Land.

To my Boston friends, I keep hearing of your impending doom in a snowstorm I have heard could bring anywhere from 2 to 30 inches.  Snuggle up tight friends.  Let me know if you read anything I should I snuggle up...from our impending drizzle.

Even though we missed the first monster photo
we decided to just keep going....forgot to tell Mo.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

In the Movie Version...

 I stumbled upon this link to an amazing idea!  My sister and I always play "Who Would Play You in the Movie Version of Your Life?"  It appears some genius has also decided to do this with children's literature authors.  The results...simply amazing.  Mac Barnett played by Joseph Gordon Levitt?  YES!!!  Happy Wednesday!  Now to go pick out my outfit for the Mo Willems event tonight...

Joseph Gordon Levitt 112x150 Childrens Literature: The Movie
Celebs as authors here!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Books, Books, Books

Heya folks!  Sorry I am a day late on this month's events.  I guess I was so excited to post another dance video last night it completely slipped my mind that it was February!  You all going to be busy this month?  I am!  However, in case you have some time to squeeze in a few book events, here are some for you!  I will be attending one this week...MO WILLEMS!  He is coming to LA and I cannot wait!!!!  For those of you in the Boston area, Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett will be at the Eric Carle Museum in the middle of the month.  Are we excited yet!?  Here are the rest!

Los Angeles

February 5
*  Nick Bruel, creator of Bad Kitty, will be at Mrs. Nelson's, 5pm

February 6
* Darren Shan, author of YA horror novels Cirque Du Freak, The Demonata, will be at Mrs. Nelson's, 6 pm
* MO WILLEMS!  Ok, so the deal on this one folks...he is at the Barnes and Noble (sigh) at the Grove but I am seeing him anyway!  You need to get a wrist band on the day of the event, with a purchase of one of his books.  The event starts at 7 pm.  

February 9
*  Michelle Wong McSween, author of Gordon and LiLi, will
appear at Children's Book World, 10:30 am

February 10
* Michelle Wong McSween, author of Gordon and LiLi, will appear at Chevalier's Books, 12 pm

February 11
* The Breathless Reads Tour, with YA authors Brenna Yovanoff (Paper Valentine), Marie Lu (Prodigy), Jessica Khoury (Origin), Andrea Cremer (Rise!), will be at Mrs. Nelson's, 7 pm

February 14
* Shannon Hale, author of Princess Academy: Palace of Stone, will read at Mrs. Nelson's, 5 pm

February 17
Janet Lucy & Colleen McCarthy-Evans sign The Three Sunflowers at 12 pm, at Chevalier's Books

John, Meg, and Mac...New superhero team!?!

February 9
* Mike Lupica, author of a bajillion sports books for kids, is presenting his new book, Play Makers, at Wellesley Books, 4 pm
* The Eric Carle Museum is presenting an amazing event that I can only use their words to describe:  
Jammin’ with Jarrett and Jef, 1 pm
Children's book authors Jarrett J. Krosoczka and Jef Czekaj team up for a performance that combines punk music, drawing and rapping into one epic book reading.

February 10
* The Breathless Reads Tour stops by Wellesley Books, 2 pm (For information on all 6 authors stopping by, click here.)
* Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett!!!  People, you must go see them.  At the Eric Carle Museum 1 pm.  Go, tell them Meg said hi!!!!

February 16
* Marc Tyler Nobleman, author of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, will talk all about how he wrote this amazing book, Eric Carle Museum, 1 pm

February 22
* Rebecca Rule and Jennifer Thermes will present their book, The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever! at the Eric Carle Museum, 2:30 pm

Washington DC
February 7
* Daniel Hernandez, author of They Call Me a Hero: A Memoir of My Youth,  at Silver Spring Library, 7 pm

February 19
* Marissa Meyer, author of Scarlet at Bethesda Library, 5 pm

February 20
* Jabari Asim and Bryan Collier, author and illustrator of Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington, at Politics and Prose, 10:30 am

February 21
* Gigi Amateau, author of Come August, Come Freedom at Takoma Park Library, 7:30 pm

February 22
* Ruta Sepetys, author of Out of the Easy, at Politics and Prose, 7:00 pm

February 28
* Tanya Lee Stone, author of Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America's First Black Paratroopers, at Politics and Prose, 10:30 am

Friday, February 1, 2013

Boogie Time!

I think we might be on to something!  I am, again, not heading out on the town tonight, mostly because I need to wake up early to run a race in the morning.  However, I am really liking finding cool dance videos to share with you!  This week, for multiple reasons, here are two videos from Kid President.  If you don't know about him are more than welcome!  Here are the reasons for this week's dance videos.

1.  I am running a 5K tomorrow, the Color Run, and could use a pep talk myself.
2.  I did a victory dance on Monday when Jon Klassen won two Caldecott Awards!  (THE award and an honor award.)
3.  I am showing these videos to my students next week to get ready for our own "signature project" in which we help the world become just a little more awesome.
4. This kid is the best.
5. The Super Bowl is this weekend and the Pep Talk video is very appropriate.  I will be watching the Super Bowl for the second time I can remember choosing to watch it.   (Being from Buffalo I am pretty sure it was a requirement since the Bills went a lot...we will stop there.)

So, Kid President is a youtube sensation.  His latest video has raked in over 6 million views by today, and he has a lot more videos than that.  As a way of introduction, here is the first:

So you can see why I like this guy.  This next video is the one that got me thinking, "This kid needs to be on Dance Friday."

 Then, this video sealed the deal.  The kid believes exactly what I believe about dancing.  The world WILL be better.

And finally, we have the video that introduced me to Kid President, his Pep Talk.  I could keep showing you his videos but you can find the rest on the interwebs.  Be inspired, be more awesome...and DANCE!!!