Friday, May 31, 2013

June Events

Wait? June?!  May took me by surprise but... June!?  Yikes.  As of this evening, we have 11 days of school left.  My to-do list is growing exponentially and I feel like every morning I wake up and ask myself, "Can I really do it this time?"  Of course, I ask myself that question every year and it always works out in the end.  I just need to make it through the next 11 days!

In the meantime, here are some bookish events for your start to summer!

Los Angeles

June 1
* Barbara Brauner and James Iver Mattson host a party for their book, O.M.G. (Oh My Godmother) The Glitter Trap Book, at Once Upon a Time Bookstore, 3 pm

June 4
* Erin Soderberg presents her book, The Quirks: Welcome to Normal, at Mrs. Nelson's, 5:00 pm

June 20
* Kristin Kittscher presents her book, The Wig in the Window, at Vroman's, 7 pm

June 29
* Weird Al....yes, Weird Al (this is the LA listing after all) will present his new book, My New Teacher and Me, Children's Book World, 11 am


June 5
My students and I with Mo!
* Sarah Dessen presents her new book, The Moon and More at Wellesley Books, 7 pm

June 8
* The Eric Carle Museum presents A Fairy Garden Celebration with art projects and authors and illustrators all day.  This would be the perfect event for your child who believes in the magic of pixie dust! More details here.

June 15
* Young Adult Panel featuring Gina Damico, A.C. Gaughen, and Diana Renn Love, Brookline Booksmith, 7 pm

June 23
* A Seriously Silly Celebration!  Join MO WILLEMS for a tour of his new collection at the Eric Carle.  There are a number of events leading up to this and some are for members only.  However, on June 23rd if you get tickets, you can hang out with the man himself!

June 27
* Tara Sullivan presents her debut novel, Golden Boy, at Porter Square Books, 7 pm

June 30
* Meet artist and author Rebecca Emberley at the Carle, 2 pm

Washington D.C.

June 1
* Sarah O'Connell presents her book The Eye of the Whale at the Bethesda Library, 2 pm
* Carol Butler and Genois Wilson, Hooray for Books Bookstore, 3:30 pm

June 4
* Jen Bryan presents A Splash of Red at Politics & Prose, 10:30 am
* Sarah Dessen presents her new book The Moon and More at Politics & Prose, 7 pm
* Rachel Renee Russell, author of The Dork Diaries, will present her books at Hooray for Books Bookstore, 6:30 pm

June 8
* Author Ann Bonwill present her books at Hooray for Books Bookstore, 3 pm

June 15
* "Sort of Romance" Young Adult Book Panel, Hooray for Books Bookstore, 3:30 pm

Friday, May 17, 2013

Gatsby? What Gatsby?

Yeah....I drank the Kool Aid...
I saw The Great Gatsby last week because I simply had to.  I know that the critics weren't too pleased but I am a HUGE fan of the 20s and Baz Luhrmann.  I came out with mixed feelings.  Some parts I
loved, some parts I was feeling a little...meh.

One of the biggest messages of the book is the criticism of the lifestyle lead by the powerful and wealthy.  It is supposed to make us all cringe at their greed.  However, because the movie has been so hyped, glitzed, and glamorized, folks have been throwing all sorts of Gatsby-style parties.  This has made critics and those who have actually read the book wonder, would Mr. Fitzgerald frown at how we missed the point?  And not only did we miss the point, we made it seem like the point was to be a wonderfully fabulous wealthy person with pools and money and champagne? Probably.

When I read the book, I got the message.  But I will be honest, when I walked away from the movie I thought, "Man, those parties looked like a good time."  Perhaps the flashy Baz Luhrmann was the wrong fella for the job if that was the message to be portrayed.  Or maybe he just thought, "This is a good story...but let's make people want the glam too."

Either way, for Dance Friday, here is a video by the one and only Fergie Ferg.  Famous for her membership in the Black Eyed Peas, and maybe even more famous for being Fergalicious, she was one of the musicians featured in the soundtrack for Gatsby.  Her video to go with the song makes me want to throw on a flapper dress and twist around my apartment...which I just might do.

So, for two seconds, let's ignore the message, enjoy the glitz, and remember, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing! (And then go back to frowning at gluttony when we have danced like nobody is watching.)

A Story To Tell?

Some talented tale-spinners!
UPDATE: Sadly, I deleted a bunch of pictures on the blog and I can't seem to find these again.  I'll do my best but just imagine the magic of kids telling stories. 

One of my favorite things about being a teacher is I have an amazing opportunity to teach a class all about storytelling.  Sorry, we do not read any books in storytelling.  This class is all about the art of traditional oral storytelling.  Kids come to me and I show them how to project their voices, how to use facial expressions, a bit of acting, and their natural enthusiasm for telling a story and, voilá, we have storytellers.

How did I get to be so lucky?  Well, it started way back in Bellingham, Washington when I was a student at Western Washington University.  I took a class with Rosemary Vohs on storytelling.  My life was changed in that class.  I learned all about the art and tradition wrapped up in this shared experience.  We learned how to tell a story, why stories have always been told, and how to keep our audience engaged.  We also learned cool facts, such as there are about a bajillion versions of Cinderella!  Well, not really that many, but most cultures have their own version.  That is so amazing!

When I started teaching, I decided to incorporate storytelling into what I do.  Eight years ago, it was just a simple unit I incorporated at the end of every year, when everyone is ready to jump ship for summer vacation.  Last year, my principal told me I had an opportunity to teach an elective and asked if I could teach any class what it would be.  I didn't have to think very long at all...storytelling.  Just so you know, not many people teach this class so I have had the joy of making it mostly up myself.  For those of you who know me, I tend to "honor" a lot of people's ideas rather than create my own.  Teaching is a shared art, right?

Some last minute coaching before our performance
In the past two years, I have had 150 storytelling students.  Last year's fourth graders returned this year for an advanced storytelling class.  I have now had 50 advanced storytelling students. Students usually tell traditional folktales, although the advanced students can tell a family story, a folktale, or a "tale with a twist," which usually includes a partner or props. After 8 weeks of learning, playing, and practicing, they perform their stories either for their class, or in front of our entire school at the school assembly.  That gives each student an audience of 149 students, and any parents who decide to show up.  Can you imagine the courage of these young students?  Standing up in front of so many of their peers, taking a risk to let it happen?  Every week I am blown away by their talent and their fearlessness.

Back in March I posted that ten of my storytellers had an opportunity to tell their stories at a local bookstore, which just happens to be my favorite local bookstore.  It was one of those dream come true moments.  I received permission from the parents, and one parent/photographer, to share the photos with you.  Here they are, and many, many thanks to Danette Mitchell for sharing these pictures with me. (If you would like to purchase any of these, please contact me!)

I hope you are all well!  Have a spectacular night...and tell someone a story!

Cinderella dances with her prince at the ball...

An evil plan is hatched...

A poor fisherman begs a fish to give his
wife a bigger house...

Jack hears those fateful words, "Fee Fie Fo Fum!"

The tortoise, proving once again, slow and steady...

We all join in singing, "Abiyoyo, abiyoyo!"

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hey Mama

She still plays dress up with me....
This weekend is Mother's Day.  Sadly, another year goes by where I am way too far from my dear mother.  However, this weekend I am starting things right with a shout out to the best mama out there!

Even though my being born story changes every year, and even though she told us all stories that would confuse our understanding of the way the world works (really, who else nicknames their children their "Bud" and "Bud Light"...we had no clue!), she is by far the best mom out there.

She also supports my Dance Friday habit like nobody's business.  If there is one person I can count on to support all my crazy dreams, all my wild aspirations, all my unforgivable is my mom.  I call her Marmie.  Yes, it is because of a book.  While I didn't inherit her gorgeous long legs, or her amazing brain that has the ability to solve any crossword puzzle, even the ones by Bob Kahn, or her knack for knowing how to make the best stuff out of knitting needles and yarn...or even make yarn...I hope that if I ever have kids at least I can pass on her ability to have the most fun ever. Ok, maybe I also want people to confuse me for my daughter's sister like they do with my mom.

My mom taught me to dream, to keep on dreaming, and when all else fails to make life something you can dance and laugh about.  Earlier today, she sent me this video that I am now posting for Dance Friday and Mother's Day.  Thank you Janice McCullough-Howe, for giving me the best life any one person could hope for.  Tonight I am getting down in my jammies for you!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Teacher Appreciation!

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week.  All over the country, teachers are (hopefully) being appreciated.  At our school, our parents are honoring us with Teacher Appreciation Month.  Do I feel blessed?  Yes, I do!

In honor of all the teachers out there, my friends and others included, I know why you do this and it ain't for the money.  You have been my rock as I navigate this crazy and wonderful profession and I appreciate you!!!

Here are a few of my favorite teachers from children's books.  Who are yours???

Mr. Falker.

He taught Patricia Polacco how to read.  We owe him for real.

Miss Honey, as imagined by Quentin Blake

Miss Honey.

We love Matlida, we love her more because of Miss Honey.

Kevin Henke's marvelous Chrysanthemum

Mrs. Twinkle.

When Chrysanthemum was picked on because of her name, Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle came in for the win.

Kevin Henkes wins again in Lily's Purple Plastic Purse

Mister Slinger.

He wears artistic shirts.  He thinks desks in rows are old fashioned and boring. He gives snacks that are curly and crunchy and cheesy.  What's not to love??

Saturday, May 4, 2013


I woke up in a panic this morning because the first of May zipped by me and I totally forgot to post your new events!!  I'm soooo sorry!  Here they are!

Check for updates on events for Children's Book Week, which takes place the week of May 12th!

Los Angeles

May 11
* Dan Krall presents and signs The Great Lollipop Caper, Vroman's, 10:30 am

May 15
* Catch a Rising Star YA Book Tour, featuring authors Jessi Kirby, Suzanne Young, Shannon Messenger, Sarah Ockler, Kimberly Derting & Morgan Matson, Once Upon a Time Bookstore, 7 pm

May 18
* James Horvath & Andrew & Polly read and sing and sing their book Dig, Dogs, Dig: A Construction Tail, Children's Book World 10:30 am
* Amy Tintera's book debut for her YA Sci-Fi book, Reboot, Once Upon a Time Bookstore, 4:30 pm

May 20
* Brian Switek reads and discusses My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, & Our Favorite Dinosaurs, Vroman's 7 pm

May 22
* John Rocco presents his book Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom, Vroman's 10:30 am

May 25
* Cecil Castellucci presents her new book Odd Duck, Skylight Books, 3 pm


May 7
* Porter Square Books and Anita Silvey are getting together for an in-store Book Fair to benefit the Foundation for Children's Books, 6 - 9 pm
Go see these guys at the Eric Carle Museum!

May 11
* THEY'RE BACK!  Well, technically they never came because of a big ol' snow storm.  Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett will be at the Eric Carle, 2 pm.  DO NOT MISS THIS!

May 12
* Duckling Day Parade!  In honor of Mother's Day and Make Way for Ducklings, make your way downtown to the Boston Common for the annual parade! More info here.

May 13
* Author Sara Zarr visits the Cambridge Central Library in the Teen Room, 7 pm

May 14
* Matt Tavares and David Kelly, an author/illustrator team who have written many books about baseball for kids, present their work at Wellesley Books, 4 pm

May 16
* NOT a kid's event, but Dr. Temple Grandin, well-known autism activist, talks about her new book, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, Cambridge Central Library, 6:30 pm

May 19
* Raúl Colón, illustrator of many books, including one of my favorites A Band of Angels: A Story Inspired by the Jubilee Singers, will present his work at the Eric Carle, 12 pm.

Washington D.C.

May 5
* Elizabeth Wein presents her book Code Name Verity, Politics & Prose, 5 pm

May 8
* Jennifer O' Connell presents her picture book The Eye of a Whale, Politics & Prose, 10:30 am

May 9
* Join authors Jacqueline Davies, Joe Schreiber, and Linda Urban for some Middle Grade Mania!, Politics & Prose, 10:30 am
* Sara Zarr presents her YA book at the Bethesda Library, 7 pm

May 10
* Erin Hunter,  one of the authors of the popular Warriors series, Horray 4 Books, 6:30 pm

May 11
* Go see Erin Hunter, one of the authors of the popular Warriors series, Takoma Park Library, 2 pm, registration here

May 18
* ONE OF MY FAVORITES!!  Patricia Polacco, for a signing only, Politics & Prose, 11 am

May 19
* Picture Book Panel, featuring Mac Barnett!  Jon Sciezcka! Leonard Marcus! And more!  Politics & Prose, 5 pm

May 21
* Mathew Olshan and Sophie Blackall present their book The Mighty Lalouche, Politics & Prose, 10:30 am

May the Fourth!

I don't have any students to torture today with my nerdiness, so you all get to reap the benefits!  Today is Star Wars Day.  Why is it Star Wars Day you ask?  Because it is May the know...May the Fourth Be With You!? (If you still don't get it then you can just shake your head and go with it anyway.)

Today I have two books that are pretty popular in the quirky-book-loving crowd right now.  Stop by your local bookstore today (my personal favorites are Porter Square Books and Skylight Books) and pick one up!

Darth Vader and Son and Darth Vader's Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown let us in on what life may have been like for the two jedi-knights-to-be growing up in the Vader home.  Just like all normal families, they don't want to eat their breakfast, they get in fights with other kids, they try to steal cookies by using the Force, y'know, the regular old kid stuff.

Have a great Star Wars Day!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Two Words - Dance Friday

Two more words - Janelle. Monáe.  The girl can dance.  The girl can sing.  The girl has a voice and something to say.  I fell for her when I first saw the video for Tightrope.  Then, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I discovered her video for Q.U.E.E.N. featuring the oh-so-amazing Erykah Badu.

Janelle.  Monáe.  Two words, two videos.  My favorite line of Q.U.E.E.N.? "You can take my wings but I'm still gonna fly.  And even when you edit me, the bootie don't lie."