Monthly Archives: February 2008

Poetry Friday: Kristine O’Connell George

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I’m getting ready to dive into teaching poetry again, and so I’ve been revisiting resources that I’ve used successfully and tinkered with before. Kristine O’Connell George’s website is a gift to teachers. Here’s why:

1. The Poetry Aloud section offers audio clips of many of Kristine’s poems from most of her books. Get the kids to listen in order to learn a bit about how to recite a poem effectively. Then they can podcast their own poetry!

2. There are oodles of amazing ideas for using Swimming Upstream (Kristine’s poetry collection on Middle School life) in the classroom. How about reading some of the student-written poems inspired by the poems in this collection? Check out the Teacher Guide and Discussion Guide for even more to do.

3. Speaking of Teacher Guides and Discussion Guides, Kristine has downloadable Educator Guides for all of her books, packed with ideas that are practical and fun. (Feeling spoiled yet?)

You can read a few of the poems from Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems here. I like Sunday Night Meltdown. And Fold Me a Poem? To borrow a phrase from my students, “This book rocks.” Wrap it up with a few packages of snazzy origami paper. Slap a bow on it. Instant birthday present perfection for the poetically inclined.



Attention boy book reviewers / readers / bloggers / book industry types (OK, and you girls listen up too)!

For those of you who are not “in the know,” there is an awesome bloggy idea hatching as we speak, and it shall be called: GuysLitWire. Colleen Mondor, of Chasing Ray fame, came up with this master plan to create a marvelous site devoted to book recommendations for teenage boys. The site will be produced by the collective brain power of many bloggers and friends and it will consist of all manner of glorious things: interviews, playlists, reviews, rants, lists, meant to encourage, inspire and entertain teen guys. If all unfolds according to plan, the site will “go live” by June.

At the moment, what is needed is more men. We need men! Men to read. Men to review. Men to write posts and do interviews. Men.

So, if you feel like being a GuysLitWire guy, Colleen would love to hear from you (colleenatchasingraydotcom). Who wouldn’t want to hang out with all kinds of brainy book girls from every corner of the kidlitosphere? (And girls… I bet she wouldn’t mind hearing from you either. So join in!)

Elf Envy: Random Round Up

A few enviable links worth looking at:

Spring 2008 Book Sense Children’s Picks List is out and about.

Colleen at Chasing Ray offers us Adult Books that Teens Will Love (2008 Edition!)

New blog alert!!! I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) offers lots of news and reviews to challenge readers to “rethink nonfiction.” Thank you INK-sters from teachers everywhere.

I’m loving the sound of Sherri L. Smith’s new book, Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet. She’s been hanging around the kidlitosphere these days at The YA YA YAs and at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

A few days ago, Miss Erin interviewed Elizabeth C. Bunce, author of A Curse Dark as Gold. I didn’t think it was possible to want that book any more than I already wanted it. I was wrong.

Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link to lots and lots of purty bookshelves. I like this one. Cute but not so functional. (Like me?):



Non Fiction Monday: Graphic Library Series

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Here’s a simple way to test a book for kid appeal in the classroom:

1) Buy book.
2) Hide in classroom library amongst older, non-flashy titles.
3) See how long it takes for the kiddies to locate new book and fight over it.

By this measure, Capstone Press’s Graphic Library Series has significant kid appeal. I can’t slide one of these puppies into the classroom library bins without a bookworm finding it within minutes. At the moment, I have just a few Graphic Library titles in my class and I would be happy to have more.

If ever you needed to convince someone of the educational merit of the graphic novel genre, I can imagine that these books might be just the back up you need. The amount of information in the texts is considerable, and it is conveyed in a completely accessible manner. There’s a lot of supplementary material that will serve to deepen kids’ understanding of the subject matter and head them towards further investigations: a timeline, glossary, bibliography and list of related websites comes at the end of every book. The graphics are dynamic, bright and the layout is clean and pretty slick looking.

There’s nice diversity in the subject matter (heavily American, but hey, what can ya do). The series seems to have a fairly decent multicultural focus overall, and many of the texts address issues of social justice and equity and would offer a starting place for more discussion and learning along these lines.

I found a link at The Graphic Classroom that describes how Capstone is bringing out Interactive CDs as companion pieces to some of these texts. They sound pretty cool, with animation and sound effects and other features too. If only every school could have equal access to resources such as these. If only…

I feel guilty just looking at it…


I feel guilty just looking at this. Don’t you? And yet… if The Luxe followed me home in all of its terrible, satiny pinkness, I’m fairly certain Meg Rosoff wouldn’t stand a chance at the moment. So parents, listen up! This is what happens when you deny your teen the right to read trash now and then, instead feeding her a steady diet of the “Great Works of English Literature.”

If you’ve read this temptress of a book, now’s the moment to:

a) tell me why I should cave and read The Luxe when I have so many proper books in my TBR pile

b) splash some cold water on my face and explain why it’s SO not worth my time or $

My inner-struggle is all thanks to Leah McLaren’s article in today’s Globe and Mail. Then I revisited Naomi Wolf’s NY Times piece on YA Fiction and the response over at Read Roger. I can’t sort it out. I just want the pink satin dress.

Poetry Friday: The Wizard

I’ve read as many negative reviews as positive ones for Jack Prelutsky’s The Wizard. Too commercial, an insult to Wiccans everywhere, not as memorable as many of Prelutsky’s poems …

Dare I say it … I like this book? Sure, I think that it’s really Brandon Dorman’s outstanding illustrations that make this work. They are gorgeous – somehow lush and clean-looking all at once, the detail and the light effects on every page sweep you into the wizard’s world. You cannot help but want to slow down and pore over this book – and that’s quite something given how little text there is. Dorman’s pictures bring out the best in Prelutsky’s poem, which is, I confess, not the finest example of his poetic prowess.

I can see that this book will work beautifully as a read aloud in a poetry unit with young to middle elementary students. It seems perfect for a lesson in visualization. I’d like to read it to my class without showing them the pictures and then get them to draw what they imagine before revealing the illustrations. Here’s the opening:

The wizard, watchful, waits alone
within his tower of cold gray stone
and ponders in his wicked way
what evil deeds he’ll do this day.

He’s tall and thin, with wrinkled skin,
a tangled beard hangs from his chin,
his cheeks are gaunt, his eyes set deep,
he scarcely eats, he needs no sleep…

I think you could probably manage a whole poetry unit on a magical theme with this book as a launch. That could be one way to make poetry a tad more palatable to the masses. I am reminded of another wizard-themed poem that I love (it’s a list poem): Ian McMillan’s Ten Things Found in a Wizard’s Pocket. You can hear an adorable primary student from Devon reading this poem here.

So go buy or borrow this shiny, slightly-spooky gem for any budding poet/magician. It’s too much of a visual stunner to miss.

Raising a Foodie Through Reading: How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World


If I were to make a list of 13 things every kid should experience before they turn 13, making an apple pie would likely be on it. Was there ever a better way to turn a kid into a foodie than by way of apple pie? First of all, all kids deserve to fiddle about with their own tiny pieces of pie crust scraps and sprinkle cinnamon-sugar over the leftover bits. Of course it is most desirable that the kids visit an orchard and pick the fruit themselves, if at all possible. I made a few apple pies with my Granny when I was young, and what I remember most is how long it seemed to take – the peeling, the slicing, the measuring, the crust-making and chilling and rolling and filling. And then, the waiting. That took forever.

Marjorie Priceman’s lovely book, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, would be the ideal way to pass the time after everything is washed up and the pie is crisping and bubbling and wafting its buttery, sugary, apple scent about the kitchen. It’s a bit whimsical and old-fashioned in appearance – a friendly-looking book in which a young baker describes the journey she might take to various countries around the world to procure ingredients for her apple pie. The book serves not only to entice potential baby bakers, but teaches a bit about geography and the global marketplace at the same time. It may be an easy and engaging way to get youngsters to think about how far our food often travels before it makes its way into our ovens and fridges and bellies. After that, they can read The 100 Mile Diet (ha ha).

Perhaps instead you might start off with one or two of the food-ish titles recommended just the other day by the ever-fantastic Esme of Planet Esme Book-a-Day fame.

Hungry yet?