Monthly Archives: September 2007

Presentation of the 2007 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts

On Sunday November 18th, from 1 to 3:45 pm at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention, the Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts Committee will present the 2007 list of thirty honored books after which attendees will join in round table conversations with committee members and Notable Book authors and illustrators including:

Ann Bausum, author of the Sibert Award Honor Book Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement.
Margarita Engle, author of The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano.
Helen Frost, author of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book The Braid.
Gail Carson Levine, author of Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly and many other beloved books including the Newbery Honor Book Ella Enchanted.
Cynthia Lord, author of the Newbery Honor Book Rules.
David McLimans, author and illustrator of the Caldecott Honor book Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet.
Christopher Myers, illustrator of the Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book, Jazz.
Mark Siegel, illustrator of the Sibert Award Honor Book To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel and editorial director of First Second Books.
Catherine Thimmesh, author of the Sibert Award winner Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon.

A complete list of the 2007 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts can be viewed here.


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Learning about Africa: Seventh in a Series

I’ve written here and here about the way Africa has become the continent du jour. Now here’s Julius Lester’s take on the seemingly never-ending trend for celebrity adoption of African orphans.

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I’ve entered a world where truth and fiction have begun to blend.

“This is Your Life” is a fascinating article in the Guardian in which Blake Morrison ruminates about what it is like to see your memoir being filmed — with you being played by Mr.Darcy-Colin Firth.

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In the Classroom: First Group Presentations about The Arrival


This morning I read aloud Avi and C.B. Mordan’s Silent Movie. This book beautifully links The Arrival to Charlie Chaplin’s early movies (which I’m also showing now to the class) as well as to the various early immigration images and documents we’ve been considering.

A bit later we came together again and each group presented what they’d discovered about the first section of The Arrival before going off in their groups to study the next section. Here’s the podcast of the children’s presentations:


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In The Classroom: Beginning to Read The Arrival

Today I began by reviewing with the kids what we’d done so far. We then looked at several reproductions of immigration-related artifacts from The Ellis Island Collection. This wonderful publication is a box of beautifully reproduced documents related to Ellis Island. Today we looked at a steamship poster, two steamship postcards, and a ship’s manifest from 1903. This last document kept us occupied for some time. The amount of money, the question as to whether the immigrant was insane, and so much more was indeed fascinating.

I then put the kids into groups of three (homogeneous by gender for a change), asked them to read the first section and then have one of their group be prepared to present what they discovered about the story to the rest of the class. This took a bit of time so they will do this tomorrow. In the meantime you can see some photos of the groups at work here.


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In the Classroom: Introducing The Arrival

So yesterday I introduced the book to the class and it went really well. Here’s what I did:

1. I showed the kids the book, opening it up so they could see the pages. “What is unusual about it?” I asked. “What is missing?” They quickly figured that there were no words. I told them they were going to read it even though it didn’t have words, that they would be showing other teachers how and that it could be done in a classroom. So they were intrigued and excited.

2. I gave each child a little booklet of blank pages I’d made for them. (I use these all the time.) I told them they should use it to take notes as they researched and then read The Arrival. We talked about note taking. I told them how I had stopped several times that morning on my walk to school to take notes (on my ideas about how to teach this book!). I pointed out how the learning specialist who happened to be in my room that period always took notes at meetings. Several children told stories of a writer parent having a sudden inspiration and taking notes on napkins and such.

2. I put Shaun Tan’s website up on the Smartboard (so fantastic as I can stand in front of the board and use my finger like a cursor). In particular I put up his page on The Arrival which has several of the drawings from the book. These drawings connected beautifully to what we’ve been considering already about immigration. (The children have already discussed the idea of their being “immigrants” from their lower school to the new building of the middle and high school. We also created questions and interviewed a teacher from the school from Mexico.) These images already helped the kids connect to these earlier experiences as well as intrigued them tremendously. I also read to them parts of his comments on the book. I recorded this lesson on my Ipod and and so here is the podcast: (You will mostly hear me because I had the Ipod around my neck — I’m still learning how to do this podcast thing!)

3. I then showed Island of Hope, Island of Tears, a video created and still shown at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. It is a wonderful film featuring photographs and films of early twentieth century immigrants arriving as well as audio oral histories. The images in particular, I hoped, would provide my students with more of a foundation with which to read The Arrival. I usually don’t like to stop movies as we are watching them, but I did this time when I saw something I knew would connect to the book.

4. We talked a bit about the movie afterwards and then I collected their booklets. It was interesting to see what they’d written. Quite a few questions already from Tan’s drawings!

5. An associate teacher who came in while we were watching the movie became excited about seeking out the old photographs that Tan used for his research. Later, at our grade meeting, I told my 4th grade colleagues about what I was doing. They are all eager to do it and so the associate teacher will create a Powerpoint slideshow putting the book’s images and the older ones side by side for our kids to see (not you though because we aren’t messing with copyright:). We figure that with sufficient support of this sort this experience with the book is going to be a fantastic one for them. We are all very, very excited about it!


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In the Classroom: Teaching The Arrival

Ever since I first saw it I have been trying to figure out how I could use Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. The theme for our fourth graders’ year is immigration. We begin by having them think about their own migration from a small lower school to our huge building that has both our 4-8 middle school as well as our 9-12 high school. Over 1200 students in a twelve-floor building. And then, as we live in New York City, immigration is up close and intimate to us. Quite a few of our families are immigrants — sometimes our students were adopted, often their parents and/or grandparents came from elsewhere. And certainly, there are immigrants all around us — store and restaurant owners and workers, cab drivers, and more.

As I read and reread The Arrival I tried to think how best to set my fourth graders up to enjoy and appreciate it. I’ve finally decided to provide them first with a lot of context. They will watch films of earlier immigrants arriving at Ellis Island (images that Tan clearly considered when doing his own), listen to me read books about these earlier immigrants, and see Charlie Chaplin’s “The Immigrant.” I’m going to give them a little booklet in which to keep notes. And I’m going to attempt to record my lessons and them place them here as podcasts. All to document what I do. If it works — great! If not, we can all figure out why it didn’t and what I can do to make it work. So (time permitting) some of the next posts will hopefully be about this experience.


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An Interesting (if Somewhat Damning) Consideration of Social Networking

The New Atlantis – Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism – Christine Rosen

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Moist von Lipwig is Back!

I feel pretty out of touch with adult books right now what with all my Newbery reading. I skim the New York Times Book Review and read several literary blogs, but pretty much don’t focus well on the adult books at all. My mind is too overflowing with children’s books of all shapes and sizes right now.

But there are exceptions. When I read that there was a new Thursday Next book coming out, I got it and read it right away. And now I see that Terry Pratchett has a new Discworld novel just out, Making Money. How could I possible have missed that?

Not only a new book, but another one featuring the hero of the splendid Going Postal, one Moist von Lipwig. And even better, just checked and audible has it so I can listen to it!!! (I listen to books running and walking to school. With the rare exception I stick to adult books. Right now I’m listening to The Woman in White on Kelly Herold’s recommendation — it is great!)

For those unfamiliar with the Discworld novels, they are fantastic in a very British way. They follow in the footsteps of the Douglas Adam books and you can even see how they come from the same pot that creates Dr. Who. Sci-fi, silliness, and wit all mixed up in a very British way.

Pratchett’s YA/children’s books about Tiffany Aching take place in Discworld and include some of his reoccurring characters (notably Granny Weatherwax). As much as I like them, I still like the adult books better. When Pratchett is in top form, there is to my mind nothing more fun and smart.

And he is going to be here next Monday (my birthday and this blog’s birthday) at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. Now I went to such a signing a few years ago and it was fascinating. Pratchett hadn’t been in the country for a while so there were fans who had traveled as far as Boston to see him. He was terrific, but I was almost as interested in the fans as in him. I will probably pass this time as I had to go hours early to get a seat. But I do recommend the books at the least.

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Pronouncing Author and Illustrator Names

I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at pronouncing names correctly.  I truly think I’m challenged phonetically. For example, to this day I cannot remember which is a soft g and which is a hard g.  Of course it makes spelling hard not to mention teaching spelling!

So when it comes to authors and illustrators I’m often at sea and fumble their names all the time.  Fortunately here is Teaching Books to the rescue!  They’ve got this terrific page where you can hear exactly how to pronounce the names of many authors and illustrators.

Teaching Books’  “… mission is to generate enthusiasm for books and reading by bringing authors, illustrators and engaging resources about books for children and teens to every school, library and home.”  To use the whole site you need  a site license which is very reasonably priced for schools.  It is rich with excellent materials; I recommend it highly.

Thanks to Leda Schubert who posted the link on child_lit.


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