Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Nonfiction Faves

Hope everyone is enjoying this Winter Wonderland of Break!! Whether you are cuddling up with a book (or books), sipping coffee and just relaxing or taking a short trip, whatever it is, I hope you are enjoying it. That's the point of mini-vacation. Do whatever your heart desires. Mine? Well...I can't spend a vacation without wondering and diving into a good book, well...because that's just me! I'm pretty excited to discover a couple of great nonfiction books that will help me with an intense unit I'll be teaching after break. So here are four fantastic informational books for the young ones that I'm expecting to be a huge success, and they are all around the theme of animals!

Wild Alphabet: An A to Zoo Pop-up Book Wild Alphabet by Mike Haines and Julia Frohlich. Oh too much here it is! Not only an informational book, but also a pop-up book which guarantees children to go crazy for it! Each animal has a short description written in first person (as if the animal itself is talking), and one of the cool features is the ONE word chosen in that description that stands up from the JUMP, ROLL, FAST, SPLASH. Each word is featured in a different way, just a fun way for that word to get attention. A fun tool for young writers to know and understand how it is being used.

Just One Bite Just One Bite 11 Animals and Their Bites at Life Size! by Lola Schaefer and illustrated by Geoff Waring. Just like the title suggests it, this book teaches us how much an animal can eat with just ONE BITE! For example, with just one slurp octopus can eat this much crab. Each fact is supported with life size bites illustrations so readers can have a clear and true understanding. I must say that the illustrations in this book are AMAZING! The artist behind this book is an amazing London-based art director with years of experience working in the artistic world. Such a winning team!
ZooBorns!: Zoo Babies from Around the World Zoo Borns! Zoo Babies from Around the World by Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland.  Oh get ready to melt with each brilliant photograph! This book will be a favorite for all children regarding age because when it comes to baby animals, most children can't resist to wonder! I love how photographers from different parts of the world joined forces to put together an incredible book.  The book is written in first person thus giving personalities to each zoo born. The short, simple and sweet description of each animal is interesting enough to allow children to wonder more. This is all intentional since at the end of the book you can find three pages filled with MORE information about each baby animal including the zoo born location.
Out of Sight Get ready to hold a huge book in your hands and to have wondering eyes all over you as you lift each flap  and read cool information! Out of sight by Pittau & Gervais is a work of art as well. This lift-the flap book shares more than 50 animals with its interesting fact. This is the kind of book you want to take your time and read it with no rush. Take days to discover, read a couple of facts each day, put the book away and come back the next day for more new learning! I might need two copies of this book in my classrooom because I can see children going back to it each day for more independent reading time.

So here are my discoveries so far! I can't wait to share these new titles with my students. I can't wait to dive intensively in our unit of Informational Books because we will be learning and reading them as readers but with writers' eyes as well.

So this is it for 2010! My last post of this year! I wish each one of you a quiet moment to reflect and be thankful for the year we're about to say goodbye to. I know it hasn't been easy for everyone, but I also believe in finding beauty in imperfections as well. I wish each one of you make of 2011 the year you would want to always always remember. Life is too short. Carpe Diem.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pecan Pie Baby

Pecan Pie Baby Jacqueline Woodson has a way with words and that is why we all just love her books! So when I saw a picture book at the library written by her, I immediately had to read it. And may I just say...I wasn't disappointed. The powerful language that Jacqueline Woodson uses in her books was very present in this picture book. The story is about changes, big Gian's new baby brother or sister who even though hasn't born yet, has already created some changes that worries Gia. The way Gia's mom deal with this changes and with her daughters reaction is the sweetest part in the book. I love how Jacqueline Woodson made mom such a strong, caring, and understanding individual who knew just how to connect with her daughter so that she will still feel so special. The story flows beautiful between the words and the illustrations, and it soothes the spirit of the readers for sure.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Living the Life of a Writer-Part II

In my recent blog post about Living the Life of a Writer-Part I, I shared some of my recent experience about belonging to a group of Spanish Writers in Columbus, Ohio. If you missed that first post, you can click here to find it. This journey is encouraging me to reflect so much about writing in my first language, in the process and craft of writing, in the importance of taking risks, and belonging to a community of writers.
After our poems got published in a local newspaper, our next step was to hold the first Spanish Poetry Night in Columbus, OH. This project started with four writers and we grew slowly throughout the week. Now there are eight of us and I am sure very soon this number will change.
Our meeting place was Express Yourself Music Cafe in Powell. An amazing and cozy coffee shop that hosts music events on a nightly basis. It is also decorated like an Art Museum with amazing work by local artists. It was the perfect place for us to hold such an event.

Because pictures are worth a thousand words....

So having choosing the perfect place to hold the event on a cozy Friday evening, the next step was just rehearsing and preparing ourselves for that evening. That special evening came in and was indeed a  night of achievements, but mostly it was the beginning of what hopefully would be new beginnings. The seeds were planted that night, and hopefully it will bloom into a strong tree of writers who would give shade and house to hungry Spanish writers.
Here are some pictures of our first Spanish Poetry Night held on Friday December 3:

This is the stage where magic unrolled. Well-known and respected Mexican Artist Santiago Pablo brought his paintings that night for display:

Enrique Infante, the man behind this project, opened the night by welcoming everyone and explaining the goals and ideas behind this group of Spanish writers.

 Here is a group picture of the amazing people I was able to share a stage with last Friday December 3. Let the love for learning, Spanish language, writing, and sharing grow and take us places that we couldn't imagine. The seed has been, time to let it bloom!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Living the Life of a Writer-Part I

A few weeks ago, Ohio teacher extraordinaire and Columbus blogger, Julie Johnson received the Donald Graves Excellence in Teaching Writing Award. What an honor, what a pride, what an accomplishment. I was reading Julie's Words of Gratitude post on her blog and I stumbled upon a sentence that is so true, so close to my heart. She said, " I became the writing teacher I had always wanted to be…I became a writer and it felt genuine. I, too, found my voice." 
That's right Julie, when we become writers ourselves, we understand the process of writing at a different level. Donald Graves believed that teachers of writing should be writers themselves. It is through this understanding and powerful statement that this year I decided to do something that I have never really done here in Columbus before. Under the encouragement of my friend, Enrique Infante, I joined the Latino Writers in Columbus. Enrique is an excellent musician, he has his own band, and was recently elected as the Most Growing Latino Artist in the United States. He writes poems, and of course, he writes lyrics for his songs.

Enrique organized and scheduled meetings at a wonderful and most inspirational coffee place: Express YourSelf Cafe in Powell. If you haven't visited this cozy and magical place, you should. So once a month, we got together, read our poems to each other, learn 2 or 3 new words in Spanish, and choose the next meeting time. It felt amazing to be part of a small group of writers. We share the passion for words, we share our love for Spanish. We love writing, and we were willing to take risks.
The newspapers Sol de Ohio decided to highlight our work in their newspaper. They choose one of our poems and published our work. Below you can find the link to the newspaper (online version).

There is so much more to share with all of you. That's the reason I will write about this process in different parts. But so far, this is what I'm learning in the process...

Having a community of writers here in Columbus feels safe.
Being able to express myself in my first language is like opening an old door. It feels familiar but it's been so long since I went through that particular door.
I love learning new words in Spanish. It shows that learning is, indeed, a never ending process.
Living the life of a writer feels authentic, feels real.
I'm taking a lot of risks by sharing my work with others but it is a risk I am willing to take in order to learn, understand and grow.