Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A special love to awesome picture books!

Oh picture books...how I adore you!
This Plus That: Life's Little Equations Let's start with an amazing equation as a presentation to this book: Amy Krouse Rosenthal + stories= inspiration. Yes. That's how I would define her. She is a total inspiration. Whatever she does, whether it is a book, or making a short film/video, or city project, she inspire people to notice, to care, to pay attention to life's details. In her newest book This Plus That Life's Little Equation, Amy brings us some simple yet wonderful day-to-day observation. This book is all about possible combinations in less, the adding of this plus this equals this experience. It is also about what happens when we divide little or big tasks. Another fun book to share because you know that...
joy+books= endless blessings!
Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. KennedyJack's Path of Courage The Life of John F. Kennedy by Doreeen Rappaport and illustrated by Matt Tavares. Yes, not only was John F. Kennedy, the most memorable and amazing USA President this country ever had, but he was above everything a unique individual. He worked very hard in life to become his own "talent", to shine in his own way. Joe, his brother, was outstanding at everything he did. It was hard for John not to be compared with this brother. But his determination and courage in life made him succeed in life. This is another publication by the amazing Doreen Rappaport who has done several high-quality and accessible biography for children.

Oh, How Sylvester Can Pester!: And Other Poems More or Less About MannersOh, How Sylvester Can Pester! And Other Poems More or Less About Manners by Robert Kinerk and Pictures by Drazen Kozjan is a must read!!! What a fun book. I can't wait to read this ALOUD to my students. The verses are so catchy and fast, it is impossible to resist great manners with a book like this! Seriously. A collection to be read over and over.

UndergroundUnderground  Finding the Light to Freedom by Shane W. Evans is a living proof that you can tell a powerful story with as few words as the author has done here. This IS a story about freedom, about the underground railroad, about history but Shane W. Evans decided to tell it in a unique way. But for a book like this to have a long lasting impression in a reader, it needs powerful strong images. And this book has it. Even the colors used are very limited. Amazingly creative.

Little Chicken's Big DayLittle Chicken's Big Day by Katie Davis and Jerry Davis is another short and sweet picture book for the early and young readers in Preschool thru 1st. This particular range of ages would appreciate the curiosity and wondering mind of Little Chicken who is ready to explore the world at its fullest. Luckily, mother is only a couple of steps away for those moments where anyone could need a final push to get home.

Happy Endings: A Story About SuffixesHappy Endings A Story about Suffixes by Robin Pulver and Illustrated by Lynn Rowe Reed. I'm really curious to see the students' reaction to this book. Would it help them understand suffixes better? Would it hold their interest? I look forward to giving my students a chance to explore this book and watch their reactions. The story is about how all the suffixes in the book react when they found out that they will be tacked after lunch. In order to save themselves, the best they can do is prove that suffixes are indeed needed and are helpful.

Fred Stays With Me!  Fred Stays with Me  by Nancy Coffelt is a great story about a little girl spends her time with the best of a companion, her dog Fred. Sometimes she lives with her mom. Sometimes she lives with Dad but no matter wherever she goes, Fred is sure to follow. Of course a pet always brings new challenges to any household but nothing that it can't be resolved and negotiated. I love the positive outlook this book gives to the characters' situation even with a sensitive topic like divorce.

A Pet for Petunia A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid is simply an adorable picture. From the illustrator who created The Wonder Book, comes a sweet story about Petunia who wants nothing ELSE but a skunk for a pet. She thinks they are adorable, so cute, with their amazing strips, and big black eyes...until she encounters a real skunk and she realizes they STINK!!! The simplicity of the illustrations and few colors used for this book makes it even more STINKY cute!

Bugs by the NumbersBugs by the Numbers by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss is one AMAZING nonfiction book!!! When I started reading this book I thought to myself, "The authors must have read a book on presentation by Steve Jobs!" As many of you know Steve Jobs works very hard in the art of giving magnificent presentations for Mac, working on particularly so his ideas stick with people. So they would remember. That's how I feel about this book. Each fact given in this book about a particular animal is given in such a creative way, and visually attractive! The layout, the format, the numbers, the illustrations, everything in this book worked together beautiful to give the audience a book that they would for sure REMEMBER!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On my last trip to the library...

I'm so blessed to live 5 minutes from one of the branches of our Amazing, Number ONE in the Nation: Columbus Metropolitan Library. I know a lot of the people that work there in the evenings, and I think they know me by now. Yes, I'm the one that overwhelms their bookshelf with my reservations. What can I say for myself? I'm a book lover and I'm not ashamed to admit it. In February, I started a section on this blog called: On my last trip to the library....in which I share only the best books from my checkout list!
Now, Let me start with a bilingual poetry book....
Arroz con leche/Rice Pudding: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking PoemWhen  you see the name Jorge Argueta on the front cover of a book, I'd say pay attention, grab it, read it and enjoy it. Jorge Argueta has written other great books like A Movie in my Pillow/Una Pelicula en mi Almohada; Moony Luna/ Luna, Lunita, Lunera; Sopa de Frijoles/Bean Soup among others. All these books just mentioned are fantastic addition to any library or classroom that celebrates language, poems, diversity and culture. Through his poems, Jorge is teaching or sharing with the audience a piece of culture, a part of who is he.
In this book Arroz con Leche/Rice Pudding he shares a "cooking poem" on how to prepare his favorite recipe: rice pudding.  For a lot of latino families, rice pudding became a favorite dessert, and one that brings a lot of great memories. I believe Jorge does a great job sharing that portrait with the audience.
The fact that the book is written in two languages: Spanish and English allows it to reach even a greater audience.

The next book....get ready to fall in love: Blackout by John Rocco

I don't think I can name all the reasons why I LOVE this book but I will give it a go. In Blackout, a little girl is looking for someone in the family who would like to play a board game with her. Sadly, everyone in the family is busy: older sister is on the phone, dad is cooking, mom is working on the computer. Frustrated but left with no options, really, the little girl goes upstairs to play video games since for that one, she really doesn't need someone. She can just play it by herself. But all of a sudden...something happens in the city: a BLACKOUT!!! everything is dark, everything is quiet at first. But to the family's surprise, there is a party going on the rooftop! everyone decided to come out and admire the starry night.
When they go outside, there is a block party happening in the neighborhood. People are talking, people are playing and dancing, and NO ONE is busy.

Now the beautiful story that I just told you is told in a beautiful, amazing way...in graphic novel type of book. Look at it this way....I wish I had this book in my hand when I wanted to teach one of my students about graphic novel and how to organize his writing that way. This book has outstanding illustrations and a wonderful message to all families. PLUS it is the perfect mentor text for teachers who want to put an accessible graphic novel in the hands of a 1st and 2nd grade writer!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The End of the School Year- The time for Reflection

The end of another school year is here (for me) and for others is fast approaching. We all find ourselves in the middle of a mixed emotions of excitement, exhaustion and also a bit overwhelmed of the hundred and one things it needs to be done before we can finally say "Happy Summer everyone" It is during those last particular days that I keep reminding myself that when all the boxes were packed and put away, things were label and organized, that I would take a couple of days to s-l-o-w down and look back.
As I  look back in my 13th year of teaching, I have learned a couple of things about myself as a teacher:

* I love challenges. I feel like I need them in order keep pushing my thinking to higher levels.
* I fear "getting stuck in my ways"  I believe that is one of my biggest fears. I don't want to find myself pulling out the same format, same worksheet, same book just because it is "familiar" or because I don't want to explore something new.
* Parent connection is not just "important" to me. It is vital for my teaching life to make sense. If I don't see the families or communicate with them often, I feel out of place. I feel that when I have them by myside, then there's nothing my students and I can't achieve. They've proven to me over the years that they want to be considered partners in education. I understand it . I really do.
* I have to fight  the struggle of balancing the "pressure to perform" and my beliefs to raise life readers and writers. I had that fight with myself constantly because I hear administrators telling us what it needs to be done, what it needs to happen, but I also know who I am as a teacher and what I believe in. This struggle for balance has help me push my thinking into a new direction. By pondering on the question..."how knowing this can help me in real life?" has helped me put in perspective some real-life situations in their hands, making the preparation for OAA testing less painful and more concrete.
*Life is intense at times. People get very intense as well. We all deal with a huge amount of stress, fears, complications in our daily personal lives. Some people like to bring all that into a school setting and it comes out in the wrong places and at the wrong times. In my last 13th years of teaching, I have never eaten  my lunch at the teacher's lounge. It is not because I don't care about the people I work with. I actually get to work with some of my closest friends in Columbus. However, I like to remain balanced and focused during the school so I can be there for the students and their families. Sometimes, we carry a negative aura when we overload ourselves with all the daily negative comments.
*I had a lot on my plate this year. There were time when I couldn't simple be part of some events or put on my shoulders another responsibility. I had to learn to say no and I believe that it is OK to take the
" time card " for one year. I needed to find solid ground. We always have next year to  bring it.
* When my students request a familiar read aloud for just enjoyment and fun, it is still one of my favorite moments. The time freezes, nothing else matters. It is just the book and us. Nothing else is needed.

And last but not least.....Maya Angelou's quote is still my mantra in my personal and my teaching life:

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”