Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ode to Summer 2012

                          Ode to Summer 2012
                                           by Stella Villalba

This was the summer that I learned to live with patience,
with the unknown, with different roads in front of me,
some of them equating choices, and others alternate routes.
Learned to walk hand in hand with what I could only control.

This was the summer where two friends packed their bags,
overpacked snacks and hit the road to Indiana for a two-day
conference with some of the most inspired educators I know.
Came back with more knowledge and words than I originally packed.

This was the summer a group of friends strengthen their friendships
and left their laughs in the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, TN.
Nature by our sides, breathtaking views, moments of silence.
Five friends, five countries, five cultures, ONE friendship.

This was the summer I spent a week in Findlay, OH
 at the most relaxed and fun conference I've ever attended.
Authors came from everywhere to gather at the Mazza Museum.
Their writing lives were poured out in those walls and excited
learners, teachers and writers listened to them in awe.

This was the summer a group of writers got together at Hocking Hills
for what would have become the highlight of my summer. Under the care
and guidance of two incredible editors, these writers bloomed, they cared,
they listened and guided each other on paths of possibilities.

We left our voices and words in those hills...
We left our fears and packed our courageous writing lives
and brought it back to Columbus to keep the work that we started there.
Only the beginning....the late night talks on the porch were only a start.

This was the summer I found myself having
late night chats in many patios around Columbus.
Those nights where you're not in a rush because you know that
these moments don't come in too often and you want to hold on
just a little bit longer...

This was the summer I sang as loud as I could in all
the concerts I went. Those nights were you know your voice is just one
among the many voices that think you can sing.
Who cares? It's just you and the singer anyways.

This was the summer I witnessed friends getting married
each one so unique, so close to the heart.
You watch your friends move away from a life they used to know
to a life full of new I do's.

This was the summer a group of friends decided to say farewell
to Summer 2012 by squeezing in one more road trip to Chicago.
The bonding hours in a car, laughing and singing, wishing and thinking.
One more appropriate goodbye... till next year summer adventures.

This was the summer that I learned to live with patience,
with the unknown, with different roads in front of me,
some of them equating choices, and others alternate routes.
Learned to walk hand in hand with what I could only control.

Friday, August 10, 2012

August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event! I look at the name of this event over and over and I think, "What is there not to LOVE about this?" I'm so excited to join my friends Cathy at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community  and Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning in their Third Annual Picture Book event. I'm sorry for my long to-do list for had to wait. This event is way cooler, and much more fun than any item on my list anyways!

This summer I decided to read a lot of biographies. Even though I love biographies, I really need to make a bigger, more intentional  effort to bring more biographies into my classroom, my life, and my students' lives. It was my challenge for this summer, and a challenge I expect myself to carry it through for this academic year. Since I work with ELLs, when reading biographies, I consider things like language, pictures, layout and organization in a book.

 Here are TEN Picture Book biographies that I discovered and loved. Some of them were discovered this Summer of 2012 and others were discovered earlier this year.

Just Being Audrey 
I believe that if Audrey would have seen this picture book, she would have totally approve it. This picture book has the elegance and unique style that Audrey would've appreciated. Authors Margaret Cardillo and artist Julia Denos pay tributte to an icon known for her delicate style in this book entitled Just Being Audrey. However, this book highlights her life offscreen starting from childhood, and her work with UNICEF helping children around the world. The elegant illustrations compliment this book so beautifully. Written for children ages 4-8.

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman
Bill the Boy Wonder  The Secret Co Creator of Batman by Marc Tyler Nobleman and Illustrated by Ty Templeton is an AMAZING book. I was totally suprised by the work done by the writer. Told  in a graphic novel format, this book narrates a fascinating story about a man behind the world known legend comic heroe. Bill Finger was THE person behind the creation of BATMAN but someone else was taking all the credits. Bill, a humbled man who was just grateful to get a good job, didn't claim or fought for something that clearly belonged to him. Like a true heroe, he was just excited to be part of a world legend. I can't tell you the rest of the story but I can assure you it's a fascinating one. Written for children ages 8-12. 

Me, Frida As many of you already know, I'm a big fan of the Mexican Painter, Frida Khalo. So you could imagine my excitement when this summer I've discovered Me, Frida by Amy Novesky and  Illustrated by David Diaz. This book is a Pura Belpre Honor Book and this particular picture book focuses on one moment in Frida's life. When she arrived in San Francisco with her husband Diego Rivera, Frida has a real hard time leaving her home in Mexico. This book narrates Frida's discovery in San Francisco. Told through the colorful illustration of David Diaz, this book matches Frida's life as a painter beautifully. It's full of vibrant colors just like her artistic work. Written for children ages 4-8.

Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child Oh the delicious life of Julia Child! Bon Appetit, The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland is a also another colorful celebration of the famous Chef Julia Child. Told through pictures of all sizes, using panels and cartoon storytelling style, this picture book will keep your readers busy, entertained and fascinated with all the beautifully illustrated pictures, speech bubbles and details. A pure FUN book to read for sure. The subtle colors used in the illustrations help not to become overwhelmed.  Written for children of all ages. I particularly recommend children ages 9 and up.

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! Just Behave, Pablo Picasso by Jonah Winter tells a fascinating side of the vibrant life of world-known painter Pablo Picasso. He was loved and admired all around the world. His paintings made people stared in awe and always asked for more. But what happened when Pablo painted something the world did not accept? Did he change his work? Did he only want to please people? Did he find a way to remain himself in a world that keeps demaning more from him? Read and find out. Written for children ages 4-8.

Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O'Keeffe Painted What She Pleased

Following a similar style to the book Just Behave, Pablo Picasso, this particular picture book  celebrates another painted: Georgia O'Keefe.  Georgia Hawaii is written by Amy Novesky. This book also concentrates on one particular moment in Georgia's life. The Hawaiian Pineapple company invited Georgia to Hawaii to make paintings of pineapples. However, did she paint what they wanted? Did she paint what inspired her? Yuyi Morales' illustrations will take your breath away. Absolutely gorgeous. Written for children ages 6-9.

Looking at Lincoln

I've been following the work of Maira Kalman for a long time. I admire her artistic style. Imagine my surprise when she decided to make a picture book for children, Looking at Lincoln.  When I discovered this book earlier this year, I read it to my Third Grade ELLs and let me just created a sequence of events that would lead us into a deep study of Abraham Lincoln. All because of this picture book. Told in a style only known as Maira Kalman, the life of Abraham Lincoln come to life and make you thirsty for more learning, more details, more life!

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

Oh Pablo Neruda. The world needs to know about your work! I'm so pleased to see that there is a picture book about his life so children around the world can learn about him, his love for words, his mark in the world. Pablo Neruda, Poet of the People by Monica Brown tells the story about this poet who at age 16 started publishing his poems about the things he loved, the joy he found, about Chile and his struggles. All through the power of words. Written for children ages 6-9.

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, SlaveDave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave. The title of this book was enough to capture my attention the first time I saw it, wouldn't you say so? Written by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Brian Collier, this book is dedicated to artist and picture book lovers  everywhere because "this story is really about the power of the human spirit, artistry and truth, and that can not be silenced by bondage of any kind." Isn't this dedication just a beautiful portrait of words? Well, the rest of the book is no disappointment. Told in a poetic way, this story shares the life and work of an enslaved potter in the 1800s in South Carolina. The details of his work, the dedication, love and appreciation despite his life as a slave is an inpirational story for sure. Written for children 5-8.

Harry Houdini: The Legend of the World's Greatest Escape Artist

Harry Houdini, The Legend of the World Greatest Escape Artist by Janice Weaver and illustrated by Chris Lane. The mood in this picture book definitely matches the mysterious, at-risk life of Harry Houdini. The book contains some photographs but also some amazing, sepia style illustrations that gives this book the perfect mood. From his birth to his death, this biography includes all the most important events in his life. You'll feel like you are reading a fascinating scrapbook of his life. Written for children ages 8- 11.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Love, Amalia

Love, Amalia Love, Amalia by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta. This story is about loss, hope, finding meaning and purpose, traditions, family values and traditions. It's about sharing and holding on to the things that matter. The story starts with Amalia's best friend Martha moving away. Amalia feels sad, angry, overwhelmed and lost. The girls have been friends since preschool. She doesn't know what life at school is without Martha. Amalia, not knowing how to deal with this change, tells her grandma, her abuelita all about it. In abuelita's kitchen is where Amalia finds herself, confesses and realizes what to do next. Abuelita fills her kitchen with amazing meals, and shares with Amalia her love for cooking and baking. Amalia's afternoons are filled with abuelita's wisdom, coconut flan, family's stories, cards, writing and secrets.
But one day the unexpected happens and Abuelita is gone leaving a big hole in Amalia's heart. How is Amalia going to cope with these last changes? Who is she going to talk to? How is she going to keep her abuelita's memory ALIVE? Questions are all there are in Amalia's head and heart. Amidst her sorrows, she finds the cards, in love writing.
A wonderful story filled with love, recipes, and love cards, and loud family members....a wonderful portrait of a Latino family who comes together to find meaning in life in the most unexpected moments.

I appreciate the sense of purpose that these love letters give Amalia highlighting the importance of keeping words alive, saying what you feel, and leaving your mark for words. A celebration of writing is part of this sweet chapter book geared for children ages 8-12. And may I just say how excited I was to see that this book is avaliable in Spanish as well? Oh viva el Español! As we are ready to embark another school year, I always try to remember what Lucy Calkins said at one of her Reading and Writing Institute, "All children in our classroom should see themselves in your read alouds in the first month of school." I think I found a great one to share this year!

Con cariño, Amalia (Love, Amalia)

Alma Flor Ada the 2012 recipient of the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award and author of numerous books including a special beloved one: My Name is Maria Isabel.  I'm looking forward to bringing Alma Flor Ada to my writing workshop time this year, and standing on her shoulder to reach young writers and readers.

Happy Reading and Enjoy the Journey!