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A Requiem for Rose’s Blog February 29, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Nerd Line.
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There was a time (quite awhile ago now) where many conversations between me and Ana would go something like this:

“Is it up yet? Did you see?”

“Yes! Have you read it?”

“No!! Is it funny? Did she write about Tom?”

“No…but it’s funny!”

This of course, was the golden age of Rose’s Blog. For the uninitiated, Rose Casson is a character in the Casson family series by Hilary McKay (see the earlier post Which Casson Family Book is the Best?). New books about the Cassons have been few and far between the last few years, but for awhile McKay would have a blog post on her website each month, ostensibly coming from Rose and talking about the latest friends and family drama. Ana and I checked the page obsessively, arguing about what a certain line meant for Rose and her best friend (read: Crush) Tom, who lived all the way in America and was less than reliable.

No more, sadly.

There was a post on McKay’s website recently informing the world that Rose was no longer blogging. Instead, like so many, she has moved to Twitter.

I have nothing against Twitter. I went to the feed for @RoseCasson, but it just wasn’t the same. 140 characters isn’t really enough for Rose, who can talk in run-on sentences for ages about her family, her artwork and why she hates reading. 140 characters makes Rose seem…dare I say it…normal. 

So if I had a glass of Pimms and lemonade, or something else suitably British, I would raise it to Rose’s Blog, for giving us lots of laughs and all those further details about where the story goes after the book is finished.

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What My Students Are Reading: February February 24, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Classroom Books.
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The year is flying by, and every time I look up, I realize another month has gone by without me noticing. For example, this blog post was originally titled ‘What My Students Are Reading: January’ and then it languished on my posts page until it was already February!

We’re hitting the “I can’t find anything to read…” point in the year. My class has spent enough time in the classroom that they claim they A. have  read everything in my library or B. can’t find anything they like. So out come a few secret weapons!

Secret Weapon #1: NEW GRAPHIC NOVELS

I always hold back about 5-6 of my really exciting graphic novels to hand out this time of year. It’s a good way to boost the confidence of some of my lower readers (“Look! I have this book just for you!”) and usually after one student reads it, it starts making the rounds of everyone else. Right now, Rapunzel’s Revenge is the book of choice. They love the crazy antics of Punzie and Jack so much that I just bought the companion Calamity Jack (Shhhh…don’t tell them!).

Secret Weapon #2: READING PASSPORTS

Every year, I order these little folders through my reading specialist that are called Reading Passports. They are made of glossy cardstock and have ten different categories of books. I tell the students that if they read one book in each category, they will earn a prize at the end of the year. This is a good way to get reluctant readers energized about reading and it encourages my strong readers to expand their reading and try some new genres. As a result, non-fiction reading is more common and some titles, such as Seymour Simon’s Stars and the National Geographic Ancient Egypt have been getting more circulation.

Secret Weapon #….oh never mind.

I don’t have any more secret weapons. My not-so-secret weapon is my persuasive powers. Nine times out of ten, I can get a student reading a book (at least for a little while) by giving short summaries of three to five books and letting them pick what looks interesting. Right now, I have students reading an old favorite, Gypsy Rizka which is probably my favorite Lloyd Alexander book outside of the Prydain Chronicles. I also have a student reading a new favorite, Anna Hibiscus, which is set in Africa and combines a fascinating setting with a charming family story.

The Battle is About to Begin February 21, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Nerd Line.
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What did I do with all my time before I discovered School Library Journal? From articles to book reviews to blogs, it seems incredible that I managed to keep up with children’s literature before I was introduced to this publication.

One of the things I love is how the cycle of children’s lit talk goes roughly along with the school year. When I get back to the classroom in September, the buzz is starting to build for the ALA Youth Media Awards; we argue and discuss and rant via the various blogs devoted to the Newbery and Caldecott, then in late January we begin again with the SLJ Battle of the Kid’s Books. This lasts just about through April, at which point I start going absolutely crazy preparing my students for high stakes testing and I have no more time to think about books until school is over in June. By which point most blogs and librarians have started reviewing and discussing everything they were lucky enough to pick up at the ALA Summer Convention….and I’m in a state of jealousy until fall.

But back to the Battle. The School Library Journal Battle of the Kid’s Books takes sixteen books and puts them in brackets. Each pair is judged by an author, one book moves to the next round, and so on until the final bout, where an eliminated book is brought back through popular vote to slug it out with the last two. Sixteen books. One winner.

Can you say EXCITING?

A Valentine’s Day with Erin E. Stead February 18, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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One of the most anticipated picture books this winter is the second book illustrated by Erin E. Stead, who won the Caldecott last year for her debut, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. 

Various blogs started posting reviews of And Then It’s Spring, written by Julie Fogliano, several months ago. This led to much gnashing of teeth for me, wishing I were still working at a bookstore that got a sizeable number of ARCs (Advance Readers Copies)! Although now that I think of it, even when I worked at Imagination Station, we rarely got picture books ARCs.

Consequently, although I rarely buy picture books in hardback, I decided to purchase And Then It’s Spring, as well as A Sick Day for Amos McGee. And since the former was coming out on Valentine’s Day, it seemed appropriate to celebrate with these two lovely stories of taking care of other people as well as the world around us.

I mentioned in my post on Sophie Blackall the smooth quality of her illustrations. With Stead, I think it’s the unexpected roughness in her images, the result, I imagine, from the woodblock printing technique she uses as a base. I also love her minimal backgrounds, which leave me to imagine the interior of Amos McGee’s house or the elephant’s zoo habitat.

Stead is an illustrator who truly rewards second and third readings. It was a pleasure to go back through And Then It’s Spring and note the changing layers of clothing that the boy wears, and the evolution of birdhouses both wooden and cardboard in the tree.  None of the many animals who appear throughout are generic; they each have personality and detailed reactions to the events of the story.

It isn’t quite spring here in DC yet, but reading these books was a wonderful way to spend a grey February day.

Sophie Blackall Video February 13, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Nerd Line.
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Apologies for the (somewhat) long absence! When I’m in rehearsal for a theater project, there is VERY little time between school and nighttime rehearsals to read, let alone write about what I’m reading. But now my show is open, so I am back!

Sophie Blackall is one of my favorite illustrators. I find her style quirky and comforting at the same time, with her smooth brushstrokes and delicate details. So I was excited today to find a video about her on Etsy, the handmade marketplace website, about a new piece of art she has created for the New York City Transit system.

In this video, Blackall walks the viewer through the process of observing her fellow subway riders and turning them into characters for her illustration. While I have been aware of Blackall’s Missed Connections project  (where she imagines illustrations to go with posts on Craigslist) for awhile (although sadly, I haven’t bought the book yet) this was an amazing look at the process of creating her pictures. As I have very little drawing or painting talent myself, I love to peek into the studios of artists and watch them at work. My favorite quote? “I like drawing animals but I’m ashamed to say, I almost always want to put clothes on them.”

Hopefully I will make it up to NYC sometime soon to take a look at the her poster in action on a subway car. Maybe I’ll even run into Ms. Blackall herself! In the meantime, enjoy the video and look for more posts coming soon!