Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How to Draw a Penguin

So it won't let me embed it. Or if it would I have not figured out how. Drat. But this little drawing lesson by Oliver Jeffers is adorable.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Not book or tech tool related. Just thought it was pretty good and from a fairly unexpected source.

Things I've Been Hearing About

that you will hopefully see more of on this blog.

Popplet (actually, I knew about that one and started one back in the spring ... but I need to really play with it and actually FINISH something for the kids)
Symbaloo (same there)
Tag Galaxy

And I never posted a link to my tech camp presentation on different picture/photo editors. Here it is. Classes seemed to like it!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Books I've Been Reading--Picture and Middle Grade

The Kneebone BoyThe Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lovely, lovely, lovely writing. I loved the writing in this book. So many beautiful descriptions or funny turns of phrase.

Here's one example. But it's just one and not even necessarily my favorite. "Of course, carousels are completely for infants, but if you had discovered one unexpectedly and you didn't have to pay for a ticket, you would have ridden it too, you know you would." (p138)

Was not as big a fan of where the plot took us but that is just me. Highly recommended.

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The Trouble with ChickensThe Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This will be a fun one to introduce to the kids next year. The illustrations add just the right dash of fun to the already hilarious story. This is one of those ones that is enjoyable on two levels. The target audience for this one (first and second grade) will love that this is a CHAPTER book they can read. They will love the characters and the pictures. What they may not recognize, however, was the skill with which the voice of this story (JJ) was written. Total noir detective. Fun for the grownups reading the story, too!

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A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of HomeA Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home by Henry Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love the illustrations. Love the tie-in to history (Audubon ... only wish he'd made different choices about sketching live animals!) Love the animal characters (I think Lafayette might be my favorite). AND I think kids will actually like this one. That is not always true of "buzzed about" books.

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Julia Gillian And The Dream Of The DogJulia Gillian And The Dream Of The Dog by Alison McGhee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An easy read in terms of reading level (it might be 327 pages, but the layout is double spaced so it goes very quickly) but not as much in terms of content.

Julia loves her dog Bigfoot. But Bigfoot is getting old. You can guess what happens. But that's good. It wouldn't hurt so badly if there hadn't been so much love to begin with.

Loved the whole "controlling for variables" bit. May have to try that for my own organizational mishaps. :/

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The Snow DayThe Snow Day by Komako Sakai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I do like her books. They are very quiet books ... but that's the charm. Share with one or two little ones as you cuddle. This one was about a snow day for a little kindergarten rabbit. They feel a little cooped up all day until it finally stops snowing just before bedtime. Love the ending. They can play outside in the snow again tomorrow when daddy gets home.

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Apple Pie ABCApple Pie ABC by Alison Murray

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was cute ... and a change from many alphabet books in that the letters actually did string together sentence fragments that told a story about a little dog who really, really, really loved apple pie.

Super cute. Not necessarily a have to but a like to.

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The Day-Glo BrothersThe Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

FINALLY got around to this one. Loved the art direction and how the book started out in black and white but as the story progressed more color was added to the layouts. It's just one of those quirky stories that kids (oh, let's be fair ... all of us!) find fascinating.

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The Faceless Ones (Skulduggery Pleasant, Book 3)The Faceless Ones by Derek Landy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OOOH! Super good ... if you're OK with this one being a little more intense than the others.

Lots of action and world almost ending. SERIOUS CLIFFHANGER. Can't wait for number four. Will have to think ... I know kids liked to check out one and two just for the skeleton on the cover. Do I get this one as well? SLJ says grades 5-8. Here's another one. Need to keep the collection relevant to the older students. But boy howdy IT NEVER FAILS that the third graders will try to check them out every single time.

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How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully FamousHow They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating. Our GT teacher heard about this book on NPR and told me about it. I was on the hold list at the library for almost three months!

It might have been a five star but the author did use a sort of sarcastic tone that several times actually interfered with getting the information across.

That said ... in a morbid sort of way this is just super interesting. I think I might have to get it for our school collection. All these famous people. Some of them I'd had an idea ... but I learned something from each entry.

Grateful for modern medicine!

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Square CatSquare Cat by Elizabeth Schoonmaker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this one. It's OK to be different ... a square cat in a round world.

And I don't even like cats.

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SpellbinderSpellbinder by Helen Stringer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OOOH. I liked this one. A great story with just the right spooky touches.

And superb writing.

First lines ... "It was Wednesday. The day of the week when it feels like Friday will never arrive. And it was cold. Not cold enough for snow, but that autumn cold--bright and bitter, the wind sharp with the promise of winter. It was no day to be outside. It was a day to be inside, curled up on the couch with a steaming mug of hot chocolate."

(Ironic to be reading that on a day where it's already 90 degrees plus outside.)

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except ifexcept if by Jim Averbeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yay! Two picture book successes today (the last couple of days have been hit and miss :X).

Great for sequencing or predicting as a model text. Or Just For Fun.

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Books I've Been Reading--more YA

A Zombie's Guide To The Human BodyA Zombie's Guide To The Human Body by Tom Becker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Five stars for gross out zombie pic/factoid factor. Three to four stars for non-fic explanations of the parts and systems of the human body.

Won't get this for the elementary school but if I was a middle or high school I'd think about it just for the kitsch factor. Design really is ... too good. Ugh.

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Alabama MoonAlabama Moon by Watt Key

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One day I'm going to actually start keeping track of where I hear about books. Looks like I added this one to my TBR pile in August of 09.

Didn't remember much about it so it was NOT what I expected.

Sort of like a more modern My Side of the Mountain? Sort of.

Moon's always lived outside, in the wild, with his daddy ... who was always ranting about the government. Then (this happens fairly soon in so I don't feel like it's a spoiler) his daddy dies. LOTS happens to Moon. That's where the whole story comes in. All the different people he meets ... some of them happy to be his friend and some of them madder than a hornet at him.

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ViralsVirals by Kathy Reichs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well. This one ... it certainly moves along. I do like this author and the character Temperance Brennan, so reading about her "niece" was certainly a natural progression.

Things I Liked

1)Lots of science.

2)The interaction between the characters. Hi and Shelton and Ben and Tory.

3)The setting.

Things I Think Could Have Been Done Better

1)The whole "flashing" thing. I mean, I can suspend disbelief. I can. But this one didn't always convince me I wanted to.

2)Another reviewer mentioned this and I agree. This storyline was all over the place. Revise. Concentrate on what's important. Some details (this was part of the story, actually) do not make the lie more believable. They just make it obvious it was a lie.

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The CreekThe Creek by Jennifer L. Holm

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well. Pretty much hated this one and not even sure why I finished it. I like spooky mysteries but the characters just didn't ... fit.

Half the time you don't even know if the main character is in her right mind or not. And she's only thirteen.

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This World We Live In (Last Survivors, #3)This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well. Pretty much hated this one. It was seriously depressing. Blah. Liked the first one. And the second. But now I feel like they were a waste of time I disliked this one so. :[

Combining the characters from the first two books seemed forced. Who on earth was Syl and what purpose did she serve?


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Suite Scarlett (Scarlett, #1)Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Can definitely tell why MJ is such a popular YA author. Fun characters. Interesting setting with the whole idea of a small, family run hotel. Actually made me want to visit New York and I avoid big cities like the plague.

Curious as to whether or not who Mrs. Amberson is is discussed in Book Two. Not that that is a huge thing but really. Mysterious.

Maybe even a three and a half. Some drama but none of it was ... what's the word I want. Lurid? Just a fairly normal family going through fairly normal stuff. Which you can find in YA, definitely. It's just not as OUT THERE as the paranormal stuff.

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ALALeftBehind and ISTELeftBehind

Yep. This year that's me. I did get to go to ALA last year. And I went to NECC (at the time) when it was here. And I'm HOPING to get to go to my state tech in ed conference next year (still waiting to hear if my presentation was accepted).

So ... today I am watching a few things that are streaming online. I will just catch up on all the #bookaday things I've been reading for now. Later!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

J is for ...

Steve Jenkins. I love his collage style artwork. Love, love, love. He and his wife do a lot of work together. Most of his can be read on two levels ... through the book the text is more simple. Then at the end there is a wealth of information in the last couple of pages. My favorite might be Actual Size. Or maybe I See a Kookaburra. This is one he did with Mem Fox.

Syrie James. Loved the Jane Austen book. Loved the quotes and in this particular case loved the fictionalized tie ins of her life to her stories. Not as fond of Dracula. Still need to read the Bronte one.

Maureen Johnson. Loved 13 Little Blue Envelopes. We have some differences of opinion on a couple of things but agree on a lot. Her Twitter feed makes me laugh. I wonder how she manages to post so much and still have a life.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I is for ...

Wow. Could not really find one author that I was super excited about.

I'm Not Cute! or I'm Not Scared! both by Jonathan Allen. What more can I say ... that little owl is adorable. I can't find an official webpage to link to so instead I will link to this stuffed toy on Amazon. Though the book pics are even cuter.

How many times can I mention Mo Willems on my blog? Apparently, a lot, because I Am Invited to a Party!, I Am Going!, and I Broke My Trunk all fit into the "I" category.

A new to me book that is on our state list is Imogene's Last Stand. It's all about a little girl who loves history and stages a protest to save her town's museum. It's full of quotes from famous people. May take a little scaffolding but I hope the kids like it next year! Found this on YouTube and thought it was cute.

On a related note, Laurie Halse Anderson's Independent Dames is a lot of fun.

Ah, Incarceron. Interesting story, that one. Just finished the sequel. It was a little harder to follow, I thought, but the whole idea is super cool.

INTERRUPTING CHICKEN! I believe I have also mentioned how much I love this one. A new picture book favorite. I read it to several classes the last week of school and we made doorhangers. One side was for "Shh! I'm reading!" and the other side was for times to "Interrupt me!" Got the idea from a pdf file you can find posted in several places around the web. Cracked me up how upset the kids would get when the chicken would interrupt the story. Pot calling the kettle black, my little friends. Pot calling the kettle black. Good thing we like you anyway!

The Dead (The Enemy #2)The Dead by Charlie Higson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

All the time I've been reading this I've wondered what I was going to say about it when I was done. Do not get me wrong. I did enjoy the story. If I could give two and a half or two and three quarters I would. But if I have to round up or down I'm going to round down.

Word to the wise. This one gets gory.

Coming after reading Rot & Ruin where the zombies were treated with much more respect I have to say I didn't like that about this story. All the description of bashing and splashing and kicking and oozing. Ugh. In the Maberry book the hunters were very careful to remember that the zombies were once someone's family.

That said, there were some interesting characters. Jack and Ed. Jordan. Poor Liam. Greg was a little strange, as was Matt and the whole "new religion" thing. The interaction between the different factions. The struggle to keep going and feel some hope.

I'll definitely keep reading the series. I'd like to know what happens next. I just won't recommend it to younger readers. Or anyone who recently ate lunch.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

ZOMBIES on Storybird

Can you tell I went to a district "tech camp" class a couple days ago? I actually had heard of it before and even had an account but had never actually USED it. Totally fun and totally easy. Can't wait to try it with some kids!

Young Adult and Adult Books I've Been Reading

Sapphique (Incarceron, #2)Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Still like the basic idea of the Prison that watches everything and the Realm outside stuck "in era" ... but honestly, I found this one harder to follow than Incarceron. Half of the time I couldn't tell who or what was actually doing the speaking. Which is strange. You'd think the second book would be easier to follow than the first.

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Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura, #1)Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OOOOH. Another superb zombie story. Maybe even four and a half. Yep. Four and a half. I read it for #bookaday so I was not careful about taking notes (who am I kidding ... I rarely am) but seriously. This was well written. Lots of description and action and word choice.

Can't wait to hear more from Benny Imura.

PS Good twist, too.

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The Jefferson Key (Cotton Malone, #7)The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know they are utter rubbish but I can't help it ... I love the action fictional action tinged with bits and pieces of truth. Made me want to go back to the East Coast (was actually in DC for a week or so last summer for the first time in over 20 years). Been a Steve Berry fan since I picked up The Amber Room in an airport bookstore a couple years back.

Sort of reminded me of National Treasure set where it was.

Now curious to go read the two ebook stories. Neither are Cotton Malone stories ... but they do deal with two characters integral to this one I just finished.

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I Don't Want to Kill You (John Cleaver, #3)I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Egads. This is one of the strangest stories I have ever read, and this latest book is no exception. John Wayne Cleaver is a troubled, troubled young man. But this author manages to make the reader care about him.

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Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)Where She Went by Gayle Forman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While saying I "really" liked it might be a bit of a stretch ... I will say the author did a great job of extending a story that we didn't know had more to be told.

Kind of reminded me of Mockingjay in that I didn't always love some of the choices the author made in terms of the character ... when I was finished and sat back and thought ... yeah. That was the way it needed to go.

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Juvenile Fic (& one Non-Fic) I've Been Reading

GUYKU: A Year of Haiku for BoysGUYKU: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this one. Loved the poems and the illustrations. If I get a chance I will update this review from school (where the book currently resides) with a specific example or two. I just know I had to show a couple of them to my assistant and she laughed. And considering at the time the library was full of kids waiting for day cares to pick them up that's saying something. Can't wait to share it with the kids in the fall. (Gotta love it when book orders come in two days before the last day of checkout and what ... six school days before we're out for the summer.)

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Clementine and the Family MeetingClementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK. All quotes are coming from an electronic ARC so ... page numbers are going to be off. But I can't help sharing a few. They make me laugh.

"Then Margaret had blabbered on and on about advanced lip-gloss tips and the proper application of eyeliner until I thought I would die of bore-dumb." (pg 8)

I will NEVER hear that word the same way again.

"I opened my backpack and pulled out my important papers folder and ... [it] was still there! I'm supposed to keep it until the end of the project, and every day that it's still in my backpack feels like a miracle." (pg 11)

I so understand that feeling.

I need to stop collecting quotes. It's slowing my reading down. ;]

"My inside clock keeps perfect time, and so I am never late for anything. Okay, fine, I'm late a lot, but it's only because I forget to set my inside clock. But I was remembering now." (pg 18)

Yep. Been there, too. Didn't know I had so much in common with Clementine.

"'What's on the agenda?' I asked. Agenda is Latin for 'list of stuff to talk about,' so when you say it, you're saving your mouth a lot of work. Plus, you sound smart." (pg 22)

HA! As a teacher faced with too many meetings lately ... I wish more agendas sounded smart.

"It's the teacher's job to teach and the students' job to learn. Both of you have to decide about how best to do that." (pg 66)


I absolutely cannot wait to share this with my students. As school gets out in a week it won't be until the fall. But you can bet I'll be adding more orange Clementine spines to our Pennypacker bookshelf!

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Shooting KabulShooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A kid-friendly fictionalization of what happened to too many Afghanis in the mid to late 90s. Taliban rule forced many if them to leave their homeland. Then 9/11 and even here they were not treated very well.
I actually lived in the Bay area in the mid-90s. I was doing church service work more with Hispanics but if this book is correct Fremont had more Afghanis than anywhere else in the US. I could believe that ... there were people from all over the world!

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Here There Be Monsters: the Legendary Kraken and the Giant SquidHere There Be Monsters: the Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid by HP Newquist

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super curious ... if only tomorrow wasn't the last day of school. Will kids go nuts over this book? I think yes ... but we'll have to wait until the fall to find out.

DRAT on end of year new book deliveries. But HOORAY for sort of creepy weird fascinating books like this one!

Though the quote about Tennyson on pg 15 seemed kind of random. The English major part of me appreciates it but seriously? Why include "'Tis better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all" in the book JUST because he also wrote a poem about the Kraken? Which is hard to read because it's printed in script?

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Picture Books I've Been Reading

A Balloon for IsabelA Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK. Totally silly. But I can't help but like it. USUALLY Balloons+Porcupines=Trouble.

But not always. ;]

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Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The author came to our school a couple of years ago and is a lovely person.

I can see why this won a Geisel Honor.

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Kindergarten CatKindergarten Cat by J. Lewis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have become one of "those people" who gets annoyed by books that miss a gigantic detail.

Kids would love it if they could have a cat in their room. But some of us are allergic!

That said, it's not my favorite J. Patrick Lewis but it is cute. Kids will like it.

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Imogene's Last StandImogene's Last Stand by Candace Fleming

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I LOVE this one. I don't know how the kids are going to feel about it but I love it. Will have to figure out the best way to promote it.

So fun with all of the quotes from famous people from history.

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Amazing FacesAmazing Faces by Lee Bennett Hopkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Forgot to mark this one even though I read it a while back. Beautifully done. Looking through it again just about made me cry--A Young Soldier. One brother is already deployed and the second one left just this morning for basic training. :[

Trying to think through a lesson using this and the "Seek first to understand, then to be understood" habit (our school will be a "Lighthouse" campus next year) as there are so many different people represented in the book.

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Tough ChicksTough Chicks by Cece Meng

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super cute illustrations and a great message ... don't be afraid to be different!

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Thursday, June 9, 2011


I think I fixed the whole conflicting Google Apps/Google Blog/Google Email thing. And school is not longer kicking my behind because it's summer! SO ... I really do plan on updating more. Ummm ... hooray!