Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Geckos, Tokays, and Other Lizard-like Things

I grew up in Thailand and most of my night music consisted of listening to the animals, bugs, and other critters in the night air. It was a magical time. We slept with the windows open and the fans on full speed to keep the air circulating in the sweltering humidity.

One of my favorite nighttime creatures was the Tokay. The rest of the world knows it as a type of gecko. In Thailand, they call them Tokays because they make the noise, "Urrrrr, To-Kay, To-Kay, To-Kay." Some say more "To-kays" than others. There was one outside my best friend's house that we called "Big Ben." He could do ten "Tokays" in a row when he really got going. It doesn't sound like the word "to", it sounds more like Homer Simpson saying "Doh!" only with a hard T sound. Strange I know, but it's hard to describe the sound in print.

I was thrilled beyond belief to see Margaret Read Macdonald's book Go to Sleep, Gecko! at my local library. I relied on some of Margaret Read Macdonald's retellings of Asian folktales when I did a paper on Thai folktales for J.D. Stahl's Myth and Folktale class at Hollins. I met Dr. Macdonald at an IRA conference several years ago, so I was thrilled to see her Gecko book in my very own hometown library, especially since it was about my favorite nighttime music maker.

Go to Sleep, Gecko! is a Balinese folktale about a Gecko who says, "Gecko, Gecko, Gecko" all through the night. His lizard loudness keeps the elephant awake. The elephant complains to the Gecko to quite making so much noise. Gecko blames it on the Fireflies who are keeping him awake. The Fireflies blame Buffalo, Buffalo blames Rain, Rain blames the mosquitoes, who provide food for the Gecko.

I read this book to my daughter and instead of saying "Gecko, Gecko, Gecko" like the book suggests, I substituted "Tokay, Tokay, Tokay" (gasp--I changed the words). I told her that they don't really say "Gecko" they say "Tokay." When I got the back of the book, Macdonald writes that she hopes it sounds like "To-kay" like the geckos really do in Indonesia. I'm was glad that she mentioned it because they really sound like "To-kay."

This book stirred a story up in me. I wrote a story for Ruth Sanderson's picture book class at Hollins inspired by my experiences with a Tokay growing up in Thailand. I think I will dust off the story, rewrite and revise it, and send it off.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I finished reading Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret over the weekend. I had been telling my fourth grade students about this book as I was reading it because I was so fascinated by a book that would tell a story so intricately with text and pictures. The night after I had stayed up far too late reading it, I took it to school the next day and did a book talk on it. I begged my librarian to buy a copy for a school library--and she did.

I am not a very visual person. I really love to read the text. I could do without pictures in almost every chapter book I have ever read. My imagination has always surpassed the detail of the pictures. What I love about Selznick's book is that I was drawn to the pictures. The pictures helped add to the drama of the book. The pictures sucked me into the book and made me not want to put it down until I was done. It's a 500 plus page book! But it's only a little over 20,000 words, so it's not a long read.

You can listen to an interview with Brian Selznick on NPR here.

You can see a video interview with Brian Selznick with Expanded Books here.

Bravo for Selznick! I hope he wins a lot of awards for this book. I have never seen the pictures and the text be so closely married in ANY book, must less a "chapter book".

Bridge to Terabithia

I FINALLY got to go see Bridge to Terabithia this weekend. I cringed everytime I saw the trailers to this movie because they focused so much on the fantasy part of Terabithia. I had read in a Katherine Paterson interview that the trailers were deceiving. The movie was very true to the book.

The fantasy parts of the movie (that you see in the trailer) are the film version of the imagination. Most of us who read the books as kids saw the imaginary Terabithians in our minds. We had our own idea what Terabithia looked like. Since film can't show what might be in our imaginations, it had to spell it out for us. And I understand since it's a visual medium, that it was necessary to show the Terabithians, etc. Of course it was different than in my imagination, but there's never been a film based on a book that has ever matched my imagination exactly.

The number one thing people have said to me about the movie is: "It's so sad!" They are shocked and astonished that a child would die in a kids' movie. Most people that are shocked are people who have never read the book. The people who have read the book would be mad if the changed the ending in the movie.

The great thing about the book being made into a movie is that you find out about this classic book all over again. I loved this book as a kid, so it's been wonderful for me to relive my memories of it.

Check out these great links:
Katherine Paterson's Newbery speech

Article in School Library Journal

Washington Post Article

Friday, March 23, 2007

Valerie Worth--Poetry Friday

Valerie Worth has been a poet (I am ashamed to admit) I have only gotten to know better through Sharon Creech. I don't know either one of them personally, but I have fallen in love with their poetry books. After I first read Sharon Creech's Love that Dog, I looked up every poet she had mentioned and re-educated myself. I know somewhere along the way, I was introduced to poets Valerie Worth, Walter Dean Myers, Robert Frost, and William Carlos Williams, but it wasn't until I revisited them as adults that I really appreciated them.

I really went swooning when I heard Sharon Creech recite "Love that Dog"--the poem--to a group of children's lit. buffs at the IRA conference several years ago.

Since then, I have read (actually listened to Scott Wolf read) Love That Dog with my fourth graders. We read poems from the aforementioned poets that are also poems that Jack reads in the book.

I bought All the Small Poems and Fourteen More by Valerie Worth several years ago. When I saw Animal Poems by Valerie Worth, I pre-ordered it on Amazon a few months ago. It arrived in the mail a few weeks before I begin Love that Dog--a book I always savor for the end of the year.

Not only does it have Valerie Worth's brilliant, short poems and language I could only dream about writing, but it has Steve Jenkins' torn paper illustrations. It is packaged as a picture book, giving it even more kid-appeal. Steve Jenkins, known for his animal books that he writes and illustrates, makes Valerie Worth's worthy words come alive.

I did a little dance when I saw this book. It's another book that will make kids get excited about poetic language.

Virginia Readers' Choice High School List

Last, but not least...the high school list.

Acceleration by Graham McNamee

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch

Jason & Kyra by Dana Davidson

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Working Fire: The Making of a Fireman by Zac Unger

Thanks to VSRA Virginia Readers' Choice committee for making the selections. I look forward to reading them all. The list for each age category has intriguing books--some I have read, some I haven't. I can't wait to get reading.

Not from Virginia? Want to see your own state's young reader's choice awards? Click here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Virginia Reader's Choice Elementary List 2007-08

As promised, I will list the books for the Virginia Reader's Choice list for 2007-08. This is the Elementary List for grades 3-5.

The Big House by Carolyn Coman

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford

John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith

Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park (for Linda Sue Park's blog, click here)

Ruby Lu, Brave and True by Lenore Look

Scarecrow and His Servant by Philip Pullman

Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson

Three Good Deeds by Vivian Vande Velde

Whales on Stilts by M. T. Anderson

Unlike the primary list, I have actually read quite a few books from this list, and I'm familiar with the ones I haven't read. One of my favorite ones is John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith. This is book is hilarious--and kids who have studied American history love the humor in this book. He even includes a true/false quiz in the back to have kids figure out what parts are factual and what details are made up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Virginia Reader's Choice 2007-2008

When I was at the Virginia State Reading Association Conference last week, Perma-Bound was handing out lists of the 2007-2008 nominees for the Virginia Reader's Choice Awards. The books are read in classrooms and libraries across Virginia and students vote on their favorite book. It's always a great list of books, so I anxiously await the list each year and attempt to read most of them.

They are four lists categorized by age:

Primary (Grades K-3)
Elementary (Grades 3-5) ** Yes, Grade 3 is an overlap year--you can pick either list.
Middle School
High School

Today, I will list the Primary books and links to find the books and their authors. I'll highlight a different list each day.

Bubba and Beau Meet the Relatives by Kathi Appelt

Duck and Goose by Tad Hills

He Came With the Couch by David Slonim

Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes by Barbara Knutson

Mrs. Watson Wants Your Teeth by Alison McGhee

Once Upon a Time, The End: Asleep in 60 Seconds by Geoffrey Kloske

Russell and the Lost Treasure by Rob Scotton

Stan the Dog and the Sneaky Snacks by Scoular Anderson

Terrific by Jon Agee

Three Pebbles and a Song by Eileen Spinelli

These titles all look so intriguing. I can't wait to read them!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Twisted Podcast

Laurie Halse Anderson has just released a podcast about her new book Twisted. In the podcast she reads from several passages in the new book and gives insight into how she wrote the book. She speaks specifically to how she wrote it from a guy's point of view.

I always enjoy hearing an author read from his/her own work. Click here to listen.

I just received an e-mail from this weekend saying that Twisted was on it's way to my house. Can't wait to read it!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A weekend of authors!

I spent the weekend at the VSRA Conference at the Hotel Roanoke. It's always one of the best conferences of the year. I was very active in the Virginia State Reading Association before I had my daughter, so it was good to get to go back this year. I had the chance to hear 5 authors speak. The Virginia Readers' Choice 2007-2008 list was given out, and I made it through my own presentation: "Reading Like a Writer" before an overflowing room of enthusiastic teachers.

I will try to highlight an author a day this week.

The last author I heard speak was Kim Norman, a fellow Mid-Atlantic SCBWI member, and e-mail friend.

Kim's long-awaited picture book Jack of All Tails will be available in June 2007. Kim is a wonderful singer and enthusiastic presenter, so I was entertained by her entire presentation. She read the text of Jack of All Tails and showed the accompanying illustrations (when they were still in their sketched form).

The family members all become hired out as pets for neighborhood families. Kristi, the protagonist, keeps trying to be all sorts of animals before she finds a perfect fit for herself. This book is laugh-out-loud funny. I can't wait to buy it for my daughter. I know it will be a favorite bedtime story.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hattie Big Sky

I just finished reading my third and final Newbery Honor book this morning. I finished Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson. This week has been very stressful as I have been preparing for a session I was presenting at the VSRA conference on "Reading Like a Writer." On top of that, I am preparing for a big bridal shower for my future sister-in-law and I'm in charge of the food! This book was such a good "vacation" for me. Hattie Inez Brooks, the main character of the book, is based on Kirby Lawson's great-grandmother who "proved up" in Montana during the First World War. This book was fascinating to me on many levels. I don't typically read a lot of historical fiction, but every time I do read it, I wonder, why don't I read more of this??? I knew little about the development of the West during this time. It's a tale of adventure, but also a coming of age story where things don't always turn out perfect. I will be looking for more from Kirby Lawson!

A short interview with Kirby Lawson is in this month's edition of The Edge of the Forest.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Simon and Schuster Lucky Video

Simon and Schuster released a video promoting The Higher Power of Lucky. It highlights quotes from authors who are in support of her book--who have come out in full force since it has been banned from libraries. It also features a short interview of Susan Patron by Cynthia Kadohata.

You can view the video here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What's in Your Pantry?

What’s in my pantry? No, I don’t have Vikings held up in there with swords and shields ready to attack me if I don’t tear up my old credit cards (like in the Capitol One commercial). Instead I have a plethora of legumes and grains.

Here is just a semi-completed list:

Rice: Jasmine, Basmati, Sticky, Wild Rice, Brown Rice, Red Rice, Arborio

Pastas: Orzo, Couscous, Spaghetti, macaroni, Angel Hair, Penne, Linguine, Thai egg noodles, wide rice noodles, skinny rice noodles

Grains: Bulgur, Wheat Germ, All purpose flour, Self rising flour, cake flour, rice flour, bread flour, buckwheat flour, blue cornmeal, regular cornmeal

Beans: Dried beans of every kind imaginable, 8 types of Indian lentils (dhal), canned cannelini and black beans

This is just the beginning. What is my obsession? Every time Donnie opens up the pantry door, he says we’ll never be hungry in an ice storm. We have plenty to eat. I like variety and I also insist on having the exact ingredient called for in a recipe. My more practical mother would substitute like items she had on hand, or just leave the item out altogether. Not her hoarding daughter, though. No, I’m the one who has 52 spices in her cabinet because, heaven forbid, should I leave anything out.

It’s kind of like my book collection. I have stacks of books that I own. At the present time, I have four large stacks of books on the floor of my office because I need a new bookshelf. We are in the middle of remodeling bathrooms at the moment, so a new bookshelf is on the backburner for now. They aren’t bothering me in the floor. They are in neat stacks, sorted by author or by subject, so when the bookshelf finally arrives, there will be no sorting or purging involved. These books line my shelves and my floor and the floor by my bed and tower on my nightstand. My husband thinks I’m crazy every time I bring a bagful of books home from the library. He reasons that I have plenty of books at home to read. I reason, “Look how much money I’m saving you!” To me, these books are like gold sitting on a shelf (or on the floor). I can’t bear to part with any of them. People have said, “Why don’t you donate the ones you have read?” These are just my nutty friends. I don’t get rid of books.

What’s worse? I have an entire list of books on my computer that I want to buy or read at some point in my near future. An obsession? Maybe. But, what’s in your pantry (or bookshelf)?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

It's Hollins Time Again!

The highlight at the end of my winter is always receiving the Hollins packet that gives the courses being taught and the events for the summer.

I did a little dance yesterday when I got my packet. I was thrilled to see Paul Janeczko and editor Michael Stearns (HarperCollins) will be speaking in July (not together). There is a summer chock-ful of good stuff. I really would LOVE to take the Children's Mystery Novels class, but I will be otherwise engaged this summer. We have plans to be in Thailand visiting my parents for the summer. I will only be here for some of the summer activities at Hollins. I'm so fortunate to live only 15 min. away from Hollins, so even if I can't take classes, I can still go to the special events.

I can't wait!

I'm going "loo"ny

Two bathrooms in my house are under construction. We have one bathroom/laundry room that I am using. Arggh! It looks like a college boys' bathroom mainly because my husband only cleans it about once a month. But alas, today is the day my toilets will be installed. It's a good thing because I have had just about enough of traipsing downstairs to the toilet in the middle of the night. By the time I get back upstairs, I'm wide awake.

In honor of poetry Friday (and I know it's Saturday, and I know I'm "supposed" to celebrate someone ELSE's poetry, but for the last two weekends I have wanted to write something myself), here is my limerick (and a bad one at that) on my dilemma.

There once was a girl with a loo
She didn't know quite what to do
She tore everything out
And threw paint all about
And now her loo looks brand new

Pathetic, I know.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Wonderful, Wonderful Words

Because I have a 2 1/2 year old, I spend a lot of time reading picture books over and over and over again. Some of them get taken back to the library very quickly. Others I like to keep around for awhile. In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming is one of those I have already renewed once. For a book with only 64 words in in, it has 36 amazing verbs! Every night when it was time to go to bed to my daughter would say, "Read The Small, Small Pond," and I would say, "Okay!"
Today I brought in to my 4th grade class. We've been talking about vivid verbs. I read it out loud to them and had them write down their favorite words. They were so excited. Their favorites were words like wriggle, quiver, waddle, drowse, and many more. We had a word feast today with all of these words. This book was a Caldecott Honor Winner in 1994. Why has it taken me 13 years to find this treasure?!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Penny is priceless

I just finished reading Newbery Honor book Penny from Heaven. I remember hearing Jennifer Holm speak at a IRA conference (I think it was IRA) several years ago and remembered how much I liked her and wanted to read more of her books.

I loved this book for so many reasons. I love the voice of Penny. I love how that even though so many things have gone wrong in her life, she still has a pretty "normal" growing up experience. I love the fact that the bad stuff in her life doesn't dominate the book. We get glimpses throughout the book of her background, but only at the end do we find out how much her family has loved and protected her.

I loved this book even more after reading the author's note and finding out that it was based on real family and real events. What a fabulous way to tell your family story!

I'm working my way through the Newbery Honor books and so far, I've been thoroughly enjoying myself!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Poetry Friday--on Saturday

Well, I missed Poetry Friday, but I thought I'd post a day late. After experiencing today, here is the haiku I wrote.

sunshine tempts my frigid feet
to bare all outside
whipping winds tell my toes “no”