Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Review: Cryer's Cross

Author:  Lisa McMann
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster (February 8, 2011)
Audience: Young Adult
Source: Personal Copy

Description from GoodReads:
The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on... until Kendall's boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it's crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear...and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? And how can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating...and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico's mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried.

When I first read WAKE by Lisa McMann, I think I started it at 11 at night and finished it a couple of hours later.  I was struck by her writing voice.  It was different and I found it unique.  Of course, when I heard Lisa talk about Cryer's Cross at a Wake/Fade/Gone book signing (a year before Cryer's Cross was released), I knew I wanted to read it.  

Immediately upon starting Cryer's Cross, I felt drawn back into McMann's unique writing voice though this book is in many ways different from the Wake Series.  From the beginning of the book, I felt as if McMann grabbed me and pulled me right into the story and the feeling didn't let up until the end.  And even then, I was a bit haunted afterward and kept thinking about it.  The main character, Kendall, is a quirky narrator thanks especially to her OCD.  It certainly gives her a unique perspective on the events happening in her tiny community.  First, there is a disappearance of a high school freshman, Tiffany, which pulls the town together as they search for her.  Then, just after the summer and the start of the school year, Cryer's Cross faces another disappearance.  This time Kendall's boyfriend Nico.  Things are complicated with the arrival of Jacian and his family.  Does this new boy have anything to do with their disappearances?  And what is happening to the teenagers of Cryer's Cross.

For me, Cryer's Cross had several elements that I truly enjoyed.  Less than perfect but relate-able characters, just the right level of creepiness, a mystery to solve, and a potential romance that doesn't just happen because the characters glanced at each other one time.  I also enjoyed the fact that the book never dragged on.  I have heard some mixed feelings on this.  Criticisms that McMann doesn't develop certain aspects of the book because it is so short.  However, I never once felt confused or that there wasn't enough information about something.  The addition of her main character having OCD also allowed McMann to write a few things in and have it be believable/understandable.  The small-town element of the story provided the perfect back drop to the story.  Rather than have non-existent parents, McMann writes in parents, and grandparents, and all kinds of small town neighborly connections.

When I arrived at the end, I found myself feeling satisfied that the story felt appropriately wrapped up.  However, parts of me wanted to hang out more, especially with Jacian and Kendall.  For fans of Cabel (Wake/Fade/Gone), you'll understand when I say that Jacian might just eventually capture your heart as well.  I think I might just have a new fictional crush.  For fans of Lisa McMann, you will love this...but I am warning you, it might be best to read it in the daytime.

Lisa McMann at Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica; Cryer's Cross Tour


Below is the book trailer for Cryer's Cross:

Here is a chance to listen to author Lisa McMann talk about Cryer's Cross:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Special Edition Literacy Café: Author Visit with Danika Dinsmore

As our Literacy Café has been growing, we have been offering up some specials on the menu.  For our latest Café Special, we hosted author Danika Dinsmore for a Creative Writing Workshop around World Building.  Danika is the author of Brigitta and I will be posting a review of her Middle Grade Fantasy novel, Brigitta of the White Forest shortly. 

On Tuesday, students welcomed Danika to the Cafe and learned about her book.  After an initial introduction, Danika creatively read several pages from her book to draw the children in and to set the stage for learning about World Building.

Danika has a very energetic and creative reading style.  She nearly acted out all of the scenes.  After she read the passage, she asked the children questions about what they had discovered about Brigitta and her sister.  Children learned that one important thing in writing is to show rather than tell.

When she talked about world building, she began to help students understand where you can start and what are critical things to remember when building your world.  First she helped them understand three different kinds of worlds:
Children then had to decide whether the world they were creating for their books was imaginary, an alternate reality, or a portal to another world. She set them the task of working as partners or table groups to share their ideas.  With heads together, students excitedly chatted about their ideas.  So much so that at times it was hard to bring them back.  How cool that a topic being discussed is so excited that they wanted to keep going.

After the children had created their worlds, they learned about about creating their characters. Would their characters be human?  Human with powers? Or completely made up?  Each table group had a challenge to create a new creature by combining to other creatures.  So what would you call a snake/eagle?  Or a scorpion/giraffe? 

Students also had a chance to see Danika's special notebook.  One of the pictures she showed students were her sketches for the wings of her faeries.  She encouraged them to keep their own notebooks of ideas, and sketches.

Danika's brought along a special Felt Faery that she had made in a workshop.  

Thanks Danika for visiting our school and providing students with such great information about writing.  Students generated such amazing ideas about their world and main character and what would happen in their stories.  I am certain we have some budding writers in this group and your visit will be something they remember for a long time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hot Off The Press! New Picture Books (6)

This is a feature that I do weekly called Hot Off The Press!  based on my weekly visits to Vroman's Bookstore and checking out their wall of new picture books.  This week there were so many recent releases that I was unable to get through them all in one visit. Here are the 5 new releases that stood out from the pile this week:

Queen Of The Falls
Author/Illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (April 4, 2011 - available now)
Audience: Grades 2nd to 5th

I never really thought about who was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  However, this book gave me a lot to think about.  VanAllsburg retells the real life story of Annie Edison Taylor in a way that will fascinate young readers.  VanAllsburg's illustrations are beautiful. This takes top honor this week and will be one that I recommend.

Click here to watch a video of Chris Van Allsburg talking about the book.  

The Loud Book!
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Renata Liwska
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (April 4, 2011 - available now)
Audience: Ages 2 to 6 years old

I really loved The Quiet Book and have given it out as gifts.  I wasn't expecting to love The Loud Book even more, but I think I do.  I laughed and smiled at all of the examples of being loud.  Liwska's illustrations are charming and compliment the text wonderfully.  Underwood has a successful companion book on her hands with this one.  I think I will be giving the pair of books as gifts now.

The Cazuela That The Farm Maiden Stirred
Author: Samanatha R. Vamos
Illustrator: Rafael Lopez
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing (February 1, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8

Books that introduce words in another language can be tricky.  Is it just randomly inserting these words into the text or is there a specific purpose.  Vamos's play on The House That Jack Built does so in a wonderful manner.  After each word is introduced in English, the next time it is used it is then given in Spanish.  First, the Farm Maiden stirs a pot and then a cazuela, and it continues in this manner.  Lopez' illustrations are colorful and festive.

Author/Illustrator: Ellie Sandall
Publisher: Egmont, USA (March 22, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8

Sandall takes a simple, familiar concept, adds in bright fun illustrations, and then executes it well. A bird sits on a branch and sings. He is then is joined by another and another...all with different songs. They are having fun and finally they are joined by one very loud bird who knocks them all off, but it is something very small that makes the biggest change of all.  This one gets the smile award for the week.

The Loopy Coop Hens
Author/Illustrator: Janet Morgan Stoeke
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (March 17, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 7

I don't usually say this, but I want a book trailer for this book.  I searched but couldn't find one.  Someone make one fast...*waits* Okay, so it isn't happening.  This wins the "make me laugh a lot" award for the week.  The hens in this book are certainly loopy.  They wonder why rooster Sam can fly.  They try.  They see other creatures that fly and wonder why they can't.  Finally, they discover a little secret but realize maybe it doesn't matter after all.   I anticipate that children will get a chuckle out of this one.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Claudia Gray's Afterlife Review & Giveaway!

Author: Claudia Gray
Publisher: Harper Teen (March 8, 2011)
Audience: YA
Source: For Review (Dark Days Supernatural Tour)

Description from GoodReads:
The fourth book in this electrifying vampire series has all the romance, suspense, and page-turning drama that have made Claudia Gray’s Evernight books runaway successes.

Having become what they feared most, Bianca and Lucas face a terrifying new reality. They must return to Evernight Academy, Lucas as a vampire and Bianca as a wraith. But Lucas is haunted by demons, both personal and supernatural. Bianca must help him fight the evil inside him, combat the forces determined to drive them apart—and find the power to claim her destiny at last.

Readers have fallen in love with Bianca and Lucas, and they will be thrilled to read this exciting conclusion to their romantic adventure.

Claudia Gray's Afterlife is the highly anticipated final chapter to her best-selling Evernight series, a young adult series about vampires and humans living together at the reclusive Evernight boarding school. Personally, I was really looking forward to seeing how things would end for Lucas and Bianca and how the mysteries surrounding the school would resolve, and I wasn't disappointed.

This is a spoiler free (!!) review of Afterlife, but it does reference events from the first three books in the series, so you have fair warning.

Afterlife lived up to expectations for me. At the end of Hourglass, book 3, Bianca had become a wraith and Lucas was turning into a vampire, the one thing he had been resisting for the whole series. This brought a new dynamic to the duo as they adjusted to their new bodies... or forms, in Bianca's case as a wraith. I loved watching Lucas struggle with what he had become and how that affected his relationship with Black Cross, especially his mother. I also loved seeing Lucas and Bianca back at the academy. I enjoyed them being on their own, out in the real world in Hourglass, but it felt great to have them back on familiar territory, readjusting to life now that they were both so different.

There were many unpredictable plot twists, especially with Mrs. Bethany and her relationship to the vampire/human/wraith populations at the academy. There was also some interesting Balthazar moments in there for fans eagerly awaiting Balthazar's spin-off novel. It's difficult to discuss the novel without giving too much away, because so much of this book ties up loose ends. I will say that I loved how Claudia Gray ended Bianca and Lucas' romance. I was worried about how they would work everything out, but I was more than satisfied with their ending. Overall, I really liked this one -- lots of action, romance, and drama to make it a real page-turner.

Now, on to the fun part: THE GIVEAWAY!

Here are the rules:
1. Please do not enter any personal information in the comments section, you must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.
2.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. on March 26, 2011 to 11:59 p.m. on March 31st.
3.  You do not need to be a follower of this blog to enter, but if you are it will earn you an extra entry.
4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
5.  If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.
6.  This contest is only open to UK participants .(Sorry U.S. and International Followers...there will be another contest for you coming soon)

Good luck!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

PUSD Voice: Spotlight on San Rafael's Dual Language Immersion Program

I don't usually just feature random things about the school but I was excited about how this video came out and it does show a nice snippet of the first graders in a Literacy Café for Grandma's Pear Tree.  I believe the District will actually be doing another video on the Cafés which I will share when they are available.  Until then...enjoy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Literacy Café: Tortilla Sun Redux

Last July, I discovered Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes.  (To read my review, click here.)  There truly was something magical about this book.  When I finished reading it, I just knew that I had to share it with my students.  As I read the book aloud to one of our fourth grade classes, I became excited about the connection the students were making to the characters in the story.  I then started giving copies way to teachers and parent volunteers who in turn became excited about the book.

Of course, one thing led to another and before you knew it, we were planning a Literacy Café.  Our Café first opened it's doors on Monday, November 1, 2010.  We welcomed 34 fourth graders into our Café.  We were well prepared and had many enthusiastic volunteers to assist us with the activities.

Our hosts led children through activities that pulled out key concepts in the book and allowed children to interact with those ideas at a different level.  Children used their senses while nibbling on apple empanadas to talk about sensory adjectives.  At another table, children played with the symbols in the story in order to create a visual representation of the book.  And at yet another table children wrote poems about the characters.  When they finished, each child received a homemade tortilla with butter and honey just like Izzy eats them.

However, we weren't through with Tortilla Sun or with Literacy Cafés.  We learned so much from that first experience and have since put on over a dozen more Cafés centered around different books.  When word got out about the success of Tortilla Sun, I had requests from other teachers to read the book aloud to their classes and to hold another Café.  While I read to the students, my Literacy Café partner Angie busily revised activities.  We discussed other ways to explore the themes.  Tweaked activities that didn't work as effectively and tried to add in some other ways to work with the concepts in the book.  This time we even added in a session of folklorico dancing.  And of course our bakery bought apple empanadas became homemade empanadas, and Angie perfected her tortilla making.  Nana would be proud.

What we also learned through the experience is that paying attention to details is critical.  When children arrive in the Café, we want them to be transported into the book.  A piñata hanging from the ceiling or black crepe paper hanging from the door or even the smell of tortillas warming help children feel more a part of the story.

Was this Café better than the first one?  Yes, and no!  Both were wonderful on their own.  Both inspired children and helped them see books in a new way.  And also both times we learned things that would help us make another Café even better.  Take a look at this short video to get a better feel for the whole event.

Here is Jennifer Cervantes reading from Tortilla Sun at an author event in Glendale, CA.  I had a blast meeting her and telling her how much I loved her book.

For more information about our Literacy Cafés, you can check out my blog post here.  To visit Jennifer Cervantes website, click here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES opens in theaters this Friday, March 25th.  

In anticipation of the release, 20th Century Fox brings you all new WIMPY KID features and games: Wimpy Wonderland, Wimp Yourself, and Rodrick's Band Challenge.  Check out more information about these exciting new activities below

Wimpy Wonderland:
Visit the Wimpy Wonderland Island on Poptropica! Join Greg, Rowley, Rodrick and the rest of the Wimpy Kid characters for a snow-capped adventure. Help find Greg's little brother Manny before the rotten Whirley Street kids do. 

Play the game now at: 

Wimp Yourself

It's time to get Wimpy!  

Join the two million wimps who have created and shared their own wimpy characters  on the newly relaunched site www.Wimpyourself.comWimp Yourself today!

Roderick's Band Challenge:

Calling all bands!!! 

Rodrick and his band Loded Diper are challenging YOU to a Rock Duel!  To accept the challenge, simply post a video response to Rodrick's Band Challenge video.  Grab your band, friends or big brother and give it your best shot.  The winner, as selected by Loded Diper will receive a special copy of the "Rodrick Rules" book, signed by Jeff Kinney. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hot Off The Press! New Picture Books (5)

This is a feature that I do weekly called Hot Off The Press!  based on my visits to Vroman's Bookstore and checking out their wall of new picture books.  This week there were so many recent releases that I was unable to get through them all in one visit. Here are the 5 new releases that stood out from the pile this week:

Author/Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers (April, 2011 - available now)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years

Creating a picture book biography for young children is not an easy task.  Some contain such little information that they are not helpful and others too may for younger children.  However, Patrick McDonnell finds just the right balance with simple but informative text and soft pastel illustrations that tell the story of Jane Goodall's life. This book would be wonderful for both National Women's History Month as well as Spring/Animals/Biographies. This is my top pick for the week.

The Honeybee Man
Author: Lela Nargi
Illustrator: Kristen Brooker
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (March 8, 2011)
Audience: Ages 6 to 9

This was another book that really caught my eye today.  The end notes provide the reader with great facts about bees and honey making. I liked how the facts about bees and honey making are woven into the story (which you discover at the end is based on a true story) of a man living in New York with several bee hives and makes honey for friends. Illustrations support the text.

Pond Walk
Author/Illustrator: Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books (February, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years

This mixed media picture book was very fun to read. The story is a common tale of a mama bear and her little one spending time together.  In this case, they are spending the day out on a walk and around a pond. I enjoyed how the text and the illustrations supported each other and this was a stand-out for this format.  A perfect read for Earth Day or Spring.

Bug And Me
Author: Ann Bonwill
Illustrator: Layn Marlow
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books (April, 2011 - available now)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years

Some books have very similar formats or themes.  A friendship theme is very common in books for preschoolers.  However, I couldn't tell with this one if I loved the text or illustrations more.  This story is about a grumpy little bear and a persistent bee. Bee wants to play with bear and continues to try and get bear to engage in games. Bear just wants to be left alone. When he finally gets to take a nap, he can't. Bear then thinks about how he treated his friend Bee. A sweet story of friendship, and how to repair a friendship when it is broken.

Ferret Fun
Author: Karen Rostoker-Gruber
Illustrator: Raul Rátz De Tagyos
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books (March 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years

Some books are just fun and this is one of those books.  In Ferret Fun, two ferrets have a new arrival to deal with - a cat who thinks that they might be more of a tasty meal than friends. Finally the ferrets discover a way to handle this new arrival. Quirky illustrations and a fun story was a winning combination for me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

CHALK - Bringing the Book to Life

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you will know that I happen to be a BIG FAN of Bill Thomson's wordless picture book CHALK.  It was released a year ago and though I would have selected CHALK for a Caldecott, the committee members obviously didn't agree with me.  Since I am unable to decorate this book with any gold medals, I will have to be content with what I can do. Which has looked something like this...

Emailed the illustrator -
Yes, I have completely been a fangirl when it comes to this book.  When I first discovered it, I immediately hunted down an email address so that I could gush about my love for CHALK with the creator/illustrator. This YouTube interview/video shares a little about how complex it was to create the book. (And how did this not get an award?!)

Bought lots & lots of copies for giveaway:
I was just so in love with this book that I gave it to several children for Christmas and to all of my teaching staff as their holiday present.

If I didn't giveaway a copy, I told everyone to buy it:
I am pretty certain that I have told every bookseller, librarian, and teacher I know about CHALK and that they should buy it. We also featured it at our school book fair in December.

Plan a school-wide Literacy Event around CHALK:
In chatting with Angie (parent volunteer, Literacy Café developer), we decided that it would be wonderful to do something school-wide with the book.  (I suggest that you plan this out several months in advance especially if you are doing something on a large scale.)

Mid-Winter ALA, stop by the publisher's booth:
While wandering around the exhibit hall, I passed by the Marshall Cavendish booth. I had that funny feeling like "I know this name".  I looked at the display of books...and then it hit me, CHALK is published by Marshall Cavendish.  Of course, I blurted out to the staffer my shock that he wasn't displaying CHALK but he appeared to forgive my "foot-in-mouth" moment, when I proceeded to gush about the book and tell him about our plans for a school-wide event centered around it.  (Note: I am not advocating that you tell publishers what books to display, but I do know they really love hearing about the books that you really like.)

Plan out the event:
This included picking a date, creating an invite (thank you Karen), sending out invites, putting out a press release, notifying local law enforcement (we held the event right in front of the school), working with volunteers on all the details (thank you to all my volunteers), and working with teachers on ways that the book can be used in class.

It also included ordering 1,000 pieces of chalk (thank you to the PTA for funding this).

And decorating little bags for the chalk so it would look like the book. (Noeleen, Jon, Irene, and any others I owe you big time.)

Sorting out posters, so that every child would have one.  (Thank you Marshall Cavendish for supporting the event by sending posters for the children.)

Notifying the police for possible crowd control.  Always interesting when you have 350 kids in the front and side of the school.  But everyone did wonderful and the police enjoyed watching the children draw.

We also invited local chalk artists to come to the event and we worked with our local Indie bookstore, Vromans, to provide a way for families to order copies of the book.  The Children's Manager even came over to help out. (Yay to Indie Bookstores and supporting local businesses.)

There were also lots of special visitors who stopped by.  A rep from our local Assemblymember's office and heads for various departments in the District including our Chief Academic Officer, our Director of Elementary Education, Director of Special Education, Coordinators of Visual and Performing Arts, and Language Development.  And toward the end a couple of our Board Members popped by for a visit.  Though we didn't see the local paper, our District's TV department also came out and interviewed staff, children and parents.

Of course, this student kind of says it all:

For more information about Bill Thomson and his incredible book CHALK, check out his website here: 

I also need to extend a huge thank you to Bill Thomson for his continued enthusiasm for what we were planning and his support of this event by contributing items for the school to use in a Silent Auction to raise funds for Literacy.

Though I don't have a picture of this, my favorite moment of the day was hours later when nearly everyone was gone.  The Children's Book Manager and I were chatting in her car and we watched one young student bring her father all the way over to the side of the school in order to show him her drawing.  You could tell by the gestures and actions that she was sharing all about the event with him.  Dad was beaming and clicked a few pictures with the camera on his phone.  It was definitely one of those "awww" moments, but one where you realize how significant the event actually was to the children.

Thank you Bill for inspiring all of the children and staff at San Rafael School.  Come visit any time you are in Southern California.  I can promise you that you will be treated like a Rock Star.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop hosted on I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Cindy @ Books Complete Me for co-hosting this hop!

This Giveaway Hop is huge.  There are over 250 blogs signed up to host a giveaway so check out the other blogs to enter all the giveaways.

Giveaway # 1: YA Pack

A signed Advanced Reader's Copy of SHINE by Lauren Myracle
Description from GoodReads:
When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice. 

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

A signed Advanced Reader's Copy of PURPLE DAZE by Sherry Shahan
Description from GoodReads:

Purple Daze is a young adult novel set in suburban Los Angeles in 1965. Six high school students share their experiences and feelings in interconnected free verse and traditional poems about war, feminism, riots, love, racism, rock 'n' roll, high school, and friendship.

Although there have been verse novels published recently, none explore the changing and volatile 1960's in America— a time when young people drove a cultural and political revolution. With themes like the costs and casualties of war, the consequences of sex, and the complex relationships between teens, their peers, and their parents, this story is still as relevant today as it was 45 years ago.

Giveaway #2: MG Pack

An Advanced Reader's Copy of THE EMERALD ATLAS by John Stephens
Description from GoodReads:
Kate, Michael, and Emma have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage.

Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about.

Until now.

Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey to dangerous and secret corners of the world...a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem.  And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.

The Emerald Atlas brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma's extraordinary adventures through an unforgettable, enchanted world.

An Advanced Reader's Copy of WE ARE NOT EATEN BY YAKS by C. Alexander London
Description from GoodReads:
Eleven-year-old twins Oliver and Celia Navel live on the 4-1/2th floor of the Explorers Club with their father, Dr. Navel. Their mother, Dr. Navel, has been missing for years. So when an explorer shows up with a clue as to where his wife could be, Dr. Navel drags Oliver and Celia to Tibet to find her. Once there, the twins fall out of airplanes, encounter Yetis, travel through waterfalls, and end up in the Demon Fortress of the Warrior King where they—just possibly—might find their mother and save their father from the Poison Witches. Thing is, they would much rather be watching television. And if their trip doesn't work out as planned, the twins could end up as slaves to Sir Edmund Thitheltorpe III, an evil explorer with breath that smells like boiled carrots, who has it in for the whole Navel family.

Rules for the Contest:

1. Please do not enter any personal information in the comments section, you must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.
2.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. PDT on March 17, 2011 to 11:59 p.m. PDT on March 20th.
3.  You must be a follower of this blog to enter.
4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
5.  You must indicate which giveaway that you would like to be entered into.  You may enter both.
6.  If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.
8.  International participants are welcome to enter the contest.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hot Off The Press! New Picture Books (4)

This is a feature that I do weekly called Hot Off The Press!  based on my visits to Vroman's Bookstore and checking out their wall of new picture books.  This week's post is a couple of days late but there were so many good ones that I didn't want to wait. Here are the 5 new releases that stood out from the pile last week:

All The Way To America: The Story Of A Big Italian Family And A Little Shovel
Author/Illustrator: Dan Yaccarino
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (March 8, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years

This was my favorite of the pile.  Yaccarino conveys a sense of connection between generation after generation with the use of a little shovel that is passed from one generation to the next. The story begins with Yaccarino's great grandfather as he leaves Italy and travels to the United States.  Each generation shares more in common than just a small shovel.  Children and parents sharing this story can also tell their own family histories as they share in the Yaccarino family history.

Check out the Book Trailer:

A Mango In The Hand: A Story Told Through Proverbs
Author: Antonio Sacre
Illustrator: Sebastia Serra
Publisher: Abrahms Books for Young Readers (March 8, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years

Another top pick for the week included Sacre's A Mango In The Hand I enjoyed the multi-cultural/multi-lingual book as well as the lesson learned by Francisco as he prepares for his special day. Serra's beautiful illustrations bring the text to life.  I was pleased that rather than one or two Spanish words interjected into the text there were whole sentences which were then explained/translated in the context of the paragraph.  I am looking forward to sharing this one with my students.

Pirates Don't Take Baths
Author/Illustrator: John Segal
Publisher: Penguin (March 3, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years

Some books just make you smile or laugh and Pirates Don't Take Baths is one of them for me.  A little pig sets out to avoid taking a bath by telling his mom that he is a pirate or an astronaut or a knight. However, each time he discovers something new which eventually leads to a fun ending.  I see this as being an enjoyable evening read aloud as part of the night-time routine.
Nurse, Solider, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, A Civil War HeroAuthor: Marissa Moss

Illustrator: John Hendrix
Publisher: Abrahms Books for Young Readers (March 8, 2011)
Audience: Ages 7 to 10 years

With this being National Women's History Month, I couldn't leave this story of Sarah Edmonds off the list.  This non-fiction picture book tells how Sarah Edmonds at 19 decides to dress as a man and joins a Michigan Army Regiment to fight the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Not only was she a solider, but also served as a nurse and when her unit needed someone to go undercover, she didn't shy away from the task.  An inspirational story and a nice addition to any picture book collection of prominent or influential women.

Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted To Take A Nap
Author/Illustrator: J.C. Phillips
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (March 3, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years

A companion novel to Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted To Be Noticed.  In this installment, the story picks up with our Ninja hero who at first doesn't want to take a nap but then changes his mind after being tired out from attempts to hide from all of his admirers. With a little help from some a wise elder, our little ninja develops the perfect plan to shake his followers and sneak in a nap.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Author Visit: James Burks

On Friday, March 11th, we had a very special visitor at our school.  Illustrator turned author, James Burks stopped by to chat and have some fun.

First Up: Lunch with Read-a-thon Winners -
The prize for the top four readers in our first annual Read-a-Thon was to have lunch with James.  We started off with a Gator Pizza (pepperoni) and a Gabby Pizza (Veggies) and a cheese pizza just in case.  Around the table, students asked James lots of questions about how he came up with the idea for Gabby and Gator.  And of course, why does Gator like to eat dogs.
James gave us all kinds of secrets at lunch.  I had to sit on my hands so as not to grab my camera and take pictures of things I can't post yet.  The students were so excited.  They got to see a book trailer James made that won't be out until September, and a sneak peak at his new graphic novel to be released in 2012, and he even flipped through his journal.  He then showed the girls how to draw Gabby & Gator.  There is some surprising talent in this group.
Next Up: Special Edition Literacy Café:
After lunch, we invited a group of students to participate in a modified Literacy Café.  We rotated groups of students through 3 activities.

One activity was centered around No Name Calling and how to respond when you are bullied (one of the themes in Gabby & Gator is around bullying and standing up to a bully).  Children created their own comic strips talking about how to respond to a bully.  They also made Gator bookmarks saying "My name is _______. Not _______." They filled in the last blank with a name that they had been called in the past.  (In the book, Gabby says to the bully "My name is Gabby. Not Freak.").

In the book, Gabby is very pro recycling and loves playing the Tuba.  Gator enjoys dancing with her.  Our Café participants made musical instruments out of recycled materials.  Gabby would be proud.

Of course, the students loved learning about how James' creates his characters and were mesmerized by watching James draw.

No author visit would be complete without an opportunity to get a book signed by the author/illustrator.  James was kind enough to sign books for students and draw in each book.

If you want to know more about James Burks and his art and books, check out his website here.  You can find James on twitter: @jamesburksart and on Facebook:!/james.burks

I leave you with a fun little video from our event: