Saturday, November 22, 2014


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres has a link-up on Saturdays where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

* It is the season for concerts. Last weekend we got to see our daughter perform in the La Crosse Youth Symphony Orchestra and in a voice recital. Coming up this week we will get to go to her high school orchestra concert too. It's a treat to hear what they have been working on and see the growth. It's fun too because this year she's playing a new instrument. The orchestra needed a bass. She plays cello so it was not too difficult to learn that over the summer. I am looking forward to seeing and hearing her with the bass. It's funny because that's what she wanted to play when she started orchestra, but they had too many at the time.

* My exchange student got to run his first ever Turkey Trot this morning. He finished faster than he thought he would. It was a success.

* I finally got to 25,000 words on my #NaNoWriMo. That is good news, but it is also bad news. It took 20 days to do that and now I only have 10 days to do the other 25,000. Eeek!

* Jacqueline Woodson's book Brown Girl Dreaming won the National Book Award. :)

* Ursula Le Guin rocked her speech. I was trying to write for #NaNoWriMo and my Twitter exploded while she was speaking. And yes, I know, having twitter open while I am writing may be contributing to my low word count. ;)

* My first grade students had a great time building after we read Christy Hale's book Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building. We had many items to build with including Lego blocks, wooden blocks, cups, playing cards, and gumdrops & toothpicks. I enjoyed building too.

I hope your week was filled with celebrations.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge

Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a Non-fiction Picture Book Challenge and has a roundup every Wednesday. I love the encouragement to explore more non-fiction.

It's Native American Heritage Month so I have been highlighting a lot of books by and about Native Americans in the library. Here are some of the nonfiction picture books that I have enjoyed in the past year or so with a Native American focus.

We All Count: A Book of Cree Numbers by Julie Flett

Goodreads summary: Whether in the country or the city, creature or insect, plant or animal, a part of a big family or a small family, we all live together and we all take care of one another. We all count. (from back cover) 

In this board book, Cree/Metis author Julie Flett beautifully illustrates simple English phrases demonstrating Cree Culture. Along the way, readers can practice counting using the Cree language.

My thoughts: This is another quietly beautiful book by Julie Flett. I appreciate being able to learn about the Cree culture in this simple and interesting concept book. In the "About this book" section, Sherry Farrell Racette writes, "This book is not only for Cree children and their communities who can see themselves. We All Count is for all children to enjoy, because everyone is honored in this beautiful little book....." I agree wholeheartedly. I am glad it exists for Cree children, but also for any child and caregiver.

Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo by Nancy Bo Flood with Photos by Jan Sonnenmair

Goodreads summary: Celebrated author Nancy Bo Flood combines compelling first-person narrative poems with linked prose explanations to portray the dawn-to-dusk events and activities of a Navajo rodeo.

Photographer Jan Sonnenmair contributes dynamic action shots that show off the riders and ropers, the horses, bulls, and broncs, along with portrait photos of young rodeo participants.

My thoughts: I loved the blend of poetry and non-fiction. There are some fabulous photos here and it is great to see a Navajo sport up close. I think my students will enjoy learning about rodeo with this book.

When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton 
with illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard

Goodreads summary: "Nothing will stop a strong-minded young Inuit girl from learning how to read." Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. She must travel to the outsiders' school to learn, ignoring her father's warning of what will happen there. The nuns at the school take her Inuit name and call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do chores. She has only one thing left -- a book about a girl named Alice, who falls down a rabbit hole. 

Margaret's tenacious character draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But she is more determined than ever to read. By the end, Margaret knows that, like Alice, she has traveled to a faraway land and stood against a tyrant, proving herself to be brave and clever. 

Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, "When I Was Eight" makes the bestselling "Fatty Legs" accessible to young children. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.

My thoughts: I appreciate hearing first-hand accounts of the residential school era. This is a part of history that I did not know about when I was growing up. This is a picture book version of a portion of the book Fatty Legs which I also enjoyed. Having this part of history told through a child's eyes in a memoir brings it up close and makes it personal.

Greet the Dawn: The Lakota Way by S.D. Nelson

Goodreads summary: Pickup trucks and eagles, yellow school buses and painted horses, Mother Earth and Sister Meadowlark all join together to greet the dawn. They marvel at the colors and sounds, smells and memories that come with the opening of the day. Animals and humans alike turn their faces upwards and gaze as the sun makes its daily journey from horizon to horizon. 

 Dawn is a time to celebrate with a smiling heart, to start a new day in the right way, excited for what might come. Birds sing and dance, children rush to learn, dewdrops glisten from leaves, and gradually the sun warms us. Each time the sun starts a new circle, we can start again as well.

 All these things are part of the Lakota way, a means of living in balance. S.D. Nelson offers young readers a joyous way of appreciating their culture and surroundings. He draws inspiration from traditional stories to create Greet the Dawn. His artwork fuses elements of modern with traditional. Above all, he urges each of us to seize the opportunity that comes with the dawn of each new day.

My thoughts: Greet the Dawn - The Lakota Way is a beautiful book that shares the Lakota Way. According to the author, this way "offers a means of living in balance." S.D. Nelson provides an introduction explaining this way of life that is lived in a circle with humility and balance. I appreciated the mix of tradition and modernity in the book within the text and illustrations. He honors traditional patterns and imagery, but is also bringing a new vision to the work including playfulness with colors and even some cartoon elements among other things. Another part of this fusion is that he provides modern scenes along with timeless illustrations. The reader will know that this is not only about Lakota from long ago. On the title page we see a pickup truck amidst a grouping of tipis. There is also a fantastic spread with a big yellow school bus. Within this contemporary school type scene he includes colorful patterns along the road and pictographic images in the sky that point to the Lakota heritage. 

The text is also a fusion of old and new. Through the simple poetic lines, Nelson is sharing the many teachings that have influenced his life. In a note at the end, Nelson tells of the people who have provided this teaching including Black Elk and many others. I appreciated that he points to the sources. The text also includes several songs in the Lakota language that he notes are from Teton Sioux Music. I always appreciate seeing other languages within picture books.

I highlighted this book earlier in the year here.

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp and illustrated by Erwin Printup Jr.

Goodreads summary: A traditional Iroquois celebration of the beauty and spirit of Mother Earth, as told by a contemporary Mohawk chief.

My thoughts: This book is a beautiful way to introduce thankfulness. Each page expresses thankfulness for the many resources and wonders of Mother Earth. It has a tone of awe and wonder for the way that the world provides for us. I love to use this to begin discussion of thanks and expressing thanks. It is also a great way to show that Thanksgiving is more than pilgrims and turkey because many people express thankfulness outside of the traditional holiday.

These four board books are bright, colorful and capture the attention of children. To learn more about them, visit the Head Start website. I've shared these books with students even beyond pre-school because they have great information and three of them show modern Ojibwe children and culture. Our Journey is also a book that shares a greeting of the day like Giving Thanks and Greet the Dawn so it works well with either or both of those texts.

Any of these books would work for Native American Heritage Month, but they are also excellent books to share throughout the year. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children's and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and comment to spread the love.

If you want to know more about what I am reading, visit me at my Goodreads shelfImages via Goodreads unless otherwise noted. 

The Past Week: 

I am about to leave for a National Novel Writing Month gathering, so don't have much time. My favorite book of the week was Waiting is Not Easy! I totally agree with that sentiment and love the expressions on Gerald's face as he goes through the torture of waiting. Betsy-Tacy was a nice old-fashioned story, but I wasn't wowed. I would have enjoyed it when I was a child, but it was a little slow for me as an adult. The Hug Machine was pretty adorable. I got Bramble and Maggie from the publisher and will review it soon.

The Coming Week:
I'm reading Foreign Gods Inc., but that is slow going. I am also finishing up Hunt for the Bamboo Rat and will be reviewing it later this week on Rich in Color. It's a very interesting piece of historical fiction. Beyond that, I will likely read some more picture books since it's picture book month. I hope you have a great week of reading.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres has a link-up on Saturdays where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

* I have a dog. He loves me. He greets me everyday with his tail wagging madly. I get kisses too if I let him close to my face. I avoid this though because I am barely tolerating dog kisses. I grew up seeing Lucy react to Snoopy.

* I met with the architect, our principal & a woman who is helping us design and furnish our new library space as we renovate the building. It's a bit overwhelming making the decisions, but it's very exciting imagining the possibilities.

* We had our first snow of the season. I know we will be tired of it eventually, but there's something magical and wondrous about seeing those big white flakes for the first time. It always gives me a joyful heart to see those beautiful flakes blanketing everything.

* My daughter's ability to drive herself has freed up a lot of time for me. I used to drive and then sit in a waiting room every week during voice lessons. I also drove 25 minutes each way to get her to orchestra practice on Saturday mornings. Her license is saving me a few hours of driving and waiting time. 

* We had our final drawing class and it was fun to see how we've progressed in six short weeks. We displayed our favorite pieces and had a fun evening together.

* This is a somewhat silly thing to get excited about, but it made me smile this week so I'm sharing it. I got a friend request on Goodreads from a favorite author. I know this doesn't make us BFFs, but it was a nice surprise.

I hope you had a week filled with things to celebrate - both large and small.

Monday, November 10, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children's and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and comment to spread the love.

If you want to know more about what I am reading, visit me at my Goodreads shelfImages via Goodreads unless otherwise noted. 

The Past Week: 

First, I will address Pete the Cat. I loved the first three books. Adored them even. After that though, I am not a fan. They feel like they are trying to ride on his legacy at this point and I am not amused, plus they were just written better when Eric Litwin was writing. Draw! has amazing artwork and is a fantastic wordless book. I love it and will be getting a copy for our library. I was excited to finally get a copy of Ninja! (I noticed that I read two one word titles with exclamation points this week). Ninja! was just as funny as the wonderful trailer led me to believe. 

I enjoyed Black Elk's Vision: A Lakota Story and reviewed it for Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. It's a good way to see history from a Lakota perspective.

I bought Nest on Saturday because I remembered seeing Donalyn tweet this:
I knew it must be interesting or she wouldn't have tweeted out that call for discussion.  I am in the middle of four books and am doing NaNoWriMo, so the last thing I needed to do was start another book, but I read the inside flap before I went to bed Saturday night and I was lost. I had to start the book. Once begun, I couldn't stop. Well, I stopped to sleep, then go have a yummy brunch with my daughter and a good friend, but after that, it was straight through all the way. Donalyn's correct. It does beg for discussion. Also, since there is spoiler potential, it can't just be discussed out in the open for all to see. Just know that it is a book that made me cry. It's a book that was difficult to put down. Esther Ehrlich touched me in many ways and Chirp (the main character) will be with me for a long time.

The Coming Week: 

Ack, these are still the same ones I was working on from last week. I am more than half-way through Wonderbook. I do enjoy much about it, especially the graphics, but sometimes the author is a bit too academic for me and a little dry. The information is good, but dense.  I really enjoy the guest articles and imagery to break things up. The others are on hold. I have misplaced Betsy-Tacy or would be much farther along with that one since it is audio, but the other two I simply haven't touched. I hope to get back at these this week. Have a great week of reading!

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres has a link-up on Saturdays where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every day.

  • I got to spend the day with my two favorite children. We had a yummy lunch while watching the Badger game on a humongous screen at the student union. If you can't be at the game (it was away), the next best thing is watching with a bunch of Badger fans. It was funny because whenever the game wasn't on, a person was turning off the tv audio and we had some loud, fun music. I didn't know that football dj was a restaurant job. 
  • I love watching my writer's group at school. They enjoy having the time to create individually or together. Some have decided that they want to do the Scholastic Kids are Authors contest and are writing picture books together. Their excitement is amazing. It's great to see what they do when they have the time and space to be creative.

  • My drawing class was very enjoyable this week. I finished a drawing I had started the week before. At the previous lesson, I had an “Ish” moment. I kept trying to draw an acorn and it wouldn't look the way I envisioned it. I will admit that I became very frustrated and had to take a time out in the hall. When I came back in, I stopped trying to make it perfect and went for trying to make something acorn”ish” and that did the trick. This week, I added more acorns and am happy with the drawing. With five minutes left of class, I did a very quick still life drawing that I didn't hate. I think it's good to experience frustration when I am learning to remind me of what some of my students may go through.
  • NaNoWriMo has begun. The camarderie is fantastic. So many people are going through the same adventure together. There are word sprints on Twitter and Facebook. There are writing challenges with our region. We had a write-in last Saturday at the library (four of my fourth and fifth grade students attended) and another write-in happened with a smaller group of folks Monday night. Writing with others doesn't necessarily make me write more or more quickly, but it is way more fun. The food is good too.

    I hope you have also had a week full of many moments to celebrate!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review: Song for Papa Crow

Title: Song for Papa Crow
Author: Marit Menzin
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Pages: 32
Availability: On shelves now
Review Copy: Final copy via publisher

Summary: Little Crow loves to sing, and Papa Crow loves his song. But when Little Crow shares his crow songs with the other birds at the big, old tree, they laugh and scatter. Maybe Mockingbird can teach him to sing songs with the finches, flycatchers, and cardinals—and help him make some friends. But Little Crow should be careful what he wishes for...

Using Mockingbird’s tip, Little Crow quickly becomes the most popular bird on the block but, in a moment of danger, he learns that singing someone else’s song can have terrible consequences, and that his own voice—and his father’s love—is of the greatest value. Paired with colorful collage illustrations, this inspirational story is complemented by fun facts about North American birds and their sounds.

Review: Song for Papa Crow is a sweet book about being true to yourself and the love of a father. Little Crow has his own unique song, but because the other birds make fun of him, he tries to be like everyone else. Initially he is popular, but ultimately it brings some scary results. The text includes different bird calls that would make this fun to read aloud. The unusual font is likely to make this challenging for beginning readers, but it does add an artistic quality to the text.

The strength of the book is the collages. They are filled with a wide variety of patterns and textures. The beautiful illustrations invite the eyes to wander through leisurely to enjoy the birds and their surroundings. There is an oddity though on one page. The illustration doesn't match the text. A bird is said to have something in its talons, but in the picture, there are no talons and the bird has something in its beak instead. It didn't really affect understanding of the storyline, but it could jolt the reader out of the story to wonder about the difference.

The inclusion of 'Fun Facts' about birds at the end of the story is definitely a plus. With the story, beautiful illustrations and a small bit of non-fiction at the end, Song for Papa Crow would be an  additional purchase for a library looking for more books about common North American birds. There are other books about birds that I would choose first though such as Have You Heard the Nesting Bird and Mama Built a Little Nest or Feathers: Not Just for Flying.