Archive | December, 2013

Graphic Dust Bowl

17 Dec

Things that were history to me are now ancient history to the kids I teach. Because my parents lived through the depression and World War II, they were familiar to me. But now, these and many other important parts of our history are so distant to my students. These are the memories of their great grandparents, if they have them. And at my school, where over 60% of the students receive ESL services, the Dust Bowl isn’t  part of any family member’s memory.

Enter The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown.


This is an excellent introduction to the dust bowl. The text is presented in a simple, but thoroughly researched, style. Brown provides the scientific explanations for the dust storms as well as first hand accounts. But it is the art that really makes this a valuable tool. How can you really explain the dust bowl to someone who has never seen it or even heard of it? In a graphic form, of course. This is the perfect tool for introducing kids to the dust bowl.

My weekend went to the dogs

15 Dec

It was all about dogs this weekend – mine & others’.

Yesterday Oregon Basset Hound Rescue ran a “Pet photo with Santa” booth at the PetSmart in Salem. There were a lot of small dogs and one very sweet pit bull. I think though, I got my Christmas spirit when a family came in with their shih tzu and their three-year old son. The son thought our Santa was the real deal. The little fellow’s eyes were big and, honest to goodness, they sparkled. He had such a look of awe and respect. He was a little nervous approaching, but Will, our Santa, is dad to two little girls. I got a little weepy. like you do at a Hallmark movie or commercial. It was great.

Today, it was my girls’ turn. We had a 2:00 appointment with Pauline Zonnefeld, who is going a series called “In bed with Rufus”.


I got my jammies on and the girls & I posed in bed. This is not us, just the promotional photo she uses for the project. The girls also got photos taken alone for Pauline’s Good Old Dog Project. I thought Fiona might be too nervous to cooperate, but she was a pro. Lucy is just naturally photogenic and she loves attention. I can hardly wait to see the results.

These three books from MCL are…

13 Dec

My Christmas company arrives in 8 days. I have a lot of library books to read and return by then. Today, I cleaned out the picture books I have left so I can get them back today. These  three books from the Multnomah County Library are all great. I usually like to buddy up picture books by theme or topic. Not sure I can find a common thread in these, but you should read them anyway.


Kenta and the Big Wave,  by Ruth Ohi, is based on true stories from the 2011 tsunami that hit the east coast of Japan.When the tsunami hits, Kenta and his family  leave their home and climb to safer ground. Kenta watches helplessly as his prized soccer ball goes bouncing down a hill and gets swept away by the waves, never to be seen again… that is until it washes up on a beach on the other side of the world, where a kind person mails it back to him.  Ohi does a fantastic job of describing the consequences this horrific event and the warm water color illustrations help kids see and understand the event without being overwhelming to young readers.


In this bilingual book, Don’t Say A Word, Mama/No Digas Nada, Mama, written by Joe Hayes and illustrated by Esau Andrade Valencia, two sisters love each other so much, they decide to share their garden bounty – but in secret.Mama promises not to say a word, but when her kitchen is overflowing with tomatoes and corn and chiles, she might not be able to keep her promise.  a lovely story, beautifully illustrated. This is a fun read.

Okay sports fans, this one’s for you:


Something to Prove: the Great Satchel Paige vs Rookie Joe DiMaggio, written by Robert Skead and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. From the flyleaf: In 1936, the New York Yankees wanted to test a hot prospect named Joe DiMaggio to see if he was ready for the big leagues. They knew just the ballplayer to call–Satchel Paige, the best pitcher anywhere, black or white. For the game, Paige joined a group of amateur African-American players, and they faced off against a team of white major leaguers plus young DiMaggio.

Not being a baseball fan, I didn’t know that this was a little known event in baseball and civil rights history. The artwork is stunning and really adds to this well-written, fascinating story. Pair this with We Are the Ship. 

The Marquis de Lafayette

12 Dec

I’ve always been interested in  the Marquis de Lafayette, a french aristocrat who fought in the American Revolutionary War, sided with the forces of change in the French Revolution, only to have them turn on him. he spent years in prison, separated from his family.  His real name was Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, and I found it ridiculously long & cool.  A few years ago, I read a Lafayette by Harlow G. Unger,


a biography for adults. Two years ago we got Lafayette and the American Revolution by Russell Freedman. It won a Sibert honor award.


This  excellent book is definitely for middle and upper grades. fortunately, we now have a book for a younger audience, Revolutionary Friends: General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette written by Selene Castrovilla and illustrated by Drazen Kozjan.


The book opens in 1777 with the young Marquis, a fervent supporter of the American struggle against Great Britain, about to approach General George Washington. From there it shows how they grow to become very close friends, despite the age difference. The book is full of factual detail  and peppered with quotes from Lafayette. Back matter contains more details of their friendship, timelines for both Washington and Lafayette,a bibliography  and the final page features a pair of portraits of the two men that hang in the U.S. House of Representatives.

My inner nerdy child is dancing

11 Dec

I used to read trivia books and collect all sorts of facts and data. I even had a little book where I wrote it all down. I was such a weird kid.  Now, I am an adult and my inner nerdy child is dancing because of this book:


Did you know that, in its lifetime, a caribou will shed and grow 10 sets of antlers? You would know this, and many other cool animal facts if you read Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives  written by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Each 2-page spread features one animal and gives at least one interesting fact about that animal with a large color illustration. But wait, there’s more:  the illustrations show the number cited (even 1,000 baby seahorses one male will carry!), so it’s easier for children to get the concept and they can count up on their own.Here’s one I especially liked:


I wonder how many sweaters, hats or pairs of mittens that would make.

The animals mentioned in the book include spiders, alpacas, kangaroos, dolphins, woodpeckers, giraffes, alligators, rattlesnakes, alligators, and butterflies. The numbers range from 1 to 1000. Schaefer has more information about each of the animals she has included in the book and also how she came up with her calculations. There is also a note on “What is an average?” showing how to calculate averages. although designed with younger readers in mind, I think the back sections would be helpful in many math classes.

The Mystery of Darwin’s Frog

10 Dec


Wacky nature stories intrigue most people. The Mystery of Darwin’s Frog,  written by Marty Crump & illustrated by Steve Jenkins and Edel Rodriguez, tells the story of a frog u like any other. It has a pointy nose, the male carries the young its mouth…you get the picture. This is one cool frog.

But the book isn’t just about the frog. They show readers how the study of behavioral biology has changed over time. In the mid 1800s, scientists discovered tadpoles in a male frog. This behavior was unexplained until the 1980s when a Chilean scientist discovered that the male frog guards the eggs and then swallows the tadpoles to protect them as they grow. The text describes the frog, explains the frogs’ behaviors, and traces scientists’ studies over decades and makes readers aware that, despite over 100 years of research, scientists have more questions than answers at this point about Darwin’s frog, especially regarding what may be bringing the species near extinction. The author does a great job of taking readers right into the scientific method and explaining how scientists tested their hypotheses and what they’ve learned as a result.

Nonfiction text features include a timeline (pages 28-29), additional information, glossary, suggested books and resources, an author’s note, and index. This is not an introductory frog book, but is best suited to readers grades 3/4 and up.

Reading Challenge Season has opened.

9 Dec

The YALSA 2014 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge begins today. I am challenging myself to read the title on both lists, ten titles total. I have a couple on hand already and the rest are on hold at the library. I ‘ve been knitting like a fiend and have most of my holiday knitting done. I feel ready. 

First up:

Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design written by Chip Kidd, published by Workman Publishing Company.Go

This innovative book offers an introduction to the history and basic concepts of graphic design from one of the most successful designers working today. Using real world examples and rich visual aids, Kidd teaches readers how effective design can communicate ideas and messages, and he suggests ways to think critically about the design elements that infuse the media around us. Kidd invites readers to experiment with design themselves by ending the book with a series of 10 design challenges and offers a venue to share their work online.

I checked this book out of the library a few weeks ago and hadn’t managed to get around to it yet. Good thing. I had to read about on graphic design when I was getting my Master’s degree and think this might have been a better resource. I’ll let you know how it goes when I write a check-in on Saturday.

If you want to participate, or just want to learn more about the YALSA 2014 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge, click here.

It’s Scanfair weekend

7 Dec

I am supposed to meet a friend at Scanfair this morning.

ScanFair pictures

I am hoping to get to do this, but Fiona woke me up at 4:30 and it seemed pretty clear that she has a urinary tract infection. I didn’t go back to bed; she seemed really uncomfortable. Even after she had been outside, she peed in the house and let me tell you,  Fiona NEVER pees in the house. So far this morning, she’s peed in the house 3 times and been outside 5 times. See why I didn’t go back to bed. My vet opens at 7:30 and I will call right away. I probably won’t get to see my regular vet – she is always booked solid on a Saturday.

If you are in town, maybe you can make it to Scanfair. Here are the details:

Saturday and Sunday, December 7 and 8, 2013

Portland Veterans Memorial Coliseum

10am – 5pm Saturday

10am – 4pm Sunday

Adult- $7   Senior- $6    Student (w/ID)- $5    Under 12- FREE

Family (2 adults, 2 students)- $15 

Join us to celebrate the sights, sounds, traditions and tastes of a Nordic Christmas!

LIVE MUSIC, DANCE & ENTERTAINMENT: Enjoy the talents of Scandinavian artists and dance groups from around the Pacific Northwest on two separate stages. Both seating and dance floor available. 

SCANDINAVIAN ARTS & CRAFTS: ScanFair is the only event in Portland where all the beautiful Scandinavian traditional and modern arts and crafts come together in one place for a two-day festival and marketplace.

OREGON LUCIA, QUEEN OF LIGHT: Witness the crowning of Oregon’s Official Lucia at 1pm on Sunday. The Lucia Bride wins a $1,000 scholarship and holds court with the rest of the Lucia applicants for one year.

 JOULUPUKKI, FINNISH SANTA CLAUS: Get your family’s picture taken with Finland’s jovial Santa on a beautiful set complete with reindeer and sleigh, and benefit the Finlandia Foundation’s Columbia Pacific Chapter.

 THE PIPPI LONGSTOCKING KIDS AREA: Children have a special area where they can make traditional Scandinavian Christmas crafts, including Danish Hjerte (woven hearts) and Swedish Julgranskaramel (poppers) to decorate the Christmas tree.

 SCANDINAVIAN DELICACIES: Eat food on the spot or take baked goods home. Enjoy Danish aebleskiver (apple pancake balls), Norwegian lefse & krum kake, Swedish meatballs with lingonberries, pickled herring and flat bread, rice pudding and fruit soup, Vorm Korv (hot dogs) and lots of coffee.

 CULTURAL EXPLORATIONS: Purchase books, meet authors, research your family’s roots with the Scandinavian Genealogical Society, and check out Scandinavian language schools.

 PICKLED HERRING CONTEST: Match your Nordic taste buds and stomach against all comers in the all-you-can-eat pickled herring eating contest!


Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge, Part 2

6 Dec

The 2014 YALSA Nonfiction Award Finalists were announced yesterday. My goal is to read all the books on both lists by January 27th. Will you join me? If not, wish me luck? Here’s the nonfiction list.


The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi written by Neal Bascomb, published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

At the end of World War II, Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi leader responsible for organizing the deportation and imprisonment of millions of Holocaust victims, went into hiding under an assumed identity.  Eventually he fled to Argentina where he lived and worked under a false name for 10 years.  Bascomb tells the story of Eichmann’s crimes, his years in hiding, and his eventual capture and trial with rich detail and riveting suspense.  At the same time, Bascomb introduces readers to the courageous Israeli agents, Holocaust survivors, and their families who worked together to track down, capture, and bring Eichmann to justice.


Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design written by Chip Kidd, published by Workman Publishing Company.

This innovative book offers an introduction to the history and basic concepts of graphic design from one of the most successful designers working today. Using real world examples and rich visual aids, Kidd teaches readers how effective design can communicate ideas and messages, and he suggests ways to think critically about the design elements that infuse the media around us. Kidd invites readers to experiment with design themselves by ending the book with a series of 10 design challenges and offers a venue to share their work online.


Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II written by Martin W. Sandler, published by Walker Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.

After the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcing the internment of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans. This detailed and compassionate chronicle of the internment years incorporates many first-hand accounts and photographs. Sandler skillfully provides context for the internment and also examines its lasting legacy by examining anti-Japanese sentiment in America before World War II and then the redress movement, which advocated for compensation and formal apologies for internees after the war.


Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers written by Tanya Lee Stone, published by Candlewick Press.

“What is it like to jump out of an airplane? Imagine.” From these opening sentences, Stone chronicles the courage and persistence that were the hallmarks of the Triple Nickles, the African-Americans who pushed through military barriers to become the first black paratroopers. Their individual efforts, the eventual recognition of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, and the broader issues of segregation during the war period are illustrated with a with a rich collection of interviews, letters, and photos. Stone’s afterword, the timeline, and the detailed source notes offer valuable insights into her research methods. Ashley Bryan’s foreword and artwork add personal insight and extend the power of this skillfully told story.


The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy written by James L. Swanson, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

James Swanson takes readers back in time with a thoroughly researched and tightly written narrative of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  Beginning with a succinct introduction to Kennedy’s early life and presidential administration, Swanson sets the scene for a detailed and engaging examination of the events before, during, and after November 22, 1963, when JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald crossed paths in Dallas with tragic results.  The book brings events to life with extensive photographs, diagrams, and primary documents, and illuminates Swanson’s research and writing process with detailed source notes, an extensive bibliography, suggestions for further reading, and a comprehensive index.

Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge

5 Dec

The 2014 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge will begin on Monday, December 9 and run through January 27th.The Challenge is to read all the nominees on the Morris and YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, or just one of the two awards. I’m still waiting to hear what will be on the Nonfiction list, but the finalists for  The William C. Morris YA Debut were announced yesterday. They are


Charm & Strangwritten by Stephanie Kuehn, published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, a division of Macmillan.

Drew, also known as “Win,” has been isolated in a New Hampshire boarding school since he was 12. Though he excels at both academics and athletics, he is concealing a horrific secret that has driven him to the brink of madness. With the help of his friends, can Win confront the beast within him before it’s too late?


Sex & Violence written by Carrie Mesrobian, published by Carolrhoda LAB, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group.

Evan Carter bounces from school to school—he has no friends and views girls as nothing more than a means to sexual release. When a brutal attack leaves him physically and mentally broken, Evan must evaluate what matters in his life and learn how to “accept responsibility, but not blame.”


Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets written by Evan Roskos, published by Houghton Mifflin, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

James has a lot on his plate: strained relationships, a fractured family, and an all-consuming anxiety. He deals with depression by hugging trees, “yawp”-ing at the world like his idol Walt Whitman, and conversing with his imaginary therapist—a pigeon named Dr. Bird.


Belle Epoque written by Elizabeth Ross, published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.

When Maude Pichon moved to Paris, she never dreamed she would end up working for the Durandeau Agency as a “repoussoir”—a foil for society’s elite who believe a plain face alongside them makes them look more beautiful. A countess hires Maude as a companion for her daughter, Isabelle, but as the girls’ friendship grows, Maude finds herself torn between her integrity and her livelihood.

And, the only one on the list that I’ve already read (and now get to reread for the Challenge)


In the Shadow of Blackbirds written by Cat Winters, published by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS.

At the height of the Spanish flu pandemic, WWI, and the Spiritualism movement, outspoken Mary Shelley Black is adrift in a fear-ravaged San Diego. While her childhood friend Stephen challenges her heart, his antagonistic spirit-photographer brother, Julius, represents everything her scientific mind abhors. When the unthinkable happens, how will Mary Shelley endure the unbearable losses, not to mention the evolution of her supernatural abilities?

You can find more info on the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge here.


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