One Week Only!

For one week only, we are raising the limits of books that students can check out.  Why, you ask?  Well…the book fair is coming.  That means that from October 15- October 23 many of our library shelves will be blocked by the 12 cases of books and multiple tables of fabulous merchandise.  This year, I don’t want students to feel like the library is closed and they can’t get new books, so we’re encouraging them to check out some extra books to get them through the week of the book fair.  We will begin this on Monday October 5 and end on Tuesday October 13.  Students in Prek-1st may checkout 3 books.  Students in 2nd grade may checkout 4 books.  Students in grades 3-5 may checkout 5 books.

This also gives students an extra boost to finish collecting their stamps for their passports and reading 600 minutes.  Remember, all passports are due to the media center by October 13.  Happy reading! ~Mr. Plemmons


Have you ever heard of the “Mercury 13”? Neither had I, until I discovered the book, Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Stone. This book tells the extraordinary story of 13 female aviators who attempted to become the first group of women to enter space during a time when women were thought of as just pretty housewives. The story takes place in the early 1960’s, and although I know things were much different then, I was astounded to read about how these capable pilots faced discrimination just because they were women.

Many people opposed even the idea of training women to be astronauts, so when testing began to see if the “Mercury 13” could endure the challenge of space flight, things were kept top secret. I think you will be as shocked as I was to read about the different tests these 13 women went through to prove females have what it takes to enter space. One test that sent chills up my spine was freezing water injected into the inner ear, causing vertigo. They also had to do things like drink radioactive water and float in an isolation tank for 9 ½ hours! They passed the tests with flying colors, but once word got out, people were outraged. The perspective remained that women belonged at home and not in space.

You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out what happens, but I will tell you that the situation becomes a fight for equal rights and brings out many injustices. I really enjoyed this book because it’s a true story about women daring to dream. This story also revealed to me a valuable lesson about daring to dream and that is: A dream can come true in many different ways, sometimes not the way one envisions it, but almost always, the courage to dream brings forth some sort of inspiration and hope, for ourselves and others. So live your dream and be inspired by this amazing book!

~Reviewed by Ms. Shelley Olin

Typing Resources

I’ve been working with 3rd grade students to write book reviews as a type of response to literature writing. Students are posting these reviews in our circulation system and on a student book blog. As I’ve worked with my students, I’ve noticed how their keyboarding skills get in the way of getting their voice heard through their writing.

In the past, students at our school used a program called Type to Learn to work on typing skills. Last year, the cost of this program rose significantly, so I started exploring other typing resources. I did not find any that were as high of quality, but I did find some beneficial resources for free. I have bookmarked these sites on our Delicious account. I encourage you to visit these yourself or with your child and find time to practice keyboarding skills. Speed on the keyboard opens many doors in technology. If you find other great typing resources, post a comment and let us know about it.

Who is Your Favorite Librarian?

Nominations are still open for the 2009 Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award.

The award invites library users to recognize the accomplishments of librarians in public, school, college, community college and university libraries for their efforts to improve the lives of people in their community. Nominations will run through October 9 and are being accepted online at

Up to 10 librarians will be selected. Each will receive a $5,000 cash award, a plaque and a $500 travel stipend to attend an awards ceremony and reception in New York, hosted by The New York Times in December.  In addition, a plaque will be given to each award winner’s library.

Each nominee must be a librarian with a master’s degree from a program accredited by the ALA in library and information studies or a master’s degree with a specialty in school library media from an educational unit accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.  Nominees must be currently working in the United States in a public library, a library at an accredited two- or four-year college or university or at an accredited K-12 school.

Nominees will be judged by a selection committee based on quality of service to library users, demonstrated knowledge of the library and its resources and commitment shown in helping library users.

Fall into this great book!

Review of Apples and Pumpkins by:  Anne Rockwell

Illustrated by:  Lizzy Rockwell

There’s nothing to me that says “Fall” more loudly than a pumpkin.  As soon as I see that big display of pumpkins at my grocery store, I start feeling a little chilly and warm at the same time.  I love the feel and smell of fall.  I love the chilly mornings when I can wear my favorite soft sweaters, and I LOVE to make my 2 favorite pies:  pumpkin and apple.

This book brings my 2 favorite kinds of pies together.  The people in the book are wearing cozy sweaters, and there are the colors of fall leaves all through the book.  Everything fun that happens in fall is in this book.  The family drives to a country farm to pick apples and pumpkins.  My favorite page is the little girl picking the best pumpkin, the only one that’s waiting just for her.  My next favorite page is the dark page with a glowing funny face that they carved into that perfect pumpkin.  Ooh, I can just smell the seeds roasting in the oven!  On the last 2 pages, there are a lot of great ideas for Fall Trick or Treat costumes.

Whether you’re just learning to really read books on your own, you have a little sister or brother you like to read to, or you have someone who just loves to cuddle up and read to you, this is a super picture book to take home or back to your classroom to get you ready for the sights and smells of my favorite season.  It’s right around the corner.  So, what are you waiting for?  Go check out a book about Fall!

Reviewed by:  Kelly Hocking (“Ms. Kelly”)

Birdwatching Online

Today, Mrs. Mullins brought her class of 5th graders to the media center for a lesson to compliment their reading of The Westing Game.  One of the characters in this book is an avid bird watcher, and his skill at observation proves to be instrumental in his actions in the book.  We collaborated on a lesson to explore bird watching and put ourselves in the shoes of this character.

To start, I shared my own experiences with close observation of nature.  A few summers ago I went to Skidaway Island to take a class, and my focus was on taking careful notes about the observations I made in nature and using those notes to create poetry.  I then connected this to authors such as Jim Arnosky who does sketches of the wildlife he observes and writes about his journeys in observation.  I also shared poems written by Jane Yolen using photographs of birds that her son took.

We had discussions of how being a good observer can benefit you in life.  Students paired and shared their thinking and came up with many benefits to being good observers.

The big fun came when we moved into the computer lab and practiced our observation skills by watching webcams of birds.  Some of these cams were live at bird feeders.  Others were recordings of webcams that had previously captured bird behavior.  Students explored these sites through Delicious and used their detective books from their Westing Game project to take notes and sketches of what they saw.

After careful observation, we came back together and students shared the observational notes and sketches using our document camera.  All of the students were able to clearly see the descriptions and sketches that students captured during their viewing of the webcams.

What a fun lesson.  I loved hearing one student say, “I can’t believe how fast our time went by”.  Our work together was 50 minutes, so it was nice to hear students excited about how engaged they were in their learning.  Check out pics of students viewing the webcams and pics of student sketches and observations.

Author Podcasts

I’m a huge fan of going places where I can hear authors talk about their writing.  It’s inspires me to read more and to write more.  Thanks to the many forms of online resources, authors can come to us in the form of podcasts.  Harper Collins has a great site full of author podcasts.  Check it out and see if one of your favorite authors has something to say about his or her writing.  One of the featured authors is Sharon Creech.  We will be getting her book, The Unfinished Angel, very soon thanks to our Book Builder Program.

Mysterious Baseball

Finding Buck McHenry

by Alfred Slote A Harper Trophy book, copyright 1991

This book has it all — mystery, history, drama, engaging characters and a heart-warming plot. It all begins when eleven year old baseball player and baseball card enthusiast Jason Ross gets cut from his Little League team. A school custodian, Mack Henry, was watching the practice game where Jason didn’t beat out the throw to first base. When Jason returns the bases to the school, Mr. Henry shows him how he could have beat out that throw. Then Jason takes the initiative, although bitterly disappointed, to recruit other “rejects” for the new expansion team for the league.

The new team is being formed because TV sports broadcast star has moved to town with his eleven year old daughter Kim, and he wants to have a team where she can play. It turns out Mr. Henry’s grandson Aaron has moved to town also and just happens to have a great arm. Jason recruits exactly two other players for the new team, and they are Kim and Aaron. He also finds out that Mr. Henry used to play for the old Negro Leagues and learns about a world he never knew existed. Mr. Henry agrees to be their coach and their team is on the way.

Jason seeks more knowledge about the Negro Leagues. He learns about the greats of days gone by who never got a chance to play in the majors. He sees an old Negro League baseball card and becomes convinced that Mr. Henry is the great Buck McHenry, one of the greatest baseball players who ever lived. Mystery and history merge effectively in this page turner of a book. The friendship of these three children is one of the important elements of this book. Kim is now living with her father after his recent divorce in a huge, empty house. Aaron has suffered a tremendous loss in his life and has lost all his joy in living.

Can these 3 kids and a school custodian put together a competitive team in the Little League? Can Kim compete with the boys? Can Aaron find his way back into the world? Can Jason solve the mystery of the great Buck McHenry? This book gives children a chance to learn more about friendship, baseball and fairness while reading a great book. This is a great book for boys and girls to enjoy. Finding Buck McHenry also makes a great family read-aloud. When my own son was in elementary school, I read it aloud to his class. I highly recommend this for Barrow Buddies!

~Reviewed by Jan Mullins~

Read Around the World

Our book fair is coming October 16-23.  To celebrate its arrival, we’re going to “Read Around the World” for the next month.  Students will receive a sheet on Monday that is their passport for the next 4 weeks.  Each section of our media center has been labeled with one of the 7 continents.  When you check out a book from that section, you earn a stamp.  Collect all 7 stamps in the next 4 weeks to have your name put into a drawing for free books at our book fair.  Also, on the back of the passport, keep track of how many minutes you read.  If you read a total of 600 minutes, you will have your name put in the drawing a second time.  If you earn all of your stamps and complete your 600 minutes of reading, you will also have a flag with your name on it hanging at the entrance to our book fair.

Do what works for you.  If you want to keep your       passport at school to collect stamps and have a piece of notebook paper at home to write down your reading minutes, then that is perfectly fine.  When you turn everything in, just attach all of the sheets together.  Your passport is due by October 13th.

What are you waiting for?   Let’s read around the world!  Stop by the media center as often as you can to check out great books for reading.  Families and teachers are welcome to participate, too!

Decatur Book Festival 2009 Day 2

Today, the weather was hot, but it didn’t stop thousands of people from coming out to enjoy another great day of award-winning authors.

The day started out with author Elizabeth Dulemba sharing her story Soap, Soap, Soap, Jabon, Jabon, Jabon.  Dulemba takes traditional folktales and reworks them into tales with latino characters.  She was an engaging speaker who also demonstrated her artistic talents.

The tent continued to fill as Skippyjon Jones and author, Judy Schachner, made their way to the stage.  She shared her latest Skippyjon book with the audience and demonstrated her knack for giving her character a unique voice.  While this particular series has been questioned by some as stereotyping Hispanic culture, it was clear that kids were hooked on her books and love the character, Skippyjon.  This was also clear in the autographing line.  We stood in line for 3 hours and 20 minutes for our autograph.  I’m not sure if it was worth it, but I do love having the personalized drawing of Skippyjon that she did in the front of my books.

Another highlight of the day was hearing Jon Scieszka speak.  He is the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature.  He has a great sense of humor and unique way of twisting what we expect in a story into his own version.  He read from the Stinky Cheese Man as well as his upcoming book Robot Zot.  His love for writing and storytelling make him a great choice as an ambassador for books.

A panel of authors spoke about writing for middle grades readers.  Donny Bailey Seagraves was one of these authors, and I am excited to say that she will be coming to our school on November 3 for Grades 3-5.  Also on this panel was Katie Davis and Laurel Snyder.  I’ve put all of these authors’ books on our next book order for the media center.

Probably my favorite speaker of the day was Jarrett Krosoczka, author of the lunch lady series.  He had the audience fully involved in his reading of Punk Farm, and he pulled kids up on stage to pose in lunch lady attire while he drew lunch lady on the easel.  All of his drawing was accompanied by hilarious music written just for his book content.

James Dean was a great way to close the day.  His book with author, Eric Litwin, has been picked up by Harper Collins, and they will have a second book coming out soon.  James Dean painted while Eric did his singer storytelling with full audience participation.  It was fun to end the weekend with a great local connection and remind everyone to support the local bookshops which are a huge part of the success of this festival.

I’m sad to see the festival come to an end, but now I have next year’s festival to look forward to and already wonder which authors will be attending!

Today’s Clips:

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