Top Elf: An Author Visit with Caleb Zane Huett

We have a magical bookshop in Athens called Avid Bookshoop, and in that bookshop works a talented author named Caleb Zane Huett.  Caleb’s new book, Top Elf, which is published by Scholastic, is the hilarious journey of a group of elves as they compete against one another to be the next Santa Claus.

It’s filled with a cast of characters that bring something for every reader, and numerous jokes fill the pages to keep you laughing along the way.

Ready for an elf visit. #author #authorvisit #avidinschools

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I was so excited when Caleb offered to visit our school this December.  Thanks to him and Avid Bookshop, our 3rd and 4th grade got to come to separate sessions to hear him speak.  He started each session with a reading of the first chapter. If you ever get a chance to hear him read, do it!  He brings every page to life with voices and movement and keeps the audience totally focused on every word.

After reading, Caleb facilitated the students in a collaborative story.  He wanted to model this story after some of his own thought process as he writes. Kids were raising hands and shouting out ideas all along the way, and Caleb masterfully wove their ideas together into a story that he told along the way.

Teachers were also excited because they knew that his mini writing workshop directly tied back to what they were doing in their classrooms and now students can go back to class and create their own stories using a similar process.

At the close, we heard a bit about how Top Elf followed this same type of process and students got to ask Caleb questions. I always love to hear students ask authors about how long it takes to write, how many times a book was rewritten, and what inspires them.  These become common questions but they make the author a real person to our readers.  It creates a connection between the author and the students because the process they go through is very similar.

I want to thank Caleb Zane Huett for taking time to visit our school. I also want to thank Avid Bookshop for this opportunity and the presales of books. Finally, I thank our wonderful PTA who makes sure that every classroom gets copies of the book to add to their classroom libraries.

I know we will now have many readers of Top Elf at Barrow, and I love that our readers can walk down the street and visit with Caleb if they want to share what they’ve discovered.

The 5th Annual Picture Book Smackdown

Our 5th annual Picture Book Smackdown was held on November 30th.  This year’s smackdown featured students in 3 states along with author & illustrator Deborah Freedman.

Every year we love to close out Picture Book Month with an hour-long Google Hangout where we book talk as many picture books as possible across one hour.

In Georgia, I had students in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades who shared their favorite picture books and why picture books matter. In Vermont, Donna MacDonald had 1st graders and 4th graders who were reading buddies.  Each pair of students shared a favorite picture book.  In Texas, Julee Murphy had 6th graders who shared favorite picture books and some 3rd graders who came in to watch.

We kicked off our Google Hangout by dedicating our time to the late Dianne de las Casas, founder of Picture Book Month.  Her enthusiastic spirit was definitely with us and we missed having her with us in person this year.

Deborah Freedman shared a whole range of books in all shapes, sizes, and emotions before book talking Many Moons by James Thurber & Louis Slobodkin.  She then turned the smackdown over to students and several students in each state took turns sharing.

We were able to come back to author Deborah Freedman two more times for some more book talks and closing thoughts.

One of the things I always love about the smackdown is how many new books we see that we haven’t read yet. We also love seeing students and authors pick books that are also our own favorites.  It gives us a connection to one another.

I also love hearing students take a stand for picture books.  Their reasons range from picture books being for all readers to the necessity of picture books for people who are learning to read.

As we shared our books, I did my best to write down as many of the titles and put them into a Google doc for our reference.  We’ll be cleaning up this document in the coming days and trying to make sure all books are represented.

I loved seeing pictures from different perspectives.  Many thanks to Donna MacDonald for capturing some great moments at each school.

Since we broadcast our hangout through  Youtube, it was fun to know that other people were watching with classes.

Even if you didn’t watch live, you can still experience our smackdown via Youtube and consider hosting your own smackdown whether it’s with picture books, novels, poetry, or something else.

We already look forward to next year.  I thank Donna MacDonald, Julee Murphy, and their students for sharing their time with us. I also thank Deborah Freedman for time and enthusiasm as well.

 

Follow the Bookstagram Choice Awards Nov 27-Dec 17

Instagram has become one of my favorite places. I’ll admit that I was late to the Instagram craze, but now it is probably my favorite place to be. I love the visuals of classrooms, libraries, bookstores, and books. I get so many ideas for new projects in the library as well as new books to add to the collection.

There are numerous bookstagrammers who post pictures and reviews of new and upcoming books. A personal goal of mine has been to be critical of our library collection and be constantly aware of the voices represented in the books on our shelves. Instagram has helped me see many more books than I could ever find alone.

One of the people I started following is Charnaie Gordon @hereweeread  Her posts about the diverse books that she reads with her son and daughter always keep me up to date on books that need to be added to our library.  The great thing is that she isn’t the only one. As I follow one person, I discover someone else and suddenly I’m surrounded by people who are passionate about books and diverse voices.

I was so excited when I learned that Charnaie was brainstorming a new Instagram book award list selected by many of the “bookstagrammers” that I admired.  I was in disbelief that she wanted to include me as one of the members of the first award selection group.  I was honored, intimidated, but mostly inspired.  This group of people has poured their hearts into what has become the Bookstagram Choice Awards.  Each person chose one winner along with honorable mentions in a variety of categories.  The hope is that these categories will represent a diverse collection of voices and communities that serve a wide age range of readers.

Starting on November 27th, there will be one category announced each day. This will include the winner and any honorable mentions.  You can follow along on the newly created Bookstagram Choice Awards Instagram account as well as by following all of the contributors who will post on their individual pages on their assigned day.

Be sure to follow:

 

I hope you will take time to follow all these wonderful people, celebrate the books that were chosen, and suggest books you would have selected.  It’s all in the name of amplifying the wonderful books that exist in the world. Through books, we can better understand and connect with one another in the world. Through books, we can have conversations about what matters and help our world be a better place.

Let the Bookstagram Choice Awards begin!

P.S. Stay tuned on December 17th for some special giveaways where you’ll have a chance to enter to win some of the books featured in the awards.

Join Us for the 5th Annual Picture Book Smackdown

We are nearing the end of November, which means the close of Picture Book Month. In 2013, I started brainstorming with several dynamic librarians across the country a way for us to celebrate the close of the month.  Jenny Lussier, Cathy Potter, Shawna Ford, Kathy Kaldenberg, and I created the very first Picture Book Smackdown which was held via Google Hangout on November 21, 2013.  Authors Laurel Snyder and Ame Dyckman joined us as well.  For one hour, we all shared as many picture book talks as possible.  This was the beginning of an annual event that is now in its 5th iteration.

This year, our event will take place on November 30th from 1:30PM-2:30PM EST.  We will feature students from:

  • David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA (facilitated by Andy Plemmons)
  • Orchard School in South Burlington, VT (facilitated by Donna MacDonald)
  • Early Childhood Development Center in Corpus Christi, TX (facilitate by Julee Murphy)

We are also very excited to announce that we will be joined by author/illustrator Deborah Freedman. Her books include This House Once, Shy, The Story of Fish & Snail, and many more!  You can learn more about her books here.

I’ve put together a Smore that puts everything you need in one place

Click the image to visit our Smore

What to expect:

  • A live broadcast via Youtube Live or archived to watch at a later time
  • Numerous student voices book talking their favorite picture books in 3 states
  • A short talk from Deborah Freedman about why picture books matter in the world
  • A list of the books we reference

What you can do:

  • Watch live with your class!
  • Host your own picture book smackdown in your classroom, library, or district
  • Share your favorite picture books on social media using the hashtags #pbsmkdwn and #picturebookmonth
  • Send students a shout out on Twitter using #pbsmkdwn

In Loving Memory of Dianne de Las Casas

We will of course continue reading and sharing picture books all year long, but we want to end November with this special event.  This year’s Picture Book Smackdown is dedicated in loving memory of Dianne de Las Casas, founder of Picture Book Month.  We lost Dianne this year in a tragic fire, but her legacy of advocating for the importance of picture books in our world lives on.

It’s Time to Plan World Read Aloud Week 2018

It’s time for us all to start making plans and building excitement for World Read Aloud Day 2018 with Litworld.  This year, World Read Aloud Day takes place on February 1, 2018, but many of us will celebrate the entire week of January 29-February 2, 2018.

wrad15-day-3-15

World Read Aloud Day “calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.”  When we connect our students through Skype, Google Hangouts, or other web tools, they experience the power of the read aloud and realize that they are connected with a bigger world that is both the same and different from them.  By connecting our voices through reading aloud, we are reading on behalf of the 758 million people who cannot read.

Shannon McClintock Miller, Matthew Winner, and I invite you to start posting your schedules on our shared Google Doc.

World Read Aloud Day 2018 Planning Document

This year, we’ve tried to organize the document by time zones to make it easier to find connections that work for you.  If you don’t see your time zone listed, please add it as a heading.

When you share your schedule, be sure to include:

  • Your name
  • Your contact info such as social media, Skype, and/or email
  • Your role
  • Your school and grade levels
  • Your location
  • List your time zone when posting your available dates and times

wrad-map

After you post your own schedule, take a look at the other schedules and sign up on someone’s schedule to connect your students.  We’ve found that it doesn’t matter if same grade levels connect with one another. Often times, an older grade can read aloud to a younger grade or younger grades can find parts of a books that they can read aloud to an older grade.  There’s not just one way to connect.  Part of the fun is meeting new friends, planning your read alouds, and seeing what magical things happen during your connection that you weren’t even expecting.

We have many ideas from previous years on our blogs.  You can read more about previous World Read Aloud Day connections on Expect the Miraculous and The Library Voice.  Litworld also has several resources for you to use in your planning and connections including:

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Please let us know if you have any questions.  Happy connecting!

Shannon McClintock Miller @shannonmmiller Matthew Winner @matthewwinner & Andy Plemmons @plemmonsa

Celebrating Picture Book Month and Remembering Dianne de Las Casas

This marks the 5th year that our school has celebrated Picture Book Month. This wonderful event was founded by Dianne de Las Casas, author and storyteller extraordinaire.  The children’s book world sadly lost Dianne this year in a tragic fire, so it makes this year’s Picture Book Month bittersweet.

I came to know Dianne through Picture Book Month. Each year I host a Picture Book Smackdown at the close of November which brings together students in multiple states via a Google Hangout to share favorite picture books. We also invite authors to join us and share their favorite picture books too. For the past few years, Dianne has also joined us.

When we connected with Dianne, she was always full of stories and blinged out with her tiara, sparkly attire, bright nails, and bubbly personality. We always laughed because no matter how much we tried to keep the smackdown moving along, Dianne was always hard to contain.  She wanted to share so many picture books with students and read aloud her favorite texts. Dianne was such a sweet and giving soul.   She even sent us autographed copied of her book to thank us for celebrating picture books.

We will greatly miss her this year. Katie Davis, another member of the Picture Book Month Community, posted a nice video remembering Dianne and her picture book legacy.

Even though we are sad, we are remembering, celebrating, and honoring Dianne by continuing to carry on the Picture Book Month legacy.  One way we do this is by book talking picture books every day on BTV, our morning broadcast.

Another way is by hold a Picture Book Month Challenge. I encourage students to read as many picture books as possible during the month of November. During the challenge, they must read at least 10 picture books, which includes some picture books from specific genre sections of the library plus a couple of “student choice” sections.  Every picture book section is labeled with a Picture Book Month logo so students can easily see where picture books are located in the library.

This year, I’ve also made a picture book Flipgrid where I hope students, teachers, and families will share picture books during November and beyond.

I’m also planning this year’s Picture Book Smackdown where students from multiple grades will book talk picture books with students in other states.

I hope you’ll consider celebrating Picture Book Month in your own school.  There’s no right or wrong way to do it.  Just read picture books and celebrate their importance in the world. They are a powerful window and mirror into the world.

Examining the Work of Ashley Bryan

Our fabulous art teacher, Ms. Foretich, is always looking for opportunities to take our students to art experiences outside our school.  Last year, she attended a workshop at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and learned that the Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan exhibit was on the way for this school year.  We did a quick brainstorm on a grade level we might do a project with and she applied for the Art Access grant which supports transportation and admission to the museum.

Second grade was the grade we decided to work with and their field trip was planned for 2 days to accommodate all the students. Before the trip, every class came to the library for an introductory lesson and experience planned by me and Ms. Foretich.  We made a Google doc and planned out 4 centers that students could rotate to with the goal of making it to at least 2 centers.  Ms. Foretich arranged each class into 4 groups.

Before we began the centers, we did a brief overview of the High Museum website and the life of Ashley Bryan.  We learned about his life experiences and how he wants to fill the world with as many stories and illustrations of African Americans as he can.

We listened to him read My People by Langston Hughes.

We also gave a brief overview of each center since all students wouldn’t visit all centers.  Then, students went to their first center and got started.

Center 1: Ashley Bryan’s Puppets

Students began by watching a video of Ashley Bryan’s puppets.  As they watched, we wanted them to consider what characters he created. We also wanted them to notice materials he used and how the puppets moved.

Then, students took a look at the book Ashley Bryan’s Puppets so they could take a closer look at the materials of the puppets.

Finally students used a short readers’ theater script along with my library puppets to act out a script.

Our hope is to eventually have students create their own puppets and scripts for a project in 2nd quarter.

Puppet show time #librariesofinstagram #puppets #ashleybryan

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Center 2: Beautiful Blackbird Collage

Students read the book Beautiful Blackbird and looked closely at the colors and collage work in the illustrations. Then, Ms. Foretich had stencils, construction paper, glue, and oil pastels so that students could create their own bird collage. Many of the students kept the book open while they worked so they could mimic some of Ashley Bryan’s style.

Center 3: Poetry & Illustration

Students began by looking at the many ways Ashley Bryan illustrates the poetic works of African American poets.  Some of the books included Freedom Over Me, Sail Away, and ABC of African American Poetry.  Each book had a different style of illustration. Then, students used the Word Mover app on the iPad to create their own poetry. An additional step could have been to craft an illustration, but it was hard to add that in the time frame we had.

Center 4: African American Spirituals

Students looked at Let It Shine and I’m Going to Sing which both include African American spirituals illustrated by Ashley Bryan. Their task was to look at the words of the spiritual and how he took song and turned it into illustration. Then, students listened to multiple African American spirituals from the books that I compiled on Symbaloo.

While they listened, they used various kinds of paper, oil pastels, and black markers to draw what they heard or draw what they felt.

The library was noisy and creative during the centers, and Ms. Foretich and I enjoyed walking between centers and facilitating conversations about what we noticed in the illustrations.

Field Trip

Now, all students have visited the High Museum to see the exhibit of Ashley Bryan and they carried all of these center experiences with them as they went.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend the field trip with them so it will be important for me to gather their experiences and visit the exhibit through them so that I can support the next steps of our project.  In quarter 2, we will revisit the books of Ashley Bryan, think about storytelling, and create art and puppets to help us tell those stories.  I’m excited to see what they create.