Celebrating Hansel & Gretel with Bethan Woollvin

I’ve loved Bethan Woollvin’s fractured, humorous, and subversive fairy tales for many years now. My own two kids have read Little Red until it’s falling apart. These books beg to be read aloud. Kids recite the repeating phrases, gasp at unexpected twists, and cheer for the heroines of the story.

Last year, our 2nd graders Skyped with Bethan to celebrate the release of Rapunzel. This year, we were over-the-moon excited that Peachtree Publishers brought her to our school as part of her US tour for her new book Hansel and Gretel.

In Hansel and Gretel, Willow the witch is a witch who only uses her magic for good. Hansel and Gretel are two mischievous and naughty kids who only think of themselves.  Willow tries her best to be nice to them along the way as they eat her house, gobble up all of her food, and wreak havoc with her magical things.  Can Willow continue to use her magic for good or is it time for Hansel and Gretel to be taught a lesson?  You’ll just have to read this fractured fairy tale to find out.

Ahead of Bethan’s visit, all classes in K-3 read all 3 of her books.  With each reading, students noticed similarities and differences between the tales.  They noticed the bravery of Rapunzel and Red.  They noticed the color scheme of black, white, and gray with a pop of a bright color. They noticed the hidden pictures underneath dust jackets and end papers.  In art, students worked on creating scenes of their own versions of fairy tales.  We hung this art in the hallways of the front of the school.

Our third graders all designed candy for a giant gingerbread house outside the library that I made out of some pumpkin spice tablecloth. My high school intern created Bethan Woollvin’s iconic eyes to go on the door of the library.

In classrooms, students also created their own Hansel & Gretel puppets, which were provided to us by Peachtree Publishers.  Many of them brought their puppets to the visit to hold up as Bethan shared the story.

Bethan presented 2 times: once for K-1 and once for 2-3.  She showed England on a map along with some childhood pictures.  We got a peek at her studio where she creates her illustrations.  One of my favorite parts was seeing how she creates the characters in her books.  She created some time lapse videos to show us how she begins with a pencil and then fills in the details one color at a time.

She also showed students how the illustrations changed over time.  They started as sketches but then went through several versions before reaching the final version found in the books. It was great to see how artists revise too and things aren’t perfect the first time.

Another great surprise was seeing how Bethan’s little sister created a drawing that inspired the ending of Hansel and Gretel.

Students loved watching Bethan draw many of her characters.  At one point, she sat in the middle of the floor amongst the students and drew. Students loved having her right in the middle of all of them, even if it did cause a stir of energy.

As always, students went back to class buzzing with excitement about the visit.  Our PTA bought a copy of Hansel & Gretel for all the class libraries and many students also purchased copies that Bethan autographed.  I can’t wait to see what projects, stories, and art spark from this visit.

Thank you, Bethan, for taking time to share your expertise with our school.  Thank you Peachtree Publishers and Avid Bookshop for bringing this opportunity to our students. It was truly a special day for all of us.

King Alice: A Visit with Matthew Cordell

I love collaborating with our local indie bookstore, Avid Bookshop. Each year, we get amazing authors and illustrators who visit our schools and share their expertise with our kids. Our first visit of this year was Caldecott-medalist Matthew Cordell.  He won the Caldecott for his story of bravery and kindness called Wolf in the Snow.  Now, he is touring for his newest book King Alice.  His visit to our school was made possible by his publisher MacMillan Kids and Avid Bookshop.

I’ve followed Matthew’s work for several years. His book,  Hello Hello, is a favorite book that I love to use as we ponder how we balance our digital lives and real lives.  Even though it is a few years old, it continues to be relevant.

When I found out he was coming to our school, I began collaborating with Rita Foretich, our art teacher.  I scheduled read alouds with every class in K-2.  During every class, we read Wolf in the Snow. First grade also read Dream. Second grade also read Hello Hello.

In art, Ms. Foretich focused on 1 book per grade. Kindergarten made art inspired by Wolf in the Snow. They considered a time they were kind or brave and illustrated that moment. First grade made art inspired by Dream. They considered what they dreamed to be and illustrated that dream.  Second grade made art inspired by Hello Hello. They considered what they like to do in their free time and how they balance digital/real life and illustrated those thoughts.

Each piece of art was mounted on black construction paper to create a gallery in the front halls of our school.

For the visit, we transformed the entrance to the library to look like a castle wall. My talented high school intern, Andrea Aramburo, created a hand-lettered banner that said “Welcome Kings”. Every class received paper crowns from the publisher to wear to the visit. All of this was in honor of King Alice.

During Matthew’s visit, he shared a little of his childhood leading up to where he is now. Then, we got to see inside his messy studio. He talked about how he purposefully took a picture of the studio in action because he wanted students to see that art wasn’t a neat and clean process.  This became one of the favorite moments of the talk for some students.

Before Matthew read King Alice, he told some stories from his family. One example was how his daughter suggested things for them to do together like throw a pie in dad’s face or put on dad’s makeup. I loved hearing these real-life examples because it showed all of us that ideas are truly all around us.  King Alice is about a dad and daughter doing things together on a snow day. The dad doesn’t always want to do everything Alice suggests, but when she suggests making a book, the dad is all on board. We loved learning that Matthew’s daughter even got to collaborate on parts of the book.  King Alice has many laugh-out-loud moments that students were still talking about after the visit, and I heard more than one student shout out “Idea!” just like Alice did when she thought of additions to her story.

Students always love seeing an illustrator draw. Matthew drew King Alice and narrated every step of the drawing process. Seeing the blank page transform into the stoic King Alice was incredible and inspiring. I always see students go back to class after these moments and try to draw the characters themselves.

Before Matthew left, he chatted with several students including one student who presented him with a book that he wrote just for Matthew.

He also took time to tour the gallery of student art and get to know our many creators throughout K-2.

 

Thanks to our PTA, every classroom teacher received a copy of King Alice.  I’m sure it will be heavily used as a mentor text in writing workshop. It brings up some many important ideas of storytelling from ideas to revision to illustrating.

If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, I encourage you to go to your local independent bookshop and make a purchase. I’m sure there’s even a few signed copies still left at Avid Bookshop if you want to order one online.

Thank you, Matthew Cordell, for sharing your wisdom with our students, teachers, and families. Thank you MacMillan Publishers for making our city one of the stops on the tour. Thank you Avid Bookshop for collaborating with our school to make this visit possible and for supporting all of our book sales.

 

 

World Read Aloud Week 2018: Author Visits, Skypes, and More

What an amazing week for celebrating the power of reading in our school!  For the past few years, we have celebrated World Read Aloud Day and stretched it into a whole week.  This celebration was created by an organization called LitWorld for a very important reason.

We think everyone in the world should get to read and write. Every year, on World Read Aloud Day, people all around the globe read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a human right that belongs to all people. ~Litworld

In fact, there are some pretty mindblowing facts about reading around the world.

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This week in the library, we’ve hosted skypes and Google Hangouts with classes, libraries, authors, and illustrators as well as hosting an in-person visit with Matt de la Pena & Loren Long.

We’ve stressed many things in these connections.  One of those is that we all should read as much as possible and celebrate our freedom and right to read.

Author & Illustrator Visit

On Tuesday, Matt de la Pena & Loren Long visited our 1st-5th grade to share their new book Love.  This was one of the many stops on their national tour.  Our amazing art teacher, Ms. Rita Foretich collaborated with me in the library to create art projects with every grade level in the school.  We wanted them to know how much their book impacted us by showing them an art exhibit throughout the front halls of the school.

Matt & Loren started their visit with a reading of the book.  Matt read the book from memory while Loren  painted the front cover of the book on chart paper.

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Love! #thisislove

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Then, they both took time to tell us their own personal journeys of how they came to work together on the book, Love.  From Matt’s basketball scholarship to college to Loren’s mom encouraging him to continue his art pursuit even with the barrier of being colorblind, we learned of the many examples of love that filled these two guys lives.  They brought messages to students about taking risks, loving and respecting your family, working hard even when things are hard, having empathy for people going through tough bumps in the road of life, and more. I hope that their messages will connect with students for years to come.

The power of their spoken word had our audience of 450 1st-5th graders captivated for an entire hour.  We can’t thank Penguin, Avid Bookshop, and Matt & Loren enough for taking time to visit our school.

Class & Library Skypes

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, several of our classes connected with other classes around the country via Skype and Google Hangout to read aloud books.  This year, I tried to select books that had an element of discussion around doing good in the world.  Selections included books like Love by Matt de la Pena, Be a Friend by Salina Yoon, We’re All Wonders by R J Palacio, Yo Yes by Chris Raschka, A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards, and Maybe Something Beautiful by Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell.

Each connection had its own variation.  Sometimes students helped me read the text to the other class.  Sometimes the two librarians alternated reading the text.  Other times we read one book to our connecting class and they read a book back to us.  We always spent time making connections with one another through sharing and questions.  We talked about things like making things beautiful in our school, creating gifts to give to others in need, identifying wonders of our classmates, and what it takes to be a good friend.  So many of our conversations were filled with meaningful ways to make sure the world is a great place to live, and we learned that we aren’t alone in our interests and routines.

Authors & Illustrator Skypes

On the official World Read Aloud Day, we had several skypes with authors and illustrators.  Anne Marie Pace, Brian Lies, Carter Higgins, Donna Gephart, Jody Feldman, and Loree Griffin Burns all connected with students.  I loved that they showed many of their books and then read aloud from one of them.  Any time an author/illustrator connects with us in person or in Skype, they immediately become a favorite author/illustrator in our library.  Their books fly off the shelves and stay checked out.  This time was no different.

Brian Lies read from Bats at the Beach and then got kids to brainstorm a new bat drawing that he illustrated on Skype.

Donna Gephart read to us from a book that she had just gotten the ARCs for.  We couldn’t take pictures or record anything, but it was so exciting to get an early preview. Loree Burns went in depth with students about her research process and writing about what matters in the world. A group of writers met with her and got lots of inspiration for their own writing.  Anne Marie Pace and Carter Higgins both read from brand new books with a timely topics of love and Groundhog Day.

We are so appreciative of these professionals who take time out of their busy schedules to connect with readers.

Mapping

As usual, we used Google Tour Builder to keep track of our connections and the books that we shared. It’s always fun at the end of the week to see all of the stories that have been shared and the connections we’ve made. Technology flattens our world and reminds us that stories can connect us across the miles.

Happy World Read Aloud Week.

 

Love Projects: 5th grade Symbols of Love

After 5th grade spent time, reading the book Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long, I silently turned back through each image in the book.  We had spent time talking about some of the images as well as listening to Matt’s powerful words, but Ms. Foretich (art teacher) and I wanted them to have one more slow look at the images. Their goal in looking at the images for a 2nd time was to pick out an image that spoke to them in some way.

At tables, each 5th grader took a brainstorming sheet to reflect on some questions through writing or through sketching.  The purpose of this sheet was to help them think more about an image from the book and to imagine a new symbol of love. We wanted students to think beyond just a universal symbol of love like a heart, but we didn’t exclude hearts if that was what students were most connected with.

At the end of the brainstorm, students had to think of what materials they might need in order to make a 3D sculpture of their symbol. Ms. Foretich went through these and helped group students with the materials that they might need.

During the 2nd class, some students worked in the art classroom and others came to the library.  Students in the library worked on 3D design in tinkercad to prepare for 3d printing or they used materials from our makerspace such as duct tape and other crafting supplies.

In the art room, students used clay, paint, and other materials from Ms. Foretich’s supplies.

I took student Tinkercad files and put them into Makerware software for 3d printing. Over the course of a week, all files were printed.

All of the sculptures will be displayed in the collaborative space just outside the library.

We hope they will inspire people to think about the many forms that love takes and the many symbols of love that exist in the world.

Happy Book Birthday to Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long

When I first saw the cover of Love by Matt de la Pena and Loren Long, I knew it was going to be something special. I couldn’t wait to peer inside the pages and hear Matt’s words and see Loren’s vivid illustrations. The first time I got to actually hear about what was inside the book was with the amazing John Schu while we presented at the Tennessee School Librarian Association Conference. In his masterful way of book talking, he made me want to read the book even more by gushing over the illustrations and how Matt brought the idea of “love” to life in many different ways.

I finally got to see a copy of the book in Phoenix at the American Association of School Librarians Conference, and I read the book multiple times in the Penguin Young Readers booth. Every single illustration from Loren Long is breathtaking. You can see something different each time you look at the pages. He takes Matt’s words and extends them into a visual masterpiece of how love lives in our world. Matt’s words take you well beyond the idea of love being a hug, a kiss, or an “I love you”. Love lives in music, in time spent with family, in the colors of the sky, in good deeds to those in need, and more. We’re in a time where it sometimes feels like love has been lost in our world.  This book reminds us that love is everywhere, but we do have to take a moment to look closely in order to remind ourselves where it is.

I’m so happy that this book is finally out in the world. It’s the perfect book to start the new year as people consider their goals for the year. If you’ve found yourself in a hard place over the past year, pick up this book and reconnect yourself with the love in our world.

I knew that this book was one that I wanted to share with my entire school as soon as I saw it. Miraculously, while I was in Phoenix looking at the book for the first time, I got an email from Hannah DeCamp at Avid Bookshop.  The email subject was “Pssst, we’re hosting Matt de la Pena and Loren Long in January”.  My fingers couldn’t open the email and respond fast enough.  As part of the extensive Love tour, Matt & Loren are stopping by our school in January.  Also while in Phoenix, I scored an ARC of Love after standing in a long giveaway line.

Many times for these tour events, I don’t have a lot of time to prepare. This time we had almost 2 months notice. As soon as I got back to school from Phoenix, I started showing the book to teachers.  One of the first was our art teacher, Ms. Rita Foretich. I love collaborating with her because so often we take a seed of an idea that blossoms into something grand. The book immediately got her creative wheels turning and she wanted to do something with every class in the school.

Over December and January, we have been reading the book to every class and creating an art piece that is inspired by the book.  Every grade is doing something different.  I’ll be sharing many of those projects in some posts over the next few weeks leading up to our author and illustrator visit.

For now, go out and get this book at your local bookstore.  Even better, order a copy from Avid Bookshop to have signed when Matt and Loren visit on January 30th.  They will ship the book to you.  See the beautiful in the world and give love.

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.

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.

Let’s Talk Writing Process with Cassie & Kate Beasley

Our fourth grade is immersed in the writing process using Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop. They are looking at mentor texts. They are studying author’s craft and developing their own style of taking a story from an idea to a published piece of writing. During this exploration, the fourth grade team reached out to ask if there was any possibility of connecting with an author to talk about the narrative writing process.  I immediately thought of the dynamic sister duo from south Georgia, Kate and Cassie Beasley. Both of these talented authors have visited our school in the past for their books, so I reached out to them to consider the possibility of connecting for an informal chat about writing.

They enthusiastically said yes, and the whole fourth grade came to the library with writing journals and index card questions in hand.

Cassie Beasley is the author of Circus Mirandus and the recently released Tumble and Blue.  Kate Beasley is the author of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness and the upcoming Lions & Liars.  During our connection, they started out with an informal conversation about writing. They each took turns asking questions about writing process from the beginning to the end.  I loved how it was like a mini-interview conversation between the two of them and how we discovered that they both have different ways that they accomplish the same task of writing a story.

Cassie shared that she often starts with an idea for a story and Kate often starts with a character and tries to put that character into a setting and a problem.  Both sisters shared that they do a good bit of outlining when they are getting ready to write.  One of the most surprising things to all of us was the amount of writing that they do that never makes it into a novel.  Circus Mirandus, Tumble and Blue, and Gertie’s Leap to Greatness all went through multiple rewrites. Kate even shared that she thinks that about 75% of what she writes doesn’t get used.  After our connection, we spent a bit more time talking about this and came to the conclusion that even though that writing doesn’t make it into the novel it wasn’t wasted work. The 75% was what was needed in order to discover the best story that was hiding underneath everything else.

 

I’ve heard several authors talk about how much they rewrite, and it’s important for students to hear that too because it’s really hard to start over.  I casually asked Kate and Cassie how they feel when they have to start again. I asked if they scream or throw things.  I mostly asked because that’s a bit how I feel when I have to start over.  I think it’s important that students know that it’s not always the best feeling to start over even when you know it’s the right thing to do.  Kate and Cassie both talked about the frustration. They shared how it’s a moment of panic. Cassie relies on Kate to talk her through the frustration so she can start again. Some deep breaths are involved and maybe some chocolate too.

Students had a chance to line up and ask their own questions to support their writing. One of the questions was about “where”.  Where do you write?  Kate has a very specific place where she writes.  It’s a house that doesn’t have phone or internet so that she can stay away from distractions.  Cassie also writes in that place but she does writing just about everywhere: a coffee shop, the pool, outside.  It was an important reminder to us all that sometimes it’s tricky in the crowded classroom to find writing spaces that feel supportive. I hope we can think more about how to give students a space where they feel productive in their writing process.

Another student asked about how many books they hope to write, and it was so great to hear that they have many more ideas for stories that are waiting to be told or are in the process of being drafted. Even though writing takes time and has frustrating moments, it still comes down to that magic of escaping into someone else’s life or some other magical place on the page.  It was so refreshing at the end of our skype to hear students who were excited to go back to class and write after hearing from published authors.

Thank you Cassie & Kate Beasley for taking time out of your writing lives to share your wisdom with us.  We can’t wait to celebrate all your future stories.

To purchase their books, visit here:  Circus Mirandus, Tumble & Blue, Gertie’s Leap to Greatness.

To learn more about Kate’s upcoming novel, click here.