Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble: A Visit with Nick Bruel

We’ve been purring with excitement for the past few weeks as we geared up for an author/illustrator visit with Nick Bruel. Nick is currently touring to promote his newest installment in the Bad Kitty series: Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble.

Prior to his visit, we held an art contest in the library. Students in any grade could enter. Their task was to name a new Bad Kitty book and create a cover for that book. Winners in the contest received an autographed copy of Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble and honorable mentions received a blind bag Hatchimal.

Once again, students amazed us with their creativity in both titles and covers, so it was hard to narrow down to just a few top winners. All student artwork was displayed in the library windows to welcome Nick to our school.

Our 1st, 2nd, and 4th grade packed into the library to hear Nick talk about Bad Kitty. In the beginning, he introduced us to the newest book: Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble. He made the connection for students that it was inspired by the global issues around refugees and how we welcome them into our communities around the world (or not). Even though this Bad Kitty addresses a global topic, it is still a Bad Kitty book at heart with plenty of humor along the way.

Nick read aloud the first couple of chapters of the books, and it was fun to hear students chime in with the repeating lines that they quickly noticed.

Rather than go through his whole writing and creating process with students, Nick took a different approach. He made sure we divided the audience in half as they were being seated and he had each side think of pieces to an entirely new story. One side thought of a character, while the other side thought of an emotion. Then, he picked students to share their thoughts. Our story title became “The Happy Cockroach”.

With this title, Nick began asking questions to each side of the room. With each question, more of the story developed and more questions emerged. Why was the cockroach happy? ….because he was in a hotel full of food.  What problem might that cause?….he ate too much.

The questions and answers continued until we had created a story from beginning to end. Nick took time to retell the story from memory using every answer that students had given.

This brought us to the learn the secret of writing.

This was a perfect setup for students and teachers to take back to the classroom to continue writing workshop. Nick even gave them some activities they could try when they returned.

Students always love to see an illustrator draw, so Nick of course drew Bad Kitty for us. After that, he took time to reinforce the idea that simple changes to the same drawing can give your character different emotions. He did this by just drawing the eyes, nose, and mouth of Bad Kitty and making changes to show surprise, adorable, and crazy.

He finished up his time by letting students ask questions, and he even got some questions he had never been asked before. One of those questions came from a 4th grader: “On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you saw your writing and illustrating has improved since the first Bad Kitty?”  This question took some thought, and even though he didn’t have a number to assign, he did talk about how his work had grown both in writing and illustrating.

Before he left he signed pre-ordered books for students. Our PTA bought a copy of Kitten Trouble for each homeroom class library.  We also now have 6 copies in the library for checkout.  Thank you to Avid Bookshop for bringing another author to our school to inspire our reader and creators. Thank you to MacMillan Kids for continuing to send authors on tour to bookshops and schools.

This was our 4th author/illustrator visit this year, and each one brings a new piece of learning and inspiration to us all.

These visits connect us with a real person that creates just like we do in our classrooms and homes. These visits build excitement for books that some students may not have engaged with yet, and they create a shared experience that we can all continue to talk about throughout this year and in the future.

 

Max and the MidKnights: A Visit with Lincoln Peirce

We’ve been building excitement for weeks to get ready for an author/illustrator visit with Lincoln Peirce. Many people know Lincoln from his bestselling series Big Nate, but he has an equally fantastic new book out called Max and the Midknights. This new book is a spoof on the Sword in the Stone and other medieval stories. It is filled with surprises, adventure, a wicked king, an evil sorceress, unlikely knights, a dragon, a few zombies, and plenty of humor. (And the best part is that there are more Max books in the works).

Prior to Lincoln’s visit with 3rd-5th grade, we held a one-page comic contest and used those comics to fill our windows of the media center to welcome him. When he arrived, he was so impressed by how many of our students expressed their creativity through comic art.

Lincoln arrived a little bit early so he took time to sign the many books that we pre-sold through our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop. He also had one adoring fan spending recess time in the library, and Lincoln took time to chat with this student who has read all of the Big Nate comics. This student even drew a comic for Lincoln using Big Nate and his other favorite topic, the Titanic.

Before his chat with all of the students, Lincoln had just enough time to create a special Max drawing for our library. I’ve made it a habit now of framing an illustration from each illustrator who visits and is willing to leave behind an image. With 3 author/illustrator visits just this year, our walls are becoming a mini-museum.

A few lucky students arrived early and got to see Lincoln create the drawing.

In his presentation, he of course acknowledged Big Nate at the beginning because that’s what he’s famous for. I loved how when he showed each character from Big Nate, the kids shouted out their names. These illustrated novels have made quite an impact on many readers.

Lincoln then backed up and showed us where a lot of his inspiration has come from. He referenced books he read as a kid and many comics that inspired him. I’m always impressed when an author/illustrator shows things that they kept from their childhood, and it reminds me the importance of holding on to at least a few things from my own children each year.  He had drawings of Peanuts characters that he created and super heroes based on his love of Batman.

Lincoln took students up to the point where he created the Big Nate comic strip for newspapers and how it became wildly popular. We were all surprised when an image of another famous author made its way into Lincoln’s presentation because Jeff Kinney was a key player in how the comic strip turned into an illustrated novel series.

It was very evident that Lincoln has had a lot of fun moving away from the Big Nate novels to a new series. He’s coming up with so many new, fun characters that are based in medieval tales he’s read or watched in the past.  Students loved seeing how he took some small ideas and eventually turned them into a much longer story. He introduced them to all of these key players in the book without giving away any of the fun secrets from the book.

One of the most fun parts of Lincoln’s presentation was seeing him draw. He emphasized to students that the smallest lines and symbols convey big messages to the reader. A simple letter z tells you someone is sleeping. A slanted eyebrow can change a character’s emotion.

He drew one character on our whiteboard and then erased and drew over and over to show how small changes can make a big difference in the message you are sending to the reader. This was so helpful to our young artists and I can’t wait to see how this impacts the images, comics, and stories that they create.

After Lincoln’s visit, we rushed all of the signed copies to classrooms. Students immediately started opening them up to read. Students came in the next day buzzing about what they had read.

Our 6 copies of Max and the Midknights immediately got checked out and a “hold” list started to develop throughout the day. Every signed copy of Big Nate was also checked out right away. I started to get messages from parents whose kids came home and wouldn’t stop reading the book and stories of kids who went home and made their own comics. I heard stories from teachers who had students begging to have the book read aloud in class or to the be the first student to read the class copy of the book.

This is what an author visit does. It inspires students to create. It creates a buzz of conversation. It encourages readers to read and readers who haven’t found the right book yet try something new. Thank you to all publishers who send authors and illustrators to schools and bookstores. For this visit, thank you to Random House Kids & Crown Books for Young Readers for sending Lincoln Peirce to our school. Thank you to Avid Bookshop for advocating for this visit and for taking care of all of our presales of books. Finally, thank you to our amazing PTA who made sure every class in 2nd-5th grade received a copy of Max and the Midknights for their class library.  These books will make an impact for years to come.

 

A Walk to Avid Bookshop with the Student Book Budget Team

Our student book budget team has made quite a long list of books to consider for this year’s student book budget purchase. So far, they have met with Capstone and Gumdrop Books. Our local independent bookstore is within a mile of our school, so we also take a walking field trip to Avid Bookshop.

I split the group into two days. Third and Fourth grades went one day and Fifth grade went another day. Before we walked, we reminded ourselves about the types of books we were looking for. We also reminded ourselves that we were in a place of business so we needed to be respectful of the space and the other customers.

When we arrived, we snapped a quick photo in front of the shop.

Kate Lorraine, bookseller, met us at the back of the bookshop and gave us some book talks on picture books, informational books, graphic novels, and middle grade books that met our purchasing goals. We also showed students where these areas were located in the store so that they didn’t venture into adult sections for our list of books.

We took some shelf markers with us so students could remember where books went on the shelf. Each time a book was found to be of interest, students checked with me to see if we already had it in the library. If we didn’t, they scanned the ISBN into a spreadsheet on my computer and added the title and price. Again, we weren’t worried about cost at this point, we were just adding books of interest.

I loved that students could check with the Avid booksellers for information on prices, age ranges of books, series sequence, and more. They are so used to asking me questions, that sometimes I had to remind them that the Avid booksellers were there to help us and were happy to answer questions.

As usual, it was a challenge to stay focused in a bookshop with so many interesting books and gifts to look at. Students had a chance to look all around, but did need reminders to stay focused on our most important task of finding books. I also noticed that our oldest readers also needed reminders to visit the picture book sections in addition to the areas that they were most attracted to.

I have some more thinking to do around these walking visits. Avid has such a great selection of titles to look at and I feel like students could have spent more time really looking at what was there. Maybe I need to assign certain students to certain sections. Maybe there needs to be more guidance on how many books they should try to evaluate.  I don’t want to take power away from the students, but I do want to equip them with some tools to help them get the most out of their visit to this useful resource in our community.

Now, we are at our most challenging task, which is cutting down our lists to fit our budget. Wish us luck.

One-Page Comic Contest: Prepping for a Visit with Lincoln Peirce

We are still in shock that next week we will be visited by Lincoln Peirce, the author of the bestselling Big Nate series. Lincoln is touring the country to promote his newest illustrated novel, Max and the Midknights. I can’t wait for students to be introduced to this new book. It has a little bit of everything: surprises, humor, medieval fights, mystery, magic, zombies, and more.

When an author/illustrator visits, I love to fill our windows and/or hallways with student work inspired by the author/illustrator. Sometimes there’s just not enough prep time, but luckily for Lincoln we knew a couple of months in advance.

When I read the Advance Reading Copy of Max and the Midknights, I saw that it opens with a one-page comic to setup the story. I thought this would be a great concept to invite students to try out. Instead of hosting class after class in the library, I made this a choice contest. In the contest, I invited students in any grade level to create a one-page comic on any topic. That’s pretty much the rules. They could create the comic on their own paper or use a pre-printed page of comic boxes that I provided in the library.

I introduced the contest on our morning broadcast and also made a video that teachers could share.

Students had a little less than 2 weeks to enter the contest and it didn’t take long to see that this was a high-interest topic. By the deadline date, we had over 100 entries in our contest from almost every grade level. It was impossible to pick winners by myself, so I had the help of Allie Melancon, SST, and my high school intern, Andrea Aramburo. I also had a few students, teachers, and my wife read a some comics too.

In the end, we picked 12 students to receive an autographed copy of Max and the Midknights. Thanks to a local organization called Books for Keeps, I had some other items I could hand out as prizes for about 50 honorable mention students.

These students received their choice of several doodling books, coloring books, magnetic storytelling kits, and comics.

Every student who entered a comic also has his/her work displayed on the windows of the library. As soon as the display went up, students, teachers, and families were stopping in the hall to read comics. We can’t wait for Lincoln Peirce to see them next week too.

I loved having this choice contest. It’s something I would like to try again with other author visits. It gives students one more way to interact with their library, one more way to make their voice heard, and one more way to be creative regardless of grade level, language, or background. I met some students in a new way through their art or writing. I saw some hidden talents that I didn’t realize were there.

We never know what opportunity is going to be the spark that students need in order to connect.

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.

 

 

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.

Love Projects: 2nd Grade Tweets & Instagrams

Every class in our school has read the book Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long. In preparation for their visit later this month, every class has also created a piece of art in response to the book.  These projects began in the library and continued in the art classroom with Ms. Foretich.  I have loved the inspiration that the book has given her and the pieces of art that students have created with her.  I’ll be sharing much of this student work in the next few blog posts.

Today, I want to focus on 2nd grade.  Every 2nd grade class came to the library to hear Love before the holidays.  When we read the book, I invited students to listen to Matt’s words and look closely at Loren’s illustrations for as many examples of love as they could find. Similar noticings emerged in each class, but there were also unique observations made that other students didn’t catch. We always paused on the 2nd spread that shows a park image with a cab, a hot dog stand, and a man on a bench. Students always talked about the boy in the wheel chair giving the man a hot dog. Sometimes they noticed the people making eye contact and talking in the cab. Sometimes they talked about the color of the balloon being a symbol of love.  The important thing is that they always talked. Students were never silent on a page. They always found love even on pages that were hard like the one with the boy hiding under the piano. Even with all of the bad things happening in the picture, love was still there.

In the art room, we took apart the F&G version of Love and Ms. Foretich gave groups of students an image from the book to study more closely. Students were asked to think about what the image said about love. They had a brainstorming page to get some of their ideas down.  They used this process to reimagine the version of love into a new image that connected with them personally.

Over the next class, students turned this into a watercolor image.  Each student made a statement about their art that could be posted in a tweet or Instagram caption and wrote it onto their art.  What message of love could students send out into the world? I loved the student voice that Ms. Foretich was giving students as she asked them about a short message of love that they could actually send out to the world via social media. She has been taking time to post these images and captions to her Instagram & Twitter account.  If you don’t follow her, please take a moment to.  You will be inspired by the many examples of student work that she posts.

For now, I’ll let the student work speak for itself through this series of Instagrams.  Take a moment to leave students comments here on the blog or on Ms. Foretich’s Instagram posts.  The students would love to hear how their messages have connected with you.

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"Love is when you share." Audrey #thisislove

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"They are all being nice to each other." Jaiona

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"Care about your siblings." Aaden #thisislove

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"To love, you need to share." Patrick #thisislove

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"This is how I show love." Baylen #thisislove

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"Someone will be by your side." Deiondre

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"I love you guys." Dalilah #thisislove

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"Friends spend time together" Nehemiah #thisislove

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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.

Student Book Budget: Meeting with Vendors

Our student book budget team has been hard at work making consideration lists based on the data they have collected from Barrow readers.  Each year, we meet with several vendors to look at book samples, catalogs, and websites.  During this time, students don’t worry about our budget. Instead, they capture every book that looks interesting to our readers and meets our purchasing goals.

Goals

Goal setting was a bit different this year than in the past.  Students typically pick 5-6 categories of books to focus on, but this year they really looked within types of books such as picture books, chapter books, and informational books.  I thought this was an interesting development because in past years students have had a difficult time deciding whether or not they should buy chapter, picture, or informational books within the categories they decided.  This year’s survey construction helped make this more clear.

Within Picture books, students decided to focus on humor, sports, jokes, graphic novels, animals, and scary.

Within Chapter books, students decided to focus on scary, humor, adventure, and mystery.

Within Informational books, students decided to focus on fun facts, cooking, ghosts, animals, makerspace, and sports.

Vendor 1: Capstone

Every year, we meet with our Capstone sales rep, Jim Boon.  Jim brings in books divided into fiction and nonfiction and has catalogs for all students to look at.  He shows them how to use the index in the catalog and how to find the rest of a series from the book samples he has on display. One of the things I love most about working with Jim is that he sits down with students and actively helps them look for books in the catalogs. He engages in conversation about interests and uses his wealth of knowledge of the products to match what students are asking for. While he does this, students come to me with catalogs and we scan the catalog bar codes into the Capstone site to make a consideration list.

Amy Cox at Capstone also allowed each student to choose a personal pick from Capstone. These personal picks were not a part of our budget and also did not have to fit our purchasing goals. These were completely based on the interests of members of the student book budget team.

Vendor 2: Gumdrop

Some years, we bring in our Gumdrop sales rep, Gret Hechenbleikner. We like working with Gumdrop because they can offer us some titles that aren’t available through Capstone. Gret also brings in many book samples for students to get their hands on. She sets them up on multiple tables arranged by the categories that students named.

Gret pastes printed lists in the front cover of each book so that students can see the titles in the rest of the series or similar series. If students need to see the other covers of books or if they need to do a general search, I have the Gumdrop site pulled up on the projector. Gret sets up her computer and students take books to her to add to a consideration list. Before she leaves, Gret cleans up the list, prints a copy for us, and emails me a PDF.  I love how much help Gret gives us in making the list while I have a chance to talk with students about the books on the tables and what they are thinking.

Vendor 3: Avid Bookshop

Now that Avid Bookshop has a 2nd location within walking distance of our school, we take a field trip to the store.  This year’s books budget team has about 40 students, so we split the trip over 2 days: 3rd grade on one day and 4th/5th on another day.  Ahead of the visit, I once again shared the student purchasing goals.

Hannah DeCamp and Kate Lorraine worked together to pull books from the Avid collection to book talk for students. We all sat on the floor and listened to several book talks from each of our categories.

Then, students split up into the picture book, informational, and middle grades sections of the store to look for books. I wrote all of our books into a notebook which I typed up later.

I love going to Avid because it gives students a connection to a part of our community. Several of our book budget members knew about Avid but had never been inside. Before we left, Kate gave each student an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of a book to keep and consider for our library.

Next Steps

Now that we’ve met with all vendors, it’s time to start narrowing down our lists.  This process has already started. For Gumdrop, each student is taking a page of our list and crossing through books we may want to delete. For Avid, students are looking at the digital list and highlight books we may delete. For Capstone, we are looking at our digital list and deleting books from the list if they don’t fit our goals or if we chose too many books from one series.  My hope was to have this done before winter break, but it looks like this process will continue into early January.  I’m so proud of the work students have accomplished in this large group.  It’s shaping up to be one of the best year’s so far.

 

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.