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.

 

 

Izzy Gizmo: The Perfect Book for Library Makerspaces (and a giveaway)

I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for the new book Izzy Gizmo written by Pip Jones, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie, and published by Peachtree Publishers.  The very first time I read this book, I knew it was a perfect match for makerspaces.

Izzy Gizmo tells the story of a young inventor whose wheels are always turning to create the next great contraption. From her hair-taming Beard-Tastic to her hostess Tea-Mendous, Izzy is always looking for ways to make life a little bit more convenient.  Of course, her inventions don’t always go as planned and she must work through the frustration and thoughts of giving up.  When she discovers a hurt crow, Izzy must use her creative energy to tackle a real-world problem.  Will the injured crow ever be able to fly again? Read this colorful, thought-provoking book to find out.

In library makerspace, we talk a lot about the mindset it takes to be a maker.  Creativity, problem-solving, perseverance, growth mindset, and risk-taking are just a few of the pieces of the maker mindset puzzle.  Izzy Gizmo features all of those mindsets. Every page is filled with illustrations showing Izzy’s many complex inventions, and I could imagine readers staring at the pages and sparking their own creative ideas.

I love that as Izzy invents things don’t always go the way she planned them.  That’s the realistic world of being a maker.  Things rarely go right, and I really appreciate that she is a character who is honest about her feelings.  She lets her emotions out and shows us that making can be frustrating. There are moments that you want to quit, but even though she may come close to quitting, Izzy is not one to give up.  It’s important for our readers to see her persevere and that it’s ok to get frustrated.

We have a lot of fun in our library makerspace, but I always encourage students to think about purpose. All around us there are real problems and issues that we could possibly tackle during makerspace time. I love that Izzy finds the crow and goes through a whole range of inventions to make the crow’s life better.  It reminds our readers and makers that even kids can find solutions to real world problems.

As we study the invention cycle, we explore the idea of remixing. You may have parts of an invention that work and parts that don’t, but the learning that you took from that experience can be remixed into something new. Izzy does this often. She pulls parts of other inventions in order to create her next solution.  This of course leads to a bit of a surprise ending in the book, but I think Izzy is a character who will be up to the new challenge she faces.

I’ve shared this book with elementary students and I’ve also read it to a class of college students at the University of Georgia who work with my young makers. It’s a great read for all ages.

Congratulations to our winner: Lisa Seymour!

I’m giving away one copy of the book. Click the Google form below or follow this link to enter.  Please read all the rules and enter by 12PM EST on March 9th. Good luck!


 

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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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.

Meet Microsaurs: Tiny-Raptor Pack Attack By Dustin Hansen

Every year, I have a new group of students who become obsessed with dinosaurs and every informational and narrative book about them. I’m excited to introduce Dustin Hansen to my students. Dustin has been writing and creating art for the video game industry for over 20 years. He is the author and illustrator of the Microsaurs series. Follow That Tiny-Dactyl was released in January of this year, and Tiny-Raptor Pack Attack was released in July.  I happy to have him stop by my blog to show off this new book.

In Tiny-Raptor Pack Attack, Danny and Lin return as the expert secret keepers from book one. As they return in this second installment, they receive a mysterious package filled with tiny, hungry microsaurs along with a huge microsaur egg.  Students will love how they use the Mini-Maxitron Reduction Nozzle to shrink themselves down to the size of the tiny dinosaurs and interact with them in their microterium world.  There’s plenty of adventure as they try to keep the new egg safe until it hatches and the tiny-raptors happy with food. Throughout the book, Dustin has supported the story with black and white images that readers will love to look at and compare the full-size and micro worlds. This will also help readers who are looking for a longer story that still includes plenty of illustrations. At the back of the book, Dustin even includes some information to satisfy our non-fiction readers.

Fans of Jurassic Park, dinosaur informational books, and tiny adventures will enjoy reading this book.

Dustin has put together a great time-lapse video of how his dinosaurs come to life on the page. Check it out and share it with your readers.

I hope you’ll consider getting a copy of this series from your local bookshop or library vendor to add to your collection. Thanks to Feiwel and Friends, a division of Macmillan Publishing, we are giving away a copy of the book.  Click on the form below to add your name and email to the drawing by Tuesday August 22 at 5PM EST. One winner will be randomly selected for a free book.

Congratulations, Karen Tisdale, for winning the Microsaurs giveway!

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Be on the lookout as Dustin travels to other blogs during this whole week.  There will be more surprises and more giveaways on those blogs as well.  He also has a 3rd installment of Microsaurs coming in January 2018.

Monday, 8/21Mom-Spot
Tuesday, 8/22Kidlit Frenzy
Wednesday, 8/23Beyond the Car Seat
Thursday, 8/24Daddy Mojo
Friday, 8/25Meanest Look
Saturday, 8/26Pragmatic Mom

Exploring Advance Reader Copies with 1st Grade

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I love getting Advance Reader Copies (ARC) of books.  I selfishly enjoy having them for myself to read, but the real joy comes when I get to share them with readers well in advance of the book being released. It’s like sharing a secret with them and creates an extra level of engagement for the story. It also gives me a chance to get reader input on books that might become a part of our library collection.  In the past, I’ve returned from conferences with a suitcase full of books and distributed them to readers to enjoy and offer opinions.

Most of the time ARCs come from publishers in the mail or at conferences.  However, yesterday, I received 2 ARCs direct from author Hannah Barnaby with a special note tucked inside.

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Today, Ms. Skinner’s 1st grade class visited the library for a story time, so it was the perfect opportunity to share the books for the first time. Since it’s world kindness week, we discussed what a kind gesture it was for the author to send us a sneak peek of her two new books. We also discussed how we could in turn offer some kindness back by reading the books, discussing them, and sharing a bit of feedback with the world.

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The first Hannah Barnaby book we took a look at was Bad Guy illustrated by Mike Yamada. The book uses short sentences on each page to highlight the daily sinister deeds of one bad boy.  Many of these deeds are against his sister.  Without giving too much away, he learns that being a bad guy can have its consequences too.

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After we read, I asked the students to think about what they loved, what they wondered, and who they would recommend the book to.  Here are a few of their thoughts about Bad Guy.

What we loved:

  • bad guys
  • bad guys can be good
  • it went back and forth between the characters like a brother & sister.
  • his sister played a trick on him, too..
  • it was like playing a game.

What we wondered:

  • if they had made a trap for each other
  • how his sister made the trap
  • if he was really doing all the bad stuff or if it was pretend.

Who should read this book:

  • people who like stories about bad guys.
  • people who like stories where characters play tricks on each other
  • people who like traps

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The second book we read was Garcia & Colette Go Exploring illustrated by Andrew Joyner.  This book follows two characters who both want to go exploring but can’t seem to agree with one another on where to explore. This results in them taking two different journeys alone. As they explore, they make observations about their world and without knowing it, make many of the same observations.

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I again asked students to think about what they loved and wondered as well as who they would recommend the book to.

Book Title: Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Author: Hannah Barnaby

What we loved:

  • they said the same things when they were apart
  • the packed the same things to eat
  • both couldn’t do the things they wanted to do.

What we wondered:

  • how did they make their rocket and submarine?
  • did they eat all their sandwiches?

Who should read this book:

  • people who like exploring
  • people who like space & sea
  • people who like the desert
  • people who like to explore alone

Finally, we had some discussion about both books together.  First, should we have these books in our library when they are released.  It was an overwhelming, unanimous “YES!”.  Both books are different, so I didn’t want to pit the books against each other.  However, students did offer some feedback about which book hooked their attention the most depending on the reader.  It was really split between the two books.  The students who preferred Bad Guys liked the trickery and brother/sister relationship.  Many students felt a connection to how the brother and sister picked on each other.  The students who preferred Garcia & Colette Go Exploring liked the adventure and the setting as well as the illustrations of the two inventions the characters made.

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I want to explore more ways to use ARCs with students. Thank you Hannah Barnaby for thinking of us and allowing us a sneak peek at your new books. We can’t wait to add them to our library.  We’ll continue to enjoy them with more classes over the next few weeks.

Bad Guy will be released in May 2017.

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring will be released in June 2017.