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!


Little Red & Rapunzel: A Skype with Bethan Woollvin

I’ve written about the magic of Bethan Woollvin’s Little Red a few times on the blog. It’s one of those books that captures an audience when it’s read aloud. The repeating lines, the bold color, the large scary wolf, the shocking images….all work together to speak to so many readers.

Our 2nd grade has been studying Bethan Woollvin’s work by reading Little Red, viewing some of Bethan’s art, and exploring some of the resources on All the Wonders. Students loved acting out scenes from the book using the story shapes from All the Wonders.

Students also loved putting the book over their face or using the cutouts to become the Wolf or Red.

Today, in celebration of her upcoming book Rapunzel, we skyped with Bethan to hear both stories and learn about her art and inspiration.

Rapunzel has some similar magic to Little Red.  There’s some repetition of the “snip, snip” of the scissors, and students love to put their scissor fingers up and snip along with the story.

The witch and her polka dot underpants steal the show when the book is read aloud, and you just have to pause and give the students a moment to point and laugh.  Without giving anything away, I’ll also say that there are a few images that elicit that same shock from students that they have when reading Little Red.  I loved hearing Bethan read parts of both books that had something gruesome or shocking. Her bubbly personality paired with Grandma getting eaten by the wolf was delightful!

I always love Skyping with an author or illustrator because they usually have original art, notes, or other artifacts that they can reach over and grab.  Bethan showed us a few early versions of illustrations from Little Read so that we could see how much they changed in the final version of the book. I loved the reinforcement that artists revise just like writers revise.

We saw some panel sketches from Rapunzel.  Students immediately made a connection to our current study of panels in graphic novels, and we learned that Bethan thinks a lot in panels when she is working. She also showed us images from Rapunzel that didn’t make it into the book or images that slightly changed after feedback from the publisher.

Near the end of our Skype, students formed a line to step up and ask questions. This is always a special moment because it’s so personal for each student to get to speak directly to an author or illustrator.

I loved that Bethan would often answer the questions and then direct it right back to the student to answer too.  For example, a student asked about what her favorite part of writing and illustrating was. After answering, Bethan asked the student what her favorite part of writing and illustrating in class was.  It reinforced that we are all working on our craft no matter what stage we are in. We have connections to one another.

At the close, Bethan talked to us a bit about how her books are published in the UK and US. Some of the words and illustrations change depending on the vocabulary or to help the flow of conversation. Since I had a copy of both books, we were able to take a close look while she shared this with us.

We are so excited to now have both Little Red and Rapunzel living in our library for readers.  Be on the lookout for Rapunzel coming from Peachtree Publishers on October 1!  Many thanks to Peachtree Publishers and Bethan Woollvin for making this Skype possible and to Avid Bookshop for our presales of books.

A Visit with the Amazing Henry Cole

Henry Cole (1)

When I saw that Henry Cole was coming to Avid Bookshop for a special storytime, I knew that we just had to get him to our school. I started chatting with the Avid and Peachtree Publishers teams to see how we could make it happen.

Henry Cole (2)Henry Cole is the author and illustrator of more books than I can list here. A few of the books he illustrated include:

  • Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester Laminack
  • And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  • I Know a Wee Piggy by Kimberly Norman

Books he has written and illustrated include:

  • A Nest for Celeste
  • Unspoken
  • Big Bug
  • On a Meadowview Street

Henry Cole (7) Henry Cole (8)

Henry Cole’s newest book comes out in April. The Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine is a tale of a mouse who is sent into the air in a remote control airplane that crashes into the woods. There his adventure begins as he goes on a quest to find his way home and meets many helpful friends along the way. As a part of his special visit, the publisher allowed our students to purchase the book before it comes out in April. Our fabulous PTA purchased 3 copies of the book for each classroom n grades 2-4.

Henry Cole (4) Henry Cole (5) Henry Cole (6)

During Henry’s visit, he told stories from his childhood, which revealed to us the many places that where he gets his ideas. Rather than taking questions from the audience, he anticipated the typical questions that authors and illustrators often get and wove those into his presentation through storytelling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a speaker quite as animated as Henry Cole. He yelled, whispered, shrieked, danced, and leaped across the front of the library as he told stories of being pushed off the roof in a makeshift airplane and getting giddy with excitement at art assignments in school. Across the course of his presentation, we knew where Sammy Shine came from, where the inspiration for A Nest for Celeste originated, and how grueling it is to get boxes upon boxes of questions from editors to improve writing. He connected this to the same process that students go through when they get feedback from their teachers. We heard how many revisions a single illustration in a book can go through and that when something isn’t quite right, you just do it again.

For a solid hour, our students rolled in floor from laughing but then hooked right back in to Henry’s presentation. It was magical. He closed his time by illustrating two pieces of art choreographed to a soundtrack.

We are so excited to have these two pieces on display in our library now.

We want to thank Peachtree Publishers and Avid Bookshop for making this happen. Please take a moment to check out Henry Cole’s website. His new book can be purchased at Avid Bookshop. If you don’t get it now, then look for it in April and purchase it from your local bookstore.

Henry Cole (25) Henry Cole (24)

The Power of the Picture Book: A Look at Little Red by Bethan Woollvin

Picture Book Month is coming to a close, but of course, the power of the picture book and the magic that it holds should (and will) live on beyond one month.  Picture Book Month is a wonderful time to remind ourselves of the importance of reading aloud to one another.  It reminds us of the connections that we make to those that we experience a book with.  It reminds us of how a story that seems so short and simple can be packed with so many conversations, memories, and inspiration.

This month, I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Little Red by Bethan Woollvin, a new picture book published in the US by Peachtree Publishers (April 2016).  I love getting advance copies of books and seeing what readers have to look forward to in the coming months.  I also love taking them home and sharing them with my own children.  When you share a book with a child, you see it through different eyes and it takes on a life of its own.

Little Red is a version of little red riding hood, and its pages are filled with images that use just 3 colors: red, white, and black. Many of you know how much I love the color red, and the red definitely stands out on each and every page. Little Red is a clever girl and doesn’t adhere to the rules of sometimes naive fairy tale characters.  She isn’t fooled by the wolf for one minute and has her own ideas of how to handle every situation.  The wolf has a massively long snout that shows off his extra sharp teeth, and Bethan Woolvin zooms the reader in to a two-page spread of the wolf that will make you feel like you are being swallowed too.  She does the same thing with Little Red to show off Red’s subversive thinking in action.  I can’t quit staring at these simple yet vibrant images.

When I took Little Red home, I first read it to my 3 year old son. He immediately fell in love with the story and had to read it again the very same night. He had a love/hate relationship with the wolf and loved to shout out “EAT YOU WITH!” when I turned the page in that part of the story. Little Red also has a repeating line: “which might have scared some little girls, but not this little girl”. It only took a couple of readings for him to discover this line and read it along with me every time. My son is a wiggle monster and it is sometimes hard to get him to sit still for a book or even pick out a book to read at bedtime. However, every night since taking Little Red home, he has requested to read it. There’s something magical about the simplicity of the text and illustrations, the subversive nature of Red (which is a bit like him), and the element of getting “eaten” that demands his attention.

Peachtree sent a cute little paper basket filled with cupcake wrappers, a red velvet recipe, and cupcake toppers. These quickly became toys to continue the story beyond the pages of the book. He took all of them out at supper at stuck them in his bread and began telling us all a story over dinner. It made me realize as a parent that I often go beyond the book at school but I don’t do it nearly enough at home. Something as simple as a paper cutout of a book character became an avenue for imaginative story-based play, and it really wouldn’t take much effort for me to do that with more books.  It also reminded me of a new resource for families called All the Wonders, which offers ways for families to go beyond the book.

My 5 year old daughter also joined in on the fun of Little Red by listening along as I read.  It did not take her long to be able to read the entire book by herself, so now she wants to share it with every person she can. She reads it to me, her mom, and her brother.  We also brought it along with us to Thanksgiving at my mom’s house. My daughter’s great grandmother came down to visit and of course was delighted by a reading of Little Red. It was magical to watch my daughter, who I’ve read to since before birth, suddenly be the reader.  I think she read the book three or four times to her great grandmother, and then I watched as they started talking about what happens “between the lines” of the pages.  Her great grandmother shared the story of the woodsman from other red riding hood stories and they began to wonder if there was a woodsman anywhere in this story or why there wasn’t.  I’ve always loved my grandmother’s knack for storytelling, and it was fun to see her do a quick red riding hood version with my daughter.

There’s no way that I could have known all of the magic that was hiding inside this one book without opening it up, sharing it aloud, and carefully looking for the miraculous.  As we leave Picture Book Month, I invite you to look at the picture books around you. What magic is hiding inside? How are you sharing them with the readers in your life? How are you encouraging readers beyond the pages of the book? I write these questions because they are what I’m considering for myself right now thanks to Bethan Woollvin, Little Red, and my own family. Happy reading!

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Coming Soon from Peachtree Publishers: Lilliput by Sam Gayton


LilliputSummer is a time for recharging, reflecting, and reading! Each summer I find myself with a little extra time to take a look at my stack of books that are in my ever-growing to-be-read pile.  In May, I received a package from Peachtree Publishers. It was wrapped in an aged box with a book, hot chocolate, thimble, and a letter.  I was immediately drawn to the artwork on the cover of Lilliput, written by ‘Sam Gayton and illustrated by Alice Ratterree.

The cover is filled with many details of characters, events, and objects in the book.  This summer, as I found time to read the book, I often looked back at the cover and understood a little more about the illustration that had caught my attention from the very beginning.

Lilliput is the story of Lily, a Lilliputian, who was stolen away from her home by the famous Gulliver of Gulliver’s Travels. Lily is being held captive by Gulliver while he writes his book of his travels.  She is his proof that the land of Lilliput actually exists.  Lily hatches multiple escape plans to get back to her home, but she repeatedly gets caught and punished for her efforts.  Across the course of her escapes, Lily meets a cast of amazing characters:

  • Finn, a clock maker’s apprentice who is being held prisoner himself
  • Mr. Ozinda, a Spaniard with a famed Chocolate House
  • Swift, a bird caged within a clock
  • Mr. Plinker, an evil clock maker who designs clocks that torture or force people to spend most of their time working rather than having fun

There really is a character for everyone whether you love animals, evil villains, giants, spoiled bratty girls, clever boys, or fairies.  Throughout the book, you’ll find several steampunk illustrations by Alice Ratterree.  I love every one of them!

The book is divided into 3 parts: Escaping, Searching, and Leaving. Each chapter is fairly short, which I love.  Short chapters make me read a book so much faster.  I always think, “I can read one more chapter. It’s only a few pages.” Before I know it, I’m done with the book.  I find this a big selling point for reluctant readers as well.

Lilliput is filled with adventure. You’ll be cheering Lily on as she works with other characters in the book to get back to the place where she belongs.  You’ll find yourself clenching your toes as you read faster and faster to see if this plan is the plan that finally works.  You’ll want to get your own revenge on the evil Mr. Plinker and stinky giant Gulliver.

My favorite quote from the entire book was:

It made me think about all of the things in the world that have held me back and all I’ve done to work to get beyond those barriers. Lilliput will inspire readers to keep trying no matter what obstacles are standing in their way.  Just when you are at your point of giving up is the point where you need to keep trying the most.

I highly encourage you to check out Lilliput when it is released on August 1, 2015.  I can’t wait to recommend this title to all of the Barrow readers when we return to school.

You can learn more about Sam Gayton here.

You can learn more about Alice Ratterree here.