The 5th Annual Picture Book Smackdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Join Us for the 5th Annual Picture Book Smackdown

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

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

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

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

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

Click the image to visit our Smore

What to expect:

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

What you can do:

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

In Loving Memory of Dianne de Las Casas

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

Celebrating Picture Book Month and Remembering Dianne de Las Casas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Picture Book Smackdown

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Picture Book Month came to a close and we once again hosted a Picture Book Smackdown with schools around the country.  All month long, students have been celebrating Picture Book Month by reading picture books from every genre section of our library. As they read a book from a section, they earned a stamp on a challenge sheet. Once students collected all 12 stamps, they turned their sheet in for a bookmark, certificate, and to be entered into a drawing to win a new picture book.

Another piece of Picture Book Month was preparing for the Picture Book Smackdown.  Since 2013, I’ve been hosting and organizing a Google Hangout to bring together students from multiple states along with authors & illustrators to celebrate the power of the picture book.  For one hour, students and authors take turns stepping up to the microphone, book talking a favorite picture book, and saying why picture books matter in the world.

We advertised our event using Smore.

This year, we were joined by author Dianne de Las Casas, the founder of Picture Book Month.  We had students from 4 states: Maine, Vermont, Texas, and Georgia.

 

We broadcasted through Youtube Live and had a full hour of sharing favorite picture books.  Dianne de Las Casas opened and closed our event.

 

I loved that at the end she reflected on what had been shared.  There was such a mix of classic picture books with current picture books.  There were books about Star Wars and books about difficult topics like hurricanes.  There were new twists on fairy tales like Little Red and books in made up languages like Du Iz Tak?

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As students shared, I had a wonderful parent volunteer who kept a list of the books that were shared during the hangout. We need to go back now and clean up the doc, but you can view its progress here.  I also had a volunteer who helped get students up to the microphone while I made sure our technology was all running smoothly.

We had multiple viewers from around the country during the event and it was fun to see tweets from different perspectives.

 

It was also fun to look at the Smore analytics to see where people were from who at least visited our page about the event.

I think one of the things I enjoy most is seeing students and authors share with the world with one voice.  They come together around a love of picture books and each take time to speak about why picture books matter to them.  Each student had a different take on the importance of picture books and they all brought something for us to consider.

You can view our entire Picture Book Smackdown here:

As you view, I hope you’ll consider tweeting about your own favorite picture books using the hashtag #pbsmkdwn

Another incredible thing that happened this year is that I heard from a group of librarians in Alabama led by Bonnie Howard who wanted to host their own picture book smackdown gaining inspiration from the smackdown we started in 2013.  I of course encouraged them to go for it.  Their smackdown gained a lot of community attention and because of that, we get a chance to see the smackdown in action as well as hear some students talk about what they loved about the event.  One of the things I love about the video is how a principal and librarians got excited about the future of connections beyond their state and even country.  When you start connecting with other schools, you see the miraculous things that happen as students and adults collaborate with one another. I can’t wait to see how the work of Bonnie Howard, Kris Gray, Lisa D, and Dixie Paschal continues to grow.

If you are interested in starting your own picture book smackdown, I encourage you to go for it too.  Whether it’s within your own school, with other schools in your district, or reaching beyond state boundaries, you and your students will be rewarded by sharing your work with one another.

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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Picture Book Smackdown 2015 is a Wrap!

smackdown (8)Wow!  We had the most students ever participate in our 3rd annual picture book smackdown.  Even sickness and technical difficulties didn’t stop our students in 5 states sharing favorite books along with author, Laurie Thompson.

Here are a few behind the scenes notes:

  • There were multiple emails and tweets sent between the participating schools in this smackdown. We established etiquette for the hangout such as keeping things moving, muting microphones when we weren’t speaking, and only having about 5 students at a time share
  • We all prepared our students in advance of the smackdown but we each did it in our own way.  My own students had a basic script that they filled out.

  • The amazing Cathy Potter helped organize Laurie Thompson to join us. Unfortunately, Picture Book Month founder, Dianne de Las Casas wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t join us.  She was with us in spirit, though!
  • I had a group of 50 students!  Luckily 2 volunteers and a teacher helped me keep them organized in chairs and a parent frantically wrote down as many titles of shared picture books as she could.

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  • We all came into the Google Hangout early to test our cameras and microphones.  We communicated with one another through the chat in Hangouts as well as through text messaging if needed.

All of our Picture Book Smackdown content can be found on our Smore.

I would like to thank all of the schools who participated, Laurie Thompson, our volunteers, and all of the people who viewed and sent out tweets.  Thanks for celebrating Picture Book Month with us!

We’ll see you next year for our 4th annual smackdown!

Get Ready for Picture Book Smackdown 2015! #pbsmkdwn

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For 3 years, I have organized an online picture book smackdown in honor of Picture Book Month.  Over those 3 years, our Google Hangout event has grown stronger thanks to the collaboration of librarians, students, and authors around the country.  We are busily planning this year’s event, but you can go ahead and put it on your calendar now!  It will be November 19th from 1:30-2:30PM EST.

We made a Smore to host all of the content of the event:

During the smackdown, you can expect to hear:

  • An introduction and welcome from Picture Book Month founder, Dianne de Las Casas
  • Students from at least 5 states share favorite picture books and why picture books matter in a fast-paced format
  • Authors such as Laurie Ann Thompson share her favorite picture books along with our students
  • An ongoing doc of picture books that we share!

Everything will broadcast through a Youtube link:

We would love for you to watch the event with your students or share with classrooms.  You can even participate by tweet about the event or tweeting your own picture book recommendations during the event using the hashtag #pbsmkdwn

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Even if you can’t join us, we hope you are inspired by our event and consider having your own Picture Book Smackdown online or in your own space.  Feel free to use our hashtag to connect our events together. Happy Picture Book Month!

P.S.  If you can’t wait for this year’s event, here’s a little taste of what we did last year: