Archive for November 2010

Windy City Delights

November 30, 2010

Chicago is my kind of town! Each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve my family and I spend two days in Chicago, enjoying the sounds, sights, and tastes of the city. One of my all-time favorite spots to visit during this time is Marshall Field’s. Yes, I know it’s been renamed to Macy’s, but for me it will be forever known as Marshall Field and Company.

Our first stop was State Street so we could admire the awesome Christmas decorations in Field’s windows. This is a marvelous tradition that Marshall Field’s continues to create year after year. This year’s theme highlighted the book, Yes, Virginia: There is a Santa Claus by Chris Plehal and James Bernardin. The book is based on a letter sent by eight-year old Virginia O’Hanlon in 1897 to the editor of the “The New York Sun.” It’s a cute book, but I much prefer my edition of the book which contains Virginia’s letter sent to editor, Francis P. Church, and his answer. Included are memorable illustrations by Thomas Nast and some biographical information on Nast, Church, and Virginia. It’s a story that touches my heart.

Our next stop was the Walnut Room on the seventh floor of Marshall Field’s with its dazzling Great Tree. If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Walnut Room, you must go for lunch during the Christmas season when it becomes a truly magical place. My mother took me there when I was young, and my husband and I took our daughter there when she was young. Our visit this time didn’t include lunch, but we did enjoy the view of the tree. It was fun to see all the families dressed in their “Sunday best” and on their best behavior. It brought back warm memories.

Before we left Marshall Field’s, we purchased a State Street Clock ornament made exclusively for Field’s.

Afterward, we stepped back outside onto the streets of the Windy City eager to make more memories. Yup, Chicago is my kind of town!


It’s Avatar Friday

November 26, 2010


I’m stuffed!

Wild Turkeys on the Loose!

November 23, 2010

Gobblin’ gizzards! Who let the wild turkeys loose?

Bus duty this morning began the wild and crazy day. I sidled up to a student to confiscate what I thought was forbidden gum. Much to my surprise, it turned out to be a dismembered teeny, tiny Barbie. Oh, the horror of it all!

We had a talk.

During our discussion of foods served at the First Thanksgiving Feast, a student amused himself by playing with a dead fly. It may be good protein, but not very appetizing!

We had a talk.

When the fourth graders arrived, one boy decided to engage in a hug fest with the rest of the class whether they wanted a hug or not. It’s good to be thankful for friends, but let’s try a different approach.

We had a talk.

This all happened before ten o’clock in the morning. I’m tired of talking. How many days until Thanksgiving vacation?

Thanksgiving Books to Tempt your Reading Palate

November 19, 2010

Gobble up these books.

Samuel Eaton’s Day, Sarah Morton’s Day, and Tapenum’s Day are three nonfiction books written by Kate Waters that show readers what it was like to live during Pilgrim times. The photographs that appear in the books were taken by Russ Kendall at the historic setting of Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts. The books take you through the day of each child, showing what type of clothes they wore, the type of food they ate, and their daily chores. The authenticity of these books makes them excellent resources for teachers and students alike.

Thanksgiving Mice! written by Bethany Roberts and illustrated by Doug Cushman is a perfectly delightful book for young children. Four mice are putting on play about the First Thanksgiving for their animal friends. The illustrations show the mice making the scenery and presenting the play. The rhyming text is short and fun – just right for preschoolers. Children will enjoy acting out the story once you’ve read it to them.

A Turkey for Thanksgiving written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Diane de Groat finds Mr. and Mrs. Moose inviting all of their friends for Thanksgiving dinner. When turkey is invited, he fears for the worst, but all turns out well when he is seated at the dinner table and not on the dinner table as the main course. Turkey’s expressions are priceless.

Just for fun. Jim Arnosky’s I’m a Turkey! offers up interesting facts about wild turkeys, including how they communicate, how they fly, and how they protect themselves. What makes this book even more enjoyable is that you can download the song “Talkin’ Turkey” that follows along with the book and is sung by Jim Arnosky.

Minnie and Moo and the Thanksgiving Tree, an easy reader book written and illustrated by Denys Cazet, is hilarious. In this adventure, the turkeys ask the cows, Minnie and Moo, to hide them so they won’t become part of Mrs. Farmer’s Thanksgiving dinner. The cows hide the flock of turkeys in an oak tree. Soon Minnie and Moo find themselves helping all the farm animals hide in the tree just in case Mrs. Farmer is looking for something other than turkeys for dinner. When an egg falls out of the tree onto the tofu loaf Mrs. Farmer has prepared for a picnic, her cousins declare the tree a Thanksgiving Tree. The story becomes truly comical when the animals in the tree mistakenly think there are bees in there. Suddenly, animals are falling, jumping, flying, and bouncing out of the tree. This is just one of the uproarious adventures in the series of Minnie and Moo books.  

Molly’s Pilgrim written by Barbara Cohen is a classic story and one of my favorites. Molly is a Russian Jewish immigrant who is being teased by her classmates. When Molly’s homework assignment is to make a Pilgrim for a class project, her mother says she will help. Molly’s mother makes her Pilgrim look like a Russian girl and not like a Mayflower Pilgrim. Her classmates laugh at her for not knowing what a Pilgrim is. Molly explains to her teacher that her mother is a Pilgrim, too, because she came to America for religious freedom. Her teacher speaks to the class and explains that the Pilgrims got the idea for Thanksgiving from reading the Bible about the Jewish harvest holiday, and then she places Molly’s Pilgrim in a special place on her desk for all to admire. This book defines the true meaning of a Pilgrim and is an excellent tool for discussions about bullying, tolerance, and acceptance.

Are there other Thanksgiving books that fill your reading appetite?

Inspiration from Prairie Writer’s Day

November 16, 2010

If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend the SCBWI-IL Prairie Writer’s Day, you are missing out on a fun-filled, information-packed day. From 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM you are on the go. A fantastic group of professionals is on hand, offering writing tips and industry information.

Here are just a few of the tidbits I took away with me from the editors who were there.

Andrea Welch, editor from Beach Lane Books, reminded us how important emotions are in your manuscript and to remember to “speak to the heart of the reader.”

Katherine Jacobs, associate editor from Roaring Book Press, spoke on pacing in your manuscript. Control the pacing of your story though the structure of your manuscript.

Marilyn Brigham, editor from Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, talked about choosing the right words to create powerful sentences and to find your voice because “voice is most important.”

Tamra Tuller, editor from Philomel Books, discussed writer’s block suggesting different ways of unblocking yourself and concluded by saying, “only you can control whether or not you write.”

Janice M. Del Negro, PhD, an author, storyteller, and Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University in River Forest, IL, said something that really hit home. “Words are the raw stuff authors work with. Mastery of language is what makes art.”

It was a perfect day. I have a treasure trove of notes and handouts to pore over and to keep me inspired. I’m looking forward to next year’s Prairie Writer’s Day, but for now, it’s time to get to work!

Saved by the Book

November 12, 2010

What in flippin’ flapjacks happened? This week galloped away from me. It’s Friday – my blog posting day. So what in tarnation am I going to post? I set my brain to thinkin’ and right there at my page-turnin’ fingertips was the answer to my dilemma.


Emily’s Fortune is my fortune. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, one of my favorite authors and Newbery Award winner, has written a gosh darn lively read.

Emily Wiggins unexpectedly becomes an orphan and heads for her Aunt Hilda’s house in Redbud. Life for Emily is not so hunky-dory. Miss Catchum of the Catchum Child-Catching Services is after her. Devious Uncle Victor, who wants Emily’s ten million dollar inheritance, is after her, too. Luckily, Jackson, another orphan, happens along and helps Emily disguise herself and teaches her the ropes of the rootin’ tootin’ real world.

Will Miss Catchum catchum? Will Jackson be a trustworthy friend? Will devious Uncle Victor do away with Emily to get his grimy hands on the ten million dollars? Shake your tail feathers and hightail it on out and get yourself a copy of this book. You won’t be sorry!

Books: Disaster and Friendship

November 9, 2010

I’m always on the prowl for books to share with my library students. I just finished reading two books that I think will be hits in the library.

Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen, a master of adventure, keeps you turning pages to see what new disaster Henry and his friends get into as they try to make a name for themselves. This middle-grade reader is perfect for boys who are reluctant readers or who are fascinated by crazy mishaps that include slime, crud, ooze, and lots of smelly poop!

Reading this books also comes with my motherly/teacher warning:  Do N-O-T, not, attempt any of these stunts or you will be grounded for the rest of your life!

And that comment brings me to my next book. Clementine, or as one student dubbed her, “the orange girl,” is at it again. Sara Pennypacker‘s Clementine, Friend of the Week does not disappoint. Clementine tries to be the perfect friend in order to get lots of good comments in her Friend of the Week book. When her kitten disappears, Clementine spends all her time searching for it and forgets her promise to help her classmates decorate their bikes for a rally. Feeling like she has let everyone down, Clementine learns what true friendship is when one special friend enlists the help of Clementine’s classmates to help in the search for her kitten. Clementine, Friend of the Week is funny, refreshingly honest, and touching.

I know if I leave these books on the library table there will be a knock- down-drag-out fight to be the first to read one of the books. As a sneaky librarian, my solution is to shelve the books in their proper places and test the library skills of the students. Ha!

Okay, fine, I’m done. I’m on the prowl for the next great book.

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