Nobody Likes This

Posted March 13, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Picture Books

Tags: , , ,

A week ago, the CCBC had their semi-annual book sale. It’s a time to purchase a variety of hardcover books for my school library. This event is like having Santa Claus come more than once a year!

Yesterday I sat in my comfy reading chair and thought, this is the life! By my side were 68 picture books, waiting for me to read. Sixty-eight delightful hardcover pictures books that cost three dollars apiece. Three dollars! Imagine that. Thank you CCBC. I’ll be your friend forever!

One picture book I was particularly taken with was Nobody written by Liz Rosenberg and illustrated by Julie Downing (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Book Press, 2010).

This is a story of a young boy, George, who has an imaginary friend called Nobody. Early in the morning, Nobody convinces George to make a feast for breakfast. In their quest to create a delicious meal, Nobody and George create a kitchen mess. When George’s mother and father see the mess, they take it in stride. (They are better parents than I am!) George and his mother decide to make pancakes together, and that’s when Nobody feels left out and begins to shrink. George realizes how lonely he would be without Nobody. He confesses to his mother that Nobody helped him make the mess and Nobody makes better pancakes than he does. When Nobody hears those words, he begins to grow back to his normal size, and George and Nobody enjoy pancakes together.

The illustrator used soft colors combined with eye-catching ones. Shades of gray are used to distinguish Nobody from George and his mother and father. The breakfast mess is sure to make children laugh. Although the illustrations are delightful, I’m a word person. I love the written story. The text is imaginative and filled with clever wordplay that is funny for both children and adults.

Nobody likes this book more than I do!

What Reading Looks Like

Posted March 9, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Special Days

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A week ago, our school celebrated Read Across America Day. A morning assembly welcomed everyone to the event. After some background information about Dr. Seuss was shared, the teachers wowed the students with an adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! We were a Seussical hit! And so was our all-school read-in in the gym where we exercised our reading abilities.

Here are the many different ways of reading.

Face down.

Face up.


Criss-cross applesauce.

In a line.

In pairs.

Reading aloud.

Standing up. Sitting down.

Book reader. E-reader.

Even the lunch ladies got into the spirit of Read Across America Day.

Lunch menu:  One Fish, Two Fish Sticks, Grinch Green Beans, Ten Apple Slices, and Yink’s Pink Ink Drink.

It was Seuss-a-licious day!

Behind the Scenes of the Charlotte Zolotow Award

Posted March 6, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Award-Winning Books

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Each year, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), a children’s literature library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, bestows the Charlotte Zolotow Award to the author of a picture book deemed to have outstanding writing and which is published in the United States the preceding year.  The Award is named in honor of Charlotte Zolotow, a renowned children’s book author and editor, who attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a writing scholarship from 1933-36.

This past Saturday I attended the Charlotte Zolotow Award ceremony at which Patrick McDonnell received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for his book, Me … Jane, the story of the young girl who grew up to be Dr. Jane Goodall.

Patrick McDonnell Receiving his Award

I’ve often wondered about the process of choosing the award-winning book, and along came someone who could answer my questions.

Jean Elvekrog had the opportunity to serve on the 2007 and 2008 Charlotte Zolotow Award committees. She has a passion for children’s literature and more energy than anyone I know. She volunteers at local schools, was a former elementary school librarian, and later worked at the Waunakee Public Library. Jean currently is a trustee for public library, is on the board of the Friends of Waunakee Public Library, volunteers as the church librarian at St. John the Baptist Parish, and is involved in several other civic and library organizations, including the Catholic Library Association.  Jean is also a member of the Friends of the CCBC, Inc., and has agreed to tell us what happens behind the scenes of the CZ Award committee.

Jean, tell us a bit more about yourself and why you have such a passion for reading and promoting reading for children?  I fondly recall that, as a child, I would always receive books as gifts from a great aunt of mine.  (She worked as a bookseller in Milwaukee for over forty years).  Frequently, the books were Newbery Award winners.  I used to read and re-read those books and looked forward to the next gift.  I guess I’d say it’s because of Margaret that I became such a lover and promoter of reading for children.

The Charlotte Zolotow Award committee is composed of children’s literature experts. What qualities make a children’s literature expert? I hesitate to use the word, “expert,” but I do know that everyone on the committee has a passion for reading and a deep interest in promoting quality literature for children.  Yes, some of the committee members work in school and public libraries serving children.  However, others are educators or day care providers and some work in higher education or social services.  They represent a nice cross section, which is great.  It is important that each of them has the opportunity to be able to read to/with children on a regular basis during the judging period.

Approximately how many books do committee members review?  Shipments from publishers would arrive almost daily during the three to four months we deliberated.  It rapidly became apparent that as a committee member, we needed to organize the titles in our homes or offices so they could readily be accessed for examination and re-examination!  I’m sure we received 750 books, but many of those didn’t meet the award criteria.

What is the ratio of fiction books to nonfiction books that are reviewed?  It’s hard to determine the ratio, but I can say without a doubt that fiction greatly outnumbered nonfiction.  The reason is that more fiction is published for children each year than nonfiction.  However, it’s important to note that while the number of nonfiction titles is less, the nonfiction that is published continues to increase in quality and much of the fiction has become “marginal.”  This is a good time to point out that the winner of the 2012 Charlotte Zolotow Award is nonfiction; it’s the outstanding childhood story of chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall.  I was very pleased with the committee’s choice.

Patrick McDonnell Signing Me … Jane

What was it you personally looked for in choosing a winner?   I not only looked for outstanding writing, but also appreciated it when the writing and the illustrations worked together.  You’d think this would always be true, but it isn’t!

Can you give us some insight into the inner workings of the committee?  In 2007 and 2008, we gathered at the CCBC approximately every 4-6 weeks, and we always met face-to-face.  I’ve heard that now the committee meets virtually during the first few months and doesn’t get together until near the end of the deliberations.  As a result, the pool of persons to be considered as members is greater because geographic location is no longer a barrier.  Conference calls, skyping, and e-mails can make virtual meetings possible.  It’s a great example of making technology work for us.

When the winner is finally chosen, does everyone on the committee have to agree with the decision or is it majority rules?  I can only speak from my experience, but I do recall that when we narrowed our choices for the final voting in 2007 and 2008, we all were very pleased with the winners: Peter McCarty (Moon Plane, Henry Holt, 2006) and Greg Foley (Thank You Bear, Viking, 2007).  It’s important to note that the committee can also name up to five honor books and up to ten highly commended titles.

Do you have some advice you’d like to impart to aspiring picture book writers?  I’ve always believed in “quality” over “quantity” in writing.  That is a trait instilled in me by my high school journalism teacher, and it has remained with me ever since.  A children’s picture book author needs to be clear and concise or he/she will lose the reader very quickly.  I maintain that one author who has succeeded in doing this in all of his picture books is Kevin Henkes.  I’ve never “lost” children from my audiences when I’ve read Kevin’s books to them!

Thank you, Jean, for your sharing your knowledge of the inner workings of the Charlotte Zolotow Award committee.


Read Across America Day!

Posted March 2, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Avatar Friday

Tags: , , ,

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

It’s time to pick those books up and read, read, read!

My Dogs Are Barking

Posted February 28, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Classic Books, Special Days

Tags: , , , , ,

Ow! Ow! Ow! My feet hurt. Shoes are out! No Jimmy Choo shoes. No five-inch heels. Maybe some designer orthopedic shoes. Or how about some advice from Dr. Seuss and The Foot Book? How about some duck feet? Now there’s an idea.

It all began when I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. On my way I saw a Fox in Socks, The Cat in the Hat, and The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street! Now you know why my feet hurt. I had to Hop on Pop to get home.


Dr. Seuss had a truckload of fantastical ideas. Oh, the Things You Can Think! and Oh, the Places You’ll Go when you read one of his books. And you’ll meet an array of zany characters – Brown Bar-ba-loots, Zizzy Zozzfozzel, Foo-Foo the Snoo, the Fuddnuddler Brothers, and the Nizzards – just to name a few.  

Friday, March second, is Dr. Seuss’s birthday and Read Across America Day! It’s a good day to visit Seussville for some reading fun.

Now it’s time to rest my tootsies and read Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book. Ahhhhh…

“Rash” Wednesday

Posted February 24, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Life

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday morning another teacher and I were on bus duty in the cafeteria, supervising students as they arrived at school. With smiles on our faces, we greeted students with a bright, “Good morning!” Some students responded with the same, others grunted, and some walked by with no acknowledgement.

Then a preschooler arrived, greeting us with a beaming smile. From this cherub’s mouth came these words. “It’s Rash Wednesday!”

Of course, he was referring to the first day of Lent observed by many Christians. But I thought having a “Rash” Wednesday sounded like a good idea. So I took advantage of it and made some rash decisions.

I stopped the next student who walked by without greeting us. We looked him in the face and greeted him again. We waited patiently for his response. Okay, his good morning was half-hearted, but he did greet us.

I cranked open the only window in the library to let the fresh air in and the stale air out. When my library student’s complained it was cold, I told them to chill.

I choose not eat the unappetizing lunch I had made for myself, and I bought a sandwich from Subway. Yum!

I gobbled down a homemade chocolate chip cookie given to me by birthday boy, Charles. Double yum!

I went with my gut feeling and asked for a change in our Read Across America activities. Librarians know best.

At the end of the day, I looked at the clock and slipped out the door ten minutes early. Free at last!

I love “Rash” Wednesdays!

One of the Last Buffalo Soldiers

Posted February 21, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , ,

An article in our local newspaper made me pause and rethink events in American history that we too often tend to push aside. The article was about a man named Robert Wallace. He was a Buffalo Soldier and one of the last living WWII veterans who was part of the all-black 92nd  Infantry Division. He died on February ninth at the age of 91.

The Buffalo Soldiers were put in dangerous situations, fought equally as hard as their white counterparts, but were treated like second-class citizens. It wasn’t until 1948 that President Truman ordered armed forces to integrate.

The article, “A Buffalo Soldier in the Heart of Wisconsin,” is an eye-opening and telling piece. In 1999, Robert Wallace participated in a taped interview for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Project, which documented his experiences while serving in WWII. He spoke of whites using racial slurs, death of his friends, not having the same opportunities as the white units, and feeling like he had more freedom overseas than in America.

This brings to mind a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

With determination and perseverance, Robert Wallace was able to overcome some of the objectionable experiences African Americans endured to live a very long and successful life.

Some books of Interest:

The Buffalo Saga:  A Story of WWII U.S. Army 92nd Infantry Division Known as the Buffalo Soldiers by James Harden Daugherty (Xlibris, Corp., 2009)

Black Warriors: The Buffalo Soldiers of World War II Memories of the Only Negro Infantry Division to Fight in Europe during World War II by Ivan J. Houston with contributor Gordon Cohn (iUniverse Star, 2011)


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