Monday, November 29, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
|M. T. Anderson|
The actual ‘game’ has its genesis in an old, water-damaged game board that the boys find in the nursery – yes, it’s that kind of big old house, and as there is no television, they are sent to the nursery after dinner to entertain themselves. The title on the game board is “The Game of Sunken Places,” and it includes a detailed illustration of Grendle Manor, the house in which they are staying. They can find no directions, and most of the game board is smeared from the water damage, but later, they do find an hourglass timer that goes with the game board. When Gregory turns it over …
(from pages 34-35)
(from pages 85-86)
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
September 1st: Folks who want to present at the conference must have their presentation proposals submitted by this date. We had over 300 this year!
September 25-ish (around the third weekend of the month) - the IRC Board of Directors meeting happens, and that is when the President-elect and select others go through the proposals and decide which ones should be accepted, which ones can be accepted with some changes, and which ones belong with which strands. Once this is done, the Executive Director can put the abstracts into a draft of the Preliminary Program book.
Mid-October: the Executive Director and President-elect must finish up reviewing drafts of the Preliminary Program book so that it can go to the printer.
About a week later: The Preliminary Programs arrive from the printer and can begin to be distributed to those who contact the office and request them.
mid-November-ish: Preliminary Programs are distributed at the Board of Directors' meeting in Bloomington. (Getting them ready for this time is why it's so crucial to get them proofed and sent to the printer quickly.)
I will receive a box of them in the mail shortly, probably tomorrow, and I can't wait to see them! We're really on our way now, folks!
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Ha, ye of little faith, who do not think I will reach my goal! Actually, I am quite worried, but I'm having a good time doing it. I have yet to run across a 'miss' in any of the books by these authors, which just reinforces my joy at having them come to the conference in March.
At least a quick bit about each of these books is in order. First of all, I picked up The Lightning Thief, oddly enough (and truly unplanned), the day after my husband and I had watched the remake of Clash of the Titans. I have to say - that really enhanced my enjoyment of the book, although I would have loved it otherwise as well. I was just already in 'titan' mode, I guess, and really liked connecting the dots, so to speak, as I read about the beings that I had just seen in the movie. I'm sure everyone knows about this book by now, especially since it was made into a move (I need to see that, too). But bear with me as I add just a few notes for those few folks who may not be familiar with it. First of all, this book has GOT to appeal to middle school boys; the main character is a boy about 12 years old,
one who has spent most of his life sent away to boarding schools. He has dyslexia and does not necessarily enjoy school. Turns out there's a perfectly good reason for the boarding school bit, and it has nothing to do with the dyslexia. He also has a creepy stepfather. That said, I can also see the book appealing to girls. There are a few girls who figure into the plot, but that shouldn't matter, as far as I'm concerned. I don't think the gender of the main character of a story should necessariliy impact anyone's enjoyment, but maybe I'm being naive. Anyway, as with other fabulous reads, the author creates wonderful mind-pictures so that the reader can connect easily with what's going on in every scene. Anyway, it turns out that this middle school boy, who is not very successful in school, and isn't happy about the fact that he doesn't have a lot of friends, since he goes to a different school every year, is in fact quite significant to the fabric of the world. He has a quest to complete that has tremendous implications for humanity. I love the fact that the underdog, someone who is not the most popular kid in school, suddenly gains remarkable importance. I also like the fact that there are factors worked into the story that might seem trivial but that really do have a point, like the fact that Percy's mother is married to a creepy stepfather. There's a reason. But to return to the reason I am reading this book in the first place, I want to remind you that this author is NOT coming to the conference, but the illustrator, John Rocco, is. I found a site with lots of illustrations he's done about the Percy Jackson series. They're beautiful and you can purchase them from that site.
On to Mordicai Gerstein's The Old Country. I picked this up not long after finishing the last book in Patrick Carman's Land of Elyon series, and found an immediate connection between the two. First of all, a bit of a plot summary: a young girl unwillingly changes places with a fox. And when I mean changes places, I mean her heart / soul / personality / spirit goes into the body of the fox, and vice versa. Yup. And this is not something that makes the girl happy, but it sure makes the fox happy. Much of the story is devoted to the girl-in-the-fox trying desperately to get back to her family. The connection with Carman's series is that there exists an ability to communicate between animals and humans. Whereas in the Land of Elyon, one must have possession of a Jocasta stone, in The Old Country the communication must take place in a certain meadow. There must always be a condition for such a magic to happen, and these two authors just used different conditions. But on to the story. For me, there are two characteristics of this book that make it special. One is that it was told in a fashion close to "Once upon a time," set in 'the old country,' although the reader never knows what country that is, specifically. This is done purposefully, I'm sure; that kind of anonymity is part and parcel of fairy tales of old. The other is that it really does require the reader to consider "...the question of what it is to be human" (quote taken from the back of the book). I'm an animal lover, so there you have it. And of course there's a surprise ending - love those! But truly, this book was a joy to read. While The Lightning Thief kept me on the edge of my seat a lot, this book made me snuggle into the covers at night, in anticipation of joining Gisella in her quest to return to her family.
First Light for the next one, when I'll also talk about The Game of Sunken Places. But I did want to post a picture here, too. It's of the Conference Shirts and my display for the 2011 Illinois Reading Council Conference! While I don't love pictures of myself, I love the shirts and the display and wanted to share them with you. Don't forget: you can order shirts online!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Okay, on to the reading.
Sometimes I run across a book that I swear offers a window into understanding children - well, okay, people in general. But children are often trickier because after they get to a certain age, many of them don't feel they have the right to explain their thinking out loud to us adults. So every elementary teacher and preservice teacher should pick up Sara Pennypacker's Clementine series and read, read, read! Not only are these books hilarious, they do help to explain what's going on in that brain; not that every third-grader is thinking along the same lines as Clementine (yikes!) but Pennypacker's take on the third-grade psyche at least reminds us that what we suspect or assume might be a student's motivation is not necessarily the case, and we need to keep open minds ourselves ... and ask them what they're thinking.
|Here's a picture of the three I've read - there are five in all, and I'm so looking forward to reading the other two!|
"Yes, Clementine? Would you like to be in the cooperative group for refreshments?"
"No, thank you," I said, extra politely. "What I'd like is to go to Mrs. Rice's office."
"Clementine, you don't need to go see the principal," my teacher said. "You're not in any trouble."
"Well, it's just a matter of time," I told him. (page 3, The Talented Clementine)
Something else I like about these books is the way Pennypacker characterizes the parents. Mom is a work-at-home artist, and Dad is the building manager for their apartment building. Not the most glamorous jobs, and ones that are not often included in children's literature. It reminds me of 'blessing a book:' for young folk anyway, if the teacher reads a book, especially to the whole class, well, then it must be good. If these two occupations are good enough to be included in a book, then they really are attainable occupations. The more occupations we introduce our students to, the more options they realize they have in life.
In looking for reviews for the Clementine books, I ran across this web site that reviews children's books for parents (and of course teachers). I have not delved in too deeply, but what I see up front looks quite helpful. The site rates books on several criteria, including content, sex, bad language, violence, etc. I'll have to explore a little more, but I decided to include it here for now so that you could explore it as well.
Right now I'm over half way through Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief (from the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians), NOT because Riordan is coming to the conference (he is not), but because John Rocco is the illustrator, and HE IS!!!
Saturday, September 4, 2010
The general gist of the book is this: Marina (nearly 14) accompanies her mother and multiple younger brothers to the top of a mountain with her mother's preacher and several others who refer to themselves as 'Believers.' Jed also goes, to accompany his father. Jed's not a Believer, but Marina is. Both of their parents have been separated (not amicably) from their respective spouses, so Marina and Jed are in somewhat similar positions in their young lives. So of course they're going to get together somehow on this mountain.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
It also made me think about the genesis of big things --- who knew, really, when these guys took up their traditional instrument, that it could and would turn into something so far from the original, traditional idea? What are our kids doing in school - or NOT getting to do in school - that could eventually turn out to be something amazing, especially something that no one had conceptualized before? I really think the educators and parents of today need to fight to retain a place for creative and divergent thinking in the schools. I was watching an episode of Boston Legal the other night, and one of the cases was about the mother of a high school student suing the school because of the amount of pressure put on kids these days. Points were made about how the need to succeed has pushed kids to become test-taking machines just to get into the best colleges, and how cheating has become so rampant in our colleges and universities, for much the same reason. Learning itself has been pushed out of much of school, and I find that very sad, and very limiting.
What a downer! So if you want a little lift, click on that link and listen to some of the most amazing music I'll bet you've heard in a long, long time. And get those proposals in for the conference!
Friday, August 20, 2010
Sunday, August 8, 2010
I finished M.T. Anderson's book, Feed, on the flight home from Grapevine Texas today, and I have to say, I loved this book. (I don't know if my roommate would concur, though, as I interrupted her own reading several times with something along the lines of "Oh, I just have to read this one part to you. Is that okay?") And my apologies to Mr. Anderson: in an interview with him at the end of the book, he disagrees that the book is futuristic, but he says something much more astute. I'll let you know what that was tomorrow, but I'm not going to unpack tonight.
So my point is this: while I liked the ending, it also left me wanting something in particular, and I think if you read the book, you might want the same thing. I would like to request that M.T. Anderson write, as his next novel, a sequel to this one titled Feedless. Read Feed - you'll understand.
I'm going to post a couple of pictures from the I.R.A. leadership workshop here. Of course, if you go to Texas, you MUST have honey cornbread in the shape of the state. And Susan Cisna and I wore t-shirts from one of our local councils, Northwestern Illinois Reading Council, so a big shout out to our reading professionals in northwestern Illinois! We also had the opportunity to meet with I.R.A.'s president-elect, Vickie Risko, and spent some wonderful time collaborating with her and exchanging information about our two organizations. I love these meetings, when we can be really productive and enjoy ourselves with fabulous people!
In my quest to read every book by every author who is coming to the 2011 IRC conference, I'm in the middle of M. T. Anderson's Feed, and all I can say is that it is the furthest thing from a yawn banquet you can imagine!
I feel an explanation is in order. First of all, why am I 'greeting' you from Grapevine Texas? Well, those of you familiar with the Illinois Reading Council may know that the local council leaders have an opportunity every summer to attend a leadership retreat at Grand Bear Lodge in Utica, close to Starved Rock State Park. The state level organization organizes this so that local council leaders may learn more about their positions and have some dedicated time to plan out their year's events. I mentioned this in the previous posting. Well, guess what? The International Reading Association does the same thing for state level organizations. This year they brought us to Grapevine, Texas, just outside Dallas, and we are spending time setting goals and making plans for the rest of the year ourselves. It's great to get to interact with folks from other state and provincial councils, to share ideas and try to problem-solve collaboratively, and we greatly appreciate the opportunity that the I.R.A. provides us to do so.
Now for the explanation of the yawn banquet. Feed is futuristic, and in this future, the internet is implanted into people's brains, I believe at birth. And it's proactive. If you go to a store and look at soccer balls, it will automatically send your brain ads for soccer balls and personalize the sales pitch. Spooky, huh? Well, the story is told from the point of view of a teenage boy, and as you can imagine, teenage boy 'language' is an entity unto itself. Anything boring is referred to as a 'total yawn banquet.' If a girl is pretty, she is 'youch,' and if she is REALLY pretty, she is 'meg youch.' And even though the topic is serious, this is a hilarious book. M. T. Anderson slips in just enough humor to make the reader look forward to the rest of the humor while still being able to concentrate on the story line. I can't wait to meet this author in March!
The opportunities for talking about vocabulary are rife in this book, though there is also some language that would be deemed objectionable by some folks. But I can't help myself - I can't stop reading it! I have to go attend another meeting in a few minutes, and I am so tempted to slip Feed into my bag and slip it out when no one is looking.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Anyone reading this blog who might be considering running for office for your local council, please go right ahead and take that step. And when you do, mark your calendars for next July for the IRC Leadership Resort at Grand Bear Resort in Utica. It's a great chance to get your questions answered about your office and to get your council's events for the year all planned out. Oh, and did I mention Membership Grant money? And the motivational speaker? And the book sale? And the indoor water park? Really, the guidance that this organization provides to new leaders is phenomenal. New officers understand their roles much better after attending Leadership, and all it costs you is your time. (Unless you stop at one of the wineries down the road.)
Monday, July 5, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
This year the I.R.A. convention was held in Chicago. That turned out to be especially fortuitous for the I.R.A. members from Illinois for two reasons: first of all, more of them could go to the convention because travel was less expensive; also, the Illinois Reading Council won five I.R.A. awards this year, so more Illinois members got to go to the awards ceremony to see the awards bestowed! Way to go, Illinois - you continue to be top-notch in your dedication to professional development! The I.R.A. convention will return to Chicago in 2012, and I'm sure the Illinois Reading Council will be big winners again!
The I.R.A. convention boasted some of the same speakers we will have in 2011: Jane Yolen, T.A.Barron, Diane Barone, Cindy Middendorf, and Frank Serafini were all there. (Honestly, check out Dr. Serafini's page - is there anything that man can't do?) I didn't get a chance to talk with Diane and Jane, but I did get to talk with both Frank and Tom for a bit. Whenever I'm in a position to speak with someone 'of greatness,' I feel like I shouldn't be taking up their time, but these two were awesome in their kindness! I had spoken with Jane Yolen last year at I.R.A. and Diane Barone this year at the Michigan Reading Association conference, and they were both wonderful as well. (I have not met Cindy Middendorf yet, but she's got a great first name!) It's always good to know we have nice people coming to our conference, isn't it?
Remember my last post? If not, scroll down and give it a skim - it refers to my cousin and his daughter, Sophia, who is giving us her 'librarian look' in the picture. Anyway, she woke up one morning and wrote a poem about a dragon about whom she had dreamt. So when I met T.A. Barron, who has a Merlin’s Dragon Trilogy, I wanted to show her poem to him. That’s what I’m holding in the picture here. I was going to ask him to sign it, but I had already asked him to sign two books for Sophia, and there were others in line, so I nixed that idea. Maybe another time, like next March, in Illinois!
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010