Friday, December 28, 2012

Audiobook Jukebox Review: Dork Diaries 5: Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All

 Audiobook Review

Dork Diaries 5: Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All

Publisher's Summary

Nikki Maxwell authors an advice column for the school newspaper in this fifth installment of the New York Times best-selling Dork Diaries series.
Nikki Maxwell develops a sudden interest in student journalism that may or may not (okay, definitely does) have to do with the fact that mean girl Mackenzie has started writing a gossip column. And there just might be some info involving Nikki’s crush, Brandon, that Nikki doesn’t want Mackenzie reporting to the world. So Nikki joins the school newspaper staff - and ends up as an advice columnist!  It’s fun at first, answering other kids’ letters. But when Miss Know-It-All’s inbox is suddenly overflowing with pleas for guidance, Nikki feels in need of some help herself. Fortunately she has BFFs Chloe and Zoey on her side - and at her keyboard! 

My Review

Although this is Russell's fifth installment in this series, I had not previously read or listened to any of the Dork Diaries.  Fans of the series will most likely be eager to get their hands on book number five.  If you are like me, though, and have not yet read one of the books, rest assured that you will still enjoy listening to book number five. Fans of books written in a diary-style and tween girls will especially find this audiobook of interest.  Nikki Maxwell, the author of this tween diary, gives readers enough background and detail into her current situations, that readers are easily able to feel as if they have known her from the beginning of her diary-keeping-days.  Jenni Barber's dramatic narration of Nikki's diary convinces listeners that they are listening to a tween's melodramatic adventures and daily musings. 

Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All, offers listeners a great way to ring in the New Year, as Nikki's latest diary begins with a prank that occurs over the winter break and leads to a lot of drama in the new year!  Tween girls will easily relate to Nikki as she recounts, in detail, her feelings as she deals with the antics of mean-girl, Mackenzie, her pesky younger sister, her crush, Brandon, and the support of her best friends, Chloe and 
Zoey.  So, grab your favorite blanket, curl up in a cozy spot, and listen to Dork Diaries 5: Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All!

Friday, November 30, 2012

It's Poetry Friday! Taking A "Poetry Break!" with Alan Katz

  by Amy Merrill1
NYSRA, Syracuse, NY October 2012:  Taking a "Poetry Break!" with author Alan Katz!  

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting today's Poetry Friday Round-Up at The Poem Farm!  Be sure to visit her blog for lots of poetry delights!




“Alan Katz: A Silly Dilly Author”                                                                                           

NYSRA Conference 2012 attendees may have been lucky enough to experience a relaxing, humorous, and inspirational breakfast and/or conference session with funny-man and author, Alan Katz!  Mr. Katz has a long list of credits to his name, including, having written for television shows, games shows, children’s programing, newspapers, comic books, poetry books, trading cards, games, picture books, and much more!  Mr. Katz inspired and entertained his audience by sharing his own writing stories and inspiration for their creation.  One such strategy is for writing parodies.  First one must select a well-known song, then count the number of syllables in each line, and finally change the lyrics to match your topic.  Singing silly songs is what led Mr. Katz to create silly poetry and tales.  He has always enjoyed writing and writing about the ordinary, which is often funny and silly.  A major source of writing inspiration has always come from his experiences with his own family.  Mr. Katz’s many songs, poems and stories have sprung onto the page as a result of something his children have said or done.  Additional advice for achieving one’s dreams, offered by Mr. Katz, is “if you want to be a writer (or whatever interests you), you need to get out there and write (or do whatever it is you want to do)!  
Alan Katz’s book titles include:

                                                                                                                                     Poems I Wrote While No One Was Looking

Don’t Say That Word!  
Several Silly Dilly Songbooks      
Karate Pig

Be sure to check out these funny and engaging poetry books, silly song books, and picture books!  You will also not want to miss Alan Katz's website.  Click here to visit his site! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Literary Quote: Expect Miracles

I am realistic.  I expect miracles.  
~Wayne Dyer

As we enter into the winter holiday season, we become especially mindful of all the joys of the season.  I feel though, that everyday is a blessing.  We should expect great things from our everyday lives, no matter what the time of year.  For me, family, good friends, pets, delicious food, and of course, books offer daily opportunities for miraculous happenings!  

Take time today (and everyday) to read something great!  

Here is a fabulous suggestion for something great to read . . . 

Here is an inspiring true story about an abandoned kitten who makes a small town library his home.  If you don't already, Dewey Readmore Books, a loveable cat will have you believing in miracles!

Picture book version.

Librarian, Vicki Myron (with Bret Witter) tells the story of Dewey the Library Cat in this heart-warming true story. 
Visit The Spencer Library's website to read or listen to an excerpt from the book.   

A version for middle grade readers.
Dewey's Christmas adventures are featured in this holiday picture book. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Thanksgiving Quote

In honor of Thanksgiving I'd like to share a special song that is a favorite of a special friend and colleague.  What a beautiful song with beautiful sentiments, especially as we look forward to spending Thanksgiving with our family and friends.  

Thanks a lot to my friend, Ellen!  

Thanks a Lot 
   by Raffi 

Thanks a lot,
Thanks for Sun in the sky.

Thanks a lot,
Thanks for clouds so high.

Thanks a lot,
Thanks for whispering wind.

Thanks a lot,
Thanks for the birds in the spring.

Thanks a lot,
Thanks for the moonlit night.

Thanks a lot,
Thanks for the stars so bright.

Thanks a lot,
Thanks for the wondering me.

Thanks a lot,
Thanks for the way I feel.

Thanks for the animals,
Thanks for the land,
Thanks for the people everywhere.

Thanks a lot,
Thanks for all I've got.
Thanks for all I've got. 

You can find Thanks a Lot on Raffi's album, Baby Beluga.        

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Picture Book Quote: A Bad Day

When I went to bed Nick took back the pillow he said I could keep and the Mickey Mouse night light burned out and I bit my tongue.  The cat wants to sleep with Anthony not me. 
          It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. 
          My mom says some days are like that.  

~Alexander from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst 

Picture Books: Connecting With Characters

  by Amy Merrill1
Mrs. Erin Mellander with her favorite picture book.
Today we welcome the kindergarten consultant teacher from Calvin Coolidge Elementary School, Mrs. Erin Mellander!

Here's her favorite picture book and the story behind why she loves it!

Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith viorst

It has always been one of my favorite books because it is so truthful. Sometimes it seems that no matter what you do, the day is doomed. I always felt the author was being so honest about what it was like to be a kid. I grew up as the middle child and I sometimes felt like I was the only one who didn't get what I wanted. I really related to Alexander! As a teacher who works with students who have A LOT of bad days, I read this to them to let them know that there is always another day. When you have another day....there is another chance to get it right!

There is also more books with Alexander. Alexander who used to be rich last Sunday and Alexander who's not( do you hear me? I mean it!) going to move. I also love both of these Alexander stories and when I started building my own classroom library, the boxed set of these stories was the first thing I bought!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mother Goose Monday: Character Cupcakes!

  by Amy Merrill1
A cracked up Humpty Dumpty cupcake designed by my daughter, Sarah Merrill!
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall!
All the king's horses
And all the king's men,
Couldn't put Humpty together again!

Character cupcakes are a delicious way to celebrate any rhyme, poem, or picture book!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Poetry Friday (on Sunday!): Picture Book Previews

Happy Poetry Friday (on Sunday)!  It's been a very busy week but it's never too late to celebrate Poetry Friday!  Friday's Round-Up was hosted at Think Kid Think

Picture Book Poems . . . 

While preparing for a Book Break, I discovered a delightful surprise!  On the back cover of the book was an adorably, fun and whimsical poetic preview.  This short poem became the perfect way to present a Book Break! 

Here is the poem . . .  

Once upon a time, 
There was a bear,
Who came upon 
Some underwear. 
Too big?
Too small?
Too tight?
Which ones would fit just righ?
Find out Bear's favorite pair,
So his bottom won't be bare!

Picture books and poetry are perfect partners!  Whether you are lucky enough to discover a little poem as part of a book's preview or you pair a picture book and poem with the same theme, the two go hand in hand!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Celebrating Picture Book Month: Penguin Group Warehouse Sale 2012

  by Amy Merrill1
Round 1 purchases!
Attending the Penguin Group Warehouse book sale is one of many great ways to celebrate Picture Book Month!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Literary Quote: Picture Books Are For Everyone

Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older. The best ones leave a tantalizing gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader’s imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book.                                                                            ~Anthony Browne, UK Children’s Laureate, 2009-2011

What are your favorite picture books?  Everyone has a memory associated with a favorite picture book or two (or one hundred and two!).  Although I personally have SEVERAL favorite picture books and am continually finding new ones to love, I do have a favorite from childhood.  
This was a treasured little book that soon became one of my favorites!  As a child, I had to spend quite a bit of time in children's hospitals.  Each time I prepared to take the trip to enter the hospital, my beloved Grandma would cuddle me onto her lap and read this story to me as many times as I wanted to hear it.  Although I wasn't going to have my tonsils removed, I was able to identify with the little girl in the book as she also prepared for her own hospital stay.  Besides all of the obvious reasons that this was one of my favorite books as a child, I also really loved the sound of the little girl's doctor's name: Dr. Constantanople!  I looked forward to hearing Grandma say his name and I loved to repeat it.  Dr. Constantanople!  

I would love to find a copy of this Little Golden Book that was important to me so long ago.   What a glorious way to relive memories of my Grandma who is no longer with us!  Thanks Grandma for sharing those special moments with me and for putting my mind at ease about my hospital stays. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Celebrate Picture Book Month With Poetry!

 Donna at Mainely Write  is the host of today's Poetry Friday Round-Up.  Be sure to visit and become immersed in poetry!

Poems to Celebrate Picture Book Month!

Piles of Picture Books 
 by Charles Ghigna 

I like reading picture books.
I sit and take my time.
I listen to each story.
I listen to each rhyme.
Read the entire poem at Charles Ghigna's Blog. 

One of my favorite little poetry anthologies . . .

Good Books Good Times 
by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Good books.
Good times.
Good stories.
Good rhymes.
Good beginnings.
Good ends.
Good people.
Good friends.
Good fiction.
Good facts.
Good adventures.
Good acts.
Good stories.
Good rhymes.
Good books
Good times.
This month, one of the ways  my students and I will celebrate Picture Book Month, is by reading and reciting poetry about books!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Picture Book Month 2012!

November is Picture Book Month!

Founded by author and storyteller, Diane de Las Casas, Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative that celebrates the joys of the printed picture book!

Be sure to visit the official website that celebrates Picture Book Month to read daily essays about the importance of picture books.  Each day will feature a new essay by a different author/illustrator.  





Tuesday, October 30, 2012

This Week's Literary Quote . . .

I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.  ~Voltaire

 Here are some great books that make me happy!

Mo Willems reads aloud from We Are In A Book (an Elephant & Piggie book)!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

NYSRA Community Day Literacy Event

If you are in the conference area on Sunday October 29, please stop by for a visit!
New York State Reading Association presents . . .

Community Day: Literacy: Charlotte Awards & Beyond!
Holiday Inn
Liverpool, NY
1:00 - 3:00 pm

Ellen Mouillesseaux and I will be hosting . . .

On the Loose with Mother Goose: Early Literacy Through Nursery Rhymes

Off to NYSRA!

New York State Reading Association Conference 2012

Literacy: Common Core and Beyond  

I am off to attend NYSRA's annual literacy conference.  There will be plenty of opportunities to engage in professional development, take part in featured author and illustrator events, meet new people who share a love for literacy, language, and books, and participate in a Community Event centered around family literacy and education. 

I am also looking forward to performances by Sarah Ada!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Poetry Friday: Poetry Props! 1

  by Amy Merrill1
   Skeleton Poetry Props!  Literacy teacher, Ellen Mouillesseaux and my 5th grade daughter, Sarah!

Today's Poetry Friday Round-Up is being hosted by Linda at Teacher Dance Make sure you stop on over to see what poetry goodies she has for our "Poetry Break!" pleasures!


Poetry Props . . . 

 Engaging Readers & Entertaining Audiences!

One of my favorite poems to introduce to children this time of year is Jack Prelutsky's spectacular Skeleton Parade!  Traditionally I dim the lights, introduce the idea of a skeleton and a parade of them on Halloween, turn on my spooky voice, and demonstrate how to dramatize the poem as it is recited.  Children love it and are captivated by the magic of a spooktacularly fun and engaging poem!  Prelutsky's poem is easily remembered and children are able to reread it several times afterwards with confidence in themselves because of the creative dramatics that we used to recite it in the first place.  This poem is one that certainly sticks with you!  

Earlier this week my good friend and colleague, Ellen Mouillesseaux (literacy curriculum specialist), presented me with a poetry present!  She had discovered a lovely little garland of skeletons at her local dollar store and cut the little guys off the garland to become individual skeleton props!  We all had such fun using the little skeletons as we recited Skeleton Parade!  Children dangled tiny skeletons off their finger, marionette-style, as their skeletons "marched about the streets with bony bodies, bony heads, bony hands, and bony feet!"  

If you are not already familiar with Skeleton Parade, march yourself to your school or public library to check out a Halloween poetry collection!  You can find Prelutsky's poem in a couple of different poetry collections or anthologies.  Here are a couple . . . 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Literary Quote: Living in a Fantasy World

Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.  It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.  ~Dr. Seuss 

Watch author and children's book expert, Anita Silvey's brief video about the infamous Dr. Seuss! Watch here at  Author Profile  

Fans of Dr. Seuss won't want to miss this newest book . . . . it has been described as "a literary equivalent of a buried treasure!"

Watch this video about the creation of The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mother Goose Monday: Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater

  by Amy Merrill1
 photo by Amy Merrill1 on Flickr.
Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater
by Mother Goose

Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater
Had a wife and couldn't keep her.
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well!

 A retro nursery rhyme book with a brightly illustrated version of the classic Mother Goose rhyme, a pumpkin birdhouse, and a "Peter" and his wife miniature dolls, is all you need to dramatize and retell this nursery rhyme!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Literary Quote: Happy Dictionary Day!

Happy Dictionary Day (October 16)!

Life is our dictionary.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Happy Birthday Noah Webster!

Dictionary Day honors Noah Webster, who is considered the Father of the American Dictionary.   He was born on October 16, 1758.  We celebrate this day to emphasize the importance of dictionary skills.  Additionally Dictionary Day also strives to improve vocabulary.  Webster began to write his dictionary when he was 43and ittook him 27 years to complete it! 

October 16, 1758 - May 28, 1843
 To read about Noah Webster's life and love of words, check out this biography (grades 2 - 6) . . . 

Noah Webster: Weaver of Words by Pegi Deitz Shea and  illustrations by Monica Vachula
"Noah Webster is best known for writing American dictionaries. But that's not all he did." He also published America's first spelling and reading texts, wrote pamphlets against slavery, and helped establish the public education system. He "had the energy of a thousand bees, and knowledge was his nectar." Chronology. Bibliography. Index. Full-color paintings done in oil on board. A 2010 NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book.
~from the Junior Library Guild
Click here for a wide selection of ideas for teaching dictionary skills.  There are many links to prinntables, games, and other resources.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Scary Dictionary!

Happy Poetry Friday!  Today's round-up is being hosted by Betsy Hubbard at Teaching Young WritersBe sure to stop by her blog for a "Poetry Break!" 

Poetry Friday: A Scary Dictionary!

I love this gem of a poem that I found in Caroline Feller Bauer's, Leading Kids to Books Through Puppets (American Library Association 1997)!  Bauer suggests that we read the poem in a theater format with two puppets.  Whether Charles Ghigna's dictionary poem is read with puppets, as a poem for two voices, or simply recited aloud, it is a great poem to inspire  word wizards everywhere!

The Scary Dictionary 
  by Charles Ghigna
The biggest book you'll ever see  
Lives deep inside the library!  

Alone it sits upon the stand;                                       
Your ticket to a magic land.

Don't be afraid.  Don't try to hide.
Just open it up and look inside. 
It's really fun to find a word. 
It may be one you've never heard. 

It may be long.  It may be short. 
It may be just your favorite sport. 
So get on your mark and get set. 
It's time to play the alphabet!

You see it isn't very scary . . . 
It's just the dictionary!  

This poem will be read by two voices on Monday, as my colleague and I read it over our school's PA system.  This is a fabulous poem to launch another week of our "word of the day" announcements.  I also plan to send a copy of the poem to each classroom to serve as a fun reminder of using a dictionary to "find a word," maybe even "one (we've) never heard!"  Just like everyone needs a copy of a good dictionary, everyone also needs a copy of a good dictionary poem! 

To read more about Charles Ghigna, also known as Father Goose, click here.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Literary Quote: Behaving Properly

"It is helpful to know the proper way to behave, so one can decide whether or not to be proper."
~Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine


If you've never read this tale before, you'll want to make sure that you do so.  If you are a fan of fairy tales and fantasy, or simply enjoy a good read, make Ella Enchanted your next choice! 

Read chapter one of Ella Enchanted here, at Levine's website.  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Celebrate Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week 

(September 30 - October 6, 2012)

"Reprinted by permission of the American Library Association."

To kick off this important celebration for book lovers everywhere, I'd like to welcome Teacher Librarian, Peg Gates.  Peg is a dedicated and knowledgeable teacher librarian that divides her time between two elementary schools in my district.  A  little reading fact about Peg is that her favorite place to read is – on her back porch in the summer, with a glass of iced tea and some goldfish!

Peg tells us about this celebration that promotes the freedom to choose what we read . . .  

What is Banned Books Week?
     What do Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl and Maurice Sendak’s classic In the Night Kitchen all have in common? Believe it or not, each of these well-known works of literature has been banned from some libraries! Challenges have been made to their inclusions in collections based on supporting witchcraft and wizardry (Harry), being too depressing and too imaginative (Anne) and nudity (Night Kitchen).
Every year, the American Library Association (ALA) recognizes our “freedom to read” (ALA website, by highlighting and celebrating those books that have been eliminated from or restricted in library collections due to censorship. This year (September 30th – October 6th) marks the 30th anniversary of this celebration, which each year consists of an updated list of challenged books and recognition of the  “efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read” (ALA website).
Why is it important to celebrate Banned Books Week?
A quick look at other books on the list makes this an easy question.  In addition to the classics mentioned above, consider a library without James and the Giant Peach, The Five Chinese Brothers, and the beloved poetry of Shel Silverstein. Modern YA novels dealing with subjects facing young teens, such as bullying, adolescence, drug use and suicide have been challenged. Because of the collective support of many parents, teachers and students, these books have remained on the shelves, continuing to be a source of inspiration and solace for their readers.
      Have I ever had books challenged in the library?
Oh, yes. While I’ve never received a formal challenge filed with the school district, I have been approached about removing books from the collection for various reasons. The most common observation from adults is that the material contained in the book is too mature for our level. Students point out pictures that they find to be “inappropriate.” Generally, the parents have been right – and I’ve sent the books to the middle school. And the students – well, the items tend to stay in the collection, and they love to share them with friends!
Thanks for sharing Peg
If you have not already read one of these challenged books, you may wish to check them out at your school or public library . . .