Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween from the Library!--October 30

Fourth graders are spooked!!

Happy Halloween!

This past week we had fun--just lots of fun--reading from our wonderful collection of Halloween stories. There are so many, it's hard to pick our favorites.

First graders giggled to the story of Porkenstein by Kathryn Lasky in which one of the surviving pigs from another familiar tale decides to create a friend since his two brothers are long gone and he's lonely. After several attempts he creates a huge pig who not only eats him out of house and home, but almost eats the home itself! But on Halloween night, his new "friend" proves to be a valuable one and after one familiar wolf is dispatched with ease, the two take off trick or treating together, friends forever. The illustrations in this book are wonderful and it makes such a fun read aloud.

Kindergarten--What would you do if your little sister accidentally switched costumes with you and instead of being Captain Zigg, Space Martian pilot, you had to dress as.....oh,no....a ballerina in a pink tutu!! This is what happens to Gilbert in Diane DeGroat's Trick or Treat Smell My Feet and kindergarteners loved how Gilbert made the best of it.

Second Grade--We felt like we were looking at a photo album in Susan Wojciechoski's fun story The Best Halloween of All. After years of wearing costumes lovingly made but uncomfortable to wear, Ben decides when he's seven that the time has come for him to make his own costume which he does with a grocery bag and paper towel rolls. To him, it is the best costume ever, not to mention he earns bonus points for using recycled materials!

Third Grade--Mark Teague has once again put Mona, Wendall, and Floyd in One Halloween Night, this delightful story about a Halloween night that starts out with strange happenings and ends up a wonderful mix of supernatural powers and putting some bullies/witches in their place. The bright, colorful illustrations make this book a great read aloud.

Fourth Grade--From Spain comes the tale of Esteban and the Ghost by Sisyl Hancock. In a haunted castle, Esteban, a simple tinker, faces the ghost who has scared many men to death, and wins the gold, silver and copper coins. The rollicking story and clever illustrations kept the attention of all and it was interesting to read a Halloween story from another culture.

Fifth Grade-How many times have children been told to pick up their own things? In Bruce Coville's wonderfully funny/scary story "Duffy's Jacket" three children find themselves in a lot of trouble when Duffy forgets his jacket. This story is so cleverly written that while I was getting close to the climax of the tale, you could hear a pin drop in the library. After finishing the story we had fun "de-constructing" it and seeing just how the author built that amazing tension at the end using short descriptive sentences in a rhythmic buildup. (This story can be found in Alice Lows's great collection of scary stories for older children, Spooky Stories for a Dark and Stormy Night)

Sixth Grade-We all know R.L. Stine for his Goosebumps series, but in a collection of stories he edited called Beware! he included one of his own creations, "The Surprise Guest," guaranteed to chill your bones. Not to give it away, suffice to say that the sixth graders also got very, very quiet toward the end of the story and all will be checking out their Halloween costumes before putting them on tomorrow night!

Happy Halloween to all!

Monday, October 23, 2006

News From the Library--October 23

It's beginning to look a lot like Halloween.....

Pumpkins, black cats, witches, ghosts and goblins, and lots of Halloween books were all over the library this week as we head toward Halloween. And this week was also the "Week of the Hat." Once a month, (after I've sent out overdue notices the previous week) we have drawings in each class (grades 2-6) to reward one lucky student who has at least one book checked out and no overdue items. Student's names are put in a hat, a card is drawn, we check that lucky student's name on the computer and if all is well, a small prize is given. I'll do this each month during the school year. (K and 1 students will start in January as they are still getting used to the idea of checking out and returning books) This little incentive has worked wonders to keep our books circulating and returning in a timely manner, and several long lost books have even been suddenly found!

Last week in the Library:

Kindergarten--What happens when a witch grows a huge pumpkin and when she tries to harvest it to make her favorite pumpkin pie she can't get it off the vine? In Big Pumpkin by by Erica Silverman and S.D. Schindler the tiny bat saves the day. This is a fun, cumulative story with a nice message about the value of cooperation. Kindergarteners were very excited about their upcoming visit to the pumpkin patch, too.

First Grade--In a not-too-spooky haunted house, two escaped jailbirds encounter a variety of halloween creatures in Halloween House by Erica Silverman and Jon Agee. This clever rhyming story also introduces the concept of counting down and first graders loved getting into the rhythm as the story progressed.

Second Grade--What is Wittilda the Witch going to do in order to feed her 47 hungry cats? Delivering pizza on her broom is the hilarious answer in A Job for Wittilda by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner. Not only is the story a lot of fun, but on each page is a hidden spider, and in the margins a concurrent visual story of a cat and a mouse! This is one of our favorite Halloween books!

Third Grade--Most of us are very familiar with Chris VanAllsburg's Polar Express but he has also written and illustrated (as only he can) a very interesting book perfect for Halloween. The Widow's Broom is a gentle and dryly humorous tale that touches on the idea of bullying and its consequences. Sepia-toned illustrations form a perfect complement. Not a book to be missed!

Fourth Grade--As with the fifth graders last week, I introduced the fourth graders to the blog and encouraged them to try their hands at book review blogging. After viewing a presentation on blogs in general, we tried our collective hand at a mock blog review. I'm looking forward to their contributions.

Fifth Grade--Get out those scalpels (pencils) and start dissecting those books! Fifth grade worked this week on "dissecting" a book in which they found all the locations of information needed for bibliography entries. This is in preparation for another lesson on making a bibliography. And once again they asked me to tell the story of how my high school lab partner (a fullback on the football team) fainted when we were dissecting a frog.....

Sixth Grade--After bringing their laptops to the Library (and I must compliment them on how well they are treating their laptops!) we had a short lesson on blogs, including the ethical ways to post to a blog, and then they had time to explore this blog and to learn how become bloggers of book reviews.

Until next week....happy reading!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

News From The Library--October 16

Introducing......our resident book reviewer.....Olive, The Library Cat!

Starting soon, we will have book reviews from students and they will be posted with the "help" of our library mascot, Olive, The Library Cat. A little history about Olive....I was scouting around some garage/estate sales in Montecito one Saturday morning and at one house perched up high on an old bookshelf was this amazing stuffed animal. It looked so real I almost thought it was a pet cat. As it turned out it was for sale (for a great price, I might add!) and I knew she had to be mine. When I brought her home, I thought she'd be fun to keep in the Library and she could reside on the little wicker couch in the Inglenook. I made the mistake of temporarily setting her down on the floor in my living room and soon after heard growling and hissing sounds. My own cat, Katy, (a.k.a queen of the house) did not like her presence one little bit! So Olive had to sit in my car for the rest of the weekend until she came home to the Library. The Kindergarten students named her after one of our favorite books, That Olive! by Alice Schertle. Now she sits in the Inglenook and all the children enjoy her very much.

For safety reasons I felt it would be a good idea not to publish student's names on the blog for now as I am still pretty new to blogging myself. So from time to time students will submit blog reviews to me and I will post them using Olive as their pseudonym. I'll be sure to let each student know when their review will be posted. So keep an eye out for Olive's first review!

This week in the Library:

Kindergarten--We're warming up for those pumpkin patch visits and reading By the Light of the Halloween Moon by Caroline Stutson and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. This delightful poem is a lilting cumulutative tale in which a series of Halloween creatures try to nibble on a little girl's toe. We also read A Pumpkin Story by Mariko Shinju (which thankfully made it back to the Library just in time after a prolonged absence!) This lovely story is about a man who makes an entire community with the pumpkins he has grown from a few seeds. The engaging illustrations delighted the children and sparked their imaginations about what they might do with pumpkins. We also did some virtual pumpkin carving which the students agreed was fun but not as messily fun as the real thing.

First Grade--Remember that great song, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly? We have a Halloween book version called There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat by Lucille Colandro and first graders loved comparing the two and chanting along with the parade of Halloween creatures.

Second Grade--One of our favorite silly stories for this time of year is Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini. Gritch, the Witch, wants piggie pie but she doesn't bargain for the clever pigs at Old MacDonald's Farm. The illustrations by Howard Fine are large and a little outrageous which only adds to the fun. The ending required a little knowledge of fairy tales and it was fun to see the "light bulb go on" for the children.

Third Grade--Third graders worked with encyclopedias this week and after drawing topics from our favorite hat, they found the correct encyclopedia, read a short article about their topic, and then wrote 3 sentences (complete sentences, that is) about their topic. They also learned the importance of returning the encyclopedias in correct order for the next person who came to use them.

Fourth Grade--As last Monday was Columbus Day, fourth graders listened to an interesting alternative version of the Columbus story. Encounter, by acclaimed author Jane Yolen, is written from the point of view of a Taino Indian boy and gives students an idea of what it must have been like for the native people living on the islands Columbus claimed. Evocative illustrations were done by one of our favorite illustrators, David Shannon. An interesting discussion followed about point of view and being able to look at historical events from more than one angle.

Fifth Grade--In preparation for blogging book reviews, fifth graders had a presentation on blogs. With a Keynote presentation as our starting point we discussed how blogs were different from websites, the safety and ethical issues related to posting or commenting on blog, and then saw our Library Blog. Together we followed a blog review template and did a mock review so they could have practice before doing their own blog reviews. I'm looking forward to receiving their submissions. They were happy to have Olive, our Library Cat, as their pseudonym, and yes....they now really know what the word pseudonym means!

Sixth Grade--I missed the sixth grade this week as they were happily off to camp!

I have compiled a list of fun online sites for Halloween and they are available on paper in the Library or at the following links:

Virtual Pumpkin Carving
The Pumpkin Farm
Starfall pumpkin

Costume Game

Hangman Game
Halloween Hangman

Unitl next week.......

Monday, October 09, 2006

News From The Library--October 9

Two summers ago, I stopped at Manzanar on my way to a vacation in Mammoth and was struck by the eerie, solemn sense of the place. I took several pictures and when I returned did some research and put together a lesson to go with a touching and important picture book written by renowned children's book author Eve Bunting. The book is called So Far From the Sea and is the story of a Japanese American family in present day who is moving from California to Boston. They travel to Manzanar one last time to pay tribute to their grandfather who lies buried there. Their story is woven with facts about Pearl Harbor and the ensuing imprisonment of Japansese Americans in internment camps. Prior to reading the book to the students I showed a Keyote slideshow I made incorporating my present day photos with historical photos I obtained from the internet and from a wonderful new site created by the state of California and UC Berkeley called Calisphere. After seeing the slide presentation, the students had a context for the story and later we had an interesting and lively discussion . One of the most interesting comments centered around the care we should take not to overreact to fear, and understanding that this historical part of California's history is not an easy "black or white" issue with one side right and the other wrong, something that is very touchingly told by the father in the story who was himself a child at Manzanar. Students also had a chance to see the other books we have in our Library about this subject including a non-fiction book with excellent historical photos, two other wonderful picture books, and two novels.

Kindergarten--Mrs. Sickafoose's class had the wonderful experience of the Ensemble Story Book Theater's presentation of Alice in Wonderland during their Library time this week. Mrs. Campbell's class got the chance to be "book reviewers" of a new book Dinosaur, Dinosaur by Kevin Lewis. With the funny rhyming story and the excellent illustrations this book got a resounding "thumbs up."

First Grade--What happens if you're a sheep who can't sleep? Counting sheep doesn't seem quite right (at first). In Russell, the Sheep by Rob Scotten, Russell tries all kinds of ways to get to sleep. In the end he finds that counting sheep really does work best, only by the time he's asleep everyone else is just waking up!

Second Grade--We continued this week with our lesson on point of view with the hilarious story The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas. In this twist on the story, the pig is the "bad guy" and surprisingly the most fragile house turns out to be the best. In the end, the unlikely former enemies find a creative way to live happily ever after.

Third Grade--The term, "rocks in his head" usually has a slightly negative meaning but as the title of Carol Otis Hurst's book, it takes on a wonderful meaning. In this story, based on her own father's life, she shows how living through the Depression couldn't dampen the inquisitive spirit of her father and his passion for knowledge. It tells how he went from being a custodian at a museum to becoming a curator of mineralogy there, all because of his love of learning and his love of rocks.

Fourth Grade--This week fourth graders were introduced to the 2007 Battle of the Books and there were many enthusiastic students wanting to give it a try and read those 30 books by next April. For the list of books please see the County School website page on the Battle of the Books. Meetings will start in January 2007.

Fifth Grade--see opening post.

Sixth Grade--As the fifth grade did a few weeks ago, sixth graders played Musical Genres this week. I added a few more genres to their game to correspond with their classroom reading assignments. I also shortened the time with each genre to make it a little more challenging. They enjoyed purusing the books in the different genres even finding the two little "tricks" I added to demonstrate that some books can cover two genres at the same time.

Website of the Week: Exploring Nature. Great database for those animal reports!

See you next week!