Monthly Archives: February 2010

Congress Street Neighborhood Walk

Today, the second graders at Davis Magnet walked through the neighborhood around their school, stopping in at pre-arranged locations. I walked with Ms. Hansen’s class. As you can see, we set off with a spring in our step. Several students chanted a version of the “Let’s go walking, Mississippi,” theme song. We visited a restaurateur, lawyers (who are also Davis adopters), the state appellate court, and an artist. Students carried with them frames they had made last week. They practiced snapping “photographs.” Next week, small groups of students will go out again — with cameras.

At Two Sisters Restaurant

Artist Jonathan Sims

Jonathan Sims Plays for Students

Judge Virginia Carlton

Student Gavels "Court" into Session

Student Acts as Chief Judge

Lawyer Carlton Reeves

Students Practice Framing Photographs

Two Paintings by Davis Third Graders on Exhibit at Welty Commons

Growing Patterns Reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly

Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature received a positive review in Publisher’s Weekly.
“Besides being eye-catching, the photographs ought to prove invaluable for visual learners (spiral patterns in a pinecone are darkened for visibility). Kids should be left with a clear understanding of the pattern and curious about its remarkable prevalence in nature.”
Read the whole review here. Scroll about three-quarters of the way down the page.

Interview on Teaching Authors

In conjunction with the release of Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature (March 1), I have arranged some stops on a virtual tour. Today, I am visiting Mary Ann Rodman on Teaching Authors. I met Mary Ann when she came to Lemuria to sign her first novel, Yankee Girl. I invited her to Davis Magnet School a few times to talk about two of her books, My Best Friend and First Grade Stinks. She’s been an inspiration and generous with helpful advice and encouragement. I hope you’ll come over and read the interview. I included a few activities for using photography to teach writing.

Growing Patterns Recommended for Classrooms

Growing Patterns coverCarol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site recommends Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature for teaching math concepts in elementary grades. Calling it “a great general exposure to patterns for the youngest students and a clear introduction to this crucial pattern for slightly older students,” Rebecca Hurst added our book to the Picturing Math guide for using picture books in teaching math. It appears in the patterns chapter, which is one of the sample chapters available online.

Introduction to Photography for Second Graders

Sarah Campbell Reads Growing Patterns

Sarah Campbell Reads Growing Patterns

I began my artist-in-residence work today at Davis Magnet School. I am team teaching a unit titled, “Davis on the Map,” with second grade teachers Beth West and Kim Hansen. I introduced myself (many of these students were familiar with Wolfsnail because I read it to them last year on Read Across America Day), read my new book (Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature), and introduced them to the work of Roland Freeman. We broke the students into four groups so we could have more interactive discussions. This meant I went through my talk four times back-to-back. I was tired by the time it was all over, but I enjoyed the students’ observations and questions.

How do you get a good picture when people are moving? (I actually misunderstood this question). I told the student that taking a good (clear, focused) picture of moving people depended a lot of having enough light. But that with enough light, the camera would be able to capture an image and freeze the action. He pushed me further, pointing out that in one of Roland’s photographs a drummer’s hand is blurry, making it a good picture of movement. In that case, Roland wanted the blur and made sure the aperture was open long enough for the camera to capture the hand in different spots along its movement.

Why did you use a drawing and a photograph in your book to show the spiral on the nautilus? I used the drawing because I wanted to make clear the connection between the Fibonacci numbers I had introduced at the beginning of the book and the way the spiral on the nautilus grows as its shell grows. I think the diagram of different colored squares makes it easier to see the how the Fibonacci sequence relates to the spiral in the photograph on the following page.

I do like the teaching/learning/inquiry practice the teachers at Davis employ. They have t-charts all around that have two columns labeled with two columns: I notice …. and I wonder …. As we talked, the teachers wrote down the students’ observations and questions on sticky notes and placed them in the appropriate columns on the chart. We will reflect on these as we go along in the unit. The students who weren’t with me spent their time working on two activities with some other teachers (gifted teachers and teachers’ assistants). They made frames and simple how-to manuals for the digital cameras they will use to photograph their neighborhood.

The next time we get together we will be taking a walk in the Davis neighborhood, gathering ideas about the people and places we will photograph.

More Snow in Jackson

We awoke to a beautiful blanket of snow. And it’s still coming down. Though we’ve already had snow this year, it is still rare enough to prompt whoops of joy from my sons. Of course, the joy has something to do with the fact that school was called off. They don’t really have the proper gear for this kind of thing so they never stay out for long. I went along with my camera because I wanted to get some pictures of the snow and of them enjoying it. I thought about calling the grandparents, but I thought I’d better let them sleep in. Stomping around in the snow in my boots (the ones I bought a few years ago to attend Writing From Nature in Honesdale, PA, in April), reminded my of childhood trips to Cincinnati to visit my grandparents. We borrowed gear from cousins had lots of fun.

G winding up to throw at D




We've Got to Call our Friends!

A View from the Back


Growing Patterns Called “Seriously Cool”

Jennifer at Jean Little Library posted the first blog review for Growing Patterns, and it’s a good one.

“This book uses exquisite photographs and perfectly chosen text to explain the concept of patterns in nature, specifically Fibonacci numbers, in such a way that even a kindergartner can understand. Hey, I bet I could read this to PRESCHOOLERS and they would get it!
There’s not too much text, it’s simple enough for an easy reader; but each word is obviously perfectly chosen to explain a mathematical concept for any reader.”

I am so glad she likes it and will share it with her library’s readers. Jennifer’s post is tagged as a Nonfiction Monday post. This week’s host is Great Kid Books. Check out the round-up of reviews here.

Writing Snacks Interview

This month, I am the featured guest on, a website with lots of useful information for writers. Dana Cleveland Konop and Melissa Thomas-Dubois, two of my colleagues in the Southern Breeze region of SCBWI, created the site.

As the title would suggest, one of the things you’ll find out in the interview is my favorite writing snack.

Girl Reading Wolfsnail

Reading Wolfsnail

I lifted this photo from my friend Julie’s blog. This is one of her students reading my book. I get a great deal of satisfaction from watching kids read my books. Julie’s a mom, part-time librarian, part-time writer, knitter, and crafter. Just an all-around kindred spirit. I love her blog because it has lots of photographs and she uses colors and images so well. You can read the post she wrote about photographing student engagement here. We are partnering on some work at her school (St. Therese Catholic School) this spring. I’m sure I’ll be sharing some about that in the coming months.

In the meantime, I find myself doing lots of paperwork related to the business side of being an author and illustrator. I am checking each of the 1099’s as they come in against my own records of last year’s income. So far, of the three that have come, I have found mistakes in two. I am setting up spreadsheets to record 2010 expenses, income, mileage, and sales tax. I am famous, or infamous, depending on how you look at it, for the piles of papers on my kitchen desk and my “real” desk. I would always rather be creating, blogging, editing photos, writing, anything really, than doing paperwork. But such is life.