Today I travel to Chicago for a half dozen fun events. First up, a workshop and signings at the International Reading Association Annual Convention. My editor, Andy Boyles, and my friend, Julie, a school librarian, will help me present a workshop titled “Seeing is Believing: Photography in Nonfiction,” which we designed to share strategies for using photography to teach reading and writing. My blog followers will recognize some of the activities we’ve done to prepare for this workshop. I will sign copies of Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature on Monday from 2 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. and on Tuesday from 11 a.m. until noon. In addition, we’ll share a meal with the good folks at the Highlights Foundation, including Kent Brown. I am looking forward to meeting Mary Alice Moore, our new lead editor at Boyds Mills Press.
On Wednesday, I’ll go a little further north to Evanston, my old stomping grounds from age 0-7 and college days at Northwestern. There, I’m doing a family event at the Evanston Public Library at 7 p.m. Wednesday, a school visit at Martin Luther King Jr. Laboratory Magnet School, a talk at Northwestern’s Office of Fellowships, a dinner with Residential College Board members and faculty advisers, and a fireside at the Communications Residential College.
I’ll also spend some time with friends who have known me since I was born, my godparents and the circle of friends that surrounded my parents when they were young parents. And, I’m having a dinner/slumber party with my college roommate, who lives in the greater Chicago area. I will do my best to report from the road, but I expect to be wildly busy. You may have to make do with pictures until I return.
I enjoyed my trip to Ocean City, Maryland, this week, where I talked to Maryland librarians about how Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator came to be. I also accepted the Blue Crab Young Reader Award for Beginning Nonfiction.
I spent time with Janis Cooker, the chair of the Maryland Blue Crab Award committee, Jill Hutchinson, and Catherine DiCristofaro. They picked me up at the airport and took me out to dinner the night before my presentation. I learned about some interesting programming they are doing in the library system of St. Mary’s County — especially with children who are identified for early intervention services and hands-on science. Jill was among presenters for a pre-conference program titled Quality Programming for Pennies and Janis joined others to present on Creating Successful Cultural Connections for Preschoolers and their Families.
Today I leave for Ocean City, Maryland, to participate in the Maryland Library Association‘s annual conference. On Thursday, I will accept the Maryland Blue Crab Young Readers Award for Beginning Nonfiction for Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. In honor of the award, I dug up some old photographs of wolfsnails. They are ones that didn’t make it into the book, but were part of its development. The above photo is a good shot of the Wolfsnail’s radula, the toothy tongue.
One of the best things about Wolfsnail has been that parents, librarians, and teachers are using it in the exactly the way I hoped.
In her recent blog post recommending Wolfsnail for new readers, Jennifer Wharton, a librarian at Jean Little Library wrote: “The simple text tells in riveting detail the progress of a wolfsnail as it stalks its prey. The reader learns many details about these giant snails and how they feed. The vocabulary level is simple enough for most intermediate readers to read on their own. Beginning readers will need some help with the longer words. I encourage adults to listen to the child’s reading – and help with the longer vocabulary words, then spend some time reading aloud the extended information about wolfsnails at the back of the book, or visit the Campbells’ website and talk about their amazing photography! The simple text also makes an excellent read-aloud for elementary students.”
I often say Wolfsnail is the book I wish I’d found in the library when Nathan found the wolfsnails. But, really, I am so glad that book wasn’t there.
Spring brings sunshine, flowers, recitals, and exhibits. On Friday, Richard and I will attend the Opening Reception for the JumpstART project. My participation in JumpstART this year was at McLeod Elementary School. I worked with 5th grade students to photograph and research living things in the Schoolyard. (Read previous posts here.) With generous support from the Beth Israel Congregation, an adopter of McLeod, we enlarged five photographs for display. The students compiled the rest of the photographs with titles and captions into the first McLeod Schoolyard Field Guide. See the photos in a gallery on my website.
In addition to the work with McLeod, I returned to Davis Magnet School for a second year of Davis on the Map. Instead of being paid through JumpstART, the Davis Magnet principal and second grade team found separate grant funding to pay for my time. (You can read about this project in these previous posts.) You can see some of the photographs I took below. I have the students’ photographs in galleries on my main website.
Visit the JumpstART exhibit at the Mississippi Art Center from Saturday, April 17, through Friday, April 30.
I spotted this bee hovering around my Indian Hawthorne bushes. I was using our Nikon D200 with a Sigma telephoto lens. Richard was equipped with the D700 and Tamron macro lens. We had spent a few hours in a field outside Clinton searching for milkweed and monarch eggs. We had no luck on the monarch eggs, but we had a fun time taking photographs anyway.
This next one is for no reason other than I looked through the lens and I liked the lines and the contrasting dried weeds against the green.
Growing Patterns Update
We found out yesterday that Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature is going into a second printing. My editor got in touch because he wanted me to see the new text for the back cover. It will now include excerpts from reviews. We’ve had a few new reviews in the last few days. In the April issue of School Library Journal, Jody Kopple writes: “This slim, attractive volume makes clear the appearance and significance of Fibonacci numbers in nature, both through simple, precise explanations and eye-catching photographs.” Read the whole review here (You’ll have to scroll down to nonfiction).
In the May/June issue of Horn Book Magazine, Tanya D. Auger, writes: “With its glossy, clutter-free pages; crisp, colorful photographs; and clear, straight-to-the-point text, this interactive picture book by the creators of Wolfsnail is an attractive, satisfying introduction to the Fibonacci sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 …” The entire review is not available online.
I am feeling the strong pull of beautiful spring weather. It’s all I can do not to grab the camera and wander the neighborhood snapping all the beautiful flowers or catch a nap on the back porch. Has spring arrived where you are?
I spent Wednesday through Friday at the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. David Wiesner, author of classics such as Flotsam, The Three Pigs, and Tuesday, was this year’s medallion recipient. In his talk, he chronicled his artistic development and influences. Some he mentioned were: Charles Knight (the artist who conceived what dinosaurs looked like), Breugel (felt like you could travel into his pictures), Dali (“weird and strange was good in my book”), and MC Escher (breaking boundaries and going from one reality to another). The biggest treat in Wiesner’s presentation was a preview of his newest book, Art and Max, which will be released in October. It looks like a winner. Two engaging characters; dialogue is the only text; clever look at different art media (paint, pastel, water color, line, etc.); and fabulous art. See a video about the project here.
Here I am presenting my workshop “Finding Math in Your Own Backyard.” It is always a pleasure to be at the book festival. I saw lots of familiar faces. Many of the librarians told me how kids are reading Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. I heard stories of 5th graders finding it on the shelves and making 100 percent for the first time on an AR quiz for a nonfiction book; grandsons who want it read over and over; a young girl library patron who took pictures of a snail she found and brought it to the library for a positive wolfsnail id. I am so grateful to the librarians who have embraced my books and are helping to get them into the hands of kids.
Interest in Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature was strong. During my session, I showed the Growing Patterns book trailer. Many in my session were learning about Fibonacci numbers for the first time or, if not, learning about their connection to nature for the first time. There are always a few exceptions.
Michelle Shelton, a graduate student in USM’s School of Library and Information Science, told me that her library in McAllen, Texas, is building a new building with a children’s department based on the Fibonacci sequence and its connection to nature. The town is turning an old Wal-Mart into a public library. Whenever I talk to graduates of art school, designers, or architects, they are all aware of Fibonacci numbers. One of my presentations later this month will be in the Evanston (Ill.) Public Library, where they have a fountain in the library with Fibonacci-influenced design.
Another great thing about this year’s CBF was that I shared a hotel room with two of my writer friends, Hester Bass and Irene Latham. Here is Hester during her session, “I think I can: A librarian’s guide to writing for children.” Hester, the author most recently of The Secret World of Walter Anderson, shared ten things librarians can do to make the dream of writing for children a reality. From Number One, “Discard the misconceptions,” to Number Ten, “Don’t Quit. Submit,” she packed at least 100 useful tips into an entertaining presentation that left us all inspired. This has been a popular workshop for Hester since she wrote a paper on the topic and had it accepted at the 2009 American Library Association Conference.
Here’s Irene signing a copy of Leaving Gee’s Bend. Though Irene did not present at this conference, her book was very popular. I sat next to her at the signing table at the bookstore and I heard many people come back to tell her they had stayed up late the night before finishing the book. Many also came back to get another copy. Since we spent so much time together over the last few days, Hester, Irene, and I are cooking up a possible collaborative project. Stay tuned.
Other great speakers I was able to hear were: Richard Peck, Sharon Draper, and Maureen Johnson.
Davis Magnet School second graders presented their Davis on the Map photographs in a narrated slide show. Each student read the caption he or she wrote to accompany a photograph. The students visited six places in the neighborhood with their cameras: The Commons at Eudora Welty’s Birthplace; Two Sisters Kitchen; The state Supreme Court; Wishbone Art Studios; Pigott, Reeves, Johnson; and the We Will Go Ministry. You can read about the process in recent posts here. In the next few days, I’ll be putting all the selected photographs on my website.
This is our second year with the Davis on the Map project. We developed it last year through an initiative of Parents for Public Schools of Jackson. We refined the project his year. One of the best things we did differently was to create a mini computer lab in the classroom using the school’s four laptops (plus one that was a personal laptop). Trying to use networked computers in the library the previous year was slow and frustrating.
Here are some McLeod Elementary School fifth graders working on titles and captions for their photographs of living things in the schoolyard. We had a few computers freeze up on us while we worked, but generally speaking we could get at least six computers to cooperate at a time. The most challenging thing about working with schools and digital photography is the computers. For It’s Alive, we had a hard time getting (computer) permission to save photo files to school computers. With a large district like Jackson Public Schools, permission to save files on networked computers has to come from the Instructional Technology Department. We filled out a ticket to get permission and, eventually, we got what we needed, but it was a difficult process. All of us who have kids in JPS schools and/or are involved in educational projects are really pulling for the promised federal stimulus money to come through. It’ll mean lots of new technology, including smart boards and laptop carts for classrooms.
We got a shout-out at Kid Tested, Librarian Approved.
“Writing: Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell
Want to learn how to write accessible and interesting nonfiction for the emerging reader? Sit yourself down in front of this book and take notes.” That’s very nice.