I’ve been hard at work on the work-in-progress. And, the work is hard. I’m wrestling text and images and graphics into place, staring down a deadline. In the last two days, I’ve made really good progress. There’s nothing like having Richard available to produce the graphics I need when I need them. I wish he were my full-time office companion.
After two long days, I need to let some things settle a bit so I have time for a quick blog post. I was in San Antonio last weekend for the National Science Teachers Association annual convention.
I was one of nine authors (Terry Jennings (Gopher to the Rescue), Darcy Pattison (Desert Baths), Elizabeth Rusch (The Mighty Mars Rover), Melissa Stewart (Under the Snow), Catherine Thimmesh (Team Moon), Peggy Thomas (Farmer George Plants a Nation), and Sallie Wolf (The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound) who participated in a workshop titled: “Integrating Science and Literacy: A Journey, Not a Destination.” Each of us was paired with a professor of education. My partner was Dr. Amy Broemmel from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She helped me share the educational materials I’ve developed for Wolfsnail and Growing Patterns with four groups of teachers who rotated through our table. She took these photographs.
In my second session, “The Power of Scientists’ Stories in Teaching NGSS Methods and Practices,” I teamed up with Dr. Kristin Rearden, who also teachers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Andy Boyles, science editor at Highlights.
Once again, it was my job to share ideas with teachers for using my books in classrooms to meet the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
I led the group in making a Fibonacci Folding Book, and talked about the Fibonacci Puzzle, the Wolfsnail On The Move book, and the instant book.
Here is Kristin talking about bringing pinecones into the classroom to have students look for the Fibonacci sequence in the spirals on the bottom.
We had lunch after our session to talk about what we might do for future conferences. Presenting at national conferences is always a wonderful experience because it brings me into dialogue with the people who use my books in classrooms and libraries with kids. I always learn things, and I always have fun.
Check out a new blog called Perfect Pairings: Linking Science and Literacy written by Kristin and Amy. You’ll find great trade picture books to use in your classrooms.
All children — those who live sheltered, protected lives and those who face hunger, cruelty, and neglect — need to read about terrible things, according to children’s book author Donna Jo Napoli. If you visit her website’s page listing interviews, you can listen to her TEDx talk on the topic.
“It is very consoling to see that other people have problems. It gives you perspective. … When we write about terrible things, we look for the strand of strength in our characters.”
“From reading books, she (an unprotected child) can learn that with hard work and a good spirit, she can see that she can live decently in her own world — even if just inside her own head.”
“In reading, you step inside someone else’s skin. You live their life. You develop empathy. And empathy is the cornerstone of civilization.”
“There’s no better, no safer place to develop that empathy than in a book.”
“When it comes to trying to be the writer you want to be, I urge you not to be afraid of the things that bring high emotion to you. … We need to embrace our misery and learn how to use it.”
Napoli delivered the keynote address at this year’s Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference. Put on by the Southern Breeze region of the SCBWI and held each year just outside Birmingham, WIK offers workshops, critiques, and opportunities to meet and learn from other writers, editors, and agents.
I presented two workshops: Stories + Photos = Winning Nonfiction and You Mean I’m Not Finished? Developing Marketing and Educational Materials. I uploaded two handouts for the Stories + Photos workshop on my website. Click here to see them. I created a Pinterest Board to gather examples for the Not Finished workshop. Click here.
I love sharing my stories in my own workshops, but the downside of being on the faculty is that it limits the number of workshops I can attend. I chose What Educators Can Teach Writers by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen and Trends in Award Winning Nonfiction by Julie Ham, associate editor at Charlesbridge.
Ham led a fascinating workshop. We read excerpts from 10 Sibert Medal winning books and 4 Sibert Honor books. Based on these short snippets of writing (and, our own background knowledge of the books), we rated them on a continuum between traditional, safe writing to expressive, edgy writing. Making these judgments forced us to look carefully at the writing.
Here are Sharon Pegram, the conference coordinator, and Keri Lewis, my angel during the conference.
Starting today, you can read my interview with Alison Hertz, an author, illustrator, and toy designer. She and I talked about how I create my nonfiction picture books.
The interview is part of the blog tour for the 2012 Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK) conference, where I’ll be leading two sessions: “Story + Photos = Winning Nonfiction” and “You mean I’m not finished? Creating Marketing and Educational Materials.”
WIK is organized by the Southern Breeze region of SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. This year’s WIK conference will be Oct. 20 in Birmingham, AL. It’s a great place to learn more about the children’s publishing industry, meet agents and editors, and connect with a supportive network of writers and illustrators.
Learn more about WIK here.
Read my interview at Alison Hertz’ blog.
Julie Owen and I taught our “Read a Book, Make a Book” workshop this week at the Whole Schools Summer Institute. We taught three book forms: the instant book, Wolfsnail On the Move, and the Fibonacci Folding Book.
A little less than a month ago, I presented at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference in Philadelphia. Along with Beth West, the International Baccalaureate coordinator at Davis Magnet IB Elementary School, I taught a workshop on using photographs to illustrate math stories.
Regular readers of the blog will have been following our efforts to pilot this work at Davis this Spring. Read about it here. And here.
We had a great group of teachers at our session. We also had help from Andy Boyles, my editor at Boyds Mills Press (and Highlights). He took many of these pictures, and kept the slideshow(s) going while Beth and I alternated with teaching.
Jane Yolen was this year’s Medallion recipient and she gave a very nice speech about the importance of story.
This is my fifth Kaigler festival; each one seems better than the last.
This year Julie Owen came along and co-presented with me. Our newest workshop is “Read a Book, Make a Book!” We had more than 50 librarians (and a few writers and illustrators) in the room. We were so busy with the hands-on bookmaking that we didn’t get a single photograph. Errrrgh!
We had good suggestions from Micha Archer, an honor winner in this year’s Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Contest.
Patrick and T, the husband and daughter of Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw, who won the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award for her illustrations of Same, Same But Different. She also was an honor winner of the EJK new writer award for Same Same But Different. One of my favorite bits of the signing time at Barnes and Noble was my tea party with T, while her mom signed books.
I spent some time visiting with Floyd Dickman, learning about the curriculum work he’s done with quilts and children’s books in Ohio.
During my signing time, I met some librarians from Meridian.
I spent time with my SCBWI friends at the Southern Breeze table. Claudia Pearson and Jo Kittinger worked hard to spread the word among librarians about homegrown writers and illustrators and to encourage would-be writers and illustrators among the librarians to join us at SCBWI.
Hester Bass, author of The Secret World of Walter Anderson, hosts the Southern Breeze table.
Valerie Nye and Kathy Barco, who were signing their book, True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries.
Thanks, Julie, for coming along, and for taking the pictures that include me.
My second school-based project this month involves teaching third graders to use digital photography to illustrate math stories. I began by reading Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature in each class, and then I talked about my process — from idea to publication. I showed them early (and awful) drafts, described my breakthrough on layout, my complete re-write, and the photography.
As noted in my previous post, I am working with Beth West, IB Coordinator at Davis Magnet School, to develop a lesson plan for a presentation we are giving at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in Philadelphia in April. Two books that have helped us a lot was we’ve developed our unit are Math is Language Too: Talking and Writing in the Mathematics Classroom and New Visions for Linking Literature and Mathematics by David J. Whitin and Phyllis Whitin.
The Davis third graders will work in groups to make photo-illustrated books about patterns or measurement. Our primary model texts are: Growing Patterns and For Good Measure by Ken Robbins.
We will ask our students to write regularly in their math journals about the project. Beth and I are very interested in seeing how the students make sense of the pattern and measurement concepts and the book-making process. I will write regular updates here to let you know how the process is going.
I spent a few hours at the Mississippi Library Association Annual Conference last week. I went to hear my friend, Hester Bass, talk about her book, The Secret World of Walter Anderson, at lunch. Then, I went back for the Awards Dinner, where Hester won a Special Award for The Secret World of Walter Anderson. I had my little camera so the images don’t have the crisp look I’d like, but there worth sharing anyway.
Read more about Under Surge, Under Siege here.
Read more about Mary Anna Evans and her books here.
I spent the weekend in Birmingham for Writing and Illustrating for Kids, the fall conference of the Southern Breeze region of the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators. We had a fabulous line-up of speakers and I got to see many of my writer and illustrator friends. My volunteer job this year did not involve photography so I have very few photos to share. These are ones I took in the library during the final session of the day: formal critiques.
Elizabeth Dulemba preparing for her critique.
A member being critiqued by Melissa Manlove, editor at Chronicle Books. See more about Chronicle Books here.
A member being critiqued by Linda Pratt, an agent with Wernick & Pratt Agency.
Elizabeth Dulemba showing her portfolio to Deborah Kaplan, art director at Penguin Group USA.
A member discussing her work with Alexandra Cooper, editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Lin Oliver, author and executive director of SCBWI, discussing work with a member.
A member discussing work with Author Lisa Yee.
Chris Barton, pictured here at his signing table at Barnes & Noble, gave a wonderful talk on how important libraries and librarians have been to his writing. I am certain that if my sons were still young, I would know the text of Shark vs. Train by heart. And, one of them might have learned to read on it. Another cool fact about Chris is that he’s working on a PB biography of JR Lynch.
I think every one of us in the room wanted to be a student in one of Phil Bildner’s classes. He told us stories about teaching reading and writing through song lyrics from his favorite songs. When his students wrote to the band, Blues Traveler, one thing led to another until the lead vocalist and harmonica player was in his 4th floor classroom bawling his eyes out as Bildner’s students sang his song.
“I had a little big of an MTV unplugged thing going on.” Others included: the Fugees, Dave Matthews, and The Bare Naked Ladies.
Carmen Agra Deedy had us all in stitches as she related a story about her fifth grade year in a Georgia school without many other “foreigners.” My kids enjoyed her book, The Library Dragon.
I attended a fascinating presentation on the work of Berta and Elmer Hader, a husband and wife team who won a Caldecott in 1949 for The Big Snow. The presentation was by Joy Hoerner Rich, the Hader’s niece (pictured on the right), and Karen Tolley. An exhibit of the Hader’s work is on display at the deGrummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi.
I attended a presentation by Dr. Carol Doll (pictured above in the cap that helps her avoid migraine headaches) and Kasey Garrison on identifying excellence in informational books for children. They used the measures of excellence as identified by the Robert F. Sibert Medal given by the American Library Association. Dr. Doll served on the 2011 committee. For each area of excellence (language, visual presentation, etc.), Doll and Garrison identified two examples, one good and one bad. I was chuffed to see that Growing Patterns was listed as a good example of the visual design.
Another interesting thing Doll and Garrison talked about was LUCY, a database and center for professional development that focuses on multicultural books published for children. The definition for multicultural is very broad. Read more about LUCY here. Some categories include: Africa, Racially Mixed, Middle East, Central America, and Faiths & Religious Beliefs. It looks like a very useful tool.
I visited briefly with Kalpana Saxena, a librarian from New Orleans, at Barnes & Noble and she told me a great story about how her nephew loves the Wolfsnail book she bought a few years ago and that he makes up his own stories about wolfsnails. I love it.
Here I am with Irene Latham, author of Leaving Gee’s Bend. She was among the bevy of lefties (others being Roger Sutton & Chris Barton) I sat among while signing at Barnes & Noble. Isn’t this a wonderful quilt? A school librarian made it from strips of fabric brought it by students before one of Irene’s school visits. Very cool!