Thursday, May 27, 2010

A fond "see you at the library."

This morning I've been going to all the classrooms talking to students. I started with the fifth graders: I asked them to shout out their feelings about going to middle school next year. There were some "tight!" and "excited!"s, but also a lot of quieter "scared" "nervous" and "sad"s. I even got some "I don't know"s.

As I told them, I've been having a lot of the same feelings, because this will be my last year at Emerson too. At the end of the school year I'll be leaving BUSD and moving on to the Oakland Public Library. It's a great opportunity, but it's tinged with more than a little sadness at the prospect of leaving a community that I love so dearly.

Thank you all so much -- especially you few but faithful blog readers! -- for helping to make this such a remarkable place to be a librarian. Like the fifth graders (and the many others who have moved on through the years) I know that I'll always be a part of the Emerson family. I know my successor will appreciate each of you. (The million dollar question from students was "who's going to be our new librarian?" We don't yet -- it's a rigorous and lengthy application process that won't be completed until late summer -- but we know already that the new person will be outstanding.)

Today, families will be getting their weekly Bear Facts with a farewell letter from me. I thought I'd share it with you here too.

Dear Emerson families,

I have the best job in the world. Librarianship doesn't get any better than this: a loving community of readers who give their time, hard work and attention to the job of discovering books and libraries. Their teachers innovate! Their principal supports! Their parents even shelve! Most librarians expend all their energy suggesting books or answering half-understood homework questions; I hang out in the library while children and adults come to me daily with their opinions, curiosity, and the desire to find the perfect book for the moment. I am incredibly lucky.

So it's with a feeling of real loss that I have to tell you that this will be my last year at Emerson. This summer, I'll be starting as the Children's Librarian at the Golden Gate branch of the Oakland Public Library. As you can imagine, this was a tremendously difficult choice; in the end, family circumstances and necessity made the decision for me.

I know that the next Emerson librarian will be outstanding -- thanks in part to budget cuts and layoffs of great librarians across the state! -- and that you will welcome him or her as you welcomed me. But I will miss you all so much.

Thank you for an amazing three years of love, support, and enthusiastic reading. I want to extend a special thanks to all the volunteers who have come to the library regularly or occasionally, helping with everything from shelving to re-binding old books. The library program wouldn't have happened without you; you made a difference for me every day.

I'll see you around Berkeley, online, and in the public library. Keep sending me book suggestions... and READ ON!

Lots of love,
Ms. Claire

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Popularity Papers

It's time for another student book review!

The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang by Amy Ignatow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
De'Azhane says:

Lydia and Julie, the main characters in The Popularity Papers, are trying to be popular and they spy on the popular kids. They ask Melody (Lydia’s sister) some questions and she says, “well, you have to dress cute.” The next day Lydia was wearing her mom’s jewelry and heels.

They are trying to get a cell phone so they try and run away and make their mom and dads try to call them but oh they don’t have a cell phone.
They finally left their house and their mom and dads and Papa Dad (Julie has two dads) are worried about them.

Julie had got Papa Dad’s old phone and they learned that Jane’s Mom tells the school Director to put Jane in the Lead part for the play. Jane is a popular girl whom Julie and Lydia are jealous of.

Most people would enjoy this book because it’s funny and it’s like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid oh and it’s realistic.

View all my reviews >>

If you want to read The Popularity Papers, you can find it in Ms. Robie's classroom library. Thanks to Mrs. Dalloway's Books for a review copy of this book.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What are your favorite stories to read aloud?

It's hard to believe that the year is winding down already, but it is. Each year the library closes for two weeks in order to inventory our entire collection and take care of projects that we've been putting off for months. Families, if you have any free time to come and volunteer in the last two weeks of school, please let me know... or just drop by!

Books are due back on May 28th, this Friday. I will be continuing the decades-long Emerson tradition of baking homemade library cookies for classes who manage to get all books back or taken care of by June 4th. We will continue to have library next week, but without checking out books.

Since we're in our last few weeks of the year, I've thrown prudence to the wind and continued with some just-for-love read-alouds; we've dusted off some classics and brought out some new favorites. Among our reads this week was:

Tillie and the Wall (Dragonfly Books) Tillie and the Wall by Leo Lionni

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love that the free thinkers and outsiders in Lionni's books always win out because the others around them appreciate their quirks and their art. They're visionaries whose curiosity pays off because the others in their communities are their best selves. It makes for an awfully nice read-aloud.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May we read nonfiction?

The third grade district writing assessment -- a focus on nonfiction summary -- is just another excuse for to read fabulous and informative nonfiction aloud. We just love nonfiction, at all grade levels! Some of the books we're reading this week include:

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Explorers (5th grade standard), inventors (2nd grade standard), nonfiction (3rd grade writing prompt), and environmental stewardship (everyone)! This beautifully illustrated book hits a lot of relevant points. It's amazing to think that each of us can easily visualize underwater scenes, thanks to Jacques Cousteau. And he invented scuba gear! Neat!

There are some major flaws with this book, all great things that we were able to recognize and discuss after reading it aloud. It lacks a substantial Author's Note, a timeline, historical context, sources, a glossary, and all that good stuff that strong picture book nonfiction includes after the poetic and evocative text. (We talk often about "features of nonfiction text", so students were able to suggest features that the book lacked.) In addition, there was no discussion of diving or undersea exploration before Cousteau... and a number of generalizations and glossed-over facts that made the text sound better but lack integrity. We enjoyed spotting these; I think it would be interesting to have a mini class research project to fill in the gaps.

View all my reviews >>

Butterflies And Moths Butterflies And Moths by Nic Bishop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Some moths feed on the tears of sleeping animals! The life of a wildlife photographer includes last-minute flights to Costa Rica, breakneck Jeep rides to the rainforest, and complex arrays of laser beams! Nonfiction read-alouds are the best. I heart Nic Bishop.

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Reading just for fun

The stress of testing week takes a toll on everybody these days... which is a great excuse to read library books just for fun! All my read-alouds this week were straight-up crowd pleasers, designed to remind us all why we love reading stories together.

The younger grades spent some time with my fiction author crush, Mo Willems. You may know him from the toddler favorite Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus. If you haven't discovered the genius and hilarity of Mo Willems's books in general and his Elephant & Piggie books in particular, drop by the library and prepared to laugh until you grab the nearest person and hand the book to them.

Elephants Cannot Dance! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) Elephants Cannot Dance! by Mo Willems

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Oh, Mo Willems, I love you so much. Please, please write prolifically for at least the next fifty years.

Turns out that reading E & P aloud as a class is a great way to practice expression and punctuation. You can take one character and the class can take the other. E & P are full of question marks and exclamation points! And could there be any better visual support for text than the characters' expressions?

Second and third graders heard a classic cause-and-effect story of a field trip gone awry on The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate The Wash.

The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
For every parent who's ever asked, "what did you do at school today" and every kid who's ever replied, "nothing... it was boring" -- this is the read-aloud for you. Written entirely in dialogue, this is the story of a class trip to the farm gone horribly wrong, as told by the world's most blase elementary schooler. Stephen Kellogg's detailed illustrations make the text even sillier -- make sure to take time to notice and show them.

Finally, the third through fifth graders heard a book that I predict will become a real classic... and likely also a feature film. The Dunderheads is Paul Fleischman's action-packed story of a villainous teacher and the students who defeat her and win back their treasure using their unique and underappreciated talents.

The Dunderheads The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A fabulous adventure and a wonderful read-aloud for older readers.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, April 23, 2010

Smart and safe kids

During this last week, third through fifth graders have been learning about online safety and privacy during library time. We've discussed keeping your personal information private, recognizing and avoiding viruses and spyware, and making good decisions about the way you interact with friends online.

Each of the third through fifth graders had some library "homework" this week. First, their job was to go home and talk to their parents or guardians about the internet and online safety. Second, if they have a profile on a site like Facebook or Myspace, their job is to log on with a parent or trusted adult, go through it together, and set up the privacy settings so that strangers can't see any personal information. In the course of preparing this curriculum, I found out that many of our fourth and fifth graders have Facebook sites that I was able to view, as a person who is not "friends" with them online... which means that any stranger could also view a child's full name, their photograph, the town they live, their friends, and often even where they go to school. And (appropriately, I guess) once again, Facebook changed its privacy settings this week in a way that shares users' information with other websites -- so even if you set it up before, you need to go in and do it again.

I'm always here as a resource if you want to come in and talk about some of these issues, and I also have books and book suggestions available for anyone in the Emerson community who is interested. Here are some links to useful resources -- and I'll add others, so check back often.

Facebook Privacy Settings: What Parents Need To Know

Protecting Personal Privacy Online

Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens

BUSD's CyberSavvy curriculum for 09-10

OnGuard Online: chatting with kids about being online

Thursday, April 15, 2010

... and National Poetry Month!

Twice in the last week, intrepid Emerson Breaking News reporters have cornered me after school to ask about my favorite poem. As a real live reader of poetry, I had a hard time coming up with 1) a single poem that was 2) genuinely one of my favorites and that 3) I could share with fourth graders. I mean, yes, I like Shel Silverstein as much as the next person. But would he stand up against Mark Doty, Marie Howe, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, Walt Whitman, Derek Walcott as my "favorite"? It felt disingenuous to give an answer that was predictable to students but not actually true. I ended up naming "The Illiterate" by William Meredith and "Night Ferry" by Mark Doty, two old favorites that I loved enough to memorize a few years ago.

I've been thinking of alternative answers ever since, and weighing which I could have shared with students. It felt risky, unsettling, to honestly share my adult favorites with such young people. At the same time, it was important to me to name poems that I love as an adult reader; it reminded me of how supporting our children to become readers doesn't just mean taking them to the library, but showing them that we ourselves read for pleasure. Browsing through some older books of poetry here in the library, I was struck by how many of them were not collections of poems written for children but instead adult poems that children, as intelligent readers, may revel in despite the challenge of understanding (or not understanding) them. The book I'm holding now has funny poems as well as serious ones; D.H. Lawrence's "Snake" juxtaposed with Ogden Nash's "The Guppy." Poems to grow with remind us that young readers deserve respect.

I hope you'll share poetry with the readers in your life this month, and take time to explore it yourself. If you find one you love, share it with your favorite school librarian!

Happy National Library Week!

We are halfway through National Library Week. I'm celebrating by spending lots of time in libraries -- my favorite places!

The Berkeley Public Library needs your help this week: they are conducting their annual survey, and need community responses about library services. It takes ten minutes or less and provides the library with valuable feedback that they need to improve their services and also to continue receiving support and funding in difficult budget times. Click here to take the survey.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How now, Brown Cow?

A visit from the California Dairy Council's cow Electron
National Poetry Month
Ms. Claire's personal mission to revitalize forgotten and neglected poetry books
some surprising finds in the 811s!

Here's what we're reading this week in the library!

How Now, Brown Cow? How Now, Brown Cow? by Alice Schertle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What better to pair with a visit from a real live cow than some poetry! The illustrations here go nicely with the short poems, generally illustrating the puns or wordplay where they might otherwise pass over students' heads. If you're looking for a nice collection of cow poems, this may be a good match for you.

View all my reviews >>

The Birds and the Beasts Were There The Birds and the Beasts Were There by William Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of those big, wordy, un-illustrated old-fashioned collections of poetry for children: it's hard to get this one to circ, but with some love and judicious read-alouds I think we can change that. One of those books with a lot for a good reader to discover; this is a book to spend real time with. A good one to pair with more contemporary, accessible books of animal poetry, from Douglas Florian to Jack Prelutsky.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book Review: Fairies and the Quest for Never Land

This review by Chloe, in Ms. Gray's class! If you have a book review to share, see Ms. Claire to write or videotape it.

Fairies and the Quest for Never Land Fairies and the Quest for Never Land by Gail Carson Levine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Chloe's review*:

When Gwendolyn, a descendant of Wendy Darling, gets escorted to Neverland by Peter Pan (a tradition) she is thrilled. She'll finally get to see real never fairies! However if she loves them so much, then why does Mother Dove say that Gwendolyn has to leave them alone?

I would recommend this book as a moderately easy read for 4th and 5th graders who like the Disney fairies stories and Peter Pan. I gave this book 3 1/2 stars because I thought it needed more descriptive language and a stronger plot.

*read as an ARC, may be changes in final published version. Now living in Ms. Gray's classroom!

View all my reviews >>

Thanks again to Mrs. Dalloway's for donating advance readers' copies to our intrepid young reviewers.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Extraordinary Women's Museum - photos

It was totally inspiring to have all of these exhibits in the library, honoring extraordinary women
that are part of our lives and our world. Check out the slideshow below to see the exhibits from our museum. (Note: this will not work on BUSD computers because of the district's website policies, but it should work from home!)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Extraordinary Women's Museum

Creative and appreciative students have temporarily transformed the library into a museum honoring extraordinary women. Students from all grade levels contributed exhibits about mothers and grandmothers, artists, famous authors, activists, and other women whose achievements have touched their lives.

Instead of hearing a story this week, we're taking library time to appreciate these fabulous projects and the women who inspired them. (And checking out books, of course.)

Photos coming soon!

We've been reading all along!

Sorry for the long silence (all three of you who read this regularly!) -- we have been reading so much that I let the blog posts and goodreads updates fall by the wayside.

Here are some highlights of last week's reading:

Second graders have been studying inventors and are starting to read biographies -- the perfect opportunity for a new biography of the inventor of the potato chip, George Crum!

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gaylia Taylor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Second graders are studying inventors and biographies right now, and this story of the potato chip's inventor is a excellent amalgam of the two. Although the story drags in parts -- I get the sense that the most interesting parts of his life story have been left out or sanitized -- the illustrations and subject matter make it worthy of a read-aloud.

We have been spending lots of time with rhymes in the younger grades, and first graders are starting an exciting unit on poetry. So who better to read than Jack Prelutsky, the first Children's Poet Laureate?

What a Day It Was at School! What a Day It Was at School! by Jack Prelutsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Funny rhyming poems about a school that may not (or may!) be quite like yours. Prelutsky's poems often requires a lot of background knowledge, and this collection is no exception, but there are a number of accessible, fun poems here that first graders enjoy as a read-aloud.

Finally, our All-School Meeting on Friday, featuring Superstar awards for empathy, made me want to read my favorite book about friendship: James Marshall's classic George and Martha. We observed features of Marshall's illustrations from his versions of fairy tales, and then watched for them as we read the four stories about two great friends.

George and Martha George and Martha by James Marshall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of our favorite books about being a great friend.

View all my reviews >>

We won't be doing any read-alouds this week, as students will be enjoying the exhibits from our Extraordinary Women's Museum during their library time, but we'll be back next week!

Friday, February 26, 2010

This morning I read a wonderful interview with Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard over at The Brown Bookshelf, and it inspired me to dust off our copy of Aunt Flossie's Hats (and Crabcakes Later) for the younger grades. All year they've been talking about how to recognize and write "small moments," and this story is a lovely example.

Aunt Flossie's Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) Aunt Flossie's Hats by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A sweet story about two girls visiting their elderly aunt, who has a story to go with each of her remarkable hats. A nice example of Calkins's "small moments."

This week we also spent some more time with poetry -- 811 in the Dewey Decimal System. Christopher Myers's Black Cat was a totally different style than the book we read last week, Meet Danitra Brown, but equally fun to listen to.

Black Cat (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Books) Black Cat by Christopher Myers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The mixed-media illustrations and the assonance and alliteration in the poems makes this story of a cat's journey across town a crowd-pleasing read-aloud for fourth and fifth graders. Neat to compare and contrast with Fly -- two very different, cool offerings from the same talented author/illustrator.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fancy footwork

This week in the library, we've read a few books that feature fancy footwork: Charles R. Smith Jr.'s Winning Words: Sports Stories & Photographs and Debbie Allen's Dancing In The Wings.

In Winning Words, we read a chapter about football, a mini-play about a team with no points and (needless to say) no wins for an entire season. Faced with their final game, can the few uninjured players left on the team score and win? You have to read it to find out!

Winning Words: Sports Stories and Photographs Winning Words: Sports Stories and Photographs by Charles R. Smith Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

View all my reviews >>

Dancing In The Wings Dancing In The Wings by Debbie Allen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
We love the story of Sassy, a would-be ballerina with big feet and too-long legs -- not least because of her big, funny mouth! A fun read-aloud that's a crowd-pleaser with boys as well as girls, with a good reminder that being different isn't a bad thing.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ms. Carlson's dream: coming true.

For years, Ms. Carlson has wished for All-School Meetings that were just like Reading Rainbow. Now, thanks to the third graders and their marvelous teachers, her dream can come true! From now until the end of the year, we will be featuring student booktalks at each All-School Meeting and here on the blog. If you would like to do a booktalk, come see Ms. Claire. Any student in any grade can prepare a booktalk on almost any book for Ms. Claire to videotape and put up here!

Today we heard Ryan and August talk about Two Days in May by Harriet Peck Taylor:

and Nick and Sefora, booktalking Jalapeno Bagels by Natasha Wing:

More booktalks coming soon!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Poetry and friendship: Danitra Brown, Class Clown

Some second through fifth graders had a chance to hear this book of poems this week. If you're looking for a book that shows how a really great friend can make life better, look no further than this sequel to Meet Danitra Brown.

Danitra Brown, Class Clown Danitra Brown, Class Clown by Nikki Grimes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love that these short rhyming poems create such a strong narrative about friendship and school. They offer a great opportunity to discuss character development. The watercolor illustrations complement the sweetness of the poems, while the rhymes make the narrative as catchy as it is realistic.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, February 8, 2010

Last week, first graders and kindergarteners heard a few favorites from Donald Crews; this week, we're reading a compilation of nursery rhymes photoillustrated by his talented daughter Nina Crews.

The Neighborhood Mother Goose (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards)) The Neighborhood Mother Goose by Nina Crews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Kindergarten and first graders love this collection of old favorite and new (to most) nursery rhymes, and the photoshopped pictures are endlessly exciting. A fun and interactive read-aloud.

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February kicks off the African-American Read-In and third graders' African-American author reports. We read books by African-American authors and other authors of color all year round, but February is when we get to focus almost exclusively on these authors and our favorites of their books.

Parents, please remember that the library is here as you help your child select an author and book for their report! Ms. Claire loves matching readers with books, and we have hundreds of books at all levels to choose from. You can also check out TeachingBooks for fascinating interviews with contemporary authors and illustrators (see Ms. Claire for the password), or keep up with the February showcase of interviews over at The Brown Bookshelf.

Here are just a few of the books we booktalked in the library today. Head on over to our Goodreads page to see more!


Winning Words: Sports Stories and Photographs
Winning Words: Sports Stories and Photographs

The Cheetah Girls: Livin' Large (#1-4)
The Cheetah Girls: Livin' Large (#1-4)

We Love Herman Parish (and Amelia Bedelia)!

A few weeks ago, Ms. Claire got a call from one of our favorite community partners, Mrs. Dalloway's bookstore on College Ave. "Would Emerson students like to have a visit from an author?" they asked. When we found out that the author wrote books about one of our favorite fictional characters -- Amelia Bedelia! -- we jumped at the opportunity. And are we glad we did!

Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Herman Parish spoke to first, second, and third graders, as well as kindergarteners from Kids' World, teachers, and families. He told us about his aunt, Peggy Parish, the original author of the Amelia Bedelia books, and how she got her ideas. Then we learned how he continues the tradition; and we even saw the notebook where he keeps his great ideas.

Before his talk, Mr. Parish gave an interview to two writers from the school paper, Jasmine and Nataly. (Look for that article in the next Breaking News!) Here he is, answering their excellent questions:

Look at that eager crowd! All the students had read some new and classic Amelia Bedelia stories in the last week, so we had tons to say when he asked, "what would she do a situation like this?"

Mr. Parish even brought a very special guest. You might think she looks just like Ms. Carlson, but this Amelia Bedelia definitely took things more literally than Emerson teachers do: she "dusted" Ms. Davis and "dressed" two chickens! This is one assembly that students will remember for years.

After students cheered for Mr. Parish, he came to the library and autographed books for teachers and students.

When you have a chance to talk with your child about the presentation, see if you can come up with other literal interpretations of things that we all say! What do you think Amelia Bedelia would be like if she were a student here at Emerson School? Students and families can pop in the library to check out Amelia Bedelia books and enjoy them together at home.

Many, many thanks to Mr. Parish, Mrs. Dalloway's, and to Mr. Parish's publisher, HarperCollins, for this wonderful opportunity. We can't wait to read the next book, Amelia Bedelia Bakes Off, when it's published in April!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Amelia Bedelia (I Can Read Book 2) Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In preparation for author Herman Parish visiting us next week, some first, second, and third graders heard the classic first book about Amelia Bedelia and her mishaps with literalism. We loved imagining what Amelia would be like as a student at Emerson School -- especially in each individual class!

View all my reviews >>

Follow us on Goodreads!

The Emerson Library finally has a page on goodreads, where we track what we're reading in the library each week. Become our friend on goodreads, or check out our review here on this blog (if Ms. Claire can manage to update it automatically)!

Brothers & Sisters: Family Poems Brothers & Sisters: Family Poems by Eloise Greenfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Kindergarteners have learned about families and friendship in the last month or two, and this books combines both in a lovely series of poems, some rhyming and some not. While it doesn't have the crowd-pleasing verve of hip-hop speaks to children, it's a gentle and fun read.

View all my reviews >>