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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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