Month: December 2012

Twitter 101 for Librarians and Teachers

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Why do we as librarians and teachers need to come to terms with Twitter?  View the Prezi above created by myself and Diana Colby, library media specialist at Keller ISD’s Early Learning Center, for a peek at our own Twitter journey and steps to take that Twitter plunge.  

In the beginning, it was helpful for me to think of Twitter in terms of library lingo.  For example, what is this “@” business?  In Twitter, users select a “handle” or ID preceded by the ampersand.  If we think of Twitter as a massive OPAC (online catalogue), then each user has a main entry…that main entry is their “handle.”  For example, Twitter users can search for me with the 100 tag @audreyw222.  Furthermore, the Twitter “catalogue” can also be accessed through hashtags (#thisfunnystringofwordsembeddedintweets).  Hashtags allow searching for a specific topic or subject accessible for users.  The hashtag in the Twittersphere is the subject heading in library land’s OPAC.

Making anymore sense?

Needing more convincing?  Check out this month’s issue of Library Media Connection for the article, “Twitter Tips and Tricks for Your Library and Classroom” by media specialist Melissa Purcell.  In this two-page spread, Purcell dissects, describes, and defines the microblogging social media tool and decodes the mystery behind that little blue bird for classroom teachers and librarians.  The article contains a glossary of twitter terminology, top ten reasons to incorporate Twitter, suggested Twitter handles for libraries and classrooms to follow, popular hashtags, and links to access blogs and documents that explore ways Twitter is coming home to roost in libraries and schools.  

We are in the middle of a communication revolution as people now share intimate details of their lives as fast as they can type.  In this mobile world, everyone can have their voice heard in an instant with few technical skills.  Twitter is used by millions of people every day to discuss their lives and the news of the day.  The dated one-way flow of information from book or website to patron just does not work for patrons anymore; they need to interact with their information, and Twitter provides a platform for that interaction.  Now is the time to embrace the free technology tools that our students are already using and incorporate those tools into our lesson plans for a true educational experience (Purcell, 2012).

Adventures in iPads: Initial Deployment Woes and the Sites that Saved My Sanity

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The Adventure Begins…

Well, we’ve gone and done it.  Fossil Ridge has taken the iPad plunge.  Last week I had the pleasure (along with my faithful helper, Mme. Morgan) of unwrapping, setting up, and synchronizing thirty iPads for the Ridge.  Now, this process was not nearly as neat and productive as you might first think.  Before we deploy our iPad fleet for classroom use, I wanted to provide some background and explanation for how multiple iPad devices are managed in schools and on our campus.

First of all, when Steve Jobs and Apple first conceptualized this laptop-mobile device, they did not anticipate it would have such a tremendous draw in education. In his 2010 keynote in which he introduces the new tablet device that would revolutionize the mobile device industry and technology in education, Jobs discusses the need in the market for a “third category device” one that blends the portable, compact quality of the iPhone with the speed, productivity, and functionality of a laptop. Jobs does not mention anything about a vision for the devices in institutions, including education.  His presentation continues as he highlights the iPad’s unique features that allow the user to create a highly personalized experience (email, iPhoto, background, etc.).

10 Biggest Questions about iPads in the Classroom

Schools immediately jumped on board the iPad boat, purchasing the hot commodity for teachers and students.  In fact, the very next day journalists and educators were speculating on the impact the iPad will have on education.  Flooding the app market for education specific tools that would engage students at higher levels of thinking, creating, collaborating, and sharing.  Apple, however, was not prepared for the education market, and so when schools ran into issues regarding deployment,  the mobile device company that focused on a personalized experience for its customers needed to do some back-pedaling to consider how to support a  multi-user educational platform.

[Enter site #1 that helped me wrap my brain about iPad deployment in schools] 
A collection of deployment guides and resources for schools including a presentation on the role of iPads in schools, Apple’s VPP program, and integrating technology into instruction.

The Scoop It site led me to this fantastic  collection of resources realted to iPads in K12 education curated by Kathy Schrock.  There are lots of lists of suggested apps generated by multiple schools.
Kathy’s site led me to the graphic on the left from an article posted on Edudemic.
Oh, the rabbit trails are endless!
But I digress…back to our deployment.

Initial roadblocks…

1)  iPads are designed to be unique and personalized for their users–the functionality of the iPad (synchronized email, contacts, calendars, apps, iTunes, etc.) does not transfer to school models where iPads are used by multiple students. 

2)  iPads are designed to be managed through a home computer, one at a time–Schools who purchased thirty or more iPads for classroom use struggled to painstakingly sync and manage each device, one at a time–a very lengthy and monotonous process (speaking from personal experience).  Today, we have a MDM (multiple-device-manager) and a nifty little application that allows a school’s device manager (me) to upload content and manage multiple devices at one time–Apple Configurator. 
Not only do we now have an application that cooperates with iTunes so that the devices can be managed all at once, but we have a nifty piece of hardware that stores, charges, and syncs them all, too!
3)  Purchased apps are intended for personal use, with the understanding that they may be shared on a handful of devices in a home or family–In the beginning, educators and schools got away with a lot.  Schools created an iTunes account, purchased a single license app for 2.99 and then loaded it onto thirty or more iPads.  Apple got smart to their ways, however, and implemented volume purchasing for institutions.
Now you may be asking, “why the heck do we need to understand all of this, Audrey?  Just give us the devices and let’s do it!” 
It’s important to understand the intention behind the iPads and the process we use to manage and distribute them so that you can better implement them in your classes, taking full advantage of their potential. 

So, here’s a little narrative of the process that involved the initial set up and deployment of our iPads, including the top sites and resources that saved our sanity and provided us with a healthy little collection of apps ready for classroom use!

They are here!

Confession–the iPads have actually been on our campus, sitting in boxes in my secret storage space for longer than a week or two.  But before you clench your fists and wave them at me understand that the process of unwrapping, setting up, and syncing the iPads is nothing like the process a personal user undergoes.  This was not a project I could spend five or ten minutes at a time between my other duties and roles.  I needed a solid day, with my office and the library closed, to immerse myself in the tools and processes I mentioned above.  (Yay, for STAAR retesting!) 
With the library closed and my faithful helper, we went about the task of unboxing, unwrapping, labeling, and plugging in all thirty iPads into the Bretford PowerSync Cart.  This took us a little over an hour.

Ummm…everything is plugged in, why aren’t the dang things charging?

PowerSync Cart
And here was obstacle #1 in the great 2012 iPad deployment.  We unplugged and replugged any chord and outlet we could find, flipped the switch on and off, unplugged the cart, and repeated about five times.  I called my fellow librarians who I thought had the same cart…they didn’t.  I got on the website for Bretford and found their support form…I was not about to sit and waste my time waiting for an automated response from an electronic form…a little more digging and we came across an actual phone number. 

The solution?  Easy-peasy.  Remove the bottom dividers, reach back, and jiggle the power cord to the cart, plug in the wall, flip the switch…and voila!  We had power.  This took about another hour of our time.

Two hours into our deployment day and we hadn’t even started the iTunes process.

It’s helpful when you have a working iTunes account.

Obstacle #2–no access to iTunes.  It seems that our campus iTunes account (which had never been used) had been tampered with, and we needed a new account.  Well, this involves setting up a new Outlook email account, which involves calling 1200, which involves waiting for 1200 to decide who the job should go to, which ends up being the “mail” team, otherwise known as the “male” team (no offense guys)–who is notorious for dragging their heals and taking their time.

How the heck do we get all of these tools to play nice?

While waiting to hear back about iTunes, we read and re-read, and read again the directions on using Apple Configurator and the Bretford PowerSync cart. [Enter website #1 that saved my sanity].

Our iTunes delay did allow us to think about the profile we wanted to create for the devices.  Apple Configurator not only allows you to upload and manage the content on the iPads, but it also allows you to enable and disable its features to create profiles.  For example, the student profile we pushed out to all 30 iPads allows for use of Safari, the built in camera, and it is automatically connected to the Student wifi.  Students cannot, however, change the wifi settings, delete or purchase apps, or access iCloud or photo stream.  Nice!

With a few minor interruptions involving COW carts, students sneaking into the library, and lunch we were still waiting on that Apple ID so we could register the devices and download content!

While we are waiting…what ARE we going to put on these things?

Thank goodness for Mme. Morgan’s type A personality.  The two of us split up and scoured blogs, Pinterest board, websites, and Twitter for lists of recommended apps for education. 

[Enter in several more sites that helped us further explore iTunes and the world of apps]
apps organized by content area
apps organized by Bloom’s taxonomy
Pinterest board for iPads in the classroom maintained by GCISD

Apple’s own iPads in education page.
Ning for iPad educators.  Includes deployment plans, blogs, apps, tutorials, and more!
the MEGA collection of all things iPad for teachers, students, and schools.  Click on the tabs and subtabs across the top.  LiveBinder is a virtual three-ring binder.  Cool tool.
Another MEGA collection of 50 resources (links and apps) for iPads
Here’s the final result (also posted on the Fossil Ridge collaboration site): our beautiful spreadsheet.
But…still waiting on iTunes.

Finally, let’s load these babies!

With the assistance of Lisa Ham, Aron Rister, and Tomi Deevers, our new and improved iTunes account arrived at the end of our deployment day.  It took less than an hour to download all of the-preselected apps.  It took another hour (the next day) to do the initial set up and registration for all thirty devices and then sync and load the apps from iTunes.

Final touches…

Our final step in preparing the devices for initial use involves manually organizing the apps by functionality and content onto screens so that they are classroom ready.  This step must be done one-by-one…thank goodness for savvy student aides!

And the final product:

Home Screen

Read and Explore


Social Studies

Foreign Languages



Language Arts

Stay tuned for more adventures in iPads!

Module #8: The Raven Boys

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Blue has been told since she was very young that she will kill her true love.  While watching the ghosts of the soon-to-be-dead walk through churchyard endowed with tremendous spiritual energy, she’s drawn to  one spirit, a mysterious boy who speaks directly to her,  “Gansey, that’s all there is.”  She undergoes a quest with the real Gansey and his three Raven Boys, all students at the prestigious Aglionby Academy, to unearth the powerful ley line and unlock the mystery before someone else beats them to it. 

APA Reference:
Stiefvater, M. (2012). The raven boys.  New York, NY:  Scholastic Press.


Professional Review:
Fiction * The Raven Boys Maggie Stiefvater Scholastic Press, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-545-42492-9

By grounding this new series in what might be called everyday weirdness–a rich teenager’s obsession with legend and glory, a shabby household of female psychics with a pay-per-minute hotline–Stiefvater (TheScorpio Races) avoids the burden of building a seamless alternate world, instead saturating our reality with magic. Haunting, distinctly individual characters are at the forefront: Blue, an outsider in her own home because she isn’t clairvoyant; Gansey and his posse of misfits, who lack any sense of home and seek meaning elsewhere; and Barrington Whelk, a Latin teacher with a secret. Gansey and his fellow “ravenboys” attend exclusive Aglionby Academy–itself out of place in working-class Henrietta, Va.–and Blue’s goal is to avoid them at any cost. She can’t, of course, but Stiefvater doesn’t rush this inevitability. Hopes, fears, quirks, and forebodings gather gradually, coalescing as living portraits. It’s a tour de force of characterization, and while there is no lack of event or mystery, it is the way Stiefvater’s people live in thereader’s imagination that makes this such a memorable read. Ages 13-up. Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary Agency, (Sept.)

The Raven Boys [Review of the book The raven boys]. (2012). Publishers Weekly259(31), 67.


My “BFF” Maggie and Me at NCTE12

After devouring Stiefvater’s series The Wolves of Mercy Falls, and her 2011 Printz Honor Book The Scorpio Races, I–and much of the YA-obsessed world–waited eagerly for the release of her “boy” series.  Our patience was dually rewarded with this spectaculary, multi-dimensional ensemble story of a band of misfits and their supernatural quest.  Much like in The Scorpio Races, Stiefvater deftly crafts a world based in realism with supernatural or mystical elements.  Her prose is so well crafted that the reader forgets where the realism ends and fantasy begins.  Whether it be ley lines, psychics, and deadly rituals or mythological man-eating water horses,  her books do not leave the reader on the outside edge looking into a fantasy. 

The ensemble cast of characters truly makes this a “character-driven” novel.  Although at times I found myself doubling back and re-reading following abrupt perspectives to the story, I appreciated each character’s unique history, puzzles, and purposes for the quest.
I’m very eager to continue on with Blue in her boys in the next installment.

Favorite moments:
“She recognized the strange happiness that came from loving something without knowing why you did, that strange happiness that was sometimes so big that it felt like sadness.”

“When Gansey was polite, it made him powerful. When Adam was polite, he was giving power away.”

“I guess I make things that need energy stronger. I’m like a walking battery.”
“You’re the table everyone wants at Starbucks,” Gansey mused as he began to walk again.
Blue blinked. “What?”
Over his shoulder, Gansey said, “Next to the wall plug.”

“Where do you live?”
Adam’s mouth was very set. “A place made for leaving”
“That’s not really an answer.”
“It’s not really a place.”

“My words are unerring tools of
destruction, and I’ve come unequipped with the ability to disarm them.”

Library Uses:Both The Raven Boys and The Scorpio Races would make for an excellent bridge between readers who typically enjoy realistic fiction into the fantasy genre.  Host a “meet the author” event featuring a new author who has made a strong impact in their genre.  Show trailers, provide book talks for participating classes, and invite students to explore Maggie Stiefvater’s website for behind the scene videos into the making of her book trailers for a unique perspective on digital storytelling (

Stiefvater created her own trailer for The Raven Boys

Behind the scenes look at creating the music for The Raven Boys book trailer.

Module 14: You Don’t Even Know Me

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In this collection of stories and poetry all told from the perspective of teenage boys, Flake presents the sometimes hilarious but reflective voices that are not always heard in classrooms.  Some stories deal with very serious topics such as teenage pregnancy and marriage and some are light-hearted takes on girls and how to impress them. 

APA Reference
Flake, S. G. (2010).  You don’t even know me.  New York, NY:  Jump at the Sun.

Professional Review

You don’t even know me. Sharon G. Flake. Jump at the Sun, 2010. $16.99. 978-1-4231-0014-0. Grades 8-11. Realistic, sometimes gritty, short stories and some poetry convey life for black, mostly urban, teenage boys. With different formats and themes, the narratives touch on teen pregnancy, AIDS, and violence but also convey a sense of hope and the richness of life.

ODEAN, K. (2011). NO EASY ANSWERS [Review of the book You don’t even know me]. Teacher Librarian, 38(4), 36.

While reading this collection I most appreciated the diversity of the voices represented.  Urban male teens tend to be pigeon-holed into one stereotype in pop culture–the hardened thug.  Flake, however, shows us the hopes, zeal for life, and the importance of relationships to urban boys. 

Library Uses
During National Poetry Month in April, the library can host an open-mic event for students to read from their favorite poets or read their own works.  Leading up to the event, create a display of poetry students might find engaging.  You Don’t Even Know Me can be part of a display geared towards boys finding their voices through poetry alongside The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur and many other collections of poetries by urban and male voices.  Flake’s poems or stories would make excellent podcasts, recorded with photographs depicting some of the images and scens in the poems. 

Module #5: The First Part Last

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Bobby and his girlfriend Nia are in love and happy, until Nia discovers she is pregnant.  Told in alternating chapters between “Now,”  Bobby struggles to take care of his newborn daughter without the presence of Nia, and “Then,” Bobby and Nia struggle together to determine what will be best–keep the baby or put her up for adoption.  It’s the “first part” of the story that is kept until the very end when we fully understand the situation Bobby finds himself in and the greatest struggle of all. 

  APA Reference:
Johnson, A. (2003).  The first part last. New York, NY:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

  Professional Review:

Section: Grades 9-12

JOHNSON, Angela. The First Part Last.
144p. CIP. S & S. 2003. RTE $15.95.
ISBN 0-689-84922-2. LC 2002036512.
Gr 8 Up-In this lyrical novel, 16-year-old Bobby narrates his journey into teenage fatherhood, struggling to balance school, parenting, and friends who simply do not comprehend his new role and his breathtaking love for his daughter. Winner of the 2004 SRT Coretta Scott King Author Award and the 2004 YALSA Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence.

The First Part Last (Book) [Review of the book The first part last]. (2004). School Library Journal5064.


First Part Last is such a gentle book, with a deeply sensitive narrator. Reluctant readers will enjoy the short, engaging chapters and the realistic setting and situations. Many will also find familiarity with Bobby’s struggle to be a single, teenage father and the heart-breaking loss he keeps tucked away. 

Library Uses:
Paired alongside Flake’s You Don’t Even Know Me, this title could be part of a book talk that targets adolescent boys, particularly those who seem to hide a lot behind the “tough guy” facade. 

Module 15: Forever

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A senior in high school, Kath meets Michael at a friend’s New Year’s Eve party and nineteen dates later, they are in love.  This isn’t just any kind of love; it’s the kind that lasts forever.  The two are inseparable, as Kath works through her confusions and fears about sex and what “making love” will mean for them as a couple.  A summer apart tests their trust in one another and belief in “forever.” 

APA Reference
 Blume, J. (1975).  Forever. New York: NY, Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Professional Review
Katherine and Michael find each other, and it’s first love for both of them.  Katherine loses her virginity, finds out about contraceptives, and learns about VD with lectures inserted as needed.  Actually, both kids are so kind and considerate, so understanding, so everything, that readers may wonder what’s wrong with them.  Finally, she realizes that first love isn’t always Forever, that she is growing and accepting changes.  Sniff, sniff.  Obviously it’s not a quality book, but that fact won’t bother the many girls who will read it, identify, cry happily, and recommend it to their friends.  Librarians buying for junior high schools should be aware that the sexual scenes, while not at all explicit compared to the run of adult novels, may be more than parents of young teens bargain for. —Regina Minduri, Alameda County Library, Hayward, Calif.

Minudri, R. U. (1975). Forever (Book) [Review of the book Forever]. School Library Journal, 22(3), 95.

Made famous by the many challenges and attempts to ban it from school and public libraries, Blume’s novel is not just about sexual awakening, but of the universal experience of “true” and “first” love; oftentimes, teens first adult experiences are wrapped up in those relationships.

What I most appreciated about Forever is the expansive cast of female characters who all explore varying issues and angles to sexuality: Kath’s best friend Erica who makes it a goal to “get laid” before she goes to college so she can have the experience behind her; Kath’s grandmother, a New York lawyer, who played a pivotal role in the development of Planned Parenthood and sends her pamphlets about birth control, reproductive rights, and venereal disease in the mail, which ultimately leads to Kath visiting the clinic for contraceptives; and, Kath’s mother who has an open and honest relationship with Kath and does not shy away from having non-judgmental conversations about sex without condemning or condoning.

Are there somewhat erotic and overtly sexual moments in Forever? Oh, yes! But, even though sex is an ever present topic, the perspectives and reflections of the characters present a well-rounded conversation that every teenager could benefit from participating in. For some, the only way that will happen is through reading the book.

Library Uses
Forever is an excellent title that appears on the most frequently banned books lists that could be included in a display, book talk, or trailer promoting Banned Book Week.  Given the popularity of Judy Blume’s work over the generations, the library could collect personal responses to the novel from adult and teen readers spanning the three decades the book has been popular. 

Module #7: Mockingbirds

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Book Summary
Alex wakes up in a strange dorm room with a strange boy, evidence of the previous night’s events scattered across the room.  It’s clear what happened, but Alex has no memory of any of it after leaving the concert with her friends.  As pieces of her memory come back to her and she confides in her best friend and her sister, she realizes the truth–she was date raped.  She can stay quiet about it, try to move on with her life, or she can find someone who can help her take a stand.  She seeks the assistance of a student organization, The Mockingbirds–named after Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  Will they right the wrongs inflicted upon students by fellow students, or will Alex be left standing alone in the end?

  APA Reference
Whitney, D. (2012).  The mockingbirds.  New York, NY:  Little Brown.

ImpressionsThe opening chapter as Alex rises from a stranger’s bed, naked and disoriented, paints the picture of a too familiar scene.  Whitney approaches the sensitive and sometimes taboo topic of date rape with an honest victim’s perspective.  When Alex realizes what has happened to her, we wonder why she doesn’t fight harder, tell the authorities or her parents.  Whitney constructs Alex in a way where we not only understand, but we empathize with the many stages of grief she must wade through following a traumatic event.  Perhaps the most poignant scene comes right on the heals of resolution.  Alex confides in the one adult she trusts to counsel her that she doubts herself and the accusations she’s brought against another student.  A vague memory surfaces of that night that makes her question the whole course of events.  This realism and honesty stems from Whitney’s personal experiences, which breathe purpose and heroism into her debut novel.

Professional Review
Section: The Book Review

WHITNEY, Daisy. The Mockingbirds. 339p. Web sites. CIP. Little, Brown. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-316-09053-7. LC 2009051257.
Gr 9 Up–Alex wakes up in a strange bed, naked, and with a terrible headache, lying next to a boy whose name she doesn’t know. A junior at an elite boarding school, she is used to a controlled and nearly perfect life. Among all the talented and special students at Themis Academy, Alex is a standout as a classical musician. How could she have been so stupid as to have sex–for the very first time–with this stranger? It takes several days, and the support of her roommates and friends, for her to piece together the events that led up to that horrible morning. The portrayal of the aftermath of alcohol-fueled sexual assault is particularly well drawn. Alex is confused, disoriented, and deeply shamed, but her friends help her understand that, no matter how drunk she was, sex without consent is rape. There is no help from the school authorities, who have failed to protect students from one another in the past, so Alex turns to the Mockingbirds. This semisecret society is an ingenious student-initiated justice system that holds individuals responsible for their actions. Just like in the world outside, the wheels of justice turn slowly, but ultimately Alex has the satisfaction of holding her assailant to account. Particularly poignant is Alex’s growing relationship with a kind and caring boy who helps her regain her equilibrium and look to the future. Written with a deep awareness of post-trauma experience and a keen ear for high school dialogue, this novel makes an impassioned case for youth taking responsibility for the actions of their peers.
By Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA

Lehman, C. (2011). The Mockingbirds [Review of the book The Mockingbirds]. School Library Journal57(3), 175.

Library Uses
The Mockingbirds fits well with additional titles that address social justice and standing up for those who are dis-empowered.  Paired with other books that deal with difficult topics for teens such as Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson,  Lay that Trumpet in Our Hands by Susan Carol McCarthy, and Harper Lee’s iconic work, these books allow students to safely explore complex themes.  The library may promote these titles by timing a book talk or display with the English department’s study of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Holding Sacred the Time and Space for Choice in Reading

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I’m taking this class, Literature for Children and Youth, as part of my school library certification coursework (I know, right!  Like, I get to read amazing picture, chapter, and young adult books for class…and get a grade!).   Every week we are assigned to choose anywhere from two to fifteen titles from an extensive list based on genre, award, topic, etc.  One week we were assigned to read four Newbery Award winners.  Another week was historical fiction, etc; then, we are supposed to blog about them.  Tough life, huh!

(part of) my TBR stash hanging out with some faves

But here’s the thing…I’m getting ready to wrap up on this class.  This week is our final week of assigned reading (the topic, by the way, is banned and challenged books).  As I’m going back through my blog posts one last time and publishing them, my eyes keep wandering over to my TBR (to be read) stack on the book shelf that my excellent friend and reading mentor, Donalyn Miller, bequeathed to me last spring as she was packing up her classroom library in preparation of her move from 6th to 4th grade.  Here’s a small sample of the greatness that awaits me:

  • I am Arthur by Phillip Reeve
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
  • Want to Go Private by Sarah Darer Littman
  • Happy Face by Stephen Emond
  • Wolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler
  • White Cat by Holly Black
  • This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
  • Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
  • Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
AND..two 2012 titles that I know are serious contenders for major awards this year:
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
(just to name a few.  I failed to mention The Diviners by Libba Bray that I reward myself with a little bit each night before I go to sleep)

Yes, they are still on my shelf, sadly.  The thing is, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in graduate classes since June and do not allow myself to pull from my TBR stack until all of my assigned reading is done.  And–no matter how amazing the assigned titles are (believe me…like awesome books!)–since I did not choose them on my own from an organic, have-to-read-this-right-now kind of base place in my reading soul, my assigned books do not bring me near as much pleasure as those that I received from friends as recommendations or that I discovered on my own on Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and review sources.

Guess where I’m going with this…

I count myself as a rather solid reader as an adult.  There’s room for improvement–I could read faster, more extensively, widely.  I could read a lot more nonfiction, biography, and histories.  But on the whole…I’m not too shabby.  And even I, a strong reader, feel that the reading experiences that I choose to engage in lead to much more meaningful exchanges between myself and the book…no matter how GREAT a book may be that was assigned to me.

Now, I’m thinking about my students’ reading experiences–all of them, from the alliterate, reluctant reader to my AP, advanced readers–all of them derive more pleasure, more meaning, more transformation as readers and people from the books they choose for themselves than any title I could put in front of them.

The message, folks, is simple.  There’s a time and place for assigning reading.  But to grow readers–real readers, who see reading as breathing in their lives, necessary for the expansion of their lives and souls–we must hold sacred the time and place for choice in our classrooms and in our students’ lives.

Happy reading,


Module #6: Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

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Book Summary
What happens when the cows on Farmer Brown’s farm learn to read and write and type?  They leave notes demanding certain improvements, of course. 

APA Reference

Cronin, D. (2000).  Click, clack, moo: cows that type.  New York, NY:  Simon &Schuster Books for Young Readers


Cronin’s humorous story of barnyard animals who band together over a typewriter and their new-found delight in the power of sending messages delights young readers, teens, and adults.  Lewin’s water color images with bold tracings convey the expressiveness of both Farmer Brown and his animals as messages are sent and received.  The simply repeated phrase, “click, clack, moo” sets the book’s light-hearted rhythm, inviting readers to participate whenever the familiar stanza appears, accentuated with large and bold font.  Older readers might even recognize some parallel’s with George Orwell’s Animal Farm and enjoy discussing the irony of Farmer Brown’s situation and the pigs from the classical novel. 

Professional Reviews

Section: Focus On: COMMUNITY

CRONIN, Doreen.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type.
illus. by Betsy Lewin.
S. & S. 2000.
RTE $15.95. ISBN 0-689-83213-3.
K-Gr 3– Life on the farm will never be the same after the cows discover an old typewriter. When Farmer Brown refuses their first written request for electric blankets, the determined cows go on strike. In a bold act of community organization, they convince the hens to join them, and soon the baffled farmer is out both milk and eggs. Neutral Duck arbitrates with hilarious results. Lewin’s watercolors are as big, bold, and outrageous as the animals’ demands. Video and audio versions available from Weston Woods.

Auerbach, B. (2005). Click, clack, moo: cows that type [Review of the book Click, clack, moo:  cows that type]. School Library Journal51(9), 58.

Library Uses

Use this text alongside Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin’s other works including Duck for President and Giggle, Giggle, Quack (all which take place in Farmer Brown’s barnyard) for students to explore the work of one author/ illustrator team more in depth.  

Module 13: Tales from Outer Suburbia

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Shaun Tan explores many of the themes and issues present in modern day suburbia through a collection of comic, illustrated stories and sketches.  The stories are presented through a satirical lens and offer the the reader a sophisticated but humorous examination of suburban lifestyle. 

APA Reference:

Taun, S. (2008).  Tales from outer suburbia.  New York, NY:  Arthur A. Levine Books.

Professional Review:


TAN, Shaun.
Tales from Outer Suburbia.
illus. by author. 96p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks.
2009. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-545-05587-1.
LC number unavailable.
Gr 4 Up– Intriguing, wacky, or downright surreal, these dynamic illustrated vignettes by a master artist show unequivocally that there is no such thing as an “ordinary” suburban community. Tan works his magic with a few well-chosen words and a vibrant and expansive artistic vision, inviting readers to observe and explore familiar landscapes and look for untold stories beyond the obvious. BOOK

Tales from outer suburbia [Review of the book Tales from outer suburbia]. (2009). School Library Journal5540.


Unlike his award-winning The Arrival, which focuses on a singular plot and cast of characters, Tales uses a series of short vignettes, some not even prose, to explore fantastical stories of stick people, whales beached in backyards, and even a “how-to” grow your perfect pet. Even taking the graphics out of consideration, the text alone in this work would not warrant the label “novel.” But, because it has illustrations, we are quick to place it in the graphic novel genre.

Readers who enjoy illustrated texts that invite deeper exploration in the graphics and images will enjoy this book.  The quirky alien neighbors and random how-toinfluences provide some laugh-out-loud moments as well as moments for further consideration where you may even stop to wonder if Tan is sneaking in a social commentary of some sort in between his more light-heared sic-fi moments.  

Library Uses:
This title is an excellent discussion starter for graphic novels as a genre.  Invite students to explore how this book is organized, the role of the graphics and the text, the multiple story lines and modes of writing, and them invite them to compare this to more linear-styled graphic novels such as The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick or any number of more traditional graphic novels.