Monthly Archives: November 2011

I love a parade! Day 23

Spotlight on Picture Books:

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade

written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

I couldn’t help myself this afternoon.  I just had to stop by the local bookstore on my way home from the grocery store. I always head straight for the children’s book section.  I ran into two of my students this trip. It’s a rare occasion that I don’t see at least one or two of them.  They always seem so surprised to see me outside of the library, like it’s magic or something!

I found several goodies today.  I was particularly impressed by this new book by Melissa Sweet.  Balloons Over Broadway (2011) is the story of Tony Sarg, the toy collecting puppeteer who is credited for designing the first giant helium balloons for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Melissa Sweet built her own toys as part of her writing experience, and they appear on several pages of the book.  Also pictured are detailed drawings of Tony, his marionettes, and the helium balloons we see in the parade today. The last page of the book includes an author’s note and a photograph of the one and only Tony Sarg as well as a note about the mixed media used in the book. An all around fantastic picture book!

I love to read about innovative people in history who are rarely spoken or written about.  Balloons Over Broadway is an example of a historical fiction picture book that works.  I loved it so much that I bought a copy for myself. Take a moment to visit Melissa Sweet’s website.  You won’t be disappointed! You will find an incredible link to a Balloons Over Broadway activity kit along with other fun surprises. Melissa has also collaborated with notable picture book authors like Judy Sierra and Jane Yolen. I love the quote on her homepage-you’ll understand why when you read it!

Enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, everyone!

Creative writing with Web 2.0 tools Day 22

Today’s feature: 10 free web 2.0 tools to get your creative juices flowing!

1. PicLits Choose from hundreds of photos and keywords to generate ideas! Drag and drop words or freestyle write.

2.  Generate a story outline using this free online mind mapping tool.

3. springpad  Use springpad to save and organize ideas and information from the Internet.

4. autocrit  Instantly edit your manuscript with the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. Basic membership is free.

5. the story starter  The Story Starter randomly generates over one billion writing prompts for kids and adults!

6. Glogster  Import images, text, sounds, and video to create an online poster.

7.  Wordle  Create inspirational word clouds by typing words and phrases. Change and rearrange!

8. Animoto  Create awe-inspiring slide shows with images, phrases, and music.

9.  Penzu Create a private online journal. I really love this one!

10. MakeBeliefsComix  Create your own comic strip. You don’t even have to draw! (Good thing for me!)

Have fun playing, creating, and generating new ideas with these really cool online technological tools!

On another technical note, check out my new Vodpod Shelfari widget.  It took me all night to figure out how to get that widget to work!  Oh, but I love a good challenge… I will add a Shelfari video for picture books to my Vodpod widget tomorrow.  Goodnight!

Angels bowling Day 21

A storm is ragin’ tonight! We definitely need the rain in Texas, so I won’t complain.

I remember lying in bed around age 3 listening to the thunder crash above our little house. To comfort me, my mother sat at the foot of my bed and told me that the angels were bowling. What fun, I thought!  I envisioned angels in white gowns and halos tossing bowling balls down golden lanes.

Since then, I have encountered violent acts of nature that have truly terrified me including hailstorms, tornadoes, dust storms, and hurricanes. Severe weather events can devastate entire communities. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, and my own parents evacuated their home the same year when Hurricane Rita threatened the city where I was born.

I have also witnessed wondrous acts of nature. I’ve watched the fattest snowflakes fall along the Texas coast.  I’ve danced in the drought-breaking rains of the Texas Panhandle.  I’ve spent sunny summer days sailing on lakes across North Texas. Nature is unpredictable, uncontrollable, and utterly awe-inspiring.

If you need a picture book idea, look no further.   Picture books can demystify the science behind weather phenomena. They can also encourage children to appreciate and enjoy the natural world of weather.  Here are some notable titles from my school library collection:

Thunder Cake, written and illustrated  by Patricia Polacco (1997)

If Frogs Made the Weather, written by  Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Dorothy Donahue (2005)

Cloudy Day, Sunny Day,  written and illustrated by Donald Crews (1999)

The Cloud Book, written and illustrated by Tomie DePaola (1975)

Storm is coming!  written by Heather Tekavec and illustrated by Margaret Spengler (2002)

The storm book, written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. (1952)

If you are a visually inspired writer like I am, you might enjoy creating an online glogster poster at It’s fun and it’s free!  Check out  my picture book weather idea glog. You can even print it out and put it in your writing journal!


What is Mrs. K. reading today?

I started a new children’s novel today called Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (author of the Cronus Chronicles) I haven’t finished the book, but I think it is safe to say that I highly recommend this novel. The majority of the book is anchored in reality, but there is an element of fantasy as well. Ursu interweaves the two worlds brilliantly. Breadcrumbs is an ideal choice for fifth grade children who will easily identify with the main characters in the story.

Discovering ideas Day 20

I’ve made it to day 20!  I love the PiBoIDMo concept, because the month of November is purely dedicated to the discovery phase of creative writing. My PiBoIdMo journal is a glorious mess of thoughts, quotes, lists, characters, titles, memories, collages, and doodles. There may be a full blown idea in there somewhere, but most need more time to steep.  Creative writing is a complicated and time-consuming process, and I don’t think the journey is quite the same for any two writers. Discovery requires the writer to look at the world through an imaginative lens; to see something extraordinary in the otherwise mundane. The inner editor is silent while the creative soul soars! A great idea is a diamond. When you find one, let it dance in the light.

If writing is thinking and discovery and selection and order and meaning, it is also awe and reverence and mystery and magic….Authors arrive at text and subtext in thousands of ways, learning each time they begin anew how to recognize a valuable idea.”

-Toni Morrison


Read a book, give a book! Day 19

Don’t you love it when you discover something great by accident? That is exactly what happened to me today.  A random Google search led me to an amazing online literacy initiative that I plan to share with everyone I know! It is called We Give Books and it is sponsored by the Pearson Foundation. When you visit the We Give Books website you will find a free e-book library filled with some of the latest and greatest picture books for ages 0-10. (Pearson is adding new books every month!) Each time you finish reading an e-book, simply click “Give a Book” at the bottom, and Pearson will donate a picture book to a child in need via the campaign of your choice. (You must set up an account in order to choose one of the five literacy campaigns that Pearson supports.  You only have to provide your name and an email address to participate.)  It’s that simple! I chose LitWorld, a campaign that is currently giving books to the children of the Navajo Nation.

Participating in a literacy initiative like We Give Books is a wonderful way to encourage your children to love reading while also teaching them to give to other children who may not be as fortunate.  I know what we’ll be doing in the library after the Thanksgiving break!

Here is a link to the site:  I have also added a We Give Books Widget to my page.

Award winning authors give books!


What is Mrs. K. reading today?

I finished reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, and I highly recommend it. The story is based on the real life experiences of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. I also highly recommend a picture book about the Lost Boys of Sudan called Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan written by Mary Williams and illustrated by Gregory Christie (2005).

I cannot wait to start reading my next YA historical fiction choice An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo.  (Michael Morpurgo is also the bestselling author of War Horse.) I haven’t read any reviews of this book, but I have high hopes for it. A book about an elephant set in war torn Dresden in 1938 sure sounds like an interesting read to me.  I’ll keep you posted!

Librarians rule Day 18

Tonight’s post is going to be short and sweet, and anyone who works in education or knows someone who works in education will understand why!

Here is my submission for Perfect Picture Book Friday.  Thank you, Susanna Leonard Hill, for another great idea! If you would like information about other perfect picture books to read with your children or students, visit Susanna’s Perfect Picture Books list today!


How Rocket Learned to Read

Written and illustrated by Tad Hills

Schwartz & Wade Books 2010, fiction

Suitable for:  Preschool-Grade 1 (Ages 4-7)

Themes/Topics: reading, friendship, seasons

Opening and Brief Synopsis: “Rocket loved to play.  He loved to chase leaves and chew sticks.  He loved to listen to the birds sing.” One day as Rocket looks for a place to take a nap after playing all day, a little yellow bird announces that it is time for school!  She tells Rocket that she is his teacher and that he is going to learn how to read.

Links to Resources:

Why I like this book: This is a jewel of a story, and it is all about the love of reading.  I think it has the power to inspire children who are just learning to read. The illustrations are also adorable!

Thankfully, I have my daily PiBoIdMo idea courtesy of one of my wonderful students.  (I totally misinterpreted her illustration, but she was not offended. She liked my idea and changed her picture!) I won’t give it away except to say this: it is holiday themed. I’ve never been inspired to write a holiday picture book, but I can already see this one taking shape in my mind!

All week I have been sharing my Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart pop-up books with my fourth graders, because they will be visiting  the “Wizards of Pop” exhibit at the Visual Arts Center the Monday that we return from Thanksgiving.  Robert Sabuda has a great website with tons of great pop-up templates ranging from easy to very difficult. I chose one of the easy ones for my students to put together (a rabbit in motion) and ran it off on card stock.  We have had so much fun this week putting them together! There is no greater joy than seeing the “oh!” expression on a child’s face when he sees his pop-up creation come to life.  Many students colored their rabbits, drew meadows for them to run through, and wrote titles on the covers of their mini books.  One of my GT boys drew a shark’s mouth around the poor little bunny! Now that’s thinking outside the box!

Tonight I’ll close with a quote:

“What can I say? Librarians rule.”

-Regis Philbin

Right back at ya, Reg!

Thank you, Pat Mora! Day 17

Pat Mora is a well-known name in the world of children’s lit. Mora’s books add a  much needed multicultural flavor to the world of children’s picture books and literature for young adults. My favorite Pat Mora book is Tomás and the Library Lady. This story is based on the Texas born educator Tomás Rivera.  It is about  his relationship with the librarian who first checked out a library book to him during a summer stay in Iowa when he was a boy.  Tomás was the son of migrant working parents and had no permanent address, so the librarian checked out two books to Tomás under her own name. I love this story!

Not only is Pat Mora an award winning author of books for children, teens, and adults, but she is also an advocate for teachers AND librarians! You go, Pat Mora!  I ordered one of her latest books for educators today called Zing! Seven Creativity Practices for Educators and Students. The reviews sound really promising, and I can’t wait to add it to our professional collection.  Other great titles by Pat Mora include Doña Flor, The Race of Toad and Deer (a re-telling of a Mayan folktale) , and Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Que Rico! Many of her books for children are printed in both English and Spanish. To learn more about Pat Mora, her books, and her ideas on creativity, click on the blue  Bookjoy icon to the right.


Now it’s time for What is Mrs. K. reading today?

I finished the Liberation of Gabriel King, and I recommend it.  The message in the story is a good one, and its delivery is fairly original.
Now I am reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. (I have to admit that I really want to finish this blog today so I can read the ending!) If you need a little perspective in your life, try reading this book. Two characters tell parallel stories that take place during two different time periods in Southern Sudan.  Both stories revolve around water, of course, and survival. Linda Sue Park is another award-winning author who has written a number of outstanding multicultural books for young readers. For more about Linda Sue Park, visit


Tonight when I take out my PiBoIdMo journal, I am going to write down some of my memories of growing up in a multicultural neighborhood.  I grew up with kids from India, Taiwan, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam. My friends were always interested in learning about one another’s cultures and tolerance was the norm in my little world. I am already recalling some great memories that will make fantastic PB ideas. Time to journal!