Buying Craft Books – keep an eye on great adult titles!


Craft a Day by Sarah Goldschadt


My students are always looking for fun new craft books, and so am I! I’ve started noticing that the titles I find in the adult craft section are often just right for upper elementary and more rich and enticing than the standard 32 page juvenile fare.

For example, look at this sweet book from Sarah Goldschadt. Each week has a theme and the image is used in several different crafts: felt fox finger puppet, fox card, fox cupcake topper – you get the idea. Nothing looked too hard for my crafty crew and I bet it will inspire them to take some of their own drawings and try them out in different crafts : )

ImageCheck out the index. I’m seeing visual indexes like this a lot lately in craft books. It makes for a fun and easy finding tool. My students roll their eyes when I call the index their BFF = best finding friend, but they have to agree it’s a big help in any nonfiction book!


From an email conversation about public domain books, BYOD and more

Ongoing conversations in email with several librarians, admin…. One email mentioned a speaker who emphasized the need to make sure a teacher’s knowledge base doesn’t limit a child’s futures….Also, the suggestion comes up that we need to offer more public domain titles (nothing wrong with that, we’re lucky to have public domain titles!) but it’s complicated when you’re talking about young readers, hence my reply. PS Donate to the Internet Archive, they’re saving some real treasures!


Jack and the Giant Killer, courtesy Internet Archive

Public domain offers very little to most K-5 readers. In elementary, we all have a few fans of old and classic (and old and not classic), but for the most part, the public domain titles come from the era before books for young readers exploded in availability, diversity and popularity….

Here is where I get most of mine, to recommend to students, because the Internet Archive has some of the better illustration and format choices:
Hey, elementary librarians, notice the top 5 recent downloads and ask yourself how your fairy tales and Wizard of Oz titles are circulating compared to titles published in the last 5 years?
I love the Wizard of Oz series and enjoy a lot of the books in public domain, but when it comes to free choice reading and the interests of the MAJORITY of K-5 readers, classics and old titles will never be more than a small (if not tiny) part of our collections.

In secondary, any amount of choice will end up looking good, since many teachers’ ideas of  canonical lit titles is limited. That’s probably more true in HS – but please, sec lib’s, chime in! If you’re seeing the English teachers offer more choice in reading, I’d love to hear : )

As for what the speaker you heard said (…re not wanting his child’s learning to be limited to what the teacher already knows…), if my child’s teachers are reading widely and especially in current professional literature, they know a LOT! And have an eye on what’s changing, where the reader’s and publisher’s activities are headed… keyword IF. The more we as librarians can help teachers with information on many fronts, the better. The speaker you heard clearly has a stereotypical view of teachers, and his notion of someone whose knowledge base is frozen in the past insults the kind of teachers and librarians I admire.

The “which device” talk is rapidly going away, since so many offerings are aimed at every possible platform, but the need is to give our students lots of chances to read on a variety of devices and learn the key skills:
Finding what appeals to them,
Knowing where to look,
Evaluating informational text,
Maximizing their time and money…

So what hold us up from BYOD in K-5? Permission slips for parents? Getting clear with teachers about what it will look like? The equity issue? Or maybe I should say BYOD in gr 3 –5, since they’ve got more self-control and ability to keep up with their stuff? Anybody planning for BYOD this fall?

SXSWedu Presentation


Manager Meredith of Gordon Ave Branch Library Made a Classic Display


Tara Books and Simms Taback

Tara Books is an independent publisher in South India. You know how you find things and then re-find them? I remember reading about this publisher a few years ago, and then today I was admiring this octopus image and it led me back to Tara Books.


Octopus from Waterlife

This octopus is in BibliOdyssey’s Flickr stream. The BibliOdyssey blog is a treasure trove of ephemera and digitized visual delights from antiquity. The octopus is from one of Tara’s books called Waterlife and this post describes both Waterlife and I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tale. Both look absolutely wonderful, the kind of folk art books that appeal to children and make their parents (and librarians!) linger.

From Tara’s site, here is an article about Waterlife: Waterlife: A Fluid Tradition.


Waterlife by Rambharos Jha

The author, Rambharos Jha: “….Tara showed me various aquatic animals on the computer, animals I had never seen in nature such as whales and lobsters.  They asked me how I would draw them.  I said I would draw them as I draw everything else:  by making it part of my imagination.”

Tara made a video of the other book I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail and it is a lovely look at a book I can’t wait to order for my library:


Click to watch on youtube

I could see helping students make their own versions. We’d start with a short poem, then storyboard the placement of words, pictures and cut-outs. What would it be like to approach this as an ebook template? Perhaps 5th graders could plan for links and reveals?

  I couldn’t help but remember that Simms Taback died this year. His book Joseph Had a Little Overcoat won the Caldecott Medal in 1977 and it takes a Yiddish folk song and makes it into a richly detailed story of thrift and community. Children love the holes in the pages that get smaller as each coat remnant is cut. And the message, “You can always make something out of nothing!” is a good one.

My favorite video made from his book is this one by Anya Medvid, an award-winning graphic designer:

Video by Anya Medvid

My Favorite Picture Book? A Short List, With Water as the Common Thread


Today on Twitter, my superintendent Pam Moran asked a bunch of us what our favorite picture books are.

Two things work against me producing a quick answer to this question. First, I have no life-changing childhood memory of my first picture book, or a bedtime treasure. My parents were busy and didn’t read aloud, although my father probably read up a storm on his own. And we lived far from sources of children’s books (East Africa, long ago).

Secondly, when someone asks me what my favorite anything is, my overly helpful brain springs into speedy action. (This is what I call Rich Inner Life Syndrome and I wish you would too). It’s not that I don’t have favorites; it’s not that I’m wishy-washy. And it is possible that you could craft a question that I would find easy to answer:

What’s your favorite plant with hanging flowers? Fuchsia! What’s your favorite terrier that looks like a lamb? Bedlington! (No, I don’t own one, a vet talked to me out of it.)

It’s that I’ve always been arrested by possibilities.  And once you spend time with picture books, those alluring objects that can hold lovely art and captivating stories, or poems or even just thoughts, there are many possibilities.

So I have many favorite picture books, just as I have many favorite memories and many favorite foods. Today, I’ve been thinking about water, probably because my daughter and I just came back from a trip to the San Francisco Bay area. Here are some books that have water in them, books that I love so much, I try to force them on people:

Yes, I Still Think Maira Kalman Should Have Won the Caldecott for This    Image

Fireboat is a true story about a group of friends in New York who pooled money, worked together and saved an old Fireboat, the John J. Harvey. On 9/11, the Harvey was called on to help and later it won an award for its dockside help in putting out the fires. Like all her books, this one has gorgeous rich colors and a wry wit.

The Raft on Which I Hope My Students Will Sit in Their Imagination, Image

As They Contemplate Summer

The Raft by Jim LaMarche is the story of a boy who must spend a summer with his tough, smart, artistic grandmother in Wisconsin. She lives by a river and gives him the time and freedom to discover animals and his own gifts for patience, kindness  – and drawing!

The Gulf Stream – It’s The Biggest Moving Thing on Earth. Image

The Mysterious Ocean Highway: Benjamin Franklin and the Gulf Stream by Deborah Heiligman. (Check out the “new) AKA hoarded price at Amazon – someone needs to reissue this book!)

I read this as a mom, and love it now as a librarian. It’s a beautifully illustrated science story  of the people who study or have studied this fascinating “river within an ocean”. It’s got Benjamin Franklin, not missing a trick, taking readings and making a chart that holds up even today. It’s got Prince Albert of Monaco. It’s got lots of good photographs and maps and charts. I can pull this book out and have a conversation about it with any child of any age.

Paddle to the Sea. It’s a Book, Not a Command. Image

Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling. It’s a treasure of a book, and deserves to be read and enjoyed today as much as it was in its heyday (1940’s on). A Canadian boy carves and releases a little figure and as we follow his progress, beautifully drawn side bars show us more about the human activities, animals and natural features. I’ve had 2nd graders imagine themselves on his journey, being carried through the Great Lakes to the sea. And the Great Lakes are something every North American should know about.

No, He’s Not  Image

I’m The Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry. Yes, you could use this book for sequencing or a lesson on size or even a manners book (boasting and its consequences), but I just love it for being big, graphically simple, and funny. And children love anything that has or has to do with giant squid. So do I.

An Elementary Library Redesign with Very Little Money, Part 1

Students have lots of ideas for this space.

I’ve been thinking about how library spaces can be improved for a long time. When I was a Children’s Librarian in a public library, I often marveled at how architects treated certain aspects of libraries as their chance to be noticed (at a big price) without really understanding how libraries might feel to children. As a career-switcher with an alternative path Teacher’s Certificate added to my MLS, I wanted to wait and really understand schools before I tackled my own library. Two years ago at the School Library Journal Summit 2009 in DC, I heard about several impressive projects at a session moderated by Dr. David Loertscher. This school year, the time finally came for me to re-think my space.
Our superintendent, Pam Moran, proposed a small seed project to help several school libraries move away from the rigid overpriced library environments of the past (think 1940s in some cases) toward more configurable spaces that would promote the library as a center for learning. Luckily, my new principal Kendra King was all for it. We discussed technology, lighting, color, shelving and learning activities with an eye for how to accomplish our vision with very little money, but with some help from parents and the community. We mapped out what we wanted in several sections, what should go, what could be added and which jobs were for maintenance (electrical and window work) and which could be done by volunteers. Our focus was how to revamp the library into a place where students would have more choice and be more invested, not only in the physical space, but in their own learning.
The first thing I did was commission a giant clipboard from Shadiah Lahham, an illustration/multimedia wiz and graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, because I’ve always wanted one! It is mounted on the wall and the top is 8 ft off the floor in the entry to the library. It sparks immediate interest, as well as lesson ideas for math, animation, and student work. Then I set up a working wiki:
and gathered ideas from other teachers, school librarians, artists and designers.
I began weeding like never before. In terms of books, my goal was to shrink my nonfiction section down from 3 long shelving ranges to two. This took about 3 months and nerves of steel, but it was the only way to free up the space we needed. My main considerations were:

1. What’s of interest?
2. What’s not just factual, but has narrative power and beauty?
3. What books have lower reading levels and therefore will not be easily replaced by database articles or websites?

Weeding books was hard enough, but I weeded the walls and furniture too. I wanted a lot of space for intriguing art, posters, installations and student-made displays. As I weeded furniture, the part of the library with table and chairs began to look more appealing and less like an area waiting for the next PTO or faculty meeting.