Category Archives: Heroes

My friend is brave…

I believe all Writers are brave. They are risk takers.  They are hard workers! I respect and admire writers…  and I especially love and respect writers for young peopleRickloveme — the ones who write the books that young people hold to their hearts, and either cry at the endings, or laugh all the way through them! Yes, the ones whose books kids will hunt for, long and hard, because of the one they just read.

Brave writers that are good writers make me wish I were a writer.  This one brave, good, hardworking writer that I want to tell you about is also a generous writer.  He has inspired so many other writer-wannabes, and he has mentored them and cheered them on to their own published books and careers as writers for young people.  My friend, the brave, good, generous writer, rick-soMANYbunnieshas done that for more writers than I even know about…  more than I can count.  I do, however, count this writer as my friend, and I know that I’m not the only one who does.

Meet Rick Walton. rick-walton-05Read his books…  and better yet, enjoy them with a child, or your children, or your classroom full of children.  Rick is a genius…  clever in word play, generous in friendship, caring in his regard for this earth and the people who love and care for it, too. Rick is kind…  and good… and hard working.  And brave.

Learn about RickSIGNINGhow Rick Walton became a writer for children. Be sure to read the paragraph you will find on the left-hand side of the screen!

See how funny Rick Walton is. Really, besides reading his books, you should read every part of his website at http://Rickwalton.com. Each time I look at his website, I find a different section that makes me laugh out loud!  My favorite section – because I teach elementary language arts methods courses — is his section on word play — and all of his amazing word lists!  (Rick is my idea of the perfect language arts teacher!)

Rick is bravely facing big trials and hard things.  I’m not a writer…  but as a lover of writers, this is my shout-out to one of the bravest of them all!  Rick Walton — you are loved!

Submitted by Nancy Peterson, Professor, UVU School of Education. Nancy teaches at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT, and is Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading.

Teacher Heart

Anyone else remember this?

Anyone else remember this?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about teacher questioning and class discussion. I’ve been mulling over what it takes to get students engaged in what my literacy textbook calls a “lively discussion” about a text (which, as it turns out, is apparently the best way to enhance students’ reading comprehension). Those thoughts led me down the primrose path to Deep Thoughts about learning, memory, and the conditions required for obtaining new knowledge and retaining it. (I know you can feel your eyes glazing over, but please bear with me! I’m going somewhere good, I promise!)

buellerMy thoughts wandered to my own experiences as a student. I tried to remember if I had ever had a teacher who asked the kinds of questions that aroused my and my classmates’ attention enough to have even a halfhearted discussion about a text, much less a lively one. Lo and behold, I did have a teacher like that–my 11th grade Honors English teacher.

What stands out in my mind today is a vivid memory of discussions about The Great Gatsby–the symbolic meaning of West Egg and East Egg, the literary devices gatsby green light quoteFitzgerald used to foreshadow the disastrous outcome of Gatsby and Daisy’s ill-fated love affair, and what the green light really represents. (In case anyone else is doing the math, I was a junior in high school 24 years ago, so my remembering anything from any class is pretty remarkable.) Other, seemingly unrelated details come to my mind, like where I sat, the color of the louver blinds covering the windows, and the expression on my teacher’s face as she facilitated the discussions.

ad44As I reflected on how she taught, I wondered how she came up with those excellent questions. Back then I was a painfully naive 16-year-old, and I assumed she just dreamed up such wonderful questions on the fly, kind of like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Now I realize that she spent time and effort designing questions with the express purpose of eliciting the kinds of responses that would result in lively discussions.

The thing is–and this is where it gets good, so hold on just a bit longer–this teacher was tina-fey_2more than just a teacher to me. She was the first person in my life who made me feel like a person and not just a dippy kid. She interacted with me in a way that affirmed my hope that I was becoming an individual who could and should make things happen for myself. She asked thought-provoking questions even outside of class and about the trivial details of my life, questions that forced me to begin thinking critically about what I believed in and what was important to me. What’s more, her interest in me seemed genuine, even though she taught 3 or 4 different English classes every day to at least 100 other students.

There’s this quote by Maya Angelou that I keep seeing everywhere, and she says it much better than I ever could: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I guess what I’m saying here is that all the research-proven teaching strategies in all the world don’t mean anything if there’s no heart behind them.

  • Highly recommended, probably required, and perhaps mandatory reading for all who have not, yet: Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco. For the rest of us? The Secret Remedy Book by Karein Cates, delightfully illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin. I hear that with a small modification in paradigm, I can learn how to be that “teacher heart” I’ve mentioned.
  • (Read them! If you’ve already read both, read them again! You can thank me later.)

Posted by Karen Rapier, a senior in Elementary Education at Utah Valley University, in Orem, UT

All In The Family

What could go wrong?

Yesterday my brother and his wife welcomed their sixth child and my parents’ 20th grandchild into the world. I’m the mother of four of those 20 grandchildren, which makes me an aunt to 16 smallish people. I love being an aunt! Compared to parenthood, it’s a trip to Disneyland. As the oldest of five children, I feel it’s my sacred duty to recount to my nieces and nephews all the hairy details of their parents’ early years. I might embellish a bit from time to time, but it’s mostly all true.

I’m still learning how to be a teacher, but I’ve been a parent for almost 18 years now (how time does fly when you’re having fun!). In thinking about families and teaching, Super Genius 1it occurs to me that families are a child’s first teachers and home her first school. The instructional methods vary widely; there’s no prior-year CRT or curriculum map for a kindergarten teacher to review. Nevertheless, children learn a great deal from their families, and a smart teacher is mindful of the many ways students’ family backgrounds affect an individual student’s educational outcomes and, in a broader sense, the classroom dynamic.

Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson

The summer is fast winding down to a close, and that means it’s time for family reunions. In fact, I’m scheduled to attend one next week. I’m looking forward to watermelon, green grass, delicious salads, sticky children, and clusters of chatty grownups.

dcnr_20028359

Thinking about the reunion reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books! I read this book for the first time about five years ago, when it came in a group of Newbery-award-winning books I had purchased through school book orders. It’s called The Relatives Came, and it was written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. 

I don’t think it’s the kind of book I would ever have picked up on my own, but the first time I read it to my children, I knew it meant something special to me. The story, told from the perspective of a first-person omniscient narrator, begins by detailing the narrator’s relatives’ long trip from Virginia to visit. The joy experienced by each member of this extended family as they see and greet and love each other again is plainly evident through the pictures and the words.

I can envision this book used as the anchor text for a first-week-of-school lesson plan for language arts. First, ask students if they have ever attended a family reunion, especially during the previous summer. Invite several students to share their experiences. Next, play this YouTube video for your students–it’s a read-aloud of The Relatives Came. Ask the students how the relatives felt about each other and what words the author used to communicate those feelings.

edoutreach_1Next, have the class participate in a graffiti shared-writing experience; you might have different writing spots where students share what family reunions look like, smell like, and feel like. Then assign the students to write about a family reunion they have attended using as many descriptive details and words as they can. Ask them to include a “family picture” that would have been taken at the reunion.

Once the students have completed the assignment, don’t forget to allow a few students to share their stories and artwork with the class, and while they do, emphasize that everyone’s family is different and special because of its unique ways. This lesson is especially effective at the beginning of the school year because some students experience new-school-year jitters, and thinking about their families can bring feelings of comfort and security. Moreover, our students’ families play a dramatic role in shaping their identities, and when we honor their families, we demonstrate that our classrooms are safe places for our students to learn and grow.

More books for celebrating extended families:

Aunt Claire’s Beehive Hair by Beborah Blumenthal, AuntCLAIREillustrated by Mary GrandPré (2007, Pelican);

What a Family! WhataFAMby Rachel Isadora (2006, Putnam)

Me and My Family Tree me & famTREEby Joan Sweeney, illustrated by Annette Cable (2000, Dragonfly Books)

In My Family/En mi familia by Carmen Loma Garza, In-My-Family-En-Mi-Familia-9780892391639illustrated by Annette Cable (2000, Children’s Book Press)

 

Posted by Karen Rapier, an elementary education major at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT

Is This Going In My Permanent Record?

Lately I’ve been thinking about biographies and why it’s important to select quality children’s biographies, and I had a horrifying thought: What if a children’s biography were written about me? What kinds of details would be included? How about my “loose” housekeeping style, or my inability to get dinner on the table before 7 o’clock? I’m positive I remember sitting down to dinner at 6:39 p.m. one evening in early June!

On the other hand, what if the author only portrayed me as a goody-two-shoes Mormon miracle mother and wannabe schoolteacher who selflessly put her children’s needs above her own all the days of her life? Yuck! That’s not the kind of drivel I’d want written about me either. You see where I’m going with this, right? In a way, a biography is someone’s Permanent Record.

Is there one of these with my name written on it somewhere?

Is there one of these with my name on it somewhere?

I’m reflecting back on a simpler time in my life–the 1980’s–when my loving and well-meaning parents subscribed to a series of pseudo-biographical books called ValueTales. The one I’m looking at right now is entitled “The Value of Compassion: The Story of Florence Nightingale.” Here’s a direct quote for your reading enjoyment: “Florence knew this was not going to be easy, but she welcomed the challenge” (p. 41, for anyone who wants to see it with their own eyes).

I have a few questions for the author of this book. Were you there with Florence during the Crimean War? Did you hear her say, “This isn’t going to be easy, but I welcome the challenge, by gum!” LAMPAre you actually her trusty oil lamp Lucy, who fanned the flames of Florence’s desire to alleviate suffering and save lives? (Note: Lucy is actually a fictitious talking oil lamp, a character invented by the author in an effort to “simplify” difficult concepts for children’s immature minds.)

Fortunately for us, it’s a new century: We now know that children don’t need simplified information. In fact, their minds crave the retelling of complex, genuine experiences. FlorenceLAMPFurthermore, they engage and understand much more readily when the information is presented in a fair, unbiased manner; when the historical figure is presented as a whole person, rather than a caricature of evil or a paragon of virtue; and when the illustrations that accompany the text complement the book’s theme. 

As luck would have it, a Florence Nightingale biography was published for children earlier this year, written and lovingly illustrated by Demi. I’ve perused it online, and I look forward to reading it in person sometime soon. Curiously, the book’s Amazon preview fails to show any images of Florence talking to an oil lamp.

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Florence Nightingale, by Demi. 2014: Henry Holt & Co.

Posted by Karen Rapier, an elementary education major at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT

Anxiety is number one…

Anxiety is the number one mental health problem facing young people today according to psychologist Dr. Tamar E. Chansky, Ph.D. Childhood should be a happy and carefree time, yet more and more children today are exhibiting symptoms of anxiety and fear. Parents everywhere want to know: All children have fears, but how much is normal? How can you know when a stress has crossed over into a full-blown anxiety disorder? Most parents don’t know how to recognize when there is a real problem and how to deal with it when there is.

As a book buyer at Utah Valley University’s Bookstore, I have come across some great books that I have used to help my 10 year old daughter to overcome her anxiety and fears. All these titles are in print.

Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries, and Phobias by Dr. Tamar E. Chansky is one that I recommend that has lots of practical advice to help a child suffering with anxieties. How can you know when a stress has crossed over into a full-blown anxiety disorder? Most parents don’t know how to recognize when there is a real problem and how to deal with it when there is. This book guides you through a proven program to help your child back to emotional safety.

Growing Up Brave: Expert Strategies for Helping Your Child Overcome Fear, Stress, and Anxiety by Dr. Donna B. Pincus, PhD.  This is such a timely book, as our nation’s children are more anxious than ever. It presents parents with a step-by-step guide to help their children deal with the ever encroaching stress and fears that our disconnected world is creating. Dr. Pincus empowers parents to use simple, scientifically established techniques to guide the development of competent and confident children.

Monsters Under the Bed and Other Childhood Fears: Helping Your Child Overcome Anxieties, Fears, and Phobias by Dr. Stephen W. Garber, PhD. & other contributors. If your child’s worrying is interfering with his or her life, then you should read this book. It is an authoritative guide to current knowledge on childhood anxiety disorders, written in a clear, engaging style. To develop more courage, your child needs to learn how to cope with anxiety.

A wonderful book for a child to read is What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety ( What to Do Guides for Kids ) by Dawn Huebner and Bonnie & Ellen Candace. This book for school-age children teaches techniques to reduce and overcome anxiety, fears, and worry, through writing and drawing activities and self-help exercises and strategies. My daughter loves this book and shared it with her 4th grade teacher and classmates.

I know these resources will help a child to overcome his/her anxiety and fear.

Posted by Randy Varney, Buyer – General Trade & Reference Books at Utah Valley University Bookstore in Orem, UT. Randy is also a member of the planning committee for the UVU Forum on Engaged Reading, and provides a conference bookstore for our event.

 

Did I ever tell you you’re my hero?

This week we are kicking off new ways to share information that we hope will fill your classrooms, your children, or you with a love of reading. 

Our first topic, in celebration of the wonderful biographies that have been published recently, and over the past few years, is “personal heroes.” 

heroINhandA hero is what we call someone who displays courage or excellence, and/or self-sacrifice for some greater good, often in the face of danger and adversity, or from an original position of weakness. There are, of course, fictional heroes, mythological heroes, superheroes…  and then there are Real Heroes … real, as in reality. hero canThese are what great biographies for young people are all about. And the great thing about today’s biographies for young people is that readers can make their own minds up about what constitutes a hero, and about how heros inspires them.

Everyone loves heroes, especially as their understandings about the human experience grow and mature. Heroes come in many shapes and sizes, EleanorRooseveltand children’s literature is filled with fantastic examples. WrightBrosWe recommend having a class discussion or Socratic Seminar about heroes – what makes them, what happens to them, and what they accomplish during their lives. These discussions, when they include real examples from real lives, can be motivations for young people to read biographies and find some answers for themselves.

  • See Kristin Wright’s middle grades unit on Heroes.  KristinWright-Heroes_Unit  (Kristin Wright is an instructor in the School of Education at Utah Valley University).
  • See middle grade “4-Square” unit on Heroes through Biographies: Hero Essay & Instructional Unit Outline. For a list of selected biographies to accompany this unit, email the author: nancy.peterson@uvu.edu

Questions to inspire meaningful discussions about heros:

  • What makes someone a hero? 
  • What kinds of things happen to heroes?
  • What kinds of things have heroes accomplished?
  • What strengths and virtues have heroes exhibited?
  • What challenges and obstacles have heroes overcome?
  • Who helped the hero you read about?
  • How was your hero transformed?
  • What strengths of character do you share with individual heroes you’ve read about?

Included in this blog are links to some great websites to help facilitate discussions, as well as a couple of instructional units that can be adapted for older or younger students as they investigate the concept of heroism, or personal heroes.YOUaREhero

Who is your favorite hero?  Who have your read about?  Who would you like to read about next?

BIOGRAPHY BOOK

If I were desperate, I might even look into what Heidi and Jo March were doing.

Guest Blog Post by Mike Freeman

When I was young, I lived on a farm in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri, and literally went to school in a two-room country schoolhouse.  one_room_school_houseWe were the real Waltons with eight children in a smTOWNmainSTfive-room house.  Even going to town was a rarity, and I didn’t care to go anyway because standing around watching my sisters shop was not that thrilling.  My brothers liked to hunt and fish but I didn’t.  We didn’t have a television and videos didn’t exist.

One thing we did have was a set of the Great Illustrated Classics and I liked to read.  Over and over again I journeyed down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim, sought treasure with longJsJim Hawkins and Long John Silver, fought duels with d’Artagnan, answered the call of the wild with Buck, and discovered those grim Grimm’s tales.  If I were desperate, I might even look into what Heidi and Jo March were doing.  All of these books fed the imagination of distant times, worlds and sites, and saved my childhood from utter boredom.

Once a month the bookmobile from the county library would appear at our school, and our teacher would select a single representative from each grade to select the Bkmbooks for the month.  Though the student was instructed to select for everyone, a marked bias always seemed to surface.  I just couldn’t believe the kinds of books those girls would choose.

Nonetheless, I was hooked and now years later, with English and History and Library Science degrees under my belt, I still musketeerscan’t find enough time for the endless lists to read.  Now that I am older, I sometimes revisit those old classics and marvel even now how well they still capture my attention.  Reading is the opportunity to look into the minds and souls of people across the ages, and to ponder all the struggles that have created our modern world.  Reading connects our common humanity, and makes us consider other points of view and ways of life.  Mark Twain said that a man who won’t read is no better than a man who can’t read.  I couldn’t say it better.

mike2Mike Freeman is the Library Director at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT. He holds a bachelors and MLS from University of Missouri, and his MA in History from the University of Utah.  Prior to coming to UVU in 1993, Mike worked at the University of South Carolina and the Orem Public Library in Utah.  He is an ardent Mark Twain fan.

I need to read like a boy…

That’s right – I said read like a boy.  I’m a girl, all grown up, having raised a boy who is now all grown up, and I still do not know what it is in a book that will capture a boy’s heart and soul boys1girl lovingBOOKSand help him become a reader for life.  I do know that all three of my girls loved being read to from the first moment I did it.  All I had to do was hold them close, let them see the book, and let them feel my love for them and the words and the illustrations. Once they grew out of my lap for story time, all I had to do was lie down on the living room floor, or the bed beside them, and read. Reading “like a girl” was easy, and I loved it!

My son, however, was a different story.  “On-the- lap” story time for the two of us was short-lived because boyENGINEERI mother_reading_to_baby_boycouldn’t get him to stay there long enough for a story!  He was one of those kids who love taking things apart and playing with all of those parts.  Maybe some of your daughters do that, too, but this was my experience only with my son. I will love Eric Hill Eric_Hillforever.  My discovery of his lift-the-flap books about a puppy called “Spot,” finally did reward me with a daily story in the lap, and together we discovered many other delightful, engineered books. We had just a few weeks of “in the lap” story time. Before long, I passed him off to some wheres-spotwonderful, book-loving teachers who introduced him, Where's SpotINSIDEthrough a journey unknown to me, to fantasy and science fiction, which he continues to read … and write!

Once I passed my son to those teacher-guides, I went back to my own choices for reading, and I never figured out the key to getting real_men_read_sweatshirtguys to read.  I know that guys reading Young_boy_readingis a cause that has been taken up by many authors out there, and I’m willing to take a look at what they have to say, and to learn from them.  But in the end, I really would like to read like a boy.

I found someone to emulate!  In her blog entry on July 15, 2011, Ruth got my attention! (I just love the blog’s title). In this blog entry on “Teaching With Joy and Purpose” I find good company, and an example for my quest to “reading like a boy.” Here are Ruth’s own words:

“What I have realized is that even if I’m familiar with titles and authors and summaries and reviews, truly connecting with readers is hard when you don’t ever read the same kinds of things they do. Besides, my selections for read alouds, book clubs, reading groups and even independent reading suggestions may make it hard for student readers who are not drawn to the same type of reading I am. The other problem is that I end up with very limited experience to draw upon when supporting these readers. I may not understand as a reader how these texts are set up, how the plots tend to work, or what strategies may really help readers navigate and understand and enjoy and share with others what they are reading.”

Ruth is so right!  And she confirms my belief in her as a model to follow by sharing her personal list of books for readingBoys_Reading that summer.  Since at least 1,000 new books for boys have been published since Ruth’s list, I would love to hear about recentBD1234-001.jpg “boy books” that you, readers of this blog, have discovered since 2011.  Please share!

The Toilet Paper Tigers (G. Korman)

Oggie Cooder (S. Weeks)
A Whole Nother Story (Dr. C. Soup)
The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1 (H. Black, T. DiTerlizzi)
100 Cupboards (N.D. Wilson)

Fablehaven, Book 1 (B. Mull)                  childrens-books

The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow (T. Kehoe)

Powerless (M. Cody)
Stink-o-pedia (M. McDonald)
NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (M. Buckley)

And, if you happen to be in the market for a good, recent list yourselves, consider coming to UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading this coming September 19th  and 20th in Park City, Utah.  GuyREADINGsteveLAYNESbkJoining us to inspire a love of reading are “boy book” authors and fans, GuysREADatOURconfalong with other great authors and fans, all who desire, as I do, to discover many paths to life-long loving of reading.

Meet Steve Sheinkin… next year!

Because we want to give this year’s audience attending UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading, a preview of next year’s program, I want to introduce you to Steve Sheinkin, SteveSheinkinone of the Keynote Presenters for UVU’s 2014 Forum on Engaged Reading.  I “found” Steve on Ink Think Tank itt-logo — a great website that is a true “think tank” of nonfiction authors.  In Steve’s bio, he confesses to being a recovering textbook author… whose mission is to simply prove to kids that his­tory is actu­ally cool.”  You’ll probably recognize a couple of his books:  The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story About Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery (Square Fish Publications, 2013) and Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the Civil War (Roaring Brook Press, 2008).

Notorious Benedict2MiserablePres

Whether or not you recognize those books, you’re sure to be interested in his most recent one, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers (Scholastic, 2013), and the one just before that (a Newbery Honor Book), Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon BombBook(Flashpoint Publications, 2012). These books aren’t “your mother’s nonfiction” — these are “thrillers and adventure stories first” so that Sheinkin’s readers will want to read them!

 lincolns-grave-robbers

Since the Common Core State Standards have shifted the focus of teaching comprehension and writing of complex nonfiction, it’s refreshing to find authors like Steve, who lure kids (and their teachers) in to the wonderful world of facts and details that make history come alive.

If you join us (UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading) in October of 2014, you’re sure to become a Steve Sheinkin fan, as I have. SteveSgiving.talk In preparing for this blog post, I read a blog post by Sheinkin, himself, where he refers to his writing as detective work.  “… a nerdy kind of detective work,” he says, “but still… My job is to find stories, and I read books to look for clues, follow leads, gather evidence.” Wow, what an example for our students!

I’ll end this blog with just a bit of serendipity: at the end of Sheinkin’s blog post, author Jim Murphy makes a comment…  and guess what?  Jim Murphy is Keynoting this year’s Forum on Engaged Reading (Sept. 19 & 20, 2013).  So, Dear Reader, I hope you have become a believer: our conference — “For the Love of Reading” — is just a gift that will keep on giving, to you and to your students!  See you there!

Posted by Nancy Peterson, Professor of Teacher Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading

Pennypacker and Frazee to Keynote at “For the Love of Reading” Conference…

It’s time!  I’ve been holding back, saving it up…  but I can’t hold back any longer.  I must write about my new friend, Clementine!  (In reality, my new friends are Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee, because they created my new, little friend, Clementine, in their delightful books all about her:  Clementine, The Talented Clementine, Clementine’s Letter, Clementine: Friend of the Week, Clementine and the Family Meeting (the one I’m currently reading), and the newest installment, Clementine and the Spring Trip, which I have just ordered.

I would love to find a child reader of these Clementine books to write or collaborate on a guest blog about these books from a child’s perspective.  I can only report what has been reported to me by my college students who have read the books to their elementary students…  children at any elementary grade level love having any of these books (especially the first book) read to them, and then they are hooked!  The children want to read them all!  In this blog post, however, I can only tell you about these books from my perspective as a children’s literature professor, an elementary language arts professor, and as a parent and grandparent.

The author, Sara Pennypacker, will be a keynote speaker along with the illustrator Marla Frazee, at our upcoming (in just three months!) UVU Forum on Engaged Reading (see www.uvuengagedreading.org). I really consider Pennypacker and Frazee “co-creators” of my little friend, Clementine.  Although I would certainly enjoy Pennypacker’s fresh prose, characterization, and clever voice of these books on their own merit, without illustration, I cannot separate the total package we get with Frazee’s precious illustrations which complete the characterization and voice of Clementine – a precocious, bright, and innocently mischievous nine-year-old, who, with the help of a slightly older best friend, two loving parents, a teacher or two, and a very patient elementary school principal, is trying to make sense of her happy world.

What do I love so much about this book?  Well, as a children’s literature professor, I love how the text and the illustrations so magically create the setting and characters, and even the plot! I’m not going into examples here… you’ll find them for yourself in just the first few pages of any of the books.  As an elementary language arts professor, I love how the author plays with language as she allows Clementine, the protagonist, to play with language – with just the right words to give the reader all the dimensions of a precocious little girl.  (One of hundreds of examples is how Clementine wants “bracelets” on her teeth once she sees Margaret’s colored and sparkling braces. Additionally, Clementine keeps a “writer’s notebook,” of sorts, as well as a sketchpad, and as I read this book aloud to my college students, they get great ideas about using those in their future classrooms. (My students learn a lot about the kind of teachers they want to be, even while they are rolling on the floor with laughter over what I read to them).  Which leads me to the other thing I love about these books – they are written with such clever word choice and dialogue that they actually feed me with a read-aloud voice that my students swear is the true Clementine!  They tell me two and three years later that every time they read Clementine books to their students, they hear me reading to them.

And finally, what I love about these books as a parent (and new grandparent), is how much I admire Clementine’s parents… for their unconditional love for their daughter, and how they honor her unique view of life and the world… how they support her in her hopes and dreams, and how they seem to quickly overcome their consternation with her because they know her and know her heart.  Good heavens, I sound like I’m talking about real people!  Well, that’s how good these books are!

Please join us at the Chateaux Resort in Park City, Utah, as we celebrate with this author and this illustrator (along with several others) the power of children’s literature to create a life-long love for reading.