Monday, April 8, 2019


I really don't want to go to school today. Cough-cough. Is it too late to call in? I feel like I could be coming down with something....

Rafael Lopez withdrawal?  Is that listed in the DSM? Could I get a doctor's note?

Seriously, after months of preparing "It's like a wedding," everyone kept saying all week, the day with Rafael came and went in an instant. He is now tucked in his bed in sunny San Diego while we are looking out at Rafael's "favorite" color gray skies in Castleton.*

I can honestly say that his visit changed lives, opened minds, inspired, energized and brought our whole entire Schodack Central School District community and beyond together. His murals come with life changing bonds and we witnessed it on Friday.  Kindergarteners and 12th graders. Teaching assistants and principals.  Secretaries and third graders.  Grandmother volunteers and 7th graders.  Dads and fifth grade poets. First graders and moms.  Flute players and girl percussionists.  A superintendent and art teachers. Future artists and future engineers.  This day was a memory maker.

Can you spy Rafael? Look for his hat!

Major kudos to our community for letting me place a piece of Rafael permanently in the homes of every single student at Castleton Elementary School.


Thank you, Rafael for bringing your magic to Castleton.  Your fairy dust will last forever along with your marks on the wall outside our library. Muchos gracias, mon amigo.

*Gray is the color that Rafael highlighted in Eric Carle's collaborative book, What's Your Favorite Color? The truth is that Rafael's favorite colors are purple, orange and black. Gray goes with everything, he says and so does he. 6th grade boys who exclaim they will never wash the hand that Rafael touched again, is just one little proof that his own gray octopus arms impact all.

Want to dive into our visit more? Check out these district tweets:

Make sure to check out the whole thread on this one:
And here's the link a story about Rafael's visit from our district webpage:

A leap at the end of the day with Mrs. Gregoire, our amazing art teacher.

 Bonus: Who would have thought Rafael could leap in the snow on April 5?!

I shed many tears throughout the day, especially when I had to say goodbye. Saludos.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019


Yesterday I wore green pants with white polka dots, a grey and yellow striped shirt, a patterned scarf and orange chucks.  On top of that, my hair was extra wild. Thinking about it while dressed more conservatively, yesterday's mixed patterns would have been more appropriate today when we celebrated the book birthday of wild red haired Lizzy McTizzy who is in search of her lost blue shoe so she can have her pair and be off to a birthday party herself.

Four parties down and one more tomorrow.  Am I a little partied out?  Absolutely not.

I'm glad the first party was with Ms. Malone and her kindergarteners.  After reading Sarah Weeks's fun text, we danced the Hokey Pokey. They class suggested we sing "If You're Happy and You Know It" because there is a reference to feet in there as well. So we did. And that song followed me to all the other affairs.

As the hours moved ahead, the treats got sweeter.  Ms. Malone at 8:30 am had pastries.  At 9:40, Mrs. Golden's first graders enjoyed rice Krispy treats. Later on, frosted cookies were a hit with Mrs. Kosinski's and Mrs. Cook's classes.  Needless to say, I did not eat my yogurt until I got home.

I love Lizzy and all she stands for.  Her perseverance in searching for her shoe. She really did look everywhere including someplace by "the underwear"!  Hahahaha. Giggle giggle.  Five and six year olds love that line! Her idea that the party is more important than matching.  I totally get that.

Lee Wildish's illustrations are perfect.  I love Lizzy's big red CURLY hair (I can relate, short the red part).  I love the kid on the playground eating the chocolate bar. And kids love how Lee used his artistic liberty to show that Lizzy's shoe was not by the toilet.

Kids get this story. They enjoy the rhymes.  They love the illustrations and they get the message.  "Be yourself. Be unique. It's ok to be different." If kids like Lizzy McTizzy will be our role models, I know this world will get a lot more kinder, friendlier and colorful!

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
-Oscar Wilde

Have portable giant "photo card" will travel. Some class photos of our day:

Mrs. Kosinski even made her own backdrop for the party!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Doughnut King

Doughnuts and coffee courtesy of Cider Belly Doughnuts, Albany

After I finished The Doughnut King I went out and bought myself this fancy bar of chocolate. I just had to try Tris's recipe for the "One Ingredient Masterpiece." Unfortunately, time has not allowed me the opportunity to make it yet, but when it does it's reassuring to know that I have the one ingredient on hand.

The companion to last year's The Doughnut Fix by doughnut connoisseur (and foodie), Jessie Janowitz, brings us back to upstate New York (with references of Albany that make this Capital Region dweller smile). But not for long.  Petersville is, for lack of a better word, disappearing.  No one is moving there and business is slow all around. Except for the doughnuts.  Seventh grader and baker, Tris, and his business partner and friend, Josh, just can't keep up with the demand.  I mean, who can blame the public?  I could practically taste the FYO (fill your own) butterscotch doughnuts through the pages.  So when Tris's sister submits an application in his name to be a contestant on the popular kid's cooking competition show, "Can You Cut It?", he can't back down.  The $100,000 prize would cover the Doughnut Robot, a tool he believes will help with production and save Petersville.

When it's time to begin filming the show, Tris et al pack into an airstream (yes, I love this detail) and park in Manhattan, their old stomping ground and, for this family of foodies, home of their favorite eateries.  I'm telling you if I wasn't reading the book on the stationary bike, the pounds would have easily seeped through the pages onto my body: cronuts, croissants, matzoh ball soup, eggs with onions...completely delicious.

"Can You Cut It?" is filled with fierce competition and intensity. I was just as likely to inhale and "OMG" as I was to giggle at the insanity of Chef JJ, the judge. Ever watch Master Chef Jr? Wonder what goes on behind the scenes? When do they take those interviews? What happens in the green room with the contestants? Here's a little imaginative peek.

This May grab your preferred sweet treat (FYO, cronut, ice cream "I think better with ice cream," Tris says early on. Who doesn't really?) and enjoy the ride to Petersville, Manhattan and back.  Much will keep your eyes glued to the text at the same time planning out your next visit to your local doughnut shop and secretly wishing the story wasn't fiction.

ps-Fingers crossed Petersville doesn't disappear and Jessie is already at work on Book 3.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

We Made a Difference Today

Nine 6th graders plus
Assemblyman Breslin with students from Albany HS, too!
Two 7th graders plus
Three 11th graders plus
Two 12th graders plus
A principal plus
Two librarians plus
A dedicated library volunteer
EQUALS the Schodack Central School District contingent to the New York Library Association Advocacy Day 2019 (#NYLAAD19).

Their powerful young voices shared how important it is to them to have a certified school librarian at the elementary school (not mandated in New York State).  And, in the high school, to help prepare them for college and beyond.
They enthusiastically shared how the library is their safe and happy place for readers at all levels.
They listened and nodded and agreed and screamed "LIBRARIES" at the conclusion of each visit.
And even if they didn't understand all that we were advocating for, they nodded and participated and were eager to speak to up and let their voices be heard.
At the rally, they found legislators that they connected to ("the guy from Brooklyn"), clapped often and proudly waved their homemade signs advocating for libraries and school librarians.

Meeting in Assemblyman Tague's office

Meeting in Senator Jordan's office

They could have said it was boring. They could have complained about the sitting around and waiting and yet, they knew it was worth it.  It was fun and they felt good inside. They made a difference today. WE made a difference today.

Meeting with Assemblyman Ashby

Thursday, February 14, 2019


(Warning: You will need at least 15 minutes to get the most out of this post 💙 but it will be worth it.)

A couple of weeks ago I heard this on the radio:

  Just by sharing it on our announcements, a couple of kids wrote poems.

But I wanted more.

So on Monday morning I shared Matt de la Pena and Loren Long's beautiful book, Love, to the whole third grade.  I played the last two minutes of the above NPR segment and challenged kids to write their own love poems. WOW.

I recorded each student saying one line from their poems to form a class LOVE poem.

I submitted the class poems to NPR thinking they were awesome and how cool would that be for us to be on the air.  Well, little did I know over 2000 entries were received! This was aired today:

Leave it to Kwame--that crowdsourced poem is GOOD.

So even though we didn't make it on the air, I still feel like we are winners all around.  Winners for writing beautiful poetry. Winners for listening to beautiful poetry.  And winners for loving. love is love. Love is poetry. Love is everything.  💛

PS-Mrs. Fowler, the 7th grade English teacher participated, too. Here are a couple of her entries from students.

Love is teal,
mysterious like the ocean;

Love is a tulip,
growing, gentle and sweet;

Love is a dog,
loving and listens;

Love is a fire truck,
coming here for you when you feel down or broken;

Love is a lullaby,
Soothing you to sleep;

Love runs everywhere,
Making everyone feel happy;

Love is there when you need it most!

Love Is

Love is yellow,
Happy and smiley;

Love is a flower bud,
Ready to burst open with happy laughter;

Love is a panda,
Happy and positive;

Love is an ice cream truck,
Playing a happy song as it goes along;

Love is a jazz song,
Relaxing and calm;

Love is a not knowing when happiness is there,
But knowing it is there when you need it;

Love is my best friend,
Love is my Grandma!


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

To Night Owl from Dogfish

To:      You
From:  Me
Subject: Re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: Happy Book Birthday to To Night Owl from Dogfish!

I still remember my Counting By 7s Newbery book group.  Those kids are sophomores in HS now.  And the Skype! Holly Goldberg Sloan was out on her veranda in Southern California and we were bundled in sweaters with snow outside our window. We all pinky sweared that if the movie ever came out from the book, we would go together.  That's my Holly history.  Loved her then and love her now.

Pair her up with Meg Wolitzer and here's a sweet story "to explain something."  What is that something? Friendship, family, theatre, camp, coming of age, adventure...a whole LOT of somethings.

12 year old Bett Devlin lives in California with her Dad.  Avery Bloom lives in NYC with her Dad.  Unbeknownest to the girls but their dads are dating.  When Sam and Marlow book a summer motorcycle trip around China, they send the girls to the same camp in Michigan.  Neither of the girls knows each other until Bett finds Avery's email and thus the online correspondence begins prior to the start of CIGI (Challenge Influence Guide Inspire).

Camp could be disastrous and the book could quickly go downhill from there. Yet with twists and turns, a "Lady Gaga" grandmother, a famous mother, Palindrome BOB, a collection of pressed flowers, Javier the dancer, and ultimately a wedding (I'm not saying whose), the complete cast of characters (with the help of Holly and Meg of course!) definitely "took lemons and made them into [gallons] of lemonade."

This book surprised me.  I could not stop reading.  What was going to happen next? I was SO rooting for the romance between Sam and Marlow and, for Avery and Bett, too, who Avery (Night Owl) so appropriately called it, the "Juliet and Juliet" of friendship. This book is like a modern day Judy Blume novel--first menses, middle school crushes, lip gloss, friendships, family. I liked it for its sweetness; its innocence; its vulnerability and just plain FUN.


I just read this article in the New York Times today and it reminded me of Avery and Bett and how families come in all shapes and sizes.

What's a 'Normal' Family, Anyway?


I asked Mr. Reischer if he would kick off our "Phenomenal Black History Month People Poem Project" (say that 5X fast) by reading Kwame Alexander's latest NYP* book, Undefeated. At first he was hesitant because how do you read an F&G aloud? With difficulty, of course. But he figured it out and read it to all his classes without a hitch. Just a couple of months (April 2, to be exact) and we won't have to worry about that anymore.

This book is gorgeous. GOR-GEOUS. Kwame's POWERFUL text paired with Kadir Nelson's incredible photo-like paintings make this one book you will want to read over and over again.  I listened to Mr. Reischer read it three times today and I could have listened 30 more.

You can't read the book without the author's note.  Kwame started this poem in 2008 the year his daughter, Samayah, and our fifth graders were born.  If they didn't have a connection to Kwame before, they certainly do now. I think about the past 11 years and then hate to think about. All the horrific things that have happened in the world since these kids were born. Way too many.

But now we are surrounded by the "undiscovered." The ones born in 2008. And before. And after. Our future is in their hands and I am hopeful.

The artwork in the book is stunning. One student even commented that she thought they were real.  Next time I see Kwame I want to ask--Who made the decision to make one page completely blank for the ones "who didn't"? Or the images for the "unspeakable"? We wondered if Kwame advised Kadir or did Kadir paint them on his own. Either way, the message is clear.  Speak up. Black lives matter.

After the reading, students browsed picture books about famous (and not so famous) African Americans. They also looked through anthologies and the back of Undefeated at the mini biographies written for the people mentioned or illustrated in the book. Students chose a figure they wanted to spend a little time with this week.  By Friday we should have 75 meaningful poems written about LeBron James, Harriet Tubman, Jackie Woodson, Katherine Johnson and many more.

WE are one of the lucky ones to receive the F&G.  Fortunately, April 2 isn't too far away and you will be a lucky one, too.

A few of the books students are using for inspiration for their poems.

*not yet published