Thursday, March 23, 2017

World Gala 2017

 So this happened tonight and what an event it was!

Over a month ago third grade teacher, Mrs. Yager, and I began our second annual venture into the international world with her students.  They researched in books and databases (Britannica and Culturegrams), created detailed trifolds to display their research, "became" an 8 year old from their country while being scrutinized by me, that crazy librarian, in front of a blue or green screen (paper hanging in my back office) for a video and then tonight, dressed up again, served food to all our guests and greeted them in their national duds.

And guests we had!  A grandfather even pointed out my capacity sign in the library laughing.  Please don't tell anyone.

These are the countries we had represented tonight.
Quite a variety, huh?

The food was incredible.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to sample too many of them.  We had pizzelles from Italy (my daughter's favorite!), samoas and palak paneer from India, meat pockets from Djibouti, cake and cookies from all over, Irish soda bread, German potato salad, flan from Spain and so much more!

I have to put a huge plug in for Britannica.  We have Britannica and Image Quest and it made life so much easier for these young researchers.  As they say on their site, "millions of rights-cleared" images.  No doubt there were millions.  Every image on every trifold was from Britannica. Note to all librarians and administrators:  For this alone, it is well worth the investment.

Check this out (note: not all of the countries are represented in my photos):

Not even our whole crowd!  The guests just kept coming and coming!

Kiley from Ireland

Rachael from China

Samuel from Ukraine

Ryan from Germany

Joestin from England

Mya from the Philippines (my son loved the pork dish she brought)

Abby from Spain

Bruce from Fiji (love the Fiji water)

Liam from Brazil (even his little brother was dressed up in a Brazil shirt)

Sarah from Sweden (I never made it back over here for any of the treats :-( )

Micah from Italy with his pizzelles-yum!

Jack from Kenya

Aaron from Russia (His dad made the costume which looked so authentic!)

John from Finland (Did you know that almost everyone has a sauna in Finland?)

Quite the spread from Pakistan, that again, sadly I didn't get to taste :-(

Enjoying a meat pocket from Djibouti

Aiden from Argentina

Out of costume, Evan, from Mexico--That's a lot of food!

Isiah from India

Grandparents from "Spain"

Principal Derby taking a break from all the food!

And finally, all of our international guests!

Can you guess where everyone is from?

It's wonderful when all the hard work pays off!  What a wonderful, educational evening it was! Until next time...Adios! Ciao!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi Day!

Thanks to Blizzard Stella, Pi Day will not be celebrated on its day at Castleton Elementary School this year.  Nevertheless, for the past week or so, the 5th grade Reading Ambassadors have been preparing for 3.14 by reading math picture books to K-2 students. Also, the 4th grade Dewey Duty helpers and Reading Ambassadors will enjoy pie, round treats, spin around in hoola hoops, watch this short PBS video and talk math in the library when we have our belated Pi Party on 3.15 or when the snow melts.

Who knew there were so many math picture books?

And there are way more than this!  These are just the ones I pulled in my own library. There are SO many more in the public library catalog.

Fifth Graders Reading to K-2

Mrs. Golden's first graders 

Mrs. Pryde's first graders

Mrs. Cook and Mrs. Macri's kindergarteners

Mrs. Roe and Mrs. Seres's second graders

Mrs. Kosinski's first graders

We wish we could have read to everyone but scheduling was tough and we're glad we were able to squeeze all these classes in!  One of our favorite books to read aloud was That's a Possibility: A Book About What Might Happen by Bruce Goldstone. I love it so much that I have two copies in the library!

I just received this book in my most recent Junior Library Guild box.  

 I've always loved this one combining math and cooking.  So logical!

Did you the first computer programmer lived many, many years before the Commodore 64? Another gem I received from JLG but would have definitely purchased on my own if I hadn't. It was even part of our Sibert Smackdown this year.

Lastly, a tribute 2 Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  Such a loss 2 the kidlit community.  My thoughts are with her family and close friends. I read her Modern Love essay on the treadmill a few weeks ago and just wept.

The kids wrote this review before we knew that Amy had passed.💔 

Love, Ish

Happy Book Birthday, Love, Ish

I have to admit, I love brussel sprouts.  Roasted with salt and pepper.  Last weekend, I even had brussel sprout chips at a restaurant.  Imagine the work involved in peeling those things? For now, I think I will continue to enjoy them definitely as I see them through different eyes after reading Love, Ish by Karen Rivers. What am I referring to? You have to read this savory book to find out!

"I guess I love you."  What does that mean?  As adults we don't really know, so imagine getting that in an email at 13.  Mischa "Ish" Love's best and only friend, Tig, moved away and she has been waiting for an email from him for months.  In fact it's been so long that she refers to him as DTM, Dead to Me. Then when an email finally does ping in her inbox, that sentence is included. What a way to get a young girl to wonder.

Ish is ready to move to Mars, literally.  Life here on Earth isn't so great for her and she thinks she would be the perfect candidate for the Mars Now project.  Yes, she has applied 47 times and can recite as many facts as you can imagine about Mars, Martians and outer space.  The name of her parrot is even appropriately named: Buzz Aldrin.  Ish is so ready for Mars that she has already created lists of "Things I Will Miss" (TIWM) and "Things I Will Not Miss" (TIWNM) when she is chosen for her mission.  Some things on the TIWM list are:  TV, ice cream, Buzz Aldrin. Things on the TIWNM: mosquitoes, wasps, shopping malls, plastic water bottles and school.

Yes, school.  Without Tig around, Ish has no one. The very first day of seventh grade doesn't start out well at all.  "Move it, nerd!" "Loser" and later in the day, "She's wet her pants" from Fish-boy, the new student.

After finding out she has a brain tumor, Ish dreams more of Mars, hanging out with Tig and her family.

"In my dream, I'm crying because I'm dead and I'm on Mars, 
I made it to Mars and I did something dumb and I died, 
once again before I was finished, 
before I had done what I meant to do."

Does Ish accomplish what she is meant to do? Find a new friend? Reconcile with her sisters?  Accept the realities of the Mars Now?  Simply survive?  I read this book in one day with my teeth clenched and my eyes glued to the pages.  I'm not an astronomy fan and yet I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Part The Thing about Jellyfish and a pre-The Fault in Our Stars, anyone who understands Mars, has dreams like Ish to be on this list of greats (Valentina Tereshkova, Samantha Cristoforetti, Liu Yang, Ellen Ochoa, Mae Jamison, Sally Ride...) will truly get even more out of it than this I-guess-I-love-you NASA fan.

ps-I can't put my finger on it, well maybe I can, but I really wanted to get to know Gavriel "Gav" better.  Sometimes authors take a minor character and build their next book around him or her.  I'm already craving a book about Gav.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Holly Goldberg Sloan's Short

Reading Short by the pool

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I have been waiting years for Holly Goldberg Sloan to write another middle grade novel.  The last one, Counting by 7s, was a huge hit with my fifth graders at the time.  That was over three years ago. I still remember that Skype.  It was dead of the winter here (Newbery project time) and beautiful in Holly's Southern California.  We could see sun, blue sky and her bright smile.  She told the kids that they could be making a movie out of Counting by 7s and we pinky promised that we'd all go see it together.

January 16, 2014
OMG! I probably shouldn't admit this but I just wore that sweater yesterday!

Now she has a new book out, Short, that will have you singing tunes from The Wizard of Oz way after you turn the last page.  Pre-fans of Tim Federle, here you go!

It's summer vacation and Julia, who is short for her age, got cast as a Munchkin in the local university's summer theatre production of The Wizard of Oz, only after her Mom insist that she audition. 

"One thing I decided is that life is one big, long struggle to find applause."
Wow.  Ain't that the truth!

Shawn Barr, the visiting eccentric director, takes a liking to Julia, or "Baby" as he lovingly refers to her. Julia's young innocence (we never actually find out her age) and sweetness comes out often.  For instance, the time she visited Shawn Barr's motel room and saw his piles of books.  "I'm glad Shawn Barr is a reader, because Grandma Mittens says that you can tell an interesting person by their covers. And she doesn't mean blankets." Or the time Julia went to cheer up her neighbor, Mrs. Chang, and whispered, "Life is a cabaret...It works, because she smiles. I'm guessing a cabaret is a kind of wine. I hope she'll have a tall glass."

When Julia gets harnessed in to try out to be a flying monkey, she's a natural.  "Baby was born to fly," Shawn Barr says.

"I'm learning a big lesson right now, which is that the same thing 
can be rotten one day and then amazing the next."

After weeks of rehearsals, Julia has grown up and learned many life lessons in one summer so much so that she says on the way over to the performance (and it's at this point my tears started flowing), "Thanks, Mom. Thanks for making me try out for this play." 

I will probably always remember where I finished, Short. I was at the beauty shop waiting for my "old-enough-to-know-better" year old grandmother to get her hair done.  I don't think they had ever seen anything like this before--a grown woman with snot and tears running down her cheeks.  But I just couldn't help it.  Julia and her cast just touched a nerve, a good one, but touching nonetheless. When that closing curtain came down, I'm glad the final applause was loud so no one could hear my sniffling and nose blowing.  The piece de resistance?  My grandmother's hairdresser, Louis, is Shawn Barr's twin.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Jump Rope for Heart

Yesterday our Kiwanis KKids Club participated in the American Heart Association's Jump Rope for Heart. This is not an unusual activity--students asking family and friend for donations to benefit the American Heart Association with a culminating event of jump rope, basketball and hula hoop fun. In fact, we've done it for years at Castleton Elementary School.  But this year it just meant a little bit more to me, my co-advisor and all of our KKids club members.

When Mr. Horan, our beloved superintendent died suddenly and unexpectedly this summer of a heart attack, we were all in shock.  He lived and breathed what was best for the students of Schodack Central School District, always thinking forward.  Probably not a day goes by for any of us when we don't think about Bob.  "What would Bob do?"  "Bob said this about that."  "Mr. Horan did that." His spirit and vision is sprinkled everywhere, especially as we embark on a capital project that has his signature all over it.

So we jumped, skipped rope, shot baskets and moved our hips in the hula hoops yesterday in memory of Mr. Horan with hopes that the over $6000 raised for the American Heart Association will prevent others from experiencing what we did last July.

In memory of Superintendent Bob Horan, Mr. Maple Hill...

Thursday, February 16, 2017


We know Kwame will return to CES some day so that's why we never threw this sign away!



However you say it, Kwame Alexander has done it again. He has written a book that kids got so excited about celebrating that when I threw a party for it this afternoon, not only did they come (~50) and purchase books, they knew their Kwame facts and were happy to sing "Happy Book Birthday" (even the middle schoolers!). AND the only critique I heard was that the books weren't distributed early enough.  Wait, what?! Were you planning to read DURING the party?!  I guess....

The Playbook is motivating.  It might become your go-to book now to give when someone is "moving on" or "moving up." It's filled with quotes and stories from famous people and personal anecdotes and poems by Kwame. You can read it all in one sitting or pick it up every once in awhile and read one quarter at a time.  Wonder has its precepts and now The Crossover and Booked have rules.

For more about my thoughts on The Playbook, check out my blog post here.

Today was not just about The Playbook.

It was about Kwame and the kids of Castleton.  In our halls you chant "Kwame" to just about any student and they repeat back "Alexander."  Kwame. Alexander. Kwame. Alexander.

It's about memories. In 2015 the fourth graders were in second grade when he visited.  Eager and excited to attend today's party because they still remember that chilly spring day, shivering outside fanning the red carpet when Kwame finally pulled up and poked his head out of the window of the SUV.

And it's just about Kwame + CES = 💗.  As the kids move on to Middle School (some already) and High School, they will always know that when they read the acknowledgements inside The Playbook and see, "Castleton Elementary School", they know that means them.

6th graders from the MS

In 2015, 5th grader Liam, produced "The Kwame Project", a documentary on our journey with Kwame to the Newbery

One 5th grader sandwiched in between two 6th graders.

So we had a party.
Cupcakes.  Cheese doodle "basketballs".
Courtside Nachos and cheese.  Basketball cookies.
Punch and the required "Rattner Popcorn."

A double dribble birthday for Sean--The Playbook AND his 11th birthday!

Just when everyone was seated with their food, the phone rang. The Common Area of chatty tweens and teens all of a sudden got quiet and the guy on the other end had our complete attention.  After singing "Happy Book Birthday" the kids got quizzed on Kwame trivia with the guest of honor himself answering with perfect dramatic pauses after each. Finally, we learned that we should "be a star" from The Playbook trailer, bid our goodbyes to Kwame, took a few photos and the late bus was called. A very short but extremely sweet (all puns intended) party!

Just a small group of the kids I could grab before the late bus was called!

Many thanks to everyone who made this possible, including Mrs. Warland, Mrs. Squier, Mrs. Fowler, Nana Sober, Mrs. Kelliher, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Reischer (who is singled out alongside CES in the acknowledgements with the correct spelling of his name!). Thanks to Mr. Chevrier for all that help in cleaning up!

Mrs. Squier, Mrs. Warland and Nana Sober--Thank you!

"You may not be 
A Starter
But always
Be a star
In your mind
Ready to shine
At any time."
-Kwame Alexander

Trust me, you will be whistling this song all day.  

There's always gotta be a leap!

And in case you just want more circa May 2015:

Liam's "Kwame Project"

Mrs. Kelliher's 5th graders in "It's a Basketball Life"