Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fanhood finds friendship!

Although today was quite a busy day in the library--3 classes occupying the space at times--it was really what happened after dismissal that made it for me.

Mr. Reischer and I had a perfect Skype meeting with the incomparable Sarah Weeks this afternoon. I have been a fan of hers since I read "Oggie Cooder" back in 2009!  I have lead multiple book groups with several of her books, including "Oggie" and "Pie."  I finally met her at the NYLA-SSL conference last month and we just clicked!  After today, it's even better!  Mr. Reischer loved her, too!  Hooray!  We are planning a year long build up of events and projects based on Sarah's books, with special appearances by Sarah from time to time.  When she visits in May I guarantee you I will be calling my red carpet people!  Of course, there will be lots of other fabulous surprises, too!  You just wait!

I'm sure this was a great meeting for Sarah, too.  But her day was incredibly fabulous, not because of a couple of teachers from upstate NY but because they announced who would be starring in the film version of her book, "So B. It"  Check it out--Talitha Bateman and Alfre Woodard!  This was just made public a few hours ago. WOW!  It's looking like we ONLY host RED CARPET folks at Castleton Elementary now.

It was a Sarah Weeks kind of day for me all around, though.  For one 4th grade class, Ms. Malone and I began talking about character traits.  I read Sarah's book, "Woof: A Love Story" and the students had to come up with character traits for the protagonist, who happens to be a dog.  The lesson went really well and I was so happy to be able to share a Sarah book!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A quick jaunt to Maple Grove, Minnesota

Today Miss Leavitt, her first graders and I took a quick little visit to Maple Grove, Minnesota.  As we learned yesterday thanks to Google Maps, if we REALLY wanted to get to there, it would take us over 19 hours.  Wow.

Thanks to the fabulousness of Twitter and a hashtag chat, I connected with Mrs. Ohlgren, Maple Grove's librarian.  We figured out that her kindergarteners and a small group of my first graders were reading the same book.  Next thing you know, we are setting up today's Skype visit.

Wow!  If this world isn't flat, I'm not sure what is.  This all happened within less than a week.  We found out that their last day of school is June 4 (ours is June 25).  They also (our kids wanted to know this) ride on yellow buses!  They go outside for recess but they don't have morning assemblies.  And funny enough, Kwame Alexander did NOT visit their school.  Seriously, one of the first graders came up with that question to ask if he came to their school.  LOVE. IT.

What brought us together was the book, Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst.  So of course, we talked about pickle sandwiches (Lulu's favorite), which ending of the story we liked and if we'd like to go in the forest alone like Lulu did.

What an awesome experience for all!  We will definitely be doing this again next year!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Today Casey Seiler, from the Times Union came and spoke to our fifth graders about writing newspaper articles. WOW!  I could have listened to him speak forever!  If I was a fifth grader with no knowledge of what I wanted to be when I grew up, he actually might have turned me on to being a reporter.  Really.  He was that inspiring and so good with the kids.

We invited him in to give our students a little idea of how to write a newspaper article.  They will all be writing articles for our edition of The Castletonian.  He gave them some great ideas and had some really meaningful quotes, such as:

"All the things that make a good piece of journalism, make a good piece of fiction."

"Competition makes you better."

And I forget the exact question Casey was answering but his answer was profound:

"I don't feel like I understand something till I've written about it."  That makes a lot of sense!  I think I'm seeing that with this blog, even in its infant stages.

Thank you so much, Casey, for coming in and speaking to our fifth graders. We hope you will return!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

RED CARPET Guys walking

One of my favorite places to be in my free time is NYC.  I grew up in Queens and it always feels like going home to me.  My mom, daughter and I went down there yesterday with the intention of seeing "Giselle" at American Ballet Theatre in Lincoln Center but we did so much more.

We love to walk all around the city.  On April 26 NYT Magazine had a special issue called, "Walking New York."  Here's a cool graphic by Christoph Niemann  from his "Abstract Sunday" column.  That was us in the Village.

The Megabus drops you off in midtown and we always like to go to brunch in the Village.  Yesterday we chose Friend of a Farmer in Grammercy Park.  It's a big place with outdoor dining and two floors upstairs.  There's french press coffee, fruit and vegetable drinks and yummy omelets.  Nothing too unique but a nice atmosphere especially if a red carpet guy is two tables away from you.  Nothing like seeing NEIL PATRICK HARRIS eating brunch with his family!  That was CRAZY!  After I calmed down, my daughter reminded me that this should not be anything unusual for me, since I had just been with an award winner less than two weeks ago!  How could I forget!  Actually the NEWBERY and TONYS are my top favorite awards and yes, KWAME and NEIL are both RED CARPET guys!

After brunch we walked from Grammercy Park to the East Village to get some ice cream.  Then we headed back uptown to Lincoln Center.  On the way, I caught this sign in the window of The Strand Bookstore, "Keep Calm and Kill Zombies."  LIBRARY GIRL was our keynote at our New York Library Association Section of School Librarian's conference this past April and man, was she inspiring!  She told us to be ZOMBIE FIGHTERS!  So I stopped in my tracks, grabbed my daughter's camera and took this picture!

We had to give up midtown to catch a cab because the crowds were just too unbelievable.  This way we made it in time without stress.  As the song from A Chorus Line goes, "Everything was beautiful at the ballet."

Then we walked back to the Megabus from Lincoln Center to 34th and 12th.  Not a stroll.  We made it to the bus with 3 minutes to spare. It was a totally fun and awesome day!

Look at that sky!  It could not have been a more beautiful day!
  (Photo credit TCiverolo)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Happy Friday!

We had a busy week in the Castleton Elementary School Library Media Center.  Here are some highlights:

First graders began work on creating exhibits for a Castleton Zoo.  They will end up being more like museum dioramas, but nonetheless, animals in their habitats.  I saw some great inquiry, wondering and all around research happening.  Next week they will begin working in their groups trying to figure out what supplies they will need to design these exhibits.   Follow @MissLeavitt_CES to see some of the progress from her class!

With Mrs. Puccio and Mrs. Seres's second grade class, we are working hard on our biographies.  We are finding out that some people are a lot easier to research than others.  Do you know anything about the guy who invented the ear muffs?  Now I do! Meghan McCarthy wrote a great book called, Earmuffs for Everyone!:  How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs.  I only got because it was on my Junior Library Guild order this winter--Thank you!  We also have the first woman firefighter being researched from the book, Molly, by Golly!  The Legend of Molly Williams, America's First Female Firefighter by Dianne Ochiltree and many more!  The week after next students will act out as their characters and I will interview them.  This is always fun!

I don't know if you know this already, but I absolutely LOVE Twitter!  I was lurking in a #txlchat and then chimed in.  One thing lead to another and now Miss Leavitt's class and I will be Skyping with kindergarteners in Minnesota on Wednesday to chat about Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst.  I have been leading a book group with a small group of students but now we will branch out, share the book with everyone and meet some cool midwest kids!  I'm so excited about this opportunity.  I test skyped with their librarian this morning and she's awesome!

We talked primary documents and annotated bibliography in 5th grade today in preparation for our NYS Archives Student Research project .  We opened up a Google Doc, shared it with our group members and now we are ready to go.  Casey Seiler from the Times Union will be our guest speaker on Tuesday to give us pointers on how to write a newspaper article.  We have some heavy duty work to do between now and the end of the school year!

Hope everyone has an awesome weekend.  I have two books to read: Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams Garcia and Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes.  What are you reading?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Just a few more media additions...

Kwame left us five days ago but his spirit is still hovering over our building.  I made an Animoto over the weekend and NYSUT posted pictures on their website.  People are still talking about it.

But life goes on.  We had a fire drill this morning.  Dr. Eppink from St. Rose met with some fifth graders to mentor them on their REVOLUTION NYS Archives project.  I started the Zoo project with Miss Leavitt's class.  And the custodian who hates us all eating in the library, especially my popcorn retired today.

Here's the Animoto:

Want to see our Newbery journey from the perspective of a fifth grader and self declared, "Kwame Fanatic" check this out:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Leapin' Lizards! It's another jumping author?

I am still floating from Kwame's visit.  The tears are still flowing, but we must move on.

Yesterday I got a real treat because my friend and brilliant illustrator, Bryan Collier, was visiting Green Meadow Elementary just a few miles up the road from us.  Bryan visited our school last year and we loved him.  I popped over, bought a few copies of his latest book, "Trombone Shorty" and got him to jump with me.  A great way to end a great week.

Bryan! Kwame! Oh my!

Friday, May 15, 2015

It's a Basketball Life!

Kudos to Mrs. Kelliher with her brilliant lyric writing.  OUR own Wildcats are amazing.  #crossoverlove

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hugs, Future Newbery Committee members and All that Jazz

Today was surreal.  I was completely exhausted on top of being completely exhilarated.  The library was buzzing.  My email was popping.  Kids were smiling and waving and adults just wanted a hug.  I was probably the quietest I have ever been in my life.

But life goes on and I still had to teach.

All year long, every Thursday the 4th grade ELA teacher and I have been collaborating on teaching about genres and story elements. It's been really fun.  We've made the students into detectives as they navigate their way through our curriculum.  I had started to play the "Pink Panther" theme as they entered the library and made sure I wore pink every week.  In fact, it would be minus 10 with the wind chill and I'd be walking around school in pink flip flops. Good times.

When the kids came in at their regular time, it wasn't regular anymore.  Things have definitely changed, and not because there are still orange balloons hanging all around and microphones swinging from the ceiling.  I started out by just saying (in a very soft voice, mind you), "Yesterday was pretty awesome, wasn't it?" and then we would get as excited as we could with my energy level down a notch or two (or ten).  These are my future Newbery Committee members and they are prepped and pumped.  I retold them the story of how my fifth grade book group loved The Crossover so much that they wrote Kwame letters; he responded with a poem; we Skyped in January and really the rest is history.  What a journey we have had.  What kind of journey the 2016 Committee will experience we won't know until we get on the road in November. Stay tuned.

Speaking of tunes, I played Mom tonight and went to my daughter's band concert.  The jazz band opened.  The same one that played for Kwame yesterday at our faculty reception.  Love them! But what was even greater was that they played a song by Alfred Ellis called "The Chicken." Mr. Streeter, the band director, proceeded to tell us that the famous bass player, Jack Pastouris, played this song.  So?  SO?!  I've only been watching "The Rooster Chronicles 1 and 2" over and over again and know that illustrator Tim Bowers wanted to base Rooster's illustrations after him.  He looks like a rooster, right? Check this out:

There you have it.  Oh, and our visit with Kwame made it in the local paper:


And some great photos on our District webpage:


I will post more tomorrow when my brain is functioning a bit better.  More pictures. More videos.  Songs.

I appreciate you, Kwame. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It's about time I started a blog...

I am going to put in my resignation tomorrow.  Just kidding.  But man, when you have 24 hours like I just did, you worry about going into work the next day.  Well, not really.  Since tomorrow will be the aftermath, and I know it will be good!  Kids will be screaming!  Teachers will be smiling.  My principal will be skipping.  All because the 2015 Newbery award winner walked the halls of Castleton Elementary today.  We even jumped together.

This was no ordinary day.  This was no ordinary school visit for Kwame or us.  The man was greeted on a red carpet with every student out there waiting for him.  They were shouting, "KWAME! KWAME!" like it was a pep rally.  It was magical.

Kwame did two assemblies, lunch with students, visited a couple of classrooms and mingled at a faculty reception after school. A lot more than he usually does, I learned.  He was ready to crash at the end of the day, and so should I.  I did not anticipate how emotional the day would be, but it was!  I used up almost a whole box of tissues.  Kwame is poetic, musical and just beyond words.  We are #solucky.  Thank you Jen Cannell, with Jane Bentley and Questar, for making today happen.

Kwame's last words to me were "I appreciate you."  Kwame, you don't even know how much I appreciate you.  Looking forward to our next leap.

There.  I've started a blog and I hope it's here to stay.