Monday, May 15, 2017

Daniel Miyares Part II

The Prologue

Funny how today is also a "rainy day in upstate NY."  The perfect day to share about our day with Daniel last week.  But that right there is the very first email I ever sent to Daniel (including the typos and not the best grammar--proof that it's authentic).  There you have it.  Almost exactly 1 1/2 years later, Daniel walked the halls of Castleton. Wow.

The Day

Author-Illustrator visits with me are extreme.  Breakfast, Announcements, Assemblies, Classroom Visits, Lunch, Book Signings and, if you're lucky, a gala in your honor.  That was Daniel's day in a nutshell.  Exhausting for him. Exhausting for me and anyone else involved but so worth it!

Breakfast with Reading Ambassadors

We had a luau/Surf's Up themed breakfast with the fifth grade Reading Ambassadors.  Pineapple, pineapple turnover cake, coconut maccaroons, etc.


I love to celebrate book birthdays with authors and illustrators so this day was no exception.  Not only did Daniel share That Neighbor Kid and grinned as we sang Happy Book Birthday but he also gave us a little insight on how pictures help tell a story.  How can you give two thumbs up to a story with  these three sentences? 
It was a nice day.  Lou went for a walk. Lou made some new friends.

Daniel could tell you!

Class Visits

Not every author or illustrator will agree to visit classrooms (it's a lot!) but I'm so glad Daniel did!  It made his time with us even more special.  Knowing they only had 5-10 minutes of their time, the classes were prepared with questions and welcome signs before we even walked in the door!


Lunch with Dewey Duty

Happy Book Birthday, That Neighbor Kid!

We tried to serve "friendship" food: mac AND cheese, Reeses PB cups (peanut butter AND chocolate), pretzels, juice boxes (that's in the book), cheese AND crackers, oreos (chocolate cookies AND cream filling), etc. No one went hungry!

Fifth Grade

A few months ago, Daniel made a short introductory video for our fifth graders about his process of book making and especially how he illustrates someone else's work.  It was hard to believe that this day was here and he was about to view all of their artwork and poetry matched together.  We all squeezed together in the art room for a unique experience lead by Daniel.

The Gala

People are still talking about the Gala.  The artwork. Daniel. The poetry.  Daniel. The food.  The music.  Daniel. How lovely and sweet Daniel was. What a sport he was for taking pictures with everyone.  How the library was packed with 200 people.  It was a night to remember.  

I just figured out how to make a movie using Google Photos.  I don't like how it limits you to 50 photos so I tried to choose ones that give the best flavor of the evening.  Note that some were shot by my Dewey Duty helpers using iPads.

Student Reflections

Mr. Reischer had the fifth graders write their thoughts on the Gala and the project as a whole.  Some of them were quite insightful and intuitive.  They all loved the food (especially the meatballs and cupcakes) and Daniel cutting the ribbon with the big scissors. They were very appreciative of the event and loved the opportunity to be fancy. They noticed the fourth grade servers and the MS jazz band and thought those were nice touches to the evening.

"It was fun to dress up and see my artwork and poem on the boards...It was exciting to see what other people turned my poem into and to see how the poets reacted to my drawing."

"I can't stop thinking that I, took a photo with famous Daniel Miyares...My all time favorite though was the big scissors.  I felt as if I was in a movie."

"It was great because we spent so long on this project and so many people came just for us.  I also loved how seriously everyone took this and how many people dressed up."

"I liked how I could express my feeling on the paper! I loved to mix the tempera paints to make this pretty color! I liked to see what the poem turned into! I loved meeting Daniel and seeing him cut the ribbon with huge scissors!"

"When I saw the artwork of the person who got my poem, it wasn't how I would have done it. But, I still liked it.  It showed that you can draw things more than one way."

"I liked seeing everyone's art work and how they explained your poem.  I also liked how hard everyone worked to get this far!"

"Overall, I thought that the event, and the process of the project were awesome and an amazing idea!"

"Since our minds work differently, I loved to see how the person that illustrated my poem illustrated it in a unique way.  I think that people have unique ways of thinking and it was fun to see what other people do with your poem."

And finally..."You guys need a vacation for all you did!"  

Daniel with fifth grade boys

Daniel with Mr. Chevrier (future Superintendent) and his son, Brody

Daniel with two of my 4th grade Dewey Duty helpers who "worked" the gala hence the black and white attire

Daniel with Principal Derby

And Principal Derby's son

Leaping with Mrs. Champigny, decorator extraordinaire, and her daughters

A final leap with Daniel.  From all the students, faculty and families in Castleton...
Thank you!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Daniel Miyares Part 1

Leaping with Daniel last night

I promised myself earlier this evening that I would blog tonight.  Tonight, per se, is almost over but it still counts.

Almost two years ago (really a year and a half, but almost two years sounds better), I opened my Junior Library Guild box and found a gorgeous book inside.  I read it, shared it, read it again, told everyone about it and even emailed the author.  That book was Float by Daniel Miyares.  I fell hard for it then and still love it today.

Then a crazy thing happened.  My eyes caught something on a poster I had for Kwame's new book, Surf's Up.  Daniel was the illustrator! How could this be?  So we all got more excited.  We threw a "Please Come to CES" party with everyone dressed in Hawaiian attire and sent all the videos to Daniel.  We were on a serious mission to bring him to Castleton, if not for Surf's Up, for something else soon.

Since then we celebrated another book birthday for him in June: Bring Me a Rock and performed a rendition of that book at a monthly morning assembly in November because...

...we had made a date with Daniel to come in May! MAY?!  Yes! THIS MAY! May 9 on the book birthday of his newest book, That Neighbor Kid. That's just hours away!!!

We love everything about this book and 4th graders have taken upon themselves to post hashtags about it all over school:

#hammerandnails #blueprints

Mrs. Warland (Doe) with Daniel and her granddaughter, Emma

Daniel's signature grey early in the book becomes mixed with vibrant hues of red, orange and yellow as the friendship and teamwork between the boy and the girl flourishes.  After hard work and determination, their treehouse is complete and how better to celebrate this accomplishment than with a box of juice?

The most talented Daniel is here in my zipcode and we are thrilled to honor him all day as we sing our praises (and Happy Birthday) on the book birthday of That Neighbor Kid and have a gala in his honor in the evening.

ps-When you get your own copy, don't forget to check under case cover.  More surprise beauty lies secretly hidden there.

With Mrs. Harris

With our art teacher, Mrs. Pazienza.  More on our collaboration tomorrow!

Sunday, May 7, 2017


A selfie at the end of the conference with the fabulous co-chairs, Maria and Tina

I have a Texas sized heart that has enough love for my library and author peeps in Texas AND my BAEs in New York.  That said, greetings from a bus filled with normally NOT quiet librarians (seriously!) but who are currently exhausted from a couple of full days of fun, laughter, and of course, excellent PD in Buffalo, New York!

Kudos to co-chairs, Maria and Tina, who did an excellent job at organizing, delegating, coming up with Plan Bs, and leading an amazing team of folks to put on the best conference ever!

From cool new name tags with a QR code linked to the schedule and the wifi passwords 

attached to gift mugs and every other detail in between, this conference rocked.  Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature (the job title that he's had with the most syllables) kicked off our conference with an inspiring and entertaining keynote.  We learned that although Superman was not his favorite superhero growing up, he is now.  In fact, I like this theory a lot, “He just might be an Asian American Jew.”

Just as Gene is an ambassador for literature, books can be ambassadors for us and the kids in our lives.  “Every kid/reader needs books that act as advocates and ambassadors…These books teach us to love others…We all need to get outside of our comfort zone…” and that’s why Gene came up with the “Reading Without Walls Challenge.” So if you haven’t done it already, read a book from a genre you don’t normally read, a character who doesn't look or live like you or a topic you don't know much about.

I was lucky enough to be asked by Maria to be Gene’s handler.  I couldn’t have asked for a better job and a better person to work with.  In his breakout session he shared about his experiences in the classroom (for 17 years!) and how he had his students draw comics in his Algebra II and Computer Science classes.  They used a program called “Comics Life,” their photo library or something like “Long Shot Comics” because “anyone can draw dots.” This gave me great ideas on how I can collaborate with my fifth grade math teacher (maybe even this year since the state math test is over!). 

“Comics are a visual narrative medium that asks our students to read.”

“Drawing well doesn’t make for great comics.” Hmmm…really?
Does that mean even I should try it?

At the same time as Gene’s breakout session was a popular workshop called, “Oh, the Places You will Go! – Bringing the World into Your Library with Technology.”  Mike Drezek chatted with my friend, Kirsten Murphy, on Twitter the night before and as part of his presentation he connected with her and her fourth graders in Forth Worth! I’m sorry I missed it! 

AASL President-elect and newly crowned “Dr” Steve Yates was our keynote speaker at lunch.  He shared all the ways to get involved in AASL and how AASL can support us.  He also shared the new covers of our new standards to be unveiled at the annual meeting. What a personable guy!  As a Yankee through and through, I love that Alabama accent and talking to him about the football games.  Boy, would I like to go to one of those some day.

At around this time, I heard that Gordon Korman was not going to make it to our Knickerbocker banquet that evening.  There was bad weather in New York City and no combination of transportation would get him there in time.  Maria, Tina and their team came up with the idea of a lifesized #FlatGordon.  Steven played dead and was the model.  This was perfect.  Gordon accepted his award via Skype and it was almost as wonderful as if he was there in person.

The Knickerbocker Banquet

Congrats to Principal Rich Pogue from Tamarac on his administrator award!

Congrats to Ellen and Stephanie for their awards!

Librarians excited to take a selfie with Gordon!

With fellow graduate students and friends


Kristina Holzweiss also had trouble getting out of the city and ended up on Amtrak.  She arrived later that night exhausted.  Since she’s always pushing her students to persevere, the idea never crossed her mind to give up.  She gave an inspiring, emotional keynote this afternoon at lunch. I spied lots of wet eyes.

Saying goodbye to Steven Yates

Conference chairs with our SSL President, Michelle Miller

Sue Kowalski with Gordon!

We didn't know we needed tissues for Kristina Holzweiss's keynote!

All of the workshops were packed and buzzing.  People were excited and pumped to return to their libraries on Monday with new ideas and end-of-year energy. We are excited to be together again in 2018 on Long Island.  Yes, I love my new friends and colleagues in Texas but I will never forget where I began.  Thanks for the inspiration and love, NYLA-SSL.

Epilogue: The Leaping Pictures

Gene Luen Yang!

AASL President-elect Dr. Steven Yates

Amazing Conference Co-Chair Maria Muhlbauer

Just the amazing everything Sue Kowalski

More amazing everythings Sara Kelly Johns and Kristina Holzweiss

The Go-To person and former Conference Chair Jim Clark

My permanent conference roommate who always makes me laugh and fabulous colleague at Schodack Maureen Squier