May 12, 2010

Info Ninjas, Fish Farts, Redwoods, and Wonder

A friend sent this image to me (I can't link to his site because I'm at school and the district filters consider everything from tumblr to be pornography.  Nice).  I need to make some fun  nametags like this when I start working the library!

I've been working on a post for the GLMA blog, and it should be...yes, here it is, just now up.  It's on juggling full-time teaching, a family and grad school for those contemplating what I've been doing for the last two years.  Whatever it takes to be a ninja, right?

Here's a great little essay In Honor of Children's Book Week.  I am excited to have a good reason to delve more deeply into children's lit, but I know I'll never be like Ms.Yingling or Jen Robinson.  I still like reading my Elmore Leonard, Dan Simmons, science fiction, and popular science books too much to only read children's books.

I have been getting to some great new children's non-fiction lately.  My family and I spent a lovely evening this week poring over Fiona Bayrock and Carolyn Conahan's delightful Bubble Homes and Fish Farts.  I knew some of these things, but there were many pages where I would drop my jaw, open my eyes wide and exclaim to my daughter, "I never knew that!"  This would paralyze her with giggles.

It's not only informative and clever, it's gorgeous:

We also just read Redwoods by Jason Chin.  A-maz-ing!  It's funny because I had gotten My Lovely Bride Richard Preston's The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring a while back, which I thought was a no-brainer for her.  She loves nature (spent a year doing environmental work for Americorps) and eats up nonfiction adventure books by the likes of Junger and Krakauer.  How could she resist "a story of passion and daring" about redwood trees?  Well, she liked it but didn't love it.  She found Preston's breathless descriptions of the "daring" parts a bit contrived.  She liked it enough to finish it and found much of interest, but it didn't blow her away.  Chin's book was inspired by Preston's and he nails it.  It's written like a typical nonfiction title about the trees but the illustrations have the boy imagining he's doing all the things Preston's character's did.  As he becomes engrossed in the story of the redwoods, he imagines himself shooting arrows attached to ropes and climbing into the amazing canopies above.  Along the way we learn all the interesting facts, but aren't numbed by too much detail.  The pictures provide the awe and the words provide the context: a perfect mix.

I've been getting into this more and more because of a book called A Place for Wonder which is available as a free pdf right now at Stenhouse (but they know that letting me read it that way just makes me want to buy it that much more).  It's geared towards primary grades but the concepts are universal in sparking ideas for teaching in a more inquiry-driven way.  Highly recommended.