Monday, April 21, 2008

From An Author to the Apprenticing Students - The Treat of Jarrett Krosoczka's Visit!

My class and I had the wonderful treat of seeing Jarrett Krosoczka at our school today! I had already perused his books and enjoyed his website, so I was hoping that his presentation would be just as interesting. Jarrett certainly delivered! He is very techno savvy, and had a super presentation, which included him reading Punk Farm with the assistance of an electronic version of his book. He also showed a super example of a full page spread of art develop via the time lapse effect of photos of his layering of sketches and paints. This was an excellent manner of showing how an illustration takes time to be created in its entirety. I absolutely appreciated the fact that he began his presentation with a slide show on the computer projector of art and writing he did as a child, at the same age as my little ones, and how he developed and pursued his interests and passions as a high school and college student. Jarrett spoke to the students, author to author, reader to reader, and my kids were hanging on his every word. He said he was already an author and an illustrator when he was a kid. That’s just how I treat my students. I was just thrilled!

One of the author studies that we had early on in my class in the fall was on Helen Lester. She has written numerous picture books, including the Tacky the Penguin series. My favorite, however, is her book entitled Author: A True Story, which is indeed about her process on how she became a published writer. That story helped to set a tone of mutual respect and expectations for my students in September, and the chart that we created as a result has been quoted time and time again from memory. In particular, we have referred to her persistence as an author and how despite the fact that she faced so much rejection and self-doubt, she was persistent. Well, Jarrett also spoke of this, and the children and I made numerous connections to Helen’s truths, as well as to other authors who anchored our mindsets early in the school year. Jarrett faced so much rejection, but eventually he was noticed by someone at Random House, and the rest is history!

He also spoke to the children about how creativity leads to more creativity, and how ideas that he had years before were later reborn as new storylines, new versions of characters, and new voices. Jarrett showed them his sketch book of ideas and brainstorming, and my kids reveled in that, as they themselves jotted ideas and inspirations from his talk in their own “Fizzle and Sparks” notebooks, inspired by Helen Lester’s Fizzles box of ideas for later use. He even explained how after two years, he only had one sentence for the illustration he drew for the book idea for Annie Was Warned, but he eventually went back and completed it. (Talk about not giving up and persistence!) One of my students got to ask him a question and it was a good one for someone who was an official author and illustrator who makes it look so effortless and easy. She asked, “Do you ever get any help?” Jarrett said that he did from editors and an art director who both helped to make his good work even better. That’s the kind of insight that authors who are being apprenticed by pros need to hear.

When we got back to my class, I just had to buzz and recap with my kids for ten minutes before they moved on to interactive read aloud with my student teacher. My kids noticed and thought of the things I thought of, and referred to their notebooks for notations that they made. One of my students shared something that came to her mind that she had jotted: “Don’t stop looking for something that you believe in. Chase after your dream.” Another student said that writing a book is akin to the growth of a plant (which we had studied plenty recently in our Roots and Shoots gardening program.) She said that going through the process of publishing is like watching a seed of an idea grow into a plant, and when it flowers, it’s like being published, because that’s the most beautiful part of it all! How brilliant and insightful are these kids?!?

At the end, my class and I purposely lingered. As the kids gathered around me, knowing I wanted to say something softly to them, I asked them, “Do you think we should go up to him and say what we say to one another in appreciation in our classroom?” They all nodded yes in eager agreement, and we gathered in an orderly semi-circle around Jarrett. I told him that we had enjoyed him so much and that his presentation was fabulous. I also said that we have studied the craft of many authors and illustrators this year, and we wanted to say something to him that we say in our classroom community. He paused from signing books with a sincere smile on his face as we said to him: “Thank-you fellow author!” To which he appreciatively replied, “Well, you’re quite welcome fellow authors!” That was just one of those sparkling little moments of learning that I will remember from this special school year!

Be sure to explore his awesome website at:
It's very kid friendly and appealing, and I especially like how he shows steps in his illustration process. His bio write ups are hilarious for the grown-ups!

He blogs as well. Check it out at:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Worth Its Weight in Gold - Insight on the Processes of Writing and Illustrating from the Pros!

No advice is more genuine and authentic than the words from people who have been where you are, and already gone through where you dream to go! Check out these sites, many of which are geared directly at the age of the children the books are written and illustrated for. To the right, I am building a collection of direct links to portions of author websites where they dispense advice to young writers, and children certainly appreciate being considered "authors." It is empowering for them, and it also shows a respect for the writing and creative processes the child goes through. Students rise to the occasion when they feel that their words are valued just as much as an adult's thoughts. :) Below are a few extra inspirational sites which are from author/illustrators as well. Enjoy!

Jan Brett - Author and Illustrator Jan Brett has recently posted numerous videos of "How to Draw" animals and other things, as well as author interview video posts! How perfect for a featured author/illustrator study!

Jarrett Krosoczka - Author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka shows from "Sketch to Finish" steps in his illustrative process. It's very kid friendly so they can explore on their own. (I can't wait to see him in person at our school in just a few weeks! I'll be sure to post. :)

Loreen Leedy - Author and illustrator Loreen Leedy is a teacher favorite for her books that easily lend themselves to content area learning - and in a fun way! Check out her illustration process here.

Janet Stevens: Author and Illustrator Janet Stevens shows the process of sketching and layering artwork in several sections of this page.

Aliki - Author and Illustrator Aliki illustrates the process of "How a Book is Made." The illustrations are from a book that was written with the same name. It's great to post on your classroom website for students to pull up at home with their parents to explain the process after the book has been shared at interactive read aloud in school. :)

Henry Cole - Illustrator Henry Cole shows elements of the drawing process in a kid-friendly manner with the use of his creatively titled subsections: "Version-ometer," "Process-ometer," and "Detail-ometer." He uses the clicking of the computer's mouse to his illustrative advantage when showing children his process of sketching.

Stephen Michael King - Illustrator Stephen Michael King shows how he draws a picture in under four minutes on this YouTube video found at the bottom of the linked page.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Happy Poem Savoring! It's National Poetry Month!

I love to share the emotions, laughter, and smiles of poetry with my students during April - National Poetry Month! In our class, we celebrate with a fresh selection of poetry books on display on our tall, "fancy" bookcases in the heart of our classroom media center. Of course, poetry has a home in our class library throughout the year, and new picks are featured and shared from time to time, ranging from fanciful fiction to non-fiction selections which illustrate with words descriptive visuals for my students to absorb. In April, I also make sure that read aloud starts off with a poem from either my student teacher or myself, and the children and I marinate in the precisely picked language. We also invite students to find a poem to share, or pen one of their own to help open up our special bonding time of interactive read aloud. What a great way to practice savoring language and reading fluently, without speeding through at the speed of sound? :)

Here are a few of the sites which I share with my students in class and on our class web page to further gear up the children about poetry. Check them out, and have fun exploring the richness of language when presented in the "petite package" of a poem!

Jack Prelutsky - Here the National Children's Poet Laureate Prelutsky presents a rather new website. It includes information about the "Make Poetry Happen" contest, which unfortunately the deadline just recently passed on April 1st. This means, mark your calendar for it next year! (I love the fact that he even posts the photo of his chocolate he won! Now that's MY kind of contest!)

Giggle Poetry - which includes interviews and ideas from children's poets - great to share inspirations on author's and their crafting with the students :)

Kristine O'Connell George - This author has generously posted "Poetry Aloud!" where many of her own poetry works from her published books are available for your downloading and enjoyment. As she says, "Poetry is meant to be read aloud!"

Brian P. Cleary - Cleary is an author of books on parts of speech, math, and, POETRY! This portion of his page is purely kid friendly, poetry playing fun.

Nikki Grimes - Author Nikki Grimes has a "Poem To Go" section on her website, where she posts things such as her inspiration behind a poem idea, or a poem started for the reader to complete.

Robert Munsch - Author Robert Munsch shares some of the poetry which he says he writes for some of the children who write him letters. How cool is that!?!

Eileen Spinelli - This author/illustrator has a portion of her website where she posts a "Poem of the Month." Perfect for shared reading activities with a whole group!

Janet Wong - Hear author Janet Wong read poetry via the audio feature by clicking on the microphone! I especially appreciate how she writes about her relationship with poetry and its power in the main text of this page.

Scholastic - Poetry writing for kids - with Jack Prelutsky!

The Poetry Foundation - This link leads you to their children's portion of their site, although it's all interesting! A special feature is poet laureate Jack Prelutsky's tips to hear!

Shel Silverstein - Classic children's poet Silverstein's clever, and often offbeat wit, is treasured by children generation after generation. Check out his website to see more of his creativeness!

Children's Book Council - At the Children's Book Council site, peek here for tips on celebrating Poetry Month with children. Also, be sure to search "poetry" in the site's search engine to find some informative poetry related articles for you as a professional.

PBS for Teachers - Explore the offerings of instructional ideas this portion of the PBS website has to offer in the realm of poetry:

Pine Tree Poetry - A book company that, yes, sells books for profit. Our school did it for the first time last year, and some of my very own students were selected to be in the volume! Our school will soon hold a reception for those young authors, and the pride those students feel based on their peers' adoring reactions is pretty special. :)

International Reading Association's Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award Listing:

Pennsylvania's Center for the Book - Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award:

National Council of the Teachers of English - --Experimenting with Writing Poetry Instructional Tips:

--Celebrate Poets! More resources and teaching tie-ins:

Hope that these sites serve as inspiration for you! :) Enjoy!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Delving Into the Lives and Inspirations of Authors and Illustrators Via Their Personal Blogs!

As you can see on the side of my blog, I enjoy collecting numerous links and placing them on my blog for "one stop shopping." I enjoy finding websites created by authors and illustrators, as well as webpages, blogs, and wikis related to children's literature. One aspect of children's literature that I have noticed slowly growing is blogging done by authors themselves. I think that this serves as an excellent way to keep the fan base up to date with finding out about the author/illustrator's current work in progress. Author/illustrator blogs also serve as a fabulous way to learn about the artist and their craft, whether it is in the way of words or illustrations. A reader can find out the sources of inspiration for the author/illustrator, and about their thought processes. Those readers who also dabble in the world of writing or creating art themselves, whether on a professional or amateur level, can certainly take small sparks of inspiration from their opportunity to peer into the mind of the blogger to create and explore new paths of their own. Blogs of professional illustrators and authors of children's literature can also serve as complementary means of sharing about the author's process of crafting with students, often in partnership with literature that is currently being shared in class as well as those with informative, well created websites. I am going to begin to collect blogs of authors in their own department on the side, but here's a few which got me started. I hope you enjoy exploring them just as I did!

Author and Illustrator Mo Williems:
Author Judy Blume:
Author Jarrett Krosoczka:
Illustrator Guy Francis:
Illustrator Catherine Stock:
Illustrator Rob Scotton:
Author Esme Raji Codell:
Author Elizabeth Partridge:
Author Mary Pope Osborne
Auhtor Laurie B. Friedman
Author Betty Birney
Author Frances O'Roark Dowell
Author Jason Lethcoe
Author Deborah Wiles

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The History of My Childhood - Captured By the Purple Ink of Ditto Machines :)

Well, my personal lifetime is now fit for a portion of American history, at least according to the minds at American Girls. Author Megan McDonald, also known for the Judy Moody series, released the set of books which illustrates with words (and pictures) the fictional life of one of the newest American Girl dolls, Julie. This new character's childhood takes places around the year of 1974. As with all American Girl books, I appreciate looking back in the “past” in the non-fiction section at the end of each book’s main feature of a realistic fiction story. Well, one of my students who recently finished reading a book from Megan McDonald entitled Julie Tells Her Story came to ask me some questions which made me realize that I am growing old, such as:

“Black ink wasn’t invented yet? Because it says here that they used purple ditto machines that they had to use by hand, and was that like the printing press in colonial times?”

“And filmstrips? What are those?!?! How did you even watch movies if there were no DVDs? Did you at least have movie theaters? ”

“You mean to tell me that there weren’t computers?!?! Ms. M! What did YOU do? No wonder you love to use your computer sooo much! Life must have been so hard before you had your computer.”

Yes, I’m officially old. Thanks Ms. McDonald, for making my childhood ancient enough to be considered history!” LOL

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal Bridges Cultures and Tales from Around the World

My class has recently enjoyed welcoming our wonderful student teacher to our classroom as a full-time fixture to our learning lives until mid-May. One of the things that I feel any student teacher needs the most practice in implementing is interactive read aloud (IRA.) I admit that it's the hardest thing for me to hand over to let anyone else teach but me, because I obviously love sharing the wonder and appreciation of children's literature, and it is always a special bonding time of the day with my students. She is doing a very nice job of developing the sophisticated skills that IRA requires of an instructor, and I know practice, practice, practice allows any developing teacher grow with experience and techniques. I still feel that way about myself after over 15 years of educating children! I am a firm believer that I am a life time learner, and that I challenge myself on a daily basis to become more knowledgeable in life.

I had my student teacher do an featured author study of Demi recently to coincide with our Ancient China studies, and we are transitioning into folk tales and legends from around the world. I had the opportunity to do interactive read aloud on Friday. I have missed it so! It's such a special bonding time of our lives. Well, I read Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal to be a perfect bridge from our previous genre study of fairy tales and Chinese influenced writing, to the "journey" around the world with various folk tales and legends. I was tickled pink to see that our school media center had acquired two copies of this Paul Fleischman book, and I wanted to have the perfect opportunity to read it. It just seemed to lend itself as a great book to bridge and expand connectively to other texts with. I placed the book in the read aloud basket for over a week as a purposeful teaser, and I had told the kids that I would get to read it to them. Well, they asked about it everyday - "Is today the day we are going to read that?" ;) They connected the wood block type of illustrating to Snowflake Bentley, and to international variations of stories, like similar concepts explored with our China studies. They got it! :) I had the kids help me label the "places" we traveled on the class globe, and sat the globe next to the book. The book indeed bridged thinking amongst genres, and I look forward to traveling the globe with the students with our upcoming folk tales and legends from around the world!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Thanks to Inspiration from The Landry News By: Andrew Clements, "The Turnursttimes" Student Newspaper Has Gone Online!

I received a lovely email today from one of my parents that I had last year in my second grade class. Her son and a classmate took to becoming writing buddies last year. They clicked as friends, because they enjoyed and appreciated each other's sense of humor and the messages that they had to share as writers. They are now 3rd graders, but have continued to be amazingly self-motivated writers who have been working on a publication they call "The Turnursttimes" (which is quite a tongue twister! :) Their first three issues were hard copies, but they have become technology savvy and environmentally friendly by publishing online, beginning with their fourth issue. Their site is complete with FAQs, a logo, and an email. Impressive! I especially like that they explained their inspiration was from reading The Landry News by Andrew Clements as second graders last year. Reading indeed inspires the stories of real life! I am very proud to have taught and known these two students!

Check out their site, and watch these writers bloom throughout the year!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Poetry Inspired By the Striking Illustrations and Fabulous, Descriptive Vocabulary Found in Snowflake Bentley and Owl Moon

Sparkling, frosting white
Flowers falling from the sky
Different ways,
Different shapes and sizes.
Someone has cut paper,
Drifting gently,

Owl up drifting, watching,
Licking of fast deer,
Moon covered with snow.
Ice hard – skate and split.
All quiet, all soft.

I found the most perfect snowflake.
I took a picture of it,
Its softness of melting,
Like the petals of a sunflower.
I wish there were more.

At January,
I caught two little snowflakes
That landed on my back.
Both of them were
Skinny, blinking,
And soft like a dandelion.

Snowflakes, icicles,
Falling gently,
Shivering cold –
Melting –
There goes the snow mountain!

Shivering cold
Flying down

Gracefully falling,
Toward, backward,
Twirling around…
Enjoying wind,
Having fun –

Icicles and Snow
Icicles dripping,
Drip drop…
Drip drop…
Snow crunching,
Icicles melting,
Snow melting,

Icy Icicles,
Crisp snowflakes.
Stormy blizzard!
Freezing cold,
Feeling like
An abominable snowman,
Bundled up

Snow is white as clouds
Snow is white as cold
Drifting through the hard snow
Listening for owls
This is nice and cute,
Chasing after birds.

If I Was a Snowflake
If I was a snowflake,
I would be falling from the sky,
I’d be fuzz falling from no where,
I’d be somewhere in that
Bowl of milk.

The flake is as cold as ice.
When your quiet –
The flake is as soft as yarn.
When it melts, it looks like

Snowflakes fall like leaves.
They’re as white as clear water.
Snowflakes are light like a rabbit.
They shine like a chandelier
And sparkle like the moon.

They shine like a light bulb,
They glow like a star.
Most of all,
They fly like a bird.
You will be delighted by the snow.
Snow is the BEST!

Snow is falling!
Where did it come from?
It is as white as sweet candy!
It covers everything.
I love the prettiness of snow!

My snowflake
Likes winter,
Being in a snowball,
Is frozen,
Part of a snowman,
And is always cold.

My Snowflake
My snowflake in my hand,
I imagine what if it could be alive?
I bet it would be a boy,
Who loves hamburgers and fries,
And likes to play basketball.
He must love winter!

Dancing in the sky, swirling all around,
Gracefully going,
Gently coming down.
I go outside, step in the snow,
It’s like I’m stepping in crunchy Cheerios.
When I look at the snow,
It looks whiter than a glass of milk.

I jump out of bed and get my sled
When I see the snow outside.
When I am outside,
Dazzling down comes snowflakes
All around me.
When I get inside, I sit down, and
I say I want hot chocolate today.

The snowflakes are white as milk.
She hops and pops like popcorn.
Wishes and kisses goodnight.
White like clouds up above,
Dancing and prancing in the night.

The snowflakes are as white as paper.
I’m walking and talking to my snow friends.
When I step, I hear the snow crunch.
I catch a snowflake in my hand.
I imagine that she has six baby girls and a boy.
I blow it away from my hand,
Because I smell the wind of
My favorite food – pie!

Pushing to get out of the cloud,
Beautifully floating through the air.
Puffed up and frosting on the ground.
Rolled up in tree balls with
A hat and a scarf.
Cristally, sparkly on the grass.

Majorly cold,
Our feet crunched over the crisp snow,
The little gray footprints follow behind.
Freezingly being smashed in kids’ faces.
Way to go snow!

Friday, September 7, 2007

No First Week Jitters! Just Running to Keep Up!

A new school year has officially begun! Well, for me, it began several weeks ago. This was after two weeks of being off, once I was finished teaching summer school and taking a graduate course at W&M. I spent eight days traveling on a whirlwind road trip, and the remainder of a week doing “must do” things around the house and in my life, before I was sucked into the vortex of the fever of a new school year. I always go back a week earlier than I have to as a teacher, because there is ABSOLUTELY no way on Earth that I could reconstruct my classroom, in all of its organization and management, during the week that we have to be back as a staff member. However, that’s okay. My way is the way that works for me. I ease into a school year, and get my hands and head busy instead of worrying about all the things that will need to be done and making a “to do” list that would unravel like a scroll when I released it. Plus, I get to feather my nest and decorate, and I love my “design on a dime” mentality, which I picked up from my creative mother. There’s no time to worry about organizing closets and what arrangement would work best for the classroom library at the beginning of the year. I still am holding fast to my idealism and (somewhat) rested state of mind, my brain still full of the wet ink of freshly imprinted ideas scanned from the pages of professional language arts books new to my collection. I feel like I start the year on my terms, not all the new and old demanding terms of the cut and dry realities. My fresh hopes and excitements only serve to benefit my future class, and so it is what I do.

This week, I began by setting the tone for the way the classroom community runs. I have molded behaviors which displayed the potential to head in the right direction, reinforced good risk taking as thinkers, and complimented good work efforts. I also nipped a few buds before they could even think about bursting into growing into weedy behaviors. I’m always the most structured at the beginning of a new school year. As you can guess, the first week is always exhausting, and I come home physically tired each day. I think that I find it just as much mentally exhausting, because it is at this time of year more than any other time that I have to really train behavior choices and start laying the bricks and mortar for the foundation of deeper, reflective thinking. It is always an investment to explain extremely explicitly, very slowly, in a focused, concise fashion on what to do for everything from using the hall passes to how to organize your folder. I leave no stone unexplained or unturned three times before I tell them “Now you know exactly what to do with that for the rest of your second grade life. Great!” My new students are in the infancy of seeing glimpses of my humor and personality, and those slow peeks and thin peelings away of layers intrigues them, and I use that mystery to help them appreciate what I have to say, and for what we have to learn together on our second grade journey. Of course, I shared my “secret talent” of baton twirling with them today (Friday.) They left the room with eyes as big as saucers and full of questions, which I will conveniently have to answer on Monday! ;) We read First Day Jitters, Miss Malarkey Doesn’t Live in Room 10, My Teacher’s Secret Life, Wolf!, and Ruby the Copycat. I also threw in the bonus read aloud Froggy Plays in the Band. (Can anyone guess why I read that Thursday to give a clue about my “talent” and make a secret text-to-self connection to? If you don't know this particular selection, then you MUST check it out and meet Miss Frogilina, majorette extrodinaire!) We read Officer Buckle and Gloria, a perennial favorite of mine, where we wrote our own individual safety tips and drew pictures of Gloria reenacting what it would literally look like if you didn’t follow our tips. I told the students that the Kindergarten classes always come by and read our door, so we better give really good advice! We completed the little project with name tags in star shapes to place next to the collaged work pieces on the classroom door, in honor of my little friend and cutie minor character Claire, who was ever so smart to always wear her safety helmet. Even though it was not very fashion forward, safety comes at a price, and my girl Claire has her priorities in order!

We practiced just thinking, listening to my thinking aloud, answering my scaffolded questioning, turning to neighbors and pondering posed inquiries. We are taking baby steps, but before you can run, you learn to walk, and we learned to walk because crawling became too inefficient for us. We’re ready to move, to explore, and to see things at a different level than way low to the ground. We’re grasping up higher, realizing that “Hey! There’s more to see up there! Wow! I have to get a hang of this!” I’m ready to run right along side them. Let me go write “pack sneakers for Monday” on my “to do” scroll!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Bliss of Harry's Visit!

What a treat! My second graders and I had the opportunity to visit illustrator Harry Bliss at the Williamsburg Library on Thursday morning. It was a perfectly gorgeous day outside, and all the kids could talk about on our way over was how excited they were to see Harry and that they hoped he was as funny as his illustrations were in Diary of a Spider and Diary of a Worm. I told them that they were so lucky to be able to visit the library during school time, just a block away. I love our school's location! Anyways, Harry was a delight! He was humorous and appealing, and started off my drawing pictures on transparency sheets on the overhead, and he started each picture from a simple random squiggle drawn by a chosen volunteer in the audience. Having the students engaged like that really drew them in, and the anticipation of guessing what he would draw as it unfolded was a lot of fun for the crowd! Afterwards, Harry showed a slide show of the storyline and some of the illustrations of his best book hits. He shared about books such as Countdown to Kindergarten, Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider, and for Fall 2007, Diary of a Fly. He shared about dummy books and how he begins to think of his illustrations which complement the story and extend the humor of the text in his signature, understated witty way. My excitement was peaked when he announced that he would share with us his current working dummy book for his current collaboration with Kate DiCamillo! How exciting! My Colin turned to me with big saucer eyes, mouthing to me, "She wrote Winn-Dixie!" I returned the excitement right back to him with equally big eyes and a head nod! (He just finished Winn-Dixie, and we love to make connections in our class of all sorts!) Well, needless to say, for a few of the kids, their favorite thing that Harry Bliss did was one thing he drew on the spot while the crowds were coming. It was a huge dripping nose with a little man underneath yelling "HELP!" and running for his life. Oh well! They did get his main message at the end, which was about making mistakes. He told the kids that it's important to make mistakes and to not get down about them. He said that you want to make mistakes because you learn from them and will make less in the future. When I came back, I typed it up (on a Publisher template - love that Publisher, makes things look jazzy in a heartbeat.) I posted it, like I have done throughout the year when we study authors and illustrators. The kids kept referring to it, with one saying this week things like, "Well, Ms. Melzer, I made a mistake. But you know what Harry said, I better make those mistakes now so I won't make them later!" ;) (Yes, I my face broke into a smirk.) Another one came in with a sheet of math problems that her dog had taken a bite out of the next day. (Yes, her dog tried to eat her homework!) She said, "You always tell us honesty is the best policy, and it was an accident, and that's a type of mistake. But, I noticed that the bite was in the shape of a heart, so I drew the heart outline around it to remind you that you are special." I KID YOU NOT! :) Do these kids have to leave? I've taught them everything I know about literature and how to be funny! Humor is a great form of intelligence! :) If you ever have a chance to visit his website, do so! There's information on his drawing life, from kid picture books, to a Converse sneaker TV commercial, to his New Yorker covers, and his syndicated cartoons. A diverse and very witty illustrator! The link to his site can be found by clicking on his name under the "author and illustrator" section on the right side of my blog page here!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Poppy Written By: Avi

Avi. (1995). Poppy. Avon.

I admit that I tried to get into reading this story once before with a pile of “summer reads” to catch up on several years ago, but that I was having a hard time when I tried to get into the storyline. So, I felt that it was time that I gave this book another try. The story’s main focus is on two mice who are risking their life to make it across a field highly guarded over by a fierce owl named Mr. Ocax. The storyline is told from the point of view of the mice with the mouse Poppy as the story’s main protagonist in focus. I would have enjoyed this small world detail in both the description and accompanying illustrations scattered throughout the book as a young child, for it reminds me of the “behind the scenes” life perspective of little critters, reminiscent of some of my childhood favorites, including The Cricket in Times Square or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. This book is sprinkled with wonderfully descriptive language that creates such a visual for scenes and perspectives that can easily be glanced over in other stories. It is absolutely the shining aspect of this particular story. Just a few of my favorite lines that painted excellent visuals in my mind include:

p. 73 – “Forgetting everything for a moment, Poppy plucked a pair of lady’s slippers and fitted them to her feet. How cool, how soft, and delicate they were, as if someone were kissing her toes.”

p. 136 – “Poppy woke refreshed. For a moment, she just lay still, luxuriating in her discoveries. She imagined telling her family what a phony Mr. Ocax was. What a delicious moment.”

p. 38- “Lungwort appeared at that moment. His hair was slicked down; his whiskers were crisply curled; his tail had been scrubbed to a glowing pink, his thimble hat was set at a natty angle.”

Although the heartache of loss and the struggle for survival and outwitting an enemy are the prevalent events in this story, which can be heavy to swallow, the way the setting and characters are described create a canvas rich for exploring characterization facets and for examining how such a simple setting of a field can be created to seem like the dangerous, treacherous expanse that it is for the mice. Point of view comparisons play a key point in discussing the crafting of this story as well. I am certainly glad that I gave this book another go!

My Side of the Story: Journey to Jamestown: Elias's Story/Sacahocan's Story

Ruby, L. My Side of the Story: Journey to Jamestown: Elias’s Story/Sacahocan’s Story. Kingfisher.

This book is a unique offering to historical fiction in the way that it is laid out. One half of the book is told in the first person perspective of an English boy named Elias. Then after you finish reading his side of the story, then you flip the book upside down and read the perspective of a Powhatan girl named Sacahocan. Elias discusses in a narrative format his life of being an apprehensive in gaining much needed apprentice experience as a barber-surgeon in 1608 in the colony. Some of the description of surgeries are graphic and turn my stomach a little, but it was the hard realities and, in some cases, misunderstood medical beliefs that were held in colonial times. As a historical fiction book, the events are not actual accounts from the beginning to the end, but integrated throughout the story line that could have happened are numerous historical facts that I happen to already be familiar with being a local native interested in regional colonial history.

One such real life incident that is documented in Captain John Smith’s personal journals where he was stung by a stingray’s barb, but in the case of this book, Elias is the hero who helps Smith in his painful predicament. Other real life characters from Jamestown’s history are a part of this story’s quilt, including Captain Christopher Newport and Chief Powhatan. The nations under Powhatan are given as another historical fact peppered into the weave of this story, from the Mataponi to the Kecoughtan (my high school’s name!) Elias learns his skills from being forced to remember what he has observed that was similar before with Master Whitman and hard field experiences that force him to be a smart problem solver. He also learns from meeting Sacahocan, the Native American girl whose perspective is the one heard in the other half of the book. She is also a healer in her group of people, and with that common tie, she announces that Elias is “born with the spirit to heal. You see with a third eye.” That third eye to each one of them is their intuition, and they both maturely solve problems and help their people.

I think the novelty of the format gives a twist to comparing and contrasting points of view of people from different cultures and experiences living in the same time, and in this case, the same landscape. I think numerous comparisons between the two main characters can be made, as well as comparing colonial life versus present day conveniences. It would also be beneficial to extract historical facts and chart them, then look for sources to back up and substantiate what the reader thinks may have actually happened. Reading this before a field trip to Jamestown could prove to be especially helpful in this regard.

Monday, May 7, 2007

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Konigsburg, E. (1967). From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Aladdin.

Newbery Medal Winner - 1968

I did read this book as an elementary student many years ago, but it was a chapter book that I didn’t remember too much about the story line beyond the very generalities of two kids being in a museum at night in New York City, figuring out a mystery. I wanted to revisit this book, because I feel like I couldn’t really say I’ve read it if it’s been over 20 years ago and wasn’t at the time one of my favorites which I read more than once. Upon my rereading, I see as an adult how smartly woven this tale is and why it was awarded the Newbery. The story makes the reader think, and expects the reader to intelligently use inference in abundance while retaining facts and clues all along the way. I liked that challenge as a child, and I find that very appealing to read as an adult.

After reading it as an adult, and a teacher with a critical eye of a reviewer and appreciator of children’s literature, part of me wonders why I didn’t read this book more than once as a child. I do connect some aspects of this book to Harriet the Spy, which I read a year or two later as a child. I read Harriet several times, each time with relish about Harriet’s cunning smarts and sneaky ways, doing her own thing independently and smartly, spying on others. As with most kids, reading about children who have adult abilities and opportunities of freedom real kids do not really get is inciting and interesting. Children read books like these almost as field guides, if they find that aspect of a storyline intriguing.

The story involves a women named Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler telling the story of two children, Claudia and Jamie, to her lawyer, whom she calls Saxonberg. The book starts out with a letter to him, and then the story proceeds with Mrs. Frankweiler being the narrator, occasionally dotting the story with her insights which are written within parentheses, almost whispering on the side while pushing a pause button to the story. One keen example is:
(p. 14) “(Flattery is as important a machine as the lever, isn’t it, Saxonberg? Give it a proper place to rest, and it can move the world.)”

Claudia decides to sneak off for an adventure in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the city they live in of New York, where there are throngs of people and it’s easy to blend in. She reels in her brother Jamie as her sidekick, and they stay overnight, hidden within the museum for a week. While there, she begins to work on solving the origins of an angel statue that is instigated by her own curiosity. After much investigative work, they figure out who was the former owner who donated the statue, none other than Mrs. Frankweiler, and so they go to pay her a visit. There in her house is where she allows them to go through her “mixed up files” in numerous cabinets to put together the answer to the mystery. I liked how Mrs. Frankweiler describes her house, and I can smell the stuffiness of a big antique shop as I read it: “(The house is) filled with antique air. Well, when a house is as old as mine, you can expect everything in it to be thickened by time. Even the air.” (p. 126)

Konigsburg is also well versed in crafting descriptive language to enhance the reader’s visualizations and comprehension of the events unfolding. One example that was initially striking was when she was describing the temporarily grumpy look of Jamie, Claudia’s brother and accomplice in the story:
(p. 11-13) “He sat slumped in his seat with his lips pooched out and his eyebrows pulled down on top of his eyes. He looked like a miniature, clean shaven Neanderthal man.”
(p. 22) “ Claudia saw then that his pockets were so heavy they were pulling his pants down. There was a gap of an inch and a half between the bottom hem of his shirt and the top of his pants. A line of winter white skin was punctuated by his navel.”
(p.103) “Claudia’s whisper began to sound like cold water hitting a hot frying pan.”

The particular edition of the book I read from was a “35th Anniversary” edition, which meant that Konigsburg included a modern afterward to the story. I always find introductions, forewards, prefaces, author’s notes, and afterwards intriguing because they always help me enhance my background knowledge and understandings as I digest a story in the end. They can also serve as backstage passes to understanding the author’s purpose and motivations, which can be inspiring to the reader as a writer. Even getting to see a copy of Konigsburg’s acceptance letter from the book company is a rare glimpse into the official life of a famous writer. I loved rekindling my love with this book from my childhood!

The Stories Julian Tells By: Ann Cameron

Cameron, A. (1981). The Stories Julian Tells. Random House.

This chapter book is part of a type of series where the author Ann Cameron has written this first book about Julian, and has written a sequel entitled More Stories Julian Tells. Then, she has also written about Julian’s little brother in Stories Huey Tells, and then in its own sequel More Stories Huey Tells. Additional books have been written with Julian as the central character, such as Julian, Dream Doctor, and Julian, Secret Agent. In the last chapter of this Julian book, we are introduced to Gloria, who has her own collection of books that Cameron has her as a star in. In this first book about Julian, there are six chapters in which Julian gets into mischief, with his trusty younger brother Huey falling victim to his big brother’s convincing more than once.

I liked the styling of language that Cameron used to have Julian describe to the reader his father: “When he laughs, the sun laughs in the windowpanes. When he thinks, you can almost see his thoughts sitting on all the tables and chairs. When he is angry, me and my little brother, Huey, shiver to the bottom of our shoes.” (p. 2) Despite being a shorter, easy chapter book, Cameron still provides solid description that is concise but still paints a specific picture of visuals and actions, involving your senses while you watch the story play out in your imagination.

One bit of mischief the two of them get into in the book is that they dive into eating pudding that tasted like “a whole raft of lemons. It takes like a night on the sea.” Their father had made it for their mother for when she got home, but they couldn’t resist tasting uncontrollably while their father napped. Julian, as the older sibling, had instigated it all by egging on his brother to start. As a result, they got a “beating and a whipping.” However, what they mean is that they had to make a brand new batch under their father’s direction, beating eggs and whipping the mixer with a beater. They, of course, learn a valuable lesson – listen to what your parents say, and stay out of the dreamy lemon pudding!

It’s clear that throughout all of the stories, classic moments of older versus younger sibling and childhood blunders leading to lessons learned reign, giving the reader a laugh and many moments to make self-to-text connections to!

Ruby Holler By: Sharon Creech

Creech, S. (2002). Ruby Holler. HarperCollins.

Winner of the Carnegie Medal - 2002

Ruby Holler, written by Sharon Creech, is a novel about two orphans named Dallas and Florida, who initially live in an orphanage called the Boxton Creek Home for Children, which is run by the surly Mr. and Mrs. Trepid. The two children have one bad experience after another as they are tried with families, none of which treat them the way they deserve, and they end up back in the home. It’s when an elderly couple, Sairy and Tiller, have Dallas and Florida come live with them in their picturesque country setting near the mountains called Ruby Holler. At first, Florida and Dallas brace themselves for the worst, as their past experiences have always dealt them unfair treatment. Florida, the girl, is the more cynical of the twins, and Dallas, the boy, has a little more of a hope for things. As they take journeys to explore nature, they all four learn about each other and about the importance of trust. In the end, Sairy and Tiller show them the simplistic beauty of the holler and the wonder of being loving and caring in life.

Dallas and Florida have a hard time initially thinking any of the good, down to Earth treatment that they are receiving is genuine, and simple necessities in life, such as food and their own lofty area to sleep in, is too good to be true to the twins, even though it is true. Sairy, the older woman, consistently has a lovely demeanor about her, and even when her husband Tiller has some doubts about it working sneak up, she always consoles him with her gentleness that it will be fine. Their own children are grown and have moved out of the holler, and the company of the children grows more and more delightful, and the tough to crack twins start to open up a bit and begin to learn to trust in the situation. Sairy and Tiller have two long standing personal wishes to experience in their lives before they get too old: Sairy desires to travel to the island of Kangadoon to see an exotic bird, and Tiller wants to go canoeing on the Rutabago River. Sairy and Tiller decide to take on their adventures, Sairy with Dallas and Tiller taking Florida. It is during these adventures that Sairy and Tiller, albeit on separate journeys, happen upon peeling away layers of defenses that reside within Dallas and Tiller, asking questions and finding out what makes them tick.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trepid, who caught wind of Sairy and Tiller’s “understone funds” (money buried) from Dallas, strikes a deal with the only neighbor of the elderly couple named Z. While the four are on a trip of explorations, Z tricks the greedy Mr. Trepid into believing he is looking for the funds, when really Z is turning the tables of trickery on Mr. Trepid in order to protect his friends that live nearby. Z also comes to the realization that he may possibly be the father of the twins, which motivates him even more to be protective and helpful of the four. Tiller and Florida fall overboard while paddling, and it is with great luck that they both survive. As if both Sairy and Dallas have psychic connections to their significant other, they follow their instinctive call of warning they fear for Tiller and Florida. They just so happen to be able to find the two, just at the right time. They take Tiller to the hospital, where he recovers.

Florida begins to not be as immediately negative about things as the story progresses, and Dallas’s spirit helps to support that, along with the reinforcement that results from continuous positive experiences with the couple. The biggest concept that the twins work on is the concept of trust, and the older couple of Sairy and Tiller help to foster this, showing that there’s more to life. Sairy and Tiller, adoring of each other, show the twins a much different experience about what life and relationships can be between people. In the end, the new happy version of what they can now call family emerges, built on love and trust, two things much needed in life.

Bud, Not Buddy By: Christopher Paul Curtis

Curtis, C. (1999). Bud, Not Buddy. Delacorte Press.

Winner of the Newbery Medal – 2000
Winner of the Coretta Scott Kind Award for writing – 2000

This novel has a spirited boy named Bud, who is ten years old and an orphan. His mother died when he was six, and as a homeless young man in the depression era in Michigan, he most certainly has a tough life to lead. With his suitcase of bits and pieces of memories, he gets his mind set on the hope of finding his father. Bud remembers how his mother kept some flyers about a famous jazz band when they would play, and one particular one that did not have their home town of Flint on it was the one that had upset her the most. Not long after that, Bud found his mother who had passed away. He goes to seek one of the men in flyer pictures named Herman Calloway, which Bud, desperate to solve whatever mystery is left in his life by trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle left for him, sets firm to believing that he is his own father. Sprinkled throughout the text are Bud’s self-mantras to keep him tough to the world, which he calls “Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.” His mature, street savvy skills of survival are insightful, and enlightening for the reader to read these sources of much of Bud’s thinking. He travels to find his “father,” and when he does, the man denies that he is Bud’s dad. He comes to discover that he is instead his mother’s father, his grandfather, and that’s why his mother wept and kept the flyers, missing her strained relationship with him that never really had a chance to be mended. Bud proceeds to become a budding musician thanks to a band mate, Steady Eddie, who gives him a horn, and in turn, this opportunity and adventure led him to gain hope. Bud deals with weights or worries that most modern day children could not fathom having to deal with, but through this book, can certainly gain a deep understanding of perseverance and survival, all within the realms of a constant hope despite adversities of being orphaned, dealing with racism, and the Great Depression. It was well crafted in descriptive language, and the sense of hope could be heard and felt by me throughout the book, due to the way the hard challenges clouded and blended with his endurance. I appreciated Bud’s wit and keen observations about life, because seeing other people’s point of view expands our core of knowledge and understandings about the many facets and shades of the human condition.

Summer of the Sea Serpent By: Mary Pope Osborne

Osborne, M. (2004). Summer of the Sea Serpent. Random House.

As many who are familiar with current popular series in children’s literature, the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne is a crowd pleaser. Osborne writes her stories so that they are very fast paced and full of page turning curiosity, propelled by the adventure of the two main protagonists, Jack and Annie. The main series consists of 28 books, each of which take place in a specific historical time period of the past or distinctive setting that they travel to in their magical tree house, such as in Ancient China, during the Civil War, or aboard the Titanic. It seems all of my second graders love to devour the series, and I always tell them to start at the beginning of the series, with #1, and progress to the very next one, and don’t skip around. I have nearly all of the current offerings for the accompanying non-fiction research guides, and they are allowed to check out both the fiction and non-fiction to compare and use as a resource, or they can read the non-fiction guide afterwards before moving to the next fiction selection in the series. I even give a mini-lesson on these specific points, and explain why it’s important to read many series in the order that they are written. Within the first, you are introduced to the characters and learn about their personality traits, background, and get a feel for the patterning that may exist in a series. I talk to them also specifically about the Tree House series that each book is not just an adventure to someplace and then they are back, but that there’s a background story about different sets of clues that they need to gather involving Morgan le Fay, the owner of the tree house and a librarian full of magic. The clues are usually unearthed in book groupings of four, meaning once one is solved, in the next four books, Jack and Annie are seeking clues for Morgan. There are kids who missed that part of the story and do not see the interconnectivity of the books. I feel it’s important for the series to be fully comprehended, and navigating different types of series is something that I discuss within mini-lessons, I model when I read the first Tree House book aloud, and within guided reading groups or literature circles during workshop time.
Besides the core series of 28 books and a growing collection of research guides being written by Osborne, she embarked on stepping up the series in sophistication at #29, Christmas in Camelot. From book #29 on, these particular books came out in hardback, where as the first 28 were only paperback issues. (Once you are hooked in the series after 28 books, many are eager to cough up the extra money for the pricier version of printing.) It was awhile before any of these came out in paperback, which are referred to as “The Merlin Missions” mostly to more mythical types of places. In the third edition to this subgrouping Merlin Missions is Summer of the Sea Serpent. Jack and Annie had already traveled to Camelot in #29, then to a castle in #30, and now in #31, travel to a made up land’s sea coast, where you can guess they encounter a sea serpent. They meet two children, Teddy and Kathleen, and they come to find out that Kathleen is a selkie, which was mentioned in part of Merlin’s rhyme clue he issued to Jack and Annie as they were seeking the Sword of Light. After the core adventure of the four of them finding the Sword, Jack and Annie report to Merlin, who they later realized was the Water Knight that helped them earlier in the story. The hard cover “Merlin Missions” have much of the structure of the first 28 paperbacks, but they are much more fantasy filled and less with staying true to a particular setting or period of time as the first 28 do. There is slightly more sophisticated language, perhaps in a way to keep readers who have read the first 28 sticking with the series as they themselves mature as readers, so does the series. I’m sure that writing these missions helped to spice up Osborne’s formula and writing for both herself and the readers.

The Giver By: Lois Lowry

Lowry, L. (1993). The Giver. Laurel Leaf.

Newbery Medal - 1994

This story is written in such a unique way, in a narrative voice that is different, describing a “perfect world” where emotions do not exist, life is sterile and uniform, and The main character is twelve year old boy named Jonas who has the weight of the world put on his shoulders. As he is coming of age and the futures of Jonas and his fellow twelve year old find out their determined occupations for the future, he is selected to be the next Receiver of Memory for the so called utopian community he lives in. He is taken under the wing of the aging, current Receiver, who helps him to be exposed to emotions that Jonas nor anyone else in the community has ever experienced. Jonas realizes the betrayal of his society and is upset the more that is unraveled for him by the Receiver, yet his curiosity and his courage, which was why he was selected, keep him going.

It is the foibles and shortcomings of real humans that make us individuals, and it is through learning from mistakes and trying to make right decisions that a richness is given to life as we actually know it. In the story, there is no cause and effect, no lessons learned, no desires felt, and only the “desirable” people are kept in the community. A coldness exists throughout hearing about this community, and that feeling of betrayal builds right along side Jonas as the reader learns about the realities that have been suppressed in order to create a less than perfect “perfect society.” This book was moving and crafted well. The diversity of Lowry's writings is indeed impressive.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Donovan's Word Jar By: MonaLisa DeGross

DeGross, M. (1994). Donovan’s Word Jar. Harper Trophy.

This chapter book is about a little boy named Donovan, who as the title indicates, keeps a jar that has a mounting collection of words in it. Each of the ten chapters has alliteration with the letter D happening in the titles, starting with “Donovan,” then “Donovan’s Discovery,” “Donovan’s Dilemma,” and proceeding with his name and “decision, delay, departure, dines, disappointment, diplomacy,” and finally “delight.” He has an epiphany one morning while eating breakfast, and reads the word “nutrition” on the box of cereal. When he said it aloud, he thought about how “he liked the way the word slid down his tongue and rolled off his lips.” That kicks off his curiosity and awareness that he has not been paying attention to all the words in the world, and he states: “I am going to start paying extra attention to words from now on. I bet there are trillions of words out there, words I’ve never noticed.” Some of the many words he collects includes: emporium, extraterrestrial, kaleidoscope, compromise, and perseverance. However, his collection soon begins to ooze from the jar, and he begins to worry about what to do with them all. Despite asking around for advice, he doesn’t find the answer until some of his Grandma’s neighbors get a hold of the words, and the words act as reminders, as eye openers, and as messages they pass to others. At first, Donovan is upset his jar is being dispersed, but then he realizes the amazing things and behaviors that the power of a single word brings to people, making them think. “They (the people) made me feel like a magician. My words changed them.” The author follows that statement with the description of his feelings: “The sunshine Donovan felt inside was shining all over his face.”

I shared this book with my class, and being the big vocabulary encourager in class, my students took to heart the importance of collecting words we found different, interesting, “juicy,” and fun to say. We look for words that we like the way they feel when we say them, that are fun to pronounce, and make us feel smarter. They asked if I had a jar we could use. (Do I have a jar? Hello?!? Have you seen my closets? I am a teacher! I have something for everything! They know that, they have seen my closets, so that’s why they asked!) Our jar began to overflow eventually as well, as words were discovered during reading workshop, from activities around school, and from things that they heard at home and outside world. (Words from read alouds already go on their own charts daily.) Before the word went in the jar, it had to be shared (we did once or twice a day to prevent a vocabulary inundation all day) and it had to be a meaty, interesting, fresh word. This vocabulary gathering developed into our classroom chart of “instead of said” where students were the active learners who when they came across a better, more descriptive word for “said” added it themselves during reading workshop time to a rough draft “collection poster” in which I recopied for neatness and final editing. The format of being long and skinny was fun for my students, because after I had recopied it after school one day, I taped all the segments together, tied the scroll with a ribbon (for presentation.) The next day, with great fanfare, I unrolled it in the classroom’s longest part, and they all said in unison, “WHOA!” They had found and thought of every last one of those words. We continued with another word, “good” (which we all know is sadly generic and overused), then “went”, and so on. The kids really love it! To see them with importance go to the chart and write words and use the book as a reference for spelling is powerful for them and for me to see, and to see them take their notebook paper or sticky note over to any chart in the room to jot down a vocabulary word to use during writing workshop has only helped to support their efforts as budding crafters of writing themselves.

Missing May By: Cynthia Rylant

Rylant, C. (1992). Missing May. Yearling.

Newbery Medal Winner – 1993

This is my last post on a Rylant book, and I feel a sort of grief myself. I feel like I have had such an opportunity to get to know her this semester through our readings, class discussions, and yes, my drive through West Virginia during Spring Break. I have always read numerous Rylant books in my second grade classroom, and felt I knew about her crafting and how children interpret her writing rather well. However, I’m surprised to feel like as an adult reader, looking at books with a bit more of a keener eye for her inspirations and connectivity to so many of her written pieces. Once again, I pictured the mountain landscape, modest homes and lifestyle of many who live in West Virginia as I read Missing May.

This story involves four characters, three of which are still living, coping with the death of the fourth. Summer provides the first person perspective as the storyteller and is an orphan who, after many transitions, finally ends up happily living with her Uncle Ob and Aunt May. The reader comes into the story after Aunt May has passes away, and misses out on having a deeper emotional connection to her, but perhaps that would have clouded our listening to Summer, for as the reader, I depended on her words to give the only perspectives available – hers and her Uncle Ob. They are both saddened, and have difficulty moving on in their somewhat isolated existence. In steps their somewhat eccentric neighbor boy named Cletus, whose simplicity actually helps them to try to find clarity about their situation. I liked Summer’s insight on Cletus where she states: “Cletus had some gifts-I was learning this bit by bit-and knowing when to talk and when not to was turning out to be one of them.” (p. 56-57) He comes across information on a psychic, and Uncle Ob begins to put some blind hope into being able to talk to Aunt May in the afterlife, and so they set out on a “big” trip with their hopes in tow to visit this woman. Sadly, when they get to the town, they find that the psychic herself had passed away, which deflates their hopes and they head back home. First Cletus and Summer are afraid that Ob’s quiet disappointment means that he won’t stop off I-64 to let them see the “big city” capital of Charleston, but Ob has a moment that his tide changes. It seems that he knows he needs to move on, and takes them there to see the sights, including the famous gold dome of the capital. I definitely visualized that scene, as the capital building is quite close to the interstate on 64, and after seeing the rest of the state, could understand why Summer felt a pleasure about seeing it. She described it as:

“The capitol building sprawled gray concrete like a regal queen spreading out her petticoats, and its giant dome glittered pure gold in the morning sun. I felt in me an embarrassing sense of pride that she was ours. That we weren’t just shut-down old coal mines and people on welfare like the rest of the country wanted to believe we were. We were this majestic, elegant thing sitting, solid, sparkling in the light.” (p. 70-71)

The glittering of the dome becomes in a way a symbol for their new glimmer of hope for their futures, and that beauty still exists in what is a seemingly gray world. After finishing the book, it is easy to see why the book is divided into two parts – one entitled “Still as Night” and the second “Set Free” because in the end, they are indeed set free from the weight of grief and they are left with memories and hope. Rylant’s crafting in Missing May is trademark her, with a well written and easy to read chapter book as a result.