Sunday, November 27, 2016

Walking and Listening to "Sting"

Sting by Jude Watson
Scholastic Audio

Jules and March should know better. They should have known that this diamond heist in Paris would be anything but a piece of cake, as Hamish had promised. They are interrupted mid-heist by the Top Cat Gang which leaves Jules and March with enough time to get just one stone, as well as new set of enemies and a confrontation with the FBI. It gets even worse when they discover their home had been sold and all the money they had invested from their last heist had been stolen from them. Heading to Hamish's in Florida is their only option. Hamish shares the history and the curse behind the sapphire that they had gotten from  Paris and tries to convince them to go after the two remaining sapphires in the set. Reluctant at first, the kids agree and the planning to steal these stones begins.

Loot is one of those books that I have hard time keeping on the shelf, so I was super excited to see that there was a sequel. Sting is fast paced, full of great heists and adventures. Michael Crouch differentiated the voices throughout the book, matching the voice with the characters perfectly. 

Favorite Chapter Title: Four Yellow Mini's

At least once a week I get stopped by tourists on their bicycles needing help finding the beach on this street. I'm clearly not the only one who gets stopped as there is now a sign in this person's front yard directing people in various languages.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Walking and Listening to "Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters"

Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway
Dreamscape Audio, 2016

The story of Momotaro or Peach Boy is one that the kids at my school are very familiar with. Many have read the book, even more went to a recent production of it put on by the local children's theater. This story of Momotaro is quite different than what they are used to, in a good way that is. The kids are thoroughly enjoying this version and it doesn't stay on the shelf for long.

Xander seems like your average ordinary 6th grade boy, who does normal 6th grade kid stuff. But weird things suddenly start happening  to him. His drawings, which he sometimes does in class to stay awake, suddenly change, a new character pops up in his video game and his father gives him a comic that he claims his son has drawn. Xander doesn't really have time to figure out what is going on because a massive earthquake and tsunami hit, taking away his father. Xander's grandmother reveals a secret that she has been keeping. He is a Momotaro or warrior. Not believing her at first, especially since he's not the strongest or most athletic kid in town, he learns that he must go and fight the oni to bring his father back. Not the easiest of tasks for a kid who has no training or knowledge of what a Momotaro should do.

I enjoyed Chris Patton's narration of this book. He kept the story moving along, did a nice job differentiating the character's voice. The oni came across as the bad mama jamers that they were and Xander's fear and hesitation of a situation expressed well. I did have a slight annoyance with the pronunciation of Kauai, but this I am sure wouldn't bother the everyday listener.

When I tweeted this picture out, the author immediately recognized the beach. It turns out she had lived here for a 18 months!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November Bulletin Boards

It's been a busy month, so busy that I haven't had a chance to share our November bulletin boards. We decided to focus on the elections this month.
One board focused on all the fictional book characters that have run for president or have visited the White House.
Our other board focused on former Presidents and the voting process.
Greg even got in on the action and dressed in his best red, white and blue.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Explorers Meet Bob Shea (Via Skype That Is!)

"These are shoes," said Bob Shea as he showed us his shoes and even took one off to show us up close what they looked like.
He then held up a sock, "This is a sock. It's a wool sock. Socks keep your feet warm,"
Walking across the room, he grabbed a sweatshirt. "This is a sweatshirt."
Bob Shea had The Explorers laughing hysterically as he taught them about dressing for cold weather, something we know very little about as it is November, in the mid to high 80's and we were barefoot, in short sleeve t-shirts and shorts.
Actually, from the moment we said "Hello," to the moment we said, "Goodbye," The Explorers were laughing at everything Bob said. Learning too, but laughing as we did so, which is the best way to learn.
We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of one of his books he had recently finished, The Spookiest Book Ever. It was a HUGE hit! We also found out that there is a new Ballet Cat book coming out in February and a new Unicorn book that has been written, but not illustrated yet. The kids wanted an exact date that the new Ballet Cat book would be coming out because they are huge Ballet Cat fans.
We then got a chance to ask some questions. Even the answer to a question like, "What is your favorite character of yours?," got huge laughs. The answer by the way is Dinosaur.
While we were learning about Bob Shea in library, the kids learned that some of his ideas had come form his son Ryan. The class became fascinated by Ryan and wanted to know, "What is your favorite thing to do with Ryan?" We learned that Ryan has been learning how to play the drums and that Bob is learning how to play the guitar so they play music together. But, his favorite thing to do with Ryan is listen to music while they draw together.
If you have read any of Bob's books, you will see jellybeans are everywhere. The kids loved that and asked him about that too.
The children were dying to learn how to draw Ballet Cat, one of our favorite characters. Did you know that Ballet Cat first appeared in the back of a Dinosaur book? Even though she was just a small drawing in the back of the book, kids had noticed it and were drawing it. He thought, this might be a good character and the idea began to grow.
Here is just a small bit of our drawing lesson.
When you are making your own Ballet Cat, don't forget to add sparkles, they are super important. 
The kids also wanted to learn how to draw New Socks, so they got a lesson for that too.
We then got to learn how to draw Dinosaur.  When you are drawing this character, please note that it involves making lots of fun noises when you are making the teeth and the bumps on the tail and back. Also, the louder the noise, the better!
Even though our Skype call had to end, we kept the Bob Shea fun going. We decided to make Ballet Cat Bites. We made Ballet Cat out of saloon pilot crackers and pink cream cheese. We used bananas to make her cheeks, strawberries for the ears, chocolate chips for the nose, eyes out of raisins, coconut whiskers and cherry Twizzlers for the tiara. This activity was a huge hit and mighty delicious.
Thank you Bob Shea for spending time with us, inspiring us, teaching us and most importantly, making us laugh.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Dragonflies and The Rainbows Meet Matthew Cordell (Via Skype That Is!)

"CHUGA! CHUGA! CHUGA!," read Matthew Cordell.
"BEANS! BEANS! BEANS!," we yelled back.
"I can't hear you. You guys are really far away. Let's try that again."
"CHUGA! CHUGA! CHUGA!," read Matthew Cordell.
"BEANS! BEANS! BEANS!," we SCREAMED back as Matthew read us the book that he and Philip Stead had worked on together, Special Delivery.

For the last few weeks, The Dragonflies and The Rainbows have been reading Matthew Cordell's amazing books and talking about his illustrations. We were so excited to get a chance to meet him via Skype. 

Matthew showed us some of the tools that he uses to make his illustrations. We got to see his ink and bamboo pens, plus his watercolors. It was cool to see that he had a box of watercolors, kind of like ours, plus watercolors in a tube that he puts into a palette. It was neat to learn that not all of his pictures are in color, some are in black and white.
In the weeks leading up to the Skype, the children and I had seen pictures of Matthew's office. They became obsessed with it and couldn't believe how messy it was.
 They were beside themselves when they got a tour of the office and got to see the mess "in person." 
We had a bunch of questions about his messy office. Here is what he had to say about it. 
We can't wait to see the book that he had just sent in the pictures of. He shared that he had been working on 5 books back to back which was why the office was even messier than usual. When we asked him how he got around the mess, we found out that there was a pathway through it all so they could get to the washing machine and dryer. He also promised us that he was going to start cleaning up that mess as soon as we were down Skyping. 

We asked Matthew, "Besides your children, where do you get your ideas from?"
We also learned that he likes to read Frog and Toad to his children, as well as books by Maurice Sendak. The children loved this because they love those books too!
When we asked if we could get a sneak peek of his next book, we got to see his book Wolf in the Snow that will be coming out in January. We only got to see the beginning of it and can't wait to see how it ends.
After we said goodbye to Matthew, we decided to try to create some art like he does, using ink (Sharpie in our case) and watercolors. We decided to create our own stamps in honor of the book Special Delivery. Some of the children got ideas from Matthew's other books, like Hello! Hello! and Trouble Gum.  Some decided to draw and paint what they were seeing around them and what they loved.
Here is a sampling of their finished product. 

Thank you Matthew for a wonderful Skype sessions. It was great to meet you and hear all about your work.