Friday, September 30, 2011

Parents and Teachers, a stormy relationship

Good day, dear readers. 

I want to share this article I came across the other day written by Ron Clark, author of The Essential 55, The End of Molasses Classes, and The Excellent 11

Clark's article discussed the hazards teachers face daily when dealing with parents. It's a real eye-opening article and I very much encourage you to go read it. 

I'm a parent of two children. One that's recently graduated and one just entering jr high. I'm also a teacher. So I've been on both sides of the the conference table, so to speak. Which is why I found this article so intriguing. As a teacher, I was nodding my head in agreement. Yet, as a parent, I faltered a couple of times with a, "yeah, but..." 

So, I've decided to take Clark's key points, and discuss them from a parent/ teacher point of view. I would love to hear your own take on this article and what you struggle with when dealing with teachers/parents. 

I'm truly interested. 

Here's the article link: 

What teachers really want to tell parents

I know, as a teacher, that there is an underlying frustration when dealing with parents. Teachers see the children that come through their doors in a completely different perspective than a parent does. Where a parent sees this child as their baby, sees and knows their inner dreams and desires and sees them as simply a child. The teacher, on the other hand, see's this child as a student who has requirements that must be meant so they can move on to the next grade. They see this child as a person who will one day go out into the world and hopefully make a difference in society. They do not see this child as someone they are there to babysit. The teacher's goal is to educate and prepare the children in their classroom for this world.

In Clark's article, he made four points: 

Please quit with all the excuses

Parents, be a partner instead of a prosecutor

Teachers walk on eggshells dealing not only with angry parents, but district expectations and demands

Finally, deal with negative situations in a professional manner.

I wholeheartedly agree with Clark's claims. I've seen firsthand how parents get into the mindset that it's them against the establishment. Not all, but some. 

This is not the case. Parents, believe that in most cases, your child's teacher really does want what's best for your child. They are hired to teach a curriculum to a group of students and those students, including your child, must learn the curriculum. 

Not all children fit into that nice, neat box. Instead of getting mad, look for ways you can help. You're child's success in school depends on it. And no matter what, you are your child's best advocate. It's up to you to make sure your child gets what they need to succeed. 

Yes, there are some bad teachers out there. There are also some really rotten parents to. That's why it's of the utmost importance that you handle your self in a professional manner at all times. 

Read the article. Understand where teachers are coming from. When an issue arises with your child, handle it calmly and with open-mindedness. You will assure your child gets the best and most proper care possible when you do. 

The Queen

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Young Adult Books I've Read... and Enjoyed

Mistwood by Leah Cypress

Product Details

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061956996
A desperate prince… a castle full of lies… and an ancient shapeshifter trapped in the form of a human girl.

Leah Cypess wrote her first story in first grade. The narrator was an ice-cream cone in the process of being eaten. In fourth grade, she wrote her first book, about a girl who was shipwrecked on a desert island with her faithful and heroic dog (a rip-off of both The Black Stallion and all the Lassie movies).
After selling her first story while in high school, she gave in to her mother's importuning to be practical and majored in biology at Brooklyn College. She then went to Columbia Law School and practiced law for almost two years. She kept writing and submitting in her spare time, and finally, a mere 15 years after her first short story acceptance, she sold her first novel.
Leah currently lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters.
This biography was provided by the author or their representative.

The Queen's Take on Mistwood
The Kings of Samorna have long depended on the Shifter's protection. When the Shifter is awakened this time from her foggy existence in the dangerous Mistwoods, she has no memory of the past, nor the ability to do what her king ask of her. They call her Isabel, and she wanders through the castle, trying to awaken her long lost memories and tame the growing human emotions not known to the legendary Shifters.

Cypress has woven an intriguing tale of lies, deceit, and love in this mid-eval fantasy. I found it to be a good, clean read. Isabel is interesting and complex and the mystery behind her past keeps the pace of the novel going. I'd recommend this book to any teen looking for adventure and romance.

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

Product Details

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1st edition (September 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439023483

Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives.
In the ruins of a place once known as North 

America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Queen's Take on The Hunger Games

As I read this book, all I kept thinking about was the popular survivor and competition game shows on television today. The video below points out that is exactly were Collin's ideas came from. She did a good job taking something ordinary and turning it into an extraordinary futuristic story. 

Be warned: The violence in the book is intense. Yet the story keeps you on the edge of the seat and I ended up reading it in two days because I couldn't put it down and when I did, I couldn't stop thinking about it and wondering what would happen next. 

Well done, Suzanne, well done. I can't wait to get the second book in this trilogy. The third is in my possession, but I'm determined to wait till I read the second before I start it. Not an easy task, I tell you. 

This book is also being turned into a movie that should be released in the spring of 2012. You have plenty of time to read all three books before. Get on it!! 

I Am Number Four 
by Pittacus Lore

Product Details
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (August 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061969559

Nine aliens and their guardians are hiding on Earth … protected by a charm that means they can only be killed in numeric order, three are already dead. John Smith is Number Four.
John has to keep moving: he’s got to outrun his past; escape his mortal enemies theMogadorians;and blend into normal student life. But above all he must pray his newly found powers – alien legacies from home Planet Lorien – don’t give him away before he can complete his destiny, unlock his powers and protect his future.

The Queen's Take on I Am Number Four
Action packed and definitely hard to put down. I Am Number Four is a must read. Though there is mild language, there is no sexual content that will leave a parent feeling uncomfortable. The violence level is semi high, some of the fight scenes were done in great detail, but not over the top gross. 

This is a great book about standing firm and facing your fears. It's also deals with loss not only of loved ones, but all that one depends on. John is faced with running to keep alive and when he finds someone to love, he is ready to stop and face the foe that is set on annihilating the last of his kind. Here comes the world's next league of superheros. 

I encourage you to read the book first. The movie is now out on DVD and is about to show on cable channels. Compare differences and similarities between the movie and book. Did the characters they picked for the movie match what you saw in the book? 

As always, Happy Reading
The Queen

Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Book Week - Being Aware

September 24 - October 1, 2011 has been designated Banned Book Week celebration. 

Honestly, I'm not sure what there is to celebrate. Though the slogan is Freedom To Read. That I can get on board with. For me, I think this should simply be a week of awareness. Yes there are people out there who wish to force censorship on others. And yes, there are books out there that deal with inappropriate subjects for young kids. But yes, nobody HAS to read those books if they don't want to. 

This is why I'm a firm advocate for parents reading what their kids read. So your not into vampires? Well, if your teens want to read it... wait, let me restate this because I've seen kids in fifth and sixth grade carrying around the Twilight books... if your child wants to read a book, they will find a way. When they are young, it's easier to monitor what they are allowed to read. But teens simply have easier access to books and a wise parent will keep up and share in what interest your teens. 

When my daughter pointed out the Twilight books, at first I was hesitant. She let me know she was planning to get the books and read them. So I picked one up and bought it, telling her we'd both read it. I'm glad I did. This opened a door to discussions that never would have happened otherwise. I actually ended up enjoying the books. If I'd listened to critics and naysayers... well, there's many books on the list below that I've read and I don't understand why they are even being challenged. 

I've also read some awful books, teen books, that really disgusted me and I don't see them on this list, either.  

Parent, be smart. Pay attention. Don't take someone's word for it, look into the book yourself. 

My suggestion is to take this list and not use it as a basis for what your kids can't read, but what you might look into with them if they take an interest in one of these titles. Yes, there are some tough and touchy issues in these books. But life is tough and touchy and we need books that will help us experience these parts of life, to ponder over and come to conclusions on what we believe or don't believe. 

What's the difference between a challenge and a banning? 

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.  Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection. (from the ALA banned book website. Please click title link if you want more information)

Top Ten Challenged Books 

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson; 
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie; 
  3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley; 
  4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins; 
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins; 
  6. Lush, by Natasha Friend; 
  7. What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones; 
  8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich; 
  9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie; 
  10. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle; 
  2. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson; 
  3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky; 
  4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee; 
  5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer; 
  6. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger; 
  7. My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult; 
  8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler; 
  9. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker; 
  10. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

You can also check out the following link for a list of banned and challenged classics: 

Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century

Happy Reading Friends,
The Queen

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cloudette - Author's Arena Tom Lichtenheld

Happy Friday, good reading subjects!
Today, I want to introduce Tom Lichtenheld, author of several children's books such as, Bridget's Beret, Duck! Rabbit!, What Are You Grumpy About?, and Everything I Know About Pirates, plus even more. Check out Lichtenheld's website for a complete list of book titles.

On Lichtenheld's website, I found this out about him and thought letting him speak in his own words would be most appropriate:

I've always loved to draw pictures and make up stories, and I've been lucky enough to make a living by using my imagination for over 25 years.
My earliest childhood memory is of sitting in the kitchen, drawing pictures of ships and trucks on a blackboard. I also remember spending hours staring at the illustrations in National Geographic and thinking how wonderful it would be to be one of the people who got to make all those incredible pictures.

My books start out as rough doodles. An entire book can come from a simple observation and one drawing. For instance, What Are You So Grumpy About? was inspired by a grumpy guy I was sitting next to on an airplane. I did a few doodles on the spot, sitting next to Mr. Grumpypants, and they eventually became a book.
My illustrations are done in watercolor and colored pencil. The first step is pencil sketches, then I create black line art and print it on watercolor paper. (It's kind of like a home-made coloring book!) Then I paint a layer of watercolor and build up the shapes with colored pencils. I get a lot of help from our cats, who lay on my pencils, my drawings, my hands and anything else that puts them in the way of what I'm trying to do.

These are from What Are You So Grumpy About? The initial sketches were done on an airplane.

I think the process is fascinating. 

Teachers can find Mentoring Guides to Lichtenheld's stories. These help make books come alive and are not only useful in the classroom, but at home as well. 

He also has a blog if your interested in reading up on what's going on with Tom. 

Take a tour of Lichtenheld's studio at  Get To The Point
Picture from Lichtenheld's site

Brainstorm Time!  Where can you find inspiration during your daily activities that can be turned into a piece of art or story? Think about your day, the people you've encountered, funny things said or done. Write about it. Draw it out. How can you best present this idea in a way that makes you laugh? 

Enjoy, explore Tom Lichtenheld's site and have fun finding the stories that are always all around us. 

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cloudette - Activity Adventure Wednesday

Welcome back for Activity Adventure Wednesday. Today, we'll be "brainstorming" some fun to go along with the book Cloudette by Tom Lichtenburg.

For Young Readers:
Provide blue construction paper. Draw a scene along the bottom of the paper, such as a city, or other place you love to go. Glue cotton for clouds. Make one particular one Cloudette. Use a thin sharpie to draw on her face. Encourage or help youngsters write about what Cloudette is doing in the picture. 

Cloud mobile 
Any age might be willing to do this nifty craft. Draw a cloud shape on white paper using a thick sharpie. Lay two sheets together and cut out cloud. Tape all around the edges, leaving a space open for stuffing. Fill cloud up with scrap paper and close.

Color your cloud with blue pencil or watercolors. The cloud can be secured to a craft stick and turned into a puppet, or hung from a window. Add a face. You now have your own little Cloudette.

Take it a step further. Teach children about the different kinds of cloud formations such as cirrus, stratus and cumulus. See Enchanted Learning and DLTK for cloud coloring pictures and lessons. 

Older Readers:
Where did cloudette come from? Study how clouds are formed. The names of different types of clouds.The link to Enchanted Learning also had specific grade level lessons. Create your own All About Clouds book.

Spend a afternoon cloud watching. Paint or draw the clouds you see in the sky. What types of shapes did you see? Were there animals? Objects? Can you paint or draw a picture to show what kind of clouds you saw? Try it. Take your paper and some thick poster or acrylic paint and blue paper. See what kind of masterpieces you can create.

Here's something fun. How to find and make Cloudette video.

Come back on Friday to meet the author Tom Lichtenheld. Learn what inspires him to write his books.

Happy Reading.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cloudette - Book Introduction

Good day, fair readers. The Queen here with another enchanting book about a little cloud that could. 

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805087761
Genre: Fiction Picture Book

Author and illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld

    Book Summary From Booklist
Diminutive cumulus Cloudette appreciates the advantages of her size, except when the bigger clouds show off by creating significant weather. After being blown to a new neighborhood by a particularly violent thunderstorm, she meets a frog in need of a pond. Summoning all her energy, she generates a respectable downpour, filling a frog-worthy habitat. 

Queen's Take on this Book:
A delightful read providing an opportunity to discuss that even when one is small, that doesn't mean one isn't capable of doing good to help others.  

The soft, water-color illustrations are pleasing to the eye. Cloudette's story of wanting to do something big and important is an inspiration to the littles who think they are too small to make a difference. Cloudette shows us that even the small can be helpful in small, significant ways.

This is a must read!  

Discussion Questions:

  • Use this book to discuss that even small acts of kindness make a big difference to someone who's world seems to have dried up. 
  • Look at the various clouds in the book and figure out what kind they are. You might want to go look them up. 
  • What other ways do you think Cloudette will find to help others? Look at the last page, what possibilities lay on the horizon? 
  • "Brainstorm ways you can make a difference to those around you? Being helpful to friends and teachers? Helping with chores around the house? Always looking for ways to show random acts of kindness? 

I found my copy of this book at the local library. I encourage you to get yours and come back on Wednesday for some stormy adventure activities. 

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! A Contest Challenge Awaits

is looking for great scribes of children's books.

Check out their Author's Challenge 2011 where children's book writers are invited to submit a manuscript which will be posted on the MeeGenius site. Readers and staff are able to vote for their favorites. The stories with the most "Likes" will move on to the Finalist Round.

Champions of the Finalist Round will have their book professionally edited and illustrated for the final round of voting. Friends, family and peers will be voting on the finished product at this time. The winners will be announced March 7, 2012.

See site for more details.

Deadline is--

Some of the prizes include a publishing contract, a $1,500 in cash prize, a chance to choose a school to receive a year long subscription to use MeeGenius library of books for free.

Check out the contest, and MeeGenius' library of digital books and apps.

Company information from their site:
MeeGenius is a reading application for the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, Google TV, Google Chrome Web Store, and the Web. Launched in April 2010 by Wandy Yeap Hoh and David Park after 16 months of research and development, MeeGenius digitizes children's stories, classic and new, and adds features such as word highlighting and audio playback for easy read-along. Also available on certain platforms are text and audio personalization tools, which further engage young readers.

Before entering the contest, or submitting works, be sure to read MeeGenius' publishing agreement and the Official Rules and Conditions

Happy Writing!
The Queen

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

True...(sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

Good day fair readers,
Today I have a mid-level chapter book for ages 9-12. Normally, as many of you know, I spread out my books to three days. But with chapter books, most often, I will simply take one day to introduce them, provide a simple activity to go with the book and a fun fact about the author all in one post. 

Today, I would like to introduce a wonderful read that I very much enjoyed:

Product Details from

  • Book: True... (sort of)
  • Author: Katherine Hannigan
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; 1 edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061968730

Book Description

True: Delly Pattison likes surpresents (presents that are a surprise). The day the Boyds come to town, Delly's sure a special surpresent is on its way. But lately, everything that she thinks will be good and fun turns into trouble. She's never needed a surpresent more than now.

True: Brud Kinney wants to play basketball like nothing anybody's ever seen. When the Boyds arrive, though, Brud meets someone who plays like nothing he's ever seen.

True: Ferris Boyd isn't like anyone Delly or Brud have ever met. Ferris is a real mysturiosity (an extremely curious mystery).

True: Katherine Hannigan's first novel since her acclaimed Ida B is a compelling look at the ways friendships and truths are discovered.

It's all true ( . . . sort of).

Queen's Adventure Ideas:

At the back of the book, author Katherine Hannigan provides a Delly Dictionary to explain some of her crazy words such as surpresents (which are presents that are a surprise, of course) or bugbotherer (my favorite) which is someone who bugs or bothers another person. 

Delly has made up her own special dictionary. We wont discuss the "Nocussictionary" of words to say instead of bad words. 

I challenge you young readers to come up with your own special vocabulary and put them into your own person dictionary. Use your name and see how it can be incorporated into a new special word like Delly did with her adventures, calling them "Dellyventures." 

Facing the Truth:
Hannigan deals with some hard truths in this book, but keeps the story light with Delly's antics and the folksy dialect. Delly is one of those kids that can't stay out of trouble. We see them all around us at school. I like how this book really digs down into Delly's thinking. Sometimes, as an adult, it was hard to read. But I truly believe a kid will get it. The thoughts Delly has will resonate with them. 

The story also deals with child abuse. You don't really know until the very end what's going on. But the suspicion that something isn't right. When Delly says it, you find yourself nodding in agreement. Ferris Boyd is untouchable, an outsider living in quiet. She, who looks like a he at first, lives in a world of silence. Yet between Ferris and Delly's brother RB, teach her to conquer her anger by counting, and by asking permission first. This turns Delly's would upside down.

The Queen encourages her readers to look around you. The silent, misunderstood. The troublemakers. There's something going on down deep inside. Have you ever met such people? Write about your experience. What do you think might have been going on under all the anger? Behind the silence? How are some ways you can reach out in kindness? Just something to think about. 

Author Katherine Hannigan:
From Publisher's site:
Katherine Hannigan's first novel, Ida B . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the Worldwas a New York Times bestseller, a Book Sense bestseller, and a Parents' Choice Gold Award winner, and it appeared on more than twenty-five state award lists. She is also the author of a picture book called Emmaline and the Bunny and the novel True (. . . Sort Of).
She (and several wild rabbits) live at the edge of a meadow in northeastern Iowa.

Read the Author interview with Hannigan about her book Ida B. 
Listen to this video where Hannigan talks about how she developed her story, True...sort of

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reluctant Readers - How you can help

Good day fellow readers and lovers of great books!
Just the other day, I was relaxing in my grand library, watching the young dragons and future knights pick their literary treasures for the week. I thought to myself, reading is what will one day make them great. It's true. The child who suffers in reading is the one who will suffer in life. 

Of course, there's my young trolls and ghouls who are not such avid readers. They reluctantly tramp through the many shelved adventures, snorting and grumbling that there are better things to do with their days. (such as chasing dragons and crushing knights.) We all have encountered them, have we not? Those reluctant readers? 

This dilemma sends my tiara twirling. I would love to simply declare a new law that all must read and love it, but alas, we can't make a youngster love to read, can we?

We can, however, strive to make reading times more enjoyable. Consider some of these possibilities on how to make reading a little more fun for your ghoulish reader.

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.  ~Mark Twain, attributed

Let's face facts, a love for reading has to be developed. 

First things first: if your child struggles with reading, eliminate any possibility of there being a learning disability or reading problem such as dyslexia. If words are jumping around the page, or if they have difficulty hearing words or sounding them out, then they will never love reading without help. Schools have programs designed specifically to help children with dyslexia, or those learning below their level of ability. 

However, if your child has no disabilities, then they can find reading enjoyable if you make it fun. Every site I explored about helping reluctant readers repeated the same two things: read out loud to your children and provide plenty of reading material throughout every room in the house. Did you know there are books that can be taken into the bathtub? 

Reading aloud means more than sitting in a chair to read a book. Take them to the bookstore and library for story times. Look for places that have exceptional storytellers and revisit often. There's nothing like hearing a story to help children find enjoyment in the written word. 

If you have never said "Excuse me" to a parking meter or bashed your shins on a fireplug, you are probably wasting too much valuable reading time.  ~Sherri Chasin Calvo

Make time for reading. This is a must. Here at the Castle, we avoid turning on the television until after dinner. That quiet time before is reserved for reading and homework. If it's scheduled, it'll become a routine which then forms a lifetime habit. 

What about when you are waiting in lines at the grocery store? Instead of fighting over getting a piece of candy, challenge your child to read the wrappers, or the magazine headlines to you. If they do it well, then maybe they've earned a treat. 

With the popularity of smart phones and ipads, any time spent waiting can be time spend playing word games or reading e-books. 

"So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray. Go throw your TV set away! And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall." 
--Ronald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

OK, I know asking people to get rid of the television isn't going to happen. However, you can use it to your benefit. Use television time as a reward, not a necessity. Do keep viewing time to a only a few hours a week if possible. 

Here's something fun you can do while watching the tube: 
Turn the volume down on their favorite TV show and hit the subtitles button. Read the script with them and try to mimic the character's voices. Sponge-bob has an exceptionally, high whiny sounding voice. 

Challenge your child to read a book that has been made into a movie. Once the book is finished, watch the movie together and compare similarities and differences between the two. They may soon find, as most of us know, that the movies really aren't as good as the book itself. 

"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island."
— Walt Disney

Remember, reading is something meant to be enjoyed. Don't force your child to read. Do, find ways to encourage them by providing material on things they enjoy doing. If they'd rather be outside playing soccer, find books about how to be a better soccer player. 

Most important, take time to read yourself and model a love of reading. They will follow you. Especially if you make it special where you connect and spend time together discussing the marvels inside those adventurous pages.

Happy Reading Friends,
The Queen