The Calder Game

The Calder Game by Blue Balliett is a mystery story linking art sculpture with intrigue. The book description reads, “When Calder Pillay travels with his father to a remote village in England, he finds a mix of mazes and mystery…including an unexpected Alexander Calder sculpture in the town square.

Calder is strangely drawn to the sculpture, while other people have less-than-friendly feelings toward it. Both the boy and the sclupture seem to be out of place…and then, on the same night, they disappear!”

I thought about this book on the weekend, when I visited the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle with Mr. Hembree. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the first thing we noticed was the gigantic Alexander Calder sculpture called The Eagle. We walked around it and under it and looked closely at his signature on the side.

 In this view from underneath the sculpture, you can see what looks like the eagle head or beak (or at least that is what it looks like to me)!


 The last picture shows Calder’s signature on the side of the piece and the date.


I don’t think this is the Calder that disappeared from The Calder Game, but isn’t it fun imagining it could be? Here is a link to a book trailer  I found for The Calder Game by Gaia, a student in Mrs Scavone’s class from June 2011.

The Calder Game is available for check out  F BAL  MYSTERY.


What sculpture did you see in the book trailer?

Have you ever seen an Alexander Calder sculpture before? Which one?

What piece of art would you write a mystery about?




Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Toppling by Sally Murphy

Do you love to play dominoes? Do you enjoy the clink, clink, clink as dominoes topple in black and white lines? If so, pick up a copy of Toppling by Sally Murphy. Josa donated a copy for our library and wrote the following book review!

John is the main character of this book. He is a boy with an unusual hobby–he likes to set up dominoes and tip th first one and watch them topple in complicated patterns. John’s goal is to win the world record of toppling. then something happens to make John’s world start to topple. His best friend Dominic gets very, very sick. This is a one-of-a-kind story about change, coping and friendship. This is a book for ages 8+ or anyone who wants a good read. It is illustrated very nicely.

I also just finished a book trailer for Toppling! You might recognize some of the actors for the trailer!



You can find Toppling by Sally Murphy in the realistic section of our library!

Here is the call number: F MUR Realistic


Have you every played the game dominoes?

What have you built using dominoes?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Meet the Real Ivan

Everyone at our school knows that I am a little bit crazy about the book,

The One and Only Ivan!

They know that the highlight of our school year was the day

Katherine Applegate, Julia and Anne visited our school!

I have given this particular book to my family, friends and blogging buddies as far away as Australia.

Fast forward to July 2012!

I am writing this post today in green, because I am green with envy!


 Because the Super-Librarian Mr. Schu visited the real  Ivan yesterday at Zoo Atlanta.

Used with permission from John Schu

He and  Donna, another librarian,  are on their annual summer reading trip. This year they called it “Let’s Go South 12” and they decided to drive to Atlanta, Georgia to visit the real Ivan in person! I am very envious of their experience! I have never been to Georgia and to see Ivan up close would be pretty awesome. He has given me permission to share these photos with you.

The traveling plush Ivan got to meet the real Ivan too!

Used with permission from John Schu

 How could a trip like this be any better that that? By getting the real Ivan’s autograph!

Used with permission from John Schu

Congratulations Mr. Schu for visiting Zoo Atlanta and sharing your photos with us! You can follow the other places they visit on the Let’s Go South 12 blog. You can also read more on Mr. Schu’s blog Watch. Connect. Read. He’ll be writing in greater detail about his visit with Ivan.

In the meantime, I am getting ready for my trip next week to the  Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum to showcase our Kid Lit Movies project. I’m also bringing Ivan, the inspiration for our book trailer project. Check back next week for updates and photos on this incredible experience! Did you know our student book trailers have had over 6,700 views now from people in 150 different countries? How’s that for incredible?


How did seeing the real Ivan make you feel?

Is there a place you would like to visit because of a book you read?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Kid Lit Movies

Have you ever been to the movies and watched the previews for upcoming attractions? If you are like me, you have seen lots and lots of them!

Those previews for movies got me thinking.  What if we took that same idea and applied it to books? We could have previews for awesome books in the library! And…..what if instead of me making them like the one I made for The One and Only Ivan, the STUDENTS made them? How awesome would that be? That’s how our book trailer project got started!

After watching the ‘Ivan” trailer, some 4th grade students asked if they could make one too. A new technology and literacy project was born!

To start,  we watched some other book trailers in our 4th grade library classes to get ideas. Then we watched some book trailers that I made. The One and Only Ivan trailer is the one that Katherine Applegate saw and asked to come to our school and meet us! You can see them here on my book trailer page on our blog.

Then next step was to form cooperative groups. Each group could choose it’s own members and then they had to pick a book for their project.

Once a book was selected, it was time for the storyboard plan. Here students were required to figure out what parts of the plot was important to include, how that could be transformed into a visual, and what text needed to be included to get previewers interested in the book.


The purpose of a book trailer is very different than the purpose of a book report. In the typical book report, you write about what happened in the book. In a book trailer, you are selling the book, to make other people want to check it out and read it! The tricky part is to share some goodies, without giving away too much of the book!

Once the storyboards were complete, groups moved to the computer were they used MS One Note to record their storyboard notes and begin importing creative commons photos for their trailers.

One huge advantage of using OneNote its the linked note component, that allows you to import photos and keep the link to the original source. This is especially helpful when it’s time to write the credits slide. Flickr also allows you to save photos with the original link in galleries, but Flickr is not available for student use at our school.

Photo by Steren Giannini Used w/CC permission

Finding Creative Commons photos was hard work! You have to think of the words to search for, and if those words don’t bring up the images you are looking for, you have to try again with other term or synonym. The students discovered that a lot of Creative Commons images are available via Community Clips on the Microsoft online site. That made it a lot easier for some groups. Once all the photos were found, it was time to load them into MS Live MovieMaker!

After a 10 minute “how-to” demo, students were on their own as they imported photos, added words, transitions and animations to create visual interest in their books.

The next to last step was finding the perfect music for the trailer. Some students experimented with creating music using Songsmith. Ultimately all teams decided to use royalty free music. I had already created a Digital Kit of royalty free music from Kevin MacLeod at  He shares his music for free for others to use as long as you give him credit. The resource is AMAZING! The students had fun listening to different songs and figuring out which music would give the correct mood to the trailer.

Once the Credits slide was completed, the book trailers were complete and ready to be rendered into a movie! Each was uploaded to our SchoolTube account and our blog where others can view them. I also created QR codes linking the book trailer to the book and placed them on the covers of our library books and on a special bulletin board! Each student received their own QR code on an index card to take home and share or hang on their refrigerator doors for everyone to see!


The biggest question is, “Do book trailers work as good advertisements?”  The answer is “YES!”  Our books are being checked out and read at home! I couldn’t ask for anything better! Try it sometime! Book trailers are a lot of fun to create! Who knows…maybe someday one of our students will be the next Hollywood movie director!



Have you ever made a book trailer?
What book would you choose?
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The One and Only Katherine Applegate

Amazing, fabulous, wonderful, spectacular, superb! Those are only a few of the ways we could describe our visit with Katherine Applegate this week!

Katherine came with her daughter Julia, and HarperCollins editor, Anne Hoppe and gave us a presentation on her book The One and Only Ivan. Ivan is dedicated to Julia, and her name is also used for one of the main human characters in the book.

Katherine is the author, and co-author with NYT bestseller Michael Grant of over 150 books for children and young adults, including Animorphs, which has sold over 35 millions copies. In the library world, she is a ROCKSTAR, yet, a nicer, more humble author you could not meet.

In a fabulous presentation created by her 15 year old son Jake,Katherine led us through the story of Ivan, the “shopping mall gorilla,” who spent 27 years in the B & I shopping Mall in Tacoma, and the inspiration of her novel. After reading a newspaper article many years ago when Ivan’s future was being debated, Katherine learned about this silverback gorilla stuck inside a 14 x 14 cement cage.  She later saw a National Geographic documentary on urban gorillas that included Ivan’s history. “I couldn’t get this story out of my head,” she told us.

She told us she remembered Toni Morrison’s quote,

She did research through the years and even went to Tacoma to get more information. Yet, she knew his story would also have to be fictionalized. Stella, the older elephant and Bob, the dog didn’t really live with Ivan in real-life, and neither did Ruby, the baby elephant. These were the touches she added to his story to give it depth, poignancy and heroism.

Students also had a chance to ask Katherine questions where she let us know that her best advice for student writers is summed up in two words:

 what if ….

Put yourself in any situation, and ask yourself “what if” and you have the basis for a new story! It’s as simple as that! She also urged student writers to be proud of what they write. She spent many years as a ghost writer for some well known series like Sweet Valley High, or used pseudonyms before she took the plunge to write under her own name.


The culmination of the morning was lunch for eight lucky students, who spent an hour with Katherine, Anne and Julia talking about books, Ivan and her life as a writer.

We even had a special cake made for the occasion! I got the idea for this cake from Mr. Schu. You can visit his blog here.

Following lunch, Anne signed a book for each of the “Applegate Lunch Bunch” and had their picture taken with her.

Sadly, the morning came to an end and we waved Katherine, Julie and Anne goodbye! They we off to enjoy the day in Seattle and then return to Parkplace Books in Kirkland for another visit the following day with students at two other local schools.

If you live in the Seattle area, she will be at Elliott Bay books this afternoon, Wednesday, April 18th at 3pm doing another book signing!

We can’t thank you enough for visiting our school!  It was truly an honor and a day I will personally treasure close to my heart.

 Here is the special bulletin board we prepared especially for her visit.

 Anne Hoppe, editor for The One and Only Ivan visits with Katherine and Julia.

 Katherine with Mrs. Hembree and her husband. Mr. Hembree remembered visiting Ivan in Tacoma when he was a child.


Have you ever met an author in person before?

What is your “what if” story idea?

Do you have a special animal story?


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Wonder by RJ Palacio

It’s the first day of middle school. You don’t know anybody and you sit down in your seat and mind your own business.

Suddenly you hear whispers all around and when you look up, other kids quickly turn away, even though you know they’ve been staring at you.

Nobody will sit in the desks next to you. You are an island in the classroom. A lonely, isolated island.

This is Auggies’s life. A 5th grade boy who was born with horrible facial deformities. His parents have decided it’s time for him to give up homeschooling, and transition to public school. Wonder by RJ Palacio is his story and it’s your story.

How would you react if Auggie came into your classroom tomorrow? Will you stare? Will you try not to stare, but sneak glances when you think he’s not looking? Will you sit next to him at lunch?

Will you be his friend?

Wonder will make you think about yourself. It should be required reading for every student in 5th grade, not just because it’s a great book. Read it because it will make you think about what kind of person you really are on the inside. It will teach you about empathy. It will teach you about hope and friendship. It will teach you about life.

 Wonder by RJ Palacio is available in our library starting today. Here’s a preview book trailer by Mrs. Hembree.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The One and Only Ivan


I never saw Ivan at the old, run-down shopping mall in Tacoma, but my husband did. He got sad thinking about Ivan, the silverback gorilla confined inside a dirty and cramped cage on show for whoever came to visit him. For 27 years he lived there and endured the humans who stared at him day after day, year after year. It was a dismal existance for a mighty silverback gorilla.

Ivan’s story began in 1962 when he was captured as an infant and sold to owners of a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington. He lived there for 27 years before the public pressure prompted his move first to the Woodland Park Zoo and then to the Atlanta Zoo. The Atlanta Zoo is home to the nation’s largest collection of western lowland gorillas. Ivan is now 49 and thriving in his zoo home.

Katherine Applegate’s new novel, The One and Only Ivan was inspired by the true story of Ivan the Shopping Mall Gorilla. The novel is told through Ivan’s eyes and captures both the anguish and the heartening moments of friendship between him and his mall animal friends. It’s a book that will stick with you long after you turn the last page. It compelled me to create a book trailer, which I hope you will enjoy.



Have you ever heard of Ivan before?

Do you want to read this book now?

Do you like to visit animals at the zoo?

What’s your favorite zoo to visit?


Print Friendly, PDF & Email