Reading Alaska Style

Mr. Hembree and I just returned from a seven day Alaska ferry cruise from Bellingham, WA to Skagway, AK and back. The M/V Columbia had no internet or cell phone service as we were in very remote areas along the Inside Passage of islands between Washington and southeast Alaska.
We had plenty of time on board and off to read!







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Picture Book Genre Project: Part One

We’re doing it again!

picture bk genre

We converted our intermediate fiction section to a genre style a few years ago. You can read a post about the project here. I also wrote an article for Knowledge Quest and have presented at the Washington Library Media Association WLMA annual conference on the topic. More of our district libraries have converted. Circulations are soaring and kids are READING!

Now I have a new project in the works. I forgot to mention it in my Happy Anniversary post that listed my goals for the year. Instead of five goals, I really have six. The sixth goal is to categorize our picture books into a genre style shelving system. Mary, one of the other librarians in our district worked on this project all of last year, and when she told me about it, I knew it was the answer to our problem.

picture book displays

What problem you may ask? Despite all the book displays on top of the shelving carts, many of my students still have trouble finding a book they want. They read a book about trucks, animals, colors, shapes – you name it, the topic doesn’t matter. Then they come to me and want to check out a book one just like that one. In a 30 minute class of k-2 students, where we have 10 minutes of checkout time, I get swamped by students who need help. I’m frustrated by too little time to help each student individually, while I also need check out books to the other 27 students waiting impatiently in line. Many librarians have lots of adult helpers, but I don’t always have that luxury. There are many classes where it’s just me and the kids. What’s a frenzied librarian to do?



I need to make it easier for younger students to find the books they want. I need to use the genre shelving system with the picture books too!

Simple. Easy. Kid friendly. And why didn’t I think of this earlier?

When I converted our fiction section in 2008, it wasn’t something that was being done on a large scale in school libraries. In fact, after asking my principal for his blessing, I didn’t tell anyone about what I did for over a year. At the time, I was a new librarian, and I was fearful of the backlash and criticism. Although it’s more common now, at the time, the idea was fairly radical. I had no idea if it would work, but my hunch was that by making books easier for students to find independently, they would check out more and READ more. The rest is history. Genre shelving our fiction section was a huge success.

This time it’s different. I’m not waiting and I’m no longer worried about what other librarians might say. I plan to document the process as we move along with photos and advice. I’m starting small this time. I haven’t figured out all the categories yet, and I’m okay with the ambiguity. The categories will work themselves out as I look at what others have done, ask my students for their advice, and do my research. If sharing my process helps other librarians, then all the better.

To launch the project, I did decide on three major categories: Art, Concepts and Favorite Characters. Last spring, I asked one of my trusted parent volunteers to look through our shelves for books about concepts – math, ABCs, shapes, punctuation, colors, etc. She pulled those books off the shelves and put them in labeled piles. I already had a major art section with story books about art and artists like Katie Meets the Impressionists or Picasso and the Girl with the Pontail.


These books had been shelved together previously, so all I had to do was find the right shelf and change the call number. I decided to shelf the Art books near the Concept books since they seem like related topics to me.

Each book in a genre section is marked with a colored tinted label that goes over the call number. You can look at the shelf and see visually on the spine that the books go together. I did the same thing with my fiction books. This photo below is what our intermediate sports section looks like. You can see the green call number covers on the spines. I get the covers at Demco.


I’ll use similar colors for our primary books so as a student transitions from the picture books to intermediate books, the color system will be as close as possible. After each book is labeled,  I scan it and change the call number. We use Destiny and the photo below show how I added the category in the call number and in the sublocation. If I don’t want to pull each book, I can make the changes on Destiny, run a report on the sublocation and give it to a volunteer. Then the volunteer can pull the books on the list, mark them, and reshelve. When I have a shelf ready for the new section, it’s easy to scan the shelves, pull the books by color and shelve them in their new home.

picture bk genre destiny

I also decided this would be a perfect time to begin an inventory. If I was going to touch each book, I might as well get an accurate inventory of the books in our picture book area.

picture bk inventory

Like I said, I’m starting small. I don’t even have official signs yet. Large sticky notes mark the new sections for the moment! I only have three categories in progress right now. Through the course of the year I will add more categories, using student suggestions. I’m doing this conversion for them, and their voice needs to be a major component on how we proceed. When I have photos of a completed shelf, I will post them.

If you have questions or have suggestions because you have already been through this process, I hope you will share them in a comment. Let’s work together to make our libraries the vibrant places our students need.



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Where in the World?

Do you know where I’m going?

Here are some clues! There are glaciers, lots of sealife, terribly cold temperatures in the winter and is our largest state. Have you figured it out? My husband and I will be taking a cruise on the Alaska State Ferry boat.


This is not one of the fancy cruise ships you see come into port in Seattle. This is a car ferry that also has staterooms you can use. We’re never tried anything like this before, but I think it’s going to be lots of fun. Depending on internet availability, I will try to post some pictures while I’m there. I think there will be plenty of time to do some reading. Plus, I hope to do some beachcombing for seaglass when we come into port. This is a photo of some sea glass I found on Alki Beach in Seattle.


Enjoy your last days of vacation and make sure you take some time to read!


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An Origami Adventure

Where are they reading?

bellevue art museum

It’s not everyday that you see people reading near hanging origami creatures. Have you guessed where Josa, Ulises and Pakal are yet? It’s in Bellevue, not far from the mall and is a big museum. Yes! that’s right! It’s the Bellevue Art Museum!


Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of


The boys went there recently and visited the Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami exhibition. This display features the work of 45 master origami artists. The 140 pieces portray the history and evolution of the art of paper folding by artists from around the world. You can learn more about the exhibition here. If you live in the Puget Sound and love origami, maybe you would like to go to one of their crafty Saturday classes. The Bellevue Art Museum is having a series of Saturday classes called Samurai Hats and Tiger Armor. In this class you will learn how to make a Samurai paper hat and foam tiger armor to protect you from fierce ninjas! You have to register for the class and the cost is $2.00. Here is the information link.

untitled (5)

Don’t have time to go to the museum? No problem! Visit your local school or public library and check out an Origami book or two. You don’t even need special origami paper either. The book shown above in our library is filled with examples made out of ordinary household materials.

I wonder if Josa, Pakal and Ulises were motivated to create their own origami. Maybe they can teach me too. An origami station is going to be one of our new MakerMonday recess events. More details to come in the fall, but trust me, MakerMondays will be Science, Technology, Reading, Art and Math Terrific! Legos, K’Nex, Cardboard, origami, LED light crafts….just saying and hinting!

Keep reading and thank you boys for the awesome summer reading photo. Did you know that the New York Public Library is also doing a #IREADEVERYWHERE campaign? Kids and adults are reading everywhere this summer. The New York Public Library even has a temporary  outdoor reading room set up this summer, when it’s not raining of course!

Photo courtesy of the NY Public Library

Photo courtesy of the NY Public Library

You can do it too and send it to our blog.  There’s still a couple weeks left for anyone to send in a photo. The deadline is August 31st, so I can get our poster made for the first day of school. Have your adult family member send the reading photo to:

summer read email pic

If you don’t hear from me for a few days, don’t be discouraged. I’m going to be internet free for a few days. Read tomorrow’s post to find out why.

Happy Reading! Mrs. Hembree


What do you like to make with origami?

Have you ever been to an art museum?

What book have you read this summer (or winter for our downunder readers)?


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Reading Sisters

Reading fun in the sun!


zara play


abby upside down

Abby and Zara are certainly enjoying themselves outside combining some fun with summer reading! Who else can hang upside down or wing on the big toy and read a book? Not me –that’s for sure! I bet there are other readers who can link reading to outside activities. Just stay safe. I don’t want to hear about injuries that happened while you were reading.
Thanks for sharing your photos girls. I hope you are enjoying yourselves! Stay cool this week with our hot summer days.



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Happy Anniversary Bulldogs!

The Bulldog Reader Blog is FOUR years old!


Yes, I can’t believe it either! This blog has been going strong for four years and one month. (I couldn’t celebrate on the actual date because I was on vacation.) The Bulldog Reader Blog began on July 2, 2010 after I took a class on different technology tools I could use in the library. Blogging was one of the tools shared, and within a few days, we launched on a virtual journey into the reading, tech and library world. Oe of the first posts was about Theo Boone: Kid Lawyer, a series by John Grisham.. That series now has had four installments since we began.

cluster map

 It’s amazing to me how many visitors we have had through the years. The ClusterMap above shows how many have visited since July 9, 2013. Sadly I made a bad mistake last year, clicked the wrong thing at the wrong time, and the original visitor map disappeared. Poof – and GONE! I was very sad, but you know, sometimes things like this happen and you just have to move on. In the last year, people from every continent except Antarctica have visited the blog, including over 21,500 from different states within the USA and over 8,000 from countries around the world.


 The one counter I haven’t touched since the beginning is the visitor counter. I didn’t set it up on the first day, but close enough to the start. We have had over 171,000 page hits on our blog, and almost 100,000 of them are unique hits. A page hit is when anyone clicks onto the blog from wherever they are. A unique hit is when a person who has never been on the blog before visits. Returning, unique, first time, returning visitors is all kind of confusing for sure. What matters is that people from around the world connect with us everyday!

flag counter flag too

We have formed friendships with wonderful students and teachers. We have exchanged presents, holiday cards, reading photos, and countless comments through the years. I’ll never forget the day a box arrived from a teacher in Russia. She and her class had put together a box with a teddy bear, a flag and other items to celebrate our new friendship and share their country with us.

Here it all is! Thank you Burravoe Primary School!

Here it all is! Thank you Burravoe Primary School!

Another box came from a very small primary school in the Shetland Islands, including a book that none of us could read because it was written in the native language of the islands. They just celebrated their third anniversary as well! Congratulations Burravoe Primary School!


Mrs. Yollis, my mentor from California and I have had lots of fun conversations, dinner and photo exchanges. She runs a classroom blog and also a photo 365 blog that I try to contribute to periodically. She introduced me to Mrs. Morris in Australia, who introduced me to a very special blogger named BB.

AA and BB in Australia. Not pictured, BB's cousin.

No mention of the history of this blog could happen without mentioning AA and BB in Australia. When BB and I first met virtually, she had a blog of her own, and we commented on one anothers’ posts regularly. BB is now older and busy with other activities, but her mom AA still visits us and keeps us up to date on what is happening in Australia. We have talked to each other via Skype and online, but have never met and sat in the same room. Someday, I hope to visit Australia, and then we will meet! In the meantime, we have fun comment conversations and share photographs with each other. The conversations that happen via blogging is what I cherish the most.


Last year during Super Bowl series, Mrs. Arnett’s class dressed up in their Broncos gear. We had a fun exchange about football and what it means to be a good sport.


During the Poetry Month we exchanged poems with Mrs. Camp in Klein, Texas. Our students wrote acrostic class poems which we published on our blogs.

partner poem

So much has happened in the last four years, that I can’t begin to mention all the highlights. What I do know through writing 368 blog posts is that I love blogging. If it wasn’t for blogging and the Incredibly, Awesome, Fabulous, Newbery Winning book The One and Only Ivan, we wouldn’t have met Katherine Applegate at our school! ivanc

On October 7th, her new non-fiction picture book will be released and ubookshe will be visiting the University Bookstore here in Seattle!

Woo-hoo! We can all share some Ivan love all over again! Here is a link to the premier of the new book trailer.

true story

Another connection that really matters to me is our partnerships in our Books to Africa program. In September we will begin year three of sending books overseas. This summer I had that opportunity to Skype with some children in Sovenga, South Africa who had just received a shipment of books from us. Wow! Look what technology does for us now!


Recently I had a chance to meet a fellow librarian who follows this blog. “Don’t you ever take the summer off?” she asked. “Nope!” I never do. Blogging is certainly not something I have to do because it’s assigned to me. It’s something I have to do because the words are just itching to get out of my system. I like to write, not as much as I love to read, but I enjoy writing. Until four years ago, I thought I would eventually write a children’s fiction book. I slogged through some drafts and kept putting it aside. The book wasn’t working at all. Then book trailers entered my world. I  love to make book trailers. It’s my style of writing. The One and Only Ivan, Breadcrumbs, Real Boy, Duke – book trailers have played a huge role in my life in the past two years.I don’t make as many as I would like, but everytime I read a book, I think about how I’d make a trailer for it. 11387515 The creative juices are always churning in my head. Because of blogging and my experiences with book trailers, I’ve learned what kind of writer I am. I’m not really a fiction writer at all. I much prefer creating something that is a mixture of fiction, non-fiction and storytelling. What a relief! You don’t have to be just a fiction writer, or a non-fiction writer. You can be a mixture of it all. It doesn’t matter! I do have a book goal in mind, but it won’t be a picture book or novel. I think it will be a non-fiction book series for K-2 readers. Now, with all the advancements in technology, eBooks and eReaders, the question is more about when I will make the time to write the words.   Which leads me to my goals for the upcoming year. Next year will be our 5th anniversary. What do I hope to accomplish by next July?

  1. Continue the fabulous connection with our Books to Africa program. I had the chance to Skype with some students in South Africa this summer. Those few moments weren’t enough - I want to get there somehow, some way!
  2. Create a makerspace area in the library and begin incorporating more STREAM activities into blog posts and classroom lessons. STREAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Reading, Art and Math.
  3. Experiment more with digital tools to advertise books whether it’s through book trailers, or podcasts, games or other activities.
  4. Write the draft to a book series.
  5. Celebrate reading with our students and teachers!

That’s it – 5 goals. I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to try. If you noticed, none of them are “do it now or fail” type of goals. They are all long-term. By next July, I need to review these goals, see what’s worked and figure out what to change to make it succeed. That’s what blogging has taught me. Things may not work out the first time or fifth time. You just need to persist, try again,figure it out and have fun!.


What goal have you made recently?

What post do you remember the most?

How will you connect with someone this year?

Leave us a comment and let us know!


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We Can Read with Pete

Look out! Pete’s in the house!

Anthony Jason

It looks like Pete the Cat has convinced Anthony and Jason to do some summertime reading! Pete is one cool cat and isn’t it great that he is not afraid to go to the beach? A problem happens when Pete gets hot after playing in the sand at the beach. Most cats I know are scared of the water. Do you think Pete was scared of going into the water? Maybe? Did he try swimming anyway? Read Pete the Cat – Pete at the Beach or Pete the Cat – Too Cool for School by James Dean to find out. Thank you Anthony and Jason for sharing your reading photos with us!

Any of our readers can share photos with us for our summertime reading fun! You don’t have to be on a fancy vacation or in an exotic place to have your reading photo taken. Readers read anywhere and everywhere! Simply take a photo and send it in! We love student and adult readers as well. There’s only three more weeks to get your photos submitted. Our summer reading program ends on August 31st, so get those phones and cameras out! Send the photos me at this address:

summer read email pic


If you love Pete the Cat, then I recommend you also try a new book by Eric Litwin, one of the original authors of the Pete the Cat series–The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House. The book was just published on July 29th and it’s a winner!
When Mama Nut tries to get her little Nut children to go to bed, they don’t hear her! They are having too much fun! Check out the book trailer and then leave me a comment! What do you think about this new book?

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The Yankee Reader

What gets you excited about your day?


For my nephew it’s baseball with a healthy dose of reading (and maybe a couple computer games). He is a diehard Yankees fan as you can see from his room decor. Everything is Yankees from tip to stern.
My favorite part of his room are the stacks of books. I wish I had taken more pictures, but trust me. He loves to read and his shelves prove it. We are DEFINITELY related! Like a true reader, the books closest to his bed are the important ones. The sports books by Tim Green, Mike Lupica, and Dan Gutman. Florida adventures by Carl Hiaasen. Then there are the top tier books- Wonder and The One and Only Ivan. These are the ones that will stay in his room, or at least that’s my prediction.


 Now he has a copy of Comics Squad. It never even made it downstairs to get read. Nope! It was consumed in one night. Right there in my nephew’s personal Yankee Stadium.

Now, where will it go on the pile?

PS. I have another sport book to suggest. If you like baseball, look for Screaming at the Ump by Audrey Vernick. This middle grade novel puts a twist on the typical baseball story by looking through the lens of a 12 year old and umpire camp. Cool sports story and well paced.

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Never a Mariner

I’ve been at sea for most of the summer.


It started right after school ended when I found my shell collection. It had been missing for a couple years, but we found it in the garage tucked behind some boxes. I was thrilled because I have been collecting shells since I was a little girl. I always come home with a shell from every beach I walk along. I also like to buy pretty shells. I just have a  “thing” for shells and the ocean. In fact I love the ocean so much, that I can’t live far from the water. Except for a brief summer in Denver, and a year in Germany, I have only ever lived on the East coast or West coast where I can see salt water within minutes.


That box of shells inspired me to create a new ocean/shell display in our living room so I could get those shells and seastars out of the box where we could see them every day. Then I went back East with my daughter to see my family, traveling around Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. We were near the ocean every chance we could get, walking along the shore, collecting shells or enjoying some time in the sun or fog.

Nubble Lighthouse, Maine

Nubble Lighthouse, Maine

The Motif, Rockport, Massachusetts

The Motif, Rockport, Massachusetts

Hampton, Maine

Hampton, Maine

I started and ended my vacation in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Gloucester was settled in 1623 and was one of the first English settlements in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It’s known as America’s oldest seaport and if you have ever eaten Gorton’s fishsticks, they come from Gloucester!

 The Gloucester Fishermen Memorial honors the thousands of lives taken by the sea.

When I’m in Gloucester, I visit my cousin, the owner and captain of the Aaron and Alexis. Captain Swicker is a cod and lobster fisherman and knows first hand how dangerous the sea can be.


On my last day in Gloucester, he took me to the Bookstore of Gloucester to outfit me with some books he wanted me take home, share with the family and read.

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Reading Fatal Forecast, Lone Voyager, and the Perfect Storm immersed me into the lives of famous Gloucester fishermen. Fatal Forecast is the true story of Ernie Hazard, a fisherman aboard the Sea Fever, who during a hurricane was thrown overboard and survived fifty hours alone in a tiny life raft. Of the three books, this was my absolute favorite. It’s a terrifying tale with a happy ending, unlike The Perfect Storm. This book was made into a movie and filmed in Gloucester. Again, it’s the story of fishermen caught out in the fishing grounds in the Atlantic in 1991 in what was known as a ‘perfect storm’ – not perfect as in nice, but perfect as in the worst storm nature could put together with 100 foot waves and hurricane winds. Many of the fishermen and women made it home, but not the crew of the Andrea Gail. (I do not recommend the Perfect Storm for young readers due to language, and serious subject matter.)


I saved the Lone Voyager- a story about Howard Blackburn and his absolute love for sailing in the late 1880′s for last. In the winter of 1883, Howard and a crewmate were in an open dory (a small boat) and got separated from the main schooner during a blizzard. For five days he rowed himself toward land and when he eventually reached the shore, his hands were frozen to the oars, and his friend was frozen to death. While Howard lost all his fingers, and most of his toes from frostbite, the disability never stopped him from life on the sea. He went on to record the fastest solo sail voyage across the Atlantic. Of course, this time has since been beaten, but the fact that Blackburn sailed alone without fingers is still an amazing feat.


I have learned one main lesson on my summer sea-vacation. First, while I love the ocean – the smells, the sand, shells – I respect how dangerous it is. My cousin lost 800 traps in the storm of ’91 and I still remember how afraid we all were for the fishermen at sea. I love to go out on the boats and be on the open sea, but only in nice, sunny, summer days. When the storms hit, I want to be inside a house, warm and dry. I am a landlubber librarian, who only can take trips on the ocean through stories. I will leave fishing to the experienced mariners, and pray that they come home safely from every trip they take.



Do you prefer land or sea?

Have you ever been on the ocean in bad weather?

Leave a comment and let us know! 


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