Dragon of the Month Club author visits

Iain Reading, author of the Dragon of the Month Club and the Kitty Hawk series visited our school again this week. Here is a presentation about the event.


Iain Reading Guest Author
Iain Reading, author of the middle grade Dragon of the Month Club and Kitty Hawk series came to our school on Thursday for a 5th grade author visit. This was his second visit in two years a…
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Author Amazes Students


Iain Reading, author of The Dragon of the Month Club and the Kittyhawk series visited our school this week for a much anticipated visit with our 5th grade students.


He talked to the students about the power of ideas and books. As a writer you never know where an idea might take you. He explained what he meant with the story of how he thought of the idea for The Dragon of the Month Club. It started with something he saw on television when a character on an English show  received a Sausage of the Month gift as a joke. Thinking about the concept, made him wonder the question, “what if there was a dragon of the month club?” Within two years, his book was written, published and he was talking to us at our school!


His visit was the direct result of some 5th grade students who inspired by the book, created their own dragons.I wrote about the experience in the post When Magic Happens. The last paragraph of the post read:


I didn’t know what kind of doors those words would open at the time. Like Iain, as a writer you just don’t know the path you might be led down. In our case, that post was shared on social media and Mary Grigg, the  5th grade teacher who had been reading his book to her students, tracked down Iain’s contact information and shared the link with him.

When he wrote to us and asked if he could visit our school we were thrilled! I can assure you when Mary and I  read our  emails, we had a fabulous day!


What we didn’t expect is how he would spoil us when he came all the way from Holland! Talk about a treat! In addition to telling us about his writing process, and sharing the pain of rejection letter, he brought very special give aways. Everyone received a bracelet, pin and Dragon of the month card. He also gave away dragon pendants.


Then 20 students received a special Cougar Ridge edition of his book. There are special “cookies” throughout the book that refer to Bellevue and our school, as well as a custom cover.

dsc04490Iain and Ms. Grigg had fun trying to find the special places in the book that are customized!







When his presentation was over, each lucky student had their copy autographed by Iain.


Iain explained that after his visit he was going to Vancouver to the Comic Con Convention where he always has a wishing tree. To get the tree started, each student could write a wish and put it on the tree. It would then be on display at the convention for others to add on to it.



While all these details were absolutely fantastic, the ultimate part of the day, was a special lunch Iain shared with a small group of students. The five girls who made the original dragons, plus others who applied to have lunch with him shared an extended visit where they had the chance to ask questions about the book in more detail. One of the girls joined us via Skype from her new school. Everyone laughed and talked about their favorite dragons, plots twists and when the sequel would be available.



We had a “Dragon” dessert, which we showed our friend on Skype before we cut into it! Two of the girls had also made a Candy Dragon which Iain took with him to Canada for the Comic Con Convention!




Then Iain shared the ultimate surprise. He brought out five custom copies of the Dragon of the Month Club with the girls’ dragons on the cover! Screams and cries filled the air as the girls scanned the pages looking for their names hidden inside the book!


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I’ve had a lot of author visits, but I have to say, this one certainly had a huge impact on a lot of children at our school. From all of the 5th graders and their teachers, we shout a loud and boisterous, Thank you Iain! You are the best!


Iain’s book The Dragon of the Month Club, as well as The Kitty Hawk mystery series are available through Amazon in book and Kindle versions.


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Intro to Makerspaces


Our students had their first introduction to Makerspaces in the Library. Makerspace in the library is all about dreaming, creating and inventing. The activities focus on  Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Math.  Think Legos, K’Nex, Cardboard creations, origami, LED light crafts, 3D MagnaTiles. Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher on Twitter, recently published an article Essential Information on Maker Movement on her blog explaining what the Makerspace Movement is all about.   Sylvia Martinez, coauthor of Invent to Learn, also believes libraries are perfect places for makerspaces. Students can come to a safe learning environment and have the freedom to create and experiment.

This is our first year with Makerspaces in my new library, but my second year using it as a librarian. You can read more about other blog posts here, here and here. In our introductory experience, I opened stations with 3D MagnaTiles, Legos, Snap Circuits, Coding, Magformers, Ozobot Mini-robot, and plastic cups. Students listened to the story Press Here by Herve Tullet, which is such an amazing example of creativity and simplicity in early children’s literature,and then they had time for Makerspace and check out time. Here are some images from the week.image image image image










Judging from the enthusiasm of the students all week, Makerspaces will be a fun learning addition to our library curriculum.

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A Skype Visit with Dan Gemeinhart

coverWe are huge fans of the Wenatchee, Washington based author and school librarian Dan Gemeinhart and his first novel The Honest Truth. In late February Josa and his Mom gave me a copy of The Honest Truth with the message,“You have to read it Julie. Josa and I loved it. We think you will too.” So, I took it home and put it to the top of my book pile.

That was the beginning of our love fest with this book. I wrote a review and published it in early March. I couldn’t put the story out of my mind and it didn’t take long until I made a book trailer to show my students. It never gets old when an author tells you they like a book trailer you have made for them. He even embedded it on his website . Now our four copies are always checked out with a long list of fans waiting not-so-patiently for their turn. It’s become the norm to hear the students talking about the book and discussing their favorite parts. So say we are avid fans is probably an understatement.

When I asked Dan if he could Skype with us,  he willingly agreed. The students wrote down their questions on the white board so they could reference them during our Skype session. We had about a dozen students give up their recess to talk with Dan virtually.

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Gemeinhart skype1

We learned that The Honest Truth is not a true story, but he did know someone who had cancer and that influenced his story.  He dreamed of being an author from second grade, but it’s only been in the last eight or nine years that he got serious about writing. He wrote four books before this one, but was rejected 99 times! The Honest Truth was his 100th submission to a publisher and it was accepted immediately. Thank you Scholastic Publishing! Apparently 100 is his lucky number. He emphasized that you have to keep trying to achieve your goals, and not stop because you fail once or twice. Use what you learned and move forward. Don’t give up and believe in yourself.

He and the students talked about their favorite characters. He did share that Beau and Wesley are his favorites in. He spoke about the importance of naming characters in a story and how the name Beau (the dog) came to him immediately. It’s not always like that, and right now he’s wondering if he has found the right name for the horse in his next book.

His new book Some Kind of Courage is coming out next winter, but it is not a sequel to The Honest Truth. The book is set in Washington again, but in the late 1890’s. It sounds like it’s a mixture of western realism, historical fiction and adventure.

Twenty minutes flew by in record time. After we finished the call, the students were so excited about their visit. They couldn’t believe they had just had the chance to talk virtually with a REAL author! Many told me they prefer Skype author visits over large in-person author visits because they are  so much more personal. The conversation evolves naturally and is controlled primarily by the students. I love how technology can bring the world into our library! Thank you Dan!



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Dino Skype!

Who wants to be a paleontologist? 


Nearly every hand was raised after our first graders visited with paleontologists Matt, Adam, and Jennifer from Stony Brook University in New York. Our first graders have been researching dinosaur facts, creating art, learning science, singing sings, reading books, and writing stories in Dinosaur Land to get ready for the annual Dinosaur Show. 

dino collage

Our music teacher, Ms. Gibitz knows paleontologist Matt from when she grew up in Ohio. When he offered to do a Skype Dino visit, we were thrilled! When you bring Skype in the Classroom, you don’t have to go anywhere outside of the school! You can stay where you are, and have people visit you, virtually! It’s super fun, easy and free!


The students at Stony Brook University prepared a video for us to view first. 


Then our first grade dinosaur experts also prepared some questions as well, such as “What was the first fossil you found?” and “What’s your favorite dinosaur?”  During our virtual visit, they answered these questions and talked about some of the dinosaur bones they have in their laboratory. Some of them are 60 million years old! 




We ended our visit with the “Fossil Rock” song about the dinosaurs! Mrs. Daly thinks a lot of our students have sung that song through the years. Thank you Ms. Gibitz for leading the song and arranging for this visit. It’s really great to collaborate with music, library, PE and the first grade teachers. Thank you Matt, Adam, and Jennifer for sharing your expertise with our students. I wonder how many of them will now want to be a scientist when they grow up just like you. If you would like to learn more about fossils, you can visit their Past Time website where they share their knowledge in podcasts. They will also Skype or GChat live with educators and their students. 

If you want to know the answer to the questions above, you will need to ask one of our students or leave a comment! 

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For the Younger Readers


What have you been reading so far this summer?


Reese was doing some newspaper reading this morning. Apparently he didn’t like what he read, so now we have a shredded mess all over the living room floor! Nice! Well it’s Saturday and I have been doing some reading since school let out.After reading Destiny Rewritten, I decided to move to some new chapter books that younger readers would enjoy.


You can’t go wrong with any of Lunch Lady graphic novel series. This time a terrible technology villain invades the school and steals everyone’s gizmos and gadgets. Yikes! Will the Lunch Lady solve the dilemma?


Jennifer S. Holland has a new non-fiction series perfect for kids just starting to read chapter books. If you like animals, you will love these short stories about the friendships between some pretty unlikely animals.


Magic Tree House fans will like book #49 Stallion by Starlight. This time Merlin the Magician wants Jack and Annie to find the secret of greatness. What makes a person great? To find the answer they travel back in time to ancient Macedonia to meet Alexander the Great and his famed horse Bucephalus.

book 5


Newbery winning author Patricia MacLachlan’s new book is perfect for dog lovers. Zoe’s mother rescues Great Pyrenees dogs. “Pyrs”, as they are called for short, are large, yet gentle 140-150 pound, white fur dogs. When Phillip moves in next door, he becomes friends with one of the rescue puppies. Will the puppy help him speak again?


Any girl who loves the Fancy Nancy books by Jane O’Connor will adore her newest chapter book series. A little bit fancy, a little bit Nancy Drew, and a little bit mysterious fun, these books will entertain transitional picture book to chapter book readers.


Mystery fans will love the funny new mystery series by the author of the Lunch Lady series. The author Jarrett J. Krosocaka will be our featured guest author next year, so make sure you keep up with all of his latest books!


I hope these books will give you some ideas for the upcoming weeks! Tomorrow I’ll be traveling to San Antonio, Texas to attend the ISTE technology conference! I’ll be going to classes and finding out all sorts of different ideas to use in our library lessons in the fall!

Keep Reading! Mrs. Hembree


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The One and Only Ivan Wins Newbery

Ivan Won!


The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate won the coveted Newbery Award this morning at the American Library Association Conference here in Seattle! I sat in the audience as the awards were revealed at the press conference.

At the press conference, the ALA announces  the winners of numerous book awards such as the Coretta Scott King Award and Geisel Awards. Then it’s time for Caldecott and Newbery – last in line.  These two awards are the most prestigious and coveted in the US for the writers and illustrators of children’s literature.

I was thrilled to see my personal favorite picture book win the Caldecott! There lots of happy clapping and screaming in the audience (yes, librarians scream – loudly!) as we saw the winning book show on the big screen!

Then it was time for the Newbery. One by one the titles of the Honor winners were released. I held my breath as I saw Spendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz, Bomb:The Race to Build – and Steal- the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin and Three Times Lucky by Shelia Turnage win the honor awards.

I think most of the audience inhaled and waited for the final slide to show. What book would it be? The whoops of joy filled the room and tears filled my eyes! I tried to take a photo of the slide showing that Ivan won, but all I got was a photo of the ceiling when I jumped out of my chair! It was a magical moment to be in a room filled with all that love for a book that has touched the hearts of thousands of readers around the world. I tried taking a picture again, but it sure came out blurry! My hands were shaking too much to be very good at holding still.

Lots of hugs were shared with fellow librarians. Especially happy was Mr. Schu, who visited the real Ivan last summer and possibly has the only copy of the signed book by both Ivan and Katherine Applegate. You can read his very moving post about what it meant to meet Ivan at the Atlanta Zoo here. We shared some tears together as we realized that our shared love for a very special book won top honors. Here is a photo courtesy of John Schu showing both the author and Ivan signatures.

After the press conference was over, I went to the exhibit hall to visit the HarperCollins booth. They published The One and Only Ivan. I got there in time to see one of the representatives place the gold Newbery sticker on the book! Notice that Ivan is looking at the sticker!


Ivan also had his picture taken with “Ivan” at the booth!

A few minutes later, Anne Hoppe, the editor stopped by too! If you remember, she visited  with Katherine and Julia last April when they came for our school visit. She shared that it is very special experience to be the editor of a book that wins a Newbery.

I can’t even think of the words to describe what it was like to see a book that has so totally touched my heart and changed my life win the Newbery. I just hope now even more thousands of children pick it up and share the story. Like so many of you who purchased a copy last spring, we now own a signed Newbery book! How absolutely fantastic is that???

I wish Katherine and her family could have been in Seattle to experience announcement in person. The good news is that they will have the opportunity to receive the award in person in Chicago in June!

Never heard of Ivan and want to know more? Here is the trailer I made last year. I hope you will watch it and then run to your local library or bookstore and get a copy!

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Skyping with Stephen McCranie

Skyping! Skyping! I’m SO glad someone invented Skyping!



    Today Ms. Holder’s library class skyped with author Stephen McCranie. Stephen is the author of the Mal and   Chad graphic novel series.

   Instead of having the author come to our school, we visited with him virtually.

  A  few weeks ago Mrs. Hembree found out on Twitter that Stephen was offering to skype with teachers and librarians. She signed up and our school is one of over 70 schools Stephen will “virtually” visit this fall.



During the call we watched him draw on his computer. First he taught us that comics are stories + pictures.

Then to develop our own story, he had us answer two questions:

  1. What does my character want?
  2. What is preventing my character from getting what he or she wants?

We decided that our character, Tara, wanted to own a bakery, but her family wasn’t very supportive of that idea. She ran away, met a baker and learned how to become the baker she always wanted to be.

After that we had a quick demonstration on how to draw a picture. We learned it’s easy if you use shapes like circles, squares or triangles. As Stephen drew on his computer, we tried to guess what famous characters he was drawing!

In the last portion of our visit, Stephen asked us to start a story. Then before our eyes, he drew a scene from our story.

While he was drawing, he also answered our questions.

We found out that he has loved comics since he was about 5 years old. He drew his first comic strip for a school newspaper in college. He likes comics because they are a great way to express yourself. They are an artform with a lot of potential.

He reads lots and lots of books and really enjoys the Bone series by Jeff Smith. Stephen said he believes that creativity is like a muscle in your head. When you practice you get better over time. If you want to get better at drawing , you need to draw and practice every single day. The tools for drawing don’t really matter. Pencils, crayons, pens – use whatever you want and draw, draw, draw.

His favorite book is the new one coming out on December 6th!

We will be sure to buy a few copies for the library! After about 30 minutes, our time was up! It was a great first Author Skype experience! Thank you Stephen for visiting the Bulldog Readers! If you are looking for Stephen’s books, here they are.  We have both available for check out in the library. You can also link to his Mal and Chad website here.



What do you think our story was about?

Have you ever skyped with anyone? Do you like it?

What is your favorite graphic novel or comic series?













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Catherine Follestad Visits

Last week our kindergarten, first and second graders were treated to a special visit from children’s author Catherine Follestad. Catherine lives in Arizona, but was in the Seattle area for a visit. Mrs. Banchero knows Catherine and arranged for her to visit our school!


Catherine talked to us about her books. The Itty Bitty Kitty is a story about a kitty that yearns to make friends with other cats who think she is too small. Author and illustrator Catherine Follestad uses her talents to show how Itty Bitty learns a valuable lesson about friendship in her quest to make friends.

I Think I Would Like to Be  invites young boys and girls to imagine what they could be. Would you like to be a pirate on the deep blue sea or a race car driver at the Grand Prix? This story is an that will have you flying planes, hitting home runs, and even training lions! This is a book for every child who’s ever thought…I Think That I Would Like To Be…

We enjoyed listening to Catherine read her books to us and many purchased autographed copies! Our library also has both books now, for anyone who would like to check them out. She shared that she has more books in process and her book trailer for The Itty Bitty Kitty will soon air on some children’s television channels. You can learn more about Catherine and her books on her website: http://cfollestad.tateauthor.com/



How have you made new friends?

What would you like to be in the future?


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Mourning Ivan the Gorilla

Photo courtesy of Zoo Atlanta

 Ivan, the 50 year old Western Lowland Gorilla died today at Zoo Atlanta. And so, today, I am sad. His story touched me deeply.

If you have not read Katherine Applegate’s novel The One and Only Ivan inspired by the real Ivan, I urge you to borrow a copy at your library or buy one at your local bookstore and read it. His story will make you laugh and make you cry. Mostly it will make you feel.  This link will take you to the official book trailer.

I would like to thank Katherine Applegate for telling Ivan’s story. I would also like to thank Mr. John Schu and Ms. Kouri for sharing their photos this summer of their visit with the real Ivan at Zoo Atlanta. Their photos will now be the closest way I can fullfill my dream of meeting Ivan. You can view Mr. Schu’s photostream here.

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