Sunday, August 29, 2010

Each new school year brings new experiences!

I realize my title is a duh! Of course, a new year brings new experiences. This is just to introduce my new and wonderful experience. This is my sixth year in elementary/middle school. Prior to five years ago my total educational experience was with high school students. Each of my preceding five years at this small Catholic school, I would have one, maybe two really serious readers, that is, middle schoolers who would read



The sixth grade girls had a class visit on Friday. After our road trip with Dewey, they began looking around for books to check out. I heard one girl say, "I've read Pride and Prejudice. Have you read Sense and Sensibility?" The answer: "No, but I've seen the movie. Is the book here?"

So, what have I discovered? It's time to add more classics to our collection. One had checked out a collection of short stories by a Victorian writer. I told her the vocabulary was fairly difficult . Her indignant response: "Mrs. Polhemus, this is the Claire! You know I can read this!"

See that blur? That was I, speeding to discover from my books and internet, proper choices for this band of girls. Let's see: Eight Cousins Eight cousins, or, The aunt-hill / by Louisa M. Alcottand Rose in BloomRose in Bloom (A Sequel to Eight Cousins) (mobi) by Louisa Alcott, all of Austen, better copies of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I might as well get them a hard copy of Silas Marner (Signet Classics)Silas Marner (Signet Classics). They keep asking for romance. Yes, there's a lovely, little romance  woven into this novel of Victorian sensibilities and woe. Let's see--what else?

Sidenote: It was "the Claire" who introduced me to Caroline Cooney's [The Face on the Milk Carton]{Cooney, Caroline B.][Paperboundmassmarket][The Face on the Milk Carton]{Cooney, Caroline B.][Paperboundmassmarket] and the following books in the series.

What about Seventeenth SummerSeventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly as romance book (a modern classic)?

More to come--

Classic Literature Reading List for Middle School Students

By: LuAnn Schindler
Many middle school students enjoy the connection with a young adult novel, but classic literature never goes out of style. Several humanities organizations have established a classic literature reading list that emphasizes the importance of reading timeless books.
This list introduces new characters and alien worlds to the middle school set. Several of these books are commonly taught in middle school English classes, so adding them to a summer reading list can give your child an advantage when they come up during the school year.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  • A Stranger Came Ashore by Mollie Hunter
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
  • Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Amos Fortune, Free Man
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
  • Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
  • Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
  • Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dragonwings by Laurence Yep
  • Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl
  • The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Ghost Belonged To Me by Richard Peck
  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Horatio Hornblower Series by C.S. Lewis
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  • Incident at Hawk's Hill by Allan W. Eckert
  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
  • Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O'Dell
  • Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
  • Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  • The Last Mission by Harry Mazer
  • The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  • Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Irving Washington
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • M.C. Higgins the Great by Virginia Hamilton
  • The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
  • My Brother Sam Is Dead by James and Christopher Collier
  • My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • National Velvet by Enid Bagnold
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  • The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
  • Poems by Robert Frost
  • The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
  • Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • Shane by Jack Schaefer
  • Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  • To Be a Slave by Julius Lester
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
  • War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  • Where the Lilies Bloom by Vera Cleaver
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • The White Mountains by John Christopher
  • The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Childrens Philosophy

Childrens Philosophy

If you (as teacher or librarian) are seeking a little something different, try this link for some thoughts on philosophy as found in children's literature.


God bless A.A. Milne, for I am sure he is in a special place in heaven where children's writers are given a proper acknowledgment. Milne created those wondrous characters: Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh (Pooh Bear), Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Roo, and all the others--those lovely, lovely characters. In stuffed, plush form, they come alive for children to enact stories from the book, to invent their own stories, to work out their own problems. (A child's fantasy life is rich and full, dark and deep, magical and scary.) Plush animals are simply vehicles to get to those places in the psyche.

 Winnie The Pooh Bean Plush Set (3 pcs) - Pooh Eeyore & TiggerWinnie The Pooh Bean Plush Set (3 pcs) - Pooh Eeyore & Tigger
As for Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore, they will always remain in that Hall of the Greats, specially loved. I recently gave this trio to my two great-nieces with birthdays just four days apart (plus three years), one three, one six. Their mother absolutely loved the Pooh when she was the same age, so I am sure the tradition will continue.

As described in Amazon's product information, each stuffed animal is 12-13 inches, soft and plush, with no dangerous external parts that can come off. The only way that these animals can be destroyed is to love them to pieces (much like the Velveteen Rabbit,
Bunglie Bunny Plush Toy (Colors May Vary)another perennial favorite) Bunglie Bunny Plush Toy (Colors May Vary)--this is the closest I could find to the rabbit in the Amazon storehouse.) Case in point: The three year old insisted that I tie her helium balloon with colorful ribbon streamers to her Pooh. So I tied them to an arm. "No, neck," she indignantly told me. "Neck?" I quizzed. "He will choke with ribbons tied around his neck." "Neck," she insisted. So, neck it was. Then up and down, up and down, she tossed poor ol' Pooh. He'll survive. He always does.

Technically, this is not the exact trio I bought for my nieces, but it is close. Actually, Kohl's department store is continuing its campaign of offering special books for $5 accompanied by special plush toys, each for $5. Money goes toward a children's health and education fund. This campaign features three new and beautiful stories about Pooh and friends created by the Disney team (I also could not find any of these at Amazon. Maybe soon.)  For more information about the plush toys, books, and Kohl's contribution:

Not only did I buy a set of animals and books for my nieces, but also for my school library. This week I have girls (the boys and girls alternate weeks between Art and Library for smaller classes in each subject). I read "Winnie the Pooh: Nature's True Colors" while the girls held the three plush animals. Every couple of minutes I would have the girls pass the animals to another so that by the end each girl had held all three.

Disney Winnie the Pooh - Roo Plush Doll - 10 inchIn this particular book Pooh and Roo went "a rambling" (for a non-directed walk in nature, but more directed to experiencing whatever they encountered: sky colors, wind rustling, brown toads, and so on).

At the conclusion I told them we were going "a rambling" (actually, next door to our Catholic school is the cathedral and a lovely prayer garden with benches in quiet nooks. So, despite the 100 degree heat, we went "a rambling." Perhaps it might have gone better if one of the girls wasn't all id (Freud) and concerned that she be the first to hold Pooh, the first to have a bench and oh, so and so MUST sit with her, and "Oh, I saw that bench first! I'm sitting there." Somewhere our rambling lost its focus.

Yes, thank you, most of the other girls enjoyed this quiet, simple endeavor: smelled the flowers, admired the bees buzzing around the water flowing over the rocks in the water fountain. In fact, they (we) were fascinated by all the bees landing on the thin layer of water flowing over the watermelon-sized rocks surrounding the base of the actual fountain. One group quietly found the only bench in the shade and quietly sat and listened to the wind blowing through the leaves and tall, decorative grasses. I was delighted that they made the connection with the story of the ssshhhhhhh sound of the rustling.

I look forward to trying this experiment with the fourth and fifth grade girls Friday afternoon and will report then its success or lack thereof.

At any rate: Live long, Pooh!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When sixth grade boys don't want to read, what will get their attention?

Every librarian's dream occurred in my last class on the last day of the first week of school. It was such a zinger, I must share it!

Night of the Howling Dogs

The sixth grade boys came in, we did our continent review, added some new information to what they knew. I collected their maps for further work next time. Then I read to them the first few pages of "Night of the Howling Dogs," one of the contenders for 2010's Louisiana Young Readers' Choice, sponsored by the State Library of Louisiana. This is a rip-roaring adventure story of the first order (along with themes of relationships, bullying, courage, and finding oneself).  I had read one page when one of the new boys raised his hand: "Can I check out that book?" Oh, yes, you can, I thought. "Sure, of course," I actually said.

Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything NastyBut what I'm getting to is what happened with another new student. Nearly all the boys in this sixth grade class are readers, but this one new student told me he didn't like to read. Usually, I can find nonfiction that will appeal to their interests. I showed him the Believe It or Not section. Soon, he came with book in hand. It was "Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty." Oh ho, my fine young friend. So that's your taste, I thought to myself. "Let me show you another book you might like," I actually said aloud.
Dino Poop & Other Remarkable Remains Of The PastDino Poop & Other Remarkable Remains Of The Past
He was actually embarrassed at first. I assured him the book was legitimate scientific study, as I had read it myself. After checking it out, he took that book to one of the reading nooks with pillows. The laughing and downright giggling that came from that corner warmed the cockles of my heart. Those boys had discovered that books can be fun, that they are worthy of reading and sharing.

I also discovered that it is most helpful to read as many of the books on the shelves as possible. This summer I read a number of new books. Two came in handy in classes this week. In the class of fifth grade boys we were talking about Africa. One of the boys asked if giraffes came only from Africa. Wow, I thought, I read that this summer in Animal Lives: Giraffes (Animal Lives (Teacher Created Resources))Animal Lives: Giraffes (Animal Lives (Teacher Created Resources)), one volume in a multi-volume series. In fact, the spots on giraffes differ from region to region. And, yes, they are found only in Africa.

When we discussed Antarctica, I could tell them that it never rains there. Someone asked why the Arctic Circle wasn't a continent. Another answered because there is no land mass there. A fine book to consult--and I'll put these books out next week-- isAntarctica (True Books)Antarctica (True Books)

Oh what a delight for a librarian! What a fine end to a tiring first week!

Addendum: I've discovered a new series to add to this list--the Conspiracy 365 set of 12 books, each corresponding with a month (making 365 days). I can speak only for book one: "January," which is a thrill ride from page one to the last page! Surely, the "reluctant" reader will find these irresistible!
January: January (Conspiracy 365) 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My first day of school

On my first day of school I was "absent"--that is, Ms Judy was not there. Instead, I sent Ms Zelda, the gypsy storyteller from Romania to take my place. (I am a librarian in a PK3-8th grade Catholic school.)

So what does a gypsy wear? Anything that looks the part according to my imagination, faulty or not. Initially, I intended going as Mother Goose. I went to my favorite fabric store to look at costume patterns. Would you believe there are NO Mother Goose costumes!! I did find bonnets from prairie days that I thought would suffice, but that meant a pinafore and in this weather (fringes of H....) a pinafore plus a long skirt plus a slip--oh my! My fabric store friend, also mother of one of my students, then suggested a gypsy costume! Yes! I have clothes that could be accessorized to look gypsy. So back home I went!

It was so much fun finding all the parts to my costume: long skirt with little reflective pieces of medal and tiny little bells attached to each piece, making the tiniest jingle sound as I walked--no, no, not that loud--tinier, yet tinier, barely audible, but enough to exude magic. Then I added a long-sleeve matching blouse--oh, did I say the skirt is yellow-orange? The blouse also but a clashing non-match. Too hot for long sleeves anyway!

Aha! Found it--the perfect top--a little lace and nylon number in beige. Perfect! The lacy cap sleeves made it acceptable (we cannot wear sleeveless blouses in my school, unless, of course, we wear a jacket of some sort over it).  I tied a long sparkly brown and white gauzy scarf around my waist/hips to let the fringe dangle. Then jewelry: about seven necklaces of matching browns, oranges, gold, green, and finally, long gold hoop earrings.

Reaction of the four-year-olds, most of whom I had as three-year-olds. "You're not Ms Zuba. You're Ms Judy!" "No, no, darlings. I not Ms Judy. I'm Ms Zelda from Romania."
They finally let me pretend to be Ms Zelda, all the while letting me know they were on to me.

I fared no better with second-grade boys (Boys and girls alternate every other week with Art and Library to keep classes smaller for those two subjects). "You're Ms Judy, not Ms Zelda." "Aw, come on boys, use your imaginations." So they did (but they wanted Ms Judy. I guess I should be flattered.)

One boy kept looking all around. "What are you looking for, Thomas?" I asked him. He replied: "We haven't been here all summer and I just want to take it all in." What a lovely response!

Same story with third grade boys. They simply did not want me to be Ms Zelda on their first time back in the library after a summer's vacation. I'll do this again later when they maybe need a change in routine, but for now, I am touched that they wanted the real Ms Judy.

One final note: One middle school teacher told me the middle school girls LOVED my outfit (I never wear dresses), so on Friday when my middle school classes come to the library, I will wear another gypsy-look outfit. For now, though, I will remain Ms Judy.

I plan to book-talk some of our new books, read an excerpt from Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech, and, oh, of course, show a book on Romania!

Sunday, August 15, 2010


"A terrific book matters to us as human beings....If it has affected us profoundly, one way or another--to laughter or tears, horror or delight, disgust or dismay, fascination or fright." So writes Mem Fox in her incomparable "Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever."

But it's not the book alone that changes the lives of our children. It is the act of sharing and sharing completely, totally, and doing it with gusto and fun, with laughter and tears, horror and delight--well, she said that before.

But listen to this: "If every adult caring for a child read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation" (12). Now the scary part: "[T]he crucial connections that determine how clever, creative, and imaginative a child will be are already laid down by the time that child turns one" (14). Reading aloud to a child and engaging in conversation about the story does so many things: teaches words, values, ideas, concentration, problem solving, self-expression, thought.

Fox tells us that children need to hear a thousand stories read aloud before they learn to read for themselves. That's three stories a day for one year, not counting the three years or more prior to school. Ideally those three stories should be one favorite book, one familiar book, and one new book. She avidly advocates reading the same favorite book over and over to teach the rhythm and structure of language. Read it until the child reads it.

The most important reason we should read regularly to our children is to meet the most important reason of all: children need to know above all that they are loved by their parents. Reading as little as 15 minutes a day will create this bond of talking and sharing that creates this language bond.

My favorite story Fox tells is this one concerning her own child Chloe (Note: the Foxes are Australian). During a picnic before her mum had unpacked the picnic basket, Chloe asked about the "afters" (dessert). Mum replied they had to eat first. "Well, one must sustain oneself," she said in a six-year-old huff.

I laughed and laughed at that. Reading together creates a private family bond, the Foxes from Winnie the Pooh, source of the sustaining line. Chloe's father, on occasion, had eaten all the chocolate and responded with "Well, one must sustain oneself" line. Chloe picked it up, knowing its meaning and its source.

Fox includes so much important information, including how to read aloud: Body position, using our eyes and facial expressions, making that eye contact, using vocal variety, and general animation. Reading aloud is an art form!

She gives three secrets concerning the magic of reading: print, language, and general knowledge and how to make the three come together. What does she think of phonics? Her chapter title says it all: "Phokissing on Fonix." Her special chapter on Boys and Reading explains the utter necessity of a father reading to his children.

Bottom line: This is a fantastic manual in learning how to read aloud, what to read aloud, why to read aloud, but above all--to read aloud, interact, share, discuss, enjoy!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Why do we call them Pet Peeves when pets are our adored friends? At any rate, two dictionaries define "pet peeve" as: "A particular or recurring source of irritation"--or "Something about which one frequently complains; a particular personal vexation."

A personal recurring source of irritation, a particular personal vexation. Here are some of mine as I think of them.

1. However, Number 1 as Number 1 for me refers to those who think the highway is their personal byway and so choose to drive in the left lane-- the lane meant for passing, not cruising, not owning, not blocking, not clogging, but passing--and in its subtlety or blatancy-- for speeding. This website provides a chart listing the law for each state concerning the right and left-lane driving:

Although posted by an individual, he provides links to official websites. Here is the bottom-line policy regarding left lane driving:

"The Uniform Vehicle Code states:
Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic ...
Note that this law refers to the "normal" speed of traffic, not the "legal" speed of traffic. The 60 MPH driver in a 55 MPH zone where everybody else is going 65 MPH must move right."

It is so annoying and vexing and irritating to get behind that someone who "owns" the left lane and blocks those who want to pass. Often, I pass on the far right while the road hog clogs traffic. And say a few unpretty words.

2.The use of blogs for personal grievances
Originally, I stated a person's name and why this person is one of my pet peeves. After just a couple of days I realized I was doing the hateful thing she does--using my blog as a personal attack. I deleted my comments, then stated the obvious.

3. The use of poor grammar when the user knows better.

The use of "ain't"--The common response: "Ain't" is in the dictionary! My response is: "Guess what? So are fruition, tintinnabulation, onomatopoeia, feckless, prodigious, and so on. I don't hear you using those words."

My point is that we go to school to get an education. Not to use it is not only a waste of money but ignorance of the worst kind. Those who grew up in illiteracy and truly do not know proper grammar, thus speak with words like "ain't" and "he don't know no better" are not a source of annoyance. Those who know better and refuse to use their brains are one of my pet peeves.

4. People who think teachers choose that occupation because they cannot do anything else. My only suggestion: Ask to sit in your child's classroom for an entire day. Just one day. Or substitute for a teacher just one day. You'll change your mind.

A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.