Hugo Gets Award

Some of you may remember how much I loved the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. In particular, I thought its use of mixed media made it an unusual book that told a very powerful and intriguing story. The audio book is also pretty amazing and it comes with a DVD interview in which Selznick talks about writing the book, which I show to my sixth graders.

Well, Hugo netted the esteemed Caldecott Medal for 2008.

What? Never heard of Hugo? Maybe this award will serve notice on this great book. (See the Hugo Cabret website too.)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Peace (in picture books that are not quite picture books),

Kevin

Just One More Book: My Review

Thanks to a tip and inspiration from Susan, I submitted a podcast review of a Chris Van Allsburg picture book to a site called Just One More Book that you just have to add into your RSS feeds if you enjoy the world of picture books.

Justonebook

Susan had done a review of a book called The Goats in the Rug and her efforts showed me the way to the site, and I figured that I should share this book, too.

The picture book that I chose is called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and it is a great resource for writing prompts with my sixth graders. You will have to listen to my podcast review to understand why I like it so much as a source for reading and writing.

Peace (in pictures and podcasts),
Kevin

PS — Oh, here is my podcast review from Just One More Book.

Book – the word

Charles Hodgson, over the Podictionary, has uncovered and made visible the origins of the word “book” in a recent podcast and it is fascinating (as his information almost always is).

For example:

When the word book first appears in the written record the dates are pretty early in Old English. This means that book itself was a book. What I mean by that is that although you think of a book as something with pages bound between covers, the earliest Old English meaning of book was anything at all written down, so the act of writing down the word book itself created a book.

Go to Podictionary and listen for yourself. Or listen here.

Peace (with words),
Kevin

Books for teens (multimodal?)

The latest edition of English Journal features a column by Traci Gardner on books for teenagers that seek to blend the multimedia world with traditional fiction. I have seen some of my sixth graders reading a few of these books but I have not done so myself (yet). I wonder if this will be more of a trend — shifting narratives into the wired world and using some of the facets of the wired world into traditional narratives.

Here are some of the books profiled by Gradner in the article:

  • Click Here (to find out how I survived seventh grade) by Denise Vega — involves a secret web site that suddenly becomes public (oops).
  • Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe — is a narrative built on email messages, chat room transcripts and handwritten notes.
  • ChasR: A Novel in Emails by Michael Rosen — showcases one side of an email conversation and ASCII artwork (smiley faces, etc) and forces the reader to interpret the other side of the conversations
  • TTFN by Lauren Mryacle (is that her real name?) — is told mostly through IM and follows a group of girls in their social circles.
  • The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriquez by Judy Goldschmidt — is written entirely through blog entries that were designed to be private but suddenly become public and well, you can probably guess the aftermath.

Gardner writes:

The texts communicate the emotions of the characters in authentic detail, as the characters themselves compose blog entries, email messages and IMs. Many of the multigenre and epistolary texts provide an interactive opportunity that invites readers to discover the story, like participants in a video game.

One of the books on her list — Cathy’s Book — is one that I have read (based on a recommendation from Bud Hunt, I believe) and it was quite interesting and mostly drew me into its web of hints and plot devices. There are web addressed hidden in the book and a complete web presence that one could follow, plus a few phone numbers to call that give you more hints to the plot.

But I wonder — so many of these books are geared towards girls, it seems to me, and where are the books for boys? (Ok, I need to write one, right?)

Peace (in many forms),
Kevin

A Trip to the Moon

A few days ago, I posted a recommendation to buy and read The Invention of Hugo Cabret with any young people you know (or heck, just yourself). Then, through some blogging threads (thanks Bud! via A Not So Different Place), I found the actual 1902 movie referenced in the book called A Trip to the Moon by Georges Melies.

Gosh, the internet is a fantastic resource. Now I can show my sixth graders (and my children) the movie after reading the book (actually, I just ordered the Audio CD because it comes with a DVD documentary showing the author writing the book — cool!)

Here it is:

[googlevideo]-2872403246769762863&q=a+trip+to+the+moon&hl=en[/googlevideo]

Peace (with old movies),
Kevin

Understanding Comics

I just completed a very intriguing book called Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. In this fascinating graphic novel, McCloud (who, it turns out, lives near me or at least used to, according to the mailing address at the back of the book) ruminates on the way that we should view the development of comics as an important chapter in the development of art, and how little attention is given to it.

McCloud really engages the reader on many levels through his use of comics to tell his story. One area of interest for me, anyway, was his understanding that media would become more interactive (this book was first published in the early 1990s) and he wondered whether comics would integrate this turn of events (I don’t think it has yet).

This is what he writes (in comic form but I am using it as prose here):

For now, these questions (of whether stories need to be linear) are the territory of games and strange little experiments. But viewer participation is on the verge of becoming an enormous issue in other media. How comics addresses this issue — or fails to — could play a crucial part in defining the role of comics in the New Century. Time will tell.” — from Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

That remark holds true for so many areas of publishing and writing and reading these days that I thought it was worth sharing.

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

A Must-Read Book: Hugo Cabret

I just finished up a book that I have to share with anyone who is interested in the merging worlds of novels, graphic novels, photographs and tangled (but resolved) plot lines. The book is called The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.

I won’t give the story away, but it involves a young boy in Paris with a passion for clocks and mechanical objects, an automaton that can do something wonderful, a passion for the power of movies in our lives, and how fragile but powerful the connections are between people.

Here is a blurb from the introduction, just to set the stage:

“…before you turn the page, I want you to picture yourself sitting in darkness, like the beginning of a movie. On screen, the sun will soon rise, and you will find yourself zooming towards a train station in the middle of the city. You will rush through the doors into a crowded lobby. You will eventually spot a boy amid the crowd, and he will start to move through the train station. Follow him because this is Hugo Cabret. His head is full of secrets, and he’s waiting for his story to begin.”

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I heard about the book from somewhere in my Bloglines aggregator and ordered it from Amazon (here is the link to order), thinking it would be a slim graphic novel. So I was quite surprised to find one of the fattest books I’ve seen in some time (500-plus pages) but is a combination of various genres and I read the entire thing in two days.

Now I wish I could order a class set for my students, but we don’t have the budget for that. Sigh. And, man, I just checked out the author’s flash site — very cool.
Peace (with gears fitting together like the reels of a film),
Kevin

Poets in the Age of the Samurai

I am reading aloud a new book to my older boys. It is the newest edition of the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. They are getting a bit old for the series but they still enjoy hearing them and I am going to hold on to that experience as long as I can. Anyway, in this particular book, the main characters — Jack and Annie — are back in the time of Ancient Japan, and they have met an older man who is respected by everyone he meets and they think he is a great warrior. What they find out is that he is a great poet and that writers were respected by warriors at a level not quite seen these days.

“Yes, the samurai greatly honor the art of poetry,” said Basho. “Poetry helps focus the mind. The samurai believe a truly brave warrior should be able to compose a poem even in the midst of an earthquake, or while facing an enemy on the battlefield.” — (p.61)

Thanksgiving on Thursday

Peace (without the battlefield),
Kevin

35 Tech Tips from TechnoSpud

I got home from school yesterday and found a new book waiting for me — it’s called 35 Tech Tips for Teachers and it is written by an old friend (we met through GlobalSchoolNet last year) Jennifer Wagner of Technospud. Jennnifer does some wonderful collaboration projects for teachers across the disciplines and is always sharing what she has learned with a larger audience (like me).

The booklet, which is published by Lulu, is a nice guide to using technology for learning in the classroom, ranging from introducing spreadsheet to using Powerpoint to creating vector letters in Paint Shop to beginning HTML coding. The lessons are simple to understand and are all connected to the National Educational Technology Standards for Students. She also offers to email out additional templates for some of the lessons.

Somewhere, I think I read that the proceeds from the book will help offset some of the costs of running her collaborative projects.

Peace (with teaching tips),
Kevin

P.B. Kerr writes back (I think)

I had just finished reading aloud the third book in the Children of the Lamp series by PB Kerr (about two twin djinn children coming of age in a magical world of luck and mischief) called The Cobra King of Kathmandu when my two sons and I saw the web address for PB Kerr and a note that said you could write him an email. My sons and I looked at each other and decided to give it a try.

book cover of   The Cobra King of Kathmandu    (Children of the Lamp, book 3)  by  P B Kerr
This is what I wrote (I have edited out my kids’ names here):

Hello Mr. Kerr

My young sons and I just finished reading the third Children of the Lamp book and we loved it!

Ch. (age 6) liked “the name of the book — it sounded cool”. Co. (age 9) “liked the whole book because it was exciting and mysterious.”

We are wondering if you are now writing the fourth book and what it will be about and what is will be called.

Ch. wanted to ask you if John and Phillipa’s mother will come back to them.

We also wonder if Dybukk will get a new friend.

And will John and Phillipa’s father get younger?

Do you think you will ever make a movie out of the books in the series? We were happy to hear that you might be writing at least six in the series.

If you have time, they would love to hear back from you. Meanwhile, we shall look through your website and Weblog.

Sincerely,

Kevin H. and sons

This morning, we got the reply:

Dear Kevin,
Thanks for your email. And your very flattering comments about my books. I’m glad you liked them. I figure I must be getting something right, at last. Anyway, I have a lot of fun writing them, and it’s always gratifying to learn that a lot of people have had as much fun reading them. I’m sorry for not replying sooner, but I’ve been on holiday. And since my return I’ve had an epic amount of emails to answer. There will be at least 6 books, I hope, all of them featuring John and Philippa. Book 3 is out in the US now, and it’s called The Cobra King of Kathmandu. Book Four won’t be out until September in which all of your questions will be answered. There will be six books in total. Since you were kind enough to write, then I’m going to send you some signed bookplates. But you’ll need to send me your address. And your full name.
QWERTYUIOP!
warmest regards
PBKerr
p.s. never forget, books are cool.

My sons were very excited (particularly about the idea of free gifts). Was it actually P.B. Kerr who wrote the email? (The middle section seems to formalized) If so, then he has connected with a small cadre of dedicated readers. And, I was happy to have had any response at all. You can’t beat his postscript.

And now we are in the midst of reading The Tale of the Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, about a mouse, a rat, the Princess Pea, a bowl of soup, a castle with a dark dungeon and the metaphor of light and darkness. We are totally engrossed in the story.

Peace (with read aloud stories),
Kevin

PS — Kerr also has a blog: http://www.pbkerr.com/weblog/ that I submitted a comment to but hasn’t yet appeared.