Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hello Malaysia!

The majority of my audience is in the United States.   Malaysian readers currently have the number two slot!   Let's celebrate by talking about Mohammad Nor Khalid.   You can call him Lat.

First published at the ripe old age of 13, Lat is a cartoonist who has chronicled parts of his own life.   The two books that I have been able to get my eyes on are Kampung Boy and Town Boy.   Pen and ink.   Experience and humor.  

Lat's artwork buzzes and flows.   His compositions serve to match the movement or stillness in each scene.   Hang on while you are riding on Mat's handlebars.   Sit in awkward silence as you see Mat's buddies with their faces pressed against the cafe's window as he and Normah have a date.

Town Boy

They are both lovely works of art, but I'm partial to Town Boy.   If you turn to the jukebox scene that starts on page 53, you'll understand why.   

Many of Lat's characters are drawn in a similar style, but he romanticizes Normah and depicts her in a way that speaks to the nature of memory and first love and to the poetic license that empowers a storyteller.

Lat's magic.   You can't help feeling good when you read Town Boy.   Thanks, Malaysia!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Good Stuff Cheap

I'm talkin' 'bout Ollie.   If you have an Ollie's in your neck of the woods, count yourself lucky.   Their website sometimes shouts at you, but be brave see if you are within driving distance of a store.

I just accidentally spent two hours there.   What was first an Apple & Eve juice run, turned into a book buying extravaganza, and the soundtrack didn't help me exit.   Every last song that came over the speakers was a good time.   I finally had to head to the check-out during "Tutti-Frutti," but it's no reflection on the great Little Richard.

Most of Ollie's book collection is hit or miss, but the children's zone is always chock full of awesomeness.   Most days, I don't let myself browse, but I did today.   One of my favorite finds was an illustrated book containing Bob Dylan's lyrics to the song he wrote for his son Jacob, "Forever Young."   There was only one copy left.   Sorry about that!
.Forever Young

Momma Loves Her Little Son
John Carter Cash penned a tribute to his mom called Anchored In Love.  
He now has a children's book called Momma Loves Her Little Son.  
The illustrations are sweet and warm.

Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits with Art Print
Jazz was there too.  
Paul Rogers sure knows how to turn music into visual art.

Dracula: A Classic Pop-Up Tale (Graphic Pops)
Pop right on up in here, Count D!

Dracula (Graphic Classics (Barron's Paperback))
Dracula appears in a graphic novel format.  
If you hold this book in front of a mirror,
 illustrated vampires will appear...backwards!

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Remarkable Revealed
Believe it!

The Crow (A Not-So-Scary Story)
There was also a sweet Poe riff,

Tupelo Rides the Rails   [TUPELO RIDES THE RAILS] [Hardcover]
and a dog who loves to travel,

A Million Dots
and a way to visualize what a million looks like,

Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country)
and a man in a funny hat.

I like to keep a mess of illustrated "children's" books in my classroom.   A voracious reader myself, I like a break from the black and white of most books written for people my age.   Art tickles a part of my brain that nothing else can reach.   And you will quickly find that some books that look like they are for kindergartners are not meant for them at all.  

Shortish, illustrated books are a relaxing way to build prior knowledge or cultural literacy.   They can also take a complex topic, break off a tiny bite-size piece and present it in an engaging, meaningful way.  

No one's afraid of books that look like they were plucked from a child's toy one.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On the top is where you are!

I have to confess that while I love Schoolhouse Rock, the song "Busy Prepositions" irks my nerves.   Don't believe me?   Try it for yourself.

Here's a mini-lesson from Hofstra University's Professor Calitri.   (I found it in the fall 2011 issue of neatoday.)   Draw a figure on the white/chalkboard.   Allow students to throw wadded up balls of masking tape at the figure.   Next, students should describe where the projectiles landed.   On the figure? Beneath the figure? Beside the figure?  

Sounds fun, doesn't it?

This mini-lesson can lead to sentence revisions too.   Sentences loaded with prepositions create a brain tangle for readers.   This can be made obvious by diagramming said sentences on the board.   In addition to "empty words" and unnecessary adverbs, hunting down masses of prepositions can be part of the revision process.   This should be helpful for writers who continually use awkward phrasing and run on sentences.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Are students in your class restless?   I have a few tips for you.  

If children like to tap on the desk, place an upside down mouse pad on their workspace.   This will absorb the sound and allow them to continue.   Another alternative is suggesting that they tap on the top of their thigh.  

If you are able, keep an empty space at the back of your classroom for children who need to simply stretch their legs.   Additionally, having a bookcase or cart in this location allows students to stand up and work for a bit.   I know this sounds like a recipe for disaster, but I've never had a child misuse this option.

If you like to stretch, leading kids in a simple yoga move that I refer to as the "Harold and the Purple Crayon" is beneficial.   You clasp your hands together with your pointer fingers pointing and aim them at the ceiling.   Imagine that you are holding a purple crayon.   Draw circles on the ceiling while keeping your arms next to the sides of your head and swivel at the hips.   Namaste.

If you have a stress ball collection secreted in your desk, share these valuable tools with the fidgeters.

If you have a doodler, allow the art to continue as long as it's not a task-avoidance behavior.

According to neatoday's fall 2011 issue, a teacher and an ergonomic furniture company have collaborated on an adjustable-height desk.   Another teacher used old car tires to make do-it-yourself footrests.   And get this: one North Carolina elementary school has gathered used exercise bikes.   Now students get to "Read and Ride" for 15-minute intervals.  

You're creative!   What will you come up with next?

P.S. Today I learned a new trick from our chorus students.   We tried this in between some standardized testing.   It's a countdown coordination exercise.  

Shake your right hand while counting down 5-4-3-2-1.  
Repeat with your left hand, right foot and left foot.  
Then you count down from 4 and repeat the process.  
Then 3.  
Then 2.