Category Archives: Books

Zen Pencils – the Book

Gavin Aung Than, the super-talented artist behind Zen Pencils, published a collection of some of his comics last November. Needing a bit of inspiration this week, I read it again from cover to cover. When I finished, I felt like I was almost as powerful as Rising Phoenix, one of his recurring characters.

Rising Phoenix from Zen Pencils "Marie Curie" cartoon by Gavin Than
Rising Phoenix from Zen Pencils “Marie Curie” cartoon by Gavin Than

Gavin takes famous quotes and creates amazing cartoons around them.  Some of the 36 cartoons included in the book are based on selected words from: Theodore Roosevelt, Marianne Williamson, Marie Curie, and Vincent Van Gogh.  Gavin’s artistic interpretation of each passage is incredibly insightful and extremely creative.

Zen Pencils Book

Of course, one of my favorite gems in the book is Gavin’s cartoon based on Taylor Mali’s poem, “What Teachers Make.” (Not one to show to your students, though!)

To see one of Gavin’s recent masterpieces, take a look at “All the World’s a Stage,” a beautiful adaptation of the Shakespearean quote from As You Like It.  This is the closest I’ve ever come to crying over a cartoon – or Shakespeare.

Though I wouldn’t recommend this book for younger children (a tiny bit of questionable language and gestures and a large portion of higher level vocabulary), you can see in this “Reader of the Month” feature that Gavin’s readers are as young as 10 years old.  You can see Zen Pencils inspired artwork by the two girls here.

The book includes a wonderful pull-out poster featuring many of Gavin’s cartoon characters and the motto, “Imagination Unlocks the Universe.”

Zen Pencils would make a wonderful graduation gift for a high school or college student or for any teenager or adult who appreciates a healthy dose of creativity and inspiration.  I will be adding this to my “Books for Gifted Students – Or Any Child Who Loves to Learn” Pinterest Board as a recommendation for older students.  If you have an interest in Zen Pencils, but you aren’t sure you want to commit to a book of 36 cartoons, take a look at the Zen Pencils store, where I guarantee you will find a poster that is perfect for any setting.

Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome

My students and I are huge fans of Kid President.  They love his videos and beg to watch them repeatedly.  I’m okay with that.  Kid President is a great role model, and his giggle makes it absolutely impossible to be grumpy.

You can buy Kid President's book here.
You can buy Kid President’s book here.

KP (Robby Novak) recently published a book with his videographer/brother-in-law, Brad Montague, Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome.  My students insisted that this was a necessary classroom resource, so I ordered it.  It arrived just in time for a field trip for my 3rd-5th graders that involved an hour-long bus ride.  The book was happily passed around during the entire trip.

The book is colorful and full of pictures. It includes monologues from some of KP’s videos and interviews he has done with celebrities.  Many awesome people, including a large number of youths, are featured in the book.  The book is not dry and preachy, though.  Every page is motivational and includes typical KP humor.  Kid President’s advice to make the world more awesome ranges from, “Give the world a reason to dance,” (#62) to “Put tape on your nose,” (#63).  Other great words of wisdom are #70, “Gather your friends, dress up like superheroes, and do someone’s yard work,” and #82, “Give out handmade awards.”

Of course my favorite Kid President advice is #87:

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Kid President goes on to say, “We are convinced that if you want to change a community, it starts in a classroom.”

To stay organized, there is a handy checklist in the back of the book to help you keep track of your awesomeness.  Also included is a “A New Pep Talk.” Kid President recently uploaded a video inviting fans to make their own videos of the “New Pep Talk,” and send them in for possible inclusion on an upcoming special.  (Submissions are due April 23, 2015.)

I would recommend this book for any classroom.  Kids and adults of all ages seem to love Kid President.  I also think it would be a great book to consider as a graduation gift.  Parents might purchase one for home and discuss with their children which section to read each night.

I’m definitely adding this book to my “Books for Gifted Students – Or any Child Who Loves to Learn” Pinterest Board.  You might also want to check out my “Inspirational Videos for Students” board, which includes many Kid President videos as well as other great resources.

Worlds of Making

Our school makerspace, B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters), is slowly establishing itself.  To aid in its development I’ve devoured every piece of advice that I can find: blogs, professional development sessions, Twitter chats, and books. At the beginning of this journey I read Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager.  From that book, I learned the power of T.M.I. (Think, Make, Improve), and all of my students and Maker Club members are well-versed in those three steps.

Another well-known pioneer in Maker Education is Laura Fleming (@NMHS_lms), a Library Media Specialist in New Jersey, who has documented the transformation of her library makerspace on her blog.  Laura recently published a book, Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establing a Makerspace for Your School.  The book gives practical advice on getting started on this adventure (or improving it if you have already begun).

Maker Space Essentials - Worlds of Making

Every school is different, and that means, of course, that makerspaces will vary as well.  It might not be the best idea to put your makerspace in the library.  Maybe an empty room or nook would be better.  Or perhaps you would prefer to have “pop-up” makerspaces or mobile carts.  No matter the layout of your space, Worlds of Making will give you many ideas.

Here are a few things that I learned from Laura’s book that I hope to put into practice: include “fixed” and “flexible” stations in your space, invite experts to your space (such as Ron Grosinger, who ran a bicycle repair workshop for her students), and make sure there are plenty of opportunities for students to showcase their work.  (I have been working on this last one, and her book gave me some new ideas.)

My favorite quote from the book?

Maker Movement

If you are interested in joining the Maker Movement, then I highly recommend that you read Worlds of Making.  Just like the creativity and collaboration for which it advocates, it should be an essential element of any library.

For more Makerspace Essentials, check out my series and other resources here.

Iggy Peck, Architect

I think I just found a new favorite children’s book.

iggy-peck-architect-cover

I was already a big fan of Andrea Beaty’s book, Rosie Revere, Engineer. Because well, girl engineer.  Need I say more?  Okay: growth mindset, adorable story, fabulous illustrations (by David Roberts).

Because Amazon is so wonderful about making recommendations based on previous purchases, I knew Iggy Peck existed and kept planning to check it out.  I don’t know why I waited so long.

My 2nd graders are studying Structures, and are about to transition from natural ones to man-made.  So, I thought Iggy Peck might make a good introduction.

Unlike the What Do You Do with an Idea? fiasco of 2014, I carefully read the book a dozen times to myself before finally unveiling it to the students.

As I predicted, they loved it.

And I love it even more every time I read it.  The rhyming story of a young boy who loves to build anything anywhere and anytime is fun. The students were enthralled with the incredibly detailed pictures.  (One sharp-eyed student noticed Rosie Revere on one of the pages!)

But the most important part of Iggy Peck is the message about pursuing your passion and what happens when teachers stifle that passion.

Fortunately, the teacher in the story evolves.  Otherwise, it would be kind of a bummer of a book ;)

I’m not sure if Iggy Peck makes more of an impact on adults or kids, but I can tell you that it is enjoyable for all ages.

Here are some Iggy Peck resources you may want to view:

Foster a Love for Reading with ConnectED Bingo

Dr. Brad Gustafson is one of the Engaging Educators that I have had the good fortune to connect with through Twitter and blogging.  This man is a social networking powerhouse who regularly dreams up unique ways to empower students and prepare them as global citizens comfortable with using 21st century tools to create and problem-solve.

image from Adjusting Course Blog by Dr. Brad Gustafson
image from Adjusting Course Blog by Dr. Brad Gustafson

His latest project was posted on his blog yesterday – just in time for February, which is “I Love to Read Month.”  Always the master networker, Brad asked a few of the members of his PLN to contribute activities to this “ConnectED Bingo” card, and the suggestions range anywhere from reaching out to authors on Twitter (suggested by @pernilleripp) to writing a poem based on the Daily Wonder at Wonderopolis (suggested by @JoEllenMcCarthy). If you look carefully, you might see a couple of other familiar names on the card;)

Head on over to Brad’s blog to download your own copy of ConnectED Bingo.  While you’re there, you might also want to check out his World Book Talk project, which ambitiously invites contributors to make 60 minute videos that Brad uploads to Aurasma so anyone can view the videos when they point the app at the book cover.

What Do You Do With an Idea?

The easy answer to the question is to cook it.

But I should probably back up a bit.

All of the elementary GT teachers in our district received a book before the holidays called, What Do You Do With an Idea?  It’s a beautifully illustrated book that figuratively represents a boy’s idea as he conceives it, nearly abandons it, and then nurtures it until it “spreads its wings.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For some reason, I thought this would be a good book to share with my 1st grade GT students.  That was my brilliant idea – and I didn’t ponder it long enough to realize that it was a bad one.

“Have you ever had an idea that you wanted to share, but were afraid other people would make fun of you?” I asked as an introduction to the book.

“Yes!” a 1st grader emphatically confirmed.

“Oh, what was your idea?”

“I wanted to go to my friend’s house,” she said.

So that led to a discussion about what I meant by the word, “idea.”

We finally got to the book.  And, as I started reading it I quickly became uncomfortably aware that I hadn’t looked at the story with 1st grader eyes the first few times I read it.

“Why do you think the illustrator used an egg as the boy’s idea?” I asked.

“I know!  Because he was hungry.”

“It’s not really an egg.  It’s a chicken.  It has feet,” another student pointed out.

Things further deteriorated when I got to the part about the boy “feeding” his idea.  I had apparently chosen the precise time of day to share this story when the distance between breakfast and lunch seemed far too wide to my “starving students.”  Between food and the ambiguity of a walking egg, the conversation wandered quite far from what I had imagined when I put this book in my lesson plans 3 weeks ago.

At home that afternoon, I thought about what had happened to my idea – the great one that I had of sharing this book with my 1st graders, engaging them in a deep, philosophical discussion (as described here), and then asking them to generate a piece of artwork with their own ideas (like these awesome examples).

I forgot to boil my egg.  That was the problem.  I just plucked a raw egg out of the carton and spun it like a top on the table – and it went wildly out of control.

What do you do with an idea?

Boil it in water for 10 minutes.

If it cracks, then you’ll know that it certainly wouldn’t have survived the heat of a room full of 1st graders.

365 Days of Wonder

I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes.  Like many people, I have a Pinterest Board of Favorite Quotations.  But I particularly revel in printed collections of quotations.  In July I shared a book of hand-lettered quotes that I purchased called, Whatever You Are Be a Good One.  I love the art of each page, and I am still debating whether or not to pull out some of them to frame.

365 Days of Wonder is in no danger of being torn apart.  Most of the pages are printed in simple fonts that belie the wisdom of the sentences.  However, it is a book that I treasure because of a few other aspects that make it unique.

wonder

The book might be called a “spin-off.”  The quotes were collected by R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder.  Its foreword and subsequent introductions before each month of inspirational sayings are “written” by one of the admirable characters in Wonder, Mr. Browne. In Wonder, Mr. Browne’s precepts play an important role in guiding the characters.  365 Days of Wonder offers more advice that he has collected during his fictional career – including precepts submitted by children. All of the contributors are acknowledged in the back of the book.

An original precept submitted by Shreya, age 10, in 365 Days of Wonder
An original precept submitted by Shreya, age 10, in 365 Days of Wonder

I could be partial to this book because of Mr. Browne.  I am currently re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and he reminds me somewhat of the noble Atticus Finch.   It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that the words I’m reading come from an author and not the seasoned educator portrayed in the book. For example, these words herald the beginning of the February group of quotations: “The truth of the matter is this: there’s so much nobility lurking inside your souls.  Our job as parents, and educators, and teachers, is to nurture it, to bring it out, and to let it shine.”

R.J. Palacio is responsible for quite a few original precepts of her own.