10 Great Picture Books on Quietness — Waking Brain Cells

There is something powerful about quiet and silence. It’s another important thing for children to learn, that silence is not frightening but offers space to think and dream. May you find time today for your own quiet time. Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna […]

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Patricia Newman speaking on Nonfiction Panel at SCBWI San Diego meeting this Saturday, along with Cindy Jenson-Elliott (Weeds Find a Way) and Wendy Perkins (Animal Bottoms)!

Nerdy Book Club

Sac Bee, T Aug. 4, 2009 A11 (1)I didn’t plan to write a call to action. I planned to write a science book for kids about plastic accumulating in the North Pacific. But the project surprised me partway through, and took me in a new direction.

The idea for Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch began with an article in my local newspaper about graduate students who organized a research trip called the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastics Expedition (SEAPLEX). They wanted to study the growing plastic problem in the North Pacific Central Gyre—a massive area of open ocean surrounded by circling currents. SEAPLEX was one of the first expeditions to gather data from the gyre, and its story showed how science could be fun and relevant. The nonfiction author in me wanted to know more.

I found a raft of information. Mystery. Adventure. Tragedy. All the makings of a great read. But during the…

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Creating Westlandia in the Garden

I read Weslandia, the amazing picture book by Paul Fleishman, about a boy who does not quite fit in to his neighborhood, who creates his own civilization in his back yard. Then half my students set out to create SunflowerLandia, by transplanting sunflowers that had come up randomly throughout the garden and creating more sunflower rooms and houses for children to play in. Students wrote about what their SunflowerLandia would need to have in it, and what they would create out of their “staple crop,” as Wesley did in Weslandia.

When all the sunflowers had been transplanted, another group of children created a miniature Weslandia in our pollinator garden by making fairy houses.

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Briar Rose, by Jane Yolen

Briar Rose, by Jane Yolen, is an excellent mentor text for the study of fairy tales and the uses of enchantment, as well as for a study of the Holocaust. The brilliant Jane Yolen re-envisions the tale of Sleeping Beauty as one woman’s attempt to transform her horrific experience in Nazi-controlled Poland into something mythical, and her grand-daughter’s attempt to find the truth of her grandmother’s past. It is a good example of parallel storytelling — one chapter mythical, one chapter set in the present — until all part of the mystery are revealed and the stories converge.

Jack and the Beanstalk — Magic Fava Beans and Peas

Nature Explorer

Our ripening Peas and Fava Beans in the school garden were an opportunity to re-read Jack and the Beanstalk. This particular wonderful version has a great place where the man trying to get Jack’s cow says something like, “I have these magic beans I will trade you for your cow. But be careful with them. I lost the instructions for them, and I can’t remember what they do.”

The children wrote instructions for their magic beans. They wrote about what magic powers their own fava beans or peas have in our school garden!

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