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Book Talk – November

Each month, I will feature several books (especially nonfiction) to help you celebrate the special days.

November picks up where October left off with the Day of the Dead or El Día de los Muertos celebrated from Halloween to November 2, the feast of All Souls.  This Mexican holiday focuses on remembering those family and friends who have died.  Traditions include fiestas, papier-mâché skeletons or calaveras, and colorful altars decorated with candles, marigolds, butterflies, sugar skulls, fruit and pan de muerto or bread of dead.  These offerings are put in homes to welcome the souls of the dead relatives.

Inspired by a real Mexican family of artists, Calavera Abecedario – A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book, is a colorful look at skeletons that come to life for the fiesta; one skeleton for each letter of the alphabet from ángel to zapatero.  The alphabet glossary and author’s note by Jeanette Winter offer additional information on this celebration.

Illustrator Jeanette Winter teamed up with Tony Johnston for another book on this Mexican tradition.  In Day of the Dead, readers take a ringside seat during the preparation for and observance of Mexico’s three-day celebration of the dead.

“When you love someone they never really leave.”  Barbara Joosse and Giselle Potter present a heart-warming picture book story, Ghost Wings.  You’ll never look at a butterfly again without thinking about this book.  It’s one of my favorites for any time of the year.

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Arlington – The Story of Our Nation’s Cemetery

On a hill overlooking downtown Washington, DC stands Arlington National Cemetery, the last resting place of more than 300,000 Americans who have served their country.  Author/Illustrator Chris Demarest shares that “every marker is a story unto itself.”  Arlington – The Story of Our Nation’s Cemetery is a must read for children to understand the importance of Veterans Day, November 11.

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Lucky turkey pardoned by the President and enjoying the good life at Mount Vernon

Preschoolers will enjoy learning about all the preparations at colonial Plimoth and at a nearby Wampanoag village as ten little Pilgrims and ten little Wampanoag get ready for a wonderful harvest feast in One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims. one little pilgrim

Arizona author BG Hennessy and illustrator Lynne Cravath create an accurate depiction of Pilgrim and Wampanoag life in 1621 in Massachusetts in this picture book.  Check out the backmatter author and illustrator notes to learn about their research for this book.  And yes, the Pilgrims and Native Americans did eat turkey during their three day feast that we know as “the First Thanksgiving.”

Do you start your Thanksgiving celebration by watching the Macy’s Parade on television?  Then, enrich your experience with Caldecott honoree Melissa Sweet’s book, Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade.  balloons over broadway

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1931 – Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade

This book earned top awards for nonfiction – the 2012 Sibert Medal and the NCTE Orbis Pictus award.  Sweet’s brilliant combination of collage, illustration and text give this book an amazing richness.  Comparing her illustrations to actual photographs of the parade show her attention to accuracy, an important characteristic of nonfiction.

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Grab a piece of pumpkin pie and a good book and enjoy your holiday!

November Literacy Links & Events

Each month, I’ll update “what’s happening” for  literacy advocates.  You’ll discover upcoming  author events, book sales, reading council meetings and even how to swap your books for free!

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Let’s start with those free books.  Check out PaperBackSwap.com for the easiest way to swap the books you don’t need or read any more (cookbooks, craft books, even Cliff notes, anything with an ISBN!)  You list the books and when someone requests one, you print the mailing label (and postage if you want) and mail it media rate.  You’ll receive a credit when it’s received and you can then go swapping.  You receive credit just for signing up and if you use my name as a referral, I even earn a credit.pbs_logo-V2

Another great place to get bargain books is the Friends of the Phoenix Public Library warehouse book sale.  Check their website, www.plfriends.org, for dates of sales.  Regular prices are $1 for paperbacks and $2 for hard-bound books and they’re organized just like in a library!  Easy to find and easy to buy.  Become a “friend” and you even get a discount.  You can also purchase books online at their Books for Good site that benefits local charitable nonprofit groups.

November is a busy month for book lovers.  

It’s National Picture Book Month. 

Check out www.picturebookmonth.com for ideas on how to celebrate and to read essays by famous children’s authors and illustrators on why picture books are important.

Mark your calendar for these special literacy events.

Newbery medalist Cynthia Kadohata will be signing at the new Changing Hands Book Store, 300 W. Camelback Rd., on Saturday, November 1 at 2pm.ckadohata pic

thing about luckYou may know her for Kira-Kira, Weedflower and The Thing About Luck, recipient of the 2013 National Book Award.  Her latest book released in September is Half a World Away.

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Mark your calendar for the Teachers Open House and Annual Sale (40% discount to teachers!) at Gardner’s Book Service on Saturday, November 8 from 9am-2pm.  Free gifts, food, door prizes and more so get your list and head to Gardner’s to shop.  Don’t forget to sign up for their free professional development workshops.  I presented the Power of the Picture Book in October and upcoming workshops include the Grand Canyon Reader Award.  Librarians Kerrlita Westrick and Shirley Berow will book talk the nominees for the GCRA on Saturday, November 22, 10 – noon.  Please register for this free workshop by calling 602.863.6000.

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There is no meeting for the Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council in November but mark your calendar for Thursday, December 11, 4-6pm at the Paradise Valley Unified School District office, 15002 N. 32 Street, Phoenix.  Free to GPVRC members, $5 for guests.

Best of the Best – Footprints from the States   Join us for a walk around the states as we share books and good eats representing each of our home states. Bring a book and a food dish representing your home state. “Name That State,” state “literary mystery” activities and a state-themed white elephant sale will be featured to help fund community service projects. Come join us for some “state of the state” food and holiday fun!logo read

R is for Rosary

R_is_for_Rosary_CVR_500 300dpiR is for Rosary – a Catholic Family Alphabet is truly a collaborative effort involving my spiritual companion Sr. Patt, my critique group, art designer Lorien, business partner Debra LaPlante, and the Holy Spirit.  Yes, I believe that!  I remember how I felt after writing the text on the R page.  I reread it and wondered where those words came from.  Surely the Holy Spirit guided me.  When it came to deciding how to illustrate the book, the Spirit was present again.   I had just finished writing about St. Kateri Tekakwitha and was shutting the computer down when my photo library opened up.  I clicked on a thumbnail (I have over 20,000 images in my library) and it was the photo of the icon of St. Kateri that I took at the San Carlos Mission on the Apache reservation.  It was then that I had the idea to illustrate the book with images of sacred art.   And to think that this book would still be packed away in a crate under the table in my office if it wasn’t for the 4th graders at Ss. Simon and Jude.  I was visiting the school with my book D is for Desert and they asked if I was working on any new books.  When I told them about R is for Rosary, they gasped as if I was writing this book for each one of them.  And in a way, I did.  I went home that day and started on it.  I unpacked my research, wrote (and rewrote) the manuscript, and photographed sacred art wherever I could find it including Ireland.  Upon completion, I dedicated the book to the students at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral School in Phoenix for inspiring me to finish it.

R_is_for_Rosary_A_HiResEach letter in the alphabet represents a facet of the Catholic faith.  A rhyme, text and sacred art illustration along with a prayer written by a child complete the page.  As Father Herb at Our Lady of Joy Catholic Church said, R is for Rosary is a treasure for parents and children alike.  The format is clear and concise.  Every child learns the ABCs but these ABCs are special.  This book teaches the gifts of our Catholic Faith to the young and will refresh the understanding of adults.”R_is_for_Rosary_P_HiRes

Following the alphabet letters is a section called Family Faith Formation with stories about our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and ideas on how families can grow their faith.  The book is interactive with places for photos, a family written prayer and even a child’s drawing of heaven.

R_is_for_Rosary_Family_Faith_HiResFr. Peter Kirwin, O.F.M., the rector at the Church of Our Lady of the Angels at the Franciscan Renewal Center shared this, “Barbara Gowan has brought together a stunning array of beautiful illustrations and meaningful descriptions of essential elements of our Roman Catholic faith in a unique manner to inspire all who read it.  Students bring to each letter of the alphabet a prayer to help the reader focus spiritually on its meaning.  To enjoy this book is to be filled with joy celebrating the gift of a relationship shared with our loving God and with each other.”

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Icon of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

 

I am available for school visits and family literacy nights focusing on the creation of this book.  Students at Ss. Simon & Jude brainstormed ideas for each letter and then learned about the writing process and the sacred art chosen for each topic.

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Stained glass window of St. Dominic Savio

R is for Rosary is the first selection in the Catholic Kids Book Club.  Members join for three months at a time and receive a carefully selected book for their child based on the liturgical calendar.  The theme of the CKBC is “faith formation through story.”  To read reviews of the book selections and to sign up for the CKBC, go to the website www.CatholicKidsBookClub.com.  And don’t forget to like Catholic Kids Book Club on Facebook!

CKBC is my latest adventure in literacy.  Together with friend and librarian Debra LaPlante, we’ve started a new type of book club.  We believe that the family is a child’s first teacher of faith.   A natural way to start a child on the journey of faith formation is through story.  We’ve selected outstanding picture books as the monthly selections for CKBC.  Many will follow the Church calendar in theme.  Parent information and ideas for family activities are sent with each book.  The first book is R is for Rosary.   We hope you will join the Catholic Kids Book Club today and experience the joy of faith formation through story!

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IMG_1765Help spread the word about R is for Rosary and the Catholic Kids Book Club.  Please share it with your church community.  Contact me for a press release for your diocesan newspaper.

Grand Canyon Reader Award nominee

Imagine my delight when I received an email from Shirley Berow and Kerrlita Westrick, co-chairs of the Grand Canyon Reader Award committee, announcing that  D is for Desert – a World Deserts Alphabet is a 2015 nominee in the Nonfiction category.  Wahoo! D is for desert cover The Grand Canyon Reader Award is sponsored by the Arizona Library Association and is the state’s kids’ choice award.  Nominated and voted on by Arizona’s children, the award is a special honor for an author.   Ten books are in this year’s Nonfiction list.  Kids must read or have read to them at least five of the nominees to have the opportunity to vote for their favorite.  Competition for me is stiff this year as it is every year!   Votes are due by April 1, 2015 so get started reading now.   For the list of books in all categories – nonfiction, picture book, intermediate, tween and teen, check out the GCRA website. http://www.grandcanyonreaderaward.org

nf15ballotThe website also has curriculum ideas, teacher’s guides, bookmarks and voting stickers.  Consider inviting me into your class or to visit your school to share my presentation on D is for Desert.   Check out the details on my SCHOOL AUTHOR VISIT PRESENTATIONS page.

 

Photos from the visit to Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral School in Phoenix, AZ

J is for Jaguar – a Rainforest Alphabet

Imagine a three week adventure in the rainforest.  That’s how 22 future fourth graders at Cotton Boll Elementary School in Peoria spent their summer vacation.  And they even wrote a book about it!   I was invited to take  students on a journey through the nonfiction writing process to create a class alphabet book.  Everyone first learned about the biome they live in when I shared my book, D is for Desert – a World Desert alphabet and then it was off to the rainforest via a slide presentation of my photographs of the Amazon.  It was a trip that didn’t require a passport or inoculations!  Kids met in the library decorated as a colorful rainforest by library tech Margaret Crabtree.  I visited four mornings and in that time we brainstormed and selected an animal for each letter of the alphabet, researched, wrote (and rewrote) and completed illustrations.  Teachers continued the writing process (including peer editing) and also shared activities from rainforest read-alouds to tie-dying tshirts to puzzles and more on the other days.  The books will be published by Vesuvius Press and distributed to the kids during a family literacy celebration in September.

Research – collecting awesome information

Writing using colored strips                                                                                         to help construct an organized paragraph

Illustrating ABCs – Accurate, Bold and Creative using oil pastels and background techniques like painting with bubble wrap

Thanks to Title 1 coordinator Kevin Adams and teachers Margarita Garcia, Linda Lavender, Amy Wallander and Sharon Stutzman.rainforest kids

To learn how to bring this writing workshop to your school, check out the Build a Book Writing Workshop page.  Other author opportunties are outlined in the School Author Visit Presentations and Family Literacy Night pages on this website.

Lake Titicaca Literacy Project

“Barbara, some nights I can’t sleep because I have this dream – the dream to bring literacy to the people of the islands.”  “Victor,” I replied, “I know people in Arizona that will help you.” And so the Lake Titicaca Literacy Project was born.

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Situated in the snow-capped Andes at over 12,500 feet and bordering Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and site of the famous Uros floating islands. These islands composed of thick mat-like layers of tortora reed, a cattail-like rush, are home to members of the Uros tribe or “people of the lake.” The tortora is the source for their food, shelter, transportation, and livelihood. About fifty islands float in the shallows with only a few families inhabiting the smaller ones. Children row their boats to the school on the largest island. Victor Pauca, my guide, distributed books to a young mother on Toranipata Island as he checked on her progress of reading to her son. Victor realizes the importance of literacy and how it can offer opportunities to the island people.uros floating islands-39

Our journey continued as we traveled for three hours under the intense sun to Taquile Island, a fixed island, fifteen miles away. Here I would visit a school to share the pencils, notebooks and picture books that I brought from home. The terraced hillsides of the island were visible from a distance. Corn, potatoes, fava beans and quinoa are the main crops for this self-sufficient community of about 1200 people.

Silvano and several schoolchildren met us at the dock. Silvano wore the traditional dress of a married man – black pants and a white flannel shirt, a wide, colorful, woven belt called a chumpis and a chullo, a knit cap ending in a red tassle. Boys wear chullos with white tassles. Women and girls dress in multi-layered skirts, colorful blouses and dark shawls for protection from the sun. As we slowly hiked the steep stone path to the missionary school, I was handed an aromatic herb to smell to help alleviate the shortness of breath caused by the thin air of the altiplano.

The young professora and her students greeted us with wide grins and laughter and enthusiastically showed me their one-room school.

The people of Taquile Island are recognized for creating the finest textiles in Peru. Girls and boys are proficient knitters by the age of seven but can they read? School supplies are minimal and books are hard to find on the remote island. Yet, Victor is determined to help the indigenous people of Lake Titicaca. It is his dream to build community libraries, offer parent education programs and encourage families to acquire the habit of reading. He believes that literacy will lead to people with leadership skills, a necessity for the future of these communities.

Since that boat ride on the lake, Victor has seen his dream become a reality.  The Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council (part of the Arizona Reading Association) adopted the Lake Titicaca Literacy Project as their international community service.  We held raffles and book fairs to raise money.  School kids had used book sales.  It only takes $2000 to build and furnish an island library.  Victor’s plans are for libraries in seven communities.  I completed the Developing Countries grant from the International Reading Association that resulted in a $1500 donation.  Visitors to Peru have joined Allways Travel and Victor in donating their time and money to help community members build their libraries…brick by brick and book by book.  In 2014, this grass roots project that began on a boat ride eight years ago was nominated by USBBY, the United States Board on Books for Young People, for the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People)-Asahi Reading Promotion Award.  Although we did not win the $10,000 prize, more people have become aware of the Lake Titicaca Literacy Project.

If you would like to help Victor in his dream to bring literacy to the people of the lake, contact him at All Ways Travel (his daughter started the travel agency to promote socially responsible tourism.)

http://www.titicacaperu.com

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National Book Festival 2013

What could be better than a weekend at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC?  Huge tents covered the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian Castle and thousands of bibliophiles (including my grandsons!) gathered to listen to their favorite authors.  The Library of Congress sponsors this wonderful event.festival sponsors I parked myself in the front row in the children’s tent and enjoyed inspiring words from award-winning authors about where they get their ideas for their stories. Katherine Applegate wrote The One and Only Ivan in 1st person gorilla!  She read an article in the NY Times over 20 years ago about a gorilla in a Tacoma, WA shopping mall.  That story is the basis for this Newbery Award winning book.  And Katherine recently paired with illustrator G. Brian Karas  so watch for the picture book, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla in October 2014.  In the Caldecott winning book Locomotive, author/illustrator Brian Floca tells the story of a steam locomotive similar to the one in a park in his hometown. Lesa Cline-Ransome and her husband, James, write picture book biographies giving them the opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations of famous people.  They gave the advice to write about what you know and love and that’s evident in their book Light in the Darkness.  Where do they look for ideas?  the obituary pages! Richard Peck’s The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail grew out of a trip to London.  He saw a mouse darting around an old castle.  Why not tell a story from the point of view of the mouse?  And so he did.  Even Queen Victoria is in the book.

Christopher Myers, the son of award-winning author Walter Dean Myers, speaks at youth prisons.  Questions from prisoners about “power” led him to the idea of the power of the pen, a new release coming from Hyperion books.  Growing up with five brothers and being a really funny guy has benefitted Jon Scieszka (his name rhymes with fresca) with ideas for books like Smash! Crash! and Battle Bunny.  How about a book with a chapter written in “hamster?”  Just download the free hamster language app and you’re all set to enjoy Spaceheadz. Creative people like Suzy Lee can turn a day chasing waves at Galveston Beach into a book called Wave.  Her design was used on the Festival posters and promotions.  Katherine Paterson was at a women’s conference when she heard about letters written by Vermont farm girls.  Anyone know which book that became? “It seems like I always have a pencil in my hand, ” remarked illustrator Mark Teague.  His pencil is not for writing words but for sketching illustrations.  Teaming up with award-winning author Jane Yolen, How do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad? is just the latest book in that series for preschoolers.  Did you know that each book features different dinosaurs?

In addition to the author and illustrator presentations and panel discussions, there are huge tents filled with books and book sellers.  In the Let’s Read America tent, each state is represented by “their books” and kids travel from table to table getting their reading passport stamped. And of course, there are free books, posters and more plus fun photo opportunities with our favorite storybook characters.

You don’t have to travel to our Nation’s Capital to enjoy a book festival.  The Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona campus is a great event.  Spend the weekend soaking up all the wit and wisdom from your favorite authors.  Mark your calendar for the 7th annual TFOB March 14 and 15, 2015.

Advice from a saguaro cactus

Stand tall.  Reach for the sky.  Be patient through the dry spells.  Stay sharp.  Conserve your resources.  Think long term.  Wait for your time to bloom.

www.YourTrueNature.com