Postcard from Planet Esme|
by Esmé Codell
Planet Esmé (www.planetesme.com)
Get those #2 pencils sharpened, folks, It's the bleary, weary time of year again! Never mind that you're classroom's so crowded that the fire marshall can't fit inside to give you a ticket, or that half your class only speaks Portuguese; we must all face the day of reckoning. Yes, it's time for standardized testing, in which your abilities are assessed on whether or not the children have eaten a good breakfast and listened to enough Mozart. Does it all seem questionable? If you're not sure of the answer, it's wisest to choose "C," C for children's literature, that is! These hilarious and hard-hitting picture books will go far to raise spirits (and possibly test scores) by putting the whole riot in perspective, so please share these with your favorite administrator, the kids in the classroom and friends in the teacher's lounge.
The school community in Testing Miss Malarkey by Judy Finchler, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley really knows how to prepare for an exam. With the The Instructional Performance Through Understanding (IPTU) test looming on the horizon, parents give their children pop quizzes during bedtime stories, "brain food" is served at lunch, and stress-reducing yoga is the new curriculum in gym class. The stakes for the test are high, but luckily, the children are keeping it real even when poor Miss Malarkey's fingernails are bitten down to the nubs. High-stakes testing can in fact be very damaging to children's self esteem and the stress can affect performance and health. This savvy and subversive book will go far to relieve a lot of tension in both the staff room and the classroom.
Another fine, fine children's book for this time of year is A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech, illustrated by Harry Bliss. A well-meaning principal is so enamored with the climate at his school that he decides to hold school on Saturdays. And then Sundays. And then holidays. Meanwhile, Tillie's little brother was not learning how to skip, and Tillie's dog was not learning how to sit, and Tillie herself was not learning how to climb the tree in her backyard. So when the principal considers holding school all summer, it's time to set the record straight. Clever illustrations (children brushing their teeth at the lockers, a boy carrying a volume titled This Book Is Way Too Hard for You, and children passing each other boxes of tissue to cry into as the principal makes his announcements) bring home the point that maybe it is possible too much of a good thing, and that there is all kinds of learning, some of which doesn't take place even in a fine, fine school.
Finally, go easy on yourself and laugh while you consider What Teachers Can't Do by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Doug Cushman. A small dinosaur observes that his poor reptilian pedagogue doesn't seem to know the answer to 2+2, can't buy her own apples and can't be tardy. But in the end, teachers can't wait to come to school every day, to teach the children that they love. So celebrate all that you can do, and do do; the positive affects of all your authentic assessments, daily read-aloud and encouraging words are beyond measurement, and fill in the empty circles in children's lives cleanly and completely every day!
Starting next month, Postcard from PlanetEsme will feature an outstanding brand new read-aloud suggestion, so please check back. Until then,
Happy reading always!
Esme Raji Codell, Site Director
PlanetEsme.com: A Wonderful World of Children's Literature!
Also of interest:
Books Make You Hoppy!
Spring has sprung, and you can add more bounce to your reading ounce by incorporating these new bunny nooks into your storytime:
Bunnies on the Go: Getting from Place to Place by Rick Walton, illustrated by Paige Miglio (great for transportation units)
A Bunny for All Seasons by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Meilo So (I know it's early, but I vote Caldecott contender here! Integrate into learning about the calendar)
Sleeping Bunny retold by Emily Snowell Keller, illustrated by Pamela Silin Palmer (furry fairy tale!)
More Spring Stories can be found at http://www.planetesme.com/seasons.html#spring
Sisters Doing It For Themselves!
Celebrate Women's History Month with a few heroines:
Far Beyond the Garden Gate: Alexandra David Neel's Journey to Lhasa by Don Brown
(first Western woman ever to enter the forbidden capital of Tibet!)
Beatrix by Jeanette Winter
(small jewel of a picture book celebrating the life of Beatrix Potter, author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit…ties in very nicely with "hoppy stories!")
Maria's Comet by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Deborah Lanino
(inspired by the life of Maria Mitchell, America's first female astronomer, now in paperback)
When Marion Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick
(dazzling presentation of the life of Singer Marion Anderson)
Holding the Reins: A Ride Through Cowgirl Life by Marc Talbert, photos by Barbara VanCleave
(photoessays for intermediate readers and listeners give a hats-off to modern girls working in the wide open range.)
More books that celebrate females in fact and fiction may be found at http://www.planetesme.com/girlpower.html
Planetesme.com is a non-sectarian site dedicated to getting great children's literature into the hands of great children. We accept no advertising; links are provided as a service to our guests at the discretion of the site director.
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