“Bear and Chook by the sea” trailer

Bear and Chook Book Trailer by Marcus from SLJ Trailee Nominees on Vimeo.

This wonderful book trailer is currently nominated in a competition being run by the School Library Journal in the USA. Marcus Graham, son of a teacher librarian colleague I’ve only ever met online (via the NSW DET book raps) is ten years old and recently won the CBCA Book Trailer competition. He is now in the top four for student-created trailers for elementary (primary) students. His trailer is based on “Bear and Chook by the sea” by Lisa Shanahan & Emma Quay.

The winner is chosen by a an online voting facility. The link for viewing the nominees’ trailers and voting is here and is open until 21 October, 2010. Thanks for the tip Stacey and Marcus. And good luck in the Trailee Awards!

Cool Creative Commons!

I’m really getting the hang of converting students’ collaborative Keynote presentations into video podcasts – and I’m *really* loving adding “Creative Commons” music as soundtracks!

I started to investigate “Creative Commons” sites last year, and found a few pieces of music that would have worked (the Stage 2 students wanted copyright free music that you could cha cha or belly dance to, and we did find one example of each!) but it all seemed too tricky last year, so our PowerPoints stayed mute. However, the ccmixter.org website is well laid out and it is quite simple to search for “Creative Commons” music by theme, musician or style. (I’ve found “scary”, “happy” and “circus” style pieces via the search engine – but beware of possible unsavoury lyrics. Stick with instrumentals only, unless you’ve previewed all the songs you will “listen to” with students). The site tells you the exact wording to place in the credits of the video podcast, movie or whatever media. After you’ve uploaded the podcast, you can relay the URL to ccmixter.org and they’ll add the online link to their searchable database.

So, just in time for Book Week, you might like to use my students’ “Mr Chicken” book trailer, and/or our “Across the Story Bridge” video podcast, and/or a revamped (from two Flickr slideshows) “Bear & Chook Adventures”. Click HERE!

Penrith PS podcasts

According to feedback, these video podcasts may require installing the latest version of Quicktime or, at least, clicking that you agree to MIME being associated with Quicktime on your computer. I’ve had the video podcasts working on Mac and PC, and they look really great on an interactive whiteboard (IWB). One teacher colleague had an earlier version of Quicktime on her IWB to enable her to run Kid Pix, and the podcasts did refuse to run on her machine.

Meanwhile, Happy Book Week!

Bonjour, Monsieur Poulet!

Mr Chicken closeup on the Eiffel Tower

whiteMr Chicken on the Eiffel TowerwhiteMr Chicken's ascent

Leigh Hobbs’ infamous Monsieur Poulet, of “Mr Chicken goes to Paris”, climbs the Eiffel Tower and then (below, in my version of the story) seemingly meets an appreciative, time-travelling artist. (I’m actually working on a book trailer for this CBCA Awards nominated picture book. I hope. I have to produce something exciting for Tristan Bancks‘ final class on Monday night.)

Mr Chicken meets Leonardo

Monsieur Poulet was crafted from yellow, black and white FIMO Soft oven-hardening modelling material. Background artwork is from “Mr Chicken goes to Paris” by Leigh Hobbs (Allen & Unwin, 2009).

Mr Chicken and the Mona Lisa

I bought my copy of “Mr Chicken goes to Paris” the day it came out. It was one of those books you just couldn’t leave behind in the shop. Earlier this year, when the CBCA shortlist came out, I grabbed a copy for school. At first, I thought I’d have to forfeit mine. Mai non!

By the way, the French chair (below) is an actual miniature prop from the 2001 Australian movie, “Moulin Rouge!”

Mr Chicken in Paris

white"Mr Chicken goes to Paris" cover

I must explain, too: I was reading “Mr Chicken goes to Paris” today to a group of K-2 students, one of who just *could not* cope with me calling the main character “Mr Chicken” – especially since we read “Kip” (about a rooster) and “Bear & Chook by the sea” yesterday. Every page, the poor kid kept putting his hands over his ears and yelling, “There. Are. No. Chickens. In. That. Book!”

His young colleagues were telling me, “We all have to just ignore him.” We kept reading, of course, but I had to avoid saying those magic words, “Mr Chicken”, hence the main character was “Monsieur Poulet” throughout!

UPDATE: Okay, I think I’ve just managed to upload my book trailer as a VIDEO PODCAST! Music: “Parks On Fire (California Burning Mix)” by DJ Rkod (feat. Trifonic). http://ccmixter.org/files/DJ_Rkod/14745 is licensed under a Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/nc-sampling+/1.0/.

Bear and Chook by the sea: nominated!

Congratulations to author Lisa Shanahan and illustrator Emma Quay!

Last week the news broke that their picture book, “Bear and Chook by the sea”, has been shortlisted in the annual CBCA awards, in the Early Childhood category. The winners of this prestigious competition are announced in Book Week (in Term 3).

The students at my school remember the book’s creators and characters so well from last year’s Bear and Chook books rap and wish them all the best. Meanwhile, I understand that Bear and Chook themselves have been taking separate vacations:

Bear at Sea World, on the Gold Coast


Easter Show
Chook at the Royal Easter Show, Sydney.

Counting for Canberra

Our Stage 3 students are studying Australian government, to be topped off by a culminating activity: an excursion and camp to Canberra.

The educational activities on the Australian Electoral Commission website are proving useful. We’ve been using our votes predicting the CBCA Book Week award winners to practise

Counting the votes for the House of Representatives


Counting the votes for the Senate.

These video clips have been quite engaging!

The students have also enjoyed using the Practise voting demonstration on the library’s IWB.

Making your vote count

Book Week is fast approaching!

Over on the OZTL_Net listserv, a teacher-librarian asked for ideas for getting students more involved with the annual Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) awards. While there are other, student-voted, literary awards out there (eg. KOALA – Kids’ Own Australian Literature Awards), the CBCA “books of the year” are selected by adult judges, so sometimes the students can feel left out of the judging procedure.

It’s not difficult to lead discussion with students as to what are valuable criteria for judging children’s literature. Some categories are easier for students to judge, because they are within the intended audience of certain books. With guidance, Year 6 students can still make incisive observations about what makes a good picture book for younger students. You can also deconstruct the actual rules used by the CBCA judges.

This is the third year I’ve organised CBCA voting with students this way:

* K-2 (Early Stage 1; Stage 1) are judging Picture Books and Early Childhood Books

* Years 3-4 (Stage 2) are judging Picture Books and Information Books

* Years 5-6 (Stage 3) are judging Picture Books and Novels for Younger Readers.

I supply two empty bar graph grids per student, with the titles written at the base of each column. As we read and appreciate the books, in any order, they give points out of ten and colour their graphs. When all six bars of the graph are filled in, the highest columns are declared the winners and the students record their predictions. They find it very tricky if they’ve voted “ten out of ten” for two or more titles in a category. When Book Week arrives we fill in the actual winners beside their own choices.

At my previous schools, we’ve usually done a show-of-hands voting on a class column graph, but individual voting seems to enthuse the students even more. There’s usually a lot of clapping and cheering when I announce the winners at the school assembly in Book Week.

I recall really impressing one principal, in my first year as a teacher-librarian. She said, “I’ve never heard these children cheer for a book before…!” – and a few days later there was lots more money in my library budget.

You must be joking!

A selection of work by cartoonist, children’s book illustrator
and director, Greg Holfeld, whose graphic novel, “Captain Congo”
has been nominated for the Children’s Book Council Awards this

I was thrilled to meet the talented and friendly Greg Holfeld this weekend, at Supanova Convention, at Olympic Park, Sydney, Australia. I was able to tell him how popular “Captain Congo and the crocodile king” is proving to be with the students at my school, and he autographed some copies of his previous picture book, “You must be joking!” (It was only later that I realised that the boy hero’s pet in that book is a super-powered Jack Russell terrier – not unlike mine!!)

We enjoyed a laugh together about the bizarre prevalence of giant purple gorillas in classic comic books (and at least two of his own works.)

Greg also threw into my package of purchases a copy of “Monkey, Bug, Rabbit & Goose have lunch and save the planet“, issue #1 of a unique reader, in comic book style, which he created for for fledgling “comicophiles” at his children’s school.

Thanks so much Greg.

Mr McGee and censorship… stripped bare

I’ve encountered some funny “nude moment” incidents in primary school libraries.

During the furore of Pamela Allen’s Mr McGee (he of the “biting flea” picture book fame) getting shortlisted by the CBCA for getting his pants off a few years ago, someone on this list announced that she’d made him a lovely pair of yellow tissue-paper underpants. We never did find out if she was
joking. I wonder if the wretched nude castaway of Armin Greder’s “The Island” also sports fashions from the House of McGee at that school? 😉

At my previous school, there was an extremely popular donated yearbook of Australian photojournalism in the library, and it was always being found hidden under a chair, or with the “Where’s Wally” and “Goosebumps” books behind the heaters. Eventually I realised it must have had something controversial inside, so I held the spine in my hand and let the book fall open at its most-used pages – and my trick revealed a rather lovely distance shot of Bondi Beach’s topless bathing end. Cleverly framing the shot was a closeup of a blurred naked female breast..

Eventually, someone destroyed the photo with a Texta and I tried removing the page in an attempt to give the rest of the book a bit more life. Several months later, I realised that the so-called “offending photo” was actually also shown, in a much smaller size, on the book’s cover – and nobody had ever noticed, even though the breast wasn’t as blurry in that smaller size.

CBCA announcement looms

My students are so excited. In recent weeks, I’ve worked them into a bit of a frenzy over which books will win the gold and silver medals. Not the Beijing Olympics medals, but the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, which are announced at noon tomorrow.

Like last year, each class has been creating a column graph of their preferences. Everyone’s voting in the picture book category, plus Stage 1 is doing Early Childhood, Stage 2 information books and Stage 3 the novels. This helps them to invest a little more into the announcement of winners.

Picture Book of the Year? Even though the graphic novel, “Requiem for a beast” by Matt Ottley, is aimed at a Stage 6 (Years 11 and 12) readership, I bought a copy for myself and took it into school to expose the students to the book’s unique qualities: they were fascinated how the style changed from picture book, to chapter book, to storyboard, to almost-motion picture widescreen, to comic book, to scrapbook, and back to chapter book. Many of the students had the gut feeling that it may well win Picture Book of the Year. “Dust” and “The Peasant Prince” have also been well-received and, for a few classes, I ended up presenting these books in the same lesson and the students enjoyed their similarities and differences. “The island” is as confronting and challenging as “Dust”, and it will be interesting to see which books end up winning.

We ran out of time to do much justice to the longer novels in the Books for Younger Readers category, but an unexpected favourite (of both theirs and mine) has been “Sixth grade style queen (not!)” by Sherryl Clark. Many students picked up on its similarity in style to the work of poet Stephen Herrick, who visited our school last year for National Literacy & Numeracy Week. The senior students are keen on Emily Rodda’s work, especially since she visited a few years ago and told the students she was “happily retired” but then we discovered she’d secretly been writing “The key to Rondo”, much to the surprise of even her agent and publisher! Writing without a deadline was a special treat she’d given herself. “The Shaggy Gully Times” is also a bit of a dark horse, but I’ve had to work with the students to appreciate the cleverness of its humour and wordplay; luckily the current book rap is helping with this.

It’s always hard to pick the Books for Early Childhood category! As a teacher reading to groups of students, I think I had the most fun with “Cat” by Mike Dumbleton & Craig Smith. As the owner of two ginger cats in my life, I could relate to every page! (I actually have a photograph of Dugil sprawled over the mat where I was trying to mark papers, and an earlier shot of Meggsie stealing the heater from both my younger brother and the family dog! This will be an impossible category to pick; all six entries are so worthy.

Information book category? My prediction (from this time last year!) has always been “Parsley Rabbit’s book about books” by Frances Watts & David Legge. Oh, how i wish I’d written this book. It says everything ‘ve ever needed to say about “parts of a book”. “Parsley Rabbit” turned up in my local bookshop the week before Book Week last year, and was my special treat for each class. It’s remained a much-coveted, much-read – and much-requested – book in our school library. Most of the students are expecting this book to win. And so am I. We also have a soft spot for several others, including “The Antarctica book: life in the freezer” and “Australia’s deadly and dangerous animals”, which seem to be very accessible books for primary students.

Noon on Friday can’t come soon enough…

Beijing, books and bungee-jumping

This term, I’m working with at least seven very enthusiastic groups of Stage 2 students on the New South Wales Department of Education & Training’s Beijing Olympic Games & Book Week 2008 rap.

Firstly, as with the other raps which ran this year, I’m promoting the rap blog URL in the school newsletter so that students can show off their group’s rap responses with their families each week.

In case the URL doesn’t make it home, I’m also explicitly modelling a search strategy (ie. how to use Google to find the rap pages) each time the students come for their blogging session. I show them what happens when we type in raps and book raps as search terms (almost 1.5 million hits!) and how the abundance of riches can be reduced by using inverted commas. (ie. “raps and book raps” gives only 5000 possible sites – and, in any case, the NSW DET Raps webpage appears as choice #1).

Also I demonstrate the pathway to get to the blog itself. For the last two raps, many students tried out visiting the rap blog from home, and we received great parental feedback.

Secondly, I brought in a collection of stuffed animal toy mascots (plus others that were already decorating the library). The Bruce Whatley drawing of Tammy the Tortoise (in the Children’s Book Council of Australia shortlisted book, The Shaggy Gully Times) is uncannily like a toy tortoise I had at home, especially with the addition of a battery-operated pocket fan strapped to her back.

Now each group is selecting (and often naming) one of the animal “reporters”, who’ll represent them in the upcoming newspaper article rap point. Each one has his or her own “Press card” to get them into Olympic venues. The animal characters (a flying fox, the aforementioned tortoise, a Puffin Books puffin, a Chinese New Year dragon, a large green frog, Selby the taking dog, and my trusty big, black, furry, bungee spider – it’s a long story) might prove useful for some f(p)unny photojournalism in the playground. We’ll be able to upload the pictures to the Gallery of the rap blog – and they should provide inspiration for some typically Jackie French-esque animal puns.