Monday, January 23, 2012


KN: The concept of a memory bank implies that memories are valuable. Please expand on that idea.

CC: Beyond valuable, memory and dreams are incredibly delicious phenomena, the richest territory in the universe for an author and artist to mine. I felt like I’d fallen into a tub of butter getting to imagine the places and workings of memories and dreams and forgetting and remembering. Entering The Memory Bank was like an extended journey to the back of my brain, where practically all of the good stuff resides.

RS: Wow. This question stumps me. Isn’t reading experiencing memory?

KN: Abandonment is one of human kind's deepest fears. How did you decide that Honey would be abandoned?

CC: Very little is decided consciously, at least in the beginning of creating a story. Ideas and images present themselves, and often come as a surprise. We understood, at some level, that our main characters, Hope and Honey, were up against a tough situation. And we needed something striking to jumpstart the story and get them on the road to the Memory Bank (and Dump). More than anything we played with options. When this notion of abandoned-by-the-side-of-the-road came to us, we knew we knew we had gone a little (too) far, sailed right over the top. We more or less dared ourselves to pull it off.

RS: Children feel abandoned everyday, dontcha think? A mother that we know has such trouble when dropping her daughter off at preschool that she brought an alarm clock. The mother would set the alarm for 1 minute, explaining to her daughter that she had to leave when the bell rang. I wonder what the daughter thinks now (she must be 20) whenever own clock goes off in the morning…
But that doesn’t answer your question does it? We didn’t ‘decide’ as much as follow the story.

KN: Carolyn, please talk about your creative process. Do you use outlines, or other aides? If so, how and when?

CC: The Memory Bank was my first book of true collaboration/co-creation. Rob and I made it together simultaneously, and our creative process developed and unfolded along with the book. We flew by the seat of our pants for the most part, trusted our instincts and didn’t analyze a partnership that was clearly working. The story grew out of an on-going conversation conducted in words and pictures—thousands of emails sent over a period of about 18 months. Sometimes Rob started the conversation with a picture, sometimes I did with a snippet of text or a question. Then we proceeded back and forth, building on anything that caught our fancy, that made us laugh or seemed to have juice. Bit by bit characters emerged, the places and workings of the Bank became clear. Later, editorial help from Stephen Roxburgh and Arthur Levine helped us refine the fundamental narrative drive of the story, the separation and reunion of the two sisters. Probably our main aides were the working dummies we created (with the help of ace Art Director Helen Robinson) so that we could see how the pictures and text were flowing together. Another aide for me was coffee. Rob and I tended to work at night.

KN: Rob, please talk about your creative process. Do you experiment with materials, perspective, and/or other artistic elements?

I didn't experiment so much with materials, as with layout and perspective, with the Memory Bank building dictating where to place the "viewer". Generally, I considered the page a stage and followed the text’s stage directions, although I used quick pencil sketches for the Memory Bank because Carolyn and I were having an avalanche of story. When we were working, there were three in the room: Carolyn, me, and the Bank.

KN: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

CC: Creating this book was the most fun and best time I’ve ever had making a book. I’m forever spoiled by having had simultaneous visual expression in the creation and unfolding of a story.

RS: What Carolyn wrote.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


BY Carolyn Coman and Rob Shepperson
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-545-21066-9

FROM THE FLAP: The Clean Slate Gang and The World Wide Memory Bank Are At War.

Lollipops have been found clogging the great machines that take in and store all the memories being formed in the world. Bonfires have been set. Practical jokes are gumming up the works. And the mischief is getting more serious.

Caught in the middle is Hope Scroggins, who’s been summoned to the bank for failing to record New Memories. And THAT’S because her hideously awful parents told her to FORGET her beloved little sister, Honey, who is out there somewhere, needing her.

Somehow Hope figures out that the World Wide Memory Bank holds the key to finding Honey, and maybe even a chance at happiness! But can she find it in time, before the Clean Slate Gang takes away her last, best shot at finding her sister?

KATE’S TAKE: A Roald Dahl-like fantasy that will make you cry, laugh, and yearn for more.

DREAM JOURNALS Visual/Spatial, Verbal/Linguistic, Intrapersonal

Have students fold an 11 by 18 sheet of white paper in half and fill it with seven sheets of lined paper. Ask them to decorate the cover. Then, have them take it home and record their dreams for a week. Next, ask students to use of of their dreams as a story starter in writers’ workshop.

GRAPHIC STORIES Visual/Spatial, Verbal/Linguistic, Interpersonal

Ask students to take a story they have written and depict the five plot points: the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution graphically. Then, pair students up. Ask one student to hold up his or her graphic story, and ask the partner to verbally retell the story based on the pictures.

LOLLIPOP FRACTIONS Visual/Spatial, Logical/Mathematical, Interpersonal

Divide students into groups of three, and give each student an eight-by-eight inch circle. Some groups of three will work with 1/8, ¼, and ½ while the other groups of three will work with 1/6, 1/3 and ½. Each student decorates their lollipop. After they decorate their lollipop, they must cut it into one of the above mentioned fractions. Each person in each group is assigned a different fraction. Then, each student must trade lollipop sections with each person in his or her threesome to create a whole lollipop with three different designs.

MEMIE BOXES Visual/Spatial, Verbal/Linguistic, Intrapersonal

Ask each student to write down his or her first memory, a memie. Then, show students how to fold origami boxes, and have him place his or her memory inside the box. You can find an origami diagram for a box here: These make great parent gifts. Thanks to Carolyn Coman for this activity.

SUCROSE MOLECULES Visual/Spatial, Interpersonal, Naturalistic

Working in groups of three, have students create a 3-D model of a sucrose molecule. Give one student twenty-two small Styrofoam balls, give another student eleven medium-sized Styrofoam balls, and the third student twelve medium-sized Styrofoam balls. The student with the eleven medium-sized balls should paint them pink, while the student with the twelve medium-sized balls paints his purple. The third student can help the other two students paint their Styrofoam balls. Then, using toothpicks and the diagram at each student should assemble a 3-D diagram of a sucrose molecule.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Writing Stories: Ideas, Exercises, and Encouragement for Teachers and Writers of All Ages by Carolyn Coman

Monday, October 10, 2011


By David A. Kelly
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 978-0-375-86704-0

FROM THE FLAP: What’s the most famous ballpark in America? Yankee Stadium! And Mike and Kate are going there for three whole days. But even before the first pitch, the cousins hear a strange rumor—Babe Ruth’s ghost is haunting the new stadium. Chilly air comes blasting down a service hallway before every home game. The gusts are followed by a series of thumps and bumps. Is it the Babe searching for his missing locker?

Catch all the Ballpark Mysteries!

KATE’S TAKE: The Yankees and ghosts! This autumn dynamic duo is a must have for the primary classroom.

GHOST STORIES Verbal/Linguistic and Visual/Spatial

During writer’s workshop, ask students to craft their own ghost story. When they’re finished ask them to make an illustration for their story.

HOMER HITTERS Logical/Mathematical and Visual Spatial

Ask students to make a graph of how many home runs five of the Yankee’s starters hit in 2010. Then find the maximum, minimum, range, mean, median, and mode.

Robinson Cano 29
Curtis Granderson 24
Alex Rodriguez 30
Nick Swisher 29
Mark Teixeira 33


At one of your reading stations, give students the letters that make the word, “pinstripe.” Challenge them to make as many words as possible by mixing up the letters. Then ask them to sort the words into two groups, those with the short i sound, and those with the long i sound.

Visual/Spatial and Logical/Mathematical

Ask each student to draw a picture of him or herself wearing a pinstripe shirt. Challenge them to use complex patterns such as ABBA, ABBB, or ABBC.

VENDOR MATH Logical/Mathematical and Interpersonal

For one of your reading stations, have students pretend to be running a hot dog stand. They’ll need to decide what items are for sale and how much they cost. In order to keep the activity accessible for all students, set a price limit such as $5. Then, give each student money and have them buy items from the stand. Give them challenges such as buy as many items as possible, spend exactly $4.50, save a dollar and so on.


-The Astro Outlaw by David A. Kelly
-Babe & Me: A Baseball Card Adventure by Dan Gutman
-Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse by David A. Kelly
-The L.A. Dodger by David A. Kelly
-The Fenway Foul-Up by David A. Kelly

Monday, September 12, 2011


KN: How did this story come to you?

NBF: I lived on Saipan for about ten years, teaching and working with students, especially guiding their own writing about their island. I also worked with the man, Filipe Ruak, who survived hiding in the caves with this family during the war and then "saved the dances." His dance group was make of young men who danced the traditional dances, an important part of their culture. Dancing is part prayer, part being physically fit, part community connections.

Filipe Ruak shared many stories about his childhood. When I said I was interested in writing a novel about the story of his people and how they survived the war, he asked me to do that. Filipe Ruak and his courage to tell his people's story is the reason I wrote Warriors in the Crossfire.

KN: Is Suicide Cliff a national monument?

NBF: Yes, Suicide Cliff is a national monument. You can stand at that cliff's edge, look straight down nearly a thousand feet, see the ocean crash against volcanic boulders and imagine. Slender white birds, fairy terns, swoop and circle the face of the cliff. Islanders believe they are the spirits of the people who died there.

KN: How did you decide which Japanese characters to include in you chapter headings?

NBF: The Japanese characters, the kanji, that begin each chapter were carefully selected. I wanted each character to reflect the heart, the theme, of each chapter. Sometimes I think of the nesting dolls in which one fits into another. The kanji character fits into the "little beginning poem" which fits within the chapter.

KN: How did you develop the father/son theme?

NBF: The father-son relationship seemed essential to Joseph's learning about the deeper meaning of being a warrior. Joseph needed to understand the wisdom of his father and his Japanese teacher, Sensei, to let grow from being a boy and becoming a man.

KN: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?

NBF: I did indeed swim with the turtles and sharks. I wanted to have the courage to hold onto a turtle by its shell and RIDE. I didn't have the courage to do that but I did paddle my kayak over the reef and wait for the sharks to come near (out of curiosity not hunger!). I put on my mask and snorkel and felt the terror of being in the deep dark water with a shark swimming beneath me.

Monday, September 5, 2011


By Nancy Bo Flood

Publisher: Front Street

ISBN: 978-1-59078-661-1

FROM THE FLAP: Where could they hide? The Japanese would shoot anyone in the caves. The Americans would eat the children. Who could they trust? Joseph didn’t know. There was no one left to ask. The explosions kept coming closer.

In the final months of WWII, the tiny South Pacific island of Saipan provided a vital buffer between Japan and the advancing American forces. Japan vowed to defend these islands to the last man. One of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific war ensued—more than 30,000 Japanese and Americans lost their lives. These numbers do not include the natives who were killed—the Chamorro, Rafalawash, and Rapaganor—all caught in the crossfire.

Based on historical events, this story unfolds through the eyes of Joseph and his half-Japanese cousin, Kento. These clear-voiced characters move convincingly through war and mounting pressure to take unimaginable horrors of Suicide Cliff, they discover, within themselves, what it means to become warriors. One boy’s journey through this little-known chapter of history illuminates the rich texture and culture of the island.

KATE’S TAKE: A harrowing WWII journey that celebrates family, friendship, and honor.

BOATS THAT FLOAT Visual/Spatial Logical/Mathematical

Divide students into pairs. Give each pair a 12 by 12 inch piece of aluminum foil, ten tongue depressors, and a glue stick. Ask each pair to design a boat. Place each boat in a tub of water and see how many pennies each boat holds. If you want, have students graph the results and calculate the mean, medium, mode, maximum, minimum and range of pennies held by each pair’s boat.

IMPRESSIONISTIC POEMS Verbal/Linguistic Interpersonal Intrapersonal

Write a brief poem modeled after the poems that lead into each chapter. Have students read their poems to the class. Although Ms. Flood’s poems are free-form, haiku and diamante poems work well with this activity, too.


Give students a paper, brush, and black ink. Ask them to choose a Kanji character that speaks to them. They may choose one from the book, or pick one on line at . Then, ask them to paint the symbol.

TURTLE AND SHARK ORIGAMI Visual/Spatial Verbal/Linguistic

Rewrite chapter two, Turtle and Shark, from the turtle or shark’s point of view. Then, fold an origami shark or turtle to accompany your story.

WIND IN THE WILLOWS Musical Interpersonal Intrapersonal

Gather the class in a circle and ask one member to step forward and name a song, musician, or type of music that the individual likes. Anyone else who likes the named song, person, or music steps into the circle. Repeat until everyone has had a turn. No one may step into the middle and repeat something that has been said before.

BOOK BUDDIES (These are all listed in the back of Ms. Flood’s book)
A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Harry Mazer
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury
House of the Red Fish by Graham Salisbury
Under the Blood-Red Sun by Graham Salisbury

Sunday, May 22, 2011


By Melissa Stewart
Publisher: Peachtree
ISBN: 978-1-56145-562-1

FROM THE FLAP: Fish make our world a better place. But sometimes people do things that make it hard for them to live and grow.

In simple yet informative language, A Place For Fish introduces young readers to ways human action or inaction can affect fish populations and open kids’ minds to a wide range of environmental issues. Describing various examples—from Florida’s spotted trunkfish to the Atlantic salmon—the text provides an intriguing look at fish, at the ecosystems that support their survival, and at the efforts of some of the people to save them.

In the back of the book, the author offers readers a list of things they can do to help protect these special creatures in their own communities.

Artist Higgins Bond’s glorious full-color illustrations vividly and accurately depict their fish and their surroundings.

KATE’S TAKE: Splash into summer with Melissa Stewart’s, A Place for Fish. Stewart’s dual-level text is perfect for book buddy programs or classrooms with a large spread in ability levels.

CATCH BASIN LABELING PROGRAMS Naturalist and Interpersonal
Are you looking for a low cost field trip for the end of the year? Participate in your town’s catch basin label program or have your class start one in your community. Storm drains do not flow into a city’s water treatment plant, they flow directly into the surrounding bodies of water. So help your city spray paint, “No dumping. Drains to lake/creek/river,” signs on your town’s catch basins. Check out Santa Rosa’s city site for more details:

FISH LIFE CYCLE DIAGRAMS Naturalist, Visual/Spatial, and Linguistic
Have students diagram a fish’s life cycle. The University of Michigan has an excellent link for intermediate teachers that includes worksheets:

MAP IT OUT Visual/Spatial and Interpersonal
Divide your class into partners. Give each group a photocopied map of North America. Assign each pair of partners a fish that is in Ms. Stewart’s book. Next, have each group shade in the area on their map where their assigned fish lives. If a group finishes early, have them research some basic facts about their fish.

ORIGAMI FISH Visual/Spatial
Check out this step-by-step engaging video to show your students how to fold origami fish:
Be sure and use origami paper. Regular paper is too thick.

SHARK BAR GRAPHS Logical/Mathematical and Visual/Spatial
Give students a sheet of graph paper. Have them title their graph Shark Population Decline in the Atlantic Ocean since the 1990’s. Then have them label the side with numbers from 0 to 100%. I find that using 5% increments works well. On the bottom of the graph, ask them to make a column for each of the following sharks: blues, great whites, hammerheads, threshers, and tigers. Ask them to record the following information:

Blue Sharks: 60% population decline
Great White Sharks: 79% population decline
Hammerhead Sharks: 89% population decline
Thresher Sharks: 80% population decline
Tiger Sharks: 65% population decline

-A Place for Birds by Melissa Stewart
-A Place for Frogs by Melissa Stewart
-Project Seahorse by Pamela S. Turner
-Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns
-Trout, Trout, Trout: A Fish Chant by April Pulley Sayre

Saturday, April 23, 2011


By Wendy Mass
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 978-0-316-00258-5

FROM THE FLAP: In the town of Spring Haven, four children have been selected to compete in the national candymaking contest of a lifetime. Who will make a candy more delicious than the Oozing Crunchorama or the Neon Yellow Lightning Chew?

Logan, the candymaker’s son, who can detect the color of chocolate by feel alone?

Miles, the boy allergic to rowboats and the color pink?

Daisy, the cheerful girl who can lift a fifty-pound lump of taffy as if it were a feather?

Philip, the suit-and-tie-wearing boy who’s always scribbling in a secret notebook?
The contestants face off in a battle of wits and sugar, but soon they realize that things are not what they seem, and they find themselves in a candy-filled world of surprises, suspense, and mouthwatering creations.

In this charming and cleverly crafted story, award-winning author Wendy mass cooks up a delectable concoction of mystery, friendship, and juicy revelations.

KATE’S TAKE: A sweet treat(couldn’t help myself)for middle grade novel enthusiasts just in time for Easter!

CANDY OF THE CENTURY: Verbal/Linguistic and Visual/Spatial
Ask students to write an essay describing their candy of the century—be sure to include a creative and original name. Then, give them white model magic so they can build and decorate their masterpieces.

CRACK THE CODE: Verbal/Linguistic
Miles often speaks backwards. Spice up some comprehension questions by writing them out backwards. Students have to decipher them before answering them in complete sentences. I’ve made an example you’re free to use. I’ve posted it after the Book Buddies section.

GRATITUDE NOTEBOOKS: Intrapersonal and Verbal/Linguistic
Give each student a small notebook and sometime during the day, have them write down five things they’re grateful for just like Logan lists five things he’s grateful for every night before bed. This is a good activity to do right before or right after a transition.

MUSICAL MOMENTS: Musical and Interpersonal
Philip constantly writes melodies down in his notebook. Working in pairs, have students write four measures of music. Then, they can play their compositions on a glockenspiel or a xylophone.

OBSTACLE COURSE: Interpersonal and Bodily Kinesthetic
Since Daisy is a spy, she has to do lots of physical training, but she’s not used to working with teammates. But in order to win the contest, she ends up having to work together with the other contestants. In the gymnasium, divide the class into two groups. Have props spread out from one end of the of the gym to the other, a few hula hoops, jump ropes, exercise rings, a scooter per team, and put a large exercise mat in the center of the gym. Students have to work with their teammates to get the whole team from one end of the gym to the other. They may not step on the floor unless they are inside a hula hoop, and the hula hoops can’t move. If someone steps on the floor, the whole team goes back to the start.

-Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
-My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald
-The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler
-The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

1. Ohw si rouy etirovaf retcarahc dna yhw?
2. Dlouw uoy tnaw ot eb a yps ekli ysiaD, yhw ro yhw ton?
3. Fi uoy dlouc yalp yna tnemurtsni sa llew sa pilihP hcihw eno dlouw uoy yalp dna yhw?
4. Yhw seod seliM kniht tuoba eht efilvetfa?
5. Od uoy kniht nagoL lliw esoohc ot evah niks shparg enod to ega 41, yhw ro yhw ton?