Sunday, September 26, 2010


By Greg Foley
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN 978-0-06-154750-8

FROM THE FLAP: This is the story of Willoughby, whose new house feels too small and very lonely.
It’s also the story of an enchanted lion and spectacular wishes come true: of roller coasters, and fast, fast shoes, and enormous crowds of people.
But most of all, it’s the story of one important question: What is the most wonderful thing of all?

KATE’S TAKE: Stunning illustrations and a heart-warming read.

ANIMAL CHARADES: Kinesthetic and Interpersonal

At the end of the book, Willoughby becomes true friends with the lion. Gather students in a circle on the rug, and ask them if they could have any animal as a true friend, which one would they choose? Then, one-by-one ask students to move like their animal on the rug, and ask the spectators to guess which animal their classmate is imitating.

MAKE A WISH CLASS BOOK Intrapersonal, Visual/Spatial, and Verbal/Linguistic
Give each student an 8 x 11.5 sheet of paper with the following sentence starter: If I could wish for anything in the world, I would wish for ___________________________________________. Ask students to fill in the blank and illustrate their sentence. Put all of the work in a three ring binder and send the binder home with each individual student.

Sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by Robert John.

WISH MATH Logical/Mathematical
Give each student ten manipulatives and a white board. Ask them how many wishes Willoughby had at the beginning of the book. Counting down from ten, subtract each wish. Ask students to model each problem with their manipulatives and write the number sentence for each problem.

WISH SCAPES Visual/Spatial
Give each student an 11x18 sheet of black construction paper. Ask students to illustrate their wishes using white chalk. Then give students white and gold paint to mimic the illustrations in Willoughby and the Lion.

-Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
-If I Were a Lion by Sarah Weeks
-Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
-Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
-Willoughby and the Moon by Greg Foley

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


1. Your characters are so deep and complex. Please tell us how you get to know your characters so well.

Thank you, Kate. When I start writing a story, I usually begin with the characters. I have a general idea about the kind of person I want to write about, but to make that person come to life, I conduct an interview. That is what I did for Lu and Salman, two of the main characters in Come Fall. I asked them a whole lot of questions and I let myself write pages and pages to explore where they were coming from. Most of that material didn’t get used in the book, but it did provide the basis for a few scenes.

I didn’t interview Blos, at first, because I thought he was going to be a minor character. I modeled him on several people I had known at various points in my life, and his personality came to me almost whole. I knew he lived by rules and parameters he had set for himself, and so I was able to fit him in situations following those rules. It wasn’t until I began redrafting that I realized how important he was to the story, and that is when I asked him questions.

Puck was altogether different. Like Blos, he had a minor part in the story at first. As his part grew, I envisioned him acting the way he did in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So I reread Shakespeare’s play, as well as Kipling’s Puck stories and other authors’ take on the character. Then I imagined what it must be like to be a servant to two extremely strong-willed and powerful sovereigns. His character came quickly after that.

2. Since you know your characters so well, they each have a distinctive voice. Please tell us how you honed each character’s voice.

Blos’ voice actually arrived whole. I found his to be the easiest to write—I knew him the minute I started writing about him, perhaps because I have known people like him in real life. My main objective was to keep him consistent and in character. For example, he was not good at recognizing other people’s emotions, and so I had to be careful when he observed people’s reactions.

Puck, too, arrived whole, but for a different reason. I stole him from Shakespeare. My challenge was to keep him playful and trickster-like while staying out of trouble with the king and queen. My favorite passages were when he lied by misdirection yet spoke the literal truth.

Lu and Salman required more work. Their interviews gave me their initial voices. As I wrote their scenes, I tried to keep the observations, the tone, the manner of speech consistent with each of their points of view. What matters to a boy who has spent his life in foster care will be different from what matters to a girl who feels like she has too many brothers. I tried to let each character tell the story in the way which made sense to them.

3. In a Blos Pease way, I counted how many chapters each character had, and looked to see if there was a pattern that dictated when you switched voices, but I couldn’t find one. Please talk about how you organized Come Fall.

You didn’t find a pattern because there really wasn’t one. Initially, I chose a voice for a particular chapter based upon what made the most sense for that scene. When several characters were featured in the same scene, I chose a voice different from the one the reader had last heard, to mix it up.

Once I had a working draft of the book, I created an outline—one sentence per chapter—and noted which voice I used for each chapter. That’s when I consciously balanced the voices. I wanted the reader to hear from each of the characters in the beginning. I had written fewer chapters with Blos’ and Puck’s voices, so I made sure these were spaced somewhat evenly throughout the story. And then I considered whether I had too many scenes in a row in Salman’s or Lu’s voice, and how best to balance their points of view without confusing the reader or slowing the pace of the novel.

Although I did count the chapters each character had, I didn’t use any mathematical formula. I built the novel like a musical composition, or a painting—I was balancing almost by feel.

4. This novel is a tribute to gardeners, bird-watchers, and forest lovers. Do you have a special affinity for gardens, birds, and/or forests?

I am a terrible gardener. I cannot exaggerate how bad I am at caring for plants, which is why I consider a beautiful and bountiful garden to be magical. But I have a lifelong love of forests—I spent large portions of my childhood in the wilds of Quebec, and I go back there as often as I can.

Although I find all birds interesting, I am particularly enamored by crows. I enjoy watching them squabble around our backyard bird feeder. They can be noisy and bullies, but they are some of the most intelligent birds around. They are capable of solving problems and in some cases using tools, and have been known to befriend people.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I rewrote the novel a great deal. Although the interviews were helpful to start me off, I had to reconsider my characterizations and my structure with each rewrite. My editor had a great deal of input. Some characters, like Queen Titania, didn’t quite settle into who they needed to be until the last few drafts.

The rewriting stages are when I truly craft a novel. The first draft is just a structure to hang characters on. As I rewrite, I make more sense of the order of things, the way the story best unfolds, and the way I want to introduce the characters to the reader.

Thank you so much for inviting me to be interviewed. You had some very interesting questions!

Monday, September 20, 2010


By A.C.E. Bauer
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 978-0-375-85825-3

FROM THE FLAP: Heading back to school is never easy, but it’s especially difficult when you are doing it alone.

Lu Zimmer—kind of pretty and very quiet; this year a little lost now that her best friend has moved away.

Salman Page—knows how to stay under the radar at a new school, a lesson he had to learn early as a foster kid.

Blos Pease—literal to a fault. He gets queasy when things aren’t “just so.”
Puck—the mischievous messenger of the faerie realm who likes to meddle in the human world.

Bird—a large black crow whose attraction to shiny things brings them all together.

Three very real kids, a very unreal spirit, and a wily crow spring from the pages in this feel-it-in-your-heart-tale of finding and losing friends. A.C.E. Bauer has once again created complex and absorbing characters, all trying to define themselves as they navigate the fragile beginnings of friendship.

KATE’S TAKE: A magical romp through the woods complete with student writing prompts and samples.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Verbal/Linguistic and Interpersonal
Split students up into small groups and ask them to act out scenes from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.

BOOK BUDDIES Verbal/Linguistic and Interpersonal
In Come Fall, the characters meet each other through a designated buddy program. Pair up your student with a book buddy-another student in a younger classroom. This is a great way to build school community, and increase student confidence.

ORIGAMI DREAMS Visual/Spatial and Intrapersonal
Give each student a piece of origami paper. Ask him or her to write one of their dreams on the white side of paper. Have them fold the paper into a bird. Hang the birds up around the classroom.

PHOTOS PLEASE Visual/Spatial, Verbal/Linguistic, and Naturalist
Take a nature walk with the class and ask each student to take a photo with a digital camera. Ask them to write a poem about their picture.

RUMINATION AND WRITING WITH MRS. R. Verbal/Linguistic and Intrapersonal
Ask students to complete one of Mrs. R.’s writing assignments from the book. The great thing is you can use the character’s writing samples to provide scaffolding for your students.

-A Backyard Vegetable Garden for Kids by Amie Jane Leavitt
-A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare
-A Place for Birds by Melissa Stewart
-Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach
-I Must Go Down to the Beach Again by Karen Jo Shapiro

Thursday, September 16, 2010


1. Thanks for joining us Professor Tunnell. A tremendous amount of research went into the Candy Bomber. How did you decide to break up the information into six different chapters?

The Candy Bomber’s story seemed automatically to fall into six chapters. First, I needed to give the “candy bombing” its context—so it was clear I needed chapter one to introduce and explain the Berlin Airlift. There was no question about what needed to follow: Lt. Gail Halvorsen must make his entrance. The event that launched Operation Little Vittles was the best way to bring him on stage. His meeting with the German children at the end of the Templehof runway, and the subsequent promise to drop them some sweets, made for a perfect chapter two. With the “candy bombing” underway by the end of the second chapter, the establishment and early growth of the official, Air Force-approved Operation Little Vittles was the next logical step. This part of the story easily filled a third chapter. Taking the operation into maturity was a natural choice for chapter four—it grew to be much bigger than Halvorsen. It took on a life of its own, continuing successfully even after Halvorsen was no longer in Germany. With access to all the letters and drawings children and adults sent to Halvorsen, I had a plethora of great personal stories shared in that correspondence; I wanted to include as many as possible. Chapter five became the place in the book where I did that. Of course, every book needs a conclusion, and so chapter six brought the Berlin Air Lift to a close and then followed Halvorsen forward in his life to show how the ties he’d established with those hungry children bound them together to this very day.

2. Your voice in Candy Bomber honors Gail Halvorsen’s compassion, bravery, and moral strength. Please tell us how you achieved this reverent tone throughout your book.

Getting to know Gail Halvorsen personally during the process of creating the book had everything to do with the tone. His humility and strength of character are undeniable, as well as his genuine care for other human beings. Gail was so gracious in helping me with this project. He opened up his files to me, and I scanned hundreds of his photographs and documents, many of which appear in the book. Never have I met a more genuine person, and I hope that came through as I wrote about him. Also, when you read and hear what others have to say about him, you quickly come to the conclusion that many other people see him in that same way. I read many, many letters sent to Gail over several decades from the children of the Air Lift who were parents or grandparents themselves when they wrote. Their love and respect for him communicated in their correspondence also affected the tone I adopted for the book.

3. I love all of the letters and drawings from the German children. How did you decide which letters to include and which to exclude?

At first it was difficult to choose. I wanted to include every single one of them. When I finally had to get serious about making the selections, it became an easier task than I would have believed. There were certain letters and drawings that seemed to stand out for one reason or another. Often this had to do with the personalities of the particular children. Who could have eliminated the letter from someone like Peter Zimmerman, who, when frustrated that Halvorsen wasn’t finding his house, wrote: “Are you a pilot? I gave you a map. How did you guys win the war?” Or the letter from Mercedes Simon that scolded Halverson for scaring her chickens when making the approach to land, thus ending egg production, but then going on to offer the pilot a way to make things right. “When you see the white chickens please drop the chocolate there.”

4. Candy Bomber and another one of your books, The Children of Topaz, take place during the 1940’s. Do you have a special interest in the WWII era?

I suppose I do. Even one of my novels (Brothers in Valor) is set in Germany during WW II. I’m not one hundred percent sure why I have such an interest, but it obviously manifests itself in what I write, read, and watch on TV or at the movies.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I think it is interesting to know that Gail Halvorsen is ninety years old and as active as someone half his age. He travels constantly to meet the demands of groups who want him to speak about his candy-bombing experiences. He is greatly loved in Germany to this day and is often invited back to commemorate the Air Lift in one way or another. He even is still qualified to fly the C-54 transport planes he flew in the 1940s, though he takes the co-piloting duties these days. As a side note, you might be interested in hearing Gail explain the Air Lift and see some original film footage of the candy drops and other Air Lift events. Go to my website ( Choose the Candy Bomber icon, and you will see a link to this YouTube video.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Dear Readers,

I wanted to share a bit of exciting news with you. CHOOSE TO READ OHIO has linked to Classroom Book of the Week's interview with picture book author and illustrator Loren Long. Here's the link:

CHOOSE TO READ OHIO has many great resources for teachers, librarians, and homeschoolers. Be sure to check out their site.

Happy reading.


Monday, September 13, 2010


By Joe Dumpty as told to Jeanie Franz Ransom
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN: 978-1-58089-391-6

FROM THE FLAP: Private detective Joe Dumpty, Humpty’s brother, thinks Humpty Dumpty’s fall was no accident. But who would have pushed him? Was it Little Miss Muffet? Old Mother Hubbard? Chicken Little? Joe has until five o’clock to to question characters and catch the culprit.

KATE’S TAKE: Looking for a fun way to spice up a nursery rhyme unit? Don’t miss this book.

CLASSROOM WEB: Bodily/Kinesthetic and Interpersonal

Spider entraps Wolf and Muffy in her web at the end of the book. Ask the class to stand in a circle. Call out a student’s name and throw a ball of yarn to that student while you hold onto the loose end. The student holds onto her section of yarn, calls another student’s name, and throws it to him or her. Before you know it, the whole class will be wrapped up.


Give each student a bag with six puzzle pieces. Ask them to put the puzzle together. Make sure each puzzle piece has an x on the back so that students know which is the front of the puzzle piece. After they have put together the puzzle, have them transform the egg into Humpty’s face.

INTERESTING INTERVIEWS: Intrapersonal and Interpersonal.

Joe Dumpty cracked the case by interviewing characters. As a class brainstorm four simple interview questions for partners. Break the kids up into partners, have them interview one another, and present their partners to the class.

JOE DUMPTY COMIC STRIPS: Verbal/Linguistic and Visual/Spatial

Together as a class, sequence the main events of the book. Give each child a strip of paper divided into five squares and ask him to illustrate each event.


In a small group, give each child a small container with ten, bone-shaped dog biscuits. Do some simple addition and subtraction problems using the bones as manipulatives. Thanks to Diane Esser for this activity.


-And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
-Dear Peter Rabbit by Alma Flor Ada
-Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf by Judy Sierra
-The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka
-Yours Truly Goldilocks by Alma Flor Ada

Monday, September 6, 2010


By: Michael O. Tunnell
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN: 978-1-58089-337-4

FROM THE FLAP: This is a true story of chocolate, bubble gum, and hope. World War II was over, and Berlin was in ruins. US Air Force pilot Gail Halvorsen wanted to bring some happiness to the children of the city—but what could one man in a plane do?

KATE’S TAKE: “From little things come big things.” Author Michael O. Tunnell shows readers how one pilot, Gail Halvorsen, took one small action that brought a large gift, hope, to thousands of children.

AVIATION TIMELINE: Verbal/Linguistic, Visual/Spatial, and Kinesthetic

Have each student research a different plane from 1903 to the present. Write a brief summary of each plane on the lined side of a 4x6 index card and draw a picture of the plane on the back. Ask students to line up in front of the class in chronological order and present their reports to the class.

FROM LITTLE THINGS COME BIG THINGS: Verbal/linguistic, Intrapersonal, and Interpersonal

Gail Halvorsen gave thirty kids two sticks of gum and started a movement that borought hope to thousands across the world for decades. Think about a time you did something simple that brought hope, joy, or happiness to someone else. Write an essay about this incident.

INTERESTING INTERVIEWS: Verbal/Linguistic, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal

Author Michael O. Tunnell learned about the candy bomber, when Gail Halvorsen came to Mr. Tunnell’s church to speak to a youth group. Ask students to interview a senior citizen about his or her life. Have students choose one interesting fact they learned from their interview with the class.

PAPER AIRPLANE PRAISE: Verbal/Linguistic , Visual/Spatial, and Interpersonal

Give each student five ten-by-ten squares of paper. On each paper have the student compliment another student, but do not have the author sign his or her name. Hand the compliments into the teacher so that he or she can make sure the comments are appropriate. Give the squares back to the students after you have proofread them. Then, ask them to fold each one into a paper airplane and write the name of the student he or she complimented on the airplane's wing. When you’re done reading Candy Bomber, ask students in groups of five to fly their five airplanes from the top of playground equipment. Students collect their individual compliments. This is a great way to build community.

UNCLE WIGGLY WINGS MATH: Logistical/Mathematical

Here are some Candy Bomber math word problems you can put out at your math center.

1. Easter Sunday, 1949, a plane landed almost every sixty seconds in Berlin for twenty-four hours. Approximately how many U.S. planes landed in Berlin that day?

2. The American Confectioners Association donated 6,500 pounds of candy in one month to Operation Vittles. If there were thirty days in that month, on average, how many pounds of candy were donated each day? How many tons of candy were donated each day?

3. Lieutenant Halvorsen told German children that a C-54 could carry 200 sacks of flour weighing a total of 20,000 pounds. How much did each sack weigh?

4. U.S. Citizens donated 1,100 square yards of linen to make parachutes. If each parachute was one square foot, how many parachutes did Operation Vittles make out of that linen?

5. Lifesavers Corporation donated 200 boxes of Lifesavers to Operation Vittles, totaling 4,000 rolls. How many rolls of Lifesavers were in each box?


-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
-Life as a Fighter Pilot by Brian Williams
-Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot by Margot Theis Raven
-The Two Great Wars by Janine Scott
-World War II for kids: a History with 21 Activities by Richard Panchyk