Saturday, March 22, 2014

PBD: Hollow City - Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children Book II

Now I know this isn't actually a picturebook, although it does have wonderfully eerie photographs in it, but I just finished reading it and wanted to share. 

This book is the second in a series of three (or more) books, beginning with the Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. This complex narrative is well done. I am sure that close readers of the text will find some anomalies, as do many analyses when time travel and alternative worlds are offered, but the author handled the changes across time and place with little concern for feeling like it was not possible. The eerie photographs blend so well with the narrative and add a visual dimension to the novel that is welcome. There is a feeling at the end that this book is simply serving up a foundation for the third book and others, but I didn't get this sense until the very end. A bit of goth and some dark moments add to the enjoyment of this book. Highly recommend if you have read the first book

Friday, March 21, 2014

PBD: Journey

From the Amazon website: A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and escapes through the wall into a wondrous world where adventure lies.

 In this wonderful wordless picturebook, Becker takes on a journey through real and imaginary places to help us share in the character's challenges and quest for self-determination. The art is bright and colorful and creates another world where anything seems possible.
I am currently writing my new column for The Reading Teacher featuring new and unusual wordless picturebooks. Look for the column this fall!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

PBD: Wolves

Wolves by Emily Gravett is one of Gravett's best works (and that is saying something since I love ALL of her books). In this postmodern picturebook, a rabbit is enticed to the library to check out a book to learn about the dangers associated with wolves. Unfortunately, the wolf may be behind the advertisements and be complicit in luring the unsuspecting rabbit into his trap. The book takes a twist when an alternative ending is offered. Multiple narratives and a book within a book structure offers the reader a complex array of perspectives from which to consider what happens to the rabbit. An interactive book that will keep students talking for hours.

What is Close Reading?

Excerpts from my Reading Teacher Column:

Serafini, Frank. (2013/2014). Close Readings and Children’s Literature. The Reading Teacher67 (4), 299-301.

Close Reading and Children’s Literature
            The term close reading was originally associated with the work of the New Critics, in particular Cleanth Brooks, I. A. Richards, John Ransom, and Robert Penn Warren. New Criticism emphasized structural and textual analysis by focusing on the work of literature itself and excluded a reader’s responses, the author's intentions, and the historical and cultural contexts from their analyses. In these writings, close reading referred to an objective, distanced type of reading that places the reader as discoverer of meaning and the text as a self-contained, aesthetic object that holds the meaning to be discovered. 
Close Reading
As stated in the CCSS, today’s students are asked to read closely to determine what the text says explicitly, to make logical inferences from their interactions with a text, and cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text (CCSS, 2010). The materials produced in service of the CCSS seem to suggest teachers have been lax in their development of readers’ analytical abilities, focusing too much on personal response and not enough on careful, close reading of the texts students encounter, and allowing students to read texts that are not complex enough. Readers are encouraged to stay within the four corners of the text when trying to comprehend more complex texts. It is suggested that through a more deliberate type of active reading that is purposeful and objective driven, readers will become more proficient in their reading abilities.
Close reading of text is designed to produce a coherent representation of what the text says. Through the interpretation of words and phrases, the analysis of the structures of text, and understanding the author’s reasoning and use of evidence, readers are to deepen their comprehension of texts. It is asserted close reading of text moves readers away from their dependence on background knowledge in order to apply critical thinking skills and develop a logical argument in response to their reading. Through the close reading of short, complex texts, extensive teacher modeling, and asking text-based questions students will develop their comprehension abilities for understanding the textual arguments presented by the author and be better able to write responses to their reading experiences.
Implications for Reading Teachers
In order to support readers’ comprehension abilities and their development of arguments and supporting evidence, teachers need to help students set purposes for reading, promote connections to previously read texts, activate background knowledge, review key ideas and details, create text-dependent questions, talk about what has been read, and spend time analyzing the various visual and textual elements of a text in more depth.
            Using shorter texts, teachers need to demonstrate what it means to do a close reading of a text. Demonstrating how one approaches a text, the strategies one uses to analyze the language and textual features, and the citing of evidence to support an argument are all valuable lessons for one’s reading instructional framework. If teachers are unable to demonstrate how to do this type of reading, students will have a difficult time doing it themselves.
           A Few Concerns
            Readers make sense of the texts they encounter, not by staying within the four corners of a text, but by using their background knowledge of the world, their previous experiences with text, their understandings of language, the context of the text’s production, dissemination and reception, and the text itself to construct meaning. How will a focus on the text itself change the way readers are asked to make sense of literary and informational texts? With all the changes suggested by the CCSS, and the high stakes associated with the new assessments being developed and implemented, where is the funding and support for quality professional development going to come from to help teachers develop the skills they will need to help readers? It is one thing to change the requirements for students and teachers; it is another to successfully implement these changes. We need to develop our own understandings of the requirements for close reading in various contexts, be ready to demonstrate to our students what this type of reading entails, and provide resources and instructional support to ensure our students’ success.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

PBD: A walk in the Park

This wonderful book by Anthony Browne has recently been re-released with this new cover. For readers of Browne's work, this is the "prequel" or original version of the story that became Voices in the Park - one of Browne's most popular, and I would add, most intriguing and sophisticated picturebook. In this book, we are introduced to the names of the two adult characters - Mrs. Smythe and Mr. Smith. The story is told as a single perspective narrative rather than the four part narrative in Voices in the Park. For many years, this book has been out of print and copies were extremely expensive. So good to have this book available now for a reasonable price.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

PBD: The Dark

Many readers will relate to the theme of this story, but maybe not to the dark images and color palette selected by Jon Klassen to visually narrate it. The age old story of being afraid of the dark is told in a new and unusual way, by bringing the dark to life as a character.
"You might be afraid of the dark, but the dark is not afraid of you. That's why the dark is always close by"
The story is average in my opinion, but the wonderfully dark and well designed images add to eerie sense of the dark and make this one of my new favorites.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Reading Workshop 2.0: Some Preliminary Thoughts

Currently, I am working on a manuscript for Heinemann Publishers on Teaching Reading in the Digital Age. Here are some thoughts as I begin to write this books:

I have been reading and writing about workshop approaches to reading instruction for the past 25 years. One might think that I should have run out of things to say about these instructional approaches and classroom frameworks a long time ago. Alas, that is not to be. I seem to have a few more things to say about the changes that have taken place in literacy education, in particular the changes in technology and digital resources that have affected the ways we teach children to read and write and how we organize classrooms to support this endeavor. Drawing on my previous work on the Reading Workshop (Serafini, 2001, 2008), this book will provide teachers and literacy educators with a new vision for the reading workshop, new resources for instruction, discussion, and analysis of texts, and some new ways to think about supporting students in their journey to becoming more engaged literate beings.
            Into my previous discussions and work on reading instruction and workshop approaches I am now inserting the concept of Reading Workshop 2.0 (Two-Point-Oh). For many teachers the attachment of 2.0 to the term reading workshop may seem like an unwelcome addition to an already overcrowded curriculum; just one more thing to worry about covering. However, I assure you that is not my intention in writing this book. The last thing I want to do is give teachers one more thing to worry about. I don’t see these resources and instructional approaches adding any new burdens to teachers’ workload; instead, I see the resources and instructional approaches offered in this book helping teachers do the same important things reading workshop teachers have been doing for years in more effective, efficient, and exciting ways.
The term technology can be misleading. When people say the word technology they too often mean the newest gizmo or digital resource that is being bandied about by friends in and out of education. However, it is important to remember that the pen and pencil were also important technological advancements at one time in our history, so was the codex, nowadays more commonly referred to as a book. Writing a book like this requires attending to all forms of technology, not just the newest digital resource or fad to hit the Internet.
            A Reading Workshop 2.0 approach must also take into account what Lankshear and Knobel refer to as the new ethos stuff, in addition to addressing the new technical stuff. By new technical and ethos stuff, they are suggesting that along with the changes in the technologies teachers and students are exposed to in and out of school, the ways these technologies are used and how they alter the way we interact with information, people and ideas has also changed. As students and teachers draw on these new technologies (new technical stuff), they are no longer viewed simply as consumers of information; rather they are producers and critics of information, as well. More will be presented on these technical and ethos concepts in the opening chapters.
Creating New Spaces
            In 2001, when I wrote my first book for Heinemann, The Reading Workshop: Creating Space for Readers, the concept of space in the subtitle was conceptualized primarily as a physical space, the organization, layout, and procedures necessary for enacting a reading workshop model in one’s classroom. With the expansion of the Internet and the increased availability of new digital resources since I wrote that book, the space being conceptualized in this new book has both physical and virtual aspects. Creating space for readers and reading in a 2.0 environment means addressing the role of digital and on-line resources in addition to the traditional resources of classroom libraries, print-based texts, and word processors. I see these new Reading Workshop 2.0 resources and approaches as expansions of our traditional spaces, moving the learning that occurs there beyond the walls of the traditional classroom.
            As more and more books are provided in digital formats, as book reviews are posted on-line for anyone in the world to read, and as students’ access to information through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) continually expands, the spaces we provide students to support and foster their literate abilities must take into account these resources and exciting possibilities. What counts as being literate is growing more complex every year. Because ICTs and digital resources require different skills than the skills needed by our parents’ generation, decoding print based texts needs to be viewed as a necessary, but insufficient set of skills given the complexity of multimodal texts, on-line and digital resources, and social media (Luke; Freebody). Reading has always been more than decoding, its just is more obvious in these new environments that students will need a larger array of skills to be successful readers.
Reading as Interpretation, Writing as Representation
            The strategies, processes, and practices used for making sense of the more complex texts (multimodal ensembles) encountered in today’s world goes beyond simple notions of comprehension to more complex conceptions of interpretation. In similar fashion, writing is no longer simply putting pencil to paper; it is about designing multimodal texts by drawing on digital resources, visual images, design elements and other resources in the process of making one’s ideas visible. Students can now make their ideas and interpretations visible to the entire world almost instantaneously through the Internet and other ICTs. This changes everything. What knowledge is valued, what processes and practices are used in coming to know, and whose knowledge is valued and privileged changes with the new technical and ethos stuff mentioned earlier.

            Design is thinking made visible. If this is true then our students need to learn new ways and use new tools for making their thinking visible. This is one of the basic concepts that needs to be explored; how do students use new digital, on-line and visual resources to make their ideas visible and available for further discussion.

PBD: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce started out as animated short that eventually won an Academy Award for animation. Then it became a digitally based video book and was sold as an app - available here:
Then it became an amazing picturebook. But that isn't all - now there is an augmented reality app that transforms the hard cover version of the picturebook into an interactive book when you hold a wifi connected iPad or iPhone over the pages of the book. For me these versions are a game-changer, bringing new possibilities to the format of the picturebook. This format is always expanding in new and exciting ways and Joyce and Moonbot Studios have really pushed the envelope.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

PBD: Looking Closely in the Rainforest

This may be rather self-promoting to start off my series of book reviews, but I wanted to call readers' attention to the fact that I have written and illustrated (photography) a series of informational picturebooks called Looking Closely. For this particular book I traveled to Costa Rica, Fiji, Australia and the temperate rain forests of North America (Washington and British Columbia) to find some of the most interesting plants and wildlife for this final book in the series. The books feature a crop and reveal format and ask readers to guess what something might be before having it revealed through full color photography. Children will have lots of fun guessing what these things might be.

These books are available through my website at:
or Amazon.

PBD - Picturebook of the Day

I am starting to post a new picturebook review each day from the thousands of books in my collection, focusing on new arrivals and interesting finds. Hope you find this useful.