Thursday, September 29, 2016

Henry Herz Fractures a Fairy Tale ~ by Patricia Toht

Fracture. Sounds painful, doesn't it?
Illustration from
Squibs of California, Or Every-day Life Illustrated

But a fracture is anything but painful in the hands of Henry Herz, because Henry has been fracturing fairy tales! 

Pelican Publishing
His newest picture book, LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH, is a clever take on the old childhood tale Little Red Riding Hood. The story is set in an ocean reef, where Little Red innocently heads off to deliver crab cakes to her grandmother. But a big, bad tiger shark is on the hunt for a tasty seafood snack! Little Red must use her cuttlefish defenses to save the day. Readers will cheer her on while learning a bit about sea life in the reef, too.

I recently tossed a line to Henry, asking for tips on fracturing fairy tales, and he was generous with advice.

Henry: "Before we discuss fractured fairy tales, let's first unpack the term 'fairy tale.' Fairy tales are commonly defined as children's short stories featuring fantasy creatures and magical enchantments. 

"Thomas Keightley indicated that the word 'fairy' derived from the old French faerie, denoting enchantment. 
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's illustration from
Fairies have been flitting around literature for centuries, from Morgan le Fay (King Arthur), to Tinkerbell (J.M. Barrie's PETER PAN), to Holly Short (Eoin Colfer's ARTEMIS FOWL). You can find them in modern picture books, too, like Doreen Cronin's BLOOM, and [Henry's other new release!] MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, inspired by Queen Mab in Romeo and Juliet.
Henry's other 2016 release,
Schiffer Publishing

"But today the term 'fractured fairy tale' seems to have broadened to mean the recasting of a story, whether technically a fairy tale or not. WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY from IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE or WEST SIDE STORY from ROMEO AND JULIET are two examples of recasting stories that were not originally fairy tales. By 'recasting' we mean a new version in which the author changes the setting, the character(s), the story arc, and/or the theme.

"When I consider writing a fractured fairy tale, I start with the choice of source material. For me, it must be both a story I love and a story sufficiently well-known so that readers will recognize the provenance, or origin, of the fractured version. The latter is critical, both for market appeal, and because much of the charm of a fractured fairy tale derives from when the reader notices and appreciates the differences between the two stories. A musical analogy would be a 'cover,' like this pair of Slovakian cellists shredding AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck':

"I find the most critical writing decision is which aspects should be changed versus which aspects should be kept the same. I generally try to keep the theme intact, although it's okay to add a layer. For example, in LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH, the setting is changed from forest to underwater, and the characters are swapped for aquatic creatures. I also changed the story arc so that the heroine resolves her own challenge. This makes her more empathetic and adds a layer of ingenuity to the original theme of beware of strangers. 

"In INTERSTELLAR CINDERELLA, Deborah Underwood not only put the story in space and makes Cinderella a skilled mechanic, she also transformed the story into rhyme!"

I would like to thank Henry Herz for his insights, and I encourage you to check out his new books. If you would like to try your hand at fracturing a fairy tale, readers, begin by studying some mentor texts - Henry provides a list here.
Tara Lazar also offers some advice here. 

Go forth and fracture! Just don't get hurt in the process...

Monday, September 26, 2016

School Library Journal 2016 School Librarian of the Year; What I've learned so Far!


Dear readers,
I remember it like it happened yesterday.  It was June 30th, and I had slept in a bit enjoying one of the first official summer days.  The windows were open and I could smell the fresh-cut grass and hear the zip, zip, zip of the sprinklers across the street.  After pouring a cup of coffee and turning on NPR, I was in full 'summer mode.'  I opened up my laptop, scanned the messages to see if anything urgent had happened, and noticed something a tiny bit off.
School Library Journal.  
Executive Editor Kathy Ishizuka.
Wait.  What?
Oh my goodness.  
I suddenly remembered that a group of parents in our PTO nominated me for the School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year Award.  The nominations were due in May.  I had been working pretty hard all summer on professional development and all the typical summer projects teachers do to get ready for the school year.  Whoever thinks teachers spend eight weeks of summer lounging around has never met a real teacher!  We're lucky if we get a week on a beach somewhere, or on a trail, or wherever it is that gives you peace.  Most of our summer is spent planning for the next year.  I digress.
I immediately responded to the email.  Then I waited.  I drank two more cups of coffee very quickly.  I needed my brain to catch up with my imagination.  
I was about to speak with the Executive Editor of The School Library Journal!
Fairly soon afterward, my phone rang and it was a New York number!
"Hello Todd, this is Kathy Ishizuka from School Library Journal.  I'm so excited to speak with you.  You have been named The School Library Journal's 2016 School Librarian of the Year!"
I don't remember ANYTHING else that she said other than, "...this news in under embargo until the official release sometime in late August."
A little later in the day I got another email from her:
Holy Cow!  I had totally and honestly forgotten about the nomination.  I presumed that like most things I had about as much chance being chosen as I did winning the lottery.  Well, I was wrong.  I wasn't completely truthful about not remembering anything from the conversation.  I do remember a little bit about the conversation.  I remember sharing with Kathy that  I was first, happy to be the first male Librarian of the Year!  Woot! Woot! But what I truly remember was discussing the fact that I thought I had no chance because of WHERE I work.  I work in Winnetka.  Folks, I'm not going to lie.  It is an amazing place.  It has a history of over one hundred years of progressive education.  It is on the north shore of Lake Michigan and is a northern suburb of Chicago.  It's a pretty affluent community.  
One word about affluence:  Just because a community CAN put money into their educational systems doesn't mean that the WAY it is inserted is necessarily conducive to the most effective learning.  Also, just because my library is well-funded doesn't mean that I don't have students who have amazingly diverse and profound needs: social, emotional, academic, even financial.  It's not all rainbows and unicorns.  Sometimes folks write progressive education off as in, ' can only happen in wealthy communities...'  Let me direct you to a post I wrote recently in which I highlighted a book by my very own professor George Wood, then of Ohio University. In his book, Schools that Work: America's Most Innovative Educational ProgramsGeorge traveled the country highlighting public schools, that work!
School can develop young people ready and able to participate in a democratic society--citizens who are insightful, creative, compassionate, and wise. Pie in the sky? No, this phenomenon is exactly what is happening right now in innovative, exciting American public schools in all types of settings--wealthy and poor neighborhoods, inner-city and rural areas. In Schools That Work, parent and educator George Wood takes us into schools around the nation and shows us firsthand the critical changes that make the difference between schools that work and schools that don't, including innovations in curriculum, physical layout of classrooms, scheduling of the school day, and the educational approach of heroic teachers and parents.
There are millions of dollars out there now that were not out there when George wrote this book in the 1990's.  Here is a list of grants (free money) that teachers can apply for.  Someone is going to get this money, it should be YOU! And here is a list of ways to get FREE money for technology and learning tools for your classroom. If you have the desire and the will to stick with some of these applications, you CAN and WILL be able to get your projects funded.  Look at folks like 2015 SLJ School Librarian of the Year Kristina HolzweissDiana Rendina, and Colleen Graves!  Each of them has applied for and received multiple loans through various Donor organizations and the links above will share their tips with you. YOU CAN DO IT!  It might seem hard, but it is just getting in a groove and pouring your passion and love for learning with your students onto the page or the 'screen!'
Sorry for that brief diversion, but I think it is really important to put that out there so we can move past it.  Kathy went on to tell me that the location of my school was a big part of the conversation with the panel of esteemed judges.  I don't remember her words exactly, but she said something like this: ' the end, we looked at what you've done to share what you do with the world.  Your blog is read on every continent with readers in over 120 countries.  You present at conferences local and international.  You put it out there for all to benefit from and in the end that is what made us choose you.'  Apologies Kathy for paraphrasing, I truly was in shock during most of the conversation!
The weeks and now months that followed that initial phone call have been filled with tremendous trepidation, excitement, joy, humility and in the end, PRIDE.  Not just for me, but for my parents (especially my Mom for reading those thousands of books with me), my grandmother (who was a librarian and would have been so incredibly proud) my college professors, both undergrad at Ohio University, but also at NLU for my Masters and My Library Information Sciences Program.  For the amazing Superintendent Trisha Kocanda; Tech Director Maureen Miller; then Principal Daniel Ryan; our new Principal Beth Carmody; to the Principal who hired me, Maureen Cheever. The list continues to the phenomenal president of the PTO Jen Hayes and her RELENTLESSLY SUPPORTIVE parent team.  One parent, Sarah Graham took this project on and held on to it like a relentless pit bull (in a good way Sarah!)  I am proud of the teachers in our building who put up with my craziness.  I'm proud of the phenomenal colleagues that I share my space with Amy Trogdon, Kristin Osborn, and Dexter Codell; they make everything we dream about actually happen!  We have a mind-blowing custodial staff Clive Lascelles, Dennis Myers and our head Maintenance Director Adam Rappaport.  Most important of all is my wife and kids who put up with the insane amount of time spent away from home; they did it because they knew that it was filling my heart with pride and joy. None of this could have happened if it were not for the OVERWHELMING spirit of positivity.  "Yes and..." became the mantra of this team.  We researched, went on field trips, brainstormed, planned, dreamed and sweat together over the many months of manual and mental labor that went into creating and effectively orchestrating our first year in the IDEA Lab.  
So, I know this post has gone long.  I want to wrap it up to say something I said in an interview with my hometown newspaper, The Kenosha News: 'This award is just as much a challenge for me to work even harder than I did last year.  But work harder to share and help spread the ideas and understanding of how and why the learning that happens in Winnetka, and in our STEAM spaces specifically is so important to children.'
So many doors are opening for me due to this immense honor.  Some I can't write about just yet.  Some I'm not even sure where they may lead.  What I can tell you is that after twenty-four years (that's amazing isn't it?) of teaching, I have never been more excited to get out of bed and into the 'Libratory' than I am right now.  That tells me things are pretty darn fine.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Goodreads: How it Works for Readers and Writers ~ by guest blogger Maria Marshall

We welcome Maria Marshall to GROG today to explain Goodreads, which she uses to organize her reading lists and research for writing projects. So if—like many of us at GROG—you’ve been wondering about whether to get involved with this online reading community, Maria is here to share her helpful insights. ~ Christy Mihaly

What is Goodreads?

I describe it as a composite virtual library, marketing, and social media site. I know, right now you’re thinking, “just what I need, another social site to swallow my limited time and attention.” But Goodreads is a valuable site with many unique features.

While it does allow “friending,” “following,” and “messaging” both friends and authors, Goodreads offers very different benefits from Facebook and Twitter. Its expressed mission is to “help people find and share books they love.” This makes it more of a “book club” than merely a social site. Users can see what their friends are reading, what books they loved and disliked, and recommend books to their friends. It also allows users to read reviews of books posted by the community at large and to respond with a “like” or comment to another’s reviews. In addition, it’s a valuable tool for readers and authors (especially once published).  
Here’s a quick snapshot of what Goodreads can do for you, your books, and those of your friends or favorite authors.


Your Goodreads personal page, “My Books,” functions essentially as a file cabinet and/or virtual library—depending on how you choose to use it.

Goodreads offers folders or “shelves” (it is after all a book oriented site) to organize the books you’ve read into manageable units. The site automatically establishes “read,” “currently-reading,” and “to-read” shelves. Goodreads also allows the user to set up and name whatever other “shelves” they wish. I divided my shelves into adult and children’s books, then set up shelves for “children-chapter,” “children-nf- picture,” “children–picture,” “children-mg,” “resource,” and “writing-reference.”  This screen shot shows how it looks:

In my “free time”, I want to subdivide my picture book and non-fiction shelves (pb-non-fiction-bio‎; pb-historical-fiction; wordless-and-nearly-wordless; board books; pb-character-driven; pb-non-fiction-science; early-chapter-books; pb-concept; early-readers; pb-fractured-fairytale; and pb-lyrical-language, etc.). This further delineation of shelves will make searching my list of over 700 books easier, especially when I dimly recall, but can’t easily find, a certain book.

Goodreads is very customizable and user friendly. It is easy to gather titles of mentor texts for specific projects or themes. Notably, Goodreads allows the user to be as transparent as they wish, deciding which shelves will be visible on their profile page. So you can have a shelf of books available to be seen by Goodreads users and friends, while keeping your specific project shelves hidden. Of note, Goodreads also provides the user with the option of setting (1) who can access a profile, (2) who can follow reviews, (3) who can send private messages, and (4) who has access to a user’s email address.  Like so: 

Reading Challenge

This is a fun feature of Goodreads. I am participating in the 2016 Reading Challenge, to read 1,000 picture books in a year. Goodreads tracks the total number of picture books I’ve read and my progress toward this goal (as long as I remember to input the titles AND note that I read them this year). Although perhaps another of those wonderful time sucking vortexes, it does serve to remind me to at least rate, if not review, books as I read them. This is good for me, as I also tend to read across multiple genres and manually keeping track of everything I ever pulled from the library for a project or ReFoReMo challenge would be nearly impossible. Goodreads also lets the user link the books you’ve bought on Amazon, to reduce recording time.


Another great feature of Goodreads - leaving starred ratings and reviews. So how is this different from Amazon or Barnes & Noble?

1. Timing. Especially important for F&Gs (and I imagine advance copies, as well). While Amazon and Barnes & Noble only accept reviews after publication, Goodreads allowed me to leave an early review for Miranda Paul’s TRAINBOTS. This feature provides a means of highlighting an upcoming release and helping generate interest, since Goodreads is also used by the general public, teachers, and librarians. All reviews are visible not only to your friends, but to any Goodreads user. Like the other commercial sites (and Facebook), Goodreads provides its users with book (and friend) recommendations.

2. Number of Reviews. While arguably redundant, the commercial sites (Amazon and Barnes & Noble) and Goodreads provide slightly different benefits and potentially different audiences. Posting reviews on the commercial sites has the potential to increase a book’s rating and standing, and assist in further sales and rankings on these sites. While it has been argued that the users of Goodreads primarily check books out of the library (see Facebook discussion on KIDLIT 411 group by Tracy Bold 9-1-2016), the commercial sites do not require that you buy the book in order to leave a review. A simple copying of a review to all three (or more) ensures an even greater potential audience and buzz for a book. A wonderful gift for a favorite author.

While all three sites display an average star rating and the number of ratings and reviews that a book obtains, Goodreads seems to have a greater number of reviews posted. As an example, “A Home for Bird” by Phillip Stead (a snippet shown below) only has 28 reviews [w/ a few “verifiable purchases”] on Amazon and 2 reviews on Barnes & Noble. 
This is much lower, as you can see, than the number of reviews for this book on Goodreads. It is worth noting that the NY Times, Library Journal, and Kirkus reviews are only available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But these sites definitely complement each other. And sometimes with books, as with movies, my friends and I have very different impressions than the “professional” reviewers. It’s good to leave, and read, reviews on both the commercial sites and Goodreads.

3. Discussion potential. In addition to leaving a review, Goodreads provides an opportunity for a user to “ask the community” a question about a specific book. While I haven’t participated in this feature, it is a feature unique from the other commercial sites and more akin to a book club. Speaking of, Goodreads also contains a listing of online book clubs within in the site and a listing of “live” book clubs near the user. Additionally, Goodreads provides a forum for communicating with the authors through author groups, featured author question periods, and book discussion forums. All of these are listed under the “community” tab at the top of the profile page. There is also an “ask the author” section on the author page.


On a frivolous and fun note, Goodreads provides numerous giveaways, often on pre-releases. This is yet another way to create book-buzz. I have seen giveaways for all genres.

Author Profile

On Goodreads, this is a free feature. It is not dissimilar to Facebook or Twitter, except for the opportunity to also list the author’s favorite books and what they are reading. It is another forum for reaching readers. Set up is as simple as searching for your book, clicking on your name, and acknowledging that “this is you.” Goodreads accepts any author who has published a book – including foreign or self-published (such as through Barnes & Noble NOOK Press or services like Lulu). Goodreads provides authors with an opportunity to manually add self-published books to their database, if it is not yet included.

The author’s page (as well as the book’s page) allows for the inclusion of videos and Nook previews, as well as a direct link to the author’s blog and website. It also has an “upcoming events” and recent updates section. As with anything, the amount of interaction varies between authors.

It goes without saying that this is a professional page and should be treated as such. If more help is needed, Goodreads provides this “guidance on how to use the site for the YouTube Generation.”

Maria Marshall     
Connecting Children with Nature


Maria Marshall is a children’s author and poet, passionate about connecting children with nature through stories that excite, inspire, and encourage action. She has worked as an attorney, a librarian, an elementary reading program facilitator, and a Girl Scout leader.
Maria is the parent of two amazing adults and lives in the Pacific Northwest with two Pixie Bob cats. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she bird watches, travels, bakes, and hikes.

Has her post encouraged you to try Goodreads? Please leave a comment and let us know! 
~ CM