Recent productions like a bloody staging of Titus at The Globe in 2014 are restoring the gore in Shakespeare’s work, and The Complete Deaths will leave audiences with little doubt that Shakespeare’s culture was as permeated with representations of violence as our own—and it was as much, if not more so, plagued by the real thing.
Yesterday, elementary students at Swan Hills School were treated to presentations by Alberta illustrator and author, Georgia Graham. Growing up on an Alberta farm and now living on a tree farm in central Alberta, Georgia has a natural affinity for animals and wildlife which shows in the beautiful and realistic drawings in Where Wild Horses Run among others. Georgia also excels in a completely different style with the humourous cartoon-style images in books like Here Comes Hortense and The Lime Green Secret.
While fascinating the kids by drawing detailed pictures, she told her stories and showed slides of her illustrations and the photos she took while researching. She showed pictures of herself as a child and her early drawings, and talked about how she had been fascinated with pastels since her mother gave her a set in Grade 4.
Working through pastel drawings of a circle transformed into an apple, a scene with a road through hilly hay fields (from The Strongest Man This Side of Cremona) , a sled dog (from A Team Like No Other) and several others, she demonstrated how to create depth and perspective in objects and scenes with shadow and light. She described the process involved in creating a book from concept to publication and how she often uses an inspiring true story to ‘tweak’ into a great fiction book.
Division Two learned the proportions and shading techniques of making a realistic portrait and Division One watched her create the whimsical, cartoon-style protagonist of The Lime Green Secret. After each drawing was complete, she drew the name of a student who would take the drawing home. The kids were amazed and enlightened as she laid transparencies in cyan, magenta, yellow and black over one another to create a final image of one of her illustrations from the very popular Tiger’s New Cowboy Books written by Irene Morck.
Students had been introduced to Georgia Graham’s books in library classes and were eager to meet her. They were not disappointed as she fleshed out their experiences with the books and gave them the motivation to check them out more closely on their own, which will broaden their understanding of Alberta, of nature, of people and of life – those things we all gain from intimacy with books.
With their beautiful, realistic depictions of Alberta’s landscapes, several of Georgia’s books are listed in Learn Alberta’s Social Studies Literature Connections (K-12), and more could be added for students studying Alberta in general, various geographical regions, rural life and individual identity. Based on a true story, The Strongest Man This Side of Cremona tells of the destruction of a farm during a tornado that hit the area in 1965. Sweeping prairie vistas and period-accurate illustrations strengthen the story of how the experience must have felt to one small boy. Sled dog driving is featured in A Team Like No Other, a story of love and trust set in the spectacular Rocky Mountains.
Illustration from ‘Where Wild Horses Run’ by Georgia Graham
Our annual author visits are partially funded by the Young Alberta Book Society, who in turn are sponsored by many groups and agencies. We pay the artist’s fee only with the money we earn through the excellent local patronage of our annual Book Fair.
Next week is the Junior & Senior High’s turn when storyteller and urban myth exploiter Gail de Vos visits on the 15th.
Buried in Ice has often caught student’s attention with its graphic pictures of the “perfectly preserved” body of John Torrington discovered in 1984, 140 years after his death in the frozen north. The recent discovery of one of the ships from the Franklin Expedition inspired me to create a book display with our related books and some borrowed through our regional library. A former student, now a father himself, generously delivered a close replica for the display. A QR code in the poster leads students to find out more about the find and research going on around it.
Swan Hills School Franklin Expedition Book Display
I’ve chosen author and illustrator Eugenie Fernandes to show the Kindergarten students a little more about books. Fernandes has written books that others have illustrated, illustrated books that others have written as well as both writing and illustrating some of her own, giving a good variety of examples to reinforce these important roles played in the making of picture books.
The first book we read was One More Pet, which Fernandes both wrote and illustrated. (It was also a great book to launch a discussion of responsibility, which is our school’s character trait for January.) Fernandes’ daughter, Kim Fernandes used plasticine pictures to illustrate our next book Sleepy Little Mouse. The children were compelled to touch the illustrations to confirm that they weren’t the real plasticine creations. We talked about how ‘someone’ had to take photographs of the artwork in order to make copies that would go into the books. Ordinary Amos and the Amazing Fish was illustrated by the author’s husband, Henry Fernandes. I showed 2 different editions of this book. We compared the covers (one hard, one soft), the updated artwork and determined that the text was exactly the same in both. We finished up with a wonderful fantasy written and illustrated by our featured author: The Tree That Grew to the Moon.
Our Primary Magazines
This class has accomplished the unprecedented feat of returning every one of their books on time since the beginning of school in September. No overdues! They received the monthly library award for the second month in a row and each received 3 month prizes and the privilege of one more book each. (See Responsible Reader Awards.) The first class in January was a celebration – rather than having a story, I gave extra time for book exchange and when each student was finished, they collected a bean bag to sit on and a puppet or stuffy to read to. It was sweet to see them reading to their puppets all over the library. I also sent them back with a book for their classroom.
Since these students may now check out two library items, one of them can be a magazine if they wish. We took another class this month to get to know the magazines in our collection, what kind a regular features they might find in each and how magazines differ from books.
We often read books in Grade 1 relating to their science unit: Needs of Plants and Animals. Grade 1 students naturally love nature and with all the nature right out our back door, it’s a natural theme for this age. In the Snow: Who’s Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett Georgetakes us on a wintry walk through the woods, looking for signs of birds and mammals and learning a little about their habits and habitats as we go. David Suzuki presents the essential elements for a tree’s growth in the very entertaining The Tree Suitcase. Students were astounded that we breathe the same air and drink the same water that dinosaurs did millions of years ago and had no problem remembering that trees need soil, water, air and sunlight to grow after we had finished the story. The ecologically accurate The Tree in the Ancient Forest with cumulative verse by Carol Reed-Jones and beautiful illustrations by Christopher Canyon rounded out the month.
We always get a lot of snow in winter and this winter we’ve already had our fair share, so it was easy to stay with the Arctic theme at the first of the month and learn a little about Igloo building – an activity that every northern child has at least tried. We started out talking about what kind of books we look to when we want to get information, which most students already understood are nonfiction. Igloo by Lauren Diemer from the Canadian Icons series allowed us to not only learn about igloos, but to review helpful elements in nonfiction books like the Table of Contents, Glossary and Index. We then watched an Inuit boy and his father actually build an igloo from the BBC documentary, A Boy Among Polar Bears.
Responding to student demands, we spent the next couple of weeks giving everyone a chance to have their turn at Library Charades, where each student pantomimes a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ library activity while the rest of the class guesses what they’re doing and responds. (See Grade 2 in this post for a description of the program.) We also spent a class talking about our selection of primary magazines and how they compare and contrast with books. I always see a spike in magazine check-outs after I do this with a class and Grade 2 was no different.
This month we started a program I call “Show and Share”. Rather then me reading to the class, they do their book exchange first and then gather. Students are asked to look through the books they’ve checked out and see if they have one that they feel other students may not yet have discovered, but might enjoy. They then volunteer to show the book to the rest of the class and tell them what caught their interest, why they think others might like it and where they found it.
Our first volunteer was Aden, who showed an issue of Petersen’s Hunting magazine. Although the reading level is far above Grade 3, many families in our little bush-town hunt, so the class was very attentive when he highlighted a two-page spread showing completely camouflaged hunters sitting in a blind. It was like a Bev Doolittle painting, or a look-and-find like Where’s Waldo. He pointed to the magazine stand that is shared by the Nature & the Environment and Science and Technology ‘islands’ to show where he found it.*
The periodical shelf shared by ‘Science & Technology’ and ‘Nature and the Environment’
Emma was next. She showed a book called Spring from the Get Set…Go! series, that she found on the Seasons and Weather shelf in Easy Street. She read us the entire directions on how to make a paper nest. In both cases, when I asked if anyone else would like to check out these media, a good 2/3 of the class raised their hands. That set the stage for a few weeks of students eagerly volunteering for their chance to show off their finds, with other students visibly excited for their chance to check them out.
Other books shared were: Socksquatch, How to Draw Animals, (Face to Face with) The Horse, (Creative Crafts) Drawing, (Hayley & Bix) Late for School, (Life & Survival) The Seal, The Day the Crayons Quit, Ninjago, Rabbits, 4 Wheeler, I Have 2 Mommies, and 101 Animal Babies. This program gives us a good chance to discuss the diversity of literary taste and how looking at others’ choices helps us determine, but shouldn’t dictate our own.
The last 2 visits of this long month were spent on pirates – my favourite theme for comparing fiction and nonfiction materials in Grade 3. We began with A Pirate’s Guide to Recess by James Preller, a delightful portrayal of imagination play and a great foil for nonfiction as we discussed the ‘imaginings’ in the book cleverly set apart from ‘reality’ by illustrator Greg Ruth. We had to look to a few nonfiction books to see where Ruth may have found the source material for his pirates. Our mantra for fiction is that it comes from the author’s imagination. Phoebe Gilman’s rich imagination helps to reinforce this with books like Grandma and the Pirates, our second read on this theme.
Ricky has had his cover blown in Sigmund Brouwer’s Tyrant of the Badlands. We are all on pins and needles while Ricky and his friends wait for their fate deep in the bowels of the earth.
Grade 5 students have again voted and the majority wish to continue reading A Prairie as Wide as the Sea by Sarah Ellis, following Ivy Weatherall through her first year in Canada. I know that part of the appeal is the enjoyment of sprawling on cushions while I read to them and the casual discussions afterwards. There are never any quizzes in library class. We have discussed the many ways Ira’s life differs from ours. Of special note was the striking difference in the number and value of Christmas gifts she received. She was grateful for fruit in her stocking, a book from her aunt, mitts that her mother had knitted and a box of watercolours.
After finishing The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis before Christmas, the class unanimously decided to continue the series. Parvana’s Journey started out with a surprise and Ellis again had the students hooked from the get-go. This was not my plan but I can’t turn my back on such enthusiasm.
You can see all the books we have read in library classes this year here.
*For those interested in my book-store-like library arrangement – the hunting magazines are one of those little anomalies in the collection. Although the books on hunting are the Sports department of the Arts and Entertainment island, I’ve put the magazines in the Science and Nature shared rack since I haven’t been able to fit a magazine rack in Arts. They go out well from there along with the ATV and off-road magazines (from Science & Technology).
And Every Single One Was Someone by Phil Chernofsky. Gefen Publishing House
“That Jew could be you. Next to him is your brother. Oh, look, your uncles and aunts and cousins and your whole extended family. A row, a line, those are your classmates. Now you get lost in a kind of meditative state where you look at one word, ‘Jew,’ you look at one Jew, you focus on it and then your mind starts to go because who is he, where did he live, what did he want to do when he grew up?” Phil Chernofsky
“I am not worrying about whether you will love my future wife or not—if you know her twenty-four hours & then don’t love her, you will accomplish what nobody else has ever succeeded in doing since she was born.“
Mark Twain was happily married to Olivia Langdon for 34 years. In 1869 he seemed to anticipate his family’s disapproval of the marriage and tried to win them over with a love-filled and humble letter that was last seen at Christie’s New York, June 9, 1992, lot 35, when it sold for $9,500.
This is the month for romance novels. Granted, they have come a long way since Jane Austin’s time, often with much stronger heroines and modern plot lines but one might be wise to consider the following advice.
“Date a guy who thinks you’re just attractive enough to tolerate. (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)
He’s willing to hook up with you, so does it really matter that he once told your friend he thought he could snag a hotter girlfriend than you? Maybe he makes fun of your love handles, then gently suggests getting a gym membership. Don’t give up! Tell yourself you can win him over with your vivacious personality. One day he’ll find you beautiful. After all, Mr. Darcy went from finding Elizabeth Bennett “tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me” to proclaiming her “one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance” after a couple hundred pages of banter and general hilarity. Lesson: He might be settling for you now, but keep trying and someday he’ll really appreciate you. Really.”
The only surviving recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice, chalk full of wisdom on the art of craftsmanship in the art of writing.
A few excerpts:
“Words, English words, are full of echoes, of memories, of associations — naturally. They have been out and about, on people’s lips, in their houses, in the streets, in the fields, for so many centuries. And that is one of the chief difficulties in writing them today — that they are so stored with meanings, with memories, that they have contracted so many famous marriages.”
“You cannot use a brand new word in an old language…Our business is to see what we can do with the English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth? That is the question.”
“A few trifling rules of grammar and spelling are all the constraint we can put on them…they hate anything that stamps them with one meaning or confines them to one attitude, for it is their nature to change.”
Don’t confine yourself to these few teasers. Listen to the recording and read missing first part and the entire transcript at Brainpickings.
Almost every April during Poetry Month, one of my library classes learns the now classic Alligator Pie by ‘Canada’s Father Goose’ Dennis Lee. It’s just so much fun to recite…
Lee’s eponymous book, originally illustrated by Frank Newfeld, turns 40 this year. To mark the occasion, HarperCollins held a contest for a published or unpublished artist to illustrate a special anniversary edition board book, to be published this fall.
The unanimous winner, announced January 16th, is Calgary artist Sandy Nichols, graduate of Alberta College of Art and Design.
Her clients include various advertising firms, magazines and corporations throughout Canada, the United States and the UK. She has also illustrated a children’s book, Starring Lorenzo and Einstein Too (Dial/Penguin 2009). Three in a Box
I have discovered why people don't use the contact forms anymore and why their email addresses are not linkable. My inbox has become overrun by bots!
So if you would like to contact me for a legitimate purpose please email me at missusk76(at)yahoo(dot)com.
I do not endorse or earn any income from the advertising that Wordpress places on this site.