Children’s Choice Book Awards Announced

This year’s winners of the annual Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards were announced at the seventh annual Children’s Book Council gala in New York last night. What I like about these awards are that the children vote for their favorites themselves, so this list is truly a reflection of what our nation’s kids like to read!

“The Children’s Book Council’s vetting process ensures that voting is done by children and teens, or submitted from classroom ballot boxes, they said.”

Here are the top winners in each category (click on thumbnails for more information):

K-2nd grade Book of the Year:
The Day The Crayons Quit
by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.






3rd-4th grade Book of the Year:
Bugs in My Hair!
by David Shannon.

Bugs in Hair





5th-6th grade Book of the Year:
National Geographic Kids Myths Busted!
by Emily Krieger, illustrated by Tom Nick Cocotos.

Myths Busted





Teens Book of the Year:
by Veronica Roth.






Illustrator of the Year:
Grace Lee
Sofia the First: The Floating Palace.

Sofia First





Author of the Year:
Rush Limbaugh
Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans.

Rush Revere


Is it Summer Yet?


Mud Pie Kitchen.

A kid-centered local business in Wilmette, Growth Spurts, recently posted a great Pinterest board with outside play ideas for children. Growth Spurts is actually an indoor play space for kids, but it looks like they are moving a few activities outdoors in anticipation of summer. I poked around Pinterest, and found a few other boards with inspiration – some for playing outside, and some for just playing (you never know when you might go for that play therapy credential, right?). After the recent flooding and crazy weather, I think we’re all ready for a little sunshine and fun!

Links to other Pinterest boards:
Play Space Ideas
Mud Pie Kitchens
Outdoor Fun
Waldorf Preschools
Get Back Outside
Play Learn Grow

“Once You Learn Something it Never Leaves You”

A little school humor for my cohort. It’s been one of those weeks where you know you know what you know, but you can’t translate that knowledge into statements that make sense to anyone.

Someone told me we’re in what’s known as the “March Doldrums.” Tensions are flaring, moods are fragile, and stress is high. I guess it’s just part of the school-year cycle, but I’m hoping it’s over soon – if only for the sake of our collective mental health. A lot of schools have spring break next week, so that may be the cure. In the meantime, enjoy this clip from The Andy Griffith Show.

The “Toy Stories” Project

Enea - Boulder, Colorado

Enea – Boulder, Colorado

Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti spent 18 months taking photographs of children around the world posing with their most prized possessions. The project is called Toy Stories, and you can see a nice sampling of it here. 

All of the photos, along with a longer essay about the project, can be viewed on Mr. Galimberti’s website, here.

What a beautiful and thought-provoking project. As someone named Graeme Stuart writes in the comments section of the feature shoot article: “…It certainly highlights the differences in standard of living – but not necessarily quality of life.” How true.

Arafa & Aisha - Bububu, Zanzibar

Arafa & Aisha – Bububu, Zanzibar

Cun Zi Yi - Chongqing, China

Cun Zi Yi – Chongqing, China

Davide - La Valletta, Malta

Davide – La Valletta, Malta

Kalesi - Viseisei, Fiji Islands

Kalesi – Viseisei, Fiji Islands

Ragnar - Reykjavik, Iceland

Ragnar – Reykjavik, Iceland

Abel - Nopaltepec, Mexico

Abel – Nopaltepec, Mexico

Virginia - American Fork, Utah

Virginia – American Fork, Utah

Doodle 4 Google Drawing Contest

Did you know that Google is hosting a drawing contest for kids? Apparently they’ve been doing this for the past six years, but I just found out about it yesterday. Okay, so I’m a little late to the game. But there are still about 2 weeks left to submit entries so I thought it was worthwhile to post about (plus, now you’ll have a heads-up for next year!).

It’s called Doodle 4 Google, and it’s open to all K-12 kids in the U.S.

This year, we ask students to exercise their creative imaginations around the theme, “My Best Day Ever…” One talented student artist will see their artwork appear on the Google homepage, receive a $30,000 college scholarship, and a $50,000 technology grant for their school along with some other cool prizes!

Here’s a short video about it:

Want to see how many submissions your state has entered so far? Check out this interactive map. Looks like North Dakota is still in the lead, while Illinois isn’t even in the top 10. We’ve got some work to do!

Screen shot 2013-03-08 at 12.09.13 PM

Parents can submit their child’s art, and teachers can submit their students’ art. The only limitation is one drawing per child, but, for example, a teacher could submit a drawing by each child in her class. Good luck, and let’s all get doodling!

Contest information.
Entry forms.

Archive of all Google doodles since 1998.

Inspiration of the Week: Holly Marschke


If you need a little pick-me-up, I suggest reading this great profile of 14-year-old Holly Marschke in the NY Times. Deaf since birth, Holly attended mainstream schools through middle school, at which point she switched to the New York School for the Deaf-Fanwood at the age of 12 (the article hints that perhaps her hearing peers were not so kind as they approached the teen years).

When the girl’s basketball team at her school folded – because most of the girls wanted to switch to cheerleading – Holly gracefully shifted to the boy’s team. Since then she’s been known simply as No. 34. She’s not “a novelty,” she’s not “the girl player,” she’s not “the deaf girl player.” She’s just No. 34. Sometimes inclusion can happen in ways you couldn’t anticipate, with outcomes better than you could imagine.

Holly’s been playing basketball since she was four, and has no intention of stopping any time soon. Way to go, Holly! You’re an inspiration to all of us.

“I’m never going to give up on basketball,” Holly said, with her mother serving as her sign-language interpreter. “I want to be famous.”

The State of The Union and A State of Mind

Picture 4“His melancholy was stamped on him while in the period of gestation.
It was part of his nature.” –Henry C. Whitney

Tonight is the President’s State of the Union address. In honor of this important American tradition, I tried to come up with something linking psychology with the American Presidency. Perhaps not surprisingly, I actually found something!

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln wrote eloquently about depression (melancholy)? I think it’s pretty common knowledge that President Lincoln was known for his “gloomy” temperament. But it’s probably less well-known that he wrote poetic and touching letters to grieving citizens and friends at various times during his life.

Here’s a great page about Lincoln and his depression from a website devoted to Abraham Lincoln research. Called the Abraham Lincoln Research Site, it was created by an ex-history teacher named Roger J. Norton for “students, teachers, schools, and anyone interested in…Lincoln.”

The page on depression is a pretty quick read and engaging from start to finish. So I definitely recommend just reading that. But here are a few quotes, written by Lincoln, that stood out to me:

“Remember in the depth and even the agony of despondency, that very shortly you are to feel well again.”
“A tendency to melancholy…let it be observed, is a misfortune, not a fault.”
“You can not now realize that you will ever feel better…and yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again…I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.”

Book links for further reading:

“Lincoln’s Melancholy,” by Joshua Wolf Shenk.
“The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln,” by Michael Burlingame.
“Herndon’s Life of Lincoln,” William H. Herndon.

The Scared is scared (of things you like)

Here’s a wonderful little movie created by a 6-year-old boy named Asa (with a little help from a grown up, but still).

The movie, called the Scared is scared, tells the tale of a bear, a mouse, swimming pools, sleepovers, friendship, pizza and life. It’s excitement, fear, joy and bewilderment wrapped up into a story full of heart and humor that only a six-year-old’s imagination could provide.

It also is a great lesson in handling adversity. When you find yourself facing a challenge – a major life transition, a metaphorical door closing, anxiety, a monster under your bed – Asa has this advice:

“You should just say ‘OK! I’m fine!’ I usually let it go. I just think of something that I really like to do…just think of something else until the nervous has gone out of you…”

In other words, by thinking of something you like, you can help relieve sadness, anxiety, tension, etc. Asa: “The Scared is scared of things you like.” 

Asa doesn’t know it, but his approach is a lot like cognitive behavioral therapy: by challenging your negative thoughts, you can have a positive impact on your mood and behavior. Way to go, Asa. Thanks for the important reminder!

Mayan Apocalypse Myths are Scaring Children

Yesterday, NASA hosted one of their live Hangouts on Google+ to talk about the myths surrounding 2012 and the Mayan calendar. We’ve all heard the stories about the world supposedly ending at the end of this year, and luckily we are able to laugh them off as the silly stuff of pseudoscience.

But did you know that NASA scientist David Morrison receives letters from children all over the country who are so worried about the world ending in 2012 that they are having trouble eating and sleeping, and some teenagers have even confessed to feeling suicidal? This is not good, to say the least. The myths and fears being propagated about the Mayan calendar are seemingly fed by Internet rumors, New-Age-type beliefs, and Hollywood movies.

The complete Hangout is about 52 minutes long, but I definitely recommend it if you have time. Skip ahead to the 5:30 mark to hear Mr. Morrison talking about the disturbing letters he’s received from children and teachers across the country. Here’s the full video:

For a shorter, quick-and-to-the-point video explanation of why the world won’t end in three weeks, here is Don Yeomans from NASA’s Jet Propulsion laboratory breaking down the different aspects of the myth:

For further reference:

  • NASA’s FAQ page about why the world won’t end in 2012.
  • Don Yeoman’s 2012 hoax page.
  • Top six 2012 “end-of-the-world” myths debunked by National Geographic.
  • And, for a little perspective, a list of predicted apocalyptic events throughout history. I think we can all agree on the outcomes.

And finally, I’ll leave you with a famous quote from my all-time favorite astrophysicist:

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” -Carl Sagan

All About Pencils

If you work in schools, pencils are an integral part of everyday life. For adults, they can be a way to express individuality and taste. For example, I’m rather picky about my choice of pencil, mostly for reasons having to do with the eraser. For children, pencils are not just a tool for writing, but also a form of currency. A colleague and I ran a social skills group for 5th graders a couple of weeks ago, and at each child’s seat we placed a piece of colored paper and a newly sharpened pencil with an American flag design on it (we happened to find them in a big bin of mixed-up pencils in the art room). The kids were so excited when we told them they could keep the pencils, like, “Wow! Cool!” It was really sweet, and such a simple little thing that made them so excited.

So I found this recent interview with a scion of the pencil-making world, Count Anton Wolfgang von Faber-Castell, pretty interesting. Who knew that pencil-making had such a rich history? Or that one family has run the business for 8 generations? Or that there is a nearly 250-yyear-old feud between the Faber-Castell family and the Staedtler family? They’re like the Hatfields and McCoys of Bavaria!

This all reminded me of an Italian jewelry artist named Maria Cristina Belluci who makes interesting pieces using re-purposed colored pencils. Here are some of her designs (click on images for links):


A quick search of Etsy found a few US-based sellers making jewelry in this style (click on images for links):

And lastly, if you’re feeling crafty and want to try your hand at making pencil jewelry, there is a step-by-step tutorial on She shows you how to make each of the pieces shown below: two different necklaces and a brooch. Looks like a fun project for a rainy day, or maybe something for all you art teachers out there. A great way to introduce concepts surrounding recycling, color theory, and mixed media. Not sure I would wear any of these with a white shirt, but still they’re lovely to look at. Enjoy!