Thursday, August 31, 2006


Why should teachers have all the fun? Invite other members of the school community into the classroom for a read-aloud as a special guest, and as a way for children to get to know all the special people who make the school function. Such as...

The lunch lady...
SCHOOL LUNCH by True Kelley (Holiday House)
When the health-conscious school lunch lady Harriet takes a much-needed vacation, its mighty hard to fill her shoes, or her kitchen. Told mostly in letters between the suffering school and Harriet swinging in her tropical hammock, we see the fry cook who douses everything in salt and grease, the French chef whose flambé sets off fire alarms, a summer camp counselor who serves up a few too many s'mores, a witch with culinary mischief brewing, and finally, the principal must resort to Chinese take-out. Wish you were here, Harriet! Accented with explosive cartoon illustrations, this-laugh-out-loud story is a delicious tribute to one of school's unsung heros. (6 and up)

The custodian...
THE FEET IN THE GYM by Teri Daniels, illustrated by Travis Foster
This book celebrates the great underdog of the school, the custodian! Handy Bob takes great pride in his job, wiping and washing and craping and scrubbing until the school shines, but begins to feel a little "walked on" as he wrangles with the footprints of everyone from the shuffling kindergarteners to a troupe of ballet-dancing kids to a soccer team to (gasp!) the art class goodness...the marching band! How will poor Bob ever get the floor clean? The story is hilarious and a perfect read aloud, with an underlying message of persistence and pride in a job well done. Though sometimes hard to find, it's worth the hunt. The book production is outstanding, with super-glossy parts to the pages that actually makes the footprints look wet! I can't wait to have kids make their own paint footprints to lead them into their new classroom...or should I write new students' names on the feet and use them for a bulletin board featuring Handy Bob? Run, don't walk to get this book... for laughs and creative extensions, other read-alouds might very well "pail" in comparison! (5 and up)

The administration...
A FINE, FINE SCHOOL by Sharon Creech, illustrated by Harry Bliss (HarperCollins)
A well-meaning principal is so enamored with the climate at his school that he decides to hold school on Saturdays. And then Sundays. And then holidays. Meanwhile, Tillie's little brother was not learning how to skip, and Tillie's dog was not learning how to sit, and Tillie herself was not learning how to climb the tree in her backyard. So when the principal considers holding school all summer, it's time to set the record straight. Clever illustrations (children brushing their teeth at the lockers, a boy carrying a volume titled This Book Is Way Too Hard for You, and children passing each other boxes of tissue to cry into as the principal makes his announcements) bring home the point that maybe it is possible too much of a good thing, and that there is all kinds of learning, some of which doesn't take place even in a fine, fine school. Another fine, fine children's book for this time of year! Also of interest to adminstration on a storytelling spree might be THE FROG PRINCIPAL by Stephanie Calmerson, illustrated by Denise Brunkus (Scholastic) (6 and up), THE PRINCIPAL'S NEW CLOTHES also by Stephanie Calmerson and illustrated by Denise Brunkus (Scholastic) (6 and up), and MR. TANEN'S TIES by MaryAnn Cocca-Leffler (Whitman) (6 and up). Come out of the office and set the tone for a community of readers!

And don't forget to check out Mike Thaler's classic "Black Lagoon" picture book series, covering everyone from the school bus driver to the school nurse, and recognizes and reduces any trepidation children may have about meeting these new and important folks.

Any other suggestions for read-alouds that are comfortable and fun for folks who work outside of the classroom in the school? Please share them in the "comments" section!

On a personal note: The PlanetEsme Bookroom!
Many of you have asked about upcoming events at The PlanetEsme Bookroom, the fabulous literary living room on Chicago's north side where children's literature is celebrated! I am currently working on giving the Bookroom page a facelift to include the history of the space, the marvelous and extraordinary guests that have passed through and the people who contributed to make it so unique, and how to get information on how you can start your own literary salon! Thanks for your patience!

The truth of the matter is, at the start of August I have taken a full-time position as a school librarian (at a school that will at this time remain unnamed to protect privacy), and have been busy setting it up one shelf at a time. Meanwhile, the Bookroom programming is going to be a bit you say...."once in a while," as I get the plate-spinning act honed. We are keeping events minimized to absolutely the most fabulous. Which is why we are planning on having illustrator HARRY BLISS (of bestselling DIARY OF A WORM fame), appearing at the Bookroom on October 18th, 6:30 p.m., courtesy of our wonderful independent bookselling supporter, The Bookstall. Yes, you can come. Yes, you can bring a friend. Yes, it's free if you buy a book at the event, which will be easy, because Bliss will bewitch us with his collaboration with Allison McGhee, A VERY BRAVE WITCH (Simon & Schuster). Details this fall, but mark your calendars today! Also, I want to have an ooo-la-la release party this fall to celebrate VIVE LA PARIS, but haven't quite worked out the details. Your bookbash brainstorming is welcome!

Peek-a-boo at the Bookroom!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on becoming a librarian. You will love it. It is the best job in the school.

Anonymous said...

Great idea, as usual, about reading opps for the different folks at school.

Good luck with "la rentree."


not available said...

dear esme,
i just wanted to write & say hello!
i ready your blog daily & own all your books. i am a teacher's assistant in a special needs pre-k/ & lover of books. i loooooove that you do what you! congrats on your new job.
esme <-- i'm not kidding. my name is esme. we are totally sista's by name!


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