Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Rock Stars

I'm not much of one to travel. 

Oh, I have been to a few places and have actually left the country on a couple of occasions.  Last summer my teaching partner, her husband,  Mardell and I even went to whole new world .... for an entire week but I really hate being gone from home for more than three or four days.

However, every year without fail I go to the Denver Reading Conference.  I save my personal days for this purpose and I look forward to it.  This year was no different.

Vicki and I went together.  We left after school on Wednesday.  In fact we about beat the busses out of the school yard!

Last year when we went, we stopped at Centerra in Loveland and hit the big Barnes and Noble on the way down.  Consequently we spent several hundred dollars and couldn't afford to go to the Tattered Cover.  We weren't about to make that mistake this time.

To be on the safe side, we stopped in Cheyenne for supper.  

We ate at Sanford's Grub and Pub.  Curly and Ann at the Woodshed turned us on to Sanford's many years ago.  Vicki had never eaten there before.  Think junkyard ambience.  It was started by a couple of college kids cramming for finals.  I think they have great burgers and have tried replicating them at home.  Mom doesn't care for my replications, but this is a woman who eats peanut butter by the spoonful, so I try to keep things in perspective.

We got to the Marriott at the Denver Tech Center at about 9:30.  We were both beat and we hit the sack soon after we arrived.

The keynote speaker for the morning was Lester Laminack.

I'd heard of him in passing, but I had no clue
about anything he had written.
We now own every children's book that he has written
and two of his professional books for teachers.  We are ordering the others on payday.  He was that good.

We have not laughed so hard for a long time.  He moved around the room, climbed on chairs, pranced, and kept us very entertained.  He kept reminding us that we all had little Lesters in our classroom. Then he laughed maniacally.

We were so glad that we had gone.  That one session alone was worth it.
From there we went to a session where recipients of a grant outlined their projects.  We got a nice list of books to use with ELL kids if we ever have the need.  But better than that, we learned that we can apply for the grant even though we don't live in Colorado.  That would buy some more books for our classroom which is always a good thing.

Next we hit some exhibits and bought Lester's books.  The fool things are mostly in hardback.  I especially like hardbacks, but I don't like paying for them.  It kills me to buy one when I could be buying two paperbacks.  That's how good his books are ... we bought three hardback and two softback titles!

The author luncheon on Thursday was Jane Yolen.

She shares her birthday with Mom,
and everyone sang her Happy Birthday a few days early.

Care to guess who is older?

Jane turned 70 and Mom turned 66 on the 11th. 

Unfortunately Mom didn't have 700 teachers sing Happy Birthday to her.  She didn't even have one teacher sing Happy Birthday to her.  Trust me when I say there is a very good reason for that.

That afternoon we were scheduled to go see Julie Dannenberg who wrote First Year Jitters.

This was the book I bought for myself the night that Karen asked if I wanted my own classroom. 
We both really wanted to see her. But instead, we skipped out of that session and went to Lester Laminack's.
He read his Book Saturdays and Teacakes to us and explained how he invited the author to his grandma's house for the illustrations.  It was no longer his grandma's house ... his cousin owns it, but he called all of his family and they brought back her belongings and recreated her kitchen so that the illustrator could capture the feeling.  I think Lester's "Mam-maw" and Grandmother Hall were cloned.  Their kitchens certainly were.

He talked a lot about how he wrote the book and what his intentions were.  He illustrated how deliberate the process is and why he used the typesetting that he did.  It was fascinating and gave us a whole new level to consider with our student's writing.

I even won one of his books as a door prize.  I even told him that it wasn't enough to just win, I also wanted it autographed.  To Trudy the Great no less.

We hit a few more sessions and then met up with the other Scottsbluff teachers that were there.  We went to supper at P.F. Chang's.  It was good, but it doesn't hold a candle to The Wonderful House.  We are really spoiled.

After supper we went back up to our room and read children's books for the next hour or two.  By this time we had purchased about thirty or thirty five books.

The keynote speaker for Friday morning was B-O-R-I-N-G.  But I managed to get a few math papers graded, so it wasn't a total loss.

We have a student teacher this year.  Her name is The Young Thing.

So after the keynote, we went to get a book signed by Patricia Polacco for her.  We had just started a unit on alphabet books and discovered that Patricia Polacco had one titled G Is For Goat.  We bought us a copy and got one for her.

To get a book autographed, you have to get a ticket and stand in line for over an hour.  I think that is a Colorado law.  We had been there for about half an hour when one of the conference organizers explained that she wasn't personalizing books this year because her carpal tunnel was so bad.  She also explained that she was using book plates in place of signatures.  We were very disappointed, so we went to plan B.  I rushed off to the book store and bought another alphabet book "W is for Whale" since we have an ocean theme.  Then we went to get a ticket for Roland Smith's line.  Instead, we were greeted by Roland Smith himself and Vicki even got a hug from him.


We were slated to go to Jerry Pallotta's session...


but instead we got some books autographed by him and opted to wait for Patricia Polacco.

Incidentally, his shirt says "Read a Zillion Books". 
I want one. 
Just in case anyone cares.

The wait for Patricia was well worth it.  It turns out that she would personalize one and sign every book you brought.  Usually they limit you to two books, so we had left the other twenty up in our room.  It didn't matter .... getting The Young Thing's signed was the important thing.  Besides, we got our photo with Patricia.


I normally despise getting my picture taken, but we work so hard all year at elevating children's authors to rock star status, that it was worth it.  The kids will be impressed.  She visited with us for quite a while and told us about how her mother taught a multi-age room just like us.  She is truly a neat person. 

Heck, our students were impressed to hear that we rode alone in the elevator with David Schwartz. 

We didn't mention the fact that we didn't converse with him.
It was about ten o'clock at night and he looked more wiped out than we felt.

Anyway, we left the autographing area and went off in search of our next session on writing.  It was a commercial for a program guaranteed to improve student writing.  We picked up a few good tips, but the commercialized sessions don't thrill us much.

Then we went to the Patricia Polacco luncheon.  The theme for the conference was "Living Story Quilts" and Patricia read her book titled The Keeping Quilt.  It was incredible.   But even mo
re so when she pulled out the actual quilt that the story was based on.

In this photo, she was talking about her rotten red-headed older brother.  But then she went on to explain that you were truly lucky if you had a red-headed friend.  She recommended getting one if you didn't already have one.  There is a red-head in each of her books.

So Sister Two and Sister Three, a little more respect for the red-head in the family please.

The quilt belonged to her great-great grandmother and was made from the clothes of all the relatives they had left behind when they came to America.  She pointed out which applique had come from which relatives clothes.  There wasn't a dry eye in the room when she finished.

Her accent reminded me so much of Granny.  Especially when she said America.

She also told about her farm and the gardens and livestock.  That really made me think of Granny and miss her.

We had chosen to go see Nancy Pollette because we thought we would pick up some great tips.  We were right and we discovered that we have several books that she has written.  The name didn't ring a bell at all, but she started talking about different books and showing them and Vicki and I would lean over to one another and say, "We've got that one."

The hour that we spent with her just flew by.  This was the last major conference that she is doing because she is going into semi-retirement.  She told us this and then explained that she had been a teacher for 59 years!  She laughed as we were all doing the math and said that she'll turn 80 this year.  She doesn't look old enough to be 70, much less 80!

Then we went to Will Hobb's session.  I can't stand science fiction, so I was really disappointed.  But he signed his book Howling Hill for us.

Our last keynote session was Nancy Atwell.  We had used her book in my Adolescent Literature class.  She was very interesting, but obviously she is geared more towards the middle school crowd.  We didn't get out of there until about 6:20.  I had texted Mary and told her we would be done about 6:00 because she and Jamal were driving to Denver to have supper with us.  This is a long-standing tradition.  Fortunately, the boy didn't get out of wrestling until late, so they weren't waiting on us at all.

We went to T G I Friday's.  The food was pretty good, but really nothing to write home about.  The company was the best part.  Jamal was his usual charming self and we had a delightful evening.  We had originally thought that we would coerce Mary into taking us to the Tattered Cover, but somehow we spent our allotment at the Boulder Book Store which was the major vendor for the event.  So instead,  Mary took us back to the Marriot and once again we collapsed into bed.

On Saturday, we got to see the Two Sisters.  They are teachers who have written a book called The Daily Five which is a structure for managing students within the reading/writing block.  These two ladies are hilarious.  We had a two and a half hour session that seemed more like twenty minutes.

After it was over, they drew for two door prizes.  The first name was called and the winner received their book.  My name was the second one called and I was so excited.  

I won a plastic ruler, a pencil, and a raspberry shortcake cookie.


But they too signed our book and we discovered that they are holding a one day conference in Portland, Oregon in June.  Vicki and I are going to write another grant in the hopes of attending.  Mardell is already plotting out quilt shops along the way!

Our last luncheon was with Jon Sczieska.  He is a scream.  His autobiography is entitled "Knucklehead", so that should be some indication.

He has been named as the first National Ambassador of Young People's Literature.

He even has a medal to prove he is the Ambassador.


He delighted in showing it off.
His stories were hilarious, if not a bit raunchy, which is precisely why kids love his books.

We left Denver happy, but exhausted.

Fortunately, we weren't too exhausted to stop at Centerra on our way home.
They were having huge sales on presidential biographies, so of course, we had to buy a couple .... or eighteen!

All in all, we ended up with 59 kids books and 4 professional books.
I'd say it was another successful conference!


Mardell said...

Oh, you have NO IDEA how successful!!!

Anonymous said...

I bet Jane Yolen dyes her hair!!