Treat Tuesday 5/28/13

treatbadgeThanks to Niki for hosting Treat Tuesday!

Now that my National Boards are turned in, it feels sooooooooo nice to be back on this site again. Time for a huge sigh of relief.


That I can never rest for long.

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When I posted this image to Twitter as a preview for tonight’s blog post, I received this:

Screen shot 2013-05-28 at 7.31.19 PMLornaaaaaaaa! I was GOING to just share that I’m reading A Tangle of Knots and although I’m not snacking on it today, I just UNLEASHED my sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour. But then I asked my sickly husband if he wanted fresh baked goods and he did, so I hoofed it down to the library and to our friendly neighborhood QFC.

And now I’m making Marigold’s Lime Pound Cake. Theoretically, it will look like this:

Image from Lisa Graff’s website.

Back to the kitchen. <3



This one time, I met Paul O. Zelinsky.

The credit all goes to Julian Hector.

Julian, in addition to being an excellent advisor on men’s clothing and home goods, is also an all-around encouraging chap, personally and professionally. So when I sent him a message FREAKING OUT that Paul O. Zelinsky suggested we meet up in New York, Julian told me I should totally go for it. “But for reals?” I think I probably squealed. “YES FOR REALS.” He said, but probably not in all caps. I’m the one who’s heavy on the shift key.

So on April 2, I met Paul O. Zelinsky! (Toby says he hates it when I refer to Paul by his full name. He’s taken to calling him “Paulo” with an Italian accent.)

Paul suggested I meet up with him to see him speak at the Gateway School, the first private school I’ve ever been inside.

On my way to the school, I accidentally entered the AMDA building, located next door to Gateway (there was scaffolding up, so I couldn’t see what was written on the storefront). “Hi there, I’m Shannon Houghton, here as a guest of Paul Zelinsky?” I said. “Ashley?” The woman asked me, handing me a name tag with Ashley Somethingorother printed on it. She gestured me toward a staircase. “We’re ready for you, you’re going to head up the stairs to the left.”

Apparently I was about to perform an audition at my potential educational institution. I TOTALLY SHOULD HAVE GONE and posed as Ashley, but instead I said, “No, wait wait wait, I’m SHANNON, and I’m looking for the Gateway School?” “Oh, next door.” I hurried out, bumping into a nervous-looking young curly-haired woman, who was presumably Ashley. “Good luck!” I said, earning a perplexed look.

I went up to the 6th floor and wow. What a facility. Then I met Paul, who was setting up for his presentation. YAY! Meeting in person!!!

An aside that I haven’t had a chance to blog about yet so whatevs, I’ll just make this into an enormously lengthy post. I had “met” Paul in late 2012 when he Skyped with our classroom.

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Which was glorious in and of itself. We got to see his studio AND EVEN his grandmother’s painting that inspired his version of Hansel and Gretel (which I learned about in the excellent biography Show and Tell). He even wore a Yale sweatshirt because I told him we’d be Skyping on our school’s college dress day. Little things like that make me so impressed with humanity.

So having communicated with Paul and having him read aloud The Story of Mrs. Lovewright and Purrless Her Cat, I wondered how today’s presentation would be different. Turns out, it was TOTALLY DIFFERENT, and also different between the upper and lower school. The upper school presentation was my favorite — I was so interested I forgot to take photos. Paper engineering has been interesting to me ever since I had the chance to interview Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart.

With the wee kids, Paul talked about Z is for Moose and read it out loud (amazing). He explained the difference between tight and loose art.

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He collaborated with students to create a ZMoose.

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Seeing someone draw in person is breathtaking. The kids applauded Paul’s rad charcoal sketches.

After the presentation and a book signing (And isn’t it remarkable when someone is able to put people at ease even if their companion is obviously kind of nervous? Mr. Schu told me that’s something Paul does well, and he was right), we took the subway to Brooklyn and then we had snacks at Paul’s studio, where I had a chance to hold a thumbnail book mockup (!!!!!!) and all sorts of original art.

Did you know that the veneer sheets that Swamp Angel and Dust Devil were so super-thin and flexible you can see light through them? They’re gorgeous. GORGEOUS. The cover art for Rapunzel made me all weepy, and the gold thread on the cover for Rumplestiltskin (my favorite POZ book) absolutely glowed.

You may have seen that Julian dropped by…


So in addition to seeing Paul draw earlier in the day, I also had a chance to see him use Photoshop. <3

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We took a circuitous walking route to lunch that took me by amazing buildings (the entire neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights is protected as a historical site) and an incredible view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

The view of the city from Brooklyn Heights is probably the best I’ve ever seen. I didn’t bother taking a picture because I knew I’d just be disappointed that I didn’t capture it right. Not to get all John Mayer circa 2001 on you, but it’s true.

We ate, then we parted ways! And that was my day! (Well, there was actually more, there was also ridiculous dress-purchasing at Hooti Couture and seeing All in the Timing. It was kind of an insane day.)


I don’t know how to end this post! Other than to thank Paul for being so generous with his time; for being such a friendly and talented and charming human being. And to thank Julian for giving me permission to not let fear stop me from going on adventures.

#nerdybookclub FOR LIFE!!!

Thirstday 02/21/13

Mad props to David Etkin for starting Thirstday!

thirstday022113I do, in fact, drink things other than espresso! Drinking caramel tea from Teacup, brewed in my rad glass teapot and sitting on my tea warmer from Remedy Teas. (Seattle has a bazillion great tea places.)

I’ll admit, I took the above picture and applied the vignette filter before I had read much of Jarrett Krosoczka’s The Frog Who Croaked. I anticipated a pseudo-film-noir book, kind of in the style of Chet Gecko.

Nope! Jarrett’s first chapter book (he wrote all the Lunch Lady books) has more of the tone of a buddy cop film. The urban issues he includes are LEGIT. The book takes place in the fictional Kalamazoo City, but it definitely reminded me of a different troubled city on the opposite side of Michigan. I would honestly include this book in a reading list for the MSU economics course on public policy.

I’m sure every single post about this book will include the following video, but there’s a good reason. It’s definitely one of my top five TED talks. Yesssss.

Thanks to the Walden Pond Press folks for the ARC and for being so kind to the Nerdy Book Club at ALA Midwinter.


Treat Tuesday 1/8/13


Tuesdays are always pretty hectic with math team in the afternoons, and they’re even worse when I don’t have planning time.

I’m not much of a sweet snacky person. Bring on the bread.


NOMNOMNOM. Snappy Dragon green onion pancake.

You know what’s inside that building? DELICIOUS FOOD IS INSIDE THAT BUILDING.

And the book I’m reading is Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s the companion novel to Howl’s Moving Castle. I discovered Diana Wynne Jones when I read her book Earwig and the Witch during my Paul O. Zelinsky book frenzy this fall. Which reminds me, I still need to publish the post about our Skype with him. GAH.

Anyway. Off to read and snack some more.

It’s Monday… What Are You Reading? 01/07/13

This is my new favorite way of contributing to IMWAYR, just by taking a screenshot of recent additions to my GoodReads 2013 book challenge.

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GUESS WHAT ELSE I’M DOING THIS WEEK? Getting started on winter report cards. I already finished my favorite part, personal student comments. For the third year in a row, I’m running my comments through Wordle. Here’s what I’ve got this time around.

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Have a fantastic week!

Notable Books I Read In 2012

The BEST BOOKS of 2012 have already been covered extensively. Mr. Schu has a great roundup of Best of 2012 lists if you’d like to peruse the bulk of them. ERMAHGERD BERKS!!!

All I can really add to the conversation is to humbly provide recommendations for books I connected with this year. I’ve tried to filter out some of the great books you probably know about (Wonder, Green, etc.), unless they particularly resonated with me. Some months have more books than others, because some months I read more than others. You can tell when I was finishing my National Boards.

I didn’t consciously chose to include more nonfiction than most lists I’ve seen, but I do want to point out how important I think it is to highlight more traditional expository writing. YES, lyrical nonfiction books are fantastic, but we do a disservice to our kids when we aren’t seeking out good books of the type they’ll encounter when they’re doing research, even if they’re not as thrilling for us to read.

I owe a lot to the book recommendations from Nerdy Book Club folks who I’ve given shout-outs below.

I’ve included children’s books and adult books, and not all of them were published this year. Images were either created by me or swiped from GoodReads.





TRUTH TIME. I actually like the trailer for C. R. Mudgeon better than the book itself. Do yourself a favor and watch (or rewatch) Julian Hector’s work:





Watch me pimp out The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place on Mr. Sharp’s Nerdbery video:









Phew! What a year! I eagerly await your input on these selections.

Ms. Koyama’s Classroom Library

This summer I undertook an enormous project with an inspirational, equity-focused, growth-mindset colleague. We labeled, organized, catalogued, and PIMPED OUT all the books in her classroom library.

I say “all.” When I say “all” I mean “on the way to all.” She has a bazillion books, many acquired from a retired teacher, and we’ve still got a dozen or so boxes that we’re continuing to process.

This is me with Ms. Emily Koyama, taking a break from crazy room setup at the end of the summer. Emily inherited a mess of a room, through no fault of its most recent inhabitants (the talented and much-missed Shauna Iseri and Bree Howle). She was hired three days before students came to Wildwood in September 2011 and signed a one-year temporary contract, so she wasn’t really at liberty to clear out the room.

So she had books. They were everywhere. And yet nowhere at the same time, because they weren’t effectively getting into kids’ hands.

Emily is a strong woman. She isn’t afraid of big change. Or big projects. Or insanity. So this summer, we decided to give her library a makeover.

First we needed to know which books were hers. We put her name in every book. All of them. Hundreds of them. We recruited students. We returned missing library books to the school library (oops) and borrowed books to their rightful owners (oops).

We had a bajillion piles. Here’s what Emily’s room looked like. Sort of. A visual for the tl;dr crowd.

We had an assembly line.

1. Books lived here when they weren’t ready for any of the following steps because they needed their hardcover dust jackets laminated. We’re poor. We didn’t have book covers. So we laminated them. And then taped them on.

2. Here were the books that needed old owner’s name crossed out and Ms. Koyama’s name added. Neatly. Legibly. Kids get super excited to help and before long, you can’t read anything. Or spine labels are stuck on the wrong side and the books are taped closed. So, as always, setting expectations and creating exemplars is critical.

3. Books stayed here until one of us could find the AR level. Now. Before you scream at me, Wildwood uses AR. Although I admit that it’s a flawed system, I see NO PROBLEM in giving kids ONE tool to help them zero in on POTENTIAL good-fit books.

4. Books that were already leveled and taped (or didn’t have an AR level) waited here for Emily to enter the ISBNs into Booksource.

5. Books sat on a table off to the side while they waited for AR tape.

6. After everything was labeled and catalogued, I sorted the books by genre, series, or author.

Finally, we made book basket labels, numbered the backs of the books so they matched their corresponding baskets, and straightened everything up!

One wall of books.
Closeup of book buckets.

For a more detailed(!) account of setting up a classroom library, check out my sweet five-part series, culminating in a tour.

Classroom Library Instructional Series
Part 1: Supplies
Part 2: Getting Started
Part 3: Filling the Shelves
Part 4: Library Upkeep
Part 5: Adding to Your Collection

Classroom Library Tour

Oh, also, I just rediscovered this tip video for library book sales.

Phew. What have you found that works in your classroom library streamlining process?

Early Book Box

Every year since I can remember, I’ve received a book box from my parents. Usually wrapped in green paper (my favorite color), usually attached to my Christmas card (which sometimes, but not always, indicates it is a “significant” gift), my book box has been a staple of holiday giving in our immediate family.

This year, I don’t know if I’m going to get a book box. I’ve been checking books out from the library a TON, reading free classics on our McHoughtKindle, and frankly, most of my book purchases have been turned over to my classroom. Oh, and did I mention this is the first Christmas in 28 years that I’ve spent without my parents?

So when I finally made it over to the post office, where they’ve been holding my box of American Girl books since October (whoops), I decided that in case I don’t get a book box this Christmas, I’d count this one instead.

When we moved from our Lake City apartment, we had more than 60 boxes of books. Sixty. And there were still more back home in Michigan. I think this American Girl box might be among the last of them.

I first learned about the American Girls in early second grade. Laura Ingalls Wilder had made me a historical fiction NUT, and the series fed my addiction through most of my youth.

Olive, inspecting our newest addition.

It’s possible at this point that you don’t fully understand the depths of my love for the world of American Girls. Everyone had a favorite American Girl, right? Mine was either Felicity or Molly. Many people owned an American Girl, right? It’s a bit embarrassing, and I’m aware of the privilege I had in my childhood, but I’ll admit that at the time, I had all of the American Girl dolls. All of them. And the books. And the accessories.

These were acquired over a lengthy period. Namely, my entire youth. I never got tired of receiving accessories for gifts or purchasing them on my own with saved spending money. After a while, I could even decode the heart-shaped labels Pleasant Company stuck to the bottom of every American Girl box to identify what was inside.

But it was always about the books.

The paperback sets, because hardcovers took up more room and weren’t really worth it. You’ll notice in the photo above that I also have Kit. But Kit is one of the newer American Girls, Shannon, you say. CORRECT. I GOT KIT FOR CHRISTMAS IN COLLEGE BECAUSE SHE WAS AWESOME AND FROM THE 1930S WHICH IS AN AMAZINGLY INTERESTING HISTORICAL PERIOD AND ALSO SHE WAS A NEWSPAPER REPORTER LIKE ME. WHAT AN AWESOME PRESENT!!!!! But aren’t the new slipcases ugly?

Did you know my mom worked at a bookstore when I was in school? BECAUSE SHE DID AND LOOK AT WHAT SHE SCORED FOR ME! They were like book group guides and I filled them out in my BEST HANDWRITING because I KNEW I WOULD WANT TO KEEP THEM FOR FOREVER.

Remember when they first introduced the Girl of Today? And there was only ONE outfit you could get for her? I asked for her, but was totally disappointed there were no books. Note the rad stencil I could have used to write my own Girl of Today stories, but I didn’t because writing the TALE of the GIRL of TODAY was intimidating.

There they are (don’t the Kit books look out of place? :( The times, how they change)! Staples of my bookshelves for so many years, finally reunited with me in Seattle!

I’ve missed you, ladies.

At home with some of my other children’s books. <3



Readerly Reflections on 2011

I hate doing posts like these before the END end of the year because I wind up doing so much post-Christmas reading and I inevitably leave something out, but I suppose I’ll try. This list contains children’s books, YA books, and grown-up books. One of the things I’m happiest about in my reading life is that I try to read a variety of books. Oh, and not all of these books were published in 2011. You can see my complete list at GoodReads. At this point, I’ve read 346 books this year. I hope to hit 365 by December 31!



I know I should have linked all the book titles to the authors’ websites or to my reviews, but that seemed like too much work and I wanted this to be fun.

Books I Liked That Got Some Hype
But Not As Much As They Should Have

  • The Aviary, Kathleen O’Dell
  • Packing for Mars, Mary Roach
  • No Passengers Beyond This Point, Gennifer Choldenko
Books That Lived Up To The Hype
  • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  • Divergent, Veronica Roth
  • Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick
  • Hound Dog True, Linda Urban
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne Valente
  • Marty McGuire, Kate Messner
  • Me… Jane, Patrick McDonnell

Books That I Really Don’t Understand
Why Anyone Published Them

  • Pomelo Begins to Grow, Romanoa Badescu
  • Skippyjon Jones, Class Action, Judy Schachner
  • Pretty Princess Pig, Jane Yolen
  • The Green Mother Goose, David Davis
  • Charlie the Ranch Dog, Ree Drummond

Books That I Couldn’t Finish (but I still plan on trying!)

  • Small as an Elephant, Jennifer Richard Jacobson
  • Wildwood, Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis

Book That Was Good But Totally Ruined
by an Overdescriptive Back Cover Blurb

  • The Magnolia League, Katie Crouch

Books I Randomly Picked Up And Really Liked

  • Vintage Knitwear, Marnie Fogg
  • Sharing Our World, Ian Reid
  • Modelland, Tyra Banks (OH GOD HOW?)
  • The Melancholic Mermaid, Kallie George
  • How To Build Your Own Country, Valerie Wyatt

Grown-Up Books You Should Read

Best Books With a Message

  • Three By the Sea, Mini Grey
  • Bigger than a Bread Box, Laurel Snyder
  • The Fences Between Us, Kirby Larson

Books I Want To Hold Onto And Cuddle
And Reread Again And Again

  • Amelia Lost, Candace Fleming
  • I Want My Hat Back, Jon Klassen
  • Should I Share My Ice Cream?, Mo Willems
  • The Quiet Book / The Loud Book, Deborah Underwood

Best Author Discoveries/Rediscoveries

  • Gerald McDermott
  •  William Steig
  •  Kate Messner
  •  Jackson Pearce
  •  Andy Runton
Agree? Disagree? Wonder why I made the choices I did? Let’s chat in the comments.