I mentioned last week that the next person who would be visiting my library for our monthly Children’s and YA Literary Cafe would be none other than children’s literary blogger, teacher, author, and former Newbery committee member Monica Edinger. Monica (shown here with her buddy Jon Scieszka) is one of those people that is almost too accomplished. The kind of person that if you stop and think about all that she’s done, you’ll just end up tongue-tied and blabbery. And if you’re already blabbery to begin with then her talk on Saturday would do little to soothe you, since Monica presented an excellent piece called Beyond the Books: Bringing Fantasy Literature Alive in Your Library and Classroom.
There was quite a turnout and a couple familiar faces in the crowd. I was sorry not to get a chance to talk more with Susan from Chicken Spaghetti (Susan, you ran away before we could chat more!) and I was pleased as punch to meet Suzanne Harper, author of the book The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney.
Monica teaches English to fourth graders at The Dalton School here in New York. You may be familiar with some of her posts on the subject on her blog Educating Alice. During her talk, Monica showed how to link between classic texts like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz while bringing in film, YouTube clips, diaramas, parties, and more. Her site The Many Faces of Alice provides a more than substantial glimpse into a variety of her projects. I was particularly taken with her Toy Theater series. You have to take a look at them. Many of the class projects involve small videos taken of the toy theater in motion. In her talk with the Cafe, Monica mentioned that in one case the kids wanted to make it clear that Alice was swimming in her own tears. So they cut out the back of the theater, filled a Ziploc bag with water, dyed it blue with blue food coloring, and moved it around as a kind of set. The sole problem with this plan was that the characters were all stuck to barbecue skewers. Sharp barbecue skewers. Sharp Ziploc-bag-bursting skewers. Hijinks ensued. This year’s version is here (though the bag bursting is elsewhere on a blooper reel).
And then, of course, there’s the Curriculum, Student Packet, and Bibliography. All that for a single project. Now add in the fact that she has done projects with the class on The Arrival, Sierra Leone, an assignment where the kids create their own blogs, The Golden Compass, and on and on and on. If you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself sort of yearing to be a fourth grader in Monica’s class.
She has all this stuff available through her website, and to top it all off you know those cool pictures of Alice getting smaller at the top of Monica’s blog? She drew those. Yep, Monica is an artist to boot.
So when it comes down to inspiring kids and getting them to read classic texts with huge heaping helpfuls of enthusiasm AND getting involved with blogging and computer savvy, I’m tipping my hat to Monica Edinger. Bravo!