Category Archives: Books

My Maneki Neko


Pink brings fortune in love. Southpaw attracts customers.

This next image from my Artist’s Journal is a collage piece that I did when I was in full Maison Celeste mode.  It is a maneki neko, or lucky cat – the kind you see in all sorts of sushi and other Japanese restaurants.  The cat looks like it’s waving, but the Japanese hand gesture to beckon someone is the opposite of the Western one.

There is a story or legend behind the cat – the most common was about a poor monk in the Edo period.  His cat attracts a warlord to get out of the rain in the temple rather than under a tree.  Then the tree is struck by lightning.  The warlord showers the monk with money and gets people to go to his temple, so he is no longer poor.  When the cat died, he was buried in a special cemetery, and a little statue of a cat with his paw raised was put on his grave.

When I started this journal, I painted a couple of pages first.  I started this page out by using my favorite paint color of all time – Color & Co(mpany)’s cerise. It is the most intense fuschia pink you will ever find.  It’s kind of a shame that it’s a tempera paint, because it might run if I tried to shellac over it, but I love it anyway.  I painted the center, then I blended it in with orange and then yellow, filling the whole page.

Before I put the cat on the page, I did some freehand drawings of flowers, leaves, and vines with two different sized Sharpie markers. It’s the first time I’ve tried that and I think it came out great.  I think it stayed that way for a little while as I tried to think of what to put in the middle of the page.

I found this coloring page and printed it out.  I could have taken the trouble to draw it freehand or trace it, but it is a collage piece, so I just left it like it was.  I thought that I would go ahead and color it using oil pastels.  I chose pink to go with the background, shading the outside of the figure in orange.  The ears, claws, and nose are yellow.  Like most maneki neko statues, this one has a collar, bib and bell.  This article says that cats were rare, hence the collar and bell to find them if they were lost.  This website says that the bib and bell stand for wealthiness and material abundance.

I glued him down over my background, accepting that she was going to cover some of the flowers.  Then, I went for total over-the-top glitter, accenting cat and koban (the oval coin that she is holding) with glitter glue.  It buckled a bit, but has flattened out over time.  As a side note, maneki neko can hold other things beside a big gold coin.  This website by Sushi Cat has a great illustration of the lexicon.

It wasn’t until after I colored him pink that I decided to do a little bit of research on the symbolism behind the statue.  Honestly, I didn’t even think that there were pink cats around. I found out that there are meanings associated with the color of the cat and also the beckoning paw.  A left-handed cat (southpaw, like me) is supposed to attract customers and the pink cat brings fortune and love.  Perfect!

After I scanned the picture into Photoshop, I played around with some effects.  I may put one of them up in my shop.

Of course, because I have been reading so many picture books with great art, I thought briefly that the  story of the Maneki Neko would make a great children’s book.  Of course, there are no new ideas, it seems.  I found four of them:

Maneki Neko, The Tale of the Beckoning Cat by Susan Lendroth, illustrated by Kathryn Otoshi – This is the most recent (out last month) and stays faithful to the tale of the monk and his cat.

The Beckoning Cat: Based on a Japanese Folktale by Koko Nishizuka, illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger – This book tells a different story – about a poor fisher boy and his cat who attracts customers.

Tama the Cat: The Story of the Maneki Neko, the Beckoning Cat
by Robert Ogden, illustrated by Julia Preston – not available on, but you can order it from the U.K., along with prints from the book.

The Tale of the Lucky Cat by Sunny Seki – in this story, a toymaker is saved by a cat – beautiful illustrations, with text in Japanese and English.

So, if I want to do a children’s book, there are two possible legends to milk (from Wikipedia):

The Courtesan: A courtesan named Usugumo, living in Yoshiwara, in eastern Tokyo, kept a cat, much beloved by her.  One night, the cat began tugging at her kimono.  No matter what she did, the cat persisted. The owner of the brothel saw this, and believing the cat bewitched, cut its head off. The cat’s head then flew to the ceiling where it killed a snake, ready at any moment to strike. Usugumo was devastated by the death of her companion. To cheer her up, one of her customers made her a wooden likeness of her cat as a gift. This cat image then became popular as the Maneki Neko.

(doesn’t that one sound heart-warming and child-friendly?)

The Old Woman: An old woman living in Imado (eastern Tokyo) was forced to sell her cat due to extreme poverty. Soon afterwards the cat appeared to her in a dream. The cat told her to make its image in clay. She did as instructed, and soon afterward sold the statue. She then made more, and people bought them as well. They were so popular she soon became prosperous and wealthy.

(That one is also known as the George Rodrigue Blue Dog story – LOL)

Some fun links:

Canon Paper Craft Website – so awesome, and what a great idea!  17 pages of high output ink that you cut apart and put together. Instructions on assemblage are on a separate PDF.  There is a black maneki neko, a white maneki neko, and a calico maneki neko to print out. – there are lucky cat e-cards, plus you can design your own cat to print out or for screen capture.

Maneki Neko by Sushi Cat
– great site with all sorts of information, also maneki grams, puzzles and games – children will love it!

Lucky Cat Museum – online collection of lucky cats.

There is also Lucky Cat Fabric – I did not post a link, but there are a couple of shops that sell fabric.  Those links become obsolete when they get sold, but just do a search for all sorts of products.  Try quilting fabric sites for other options.


Oaxaca Projects, Part One

I made this map to include in my students’ Mayan codices. It looks great laser printed on brown craft paper.  You have to cut the paper to size, however.

At the moment, I have to say that I am maxing out my loafing potential as Summer Vacation begins.  I have all sorts of ideas and projects, but at the moment, I can’t seem to be bothered much.  So… in an attempt to focus, I am looking back at my application for the National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Institute that is four short weeks away.

In order to be considered for the Institute, I had to write an essay of no more than 4 pages, double spaced.  I tried hard not to play with the margins too much, but I had so much I wanted to say.  The excerpt below is the part where I explain what I would like to do while I am down in Oaxaca.  Yes, there will be tours, and lectures, and all sorts of interesting things to see, but the main idea of getting a bunch of teachers together is to create lesson plans that will use the resources we will learn about – as well as any others we can bring to the table.

Here goes – of course, I’ve added notes as I am thinking of them now:

If I am fortunate enough to be chosen to participate in this Summer Institute, I have some specific ideas of what I would like to pursue.  First of all, I am interested in expanding upon my lesson plans on the Mayan Civilization, which is one of the standards that I must teach in sixth grade Social Studies.  I would like to take the idea of creating a Mayan codex (which I did as an accordion book out of cardboard and brown paper this past year) and add more elements to that book.

Glyph with Mayan Long Count Birthdate

This will be a challenge – but I think that my students already have some experience with “creative” spelling.  It may not be as difficult as I envision.

If possible, I would like to have clarification on how to calculate the dates in the Long Count calendar so that this could be aligned with the Mathematics curriculum.  I would also like to collect more specific information about the Mayan observatory – perhaps this information could be added to the Astronomy unit in the Earth Science curriculum.

To be honest, I found some excellent lesson plans, but the Mayan calendar in long count confuses me…  It is true, however, that we do study the planets in Earth Science – I just am not aware of any specific astronomical information in my Mayan resources.

In regards to teaching ESOL and reading, I have also located two young adult novels that portray young people living in Ancient Maya.  One of these books is called The Well of Sacrifice (by Chris Eboch) and the other is Heart of a Jaguar (by Marc Talbert).  The Well of Sacrifice has a female protagonist and Heart of a Jaguar has a young male protagonist.  I would like to organize a parallel book study where the students can identify with life in a Mayan village.  Both books portray vivid scenes of ritual sacrifice and I look forward to sharing ideas about teaching this sensitive subject.  I have supplemented my reading materials with books of Mayan folktales and legends and want to use those as resources, too.

I hate to sound jaded, but for most middle school students, the portrayal of blood and gore only seems to ENHANCE the reading experience.  Truth be told, I am having a hard time getting into these books, so I don’t know how that bodes for younger readers…  I forgot to mention that I DO use Me Oh Maya!, which is a Time Warp Trio series of books.  It’s pretty funny and is a good attention grabber.  In coordination with the new British series I found, it could be good.

In addition to these texts, I have found four texts that illustrate the modern world of the Maya and Mixtec people.  What the Moon Saw and Red Glass by Laura Resau involve heroines that voyage to Oaxaca and encounter curanderas, divination using corn kernels, and the Mixteca language.   Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Muñoz Ryan also involves a journey to Oaxaca, and highlights the woodcarving culture of the region.  Although Colibrí by Ann Cameron is set in Guatemala, many of the traditions and references are similar to those in my books about Oaxaca.  I would like to make the teaching of these texts in more depth possible by collecting information and real life examples and making them available to our school library – to generate interest and understanding in the subject matters and culture described so vividly in these books.

So, there.  I don’t know if I am going to do all of those things, or choose aspects of each.  I do want to do some advance preparations so that I have some idea of the lesson plans before I get to Mexico.  After I made the proposal, I came up with the idea of looking at my collection of folk tales – which is pretty extensive, and using those for a Language Arts lesson plan on elements of a folk tale.

On top of that, I have many interesting picture books about the area that can be appropriate for introducing the culture.  I have a book called Josefina by Jeannette Winter that is written about the artist Josefina Aguilar.  We don’t have a trip planned to Ocotlán, but I could go down there.  She and her family have a pottery studio there.  Dream Carver by Diana Cohn is said to be inspired by the real life of Oaxacan woodcarver Manuel Jimenez.  There is also a series of books by Cynthia Weill which include Oaxacan woodcarvings to illustrate the alphabet and opposites.

So, my problem is not with coming up with ideas – it is with narrowing down the possibilities for the four week Institute!

Time Warp Trio and Magic Treehouse, and one more thing!


Months ago, I decided to organize my ideas on using these books to integrate Social Studies and Language Arts teaching through reading.  I have three more topics to cover, and then I will talk about a new line of books that could also be used!

Destination: Ancient Greece.  Here is another great topic that the two series have in common.  It makes me sad that Ancient Greece is no longer part of the Georgia 6th Grade Social Studies curriculum.

The Magic Tree House has a book called Hour of the Olympics.  Here is a good synopsis from English Campus:

This is the last mission for Jack and Annie as Master Librarians. The Magic Tree House takes them to ancient Greece where the Olympic Games are taking place. With the help of the famous philosopher Plato, they get the book they need to save. He also invites Jack to watch the Olympics. However, females in ancient Greece are of low status. They are not allowed to attend the games. Being a smart and brave girl, Annie disguises herself with a helmet and sneaks into the crowd. However, she gets too excited and her helmet falls off!  The guards at the Olympic Games are now chasing after them. Can they escape and go back home? Will they be stuck in Greece on their last mission?

There are lesson plan ideas at the Random House website (RH publishes Magic Tree House) as well as a Research Guide called The Olympics of Ancient Greece.  There are activities to do on the website as well.

In the Time Warp Trio Version, the book is called It’s All Greek to Me and it is the 8th book in the series.  Here is a synopsis from the School Library Journal:  Joe, Fred, and Sam are transported back in time to Mount Olympus while performing in a school play about ancient Greece. Needless to say, they aren’t much of a threat when they try to use their cardboard thunderbolts on Cerberus. Instead, the boys use their wits, and a Ding Dong in the case of the three-headed dog, as they quickly slip in and out of danger. Children who know Nike is the Greek goddess of victory will double over with laughter when Sam Orpheus, friend of Nike, introduces his chums as Fred Cyclops, follower of Reebok, and Joe Paris, cohort of Fila. Humor continues as the friends help hide a nervous Zeus, who is worried that his wife, Hera, will blab to the other gods if she finds out he lost his thunderbolts. Dionysus wants to party and Ares wants to fight, but the real trouble starts when Zeus challenges Joe to give his golden apple to the fairest of all goddesses.

My Big Fat Greek Olympics is the name given to the episode in the TV series.  It even has a different twist to the synopsis:  A wild warp at the Olympia Diner sends Fred and Samantha to Ancient Greece during the Olympic games (and Sam to another diner on the edge of Time). Can the three of them get it together to avoid historical disaster? Bonus, huh?  That is, if you can get access to the series – I don’t think it is on the DVDs.  Still, the Lesson Plans on the series site can probably be used for the book.

Leonardo DaVinci: the Man and the Code.  Leonardo is not only of interest to adults, obviously.  Both series came out with their Leonardo books later:  I think I had to wait for the Magic Tree House to come out later.

Monday with a Mad Genius:   I don’t know if I mentioned this, or if anyone else has noticed it, but it seems that the Magic Tree House series books got better later in the series.  I mean “better” in that the writing is more engaging, the reading level is higher, and the books on CD are not as mind-numbing as the earlier ones in the series.  This, I think, is important if adults have to also listen to these books while the children do.

Okay, enough editorializing.  Here is the synopsis:  In Monday with a Mad Genius, travel with Jack and Annie to Italy in the Renaissance, a time when every new morning brought with it the promise of artistic and scientific wonder. There, they meet none other than Leonardo da Vinci! – this was added to the information:  Now available in paperback with all-new backmatter full of activities. That’s interesting – I hadn’t checked!

There are activities on the Random House website, including Pre-Reading Questions. Of course, there is also a  research guides to go with the book, because I think that they realized that Added Resources = uh, More Money… It is entitled Research Guide: Leonardo DaVinci and there are additional activities at Random House.

Book Number 14 in the Time Warp Trio series is called Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci.  Here is a product description from  It was Sam’s bright idea to look for the inventor of The Book. But when the guys land in fifteenth-century Italy, they meet up with Leonardo da Vinci. You probably know that Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. Did you know that he also invented an early version of a helicopter and a tank, and that he planned to execute the Time Warp Trio for spying on his inventions? Now it’s going to take at least three more bright ideas, two magic tricks, and one great invention to get the guys out of hot water and safely back home. . . .

The TV series episode is called Breaking the Codex.  Here is the episode description: Jodie and Freddi unexpectedly grab Joe and warp him to 1503 in Italy at the height of the Renaissance. Their mission? To rescue the brilliant inventor Leonardo da Vinci from Mad Jack who has some how gotten the idea that Da Vinci can help him create his own time traveling book. There a four page PDF document with lesson plan ideas and background history, just like there are for all of the series episodes.

American Revolution Theme:  Finally, I have come the the last common topic for both series (to date).  I haven’t read the books yet, just cataloged them because middle school doesn’t really focus on American history – I don’t think…

Magic Tree House has Revolutionary War on Wednesday and this is the synopsis:  If it’s Wednesday, it must be Revolutionary War day. Jack and Annie, stars of the Magic Tree House series, are in for another adventure in their time- and space-traveling tree house. Mysterious magical librarian Morgan le Fay has set four new tasks for the siblings. Jack and Annie must find four special kinds of writing for Morgan’s library in order to save Camelot, the ancient kingdom of King Arthur. Jack and Annie set aside their apprehension and soon they’re spinning back through time to Christmas Day, 1776, on the banks of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, where they encounter none other than the man on the dollar bill himself, George Washington! The children accidentally-on-purpose end up embroiled in the famous commander-in-chief’s mission, where they not only play a part in convincing Washington to carry on with his patriotic duty, but also find the second kind of writing for Morgan’s library: “something to send.”

Time Warp Trio has Oh Say, I Can’t See (Book #15 in the series).  This preview is from Booklist: What could be worse than being time-warped away from home on the day before Christmas? Landing in George Washington’s camp on the night before the crossing of the Delaware! In fact, according to Scieszka’s improbable history, the Delaware would never have been crossed if Washington hadn’t been nudged into action by Fred, Sam, and Joe, the hapless young time travelers known as the Time Warp Trio. But once events are set in motion, they stay in motion, with Washington’s men intent on their mission, and Sam intent on finding his cat, which wandered off into the late eighteenth century. With witty dialogue keeping the pace moving along at a good clip, this will entertain readers who like their chapter books short, illustrated, and, if at all possible, funny.

Magic Tree House has a Research Guide on the American Revolution, as well as a Teacher’s Guide on their website.  Time Warp Trio did not do a TV series episode, so they don’t have lesson plans.

BUT, I have good news on that because of a brilliant new series from Great Britain called You Wouldn’t Want to Be… by Salariya Publishing.  More on that later…

House of the Scorpion Loteria Card 3


El Latigo Negro

This is another of the Loteria cards that I designed digitally for my Loteria Card Lesson plan based on the book House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.  The first card was called Durango, and the second was called Property of the Alacran Estate.  Each card is meant to represent an aspect of the story – and I have read this book and listened to it on CD over 50 times, so my references can be pretty detailed.

This card represents El Latigo Negro.  When Matt Alacran (the clone) was left alone at the Alacran Estate – when the other children were away at boarding school – he relied on a rich fantasy life to entertain himself.  He would often pretend to be one of a few television heroes that were played on the estate television.  Since El Patron insisted that life at the Estate be kept the same as when he was a child, these TV series were rather vintage – maybe from the 1950’s or 1960’s.

El Latigo Negro was the only character I was able to find on the internet.  He was a Zorro-like character who wielded a long whip instead of a gun, I think.  That actually makes me think of a great George Hamilton film called Zorro, The Gay Blade because the gay brother used a whip…

But I don’t think that this is what Mrs. Farmer was referring to when she referenced the character.  😉  I don’t even know if she had anyone specific in mind.

It is difficult to find information on El Latigo Negro, but I found a very interesting blog post here written by an aficionado of old B movies.  According to that post, El Latigo Negro was honored in two series.  The one referenced in the post – I think – was part of a trilogy made in the late seventies.  But there was also a trilogy of films made in the 1950’s, as well as a series of comic books based on the character.

The other two heroes mentioned were Don Segundo Sombra (Sir Second Shadow) and El Sacerdote Volante (The Flying Priest).  The Don Segundo Sombra I found was based on a 1926 novel about a gaucho, so I don’t think that was who Matt admired.  The description in the book says that Matt’s Don Segundo drove sports cars and seemed more like a James Bond character.

As for The Flying Priest, I think she made him up, but it makes a great visual – a flying priest who flings holy water on demons and burns them like acid.  Hee hee.

Common Themes in Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio:Part 2


Wow!  It was three months ago today that I wrote Part 1 about common themes and topics in the Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio Series.  I really like these books because they teach history and culture (the MTH series also addresses science and nature), as well as reading.  Here are the other topics I gleaned from my research.

Cowboys and Indians:   In the Magic Tree House Series, there are a couple of possible books to be read together with the Time Warp Trio book.  Perhaps it could be the project for a group of three students.  There’s Ghost Town at Sundown, where  Jack and Annie go back to the Old West (1880?) and are accused of being horse thieves.  In Buffalo Before Breakfast, they go back to the Great Plains almost 200 years ago and meet a Lakota Sioux boy who hunts buffalo.  The activity guide for Ghost Town is here and the one for Buffalo is here.

In The Good, The Bad and The Goofy, the Time Warp Trio is transported to the Wild West.  They meet the cowboys and the Indians, showing both sides of the frontier battle.  This story is also available on the DVD Past, Present & Future.  Even though it is discontinued by the manufacturer, you may still be able to pick one up on eBay or used on Amazon.  Here is a link to the lesson plan, which has a lot of resources to go with it.

Ancient Rome and Pompeii: Vacation Under the Volcano is the Magic Tree House book that takes Jack and Annie to Pompeii – just before the volcano erupts!  There are two on-line activity resources: one here and another here.  But there is also a Magic Tree House Research Guide on Ancient Rome and Pompeii.  Be aware  that the reading level of the Research Guides is higher than that of the series books.

See You Later, Gladiator is Book 9 of the Time Warp Trio series and they go from an innocent wrestling match to the Roman Colosseum.  See You Later, Gladiator was also part of the TV series, but it is on neither of the DVDs released by that company.  There is a great lesson plan to go with it called Gladiators.

Ancient China:  Day of the Dragon King – the only thing I don’t like so much about the Magic Tree House is that sometimes they are not precise in the stating the date.  The fact that Jack and Annie go through a tomb housing clay soldiers must refer to the the terra cotta army in Xi’an.  That would be sometime after 210 B.C.  Here are the activities from the MTH site.

In contrast, the Time Warp Trio books and TV episodes give a timeline or date (usually)  to orient oneself (Orient – get it?).  Wushu Were Here, I think, is a graphic novel set in China as well.  It is set in the Tang Dynasty, which is after 600 A.D.  There is an interesting lesson plan resource with some cool ideas for further reading.

Vikings:  Vikings are fun, right?  In MTH Viking Ships at Sunrise, Jack and Annie see the Vikings attach from the island where they are land in the middle of a monastery.  I think that one of the activities highlights illuminated writing, which was done by the monks at that time.

In Viking It and Liking It, the Time Warp Trio lands on Leif Ericsson’s ship.  The story was also made into an episode on their series, which is available on Time Warp Trio:  Passport to Adventure.  The lesson plan has, among other activities, a Viking Jeopardy Game.

I still have three more to go – later!

House of the Scorpion Loteria Card 2

Property of the Alacran Estate

Property of the Alacran Estate

I just ambushed a fellow teacher – she said that she is teaching House of the Scorpion.  Okay, I didn’t jump her – I just eagerly offered my help.  I don’t know if I will be teaching HOTS this year.  Although it is written on a 6th grade level, I have usually used it for older students.  This is my first time teaching 6th grade ESOL, so I don’t want to push it.

I had already offered my services to one teacher, but she just said that most of her students had already read the book by 6th grade.  She must teach “enhanced” Lang. Arts classes.  So, I hope that there is someone that will benefit from my experience.

This card is from the deck I started designing last year.  When he is born, Matt Alacran is tattooed on his foot.  I actually imagine it as one of those round address label stamps, but I really liked this tribal scorpion tattoo that I found online, so I thought I’d use it.  I hope it was on his left foot…  I like this card – the feet, the “Property of” t-shirt design in the background and the scorpion tattoo look cool.

In the story, the tattoo is usually out of sight, but it give him away at the beginning when he cuts his feet and hands.  Then, someone at the orphanage sees it and rats him out.

Common Topics in Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio


In a previous post, I wrote about chapter books.  In particular, I wrote about the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne and the Time Warp Trio Series by Jon Scieska.

Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio common themes:

Knights and Castles:  The MTH series has kind of a connection with Camelot and Medieval England, because they communicate with Merlin the Magician, and – I think – Morgan La Fey.  Therefore, we have The Knight at Dawn and Christmas in Camelot to work with – I think that The Knight at Dawn is probably more relevant.  There is also a MTH Research Guide called Knights and Castles available.  The two activity sheets – here and here – are pretty basic.

As far as knights and castles are concerned, The Time Warp Trio has a book called The Knights of the Kitchen Table, but there are no lesson plans to go with it because the lesson plans are only for the TV series episodes.  There is, however, a book and episode about Medieval Scotland called Plaid to the Bone in graphic novel form.  So, if you feel like doing some activities about Medieval Scotland, check the lesson plan out.

Ancient Egypt:  MTH has a book called Mummies in the Morning, where Jack and Annie visit ancient Egypt.  There is a Research Guide called Mummies and Pyramids to go with the book.  An activity page to go with the book can be found here, and one to go with the Research Guide is here. If you scroll down, there are some possible activities described for each book, as well as a link to the worksheets.

The TWT counterpart is called Tut Tut – cute, huh? – where the guys go to (guess) ancient Egypt.  There is also an episode called Tut Tut in the TV series, which means that there are lesson plans to go with it.  The lesson plans on the Time Warp Trio website are much more involved that the Magic Tree House activities and lesson plans, but both offer other resources that are useful.

Arrrrgh! Pirates: In Pirates Past Noon, Jack and Annie run afoul of the mythical Cap’n Bones.  The Research Guide, called simply Pirates, goes into more detail and chronicles some of the more infamous pirates.  It has some great illustrations and a timeline with the history of piracy.  I don’t seem to have a link to the activities for Pirates Past Noon, but here is a link to the activities for the Research Guide.

In The Not-So-Jolly-Roger, the Time Warp Trio (Joe, Sam, and Fred) accidentally travel back to the early 18th century and meet Blackbeard.  It’s a little more exciting than MTH, but then, it’s supposed to be.  These books are written on a higher reading level, as well.  The series episode is also called The Not-So-Jolly-Roger and is available on the Passport to Adventure DVD – if you would like to show it.  The lesson plans are here.

Ninja and Samurai – 17th Century Japan: MTH’s Night of the Ninjas, Jack and Annie travel back to Ancient Japan, and find themselves in the cave of a ninja master This could be any time between the 14th and the 17th centuries, according to our ninja sources.  In Dragon of the Red Dawn, they travel to 17th century Japan, to the city of Edo.  There, they meet Basho – a (haiku) poet – there’s more information on page 107 of the book.  There is no Research Guide to go with this era, but is are activities for Ninja here, and Dragon here.

In TWT’s Sam Samurai, the boys also travel to 17th century Japan.  Keeping with the “haiku” theme, Joe, Sam, and Fred are writing haikus for English class.  When they take a break, they get transported and meet some surly samurai warriors.  Since an episode of the series was also based on Sam Samurai, there are nifty lesson plans that may fill in the gap left by no MTH Research Guide.

Neanderthals and the Ice Age:  In MTH’s Sunset of the Sabertooth, Jack and Annie are transported to the Ice Age – in their bathing suits!!!  This book comes with a Research Guide called Sabertooths and the Ice Age.  The book also covers Neanderthals and other animals of the Ice Age.  Here is a link to activities to go with the book and here is one that goes with the Research Guide.

The Time Warp Trio also has a book where they visit the Ice Age.  It is called Your Mother was a Neanderthal.  For some reason, they changed the name for the TV series episode.  It’s called The Caveman Catastrophe.  Here are the lesson plans that accompany the episode.

Chapter Book Project: Magic Tree House & Time Warp Trio



A couple of years ago, I got turned on to the Magic Tree House Series – I had already seen a bit of the Time Warp Trio books.  Both series are educational, featuring time travel to different eras and places.

The Magic Tree House series is an award-winning and bestselling series of children books written by American author, Mary Pope Osborne.

In the first series, consisting of the first 28 books, Morgan sends Jack and Annie on numerous adventures and missions in order to help free Morgan from a spell, solve four ancient riddles to become Master Librarians, and save four ancient stories from being lost forever. After the twenty-eighth chapter book, Mary Pope Osborne started a second series called the Magic Tree House “Merlin Missions”. In these missions, Jack and Annie have quests from the ancient wizard Merlin the Magician. These books are longer than the previous 28, and some take place in fantasy realms like Camelot.

All together, there are 44 fiction books named. Their titles are listed below. In addition, a number of Magic Tree House Research Guides (nonfiction companions to the series) have been written by the author, her husband Will and her sister Natalie Pope Boyce. These books contain more information about the historical places and events which Jack and Annie visit in the Magic Tree House Series.

0439161894_xlgTime Warp Trio books are written by Jon Scieszka.  The series follows Joe, Sam and Fred, three ordinary 10-year-old city kids who get warped back in time thanks to a magic book Joe received from his flaky magician uncle. When the book opens, a pale green mist whisks them through time and space on extraordinary adventures — dueling with gladiators in Ancient Rome, marching to battle with the Samurai in Shogun Japan, or meeting Blackbeard the pirate on the open seas.

Things get really interesting when the boys bump into their own great-granddaughters — Jodie, Samantha and Freddi — three 10-year-old girls living in the year 2105.  As with all great action-adventure stories, the two trios must use their skills and their smarts to outwit the bad guys, survive and figure out how to warp back home.

The Time Warp Trio was made into an animated TV series, and there are two DVD’s available of the episodes.  The first is called Time Warp Trio, Vol. 1 Passport to Adventure and the second is called Time Warp Trio: Past, Present & Future.  Not all of the episodes are included, but the series seems to be running on the Discovery Kids Channel at 2:30PM and 10:30PM.  Discovery Kids has a fansite for the Time Warp Trio with games and episode summaries, too.

Random House also has a website for the Magic Tree House books.  If you go there, you can download a “passport” that can be “stamped” each time a student finishes a book (if they get the 3 questions right).  There are also activities and lesson plans included – as you will see below – but some of the links don’t work.  If that happens, scroll down on the page you land on and you will find it.  Magic Tree House also provides activity worksheets in PDF format, some that are better than others.

I also wanted to give props to whoever organized the Magic Tree House Wikipedia page.  It is a really good resource, with plot summaries of all of the books as well as descriptions of the Research Guides.

Now, back to the Time Warp Trio.  There is also a website devoted to the TV series made by the TWT team.  There are games and fun things to do for the kids.  If you go to the link that says Teachers/Parents, you will find resources for each TV episode.  As you will see below, that means some of the books are left out.  You will also find really nice lesson plans for each episode, organized by show and also by historical topic.

I am writing about all of this because I wanted to come up with a lesson plan/unit/project incorporating both Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio books.  I will talk about common themes in those books and the resources that are available through their websites in my next post.

What I’m reading now


I know it’s been a while since I have posted – I am trying to get used to a new school schedule, and to teaching a new thing.   Typical.  When I get home, I’m usually beat.  I haven’t done any art lately, either.

One thing I am doing right now is reading.  I have to be diligent about going to the library on Saturdays when I can, because the Gwinnett County Libraries are now closed on Sunday and Monday.  I have been going to two different branches lately:  the one nearer to me is okay, but the one nearer my gym is larger and has a better selection of books on CD.

I just got finished reading Duma Key by Stephen King.  I checked it out a week ago on CD and was so into it that I finally stopped by a Barnes and Noble and bought a copy of the book so that I could read it in bed at night.  I haven’t read a SK novel in a long time, and I thought was great.  I thought that the narrator on the CD was perfect.  It’s just that I HAD to find out what was going to happen.  I finished it last night at around 1:00 AM.

I was just looking at a message board on Stephen and there was a discussion about who should be cast if there were a movie.  I think that James Remar would be perfect as Edgar – he’s about that age and has that upper middle class business man look about him.  He’s that guy that plays the dad on Dexter, but I forgot that he also was in Sex and the City.  I had not strong opinions about the other characters, but I think that the suggestion that Jeff Bridges play Wireman was a good one.

You’ll have to read the novel to see what I’m talking about!

I also checked out a Young Adult novel by Laura Resau called What the Moon Saw.  It’s about a half Mexican-American girl who goes down to boonies outside of Oaxaca to meet her grandparents.  It’s really good – and I will now finish it since I have completed Duma Key.

On CD, I am listening to The Chicken Dance by Jacques Couvillon.  It is set in Southwestern Louisiana and I had checked it out in the past but didn’t get a chance to read it.

Time for supper.

Is grad school really for me?


Just recently, I sent an e-mail to a friend of mine about grad school.  I chose her for a couple of reasons – she has endured the grad school process, and I respect her opinion.  For some reason, I was considering it. For the most part, my attitude was that, if I was just looking for more money, I could make that happen with my art.

The last time I darkened a college classroom was maybe 12 or 13 years ago, when I returned to Louisiana to enroll in the Francophone Studies program at the University of Louisiana: Lafayette (back then it was USL – University of Southwestern Louisiana).  After one semester, I decided that this track was not for me, and was able to take Spanish, and some education courses.  That is how I got re-certified and returned to teaching.

I had looked into Arts Integration in the past, and the only place the offers a program is Towson University.  They offer what they call a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Arts Integration.  But it doesn’t look like AI has earned a place in degree-dom.  I do think that art is a very valuable tool in teaching – especially in teaching reading.  I was just looking for something “official” to take to back up that interest.

Last night, I did some research on degrees in Children’s Literature.  I took notes on Penn State, which has an online Master of Education and Curriculum – Children’s Literature.   That might be a possibility, but I have to be ready to spend what looks like $1900 per class.  Ouch!

Hollins University looked really attractive.  Here is the intro to their webpage on the Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature:

“Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature. One of the few in the country to offer humanities graduate degrees in children’s literature, we are, we believe, the only one to offer them in the study and writing of children’s literature.”

So, I could choose to study and/or write children’s literature.  But couldn’t I write on my own?  Summers in Roanoke might be fun.  Also, they seem to have an occasional trip to England for a summer class.  That would be fun!

I also really liked Simmons College’s program, as they offer an M.A or an M.F.A in Children’s Literature.  Here is a quote from their degree introduction:

The Center for the Study of Children’s Literature (CSCL) at Simmons College administers the nation’s first Master of Arts in Children’s Literature as well as a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Writing for Children. The CSCL provides a rigorous, disciplined study of children’s books for those who are — or who intend to be — involved in teaching, library services, publishing, writing, or related fields. To develop a critical vocabulary essential for appraising text and illustration, students apply a high level of scholarly analysis to children’s literature ranging from folklore and mythology to contemporary realistic fiction and nonfiction.

The only problem is that it looks like an all-year program, and it’s not online. I don’t think we can move to Boston at this time…

There were others, but they were mainly Education Degrees, or English Literature Degrees with a concentration in Children’s Literature.  Often, that meant only 3 classes – not a lot of depth, it seems.

So, the search goes on.  I still don’t know if grad school is for me, however.