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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Happy Birthday Jane Yolen - February 11

Happy Birthday Jane Yolen - February 11, 1939

I really had to study to write this article. I could not locate my folder of materials from when I celebrated Jane Yolen's birthday in my fourth grade classroom. Therefore, I was starting from scratch. Additionally, where was I supposed to start with an author that will be publishing her 300th book this coming fall? Which books should I pick to discuss since Yolen has been awarded so many distinctions for her books? Her books have won awards that include Caldecott Medal, Nebula Award for science fiction, The Golden Kite, Jewish Book Council Award, Christopher Medal, California Young Reader Medal, Mythopoeic Award, and the list goes on and on.

The first idea I had to celebrate Jane Yolen's birthday is to participate in the event called the Great Backyard Bird Count. It is held this coming week from February 12 - 15, 2010. This event asks you to observe birds in your backyard or another location of your choice. All you have to do is observe, identify, and count the amount of each bird species. There is a website to enter your data for submission. I would suggest that you use the data sheet to keep track of your birds. Yolen has written many books that you could read to your children while you are watching and counting your birds including Birdwatch, Wild Wings: Poems for Young People, and Owl Moon.

I had a pile of Jane Yolen picture books stacked next to the computer and my daughter came over and she sifts through them. She exclaims, "Ohhhh, I love these books. You know, these are my favorite books!" She was commenting on three of the books from the "Dinosaurs" series. There are quite a few to choose from (I count 10 different titles), but this week we read, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?, and How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?. My daughter loves the illustrations of dinosaurs. I love that the books are relevant to my every day life raising two kids and the behaviors we deal with so often. As I write this my daughter just asked her brother to hop up on the couch to read these books together. How exciting, I guess that is what it is all about.

The first book that I read by Jane Yolen was Owl Moon. I remember ordering it while in college from a Scholastic book order form. When I was student teaching, I was ordering from the book order forms sent home to children in elementary schools. I felt I needed to order as many books as I could afford because I wanted to have a great classroom library. This particular book was the item of the month and I ordered a dozen copies for $12. At the time I didn't know that I would someday use the set to celebrate Yolen's birthday with a group of fourth graders.

I have grown to appreciate this book more over the years. I never used to be a person that would stop and enjoy nature. However, I have spent the last two summers working at the local zoo and our family has enjoyed exploring all of the parks and hiking around our area the past few years. It is so thrilling to have an encounter with animals in nature and it is almost always memorable. That feeling and thrill is captured in the story of Owl Moon when the father and daughter head out to the woods to go owling and have an encounter with a Great Horned Owl. The illustrations in this story are wonderful and were recognized by being awarded the Caldecott Medal. Someday I hope to see an owl in the wild.

To finish up this article I thought I would share something that I learned in my reading about Jane Yolen this week. She has been described as a America's Hans Christian Andersen or a modern day Aesop. The world of Jane Yolen is much more vast than the picture books I have mentioned. She has written many fairy tales including Briar Rose and Troll Bridge. These books would fall under the young adult variety but I might just check one out to celebrate Jane Yolen's birthday this week.


2. Jane Yolen Video Biography - YouTube
3. Jane Yolen YouTube Interview discussing Hans Christian Anderson: The Perfect Wizard
- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
4. Encounter Trailer - YouTube
6. WebEnglish Teacher - Links to Jane Yolen Book Lessons
7. Printable Writing Activity for Encounter by Jane Yolen Illustrated by David Shannon

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