Tag Archives: Hacking Dewey

#365PictureBooks Day 6 – Star stuff : Carl Sagan and the mysteries of the cosmos

For every child who has ever looked up at the stars and asked, “What are they?” comes the story of a curious boy who never stopped wondering: Carl Sagan.

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan

“When Carl Sagan was a young boy he went to the 1939 World’s Fair and his life was changed forever. From that day on he never stopped marveling at the universe and seeking to understand it better. Star Stuff follows Carl from his days star gazing from the bedroom window of his Brooklyn apartment, through his love of speculative science fiction novels, to his work as an internationally renowned scientist who worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space. This book introduces the beloved man who brought the mystery of the cosmos into homes across America to a new generation of dreamers and star gazers. “[Publisher website].

 I recently borrowed this from Auckland Libraries,  but it’s firmly on my list for purchase as soon as I return to school.  I’m going to use it in any unit of inquiry where we are looking at innovation and curiosity. This will be especially valuable for our Year 3  PYP Where we are in place and time unit of inquiry, with the central idea “Exploration and discovery leads to new understandings and opportunities” where the focus of the inquiry is on space exploration.

I’m going to shelve this with the biographies related to astronomy and space at 520.92 SAG. This is the same spot where students can find books about Galileo and right with all the really popular material on space and astronomy. The 520s are an area I’m currently trying to simplify within Dewey.

When students need to look at biographies as a genre it is easy for them to find books about the person they are interested in by searching for them by name in our catalogue. All picture book biographies in our collection are tagged BIOGRAPHY and we consistently use a subject heading like Sagan, Carl – Biography. I have found that not having all the biographies at 920, but within their subject area, is far better for browsing kids and a result, the books get checked out more often (not just when students are looking at biographies – which may only be once a year).

Awards, accolades and starred reviews:

“Carl Sagan is best known for being a renowned expert on the cosmos, but he started out as just a curious kid fascinated with the night sky, and that’s where Sisson starts this picture-book biography.” – Booklist
“Sisson’s economical narrative and lighthearted illustrations convey Sagan’s regard for the power of imagination and his generous approach to knowledge. . . Both friendly and inspiring.” – KIRKUS, STARRED REVIEW
“Told in narrative format, this beautifully designed and illustrated picture book gives readers a glimpse into the childhood wonderings Sagan experienced as he looked at the night sky and imagined possibilities. . . A gorgeous, informative offering for biography and science collections.” – School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW and one of the SLJ Best Books for 2014
“A broader message about the role wonder plays in innovation resonates throughout this story.” – Publishers Weekly
Biographical details:

Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos / by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2014

40 pages.


NZ RRP: $35.50

Available for purchase from Wheelers or to borrow from Auckland Libraries.

Related posts:

On a beam of light

Thinky thoughts

I’m pretty sure I don’t share enough.


Image source: Flickr

Yes I rave on twitter from time to time, but I tend to shy away from some of the other outlets for school library discussion in New Zealand often due to time constraints (I really don’t have much time during the school day for anything except classes, PYP planning and keeping my head above water!)

Our school library is part of an independent school and I sometimes sense that other school librarians feel that anything we do is irrelevant because of a perceived disparity in budget and resourcing levels. I don’t agree with this. All of the things we are doing to make our library more student-centric can be adapted or adopted anywhere and all of the innovative things we are doing have been inspired by other librarians and educators from libraries and schools of every type. Take what you can, and use what suits your community and situation.

Here are some things I think about (mainly while in the shower but generally all through the day…and night) that I’d like to share. I’d like to slip in a few blog posts about these in between #365PictureBook posts.

  • Hacking Dewey
  • Collection arrangement by format – is this relevant when so many formats are converging? I am switching to putting things where kids will be looking for them or where they will get most use and value.
  • Fiction genrefication/genrification – what we did and what it means for students, teachers and librarians
  • Discussing those print vs digital articles that seem to polarise librarians…
  • A publisher by publisher summary of digital content availability in NZ School Libraries including access rights and pricing issues – and what this means for collection development.
  • Collection development with a high proportion of digital content (print vs digital, digital only, titles in both formats etc)
  • An open letter to publishers regarding their stance on eBooks in school libraries (especially if you are in New Zealand or Australia)
  • Any other ways to collectively put pressure on publishers to open up availability of digital resources for our students
  • My changing view of non-fiction – our collection for curiosity and inquiry contains more and more material that isn’t strictly nonfiction
  • How we are using multiple-user (school-wide) eBooks instead of buying print non-fiction wherever possible (very relevant after changes to National Library Services to Schools Curriculum support)
  • Time management, work life balance etc
  • How one manages feeling like a ninja librarian trapped inside a middle-aged body?

Let me know if there is anything else that I rave about on Twitter that you want to know more about that I can share here…. Even if no one reads my thinky thoughts –  I am hopeful that reflection, articulated into words on a page, might mean I can let go of more and stop thinking quite so much?

#365PictureBooks Day 1 The iridescence of birds : a book about Henri Matisse


I recently visited the Children’s Bookshop in Christchurch and after seeing this book decided it was an essential addition to use with several year groups as part of the PYP Trans-disciplinary theme “How we express ourselves“. One of the units of inquiry within this theme for my Year 6 students is all about creativity – defining and exploring what it is and how it leads to innovation. Quite a difficult concept for children to grasp and an area where the simplicity of a picture book can be a wonderful curiosity starter.

If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary French town where there were gray skies and you wanted color and light and sun, what might you become? [Inside dust jacket]

The reader starts this book turning blue/gray pages with rather monotone illustrations but as we read the simple, almost poetic text about Henri’s exposure to colour and creativity through his mother, the pages become more colourful and rich, rather like his journey from the chilly north of France to the sun drenched and colourful streets of Provence.

“Why do painters paint what they do?……In writing this book I think I found the answer to the question that inspired it. Henri Matisse painted what he saw and what he remembered – he painted his feelings and his childhood.” Patricia Maclachlan.

The back pages helpfully include recommended books and notes from the author and illustrator. The notes from illustrator Hadley Hooper are particularly insightful, detailing her inspiration and research for this work and something that will help young readers understand the creative process a little more.

Vocabulary: Iridescence is a wonderful word and I can imagine the use of it in the title and subsequent revelations within the text will lead to lots of conversation. It would be great to have some materials or objects with iridescent qualities to show children when reading aloud.

I shelve picture books like these with our non-fiction. Using traditional DDC this would be found at 759.4 MAT where 759 equals painting and the .4 denotes that the painting or painter is French. I’m “hacking” Dewey in our Junior School library so I’m not splitting painters into different countries. I am still deciding whether to keep the books about painters with their movements or is that is still too complicated for browsing? and I’m still musing over whether to ditch the 759 altogether and just have artists (not just painters) arranged by name. In the meantime this will be found at 759 MAT where other non-fiction and picture books about Matisse reside. I no longer have biographies shelved at 920 – only compendiums of famous people or leaders that cover many walks of life or interest areas.

Bibliographic details:

The iridescence of birds : a book about Henri Matisse / Patricia MacLachlan ; pictures by Hadley Hooper.

Published in 2014 by Roaring Brook Press.


RRP NZ$33.00

You will be able to borrow this from Auckland Libraries as it is currently on order for several branches.

Awards, accolades and rave reviews:

The iridescence of birds is being discussed as a possible contender for the Caldecott Award this year, but it has also made many of the ‘best of 2014’ lists prevalent at this time of year.

Kirkus Reviews Best books of 2014 – Childrens

Nerdy Book Club 2014 Nerdy Awards for non-fiction picture books

The Horn Book

Publisher’s weekly (starred review)

School Library Journal (best books of 2014) also a starred review

Publisher website Lots of resources here including a slide show of pages from the book.