Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Review


I just had a great time following #titletalk on Twitter.  Make sure you "tune in" every last Sunday of the month at 8:00.  It's awesome to read about what great things teachers are doing to promote reading and great books in their classrooms.

Here is what I read this week:

The Night Circus  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

adult-fiction, audio-book, fantasy-science-fiction

To all those storytellers out there, this quote is for you..."It is important," the man in the grey suit interrupts. "Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift." And what a gift Erin Morgenstern has! I can't even begin to summarize this fantastical, exquisitely told fantasy. Brilliant. I listened to it on audio with Jim Dale narrating, which only made it that much more disturbing, unique, compelling, and magical. The contestants made me think of another great storyteller's heroine and hero, Katniss and Peeta.

How to Steal a Dogaudio-book, character-motivation, character-who-writes, empathy, intermediate-kids-book, theme
How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor

Another Barbara O'Connor book to love! Georgina and her little brother live in a car with their mother after their father left. After Georgina sees a sign offering a reward for a lost dog, she gets the idea that if she steals a dog, especially one that is loved by a rich person, she can hide it, then return it as if she found it, and get a monetary reward. It would buy them a place to live! She keeps notes in her journal with "How to Steal a Dog" tips, and after scoping out nearby areas, she finds an adorable dog that seems to fit the bill. Things aren't what they seem, however, and Georgina learns a lot about life. There are several gems in this story including Mookie, a vagabond with a heart of gold and a couple good mottos: "Sometimes the trail you leave behind you is more important than the path ahead of you" and "Sometimes,the more you stir it, the worse it stinks." One of my students borrowed the trail motto as his precept when we were writing precepts as a response to Wonder by R.J. Palacio, our current read aloud. We also got to know Carmella, the dog's owner. I think there is a lot to talk about in this engaging story - perfect for 4th and 5th graders. It's also perfect for teachers. It's always good for us to hear from the point of view of a child who gives us insight into life outside of school - why that one student might not be able to turn in her homework.

Out of My Mind  This was one of our small book group books for our unit on empathy.
  Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper

characters-with-disabilities, gifted-girls, great-read-aloud, intermediate-kids-book, point-of-viewtheme

REREAD. Review from August 2011: Sharon Draper created a gem of a book in Out of My Mind. The narrator is Melody, a fifth grade girl with cerebral palsy, who is brilliant but cannot walk, talk, or feed herself. As she is integrated into inclusion classrooms, the relationships she experiences with her classmates, teacher, and aides are complicated. Her life changes dramatically when she is given a piece of technological equipment that makes it possibly for her to speak. It's still limited, but she is so relieved to finally be able to communicate aloud. She earns her way on to the academic quiz team in her school, and just when you think they've accepted her, something traumatic happens. The grace with which Draper handles Melody's character is amazing. We could also all learn a lesson from certain adult characters in the book! I will definitely add this to my read aloud shelf - the potential discussions this book could inspire would be incredible. This novel could be a good companion book to Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine and Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin.

Annie and Helen
  Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson & Raul Colon

biography, gifted-girls, picture-book

Thanks,Mr. Schu, for this book! I won it in his blog contest. I've always been fascinated by Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, so I'm glad new books are being made about them. This one has beautiful photographs lining the inside covers, and I liked the letters throughout that Annie wrote to her friend and former teacher back home in Boston about her experiences with Helen. It never ceases to amaze me the strength and willpower it took for Annie to break through the barriers and teach Helen to communicate. Out of my Mind would be a good companion novel - to be brilliant but not able to communicate has to be incredibly frustrating. Students will enjoy this picture book a lot.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

epistolary-novel, young-adult-book

I had ambivalent feelings over this one.  I read it because the movie is coming out.  Charlie, the narrator, is a freshman in high school and going through tough times.  You know something is "off" about Charlie, and you don't know who he is writing to - it's address to "Dear friend."  Two quotes toward the end that I liked:    "So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. ANd we can try to feel okay about them." And "even if sombody else has it much worse, that doesn't really change the fact that you have what you have. Good and bad."  The cast of the movie, which is filmed in the South Hills of Pittsburgh (Chbosky graduated from Upper St. Clair, just down the road from where I used to live), looks good - looking forward to seeing Emma Watson as Sam.

The Pain and the Great OneThe Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume

classroom-read-aloud, picture-book, point-of-view

Read this one aloud to one class this week.  I always use it for point of view. 


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fantastic Friday

Thank you to Mr. Etkin's Ring the Bell Monday blog posts for the idea to let you know what my students are reading each week! Mr. Etkin, I'm going to try SpinCam next week!

I didn't get a chance to talk to everyone this week about what they finished, but all the kids are either finished or close to finishing their small group books.

JFB Students:







Tyler finished Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Johnathan Auxier. He also finished Spykids Adventures.

William finished Book 2 of Pendragon, The Lost City of Faar.

William also finished The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.

Mira finished Ida B. by Katharine Hannigan

Reece finished Steel Trapp the Academy by Ridley Pearson. Here's a video of Pearson reading from it:

Deacon finished Seekers: The Great Bear Lake by Erin Hunter
Emma finished three books in the Camp Confidential Series by Melissa J. Morgan.

Jacob finished Super Fudge by Judy Blume

Adam finished Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson
Cassandra finished Surprise Party by Marilyn Sachs



Abbi finished Dork Diaries 3

Carter finished The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Jake finished Oogie Cooder by Sarah Weeks

Jenna finished What Would You Do If You Had to Choose?

I didn't get a chance to see KME students because they participated in a Walk-a-Thon. We'll get them next week!
Keep up the awesome reading everyone! 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Review and Author/Illustrator Event

I finished this week listening to Will Hillenbrand, a picture book writer and illustrator at The Blue Manatee Children's Bookstore in Cincinnati. I loved what he said about picture book making.  He said the author and illustrator come together to make an incomplete circle, to be connected by the reader.  A picture book should look like it came from one mind.  Here are some pictures I took of the event:

Will Hillenbrand's autograph and whimsical drawing

Sharing the manuscript that came from Daniel Pinkwater

Sharing the illustrator's process of adding layers

Sharing the book Bear in Love

Some lucky kids getting a sneak peek of Hillenbrand's upcoming book Off We Go

Hillenbrand also shared the website We Believe in Picture Books, and his YouTube video in which he beautifully describes what picture books mean to him.
Now on to the books I read this week!  I seem to have an animal theme.

Bear in LoveBear in Love by Will Hillenbrand
animals, friendship, inference, picture-book, predicting

I thought this was such a sweet story.  It's a story of Bear who starts receiving mysterious gifts, and he wonders who the special friend might be. He tries to entice the mysterious gift-giver with gifts of his own. When the two friends come together at the end, they "sat side by side in the clearing, singing songs as the sun went down." Very young children would have fun inferring and predicting who the friend is before he is discovered
Sisters and Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World
  sisters & brothers by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

animals, nonfiction, picture-book, science

I love his books! This one is about siblins in the animal world. I thought it was fascinating. Nine-banded armadillos are always born as identical quadruplets, and New Mexico whiptail lizards have only sisters! Once again, the illustrations are awesome, and kids will have fun learning about animal families. It would be fun to use as a writing launch for their own sibling stories. Maybe as a companion to The Pain and the Great One?

Bear Has a Story to Tell  Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead, Erin Stead
animals, friendship, picture-book

A Sick Day for Amos McGeeThe Steads are a wonderful picture book duo, and I so wish I had gone to see them last weekend at the Blue Manatee in Cincinnati, but I missed it. This sweet story is about Bear who wants to tell a story before winter comes. However, each friend he meets needs to prepare for winter travels or hibernation, so he helps each one, and has to wait until spring to tell the story. Like A Sick Day for Amos McGee, the illustrations pull at your heartstrings.

  A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, Erin Stead

animals, friendship, picture-book

The illustrations in this book are so endearing. I love the expressions and gestures of the animals. The story is about Amos McGee, a zookeeper, who makes time for his friends on his way into work every day. He plays chess with Elephant, races with Tortoise, sits quietly with shy Penguin, wipes Rhinoceros's nose, and reads to Owl, who is afraid of the dark. One day, though, Amos comes down with a bad cold and can't make it in to work. The animals gather together and decide what they need to do; they board a bus to visit Amos and give back to him what Amos gives to them every day. Great lessons about friendship and compassion!

  Dogs and Cats by Steve Jenkins

animals, nonfiction, picture-book, science
Dogs and Cats
Jenkins is my favorite nonfiction writer for kids, and I enjoyed this one, too. One of the reasons children will enjoy it is because of the design; halfway through you have to flip it over and start from the other side to read about one or the other. One of the funniest facts is that the world's fattest cat was a tabby tom at 46 pounds!!!!! There's a lot of information about cats and dogs that will help kids understand their household companions. I also enjoy his cut and torn paper collage illustrations.

  The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle
The Blessings of the Animals

book club, adult fiction

I liked this story of Cami Anderson, whose husband left her on a stormy March day, after she returned from an animal rescue. Cami is a veterinarian and probably knew her marriage to broody, unhappy Bobby had been unraveling for quite a while. In the aftermath of the divorce, she discovers her own strength and happiness without him, and explores new relationships with a new-found confidence. Cami also continues to raise her daughter, Gabby, trying to keep her faith in love and marriage so as to not jade Gabby's outlook on both. I liked the ending and enjoy Kittle's writing style.

  Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

book, character-motivation, character-traits, death, friendship, historical-fiction, setting, strong-girl-character
Hattie Big Sky

I loved listening to the audio version of this story. Because I grew up loving Little House on the Prairie books, I had a strong connection to Hattie. The toughness of people who moved West has always amazed me, and Hattie is no exception. Hattie grew up being tossed around from relative to relative after her parents died, so she called herself Hattie Here-and-There. One day, however, she receives a letter from her late Uncle Chester who bequeaths her his homestead claim in Montana. At the extremely young age of 16, she jumps at the chance to make something her own. Because it has not been "proved up" yet, she has her work cut out for her. With the help of her neighbors, the Muellers, she faces the harsh Montana weather, illness, a grumpy cow, a scheming young man, anti-German sentiment because of WW I, and a terrible tragedy to try to turn those difficult 40 acres into a home. Throughout the trials on the farm, she cooresponds with a childhood friend, Charlie, who's fighting the war. The ending was not what I expected, and it makes me anxious to read the sequel, coming out in 2013. I look forward to it! Make sure to listen/read the Author's Note at the end. Larson based this story on her own grandmother.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Banned Book Week

Thanks to the blog, Two Writing Teachers, I read about this.  Next week, September 30 - October 6 is Banned Book Week.  This is a beautiful video promoting the celebration of a right to read and the Banned Book Virtual Read-Out. 


Friday, September 21, 2012

Fantastic Friday: What did we read in Mrs. Mueller's room this week?

Fantastic Friday



Not only are my classes listening to and talking about Wonder, but each Friday I'll update what books students are finishing independently. I was inspired to do this by another blogger, David Etken, on Eat the Book blog. I was reviewing my own books because of Jen and Kellee's blog Teach Mentor Texts,  but I loved how Mr. Etken listed what his students were reading, too. David Etken's weekly review is called Ring-the-Bell Monday.
20120117-111701.jpg Ring- the- Bell Monday

We're going to call our weekly book list Fantastic Friday.

Here is our finished list this week:

JFB Students:

Jersey read:                    Maggie read:                                       

School of Fear (School of Fear, #1)Clara Barton: Founder Of The American Red Cross (Childhood of Famous Americans)

       Amrith read:          Jersey also read:
    My Life as a Book How I Learned To Fly (Goosebumps, #52)

Paige C. read:                        Jacob read:               Annie read:                      
Miley Cyrus Say Cheese - And Die Screaming (Goosebumps HorrorLand, #8) The Creature in Ogopogo Lake (The Boxcar Children, #108)

William read:
  The Merchant of Death (Pendragon, #1)

Jackson read:                      Reece read:                        Neily read:                         
No Talking What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy   Radiance (Riley Bloom, #1)

Tyler read:
   How to Steal a Dog  Greetings from Nowhere

SLE Students:

Jenna read:                       Abbi read:                  Alessandra read:             

A Mango-Shaped Space Accidentally Friends (Accidentally, #4) (Candy Apple #20)    Fake Mustache
Sarah read:
DK Riding Club: Horse and Pony Breeds  The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda #1)

     Jake read:                          Alec read:
Dog Days (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, #4)     Freefall (Tunnels, #3)

KME Students:

Cameron read 2 books:                                         Sammy read:                       
Island of the Blue Dolphins Hoot    Love, Aubrey
 Jack read:
 The Fire Within (The Last Dragon Chronicles, #1)

Ali read (for the 11th time):      Cole read:                           
11 Birthdays (11 Birthdays, #1) Who Stole Halloween?
Bobby read:
  Holes (Holes, #1) Into the Wild (Warriors, #1)

Katie read:                Mrs. Mueller listened to:   

The World According to Kaley Hattie Big Sky

 Mrs. Mueller read aloud to JFB students:

Awesome, everyone! Keep reading!!!!!!!!!