Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Review

Here are the books I read this week:

Alchemy and Meggy Swann  Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman

audio-book, characters-with-disabilities, historical-fiction, intermediate-kids-book, sensory-details, setting, social-studies-connections, strong-girl-character, vocabulary

"Ye toads and vipers!" Meggy Swann curses as she enters the scene in dirty, cacophonous medieval London, summoned by her father who was hoping she was a boy. Her only friend is her crippled goose, Louise, an apt companion since Meggy herself walks with the aid of sticks (author's note explains that she had hip dysplasia - interesting to me because one of my daughters had it also, but now it's easily fixed). Her father, Master Peevish as she calls him, is an alchemist, hoping to not only transform base metal into gold, but also finding the elixir for eternal life. Despite not being terribly fond of her father, she tries to save him from being accused of being involved in a murderous plot. She also makes a few friends along the way and learns the art of printing. There are rich examples of sensory details to describe the setting that could be used for mini lessons, and don't miss the audio version - the narrator is fabulous! I love what Kirby Larson says in her review: "...provided me with ample ammunition the next time someone cuts in front of me in traffic -- I might call out, "Begone, you carbuncled toad!" or "A pestilence take you, you rump-faced knave," or even perhaps my favorite, "Go then, you writhled, beetle-brained knave!"

The Light Between Oceans  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
adult-fiction, book-club

I've been reading less adult fiction these days with my emphasis on reading picture books,  middle grade books, and young adult novels for school, but I still manage to fit in one or two a month.  This one was for my book club. 
This is a haunting story about Tom Sherbourne, who takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock in Australia in 1926. He has returned to Australia after horrific experiences in the war and tries to channel his grief and guilt from those years into being the perfect lighthouse keeper. He revels in the meticulous requirements and high expectations of the charge. Tom soon meets a bold and beautiful young woman, Isabel, on the mainland and agrees to marry her. She learns to appreciate the exquisite isolation and beauty of the island but longs to have a family. Several miscarriages and a painful stillbirth has left her desperate, and it is into this situation a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a live baby. Isabel convinces Tom to keep the baby just a few days before they report her, and Tom begrudgingly agrees. His principles and moral judgment are compromised, but he loves Isabel and wants to see her happy. As the story progressed into one bad decision after another, lies that couldn't be stopped from snowballing, it reminded me of the novel House of Sand and Fog. The reader just knows the situation is going to get out of control. The second half, especially, of this novel is riveting, and you ache for Tom, who was trying to redeem himself of the sins he felt he committed in the war, to punishing himself when he couldn't find redemption. So many twists and turns, the eerie, desolate setting, and the tangled webs the characters weave make for an excellent read!
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
humor, parody, picture-book, fairy tale

This is an hilarious parody of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." My 4th grade readers will love it and will get the quirky humor. My favorite character is the visiting Norwegian dinosaur.  I really liked Mary Lee Hahn's blog post on "Parody," and this could be a book included in a unit.
A Rock Is LivelyA Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

creative-nonfiction, picture-book, science

A rock is mixed up, galactic, old, huge, tiny, helpful, surprising, inventive, creative, and recycled. I loved A Butterfly is Patient, so I bought this at our Scholastic Book Fair. It's just as beautiful and informative. I need to add An Egg is Quiet and A Seed is Sleepy to my collection now, too.

An exciting event that happened this week was the Goodreads discussion with R.J. Palacio and Jay Asher in which members were invited to ask questions.  My students wrote some for R.J. Palacio since we're still reading Wonder aloud.  I think we'll be finishing this week.  Here were her responses to our questions:

Hi Holly,
Let me see if I can answer some more of your questions for your 4th grade classes...

How long did it take to write Wonder?
It took me a year and a half. I probably could have written it faster, but I actually have a fulltime job, so the only time I could find to work on the book was between midnight and 3am every night.

Do you have connections with your characters?
I have connections to all my characters. They're all kind of mash-ups of people I know or have known, and they seem so real to me.

What made you choose Auggie's disorder?
I had a brief encounter with a little girl once. She looked exactly like how I describe Auggie looking in the book.

Was Julian inspired by a real person?
Hmm, not specifically one person, but a bit of some kids I've known. There are always Julians in the world.

What made you decide not to tell Julian's story?
All the other characters enhance Auggie's story and propel the narrative. That is to say, they move the story forward, and it's always Auggie's story they're moving forward because the book is about him. Julian. though, exactly because he never wanted to get to know Auggie, had nothing to add to Auggie's story. The only things he would have said about Auggie were mean things, and I didn't want to give a bully a chance to air his meanesses. We shouldn't listen to bullies because what they say doesn't really matter. I suppose I could have made Julian "get nice" by the end of the book, but I really tried to keep the book realistic, and that didn't seem realistic to me. Sometimes people don't change. I think there is an indication that Julian might have learned something at the end of the fifth grade, though, because his precept is about "starting over fresh." Maybe in his new school he'll try to be a nicer person.
What do you think? I'm hopeful.

What do YOU see when you "see" Auggie?
I see a boy who's shy and looks at the ground a lot because he doesn't want to see how people respond to him. But he's so goodhearted and has a spirit that makes me soar.

What inspired you to be a writer?
I've always wanted to be a writer. I love reading. I love stories.

Why did you want Auggie to have a facial disorder?
Because it was something I thought worth exploring, the idea of this normal little boy with a face that was anything but normal.

What made you choose August's name?
I love the name August. I've known a couple of kids with that name: it's a lovely name.

What is YOUR precept?


Friday, October 26, 2012

Fantastic Friday


This month students started reading mysteries, adventures, or action books.  Here are our group books:

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea   The Westing Game  

Three Times LuckyChasing The Falconers (On The Run, #1)

Some books students picked as their independent books during this unit:

The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society, #1)  The Secret Tree

Dying to Meet You (43 Old Cemetery Road, #1)Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure 

Chasing VermeerDead End in Norvelt


The Maze of Bones  (The 39 Clues, #1)

Spin Cams (thanks, David Etkin, for your idea) of independent books and small group books:

This week I read two of my favorite picture books to enjoy and practice inference and visual literacy.  I'll use them later during our mystery unit for mood/tone also.  I loved the way the kids giggled through I Want My Hat Back and then laughed hysterically at This Is Not My Hat.

I Want My Hat Back   This is Not My Hat

After we finished, we had a discussion and then fill out the activity sheet:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Flyboarding in the Classroom

I was so excited about a blog post today that I had to immediately share it!!  Thank you, Styling Librarian, for making my morning, and thank you David Etkin, for inspiring Whatever Wednesday!

Check this out!

If you show it to students, don't let the credits roll since there's a joke at the end about where someone is from that's not appropriate for elementary students.  Just end the video when all the guys give the thumbs-up.

Franki Sibberson presented at a workshop I attended. Her topic was building mini-lessons (which is now a new book, The Joy of Planning), and she used YouTube videos as a way to scaffold skills.  I see this video as a stepping stone for theme ("You can dare to do anything you put your mind to" or something along those lines), mood (suspense at the beginning, joy when they start "flying"), and more.  Enjoy and FLY!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

40 Book Invitation Update

This is my second year to adapt Donalyn Miller's 40 Book Challenge into my classroom.  It's still a work in progress, but I'm excited about how it's going.  This year I am working with four groups of fourth grade gifted readers in a pull-out program.  We just ended our first quarter, so we counted up our progress and filled out First Quarter Reading Reflections.  I believe it is important for our students to learn how to reflect upon their progress, strengths, and weaknesses to evaluate themselves as readers.  Each class's 40 Book Invitation total (we count a 100 pages as a book, but students have to complete the book to count it as more than one book):

JFB 1 (13 students):  116 books - an average of almost 9 books per student!
JFB 2 (9 students):  77 books - an average of 8.5 books per student!
SLE (4 students):  72 books - an average of 18 books per student!
KME (17 students):  191 books - an average of 11 books per student!

Grand total of books read during first quarter....456!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  An average of almost 11 books per student!

Wow! I'm excited to see where this invitation will take them all!

Here are some examples of kids' First Quarter Reading Reflections:

Here is a link for a copy of the reflection:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Marvelous Monday Readers

Because of an evacuation of one of our schools Friday, I couldn't take a picture of one of my classes - interesting day!!  So instead of Fantastic Friday, I'm renaming it Marvelous Monday.

SLE Readers:
The Candymakers

Abbi is reading The Candymakers.  I told her Wendy Mass is coming out with a new book, and the cover is illustrated by the same illustrator.  Unfortunately, we have to wait until June 2013 until it comes out.

The Maze of Bones  (The 39 Clues, #1)

Jenna is reading The Maze of Bones.
The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus, #1)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)
Alec is reading The Lost Hero.
Carter is reading The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Here are some Spin Cam captures of my other readers:

JFB Readers:

More JFB Readers:

KME Readers:

Thanks to David Etkin for Spin Cam inspiration and giving me the idea to post what my classes are reading each week!

Come back tomorrow to read my blog post on our first quarter 40 BOOK INVITATION progress!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Review

CONGRATULATIONS to Kathy Aurigemma!  Winner of the signed copy of Nightsong by Loren Long!

I love when I end my reading week on a satisfying note.  I just finished Silas House's Eli the Good.  Beautiful. I loved Same Sun Here, too. I know I will read all his books now.  Here are the books I read this week:

Ghost Knight  Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke

audio-book, fantasy-science-fiction, friendship, intermediate-kids-book

I loved 11-year-old Jon Whitcroft, who goes off reluctantly to boarding school in Salisbury. He's convinced it's "The Beard's" doing, his mother's boyfriend, who's, of all things, a dentist. The narrator of the audio version is fantastic, and I can hear his voice as I write this. Jon wishes it was his sister going because she loves all things Harry Potter. Jon, however, only dreads the thought of cold porridge and drafty hallways. Once he gets there, he meets Ella, and who doesn't think of Hermione, with her intelligence and the way she challenges but supports Jon?! Together they stumble into a bevy of ghosts and battles between the living and the dead. It gets quite gruesome in parts, with buried hearts and ghosts inhabiting dead bodies, so preview before you hand it to younger kids. I think fantasy-lovers will like it a lot, though, and will look forward to a series.

Beautiful Oops 
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
creativity, gifted, picture-book, theme
This clever little picture book shows what can happen when you turn mistakes into works of art. I would love to use it with my gifted kids, some of whom are perfectionists, to illustrate that imperfections can be serendipitous instead of devastating.
A Strange Place to Call Home: The World's Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals That Call Them Home  A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, Illustrated by Ed Young
animals, mock-caldecott-2013, nonfiction, poetry, writing-connections
My students are going to love this one. Marilyn Singer's various types of poems (all of which are defined at the back of the book) about animals living in extreme environments, are fascinating. Who knew there were flies that hatch in oil or fish that climb trees? More information about each animal is at the end of the book. Ed Young's paper collage illustrations are intriguing and beautiful. I'll share this book to show how you can present nonfiction information through creative writing.

UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings
unBeelievables by Douglas Florian
mock-caldecott-2013, nature, nonfiction, picture-book, poetry,writing-connections

The paintings in this treasure of a poetry book are awesome, ranging from humorous to beautiful. I especially loved the drones depicted as hip hop gangstas. Too funny! The poems are accompanied by bee facts, all of which are fascinating. Another example, like Singer's A Strange Place to Call Home, of how students could present research facts in a creative way. This would make a great companion book to Hive Detectives:
Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose: Growing Up On Mount Rushmore  Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose by Tina Nichols Coury
art, history, nonfiction, picture book
I didn't know the background of Mt. Rushmore, and I've never been there, so this book was interesting to me. Lincoln Borglum was the son of the sculptor and took over the gargantuan task of finishing the massive sculpture. It's unbelievable how a work of art like that can be imagined and executed. This is a great book to share with kids to talk about art, determination, and human ingenuity.

   Eli the Good by Silas HouseEli the Good
character-development, character-who-writes, family, friendship, historical-fiction, journey, mood-tone, setting, theme, war, young-adult-book
Wow - this story transports you to the summer of 1976, cicadas and Bob Seger singing in the sultry Southern air, and to 10-year-old Eli's troubled but beautiful family. I was exactly 10 years old in the summer of 1976, too, so I loved reading about the Bicentennial and the 70s music and pop culture. Eli observes everything: his sister's anger, his aunt Nell's wild and wandering spirit, his father's post traumatic stress from Vietnam, and his mother's transcendent beauty. Eli tries to find his way in this stormy world with his best friend Edie, his books, journal, and the cool and calming beech tree. There are several scenes that make your heart pound with dread, but thankfully, there is redemption in the end for everyone. Eli learns through reading The Diary of Anne Frank that the reason for hope in the midst of devastating experiences is that someone like Anne, strong and brave, had once lived. "She had been a child of war, like me, but she made sure that she was more than that. I had to do the same." Bravo to Silas House for creating such a memorable young hero. Thank you, too,  Paul Hankins for recommending this title for a unit on a hero's journey.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Review and GIVEAWAY!

Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia  Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia by Barbara O'Connor

Here are my reviews this week:

anti-bullying, audio-book, character-development, character-motivation, character-traits, friendship, intermediate-kids-book

I love spelling bees and Barbara O'Connor books, so how could I not love this one? Sixth-grader Bird is a bit of an outcast, but because of the encouragement of her caring neighbor, Ms. Delphine, she tries to make a friend out the new boy, Harlem. Harlem is picked on, poor, and sullen-faced, but Bird is determined to be nice to him. When she realizes Harlem can spell really well, she asks him to be her partner for the school spelling bee. After much practice and the making of a true friendship, (SPOILER ALERT) she doesn't understand why he misses the winning word when she knows he can spell it. After the problem is solved, Harlem doesn't forget Bird, thankfully, and always saves her a spot.

On the Road to Mr. Mineo's  On the Road to Mr. Mineo's by Barbara O'Connor

motivation, friendship, intermediate-kids-book, mock-newbery-2013, mood-tone, setting

I feel like a broken record when it comes to Barbara O'Connor books. I loved this one. The spare language, the simple story, the endearing, country characters, the authentic kids, the dusty roads, and southern tone all make it a quintessential O'Connor book. I think, for me, it's an escape into a world in which I want to live. I want to escape the strife, polarization, and angst and just look for a one-legged pigeon and make sure its safe and sound where it belongs, along with a little brown dog. 

Ivy and Bean (Ivy and Bean, #1)  Ivy + Bean by Annie Barrows

audio-book, character-development, character-traits, early-reader, friendship

I read this one because I'm working with some primary grade teachers with their gifted readers and wanted some younger kids' books. I thought a good theme would be books that feature strong, spunky girls (I was working with a 1st grade girl) or friendship. Well, this book definitely fits into those themes! Ivy and Bean never thought they could be friends, but after one of Bean's pranks, Ivy, who watched the whole thing, encourages her to hide. Bean realizes Ivy isn't at boring as she thought, and a fast friendship develops. One of my favorite parts is after they become friends, each of them admits that her mother tried to get her to be friends with the other because she "was a nice girl," and they both say "But you're not nice!" Cute story and full of fun. I know early readers will want to read more and Ivy and Bean

  Nightsong by Loren Long

animals, family, metaphor, mock-caldecott-2013, sensory-details, journey

This is a beautiful story about Chiro, whose mother sends him off into the night alone for the first time. He goes on quite the journey. Using his good sense (the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you), he flies into the cold air, through the tall trees, over rivers, ponds, and the ocean, past cliffs and vast lands, until, finally, he's home again. This book would be perfect to use for sensory details, metaphor, and theme, or a unit on journeys. Great graduation gift!  See my post yesterday about the Loren Long event I attended.
This is Not My Hat  THIS IS NOT MY HAT by Jon Klassen
humor, inference, mock-caldecott-2013, picture-book

I've been WAITING for this to come out because I LOVED I Want My Hat Back, which started my Jon Klassen collection.  It does not disappoint.  It's just as brilliant and laugh out loud funny.

Drummer Boy  Drummer Boy by Loren Long

Christmas, journey, picture book

This picture book would make a good companion to The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. When a toy drummer boy accidentally falls into the trash, he goes on a scary journey. In the true spirit of Christmas, he ends up back where he belongs. 

Otis  Otis by Loren Long

Boy + Bot and this picture book would make great companion texts in a unit on friendship.

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughters  of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama

Z Is for MooseI'm going to borrow Donalyn Miller's review of this book because I couldn't say it any better: Barack Obama challenges his daughters (and all children) to accomplish great things by offering historical inspiration from noteworthy Americans. While the text is unremarkable, Loren Long's illustrations and the diversity of individuals honored lift this book above other celebrity-written children's books.

  Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinsky

abc-book, humor, mock-caldecott-2013, picture-book

This ABC book is SO cute! The moose is so excited for his turn that he keeps barging in on the other animals' and objects' turns with Zebra controlling the show. When it finally gets to M, the Zebra decides to go with Mouse. Moose throws a temper tantrum and Zebra has to throw himself in front of the truck, umbrella, violin, etc. after Moose defaces R and S. Finally, he gets his turn at the very end. This is such a funny take on the traditional ABC book that kids will undoubtedly want to take a turn at something similar when charged to write one.

Each Kindness  Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

anti -bullying, empathy, leaving-a-legacy, mock-caldecott-2013, theme

This book makes an impact. Chloe and her friends reject and tease the new girl, Maya, even when she tries to befriend Chloe. One day Maya moves away, and when Chloe's teacher demonstrates that kindness acts like a stone dropped into the water - it ripples out into the world, she can't think of a single kind thing she's done. When she realizes Maya isn't coming back, she is left with the knowledge that she was cruel to her and won't be able to make it right. The illustrations are beautiful and revealing, capturing expressions perfectly. This would be a great companion book to Wonder and The Hundred Dresses.

And now, drum roll please....My first ever book giveaway contest!  Thank you, Mr. Schu, for all you help in creating one of these forms.  I sure hope I do it right!!





Saturday, October 13, 2012

Loren Long at Blue Manatee Children's Bookstore

I spent a wonderful morning at my favorite independent children's bookstore, The Blue Manatee Children's Bookstore in Cincinnati listening to Loren Long talk about his new book, Nightsong by Ari Berk.

It is a story about Chiro, whose mother sends him off into the night alone for the first time.  He goes on quite the journey.  Using his good sense (the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you), he flies into the cold air, through the tall trees, over rivers, ponds, and the ocean, past cliffs and vast lands, until, finally, he's home again.  This book would be perfect to use for sensory details, metaphor, and theme.  Great graduation gift!

The presentation began with a wonderful talk on bats.  She even brought a couple for us to admire!

Reading Nightsong

Drawing Chiro!

Talking about illustrating Barack Obama's book Of Thee I Sing

 Every year I buy my daughters a picture book and a pair of pajamas to open on Christmas Eve.  Even though they're now 19 and 16, we continue the tradition.  The Drummer Boy is perfect - especially signed by the illustrator himself!

Picture book purchases today.  I can't help myself.
 Loren Long explaining the illustrator's process. 
Loren Long reading a portion of Nightsong.
Loren was amazing with everyone - talking to each adult and child standing in line for a signing, posing for pictures, etc.  He brought along his two sons, wife, and mother, too.  He left us with some pearls of wisdom about reading, illustrating and doing what you love.  Thanks Loren!  Looking forward to his new Otis Christmas story  next year!  Next year's Christmas Eve picture book gift, maybe?